This is a special edition of the Tuesday Ramblings as these are being written from Times Square!
Let’s start with baseball. This is the opening week of the season and it is about time! America needs its baseball. If you’re looking for a lot of early predictions for the season now that the games are underway, you’re probably in the wrong place. One of the hardest things to do in sports is to understand that the first week is technically just like any other baseball week: Some guys are going to have good and bad games, but ultimately it will not prove to be a useful barometer for the rest of their season. The sample size is simply too small. In fact, many of the players having good weeks are doing so right now because they are simply in better shape and more ready to play baseball earlier than their counterparts. Once the rest of the MLB catches up to them their stats could very easily drop right off. The opposite could be said for some slow starters. Many of these guys are simply struggling to remember that they should have been ready for these games as these are the ones that count. Yet, when they get into the right mindset and enter into game shape they could also start to return to their normal projected stats or even spike as they get more comfortable. In the end, just remember, it’s only going to have been a week.
On the other end of the sports world (the one where sample size counts for nothing,) UNC has clinched the NCAA men’s basketball championship. So, just in case anyone was wondering which team in college basketball could go on a five-game winning streak first during the last two weeks of March, well, it was UNC. I still don’t get college basketball…
Despite their NCAA championship, NBA teams should not be in too much of a hurry to plunder UNC’s roster. One of the dirty little secrets of college basketball is that its power houses do not always create the best players at the next level. Look at UNC’s rival Duke. They have produced in the last 15 years: Grant Hill, Elton Brand, and a host of role players. However, to be fair, those have all generally been very solid, smart role players. Thus, if you are near the end of the first round or have an early second rounder and could use a solid role player, it is then that you have the best reason to draft from the defending college champs.
The basketball Hall of Fame announcements came out recently. Among those getting enshrined: Michael Jordan, John Stockton, David Robinson, and Jerry Sloan. I have no idea who Vivian Stringer is but she is also getting enshrined. That is the problem right now for NBA fans. There is a hall of fame for only NFL players, coaches, contributors and (for the most part) only MLB players, managers, and contributors. As for the NBA, they share their hall of fame with the international community. There isn’t anything gigantically wrong with that, but there simply would be a large market for an NBA only hall of fame as well. That way someone like Vivian Stringer (who is the third winningest coach in women’s college basketball) can be properly celebrated for her contributions to the game of basketball, and at the same time not be shoved down the throats of NBA fans. This isn’t meant to be disrespectful to Stringer; I simply never saw her play, and would rather a day be made to celebrate the NBA that I did watch, rather than the college basketball whose appeal I still cannot understand.
Michael Jordan transcended the game of basketball. While he was the NBA’s greatest player of all time, he was and still is also a global icon. His fans included (other than simply normal basketball fans) people who had never even seen a basketball. Hell, Kim Jong-il the dictator of North Korea is reportedly a huge basketball fan to the point that Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ended her summit with Kim by presenting him with a basketball signed by Jordan (thank you wikipedia!) That being said, there is a foolish growing sentiment that Jordan should have been enshrined alone. Listen, if you want to spend a day hero worshipping Jordan’s impact on the game of basketball, just go to your nearest store that sells Nike or Hanes products. Stockton, Robinson, and Sloan were not in the same class as Jordan as players/coach, but they were not so far off that they should have to wait a year.
Ultimately that’s the worst development that has occurred since Jordan’s retirement. People have decided to turn the greatest basketball player ever into a legend that cheapens his true self. Jordan was able to bring basketball to the masses. The fact that he no longer plays basketball does not mean that the masses should suddenly turn in those balls simply because Kobe or Lebron are not his Airness. Jordan was not some god that was so amazing that no one has a chance of ever being close to his level. At least for me, the appeal of Jordan’s greatness was that he was so strong willed and disciplined that he worked himself into becoming the greatest basketball player of all time. Not that he wasn’t talented (he was ridiculously so,) but it was his work ethic that kept him at the top of his game and not some random born-with ability.
As for John Stockton, he will go down as one of the greatest point guards of all time. If it wasn’t for Jordan, Stockton would probably have two championship rings, and my Lakers were always flummoxed in the late 1990s whenever they faced him. He was a great passer, a clutch shooter, and a smart defender. What’s more is that he so routinely sacrificed his body for this love of the game. Time after time, Stockton would hit the deck in order to draw a charge against a man much larger than he. When Chris Paul ages into the second half of his career, he should be given all of Stockton’s game tapes in order to learn from the last man to wear short shorts (although I was in fact happy that that fashion statement retired when Stockton did.)
As for the present in the NBA, it cannot be a good week for a San Antonio Spurs fan. That’s because Manu Ginobili was lost for the rest of the year due to a fracture in his ankle. The news was quite a blow to the veteran Spurs who were already showing too many signs of age. Hopefully, Ginobili is able to return next year at full strength, but this has quickly become a nightmare for the entire NBA and not just the Spurs. While you want to support your players when they decide to play for their countries in international competitions, the risk of injury or making an existing one worse—especially in slightly worse arenas with slightly worse training staff—is simply higher than in the NBA. The solution in my eyes is to have the countries or non governmental organizations within the countries insure any NBA players (or any international players for that matter) some percentage of their salary so that if they do get hurt, the owner is not penalized for allowing his players to show their national pride. Another possible solution would be to give NBA teams immediate cap relief should one of their players get hurt while playing in international competition. These aren’t perfect solutions should Dirk Nowitzki or Manu Ginobili for example get hurt, but they can’t hurt either.
That is all for another edition of the Tuesday Ramblings. Join us again next week when Jumpball once again tackles the prominent issues in sports for the week!