NB-AAU draft results – Why losers keep buying the sizzle

I waited a couple of days to write this article to give the results from the NBA’s annual draft time to sink-in.  Despite the annual bombardment of pre-draft media hype, the long-term results from this year’s 2017 NBA draft will probably be similar to other basketball drafts held over the past 10 or more years.

Why all the pessimism?  It is because that, five to ten years from now, the majority of this year’s crop of superbly-promoted athletes selected in the first round of the NBA draft will end-up on the bench of another team or out of the league (where they, hopefully, will have saved enough for their life after basketball).

Here’s an analogy.  In looking back at your own high school graduation class, how have the best thirty academic students measured-up to their hype after leaving high school?  Though a few of the top boys or girls probably went on to become successful doctors, lawyers, and such, it is likely that many of the others haven’t performed as well as you may have expected down the road.

Why?  It’s hard to predict whether these same young people will apply the needed combination of determination, hard work, and good choices as they move into adulthood.

This brings us to the annual NBA draft.  This season, a record 11 of the first 14 players selected in the first round of the 2017 draft were basically college freshmen.  Thanks to the NBA’s unique (and incredibly dumb) one-and-done rule, many NBA teams (mostly the ones with historically losing records) feel compelled to make selections based on players with a very limited body of work after only one year at the college level.

Why?  Because you don’t want to let another team select the next LeBron James or Kyrie Irving, do you?  So the worst teams from the prior season annually arrive back at the draft table and place their first round lottery chips trying to guess whether they should select an athletically gifted freshman “diaper dandy” or go with a more seasoned college or international player.

In the 2017 NBA draft on Thursday night, this year’s overall number one choice, Markelle Fultz, didn’t even start on his own high school team until his junior year.  After just one season playing for the University of Washington, Fultz apparently has morphed into the best player in the country in just three years!  Isn’t it amazing how things can change in just a few years?

Because of the lack of playing time that many of these future players will accrue in college, NBA scouts are now spending more time attending youth-level AAU games these days.  Did you know that the Amateur Athletic Union now has “National Championships” for basketball players from ages 8 through 19?  Seriously.  I had no idea that this quiet but growing parallel universe of hoops development was so deeply rooted – even for your third-grader, too!

Why?  For the money, of course!  There must be sufficient money made by coaches, trainers, and others by organizing these teams of dedicated wannabe NBA players to keep it growing.  So, who pays for it?  In some cases, the doting parents, of course.  But so do a growing number of sports shoes and equipment makers, sports-drink companies, and the even insurance companies as they try to create more brand awareness and market share by focusing promotional dollars on this segment, too.

Why?  For the money, of course!   These same AAU-bred NBA draft choices (most of this year’s top-tier players already knew each other from various AAU “national” squads) are then held-up as models to other wanna-be kids and their parents to regenerate the process.  The pitch goes, “See, THIS is what your son or daughter can achieve if he/she is willing to give-up their time (while you give up your money/vacation time, etc.) for the next “x” years by encouraging your son/daughter to improve by competing against the best players”!

Hence, this year’s NBA draft featured a record number of diaper-dandy phenoms.  And, like your high school graduation class, some of these young people will keep working hard to improve their weaknesses, listen to their coaches, and make solid choices on and off the court to have a long and prosperous NBA career.  However, based on the odds against their long-term NBA success, I think the graduating class from The University of AAU should be required to take and pass a course in personal finance so that these well-groomed hoopsters can make solid financial investments based on their first (and perhaps final) multi-million dollar contract.

 

 

 

 

NBA Draft preview – Does it pay to “tank”?

Tonight, the NBA’s annual player draft will be held in the city which boasts two of the worst teams in the league, New York City.  Home of basketball’s woeful Brooklyn Nets and putrid New York Knicks, America’s largest city shares the hopes of several other NBA cities that their teams will improve next season by making one the early picks during the first round of the draft.

In general, the worse your team’s record, the earlier you get to choose a new player in the next draft.  These teams hold hopes that one of these valuable early picks will blossom into the next LeBron James, Stephen Curry, or Tim Duncan.

