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Monday, September 07, 2009

The Enigmatic Antoine Walker

This article was originally published in two parts at Suite101.com on August 4, 2005 and August 5, 2005.

"Antoine Walker is the most polarizing player in Celtics' history." Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan, who has covered the Boston Celtics since 1969, said this to me before game six of the Indiana-Boston series. That game and that playoff series are an excellent microcosm of the "good, the bad and the ugly" concerning the three-time All-Star forward. First, the "good": Walker had 24 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and made several key plays down the stretch as Boston won game six on the road in overtime 92-89, staving off elimination. Boston would not have won without his performance, particularly in light of the ejection of the Celtics' other star, Paul Pierce, near the end of regulation. Walker scored five of Boston's eight points in the extra session.

The "bad": With a chance to take a 3-2 series lead, Boston lost 90-85 at home. Walker scored only 10 points while shooting 5-13 from the field and not attempting a free throw.

The "ugly": Walker bumped an official at the end of a blowout loss in game three and was suspended for game four.

The end result of this wacky series: Inexplicably, Boston followed up the dramatic road win in game six with a lackluster game seven performance at home, losing 97-70. Walker (20 points, 5 rebounds) and Pierce (19 points, 7 rebounds) were the only Celtics who showed any semblance of life.

Walker averaged 16.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 bpg and 3.0 tpg in the series. Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana's power forward (it should be noted that Walker and O'Neal were frequently not matched up with each other), averaged 15.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.43 bpg and 3.0 tpg. He shot .353 from the field, while Walker shot .413, including 7-19 (.368) on three pointers (O'Neal shot 0-3 on three pointers). O'Neal is an MVP candidate when he is healthy, but he was limited by injury during the series although, to his credit, he never used that as an excuse. O'Neal had a big edge in blocked shots, while Walker scored a little more and shot somewhat more accurately. Without Walker the Celtics would have lost game six, but they won game four when he was suspended. Neither played a decisive role in the final game; Indiana's Stephen Jackson (24 points, 5-6 on three pointers) starred in game seven.

Some will look at the numbers and the back story and say that Walker helped carry Boston farther than the Celtics would otherwise have gone, a very reasonable proposition considering that the team was 27-28 before Walker arrived and went 18-9 after acquiring Walker. Others will say that Walker is inconsistent, shot a poor percentage (ignoring the fact that O'Neal shot even worse) and because of an immature act was not even on the court for a hugely important game that could have seen Indiana take a 3-1 lead in the series. It seems that it is never simple to define Walker's impact; check out this discussion at the APBR Metrics website.

Sticking with the theme of the "good, the bad and the ugly," let's take a closer look at Walker's game. Again, we'll start with the "good." Hall of Famer Tommy Heinsohn won eight championships as a Celtics player, coached Boston to titles in 1974 and 1976 and currently is a color commentator on Celtics broadcasts. Here is what he says about Walker: "Antoine Walker is a very gifted player. He is a very knowledgeable, intelligent player. He has great passing skills and he also has the ability to score from various places on the floor. The first year that he played with the Celtics he showed that he was a terrific inside player and a terrific offensive rebounder. He was among the league leaders in offensive rebounds in his rookie season. Since then, what happened is when the coaching staff changed they relied on his passing skills and made him the guy who initiated the offense, so he played most of the game outside of the foul line. So that element--the rebounding element of his game--really just showed up on the defensive boards. Now what they are asking him to do since he came back is to play more like he played in his first year--to get on the offensive boards and to not shoot threes--or only shoot them when the clock is winding down--and to become a passer out of double teams in the post instead of initiating the offense and getting the ball to Pierce; other people can do that. That's the contribution that he has made and he is adept at adjusting to what they want."

After Walker's great game six performance, Boston Coach Doc Rivers made this assessment: "He's got a quirky game. He makes threes and misses layups and then he makes layups and misses threes. He just plays. He had his head down in the second quarter (after missing several shots) and I told him, 'Toine, the odds are on your side. Just keep playing.' He's playing his heart out, (whether) things are going well for him or they're not going well for him…More importantly, Toine helped us on the defensive end. When they went small he guarded O'Neal down the stretch and hung with him. He lasted a good eight, nine minutes with five fouls. I'm really happy with him. I'm really happy that he made a big shot for us. That was really nice to see.”

