Jordan McClelland in action for the Irish 1996 team vs Wales
Time to take a look at another up and coming Irish basketball player as we focus on 1996 born Jordan McClelland. The Derry born guard currently stands at 6’1″ and has an impressive all round game combining a high basketball IQ with an array of excellent basketball fundamentals.
Due to the fact that he has only turned 16 McClelland has only had the opportunity to play in three senior games (In Ireland you are prohibited from playing in senior competition until you turn 16) and the Irish junior international has wasted no time in making a strong impression. He finished as the games overall top scorer as North Star played Ulster Elks (26 points) and Queens (22 points) and also dropped 18 vs Ballymena Blackstone in the BNI Premier League just last week. McClelland has also performed well for St Columb’s College, just yesterday he scored 26 points in the Ulster Schools b final as St Columb’s held on to defeat Aquinas 75-69.
McClelland is a part of the current 24 man Irish squad in training for the 2014 u18 European Championships and his main aim over the next season will be continue to improve in order to make the cut to the final 12. Check out the TCC highlight video below featuring clips from McClelland’s first few games of the 2012/13 season.
The name O’Sullivan is one of the most prominent in Irish basketball, and nineteen year old Adrian is one of the most impressive basketballers to come from this family.
The Corkman, who has been the front man of many successful seasons for Ballincollig, has crossed over to the States to attend Trinity Pawling Prep school. Previous pupils of this school are fellow Irish players Sean Kilmartin and Ciaran McVeigh.
It is not difficult to see how Adrian became such a talent so quickly, coming from such a basketball crazy family. Both his parents, Francis and Grace, are coaches in Ballincollig Basketball Club and his older brother Ciaran is another of the country’s finest young players.
Always quick to pass off the credit for his success O’Sullivan claims inspiration from local stars like Ger Noonan, Shane Coughlan and Colin O’Reilly who he grew up watching every week. But it is clear that without his passion for the sport he would not have developed to the standard he is at today, “Day in day out I bounced a basketball and I haven’t stopped to this day.”
Throughout his underage career O’Sullivan’s Ballincollig team built up an incredible record, suffering only three defeats in seven years, one in a Billy Kelly Cup Final and another in a National Cup under-18 semi-final. Under the coaching supervision of Francis O’Sullivan Ballincollig developed into one of the strongest and most consistent teams in the country and Adrian was the star man all the way.
O’Sullivan has being playing in the States this season.
Following in his brother’s footsteps, Adrian made the decision to move to the States to attend a prep school this year and has described it as the most amazing experience of his life. However, despite this he has had to adjust to the higher standards and levels of intensity involved in playing basketball in America. He described how tough it is training “every single day for two hours, including two games a week and sometimes three.”
O’Sullivan says his tough training regime is essential not only to develop as a player, but merely to keep up with the players around him. Some of the players he trains with and plays against are being scouted for colleges every time he plays. From being the benchmark for high standards to suddenly struggling with the standard must have been a major challenge for O’Sullivan, but he has coped well already notching up a couple of huge performances.
Twice this season O’Sullivan has gone insane from the three-point line with 23 point games. In each game Adrian contributed seven threes and in the second game had five of them in the fourth quarter in a two point win which brought his team to the top spot of their conference. Performances like this are bound to attract the attention of scouts, however O’Sullivan says he is still undecided over whether he wants to attend college in America or return to Ireland.
His decision will be depending on what colleges offer him a place and whether he could get work when he returns home to Ireland. However he put it perfectly himself, “No matter what decision I make I know there’ll be a basketball in my hand, and that’s never a bad thing.”
Check out some highlights from Adrian’s year in the states:
The Courtside Collective have teamed up with Intrepid Sportswear to bring all of our readers the chance to win some exclusive EBC Rucker Park Basketball Uniforms! Read below for details on how you can enter this fantastic competition!
One of the exclusive EBC Uniforms that is up for grabs!
Intrepid Sportswear is now in operation here in Ireland delivering American style, pro quality Basketball uniforms at all-inclusive pricing to clubs, schools and colleges throughout Ireland, the UK and Europe.
To celebrate the opening of the European office we are offering two people the chance to win one of our basketball kits that were custom-designed and supplied to this year’s Entertainers Basketball Classic held at the iconic Harlem outdoor basketball court Rucker Park in New York.
The famous Streetball league has hosted some of basketball’s greatest stars including Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant and Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant, plus this year the Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans.
“Landing something like the EBC lends an urban credibility to our brand,” said Rob Grabow, founder of Intrepid Sportswear. “The history, culture, and stories engrained in Rucker Park and the EBC make it one of the biggest draws in the world for anyone with a passion for the game of basketball.”
