Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

The 10 Best Basketball Team Nicknames of All Time

09 May

In the past I’ve done “list” posts of what I consider the best player nicknames in all four major sports. Now, after careful consideration and painstaking research (thank you Wikipedia and Google), I will publish my lists of the best team or tandem nicknames in those four sports, starting with basketball. Of all the major sports, there aren’t very many memorable team nicknames to choose from, so I had to consider not only pro teams but also clubs from the college and even Olympic ranks. Here’s the list of the 10 best basketball team or tandem nicknames:



1. Showtime (1980s Los Angeles Lakers) – the 1980s Lakers, led by coach Pat Riley, were the dominant club of the decade who earned the nickname with their flashy, upbeat style of play. Their roster included some of the league’s All-time great players like Kareem Abul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Jamaal Wilkes, and won a total of five NBA championships in the decade.




2. The Bad Boys (1990 Detroit Pistons) – coached by Chuck Daly, the Pistons won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and ’90 with a rough-and-tumble style of play that featured tenacious defense and rugged physical play that rankled opponents and earned them their moniker. Players like Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, John Salley and especially Dennis Rodman were among the most hated by their peers in the league at the time. The team wasn’t just a goon squad, however, as players like Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Adrian Dantley added enough offense to turn the club into a champion.




3. Boston Three Party (Boston Celtics) – one of the NBA’s most storied franchises hit a low point in 2007 following the death of their long time patriarch, Red Auerbach, but the team’s GM at the time, Danny Ainge, made bold moves to acquire two superstars, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, to go with the team’s star of the era, Paul Pierce, forming a potent threesome that would be dubbed with this nickname and that coach Doc Rivers would mold into a championship club in 2008.




4. Texas Twin Towers (Houston Rockets’ Centers) – this nickname was more recently used for San Antonio’s big man duo of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, but the original “Twin Towers” are former Houston Rockets Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajowan. They were a pair of seven footers who patrolled the front line for the Rockets in the 1980s. They reached the NBA finals once but lost to the Boston Celtics. They never won a title as a tandem, but Olajuwan led the Rockets to 2 in the 1990s.




5. Dream Team (U.S. Olympic Team) – this club was put together to represent the United States in the Olympic Games in 1992, the first year NBA players were declared eligible to compete in the games. The media dubbed them the “Dream Team” and they truly were, with a stocked roster that included stars like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. Coached by Chuck Daly, the U.S. contingent easily won the gold medal.




6. Fab Five (Michigan NCAA Champs) – we dug into the college ranks for this team nickname, but this group, the University of Michigan hoops team of the early 1990s, earned their nickname. “The Fab Five” were a team of five freshmen – Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, who all started and reached the Final Four two years in a row.




7. Phi Slama Jama (University of Houston 83-84) – another college team, this team, the University of Houston Cougars, got their name for the style of play they exhibited, an exciting fast break game that featured breath-taking dunks. Two of their players, Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler, went on to have stellar NBA careers. This club is credited with popularizing the “above the rim” style of play that is commonplace in both college and pro ball today.




8.  Run TMC (Golden State Warriors 1990s) – this nickname was a play on the rap group Run DMC, with TMC representing the first names of a trio of sharpshooters who played for the Golden State Warriors – Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. They played together for two seasons, and under coach Don Nelson, featured a fast-paced, run-and-gun style.


Jordan, Pippen, Rodman


9. Superman, Batman and Rodman – this unit came to be when Dennis Rodman, formerly a hated rival with the Detroit Pistons, joined ranks with Michael Jordan(Superman) and Scottie Pippen(Batman) to form an almost unbeatable threesome for the 1990s Chicago Bulls. In fact, after Rodman was acquired, the Bulls won an amazing 72 games, against only 10 losses, on their way to winning the 1995-96 NBA title, their fourth championship in a six year period.




10. The Heatles (Miami Heat) – following an NBA trend of building a roster made up of a “Big Three” (see Boston Three Party above), Miami Heat GM Pat Riley went out and signed a pair of superstars – LeBron James and Chris Bosh – to join his own star, Dwyane Wade, and the group eventually was dubbed The Heatles, after winning a pair of NBA championships.



