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Dominance.

This is a word that is only reserved for the greats. To be more precise, this is a word that is reserved to describe the all-time greats. Many basketball pundits and experts have discussed the idea of placing such dominant basketball gods on a “Mt. Rushmore” of sorts—as a means of properly gauging their legendary contributions to the sport.

As the National Basketball Association celebrates its 70th anniversary, it is only right that we highlight ten individuals whose indelible imprints on the game of basketball transcend the game itself.

  1. The Foundation Of Dominance

Already a decade in existence, the NBA saw a brief run of dominance when George Mikan and his Minneapolis Lakers won five league championships from 1949-54, and at the time, that sole accomplishment seemed otherworldly. Two years later, however, that notion would change. In 1956, the Boston Celtics would add a young promising center out of the University of San Francisco by the name of Bill Russell. Known by many as the NBA’s greatest champion by virtue of the 9 titles he brought to Bean Town by himself (with the help of many of his Hall-Of-Fame teammates, of course).

The approach to basketball that Russell gave to the game could definitely be emulated in today’s game of disproportionate offense and outlawed lockdown defenses. What’s the brand of basketball that he brought to the table, you ask? Defense. As the undisputed defensive captain of those great Celtics teams of the 1960s, Russell once said, “The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.”

Bill Russell wasn’t alone in establishing the notion that a player could place his will upon the game by singlehandedly taking it into a chokehold. Oscar “The Big O” Robertson was asserting his own brand of dominance, and it would eventually prove to be much more three-dimensional in its nature than Russell’s intimidating defense. Robertson’s triple double average during the 1961-62 NBA season to this day has yet to be replicated, although a small handful of players have taken a cue from The Big O’s propensity to frequently fill up stat sheets over the course of their own careers, i.e. Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook.

Robertson’s tremendous impact on the game that Dr. James Naismith created is quite admirable, because it laid the foundation for not only the possibility of a superstar player using his remarkable skills and gifts to dominate the NBA, it also gave fans a sneak peek at what we now know as hybrid players (point forwards, combo guards, etc.).

The player who rounds out this particular era of dominance is Wilt Chamberlain, and he was downright beastly on the court. 100 point games. 50 point per game averages in a single season. Rebound averages in the upper 20’s on more than one occasion. Let’s not forget that Wilt exhibited the discipline on defense (and offense) that would enable him to never foul out of a game. Wilt was so damn good and dominant, that if anything else in reference to his impact on the game was included here, it would appear that excerpts from both John Henry and Paul Bunyan’s stories were plagiarized to describe Wilt Chamberlain’s illustrious NBA career.

 

  1. The Consistency of Dominance

Much like Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could be counted on to display both power and grace, while never disappointing admiring onlookers (fans)—for many years. For two decades—considered an eternity by NBA standards—The Captain produced stats that today’s youth would only believe if they saw it on NBA 2K17: six titles, six league MVPs, and the All-Time regular season leading scorer, to boot.

If all of these accomplishments weren’t enough, Kareem was the pivotal piece of the late Coach John Wooden’s college basketball dynasties, winning 3 NCAA titles during his four years as a student athlete at UCLA.

Despite facing cutthroat competition from the league’s menacing centers of the 70’s and 80’s, Kareem’s NBA dominance would be made a little easier because he was equipped with a weapon that has yet to be emulated to this day: the skyhook. It would not come as a surprise if Kareem could got a patent on that particular move, and was able to legally secure it as his own; because that is how exclusive it is in the wide array of player signature moves and shots.

  1. The Refining of Dominance

As the 1960’s gave way to the 70’s, both the United States and the National Basketball Association underwent a series of changes that would be forever etched in both people’s minds, and the history books. The league, much like American society in general, was expressing itself in a radical, yet fun way. The same afros, bellbottoms, and essence of funk people saw transpiring on their television sets and in their office cubicles was also making its way to the courts and sidelines of the NBA. If the precedence of American culture was being refined, then it was only natural that the culture of NBA dominance would follow suit. The man who would embody this paradigm shift of dominance in basketball was named Julius Erving, better known to the world as “Dr. J.”

While his NBA predecessors would dominate the game through a rough-and-tumble style reminiscent of an old western saloon brawl, Dr. J blazed the trail to take a different route to seizing the outcome of games. This style would consist of gliding and swooping his way to the basket in ways that had not been seen before. Although Elgin Baylor was certainly the first Notable NBA player who would boldly leave his feet to embark on midair forays to the hoop (It was highly frowned upon for a player to leave his feet during the prehistoric NBA. Doing so would result in opposing players delivering a painful reminder as to why that player should’ve stuck to shooting sedentary set shots), it was The Good Doctor of the NBA who decided to explore even higher altitudes.