All you have to do to win one these Intrepid uniforms is log on to the Intrepid Sportswear Facebook page, hit the ‘Like’ button and post a comment our banner photo of the EBC uniforms to let us know which current or past NBA player would make the ultimate Streetball player and why.
Intrepid Sportswear and The Courtside Collective will vote on which answer has the most street cred and post the winners on this site. The closing date for entries is 11th June.
For more information on Intrepid uniforms for your club, school or college please email email@example.com
TCC is committed to raising the profile of basketball and improving the basketball culture in Ireland, both North and South of the border. We are always thinking of new and exciting ways to unite basketball players on the Island of Ireland, regardless of club affiliation.
This Summer, TCC will be hosting the second annual WingfootSummer Rec League for Men and open court pick-up basketball for Women (July & August) in Queen’s PEC, Belfast, from 7pm – 9pm. We are excited to be working in partnership with Wingfoot,
The format is:
Two Games (per night),
2x 20 minute halves (each game),
Two separate competitions (Men’s League & Women’s Pick-Up)
Teamsdrafted by “Team Captains”
LIVE DRAFT social event (Tuesday24th June @ Harlequins, 7.30pm – 9pm)
FREE TCC Top (Each team given the same colour of shirt – becomes your jersey/kit)
Women’s Competitive Pick-Up
This Summer, we will be running a competitive Women’s Pick-Up basketball session alongside the Men’s League. Sign up now for 8 weeks and receive a FREE TCC T-shirt… all for the low cost of £30. Tell your teammates. Remember, this is open to basketball players only and the session will be competitive. Teams will be evenly split each night!
Pay as you play: £4 per night
CLOSING DATE: Wednesday 19th June
PLEASE NOTE, THE LEAGUES ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR BEGINNERS/NOVICES!
Event Launch – Mon 24th June (Harlequins)
The teams have been chosen by our six team captains:
Sean Wynne (Queen’s Basketball Club)
Feargal Toner (Belfast Star)
Michael Campbell (Belfast Stormers)
Paddy McGaharan (Ulster Elks)
Andrew Dolliver (Queen’s Basketball Club)
Mike Calo (Belfast Star)
The ‘draft’ took place this past weekend. Each team captain thoroughly enjoyed the experience and had a lot of fun acting as GMs. We are excited to get the league going!
TCC will host a Launch Event at Harlequins Rugby Club (Deramore Park, Malone Road) on Monday 24th June. Doors open at 7.30pm with the Draft beginning sharp at 8pm. ALL players will receive their exclusive TCC Wingfoot T-Shirt on the night!
On the evening, we will announce the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks and then the final members of each team will be called out in a random order. We hope it will be a fun, friendly, inclusive, and sociable event to get the recreational Summer League kicked off.
The NBA breaks this weekend for its annual All-Star game, a game which TCC was fortunate enough to attend last year in Houston. The All-Star Game, while lacking in the intensity of some regular season games, does allow the best players to showcase their skills and, in some cases, network with their fellow players in a more cordial environment than the “heat of battle” of the regular season.
It also allows us pause for reflection of the first few months of the season and take stock of where we are, particularly looking ahead to the end of the season and the playoffs. Here are a few of my own observations and thoughts about what has gone on over the past few weeks:
The East is AWFUL: The Eastern Conference is truly playing up to the old “Leastern Conference” moniker. Four teams are over .500 at the moment: Miami, Atlanta, Toronto (!) and Indiana. The Bulls and Wizards are only a game under .500 as well. That means a team with a sub-.500 record will almost certainly get into the playoffs again, where they will likely get smashed by Indiana or Miami. Milwaukee haven’t even won a tenth game yet. They are over 30 games back but have only played 50. Now a lot of teams have both eyes firmly on the upcoming draft class, with Joel Embiid now becoming a likely contender for the 1st overall pick – if he chooses to declare for the draft, which isn’t a given. Teams like New York, however, were not tanking for the 1st overall pick. They just suck. Brooklyn have improved somewhat in recent weeks, but the fact remains that they feature a bunch of guys over 30 years old and have a head coach who has no coaching experience. Without Brook Lopez, it’s hard to see what will surely be Kevin Garnett’s last season ending in anything other than mediocrity. The fact that Washington, who were so desperate they gave John Wall a max contract, are tied for 5th in the conference says everything. Incidentally, keep an eye on Washington over the next couple of seasons. In this sort of conference, they could become a playoff team very easily.
