Friday, April 16, 2010

Simply The Greatest


Here's a shocker for you all: Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. And yet, every year some new guy comes up with some form of statistical analysis that measures the production of a current player and then cross references it with Jordan and tells the masses that this said player is having a Jordan type season. Perhaps it's time that someone brought us back to reality; perhaps someone needs to give us all a Jay-Z type Reminder. One day, someone might come close to touching MJ's legacy or even possibly surpassing it; but make no mistake, if you look at his team and individual success, it hasn't come close to happening yet.  

TEAM SUCCESS
Throughout the course of NBA history, we have some seen some truly great teams with some amazing stories. If you watch NBA TV often enough, you have heard some of these stories. Let's quickly peek at some of these greatest teams ever:

-The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers won an NBA record 33 games in a row with Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain leading the way. The  '72 Lakers finished with the second best ever record in NBA history as they went 69-13 and won the NBA championship at the end of the season.

-The 1979-80 Los Angeles Lakers will always have a place in the heart of basketball fans because it was the world's introduction to Magic Johnson. Most of you already know the story; as a rookie, Magic Johnson started at center in Game 6 of the NBA Finals for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and went on to fill up the stat sheet with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists as the Lakers clinched the NBA title.

-The 1986 Boston Celtics is arguably the best NBA basketball team ever known to man. A team that featured Hall of Fame players Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson (already elected, just not inducted yet) and Bill Walton took the league by storm on their way to an NBA championship. In addition, that Celtic team could not be beaten at home. Allow me to illustrate: when a man is attracted to a woman and hopes to take things to the physical level, he typically invites her to his place. He knows that once she makes it to his turf, he is unbeatable. He is going to have all the advantages and necessary tools required to seal the deal. That was the 1986 Boston Celtics. Their 40-1 record at the Boston Garden still stands as the best home record in NBA history.

Where does Michael Jordan fit into all of this? Well when remembering his Airness, people tend to focus on his individual exploits (which kind of makes sense, I mean the dude was awesome), but do not always mention his team success. Michael Jordan's Bulls won six NBA championships (count them, 1,2,3,4,5,6; if you've seen Eddie Murphy's Raw stand up, you get the joke). However, not everyone realizes the historic significance of those titles. In the league's 63 year history, only four teams have been able to win at least three championships in a row. Look at the list:

-Minneapolis Lakers (won titles in 1952,1953, 1954).
-Boston Celtics (won titles in 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966).
-Chicago Bulls (won titles in 1991, 1992, 1993 & 1996, 1997, 1998).
Los Angeles Lakers (won titles in 2000, 2001, 2002).

Jordan's Bulls accomplished the feat twice. Seems pretty significant right? It gets better. Not only did the Bulls win titles in succession, but they dominated the regular season. Look at the five best regular season records in NBA history:

Rank
Season
Team
Record
1
1995-96
Chicago Bulls
72-10
T-2
1996-97
Chicago Bulls
69-13
T-2
1971-72
Los Angeles Lakers
69-13
3
1966-67
Philadelphia 76ers
68-13
4
1972-73
Boston Celtics
68-14
T-5
1985-86
Boston Celtics
67-15
T-5
1991-92
Chicago Bulls
67-15
T-5
1999-00
Los Angeles Lakers
67-15

Once again, Michael Jordan and his Bulls are the middle of every discussion. The Bulls have managed to claim the best ever record of all time as well as the second and fifth best records in league history. When MJ was in his prime, his teams didn't just win, they dominated the opposition as they picked up championships along the way.

