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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Modesty is Shaq's Best Trait--Just Ask Him and He'll Tell You

Veteran NBA writer Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle observes that the Miami Heat's championship blueprint is the same one that the Houston Rockets are trying: surrounding a center who commands double teams with a dominant perimeter player and a good cast of role players; the Rockets' problem is that they have not been able to keep their two stars healthy or acquire the right mix of role players. Actually, that is more than one problem, which explains why Houston did not even qualify for the playoffs this year. Feigen also has an interesting take on Shaquille O'Neal deferring to Dwyane Wade during the Miami Heat's championship run:

"Before too much credit goes to Shaquille O'Neal for so willingly accepting his secondary role to Dwyane Wade to help the Heat become champions, he did not seem to have much a choice. He was so diminished that Wade soared above him, rather than he knew he should step back.

But it is interesting to see O'Neal portray himself as a version of former rival David Robinson — the wise veteran making way for a younger star. The difference is that Robinson did not feel the need to constantly credit himself for making Tim Duncan great."


You can find the complete article here:

Heat Master Plan has Familiar Ring

posted by David Friedman @ 5:18 PM

49 comments

links to this post

49 Comments:

At Sunday, June 25, 2006 5:51:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

the humility topic is interesting...

Better humility quotes came from A-Rod in the 1996 baseball season:

"[Arod] might have cost himself the award by suggesting, when asked by some voting members of the Baseball Writers Association, that Ken Griffey, Jr., not he was the m.v.p.

'If I can lose the m.v.p. every year because of my humility, I will lose it every year,' Rodriguez said. 'I find it to be very fascinating that Albert Belle supposedly has lost it because he hasn't been cooperative; he's been arrogant. That's what people have said. And for somebody to say I lost it because of my humility, thank you very much. That's a compliment.'"

http://westportwa.com/cammy/articles.htm

Nothing like boasting about your own humility!

Shaq has shown genuine humility in making fun of his own free throw shooting. A-Rod is genuinely humble too, aside from the contract -- he often actually still disparages himself, after poor performances...

As for Shaq's image stuff -- what you appear to view as false humility -- that's just off-the-court stuff, irrelevant, right?

Also Shaq was humble in his p.r., w/LA -- he called Kobe the best player in the NBA, after a Finals win or two ... and that was when Shaq himself was the best player in the NBA...

 
At Sunday, June 25, 2006 8:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Shaq's humility--or lack thereof--is irrelevant in terms of winning championships; that's pretty clear, since he has won four titles.

What is interesting to me is that all great athletes know that they are great and have a very high opinion of their skills; you don't achieve greatness without realizing that you are great. Some athletes choose to hide behind false modesty--and some people fall for that. Other athletes either keep their mouths shut--like David Robinson--or are overtly confident; Terrell Owens is a recent, obvious example of the latter approach.

I personally prefer athletes who are either humble without calling attention to it or else are obviously cocky to athletes who spend every other minute talking about how unselfish and humble that they are.

I thought Shaq calling Kobe the best player in the NBA a few years back was as fake as Shaq now calling Wade the best player of all-time and did not find either statement truthful or enlightening. Shaq was so genuinely humble about his free throw shooting that he didn't even show up for one of his mandatory media appearances during the Finals after a Miami loss. It's easy to crack jokes and be "humble" when everything is going your way. True class and humility is exemplified by someone like Julius Erving, who never shirked his responsibilities whether his team won or lost, deflected praise to his teammates without seeking credit for doing so and was probably the least boastful superstar in NBA history.

 
At Sunday, June 25, 2006 8:07:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Here are some examples from each of the categories that I described in my previous comment:

Humble/Keeps mouth shut:

1) Julius Erving
2) David Robinson
3) Joe Dumars

These guys got the job done, did not care who got credit and would deflect praise to teammates seamlessly.

Arrogant/Lets everyone know it:

1) Terrell Owens
2) Reggie Jackson
3) Deion Sanders

These guys got the job done and made sure that everyone knew that they got the job done. Owens loves to say, "Who can make a play? I can!" Jackson, asked by Dick Schaap what he thought about while he served a suspension, replied, "The magnitude of me." Sanders nicknamed himself "Prime Time" and always made sure that the cameras were focused on him. Fans either love or hate these guys but I love them for a simple reason: between the lines, they get the job done. Owens played in the Super Bowl with a broken leg. Jackson saved his best performances for the World Series. Sanders could shut down an entire side of the field during his prime and was a key contributor to Super Bowl teams in San Francisco and Dallas.

Have I mentioned that I always put the team first?

1) Brett Favre
2) Shaquille O'Neal

Years after Favre received his big payday from the Packers, he mentions that for the good of the team wide receiver Javon Walker should not hold out for a bigger deal. Walker reports to camp and severely injures his knee, damaging his chances of obtaining a long term contract and the huge signing bonus that comes along with it. Favre is so concerned about the good of the team that he leaves the organization hanging for months in the offseason as he mulls whether or not to retire. Also, asked about his responsibility to help prepare Aaron Rogers, Green Bay's quarterback of the future, Favre retorts that he is a player, not a coach, and it is not his job to help another player to prepare.

 
At Sunday, June 25, 2006 10:22:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

I see what you're saying, but you're in the media -- and these caricature-type people make for easier writing...

Dr J didnt treat his illegitimate daughter well, from what I understand (she was a tennis player)... but hat didnt come out during his hallowed, dignity-filled playing days...

T.O. disrespected McNabb when he had no business doing so...

Guys like Deion tend to be made for BEYOND THE GLORY - they're entertaining & masking deep personal problems... the guy who wants to be liked, because of his low self-esteem...

All of these guys are flawed (because we're all only human), but you're just talking about which make for media heroes (quiet and humble in public) and comic personalities (absurdly self-promoting)...

Judge people by the respect of their peers a little bit: Mark Madsen glows about Shaq as a teammate...D Fish talks about Shaq's desire to win... Yeah, so he's a little bit of a phony -- that's life (as the CATCHER IN THE RYE aptly explains)...

Shaq appears to have a happy family life, and has the respect of many former teammates...

So he doesnt make as good a topic for articles as you might like.

He's a great (not perfect but great) player who doesnt get in trouble with the law, shows restraint in avoiding fights on court, and generally has the respect of his peers...

Long before all this media obsession w/judging players by titles (as bball is an individaul sport), before MJ won his first ring, he was on the Arsenio Hall show, and he said that having the respect of his peers was the most important thing to him, even more than championships...& this is before he had won one, so it wasnt phony...That's one of the things he said that I respect most -- & by that standard, Shaq appears to pass the test

 
At Sunday, June 25, 2006 11:13:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I focus on the games themselves, the strategies and the matchups, so as a writer it makes no difference to me if a player is humble or boastful. Perhaps I should have made it clear that when I say I prefer players to be either humble or overtly boastful as opposed to falsely humble, I am speaking of a personal inclination, not a professional one. As I said before, I'm not doing People Magazine style profiles for which I need a juicy quote or a salacious angle.

Dr. J's off-court situation has nothing to do with what I am talking about. I am talking about how he handled his responsibilities as a professional athlete. I don't presume to know what kind of a person he or any other athlete is outside of the confines of sports. If you are really interested in such things, watch ESPN's SportsCentury programs and you will see that other than Jack Nicklaus (and maybe Secretariat) there are not too many elite athletes who do not have some skeletons in their closets regarding their personal lives.

The whole T.O. thing started when the Eagles would not redo his contract. He played in the Super Bowl with a broken leg. NFL contracts are not guaranteed, so he took a big risk. The Eagles should have redone his deal and given him more money upfront. It doesn't open a can of worms as they alleged, because if anyone else asked for another deal they could point out that he was the only guy who caught 14 TDs and played in the Super Bowl with a broken leg. It will be interesting to see who misses whom more, Owens or McNabb.

I know that a lot of people can't stand Deion but as a fan I loved him because he produced on the field. I have never met or interviewed Owens or Deion, so what I am saying has nothing to do with writing articles; I just personally prefer a guy who admits that he thinks he is great to someone who stresses 20 times a day how humble he is.

I think that you are confusing "respect" with "well liked," because you are using them interchangeably. Kobe and Shaq are both highly respected among their peers as great players. I don't care who is more well liked or has more friends.

I just did a two-part series about Shaq--part one compared him to Wilt and part two looked at whether or not he is overpaid. He is a very interesting subject as a basketball player and it is not more or less difficult to write about him than anyone else. I am interested in his skills and his place in history.

Of course before he won a title Jordan said that he more highly valued the respect of his peers; he had no way of knowing whether or not he would win any championships, let alone six. There are a lot of guys who say that their careers would be complete without winning titles but after they win their first championship they admit that this simply is not true. Great athletes are largely defined by how many championships they win.

I just saw a rerun of Rashad One-on-One with Warren Sapp. Sapp recalled that when he finally won a ring that Jordan sent him a t-shirt that said "one ring makes you a champion, six rings make you a legend." Players absolutely keep score of such things. Magic and Bird used to lord over Jordan how many rings they had until he passed both of them.

So, to me the most important thing about the Shaq-Kobe relationship is that if Shaq had stayed in shape there is a chance that they could have won 4-5-6 titles or more instead of "just" 3. Yes, it is not certain that the Lakers would have won even if Shaq had stayed in shape but, as the saying goes, working hard does not guarantee success but not working hard guarantees failure.

 
At Monday, June 26, 2006 1:10:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

TO did nothing on the field last yr. He got a shitty deal b/c his agent didnt file his free agency papers properly. He shd have sued his agent, if anything. To rip McNabb violates every rule of respecting the lockerroom boundaries...ditto for Kobe's comments on Shaq's weight. TO is a phony, who has nothing in common w/Deion. Deion never once ripped a teammate, the way TO did.

The fact that all you have against Shaq is his lack of sincerity -- funny, but I'd call his phoniness a good type of "diplomacy" -- top me says it all. Here is a highly paid, world famous athlete. How many arrests? How many dope convictions? How many dirty plays & fights on court? How many offensive remarks to the media?

On the other hand, how many titles? 4 (i.e., one more than Bird). How many all-star games? 13 or more. How many MVP awards? 1 regular season, 3 Finals, 2 AllStar game. Oh, and he plays SHaq-a-claus for charity at Christmas.

Yeah, on the field (or off), TO has a lot on Shaq.

 
At Monday, June 26, 2006 1:46:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Owens had 47 catches in 7 games before the Eagles deactivated him. I believe that his 763 yards led the league at that point. So it is not true that he did nothing last season. Check the Eagles' record before and after TO; as Michael Irvin so memorably put it, sometimes you try to save face and lose your rear end: the Eagles hurt themselves by deactivating Owens a lot more than they hurt him. Owens should have kept his mouth shut about McNabb--but if I go by your standard, which is to figure out which guy was more liked...did you notice that few if any Eagles players publicly took McNabb's side? When Owens threw a party a lot of Eagles showed up, which would seem to be a slap in the face to McNabb. Owens was the guy who put that team over the top after so many NFC championship game failures. The Cowboys-Eagles games should be interesting this year.

I'm not saying that Owens is better at football than Shaq is at basketball. I'm just saying that, as a fan, I'd rather listen to a guy who says what he really thinks instead of someone who is just trying to be popular. I'm not talking about who has friends or who ripped teammates. Let's get back to Feigen's article, which I cited in the post that started this thread. Feigen points out that David Robinson did the exact same thing with Duncan that Shaq did with Wade, only DRob didn't think it was necessary to keep saying how unselfish he is and how he made Duncan a great player. I'll give you another example--Shaq paid for George Mikan's funeral. That's great--but where was Shaq (and, to be fair, other highly paid NBA players) when Mikan appeared on SportsCenter months before he died, literally in tears because he had to sell off memorabilia from his career to pay his medical bills? Also, why did Shaq have to announce on national TV that he would pay for the funeral? Wouldn't it be more sensitive to the Mikan family's needs to approach them privately? It's great that Shaq helped out, but he felt compelled to make a national story out of it. I'd be a lot more impressed if Shaq and some of the other guys who are making $10 million/year (including Kobe) would get together and establish a fund for all of the pre-65ers--the NBA players who retired before 1965 and are not a part of the NBA's pension program. Those guys built the game and many of them are having serious medical and financial problems. That situation is shameful for the NBA, the Players Association and the individual players who are secure enough financially to do something about it.

 
At Monday, June 26, 2006 1:38:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

On TO, I never said to compare him to McNabb -- I merely said that he broke the lockerroom rules by his comments on McNabb. Maybe McNabb lacks respect of his peers -- that doesnt justify TO's statements, in this case. TO is a phony.

On Shaq, sometimes, it is good for a celeb to publicize his own contributions, because it encourages other celebs to give to charity, out of competition or legitimization...& it also may draw contributions from fans of the celeb. So I dont see too big a problem w/Shaq-Mikan. Bill & Melinda Gates named their foundation after themselves, & Buffett just promised $30 billion to it, if you want an example of why it's sometimes good to take a leadership role & go public with charitable contributions...it can create a snowball effect, when others follow along.

However, I'm interested in this pre-65ers point. I havent read much about it (and am more familiar w/the problem in the NFL context), but I'd certainly be interested in hearing a lot more...

 
At Monday, June 26, 2006 1:49:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

just to clarify, in my last comment, even if Mikan's funeral was covered, there is a GENERAL snowball effect, where other NBA players may be more charitable, in response to or competition w/Shaq's leadership role (I wasnt only talking about Mikan)...

In fact, look at it this way: how come no other player (Garnett, Kobe, etc.) made the contribution, anonymously? Maybe Shaq did it publicly almost as a way of calling out everyone else on it -- showing that leadership is needed

 
At Monday, June 26, 2006 10:01:00 PM, Blogger Gary Collard said...

