embarrassment call (em-bar'-uhs-ment' kahl) noun. A foul called during a pickup basketball game in which the offensive player tries to avoid embarrassment by claiming he was fouled. This is often accompanied by either a flop or a verbal flop.

Usage example: Backwards Hat Guy got his shot cleanly blocked by Old Guy, but he tried to cover it up by making an embarrassment call.

Word Irritation: When playing pickup basketball, there are few things more annoying than falling victim to an embarrassment call. In my experience, there are two circumstances in which such a call is usually made: when the offensive player has his shot blocked, or when he turns the ball over or has it stolen while being pressured by his defender. Let's face it, nobody wants to get stuffed, and nobody wants to cough up the ball. It's better (some would say) to save face by claiming there was some sort of incidental contact.

In most cases, the offensive player will be forced to sell the embarrassment call. At the time of the "foul," he will probably flop, flail, grunt, yell, and/or toss out a few well-timed obscenities. He will say "Got one" (or something to that effect) with a tone of self-righteous anger, as if a great wrong has been committed against him, and he will become incredulous if anyone (usually his defender) attempts to dispute the call. Compaints are usually met with a sarcastic chuckle and a disdainful shaking of the head followed by statements such as "You hit my wrist," "You got me on the body," "You totally reached around," etc.

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I've said it repeatedly over the last few years: Kobe Bryant, while unquestionably capable of being a top-notch defender, is often lazy on defense. And every time I say this, I get branded a "Kobe Hater" who doesn't know what he's talking about.

Well, Tex Winter -- who, for the record, is one of Kobe's coaches -- agrees with me. Winter believes that Kobe doesn't play "a lot of basically sound defense," and that Kobe has been "saving energy on defense" by "playing a lot of one-man zone...doing a lot of switching, zoning up, trying to come up with the interception." Winter then concludes that Kobe's defensive deficiencies are, indeed, affecting the Lakers. And not in a good way.

I was once told by a man with a mustache that I'm not as qualified to rate Kobe's defense as coaches who get a chance to watch him play every night. Well, it now appears that a coach who does watch Kobe play every night shares my opinion.

That sound you just heard...was checkmate.

[From the LakerNoise blog, via TrueHoop]

In this book, Tex discusses the kind of sound
defensive techniques Kobe doesn't use.

(For the record, Kobe Bryant also agrees with Basketbawful, at least with regards to the MVP race. I once stated that, in the absence of definitive MVP criteria, voters are forced to go on prededent. And the precedent is clear: the MVP must be on one of the best teams in the league. Well, wouldn't you know it, Kobe recently said that he doesn't merit MVP consideration because the award should go to a player on a team with one of the NBA's best records. Said Kobe: "You have to honor that. When we get to that point, then maybe I'll get some consideration." And hey, this is from a man who doesn't just get to watch Kobe play every night, he gets to be Kobe every night. So I guess I'll just have to take his word for it.)

Edit: Unable to admit that he was wrong, Mr. Mustache is making the ridiculous claim that I took Tex Winter's quotes about Kobe's defense out of context. Uh...what? Here's the full text of Winter's quotes (again, this is from the LakerNoise blog):

The main message that Winter, a Lakers consultant, would like to get across to Bryant is that the problem is not his offense.

"I’d like to see him play better defense," Winter said, adding that he had addressed the issue recently with Bryant but didn't come away with the idea that Bryant was intent on changing his approach.

"You know Kobe," Winter said with a chuckle. "He has his game plan. I think he heard me. But he feels there's a certain way he’s got to play the game. But it doesn’t involve a lot of basically sound defense."

Because the Lakers need so much of his effort at the offensive end, Bryant has adopted a save-energy plan on the defensive end, Winter said. "He's basically playing a lot of one-man zone. He's doing a lot of switching, zoning up, trying to come up with the interception.

"The way Kobe plays defensively affects the team," Winter added. "Anybody that doesn’t play consistently good defense hurts the team. That's not only Kobe. Our other guards tend to gamble and get beat. Another problem is that the screen and roll is not played correctly."

Hard to see how I could have possibly misintrepreted Winter's comments or taken them out of context. I don't care if the rest of the article is a comparison of Kobe and Michael Jordan. All of that has to do with offense. This post is specifically addressing my assessment of Kobe's defense, which is often lazy. According to his coach, my evaluation was one the money, and Kobe Lovers (or at least one in particular) cannot or will not admit that.

I mean I have quotes -- direct quotes -- from one of his coaches. And Tex Winter is considererd one of the great basketball scholars of our time. I'm pretty sure he knows what he's talking about. Trying to claim I'm taking his quotes out of context really only makes you look stupid.

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Michael Ray Richardson has led a troubled life. Drugs ruined his professional basketball career, and now it looks like his mouth has ruined his professional coaching career. His mouth's target: Jewish people. Richardson started his (latest) faux pas by stating that he has "big-time Jew lawyers." Then, when informed (i.e., lead on) that his comment could be considered offensive because it stereotypes jews as shrewd and crafty, his mouth really went off:

"Are you kidding me? They are. They've got the best security system in the world. Have you ever been to an airport in Tel Aviv? They're real crafty. Listen, they are hated all over the world, so they've got to be crafty. They know that in this country the Jews are running it if you really think about it. I mean, which is not a bad thing, you know what I mean? They got a lot of power in this world, you know what I mean? Which I think is great. I don't think there's nothing wrong with it. If you look in most professional sports, they're run by Jewish people. If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they're run by Jewish. It's not a knock, but they are some crafty people."

My sensitivity training, as well as the microchip implanted in my brain by government operatives, tells me that there's no such thing as a "positive stereotype," whether it involves shewdness, craftiness, or mustacheness. But honestly? Richardson's comments aren't that bad. Certainly his words weren't filled with hate, as was Tim Hardaway's rant about gay people. Were the remarks narrow-minded and short-sighted? Absolutely. But were they really worth losing a job over?

It's a shame that Richardson didn't just conclude his little speech with a timely "I keed, I keeeed!!" Because it's totally okay to stereotype Jews long as you're funny about it. Just ask Borat, who once went "Jew hunting" in Texas.

And let's not forget Borat's classic lullabye, "Throw The Jew Down A Well":

I guess what I'm saying is I can't help but wonder: who did Michael Ray Richardson hurt? His comments probably won't make Jewish people feel any more hated or persecuted than they did yesterday. And I doubt that his comments are going to make the world at large think that Jews are any shrewder or craftier than they already did. I mean, there are stupid comments that hurt people and then there are stupid comments that make you roll your eyes and kind of laugh. I think Richardson's comments fall into the latter category.

Quote-tastic Extra: Richardson's mouth can be more than just offensive; it can be downright funny. My favorite Michael Ray quote is widely known as the "ship be sinking" quote. He said it near the end of this career to describe the Knicks' general state of being. It went like this:

Reporter: What do you think is happening to the team?

Richardson: The ship be sinking.

Reporter: How far can it sink?

Richardson: Sky's the limit.

And that, my friends, is comedy gold.

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At least, he did back in the early 90s when Hardee's was serving fried chicken. Was "The Mailman" ready for some real food? "Yeah...big time!"

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up-and-under (up and un'-duhr) noun. A move in which the offensive player makes a quick pump fake with the basketball, waits for the defender to jump into the air, and then steps through or ducks under for an open shot.

Usage example: Steve Nash scored on a sweet up-and-under against Jason Terry. Speaking of which:

Most famous up-and-underer ever: With all due respect to guys like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Arvydas Sabonis, and Tim Duncan, Kevin McHale was, without question, the foremost master of the up-and-under move. He probably scored off that move at least four or five times a game. It helped that McHale had long, spindly arms that looked more like wriggling snakes than human appendages. It also helped that McHale's defenders knew he was going to shoot the ball pretty much every time he touched it (hence his nickname The Black Hole). According to Peter May's The Big Three, McHale had a simple philosophy with regards to shot selection: "When there's a double-team, shoot. When there's a triple-team, pass." And that philosophy was often on display as McHale used the up-and-under against two and (despite what he said) sometimes three defenders. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a clip on YouTube of McHale scoring on an up-and-under. I did, however, find a video of McHale going up-and-under on Kurt Rambis' head...

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A couple weeks ago, I was watching NBA Fast Break with my buddy Statbuster, and they showed a clip of Gilbert Arenas hitting a jump shot while getting fouled on the arm. It was a reasonably impressive play, but nothing that out of the ordinary, highlight-wise. But then ESPN analyst Greg Anthony took a giant, Bill Waltonesque leap into Crazyville when he made the following statement: "Gilbert Arenas can do that because of the strength he has in his legs. He has the strongest legs in the NBA."

Gil dance
Gilbert Arenas dances a jig to celebrate
the awesomeness of his mighty legs.

As WTF moments go, that one was up there. How do you even gauge something like that? Is there some kind of NBA preseason combine where the players get together for squatting competitions? And mind you, Anthony didn't say that Gil has the strongest legs for a guard, or even for a player his size...Greg thinks Arenas has stronger legs than any other NBA player. Stronger than Lebron's, stronger even than Shaq's. Apparently, Gilbert could crush all of the world's evil into a watery paste with his mighty shanks. And after he retires from basketball, that's exactly what I expect him to do.

All discussions of crimefighting aside, why do experts, analysts, and even fans feel the need to constantly make superlative declarations? I understand the need to classify and organize people, places, and things. It's human nature, and an integral part of how we come to understand the world around us. But is it really necessary to take it to this degree? Where, in order to compliment an above average play by a very good player, we have to put his legs at the top of a "Best Of" list?

It happens all the time too, and it's getting wackier by the year. A sample statement would be something like this: "Shane Battier is the best in game at coming off blind-side picks to play help defense against opposing big men in the high post." Or maybe, "Michael Redd is better than anybody at catching the ball in the deep left-hand corner, making one or two quick moves, faking right, and then getting off a high-percentage shot." Seriously, tell me you haven't heard comments like that during a typical NBA telecast.

It would be easy to blame Bill Walton, whose Waltonisms have become poplular NBA fodder, for ushering in this Era of Ridiculous Exaggeration. But Walton, for all his faults, usually has a tongue planted firmly in his cheek when he says something like "Tracy McGrady is doing things we've never seen from anybody...from any planet!" It's part of his onscreen persona, and he's only ever half-serious (as far as I can tell, anyway). Not so for guys like Greg Anthony. They are 100 percent serious, at least when the statement is made. I'd guess that, if given the chance to consider his remark, Anthony would probably take it back, or at least clarify it somehow. But that doesn't change the fact that he, and many (if not most) other analysts, will continue to state the outrageous with a straight face at every opportunity. Which to me, is one of the greatest abominations, not just of today, but in the history of Western Civilization.

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"If you're..." (if yoor) broadcasting term. A generic opening used by sports broadcasters to project their in-game analysis onto a particular coach, player, or team.

Usage example: If you're the Boston Celtics, you want to lose the rest of your games to have a better chance of winning the draft lottery.

Word History: I can't prove this, but I suspect the "If you're..." trend was started by Hubie Brown. I've been watching Hubie broadcast NBA games since the late 80s, and he uses the "If you're..." statement at least 20 or 30 times a game. Although, to be fair, he sometimes switches it up and uses an "If I'm..." statement. For example, "If I'm Mike Brown, I tell Lebron James to go out and win the game for me."

Former Pacer Mark Jackson, who's currently calling games for ESPN, has taken the "If you're..." torch and is running away with it. I recently counted a series of six consecutive sentences that Mark started with "If you're...". So, if you're Mark Jackson, you need to go buy a Thesaurus or something.

If youre
"If you're Hubie Brown, you're an undead
mummy in serious need of moisturizer..."

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Of course by "impersonate" I mean going one-on-five every time up the floor and having no confidence whatsoever in your teammates. But, in all seriousness, keep an eye on Barton's Anthony Atkinson in this championship game. The dude is a machine.

Imagine the boys from Winona State going back to rural Minnesota with this hanging over their heads. Going to rural Minnesota in general is bad enough.

While people were still gushing over Kobe's streak of unprecedented selfishness coming to an end, the Bobcats 107-113 OT loss to the Nets on Saturday was actually quite watchable, mainly because Charlotte's derelict squad of cast-offs completely played their asses off.

Let me set the stage: The Bobcats went into this weekend playing their 3rd game in 4 days and were already missing half of their rotation due to injury (Okafor, Felton, Gerald Wallace and Sean May). Brevin Knight and Matt Carroll were matched up against the best backcourt in the East (Jason Kidd and Vince Carter). And, with playoff positioning at stake, the Nets would be pulling no punches against this dilapidated bunch. This had the makings of an NBA snuff film. And Charlotte's performance was a page from Rocky I: facing insurmountable odds, the mildly retarded underdog gives 110% and overachieves in every conceivable fashion..only to lose anyway.

Charlotte's defense was still softer than frozen yogurt, but that didn't help the Nets' cause. Kidd and Jefferson had a disastrous shooting night, and most of their shots came from the Bobcats zone giving them uncontested 20-footers from the corners. Who says you need defenders to play defense? One-time fringe players Matt Carroll and Alan Anderson's combined 39 was outdone by Vince Carter's 40. The difference being is that Carroll and Anderson can't play D, and Vince just doesn't.

Until this past week, we assumed Walter Hermann was in the league as a favor to Manu Ginobili (e.g. Fabricio Oberto), but Hermann Munster looked unusually polished for a player that's been DNP-CD'ed 30+ times this year. He was scoring off the drive, shooting off the dribble, and making everyone (including himself) look foolish with that one-handed Jordan pump fake. I'm not sure what his true position is, but seeing that Josh Boone was 9 for 9 against him at one point, I'm guessing it's not power forward.

Charlotte clawed their way to a two point lead with 5 seconds to go, but the victory was pulled off the table when Vince Carter turned Jason Kidd's desperation airball into an impossible NBA Jam-style reverse alley-oop dunk that left the crowd quieter than a mime fight. The Bobcats backs were broken, and were easily dispatched in OT.

The Charlotte Bobcats season is a heartwarming tale about a team that gets repeatedly punched in the face. Sure, this was one of countless losses, but if I feel compelled to tell you that Charlotte played awesome and Jake Voskuhl and Brevin Knight combined for 29 points, I'll chalk this up as a moral victory.
Yes, I know it's childish. Yes, I know I'm immature. But this headline totally cracked me up...

What will the Yankees do without their Wang?!

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In our ongoing "Steve Nash versus Kobe Bryant" debate, mustachioed wonder David Friedman posed the following question: "If Nash's points/assists combos are more impressive than Kobe's scoring explosions, how come Kobe's scoring explosions are much more rare in NBA history?"

An excellent question, which requires an even more excellent answer. A special thanks goes out to reader scoots who -- despite being a mildly embittered Mavericks fan* -- directed me to Steve Nash's NBA.com bio page, which lists the little canuck's most historically significant accomplishments. The best of his best include:

1. During the 2006 playoffs, Nash became just the third player (behind Magic Johnson and John Stockton) to post double figures in assists in seven consecutive playoff games (May 12-26, 2006).

2. During the 2004-05 regular season, he became the only player in NBA history to record double figures in assists in 11 consecutive victories.

3. During the 2004-05 playoffs, he joined Wilt Chamberliain and Michael Jordan as the only players to score 40-plus points in one playoff game and then collect a triple double in the next game.

4. During the 2004-05 playoffs, he became the first (and still only) player in NBA history to record four consecutive games with at least 25 points and 10 assists in the postseason.

So there you have it. Nash can boast accomplishments that are, indeed, as rare as Kobe's recent scoring outbursts. And, most notably, three of the four I've listed were accomplished in the playoffs, versus the best competition. As opposed to, say, lottery teams. Which leads me to the second part of this post.

Whenever I present arguments in favor of Steve Nash, I usually get bombarded by "but" statements. BUT he's a bad defender. BUT he has talented teammates. BUT he's never won a title. BUT his hair is silly. And while these points have varying degrees of validity, they certainly do prove one thing: every player, and every accomplishment, comes with an asterisk. This has been true ever since Wilt Chamberlain dropped 100 on the Knicks (he was playing against undersized centers, it was a blowout, his teammates were fouling to get the ball back) and the Celtics won 11 out of 13 championships (they had the best players, the best coach, and leprechauns). And, in that spirit, Kobe's recent 5-game scoring streak also has a few "buts":

1. Kobe's recent scoring binge has come against five lottery-bound teams with a combined record of 141-209. For those of you who like math, that's a .403 winning percentage. The "best" team in that bunch is the Golden State Warriors, who are ninth in the West and have a slim chance of making the playoffs (but won't). But their 33-38 record is kind of deceiving, since they're 25-10 at home and an abysmal 8-28 on the road. Hey, guess where they were playing when Kobe dropped 43 points on them? Yep: in L.A.

2. The Lakers have won all five games during Kobe's scoring tear. Of course, they've done so by a combined total of 21 points (including a 4-point victory over the Portland Trailblazers in overtime). That's not to take anything away from the victories; a win's a win, period. The point, rather, is that all the games were close (two 2-point games, a 4-point game, a 6-point game, and a 7-point game). The fact that they were close means that Kobe had to stay in the game and continue shooting. There have been plenty of games throughout NBA history where a great player was hot and could have gone for 50 or 60. I know of several Larry Bird game where The Legend had 40+ by the third quarter, then sat out the fourth because it was a blowout. Same for Michael Jordan.

3. Over this 5-game stretch, Kobe has dished 11 assists and committed 15 turnovers (including 0 assists and 7 turnovers in Sunday's game against Golden State). That's a 0.7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. That's...not good.

Kobe has been on fire, no doubt about it. His scoring has been extremely impressive (historically so), and, most importantly, the Lakers have won the last five games. But let's put things in perspective. The man beat up on a handful of lottery teams with less-than-stellar defenses and little to play for (Golden State's outside shot of making the playoffs notwithstanding). He also had to keep shooting in all five games because the Lakers couldn't pull away in any of them, despite his otherworldly scoring contributions. And that might be because he sacrificed getting his teammates involved because, well, he was too busy filling up the basket.

The thing is, I'm not saying any of this to take anything away from Bryant or his accomplishments. I may not like Kobe as a person, but I genuinely enjoy watching him play. I have repeatedly stated that he's the best scorer in the NBA, and one of the greatest in league history. I even think he's one of the best players in the game today. But I simply don't equate scoring with being The Best Player. That's why, if I was starting a team, I'd take a Magic Johnson over a Jordan, and I'd take a Nash over a Bryant, despite all the "buts" out there.

