Friday, April 23, 2010

The Los Angeles Times Sports Page Review

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The Los Angeles Times Sports Page Review

It is a daily sports blog that critiques and lampoons The Los Angeles Times sports page. If you like sports, you will like this blog.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

NBA Mock Draft 2008

Please visit NBA Draft Blog for the 2008 NBA Mock Draft and full coverage of the 2008 NBA Draft.

Boston Celtics. 2007-08 NBA Champions

Congratulations to the 2007-08 NBA Champions - the Boston Celtics!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Is Kobe Bryant Cheating on His Wife Again? is reporting that (they broke the Matt Leinart beer bong with coeds pics) has information linking Kobe Bryant to an affair with a former Lakers cheerleader. Kobe's lawyer is demanding a "cease and desist" on the story, but is refusing, claiming the story is legitimate and they have a legal right to report it.

Meanwhile, Kobe's wife Vanessa is preparing for the arrival of a huge new diamond ring.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The 10 Best Nicknames in the NBA Right Now!

As an exceptional athlete while growing-up, I always wanted one of those awesome nicknames that so many star players were known as, but it never happened for me. I even tried to manufacture a nickname for myself. I tried to steal the nickname “Spiderman”, after former UNLV basketball star - Michael “Spiderman” Burns, but my attempts failed. I thought it was crazy that a skinny white kid who was routinely dominating bigger “urban” kids in every game couldn’t get a fresh title, but it wasn’t meant to be. I had respect, but I never got my nickname, unless you consider – “that white boy with hops” - to be a nickname. My heroes were always basketball players and the dudes with great nicknames have always seemed even cooler. So, here’s my list of the 10 Best Nicknames in the NBA Right Now:

1. Andrei “AK-47” Kirilenko, Utah Jazz:
This is just about as perfect as a nickname can be. It has everything, Kiilenko’s initials and the uniform number he chose to match his nickname, which refers to the famous assault rifle from his homeland of Russia. Perfection!

2. Rafer “Skip to my Lou” Alson, Houston Rockets:
There’s a beautiful absurdity to this nickname. Alston is just an average NBA player, but he’s a street ball legend from New York, where videos of his dribbling exhibitions are very popular on YouTube. He has as much street-cred as anyone in the league. So, why does this hip-hop culture hoopster have a nickname that refers to a dance from America's frontier period? I don’t know, but I love it.

3. Allen “The Answer” Iverson, Denver Nuggets:
I think I like this nickname so much because I sincerely dislike Iverson. It allows me opportunities to say that if Iverson is “The Answer” then the question must be - “Who is an undersized NBA shooting guard with an allergy to passing the ball that acts like a teenage gang member despite actually being a 33-year old multi-millionaire family man?”

4. Joel “The Vanilla Gorilla” Przybilla, Portland Trailblazers:
It’s really sad that such an incredibly catchy nickname is attached to such a mediocre player. The name is not particularly clever, in fact, it doesn’t even make much sense, but it rhymes and sounds good, and if Przybilla was better there could be some great marketing opportunities for him and his tongue-tickling nickname.

5. Kobe “The Rapist” Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers:
I admit that this nickname isn’t quite as popular as it was a few years ago, but it’s still one of the best because it’s feels so accurate, and even if it’s not entirely true, it sounds better than - Kobe “The spoiled rich athlete that cheated on his smoking hot wife with an emotionally disturbed young woman in a Colorado hotel” Bryant.

6. Gilbert “Agent Zero” Arenas, Washington Wizards:
I really don’t know what this nickname is about, but because it’s Arenas I assume that the Zero refers to how many assists he gets despite being a point guard, how many friends he has on the Wizards roster, what his chances are of ever being the league MVP even though he openly calls himself the best player in the game, or how many championship rings he’ll have when he retires.

7. Kenyon “K Mart” Martin, Denver Nuggets:
Some guys like having a nickname so much that they’ll use one even if the most obvious choice refers to a low-cost department store that is synonymous with cheap products. Today’s blue light special: Immature, overpaid, undersized power forwards with a history of injuries and disobedience.

8. Oleksiy “Stewie” Pecherov, Washington Wizards: Some guys have created their own nickname and work extremely hard to get people to call them that. Other guys get a nickname thrust upon them that they don’t like and/or don’t understand. The latter is the case of Pecherov, a Ukrainian import that has a stunning resemblance to Stewie, the evil baby on TV’s - Family Guy. Apparently, he didn’t get the reference and when his Wizards teammates showed him Family Guy, he became angry, which only made him look more like Stewie.

9. Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, Cleveland Cavaliers:
Because I have the same sense of humor as a ten-year old boy, having a nickname that is also the name of a lady’s breast is giggly-good fun to me. I love saying Boobie so much that whenever I’m watching a Cavaliers game on TV and he goes to the bench I change the channel, then I flip back every once in a while to see if he’s back in the game, hoping to hear the smooth voiced announcers say Boobie over and over again.

10. Glen “Big Baby” Davis:
I don’t know why it’s so charming for a 6’9, 280-lb. man to be known as a big baby, but it is. Davis is a colorful gentle giant and the name just works. He also seems to enjoy the moniker, which makes him even more likable. Could you imagine the temper tantrums that Kobe “The Rapist” Bryant would throw if people tried to call him “Big Baby”?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Could an All-International Team Compete in the NBA?

As I previously discussed in the post The New Globetrotters, International players (foreign players that never played high school or college basketball in the United States) are here to stay and the NBA is better because of it. Nevertheless, some of my friends still insist that the international player is just a novelty, and they refuse to admit that the international basketball import was officially legitimized when Dirk Nowitzki was named league MVP last year.

I’m interested in your opinion. Here is my All- International team:

C - Yao Ming, Houston, China
PF - Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks, Germany
SF - Boris Diaw, Suns, France
SG - Manu Ginobili, Spurs, Argentina
PG - Tony Parker, Spurs, France

C - Pau Gasol, LA Lakers, Spain
PF - Mehmet Okur, Jazz, Turkey
SF - Peja Stojakovic, Hornets, Serbia
SG - Hedo Turkoglu, Magic, Turkey
PG - Leandro Barbosa, Brazil
PF - Luis Scola, Rockets, Argentina
PG - Jose Calderon, Raptors, Spain

Some very good players were left off of this roster due to the depth available, including: Nene, Andrea Bargnani, Andrei Kirilenko, Anderson Varejao, Andris Biedrins, and Beno Udrih.

So, would this All-International team be a title contender, a mediocre playoff team, or would they be lottery bound?

Monday, May 12, 2008

What About Rick Carlisle?

There have been numerous articles posted on the internet about the New York Knicks hiring Mike D’Antoni as their head coach, and I’ve enjoyed each one, but why aren’t people talking about the Dallas Mavericks hiring Rick Carlisle as their head coach? D'Anatoni is taking over a bad team and is being asked to make them good. Carlisle is taking over a good team and is being asked to make them champions, a much more difficult assignment.