The 10 Best Basketball Nicknames of All Time

15 Jun

The NBA Finals, between Miami and San Antonio for the second straight year, ended tonight with the Spurs winning another title, so this list post will be of the top 10 nicknames in basketball. With apologies to the legends whose nicknames are known to even non-basketball fans, like Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Michael “Air” Jordan and Julius “Dr. J” Erving, and also to players with lesser known nicknames who didn’t make the cut, like Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwan, Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and John “Hondo” Havlicek, here is my list:




1. Charles Barkley “Round Mound of Rebound” – he always had a bit of a paunch and didn’t look like a star basketball player, but he was one of the great ones. He had a great all-around game, and was an intimidating force on the floor. He was always outspoken with the media, and continues to be that way today as a member of the media, working NBA telecasts for the TNT Network.




2. “Pistol” Pete Maravich – well, what does a pistol do? SHOOT! And Pistol Pete could certainly do that. He was one of the all-time great shooters in NBA history, and was also a tremendous ball handler. He basically put the old New Orleans Jazz NBA franchise on the map, although his nickname was already in place in his college days.




3. Dennis Rodman “The Worm” – one of the Detroit Piston “Bad Boys”, Rodman may have the most fitting nickname of all. He was a thorn in the sides of all his opponents, and a controversial figure on and off the court. Behind all the noise, however, he was a very talented player, and one of the top rebounders in NBA history.




4. Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain “The Big Dipper” – “The Stilt” was his more famous nickname, but Wilt didn’t like it, since it put a focus on his height, which he was self-conscious about. He preferred “The Big Dipper”. Either way, he was the dominant big man of his era. He never was a big fan favorite, other than in the cities he played for, but as he always pointed out – “Nobody cheers for Goliath”.




5. Marvin Webster “The Human Eraser” – his is one of the classic nicknames of all time in the NBA. It was a tribute to his knack for blocking shots, a skill he used to perfection in his pro career with Denver, Seattle, the New York Knicks and Milwaukee. A 7’1″ center, Webster also once corralled 21 rebounds in the first half a game while playing for the Supersonics, a team record that still stands.



6. Jerry West “The Logo” –  a star player in the 1960s and ’70s, he earned this nickname because the NBA’s official logo is actually a silhouette of him bringing the ball up the court (see photo inset). West actually had a number of nicknames, including “Mr. Clutch” for his knack of scoring in the big moments, “Mr. Outside” for his outstanding perimeter play, and “Zeke From Cabin Creek” after a creek in his small hometown in West Virginia.



7.  Darryl Dawkins “Chocolate Thunder”  – he was a big time contributor on a 1970s Philadelphia 76er squad loaded with star players, known for his monster dunks that regularly broke helpless backboards. He was directly responsible for the NBA adopting “breakaway” rims. His nickname was given to him by musician Stevie Wonder.



8. George Gervin “The Iceman” – he was one of the all-time sharpshooters in NBA history, with a cool demeanor that earned him this nickname. Gervin was one of a number of stars in the old American Basketball Association who successfully transitioned into the same roles when the new league merged with the NBA. Although he never played on a championship team in San Antonio, he helped bridge the franchise into the era of title-winning teams it enjoys today.



9. Tim Duncan “Old Man Riverwalk” – his 18 year career in the NBA, at age 38, earned him this nickname, which is a nod to San Antonio’s downtown tourist area. A quiet, unassuming leader, Duncan has helped the Spurs win five league titles. Duncan, and the Spurs, are my favorite team of the modern NBA era, as they play an old school brand of basketball that highlights unselfish play and passing to the open man, a style that perfectly fits Duncan.



10.  Karl Malone “The Mailman” – one of the game’s all-time power forwards, he earned his nickname because “he always delivered”. Along with John Stockton, Malone led a talented Utah Jazz team into the playoffs, where they seemed to unfortunately run into Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bull title teams every year.


