Byron Scott, Kobe, and Lessons from Showtime

Darius Soriano —  August 8, 2014

When Byron Scott was named head coach of the Lakers, one of the major reasons he received instant backing from a healthy portion of the fan base was because of his history as a Laker. The bulk of his career was spent as a member of the Showtime era teams and his legacy is one of a key contributor to championship glory. This history has earned him a credibility that other candidates could not match. I mean when Magic, Silk, and the Captain show up to your introductory presser the goodwill transposed upon you is massive.

Scott will need more than goodwill to succeed, though. He has inherited a mismatched roster mixed with veterans possessing proud histories and young players looking to build their names and continue to progress on an upward trajectory. Managing this situation will not be easy and Scott will need to draw on all his experiences as a coach and as a member of those championship teams to find workable solutions.

If Scott looks back, though, he should find at least one comparison that could aid him in his success.

Right as Scott was entering the prime of his career, the Lakers were in a mild transition. Though they were considered championship caliber and had the Showtime moniker, they were still somewhat of a team seeking a true identity. For years they had deftly mixed the post-up prowess of Kareem and the fast paced stylings of Magic, but as the Captain aged and Magic became more of an offense onto himself, the team had to make a choice. Would they continue to be an opportunistic running team that mostly played through Jabbar or would they hand the keys over to Johnson and let him orchestrate the high octane attack he had mastered?

The answer, of course, was the latter and the rest is history. Starting in the 1987 season, the Lakers became Magic’s team and with that came a truly historic run. As a player, Magic won three of the next four league MVP’s (1987, 1989, and 1990) and as a team the Lakers won back to back championships (1987 and 1988) and went to four of the next five NBA Finals (1987, 1988, 1989, and 1991). And as the starting shooting guard, Scott saw it all firsthand.

Today, Scott may not have a Magic Johnson to turn the team over to, but he does have his Kareem in one Kobe Bryant.

Like Jabbar, Kobe is an aged legend whose career is winding down. Like Kareem, Kobe is still an icon and, should his health permit, should still be one of the more reliable scorers in the league. And, like Kareem, Kobe is still worthy of being the focus of an offense offering a skill set in the post and, again, health permitting, a perimeter savvy that can tilt a defense in his direction to be the fulcrum of a half court offense.

But, also like Jabbar, the team around Kobe is changing. Though Boozer joins him as a sage veteran who is at his best playing a more methodical approach, the rest of the roster will likely be at their best playing an open court style.

In Jeremy Lin the Lakers have a point guard who does his best when pushing the pace and turning the game into horserace. Nick Young is mostly seen as a chucker in the half court, but he had his most successful season as a pro playing in Mike D’Antoni’s uptempo offense that generated looks early in the clock against a defense that was not fully set. The same is true for Wes Johnson and Xavier Henry. In Julius Randle, Jordan Hill, and Ed Davis the team has three young bigs who can all get up and down the floor well, finish on the break, and play with tempo. Even Steve Nash, should he be healthy enough to do so, is at his best when trying to create open court chances where he can pick out teammates while the defense scrambles in transition.

As a team, then, the Lakers would seemingly do well to push the pace and see if they can get easy baskets early and often. They could, potentially, play nine to ten players, most of whom can thrive in an open court game. The question, though, is whether Scott will let them.

This isn’t to say that Kobe should be marginalized. Even though Kareem took a backseat to Magic, it’s not like he was forgotten. When the team needed a key bucket or when Magic was on the bench, the team quickly shifted back to their big man on the block and watched him sky hook opponents to death. It’s just that happened a little less often than it did earlier in the 80’s when he was the focal point. Scott could do the same with Kobe, featuring him plenty and giving him ample opportunities to be the focal point of the offense via post ups, wing isolations, and actions that get him touches at the elbow. They could also continue to use him as an initiator of the P&R to get him the ball on the move and attacking a defense in the midst of making rotations.

But, even in doing that, Scott will still need to give his younger players a chance to do what they do best. If that means Kobe gets a little bit less of the action than he used to, that will just come with the territory of aging and adjusting to the team he finds himself on.

Besides Scott touting his championship history with the team, he also talked up his relationship with #24. This next season, Scott might do well to remember his playing days and how the organization handled the transition of another aging legend and apply that to his current one. And while he may not find the championship glory he did during Showtime, he may just get the best from most of his other players. Much like (Scott’s mentor) Pat Riley did with Magic.

Darius Soriano

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79 responses to Byron Scott, Kobe, and Lessons from Showtime

  1. Kobe needs to accept playing, say, 30-35 minutes per game while giving a hard consistent effort on D, and playing within the team concept. Byron needs to sell this and put his foot down when needed. In the final analysis, the Lakers should be as follows:
    Average at PG between Lin and Nash
    Above average at SG between Kobe and SwagP
    Below average at SF between Johnson and Henry
    Average in their front line with Hill, Davis, Randle, and Boozer.
    Average bench.

    If Byron gets Kobe to accept fewer minutes, play hard defense, and get his teamates involved, the two of them could almost be like co-coaches, alternatively inspiring and cracking the whip on their troops. The good news is that with the possible exception of Boozer, none of these players is in a position to do other than accept their roles and bust their butts. That is so long as Kobe and Byron are on the same page. They’ve both got every incentive to work with each other and surprise people a little. 8th place in the standings at say, 44-38 is a worthy goal. With expectations what they are, I think Laker Nation would be pretty happy with this.

