Tag Archives: michael jordan

Final Thoughts on the NBA “G.O.A.T.” Conversation

I’m really tired of the consistent talk surrounding whether Lebron or MJ is the better basketball player.

It seems like every year, for the past seven years, the only thing the sporting world can talk about during the NBA playoffs revolves around this issue.

My opinion is and always will be: Comparing players of different eras is apples to oranges. The game is completely different in 2017 than it was in 1995. We now live in an era when 5s are non-essential. In 1995, if you didn’t have a dominant 5 to run the pick-and-roll and draw defenders into the paint, forget about competing for a title.

Continue reading Final Thoughts on the NBA “G.O.A.T.” Conversation

Scottie Pippen: The Most Underrated Player of All Time

When one beauty occupies the same proximity as something deemed more beautiful, it tends to go unnoticed and unappreciated. 1Or if it does receive notice, it is primarily because it is in the same proximity as the thing deemed more beautiful. It gets recognized only because it gets included. Your run-of-the-mill attractive woman, who in most instances stands out in any crowd, will go largely unnoticed if she’s standing beside Charlize Theron.

Enter Scottie Pippen, who won six championships with the Chicago Bulls playing alongside the greatest basketball player ever according to most basketball fans and aficionados. You might have heard of Michael Jordan.

Scottie Pippen was not just a really good complementary player on great teams; he, like Jordan, was a great player whose merits can stand on there own regardless of who was in the foxhole with him. But because he happened to play with the greatest of all time, he too often gets lumped in to Jordan’s story as opposed to being valued and appreciated for his own.

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During the window of the Bulls’ title runs from 91′-98′, Pippen was arguably the best small forward in the game. More than that, he may have very well been the second most valuable player on the planet and a top 5 player in the league.

Without researching a player’s past accomplishments, it’s easy to forget the accolades they received and the accomplishments they achieved, so let me bring you up to speed.

Pippen was voted to the All-NBA first team three times.

He made the All-NBA second and third team two times each.

He was an 8-time All-Defensive first teamer and 2-time second teamer. In 1995, he led the league in steals. And still hold the record for career steals by a forward. He averaged two steals a game.

Scottie Pippen was so much more than an integral part of a highly successful team. Yes, Jordan made him a better player, but the converse is also true: Pippen made Jordan a better player. That’s why the Bulls were so great. They had two great players, of whom I wholeheartedly concede that Jordan was greater, who brought out the very best in one another.

Pippen was very good offensively( he averaged 20 PPG in four seasons), both as a scorer and a playmaker 2Until LeBron James passed him this past February, Pippen had topped the list of career assists by a forward., but what set him apart was his defense. He could guard all five positions. He perpetually harassed point guards and disrupted offenses. Check out this video highlighting Pippen’s defensive prowess.

In the 91′ NBA Finals, after their game one loss to the Lakers, Pippen was tasked to guard Magic Johnson. For the remainder of the series Magic shot only 39.6 percent from the field and averaged an uncharacteristic 4.3 turnovers in those next four games-all Bulls’ wins. And in the series-clinching game 5, this was Pippen’s line: 32pts, 13rebs, 7 assists, and five steals.

Aside from his other defensive exploits, he was also a very good shot-blocking small forward, averaging .8 per game over his career. He was a good rebounder as well, averaging 6.4 per game.

So what did Pippen do while Jordan tried his hand at baseball for a year and a half? Without the greatest player of all time, Pippen led the Bulls to 55 regular season wins, only two less than the previous championship year with Michael Jordan. The Bulls lost a hard-fought conference semifinal series to the Knicks in seven games in 1994. The Knicks went on to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Rockets in seven games. Pippen finished third in MVP voting in 94′.

For the record, Pippen was 7-4 in the playoffs without Jordan; Jordan was 1-9 without Pippen. Again, they needed each other.

In 1992, as a member of the the original Dream Team, head coach Chuck Daly said he was the second best player on the team and called him “the ultimate fill-in-the-blanks guy”.

Financially-speaking, how was he rewarded by the Bulls, specifically in the 1997-98 title run? While that was the year the Bulls paid Jordan $33 million, a yearly salary that has yet to be surpassed, even in today’s NBA, Pippen was paid the bargain-basement salary, at least in comparison to Jordan’s, of $2.75 million.

Make no mistake, Michael Jordan is not only the greatest to ever play the game, he is still the face of the NBA. He’s meant more to his sport than anyone has ever meant to any sport. He was and is deserving of everything he has and will receive.

