The Ultimate Goal in the NBA
Every NBA generation produces a new crop of superstars that are destined for the Hall of Fame, but will never get their opportunity to lovingly fondle the Larry O’Brien trophy. This might lead one to question why the skills, talents and statistics required to garner a bust in the Basketball Hall of Fame do not equate to the intangibles that make one a champion.
The following is a list explaining why five Hall of Famers never became champions, and why the five present day superstars WILL NEVER be champions.
You can draw your own parallels and come to your own conclusions.
Wilkins' legacy is built on endless video clips of him dunking on or shooting over three defenders while his teammates stood and watched. Even though he played on well built teams featuring truly fine role players such as Doc Rivers, Kevin Willis, Antoine Carr and Reggie Theus, Dominique felt it was necessary to do it all alone.
My lasting memory is of Wilkins taking a three pointer against three defenders while down 1 point with 5 seconds left in game 7 of a playoff series. There was just enough time to pass it to deadly scorer Reggie Theus, who stood all alone and watched as Wilkins missed.
Enjoy the highlight reel because it shows why he is in the Hall of Fame though he never won anything.
Patrick Ewing lost in his single NBA championship series appearance
When taking inventory of Ewing’s gifts one might come to the conclusion that he had everything it takes to be a champion. He was a great defender, employing both maximum effort and consummate skills. He was a good teammate. He had size, speed for his size, functional, if not great hands, a fierce demeanor, a very tough jump hook and that turnaround, fall away jumper that was unstoppable by a single defender.
The one thing he did not have was the charisma that is consistent with the ability to lead men. He was stoic, the strong silent type. He was never the type of vocal presence upon whom championship teams rely for words of wisdom, encouragement and a swift kick in the rear when necessary. He also never played with another truly great, hall of fame player who may have vocally augmented the example Ewing set with his great play.
He did lead the 93-94 Knicks to the Eastern Conference Championship and the NBA Finals where they lost to Houston. BUT! his Eastern Conference Championship doesn’t mean much because he didn't beat Jordan to get win it. Mike was in a batting cage somewhere preparing to play baseball that summer.
Charles Barkley was never great enough to make his teammates great
Michael Jordan made the likes of B.J Armstrong, Craig Hodges, Steve Kerr and John Paxson household names because he trusted them in big moments. Jordan’s greatness elevated these marginally talented role players to heights they never would have achieved without his energy, inspirational play and faith in their singular ability.
Barkley was NOT an inspiration to his teammates. It's hard to deny the great talent which transcended his position. Barkley had the ability to get a rebound over Karl Malone, dribble coast to coast on John Stockton and dunk in Mark Eaton's face, all in the same play. But it wasn't Barkley that the Suns looked to for leadership in his single NBA finals appearance. It was Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle that were the emotional leaders of that team.
From time to time Barkley speaks of his playing days in his capacity as a NBA analyst. He jokes about taking plays off on the defensive end and telling people he was not brought to the NBA to play defense. He still doesn't understand that his inconstant effort on the defensive end may have cost him the chance to put a lip lock on the golden orb. When the best player on a team regularly shows a lack of effort in a key aspect of the game, his teammates figure their effort can wax and wane as well.
Of course Barkley had the same bit of bad luck as did our next two Hall of Famers.
John Stockton and Karl Malone: Inexorably Link
These two require but a single slide because ones greatness is inexorably linked to the others for all-time. There was no selfish play from the all time assist leader and second all-time scoring leader. These were two hard nose effort players with the finest skill sets for their respective positions. Neither of them ever took a play off and one could not help but be inspired by their work ethic.
Each year the Jazz went about the business of putting together the right pieces to compliment their two all-time greats. They put together some truly fine teams but in 96-97 and 97-98 they finally won their 2 Western Conference Championships.
No one is more deserving than these two hard working throwbacks. Unfortunately, they ran into the same bit of bad luck as did Ewing and Barkley . They played in what can only be characterized as the Jordan era. Do I need to go on?
