The LA Lakers story in 2015 hasn’t differed largely from what anyone imagined it would prior to the start of the season. One could even argue that this history making slide into obscurity could be seen a mile off. Well before they hired coach Byron Scott. Way before they traded for Jeremy Lin, and ‘won’ the rights to sign Carlos Boozer. Long before Julius Randle and Kobe Bryant went down with season ending injuries, and certainly before last week, when the Lakers lost their 60th game in a season for the very first time in their long history.
Tag: Kobe Bryant
He’s just 31 points away from third on the all time scoring list, but that’s not the real accomplishment for a guy like Kobe Bryant. Having modeled his game from a man who is widely regarded as the greatest to ever play, the passing of Michael Jordan holds a high level of significance for the Black Mamba, and he’s nearly there.
During one of the most tumultuous seasons in Lakers history, there has been little to cheer about for fans of the much fabled franchise.
One of the few joys still afforded to the fans however, is a well rested and rejuvenated Kobe Bryant who, while shooting a career low…. is as aggressive and determined as ever. That was on full display yesterday as Bryant carved out his 20th career triple double, while also becoming the only member of the 30k+ points club to eclipse 6,000 assists. Not bad for a 36 year old right?
It’s been a while since we’ve done Rookie Watch here at NBA Nation Australia.
Before the 2012/13 season we focused on Jared Sullinger, Bradley Beal and Thomas Robinson throughout their rookie NBA seasons, and the features were always hugely popular.
I chose young shooting guard Bradley Beal, as I believed firmly he would evolve into someone with the ilk of a truly great NBA player, who would be as fun to watch as he would be exciting. Thankfully, I’ve been proven right with Beal capping off a fantastic season for the Washington Wizards in the 2014 Playoffs. He’s becoming more confident in his role every day, and going forward will be an integral part of the Wizard’s plan.
This year, with the NBA draft being so deep, we’ve decided to jump back on the rookie watch bandwagon, and cover a couple of the guys who perhaps aren’t getting quite the amount of hype or media attention they deserve. You have your Wiggins’s and your Parker’s, but we’ll be taking time out to check in on a couple of guys who are sure to be big players not only in the rookie of the year stakes, but also for their respective teams throughout the NBA season.
So, I’m choosing someone a little closer to my heart in ex-Kentucky Wildcat and 2014 NCAA runner up, Julius Randle, who was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 7th overall pick in the Draft.
These will be ongoing pieces throughout the year, so please feel free to forward us anything interesting you find relating to our respective players and we’ll include it in our reports. Be it a tweet, video, Instagram or an article… if you think it’s relevant, send it through!
Standing a formidable 6 foot 9 inches, Julius Randle was one of the more polarizing figures in the 2014 draft. A Kentucky freshman, he was one of the Wildcats’ best performers throughout the 2013/14 NCAA season, helping his team reach the Championship game in March and while Kentucky lost to the University of Connecticut in a close contest, Randle was undoubtedly one of the highlights. Averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per contest, he shot 50% across 40 games for the Cats and lead the Nation in double-doubles with 24 on the year. Randle also played alongside Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker in the 2013 McDonald’s All American game as well as the Jordan Brand Classic that year, one of six Wildcats competing in the event.
The Lakers had been enamored with Randle throughout much of their 2013/14 campaign, and with their off-season focus turning towards the draft, he became their number one target. While Lakers management believed Randle would be off the board by the 7th pick, the Lakers were overjoyed when their rival Celtics took Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart at six, leaving the door wide open for them to claim their man.
Called the draft’s “most NBA ready player” by the experts, the 250lb power forward will be heavily featured in Lakers coach Byron Scott’s rotation, especially now that their two time champ and star big man Pau Gasol has made the move to Chicago. Providing the team with stellar defensive efficiency, and the ability to muscle his way through traffic in the paint will mean big things for a Lakers team without an enforcer type player to throw his weight around down low. Randle can move with the ball, get his own shot, and out-muscle his competition on the glass – A huge advantage for the Lakers who were a lowly 25th in rebounding percentage last season.
