I’ll Still Take Larry Bird Over LeBron James

jamesbird
It is a good time to be a LeBron James fan. Having won his third NBA Finals MVP, and leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a historic Championship, the LeBron “lovers” (seems only fair to call them that since they call anyone who challenges the LeBron is a demi-god narrative a hater or a troll) are understandably pounding their chests, and elevating LeBron’s historical place in the game.

According to some of the loving talking heads at ESPN, LeBron is clearly a top three to five player, maybe one, and with this latest championship, definitely the best small forward ever, over Larry Bird.

Here are two ways to talk about the best ever and demonstrate why the lovers are wrong:

  • One, if you were to start a team with one player, who would it be?
  • Two, if you could put together the best starting five, who would it be?

The difference is the best five ever can have two people playing the position, best starting five asks for the best at each.

jamesbird2

So, who is my best starting five?  At the point guard I am going with Magic Johnson.  At power forward, Tim Duncan. At shooting guard, do I really have to say it? Okay, Michael Jordan.  With respect to Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlin who I didn’t see play, I’ll take the underappreciated Kareem Abdul Jabbar at center.

Now before I say why I will take Bird over James at small forward (the title of the blog was kind of a spoiler), let me ask you, as great as my starting four is, what is one glaring weakness in this lineup?  Ding ding ding, three point shooting!  Give all the readers who got it a prize.  Given the other starting four, Bird is simply a better fit in this all-time lineup.

Just to show the lovers that I am not a hater, if Steph Curry continues on his trajectory and manages to somehow supplant Magic as the starting point guard, then there becomes a better argument to put James in the starting five over Bird.  I’ll get back to you after Curry retires on that one.

Okay one part down.  As far as who I would want to start a team with, first let me say as far as talent goes, and from what I have seen, LeBron is top three of all time. However, to use the often used Batman/ Robin metaphor, he has Batman talent but Robin mentality.  If I was guaranteed to have a team with two alpha dog stars there is a good chance I would want LeBron to be one of them. For example, I think a young LeBron would have done better with an in his prime Shaquille O’Neal than Kobe Bryant.  Conversely, if I was guaranteed to have one star, there are others I would take before him.  Larry Bird being one, and Kobe Bryant another.

I can hear the lovers screaming about LeBron’s back to back 41 points in the finals and other pretty statistics.  I’m not saying LeBron can’t be clutch or can’t ever close, I’m saying those are skills just like passing and rebounding, and when compared to the best of the best, others do it better.  His former teammate Dwyane Wade being among them.

Between Bird and LeBron, both are all-time great passers, but I’ll give an edge to LeBron. Both can rebound the ball, but edge Bird. Both can score, but three point shooting, foul shooting, and late game foul shooting, big edge Bird.  LeBron is a much better defender, ball handler and driver to the basket.  As far as being clutch, leadership (can’t imagine Bird writing “sub-tweets” about teammates) and intangibles (such as more likely to make a steal versus turn it over) solid edge Bird.

So, it is not a landslide or anything but after reviewing the tale of the tape, as of now,  I’m sticking with Larry Legend.

LarryLegend
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Between Allen Iverson And Steve Nash, The Answer is Nash

And It Is Not Even Close

nashIversonWith the latest injury and announcement that 40-year-old future hall of famer Steve Nash will miss the entire upcoming NBA season, many in the media have begun to understandably eulogize Nash’s career.  Indeed, we have likely see the last of him as far as playing in the NBA. One comparison I hear making the rounds is who was better between he and another great guard destined for the hall of fame, Allen Iverson.

Most I have listened to on ESPN, led by an admittedly biased Stephen A. Smith, (Smith credits A.I. for helping him in his career in sports print/TV journalism) either slightly or heavily point to Iverson as being the better or the two, and or the one they pick for their team. I believe Stephen A. stated that A.I. was on another level compared to Nash.

Hogwash. Iverson was great but players like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and Russell Westbrook must get sick hearing talk about Iverson sometimes, because when they shoot a lot, they’re selfish ball stoppers. When A.I. shoots a lot, despite how many times he misses, he is demonstrating heart. Because A.I. was very tough, fearless, and lets face it, short by NBA standards, he sometimes got a pass on being a volume shooter, and dare I say selfish player, that others would not.

With Nash and Iverson you can make the debatable argument that if either is the best player on your team you will not win a championship. Assuming that is the case, I am far more confident that Nash could have an easier time adjusting his game, and being the second best player on a team than Iverson.

