Posts Tagged ‘Larry Bird’

He probably didn’t even say it. He wouldn’t dare. Would he?

This is not even a conversation. The fact that all this time is being wasted on a fruitless endeavor is sort o pissing me off. Basketball fans: it should piss you off, too. I don’t care if you’re the biggest Kobe fan in the world. Your only excuse to be on board with any of this is if you are under the age of…no, there is no excuse.

The beautiful thing about Kobe Bryant opening up his big mouth to say that 2012’s USA Basketball team could beat the original Dream Team is that there is actually no way to prove him right or wrong. It’s all speculation and competitive banter, but the part I don’t like is the disregard for the sanctity of the Dream Team. Up until this point, everyone has had the common courtesy and decency to concede to the Dream Team as the undisputed greatest basketball, no greatest period, team ever assembled.

As the anointed leader of the current Dream Teamers, this is another case of Kobe being Kobe.  I like that he’s reverting back to his former, 18 year old self-talking shit, allowing his ego to get the best of him, claiming supremacy in an area that no one can actually discredit him. He’s really just stirring up shit. What are his motives though?

Ed. Note – Oh you bet your ass Kobe is kicking it old school:
[youtube http://youtu.be/4uG8ubgvSSQ]

Uniquely American in every regard, only here in the States would you have a younger generation team showing up such a national treasure. Around the world, respect for one’s elders is considered a given, but not here. This is our sport. Basketball is ours, but show some respect. In the timeless and elegant words of  Westside Connection: bow down.

My initial reaction to Kobe’s proclamation was that of disgust mixed with a bit of shock. He said what? And LeBron backed him up, saying what about athleticism? Ate these jokesters for real? Maybe they thought the question was, “Can you beat the original Dream Team now, as in not them in their prime back in ’92 but now as middle aged men?” I think the ’92 squad would still give them a run…

Then I dug a little deeper, and I wanted to know more about not what Kobe said, but rather, why he would say it. Many of today’s top NBA talent doesn’t even make up their roster. The Dream Team consisted of the greatest players to ever play the game. Ever. Forever. For-ever-ever. For-ever-ever! Kobe needs to play the role of motivator, and that’s cool. But come on. Ignite the competitive fire at practice the way MJ would. Don’t make ridiculous claims like this. Lead by example on the court.

Th problem with this debate is that the rest of the world has caught up to us on the basketball stage, proven by our Athenian Bronze medal in 2004. When the 2012 squad blows teams out by an average of 40+ points, then a real debate can begin. Granted, they whooped the Dominican Republic last night by 50+, but their star is a 16 year old who’ll be a sophomore next year…in high school. So, they’re on pace after one game. We’ll see. Records are made to be broken, but legacies last a lifetime.

WWMJS? What would Michael Jordan say? He’s the most competitive person ever to walk the earth and soar its skies, so I’m sure he’s got something to say. The only competition the Dream Team faced was that of its own scrimmages, so it’s sort of fitting that its only competition twenty years later remains kept in the American family. By the way, Jordan just laughed off Kobe’s comments. Sounds about right. It is a laughable argument.

Bottom line: the Dream Team is and always will be superior. They’re the only team in the Hall of Fame for a reason.

If you somehow insanely disagree, chew on this:

Tyson Chandler looks to be the starting center. The Dream Team had Patrick Ewing and David Robinson, for crying out loud. Jordan is better than Kobe. Magic is better than LeBron. Scottie is better than LeBron. Stockton is better than Chris Paul. Barkley is better than any power forward on 2012’s team. Same goes for Karl Malone. And Bird is better than Durant and Carmelo Anthony, although Bird wasn’t Bird when sandman entered and The Dream Team dominated. I’d also like to point out the number of championships won, collectively, by both teams. OG Dream Team: Jordan’s 6, Scottie’s 6, Magic’s 5, Bird’s 3, The Admiral’s 2. That’s 22.

2012: Kobe’s 5, Chandler’s 1 from last year, and LeBron’s current 1. That’s a paltry total of 7, just 1 more than Jordan alone. NCAA Championships? Anthony’s got the only one for 2012. Jordan, Magic, Ewing, and Laettner (twice) all won it at the college level. But these accomplishments mean nothing to Kobe. He just thinks that if they played for 48 minutes, that his squad could win. Forget about the accomplishments, but they’re impossible to ignore.

