Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Legend of Ryan Howard

At Phillies Nation the other night, The Dipsy wrote an article on whether Chase Utley had the potential to be the Greatest Phillie of All Time. The comments that followed were very interesting, with some arguing that Utley's own teammate, Ryan Howard, would have a better chance of entering the Hall of Fame if their careers ended today or in the near future.

One comment in particular struck me and I wanted to take a closer look at it. The comment was written by Michael Stubel. He had this to say:

"Howard, on the other hand, is a monster. If he is clean (and I hope and believe he is), his numbers from 2006-2009 are historic. He has the chance to put up 4 consecutive years of at least 40 home runs and 135 RBI. Say all you want about ballpark sizes and hitting among other great hitters who get on base. If my research is correct, only 3 players have accomplished the 40/135 feat in four straight years: Babe Ruth, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., and, if his ‘09 numbers hold up, Ryan Howard. Think about that. It’s amazing. And for the record, Bonds, Gehrig, Williams, Foxx, A-Rod, McGwire, Mays or Aaron did not accomplish that feat. And Sosa, of course, was a cheater".

I decided to take a closer look at Ruth, Griffey Jr., Sosa and Howard's power numbers.

Babe Ruth: 40+ HR, 135+ RBI for 7 consecutive seasons

26 years old - 1926 - 47 HR, 150 RBI, .372 BA
27 years old - 1927 - 60 HR, 164 RBI, .356 BA
28 years old - 1928 - 54 HR, 142 RBI, .323 BA
29 years old - 1929 - 46 HR, 154 RBI, .345 BA
30 years old - 1930 - 49 HR, 153 RBI, .359 BA
31 years old - 1931 - 46 HR, 163 RBI, .373 BA
32 years old - 1932 - 41 HR, 137 RBI, .341 BA

NOTES - The Babe started this historic run in his 9th season of playing baseball after "retiring" as a pitcher.

Ken Griffey, Jr.: 40+ HR, 135+ RBI for 4 consecutive seasons

26 years old - 1996 - 46 HR, 140 RBI, .303 BA
27 years old - 1997 - 56 HR, 147 RBI, .304 BA
28 years old - 1998 - 56 HR, 146 RBI, .284 BA
29 years old - 1999 - 48 HR, 134 RBI, .285 BA

NOTES - Griffey, Jr. never came close to these single-season numbers after 1999 and was beset with injuries for the rest of his career. His 4-year streak of 40 HR+, 135+ RBI began in his 8th season of playing baseball.

Sammy Sosa: 40+ HR, 135+ RBI for 4 consecutive seasons (ASTERISK)

29 years old - 1998 - 66 HR, 158 RBI, .308 BA
30 years old - 1999 - 63 HR, 141 RBI, .288 BA
31 years old - 2000 - 50 HR, 138 RBI, .320 BA
32 years old - 2001 - 64 HR, 160 RBI, .328 BA

NOTES - Sosa almost certainly was using Performance Enhancing Drugs during this streak. His streak began in roughly his 8th or 9th season of playing baseball.

Ryan Howard: 40+ HR, 135+ RBI for 4 consecutive seasons (if his 2009 averages hold up)

26 years old - 2006 - 58 HR, 149 RBI, .313 BA
27 years old - 2007 - 47 HR, 136 RBI, .268 BA
28 years old - 2008 - 48 HR, 146 RBI, .251 BA
29 years old - 2009 - 37 HR, 111 RBI, .272 BA thus far (50 HR, 150 RBI projection)

NOTES - Ryan Howard has 162-game averages of 50 HR and 142 RBI's.

The data above suggests that Ryan Howard is the most prolific power hitter in the history of professional baseball for the first four complete seasons of his career. Eliminating Sosa from the discussion, he'll have numbers that only Ruth and Griffey, Jr. have consistently put up.

The fact that Griffey Jr. never came close to his power numbers after the age of 29 could be a bad omen for Howard. On the other hand, the fact that Ruth/Griffey Jr./Sosa didn't start their streaks of 40+ HR/135+ RBI until their eighth seasons or later auggests a faint possibility that Howard could keep this up until perhaps the age of 33 to 35 years of age.

