The eyes of a scoring champion
I don’t now how you were introduced to the game of basketball, but my knowledge was sparked by the names. Great players with charismatic-not-in-their-prime-but-still-had-the-games-magnificent. John Havilicek was one, Spencer Haywood was another, Bob Lanier, Bobby Dandridge, Elvin Hayes…I could go on and on. This is why I would never campaign for a player like Brett Favre to retire. When players leave the games they love with the current 24 hour news cycle, their legacies unfortunately vanish as well. How will the kids know their names as a result? As a Sixers fan, when I saw Bob McAdoo stroll on the floor, I knew Philly was in trouble.
You could see his game was great!
He killed us. His length was a problem and he still had the ability to hang in the air and make his shot unstoppable. Every player has a signature move and Bob McAdoo’s was his ability to get his shot up no matter who was defending him at any time. He was the second player picked in the 1972 draft behind LaRue Martin. It was the same draft that saw Julius Erving go twelfth to Milwaukee. We all know how that turned out. Anyway, The Doo was a clutch perimeter scorer who averaged 22.1 points (shot 50% for his career) and 9.4 rebounds during his 14 NBA seasons. He also spent 6 seasons in Europe and was named one of the 50 most influential personalities in European Club Basketball over the last half century. McAdoo was one of just 35 players to receive that honor. He is the last NBA player to average 30 points and 15 rebounds in a season and is one of 6 players to win three consecutive scoring titles. The five time All Star was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
How was he not picked as one of NBA’s Top 50 greatest players again?
Michael Tillery: I wanted to get your opinion on some of the highlights of your career.
Bob McAdoo: I’ve had a number of highlights. Started in Buffalo with the Braves. That’s where I kinda made a name for myself. I was Rookie of the Year, won the scoring championship, Most Valuable Player award.
After I left Buffalo, I went to the Knicks for 2 and a half years (26.6 ppg, 12 rpg and 3.3 apg in 171 games). Played with the Celtics briefly, Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets…then L.A. for 4 years where I won 2 NBA Championships. Ended up in Philly, then I went overseas for 6 years, won 2 Euroleague Championships and 3 Italian league Championships.
Had a 20 year professional basketball run.
BM: Of course it was disappointing. You would like to sign back with them (Lakers) after winning the championship in 1985. They made a business decision to go in another direction.
I came to Philly to try and help them win. We had a chance to do something in the East, but my from my recollection Moses fractured his orbit. We had a great team with Julius, Moses, Barkley (from ’88. Chuck and Jordan go off), myself, Bobby Jones, Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks…but that injury to Moses took one of our lead guys out and we ended up getting beat by Milwaukee in 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Leaving the Lakers after 4 years and having the success of being in the Championship Finals 4 straight years it was disappointing.
MT: You had a unique shooting motion that was very effective. You were a scoring machine. Where did you learn how to shoot?
BM: Practice. Trial and error. Growing up being a 6’1″ middle school player, a 6’4″ high school sophomore to a 6’8″ junior…you change your style.
It was something I worked on all the time. I always had an aggressive nature for scoring.
It carried on from middle school to high school to college to the pros.
MT: You spent two years at Vincennes Junior College then to back to your home state at University of North Carolina…
BM: Didn’t expect you to know that.
MT: It’s my job. You are an all time great.
Going the junior college route, would you have went straight to the pros if given the opportunity?
BM: It depends. If you are a highly recruited high school player and you are guaranteed a lottery spot, you almost gotta jump at that. If not, go to school and try to refine your skills while also getting an education. If you are lucky enough to still be on the NBA’s board after freshman year like this kid John Wall from Kentucky, then you take your chances in leaving and being a lottery pick.
That’s what I would’ve done.
MT: Talk about college.
BM: Won the National Junior College Championship then as you said on to North Carolina my sophomore year. We got to the Final Four and ended up losing to Florida State by four points and ended up losing to the eventual champion UCLA Bruins by four points.
