Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jordan’

A subplot of these NBA Finals taking place is that they feature three highly decorated former MVPs, that while have received many accolades for their play in their careers, have also received a fair amount of criticism for what they haven’t gotten: a Championship.

LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd have all had indisputably great careers, yet haven’t been able to reach the summit yet. Each is at a different point in their pursuit of the top prize the game has to offer: LeBron is young and looking to fulfill his unparalleled expectation (or at least start the road towards doing so), Dirk is out to kill a reputation of being a playoff flop, and Kidd trying to take full advantage of what could be his last opportunity to add the final piece to his resume.

Besides these three, there have been many distinguished careers that have never taken home a ring. So today in THE LINEUP, I’ll be ranking the top 10 (or 11…) players that never were the last standing guy at the end of the season. One way or another, someone will be removed from this list at the end of this year’s Finals, but some will never have the opportunity to correct this slight…who’s the best runner up ever?

 

10. REGGIE MILLER

Best Shot: 2000 vs. the Lakers

For all of his legendary moments, they couldn't pull him in the biggest win of them all.

Tough luck will be a reoccurring theme here, and it rarely gets any tougher than what Reggie Miller faced in his career-long battle trying to get out the East. His battles with the Knicks seemed like Finals showdowns when you look back at them, but the closest he actually got is a lot less memorable. After all the years of not getting over the Knicks or the Jordan era, his Pacers finally broke through in 2000….just to run into Shaq at the height of his power. That was the pinnacle of the tough breaks for one of the best postseason performers ever.

 

9. JASON KIDD

Best Shot: 2011 vs. the Heat (Right Now)

He is currently the record-holder of the most consecutive postseasons without a title at 14, and right now he is in the middle of the best chance he has had yet to end that undesirable record. His first visit to June basketball was the pinnacle of the great point guard acts in League history, taking the Nets from last to first, but to true join the ranks of the elite court generals he needs to pull this year’s tilt.

 

8. NATE THURMOND

Best Shot: 1967 vs. the Sixers

Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity. Well that’s what it had to feel like the non-Celtics in the NBA of 1960’s trying to get a shot at a title that didn’t involve going through Boston. A lot of guys had to wait in line to get their number called for a championship during Bill Russell’s reign in Boston. And a lot of guys did get their chance afterwards, but he caught a break that few others did: he made it to the Finals in the one year between 1957 and 1969 (crazy) that they actually didn’t make it. What was his reward? Wilt Chamberlain and the 1967 Sixers who had set the single season wins record over the course of that year.

 

7. DIRK NOWITZKI

Best Shot: 2006 vs. the Heat

This could very well be Dirk’s redemption show we are watching right now, but his first trip to the end of the road he basically got carjacked while pulling into his spot on Championship Lane. The Mavs jumped out to a two game lead, and then Dwyane Wade went into a berzerker rage of 30 and 40 point games in one of the great Finals performances ever and sent Dirk home in a hurry. But since he’s wearing the cape this postseason, there’s a chance he’ll get to exact the same type of revenge on Wade right now.

 

6. PATRICK EWING

Best Shot: 1994 vs. the Rockets

If there is any career that could have used one championship, just one, it’s Ewing’s. He arrived with more expectations in the League than any other player before LeBron James (more on that later). He was the great college hero, the franchise center that landed in the league’s biggest spotlight in New York. While he took the Knicks to a longer stretch of success than they ever had, he never got over the top. And his career in review is more defined by never winning than anybody else’s thus far.

Despite being very close many times, Ewing never closed out on a badly needed championship.

 

5. ALLEN IVERSON

Best Shot: 2001 vs. the Lakers

This isn’t A.I.’s fault; he was a MAJOR victim of circumstance. He was a force of nature in the Playoffs, averaging 29.7 in his postseason career places him second to only Jordan. However, while the NBA is definitely a league where one player can win games, solo act shows do not win championships, and Iverson may have played with less talent over his career than any other dominant player ever.

 

4. LeBRON JAMES

Best Shot: 2011 vs. the Mavs (Once again, right now)

It’s hard to categorize LeBron’s career yet, because there’s been no other career quite like his yet. However, he is a two-time MVP and a talent unlike any player before, so the championships have to be factored in the equation on him. He reached the Finals in 2007, but played the absolute worst team a first time player could run into in the Spurs. To really etch his place in history though he has to get them (plural), however he’s 25 years old and has at least another decade left to his career. I don’t see much as sure bets, but whether it’s this year or not, he won’t end his career on this list. He just can’t.

 

3. CHARLES BARKLEY

Best Shot: 1993 vs. the Bulls

Barkley's best wasn't enough to overcome the highs of peers primes.

Chuck was the best power forward an era full of great ones. However, no matter what mountain he climbed it all ended up with having to answer to Jordan, and that was a question that didn’t have an answer. He was at his very best when he ran into the Bulls in ’93, his debut season in Phoenix. However, despite piloting the deeper team, in the end it wasn’t enough. That was his best shot, the Rockets overtook them at the top of the West after that and after that point he was never the same player again. And then Mike came back again. But Chuck was so good that he’s one of the only guys that still get as much respect without a ring as he probably would have with one.

 

2. ELGIN BAYLOR

Best Shot: 1972 vs. the Knicks (when the Lakers actually won)

It doesn’t get any worse than this. Elgin Baylor was a boss of epic proportions. There’s never been another player quite like him since; a 6’5 small forward who averaged over 24 points and 13 rebounds a game for his career, as well as four consecutive years of 32 points or better a night in the Playoffs. He pushed the great Celtics dynasty to a seventh game three different times, but never could close them out. However, he may have been forced the bitterest pill of them all along the road to no-ringdom. In 1972, he was forced to bow out of the season after nine games due to a knee injury. That year’s Laker club went on to set the record for most consecutive wins in history and finished the year as champions; Baylor didn’t participate in either effort.

I don’t know what hurts more, that end of his career or what followed it: 20+ years as the GM of the Clippers. It’s a crap shoot, literally.

