Why Kobe Won’t Win 6

People like to compare things. It helps us define other people/ourselves. For example, having a higher GPA than somebody means that you do better in school than them, and generally leads to the assumption that you’re the smarter person. The even more classic example is the bench press, which is the end-all measure of strength. If I can bench 135 lbs and Franco Columbu can bench 525 lbs, I’m going to guess that Franco is stronger than me.

Same goes with basketball. Clearly people have an obsession with trying to find the next Michael Jordan. The last generation is always going to say that there won’t be another Jordan and the new generation is going to continuously look for the player that is going to define their era. Without a doubt, Kobe Bryant has been the second best player in the 21st century (1). But time is against him now. He just turned 34. Let me remind you for a second that Michael was 34 during the 96-97 season (2). That was really his last normally healthy year with the Bulls, because in ’98 he was running on fumes to finish the season, and luckily face an equally aged team in the Finals. The difference with Kobe, however, is that Kobe skipped college, which means he has actually played more basketball than MJ at this age.
Add onto his milage the fact that he has changed offenses 4 times in the last 3 years. Or that he has gone through 3 different head coaches in the same amount of years. MJ had the advantage of consistency on his way to six titles. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. and the Lakers have done a lot of fixing recently.

I’ll give one more reason why Kobe won’t win a sixth. Look at history. The Lakers win titles in batches of FIVE, led by career Lakers. Mikan won five in the early 50’s, Magic won five throughout the 80’s, and Kobe was a member of five championship teams in the 00’s. If Kobe wins another one, he has to win four more to complete the cycle, and that’s not happening.
By the way, I know the Lakers have 16 NBA titles. Wilt led the Lakers to one in the 70’s. But then again, when has Wilt ever followed any kind of pattern (3).

,.,

(1) Tim Duncan.

(2) Coming off of a 70 win championship season, entering a championship season, followed by a championship season. Meanwhile, Kobe and his all-star cast are starting the 12-13 season with a record of 6-6. Yet people still compare.

(3) I typed this post with my iPhone on a four hour trip to West Virginia to visit family for Thanksgiving. Needless to say, the trip got faster and my bucket list got shorter. Happy Thanksgiving!

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My First Words in Class

I haven’t been able to write much because school has been kicking my butt recently. This post is actually going to start with something that happened in class today. I wanted to get it documented before tomorrow, which is when I’ll likely forget that it ever happened.

I was in my business law class, which is a general class that all business majors have to take to graduate. En route to a tangent, the subject of movies came up, and my teacher asked if there were any good ones in theaters right now. One kid mentioned that he heard Argo was good. The teacher immediately asked if the plot was true to history. He then went on to ask the class if there were any basketball fans in the class. Sitting in the front row, I didn’t raise my hand because I didn’t want to be put on the spot if I was the only one (1). He said that Hoosiers is an extremely inaccurate movie, and that the only similarity between the movie and actual story is that the team wins the 1954 Indiana state championship. A girl in my class then raised her hand and said that another proven fact in the movie is that a kid makes two under-handed or “granny” free throws.

My teacher shrugged. He thought for a moment, then said,”Here’s a trivia question. Name two professional basketball players who shot under-handed free throws.” Immediately a name popped into my head, but I waited for someone else to respond. When no one did, I casually threw out the guy I was thinking of. “Rick Barry”. The teacher looked at me for a second, then nodded in approval. I think his pause was because those were probably the first words I had spoken in the class all semester. No one guessed the second guy, which turned out to be Wilt Chamberlain (2).

As I was leaving class, I started thinking. There are no under-handed free throw shooters in today’s game. I can think of two reasons why. First, no one shoots them, so it’s not a very popular thing to do, and in this generation probably nobody knows that it can be accurate. Secondly, I think it has a certain stigma associated with it (3). On the flip side, I don’t understand why players who struggle at the line don’t try it. Extreme example: why doesn’t Chuck Hayes try shooting them under-handed? Youtube ‘chuck hayes free throws’ and tell me that he isn’t the perfect candidate to test the method. He’s a career 60% shooter from the line, and his free throw stroke is as smooth as Charles Barkley’s golf swing. If he implemented the under-handed free throw, I’m guessing there would be improvement.

I did a little bit of digging/research online about the history and practicality of the under-handed free throw, and I stumbled upon an interesting article (4)(5). I don’t want to get too into it, but it discusses how the under-handed shot is mathematically more accurate in accordance to the laws of physics, through looking at trajectory and such. Not trying to get scientific, but it makes sense I guess. I’m not saying everybody should shoot “granny style”, but I think it might benefit some players to experiment with it.