Armed with enormous hands, long arms, and the free-flowing afro for cool aesthetics, Doc’s basketball brilliance often got lost in the airshows that he would put on for fans. He was a superb rebounder, shot blocker, and scorer, although he went about doing such without scratching and clawing his way to the same results. Based upon his combined ABA/NBA stats (excluding his standalone NBA stats, which are just as impressive), you’ll realize why he was just as dominant as any other player on this list.

  1. The Joy & Pain of Dominance

 

It is quite the irony that the term “Joy & Pain” is used to provide this particular example of NBA dominance, given that the term was borrowed from the title of one of the songs of legendary soul group Maze. The reason for such irony is because the song—just like its NBA counterpart of “Joy & Pain”—debuted in 1980, and to this day, people’s hearts swoon at the very mention of both.

The NBA’s version of the beloved term is none other than Magic Johnson & Larry Bird—who technically were drafted in 1979, but solidified their NBA megastar status in 1980 (with Magic winning the NBA title as a rookie in 1980 and Bird winning Rookie of the Year the same calendar year)—who would represent the song title properly. For most of his career as the star point guard for the Lakers, Magic was the epitome of “Joy”, compiling heaps of assists and W’s for his team while doing so with his now world-famous million-watt smile. He punched his on-the-court clock in the American oasis formally known as Los Angeles, and even his job’s company uniform would suggest such joy—consisting of the regal colors of purple and gold.

While this is no slight on the basketball greatness of Larry Legend, Bird embodied the “Pain”. With his stoic demeanor, Larry Bird became the blue collar savior that Celtics fans loved and revered. Building his legacy in the no-nonsense/business-as-usual city of Boston, Larry Bird was the key component of a Celtic machine that revitalized Celtic Pride during the 1980s after a subpar (by Celtic standards—although they still won two titles during the decade) 1970s.

While the narrative(s) surrounding Magic and Bird have become sports history folklore, the very reasons why they were such dominant players for their respective teams often gets lost in conversation. For a number of years after his first retirement from the game Magic was the NBA’s all-time leader in assists—the sole statistical category that exemplifies the ultimate measure of unselfishness—while Bird won three straight MVP awards from 1984-86, something that hasn’t been done since. Both players showed the superior ability to play point forward, although Bird was much more inclined to score than Magic would, but Magic would be much more likely to jumpstart his team’s offense playing his regular position of point guard.

The most telling example of Magic and Bird’s dominance over the NBA during their heyday was the fact that one—or both—of the players’ teams would be featured in the NBA Finals for every year of the 1980s. ‘Nuff said.

  1. The Glamorization of Dominance

From 1984 until 2003 (and in many instances, present day), we have witnessed an interesting phenomenon occur in which both basketball fans and people who weren’t even fans of the sport were gasping for “Air”. If Julius Erving took NBA dominance to new heights within the parameters of the hardwood in terms of his on court panache, then Michael Jordan took that same blueprint from Dr. J, and applied it to the world outside of NBA arenas as well.

To paraphrase Jordan’s own words given during his polarizing speech at his induction into the basketball hall of fame in 2009, ‘What is it that we don’t know about him’? This leads us to recognize the fact that there’s not much else that needs to be said about MJ that hasn’t been said (or in this case, written). However, it would have been a moot point—and downright sacrilegious in the eyes of the basketball gods–to have excluded him from this list. On the contrary, what we can note about Jordan is that his pope-like status in the world arena is the end result of his on-the-court dominance within the confines of the basketball arena. With six championships, two Olympic gold medals, 10 scoring titles (a barometer of NBA dominance all to itself), and the status of the G.O.A.T., there might be some uncertainty in the minds of some people who read this in regards to Michael Jordan’s legacy and basketball dominance. If this is indeed the case, we’d like to paraphrase Mike one last time when he was recorded in a viral video playing a pickup basketball game with NFL superstar Tom Brady and a few others by saying, “You better YouTube Michael Jordan”!

  1. The Overwhelming Nature of Dominance

 

This category suits Shaquille O’Neal well. Shaq was such a basketball anomaly, because he is one of the few physically imposing figures who actually knew he was the biggest on the court, and he wanted to remind his opponents, just in case they forgot to notice his 7’1”, 300-plus pound frame standing next to them on the court during a break in play.

Perhaps no other player since Wilt (and none sense) personified what it means to be a dominant player in the NBA in a myriad of ways. All basketball acumen aside, the mere fact that Shaq tore down an entire regulation-sized NBA goal during a game—on more than one occasion during his rookie season—was quite the testament to just how dominant he would be. Four rings, an MVP award, a couple of broken backboards, and the self-proclaimed nickname of Most Dominant Ever gives you an idea that Shaq had no reason to lie to you about his greatness.

  1. The Cutting Edge of Dominance

 

If you were a fan and student of basketball history right at the dawn of the new millennium, then your gut instincts were telling you that you were experiencing a feverish case of déjà vu. You were observing this new crop of budding superstars take a firm grip on the mountaintop of the NBA’s elite, and in the process of them doing so, you felt as if you’ve seen this movie before. Despite you feeling compelled to jump to prophetic conclusions, you decided to reserve judgment until you were able to make the proper diagnosis on what you were witnessing in regards to the NBA’s new sheriffs in town.