  2. Perfectly said and the comparison is true. Early 80’s a more methodical pace, towards the end of the decade, it was all about running baby…it’s Showtime! If anyone can do it, Byron can. The support is all there. Go Lakers!!!
    Now if Kobe can read and re-read this article and buy into it, we’re having a surprisingly amazing season. If not, sadly we may have to wait for his retirement. And pick up Beasley while we’re at it. Can’t hurt, we’ll not that much anyway.

  3. The analogy is completely off. Once you admit that there is no Magic Johnson then the comparison is moot. You think the Captain would have taken a backseat to aveage players??? Listen, if the Lakers want to be as competitive as Scott claims, the offense will be run through Kobe. If and only if that fails should an alternative be sought. Jeremy Lin is turnover prone (even at the height of Linsanity), I am not giving him the keys to my offense if I want to be a playoff team. Lin needs to go watch tapes of PGs that thrived next to ball dominant great wings and learn to adjust his game. Jeremy Lin is better served working on his jumper and defense. I wont be suprised if Scott utilizes Kobe at the PG position to close out games in order to have a solid defensive lineup.

  4. Nice piece D. It’s no secret that any success the Lakers will have this season will revolve around Kobe. Not just his on court stats, but his leadership & attitude. Kareem, David Robinson, & Tim Duncan, just to name a few, are great examples of unselfish superstars who realized their mortality and adjusted their games in order for others to shine thus improving the team overall.

    They never made statements such as “I eat first” or thought it would be insulting to average “only” 20 ppg. Up until this stage of his career, Kobe’s leadership & attitude has more closely resembled his idol Michael Jordan.

    I’m sure many who read this will want to focus on the situational differences of Kobe & Kareem instead of the similarities at this stage of their careers. So be it.

    Here’s hoping as Laker fans we’ll be able to cheer for a lot more than just Kobe passing Jordan on the NBA all-time scoring list in the 2014-15 season.

  5. I’m very happy Love is going to Cle. Very Interesting to see how good Kevin Love actually is. With that spotlight on him. We know how good he will be getting wide open jumpers from Lebron and Irving kick outs. But we will see how many rebounds he can get playing against teams actually playing hard against him every night. The thing is Love isn’t actually a great shooter. He is great for a PF. But his career high of 37 percent last year isn’t very good. But those stats with LBJ will go up to 40-43 percent next year I’m sure.

    What’s interesting is that pressure/attention. That’s going to be interesting. We know his D is around the worst in the entire NBA. But now everyone will see it every night. And people will now see he is just a spot up shooter on offense. The myth of Kevin Love will be gone.

    But the thing you don’t know is about those rebounds. I wonder if he will rebound the same in the regular season with teams playing hard now (and not just in the last three minutes of close games). I don’t think he will. But I’m not 100 percent sure. I’m curious. I’m excited to see it. I mean I know for sure he won’t be able to rebound in the playoffs. But the regular season? … Well he might suprise me. Does he have the athletisim to rebound against teams going 90 percent the entire game? I know he doesn’t have it to do it against teams going 100 percent in the post season. I’m excited Love is going to an NBA team with significance. This will be fun. He has that ability to hustlle in games in the regular season for rebounds. He is great at rebounding boxing out on D and scrapping for offensive rebounds. Does one of the most famous NBA players in today’s game have the game to back it up? We will see… We will all see… And I for one love it. Player mobility is the key to a successful league. In any sport.

  6. Discussing sports is usually a futile endeavor. Somehow we have arrived at Kobe needs to accept, unselfish leaders, etc. After 17 years people really believe Kobe is going to accept what someone who hasnt had his success says if it is contrary to his vision? Is this a joke? Just like David Platt is going to use Lebron anyway he pleases? Please!!! Speaking of unselfish, Kareem is the same unselfish leader who got so jealous of Magic’s contract he complained to management. Duncan is the same unselfish leader who refused to speak to Parker and Ginobli their rookie seasons. People need to stop with these made up narratives. Start by saying, I like Kareem, Duncan and Robinson; I don’t like Kobe and Jordan. Can you even for a moment realize that Kobe and Jordan are 2 of the most successful human beings in the history of mankind at their chosen craft/profession. Who out there is nitpicking at any of Einstein’s perceived shortcomings? Unselfish is a made up phrase in sports. There are no selfish or unselfish leaders in sports. There are only leaders. We should respect those whose methods led to successful results (Rings). And let’s be real, no one here knows this team better than Kobe and Scott. Kobe has already watched tapes of these players. He has had the benefit of scouting notes. Btw, when y’all were asleep at 3am last he was up planning for next season. After 17 years why doubt his ability to use the talent he has around him? After 17 years you think you know more than the most prepared athlete walking the planet?

  7. Joe,

    Have you talked with Kobe about this article? Gathered his thoughts? Maybe he’s thinking the same thing given two injuries and a completely new surrounding cast, save for the perennially injured Nash. You’re mounting a full on Kobe defensive and there’s no reason for it, especially on a site where the general consensus (including Darius) is that Kobe is one of the best players of all time. You gotta chill.