Some franchises have gone all-in on the idea of “tanking” for one or more seasons to draft one of the best players in the following year’s NBA draft.  By purposefully finishing at or near the bottom of the standings in one or more seasons, they promise their ticket-paying fans that the franchise can quickly rebuild a championship-caliber (or, at the least, competitive) team by adding these so-called “can’t-miss” early draft picks.

For example, the Philadelphia 76ers, after making a deal this week with Boston, will select the first player in tonight’s draft.  Philly has acknowledged that they have employing a purposeful tanking policy for the past four years and begged their fans to remain patient while this rebuild is underway.

The Sixers have certainly delivered on their promise to lose basketball games in record numbers.  In the past four seasons, Philadelphia has finished 14th, 14th, 15th, and 14th again this season in the 15-team NBA Eastern Conference.  With those early picks in the following drafts, the 76ers have added Joel Embiid (Kansas), Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Ben Simmons (LSU), and tonight’s #1 overall choice (likely to be Markelle Fultz of the University of Washington).

The ever-loyal and boisterous Philly fans are, for now, buying into the hope/hype as season ticket sales for the coming year have spiked even before their new version of the Fantastic Four laces up their sneakers for next season.

But, does this strategy actually work?  Let’s take a look at the last four NBA champions and see how they did it:

  1. Golden State Warriors (2017 and 2015 champs) – Finished 13th in NBA West in 2011 and emerged as champions in 2015.  Though Golden State improved itself through the draft, they never picked higher than #11 during this period (Klay Thompson) while another starter (Draymond Green) was picked in the second round.  No tanks!
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers (2016 champs) – After LeBron James departed to take his talents to Miami in 2010, the Cavs finished 15th in the NBA Eastern Conference in 2011, and 13th in both 2012 and 2013.  In the 2011 draft, they truly scored big with the #1 overall pick, Kyrie Irving from Duke, and #4 overall, Tristan Thompson from Texas.  Their subsequent early picks of Dion Waiters (Syracuse) and Anthony Bennett (UNLV) were, for the most part, busts.  Overall, Cleveland may have benefited from “tanking”, at least judging by the success of their 2011 NBA draft picks.
  3. San Antonio Spurs – (2014, 2007, 2005, 2003, and 1999 champs) – OK, you could say that 1997 Spurs, who finished 13th in the NBA West, “tanked” to grab a first round legend, Tim Duncan, in the 1997 draft.  But only one bad year in the past 20 seasons shouldn’t qualify as a “tanking” strategy.
  4. Miami Heat (2013 and 2012 champions) – No tanking here.  Miami bought their two recent championships by adding established NBA stars Chris Bosh (from Toronto) and LeBron James (Cleveland) to their existing team led by 2003 draft pick, Dwayne Wade.

In summary, only time will tell if Philadelphia’s “tanking” strategy will result in success.  A more reliable winning formula seems to be having solid ownership, management, and coaching in place to draft and develop players to fit into the team’s system.  Basketball remains very much a team sport.  Having a team filled with all of the huge egos of #1 draft picks doesn’t often equate to successful team play and championships.

 

 

NBA draft – Grading 20 years of #1 draft picks

The NBA’s annual player draft will be held this Thursday in the home of the NBA’s worst team, the Brooklyn Nets.  If you’re a long-suffering Nets fan, you can still pay $72 (or more) to buy a ticket today to watch another team select what could have been YOUR first pick in the first round.  Alas, on draft day in 2013, the Nets sent their 2017 first round draft pick to the Boston Celtics as part of a deal to acquire two aging Celtics stars, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  After making it into the second round of the 2014 NBA playoffs and a first round exit in the 2015 NBA playoffs, the Brooklyn Nets have languished at the bottom of the standings for the past two seasons.

So, it’s payback time now!  The Boston Celtics will grab the Nets’ first pick, which happens to be the first overall selection, on Thursday night.

But wait!  Fans around the league learned Monday that Boston has sent the first pick in this year’s draft to Philadelphia!  Philly will now select #1, Boston at #3 and the Celtics will receive a first round pick from Philadelphia in either 2018 or 2019, depending on several factors.

For Philadelphia, it is widely reported that they will utilize this year’s first pick to select shooting guard Markelle Fultz from the University of Washington.

For Boston, the Celtics fans seem evenly split as to whether their General Manager, Danny Ainge, made a good deal with this transaction.  Will this move come back to haunt the Celtics in the years to come?