Now with that said, I admit to being a little tired of discuing Nash/Kobe. So I'll do my best to respond to any outstanding comments to this and past posts. However, going forward I intend to return to the fart and penis jokes that are my hallmark.

* Look, scoots, I feel your pain. It's always traumatizing when a player leaves your team and goes on to do great things. But honestly, Steve had to scale back his game when he played in Dallas. He was usually the second (behind Dirk Nowitzki) or third option (behind Dirk and Michael Finley). He simply filled his role and did what the coaching staff asked him to do. Which is remarkable, when you think about it. He never pouted or made bitter comments to the press about how he could be an MVP if he didn't have to defer to Dirk. He didn't demand a trade or try to get someone else traded. And when he was asked to be "The Man," he just flat out did it. But all that aside, you still have the Mavericks, who are the best team in the league and (in my mind) a lock to win the title this year (or as close to a lock as you can get in today's league).

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A decade of working in downtown Chicago has taught me two things: 1) Don't give money to people begging on street corners (you're better served making donations to a shelter or a food kitchen), and 2) don't respond to crazy people. These lessons have served me well, but I'm going to make an exception to rule number two in the case of David Friedman. This is because, of all the people who have commented on our site, he has the most rockin'est mustache*. Seriously, David, if you ever run into Ron Jeremy on the street or your local adult bookstore, he may very well murder you and have your mustache grafted to his face. So, you know, consider yourself warned.

*I apologize in advance if this statement has offended any of our mustachioed readers. If you believe your mustache kicks more ass than David's, please send us a picture and we will seriously reconsider our evaluation. Best Mustache Contest winners receive an unautographed t-shirt commemorating Greg Ostertag's career-high 18-point game.

David found my analysis laughable. I, on the other hand, found his analysis of my analysis -- and his mustache -- laughable. One of his sticking points was my contention that Phil Jackson used to hide Michael Jordan on defense during the Bulls' second threepeat:

"Did you actually watch any of the games that you are talking about? Pippen guarded Foster at times when the Bulls went with a small lineup and Pip was at the four spot. I don't think that MJ ever guarded Foster, except on a switch. Far from hiding MJ or Pip (or Kobe), Jackson liked to have them guarding the other team's top threat, the only exception being if they were in foul trouble. MJ and Pip took turns on Magic in the '91 Finals and Jackson loved to put MJ or Pip on Price, Stockton or Mark Jackson during key stretches of playoff games to disrupt the other team's offensive execution."

I own all of those games on either VHS or DVD. In fact, I have a copy of every NBA Finals game (and most other playoff games) on video from 1990 to the present. So yeah, I've watched and rewatched them several times. And honestly, I didn't pay much attention to whom Jordan was guarding back in 1997, but I've spent a lot of time analyzing those series since then. And in the '97 Finals, Jordan guarded Greg Foster whenever he was in the game. Hey, feel free to fly out to Chicago and I'll gladly watch the games with you and your mustache.

It is indeed true that Jordan guarded Magic during parts of the '91 Finals, and he was used as a lock-down defender at various other times in the early 90s (when his defensive prowess was justly recognized). But Jordan was not a great defender early in his career (I can show you plenty of videographic evidence of guys like Danny Ainge simply walking by Jordan on their way to the basket), and Jackson protected him late in his career. Pippen and Rodman were the lock-down guys during the second threepeat. It was Pippen (at times) guarding Mark Jackson and John Stockton in 1998, not Jordan. And Jordan only ever guarded Reggie Miller on switches and, of course, that classic end-of-game situation where Reggie hit a three-pointer over Jordan to lead the Pacers to victory.

"Back to Kobe; the Nash/Kobe defensive numbers that you cited are completely meaningless. Was Nash actually guarding the nominal point guard in the games that you cited or was he guarding someone else? How much help did he get when he was beaten off of the dribble? What do the players that he guarded normally average?"

Thanks to the wonders of NBA League Pass and TiVo, I do catch most of the Suns' games, so I'm accutely aware of whom Nash guards. I even compiled the stats of both starting and backup point guards when the starter got into foul trouble. Mind you, I don't think the numbers are infallible (there are, as you point out, numerous variables to consider). They weren't meant to be. But they're hardly meaningless. They provide a general snapshot of what opposing point guards have been doing against the Suns (in general) and Nash (in particular). The fact is, despite what the Anti-Nashers say, opposing point guards aren't lighting the Suns up on a nightly basis.

Honestly, I don't have the time or inclination to rewatch every Suns game and track every single defensive position. Unlike some people, I don't have a mustache to keep me company and therefore must go out into the world to seek companionship. But at least I'm citing some kind of evidence. All the Kobe Lovers ever seem to do is show up and make blanket statements about how Nash "gives up more points on defense than he produces on offense." Yet, as far as I can tell, there isn't a single shred of evidence that this is the case, other than heresay. How about you, oh great basketball guru? What evidence did you show up with? Other than the ever-insightful "You're Wrong" argument.

"As for Kobe, one of your previous commenters already mentioned that Bryant was not burned one on one by Arenas or Wade or the others in their big games; those guys got their points because the Lakers bigs don't know how to defend the screen and roll."

Well golly gee, if one of previous commenters said it, it must be true! Let me ask a question you keep asking me: Did you watch those games? I know I did. Take the game in which Arenas scored 60. He did, in point of fact fact, burn Kobe one-on-one -- more than once -- which is why Kobe was (rightfully) embarrassed afterward. Bryant then tried to dismiss the scorching by claiming that he just wasn't prepared to defend Gilbert's "bad shots." You might remember this choice Kobe quote: "Some of the shots he took tonight, you miss those, and they're just terrible shots. Awful. You make them and they're unbelievable shots. I don't get a chance to play him much, so I haven't gotten used to that mentality of just chucking it up there. He made some big ones, but I'll be ready next time."

Those last couple sentences sure sound like an admission of guilt to me. And did you watch the Cavs/Lakers game prior to the All Star break? Kobe tried to lock down Lebron James and failed. It wasn't just Lebron's 38 points, either; James controlled that game, and, not coincidentally, the Cavaliers won. In L.A.

It completely amazes me that you have the balls to call my analysis laughable and then simply dismiss Kobe's poor defensive outings as a result of Kwame Brown's and Andrew Bynum's inability to play screen roll. Oh, it's that simple, is it? Kobe's mistakes aren't his mistakes, they're somebody else's mistakes...why didn't I think of that?! You and your mustache truly understand the game of basketball!

If you want to play that way, then let's apply the same logic to Nash on defense. If you've bothered to really watch the Suns play over the last three seasons, you'll know that they employ a team defensive scheme that calls for Nash to sink in and cheat on the opposing teams' big men when the ball goes in the post. This also happens when anyone else gets beat off the dribble. As a result, Nash ends up surrending a lot of open threes and drives to the basket. Yet, according to Seven Seconds Or Less, that's exactly what coach Mike D'Antoni wants him to do. So, if you honestly don't fault Kobe for giving up points on screen rolls (and whatever else you want to blame the Lakers' big men for), you need to go back and subtract every point scored on Nash when he's providing help defense (which is often).

"One more point about Kobe's defense: the All-Defensive Teams are voted on by the coaches, not the media or the fans. When you say that he is getting by on his reputation you are saying that NBA coaches that see Bryant on a nightly basis know less about the defensive capabilities of NBA players than you do."

Wow. I didn't realize that NBA coaches get to watch Kobe Bryant on a nightly basis. That's pretty nice of the team owners to give their coaches time off to watch Kobe play instead of, oh I don't know, coaching their teams. Look, every account I've ever read of NBA coaches (such as in Seven Seconds Or Less and The Pivotal Season) seems to indicate that these men are very busy minding their own team. Coaching in the NBA is more than a full-time job. Somehow I doubt they spend much time breaking down tape and doing in-depth analysis after they get their All Defensive Team ballots in the mail.

This isn't to say they don't know what they're doing, but do you honestly think coaching selections are infallible? The coaches select the reserves for the All Star Game. Do you agree with every selection they've ever made? You're telling me you've never questioned coaching choices for All Star Reserves, All Defensive Team honors, or anything else? Come on, now. Whatever you may think, coaches are not machines churning out flawless analyses of NBA teams and players. There are many reasons, poth personal and political, that they make the choices they do.

And yeah, I do think that players do get by on reputation. It happens all the time. Most people agree that Gary Payton was getting All Defensive honors long after he'd lost six or seven steps on D. And according to Peter May's The Big Three, Kevin McHale himself admitted that his selection to the All Defensive First Team in 1988 was due mostly to reputation. Hell, Larry Bird, whose individual defense has been routinely criticized over the years, made the All Defensive Second Team three straight times. You don't suppose the fact that he was Larry Bird had anything to do with that, do you?

"Hey, Kobe and Nash are both great players. I have Kobe, Dirk and Nash 1-2-3 in that order for MVP. If someone else has them in a different order, fine. But you simply hate Kobe, as you admit, so why don't you just leave it at that rather than throwing out a bunch of spurious, misleading numbers?"

I didn't realize that I'd been hiding the fact that I hate Kobe. I figured the words "Actually, I do hate Kobe" in my last post were pretty obvious. As for my "spurious" and "misleading" numbers, I don't think you have much room to talk. After all, you just wrote an article titled "60 More Reasons That Kobe Bryant is the NBA's Best Player." According to your article, scoring lots of points over the course of a handful of games, and doing so at a high percentage (higher, by far, than his season average, I should point out), is all the evidence we need that Kobe is the best player in the league. Scoring = The Best? Talk about spurious and misleading.

