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)

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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

The Curse Of The Zen Master

Phil-Jackson

If you had an NFL running back who rushed for a 1,000 yards but could get one who repeatedly rushed for 1,500, and you wouldn’t have to give up any other player, would you?  How about letting go a MLB 25 home run guy for a 40 plus guy?  If money wasn’t an issue, these are pretty easy calls right?

Yet after the 2012 NBA season a few franchises seemingly had no problem bypassing arguably the greatest coach in its sports history, Phil Jackson.  Let’s look at three teams that coulda shoulda  went Zen.

The Los Angeles Lakers – I have been a fan of current Laker Coach Mike D’Antoni.  Loved him in Phoenix  with the Suns, and thought he got a raw deal in New York with the Knicks.  If not for a cheap shot by San Antonio Spur Robert Horry against Steve Nash, that instigated Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw  to come off the bench and get suspended, I think Phoenix beat he Spurs in that 2007 playoff series.  They’re then the favorite to win the championship.  That win would have put to rest whether D’Antoni’s style of play can win it all.

PhiljacksonKoThat aside, his style was clearly not the best match for this Laker team.  Not with their bigs, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.  And not with their star player, Kobe Bryant, being so comfortable with Phil Jackson and his triangle offense.  Which oh by the way is better suited to star center Dwight Howard who they hope to retain as a free agent.

True the Lakers were hit hard by injury, but they clearly under performed this season and had chemistry issues. This forced Bryant to play far to many minutes down the stretch just in the hope of nabbing one of the last playoff spots.  Bryant wound up rupturing his Achilles tendon, an injury that Laker personal says you can’t attribute to the excessive minutes thrust upon the 34-year-old star.  However, according to WebMD, the causes for an this tear include overuse and stepping up activity too quickly.  Um, playing 45 to 48 minutes a game qualifies as overuse and stepping up ones activity.  This seems to agree with common sense.

Had Jim Buss been able to set his ego aside and hire Jackson, the Lakers would have been in a better position and likely would not have had to push Bryant.  This may not have eliminated, but certainly would have reduced his risk for this injury.

True Jackson would have cost more money then D’Antoni, but Kobe is going to cost Buss 30 mil next year that he will not be getting a good return on.  And who knows, with a fourth or fifth seed maybe these Lakers could have pulled off the offset and won it all.  Then all of the Jackson haters could have said yeah but look at all of the talent Jackson has.

PhiljacksonKnThe New York Knicks – As soon as Mike D’Antoni resigned in mid-season from the Knicks, it didn’t take long for the rumors to start about Phil Jackson returning to the team he was drafted by and had won a championship with as a player.  Assistant coach Mike Woodson was promoted to interim coach and certainly did more than enough to earn the job full-time.

But I go back to my opening analogy, if you have a 30-homerun guy and 40-homerun guy who do you take?  The additional money Jackson would cost amounts to pennies for Knick Owner James Dolan.  The Knicks have had an up and down year but do appear to be rising heading into the playoffs.  They do have the talent to upset Miami and win it all.  Will they?  Anything short of that should leave questions with respect to what they would have done with Jackson.

For as good job as he has done, Woodson has placated the supremely talented but ball stopping Carmelo Anthony.  The chemistry between he and a healthy Amar’e Stoudemire is still not there and Melo still shoots too much.

phil-jacksonmjKPhil Jackson and his gravitas may have been the best thing to ever happen to Melo.  If Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were able to accept and thrive in the ball moving triangle offense, you know Melo would have had to try to make it work as well.  I also think Jackson would have gotten Melo to play better and more consistent defense.  The book is still open but anything short of a championship this season or within the next two and you have to wonder.

Oklahoma City ThunderScott Brooks has done a great job with the Thunder.  They made the NBA finals last year and got a little jobbed by the officials on their way to losing to the Miami Heat in five games.  Brooks’ contract expired and he was a coaching free agent.  For a minute, it looked like he might not reach agreement.  There was a slight murmur of Phil Jackson to OKC, but not any serious exploration.  This was a mistake.

durantwest_editedThey may say all of the right things off the court but clearly there are on court chemistry issues between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  The Zen Master, has a little experience in this department with two stars, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who didn’t like each other.  Durant and Westbrook appear to like to each other and do want to win.

With the departure of James Harden to Houston, I think Jackson would have made an even bigger difference heading into this year’s playoffs, especially in confidence and fourth quarter execution.  In fact I will go ahead and say it: With Phil Jackson, OKC would have won it all this year.  Now we will see.

Unlike LA or NY, money could have been a real issue with OKC, but I think it was foolish of ownership not to explore further.  Maybe Jackson takes less for this opportunity?

Like Woodson in NY, Brooks earned his place.  But this isn’t about that.  Sports is a win now business.  When the window is open, you never know how long it will stay open.  And when the game’s best is available for the job and can take you that next level, you seize it.  Or at least explore all avenues to see if you can make it work before making your choice.

I think all three franchises struck out here.  We will see if and how it haunts them.  We will see if and when they raise their next or first championship banner.  And if they don’t win, we will wonder if they would have done better  if they went Zen.

Philjacksonzen