(1) Even if I know the answers to questions in class, I normally don’t raise my hand. Not my style. Especially not my style with teachers who like to heavily interact in their lecture.

(2) This was only half true. I’ve watched games of Wilt with the Lakers and he shot free throws normally, but I guess he tried various methods to improve his percentage, with one of these methods being the under-handed style.

(3) True story: In 8th grade I shot under-handed free throws during a game of 21 once. People genuinely thought I was gay because of it.

(4) Under-handed free throws link here.

(5) I didn’t literally ‘stumbleupon’. Similar to under-handed free throws, there is a stigma with the people that use that website. Not hating, just putting it out there.

Positionally Traditional

I was doing some fantasy basketball mock drafts with the homies last night. My one friend made a joke that I hated everyone on his team at that point, which was for the most part true (1). They accused me of not liking a lot of players. As it was an auction draft, the next player put up for auction was Ricky Rubio, and I made the remark that I liked Rubio. My friend said it was because I was obsessed with passing point guards. My first thought: “Duh!” My second thought: “I should enlighten people why I’m harder on some players for their style of play than others.” When it comes to positions in the game of basketball, I’m a traditionalist. I’ve seen players that have had success in their positions, and their style is the baseline that we should study.

Point Guard

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, a point guard is the quarterback of the offense. It is his job to get his teammates in the right spots offensively. A point guard should be level headed and calm in the midst of a chaotic game. A team ceases to be productive when the point guard wants to carry the offensive burden. Basketball, when reduced to it’s simplest definition, is simple: pass to the open man. A point guard should know his teammates’ abilities and should be the extension of the coach on the floor. It’s all cliché, but it holds true.

Current example: Rajon Rondo. All-time example: Magic Johnson.

Shooting Guard

This one should be obvious. A shooting guard is supposed to shoot. Ideally, the shooting guard will lead the team in scoring and will be turned to in situations where points are needed. A shooting guard should also have the ability to handle and distribute the ball when necessary, as the two guard positions will likely have possession of the ball the most on the team.

Current example: Kobe Bryant. All-time example: Michael Jordan.

Small Forward

The small forward has to be the most versatile player on the court. The 1s and 2s can fill for each other and the 4s and 5s can flip positions easily. The three is a very demanding position. It requires the ability to handle the ball effectively, rebound when necessary, score points from the wing, and have a decent jump shot to fall back on when necessary. The small forward is a fill-in-the-blank position. It is the hardest to define because it depends on what his respective team needs him to do to help the team win.

Current example: LeBron James. All-time example: Larry Bird.

Power forward

There’s a reason why the position is not called the big forward. The power forward has traditionally been an offensive force in the low post. Consistent rebounding, efficient post-ups, and the ability to run the floor separates a power forward from the others. When the offense stalls, the team should be able to dump the ball into the power forward and generate points or free throws.

Current example: Kevin Love. All-time example: Tim Duncan.

Center

The man in the middle is the most prized position in the game due to the rarity of a great center. A center should anchor the team’s defense. He is the last line of defense. A truly great center rebounds the ball at a rate higher than anyone else. Scoring points is not necessary to be an effective center, but put-backs and starting fast breaks are a prerequisite to the job. Basketball is a game played from the inside out, and championships are usually not won without a dominate paint presence.

Current example: Roy Hibbert. All-time example: Bill Russell.

(1) He had Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin. Would a team led by those guys win 20 games in an NBA season? And would Blake even score any points?

The Color of Love

I don’t listen to too much music, but when I hear a song that I like, I can become obsessive. I recently tried to rank my top FIVE favorite songs of all-time, and it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I won’t bore you my list, but my number one favorite song in any given circumstance is The Color of Love by Boyz II Men. Nothing touches it. The natural vocal prowess of Boyz II Men is so refreshing in an era of music that relies heavily on automatic tuning to correct pitch.

Boyz II Men is not as good as they were in the ’90s, or even in the early ’00s. The reason is because their bass singer, Mike McCary, left the group in 2003, due to personal reasons. While many won’t notice a difference in their sound, the group is not the same, and will never be able to perform at the same level without him. Mike was the foundation of the quartet, providing the solid bass-lines that enabled the other three to razzle and dazzle in the treble clef. In basketball terms, Mike averaged 10 points and 13 rebounds a game, altered shots on defense, and started the fast break that led to easy points for the other three. After Boyz II Men won multiple championships, he retired, and the Boyz have not been able to replicate the success (1).

The obvious real life basketball example is Tyson Chandler. Tyson is the reason the Mavs won the NBA Championship in 2011. It is also no surprise that when he left Dallas to go to New York, Dallas didn’t repeat and New York became one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Serious contenders need defensive big men to win championships. With that being said, I understand that Miami was an exception last year. I also understand that before that, the last championship team without a legitimate big man was the ’98 Bulls (2). I’m a traditionalist, so I think don’t think the Miami Heat will win the 2013 title.

Repeat: I do not think the Miami Heat will win the title.

Who will? If I could answer that, I would be a rich man in June. I’ve already told you who it’s not going to be; the Miami Heat or any other team without legitimate defensive oriented big men. My favorites to run the table in 2013? Boston, Indiana, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York (3). If I had to bet today, I would bet on the Spurs and Celtics making it to the Finals (4). That may seem a little ridiculous now, but in a later post I’ll explain my rationale.

As a reward for reading my post, and for my own (and hopefully your) listening pleasure, I present Boyz II Men:

(1) Don’t get me wrong, I still listen to their new stuff, but it’s just not the same. It’s like Blue’s Clues with Joe. It still works, but will never be as good.

(2) I’m really not trying to start up the ol’ LeBron/MJ debate. MJ is better. 6 rings, 6 Finals MVPs, and no closer to take big shots for him. Wade is more MJ than LeBron, but no one brings that argument up.

(3) The Los Angeles Lakers. I think I may have hurt Blake’s feelings. At least the new flopping rules will limit the amount of time he lies on the floor when he reacts to this.

(4) To my credit, I’m three out of four for the last two years. I called Miami/Dallas in ’11, and San Antonio/Miami last year. I should be perfect. Still don’t know how the Spurs managed to blow it like they did.

The Case for John Wall

My family moved to Ohio a couple of months after the Miami Heat won their first championship. That was a time when the Big Three consisted of Gilbert Arenas, Larry Hughes, and Antawn Jamison, Kobe still wore number 8, and Nash was coming off of his second MVP season. It was particularly hard for me to believe we were moving to Ohio, the state that had knocked off the Wizards in the playoffs three years in a row. After the move happened, I was surprised to find that people from Ohio, at least in the Central Ohio area, took their sports very seriously. Cavaliers fans were everywhere. To this day, some of the smartest basketball minds that I have ever talked with are Cavalier fans. Cavalier fans have loyalty to their team much like any other team in the NBA (1).

The Cavaliers aren’t that different from the Wizards. They have both had very high points in their team history: Wizards in the 70s, Cavaliers in the 00s. Both have had superstars (in recent memory) disappoint them by making bad decisions (2). Both have coaches that were drafted in 1983 by picks from the two current LA teams. Both are in a rebuilding process, and both started that process by drafting a point guard as their number one overall pick when each team won the lottery. One question pops up a lot in conversations between my friends, on Twitter, on Youtube, or anyplace where basketball is discussed:

If you had to start a team with either Kyrie Irving or John Wall, who would you pick?

The overwhelming answer is Kyrie. From Cavalier and Wizard fans alike. This is completely staggering to me. Most people think Kyrie is without-a-doubt the right answer. This was later confirmed by the latest NBA Rank listings, which place John at 55 and Kyrie at 22 (3).

Before I give you my answer, let me define what I think a point guard should be. A point guard should be the quarterback of the basketball team. Nobody cares about how many touchdowns a quarterback runs into the endzone. They care about how many touchdowns the running back (who the quarterback hands off to) gets, or how many a wide receiver (who the quarterback throws to) gets. Why should it be any different in basketball? The last/only high scoring point guard to win an NBA championship was Isiah Thomas. Even Iverson couldn’t do it. It just doesn’t happen.

With that being said, people today place too much emphasis on scoring point guards. It’s why Derrick Rose was an MVP. It’s why Russell Westbrook is ranked 9 on NBA Rank. It’s why Rondo is so underrated as a point guard. There’s nothing wrong with loving a point guard who gets buckets (4). Just understand they are not going to win the big one.

So back to the question. Kyrie is a scoring point, while John is a passing point. John is a whole lot more athletic, taller, quicker, faster, and better defensively. Kyrie has struggled with injuries, when John played all 66 games in a shortened season last year. As for stats, only three point guards averaged 16 points and 8 assists a game, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and John Wall. And that’s with Nick Young and Jordan Crawford as his leading scorers (5). People can point to the jump shot, but a jump shot can be learned, not athleticism. Kyrie may score more gamewinners than John (see Boston layup), but John has set up more gamewinners than Kyrie (see Nene layup in Miami).

