West Side Story

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Not the greatest

Michael Jordan is not the greatest basketball player of all-time. That statement could never be true, because of the rich history the game offers. If the argument was based on the number of NBA Championships, then the greatest would be Bill Russell. Not only did he win 11 titles, he endured Jim Crow laws and racism, making the game of basketball and life for that matter a lot more difficult. If you rather talk about dominance, then you need to look no further than Wilton Norman Chamberlain.

For all intents and purposes, I truly believe that within the 61 years of the NBA, there are players that define different era’s, times, and places. In the early days of the league, black players were not allowed to play, so those days are not relative to the times when Earl Lloyd and other blacks were allowed to compete. I grew up in West Philadelphia, so I was always taught to take pride in where I am from, and to understand that there will never be another “Big Dipper”.

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Is the greatest

When I was born there was a man named Julius Erving that defined everything basketball, and as I grew and learned about the game, the one they called “Air” took flight, as he elevated everything around him, from TV ratings, and marketability, to general interest, and borderline idol worship. By 1994, Jordan had begun playing baseball, and I had become associates with a 6’4″ high school sophomore named Kobe Bean Bryant. Little did I know he would become the one to lead the NBA into the next generation, not because I didn’t have faith in his game…it had more to do with my liking his oldest sister Sharia.

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Could he be be the greatest? We’ll have to wait until his career plays out

“Beans” as my best friend Misty calls him, was also from West Philly, however his family moved overseas…and upon returning to the states, they relocated to nearby Lower Merion. Kobe never hung out there, as he was ALWAYS in West Philadelphia. From the barbershop at 54th and Berks, to Tustin Playground at 60th and Columbia he was always “at home” with us. It makes sense, because before the Bryant family moved to Italy, they used to live in the Overbrook section, directly around the corner from Wilt Chamberlain. Its ironic when you look at some of the NBA record books and you see Chamberlain and Bryant as 1. and 2. respectively, as they are as synonymous with the game as they are with one another.

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Wilt is the biggest of them all in Philly

The point I am trying to make is that watching KB24 in his 12-year professional career has been some kind of wonderful. His personal choices and happenings off the court have nothing to do with how he plays the game of basketball. Why people do not like his game is the great unknown mystery to me, because there is nothing the man cannot do. He can take over and kill at will, or he can get his team involved and orchestrate a win like only the best can do.

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Super Bowl Sunday in DC

Kobe sees the game in slow motion, and he can view angles and lines on the court, picking his shots and the opposition apart in the process.

Yes he won 3-championships early in his career with the help of Shaq, and the Lake Show is back on top, with the rise of Andrew Bynum and addition of Pau Gasol, however the offense of Tex Winter (The Triangle) only works if you have a good passing front court, and a good lead guard. In this case, the Lakers have a Fisher and Farmar as lead guards, and Bryant as the leader of the pack.For some reason, I just want the rest of the world to see this man, and the game he makes great.

The negativity is unnecessary.

And for all those that say Kobe wants to be Michael Jordan…well what’s wrong with emulating a great player? I wanted to be like Barkley at a young age. Oh the other thing that I love is that KB24 is arrogant and cocky, hmmm, that’s funny I always thought that he was confident in all of his hard work and practice. I can recall, going to cover the Wizards vs. Lakers in DC, on Super Bowl Sunday. It was February 3, 2008 and instead of sitting around watching 6 hours of pre game, I made the trip to the Verizon Center.

I didn’t speak with Kobe prior to the game, because he was in the weight room, in a full-workout 1-hour before tip-off. His dedication paid off, because he had 19 points in that first quarter. No easy feat in the NBA.

The problem with Kobe Bryant is that he makes the game look easy.Its sad, however true that people fear and sometimes hate what they cannot understand. I’m just doing my part to assist you in learning. These are interesting times we live in and one day when he is retired, teaching the youth of tomorrow how to play this game at a high level…I believe that is when people will “get it”, and by then it will be too late.

Peace, AXG.

14 Responses to “West Side Story”

  1. 1985roy says:

    I’m loving the blog, and I have much respect for Wilt, but he was the only seven footer in the league for most of his career. MJ dominated in every aspect of the game and made his teamates better.

  2. Mizzo says:

    Averaging 50 points and over 20 rebounds on the game’s highest level should never be diminished.

    Wilt actually led the L in assists as well.

    The legend will not become fact here.

  3. Mizzo says:

    He averaged 25 boards in that incredible season. The year was 61-62 my bad. He led the lig in 67-68 in dimes.

