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.

Larry Legend

I've been teased by Philly friends and relatives about the fact that Larry Joe Bird is my favorite basketball player of all time. Being a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers my whole life, I was taught to hate Bird and the Celtics. I can hate the Celtics. Easily. But I couldn't hate Bird. At all. There's something so pure and magical about Larry Bird's game. One of Bill Simmons' greatest articles was written in 2003 and he talks about Bird's mystique in it. The article is entitled "An Apostle of Basketball Jesus".

To me, Bird is the most intelligent player that ever played the game of basketball. He was so skilled and ahead of the curve compared to almost everybody else that he would get bored during games and invent ways to keep himself busy, like shooting with his left hand for the remainder of the evening, or going bank for the rest of the night, etc. I also think he was the clutchest player in NBA history, just ahead of Jordan and West.

I remember one game against the Atlanta Hawks where he scored 60 points. "He was so good that night, the Hawks were giving each other 'five'" said Cedric Maxwell about Larry Bird's performance that evening. Video footage of the game clearly shows some of the Atlanta Hawks bench players reacting in amazement and high fiving each other in joy! And they were the opponents!! The video below is 7 minutes long, but if you are short for time, go to the 4:00 minute mark and on to watch the Hawks bench players starting going batshit insane with a combination of shock and glee (with some disgust sprinkled in as well) at what they are witnessing in front of their very eyes.

I remember Mike Dunleavy Jr. being touted as the next Bird, as well as Adam Morrison being called Bird-like. Funny how that turned out. It seems like just as many "the next Bird" players have failed as "the next Jordan" players have. Check out this article lamenting the fact that virtually every semi-good white player gets compared to Bird now.

Bird is easily the greatest Small Forward in NBA history. Being compared to those guys is an insult to Bird and the impact he had on this game. However, people have started to make more interesting comparisons about who in today's game is closest to Bird. One guy goes as far as to say that the answer to the question of who is the next Larry Bird is LeBron James. I think that's a step in the right direction towards the respect of Bird's Legacy. When it's all said and done, LeBron James and Larry Bird will be the two greatest Small Forwards in the history of the game. RealGM regulars discuss Bird vs. LeBron over 5 pages.

Some question whether Bird could play in today's game. As someone said on RealGM, "A much shorter and worse version of Bird (Nash) is a back-to-back MVP in today's game". There will be another Jordan. There will be another Chamberlain. I don't think there will be another LeBron, but if there is, chances are 50/50 that it'll be LeBron Jr. And I'm only partially kidding. I can say with certainity, however, that there will never be another Allen Iverson. And as far as I'm concerned, there will never, ever be another Larry Bird, as Magic Johnson said best.

A few years after Bird retired in 1992 due to chronic back pain and was enshrined into the Hall of Fame, CNN/SI ran a feature called "A Rare Bird", and featured the best sports illustrated articles written about him. I'm not sure people realize this, but as recently as 1986, there was a legitimate argument going on about whether Bird was the greatest player in the history of the game. Red Auerbach himself said Bird would be the first person he chose if he were starting a team, which meant Bill Russell was #2 in Red's book. One part of that feature included feedback from readers. Here are some selected excerpts from readers regarding the brilliance of Larry Bird.

"Best ever. Could get the job done without extra steps or phantom fouls that helped to make Jordan 'the greatest ever'."
—Ryan Hull, Casar, N.C.

"I'd put Larry Bird in the top five on my NBA alltime list. And it doesn't matter where. Larry's there because he could have played in any era, fit with the style of play, and been a perfect complement on any team. I'm not sure that he is the greatest player ever. It seems hard not to give that to Michael Jordan. But I'd say Bird is the greatest team player ever."
—William Katerberg, Fredericton, New Brunswick

"Larry Bird is the greatest player to ever play the game. Michael Jordan is a great player, but he's overrated and can't compare to Bird. If Bird wanted to, he could have scored as much as Jordan, but Bird passed the ball around and got everyone involved. Also, the competition Jordan faces compared to Bird is hilarious. The Seattle SuperSonics! Give me a break. If Bird had an off shooting day, he could become a great passer or focus on rebounds. He is the best clutch player of all time, hands down. I could go on and on ... Should I?!?!"
—Yoni Heisler, Ann Arbor, Mich.