The premise of most of the D’Antoni posts is that he won’t have the talent to run his up-tempo offense. That might be true, but convincing basketball players to run and shoot more isn’t exactly a daunting task and I assume he will encounter no resistance to his mandate for more offense. Carlisle on the other hand is a defensive-minded coach with a grating personality. How do you think former league MVP Dirk Nowitzki will react to his new coach telling him not to take such quick shots, to play in the low-post more on offense, and to be more physical on defense? How will Jason Terry like being told to “slow down”? And Jason Kidd already bumped heads with one dictatorial coach when he played for Byron Scott in New Jersey. Carlisle makes Scott look like a sweetheart.

The Mavericks have built their roster for a fast-paced motion offense. Their star is a 7’0 jump-shooter, and their point guard, while rapidly aging, is still most effective in the open court which requires running, These are not acceptable factors in Carlisle’s strategy. He likes to win the possession battle, eliminating turnovers and working the clock while looking for the easiest shot. On defense, he demands attention to detail and very physical play. This team and this coach couldn’t possibly be more different.

The Mavericks have been very successful during the regular season in the past few years, winning 60, 52, and 50 games, but have faltered in the first round of the playoff the last two seasons after losing in the 2006 NBA finals. They like who they are, and they liked their last coach – Avery Johnson. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who thinks he knows more about basketball than he actually does, did not like Avery Johnson, at least he didn't like him as the coach of the team anymore. He decided that what this team needed was a tougher identity, but it’s just not that easy. Great teams play the best style for the talent they have. The Detroit Pistons are best when they play slow and methodical because of their older, fundamentally sound players. The Los Angeles Lakers are best when they get up the floor quickly and score before their opponent sets its defense. Carlisle is not flexible, however. He will want the Mavericks to be something they are not, and in the end, Cuban will have to decide on this coach or this roster.

So, while D’Antoni is encouraging his team to pass and shoot more, Carlisle will be screaming at his players to take more charges and set more picks. Who do you think will have the easiest transition to his new team?

Mike D'Antoni and Hope come to New York

I’ve been reading a ton of blogs and message boards this week and I’m really surprised about how many fans are not impressed with the New York Knicks hiring of former Phoenix Suns coach – Mike D’Antoni. Other fans are stunned that he would chose the Knicks over the Chicago Bulls, even though New York offered so much money. Well, I’m here to say that New York and D’Antoni made the right decision.

Chicago does have the better roster and are in position to compete sooner, but New York is the biggest market in American sports and the Knicks share real estate with David Stern and his co-conspirators. They are essentially the "home team" of the NBA. If D'Antoni makes the Knicks even mediocre - and remember that the Atlanta Hawks made the playoffs with just 37 wins - he will be rewarded and celebrated in Gotham. The rewards highly outweigh the risks.

I understand the concerns that Knicks fans have about D’Antoni and I’m sorry about the misery that Isiah Thomas put them through, but I believe they’ll end up liking this coaching hire more than they think they will. The fan are saying that “offense wins games, defense wins championships” and that is true, but the Knicks and their fans shouldn’t be too worried about championships right now, they need to win games first. Thusly, hiring a coach with a liberal offensive agenda will restore hope and excitement from the players, and that’s one of D’Antoni’s best skills. He’s very player-friendly, subscribes to positive reinforcement, and rewards his team for their attention with an opportunity to run and score. It’s been a long time since the Knicks players had fun, but they will be given that chance now. Of course, the Knicks roster isn’t as impressive as the Suns, but they can’t possibly be as bad as they’ve played under Thomas. We all understand that the roster is seriously flawed and won’t get better overnight, so who better than to allow mediocre players to run and gun than a nice guy that won’t terrorize them for their mistakes, as Thomas had done. Raja Bell and Boris Diaw were seldom-used reserves that became quality NBA starters under D’Antoni and a few Knicks will have the same opportunity. They won’t win a championship anytime soon with this squad, but they will be better, they will be more exciting to watch, there will be more optimism, and hiring D’Antoni will be seen as the best decision the Knicks have made in a decade.

It's true that the Knicks desperately need to reconfigure their roster, but the offense isn't talent-specific like the Triangle Offense. D'Antoni will allow the players' strengths to dictate the offense and they will love him for that. It's unlikely that these young millionaires will reject positive reinforcement after being humiliated by Thomas for so long. Optimism is infectious and the Knicks players will welcome this new philosophy. And, D'Antoni will allow his players a voice in the direction of the team. Most all players enjoy the concept of teamwork and a family atmosphere and that will happen now with this new coach. D'Antoni will be the polar opposite of what the Knicks have known for a decade and that will be welcomed. Consider this: The Knicks payroll was $88.8 million dollars this season. They won 23 games. That’s $3.8 million per victory. By comparison, the Charlotte Bobcats had the lowest payroll in the NBA at $57.7 million and they won 32 games for an average of $1.8 million per victory. The Knicks spent $31.1 million dollars more, but still lost 9 more games. That’s just terrible value. They needed a drastic change in philosophy and now they have it. The Knick have hope now.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Andres Nocioni Posterizes Oleksiy "Stewie" Pecherov

You must watch this. The Chicago Bulls' Andres Nocioni absolutely posterizes The Washington Wizards' Oleksiy Pecherov - who they call "Stewie" because of his resembelence to the baby on Family Guy. Man, this is funny!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Bob Costas and Buzz Bissinger are Grumpy Old Men

The April 29, 2008 edition of HBO’s surprisingly boring Costas Now program became an embarrassing spectacle of whiny writers and broadcasters crying about the impact that sports bloggers have on their industry. It was actually a shocking display of curmudgeonly behavior by some of the sports journalists that many of us grew up watching on TV. It was also a reminder that the world is changing and rich, old, white guys never like that. The whole thing reminded me of how my grandfather believed Rock-n-Roll music would mean the end of the world and how my father thought the same thing about rap music.

Blogging is something new, and it’s something the old guys do not understand. They threw a shit-fit about how unprofessional the bloggers are and how objectionable the blogger’s material is. Nobody on the program suggested that the material they are referring to wasn’t intended for them. It is meant for a younger generation of sports fans that aren’t interested listening to old broadcasters mythologize athletes and cover-up their blemishes while treating sports as the most important thing in the world. The younger generation sees their sports stars as just people … absurdly wealthy and athletic people that should be celebrated when deserving and should be exposed when deserving. It's the reward and the price of fame. If Matt Leinart doesn’t want to be criticized for doing beer bongs with coeds, he shouldn’t do beer bongs with coeds. And that goes for Pacman Jones, Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and all the other huge-skulled juicers too.

The blogging generation won’t be the athlete’s enablers, and they have no incentive for that anyway. While Costas and his friends blather on and on about how lowbrow all sports blogs are, people like them still get to monopolize TV, print, and radio, every platform except the internet. Their livelihood is not threatened. So, if a blogger wants to sit at home and write about Leinart’s bad behavior and a twenty-something wants to go on-line and read about that instead of hearing Al Michaels talk about Y.A. Tittle during a modern football game, so be it, the world is changing and this is what the world wants, even if a bunch of elitist broadcasters hate it.

