Tuesday, 30 August 2011

THE ULTIMATE NBA FANTASY DRAFT

The year is 2025 and a group of mad scientists have cloned every superstar from NBA history. Conveniently, those players are now all exactly the same age - twenty. Oh, and they're all eligible for the 2025 NBA draft.

Meanwhile, the memories of every NBA coach, general manager, scout and fan have been wiped. Nobody can remember these players' careers, so there is no benefit of hindsight. Jordan hasn't got six rings, LeBron hasn't made The Decision, Alcindor hasn't converted to Islam and Penny hasn't injured his knee.

So, based purely on height, athleticism and talent at the age of twenty, who would be drafted above whom?

This is the NBA's ultimate fantasy draft.

1st Pick
Shaquille O'Neal (C, 7'1", 325lb)
There are plenty of big men to choose from, but none with Shaq's combination of size and athleticism. Dominant post player with thunderous dunks. His only weakness is his free throw shooting but, with the right coaching, he'll soon hit 70% from the stripe. Loves food.


2nd Pick

Wilt Chamberlain (C, 7'1", 275lb)
One of the most impressive physical presences in the draft. Excellent athlete for his size. Can dunk from the free throw line. Needs the ball in his hands to keep him happy. Fills up the box score. Good length (and claims he knows how to use it).




3rd Pick
LeBron James (SF, 6'8", 250lb)
The best overall athlete on the board combining incredible strength, speed and leaping ability for his size. He can slash to the basket but needs to work on his jump shot. Potentially a lockdown defender and triple-double waiting to happen. Charismatic and fiercely loyal.


4th Pick
Lew Alcindor (C, 7'2", 225lb)
Not the strongest center on the board but definitely one of the most skilled - he destroyed opponents during the pre-draft workouts with his sweet hook shot. His height makes him nearly unstoppable. Needs to improve his work ethic to become a dominant defensive force. Deeply religious. Rarely smiles.


5th Pick
Magic Johnson (PG, 6'9", 215lb)
Magic was easily the best passer in pre-draft workouts and made everyone around him better. No matter who was on his side, his teams won games with style during the workouts. Has more groupies than the Beatles.


6th Pick
Kevin Garnett (PF, 6'11", 220lb)
Unbelievably skilled forward for his height. Plays with great intensity, especially on the defensive end where he inspired his teammates and led by example. Good passer. Must add weight and avoid making inappropriate cancer jokes.


7th Pick
David Robinson (C, 7'1", 235lb)
Incredible athlete and defensive force with a chiselled physique. He passes the eye test. Can score in the post or out to fifteen feet. During pre-draft workouts, he shied away from one-on-one battles. Favourite film: Saving Private Ryan.


8th Pick
Chris Webber (PF, 6'10", 245lb)
Jack of all trades. Can pass the ball better than any other power forward. Very skilled player, fun to watch. Can hit the occasional three-pointer. Rebounds well. Athletic. Unusually baggy shorts.


9th Pick
Ralph Sampson (PF/C, 7'4", 228lb)
Incredible leaping ability, especially considering his size. Can hit the mid-range jump shot or attack the basket. Decent defender with potential to develop further in this area. Prefers to play away from the basket. Brittle.


10th Pick
Tim Duncan (PF/C, 7'0", 260lb)
Fundamentally sound big man with good size and strength. Does exactly what you want with little fanfare: rebounds, defends, scores. Likes swimming with sharks. Dislikes showing emotion.


11th Pick
Michael Jordan (SG, 6'6", 215lb)
Otherworldly athlete who only slips this far because big men are more desirable. Lockdown defender who can hit the big shot with the game on the line. Fearless competitor. Suffers no fools. Dabbles in golf, baseball and gambling during spare time.


12th Pick
Kobe Bryant (SG, 6'6", 205lb)
See above (but substitute golf, baseball and gambling with soccer, hotel workers and Italian).


13th Pick
Yao Ming (C, 7'6", 310lb)
Simply a massive human being. Fantastic free throw shooter. Solid passer. Can block shots. His upside is off-the-charts. Cultural differences, language barrier and fragile feet are concerns.


14th Pick
Akeem Olajuwon (C, 7'0", 255lb)
Polished post moves and stingy defense are his calling cards. Can dominate at both ends of the court. Draft position hurt slightly by concerns over his real height and age. Chose basketball over soccer and ballet.


15th Pick
Julius Erving (SF, 6'7", 210lb)
His leaping ability has to be seen to be believed. He soars like a bird and can palm the ball with ease. Intelligent (wanted to be a doctor when he was younger) and charismatic. Massive hands.


16th Pick
Allen Iverson (SG, 6'0", 165lb)
Quickest player in the pre-draft combine. Explosive first step. Flashy dribbler with a lethal crossover move. Can score against players a foot taller. Rebellious nature and hatred of practice hurt his draft stock.


17th Pick
Dwight Howard (C, 6'11", 265lb)
Incredible physique - built like superman and can fly like him too. Intimidating shot-blocker. Post moves are somewhat robotic. Weak free throw shooter. Unnaturally happy.


18th Pick
Larry Bird (SF, 6'9", 225lb)
He has polarized scouts and general managers alike. On the one hand he is a lethal shooter, incredible passer and plays every game like his life depends on it. On the other hand he is slow, white and has an awful haircut.


19th Pick
Patrick Ewing (C, 7'0", 240lb)
Scouts love his defensive potential. Very nice jump shot for a center. Good size. A real grafter - which makes up for his mediocre athleticism. A bit plodding at times. Jamaican.


20th Pick
Penny Hardaway (PG, 6'7", 195lb)
Similar skillset to Magic Johnson but not quite as big or strong and, unlike Magic, can shoot the three with regularity. Talented dribbler and passer. Equally adept at taking over a game or deferring to teammates. Potentially a talented defender. Penchant for wearing a plaster on his cheek.