But when talking about all-time great players, his partner in crime during those championship years, the years that made Jordan the iconic legend that he is today, was Scottie Pippen, a true legend in his own right. His retired # 33 hangs beside the retired # 23 in the rafters at the United Center-forever linked, yet hanging alone, inseparable, yet separable, each with its own shadow. There will never be another Michael Jordan, nor will there be another Scottie Pippen.

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1. Or if it does receive notice, it is primarily because it is in the same proximity as the thing deemed more beautiful. It gets recognized only because it gets included.
2. Until LeBron James passed him this past February, Pippen had topped the list of career assists by a forward.

Appreciating Kobe

Why do we always find it necessary to compare great players to one another instead of appreciating them for their greatness alone?

In his book, “The Four Loves”, C.S. Lewis said this: “The human mind is generally far more eager to praise and dispraise than to describe and define. It wants to make every distinction a distinction of value; hence those fatal critics who can never point out the differing quality of two poets without putting them in an order of preference, as if they were candidates for a prize.”

I can’t disagree with Lewis. This is precisely what we do. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Nobody peers out onto the jaw-dropping beauty of the Grand Canyon and says, “That’s pretty awesome, but it’s no Bryce Canyon.” We just appreciate it for the gloriousness that it is. We don’t feel compelled to compare or contrast it with any other canyon, but if we do, it isn’t in order to ascribe greater value to one than the other, it’s only to point out how they’re different or how they’re similar.

Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of hi-tops recently announced his retirement from basketball at season’s end. I know many of you are already mentally placing him in your preferred pecking order of great players.

But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to tell you where I think he ranks among Laker greats or all-time greats. I’m not going to give you a list. I’m tired of lists. My purpose isn’t to create social media banter for you. I’ll leave that to list-happy ESPN. Nor am I going to mention how poorly he has played this season, for one season does not whitewash a lengthy achievement-filled career or diminish greatness.

Instead, my one and only purpose is to tell you what made Kobe Bryant great. I’ll tell you why watching him play the game of basketball brought you and me great pleasure and great joy.

He is an artist. Not only was he exceptional at his craft, but he was also aesthetically pleasing. Kobe has made no bones about his being a student of one Michael Jeffrey Jordan-in every way. He even walks like Michael, talks like Michael, and carries himself like Michael.

On the court: his impeccable footwork, his body control, his creativity, his ball-handling, his majestic textbook shooting form, his fadeaway, and his insatiable will to win were all vintage Michael. If you wanna be like Mike you don’t mimic and model Paul Mokeski.

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Oops. I have a confession to make. I almost fell into doing the very thing I just railed against; I was about to compare Michael and Kobe and then realized what I was doing. Even I like to compare. But alas, I will not.

I remember when I saw Kobe play for the first time. He oozed head-turning athleticism and obvious swagger. He was only 17 years old when he played his first game; but you knew he was, for lack of a better word, special.

What struck me most about Kobe when he came on the scene was his brazen willingness to take crunch-time shots; now he didn’t always succeed; you might remember his four consecutive air balls in game 5 of the 1997 Western Conference semifinals versus the Utah Jazz. But he didn’t mind taking the heat if he failed.

Isn’t this what we love to see in all walks of life?: fearlessness. This is what we loved about Jordan, Bird, and Magic. There are great players, but beyond them are the transcendent ones who combine immense skill with a robust appetite to win by their willingness to put the burden of winning or losing on their back. Kobe was and still is one of those players, despite his diminished skills.

How can you tell a transcendent player from merely a great player? Transcendent players are the ones we compare up-and-comers to. We say things like, “Could this guy be the next Jordan or the next Shaq or the next LeBron or the next Kobe. No one ever wondered who the next Barkley or Payton would be.

Another trait of a transcendent is that they cause us to sit on the edge of our seats in anticipation of their next spectacular feat. You could love them or hate them, but you were compelled to watch them. We put everything on hold to put ourselves in position to watch them. We fit them into our schedule.

Transcendent players also win. Tiger Woods didn’t become must-see television on Sunday afternoons because of talent alone. He won. He won often. So too did Kobe. For the majority of his career, the last couple of years not withstanding, his Lakers were in the mix to win championships. Kobe won five. He was the necessary Robin to Shaq’s Batman for three of those titles, although when Shaq left for Miami, the Lakers had in many minds, become Kobe’s team. He went on to win two more rings as the indisputable top dawg.