The worst example of an old sports guy having a meltdown over sports blogging came when Friday Night Lights author and angry douche-bag – Buzz Bissinger, appeared on Costas Now and lost his mind while attacking editor – Will Leitch. He accused Leitch of making a mockery of something as critically important as grown men playing children’s games for a living. Leitch was blindsided by all this, however. He went on the show to explain that sports bloggers write for a new breed of sports fans that have a different point-of-view from the average Sport’s Illustrated reader, but he almost had his mouth washed out with soap by the panel of angry grandfathers. He was expecting a civil discussion, but he walked into an attempted “blogger intervention”. The entire show was absurd.

Here’s a recap:

Costas introduced a round-table of Leitch, Bissinger, and NFL player – Braylon Edwards, who most likely kicked his agent’s ass afterwards for booking him on this show. Costas immediately accused sports blogs of being “mean-spirited”. Leitch tried to respond, but Bissinger abruptly interrupted and accused Leitch of being “full of shit”. He went on to say that sports blogs are dedicated to cruelty (not realizing that being rude to a fellow panelist on a TV show is also cruel). Then he asked Leitch if he knows who W.C. Heinz is (Leitch does) and whether he is aware that Heinz (a 93-year old journalist) is more qualified to write about sports than an anonymous blogger on Deadspin who uses the pseudonym Balls Deep. Bissinger scoffed at Balls Deep for using a stupid alias despite the fact that he’s a grown man who still uses the stupid nickname - Buzz. I’m not sure what his point was here, either that Deadspin should have somehow hired W.C. Heinz instead of Balls Deep, or that Balls Deep shouldn’t be allowed to write a blog because Heinz is the only person qualified to write about sports.

Bissinger then began reading an excerpt of an R-rated Balls Deep post before being cut-off by Costas. Bissinger turned to Leitch and shouted – “how can you be proud of that?” Costas then said – “let him respond”. This would have been a great opportunity for Leitch to tell Bissinger that nobody will ever force him to read a Balls Deep post and that he can read all the W.C. Heinz he wants. Fans visit Deadspin daily, whether Buzz Bissinger likes it or not. Instead, Leitch said that this is a different voice. Then Bissinger growled - “a disgusting voice”. Costas jumped in and says that Bissinger doen’t mean to imply that all sports blogs are disgusting, but smoke is coming out Bissinger's ears at this point and it is likely that he did, indeed, mean to imply that all blogs are disgusting.

Leitch says that running a blog is hard work and that not everyone will understand his viewpoint (he then pointed at Bissinger). Costas begins reading a series profane comments left on posts from Deadspin. It seems as though Costas doesn’t understand that there's often a dialogue between the blogger and the reader. He seems to be mostly perturbed by the dirty language written on the internet. Leitch tries to separate himself from the commenters, however, when he should have told Costas that he appreciates the feedback, even if it isn’t written with W.C. Heinz’ skill.

Costas then turns to Edwards, who couldn’t possibly look less interested in discussing any of this. He admits that he reads sports blogs occasionally, but stops short of taking sides on the issue. Costas asks Leitch if he would go through someone’s garbage to find information, somehow confusing Leitch’s sarcastic sports blog with the National Enquirer. Leitch says he would never do that, but Costas presses on. Leitch then tries to explain that most people leave their incriminating evidence on Facebook nowadays. Costas doesn’t seem to know what a "Facebook" is.

Bissinger wakes from his short rage nap and asks Leitch if he just wants to show athletes as “people who just party and fuck around”. Leitch stumbles though an incoherent answer when he should have said – “Yes, if they embarrass themselves in public, we will document it and our readers will appreciate us for that.” Again, Bissinger thinks that what he does is so superior to what Leitch does. That’s why Leitch should have told Bessinger to stick his Pulitzer prize up his ass. Friday Night Lights was made into a book, a film, and a TV show. He made a fortune off of that story and now he wants to deny people an opportunity to post their free sports blogs on the internet because he doesn't like their point-of-view. Now that's disgusting.

Costas then says that bloggers aren’t threatening the livelihood of TV people (like him), but are a threat to print writers like Bissinger. It never once occurs to Costas or Bissinger that the readers of Deadspin are men between the ages of 18 and 35, the target audience for the entire sports industry, and there's a bunch of them. Maybe they should look at the sports blog phenomenon more seriously, because HBO and ESPN and Fox will and they won’t care how great W.C. Heinz is if all the consumers want is Deadspin.

After 15 minutes of anger and vulgar language from Bissinger, he accuses Deadspin of being profane. Costas then quotes a blogger who isn’t present and asks Leitch to respond for the absentee writer who criticized sports writer Rick Riley (also absent) for having sold out too much to still be objective. Leitch reminds Costas that those words belong to someone else, but he does say that because Deadspin is an independent blog he doesn’t owe anything to anyone but the readers. Costas continues to quote the absentee writer and direct it to Leitch. At this point Leitch should have refused to speak for someone else, but he inexplicably insists that "no one is saying to get rid of all sports writers". I would have preferred if he reminded Costas that bloggers have never been invited into the mainstream journalists exclusive club, but the internet will level the playing field, and the sports fans will decide what they want.

Edwards then concludes by saying that bloggers are good, but they should only write positive stuff. Bissinger accuses Leitch of being like “Jimmy Olsen on Percocet”. Leitch failed to respond that Bissinger is like Bruce Banner just before he turns green. Bissinger then accuses Leitch of not being interested in facts. Sadly, Leitch failed to remind Bissinger that he’s an asshole, and that’s a fact.

I respect Leitch for behaving with dignity on the show while being accused of draining all the dignity out of sports journalism, but I also wish he would have defended himself and the sports blogging community more vigorously. I know he was verbally sucker punched by Bissinger and Costas, but he should have known they weren’t inviting him there to receive the Blogger of the Year Award.

I admit that before the show I’d never heard of, W.C. Heinz, or Buzz Bissinger. Now, I’m aware of what Deadspin does, but I'm not a fan, and I know Bissinger as “that douche-bag that hates bloggers”. Nothing was solved or made clear about the role of the sports blogger from this episode of Costas Now. All we learned is that old sports writers curse frequently when they are accusing other people of cursing too much, and that Bob Costas does not believe that sports fans should have a choice of what they want to read.

Here's the video: Old Men vs. Sports Blogging

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Karl Malone's Forgotten Son

I must admit that I was always a fan of Karl Malone when he played in the NBA. He lived quietly in Salt Lake City, Utah (which is not easy for most young millionaires) and made the Utah Jazz a contender. He likely would have won a title or two if not for Michael Jordan dominating the sport at the same time. Nevertheless, he's a two-time league MVP and one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game.

Now comes the news that a football player named Demetrius Bell - recently drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the NFL Draft - is the son that Karl Malone had with a 13-year old girl when Malone was a sophomore at Louisiana Tech. 13-years old! He could (should?) have been arrested for that.

Here's a link to a blog called With Leather, and the lurid story that will change your opinion of Karl Malone forever: Karl Malone Liked ‘Em Young.

The original article about this story came from Allen Wilson of The Buffalo News.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Knicks Finally Fire Isiah Thomas

QUESTION: How do you make eight million New York sports fans happy?
ANSWER: Blow up Boston.