Indiana signing Bynum instals them as favorites: I can’t believe that Miami have seen enough from Greg Oden to make them think he gives them what they need so they have the best chance to beat the Pacers in the playoffs. After he was unceremoniously dumped by the Cavaliers, I expected Andrew Bynum to be on his way to South Beach if for no other reason that to give the Heat a proper big man to battle Roy Hibbert, who tends to save his best performances against the relatively undersized Heat. Their last meeting in mid December saw Hibbert in foul trouble and finish with 6 points and 2 rebounds. With Hibbert out of the equation, the Heat will of course be contenders to beat Indiana in just about any given game, but they cannot expect him to be as ineffective for an entire series. I seriously doubt that Oden is the guy to stop him, as heartening as it is to see him back playing and playing relatively well. Unless Miami makes a move before the trade deadline, which I find hard to believe will happen, Indiana are strong favorites to win the East. They have only lost 2 games at home so far this season. Only OKC has a similar dominance in their own building. And, of course, Miami.
The Heat might be coasting, but they are still playing very well: The third year of an attempted three-peat is notoriously tough on players. The Heat were quite an old team last year, particularly guys like Shane Battier and Ray Allen. Dwyane Wade is not as old, but has serious issues with his knees that have limited him to 36 games out of a possible 49 so far this season. How will he fare once the season extends to the playoffs? LeBron has been more or less flat out, but that’s been true for a few seasons now. The issue of his potential burnout must surely concern the Heat management. He has, of course, shown no signs of this, but the possibility exists nonetheless. Despite taking things relatively easy, the Heat are still the second best team in the East by ten games. Unless something goes disastrously wrong, they should take the East’s 2 seed easily. Their foes of last season, Chicago, are clearly in the process of rebuilding in the hope that Derrick Rose comes back stronger next season after another year of knee trouble. That just leaves Indiana in their path towards a fourth consecutive finals appearance.
The Suns are playing out of their minds: There is no good reason for the Suns to be the sixth best team in the Western conference at the moment. They have four first round picks for the upcoming draft and everyone thought they were going to play out this season and try to rebuild next year. Instead, driven by the excellent Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe along with a cast of impressive role players, Jeff Hornacek’s team have been on a tear which saw them beat the heavily-fancied Indiana Pacers twice. Whether or not they decide to trade away some of those picks for experienced players in bad situations (Pau Gasol has been mooted, Kevin Love is another name that makes sense for both parties) or if they keep them and go for a really young team next season remains to be seen but the Suns are fun again and it happened much quicker than anyone expected.
Kevin Durant is a really good basketball player: Paging Captain Obvious. Captain Obvious to the lobby. Look, KD has just claimed his 31st 30 point game of the season against the Knicks. It was also his 7th 40 point game of the season. He’s the top scorer in the NBA and he’s also the NBA’s best scorer. It’s not even close. Nothing he does looks forced. Everything looks like a good shot. Durant is probably the leading candidate for MVP and with his OKC Thunder sitting with the league’s best record without the now-long-departed James Harden and the currently injured Russell Westbrook, he is a deserving candidate. Other guys have of course stepped up in Westbrook’s absence, but this is mostly about Durant. He’s not the best player in the league, for my money, though. The way LeBron makes his entire team better eclipses Durant who is more of a lead-by-example guy. We shouldn’t get too bogged down in the LeBron vs Durant debate just yet, though. Let’s just enjoy having these two incredible players in the prime at the same time. As long as they remain in opposing conferences, we could be in for years of classic NBA finals.
Cleveland is a disaster: If you didn’t already read it, read this link. Luol Deng, traded to Cleveland in a salary dump, has reportedly told a confidante (might want to rethink who you talk to in future, Lu) that the Cavaliers have serious, almost endemic, problems with professionalism throughout the organization. In LeBron’s final season in Cleveland, the Cavs won 61 games. They have only just won 61 games since LeBron left. No names were named in the reports based on Deng’s comments, but it seems that Dion Waiters is a big problem. No criticism was leveled at Kyrie Irving, the current franchise player, but if anyone is likely to be the one making demands that could challenge Coach Mike Brown’s authority from within the playing squad, it could only be Irving. Reporters claim that when LeBron was in Cleveland, he was more or less allowed to do as he wished and it has been speculated that this institutional culture has persisted since LeBron’s departure. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that whatever LeBron decides to do this offseason, he is not going to re-sign for the Cavaliers. Dan Gilbert has a lot of work to do to sort out this mess. He should start by trading Anderson Varejao to a better team.
Andrew Wiggins is not going to be a stud in the NBA next season: Wiggins was much fancied as the number 1 overall a couple of months ago, but a series of indifferent performances at Kansas and the fact that his team-mate Joel Embiid has overtaken him as the predicted first overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft despite recent comments that he (Embiid) would consider playing at least another year in college to develop his game – Embiid has only played organised basketball for a couple of years – have dropped Wiggins’ chances of being an NBA stud next season to average. He might well be a one-and-done, but Wiggins has proven to anyone who has seen him this season that at least one more year of college would be really good for him. I already wrote about the issue of “one and done” players and the list of guys who did not work out at the professional level is extensive when compared to those that did. Wiggins is not ready for the NBA and a couple of months won’t change that. Jabari Parker and Julius Randle are probably ready and will probably enter the next draft – Randle almost definitely as no player worth his salt seems to want to stay at Kentucky for more than one season. Charles Barkley recently spoke on sports radio and said that the NBA should change its rules to force players to stay in school for at least two years, which makes a lot of sense. This sort of rule would protect talented players like Wiggins who lack the strength, both physical and mental, for the NBA challenge at such a young age.
The Lakers: Anyone see their 4 legal men beat Cleveland the other day? Unreal. Forty year old Steve Nash is working his way back after nerve issues ruled him out for the start of 2014. Thousand year old Chris Kaman was asleep on the bench like a student during finals. Ryan Kelly (remember that awkward but talented gunner for Duke last season?) has been one of LA’s best players in recent weeks. They needed to invoke a practically unknown NBA rule to allow Robert Sacre to finish the Cleveland game despite having 6 fouls. Kobe is due to come back from his “not as serious” knee injury soon, and lets face it, he probably will come back regardless of how good an idea it is. Pau Gasol is injured and has been linked with a trade to Phoenix, but his injury will keep him out until after the trade deadline, so Phoenix will have no idea how ready to play he is if/when they do trade for him. Things are a bit messy for the Lakers and the Clippers playing relatively well without Chris Paul doesn’t help. They’ve written off the majority of their salary cap for next season to re-sign Kobe, so while they do have the money to make a run at an opt-out-free-agent like LeBron or Carmelo Anthony, they lack anything like the resources to put a decent team around Kobe and his new apprentice. A couple of creative trades might be the only way out of this. Dr Buss must be rolling in his grave.
Okay, I know. It’s not even been all that long since I wrote that debates about the best ever were pointless. Eight months in fact – MJ vs LJ. The concept of “best” is highly subjective. Historians work in objectivity – or at least attempted objectivity. It is very hard to make a compelling argument for something being the “best ever” of a thing that has existed for longer than a lifetime. Too much has occurred and too many things have, at times, been the “best at the time” to really make this a valuable discussion.
The thing is, over the past few nights, two very significant events have taken place. The first, on Friday 27th December, in Sacramento, was when LeBron passed both Gary Payton and Larry Bird on the NBA’s all-time leading scorer’s list. He’s now the NBA’s 29th highest scorer.
The second, on Monday 30th December, was the occasion of LeBron James’s 29th birthday. Entering his 30th year, LeBron has scored more points in the NBA than Michael Jordan did. In fact, he’s scored more points than ANYBODY else in the history of the NBA had by their 29th birthday.
Damn Yankee fans
LeBron now sits on 21,819 points. He’s a little under 400 points from Clyde Drexler on the list. True, he’s still 10,000 points behind Kobe, who is perhaps the best career comparison for LeBron given the pair both entered the NBA directly from high school, but he is also nearly 2,000 points ahead of Kobe-at-age-29.
Thirty-eight-thousand-three-hundred-and-eight-seven is the all-time NBA record, held by Lewis Alcindor and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (that’s the same person, just in case you aren’t up on your NBA). LeBron is well on his way to topping that, assuming he proves to be as durable, or at least relatively so, into his mid-30s.
By the age of 29, Abdul-Jabbar had 16,486 points. Karl Malone had 14,770. Both played into their forties (only just).
LeBron has 5,491 assists in his career, good enough for 43rd on the all-time list – he’s fourth among active players. Michael Jordan, who sits 38th on the list, has only 142 more assists in his career than LeBron has by age 29.
Let’s just do a quick LeBron-Kobe-Michael comparison at the age of 29, courtesy of USA Today:
So Kobe had more titles…but he also had Shaq. Good as Wade and Bosh are, they’re not turn-of-the-century Shaq. Nobody in the current NBA is. Indeed, having played with Shaq was one of the major criticisms that Kobe has faced throughout his career when it comes to his hypothetical legacy. I imagine that his enormous cap-killing contract might also feature heavily.
The only part of the statistical comparison that LeBron falls down on is the average, and even then it’s only to Jordan and only in points (4.8 fewer), steals (1 fewer) and blocks (0.3 fewer).