As you attempted to shake off this eerie feeling of “I’ve seen this before”, you’ve seen the light. “Yes, this new crop of NBA stars are creating a product on the hardwood that’s fun to watch, and they remind me so much of certain greats who came before them, yet their playing styles have a certain…defiance to them…it has a certain…edge to it.

If there were any two players who could be responsible for ushering the league into the new millennium, then it would have to be Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant. Drafted as rookies in the same year (1996), both players were guards who made their way into the hearts and living rooms of fans worldwide. What made the dominance of their games so cutting edge was the fact that their approach to the game was so unapologetic. Both players were unusually fearless given their statuses as NBA pups, and both of them had the audacity to go right at Jordan—which in their own individual ways are two of the most documented and beloved veteran/young player mano-a-mano matchups in league history.

Seeing as how both A.I. and Kobe had what it took to be what was then considered to be the leaders of the new school, the year 2000 appeared early in these two dynamos’ careers, and the ensuing new millennium would bring abundant basketball blessings to the two—with Kobe’s first NBA title in ’00, and Iverson’s MVP award the following year—and their ten-plus year reign over the league would prove to the world that their names would never be forgotten in NBA (or pop culture) lore.

  1. The New Age of Dominance

 

There’s something invigorating about the sensation of newness. This is a feeling that we usually get with the seasonal shifts to more pleasant weather, or when our favorite television series has debuted a new season of episodes on deck for our viewing pleasure. The transition from the old guard (no puns intended to the former greats who played the 1 or the 2) to the new is not much different.

We’ll always hold a special place in our hearts for the exploits of the aforementioned players on this list, yet we are painfully aware that our favorite NBA legends could grace the hardwood for only a limited amount of time. There were only so many no-look passes that Magic Johnson could throw to teammates who were slashing to the bucket. There were only so many ankles that Allen Iverson could break…and there were only so many times that Wilt or Oscar Robertson could fill up a stat sheet similar to the way that a delinquent student would be forced to write repetitive sentences on the chalkboard after school. The most dominant players over the past 70 years of professional basketball can only make a mockery of their opponents for so long before they themselves began to get taunted by Father Time—who laughs victoriously at us all.

Despite this melancholic reality of life, all is not lost on our childhood basketball heroes—because like the old saying goes, ‘Joy comes in the morning.’ The year 2003 signified a symbolic shift in the NBA. Some of its most notable names in history had retired that season, with Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and John Stockton, to be specific. Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson were terrorizing the league with DOMINANT scoring outbursts, and despite the much-hyped international rookie sensation Yao Ming’s league debut in 2002-03, Shaq held firm to his reputation as the game’s most dominant big man. In spite of this smorgasboard of promise and greatness in the league, the general consensus among fans was that there was a void. “Yes, guys like Shaq, Kobe, and A.I. are still around, but they’re not getting any younger. Who will be the next great one to make the NBA landscape all his?” That summer (2003), fans would receive their answer sooner than expected. Behold, a child shall lead them.

LeBron James—much like Wilt, Magic, and Shaq—was and is a basketball anomaly. Ever since he stepped foot on an NBA court as one of its players, James produced nearly a decade and-a-half of a body of work that is unquantifiable. A basketball hybrid of sorts, he can give you Big-O-esque triple doubles, MJ-like athleticism, a floor general savvy that’s reminiscent of Magic, and a humble deference to teammates that only the the Big Dipper (Wilt) could pull off in spite of his freakishly superior physical gifts. With a nickname that is a nod to his brand of NBA dominance, King James has carved his own niche into the basketball history books that is likely to be his, and his alone.

While LeBron has given the world the harmonic balance of sheer power, versatility, and a pedigree of basketball intelligence that coaches swoon over, another young man who he would cross paths with would lift his own team from the doldrums of NBA insignificance.

Stephen Curry is known affectionately under a few aliases, such as Chef Curry, Steph, and “Dell Jr.”, but let’s just call a spade a spade. He is the modern day Moses, leading his budding Golden State Warriors to the NBA’s Promised Land after 40 years of wandering their way through the obscure wilderness of the league’s hypercompetitive Western Conference. Curry’s cartoon-like range, coupled with a wicked handle that makes even Allen Iverson nod his head in approval, and an aw shucks-laced spirit has converted fans into his disciples in a way that we haven’t seen since Jordan’s dominant run back in the 90’s. As an NBA champion, multiple MVP, and all-around good guy, Steph is showing us all that we don’t have to always pop our collars, because if we’re thorough enough, the world will do it for us.

The curse of Kobe?