For argument's sake, let's say he surpasses Ruth's streak and puts up 8 consecutive years of 40+ HR and 135+ RBIs. This gives him, at the end of the 2013 season and at the age of 34, career numbers of around 400+ home runs and 1,200+ runs batted in after his first 8 complete seasons. Astounding. Incredible. And if his batting average were even .030 points higher, the numbers would be even more amazing.

We've got one of the greatest of all time, and I think too many expect too much from him every single at-bat.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Top 15 NBA Players of All Time (6-10)

In the last post, I began to run down my list of the Top 15 Greatest NBA Players of All Time. If you missed the prior post, read 11-15 first, and then return to this post for the unveiling of Players 6-10.

15) Karl Malone
14) Julius Erving 
13) Moses Malone 
12) Jerry West 
11) Kobe Bryant 
10) Oscar Robertson - "The Big O"

MVP Awards: 1 (1964)
MVP Voting: 1st in 1964, 8 other years in the Top 5
NBA Titles: 1 (1971)
All-NBA First Team: 9 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years

Oscar Robertson just may be the greatest all-around player in NBA history. He is the originator of the Triple Double, and many people know that he is the only player to ever average a triple double for an entire season. What many people don't realize is that Oscar Robertson also averaged a Triple Double over his first 5 seasons as well. Elliott Kalb. author of "Who's Better, Who's Best In Basketball, decided to look at the first five years of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, and Michael Jordan. He then took the best averages from the group of four players and compared them to Oscar Robertson's averages.

The Best of Bird/Magic/Michael/AI over their first 5 seasons:

42.0 minutes per game, 32.6 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, 9.8 assists per game

Averages of Oscar Robertson's first 5 seasons:

44.4 minutes per game, 30.3 points per game, 10.4 rebounds per game, 10.6 assists per game

Amazing stuff, indeed. Oscar only won one ring, and that was when a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came to Milwaukee. Abdul-Jabbar, in a 1981 Inside Sports article, said "I may achieve a lot in terms of statistics, but I still think Oscar Robertson is the best ever".

KBlaze Presents - The Best Of Oscar Robertson:

9) Shaquille O'Neal - "Shaq", "The Big Aristole"

MVP Awards: 1 (2000)
NBA Titles: 4 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006)
All-NBA First Team: 8 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years
All-NBA Third Team: 4 years

Other than Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal was basketball's unstoppable force. I believe that Shaq was offensively unguardable from the low post, partly because of his size and strength, and partly because the referees were unsure of how to properly officiate games he played in. Shaq and Kobe were one of the great duos ever, winning three titles together in Los Angeles, but things turned ugly pretty quickly. Shaq will say whatever is on his mind, and I respect him for that. I don't have a lot to say about Shaq here, but he's one of the all time greats, that's for sure.

The Top Ten Playoff Plays of Shaquille O'Neal's Career:

8) Tim Duncan - "The Big Fundamental"

MVP Awards: 2 (2002, 2003)
MVP Voting: 5th in 1998, 3rd in 1999, 5th in 2000, 2nd in 2001
NBA Titles: 4 (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007)
All-NBA First Team: 9 years
All-NBA Second Team: 3 years

With his selection to the All-NBA Second Team for the 2008-2009 season, Tim Duncan became the "only player in NBA history to be named to an All-NBA Team in each of his first 12 seasons (First Team – 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007; Second Team – 2006, 2008, 2009)".

Other than Russell, Duncan is probably the greatest teammate ever. One of the greatest individual finals performances of all time occured when Tim Duncan scored 21 points, pulled down 20 rebounds, threw 10 assists and added 8 blocked shots in the clinching Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets. He was two blocked shots away from a Quadruple Double, and the first ever in the NBA Finals, much less a Playoff Game.

