Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jordan’

Dear Michael Jordan…STFU: How We Should Think About Super Teams and Corporate Monopolies

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

by Gus Griffin







Michael Jordan is upset about the Warriors and Cavaliers being super teams while the other 28, in his words, “are garbage”.

Never mind the insult to the San Antonio Spurs, who would not fit the description of garbage in any era of basketball. Let’s keep the focus on Jordan the player and Jordan the owner.

Michael Jordan the player, was quite possibly the greatest ever and was the primary reason that his Chicago Bulls won the NBA title every year of his last 6 full seasons with the team. It wasn’t just his ability on the court. It was his willingness to play for a “mere” $3-4 million per season (he was making in the range of $36 million in endorsements). This gave his team a huge unfair advantage that they would eventually use to help secure Dennis Rodman and keep Scottie Pippen from leaving before his prime was up.

Michael Jordan the owner, apparently does not want other teams having the kind of advantage his Bulls had in his playing days.

The irony of it all is that the max deal restrictions on player salaries today is a direct result of Jordan’s last 1-year deal with the Bulls.  For the 1997-98 season, Jordan earned just over $33 million, which is still the single season record for a player. This salary was also more than the entire roster of 19 teams that year.

Back to Jordan the player, who once suggested if Wizards owner Abe Pollin could not afford the team that he should sell the team. Jordan would later work for Pollin in his last comeback.

The only conclusion that I can make about the contradictions between Michael Jordan the players vs Michael Jordan the owner is that when people win and/or get the outcomes they want, fairness is not a principle that is very important to them.

The same is true of American capitalism and its production of corporate monopolies. Despite the lessons that should have been learned from the near crash of 2008, less than 10 years later, the U.S. economy is increasingly being dominated by corporate mergers. Walgreens bought up Rite Aid, Heinz bought Kraft, and American Airlines bought US Airways. On Wall Street, the source of the near collapse, the 5 biggest banks hold nearly half the nation’s assets. An increasing trend is to mandate its customers and employees to agree to arbitration in disputes, thereby signing away their constitutional rights to a trial.

Why should we as sports fans care? Because the trends going on with super team formations in the NBA, though largely driven by a handful of the game’s superstars, will not affect your pension, civil liberties, or living wages. The trends going on with corporate monopolies absolutely will affect all of the aforementioned and yet we don’t personalize our indignation about corporate monopolies anywhere near to the degree that we do when attacking pro athletes.

I am not suggesting that this whole super team thing is something I particularly like as a fan of the game. It, without question, leaves a competitive imbalance. I am suggesting that we have idealized the NBA past as if this has never happened before.  The Bill Russel era Celtics won 11 titles in 13 years and the aforementioned Jordan era Bulls won 6 in 8 years. And yet the league survived just fine.  Even the Showtime Lakers, who won 5 titles, also lost 4 times in the NBA finals. Before the 1982-83 season, the 76ers added the late great Moses Malone, arguably the best player in the league at the time. He would be the final piece to a team that had made it to the NBA finals 2 of the previous 3 years, and already had Julius Erving. They cruised through the regular season and playoffs before sweeping my defending champion Lakers for the title.  It looked like at the time that the Sixers would win multiple titles.

They never won another.

In sports, the impact and collateral damage of super teams is relatively minimal and history has shown that the game will survive their fluctuating eras. The same cannot be said of capitalistic America and its corporate monopolies. I would hope we reserve our outrage for the real danger between the two.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

The Trouble with G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) Debates

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

by Gus Griffin






Image via

Image via

About a week ago, BEFORE the outcome of the Super Bowl, I made the case against Tom Brady being the G.O.A.T. …or more specifically, against the overly simplistic criteria of Super Bowl rings so many use to come to such a conclusion. Since the Patriots’ improbable comeback, social media has been inundated with claims that it validated his G.O.A.T. status.


Even before last week’s win, Brady was well within the conversation…even if the conversation itself is inherently flawed and incomplete. Why? Consider Joe Montana’s response to the question about Tom Brady.