Posted: July 3, 2015 by duragdeweese in Uncategorized

With free agency heating up, majority of the rumors of players moving to new places has died down and most players from Draymond Green to Kevin Love have taken new deals with their teams and while there is some movement with players moving to new teams, most of these players are role players for teams who need depth. One name that is the #1 target for a few squads is unrestricted free agent Lamarcus Aldridge, going into his 9th season for the 2015-16 season he still has plenty left in the tank and he is the #1 free agent on the market.

The teams involved in the Aldridge sweepstakes has been the usual suspects, the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. While some had Aldridge headed to the Spurs the Lakers have become the front runner for his service. Over the last few days after visiting L.A. it was reported by multiple media sources that contract talks had broken down and Aldridge was on his way to another team to talk about a contract. One name that was mentioned as to why talks broke down was Kobe Bryant. Rumors have spread like wildfire that Kobe and Aldridge had some sort of conversation and it did not go over too well with Aldridge. What really happened we do not know but the venom and complaints came at Bryant immediately. From twitter to ESPN everyone had an opinion to what Kobe should do as a player, many think that Kobe is to blame for screwing up the deal. Nobody is blaming ownership or general manager Mitch Kupchak who has not as of late had a good record as far as bringing in talent. The Lakers have taken a rather odd approach in building the future. With future front court stars coming into the league the Lakers, who were drafting second in the lottery chose Ohio State guard Deangelo Russell instead of Duke All American Jahlil Okafor. While they could have drafted a front court presence they chose to gamble in free agency for their front court needs. In doing that they have taken on the task of wining and dining players and it seems the players are not enjoying the date. Is it Kobe’s fault? What we do know is Kobe Bean Bryant is going into his 19th season and coming off of rotator cuff surgery, that being said Kobe is still good enough to score and make plays. Before his injury he was averaging 22 ppg, 5 rebs and 5 assts. If those averages mean Kobe cannot play anymore I’m sure 90% of the teams in the NBA would take those numbers and his leadership in a heartbeat.

It seems that there is a concentrated effort to get Kobe out of the league, I mean let’s face it, he’s the last of a dying breed, the Jordan era. Players today do not have the drive or will to do half of the things Kobe can still do 19 years in, the league is looking for new fresh faces to promote and marketing a new Lakers star would be great for the league, but Kobe is stubborn, he won’t let the young kids take him out to pasture he still has one last ride left. After former commissioner David Stern nixed the Chris Paul trade the writing was on the wall. The league was telling Kobe his turn was up and it was time for someone else to shoot the ball, but like all great shooters, when the shots are not falling, you keep shooting and Kobe is still getting into rhythm. If Aldridge does sign with the Lakers that will set a new standard for the Lakers free agency woes that they’ve faced the last few years. The “nobody wants to play with Kobe” rumors would die immediately and we might see the Mamba go for another title run. Let’s face it! The NBA Is better when the Lakers are good! Just like major league baseball is better when the Yankees are winning and NFL football is better when the Dallas Cowboys are competitive, someone has to be hated. 2013-10-kobe-bryant-lakers-wallpaper-hd

The Future…

Posted: June 18, 2015 by duragdeweese in Uncategorized

Screenshot_2015-06-17-21-50-52-1Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors the 2014-15 NBA champions. The league has shifted and also have caused a rift among individual fan bases. The NBA has spent the last 10 years marketing Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. With the new age of NBA basketball upon us it is clear that marketing will have to change and how the fans receive certain players will not be anything that we have seen in the last 20 years.

Can fans get used to having TEAMS marketed as oppose to players? The league has become more team oriented which started with the San Antonio Spurs and now the Warriors In the bay area. Clearly the team aspect of the NBA is something that has been missing as a whole since the late 80s up until the early 2000s.

The Warriors are unique in that they have players that could be major parts of other teams but with players like Andre Iguodala taking minor roles as compared to his earlier career, and Klay Thompson who could easily be a star on another team it seems the team aspect is in effect and not stopping anytime soon. This Warriors squad may have a deep run in the next 8 years because of their depth.

Similar to the late 80s Detroit Pistons who had players like Mark Aguirre take a lesser role to be on a championship caliber team. Mark Aguirre was a star with the Mavericks scoring 20+ points per game before going to the Bad Boys. This Warriors team is real similar to that Piston’s squad in that depth is what won games and neutralized star driven teams who relied on one guy to score. Yes Cleveland and Lebron will be back with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving but can they achieve the depth that teams like Golden State has to withstand a 7 game series? If not this could be the beginning of a new dynasty and a changing of the guard.

michaeljordan

Since everyone’s enjoying the weekend break between Games 1 & 2 of the NBA Finals, I figured I’d share with you my personal story of an NBA champion who all of us are quite familiar with.

Michael Jordan once said that one of his motivating factors for consistently performing at a high level on the basketball court was his cognizance of that one fan (or fans) who were able to see him play live and in person that one particular time who may never have the opportunity to watch him play in person again. Well, I was one of those folks he referred to, and as a young kid at the time of attending my first Jordan game, I must say that he did indeed put on a show that night.

