It was the worst of times. Then it was the best of times.
There may never have been a more defining season in the history of the Lakers franchise than that of 1979-80 — it set the table for Showtime and the legend of Magic, it had Kareem near his peak, it had luck both good and bad, it started to define Jerry Buss as the ultimate sports team owner. Simply, it had everything.
The tale of that season really starts in the summer of 1976, when Tall Ships dominated New York Harbor while out in California Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak deiced to start a company called Apple Computers. In Los Angeles, the brain-trust of the then Jack Kent Cooke owned Lakers decided to let aging star Gail Goodrich walk in free agency — no small decision, Goodrich had just averaged 19.5 points per game and was one of the team’s best players. The NBA rules at that time meant the Lakers got compensated when a player left, even via free agency. Goodrich signed with the New Orleans Jazz, who gave the Lakers three picks, including their first pick in 1979.
Goodrich played in just 27 games that first year with the Jazz and by the 78-79 season was a shell of himself. He averaged 12.7 points per game that season, a role player behind Pistol Pete and Spencer Haywood. The Jazz were terrible that year, winning just 26 games. That gave the Lakers the top pick in the NBA draft.
That gave the Lakers Magic Johnson.
And that was the team that Jerry Buss bought from Cook in the 1979 summer (he also got the Forum and the LA Kings all for $67.5 million). The Lakers were a team that had the best center in the game in Kareem Abdul Jabbar, had a powerful front line that included Jim Chones, great role players like Norm Nixon and Jamal Wilkes who could step up, and they had depth (Michael Cooper and Spencer Haywood came off the bench).
Buss made changes, moving Jerry West from the coach’s seat to the front office and brought in Jack McKinney as coach. McKinney was of the school that you change the system to fit the talent you have (as opposed to Phil Jackson, who comes in with a system and the team needs to be molded to fit it).
Jack took all our skills and developed the perfect system for us… He knew we could run, and he didn’t mind giving us the freedom to run every chance we got.
Magic brought not only his amazing skills as a passer and playmaker, but his unfettered love of the game to the table, something that started to change the city.
The moment Magic started smiling, I guess LA started smiling.
Opening night the Lakers are playing the Clippers on national television (just like the start of this season, although the number one pick is on the other team this time). It was a tight, back-and-forth game but Kareem hit a skyhook to win the game in the final second. Magic rushed down the court with all that enthusiasm and hugged a stunned Kareem.
Magic baptized him. He transformed him into an enthusiastic player.
—Paul Westhead on magic and Kareem
The Lakers raced out to a 10-4 start. Then on an off day, November 8, assistant coach Paul Westhead called McKinney and asked if he wanted to play tennis. He did, but his wife had the car, so McKinney hoped on his son’s bike and started riding through Palos Verdes to Westhead’s condo (where the courts were). Going down a hill, McKinney got to much momentum, and when he tapped the breaks to stop, McKinney went flying over the handlebar. The accident was something McKinney barely survived; he was slowed by a severe concussion and many injuries. He could not coach the Lakers in the short term, so Buss tapped Westhead. (Later that year McKinney would return to scout for the Lakers, but Buss never put him back in the coach’s chair. He eventually went on to coach Indiana the next season.)
Westhead stuck with McKinney’s system — the Lakers ran at every opportunity. But make no mistake, this was Kareem’s Lakers team. And he was dominant — he averaged 24.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game, his true shooting percentage was 61.6%. He went on to win his sixth and final MVP trophy that season.
For us, everything revolved around Kareem Abdul Jabbar from the moment I arrived for my first training camp until the 1986-87 season, when Pat Riley restructured our attack, and focused most of it around me. As the team’s point guard, I almost always had the basketball, but the screens, the cuts, the openings, they all keyed on Kareem. He was my anchor during my first 10 seasons.
The Lakers went on to win 60 games, with a league-best offense that scored 109.5 points per 100 possessions (for comparison, that great Lakers offense last season averaged 112.9, but played at a muh slower pace). They steamrolled through the Suns and defeated Sonics in the playoffs. They looked in control in the West. Then they ran in to Dr. J and the 76ers in the NBA Finals.
The two teams were evenly matched — the two teams split the first four games of that series. But the Lakers seemed to have the advantage, the difference maker seemed to be Kareem, the Sixers had no good answer for him (nobody did).
Then in game five, Kareem sprained his ankle. He played through it, and scored 40 points in the Lakers 108-103 win. But there would be no Captain for game six.
It was Magic that took the opening tip for the Lakers, and it was Magic that played center (and more).
On the first play, he came down in the low post and took a turnaround hook shot. He took a Kareem hook shot. The rest of the game he played everywhere. He played guard. He played forward. Everyone sees him as playing center. That helped us. People forget Jamal Wilkes had 37 points in that game.
Magic, a 20-year-old rookie, finished the game with 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists, and the Lakers won the title 123-107.
I felt like I could do anything
—Magic on game six
From there, Showtime grew. The Lakers and Celtics rivalry grew the NBA. Magic grew the love of basketball and the Lakers in Los Angeles. Buss kept making smart moves, and largely letting his basketball people handle the basketball things.
It was the start of the Lakers we think of today. And it all came together in one season.
Quotes taken from Lakers Glory.
Great read Kurt. That was, indeed, the birth of a dynasty.
I just rewatched both Game 5 and Game 6 of that series during the celebration of Magic’s birthday. It was amazing how well the team played, especially Magic and Wilkes.