Celtics General Manger Danny Ainge has a unique perspective on Antoine Walker since Ainge traded him away, traded to get him back and now has traded him to Miami. Before game six of the Indiana-Boston series, Ainge explained why he brought Walker to Boston for the stretch run: "He gives us a swagger. Antoine's a tough, competitive kid. He gets timely baskets. Again, I think that in the last game he scored our only baskets in the last few minutes of the game. He has some intangibles--toughness, experience. I think that he brings confidence with him to the other players on the team. I think that those are the greatest qualities that he has been able to bring to us, which are very important."

In addition to the traits listed above, Walker is durable. He has played 3000-plus minutes in five of his nine seasons, leading the league in that category once, and he just missed the 3000 mark in two other seasons. He has never missed more than eight games in a season.

After describing the "good" Antoine Walker I hear some grumbling in the background, so let's proceed with no delay to the "bad": Walker has never shot better than .430 from the field for a season and is a career .657 free throw shooter. He accumulates a lot of turnovers and led the league in that category once. He is not athletic, which places him at a disadvantage in certain matchups. In the lively discussion about Walker at the APBR Metrics website, some observers contended that because of Walker's field goal percentage and turnover rate he is a very inefficient player--one person went so far as to suggest that Walker is "one of the worst starting power forwards in the league and has been for quite some time."

As for the "ugly," Walker's aforementioned suspension in the middle of a closely contested playoff series was a huge lapse in judgment (amazingly, later in the series his All-Star running mate Paul Pierce exercised equally bad judgment, the only difference being that he did not make contact with an official). When I spoke with Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan, he noted that Walker has a unique playing style that not everyone likes, particularly when Walker went through a period when he was launching three pointers from all angles, leading the NBA in three pointers made and three pointers attempted in 2001. Walker was heavily criticized for this even though he was doing exactly what the coaching staff asked of him (Rick Pitino and Jim O'Brien have always been big believers in shooting a lot of three pointers). Whether or not this is good basketball strategy is a subject for another day, but it led to one of my favorite NBA quotes. Walker grew tired of being constantly questioned about his three point shooting, so one day when a reporter asked him why he shot so many threes, he replied, "Because there aren't any fours." Ryan also pointed out that Walker's mannerisms--the dancing and gyrations after big plays--irritated older fans, although Ryan acknowledged that Walker really toned this down during his second run in Boston.

The bottom line is if you go to a Boston sports bar and praise Walker half of the crowd will offer to buy you a drink and the other half will want to pour a drink over your head. Walker's critics could fairly ask why Ainge traded Walker to Miami if Walker is a good, productive player; of course, it could just as easily be asked why Pat Riley made such big roster changes and obtained Walker as opposed to keeping together a team that almost made it to the NBA Finals. Ainge provided a glimpse into his thought process when I asked him before game six why he brought Walker back. He replied simply, "Antoine’s a good player. He's a good player for the right price." Clearly, from Ainge's perspective the "price" of keeping Walker for 2005-06 was higher than the value that could be obtained in trading him.

As for Riley, once you commit to spending $100 million over five years on Shaquille O'Neal, money is no longer an object. The goal is to win now and win at all costs. When Riley coached the Lakers they acquired Bob McAdoo, a former MVP whose reputation had been damaged as he was shipped from team to team in the late 1970s; McAdoo, who ironically is now an assistant coach with the Heat, provided an indispensable spark off of the bench and Riley and Magic Johnson have both said that the Lakers would not have won the 1982 and 1985 titles without him. Walker is nowhere near the caliber of player that Hall of Famer McAdoo was, but all that matters to Riley is if Walker can accept a non-starring role like McAdoo did and help the Heat win a championship.

9/7/09 Epilogue: In the 2006 playoffs, Walker ranked second on the Heat in assists (2.4 apg) and third in scoring (13.3 ppg) as Miami captured the NBA title. Although he shot just .403 from the field and .574 from the free throw line during that postseason, Walker started all 23 playoff games and ranked second on the team in mpg (37.5), so Hall of Fame Coach Pat Riley clearly saw something positive in Walker's game despite the harsh criticisms that "stat gurus" voiced about Walker.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:34 AM

13 comments

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13 Comments:

At Wednesday, September 09, 2009 12:43:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Hey David, since the topic of Hall-of-Fame presenters has come up a few times over the years at 20secondtimeout, I'm interested in your take on this year's picks.

