How To Fix The NCAA / NBA One And Done Situation

Image result for one and done

College basketball players (and football and any other revenue generating college sport, male or female) should be getting paid and or allowed to earn revenue.  That is not the NBA’s problem.  But just because it is not its problem, it doesn’t mean it can’t be part of the solution.  And it doesn’t mean the NBA can’t benefit from that solution.

One and done stinks.

It is not good for the college game – We’re now rooting for laundry and rivalries on muscle memory.   However they’re nothing like they use to be with the constant turnover of marquee players.

It’s not good for the NBA game – Players aren’t developed like they use to be, nor come into the game with the following they use to.

It is not good for the college players who aren’t getting paid for their skill – While comparisons to slavery are off-base, in high revenue generating sports, players not getting paid or being allowed to earn money is a gross form of exploitation.

One solution I’ve heard Jason Whitlock from FOX Sports talk about on his podcast is to somehow turn college basketball into the NBA’s minor league system and figuring out a way for NBA teams to help pay the players.  Whitlock goes on to talk about how the college game is hurting and improving it would be good for the NBA.  I agree.

Michael Jordan was so infatuated with North Carolinahe wore their practice shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts his entire career.  Despite making far less money in their pro-careers, legends of the past, Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isaiah Thomas, (the first), Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, etc., stayed in college longer and are more devoted to the institutions that didn’t pay them then the pro teams that did.  (Side note, don’t tell me there is no value from learning from Dean Smith, Mike KrzyzewskiJohn Thompson, John Wooden, etc., etc., and staying in school for more than a year.

Today’s NBA player, doesn’t have the loyalty of players past.  Today’s NBA player takes the path of least resistance and doesn’t want to overcome obstacles.  They want super teams.  Players use to team hop/ring chase at the end of their careers, most now look for the quick exit.  This isn’t “wrong”.  It is the player’s right, but is it good for the game?  Is this decreased loyalty and path of least resistance good for owners and fans?

Image result for michael jordan vs detroit pistons

Considering the owners keep trying to change the salary cap and rules to create incentives for less player movement, I’m thinking the owners don’t like it.  Fans look at how past players, like Jordan, had to overcome the Detroit Pistons, who had to overcome the Boston Celtics AND  Los Angeles Lakers and how the game’s best competed against, and not with each other, as diminishing the accomplishments of today’s players looking for the easiest path.  And the saying, “well 20 years from now no one will remember”, is no longer true.  The explosion of the media/social media will assure distinctions that may have been lost in 1900’s will in fact be remembered.

So what’s the fix?

1 – The NBA and NCAA need to get together and make college basketball the                             official minor league system of the NBA.

2 – The best and most exciting way to do this is to allow NBA teams to draft                              players coming out of high-school if they choose to enter the draft.

3 – Before the start of each NCAA season, the NBA team will have the choice to                       bring the player up to the NBA team or have him play college ball.  Once the                       college season begins, the player is committed for the season, with a “minor                       league” salary.

4 – When that player’s college season is over, the NBA team could bring the player                 up (with pay) to help them for the rest of that NBA season without effecting his                 college eligibility for the following year.

For example, let’s say the Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball out of high school and after UCLA lost in the tournament they called him up.  The following season, the Lakers could have a choice at the start of the year.  One- have him play his sophomore year at UCLA or be with the Lakers from the start.

5 – Each season the pro-team has the player stay in college, the player gets an                            increase in salary.  Plus, players should be allowed to earn endorsements.

6 – All players should be able to earn a baseline salary (plus endorsements) that                       can be based on a percentage of revenue whether they are drafted by the NBA                     or not.

7 – If an NBA team chooses to bring up a player at the start of the NBA season,                         than his rookie contract would kick in, the team could not send him back to                         college, and he would forfeit the remainder of his college eligibility.

Under this formula, the players, the NCAA and NBA all have something to gain.  Players are getting paid right away.

Many would likely stay in school longer which should improve their development and perhaps would inspire loyalty and teach them about overcoming obstacles.  By sticking around maybe they win that NCAA title that they lost their freshman year, and make great relationships that they wouldn’t have.

Brief stints with the pro-team can show them what they need to work on and give them feel for NBA life so that by the next time they’re called up they’re more ready for it.
The player, NCAA and NBA would gain from the buzz of the elite players going back and forth from the college to the pro game once the player’s college season is over.
Player or team options to waive or re-enter the draft if the pro team doesn’t commit to the player at the start of an NBA season after year two, three or four can be worked out, but the above framework allows players to be paid right away and improves the college and pro-game.

Oh and did I mention, the media would have an absolute field day debating the decisions made by coaches as to when to take players, bring them up, send them down, etc..

