NBA

LeBron or MJ best of all time, or are they forgetting someone else?

LeBron or MJ best of all time, or are they forgetting someone else?

ESPN released a list of the NBA’s 74 greatest players and, of course, the big argument is at the top, where Michael Jordan is ranked No. 1 and LeBron James is No. 2.

I will say first, I would rank Jordan ahead of James but I wonder if ESPN would have, too, if it didn’t happen to be airing Jordan’s “Last Dance” documentary right now.

I’m not even totally sold on either of them being No. 1.

There is a real lack of understanding about how important talented centers were in the history of the game. For decades, if you didn’t have a great center, it was almost impossible to win a championship.

I watched teams take the floor against squads led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain and it was a hopeless situation. You could not stop them. There was nothing you could do.

Chamberlain was an athlete unlike anyone playing today -- a 7-2 LeBron James. When I hear people talk about Shaquille O'Neal being the best combination of speed and power in the game, I just laugh. Wilt would have dominated him. He was an all-around athlete (high jumper, 440 runner and world-class volleyball player) the likes of which few NBA players have ever been. And for all the points he scored, he once led the league in assists.

And even though Bill Russell won all those championships, he wasn’t the player Wilt was. I believe most people who rank him higher than Chamberlain did not see them play. Russell was a defensive genius and a leader, but did not have Wilt’s offensive skill. It wasn’t even close.

But Russell played for the Celtics, a great franchise with a great coach, surrounded by Hall of Fame teammates. That matters.

Abdul-Jabbar caused the colleges to outlaw the dunk just so they had a chance against him. But they couldn’t ban his skyhook, so there was still little chance of stopping him.

The problems with ranking the all-time best players in the history of any sport are many, And that’s why it can be so controversial.

A lot of the people doing those rankings didn’t even see many of the players on their list actually play, Or they rank players based on how many titles they won -- which was very often beyond the control of an individual player who landed on a hopeless franchise with no leadership... and no free agency to bail himself out of those situations.

Then, of course, there is the problem of comparing different eras. The three-point line had an enormous impact on the way the game is played, once coaches were able to commit to using it to its full potential (which took way too long).

And then there are the people unwilling to give players from the past a chance to be able to develop in modern systems that allow more and better weight training, nutritional guidance and salaries high enough players didn’t have to worry about an off-season job selling insurance.

In today’s game, Jordan obviously would have shot more three-point field goals. Wilt and Russell were both quick enough to get out on the floor and defend pick-and-rolls.

And players from previous eras such as Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Geoff Petrie, Walt Frazier, Elvin Hayes and Elgin Baylor would have all starred in this era.

So make up whatever list you want -- but please pay respect to history and perhaps rank only the players you’ve actually seen and discard whatever myths you’ve heard about the others or the eras they played in.

Because you really don’t know.

Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy to retire “Mamba” from name 

Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy to retire “Mamba” from name 

The Mamba Sports Academy, which was co-founded by the late Kobe Bryant, has made a decision to retire “Mamba” from its name. 

In a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday, the basketball training facility in Thousand Oaks announced it would change its name back to “The Sports Academy,” which was its former name before the Los Angeles Lakers legend partnered with the company. 

"Today, with respect for an unparalleled legacy, the Academy will retire the 'Mamba' in the Mamba Sports Academy name — to raise it to the rafters, where it belongs," the academy said. “In doing so, Sports Academy will carry on the vision it curated during that special partnership.”

https://twitter.com/sportsxacademy/status/1260242399789490177?s=20

Not everyone was pleased with the academy’s choice to remove Mamba, a reference to Bryant’s “Black Mamba” nickname he gave himself throughout his stellar NBA career. 

Veteran guard Jamal Crawford and friend of the Lakers great felt the name change was unnecessary. 

O’Shea Jackson, son of rapper Ice Cube, expressed his disappointment in a post. 

Trail Blazer Mario Hezonja simply shared the name change in a post of his own on Twitter. 

Others felt the name “Mamba” should stay to honor him. 

The academy shared another statement hours later saying the decision to change the name is “not a decision we came to lightly on our own.” 

https://twitter.com/sportsxacademy/status/1260280427941519360?s=20

Do you think the academy made the right decision? 

Over his 20-year-career, Kobe exemplified the “Mamba” assassin-like mentality and proved he could score from just about anywhere on the court. He was a five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star. Both his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys were retired by the Lakers. 