FWIW ARod seemingly lost the 1996 MVP due to a guy leaving him off his ballot and mistakenly putting Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez on there instead. I'm sure a Google will bring more details than my sketchy memory.

 
At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 3:05:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I give Shaq credit for at least doing something for Mikan and I am even somewhat inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt about mentioning it on TV; I don't think that he intended to embarrass the Mikan family and it is possible that he was trying to inspire other NBA players to contribute. It's more likely that he simply did not carefully think through the ramifications of what he was saying.
It's one thing to name a foundation after yourself and it's another thing to, as the vernacular goes, put other people's business out in the street. The whole viewing public did not need to know that the Mikan family required assistance to bury the NBA legend. Yes, when he was alive, George Mikan was interviewed about his financial problems, but that was his choice. In the family's moment of grief, it seems a little intrusive for Shaq to publicize this. I realize that others may see this situation differently.

Also, if Shaq really felt the closeness to Mikan that he professes, he would have been aware of Mikan's troubles when Mikan was alive and helped out at that time so that Mikan would not have had to sell his memorabilia. Am I holding Shaq to a high standard here? Yes, but Shaq is the one who says how much he admires Mikan and Shaq is the one who made it public knowledge that he paid for the funeral, so since he has said that much it makes sense, journalistically, to wonder why Shaq did not get involved earlier if he was that concerned. Don't think, though, that I am letting the other NBA players off the hook regarding the pre-65ers. This situation casts shame on the league, every active player and the players association.

There is a difference between naming a foundation for yourself and announcing to whom you offered assistance. If Shaq founded a pre-65er foundation and called it the Shaq Fund (I'm sure he would come up with a more clever name), that would be great. The Shaq Fund could offer help to the pre-65ers without causing their families embarrassment by publicly identifying them.

Bill Tosheff could be considered the dean of the pre-65ers and he has tried, at considerable personal expense, to get the NBA to do right by the league's pioneers. Unfortunately, the league's approach seems to be to let the problem "resolve itself" (i.e., in a few years, most of the players will probably pass away). If you go to ProBasketballNews.com, you can find an archive of his articles and an email address to contact him.

The general background of the pre-65ers is this: the NBA's pension plan covers players who retired after 1965. Eventually, the plan was extended to cover players who retired before 1965 if they had at least five years of service. Unfortunately, this excludes a lot of players who would have played that long except for their military service or other extenuating factors. In the 1980s there were over 100 pre-65ers but now there are only a few dozen. The NBA or a few wealthy players could greatly ease the living situations of the league's pioneers by contributing a few million dollars from their multi-billion dollar industry but so far that has not happened. Every time there is a new collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the players the pre-65ers are supposed to be helped, but somehow it never happens. The legal loophole that they hide behind is that it is supposedly not possible to alter the original stipulations of a pension plan--or something like that; I'm not a lawyer. What I don't understand is why David Stern and the five highest paid players can't get $5 million together between them and create a non-profit fund to help the pre-65ers. Wouldn't that be a great NBA Cares ad? I guess helping retired players that most people have never heard of is not as "sexy" as other charitable endeavors.

Type this link into your browser for more details:

http://members.aol.com/bradleyrd/pension.html

 
At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 3:32:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Gary:

Thanks for visiting. I enjoy your posts at APBR. According to ESPN.com, ARod lost the 1996 MVP vote by two points to Juan Gonzalez:

http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/MVPcontroversy.html

 
At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 8:46:00 PM, Blogger element313 said...

there are some hackers out there ... try mis-typing your blog URL, by inverting the p and the s so it reads "blogpsot" ... 20secondtimeout.blogpsot.com/ ... (Christian studies website...)

 
At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 8:47:00 PM, Blogger element313 said...

it is the same problem for all blogger URLs (not just your blog) ...

I emailed Blogger support, but more emails can't hurt (support@blogger.com)

 
At Wednesday, June 28, 2006 4:01:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Element 313: I have no idea what you are talking about. Typing in the url that you suggested only leads to an error message.

 
At Wednesday, June 28, 2006 11:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You remind me of Jim Rome. You jump at every chance to point out negative things about Shaq. The fact is, he was being double and triple teamed during the Finals. The fact that Wade finally stepped up and carried the team was something that should've been expected. I understand that you probably don't like Shaq with the way you stick up for Kobe on here. Now, Shaq has how many rings and Finals MVP's and how many do you have? I wish you could do a sit down interview with Shaq and see how you feel about him after that.

 
At Thursday, June 29, 2006 4:40:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I hope that you see the irony of suggesting that I do a face to face interview with Shaq when you won't even identify yourself on a message board :)

I would love to do an interview with Shaquille O'Neal, but the opportunity has not yet presented itself. I would be much more interested in asking him about basketball related matters than some of the subjects that have been discussed recently in the comments section. I have interviewed Kobe Bryant on several occasions and I never once asked him about how many friends he had in the league or his "relationship" with Shaq. The first thing is irrelevant and the second issue has already been covered ad nauseam in the media. Informed people who have followed the situation from the start understand that the O'Neal trade was a long term move by the Lakers and a short term one by the Heat. The Heat got exactly what they wanted out of the deal and we have to wait a few years to see how things turn out for the Lakers. On Wednesday the Lakers used the draft pick they acquired in that deal to select Jordan Farmar.

I neither like nor dislike Shaq (or Kobe for that matter) because I do not know him personally. I think that Kobe has received a raw deal from most media outlets regarding the coverage of the breakup of the Lakers. As a fan of great players and sports dynasties in general, I would have preferred to see Shaq stay in shape and the Lakers make a serious bid for establishing the greatest NBA dynasty since Russell's Celtics.

I suspect that I have the same number of championship rings and Finals MVPs that you do. What is your point? A more relevant question would be which of us has interviewed more current and former players and coaches.

I can accept constructive criticism, even if it is harsh, but your comments focused exclusively on things that are either obvious or irrelevant. I mentioned that Shaq's numbers were down because he is being double-teamed, something that I also pointed out during my appearances on BetUS.comRadio; when Wade played well I highlighted that. Jim Rome and my non-existent NBA playing career have nothing to do with what is being discussed here.

 
At Thursday, June 29, 2006 4:51:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews wrote about Shaq: "He's a great (not perfect but great) player who doesnt get in trouble with the law, shows restraint in avoiding fights on court..."

What about the haymakers that Shaq threw against Brad Miller when he was with the Bulls and Charles Barkley when he was with the Rockets? The latter is shown about a million times a year now on TNT and the studio crew gets a big laugh out of how Barkley closed his eyes and ducked, but if Shaq had connected with that punch or the one he threw against Miller it could have resulted in something even deadlier than the infamous Kermit Washington-Rudy Tomjanovich situation. Wilt Chamberlain is a better example of a giant who could have really hurt someone if he wanted to but did not do so despite facing players who resorted to tactics much dirtier than anything Shaq has faced; Clyde Lovellette hit Wilt with a cheap shot to the mouth that pushed Wilt's teeth into his jaw and caused him lingering dental problems decades later.

Again, I'm not saying that Shaq is a bad guy because he threw some punches--although the results would have been disastrous if they had connected--but your comparison of Shaq and Kobe is not factually based. The most ironic thing is that, as Lazenby documented in his book, Shaq actually hit Bryant, also. Frankly, I don't see the relevance of any of this stuff to the subject of the Lakers trading Shaq to avoid paying him tens of millions of dollars as his career winds down, but I also don't think that it is right for you to paint a distorted picture of how Shaq and Kobe conduct themselves.

 
At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 1:42:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

Mr. Kobe lover,

The May 26 NEW YORKER reviews a basketball statistical analysis book, I believe called Basketball By the Numbers.

Now, I know you love the marketing line that the TV announcers say, about judging players in a team game solely by # of championships won. (Ted Williams sucked at baseball, didn't he -- half the player that Mark Bellhorn is, rigth? Oops, different team sport!) And I know you believe the players, when they parrot this line, for PR purposes.

But have you read the book? Page 87 of the NEW YORKER says that, according to the book, Ray Allen is almost comparable to number 8, or #24, or whatever number Kobe wears now. Such heresy! Kobe has 3 rings, and Allen zero! (And to think about all of those years that Ray Allen played alongside Shaq, and yet failed to win a single game!!!)

Thoughts? Or is your love as unconditional as Vanessa's?

 
At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 2:48:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I believe that you are referring to The Wages of Wins (I am not familiar with a book called Basketball by the Numbers). Just because one book offers an opinion does that make it the unvarnished truth? I have corresponded with one of Wages' authors about some of his conclusions and actually made the first posting on the Wages of Wins blog when it first went up a while back. For what its worth, the statisticians at APBR Metrics are critical of the methodologies used in this book regarding basketball, so there is hardly unanimity among numbers crunchers.

As far as judging players solely by winning championships, you are putting words in my mouth that I did not say. I don't judge players SOLELY by winning championships but it is an important consideration. What I did say is that if winning titles were the primary driving factor for Shaq then he would have stayed in shape while he was in L.A., which would have given the Lakers more incentive to keep him and preserved the possibility of the Lakers putting together the best string of titles since Russell's Celtics (assuming that L.A. wins championships with an in-shape Shaq in '03 and '04 and then keeps winning after that).

Simply put, no I do not rank Ray Allen as Kobe Bryant's equal. Judging on All-Star, All-NBA and All-Defensive selections, I doubt that too many coaches, writers, fans or anybody else (outside of Seattle) does, either. I think that Ray Allen has the purest, prettiest, most effortless looking shooting stroke in the game and love watching him play, but there is no way I would pick him over Kobe as an overall player.

 
At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 1:06:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

you don't pay enough attention to the level of opportunity that a player has.

Kobe got to play alongside Shaq. Other guys, whom I've mentioned in prior postings, never had that chance. You don't think that Jason Kidd would have a couple rings by now (and possibly be mentioned as an all-time great PG), if he'd played with Shaq? Ditto for a bunch of other guys.

I don't care about all-defensive team selections -- by media people who only watch the defense of the big scorers, anyway... Media are also too easily swayed by steals.

a lot of people can drive the fastest car to a win -- and that's what playing w/Shaq gives you. Until Penny Hardaway or Kobe make so much as a CONFERENCE FINAL (or Conference Semifinal!) without him, then you get back to me on how much Shaq adds to the value of a team as a whole.

Penny, Kobe, D Wade -- what an amazing coincidence that Shaq's perimeter teammates always end up All NBA. (Penny was All NBA first team 94-95, 95-96.)

Of course, Kobe has helped his teammates too, transforming Luke Walton into Kevin McHale, Lamar Odom into Magic Johnson, and Smush Parker into Kevin Johnson... Oh, wait, no he hasn't -- you can't develop when a teammate takes 35 shots a night.

Greatness is making your teammates better.

Kobe = a great perimeter player who needed Shaq

So Shaq never left Kobe, because D Wade is the same type of player. Wade is a better passer, worse 3 point shooter, better shooter at knowing when to pick his spots, and worse defender. He's equivalent to Kobe, but a better teammate and much better leader.

And there are the Ray Allen players out there who would be more celebrated if they'd been born with a Silver Spoon -- which, by NBA standards, means starting your career off alongside Shaq

 
At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 4:08:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

The analysis that you presented is a mile wide but only an inch deep; you brought up a lot of issues without addressing any of them in a comprehensive manner.

I think that Jason Kidd is certainly considered by many to be an all-time great point guard. He's not better than Magic or Oscar and winning one or two titles would not change that, but he is in the group right below them. He's a winner, pure and simple, even though he has never won an NBA title. He led the Nets to the Finals two times; when he comes to a team, that team tends to improve and the team that he leaves tends to get worse.

You are wrong about the All-Defensive Teams; they are selected by coaches, not by the media.

Penny Hardaway has not been healthy since Shaq left Orlando, so unless Shaq put a hex on Penny on his way to L.A., your criticism of Penny is not fair. Penny's healthiest post-Shaq year was his first one; he made the All-NBA Third Team despite missing 23 games and averaged over 30 ppg in the playoffs, including a couple 40 point games.

Meanwhile, Shaq did not win a championship in L.A. until Kobe developed into an All-NBA player. So, one could easily flip around your argument and say that Shaq cannot win a title without playing alongside an All-NBA level guard. Shaq was rarely, if ever, the prime fourth quarter option on his teams, in no small part due to his poor free throw shooting. Without a Penny, Kobe or Wade to make those shots, his teams wouldn't win. Of course, the reality is that great teams generally need two great players to win, not one. Kareem does not win without Magic and vice versa; the same for Bird and McHale, Doc and Moses, Jordan and Pippen. Shaq has had the good fortune of playing with some great guards, all of whom were high first round picks; it's not like he molded some scrubs into great players. These guys were all expected to be great players.

I'd like to see Shaq--or anyone else--turn Smush Parker into Kevin Johnson. It is amazing that you fail to give Kobe Bryant credit for leading that Lakers team into a seventh game against the heavily favored Suns. What NBA success did Smush have prior to playing alongside Kobe this season? As Jordan used to say when he was criticized for not making Dave Corzine into Kareem and Orlando Woolridge into Worthy, you can't make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what.

If you truly believe that Ray Allen is as good as Kobe and are not merely saying it for the sake of argument, you are on a pretty lonely island.

 
At Thursday, July 13, 2006 12:45:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

never said R Allen is as good as Kobe -- but he's closer than the Kobe-ites think

Kobe reached Game 7 vs Suns largely b/c of Steve Nash's back injuries -- which caused him to miss large parts of games & to turn the ball over late in Game 4. Having the league MVP injured altered the series.