The one thing that stood out to me though, had little to do with the game, but rather with comments that Bill Russell made before the start of the contest when he was working as the analyst for CBS(?) in the pregame. He said something along the lines of
I thought that was so insightful. And then when you consider the actual outcome of the game, Big Russ called it. Anyways. What a great game to clinch the title and a great team.
That’s a great story Kurt. Magic is my favorite player and was the one who got me to really enjoy the game as a kid. Thanks.
I didn’t start watching basketball until 1981 or so. Wish I could have seen that game 6. I would search Youtube if my work didn’t block the site. If anyone has a link to that whole game that would be a great way to fill my time during this long long summer.
Great Laker team and season. Magic produced arguably the greatest performance by any rookie in a major sport that final game, but people shouldn’t forget Kareem’s heroics in game 5.
Game 6 also perfectly encapsulizes Jamaal Wilkes’ career (37 points, almost totally overlooked). How is Jamaal not in the Hall of Fame? 2-time NCAA champ, 4-time NBA champ (with 2 different teams), Rookie of the Year, All-Star…how is, say, Joe Dumars in the HOF and not Jamaal?
(encapsulates not encapsulizes!)
4.) I think it is more political with Jamaal Wilkes, maybe the committee has gotten confused, he was Keith Wilkes at UCLA! = )! Who can forget his 20ft layups. Man I loved those Laker teams, they were just perfectly suited to their positions on the team and knew their roles.
Ah, the memories, great revisit, Kurt!
If only I had been alive in 1980…
What’s a good way to get these old games?
Is there any GUINESS world record of times the Baby hook game has been watched by a single person? This one, Robert Horry’s game 6 in 2002 WCF and Kobe’s 81 are the top 3 games I’ve watched the most in my life
Chris J says
For those who appreciate the Lakers past, I’d recommend the NBA Dynasty Series DVD collection Lakers edition. I got it as a Christmas gift a few years ago and still love to pop it onto the TV a few times per year.
It doesn’t have every great game, of course, but there are six or so classic games included in the set, along with some shorter (usually 30 minutes) seasonal recaps voiced by Chick Hearn.
Magic’s 42-point game in the 1980 Finals is one of the games it features. It’s well worth the $70 or so. I’d never seen that game prior to buying this set.
I think I began following them around 1982 or so, when I was 9 — old enough to begin to understand the game.
If memory serves, it has Horry’s dagger game vs. the Kings and the Junior Skyhook game in ’87, and Gave 7 vs. Detroit in ’88 too. Others as well.
One funny note: this set came out around the time Kobe had indicated he’d become a free agent in 2003 or 2004, and it’s very telling that none of the artwork on the box or anywhere includes his photo. Of all the great Lakers as of that time, his absence was conspicuous. I loved Coop and Rambis, for example, but their photos didn’t belong there ahead of Kobe’s.
I’ve always suspected that had to have been a deliberate omission for some reason or another, perhaps because at that time there was a fear Kobe wouldn’t be a Laker for much longer.
Here’s one link to buy the video; shop around online and maybe you’ll find a better deal.
I saw the Lakers demolish the defending champion Supersonics by nearly 40 points during the regular season of Magic’s rookie year. The Sonics were strutting around like – well, champions – during the pre game warm ups. They were never the same after the beating the Lakers administered.
It was my first true inkling of how special the 80s Lakers could and would be.
Great read. wasn’t even born there (that wouldn’t happen for 2 years). I didn’t start watching basketball till the lock out year so I never got to see the show time Lakers except in old highlights and the occasional hardwood classics on NBA TV.
Has there ever been a better performance in the NBA finals than Magics 42, 15, and 7 while playing all five positions as a rookie?
I felt like I could do anything
—Magic on game six
Keith M@@n says
Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam is an excellent read for those who are curious about the 1979-80 NBA season as he covered the Portland TrailBlazers for that entire season.
Also, Seattle was not an easy series as the Lakers had to come back from down 20 or so on the morning of the time change to daylight savings time. Lakers also lost Game 1 on Freddie “Downtown” Brown’s shooting (as predicted by Walter Matthau).
Lastly, the Lakers still had to win a coin flip (with Milwaukee?) to draft Magic.
(11, 14) – Those Seattle games were great, I remember that was when I first felt like the Lakers had a shot to go all the way. Seattle was damn tough in the late 70s and always had our number until 79-80.
Wilkes and Nixon tend to get overshadowed in the Showtime pantheon by Worthy and Scott (who did prove to be greater players), but those guys made a hell of a contribution to a couple of Laker championships.
Norm was an incredible foil for Magic in that he was a premier ballhandler as well as a great shooter, and Jamaal was just one of those all around great players. He had an uncanny knack of sneaking open right under the basket and Magic would fire these Nolan Ryan fastball passes to him through the lane that Jamaal would just cradle and lay in like it was the easiest thing in the world.
The other crazy thing about the 1980 Finals was that the Lakers overcame the substantial distraction of having one of their teammates completely bottom out with an addiction to freebase cocaine in the middle of the series. Spencer Haywood had fallen out of the rotation by the time the finals rolled around, but he was still on the squad, and his behavior became so intolerable that I believe he was suspended after game 2 or 4, something like that.
Haywood had been a great player before his drug addiction, and got his life back on track from all reports I remember, but I always thought that was a rather remarkable sidelight to that championship team, which had already dealt with the whole McKinney tragedy and upheaval, and then clinched the title with the league MVP sitting at home – just not the way the story usually plays out.
This past season, FSW aired that game after a Lakers Sunday game as “Lakers Classic”. Perhaps they’ll do so again this season. Keep an eye on FSW after Sunday games.
I still have the show on my DVR and I’ve rewatched it a couple of times this summer.
Magic could do 100% of 50% of the game. That is why I put Kobe ahead of Magic… because Kobe could play great defense.
Magic was not a great one-on-one defender, but he was a very good team defender (as you would expect from someone with his game IQ). He got a lot of steals off the ball.
I agree with you that Magic is not the caliber of defender that Kobe is. I also agree, though, with Kurt that Magic was a very good help/team defender.
I would also make the point that Magic’s size in relation to the position that he played gave him advantages on defense that made him pretty effective (whereas Kobe is prototypically sized as a SG on defense). For example, when matched up against smaller and quicker guards, Magic could often lay off and still contest jumpers. He also had a height/reach advantage that allowed him to contest and block shots from behind (often on pull up jumpers when players would dribble past him) – which he did well and frequently. Also, because of his size, Magic could often switch P&R’s or switch on cross screens and effectively guard bigger players in the post (or anywhere else on the court). Not to mention Magic was a very good defensive rebounder (and as the saying goes – defense doesn’t stop until you secure the rebound). Considering all of these factors, I’d say that Magic was probably a better defender than he gets credit for. Though, as I said earlier, your point about Kobe being one of the better defenders in the league (when motivated and when the effort is there) is well taken.
1979-80 was the season I started watching basketball. I had no idea how historic it was, as an 8 year old. I was addicted to Chick Hearn’s enthusiasm for calling the game coupled with all that Magic, Nixon, Coop, Kareem, Silk, etc… brought to the game. It was a magical and unforgettable time. Inspiring is an understatement. Thanks for revisiting.
I wouldn’t go as far as calling Magic a great team defender either. I love Magic… he was one of the few players that made people better on offense without just getting double teamed and passing to open shooters like Kobe and Jordan. Magic could facilitate an offense like no others. He was the best PG of all time. But the other reason I would put Kobe ahead of Magic is because Kobe can create his own shot better. Most of the time when those Laker teams needed a basket they went to Worthy or Kareem. But I won’t be on the right side of history on this stance because Magic had that smile and was so likable.
Gary in Big D says
Correction: last year’s Lakers averaged 112.8 points per 100 possessions, not 106.9 which would have been well below league average.
I’m using basketball-reference for the number, other sources may differ slightly on the figure due to minor definitional differences.
Brian P. says
Remove the “per 100 possessions” in Kurt’s statement and the numbers are accurate. Kurt probably just added per 100 possessions out of habit.
I would disagree completely in regards to Kobe being able to get off his own shot better than Magic. Kobe is a fantastic shot maker and has unlimited range as well as an innate ability to get to the basket. But Magic was a huge PG being mostly guarded by small players. He could go into the post whenever he wanted and shoot over the top of almost any player that was assigned to defend him. He also was so strong that, coupled with his size, he could get into the lane against almost any player and get off a shot within eight feet of the basket every time down the court if he felt like it. The fact that Magic was blessed to play with all world finishers like Jabbar and Worthy in an offense that was diverse and oriented on using Magic’s ability to pass over defenses doesn’t mean Magic wasn’t able to get his shot off as well as Kobe. And me thinking this has nothing to do with being glamoured by Magic’s smile and likable nature.
24. My bad with the typo, I have gone in and corrected it. Thanks for the catch. I use B-R as well but just got the wrong number in my head.
23. Aaron, Darius beat me to this somewhat, but whatever you want to say about Magic you can’t say he was not very good at creating his own shot. By the end of his career the Lakers end of game play was not totally unlike the Kobe clearout the Lakers use now, with players trying to find gaps as the defense collapses, Magic was just more likely to make the pass. Magic was deceptively quick and had great ball control, he spun into the lane and got off shots close to the hoop.
I would add there is a bias the other way. Kobe, who is so practiced and technically smooth, makes these plays and never looks awkward or off balance. Magic did all the time, his shots in the lane looked more shot put than finger roll. But they both shot at a high percentage, and in the end that is all that matters.
I started watching the NBA in the late 70’s, but it wasn’t until all of the hoopla surrounding Magic/Bird, and then Magic being drafted by the Lakers, that I *really* started to strongly root for the Lakers. I still remember laying in bed listening on the radio to that first regular season game in San Diego and hearing Chick Hearn calling Kareem make the winning shot (and how cool it was to later actually *see* the shot on the local news. The youngsters around here just don’t understand the pre-cable TV sports era. I’m pretty sure that the Western Conference Final clinching win against the Sonics wasn’t televised live, as my memories are of listening to that game on the radio and seeing it later on tape-delay).
When people remember the 80’s Showtime Lakers it’s easy to think that it was the same group of players on the team through the entire decade, but it wasn’t. I’ve always known this, but while recently watching some of the 1980 Finals versus Philly on NBATV it’s amazing to see all of the other players who were contributors, but not long-term members of the Showtime Lakers: like Chones, Holland, Landsberger, Wilkes, Nixon, (and I’m sure I’m forgetting others). There is something kinda special about that team; not only was it the first title of the 80’s era but it was also a ‘unique’ team with alot of players that are kinda ‘forgotten’. (In a way that ‘first’ Lakers team is special, sort of like your first girlfriend is special! 🙂 )
Thanks Kurt for the post, and bringing back some cool memories of not only that team, but of my earliest NBA memories.
Kurt & Darius,
I never said Magic couldn’t create his own shot. I just said Kobe could create his own shot better than Magic. I’m actually surprised you guys don’t agree with me on that.