 

1. KARL MALONE and JOHN STOCKTON

Best Shot: 1998 vs. the Bulls

No combo was better for longer, than Stockton and Malone, but it never led to a closing out a title.

The game’s most productive duo ever; their careers are so intertwined that they have to get equal billing here. They put up ridiculous numbers, and made the Playoffs every season from 1985 to 2003. Despite Stockton setting the NBA records for most assists and steals and Malone winning two MVPs while they played together, they never got over the hump together. They took the Bulls to six games in consecutive Finals, and had their best shot in ’98 when they potentially could have hosted the last two games at home in Salt Lake City. However, that shot was end by “The Shot” taken by; once again, the previously and multiply mentioned Michael Jordan, as the Bulls won game six and ended the last chance Malone and Stockton had to win a ring together.

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I’m not even going to try to introduce these guys. Basically cause they don’t need it. I’ll just say this:

– 44 Championships

– 27 MVPs

– And the reasons for every dynasty in NBA history

Enjoy, and the review is coming up next week.

10. JERRY WEST-Shooting Guard-1960 to 1974-Los Angeles Lakers

THE NUMBERS: 27 ppg, 6.7 apg, 5.8 rpg, 2.6 spg, .474 FG%

THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 14 x All-Star, 10 x All-NBA, 2 x All-NBA 2nd, 4 x All-Defense, Finals MVP (1969), All-Star MVP (1972)

THE +/-: Greatest perimeter based guard ever….who’s place in history is hurt by lack of markers to recall it

As player well before his time, West was the first great distance shooter in league history, but it was when range didn’t improve points. This didn’t stop his productivity, as he averaged better than 30 points four times. Far from a one trick show, at barely 6’3, he snatched at least seven rebounds a night four times, and finished his career with 3 consecutive years of 8.8 assists a game or better. His greatest all-around effort came in the form of a 44 point (on 16 of 17 shooting and 12 of 12 free throws), 12 rebound, 12 assist and 10 block game. Considered one of the greatest defenders ever, but it is largely unnoticed since until the end of his era, All-Defense teams didn’t exist. In the postseason, he earned his title of “Mr. Clutch” by averaging 29.1 points per game over his playoff career. He also holds the record for highest scoring average one series with 46.3 in 1965, and set another record that year by averaging 40.6 points for the entire playoffs. He led the Lakers to 33-game winning streak in route to his first championship, and two years before that effort he became the only player to ever win Finals MVP….while playing for the losing team.


9. OSCAR ROBERTSON-Guard-1960 to 1974-Cincinnati Royals, Milwaukee Bucks

THE NUMBERS: 25.7 ppg, 9.5 apg, 7.5 rpg, 1.1 spg, .485 FG %

THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, MVP (’64), 12 x All-Star, 9 x All-NBA, 2x All-NBA 2nd, 3 x All-Star MVP (’61, ’64, ’69), Rookie of the Year (’60)

THE +/-: Most uniquely talented guard ever….who often pushed too hard to win single-handedly

A unique blend of physical power, scoring prowess and court vision, the Big O has inserted himself in history on an overall level like no other player. He is the only player to average a triple-double for a season, when in 1962 he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists. Overall, his total numbers from his first five seasons averaged out would equal a triple-double as well. Overall his 181 triple-doubles are by far the NBA record, better than 40 from the runner-up. He had five seasons of averaging 30 points and at least 10 assists, and is the first player to ever average more than 10 dimes a night in league history. Robertson averaged eight assists or better for 11 consecutive seasons. Off the court, his challenge of the NBA contract structure via an antitrust lawsuit led to what has resulted in free agency and what built up into today’s contractual levels.

8. TIM DUNCAN-Power Forward-1997 to present-San Antonio Spurs

THE NUMBERS: 20.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 3.2 apg, .507 FG %

THE HONOR ROLL: 4 Championships, 2 x MVP (’02, ’03), 13 x All-Star, 9 x All-NBA, 3 x All-NBA 2nd, 8 x All-Defense, 5 x All-Defense 2nd, 3 x Finals MVP (’99, ’03, ’05), Rookie of the Year (’97)

THE +/-: The most consistent player of all-time…who’s reserved demeanor often shields him from scrutiny other high-profile stars receive

The best overall power forward ever and the most decorated defender in League history, Duncan is perhaps the steadiest Championship-caliber player ever. Duncan has averaged over 11 rebounds and 20 points nine times, respectively, and 2 blocks a game 10 times. All while never putting up higher than 25.5 points, 12.9 rebounds or 2.9 blocks in any one season. He has headed, quietly of course, one of the most successful teams in the last 20 years since he debuted in 1997. His 13 overall selections to the All-Defensive Team are a record, and he is the only player in history to be chosen for both an All-NBA and All-Defense Team for the first 13 years of his career. Among those selections, he is one of four players to make the All-NBA First Team for first eight years. An underrated in the clutch, all of his career averages are higher in the course of his 176 Playoff games.

7. LARRY BIRD-Small Forward-1979 to 1992-Boston Celtics

THE NUMBERS: 24.3 ppg, 10 rpg, 6.3 apg, 1.7 spg, 496 FG %, .886 FT %

THE HONOR ROLL: 3 Championships, 3 x MVP (’84, ’85, ’86), 12 x All-Star, 9 x All-NBA, 3 x All-Defense 2nd, 2 x Finals MVP (’84, ’86), Rookie of the Year (’79)

THE +/-: The most well-rounded forward ever….who’s back injuries robbed him of his game early.

The perfect blend of shooting touch, court vision, toughness and clutch flare, who could seemingly will his way to victories using his wide variety of talents. There never was, and has never been, another Larry Legend. He dominated the mid-80’s when the NBA was at its strongest, and won 3 consecutive MVP awards, becoming one of three to ever accomplish this. In ’84 and ’86, he added Championships and Finals MVP nods as well. In NBA history, only Bird has averaged at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, and his 59 triple doubles are fifth most ever. In addition, he was best trash talker ever, and would often tell opponents where and how he would score, before doing it.