  8. Kareem,
    If you have been watching the Lakers since 1996 and have studied Kobe like I have then you will realize that I don’t need to consult Kobe to know that he too will tell you that the above wasn’t an appropriate analogy. I have to say that it is strange that on a Lakers blog I am being accused of a full on defense of Kobe because I responded to someone insinuating that Kobe isn’t an unselfish leader. I am not defending Kobe. I am simply saying 1, the analogy isn’t appropriate since there is no Magic, 2, Kobe is going to be rightfully the focal point of the offense and 3, Kobe is a selfless leader.

    Go ask Ronnie Turiaf about Kobe. Dude got a lowball offer from the Lakers that the Warrior’s offer eclisped. Kobe encouraged Ronnie to take the bigger offer and take care of his family. No one in the media will talk about that because it isn’t fashionable to say Kobe is nice..its makes for a better narrative to say Kobe is selfish. Debunking untruths isn’t the same thing as a full on defense.

  9. Long Simmons piece on the Kevin Love Wars:

    “Until I started researching this column, I believed that Love had to be overrated because of his 0-0 playoff record. And actually, he’s underrated. Everything he accomplished on that forgettably broken Minnesota team was BETTER than I thought.”

  10. Kevin Love is overrated. He is this era’s Sheriff Abdul-Rahim.

  11. Simmons doesn’t seem to get that Lebron has no interest in playing as a small ball 4. Dude lost weight for a reason. Lebron is now permanently a wing player.

  12. There is only one thing to be resolved by the present Lakers. For them to move forward, they have to jell as a team whether his name is Kobe, a Boozer, the 7th pick draft or the Showtime Coach. Well, they are all under the radar to perform better than previous coaches Brown or Dantoni. Therefore having said that, Kobe has no alternative but to cooperate with what the Coach designs him to play, play along that it is the last two years of his career make it something worthwhile. He can’t afford to have another drama or ego boosting because this team is only 8th seed category. They have to prove that they are better than 8th seed, therefore work as a team, avoid pitfalls of becoming another lottery team by June 2015. As a longtimed Laker fan, it is painful to watch when your team is fighting for last place in order to get the best pick. One thing I like on what Scott said – Lakers will play defense in 2014 Season. It means nobody can afford to be lazy dozy waiting for the ball to come to them, they have to work hard in getting that ball, prevent the other team from scoring, it is a common sense basketball. The preseason will tell us more of what we expect from our Lakers of how good or how bad they are compared with a small sample of teams?

  13. Comparing Kevin Love to Sheriff Abdul-Rahim is a little…a little…ok it’s WAY out there.

  14. I just like that we’re calling him “Sheriff.”

  15. Haha i just copied and pasted because i couldnt spell the guy’s name

  16. the other Stephen August 8, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    “Sheriff.” *Chortle*

  17. Joe Houston…
    Feeling you on the Kobe thing. The “Kobe is selfish” media spin is old, tired and lazy.

    One thing I haven’t heard too much is that when Kobe plays this year, it should be with a renewed passion and hunger after losing so much time to injury. The man needs basketball. It’s his profession and passion. I think we ‘re going to see a very focused and determined Mamba. Last year was a nightmare for him from a team and an individual point of view. I look for Kobe to have a very good year.

  18. I am a realistic Lakers fan who will tune in to see how the Lakers will handle Kobe’s aging, return from two major injuries and incorporation of new pieces.
    So Byron Scott does have a big task in front of him.

    I will do a brief comment on the perception that Jeremy Lin is turnover prone because he was turnover prone during his Linsanity days, otherwise known as his first meaningful season where he actually got to play in the big league level. I don’t think the turnover prone moniker is entirely accurate. If I ask you who had the most turnovers last year, would you know who that is? Would you call him turnover prone? Per, the league leader for turnovers per game was Steph Curry with 3.8. (Kobe is actually the highest at 5.7, but since he only played 6 games, I didn’t count him).
    Tied for first is Russell Westbrook.
    Third is James Harden.

    Per 36 minutes Westbrook, Farmar and Curry all had higher turnover rates than Lin. Same for per 100 possessions.

    Not saying Jeremy is the next big thing but I think the evaluation from his insanity days, where he was 3.6 TO per game, 4.8 per 36, and almost 7 per 100 possessions continues to follow him even though he is not the league leader in turnovers anymore and is actually not too bad.

    Also, I don’t know if there are more in depth stats with regards to usage v. turnover rate. (His Turnover %, the estimate of turnovers per 100 plays, is at 18.4. Rondo was at 20.7, Rubio 21.7. But this doesn’t put into account how the roles are (rondo and rubio had the ball a lot, but lin had to play a lot more off the ball. So I would like to see if Lin is actually turnover prone this year if he actually gets to run the offense. This will be his 4th season in the league as an actual rotation player, so that should be a good barometer on his skill as a point/ball handler.