I share the mainstream media's opinion that Michael Jordan's choice of David Thompson is a bit unexpected (though I'm not going to pretend that Thompson is a nobody like some sources seem to be doing). Like most, I assumed MJ would pick Dean Smith or Phil Jackson.

I think many people are realizing for the first time that Michael Jordan had a basketball idol. I still don't understand why so many people try to discredit Kobe Bryant (and, to a lesser extent, some other players) for having admired Jordan as a youngster and for patterning his game after him. People act like this somehow takes away from Kobe's own accomplishments and makes him some sort of cheap imitation unworthy of the same recognition as other all-time greats. The fact is, MJ himself had a basketball idol growing up who he patterned his game after. MJ's choice of Thompson shows that MJ himself doesn't try to pretend like he invented basketball and is too great to have ever looked up to any players (as the media would have you believe).

John Stockton's choice of Isiah Thomas is also interesting. I thought they had a bit of a feud stemming from Stockton being selected over Isiah for the Dream Team.

 
At Wednesday, September 09, 2009 1:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

I suspect that most casual fans assumed that MJ would choose Phil Jackson to be his presenter. I expected that MJ would choose Dean Smith, so I am a bit surprised that he went with David Thompson--but I am not shocked, because MJ has said many times that Thompson was his favorite player.

Thompson is certainly not a nobody; he is one of the greatest college players of all-time and he was an elite level ABA/NBA player for several years before drug problems--and then a serious knee injury that he suffered from falling down a staircase at Studio 54--curtailed his career. Thompson had the talent to be a top 20 player of all time but of course he did not reach that level of accomplishment during his abbreviated pro career.

Like you, I have always been puzzled by the assertion that it is a bad thing that Kobe Bryant has patterned certain aspects of his game after Michael Jordan. I know that Kobe has great respect for the players who came before him--including David Thompson--and that he is an avid student of the game. Kobe is just a polarizing figure to many people, so those people will twist anything Kobe does in order to portray Kobe in a negative light; if Kobe had made efforts to be much different than MJ then those people would say that Kobe has no respect for MJ. Fortunately, Kobe has proven many times that he does not allow himself to be influenced by what idiots think. He has refuted that nonsense that he could not win a championship without Shaq.

I had not heard that Stockton selected Isiah. I think that Isiah's beef was with the Olympic Selection committee and not with Stockton in particular. Of course, soon after it was announced that Isiah was not going to be a member of the Dream Team, Isiah lit up Stockton for 40-plus points and then the next time they faced each other Karl Malone took a terrible cheap shot at Isiah, opening up a wound over Isiah's eye that took over 40 stitches to close. Remarkably, Isiah came back in the game after getting stitched up; he later said that he wanted to show the world that Malone would have to kill him to keep him off of the court, because he would not be intimidated and would not back down. Stockton did not take any cheap shots at Isiah or say anything negative about him that I can recall. Perhaps Isiah, as a successful small point guard, was Stockton's hero when Stockton was coming up.

Hall of Fame presenters have to be Hall of Fame members, so the two "logical" choices for Stockton are not eligible: Karl Malone has not been retired long enough to be in the Hall of Fame and Jerry Sloan is being inducted the same night that Stockton is. Whatever Stockton's reasoning is, I think that selecting Isiah is very cool; it is a shame that some people think more about Isiah as a coach, a GM or the owner of the CBA then as one of the greatest players of all-time and, arguably, the greatest "little" player in NBA history.

 
At Saturday, September 12, 2009 1:21:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

What did you think of Jordan's induction speech?

I more or less share Adrian Wojnarowski's view (see http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=aw-jordanhall091209&prov=yhoo&type=lgns).

Jordan came off as a petty, arrogant jerk. I'm not surprised Jordan holds the feelings he does, but I am surprised he said what he did during such a formal, celebrated event. He seemed more like a has-been who has failed to move on than a venerable elder statesman and ambassador of the game. Among other things, he's still salty about Magic Johnson supposedly "freezing him out" 24 years ago, despite Magic having long ago reached out to him and always having the best to say about Michael. He could learn a thing or two from Magic.

