Every generation has their sports icons. Every generation has their unforgettable moments, and every generation of sports fans are profoundly certain that their moments are the greatest of all time. We canonize those moments, making them seemingly incomparable, often at the peril of what we're witnessing in the present.
Willis Reed dragging his body around Wilt Chamberlain in 1970, Michael Jordan’s famous flu game in Utah in 1997; we look back at those moments and it helps create lore, which sometimes makes us easily dismiss any comparison to their current day counterparts. Essentially, we as sports fans get caught in a helpless place of realism that often is inescapable. Therefore, might we have to tinker with how we view two of our current day stars?
The Mamba's New Dominance
As a Celtics fan, enjoying anything that has anything to do with the Lakers is like trying to explain to someone you enjoy being sprayed by a skunk. Nevertheless, as a basketball fan one can't ignore that Kobe Bryant has now firmly planted himself into a fair comparison with Michael Jordan, perhaps not as the best basketball player to ever play the game, but rather as the player with the most complete game in NBA history.
While I’ve often thought that Carmelo Anthony is the most complete scorer in the NBA, Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets gave me a moment’s pause about Kobe taking that title. His stat-line wasn't awe-inspiring. A valid (and more compelling) argument could be made that Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Metta World Peace had far more of an impact on the Lakers’ Game 7 victory in the Staples Center than Bryant's rather subdued 17 points and 8 assists.
Still, for anyone who wants to know why Kobe Bryant might be our generation's version of Michael Jordan, Games 7 should say it all. The best part about basketball is that there are about 500 little things that happen in the course of game that just don't show up in a box score. The fact that Kobe can take almost every guard onto the blocks and has the post-game to force double teams should tell us something. The fact that George Karl's game plan was still predicated around not letting Bryant get going should still tell us something. The fact that Steve Blake is beginning to look a little like Derek Fisher in the corner should tell us something.
Look, the realist in me will argue to kingdom come that he'll never surpass the Bird, Magic, and certainly not Jordan when ranking the best NBA players. Still, what perhaps everyone needs to come to grips with (haters included) is that the Mamba can do all the same things Jordan, Magic, and Larry could do, which is tactically being able to control a game by taking just 17 shots.
Rethinking Chris Paul’s Place in History
For New Orleans Hornets fans watching the playoffs is probably akin to watching an ex-girlfriend walk a seemingly dysfunctional buffoon into a room and having all the girls swoon all over him. While Blake Griffin might be the most exciting player Clipper fans have ever seen, one can't argue that Chris Paul has turned the once pathetic Clippers into a legit NBA franchise, seemingly overnight.
The most overused and certainly rhetorical slogan in sports goes something like this: The Playoffs, where legends are made. Really? The playoffs are important? I mean can't we somehow get Matthew Weiner to help think of something a bit more sexy? But I’d also argue that the regular season produces legends as well — just ask the MVP. All this week we're going to hear people write, podcast, and pontificate about Chris Paul's place in NBA lore after his prophetic series against Memphis. My question is, was putting him as one of the seven best point guards in NBA history ever really in doubt? Aside from Magic, Stockton, Isiah, Oscar, Nash, and Gary Payton is there another guard who can control a game quite like CP3?
He took the three separate Hornets teams to the postseason, has win shares through seven years comparable to greats like Magic and Wilt, and if you ask any Clippers fan (especially this one) no player has had a more profound impact on one team quite like Chris Paul. Last year the Hornets posted a win percentage of .561 and the reached the seventh seed in the postseason. This year they won only 31.8 percent of their games and are in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes. As a point of comparison, Utah sure doesn’t seem to be missing Deron Willams all that much now do they?
What makes Paul different from most every other point guard is that I don’t think he even realizes that he’s barely 6’0” 175lbs. He certainly doesn’t play that way. Most point guards want to get up and down the floor to get themselves and their teammates easy buckets in transition. The best point guards are the ones who can be just as effective in the half court by naturally dictating tempo and get to the rim at will, which has been Chris Paul to a T thus far this season.
After turning the Clippers from the laughingstock of the league since their inception, Paul put them on his back Sunday afternoon, finishing as the Clippers high scorer (19 points), with nine boards, four dimes, and a +4. There aren’t many storylines in a Spurs-Clippers, except of course a matchup of the two best point guards in the NBA.
Indiana Flops in Game 1
Yes, Frank Vogel the Miami Heat get more friendly calls from the refs than the '96 Bulls, but still the Pacers let game one slip away. Indiana on paper seems to have the elixir to upset Miami, don’t they? More tough guys, a deeper bench, and — unlike the Knicks — consistent three point shooters and the ability to pound the rock on the interior. Only one problem: they ceased to do so in Game 1. Miami took Indiana to the woodshed in the paint Sunday, outscoring them 52-40 and out rebounding them 15-8 on the offensive glass. Beating the Heat is a formidable enough task without giving them second chances at point-blank range.
I am still an unabashed big Danny Granger fan, and I know chasing around a freakin' race horse like LeBron James for 40 minutes isn't a particularly simple experience, but shooting 1-10 and then letting the MVP grab six offensive rebounds? Come on man (Chris Carter voice).
While we're not privy to all the cool stats, I'm curious to know how many touches Hibbert and West got on the blocks. And no matter what those numbers were, it wasn't enough. The Heat only let teams convert 57.7 percent of their shots at the rim during the season, which was second best in to the NBA. And while in four games this season Miami held the Pacers to just 37 percent shooting in the paint, missed perimeter shots means Wade and LeBron get to do their best Marino to Duper impressions in the open court.
Fan Hub Action
Jeanne-Marie Jansen Lowell May 23rd
Greatest relief pitcher EVER! Someday we can all tell our grandchildren we got to see him pitch. A true legend!
Charlie Lobosco May 23rd
Ask Craig; I’ll say it again; not the best relief pitcher ever; the best MLB player ever. Yes, that includes everyone.
Jim Lowell May 23rd
Great tribute to a great player, a great Yankee, and a great man.Thank you!
Frank Lowell May 23rd
Great job, Ryan! As a life-long Yankee hater since the 1950’s in the closing days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, I can only sit back and…
Tiffany Riddle May 23rd
Love the article, and I completely agree!
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
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