There is some risk for the player in that if he doesn’t develop as projected his stock could lower (or rise), and he could be waived or lose his NBA rookie contract.  For the elite high school athlete this risk could be offset by endorsements and other earning opportunities.

There are kinks to be worked out but one thing is for sure, it is past time for college athletes (NCAA division I basketball and football specifically) to be getting paid something.
Advertisements

The Greatest Athletes Of All Time? Not So Fast

jordanlebron2

In modern sports it has become an obsession to talk about who is the “GOAT”, A.K.A., greatest of all time. Unfortunately, over the years, the conversation has escalated in frequency and devolved in to who has the most “chips”, as in championships. And that supposedly ends the discussion.

Growing up, I don’t recall Bill Russell being anointed as the GOAT even though he was the best player on those great Boston Celtic teams.  Same with Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I was a tennis fan for years before I heard the name Roy Emerson. FYI, that’s the guy who had the record of grand slam men’s title’s before Pete Sampras and then Roger Federer broke his record.

What a gross over simplification chip count is. Science suggests that in order to accurately compare two samples you would have to put them under the same conditions.

For example, in order to fairly compare San Francisco 49er QB legend, Joe Montana, to rising all-star QB of the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson, you’d have to clone every person they’d ever played with and against, was coached by and against, and play the games in the same weather conditions and under the same league rules.  This would give you the fairest and most accurate comparison between the two. Don’t get mad at me, that’s science. But this is sports so let’s not let a little thing like science spoil all the fun.

Before the chip obsession we relied on statistics, clutch performance, the optics of what our eyes told us.  Players with chips stood out but it wasn’t the be-all and end-all that it seems to be today.  Other factors were and should also be considered.  Such as teammates, coaches, level of competition, rules changes, and so on.

Further, the difference between winning and losing can be so small and contingent on these other factors that have nothing to do with a player and warrant that they be considered.  With that in mind I am going to try to marry a little science with the optics and take a look at some of the so-called GOATs in a few different sports.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass during an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on Sunday November 18, 2012 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. New England won 59-24. (AP Photo/Aaron M. Sprecher)

(AP Photo/Aaron M. Sprecher)

TOM BRADY – He just led his team to the greatest comeback in the  NFL’s Superbowl history. Congrats to Brady and the Patriots.  It was a great/historic comeback that in the eyes of many clearly cements Brady as the greatest ever.  After all it gives him one more chip than Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.

As great as the comeback was…

  1. Atlanta’s defensive back drops a potential interception that would’ve sealed the game. *
  2. Atlanta did mismanage the game clock.  Their offensive coordinator called plays that moved them out of field goal range which would have sealed the game before New England’s game tying drive.
  3. The refs missed a face mask call that should have offset a holding penalty, giving the Falcons another down and 10 yards of field position.
  4. Julian Edelman makes a great/miraculous catch.  Coach Bill Belichik makes great second half adjustments.
  5. N.E. defense plays great in the 2nd half.
  6. Specials teams plays great.
  7. Offensive line gives Brady much more time in second half.

*(In fairness to Brady, had Asante Samuel not dropped a potential interception of Eli Manning, against the N.Y. Giants, in 2008, Brady/ Pats win another SB.)

Brady still had to do his thing, and he did, but if ALL of those things don’t happen we’re talking about his pic six, and open receivers he missed during the game, because Atlanta likely wins.

Not every QB plays with the assets Brady has had throughout his career.  True, he’s not playing with hall of fame wide receivers (except for when he had Randy Moss), but the guys he’s throwing to are often open.  Brady deserves his share of the credit but that does also speak to the system and to the coaching.

Two more words for you with implications on how Brady is viewed in the pantheon of great quarterbacks: Tuck rule.

Yes, of course Brady is great, all-time great, but like other greats, you give him time, he will pick you apart, you pressure him, like the Giants did in two Superbowls or Atlanta in the first half of this one, and he becomes mortal.  Give a handful of other great QB’s his defenses, his field goal kickers/ special teams, and his coaches, and their chip count is right where Brady’s is.  Maybe they have one or two less, or maybe one or two more.

I do put Brady in the discussion of all time greats, but it is and always will be just that… a discussion.

goat2

ROGER FEDERER – The Fed just did something no one thought he could do.  At 35 years of age, (geriatric for tennis) coming off a six month layoff due to knee surgery and having not won a tennis major since 2012 Wimbledon, he won his 18th grand slam title, The Australian Open. He increased his record and lead to 4 slams over Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras. To win the tournament he had to go the distance, 5 sets, in his last three matches, beating Nadal in an epic final. To many, this win, especially against Nadal, who has dominated their head to head competition, cements Roger as the GOAT.