21st Pick
Bill Walton (C, 6'11", 250lb)
Rumoured to be more like 7'1" (was bare-footed when the measurements were taken, which fits the hippy stereotype). Arguably the best all-around center in the draft, he can do it all. Particularly strong on the boards. Ginger.


22nd Pick
Shawn Kemp (PF, 6'10", 230lb)
Ferocious dunker and shot-blocker. Extremely gifted athlete with great strength and leaping ability. His game still needs refining but he has all the tools to dominate his position. Developing jump shot. Weight Watchers spokesman.


23rd Pick
Dominique Wilkins (SF, 6'8", 230lb)
Offensive machine. Torched Adam Morrison for 63 points in a pre-draft workout. One of the best athletes in the draft and arguably the best dunker but a lazy defender. A highlight reel waiting to happen.


24th Pick
Jason Kidd (PG, 6'4", 195lb)
Good height for his position. Seemingly has eyes in the back of his head. Excellent rebounder for his position. Plays tough defense but can't shoot. Huge head. Unknown ethnicity.


25th Pick
Blake Griffin (PF, 6'10", 251lb)
Tremendous athlete. Explosive forays to the basket. The man you want on the end of your alley-oops. Uncanny dribbling ability for a big man. Strong rebounder and can find the open man. Drives a Skoda. Unknown ethnicity.


26th Pick
Tracy McGrady (SF, 6'8", 235lb)
Cousin of Vince Carter. Excellent all-around ability. Can flat out score the basketball. Excellent range. When he gets hot, he gets really hot. Capable defender... when he wants to be. Exciting player with a flair for the dramatic. Loves to sleep.


27th Pick
Vince Carter (SG, 6'6", 215lb)
Cousin of Tracy McGrady. Recorded the highest vertical leap in the pre-draft combine results. Can score from distance but prefers to attack the basket with reckless abandon. A bit selfish at times. Hates defense and Canada.


28th Pick
Derrick Rose (PG, 6'3", 190lb)
After Iverson, the fastest player in the draft. Incredible first step - can blow past even the toughest defenders. Needs to develop more of a pass-first mentality. Can take over games in the fourth quarter with his scoring ability. Must work on personality.


29th Pick
Dirk Nowitzki (PF, 7'0", 245lb)
The most talented European on the draft board. Exceptional shooting ability, especially for a seven-footer. His fadeaway jump shot is unguardable. One of the most talented offensive players in the draft. Mediocre defender and rebounder. Plans to spend his first paycheck on a sunbed and stylist.


30th Pick
Kevin Durant (SF, 6'9", 215lb)
Similar player to Nowitzki but three inches shorter and twice as cool. Deadly from long range. Potentially a decent defender but must add bulk to his lithe frame. Spokesman for the International Backpacking Community.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

ALL-TIME FLASHIEST PASSERS - THE STARTING FIVE

I read an interesting online debate earlier today. Someone was trying to convince people that Jason Kidd is a better passer than John Stockton (even though Kidd has less career assists and averages fewer assists per game). The argument was based around the fact that Kidd's passes are more flashy and that, if Kidd played his entire career next to someone like Karl Malone, he'd have just as many assists as Stockton.

It's a slightly flawed argument since it shouldn't really matter how flashy a pass is as long as it finds its target and leads to a basket.

However, it got me thinking about who I'd choose if I was selecting the flashiest passers of all-time at each position (no easy task, especially selecting a point guard from a long list of worthy candidates). Eventually, after hours of YouTube-induced nostalgia, I narrowed down my short list to the following starting five...

All-Time Flashiest Passers - The Starting Five

Center
--- Arvydas Sabonis ---
In 1998, while discussing the best teenagers he'd ever seen play basketball, Bill Walton had this to say about Sabonis: "When he was a 19-year-old, before the injuries, and before he put on the weight, he was a seven-foot-three Larry Bird who could do everything". Even after the injuries and the weight gain, Sabonis' passing ability still shone through.


Power Forward
--- Chris Webber ---
There have been numerous players throughout NBA history who failed to live up to expectations, but Chris Webber's unfulfilled potential is perhaps the most perplexing. The man was a wizard with the basketball. The highlights below not only demonstrate Webber's incredible court awareness and passing ability, but also his defense and athleticism. He had a nice career... but it should have been oh so much nicer.


Small Forward
--- Larry Bird ---
An easy choice and, for my money, the best passer ever irrespective of position. Magic Johnson is a close second - and was certainly better at leading the fast break and generally running point duties - but, in a half-court offense, nobody was better than Bird. He could plot the movement of every player on the court and, before anyone even knew about it, he'd somehow put the ball in the hands of a teammate in a position to score. Uncanny.


Shooting Guard
--- Pete Maravich ---
"Maravich was unbelievable. I think he was, like, sort of ahead of his time in the things he did", said Magic Johnson. "He could do things with a basketball I've never seen anybody do", concurred Rick Barry. Just imagine if YouTube existed when Pistol Pete was running the show.


Point Guard
--- Jason Williams ---
Magic Johnson. Steve Nash. Bob Cousy. Jason Kidd. John Stockton. All would have been fine choices at point guard for the All-Time Best Passers Starting Five, but how could I resist White Chocolate? Williams' off-the-elbow pass in the 2000 Rookie All-Star Game is still the best I've ever seen. Forget about the woeful shooting percentages and suspect defense. Just enjoy Jason Williams for what he was - the flashiest passer in NBA history.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

SLAM MAGAZINE HS ALL-AMERICANS: HIT OR MISS?

In 1994, Slam's inaugural High School All-American First Team selections included three seniors (Felipe Lopez, Jerod Ward and Raef LaFrentz) as well as two juniors (Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett). In the years since, Slam has made an annual tradition of announcing their first, second and third team All-Americans. Sometimes the players lived up to the hype (Kobe, Garnett, LeBron, etc) and sometimes they faded into obscurity (Lester Earl, Chris Burgess, Kelvin Torbert, etc).

