Thursday, June 30, 2011

Awesome illustrative poster that came with Bill Simmons’ newest paperback edition of his Book of Basketball



How many of these legends can you identify? No cheating!



Book of Basketball: (

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sixers Need a Star

It’s hard to believe that its been ten seasons since Allen Iverson led an unassuming Sixers squad on one of the more memorable Finals runs in recent NBA memory.  I remember that run like it was yesterday, watching the team outplay and out will the rest of the Eastern Conference Field (Pacers, Bucks, Raptors) on the way to their first Finals in nearly twenty years.  As a younger fan of the franchise who was not alive for their last Championship in 83, this run was the epitome of excitement, and despite the outcome of the Final series, the season still felt like a success.  The buzz and excitement around the squad and its central superstar was at an all-time high, as the city rallied around the Sixers, hoping that they would be the team to put an end to the town’s title drought.  Although they fell short in this regard (luckily the Phillies picked up the slack seven seasons later) the 2001 version of the 76ers had the city more excited about the team than they have been in the decade since.

Reminiscing upon that season made me realize how much I miss having the Sixers as serious title contenders; not an average team that has become accustomed to early playoff exits.  I mean a team that you really believe, deep down, has a series chance to compete amongst the League’s elite.  Such a feeling surrounding the Sixers has been largely lacking since that magical Finals march, and missing entirely since Iverson was shipped West.  As a fan I miss that feeling, and would like to see the franchise return to that 2001 Finals form. 

The team, as it stands, is not too far off, as it has assembled a great supporting cast, but there has been a glaring hole in the superstar spot since the Iverson trade.  This is not a knock on Andre Igoudala, as he is a great asset to have, but he has shown he is not meant to be the centerpiece of the Sixers.  The core group of guys (Iggy, Turner, Holiday, Young, Williams) is an excellent young cast, and management deserves applause for building such a solid foundation for the future, now they just need to fill the biggest piece of the puzzle.

I know, easier said than done, and in order to acquire anyone of somewhat superstar status the Sixers would have to give up a couple members of that young cast, but it needs to be done.  The most successful Sixer squads were anchored by a superstar, just as the list of past NBA champions is made up almost entirely of superstar-driven teams.  It has become a proven franchise formula, and the Sixers have shown that they are not exception.  It could be argued that the current cast is better than any that Iverson had around him, so teaming them with a star, even if a couple pieces had to be lost in the process, would certainly be a large step in the direction of success, not to mention the jolt it would give frustrated fans. 

Superstars are not easy to come by, but it seems almost certain that in order for the Sixers to take that next step, they need to go out and get one; hit the free agent market hard, move some pieces, make some calls, anything but continue to sit still.  The fans and the franchise need it.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011


I’ve had posters of LeBron James hanging in my bedroom since he began to burst onto the basketball scene.  In fact, I’ve had posters of LeBron hanging on my wall since he was in high school; seems kind of creepy now, but such was my affinity for the young star.  Ever since I first saw him play I was hooked.  I wanted to like him, and more so than that, I wanted him to be great; not just good, great.  And not just Joe Johnson, good now and forgotten in fifteen years great; Game-changing great.

LeBron, by all accounts, was the new generation’s Jordan, MJ 2.0, and I was not about to miss the bandwagon.  He was exciting; explosive; something new, and with my idol Allen Iverson fading into basketball irrelevance, LeBron was the obvious choice to replace A.I. at the soon-to-be vacant top spot of my favorite player pyramid (Although as it turns out, no one has yet been able to push A.I. from that pedestal in my mind, despite being two seasons removed from an NBA squad).

Over the years I’ve accumulated mass amounts of LeBron memorabilia; countless pairs of shoes, shorts, jerseys, and a gang of other gear that I don’t quite care to remember.  Even his slightly-faded Cavalier bobble head still adorns my desk to this day, nodding away.  So yes, I’ve long loved LeBron James, and will continue to do so, but I’d by lying if I said that lately he wasn’t making it damn difficult.

It isn’t even The Decision that irks me anymore, as I feel LeBron has taken enough heat (no pun intended) for that preposterous production.  Rather, it’s the developments I’ve seen since The Decision that has ballooned my discontent with our generation’s biggest basketball star.  The constant complaining, the entitlement and arrogance, the excessive celebrations, even his ever-easy answer to every question he’s asked, except for any explanation of his increasing disappearance in the clutch quarter, is getting old.  Especially irritating was his recent arena tunnel mockery of Dirk Nowitzki; an NBA superstar in every aspect of the word, and one who happens to be outplaying LeBron tri-fold in these NBA Finals. 

Something about that clip rubbed me the wrong way, as it serves as the epitome of my problem with ‘The King.”  You’re going to announce to the world that all you care about is rings, then shrink to microscopic size when your squad actually reaches the Finals, and then allow yourself to get recorded mocking the Mavs’ superstar centerpiece while he is in the midst of dominating your team and well outplaying you, yourself?  It is moments like this that make it clear how a man can go from being universally loved and accepted as the future of basketball to being booed out of arenas across the country. 

It could have been all the years of overly-positive reinforcement; all those people telling him he was the best, treating him like it, and him allowing himself to get caught up in it.  Whatever the cause, at some point, LeBron decided that it was all about LeBron, the problem is the rest of the League, including Dirk, didn’t get the memo.  Although I don’t know for a fact, I assume that if you asked LeBron before his rookie year if he would have at least a single championship by his eighth season in the League, he would have replied with some sort of cocky or overly-confident “yes.”  When it didn’t materialize as quickly as he had imagined, LeBron shipped himself to South Beach, sure that he could secure several alongside the League’s other best slasher.

Now however, we are almost a decade into the most promising career in the history of professional basketball and  he still no rings to show for it, as he sits just one loss away from another unfulfilled season.  Five years ago I would have been sad, waiting alongside LeBron for him to finally fulfill what he has been told since birth is his destiny.  Now, I instead find myself in the exact opposite position, cheering for a superstar that in many ways is that exact opposite of LeBron.

In response to the mockery he received from LeBron and co. for his all-time classic Finals performance, Dirk simply stated that he thought it was immature, but needed no extra motivation to beat the team standing in the way of his first Title, something he acknowledged, he had been working most of his life for.  See, Dirk lets his game talk for him, which is the biggest reason why the Mavs are one game away from making Mark Cuban the happiest man in America.  LeBron, on the other hand, has had to do a whole lot of talking. 

LeBron is going to win a title, probably a few.  It seems almost inevitable.  He is too talented, and his squad now too stacked for them not to fall into at least one.  Unfortunately, when and if it occurs, he is not going to have the same level of support that he would have just a few years ago.  It’s possible that this is LeBron’s year after all, as Miami is more than capable of pulling out two straight.  Maybe the Mavs will fold in the Finals again like they did in 06, and LeBron will actually be the last one laughing.  Yes the thoughts of Miami’s second championship banner could become a reality, but not if Dirk has anything to say about it, which I bet he will.  But don’t expect to hear it from him; just watch the game.