As we await the name of the coveted first pick in the 2017 NBA draft on Thursday night, just how well have those players performed in the NBA over the last 20 years?  Let’s grade them!

1997 – Tim Duncan – San Antonio.  Five championship rings later, Timmy D was definitely an A+.

1998 – Michael Olowokandi – Los Angeles Clippers – Who dat, you say? Managed 8 years in the league. 8 points and 7 rebounds/game.  “D-”

1999 – Elton Brand – Chicago Bulls – Rookie of the year.  Still in the league (6th stop).  Career 16 points and 8 rebounds/game.  Nice stats, but “B-“.

2000 – Kenyan Martin – NJ Nets – 1 All-star game.  Career 12 ppg and 7 rebounds/game.  An injury-prone “C-“.

2001 – Kwame Brown – Washington Wizards – Blame Michael Jordan for selecting him.  Somehow played 12 seasons for 7 teams.  “F”.

2002 – Yao Ming – Houston Rockets – The big man from China was dominant when he wasn’t injured.  Definitely helped his franchise.  “B+”.

2003 – LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers – Love him or not, the man has earned an “A+”.

2004 – Dwight Howard – Orlando Magic – Superman played well but then injuries and attitude may have slowed him.  “B”.

2005 – Andrew Bogut – Milwaukee Bucks – On his fourth team now.  Good when healthy, but an injury prone player.  “C”.

2006 – Andrea Bargnani – Toronto Raptors – Flashes of brilliance, but…  He’s out of the league already.  “D”.

2007 – Greg Oden – Portland Trailblazers – Wins my “Most injured #1 player” award.  He tried and tried, but never quite made it back.  “D-“.

2008 – Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls – An All-Star some years, and injured in others.  Let’s give him a “B” at this point.

2009 – Blake Griffin – Los Angeles Clippers – Rookie of the year and 5 All-Star appearances but oft-injured, too.  “B+”

2010 – John Wall – Washington Wizards – 4 All-Star appearances and his game continues to improve.  “B+”

2011 – Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers – One championship ring and 4 All-Star appearances.  “A”

2012 – Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans – 4 All-Star appearances and 2-times All NBA.  “A”.

2013 – Anthony Bennett – Cleveland Cavaliers – 4 teams later, he was quoted as having “lost his love of the game” and is now in Europe.  “F”.

2014 – Andrew Wiggins – Minnesota Timberwolves – Plays on a bad team, but averaged 23 ppg this season.  “B”.

2015 – Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves – Rookie of the year; 25 points and 12 rebounds/game last season.  “A-“.

2016 – Ben Simmons – Philadelphia 76ers – Injured prior to start of last season and has no professional career to judge.  “C”.

On a grading scale with 4 points for “A” and 0 points for “F”, my composite GPA for the past 20 seasons of #1 overall picks in the NBA is a lackluster 2.5.  That’s a “C” in my grade book.

With no consensus “game changer” #1 pick in this year’s draft, the only way to judge this Philly/Boston deal is to wait.  The probabilities are that neither team’s pick on Thursday night will produce the next Tim Duncan or LeBron James anyway.

 

 

At last! The NBA’s secret winning formula is revealed!

Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors!  On Monday night, the NBA’s version of Godzilla rose up and devoured the Cleveland Cavaliers again to win this year’s crown by a four games to one margin.  The same two teams have now faced-off for the NBA Championship for three consecutive years with Golden State now owning a 2-1 advantage.  Will these two teams meet yet again in 2018?

Predictably, the sports media is in overdrive trying to figure out how the other 29 teams in the NBA can defeat this Golden State juggernaut next season and beyond.  The whiners believe that the winners must have cheated their way to the top.  Can’t the NBA add new rules to prevent these so-called super-teams like Golden State and Cleveland from beating-up on the other teams every season?

Let’s take a closer look at how these obviously sneaky and evil Golden State Warriors moved their way to the top of the NBA.

Of the Warrior’s starting five, two players were selected in the first round (Stephen Curry – 7th overall pick in 2009 and Klay Thompson – 11th overall in 2011) while Draymond Green was drafted in the second round (35th pick overall in 2012).   The other two starters were drafted by other teams and came via free agency.  The center, Zaza Pachulia, was a second round pick in 2003 and had already played for five other NBA teams.  The final starter, Kevin Durant, was a first round pick (2nd overall selection by Seattle/OKC in 2007) and came to Golden State last year via free agency in search of a championship ring (gasp – how selfish of him!).