Okay, that was unfair. The real answer is: fire Isiah Thomas. That’s exactly what the Knicks have just done, leading many to wonder – “What the hell took so long?” The Knicks are in bad shape and the person to blame is Thomas. He is the worst executive/coach in the history of basketball and that’s not an exaggeration, it’s solid supposition. Let’s look at the awful and damaging reign of terror Thomas unleashed upon the New York Knicks:

- The Knicks have had an endless supply of cash to get the players that would fix their problems, but Thomas never acquired even one player that would make them a better team or offer any trade value. His eye for talent was just horrendous and now they have a roster full of bad and expensive players that no other team will trade for.

- He committed more than fifty million dollars to acquire a few players that never deserved more than the league minimum. It wasn’t as though Jerome James was dominating the league before he got a $30 million dollar contract from Thomas in 2005. James was, of course a big, fat, expensive bust and Thomas was never made accountable for that enormous mistake.

- As team president, he blamed legendary coach Larry Brown for the Knicks woes, insisting that Brown wasn’t “player-friendly” and that the team had turned on him. Thomas then named himself coach, assuming that he’d look like a hero for turning the team around. Instead, the bumbling players that Thomas acquired or drafted (the same players Brown couldn’t win with) failed to produce for Thomas. And, in a fitting act of karma, the players hated Thomas and weren’t shy about announcing that. His ego battle with Stephon Marbury was ugly and hilariously immature.

- Thomas was also a public relations nightmare. In 2007, a former Knicks team executive named Anucha Browne Sanders sued the franchise, claiming that Thomas had sexually harassed her. The details were sordid and embarrassing, and in the end, the Knicks had to pay her $11.6 million in damages. Somehow, miraculously, Thomas wasn’t fired.

- The Knicks payroll was $88.8 million dollars this season. They won 23 games. That’s $3.8 million per victory. By comparison, the Charlotte Bobcats had the lowest payroll in the NBA at $57.7 million and they won 32 games for an average of $1.8 million per victory. The Knicks spent $31.1 million dollars more but still lost 9 more games. That’s just terrible value.

- Thomas was unfriendly and uncooperative with the media, curious behavior from a man that controlled the team in the largest market in sports. For a popular former player, who had failed at two previous NBA jobs (Toronto and Indiana) and was struggling with his current job, you’d think he’d be polite to the media, but he wasn’t. He was rude and unlikable, but the worst part was how he would attack his own players through the media.

The Knicks are essentially the “home team” of the NBA, sharing real estate with commissioner David Stern and the league’s executives. They wanted nothing more than for the Knicks to become respectable once again, but they couldn’t force Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, a slightly retarded trust fund baby, to replace Thomas. He finally did, but now the Knicks are in a ridiculously deep hole. They have already committed $90.9 million in salary for next season, the roster will still be awful, and it will take a great stroke of luck (or another draft lottery conspiracy by David Stern) for them to land one of the two potential franchise players (Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose) this summer. Things are going to be bad for a few years in New Tork, but it will get better, if for no other reason than because Isiah Thomas will be long gone.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Jerry Tarkanian Snubbed Again

This year, once again, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame decided to leave one of the greatest and most important coaches in the history of NCAA basketball out of their club. Shame on the NMBHOF for ignoring the significant achievements of Jerry Tarkanian!

The reason for leaving Tarkanian out must be based on his conflicts with the NCAA because his coaching accomplishments are truly astonishing.

Tarkanian was, indeed, found guilty of minor infractions by the NCAA at three different schools (Long Beach St., UNLV, Fresno St.), but he accused the NCAA of unfairly targeting him. He sued them and was victorious. He claimed to be innocent of the accusations, but insisted that many of the NCAA’s accusations were of violations that most every major program would be found guilty of if they were under the same microscope as his schools were. In 1998, Tarkanian was awarded a $2.5 million out-of-court settlement from the NCAA to end his harassment suit against them.

Many people still refer to a photo of three UNLV players from the 1990 championship team sitting in a hot tub with a notorious gambling cheat named Richard “the Fixer” Perry. The national sports media used this as “proof” that the UNLV basketball program was corrupt. The media never explained which games UNLV players supposedly “fixed”, but considering that their record was 69-6 over two seasons, and they beat Duke by 30 points (still a record margin of victory) in the 1990 title game, then didn't lose another game for an entire year before losing a rematch with Duke in the 1991 Final Four by two points, it seems unlikely they were involved in any wrongdoing.

Most of the accusations the NCAA pointed at Tarkanian and UNLV involved academic violations. There was never evidence of any UNLV player receiving money or unacceptable gifts from the school. There were just a few instances of players receiving improper academic assistance, and there was another violation for holding practices before the NCAA approved date for when teams can begin training together.

Jerry Tarkanian led UNLV to the Final Four four times (1977, 1987, 1990, 1991). They won the 1990 National Championship game, and are the only team from a Mid-Major conference to win the title since the tournament went to the 64-team format in the mid-1980’s.

He has a 990-228 career coaching record (81.3%). He has more Division 1 victories than Hall of Fame coaches John Wooden, Don Haskins, John Thompson, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams, and most of the other college coaches already in the Hall of Fame. In addition, many legendary coaches, such as Bobby Knight, have come out in support of Tarkanian and insisted that his entry to the Hall of Fame shouldn't even be a tough decision. His career was wildly successful and he's on a short list of coaches that have gone to numerous Final Fours and won a NCAA title.

In 1995 the Hall of Fame elected a Russian basketball coach named Aleksandr Gomelsky, whose claim to fame was leading his team to an Olympic gold medal in 1988. Nice, but Tarkanian did better than that. How can they justify the selection of a good Russian coach over the selection of one of the most successful and interesting American coaches to ever live?

It’s time for the Hall of Fame to do the right thing and finally elect Jerry Tarkanian, the greatest basketball coach not already in the Hall, into the club where he belongs.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mavericks Go Down With Dirk

Unless you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area you probably think that Maverick’s owner – Mark Cuban, is a major douche-bag, and he is. The attention-loving Cuban is the kind of guy that buys his way into people’s lives because otherwise he’d never be invited in. But, despite Cuban’s obnoxious personality he’s a pretty good owner. There are so many billionaire owners in the NBA that refuse to spend enough to get talent on their roster, but Cuban will spend, and he has. He wants to win so badly that he’s allowed his management team to make big trades and write big checks. Of course, spending isn’t as important as scouting, otherwise the Knicks would be better than the Spurs, but Cuban has constantly tried to help his team improve.

Before the trade deadline the Mavericks moved a number of young players, including the talented Devin Harris, for the aging Jason Kidd. They believed that Kidd’s quiet leadership and legendary ball distribution skills would catapult them to the top of the absurdly competitive Western Conference, but it didn’t happen. Kidd has looked slow and uncomfortable in coach Avery Johnson’s system and their star – Dirk Nowitzki, has become too willing to let others accept scoring responsibility.

Now, with one bad landing, the Maverick’s season might be over. Nowitzki has been diagnosed with a moderate high-ankle sprain and a mildly sprained knee. He’ll be out for at least a week or two, and with only a handful of games remaining and the ninth place Denver Nuggets playing great basketball, the Mavericks could be doomed to miss the play-offs.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually feel kind of bad for Mark Cuban. It’s fun to hate a douche-bag, but only because of his douche-bag acts. This is just bad luck and it’s not his fault.

