A Few Thoughts

Lists always generate discussion. People love comparisons. This week ESPN provided excellent talk show fodder by releasing its list of the Top 100 all-time NBA players.
     
I always expect the worst in these matters, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Sort of. Partially.
     
They got 1 through 8 correct.. That’s a start. But. of course, it wasn’t perfect because the order is a bit skewed.
       
The big boo-boo was quite predictable. Too many people think basketball began with Larry and Magic or Dr J or Michael You-Know-Who. But the fact is there were many skilled and, yes, athletic players back in the 60s. I believe strongly that I could assemble a 12-man team comprised of people who played at least half their careers in the 1960s that could compete favorably with the best we have today. Leading that list is the man the ESPN list has as the 8th best player  of all-time, and I am speaking of the great Bill Russell, the greatest winner in the history of North American team sport.
       
Bill Russell should be number one.
       
Here is what Bill Russell would do if parachuted into the contemporary NBA exactly as he was when he played from 1956 through 1969. I am talking about the entire physical and mental package, because a great deal of what made him so special was what went on above the neck.
        1. He would, without question, lead the league in rebounding.
        2. He would, without question, lead the league in blocked shots.
        3. He would, without question, be the annual winner of the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
        4. He would, without question, win a bunch of championship rings.
       
What some voters apparently don’t understand is that he was way ahead  of his time athletically. The two most important players in shaping the game of basketball into what it became in the final 40 years of the 20th century, and into the 21st,. were Elgin Baylor on offense and Bill Russell on defense. Baylor took a game that was essentially horizontal and occasionally vertical and made it diagonal. He gave us the basic elements of today’s individual offensive game with his innovative stutter steps and body control moves that enabled him to get off shots the world had never seen. He made up-and-under moves people never knew existed.
       
Russell played in the air, changing the concept of what a center could be. He was an extraordinary 6-9 athlete with phenomenal lift and truly frightening quickness attached to a superior aptitude for the game and an anticipation possessed by no one else.  On so many of his blocks he really did seem to come out of nowhere.
       
I guess you had to see him to appreciate him, because there is really no one who has come along in the past 47 years who equates to his total package.
       
As far as the winning goes, consider this: he played 21 what I would call winner-take-all games in his college, amateur and pro career. That includes every NCAA tournament game, every Olympic medal round game, every NBA best-of-five and every NBA best-of-seven. His team’s record in those 21 games?
       
21-0.
       
You think there might have been a little cause and effect?
       
The rest of the Top 8 has the right people: Michael, Kareem, Wilt, Magic, Larry, LeBron, and Duncan. They had Shaq 9 and Hakeem 10, and that’s close, but not correct. You MUST have Oscar in the Top 10. Then we can argue Kobe vs. Jerry.
       
There’s so much more to talk about, and so little time. I will say that putting Steph Curry at 23 is a bit rash. Make him play a little longer, OK?
           
*****

Photo Credit: Don Emmert/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Don Emmert/Getty ImagesB

They have announced the nominees for the Naismith Basketball Hall of fame Class of 2016.

Shaq is a mortal lock. He is a Top 6 all-time center. He’s not Russ, Kareem or Wilt, but he’s right there with Moses and Hakeem in the next tier.
         
My other player choice is Allen Iverson. He doesn’t need any defense from me, either. His accomplishments speak for themselves.
         
I can’t wait to hear what Shaq will say and what Iverson will wear.
         
That’s it for NBA players. Kevin Johnson? Nah. He goes in the Hall of PDG (Pretty Damn Good), but not the Hall of Fame. Intriguing coaching possibilities includ Lefty Driesell, Tom Izzo and Bo Ryan. Lefty deserves a close look, being the only man to win 100 games at four different schools. He also coached in the ACC when only one school could go to the NCAA tournament. Izzo will get in, if not on the first try but very soon. Bo is interesting. He did win four national Division 3 titles at Wisconsin-Platteville, remember.

A Few Random Thoughts

Who’s Number One? Who the hell knows?

But that’s OK. I like it this way, as opposed to last year when the only question was whether or not Kentucky would actually go 40-0. I’ve been asking around. How many teams have a right to think they could make it to the Final Four? The answer appears to be between 20 and 30. There is no super team.