In April, Kobe was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 

Michael Jordan wasn't exactly fair to his old teammate Scottie Pippen

Michael Jordan wasn't exactly fair to his old teammate Scottie Pippen

If there was ever any doubt that Michael Jordan is shaping “The Last Dance” to fit his own narrative, it was on display Sunday night.

The documentary went into full detail about Scottie Pippen’s refusal to take the court for a final shot in Game 3 of a 1994 playoff series against the New York Knicks. Pippen was miffed that Toni Kukoc was designed to take the last shot.

It was a terrible mistake by Pippen that marred his career and Jordan made sure to get all of that in the story. But what he didn’t bother to spend any time on was what happened in Game 5 of that same series.

And I didn’t think it was possible to talk about that series without focusing on the foul Hue Hollins called on Pippen as he defended Hubert Davis’ last-shot attempt.

Pippen made contact with Davis, but it was after the shot was out of Davis’ hands -- which, in those days, was never called a foul. These days, it is… but it was considered a horrible, series-deciding call at the time.

And a year later, Darell Garretson, who was officiating on the floor that night with Hollins, had become the league’s director of officiating. And in a rare moment of candor, he did not mince words about what happened:

"All I can say is that it was a terrible call," said Garretson, who retired from active duty at the end of last season. "Any time an official calls a game, he hopes he doesn't make any, but that wasn't the only one."

You can argue the merits of the call all you want, but that play was the turning point of the series and if you’re telling the story of the Bulls without Michael Jordan, that would have been a must. The Bulls fell behind 3-2 in that series and won Game 6, but couldn’t pull out Game 7.

So why didn’t Jordan, who has complete control of the product, insert something about that in the documentary? Well, it might help you understand if you read what Jerry Reinsdorf told The New York Times years later.

“If we had won that game and then the series and gone on to win the title that year, the whole legacy of Michael would have been different,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, the Bulls’ owner, who recently hired Pippen as an organizational ambassador. “But because Michael had left and came back and then we won again, he was given all the credit, and sometimes it was unfair, especially to Scottie.”

Kate Brown's latest guidelines could have giant impact on local sports

Kate Brown's latest guidelines could have giant impact on local sports

As the United States continues to deal with the coronavirus, some states have slowly started to roll-out procedures to open back up. 

On Thursday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced a multi-level plan to re-open the state. 

The plans will work in phases, with each phase gradually allowing more businesses to operate and loosen restrictions on social interaction. 

According to Brown, during Phase I restaurants and bars can open for limited in-person dining,  salons and gyms can operate with physical distancing and sanitation guidelines, and gatherings of up-to 25 people will be permitted.

The re-opening will be on a county-by-county basis and can start as early as May 15th.

The last phase of the process is Phase III, which would allow sporting events and concerts to start up again. However, Brown hinted in official documents that that phase won't happen anytime soon. In fact, Brown has called for the canceling of all sports events and large social gatherings through at least September. 

Concerts, conventions, festivals, live audience sports won’t be possible until a reliable treatment or prevention is available. It is unknown at this time when this will be. Therefore, all large gatherings should be cancelled or significantly modified through at least September. Further guidance on large gatherings scheduled for later in the fall will be provided this summer. - Oregon Governor Kate Brown

READ GOVERNOR BROWN'S FULL RELEASE HERE 

So, how does this impact the local sports scene?

Let's first look at the NBA, which postponed its season in early March. Should they return to play the remainder of the season and the playoffs, there is a chance the Trail Blazers could be playing games in September.

If that's the case, and the league doesn't play at one central location as has been discussed, then you will have to watch the Blazers play on TV inside an empty Moda Center. If this season gets canceled, but next season starts normally with pre-season games in October, then there is still a chance no fans will be allowed in the arena. 

Local universities will likely be impacted should the NCAA Football season go on as scheduled. Both Oregon and Oregon State have four games scheduled for the month of September, with both teams playing three of those four games at home. 

Oregon State starts the season on the road at Oklahoma State on Thursday, September 3rd, but the next three Saturdays they play at Reser Stadium.

As for the Ducks, they start their season with three-straight home games, none bigger than the September 12th matchup against Ohio State. 

The Buckeyes vs the Ducks is one of the most anticipated non-conference matchups in the entire country this season, and under the current guidelines set forth by Governor Brown, that matchup could happen inside an empty Autzen Stadium. 