You would think that declaring a GOAT would be much easier in an individual sport versus team but in tennis it certainly is not.  Tennis is played on different surfaces, clay, grass, hard, carpet, and indoor/ outdoor, that greatly affects the way the game is played.  Further, when trying to compare different generations, you have vast changes in racket and string technology, changes in surface, and advancement in training and recovery from injury.

I’m a HUGE Federer fan.  I was elated for him for his latest slam win. I draw personal inspiration from it as well, but objectivity requires that I point out the obvious.  Nadal is without question the better clay court player.  If not for a series of injuries, Nadal may have more slam titles than Fed, and he does have the head to head edge.  Pete Sampras, who was not the all-around player Fed is may be his equal or better on grass.  Novak Djokovic at his best at the Aussie? I’m not betting the ranch on either player.  At the U.S. Open, Andre Agassi in his prime, Sampras and others could have given Fed a run.  In fact in a hypothetical tournament of champions, Federer might not be the number one seed in any of the four slams.

Fed’s slam total, masterful play and the fact that he would likely be the first, second, third, or fourth seed in all hypothetical slams of champions of course puts him in the discussion, but cemented shut? Nope.  Most accomplished doesn’t automatically mean GOAT.

goat3

SERENA WILLIAMS – Sticking with tennis.  In the women’s game, Serena just won her 23rd grand slam, passing Steffi Graf for the modern-day women’s lead. Also at the age of 35, Miss Williams is still dominant, ranked number 1 and may add to her already spectacular resume.

However.  I’m going to name some other players for you: Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsey Davenport, Martina Hingis and Monica Seles. What do all of these players have in common?

  1. They all of have won multiple grand slams.
  2. They were all ranked number one at one time.
  3. Their careers all overlapped with Serena’s.
  4. They all prematurely retired, or took time off due to injury, desired to get pregnant and start a family, in the case of Venus Williams, illness slowed her down, and in the case of Monica Seles, she was stabbed on the tennis court.

Those are eight battle tested champions.  That’s a lot.  Setting aside Seles for a moment, let’s say that Serena is better than every player mentioned above.  I submit that if  half of these players didn’t leave the sport prematurely of suffer injury, they would have dented Serena’s slam total, which seems to be the nail that shuts the door on the GOAT conversation.  My Mt. Rushmore of women’s tennis is Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and of course Serena Williams.

My personal favorite female player is Seles.  Seles, the sports world, including other players like Graf and Williams, were robbed when Seles’ career was irreversibly effected by the stabbing. Seles ended up with 9 slams.  No doubt she would have had many more if not for the lost years and psychological effect of such an event.

Her meteoric rise at such a young age came before that of Tiger Woods’ ascension in golf. Seles, by age 19, had begun to dominate then GOAT candidate Graf.  God forbid Woods had been stabbed after his 8th slam in golf and had he come back to only win one more, we’d be hearing for decades how he would have won 15 to 20 more slams easy.  History has not afforded Seles the same status they should have and would have if she were born in America or perhaps if she was a he.

But I digress.  Serena is an all-time great and given the length of her greatness and dominance and the fact her career is still going, the female tennis GOAT conversation does begin with her, but it does not end.  And like the men, in a tournament of champions her seeding may vary by surface.

goat4

MICHAEL JORDAN – Toughest for last.  I love me some Michael Jordan.  When I think of MJ, I think of that scene in Rocky II when Apollo Creed’s trainer, Duke, is trying to talk Apollo out of a rematch with Rocky. Apollo asks Duke what is he afraid of. Duke’s answer is, “I saw you beat that man like I saw you beat no man before… and the man, kept, coming, after you … We don’t need that kind of man in our life…” Jordan, had Rocky’s heart and determination, and Apollo’s talent. A true terminator.  But the end of discussion GOAT?  I can’t go there.  Even for Michael.

When talking about all-time greats in basketball, big men seemed to get short-changed.  Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain. These are greats that can’t just be dismissed because their games don’t possess flash and style, or because they played more than 15 years ago.

Weirdly enough, the “chip” discussion in basketball only seems to apply to modern players and the flashy two guard or small forward. Kobe Bryant and Lebron James can’t be better than MJ because they have less rings?  (They’re not for other reasons but like I said, I love me some MJ) However, less rings doesn’t seem to disqualify MJ in the comparison to Bill Russell. Kareem has as many rings, scored more points and won more MVP’s, was an eleven time all defensive player, and had the most indefensible shot in the game.

