Monday, January 31, 2011

Excerpts for the Tiny Teal Book

My fellow citizens, I see you protesting out in the streets. Before you act rashly, please hear me out. The Tunisian people gave Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 23 years in office. It's taken 30 years for the Egyptians to say enough is enough to Hosni Mubarak. I've barely had a fraction of that time in power. I mean, c'mon. Even Obama's been in office longer than I have. Just give me a chance to deserve your ire before you throw me out.

Now that that's settled, it's time for some more quotations from my The Tiny Teal Book ($12.95 at and WalMart). Remember, The Tiny Teal Book has made all other forms of knowledge and wisdom obsolete.

Quotations from The Tiny Teal Book
"What are snowmen but white supremacists with warmer hearts."

"When I was in college in the United States, I used to dress up like the American Uncle Sam, point at women, and scream 'I want you!' It never worked. So I became a dictator. Now I have women falling at my feet whether they want to or not."

"That's why I say it's the ballot or the bullet. If you don't vote for me on the ballot, well, you know the rest."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fuzzy NBA

I don't know whether or not the soft focus whenever the camera angle changed during the Miami-Oklahoma City and Boston-LA Lakers games on ABC today were intentionally or not, but I hated it.

During the Celtics-Lakers game, Joey Crawford called a double technical on Kendrick Perkins and Ron Artest. As Crawford pointed at Artest, Ron attempted to dodge the point as if he would avoid the technical if he could successfully do so. I loved it.

After Lamar Odom fouled Big Baby Davis at the end of the first half, Kobe Bryant locked his gaze on Lamar during all three free throws. Odom tried to avoid the stare, but would occasionally look up to see if Kobe was still mad, much like a little kid would do if he knew he was in trouble with his parents.

Ah, basketball is wonderful.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The HarazQuack Effect: Nick Young Edition

There certain players who just play better when I'm at the arena to watch them. Two of those players are Jason Richardson and Quentin Richardson, who always seem to have big games in Washington when I'm at the game.

We can add Nick Young to that list.

This season Young averages 15.8 ppg, shoots 44.9% from the field, pulls down 2.6 rpg, gets 1.2 apg, swats .26 shots a game, and gets .64 spg when I don't see him play live.

This season Young averages 27.5 ppg, shoots 52.7% from the field, pulls down 4.5 rpg, gets 2.3 apg, swats .5 shots a game, and gets .75 spg when I do see him play live.

The points and shooting differences are the most striking, but his numbers improve in every category when I attend. That is the HarazQuack Effect on Nick Young. Now, where are my free season tickets, Nick?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bradley-Alexander Preview

It's amazing how similar these two are. Both are young rising stars with practically no fan base (yet they stick this fight in the Silver Dome, go figure). Both have beaten a few good 140 pounders, including Junior Witter, but their potential is greater than their achievements at this point. Both have weirdly shaped foreheads.

Alexander has a little more power, which he exhibited against the tough Juan Urango. Bradley is a pressure fighter who hasn't achieved a stoppage since 2007. But he's currently the craftier boxer. He beat slickster Lamont Peterson on points and came back to win a decision against Kendall Holt despite being floored twice.

Who know who will win, but I think Bradley's will will be the difference. Alexander struggled in his last fight, which took place in his hometown of St. Louis against the capable Andriy Kotelnik. I thought Kotelnik deserved the decision. One wonders if the pressure of the big fight might rattle Alexander just enough to separate the two evenly matched competitors.

Alexander will also have to deal with Bradley's head, which Timothy tends to lead with. The combination of Bradley's relentlessness, his head, and the big stage could be too much to overcome for Alexander. But, as he showed against Urango, one big uppercut could change things. Alexander's southpaw stance could also serve him as Bradley has not faced a lefty who even remotely approaches Alexander's ability.

In the end, if the fight isn't frustratingly cut short because of a Bradley headbutt, Tim will win by close unanimous decision.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Notes from the State of the Union Address

I think a bright line was shown in different part of the room so Joe Biden wouldn't fall asleep in the middle. That's the only thing I can think of to explain Biden's eyes quickly darting around the room.

I wonder how long John Boehner practiced looking indignant in the mirror.

It was sad watching John McCain slowly dying during the speech.

I dislike how every State of the Union Address from every president considers life a competition. The goal should be for America to play its part in the world, not crush the competition. It was also striking how Obama's foreign policy is fundamentally the same as America's has been for the past few decades.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Difference Between Jews and Muslims

Jews and Muslims are totally different. Jews have been persecuted and deserve empathy. Muslims have persecuted and deserve enmity. Jews have gracefully enmeshed into American society. Muslims are trying to take over American society. Let's look at the differences.

1) Beards - Wait? Never mind.

2) Dietary restrictions - Um, nope.

3) Those funny hats - Uh, whoops.

4) Phlegmy holy languages - Well, I guess not.

Alright, so maybe Jews and Muslims are pretty similar after all. In that case, I surmise that it is essential for every fellow Jew to guard the rights of Muslims as if they're their own.

Monday, January 24, 2011

In Defense of Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler sprained his MCL and didn't go back into the NFC Championship. Sure, he's not as tough as Yuri Foreman, who fought after tearing his ACL and his meniscus, but who is?

Cutler had every right not to go back into the game. People who are criticizing him for not reentering the game are missing the point. He's not a pussy; he sucks. Cutler was 6 for 14 for 80 yards and a pick before he was permanently sidelined due to injury.

Were there really any Bears fans clamoring for him to come back into the game? What's the logic behind questioning his toughness? "Well, a healthy Cutler was 6 for 14, let's see how well an injured Cutler will do!" Were there any Bears fans saying, "Cutler's out, there goes the season!"? No, there weren't. Because Cutler sucks. Once the Bears were down by 14, all was lost.

