Wednesday, 30 May 2012
If It Aint Broke.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
So, most people think it's a given that the NBA favorites the Oklahoma City Thunder will meet the 'built for a championship' Miami Heat in the National Basketball Association finals. As Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder look to be the new Western powerhouse and LeBron James and the Miami Heat look to finally answer the critics that say they can't get it done, things will all come to a head soon. Now the question remains who will will out? Some people say the Heat, some people say the Thunder. We say something else. All these Heat and Thunder opinions may have to wait and take a back seat even though most people won't have it any other way.
Most people are going to be wrong.
Durant and Westbrook's Thunder and James and Wade's Heat may not be able to weather what's coming they're way. Sure they're the new, hot kids on the block like Drake and Nicki Minaj but even Young Money can't afford as much success as the legends of the game like Jay-Z and Kanye West. Watch the throne and watch this space because the championship certified San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics are more than just still in it. These old boys may just be Larry O'Brien's new favorites.
Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
Tell that to the two teams who have been in the championship hunt for all the Laker years, creating dynasties of their own to bookend the breakup's in L.A.'s squads and streaks. Dallas and Miami have been hanging around the finals for longer than last year for sure, but none are quite as associated to National Basketball royalty like the Spurs and Celtics.
Especially Boston, arguably the NBA's most storied and recognizable franchise. Its 17 championships certainly make them the most successful. Still they're most recent dynasty and big three have proved Beantown can still do it, even with Red Auerbach's cigar smoke blowing in the wind. Led by the good doctor Doc Rivers, the trio of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett may be getting on, but they can more than get along with Miami's new big-three of Wade, James and Bosh. Player for player they can match up on their best night. Bosh may be a strong forward and the next generation of 'Da Kid' but he 'aint built like K.G. Garnett's strength and passion can outlast anyone. Wade may be the consummate superstar but Ray Allen could still shoot down anyone on any given night. From Reggie Miller's record to Larry Bird's clutch reputation, behind the arc, Ray is ahead of the rest.
Then there's LeBron. The King of this league. Still, he's yet to take his throne and until he passes the all-round star that is Paul Pierce number 34 will be the model of Eastern swingman champions. Player for player the Celtics have nothing for Rajon Rondo however. A point better than the big-three and the best passing Point Guard in the league. Rajon has taken the reigns of this ageing franchise and kept this old horse in the race. He's the young buck that could take this steed to the finish line too. Along with a nice bench of Mickaël Piétrus, Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels the Celtics can do more than splinter. Sure they're one game down, but this is a seven game series after all.
Meanwhile out West the new storied NBA franchise San Antonio-two games up-are going for the sweep. Sure don't get the brooms out just yet. Oklahoma are still looking to reign but San An look to have the umbrellas and the ability to weather the storm. All eyes and praise may be on the former Seattle Supersonics, but the former double decade, NBA champions San Antonio Spurs have truly been the best team this year. After posting the leagues best regular-season record this season like they did the one before the underrated and wrote-off Texan Titans have shown the true grit and resolve to overcome last years embarrassing, first-round sweep to the Memphis Grizzlies and rule and ride once again in the Wild West. Greg Popovich still has the reigns held tight.
Speaking of grande trois'. The clicking Spurs have their own. No matter how old they are these guys are moving like a youth in revolt. The robot-playing Tim Duncan must be bionic. He's played through it all. From the Shaq years of Western dominance to his Admiral and mentor David Robinson leaving port. The Spurs consistent leader has even played through the youthful years of Manu Ginoboli and Tony Parker his big-three co-stars. The best Power Forward of all-time could be the inside presence that clips the wings of the swinging OKC Thunder. You can bank his shot on that.
Speaking of the Spurs other guns they are just as good. Manu Ginoboli plays through the pain. The only reason this guy is so injury-prone is because he gives his body, heart and soul to not only every game but every play. The only one that's laid it on and out as impressively as Manu is Allen Iverson. Manu has the flair but he also had the fortitude to go from the style and show he has the substance in the playoffs to win these basketball wars. As for Tony Parker has their been a more underrated, better player this season? Deron Williams, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul are all out of it now. Right now T.P. is showing everyone why he still more than just deserves to be talked about as one of the leagues best point guards. This goes without saying and mentioning Matt Bonner's threes or the "whoo" of Stephen Jackson. More over the flair of Boris Diaw or glue guys like Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have a lot to deal with.
OK, we're not writing off the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Miami Heat just yet. Still, no one should underline their doubts about the San Antonio Spurs or the Boston Celtics either. Sure the chances of both teams meeting in this years Finals are slim but how sweet would that be? Head-to-head Duncan and K.G. once again. Parker and Rondo going for the title of best point. Two legendary coaches in Doc and 'Pop going play for play on the dry erase. Two top tier franchises that show the younger generation that what's tried and tested can best what's fun and flash. The Heat and the Thunder have a lot more to them then meets the Youtube clips eye but the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics can be read deep into the history books.
Will they turn another page?
Thursday, 24 May 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
It was last April and this writer was abroad in America for a vacation taking in the talents down in South Beach. Feeling as welcome in Miami as Will Smith in an attempt to catch a scoop and some rays. So heading downtown I caught the hottest ticket in town to watch the Heat play the last great Eastern team before them; the Boston Celtics in an epic, hard-thought precursor to the playoffs.