Overall it has to be John. People are enthralled with Kyrie’s scoring ability, and overlook John’s playmaking ability (6). Regardless, John and Kyrie will be duking it out for the next 10 years or so, and hopefully they will still be wearing the same jerseys as they are today.

(1) Perhaps even more than most after the whole LBJ thing.

(2) Pun intended.

(3) People who Kyrie was ahead of: Andre Iguodala, Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire

(4) Heck, I was a Gilbert Arenas fan and loved when he scored 60 on Kobe’s Lakers.

(5) In an article on BulletsForever.com, they calculated that John Wall had 9.81 missed assists a game (meaning he set up his teammates and they missed the shot), which, added to what he was getting, could have been 17.81 assists a game. He could be the next Stockton or Magic.

(6) Interesting fact: Kyrie scored 2 more points per game than John last year.

The Awesome Blossom of Blake the Possum

One of the most contentious places on the Internet is the youtube comments section. I started watching some Tracy McGrady highlight videos, then clicked a related video, then clicked another related video, then clicked a third related video, and ended up watching a video of Blake Griffin flopping after hitting himself in the face with his own hand (1). This video led me to another where Andre Miller is (thuggishly) shoved by Griffin twice under the basket, and then retaliates (2). The comments to these videos were both supportive of Blake, saying that flopping is apart of the game, and that Andre should have been called for a foul.

There’s one thing that drives me crazy about some of today’s young NBA superstars: a sense of entitlement.

Blake Griffin is extremely overrated as a basketball player. Take him at face value. What do you have? A super athletic forward who can jump really high, albeit two-footed (3). He’s not a good shooter, he can’t handle the ball really well, he’s nonexistent on the defensive side of the ball, and he is an inconsistent rebounder. But mainly he can jump really high and is an incredible athlete.

With that being said, I’d say that Blake is, on average, the best athlete on the court 98% of the time (4). There is no excuse for Blake to play dead every time he gets fouled. In the previous paragraph, the only good thing I said about him is that he is an extremely gifted athlete. Apparently, the only thing that he’s good at doesn’t translate on the court. People like Andre Miller can make Blake look like he just got “hit by a train” (5). He’s a power forward without the power. He has all the ability, he just doesn’t have the mental toughness. I have very little sympathy for that.

One more video on youtube that ticks me off is the one where Jason Smith decks Blake on the fast break (6). I have no problem with the actual video but, again, the comments. The top comment is a dissing response to somebody who said Blake should be able to handle the contact. No it wasn’t me that said it, but at least I know I’m not alone. You know what my response is to people justifying Blake lying lifeless on the ground for 20 seconds? Learn yourself some history.

(7). I know you’ve seen it before. Kurt Rambis and Kevin McHale. People made a huge deal about the Jason Smith foul, saying ‘Oh well at least Blake wasn’t in the air, or it would have been a 20 game suspension’ or something like that. Are you kidding me? Rambis was in mid-flight and got clotheslined JBL-like by McHale (8). I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that Rambis wasn’t as physically gifted as Blake. As the saying went, Kurt played like Superman, looked like Clark Kent, and shot like Lois Lane. The guy wore taped glasses when he played. And yet, somehow he managed to not play dead and actually show some fire by retaliating. (Which brings up another point that I didn’t think of, when is the last time you saw Blake get emotionally fired up and into a game?)

This all gets back to my main point. Blake hasn’t done anything basketball significant in the NBA yet. Sportscenter top 10 plays yes, if that’s what you’re in to. But until he controls a game, dominates the paint, or gets even mildly interested in being competitive, he should not expect to be respected. Until then, he should just keep making awkward commercials.

(1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHgADbmFLCM

(2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQrNYIBw3fw

(3) I’ve never been a fan of two-footed jumpers. They drive me crazy. I cringe every time I see a Dominique Wilkins highlight.

(4) LeBron.

(5) In the illustrious words of the GFOAT, Reggie Miller. If you read my last post, you’ll understand that I’m not the biggest Reggie fan either.

(6) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRvqWmtR7-I

(7) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7r6vXeOfyQ

(8) First of many WWE references, JBL’s finisher was the Clothesline from Hell. I’ve posted an insane amount of videos in the this post, so here’s one more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDY_c_r7vSw

2012: The End of the World or Just Hall Legitimacy

The second greatest accomplishment in the career of a professional basketball player is to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (1).  Every kid that plays basketball dreams about being enshrined with the greats such as Bird, Russ, Magic, Michael, and the list goes on.  With that being said, the Hall of Fame is the place where the greatest of the great can and do exist forever.  Time cannot wipe away the memories of the legends that reside in the Hall.  Furthermore, I don’t need to express the magnitude of importance and pride that goes along with being a member of the Hall.  There is truly nothing that compares (2).  Many players know this.  In fact, way too many players know this.

My biggest beef with the Hall of Fame is their level of selectivity.  Everyone gets in anymore.  Everyone.  For example Chet Walker.  You may be asking yourself, who is Chet Walker?  To put it in perspective, Chet “the Jet” retired 17 years before I was born, and at the time was 52 years old.  The rules for the Hall of Fame say that a player has to be five years removed from playing his last game in the league to be eligible for the Hall.  When was the Jet’s last game you may ask?  May 14, 1975.  Again, how many years do you have to be out of the league for the Hall?  FIVE (3).  How many was Chet?  Almost thirty-seven. Did he get better over the past thirty years, or did he merely get in because there was finally an open spot in a weak Hall of Fame class?  (Yes, there is a right and wrong answer).

What about Ralph Sampson?  He and Hakeem were supposed to be the Twin Towers.  In reality, they were more like Shaq and C-Webb than they were Robinson and Duncan (4). Sampson is getting into the Hall based on potential and not much else.  The ’84 season was arguably the best of his career (5).  While stats don’t tell the whole story a lot of times, Ralph was in the top five in four statistical categories that year: turnovers, blocks, personal fouls, and rebounds.  However, he did enough to earn the Rookie of the Year in ’84 and the All-Star MVP in ’85, but that’s about it.  His career was on the downturn from that point, riddled with injuries.  My favorite part of Sampson’s career is the trendy fad that he subliminally started.  Sampson was the first player (that comes to my mind anyway) to sign with the Bullets at the end of an above average career shortly before retiring.  This trick has been repeated by others who have felt the need to end their career with somewhat of a Bullet/Wizard flare, including the likes of Bernard King, Charles Oakley, and most famously, Michael Jordan.  The true legacy of Ralph Sampson ladies and gentlemen.

Easily the best ex-player in the class, Reggie Miller is still a second-ballot selection.  If this HOF class were a band, Reggie would be the clear-cut lead singer.  The only problem is that the band’s name is Creed (or Nickelback, pick your poison).  Reggie is most known for his trash-talking, flopping, and clutch shooting.  Two of those things don’t have to do with skill.  Despite being one of the most popular players in the 90s, Reggie was one of the most overrated players in the history of the game (6).  Ask somebody on the street who they think the top five shooting guards of all-time are, and I’ll guarantee that 76-93% will include Reggie Miller in their list (7).  He only averaged above 20 points for six of his eighteen seasons in the league, nor did he ever lead the league in 3pt% (what he was “best” at).  He turned it on in the playoffs, but never won a championship, even given the blessing of two years without MJ in the mid-90s.  To top it all off, he was an all-star five times in his career that, again, lasted eighteen years.  Regardless, he’s the one that probably deserves to be in the Hall the most, but he’s still not even close to being a perfect candidate.  It may seem like I’m ripping these guys to shreds, but in all honesty, they were all really good basketball players.  I’m just judging them as HOF inductees in a class that probably shouldn’t have any players in it to begin with (8).

(1) No Charles Barkley, getting head isn’t number one.

(2) …is what I’ve heard.  Clearly I wouldn’t know, myself.

(3) Inside joke with my friends that will definitely be a recurring thing.  5 is our number, and will oftly be written as FIVE.  I’m not shouting it, just maintaining a not-so-inside-anymore-joke.

(4) You may be wondering “I thought Shaq and C-Webb never played together”.  You’re right.

(5) It was also his rookie season, which implies that he never got better during his time in the NBA.

(6) I almost wrote ‘in my opinion’, but, since it’s my blog, naturally it’s all ‘in my opinion’.

(7) The only way he smells the scent of my top five is if you literally define the position as a ‘shooting’ guard.  Then he would be in at the fourth spot, behind Allen, English, and Gervin.  Reggie was good, but I’m a sucker for the smooth guys, and I’m man enough to admit it.

(8) Ending sentences/posts with prepositions is where it’s at.