As I've said before, great perimeter players are far more replaceable than great big men, in today's game.

Look at shooting percentages. Kobe takes a ton of shots and doesnt make teammates better.

Shaq scores on a lot of dunks and shoots around 57%, usually. No coincidence that he brought 3 guards to the Finals

Some media people love Kobe, because he has white mannerisms and values, due to his privileged upbringing in Italy.

Sports Illstated, 4/17/06, THE GREAT UNKNOWN, on Kobe:

"There are other black athletes who grew up in privileged circumstances, of course, but rarely was one as divorced from the African-American experience as Bryant was. Outside Phoenix's America West Arena, after his 51-point performance last Friday, he referred to his first-person essay in Dime, in which he wrote, "When I went to visit the victims of Hurricane Katrina and saw how their faces lit up when they saw me, how they embraced me and how my presence lifted their spirits, I realized how wrong I'd been about everything. I'd wasted all these years wanting to do things for our people, but thinking I wasn't the one to do them, that I wouldn't be welcomed. But now I see that isn't true. The experience of Katrina and my own personal struggles brought me closer to our people." He is ready, he says, to wear the mantle of African-American hero."

There he admits that he hasnt previously worn this mantle. The article gets it exactly right.

Kobe has contempt for other black players -- notice that his fights (Samaki, Reggie M, Chris Childs, Shaq, Raja) all come against black players. Ever notice that he doesnt feud as much w/whities, instead reaching out to such luminaries as Luke Walton -- same circumstances, no way he punches Luke the way he hit Samaki.

Shaq, on the other hand, grew up black in America, and doesnt hate other successful black men, such as D Wade, and plenty of other NBA friends he has.

Bottom line: Kobe's appeal is based on fundamentally racist media perceptions. People love that he doesnt show his race, the way an Iverson or other players do -- racism leads to prejudice against Iverson's hairstyle and speaking style. Kobe's appeal is founded on racist resentment/jeaulousy of the other NBA black players, many of whom grew up in America, without the advantages Kobe had. End of story.

 
At Thursday, July 13, 2006 12:51:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

at least MJ's arrogance was color-blind -- he froze Bill Cartwright out of games, but he also beat the living crap out of Steve Kerr

not so w/darling Kobe, who publicly shows contempt for other black players -- thereby ingratiating himself w/the media

 
At Thursday, July 13, 2006 2:50:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

First you wrote: "according to the book, Ray Allen is almost comparable to number 8, or #24, or whatever number Kobe wears now" but now you say "never said R Allen is as good as Kobe -- but he's closer than the Kobe-ites think." So you agree with the book that Allen is "almost comparable" but deny suggesting that Allen "is as good as Kobe"?

Nash played his regular minutes in the LAL series. He always lies down on the sideline when he is out of the game. I wonder how you know that it was his back injury that caused him to turn the ball over.

I notice that you failed to address my point about Smush Parker. Again, what other NBA success has he had prior to playing with Kobe this season? I always answer each point that you make, but you conveniently ignore the ones that weaken your case.

Taking a ton of shots does not mean that a player does not make his teammates better. Look up the numbers for Jerry West, Rick Barry, Michael Jordan and others. Kobe makes his teammates better by drawing double teams, which creates wide open shots. He also is an excellent passer and proficient at several kinds of passes: bounce passes, two hand over the head passes and regular chest passes.

I agree that Shaq has always understood that he has a limited shooting range and thus wisely limited his shot attempts to short range, high percentage shots.

What does wearing the "mantle of African-American hero" have to do with Kobe, Shaq, Ray Allen or basketball? I mean, that is a fascinating subject to discuss but has nothing to do with basketball greatness.

I laughed out loud when you mentioned that Kobe's fights happened against black players. Maybe you haven't noticed, but most NBA players are black. I didn't realize that he reached out to Luke Walton. Was that before or after he screamed at Walton on the court for fumbling a pass and missing a potential game winning shot about a year ago? Was that before he screamed at Walton for throwing a poor inbounds pass versus the Cavs instead of using the Lakers' last timeout? (I covered that game) Your fascination with Samaki Walker is amazing; maybe you should start a fan club for him. Kobe's "fight" with Bell consisted of Bell clotheslining him and getting suspended for a game; yeah, Kobe shouldn't have hit Bell in the forearm with his neck.

I guess you forgot that Shaq spent time in Europe when his father was in the military; LSU's Dale Brown first met Shaq on an army base in Germany. Hate to ruin your story with facts, but that's the breaks...

I guess you also forgot Lazenby's reporting about how much Shaq hated and resented Kobe right from the start, with a virulence that shocked other people close to the situation--but I'm sure you'll say that Kobe had it coming. After all, why should an established veteran like Shaq ease the way for a young, promising player out of high school? Did you read my Havlicek article? Contrast Shaq's attitude toward Kobe with how Frank Ramsey treated Havlicek and you'll understand why the Celtics won so many titles.

You know the old cliche that it takes two to tango? Has it ever occurred to you that maybe some of the blame for the Shaq-Penny and Shaq-Kobe conflicts might possibly belong to Shaq?

I don't know you personally or anything about you other than what you have written here, but your concluding theory about Kobe's popularity no doubt says a lot more about you and your perceptions than it does about Kobe. The fact of the matter is that Kobe is a very polarizing figure. It is hardly true to suggest that the media adores him; the very articles that you are so fond of citing demonstrate that. I've interviewed him in a professional context but don't pretend to know what kind of a person he is. What interests me about Kobe and other great players is how they perform on the court. Kobe is a tremendous player--highly skilled, highly focused and highly driven. All speculation and commentary outside of that is armchair psychology or gossip.

 
At Thursday, July 13, 2006 11:59:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"What does wearing the "mantle of African-American hero" have to do with Kobe, Shaq, Ray Allen or basketball? I mean, that is a fascinating subject to discuss but has nothing to do with basketball greatness."

People overlook Kobe's flaws as a player & teammate, because he doesnt outwardly identify himself with black culture. If Iverson played that dirty or fought w/teammates, media would call him a "thug." (Oh, wait, they already do -- I guess sacrificing your body by going into the lane, undersized is "thuggish.")

Shaq's time in Germany is irrelevant -- Shaq has never turned his back on the black community. Shaq gives a lot back to the community.

Kobe's whole image is (admittedly by him) modelled around MJ, who was corporate to a fault (wouldnt endorse Democrat opponent of Jesse Helms, because "Republicans buy shoes too.").

Kobe appeals to racist media, because he carries himself in a corporate (i.e., phony) manner.

Everything about Kobe is about a sense of entitlement... the comments on being fouled by Bobby Jackson against the Kings in '02, the belittling of Raja (AFTER ELBOWING HIM IN THE FACE), etc. He has a sense of entitlement that reflects that of a Silver Spoon jackass, who grew up in Italy with a privileged background -- and thinks he is therefore entitled to everything he wants. When someone like Barkley -- who grew up of a different background-- questions this, then he goes nuts.

The media love Kobe, because this country is controlled by a power elite of Silver Spooners, whom he mirrors, quite well.

 
At Thursday, July 13, 2006 3:50:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I can't speak for what other people do. I have never called Iverson a thug. In previous comments I have refuted your suggestion that Kobe is a dirty player, so I'm not going to rehash that again. A defender has to give the offensive player space; watch Ronnie Nunn's weekly segments on NBA TV. Kobe's inadvertent elbow happened when Bell was playing over aggressively. On the other hand, Bell's clothesline was a cheap shot and a dirty play that has no place in the game. You can seriously injure someone doing something like that.

Kobe's on court style is modeled after MJ--what is wrong with that? Shouldn't people emulate someone who is arguably the greatest player of all-time? I've never heard Kobe say that he is modeling his off court actions on MJ and, frankly, I don't care if he is or he isn't. That's his business and beyond the scope of what I am writing about.

Giving back to the community is a good and noble thing to do. I'm still not sure what that has to do with Wages of Wins, Ray Allen and winning championships. Giving back to the community does not prove that you are a good teammate or a bad teammate. As I have said more than once, this is a basketball blog; my focus is on the players and the game. Some of the issues that you are raising are very interesting but they are beyond the scope of what I am addressing with this site.

I hardly think that Kobe is a media darling. He wrongly received the brunt of the blame for "breaking up" the Lakers, thanks to Phil Jackson's skillful manipulation of the coverage (as Lazenby described).

What is the point to referring to the same plays that we have already discussed? Who cares what Kobe said after Bobby Jackson fouled him FOUR YEARS AGO? What does that prove? Didn't Shaq make a mocking reference to the Chinese language around the time that Yao came over to the U.S.? Is that relevant too? Shaq called Erick Dampier "Erica"; why did Shaq feud with a fellow black player? I mean, the points that you are making are pretty ridiculous.

Barkley's comments were contradictory and made no sense. After game six, he criticized Kobe for scoring 50 points, even though the Lakers came within one Lamar Odom rebound of winning the series. Then, after game seven, Barkley criticized Kobe for not shooting enough. I seem to recall Michael Jordan bristling at unfair criticism during his career. That shows Kobe's competitive nature.

 
At Thursday, July 13, 2006 5:16:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

we've been discussing Kobe's character, as it relates to Shaq's motives...

You originally said that Shaq should've stayed in LA -- and I refuted it on the basis of Kobe's character flaws, which drove Shaq away.

So it's relevant to your initial statement regarding what you think Shaq should've done.

The media continually favors Kobe, because he is not identifiable with black culture -- this lack of affiliation with black culture is a fact that he concedes as true and relevant to his overall image. (See the SI article.)

Yeah, Phil Jackson may have gotten some good media spin. But the media GENERALLY favors Kobe over American-raised players who didnt enjoy a privileged background. Media entities (not you but others) shape Iverson as a "thug" and are slow to hype other players, such as Ray Allen, who lack Kobe's privileged arrogance and GOOD FORTUNE to have played w/ Shaq, enabling title runs.

Gary Payton gets lambasted -- by you -- for having not won titles, when he brought Seattle to the finals and might've won w/LA, if Kobe would've ever passed him the ball. Payton ain't a media darling, because he lacks the arrogance of the privileged, Silver Spoon types. His confidence -- trash talking, etc., on court -- is more street level and typical of those who didnt have every benefit in life.

KOBE HAS CONTEMPT FOR THE POOR -- look at his lyrics in "THUG POET":

"So cold, I put the ice in nicest
You too broke to pay attention."

http://allstarz.hollywood.com/kobe/lyrics.htm

Meanwhile, in between hating on poor people, he pretends to have street cred. In the same song, he advocates violence: "My microphones and glock nines" (glocks are guns) ... "If you say murder that means I'm a Thug Poet"

...He pretends to have street cred, which is phony, given the realities of his upbringing. The lyrics that more accurately reflect Kobe's identity were the ones admitting his contempt for the "broke" poor people -- those who lacked a privileged upbringing.

Kobe was pushed by the NBA in a transparent racist attempt to avoid black identity... This the same NBA office that airbrushed Iverson's tattoos on league calendars, years back.

Kobe's media appeal -- his promotion for the '98 All Star game as MJ's heir apparent, in league ads -- stems from his own (SELF-ACKNOWLEDGED) lack of outward black identity.

When will you understand that Shaq had no reason to sacrifice his integrity by playing with a phony darling of the media, when there are other comparable perimeter players, like D Wade?

 
At Thursday, July 13, 2006 5:28:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

Let me just repeat that lyric: "You too broke to pay attention."

This coming from someone raised in privilege in Italy. This from someone who could've gone to Duke on scholarship. This coming from someone whose ONLY JOB IN HIS LIFE has been as a multi-million dollar basketball player (plenty of millions when you look at Adidas money paid right out of high school). This contempt for the poor, which masks itself in ghetto-speak ("You too broke"... with no verb) is vile. Yeah, Kobe speaks like that -- "You too broke" -- that's why he would've gone to Duke, right?

This contempt for the underprivileged what the media loves, because most of the American ruling elite -- which controls the media -- shares the very same contempt for the poor.

His privileged sense of entitlement and disdain for the less fortunite is the source of the media's pro-Kobe bias.

 
At Thursday, July 13, 2006 8:22:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"Barkley's comments were contradictory and made no sense. After game six, he criticized Kobe for scoring 50 points, even though the Lakers came within one Lamar Odom rebound of winning the series. Then, after game seven, Barkley criticized Kobe for not shooting enough."

Wrong. On neither occasion did Kobe play in the flow. If you watch the games you see that usually he breaks flow by shooting crazy shots too much. Occasionally, in his "statement games," he breaks flow by not shooting at all -- he does this to prove the point that they can't win when he doesn't shoot a lot.

Kobe plays like someone who watched a lot of highlight videos -- he has all the moves but lacks the oncourt intuition of when to use them, when to take over versus when to lay back.

He is good at conserving energy for the 4th quarter. BUt he is horrible in that he never builds teammates' flow.

The exception was Games 3 & 4 vs Phx. In those games, Kobe played within the flow and only took over when the situation demanded (end of Game 4). The result: he won big games. The LA media was amazed and glowing, that Kobe knew how to play well with the other kids -- and be part of a group.

But for most of his recent career, when he doesnt have Shaq drawing attention down low, Kobe has not understood flow or tried. Watch enough Lakers' games and you see this.

That is why Sir Charles was right!