New team mate and fellow workhorse Kobe Bryant, who has made a career out of demanding the best out of his fellow players, was pleased with the drafting of Randle, given his love for hard work.
“I demand a lot from my teammates as well. Holding each other accountable, putting extra work in was what I had to do at Kentucky. It was what I demanded of my teammates and that’s what we did and that’s why we were successful.” Randle said on draft night. “He [Kobe] may get tired of me because I’m going to be bugging him, trying to learn stuff from him. I’m going to learn a lot from him.”
We believe you, rook.
Summer League 2014
Randle’s first experience as a member of the Lakers came during July’s NBA Summer League tournament in Las Vegas, NV where alongside fellow draftee Jordan Clarkson and a host of other Laker hopefuls, he impressed officials and sent a wave of excitement around Laker Nation. Whilst the Lakers finished the tournament with a 2-3 record, the two rookies were at the forefront of the team for the duration, impressing both fans and critics alike with a wide range of skills.
Missing the first game due to a contract mishap, Randle averaged 12 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 28 minutes across four starts, all the while shooting a respectable 44.8%. Both he and Clarkson are expected to arrive at Lakers HQ in El Segundo, CA this month ahead of training camp in early October.
Check out some of Randle’s highlights from the SL below:
Social Media Highlights
As is the case with most high profile sports stars these days, social media plays a huge part in their day to day lives, as it does ours, so part of our rookie updates will include the best of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook throughout the season. in case you’re not already following Julius Randle, you can do so via the links below. For now, here are a few highlights so far:
Name: Julius Randle
DOB: 29/11/1994 (Age 19)
Position: Power Forward
Pick: Selected with the 7th overall pick by the LA Lakers in the 2014 Draft
College: University of Kentucky Wildcats
So there you have it – Julius Randle, the highest Laker draft pick since James Worthy in 1982. The kid has some big shoes to fill but we can’t wait to see how his game evolves during his time with the Lakers. Thanks for reading, and make sure you keep checking back for regular updates. Again, if you want to submit something to be a part of the next update, send it to us and we’ll include it!
It wasn’t long ago. June 2010, and Los Angeles was in a state of euphoria. The Lakers had just won the NBA Championship on their home floor, in game 7 against a tough Boston Celtics squad, and had ambitions of their second three-peat under the guidance of Phil Jackson. There was hysteria at the Staples Center as Kobe Bryant celebrated his 5th title, and the Lakers were once again sitting atop the NBA pile, victorious for the 16th time in their history.
No one could have predicted what would unfold for this franchise, and its superstar over the next four years. It’s a story that will be written in the annals of basketball history, and studied throughout the years as a piece of Lakers folklore that is just as culturally important, although not as successful, as the Showtime Lakers of the 1980’s or the Shaq and Kobe era during the early 2000’s. As any Lakers fan will tell you, the unwavering love for the ball club is second to none, but this is a story that has tested, and will continue to test even the most hardened fans.
A second round exit to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in 2011 would set in motion a series of events for the Los Angeles Lakers that would render them unable to compete for a title for years, and put the franchise in a state of flux from which they are yet to pull themselves. The lockout, the nixed Chris Paul deal, the Dwight Howard saga, numerous coaching debacles and injury have all been a part of a period in Lakers history which many will be happy to see the end of. Even if it takes years.
Perhaps the most intriguing, and equally tragic element in the Lakers downfall however, is the final phase of their superstar and leader, Kobe Bryant’s career.
An 18-year veteran, Bryant has endured both good times and bad in his years with the Lakers, but none so much as the current challenges he faces in the twilight of his much decorated time at the top. Five Championships, two finals MVP’s and a league MVP, two scoring titles, sixteen All Star selections, 4th highest scorer in NBA history (soon to be third) and countless other accolades have cemented Bryant as one of the top 10 players of all time, but now, in his (presumably) final two years, perhaps his greatest challenge awaits.
His horrific Achilles injury in 2013 had the NBA world questioning whether he’d ever be the player he was again, given the history of the injury he sustained that April night at Staples Center seldom yields positive results. He returned for 6 games in December (averaging a respectable 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game) before a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau (knee) forced the Lakers to sit Bryant for the remainder of a season already lost, and hope their star would be ready come October 2014.