"Larry was incredible and he is definitely one of the top five greatest players ever, but can anyone really compare to Jordan and Chamberlain, or Abdul-Jabbar for that matter? C'mon!!!"
—Cliff Sims, Crestview, Fla.

"I would have to put him in the No. 3 spot. At the top of the list is Michael Jordan, because he's the ultimate athlete. At No. 2 I would name Bill Russell, because he is the ultimate winner. Larry Bird follows them as the one that really could and would do it all, the ultimate team player."
—Thomas Heeb, Zurich, Switzerland

"Larry falls sixth on my list, behind Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. If he had springs he may have been the best of all time."
—Steph Cova, Kingston, Ont.

"Not only No. 1, but a No. 1 so far outdistancing his nearest competitors it is sickening. Bird has the clutch shooting of Jordan, the rebounding skills of Abdul-Jabbar, the handle of West, and a drive through the lane that only Erving could match. You said it all when you said he could do it all."
—Ryan McKain, West Hartford, Conn.

"When it comes to athletic ability in the typical sense of the word (speed, strength, quickness and agility), I don't think anyone would argue that Larry is in the top 10 of alltime athletes, or the top 100 for that matter. Larry Bird's athletic abilities transcend the physical attributes of a common athlete. Concentration, creativity, reflex and desire, these are the qualities that make Larry the No. 1 athlete who ever lived. If I could pick any one person to lead my team in any one randomly selected sport, the obvious choice would be Larry Bird. He'll adapt, he'll perfect, and eventually he'll conquer."
—David Bacher, Holliston, Mass.

"Jordan can control a game with his scoring, Magic with the tempo, but only Bird could control a game by any means neccesary — scoring, rebounding, defense, whatever it took."
—Matthew Meagher, Indianapolis

"If I were to start a team today, the first person I would pick is Larry Bird. Even over Magic and Jordan — and I'm a Lakers fan. He took a no-name college team to the NCAA finals, undefeated. Then he took a team that finished last in its division to an NBA title in only two years. He was an amazing player. It's unbelievable how he dominated with no physical talent whatsoever."
—Gregory Jones, Tulsa, Okla.

"Nobody compares to him. If he had the talent around him that Magic had during his career, the Celtics would most likely have 20 banners. He has proved his greatness and basketball smarts as the coach of the Pacers. His value to the players is unmatched. They are fighting to keep the "Larry Bird" clause, aren't they? If he isn't considered the best of all time, he's definitely the best of his era. That's good enough for me."
—Steven Hoover, Flaherty, Ky.

"Top three. When one teaches a son or daughter to play basketball it will be in the Larry Bird style. You can't teach a kid to play like Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Allen Iverson. You can teach fundamentals, though, and that's where Larry and Magic etched their places."
—Joe Pritzky, Winthrop, Mass.

Here are some comments about Bird from his peers:

“Larry Bird just throws the ball in the air and God moves the basket underneath it.”
- Cleveland Cavaliers public address announcer Howie Chizek after Bird set a club record with 60 points in one game and scored 48 in another during the 1984-85 season

“Larry, you only told me one lie. You said there will be another Larry Bird. Larry, there will never, ever be another Larry Bird.”
- Magic Johnson, at Larry Bird's retirement party at Boston Garden on February 4, 1993

“Any living legend can take over a game in the last few minutes. Only Bird can take it over in the first few minutes.”
- Journalist Peter Vescey

Michael Jordan once was asked who he would want to take a shot with the game on the line, other than himself. Before the question could be finished, Jordan quickly responded, "Larry Bird."

"He was playing Chess and everybody else was playing Checkers. He was three steps ahead of everybody else, and you never knew what he was going to do, but you knew it was going to be special.
- Tommy Heinsohn, Boston Celtic Legend

"When I played, the only one I truly feared was Larry Bird. A lot of black guys were at me asked me 'Could Larry Bird really play that good?'. I said 'Man, Larry Bird was so good, it's frightening'." -Magic Johnson

Bird's most famous play will likely be his steal off Isiah Thomas' inbound pass in the closing seconds of Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals.