6. KOBE BRYANT-Shooting Guard-1996 to present-Los Angeles Lakers

THE NUMBERS: 25.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.5 spg, .454 FG %

THE HONOR ROLL: 5 Championships, MVP (’08), 13 x All-Star, 9 x All-NBA, 2 x All-NBA 2nd, 9 x All-Defense, 2 x Finals MVP (’09, ’10), 4 x All-Star MVP (’02, ’07, ’09, ’11)

THE +/-: Nearly unparalleled overall talent….who is one of the most polarizing figures in history as well.

A tour de force of talent and owner of one of the most complete games ever. Bryant has had a career that has been dominant statistically, in addition to being a near fixture in championship scene for the last decade. From 2000 to 2010, he played in 7 of 11 NBA Finals, and currently has the 3rd most postseason points ever. He is the most successful prep-to-pro player of all-time, and made his first All-Star team while still a teen. His 81 point outburst in 2006 is second most prolific performance in league history. Overall, he has five 60 point and twenty-four 50 point efforts. He is the only player to score 600 points in 3 straight postseasons. On the other side of the ball, his 9 All-Defensive 1st team selections are tied for the most ever.

5. MAGIC JOHNSON-Point Guard-1979 to 1991, 1996-Los Angeles Lakers

THE NUMBERS: 19.5 ppg, 11.2 apg, 7.2 rpg, 1.9 spg, .520 FG%

THE HONOR ROLL: 5  Championships, 3 x MVP (’87, ’89, ’90), 12 x All-Star, 9 x All-NBA, 3 x Finals MVP (’80, ’82, ’89), 2 x All-Star MVP (’90, ’92)

THE +/-: The most versatile player in history….that was taken from the game too early due to HIV contraction

No player has ever made the players around him better, in more ways, than Earvin Johnson. He revolutionized the game as a 6’9 guard that could create and impact a game from anywhere, and in every way possible. As a rookie, he switched from point guard to center in the decisive game 6 of the Finals and put up 42 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists (and threw in a game winning hook shot as well) to seal the series for the Lakers. From there he launched the fast paced “Showtime” Laker squads, and was often the decisive factor in many of their showdowns with the Larry Bird-led Celtics, in what was the greatest head-to-head rivalry in league history. His 1982, his averages of 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 9.5 assists are the closest a player has come to averaging a triple double since Oscar Robertson did it. Magic’s total of 138 triple-doubles are the second most in league history, but his most consistent impact was as a distributor of the ball, especially on the fastbreak. His 11.2 assists per game is the highest average in league history, and he led the league in total assists four times. From ’83 to ’91, he never averaged less than 10.5 a night and t0p 12 per game five times, with a high of 13.1 in 1984.

4. WILT CHAMBERLAIN-Center-1959 to 1973-Philadelphia/Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers

THE NUMBERS: 30.1 ppg, 22.9 rpg, 4.4 apg, .540 FG%

THE HONOR ROLL: 2 Championships, 4 x MVP (’60, ’66, ’67, ’68), 13 x All-Star, 7 x All-NBA, 2 x All-NBA 2nd, 2 x All-Defense, All-Star MVP (’60), Rookie of the Year (’60)

THE +/-: The most dominant overall low post player ever….who didn’t get the results from his stats/talent that he should have

No player had dominated the box score and record books of the NBA like the Big Dipper did. He was apart of the first great one-on-one rivalry in sports history versus Bill Russell, who he struggled to overcome in the Finals often. He holds 72 different records, and has been retired for nearly 40 years. His 50.4 point per game average in 1962 is single season record that will never be approached. As a matter of fact, it is only approached by his 44.8 average his followed that season up with the next year. During the course of that historical ’62 season he scored 100 points in a game, which remains perhaps the greatest feat in pro sports history. He scored 50 points or better 45 times that season alone, and also holds the record for rebounds per game in both a season (27.2) and for a career. As a measure, he averaged better than 20 rebounds a game 12 consecutive times. He led the NBA in rebounds 11 times, holds the record for highest single season field goal percentage (72.7% in 1973), he even led the league in assists once and had 9 consecutive triple doubles in 1968. While blocked shots were not recorded during his career, it would be another category that Wilt would be far away from the pack in as well.

3. KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR-Center-1969 to 1989-Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks

THE NUMBERS: 24.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 3.6 apg, .559 FG%

THE HONOR ROLL: 6 Championships, 6 x MVP (’71, ’72, ’74, ’76, ’77, ’80), 19 x All-Star, 10 x All-NBA, 2 x Finals MVP (’71, ’85), 5 x All-Defense, 6 x All-Defense 2nd, Rookie of the Year (’70)

THE +/-: Most durable and effective player of all-time….who’s greatest successes came when joined by amazing point guards only

Kareem is the most prolific scorer of all-time, and performed at higher level, for longer, than any other player. His records for most points (38, 387) and minutes played (57,446) are testaments to this durability. He didn’t just stick around either, and was highly productive for his entire career, averaging 21 points or better for 17 of his 20 seasons. Many of these points came on his unblockable skyhook shot, that very few players could even attempt to reach. Standing at 7’4 and jumping with his arm fully extended, he deployed this shot often and with great accuracy. He had 3 consecutive years of averaging at least 30 points and 16 rebounds from 1971 to ’73. He also blocked at least 3 shots a game for seven consecutive season, and retired third all-time in the stat, although it was recorded until his fifth season. No player was elected an MVP or an All-Star more than Abdul-Jabbar. Among his most remarkable feats over his long and distinguished career is that he won his Finals MVP honors 14 years apart, in 1971 at age 24 and again at 38 in 1985.

2. BILL RUSSELL-Center-1956 to 1969-Boston Celtics

THE NUMBERS: 15.1 ppg, 22.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, .440 FG%

THE HONOR ROLL: 11 Championships, 5 x MVP (’58, ’61, ’62, ’63, ’65), 12 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA, 8 x All-NBA 2nd, 1 x All-Defense, All-Star MVP (’63)

THE +/-: The greatest winner in sports history….who didn’t dominate both side of the court like his other contemporaries.