Of course there will be people who try to spin all of the negative qualities Jordan displayed as his "legendary competitiveness." And in a sense they would be right. But there's a different, better way to do it. One can be a great competitor and performer and still be a classy, nice, authentic person. There's nothing admirable about acting like a scumbag.

 
At Saturday, September 12, 2009 2:32:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

His speech did not surprise me. MJ has always had an "elephant's memory" about real--or perceived--slights and he has always used those slights as motivation. That is nothing new. The only thing different is that on this occasion--unlike during his playing career--he did not feel the need to be "politically correct" in his comments. I think that speech contained the most honest public comments that MJ has ever made.

That is why it is so funny that the media lambastes Kobe Bryant for supposedly being fake, because I think that Bryant's public statements have, in general, been much more honest than Jordan's--but Jordan has long since obtained a teflon public image that all but prevents him from receiving any kind of significant, lasting criticism. You are right that the HoF is not the proper place to settle old scores--and utter an expletive over live TV--but that is who MJ is. For all of their intimate access to MJ, Mike Wilbon, Stuart Scott et. al have never really truly understood that MJ is not a saint but rather a great--and flawed--human being. It is interesting to see the power that the media exercises to canonize some stars--MJ, Shaq, Favre--and demonize others--Kobe, TO, Pippen.

If Jordan's HoF comments reflect how he honestly feels--and I am sure that they do--I prefer seeing that to seeing Jordan act with false modesty. Let people see him for who he really is. He is not a modest or humble person--unlike, for instance, Julius Erving.

MJ's speech does not take away from the fact that he was a spellbinding player, a great artist who perfected his craft; there is nothing wrong with admiring him for the latter qualities while also acknowledging other aspects of his character/personality.

 
At Monday, September 14, 2009 4:44:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

You make an interesting point that MJ showed his real opinions (and personality) during his induction speech more so than he has at any other time. I agree.

I'm not very fond of MJ's usual phony, politically correct image. However, it's not like he had to decide between being fake or acting like a jerk. There's a middle ground. He didn't need to pretend he liked Isiah Thomas or Jerry Krause, or whoever. But he didn't need to take shots at them either. He could have just chosen not to bring up the various people who committed the crime of offending him over the years. I would hope that MJ has some authentic feelings inside him about basketball and life that do not involve berating others.

It would be different if MJ went off on everyone in some interview, but to spend most of his HOF induction speech on it is just crass.

I have no problem separating MJ's abilities as a basketball player from his unpleasant personality. I do have a bit of a problem with people depicting his poor qualities as being the essence of great athletes.

It's funny how so many people subscribe to the "there's no I in TEAM" philosophy and then turn around and celebrate the self-centered, petty, egotistic aspects of a player more than anything else. Unselfishness, teamwork, etc. are always praised, but what most people secretly like more than anything else is to see MJ go out and try to outscore a team by himself due to some imagined slight. "He's such a ruthless killer! That's what separates him from every other player in history! You should NEVER cross MJ!"

Sometimes I wonder if MJ would be celebrated as much as he is if he accomplished exactly what he did while being a "nicer" guy. After all, "nice" players, no matter how much they accomplish, are so often depicted as lacking something.

 
At Monday, September 14, 2009 5:20:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

When I said that MJ's HoF speech was honest I did not mean to suggest that the tone of his remarks was appropriate for that setting--and in fact I made it quite clear that I thought that he should have acted differently in some regards. However, after MJ has spent two decades carefully crafting a public image that does not truly reflect his personality/mindset, in a certain sense it was almost better to hear him speak the truth than to hear him utter bland, politically correct cliches that he does not believe.

David Robinson spoke from the heart and said that he hopes that he built up the Robinson name to the point that his children will want to live up to his example; MJ blurted out that he would not want to be in his kids' shoes, presumably because of the heavy burden of expectations that will be on their shoulders. MJ cannot imagine a worse fate than having the world expect you to be the greatest when you cannot deliver on that expectation--and he realizes that it is highly unlikely that any of his kids will be as great in their chosen fields as he was in his. I think that MJ's remark was every bit as heartfelt as Robinson's--but wouldn't it be interesting to know how their respective offspring felt after hearing their fathers speak?

