Posts Tagged ‘Larry Bird’

Ode to the Birdman

Monday, December 12th, 2016

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

LB

This past Wednesday was the 60th birthday of Larry Bird.

For those of you too young to have actually watched him play, trust me, he was a bad man. Not a

bad man for a white guy. A bad man, period!

I never agreed with the infamous Dennis Rodman statement.

He was not a basketball version of Adele.

Did he have more fans for being a stand out white guy in a “black man’s game”? Of course. But that

speaks to the popularity of white privilege in America. It is neither an indictment or validation of him

as a basketball player any more than Trump’s election is an indication of what kind of statesmen he

is.

But in spite of being a life-long die-hard Laker fan, unlike a certain group of haters today, I have

enough emotional maturity to give credit where credit was due.

The Celtics win over a clearly superior Lakers team in 84 was among the most painful of my sports

life. It does not happen without Larry Bird.

 

That year would be his first of 3 straight MVP years.  While I’ll go to my grave insisting that Bernard

King should have won the 1985 award, Bird’s place in the game was nevertheless secure.

More than a little can be learned about Bird’s mindset and mental toughness coming up when he

would go to Chicago playgrounds where he learned the “city game.” He always expressed

appreciation for being “allowed” to play with them.

Allowed is the right word.

If you know anything about the culture of inner-city basketball, be it in New York, Philly, DC, or Chicago, you know they do not let just anyone play on a regular basis. It’s a sports version of the Apollo and if you can’t cut it, no one is shy or sensitive about letting you know.

The Birdman could clearly cut it as the NBA would soon find out.

So here is an ode to one of the coldest assassin’s in sports history: Larry Joe Bird.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

How LeBron James Stacks Up to the Greats (Part 2)

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

by Chris Price

 

Dream Matchup

(Editor’s note – If you haven’t read part one of this series, please read it HERE prior to reading this article)

 

So here is the other side of the story.  Ongoing discussion about LeBron James’ place in history has lead me to explore the other side of the argument.  Bear with me as I take a look at three of the biggest arguments for LeBron James being the best to ever do it.

 

#1 – Today’s NBA is the best that it’s ever been, and LeBron James stands head and shoulders above the rest of the players in this generation.
I’ll concede the second part of this argument without hesitation.  At this point, LeBron James has established himself as being CLEARLY better than the rest the guys in his generation; guys that include Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, and even the slightly younger guys like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook.  I think most basketball fans would agree.  Let’s explore the second part of the assertion though.

The argument for today’s NBA being better than past decades stems from the growth of AAU basketball, advancements in training and nutrition, a global talent pool, and the notion that a lot more of our talented U.S. athletes are choosing to play basketball.

Well, after just a little bit of pondering, I’m gonna call the “era argument” a wash. Since 1988 the NBA has added 6 more expansion teams.  That’s 90 roster spots.  At the start of the 2012-2013 NBA season, there were 84 international players on rosters.  No less jobs for American players.  And let’s look at those American players. We are seeing some phenomenal athletes, but how many great basketball players are we seeing?  With less time today learning the game on the college level than players 20-30 years ago, are our top basketball prospects really becoming great basketball players?  In many cases, yes. “One and done” guys like Durant, Love, and Kyrie are excellent, but lets look at some of our top big men.  Would Dwight Howard, arguably today’s best center, be as standout a center 20 years ago playing in an era of great centers?  Would Blake Griffin, a 2nd Team All NBA performer this season, be able to do what he does against more skilled, more PHYSICAL power forwards from the 1980s, under rules that allowed more physicality?  That’s something to think about.  I feel pretty confident in saying that LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Tony Parker would have been great playing in any era, but I also feel confident that what Michael Jordan and Karl Malone showed us a decade ago as 40-year olds was indicative of great command of the game.  If you’re gonna give Shaq and Kobe credit for their 3-peat at the turn of the century, you gotta give Mike and Karl credit for having legitimate All-Star seasons at the same time, all while playing at or around 40 years of age.  Now I truly respect the great players of today, but nothing I see or have seen is telling me that guys of yesteryear didn’t have serious game.  Let’s call it a wash on the era argument, and therefore taking nothing from and adding nothing to LeBron James’ accomplishments in today’s NBA.

 

#2 – Don’t Compare Careers; Compare Peaks!
Now this is something pretty interesting that I’ve heard.  It’s actually intriguing to me. Instead of trying to compare LeBron James’ career to the lofty standards of efficient legendary careers like….
Michael Jordan: 6 championships in 13 Chicago seasons, 6/6 in NBA Finals, 6 NBA Finals MVPs
Magic Johnson: 5 championships in 13 seasons, 5/9 in NBA Finals, 3 NBA Finals MVPs

…compare their peaks instead.  (By the way, Larry Bird won 3 championships in 13 seasons, and went 3/5 in NBA Finals.  LeBron might be knocking on that door here soon)

So the argument is this: Is LeBron today better than Mike as his best?  Is LeBron today better than Magic at his best?  Is he better than Larry at his best?  Some LeBron supporters will say that he can do what those guys can do but he’s bigger. I would disagree.  I would say each of those guys did something better than LeBron.  But I DO notice that LeBron may be the second best in a lot of categories compared to these guys.

Out of MJ, Magic, Larry, and LeBron, here’s who has the edge in each category by the stats and by the eye test.

Scoring: Michael

Passing: Magic

Rebounding: Larry

Defense: LeBron or Michael

Offensive Efficiency: Magic/Michael (LeBron?)