 
At Friday, July 14, 2006 3:48:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

You covered a lot of ground in these three comments. Clearly, you have an intense dislike of Kobe Bryant and have no respect for him as a person. That is your prerogative. I have dealt with Kobe purely in a business situation (by interviewing him) but do not pretend to know what kind of a person he is. My perception of him and his involvement in the situations that you describe differs from yours and, at this point, I doubt that either of us is going to convince the other. As I have mentioned more than once, this is a basketball blog and my focus here is on what happens on the court.

It is more accurate to say that you have been discussing Kobe's character than I have; I have rebutted some of your more outrageous assertions about Kobe but I prefer to stick to what happens on the court. You certainly have not "refuted" what I wrote or proved that Kobe's alleged character flaws drove Shaq away. Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak have both publicly stated that they were unwilling to pay Shaq max dollars for max years. That is why Shaq ended up in Miami. The real question is how did Shaq and Kobe go from winning three titles in a row to a point where the Lakers felt that Shaq was not worth max dollars for max years. The answer to that is the offseason of 2002. Shaq delayed surgery on his toe, saying "I got hurt on company time, so I’ll heal on company time." He started the season out of shape, the Lakers got off to a poor start, got the fifth seed (no home court advantage) and lost to the Spurs in the playoffs. So, the Lakers lost an opportunity to win a fourth straight title because Shaq decided to "heal on company time." Shaq's declining physical condition and unprofessional attitude are why the Lakers decided that he will not be worth max dollars several years from now. Miami gambled that they could squeeze a title out of a Wade-Shaq combo and they did. That does not mean that the Lakers were wrong to give max dollars for max years to Kobe and attempt to build a championship team around him.

Even though Shaq won a title with Wade, I still think (1) he should have had his offseason surgery sooner, come back in shape and led the Lakers to a fourth title, that (2) if he had done that then the Lakers would have been inclined to give him the money he wanted and (3) if Shaq could have dropped his petulant jealousy of Kobe and deferred on court to him the way he deferred to Wade that he could still have won multiple titles with Kobe (in addition to the three they already won).

You offer no proof that "media entities" favor Kobe over other players. Kobe is better than Ray Allen. If you think that saying so reflects some kind of deep seated bias, then you are letting your personal animus toward Kobe get in the way of objective reality.

I did not "lambaste" Payton for failing to win a title. I criticized him for his horrible play in the '04 Finals. Detroit went right at him with Billups or Rip, whoever he guarded. Read Lazenby's book; the veterans from the previous championship teams begged Jackson to bench GP and give them a shot to start the game together. Even in this year's finals, GP argued with an official while a pass bounced off of him, a play that could have been disastrous--but, as they say, to the victor go the spoils; he will be remembered for hitting one key jumper and one key layup. GP has also feuded with teammates and coaches everywhere he's been. As I said the first time you brought up his name, if character is your primary interest, GP is a poor example to cite vis a vis Kobe.

I must admit that I have never heard Kobe rap, nor had I ever heard of this lyric before you quoted it. This has nothing whatsoever to do with basketball. Eric Clapton sang "I shot the sheriff." Does that mean that he has contempt for law enforcement? I really have no interest in listening to Kobe rap or analyzing his lyrics.

You continue to "explain" the media's alleged pro-Kobe bias but you have not cited even one example to prove that it exists. Kobe has received intense media criticism throughout his career, particularly after the situation in Colorado. Virtually everyone blames him for "breaking up" the Lakers, even though this is not true. Endorsers fled him like the plague after Colorado and have only slowly returned, while Ray Lewis--who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a double murder--is the admired poster boy of the NFL. I think that your analysis of who the media likes and dislikes is off the mark, to say the least. Of course, you are more than entitled to your opinion and I have no real interest in trying to convince you to think otherwise. My primary interest here is to analyze what happens on the court in NBA basketball games.

Your analysis of the LAL-PHX series and Kobe's understanding of "flow" is off the mark as well. The Lakers' strategy throughout the series was to pound the ball inside and Kobe went along with this. In game six, the Lakers' other players were not hitting and the team needed him to provide a scoring boost, which he did. In game seven, not only were the Lakers' players not hitting but their defense was poor as well. The Lakers fell behind by so much that the game was out of reach. If Kobe had scored 30 in the second half the Lakers would still have lost and then he would have been criticized for shooting too much. You say that the media loves Kobe, but I recall that earlier this season he got criticized for sitting out the fourth quarter of the Dallas game when he could have gone for 80 and then later he got criticized for staying in the Toronto game and scoring 81. When you have two of the best individual scoring performances ever, one of them against the eventual Western Conference champions, your team wins both games and you still get criticized, you are definitely not a media darling.

 
At Friday, July 14, 2006 11:56:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"If Kobe had scored 30 in the second half the Lakers would still have lost and then he would have been criticized for shooting too much."

Great players do everything to maximize their teams chance of winning. They don't even think about critics & criticism, on the court. Kobe is a great player who broke that cardinal rule -- what he did was selfish & worthy of criticism by Sir Charles & others.

Clapton's "I shot the sheriff" was a remake of Marley. IF you listen to the lyrics, (A) it's not by someone famous primarily for something outside of music, so it's not sending other messages besides art, (B) the narrator is fictional -- the singer isn't the narrator; by contrast, THUG POET is Kobe ("Kobe? Yeah, he's real with the flow"); (C) the Marley lyrics explain that the sheriff had a vendetta for the narrator ("Every time I plant a seed, / He said kill it before it grow "), (D) the narrator disclaims having ever shot the deputy, (E) the narrator expresses remorse over the killing ("Reflexes got the better of me").

Kobe doesnt make his teammates better. Smush would be a marginal player w or w/o Kobe. Kobe makes him no better -- Kobe's double teams help, but Kobe's excessive shooting hurts. Kobe tried to let others shoot in teh playoffs, but by Game 6 & 7 it was too late -- you cant take all the shots all year long and then expect others to pick up the slack in that pressure.

It's the same on playgrounds & NBA -- balanced scoring helps morale and that helps defense & rebounding. Not saying complete balance -- Kobe should get 25 or 28pg on 18-20 shots. But the # of times he takes 30 shots, so he can lead the league in scoring with 35 -- this is ridiculous. That's just not how the game should be played. And it doesnt work under pressure, in the playoffs. Unless he changes or they get Tim Duncan, dont expect him ever to lead a team far. He never has. Shaq was the leader when they won.

 
At Friday, July 14, 2006 12:15:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"Clearly, you have an intense dislike of Kobe Bryant and have no respect for him as a person."

for the record: (A) I dont like or dislike Kobe, and (B) my lack of respect isnt personal -- I dont know what he does on his own time -- but professional.

Kobe is, in the words of Commish Stern, "transcendant." This is true. He's good for the league. He draws attention & makes highlight reel plays.

But, he is a terrible influence on others, b/c he uses his fame carelessly. THUG POET is one of many examples. The comments on Shaq's weight are another key one -- this is the biggest breach of lockerroom rules, and it was unexcusable. The EXCESSIVELY rough play in practices (Lazenby, The Show), the disrespet for competition (quotes disrespecting Bobby Jackson, '02), the fights & constant whining to the refs, the Raja Bell quotes (fish to fry) prior to Raja's WWE move -- all of it undermines professionalism and respect for competition.

Ultimately, I feel sympathy for Kobe b/c he plays without joy.

SI article: "Jordan's default facial expression was a wide smile, Bryant's a cloudy frown."

To me, that's sad -- a player of that talent level who frowns... AND who feuds & fights with everyone from refs (every ref) to coaches (Phil), to commentators (Barkley), to teammates (Samaki, Shaq, according to you fLuke) to opponents (Childs, R Miller, Raja, and many others). He was also estranged from his parents for awhile, before the '04 season.

Can he even get along w the team bus driver, or does he hate his life in the NBA so much taht he has to feud with him, too? (No joke, considering teh eqpt people were brought into feud w Shaq.)

There's just something very sad when someone who has that much talent cannot find enough joy to get along with other people. Tortured artist? It shouldnt be that way for a team sport player -- Larry Bird, Magic, MJ, Kareem, others ... they had some issues, but Magic's smile lit up the room, and the other guys all found some level of peace. BRyAnT (read the capitals) has not found that -- which is very sad.

Even if Shaq messed up his toe and weight, then that is something for the coach & front office & ownership to discipline and address. It is not something for a young superstar to ever say publicly. Those comments were worse than anything Shaq has ever done. And they destroyed the possibility of any reconciliation or coexistence. I suspect that Kobe's anger and venom towards others is evidence of his feelings towards himself -- which is extremely sad indeed.

 
At Friday, July 14, 2006 2:56:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

If you read my interviews with Kobe, you realize that he is not thinking about "critics & criticism, on the court." How can you criticize a guy who scored 50 points in a key playoff win? Few players have scored 50 points in a playoff game. As for game seven, you are confusing results with process. Kobe did the same thing in game seven that you rightly praised him for in games three and four--deferring to his teammates. The problem is that his teammates failed him in the biggest moment of the season. Kobe can pass the ball to Kwame and Lamar but he can't make wide open two foot shots for them, too.

I have no interest in conducting an in depth analysis of Marley/Clapton's lyrics or Kobe's lyrics. The Marley/Clapton song is a fictional work of art, as is Kobe's. Whether Kobe's song is good art or poor art does not interest me and has nothing to do with him as a basketball player.

Your protestation that your dislike of Kobe is "professional" is disingenuous, as proven by your continual reference to song lyrics, alleged conduct off the court (Samaki Walker, etc.) and alleged indifference to the poor, none of which have anything to do with Kobe's profession, which is playing pro basketball. You hate Kobe; just admit it and we can move on. I'm not trying to change your mind.

You quote SI saying that Kobe frowns. I thought the media is biased toward Kobe; are you changing your tune now?

I've watched Kobe play a lot and I don't agree that his "default" expression is a frown.

You are completely wrong regarding Shaq and Kobe. There is nothing worse for a team athlete to do then what Shaq did regarding his surgery and that, more than anything else, is responsible for short circuiting what could have become the NBA's greatest dynasty. Kobe, who works on his game harder than anyone in the league, was rightly indignant at Shaq's unprofessional attitude.

I don't really know what more there is to add on this subject. Are you going to next bring up a school essay that Kobe wrote in fifth grade? Let's get back to talking about what actually happens on the court.

 
At Friday, July 14, 2006 7:55:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"You hate Kobe; just admit it and we can move on. I'm not trying to change your mind."

wrong. I think Kobe could have been -- & could still be -- an alltime top 10 player. But at this rate I doubt it'll happen.

I think he plays in a flawed style.

He shoots too much, which stifles the development of teammates. You fail to respond to my point that you cant expect Smush et al to show up big in Game 7, when they dont get enough shots all year.

Rebounding & defense are also relevant. By denying teammates their shots, he takes them out of the flow & rhythm of the game.

Additionally freezing others out hurts their morale -- that's just how it is...if one guy takes all the shots, the others lose their flow of the rhythm and their morale.

Great players learn to do it in a team context more -- play with the flow. Or else, in rare cases, they have offcourt leadership that enables them to get away w/ oncourt selfishness -- i.e., MJ's impeccable image & diplomacy provided a reason for other teammates to defer but not lose morale. Plus, MJ played with veterans (3 pt specialists & rebounders) who already honed their crafts.

Kobe plays w young players and impedes their development.

But I don't hate him ... this whole thread started when you said Shaq shd've stayed in LA & deferred -- & you refuse to consider character. You took an overly pro-Kobe stance, and I'm just trying to counter that.

(I could as easily say that you hate Shaq, just as you wrongly allege I hate Kobe.)

NO BUSINESS OR TEAM IGNORES character -- the NE Patriots (3 Super Bowl titles in 4 yrs) interview players & dont take bad apples or egoists -- they would rather have Katie Couric at WR than your favorite T.O. (look at their roster -- Belichick will never take a T.O. type player. never.)

I fundamentally disagree with your only-look-at-on-court-stuff philosophy, BECAUSE on court & off court are related in morale and other factors. (dont need offcourt friendship, but enmity makes relatinoships doomed in long term.)

Even though I disagree w your philosophy, I still refute you on Kobe on YOUR OWN terms, within your selected ON COURT ONLY rubric-- regardnig the issue of shooting too much (explained above), which impedes teammates' growth and rebounding/defense in flow of the game, ON COURT. Games are not played each individaully -- the early season gamse influence the post season... Kobe's sins of the regular season doomed Game 6 & 7, regardless of his conspicuos showing of not repeatnig those sins in Game 7. (Shoot too much Games 1-82, then dont take any shots in Game 7 second half, to make it look like you're a team player)

What I hate is the media's worship of selfishness -- which they achieve through worship of players (including Kobe) as idols.

Do I respect Kobe's talent? Absolutely, 100%

Do I respect his game? Yes (talent) & no (waste of talent)

Do I respect his attitudes towards team play? Absolutely not -- I think that he impedes his teammatse on the court, and then upstages to make them look bad to suit his purposes (Game 7 second half).

BUT EVERYTHING HERE IS ABOUT ON COURT -- shooting too much to impede others' development and to harm ON COURT morale. Dont tell me they're all robots, who dont need touches to get into game's rhythm, and who dont need shots before the playoffs. Even your philosophy doesnt say that.

 
At Saturday, July 15, 2006 4:02:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

First, I want to clarify something that I wrote earlier. While Lazenby does refer to GP's poor showing in the '04 Finals, the specific story that I referenced (other Lakers calling for GP to be benched) comes from Phil Jackson's The Last Season. In a nutshell, Jackson says that the Lakers got nothing out of GP in the Finals, might have won anyway if Malone had been fully healthy, criticizes Kobe's shot selection at times but also contends that Tayshaun Prince got away with continually fouling Kobe on the arm, which wrecked Kobe's shooting percentage.