So let's get off Cutler's back for being a pussy and jump all over him because he sucks at playing the quarterback position.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Southern Sudan Secession

The vote for succession cast by the southern Sudanese is a historic occasion. After a decades-long civil war with the Arab north, southern Sudan will is one step closer to independence. It is a joyous moment.

Yet, it is also cause for concern. Often when states are born from autocratic forbearers, they themselves exhibit governmental repression. This has been the case in Eritrea, which gained independence after a long struggle with Ethiopia.

Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir certainly fits the label of an autocrat. His regime has instituted Sharia law, despite the fact that southern Sudan is largely Christian and animist. He has imprisoned his friends and those he views as a threat to his leadership. His government also has ties to the Janjaweed militia, which massacred millions of black people in the western region of Darfur.

Thus, the situation for repression against the southern Sudanese people is ripe. The hope is that they are not simply exchanging one dictator for another. This can be avoided in part with the help of the international community. One election is not enough. Parties must be created on the basis of issues. This means that Western institutions such as the World Bank and IMF should not be allowed to dictate policy in Southern Sudan, because that takes the freedom of choice, the true root of democracy, away from the southern Sudanese people.

Instead, the Western community needs to foster local entrepreneurs with the help of subsidies provided by donors. The Western powers can also donate materials and expertise to create school and universities. However, if the Western powers keep course, they will force southern Sudan to be a free market and turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, which will leave the people of southern Sudan in the same predicament that they've been enduring.
(The HQT-IE)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Beards are In!

Beards have become "in". It seems like every American man now dons one. The NBA is filled with players with hair lining their faces, meeting at their chin, and swooping around their mouth.

I've had the same type of beard since late 2003. This isn't the first time I've set the trend. Far from it. But this one took a little longer to catch on. But it's finally been caught.

Today, most American men appreciate the power of the beard. What's more, they like it. Beards are in! Now we just need is someone to tell the ladies.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

America's Quick Fixes

In America, we legislate to the last tragedy. After the underwear bomber attempted to blow up a plane by placing explosives in his pants, the U.S. devised a plan legalizing sexual harassment of air passengers. Airport security personal were required to feel a passengers genitals in order to determine if they had a bomb in their pants.

The argument goes that if security is not increased in this way, a plane full of people could die. Are liberties more important than 200 people's lives? It is a difficult moral question. Nominally speaking, American principle falls on the side of freedom. Think of the number of wars and the millions of lives lost in the name of freedom. But in reality, it's a false dichotomy.

It seems a bit excessive to invade people's privacy in such an egregious manner because one person in the history of humankind attempted to blow up a plane with an underwear bomb. There have been countless billions of people who have graced the Earth; only one has made this attempt. No one will ever try again.

When every man heard about the underwear bomber, none thought about him as a vicious terrorist. Instead, we all thought of him as a nutjob. As a 1980s stand up comic might argue, For every other man their penis is the end, while for the underwear bomber, it was a means.

That takes us to the recent Arizona killings. The instant reaction is that politicians should tone down their exaggerated rhetoric. For once, the quick fix discussion revolves around something noble. Politicians should not associate policy disagreements to a life or death struggle. But the American media and government are still viewing a tragedy through a narrow lens. Instead of hard discussions about the state of mental health or the culture of violence that is the result of America's wars rather than of video games and movies, we get more quick fixes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Top 10 NBA Players Now

While this list consists of the top 10 players now, the past is taken to account, but it is not a list of the best players who happen to be active. In parentheses is the player's previous rank posted on June 19, 2010.

# David (PR) - Mike (Previous Rank)
1. Kobe (1) - Kobe (1)
2. LeBron (2) - LeBron (2)
3. Howard (6) - Wade (5)
4. Wade (3) - D. Williams (NR)
5. D. Williams (5) - Howard (3)
6. Dirk (8) - Durant (6)
7. Paul (NR) - Rondo (NR)
8. Duncan (4) - Duncan (4)
9. Pau (NR) - Dirk (9)
10. Rose (NR) - Ginobili (NR)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Remembering MLK

Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered as a man who was able to look past racial bigotry and espouse a gospel of love. One of his most quoted lines is to judge others by the content of their character and not the color of the skin.

But we forget the political side of King. And in forgetting his fierce criticism of American foreign policy, we create a false dichotomy. There weren't two sides to King. King's criticisms of American foreign policy were rooted in his profound love for humanity.

King believed that America was increasingly on the wrong side of history. The United States was responsible for perpetrating unjustified violence against people of other nations. But because King's criticisms speak directly to today's condition, those in power wish to separate the two sides of Martin Luther King and downplay his political philosophies.

In a small way, I hope to make a similar statement against my country's role in the world. I have been sitting down for the national anthem because I resent the mindset that views the dissenter as an outcast. I reject the violence committed by the United States and the arrogance with which it's carried out. I see the national anthem not as a symbol of the equality but as a song of imperialism.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How Tough Is Paul Pierce?

Recently, I was thinking about Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce and his lack of toughness. I thought of comparing his toughness to my grandmother. Then I remembered my grandmother survived the Holocaust. So, I can't say, "Paul Pierce is as tough as my grandmother." My grandmother is much tougher than Paul Pierce.

Paul Pierce is not as tough as my brother. When my brother fell out of a second story window as a 4 year old, he walked it off. He didn't need a wheelchair. He didn't roll around on the floor. He just walked it off.

My little cousin is tougher than Paul Pierce. My little cousin has brittle bones. He fractured his wrist as he fell on the grass picking up a ball. His eyes didn't water. He didn't take off school for 2-3 weeks.

My mom is not very tough. She's a ham and milks any slight injury she gets. She cries at the drop of a hat. My mother is about as tough as Paul Pierce.

Friday, January 14, 2011

An Evisceration of Bill Simmons's Book

I picked up Bill Simmons's The Book of Basketball (the paperback version) because I wanted Team of Rivals but didn't want to pay for shipping. In the prologue, Simmons writes passionately about his childhood, spent with his dad at the Boston Garden. It was effective and made me excited for the rest of the book. The next 670 pages were quite a disappointment.