And ready he is. Working himself back into game-ready shape, and by all accounts, looking good. Kobe Bryant will be fit, healthy and ready to go come opening night.
The off season hasn’t panned out quite as the Lakers had hoped. After locking up Kobe for two more years with a much criticized $48 million contract, they aimed at big time free agents Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, and missed out on both. Instead the results this summer have been, while solid, relatively underwhelming. Additions have included Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, and 7th overall pick Julius Randle, while also re-signing the likes of Nick Young, Ryan Kelly and Jordan Hill. A roster that, while maybe not title-winning in stature, will provide Bryant with some reasonable company until next summer when the team will have numerous free agency targets.
A veritable gold-mine for those who subscribe to the notion that other stars are against playing with Kobe, the Lakers inability to lock down their targets in free agency has become more about the veteran and his stubborn ways than it has about the team, and what playing in Los Angeles can do for a player, even beyond basketball. In that, it is important to remember that the Lakers, while a desirable destination no matter which way you view things, have never used free agency as a means of re-tooling. Throughout the past 18 years, there are few occasions whereby the team has acquired talent via free agency, preferring trades as a means of improvement.
But with 2 picks in 2015, and a top 5 protected lottery opportunity, being awful may not be so bad for the Lakers next season – The issue is, however, Kobe. To assume a guy like Bryant will be happy with losing in his final years to better the team going forward, is naive. Call him selfish, but at this point, he’s earned the right. You can bet the house that with everything he’s faced this past 15 months, there is a fire burning under Kobe Bryant, and despite the burden on his shoulders, he’ll be there on opening night, ready to lead his team out of mediocrity and back into the spotlight. The questions that need to be answered will be in due time, and whether he proves you wrong or right, there must be a level of respect for a man who has given his whole self to the game of basketball.
The debate continues to rage surrounding Kobe, and if he’ll still be able to contribute to the Lakers going forward, but while his Championship window is as good as closed, there is still plenty left in the tank. The fact is, that while many continue to doubt Kobe’s ability, he continues to set the bar in terms of how his competition readies itself – His tenacious, obsessive commitment to self-improvement and unrelenting competitiveness are testament enough to the fact that Kobe Bryant, no matter what, will always make a difference.
He’s got his doubters, and he has his critics, but the interesting thing about Bryant is his willingness to embrace it and use it as a means to compete. Fuel for the fire burning inside him. Yes, he is in his twilight years and the Lakers simply cannot rely on him alone to lead them back to title contention, but surely it’s more admirable for a man who has been the cornerstone of the franchise for near on 20 years to stand up and fight than it is to admit defeat and retreat into the shadows. As much as he would disagree, Kobe’s greatest challenge now is not winning a sixth title, or another MVP award, but ensuring his legacy is solidified, his name immortalized and shrouded in purple and gold with both the lovers and the haters firmly intact. They’ve all made him who he is today, and I’m sure he’d credit each and every one of you equally.
But be that as it may, there is still a task at hand, and in Bryant’s mind, it’s still fair game. Will the Lakers be atop the pile in these, an all time great’s final years at the helm? It’s unlikely, but you’d be a fool to think Kobe won’t die trying.
In the wake of one of the worst 24 months in Los Angeles Lakers history, much maligned head coach Mike D’Antoni has resigned from his position with the team effective immediately.
D’Antoni arrived in LA as a successor to Mike Brown, who was fired by the Lakers after a 1-5 start to the 2012 season. Formerly of the Nuggets, Suns and Knicks, he was unpopular with fans from the very start, with many believing Phil Jackson was the right option at the time.
D’Antoni, along with Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant struggled to make an impact on the league throughout his first season, ensuring the bad taste in fans’ mouths only worsened. Marred by injury, and a lack of talent in his second year, the Lakers and Mike never stood a chance in season 2013/14.
Last week it was reported that the Lakers were intent on keeping D’Antoni around until the end of his contract at the culmination of next year, but that he wanted them to pick up his fourth year option. Until today that was where it had been left, but earlier this afternoon ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that D’Antoni had, in fact, resigned. It isn’t clear what will become of the $4 million left on the table by Coach D’Antoni, but it has been said that an undisclosed amount will still be given to him.