Like Jordan, Kobe is the extremely rare blend of charisma, swagger, superior athletic ability, basketball IQ, skill, gracefulness, and work ethic.

His departure from the league at season’s end will leave a void that will never be refilled. Only time will make us forget how truly special he was. Ten years from now, even watching footage of his glory years won’t be able to replicate what they meant to us and did for us the moment they happened. His 81 point game against Toronto can be watched on film but can never be experienced again. Those emotions have already been spent.

Kobe, thank you for being a part of our lives. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for the joy we experienced watching you play the game that we, both you and I, love. It’s been a grand treasure. I appreciate you Kobe “Bean” Bryant! Next!

 

Stephen Curry: Easy Like Sunday Mornin’

I apologize for this article being the umpteenth article of late on Warrior superstar Stephen Curry, but I can’t just sit back and watch him play the game I love at a nearly unfathomable level, while making it look, forgive the cliche’, easy.

This is what the great ones do, no matter the sport they play. They make the difficult look easy. They make it look effortless. Their mechanics are efficiently flawless, void of any unnecessary motion.

He’s unquestionably the most highly skilled player in the NBA. He is its greatest shooter, ball handler, and one of its top creators.

He is not the most athletically gifted as we’ve come to define athletically gifted. He’s not nearly as powerful and explosive as Russell Westbrook. His foot speed is average(although he’s exceptionally quick). His leaping ability is below average. His build is slight. But, behold the skill.

When I heard Curry made 77 consecutive NBA three pointers in a summer shoot around, my initial thought was that the report can’t be true. I was stunned. Most basketball players, no matter the level, would have a difficult time standing under the basket and concentrating long enough to make 77 in a row.

Curry reminds me of the guy or gal we’ve all known, who after completing the same workout we did, didn’t break a sweat while we produced enough of it to fill a gallon milk jug.

As of this writing, Curry’s Warriors have won 18 in a row to begin the season(an ongoing all-time league record) and barring injury, as ridiculous as it sounds 18 games into a season, he’s already locked up his second consecutive MVP award. The Warriors aren’t just eking by teams, they are toying with them and eventually running them out of the gym. 13 of their 18 wins have been by double digits.

And Stephen Curry is the lead assassin, doing whatever he pleases whenever he pleases from wherever(on the court) he pleases. The license to shoot interim head coach Luke Walton has given him has no restrictions(not that it’ll be different when Kerr returns). He’s green-lighted the moment he steps foot into whatever arena in which he’s playing.

But unlike one of his closest(in ability) contemporaries, the previously-mentioned Russell Westbrook, no matter the degree of difficulty in his shot-taking, rare is the time that I can say he took a bad shot. He’s the guy who shows up on the playground courts that no one wants to guard. Curry makes defenders look foolish trying to keep him in front of them, but when they do, he consistently makes shots from places on the floor most players don’t typically have to defend. He’s on course for what will likely be the first of multiple 50-40-90 seasons and has a league-leading player efficiency rating(PER) of 34.73.

But make no mistake, although he is the most deadly shooter in the league, he’s so much more than a brilliant marksman. Remember, his team is on the cusp of achieving a tier in the NBA we haven’t seen since Jordan’s Bulls won 72 in the 1995-96 season.

But this feels different. It seems 70 wins are a forgone conclusion for the Warriors. They may have 30 by the end of the year-30 wins by the end of December! And Curry is the head of the snake, which includes venomous, life-killing fangs. He’s averaging nearly twice as many points as Klay Thompson, who’s second on the teaming in scoring. He runs this Globetrotteresque offense which is averaging a mind-blowing 115.8 points per game while allowing only 99.8 per game. He is Geese Ausbie. And Warrior opponents, nearly all of them to date, have resembled the Washington Generals.

Championships don’t come easy though. No team will allow Curry and the Warriors to waltz to a repeat. The Spurs will have something to say. The Thunder will have something to say. LeBron will have something to say.

But it isn’t playoff time. Heck, we’re all still digesting our Thanksgiving gluttony. Christmas is nearly four weeks away. The regular season is barely a quarter of the way through.

So enjoy the Warriors. Enjoy watching Curry making it look easy while simultaneously ripping the will out of not only his defender, but also his opponent. Enjoy watching the difficult look easy.

NBA Sportsmanship: Gone Forever?

 

I can’t pinpoint the moment it happened, in much the same way I can’t pinpoint the moment green summer leaves turn autumn brown. But happen it has. And long ago.