  19. Something that has been pointed out on Lins turnovers- and even Mda commented on this in new York – is that a majority of lins turnovers – not unlike nashes or Stephen curry’s are the result of trying to do something or forcing the action deep in the front court – which was something mda could live with because at least lin was playing hard and trying to create for other teammates etc… vs being passive and throwing the ball away mindlessly. he tries to do too much sometimes. But that’s something a coach can live with for the most part. Plus if a guy historically has a high per game turnover rate due to the amount of time he handles ( ala nash) but his teams rate is a decent # then you can live w that as well.

    Funnily enough defensively Lin should be mirroring and learning from Nash as well. While their individual defence is subject to scrutiny – nash was a pretty decent team defender during his prime years in phx – he didn’t have the lateral speed to keep guys in front etc… and needed help on certain match ups, but his positioning, angling players, court awareness, made him much more effective in a team defensive scheme. Nash was also among the league leaders in those years in drawing charges (not flopping) which basically is the equivalent to creating a turnover plus getting that bonus foul. What helped nash is that he had good defensive teammates in raja Bell and Marion beside to help him – unfortunately for lin I don’t see anyone on this roster that is going to be able to provide any legit measure of help and recover defense and kobe is one of the worst offenders for getting on guys even though he left them out on an island by not coming over to help.

  20. Good points Radius re Lin.
    If anyone watched the documentary ‘Linsanity’ it’s pretty good.
    He’s a capable shooter and scorer, perhaps not a typical point guard,
    but an inspired player in any case.

    Also mentioned was Rondo.
    I wonder if he’s still on our radar?
    Expiring contract next year, I think.

  21. IMO, we are not going to move forward very far with any of the ‘old’ stars people are pushing for acquiring – i.e. Rondo. I suspect the Lakers will move forward with the idea of developing rotation players from young, previously misused talent. We would like to sign a star, but probably not go the multiple max players pattern used by Miami in 2010. The CBA really changed how you can build a club and, unless there are major changes in 2017, I don’t think many clubs will be in a position to follow Cleveland’s example. The best player in the league, with 3 #1s to stock the club and trade, is not a likely scenario for anyone.

    I will be interested watching the Cavs, because I don’t know if they will have enough defense to fend off the best clubs in a 7-game series. However, James-Love-Irving is a potent combination.

  22. Cleveland is obviously a highly unusual situation, and one of the many things that NBA history demonstrates clearly is that there is a strong element of luck, along with smarts, involved in building a champion, or a contender, with Cleveland being the latest example–and a very extreme one at that, since that franchise has not been managed well. The CBA will not change the value of luck, nor will it change the value of having a Top 5 player and other high-level players around him. Also, many of the top contenders have two max or near-max guys:

    Oklahoma City

    San Antonio doesn’t, but they are unique. Portland doesn’t–yet–but they will have to pay Lillard and Aldridge. Golden State would have if they had been able to get Love. Chicago’s second-highest paid guy is Noah, but they are also still paying Boozer even though he is off the cap and they spent a lot of money this off-season, spreading it around. And, of course, they missed on James in 2010 and now Love in 2014 and may never get over the top.

    The Lakers, of course, are saddled at the moment with a combination of bad luck and questionable decision-making. But the problem with saying that the Lakers will probably not be able to sign a star is that the FO’s entire post-Veto/Howard plan, partly by necessity, revolves around acquiring a franchise player in free agency. The FO underscored this by waiting several days to hear from Carmelo Anthony, but never making an offer to Monroe, Bledsoe, or (maybe) Stephenson, (and Stephenson signed a reasonable deal) and, other than the Nick Young deal, focused once again on short-term deals with an eye towards “financial flexibility.” And the team is clearly not trying to keep the pick this year and expects to be better than bottom 5.

    As to the idea of building through rotation players, Robert has addressed some of that. But for the most part, rotation players come and go, although they are not all alike or equal in value.

  23. JC
    Isen’t Rondo, Marshall with a bad smerk?

  24. rr,
    You are correct, but I was addressing the situation where people expect us to sign two max players and quickly reach where Cleveland appears to be today. This is not a reasonable expectation, IMO.

    You are correct, rotation players come and go, but we can find some ‘rotation gems’ and try to keep them – we do need a stable bench to support any stars we might sign/develop.

    I think we both agree that this is not a quick fix situation and the Lakers have to not only move forward, but keep enough flexibility to jump on any trade situation or gain benefit from free agent movement. We are in the throes of a process, not a miracle.

  25. Berdj J. Rassam August 9, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    B. Scott was the best head coaching decision that the organization realistically had available to it. There is still much to be done to get the Lakers back to where they used to be – and not too many of the elite players, coaches, or front office personnel are looking to call the LA Lakers their home.

  26. Because of the max contract the best way to build a championship team is by signing three star players to max contracts. That’s the best bang for the buck. The players were the most being paid the least are superstars on max contracts. The best way to lure those type of players is what Cle had going for them… A young team stacked with high picks on rookie deals. The Lakers will eventually have that unless they make bad signings on above average players that blows up their cap space.

  27. Cleveland has not won anything yet with their soon to be 3 superstars. The NBA finals have been ruled by a very select royalty the past few years and none have had 3 players on max contracts. It is doubtful Miami will make it next season but the Spurs have the inside track in the west depending on the health of their “old 3”. They are clearly not building on 3 max contracts.