After the biggest decision made in sport for years, LeBron James and his Miami Heat where (and still are at press time) the team to see and beat. Still this game was all about 'Bron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in their rookie year together taking the baton from the leagues former manifested big three Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and their recruiter Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics. A lot of legends where on court to witness a torch being past but none burnt brighter than the star who shone for a full decade and was honored at halftime. The original Heat legend before Shaq and before THAT decision; Alonzo Mourning was awarded at halftime yet again for his countless, gracious charity work. The only problem was, somewhere between being too excited about the King James crowning future and being too rushed to beat the hot dog Que its almost seemed like nobody stuck around to witness the legend that is 'Zo and give him the standing 'O' he truly deserved more than anyone that night.
Where's the love?
Here it is. With all due respect Alonzo Mourning is the man. So where was the respect? OK so you could probably charge it to their heads (and perhaps growling stomachs) not their heart but the Heat should have felt Alonzo that night. This was no 'Training Day'. He's no rookie. He's a legend. The soul of the franchise before Wade brought Shaq then LeBron, some championships and maybe some more (watch this space...or series).
Straight out of Chesapeake, Virginia and Indian River High School, young 'Zo had a classic college career as a Georgetown Hoya, creating a large, lasting legacy of big man greats. Along with Patrick Ewing and Dikeme Mutombo Alonzo became some of the alumni's finest and the NBA's most dominating big-men of the nighties, the golden era of pivot play.
Selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the second pick and a high-top fade in the '92 draft before the buzz cut Mourning was a cut above the rest. He later would have a career shaved short but one that still saw 14,311 (17.1 ppg), 7,137 (8.5 rpg) and 2,356 (2.8 apg) career totals from a 6' 10, 261 pound, 20 and 10 threat. A career that saw 7 All-Star selections, 2 defensive player of the year awards, countless first-team credits, some Olympic medals to add to the trophy cabinet that most importantly contained an NBA championship for his hard-work, drive and determination.
If polishing all these trophies off wasn't enough then Mourning also had his number 33 jersey rightfully raised to the perfect place in the American Airlines rafters. The man who made the Heat his home will always have part of his legacy in place in Miami becoming the first franchise player to have his jersey retired, gone fishing with it's feet up. Rightfully so too. Now there's the respect we're talking about. From the days of leading the South Beach squad into the scorching heat of playoff competition to standing alongside Shaquille O'Neal as a bigger version of twin post players Tim Duncan and 'The Admiral' David Robinson.
Admirable was the perfect way to describe Alonzo Mourning's career. Along with phrases like 'courageous', 'giving', 'spirited', 'incredible'. When he wasn't teaming up with Shaq he was amazingly aligned alongside fellow big hearted, courage over afflicted, beautiful mind over tragic matter, big-man Brian Grant in the frontcourt.
After recovering from a kidney transplant like San Antonio's driven gunner Sean Elliott, Alonzo returned to action with a show of strength when no one thought he or anyone could come back from such an affliction. In his brief time in New Jersey, Mourning marveled the Meadowlands almost ripping the Nets baskets down with a force that looked like the power of a God, not a man who hadn't been long from the hospital bed. His hammer of Thor dunks and ever tenacious play showed the Jersey boys and the rest of the league that he was back with avengance.
Still 'Mourning' is almost an appropriate term for the tragic shame that comes with what more could have come from Alonzo's career. His painful and prolonged Kidney ailment took years off his career. Even though what he did in his 15 years was more than enough and a good innings (it was so much more). The will and strength of this decade and a half strong player could have seen him go for 20 like he did on the box-score most nights. Still, with that being said however the most important thing is that Alonzo Mourning is healthy and well. The rest is secondary. Still, what a great career it was. A career that was criminally underrated anyway before illness tragically took away what was left of his prime time.
Still like he did on the court Alonzo bravely rebounded from all of the trouble and pain and became the 'ultimate warrior' for the Heat as well as their all-time scorer. From shattering block shot records to breaking new ground with charities Alonzo Mourning's been more than the consummate professional on and off the court. He's been a real man. A true warrior fighting whatever cause. A Heat player standing tall like a volcano with a magma hot soul driven with resilience, erupting when people least expected. Alonzo was more than the Heat's heart and what made them truly hot. He was their soul and passion. He was their fire inside.
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
I Wouldn't Doubt Kobe Bryant.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
“I’m not fading into the shadows, if that’s what you’re asking. I’m not going anywhere…We’re not going anywhere. It’s not one of those things where the Bulls beat the Pistons and the Pistons disappeared forever. I’m not going for that (stuff).” The Black Mamba.
Need we say anymore? Or did he paint the picture clearly enough for you? Easel, canvas, artists brush or mid-range stroke, how do you want it? Everyone may have predicted the L.A. Lakers would lose to the NBA favorite Oklahoma City Thunder but the ones who shed the same lack of confidence on this contending ball-club and their superstar leader can step back into the shadows of their doubt.
I wouldn't bet against Kobe Bryant.
They're going to say it. They're going to say he's done. Not what we was, vulnerable, easy to beat. They're going to say he can't get it done. Too old, the venom's gone, the dobermans been made to sit. They're going to compare this to last years sweep and the slow, head-down walk off the Dallas Maverick floor, like his walk off the Boston parquet a couple of years and championships earlier. They're going to talk about the injuries, how money his clutch is really worth and his play with his teammates. They're going to put him further down on the list then eighth best player in the league.
They're going to be all wrong.