We needed to win that coin toss to get Magic, how fortunate that was for the Lakers. I hear about this season, but I have never seen any games in it, not even the Finals games that year. I did not watch alot of basketball back then (early 80’s), you know, going through High School at that time, it was just not something we did with our friends. I do not remember even being able to watch games, unless they were Playoff’s or Finals for some reason, someone mentioned pre-cable days earlier, maybe that is it. The Lakers always had a mis-match with Magic on the hardwood floor.
I just think that the size advantage Magic held over his primary defenders was so outrageous that he could get his shot as easy as anyone, maybe ever (save for maybe Jabbar with his sky hook or Wilt playing in an era where most players that guarded him didn’t have his same size). Kobe’s skill level and fundamentals are supreme. And he’s as talented on offense as any player I’ve ever seen. But, he’s also equally sized to many players that guard him and I don’t know if you’re giving that fact enough credence. I mean, this leads to Kobe’s shots being blocked and contested easier and ultimately makes it more difficult for him to get his shot off, in my opinion. As Kurt said, Kobe is super skilled and is able to create a shot that looks much prettier and more natural, but I don’t think those shots are any more effective or (to the point we’re discussing) easier to attempt than anything that Magic could create for himself.
Interesting points by all on the Kobe and Magic issue. Both supreme players at their positions, and both Lakers, but I guess it’s always fun to debate in the offseason.
All I’ll say is that Kobe definitely has one of the most aesthetically pleasing games I’ve ever seen. Everything he does is so smooth, so precise, so fundamental, just consummate in every detail.
This is a great read. Before I got to the bottom I thought Gatinho had pulled out another epic post. Really informative stuff.
“… Kobe could create his own shot better than Magic …”
Really? Are you sure about that, Aaron?
Magic career 52% FG, 30.3% Threes
Kobe career 45.5% FG, 34.1% Threes
Gr8 Scott says
R – It’s hard to compare stats when the games played then are different from now. What I like is that both players are top 10 all time and between them have 9 NBa titles and 15 WC titles, not to mention a bevy of individual accolades. How cool would it be for Kobe to help our Lakers win another title and join Magic, Kareem & Coop as the only Laker players with 5 rings?
For all of us basketball-deprived, BDL has some fun rankings up on their site. Even if you don’t agre (and I suspect a lot of people won’t), these lists are fun to debate:
If people were worried about Magic scoring they would put a SF on him like when the Bulls put Scottie Pippen on Magic in the 91 Finals and Pippen shut Magic and the Laker offense down. It wasn’t always smaller players guarding him.
FG% is not a true indicator of how well you can get your own shot off. Is Lamar Odom better at getting his own shot off than Kobe because his FG% is a lot higher? Kobe creates shots for himself and for others… in so doing Lamar Odom’s career FG% with Kobe is a lot higher than during the rest of his career. People that have to create their own shots have a lower FG% than they would have if they let others get them open shots.
35 – “It’s hard to compare stats when the games played then are different from now.”
You’re absolutely right! Certainly the game is different. In addition, Kobe and Magic played different roles in their careers. Kobe’s role has been to score first; Magic was first a playmaker. My point is simply that it’s far from certain Kobe is better at creating his own shots. I’d even venture his shot selection has been rather poor for much of his career.
But yes, let’s hope he gets that fifth ring.
One thing to keep in mind when comparing shooting% stats, Magic had more players who were reliable scorers around him than Kobe has had overall. Which has meant that Kobe has had to force up more bad/tough shots (particularly at the end of the 24sec clock) to carry his team than Magic had to; Magic could be more selective. Plus, the Magic-era Lakers got far more good looks at the bucket on the fastbreak than teams do today, meaning higher shooting percentages. Add in more emphasis overall on defense now… well, you get the point.
As far as the discussion about Magic being able to create his own shots, one thing to remember is just how great Magic was at getting all the way to the rim (particularly on the fast break). Just as Fisher is a terrible finisher in the paint Magic was just fantastic at getting to the rim, getting fouled and still making the shot. Kobe is far more pollished at creating shots in the mid-range but he quit getting all the way to the basket for ‘easy’ layups at an earlier age than Magic.
For the top 10 best defender list by BDL, I would make a case for Kobe over Hinrich.
39 – Great points all. Yes, Magic had a lot of great scorers to pass to. Yes, he was a superb finisher.
I am a little skeptical that Kobe has “had” to force all the bad shots he’s taken over the years. And, I’m not sure there’s more emphasis on defense now than in the Magic/Bird era.
Not intending to imply FG% is all important; that’s not my point at all. I do find unsupported assertions – like “Kobe is better than creating his shots than Magic” a little hard to swallow without some sort of evidence. Pulling LO into the discussion out of the blue (per #37) is hardly convincing to me.
I agree with Aaron – Magic was very good at creating shots, but I don’t think he was AS good as Kobe is.
Magic’s ability to create his own shot + Magic’s ability to create shots for others >>> Kobe’s ability to create his own shot + Kobe’s ability to create shots for others
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FG% can be a misleading stat. If a player doesn’t take many 3’s his FG% goes way up. If a player (Trevor Ariza) is left wide open in the playoffs so the other team can help defend good players, the guy standing by himself will have his fg % sky rocket.
If a player has Smush Parker, Luke Walton, Brian Cook, Kwame Brown, and Chris Mihm on the floor with him he isn’t going to shoot a high percentage having to try and create offense by himself. That was Kobe’s most impressive year to me is being effective on offense playing with those guys. It was a miracle they went to the playoffs 2 years in a row.
Another example is Alan Iverson… as he got worse as a basketball player recently his FG% went up because he couldn’t create the bad shots for himself that he used to.