Future Hall of Famers? Dream Team has 11 enshrined in The Hall. ’12 has future inductees in Kobe, LeBron, probably Durant and Paul when it’s all said and done. ‘Melo? No. Chandler? LOLz. 4 future HOFers by my count. Sorry Kobe, but you sound like Skip Bayless on this one. You’re just spouting bullshit to start a conversation. Well, there’s no conversation to be had here. This is a closed case, Mamba. But I’ll be more than happy when they get the technology ready for all 24 of you knuckleheads to hit the hardwood as holograms to settle the (non)debate once and for all. Then all sports conversations cease to exist, something I don’t totally welcome. Having opinions, disagreeing, proving yourself with memorized statistics and facts; these are a few of my favorite sports things. So let’s hear what you’ve got to say about USA Basketball, because we’ve regained supremacy. And that makes me happy as a fan of basketball and the Olympics. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Something I’ve wondered since I was like 10 years old though: why wasn’t Shaq on the squad instead of Christian Laettner? I mean, I’m sure his historic college career as arguably the best college baller ever (and Coach K) had something to do with it, but can you retrospectively imagine that now? A team filled to the brim with 12 Hall of Famers instead of only 11…

ALL THE KIDS WITH THEIR PUMPED UP KICKS

While watching the championship game between Kentucky and Kansas the other night, I had several revelations. Kentucky was sporting 4 or 5 future Lottery Picks. Kansas probably 1. Kentucky won the game before halftime started. Bill Self is annoying. Coach Cal knows what he’s doing, and he’s doing it well.

Another revelation: with all four teams in the Final Four being from our neck of the woods, the Midwest truly is the place to be for basketball. All four teams in this year’s Final Four were from the Midwest. I know I probably won’t get much push back from most folks reading this, considering our location and our love for our hometown, not to mention the Midwest as a whole. Seriously though, Louisville, Ohio State, Kansas, and the net-cutting, champion Kentucky Wildcats and South Side Perspectives product Anthony Davis represented the Mighty Midwest to the fullest. Coach Cal finally got his title, and he’s catapulted dozens of one and dones to NBA stardom. Good for him. Good for his kids.  
 
When it comes to the Midwest basketball-wise, Indiana alone is sort of a roundball Mecca for Youth hoopers. New York’s Rucker Park for street ball yes, but the state of Indiana for true hoop dreams. The Hick From French Lick says enough for the Hoosier State. Larry Bird may have become Larry Legend in Boston, but his roots are firmly planted in the Midwest. Michigan is not short on talent either starring Magic Johnson, George Gervin, Chet Walker, The Fab Five, Michigan State, The Bad Boys, and Dave Debusschere. Chicago has also produced some of the best basketball talent the world has ever known. Starting with reigning MVP Derrick Rose (HE’S FROM CHICAGO, in best Stacey King voice), the list grows and grows with the likes of George Mikan, Isiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Maurice Cheeks, Michael Finley, Jerry Sloan, Doc Rivers, and Mark Aguirre all hailing from Chicago(land area). The Bulls’ ridiculous run in the ’90s solidified Chicago as one of the greatest basketball cities, and we’ve become synonymous with the game’s greatest player ever, one Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

So what does mean more in the great debate over what is the best sports town? Is it how many legends hail from the area or does it depend on professional success? Seriously, I’m asking you. We take a certain sense of pride in our pros in every sport who hail from here, but we certainly don’t root for them when they face off against our teams. If our seasons are over and we have nothing left but local products to cheer on, we’ll take it. But seriously, Midwest is Best.

Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan. What other region of the country can boast that type of pedigree? 
KIDS IN THE HALL
As Chicagoans, we’ll always have our rivalry with New York. If they had the opportunity to burn down the city and start over the way we did, maybe they’d have installed alleys in every borough to store their fucking garbage instead of piling it up on the streets for all to enjoy. We suffer from the Second City Syndrome, but why? We think our food is better than theirs. We have two baseball teams just like them, albeit 25 championships less. Our neighborhoods are cool. Our art scene is emerging. We love our Bulls. We hate the Knicks. This is one of the few things we shared with Reggie Miller over the course of his career. Now he’s a Hall of Famer representing the Midwest on the professional level. Love him or hate him, he’s arguably one of the best three point shooters to ever hit the hardwood. That 30 for 30 on him is classic as hell. I’m surprised Spike Lee hasn’t hit the Twitterverse to express his opinion on Reggie’s upcoming induction. He obviously thinks it’s fine and dandy to do so to advertise what he thought was George Zimmerman’s address. Twitter, Facebook, all the social networking sites are for just that, networking and being social. Not to call a fucking lynch mob to some 70something couple’s house by mistake. A Chicagoan would never to that (through Twitter, that is). We’re gangsters here in The Chi. We handle our biz the old fashioned way. Seriously though, how did that old couple not go completely ape shit over the ordeal Mr. Lee caused them? Who does he think he is?! Besides being a sub-par film director, what has he really done other than provoke visiting superstars while patrolling courtside of Madison Square Garden? 
And who do we Midwesterners think we are? Well, politely of course, I think we’re the best pool of basketball talent in the country. Alright, New York. We’re ready to hear your argument…

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about baseball games these last couple of months. It’s only natural. Baseball is my favorite sport after all. I don’t feel like I’m doing anyone a disservice by writing solely about baseball, but a little variety now and then can’t hurt.