    Scott needs to follow up on all this goodwill from the Lakers alums and build his coaching staff. He is known for being a workout warrior but not for his offensive or defensive schemes. His assistants will be critical for determining how well this hodgepodge of players can be assembled into a team.

  28. There is talk that the NBA would VETO the K-Love trade if they already agreed on an extension, oh my freaking God the irony would be so overwhelming that my brain would shut down and left me catatonic.

  29. If they vetoed that trade it would be bizarre.
    The teams should never have let a possible extension leak if they knew it was impermissible.
    I would blame –
    the teams for being stupid and leaking it,
    the media for blasting it all over in spite of the ramifications,
    and the league for being so petty.
    i feel everyone wants to see Love go there, so it’s good for the league.
    Handshake agreements must be common so why make a fuss about it?
    Maybe A. Silver will ban Dan Gilbert for life!

    Ko I know how much you loved Marshall
    Rondo is a really good player and a champion too.
    I’d like to see him in FB&G.

  30. The league knows more about basketball than Dan Gilbertt. They know Wiggins next year might already be a better player than Kevin Love. Ya know,.. When you take into account defense (otherwise known as half the game). The NBA wants Lebron to win. He is the greatest player of all time. At a time the NBA is the most popular around the world and in the states. I wouldn’t be too surprised if they wiped this trade clean. I would be surprised. But not too surprised. Wiggins and LBJ together for the next five years is going to be Pippen/Jordan

  31. Aaron, it would not surprise me in the least if the league wants Lebron to win.
    But vetoing a trade of Wiggins for a proven player, Love, hardly assures that.
    It’s quite possible that Wiggins may become a star at some point.
    It may take some time, if it happens at all.
    The last veto (CP3) was in part based on the NBA’s interim control over the NO franchise, a factor that is not present here.
    All Cleveland has to say is that an extension was discussed with Love’s agent, but not finalized, which would be true. I doubt there is anything in writing yet.
    if phone conversations were recorded that might hold up, but I doubt the league perceives any advantage to the NBA, to Cleveland, or to Lebron in vetoing a trade that all parties desire.

  32. Lbj “greatest of all time”??? Calm down man, he hasn’t even cracked the top 5 yet. You need to stay off ESPN!! Only bball guy on there who knows even a bit is kevin pelton who says Kevin love is top 5 player currently and his D is much better than people give him credit for.

  33. Aaron, I don’t know which is more absurd: your inside information that LBJ and Melo to the lakers was a done deal or your new supposition that the league might deny the cavs the ability to bring in the superstar they (and lebron) want because the league wants Cleveland to win and has determined that the cavs would be more likely to win without the trade. This is some real twilight zone stuff here.

  34. LBJ best of all time!

    uhhh, no.

    he’s real good though.

  35. Aaron has lost it.

  36. Best player on the world today, can’t deny that, that’s the truth, but best of all-time? Ummm HELL NO!!!

  37. “The NBA wants Lebron to win. He is the greatest player of all time. At a time the NBA is the most popular around the world and in the states.”

    NBA is definitely not the most popular worldwide and isn’t even close to being the most popular sport here in the US. The NFL has had a lock on that title for like 20 years at least. Lebron is the best athlete that I’ve seen in the NBA, but he’s not the GOAT yet. He may crack the top 5 when it’s all said and done -> and if he wins enough chips then he could be in the conversation, but he can’t touch Jordan or Kareem right now. And, if his career ended today, he wouldn’t rank above Kobe to be honest.

  38. everyone must have been hit with a trolling sarcasm ray…

  39. Aaron’s latest isn’t worth picking apart. And the primary post lost me when with, “Even Steve Nash, should he be healthy enough to….”

    A) Make some more videos for ESPN about how much he wishes he could still play
    B) Reminisce about doing the “ol’ pick-n-roll” with a Spice Girl back in the day
    C) Polishing the two MVP awards that really belong to Kobe
    D) Skateboard over to the bank and deposit a fat check
    E) All of the above

  40. Guys, when I complained to the NBA about the VETO (yes, I was one of those who sent an email asking for further clarifications) they replied saying that it wasn’t a veto. Basically, the team owner didn’t allow the GM to go through with the trade because they weren’t getting a good enough package. Exactly the situation that Phil predicted that would happen.

    This Love/Wiggins deal falls in a different category as it will only be blocked if someone is bending the rules. The trade itself is not unfair and the league won’t impose their will on two owners… Just remember the words of Mr. Wolf and wait for the trade.

  41. Is LBJ the best player of all time? As I’ve discussed before the difference between he and MJ is this… LBJ can’t shoot from three and he can guard PFs (one more position than MJ). That’s what separates LBJ and Jordan.

    As far as the state of the NBA… It’s better than it’s ever been. Just follow the money. Forget the United States even… The NBA and basketball has become the second biggest sport in the world behind football (soccer).

  42. @Aaron

    Get real son! LeBron is not the greatest player of all time and not even top 5. Don’t let the hype carry you away. I have had this debate with many people and Kareem is the GOAT plain and simple. Only lost 1 game in high school, only two in college and had 6 rings with 10 trips to the NBA finals. I have seen them all and LeBron is not there yet but it could certainly change with time.