R.I.P. Dr. Jack Ramsay

29 Apr

Buffalo Braves vs. Boston Celtics

Jack Ramsay coaching the Buffalo Braves in the 1970s

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of former NBA coach Jack Ramsay, one of the league’s classiest people who had a Hall of Fame coaching career, and was a tremendous ambassador for the game as a game analyst for ESPN after his coaching days were over. After coaching in college at St. Joseph’s, Ramsay was hired as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1967, and the team won the NBA title in his first year in the front office. Ramsay moved down to the bench to coach the team in 1968, and led them to the playoffs in 3 of the 4 years he served in that capacity. He made some unpopular moves as GM, however, trading away stars Wilt Chamberlain and Chet Walker. When the team had a major collapse in 1971/72 and missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, Ramsay was let go. He landed on his feet, however, taking over as coach of the Buffalo Braves, who were entering their third year of existence. It’s the four years he spent as Braves’ coach that are my most fond memories of Ramsay, prowling the sideline decked out in his loud, typical ’70s outfits. He developed young stars like Bob McAdoo, Randy Smith, Kenny Charles and Ernie DiGregorio, and blended them together with savvy veterans like Jim McMillian, Garfield Heard and Jack Marin and turned out an exciting, fast-paced club that qualified as playoff contenders by that third year. The Braves were one of the NBA’s most dynamic teams for a short period of time, but when owner Paul Snyder decided to sell the team to former ABA owner John Y. Brown, the bottom quickly fell out and the  franchise was eventually relocated to San Diego and renamed the Clippers. Although the Braves’ final days were messy – they traded away stars and fan favorites like McAdoo and Adrian Dantley, then threatened to move if fans didn’t support the shell of a team that was left – one positive thing did come out of the wreckage. Ramsay moved on to Portland, where he put together a championship team built around superstar Bill Walton, that played unselfish basketball and played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. In fact, Ramsay’s teams in both Buffalo and Portland played an exciting, fast break brand of basketball that emphasized defense, passing and hitting the open man, a style that you rarely see in today’s three point shot, clear the floor for the superstar, dunkfest brand of basketball.

Ramsay, even well into his 80s, had a reputation for being physically fit and enthusiastic about life. He was always very insightful and fun to listen to as an analyst, but in May of 2013 was forced to leave that job in order to begin treatment for cancer, which eventually took his life on Sunday.


NBA – Top Five Point Guards of All Time

22 Mar

In the classic NBA game that I remember growing up, as well as today, one of the most important players on the court was the point guard. His job was to quarterback his team’s attack and control the tempo of the game on both ends of the floor – on offense and defense. The most important statistics for the point guard  were assists and steals, with scoring being mostly an afterthought. However, the best point guards over the years could also score when necessary. Here are my choices for the best NBA point guards of all time, in no particular order:

1. Bob Cousy – this is the player who orchestrated Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtic dynasty in the 1950s and ’60s. He was a 13 time NBA All Star, and led the league in assists eight consecutive years. He was known for his ball handling and passing skills, and dubbed “Mr. Basketball” by the Boston media as he guided the Celts to six NBA championships. His flashy passing and behind-the-back dribbling were his trademark, and marked him as one of the league’s first “showmen”.


2. Walt Frazier –  “Clyde” became a darling of the fans and media in New York as he led the Knicks to a pair of titles in the early 1970s. He played the game with a distinct sense of style, and directed a Knick attack that featured an unselfish style of play by all of the players on the floor, something that in my opinion is tough to find in today’s game. Frazier excelled at all facets of the game, and still holds team records for assists and steals. He was also a great shooter, and in the famous game in which Willis Reed played with a severe injury in a deciding game seven situation, it was Frazier, with 36 points and an astounding 19 assists, who willed his team to the victory.


3. Oscar Robertson –  “The Big O” is one of the players I remember most from my youth, when I first became interested in the NBA. He was a consummate all-around team player, and at first I didn’t even realize he was a point guard, since his all-around game was so polished. Robertson was a great player toiling on a mostly mediocre team in Cincinnati, but showed his true value when he was traded to the expansion Milwaukee Bucks, and guided that franchise, pairing with a young Lew Alcindor (later to be known as Kareem Abul-Jabbar) to the NBA title in 1971.