Even the Vikings will be impacted, with one home game currently scheduled in September, and one of their road games that month being against the Beavers in Corvallis.

On the pitch, both the Portland Thorns and Portland Timbers had home games scheduled in September prior to their respective seasons being postponed. With MLS now allowing teams to hold individual workouts, a return to play could be in the future. A return to play means both teams would presumedly have home games scheduled in September and would have to join their local sports counterparts in playing inside empty stadiums. 

On Thursday, the Timber/Thorns released the following statement:

The Portland Timbers and Thorns FC have been in constant dialogue with state, county and city officials throughout the pandemic and were aware of the work being done on large public event guidelines that the governor issued today. While we remain hopeful there is a path forward to play in front of our supporters in 2020, we have kept our fans and annual members apprised of their options given the possibility of a full season not being played. Annual members will have the opportunity to rollover their funds with added benefits to 2021 for any missed matches, or may opt for a refund. The Timbers and Thorns have been diligent in our adherence to the advice of local public health authorities and government agencies throughout the crisis and will continue to do so with the safety and well-being of our fans, staff and players as the clubs’ highest priority. - Portland Timbers/Thorns

Of course, things could take a turn for the better and Brown could adjust these dates back earlier, but as for now, fans will have to live with the realistic possibility of watching their favorite teams from the comfort of their home while those teams play in empty stadiums. 

 

Former Sonics forward Detlef Schrempf brings superstars together to support Seattle Children’s

sonics.png
USATI

Former Sonics forward Detlef Schrempf brings superstars together to support Seattle Children’s

Former Seattle SuperSonics forward Detlef Schrempf knows we are facing uncertain times.

With many families already buckling down to pay the expensive costs for their sick child’s health, Schrempf brought together athletes and influencers to help Seattle Children’s and the families it serves. 

Schrempf, a three-time NBA All-Star who played in Seattle from 1993-99, is raising funds for children in need by auctioning off one-of-a-kind items from and experiences from sports legends and icons through an online fundraiser on PledgeIt.  

Each online donation of at least $11 is entered to win items like:

  • Ken Griffey Jr. signed bat
  • Russell Wilson signed jersey 
  • Ben Schwartz personalized message from Sonic the Hedgehog
  • A round of golf with Spencer Hawes
  • A Jamal Crawford signed “12th Man” Seahawks jersey
  • An Isaiah Thomas signed Wizards jersey 
  • Signed shoes from Dirk Nowitzki
  • Golf with Schrempf and Charles Barkley
  • A Richard Sherman signed mini helmet
  • Gary Payton signed shoes
  • A personal video message from Kevin Calabro

And the list goes on. Currently, a Duff McKagan signed guitar leads the pack with 42 contributors and $2,539 raised.

For a chance to win an amazing experience and cool memorabilia while supporting the fight against COVID-19, check out the Det’s Superstars for Seattle Children’s COVID-19 Relief

If NBA teams are for sale, Seattle should be first landing spot, not Vegas

usatsi_13572907.jpg
USA Today Images

If NBA teams are for sale, Seattle should be first landing spot, not Vegas

The city of Seattle has been yearning for the return of its beloved NBA team, the Seattle Supersonics. 

The team, who was owned by Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, was sold to Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett in 2006 and moved to Oklahoma City two years later. A dispute over a new potential arena was said to be the focal point of the team’s decisision to relocate.   

Fans were dumbfounded and heartbroken over the move, but the Emerald City has not stopped dreaming about the return of the Seattle SuperSonics. 

In a recent episode of The Big Podcast with Shaq, Shaquille O’Neal said he heard “in the grapevine,” that there are a couple of NBA teams for sale. He did not shed light on which teams could be on the market, but acknowledged Las Vegas could be a possible landing spot. 

What we do know is that the San Antonio Spurs ownership group are reportedly selling a minority ownership stake in the franchise, but do not plan to leave San Antonio. Joseph Tsai also became an NBA owner for the Brooklyn Nets last August by purchasing a majority stake of 51 percent. It’s unclear if either of those organizations are on Shaq's list of those selling.

Many believe Seattle, not Las Vegas, would be the first city to warrant consideration. At this time, the Sonics have two ways of returning: relocation or expansion. Now that the city is constructing New Arena at Seattle Center to host an expansion NHL hockey team in 2021, it’s feasible to think the Sonics could one day call Seattle Center their future home. 