MJ was a transcendent player who took the NBA to new levels.  With all due respect to the logo, (Jerry West), for all of his contributions to the game, and his game, the NBA should consider redoing the logo to Jordan’s image, and or do for him what hockey did for Wayne Gretzky and retire MJ’s jersey in all arena’s… But that still doesn’t make him the end of discussion GOAT.

These are just several examples of “GOAT” athletes.  I could have picked others.  In the case of Brady, Federer, Williams and Jordan, I am not saying that any of the them are not the GOAT in their respective sports, just that you can’t close the book, especially based on most championships.   There are lots of considerations, and this blog just begins to scratch the surface.

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

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)

Why Phil Jackson Would Be a Better Coach for the Miami Heat Than Pat Riley

It is All About the Zen

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on June 16th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

With respect to current Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, after the Heat loss in the NBA Finals, there are calls in the media for Pat Riley to take back the coaching reins. If Spoelstra is going to be replaced, Riley should stay where he is and he should do whatever it takes to bring in the Zen Master.

For years many critics of Phil Jackson pointed to the fact that he coached great players such as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and used that to minimize his accomplishments as a coach and question how good he was. Pat Riley coached a few good players himself in Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, James Worthy, Dwyane Wade and Patrick Ewing and yet Riley seemed to dodge the, “you were successful because of who you coached charge” to the level extolled upon Jackson.

Upon further review we see that whereas none of Jackson’s players won a title prior to his arrival, (talked about in more detail here), it was Riley’s Lakers who had won a championship before he arrived. Further, Riley lost in the playoffs to lower seeds several years in a row as head coach of the Miami Heat, including losing as a number one seed to a number eight, before he quit just before the 2003-4 season.

If a superstar player had a stretch that bad in the playoffs the media would suggest that it is and should be an indelible part of the player’s legacy. And so it should be with coach Riley.

However, many in the media have always liked Riley more than Jackson. Further, they conveniently leave out certain facts about the 2006 Miami Heat championship team that Riley coached after the Machiavellian maneuver he employed to replace coach Stan Van Gundy.

Riley lovers such ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and Skip Bayless have repeatedly stated that Riley brought that Heat team over the top and that Stan Van could not have coached the team to a championship. Lets remember that Van Gundy brought the Heat to the conference finals in 2005.

What Bayless and Kornheiser leave out when they say Riley made the difference between the Heat losing in game seven of the conference finals in 05 and winning in 06 are two key facts.

  • One, Shaq was healthier in 06 than he was in 05. Maybe you can dismiss that one as “The Daddy” was already past his prime and it was D. Wade’s team.
  • Two, Bayless fawns over Wade’s game. Understandable, the man has skills and is clutch. Okay, in that 2005 conference finals, Wade got hurt and missed game 6, and played hobbled in game 7, and they still almost won this series!

When comparing Riley to Van Gundy and who could have done what with which team, don’t you think its fair to bring up those little tidbits? With a healthy Wade (and Shaq) the Heat beat Detroit, without a healthy Wade, the Heat do not win in 2006.

Back to the present. The biggest issue facing today’s Heat is the mind of Lebron James. Clearly he has the talent. Since the end of this year’s finals on Sunday there have been fair comparisons of Lebron to baseball’s Alex Rodriguez and what he went through trying to win a World Series with the New York Yankees.

Further, the calls for Lebron to see a sports psychologist, I think is a good idea. Despite what I said about Riley above, I do think he is a great coach, but he requires players with a thick skin who are on the same page and can withstand and thrive under his intensity. Riley is old school and I don’t think he is the man for the psychological mess Lebron appears to be. Further, James already gets fast break, “showtime” style basketball. It is when the game slows down and is in the half court that he needs help.

Contrary to Riley, the Zen Master, with his books, movies, meditations and alternative approach is what might help heal Lebron off the court and Jackson’s triangle, share and move without the ball offense, might be the thing that redeems him on it.

Jackson has led tormented superstars to the promised land three times. Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, and Kobe a second time after Shaq and Jackson left the Lakers and they fell off the map and failed to make the playoffs. It is a road Jackson has traveled and succeeded on over and over again, more so than Riley.

When they win, Pat still gets the credit for being the executive that brought all the talent together and for having the ego strength to bring in Jackson. For all the unrest in Heat land right now, imagine the instant calm that would ensue if it were announced that Phil Jackson was putting his fishing rod down and taking his Zen to South Beach.

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…

Time to Update the List of the 50 Greatest Players in the History of the NBA

Would Scottie Pippen Still Make the Cut?

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

In 1996 a panel of players, media and coaches selected the 50 greatest players in the history of the NBA. Fifteen years later would that list be the same? Without question, no.

Scottie Pippen was on the list in 96, a fact we have been reminded of a lot recently when the sports media, in conjunction with Pippen’s bewildering comment that Lebron James could be better than Michael Jordan, brings it to our attention.

According to the original Robin, Scottie Pippen, Jordan was probably the greatest scorer whereas James is an all-around player. Just yesterday a former teammate of Pippen and Jordan, Steve Kerr, weighed in saying that Lebron is more like Scottie than Michael.

Before I get to who would make it to an updated list of the 50 greatest over Pippen, lets remember that Jordan won a defensive player of the year award and made the all-defensive team in ten seasons. And while what we may see over and over again is Jordan’s game winning shot in the NBA Finals against Utah over Bryon Russell, that would not have been possible if Jordan didn’t steal the ball from Karl Malone at the other end of the floor.

Further, while the dynamics of those Bulls teams required Jordan to be a scorer to be successful, Jordan was a great passer as well, and he did find Steve Kerr for a game winner in that Utah finals too.

One thing to keep in mind about assist numbers and totals are that in part they are based as much on finishers as they are on passers. For example, how many assists did Magic Johnson get by lobbing a ball into Kareem Abdul Jabbar (the all time leading scorer and six-time MVP) and watching him make his patented skyhook? Conversely, if Jordan were to lob a ball into Stacey King, Bill Wennington, Luc Longley or an aging Bill Cartwright, (centers that played with Jordan) he was not as likely to get an assist. There, I got that out of my system.

On to the 50 greatest players update. My way of answering this question is to create a fantasy draft where all of the players are 20 years old and I ask myself who would I take if I were starting a team. Who would I want to build around?

Here is a list of those I would take before Pippen who either came into the league after the 50 greatest list was created or whose careers were still in progress: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Paul Pierce, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Manu Ginoboli, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Pau Gasol, and Baron Davis — A couple of debatable players are Ray Allen and Pau Gasol… And some young players that could possibly bump Pippen in the future depending on how they continue to play are Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Andrew Bynum, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, and Russell Westbrook.

Now you can debate some people on or not on this list, and you can debate which players from the 1996 top 50 players would get bumped to accommodate any new additions. I would like to see a panel, similar to the one in 1996, weigh in on and do an update. Sorry Pip, don’t think you’d make it. You’re still great Scottie, but Dude seriously, don’t be dissing Michael.

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…

Who’s the Batman? Who’s the Robin? Who Cares?

A Better Way for NBA Superstars to Co-exist

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 10th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

An annoying trend that has developed in the NBA is whenever two superstars like Lebron James and Dwyane Wade are on the same team the media is in a rush to dub one of them as “The Batman” and the other as “The Robin”. Batman being the main star and Robin the subservient side kick.

Most recently on ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption, MichaelWilbon and TonyKornheiser were talking about this with the two stars on the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. With the consensus in the sports world being Westbrook must accept his role as the Robin. So far this is seemingly creating tension and confusion.The problem is, aside from maybe Richard Simmons and the guy who played Gunther on Friends, nobody grows up fantasizing about being Robin. Batman, Superman, or Green Lantern, sure. You want to go Marvel? Spiderman, The Human Torch, maybe Ironman. But not Robin.

To make matters worse, of all the major sports, basketball markets its stars more than any other. In football it’s the Dallas Cowboys against the Washington Redskins. In baseball, it’s the New York Yankees, vs. the Boston Red Sox. In basketball it’s Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers versus Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.

These young kids coming up want to be the alpha dog. They got the game, they’re making the money, they want top billing and they want to be the man. The game sells the individual and then is surprised when the individual great players don’t buy into the team concept or supporting role. (Which of course they should).

Back in the 80’s when the game began to take off to the next level in terms of viewership and media, nobody was saying Magic Johnson was going to have to be the Robin to Kareem Abul Jabbar’s Batman or vice versa.

When the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Moses Malone no one said okay Julius Erving you’re now being demoted to the Robin.

Scottie Pippen wasn’t asked to be the Joe Dumars or the Robin, as some players are now described as the Scottie Pippin/Robin, with the connotation being the Scottie Pippen/Robin is of lesser stature.

Hyper coverage includes bean counting who takes more shots and making it a daily topic of conversation especially when one player has a bad game and or their team loses. This only adds more unnecessary pressure and tension to the situation.

Supposedly when the New York Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony he was to be the Batman and Amare Stoudemire the Robin. So spoketh the media. But a funny thing happened in their first playoff game against the Boston Celtics. Stoudemire was on fire in the fourth quarter and when Anthony forced up a shot at the end and missed, even though he is the “Batman”, there were questions of why Robin (Stoudemire) didn’t get the touch.