(By the way, do you know who Kobe was guarding last night? Mike Miller. Mikey scored 33 points on 11-16 shooting. But it's okay to give up points as long as you're scoring a lot, right?)

The fact is, there is no one statistic, no two statistics, no ten statistics that prove who's the best. And there's no statistic that, by itself, proves anything at all. Red Auerbach once pooh-poohed scoring averages because the number, by itself, doesn't tell you whether the player scored the most points versus good teams or bad teams, whether the points were scored during the game or in the clutch, and so on. At the end of the day, all you can do is review all the evidence you can, watch the games, and make your decision based on what you see and what you think you know. And I stick by my choice: Nash over Kobe.

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It seems like a lot of people misunderstood the purpose of yesterday's discussion of point production. My beef is that many people use a player's ability to score points as a trump card in the discussion of "who's the best." When that happens, the debate basically devolves into a question of "who would win a game of one-on-one?"

However, basketball isn't a one-on-one game (at least, it isn't supposed to be). It's five-on-five, which is why I think if the debate focuses on points, it's important to consider point production rather than points scored. If a player's worth is defined by the points he is responsible for, I think assists should be included in the discussion. Of course, doing so is problematic, since it's difficult (if not impossible) to determine whether an assist led to a two-pointer or a three-pointer, whether a player scored while getting fouled (and made the resulting foul shot), and whether a pass led to a shooting foul (and the subsequent freethrows) without appearing in the box score. It also doesn't account for the relative quality of teammates, the type of offense a teams uses, and so on.

I was simply trying to introduce a slightly modified way of thinking about scoring in the NBA. I'm not a Kobe-Hater. Well, actually, I do hate Kobe Bryant, but not because of the way he plays basketball. I readily concede that he's the best scorer in the league, and incredibly exciting to watch. I just don't think that makes him the de facto best player. One unfortunate byproduct of Michael Jordan's reign is that many people think that the greatest player must necessarily be the most unstoppable scorer, and I don't believe that's the case.

Now, let's talk about what I call "the defensive myth." Most of the people who consistently disagree with me in the Nash-versus-Kobe Debate repeatedly point out how "terrible" Steve Nash is on defense and how great Kobe is. Personally, I think this is a cop out. It's become all too easy to make these blanket statements about the relative defensive abilities of these players. After all, if people say it often enough, it must be true...right?

I said "not so fast," and pointed out in the comments section how well some of the better shooting guards have performed against Kobe this season: Ray Allen had back-to-back 30-plus-point games; Michael Redd dropped 45 on him; Dwayne Wade scored 40 and 35 points; Gilbert Arenas scored half of his 60 points (14 in the fourth quarter, 16 in overtime) after Kobe specifically asked Phil Jackson for the defensive assignment; and Kobe asked to guard Lebron in the last game before the All Star break, and James put up 38 points.

I used these examples because one of the primary arguments that was used against Nash winning the MVP last year was that some of the opposing All Star-caliber point guards had big games against him (most notably Chauncy Billups). But here's the thing: great players are going to score points, no matter who's guarding them. So I don't think it's necessarily reasonable to expect Nash to shut down Billups, or for Bryant to shut down Wade or Lebron. I just figured that I'd use the enemies tactics against them.

In the interest of fairness, however, I decided to take a random sample of how opposing point guards have fared against Steve Nash this season, and how opposing shooting guards have fared against Kobe Bryant. I decided to calculate the opposing players' averages in field goal percentage, points, and assists for the month of January. I chose January because it was after Kobe had recovered from off-season knee surgery and before Steve Nash injured his shoulder.

Steve Nash: Nash played 16 games in January. Opposing point guards shot 36.4 percent (89-244), scored 14.8 PPG, and dished 4.9 APG. The Suns were 15-1.

Kobe Bryant: The Mamba played 15 games in January. Opposing shooting guards shot 45.6 percent (109-239), scored 21.6 PPG, and dished 4.6 APG. The Lakers were 8-7.

So, just by the numbers, Kobe allowed opposing players to score more while shooting a much higher percentage, and they compiled almost as many assists per game. Now, again, this is a very basic statistical analysis. It doesn't take into account team defensive schemes, defensive switches, and alternating defensive assignments. Still, I find it pretty interesting. Not so much that players scored more against Kobe; after all, shooting guards are supposed to shoot the ball. What I find interesting is the descrepancy in shooting percentages. If Nash's defense was so absolutely horrible, would opposing point guards be shooting such a terrible percentage? It's something to consider...

Bottom line: The random sample provides a strong indication that, despite proclamations to the contrary, Nash does not surrender more points than he produces. Is he a great individual defender? No. But he operates very well within the team defensive scheme designed by the Suns' coaching staff. Opposing PGs just aren't lighting him up.

One last note on Kobe's defensive abilities. There's no question that Kobe has they physical and mental capacity to be a great defender (whereas Nash does not). And he has, in times past, put those talents to spectacular use. But capacity does not equate to actuality. I've watched him enough to know that he rarely focuses his abilities on the defensive end (no doubt conserving energy for his offensive duties). Furthermore, Phil Jackson sometimes "hides" Kobe on the defensive end by giving him lesser defensive assignments. (This is a common Phil Jackson tactic; he used to "hide" Jordan as well, particularly during the Bulls' second threepeat. In the 1997 Finals, Jordan's defensive assignment was Greg Foster. In the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, he guarded the nearly immobile Chris Mullin rather than Reggie Miller, and in the Finals he guarded Jeff Hornacek -- who was partially hobbled by chronic knee pain -- rather than the younger, faster, more athletic Bryon Russell.)

Oh, and for the record, I do consider Magic Johnson to have been a greater player than Michael Jordan. But that's a subject for another day.

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Mark Cuban Rule (mark kyoo'-bun rool) noun. The informal name for legislation enacted by the NBA to regulate the behavior of team owners at games. The act requires owners to refrain from entering the court, taunting players or officials, and maintain a level of decorum mandated by the league.

Usage example: From Truehoop: "A month after he shut down the bidding and decided to keep the team, the NBA Board of Governors passed the "Mark Cuban Rule," meant to keep team owners off the bench, out of the huddle, and out of the referees' ears."

Word History: This term, and other variations (such as The Cuban Corollary), were coined simultaneously by various writers and bloggers after the act was passed in October of 2006. David Stern and the NBA Board of Governors decided that the act was necessary in part because Cuban had already accumulated $1,665,000 in fines through June, 2006. But more importantly, Cuban's behavior during the NBA Finals -- the league's brightest and most public stage -- was considered to be a major embarrassment.

[Hat Tip: Thanks to Henry Abbott for the reminder.]

Mark Cuban Rule
Thanks to the Mark Cuban Rule,
Mark Cuban can't do this anymore.

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Steve Nash goes up for two of his 64 points

NBA people love scoring. I mean, we really love it. Even the so-called "purists" start humping their TiVos every time Kobe Bryant drops 50 or 60 points, as he did in back-to-back games last week. In fact, people are still talking about Kobe's double scoring explosion, and blogging about whether he'll score 50 again, and again, and again as many times as he wants.

But you know what I want to know? Why aren't people still talking about the 64-point game Steve Nash had last week?

Maybe you remember it. It was against the league's best team, the Dallas Mavericks, and the MVP front-runner, Dirk Nowitzki. "Nash didn't have 64," you say? Well, he scored 32 points himself and dished out 16 assists. That means he was responsible for at least 64 points. But then again, some of those passes probably resulted in three-pointers or and-1 situations, so the number of points he was responsible for is probably in the 70s somewhere. I'd have to go back and watch the game again to be sure.

My point? NBA fans and analysts always seem to overvalue the number of points a player scores himself versus how many points that player helps someone else score. That's why Kobe's 65 was treated as so much more meaningful than Nash's "64." In fact, I guarantee Nash's performance wouldn't have gotten half the attention it did if it hadn't happened in a double-overtime game featuring the two best teams in the league.

Let's just look at the circumstances. And, for the sake of argument, let's assume all assists are worth two points, thereby excluding three-pointers and the and-1's. When Kobe scored 65, he also had three assists, for a point total of 71 points. When he scored 50, he once again notched three assists, for a point total of 56 points. The point totals, for the record, came in wins against teams that are 27-40 and 28-38, respectively. And those teams, I should also point out, are not top-notch defensive units.

Nash's 64, on the other hand, came in a win against the 55-11 Dallas Mavericks, the best team in the league (based on won-loss records) and the fourth-best defensive team (according to points allowed). So answer me this: what's more impressive? Producing -- through scoring and passing -- 60 points against lottery teams or against the league's best?

Let's extend this conversation to season averages, and again assume that assists are worth two points. Nash's averages of 19.1 points and 11.5 assists equal a total point production of 42.1 points. On the other hand, Kobe averages 30 points and 5.5 assists for 41.0 total points. So in a very basis statistical analysis, Steve Nash is worth more points per game than Kobe Bryant. But nobody ever thinks about it like that.

I was just perusing Nash's game log from last season, and it's telling. Did you know he had a 28-point, 22-assist game last season? That's a 72-point effort if (again) you give him only two points for each assist. I don't care how you look at it, that's freaking amazing. But I doubt anyone other than me (and now you) knows that game even happened, whereas everyone who follows the NBA (and many who don't) will always remember the 81 Kobe dropped that same year.