NBA Twitter had some ideas of which franchise they’d eliminate to bring back the Sonics. 

Sports legends like Sue Bird, Isaiah Thomas, Jamal Crawford are personally all for a Sonics revival. Even recent Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Garnett told Tim Reynolds of AP that he would bring a team to Seattle if he could. 

"If I have a dream, I would say that I would love to be able to go and buy the Seattle SuperSonics and reactivate the Seattle Northwest and get NBA loving back going into that area,” Garnett said. “I think it's needed and it's essential. Seattle was huge to our league. Not just Portland, but the whole northwest. I would love to be able to do that."

Maybe it’s just a pipe dream for Seattle to get the SuperSonics back... or maybe something miraculous could transpire in the coming years. Nonetheless, there’s a history there, and Seattle deserves to have an NBA franchise return home sooner than later.  

Former Trail Blazer Sebastian Telfair loses mom, brother to COVID-19

Former Trail Blazer Sebastian Telfair loses mom, brother to COVID-19

Sebastian Telfair, the 13th overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2004, and his family have been hit hard by the coronavirus. 

It was reported by the New York Post on Monday that Telfair's mother, Erica Telfair, had passed away due to complications from COVID-19. 

She was 64.

Unfortunately for Telfair, that wasn't the only loss he has suffered due to COVID-19.

In an interview with the Undefeated in late March, Telfair's cousin, former NBA guard Stephon Marbury announced that Telfair's older brother, Dan Turner, had also died of the virus

Telfair spent his first two years in the league with the Portland Trail Blazers before bouncing around the league and eventually ending his NBA career in 2015 with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Over his ten-year career he averaged 7.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.

NBA fans and players, both past and present made sure to show love and support for Telfair and his family on social media.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Telfair family. 

Sue Bird wants the Sonics (and a couple NW legends) back in Seattle

Sue Bird wants the Sonics (and a couple NW legends) back in Seattle

April 13, 2008. It's a day sports fans in the Northwest want to forget, and I apologize for bringing it up. 

You see, that was the day that the Seattle SuperSonics played their final home game before the team relocated to Oklahoma City. 

Though it was 12 years ago, the wound still seems fresh for basketball fans in the state of Washington. 

To this day, fans still post highlights of The Reign Man and The Glove. 

On Monday, ESPN posted a random set of pictures on social media with a simple caption, "Seattle SuperSonics appreciation post."

The team may be gone but its fans aren't, and the post hit them right in the feels. 

One of those fans, Seattle hoops legend Sue Bird. 

Bird quote tweeted ESPN and said what every basketball fan has been saying since 2008, "Bring 'em back."

Bird made sure to tag two Seattle legends, Isaiah Thomas and Jamal Crawford. The two are both Seattle-Tacoma natives, and both are currently free agents looking for an NBA team to call their own. 

Thomas saw Bird's post, and he had a few words of his own. 

Kevin Durant is the only player currently in the NBA that played for the Sonics, and he has fond memories of his time in Key Arena. In fact, he has talked about wanting to bring the team back and got a huge ovation when the Warriors played a preseason game in Seattle just a few seasons ago. 

He's not the only player past or present that is in favor of a Sonics rebirth. 

Recent Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Garnett has said his dream is to bring the Sonics back. In an interview with Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press earlier this month, Garnett said, "If I have a dream, I would say that I would love to be able to go and buy the Seattle SuperSonics and reactivate the Seattle Northwest and get NBA loving back going into that area. I think it's needed and it's essential. Seattle was huge to our league. Not just Portland, but the whole northwest. I would love to be able to do that."

Please, NBA, BRING BACK OUR SONICS. 

My Jerry Krause story -- when it came time for money, the man vanished

My Jerry Krause story -- when it came time for money, the man vanished

All of a sudden, Jerry Krause is a famous man again.

The former general manager of the Chicago Bulls was a big part of the first two episodes of “The Last Dance” Sunday night -- playing his role as team punching bag.

It was incredible how it turned out for Krause, who died in 2017. He drafted, signed or traded for every player on those championship Chicago teams except the most important one -- Michael Jordan -- and he seemingly couldn’t wait to tear that team up and prove to the world he was smart enough to do it all again.