Bucks Fire GM Larry Harris

The Milwaukee Bucks have fired their General Manager - Larry Harris. I believe he should have been given more time to build the team, but the Bucks felt that he’d had enough time without positive results and that his questionable personnel decisions made him expendable.

In 2005 the Bucks had the first pick in the draft and Harris selected Andrew Bogut. He was widely regarded as the most NBA-ready player in that draft and talented 7-footers are hard to find, but he’s been just average so far. Also, two players that Harris passed on – Chris Paul and Deron Williams - have become two of the most promising young stars in the league. Perhaps every other GM would have also taken Bogut first in that draft, but it was Harris that had to decide and he decided incorrectly.

Last year Harris used the sixth pick in the draft to select Yi Jianlian, a 6’11 power forward from China. The problem is that Yi Jianlian had almost no contact with the Bucks before the draft, refused to work out privately for them, and then warned that they are on a short list of teams that he wouldn’t want to play for. Harris selected him anyway and then ignored Yi’s trade demands before signing him. The results have been uninspiring. Yi averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds before suffering a season ending injury. He looks like a project at best, and it’s hard to justify going through all that grief for a project.

Harris has nobody to blame for his termination but himself. He gambled on a few draft picks and lost, hired coaches that didn’t generate enough excitement (or wins), and failed to build a roster that could compete every night. He’s a young, charismatic guy and his father (Del Harris) is a respected NBA coaching veteran so he’ll get another chance elsewhere, but he’ll need to do much better next time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Shaquille O’Neal-Shawn Marion Trade

Whenever a trade involving superstar players happens, the first reaction of people like me is to decide who got the better deal. But, the trade of Shaquille O’Neal by the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns for Shawn Marion may benefits both teams, equally.

Miami was sitting in the Eastern conference cellar. They have an injury-prone roster and a lack of depth on their bench, but the real problem was that the 35-year old O’Neal seemingly fell apart this year. They knew when they got him from the Lakers a few years ago that he was nearing the end of his career, but they hoped he had enough left to win the team a championship, and he did. Then he lost all of his athleticism and stamina. It was like he got old over night. It’s really unfair to criticize him now. For over a decade O’Neal was the most intimidating and dominating player in the NBA. But he’s carried his massive 335-pound frame through too many seasons and too many playoffs. O’Neal is fat, tired, and constantly healing minor injuries … and now he’s playing for a team that treats basketball like a track meet. He would seem like a terrible fit for the Suns, but they’ve been beaten-up during the last three playoffs and have finally realized that you can’t win a title without a big man. They won’t ask O’Neal to play like his former self, they won’t even ask him to run with them. If he’s willing to play defense and stand tall, the Suns are serious title contenders. Plus, Marion was begging to be traded and was becoming a nuisance, so they decided to give one of the greatest centers of all time a last chance at another title without having to carry the team. That sounds pretty good.

Miami, on the other hand, was going nowhere. They needed to rebuild without including their franchise player – Dwyane Wade, in any deal, but they didn’t think anyone would give a decent player for the fading O’Neal and the two expensive years left on his contract. But, they were able to land Marion, an excellent player. He’s the best rebounder at small forward in the league, a shutdown defender, and a truly outstanding athlete. He wants a big pay increase and they’d be crazy not to give it to him. Marion will team with Wade and the lottery pick in this year’s draft and this team will be competitive again very soon.

So, after seeing the Boston Celtics steal Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers steal Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies, it looks like we may have seen a trade in the NBA that benefits both teams. Why couldn’t you do that, Memphis Grizzlies?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Memphis Saves the Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers have suddenly transformed from “team in trouble” to one of the favorites to win the NBA title this season with the acquisition of PF/C Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. Two weeks ago, the Lakers lost their promising young center – Andrew Bynum, to a knee injury that will sideline him for six to eight weeks. The injury was terrible for the Lakers. They had no depth up front, they were heading into a rough stretch in their schedule, and the New Orleans Hornets, the Golden State Warriors, and the Utah Jazz were playing so good that the Lakers were just about to free-fall, possibly out of play-off contention. It appeared as though the rest of the West had them between a rock and a hard place, then the Grizzlies saved the Lakers season by trading Gasol for PF/C Kwame Brown (a former #1 pick turned bust), rookie PG Javaris Crittenton (Memphis already drafted PG Mike Conley, Jr. #3 this year), and accepting two future first round picks which now seem likely to be low first-rounders. In other words, the Lakers got the better of this deal, and the rest of the league is very upset with the Grizzlies.

There are reasons the Grizzlies did this. They wanted Brown’s expiring contract and they wanted to get first round picks in order to rebuild. But this trade was just stupid for them. They’re unlikely to lure a free-agent better than Gasol to their awful organization and those two picks (2008 and 2010) will not help much if the Lakers finish near the top of their division, which looks certain now. The NBA draft has just a few sure things and players picked in the 20’s rarely become stars and most don’t even make a roster. There had to be a better deal out there for the Grizzles than to give up their franchise player to another team in the West for future cap space that will be hard to use (star players never leave their team to sign with bottom feeders like the Grizzlies), and draft picks that won’t help for years, if ever.

The Lakers, on the other hand, are doing back-flips over their good fortune. They’ve wanted to add help, but were reluctant to offer Andrew Bynum. They just didn’t have any value to offer. Then the Grizzlies agreed to give a star without getting one back. Gasol, 27, is arguably one of the best twenty players in the world. He has played on a bad team in a small market his entire career and has suffered through injuries, but the former All-Star dominates as the leader of the Spanish national team during International tournaments. He’s 7’0, in the prime of his career, and will play center until Bynum (7'0) returns. Then, Gasol will move to power forward, Lamar Odom (6'10) will move to small forward, and the Lakers will have the tallest team in the league. Oh, and did I mention they will be absurdly tall and have Kobe Bryant, the best payer in the league?

This trade will be viewed as an incredible stroke of luck by all Lakers fans, and the rest of us will see this as a shockingly stupid gift offered by the Memphis Grizzlies to a team that was in trouble. This is why you never see fair trades in the NBA. Good teams know that if they hold out long enough the bad teams will eventually make a bad trade. That’s the case with this trade, and that’s why teams like the Lakers are never really bad and teams like the Grizzlies are never really good.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Golden State's Big Risk

On paper, the Golden State Warriors aren’t as good as they’ve played in the last nine months. They’re terribly small, young, and led by a few quirky (crazy) characters, including their crusty old coach. If this team sat at the bottom of their division, the aforementioned flaws would be cited as the reasons for their futility.

But basketball is not played on paper, and the Warriors are not bottom feeders. They are winning and once again becoming the team that nobody really wants to play in the post-season. Why? Chemistry. These guys really like each other and they just love how Coach Don Nelson lets them run and be creative on offense. Their speedy guards – Baron Davis and Monta Ellis – are extremely difficult to defend with today’s rules against touching anyone on the perimeter, and they routinely blow by defenders for easy baskets. They have a versatile and underrated wingman – Stephen Jackson – that is the closest thing to Scottie Pippen in the NBA right now. On defense, they are encouraged to trap and go for steals as much as possible, which is risky, but they’re very good at it. This team is for real!