I had three years of college. I had a lot of success and ended up being the 2nd pick in the draft by the Buffalo Braves. The Braves were a lowly expansion team at that time, saw my skills and ended up changing the team my second year. That’s where it took off for the franchise and myself.
MT: You defeated the Sixers in what 1975 or 1976 in the playoffs?
BM: One of those years in a tightly contested series. I had to hit free throws to win it.
(Yeah he did. Peep this. Hilarious. Philly for you.)
(Editor’s note 3/5/11: Video was removed but it shows a woman tampering with basket during game. If I find it, I’ll repost but it’s seemed to be wiped from the web–Mizzo)
Philly had the home court advantage and we ended up winning in the Spectrum. Very tight (Fred Carter averaged 28 points for the Sixers in the series). Very exciting.
We had some good battles during those days with the Boston Celtics who seemed like they were champions every other year or the Washington Bullets who had a very good team with Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Bobby Dandridge. There were great teams in the East.
MT: Dandridge was there or Milwaukee?
BM: Either or but the mainstays were Unseld and Hayes.
MT: What do you remember about that particular series against the Bullets?
BM: The year they had the great record (60-22),we were up ten points and Mendy Rudolph, one of the lead referees in the NBA had a heart attack during the game. We had like a 30 minute delay. We came back and played with only one referee. The Bullets…I think they might have had a 20-10 run, caught us, passed us and never looked back. We lost a 7 game series to a team that had the best record in the league.
MT: Who were some of the guys you relished going up against?
BM: Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) of course. He was with Milwaukee then. Rick Barry was with the Golden State Warriors. Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe in New York. Butter Bean Love and Chet Walker were in Chicago. Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Paul Silas…Jo Jo White were in Boston. Very good teams and players all the way around.
BM: You can’t argue with them. His stats don’t tell you otherwise. The guy averaged 50 points a game, 30 rebounds, 10 block shots…averaged triple doubles. Had 100 points in a game.
I don’t care what these young players say that the talent wasn’t just as good. I don’t agree with them.
When you have to play against Bill Russell 8 to 10 times a year, what are you talking about?
Wilt had to play an All Star center almost every game. I had the opportunity to see him play when I was young and was able to play against him my rookie year.
He was everything that people say…
Like you say, only the old timers know about Wilt.
He’s almost like a forgotten story. You would think the league started with Magic, Bird and Michael Jordan to hear some tell it and it’s just not true.
MT: Even Doc is becoming a forgotten figure…even in this city.
BM: Of course (shakes his head), of course. That’s the way things are. As time passes, people who don’t know the history won’t think. They think the modern game with all its athleticism is a better game. It’s just not true. It’s just not true.
I’m one of the guys who can probably bridge that gap because I saw those guys play and was still playing when the younger guys…Magic, Bird and Jordan…came in.
The league was fantastic with Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West…all these guys were players back then.
MT: Could you speak on how physical the game was back then? It seems your era gets a bad rap coming out of the ABA merger regarding an assumed lack of defense.
BM: From what I’ve seen, the game is a lot more athletic but having athleticism doesn’t mean you are skilled. You saw a lot of highly skilled players back then.
They made the game look easy.
That’s why people may look at it like we didn’t play defense. How are you going to play defense against someone as skilled as Rick Barry or Wilt who could score at will?
There was a lot more skill.
You have guys dunking the basketball and jumping from the foul line and hittin’ more three pointers, but you had that back then too.
There were less teams. You have 30 teams now. You had I think 16 teams when I came in. There were more players on less teams which made the teams better than they are now.
For some reason, all people look at is now. There’s more to the game.
MT: This is for the kids. I know a lot of historical players don’t like to talk about themselves, but where do you rate yourself? My Dad went crazy when he found out you weren’t on the Top 50 (he laughs). That was ridiculous.