  4. GrandNubian says:

    One cannot ignore the incredible stats Wilt put up on a nightly basis. Looking at his career accomplishments still blow me away. But when you’re a man among boys, more than likely you’ll put up those type of numbers. I agree with the first post – most of his career he was perhaps the only true big man in the game. Sure, Russell had the rings, but let’s be honest here…even HE couldn’t stop Wilt. It wasn’t until Kareem came into the league that Wilt had to face someone who gave him problems and someone who made him work at both ends of the court.

    But Wilt also had his problems in the games that mattered most – the playoffs against Russell and the Celtics. And though he did help his team win 2 titles (1967 with the 76ers and 1972 with the Lakers), if i’m not mistaken, he lost 4 times. As great as he was, it seems he should have won a lot more. I think that also hurts his legend.

    But as much as I admire and shake my head in amazement at his numbers, I cannot give him the nod as the greatest ever. If he played in the “Kareem-Moses-Hakeem-Ewing-Robinson-Shaq” era, and put up those type numbers, it wouldn’t even be an argument. He would be considered hands down the greatest ever. I see it like this —

    If we’re talking from a statistical perspective, then it’s not even a discussion – Wilt is the man!

    But if we’re talking from a standpoint of era and the level of competition during that ear, then Wilt loses, because he basically had no other competition. That’s not his fault, though. I guess you could say he was in the wrong ear at the right time.

    Bill Russell won 11 titles, but he had no offensive game. He was a great team player and an absolute “BEAST” on defense and many consider the greatest defensive player ever. He was also a beast on the boards too. Unfortunately, he also played in an era where the level of competition was linear. If he played in the “Magic-Bird” era, i don’t see the Celtics winning 11 titles in 13 years. The level of competition, in my opinion, wouldn’t allow that to happen. I just can’t pin the “greatest player ever” title to someone who wasn’t a great offensive player.

    I’ve been watching professional basketball for over 30 years, and in my opinion, the “greatest era” is the “Magic-Bird-Jordan” era (1980 – 1998). There are several reasons why i come to this conclusion but the main reason is the level of competition.

    To me, Michael Jordan is the best basketball player i’ve ever seen play. There are some who says he’s the best offensive player ever AND best defensive player ever (not sure about the latter). Sure, their are many imitators (Kobe), but they can’t duplicate his greatness. Look at his resume during the playoffs and NBA finals (when it matters most), and not even Wilt is better. Jordan is perhaps the greatest “clutch” performer ever (25 game winners), although some can make a legitimate case for Bird or Reggie Miller.

    Let’s also consider the his own competitveness. MJ was probably the most challenge-driven player in the game. If there was a challenge in his path, he always seemed to overcome that challenge, no matter the odds. He is also the only guard to establish a dynasty without a dominating big man.

    Jordan’s level of competition overshadowed the era of Russell & Wilt. Jordan’s competition included the following:

    (1980s)
    1. The Lakers
    2. The Celtics
    3. The 76ers
    4. The Pistions

    * – These 4 teams won all the NBA championships during the 80s.

    (1990s)

    1. The Lakers
    2. The Pistons
    3. The Knicks
    4. The Trailblazers
    5. The Magic
    6. The SuperSonics
    7. The Rockets
    8. The Jazz
    9. The Suns
    10. The Spurs

    * – The Pistons, Bulls, Rockets,Spurs won titles during the 90s

    Whenever the argument for Kobe Bryant arises, i find it rather pre-mature, especially since he’s not done anything of significance to really make a strong argument. Sure, he’s scored 81 points (against the Raptors) but stats doesn’t make you a great player. And yes, he has 3 rings but I saw Shaq walk away with three finals MVP awards, not Kobe. (Kobe hasn’t even won a regular season MVP award but I did predict that he would win it this year, however). So, the correct statement SHOULD be Shaq won 3 titles w/ the help of Kobe, not the other way around. And when Kobe did become the number one option, his team lost against the Pistions, where he had a terrible series. Again, when the game matters most is when great players separate themselves from the rest.

    Kobe has a nice game and he’s a great player but i’m gonna keep it real here. What pisses me off about him is prior to this season, when he became THE MAN, he would not trust his teammates. By not trusting his teammates disallowed him to elevate their games and make them better. As the popular saying goes, great players make those around them great. Kobe had issues in doing that prior to this year. I think he finally understands that he can’t do it alone (MJ learned this early on in his career). If he had learned this important lesson early on in his career, who knows how great he would be today? That’s what irks me about Kobe….seeing such a great talent hinder himself from his full potential. Maybe he’ll get it right one day….we’ll see.