In summary – three draft picks by Golden State, a 14-year NBA journeyman center, and a high-profile (and high scoring) free agent signee.  That’s it.

By tragic comparison, this year’s worst team, the Brooklyn Nets, has drafted 30 players in the first and second rounds since the year 2000.  Only one player (Brook Lopez – 10th overall pick in 2008) remains on the roster.  Most of the other 29 picks?  Gone.  Like, out-of-the-league gone.

Get your pencil ready for one of the secrets!  Draft good players, develop those good players, and keep those good players.

But wait!  Who drafted these players?  Yes, the team’s ownership, general manager, and coaches all help to make those draft/hiring decisions.

From 1994 through 2011, the Golden State Warriors epitomized losing.  Only one playoff team in 17 years.

Fortunately for Warriors fans, an infusion of new ownership (Joe Lacob) bought the franchise in 2010.  Lacob, who made his fortune working with a venture capital investing firm, also learned the NBA ropes as a part-owner of the Boston Celtics from 2006-2010.  The new owner hired a new general manager, Bob Myers, in 2011 and the current head coach, Steve Kerr, was brought in to lead the team in 2014.   Kerr was a former NBA player with seven championship rings (five in Chicago and two with San Antonio) and had most recently been the general manager with the Phoenix Suns.  No NBA head coaching experience!

In summary, the Golden State Warriors now have a motivated owner with a history of business success who wants to build and maintain a winner.  He hired a general manager who drafted talented and unselfish players.  Then, a bright head coach with seven championship rings was added to help guide a talented group of players on how to play unselfishly and to win championships.

All of this was done within the current rules of the NBA’s salary constraints.

OK, these aren’t really secrets.  San Antonio has known this for twenty years (with five championships).  And Boston is learning quickly.

Pick a business – any business.  A company/organization/team with great management which empowers its employees to succeed usually rises to the top year after year.  Warren Buffett has been buying companies with those same qualities for decades.  Buffett wisely leaves the management team alone to keep doing the same thing and continue to build more profits and value.

So, sports fans.  Watch your favorite team’s ownership, the GM and coaches, and the annual player drafts very carefully.  The consistently good teams will select the type of players (skills and character) which best fit their system.  And, like a good business, they usually keep winning.  Year after year after year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s officials! Zebra season is now underway

It wasn’t the best of weekends for those crucial decision makers in sporting events.  The officials.  The refs.  The umps.  You know – those people who make all the critical decisions in your favorite ball games.  These evil people sporting the stylish striped shirts or chest protectors who ruin the game for one team and obviously help the other guys win.  From your first grader’s youth soccer game at the local YMCA through the major leagues, one or more of these officials is needed to make sure that the game is played within the rules and is, hopefully, fair for both competing teams.

It should be noted here that I officiated (for pay) junior high-level baseball games along with youth and men’s basketball games years ago.  Why would anyone do this?  Money (of course), and the deep down egotistical feeling that “I know I can do this better than…”.   These noble extra-income earners generally do a really solid job.  Officials love nothing better than to leave the game (quickly) knowing that they enforced the rules and gave both teams a professional and fair effort.

To maintain control of the game and provide a fair outcome, a good official must (a) know and enforce the rules and (b) be consistent!  For example, nothing is more maddening for players, coaches and fans than to see a baseball umpire call a pitch at the knees a strike one time and a ball the next.

This weekend featured critical calls in a college baseball game, the NBA Finals, and the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.  Let’s roll the tapes!

  1.  In Saturday’s Game 2 of the Texas A&M-Davidson NCAA college baseball series, Davidson was leading 6-2 in the 8th inning, but the the bases were loaded with Aggies when an infield pop-fly happened.  On the field (and in front of several thousand screaming Aggie fans), the umpire ruled that this was not a catch.  The result?  The momentum changed as A&M rallied and eventually bounced Davidson out of the tournament.
  2. In Friday’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals, it appeared that Golden State forward, Draymond Green, had picked-up his second technical foul of the night (earning an automatic ejection).  Then, the referees caucused and decided that the apparent first technical was actually on coach Steve Kerr.  This was one of several unfortunate moments for this officiating crew as the game became quite out of control afterwards.
  3. In Sunday’s Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, it appeared that the Nashville Predators had scored a hometown goal in the second period.  But no! The official whistled the play dead as he believed that the goalie was in control of the puck. The apparent goal was negated, and Nashville lost the game.