    @Joe Houston

    Err…No, Kevin Love is not Abdur Rahim. Kevin Love is a big time player plain and simple. He game is just all-round better than Abdur Rahim’s ever was. Kevin Love is an All-Star caliber player and will be one for years to come. A dub dub machine who excels at scoring, rebounding and passing. His Basketball IQ is off the charts and do not forget his father played in the league so he has insight most in the league do not have. Wish he was Laker and trust me you do too. It is almost the same situation as when Pau came to play with Kobe and the Lakers with him going to the Cavs. They should win it all if the coaching is up to par…hope so.

    I do not remember who said that Wiggins will be better than Love next year but that is just absurd. Wiggins does not impress and I saw him a lot last year. I live in Big 12 country and he cannot shoot plain and simple. I would sag off him all day and make him prove it to me. The potential is there but he has work to do…maybe a few years from now that will be a valid statement.

  43. Of the major American sports leagues the NBA is the most popular globally. Yes, the NFL is the domestic king. But the NBA rules outside of the States. That is especially true in China. Not that this really matters to the Cleveland Cavaliers situation. Fans both in and outside of the U.S. will watch LeBron James no matter what team he plays for.

  44. Lebron the GOAT????….Well….He is a real complete player. He is only one, but is not too close of MJ…MJ are mistyque, legend, shoots to win games finals, his sky walker, fade away, super defense, dunk´s, contorsions, passing, the most highest P.E.R. in the NBA history. his finals record 6-0 , 2 times 3 titlles in a row, SUPREMACY IN THE CRUNCH TIME.. The Kids don´t see play Michael please enter in youtube and watch a complete games of Chicago Bull and later talk about GOAT.

  45. the kids who didn’t see Wilt….

  46. @ T Rogers-
    Your statement is correct, but that is not the statement that was made. Aaron’s statement was patently false.

    “At a time the NBA is the most popular around the world and in the states.”

    The NBA is, at best, second place to soccer around the world and, again at best, second to the NFL here in the states. Is it ahead of the NCAA football? Not sure there.

    You’re right that Lebron shoots a better 3 than Jordan, but can you really say that, right now, you would take a prime Lebron over a prime Jordan on your team? I still like MJ and -> I love KAJ over both of them.

  47. I like fast paced offenses but I’m not sure thats a great idea for the Lakers. One of the issues when you run a fast break offense is you have to be able to get back on defense. As the Lakers stand I don’t see them being a great defensive team which might not lead to great results if they aren’t at least in position to get back. For me its not a Kobe centric policy to slow it down but, just looking at the defensive side of the court I’m not sure it would work well for them.

    Hope to catch up on the boards been dealing with issues after buying a new home. >_<

  48. Aaron: Lebron can guard a power forwards…..Lebron can guard today weak power forwards…he can guard Zach Randolph? no. he can guard blake griffin? no.. he can guard Lamarcus Aldrigue? no… he can guard Nowitzki? remember the finals…
    he can guard Kevin Love? sure, he can guard Carlos Boozer? sure.. he can guard old garnett? sure, Lebron can guard forwards of the jordan era (90s) ?: Kemp, Malone, Barkley, Charles Okley, Anthony Mason… are you kidding me? Jordan donsent need guard power forwards because he play with a great defensive p forwards, Horece Grant and Dennis Rodman (Rodman can guard magic johnson, Bird, Barkley, Shaq, and even great defense over Jordan) Rodman realy is the most versatil defense player in the history.

  49. KenOak,
    I wasn’t comparing the NBA to other sports. I was comparing the state of the NBA today to years past. The league is in the height of its popularity at home and abroad

    Re LBJ v MJ
    Most of the former greats just weren’t as good as today’s athletes as humanity evolves. In sports like track and field this is easily proved. The best sprinters from thirty years ago couldn’t even compete today. But we have sprint times to prove it. In other sports you can’t grade the compitition. Kareem was great in his time and place. But he weighed less than LBJ. From the eye test MJ looks as if he would still be almost as great today. But we know he wouldn’t be as good. Athletes are bigger faster and stronger. So the fact his PER was the same LBJs from ages 21 to 30 to me gives LBJ the slight edge there. And like I said his ability to shoot and guard an extra position puts LeBron over the top for me. But it’s def very close.

  50. Wilt was stronger than anyone in the league today. so was Darryl Dawkins. so were many others.

    even if you believe in evolution of the species, it doesn’t happen in 40 years. players today may be stronger on the average, but strong people are no stronger than they ever were. LBJ is just the best player at this time. he would get absolutely destroyed by Kareem, except if isolated on the perimeter one on one on offense.

  51. I think a fairer comparison for LBJ right now is with Larry Bird. If you look at their historical records, you see quite a similarity (up to now). While James has him beat with Point Per Game and defensive awards, Bird clearly tops rebounds and free throw efficiency. Both post similar numbers regarding shooting percentage. While you might envision James being able to score at will against Bird, Bird had an extremely high BB-IQ and could get high shot off from anywhere (remember the “Fall-away”).

  52. I will take Prime Kobe over any player that ever lived. Get out of here with Lebron is the greatest player of all time. Mist physically gifted yes but not best player. Skill wise he isn’t in the same stratosphere as Kobe and MJ. Will wise the man runs when things get tough. Lebron is an all time great however I will take Kobe and MJ over him any day. Lebron benefits from playing in the Weakest Eastern Conference ever. If he played in the West he would have wilted under the pressure of constant competition. There is a reason Kevin Love never made the playoffs in the West; Western Conf ain’t no joke.