LeBron may be the second best scorer of the group.  He is certainly second by career and peak scoring average.  LeBron may be the second best passer of the group.  He has the edge in assist average as well over Mike and Larry.  Larry is clearly the best rebounder of the group, and Magic actually may be second.  But LeBron has an argument for that too. On defense, we know Michael at one point was as good as they come on the perimeter. However LeBron has been noted as a more versatile defender because of his size.  I’m not here to debate whether he is or isn’t a better defender than Michael, but either way he’s up there as one of the best defenders we have seen that didn’t play the center position. He’s either first or second in defense out of the group of 4.  And finally, LeBron posted an incredible 56.5% FG percentage this year; something only Magic has matched in his career. Magic owns the higher peak assist to turnover ratio, and Michael owns the higher career Player Efficiency Rating (PER).  Michael actually owns the highest PER in NBA history.  But you know who is number 2 all time in PER? LeBron.

A lot of pundits will credit the older guys with high intangibles; leadership, competitiveness, toughness, basketball IQ, “clutch” factor, etc.  As somebody who doesn’t consider himself a “Witness”, but rather just a basketball fan, I can acknowledge that LeBron is truly putting it all together and most, if not all, of his mental/emotional hang-ups are in the past.  He’s improving in every significant intangible category in my eyes and in the eyes of many.

So maybe a guy who isn’t known for one specific skill but who can do everything very well has a good peak argument.  If nothing else Lebron’s attributes and statistical achievements (as well as the fact that he is now a champion) leave the door open for debate for those who want to go there.

 

#3 – There has been no other player like LeBron James in history.  His combination of talent, size, athleticism, and skill has never been seen before.
Now this one is one I’ve heard a lot.  You probably have too.  Is it true?  Well, yes…it is true.  But isn’t that true for all the GOAT candidates?

Kareem was a 7’2″ player with an unstoppable shot, the skyhook.  Had we seen something like the skyhook before, and have we since?

Wilt Chamberlain, Shaq, Magic, Duncan, Olajuwon, Robertson are all pretty unique players to me.  You can say that LeBron is bigger than all of the perimeter guys, and more athletic, but is he truly a bigger version?  Meaning, the same skills but just bigger, stronger, quicker, etc?  I say nah.  He’s not gonna have the footwork or smooth post game of MJ or Kobe, or the quick change of direction of…you know what, it doesn’t even matter.  If LeBron can continue to do LeBron and continue to create his own lane, he won’t have to worry about comparisons with anyone.

Peep this.  The cool thing about LeBron coming into the league at 18, and being the exact opposite of an injury-prone player, and being very-very good, is that he has a chance to break a looooot of records.  He already has 4 MVPs at age 28. Kareem has the record with 6 MVPs.  Can he snag 2 or 3 or more MVPs in his career?  He has a good shot at it.  LeBron also has just over 21,000 points for his career.  Kareem has that record also at  38, 387.  If LeBron keeps up his current rate of 27.6 PPG and stays healthy, he can catch Kareem at age 36.  And even if he doesn’t do that he can catch Jordan’s career number at age 33, at his current pace.  Pretty wild.

Now granted, when a lot of people think about Magic, Michael or Larry, they might be thinking about championships or the special way they played the game.  The big shots. The big games.  Some people don’t think LeBron will ever match what those guys brought to the table.  Even if that is your stance, what if you are looking at a guy who has a chance to rewrite greatness in terms of records upon records, plus high-level defense, plus mind-blowing stats, plus a few rings…

With all of the things LeBron has already accomplished in his short career, and all the potential of what is to come, at the end of the day when you sit back and look at the body of work, could it be enough?

 

Chris Price, for War Room Sports

How LeBron James Stacks Up to the Greats (Part 1)

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

by Chris Price

 

A conversation with a LeBron fan the other day made me want to address three issues I have with the logic of many LeBron James fans.

 

#1 – Choose whether LeBron James is a young phenom or an NBA veteran.

Here’s what I mean.  When comparing him to other great players, sometimes he did things younger, and sometimes he’s a veteran.  When comparing him to Michael Jordan for example, people say LeBron won a championship at age 27, when Michael won his first at age 28.  Well, since LeBron came into the league at 18 and Jordan at 21, Michael actually won his first in his seventh season and Lebron won his in his ninth.  But LeBron fans will ignore years played in that instance.

When comparing him to Larry Bird however, it’s “look at the numbers LeBron put up in his tenth season. What did Larry do in his tenth season?”  Since LeBron came into the league at 18, in Lebron’s tenth season he is 28 years old, in the prime of his career.  Since Larry came into the league at 22, in his tenth season he was 32 years old, already in decline from age and back injury. LeBron fans will ignore age in this instance.

If you look at age however, Larry Bird’s season at age 28 (28.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 6.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 52% FG, 43% 3PFG, 88% FT, League MVP) compares very well with LeBron’s season at age 28 (26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 57% FG, 41% 3PFG, 75% FT, League MVP).  When you compare apples to apples, LeBron is not blowing these legends out the water.

#2 – Lebron being more athletic than other players doesn’t mean he is clearly better than other players. Athleticism is not the standard for basketball achievement, but it can help.

If you look at Larry Bird, he was never even near the most athletic player on the court, but he was one of the dominant figures in the golden age of basketball.  Dude won three straight MVPs and three championships in the 80s, an era where Magic, Kareem, Dominique, Michael, Isiah, and Moses Malone were putting in their work.

