Tuesday, 9 August 2011
THE OTHER GUYS
Even the greatest has to acknowledge sometimes.
(Part of our special 'HALL OF FAME' week)
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
You can almost picture the scene right now. It's almost one year ago and two legend’s of Basketball are about to enter the NBA's Naismith Hall of Fame. Two of the biggest players of the nighties. It doesn’t get much better than this. Then, Michael Jordan walks in…and the attention shifts for a moment.
This is the story of both Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone’s careers. Two unique, incredible talents, Olympic 'dream' makers. Two guys who where blessed to play in a league for a long time, but at the same time shared that spotlight with the G.O.A.T, Number 23, Michael Jordan. M.J. defined ‘his’ decade in the nighties but it wasn’t just him that made it one of the best the amazing NBA has ever witnessed.
Karl and Scottie are far from the Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg to their Samuel L. Jackson and ‘The Rock’ of other NBA legends. These ‘other guys’ along with legacy setters like MJ, Shaq, Hakeem, Ewing and others are the reason that the 90’s was not just one of the best, but one of the most memorable decades in basketball…ever.
When Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six amazing Championships he didn’t just do this on his own. Batman needed his Robin but let’s get this straight, Pippen was more than just a sidekick, this can’t be stressed enough. If you need any more proof check Pippen’s seasons in Houston and Portland to show how well this guy can lead a team. If Pip had spent his whole career in Portland, he could have been a bigger Oregon legend than Clyde Drexler. Scottie spent the bulk of his career in Chi-town however and this was nowhere near a bad thing.
Scottie was ‘big game’ like James Worthy. His playoff contributions where so worthwhile and Pippen is also third all time in postseason games played. He trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who seems to have played more games and scored more points than anybody in the history of basketball) and playoff hero Robert Horry. Scottie may have been a little bit out of the spotlight at times but not only did he share the biggest stage in Basketball with M.J. he also helped make Basketball popular around the world. Michael and Scottie carried along the torch that Magic and Larry passed.
Pippen always had Jordan’s back, always had his teams back, now that’s the perfect teammate. Scottie carried his team when Michael went to play some rounders. Pippen did it all at the Small Forward position before Kevin Garnett did, before Lamar Odom did and before the King did it.
Pip was so versatile and he was one of the best defenders the league has ever seen and for that fact as well he was underrated. His former coach Phil Jackson offers the best testament though, calling him a "one man wrecking crew, capable of guarding anyone from the point guard to the five position." He robbed the steals leading accolade many seasons over and he could block too. He’s one of only three players to reach 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season. Pippen could give it to you so many ways on offence and defense, telling opponents; 'how do you want it'?
The Bulls number 33 was a prototype for the way that 21st century Basketball would be played and Scott redefined the small forward position and swingman role. Numbers speak for themselves, as do career averages of 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2 steals. To put it simply, he did it all. Sure M.J. was the greatest and nobody could touch that but every Dynasty has a duo, two guys that compliment each other, just like Shaq and Kobe or Magic and Kareem.
John Stockton formed another great duo for the ages with Karl Malone. Stock and ‘The Mailman’ delivered some of the greatest NBA memories of the 90’s, pick and rolling their way to legendary status. Just like how Pippen changed the game for small forwards, Malone did for the power position. Karl was one of those forwards who fit the description of your typical premier power forwards. He was a 20 and 10 guy, but he could shoot and he could pass. He spotted up and set up all the way to a career total tune of 36, 928 points, 5,238 assists and 14, 968 rebounds.
Malone also spent a season crafting a Dream Team with the Los Angeles Lakers. Although this team was all just a dream, missing out on the Championship Malone proved that before retiring he could still deliver pushing 40 like the Los Angeles Clippers.
Malone also belongs to another prestigious group along with guys like Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley. This being a group of NBA legends that never copped a ring. It was a shame for a guy like Malone, who gave so much that his career ended that way. He got so close, but the bad boys and a bad knee got in the way. Still legends should be defined by all the things they do, not just by winning ‘chips. After all, even guys like Travis Knight and Luc Longley have rings (no offence guys but c’mon). Just like nothing should be taken away from Pippen for being a number two, nothing should be taken away from Malone by not achieving every player’s number one goal.
If you where to create the greatest NBA team of all time, you’d have Magic running the Point, MJ joining him at the backcourt, Wilt in the middle and Larry Legend at the 3. At the other forward position however it would be a toss up between Malone and Tim Duncan. Duncan is a like a robot, never stopping his incredible production but the Mailman comes every day too. Karl crafted his physique in such a way that not only could he rule the paint, he also held his own in a charity WCW match. Malone was a body builder, built like a truck transporting bricks. His Hall of Fame blazer last year didn’t even fit him, that’s how cut up this guy is (still his son ended up happy). He probably could still play, he was one of the strongest players the league has ever seen, even though at 6 foot 9, he was a little undersized for a power forward.
For all the people that seemed to miss the post let the awards speak for themselves. Two MVP awards, most free throws taken and made (why did people put this guy on the line?), second all time leading scorer, first all time rebounder, 11 NBA All First team selections, part of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of all time and now part of this years Hall of Fame with Scottie Pippen.
Malone had tears at his acceptance into the hall, Scottie had thanks for his running mate. After all these two players have given the league, they appreciate more what they have been given. This is a measure of true friends, true teammates, true loyalty and true legend. These two players where unselfish and dominant, imagine what they would have done if they where selfish?
That however needn’t be looked at because the people that Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone are made them the players that they where, two of Basketballs greatest players, not just of the 1990’s, but of all time. A unique pair who helped the leagues popularity and help mould it into what it its today. It’s about the time the Hall paved way for them. Scottie and Karl, welcome to Basketball immortality, you’ve earned it.