BM: All I can say is that I really respect Bill Russell. When someone was mentioning who some of the best big man shooters ever was and my name came up, Bill Russell corrected them and said I’m one of the best shooters the game has ever seen.
It was a travesty about the Top 50.
My oldest son is the one who called me. He said Dad you are the only scoring champion…multiple scoring champion…that didn’t make it.
I’m the only MVP that didn’t make it.
I think it was just an oversight on their part because I played with some of these guys and tortured the majority of them that were in the Top 50.
What you gonna do? They made the decision.
MT: So say there is a revised list…which they may have to do in a few years…you need to be on that list because all you hear is Dirk Nowitzki is the best shooting big man ever. He’s great, but your name isn’t mentioned.
BM: This is true. Regarding a new list? Well, I hope I’m alive (We crack up)!
Well you know they do these things every 50 or 25 years…100 years. I don’t expect to be around in the next 50 to 100. Hopefully, they’ll scrutinize the list…look at the list and determine who did what in this league to make some adjustments.
What they’ve done so far…and it’s not only me…there are a couple of guys…
MT: Dominique. Yes I spoke with him.
BM: Good. Yes. Dominique. Alex English (short chat near bottom of recap). David Thompson.
Some of the players ahead of these guys on the list that I saw and played against is just ludicrous.
MT: Because the ABA is almost seen as a ghost, do you think it took away from players such as Julius and Spencer Haywood with their legacies in mind?
BM: Of course. You are talking the NBA vs. ABA. There was a lot of arrogance involved similar to the NFL and the AFL. It took Joe Namath and the Jets for people to see the AFL could compete and prove otherwise.
The expansion teams that came into the NBA…the Spurs…the Nuggets…they came in here and competed right away.
The NBA didn’t like that. They had basketball players.
A basketball player is a basketball player no matter where you go in the world.
If you can play, give people their due.
I saw the ABA when they were in business and they had several players that were great and they showed they were great when they came in.
MT: How good was Spencer Haywood?
BM: Spencer was very good. He was a 6’9″ power forward that could shoot from the outside and rebound. When he was younger, he was probably at his best. He killed people for sure with his game.
MT: Who brought out the best in you?
BM: Probably Kareem. Kareem was one of the best centers ever. You knew once he got on that low box, got the ball in his hands and was ready to throw that sky hook?
Forget it! There was nothing you could do.
You just had to hope that he missed so you could go back on the other end and get him. Rick Barry was another you don’t hear people talk about. To me, he was a guy who was a fantastic player. He could do it all. He could pass, shoot, play defense…fantastic player.
Flash is shooting around in front of us.
MT: You got a guy right here who is one of the best players in the NBA. You have the LeBron/Kobe debate, so maybe Dwyane doesn’t get mentioned as much because of them and even Carmelo Anthony. You see him play every day. What goes through your mind?
BM: Dwyane is definitely in that class. He’s probably not talked about as much because LeBron the last two years has played on the best team in the regular season. They’ve won more games than anybody. Kobe is on the world championship team in L.A. in a glamor city. Carmelo is a scoring champ.
Dwyane is…out of that group…he and Kobe are the only ones with championships.
We are in the middle of the pack right now after that championship. We’re not a championship contending team. Deservedly so, naturally the publicity is going to be directed at Kobe and LeBron. They are great players and you can’t take anything away from them. I see Dwyane night in and night out, in practice and he amazes. He definitely is in that category with those guys.
MT: Where is the NBA currently in your eyes in terms of the game? How would you like to see the NBA get better?
BM: I just hope these guys don’t go on strike after 2011.
That would be a disaster to have a work stoppage considering the economy and the way it is right now.
You hope that both sides could get things together and make things fair for everybody involved and the owners and players make money.
The game is healthy. It probably should get a handle on the younger players because they are getting younger coming in.
We gotta do a better job at helping these guys…mentoring these young players to help them become men, better players and help them promote the game a lot better.
MT: Thank you sir.
BM: You got it.