There is a new generation of “snake bit” superstars on the horizon. Some are faced with an ever closing window of opportunity. They all have enough game to get them the bust in the hall but lack that elusive something required to raise the Larry O’Brien.
The following is a list of current superstars who will never be champions in my opinion.
What's YOUR opinion?
Nowitzki is hard to stop but can't stop anyone
Dirk’s jump shot brings to mind the Sky Hook, Kevin McHale’s up and under move, Wilt’s ugly little finger roll and George Gervin’s beautiful finger roll. Nowitzki’s release point is at the highest point his arms can reach over his 7 foot frame. His jumper makes me think of the aforementioned shots because Dirk might make it, or he might miss it, but the efforts of a single defender have little bearing on the outcome.
The problem with Dirk Nowitzki is that he can’t guard anyone. He is too slow to guard small forwards, too slight for power forwards. Centers? Did I mention he’s too slight for power forwards?
The NBA has changed and Dallas has attempted to change as well. Dallas is not the run up and down trying to score 120 team that it once was. They have changed personal, coaching staffs and they have an owner who has deep pockets and is committed to winning. Unfortunately for Dallas, they cannot win with a defensive liability at power forward in a conference where Bynum, Gasol and Odom, Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge. Luis Scolla, and upstart Blake Griffin patrol the paint.
No one in the league was happier to see Amare Stoudemire’s arm pits go to New York. I mention Amare's pits because that’s all Nowitzki saw when Stoudemire dunked in his mug piece.
The offensive juggernaut is a defensive liability
How many championship teams have there been where the point guard was their best player? There was Magic's Lakers in the 80s, but Magic passed it to All-time scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hall of Famers James Worthy and Bob McAdoo.
One could argue the 69-70 Knicks with Walt Frasier, but what about Hall of Famers Willis Reed, Bill Bradley and Dave DeBusschere. Perhaps Jerry West's Championship Lakers in 71-72? Didn't they have Wilt, Elgin Baylor and Gail Goodrich, all in the Hall of Fame?
Even at this age Steve Nash is still great. The man is a wizard with the ball, however, he has no Hall of Fame players to share in his wizardry. He and Amare Stoudemire were one of the greatest pick and roll tandems in the history of the game. They were right up there with West and Baylor and Stockton and Malone. Amare is in New York.
The problem is that there simply is not enough time left in his career to develop the kind of relationship he had with Amare Stoudemire and Dirk Nowitzki when he was in Dallas.
Another problem is that Steve was not a stout defender in his youth and the league has been infused with more good, young point guards than it has seen in many years. That leaves Phoenix with no solid big men and a point guard who is an offensive juggernaut, but can't guard anyone.
You may be thinking "didn't the Suns give the Lakers all they could handle last year in the Western Conference Championship series?" Yes, and Nash was great. He was also matched up with another aging point guard who is not exactly blowing by anyone these days. This year Nash may be exposed by Williams of Utah, if Utah can stay healthy for once.
There have been rumors of Nash going to New York. Well we've already seen what D'Antoni, Nash, and Stoudemire can do and it is not play tough D. It has been said that defense wins championships. I have to subscribe to this point of view. Sorry folks, Nash never wins a championship.
New team, new point guard, same old Amare
The moment Amare Stoudemire recovered from micro-fracture surgery with a 17 foot jumper in tow, he became truly dangerous. Now that defenders must guard him on the perimeter there are many spectacular highlights of Stoudemire pump faking, blowing by opponents and dunking, in a losing effort.
However, I have no doubt that the Knicks plan to build around their newly acquired superstar who has a chance to be counted among the best power forwards ever to play.
Wait, did I write that...Not so fast. Who are the best power forwards ever to play?
Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, Elvin Hayes, Charles Barkley, and Kevin Garnett
An ordinary power forward is a brute with size, strength and limited ball skills. He is a grunt that does the dirty work and every team needs one. The difference between the aforementioned players and Kurt Rambis and Marc Iavaroni is that on any given night these men might drop 25 points and grab 15 rebounds.
The thing that makes them like Kurt Rambis and Marc Iavaroni is that they're effort players who leave it all on the floor, on every play, every night. That is what separates all these men from Stoudemire.
Phoenix had a shot to steal the Western Conference Championship series from the Lakers in 2009-2010 had Amare showed up for every single play, every single night. In my opinion, an elite power forward should average 10 rebounds or better per night for a career. That's why Connie Hawkins doesn't make my list.
When you are gifted with size, strength, speed and leaping ability and you are a power forward who does not pull down 10 a night, it is not your ability that's in question, it's your effort. That's why Stoudemire never wins a championship.
Clearly not practice
Allen Iverson is perhaps the saddest of these sad stories. We are talking about ALLEN IVERSON who once took an NBA team to the Finals as close to by himself as one can get. Unfortunately, this speaks to the weakness of the Eastern Conference in 2000-2001, rather than Iverson's efficacy as the Sixers' leader.
Still, the fact that he is 6'0" tall and 165lbs, he was the MVP and actually managed to win a game in the NBA Finals, against the mighty, Phil Jackson coached Lakers, with Shaq and Kobe is more than amazing. The fact that he managed all that without anyone on his team that could even sniff the Hall of Fame without purchasing a plane ticket, renting a car and attending a guided tour is phenomenal.
The sad thing about Iverson is that after the 2000-2001 season he never learned how to play a role on an NBA team. Not even the role of superstar. He could be playing in the NBA in 2010-2011 but no one wanted him, lest they suffer the fate of Joe Dumars and his Pistons. Joe Dumars traded Chauncey "Mr. Big Shot" Billups to Denver for Iverson. He got greedy for the points per game. It was like taking a wrecking ball to his team chemistry.
Iverson is on this list because he won't lay down the delusion that he is still capable of what he did in his MVP year. If he were to come off the bench for 15 minutes per game to provide a scoring punch, he could help a team, maybe even a championship team. Instead, he seems content to be the Nora Desmond of the NBA, and exile to Turkey is his Sunset Boulevard. That's why Allen Iverson NEVER wins a championship.
Shooting on 3 defenders? That's one of the reasons why he'll NEVER win a championship
It may have been Glenn "Doc" Rivers who coined the phrase "hero basketball." "Hero Basketball" refers to those who attempt to take the weight of a whole team on their shoulder while losing sight of their role in the team concept. But there's something worse than "hero basketball" that Doc knows all about having played with Dominique Wilkins. "I'm gonna get mine basketball" is far worse than "hero basketball." The "hero" thinks he's doing it for the team. The "I'm gonna get mine" guy is playing for himself.
I hesitated to say things like "never wins a championship" about one so young and so talented. After all there is only one Big O, one Magic, one Larry and one LeBron. They are the only ones who knew how to make others better instinctively. Everyone else had to learn.
Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas were both able to learn that they couldn't do it alone. They learned to let their greatness flow to their teammates, raising them to the highest level an NBA player can achieve, a champion. I tried my best to give the kid the benefit of the doubt.
When Denver wisely traded Iverson for Chauncey "Mr. Big Shot" Billups, I had high hopes for Anthony. I never thought Chauncey was the final championship piece for Denver. However, I did think he would bring that consummate professional, "play the right way," attitude, instilled in him by Larry Brown. I thought some of it would rub off on Anthony. I know that's what George Karl was hoping.
When you watch Denver games now you see Chauncey "getting his" because he knows Anthony is just racking up the points so he can get paid when he gets out of there next year.
The prevailing rumors have "Melo" joining Amare Stoudemire with Coach Mike D'Antoni, for whom defense is an after thought. Do I have to say it? These guys NEVER win a championship.