If you look at Kevin Love today, how often is he the most athletic player on the court?  Never; but he averaged 26 and 13 last season because he eats glass and he has a high basketball IQ.  And getting back to Larry, Larry has a higher rebound percentage than LeBron for his career, which tracks what percentage of available rebounds a player is getting.  So no, if LeBron played in the ’80s, he wouldn’t have averaged 15 rebounds, because he just doesn’t rebound at that level.  Not a knock on him, it just is what it is.  Stop assuming because LeBron is more athletic he would dominate.  Did his athleticism help him dominate the 2011 NBA Finals, a series in which the Heat clearly had the two most athletic players on the floor?  No.  Athleticism CAN help you, but doesn’t necessarily make you the better ball player.  As fans of the game, LeBron fans have to realize this.  History has proven it time and time again.

#3 – Stop acting like LeBron is the only player to put up outlandish stats and compile accolades as a young player.  LeBron IS a very special player, but he is by no means the MOST special player in terms of career achievement and stats, at this point. 

Below are the CAREER averages of Magic, Larry, Michael, and LeBron James, which include “fall-off” years for the first three.  Remember that LeBron is still in his peak years and his final career averages will probably be slightly lower than what they are now, like with all players.

Magic Johnson
19.5 PPG, 11.2 APG, 7.2 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 52% FG, 30% 3PFG, 85% FT

Young Player Swag: Won NBA Championship AND NBA Finals MVP as a Rookie, Started NBA All-Star Game as a rookie, had two Finals MVPs by age 22.

Larry Bird
24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 49.6% FG, 38% 3PFG, 89% FT

Young Player Swag: NBA All-Star AND 1st Team All-NBA as a ROOKIE, Won NBA Championship in his 2nd year.

Michael Jordan
30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 49.7% FG, 33% 3PFG, 84% FT

Young Player Swag: All-Star Starter AND 2nd Team All-NBA as a rookie, won NBA Defensive Player of the Year at age 25.

LeBron James (career up to now)
27.6 PPG, 6.9 APG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 49.0 FG%, 34% 3PFG, 75% FT

Young Player Swag: Youngest player to win FOUR NBA MVPs (age 28), youngest player to be selected to All-NBA 1st Team (21), youngest player to record a triple double (18).

LeBron James has a lot of “youngest” records, but part of that is due to the fact that most greats did not have the opportunity to enter the league straight out of high school like LeBron.  They could have tried, but either would not have been drafted or not drafted as high, messing up the money.  But as soon as these other greats got to the league at 20 (Magic), 21 (Michael), and 22 (Larry), they were putting in major work, as you can clearly see.

It is arguable that LeBron James has the “best” statistical averages out of these great perimeter players, but it is also very arguable that he does not.  And remember his numbers are still at peak, and will probably sink slightly before he retires, just like they did for the other guys.  He’s a “great”, but no matter how you look at it he is not blowing these guys out of the water just yet.

Chris Price for War Room Sports

Genius Unchained: Bernard King vs. Isiah, Larry, and History

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

by Chuck Modiano

Part II of Bernard King: The NBA’s Invisible Genius

“What he did to us I had never seen before. We caught him in the middle of a three-year stretch where he was playing better than any small forward in the history of the game.” –Isiah Thomas

Bernard King — The NBA’s Invisible Genius —  is also playoff legend. In his first two seasons, he led the Knicks to back-to-back first round upsets. In his very first Knick playoff game against the Nets in 1983, King scored 40 points on only 21 shots, and when he took at least 20 shots he scored 40 points seven times in eleven chances. Only once did Bernard exceed 27 shots. His two epic 1984 series against the Pistons and Celtics caught the NBA nation by storm, but the local explosion began in January.

King’s 40 game-stretch of 30 points on 60% shooting highlighted by back-to-back 50 point games was the result of an offensive genius who was finally given permission to display his artwork [see Genius Contained]. At a time when ESPN was covering rugby, King’s 40 game stretch got little attention, but his legendary post-season work is well-known. Instead, King’s playoff legacy has been hijacked.

Isiah Hijacks Bernard in 94 Seconds: You have seen the video clip. Isiah Thomas puts on a 94-second performance for the ages by sending the deciding game into overtime. Even though Isiah lost the duel (44-35), game (127-123), and series (3-2), he still won the war. Today, “16 points in 94 seconds” trumps Bernard’s historic series average of “42 points on 60% shooting”. Only Jerry West and Michael Jordan have ever surpassed 40 points in a playoff series, but neither could approach 60% shooting.

“I’ve never seen any one player dominate a team like King. There is no way to stop him.” —Dave Bing [HOF 1990]

Michael Hijacks Real Flu Game: What if you wrapped up the “Flu Game” by Jordan, “The Duel”  by Bird and Wilkins, and added a dash of Willis Reed? Then you get Bernard battling Isiah in Game 5 with a 102 fever and mangled hands that were getting freeze-sprayed throughout the game. In Jordan’s famous 1997 “Flu Game”, he scored 38 points on 48% shooting. In Bernard’s Flu/Duel/Freeze-Spray Game he topped Jordan with 44 points on 65% shooting. There would be no pictures of an old-school King bending over or being held up by his teammates — only his legendary game face. Jordan’s game ranks #2 in ESPN’s 25 best playoff games since 1978. King missed the cut. On to the Celtics.

“He had splints on both of his middle fingers, both dislocations… Bernard is ill and can’t come to the shootaround. They’re feeding him intravenously… Now, we can’t hit him on the break because he can’t dribble with the pain in his hands. So we’re thinking, how the hell are we going to win with this guy?”  – Hubie Brown [HOF 2005, Contributor]

Celtics Hijack Bernard: Watch the tapes: they literally hijacked him. They fouled him. They smacked him. They mugged him. You don’t think those Celtics played rough? Watch tape of Larry Bird leveling Bernard just a couple of years earlier. Lebron couldn’t relate, and Kevin Durant would snap in two. Now watch Larry just walk away. Not even a “my bad”. Watch Bernard dust himself off. No problem. That was basketball in the 1980’s before sports media turned every minor NBA scuffle into The Watts Riots.

“One guy would foul you, and the foul is already called, and then two other guys would hit you.  And that’s a fact.”  – Bernard King

 The Bitch Is Back: Before and during the series, those Celtics talked smack:

“He ain’t getting 40 on us. We’re going to stop the bitch.” — Cedric Maxwell [Retired Jersey, 2003]

“They’re in the grave, and we’ve got the shovel in our hands”.  — Kevin McHale [HOF 1999]   

King would drop 43 and 44 in Games 4 and 6 and bring some humility back to Boston for Game 7:

“Nothing Max and I tried to do worked.” – McHale

“We held him. We pushed him. We were draped all over him. The guy was just unreal.” — Maxwell

King vs. Hall of Fame East Wing: The 1984 Celtics played four Hall-of-Famers in their prime and their 5th best was a former NBA Finals MVP [Maxwell]. All of Bernard’s fellow starters would have been Celtic back-ups. That’s not conjecture. Guard Ray Williams — the Knicks third leading scorer at 15 points per game – became a Celtic backup the very next season and averaged only 6.4 points. Larry Bird couldn’t make Ray better.

In Game 7, Bird would turn in a stellar 39-point triple-double, King would get leveled early by Robert Parish, and the Celtics would move on and beat The Lakers for the championship. Bird’s Game 7 and series was treated by media as proof of Bird’s edge over King while few asked: “What if Bird and King swapped teammates?”

 “The best thing about having that series over was saying goodbye to Bernard King… If they had gotten by us, they would have had a good shot at a championship” – Larry Bird

King vs. Bird: Before Lebron James was born, Bernard King and Larry Bird were raising the small forward position to new heights. Both were named Most Valuable Player in a split-decision: the media chose Larry and players and coaches chose Bernard [see King of Peers]. So it was fitting they would meet. Well, they sort of met.

For seven games Bernard can be seen chasing Larry all over the court while King received tag-team beat-downs from Maxwell and Mchale.  Bird was left to “guard” an aging Truck Robinson, and float like a free safety.  Anyone who has ever played a hard game of pick-up basketball – let alone a grueling NBA series — understands this advantage.  Often missing from media analysis was how Bird’s hall-of-fame teammates made him better – especially defensively [see King of Peers]. Few asked: “What if Larry had spent his energy guarding Bernard?”

“I didn’t guard Bernard. I knew I had no chance guarding Bernard.” – Larry Bird

King vs. “The Winner Myth”: In their first five seasons, Wilt, Michael and Lebron all put up prolific numbers – except for wins. During his only five seasons without Oscar Robertson or Magic Johnson, same goes for Kareem.  Kobe after Shaq had a 3-year hangover before help came. ALL these legends had losing seasons, and only once during those 23 seasons was 50 wins exceeded. As for the Knicks, Willis Reed and Walt Frazier were definitely winners (must read: When the Garden Was Eden), but they needed each other. In their six seasons apart, the Knicks never had a winning record.

“At the end of the day, rings don’t always define someone’s career.” – Lebron James

King vs. Ewing’s Ghost: Patrick Ewing is also a winner and owns a phenomenal unsung achievement: his Knicks advanced in the playoffs for eight consecutive years. The handful of legends to match this all had superior teammates. Sadly, King and Ewing would only start one game together — the 1991 All-Star Game. Bernard’s astonishing return to All-Star status with a new knee, new team, and new game (post-up to face-up) came six years later. Think about that.

Just how many Knick championships were lost during that time? In his senior year at Georgetown, a swarmed Ewing opened up the floor for his teammates while averaging only nine shots per game –fourth most on the team. We already know how close King came with Billy Cartwright as his #2. With Bernard, Ewing gets to keep his Russellesque role, and both men experience career firsts: single-man coverage. Today, HBO would be running Knick documentaries called “When the Game was Theirs”. After finally getting The Hall call today, King reflected:

“The only regret I have is that [Ewing] and I didn’t team together. Because I believe in my heart of hearts that we would have won a championship.”. — Bernard King

 

Chuck Modiano of POPSspot, for War Room Sports

I.   “Who is Bernard King”: The NBA’s Invisible Genius
II.   
Genius Unchained: Bernard King vs. Isiah, Larry, and History 
III.  Genius Contained: Bernard King vs. Hubie Brown
IV.   Genius Explained: Bernard King vs. Youtube (coming Thursday)
V.     The King of Peers: Bernard King vs. Media (coming next Friday)
VI.   The Jordan Rules: Bernard King vs. Michael (coming next Saturday)

 

Who is Bernard King?: The NBA’s Invisible Genius

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

by Chuck Modiano

G – Magic 
G – Isiah
F – Larry
F – Bernard
C – Kareem/Moses

No last names are necessary.

These men make up the 1st team All-NBA stars in Bernard King’s last two Knick seasons before he blew out his knee in March 1985 – the same year he led the NBA in scoring. This is the company King kept.

In 1984, King would produce a half-season scoring tear never duplicated in NBA history; upset the Pistons in the greatest playoff series performance in NBA history, and almost single-handedly upend the 1984 Celtics — one of greatest teams in NBA history.  In 1984, Bernard could be found in dated Converse commercials, rap songs, and Sports Illustrated covers which bowed to “His Royal Highness”.

With an unstoppable Carmelo Anthony balling like its 1984, and reports of Bernard’s induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame, The Invisible King will receive another bow this week.

While starving King fans will naturally celebrate, something just isn’t right. King’s 15 minutes of crumbs come too little, too late – 15 years to be exact.