I’m guessing it began to loosen its grip on the NBA right around the time the tongue-wagging, trash-talking demigod we call his “His Airness” took flight in 1984.

The days of playing hard without trash-talking(and of course trash-talking means cursing and/or belittling) the opponent or an official have long been gone.

The days of raising one’s hand after fouling have long been replaced by raising one’s voice.

And the days of helping a fallen opponent off the deck have been replaced by walking away as if he hasn’t.

These things are now just a part of NBA culture, much like an MLB pitcher firing a revenge pitch at the shoulder of a batter who had the audacity to stand and gawk at his towering home run in his previous at-bat.

I suppose the increasing lack of sportsmanship in the NBA, as well as in other sports, isn’t so much indicative of the sport itself, but of our society as a whole.

Sportsmanship equals respect, so its converse is also true. Let’s face it, we live in an increasingly me-centered, me driven society-a society that defiantly screams, “I’ll do or say whatever I want, however I want, whenever I want!”

If you’ve ever stepped foot into a public school classroom, you know the discernible difference between how students talk to teachers today and how they talked to them in your day.

Respect isn’t on many’s radar. It’s been replaced, at least in the male gender, by this superseding desire to present a sense of bravado, which in reality is false bravado.

But today, unlike the days of old, when sportsmanship was the consistency and bad sportsmanship was an anomaly, a man is thought to be less of a man, or more specifically, less of a teammate, if he acts kindly toward his opponent.

The NBA, I believe more so than the NFL and MLB, is a player-driven league. Superstars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant hold much more sway than the league’s head coaches. That’s no secret.

And with this power and fame and obscene riches comes an enormous sense of entitlement. Entitlement simply means, “I deserve whatever I want and if I don’t receive it I am justified in being offended.” In other words, players, in their minds, can do no wrong.

So, will the sportsmanship of yesteryear ever return to the NBA? Is it possible for players to play their tails off without berating referees over a missed call? Is it possible for players to play their tails off without belittling their opponents?

Yes, yes, and yes. All of those things are possible. I think the NBA can return to an era where sportsmanship is more prevalent than the lack thereof. Not sure if it will, but it can.

What will it take? It may just take one player. It may just take one player who values others more than he values himself and the perceived inalienable rights of the players. It may just take one player who isn’t afraid of being ridiculed by his teammates and coaches.

I love the NBA. I love watching anyone perform at the highest level of their craft. But I have come to detest watching players not helping their opponent up simply because “that’s not the way we do things around here”. I have come to detest watching players undress officials because they didn’t get their way. I’ve come to detest this part of NBA culture.

Is there one player or one coach who is willing to say, “Enough is enough!?”

Kids Say The Darndest Things, Don’t They?

There are many things that parents want out of their children; one of those things is honesty. But sometimes being honest with your parents can be a little too much.

Just recently LeBron James passed Michael Jordan on the all-time playoff assist list, which is quite an accomplishment.

However, this accomplishment doesn’t seem to impress LeBron’s son one bit.

During Tuesday nights Cavs/Celtics game. TNT reporter Rachel Nichols reported that LeBron’s son brought up the fact that his father couldn’t beat MJ “in much of anything else”

Sure, that fact maybe true, but I doubt LeBron really wanted to hear that coming from the one person that he brought into this world.

Rachel brought up this to LeBron in a post-game interview, and LeBron responded with and said

I think we can all attest that LeBron handled that question like a champ considering that he was told something that he didn’t want to hear, especially coming from his own flesh and blood.

It’s no secret that people have raised the question: Is LeBron better than Michael? People of this generation will most likely say LeBron is the better man. Many people that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s will probably side with Michael. So, who do I believe is the better man? I’m going to be honest, I don’t think it is fair to compare the two.

Since I grew up in the late 80’s and grew up watching Michael Jordan play, I’m going to be the guy that is taking Michael’s side on this. Don’t get me wrong, I like LeBron too. I can’t deny that he isn’t a great player, but we are talking about two different players with two different styles of play.

When you watched MJ play with his reign with the Bulls, you can see that Michael played ferociousness, especially when it came to playoff time. He was constantly active on both sides of the ball with such constant expenditure of energy. His killer instinct had to be well respected, but we all can attest that he had such confidence in which could be mistaken for being cocky, and why shouldn’t he come off “cocky”? Remember that foul shot he made with his eyes closed  during a playoff game to mock Dikembe Mutombo? Cocky? Perhaps. But if you want to call that cocky, I’ll give the exception to Michael. He has earned the right to be “cocky”.

