BASKETBALL: The Promised Land

After all the LeBron James hype, the NBA title goes to the Dallas Mavericks. This is good news all around.
Starting with the champs – with the Rangers coming up short in October and the Cowboys long removed from their halcyon years, Dallas fans haven’t had a title to celebrate since the Dallas Stars in 1999, and Dallas is – to put it mildly – not predominantly a hockey town. The Mavericks have had many good teams over the years, but this is the first time over the hump for the franchise and its long-suffering fans, for Mark Cuban, for Dirk Nowitzki, for Jason Kidd. Even if you don’t love some of those guys – it’s been hard to root for Kidd since he pleaded guilty to domestic abuse a decade ago – they’ve paid their dues in the NBA.
As for the Heat, I may be alone in this view, but as I wrote in July, I want them to succeed and prove the naysayers wrong, in part because it pains me to see a talent as great as LeBron James get run down for not winning a title, and in part because I’ve overdosed on the preening of the LeBron bashers – but at the same time, I’m happy that he melted down and failed to win it this year. A little humility, a little adversity along the way is not just good for the soul, it’s good for the sport. A great many of the NBA’s legends (like Nowitzki and Kidd) failed in their first crack at the Finals, and sometimes multiple times, before getting over that hump – Shaq, Wilt, Olajuwon, Drexler, Dr. J, Moses, Jerry West, Isiah, Wes Useld, Elvin Hayes, Bob Pettit. LeBron, of course, has now been down this road twice. It will make it all that sweeter, and feel more earned, when and if he finally wins the big one.

6 thoughts on “BASKETBALL: The Promised Land”

  1. I thought all year, especially during these playoffs (which were sensational, the NBA became very relevant again this time around) that the LeBron comparisons were wrong. It was always Jordan, or Kobe or Magic. No, to me, the closest thing to LeBron was Wilt. An overwhelming physical presence, who was expected to beat everyone 1 on 5. And as Wilt once said, nobody roots for Goliath.
    In some way, I think basketball won. Because Dallas, which was never given a shot, nor should they have, except they played the game sort of “the way you were supposed to.” I could never figure why Detroit and Indiana didn’t like Carlisle. Maybe he’s just blunt with owners, but Cuban is one very smart cookie (don’t kid yourselves, most owners are not). The Mav’s passing and the way switched from man to zone, to multiple zones and out was fabulous.
    And Crank, look at your list, on who got to the finals and needed time to get over the hump. There are some names missing, and these are the real best of all time: Russell, Jordan, Johnson and Bird. When they got to the dance (and Michael later than anyone) they were there to stay. Which is why I consider Bill Russell the greatest player of all time, and why I always did: All the superstars had a supporting cast–The Lakers more than anyone. Russell shows up, they win 11 finals, lose one, and lose one Division final (to Wilt). Russell retired, and they lost again.
    Then again, I’m the only person I know who thought Jerry West was a better player than Oscar Robertson (I saw both play most of their careers, although mostly on TV games of the week until 1970 or so). Oscar had more gifts, a better ball handler and a better passer. A smoother shooter, but not a better one than Jerry. Both could play defense, but it was like Jim Brown blocking. Oscar could defend better than anybody, West would defend better than anybody. Like Jordan, he got as big a thrill stuffing you until you couldn’t breath. Oscar would only do it if you showed him up.
    So my top players: Russell, Jordan, Magic, West, Kareem and Bird. Wilt is sort of like Ty Cobb–someone so absurd in so many categories, it’s almost impossible to take him seriously. My father in law met him once and said he was exceptional in two ways: size and personality. Very big and very nice. May he rest in peace. Damn Bill Walton for getting hurt. He’s the greatest college player of all time, and if his feet had held out, I would loved to have seen just how far he could have gone. He was amazing.

  2. I am glad to Mavs won, but a different reason. This trend of bunching 2-3 real good players together and then trying to hold on is not good for the game. The superstars need to be spread around so it at least appears that all teams have a chance. There are only 15-20 really great players in the NBA and if they are concentrated on 5-6 teams the league as a whole will fall further than it already has. It is not healthy for the league and the NBA will collapse in the next 10 years if it is not stopped.

  3. The Finals drew some of the highest ratings in years and years. Pretty much double the World Series ratings. Not sure how accumulating stars is a bad thing for the game. Was it bad when 3 HOFers played on the Chicago Bulls and 1/3rd of the league struggled to win 25 games? Everyone seemed to love it back then. NBA teams are losing money because, apparently, many owners are fools who pass out giant contracts to mediocre to poor players not because people aren’t interested in the product the NBA has to sell.

  4. Jim, it was a great final, sold, let’s face it, as good vs. evil. Like Wilt, everyone watched to see Lebron fail.
    And now everyone is saying how great it is that baseball is clean, that once again, the pitchers rule. Except attendance and ratings are way down. Proves my point. Baseball purists can now have clean stats, but if the game goes bust, does it really matter to have a pyhrric victory?

  5. Baseball’s issues run long and deep as far as how the game’s business and marketing is handled. I think we all here know that. The NBA has as prodigious talent top to bottom as ever before, its stars are (mostly) likable and highly marketable dudes. Attendance is mostly very good and world wide interest is extremely high. The NBA has buggered itself with ridiculous contracts for horrible players, a terrible CBA and some poor internal decisions. However, if they can figure all that out (no easy feat surely) there is a definite strength to the league that is probably greater than that of MLB.

  6. There’s way too much pretentious analyzing of LeBron’s woes going on. This NBA Finals reminded me of the 1988 World Series–where a overwhelmingly superior team got caught by an opponent playing way over their heads (the Mavs were arguably underdogs in all three preceding playoff rounds, and the Dodgers had beaten the heavily favored Mets in the NLCS) and a crushing, utterly unexpected loss (Gibson’s home run/Game 2 comeback by the Mavs). In both cases, the favored team was never the same again (even though both teams managed one more win before being closed out). The reason that more people aren’t seeing it this way is because so many people want LeBron’s failures to be somehow character-related rather than the often cruel fortunes of major league team sports. LeBron isn’t MJ and probably never will be, but the people claiming that he isn’t even one of the two or three best players in the NBA are fools, and time will make that clear even if the evidence of their own eyes hasn’t done the trick yet.

Comments are closed.