I do agree you can compare great players FG% though… players that are all the #1 options and have to create for themselves and others. So its hard to compare Kobe to Magic because Magic was the #3 option (in the halfcourt) as far as a go to scorer on the Lakers back then behind Kareem and “Big Game” James Worthy. The reason they called him that is because when the Lakers needed a basket in big games on the perimeter… it was Worthy the Lakers most went to to go one on one. He was the guy they felt had the best chance to create a shot for himself. Now Kobe has always been the #1 perimeter option on the Lakers. And always the #1 option in the 4th quarter. You don’t see kobe having others create open shots for him like Worthy and Kareem did for Magic. Don’t forget… for the first half of Magic’s career teams would let him shoot from the outside. Again… Magic is one of the 5 greatest players to ever play the game and the greatest PG of all time but I don’t think you can find a coach or scout that will tell you Magic could create his own shot better than Kobe who is probably the 2nd best right behind Jordan in that department all time.
Just for the record, while Kobe had Smush/Mihm/Walton and others on his team for a stretch, he also had years with Fox/Shaq/Shaw/Horry and other reliable veteran scorers around him, as well as this current roster. Let’s not think Kobe has had an uphill fight his entire career, he came into the league in a good situation with a team building toward a title.
I never said otherwise. I was speaking of a couple specific years. And Kobe has great talent around him now as he is on the downside of a great career… but the 3-peat Lakers were a two man show. It was Shaq and Kobe and roll players. Of course Shaq and kobe in my opinion were the two best players in the NBA at this time, so it didn’t matter we didn’t have good players around them… we just needed good roll players. It would be scary to see what Kobe at 25 could do playing with Gasol, Artest, Odom, and Bynum. Maybe score 28 PPG and shoot 52% from the field?
Don W says
HN, Eric Snow and Kirk Hinrich over Kobe in the top 10 defenders list is a head scratcher for me.
The 3-peat teams were the best evidence of PJ’s massive skills as a coach.
And, yes an arguement can be made that Shaq and Kobe were the two best players in the league at that time.
I also think the 2009-2010 season can’t start soon enough.
I couldn’t agree more about the 79 squad. I had a 33 1/3rd LP that recounted the major moments from that year. Chick did the sound (obviously) and the cover had Kareem and Magic. Best thing about that squad, though, were the power forwards. Its weird to me that Mark Landsberger is lost to laker fans. I mean, he only got five boards and five points a game, but he was kind of the template for them adding Rambis later on.
I would also say that while it is hated by many recent laker fans (ie those who came of age during the shaq years), the team with Vlade, Nick, Eddie Jones, and Cedric Ceballos was probably the best passing and highest tempo team (given the time in which it played) ever to suit up in purple and gold.
adam t says
the fact that eric snow made that list is a travesty and Kelly Dwyer has lost all credibility in my book…..tell me he was joking, the title was “top ten defenders in the past decade”………Eric Snow!?!?!?!? Pass me the bottle, someone
adam t says
He can’t be serious
A little of topic, but here’s a link from BDL for those of you who might have missed it:
MJ in a three-on-three game with Kenny Rogers, Bird and Dominique to name a few.. enjoy! Btw, Chick Hearn calls it.
Adam t., Eric Snow at his peak was a very good defender. If you only remember him from the last couple years of his career, then you remember part of the man (although, his defense was key to the Cavs making the Finals in 2006). For example, if you look at his 2003 season in Philly, he held opposing PGs to 45.7% (eFG%) shooting and what was most impressive was a 34% shooting rate in close to the basket, meaning his length and effort took away easy layups.
Look, if you want to argue Eric Snow is not in the top 10 in the decade, you can make that argument. But to suggest Snow’s inclusion is totally off base makes me think you did not see a lot of the good years of Snow. Also, that kind of “KD lost all credibility” stuff is really an immature response. Reasonable people can disagree.
I also think the fact that Kobe hasn’t really played defense for a couple years now really affected the perception of him.
And I think it’s much more egregious that Zach Randolph wasn’t on the most overpaid list.
True, but Eric Snow really hasn’t…played…at all…for the last couple years. I mean, I thought the same thing about Kobe – he takes way too many possessions off – but I was surprised by Snow only because of his drop-off (not just in defense, but overall quality of play). But I guess it’s hard to find players who play great defense for 9-10 straight years.
Kenyon Martin was a beast in NJ for a very short amount of time, but I guess his injuries cost him.
Watching Magic’s NBA debut against the Clippers on NBA TV. Kobe’s dad looks really good. He just posterized Haywood and Kareem.
Here are a few clips from that 1st game of that season vs the Clippers
Seriously nasty dunk by Father Bryant at 5:45
just my own spin on the “kobe can create shots better than magic could” conversation. I think what we’re trying to say here is that Kobe is a better 1:1 player than Magic was. Creating shots is a relative term. Creating a high percentage shot at the end of a play is something both can/did do as well as anybody who’s ever played the game. They just did it differently. Kobe puts a huge amount of pressure on the defense to stop HIS shot while Magic put a huge amount of pressure on the defense to prevent him from delivering a well placed pass to a high percentage shooter with space.
For me, the thing that makes Kobe so great is the fact that those shots he hits with 2 or 3 defenders in his face are so demoralizing. You can see it just suck the wind out of the other team when he does that, especially in a clutch moment. Magic’s greatness came from how he made the game so much fun for everyone around him and made the showtime lakers play with a supreme passion.