INDIVIDUAL SUCCESS

Longevity
Michael Jordan might have been a one man show early in his career but by his third season, it was obvious to all that #23 was the best player in the league. His reign of terror as the NBA's top dog lasted from 1986 to 1998 (obviously you would have to subtract the 1993-94 and 1994-95 season due to his retirement). No one could touch Michael by 1986. Michael was the league's mortgage while the rest of the players were paying rent to him rent. Indeed, MJ was the league's hottest commodity for over a decade and he refused to relinquish his spot as the king of the NBA. In fact, look at all the things that happened during the time frame that Jordan literally owned the NBA:

-The A-Team television series airs its last episode (March 1987).
-Madonna releases the hit single Who's That Girl (June 1987).
-The Transformers (original television series) airs its last episode (November 1987).
-Kevin Durant is born (September 1988).
-Michael Jackson releases the hit movie Moonwalker (October 1988).
-Dennis Rodman creams Pippen into the basket support and gets called for a regular foul. No flagrant foul or ejection from the game (May 1990).
-The New Kids On The Block release their hit album Step by Step (June 1990).
-Future Kentucky super freshman John Wall is born (September 1990).
-The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air airs its first episode (September 1990).
-Tupac Shakur releases his first album 2Pacolypse Now (November 1991).
-The Cosby Show airs its last episode (April 1992).
-Shaquille O'Neal is drafted into the NBA (June 1992).
-The greatest collection of basketball talent ever participates in the Olympics: the Dream Team (Summer 1992).
- Hit TV show Friends airs its first episode (September 1994).
-Notorious B.I.G. releases his first album Ready To Die (September 1994).
-My first girlfriend ever (November 1994).
-The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air airs its last episode (May 1996).
-Jay-Z releases his first album Reasonable Doubt (June 1996).
-Allen Iverson is drafted into the NBA (June 1996).
-Kobe Bryant is drafted into the NBA (June 1996).
-Death of rapper Tupac Shakur (September 1996).
-Death of rapper Notorious B.I.G. (March 1997).
-Tim Duncan is drafted into the NBA (June 1997).
-Google Inc. is founded (September 1998).

Quick tangent: Doesn't it feel like Brett Favre was playing in the NFL during all those events? Technically he kind of was; he was drafted in April 1991.

That's a pretty decent list of pop culture landmarks if you will, but I can already see you coming with a specific question in mind: Yes Michael was good for a very long time, but how can you unequivocally say he was the best in the league from 1986 to 1998?  Thought you'd never ask….

Body Of Work
Look at what Michael Jordan accomplished from 1986 to 1998 (brace yourself, it's a fairly lengthy list).

Statistics
Regular season             
Season
PPG
RPG
APG
SPG
FG%
1986-87
37.1
5.2
4.6
2.9
0.48
1987-88
35.0
5.5
5.9
3.2
0.54
1988-89
32.5
8.0
8.0
2.9
0.54
1989-90
33.6
6.9
6.3
2.8
0.53
1990-91
31.5
6.0
5.5
2.7
0.54
1991-92
30.1
6.4
6.1
2.3
0.52
1992-93
32.6
6.7
5.5
2.8
0.50
1994-95
26.9
6.9
5.3
1.8
0.41
1995-96
30.4
6.6
4.3
2.2
0.50
1996-97
29.6
5.9
4.3
1.7
0.49
1997-98
28.7
5.8
3.5
1.7
0.47
1986 to 1998
32.0
6.3
5.4
2.5
0.51

Playoffs
Season
PPG
RPG
APG
SPG
FG%
1986-87
35.7
7.0
6.0
2.0
0.42
1987-88
36.3
7.1
4.7
2.4
0.53
1988-89
34.8
7.0
7.6
2.5
0.51
1989-90
36.7
7.2
6.8
2.8
0.51
1990-91
31.1
6.4
8.4
2.4
0.52
1991-92
34.5
6.2
5.8
2.0
0.50
1992-93
35.1
6.7
6.0
2.1
0.48
1994-95
31.5
6.5
4.5
2.3
0.48
1995-96
30.7
4.9
4.1
1.8
0.46
1996-97
31.1
7.9
4.8
1.6
0.46
1997-98
32.4
5.1
3.5
1.5
0.46
1986 to 1998
33.4
6.5
5.6
2.1
0.49

Jordan was incredibly consistent throughout his career but always saved his best for the postseason. As ridiculous as his regular season numbers were, his postseason numbers were off the charts. Let's put this in perspective; look at the amount of times that some of the most prolific NBA scorers were able to average at least 30 points per game for a whole regular season:

-Allen Iverson: 4 (for some reason I expected AI to have done it more than four times)
-Kobe Bryant: 3
-LeBron James: 2
-Tracy McGrady: 1
-Shaquille O'Neal: 0

Now look at those same NBA scorers and view the amount of times that they were able to average at least 30 points per game for a whole postseason:

-Tracy McGrady: 4
-Allen Iverson: 4
-Kobe Bryant: 4
-Shaquille O'Neal: 3
-LeBron James: 2

From 1986 to 1998, MJ did it eight times during the regular season and averaged 32.0 points per game. As it pertains to the playoffs during that same timeframe, Jordan averaged at least 30 points per game in every postseason appearance (so he averaged at least 30 points per game on 11 separate playoff seasons). No current NBA player has been able to do it more than four times.

Make no mistake though, Michael Jordan has always been the primary offensive player for the Bulls and every opponents game plan was geared towards stopping him. It doesn't seem as though they were very successful in their attempts mind you. On with the rest of his accolades….

All-Star Games
Selected to participate to 11 straight All-Star Games as a starter.

Awards
1987-88 NBA All-Star MVP
1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year
1987-88 League MVP
1990-91 League MVP
1990-91 NBA Finals MVP
1991-92 League MVP
1991-92 NBA Finals MVP
1992-93 NBA Finals MVP
1995-96 All-Star Game MVP
1995-96 League MVP
1995-96 NBA Finals MVP
1996-97 Finals MVP
1997-98 All-Star Game MVP
1997-98 League MVP
1997-98 NBA Finals MVP

Is there a more decorated player than Michael Jordan? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar collected six NBA League MVP trophies and two NBA Finals MVP trophies. Jordan on the other hand managed five MVP trophies and six NBA Finals MVP trophies. (in case you're wondering, no one else has won more than three NBA Finals MVP trophies; the names of the guys with three trophies are: Magic, Shaq and Duncan).

Honors
1986-87 All-NBA (1st Team)
1987-88 All-Defensive (1st Team)
1987-88 All-NBA (1st Team)
1988-89 All-Defensive (1st Team)
1988-89 All-NBA (1st Team)
1990-91 All-Defensive (1st Team)
1991-92 All-NBA (1st Team)
1992-93 All-Defensive (1st Team)
1992-93 All-NBA (1st Team)
1995-96 All-Defensive (1st Team)
1995-96 All-NBA (1st Team)
1996-97 All-Defensive (1st Team)
1996-97 All-NBA (1st Team)
1997-98 All-Defensive (1st Team)
1997-98 All-NBA (1st Team)

The All-NBA honors reinforce what most of us have always known: Michael Jordan was the most feared perimeter player the league has ever seen.  During an 11 year stretch, the former UNC player was the best offensive player in the league as well as one of its best defensive. Unlike nowadays, none of his opponents ever got a free pass. If you had to guard Jordan or he had to guard you, he would literally eat you up alive and let you know about it (word is his Airness is a better trash talker than NBA player, and let me reiterate that he is the greatest basketball player of all time; do the math) as the game went along. MJ has the titles as well as the individual accomplishments, is there anything left to add?

RINGS FIT DEPENDING ON THE SIZE
The NBA is league full of rich history and great players. Look at some of the NBA's greatest players and some of their accomplishments:

-Bill Russell was part of a staggering 11 NBA championships.
-Wilt Chamberlain once scored 100 points in a game and also averaged 50 points per game in one season.
-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all time leading scorer and he has won six NBA titles.
-Magic Johnson won five NBA championships, often played all five positions on the court and did everything with a smile.

After seeing that list, how is it that I can proclaim his Airness to be the greatest of all time? Before I answer that question, I would like for you to look at the list of NBA champions since 1980 and the elite big men that played on those teams (by elite big men, I am talking about power forwards or centers that were considered to be some of the best at their respective positions in the NBA).