The howls are still coming from fans of Davidson, Cleveland, and Nashville claiming,  “The officials blew it”!   They certainly have a good point.  My questions are (1) Did the officials strive to get the call right? and (2) Were they fair and consistent in applying the rules?  In the meantime, it looks like open season on the Zebras has now begun!

 

 

 

GOAT talk? I’ve herd enough!

While in Boston this spring, my wife and I saw several people proudly sporting a New England Patriots #12 football jersey with the word “GOAT” written across the back of it where a player’s name usually appears..  My wife asked, “Who is GOAT”?   Being the polite sports-guy husband that I am, I explained that #12 is Tom Brady’s number, and many football fans are saying he is the Greatest Of All Time.  GOAT, get it?  Wink, wink!

Fast forward to the beginning of the NBA Finals and another vigorous GOAT discussion is now underway on various sports radio and television outlets.  Is LeBron James basketball’s GOAT?  Wait a minute, how can someone be the greatest player ever if that person is still playing the sport?  How is this measured – by MVP awards or championship rings or what?

For example, the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player awards will be doled-out soon after the seemingly-never-ending NBA playoffs conclude (to squeeze a few more bucks from a willing cadre of advertisers).  If those who say LeBron James is the GOAT, then why are James Harden (Houston), Russell Westbrook (OKC), and Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio) the finalists for this year’s MVP?  Where is LeBron James?

On the flip side, LeBron James has already won four NBA MVP awards during his stellar hoops career.  Not bad!  The career MVP record is shared by Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls) and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks/Los Angeles Lakers) with six each.

What about championship rings?  No one is catching Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics anytime soon as Captain Russ has “one for the toe” by amassing 11 championships over just 13 NBA seasons.  For bonus points, did you know that Bill Russell averaged 24.9 rebounds per game over his entire career?  Wow!

Here’s a line-up of players with the most MVP’s along with the number of NBA championship rings they won during their career:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 6 MVP and 6 rings

Michael Jordan – 5 MVP and 6 rings

Bill Russell – 5 MVP and 11 rings

LeBron James – 4 MVP and 3 rings

Wilt Chamberlain – 4 MVP and 2 rings

Magic Johnson – 3 MVP and 5 rings

Larry Bird – 3 MVP and 3 rings

Moses Malone – 3 MVP and 1 ring

If your list is led by championship rings, you would need to add numerous Boston Celtics players with 7, 8, or 10 during their incredible championship seasons beginning in the late 1950’s and through the 1960’s.  But you would eventually want to discuss players like Tim Duncan (2 MVP and 5 rings) and Kobe Bryant (1 MVP with 5 rings) along with Shaquille O’Neal (1 MVP with 4 championships).

Suffice it to say that LeBron James has a chance to add to both his MVP and championship ring totals for another few years.

Personally, I prefer to relish the great play during each different era and simply savor those memories.  It makes for terrific discussions when trying to compare players from different eras, doesn’t it?

As for these fruitless GOAT discussions, it’s too baaaah-d that never-ending media-driven drivel detracts from simply enjoying these players’ abilities while they are still able to participate on the big stage!

 

 

 

 

NBA Finals Game 2 – All Hail the ABA!

Watching Sunday night’s Game 2 of the 2017 NBA finals between Golden State and Cleveland, I was temporarily transported back to a time when basketball became fun for me.  With a final score of 132-113, these talented players were involved in a speedy brand of hoops filled with lightning-quick fast breaks, three-point shots raining from everywhere, blocked shots coming out of nowhere, some occasional hot-dogging and showmanship, and not very much defense.

Wait a minute! Sunday’s entertaining game looked more like the classic 1975 finals match-up of the Kentucky Colonels versus the Indiana Pacers in the now-defunct American Basketball Association.  The only thing missing last night was a red, white, and blue ABA basketball!