Being selected as a much-heralded Slam All-American clearly isn't a guarantee of future fame and fortune (although Slam do a much better job than most). In fact, using the 1994-2004 All-American selections as a sample (since it's unfair to include more recent players who might yet make it big in the League), I calculated the following statistics:

- Of all the players selected to the Slam HS All-American first, second or third teams between 1994 and 2004, 26 players (16%) became All-Stars while 37 players (22%) went undrafted.

- Being selected to the Slam HS All-American First Team improves your odds of becoming an All-Star, with 15 players (28%) achieving that feat.

- However, on the other hand, there is a 13% chance that you won't get drafted even if you make it onto Slam's First Team. Just ask Wayne Turner, Jerod Ward, Lester Earl, Chris Burgess, LaVell Blanchard, Kelvin Torbert and Jonathan Hargett.

- If you fail to make one of Slam's All-American teams, fear not. There is still hope. Take solace in the fact that none of the following late bloomers made a Slam All-American team but still went on to appear in at least one NBA All-Star game: Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Hamilton, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Wally Szczerbiak, Kenyon Martin, Steve Francis, David West, Al Horford, Brandon Roy, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris, Chris Kaman, Josh Howard, Michael Redd, Danny Granger, Andrew Bynum, Andre Iguodala, Roy Hibbert, James Harden, Paul George, Joakim Noah and Brook Lopez.

Below is a list of all of the Slam HS All-Americans. Enjoy.

Key:
Red = Undrafted
Green = All-Star
Italics = Junior

2016

First Team:
Harry Giles, power forward, Forest Trail HS, Kernersville, NC
Josh Jackson, small forward, Prolific Prep, Napa, CA
Jayson Tatum, small forward, Chaminade HS, St. Louis, MO
Malik Monk, shooting guard, Bentonville HS, Bentonville, AR
De'Aaron Fox, point guard, Cypress Lakes HS, Katy, TX

Second Team:
Edrice Adebayo, power forward, Christian HS, High Point, NC
Miles Bridges, small forward, Huntington Prep, Huntington, WV
Markelle Fultz, shooting guard, DeMatha HS, Hyattsville, MD
Frank Jackson, shooting guard, Lone Peak HS, Highland, UT
Lonzo Ball, point guard, Chino Hills HS, Chino Hills, CA

Third Team:
De'Andre Ayton, center, Hillcrest HS, Phoenix, AZ
Thon Maker, center, Athlete Institute, Orangeville, Canada
TJ Leaf, power forward, Foothills Christian HS, El Cajon, CA
Jonathan Isaac, power forward, IMG, Bradenton, FL
Terrance Ferguson, shooting guard, Advanced Prep International, Dallas, TX

***



2015

First Team:
Diamond Stone, center, Dominican HS, Milwaukee, WI
Ben Simmons, power forward, Montverde Academy, Montverde, FL
Ivan Rabb, power forward, Bishop O'Dowd HS, Oakland, CA
Jaylen Brown, small forward, Wheeler HS, Marietta, GA
Malik Newman, point guard, Callaway HS, Jackson, MS

Second Team:
Skal Labissiere, center, Lausanne Collegiate, Memphis, TN
Cheick Diallo, power forward, Our Savior New American HS, Centereach, NY
Allonzo Trier, shooting guard, Findlay Prep, Henderson, NV
Antonio Blakeney, shooting guard, Oak Ridge HS, Orlando, FL
Isaiah Briscoe, point guard, Catholic HS, Roselle, NJ

Third Team:
Thon Maker, center, Orangeville Prep, Orangeville, Canada
Henry Ellenson, power forward, Rice Lake HS, Rice Lake, WI
Harry Giles, power forward, Wesleyan Christian HS, High Point, NC
Josh Jackson, small forward, Prolific HS, Napa, CA
Jayson Tatum, small forward, Chaminade HS, St. Louis, MO

***


2014

First Team:
Jahlil Okafor, center, Whitney Young HS, Chicago, IL
Cliff Alexander, power forward, Curie HS, Chicago, IL
Stanley Johnson, small forward, Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana, CA
Emmanuel Mudiay, point guard, Prime Prep, Dallas, TX
Tyus Jones, point guard, Apple Valley HS, Apple Valley, MN

Second Team:
Karl-Anthony Towns, center, St. Joseph HS, Metuchen, NJ
Myles Turner, center, Trinity HS, Euless, TX
Trey Lyles, power forward, Arsenal HS, Indianapolis, IN
Justin Jackson, small forward, HCYA, Houston, TX
Kelly Oubre, small forward, Findlay Prep, Henderson, NV

Third Team:
Kevon Looney, power forward, Hamilton HS, Milwaukee, WI
Theo Pinson, small forward, Wesleyan Christian HS, High Point, NC
Justise Winslow, small forward, St. John's HS, Houston, TX
D'Angelo Russell, shooting guard, Montverde Academy, Louisville, FL
Isaiah Whitehead, shooting guard, Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, NY

***


2013

First Team:
Aaron Gordon, power forward, Archbishop Mitty HS, San Jose, CA
Julius Randle, power forward, Prestonwood HS, Plano, TX
Jabari Parker, small forward, Simeon HS, Chicago, IL
Andrew Wiggins, small forward, Huntington Prep, Huntington, WV
Aaron Harrison, shooting guard, Travis HS, Fort Bend, TX
Andrew Harrison, point guard, Travis HS, Fort Bend, TX

Second Team:
Noah Vonleh, power forward, New Hampton HS, New Hampton, NH
Chris Walker, power forward, Holmes County HS, Bonifay, FL
James Young, small forward, Rochester HS, Troy, MI
Wayne Selden, shooting guard, Tilton HS, Tilton, NH
Kasey Hill, point guard, Montverde Academy, Clermont, FL