They have their sights set on reaching past the second round of the play-offs this year. But how can they avoid being beaten-up by a bigger, stronger team as they were against the Utah Jazz last year? They need help in the low-post and so they found an unemployed power forward to come in and help. His name is Chris Webber and he may be the missing piece of the Warriors puzzle, or the worst mistake they could possibly make at this time.

At his best, Webber was a creative high-post passer with a reliable mid-range jumper and the size (6’10) the Warriors so desperately crave. But that was the Webber of the last 15 years. Now, he’s old, walks on bad knees, refuses to play in the low-post where he belongs, is a world-class pouter that argues with coaches, has a history of choking when the game is on the line, and once played for the Warriors before being traded after engaging in a chilly relationship with Nelson. I can’t think of anyone this side of Latrell Sprewell (speaking of choking ... ) that could be as dangerous to the friendly atmosphere in this locker room than Chris Webber.

The Warriors have gambled and won numerous times in the past year or two and this move could be the one that changes their fortunes forever. But is seems like this was the wrong move and the results could be disastrous. For the sake of the loyal fans of this long-suffering franchise, I truly hope that they have one more stroke of luck left in them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Can the Celtics Win it All?

It came as no surprise that the Boston Celtics would become one of the best teams in the NBA this season. Adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will do that for you. But it was hard to guess they would be this good. They are still playing without a reliable point guard, there’s little talent on the bench, and the three superstars (Garnett, Allen, and Paul Pierce) must constantly keep their egos in check for this to work. Yet, here they are, with the best record in the league and the look of a champion.

It’s always a great story when individual talent yields to a team concept for outstanding results, and the Celtics seem to be following the lead of the NFL’s New England Patriots as selfless champions. They are the frontrunners now and they’re going to have to finish as strong as they’ve started, but that’s not going to be easy.

The three stars are all over 30 years old and will need to remain healthy while playing heavy minutes. The Detroit Pistons are deeper and have championship experience and the Cleveland Cavaliers won the Eastern Conference last year with the same roster the have now, including perhaps the most talented player in the NBA – LeBron James.

The Celtics will need luck, and they will need to find a way to keep enough gas in the tank to carry them through the long, demanding play-offs. It’s a lot to ask, but the Celtics have as good of a chance to win the title as anyone.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dwight Howard's Magical Season

Dwight Howard is a very impressive young man. Friendly, articulate, and humble, he has none of the chest-thumping self-promotion that comes with LeBron James and none of the street-cred machismo that defines Carmelo Anthony. He spends nights on the road reading his bible and playing video games rather than joining his teammates in the nightclubs. He’s funny, innocent, and completely focused on becoming the best basketball player he can be. Oh, and he’s currently the best center in the NBA and a legitimate MVP candidate years before he even hits his prime.

Howard is having a great year - 22.1 PPG, 15.2 RPG, and 2.5 BPG. He’s been physically overpowering since he came into the league straight out of high school in 2004, but he was often lost on defense and fundamentally deficient on offense. He got by on his size and athleticism the last few years, but that’s all changed now. This season he’s using his muscular 6’11 frame to get the position he needs for his suddenly reliable hook shot. He’s learned to fight for excellent rebounding space without fouling in the process. He’s always been a good shot-blocker, but now he’s one of the few players that can block shots back into play.

Yao Ming may be considered to be the top center in the league by many, but Howard is quickly changing that perception. His statistics are almost identical to Ming’s, except that Howard averages five more rebounds a game despite standing six inches shorter. And, he’s younger, quicker, stronger, and more aggressive than the giant Chinese import.

The player that Howard most aspires to be, in fact, is Tim Duncan, who would be the best center in the NBA if he wouldn’t always insist he’s not a center. As a fan of both of these players I sincerely hope that Howard follows in Duncan’s footsteps. He’s already a solid citizen like the soft-spoken Duncan, but what he could learn most from the former league MVP is that intelligence often trumps brute strength on the court. It extends careers, and it wins championships. Fortunately for Howard, he’s as intelligent as he is big.

This season Howard is using all of his talents to dominate. He’s exactly what this league (which has had an image problem for too long) needs, a likeable character with a world of talent to join the other young stars that are much harder to root for.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sonics Hire Carlesimo

I can't help but to have mixed feeling about the Seattle Sonics hiring P.J. Carlesimo as their new head coach. The opponents of this move say that he's too blustery to lead a very young group like this, especially Kevin Durant, the teenage prodigy that is expected to be the savior of the franchise. Maybe a coach with more velvet glove and less iron fist would have been a better choice as Durant needs a gentle segue into the NBA. Carlesimo has never been accused of having a delicate manner, in fact, in his previous NBA head coaching experiences; he has driven one veteran player (Latrell Sprewell) to strangle him and another (Rod Strickland) to walk out on him. Perhaps he has learned from these experiences and become a more relaxed person, but that’s yet to be determined.

The supporters of this hire point out that Carlesimo was once a very successful college coach and therefore has been successful teaching young men, like the ones on this roster, the intricacies of the game. Also, he has spent the past few years as a highly regarded assistant with the best managed organization in the NBA – The San Antonio Spurs. He was able to learn from Greg Popovich, a stern but still player-friendly leader, and he was able to witness how one of the most successful NBA players ever, Tim Duncan, conducts himself on and off the court.

If Carlesimo can avoid behaving like a tyrant, inspire Popovich-like confidence, and impress upon Durant the professionalism of Duncan, his experience and teaching abilities will make him the right choice for the job. But if he tries to bully and embarrass his players, as he once did, another choking is not out of the question.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Hating Kobe Bryant

I recently wrote an opinion article in which I accused Kobe Bryant of hurting his team with his narcissistic behavior and enormous salary. It was strongly worded, but I didn't think it was blasphemous. Then a few Kobephiles left comments, and they were very upset at any blame of the Lakers current predicament being placed on Kobe's shoulders. I was surprised that after accusing Kobe fans of being overprotective of their egomaniacal hero a few actually did exactly that on my little NBA blog.

I began to wonder if I was a Kobe hater, as they had suggested, and I decided that ... yeah, I am. I really hate that guy. Then I looked around and found out that I am not alone. The internet is absolutely overflowing with basketball fans that aren't enamored with the Lakers humorless ball hog with a penchant for alienating himself from teammates, airing team business through the media, and at least once, cheating on his smoking hot wife with a skanky groupie in Colorado. Here are some of my new friends and their contributions to the world of Kobe hating:

- This is a blog dedicated solely to hating Kobe Bryant. It's not exceptionally witty, but it earns credit for its dedication to this important cause: The Kobe Haters Blog.

- Here is a well-written, funny piece called: The Kobe Haters' Manifesto.

Here is a picture of Kobe Bryant without Shaq O'Neal.

- Former NBA player and UNLV graduate - Greg Anthony (my personal basketball hero) - tells GQ Magazine how completely unpopular Kobe is with fellow players in an article titled: The Ten Most Hated Athletes.