Forget the dynamic duo, offenses should have a flow that is built game to game based on match-ups, game situations and who is hot. Michael Jordan had no problem passing to Steve Kerr to make the winning shot in an NBA finals game against the Utah Jazz because that is what the situation called for. Mature adults ought to be able to figure it out.

I like what they do in football. For the most part, gone are the days where one running back handles the entire rushing load. Two back sets are fairly standard now but instead of Batman and Robin we get nicknames like Thunder and Lightening, Earth and Wind, and so on.

One running back inevitably gets more carries than the other but there is equality to the nicknames. The running backs know their roles, and they accept and get recognized for them. That is the answer here. Unique cool nicknames for all!

It is also unoriginal to call every duo in the NBA the same name (Batman and Robin). Why not use the player personalities to come up with what they should be called? Magic and Jabbar? I’d call Magic Captain America and Jabbar, Mr. Fantastic. Michael Jordan would be Superman, Scottie Pippen, Spiderman, Dennis Rodman, Wolverine and Phil Jackson? He’d be Dr. Strange. See you can apply it to coaches too!

Diversifying nicknames can be fun for the players and the fans and make it easier for players to embrace their role within the team. And it can be a marketing coup! Are you listening David Stern?

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

Jeff Chadiha Said What to Jim Rome About Phil Jackson?

The Zen Master Can’t Motivate and Just Rolls the Ball Out?

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 8th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

So I’m watching the ESPN show, “Jim Rome is Burning”, and I’m about to doze off when Jeff Chadiha says some of the most ill-informed things about Phil Jackson I have ever heard. How a coach can win a record eleven NBA championships and still be this underrated by some is astonishing.In response to the Los Angeles Lakers being down 0-2 to the Dallas Maverick Chadiha, on Friday, said this, “There in a place that is not very good when you have Phil Jackson as your head coach. Things are falling apart, there are trust issues, there are chemistry issues — He’s not the guy you want on your sideline because he is more of a let the veterans work it out, let my leaders take charge.”

Now down 0-3, odds are the Lakers will lose this series but are you kidding me with this? Lets look at Phil Jackson’s coaching career . When Jackson took over in Chicago, Scottie Pippin was not a veteran and was considered soft. Jackson had to convince Jordan to trust the triangle offense and allegedly there were all kinds of trust and chemistry issues between Jordan and his teammates, as is written in the book, “Jordan Rules”. The Bulls overcame the bad boys in Detroit and won two tittles. Then down 0-2 to the New York Knicks in 1993 they came back to win in six games to make it their first three-peat.

When Jordan retired the first time, it was supposed to be open season on the Bulls. All of the Jackson haters (I’m guessing you too Chadiha?) were salivating about how he and the Bulls were going to be exposed.

Except a funny thing happened on the road to humiliation, they won two fewer games during the regular season than they did the year before with Jordan. They lost in-game seven on a phantom foul call to the New York Knicks in the playoffs.

Had Jackson quit when Jordan retired and someone else came in and led the Bulls to that identical season you can bet that coach would have won coach of the year and we would have heard how impressive that was.

The Bulls second three-peat: If Jordan’s first year back after retirement was his true rookie year he would not have gone down as arguably the greatest of all-time. He still would be great but his athleticism was clearly diminished. Jackson coached a new cast of characters to another three-peat. He tamed Dennis Rodman (enough) and kept his team focused to win a regular season record-breaking 72 games.

Back to the Rome/ Chadiha interview — When Jim Rome says to Chadiha, “I thought the guy (Jackson) was a brilliant motivator — ” Chadiha looks at Rome as if to say “Child please” and responds with, “He’s a front-runner — ”

Jackson’s third three-peat: Now with the Los Angeles Lakers. Now with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The year before Jackson’s arrival, the Lakers got swept out of the playoffs by San Antonio. The year before that they got swept out of the playoffs by Utah. Kobe was not yet the superstar he thought he was but would later become. The historic soap opera and battle for alpha dog supremacy between Shaq and Bryant was underway and threatening to break up the dynasty before it had a chance to begin.

It is safe to say there was trust and chemistry issues galore Mr. Chadiha. Issues that would have split up the team if not for the Zen Master leading them to a championship in his first season. PJ motivated Shaq to play defense like we had never seen him play it before and got Kobe to defer to Shaq.

Continuing with Rome when he asks Chadiha, “What are you saying that he just rolls the ball out?” Chadiha’s response, “Basically, yeah that is what he does — but when it comes to motivating people when times are down he is not your guy.”

After a year out of coaching, PJ returns to the Lakers who are now a team in a state of flux. Shaq is gone and the Lakers did not make the playoffs in Jackson’s absence. Not exactly a front running situation.

Despite writing a tell all book that hung Kobe out to dry, Bryant welcomed Phil back with open arms because he knew the dude could coach! This team clearly had work to do and similar to the salivation the Jackson haters had after Jordan retired that first time, people were lining up to see Jackson fail.

This time winning didn’t come right away. On the journey back to winning championships Jackson would have to:

  • Integrate a rookie out of high school named Andrew Bynum.
  • He would have to repair trust issues and build Bynum up after a camera/cell phone caught Kobe Bryant in public complaining that the Lakers didn’t trade Bynum for Jason Kidd.
  • Jackson had to integrate foreign plays such as Sasha Vujacic, and Vladamir Radmanovic.

Further, there was another rookie named Trevor Ariza, the acquisition of Pau Gasol and he had to get key veteran Lamar Odom to accept losing his starting role to come off the bench.

For money reasons, budding star Ariza was let go and the enigmatic Ron Artest was brought in. No matter, Jackson coached them to another championship with both players.

If you look at the state of Jackson’s teams before and after he arrived and the fact that they never won a championship or even made it to an NBA finals without him, his contributions should be unquestioned.

The loyalty he inspires from stars and role players alike provide further testimony to things like chemistry, trust and motivation. The man has more championships as a head coach then Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, George Karl, Jeff Van Gundy, Stan Van Gundy, Jerry Sloan, and Don Nelson combined.

Pat Riley took over a Laker team that already won a championship. Gregg Popovich had a dynasty in San Antonio but never was able to repeat or make it back to the championship the following season. Doc Rivers coaching record prior to Danny Ainge making a great trade for Ray Allen, being gifted Garnett from his friend in Minnesota Kevin McHale, drafting Rajon Rondo and adding all of this to Paul Pierce, was average at best, Jerry Sloan, never won with Stockton and Malone.

Lets face it Jeff, for whatever reason, Jackson could never satisfy the haters. Had he won with Stockton and Malone, or the current big three (really four) in Boston, or back when Seattle had Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, the Ewing led Knicks, Dwight Howard in Orlando — You would always write off his winning and attribute it to the talent. Well guess what, it does take talent to win in the NBA yo.

But prior to Michael Jordan only once in the history of the NBA had a team with the leading scorer won a championship. Jackson motivates, he gets the most out of his players and just because he doesn’t call time outs when he is supposed to doesn’t mean he is not coaching.

Criticizing Jackson after an epic record-setting run of 11 championships and for not coming back from 0-2 after losing the first two at home (something only done three times) would be like criticizing Joe DiMaggio after game fifty-seven when his hitting streak ended.

PS And just for good measure, Jackson won a championship in the Continental Basketball Association back in 1984. I guess he must have had the Michael Jordan of the CBA on his team and just rolled out the ball for him too.

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…

LeBron Hits A Home Run With Return To Cleveland

LebronCleveland

I’ve been hard on LeBron James in the past. I wasn’t a fan of how he left the Cleveland Cavaliers with “the decision”, and I thought it took him out of the conversation of all time greatest.

Mind you, prior to his leaving Cleveland I was a big fan of LeBron’s. And as big of a Michael Jordan fan as I am, for the first time, I thought one of the so-called heir apparents, LBJ, actually had a chance to eclipse MJ. So, while I wasn’t in the burning jerseys crowd, and I did think Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert went too far in his letter in response to the decision, I was feeling some sports hate (not to be confused with actual hate), for LeBron.

But his return to the  Cleveland Cavaliers and his letter on Sports Illustraded.Com has me feeling the sports love (not to be confused with actual love) for LeBron. He opened himself up, shared honestly, took the high road in looking past Gilbert’s letter, and took ownership for his owns actions.

One of LeBron’s biggest cheerleaders, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, says it is now as if “the decision” never happened. I can’t go that far. From the point of view of how he handled the decision, yes, that part I can mostly agree with. It is officially time to move on from that aspect of it. (I have always tried to go by the saying, forgive don’t forget, learn don’t regret)

However, I still think his leaving Cleveland and needing Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat, champions prior to his arrival, to get over the hump, takes him out of the Jordan conversation. Colin will point out that Jordan never won until Scottie Pippen arrived. But the point Colin leaves out is that Pippen never won without Jordan as D. Wade did without James.

The leadership, the dual press conferences, Wade being a closer, these are things Jordan didn’t need from Pippen that helped LeBron grow as a player on and off the court.

I still think had LeBron never left Cleveland he was physically talented enough to lead them to a championship, but perhaps needed to grow mentally. And the truth is, by his own admission, he has. And that is a good thing. Besides, there are more important things in life than being the best of all time in basketball. And there is nothing wrong with being just one of the best. Even his most ardent haters can’t take that away from him.