Third Team:
Dakari Johnson, center, Montverde Academy, Montverde, FL
Isaiah Hicks, power forward, Webb HS, Oxford, NC
Jarell Martin, power forward, Madison Prep, Baton Rouge, LA
Austin Nichols, power forward, Briarcrest Christian HS, Eads, TN
Bobby Portis, power forward, Hall HS, Little Rock, AK

***


2012

First Team:
Isaiah Austin, center, Grace Prep, Arlington, TX
Nerlens Noel, center, Tilton HS, Tilton, NH
Shabazz Muhammad, small forward, Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, NV
Kyle Anderson, small forward, St. Anthony HS, Jersey City, NJ
Jabari Parker, small forward, Simeon HS, Chicago, IL

Second Team:
Steven Adams, center, Notre Dame HS, Fitchburg, MA
Anthony Bennett, power forward, Findlay HS, Henderson, NV
Grant Jerrett, power forward, Lutheran HS, La Verne, CA
Alex Poythress, small forward, Northeast HS, Clarksville, TN
Marcus Smart, shooting guard, Marcus HS, Flower Mound, TX

Third Team:
Kaleb Tarczewski, center, St. Mark's HS, Southborough, MA
Sam Dekker, small forward, Lutheran HS, Sheboygan, CT
Rasheed Sulaimon, shootingguard, Strake Jesuit HS, Houston, TX
Archie Goodwin, shooting guard, Sylvan Hills HS, Little Rock, AR
Ricardo Ledo, shooting guard, South Kent HS, South Kent, CT

***


2011

First Team:
Michael Gilchrist, forward, St. Patrick HS, Elizabeth, NJ
Austin Rivers, guard, Winter Park HS, Winter Park, FL
Anthony Davis, forward, Perspectives Charter HS, Chicago, IL
Brad Beal, guard, Chiminade Prep HS, St. Louis, MO
Quincy Miller, forward, Westchester Country Day HS, High Point, NC
Marquis Teague, guard, Pike HS, Indianapolis, IN

Second Team:
Rakeem Christmas, forward, Academy of the New Church, Philadelphia, PA
Myck Kabongo, guard, Findlay HS, Henderson, NV
James McAdoo, forward, Norfolk Christian HS, Norfolk, VA
LeBryan Nash, forward, Lincoln HS, Dallas, TX
Adonis Thomas, forward, Melrose HS, Memphis, TN

Third Team:
Khem Birch, forward, Notre Dame HS, Fitchburg, MA
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, guard, Greenville HS, Greenville, SC
Branden Dawson, forward, Lew Wallace HS, Gary, IN
PJ Hairston, guard, Hargrave Military HS, Chatham, VA
Cody Zeller, center, Washington HS, Washington, IN

***


2010

First Team:
Perry Jones, forward, Duncanville HS, Duncanville, TX
Kyrie Irving, guard, St. Patrick HS, Elizabeth, NJ
Jared Sullinger, center, Northland HS, Columbus, OH
Brandon Knight, guard, Pine Crest HS, Coral Springs, FL
Harrison Barnes, forward, Ames HS, Ames, IA

Second Team:
Will Barton, guard, Brewster HS, Wolfeboro, NH
Michael Gilchrist, forward, St. Patrick HS, Elizabeth, NJ
Tobias Harris, forward, Half Hollow Hills West HS, Dix Hills, NY
Josh Selby, guard, Lake Clifton HS, Balitmore, MD
Tristan Thompson, forward, Findlay HS, Henderson, NV

Third Team:
Reggie Bullock, guard, Kinston HS, Kinston, NC
Joe Jackson, guard, White Station, HS, Memphis, TN
CJ Leslie, forward, Word of God HS, Raleigh, NC
Fabricio Melo, center, Sagemont HS, Weston, FL
Deshaun Thomas, forward, Bishops Luers HS, Fort Wayne, IN

***


2009

First Team:
Xavier Henry, guard, Putnum City HS, Oklahoma City, OK
Lance Stephenson, guard, Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, NY
Derrick Favors, forward, South Atlanta HS, Atlanta, GA
John Wall, guard, Word of God Academy, Raleigh, NC
DeMarcus Cousins, forward, Leflore HS, Mobile, AL

Second Team:
Kenny Boynton, guard, American Heritage HS, Plantation, FL
Avery Bradley, guard, Findlay Prep HS, Henderson, NV
Jordan Hamilton, forward, Dominguez HS, Compton, CA
John Henson, forward, Sickles HS, Tampa, FL
Renardo Sidney, forward, Fairfax HS, Los Angeles, CA

Third Team:
Dominic Cheek, guard, St. Anthony HS, Jersey City, NJ
Abdul Gaddy, guard, Bellarmine Prep HS, Tacoma, WA
Ryan Kelly, forward, Ravenscroft HS, Raleigh, NC
Brandon Knight, guard Pine Crest HS, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Michael Snaer, guard, Rancho Verde HS, Moreno Valley, CA

***


2008

First Team:
Samardo Samuels, forward, St. Benedict's HS, Newark, NJ
Jrue Holiday, guard, Campbell Hall HS, North Hollywood, CA
Brandon Jennings, guard, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, VA
Tyreke Evans, guard American Christian HS, Aston, PA
Greg Monroe, forward, Helen Cox HS, Harvey, LA

Second Team:
Al-Farouq Aminu, forward, Norcross HS, Norcross, GA
Ed Davis, forward, Benedictine HS, Richmond, VA
Demar DeRozan, guard, Compton HS, Compton, CA
BJ Mullens, center, Canal Winchester HS, Canal Winchester, OH
Lance Stephenson, guard, Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, NY

Third Team:
William Buford, guard, Libbey HS, Toledo, OH
Devin Ebanks, forward, St. Thomas More HS, Oakdale, CT
Scotty Hopson, guard, University Heights HS, Hokpinsville, KY
Delvon Roe, forward, St. Edward HS, Lakewood, OH
Tyler Zeller, center, Washington HS, Washington, IN