Part of why Kobe didn’t make the top 10 defenders is he rarely is assigned the other teams top scorer all game long. Early on it was Fox,then Walton,Ariza and for the future it will be Artest.
Kobe would often defend the top scorer in crunch time-and usually do a superb job-but for the bulk of a game it was someone else’s job.
While steals are not necessarily an indicator of good defense, it bears mention that Magic did lead the league in steals during the 1981-82 season. In fact my dad told me (erroneously as it turned out) that Magic got his name because it was magical how he always stole the ball.
chris h says
so how do you think sasha is going to come back this year?
coming off the poor season last year…
then getting cut from his Slovanian team…
me thinks he’s going to be pushing too hard, forcing it, not a good thing.
me also thinks Ammo and Shanwow are going to be getting his minutes if he drops off productivity, which seems likely.
might have to just “eat this one”, won’t be able to trade him. I think he’s got a rough road ahead of him.
Chris J says
I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I loved that 1994-95 “Lake Show” team. In my mind, that team was probably the second-most enjoyable Lakers team of the post-Showtime era, ranking behind only the 2007-08 squad.
I know there have been seasons in which the Lakers had more talent, and won championships, but with those seasons came a lot of drama that wasn’t there in ’94-’95, when L.A. was coming off of a lottery trip and no one expected anything out of the Lakers. West’s trade for Ceballos, the drafting of Eddie Jones… things just fell together unexpectedly and that season was a fun-filled, wild ride seeing those young guys run.
Hearing Chick call Van Exel’s dagger to shut up 40,000 Texans in the Alamodome still ranks as one of my favorite Laker memories ever. Who cares if the Spurs still won the series?
It’s an academic question now, but I’ve always wondered how good the core of that team could have become had it been allowed to develop.
The route was changed once Magic came back to playing in ’96; Ceballos undermined his leadership role by going AWOL; and then the big additions from that summer. We’ll never know how good the “Lake Show” could have been. But it was fun to watch while it lasted.
Kurt — maybe we need a “Teams I Miss” on that year’s squad too?
Hmmm, Sasha… Well, last year was supposedly a bad one for him compared to the previous one (a contract year) where he did pretty good. His stats last year were .39 FG%, .38 3PT% and his career is 1% above last. So what he did last year should be what we expect this year and going forward, since that is about what he does. I want ShanWOW to take all of his minutes if you ask me, a $5m a year bench warmer, oh well.
Brown is a 6-3 PG (I don’t care if they list him at 6-4). He isn’t a SG. If anything that takes so much away form what he does at the defensive end using his size and speed against smaller PG’s. If Sasha struggles I think Fisher should be the back up PG since that is what he played in Utah. And I think he would be more effective only playing 12 min a game backing up Kobe.
I meant Fisher should be the backup up SG… not PG
chris h says
so aaron, if Fish were at backup SG, who is our starting PG?
the other Stephen says
with a team this stacked, i could play center, bynum could be pg, and sometimes odom could take time off and be coach.
Kobe is by far the more skilled NBA player. Especially when you consider their all around games on both offense and defense.
Magic is better than Kobe in a few key areas which have created his legacy. But in their overall games, Kobe is far ahead. Kobe is good to great at almost any facet of the game. He has absolutely no weaknesses in his game. In fact, I think that Kobe may be in the top 1-3 overall skilled players in the history of the league. Can you think of one aspect of the game that he doesn’t do extremely well?
As for specifically creating his own shot, Kobe must get the obvious nod here. I don’t even think that it is close. Kobe Bryant is probably one of the top ever at getting his own shot.
If we are talking about who is the top player in history, Magic still comes before Kobe. But if you’re talking purely skill wise, then Kobe is going to be at the top or very close to it, of the all time list. I mean can you think what the result would have been if you put Magic on the lakers team in 06, when Kobe scored 81 points. Kobe got most of those 81 points by himself. Could magic have done something similar?
Kobe not included in the top 10 list
Look, I think anybody who has ever read Kelly Dwyer on Ball Don’t Lie understands that Dwyer is one of the biggest Kobe haters the world has ever known. I think the guy has ADMITTED as much on one of his articles.
The truth about Kobe is that yes, he is one of the most popular NBA players of all time (2nd behind Michael Jordan in all-time jersey sales, and 1st almost always on the yearly list including last year), but he is also one of the most hated players in all of sports.
There are people out there who despise Kobe, who hate his game, dislike the guy to no end. The passion of hatred engulfs all of their emotional responses. Now is Kelly Dywer one of these Kobe haters? I don’t really know if he is as bad as some of the great haters out there. But he definitely is a Kobe hater. Just google his article on why Kobe shouldn’t have won an MVP award.
Oh wait, i just went ahead and did it for you:
Kelly Dwyer on why Kobe is not your MVP:
“Kobe got most of those 81 points by himself. Could magic have done something similar?”
Best argument I’ve seen in that discussion.
Looks like it’s official. Rubio to Barcelona, so we might have to wait a couple years to see him in the NBA. Guess it’s a good thing (for now) they drafted Flynn.
Anyone else excited for this U.S. Open? I’m looking forward to seeing the 2 titans go at it.
You know what I hate most about being a Lakers fan, the fellow fans who feel the need to think anybody who doesn’t think Kobe (or Magic or whomever) is the unquestioned best anything and can walk on water is a hater and biased.
It’s pure hubris. And it’s bullshit.
Kaveh, you are flat out wrong. Let’s see what Dwyer says in this “hater” article:
Let’s start with the obvious, a line of predictable reasoning that (for some reason) we need to be reminded of from time to time: Kobe Bryant is freakin’ awesome. He probably should have been the MVP in 2005-06, though Dwyane Wade , Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James were all justifiable winners (I still can’t believe Steve Nash , my second favorite player since high school, won that)….