We could only hope this week will help jump-start the only real NBA debate. Bernard’s rightful place in the Hall of Legends.

Where did The King stand amongst the greats? Let’s ask them

“Bernard King was the toughest matchup of my career. And I say that from the heart.” – Julius Erving [HOF 1993]

“Bernard King… is the best forward in the league, hands down”.  – Larry Bird [HOF 1998]

“We are just in awe of Bernard” — Isiah Thomas [HOF 2000].

Now consider that Larry and Isiah’s praise came before the 1984 playoffs and epic Showdown in Motown where

KING AVERAGED 42 PLAYOFF POINTS ON 60% SHOOTING!

No other player in NBA history has ever averaged over 40 playoff points on 60% shooting in the playoffs – not Wilt in ‘62, not Jerry in ‘65, and not Michael in ‘88.  Not Kareem, Shaq, Kobe, or Lebron.

Only Bernard King.

King also did it while battling Isiah, the flu, and mangled hands.

Afterwards, King was asked about his “hot streak”. Bernard asked back:

“At what point is it no longer considered just a roll?”

Answer: The rest of your life Bernard. The rest of your life.

King’s perceived eruption on a national stage was no hot streak.

What happened right before it was even more historic, but never documented until now:

IN 1984, KING AVERAGED 30 POINTS ON 60% SHOOTING FOR 40 STRAIGHT GAMES! [1]

Lebron and Carmelo, please read that again.

No other player in NBA history has likely ever matched this half-season stretch [2].

In the playoffs, the unstoppable King simply took more shots. That’s all.

For the few mesmerized souls who watched those games on WWOR Channel 9, King’s “30@60for40” validates that we aren’t suffering from nostalgia gone wild.

Bernard King was who we thought he was.

Unlike Knick legends Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, and Willis Reed, no one more than Bernard transforms grown Knick fans into babbling children, gets stuffy 50 year old accountants to jump around like Spike Lee, and elicits reactions of: “I swear I saw Jesus in shorts”. No, not “Black Jesus” ala Earl Monroe’s other nickname — just “Jesus”.

Truth be told, here is what many Knick fans in bars swear to this very day: at his pre-injury peak Bernard King was a better small forward than Larry Bird and a greater scorer than Michael Jordan.

If that sounds crazy to you, please consult his peers again:

“I have never feared anybody that I’ve played against – Bird, Magic, Doctor, Michael – and I respect and love all of those guys… Bernard King is the only guy that ever scared the hell out of me.”  – Dominique Wilkins [HOF 2006]:

Listen to Dominique. Few in media will publically utter such words for fear of ridicule or straight-jacket. But we are not the crazy ones.

It is the rest of the sports universe that has gone insane.

Unless long dead, there is no other athlete in any sport whose gap between greatness and recognition is larger — even after this week.

The humiliations are endless.

Will Bernard make the Hall of Fame this year? Should King have made the NBA’s 50 greatest players list? Will the Knicks finally retire his iconic #30 jersey?

The questions themselves demean NBA history. What about media?

In February, Lebron had six straight games of 30 points on 60% shooting, and ESPN.com lost their efficient minds, but no mention of King. Last year ESPN issued its 25 greatest playoff performances since 1978, and no King again. Sorry B, your 42 @60% and legendary Game 5 just weren’t dominant enough.

In 1984, The New York Times closely chronicled King’s nuanced brilliance in “Mysterious Moves” and “Never a Knick Like Him””, but on the 25th anniversary of that magical season, another small forward stole the show with a 10,000 word profile: Shane Battier:  “The No-Stats All-Star”.

What about the greatest player in Tennessee history, half of the famed Bernie and Ernie Show, and legendary Kentucky killer? When Kentucky coach John Calipari told his 2010 team that Bernard was talking pre-game trash in Tennessee’s locker room, the youngsters responded:

“Who is Bernard King?”, ”What number is Bernard King?”, and  “I’m guarding him?”

Ouch!

How did we get here?

Is there some vast hide-King conspiracy? Not quite, but corporate interests have reduced the NBA’s Golden Era to “Magic vs. Bird”, and lesser victims include Kareem, Julius, Moses, Isiah, and the great small forward of the 1980’s.

Bernard’s knee injury alone doesn’t explain it either. No one adds up career stats for Sandy Koufax, Gale Sayers, Earl Campbell, or Bill Walton. We know what happened to them.

Reasons for King’s vanishing includes playoff-lore hijackings by Isiah, Larry, and Michael [see II: Genius Unchained]; his unspectacular style, his early-career substance abuse, his forgotten Warrior years, his teammates, and his plodding coach Hubie Brown [see III. Genius Contained].

It also involves a dysfunctional Hall of Fame and sports media largely incapable of recognizing historic greatness without historic teammates. Despite being voted Most Valuable Player by their peers, King (1984), young Michael (1989), and Lebron (2006) were all denied those awards by media, and had their status as “winners” questioned. Where players see lack of support, media perceives lack of maturity, but only a lack of imagination could deny King as champion beside Patrick Ewing [see V: The King of Peers].

King’s past has been forgotten, a healthy future rarely imagined, but most of all, his present genius was never fully realized too far beyond his own peers, local fans, and a few journalists [3].

Bernard’s game was historically unique, but he often gets lumped into a sea of history’s high-volume scoring forwards. While The Tennessee Terror stormed on the NCAA scene with 42 points in his very first game as a freshman, his truer legacy can be found in his nation-leading 62% shooting.

Lebron James is receiving great credit for shooting 56% this year, but King shot 56% over a 5-year pre-injury prime (1980-85) and did it without any all-star teammates. The playoffs are where shooting percentages go to die (see Karl Malone), but King shot a stunning 58% in 18 Knick playoff games. Only the greatest ones maintain accuracy against playoff defense — our very best test for “unstoppability” across eras.

King also defied every selfish scorer stereotype. He was not a one on one player, never needed isolations, never took bad shots, and did it all within the game’s flow. He was a scoring scientist whose quick release, midrange mastery, and disciplined shot selection have gone the way of Kareem’s skyhook [see IV: Genius Explained].

King also suffered from a pre-Jordan era where it was thought impossible to score like Mike, but win like Magic. If Jordan is any indication, Bernard was too unselfish. Jordan had more athleticism, style, and shot attempts, but not accuracy [see VI: The Jordan Rules].

Today, Bernard is mostly remembered for his 60 points on Christmas Day, and scoring 50 points on back-to back nights in 1984. Mr. Hot Streak has now become Mr. Hot Game, and The King of Efficiency has been largely reduced to Jamal Crawford – a career 41% chucker.

Before Lebron’s February outburst, the last great scoring streak came from Kobe Bryant in 2004. Back then, Scoop Jackson tried to educate the youth when he asked the obvious:

“What’s up with the love? [Bernard] had scoring stretches that lasted seasons, not just games.”

Jackson continued:

“He was a genius interrupted… The universal love that evaded his career was found scrolled inside a book penned by his peers.”

Jackson’s question was ignored, so a decade later the kids want to know:

“Who is Bernard King?”

Have a seat son and move over Mr. Battier, King’s invisible genius must be explained.

II.   Genius Unchained: Bernard King vs. Isiah and Larry (coming Tuesday)
III.  Genius Contained: Bernard King vs. Hubie (coming Wednesday)
IV.   Genius Explained: Bernard King vs. Youtube (coming Thursday)
V.     The King of Peers: Bernard King vs. Media (coming next Monday)
VI.   The Jordan Rules: Bernard King vs. Michael (coming next Tuesday)

Or you can always just ask his peers:

Man, Bernard King, he was the truth.”  — Bob McAdoo [HOF 2003]

 

Chuck Modiano od POPSspot.com, for War Room Sports

[1] Beginning on January 14, King scored 1219 points (482-808) over the next three months spanning 40 regular season games (ending right before regular season’s final meaningless game before the playoffs)

[2] It is highly unlikely that King’s 40 games of 30 points on 60% shooting has been duplicated – even when factoring eFG. The highest FG% for a 30 PPG season is Kareem Abdul Jabbar who scored 32 points on .577 shooting in 70-71 and an incredible 35 points on .574 shooting in ’71-’72. Adrian Dantley also scored 30.3 points on 57% shooting in ’81-’82.

[3] Many journalists have helped keep King’s memory alive. Special thanks to Ira BerkowDennis D’Agostino, Bobbito Garcia and Ali, Alan Hahn, John Hareas, Scoop Jackson, Bruce JenkinsBill Simmons, Dave Zirin, and others.

3 Reasons for LeBron’s Dysfunctional Performance(s)

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

By Bradley Anderson

Ryan Jones' book on LeBron James

(The reasons lie with us as much as they do with him)

1) Throughout his amateur and professional career, I have not seen enough emphasis put on developing all aspects of LeBron’s basketball skills.  AAU, High School, and now NBA coaches are so enamored with his talent and athleticism, and the fact that they have a center’s size and power (ok a PF), a PG’s speed and quickness, a wing players athleticism, body control, and grace, they lose sight of preaching and teaching.  Be it the big things, such as footwork, positioning, back to the basket skill, or intangibles such as never quitting, always giving maximum effort, good sportsmanship, etc. I understand that you can’t instill “the killer”….”the mass murderer”….”the genocidal cool, calm, and collected megalomaniac” that existed within Michael, Larry, Earvin, Isiah, Reggie, Kobe, or even A.I.  I get that you can’t MAKE someone into a clutch player; however, there are so many little chinks in our gladiator’s armor that we all are bearing “witness” too now.  Flaws that have been pointed to, but the roar of the coliseum drown out any reasonable ear and the lust for the worlds “next”, combined with the “knee-jerking” “Sportscenter highlight”-thirsty audience that left no room for constructive criticism.  And much like a child left to be raised by the television set he/she sits in front of, so was LeBron coached by the people of the coliseum of his Rome: “stanleys”, lemmings, fans, and the media as much as he was placed in a disciplined, nurturing, ethics-building, skill developing, integrity-fostering environment.  We celebrated him so much and so fast, anointing him to be the “heir apparent” to a throne once sat on by a man who put the countless hours into honing his craft and developing his skill.  A man whose body was dashed upon the rocks of Detroit’s arena…a man so consumed with greatness and even further consumed by winning, that his sheer will could get him wins, when his 48-inch vertical and cat quickness exited stage left.

To the masses, fans, “stanleys”, lemmings, yes-men, enablers, scouts, handlers, managers, and coaches; I ask: “What now?”…and “is this all LeBron?…or do you have some level of responsibility and accountability in this?”