***


2007

First Team:
Kevin Love, forward, Lake Oswego HS, Lake Oswego, OR
Eric Gordon, guard, North Central HS, Indianapolis, IN
Michael Beasley, forward, Notre Dame Prep, Fitchburg, MA
OJ Mayo, guard, Huntington HS, Huntington, WV
Derrick Rose, guard, Simeon HS, Chicago, IL
Kyle Singler, forward, South Medford HS, Medford, OR

Second Team:
Jerryd Bayless, guard, St. Mary’s HS, Phoenix, AZ
Austin Freeman, guard, DeMatha Catholic HS, Hyattsville, MD
Donte Greene, forward, Towson Catholic HS, Towson, MD
DeAndre Jordan, center, Christian Life Academy, Humble, TX
Patrick Patterson, forward, Huntington HS, Huntington, WV

Third Team:
Nick Calathes, guard, Lake Howell HS, Winter Park, FL
JJ Hickson, forward, Wheeler HS, Marietta, GA
Kosta Koufos, center, GlenOak HS, Canton, OH
Greg Monroe, forward, Cox HS, Harvey, LA
Anthony Randolph, forward, Wilson HS, Dallas, TX

***


2006

First Team:
Kevin Durant, forward, Montrose Christian HS, Rockville, MD
Tywon Lawson, guard, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, VA
OJ Mayo, guard, North College Hill HS, Cincinnati, OH
Greg Oden, center, Lawrence North HS, Indianapolis, IN
Brandan Wright, forward, Brentwood Academy, Brentwood, TN

Second Team:
Chase Budinger, forward, La Costa Canyon HS, Carlsbad, CA
Spencer Hawes, forward, Seattle Prep HS, Seattle, WA
Kevin Love, forward, Lake Oswego HS, Lake Oswego, OR
Bill Walker, forward, North College Hill HS, Cincinnati, OH
Thaddeus Young, forward, Mitchell HS, Memphis, TN

Third Team:
Jerryd Bayless, guard, St. Mary’s HS, Phoenix, AZ
Michael Beasley, forward, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, VA
Wayne Ellington, guard, Episcopal Academy, Merion Station, PA
Eric Gordon, guard, North Central HS, Indianapolis, IN
Paul Harris, guard, Notre Dame Prep, Fitchburg, MA

***


2005

First Team:
Monta Ellis, guard, Lanier HS, Jackson, MS
Gerald Green, forward, Gulf Shores Academy, Houston, TX
OJ Mayo, guard, North College Hill HS, Cincinnati, OH
Josh McRoberts, forward, Carmel HS, Carmel, IN
Greg Oden, center, Lawrence North HS, Indianapolis, IN

Second Team:
Andray Blatche, forward, South Kent Prep, South Kent, CT
Tyler Hansbrough, forward, Poplar Bluff HS, Poplar Bluff, MO
Martell Webster, guard, Seattle Prep HS, Seattle, WA
Louis Williams, guard, South Gwinnett HS, Snellville, GA
Julian Wright, forward, Homewood-Flossmoor HS, Flossmoor, IL

Third Team:
Kevin Durant, forward, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, VA
Wayne Ellington, guard, Episcopal Academy, Merion Station, PA
Richard Hendrix, forward, Athens HS, Athens, AL
CJ Miles, guard, Skyline HS, Dallas, TX
Brandan Wright, forward, Brentwood Academy, Brentwood, TN

***


2004

First Team:
Dwight Howard, forward, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, Atlanta, GA
Al Jefferson, forward, Prentiss HS, Prentiss, MS
Shaun Livingston, guard, Peoria Central HS, Peoria, IL
Josh Smith, forward, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, VA
Sebastian Telfair, guard, Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, NY
Marvin Williams, forward, Bremerton HS, Bremerton, WA

Second Team:
LaMarcus Aldridge, forward, Seagoville HS, Dallas, TX
Rudy Gay, forward, Archbishop Spalding HS, Severn, MD
Malik Hairston, guard, Renaissance HS, Detroit, MI
Randolph Morris, forward, Landmark Christian HS, Fairburn, GA
JR Smith, guard, St. Benedict’s Prep, Newark, NJ

Third Team:
Joe Crawford, guard, Renaissance HS, Detroit, MI
Glen Davis, forward, LSU Lab HS, Baton Rouge, LA
DeMarcus Nelson, guard, Sheldon HS, Sacramento, CA
Robert Swift, center, Bakersfield HS, Bakersfield, CA
Darius Washington, guard, Edgewater HS, Orlando, FL

***


2003

First Team:
LeBron James, guard, St. Vincent-St. Mary HS, Akron, OH
Luol Deng, forward, Blair Academy, Blairstown, NJ
Ndudi Ebi, forward, Westbury Christian HS, Houston, TX
Shannon Brown, guard, Proviso East HS, Maywood, IL
Sebastian Telfair, guard, Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, NY

Second Team:
Kris Humphries, forward, Hopkins HS, Minnetonka, MN
Brian Butch, center, Appleton west HS, Appleton, WI
Charlie Villanueva, forward, Blair Academy, Blairstown, NJ
Kendrick Perkins, forward, Ozen HS, Beaumont, TX
Chris Paul, guard, West Forsyth HS, Clemmons, NC

Third Team:
Brandon Bass, forward, Capitol HS, Baton Rouge, LA
David Padgett, forward, Reno HS, Reno, NV
Leon Powe, forward, Oakland Tech HS, Oakland, CA
Travis Outlaw, forward, Starkville HS, Starkville, MS
Mustafa Shakur, guard, Friends Central HS, Wynnewood, PA