Let’s also factor in a few arguments that are worth considering.
1 – the “nice guy” argument. Are you seriously going to give me this argument in this discussion? Because Kobe and Michael are such nice guys?
I will counter you with what I call the Langrell Theory. According to the great philosopher of Irish hoops, C. David Langrell, the way a basketball player plays the game accurately reflects his or her personality. Examples: Carmelo demands the ball, then shoots. He’s selfish (although I did meet him at the All-Star Game and I have to say I was surprised how nice a dude he was). Kobe demands the ball and shoots. He’s selfish. He chews out his team-mates all the time for not getting him the ball. LeBron James almost always makes the right play – shoot, drive, pass or cut. He yells at his team-mates for making the wrong play, not when they don’t pass him the ball. You’re thinking “oh, but he misses this shot and that shot”. Doesn’t matter. Look at the play again and tell me if it was the right play to attempt. I bet that 95% of the time it was. He’s a good guy. He might be a bit full of himself, but then again most of us are. I’ve seen your facebook page, you definitely are. Hell, I’m sitting here telling you to think what I think because I’m right (okay, I’ll frame it as my arguments in favour of something, but that’s essentially the same thing).
LeBron’s charity bike ride
The Langrell Theory proves that LeBron is a good guy. It proves that Steve Nash is a good guy. It also proves that other players that you are thinking of are not.
If that doesn’t convince you, look at Kobe Bryant’s new contract and try to tell me that it doesn’t cripple the Lakers for its duration. Then look at the amount of money the Miami Heat pay LeBron James who, let’s not forget, is the best player in the league. Tell me he’s selfish. You can’t justify that argument. Hell, look at “the Decision”, perhaps LeBron’s least fine moment. It made $3m for charity. Anyone else doing that, for charity? Nope, didn’t think so.
2 – the clutch argument. Firstly, by “clutch” you could be referring to any number of possible performance related statistics. Let’s say you mean taking a shot towards the end of an important game – the last 24 seconds of a playoff game. Okay, then LeBron is statistically the most “clutch” player in the NBA since his debut. In the final 24 seconds of NBA playoff games, LeBron is 7-of-16 which is 43.8% and better THAN ANYONE ELSE who have had 10 attempts or more. The league average is 28.3%. So he’s almost twice as clutch as the rest of the NBA. Since 2003-2004 Kobe is 5/17, Durant is 5/12 and Dirk is 5/12. Last season, with the game on the line (regular season), LeBron was 7/17 with the game on the line. Paul Pierce was 3/16, Durant 6/14, Kobe 3/12, Paul George 1/11, Carmelo 1/9.
All time, this blog from the excellent Henry Abbott at Truehoop, unsurprisingly the most clutch player ever is Tayshaun Prince. Okay, Tayshaun has only ever attempted five “clutch” shots, but made three of them. Ray Allen and, yep, Michael Jordan are at 50% (6/12 and 9/18 respectively – although these stats don’t factor in Allen’s historically clutch shot in the most recent NBA finals).
Layup = clutch
The thing is that the taking of a single shot is a very narrow definition to use. I’ve already argued that LeBron makes good decisions, so if he ends up being doubled and a team-mate is open for a “clutch” shot, then he’s going to pass. To shoot despite excellent defensive pressure would be dumb. So let’s expand the definition to include whole games. LeBron stacks up pretty well here as well. LeBron is one of two players to register 30/10/10 and three blocks in a playoff game EVER. The other is Ralph Sampson. He has nine playoff triple-doubles – Magic has 30 (!), Jason “worst coach in NBA history” Kidd has 11, Rajon Rondo and Larry Bird both have 10.
The lovely Dan Gilbert (did he ever compensate Cleveland fans for coming up short on his guarantee that Cleveland would win an NBA title before LeBron, by the way?) accused LeBron of quitting on Cleveland during their second round defeat to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Playoffs:
He quit…not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar.
Well, firstly LeBron was the regular season MVP that year. Secondly, his points totals were (by game) 35, 24, 38, 22, 15 and 27.
In Game 2, which he quit in, he led the team in rebounds and points and steals. Game 4, which he also quit in, saw him grab nine boards and dish out 8 assists. In Game 6, which he also quit in, he had a triple double of 19 boards and 10 assists, was 9/12 at the line and 2/4 from three. If that’s quitting, then perhaps quitting is something we should all aspire to. He also played seven minutes a game more than any of his team-mates. So Dan Gilbert is a bitter, sad man. And LeBron actually played pretty well. At a crucial point in the season.