Saying that Russell is the just the greatest winner of all-time is both simple and an understatement, simply because the margin isn’t even close. His impact exceeds pure statistics, he is the ultimate team player of all-time so his impact must be measured well outside of just what his individual numbers indicate. In a 13-year career, he won 11 titles and made his Celtics clubs the greatest professional dynasty ever. The other most winningest players of all-time (#’s 50 and 18 on this list) built their legacies by association with him. His dominance is the reason why  no other player in the 60’s won more than one title while he was active. His career record in game 7’s stands at 10-0, so he knew how to close it down and get the tough win.

Far from being just a team figure, on his own he is the greatest defensive player in history, all without his greatest contribution (blocks) being kept track of during his career. He was the definition of  a stopper at the rim; His 22.5 rebounds per game are the second most ever and he never turned in a season with a total below 19 rebounds a game. He once grabbed 51 boards in a single game, and his record of 32 in one half will most likely stand forever. In addition to his accomplishments as just a player, he became the first African-American coach in professional sports history in 1968, and won his final two titles as a player-coach.

1. MICHAEL JORDAN-Shooting Guard-1984 to 1993, 1995 to 1998, 2001 to 2002-Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards

THE NUMBERS: 30.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.3 spg, .497 FG%, .835 free throw %

THE HONOR ROLL: 6 Championships, 5 x MVP (’88, ’91, ’92, ’96, ’98), 14 x All-Star, 10 x All-NBA, 9 x All-Defense, 6 x Finals MVP (’91, ’92, ’93, ’96, ’97, ’98), Defensive Player of the Year (’88), Rookie of the Year (’85), 3 x All-Star MVP (’88, ’96, ’98)

THE +/-: The greatest overall player in NBA history….who came back one too many times

No player in NBA history has ever combined individual dominance and team success at the level Michael Jordan did. Not only is he without a doubt the greatest overall offensive player in history, he has claim to being the greatest defensive guard ever as well. He won a total of 10 scoring titles, with seven coming consecutively. He is both the top scorer per game all-time in the regular season and playoffs (33.4). He averaged better than 30 points eight time, and seven times in row, with a high of 37.1 in 1987. He once scored 23 consecutive points in a single game as well. His combined 14 MVPs between the Finals, regular season and All-Star game make him the most decorated player of all-time. In 1988 he became the first player to win the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, and remains the only guard to achieve this. He is the all-time blocks leader for guards, and his 2,514 steals are the second most in history. His 9 All-Defense First Team nods are tied for the most ever.

After leading the Bulls to a three-peat championship run in the early 90’s, he retired only to return a year and a half later and restart another three-peat run his first full season back. Jordan led the 1996 to a single-season record 72 wins and took home both the MVP and the first of title of his second three-peat in his return season. Looking at his full body of work, what sets Jordan apart is consistent and unparalleled effectiveness at the highest level of the game. He was Finals MVP in every championship series he reached, was 6-0 in Finals play and never reached a game 7 in the course of his Finals career.

In the end, its more than just on-court success that defines Jordan. His style, legacy and impact on the game simultaneously redefined the standard for the NBA and professional sports as a whole. It placed him in an elite place among not just athletes, but as popular figures in American history. Not bad for a kid that cut from his high school club, right?

For reflections on this, the NBA Playoffs and even what I’m having for lunch, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

I was troubled early this season in college basketball by the lack of quality, and the basic lack of even a surefire team that would be the top dog. Then about a month went by & I realized why: there flat-out aren’t any great players in the NCAA this year. Each “top dog” prospect is playing more like underdog, to the point where there is no clear guy that looks to be anywhere close to a franchise cornerstone.

But wait, look around the NBA this year too….um, did the kids not come out for recess this year? Save for John Wall & DeMarcus Cousins, the 2010 draft so far is catching a big break due to Blake Griffin (who isn’t even a part of this class) has eliminated any need to look at who deserves the Rookie of the Year, because these guys aren’t doing a thing either. The All-Rookie team’s stats are going to need food bank donations from everywhere, because they are slim. Well, if you’re gonna score eight points a night, at least make them exciting, right Wes Johnson? No? Okay then.

However, in the recent history of the NBA, eight points a night would’ve been a career year for some high-profile picks. Any draft is more educated guess than anything else. You’re only going to get a Tim Duncan or LeBron James-level safe pick once every blue moon. More often than not, draft picks are calculated risks that best is hoped of. But sometimes, there’s some things done on draft day that invoke the time-tested, three-step draft day bust warning:

1) David Stern has that quick smirk like “Well, I didn’t plan on having to announce (or sometimes pronounce) this guy’s name, but here goes….”

2) That 5 seconds of quick silence while Jay Bilas & company look for some way to not cross over into being a part of step 3, which is…

3) The chorus of boos and laughs shared in live at Madison Square Garden, in bars & living rooms around the country.

There’s a great deal of these moments over the years, and sometimes we just aren’t smart enough to boo yet (see Williams, Jay & Curry, Eddy….I’m a Bulls fan. I drank the Kool-Aid briefly). In other times, it’s just too unbelievable to register. Those are the guys listed here, the ones that make you take an Aspirin on draft day, and then later on have GMs considering fonts to use for their suicide notes (unless you’re Michael Jordan, then you just play some highlights, sell some Hanes & all is forgiven).

Let’s pay these guys some homage, as they made the biggest reverse impacts of the last 10 years (11 actually, I’ll save judgement on this year crop for another year or so. But I see some familiar symptoms developing….Gordan Hayward). This is the worst player taken, per slot, since the 2000 Debacle…er, Draft. (I could have easily just taken that entire top 10 & done this list, but that would’ve been too easy. Note, don’t ever take a guy from Cincinnati with a blown out knee & attitude number one again. Also, in the top 3, avoid guys that get ACT scores that score in the negative either. But you’re the Clippers, so it’s understandable.)