Laker fans have been ruthless when it comes to Mike D’Antoni, and while not the best man for the job, he has given his absolute all to a team with no talent, an unfathomable injury toll and who are a shell of their former selves. The D’Antoni reign in LA was strained, but one that Laker fans can now move on from.
The search will now begin for a new coach, with a myriad of options exposing themselves within the last few hours. It is in the best interest to the Lakers to take their time, and make a choice which best suits the team and direction they’re headed in.
There are tough times ahead for the Lakers, so cool heads must prevail, and conscious decisions made when selecting the new man to guide them back to the top.
D’Antoni leaves the Lakers with a 67-87 record in his two seasons with the team
Widely regarded as the greatest coach in NBA history, with 11 titles to his name with MJ’s Bulls in the 90’s and Kobe’s Lakers in the 00’s, Phil Jackson’s NBA status is nothing short of legendary. Throughout his tenure as coach of two of the greatest dynasties in league history, Jackson remained an ever constant subject through both glory and despair, with his teams enjoying shining victories and humiliating defeats. His ever watchful, compassionate presence was to players as a father is to a son. Caring, nurturing and understanding whilst always ensuring lessons were being learned every day. Jackson’s success, as he claims, doesn’t stem simply from talent, but from the ability to connect with the people around him on a level unseen to the outside world. This why his nickname, The Zen Master, is synonymous with who he really is. A believer in accepting and understanding your surrounds, and not just focusing on oneself.
This is Phil’s pursuit of success and happiness, and one he’s been able to pass down to several of the NBA’s greatest ever players throughout the years.
Phil’s journey since leaving the Lakers in 2011 has been a rocky one. Dealing with his own illness, while being by his fiance Jeanie Buss’ side throughout her dear father, Dr Jerry Buss’ sickness and eventual death, and a potential new contract with the Lakers which for reasons largely unknown fell apart at the last minute. After retiring from NBA coaching, it’s hard to imagine Phil would’ve been subjected to the drama he’s seen since being swept by the eventual Champion Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Playoffs. Yet here he is. Not only a celebrity in his own right, but still a very much sought after asset for every team in the NBA. A part of Phil must relish the spotlight, and one team has created a new opportunity for him to be a part of it. The team with which he began his NBA journey. The New York Knicks.
It has been written to death for a week now, by a thousand NBA writers, that the Knicks have extended a big offer to Phil Jackson which they are hoping will help propel them into the next era of New York basketball, and provide them with a new lease on life. It’s no secret that the biggest market in the NBA has been one of the great disappointments in the league for many years, with millions of fans being let down year after year because of poor decisions and bad financial management. Now more than ever, with a new team across the river in Brooklyn, it is important for the Knicks to start becoming a regular threat in the playoffs. No one is scared of the Knickerbockers, and they haven’t been for a long time. Can Phil Jackson change that fact? It’s a long shot, but one most Knick fans would agree is a chance they are willing to take. With several bad contracts on the books, no draft picks and a disgruntled superstar’s free agency looming, things are looking grim for the immediate future of this franchise.
What Jackson will do is encourage stars to sign with the Knicks in the future. It’s a well documented fact that he’s a fan of superstars, as they are him, and as it stands, there is little the Knicks have to garner the attention of players that they want to sign. The Carmelo Anthony factor is a big one for the Knicks, and now that the trade deadline has passed, they are banking on his re-signing come free agency. Should Jackson take the job, it will go a long way in helping ensure his signature stays in Manhattan. Be it the right move or not it is what the Knicks, and their fans, desperately want.
Jackson seemingly is ready to make his move and re-enter the NBA stratosphere. After the failed attempt to get back to coaching during last season’s tumultuous events in Los Angeles, it was expected he would resign to the fact he would never coach in the NBA again, even putting a fork in it himself at one stage. The decision by the Lakers to hire former Suns/Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni angered many involved with the Lakers including fans, players and even a Buss herself. Jeanie has since explained her distaste at her brother Jim’s decision to hire D’Antoni over Phil, but speculation also continues to circle that it was indeed her late father Jerry who decided against re-hiring Jackson. It’s neither here nor there, and the truth will probably never be known. All we do know, is that Phil Jackson was ready to coach the Los Angeles Lakers last season, and was snubbed. One could argue that snub not only upset Phil (he would argue it didn’t), but also motivated him even more.