No matter what, you saw Michael try his damndest to be the guy to win the game for his team. He just had that instinct about himself that he wanted the game in his hands every single game in and game out. That’s what I liked about him. He made mistakes and every game, his teammates made mistakes and you saw him get in their faces about it. He just cared that much about winning the game. He wanted to be the greatest ever.

LeBron, on the other hand, isn’t trying to be the greatest. I believe he is trying to be the perfect player.

LeBron could possibly come off as being lazy throughout the game. I can see where people can get that idea. But I believe he is just taking a step back, and letting the game come to him. He is figuring out for the majority of the game how to win.

If he shoots at all, in his mind, it is the perfect shot. If you see him passing the ball, in his mind, it is the perfect pass. If you see him in a passing lane, in his mind, it is the perfect opportunity to create a turnover. He is simply studying the angles of the game and how to create a perfect opportunity for anything. Case and point: Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Yeah Ray Allen made that 3 wide 5 seconds left, but look at who passed it to him? LeBron. LeBron saw the pass, the perfect pass, and took full advantage of it.

It’s been a debate ever since Michael retired back in ’98 who is going to be his successor. Let’s face it, there isn’t going to be a successor to Jordan. Michael is Michael, and LeBron is LeBron. Two different styles of players they are. Michael couldn’t be his successor when he came back and played for the Wizards. Maybe when LeBron went to the Heat it looked like he was going to be the closest to Michael, but you can tell he isn’t trying to be Michael. He is just being LeBron.

 

 

 

How to Choose an NBA MVP

As the NBA nears its regular season conclusion, end-of-the-year awards rise to the forefront of conversation, especially the award for Most Valuable Player. In many ways the late-season MVP race parallels the final weeks leading up to the Oscar’s. Pundits tirelessly discuss the hottest candidates, seemingly updating their rankings daily in response to each triple double, flashy ball handling display, or box office result. Inevitably, the campaigning thunders from all corners—players state their teammates’ cases, fans shower their stars with M-V-P chants, writers choose sides, and suddenly ubiquitous G.M.s vouch for their guys. I can just imagine Daryl Morey inviting the voters to a private screening of James Harden’s highlights then sending them home with gift baskets filled with Rockets merchandise, a Fear the Beard t-shirt, and a poster of the new King James.

The importance of campaigning must not be overlooked. The media frenzy that swooned over Derrick Rose during the 2010-2011 season carried him to the award win. The hype storm raged so torrentially that respected sports analysts were openly referring to Rose as the league MVP by January. I’m not saying that Rose didn’t deserve the MVP that season; I think that he did, although it was certainly debatable. In Rose’s MVP year, and virtually every season that features a competitive MVP race, the age-old question resurfaced: what is the actual meaning of “most valuable?”

The answer: not much. It’s simply the name that the NBA chose for its “player of the year” award. Other leagues use different names for the same honor. College football has the Heisman Trophy. College Basketball has the Naismith Award. The PGA Tour simply calls its award the Player of the Year. These are just different titles for the same award.

Would the NBA writers adjust their votes if the league changed the name of the award from MVP to Most Outstanding Player or Player of the Year? Of course not. The presence of the word “valuable” garners far too much attention. It was an arbitrary choice. The NBA execs probably opted to use the word “valuable” because they thought that MVP was the coolest sounding acronym. The bottom line: do not fixate on the word “valuable.”

With that said, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what makes a player the MVP. Since there are no specific criteria outlined by the NBA, I decided to create my own. My criteria consist of questions to ponder, classic pitfalls to avoid, and how to break the tie in an extremely tight race. Let’s begin with the questions.

If the MVP candidate was replaced with a serviceable player at his position for the entire season, what would be the effect on his team’s record?

This is the most important question and the one that determines which way many voters lean. In essence, this is what an MVP is all about. In a league obsessed with winning, the player who is worth the most wins to his team should always be one of the MVP favorites, if not the eventual winner.

If two knowledgeable NBA fans are drafting teams for a giant pickup game and every player in the league is available, who would be taken first?

I borrowed this idea from Bill Simmons. Hopefully he doesn’t mind.

I feel that this question needs to be included because it prevents us from voting each year for the best team’s best player and gives hope to a great player stuck on a bad team like Kobe Bryant was with the Lakers after Shaq left. Kobe carried truly pathetic supporting casts to 45-win seasons. Unfortunately, those are not the type of performances that MVP voters typically favor, which is why Mamba was twice beaten out by a Canadian with feminine hair.