Simmons's arguments throughout the book are often hypocritical and rarely convincing. He argues that Bill Russell was better than Wilt Chamberlain. I disagree, but I can respect the point. It's not tough to argue that either was better. Russell was the best player on 11 title teams. Do you value that over Wilt's astonishing individual domination? Somehow, Simmons manages to make an extremely weak case for Russell.

Russell or Wilt?
He poses 6 myths about the Russell-Chamberlain debate. Four of them are inane; as a Chamberlain proponent, I wouldn't have argued them. Let's take his "debunking" of the other 2 myths. He describes Russell's and Chamberlain's supporting casts. Simmons only disparages Russell's teammates. K.C. Jones is considered to be a weak HOFer. Certain Celtics are "faded". Yet, Wilt's teammates are never categorized. We don't learn that Billy Cunningham was young when he teamed with Wilt. You never read that Paul Arizin was over the hill when he played with Wilt. He doesn't mention that Baylor had lost 1/8th of his kneecap and West's body had been beaten like a casualty at the Battle of the Bulge when Wilt joined the Lakers.

It gets worse. On page 62, Simmons says, in 1963, "Cousy and Ramsey are slipping and rookie Havlicek wasn't Hondo yet." But on page 631, in an attempt to praise the all-time credentials of the 1963 Celtics, he says, "Cousy and Heinsohn are still thriving... Ramsey and Havlicek coming off the bench." Cousy, Ramsey, and Havlicek's 1963 talents just magically improved in 569 pages, because Simmons argument depended on it.

Simmons mentions Sam Jones (his 33rd best player ever) twice during his dissection of Russell's and Wilt's teammates. In 1959, Jones was "promising" and in 1969, Jones is "running on fumes." What happened to the interim 10 years? It doesn't help Simmons's case, that's what.

Simmons tries to dismiss Wilt's statistics by saying that Wilt played for statistics. He manipulates the numbers, only counting certain games, to make it seem close. It's not. Wilt averaged 30.1 ppg for his career. He averaged 50.4 (18.8 ppg more than 2nd place) and 44.8 (10.8 more than 2nd and 16.4 more than 3rd) a game in successive years. In Russell's best year, he averaged 18.9 ppg (or 0.1 more than Wilt's per game scoring advantage over the NBA's 2nd highest scorer in 1961-2). Stats aren't everything, but when it comes to them, Wilt crushed Russell.

In the intro, Simmons claims "[I] fixed every factual error." Then I guess Isiah Thomas is the only player ever to play on a champion and a runner up in the same season (1988). Tim Duncan won the 2006 Finals MVP despite the handicap of getting bounced in the 2nd round. Michael Jordan played in more all star games than seasons. And the 1984 Philadelphia 76ers lost in the 1st round to Philly in 5. So, maybe not "every factual error."

The Secret
The theme of the book is The Secret, which is basically when a player sacrifices stats for the good of the team. He rates players based on The Secret (among other criteria). But his system is wildly inconsistent. Robert Horry makes the top 96 based on his perfection of The Secret. Big Shot Bob was a team player who came up big when it counted. But not once does Simmons mention Horry throwing a towel in the face of his coach, Danny Ainge, during the 1996-7 season. He was suspended and traded to the Lakers. It's conveniently left out.

Scottie Pippen also knew The Secret. Simmons does talk about the time Scottie quit on his team in the 1994 playoffs when his number wasn't called for a game-winning shot. Simmons, who kills other players for much less, defends Pippen. His argument? Pippen resented Kukoc's presence. Plus, Pippen apologize and his team forgave him. Then, we learn that Pippen was the best player on the '00 Blazers, which was news to me and everyone else who watched that team. But if you don't buy Pippen's greatness, Bill Simmons saw him play well in a regular season game against the lowly Celtics in 1996. So, you know, you're wrong.

The Celtics
Every Celtic, save Bob Cousy, is wildly overrated on his list. Simmons bases his list on hypothetical criteria such as: would the player succeed in different eras? He doesn't account for a player being an innovator to the NBA, as Cousy was. He also rates a player's peak instead of quality throughout the length of his career. Potential is privileged. It's the "What if?" factor. The problem is that it's easy to dismiss by simply saying, "Yeah, but it didn't." What if David Thompson stayed clean? What if Bill Walton stayed healthy? Yeah, but they didn't.

Getting back to the Celtics, Simmons expresses a homoerotic obsession with the Celtics (not that there's anything wrong with that). Each Celtic gets far more words than the other players. The tone often becomes sappy and drifts to corny (in contrast to the prologue). About Kevin McHale, "I miss those armpits." About Dave Cowens, "Now that's a guy I want in my NBA Foxhole." About Bill Walton, "And I don't even need to rewind the tapes to picture it."

About Paul Pierce, "In Pierce's case, he became everything we wanted him to be." What aggravates me more than the blatantly and homoerotically overrating of every Celtic is that he claims Paul Pierce is just about the toughest player to ever live. When Pierce read that, he probably pumped his fist, felt a tingle on his side, collapsed in a heap, started writhing around in pain, and had to be wheeled out of the Borders.

Then he came back in, over-dribbled at the top of the key and shot way too much while he was double teamed.

Period Contradictions
If Simmons wants to tout a 1950s/'60s player, the player endured long bus rides and a more competitive league with fewer teams. If he wants to skewer them, then the 1950s/'60s had a dearth of black (read talented) players and statistics were inflated due to style of play. As for more modern players- touts them: more talent in the league, a more competitive league. Skewers them: charter flights, expansion, better doctors and diet.

In Bill Simmons's mind, black people are better than white people at basketball. It's just a fact to him. Being black is a natural advantage. He thinks he's being liberal and sensitive. But the implication is that black men's bodies are better designed for basketball than white men's. Conversely, white men shouldn't be playing ball, they should be in an office somewhere using their minds. Simmons would never explicitly agree with this. But, by claiming that basketball is a black man's game, that's what he's implicitly saying.

The reality is that black players make up a majority of the NBA because of nurture, not nature. Otherwise, Africa would have the greatest players. Listen, if your friends play ball, then you'll probably play ball. Since America is still socially segregated, and because of current cultural conditions, more black players play more basketball than white players and, thus, tend to be better. There's nothing biologically racial about it. In 50 years, the league could very well be majority Mexican.

The book is filled with crude porn jokes and drug lingo. Simmons mocks the drug era and the players who used cocaine. He constantly talks about banging chicks. If he was 25 years old, you could forgive it. But he's a middle aged man with a wife and kids. It's just, well, sad. It doesn't help that he's a less handsome version of me, with an ever-so-slightly more annoyingly nasal voice than mine, and, strangely, does not possess a chin.

So, I wouldn't recommend the book.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Football Format

Seattle's foray into the playoffs is utterly frustrating. They finished the regular season at 7-9. They would have to make the Super Bowl just to clinch a .500 record and they'd have to win it to finish with a winning record. Meanwhile, you have 2 10-6 teams sitting at home watching. It's not fair. Shouldn't sports be as fair as possible?

The argument for including Seattle is that they won their division. But each team only plays 6 of their 16 games against their division. You play a majority of your games against teams outside of your division. If you were in a historically great division and everyone beat each other up and ended with 3-3 division records, wouldn't they cruise against other weaker divisions? If not, then the division isn't that good. So any division winner with a poor overall record necessarily won a weak division.

Seattle went 4-2 in the division and 3-7 outside of it. The NFC West finished with a 13-27 record against teams in other divisions. All 4 teams had losing records outside of the division. So winning the NFC West isn't much of an accomplishment. It isn't worthy of a playoff spot.

So here's my change:

Let's have 2 super divisions in each conference. In the NFC, we'll put the East and South together and the North and West together for geographic reasons. In the AFC, we'll put the East with the North and the South with the West. We'll also create sub-divisions, which are simply the divisions that we have now. You play everyone in your sub-division twice (6 games). You play the other teams in your division once (4 games). That way you're playing a majority of your games in the division. You keep the best part of the current set up (the rivalries- and even adding new ones) and getting rid of the worst part of the current set up (7-9 teams winning divisions).

For now, you'd lose the Patriots-Colts game (or would we? Wait for it), but you'd get a Pats-Steelers game every year, a Pats-Ravens game every year, a Jets-Ravens game every year, and they'd all be division games! You'd also get the Colts-Chargers every year. Plus, the likelihood of one team running away from the other 7 in the division is much less likely than it is now. So those painful final weeks won’t be so painful.

As for the other 6 games, you'd play a new sub-division in the other conference every year like they do now (4 games). Then you'd play 2 games against the other division in your conference. If the NFL moves to 18 games, then you play half of the division in your conference. You can either play a schedule based on where everyone finishes the previous year or rotate from year to year (and there’s your Pats-Colts game, at least every 2 years).

As for the playoffs, the division winners all get byes. Then, you can either guarantee each second place team a home game in the Wildcard round or just have it so the next 4 teams in each conference are ranked according to record (I like the latter).

So, basically, this new format keeps all of the good things about the way it is now, but adds more rivalries, makes sure only teams with good records make the playoffs, and gives real meaning to winning a division. The NFL would either be stubborn or stupid not to do it!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Top 10 NBA Players Ever - #10

This is the final installment in my list of the top 10 NBA players of all time. It is admittedly a subjective list. Are individual statistics more important than the number of championships a player led his team to? Admittedly, these types of lists will always be contentious.

#10 Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor took the NBA to another level. He was the forerunner to Julius Erving and Michael Jordan in terms of his artistry in the air. He brought a high wire act to the offensive side of the ball. He was an incredible scorer and rebounded far better than his 6'5" inch frame would suggest.

Baylor averaged 27.4 points a game over his career. That's good for the 4th highest average in league history. He played 14 seasons (the final two he played just 2 and 9 games respectively) and finished in the top 5 in scoring 9 times. From the 1960-1 season until 1962-3, Elgin averaged at least 30 points per game each season. He put up 38. 3 ppg in 1961-2, despite splitting time between the NBA and the military.

In 1960, Baylor scored 71 points in a game against the Knicks, a record for a single game. In Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals, he scored a postseason record 61 points against the Boston Celtics. He scored over 30 points a game in 4 consecutive postseasons, including averaging 38.1 in 1961 and 38.6 the next year. He led all postseason players in scoring for those 4 years. His final playoff scoring average was 27 ppg.

During the 1965 playoffs, he destroyed his knee. Ligaments and tendons were ruptured. Part of his kneecap had to be removed. Contemporaries agree than Baylor was never the same after the knee injury. He struggled the next season, but then came back to post 4 straight campaigns of at least 24 ppg. And that was post-injury Baylor!

Elgin cracked the top 10 in rebounding 8 times. In 1960-1, he averaged 19.8 boards per contest, his high watermark. Baylor's career 13.5 rpg is the 9th highest average ever. Remember, he was a small forward. He grabbed just under 13 rebounds a game in the playoffs. Baylor also sought out his teammates with a 4.3 career apg average (4 in the playoffs).

But the two knocks on Elgin are his lack of an MVP award and a title. The Lakers made the Finals 8 times while Elgin played and lost all of them. He played in the same era as the Boston Celtics dynasty, which were just too strong for the Lakers year in and year out. While he never won an MVP award, he finished in the top 6 in the voting 8 times. During an 11 year span, he made the All-NBA 1st team 10 times (only missing in 1965-6, when he was coming back from that devastating knee injury).

In conjunction with the laudatory stats and the plethora of All-NBA 1st teams, Baylor's place in history is predicated on his offensive repertoire. No player before him took to the skies like Baylor. Not only would he score two points, but he would yank momentum to his team's side with his magical moves. He was a pioneer when it came to dunking with flare. He helped pave the way for the game we know today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Top 10 NBA Players Ever - #9

This is yet another installment in my list of the top 10 NBA players of all time. It is admittedly a subjective list. Are individual statistics more important than the number of championships a player led his team to? Of course, these types of lists will always be contentious.

#9 Jerry West 
Jerry West was a splendid scorer, a good passer, and a stellar defender. His nickname was Mr. Clutch for all of his big game performances. He epitomized the NBA to the point where the league's logo was made in his likeness.

West's teams only won one title during his 14 year career. But they won the Western Conference title 8 other times. The problem was that those Lakers teams ran into two of the better clubs ever, the Boston Celtics of the 1960s and the New York Knicks of the early 1970s. The Lakers lost 4 Game 7s in the Finals during that stretch. Still, West is the only player to win the Finals MVP award while playing for a losing club. That happened after the 1969 finale, the first year of the award.

Throughout his career, West poured in buckets at a 27 a game rate, good for the 5th highest average in NBA history. He put up over 30 ppg 4 different seasons, winning the scoring title in 1969-70. He played even better during the playoffs. His postseason average was 29.1 a game. He led all postseason players in scoring 4 times and averaged over 30 a game 8 times, including in 1965 (40.5 ppg).

In Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals, with the Lakers down to the Knicks by 2, Mr. Clutch heaved a prayer from the other side of the midcourt line. It went in and sent the game into overtime. But he wasn't merely a legendary scorer. He averaged 6.1 assists per game (6.3 in the playoffs) and led the league in 1971-2 (9.7 apg). Jerry finished in the top 10 in the category 6 more times. He even rebounded at over 5 boards a contest.

West's remarkable numbers came despite the battering his body took. He was often injured, which also hurt his team's chances at the title. Despite the pain, Jerry was one of the NBA's best defenders. The All-Defensive team didn't come into existence until his 9th year, but he still made the 1st team 4 times and the 2nd team once. The league only kept tabs on steals in West's final season. In 31 games, West averaged 2.6 a game during that 1973-4 season.

West never won an MVP. That's partly due to the presence of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell in the league at the same time as Jerry. But it was also because his teammate was the renowned Elgin Baylor; both seemed to cancel each other out. West made 10 All-NBA 1st teams. He made the 2nd team 2 other times. West was the only guard of his era who could possibly be compared to Oscar Robertson. He was the best shooting guard in history until a man named Michael Jordan took the court. He scored at an alarming rate, was a great defender, and excelled during pressure situations.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Top 10 NBA Players Ever - #8

This is yet another installment in my list of the top 10 NBA players of all time. It is admittedly a subjective list. Are individual statistics more important than the number of championships a player led his team to? Admittedly, these types of lists will always be contentious.

#8 Shaquille O'Neal
Shaq was far and away the most dominant player of the first half of the 2000s. In his first incarnation in Orlando, in an epic era of legendary centers, Shaq more than held his own. As they began to age, Shaq took over the league. He was an unstoppable force near the paint. He possessed an uncommon court awareness for a man with his finishing ability. He also intimidated opponents from driving to the basket.

Shaq left a generation of bewildered centers in his wake. No player relished having to guard the Diesel. Teams eventually realized that a traditional center couldn't stop Shaq. No one could. So, opposing coaches went with quicker smaller guys or good outside shooters against Shaq in the hopes of getting some offensive production from their own center. The league still has a dearth of low post scoring bigmen as a result.

O'Neal was such a scoring threat from the field, and such a liability at the free throw line, the NBA had to change the rules because opponents would intentionally foul Shaq off the ball late in games. Now, the Hack-a-Shaq tactic with less than two minutes to go resorts in the offensive team getting free throws and possession of the ball. Shaq has led the league in scoring twice and has been in the top 5 7 more times. Shaq, who currently averages 23.8 ppg for his career, has the 5th most points in NBA history. He has the 2nd highest FG% ever (58.2%)

Shaq's playoff numbers are better than his regular season averages. He's averaging 24.5 ppg in the postseason and 11.7 rpg (10.9 in the regular season). He has led his teams to 4 championships and two more NBA Finals. Shaq's clubs have missed the playoffs only twice during his 18 year career (those came when he was rookie and with the 2008-9 Suns when Shaq was 36 years old).

O'Neal won the MVP award in 1999-2000. He has finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting 13 times. He's won 3 Finals MVPs, all during the three-peat with the Lakers. Shaq is an 8 time All-NBA 1st team member. He made the 2nd or 3rd team 6 other times. He was also voted to the All-Defensive 2nd team 3 times.

But Shaq's strongest attribute was the utter devastation he caused on the offensive end. If you wanted to win the title during his prolonged heyday, you needed someone to deal with Shaq. Often times, opponents would use at least three revolving players to guard/foul O'Neal as a desperate ploy to slow Shaq's scoring. It rarely worked. Instead, Shaq was able to display his array of slick post moves coupled with some of the most frightening dunks.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Top 10 NBA Players Ever - #7

This is yet another installment in my list of the top 10 NBA players of all time. It is admittedly a subjective list. Are individual statistics more important than the number of championships a player led his team to? Admittedly, these types of lists will always be contentious.

#7 Bob Cousy
Bob Cousy revolutionized the NBA. His twisting, twirling, behind-the-back passes were a new phenomenon in a rather stuffy league. The Houdini of the Hardwood was not only an innovator, he was a record-setter, and a winner. Cousy won 8 consecutive assist titles from 1952-3 until 1959-60. He never finished worse than 4th in the league. When he retired, he was the all time career leader in assists.

Cousy described his flamboyant work with the ball as "necessity being the mother of invention." Cousy said that the first time he threw the ball behind his back to a teammate, it was because that was the only option available to complete the correct play. The Cooz often made the right play, which resulted in his team's success. The Celtics won 6 titles with Cousy playing the point. Each of Cousy's Boston teams made the playoffs.

Incredibly, Cousy's assist numbers didn't improve dramatically with the advent of the shot clock. Regardless of the speed of play, Cousy was going to set his teammates up to score. His career assist average was 7.5 per game. He's still 14th all time in total assists and 17th in assists per game. Cousy led the postseason in assists per game for 8 consecutive years. Cousy was clutch. He knew when to pass and when to put the ball in the basket himself. He led all playoff scorers three different seasons, despite not being much of a scorer. His career average was 18.4 ppg. The 6'1" point guard also added 5.2 rebounds a game for his career.

There was no MVP award for much of Cousy's career, but he managed to go home with one, following the 1956-7 season. There was no Finals MVP awarded while Cousy played. However, Cousy was voted to the All-NBA 1st team 10 times and to the 2nd team 2 more times. Cousy was the league's first true point guard, a champion, a trendsetter, and a sensation all rolled into one.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Top 10 NBA Players Ever - #6

This is yet another installment in my list of the top 10 NBA players of all time. It is admittedly a subjective list. Are individual statistics more important than the number of championships a player led his team to? Admittedly, these types of lists will always be contentious.

#6 Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson's rivalry with Larry Bird helped restore the NBA's popularity and legitimacy upon entering the league in the fall of 1979. In getting the better of that prolonged duel, Magic appeared to reinvent the game. As it turned out, the 6'9" run-and-gun ballhandler was simply a spectacular anomaly.

Magic, who led the league in assists per game in 4 seasons, finished his career with the highest apg (11.2) in NBA history. From 1982-3 until 1990-1, Johnson averaged double-digit apg every year. He also averaged more assists in the postseason than any other player 5 different times (including averaging over 15 a game twice). Magic retired with the record for most career total assists all time. He's currently 4th on the list.

Magic didn't simply wrack up assist numbers. His passes often lifted you out of your seat. Sometimes those dishes were flashy just for the sake of it, but often, Magic was able to find an improbable angle that put his team in a better position to score. Though Magic's best quality was his ability to run the Lakers, he is most remembered for two instances that had nothing to do with his most prominent gift.

As a rookie, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar injured for Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, Johnson started at center. The rookie, who had led Michigan State to an NCAA title the year before, lifted his team with a 42 point, 15 rebound, 7 assist performance, clinching the championship with a 4-2 series win over Philadelphia. Magic won the Finals MVP, his first of three.

The second happened during the 1987 NBA Finals. In Game 4, with the Lakers up on the Celtics 2 games to 1, the Lakers were down by 1 point in the Boston Garden. With 7 seconds left, Magic faked a jumper in the corner, drove right, and nailed a game-winning sky hook to give the Lakers a 3-1 series lead. Magic won the Finals MVP in that year too.

Magic also won 3 regular season MVPs. He led (or co-led with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) the Lakers to 5 championships in his 13 year career. His teams won the Western Conference Finals 4 more times. He was voted to the All-NBA 1st team 9 times and to the 2nd team on another occasion.

Though Magic was not a superior defender, he managed to lead the league in steals twice. But Magic's greatness was on the offensive end. He averaged 19.5 ppg and an impressive 7.2 rpg for a point guard, but his legend was made running up the floor and feeding his teammates for easy baskets. Magic brought that wonderful combination to the game; not only immensely fun to watch, but he was a certified winner as well.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Top 10 NBA Players Ever - #5

This is yet another installment in my list of the top 10 NBA players of all time. It is admittedly a subjective list. Are individual statistics more important than the number of championships a player led his team to? Admittedly, these types of lists will always be contentious.

#5 Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double for the first 5 seasons of his career. That included an over 30 points per game average. Strangely, 1961-2 was the only individual season in which he averaged a triple double (and not by a little bit: 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, and 11.4 apg).

While with the Cincinnati Royals, Robertson was plagued by inferior teammates. In an era of stacked teams, the Royals usually rivaled the Pistons for thinnest amount of talent on the squad. Despite leading the league in assists per game 7 times during his 14 year career, the Big O was actually criticized for being too selfish and scoring too much. Robertson led the league in ppg once, in his 8th season (only the second in which he averaged fewer than 30 a game).

Robertson won only one NBA championship in his career. That took place at the end of the 1970-1 season with the Milwaukee Bucks and a young Lew Alcindor. While viewed as somewhat of a playoff underachiever, Oscar averaged the most assists per game in 7 different postseasons. His teams made the playoffs 10 of his 14 seasons in the league. With the Royals, he ran into Wilt's Philadelphia teams and the Celtics; his Bucks contended with Wilt's Lakers and the Knicks, preventing him from winning more titles.

Because of his team's lack of winning, Oscar won the MVP award only once, for the 1963-4 season. But he was voted 1st team All-NBA each of his first 9 seasons and to the 2nd team the two subsequent years. Every young guard who came into the league after Oscar entered in the 1960-1 season, was compared (unfavorably) to the Big O. Robertson quickly vaulted ahead of the great Bob Cousy in the court of public opinion, sometimes begrudgingly.

Oscar finished his career with the most assists in NBA history. He's still 5th all time and has the 4th most apg for a career (9.5). His ppg career average of 25.7 is good for 9th best in NBA history. He also averaged the 3rd most minutes per game in history. Robertson's career FG% (48.5) and FT% (83.8) are testaments to his efficiency. Despite his proficient shooting, opposition coaches wanted Oscar to score, understanding that he was far more dangerous when he was able to get his lesser teammates going.

Robertson's statistics are staggering. During the first part of his career, he took a team devoid of talent and carried them to respectability. In the latter part, he led a great club into title contention every year. He was the best rebounding guard of all time, one of the best passers, and one of the best scorers.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Top 10 NBA Players Ever - #4

This is yet another installment in my list of the top 10 NBA players of all time. It is admittedly a subjective list. Are individual statistics more important than the number of championships a player led his team to? These types of lists will always be contentious. However, it should be known that this list was compiled with an embarrassing amount of thought.

#4 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was voted the MVP six times. His teams won six NBA championships. His career is a combination of greatness and longevity. There were two defining images of the man. The first, as Lew Alcindor with the Milwaukee Bucks, releasing sky hooks, his electric Afro rustling in the wind. The second, a bald-headed goggle-wearing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leading his Lakers as something like an elder statesman.

Abdul-Jabbar scored an enormous amount of points. His 38,387 career total is the most in NBA history. He totaled the most points in the league each of his first three seasons. He averaged over 30 ppg four times. He averaged the most points in the league in five different postseasons.

The 7'2" center's patented shot was the sky hook. It was unstoppable, unduplicated, and utterly graceful. Kareem best showed off this weapon in Game 6 of the 1974 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. With the Bucks down by 1 in double overtime, Abdul-Jabbar hit a game-winner with 3 seconds left and two Boston men draped all over him.

The sky hook was a shot Abdul-Jabbar always displayed, but its prevalence in his arsenal gained a boost in college. He was so dominant that the NCAA outlawed the dunk to try and stop him. It didn't work. He won player of the year and MOP of the Final Four all three years.

Kareem's NBA longevity served to raise his totals and lower his averages. Kareem played 20 seasons in the NBA. He played the 2nd most games, the most minutes, took the most field goals, and made the most field goals. Despite the fact that blocks weren't kept by the NBA for his first 4 seasons, he has third most in history. But Kareem's career is top heavy in its excellence. He never scored over 30 points a game after his 6th season. He averaged double figure rebounds each of his first 12 seasons (topping the totals list twice), but none of the rest. He averaged at least 3 blocks per game each of the first 7 seasons the stat was kept, but none after.

Abdul-Jabbar averaged under 20 points per game only 3 times in his 20 year career. Those were the last 3 years of his career. Despite that, he put up career averages of 24.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg, and 2.6 bpg. Kareem averaged nearly 56% from the field.

The numbers are impressive, but so are the wins and the accolades. Kareem's teams missed the playoffs just twice during his Medusa-like career. Besides his 6 MVPs, he won two Finals MVPs, grabbed 14 years apart. He was voted to the All-NBA 1st team 10 times. He made the 2nd team 5 more times. He made the All-Defensive 1st team 5 times and the 2nd team 6 times. On both sides of the court, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of the best... for a very long stretch.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Top 10 NBA Players Ever - #3

This is another installment in my list of the top 10 NBA players of all time. It is admittedly a subjective list. Are individual statistics more important than the number of championships a player led his team to? These types of lists will always be contentious. However, it should be known that this list was compiled with a tremendous amount of thought.

#3 Bill Russell
Bill Russell played in the NBA for 13 seasons. He won 11 NBA championships. Defensively, he was what Wilt Chamberlain was on offense. His presence out on the court influenced every single shot taken by the opponent. For a young bigman, facing Bill Russell was like losing a loved one; it caused a temporary melancholy. The mentally strong were able to go on to good careers. Those that weren't faded into oblivion.

Blocks were not recorded while Russell played, otherwise there would be some way to enumerate his impact in preventing the other team from scoring. In an era when every shot from the field counted for two points, the Celtics' opponents tended to shoot a higher percentage of outside shots. Russell once bragged that he didn't have to block every shot. After he blocked a few, you'd be looking for him every time you drove to the basket.

Russell made a conscious effort to ensure the Celtics obtained the ball after he swatted a shot. If you faced Russell's Celtics, a blocked shot wasn't merely a missed field goal, it was a turnover. Despite being a slightly undersized center at 6'9" 215 lbs., he was a rebounding machine. He led the league in total rebounds 4 times. Bill averaged 22.5 per game for his career, the second highest average in NBA history.

Russell was universally respected, mostly because his teams nearly always won. Offensively, Russell averaged a career mark of 15.1 ppg and never averaged even 19 a game in any one season (though he did average over 20 ppg in the 1962 and 1963 playoffs). But he was voted MVP five times. He was named to either the All-NBA 1st or 2nd team every year of his career except for his rookie campaign. He was named to the inaugural All-NBA Defensive team for the 1968-9 campaign, which was his final season.

Wilt Chamberlain usually produced the better numbers than Russell in their head-to-head encounters, but Russell's team almost always won the series. That was largely due to Russell's role among the Celtics' superior talent. He was the heart and the brains out on the floor. He was promoted to player-coach for the final three seasons of his career, which included two championships. In so doing, Russell was the first black head coach of any major American sports team.

Russell was the foundation of the Celtics' success. Though his statistics are rather paltry compared to other players who will grace this list (except for his rebound numbers), Russell is the ultimate winner. He was the leader of the most dominant dynasty in NBA history. He is still the league's best defender of all time.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Top 10 NBA Players Ever - #2

This is another installment in my list of the top 10 NBA players of all time. It is admittedly a subjective list. Are individual statistics more important than the number of championships a player led his team to? These types of lists will always be contentious. However, it should be known that this list was compiled with a tremendous amount of thought.

#2 Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan was the flashiest player ever to play in the NBA. He was also the best offensive player of his era and quite possibly the best defender of his era as well. Jordan was quite popular throughout his career and has been a world famous figure for the past 25 years. I once got into an argument with a 4 year old about who was the greatest player in NBA history. His argument was that Jordan "won that game," referring to his victorious performance in the movie Space Jam. He left behind a generation of rueful NBA superstars, who blame him for denying them a championship.

His career mark of 30.1 points per game is the highest average in the history of the NBA. He led the league in scoring average ten times and finished third another season. He scored the third most amount of points in a career with 32,292. Though his scoring statistics are quite impressive, they don't tell much of the story. Jordan was clutch. This was best exhibited in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. After a steal with 20 seconds left, Jordan drove the ball down the court, waited, and rose above the defender to nail a picture-perfect, championship-winning jump shot.

In the beginning of his career, Jordan redefined the art of athleticism. His exploits earned him the nickname "Air" Jordan. By the time of his second three-peat, he was perhaps the best jump shooter in the game. He was a lockdown defender who led the league in steals three times. His huge hands allowed him to manhandle the ball. His patented fadeaway jumper was unblockable and impossible to duplicate. He taunted his helpless opponents with a tongue that wagged to the side as he maneuvered his body in spectacular fashion on his way to two points.

For the first six seasons of his career (he scored 35 ppg or better in two of them), Jordan was considered a fantastic scorer who didn't make his teammates better and couldn't win the big one, even though he averaged 8 assists per game in 1988-9 and once scored 63 points against the Boston Celtics in the 1986 playoffs (a postseason record). It wasn't until his Chicago Bulls won the 1991 NBA championship that Jordan received his due as a winner.

Those Bulls teams featured Jordan, a top ten player of his day in Scottie Pippen, and a slew of revolving role players. Phil Jackson, arguably the greatest coach in NBA history, ran the show. Jordan, whose hatred of losing was obsessive, led those teams to six titles, separated into two three-peats. Those series of championships were interrupted by the one season Jordan played minor league baseball (in 1994) and his late-season comeback in 1995. In 1995-6, Mike led his team to an NBA all time best 72-10 record. It began the Bulls' second string of titles.

Jordan was a 5-time MVP and a 6-time NBA Finals MVP. He was voted to the All-NBA 1st team 10 times and to the All- NBA Defensive 1st team 9 times. More than the accolades, Jordan set the standard by which all wing players past, present, and future are judged.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Top 10 NBA Players Ever - #1

The next ten posts will feature my list of the top 10 NBA players of all time. It is admittedly a subjective list. Are individual statistics more important than the number of championships a player led his team to? These types of lists will always be contentious. However, it should be known that this list was compiled with a tremendous amount of thought.

#1 Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain was a maligned figure during his career. He was under constant criticism from writers and coaches. Wilt was a sensitive man and took the criticism to heart. As a result, he was a hard man to root for. As he famously spouted, "Nobody roots for Goliath."

But Wilt's statistics are not only unparalleled, they are unapproached. During the 1962-3 season, he averaged 44.8 ppg (the second highest single season average ever). That was over 10 ppg game more than second place and over 16 points more than third that season. Yet, for Wilt, that season featured a decrease in his point average. The year before, he had averaged 50.4 points per game.

To give some kind of perspective, Michael Jordan scored 50 or more points in a game 38 times over his career (the second most of any player). Chamberlain beat that number in one season. Wilt led the league in scoring for the first seven seasons of his career. He once scored 100 points in a game, the record for a single game by 19 points over second place. Chamberlain was a historically prolific rebounder. He led the league 11 times and finished second two more times. His career average of 22.9 is the highest all time.

When he was criticized for scoring too much at the expense of his teammates, Chamberlain decided to change course. In 1966-7, he averaged 7.8 assists per game. The next year, he totaled the most assists in the league, accounting for 8.6 per game (more than Jordan ever averaged). Writers duly criticized him for being too unselfish. His career average was 4.4 per game.

Blocks were not kept during Chamberlain's career or this would be another paragraph filled with incredible statistics. So, instead, let's turn to field goal percentage. In 1966-7, he shot 68.3% from the field, taking 14 shots per game. The last year of his career, he shot nearly 73%, though his shot totals were significantly reduced. Wilt made 54% of his field goal attempts throughout his career.

Wilt faces a number of negative perceptions from the current fan. His statistics are so farfetched that they are almost discounted. The particularly ignorant will argue that his competition featured 6'6" white guys. Leave aside the racial aspect of the oft-repeated comment, it misrepresents the era that Chamberlain played in. There were more centers of high quality in his NBA than there are today, despite the far higher number of teams playing today. Wilt was a poor free throw shooter for his entire career. Chamberlain only won two titles, a significantly lower number than other players who will be featured on this list. But he played in an era of legendary teams. The Boston Celtics not only had Bill Russell, but they were stacked with great players, perfect role players, and arguably the best coach ever in Red Auerbach.

Furthermore, Wilt was a work horse. Writers unfairly accused him of lollygagging because he didn't exhibit excellence every minute he was in the game. But he averaged 45.8 minutes per game for his entire career (first all time). In 1961-2, he averaged 48.5 mpg (the most ever for a single season). Another astonishing mark is that the center never fouled out of a game throughout his entire career. Despite the enmity he received from the press, Wilt garnered 4 MVP awards. He was voted to the All-NBA team 7 times. He was also awarded the 1972 NBA Finals MVP.

From the time Wilt entered the league until the moment he left, every big man was compared to him. None of them even remotely resembled him offensively. Few besides Bill Russell were ranked ahead of him defensively. There wasn't a better rebounder. Is it too much to ask of a player to win every game he ever played? Is it too much to ask him to dominate every second he's out on the floor? Should he be judged harshly if this extremely athletic bigman doesn't produce to our impossible expectations? Wilt Chamberlain wasn't superman. He was merely the greatest player ever to take his talents to the NBA.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2011 NFL Playoff Predictions

6 GB over 3 Phi - 1 Atl over 6 GB - 5 NO over 1 Atl
5 NO over 4 Sea - 5 NO over 2 Chi

3 Ind over 6 NYJ - 1 NE over 5 Bal - 1 NE over 2 Pit
5 Bal over 4 KC - 2 Pit over 3 Ind

Super Bowl XLV
New England over New Orleans

It is utterly unfair that a 7-9 team makes the playoffs when other teams in the same conference with better records aren't allowed in. The playoffs should include the 6 best teams (based on record) from each conference.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Years Resolution

With my disgusting level of content, this year my resolution is to be meaner to the people I care about. Being nice hasn't really worked. They still tend to avoid me. Time for something new.