Bird Steals the Ball:

"Larry Bird - The Best Ever", presented by KBlaze:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Non-Conformist

"I don't want to be Michael Jordan. I don't want to be Magic. I don't want to be Bird or Isiah. I don't wanna be any of these guys. When I retire, I'm gonna look in the mirror and say 'I did it my way'" - Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson, otherwise known as Bubba Chuck, The Answer, and AI, will always be one of my all-time favorite players. I think he is one of, if not the most misunderstood athlete in any sport. Some call him the greatest ballhog in the history of the game. Others say he revolutionized the game. I thought this post would be the best way for me to explain what AI meant to me as a Sixers fan and as a basketball fan.

To me, AI is a few things. He's pound for pound the toughest player ever. He's the greatest little man ever, bar none. He had one of the great postseason playoff runs ever, carrying the 2001 Sixers to the NBA Finals all by himself. Elliot Kalb of "Who's Better, Who's Best in Basketball" wrote of Iverson during the magical 2001 Playoff Run:

"I saw Jordan up close in 1993. I saw Olajuwon up close in 1995. No one was ever more valuable to a team than Allen Iverson. If Jerry West or Rick Barry or Bob Pettit was any better in one year's playoffs - I just wouldn't believe it."

But most of all, the quote that starts this post epitomizes who Allen Iverson is, and why he is one of my all-time favorite players. A poster on a Sixers forum I frequent wrote something a few years ago during Iverson's last days here in Philly that I felt nailed how I and others in Philly viewed AI. It's written very Philly-ish, with due warning!

"whut people seam to not realize is that greatness is whut u feel it to be and while others may share ur views no 2 people r going to see things in the same light as u! i hope people take time to just enjoy whatever it is they feel without disrespecting whutever it is someone else feels that disagree with them! a good argument or debate can be had without disrespecting the opposing persons view or the players being debated!

the point i am trying to make is that i do not need AI to be better than jerry west or whoever else to know he is great to me. just like while jerry west is the logo he was not better than the big O or jordan,erving or whoever else but it does not take away from him being great or him being the LOGO OF THE NBA LOL! the problem is that if u want i or anyone 1 of u can discredit ANY PLAYER THAT EVER PLAYED IF WE WANT TO ESPICALLY IF U DO UR HOMEWORK!

I already feel ai is a legend! also i do agree he is underappreciated but not by the thousands of fans who support him more than any other player since jordan or the millions of kids who emulate the moves, the look, the way he wears his uniform! not by his peers who without a doubt universally think he is 1 of the baddest motherf###er to ever play! not by the global fan who acknowledges HIM not kobe, or shaq or any other current players this side of china as the most popular player since jordan!

it is the media who underappreciates him bc for better or worse he did not CONFORM and it is his DETRACTORS WHILE THEY MIGHT HAVE EVERY REASON NOT TO PERSONALLY LIKE HIS GAME THEY R THE ONES WHO DISRESPECT HIS IMPACT!!!!! and all i have to say to that is that i agree to DISAGREE!!!!!!!!! feel free to respond"

AI did not conform. I love that. The NBA even changed the rules related to the crossover dribble and the dress code just because of him. That's Chamberlain-esque, is it not? AI forced the league to conform to him, not the other way around. That's why the quote fits AI like a glove. A couple of years ago, Bill Simmons wrote a great article entitled "Don't Question The Answer" that explored AI's legacy. I wanted to share this excerpt from the article:

"There's another aspect to Iverson's brilliance, something the ESPN guys tried to describe last night: Quite simply, he's the most menacing player in the league. There's just something different about him, a darker edge that the other stars don't have. Once I was sitting midcourt at the Fleet Center when Iverson was whistled for a technical, yelped in disbelief, then followed the referee toward the scorer's table and screamed, "[Bleep] you!" at the top of his lungs. The official whirled around and pulled his whistle toward his mouth for a second technical.