I must say, however, there is one team that might surprise no one if it ever separated itself. I’m talking about a team that, if it were to be cutting down the nets in Houston, would have many of us saying, “We should have known.” And that team that won it all under quite similar circumstances 11 years ago.

unc_tar_heelsYup, it’s the Tarheels. I can imagine us channeling our inner Roy William’s on that Monday night in April and saying, “Dad summit, we should have known Carolina had the best team.”

Do you agree?

I know what this coming Wednesday is. It’s a High Holy Day of Sport in many areas of the country. Where I live? Bupkis. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Just another February Wednesday. We know not from Signing Day.

Ah, but February 10, one week later. That’s a big day hereabouts. That’s the day the Van leaves Fenway Park for Ft. Myers with all the equipment and personal belongings like bikes and such. It’s the symbolic beginning of the baseball season everyone hopes will end for us in late October or — I haven’t checked — early November. I doubt it will be front page news in Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Norman or Ann Arbor.

Sign of the Times in the world of hoop:

AS16_TorontoThere will be two bona fide 5 men in the NBA All-Star Game, and neither will be starting. They are Boogie Cousins and Andre Drummond, a pair of old-fashioned low post ass kickers. But the NBA has given up. They only ask for Bigs and not-so-Bigs and Isaiah Thomas, who ain’t big at all. No one even asked for a “center.”

It finally reached the point that, as Israel Guttierez pointed out in yesterday”s ESPN “Sports Reporters,” there were more replacement players named to the Pro Bowl (44) than the amount of players allowed to sit up in the game (43). As Izzy put it, “Apparently, the only requirement to become a Pro Bowler is the ability to get on a plane.”

As we say on my block, “What a farce!”

LeBron says he has never dissed a coach. I guess blowing off called plays and substituting yourself in a playoff game doesn’t count. He may be proven right in the long run, but he should own up to it.

I truly have no idea as to any possible direct connection, but it occurs to me that the 76ers have been a much better team from the moment the brass gave coach Brett Brown a three-year extension. How ‘bout them taking the Warriors into OT?

Emptying out the desk drawer of the sports mind

 

Photo credit: Norm Hall/Getty Images

Photo credit: Norm Hall/Getty Images

Here is how you flip — not toss — a coin. 1. Produce a coin. 2. If you’re right-handed, take your index finger

and form a right angle. 3. Point your thumb at the forefinger at a right angle. 4. With your left hand, place the coin atop your thumb. 5.; Push the thumb up firmly to send the coin into the air. Viola! You don’t just toss the coin, as Clete Brakeman did. You f-l-i-p, FLIP the coin so it goes end-over-end.
Thank You.
The Warriors now seem mortal. The Spurs, not so much.
Leader In The Clubhouse for College Player of the Year: Buddy Hield. But we have a long way to go.
I’m always happy when a guy like Chris Davis stays right where he is and doesn’t flee to a bigger market. But they I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the Orioles.
Gotta love those Black Hawks.
The East is much improved overall this year, buy there still is only one Eastern team that has any shot at the big prize and it’s that team in Cleveland.
At halftime I decided nobody could possibly touch Carolina. Now the doubt lingers.
The Giants appear to have hired Adam Henry as a baby-sitting coach for Beckham, Jr. When the subject is your irreplaceable player, you gotta do what you gotta do, I guess.
Monmouth 110 Iona 102. Send the tape to every high school and college in the USA. Just expunge the foolish post-game nonsense.
However…People are talking about eliminating the post-game handshake. Have we fallen that far in the decorum department? The Stanley Cup shake lines are always a highlight.
Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Everton included an own goal by Capt. John Terry, a game-tying Terry goal in the stoppage time’s even more stoppage time and the complaint that he was offsides. Can you imagine the twitter furor here in a comparable sporting event?

 

Emptying out the desk drawer of the sports mind

Things we learned or saw in Wild Card Weekend:

marvinlewisMarvin Lewis may be a nice man and a decent tactician, but misbehavior by a Bengal is to be expected, not something about which we can express surprise.

But Joey Porter has to be punished in some fashion.

