Someone needs to explain to me the DeAndre Jordan eerily creepy re-signing by the Los Angeles Clippers. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching DeAndre 3000 just as much as the next guy, he’s a beast who runs the floor in one of the more exciting offenses to watch in the NBA. But the way the Clippers went after him, man, I thought that was an episode of NBC Dateline: To Catch a Predator.
Another NBA season has come to an end. It’s pretty much the same story every year. LeBron James takes a poorly put together team to the Finals and, more often than not, he loses. This year, it was at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, who was simply the better team.
You know, a team? It’s one of those things that has 8 or 9 solid players that contribute 100 percent of the time. One of those things LeBron James has never really had, because they focus on surrounding him with only two other “superstars”, but have been burned by the depth of other teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Warriors because that equation simply does not work. But I digress.
Once again, with his fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, King James is under scrutiny for where he stands in NBA lore. More specifically, it comes down to, yet again, Michael Jordan versus LeBron. MJ vs. LBJ. Well, I already explained my stance over a year ago. You can take a trip down memory lane with Space Jammin’ on the King if you forgot.
Defining greatness in each of the four major sports is unique. Baseball is based on stats, but stats that are measured differently in each person’s eyes. That started with Roger Maris and that pesky asterisk because people wanted longer seasons, but they didn’t want people to do so well that they broke records with those longer seasons. It hasn’t ended over 50 years later, as now stats that were accumulated during the Steroid Era are thrown by the wayside. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Unless you want to dump everyone under the steroid umbrella — even those like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jim Thome who’s names seemingly never came up — then the stats matter. Is Barry Bonds the biggest d-bag of his era? Probably, but he was also one sick player.
In hockey, well, quite honestly, I have no idea what defines greatness. Part of being my age is the fact that in the NFL, NBA and NHL, my generation witnessed the greatest era of each of those sports. Were there greater players before Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey upended the NHL? Of course, but there hadn’t been a dynamic like that until then, and there really hasn’t been one since. Maybe Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, but even Sid the Kid hasn’t come close to that kind of greatness.
The NBA? It’s all about Eras. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain — on paper — were pretty much then two greatest players to put on those legendary short shorts. But we have all heard the argument that they wouldn’t hold a candle to the big men of the 80s and 90s, like Shaquille O’Neal for example. The Dream Team Era (i.e. the era of the Showtime Lakers and the coming of the MJ Age) was the best of all time, so correspondingly they showcased the most of the greatest players to ever suit up. It doesn’t matter how many championships you won, because in the NBA, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas and Tim Duncan had made it nearly impossible for anyone to do so for the past 30 years.
In football, it’s all about the titles. Seriously, the fact that Peyton Manning is not widely and unanimously considered the best quarterback ever is the prime example of that. Who is? Tom Brady? He is a very good quarterback, but he is also the face of the biggest powerhouse of this millennium, and that certainly helps his reputation. Joe Montana? He’s not in the Top 10 of all time in any stat but passer rating. He took the helms of a team that was full off All Pros and Hall of Famers, manning an offense that had never been seen before, while throwing to a guy who had the best hands and pass running routes in the history of the game. I’m not taking anything away from either of these two, but Peyton Manning is in a league of his own, and he always has been.
King James and Peyton are the same person. They are surrounded by immense talent, but their teams are not built for success. LeBron’s teams have struggled, as I have said, from poorly put together teams. Both in Miami and Cleveland, a bulk of the money was spent on signing a Big Three combo, with little attention paid to the rest of the team. In both cities, LeBron was burned by injuries to those star sidekicks and lacked anyone else to step up. You know who the reigning NBA Finals MVP is? That’s right, the guy who started the Finals as a sixth man. You don’t have depth, you don’t have rings, it’s that simple.
Manning had the same problems. He was always surrounded by top wide receivers and tight ends, but there was very little focus on the running game or defense. When he finally had those defensive pieces in place in Denver, they got smoked in the Super Bowl. Why? They weren’t as deeply rounded as a team like the Seahawks, or teams like the Patriots who don’t have many superstars, but at least solid players everywhere around the field.
They both put up numbers that most athletes can only dream of, but at the end of the day successful role players like Robert Horry and lucky quarterbacks like Peyton’s baby brother Eli have more rings.
Look deeper into the comparison. Both started their professional careers in the midwest. Both moved on to bigger markets who had at least one championship underneath their belts. Both lost their first chance at a title with their new teams to teams that everyone viewed as inferior. And both may very well never win a title again.
Like Peyton Manning, Bron is going to eclipse the most heralded records in his respective sport’s history. If he keeps up his current pace, he’ll shatter the scoring record and also like Peyton, he will probably have the most MVP Awards in his sport’s history by the time he hangs up the ol’ basketball sneakers.
And unfortunately for King James, LeBron is always going to have to live in the shadows of, yes MJ, but even some of his contemporaries. Is Kobe Bryant better? Is Russell Westbrook set to become the best player in the NBA? If that guy can finally get back to staying healthy, he very well could.
