Tag Archives: Hakeem Olajuwon

Alas, my friends.  The time has come to put a bow on Season 2 of hoopservations.com .  Hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.

In closing, I think it’s appropriate to wrap up the LeBron conversation.  Assuming we have a basketball season to talk about in October, people’s opinions and perspectives on what we just WITNESSED are likely to change.  Now that the discussion is fresh, let’s do some year-end hoopserving about it.

My five-part rant generated a few comments about King James, disagreeing with my conclusions.  I’ll take them in turn:

COMMENT:  Did Magic play with Kareem and Worthy? Didn’t Clyde Drexler and some others team up with Hakeem to win? Also didn’t Malone and Payton team up with Shaq and Kobe to win a championship? Shaq played with Kobe (arguably both could be considered in the top 5 to ever play the game). Jordan and Pippen were nominated in the 50 best players ever and Jordan is arguably the best to ever play. For all the hate that everyone has against Lebron for choosing who he works with, it sums up to jealousy. Last night Van Gundy stated this and he made a great point.

RESPONSE:  We’ll start with Magic.  I’ve already blogged about this.  He won his first championship when Kareem was injured.  By the time he won the last one, Kareem was washed up.  Magic had won two before Worthy even joined the team.  In any event, it’s not like he spent 7 years failing to win with his own team and then ran to join a team with Kareem and Worthy.

Re Drexler, it’s true that he didn’t win until he joined Hakeem.  It’s also true that nobody talks about him as a top-15 player.  If you want to agree not to rank LeBron ahead of Drexler, I’ll agree that the situations are comparable.  The problem is that LeBron gets much more credit than Drexler, without credentials to warrant it.

Re Malone and Payton, yes they both joined the Lakers when they were old, after having spent their careers failing to reach the promised land.  It was lame of them.  And it didn’t work.  They still failed to win.  And nobody puts them in the top 15.  (Simmons ranked Malone #18, and Payton #40.  I’m assuming that Simmons would have to acknowledge that Wade and Dirk have both moved ahead of Malone since he published his book.)

Re Shaq and Kobe, now you’re just being silly.  The year before Shaq joined the Lakers was 95-96.  (Shaq’s stats here.)  Kobe wasn’t even in the league that year.  (Kobe’s stats here.)  So Shaq leaving Orlando for LA is not at all comparable to LeBron leaving Cleveland for Miami: one guy quit on his team to join a team that already had an established superstar, and one guy did not.

Re Jordan and Pippen… ah, I’m not gonna go there.  Already done that.

Re “it sums up to jealousy,” now you’re not even making sense.  I’m fat, slow, and can’t jump.  As a result, I’m jealous of all the guys in the NBA.  Even Brian Cardinal.  Hell, I’m jealous of some dude named Tim whom I met at the park, because he was able to complete a reverse lay-up without twisting his ankle.  There’s a reason why LeBron is the source of my anger, and it has nothing to do with jealousy.

COMMENT:  Lebron should be applauded and emulated. Lets look at some of the positives he has done verse others in our beloved sport – he actively sought out Warren Buffet. He took the power of making his professional life more fulfilling. Don’t we all do this when we search for a new job or career?

RESPONSE:  I don’t follow the Warren Buffet thing.  Regarding the idea of “we all do this,” it’s true that we all try to make our lives as fulfilling as possible.  It’s also true that we aren’t all in the discussion for being one of the top 15 basketball players of all time.  Thus, if I go to work for an established organization, it’s probably because I want to make a few more bucks or have a bit more job security — not because I’ve taken the easy way out on the quest for greatness.

COMMENT:  He has two kids with the same woman and has never been accused of negative or illegal activities. So far he has embraced being a role model. He plays team first basketball – what he loves passing – the horror. He loves playing defense – don’t follow that habit.

RESPONSE:  I have one kid with the same woman, and have embraced being a role model.  I’m still not in the conversation for top 15 basketball players of all time.  Bruce Bowen loved playing defense.  He isn’t, either.