In a different thread, you and I discussed whether or not MJ's personality played an essential role in how great of a player he became. I think that the "killer" part of his personality is inextricably linked to his accomplishments; perhaps it is possible to reach the level he did without being that way but I think that anger, single-minded focus, an "elephant's memory," a desire to not just beat the opponent but to (figuratively) "kill" him--all of these things are essential aspects of his personality. What is puzzling to me is that MJ is lauded for these characteristics while Kobe Bryant, the player who is most similar to MJ in those traits, is criticized for "copying" MJ. For instance, when MJ treated teammates harshly we are told this reflected his "competitive fire" but when Kobe critiques teammates we are told that Kobe is unpopular among NBA players (which actually is not even true) and that he is "selfish."

All of this reminds me of the original Star Trek episode when the transporter split Captain Kirk into two people, a "good" Kirk and a "bad" Kirk. The "bad" Kirk was self-centered, egotistical and had no self-doubt, while the "good" Kirk wanted to do the right things but could not effectively command the ship because he was unable to act decisively: he needed the "bad" part of his personality--properly controlled--in order to be a leader. Could MJ have reached all of his goals without tapping into "both" sides of his personality? Remember, MJ did not just want to win--he wanted to win more titles than any of his contemporaries and he wanted to do so while also winning the scoring title every year. One area in which MJ and Kobe seem to be different is that I cannot picture a young MJ in the NBA accepting being a second option to Shaq (or anyone else) the way that Kobe did. In MJ's HoF speech, he made it clear that he is still upset that Dean Smith did not permit MJ to be on a Sports Illustrated cover more than 25 years ago!

 
At Monday, September 14, 2009 6:06:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

From a purely historical standpoint, perhaps the most significant point that MJ made--both in his speech and in the interview with Wilbon--is that he did not want to retire in 1998 but that the Bulls were "broken up." MJ added that he believes that the Bulls could have won the 1999 championship; he acknowledged that there is no way to prove this and said that he meant no disrespect to the Spurs but I happen to agree with MJ about this particular point--and that brings the discussion back around to a little factoid that has all but disappeared down the memory hole: prior to the 1998 season, Jerry Krause declared that he planned to dismantle the team whether or not the Bulls won the title. I've heard of issuing an ultimatum that a certain group of coaches/players must win or be fired/traded but I have never, ever heard of an executive publicly planning to break up a great sports dynasty even if that team keeps winning. Krause spoke for years about how he could not wait for MJ to retire so that he (Krause) could build a new championship team without MJ. Well, we all saw how that turned out.

Phil Jackson, MJ and Krause all have big egos but only one of them has such a big ego that he actually thought that running off Jackson, MJ, Pippen, Rodman, et. al. was a good idea. Jackson ended up winning four more championships (and counting), MJ proved that he could still be an All-Star level player at age 40-plus and Pippen recovered from back surgery well enough to guide the Blazers to the 2000 WCF (where they lost to Jackson's Shaq-Kobe Lakers). Meanwhile, Krause's rebuilding project in Chicago culminated in him returning to his roots as a baseball scout.

 
At Monday, September 14, 2009 2:00:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

Who cares about Mike being Mike or Bryant and how the media perceives him? What about Vecseys speech? Vednam....if you think MJ was an arrogant jerk (which he wasnt)go check out Vecsey. I wish the whole 30 minutes was posted.

By the way Vednam, Isiah was the one who supposedly froze Mike out not Magic in the 85 all star game. NBATV showed that game a few months ago and I didnt see a freeze out.

 
At Monday, September 14, 2009 4:14:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I am very interested in the different ways that members of the media perceive and/or portray various individuals and I have often commented about that subject. Imagine if Kobe Bryant were to give a HoF speech in which he called out Shaq for being fat and out of shape, said that the media stole the 2006 and 2007 MVPs from him and declared that he never received enough credit for carrying Smush and Kwame to the playoffs. Even though those would all be accurate assertions, the HoF ceremony is not the appropriate venue to "settle" those scores. I appreciate MJ's honesty and in some regards it is a welcome change from the politically correct pablum that he usually utters in public but his statements lacked grace and tact. It is not about him being arrogant but simply about the fact that there is a time and place for everything--and that was not the best time and place to do what MJ did. I agree with people who say that this provided insight into MJ's personality--or, at least, it provided insight for people who did not already understand how MJ is wired--but that still does not mean that MJ chose the right time and place to provide such insight.

