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Bad Guy Loses: NBA edition
I have never been a big NBA fan. I remember the cocaine era. I cheered the wildly inconsistent Seattle Supersonics in that era. I appreciated the magic of the Chicago Bulls with star-whisperer Phil Jackson, Michael Jordon, Scotty Pippen, and “The Worm” Dennis Rodman. I admired “the admiral” David Robinson‘s career as a leader with the San Antonio Spurs, along with Tim Duncan, back when they were a distinctly locker-room-disciplined team. And yet, I remember the cocaine era, the referee point-shaving era, the radical leftist ChiCom kowtowing, America-trashing ongoing era, most notoriously embodied in LeBron James.
So, the enemy of my enemy gets my provisional, limited, and temporary rooting interest. The Phoenix [“The Valley?”] Suns apparently managed the second-best record in a self-created asterisk-laden 2020-2021 season. They proceeded to eject the megalomaniacally self-titled “King” LeBron James, and his current star vehicle, the Los Angeles Lakers (a formerly great team), from the playoffs for the first time in Pawn James’ career.
After embarrassing the Lakers in Phoenix with a lopsided 115-85 win on 1 June 2021, the Suns went to L.A. and defended MJ’s legacy. Stuffing LeBron’s playoff run in the first round for the first time ever, the Suns denied a poorly aging LeBron the chance to even get a sniff at Air Jordon’s stratospheric record of six NBA championship rings. LeBron James’s pursuit of MJ’s record led him to Los Angeles because it was supposed to be a team with deep-pocketed owners who would buy a couple of championships in the hottest, coolest global media spotlight. He has only four championship rings, leaving him stuck on the third tier.
Among this generation of NBA players, Jordan has GOAT status. His six rings are the bar all of them must clear to be in that conversation. Five rings gets you on the same mountain peak as all-time greats like Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan.
James was 31 when he got to three rings with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. It took him until age 35 to win his fourth ring last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he and his new co-star, Anthony Davis, looked like they could win a few more — if they stayed healthy.
Oops. A younger, hungrier, faster Suns team turned up the heat and cooked LeBron’s goose in convincing style. They went to Los Angeles on Thursday evening with a 3-2 best-of-seven series lead. In the opening minutes, the Suns sprinted to a double-digit lead. They never gave it back, although they almost slipped to single digits early in the last quarter. The Suns ended up eliminating the Lakers in Game 6, 113-100. They will face the Denver Nuggets, who torched the Portland Trailblazers like a Portland small business on another Antifa-BLM
bonfire rally riot evening.
I have no further interest, beyond the bonus joy that only the Rodney Dangerfield of NBA franchises, the L.A. Clippers, survives, trailing Dallas 3-2, in this year’s playoffs. Every other Left Coast team was either shut out of the playoffs or shown the door in the first round. I will cheer for Dallas for one night only, hoping for a complete Cal-tastrophe and a left behind storyline.Published in Sports
Rodman has 5 championships. James should keep that in mind.
Thanks for the report. Reading this is the most time spent thinking about the kNeeling Basketball Asses.
I used to enjoy the NBA – players like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, David Thompson – but espcially Dr. J:
His “Rock the Baby” dunk is timeless . . .
But I can’t watch basketball any more. I don’t mind it if a team has a great run-and-gun offense, but the 24 second shot clock pretty much ensures there’s hardly any drama, especially at the end of a game. The 30 second shot clock for college pretty much ruined that for me.
I haven’t followed the NBA since the days of Magic, Michael, Bird and, yes, “The Round Mound of Rebound”. However, it was impossible to look away from the brouhaha caused by Daryl Morey’s innocent (and justified) remark about Hong Kong. James’ subsequent remarks were abhorrent; I’m very happy his team is no longer in the playoffs.
Alternative name: American Division of the China Roundball Cartel
Maybe “King James” can spend the off season using his platform to show the plight if the Uighurs or the people of Hong Kong
Rodman was a roll player for all 5. I would argue he was a liability for his last 2. I could probably find a few journeymen players who had more rings. That doesn’t make them better than LeBron.
As a fan of the Utah Jazz, I’m happy the Lakers were knocked out because they scared me the most. As insufferable as LeBron has become, it’s hard to blame getting knocked out on him. The Lakers were decimated by injuries and bad free agent pick ups.
I enjoyed reading this, likely for the schadenfreude I experienced whilst I projected imagined feelings onto Pawn James – love that btw, well deserved.
There was regional excitement where I once lived for the Sacramento Kings – with Williams, Webber, Divac, Stojaković, Jackson, Bibby, and others the team was quite entertaining for several seasons. I began to watch often. There was time invested watching, learning the game, enjoying the unorthodox antics of the team, and it all culminated in Game 6 against the Lakers for a spot in the championship game.
That 2001-02 Western Conference Finals Game 6 is now pretty well acknowledged as not just a poorly refereed game, but a “fixed” one. Watching what I saw was terrible refereeing was painful and rather depressing. Since rampant cheating (then in my mind, no proof had surfaced except many watching the “fouls” after the game and admitting there was none) was allowed in this sport, I was out. I stopped watching as much and would perhaps tune into the playoffs to watch “the best” players play – but even then I was never as interested as I once was.
Years later some of the refs came out and pretty much admitted to fixing the game – which only further validated my decision to stop following or watching the NBA. Today I am probably at seven or so years since I watched a game. I only know of the NBA through magazine covers at the market, overhearing conversations, or because of Insane China Politics.
Your piece was delightful to read. Thanks!
Yes, it seems to take at least two exceptional performers on the court to give a team a real chance. LeBron could not carry the team on his back and did not look up to the attempt in Game 6.
There’s a lot to be said for this. Part of the GOAT argument is that Jordan elevated the players around him, particularly as he got older. Steve Kerr’s key jumper in (I think) one of the playoff games of the fifth or sixth season comes to mind; Steve nails a jumper that wins the game, Jordan doesn’t have to do everything, that kind of thing.
No one person wins those games. The best players make the team around them better. Not an easy thing to articulate, or put a step by step plan in place to achieve, in terms of motivating elite athletes to do even better than they have before, over the course of a long season and long playoffs.
Lebron isn’t Jordan. I’d argue he isn’t David Robinson, either, nor a Kareem, Magic, Bird, Barkley….you get the idea. I’m old, obviously. But it’s hard to imagine MJ calling himself “King Jordan”. Even though he is, and that’s the flaw in Lebron’s game, and maybe character.