And I swear on my daughter's life, the following moment happened: As the official started to blow the whistle, Iverson's eyes widened and he moved angrily toward the official, almost like someone getting written up for a parking ticket who decides it would just be easier to punch out the meter maid. For a split-second, there was real violence in the air. Of course, the rattled official lowered his whistle and never called the second T. By sheer force of personality, Iverson kept himself in the game.

Look, I'm not condoning what happened. It was a frightening moment. At the same time, I haven't seen a player bully a referee like that before or since. And that goes back to the "seeing him in person" thing. Iverson plays with a compelling, hostile, bloodthirsty energy that the other players just don't have. He's relentless in every sense of the word. He's a warrior. He's an alpha dog. He's a tornado. He's so fast and coordinated that it genuinely defies description. He's just crazy enough that officials actually cower in his presence. And none of this makes total sense unless you've seen him."

Iverson will easily be a first ballot Hall of Famer, no questions asked. Some say he is washed up and that he destroyed three franchises on his way out. I don't think so. Philadelphia is doing OK OK with young talent, although we have Brand's contract as an albatross right now. Denver is doing great. Detroit got him only for cap relief. So I disagree that he wrecked three franchises. I do think he is so unique a player that he needs a certain team around him.

To me, AI needed the 2001 Sixers just as much as they needed him. That's why I think Larry Brown and Charlotte would be a great fit for AI to bring a team to the playoffs and prove to everyone that he is one of the all time greats and one of the top 25 players who ever played the game. If AI gets Charlotte to the NBA Finals, I'll put him in the top 15 EASILY, just because anyone who can bring the 2001 Sixers and the 2010 Bobcats to the NBA Finals is one of the all time greats!

From this blog, I found some very interesting statistics about AI from the 2007-2008 season with Denver that I think show he still has a few years left in him. His days in Detroit were an abberation.

* This season (2007-2008), he is averaging more points than Kobe Bryant, more assists than Tony Parker and more steals than everyone except Chris Paul and Baron Davis.

* Iverson is shooting the highest FG% of his career (46.5%), a higher percentage than Kobe, Chris Bosh and Paul Pierce.

* If he keeps this pace, he will be the oldest player to average 25 points, 7 assists and 2 steals per game in a season – by 3 years (Larry Bird, 29).

* Iverson is 3rd all-time in PPG (27.8) and 5th in Steals (2.29 per game).

* If he plays 5 more seasons, at below career averages of 22 ppg, 6 apg, 1.5 spg and 70 games per season. He would finish 5th all time in points (29,413), 13th in assists (6,971) and 4th in steals (2,315). He would also join Oscar Robertson as the only players in the top 15 all-time in points and assists.

* Owns the top 8 seasons for PPG by a player under 6 feet tall.

* At 165 pounds, ranks 4th all-time in minutes per game (41.8) – behind Chamberlain, Russell and Robertson – and 5th all-time in Free-Throws per game (9.2).

In tribute of AI, here is video footage of his two most famous plays. In the first one, he was a rookie. In the second one, he was in his MVP season.

Iverson crosses Jordan (1997)

Iverson over Lue (2001 NBA Finals)

The Worst NFL Game Ever Played

In the 2008-2009 NFL Season, the Eagles played the Bengals in Week 11 to a 13-13 tie in quite possibly the worst NFL game ever played.

Bill Simmons wrote the following about the game:

"You know how Mike Holmgren is retiring after this season? I think Andy Reid retired three years ago. That's the only explanation. He just didn't tell us. Our friend Mike Lombardi did a nice job breaking down the epic "Four Two-Minute Drills" debacle Sunday in Cincinnati; that game was so unbelievably bad that NFL Films should be working on a one-hour documentary about it. I'm not even kidding. That was the worst football game ever played. We need to spend a solid year interviewing people and breaking down the key moments so we can place it in its proper historical perspective.

