Posts Tagged ‘Wilt Chamberlain’
(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.
The King is dead. Long live the King!
Or should I say The Kaiser? King James, with a little boot in the backside from Dirk Nowitzki and a brand of defense the likes of which Mavericks fans have never seen, has abdicated his NBA throne to the “Ghost-Faced Drilla” from Wurzberg, Germany. That’s right, the man so many had perhaps unjustly labeled soft and unable to lead a team to a championship now sits in the top spot of The Association’s monarchy.
Mavericks’ legend Mark Aguirre paid Dirk perhaps the highest compliment, “Answer me this: If you switched Dirk with Wade, or Dirk with LeBron, would the Mavs be in the Finals? No way.”
I must admit, during the first half of the series-clinching Game 6 victory, I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to publish this article; what with Nowitzki languishing in an unfathomable 1-12 shooting funk. But like so many times before, when the stakes were highest, Dirk was at his best, shrugging off the slump to seal the victory with five clutch buckets in the last 7:22 of the game.
“We’re world champions,” Nowitzki said after taking a private moment to wipe away a few tears of joy in the locker room. “It sounds unbelievable.”
It wasn’t always this way. I’ve been an avid Dirk defender over the years, but there have been moments when he just wasn’t able to put this team on his back and lead them over the hump. In the final three games of the 2006 Finals, Dirk went 20-55 and missed a number of key free throws down the stretch. In 2007, his MVP season, Nowitzki shot 38% from the field (2-13 in the clinching Game 6) as the Mavs became the first #1 seed to fall to a #8 (Golden State) in a seven-game series. 2008 saw another first-round playoff exit against Chris Paul and the upstart Charlotte Hornets. The next two seasons would end with second and first round losses, respectively.
This year, there was something different about Dirk. Perhaps galvanized by past failures, Nowitzki would not be denied. After a pedestrian regular season by his standards, Dirk turned it up a couple of notches once the playoffs started, playing his best basketball when it mattered most. When the Mavericks needed a big bucket or clutch free throws to overcome a huge deficit or seal a victory, Dirk delivered. He was clearly the best player in a postseason that culminated in a championship.
Now on to the man Nowitzki supplanted as king. Last season, in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Lebron James looked up and came to the perhaps premature realization that no matter how good he played, no matter how many spectacular dunks he threw down, he could never win a championship with the collection of talent around him in Cleveland—so he checked out of the series mentally, and the Cavaliers quickly followed suit. Lebron will deny it, but if it looks like a duck, sounds like and duck, smells like a duck…
Fast forward a little over a year to the NBA Finals, and the situation is very different, but it’s also the same. Lebron is a member of the most talented (if not the deepest) team in the league, yet he frequently distanced himself from the front lines of this pitched battle for the NBA Championship, deferring to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh whenever possible. Actually, James’ fourth-quarter game of hot potato throughout the series was worse than deference, it was desertion. Pat Riley, Wade and Bosh, are thinking of asking for a $14.5 million refund. They’re thinking they recruited the wrong superstar.
James was not gracious in defeat, lashing out at his and the Heat’s critics:
“All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”
“They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal,” James said. “But they’ll have to get back to the real world at some point.”
James’ latest big-moment disappearing act prompts us to reevaluate his motives for running out on his home-town-team instead of sticking it out through good times and bad, for better or worse (a-la a certain seven-foot German). Lebron claimed he joined Wade and Bosh in Miami so he could win multiple championships, but now there appears to be more to the equation than that. It looks more like Bron-Bron couldn’t bear the burden of leadership, of being his team’s hoops messiah. How else can you explain his habit of fading, no, sprinting into the background when the spotlight is squarely focused on him and him alone?
Compare this to the play of Nowitzki and his own teammate, Dwyane Wade, who combines physical brilliance with mental fortitude and inspirational leadership. Wade demands the ball at the end of games and James is all too willing to give it to him, especially on the game’s biggest stage. Confession: I wrote two versions of this article; the one you are reading, and one proclaiming Wade king if the Heat had won the series.
To be fair, perhaps LeBron James never wanted this mantle that was foisted upon him at the age of 18. He never dubbed himself “King.” Whether he wanted it or not, as the most physically-dominant player this game has seen since Wilt Chamberlain, the crown was his to wear. But now it appears that it was too heavy for those chiseled shoulders to bear. Who knows, maybe by the time the Kaiser is ready to cede the throne in a few years, LeBron will be ready to take it back. He need only look at the evolution of one Dirk Nowitzki to find a role model.
But until then, the Mavericks and their fans hope to win another title or two during Dirk’s reign.
I have nothing but respect for you my friend as an athlete and knowledgeable basketball mind. But you are way off in your assessment of who is the greatest player of all time and the greatest scorer of all time. Your comments are off because of your limited perspective. You obviously never saw Wilt Chamberlain play who undoubtedly was the greatest scorer this game has ever known. When did MJ ever average 50.4 points per game plus 25.7 rebounds? (Wilt in the 1962 season when blocked shot statistics were not kept). We will never accurately know how many shots Wilt blocked. Oh by the way in 1967 and 68. Wilt was a league leader in assists. Did MJ ever score 100 points in a game? How many times did MJ score more than 60 points in a game? MJ led the league in scoring in consecutive seasons for 10 years but he did this in an NBA that eventually expanded into 30 teams vs. when Wilt played and there were only 8 teams. Every team had the opportunity to amass a solid nucleus. Only the cream of the basketball world got to play then. So MJ has to be appraised in perspective. His incredible athletic ability, charisma and leadership on the court helped to make basketball popular around the world — no question about that. But in terms of greatness MJ has to take a backseat to The Stilt.
In terms of winning, Michael excelled as both an emotional and scoring leader but Bill Russell’s Celtics won 8 consecutive NBA Championships. Bills rebounding average per game is over 22.5 lifetime, MJs best rebounding years was 8 per game (1989). But we will never know exactly how many shots Bill Russell blocked because again, they never kept that statistic while he played. However, if you ask anybody that played against Russell they will just roll their eyes and say he blocked all the shots he wanted to block in the crucial moments of a game.
Bill played on a total of 11 Championship teams and as you very well know, Scottie, the ring is the thing, and everything else is just statistics. So I would advise you to do a little homework before crowning Michael or Lebron with the title of best ever. As dominant as he is, Lebron has yet to win a championship. I must say that it looks like Miami has finally put the team together that will change that circumstance. Its my hope that today’s players get a better perspective on exactly what has been done in this league in the days of yore.
The change in style to the game is not any indication as to how many really talented players there are in the game. So the fact that skilled players come from all over the world does not change the quantity of outstanding talent. Simply put the number of players that could have stopped Wilt Chamberlain in his prime has not increased.
Affectionately, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer
p.s. If you want to see some real legends arguing about the greats of the game check out my new documentary, On the Shoulders of Giants, the story of the greatest basketball team you never heard of. It’s available to watch instantly on Netflix.
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!
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’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.
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!!!