That's why it pains me -- and I mean the real, physical, I-just-got-my-nuts-caught-in-a-meat-grinder kind of pain -- when people boldly proclaim that Kobe is the "best player" in the league. Forget the fact that it's impossible to quantify what "best player" even means. It's all about the points. It's all about being "unstoppable" (although if a player was truly unstoppable, they'd never lose a game, let alone 6 or 7 in a row, as Kobe has done twice this season). It's all about flying through air, and dunking, and hitting crazy reverse layups and ridiculous "I can't believe he just took that shot" fadeaways. In short, it's all about looking good in the highlight reel.

Is Kobe the most explosive individual scorer in the league? Absolutely. Are his physical talents and abilities the most impressive? Perhaps, but in a league of Dwyane Wades and Lebron James's, it's hardly a given. But considering the fact that he doesn't consistently produce the most points or, more importantly, the most wins, I don't see how anyone can unequivocally state that Kobe is the best overall player.

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Dig this crazy 1974 commerical for Bradlees, a now-defunct department store chain that was popular in New England during the 1970's. It features John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, and Don Nelson (not Don Nelson the pasty, bloated coach; this was Don Nelson the pasty, bloated player). The commercial was narrated by the late Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most, before his voice had been reduced to a hoarse, croaking whisper by years of drinking coffee drinking, smoking cigarettes, and gargling with broken glass.

For some reason this commercial is broken into two parts. In part one we learn that Don Nelson cannot handle his balls.

In part two, an angry Nelson returns a defective basketball. Strangely, he doesn't notice that the customer service representative is none other than his teammate, Dave Cowens, who was probably working at Bradlees part-time because Red Auerbach was cheap*. At the end of the commercial, the three Celtics commit a blatant act of petty larceny by walking through the checkout lanes without paying for their merchandise. They follow this up by committing an even more blatant act of cheese by shooting a ball into a shopping cart.

*Actually, Cowens' salary in 1974 was around $161,000 (which, believe it or not, was a lot of money back then). And while I'm pretty sure he never worked at Bradlees, he did spend a day working as a cab driver and once took two months off from playing basketball during the 1976-77 season to sell Christmas trees on the family farm. Interestingly enough, Cowens' behavior isn't too different from Ron Artest, who once applied to work at Best Buy and later asked the Pacers for a couple months off to promote his rap album. But if Artest took December off to sell Christmas trees, journalists and bloggers all over the country would go absolutely apeshit.

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un-emulate-able (un-em'-yoo-lat'-a'-buhl) adjective. Used to describe a basketball player whose physical abilities and/or style of play cannot be duplicated.

Usage example: Players like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are truly un-emulate-able.

Word History: The term was coined by Shaquille O'Neal on March 15, 2007, after the Miami Heat notched a 93-86 victory over New Jersey Nets. Said Shaq: "I'm un-emulate-able. I took the files and deleted them, ate 'em, used 'em in the bathroom, flushed it into the sewage plant, and blew the sewage plant up. So there's no way my style can be copied. It's gone." Reading between the lines, it appears that Shaq's savage hunger has reached the point where human food can no longer fulfill the nutritional requirements of his monstrous body, forcing him to feed on abstract concepts like "style of play" and "government intelligence." Reading even further between the lines, it seems that his bodily excretions also serve as powerful explosives. Let the world's toilets...beware.

Is it just me, or does it look like they're
double-teaming the championship trophy?

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I pride myself on playing smart, good basketball. I also pride myself on a healthy appreciation of Larry Bird and Celtics of the '80's. I shame myself, however, in knowing so little about other great players who just never hit my radar for one reason or another. After watching the Celtics Dynasty series DVD, for example, I learned a healthy respect for Dave Cowens.

My dad always said how great Cowens was (and giggled like schoolgirl when we saw Cowens around, oh, 1988 or so, walking down a Boston Garden alleyway in his snazzy tan overcoat holding a basketball in each hand). "Hey Dave!" my dad screamed, to which Dave turned...and held his balls in the air.

It was quite a moment.

Another player I never appreciated as much as I should was Pete Maravich. All I really ever thought of him was that he could hit the stop-and-pop jumper with great accuracy. Then I watched this video, and realized what an amazing all-around talent he was. No, he didn't win championships (though if he had hung aroung with the Celtics another year or so at the end of his career he would have), but I'm not talking about stats here. I'm talking about the great plays that make you realize "This guy is special."

Give this video some time. It starts slow, but by the time it's over, you'll feel like you just had sex - hot, sweaty, basketball sex...
...ok, that sounded enormously gay...
...let me rephrase...
...sex with a hot, large-breasted woman...in the center of a basketball arena...holding a Victoria's Secret lingerie show.


- Evil Ted

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OK, I have to fill out a frickin' sheet for March Madness, and I simply don't know how to interpret this. Joakim Noah is clearly one of the most emotional, enthusiastic players in NCAA men's basketball, but when he unleashes a humpy dance like this, I wonder: Should this move Florida up or down on my own personal ranking list? I mean, yes, it's great to see someone with such enthusiasm for his sport, but is it a sign he's just a goofball huffing aerosol, riding some artificial high to make himself play better, whose shortcomings will be revealed in the Big Dance?

I wouldn't have used the PTI version of this (and I'm sure some legal bullcrap will force it off youtube soon), but I had to. Catch Kornhheiser at the end saying Noah's first name. C'mon, Korny, you just mentioned the dude is French, Joakim is not pronounced "Jok-em"... It's pronounced hwa-keem. Picky? Yes. But when French is butchered so unceremoniously, I must stand up for all of those in France who are unwilling to stand up for themselves, unless they are prohibiting the U.S. from using their airspace to bomb Iraq, or criticizing our foreign policy.

Today's Joke: Why are French army uniforms fitted with extra long sleeves? So they fit right when the soldiers do this...(person telling joke puts arms in the air in surrender).

You're gonna tell that one. Today. You know you are.

Bonjour Basketbawful-heads,
Evil Ted

Editor's note: Thanks to basketbawful's legion of people who actually look stuff up (see comments), it appears Korny AND myself are wrong. Seriously, though, research can be such a hassle - even if it takes merely a few clicks of a mouse, I don't have time for that. We are a nation of people who think 15 seconds is too long to microwave a hot dog.

Joakim Simon Noah (pronunciation: JO-a-kim; born February 25, 1985 in New York City) is a 6'11" American basketball player who currently plays for the University of Florida in the SEC of the NCAA.[4]

This is from Wikipedia, so it must be fact. I, on the other hand, in my off-the-cuff attempt to devine the correct pronunciation of Joakim Noah's first name, was clearly relying on truthiness for my assertions.

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Ok, so Basketbawful is busy this week and asked me to put together a few posts for you. Anyway, this leaves me, Boston-bred Evil Ted, to entertain you basketball-hungry people. On the upside I have complete control, so maybe I'll go off on another rant about how Larry Bird is better than Dirk Nowitzki or Dr. J and prove it in a video game, or perhaps I'll eschew (gazundheit) basketball altogether and go off on how Tom Brady rocks for empregnating two, count 'em, two supermodels at virtually the same time. Yes, Payton Manning's commercials (like this one and this one) are superior, but Tommy Boy, in spite of his suspiciously homosexual photo shoots (highlighted so adeptly in the greatest music video ever), is doing his level best to put even the tiniest whispers of gayness to rest by launching his seed into Bridget Moynihan AND Gisele Bundchen (Nice Website Gisele - screwing a Web designer too?).

Can't you just hear the 3-time World Champ now? "I'm Tom Brady, dammit. I don't wear condoms." Uh, Tom, there's a little something called child support that says ya do; even the dumbest millionaires know that. Do you see Mark Cuban fathering any illegitimate kids?

Tom, now that the seed has been planted, at least take some advice now: hire some nannies pronto, my friend. I don't plan on hearing "We couldn't beat the Colts again this year because my kids won't sleep and my supermodel girlfriends don't change diapers." I want you tossing TD passes to an open Dante Stallworth, not Pampers to an open Diaper Genie.

OK, let's get to basketball...

Nature's Freak

Alright, it appears my beloved (or formerly beloved - thanks Danny Ainge) Boston Celtics are tanking the season, and may in the process get their hands on Greg Oden of Ohio State. Prior to this weekend, I had never seen Oden play, but I figured I'd familiarize myself with him since he might be a future Celtic, and because I have a tourny sheet to fill out, and it's nice to know a little about at least one team, so that I can feel like I did some research before I flush five bucks down the toilet (it's ALWAYS some chick who closes her eyes and fills out a sheet who wins, always - so unless you're a blind chick, don't bother).


They keep referring to this Oden as a freshman. This monster is a freshman? I mean, even when the Bulls took Eddie Curry and Tyson Chandler out of high school, those two looked like really big high school players. Oden looks like a MAN. An adult. Somebody who's icy stare could freeze Ben Wallace in a prison shower. I'd like someone to produce a birth certificate for this dude - the droopy jowels, the Bill Russell / Wilt Chamberlain facial hair, the pronounced, looming brow - this ain't no 19 year old. This is a 35-year-old dude playing AGAINST 19-year-olds...it's like when that "prematurely gray" guy won American Idol - nobody questioned age here?

Taylor Hicks and Greg Oden: a 55-year-old and a
35-year-old both pretending to be 19 for fame and fortune.