MJ pulled off this vintage under the layup Dr. J-like reverse in a way that only he could at that time....Oh yeah, and it was a three-point play as well.

MJ pulled off this vintage under the layup Dr. J-like reverse in a way that only he could at that time….Oh yeah, and it was a three-point play as well.

The time and date of the game, you ask? Friday, March 27, 1998 at 7:30pm in Atlanta, GA against the Dikembe Mutombo/Steve Smith/Mookie Blaylock-era Hawks. At the time, both teams had much in common, as they were both Central Division rivals (the re-shaping of the NBA’s landscape in 2004 saw the Hawks move to the newly formed Southeast Division) who had faced each other in the previous season’s playoffs. Both teams were in a transitional period. Jordan’s Bulls were uncertain about his playing status beyond that season because of the team’s decision to severe ties with Phil Jackson at the end of that season. The Hawks on the other hand, were literally without a permanent home, as they played their last game in The Omni the previous season, and they took temporary residence in the Georgia Dome and Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum until the Phillips Arena was completed in time for the 1999-00 season.

Upon my attending the game, I knew that this game would be big in terms of its significance. The Jordan Factor by itself was monumental, but the Bulls-who would go on to win their sixth and last NBA championship later that season–played through an entire season which was nicknamed “The Last Dance” by coach Phil Jackson, so it seemed as if EVERYONE wanted to be there. My gut feeling wouldn’t let me down, as the game itself set an NBA attendance record for a single game of 62,046. True to his reputation, Jordan wouldn’t disappoint, as he scored 34 points to lead his team to an 89-74 victory.

It was cool being a part of history, as I received this memoir which commemorated the NBA's single-game attendance record.

It was cool being a part of history, as I received this memoir which commemorated the NBA’s single-game attendance record.

The program directory for the Bulls/Hawks matchup that night.

The program directory for the Bulls/Hawks matchup that night.

My ticket stub for the game.

My ticket stub for the game.

Needless to say, I had a blast watching the greatest player of all time and his Chicago Bulls go toe-to-toe with a very respectable team in the Atlanta Hawks. I want to give a shout-out to a YouTube user by the name of 79maestro who actually put in the time to go into the archives and upload Jordan’s highlights from this game in the video below. If you appreciate classic NBA highlights, and you’d like to see rare Jordan highlights, subscribe to 79maestro’s channel.

My second “Like Mike” experience took place over three and-a-half years later, on Thursday, November 1, 2001…Same time, new arena (Phillips).

After emerging from retirement for a second time, Jordan decided to take on his biggest on-court opponent yet, Father Time. At 38 years of age, despite mixed feelings from fans about his last go-round in the NBA, Jordan laced up the Nikes yet again to test his basketball might against the young whippersnappers at the time, such as Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Tracy McGrady.

Although he aligned himself with new cohorts (the Washington Wizards), Jordan’s game against the Hawks resulted in the same way that it did during the last time he faced the Hawks: another ‘W’. The 38-year-old scored 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in only his second regular season game back. Not bad for an “old man”, huh? Another YouTube uploader, by the name of Swove2204.

Oh yeah, I’ve included a couple of artifacts from this game as well.

My ticket to witness Jordan's first game back against the Hawks, this time as a Washington Wizard.

My ticket to witness Jordan’s first game back against the Hawks, this time as a Washington Wizard.

Program Directory to the Hawks vs, Wizards matchup of November 1, 2001.

Program Directory to the Hawks vs, Wizards matchup of November 1, 2001.

After reading this, you’re probably wondering, “How in the world was B.C. ‘Just Like Mike’? The answer is, we were both in the same building on 3/27/98 & 11/1/01! You didn’t think I was gonna tell you that I could take off from the free throw line, did ya?

People in the NBA world were stunned by the recent loss of three former great players.

People in the NBA world were stunned by the recent loss of three former great players.

The NBA world suffered three consecutive losses within an extremely short time span when Jerome Kersey (February 18), Earl Lloyd (February 26), and Anthony Mason (February 28)  passed away last month.

Kersey, the athletic forward who participated in some of the league’s storied Slam Dunk Contest of the 1980s, also served as a member of the Portland Trailblazers team that made appearances in 1990 and 1992.

Earl Lloyd gained his claim to fame by becoming the NBA’s first Black player in 1950. He played for 10 years with the Washington Capitols, winning an NBA Championship with the Syracuse Nationals (now the Philadelphia 76ers), and the Detroit Pistons.

Anthony Mason, whose physical style of play endeared him to New York basketball fans during his days as a Knick, played 13 NBA seasons, finishing his career with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2003.

nba2015

As we enter the 68th season of the National Basketball Association, it’s evident that the 2014-15 campaign isn’t the only thing that’s new surrounding “The League”. We’ll “Witness” veteran superstars go to “NEW” teams (LeBron James), new players (Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, etc), and new coaches (Derek Fisher) who will attempt to lead their teams to victories.