  5. Temple3 says:

    GrandNubian:

    That’s some piece there. Quick question for you – I’ve wondered for some time about the “truth” behind the notion that great players make their teammates play better. To be specific, I believe that great players need other high-quality players in order to ascend to the highest level…and, further, that many great players DO NOT play alongside high-quality when they are considered selfish. It seems that the reputations of players transforms from selfish to unselfish as the QUALITY of their teammates improves. What do you think?

    Magic and Bird were never labeled as selfish – and could not have been since so much of their game was predicated on passing ability. That notwithstanding, both ALWAYS played with several elite players. Isiah Thomas, a superb passer and brilliant distributor of the rock at Indiana (where selfishness under the General was verboten) was labeled as selfish in his early years in Detroit. Never mind that he played with many one dimensional offensive players (Kelly Tripucka, etc.) and many scrubs who were incapable of finishing drives above the rim (Earl Cureton, etc.) When the roster changed and the Pistons had players like Dumars, and The Microwave and Salley and Rodman, he was deemed to have made his teammates better through his willingness to share the ball.

    The same can be said of Dominique Wilkins in Atlanta. The Atlanta Hawks during Nique’s era were not a well-balanced offensive team. John Battle was able to score – and so was Antoine Carr. Randy Whitman could hit an open jumper – but that was about it. None of those players were World Beaters. The Hawks needed Dominique to shoot as often as he did…but he was considered selfish for his entire career – even after his epic battle against the Celtics.

    Michael Jordan suffered from the same criticism early in his career – even though he played with guys like Corzine and Banks and others at the end of the respective ropes. No one remembers the players from the years when Jordan first joined the Bulls. For the most part, they were an unspectacular lot. When the talent level in Chicago increased – when guys who could reliably MAKE outside jumpers (Hodges and Kerr) were on the roster, Jordan was suddenly deemed to be a team player.

    I don’t know what will happen with the Cleveland Cavaliers – but it’s not surprising that LeBron James’ reputation has vacillated from “needing to make his teammates better” to being “too unselfish” to “being a great team player” in the short span of his career. Never mind that the addition of Daniel Gibson as a somewhat reliable outside shooter allowed him to TRUST. The addition of Delonte West and others have only added to that.

    Great players live in the FLOW of the game – and when they make the decision to shoot instead of pass (especially in big games), it tends to be because they believe they are doing the right thing. To paraphrase an ancient saying from another world, “When the shooter is ready, the passer appears.”

  6. Phil Jackson has helped both MJ and Kobe become better team mates. And there is no 1 greatest NBA player of all-time. I could never say that. Kobe Bryant is however the best of this era. That’s just my opinion.

  7. Back to MJ, he was a rookie in ’84 and he didn’t start to “get help” in the form of players until ’87 with Grant and Pippen.

  8. Temple3 says:

    Exactly AG – and he came out of the box averaging 28 a game – and then lit up the C’s for 63 in the playoffs. Folks were talking about how selfish he was – but the only cat on that team who could score against Boston was Orlando Woolridge. Jordan passed when he had people to pass to.

    Charles Oakley was notorious for his inability to finish around the rim. He was an old school power forward who couldn’t jump over a phone book – and it was a no-brainer to let him go to the Knicks.

    Check out this link:
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/CHI/1988.html

    It’s no wonder that Jordan shot as much as he did. Aside from raw, new players like Grant and Pippen, the Bulls interior offense was contingent on Corzine (not a chance), a fossilized Artis Gilmore, tissue paper Brad Sellers, and a grounded Charles Oakley. They still won 50 games in a super competitive Eastern Conference.

    I believe Phil Jackson gets a great deal more credit than I’m willing to give him. Jerry Krause and Jerry West brought in the players that made the Bulls and Lakers champions. I believe Phil deserves a great deal of credit – but Jordan and Bryant were not ignant ass hicks who rolled in off the street with no background in the game.

    Jordan, as you may recall, played for Dean Smith – and with James Worthy and Sam Perkins and Jimmy Black and Kenny Smith and Brad Daugherty. In all seriousness, some players already bring a great deal to the table. I believe that Phil’s greatest influence may have actually been on role players and the supporting cast – guys like BJ Armstrong, Toni Kukoc, and others.

  9. I applaud you Temple3! Your basketball knowledge is well appreciated. Keep up the good work of bringing those in the dark into the light.