So, what would the Bengals-Eagles documentary be called? I vote for either "Four Hours Of Life That Nobody Will Get Back" or "The Longest Turd." Either of these will do. I don't care. And, yes, I wanted this show even before McNabb pushed the epicness (epicity? epiciousness? epicism?) of such a memorably putrid game by admitting he didn't know the overtime rules. I thought Warren Sapp summed it up well: "Donovan, your legacy will be throwing up in the Super Bowl, Rush Limbaugh and now -- not knowing there were ties!!!"

At least Donovan McNabb understands the NFL rules about ties now, right ?

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony scores 33 points in one quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Best of Kobe Bryant

Love him or hate him, one cannot deny that Kobe Bryant is one of the three greatest shooting guards in the history of the NBA. I firmly believe that if Kobe wins a ring without Shaq, he's Top Ten all time and universally hailed as the second greatest shooting guard of all time, behind his Airness, Michael Jordan, and just ahead of The Logo, Jerry West. If Kobe doesn't win a ring, he'd have gone deep in the playoffs in three/four seasons without Shaq, and essentially failed to win the whole shebang. I'd then have him in the Top 15-20 range all time. Here's two clips showing what future generations will probably recall when they hear the name of Kobe.

The 81-Point Game

Below is the infamous game where at the end of the third quarter, Kobe had 62 points to the Dallas Mavericks's team total of 61 points. Because the game was a blowout, Kobe decided to sit for the fourth quarter. Who knows what may have happened had he decided to be selfish and go all out for the record ? I think he would have hit 90.

Kobe 62, Dallas Mavericks 61.

Dr. J in his Absolute Prime

Two minutes plus of live in-game footage of Dr. J in his absolute prime in 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.

The Top Ten Dunks of Julius Erving's Career!

Dead Pro Wrestlers

Here's a video without any voiceover. For any of you who watched wrestling in the 1980's, watching this clip may be pretty shocking. The equivalent of all the dead wrestlers in the last 20 years would be roughly 450 to 500 NFL players dying before the age of 50 years old in the last 20 years. That's pretty amazing/horrifying when one thinks about it.

All-Time Top Two Favorite NBA Games Watched

I have two all time favorite memorable NBA games experienced as a fan. The first was from a regular season game between the Sixers and the Boston Celtics that took place in January of 2006, back when the Celtics only had Pierce. Immediately following the game, I wrote the following post on a Sixers forum.

"I'm thrilled, cuz I got every minute of the Triple OT on my DVR. This was without a doubt the roller coaster of all roller coasters.

We're ahead at the end of the first. We end up down 16 at one point. The worst bench in the league plays extended minutes against Boston's line up while the starters are benched and actually bring us back closer into the game. AI s buzzer beater misses, and the game goes to Overtime. Dalembert plays his greatest defensive game of the year. He actually catches (!) fastball passes thrown to him in clutch situations and finishes (!), along with one of the great dunks I've ever witnessed after a RIDICULOUS CWebb Harlem Globetrotter dribble/pass combo. At the end of the first OT, The Reverse Time-Out by CWebb that had everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, flashing back to 1993. AI's errant bounce pass to a would-be wide open Korver which bounced off KK' s knees, and subsequent primal scream that pissed KK off beyond belief. Them sitting on the bench during the timeout in icy silence with KK steaming and everyone else quiet as hell, which then becomes AI handing off to KK behind him... NOO KK doesnt shoot!, he dribbles (?), he shoots! YESSSSSSSSS!!!! Triple Overtime! Cwebb steals the ball! Then, the most beautiful eight seconds of the game, when every sixer played a flawless passing game of Monkey in the Middle, allowing only 2 seconds on the clock before getting fouled.

What a game! Yes, Mark Blount had a career game against us, which is inexcusable. Yes, Perkins, who usually sucks, was fairly decent against us as he was in the other Boston-Philly game. Yes, there's a lot of holes on the team.