Unfortunately, not all is well in spite of a new season. Due to the fast-paced nature of the game of basketball that is definitely true for the NBA, this season’s first 24+ hours have already experienced a season ending injury to the L.A. Lakers’ prized rookie from the University of Kentucky, Julius Randle, who broke his right tibia during the teams season opener against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. Fans all across the NBA landscape are being deprived of watching the basketball greatness of 4-time scoring champion and 2014 MVP Kevin Durant, who is expected to miss the first month of this new NBA season. He also happens to be the cover boy of 2K Sports’s NBA 2K15 (I’m really starting to believe that the fabled “cover curse” that many athletes experience after being placed on the cover of video games is true).

In spite of the previously mentioned adversity, the show must go on. We’ve already witnessed a game winning shot from Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker to beat Jabari Parker’s Milwaukee Bucks, 108-106 to re-introduced the world to the the NBA franchise that had become a household name for much of the 90’s on into the early 00’s.

There are many questions that are left to be unanswered at this point. Will the San Antonio Spurs repeat as champions in 2015? Will legendary coach and now President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks Phil Jackson’s experience as a winner become contagious to his newly inherited team? Can Kobe Bryant, coming off of an achilles heel and knee surguries–not to mention Father Time–hold hold up physically to withstand the rigors of the 82 game NBA season? Will he surpass Michael Jordan’s all time points scored record to reach 3rd on the NBA’s All-Time Scoring list? We can’t help but to just tune in to see.

One thing that is certain is that the Western Conference looks as strong as ever, with high expectations for the Clippers, Warriors, Spurs, Mavericks, Blazers, and Thunder. These are just the teams who are named as favorites to emerge from the West come Finals time in June. While the Western Conference has reigned supreme for quite sometime now, let’s not sleep on the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose appears to be back…and better–and faster–than ever. Can his Chicago Bulls team (that also acquired two-time champion Pau Gasol from the Lakers this past summer) give their neighbors in the Central Division–the Cleveland Cavaliers–a run for their money? Let’s also not forget about the Miami Heat, who despite losing LeBron to free agency, will have what it takes to become a top four team in the East, ESPECIALLY now that the Pacers appear to be out of the conversation due to the severe leg injury suffered by their all-star forward Paul George, as well as the loss of tough-as-nails shooting guard Lance Stephenson to Charlotte.

There are many great teams that appear to be AWESOME on paper at this point in the season, but come June, the old TNT slogan rings true:

“There can only be one”.

Mitch Richmond is one of the greatest shooting guards--and overall scorers--who ever graced the hardwood.

Mitch Richmond is one of the greatest shooting guards–and overall scorers–who ever graced the hardwood.

One of my first memories of Mitch Richmond was during my middle school years. Like many young American teenagers, I was a video game fanatic who also happened to fall in love with the game of basketball in 1995 as a 12-year-old. Fast forward a year later, and “NBA Live ’97” was released on all of those classic 16-bit gaming consoles that many of us grew to love back in the ’90s. At the time, I was very aware of the Shaqs, Jordans, and Barkleys of the basketball world, but I had no clue who this guy wearing the number 2 with a Sacramento Kings jersey on the cover of “Live ’97” was. To be totally honest, as a young kid growing up in Georgia, I didn’t even know who the Sacramento Kings were, for that matter. To make things even worse for Mr. Richmond’s case, his Kings teams of the 90s weren’t exactly making weekly appearances on NBC to bask in the warmth of the national television spotlight either.

Despite everything that you’ve just read, there’s glory to Mitch Richmond’s story. Drafted 5th overall in the 1988 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors, he was nicknamed “The Rock” because of his overwhelming strength as a guard. He also represented one-third of the Warriors’ famed trio nicknamed “Run-TMC”, which comprised of Tim Hardaway (father of the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr., for all of you youngsters), Mitch, and Chris Mullin. Although he could resort to a more physically aggressive style of play, he would cement his legacy as a player with his deadly accuracy from the perimeter, shooting nearly 40% from beyond the 3-point arc.

To me, Mitch Richmond was one of the greatest shooting guards in the 90’s not named Jordan. Since we’re going to take it there, most people are quick to reference Reggie Miller, Clyde Drexler, or Joe Dumars as the premier two-guards during that era, and they’d have a very legitimate argument, mostly because of their respective teams’ success….but Richmond gave the same output that his NBA contemporaries would, but received far less accolades, perhaps due to his time in Sacramento. One of my favorite Mitch Richmond moments would have to be him winning his first and only NBA championship in 2002 as a Laker, which was in my eyes, the crowning achievement to a brilliant career for him.

Fast forward to August 2014, and Richmond gets inducted into the Basketball Hall 0f Fame. After years of flying under the radar despite his basketball brilliance, his induction gives his career the validation that was needed to secure his place in the company of basketball greats.