I don’t know if any of the college guys this year are quite this bad, but this serve as a warning of what could be to come. Allow the misery of the Cleveland Cavaliers 2010-11 continue.

1. Kwame Brown (’01-Wizards): Here’s the thing about Kwame, he was the ultimate workout warrior. He was one of three high schoolers taken in the top five that year, AND HE WAS THE WORST OF THEM IN HIGH SCHOOL. The other two guys that were better than him? Tyson Chandler & Eddy Curry. That just screams “Franchise Cornerstone”. But he got the Jordan seal of approval, and set out quickly in kick starting Mike’s new reputation as being the “Michael Jordan of bad drafters”. Ten years, miraculously, he is still in the League and has been reclaimed by another Jordan-led team in Charlotte, and is actually having one of his most successful seasons….averaging seven points a night.

Mike should have showed him one of his old Gatorade commercials for inspiration right after this pick. It couldn't have hurt.


I think one of Jordan’s underrated achievements is that he actually Sam Bowie’d two guys in his career via his reputation. Can’t think of anybody else that could do that.

2. Darko Milicic (’03-Pistons): I’ve been down this road before. Enjoy my take on Darko and his “American Tale” from this summer.

Exactly.

3. Adam Morrison (’06- Bobcats): If Mike’s 63 points on the Celtics in ’86 proved for the first time he was a legit NBA force, this pick is the equivalent of that effort for him as the exact opposite in executive decisions. Morrison was a force at Gonzaga, but if there ever was a clearer red flag than Morrison’s mustache & Marty Jannetty-inspired do, I don’t know what it was.

This mustache just screams "A park my van close to mall exits & playgrounds" over quality NBA swing man.

 

He also gets this nod for being the most laughable two-time champion of ever. I don’t think he moved in his seat once during his two years as a Laker except to receive his “winnings” on ring night at the Staples. Sigh…best of luck in your post-NBA porno career your mustache was 35 years too late for Adam.

4. Eddy Curry (’01-Bulls): Here’s a quick story about when I realized this guy would become who he is now. In ’01 just before he turned pro out of high school, he came to St. Louis to play in a showcase game that was to pit the two greatest high school centers in the land against each other, Curry vs. Chandler. By halftime of that game, the sold out Savvis Center was so disgusted by the play of both of them that I think I literally saw folks throwing up in the isles. Curry had something like 10 points, and was in tears by the end of the game on the bench. So, does everything else that has followed make sense now? Okay.

5. Nikoloz Tskitishvili (’02-Nuggets): In the early 2000’s, any European that came over carried an automatic & mysterious lure as being a potential “7’0 foot shooting force that will redefine the game”. Well that’s true if you consider being legendary busts that within 5 years would have GMs running from top 10 foreigners like they are an Isiah Thomas approved contract. Darko was the pinnacle of this, but Tskitishvili is still the worst example ever, with his 2.9 career PPG & not even that many rebounds per. Did I mention he’s seven feet tall? Alright, just wanted to be sure.

6. Yi Jianlian (’07-Bucks): Number six has actually been a good spot in most drafts, so Yi is here by default as he’s the most suitable fit. Also, because he complained about not wanting to play in Milwaukee, yet only gave them eight points a game once finally agreeing to play for them. He was subsequently traded to the Nets, which was followed by being dealt to the Wizards, which has sealed his fate as the most “punished by location” player since the NBA/ABA merger.

Dude, nobody REALLY like being in Milwaukee, but at least sell the moment.

 

7. DeSagana Diop (’01-Cavs): Any time you’re career highlight is providing support for Erick Dampier you know something has gone wrong along the way. But he apparently has taken some lesson from Dampier on how to turn in the least possible work for the maximum payday, as his career totals 2.1 points & 3.8 rebounds per game into a $32 million dollar contract & hopefully a role in a future “Dead Presidents” remake as well.

8. Joe Alexander (’08-Bucks): Hailed as the prototypical “athletic white guy that can shoot as well”, Alexander’s impact on Bustville can be summed up by one number: 4. That’s the number of teams he played for in 2010, with two of them being NBDL squads (Thats right. Two different ones, same year).

9. Patrick O’Bryant (’06-Warriors): Don’t draft black guy’s with Irish names unless their first name is Shaquille. Without that combination, DO NOT PASS GO. Patty O’s first NBA Coach, the immortal enigma Don Nelson, summed up his career best.

“I told him if he goes down to the D-League and isn’t a dominant player, there should be red flags all over the place, and he should be the first to notice. He’s not only not dominating, he’s not playing very well. He’s a long-term project. I really liked him the first week of training camp, but I assumed there would be great progress. […] He hasn’t gotten better one bit.”

Exactly.

10. Luke Jackson (’04-Cavs): Jackson was drafted simply to hit open jumpers in the corner off of LeBron James drive-and-dishes. Simple enough right? Especially for a first team All-American, right? Well, this didn’t quite workout well, and now Jackson has spent three separate tenures playing pro basketball in Idaho.

Enough said.

Follow me for more outtakes, facts & random sports blabber on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

In another new endeavor here in the CHEAP SEATS this year, I’ll be doing dropping the straight dope on some of my opinions on what’s going on around me in the sporting world. This will be listed here in “3 Truths”, which is simply what it says it is: three quick points from conversations I’ve had individually, and I’m now spreading to the masses. This is my stance taken on the point and I’ve decided to pass them into the law of the land (or at least the law of land you’re standing on when reading this site).  I started this site to give both a common view, a quick read and to promote as much debate as possible, so COMMENTS are what this is all about.

Lets get at it.

1. THE NFC & AFC WEST: ONE IN THE SAME: All season, the NFC West has been treated as the reddest headed of all step children because it was a battle to just reach .500 all year. That’s fine, they all played inconsistent in one way or another all year. They deserve some criticism, and considering the division champ didn’t make .500 in the end (and technically still hasn’t now, even after a playoff win). However, the AFC West wasn’t too far behind them in all of those same categories elements. Take a look:

Juggernaut, er, Marshawn Lynch ran the Seahawks past more than just the Saints Saturday.

The favorites in both divisions were big disappointments, in the 49ers and Chargers, finishing 6-10 and 9-7 on the year. The Chargers’ 9-7 mark was only reached in co-op by a strong finish and an otherworldly year from Philip Rivers. This opened up the doors for some upstarts to jump in and take it, and boy did they. The three teams that competed for the division were the Chiefs, Seahawks and Rams, franchise that combined to go 10-38 the year before and take the first, fifth and sixth picks in the 2010 Draft. Not exactly beacons of success. However, the Chiefs and Seahawks pulled it together and took the West contingents of the NFL this year. Even after doing this, they were still the worst teams in the NFL in the playoffs by record.

Here’s the difference maker though, the Chiefs got drummed at home by 23 by Baltimore and the Seahawks, who were universally deemed unworthy due to not reaching the “magical” .500 mark (and how this is so much better than 7-9 is beyond me), only beat the defending Super Bowl Champs at home, with 4 touchdown tosses by the written off Matt Hasselbeck and a damn fine Juggernaut impression by Marshawn Lynch.

I’m not discrediting the Chiefs season, they played well and deserved all their success. But I am saying that there’s no way to say the AFC West is too far away in strangeness from the NFC West. Hell, the Raiders went undefeated in the division, but only won 2 other games and STILL fired their coach (the Al Davis exception is noted). So records aside, the same elements of weirdness are in both of these divisions.

2. KOBE BRYANT’S INVISIBLE ROOF: This past week, Kobe Bryant passed two of the all-time greats in NBA history on the career points scored list. His current total of 26,747, he shot past Oscar Robertson and Dominique Wilkins to enter the top 10 all-time. This makes sense, he too is an all-time great. And he should pass up Hakeem Olajuwon and Elvin Hayes this year as well, maybe even Moses Malone too to be sitting at #6 all-time. Next year he should take over Shaq (even though he may play until he’s 80 to keep this from happening) to be firmly rooted at #4.

However, then he reaches Mount Olympus at that point, with Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan looming next. Wilt is at 31, 419 points and His Royal Airness is at 32,292. Kobe can get Wilt, although it make take him another 2 years. He has a shot a Mike, but that would take about 3 years from now, with no dip in production or health. If that happens it puts him at #3 all-time and that’s where he will stay, unless LeBron or Durant or some kid in middle school comes to get him later. Karl Malone is set at #2 with 36, 928 and let’s not even approach Kareem.

The amazing race for Kobe to catch Mike may have a few too many steps, and years, in it for #24.

Kobe is 31 now and what it would take to overtake Jordan would be about 3 more years of playing at the same exact level he is at now, and I’m not sure if he has it in him physically, especially at 34 or 35 years old. He has been playing in the NBA since he was 17 years old, and a mixture of early entry, early success and superb play has enabled him to reach the totals he has. In 3 years it would be his 17th season in, and as a guard, his legs are already going to waste. Theres a reason that seven of the 10 top scorers of all-time are centers and power forwards, they don’t have to run as much as guards and have easier baskets to score. Kobe would have to dig deep in the well to pass Jordan, and most likely wouldn’t get half way to the Mailman. But it’s gonna be fun watching him try.

3. WHY IS CARMELO NOT GETTING ROASTED??? I’m not going to jump back into the reasoning, methodology and fallout of LeBron James’ saga this summer. I’ve stated frequently how overly emotional the city of Cleveland and much of the sports world, the just wants to take shots at LeBron for whatever self-empowered reason, has been towards that whole situation. However, I’m curious why there is no comparable shade being thrown at Carmelo. He’s in damn near the exact same situation. He’s a top 10 player in the NBA, the cornerstone of an entire franchise, refused to re-sign where he has been successful and the team is now suffering in results to make it worse.

How what's so different about Carmelo's self-general management than anybody else's?

Since the summer he has basically been trying to leverage his way out of Denver, and even said he wouldn’t play anywhere except where he wants to, which severely handicaps the Nuggets ability to get offers and at least better themselves by moving the greatest player in the history of their franchise. Way to be a team player Melo. I’m not saying Carmelo is bad guy by any means, I think he’s a tremendous player and is simply trying to take control of his career path. I applaud that. However, what I don’t see is how it is much different from what LeBron did and what he is charged with along the way, which includes tanking games and being a diva.

The bottom line is it isn’t. It’s no different from what Chris Paul did earlier this year or even what Kobe did years back when the Lakers couldn’t win after Shaq left. He’s just not as popular of a target as LeBron is, so it’s swept under the rug. I’m calling a spade a spade though. It’s the same hand, same suit just a different number.

And three things, my friends, are the law of THIS land.

Last Thursday it all came to a screeching halt, and while I’m not certain, I’m pretty sure the earth’s axis came to an ESPN-produced screeching halt.

When LeBron James opened his mouth answer the question posed by Jim Gray on behalf of everyone in the sports world, and world at large, the collective fates of the several U.S. cities were on the wing. When he announced he was going to South Beach, everything changed everywhere else in the NBA. He went immediately from hero to tragic villain, in a matter of seconds in many places. It was symptomatic of what his real worth and purpose is in several different places. In Chicago, New York and New Jersey the business plan took a detour, but continued on. But the story in Miami and Cleveland was drastically different, where the results on each team leave an effect similar to the Berlin Wall.

The Heat have a World Class tandem. Now the real work begins.

For Miami, they completed perhaps the most talented trio of players ever assembled. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, on talent and impact, could immediately enter the discussion of the greatest duos of all time. Only Jordan/Pippen or Malone/Stockton being able to be potentially mentioned with their potential as a long-term duo. Add in Chris Bosh to the equation and the only the 80’s Bird/McHale/Parish led Celtics or Magic/Kareem/Worthy led Lakers could stand up to them. So, in other words Miami has more than enough tools to get it done now and build one of the great runs in NBA history. Perhaps anything short of this would be deemed a great failure.