We know Nash was an all-time great passer.  Currently he is number three on the all time assist list.  Yes, he did more to make his teammates better, but he was also a great two, three, and foul shooter, as demonstrated by being part of the exclusive 50-40-90 club  (pointed out by Smith’s sparring partner on ESPN’s First Take, Skip Bayless, who does give a slight edge to Nash.)

Here is a question to ask yourself in the comparison. Hoopsmanifesto
lists the top ten NBA players of all-time as being:

10 – Kobe Bryant

9 – Shaquille O’Neal

8 – LeBron James

7 – Tim Duncan

6 – Wilt Chamberlain

5 – Larry Bird

4 – Magic Johnson

3 – Kareem Abdul- Jabbar

2 – Bill Russell

1 – Michael Jordan

If we could ask them, who on this list do you think would prefer to play with A.I. and who would want to play with Nash? With the possible exception of Magic, my bet is that everyone would rather play with Nash.  Let’s add some more names, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Kevin Love, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Julius Erving, Reggie Miller, etc, etc… who would most to all of these guys rather play with between A.I. and Nash?  That is the player I want on my team.

And yes, I have to talk about practice… Who is the better practice player? The more coachable player? More likely to make teammates better? To lead by example and be a better mentor? The answer to all of these is Nash. Better raw skills? I will give that slight edge to A.I. but that does not make him the better nor more desirable player.

A.I. did play with tremendous heart, but because of height, I think he gets talked about and elevated over others I would take before him in a team game…To name some:  Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, John Stockton, and Gary Payton come to mind as others I would take over A.I..  (Isaiah Thomas is already acknowledged by most as being better than Iverson)

Hey Lakers! Give Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a Statue

He is an All Time NBA & Laker Great. What Are You Waiting For?

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 19th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

When I first heard retired basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talking about the slight of not receiving a statue by the Los Angeles Lakers it seemed unseemly to me. A statue is not something you should have to lobby or campaign for. I can’t imagine Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. complaining or campaigning for an award. But the truth is, is that many times if you don’t speak up for yourself you will get overlooked, and upon further review if you’re going to be giving out statues then Jabbar is worthy of and should receive one.

Currently there are five statues on display at the Staples Center, with the honor being bestowed to: Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Wayne Gretzky, Oscar De La Hoya, and Chick Hearn.

I can see erecting a statue for West and Magic before Jabbar. Jerry West is the logo for the NBA and post playing days became one of the games best general managers and was instrumental in putting together the talent that lead to more championships for the Lakers.

Magic was and is one the nations most charismatic athletes we have. His business accomplishments in Los Angeles, and his handling of HIV combined with being an all time Laker/NBA great make him a transcendent figure. Further, both played their entire careers with the Lakers and there is something magical about having a great one from the beginning of their career to the end. Alex Rodriguez will never be as much a New York Yankee as Derek Jeter or Don Mattingly.

However, it is the next three getting statue’s without Jabbar getting one that makes me go Hhhmmm (That is all you Arsenio Hall). Similar to what Jabbar has said, it is not that these men don’t deserve the honor but what about Kareem? Lets look at them and compare to Jabbar.

Wayne Gretzky may be the Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth of his sport but he didn’t start his career in Los Angeles and he didn’t end his career there either. He was still a great player with L.A. who did make hockey more relevant in the states, and L.A. in particular, but he was not playing like The Great One of his Edmonton Oilers days. I thought the NHL retiring his number was a great touch, I thought the NBA should have followed suit and done the same with Michael Jordan. But — Hold that thought.

Oscar De La Hoya. The Golden Boy. A great Olympic and boxing champion who was the first boxer to win championship belts in six different weight classes. Further, he was a local hero to many. However, as a boxer the Staples Center was not his home like it was for Jabbar. And — Hold that thought.

There are a handful of legendary announcers that do become a part of their team’s lore and history. They often span many generations and touch the heart of the viewers and their fans. They may drive some people crazy but there is no denying their imprint. Such is the case with Chick Hearn. He was one of a kind. However, outside of L.A., a local icon like Hearn is not as known as an all time great player. The jell-o is still jiggling Chick. Rip, but —

Now lets talk about Jabbar. Even though West and Magic were Laker lifers, Jabbar played as many seasons with the Lakers as West, fourteen. And one more then Magic’s thirteen. By comparison, Gretzky played eight in L.A. and ten in Edmonton. Jabbar played on five championship teams with the Lakers. Gretzky did not win a championship in Los Angeles.

For those late to the party Jabbar is the all-time leader in scoring in the NBA. He scored more points than Michael Jordan and more than twice as many points as Magic. He played on six NBA championship teams (five with the Lakers). He won six MVP’s, three of which were with the Lakers. He won a finals MVP with the Lakers and for extra credit as far as his overall L.A. impact, he played on three NCAA winning teams for UCLA.