 

Dunking is arguably one of the biggest--and entertaining--ways to send a message to an opposing player.

Dunking is arguably one of the biggest–and entertaining–ways to send a message to an opposing player.

Anyone remember playing NBA Jam back in the early 90’s? If you do, then you’ll remember the players flying through the air to attempt one of their humanly impossible, yet entertaining monster dunks. The video game’s announcer would punctuate the players’ dunks by yelling that one catch phrase that seemed to be an oft-used in pop culture jargon during that time period:

“BOOMSHAKALAKA!!”

When you heard that catch phrase, then you knew that you had pulled off one of the highlights of the game, if not the highlight of the game. It was almost as if the announcer had to verbalize the non-verbal statement that the players in the game made after their superhuman dunks that could only be done in a virtual world. To no one’s surprise, however, those non-verbal b-ball statements are made in the world of flesh, blood, leather, and rubber as well as the pixelated world of those classic 16-Bit video games. By now, everyone’s quite sure of the basketball statements that I’m referring to, and there are a few, in my humble opinion.

1. The Dunk

Perhaps the most beloved–and the most feared method–to make a statement on the basketball court, this high wire act ALWAYS brings the fans to their feet immediately. Dunks have been known to not only humiliate the poor defender on the receiving end of a demoralizing crushing dunk, but it has also been known to change the momentum of ball games. When it comes to dunks, think about Vince Carter’s video game-like dunk over Team France’s Frederic Weis. Take that, basketball purists!

2. The Crossover Dribble/Shake & Bake

Another way to make a basketball-related statement during a game would be to leave your defender dancing and looking like their auditioning for the sequel of Roll Bounce on a greasy floor…that’s right, make ’em look THAT silly. While Tim Hardaway was the Godfather of the wicked Crossover Dribble, Allen Iverson took it to an entirely different level in terms of how destructive the Crossover Dribble could be to defenders if the right person does it.

3. The Blocked Shot

I’m fully aware that defense is the name of the game, but it’s a shame that it’s not too fan-friendly for the most part when it comes to selling out areas and gyms. There is hope. Spice up your team’s defense-first philosophy by knocking the opposing player’s shot (Just try not to pick up a foul in the process of doing so) into the 10th row! Basketball purists cringe at the thought of a defender swatting a player’s shot out of bounds, because it automatically gives the other team possession of the ball, but sometimes you gotta strike the fear of God into the other team by doing this. Outside of Bill Russell’s heyday as an elite shot blocker, Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace were two of the most beloved shot blockers of the past two decades.

I had to write this post in response to a question that came to my mind this weekend. The question was, “Outside of the obvious politically correct answer(s) of ‘Win the game’ and ‘Play defense’, what are some of the most effective ways to make a statement in a basketball game as a player? If you have other opinions on how to make a statement in a game, please feel free to answer in the poll below.

Head Coach Byron Scott was named the Lakers' 25th head coach on Monday.

Head Coach Byron Scott was named the Lakers’ 25th head coach on Monday.

I have something to admit.   I’m a die hard Laker fan, and I have been ever since 2001 when I witnessed Kobe Bryant’s Hall-of Fame caliber performance against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals that year. You’re probably thinking that my journalistic integrity will be in question after confessing my basketball allegiance, but as the theme of this blog goes, I vow to deliver consistent and quality posts on all things basketball to eventually make many of you forget what my favorite NBA franchise (unless you’re a faithful reader/follower of All Things Hoops, or…you’re just stalking my page) happens to be. So, you can imagine how I felt whenever I received the news that Byron Scott–one of the high flying tough-as-nails guards of the “Showtime Lakers” championship run throughout the 1980s–will return to the franchise in a slightly different capacity, this time as a head coach of the Lake Show. The 2008 NBA Coach of the Year and L.A. native son will bring his no-nonsense approach to the game of basketball and look to infuse this ideology into his players. All nostalgic references to the side, Coach Scott has inherited his old team as a coach during an interesting time for the Lakers franchise. This Laker team has none of the legendary luster that his Showtime Lakers exuded. Hell, with the exception of Kobe Bryant, this Laker team doesn’t even remotely resemble the post-Shaq Laker squads that won back-to-back NBA championships in 2009 & 2010. However, with the addition of veteran power forward Carlos Boozer and scrappy point guard Jeremy Lin along with the Lakers’ #1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft (#7 overall) Julius Randle Byron Scott has a nucleus of players that he can work with to make this team a playoff contender at the very least. The addition of Byron Scott as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers gives the franchise a much-need shot in the arm. If you root for this team as I do, then you will too, especially after witnessing the past several seasons that don’t measure up to the standards of this franchise. Since my fellow members of Laker Nation can’t quite see Byron Scott in action as a coach yet, let’s kick back and witness highlights of his heyday as a player for the Lakers.