“I think that it’s really hard to put anyone in that bucket,” he said. “Even before he got five-you look back to some of the guys some people don’t even know, Sammy Baugh or Otto Graham, I can’t remember which one but one of them won like seven or nine championships and was so far ahead of their time. It’s so hard to compare guys from then to now, how they would compare here and how we would compare back then.”


Maybe this is merely one competitor’s refusal to surrender the mythical throne to another, but even if it is, can it be denied that he has a point?


Here is the trouble with G.O.A.T. debates: 1) they wreak with recency bias; 2) they lack consideration for era context; and 3) its participants have no way to factor in the eye test.


Why are they subject to recency bias? Because it is a natural tendency of human memory. That is precisely why those running for political office try to get the last positive idea about themselves and/or negative idea about their opponent out before the actual election. Whatever is most recent is often deemed “better” or at the very least, most reliable. This is compounded as time goes by. As hard as it might be to comprehend, in 30-40 years some very knowledgeable basketball fans will be having a G.O.A.T. debate and it will not be open and shut that such a title will go to Michael Jordan. In fact, some will not even give MJ proper consideration. As ridiculous as that sounds, trust me, it will happen.


Then there is the lack of consideration for the context of eras. Regardless of the sport, different rules and circumstances provide for different challenges. So essentially, the comparisons are next to never “apples to apples”. For example, for most of Mel Blount’s career as the best corner of the 1970s, he could literally maul receivers all over the field until 1978 when the “one chuck within 5 yards” rule was implemented. Add that to the fact that he didn’t have to cover long playing on the back end of the Steelers “Steal Curtain” defense and pass rush. So as great as he was, how does one compare him to Deion Sanders as a cover corner?


How does one compare Johnny Unitas to Tom Brady, who faced the same 11 guys on defenses that were far less sophisticated when compared to today’s defenses? But Unitas also had to use receivers that had a much more difficult time getting open then any that Brady has had. Finally, defenders could actually rough up Unitas without getting the flag that they would get today against Brady.


The differences cannot be limited to sports factors alone. Our food supplies are different, one could argue for both the better and worst of that supply, I contend has led to bigger and stronger athletes, if not necessarily better. Thus, the more recent era produced a 300+ pounder named Shaquille O’Neal. It’s often said he would have knocked Bill Russel into the second row. But would he have been 300 pounds had he come along during Russel’s era? Would Russel have been a mere 215 pounds had he come up during Shaq’s era? Unless an adjustment is made for both, it’s as a ridiculous comparison as it would be comparing the production of a secretary with a typewriter with one that has a computer. Or the closure rate of a homicide detective with DNA with one before DNA.


The last factor in the flawed GOAT debates is the lack of the eye test. This is what stat junkies fall for all the time. Statistics alone do not provide the nuance that only actually watching an athlete does. In other words, consider sports greatness the same as the Supreme Court considers pornography: you may not be able to define it, but you know it when you SEE it.


Statistically, some will make the case for Andy Petite being a viable Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF) candidate over other lefthanders such as Mickey Lolich, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Vida Blue, or David Wells; none of whom are or ever will get into the HOF. I remember all five of them and trust me; Andy Petite, though a very good pitcher for many years, was not as good as any of them.


So how can we continue these flawed, but highly entertaining debates? One simple adjustment; instead of declaring who is the G.O.A.T., how about we simply limit it to the G.O.Y.T. or Greatest of Your Time? Under this banner, we are all qualified. Recency bias is not a factor, we can all speak to era context and we limit our assessment to those we have actually seen play.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Melanin Mount Rushmore

Thursday, February 12th, 2015



I’ll be honest, I’ve never participated in the “Kobe v. LeBron” or “Kobe v. MJ” debates and I’ve refrained for a simple reason. None of the aforementioned names come anywhere close to being the “greatest” in basketball. I love Floyd Mayweather and he has a success story which is filled with hard work and dedication, yet in still he can never be the “greatest”. I just watched the Super Bowl and was rooting for the Patriots, though after the victory I refused to engage in the “is Tom Brady the greatest?” discussion. Why? Because the greatest is named Jim Brown! The greatest in basketball are named Bill Russell & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar! The greatest boxer is named Muhammad Ali!