And proved as such. It's just in Kobe's nature. He's no gold and shrinking violet. This soldier has a purple heart. That competitiveness That killer instinct that no one else in the league has as deadly. Not Oklahoma, not LeBron. Not since Jordan. Kobe's still got so much to prove. He wouldn't have it any other way. To the fans, critics, haters and himself Kobe will always need to do more. That's just the way the curse is when your the greatest. Bean's been here all too many times before though. From the airballs to the catcalls. He knows struggle. He knows survival. He knows no rival...
...Well maybe a few.
Along with Oklahoma Kobe's still got Dallas to avenge. LeBron and Miami to beat and critics and his own demons to exorcise. Kobe won't stop to all negative notions of him are ghost. That's how much spirit he has. How strong, driven and resilient he is. As passionate and enthusiastic as a Rookie of the Year. Consistently in his prime like an MVP, no matter who gets the trophy. This legendary legacy is still lasting. Chapters are yet to be written to his verse in Basketball's Bible. He's still a few points behind Wilt (100 in a game to Kob's 81), still behind Kareem all-time (points recorded) and still behind Michael Jordan's all round game.
He's still beside himself with the desire to will it all away.
Still like The Beatles, to overcome 'The Heatles', the hammer of Thor Thunder (or any of the other supergroups or superteams associated with National Basketball) Kobe won't get by without a little help from his friends. His 42 points alone can't get it done. Thanks to the Buss bredrin some relationships with some family favorites became fractured. Kobe's already lost Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher and it will take some major LeBron like recruitment to get them back...if at all. Needless to say the Lakers need to look to keep young guns happy like Ramon Sessions and Devin Ebanks, as well as defending the spots for their old guards like Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace. Still it's Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum that need to show up in more ways than one next season. The Lakers lost the Chris Paul and Dwight Howard race and if they want to pick up anyone like Deron Williams or improve what they have they need to not point fingers and instead extend a hand.
No matter who stays or leaves like Phil Jackson or Mike Brown Kobe will be still here and still Kobe. Putting his team on his shoulders and proving what burdens wrong. Sure the Lakers window of opportunity may be closing but Kobe's career is far from the drawing of the curtains. Win or lose. The shadows can wait until the end of the Kobe Bryant story sees the light.
“I’m not fading into the shadows, if that’s what you’re asking. I’m not going anywhere." Kobe Bryant.
Friday, 18 May 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Kevin Durant is not only the greatest scorer in the National Basketball Association for the second, consecutive year running he's also the next greatest player in the league. His team-the Oklahoma City Thunder-are the West favorites to take home the trophy this year and start a new dynasty for the ages. An age, Durant look set to dominate. Still he's not better than the greatest; Michael Jordan.
LeBron James is not only the league MVP he's the man that took the East from 'least' to 'beast' when he took his talents to South Beach to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami. Now the Heat look to cool down all the opposition and scorch their way to not only the top of the standings but the superteam status ranks too. When he came to Cleveland straight out of high school, with a Cavalier pressed number 'Bron was the second coming of '23'. One 'decision' later he then changed sports and marketing history a little like the man that put the 'air' back into Nike. James will just do it and go down as one of the best ever. Still he's not better than the greatest; Michael Jordan.
Kobe Bryant is the closest thing we've ever had in this basketball universe to the best. The Jesus to our God from the worshiping to the prophecies. From the 'fro to the face-mask and the Shaq feuds to the 'Coach Kobe' sidelines the Black Mamba has been through it all and played through it all. Acting like nothing fazes him as he hits 81 and new career highs one of the greatest scorers, clutch hitters and all-round players looks to the best. He wants to be the greatest and his will and killer-instinct drive to do just that. Number 24 may be a jersey number above number 23 but he's one ring behind him too and there can only be one. Still he's not better than the greatest; Michael Jordan.
Magic Johnson really was 'Magic'. Earvin saw and ran the floor like no other. He made it possible to dominate the offensive ground without even taking a single-shot. He could score too. From taking the reigns from the captain's seat to the baby-hooks that made grown Celtics cry Magic was clutch and a big time player. Still he was the first superstar to be truly unselfish and that's what cemented his legendary legacy. The only thing bigger than his star shining smile was his history and he helped re-write it. With that being said however even Magic had to pass the torch. He had to pass the NBA baton to the best and when it came to the best; "boy did he take it". Magic was the man. Still he's not better than the greatest; Michael Jordan.
Larry Bird along with his Magic friend redefined the league and basketball so much he made it a big hit on any stage. So much now his and Earvin's story is being played out over playbills and taking Broadway by storm. Larry epitomized hustle and hard-work and shattered stereotypes tired notions. One of the greatest clutch and three point players of all time Larry's legend also sees him as the greatest Boston Celtic of all time. The most storied basketball franchise the NBA has ever seen. Still he's not better than the greatest; Michael Jordan.
Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single game. 100?! These days some whole teams don't even reach. Shaq may have been the biggest star ever and Bill Russell may be the lord of the rings but Wilt Chamberlain is the most dominant big man of all time. After George Mikan and before Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Wilt set the tone. He put up the biggest numbers on those stilts. He made career-sky high stats in points and rebounds a nightly affair. Some kid ran off with the ball he scored 100 points with but in every other game Chamberlain owned the game ball. It was like no one else could touch it. Wilt truly wad the greatest dominating player. Still he's not better than the greatest; Michael Jordan.