I maintain that you hate Kobe because, in essence, you say that he was raised as a rich, spoiled brat who now has contempt for the poor, does not get along with teammates, opponents, his parents or anyone else and plays selfishly. If you truly believe all these things to be true of Kobe, why wouldn't you hate him? You make him sound completely contemptible. Of course, most of your "evidence" for these assertions consists of second hand reports and your own personal psycho-analysis of Kobe's personality.

Before this season, Smush Parker was a glorified CBA player. Playing with Kobe, he was the starting point guard on the seventh seeded team in a strong Western Conference. Before the season, did you believe that Kobe would lead that team to the seventh seed and within one defensive rebound of an upset of the number two seed? Smush didn't fail to produce in game seven because of something that Kobe did wrong; the Lakers reached game seven because Kobe is an amazing player who carried a non-descript roster (other than Odom, though even he is a career underachiever who has yet to make the All-Star team once) farther than almost anyone expected. Smush had a career year, Mihm had a career year, Kwame had a career year; granted, their careers are still not much to speak of, but that's the point. I picked the Lakers in six but when they lost game six I said that game sevens on the road, particularly with inexperienced players, are death. The collapse of Smush, Kwame, Odom and the rest in game seven was very predictable. Look at LeBron's game seven versus Detroit. How is that any different than what happened to Kobe? Did the other Cavs falter because of something that LeBron did wrong? No, they are not seasoned players who can handle game seven on the road. LeBron's numbers in game seven are eerily similar to Kobe's but LeBron largely escaped criticism; so much for your theory that Kobe is a media darling. For what it's worth, I don't think that Kobe or LeBron deserve criticism for their game seven performances. They were literally in a no-win situation playing game seven on the road with those rosters.

Kobe doesn't "freeze" guys out. Do you watch the Lakers play? Kobe leads the league in what I call "hand grenades"; the ball gets passed around aimlessly, no one wants to shoot and Kobe gets the ball with the shot clock about to explode. That kills his shooting percentage as much as anything and is also the reason that he sometimes forces shots early in possessions. He figures that if he is going to be saddled with a tough shot with the shot clock winding down anyway that he can get a better percentage shot earlier in the possession.

I have to laugh when you talk about Jordan's diplomacy; don't confuse his answers to media questions with how he dealt with teammates. He was very demanding and critical. I've talked to several of his teammates; they all respect his talent, but they enjoyed playing with Pippen more. Pip had their back and would even take the blame in team meetings for things that weren't his fault.

To suggest that Kobe is impeding the development of the young Lakers is absurd. Again, be honest and say what record you expected the Lakers to have this year. I picked the Lakers to be a playoff team even though most people didn't because I believed that he would get the most out of himself and his teammates, which he did. That roster could not have had a better season than it did (other than getting that defensive rebound in game six, but even reaching game six was a great achievement).

Yes, it is my opinion that rather than go to Miami and defer on-court to Wade that Shaq should have stayed in L.A. and done the same with Kobe. If he would have been willing to take the deal that Buss offered, Jackson probably would have stayed and that nucleus, coming off of a Finals appearance, was more ready to win than Miami was when Shaq went there. Riley did a complete overall and then came down from the front office to coach the team he put together; everything had to go perfectly for Shaq to win a title in Miami--Larry Brown left Detroit, all of Riley's moves panned out, Wade had a superb Finals and Dallas collapsed after having a 2-0 lead and a double-digit game three lead. The Heat won and they deserve a lot of credit, but let's not revise history and make it like this was some kind of inevitable lock as soon as Shaq signed there. If I were Shaq, looking at the Heat in '05 and the Lakers then, I would have stayed in L.A. IF my primary goal was to win titles. Shaq's primary goal was to get the most money possible and take his chances with Wade/Riley. It worked out great for Shaq, but a lot of things had to align perfectly for this to happen. The way Shaq deferred to Wade for the greater success of the team shows how childish Shaq was to not do this in '04 and '05 with Kobe. Shaq could get less touches and still be effective but--because of his pettiness toward Kobe--he could not accept that role in L.A. A lot of the character flaws that you ascribe to Kobe as a player--wanting to be the number one option, being selfish toward other teammates--are actually more demonstrably true of Shaq regarding his interactions with Kobe. Shaq should have embraced Kobe from the start as the co-star that he would need to win titles; instead, he resented him and that, as much as anything, surely fueled whatever bad feelings Kobe had toward Shaq. If Shaq had been a bigger man from the start, maybe the feud would have never even happened.

I don't hate Shaq but I lost respect for him as a competitor when he decided to have his surgery "on company time," in his words. That is when the simmering feud with Kobe really turned nasty and when the Lakers dynasty fell apart. If Shaq had not done that, I believe that the Lakers would have kept winning and Buss would had been more inclined to pay Shaq max dollars for max years. Kobe's character has nothing to do with any of this; Shaq and Kobe won three titles together and if Shaq had been more professional in '03 there is no reason to believe that they could not have won title four that year.

I am a big admirer of Bill Belichick and one of the few Browns fans who does not feel hostility toward him; I have always believed that he would have built a Super Bowl team in Cleveland given enough time and resources (the Browns beat Parcells' Patriots in the playoffs the year before Modell announced the infamous move) and, unlike others, I thought that Belichick would win a Super Bowl with New England. Belichick signed Corey Dillon, who had some criminal problems in his past (unlike T.O.) and was also considered a bad teammate by some. I think that if Belichick had a chance to sign T.O. that he would speak with him directly and not rely on second hand accounts, which seems to be your approach in assessing character.

20 Second Timeout focuses on what happens on the court because (1) there are plenty of outlets you can go to if you want to read gossip and innuendo about players and (2) there are few places you can go to read legitimate, high level, quality analysis of the game itself. I would much rather ask Hank Egan, Hubie Brown or Kevin Mackey about defense and player evaluation then I would ask someone about the meaning of the lyrics in Kobe's rap song.

 
At Saturday, July 15, 2006 4:51:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"I maintain that you hate Kobe because, in essence, you say that he was raised as a rich, spoiled brat who now has contempt for the poor, does not get along with teammates, opponents, his parents or anyone else and plays selfishly. If you truly believe all these things to be true of Kobe, why wouldn't you hate him? You make him sound completely contemptible."

I dont like wasted talent (it's a theme from the movie A BRONX TALE).

But I cant hate Kobe for wasting his talent by feuding and selfishness -- not right to hate for this, b/c his talent is his, and not mine, to use or waste. If anything, I'm jealous that he has so much talent at bball -- a tough sport to play at that level. I think it's sad that he cant use his talent for enjoyment without fighting and feuding with everyone and all, but I guess he's just a tortured artist.

As for Shaq's jealousy, that is an off the court issue. If you won't discuss Kobe's off court stuff, then I'm not going to talk about Shaq's jealousy -- which never even allegedly manifested itself in on court playing behavior.

Shaq's "company time" -- I dont know... I'd have to hear his side of the story, in answer to your critique. I never said he's perfect. His own flaws werent my concern -- my concern was that, taking Shaq as he is and was, I disagree that he should've stayed in LA to defer to Kobe. Shaq's decision was made at a given point in time, with Shaq being who he is -- an imperfect, talented star.

I cant win this argument if you will only discuss on-court stuff about Kobe, but then you bring in Shaq's off court jealousy and public relations. It's your blog, and you set the rules. So we'll just have to disagree on this one and leave it at that, under the rules that you've defined.

 
At Saturday, July 15, 2006 5:04:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

and please dont deny that you are talking about Shaq's off court stuff:

1) you refer to the jealousy here

2) this whole debate thread is under a posting in which you attacked Shaq for his false humility in the press

So if you want to attack Shaq's off the court stuff, but then say that you only want to discuss on the court stuff about Kobe -- well then, it's your blog, and let's just leave it at that...we disagree on this

 
At Sunday, July 16, 2006 4:39:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

I understand your point about wasted talent, even though I completely disagree that Kobe is wasting his; he already has had a remarkable career and--barring injury--could have another 8-10 seasons left to win more titles and possibly an MVP or two. Kobe has worked very hard to maximize his God-given gifts of size, athleticism, quickness, hand-eye coordination, etc. He has been very productive and played a major role on three championship teams.

I don't know how else to explain Shaq deferring to Wade but not deferring to Kobe other than jealousy. I suppose you could also call it pettiness. My point is that it is clearly not the case that Shaq can't defer to a great perimeter player or that a team can't win titles that way. When Shaq was in L.A. he would suggest that for the team to win he had to be option one and Kobe had to be option two but his own play in Miami has refuted that idea.

So why not do the same thing in L.A.? Shaq has been gradually declining for several years and his delaying the toe surgery provided a perfect time to seamlessly move Kobe to the forefront of the offense. Instead, Shaq resisted this every step of the way; I don't know why he did this but my point is, based on what is factually beyond dispute--Shaq deferred to Wade and did not defer to Kobe--it makes more sense to call Shaq jealous or petty than it does to lob all the accusations at Kobe that you have done. My primary focus has not been to call Shaq petty or jealous; my focus has been on setting the record straight about Kobe's greatness--which his critics minimize because they don't like him as a person--and correcting the idea that Kobe "broke up" the Lakers. If you read my articles, posts and interviews pertaining to Kobe, they focus mainly on Kobe's actions on the court. I never once asked Kobe about his "relationship" with Shaq because, to me, the whole thing is played out. However, in the thread of comments in which we have been exchanging viewpoints, you have accused Kobe of a host of character flaws, most of which tangentially at best relate to the game itself. That is why I thought it worth mentioning that if anyone were to be accused of having character flaws being manifested in the Shaq-Kobe feud, Shaq is at least as "guilty" as Kobe.

Other guys have been in fights and done some of the things that you criticize Kobe of doing--and none of that stuff stopped the Lakers from winning titles. The end of the Lakers dynasty corresponds directly to Shaq's delayed surgery, poor conditioning and resistance to deferring to Kobe. Were other things--including Kobe's Colorado problem--also a factor in the Lakers' demise? Sure, but the other things all came after Shaq's delayed surgery and loss of conditioning; they exacerbated the situation.

I don't mean to say that you can't bring up things that interest you--within the bounds of taste--in the comments area. I'm just indicating that when I do interviews or write items that appear in the main part of the blog or as links, the primary if not exclusive focus will be on the court. I realize that it is not 100% possible to do this.

My critique of Shaq focuses more on what he did two years prior to going to Miami than of his decision to leave L.A., although I still think that staying in L.A. made more sense at that time if winning titles was his primary goal.

As for the original article in this thread, it is actually Jon Feigen who points out Shaq's false humility. From my perspective, his article does deal with on-court matters. Shaq deferred to Wade in a manner similar to D Rob deferring to Duncan but, unlike D Rob, wants to make sure that he gets a lot of credit for doing so. Feigen placed the Wade-Shaq duo in the historical context of the Duncan-D Rob duo and noted that Shaq's style of handling this situation differed from D Rob's. Shaq does deserve credit for doing this and surely would have received it even if he had not incessantly asked for such credit. Shaq's attitude toward deferring toward Wade is certainly a relevant on-court issue, both in looking at Miami's success and in understanding the unraveling of the Lakers dynasty. Kobe's upbringing, use of dialect, lyrics in rap songs, attitude toward poor people, relationship with his parents and number of friends in the NBA all have nothing to do with who should have been the focal point of the Lakers' offense. Those are not the kind of things that I will choose to research or report about, although others have done and will continue to do so.

 
At Sunday, July 16, 2006 5:00:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

Let's take Shaq and Kobe's names out of this for a moment and look at a different duo: Dr. J and Moses.

Dr. J's willingness to cede the lower left block to Moses on offense interests me (that was Dr. J's "office" for many years). Moses publicly saying that it was still Doc's team and he felt honored to win a title with him interests me. Whether or not Doc and Moses got along off of the court or how well they got along with their other teammates off of the court interests me very little. Keep in mind that when these guys paired up in '83, they were the '81 (Dr. J) and '82 (Moses) MVPs. Moses was younger but Doc was still an All-NBA First Team caliber player.

An interview that I did with Rod Thorn will be published shortly and it sheds some light on Doc's relationship with his teammates--but in the context of playing the game itself.

Back to Shaq and Kobe. Whether Shaq and Kobe are friends away from the court does not interest me. Whether Shaq has more friends than Kobe in the NBA does not interest me. Shaq insisting on being the number one option in L.A. past the point that his abilities and conditioning warranted it interests me and seems even more relevant now in light of his role on Miami's championship team. Shaq being so eager to receive credit for deferring seems to be his way of saying that he was the reasonable guy all along but that he would never defer to "the other guy," as he likes to call Kobe. You seem to find his thinking in this regard quite reasonable, asserting that it would be undignified and humiliating for Shaq to defer to Kobe. I, on the other hand, find Shaq's ability to defer and still win a title as proof that he could have and should have done this in L.A., not only when he had the chance to re-sign there but, more importantly, starting in the '02-'03 season when Shaq was no longer clearly the best offensive player on the team.

That, in a nutshell, is the way that I perceive our disagreement about Shaq and Kobe and our difference in opinion about the emphasis that should be placed on matters that do not directly relate to what happens on the court. I hope that I have summarized your viewpoint fairly while at the same time perhaps making my own thoughts on the matter more clear and concise.

 
At Sunday, July 16, 2006 10:56:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"You seem to find [Shaq's] thinking ... quite reasonable, asserting that it would be undignified and humiliating for Shaq to defer to Kobe. I, on the other hand, find Shaq's ability to defer and still win a title as proof that he could have and should have done this in L.A. ..."