COMMENT:  I hope Lebron wins, dances, and then Miami throws a party even more out there then their intro party. When this happens you will see me in the middle of it. Don’t hate because our game is captivating and beautiful to watch.

RESPONSE:  I hope you enjoyed the party.

COMMENT:  That is definitely the most credit you’ve given LeBron that I’ve read. Almost, for a second, sounded as if you liked him- but then I kept reading. Although I always enjoy your posts, I’m going to disagree with something you wrote (surprise)- I do not think Lebrons decision to go to Miami was cowardly- at all. He did what anyone would do to get ahead in his job, further his career and achieve the ultimate goal. He has taken ridiculous amounts of abuse from every city around and has held his head high through it all. He is a leader and has not tried to steal the spotlight at all. He has his eyes on the prize as does the rest of the Miami Heat players.  If he was wearing a USA jersey for the Olympics the country would be cheering for him.

RESPONSE: When LeBron decides to play for Team USA, it’s not like he’s looking at 30 different options and choosing the one that represents the easiest path to a title.  Team USA happens to represent the easiest path to a gold medal, but it’s not like LeBron chooses to be on Team USA instead of other teams.  He’s on Team USA because he’s an American citizen.

Now, before closing out the season, let’s summarize why LeBron is so disliked:

* He came into the league with more hype than any other player.  This isn’t necessarily his fault, but he certainly added fuel to the fire.  He tattooed “Chosen 1” on his body.  He wore the number 23.  His nickname is King James.  His ad campaign says “We Are All Witnesses.” Clearly, he was trying to be something other than just an ordinary superstar.  (For some perspective, remember that other dudes near his level have nicknames like “Durantula,” and ad campaigns about falling down 7 times and getting up 8, or something like that.)  With so much hype and such an oversized personality, things were destined to come crashing down eventually if he failed to win a title.

*  For years, he fought sports gravity.  The general rule in sports is that people root for their own teams.  They sometimes become fans of guys on other teams, but rarely in mass numbers.  For the first few years of his career, LeBron was a phenom, and people generally rooted for him.  Then, about the time he stopped getting the benefit of the doubt as a result of being a phenom, his free agency was approaching. Fans of multiple teams thought they were getting him, so, instead of rooting against him like they ordinarily would, they rooted for him, almost as if he was one of their own players.  This, too, was destined to lead to a backlash, for reasons that are not necessarily LeBron’s fault.

*  “The Decision,” and the following celebration, were both obnoxious.  If these were the only reasons people had to dislike LeBron, people would have gotten over them eventually.  But they weren’t the only reasons.

*  Even if he hadn’t done the stupid tv show or celebration, the decision (lower-case letters) to go to Miami was infuriating.  At the end of the day, ignoring everything else, he had to decide where to continue his career, and he made the unprecedented choice of trying to pursue greatness while taking a backseat to a superstar who had already established himself.  Millions of people (including me) see it as an act of cowardice, and don’t want him to be rewarded for it.

All of that said, it’s true that he hasn’t committed a crime and that, by all accounts, he’s a good family man off-the-court.  So, nothing he has done is irreversible.  Reversing the negative feelings about him, though, will be very difficult, because now he’s stuck on Wade’s team.  Now that people have woken up to what he did, there might be a ceiling on the amount of credit he’ll get, even if he does everything right and the team wins.  It will be hard for him to reverse things very quickly because the team would be excellent without him.  Decisions, though, have consequences, and that is the consequence of The Decision.

As far as human dramas go, it’s really quite fascinating.  I know that I’ll be watching next year, to see how he responds (assuming there’s a season!!).

Until then, enjoy the off-season, hoopservers!!!

1 Comment:

  • Jones

    Although we will always just have to agree to disagree on LeBron, I love reading your blog- both for your opinions & for all of the great and informative stats & info. It says a lot for your writing if I am a proud Miami Heat fan yet still look forward to reading Hoopservation next season. :)

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I’ve spoken to a number of people recently who tell me that they don’t enjoy watching the NBA anymore.  One person was telling me that the game isn’t played the way the Knicks of the early 70’s played it, which is the way it is supposed to be played.  A few people were telling me that it isn’t played the way the Celtics and Lakers of the 80’s played it, a few complained that it isn’t as good as it was when Reggie, Patrick, Michael and Hakeem were battling it out in the 90’s, and a few just sounded grouchy.  The point, though, is that a number of people aren’t feelin’ it the way I’m feelin’ it.