4. Nate Archibald –  like Robertson, “Tiny” played for losing franchises, the Kings and Nets, but was traded to Boston, where his talents as a passer and floor general blossomed. He helped the Celtics win the NBA title in 1981, and like Robertson, helped win the title along with a young budding star, this one being Larry Bird.


5. Magic Johnson –  Johnson is not only one of the top point guards of all time, but truly a player who revolutionized the position. His size was unprecedented for the position, and he even filled in for an injured Abdul-Jabbar at center for the Lakers during one championship series. He was an amazing floor general who always made sure to include all his teammates in the attack, while also playing a starring role himself. He was one of the first point guards to include rebounds as a meaningful stat for the position, along with assists and steals, and was a prolific scorer as well. His style of play was a starting point for the “point forward” position in today’s game – where a frontcourt player distributes the ball like a point guard traditionally has.






NBA – Five Players Who Changed The Game

05 Jul

Professional basketball has evolved more than any other sport over the years – from a game dominated by white, two-handed set shot players to the athletic players of today. The three-point shot altered the game also, as did the outlawing, then re-instituting, the use of zone defense. Here are 5 players who changed the game during their careers:

1. Wilt Chamberlain – if this photo looks familiar, it’s because “Wilt The Stilt” was recently included as one of the top 5 centers of all time also. Like George Mikan before him, Chamberlain was a physical freak who dominated opponents. Because of his domination, the NBA widened the free throw lanes and instituted the three second rule to try to cut down on that dominance. It is also said that league referees called more goaltending violations against him because of his shot-blocking ability.

2. Julius Erving – “Doctor J” entered pro ball with the fledgling ABA and helped create excitement for the new league with a dazzling style that promoted athleticism, leaping ability and tremendous body control. His dunks throughout his career were legendary and still are shown on highlight shows. Erving evolved into a consummate team player and helped the 76ers win a championship, and his play was so much more than just the dazzling dunks he is remembered for. He is considered the player who launched the modern-day style of playing above the rim into the NBA.

3. Drazen Petrovic – Petrovic, along with the Lakers’ Vlade Divac, ushered in the era of the dominating European players. He helped blaze the trail for other Europeans, ironically starting his NBA career with the Portland Trailblazers. He was an outstanding shooting guard and eventually became a serviceable player with the Nets. Unfortunately, he died in a car accident in 1993, cutting his NBA career to only 5 years. Although his full potential was never realized, there’s no denying his contribution of helping bring European players to the pro game.

4. Magic Johnson – “Magic” entered the NBA along with Larry Bird in 1979, and their rivalry throughout the 1980s helped revive interest in the game. He teamed with Kareem Abdul Jabbar and a talented Laker team to win 5 NBA titles during the decade, and was a 3-time league MVP. The thing that puts him on this list, however, is his unique style of play. He was a 6’9″ point guard, unheard of in the game back then, and displayed tremendous athleticism for his size. Magic got all his teammates involved in the game and made the players around him better – even star players like Jabbar, James Worthy and Jamaal Wilkes. A defining moment in his career was in the 1980 Finals, when he started at center in place of an injured Jabbar and played a great game. He was Finals MVP that year, his rookie season.

5. Michael Jordan – like both Dr. J and Magic before him, Jordan entered the NBA with high expectations, and wound up exceeding those expectations. Early in his career, amazingly, Jordan was going through the same thing LeBron James is now. His Bulls’ teams couldn’t get past the bad boy Detroit Pistons and critics began to say he couldn’t win the big ones. Jordan didn’t run off to join a team with better players to try to help him win – he stayed in Chicago and lifted those Bulls’ teams to 6 NBA titles, and is arguably the most talented, and most exciting player of all time.