KBlaze Presents - The Best of Tim Duncan:

7) Hakeem Olajuwon - "Dream"

MVP Awards: 1 (1994)
NBA Titles: 2 (1994, 1995)
All-NBA First Team: 6 years
All-NBA Second Team: 3 years

Hakeem Olajuwon was by far the most skilled center ever. He had the best footwork of any big man ever, partially thanks to his soccer background. A guy on InsideHoops had the following to say about Hakeem: "Imagine Tim Duncan. Then give Tim Duncan Dwight Howard's hops, KG's quickness and jumper, Ron Artest's perimeter defense, and Dikembe Mutombo's post defense. Then you have Dream. Olajuwon is the only player in NBA history to rank in the top 10 all time in 3 major statistical categories: Blocked Shots (1), Points (8), and Steals (8). I rest my case without even having to mention clutch free throw shooting." 

The innovator of the Dream Shake, Hakeem left defenders in his wake. He is the all time blocked shots leader (although Chamberlain and Russell almost certainly blocked more shots back when the NBA didn't keep track of that statistic). He is also one of only four players to ever record a Quadruple Double, having done so on March 19, 1990 against the Milwaukee Bucks. In that regulation-length game, Hakeem Olajuwon scored 18 points, pulled down 16 rebounds, threw 10 assists, and blocked 11 shots. Dream is also the only player ever to win the regular season MVP, defensive player of the year award, and Finals MVP in the same season. 

Shaq said this of Hakeem and the Dream Shake: "Hakeem has five moves then four countermoves, that gives him 20 moves." An example of what Shaq was talking about occured when in the greatest individual one-on-one domination in Playoff history, Hakeem Olajuwon did variations of the Dream Shake over and over and over again on David Robinson. The play-by-play announcer at one point exclaims, "David Robinson is absolutley bamboozled!". The story of this game was that Robinson was accepting his MVP award before the tip-off, and thanked a lot of other centers that had won the award before him, but he did not mention Hakeem. Hakeem was already upset, because he thought that MVP award was his, but he came out with a venegance after Robinson's pre-game speech to the crowd. Check out the memorable footage, and keep watching until the end to see a defeated and close-to-tears David Robinson sitting on the bench knowing that he had been demolished in one of the great performances in NBA history by one of his chief rivals. It should also be noted that in order to win his championships, Hakeem had to go through his three greatest rivals (Robinson, Ewing, and Shaq) and he handled them all with relative ease.

Hakeem Olajuwon DOMINATES David Robinson in the greatest Individual One-on-One Playoff Performance Of All Time:

KBlaze Presents - The Best Of Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon:

6) Larry Bird - "Larry Legend", "Basketball Jesus"

MVP Awards: 3 (1984, 1985, 1986)
MVP Voting:
6 consecutive years in the Top 2                                                                8 consecutive years in the Top 3
NBA Titles: 3 (1981, 1984, 1986)
All-NBA First Team: 9 consecutive years (beginning in 1980)
All-NBA Second Team: 1 year

I have Bird and Magic joined together at the hip. When you think of Bird, you have to think of Magic. When you think of Magic, you have to think of Bird. Larry Bird is the greatest Small Forward ever, with only LeBron James having an outside shot at taking that title away from him. I wrote a lengthy blog post on Bird that one can view here called "Larry Legend" that goes further in depth, but I'll say here that I think Bird is probably the most intelligent player ever, and one of the two most clutch players in the history of the game (Jordan and West fight for the other spot). I personally cannot agree with any All-Time Greats list where Bird isn't found within at least the Top Seven.

Bird Steals The Ball:

KBlaze Presents - Larry Bird, The Best Ever:

And now.... The Five Greatest NBA Players ever!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

NBA Championships by Individuals:

11 - Bill Russell (Celtics)

10 - Sam Jones (Celtics)

8 - John Havlicek (Celtics)
8 - Satch Sanders (Celtics)
8 - K.C. Jones (Celtics)
8 - Tommy Heinsohn (Celtics)

7 - Robert Horry (Rockets, Lakers, Spurs)
7 - Jim Loscutoff (Celtics)
7 - Frank Ramsey (Celtics)

6 - Michael Jordan (Bulls)
6 - Scottie Pippen (Bulls)
6 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Bucks, Lakers)
6 - Bob Cousy (Celtics)

5 - Steve Kerr (Bulls, Spurs)
5 - Ron Harper (Bulls, Lakers)
5 - Dennis Rodman (Pistons, Bulls)
5 - Magic Johnson (Lakers)
5 - Don Nelson (Celtics)
5 - Larry Siegfried (Celtics)
5 - Slater Martin (Lakers, Hawks)
5 - George Mikan (Lakers)
5 - Jim Pollard (Lakers)