3 – he doesn’t win. He has four MVPs and two titles. Next. What? You think that it’s somehow a given that a good player can win a title? Let me refer you to Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. It’s not easy to win a title, it doesn’t matter how good you are.
Four time MVP
4 – he didn’t win in Cleveland. Dumb argument. Next. Okay, so some justification for this. Since when is this an appropriate criteria for judging the all-time greatness of a player? Players leave teams. You think that because he conspired with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to join forces that this is a bad thing? To have the ambition to win? To take less money than you are worth in the name of winning? Put the goal-posts down, your argument is weak.
Players with five titles or more fall into a few categories. Let’s just acknowledge :
Guys who played in Boston between 1957 and 1969: Bill Russell (11), Sam Jones (10), John Havlicek (8), Tom Heinsohn (8), KC Jones (8), Tom “Satch” Sanders (8), Frank Ramsey (7), Bob Cousy (6), James Loscutoff (6), Don Nelson (5), Larry Siegfried (5).
Guys who played in Minneapolis in the 1940s and 1950s: George Mikan (5), Slater Martin (5), Jim Pollard (5)
Now that’s done, let’s look at more modern guys. Kareem has six, but moved to LA where he won 5 as part of the Magic-led Lakers (Magic and Michael Cooper were both there for all five). The three-peat-ing Chicago Bulls only had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on all six of its championship sides, but three also featured two-time champion Dennis Rodman. Kobe and Derek Fisher both have five. Finally there is Robert Horry who won two in LA, two in Houston and one in San Antonio.
The question here is: how many of these guys only ever played for one team? I’m not going to bother looking up every single name, but Michael Jordan also played for Washington. He didn’t win in Washington. Kobe was technically drafted by Charlotte, but I’ll give you him. Magic only ever played for the Lakers, so he and Kobe (and, if you discount his one year in Italy, Michael Cooper) are the only modern “winners” to only play for one NBA side. So you are limiting your discussion to one of these three guys if this is your criteria.
Let’s not forget that Michael Jordan played alongside one of the greatest ever in Scottie Pippen. He had incredible role players like Steve Kerr, Bill Paxson, Dennis Rodman, hell even Luc Longley and Bill Wennington could do a job.
Let’s not forget that the Boston Celtics should have won more titles in the late 1980s and 1990s. They saw both Len Bias and Reggie Lewis die tragically in 1986 (before he played a single game) and 1993 (of cardiac arrest) respectively. Have a look at this:
Think Reggie Lewis might have been able to slow Michael down some? Care to name any possible stars that have not had the opportunity to challenge LeBron at his peak? Any of the calibre of Len Bias or Reggie Lewis who, incidentally, would have been on the same team.
The point I am trying to make here is that LeBron is playing in the NBA which is at perhaps an all-time high in terms of standard. He faces elite competition every single night – not just in terms of opposing teams “giving him their best shot” but in terms of the guys who defend him. The type of guys who defend and have defended LeBron are guys like Paul George (strong candidate for the third best player in the league, if only he had a better beard), Tony Allen, Kobe, Bruce Bowen, Ron Artest, Raja Bell: guys who are known for being stoppers – let’s not forget that Kobe was a great defender in his day. Of course so is LeBron – he’s an ever present in the NBA All-Defensive Team since 2008.
Despite being the focus of opposition defensive assignments, LeBron still manages to rank among the top scorers in the league ever single season. And he does this without appearing to be a ball hog, not something you can say of Kobe and Carmelo. This is just as true in Miami, where he is now basically the guy given Dwyane Wade’s highly problematic knees.
But, you’re right, he didn’t win in Cleveland. Just like every single player who has ever played any sport in Cleveland. (Note: not strictly true, the Browns won the NFL in 1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964, the Indians won the World Series in 1920 and 1948)
5 – the “he didn’t go to college” argument. This one is an odd argument because it sort of supports both sides. LeBron has more points at 29 than Michael Jordan did because Michael Jordan went to college. LeBron’s highest level of coaching prior to matching up with the very best players on the planet was his high school coach. Jordan played for Dean Smith. He was an eighteen year old boy. Yet that eighteen year old boy, playing against a Sacramento Kings team that went to the Conference finals in 2002 and lost in the Conference semi-finals in both of the following years, ended his first ever NBA game with 25 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals.
There’s no denying that LeBron has more NBA games than Michael Jordan at the age of 29. MJ also had injury problems in his early seasons. But, it must be remembered that MJ was also a man when he entered the NBA. LeBron was basically a boy. A freak, a phenomenon, a one-off, but a boy.
A boy who averaged nearly 21 points per game in 79 NBA games, which he started all 79 of, 5.5 rebounds per game, 5.9 assists per game, 1.6 steals per game, 41% from the field. What were you doing when you were 18 and 19? It wasn’t that.