What did the MVP candidate do to distinguish himself from the rest of the league/What stood out about his season?

This can be accomplished via a gaudy stretch of triple doubles (like Russell Westbrook’s recent run), by carrying the team on a historic winning streak (à la LeBron James in 2013), or by becoming so furious about not winning last year’s championship that you mercilessly massacre the rest of the league for an entire season, ultimately winning 72 games (Michael Jordan in ’96).

Upon review, most seasons feature a standout performer. In 2006, Kobe averaged 35 points per game, scored 62 points in 32 minutes, and recorded the second highest scoring game in NBA history with 81. In 1962 Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points per game for the entire season. That same season Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double. In 1987 Michael Jordan averaged 37 points per game and in 1989 he recorded seven consecutive triple doubles en route to averaging 32-8-8. These are some of the most acclaimed and memorable seasons in league history, yet none of them were deemed MVP worthy. I repeat: not one of these seasons resulted in an MVP for these players. (*Note* In 1962 players voted for the MVP, and they selected Bill Russell. Wilt scored 50 points per game, Oscar averaged a triple double, and Bill still won MVP. That’s really one of the greatest testaments to how revered Russell was by opponents. He was the exception to this question, and since he won 11 titles, I’ll give him a pass.)

While it seems impossible that none of these standout performances earned an MVP, there is actually a pretty simple explanation for how this happened: the voters had not yet learned about my criteria for choosing an MVP. It’s a real shame. Sadly, it’s mostly the kids studying old NBA seasons who suffer. They toss and turn all night as they attempt to fathom why Michael Jordan only won five MVPs (I may or may not have done this).

Once voters have contemplated the questions, they should review the common pitfalls to be sure that they are avoiding them. One of the most important things to remember is that the MVP vote should be based solely on the player’s performance this season. These are not lifetime achievement awards.

Additionally, these are not Most Improved Player Awards. That vote is separate. Simply because a player exceeds expectations does not make him the MVP. We are so often wowed by the flashy player who is having a breakout season that we overlook the perennial MVP contenders. This is similar to the most frustrating pitfall of all—voter fatigue. The voters grow tired of selecting the same player year after year so they become tempted to choose a less qualified candidate merely because he is someone different. They must resist this urge.

Voters must also be wary of favoring an MVP candidate based on his team’s improvement. For instance, they should recognize that the Warriors have made a significant leap this season for a litany of reasons, only one of which is Steph Curry’s stellar play. Curry is certainly a viable MVP candidate; voters just need to be careful about showering him with praise because of the team’s win total this year. Many parties are responsible for the team’s progress.

Most voters would agree that this is the tightest race in years. When facing a difficult decision like voters will this season, the questions are pitfalls are not always enough.  Then the voters should look to the numbers. First, compare how many games the candidates have played. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to overlook. In a close MVP race, the candidate who played 82 games has made a greater impact than the guy who played 72. This could be the difference maker. Despite how great Russell Westbrook has played lately, he has missed 15 games this season. That will severely inhibit his chance to win MVP.

If the games played numbers are equal or negligibly different, voters should turn to the most common advanced stats such as +/-, PER, and win shares. While it’s best to determine who deserves the MVP through mostly subjectively means (after all, it’s your own personal vote; of course it’s going to be subjective), an objective look at the key stats can be a helpful way to make that final decision.

What do you think? Follow Jared on Twitter (@JaredAndrews3) or leave a comment! Make sure to like More Than a Fan on Facebook!

The Case for Patience in Sports

Patience is a virtue, or so the saying goes. It’s something to be lauded. Patience does not come easily or quickly, then again nothing worth having ever does. Once held in the highest esteem, patience is now an afterthought or not even a thought at all. In an increasingly immediate world, patience appears to be gone. Or perhaps it’s merely hiding temporarily, but we haven’t the time to look for it.

In the wake of patience’s disappearance, we abruptly move on. Our ever-changing world of “first takes” and “prisoners of the moment” does not afford us the time to reflect on what was or even ponder what will be. We focus only on what is—right now. Overreactions dwarf level-headed rational thought and foresight. Every win and loss causes media pundits to constantly convince us to adjust our opinions by the day. An NBA three-game losing streak draws questions “what’s wrong with ___?” and “is this coach on the hotseat?” while a three-week stretch of success is cause for fans to save for finals tickets.