***


2002

First Team:
LeBron James, guard, St. Vincent-St. Mary HS, Akron, OH
Carmelo Anthony, forward, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, VA
Raymond Felton, guard, Latta HS, Latta, SC
Amare Stoudemire, forward, Cypress Creek HS, Orlando, FL
Paul Davis, forward, Rochester HS, Rochester Hills, MI

Second Team:
Chris Bosh, forward, Lincoln HS, Dallas, TX
Kendrick Perkins, center, Ozen HS, Beaumont, TX
Jason Fraser, forward, Amityville HS, Amityville, NY
Sebastian Telfair, guard, Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, NY
Rashad McCants, guard, New Hampton School, New Hampton, NH

Third Team:
Shavlik Randolph, forward, Broughton HS, Raleigh, NC
Anthony Roberson, guard, Saginaw HS, Saginaw, MI
Evan Burns, forward, Fairfax HS, Los Angeles, CA
Sean May, forward, Bloomington North HS, Bloomington, IN
Hassan Adams, guard, Westchester HS, Los Angeles, CA

***


2001

First Team:
Dajuan Wagner, guard, Camden HS, Camden, NJ
Eddy Curry, center, Thornwood HS, South Holland, IL
Kelvin Torbert, guard, Northwestern HS, Flint, MI
Kwame Brown, forward, Glynn Academy, Brunswick, GA
Jonathan Hargett, guard, Nat’l Christian, Ft Washington, MD

Second Team:
Tyson Chandler, center, Dominguez HS, Compton, CA
Ousmane Cisse, forward, St Jude HS, Montgomery, AL
David Lee, forward, Chaminade HS, St.Louis, MO
LeBron James, guard, St Vincent-St Mary HS, Akron, OH
Julius Hodge, guard, St Raymond HS, Bronx, NY

Third Team:
TJ Ford, guard, Willowridge HS, Sugar Land, TX
Lenny Cooke, guard, Old Tappan HS, Old Tappan, NJ
Maurice Williams, guard, Murrah HS, Jackson, MS
Sagana Diop, center, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, VA
Julian Sensley, forward, St Thomas More HS, Oakdale, CT

***


2000

First Team:
Gerald Wallace, forward, Childersburg HS, Childersburg, AL
Zach Randolph, forward, Marion HS, Marion, IN
Darius Miles, forward, East St. Louis HS, East St. Louis, IL
Eddie Griffin, forward, Roman Catholic HS, Philadelphia, PA
Marcus Taylor, guard, Waverly HS, Lansing, MI

Second Team:
DeShawn Stevenson, guard, Washington Union HS, Fresno, CA
Chris Duhon, guard, Salmen HS, Slidell, LA
Eddy Curry, center, Thornwood, HS, South Holland, IL
DaJuan Wagner, guard, Camden HS, Camden, NJ
Mario Austin, center, Sumter County HS, York, AL

Third Team:
Jared Jeffries, forward, Bloomington North HS, Bloomington, IN
Jason Parker, forward, Fork Union Military Academy, Fork Union, VA
Caron Butler, forward, Maine Central Institute, Pittsfield, ME
Darius Rice, forward, Lanier HS, Jackson, MS
Omar Cook, guard, Christ the King HS, Middle Village, NY

***


1999

First Team:
DerMarr Johnson, forward, Newport School, Kensington, MD
Donnell Harvey, forward, Randolph-Clay HS, Cuthbert, GA
Jason Williams, guard, St. Joseph’s HS, Metuchen, NJ
LaVell Blanchard, forward, Pioneer HS, Ann Arbor, MI
Jonathan Bender, center, Picayune Memorial HS, Picayune, MS

Second Team:
Keith Bogans, guard, DeMatha HS, Hyattsville, MD
Carlos Boozer, forward, Juneau-Douglas HS, Juneau, AK
Joe Forte, guard, DeMatha HS, Hyattsville, MD
Brett Nelson, guard, St. Albans HS, St. Albans, WV
Kenny Satterfield, guard, Rice HS, New York, NY

Third Team:
Marvin Stone, forward, Grisson HS, Huntsville, AL
Leon Smith, center, Martin Luther King HS, Chicago, IL
Jason Kapono, guard, Artesia HS, Lakewood, CA
Brian Cook, forward, Lincoln Community HS, Lincoln, IL
Casey Jacobsen, guard, Glendora HS, Glendora, CA

***


1998

First Team:
Rashard Lewis, forward, Alief-Elsik HS, Houston, TX
Al Harrington, forward, St. Patrick HS, Elizabeth, NJ
Korleone Young, forward, Hargrave Military Institute, Chatham, VA
Dan Gadzuric, center, Governor Dummer Academy, Byfield, MA
Eric Barkley, guard, Maine Central Institute, Pittsfield, ME

Second Team:
Stromile Swift, center, Fair Park HS, Shreveport, LA
Quentin Richardson, forward, Whitney Young HS, Chicago, IL
Vincent Yarbrough, forward, Cleveland HS, Cleveland, TN
Tayshaun Prince, guard, Dominquez HS, Compton, CA
Ronald Curry, guard, Bethel HS, Hampton, VA

Third Team:
Corey Maggette, forward, Fenwick HS, Oak Park, IL
Joel Pryzbilla, center, Monticello HS, Monticello, MN
JaRon Rush, forward, Pembroke Hills HS, Kansas City, MO
DerMarr Johnson, forward, Newport School, Kensington, MD
Jason Capel, forward, St. John’s Prospect Hall, Frederick, MD

***


1997

First Team:
Baron Davis, guard, Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA
Chris Burgess, forward, Woodbridge HS, Irvine, CA
Lamar Odom, forward, Christ the King HS, Middle Village, NY
Tracy McGrady, forward, Mount Zion Academy, Durham, NC
Elton Brand, forward, Peekskill HS, Peekskill, NY