With all that’s left, the real Mystery Guest left in the tournament happens to be the New England Patriots. Just getting people back doesn’t mean they will be the same players they were before they went down.

Yes, Mike Piazza’s election to the Hall will spark even more discussion about the wisdom of voting for Bonds and Clemens.

nfl-logoThe NFL would be a much better place if it emulated the colleges and said one foot in-bounds suffices for a proper pass reception. It’s football, not acrobatics.

And let’s go back to calling a fumble a fumble.

Did you see what Djokovic did to Nadal, and what Nadal said about it?

Believe it or not, the Lamar Odom I saw as a freshman at Rhode Island wasn’t much different than the Ben Simmons you can see playing for LSU right now.

Emptying out the desk drawer of the sports mind

I just hope a New York press that has spent the last month building up Ryan Fitzpatrick — one even suggested he was a legit MVP candidate — don’t spend the next month tearing him down.

Maybe the football fans in Cleveland can find a better owner. Donald T. Sterling, for example.

Hall of Fame announcement on Wednesday. Junior’s a lock. And I’m guessing Piazza, but not at all sure.

Kansas vs. Oklahoma tonight. I still can’t believe KU beat ’em in ’88. That may have been the best team not to win an NCAA title.

Jimmy Butler!!!

niangWhat if someone told you a month ago that in the NFC Wild Card weekend the only home favorite would be the Washington Redskins???

If I thought the Patriots would be sending the team we saw yesterday to the playoffs I would recommend they stay home and catch up with Downton Abbey.

I’m going with Clemson.

If you didn’t see Christian McCaffrey’s punt return vs Iowa, check it out.

If Mike Ditka says he’d never mess with Doug Atkins, that’s all you need to know.

I’m not trying to kiss anyone’s butt in Ames when I say that George Niang’s a whole lotta fun.

Emptying Out The Desk Drawer of the Mind

wadeboggsThe Red Sox will be retiring Wade Boggs’ number 26. Why the rush? After all, he left the team 23 seasons ago. He is a first ballot Hall of Famer who hit. .328 lifetime, won five batting crowns, had 200-plus hits seven times in a Sox uniform and hit .369 lifetime in Fenway, which is higher than a guy named Williams can claim. Must have been a tough call.

If you can’t understand why the Alabama-Michigan State and Clemson-Oklahoma games are scheduled for New Year’s Eve, may I direct your attention to Dan Wetzel’s brilliant piece on Yahoo Sports that appeared on December 22. It’s well worth your time looking up. Actually, anything Dan Wetzel writes is worth looking up.

The Baseball Hall of Fame voting will be announced on January 6. Obviously, Ken Griffey, Jr. will waltz in with something approaching 95 percent of the vote. That he won’t be unanimous is an ongoing embarrassment to the Baseball Writers, which still harbor people who won’t vote for someone the first time on principle. The fact is there have been approximately 75 to 100 guys who should have been unanimous, people of whom it can be said that you couldn’t possibly look me in the eye and say he wasn’t a Hall of Famer. The all-time vote better is Tom Seaver, who had 425 of 430 votes for a percentage of 98.84 in 1992. How crazy is it? There were 11 people who shunned Babe Ruth in the first election 79 years ago.

I have zero handle on the early college basketball season. Last year it was all about Kentucky and its quest for perfection. No way I could guess the Final Four participants is time.

Is Cam Newton Russell Wilson on steroids, or is Russell Wilson Cam Newton put through the washer? Great fun to watch, in either case.

Cubs-Cardinals will be greater than ever this coming summer. Sign me up.

Three-On-Three? The NHL should just bag the whole thing.

I truly cannot believe the IOC will allow people to compete in the polluted waters off Rio de Janeiro next summer. I love the Olympics and I hate to see them falling into the wrong hands.

monmouthI’d be willing to bet that when Monmouth knocked off UCLA in Pauley Pavilion there weren’t 50 people in attendance who knew who Monmouth was.

Which record-breaker is more likely? The Warriors winning 73 or the Sixers losing 74? I know which way I’m betting.

I’m not being facetious when I say that the way things have evolved we might be better off canning the replay in football and allow the refs to call the game.

Beware the San Antonio Spurs.