This could be the expectation bar set for the LeBron/Wade pairing. Can even they jump enough to reach it?

In Cleveland, the situation is much different. The departure of LeBron is painting Cleveland as a post-apocalyptic

The Jim Brown-led 1964 Browns are still Cleveland's most recent champs.

wasteland. He takes with him much of the revenue and all of the spotlight that had been shed on a city that has not won a major sport championship since the 1964 NFL Championship (pre-Super Bowl) win of the Cleveland Browns. He was the most dynamic competitor the city had boasted since Jim Brown led those Browns. In the few days since his announced departure, his image and likeness has been stripped, burned and defaced by both the city, its inhabitants and even his former boss, owner Dan Gilbert. In the history of sports, I cannot recall a fallout over a departure of a sports figure since, well…..the original Cleveland Browns left to become the Baltimore Ravens. To sell it short, the city of Cleveland is cursed and this may be the final ingredient it needed to make it irreversible.

Post LeBron Cleveland? Take your pick at who is the city’s athletic pride point now. The Cleveland Indians are back to resembling the take on them from the take of them from the “Major League” movies of Wild Thing Rick Vaughn fame. Their record in 2009? 65-97, 4th in the American League Central. So far this season they have accumulated a 34-54 record and are firmly entrenched in the last place. With star Grady Sizemore out with his second consecutive season-ending surgery, don’t look for this to change anytime soon.

How about the Browns, who have had more seasons (6) in last place than winning seasons (1) since LeBron first put on a Cavs jersey in 2003. They have averaged 5 wins per season over this stretch and have not boasted one single player that has even been close to turning the tides of their fortune.

How about the Cavs? They could regroup in the post LeBron era and remain the face of Cleveland, right? Boasting such talents are Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, JJ Hickson and Anthony Parker, they could make some noise and be the rallying point for the Cavs.

The King's abdicated court is wasting no time removing any memoirs of his reign.

No? Okay, now that we have established that as a fantasy point, lets hit the reality of the situation. LeBron raised Cleveland from a 17-win season before he arrived into a 61-win team by his final season in Cleveland, and pushed them to their only NBA Finals appearance in 2007. His departure will set this team back into perfect attendance level participation in the NBA Draft Lottery, again. Free agents aren’t even looking at Cleveland now and once Jamison and Williams contracts expire they will leave too. There is no drawing point to want to play in Cleveland now and they will be more competitors with Detroit or Indiana for last place than Chicago or Milwaukee for first place. This could be Clippers East for the next decade at least.

However, is this LeBron’s fault. Hell no. If anything, it goes to show why he made the right decision in heading out of Ohio. If you can take one player off of a team and watch its value plummet like the Cavaliers’ has, then clearly he wasn’t playing with a group of peers and there is only so much one man can do by himself. Even if that man is maybe the most supremely talented player of his generation. In the NBA, no one player does it by himself and he was never given what his contemporaries were given to reach the summit of the league. When Kobe Bryant struggled to push the Lakers over the hump, they gave him Pau Gasol. He rewarded them with two championships, and counting. To get over a playoff hump, the Nuggets grabbed Chauncey Billups to ease up Carmelo’s load and they gave the Lakers all they could handle in 2009. Wade got Shaq and he gave Miami a Championship in his next year in the League. The list goes on and on where teams aggressively added to their roster to maximize what they could do. Did Cleveland ever honestly do this? No.

All LeBron ever got was Antawn Jamison, a Shaq that was so over the hill he was back on flat ground and Mo Williams, who achieved his All-Star status as a result of open shots made by playing off of LeBron. That is a huge cut below what is needed to make it with teams with the depth of Orlando and Boston. The Cavs played the hometown loyalty card and leaned on being able to pay more, and lost. In the end, he decided that he had done more than enough for the hometown team and that the money was not the issue. He left to go play with the type of players that he needs to play with to achieve the level of success a talent of his level deserves. The Cavs wouldn’t do it, he decided that seven years of waiting was more than enough. He gave as much as could be expected and maximize what he could do with the tools he had.

The main criticism of him now is how he made such a grand stage of everything leading up to him deciding who he would play with, from the individual neutral site meetings with teams, to the individual ESPN showcase for him to make the simple statement of who he would play with, to the bold statement of who he will be playing with for the next 5 years. It is to be expected that the forthcoming results following this announcement will need to be as bold as the steps that led to it to justify it (if possible still). It is a rare case of the Supernova overtaking the star in place. The Miami Heat now are only Wade’s in theory that he has longer tenure there. This is LeBron James’ showcase now. All of the attention and blame will fall on LeBron now due to the way the decision played out, so it is his responsibility to make sure that the world of expectations placed on the Heat come to play out. A four-to-five championship streak is not totally out the realistic realm of expectation.

It's a nightly All-Star game on South Beach. Can they deliver on the hype?

What has happen is simple: he has put himself in a win-only scenario. There is no more room for any reasoning why he should not become a multiple time champion now. LeBron must take his NBA version of the Justice League into battle, and live up the role of Superman. He has to go into LA and Beat LA, the MVP performances must continue to happen. Anything short of an unprecedented domination of this decade of professional sports would be missing the mark now.

The pre-game show is over, it’s time turn up the spotlight even brighter. There’s no limit to what can be for this pairing of players, but when there are no ceilings, there can be no excuses.

The man in the mirror continues to move towards his desired reflection. This is part two of a two-part series on Kobe Bryant and the 2010 NBA Finals, his role in the game now, Michael Jordan comparisons and NBA history.

Living for what you aren’t over what you are is counterproductive. So is viewing the world in such a way as well. It’s the debate of the times amongst basketball fans, __________ is better than Kobe. Or Kobe is good, but he’ll never be as good as ___________. These are opinions (and maybe excuses to not like him), but I think they are taking away from the ability to appreciate him for what he’s done and what else he still could do.