In fairness to the Lakers, they do not own the L.A. Kings or the Staples Center so if those entities want to honor Gretzky and De La Hoya that of course is their right. Further, it was apparently the death of Chick Hearn that expedited his statue. Still for a player like Jabbar who is in the argument for top five best player of all time, who accomplished so much as a team and individual in the sport and for the Lakers, who played for so many years alongside Magic Johnson, wouldn’t it have made sense to put up their statues together? Magic, who at the time he retired, as the all-time assist leader in the NBA throwing one last pass to the all time leading scorer? That would have been special indeed.

Outside of Michael Jordan soaring through the air, if ever there was a pose that lent itself to being immortalized in a statue it is the skyhook of Kareem Abul-Jabbar. Chick Hearn didn’t get to live to enjoy the moment of his statue, why wait if it is inevitable for Jabbar?

It wasn’t out there before, so I’m glad you brought it to light number 33. But now the rest is up to Lakers to do it and the media to spotlight it or find out why if they don’t. For the record, without an indication of when, the Lakers are on record as saying they will.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

Why It’s A Bigger Deal When LeBron James Flops or Dwyane Wade Is “Dirty”

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers

Fair or not we expect more from superstars.  Love’em or hate’em, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are stars of the highest order.  (Albeit Wade is past his prime).  We tend to exaggerate their successes and failures.

Another way we judge players of all sports is in how they play the game.  Playing the game, “the right way”, or “the way it is supposed to be played” are two common expressions of coaches and players meant to validate:

  • Hard-nosed play.
  • Physical play.
  • All out effort.
  • Honest way of playing.

True there is also a sports expression that states, “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”  But that best represents a sentiment from a pre-social media era.  With drug testing, digital technology, and the traditional media no longer in the back pocket of the games, players simply cannot get away with the things they did years ago.

Technically, since flopping is now a fine-able offense, you can say it qualifies as cheating.  And as much as we don’t like cheating, we like it even less when stars do it.  See the reaction when a player like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens gets suspected of using steroids versus someone like Melky Cabrera actually testing positive for something.

Hypothetically, if a 45-year-old knuckleball pitcher named Phil Niekro got busted for doctoring up a baseball that would be viewed one way.  If Clemens did it?  It would be stop the presses and call into question everything he ever accomplished.  Again, we expect more from superstars.  This is not entirely new.

We admire greatness but feel betrayed by it when it looks to cheat, or for lack of a better word, a weasely advantage.  It was one thing for Vlade Divac or Derek Fisher to be floppers for the Los Angeles Lakers.  It would be another if Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal or Kobe Bryant were habitual floppers.  Just wouldn’t feel right.

LeBron refers to it as a legit strategy.  Forgetting for a moment that it is now a fine-able offense, so is bunting a runner to third base in a critical late game situation in baseball.  If a pitcher or even a leadoff hitter like Brett Gardener does so, we’re excited, but if Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols did that in their prime, it would not be greeted with the same enthusiasm.  Plaques aren’t built for bunt sacrifices and floppers.

jordanutahIt was much more satisfying watching the Chicago Bulls win games on Michael Jordan clutch shooting as opposed to if he flopped to draw an offense foul.  MJ, Magic, Bird, Russell, they weren’t known as floppers.  Lebron, do you want that attached to your resume?

Now let’s look at hard fouls/ cheap and or dirty play.  Unless you’re talking about the 80’s bad boy Detroit Pistons led by Isiah Thomas, at best that is a role player function.  Kurt Rambis of the Magic Johnson Lakers, Dennis Rodman with Michael Jordan’s Bulls, and Bruce Bowen for earlier versions of Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs are examples.

dwadeelbowIf Duncan fouled people or executed the cheap shots that Bowen did it would be a bigger deal.  As it is now with seemingly nice guy Dwyane Wade who is slowly building a resume of questionable plays.  Because of his nice guy persona he has enjoyed the benefit of the doubt, but elbows, like the one he threw in game three against Indiana’s Lance Stephenson are starting to add up.

For reasons already well documented, fans already root for the Miami Heat and their not five, not six, not seven proclamation to fail.  Flopping and dirty play only gives them two more reasons to root for them to lose, and minimize them if they win.

As players, James and Wade do so many things the right way and are so talented, they shouldn’t need to flop and or cheap shot to win.

It’s fine for people to trot out the old cliché about only remembering the winner… But with Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, that is not as true as it used to be.

Memo to Commissioner Stern:  Kudos for instituting a fine for flopping, but increase it.