I'm just waiting for Taylor Hicks to start endorsing Depends senior undergarments after he's done with the Ford commercials. And I'm waiting for that lost videotape of Oden honing his basketball skills in some Eastern European pickup league in the mid-90's.

As for Oden's ability, he's clearly a presence. He's bigger and stronger than everyone else - not by a little, by a lot - and when one of his guards throws a layup too hard against the glass, you know he's gonna be there to slam it home with authority over some poor bastard half his age. On one play during the big ten / pac-eleven / whatever tournament this weekend, he stood on one side of the basket, reached full across the paint with his enormous wingspan, and tipped an errant shot off the glass and in with a couple of fingers that would, in a plane-crash-survivors-turning-cannibal situation, feed a family of four for three days.

On the whole, it's clear why teams are salivating over the 7-foot Oden. He's got some offense beyond the dunk, he times the block with precision, and he has the build to match anyone currently in the NBA. On the other hand, if Danny Ainge gets his incompetant mitts on Oden, I'm certain he and the Celtics will find a way to turn him into the black Greg Ostertag. In the NBA, everyone is closer to Oden's size - and AGE - and his dominance will not be nearly as pronounced - of course, I recall basketbawful and myself saying something similar about LeBron James before he entered the league (insert foot in mouth here). Would Oden be a fantastic compliment to Paul Pierce and the Celts? Absolutely, he'd be a great addition to any team, but the Celtics need more than a Ben-Wallace-with-a-little-more-offensive-skill to be great again.

OK, I'm spent - not in an "I just empregnated Bridget Moynahan and Gisele" way - just spent. I hope you've all enjoyed my little Basketbawful test drive... except for you, Danny Ainge, my mortal foe. Some day you will have to explain to a higher power what you've done to the Celtics - and when DJ is looking out from inside the Pearly Gates, may he have mercy upon your Mormon soul.

Tomorrow's topic: Do Mormons even believe in the Pearly Gates?

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TrueHoop turned me on to Chris Broussard's article about the top 10 basketball nicknames, and I was very tempted to post my own "best of" list in response. I mean, how did "King James" make the Top 10 when iconic nicknames like "The Big Dipper" and "Mr. Clutch" didn't even receive honorable mention?! Also missing were some of my all-time favorites, like "The Microwave," "Clyde the Glide," and "Larry Legend."

But since I did a rebuttal post last week, I decided to discuss something more original: pickup basketball nicknames.

Why nicknames are necessary in pickup basketball: According to recent scientific findings, 99.9 percent of today's pickup basketball players are men. Why is this important? Because, generally speaking, men are lazy. Mind you, this is not a critique; we genuinely enjoy our laziness. It makes life simple.

However, this means that a guy usually doesn't bother to introduce himself to the other players in his pickup league. Or, if introductions are made, names are forgotten almost immediately, thus rendering the introductions meaningless (which is part of the reason we instinctively avoid them). As a result, the only way to talk to your buddies about the games -- which is an absolute necessity in serious pickup leagues -- is to identify the other players using nicknames.

How to create a nickname: Remember what I said about men? Since you're probably too lazy to reread the previous two paragraphs, I'll summarize it for you: we're lazy. That's why, barring very special circumstances, we expend very little energy inventing nicknames. Avoid anything too fancy or thoughtful. Most nicknames are created using the time-honored formula of: Defining Characteristic + The Word "Guy." That defining characteristic may be physical or related to his basketball skills. For instance, let's say your league has a guy who's covered in body hair and a guy who shoots jumpshots almost exclusively. They'll be known as "Hairy Guy" and "Jump Shooting Guy," respectively.

Never underestimate the laziness factor. A nickname also must be easy to say. My buddy Mr. P made up a nickname for me once. Since I often play full-court defense, he started calling me "Ninety-Four Feet of Pain." Ultimately, the nickname was too difficult to say and never caught on. And for that, I'm grateful.

Types of nicknames: There are two types of nicknames in pickup basketball: 1) specific nicknames and 2) generic nicknames.

The specific nickname focuses on a characteristic that is specific to one particular player and probably cannot be applied to others. For instance, let's say there's a guy in your league who has a glass eye (and yes, you will remember this fact but not his name). He, then, would become known as "Glass Eye Guy."

A generic nickname usually identifies a characteristic that can apply to multiple players over time. For instance, let's say there's a guy who has limited skill but plays really hard. He may become known as "Hustle Guy." But if another guy who comes along later who also plays really hard, he might also be called "Hustle Guy" (or "Hustle Guy Number Two" if the first guy is still in the league).

Specific nickname examples: Here are some specific nicknames from my pickup league.

1. Backwards Hat Guy: If you play basketball and wear baseball caps, you've probably tried to play basketball while wearing a baseball cap. It really doesn't work all that well, does it? Yet there's a guy in our league who wears a backwards baseball cap week after week, and has done so for years. The cap has never come off; it's on when he gets there and it's still on when he leaves. I've always wondered whether he's hiding a third eye under that hat.

2. Bandana Guys: By now, you've probably seen those commercials for Nike's Air Force 25 shoes. Now imagine you saw that group of guys walking into your pickup league, only there's no dramatic music, instead of NBA all-stars they're a bunch of topless white dudes, and they're all wearing identical bandanas. Regardless of your stance on homosexuality, you have to admit that's pretty gay.

3. Gheorghe Muresan: Basically, this guy is tall, lanky, has a scraggly goatee, and, well, he looks like Gheorghe Muresan. Ironically, he wears a Clyde Drexler jersey every week. I've never seen him wear anything else. For all I know, he doesn't own anything else. Every once in a while someone will call him "Drexler," but it's not complimentary and it's usually accompanied by a sarcastic laugh.

4. Michigan Guy: The first time this dude showed up to the league, he was wearing a full compliment of Michigan University apparel. I'm talking official replica jersey, shorts, sweatbands...he even had team socks. It didn't help that he was wide-eyed, seemingly mute, and a truly horrific basketball player. The following week he showed up in an official Chicago Bulls uniform, which was too much for even the nicest guys in the league. The ensuing mockery sent him home early and, three years later, he hasn't worn any official gear since. Or gotten any better, for that matter.

5. Partial Hand Guy: This guy is missing about one-third of his shooting hand, yet, amazingly, is one of the best three-point shooters in the league. Since it isn't easy to ask someone why their hand is deformed, we don't know the story behind his missing digits...and we probably never will. However, whatever mutilated his hand also must have damaged the nerve endings in his arm, because he regularly uses his stump to club people on defense. Have you ever gotten clobbered with a huge, lifeless hunk of meat? Take my word for this: it doesn't feel good.

6. Super Mario: Have you ever wondered what the star character of the Super Mario Brothers video game would look like if he was a real person who played basketball? Okay, probably not. But if you did, you could come to my pickup league and see it. The sad thing is, when I first joined the league this guy's nickname was "Magic" because of his ability to hit baby hook shots and make nifty passes. Then he got bacterial meningitis, fell into a coma for six months, and came back a shapeless, flabby shell of his former self. Remember: every pickup basketball player has a story.

7. Fat Shaq: A fat guy who used his size to bully his way inside and snatch lots of rebounds. Very little skill or finesse, but in pickup basketball, size counts for a lot. And yes, I realize the name "Fat Shaq" is an oxymoron.

Generic nickname examples: Here are some generic nicknames that are in continual use in my league:

1. Asshole: Every pickup league has a resident asshole, someone whose behavior is so vile and obnoxious that he is universally disliked. Maybe he calls too many fouls on offense, maybe he commits too many hard fouls on defense, or maybe he does a lot of both. But whatever the case, people in the league hate him from the bottom of his hooves to the top of his pitchfork. And the great part about this nickname is that it's like "Prince" or "Madonna"...when you mention "Asshole" everybody automatically knows who you're talking about.

2. Crazy Defender Guy: This is the guy who devotes all his time and energy to defense. He doesn't follow the Dwyane Wades or Kobe Bryants of the league; he follows the Raja Bells and the Bruce Bowens. He knows all their dirty tricks, too, from stepping on your foot before the play starts or grabbing your jersey when you try to run off of a pick. He's relentless and never gives up an open shot, and everybody hates playing against him.

3. Hustle Guy: This guy works hard. He may not be any good, but you can always count on him to play defense and dive for loose balls. He's usually more self-aware than most pickup basketball players, so he doesn't make any mistakes. You won't be upset if he's on your team.

4: Midget Guy: This nickname doesn't have to refer to an actual midget, just someone who's at least a foot shorter than everybody else.

5. Tattoo Guy: This is a generic lable that can be used for any guy with a tattoo. However, since tattoos have become increasingly popular -- even among middle-aged white guys -- you might have to add a descriptive modifier. For example, your league might have a "Forearm Tattoo Guy" and an "Upper Back Tattoo Guy."

6. The Girl: Just as Halley's Comet only passes by the Earth every 75 years or so before returning to the mysteries of deep space, a lone female players periodically shows up at my pickup leagues. She might play a session or two before returning to something like volleyball or kickboxing. Of course, if she's reasonably attractive, most guys will go out of their way to learn and remember her name, but in private discussions and game recaps she will still be referred to as "The Girl."