How do I define greatness, or the “greatest”? I define it by one’s performance on and off the field. To be the “greatest” means that you persevered through far more than anyone else, emerged victorious and uncompromised. How can Michael Jordan, or LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant be the “greatest”? I’ve never heard of MJ speaking up for the inner city youth that die for his shoes, much less the Chinese youth that make them. I appreciate LeBron’s speaking up on issues and his philanthropic efforts, but how does any of that exist without Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? If we are to talk hardware, Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships and did so as both a player and coach in one of the most racially hostile cities in America (Boston). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (aka Mr. Never White America’s Negro) won 6 NBA championships. If we are to talk about more than championships, Bill and Kareem have been avid advocates and spokespersons for Melanin/Hebrew/African-American people! They stood with boxing’s “greatest” Muhammad Ali, as he took on the racist and biased institution.

Jim Brown? Well he only won 1 NFL Championship, yet his fight of racism and injustice, his youth work and his constant advocacy have more diamonds in them than any ring!!!!

Thats how I define greatness……so sorry….MJ never has a chance, Kobe not even close, LeBron (I guess we can wait and see) can be 3rd at best! Brady, no way, Montana, never heard of him. Marshawn………heeeeyyyyy……..ask Jim about that one!

Zachariah Ysaye Oluwa Bankole “OGICIC”, for War Room Sports

Takeaways from Game 6 of the NBA Finals

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

By Chris Price

B-ball fans, I didn’t get a chance to watch Heat-Spurs Game 6 the other night.  I was in the midst of a great camping trip with the wife, but we both caught the second half of the game on ESPN radio.  Just got a chance to watch the recorded game earlier, and I must say this was a good one.  The game made me mull over some things and I wanted to make a couple of observations.  Bear with me.

“Are you willing to go down the stretch of an elimination game with your second best player sitting on the bench to put more shooting around your best player? Tough decisions if you’re a coach.” – Jeff Van Gundy, when Dwyane Wade subbed in for Mike Miller at 3:48 left in the 4th quarter

The lineup that brought the Heat back from down 10 at the beginning of the 4th to up 3 later in the quarter was Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, LeBron, and Birdman.  JVG noted this was also the lineup that blew open Game 2 for them… Miami’s best lineup might contain only one member of their “Big 3”.  Take a minute to let that sink in. Miami’s best lineup might contain only one member of their Big 3.  When D Wade came back into the game, LeBron stopped being as aggressive, some chemistry seemed lost, and the Spurs eventually took the lead.

The Takeaways…

A. Been told y’all from the beginning “The Decision” was not a good look, on multiple levels.  The same people who were championing The Big 3 coming together are the same people now talking about trading Wade (a Top 5, 10, 15, 20 player, however you want to look at it) or bringing him off the bench so that he doesn’t bother LeBron’s rhythm… So that the Heat can be more effective… Because they are not as effective with both of them in the game.

B. The Cavs management were not as dumb we thought.  In Cleveland, LeBron had shooters to space the floor, post defenders, rebounders, and finishers. That’s all he needs, or seems to want to play with.  I don’t ever want to hear “LeBron needs help” again.  He doesn’t need the type of player you might naturally think he does to win with his current style of play.  He is playing with two perennial All-Stars and has yet to make either one of them better or find a workable chemistry with either.  Who he is “making better” and finding greater success with is his team’s role players.  He is playing at his best, and most comfortably, with a solid point guard, two shooters, and a rebounder/finisher.

C. Dwyane, LeBron, and Bosh have never had great offensive chemistry.  The only way they all worked was by them (primarily Dwyane and LeBron) creating havoc on defense, creating steals and getting out and running in transition.  When they are not creating turnovers, or when a team is able to stop their transition offense, they limit their effectiveness (at least in how they want to play).  This is how you have a Ray Allen looking like he’s possibly more effective than Dwyane Wade for any stretch of time.  Ray Allen has value just standing in a half-court set without the ball (he stretches the defense); Dwyane Wade does not.