How quickly we forget the cautionary tales that advocate patience. Michael Jordan did not win his first title until year seven. Fortunately the Bulls were wise enough to wait for him to figure things out instead of callously abandoning him for not winning it all sooner. Not everyone is so lucky. Others toss people aside before they fully develop, like the Chargers did to Drew Brees or Mason’s mom to Ethan Hawke in Boyhood. Then they must stave off self-loathing as the one that got away flourishes with someone else.

I weep for the young quarterbacks of the modern NFL draft. Well weep may be hyperbolic; they are millionaires, after all. But to deal with the immense and unfair pressure that they endure is far from an enviable situation. The teams that draft these fledgling signal callers bestow unrealistic expectations on their shoulders. These teams’ outlooks for young players have been spoiled by a select few like Russell Wilson and Tom Brady who won titles in year two. Because of a handful of outliers, the standard has changed. And now countless developing talents are crushed by the massive amount of pressure to thrive immediately.

When Carson Palmer did not take a single snap his rookie year, no one batted an eye.  And rightfully so.  Palmer has gone on to amass 224 touchdown passes, 70 wins as a starter, and has earned two trips to the Pro Bowl.  After Johnny Manziel played sparingly in year one, the football world was itching to declare him a bust.  He has thrown a whopping 35 passes in the NFL and overreactors already want to condemn his future.  Thus is the state of affairs in today’s world of sports.  Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will experience similar scrutiny and hear the same voices rush to judgment.

Editor's Note: We would have posted the entire video, but it takes too long to watch.
Editor’s Note: We would have posted the entire video, but it takes too long to watch.

Despite how beneficial the three seasons spent learning from the sidelines were to Aaron Rodgers, helping to develop his mechanics and understanding of the game, those days appear to be over. A highly-drafted rookie quarterback starting week one is no longer a pleasant surprise, but an expectation.

New coaches are treated no differently. A first year head man who takes over a dysfunctional franchise is expected to instantly reach the playoffs. Typically these new coaches are working with a young quarterback who was a recent high draft pick. The coach has no time to be patient with his player because he knows that he must win now to secure his own job. This vicious cycle has become an epidemic in the NFL and is even spreading to the NBA.

Once again, it’s the outliers’ fault. Jim Harbaugh achieved striking success his first year in the NFL, so now other coaches are held to the same standard. And of course most coaches are not gifted the same favorable situation, ruthless tenacity, or affinity for wearing khakis that made Harbaugh great right away. Inevitably, the teams give up on the coaches quickly, hire news ones, and repeat the process.

Somehow in all this madness, the Dallas Cowboys have become the voice of reason. They stuck with Jason Garrett through one gut-wrenching odyssey to 8-8 after another. Then last season the team finally ascended, finishing 12-4 and making the playoffs. None of that would have happened if the franchise had panicked, fired the coach, dumped Tony Romo and attempted to start fresh. The team understood that continuity and stability breed success. Constant change just breeds more change. Capricious turnover of coaching staffs or vital player personnel is not a recipe for winning. Just ask the Oakland Raiders, who have had eight head coaches, 16 starting QBs, and zero postseason appearances over the past 10 seasons.

Even with the litany of examples making the case for a patient approach, we continue our mad dashes to demand change. When the Big 3 in Miami began their first season together 9-8 fans and analysts questioned Coach Erik Spoelstra. They suggested that the team should move on to a new coach right then and there. Four years later the team appeared in four straight finals, winning a pair of titles.  Patience paid off.  Yet somehow when a new Big 3 that assembled in Cleveland began the season with a similarly slow start (5-7) fans and analysts once again rushed to judgment. “Kevin Love isn’t the right fit.” “David Blatt was the wrong choice.” Now three months later, the Cavs are arguably the number one title favorite.  Once again, the patient approach yielded favorable results.

I long for the gradual movement toward a more sustained process without the constant change for the sake of change. I want to see franchises commit to rebuilding by staying the course with players and a coach that they believe in.  Only an exceptional coach, very few of which exist if pro sports, can transform a team into a contender in a single season. For everyone else—it takes time.  It takes a process of putting a plan into action that will eventually come to fruition if given the proper time and support.  It takes a little patience.