Yes, the main original issue was my disagreement with your statement that Shaq should have stayed in LA and deferred to Kobe.

I think the difference stems from (1) our using different criteria to evaluate Shaq's decision and (2) your shading your viewpoint with the toe surgery and conditioning issues, which pre-date the decision.

It is my viewpoint that, if I were Shaq, making the decision of whether to stay in LA and defer, or whether to leave, I would have based it on multiple factors, including (A) salary, (B) prospects for individual success, (C) prospects for team success, (D) personal/family happiness, and (E) intangibles.

Taking this decision not from the time of the toe injury and conditioning, but instead from the time at which Shaq demanded a trade, I include all these factors.

Whether Shaq publicly said he evaluates his career by # of titles is irrelevant to me -- b/c to me, there is more to life than one specific measure of team success...and he probably said that as PR, and to conform w/the NBA's marketing campaign.

Looking at the factors, at the time of the decision to leave (and not before):

(A) money was elsewhere;

(B) individual success was better where the wasnt a dominant scorer like Kobe who takes a ton of shots -- Wade still takes fewer shots (not that Shaq knew for sure that he'd get Miami);

(C) team success is partly unpredictable in that it depends not only on many variable on your own team (many players and coaches, w chemistry and injuries) but also on how other teams do; a missed rebound (LAL this year) or a tipped ball, or a foul call (all of the fantom fouls that Wade got called in his favor) can be the difference; so I think that all I would have wanted was to be on a contending team, i.e., one with good mgmt and another superstar; Shaq asked out after Phil Jackson's departure -- a coach is a big part of team success; but I wouldnt have tried to differentiate which contending team (among the top 5 or 6) gave me the best shot -- too much speculation and luck to predict that;

(D) hard to say, b/c we don't know Shaq's personal/family life well;

(E) pride would be important to me as an aging athlete; I would want to conclude my career w dignity (remember MJ's pre-Wizards statements about not wanting to age without grace); consequently, I would seek out an environment w good off-the-court relations and PR, for my gradually moving into more of a secondary role; perhaps I wouldnt factor in pride if, like GP, I were still seeking my first title; but w three rings, I would want a graceful latter stage to my career -- deferring to Kobe, after all of the bad blood (regardless of who was right and wrong) would have meant too much opportunity for ridicule and derision of Shaq both inside LAL lockerroom and in the media. Cliques and cabals are part of human nature -- and there is something tragic that would have occurred if the younger guys had looked to curry favor w Kobe by ostracizing Shaq. Think "Lord of the Flies" but w bigger men and egos.

Maybe Shaq was partly to blame for the bad blood. To me, the toe injury and conditioning were problem symptoms of larger problems -- not causes.

Kobe entered the league very young, and not living the same lifestyle as the other players. Kobe was living with his parents, and remaining separate from the team, off the court.

At that time, Shaq was under tremendous pressure to win, while Kobe was still barely old enough to vote. It was an unfortunate match -- and placed great strains on both of them. We probably wont see it again, b/c the NBA now has a minimum age.

But one can certainly understand Shaq's feelings -- his not wanting some young guy to go through a protracted learning curve, while Shaq's prime of his career lies fallow, without titles.

Because Shaq was under far more pressure, Kobe could have been more understanding, less physical in pick-up games, more open and friendly w other players. He could have shown more DEFERENCE to Shaq more, in Shaq's prime.

Kobe never showed that much respect and deference -- he was too aloof for that. You cant show respect for the leader by staying silent and separate from the group.

When Kobe caught up to Shaq's talent level, Shaq did defer at the appropriate times, on court (vs Indiana and in other playoff situations). This was when they were both in, or near, their primes.

But Kobe's failure to defer more, earlier -- back when all the pressure was on Shaq to win and Kobe was just out of high school and living w his parents -- sowed the seeds of the end of the relationship.

AT THE TIME OF SHAQ's DECISION, things had gone too far wrong for staying to be a serious option.

The off-the-court stuff and relationships matter tremendously, because of point (E), above. If Kobe had taken the high road and been the better man, then staying becomes an option for Shaq. For Kobe to take the high road would have been good -- as recognition that Shaq's jealousy was a product of pressures to win that Kobe did not face, at the time. If Kobe had taken the high road, early on, then Shaq could have deferred to Kobe later, without losing face.

Today, the situation has turned full circle. Pressure is on Kobe. Kobe sees what it is like to be on the hot-seat, the way Shaq was, way back when. And, if he's smart, Kobe regrets having feuded w Shaq, instead of having taken the high road.

As I've said, great perimeter players are more replaceable than dominant big men, EVEN NOW. Dominant big men take up space on defense, and get high percentage shots on offense, and draw double teams. Shaq is the only dominant center, and along w Duncan the only dominant big men of the last decade, I think.

Shaq could team up with Vince Carter, or J Kidd, Ray Allen, D Wade, McGrady, Paul Pierce, Steve Francis, Steve Nash, etc., and give you a decent shot at a title -- maybe not as good a shot as Shaq & Kobe, but a decent shot. On the other hand, Kobe and Yao, to me, that's a much longer shot. Garnett, Ben Wallace -- maybe Kobe could win with them, but it's not certain. (Ben cant score.) Clearly, I think the odds are longer than Shaq and the others. AND there's only a few big men on that list -- far fewer than the perimeter players named above. I think that, even w today's rules, perimeter greats are more replaceable than centers of Shaq's caliber.

It was too late for Shaq to be the better man, when he had to make the decision. There was too much water under the bridge. And the final stage of the career is not one when an athlete wants to be degraded by a teammate or the media. The loss of skills alone is enough to test the spirit.

So my framework is this: off the court friendships arent vital, and they may even detract from focus. But off the court aloofness and enmity create huge problems. The players are public figures, with dignity. And they are people too.

They arent just x' and o's on a court. They are public figures, not robots. And, as a result, they inevitably factor in feelings and dignity, into the equation. Championships involve too much luck to be a certainty.

When Shaq faced the latter half or third of his career, it was important to factor in intangibles. After the Kobe relationship had soured -- regardless of who was to blame -- it was time to move on.

If you look at the factors that I've laid out -- which I think are hard to dispute -- then I dont see how an argument could be made for Shaq staying. To focus solely on one factor -- and then choose the factor that involves the most chance -- to me makes little sense. And SHaq's public statements to that effect are irrelevant to me.

As Shaq, at that time, I would have focused on the factors laid out above, and I would have left LA. That is the point.

Shaq's toe and conditioning -- these are flaws. But we all have flaws and make mistakes. Shaq's mistakes in conditioning and toe surgery maybe offended Buss and some fans, but they weren't directed at Kobe. Kobe's mistakes, on the other hand, directly involved Shaq.

Either way, that all has transpired before the decision.

Shaq made the right call, by the framework that I use. I think that you focus far too much on winning titles as the SOLE factor in Shaq's decision, and that you regard winnnig titles as more predictable (and less luck-driven) than it really is. (Because of the luck, in my view, there is no reason to place too much predictive weight for winning titles, on small distinctions, such as differentiating Kobe and Wade, in scoring ability.) That is the basis of the difference in viewpoints, as I perceive it. Would be interested to hear your take on that.

 
At Monday, July 17, 2006 6:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

As an outline of how our perspectives differ, I don't disagree too much with what you just wrote. I've said from the beginning that Shaq was in a win-win position--stay in L.A., make big dollars and probably contend for championships (assuming that Jackson would have then stayed and possibly Fisher, etc.) or go to Miami, make big dollars and probably contend for championships. An interesting wrinkle to all of this is that after all has been said and done with Shaq's Miami contract and his most recent extension, he is actually making less now than L.A.'s original offer! So, for all of Shaq's complaining about L.A. not offering him a bigger deal and having to defer to Kobe, he ultimately took less money and deferred to a different perimeter player!

I never meant to suggest that winning titles is ever a certainty in any situation. My dual points are (1) that a fully rehabbed and conditioned Shaq in '03 would have been better equipped to help L.A. mount a run at a fourth title and (2) looking at L.A. and Miami in the summer of '04 it is hard to honestly say that the Heat looked like a stronger contender than the Lakers (before Shaq made his decision). Indeed, Riley almost completely overhauled the team that Shaq went to before Wade and Shaq won their first title together. If I were in Shaq's position, the number one thing that I would care about is winning titles. He's already extremely wealthy and his legacy as a player--rightly or wrongly--will depend a lot on how many championships he wins. I understand your point that the players are not robots and that factors other than championships and money play into this. Clearly, Shaq feels that way as well, because ultimately he took less money to play with Wade instead of Kobe. I suppose we could have a lengthy discussion about whether that says more about Shaq or more about Kobe!

We pretty much agree on the above part. You simply conclude that Shaq was right to leave to L.A., while I say, given what was known at the time, if I were Shaq I would have wanted to stay in L.A. and try to resume winning titles with Kobe (the Lakers had just made it to the Finals).

There is no doubt that Kobe's youth at the time that he entered the league made his transition to pro ball more difficult. We agree about that but I don't understand why you believe that the pressure that Shaq felt to win a title justified his harsh reaction to Kobe right from the start. Lazenby documents how Shaq treated Kobe poorly immediately. It's weak for you to justify that because Kobe allegedly played physically in pickup games (so did Jordan and most other great competitors) or seemed unfriendly. Shaq, as a veteran and established great player, should have looked at Kobe and thought, this is the guy who is going to help me win a title. Shaq seems to understand this now, because that is the approach that he took with Wade from the beginning--a marked difference from how he dealt with Penny and Kobe. Shaq will probably never admit it in so many words and perhaps you will not concede the point either, but Shaq did wrong by Kobe in a lot of ways; that does not make Kobe blameless for his own mistakes, but Shaq was the veteran. Shaq should have been trying to bring him into the fold but he seemed mostly concerned with remaining the number one option. He viewed Kobe's talent as a threat instead of an opportunity.

Basically, we view the early "creative tension" between Shaq and Kobe differently. You say that Kobe was the new guy and should accept a lesser role on the totem pole. I say that it was obvious to everyone that Kobe was a great player in the making and one with a great work ethic to boot; his mistakes were largely the product of his confidence in his abilities, his will to win and the immaturity that comes with being 18 years old. Those flaws should have been gently corrected. Instead, Shaq (and Phil Jackson as well) did a very good job of convincing the media that Kobe was to blame for the Lakers' problems--contrary to your assertion in earlier comments that the media loves Kobe, in fact the media has been harshly critical of Kobe and he is much less sophisticated in spinning things (or less interested in doing so) than Shaq and Jackson are.

But, whether Shaq should have embraced Kobe more readily--as I believe--or Kobe should have been more deferential--as you believe--the fact is that Kobe's game grew by leaps and bounds and when he emerged as one of the top players in the league, the Shaq-Kobe duo led the Lakers to three titles (note that the championships did not start coming until Kobe was also a great player; Shaq played with other All-Star guards, such as Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel, but did not win titles with them). So, regardless of who we blame for their feuding, Shaq and Kobe were able to win three titles together. What derailed the dynasty? Again, you have to look at the '02 offseason. Shaq's unprofessional attitude toward his surgery and rehab started the chain reaction that destroyed the team. You say that Kobe is an example of wasted talent, but look at Shaq's career--how often has he been in less than peak condition? How many games has he missed because of what he calls "knick-knack" injuries, injuries that he probably would not suffer or would be able to overcome more readily if he were better conditioned? Sure, Shaq has been the dominant post player of his era and won four titles, but maybe--if he had Kobe's work ethic--he would have won several more. Look back at how many times Shaq's teams got swept out of the playoffs. How can a team with the most dominant player get swept? Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant arrived at a very fortuitous time in Shaq's career or he could have ended up like Garnett or Iverson--lots of numbers, but no titles. You say that Shaq and almost any perimeter player could win a title but I don't buy it, not when you look at Shaq's career as a whole. Bryant and Wade are not just random perimeter players--each may go down as among the greatest in the game's history.

As for who will look back with more regret about Shaq leaving, I think that in 10 (or 20) years, Shaq and Kobe will both be mature enough to realize that they could have worked together to build the greatest NBA dynasty since Russell's Celtics. I think that Lazenby has called the breakup of the Lakers a sports tragedy and I don't think that is too extreme of a way to put it (not a tragedy on a global scale like war or a natural disaster, but a tragedy in the context of the world of sports).

 
At Monday, July 17, 2006 1:13:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"[Shaq's] legacy as a player--rightly or wrongly--will depend a lot on how many championships he wins.
... I don't understand why you believe that the pressure that Shaq felt to win a title justified his harsh reaction to Kobe right from the start."

The way I see it, the main thing is for a dominant star to get at least one (or two) rings -- that's why you cite Iverson & Garnett as examples of #s without titles.

At that stage in Shaq's career when he started in LA, there was intense pressure due to his huge contract and his lack of any championships.

In hindsight, we see Kobe as an all-time great, but at the time they both started in LA, Kobe was a mid-first-round pick, traded for Divac. Shaq had no way of knowing Kobe's talent & commitment would reach these levels (& arguably they wouldnt have without Shaq's pushing Kobe, but that's another argument for another day, as well!).

Either way, Kobe might have gone through a long learning curve, in the prime of Shaq's career -- or Kobe might never have panned out, despite the team's investment in him. These were the prospects that Shaq faced -- and each of these prospects meant that Shaq might never win a title. Basically, Shaq was the best player in the league, and he was being asked to team up with a COMPLETE UNKNOWN, on the court, due to youth.

Again, maybe the real problem was the NBA's minimum age -- which has since been raised.