NBA – Top Five Centers of All Time

09 Jun

In pro basketball the “big man” in the middle has always been a key component of any winning team. There have been many great ones over the years, so picking a top 5 was difficult. The center position has been played differently by some players, for instance – Wes Unseld of the old Washington Bullets would be on the list if you considered rebounding and defense. Bob McAdoo of the Buffalo Braves was a scorer and left the “dirty” work to the power forward. There were a couple of players who were tough to leave out – Hakeem Olajuwan, who would definitely be in any top 10 list, and George Mikan, a trailblazer in the game in the early days. I never saw Mikan play so in keeping with my policy on compiling these lists, he wasn’t included. Also, Dave Cowens was another player considered. He did everything well, and was a winner. Here are my top 5 NBA centers of all time:

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – this was an easy pick. In my opinion, Kareem is not only the top center of all time, but, with apologies to Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic, Dr. J., etc., is also the greatest basketball player of all time. He entered the NBA in 1969 (as Lew Alcindor) and within a year guided the expansion Milwaukee Bucks to a championship. He played 20 years in the league, and won a total of 6 titles and 6 MVP awards. He was a 19-time all star, was voted to the all-defensive team 5 times, and when he retired held the league record for points scored, games played, defensive rebounds and blocked shots. His signature “sky hook” shot was basically unstoppable.

2. Bill Russell – without a doubt, Russell was the greatest defensive center of all time. However, his game was much more than that. He was a great rebounder, clutch scorer and all-around unselfish player. Russell played for the Boston Celtics from 1956 until 1969, serving as player/coach for his last 3 seasons. He won 11 NBA titles in his 13 year career, and was MVP 5 times, and was a 12-time all star. His legacy is really that he could have easily compiled better career numbers, but sacrificed personal stats for the good of his team, a team that was a total dynasty during his stay there. He is the most unselfish superstar of all time, in any sport.

3. Wilt Chamberlain – “Wilt the Stilt” was one of the greatest professional athletes of all time, a player who changed the game and was so dominant he forced rule changes by the sport to slow him down. He winds up on this list in a spot he spent a lot of time in during his playing days, one spot behind Russell. However, that doesn’t diminish the greatness this man displayed over the 15 years he played. He was one of the most durable players of all time, and put up tremendous numbers. He won 7 league scoring titles, led the league in rebounding 11 times and even led the league in assists once. He is the only player in NBA history to average more than 40 and 50 points for a season. He once scored 100 points in a game. Also called “The Big Dipper”, Chamberlain’s career was dotted by his failures in head-to-head matchups against Russell, but he was a winner. He was 13-time all star, league MVP 4 times and played on 2 NBA championship teams.

4. Shaquille O’Neal –  “Shaq” recently retired from the game after an outstanding career. Like Wilt, he is a physical phenomenon who changed the game. He was a dominant force in the middle for every team he played on, and forced opposing teams to use a unique strategy to try to stop him – taking advantage of the one weakness in his game, poor foul shooting, by running bench players into the game to foul him intentionally. In his career, he was a 15 time all star, won 4 NBA titles and was Finals MVP 3 times, and retires as the 5th highest scorer in league history.

5. David Robinson – this is probably the only surprising name on this list. “The Admiral” attended the Naval Academy, and served 4 years in the Navy, so his NBA career didn’t start until he was 24 years old. Still, he managed to play 15 seasons, was an NBA all star 10 times, and played on 2 championship teams in San Antonio. Like Russell, his game wasn’t about stats, and he was a tremendous all-around center, with high career numbers in scoring, rebounds and blocked shots. He was NBA all-defensive team 8 times.


NBA – Conference Finals Predictions

16 May

This has been one of the most surprising and interesting NBA playoff seasons in recent memory. The two teams that normally dominate the postseason – the Lakers and Celtics – have both been eliminated in the second round in rousing fashion. The Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks, and Boston was knocked out in 5 games by a team they owned in the regular season, LeBron James’ Miami Heat. So the teams remaining in the league’s final four are all new this season. Here are my predictions for the Conference Finals series:

Miami vs. Chicago – the Heat, of course, are the “superteam” put together this past off-season when LeBron and Chris Bosh signed to play in South Beach with Dwyane Wade, and then proceeded to guarantee “multiple championships”. The Bulls, on the other hand, have been building a solid team for a few years now, and behind MVP Derrick Rose had the best Eastern Conference regular season record. They added a couple of important pieces also – power forward Carlos Boozer and defensive-minded coach Tom Thibodeaux, who masterminded the Celtics’ defensive system while an assistant coach there. I personally do not want to see Miami win, but they were very impressive in dispatching the Celtics and look like they are on a mission. I’m still going to go with the Bulls to win a long, close series. I think they have more big men and will dominate the boards against a Heat team that relies on making outside shots to win.