Manning and James are both Hall of Famers. They will both be remembered for eternity for their accomplishments, both on and off the playing field/court, because for the most part, they are both pretty standup guys. But both will be haunted by the fact that they couldn’t nail down more titles. If they each had two or three more titles under their belts, this conversation would never be happening. But until they do, I’ll keep on writing away!
Yesterday, Wayniac Nation’s own Mike Dunton gave a pretty convincing argument on why you should be rooting against the Kentucky Wildcats to get to that illustrious 40-0 and win the NCAA Men’s National Championship. Well, folks, I’m hear to tell you that Dunton is stark raving mad and doesn’t know what he is talking about this time.
Let me preface this by making two things perfectly clear. I do not like Kentucky basketball. If you are new to Wayniac Nation, then you are unaware that I am a diehard Syracuse Orange fan. It is my longest sole allegiance in any sport. My disdain for Kentucky is obviously stemmed in the 1996 season. It’s also the reason why Antoine Walker is on my five most hated athletes ever list and why I never cared for Tony Delk or Ron Mercer, and especially that backstabbing Rick Pitino. Jim Boeheim gave Pitino life, and that’s how he repaid him.
I also can’t stand John Calipari. Of course, Coach Cal has become one of the lesser liked coaches, possibly in the history of the game. But my ultimate dislike does not come from the curious ways he has turned around programs like UMass and Memphis and returned Kentucky to dominance. No, my dislike on Coach Cal stems from the one turn he took in the NBA, coaching my beloved New Jersey Nets. His saving grace was that he drafted my favorite Net of all time in Kerry Kittles. He also could do very little with the team in the two and a half years while he was there, and he was supposed to be the savior coming in from UMass. So screw Coach Cal.
That being said, I am rooting for Kentucky to win it all. Why? I have been watching college basketball pretty vividly since 1986. One of the first times I was ever allowed to stay up late and watch a game (of course with a TV in my room, I use the word allowed lightly) was that stupid Keith Smart shot in the Syracuse/ Indiana debacle. I have watched religiously since then, breaking things, cursing out people, and having my stress level from my bracket busting blowing through the roof for nearly three decades. And in that time I have never seen an undefeated season. You know what, I deserve it.
The generation before mine got to see it pretty regularly. It happened twice in the 50s, and then UCLA and John Wooden pretty much forgot how to lose a game for what, 8 years? Then, in 1976 Bobby Knight and his Hoosiers went 32-0 for the last perfect season in Men’s hoops. People also forget that that season, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights entered the Final Four undefeated, which made for a pretty intense March Madness.
My generation? We got the Wichita State Shockers. Exciting Cinderella story, yes. Did anyone think they legitimately had a chance to win it all and go undefeated having to go through Louisville, Michigan, or Syracuse? Unless you went to or were currently attending Wichita State, that answer is a resounding NO.
We live in an era in where the one-and-done rule reigns supreme. I agree with Dunton on the points he made in regards to the rule and its effects on the game, and I also agree that Coach Cal is perhaps the master at figuring out how to win with a bunch of Freshman. Because of the one-and-done rule, we may never have a shot at seeing an undefeated team again. So I repeat, I deserve this.
Should the one-and-done rule change, the only way it would go would be to revert back to the original rule, allowing potential NBA draftees to skip college altogether. There is no way that the NCAA or NBA would ever be able to reach an agreement to make it longer. Should the rule change and go back to allowing high school kids to enter the NBA Draft, our chances at an undefeated season grow even slimmer. In today’s society of YouTube and social media, teams are scouting kids in middle school. LeBron James 10-year old son is basically being harassed by colleges across the nation. Bron doesn’t even know what a college is.
I don’t need to rattle you off stats. If you are filling out a bracket and don’t know who to take because you didn’t pay much attention to this year’s college basketball season, all you need to know is that Kentucky has arguably the best two teams in the nation. You also need to know that Kentucky is so good that Coach Cal doesn’t even need to… recruit kids in a curious manner.
“Hey kid,” Coach Cal could say, “Why don’t you come to Kentucky. We are a legendary program. All I need you for is 40 games. I’ll win you a championship and then you’ll get to go make millions in the NBA by the time you’re 19. If you want to stick around for a second year, I will allow it, but I must insist that by the time you turn 20 that you are an NBA Lottery pick and agree to a million dollar contract.”
Tough sell, huh? It’s not about exposure with Kentucky. They have been a legendary program for an eternity. Ever hear of Adolph Rupp? Kenny Sky Walker? Ashley Judd? Kentucky doesn’t just put out top NBA draft picks, they sustain success in the NBA. Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins, and John Wall are amongst the current NBA elite and Anthony Davis may be challenging as the best big in the game.
If you are going to take the I hate Coach Cal approach, that’s fine, but find me a top program who isn’t under the microscope for questionable recruiting practices these days. North Carolina had a rigorous college academic program they seemed to put their basketball players through in order to keep them academically eligible (and Roy Williams suffered no penalty). Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim is dealing with it now (although I hope they lessen the blow during the appeal process because it seemed like an all out attack on him and not Syracuse). Like I wrote months ago about Tom Brady and Bill Belichik, everybody tries to gain an edge. Call it cheating, call it immoral, but it’s competitive nature and the more high-profiled a system is, the more aware the public is.