  10. GrandNubian says:

    T3,

    I believe exactly what i initially stated — that great players make those around them better. I don’t think it’s necessary to have other ‘high-quality’ players to ascend to the highest level (eventhough it certainly helps), but there are those who have the ability and leadership to elevate even the least quality guy into an all-star (look at what Chris Paul did with David West). Before Jason Kidd went to New Jersey, they were at best an 8th seeded team. Enter Kidd in the mix, and the Nets go to the Finals twice. I seem to recall that Kidd was the only All-Star that team had before Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson transcended to another level.

    Magic and Bird always played with several elite players but that doesn’t negate or take away from their uncanny ability to make even the most unexpected player play a vital role for the team. Just how good would A.C. Green would’ve been if he hadn’t played in LA? I don’t recall Isiah being labelled selfish in his early years, especially since he once set a league record for most assist in a season, but i digress.

    Your point regarding Dominique is perhaps the main reason why he never got his due as one of the all-time greats. But was it that the Hawks didn’t have the quality players or was it that Nique didn’t have what it took to elevate his teammates? I think it was a combination of both, but more of the former than the latter. I would argue that Hawks ownership at the time didn’t have the personnel to run a basketball team. But i will say that Dominique did eventually figure it out. Unfortunately for him, he was traded to the Clippers when he was having perhaps his best season as a pro.

    Michael Jordan suffered from the same criticism early in his career – even though he played with guys like Corzine and Banks and others at the end of the respective ropes. No one remembers the players from the years when Jordan first joined the Bulls. For the most part, they were an unspectacular lot. When the talent level in Chicago increased – when guys who could reliably MAKE outside jumpers (Hodges and Kerr) were on the roster, Jordan was suddenly deemed to be a team player.

    Jordan was labelled selfish in his early years. But WHEN he started trusting his teammates is when their talent level increased. If a player doesn’t have his star player’s trust and confidence then how can his talent level ever increase?

    With Cleveland, we’ve already seen flashes of Lebron and how he can elevate those around him, as evidenced by their appearance in the Finals last year. The team that went to the Finals last year consisted of Larry Hughes, Damon Jones, and who else? Not exactly an all-time great line-up but they elevated their game by following the lead of their star player is the point. I thik with Lebron, he was still learning how to play the game during those “too unselfish” labels. It’s like he couldn’t make up his mind on whether or not he wanted to be Magic Johnson or Lebron James. With his level of play in the last few years, I think he’s chosen to be Lebron James.

    Great players live in the FLOW of the game – and when they make the decision to shoot instead of pass (especially in big games), it tends to be because they believe they are doing the right thing. To paraphrase an ancient saying from another world, “When the shooter is ready, the passer appears.”

    If great players live in the FLOW of the game, then the decision they make should be for the good of the team and not the good of their own personal achievements. There are/were very few who could make that distinction — especially when it mattered most and Jordan just happened to be one of those people, and in my opinion, the best that ever did it. And with all due respect, that quote could work the other way around:

    “When the passer is ready, the shooter appears.”

    Hetep!

  11. GrandNubian says:

    AG,

    When Jordan started to get help from Pippen, Grant, etc., was it because his help came in an already high-quality player(s), or was it because Jordan’s TRUST in them gave them confidence and actually elevated their games to another level? There’s no question that it was the latter. It couldn’t have been in 1987 because neither Grant nor Pippen were starters. Oak was at the 4 and i’m not sure who was at the 3 ( i want to say Brad Sellers).

    I seem to remember hearing John Paxson (i think) saying it was Tex Winter saying that if he didn’t trust his teammates, he would never win an NBA title. Therefore, he started trusting his teammates and you already know the rest.

    Also, I think that Phil Jackson might be the most overrated coach in NBA history. When you can inherit a team with the blue-print to win a championship already in place, then your quest for that achievement is much easier. I would like to see him inherit a team of nobodies and then turn them into a playoff or championship caliber team. If he does that, then i might agree that he deserves all the credit he gets.

    Peace!

  12. GrandNubian you have a great argument. I only mentioned ’87 as the time when Grant and Pippen arrived in the Chi. As for Phil Jackson, he was on the bench with the Bulls the entire time, so he didn’t inherit that team, he did however usurp the position in LA.

    I agree with TRUST however when you have players that you can trust, it makes things a lot better for all those involved.

  13. GrandNubian says:

    AG,

    We cool. The TRUST factor is my biggest argument. And i agree that if you have players you KNOW you can trust, the process is easier. But i’m sure that you know as well as i do that all things in life aren’t easy and some paths will be more “rocky” than others.

    As for Phil Jax, the position in LA is the one i was referencing. I think the Chicago position was one where he was in the right place at the right time.

    Peace bruh!

  14. No doubt GrandNubian, I welcome the opportunity to chat with intelligence. Thank you for that.

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