Second Team:
Shane Battier, forward, Detroit Country Day, Birmingham, MI
Anthony Perry, guard, St. Anthony’s HS, Jersey City, NJ
Dion Glover, guard, Cedar Grove HS, Ellenwood, GA
Ryan Humphrey, forward, B.T. Washington HS, Tulsa, OK
Ron Artest, forward, LaSalle Academy, New York, NY

Third Team:
Larry Hughes, guard, Christian Brothers HS, St. Louis, MO
Luke Recker, guard, DeKalb HS, Waterloo, IN
Mark Karcher, guard, St. Francis Academy, Baltimore, MD
Ricky Davis, forward, North HS, Davenport, IA
Jumaine Jones, forward, Mitchell-Baker HS, Camila, GA

***


1996

First Team:
Kobe Bryant, guard, Lower Merion HS, Ardmore, PA
Tim Thomas, forward, Paterson Catholic, Paterson, NJ
Lester Earl, forward, Glen Oaks HS, Baton Rouge, LA
Jermaine O’Neal, center, Eau Claire HS, Columbia, SC
Mike Bibby, guard, Shadow Mountin, Phoenix, AZ

Second Team:
Ronnie Fields, guard, Farragut Academy, Chicago, IL
Corey Benjamin, forward, Fontana HS, Fontana, CA
Shaheen Holloway, guard, St. Patrick HS, Elizabeth, NJ
Winfred Walton, forward, Pershing HS, Detroit, MI
Jason Collier, center, Catholic Central, Springfield, OH

Third Team:
Charles Hathaway, center, Hillwood HS, Nashville, TN
Mateen Cleaves, guard, Flint Northern HS, Flint, MI
Vassil Evtimov, forward, Long Island Lutheran HS, Brookville, NY
Chris Burgess, forward, Woodbridge HS, Irvine, CA
Lamar Odom, forward, Christ the King HS, Middle Village, NY

***


1995

First Team:
Stephon Marbury, guard, Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, NY
Wayne Turner, guard, Beaver Ccountry Day, Chestnut Hill, MA
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, forward, Wheeler HS, Marietta, GA
Ron Mercer, forward, Good Pasture HS, Madison, TN
Kevin Garnett, forward, Mauldin HS, Mauldin, SC

Second Team:
Kobe Bryant, guard, Lower Merion HS, Ardmore, PA
Vonteego Cummings, guard, Thompson HS, Thompson, GA
Vince Carter, forward, Mainland HS, Daytona Beach, FL
Tim Thomas, forward, Paterson Catholic, Paterson, NJ
Robert Traylor, center, Murray Wright HS, Detroit, MI

Third Team:
Louis Bullock, guard, Laurel Baptist HS, Laurel MD
Shammond Wells, guard, LaSalle HS, New York, NY
Lester Earl, forward, Glen Oaks HS, Baton Rouge, LA
Paul Pierce, forward, Inglewood HS, Inglewood, CA
Randell Jackson, center, Winchendon HS, Winchendon, MA

***


1994

First Team:
Felipe Lopez, guard, Rice HS, New York, NY
Raef LaFrentz, center, M-F-L HS, Monona, IA
Stephon Marbury, guard, Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, NY
Jerod Ward, forward, Clinton HS, Clinton, MS
Kevin Garnett, forward, Mauldin HS, Mauldin, SC

Second Team:
Ricky Price, guard, Serra HS, Gardena, CA
Jelani Gardner, guard, St. John Bosco HS, Bellflower, CA
Danny Fortson, center, Shaler HS, Pittsburgh, PA
Antoine Walker, forward, Mt. Carmel HS, Chicago, IL
Zendon Hamilton, forward, Sewanhaka HS, Floral Park, NY

Third Team:
Vonteego Cummings, guard, Thompson HS, Thompson, GA
Mike Spruell, guard, Albany HS, Albany, NY
Jahidi White, center, Ritter HS, St. Louis, MO
Andrae Patterson, forward, Cooper HS, Abilene, TX
Ron Mercer, forward, Good Pasture HS, Madison, TN

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

REMEMBERING THE STARS OF THE 1950s

My recent top 100 players in NBA history article has raised some interesting discussion on various internet message boards and in the comments section of this very blog about the ranking of stars from the 1950s. For example, reader 'JoeKnows' commented:

"A pretty fantastic job. [However] I think you are still underrating guys from the 50's and before. Mikan and Fulks should be higher, you forgot Bob Davies etc. Overall though, a very solid list. The top 8 is exactly right IMO, the top 25 is pretty much spot on (save for Mikan who I have at #9 all-time)".


Meanwhile, over at HobbyKings, a member known as 'bdrr' had this to say about Bill Simmons' rankings (which, amongst others, were analysed in the production of my own rankings):

"[Simmons'] judgements of greats from the past are simply judgements of the raw numbers. His low rankings of Joe Fulks and George Mikan should be evidence enough."

I tend to agree with both 'JoeKnows' and 'bdrr'.

Most basketball fans - myself included - are too young to have ever seen the likes of Bob Davies or Joe Fulks play. Meanwhile, we have a fresh memory of recent and current NBA stars.

Although ranking the best players of all-time is a fun exercise, it is of course impossible to compare someone like George Mikan to Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq would eat him alive. But that shouldn't be held against Mikan. After all, you can only beat the players put in front of you, and Mikan did just that on his way to becoming arguably the most dominant player of the 1950s.

Therefore, in my opinion, when comparing players from different eras, we should give greater weighting to achievements such as All-NBA 1st Team selections, i.e. indicators of a player's dominance during his era. Mikan (who is ranked 31st in my article), for example, has more All-League 1st Team selections than Scottie Pippen, Dwyane Wade, Walt Frazier, David Robinson, John Stockton, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Dirk Nowitzki, John Havlicek, Moses Malone and even Bill Russell... all of whom are ranked above Mikan.

In other words, you could argue that Mikan was more dominant in his respective era than any of the players I just listed.

That has to count for something.