Since the Knicks first extended an offer, the stories have been running rampant about whether Phil will indeed accept the job, or fall by the wayside once again. It has been said that Jackson wants full control of basketball decisions. It’s also been written that he wants to coach too. All this along with a huge asking price. Speculation of course, but similar terms were said to be in play during negotiations with the Lakers a little over a year ago. Whatever the price, you can be sure the Knicks would be happy to entertain him until he gives them an answer. Would Phil be successful in a front office role? It’s hard to say, but he was influential in the hiring of the now fired Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks last off season, after he extended his hand to the Pistons in the decision making process. Hardly a lynchpin by which to judge his future successes or failures, but an interesting point nonetheless.
Phil’s interest in the NBA since retiring is indicative of his everlasting love of the game, and an example of how hard it can be to let go. Wise move or not, Phil Jackson wants back in the NBA, and the Knicks are providing him with that opportunity. Whether he takes it or not, is a whole other story. Can his attitude towards basketball and life in general be an asset to the struggling Knicks, or will it make no difference at all? These questions are worth pondering, and you can be sure Jackson will be doing just that, but the simple fact he is even considering it tells us all we need to know. The Zen Master is ready to make his return. Which team is lucky enough to accommodate it, remains to be seen.
As mentioned earlier, Phil Jackson’s view on life and all it holds is incredibly important to him, and in turn the decision making process. You can be sure that his eventual reconciliation will not only revolve around himself, but also his family, his friends, the players he’ll work with, colleagues and probably even the weather. Being in touch with who he is, and surrounding himself with who and what he needs to be successful is probably the most difficult aspect of any choice he eventually makes.
We’ll keep you updated with any developments.
A new Kobe Bryant commercial had emerged featuring his much anticipated Kobe 9 shoe. Ingeniously entwined with Kobe’s love for the piano, and the elegance with which he approaches his craft, is the brand new shoe which has just hit stores this week.
Kobe 9 – The grandest grand collection, of grand collections.
“We’re talking about practice. I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last but we’re talking about practice man.”
Even the most casual of NBA fans would be familiar with the quote above. Allen Iverson was a man who created headlines. In his 14 years in the NBA, the diminutive point guard certainly lived large on and off the court. His brash attitude and ‘street look’ were often the focal point of the mainstream media and despite being one of the greatest to ever play the game he suffered from such scrutiny, whether fairly or not.
Whatever off-court issues Iverson had, and he had a few, the way he played the game was mesmerizingly beautiful. As a six foot, 165 pound guard, he was always up against it, every time he stepped foot on the court, but he never backed down and his talent shone through over the years. He was honoured by the Philadelphia 76ers yesterday, with the franchise retiring his jersey to the rafters.
Iverson’s NBA career began back in 1996 when he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the number one pick. He would go on to win Rookie of the Year honours that season whilst putting up 23.5 points, 7.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game but the 76ers finished with an abysmal 22-60 record.
Iverson’s numbers in his rookie season were impressive but the team’s horrible record caused some to blame Iverson for his score first attitude. In John N. Smallwood’s book entitled Allen Iverson: Fear No One Iverson was quick to point out the lack of support from a team of role players with little ability to score.
“You saw the team we had last year, who was going to score? I’d throw a pass; somebody would miss, the next time I’d say I’d rather do it myself. That’s not the right way. You have to go to the guy again. People said I was trying to win Rookie of the Year, but I was trying to win games.”
This kind of criticism was to follow Iverson throughout his whole career. Being a shoot first point guard was a fairly new thing in the late ‘90’s, unlike today, where the league has so many scoring point guards so it was Iverson who really paved the way for guys like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose but it was also Iverson who would have to take on the critics too.