- No surprise here: Kobe Tops NBA's Cry Baby List.

Here is a picture of Shaq O'Neal without Kobe Bryant.

- Oh, and about that "alleged" rape that he "didn't" commit, here's the official complaint: Jane Doe v. Kobe Bryant Civil Complaint for Sexual Assault and Rape.

- And if you didn't already know, read this from The Onion: Kobe Bryant Demanding Things Again.

- I also like when people are sure about their feelings, like this guy who writes: Plain and Simple - I Hate Kobe.

- And this guy, who informs us about The Three Faces of Kobe Bryant.

- If you don't hate Kobe, you're probably not one of his teammates. Sometimes, in parking lots, for complete strangers, Kobe Talks Smack About Andrew Bynum.

In summation, I suggest that Kobephiles not waste their time and energy writing to me with pleas that I refocus my view of Kobe's woes and accept that there is a dark, mean-spirited conspiracy to oppress this uneducated multi-millionaire that plays a game for a living. I'm not going to agree that he isn't responsible for his own problems, or that he even has any problems. I know this sounds impossible to those who are dedicated to #24, but maybe, just maybe, the only problem is that your hero is an asshole.

Monday, April 23, 2007

LeBron James Supports Abuse

Political activist Ralph Nader has founded a website called The League of Fans that encourages responsibilty in the sports industry. One of their goals is to discourage players from endorsing expensive shoes that are made in foreign factories, where the workers are abused and enslaved.

In March, Nader sent this letter to NBA Player LeBron James:

Ralph Nader & League of Fans ask LeBron James to support workers' rights in Nike factories.

March 21, 2007

LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers

Dear Mr. James:

Congratulations on your continued success as one of the NBA’s elite players. Perhaps basketball fans across the world will be able to watch you and the Cavs in the Finals very soon.

As someone who participates in many generous charitable activities, we hope you will be responsive to this appeal.

When last we wrote you in December, 2003 regarding your relationship with Nike and with the workers who produce the Nike products you endorse, you were just one month into your rookie season and six months into your reported 7 year, $90 million contract with Nike. Neither you nor your agent replied to our letter.

Since that time, Nike has admitted, through self-monitoring, that its contracted factories are places where extraordinarily low wages, physical and sexual abuse, restrictions of bathroom use and other human rights abuses take place. Finally acknowledging problems that worker’s rights advocates have been exposing for well over a decade is a responsible step for Nike, as is its important disclosure of factory locations. But this acknowledgment and disclosure does not mean the problems are being addressed.

As we expressed in our previous letter, Nike products are synonymous with sweatshops in developing nations, and the company still chooses to maximize profits on the backs of workers who live in poverty and whose human rights are unprotected. We ask that you support justice for these people.

Mr. James, pro athletes are not unlike most people in this country who tend not to believe that they have the power to influence change. Some, however, know they have the power but are afraid that speaking out publicly could disrupt their positions personally, professionally, commercially, or in the media.

But there are others. For example, athletes like Etan Thomas, Steve Nash, Carlos Delgado, Martina Navratilova, Adonal Foyle, Adalius Thomas, Josh Howard, Adam Morrison and others have all raised their voices against the war and occupation of Iraq.

Stephon Marbury has spoken out in a different way. Through direct action, Marbury has launched his own basketball sneaker, which retails for about $15. He has challenged the entire basketball sneaker industry, in part, to present inner-city kids with an affordable (yet still stylish and well-made) alternative to the $150 shoes that you and others endorse. That Marbury’s shoes, produced by Steve and Barry’s, are made in China suggests it is likely they are manufactured under sweatshop factory conditions, given that independent trade unions are illegal in China. Hopefully Marbury’s efforts toward positive change will soon lead him to address worker’s rights as well.

Mr. James, as someone who enjoys unsurpassed commercial influence and with it, great negotiating power, you are in a unique position to stand up for the people who make the products you endorse. We urge you to let Nike know that you support the rights of those workers by demanding that:

- Nike insist its contractors pay a living wage, under safe working conditions, that allows workers to meet their basic needs, and that Nike pay contractors enough to do this;

- Nike insist its contractors recognize independent unions and that factory management collectively bargain with these unions in good faith; and

- Nike agree to a program of factory monitoring through international unions and human rights organizations that are credible and completely independent of Nike.

You have a chance to make an impact around the world not just with your basketball playing ability, but for your generosity as a human being in helping to improve working conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers.

We look forward to your response. Should you or your agent require more than a letter to respond, we can arrange for two of the workers from Nike factories overseas to travel to the U.S. and meet with you personally so they can convey their eyewitness accounts. Please let us know by April 16, 2007.


Ralph Nader
Washington, DC

Shawn McCarthy
League of Fans
Washington, DC

Maverick Carter
CEO, LRMR Marketing
Akron, OH

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Center of Attention

In the early days of the NBA the big guys ruled. GEORGE MIKAN was the first dominant center in professional basketball. He created problems for opponents in the 1950's that they had no answers for. Before Mikan, basketball was considered to be a game that was more fitting for smaller, quicker men. Mikan, at 6'10, proved nimble enough as he introduced jump hooks and showed the NBA how to use size as an advantage. The game was never the same.

In the 1960's a 7'1 giant named WILT CHAMBERLAIN dominated the sport like no other athlete has ever dominated (statistically) any sport. He owns too many records to list here (Wilt Chamberlain stats & records) and achieved the still unbelievable feat of scoring 100 points in a single game. But Wilt had a capable foe in BILL RUSSELL, a 6'9 center that led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles in 13 years. Every time these two big men met it was a major event, like a basketball version of an Ali-Frazier fight.

In the 1970's legendary big men KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR and BILL WALTON continued the center domination. Abdul-Jabbar, 7'2, won six NBA titles, six MVP's, played in 19 All-Star games, and is the All-Time leading scorer in NBA history. WALTON, 7'0, perhaps the greatest college basketball player ever won two NCAA Championships and three straight NCAA Player of the Year Awards. Then he entered the NBA and led the Portland Trailblazers to the '76-77 NBA title, winning the MVP award in 1978 before injuries derailed his career. He finished his career as a role player, but was successful at that too. In 1986 he came off the bench to help the Boston Celtics win a title and was given the Six-Man Award that year.

The 1980's brought us the burly MOSES MALONE, 6'10, who would lead the Philadelphia 76ers to the 1983 title and was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 1979, 1982 and 1983. And, following illustrious college careers, the NBA welcomed 7'0 PARTICK EWING and 6'11 HAKEEM (Akeem in college) OLAJUWON. They both enjoyed brilliant professional careers, but Olajuwon was more successful, winning two titles for the Houston Rockets, and in 1993-94 he became the first player to be named NBA MVP, NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Finals MVP in the same season.