But the fact was, the only other person on the planet who bought that idea was the team’s owner, Jerry Reinsdorf -- who probably liked the idea that he could shrink his team’s payroll by starting to rebuild.

Krause was derided by everyone in Chicago, most of whom took their cue from the Bulls’ players, who called Krause "Crumbs," because he always seemed to have a few on the front of his shirt.

Chicago Tribune columnist Bernie Lincicome wrote this after Krause was named the NBA’s executive of the year:

"While it is true that Krause and [team mascot] Benny the Bull have never been seen together, I discount all rumors that they are the same creature. For one thing, Benny has another suit."

A lot of people don’t know this, but Krause once briefly served as general manager of the Triple-A Portland Beavers. I was a clubhouse boy for the team at that time and my younger brother, fresh out of Little League, was a bat boy, for which he was paid the princely sum of a dollar a game.

But Krause was never around to come across with the money. My brother would drop by the office, located deep in the cold and dark bowels of what was then Civic Stadium, looking for a check or for Krause himself.

The man was never around.

Finally, one day I happened to be standing outside as my brother entered for another fruitless attempt to get the twenty bucks or so that the Beavers owed him.

And I saw Krause exiting from the backdoor of the office, looking over his shoulder to see if anyone saw him.

Fortunately, Krause was either let go or quit that job soon after that. I don't think he even made it to mid-season.

"They paid me $8,700 for that job," said Krause later, "and I just about went out of my mind. I wanted to get back to scouting."

Certainly, there was an overall sigh of relief from ballpark personnel when he left.

Later, when he showed up as the GM of the Bulls, I was shocked. But when players began to display public disgust at not being able to get more money out of that team, I wasn’t surprised.

I wanted to tell them, when you want to ask him for your money, he won't be there.

'The Last Dance' very likely won't give you The Last Word on Michael Jordan's career

'The Last Dance' very likely won't give you The Last Word on Michael Jordan's career

Tonight marks the premiere of “The Last Dance,” the much-anticipated documentary about Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls.

I’m certain it’s going to be a very entertaining 10-episode peek behind the scenes of a great NBA team. A film crew was embedded with the Bulls throughout that season and these sorts of inside looks at teams are always illuminating. You can go all the way back to hockey’s “The Boys on the Bus” about the Edmonton Oilers and baseball’s great “It’s a Long Way to October,” Ted Turner’s inside story of a season with his Atlanta Braves. Great entertainment.

This one, given all the quirky personalities involved with that Bulls' dynasty, from GM Jerry Krause, to Coach Phil Jackson, to Dennis Rodman, to Jordan himself, promises to be both funny and shocking.

But I wouldn’t expect any great revelations out of this about the bewildering mysteries of Jordan’s career. This film, the brainchild of NBA Entertainment’s Andy Thompson (Mychal’s brother and Klay’s uncle, by the way), was made possible only because Adam Silver, head of NBAE at the time, made an agreement that none of the footage could be used without Jordan’s permission. Apparently Jordan had complete control.

And since there's a generation out there that has never heard some of this stuff, it doesn't hurt to review it now, in case the documentary doesn't hit on it.

Jordan never seemed to mind that his bullying form of leadership, which included mental and even physical abuse of teammates, was known. He always seemed to take some sort of macho pride in it. And while I have not seen the film, I’m sure you’ll hear the whole story of how he flattened teammate Steve Kerr with a punch during practice. You might even get to see him belittling or demeaning his teammates -- he is famous for it. Just toughening them up, he will say.

What you won’t hear, though, is any genuine explanation for why he left basketball for two years under the guise of trying baseball as a career -- a move that never seemed to make much sense and was shrouded in all sorts of rumors.

You will hear about his gambling exploits, too, I’m guessing, but not about his reputation for not paying when he lost bets -- be it on the golf course or in a casino.

The real story of MJ's career may never be told. The mysterious foray into baseball will probably forever remain an unanswered question.

What you will see in "The Last Dance" is the Bulls -- and particularly Jordan -- treated like something more than great basketball players.

This era was the birth of the NBA’s special version of fandom that exists even today, more common in this sport than any other. Beyond hero worship, it’s a cult of personality:

The term cult of personality gets thrown around quite a bit. But what does it mean? Cult of personality is a term, usually pejorative in nature, which refers to a situation where a public figure is presented to the populace via propaganda as an amazing person who should be admired, loved, and respected.