D. The Heat will not be able to play their most effective lineups for the majority of Game 7 because there is no way Erik Spoelstra is going to bench Dwyane Wade. There is no way he is going to play Bosh for 20 or less minutes.  Conversely, there is no way he is going to bench LeBron for 10-15 minutes to let Wade work (also a slightly positive +/- against the Spurs without LeBron on the floor). Because of real life dynamics, the Heat will probably try to win Game 7 using less efficient lineups… They have more talent than the Spurs but worse chemistry. We’ll see which one wins out tonight.  The Heat still have a good chance because their talent is supreme and they are playing at home; We’ll see how it goes.

E. I only heard part of the 3rd and the 4th quarter of the game on the radio the other night, so I thought LeBron went into superhero mode in that 4th quarter. When I went back and watched the game though, I realized that he didn’t; he just played comfortable LeBron James basketball with that particular Chalmers, Allen, Birdman, Miller lineup.  Now some people think LeBron is a superhero anyway so this could all be semantics, but I didn’t see a guy taking over the game.  I saw a guy who was able to do what he does because of space, and knowing he was the 1st and 2nd best offensive option on the floor.  LeBron just “did him” in that 8 minute stretch before Wade came in, and the result was a 13 point swing in favor of Miami.

F. Oh yeah, and as far as him choking or almost choking at the end of regulation, I can’t even call what I saw choking.  Because I’m used to seeing LeBron tentative from time to time.  In the last couple minutes of the game, he went back to looking like he did in Games 2 and 3.  To me, “choking” refers to a guy being visibly shaken by the moment and nerves causing you to play at a level below what you are capable of. Choking to me is not missing shots or making bad passes.  For instance, vs. Indiana Game 2 where Lebron made two late turnovers, I did not consider that a choke.  LeBron was still being aggressive but just made two poor passes; it was poor execution.  In Game 6 though, the turnovers he made were because he was being tentative.  On the first turnover, he over-dribbled and on the second, I literally don’t know if he was trying to pass or shoot.  His reactions to both of those turnovers further let me know these weren’t just poor execution turnovers.  On the same hand though, I don’t know if you can “choke” and win the game.  And even though he shot those late 3-pointers with what looked liked 20% confidence, one of them joints went in.  If Ray Allen didn’t hit that corner three, it would have been a Cruel Summer, but I can’t say LeBron choked because his team won the game… AND LeBron did hit the three to cut it to 2 with 20 seconds left.  He’s got to get credit for that.  And after that he was very comfortable in the overtime and was key to helping his team win this game in that period.  In my opinion, no choke should be credited.

Y’all enjoy Game 7.


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

Understanding “Overrated”

Friday, April 26th, 2013

by Cory Jefferies


If some of the greatest players in the history of North American sports can be overrated from the narratives told about them and the social statuses given to them to describe their level of greatness, surely it isn’t too hard to figure out how or why a great player can be overrated DESPITE the player’s GREATNESS.  “Overrated” doesn’t automatically run mutually exclusive to extremely horrible, over-hyped players.  I think 99% of fans miss this point.  Well, maybe more like 87-90%.

Let me point out 3 types of overrated players:
#1. You can be HORRIBLE & OVERRATED (see JaMarcus Russell’s draft day position).  See Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Leaf, and Kwame Brown’s draft position, plus their actual production.
#2. You can be AVERAGE & OVERRATED.  For example, see discussions on whether or not guys like Derek Fisher or Robert Horry are Hall of Famers.
#3. You can be GREAT/ELITE and STILL BE OVERRATED.  See Steve Nash winning two consecutive MVP awards.  See Derrick Rose’s MVP season where he averaged 23 ppg & 8 apg but was outplayed in every sense by LeBron James.  See Michael Vick’s best season in Philly and Donovan McNabb’s career in Philly as well (DESPITE his otherwise nice playoff resume).  Just because you are elite doesn’t exempt you from being overrated.  If people say that Kobe Bryant is better than Michael Jordan, even though Kobe’s surely one of THE greatest players ever, he’s simply overrated.
My point: Whether you are awful, marginal, above average, mediocre, good, or very good, the narrative people have for you can make you overrated.
Cory Jefferies 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
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


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:


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 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?”


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, 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.

Does LeBron James have the potential to be better than Michael Jordan?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012