DAVID ROBINSON, A 7'1 Naval veteran, became the next great center, dominating most other big men in the early 1990's. Robinson probably would have had an even more impressive career if not for the arrival of the man that would ruin the center position from that point on - 7'1 behemoth SHAQUILLE O'NEAL. The NBA had never seen anyone like O'Neal before. He was absolutely massive, but had exceptionally quick feet and was far more athletic than his body would suggest. Opposing centers had difficulty defending him because they weren't allowed to. The league and its officials were never sure exactly how to referee him. They claimed that he was so big that "incidental" contact was unavoidable. In other words, an offensive foul for anyone else was not an offensive foul for O'Neal. He was allowed to catch the ball in the low post, turn, and bull his way through the defender to the basket. It became almost impossible to defend a man that was immune to the rules of the game. As a result, the center position neared extinction, except for O'Neal.

By the millennium, big men that would have once been centers were now shooting the ball from three-point range (far from O'Neal) and calling themselves forwards. Great 7-footers like TIM DUNCAN, KEVIN GARNETT, and DIRK NOWITZKI, have avoided the title of center, and the responsibility of defending O'Neal this entire decade. The only other true center with any real talent to come into the league in years is 7'5 Chinese import - YAO MING. He's no match for O'Neal, but as O'Neal nears retirement, with a bloated resume to match his bloated waistline, the position has potential to rise again.

With the expected announcement that 7'0 Ohio State prodigy - GREG ODEN - next year, and the emergence of 7'2 Georgetown center ROY HIBBERT, the future looks bright for the position and a new era of great centers looks possible.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Best Dunk Ever!

Do you remember the best dunk you've ever seen in person? As a lifelong UNLV Runnin' Rebel fan (and Las Vegas native) I can honestly say that the greatest dunk I ever saw happened at the Thomas and Mack Center. But for almost 20 years it lived as just a vague memory, filed away deep in my mind. Then, after all these years, I found it on YouTube. I couldn't believe it and I couldn't be happier to see it again.

It was around 1989 and I had attended virtually every home game for years. Then one night, our 6'8 center -- JARVIS BASNIGHT, broke free on the wing with the ball in his hands. He had good ball-handling skills so we weren't worried about a turnover, but he was moving super fast and a defender set himself to take a charge under the basket. Then it happened. Basnight elevated, and kept rising. He lept completely over the defender for a dunk, leaving me and 18,000 other fans with an extraordinary basketball memory. And now, here is that play for you to enjoy:

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ball Hogs

I always find it odd that so many players, and the slightly retarded fans that worship them, confuse greed with leadership. It’s true that shooting guards are most likely to lead their team in scoring, and therefore are the most likely to become ball hogs, but it seems to be difficult to explain to them that just because they think they can score on anyone, that doesn’t make it a good game plan. MICHAEL JORDAN could score on anyone, but he still understood the value of his team controlling the time of possession, getting his teammates involved, and taking good shots. Jordan routinely led the NBA in scoring, and he could have scored much more, but the most amazing of any of his extraordinary accomplishments is that he never gave his personal statistics greater priority than victories.

There are only a few players in the NBA today that can routinely carry their team to victory through exceptional unselfishness. STEVE NASH and TIM DUNCAN are the two best examples, and DWYANE WADE has that ability, but he is at a crossroads in his career. Does he continue to be a fabulous jack-of-all-trades, or will he fall in love with himself and lose sight of the “big picture”, as KOBE BRYANT and VINCE CARTER have done? Only time will tell, but lets hope that Wade aspires to become more than just the leading scorer of a mediocre team. Here is a list of the most greedy ball hogs in the league:

KOBE BRYANT: You don’t score 81 points in a single game by passing. You do it by shooting every single time you touch the ball … and by playing against a team with no dignity. The Lakers won that game against the Raptors last year, but it ruined the rest of the season for them. Bryant’s teammates already knew he was selfish, but they had never seen him so blatantly selfish, refusing to pass to them for easy lay-ups so he could throw up double-teamed jumpers that miraculously fell into the basket. If the Lakers were playing a better team, they would have lost because of Bryant’s narcissism. The trust was gone and Bryant caused his young teammates to lose confidence. Jordan was like that early in his career, but as he aged he became acutely aware that basketball is a team sport and the Bulls rarely lost again. Bryant is the opposite. He was once a solid, well-rounded player that could score, defend, and (gulp) pass. Now he is mostly just a phenomenal scorer and a world class cry-baby.

ALLEN IVERSON: He blamed the 76ers franchise for all his failures, but the truth is that they gave him too many opportunities. They gave him a bunch of different coaches to work with, but he always refused any game plan that didn’t involve Iverson dribbling all the time off the shot clock before taking an off-balanced shot at the buzzer. They gave him a plethora of quality players to be the SCOTTIE PIPPEN to his Jordan, but he ignored them on the court until their value diminished and they were shipped out for another player that would suffer the same fate. It’s understandable why the fans in Philadelphia loved watching him play. His flashy style is fan-friendly, but it’s also detrimental to winning a title. This year the 76ers finally woke-up and realized that they just can’t win with Iverson and his massive ego. He’s the Nuggets problem now. When he arrived, Iverson claimed to understand that CARMELO ANTHONY (another ball hog) is the star in Denver and that he is just a supporting player, but don’t believe it. This pairing (like all in Iverson’s past) isn’t working and the Nuggets are seriously underachieving and soon Iverson will become Iverson again.

GILBERT ARENAS: His quirky personality may be charming to some, but Arenas is perhaps the most egotistical star in the NBA. Unfortunately for the Wizards, he hasn’t yet accomplished anything to merit his behavior. Arenas never refers to his team, he speaks of himself in the third person, and he is concerned only with his own scoring stats. It’s no coincidence that whenever Arenas threatens to have a personal grudge against an opponent, he struggles. Again, basketball is a team sport that requires everyone to contribute. Arenas too often approaches the game like a boxing match, but that never works. The idea that any single player will defeat the opposition is wrong and in direct conflict with his team’s chances of winning. The fact that Arenas is a point guard (sort of) makes his ball hog act even more intolerable. The point guard must dictate the pace of the game for his team. He must make quick and secure decisions, and he must see the whole floor, not just the basket. Arenas’ itchy trigger finger wears down his teammates throughout the season and when the play-offs roll around, they will have lost faith in the decision-making of their point guard, and that is a recipe for disaster.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pistol Pete Maravich

I have loved basketball since the first time I ever saw people playing the game. When I was in third grade, my father, a football fanatic, placed a hoop and backboard on top of our converted garage, perhaps hoping I would play basketball instead of the voilent game of football. He was correct. From that very moment I would commit every single minute of free time I had to perfecting a gorgeous jump-shot. As far as fundamentals go, I was outstanding.

The only problem I had was finding basketball heroes that looked like me, skinny and pale-skinned. LARRY BIRD became my idol. Then, a summer league coach showed the team a film of PISTOL PETE MARAVICH footage. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. He was, and still is, the best dribbler I had ever seen. His jumpshot was flawless. He made the most incredibly difficult passes look routine. He was flashy before that was acceptable, but he was hard to criticize because nobody could stop him. He was just unbelievable. But was I just overly impressed because of my youth and love for the game?

Recently I found a highlight video of Pistol Pete, like the one I had watched as a kid, and it confirmed my belief that he was one of the best players of all time. Watch as he kills everyone trying to guard him, it's amazing.