Basketball is not my game. I tried playing it when I was a kid and found that my two main skills, free throw shooting and fouling other players, weren’t a recipe for a star hoopster. Subsequently, I only enjoyed it when winning or losing didn’t matter to anyone involved. I loved playing 21 and horse during PE in both elementary and high school and to this day still love the idea of just shooting a ball around, not that I ever do. At the end of the day basketball is just a fun game that I can’t take seriously. At least I can’t take it seriously enough to watch others play.

That’s why I love NBA Jam.

It’s a basketball game that doesn’t take the sport seriously. While winning and losing may be a personal matter within the game, there’s no season riding on it. There are no teammates to ridicule or be ridiculed in the locker room after a blowout loss. There isn’t a shred of remorse or hurt feelings when a game is over. Just another couple of coins dumped into the slot. There have been several games released with the NBA Jam name, and many more similar games of varying quality under different titles. All hipster douchebaggary aside, the original arcade cabinet is still the best version available if you can find a place that has one. It had balanced teams and it just sounds and feels right. Plus it had Shaq and Barkley so there.

When you play NBA Jam on the original arcade cabinet, you are playing a caricature of one of the most exciting and storied times in basketball history. It was a time when old greats faced off against young new stars, new dynasties were being formed as old standbys crumbled, the NBA was taking chances by drafting new talent from Europe and for the first time sent its top stars up against the increasingly tough talent in the Olympic games. That’s not even mentioning that Micheal Jordan had just forced his name into the world’s collective consciousness, whether they liked it or not, by winning his third consecutive championship ring and five MVP awards in the process. (Two regular season, three finals.)

So why is NBA Jam still such a popular game? How has it endeared itself to so many fans? What’s the magic? What’s the trick? The gimmick? What’s the secret?

For one, it’s fast. The 3 minute quarters blink past without a care. It’s really a testament to how great a game is when people don’t even realize they are being duped into dumping extra coins in a game due to a fast counting clock. Then there’s the gameplay. Through all the shoving, turbo passes, flaming dunks, and shattered glass you don’t even realize how much time really goes by or how many games you’ve played. You put in your first quarter, you play, you look up and your pockets no longer jingle and its been three hours. What the hell?

Another reason people like NBA Jam is the flamboyantly comical art style and presentation. Between the static player photographs put on what seems to be a single body that is repeatedly pallet swapped and re-sized, and commentary provided by Tim Kitzrow it’s hard not to smile while you watch and listen to the game. Everything is so over the top that there’s no room for rational basketball rules. I mean, how do you call a foul in a game where you can set the net on fire with a dunk? How could you allow the game to stop just because the ball goes out of bounds when any given player jumps higher than the rim? You just can’t. It’s an arcade sports game at its core and NBA Jam does it so right, there’s no way to really improve it. Even the newest version on the Wii, PSN, and Xbox Live is just the same game with updated rosters and visuals.

There is, however, an underlying theory as to why people love NBA Jam. One that is buried within the confines of sports history and the evaluation of what was happening in basketball between 1991 and 1993. The 1980’s were a period of rising popularity for professional basketball. Starting in 1979 when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entered the league, star player after star player emerged culminating in a virtual renaissance in the NBA. The 80’s saw the retirement of some of the game’s most storied players including Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Julius Irving, and Walt Frazier. But while these greats were taking a seat players like James Worthy, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullen, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, and Micheal Jordan were easily making names for themselves in a sport that was fast becoming a contender for the worlds most popular sport. Basketball was clearly evolving and it would take a loss on the world’s stage for America to understand just how far the sport had come.

In 1988 the US men’s basketball team finished third in the Olympics. Third. They lost to Russia and Yugoslavia. What was happening? All the time the US was sending college kids to play in the Olympics in basketball the rest of the world was sending its best players to compete and they were getting better every year. The best players from the United States were in the NBA and weren’t allowed to play in the games due to their professional status. In effect, that gave the US a huge disadvantage. Sure nine of the players on the Russian and Yugoslavian teams that beat the American team ended up playing for the NBA at some point and with varying success, you may remember Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, and Drazen Petrovic, but that was no excuse. So in 1989 when the worlds governing body over international basketball, the FIBA, decided it was cool to allow professional players to compete the stage was set for something crazy to happen.

The 1992 US men’s basketball team featured eleven NBA players and one guy from Duke (pfft they couldn’t get one more?). Not only did they tear up the world qualifying tournaments, beating the six teams they played by an average of 52 points, but they flew through the Olympics with ease. They averaged 117 points per game and beat the opposition by an average of 44 points per game to win the gold medal that year. It was a great moment in sports history and The Dream Team is one of only eight complete teams to be elected to the basketball hall of fame. Combine that with basketball’s general rising popularity and you have a country ready to eat up anything basketball related. NBA Jam couldn’t possibly fail in at atmosphere like that.

NBA Jam represents a time in sports history where everything was on an upswing and a time in video game history when new avenues of game development were being explored. These two elements combined to bring about a classic game that painted a bombastic and flashy picture of American culture. One that I dearly miss and has yet to be matched.

Stay tuned for part two, The ghosts of Reggie Lewis and Drazen Petrovic.

Boomshakalaka.