But at the time, Shaq had to do whatever he could to break through and win titles. If the pressure led to jealousy, then to me that is understandable. We are all imperfect and sometimes driven by negative emotions. But I dont find Shaq's conduct to have been egregious or completely unjustifiable.

Things were different, when he left LA. He already had 3 rings. I dont think the # of titles is as crucial, once you've got one or more. Would you say that Shaq is better than Bird, because Shaq has 4 rings to Bird's 3? Was Pippen (6) twice the player of McHale (3)?

"You say that Shaq and almost any perimeter player could win a title but I don't buy it, not when you look at Shaq's career as a whole."

No, I said that great perimeter players are more replaceable than great centers, today.

Kobe, for all of his brilliance, didnt get out of the first round this year -- and didnt make the playoffs last year. Shaq has been to the Finals with 3 different perimeter guys -- and but for Nick Anderson's missed free throws, Shaq would've had a chance to win a title in Orlando.

Shaq couldnt win with just any perimeter star -- but my point was simply that perimeter guys are MORE replaceable than big men.

"Bryant and Wade are not just random perimeter players--each may go down as among the greatest in the game's history."

It's a team game, in which you yourself judge guys by the total number of rings. Bryant's and Wade's greatness -- measured in rings and playoff brilliance-- is in no small part attributable to Shaq, who put them in a situation to win titles. Is it also vice versa -- those guys helped make Shaq great? Undoubtedly yes, but to a lesser extent, in my view, than what Shaq did for their careers.

If Shaq had been a Celtic last year, then the words Paul Pierce might well have replaced D Wade throughout these postings. Pierce is a GREAT player, make no mistake. The guy does AMAZING things. But he's never played alongside a Shaq. He's never had the chance to achieve true playoff glory. Ditto for T Mac, Vince, Nash, and a bunch of other perimeter guys. I just dont see nearly as many big men who could be mentioned in the same sentence w Shaq.

So, to me, that colors the relationship. In business, your deference level usually depends on replaceability -- you defer to that a--hole client, who brings in more revenue than you could ever replace. You dont defer to that young, workaholic, brilliant co-worker, who adds a ton of value -- but could be replaced more easily, with someone from a top university. Is it fair that these are the rules? Not really. Is it frustrating, if you're the young worker, who has twenty times more character than the blue-chip client? You bet.

But those are the rules, and we play by them. I'm sure not all guys like the 3-second rule or the rule where you can call timeout while falling out of bounds. But we accept the rules, for what they are. And the rules of deference are rooted in replaceability. Until Kobe has been to the Finals with two other big men, then I'm going to have a hard time looking at the facts and saying that Shaq wasnt the more irreplaceable of the two -- regardless of who has more character and work ethic, in the abstract.

Based upon this view, I think Kobe should have done more to defer to Shaq earlier on, both on and off of the court. And, if he had, then I would far more be inclined to entertain your argument that Shaq should've stayed.

As it stands now, I think that the "sports tragedy" (of the Lakers splitting up) has enough blame to go around -- NBA's low minimum age rule, Kobe's handlers, Kobe, Shaq, Phil, media, etc. But I am in no way able to place a disproportionate amount of that blame on Shaq's shoulders. And I am able to understand and justify his choice to leave.

 
At Tuesday, July 18, 2006 4:09:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

It is true that there is a big difference between winning one ring and no rings--much bigger than the difference between winning one and two or two and three. I wouldn't compare Shaq and Bird or Pippen and McHale solely on the basis of rings won, but I do think that it is highly significant that each of those players had a very important role on those championship teams. I think that even being the 12th man on a championship team is significant; just winning a ring does not make you an all-time great if you don't have the numbers/individual dominance to back that up, but every member of a championship team is important. The 11th and 12th men rarely if ever play in games but are on the roster so that teams can have five on five scrimmages if one or two starters need to miss a practice or two because of injury, fatigue, etc. Those 11th and 12th men have to accept their roles as practice players without complaint and be good enough players to make meaningful contributions in practice. A lot of times people will look at somebody who is not in the NBA and say that he is better than player "X" but it takes a certain mindset and more than a little ability to be an 11th or 12th man in the NBA, particularly on a championship team that has intense, organized practices.

I still don't buy the pressure to win a title as a justification to be overtly hostile to Kobe right from the start. How does that help Shaq's chances to win a ring? Jerry West, who Shaq greatly respects, brings Kobe in and says that this is a once in a generation player (or words to that effect; I don't have the exact quote handy, but West was floored by Kobe's interview and workout and felt that he was destined for future greatness). Kobe may have been an unknown commodity to the general public but everyone who saw him practice at that time--teammates, coaches, etc.--knew that it was just a matter of time until he would be outstanding, because he had amazing talent and was tremendously competitive and driven. Again, look at the example of the Russell-era Celtics--their Hall of Fame veterans trained the young guys who came in and groomed them to be their replacements. I realize that this was a different era in terms of money, media coverage, etc., but for Shaq to be jealous of Kobe at that point is petty, childish and counterproductive IF Shaq's primary goal was indeed to win championships. The reality is that, however much you believe that Kobe schemed to become the number one option, Shaq was obsessed from day one to always be seen as the number one option over Kobe. I always thought that this whole number one option business was way overplayed in the media, because the Lakers won three titles despite all the fussing and feuding over this. As I have pointed out, the Lakers stopped winning when Shaq delayed his surgery and got even more out of shape than usual. So all this "who's the man" business and your idea that Shaq had to leave to preserve his dignity lest (gasp!) Kobe surpasses him as the "man" on the team is just a side issue to me. BUT, if it interests you in the detail that it seems to, you really should read Lazenby's coverage carefully, not to cherrypick a couple "anti-Kobe" quotes, but to get a good insider's view of how insecure Shaq is and how much that fueled his actions toward Kobe. I don't see how you can fail to understand that Shaq's poor treatment of Kobe got their relationship off to a bad start before Kobe could do anything to "offend" Shaq. Kobe was a whipping boy for Shaq and Phil Jackson and that strikes me as a terrible way to treat a guy who would prove to be essential in each championship run.

As for the idea that Shaq "pushed" Kobe to become a great player--in a word, "No." Kobe is an incredibly driven person. Veteran NBA writer Mark Heisler, who will be honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame this September, told me that Kobe is more driven even than Michael Jordan. Kobe did not need Shaq to push him. In fact, Kobe pushed Shaq--unsuccessfully--to get into better shape.

By simple arithmetic, there are a lot more perimeter players than post players. Each team has two starting guards and a starting small forward, players who spend most of their time on the perimeter. Even a lot of the power forwards do this now, too. There are really only a handful of true post players left in the NBA. So, from a numbers standpoint, you are correct that a post player is harder to replace.

Shaq's been in the league since '92-'93 and he has four rings. That is excellent but hardly proof that having him automatically leads to titles. He also had a lot of years that his teams got swept out of the playoffs. Pierce is indeed great, as are the other guys you mentioned; I just don't agree that Shaq would automatically have won titles with them, also, and I certainly don't agree that he would have won three in a row like he did with Kobe. Your diminishment of Kobe (and Wade) is the same type of argument that is used against Worthy, Pippen and other "sidekicks"--if you put player "X" alongside Magic or Michael, he could have done the same things. Of course, we'll never know the answer for sure, but, in general, I don't buy such reasoning. Titles are hard to win and are often obtained by narrow margins. Kobe, Wade, Worthy and Pippen each were not only consistent performers during title runs but made key plays at crucial moments down the stretch of games. They proved that they can perform in the clutch; others may have been physically capable of such things but would they have been as productive when the pressure was high? I give the benefit of the doubt to guys who have actually done it over guys who "could have" done it. My opinion of Wade as a player increased after this year's playoff run and his performance in the Finals, as did my opinion of LeBron after his sterling play in the postseason--and I had a high opinion of both players before the postseason. I'd have no problem building a team around either guy but, given a choice, I'd still take Kobe first (leaving age, salary cap, etc. aside for the moment) because he showed the ability and focus to contribute greatly to three straight titles--a very physically and mentally draining process. Can Wade and LeBron do the same thing? Very possibly, but Kobe has already done it.

As for assigning blame for the breakup of the Lakers, we agree that there is "enough to go around." The "mainstream" version of the story places most of the blame squarely on Kobe, which is totally unfair. I say that it started unraveling in '02, when Shaq delayed his surgery. That team was a volatile mix of egos and could only stay together--barely--as long as it was winning. If you want to restrict this to just looking at the immediate events that broke up the team, a lot of focus has to go to Jerry Buss. He decided to not pay Shaq max dollars and to not make a great effort to bring Jackson back. Previously, he also let Jackson's maneuvers drive off West (read Lazenby's book for details), perhaps the only guy who both Shaq and Kobe might have listened to. It is really too simplistic to blame everything on one guy, but if I had to do it I would blame Shaq for getting out of shape, making an issue out of money and "deferring" and then ultimately taking less money and doing more "deferring" in Miami. Do I think that Kobe always handled himself properly? Of course not, but I think that regardless of what Kobe did the end result--Shaq leaving--would have been the same UNLESS Shaq conducted himself differently regarding his weight, his conditioning and the financial terms that he demanded from Buss. If he had done those things, the team could have stayed together and kept winning regardless of how much Shaq and Kobe did not get along.

Shaq left Orlando under eerily similar circumstances. He said that it was about the money, but it turned out that Orlando's final offer was actually more than L.A.'s. Shaq was supposedly offended because Orlando fans overwhelmingly voted in a newspaper poll that he was not worth the big dollars, but his taking offense at that seems like it was just a smokescreen for the fact that he wanted to go to L.A. all along instead of staying in Orlando. He had every right to do that and it turned out pretty well for him. In both instances--leaving Orlando and leaving L.A.--Shaq did an excellent job of convincing the media and the general public that he had somehow been wronged. Shaq is a great player and I respect his contribution to four championship teams, but I don't buy the media spin about his time in Orlando or L.A.

You know, we should contact ESPN and get our own version of Pardon the Interruption--all Kobe and Shaq, all the time :)

The coming years will only add fuel to the fire. What if Shaq wins another title? What if he doesn't and starts feuding with Wade like he did with the "other guys"? What if Kobe leads the Lakers to a title? We're trying to evaluate the legacies of guys whose careers are still fluid and changing.

 
At Tuesday, July 18, 2006 2:03:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"Veteran NBA writer Mark Heisler, who will be honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame this September, told me that Kobe is more driven even than Michael Jordan."

I disagree w Heisler. Part of drive is leadership -- and your own Rod Thorn interview points out that MJ was the better leader by far. Also, look at my comments below on the 03-04 Finals.

"Shaq's been in the league since '92-'93 and he has four rings. That is excellent but hardly proof that having him automatically leads to titles."

I never said automatically. I just said he is harder to replace than a perimeter guy, which you properly concede.

"Pierce is indeed great, as are the other guys you mentioned; I just don't agree that Shaq would automatically have won titles with them also, and I certainly don't agree that he would have won three in a row like he did with Kobe"

Again, I never said automatically. Who knows, maybe only 2 in a row with Vince. Maybe 4 or 5 with Pierce -- who appears to have better media & interpersonal skills than Kobe (not saying much), to keep the relationships together.

Remember how close LA was to losing vs. the Kings in '03 -- Horry's 3-point shot (courtesy of Webber's poor defense), the refs' intervention time and again for the Lakers. I almost regard LA's 3rd title as an asterisk, the refs were so bad vs. Sacramento.


"Kobe, Wade, Worthy and Pippen....proved that they can perform in the clutch; others may have been physically capable of such things but would they have been as productive when the pressure was high? I give the benefit of the doubt to guys who have actually done it over guys who 'could have' done it."

I disagree. Guys who have performed well in past situations are no more likely to do so in the future than other similarly-talented players. First of all, the hunger level is not necessarily there, as it would be in other guys. (And, in some cases, all of the extra playoff games have also taken a tangible toll in fatigue, injuries.) Secondly, past performance was often in different situations.

All of this (and lingering injuries) is why Kobe didnt show up for Games 1, 3-5 in the '04 Finals -- no hunger...thinking ahead to team breakup. He didnt play in the team game, didnt feed the post, and vastly bungled those games. His finals stats: 19.8ppg
2.3 reb, 4.4 asst. (http://www.hoopsanalyst.com/goodman29.htm). Decent, but harldy legendary, or MJ-esque.

Nor do I remember Pippen being very clutch in Portland, away from the special situation he had in Chicago.

The past is that -- the past. How clutch were the Pistons this year? It wasnt 03-04.

Studies of sports show the fallacy of most "clutch" perceptions.

You give me Paul Pierce, hungry for his first title, never before in the Finals, and I'll take him over almost any other perimeter player in the league. Of course, he'd need a Garnett or other big man, just to make it to the Finals.

I dont care what Kobe did in 01-02 -- that didnt matter in 03-04 Finals.

Jordan stayed hungry, more than any others that I've seen on TV. And he got every call.

People mis-remember and overvalue the past -- they see it in hindsight and forget the ambiguous details.

"It is really too simplistic to blame everything on one guy, but if I had to do it I would blame Shaq for getting out of shape, making an issue out of money and 'deferring' and then ultimately taking less money and doing more 'deferring' in Miami."

LOL -- I think you really dislike the big fella. It is much harder for huge people to stay in shape -- they often have heart problems. (Think of Andre the Giant and many others.)

The other stuff is an EFFECT, not a CAUSE of the problem -- LAL didnt break up because Shaq wanted to take LESS money in Miami and defer more! His taking less and deferring more was a RESULT of problems with LAL.