Dallas vs. Oklahoma City – the Mavericks were in the Finals a few years ago and blew a 2-0 lead only to lose to Miami. They seem bound and determined to erase that failure and give owner Mark Cuban his first NBA title. However, I really like the young OKC Thunder in this series. They have a solid point guard in Russell Westbrook, a true superstar scorer in Kevin Durant, another good scoring option in James Harden, and added the last piece – a big man to be reckoned with who dominates in the paint – Kendrick Perkins. Perkins was acquired in-season from Boston and it’s no coincidence that after the trade the Celtics’ inside game looked considerably weaker, while the Thunder, already a solid offensive club, started to play stingy defense and dominate the boards. I’ll pick OKC, the former Seattle Supersonics franchise, to win a tough seven game series.


NBA Playoff Update

09 May

I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to the NBA playoffs so far this year, but now they are starting to get interesting. The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers were swept by Dallas in a shocking upset, and the Mavericks, who blew a 2-0 series lead in the Finals a few years ago and lost the title to Miami, now have put themselves front and center as a legitimate championship contender. The Mavs are now a more experienced team than when Miami stole the title from them, and they have been getting great contributions from their bench, which is always a plus in a long,  physically draining series. Dallas will now face one of two up-and-coming young teams, either Oklahoma City or Memphis, in the Western Conference finals. The Thunder, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and the addition of big man Kendrick Perkins, were a chic pick to advance to the Finals, but Memphis’ upset of San Antonio in the opening round has propelled the Grizzlies into the picture as contenders, and they are giving Durant & Co. all they can handle. In the East, Chicago and Atlanta are battling in a pretty evenly-played series. The Bulls had the best record in the East in the regular season, but the Hawks seem determined to erase some of their past playoff shortcomings. The other Eastern series is one that I wish neither team would win, because I’m not a fan of either of them. The Miami Heat lead the series 2-1, but after LeBron James “took his talents to South Beach” and joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a Superstar Triumvirate, then proceeded to guarantee multiple championships, I joined the legions of fans who root against them. The problem is, in this series, their opponent is another team I’ve never been a fan of – the Boston Celtics. I should be a fan of them because they are one of the few teams in the NBA who play an old school style of game that emphazises team play and unselfishness, but I just roll my eyes at the antics of these guys. From Paul Pierce being carted off the court in a wheelchair a few years back, only to return to the court later in the game and lead them to a win, to Rajon Rondo dislocating his elbow on Sunday and returning to play with one arm and also helping them to a must win, these guys always seem to be writing these Hollywood ending scripts that seem to be just that – scripted and contrived. They are the Drama Queens of the NBA. My only hope for whoever wins this series is that they get buried by whoever wins the Chicago/Atlanta series.


March Madness!

16 Mar

The annual NCAA college basketball tournament, better known as March Madness, gets underway this week, and productivity around offices will surely drop as workers tend to their brackets and keep tabs on opening round games. This tournament has grown into a monster, with a record 68 teams qualifying. The NCAA added “pre-qualifying” games to make teams from lesser conferences earn their way into the 64 team field. The tourney has come a long way from what I remember growing up in the 1960s, when 16 teams qualified, duked it out for a few days, with coach John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins usually coming out as champs in the end. The 1966 tournament was a significant and historic one, in that underdog Texas Western, starting 5 black players for the first time in NCAA championship history, defeated heavily favored powerhouse Kentucky, with an all-white roster,  72-65 to win the title. The game was played at the height of the civil rights movement in this country, with racial tensions high. It’s no coincidence that Jerry Chambers, a white forward from Utah, was voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player even though his team didn’t even get to the title game. Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp has been painted as a blatant racist, and he probably was a product of the times, but by 1969 he began recruiting black players. The story of coach Don Haskins’ Texas Western team’s unlikely title is chronicled in the movie Glory Road.