However, when you think about it, any game that has a schizophrenic Chris Webber going back and forth between both Young CWebb (dunking at will, the Reverse Time Out) and Old CWebb (falling down on his knees trying to throw wacked out through the leg passes to Igoudala, using his brains to secure a game-winning steal), the first true benching of our stars of the season, followed by excellent leadership shown by Bubba Chuck, along with one of the top five dunks in Iguodala's career, the greatest shot of Korver's career, and the greatest dunk of Dalembert's career, how can we NOT be fans!?!

Let's hope this game is THE game that kick starts our season into high gear! GO SIXERS!!!".

Looking back at the post I wrote, I have to laugh now. But the funny thing is, the game is still on my DVR and has been on the very bottom of my playlist for a couple of years now. Here's a clip of one of my favorite NBA games of all time.

The other all-time favorite of mine would have to be Sixers at Lakers, Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals. That game features the most memorable play of Allen Iverson's career, the crossover stepback and subsequent stepover of Tyron Lue with less than one minute remaining in Overtime.

Off topic, but I know someone who met Lue at some formal party while the Lakers were in town for Games 3, 4, and 5, and he said Lue was a nice guy and there was some friendly kidding about how much fouling he was doing towards AI during the series.

Here's the setting for this game. The undefeated in the postseason Lakers had two of the 20 greatest players of all time. Shaq (Top Ten player all time) was in his absolute prime as one of the two most unstoppable offensive jauggernauts in the history of the game. Meanwhile, Kobe (Top 15 player all time or higher) was just coming into the infancy stages of his prime years.

On the other hand, the Sixers were built entirely around guys who would sacrifice the ball to Iverson, rebound his misses and provide all the dirty work and hustle. Iverson in his prime was just as unguardable from the exterior as Shaq was from the interior. The Lakers were off for roughly a week, and hosted Game One on their home court. Everyone said it would be a sweep, a trashing, an embarrasment.

When the Sixers won this game in Overtime, I went to City Hall, and high fived hundreds of people walking by my car. I'll never forget the thrilling feeling of knowing we were three wins away from becoming NBA World Champions, but it was not to be. This game will always be appreciated, though, because I think everybody that wasn't a Lakers fan was rooting for Philadelphia in this series.

Slew of Great NBA Playoff Commercials

I know I'm not alone when I say I love these new commercials the NBA is airing during the playoffs. Here are all four of them, embedded below:

Kobe Bryant throws the Alley Oop to Shaquille O'Neal in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Championship. Portland was leading by 17, and then the Lakers went crazy and I believe this Alley Oop tied the game with three minutes to so left to play.

Julius Erving shocks the world with his famous reverse layup under the backboard against the Lakers. Dr. J was one of the all-time greats (I have him in the top 15), and to this day, he remains the ONLY superstar athlete in the history of Philadelphia that the fans have never, ever booed. That may be his most amazing achievement.

Larry Bird steals the ball and the game away from the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. Bird was unreal and definitely worthy of a future post.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson's famous baby Skyhook against the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Greatest Gin Rummy/No-Limit Player of All Time

The story of Stuart Errol Ungar is both captivating and saddening. Ungar is considered by many to be both the greatest Gin Rummy and No-Limit Hold 'em player (at least heads up) that there ever were.

* "According to some estimates, Ungar had become a millionaire four straight times, but had lost every penny of that fortune, only to build it up all over again. He was a high roller in every sense of the word, and his world revolved around gambling."

* "Ungar is a three-time World Champion (with five WSOP bracelets). He won ten major No Limit Hold'em championship events (in which the buy-ins were $5,000 or higher). The next two guys in line, T.J. Cloutier (all-time leading money winner at the WSOP) and Johnny Chan (two-time World Champion), have won half that many. Amazingly, Ungar only played in about 30 of these championship events in his life!".

If only Ungar hadn't blown it all away with drugs. Imagine him playing nowadays in the Main Event with fields of 8,000+ people. He'd have the aura of a living legend that ould exceed that of Hellmuth, Brunson, Chan, and any of the other all time greats there.

I am unable to find a tranacript anywhere of the piece ESPN did in him a couple of years ago, but if I find something, I'll get it up.