Yup sounds like a hater there.
Look, if someone wants to come in here and debate whether Magic or Kobe was better at getting off their own shot, well, we can. It’s a bit pointless, sort of like the “who is better, LeBron or Kobe debate,” because we are comparing apples and oranges, but it’s the offseason. So the discussion wanders a bit. (And, frankly, the Kobe/LeBron debate and Kobe/Magic debate have some similarities: Do you prefer the freak of nature athlete who learned/is learning to use that in a way to make himself great, or the very good athlete who works so hard to polish his game to a razor’s edge? There is no wrong answer.)
But I don’t get this need for some to think anyone who disagrees with them is a hater or a fool or whatever. I flat out think KD is one of the if not the best basketball blogger out there. Do I agree with him all the time? Hell no. But the guy has insight. And if he thinks someone other than Kobe should be MVP, he can think that. He also said that the Lakers played some of the most beautiful basketball he has seen this year. Somehow Lakers fans can be so “black and white” about things, that it’s all love or all hate, that there are no shades of gray.
On this site, we embrace the shades of gray. Revel in them, really. It’s what makes the world and basketball interesting.
So if you want to argue Kobe belongs in the top 10 defenders, by all means go ahead. It’s a valid argument. But stay away from the assumption that you can’t also make the argument Kobe gambles and roams to much, plays too much free safety, and has to conserve energy for the other end of the floor that he is not one of the 10 best defenders of the decade. Because I can make that argument. And I am far from a Kobe hater.
I think this whole discussion on creating shots rests on whether you mean creating a good, high percentage shot playing basketball the “right” way within the offense or creating an OK shot when the clock is winding down and the offense has broken down. The latter are Kobe’s shots. We all know that. They may not be the best before he shoots it but it looks awfully good when he makes them, which makes us retroactively assign that skill to his ability to “create a shot.” So let’s just leave the argument at both had distinct qualities about them that made us love them as not only Laker legends but as individuals.
Overall, Kaveh, I agree with you that Kobe is a brilliantly skilled player, perhaps even the top 1-3 as you say but I haven’t watched enough basketball to know that for sure.
71. Loving the US Open night matches. Perfect time out here on the West Coast and it’s usually great tennis, like Venus almost losing to another hot Russian chick I have never heard of. There are a lot of those.
Rubio needs to play three seasons with Barca and after that Minny can sign him for more than the rookie scale in the NBA. That’s what will happen. Of course, in three years there will be a new CBA so who knows what the rules will be then.
Finally, new post coming late tomorrow or Wednesday morning. Just some bullet points, but I am finishing up a TrueHoop season preview project with such an early deadline I’m not totally sure I’ll agree with everything I am writing now in a couple months. I really, really hate doing previews this early. But, when you join a network or any group, you make some sacrifices. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never been a big joiner. Anyway, new post coming soon, promise.
Snoop, I’m very excited for the US Open. It is going to be a flat out show. Fed-Nadal would’ve made me salivate as it was, but now that Roddick has stepped up his game? Murray is playing in top shape (man, what a wicked backhand)? Nadal making a mini-comeback? Clijsters a full one? Querrey the Californian who’s playing well? Wow. I am prepared to be entertained.
For anyone who appreciates the grace of Federer’s game, a good read:
Kurt, I always had you pegged as a hater.
Don – I definitely agree. I’ve never liked Roddick because of his attitude (I wish Blake was more the face of American tennis) but he’s definitely playing at such a high level, a few years ago I never would have imagined he could have made this leap. And then you have dark horses who, on any given night, can give the best of them trouble – Tsonga, del Potro for Nadal…it should be an amazing series.
Awesome read on Federer’s footwork, thanks for sharing.
When Rubio comes to NBA he will start his rookie contract. It will most likely happen in 2 years.
Also, eventhough it’s kind of looking to far on time…do you think that in 2 year time, Lakers will try to a shoot at rubio or Flynn?
Kobe and Magic are both equally great at different things.
Personally though, I’d rather watch Magic make the beautiful basketball play than watch Kobe and yell “NO NO NO NO DON’T DO IT!….. Oh ok, good shot” all game.
Both result in a made basket, but one is the reason I love basketball and one makes my girlfriend consider leaving me daily during basketball season.
I gotta say, I agree with Dwyer’s article. Seriously, I rarely agree with the way the MVP is picked. There’s no rhyme or reason to who gets picked. Kobe deserved it in 05-06, and I truly believe that the MVP in 07-08 was KG. Last season, it was hard to argue against Lebron, but I think Kobe had a better season than in his MVP season.
Another writer who gets a lot of “hater” talk here despite his excellent writing is Bill Simmons. I dont agree with his opinions on Kobe and the Lakers, but I’d rather read his stuff than the crap that Hollinger, Stein, Ford, et.al trot out there. That stuff is just boring and predictable. Simmons consistently comes with at least a handful of statements or opinions that are really unique, well thought out, and hard to argue with.
Sorry but I can’t take Simmons seriously as a sports analysis because his Boston homerism clouds his judgement to an inordinate degree. If Kobe Bryant saved SImmons’ family from a burning condominium fire, BS’s next column would be all about how the media overlooked the role that the fireproofing and fire extinguisher played and how Paul Pierce or KG’s defensive intensity would’ve prevented the fire in the first place.