Iverson would endure a second season with a team that struggled and failed to make the playoffs and the question marks over Iverson’s ability to be a team player and guide his team to the playoffs continued.
Thankfully, the following season, the 76ers reached the post season and whilst the criticism didn’t completely disappear, it wasn’t as loud as it had been previously.
The 76ers would reach the playoffs for the next four seasons, led by the play of Iverson and along the way he would pick up a league MVP in 2001, as well as numerous All NBA first team selections, All Star appearances, including two All Star MVP awards as well as his much vaunted scoring titles.
The 2000-01 season will forever be remembered in NBA folklore as A.I’s year. He was named MVP, putting up 31.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game and took a rag tag bunch of players all the way to the NBA Finals. Iverson exploded for 48 points in the first game of the series, including an amazing crossover, step back jumper over a falling Tyronn Lue, the ensuing images of Iverson stepping over Lue’s fallen body will be forever ingrained in hoops fans minds. The Sixers took the first game of the series against a Laker team stacked with stars that were on a 19 game winning streak and were supposed to just turn up to win the title. Iverson explained via ESPN.com what drove him when interviewed after the historic victory.
“I’m glad nobody bet their life on it because they’d be dead now. Everyone says we can’t do it, and that drives us.”
The game was indicative of what Iverson was all about, an underdog who always came to fight. The fight however was one that was unwinnable. The star studded Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant would win the next four games and take out the championship.
Iverson would never again experience finals basketball. He would toil away in Philadelphia with mixed results, a few playoff appearances and a few disappointing seasons before he was traded away to the Denver Nuggets.
He would see his scoring output decline whilst playing for the Nuggets but they were to have some successes, even making the western conference finals in 2009 but once again it was the Lakers who stood in his way.
He would endure a few seasons of trades and clashed with management and coaching staff on both the Nuggets and Memphis teams before finally ending up back where it all began in Philly, but it wasn’t to last long.
The NBA career of Allen Iverson ended in 2010, he was seen as too demanding and troubled for any franchise to risk signing him and he went overseas to continue playing. His marriage fell apart and he’d spent most of his career earnings, he had reported alcohol and gambling problems and it all looked very bleak for the once mighty Iverson.
He has since retired from playing all forms of the game and it was yesterday that his jersey was retired to the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and there was an outpouring of respect and gratitude from many players, coaches and fans for what was an incredible, albeit controversial career.
Allen Iverson did it all his own way and whilst he made many mistakes along the way he will be remembered as one of the greats of the game. Perhaps he summed it up best himself after the ceremony.
“It feels good, but some part of my heart hurts because I know its over.”
His playing days are over, but they will never be forgotten.
There you have it. All-Star Weekend done and dusted for another year. It had its highs. It had its lows. And the less said about the Dunk Contest the better. So here’s what I’ve done. I’m going to give you my All-Time, All-Star 5. Forget about who has played the most games or has the most points. This is coming purely from a “who would I pay my hard earned money to see” perspective. Which players have made me jump from my seat over the years? Who has left me most entertained? Here is where you find out. I’m sure you have your favourites. Let’s see how they line up with mine.
This was a tough one. Judging by the ballot this year center’s don’t exist but we’ve seen some great bigs over the years. All-Star Games are known for their entertaining and highlight driven big men. Shaq. Dwight. Hakeem. But I’m going to come at this from a different angle and be slightly controversial. My pick at the center position is Dikembe Mutombo. Don’t hate me just yet. I have reasons for picking him. Usually watching All-Star Games I’m looking for dunks, alley-oops and ankle-breaking crossovers. Mutombo brought a defensive energy to what is usually a glorified pick up game. Whenever Dikembe goes up for a block you know it’s going to be exciting. He’s either going to get the block or become a poster. Either way the viewer wins. In 2001 I found myself absolutely transfixed by a defensive performance in an All-Star Match-Up. Mutombo was ripping down rebounds like a man possessed. Shot goes up. Dikembe gets the board. Shot goes up. Dikemebe gets the board. It was amazing. I wanted players to miss shots just to give Mount Mutombo a shot at the All-Star rebounding record. Sadly he was five short of the record and registered 22 rebounds for the game along with 3 blocked shots. On the plus side he’s made my All-Star 5.