7. Three-Point Shooting Guy: This guy has one specialty: the three-point shot. Chances are, he doesn't have a single meaningful skill beyond that, but, since the three-pointer is worth two points in pickup ball (twice as much as any other shot), Three-point Shooting Guy is considered either dangerous (if he's on the other team) or invaluable (if he's on your team). He has absolutely perfected the art of running around and getting open for the three-pointer, and he'll gun it even if he's five feet or more behind the arc (and he'll usually hit it). Of course, all it takes it a commitment to defense (a rare occurrence in pickup ball) to render this guy ineffective. Once people figure out how to defend him, the Three-point Shooting Guy usually departs to find a league where nobody plays D (and there are plenty of them).

Example Conversation: "So last night I was on a team with Super Mario, Michigan Guy, Hustle Guy, and Backwards Hat Guy. Horrible team. The other team was stacked with Three-point Shooting Guy, Crazy Defender Guy, Fat Shaq, Partial Hand Guy and The Girl. Fortunately, Hustle Guy shut down Three-point Shooting Guy and I was able to shut down Fat Shaq. It was close the whole way, and the game was tied at 20-all when The Girl hit an improbably three-pointer to win the game. Man, I hate playing with Super Mario and Michigan Guy. They suck."

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Greg Ostertag has meant so much to us and our site over the years, that I decided to look him up on YouTube. I expected the usual: 'Tag getting dunked on and posterized by various former and current players. And sure, I found plenty of that, but I also discovered a clip of Greg engaged in a heated ping pong match against a 5-year-old. You'll notice he displays the same level of focus and intensity that made him a listless bumblepuppy for 11 mostly forgettable NBA seasons.

If that clip didn't satisfy your desire to see Ostertag being emasculated, then here's a sick dunk thrown down on the big guy by Amare Stoudemire.

And if you want some old school embarrassment, here's 'Tag getting dunked on by Glenn Robinson in the 1994 NCAA Regional Semifinals.

Later in that same game, Robinson later proved that Greg is just like Lays potato chips...you can't dunk on him just once.

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ESPN's Scoop Jackson recently wrote an article that absolutely mystified me. It's called Seeking Out The 10th Man, and it's a moving story about how hard it was for him to pick the tenth best center in NBA history. His list already included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaq, Moses Malone, George Mikan, Bob McAdoo, and Patrick Ewing. After some lengthy consideration, he put Bill Walton in the ten spot ahead of David Robinson.


It wasn't the that he chose Walton over The Admiral that got my hackles up. It was the fact that the list includes Patrick Ewing. I just don’t understand how anyone could seriously put Ewing on a "10 Best Centers" list ahead of Robinson. That's ridiculous, and I’m here to tell you why. First, let's review their career stats:


Statistically, it's almost a dead heat, with The Admiral owning a slight advantage in every category. Now let's consider their relative accomplishments.

Rookie of the Year: They were both named Rookie of the Year (in 1986 and 1990, respectively). Edge: Even.

League Scoring Title: Ewing never won a scoring title; Robinson led the league in scoring during the 1994-95 season. Edge: Robinson.

All-Defensive Teams: Ewing made the All-Defensive Second Team three times; Robinson made the All-Defensive First Team four times and he made the Second Team another four times. Edge: Robinson.

All-NBA Teams: Ewing made the All-NBA First Team once and the Second Team six times. Robinson made the First Team four times, the Second Team twice, and the Third Team four times. Edge: Robinson.

Defensive Player of the Year: Robinson won the award in 1992. Ewing never won it. Edge: Robinson.

MVP Awards: Ewing never won the MVP; Robinson was the league's Most Valuable Player during the 1994-95 season. Edge: Robinson.

Championships: Ewing left the game ringless; Robinson won titles in 1999 and 2003. Edge: Robinson.

So Robinson was (slightly) better statistically, has the edge in every major recognition/award category (save for the ROY tie), and can boast two world championships to Ewing's none. How is putting Ewing ahead of Robinson even remotely defensible? Jackson's argument against boils down to this:

"David Robinson never got to the NBA Finals until Tim Duncan got there and even when he did get that first ring he did it against the Knicks when Patrick wasn't playing."
Your biggest gripe about Robinson is that he didn't win a title until Tim Duncan came along. And...? That's not an argument, it's a copout. After all, Kareem didn't win a title until Oscar Robertson came along, and he didn't win another one for almost a decade until Magic Johnson came along. Does that take the shine off of Kareem’s six rings? I doubt it.

For a better example, let's consider Dr. J. He was "The Man" on the 76ers for years, and the team couldn't win the title. They coughed up a 2-0 series lead in the 1977 Finals, failed to capitalize on Kareem's injury in the 1980 Finals, and just plain lost in the 1982 Finals. They didn't win The Big One until 1983, when they added the reigning MVP Moses Malone. Dr. J accepted a secondary role on the team that year, and he played caddy while Moses won the Finals MVP in a 4-0 sweep of the Lakers. The same finger you're pointing at Robinson could just as easily be pointed at The Doctor, so let me ask you this: Would you leave Erving off a list of the Top 10 Forwards of All Time? You'd have to, based on your Ewing-over-Robinson reasoning.

And by giving all the credit to Duncan, you conveniently overlook how instrumental Robinson was in the Spurs' titles. In the 1999 Finals, he averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocked shots per game. Duncan was named the Finals MVP, but Robinson was, without question, the second-best player on a championship ball club. And they wouldn't have won without him.

Robinson was less of a factor in the 2003 Finals, averaging 11 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks over six games. But his defense on Shaq was absolutely crucial to the Spurs dethroning the Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals. He was also a steady, stabilizing force in the pivot throughout the year and the playoffs.

Scoop's other criticism was that Hakeem Olajuwon dominated Robinson 1995 Western Conference Semifinals. What he neglects to mention is that this occurred during that amazing two-year stretch where Hakeem domainated everyone...including Ewing (in the 1994 Finals) and Shaq (in the 1995 Finals). So, as far as I'm concerned, that evidence is inadmissible.

Look, Robinson should get Ewing's place on that list. Not only does he win out in every category you can think of, not only was he a force on both ends of the court, not only was he an MVP and a champion, he was able to sublimate his ego and accept a lesser role on what had been "His Team" for years. That is something that (by all accounts) Ewing wasn't willing to do with the Knicks, which resulted in the trade that sent him to Seattle and, eventually, a sad end to a hard-fought but ultimately frustrating career. That ending is a stark contrast to The Admiral’s final game, a 13-point, 17-rebound, turn-back-the-clock performance in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

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I've already reminisced about the NBA on NBC, which was a huge part of what made me love basketball in the early to mid-90s. This was (to me) their best and most iconic intro: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan passing the ball back and forth to the Roundball Rock theme. Still gives me the chills...

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When this guy's parents gave him his name, little did they realize he'd later use it to shamelessly promote one of those dirty "Payday Loan" places.

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The best part of this commercial is at the end, when Magic Johnson conjures a bottle of 7-Up out of his, uh, magic johnson.

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Magic Johnson is trying to sound so cool in this car commerical for Automotive Rhythmns. You'll notice that the makers of this fine advertisement couldn't even afford the cheesy graphics you usually see in commercials for local car dealerships, opting instead to zoom in on their own baseball caps and t-shirts. I guess they used their entire $18.73 budget on Magic and his kickass Polo.

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Lawler's LawLawler's Law (lah-lurz lah) noun. The popular belief that the first team to score 100 points will win the game.

Usage example: The Golden State Warriors were the first team to 100 last night, and they won. Of course, it helped that the Pistons scored only 93 points...

Word History: The term was coined by Ralph Lawler, the longtime radio and television broadcaster who has been the "Voice of the Clippers" for over 27 years (including over 1,600 consecutive games). According to his Wikipedia site: "In games involving the Clippers since 1978, Lawler's Law has been true 91.5% of the time." This isn't too surprising, considering how awful the Clippers have been over the years. If Lawler's Law stated that "the first team to score 60 points will win," it still would have been right about 85 percent of the time.

[Hat tip: The Association]

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Artest mug shotI said several months ago that the Sacramento Kings were just looking for an excuse to get rid of Ron Artest, and Artest finally gave them that excuse when he was arrested for domestic violence last night (and of course we've included a gratuitous mug shot picture for your viewing displeasure).

The gist of the story is this: Artest got into an argument with a woman in his home. He shoved her down multiple times and tried to prevent her from calling the police. She eventually did call 911, and threw a pot at his Hummer as he tried to leave (shattering his windshield in the process). The nature of Artest's relationship with the woman was not released, but there was a 3-year-old girl in the house during the incident. The woman also sustained undisclosed injuries, but declined medical attention.

Artest hasn't been suspended, but he has been removed from the team. Geoff Petrie, the Kings' president of basketball operations, released a statement that said, "The Kings have excused Ron Artest indefinitely from any further participation with the team due to his arrest today for domestic violence."

What can we take from this? Other than further proof that Artest is missing that special part of the human brain that tells normal people it's not okay to attack fans and toss women around. And now we have yet another chapter to add to the Legend of Ron Artest, to go along with his job at Best Buy, the smashed TVs, yanking down Paul Pierce's shorts, The Brawl, asking for a few months off to promote his rap album, the trade demands, his dog getting taken away, and so on and so forth.

It's been obvious for years that the guy has serious, "team handicapping" problems, and while Artest probably doesn't realize it yet, he's about a half step from being out of the league for good. Nobody wants him anymore, not even his own team. Head cases only get so many chances. Just ask Isaiah Rider. He was a certified 20-point scorer and then, two years later, he was out of the league. Poof! Gone. And it wasn't due to a lack talent. The same thing happened to Latrell Sprewell. This is why teams are willing to pull (or try to pull) guys like Reggie Miller and Scottie Pippen out of moth balls but nobody even mentions those other guys, who, for the record, did not retire of their own free will.