Excellent writing is not something Simmons does. He ties his “insight” into pop culture and it’s entertaining, but just as you don’t like his Lakers commentary, other fans see it the way we do. We just don;t care about what he has to say about other teams, even the Celtics. Another thing he’s good at is saying the things most of think, in an unfiltered way.
I don’t like Hollinger either, because he’s a slave to his computer too often, and I’ve had my differences with KD, but would they ever write about their theory on Kobe practicing faces? Never. So, it sets BS apart, and for that he *seems* like he’s unique. He’s not a reporter or journalist and doesn’t fancy himself one. The others are or do.
77. Why do you say he will be here in two years? My understanding of the CBA (and I may have this wrong) is that if he plays three seasons in Europe he does not need to come in at rookie scale. I can’t see him coming here until he can get paid a fair wage, so I think it’s three years for him.
As for what the Lakers will do at PG in three years, who knows? Honestly, I don’t know what they will do next year. This season Fisher will begin as the starter and Farmar and Brown will get minutes and have the chance to supplant him. If one steps up, the situation clears up. If not, well, then things get unpredictable.
Farmar or Brown better have improved enough to take the minutes or starter gig from Fish. I would say there is obviously more pressure on Jordan Farmar, and going into last season, I would have put money on someone relegating Fish to the bench. Didn’t happen. It needs to happen this year. That’s not knocking Fish though. This should be his last year.
Personally, I would love to see O.J. Mayo in Forum Blue and Gold someday.
I don’t like the bashing of writers unnecessarily either, but putting Bill Simmons in that category is crazy. Simmons has openly admitted he hates the Lakers, he’s a Boston homer, and his prejudices prevent him from being even reasonably biased – he goes well into unreasonable. As far as excellent writing…I think it was Reed who, on this site, pointed out just how many awful, egregious mistakes Simmons made during this playoff run alone.
Simmons is not a sports analyst. He’s a sports fan who used to be funny who gets paid to write entertaining pieces. Like wondah said, Hollinger or Stein don’t have the leeway (or fried brain cells) to talk about women sleeping with Brody from the Hills (I think that’s the name), which makes him seem different.
weak sauce says
I believe that Kobe is one of the top 10 defenders for this decade. However, I also recognize his recent willingness to play free safety over the past 2 seasons. Some people don’t realize how much energy it takes to play defense, and that Kobe’s need to expend energy on offense forces him to play “free safety.” In the end, let’s recognize the overall skill he has for the game, on both ends of the floor. There’s no need for to bring up Kobe’s offensive exploits, but what I really admire is his effort for Team USA, both before and during Beijing. His play as Team USA’s premier perimeter defender was jaw-dropping; watching him guard his fellow all-stars in scrimmages or guarding the best perimeters players from countries such as Lithuania was truly something amazing to watch. Lastly, who can forget his heroics during the gold medal game, including his 4-point play? In the end, he was still the Black Mamba on offense despite the defensive role he had clamored for from the start, just as Coach K asked for during one of the timeouts of that game.
I can understand Kobe’s omission from the top defenders list. Kobe is the type of defender that gives exactly what the situation calls for. There are times when he’s so locked in on defense that no one could score on him. But there are also those times where his mentality is shifted to other aspects of the game and his defense suffers. I think the guys that made KD’s list were/are defenders whose focus on defense rarely wavers and they’re focussed on that side of the court for every minute that they play.
If there was one area of defense where I would say Kobe is one of (if not the) best in the entire league, it would be in denying his man the ball. When Kobe decides you’re not going to touch the ball for a possession, you’re not going to touch it. Whether it be Lebron or Barbosa, he can move his feet, cut off passing angles, and stick to his man better than almost any player I’ve seen over the span of his career. You literally have to set 3 stagger screens on Kobe just to free up his man.
Speaking of trying to get Fisher to the bench (and nobody wants that more than me), here is the Orange County Register on Farmar trying to get the starting spot….
I told you about this a couple months ago because Farmar told me he was asking for a trade but now it comes out… sort of.
LT Mitchell says
Who was a better player – Magic or Kobe?
I agree that “there is no wrong answer”. There are too many factors involved, but when it comes to comparing specific skills, the correct answer can be so obvious that there can in deed be a wrong answer. The opinion that Magic was better than Kobe at creating his own shot is no different than stating Kobe was a better passer than Magic or that Magic was a better dunker than Kobe.
Magic is my favorite player of all time, but anyone who thinks that he was better than Kobe at creating his own shot wreaks of extreme Showtime homerism.
New post up, including addressing Farmar’s comments.
The STD says
82. Kurt, would that give Minny exclusive negotiating rights with Rubio?
I imagine the Wolves would really, really, want Rubio to play on a rookie contract structure, (team options and qualifying offers/RFA and all) even if they can somehow pay him more than the rookie scale (and if so, how much would they be willing to pay him…?)
90. Minny does not lose his rights. Rubio would actually have to sit out playing anywhere for a year to re-enter the draft and go to another team.
Everyone, including Rubio, says he wants to wait two years. So maybe I am wrong about the rookie scale time. As for how much, who knows, but he might come for a league average salary or less, in a deal that could be shorter (two years, team option for a third?) so he could capitalize quickly if he does fit in.
“Sorry but I can’t take Simmons seriously as a sports analysis because his Boston homerism clouds his judgement to an inordinate degree. If Kobe Bryant saved SImmons’ family from a burning condominium fire, BS’s next column would be all about how the media overlooked the role that the fireproofing and fire extinguisher played and how Paul Pierce or KG’s defensive intensity would’ve prevented the fire in the first place.”
HAHAHAHAHA!! funniest comment i have read ever!!