4 - Kobe Bryant (Lakers)
4 - Derek Fisher (Lakers)
4 - Tim Duncan (Spurs)
4 - Shaquille O'Neal (Lakers, Heat)
4 - Horace Grant (Bulls, Lakers)
4 - Robert Parish (Celtics, Bulls)
4 - Michael Cooper (Lakers)
4 - Kurt Rambis (Lakers)
4 - Jamaal Wilkes (Warriors, Lakers)
4 - Gene Guarilia (Celtics)
4 - Bill Sharman (Celtics)
4 - Vern Mikkelsen (Lakers)

Top 15 NBA Players of All Time (1-5)

Within the previous two posts, I ran my countdown of the Top 15 Greatest NBA Players of All Time. If you missed the posts, you may want to check out players ranked #15 through #11, followed by those ranked #10 through #6, and then return here for the unveiling of the top five, presented in reverse order.

15) Karl Malone 
14) Julius Erving
13) Moses Malone 
12) Jerry West 
11) Kobe Bryant
10) Oscar Robertson 
9) Shaquille O'Neal 
8) Tim Duncan 
7) Hakeem Olajuwon 
6) Larry Bird

5) Earvin Johnson, Jr. - "Magic"

MVP Awards: 3 (1987, 1989, 1990)  
MVP Voting:  9 years in the Top 3
NBA Titles:
5 (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
All-NBA First Team: 9 years  
All-NBA Second Team: 1 year

Magic played in 9 NBA Finals, and won 5 of those, compared to Bird's 5 Finals appearances and 3 championships. Because this is a list, I have to act as if someone held a gun to my head and said "no ties are permitted!". Magic is just a hair's length ahead of Bird on this list. Arguably the most charismatic player there ever was, he has the greatest nickname ever: Magic Johnson. He captivated the basketball world with his brilliant no-look passes as he ran the Laker's vaunted Showtime fast-break offense.

It has been roughly 18 years (November 7, 1991) since Magic abruptly retired due to having "attained" the HIV virus. I was able to find footage of the press conference and sub it below for your viewing. When watching the announcement live at the time, I wasn't alone in thinking he would be dead in a few years, and almost two decades later, Earvin Johnson looks as healthy as ever. When Magic said he was going to be around for a long time, he wasn't kidding!

In addition to being one of the great passers ever, averaging ridiculous assist numbers per season, nobody ever ran the fastbreak better than Magic Johnson. Magic is unlike any player the NBA has ever seen before or since. At 6'9", he remains the tallest Point Guard in the history of the league, but his major calling card is this: Magic Johnson is the only player in the history of basketball who could not only effectively play any position on the court, but dominate NBA games from any position. And dominate games, he did.

The Top Ten Playoff Plays of Magic Johnson:

Magic Johnson - The Greatest Point Guard Ever:

4) Wilt Chamberlain 

MVP Awards: 4 (1960, 1966, 1967, 1968)
NBA Titles: 2 (1967, 1972)
All-NBA First Team: 7 years
All-NBA Second Team: 3 years

Wilton Norman Chamberlain "was basketball's unstoppable force, the most awesome offensive force the game has ever seen", says The thing about Chamberlain are the numbers associated with him. 50 points per game for an entire season. 100 points in one game. 55 rebounds in another. Never fouling out in a regular season or playoff game in 14 seasons, despite playing virtually every minute of every game. And you can't forget 20,000 women, either.

For me, one of the most impressive Wilt Chamberlain feats occurred on February 2, 1968, when he recorded the first and only Double Triple-Double in NBA history - 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists.