My guess is that Artest is gone within a year. Then, a year or so after that, there will be reports that he's gotten his act together and is planning a comeback. A few teams will show half-hearted interest, and maybe one or two will arrange for a workout...which he'll probably skip for personal reasons (ala Shawn Kemp). And that'll be it.

So if you're a Ron Artest hater, or if you get some twisted sense of satisfaction or joy when he screws up, I'd suggest you really take the time to enjoy this one. He won't be providing us with the free entertainment much longer.

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Wisdom is knowing when to reach for the stars and when to accept the fact that you are a pathetic bumblepuppy have limitations. To wit: if you need to jump off your friend's back to dunk a basketball, maybe that's God's way of saying "Keep your damn feet on the ground, mortal fool!"

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Based on his Body Mass Index (BMI) and the miracle of modern eyesight, Shaquille O’Neal is the fattest basketball player in the NBA. So naturally he's set to star in a new reality show about weight loss.

"NBA star Shaquille O'Neal is doing a new weight loss reality show for ABC that is scheduled to air this summer. The as-yet untitled show will feature Shaq taking part in a campaign to help elementary and high school kids lose weight. The six-episode show is currently shooting in Broward County, FL."
There's something laughably ironic about asking somebody who looks like an old beanbag stuffed with bacon to help kids work the fat off. If Shaq can't even keep his own teammates from getting fat, I doubt he's going to be able to help 4th graders break that unfortunate "Twinkies 'n Gravy" habit.

Shaq Fatness Fact: Shaq's former boss, Jerry Buss, once accused him of fattery.

It's amazing. Every time I think TV producers have exhausted every conceivable plot for a new reality show, idiocy gets revolutionized. I wonder who else was considered to star in this show. The finalists probably included Oliver Miller, Shawn Kemp, and Eddie Curry before they finally decided on The Big Fatty. What's the follow-up show going to be? Team Building with Isiah Thomas and Kevin McHale? Extra-marital Dating Tips with Kobe Bryant?

The thing is, if you really like to eat butter straight out of the container, Shaq telling you not to eat butter isn't going to help. Believe me, I know. I was a fat kid, and no amount of support and encouragement was going to help me...even if the encouragement came from a fat guy who was reeeeally famous.

I'll tell you what changed my life: bullies. That's right. After years of having angry kids call me "fatass" while shutting me in a locker fully of dirty towels and jock straps, I finally started eating right and working out. Of course, I only did this so I could hunt each of them down and wreak a terrible vengence, Hannibal Lecter-style. But that's not the point. The point is, unless Shaq's prepared to terrorize these kids -- which for him would be pretty easy -- I don't see the kids dropping the weight. Unless Shaq eats all their food. Hey, I could be on to something...

Fat Shaq
Do you want this man giving
your kids weight-loss advice?

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The top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes are getting new uniforms for the upcoming NCAA tournament. The new unis are form-fitting (supposedly to cut down on how often opposing players grab Greg Oden's jersey) and feature the same lettering used on the 1960 OSU jerseys (in honor of the year Jerry Lucas led the Buckeyes to their last NCAA title). Those changes make sense. What doesn't make sense -- Bill Walton: "In this dimension or any other!!" -- is the fact that the uniforms will also feature Lebron James' LBJ23 Nike logo instead of the traditional swoosh.

(Editor's Note: There are no pictures of the new unis available yet, so I did a Google image search for "LBJ23" with the intention of Photoshopping Lebron's logo onto an existing OSU jersey. Amazingly, one of the first results was the following image of Kobe Bryant grabbing Lamar Odom's ass. There was no way I could pass this up.)

"Damn, dude! You been doin' Buns of Steel?"

There are things in life you expect to not make any sense. Crop circles. The popularity of Grey's Anatomy. The placebo effect. The female orgasm. The causal link between the popularity of Grey's Anatomy and the female orgasm. But can someone please explain to me why a college basketball team's jersey would feature the logo of a guy who didn't go to any college, let alone that college? Well, in the words of King James himself: "Why not the No. 1 team going into the tournament wearing my gear? It's going to be good for them and good for my exposure as well."

Oooookay. I guess this is part of the "Lebron as Global Icon" mission that Bill Simmons was talking about. Next up is a groundbreaking deal with Tampax, who are redesigning their tampons to fit more comfortably into the vagina while also featuring Lebron's smiling face. Now that's exposure. But, frankly, I'm not sure how wearing LBJ's logo is going to be "good" for the OSU team. Unless of course some of the money from the team's seven-year, $16.3 million merchandising contract with Nike gets redistributed directly to the players' wallets or applied to the loans on their brand new sports cars. Not that anything like that ever happens in college.

By the way, Ohio State's spin on this is that Lebron is a big fan of the school (he is) and that, if he would have gone to college, OSU would have been the choice. Said Ohio State coach Thad Matta, "LeBron is a Buckeye." Yeah. James is a Buckeye in the same way that every Irish American in the Midwest is an honorary Notre Dame pseudo-alumnus, which is "totally" but not "really."

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Just when we thought the whole "White Men Can't Jump" deal was finally about to blow over.

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Celebrating superstars and stats above teamwork
and winning is hardly a new thing.

It happens every season. Some alleged NBA "expert" writes a long and damning editorial about how the league has been or is in the process of being destroyed by marketing individual superstars ahead of the team. The latest of these quibblers are MSNBC's Mike Celizic, who bemoans how the NBA has traded away teamwork for the cult of personality, and FOX Sport's Randy Hill, who claims that the NBA is responsible for the "me first" attitude among players.

Both Celizic and Hill make it sound as if this is a relatively new phenomenon. Celizic only goes back as far as the Shaq/Kobe fued, and Hill, for his part seems to think it began with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. To which I say: What??!

Maybe they're trying to frame their articles within a context that current NBA fans can understand, or maybe they ignorant of league history. The NBA was born in the fall of 1949, when the Basketball Association of America (BAA) merged with the rival National Basketball League (NBL). At the time, professional basketball was just a way of filling stadiums and sports arenas when there wasn't anything else going on. It was almost impossible for owners to maintain financial viability, and teams were constantly folding or moving to new cities. In 1949, the NBA featured teams such as the Washington Capitols, Providence Steamrollers, Rochester Royals, Chicago Stags, St. Louis Bombers, and Indianapolis Jets. Ever hear of those teams? Didn't think so. Furthermore, the Warriors were in Philidelphia, the Pistons were in Fort Wayne, and the Lakers were in Minneapolis.

Team owners, desperate to turn a profit, quickly realized that fans (and potential fans) were drawn to specific players as much or moreso than the teams they played on. Many times, a team would draft local college players ahead of other, more talented players. In fact, the league even instituted a territorial draft that took place before the regular draft. This allowed a team to forfeit its first-round pick to select a player from its immediate area (under the assumption that the player had a strong local following). That's how the the Boston Celtics got Tom Heinsohn, and how the Philidelphia Warriors got Wilt Chamberlain.

Anyway, the league has marketed the individual from the very beginning. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, George Mikan was professional basketball's first superduperstar, and when his Lakers travelled to New York, the billboards would read "George Mikan versus the New York Knickerbockers." The NBA All-Star game was created in 1951 so the league could showcase its best individual players. And let's not forget about Wilt Chamberlain. People flocked from the four corners to see him play, regardless of whether it was for the Warriors, the Sixers, or the Lakers. Due to his incredible popularity (and the resulting boost to ticket sales), he demanded and received the first $100,000 per year contract -- at a time when most players were making around $10,000 per. (Immediately afterward, Red Auerbach signed Bill Russell to a contract worth $100,001 per year, just to one-up the big guy; and thus the "exploding salary scale" was born.) And, much like today's stars, Wilt was accused of putting stats and records ahead of winning, which led the "experts" to conclude that Wilt's greed and selfishness would ruin basketball. Sound familiar?

The point is: none of this is new. Look, I'm as much a basketball purist as anybody. I want the sport to be played "the right way" -- fundamentally sound and team-oriented. I would much rather see the Phoenix Suns have six or seven players in double figures than watch Kobe score 81 points while the rest of the Lakers stand around and watch. But I also understand that the NBA is a business, and, as with all businesses, making money is the bottom line. Does this lead to selfish players trying to pad their stats to sign bigger and better contracts? Of course. But that's always happened. Pat Riley was a member of the 1971-72 Los Angles Lakers team that won 33 straight, finished the season 69-13, and won the NBA championship. Do you think "Mr. 15 strong" put the team first? He'll tell you he did, but by every account I've read, he fumed about not getting enough playing time, sulked whenever he was benched, and regularly got into fights with teammates during practice over his role on the team. So there you have it.

The selfishness and me-first attitude have been around since the beginning. The only real difference is how it's being expressed by today's players. And that problem is due more to modern cultural influences than NBA policy. The fact is, David Stern can't regulate teamwork, selflessness, and desire. There are too many other factors involved.

And as for the writers and critics, well, they don't really suggest any kind of realistic alternative. The NBA is a business that makes a profit by marketing its players. Take away the league's profit center, and you take away the league. Unless they can suggest some kind of practical solution, I wish they'd stop recycling the same story year after year.