My still-favorite sports league was born 50 years ago in 1967 when the fledgling ABA audaciously announced its intent to become a rival of the stodgy National Basketball Association.  At the time, the NBA was thoroughly dominated by the Boston Celtics (10 championship banners in a row) and their wily cigar-smoking GM and coaching guru, Red Auerbach.  Though the Celtics’ dominance made for great times for fans of the Kelly green and white, league interest in other cities was less enthusiastic.

Timing is everything.  In the summer of 1966, the NFL had finally relented to a merger with their brash and pesky rivals in the American Football League.  With the upcoming football merger, the Super Bowl era began, and the money began to flow (just in time to rescue some AFL franchises).  Right on cue, several opportunistic promoters began to court wealthy benefactors with a pitch that probably went, “If this idea worked in football, why can’t we do this in professional basketball, too?”  With little more than a good salesman’s assurances of owners reaping huge financial payoffs down the line with an eventual merger with the NBA, the American Basketball Association was born.

One of the NBA’s all-time great centers, George Mikan, was hired by this brash group of franchise owners to become the new league’s commissioner.  Mikan is generally credited with the idea of the 3-point line and the red, white, and blue basketball.  The ABA also brought us the All-Star game’s slam dunk and  3-point shooting competitions along with team dance squads and unique promotional events designed to lure paying fans.

With nine teams and two divisions, the upstart ABA East was comprised of the Pittsburgh Pipers (champions), Minnesota Muskies, New Jersey Americans, Kentucky Colonels, and Indiana Pacers while the West featured the New Orleans Buccaneers, Dallas Chaparrals, Houston Mavericks, Denver Rockets, Anaheim Amigos, and the Oakland Oaks.  After nine years of team relocations with many teams annually teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, the ABA ended with just four franchises finally granted admission into the NBA.  In August, 1976, the Indiana Pacers, New York Nets (formerly New Jersey Americans), Denver Nuggets (changed nickname from Rockets after 7 seasons), and the San Antonio Spurs (relocated from Dallas after first six seasons) were brought into the NBA, while the majority of remaining ABA players were gobbled-up by NBA teams in a dispersal draft.

The ABA was definitely entertaining.  The league featured pinball-like high-scoring games led by soaring, slam-dunking players with cool nicknames like “Dr. J” (Julius Erving) and “The Ice Man” (George Gervin), gifted shot-blocking big men such as Artis Gilmore and Mel Daniels, virtual scoring machines in Rick Barry, Spencer Haywood, and Connie Hawkins, and bombardier-like sharpshooting guards such as “Downtown” Roger Brown and Louie Dampier.  All of these talented ABA players are now honored in the Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Fame.

PS – Hey, NBA…why don’t you bring back the red, white, and blue basketball for a fun week of “50-year ABA anniversary” tribute games during the preseason this October?!!

 

 

If LeBron James is tired, what about these guys?

After watching the Golden State Godzillas (oops, wrong story – I meant “Warriors”) run roughshod over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA finals, a correspondent for ESPN opined after the game, “LeBron James looked tired”.

Tired?  Each of these teams had a week off after feasting on a two-month smorgasbord of tasty NBA appetizers during the first three rounds of this marathon called the NBA playoffs.  Golden State quickly vanquished the Portland Potato Skins, then conquered the Utah Quesos, and savored some San Antonio Salsa to advance to the Finals table, while Cleveland inhaled the Indiana Poppers, devoured some tasty Toronto Toasted Ravioli, and downed a couple of Boston Bacon sliders before developing some heartburn after getting home for Game 3.  Hey, these teams weren’t tired last night – they were stuffed!

Let’s do a little research on whether this ESPN “LeBron James is tired” theory may have some substance.  According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, LeBron James is currently ranked #87 all-time in number of regular season NBA games played.  That is quite impressive considering that over 3,000 players have suited-up and played in the NBA over the past 50 years.  At age 32, James is ending his 14th NBA season and has already logged 1,061 games (an average of 75.8 games per season).

Michael Jordan?  He’s just ahead of LeBron at #82 on the list of NBA games played in a career covering 15 years and 1,072 games (nearly 71.5 games/year).  However, remember that MJ played three years at the University of North Carolina prior to entering the NBA, took 2 years off during his NBA career to try professional baseball, and, late in his career, un-retired a second time to conclude his NBA action with the Washington Wizards at the age of 40.

By the way, TNT’s Charles Barkley is just ahead of Michael Jordan at #80 and logged 16 NBA seasons, while his television co-host, former LSU great Shaquille O’Neal, is ranked #36 on the all-time list with 19 seasons and 1,207 games played.

Among currently active players, Dirk Nowitski of the Dallas Mavericks has risen to #7 with 19 seasons in the books and 1,394 games played thus far.

No doubt, LeBron James is quickly moving up the career list in number of games played.  But, tired?  He has a long way to go to catch the leaders:

#5.  Kevin Garnett.  KG played 21 seasons and logged 1,462 regular season games.

#4.  Karl “The Mailman” Malone – this Louisiana Tech legend tallied 19 years and 1,476 games.

#3   John Stockton – played all 19 seasons at Utah and laced-up for 1,504 regular season games.

#2  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Kareem (aka Captain SkyHook) dominated the NBA for 20 years and played in 1,560 games.

And now…winner of SwampSwami’s Golden HighTops Award for the most NBA games played in a career is…

#1  Robert Parish!  Yes, the Boston Celtics’ Hall-of-Fame center from Shreveport, Louisiana played for 21 NBA seasons and in a whopping 1,611 games.

LeBron would need to play in 539 more regular season games to get the rocking chair away from Robert Parish.  Even if LeBron should be able to play in all 82 regular season games/year, it would still take him another 6.57 seasons to catch the Celtics’ #00.

In conclusion, is Father Time starting to catch-up with LeBron James?  Sure!  It happens to all of us – even to the greatest players in the game.

Especially when LeBron was spending the night running up and down the floor trying to chase a bunch of basketball-playing roadrunners wearing blue and gold uniforms!  Beep beep! 

 

 

 

 

 

Warriors vs. Cavs Round 3 – I’ll take Godzilla!

The NBA’s faux drama is over.  The casual basketball fan can gleefully chirp that the entire 82-game regular season really didn’t matter again this year.  They can say, “I don’t know why you bothered watching the NBA all year long, because everyone KNEW that Golden State was going to play Cleveland in the NBA Finals for the third straight season (a modern-era NBA record).

Yes, but….

I really enjoyed watching the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets become relevant again.  Both teams were vastly improved this season, and they should be in the mix over the next few seasons (assuming their respective GM’s don’t become “deal junkies”, that is).

Maybe those always-tough San Antonio Spurs, led by coaching super-genius Gregg Popovich, would create the perfect game plan to bring down the Golden State juggernaut and claim the Western Division crown!  But, that dream ended once Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker went down with injuries.

As an NBA fan, yeah, this really bugs me.  Two so-called “Super” teams yucking it up during the regular season to make it look fair (wink, wink) only to magically show-up and run roughshod over the rest of the league during the playoffs?  Heck, Cleveland star LeBron James “rested” during the last week of the regular season as the gritty Boston Celtics claimed the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and sending Cleveland to the #2 seed.  Gasp!

Competitive balance?  Golden State has beaten their 3 playoff foes this year by 4-0 margins, while Cleveland did the same during their first 2 playoff series and only an improbable win by Boston in Game 3 kept the Cavs from a 12-0 “warm-up” for this annual rematch.  The Cavs played so well in Boston Garden that I half-expected the team might request permission from the NBA to move one or more of their home games to Boston for the NBA finals!

So, here we are.  Ho-hum.  Yawn.  Sure, I’ll watch the games, but I have no rooting interests.

Haven’t we seen something like this before?  Two unstoppable forces of nature that rise-up and square-off against each other for a titanic clash seemingly every year?

I know!  King Kong vs. Godzilla!  They keep swatting away those pesky airplanes (and NBA wannabe’s) almost every year – as long as the fans keep watching it, that is.

“Ladies and Gentlemen – introducing your combatants for the 2017 NBA finals!  Let’s get ready to rumblllllllle!”

That gigantic powerhouse and the true Beast of the East…here are your Cleveland Cavaliers!

And, rising-up out of the Pacific and destroying anyone who dares to get in the way…it’s the Golden State Warriors!

If I have to choose, I’ll take Godzilla (I mean, Golden State), because he has a few more weapons!