Year
Champion
Elite Big Men
2009
Los Angeles Lakers
Pau Gasol
2008
Boston Celtics
Kevin Garnett
2007
San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan
2006
Miami Heat
Shaquille O'Neal
2005
San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan
2004
Detroit Pistons
Ben Wallace & Rasheed Wallace
2003
San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan
2002
Los Angeles Lakers
Shaquille O'Neal
2001
Los Angeles Lakers
Shaquille O'Neal
2000
Los Angeles Lakers
Shaquille O'Neal
1999
San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan & David Robinson
1998
Chicago Bulls
?
1997
Chicago Bulls
?
1996
Chicago Bulls
?
1995
Houston Rockets
Hakeem Olajuwon
1994
Houston Rockets
Hakeem Olajuwon
1993
Chicago Bulls
?
1992
Chicago Bulls
?
1991
Chicago Bulls
?
1990
Detroit Pistons
?
1989
Detroit Pistons
?
1988
Los Angeles Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1987
Los Angeles Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1986
Boston Celtics
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale & Robert Parish
1985
Los Angeles Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1984
Boston Celtics
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale & Robert Parish
1983
Philadelphia 76ers
Moses Malone
1982
Los Angeles Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1981
Boston Celtics
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale & Robert Parish
1980
Los Angeles Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Anything stand out to you? Since 1980, the NBA has crowned exactly 30 NBA champions. Out of those 30 title teams, it has only happened eight times that a team has been able to win an NBA title without an elite big man. That's the NBA's most prized piece of information: big men win championships. In order to compete for an NBA title, it is practically mandatory to have great big man.

It's like in the movie He's Just Not That Into You, at times we focus so much on the exceptions that we forget the rules. And as I previously stated, the biggest NBA rule revolves around the requirement of a big man to win the title. And yet, Michael Jordan ignored those rules and made the league his as he won six NBA titles without an elite big man on his team. His greatness allowed him to dominate the league and reach the mountain top several times at the expense of Hall of Fame big men such as Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone to name a few. After Michael won multiple championships, everyone thought that he was the exception that would become the rule.

Indeed, teams tried to find the next perimeter player that they could just fit in with some scrubs and hope to watch him win a title. Here's a quick list of players that were Rated Next (as in rated as the next Jordan):
-Penny Hardaway
-Grant Hill
-Allen Iverson
-Jerry Stackhouse
-Vince Carter
-Tracy McGrady
-Kobe Bryant
-Dwyane Wade
-LeBron James

And yet, none of them have been able to walk in MJ's footsteps.  Penny Hardaway and LeBron James have never won an NBA Finals game; while Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady have yet to get out of the first round. Allen Iverson's career is close to coming to an end and he still has no rings. Jerry Stackhouse's biggest career achievement was a flagrant 2 foul in the 2006 NBA Finals on Shaquille O'Neal while Vince Carter has yet to play in a Conference Finals game. Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant both won titles with elite big men but both failed to make it out of the first round when they played without one. Many have attempted to duplicate Jordan's path (whether by choice or bad management), but they have all failed. His Airness was such a gifted a player that he was able to transcend the rule. He is the exception and always will be. I don't think we will ever see a guard win multiple titles in a row without the help of a dominant big man.

In conclusion, Michael Jordan has done it all. He has the rings, the records, the individual accomplishments and the respect of all. As time passes by, we tend to forget certain players and what they did for the game; but let's make sure we never forget MJ. One of my favorite rappers Joe Budden has a line in his song Dumb Out: "Don't deserve to breath the air that I farted in". Joe might as well have been talking for Michael Jordan. No player can come close right now to touching his Airness' legacy. So the next time someone compares some current or new player to Michael Jordan, give them a reality check and remind them that MJ's body of work is practically bulletproof. Until someone can replicate or surpass everything that #23 has done in his career, his throne is off limits…. 

Photo by: Scott Winterton/NBAE/Getty Image
From: ESPN

You can follow my tweets at Twitter.com/ShyneIV.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bulls won 67 games in 1991-92 season, not 92-93

Luca said...

....dennis rodman