  53. I would still take Larry Bird over LBJ. He’s just way more clutch.

  54. Agreed Larry over LBJ … for now. Like I said LeBron has the luxury of time on his side. Let us see what he does with it. LeBron is really Magic 2.0 and while LeBron is more athletic than Magic he certainly is not a better basketball player than Earvin Johnson was.

    As far as athletes go most people would say that MJ was the best ever in the NBA but that would be those who did not see Wilt. Wilt was the greatest athlete to ever play in the NBA to date. He was a phenom on and off the court. Besides his basketball prowess. Wilt held and still holds many athletic records at Kansas. He was one of the strongest humans to ever walk the planet. He would hold off other 7-footers with one arm and grab rebounds one-handed with these huge mitts of his. Ahh, the days of Jack Kent Cooke and the Fabulous Forum baby!

  55. Soooo

    Who do you want taking the last shot with your team down one?

    On my list LBJ is not in the top 25.

    And yours? Guy is still scared to take that shot.

  56. @ Joe Houston, “I will take Prime Kobe over any player that ever lived.” Sounds like Kobe is your favorite player, so I understand your statement. Kareem’s my favorite, and I would take Prime Kareem “over any player that ever lived”. Would I be wrong to assume you’re under 40?

  57. bleedpurplegold August 11, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    no disrespect To his game….but really, lbj isnt even top10 right now

    big o

    Just a few names off the top of my head, sure i forgot some

  58. Interesting comments. I’d take LeBron over anyone other than a prime Kareem Abdul Jabbar. To me Kareem is the greatest basketball player of all time. But that’s another conversation. If I’m picking a wing I’m picking James. But to each his/her own.

  59. @Aaron

    Check out: TED Talks ” Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger”.

    In a brief presentation, does an extremely good job putting that myth to bed.

  60. @bleedpurplegold

    Good list! Missing Dr. J, Elvin Hayes and Hondo Havlichek.

  61. Agree completely with T. Rogers. I’m 41, grew up with the spoon-fed “Jordan is God” garbage NBC and Nike, ESPN and whomever else wanted to pump down people’s throats. And I saw through it even then.

    He wasn’t my favorite player as a kid, but even then it was apparent: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest basketball player who ever lived.

    Bill Simmons did make a great point about LeBron, however… it was basically if you could clone any player, ever, to create teams with five of the same guys, there’s no one player in history that could beat a team of five LeBrons. Given his strength and versatility, that’s an interesting (albeit academic) argument to make.

    I’d love to watch five LeBrons and five Magics go head to head — that would be epic. Someone, please make that a video game…

  62. if 5 Wilts felt like it, they’d beat both of those other teams.

  63. @Chris J
    In that scenario I would take 5 Magic Johnsons. He has a post game and was the original “play all 5 positions guy” as he did in his rookie year…winning an NBA championship and MVP. He, like Lebron, liked passing more than shooting, but when it was winning time he wanted the ball in his hands. That’s what LBJ seems to lack. In this years finals LBJ played well and gave a valiant effort, but Kobe or Jordan would have gone down shooting the rock every single time down the court if their teammates weren’t stepping up. Give me that.

    Having said that..that’s a silly scenario to even talk about because I’ll give you your 5 Lebrons and play you with my Magic/Kareem/Worthy/Scott/Green. I like my chances.

  64. Let’s remember that Kobe was part of five championship teams that had to get through a stacked Western Conference each of those times just to get to the finals. He also helped beat the Celtics with just one other potential Hall of Famer on the team and almost beat the Suns in a series single handedly playing along side the likes of Smush Parker and Kwame Brown. Can’t say that LBJ has done anything close to this.

  65. Genetic evolution doesmt happen year to year… But evolution of athletes does because of drugs, training techniques, and normal breeding patterns. Plus the talent pool grows along with the population. Look at the average height of people in America in 1912 (5-8) compared to 2012 (5-10). A change of 1 1/2 inches total. Take a look at sprinter speed times linked below… These are just the things easily measured. Easily proven. I know it sucks for those trying to glamorize the past… But you still can. Just compare the former greats to who they were competing against. Bill Russell was a great defensive Center. Now he would be a great defensive SF (if he could move his feet on the perimiter).

  66. And I won’t get into discussions comparing Kobe to LeBron. The only player you can compare LeBron to is Jordan. Well… In reality the only player you can compare LeBron to is a combination of Karl Malone’s body, Michael Jordan’s athleticism, and Larry Birds floor game/brain.

  67. Russell went against other 7 footers besides Wilt. he’d still be a center today and he’d still be great. he’d benefit from modern training and show you the difference between hard workers and kinda hard workers.

  68. Aaron,

    To put it simply, I’d rather go to war with Larry than with Lebron, and to me that’s what it’s about when you’re talking championships. That’s how I judge greatness, at least. So I’ll fight alongside MJ, Magic, Bird, and Russel before fighting alongside Lebron. Im not saying Lebron cant get there. All Im saying is that he’s not there yet. He’s got the game, but he doesnt have the heart that those four have.