Michael Jordan, Gambling, and PEDs

Just three days ago, Michael Jordan celebrated his 52nd birthday.  Normally, that would have gone by just like any other day for me, because I don’t keep track of celebrity birthdays, but I was so inundated with social media reminders, that I finally joined in with a quick quip reminding folks that for all Jordan had accomplished as an athlete, the one thing he couldn’t do was hit a curve ball.  Or fast ball.  Or pretty much any pitched ball that came his way.  This despite the fact that he is near-universally revered as the greatest player in the history of the NBA.

Continue reading Michael Jordan, Gambling, and PEDs

Sports + Saturday Night Live = Pure Gold.

For the past 40 years, Saturday Night Live has entertained millions of people all over the nation. They have many memorable sketches that can never be forgotten such as “More Cowbell” featuring Christopher Walken, Chippendales Audition featuring Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze, “Like Buttah” featuring Barbara Streissand, The Weekend Update, and you will see the political spoofs of Bill Clinton, both George Bush and George W. Bush, Al Gore, Barack Obama, and various other political figures.

With last nights celebration of Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary, you watched many of those iconic sketches that I just mentioned. Pop culture has played a huge part of Saturday Night Live sketches throughout the shows 40 years of air. It seemed no one was safe from a joke or two, The sports world was no exception.

Many professional athletes and sports icons were also a huge part of the success of Saturday Night Live. Many athletes either made cameos in sketches, and there were some that turned out to be pretty darn good hosts of the show once or as many as three times, in which Dwayne Johnson and Charles Barkley have hosted three times, and all of them were willing to come onto the show and humiliate themselves to make people laugh. And when the sports world was mixed in with Saturday Night Live, the result, was mostly, pure gold.

Here are some of the most memorable sports moments of Saturday Night Live.

 

Derek Jeter: Yankee Wives: ‘The Captain’ wasn’t afraid to show off his comedy chops back on December 1, 2001 when he hosted the show for his first and only time. He had skits on the show that were outstanding, this skit is possibly the best skit he had when he performed on the show.

https://screen.yahoo.com/yankee-wives-000000820.html

 

Michael Jordan on Bill Swerski’s Super Fans: ‘Bill Swerski’s Super Fans’ skit made many appearances throughout the shows history. Bill Swerski (George Wendt) hosted the show along with Todd O’Connor (Christ Farley), Pat Arnold (Mike Myers) and Carl Wollarski (Robert Smigel). The show took place in Chicago at a restaurant/bar. The gang loved anything and everything that had to do with the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Bulls. As you can imagine, when Michael Jordan stopped by, the sketch was one of the most memorable sports moments.

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/bill-swerskis-super-fans/n10094

 

Tim Meadows as O.J. Simpson: I the wake of the infamous O.J. Simpson trial, Saturday Night Live didn’t shy away by cracking a few jokes about such a serious issue going on at the time. O.J. Simpson, played by Tim Meadows, decides to ‘admit his guilt’ during an on-field interview with then Bills coach Marv Levy, played by Will Ferrell, which left the coach very uncomfortable.

https://screen.yahoo.com/o-j-simpson-cold-opening-000000362.html

 

“B.Y.O.B—Bring Your Own Booyah: When Ray Romano hosted the show back in March of 1999, he delivered one of the best sports skits along with Tim Meadows to parody ‘Sportscenter’. Romano played the new sports anchor of the show, Chet Harper, and Tim Meadows played the late Stuart Scott.

https://screen.yahoo.com/sports-center-ray-romano-000000679.html

 

Will Ferrell as Harry Caray: Will Ferrell played many iconic characters and impersonated many pop culture icons during his tenure on the show. One of those many impersonations that he played throughout his years with the show was his impersonation of the late Cub announcer Harry Caray.

https://screen.yahoo.com/harry-caray-space-infinite-frontier-000000505.html

 

Jay Pharoah as Stephen A. Smith: Thank God someone imitated Stephen A. Smith and how much he is infatuated with the Miami Heat during the Lebron era. This who impersonation is spot on.

https://screen.yahoo.com/weekend-stephen-smith-miami-heat-000000825.html

 

Eli Manning as host: Just soon after his first Super Bowl win, the very shy and non-spoken Eli Manning joined the list of many athletes that have hosted Saturday Night Live. Many thought that the show wasn’t going to be all that great. It turns out that the majority of the people were wrong.

 

Peyton Manning: Whoever thought that Peyton Manning could be so funny? The older brother of Eli certainly proved he has a sense of humor when he hosted the show for his first time. He certainly left that night with one of the funniest and most memorable sketches in the shows history.

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/united-way/n12129