Posts Tagged ‘NBA All Star’

kobe bryant 2016

Yes, the world knows at this point that Kobe Bean Bryant is only a shell of the player that he once was, but before you scoff at the headline that I’ve created, let it marinate for a moment. You’ll then understand where I’m coming from. Allow me to briefly hit you with a little NBA history before you totally write me off.

What do Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1989, Magic Johnson in 1992, & Michael Jordan in 2003 all have in common? They were all named NBA All-Stars despite the fact that they were either: a) nowhere near the players they were previously, or b) were on their way to retiring (like Kareem and MJ). In Magic’s case, he had already announced his retirement in November of ’91, but was named an All-Star that same season regardless.

If the NBA lives up to its word of honoring its legends, then Kobe should be a lock for the 2016 All-Star Game. Imagine a starting Western Conference backcourt of Steph Curry and Bryant, and you can be sure that the players on that West squad will do their due diligence to see to it that Kobe is in prime position to secure what would be his fifth and final All-Star Game MVP. What a way to leave the game in an honorable way.

Until we get a chance to see Kobe participate in his final All-Star Weekend as a player in 2016, enjoy these memorable Kobe Bryant All-Star highlights throughout his career.

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More than any other professional team sport in America, the NBA has maintained a symbiotic relationship with its stars. The NBA–or “The League”, as it’s known by many–has been widely recognized as a star-driven league.

Whether you’re a fan of the NBA, or just a casual observer, you can’t help but to identify the National Basketball Association with some of the greatest and entertaining players to ever have earned an NBA paycheck.  Just in case you’re wondering about how long this star-driven system has been in place, we have to re-visit the early days of the pro basketball league.

I’m sure you’ve heard of an NBA franchise by the name of the Los Angeles Lakersright? Well, they haven’t always resided in Southern California, nor was their first championship won there either. Before the Lakers relocated to L.A. in 1960, they won an impressive five championships in their former home, Minneapolis. As expected, most great sports teams have that “anchor” on their team; that one person who is the heart and soul of their campaign to become champions in their respective league/sport. The then-Minneapolis Lakers had that type of player, and his name was George Mikan.

Mikan made a brief comback as a Minneapolis Laker in this 1995 ESPN Sportscenter commercial.

After an illustrious college career at DePaul University in Chicago, the 6’10” Mikan was known for his dominance as a Laker, yet he first signed with the Chicago American Gears of the NBL (National Basketball League), which eventually became the NBA. It was two years after his signing with the Gears in 1946, that he would join the Lakers for the 1947-48 season. When it came to dominant players at that time, no one in the league was on Mikan’s level of play. Like players such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in latter years, it was Mikan’s dominance that forced the NBA to change some of its rules to even the playing field for other players to have the opportunity to compete.

Long before the regularity of the NBA’s marketing of a celebrated few players handpicked every year to be the faces of the league, George Mikan was that guy to do so by himself.  If Mikan’s star power were ever in question, then any doubts would be refuted in the following story: On December 14, 1949, his teammates arrived at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and were met with a surprise.

On the marquee (sign outside of the building) they had ‘George Mikan vs. the Knicks,” recalled the NBA legend, whose teammates ribbed him by refusing to dress for the game. “They were all just sitting around. They said, ‘Alright big guy, if you’re going to play them, go play them.

With the NBA still crawling through its years of infancy at the time, such a sight was unheard of, yet it appeared that the marketing team of Madison Square Garden understood what a larger-than-life figure George Mikan had become back then. Needless to say, Mikan went on to play until 1956, ending a career that saw him become a hall-of-famer, one of the NBA’s “50 Greatest” players (as of 1996), and the reputation of being the “that dude” on his team. If Mikan were a star today, let’s just say that his jersey would be on sale, and he’d possibly even have his own sneaker.

Now that’s star power.

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.