Just like all other sports, college basketball and the championship tournament have expanded greatly over the years, and March Madness has become one of the most anticipated sporting events in the country. It has expanded to the point where the “March Madness” title game is actually played in early April. The college game has changed in recent years, with the top players, dating back to guys like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Lebron James, skipping college altogether and jumping directly from high school to the NBA. The rules have changed now to force players to play at least one year of college ball, creating the “one and done” phenomenon where major college coaches recruit top players knowing they will only have them for one season. There aren’t as many recognizable superstars in college as in the past, and it’s created a type of parity in the game, to the point where, this season, there is absolutely no clear favorite to win the title. I won’t pretend to know enough about the college game to even try to pick a winner, and I feel sorry for people trying to fill out those office brackets. My only advice would be to look for teams that play a solid “team” game, like Butler last season,  to advance to the Final Four. That seems to be the trend. With no bonafide “superstars” to dominate, the teams that play unselfish basketball are the teams that win. It’s kind of refreshing actually.


NBA – Who’s The Best?

09 Mar

The playoff push in the National Basketball Association is heating up, and it’s getting hard to tell which team is the best. This is a rarity for the league, where the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics usually dominate, and might lead to an exciting postseason this year. The Lakers are two-time defending champs, but were being pronounced dead when they went on a prolonged slump earlier. They have been the hottest team in the NBA since the all star break, however, and it appears the cream may be rising back to the top now. I would rate them as favorites to win the Western Conference playoffs and advance to the Finals. The favorite should be the San Antonio Spurs, who have the league’s best record and a championship pedigree, but they have been disappointing when it comes to matchups with the league’s other top clubs, most notably the Lakers and Celtics. The Western Conference is loaded with teams that are regular season tigers but postseason pussy cats. Dallas, Portland, New Orleans, Memphis, Phoenix, Utah and Houston all have winning records and good players, but all have been playoff failures in recent years. Denver gave away any chance of playoff success when they traded Carmelo Anthony. The one team in the West that intrigues me is Oklahoma City. The Thunder are a young team, led by one of the NBA’s brightest young stars, Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook complements Durant well, and they gave the Lakers a tough playoff test last year. The Thunder may have pulled themselves closer to L.A. when they acquired center Kendrick Perkins from Boston at the trade deadline.  Perkins is a tough, physical player who could be the difference if the 2 teams meet again this year. He is recovering slowly from a serious injury suffered in last year’s Finals, and his health will be the major factor as to whether the Thunder can challenge the Lakers.

In the East, Boston still appears to be the strongest team, although not having Perkins will hurt them. Orlando is a perennial contender and has Dwight Howard, the league’s top big man, so they are always a threat. The New York Knicks, a laughingstock for years, are poised to make the playoffs for the first time in what seems like forever, and their acquisition of Carmelo from Denver makes them a team to consider, if they can jell into a unit in time. The Atlanta Hawks are an exciting young team, but like all those Western teams, never seem to do well in postseason. Despite all the ballyhoo of Lebron James “taking his talents to South Beach” , joining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosch to form the “Big Three”, the Miami Heat are not serious championship contenders. The Heat have an impressive won-loss record but haven’t won a close game all year and none of the “Big Three” have shown that they can make a clutch shot at a crucial time. They also have no inside game to speak of and will be eaten alive physically by almost all of the other Eastern playoff teams. The sleeper in the East, and possibly the biggest threat to dethrone the Celtics as East champs, are the Chicago Bulls. They have all the weapons – a young star in Derrick Rose and plenty of impressive front court talent in Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.  In any case, I’m looking forward to the NBA playoffs this year, as it appears the race is wide open, and could shape up to be a year when a young, rising team breaks through.