All Buckeyes wish this had happened
To conclude, I appreciate that to start off an article by saying that the argument is pointless before giving you over 2,000 words of the same argument is odd. I’m not trying to say that you all suddenly need to rush to Camp LeBron. But what I am saying is that you should not be so quick to dismiss LeBron’s credentials, even aged 29 and half way through his 11th NBA season, as the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball. Watch him and enjoy what you are seeing. We genuinely might never see this again.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant. These are probably the two best players in the NBA at the moment. There is a good chance that almost everyone reading this and most NBA fans agree with this statement. It’s nice to compare players who are playing in the league at the same time as one another and much, much healthier than the stupid debates we always get into about who was better, LeBron or Michael Jordan. At least we can objectively compare LeBron and Durant given they are both on our televisions at least twice a week. More if you have NBA league pass (or, if like some of my facebook friends, you managed to get somebody’s league pass password – BY THE WAY…why on earth would you pay all that money and just give your league pass password to somebody else?).
The question of the next best player, the third best playing in the league today, is a little less obvious. If you want to sit wherever you are and tell me you think Paul George is the third best player in the league, I will listen to your arguments. If you want to regale me with the merits of Chris Paul, I will listen. I’d give you some time to talk about Derrick “when he’s healthy” Rose. If you want to talk about any other player, I will tell you that you are wrong. Unless that player is the guy who I think is the third best player in the NBA at the moment: James Harden.
James Edward Harden, junior is twenty-four years old. He has the best beard this side of Al-Qaeda. He is a 6’5″ left-handed shooting guard, with springs in his heels and the ability to finish around the rim like few others in the league. He draws more fouls than anybody else and consequently shoots more free throws. When he’s at the line he hits 84%. Last season he had career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game as he proved, decisively, that he could lead a team – and not just any team, a team where the second best player was either rookie Chandler Parsons or maybe Jeremy Lin – after three years as the third fiddle in the OKC Thunder lineup. Third fiddle might even be generous given he only ever started seven games in his three years in Oklahoma.
True, he was not great in his final few games for the Thunder. True, those games happened to be the NBA finals. However, to emphasise this is to ignore that he gave the Thunder 16.3PPG in the playoffs, a playoff career high and only half a point lower than his season’s average. He also upped his steals and rebounds in the 2012 playoffs.
Harden is currently fifth in the NBA in points per game – behind Durant, Carmelo, Kevin Love and LeBron. He’s better away from home than at the Toyota Center, shooting a higher percentage even though he competes in the much tougher Western Conference (an understatement – have you seen the records of the teams in the East this season?)
Oh, also, the NBA General Managers said that they thought he was a better Shooting Guard than anyone else in the league. Or at least 57% of them did. Only 20% picked Kobe. Of course, 80% of them thought Victor Oladipo would be rookie of the year.
Of course most of us form our opinions on sports men and women based on the “eye” test – actually watching them. So I encourage you to tune in to a few Houston Rockets games. Watch the third best player in the league in action.
Behold, the latest effort from the marketing geniuses of the NBA’s jersey design department. Assuming such a thing exists, of course:
Jesus Shuttlesworth. Jesus, indeed.
Let us not forget the new Christmas day jerseys:
Or, indeed, last year’s Christmas Day jerseys:
Think about what you do for a living for a second. Do you enjoy it? Do you enjoy it so much that you’d rather do that than work for the NBA? I have to imagine that most of you reading this either began with a “no” or at least ended up there after the second question.
Don’t you think you could have come up with something better than these?
The nickname jersey idea was mooted at the start of the season but has now become a horrific reality.
This is the National Basketball Association, the pinnacle of global basketball with marketing reach that most corporations would kill for. For 82 games a season, a selection of the finest athletes alive today (and Kendrick Perkins) put their bodies on the line and stretch their physical abilities to the limit to play a game that we all love and a game that actually means something. Basketball, and the NBA in particular, is a way out of bad social situations for so many young people in the United States, just as it is becoming in Northern Ireland today. Look at the cross-community basketball organisations in Belfast alone; bringing kids together across previously insurmountable boundaries, in the name of basketball.
Look at LeBron James, born to a single teenage mother in the Akron ghetto. Look at Derrick Rose, raised in Englewood, one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Chicago. Basketball brought them fame and riches.
My point is that basketball and the NBA in particular means something. It’s a professional organisation that reaches to the heart of the global sporting community.
It is not a bunch of lads on a stag do in Magaluf.