5 Times the Champ, Kobe still comes up short for many. Why?

The opinions of Kobe’s place in the game now and his place in history are spread out across the entire scope of the game. Some consider him to be the best in the game now; some give that title to LeBron. Some say he is the most successful player of his era, others say he won as a by-product of being coupled with Shaq and Phil Jackson the first time around. Some even say he is the best to have ever done it, period. Obviously, there are more other “opinions” on that. In any scenario, I can’t think of any player who is more debated while losing and gaining more of his place in history all at once.

For me, Kobe’s place in history is changing, yet is clear. He is one of the most talented players in the history of the game. Without a doubt, he is one of the greatest shooting guards to ever play and most consistent winners in NBA history. Why isn’t that good enough? Why must he be so much more? For the other players in these categories, they are not universally hated. Tim Duncan: great winner, but not hated. Allen Iverson: tremendous scorer, still not hated. Dwyane Wade: outstanding combo of exciting scorer and winner, but no hate.

First of all, let’s lay it out there. Kobe Bryant is not Michael Jordan. Jordan is not only the greatest player in NBA history, but he is arguably the greatest player in pro sports history. He was the perfect storm of statistical dominance and unrelenting success at the highest summits of his sport. For career comparison:

Michael Jordan: 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG. 5 time MVP, 10 All-NBA & 9 All-Defensive teams

6-0 Finals appearances, 6 Finals MVP, 33.4 Playoff PPG

Kobe Bryant: 25.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.5 SPG. 1 time MVP, 8 All-NBA & 8 All-Defensive teams

5-2 Finals appearances, 2 Finals MVP, 26.1 Playoff PPG

 
 

King and the Prince to be? Jordan is still in his own class.

This is not Kobe’s fault, that’s a hell of an act to follow so shortly after Michael has left. It’s not like comparing a contemporary baseball player to Babe Ruth, because there is no fresh memory of Ruth. His impact is legend that has been known forever. Kobe and Mike actually shared the same court, albeit on totally different end of their careers. They are strikingly similar in approach, but he is not greater than Jordan. It is fair however to say he is the closest to emulating Jordan’s game and success since him.

For many, Kobe is judged as the 2nd greatest player (overall) of all time. This is also inaccurate. For all of his greatness Kobe isn’t the greatest player in the history of his franchise yet. That honor goes to Earvin Johnson. Jerry West or

Shoulders above: Who's the true King of LA?

 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar may still rank above. In the history of the NBA perspective, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell stand chief amongst others who outrank Bryant in achievements at this point of his career. Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Tim Duncan are within his contemporaries in NBA history. The numbers stand up, but give credence to Bryant being amongst the NBA elite historically. 

Larry Bird: 24.3 PPG, 10 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG; 3-2 in Finals, 3-Time MVP

Magic Johnson: 19.5 PPG, 11.2 APG, 7.2 RPG, 1.9 SPG; 5-5 NBA Finals, 3 Time MVP

Bill Russell: 15.1 PPG, 22.1 RPG, 4.3 APG, (blocks not kept yet); 11-0 NBA Finals, 5 Time MVP

Wilt Chamberlain: 30.1 PPG, 22.9 RPG, 4.4 APG (block not kept yet); 2-0 NBA Finals, 4 Time MVP

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 24.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 3.6 APG; 6-4 NBA Finals, 6 Time MVP

This isn’t designed to detract from Kobe, but it shows a realistic spot on what he has done. A few others have claim for superior rank as well (West, Robertson chiefly) for where he’s at in the decline prime of his career, he deserves top 10 mentions in the history of the NBA.

Like Brady and Manning, the view of NBA top dog is based on what you're looking for.

The LeBron James debate is more interesting to me. LeBron James entered the league with huge hype, which leads some to be turned off of him. He is the most incomparable player in NBA history, as he is such a unique talent with the potential/expectations that come with it. He also entered at a time when Bryant was top dog and literally incomparable in the NBA. The main contention for James being lesser than Bryant is his lack of championships, which is a matter of how you measure the greatness of a player. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and Iverson are all great players that didn’t win. And LeBron is halfway to where Kobe is in his career (time wise), minus playing with either a tremendous Hall of Famer in his prime or the greatest coach ever. These factors make a huge impact on his early success. I’m not sure who’s better but I’ll provide the comparison for Kobe at 25 versus LeBron at this point for pure head up showing. With both coming from high school directly, it holds weight. 

 

LeBron at 25: 27.8 PPG, 7 RPG, 7 APG, 1.7 SPG; 2-time MVP, 4 time All-NBA; 0-1 Finals

Kobe at 25: 21.7 PPG, 5 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 SPG; 0 MVP; 3 time All-NBA; 3-1 NBA Finals

Kobe’s career started off much slower, as he didn’t average 20 points until his fourth year. But he did play a huge role on a Laker team that completed a three-peat at 22-24 years old. As James reached the Finals once, losing to the Spurs in his 4th season, Kobe won his first championship his 4th season. However, James early accomplishments in the league are unrivaled at his age. It’s a split on the two measures of greatness judgment in my assessment. I feel it will be easier to judge James’ accomplishments against Bryant’s by the time he reaches 30 years old as well.

For Kobe, the detraction is based in something more. He has not been scandal free and unlike many other figures, his have been very public. His on and off court rivalry with Shaq, his sexual affair and subsequent marital fallout, the perceived rivalry with his own teammates, probably all contribute to his lack of universal appeal. He is not unique in this (see Jordan, Michael), but in his position it is amplified more as the standard setter for professional basketball players of his era.

Bryant almost cannot be spoken of without a parallel being drawn. He will always be discussed as easily by himself as he is with Shaq, Jordan, LeBron or Phil. The bottom line is that Bryant is a transcendent player that when the late 90’s and 2000’s are mentioned, will always be synonymous with the era. To negate that fact due to saying who he wasn’t is to cheat him of what he is: the defining player of the decade. It doesn’t have to be liked or approved of, but it’s true and should be acknowledged if not respected.