2) Fatherless Boys:  I don’t know much about LeBron’s father or his “father-figures”, who raised him, or what their value systems look like.  I do know as an intelligent young man, he often understands what to say, when to say it, and to whom to say it, in terms of the media and how it will resonate with the “fans”.  He is very conscious of his image, sensitive to his brand’s direction, and cognizant of the need to “say the right things”.  He has (up until recent times) been very politically correct.  I attribute this to his “handlers” (shout-out to Maverick Carter, you may want to change your first name right now or go by your middle name though), but also LeBron is pretty savvy in knowing who to have guide him.  All this being said, there have been a number of moments where his character development comes into question.  There are those times when he walks off the court without shaking hands with the opposing team.  There is the dancing and shucking and jiving in other peoples’ arenas.  There are the moments when his Momma goes “HAM” and “acts a fool”.  Who is there to guide him?  Who is there as a confidant to listen and offer sound, non-“yes-man” advice?  Who is there to be the opposite of coach Mike “Stanley Fan” Brown?  Who counsels him?  Who yells at LeBron? Who tells him to get his big ass in the post and get mean, and get aggressive against point guards and shooting guards? Who does he look up to and respect?  Has he had to grow, groom, and learn on his own for the most part?  Has he had to figure this out on his own as we all look on, heckling, laughing, supporting, hating, and lambasting him?  I don’t know the answer to these questions, but if he has, I actually think he’s done a damn good job of raising himself.  However, without that influence, he will never get to that “next level”.  I use one of my favorite players of all time: Allen Iverson.  Prior to Allen submitting to Coach Larry Brown’s tutoring, mentoring, scolding, and chiding, Iverson was running amuck.  But the brief, stern, fatherly, guiding direction of Larry got him focused enough at 5’10” and 155 lbs to take a team consisting of invalids, failures, intramural players, and trash-truck drivers to the NBA Finals.  I attribute this to the “father-figure” influence…that wise and guiding voice that tells you what you NEED to hear, not what you want to hear.

3)  Global Icon & Brand versus Greatest Of All Time (Winner):  We’ve reached a point in society where everything…EVERYTHING (and I’m speaking both in the world of sports and beyond) is about what will generate revenues, profit margins, and drive sales.  From 5th grade on (yes they nationally rank basketball players from 5th grade on…WHO THE F%#K cares who is the top ranked 5th or 6th grader?), the engine of the great marketing machines are trolling for that one stand-out player they can latch their claws into and create “The Player”…”THE HEIR APPARENT”.  The shoe companies are the first level, the dirtiest, and with the least amount of shame.  They begin by pushing athletic wear and sneakers on the kids’ amateur teams (AAU and the like).  These scoundrels are to amateur athletics what tobacco is to us all.  Well okay…perhaps a little strong, perhaps a little harsh, but you catch my drift.  It then expands to include food and beverage companies, apparel companies, and the list of things to sell, brands, and companies grow exponentially on the backs of these young athletes.  And what suffers?  The purity of the game? Definitely the soul of basketball?  Absolutely!  Is Dr. Naismith turning over in his grave, thinking of how it got from a peach basket to this?  Of course he is.  Beyond that though, the sport which was crafted to be for fun, joy, growth and development, good health, entertainment, and camaraderie, becomes about endorsements.  No longer are we concerned with the purity of the game, or even winning (let alone the other more noble concepts).  Much like Congress is subject to the whims of special interest (lobbyists own the Hill, you ain’t know?).  The sport is subject to the whims of big money corporations and his brother commercial mass appeal. And where does LeBron James fit into all of this?  He is just the latest, and quite possibly the greatest example of that nest, “The Player”.  He IS the personification of the machine. Where Michael Jordan and his generation were merely concerned with getting to the marquee colleges and playing for the best coaches, giving them the shot at a National Title and perhaps an NBA look, LeBron and his generation are courted for AAU “contracts” as freshman and sophomores in high school.  Where Mike was signing endorsement deals 2 and 3 years into his tenure, LeBron was in a Hummer his senior year and signed a $100 million endorsement deal with Nike before he graduated high school.  And can you blame him?  Growing up in a single-parent home, low-to-moderate income, and your talent is assessed a value before you can drive, vote, or drink.  I credit LeBron for being an intelligent person in knowing that his talent and abilities were his ticket.  While basketball is great, what it brings the global marketplace and the ability to be the salesman for ANY product may be paramount to being the Greatest Basketball Player to ever live.  As long as he’s in the top 50 (top 10 currently playing), he is worth billions and will reap that reward and success.  And so, his value system and priorities may include advancing his net worth into the billionaire category, and is that his fault or the world/marketplace he grew up in?  Michael Jordan, Wilt, Kareem, Magic, Isiah, Dr. J, Bird, Dominique, etc…they got their just due financially from being the greatest, arguably the greatest, or on the list somewhere near the top.  The opportunity to be the wealthiest sports icon ever never really crossed their minds, or at least it didn’t inhibit their play.  They wanted to win worse than they wanted that check and the “lights, glamour, glitters, and gold”.  When the scroll unfolded, it was the beast that rose and conquered the courts (shout out to Nasir Olu Bin Dara Jones), not the endorsers.  But who can fault James for the times he has grown up in?  We are a product of our environment.  What is more valuable, the riches and rewards of being very good, even great…or the triumph of reaching full potential and striving with all ones might for “GREATEST OF ALL TIME” status?  It is a conversation only LeBron can have with himself, and perhaps a select few wise men.  But think about the time and place and you will understand the man.

Bradley “B. Austin” Anderson of The War Room, for War Room Sports

What You Hatin’ For?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

5 and counting!

Watching this current NBA season I have gained a new level of respect for Kobe Bean Bryant. Now I have always known he was a great player destined for the hall of fame but this season gave me a new perspective on just how mentally strong he is. In the words of my comrade PJ “Kobe has the body of a 50 year old!” What’s amazing to me is the way he deals with his injuries and stays focused on the big picture.

After the last lost to the Miami Heatles instead of just relaxing knowing he is a 5 time champion, he instead went to work on his shot after the game. Then after watching him get a sprained ankle I thought he would be out a least a week, considering Boozer just missed 5 games with the same injury, but he didn’t miss a game.