For a team projected by many NBA analysts to finish last in the West, and join the race for the top places in next year’s draft, the Phoenix Suns obviously haven’t been paying attention to the preseason predictions. I wrote back in October in my preview of the team that they would suck and finish in bottom 3 of Western Conference, but would at least be exciting to watch and play like a Suns team should with plenty of fastbreaks, athleticism and take a few scalps of winning teams along the way (oh and beat the Lakers). So far I only got one thing wrong, they don’t suck.
Currently, over a quarter of the way into the season, Phoenix lie 2nd in the Pacific Division, and 6th overall in the super competitive Western conference, above teams like Golden State, Denver, Minnesota, Dallas and the LA Lakers. They are currently on a 5 game winning streak, with a record of 14-9. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that scenario, and if it had been suggested back in summer, you would have been dismissed as being in the company of Michael Beasley for too long. Also, if Phoenix (obviously hypothetically speaking) were in the Eastern Conference, they would be the 3rd seed in playoffs. Crazy stuff. It also highlights that the East is basically a two team race, Indiana looking outstanding early on, and Miami being Miami.
So how have Phoenix achieved this in a short space of time? The answer lies mainly in two places, Head Coach Jeff Hornacek, and the twin point guard tandem of Goran Dragic & Eric Bledsoe. Hornacek arrived back in the summer to oversee what many thought as building a team for the future, whilst picking up losses and hoping for the balls to fall kindly for a high draft pick.
The first part of that has happened, as he along with his coaching staff have managed to get career best years out of 7 players on this roster, and gave them the confidence to go out on the court without fear of the opponent. The Morris Twins (Morrii?) are more consistent. PJ Tucker who is best known for his tenacious defensive stops, is ranked 5th in 3-Pt %age, notably from the corner. Miles Plumlee has shown his ability to block shots but importantly very effective on setting screens to allow Dragic and Bledsoe clear lanes to the hoop. This guy played only 50 minutes last season, but has looked a solid and shrewd acquisition by GM Ryan McDonough.
Hornacek has the team playing fast, up-tempo basketball whilst maintaining a solid effort on defence. The emphasis is on the team, not individuals, as he stressed back at training camp. Having nearly eight players scoring in double figures lends credence to this. He seems settled in his line-ups and rotations and comfortable with giving trust to the players, a big thing for coaches, in the crunch time of games. Look at Bledsoe taking the 3 to win the game over the Jazz as evidence. Having a former NBA player who was one of the league’s best shooters also helps. The Suns have reduced the long 2-pointers, whilst increasing the use and accuracy of the corner three, combined with being the top fast-break scoring team in the league, adds up to more efficient points production.
Bledsoe Game Winner
Which leads to the other part of the Suns surprising resurgence. The Dragic/Bledsoe backcourt has certainly clicked better than I thought. Looking at the stat sheets show both players averaging around 19ppg, and over 6apg, virtually mirroring each other. This harks back to the team ethic I mentioned above. Both players are extremely comfortable driving to the basket, either at pace on the fast-break, or through the use of screens set by Plumlee and Markieff Morris to open the lanes. They are again, having career highs like many of their teammates and bear the burden of being the primary weapons on offense.
Watch the video below and you’ll see much of what I’ve spoken about on display in the game vs. the Kings in Phoenix.
Both players give the opposing team a nightmare to defend against. Keeping a handle on those pair looking to drive at defences opens up baskets for Gerald Green, Frye and PJ Tucker from long range and easy high percentage looks for Plumlee and the Morrii. This keeps the points spread throughout the team, but Dragic & Bledsoe score the bulk as they are playing at such a high level this season. What it will remind NBA, and Phoenix fans, of a couple decades ago was the successful backcourt of Kevin Johnson and Jeff Hornacek, who was an All-star in Phoenix? If both players keep up this level, they may have an outside chance of being a coach’s pick of the showpiece in February, however looking at the high quality in the West; it may not be this year.
What their play is doing though is getting them noticed around the league. Other players notice these things and may think to themselves “I’d like to play with those two”, and also be impressed with how Hornacek runs the plays. Certainly with the brand of basketball they are playing right now, Phoenix is a much more attractive destination than it was four months ago. With their great cap flexibility next year, they are also in a position to match any offer made for Bledsoe, who does have suitors around the league. Along with multiple first round picks in next year’s draft, I’d fancy the Suns on landing a big player in the near future via a trade, possibly bundling some of these picks in a deal. As it stands, they would have none inside the draft’s top ten.
It remains to be seen if they can keep their form up over an 82 game season, it is early days but the signs are encouraging that this exciting, young team can become a force again in the West. Making the playoffs alone would be an incredible achievement, but let’s walk before we can run first.