  69. Today’s athletes in the NBA may jump a little higher and have more upper body strength due to the prevalence of weight training than did their predecessors in previous generations. But don’t ever fool yourself to believe that guys like Sam Jones, Havlicek, West, Baylor or Bill Russell were not great athletes as well as great basketball players. Even a player like Earl Monroe who couldn’t jump over a thick book was a tremendously tricky, and elusive offensive player. Wilt was one of the greatest athletes that ever lived. During his dominant years of scoring, he scored many of his points off the fast break by beating his opposing center down court. The man could flat out run. How much do you think a man like Wilt would have benefitted from the improved training methods and coaching techniques of today? Imagine Wilt with a turn around jumper or being able to deliver a right or left handed jump hook. In his time, most big men didn’t utilize a lot of moves away from the basket. Imagine Wilt, with all that athleticism, with an even more developed skill package. Scary.

    LeBrawn is a great player, but he falls way short of GOAT in my book. Maybe the biggest reason is that as KenOak reminds us, he doesn’t go down swinging on the biggest stage. In the recent Finals, there was a game where he scored in the 30’s on a great percentage and was deified as the only Heat player who stepped up by most talking heads. My reaction… He should have shot more. Kobe and MJ would have shot the ball til their arms fell off. Part of being the greatest is knowing when to be selfish and to score the ball when nobody on your team is scoring.

    My GOAT is Kareem. Longevity, toughness, unstoppability. And a 5 time Laker champion to boot. That works for me.

  70. I don’t know who i would go to war with… But Larry looks more like a soldier. So probably Larry. But as far as basketball it’s not close. Larry was a product of his race. He was a good player but not even close to a top twenty basketball player of all time. He couldn’t play defense. That’s freaking half the game. I won’t talk about all time greats who couldn’t play defense. That’s why I don’t talk about Magic (who was a much better offensive player than Bird).

  71. a product of his race…

    so europeans can’t play basketball well for “genetic reasons”…next we’ll hear that dark skinned people can’t be team captain for “genetic reasons”.

  72. @Aaron

    Don’t care about Bird’s race one bit…this is about basketball. And Larry Bird & Magic Johnson are tied as the second greatest players in my book were simply great. While neither were great one on one defenders they were excellent team defenders. Magic was a great communicator and great rebounder on the defensive end. Bird was really saavy and had great anticipation and a pretty good rebounder also on the defensive end.

    As far as that race crap goes tell that to Bobby “Clyde” Jones or David Albert DeBusschere. They could cover anybody buddy!

  73. I guess you guys don’t understand what being a product of your race means. It means if Larry wasn’t a white guy he would just be known as another good NBA player.

    And Mychael Thompson is Magic Johnson’s biggest fan. He said Magic was an awful defender and when Mark Willard said “but he was a good team defender right?” Thompson replied “ummm yea… He would just waive over to guys who could actually play defense to cover his man once they blew past them”

  74. *once they blew past HIM

  75. @Aaron

    Your logic is baffling at best…Bird was great no matter what color he was. Anyone who could shoot, pass and rebound like he could would have been. Race is not a factor period!

    Regarding the great Magic Johnson I suggest you go review the tapes because I do not remember many people blowing by Magic. Could he cover blazing fast guys no but the Lakers did not assign him those matchups. He covered alot of 2’s and 3’s and some 4’s. His value in on the defensive side was again his communication because he knew were everyone was supposed to be and made sure the defense was set accordingly.

    NBA Steals Leaders – Magic Johnson
    1979-80 NBA 187 (5)
    1981-82 NBA 208 (3)
    1982-83 NBA 176 (8)
    1983-84 NBA 150 (9)
    Career NBA 1724 (18)

  76. There is a an IQ problem with some people on this site which is why I usually don’t interact with many here. Nobody said Larry Bird was bad because he was white. I said because he is white all the white people in the USA thought he was better than he was.

    And Magic was an awful defender says him and all his teammates. I’ll take his word and my eyes for it.

  77. Aaron,

    I see what you’re saying, but I think you’re mistaken. If that were true then there would be more than just one Larry (or good white players who are overhyped). Thats not the case, which points to just how good he was. And if he’d been black he would still be better than Dr.J and Olajuwon to name just a couple of players, and they weren’t just good nba players. They were damn good. Larry could ball.

  78. @Aaron

    I respect your posts my man and thank you for clarifying it for me. I see what you mean now and yes there was some of that but that was the NBA marketing machine more than anything. Heck they had to pump up Bird & Magic because the league was hurting. Before those 2 came along it was late night tape delay after the local late night news. They truly saved the league! If they ever change the “Logo” and I hope not. But if they do it should be those two squared off somehow.

    However, regarding Magic we agree to disagree. And Magic always says how bad he was at everything and how all these guys were and are better than him. He is a somewhat humble guy and is always self-effacing about his skills. So, yes he was an average “one on one defender” but a good team defender. Again you cannot underestimate the communication and the rebounding which was perfect for the Lakers because when he rebounded the ball the Lakers transitioned from defense to offense instantly. I still remember him rebounding and yelling “Let’s Go!” and the team knew to get in those fast break lanes…an awesome sight to behold.

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