A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘GOAT

Pippen’s Blasphemy and Cowardice of Critics

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Chicago Bulls Scottie Pippen 1995

Image via Wikipedia

Scottie Pippen said:

Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play in the game. But I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player ever to play the game, because he’s so potent offensively that not only can he score at will, but he keeps everybody involved.

…and the locusts take the sky

The world exploded. Some talked about Jordan’s championships ignoring the matter that Pippen’s statement obviously wasn’t saying that the 26 year old LeBron had already accomplished more than anyone else ever, some tried to talk about Jordan being a more “complete player” without actually saying what LeBron was missing, some talked about Pippen as a bitter old fool. The only thing everyone agreed on was that you couldn’t possibly say LeBron might be better than Jordan.

(Well, except Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who once again made one of his patented “He’s right, but no wonder why no one likes him” statements bringing up Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.)

I find the whole thing amusing. I should say up front that I don’t give one whit about Pippen’s opinion in player comparisons general. Nothing personal, I’d say the same about pretty much any player. While I love hearing what these guys have to say about the game in general, such comparisons are complicated enough that no matter how fantastic your basketball knowledge, you can’t have a complete opinion without spending a ton of time analyzing the situation with every tool at your disposal. The number of star athletes, or even coaches, willing to do this is vanishingly small, and then you really do need to think about whether the speaker has an agenda.

Even a broken clock…

However Scottie’s being downright reasonable here in a world full of people too afraid to be reasonable.

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Written by Matt Johnson

June 2, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Hollering @Hollinger about LeBron James and MVP Philosophy

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LeBron James

Image via Wikipedia from LAST YEAR, when he was MVPing in Cleveland, which is not his current team

This season in the NBA, we’re really seeing a watershed year in the MVP race.  People who are paying attention are reflecting on their personal philosophy on the subject. John Hollinger recently wrote a piece that gives us a great place to leap off from by giving a compelling argument from a very simple, straight forward perspective. Essentially: “You know LeBron James is the best player, why isn’t he your MVP?”.

I’m going to respond point by point to him here, before waxing philosophical for a bit. Let me preface all this by saying that while I may have a bit of fun with John, by no means would I say his opinion is an invalid one. It’s just that his opinion is not the only one that is valid. Here we go:

A Conversation with Mr. Hollinger

And that’s because the 2010-11 MVP race has a really, really, abundantly obvious solution … but very few actually want to hear it.

Let’s be honest for a minute. The best player in the league is LeBron James. It’s not even close.

Agreed, honestly.

Moreover, his case for the MVP award is only gaining steam. James in October and November muddled through 18 games in which he was dramatically less effective than usual, a major reason for the Heat‘s uninspired crawl out of the gate. Since then, however, he’s been monstrously good, climbing to his usual perch atop the PER charts and widening his lead considerably with a spectacular 51-point outing against Orlando on Thursday.

True.

With James cruising, the Heat are arguably the league’s best team — despite injuries to James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, they’re 28-6 since their scuffling start. Yes, James has star support with Wade and Bosh in tow, but he’s also saddled with inferior help. At roster spots 4 through 12, there isn’t a weaker cast in basketball outside Ohio.

Er, agreed, I suppose…but not really. Read the rest of this entry »

Rod Laver and the Overrating of the Pre-Open Era Grand Slam

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Sculpture depicting Rod Laver outside the Rod ...

Image via Wikipedia

Well here I go taking a hatchet to Rod Laver for the second post in a row.  The first post was in direct response to Laver’s recent interview, but this is just a general point that needs to be made and now seems like as good a time as any to make it.

Almost any argument for Laver as a candidate for GOAT (greatest of all-time) mentions that he won not just one but TWO Grand Slams.  Some will go the extra mile and point out that Laver won the Grand Slam in his last year as an amateur in 1962, and then again in the first full year of the Open Era in 1969 as a professional, and thus imply that might have achieved the Grand Slam half a dozen times had the politics of the situation not gotten in the way.

Let’s clear some things up:

The Best Players Played Professionally even before the Open Era

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Written by Matt Johnson

January 16, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Reflecting on Cam Newton; Remembering Barry Sanders

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As you might imagine with my insistence on talking about Player of the Year instead of MVP when looking at the NBA, I don’t like to take stock on what athletes accomplish until season’s end.  So I held off really evaluating Cam Newton‘s accomplishments until after the National Championship.  That game came and went, and I started putting Newton up against the guy who I consider college football’s gold standard in recent years, Vince Young.

Cam Newton vs Vince Young

Briefly, Newton’s got the bigger stats over all, but part of that is simply a decision by Auburn to focus more around Newton than Texas did with Young.  This increased focus around one running quarterback is part of a general trend, and why I’ve previously said it’s unreasonable to expect a typical star running back to match the impact of someone like Newton.  If you go back and look at the numbers for the Tommie Fraziers and Michael Vicks of the world, it’s amusing to look at how small they are compared to the Newtons, Youngs, and Tim Tebows.

Auburn was more reliant on Newton than Texas on Young, but Texas’ dominance was significantly greater.  Auburn was really quite lucky to go undefeated, Texas was not.  Given that, and Young’s two amazing bowl performances, I still lean toward Young as the more accomplished college player.

What these comparisons really got me thinking about though was Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State.  Hopefully those who saw my previous rant about the relative impotence of running backs in college football knew that Sanders is in his own category.  Still, the more I think about Sanders, the more his superiority over EVERYONE, quarterbacks included, is glaring.

Barry Sanders, Greatest of All Time Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

January 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm