Die-Hard NBA Wednesday

Whether your team missed the playoffs or got eliminated, appreciate the games and the greatness at hand. In this current time, the past gives you memories, hopefully more good than bad when it comes to your favorite team, but living in the present often gets overlooked. If you prefer the game in the 90’s and possibly 80’s, I’m with you, the game was played at a higher and tougher level in my eyes. Those legends wanted to play each other, they wanted to get physical and beat the best. Then again, today’s financial structure doesn’t favor better players taking more money to stay with a losing franchise.

For instance, Tim Duncan was drafted by the Spurs and will retire with them. Same with Kobe Bryant on the Lakers, except if you recall he shipped from the Hornets on draft night, yet he’s played every game of his illustrious career in the purple and gold. This duo ranks among the best at their position of all time, with both individual achievements and leading their respective teams to multiple titles. They also happened to have the best coaches of all time, Phil Jackson and Greg Popovich.

What about The Answer, The Truth, The Big Ticket, aka Allen Iverson, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett? I really hope you didn’t take those careers for granted, they were all underdogs once upon a time and balled out. They deserve to be remembered, and odds are two if not all three are headed to the Hall soon. In case you were wondering who I’m referring to, Pierce is the guy on the borderline for me. Rooting for Iverson, the little-big man that carried the 76ers and took the reigns for Michael Jordan as the face. He set trends left and right, one of the biggest influences this game has ever seen actually. Pierce, I liked his attitude more when he was in Boston with Antoine Walker, a forgotten face that had heroic moments as well. Garnett, although he didn’t lead Minnesota to win playoff series, K.G. came straight out of high school to evolve the power forward position. There aren’t many players in general, let alone big men, that pose a triple-double threat with regularity.

K.G. got a lot of heat at the time for wanting out, he was coy and professional throughout the process. For some reason, I doubt Kevin Love gets the same treatment when and if he departs the Timberwolves.

As great as they were, they, and leaders do need a supporting cast for a team to succeed, they didn’t play for just one team. A.I. hoisted MVPs and went wild in The Finals, drilling that three in the corner and stepping over Tyronn Lue, he didn’t win it all. Pierce and Garnett, it took a pair of trades, uniting them and Ray Allen, to bring Boston back to glory. It’s no coincidence that winning, and how teams were formed, made an impact on the younger generation.

Players like LeBron James and Dwight Howard, by some, are viewed negatively. If you aren’t a fan of how he left Cleveland for Miami publicly, I get it. If you started rooting against King James because he teamed up with two other all stars, get over it because the goal is to win trophies and make money. He’s been doing both as the face of the league with multiple MVPs and sights on a three-peat. Throw all the sticks and stones from afar, the best player in the world backs it up. It’s not like his play is dipping, it took incredible seasons from Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant to snatch MVP, assuming K.D. is the man with the most votes like it should be.

And Howard, at some point you have to get over that Orlando debacle, they’re not winners and it was time to move on. He didn’t trade himself to the City of Angels, and while you and I believe that he’s a little soft and crazy for not wanting to play with the Black Mamba, there’s a few other things to look at below the surface too. Phil Jackson wasn’t the head coach like in year’s past, instead it was Mike D’Antoni. A coach that I think and you might to, didn’t merit being the man for the Lakers and now he’s gone. The former coach’s system called for fastbreaks, point guards to do his their thing in 8 seconds, to either score or hit shooters for threes. Blame the L.A. front office. The late Jerry Buss was the man behind the Lake Show, his son Jim, let’s just say taking the reigns isn’t as easy as it seems. No, I’m not a fan and I don’t believe in him turning things around, even if the draft is rigged and they get a top-3 pick, Bryant is only playing a couple more years. They have fallen out of my trust to make the splash and thrust themselves back into title contention, to me they’re in prove-it mode.

Howard protected the paint better than anyone yet again this season, wiped the glass as usual, and showed off his offense whether featured or getting put backs. It was better basketball than his time with the Lakers, standing in the corner and on a different page with the team. So he bounced, winning doesn’t occur overnight and Houston trails Portland 3-1 in the first round. This was the obvious choice to be the best series of arguably, the entire playoffs, I don’t think The Finals will beat a trio of overtimes in four games. Just now, despite D12’s foul trouble, and he has his flaws don’t get me wrong, however the best center in the league is cheering for his squad from the sidelines. It’s good to see the fun side of Howard, his days with the Magic were entertaining, including a finals appearance. Little update, Howard keeps leading huddles as H-town looks to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Which wraps the topic back around to what we were discussing before, D12 feels his best chance to win is with James Harden and a supporting cast. James, he joined Wade’s team, but it quickly became his throne. Wade understood his age, injury issues, and the fact that the best player in the world just signed to play with him. Under toe guidance of Pat Riley, pulling strings from the booth, Erik Spoelstra worked his way up from video coordinator and Wade became a man and champion in the process. James became the coveted prodigy that won’t look back.

Apparently three is a crowd because someone’s got to sit in the back, unless you still drive an Oldsmobile with three seats in the front. Didn’t think so, some of you don’t even know what that is. Well, Chris Bosh, the All-Star double-double face of Toronto and commercials, he accepted a role and thrives when they need him to. Kind of like Robert Horry, at a younger age, accepting a role as a supporter. Horry came into the league with the reputation for being the next Scottie Pippen, he was athletic and did it all as a star with the Rockets where an impressive team won back-to-back rings. Yes, those were when Jordan retired, M.J. and the Bulls three-peated before AND after Houston’s won. Insert Phil Jackson, the Jedi mind tricks created a 7-time champion in Horry, 5 with the Lake Show as a clutch shooter and the third wheel to Kobe & Shaq.

Great players should be hated, hated to play against and because they were reasons your team probably didn’t celebrate when all was said and done. Rivals, you have to love those, but beyond that the die-hards fans and any baller that’s ever played at any level, they would tell you that unconditional respect and sportsmanship is real. Some guys you just didn’t beat, some teams that were kryptonite, distinguishing limitations and potential enables you to appreciate someone else’s ability and success.

Big deal? Probably not.

Changing your mind? Not my intent.

Just trying to open your eyes from delusions, or from negativity really.

Like why does it matter that Jordan is better than Kobe? Aren’t they both great? I hear you if you don’t think much of the Mamba was original, but how many players do you know could do a better M.J. impression for an entire career? Think about it.

I had my moments in my years playing for countless teams in countless leagues for two decades. It took me awhile, maybe because my playing days were cut short because of my lack of height. The day I converted that bitterness into a chip on my shoulder to make a positive impact, my hiatus from the game I love ended and my passion returned. Coaching at my high school alma mater, then joining a newly built school and program, all after getting turned down from four community colleges because I wasn’t what they were looking for. It’s all good, my boy I played with and against, he plays pro ball in Mexico and Israel, having his respect and support helped me get over myself and back into the game. I still run the courts where I reside, and on the verge of bigger and better things involving basketball and my childhood community.

This article isn’t about me, my life, or favorite players, but something I hope you can draw from as a positive influence to be yourself and love the game. Love the game, call it like you see it, I’ll be subjective when talking hoops because that’s what we do. Bottom line, you can be objective and speak about more positives than negatives, it improves the environment and shows your respect for hoops.

The guys at the gym, when we hoop of course we’re talking hoops. Maybe some other things and small talk too, it’s better when we’re hyping up a player that deserves recognition rather than bring up the guy that continues to struggle and bash on him all day. Unless it’s Carmelo Anthony, I like him, just not a fan of his game and work ethic that he portrays. Why would I spout at the mouth about Anthony? Or, Paul George, who I think was crowned and has this sense of entitlement, before he was ever consistent. No, instead, I brought up Duncan, Bryant, Iverson, Pierce, Garnett, and Jordan. Also, polarizing players like James and Howard, guys that have been the best at their positions for years, there wouldn’t be many guys to appreciate around the league if you don’t think they can hoop. Let the media be media, you don’t have to join them and their fancies.