Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Drive for 5(th)

This isn't just Spurs and Heat. 

This is a battle for legacy supreme.

Duncan vs. Lebron

The Big Fundamental vs. The King

In my humble opinion (and it should be yours too). Whoever leads their team to the championship, will be the 5th best player to ever play the game of Basketball.

Ranking the all-time greats is an art. An art of nit-picking. The difference between the greatest players to ever play the game is a very fine line. Halle Berry or Beyonce? Is there a wrong choice? Naturally Beautiful, not one distinguishable blemish. Would you complain if you were stuck with the other? I personally would go with Halle, because all the dancing that Beyonce does, her feet has gots to be jacked. You see how trivial that is?!!!

No dif from picking the greats. I rank the players with one simple criteria. Which player could lead me to the most championships if I built my team around them. Anytime, any place, any era. Currently I have them ranked like this:

11. Lebron James
10. Kobe Bryant
9. Shaquille O' Neal
8. Tim Duncan
7. Hakeem Olajuwon
6. Larry Bird
5. Wilt Chamberlain
4. Bill Russell
3. Magic Johnson
2. Kareem Abdul Jabbar
1. Seriously you know who's number 1

However if James wins his 3rd in a row or Duncan his fifth. They have to move up right? I think the winner instantly becomes the 5th greatest player of all time. 

1st lets look at Duncan

After winning his 4th Championship. The Spurs took their normal place in the decline of a championship team being ravaged by Father Time. Being competitive in the regular season, but not having enough gas to get it done in the playoffs. However, the difference between this Spurs team and others great teams is that they didn't have Head Coach Greg Popovich running the show. Realizing that Duncan, Ginobli and Parker could no longer give 35 plus minutes on a nightly basis and compete for a championship. Pop, rebuilt his team while still keeping his core players. He got younger and deeper. So yes, he sacrificed a year or 2 of growing pains to rebuild a championship roster. Consider this, at the end of Shaq/Kobe's dynasty run. When they rebuilt they, actually got older. Adding an over the hill Karl Malone and Gary Payton.  Which led to a loss in the finals and a complete overhaul of the Lakers.  Now, Tim Duncan in his 16th year,  is playing in his 1st back to back championship, cuz he's only required to play 25-30 minutes a game while rarely playing 4 games in 5 nights, which happens frequently in the NBA, thus saving his legs for the playoffs. To be sure, he's not the same player he once was. The Tim Duncan in his prime would score 30 points a game if you single coveraged him. However this version gives you a solid 17-18 points and almost double digit rebounds. At this stage of his game that's highly impressive. If Duncan wins this, it'll be 5 Championships and 6 final appearances. With the most impressive thing being, he was both THE MAN, on a team that won a championship in the 90's and now winning one 15 years later. No one else in the history of the NBA can make that claim.

Now let's look at James 

In all of my years of watching basketball, I've never seen anyone play the game at a higher level than King James except for Jordan. James has gone on record saying that he wants to be the best to ever do it, so he has set the bar for himself in which we should judge him. Much like Tiger Woods set the bar, saying that he wants to break Jack Nicklaus record for major titles. Injuries and being a fuck-aholic has derailed his quest. A lot of people that's seen Tiger play say, no one has ever done it better, but then we're reminded, he has less titles than Nicklaus, so how can he better, if he himself has said he should be judged on how many majors he's won. Right now James has 1/3 of the titles that MJ has. The reason why James isn't higher on my list is that when he loses, he loses badly. When his Heat lost to the Mavs, he was the only player on both teams that didn't play as well as he normally plays. His confidence was shot. When he was with the Cavs his last year, it looked like he quit against the Celtics, now if one of my teammates was giving my mom the ol' 1-2, who knows how I would respond... But still. (Allegedly, teammate Delonte West was boning James mom, for those that don't know). Last year, The Spurs were daring James to beat them from the perimeter and you could see him melting down again. Then a light went off in the 4th quarter of Game,where he was about to become Peyton Manning, Barry Bonds, Sydney Crosby a once in a lifetime talent who is always questioned as to why they didnt win more. He helped will an amazing comeback, along with some very fortuitous bounces(missed free throws by the Spurs) and arguably the greatest shot ever made by Ray Allen. Legacy Saved. In a nutshell I haven't seen many players have a ceiling as high  as James but I also haven't seen a Superstar who's basement was so low, on the game's biggest stage (sans 1984 Tragic Johnson, which no one can convince me that Magic didn't throw that series). I'm not willing to forget those losses yet, but I'm close. If James wins, he's got 3 championship in a row. With 5 finals appearances, where he was unquestionably the best player in the League. I always thought that James was a better version of Scottie Pippen. Point Forward who could score, pass and defend but his inability to close is what led to his detractors. If you think about how athletic Pippen was and then you realize how James is a more athletic Pippen, it's almost mind-blowing. Even if James doesn't win this year. It's only a matter of time before he climbs the charts. 

However James and the Heat are attempting to do something that no one has done in the modern era. Lead his team to 3 straight Championships on a 4th year run. Think about that. Magic's team won 2 in a row and on their 4th championship run they got swept by the Pistons. Bird's team went to 4 chips winning 2, but losing the last one. MJ and the Bulls won 3 in a row twice, but loss both times on the 4th try when MJ retired (it should be noted that the Bulls lost their 1st 4th title run on an awful call by Hue Hollins against Pip, but I digress). Shaq and Kobe got spanked by the Spurs on their 4th title run. Kobe and Gasol went to 3 straight before getting swept by the Mavs on their 4th championship run. Ditto for Isaiah Thomas led Pistons. Something just seems to happen. Mileage, injuries, complacency! The Heat has taken pre-cautionary measures by saving Dwayne Wade ala the Spurs, to make sure they get maximum efficiency, but somehow I don't think it's enough. I feel that the Spurs are a little bit better than last year and a little bit better is all that's needed. I feel uneasy about betting against Lebron, but I'm taking the Spurs and history in 6