Fourth and 26

One of the most famous NFL plays of all time was 4th and 26, short for fourth down and 26 yards to go. This is probably the most famous play of Donovan McNabb's career, and by far Freddie Mitchell's sole claim to fame. A few plays later, David Akers kicked a 40+ yard field goal as time expired to force Overtime. In Overtime, the Eagles won the toss, but had to punt after a three-and-out. On the very first offensive play for Green Bay, Brett Favre proceeds to throw a duck in the sky, which Brian Dawkins hauls in and advances to midfield. Following runs by McNabb and Westbrook, David Akers then iced it by kicking the game-winning field goal.

The first video is footage of Fourth and 26 as broadcast live on national television. I cannot find subtitles for this clip anywhere, though. The second video is footage of the Eagles fans going batshit insane at the Linc following the completion of Fourth and 26.

The following week, the Eagles played in their third consecutive Conference Championship game, but were dismantled by the Carolina Panthers in one of the most devasating losses in Philadelpha sporting history.

Offbeat German Parody of Instructional Videos

I stumbled across this offbeat video of a mock instructional video for fork lift drivers made in Germany with English subtitles. It gets pretty macabre towards the end.

Forklift Driver Klaus - The First Day On The Job (English Subtitles) - The best free videos are right here

Badminton Tips

Badminton ?!? Some of you are probably looking like Captain Picard in the above picture right about now. Nonetheless, this is an all inclusive blog, and if the video is subtitled, it'll find its' way here.

Badminton - Instruction CCTV Episode ? (Part 1/2) - The best bloopers are a click away

Scorpion Kick voted the greatest play in World Cup history

Subtitles start one minute into the video. What an insane kick. I don't think I've seen anything like that before.

Rene Higuita Scorpion Kick - Interview - More free videos are here

Exciting and Hilarious Video of a Soccer match

I think the announcer is the funniest part of the video, other than the fact that there's a raging fire going on and everybody is carrying on like they have no fear that they're about to be burnt to death. Soccer is awesome.

Extremely Exciting Football (soccer) Commentary [ENGlish Subtitles] - Watch more funny videos here

"They are who we thought they were!" - Denny Green

Here's Denny Green's infamous post-game press conference rant from October 16, 2006, after his team lost a 20-point lead over the Chicago Bears in less than twenty minutes.

"Playoffs ?!?" - Jim Mora's Legendary Rant

Americans are NOT Stupid

Although this is a primarily a sports blog, I will be adding random stuff like this clip of Americans being asked trivia questions.

Misawa vs. Kawada 1994

Here's a very well done video that is a slow-mo montage of a match between Mitsuhara Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada that took place in 1994 under the All Japan promotion. Many people consider this match to be the greatest in the history of pro wrestling, for what's it worth, and even non-fans can come away impressed at the skill level and toughness demonstrated by the two men.


The Life of a Philadelphia Sports Fan

This video was made before the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. It's an incredible montage of the highs and lows witnessed by the most loyal and passionate sports fans, the fans of the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia.

"We're Talking About Practice!"

Allen Iverson is one of my all-time favorite basketball players, but even he will admit that he will never live down the "Practice" rant he gave in a memorable press conference several years ago. 

Boom Goes The Dynamite

Here is one of the most viewed Youtube clips of all time, "Boom Goes The Dynamite". Brian Collins, the play-by-play announcer in the below clip, is immortalized forever in the Internets after his performance here.


Harry Kalas calls the final out of the World Series

Harry Kalas calls the final out of the 2008 World Series.

The Miracle on Ice

Al Michael's famous call in the closing seconds of the 1980 USA vs. USSR Olympic Hockey semi-final match.

Secretariat wins the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes by 31 Lengths

The video in this post epitomizes what I hope this blog will achieve. There are very few videos on Youtube that are subtitled which feature classic sports moments, and I am making an effort to remedy that. 

The below clip, and the one deserving of the title of first post, features one of the greatest athletic feats ever achieved. Secretariat, arguably the greatest racehorse of all time, wins the Triple Crown at the 1973 Belmont Stakes by an astounding 31 lengths. The legendary call is provided by Chick Anderson.