This in my opinion is what separates him from every other player in the league. Now I know all of the “King James” fans probably won’t read this entire post, but if you do I got love for you, and if you don’t Marshall Faulk You and go Cheddar Bob yourself!

Cheddar Bob from 8 Mile

The funny thing is, the more I recognize Kobe’s mental toughness he seems to get more hate. In the words of the legendary Philly rap crew Major Figgas “What you hatin’ for?” People in Philly say they hate him because “he disrespected the Sixers in their fans in the finals!” So What! Get over it! Then you have the Lebron fans who refuse to give him credit because in their words “Lebron makes his team better!” And Kobe doesn’t? Lmao!!!! Or they hit you with the “Kobe always had help and Lebron didn’t!” First off that’s just dumb, and I need people to start forming their own opinion and stop repeating nonsense they hear! Michael Jordan had a hall of fame running mate, Bill Russell had more than one hall of famer on his championship teams, when Wilt won titles he had hall of fame help, Dr J. had hall of fame help, Isiah had hall of fame help, and by this time you get the point and if not immediately go to the highest floor possible of wherever you are and jump right now! Another funny one is “He is arrogant!” Lmao! Name me one great player that isn’t arrogant. The hate gets so bad that after Kobe scored 42 pts in a triple overtime game I received an email with this pic attached.

I can’t lie, I LMAO!!!!!!!!!

I’m not just talking to Lebron fans. I have had this debate with Iverson fans, Vince Carter fans, T-Slack fans, D. Wade fans, and now Lebron fans. That brings up another point. All of the guys I mentioned at one point in time were “supposed” to be the best player in the league but there has been one constant during all this time and that has been Kobe.

There is a difference between being a great player and being a winner. Then there is a difference between being a winner and being champion. I consider myself a student of the game and when I look at the history of the game there were only a handful of players that had the mental toughness that made them a champion. Guys like Jordan, Russell, Bird, Magic, and Kobe. As great as Wilt was he didn’t care enough about the game. He had his mind on breaking the BYU honor code as many times as humanly possible. Wilt was a winner but Russell was a champion.

20,000 and counting

Jordan III’s

Jordan XI’s

Now I know all the Kobe haters, if they are still reading at this point, are sick or saying hateful things about him and that’s expected. I too have had players I didn’t like. Most people think Jordan was the GOAT but I don’t and I also didn’t like his a$$ when he played. In fact I don’t like him to the point that I call him Thed. Thed is an acronym that stands for “The Hooped Earring Dude”. I didn’t like Thed to the point that I never owned a pair of Jordans. (I had to make an exception for the Jordan III’s and XI’s because those were as hot as fishgrease cooked on August 18th!) The difference is my hate for Jordan didn’t cloud my judgment when it came to his game. Mike was a monster and he was one of the greatest players to ever do it! He was still a cornball that wore a wack a$$ hoop earing.

My point is, because you don’t like Kobe for something that has nothing to do with basketball don’t judge his game based on that. I can understand not liking him but I hear Kobe detractors use that as the reasons why he isn’t the best playing or even a great player. Learn to separate your hate for the man from your judgment of him as a player. You have a chance to watch one of the greatest to ever do it, so appreciate it. Now for all the Kobe haters that made it this far; You may now start hating!!!

Jimmy Williams

How Great of a Player is Dirk Nowitzki?

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Sports Word Association

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

This is more of a word association/“did you ever notice” type issue rather than one of my customary rants.  I was recently watching an episode of the hit comedy “The League” on FX, and they were having a rather interesting “did you ever notice” conversation that we’ve all probably had before.  They presented it as more of a racial issue, but since I will expand on some of the words and phrases, I’ll say that the issue is part racial, part political correctness (two phenomenons that I absolutely hate).  Oh……so maybe this is a bit of a rant after all.

The League on FX

Anyway, they were discussing the usage of certain words/phrases in sports, and how those words are inexplicably synonymous with a certain group of people.  When you hear a sports commentator us the term “class-act”, they are usually referring to some well-behaved Black guy, as if they MUST use this distinguishing term because well-behaved Black guys (ESPECIALLY in sports) are hard to come by.  We constantly hear this term used when someone is speaking of Tony Dungy, Lovey Smith, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair (until the revelations that ultimately led to his death), Tim Duncan, etc.

Tony Dungy - "Class Act"

When we hear the word “scrappy”, it is usually referring to non-athletic White guys, such as Scott Skiles, Tyler Hansbrough, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Dan Majerle, Aaron Rowand, and even the great Larry Bird.  It’s as if White guys can’t just be good players, they have to be “scrappy” to stand out.

The ever so-"scrappy" Scott Skiles

Here’s another…

When is it that we hear commentators harp on someone’s youth, the fact that they are very young, their inexperience, etc?  Well, 9 times out of 10 when I hear that, they are referring to someone who just made a boneheaded mistake, or someone who is KNOWN for making boneheaded mistakes.  So, common sense tells me that in sports, the overuse of the word “young” is just the politically correct way to call a dude…“dumb”.  Come on announcers!  How many more years can J.R. Smith POSSIBLY be…….”young”?  He has to age someday, right?

Talking smack to Kobe Bryant is EXTREMELY........."Young".

Now that you get my drift, let’s play the sports word association game.  I’ve started you off with a few.  Can you think of any?  If you can, post them in the comments section below.  Take notes bloggers!  Reader participation is the way to go when you are too……………”YOUNG”……………..to finish your own blog post.

HELP ME OUT EVERYBODY!

 

Devin “Dev” McMillan of The War Room, for War Room Sports