Who's the greatest man to ever take President? Lincoln? Clinton? JFK? Obama? In music people debate over the greatest artist Elvis, Dylan, Lennon, Marvin, Sinatra or Springsteen. In art Picasso, Monet, Dali. In movies we could argue over Cary Grant, Clint, or De Niro as being the best ever. Still when it comes to basketball there is just one...'23'. Michael Jordan...the greatest of all time. Like Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods or Ali. The best no Wade or West. No Russell or Carmelo. Derrick Rose is great but not THIS great. It's more. It's more than the 6 titles, 5 MVP's and 14 all-star appearances. The 32,292 points, the 6,672 rebounds and 5,633 assists. More than the shots over Craig Ehlo or Byron Russell. More than Air Jordan or the rest of the endorsements. More than the flu or the shrug. That lay-up or those dunks. More than Sam Bowie or Kobe. The Wizards or the Bobcats. From Scoop Jackson to the rest of the media. Space Jam or the other M.J. Michael Jackson. From North Carolina to Chicago. From the bases to the '45'. The legend to the legacy. More than this his airness Michael Jeffrey Jordan is the greatest player to ever touch a basketball.
Monday, 14 May 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
I know making a big, team changing move before the late season trade deadline is a clutch decision, but you don't make a last second play by trading one of your and the NBA's greatest clutch players of all time. Here's guessing and proving the Lakers organisation didn't learn from losing Robert Horry to free-agency in the past. Now even though Jordan Hill is trying to prove he's a big contributor the Lakers could have given up someone else for him. Not Derek Fisher.
The Lakers are supposed to be a "family". Again did they not learn from losing Lamar Odom and all the problems (for each party) that came with that? Guess not. Even Kobe wants to play LeBron this Summer and be the best recruiter and get his boys back this offseason, but just like the signing rules that prevent the team from reacquiring Lamar, this 'aint going to happen yet...if at all.
Sure, all of this is no new news but it's going to make for one hell of an NBA Playoff story come tonight as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder start their playoff series. David Stern couldn't script it or nix it better. The Oklahoma City Thunder are already the league favourites (the experience and competitive advantage of Fisher could be the final piece to this championship puzzle too) to win it all and many consider the Wild West torch already passed from the purple and gold grip to the former Seattle Supersonics.
Now after the Thunder stormed through and swept the reigning champions the Dallas Mavericks who of course swept last years reigning champion Lakers Oklahoma look stronger than ever. As for the Lakers unfortunately after an unnecessarily drawn out seven game series with the Denver Nuggets the dampened Lakers look like they're in for a real dry patch in their abilities to weather Kevin Durant and co's storm over a seven game series...if it even reaches that.
Sure, let's have some hope though. If Andrew Bynum can grow by the game and take on Laker hater Kendrick Perkins in the post and if Ramon Sessions can show more of his potential against Russell Westbrook then who knows. Player for player, bench for bench the Lakers can go toe-to-toe with the Thunder. Their perimeter defensive trio of Matt Barnes, the elbow artist formerly known as Ron Artest and the Doberman could really contain Kevin Durant and as 'Sixth Man of the Year' James Harden goes to war with Metta World Peace, as long as no more 'Ludacris' arms are thrown there will be another match-up to revel in.
Then of course there's Kobe. One of the Lakers and the leagues greatest champions and clutch players, despite some saying he's not as "money" as everyone else affords. There is nobody-you see-who many would want with the game-ball in their hands in the waning, critical seconds of a game. Except...Derek Fisher. Even Kobe knew when to defer to him, like he did this year as D-Fish downed Dallas in a revenge rematch this season. Sure the Lakers may have Steve Blake's threes on point but from the history to the legacy nobody beats Derek Fisher.
The buzzer time with the twine is Derek's major moments and when it comes to winning big games Fisher is king. From 0.4 seconds in San Antonio to silencing Philly, Boston and having more tricks in the bag for the Magic Fisher is THE man. While also taking charges and energizing his team from the locker room, Derek is also much more than a clutch-hitter, he's a big time team player. Still it's behind the three-point line with the game on a similair straight which is where Derek Fisher makes his bread and butter and championship gold.
Now 'the Fish that saved L.A.' could be 'the Fish that slayed L.A.' as these two teams go to battle. Fisher still has love for Kobe and the Laker fans, but when it comes to the court it's all business and in some ways personal. Revenge on the organisation which traded him will be a dish best served in the the fourth quarter. Kobe's going to play Fisher hard and the Lakers former number 2 will do the same in kind. No Laker fan wants to see the guy that helped them win so much be the playoff death of them but if it comes to the clutch can you see anyone else taking that big shot against the Lakers? The NBA powers that be, God's of sports story-telling and the rival Oklahoma Thunder wouldn't have it any other way.
Now the question is will Derek Fisher make the Lakers pay?
Only time will tell...the time that ticks down in the fourth quarter. The games are about to begin. Let's get it on!
Saturday, 12 May 2012
(Originally Published on SLAMonline (09/11/09))
The part of MJ’s career most would like to forget… but shouldn’t.
By Tim David Harvey
(Part of our special 'HALL OF FAME' week)
June 14, 1998
Its Game 6 of the 1998, NBA Finals. The Chicago Bulls are down one point to the Utah Jazz; the score is 86-85. Its Utah’s possession and Karl Malone is facing off with Dennis Rodman (they have been physical all series long). Michael Jordan catches an opening and swats the ball away, this time the mailman failed to deliver.
The Greatest Player of All-Time takes the ball up court for what might be one of the greatest plays of all-time. Jordan has less than 10 seconds to claim victory — this is almost cinematic. He takes the ball to his right against poster-child Byron Russell, he crosses over, Byron stumbles to the ground, Jordan finds his spot, plants his feet, cocks, aims and POPS! Nothing but net and rich NBA history.
These are the moment’s basketball fans fiend for. Michael Jordan wins the 1998 NBA Championship for his Chicago Bulls with the last shot he will take before he retires from the game. The commentators were right: This is fitting.
September 25, 2001 | Three years, three months, 11 days later.
Michael Jordan announces his second comeback to the National Basketball Association. He joins the Washington Wizards. It turns out June 14 wouldn’t be the day of his last shot after all. This storybook career was about to add one more chapter.
The hype was out of this world. The Greatest Player of All-Time was back. The Babe Ruth of his time, like Muhammad Ali in the ’70s. Basketball purists and casual fans alike could not contain their excitement. This was it. Newspapers, television networks and radio stations couldn’t cover this story enough. This was Jordan’s moment. Suddenly the Kobe Bryants, Allen Iversons, Vince Carters and Latrell Sprewells had to take a back seat. The most talked about, watched, photographed basketball player of all-time was about to have all the talk, eyes and lenses focused back his way. It felt like ’95 all over again. The good, old days.
Then, like the morning after, reality set in. It wasn’t just the jersey that MJ wore that felt unfamiliar. The game changed even if the name remained the same. An uninspiring debut, turmoil within his team, failed playoff runs and bad press. The once unstoppable Jordan was now being schooled by the same players who hung his posters on their walls when they were watching him growing up. Air Jordan was no longer throwing down facials on the regular, ‘his floorness’ was blowing open opportunities. Fans wanted new posters and new hops to imitate. They wanted a guy coming out of retirement and not missing a step. They didn’t want ‘Kingdom Come’; they wanted ‘American Gangster.’
Today, Michael Jordan enters the Hall of Fame for all the amazing things he did and all his classic moments with the Bulls. With all these great moments in Michael’s basketball library, there was no need for his two years in Washington. In fact they shouldn’t even be mentioned anymore… right?
Someone who’s given the world of basketball so much should be given a break. The man was pushing his 40s and victim of many niggling injuries. Michael Jordan may not have being breaking records, ankles and opponent’s hearts but one thing is for sure: He could still play. Basketball was his dance and he could still get down. It may be best that Jordan sticks to challenging the likes of Bill Murray and Justin Timberlake in golf these days but there was nothing wrong with his last comeback.
Understand if you don’t already know, Mike really is the most competitive basketball player ever. He refused to lose… period. All the losses he accumulated, which he never truly experienced this way before and all the times he showed rust or limitation he was humiliated. For Michael Jordan giving his best didn’t matter, anything short of being the best was shameful to him. Despite suddenly adopting a negative tag which he couldn’t cut off MJ endured the criticism and the humiliation and soldiered on. He carried on because he was that competitive; he always wanted to prove his worth and prove he could play.
By some modern standards you’re only as good as your last game, shot or possession. Michael knew this and set this as his yardstick. Anybody who puts that much unattainable pressure on themselves deserves credit. This drive, this passion and this hunger (even after everything he already achieved) were the makeup of Michael Jordan. The characteristics still made him a potent threat as a player, even in his final two, struggle-filled seasons and may have made him a legend. His drive made him work from 7 a.m. in the morning ’til 11 p.m. at night; it’s this work that made him The Best of All-Time.
Michael still averaged around 20 ppg in his two years in the nation’s capital. He still put fans in seats and wowed them sometimes too. Jordan gave the players who idolized him the chance to play with or against him and all the fans that championed his legend the chance to see him play again. Michael’s return was necessary to scratch a basketball addict’s itch, but it was also a very selfless run. He risked his credibility and his legacy but also to gave the world a chance to see him one last time. This was MJ’s goodbye. To anyone who looks at this man’s comeback with cynicism, they should remember Michael donated all his salary to the relief fund for the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. All his salary. It doesn’t matter how rich he already is. How many professional sportsmen would really do that?
Forget about the groundwork ‘Floor Jordan’ put in, because even with the air knocked out of him, he still had nice hops. Forget about him being crossed over by the likes of Allen Iverson again, because sometimes when the floor general rallied his troops together they could beat the likes of the Lakers. Forget about Dikeme Mutombo’s laughter at MJ’s blown, open dunk at the All-Star Game. Instead remember his sick, two-handed block. Forget the numerous times he couldn’t hit 10 points and remember the time where he recorded 51 points at 38 years of age. Forget about the drama with Kwame Brown and remember the influence he has had on generations of players. Forget about not getting voted on as an All-Star starter and the unnecessary pressure everyone else put on Vince Carter. Instead reminisce Mike’s fade away, buzzer-beater in the 4th quarter (Come on now Kobe).
Nobody’s perfect and even superstars and superheroes have weak spots. Superman has kryptonite and Michael Jordan had fluid in his knees. Rock stars die and movie stars get old. The things you cherished in childhood in time belong only to nostalgia. Time catches up with everyone eventually and sometimes it takes the best of them.
Michael’s Wizards days may not have a patch on the rich tapestry of his time with the Bulls but his tenure in DC was still an important and noteworthy part of his basketball legacy. Despite his exposed weaknesses and the bad press he still gave new memories to old and new fans alike. The slam dunking, three-peat, tongue out, and fade away days may have past but MJ still had something to give. He still showed how on some nights he could recapture the magic of the ‘90s. Jordan found new ways to score the basketball and win games when his body and his age wouldn’t allow him to do it the way he used to. Michael showed even when his back was against the wall and everyone was against him he could still hold his own.
April 16, 2003
The final curtain is about to be drawn for the finest basketball player to ever grace this stage. The Washington Wizards are playing the Philadelphia 76ers but their playoff hopes have already disappeared in the rear-view. It just didn’t feel right to see a legend in his farewell, riding the pine in the 3rd quarter with just 13 points. Chants from the home fans of Philadelphia overshadow the game itself.
The veteran, shooting guard’s number is called. ‘Into the game Number 23, Michael Jordan’. With less than two minutes to go MJ is fouled intentionally, let’s end this right. To the charity stripe he goes, sinking the first free throw. The home fans aren’t distracting the opposing teams player this time. All 21,257 eyes rest on Mike. He bounces the ball once, twice, follows the same, old routine, spinning the ball threw his fingers. Mike sets it up, aims and follows through, it’s all twine. He backpedals down the court, with a smile one last time.
There is a break in play and he walks to the bench to a three-minute standing ovation. MJ hugs his coaches and his teammates, he acknowledges the crowd and sits down. He drinks it all in because this is his moment. He nods repeatedly with satisfaction, turns around, stands up and acknowledges the crowd one last time. Now he’s saying thank you.
… and that was the last shot.
Monday, 7 May 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
New York City you can believe in your basketball team again. Just when you thought the front of every Manhattan shop and newsstand t-shirt and banner craziness of Linsanity and New York Knick hype ended with the revelation of the revolutionary Jeremy Lin's injury. Just when you thought the future and color of New York basketball went to Brooklyn with the Nets and those black and white logos. Just when you thought the Knicks playoffs chances where extinguished ever since Amar'e Stoudemire went all Bruce Banner on a fire hydrant. Just when you thought it was over. Carmelo Anthony put his team and his city on his back and broad shoulders.
40 points that's the home court performance Madison Square Garden needed. That's the performance the worlds most famous arena hadn't seen since the sweat boys had to work overtime after Patrick Ewing soaked up the mid-nighties playoff atmosphere. Spike Lee's tweet ("THANK YOU SWEET JESUS. Da Orange And Blue") said it all. Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz's first-born witnessed it all against the King courtside. With an empire state of mind Carmelo threw rocks at the throne, re-intensified the storied Heat/Knicks rivalry and what's more re-ignited the one between him and the leagues best LeBron James.
When LeBron and Carmelo first entered the league in 2003 the Association hyped the rivalry between these two stars. From Syracuse to Denver, Carmelo came college certified. Straight out of high school to Cleveland, LeBron came with a lot of potential and promise as the NBA's next hope. From their respective former cellar dwelling ballclubs changing their uniforms, logos and color schemes in sell-out anticipation neither star disappointed...that is until after taking their old teams to the top, they both demanded to move on in similar fashion. Still now in the bigger markets and stages of Miami and New York their play has never faltered. Still over the years the leagues hype machine has gone from LeBron vs 'Melo to LeBron vs Kobe and the rest of the league, world and the best of all-time.
From billboard moving decisions, to antagonizing adverts LeBron's star power has angered some but his mad game on the basketball floor has touched even more nerves. Haters don't like LeBron when he's angry, as this avenging superhero player and his voltron team are really something to marvel at when they're assembled and ready. Still whether people see LeBron as the hero (that's the one) or villain is beside the point. On his quest for a ring that is right now running through (and for the most part) destroying New York like the Incredible Hulk all eyes are on him.
Still the public eye should not shift from the Knicks Anthony. 'Calm' and 'mellow' may almost be part of his name and his persona may seem laid back but he's anything but. He's no outsider to the Kobe's, LeBron's or the Durant's of the league, no sidekick or sideshow to the Jeremy Lin story. He's at the very least a silent assassin. At the most right up their with the best. Quite simply he's still one of the best players this leagues seen in years.
Last night he answered his critics unquestionably. New York and the rest of the basketball world that this notion is still alive like his teams chances...well at least for one more game. With the crowd behind him and an injured but inspired performance by Stoudemire (a classic and with the injury a somewhat unbelievable 20 and 10) beside him Carmelo Anthony went toe-to-toe with LeBron James and the Miami Heat and won...B.I.G. The notorious 'Melo knocked the sweeping broom out of 'Bron's hands and made this all a series. His clutch three with under a minute remaining, to go along with a free throw in under less than half was the dagger that cooled off the Heat and gave the Knicks another stab at this series.
His line of 40 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists drew a 89-87 line under the Knicks unlucky 13 game playoff losing streak and has started up a new run of return and hope. Sure its all on Carmelo and the Knicks on Wednesday night as they face elimination but right now the city of N.Y.C. and its star couldn't be more inspired. Sure they may just go out, but if they do they'll go out with their leader on the frontline battling and pulling no punches. They'll go out fighting. Now that's New York basketball.
1997 NBA FINALS-GAME 5: Chicago Bulls @ Utah Jazz
Time to get ill with a man so sick.
By Tim David Harvey
To remember the world's greatest let's take a trip. No not to Chicago, let's hop in the DeLorean and go back to 1997. GREAT SCOTT, MARTY! We are going back to a time when Bon Jovi where cool and Bill Clinton ruled; the 90’s. Now strap yourself in as we may just be witnessing one of the most impressive performances in NBA history by the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan. You know there's nothing like a bit of nostalgia.
Two years ago prior to '97 (after a brief foray in the sticks) the G.O.A.T was back in the herd. Back in the Chi so confident, armed with the '45', but not to play games with the league, but to take aims at it. The Jay Hova of basketball returned in November wearing red and white. The Windy City no longer felt so cold. Chicago must have thought Christmas had come early.
Now Jordan’s presence stampeded the Bulls to the NBA Finals to make sweet music with Malone and Stockton's Utah Jazz. A year later MJ would send Utah to bed with 'the last shot' but this year it was all about the flu shots. Michael was sick...to the Jazz's death.
Here tips off an epic clash for the decade. This is Utah’s first trip in franchise history to the NBA Finals and after coming back from being 0-2 down we are all square, after the coolest square of them all; John Stockton breaking the triangle by stealing the ball and maybe the series off Michael Jordan in Game 4. Still the greatest ever has the greatest sidekick to his right by the name of Scottie, riding in the sidecar, ready to motor on until there is nothing left. The Zen master is in control looking like a biology teacher, ready to school the opposition on the professions of good basketball. Now as for Dennis Rodman, just like NBA Live '96, it's anybodies guess what his hair color is. Meanwhile for Utah the decibel, Delta Centre, home crowd sixth man is pumped right behind its two stars Karl Malone and John Stockton, the greatest pick and roll duo of all time. Byron Russell is eyeing MJ, not even beginning to realize how bad he's going to get it. It's on, but yet something feels wrong.
Let Marv Albert tell it (who really shouldn’t stand so close to Bill Walton), "He (Jordan) is suffering from flu-like symptoms". Yes man Marv has a list of 'No's' about Mike. No sleep, no food, no shoot around, no practice, but do the Bulls have no hope?
Jordan looks physically shaken, as he slowly drives to the basket losing the ball, but then he gets it back himself fading away from the corner. Mike's not out of this one. Still for the G.O.A.T. it’s up and down. A few plays later then Jordan is the one left looking a bit shaky from his crossover. Looking worse for wear when he throws up a shot too high off the glass, money is left feeling a different kind of green. Michael's under the weather and the forecast for 'The Windy City' Bulls doesn't look good. It's 18-8 with 3 to go in the first to the sound of the Jazz. Timeout.
To close out the 1st Jordan was riding the pine instead of tweaking the twine. Sweating like it was deep in the fourth, aided by some gator. He's letting it all out and show however. Ali's on the ropes, waiting to take his swing. Now in the second, Jordan from half court, drives the lane and dribbles the ball round in such a way it's like he isn't even aware there's a defender trying to keep up with him. Could Jordan be OK? Mike then goes to the line and hits two free throws, but he looks as animated in this position as an early 90's computer game player. A few back and forth’s later and it's Luc Longley who provides some color dunking hard after Jordan’s post and dish. Guess Luc wasn't that bad after all. Now as for Mike, the ill man gets even warmer with a crossover and fade away from deep for his 10th point in the second. He really is sick.
'What a play' is one of Marv Albert's other infamous catchphrases. Now after Jordan steals the ball and runs the floor finding Scottie, Pip misses the rebound only to have it dunked home by MJ. Now did that sequence of offensive events deserve Marv's one liner? YES! Within four the half is Utah's but the game is still Mikes'.
Ahmad Rashad is telling us about how we got the first smile from Michael at halftime. Now are we talking about that infamous, killer smile? It's time for Mike's murder game. Scottie Pippen paces with 13, but right now it's Jordan’s stamina that impresses.
Stockton and Malone are working the pick and roll. 'Stalone' are dominating, rocking the Bulls, but these stags won't heed or roll over. Jordan keeps feeding Longley but its time for Mike to eat too. Then with five minutes to go in the third and nothing in the bank this quarter, money drives, steps, airs and lays up for the tie. Does that whet your appetite?
Brian Williams and Karl Malone are going at it. The refs are showing no love for the Bulls centre. So he gets his own on a thunderous solo, one hander, showing that he belongs, staring down everybody on the floor and at home watching. Tonight Bison Dele lives on. Rest In Peace big man.
A white towel was draped over a slumped MJ to end the 3rd. In this final act everyone knows that Mike's about to throw the towel away, not in. He hits from the corner to cut it to five...nice. Then everyone collapses and stands watching the almost fainting MJ, fade away like it was a practice shot. Then to continue this hot streak, the burnt out and exhausted MJ assists Kukoc for three and then hits his own three after giving the most obvious ball fake in the history of the NBA. Jordan ties the game but shows no emotion- it's almost like he doesn't care- it's more like he's drained. As he staggers back to the bench for some time out, he takes no fluids, no high fives. He and the game are on the line. Back in the action Jordan gives his own trademark dream shake, loosens up Russell and fades away from him. Get used to it Byron, Chicago 79, Utah 77.
Like a prisoner on the phone, behind glass on visiting day, we got five minutes. Jordan’s working Russell, shaking him off before missing. Is he rushing? Jordan’s fighting everything but all the Utah players are feeling the ill effects of MJ like the common cold. Mike's spreading the floor but Utah aren't about to wave any white tissues or flags...yet. The games been deadlocked at 81 for two minutes, with a minute and some change over that to go. Stockton hits what looks like the biggest shot of the series, but then with what seems like ease, Jordan drives into the paint for that signature, fade away floater of his. He looks real uncomfortable now. Is it the game or the flu? This is getting hard for iron Mike, can't shrug this one off. Now with Malone at the line the Delta Centre crowd is chanting MVP, some of the Mailman’s praise is probably now delivered Michael's way.
With two minutes to go Bill Walton sees Jordan’s clapping for the ball, but Walton’s a commentator now and his silky smooth passing son isn't old enough yet. Some tense moments pass. Then with less than a minute the ball finds MJ's hands as he stops and bends over. This isn't because of how he's feeling though, this is tradition. No icer yet, he's fouled so it's time to get this the easy way. Michael's body language has had enough, maybe he's more frustrated that he can't win this game the usual way, but then…
…he quickly gets the rebound off his own miss, resets the play and then with 25 to go reloads with a trey. There's some ice in that trey too. Time to take it to the fridge in Chick's honor. With the last timeout called, Jordan and his 38 points fall into Pippen’s arms as Scottie returns the favor and carries his captain back to the bench. Jill Scott was right, it’s all love. Nothing but heart and iconic images. Minus some garbage free throw time that was all she wrote. Bulls 90, Jazz 88. Now the rest is history as Chicago take game 6, the series and the championship. The story of a hero.
So in retrospect Jordan may not have looked great during this legendary game but hindsight can be a beautiful thing and the ending was more than a good look. Sure in the list of all time classic Mike performances this may not have looked as pretty as his two handed switch layup against the Lakers. This game was more like Talib Kweli, a 'beautiful struggle'. Sure this MJ domination was not as easy as his shrug against Portland but it was still a go hard, Trailblazing effort as Jordan was burning up in more ways than one using his shoulders to carry his team and his burdens.
Overall just like these two performances, or the shot over Craig Ehlo, or 'that' shot the following year, this '97 performance lies right next to these other number 23 moments in the classic NBA history books. Just like all the other bestselling Jordan chapters written, this page turning performance when Mike felt at deaths door lives on. Just like Mike's eternal legacy.
Let's hear what he made of it all...
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
A Quick Impact.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
After all the nixed Chris Paul trade and the eventual Clipper problems that came with it the Lakers finally made their point with the signing of Ramon Sessions a month and change back. What a change it was too. This star of the future was heralded as the next leading Laker and the teams first real Point Guard in years. With all due respect to playoff hero and ultimate team player Derek Fisher and all he's given the team (raise his jersey in honour Buss family) these people making that point about the new point may just have one.
Its been a long time since the Lakers had some Magic at the leading, quarterbacking Point Guard position...literally. Still for the last potential promising P.G. that suited up in Lakers purple you might have to look to 1996 or currently at one of the assistants on the Atlanta Hawks bench. At 40 Nicholas Van-Exel may have the young, soaring Hawks by the talons as a player development coach but in his younger days 'Nick The Quick' was the flash and fancy that looked to bring the gold shine back to the rebuilding, post 'Showtime' nighties Lakers.
Whether it be showing a Fisher like clutch in the playoffs even before Derek, by hitting an overtime and a deciding basket against San Antonio in the 1995 playoffs. Or putting the final nail and basket in by scoring the last Laker point in the fabled fortress of the Boston Garden Nick Van Exel is a part of Los Angeles Laker history. From "handling the rock well" as Jigga Man, Jay-Z rapped on his wife's massive hit 'Crazy In Love' to dazzling with his dribble drives, this kid left fans drooling and opponents schooled. Along with the All-Star all round game of shooting guard Eddie Jones, Nick formed a backcourt set to be at the frontline of the Lakers flashy future. It all looked so good for the mid-nighties, middle of the road Lakers. Until things got better for the team and worse for Nick and Eddie as Shaq and Kobe came into town.
This still resulted in an All-Star year where Shaq, Kobe, Eddie and Nick all suited up for the '98 Western team in the NBA's mid-February classic. Still when problems and disagreements ensued (even before Bryant and O'Neal got into it) the fabulous Lakers four before Malone and Payton suited up disbanded like The Beatles. Still this dream team woke up an otherwise dormant Lakers before the team picked up a Fisher, a Fox and a Big Shot Bob, moved to STAPLES and packed up some championships with them.
Nick's quick video game play made him and the Lakers an armchair, television fans favorite, whether for the remote control or the joystick generation. After exceeding the second round, 37th Draft choice selection with the Lakers Nick flashed forward through Denver, Dallas, Golden State, Portland and San Antonio, giving the Nugget, Maverick, Warrior, Trail Blazer and Spur ballclubs some real brilliance.
Whether wearing 9, 31 or 37 or 19, or hitting numbers like 14.9 points per, Van Exel put up the big numbers in excess of a decade in the game. The quick draw lefty shot opponents down in the Wild West and drew double teams and fouls the right way, leading to his unorthodox one foot behind the line free throw habit. Nick stayed ahead however, from being a top assist man over the seasons to leading all the Lakers in history with three-pointers made before Kobe took over him. Even before he was replaced in the Forum by new Laker talents, Nick earned his place in purple and gold legacy no matter how quick it lasted.