Haters and cynics may cling to arguments like, well if the Heat were better positioned, if Wade wasn’t on his downside, if Cleveland didn’t have Kyrie Irving and a good foundation, or if there was a better option with another team, blah, blah, blah he wouldn’t have come back. All that is irrelevant. Bottom line is LeBron, as the most powerful man in the game, had all the choices in the world. He could have:

  • Went on a ring hunt, and joined teams like the Chicago Bulls.
  • He could have taken a two-year deal with a one year opt out to see how Miami retooled.
  • Or taken a similar deal to play with the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony (someone he has allegedly always wanted to play with).   And made max money in a year.

He could have done any of the above and more and still returned to Cleveland in the future. But he chose to go home now. He chose to take the high road with his former owner and see things from his and the fans perspective. He chose to do what was best for his family (something many say but do not follow through on). He chose a young team with promising talent but far from a guarantee of a championship.

I hope it doesn’t come easy, and that he and Cleveland have to work their way through it. Like Jordan’s Bulls had to do it with the Detroit Pistons, but it would be a nice story to see James lead Cleveland to a championship.

 

Why LeBron James Should Take Less Than A Max Deal

Lebronthumbsup

LeBron James has stated that in free agency this time around  he wants a maximum salary deal. On the one hand, LeBron is clearly worth max money. He is currently the best player in the NBA and he brings value to a franchise as far as chances of winning a championship and marketing. However, given the restrictions of the NBA salary cap and LBJ’s desire to accumulate rings and build on his legacy, LeBron should be among the first to take a cut in pay and not the last.

As the saying goes, there is no “I” in team. Good luck winning an NBA championship alone. Do elite players deserve to earn more? Of course they do. But three, four, five, ten, twenty times as much? No, they don’t. Not when it hurts the team’s chances of building a successful team because one or two players eat up so much money towards the cap.

The LeBron James’ of the world, the Kevin Durants, and Carmelo Anthonys, they stand to gain the most from winning a championship. Both from a legacy point of view, and from a financial, marketing and endorsement point of view. They should be the ones making the financial “sacrifice” to bring in the pieces necessary to win.  Not the other way around.

Recently it was reported that Michael Jordan’s net worth eclipsed one billion dollars. I don’t think former Bulls teammates, Horace Grant’s, Dennis Rodman’s or Toni Kukoc’s portfolio is anywhere close to that.

It’s not just his game, but the six rings Jordan’s teams won that have him spoken about (deservedly) as the greatest of all time and being on the Mount Rushmore of basketball. A place LeBron fancies himself being a part of.  The winning (along with his MJ’s charisma) provided the platform for his success outside of playing.

It was only his last few seasons with the Bulls that Jordan finally became the highest paid player.  Something he never made a fuss over or seemed to care much about.  True, he was under contract, however, he could have easily held out.  It is likely he saw the bigger picture.

Well, what is that worth to you LeBron? Sacrificing a few million a season off your playing salary now could mean:

  1. More money in endorsements
  2. Matching or surpassing Jordan in rings
  3. And a place on basketball’s Mount Rushmore later.

And by “sacrificing” a few million a season, you will still be making far more than most (if not all). And by winning more championships you’ll likely recoup that money in endorsements.

Star players shouldn’t think of taking less than a max deal as a sacrifice, rather as an investment that can pay monetary and personal dividends. LBJ took a little less to play with Miami these last four years; it is safe to say that investment paid off for him.

Today, Miami Heat President Pat Riley met and pitched Luol Deng. Deng is capable of being a key piece on a championship team. How much money is he going to make in endorsements if the Heat win again? Is he going to make the hall of fame? Be on Mt Rushmore some day? Cumulatively make money anywhere in the same zip code of LBJ? No, no, and no. So I don’t blame him if the report is true that he is not interested in taking a pay cut.

The other free agent players the Miami Heat were thinking about or have targeted, Kyle Lowry, Anthony Morrow, Trevor Ariza, etc. Who do you think the extra money is more important to?

Bill Wennington, B.J. Armstrong, Luc Longley, Craig Hodges, and Scott Williams. Any of these names ring bell? They are all also former players on Jordan’s Bulls team that won championships.

Ten years from now how many people are going to remember that Mario Chalmers was the point guard for the Heat? We know LeBron’s family is going to be fine in ten years, players like Chalmers need to get what they can now.

If a sub marquis players wants to take a pay cut to live in a certain city or because they like their current team and want to give them a home team discount, that is always up to them. And if they wants to do it to win a championship? Great. But there should never be pressure on these players to do it. Let the legacy chasers take the cut.