[AUTHOR’S DISCLAIMER:  The crew of people that I interact with on a daily basis is, I know, not necessarily reflective of the overall population.  An illustration of a typical conversation for me to have with a friend is a conversation that I had yesterday.  I said something about the hoops that was played on Monday night.  My friend responded by saying that he was watching WWE wrestling (Monday Night Raw) during the game I was talking about.  This led to a back-and-forth, which culminated in him arguing that The Undertaker would make a great power forward — kind of like The Birdman — and me conceding that the NBA’s ratings might improve if The Undertaker signed with an NBA team.  Yup, these are my friends.  But the point remains… a bunch of people are unhappy with the NBA.]

I wasn’t around to watch the Knicks of the early 70’s, so I can’t respond directly to the assertion that they played the game better than the teams play today.  But I watched plenty of hoops starting in the mid-80’s, and I know a thing or two about the history of the game.  At least enough to address the feeling that the game is getting worse.

For starters, I agree that something has gotten lost with the addition of more teams.  ‘Twas a time when there was no such thing as a Tuesday in February when a few games were being played between two lousy teams.  Now there are so many teams that there are bound to be some games that are no fun to watch. (Even if all the other teams in the NBA got better, the Knicks would still be the Knicks, guaranteeing at least 82 meaningless, uninteresting games every year).

But there’s a reason why the league expanded; at bottom, it’s a business.  When people like what it’s producing, it’s going to produce more.  Sure, it might get to a point where it overexpands (I would argue that it passed that point 2 or 3 teams ago), but you can’t expect the league to sit still if it thinks there are markets to be tapped into profitably.

I also agree that the best teams do not seem to be as good.  I doubt we’ll ever see a team like the ’86 Celtics, with 3 Hall-of-Famers in the frontcourt, 1 in the backcourt, AND BILL WALTON ON THE BENCH, going against the Lakers, with arguably the best PG ever, the league’s all-time leading scorer, AND JAMES WORTHY FILLING THE LANE.  When you add teams, you diminish the likelihood of any team accumulating that much talent.

But let’s not look at the past with rose-colored glasses.  When those Celtics and Lakers teams were dominating the league, the teams on the bottom were terrible.  Anyone remember the Jazz before Stockton and Malone?  The Kings in the sky blue uniforms?  The Nets before they drafted Derrick Coleman?  The Rockets before Olajuwon?  You don’t?  Neither do I.  That’s my point.  And I made that point without even mentioning the pre-Ewing Knicks — the team with Pat Cummings and Rory Sparrow in the starting lineup.

I’ll give one other point to the teams of yesteryear; they typically had guys who fit into our notions of the five different positions.  Kareem was a C, Magic was a PG, Byron was a SG, Worthy and Rambis were forwards.  That’s what a basketball team was supposed to look like.  And there was a harmony to it.  Today, many teams have a few guys who are “hybrids,” which sounds good in theory, but sometimes leads to something awful-looking.  Like the Golden State Warriors.  And nobody wants that.

But, again, let’s not look at the past with rose-colored glasses.  It’s true that the Lakers and Celtics of the ’80’s, or the Knicks of the early ’70’s, started 5 guys who each played one of the “5 positions.”  But, it’s also true that they started SGs who were 6’4” or smaller.  Good luck trying to pull that off in today’s game (unless your 6’4” SG happens to be named Dwyane Wade).

There’s much more to say on this topic, but I won’t try to cover too much in one posting.  The last thing I’ll say is that anyone who is down on today’s game should watch the Suns-Spurs series.  Watch Nash, Duncan, Manu, and Grant Hill, and then talk to me about whether today’s players aren’t playing the game the right way.

Which reminds me… I have a game to go watch.

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