The money stuff only proves my point -- that there is more to sports than rings, and that to win rings you need relationships. I dont care if the guys are friends, but they can't be enemies. So, even if Shaq was jealous early on, still, Kobe was also blameworthy for aloofness and arrogance; and so, by the time he decided to leave, there was too much water under the bridge -- at that time, leaving was the right call for Shaq. That was my main point in the discussion -- that leaving was the right call, regardless of who was to blame for the earlier stuff.

I'll check out Lazenby.

"You know, we should contact ESPN and get our own version of Pardon the Interruption--all Kobe and Shaq, all the time :) "

I dont like the real PTI, so we could only improve on it!

 
At Tuesday, July 18, 2006 4:48:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Drive means your own personal desire to succeed regardless of obstacles. Leadership is the ability to command respect from others and get them to follow you. I think that Phil Jackson observed in one of his books or interviews that Kobe wanted to be a leader right from the start but that nobody wanted to follow him because he was so young. Now, Kobe is an established veteran and he is clearly the leader of a Lakers team that did far better than almost anyone expected. Leadership involves getting what Pat Riley calls "voluntary cooperation" from others; drive comes from within and involves one's own improvement. Kobe is highly driven and has been that way from the start. His leadership skills--and the willingness of others to follow him--have developed over the years. Having Shaq, the star of the team (and the league) constantly belittling Kobe did not help to increase the respect that Kobe received in the locker room and no doubt divided the team to an extent, even though the Lakers won three titles despite this.

I "conceded" only that there are fewer post players numerically. There are more shooting guards to choose from but it is no easier to replace Kobe than it is to replace Shaq. Wade has won one ring; we'll see if he gets two more, plus another Finals appearance. Perhaps LeBron can do what Kobe has done. That's about it; I'm not buying that any of the other guys you keep mentioning would win three rings playing alongside Shaq like Kobe did. Just look at NBA history; how many duos/combos win three or more rings? Russell/Cousy (or Russell/Sam Jones, etc., depending how you want to look at it); Mikan/Pollard/Mikkelson; Kareem/Magic; Bird/McHale/Parish; Jordan/Pippen. Shaq and Kobe are a duo of historic proportions in terms of winning titles and you are suggesting that you could plug in half a dozen or so other guys in Kobe's spot and do the same thing. I don't believe that this is true of Shaq/Kobe or any of the other dynasties.

Your reference to past performances misses my point. What I am saying is that Kobe has already done it. That is no guarantee that he will do it again, but I'd rather bet on the proven performer than someone who allegedly has equal talent but may not perform as well when the real pressure of the playoffs/Finals presents itself. I am aware that studies show that "clutch" play is hard to quantify. If you want to build a team based on the belief that all players--even All-Stars--react equally well to pressure situations, be my guest.

It's convenient that you mention four of the five games in the '04 Finals while leaving out the one game that Kobe almost singlehandedly won down the stretch. What about GP's abysmal play and Malone's injury? Kobe did not play as well as he did in the other Finals but he did win one game and without his amazing shots versus Portland the Lakers would not have won the division title and probably would not have made it through to the Finals.

Pippen was an old, broken down player in Portland and he still took a team farther than MJ ever took a team without Pippen. Pippen made numerous clutch plays throughout his tenure in Portland and was the glue on that team, even though his efforts weren't quite enough to lead Portland to an NBA title. Coaches, players and media who saw that team on a daily basis marvelled at the contributions that he made.

If you think that Pierce has better media/interpersonal skills than Kobe, you are wrong. One of the problems that Boston has faced each time Walker was moved is that Pierce does not thrive in a leadership role or in being the face of the team to the media. Walker is much more comfortable talking to the press and providing leadership to his teammates. Pierce is a driven guy (again, drive does not equal leadership) who performs well but has not distinguished himself as a leader. Also, he is not even on the same planet with Kobe as a defensive player.

I'm not "misremembering the past." Kobe has proven what he can do in the Finals, as did Worthy and Pippen before him. I'll take the guy with proven playoff/Finals credentials over someone who does not have the same, all else being equal or close to equal (no, I'm not taking John Paxson over Pierce). What's more, I'm not even convinced that all else is equal regarding Kobe versus Pierce, Allen, etc.; Kobe is simply a better all around player than those guys. If you think otherwise, you are on an island by yourself and that island has few if any GMs, coaches or player personnel people.

I like how you take Thorn's one comment about Jordan being a better leader than Kobe and ignore that Thorn also said that Kobe is the closest player to Jordan in today's game. Jordan's leadership emerged in the second part of his career, which is when he won six titles. Kobe has won three titles as the number two guy, is improving as a leader (as Thorn mentioned) and may win more titles as a number one guy.

What I'm saying about Shaq is that you can't believe everything that he tells the press. He talks about wanting to win titles and wanting to be paid, but he took less money to go to a team that had no better chance to win a title than the team he was leaving, WHICH WAS JUST COMING OFF OF A FINALS PERFORMANCE (let's not misremember the past...). As you have said, winning is never a certainty and things have turned out nicely for Shaq in Miami. Just because things turn out well does not mean that the original decision making process made sense, based on what was known at the time.

Andre the Giant had a pituitary problem. I also don't know if he was taking steroids, etc., like so many pro wrestlers do. Kareem did not have a problem staying in shape, nor did Russell, Chamberlain, Parish or most of the other championship winning centers. That's just an excuse.

Considering his prodigious talent and size, it could legitimately be argued that Shaq has actually underachieved despite the fact that he has had a Hall of Fame career. No rebounding titles; no shotblocking titles; one MVP, although some voter bias may be involved there in terms of not giving the award to the biggest player; becoming deconditioned in the middle of what could have become the NBA's second greatest dynasty. And you think that Kobe Bryant has sqaundered his talent? What would Kobe have accomplished with the same drive placed in a 7-1 body?

 
At Tuesday, July 18, 2006 6:41:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"What would Kobe have accomplished with the same drive placed in a 7-1 body?"

That's too metaphysical, even for me.

The fortunate thing is that these guys are still playing, so we'll be able to judge, looking forward.

But a lot of this debate has to do w Kobe's going pro out of high school.

That's why the Shaq-Kobe dynamic was so screwed up, I think.

Kobe was living w his parents, never having gone through the college process of learning how to handle yourself when you're becoming famous. College allows some protection for this process for the elite athletes. They get to be campus celebrities but are still enrolled, protected somewhat from agents and the full strains of 82 games. They still have a chance to be kids a little bit, while young.

Kobe didnt have the age and personal experience of the other guys, when he went pro. IF what you say about Shaq and Phil is true -- that they were unfair to Kobe, who got a raw media deal -- then Kobe would've been able to defend himself in person and in the media, with a couple of years of maturity and wisdom behind him.

Kobe was one of the first to go pro out of high school (after Garnett) -- and was the first perimeter guy to do it.

This created all sorts of questions. Jerry West's assessment of Kobe's great potential does nothing to change the fact that he was still young and at a different stage in life than the other guys. His maturation process was still up in the air and unpredictable.

MJ took 3 years of college, and even then was only the 3rd overall pick. So Kobe was by no means a lock on all-time great status, when he entered the league -- Jerry West's words notwithstanding to me.

Shaq had every reason to be nervous/suspicious about his teammate.

The league's recent adoption of a minimum age rule is a referendum on this type of situation. While I disagree w the rule, AS A MANDATORY RULE -- I believe it violates federal law -- I think it is a good suggestion for players.

Lebron -- a ridiculous freak talent -- is the only player I have seen who wouldnt have benefitted from some college ball. (Never mind that Kobe's selected school, Duke, was teh wrong choice due to its squelching of individual style -- and it would've hurt his game. That's just b/c he chose the wrong school -- NC or UConn wouldnt have hurt his game ... and would've allowed him to mature and learn the larger game of managing your life in that world.)

If Kobe had done a year or two at UNC or UConn or Kentucky, and learned the larger game -- learned to deal w teammates off the court, things might've been very different. He might've been able to stand up to alleged unfairness (of Shaq, Phil, media) -- he would've had far more street smarts and savvy.

To me, off-the-court stuff matters -- if you call the teammate FAT in the media. Shaq's alleged jealousy was mostly kept behind closed doors, in my view.

Kobe's public feuding w refs, teammates, playres on other teams, coaches, broadcasters, and others, to me demonstrates an imbalance.

D Wade may not be the defender or 3-point shooter that Kobe is, but he makes up for it partly w being a great teammate -- media, and otherwise. He knows the larger game or "the hustle," as it's been called.

This is real life. At most jobs, social skills are at least as important as talent. Bball is more talent-intensive, but not 100%. Including pre- and post-season, a championship team plays 125 games together, including half on the road, where they travel together. SO there is no way that personalities and maturity can be wholly ignored as irrelevant. They are maybe 5% of the game, but an important 5% at that.

You're never going to convince me that the off-the-court game is irrelevant. Guys like Phil and MJ measured up their media quotes TO A FAULT -- I think this is unsavory, but, like aggressive physical play, it's part of the game.

You're never going to convince me that Kobe was more in the right in this matter, and I'll probably never convince you that SHaq was more in the right.

But to me, the league's adoption of a higher minimum age rule recognizes the dangers of boys playing in a league with men -- and this alone should temper the harshness of your judgment of Shaq, who was stuck playing alongside a very young star. Perhaps it shd also temper the harshness of my judgment of Kobe --league policy sanctioned his early entry.

Either way, I believe that the age issue was an underlying problem -- and would have been almost impossible to surmount. Where egos are involved -- and they almost always are in this type of situation -- a couple of years of maturity really can help, esp. at volatile stages like being 18 years old.

So maybe the situation was to blame more than any one person. Either way, I will never see Kobe as less blameworthy than Shaq. Ego and money are synonyms and, as you've pointed out, Shaq took less money to go to Miami. Meanwhile, Kobe got paid NBA money and endorsements, while learning the game out of high school -- whereas Shaq did it for LSU, and took a lot of physical triple teams, doing it.

At best, I'd say they were BOTH emotionally immature and (without trying to say who was more blameworthy) leave that as the cause of the fall of what could've been an all-time dynasty. That's the best I'll give you on this one.

 
At Wednesday, July 19, 2006 2:16:00 AM, Blogger alternaviews said...

of course, on another level, the Shaq-Kobe drama is fascinatnig just as a story line.

Big guy vs. smaller (size vs. efficiency)

Young vs. older

It's like a Greek drama, or a sibling rivalry -- there's definitely a story there...

Can't think of many bigger intrasquad rivalries in teh history of sports

Ruth-Gehrig had tension but not much acrimony

Basketball is unique in that shot attempts are shared among the team -- so players fight over them... Baseball, players dont fight over at-bats; football, there is some competition among offensive players but not as much as basketball

 
At Wednesday, July 19, 2006 6:40:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

I agree with you completely regarding the players coming to the NBA straight out of high school. A couple guys made the transition very easily (LeBron, Amare) but overall that trend negatively affected the college game, the pro game and the lives of a lot of players who made the jump but ended up with neither a pro career nor a good education to fall back on. I also agree that restricting players from doing this formally is probably unconstitutional and yet would be in their own interests.

I'm not sure that a couple years of college would have prepared Kobe for dealing with the mind games from Shaq and Jackson but it couldn't have hurt.

Shaq's jealousy stayed behind closed doors because of how the media chose to report things, much the same way that the indiscretions of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle did not become tabloid fodder during their careers. Even after Lazenby and others report it, people don't really seem to care because the public images of Shaq and Kobe are pretty firmly set: Shaq is perceived as more likable than Kobe, so accounts of Shaq's flaws are either discounted or rationalized (much as you have done throughout our very interesting discussion).

I don't mean to say that the off-court stuff is irrelevant. I do think that it is overrated and covered in a sensationalistic way. I do not find such stories interesting. As I have pointed out more than once, however you want to characterized Shaq and Kobe's off court relationship when they were teammates, they won three titles together. What precipitated the team's fall from dynasty status was not a feud but Shaq delaying his surgery and getting out of shape. Kobe's Colorado problem did not help, nor did Malone's injury or Payton's poor play.

I don't think that Kobe has "feuded" abnormally with teammates, opponents ,etc. Great players have strong personalities and strong personalities get in conflicts with others from time to time. When we like an athlete, we view these conflicts as signs of their competitive greatness; when we don't like an athlete, we view these conflicts as signs of immaturity, selfishness or arrogance.

I would have no problem saying that both Shaq and Kobe were emotionally immature in their dealings with each other. If these guys are honest with themselves, in 10 or 20 years they will wonder why they let anything get in the way of trying to win six or seven titles in a row. Neither will ever have a better teammate (Wade is close, but I still won't put him at the same level as Kobe).

The Shaq-Kobe feud did make for good drama and that's why the media milked it for all it was worth. Unfortunately for Kobe, he was not very effective in getting his side of the story out. I also think that for many years he felt that getting his side of the story out didn't matter, because the truth would prevail eventually (talk about being a naive kid!). All the young Kobe thought about was perfecting himself as a basketball player and he believed that by doing that he would earn everyone's respect. Now he seems to realize that he has to get his "message" out there if he wants people to understand what he's about. Shaq and Jackson always understood how to get their "messages" out there. I'm not "blaming" them for that as much as making an observation.

Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson had some serious acrimony going before Munson's untimely death. As with Shaq and Kobe, it provided a lot of media fodder but did not stop the team from winning.

Insiders will tell you that Kareem and Magic were never particularly close off of the court but I don't think it would be accurate to say that they feuded. Bird and McHale also supposedly had a similar off court distance. Remember McHale slapping five with Isiah when the Pistons finally dethroned the Celtics? He and Isiah were actually friends off the court and what McHale told Isiah then was to not be satisfied and to finish the job by winning the title.

 

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