An undefeated season becomes even harder because of the opposite effect from the one-and-done rule. What Gonzaga started over a decade ago, has been continued by coaches like Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens and continues with teams like Wichita State today.
These teams build programs of solid basketball players that won’t dash after one year. They learn team basketball and are mostly in it for the long haul. While the Zags, Butlers, JMUs and George Masons haven’t won a title yet, they show what the advantage of a cohesive team of experience with each other can do. And on the march to the Final Fours, they often take out bigger programs. Call them Cinderella stories, call them underdogs, I call them prepared.
Some people will say college basketball has been down, but I disagree. It is “down” because the playing field is leveling out across the nation. Why do you think a No. 12 seed can seemingly always beat a No. 5 seed? It’s because the same ten schools that dominated college basketball are losing players to “smaller” programs that have shown they can win and hang with the big boys. Why go and be the number four guy in Duke when you can be the head honcho of the feel good story of the tournament? There’s your exposure.
This isn’t about the one-and-done, this isn’t about Coach Cal. This is how it’s always been at Kentucky. And once Coach Cal is gone, it’s going to be how it remains. If college basketball has proven one thing it’s that the elite programs don’t simply disappear. So put you’re hatred aside and realize that we deserve to see an undefeated season.
Dunton returns for a little pre-Madness rant. He doesn’t want Kentucky to win, unlike yours truly. Today, Wayniac Nation presents to you Dunton’s views on why Kentucky needs to lose. Hold on to your seats, Nation fans, you can bet your March Madness loving’ butts my counterpoint will be coming!
I haven’t hid the fact at all that, since I started Wayniac Nation a little over a year ago, I am not what you would call an active NBA writer. I am usually good for two or three posts a year on the professional basketball circuit, one around All Star Break and a couple heading down the 20-week road that is also called the NBA Playoffs. Why break tradition now?
I also haven’t hid the fact that when it comes to fandom, I have no problem admitting that I am a bandwagon San Antonio Spurs fan. When my beloved New Jersey Nets split for Brooklyn, they hardly had any semblance of the team I grew up watching, often winning 20 games a year. So, I ditched them and jumped on the Spurs bandwagon, not because they win, but because they play basketball the right way. Almost as if to prove me right, after I wrote about how great a dynasty they were last season (you can read it here if you missed it), they went and took down Queen James and won another Championship.
I used to think that the greatest coach in the history of the NBA was a three horse race between Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. Enter 2015 and I no longer think it’s a race: Pops is the tops. It doesn’t have to do with the fact that he dethroned the King en route to yet another championship, and it doesn’t have to do with the fact that he recently won his 1,000 win (which he incidentally has the second highest winning percentage of anyone with 1,000 wins and the guy ahead of him had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal on his rosters). No, it has to do with Coach Bud.
Well, folks, baseball season is over. The end of the World Series will now bring endless amounts of rumors as to where each big free agent is going to go. College football had some big games and the playoff picture may have gotten a little bit clearer. That’s still weird to hear, huh? Playoff picture and college football in the same sentence? Russell Westbrook proved to be one of the most fragile “superstars” in the NBA and the Dallas Cowboys dropped their second straight loss. Pretty eventful week, huh?
Well, folks, after a the NFL brought a whirlwind of chaos last week, things simmered down a bit this week leaving it a bit less wacky than we like here at Wayniac Nation. Simply because criminal activity has simmered down doesn’t mean there is any less to report on the week of sports that was. While some teams have locked up their divisions down the MLB’s final stretch the Wild Card race, especially in the AL, is still wide open. The US of A locked down a World Cup title, however it wasn’t done with their feet. And, as usual, Roger Goodell stayed prevalent for doing and saying all of the wrong things.
What a weekend, folks. The NFL’s kick off to its 2014 season was chock full of surprises, comebacks, upsets and fantasy football let downs. The Wild Card standings in the MLB shifted once again as the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates are making their push. College football had an overall soft week as less than a handful of significant games were played. And it was all overshadowed by Ray Rice and the complete ineptitude of Roger Goodell.
One more meaningless week of preseason football, and the NFL is back, folks! This week was a tease as many of the starters went well into the third quarters of their games. Elsewhere around the world of sports a 13-year old makes the Sports Illustrated cover, buckets of ice continue to douse our star athletes and baseball’s pennant races are prepping for an exciting home stretch. Sit back and get comfy, as Wayniac Nation takes you around the week of sports.
Do you know what 440 is, sports fans? It is roughly the amount of hours left until the Green Packers and defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks kick off the NFL season. I almost did the calculations in minutes because that’s just how boring this week in sports was. But, as always, we here at Wayniac Nation always find the lighter side in sports to bring you all that you need to know about the week that was.