To conclude, I believe that some authors of all-time rankings are too quick to dismiss the accomplishments of players from the 1950s. Instead, they give players like Mikan and Fulks arbitrary rankings based on an acceptance of the fact that, yes, the players dominated their eras, but, no, they wouldn't dominate today.

I personally think that is unfair. After all, you can only beat the players and teams put in front of you. Mikan and Fulks did just that. They were the Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan of their era.

Lets not forget.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

NBA LOCKOUT LEADS TO NEW ERA

Over the last few months, I've watched every All-Star Game from 1984 to 2000. Every year, I try to predict (obviously with the benefit of hindsight) which new players will be given their All-Star berth and, simultaneously, try to determine which players we have seen the back of due to old age. It's like watching NBA history play out in front of me while sat on the sofa with a beer in hand.

Watching the 2000 All-Star Game earlier today, it became clear that a new era of basketball had started.

There was no All-Star Game in 1999 due to he NBA's lockout - a very real (and depressing) possibility for the 2012 extravaganza scheduled for Orlando. Therefore, two years had passed between the 1998 game and the 2000 game held in Oakland, California.

And boy, did a lot change in those two years.

An incredible nine players made their All-Star debut in 2000. To put that into perspective, just three players made their All-Star debut in 2011.


By 2000, gone were Michael Jordan (temporarily), Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler and Patrick Ewing from the All-Star proceedings. Meanwhile, although David Robinson, Karl Malone and John Stockton appeared in the 2000 spectacle, all were reaching the end of their legendary careers.

In their place? Allen Iverson and Vince Carter were amongst those making their All-Star debuts. Other soon-to-be superstars made just their second or third appearances: Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd.

Out with the old, in with the new.

This got me thinking... might we see a similar occurrence as a result of this year's lockout? The lockout certainly threatens the likelihood of the 2012 All-Star Game taking place which means NBA fans would have to wait until February 2013 for the next showcase of the League's elite players.

By then, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will be 36 while Kobe Bryant will be 34; at 39 years of age, you would expect Steve Nash and Jason Kidd to be past caring; Shaq is already retired; Iverson is out of the league; TMac may as well be. Out of this group, only Kobe and, at a push, KG stand a realistic chance of playing in the 2013 game.

Obviously there will be some familiar faces. Players like LeBron James and Dwight Howard will be at the peak of their abilities in 2013, in the same way that Shaq bridged the gap during the lockout enforced delay-of-play between 1998 and 2000.

But, when you next watch an NBA All-Star Game, things could look very different.


All of which reminds me of an old Nike advert. It went a little (but not quite) like this...

The revolution will be led by Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kevin Love and Kevin Durant

The revolution will be about basketball, and basketball is the truth.


ALL-STAR ANALYSIS: KOBE vs JORDAN (1998)

Even though Kobe Bryant was just 19-years-old at the time, I remember watching the 1998 All-Star Game feeling fairly confident that it was one of those 'passing of the torch' moments. Looking back at it now, that's exactly what it was.

Kobe Bryant was selected as the starting shooting guard for the Western Conference All-Stars. Of course, the opposing two guard was Michael Jordan - his last All-Star appearance as a Chicago Bull. How would the teenager fair against the greatest of all-time?

Last week, I sat down to watch the game on DVD having not seen it for over thirteen years. Looking back at it now, it was truly one of legendary battles in All-Star history.

In 1997-98, Kobe Bryant averaged 15.4ppg for the season compared to Jordan's 28.8ppg. But don't be fooled by Kobe's relatively low output. Only the most pessimistic observer would have doubted Kobe's potential to go on to be a superstar despite his role as a bench player for the Lakers. Indeed, he was one of only a few bench players ever selected to the All-Star Game, biding his time behind Eddie Jones, himself a talented two-way player chosen to be an All-Star that same year.

Despite being the Lakers' 6th man, Kobe proved in the 1998 All-Star Game that he belonged. He finished the game with 18 points on 6-for-17 shooting including 2-for-3 from long range, all the more impressive when you consider he played just 22 minutes.

At one point, Kobe caused a stir with a memorable behind-the-back-dribble layup that left even ball-handling maestro Isiah Thomas (who was offering colour commentary) in awe. (Please excuse the poor quality video - I know HDTV wasn't invented yet, but come on, 1998 wasn't that long ago).


One year removed from his success in the 1997 dunk contest, Kobe reminded us in the 1998 All-Star Game that he was one of the highest flyers in the entire league, as shown in this clip with Kobe finishing the alley-oop off Kevin Garnett's pass.


And yet, despite Kobe's highlights, he was completely outplayed by Michael Jordan when the two players were on the court at the same time.

Jordan finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists and an MVP trophy. He schooled the young pretender with a variety of moves including his patented fade-away jump shot (which, by 1998, he had mastered like no other player before or since) and Kevin McHale-inspired post moves.


Watching the two players go head-to-head was like watching Darth Vader toy with a young Luke Skywalker. The only difference, of course, was that, unlike Darth Vader, Jordan emerged victorious*.

However, despite Jordan outplaying Kobe, it's unfair to draw too many conclusions from the 1998 All-Star Game. Did it prove that Jordan was better than Kobe? Well, yes, certainly at the time. But Kobe was about 10 years away from reaching his peak. Did he ever reach a peak as high as Jordan's? In this writer's opinion, no.

What isn't up for debate, however, is that both players gave it their all in the 1998 All-Star Game. Such games are usually devoid of defense, but that wasn't the case when Kobe and Jordan went head-to-head. Neither player wanted to be embarrassed. Jordan wanted to retain his title as the greatest of all-time, and Kobe wanted to snatch it from him. Given the stages they were at in their respective careers, both players came out smelling of roses. Kobe proved he belonged. Jordan proved he was still the greatest.

*This will be the first and last time I use a Star Wars analogy. I don't even like the film.