Wilt Chamberlain at 17 years of age:

Wilt Chamberlain at the 1972 NBA All-Star Game:

3) Bill Russell

MVP Awards: 5 (1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965)
MVP Voting: 10 consecutive years in the Top 5 
NBA Titles: 11 (1957, '59, '60, '61, '62, '63, '64, '65, '66, '68, '69)
All-NBA First Team: 3 years
All-NBA Second Team: 8 years

Wilton Felton Russell is the greatest winner in team sports. He has more championship rings (11) than he does fingers. Russell is almost definently the greatest defensive player to ever play the game. His main rival was Wilt Chamberlain, who got most of the attention and recognition, while Russell kept winning championship after championship. Offense was not his strength, but he still got by with a 15 point per game average. Russell is arguably the greatest shot blocker ever (even better than Chamberlain), and he's easily the greatest team player of all time. Big Bill Russell is the ultimate winner, and that is what the game of basketball essentially boils down to: Winning it all.  Russell/Chamberlain reminds me of Brady/Manning in the NFL, in that Russell was 10-0 in Game 7's while Brady is undefeated in Overtime. Whereas Chamberlain and Manning get more praise heaped their way, Russell and Brady win the championships and lead their teams. Russell even served as player/coach during his final season, likely becoming the only player/coach to win an NBA Championship. 

Bill Russell Mix:

Bill Russell - Spirit:

2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly Lew Alcindor) 

MVP Awards: 6 (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980)
NBA Titles: 6 (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
All-NBA First Team: 10 years
All-NBA Second Team: 5 years

Kareem often gets the shaft in many of the Top Ten lists I've seen floating around. There is no way in the world that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn't at least in the Top Five of any all-time greats list. Let's review. Kareem is considered by many to be the greatest High School basketball player ever. He's also considered by many people to be the greatest College basketball player ever. He was the DOMINANT player of the 1970s'. Kareem had a career value and longevity in the NBA that only Moses Malone comes close to, retiring as the NBA's all-time leader in Points scored in a career and minutes played in a career. He's not the greatest NBA player ever, but one can make a legitimate argument that Kareem IS the most accomplished basketball player ever (factoring in HS and College basketball).

The Top Ten Plays of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Career:

1) Michael Jordan - "His Airness", "Air Jordan"

MVP Awards: 5 (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998)
NBA Titles: 6 (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998)
All-NBA First Team: 10 years
All-NBA Second Team: 1 year

Michael Jordan is the greatest NBA player of all time. He was both the best offensive player and the best defensive player in the league for several years. Jordan played every minute of every game like it was the closing seconds of Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and was the unquestioned leader of one of the great NBA teams ever, the 72-10 '96-'97 Chicago Bulls. There's not much else for me to say that the quotes below don't cover. These quotes reflect why I believe MJ is and always will be the GOAT until someone can seriously challenge him for the title.
"Air Jordan was the most skilled, most athletic, toughest, meanest, most inspirational and most competitive of all the shooting guards who have ever played the game. He dominated both ends of the floor. He also was the biggest winner and perhaps the greatest clutch player in history."

"The credentials -- and pictures -- speak for themselves: six championship rings, five MVP awards, six Finals MVP awards, one defensive POY award. And his career numbers were otherworldly, most notably 32,292 points (third all time) and a 30.1 points per game scoring average (first). Oh, and he averaged 20 points and six rebounds as a 40-year-old! Only his last two seasons in Washington kept him from shooting more than 50 percent for his career."

"Jordan had no real weaknesses; he mastered every facet of the game. He dominated a big man's game and was the leader of the only dynasty in NBA history that did not feature a dominant center." - ESPN, Greatest Shooting Guards of All Time
"By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. Although, a summary of his basketball career and influence on the game inevitably fails to do it justice, as a phenomenal athlete with a unique combination of fundamental soundness, grace, speed, power, artistry, improvisational ability and an unquenchable competitive desire, Jordan single-handedly redefined the NBA superstar."

"Even contemporaneous superstars recognized the unparalleled position of Jordan. Magic Johnson said, 'There's Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us.' Larry Bird, following a playoff game where Jordan dropped 63 points on the Boston Celtics in just his second season, said the performance was from 'God disguised as Michael Jordan.'" - NBA.Com
Michael Jordan in his Absolute Prime:
The 69 Point, 18 Rebound, 7 Assist Game (vs. Cleveland, 1990):

KBlaze Presents - The Best of Young Jordan (Pre-1990):

 The Top Ten Playoff Plays of Michael Jordan's Career:

So there you have it. The Top 15 Players in NBA History, as I see fit:

15) Karl Malone 
14) Julius Erving
13) Moses Malone 
12) Jerry West 
11) Kobe Bryant (with 4 rings) 
10) Oscar Robertson 
9) Shaquille O'Neal 
8) Tim Duncan
7) Hakeem Olajuwon  
6) Larry Bird 
5) Magic Johnson 
4) Wilt Chamberlain 
3) Bill Russell 
2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 
1) Michael Jordan

Let the debate begin!