Why So Many Pro Athletes Go Broke

Posted: June 29, 2014 by Gamechanger in Uncategorized

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(Originally written by B.C. on January 6, 2013)

Many sports enthusiasts as well as casual observers are still buzzing from the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled: “Broke”. The documentary profiles several former professional athletes from various sports who have managed to squander their finances. From my observation, these athletes’ misfortunes are somewhat self-explanatory. There are many factors that go into these athletes going broke.

One of the biggest factors that play into these athletes going from riches to rags is their socioeconomic upbringing. Though by no means do I, or any of you use this a crutch for these athletes, but it has been well-documented that many professional athletes, particularly those athletes in the NBA and NFL where the player population is predominately African-American, spent their early years experiencing less than desirable living conditions, and in many cases, their way of living at that time became the driving force that would propel them to exceptional, even otherworldly athletic achievement that in their minds would ensure that they or their families would no longer have to experience meager living standards again in their lives.

Unfortunately, many of them were wrong.

One of the byproducts of the conditions of their upbringing would be mismanagement of finances. The saying that goes, “People with nothing aren’t used to having anything, even after they finally do get it” rings all too true among these athletes that go broke. The previously stated quote is nothing more than a testament to human nature itself. What should we expect when we sign a 19 or 20 year old young man who may or may not have any college experience under their belts to a contract worth of millions of dollars? To exacerbate the problem with why many of these athletes go broke is because many of them are wealthy even before they shoot their first jump shot, score their first touchdown, or hit their first home run. This is a recipe for disaster. To be realistic, we can not expect these young men (I’m emphasizing the male athlete because the instances of the female athlete going broke is very rare and is almost unheard of) to maintain and even increase their newly attained wealth over a span of generations that will ensure financial stability for themselves and their families for generations to come, especially when they are easily influenced by family members, “friends”, agents, and other new found hangers-on that reek of alterior motives and jealousy, and care nothing about the athlete outside of what that particular athlete can do to assist these toxic people financially.

I also blame the educational institutions that these athletes hone the very same athletic skills that allow them the opportunity to compete in the highest levels of their respective sports that contribute to their eventual personal financial demise. You may ask, “Why would these athletes’ schools and colleges be to blame for these athletes going broke? ” My answer to this concern would be that the coaches at these high schools and colleges do not require or even suggest that their athletes receive an adequate education on finances, nor do they instill in them a belief that the life span of their athletic careers are relatively small in comparison to their actual lives. This means that if the athletes were properly taught by their schools the value of money, and the athletes are in a position to make the big bucks, they will be properly prepared to handle their finances, whether it be through saving, investing, or maximizing their earning potential during their playing careers so that they are able to acquire even more wealth. Sadly enough, this too often is not the case. The coaches, especially those coaches in the NCAA Division 1 levels, are under such pressure to get their teams to perform at optimum levels, that emphasis on their athletes’ well-being (let alone their financial well-being) are often neglected for the sake of the athletic betterment of that school’s athletic program. As a result, these young men often lack the business acumen that is desperately needed in their future careers as professional athletes.

Once these young men advance to the professional ranks of their respective sports, the semi sheltering and nurturing environment provided by these athletes’ college programs suddenly disappears. They are left to fend for themselves in an environment that is already established to be hyper-competitive and predatory, and unfortunately this type of environment combined with a lack of thorough financial know how extends over to their lavish lifestyles. From automobiles, to excessive houses that these athletes will never fully utilize for them or their families, to other trivial items that are greatly overpriced, many of these athletes live a lifestyle that even exceeds their multi-million dollar salaries.

Another factor that leads to these pro athletes going broke that people are often reluctant to discuss are the countless paternity suits, child support and alimony payments, as well as shady player agents and other people of little or no character who only seek leech from these athletes. That being stated, I will note that I do not condone the irresponsible sexual behavior and ill advised marriages that these professional athletes become involved in that eventually leads to their financial ruin. However, we must acknowledge that these athletes are involved in situations that prove time and time again to be detrimental to their financial well being.

However, there are solutions that would prove beneficial to the financial well being of professional athletes in the future that would prevent them from going broke, and break the continual cycle of financial crisis for these athletes.One solution would be to strongly emphasize an extensive education and understanding of money management while these athletes are still in the student-athlete stage of their athletic careers. Another solution that may not be as popular or embraced would be for the athlete to shrink their social circles. The term “small and tight circle” is an often used slogan, but it proves to be very beneficial when someone like these professional athletes become men of means. They must be very selective about who they choose to associate themselves with socially, especially in their dating relationships and marriages. A third solution that would prove highly effective to prevent pro athletes from going broke would be to practice discipline. Learning to say no to people who do not have their best interests at heart, and learning to walk away from purchasing items they do not need will only prove to help them and their families in the long run, thus creating financial stability as well as a very strong possibility for generational wealth.