Some amazing plays. Incredible ‘oops. Kidd to Martin is mint…
Choosing this position was brutal. So much talent. So many highlights. Barkley. Malone. Kemp. Larry Johnson. Bird. Garnett. Griffin. Nique. Duncan. The list is almost endless but I’ve made my decision. KG. Kevin Garnett. Controversial again. Many are more qualified but remember the team is based on entertainment value. When KG was with the Wolves he walked around with a chip on his shoulder. A superstar player on an underperforming team. All-Star break was KG’s time to shine and the Big Ticket always delivered. Intensity. Points. Dunks. Trash talk. His multiple connections with an afroed Kobe Bryant. MVP performances. 15 time NBA All-Star team selection. Check out his highlights below if you don’t believe me.
Another endless list of wicked highlights to choose from and another tough decision to make. Lebron gets it. I’m not the biggest Lebron fan but it’s difficult to discount the array of thunderous dunks he has thrown down during All-Star match ups. His in game dunks rival anything the Dunk Contest has thrown up in the last ten years. What makes Lebron so intriguing is that everybody has an opinion. Nobody can sit on the fence when it comes to James. It’s either all out love or masses of hate. He’s either the greatest in waiting or an overrated, overhyped flopper. Lebron thrives on his haters and always strives to prove them wrong. There is nothing he has not done on the All-Star court. ‘Bron shoots the long ball, dunks in traffic, chases down attackers and always gives the fans a show. He’s willing to put rivalries aside (Joakim Noah) or let them grow (Kobe) depending on what the situation calls for. Even his missed dunks look good (See vid above).
Now this one is a gimme. We all know it’s MJ. There is no doubt about it. He is still somebody who transcends the game of basketball and is the definition of an All-Star. Because it would be so easy to pick MJ, I’m going top pick somebody else. Two shooting guards that were pure entertainment in their prime were Tracy “T-Mac” McGrady and Vince “Air Canada” Carter. There are similarities between their careers. Each played for Toronto. Both look lazy and lethargic on the court at times but always found the energy to put on a show. Both are known for fearsome dunks. Both have been called ball hogs and selfish. But both have made names for themselves during the All-Star Weekend and All-Star games. Vince put on the best Slam Dunk Contest performance of all time. Nothing has come close to it since. T-Mac threw down the best in game dunk the All-Star Game has ever seen when he threw the ball off the backboard to himself, caught it in mid-air and still had time to pump. Vince copied T-Mac a few years later but for pure ingenuity and showmanship McGrady gets my vote.
This comes down to two ballers for me. Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Isiah Thomas. Magic was a point guard in a big man’s body. Thomas was anything but big. Magic took show time to new levels every time he walked on the court. Thomas’ vision on the court is unrivalled to this day. Both could read the game like they had written the book.
When word came out that Magic had contracted HIV it hit the league hard. Because of the contagious nature of HIV, physicality of the game of basketball and the fears of players and fans alike, Magic was forced to retire. Despite his retirement in 1991 fans voted Magic into the 1992 All-Star Game. It was the only game Magic played that season. Johnson dominated. Assists, points, flair and finished as the games MVP. There is one moment from this game that everybody remembers. Magic had the ball. 14 seconds remaining in the 4th. Johnson backs Thomas to the three-point line and hits one of the most magical shots you will ever see. With 14 seconds to go the game stopped. Nobody took another shot. Everybody gave Magic a hug or high five. At that point things became bigger than basketball. Everyone forgot about the ‘announcement’ and showed their respect to a great of the game.
Isiah could beat anyone off the dribble. He could get to the rack and throw up shots from impossible angles and still get them to drop. Thomas made the players around him better. But his passing skills were immaculate. Players wouldn’t be open but Thomas would still find a way to get them the ball. Bounce pass through a defenders legs. Over the top for an alley-oop. A bounce pass from three-quarter court. Thomas did it all.
I can’t split them. I wrote this thing so I make the rules. I’m having two point guards. Feel free to disagree with me and let me know who you would have in certain positions.
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