Top 15 NBA Players of All Time (11-15)

15) Karl Malone - "The Mailman"

MVP Awards: 2 (1997, 1999)
MVP Voting: 9 years in the Top 5
NBA Titles: 0
All-NBA First Team: 11 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years

The history of the NBA cannot be written without the name of Karl Malone. He had a career longetivity that few others have matched, and was one of the strongest players in the history of the league, thanks to an intense workout regimen. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has ever scored more career points than Karl Malone, who finished with 37,000+. I never really liked him as a player, but I cannot deny that he's probably the second greatest Power Forward of all time and the greatest pure Power Forward ever. Much like Bird and Magic, "Stockton to Malone" will forever link the two, who played together for 18 seasons, 5 more seasons than any other pair of teammates.

Karl Malone's 61-Point Game:

The Top Ten Plays of Stockton to Malone:

14) Julius Erving - "Dr. J"

NBA MVP Awards: 1 (1981)
ABA MVP Awards: 3
NBA Titles: 1 (1983)
ABA Titles: 2 (1974, 1976)
All-NBA First Team: 5 years
All-ABA First Team: 4 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years
All-ABA Second Team: 1 year

Julius Erving was like nobody else that ever came before him, with the exception of maybe Connie Hawkins. ABA Doc was that era's equivalant of LeBron James today. I feel that the ABA players were just as good as the NBA players, and that Doc's ABA numbers should be considered. When they are, Doc has 30,000 career points scored, sixth all time on the list. Erving isn't the greatest small forward in NBA history, but he's right up there at the top three. I am adding footage of Doc in his prime that I included in a prior post to show readers why I see LeBron as being Doc on steroids with a sprinkle of Magic Johnson as well. Without Erving to show the way, there may have never been a Jordan, and so forth.

Below is roughly two minutes or so of in-game footage of Dr. J in his absolute prime in the 1977 NBA Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, led by Bill Walton. Walton's Blazers were down 0-2, but came back to win four straight and give Portland an NBA championship. Doc had to wait six more years before he got his.

Dr. J in the 1977 NBA Finals - The Most Explosive Player Ever:

The Top Ten Dunks of Julius Erving's Career:

KBlaze Presents - The Best Of Julius Erving:

13) Moses Malone

MVP Awards: 3 (1979, 1982, 1983)
NBA Titles: 1 (1983)
All-NBA First Team: 4 years
All-NBA Second Team: 4 years

Moses Malone is primarily known as the greatest offensive rebounder in NBA History. 41% of Moses Malone's 16,212 rebounds were offensive rebounds. When Moses came to Philadelphia to play with Dr. J, the 1982-1983 Sixers became one of the great teams in the history of the game, immortalized by Moses's "Fo, Fo, Fo" boast before the playoffs started that the Sizers would sweep every series. He was wrong by one game, and the quote became "Fo, Fi, Fo". Younger people remember him at the end of his career as the old guy wearing goggles, but Moses was one of the fifteen greatest players of all time. Elliott Kalb wrote the following of Malone:
"Moses Malone had the peak value that very few players in history had (three MVP's in a four-year period). He had the career longevity that no one else could better. Moses Malone played 21 years of professional basketball. He played the first two in the ABA and the last 19 in the NBA. Only one other player (Robert Parish) played as long. There is no one who played as long, as well, and as hard as Moses Malone."

The Top Ten Playoff Plays of Moses Malone's Career:

12) Jerry West - "Mr. Clutch","Zeke from Cabin Creek"

MVP Awards: 0
MVP Voting: 2nd in 1966, 1970, 1971, and 1972
NBA Titles: 1 (1972)
All-NBA First Team: 10 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years

Jerry West is the NBA's Logo. Literally. He's The Logo. West isn't the greatest Shooting Guard of all time, but he's top three in my book. He went to the NBA Finals nine different seasons, but won it all only once. Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics kept denying West's Lakers year after year. As a player, Jerry West was so great in defeat that he remains to this day the only player to ever win the Finals MVP award as a member of the losing team.

Jerry West is also known as a great General Manager (he signed Shaq and traded for a high school kid by the name of K. Bryant or something like that, if you hadn't heard). However, West once again demonstrated why he represents the heartbreak of the NBA better than anyone. He was the General Manager for the Memphis Grizzlies after leaving the Lakers' post. Bill Simmons detailed the agony best here:

"What if Memphis landed LeBron instead of Cleveland? Take a trip back to the 2003 lottery with me. We're down to the final two teams. If Memphis draws the No. 2 pick, it goes to Detroit because of the stupid Otis Thorpe trade the Grizzlies made five years before. If the Griz draw No. 1, they get LeBron. Arguably, it's the greatest hit-or-miss moment in the history of professional sports -- like going on "Deal or No Deal," getting down to two suitcases and having a 50/50 chance of winning $500 million. For a few seconds, the cameras show Jerry West, who has the same look on his face Forrest Gump had when he was hooking up with Jenny for the first time. If he had dropped dead right then, nobody would have been surprised.

Well, we know how it turned out: Cleveland got the pick, Memphis got nothing, and eventually, a heartbroken West retired and disappeared off the face of the earth, presumably to spend the next few years playing Russian roulette in Southeast Asia like Chris Walken in "The Deer Hunter."

The Best of Jerry West:

11) Kobe Bryant - "Black Mamba"

MVP Awards: 1 (2008)
NBA Titles: 4 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009)
All-NBA First Team: 7 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years

I've discussed him earlier in this blog here, but with Kobe, it's all about the numbers. Kobe has now gone to 7 NBA Finals and will probably win his fourth NBA championship and first without Shaq. He is the architect of "The 81-Point Game" and "Kobe 62, Dallas Mavericks 61". He's going to end up with 35,000+  points in his career when it's all said and done, putting him at #3 all time ahead of Wilt and Jordan and just behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. For some people, it's hard to imagine Kobe Bryant as one of the 11 greatest players in NBA History, but when you think about it, he's the second greatest shooting guard ever, and still has four or five more good seasons left in him to climb the list.

Kobe will be remembered as this era's Wilt Chamberlain in terms of his scoring prowess. and he'll also be remembered for his ferocious work ethic and intense competitiveness, all serving his desire to be the greatest of all time. Many fans dislike Kobe because they see him as a ball hog, as someone who has an inflated sense of self, and as someone whose exterior personality is fake. They say he tries too hard to be like Jordan. both in skill set and on-court temperament. I don't disagree with any of those points. But you can't deny that there is one thing Kobe is better than Jordan at, and that is shooting. Kobe is a better shooter from longer distances than Jordan ever was. In everything else, Jordan was better. Not significantly better, mind you, but better. Nonethless, Kobe is one of the All-Time Greats. If he gets to 5 rings, he'll enter the Top 10.  

The 81-Point Game:

Kobe 62, Dallas Mavericks 61 after Three Quarters:                                                          

The Top Ten Playoff Plays of Kobe Bryant's Career:

 And now, check out the Top Ten NBA Players of All Time!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Greatest Golf Shot Ever Played

Verne Lundquist calls Tiger Woods' legendary chip shot on 16 at Augusta in the 2005 Masters, arguably the greatest golf shot ever played. A Harvard Business Professor once said that the shot of the ball stopping and exposing the Nike symbol before dropping into the cup was the greatest instance of free advertising that any company in the history of the world ever had. What a shot! I love how simple Verne Lundquist calls this, letting the action speak for itself.

The Game of the Century - #1 Nebraska @ #2 Oklahoma (1971)

The Game of the Century, between #1 Nebraska and #2 Oklahoma in 1971, featured a punt return by Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers. This return for a Touchdown cemented his Heisman trophy at the end of the season. Below is subbed footage of the legendary call of the play.