I did not see Vecsey's speech.

As for the alleged "freeze out," the story/myth is that Magic, Isiah and Gervin supposedly decided that MJ had become too big for his britches and that they would teach him a lesson during the All-Star Game. Those three players were close friends at the time but since Magic and Gervin were on the West it obviously does not make any sense to say that they "froze out" MJ, who played for the East. MJ and Gervin became Chicago teammates the next season and I never heard that they had any problems getting along. As for Isiah, as he rightly pointed out years later, the East All-Star starters that year included Bird, Erving and Moses Malone, the winners of the previous four MVPs, while MJ was in the middle of his rookie season, so passing the ball to those guys hardly constituted "freezing out" MJ. Anyone who watched that game can plainly see that accusations of a "freeze out" are absurd. I don't know how that rumor even got started but MJ liked to use real or imagined slights to, as he put it in his HoF speech, add logs to his motivational fire.

 
At Tuesday, September 15, 2009 12:41:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

It was definitely the best time for him to express what he expressed about past players and coaches. Where else is he going to say this? In a tired interview? It was raw and basically what he did throughout his career.

Vecseys speech is online put chopped up because of some of the things he said. Unbelievable. Vecsey talked about why isnt Wilkes and DJ and Chet Walker arent in the hall. He also made a crack at Barkley talking to Doug Collins and Pat Riley that I still cant stop laughing at.

I dont care what Bryant would say at a HOF speech about Oneal. I know you do because of your obsession that you wont admit with Bryant. But its irrelevant what people think of him. He doesnt seem to care so why should anyone else. I think there is too much over analyzing of sports in general. I know its because of the blogs, sports talk, and 24 networks. But a lot of it is irrelevant.

 
At Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

You are completely missing the point.

A Hall of Fame induction speech is supposed to be a brief opportunity for a new member of the Hall of Fame to thank those people who helped him to attain that honor; the Hall of Fame ceremony is not the time or place to rehash real or imagined slights. MJ could have better spent the allotted time in any number of ways, including providing some recognition and support for the ailing Tex Winter, who should long ago have been inducted in the Hall.

I still have not watched Vecsey's speech. Whatever he said is a separate issue. He was not inducted in the Hall of Fame; he received an honor from the Hall and gave a speech that apparently was not even televised--and Vecsey is being recognized precisely because of his caustic commentary: that is his job, so I would expect him to use that occasion to do what he does best. Vecsey and Barkley have been feuding for years and it was publicly reported that Barkley is the reason that Vecsey does not work for TNT.

I compared a hypothetical Bryant HoF speech to MJ's speech because (1) Bryant is the closest player to MJ since MJ retired and (2) Bryant is remarkably similar to MJ (as Jerry West, Tex Winter and other knowledgeable people have repeatedly noted) yet MJ is a media darling while Bryant is not. It is obvious that if Bryant were to give a speech like the one MJ gave the response would be quite different and it is worthwhile to ask why that is the case. If you don't think that this is a very important question--a question that gets to the heart of what is wrong not just with NBA coverage but with the very way that the media functions--then you are visiting the wrong website.

I don't have an "obsession" with Bryant. That is an ignorant thing to say. I created this website in June 2005. For the past four years, Bryant has been the best all-around player in the NBA, so it would be pretty stupid to try to cover the league without documenting his achievements. Furthermore, many of the things that have been written and said about him in other quarters are ignorant, because far too many writers/commentators have no idea what they are talking about, so in addition to writing specifically about Bryant I have also refuted some of the ignorant and/or biased reporting about him.

The righthand sidebar of this site is packed with articles and interviews that have nothing whatsoever to do with Bryant; my historical coverage of the NBA and ABA is far superior to any other website's, so I am more than a little sick of hearing about my supposed "obsession" with Bryant or having people say that he is my favorite player. Julius Erving is my favorite player of all-time. After he retired, Scottie Pippen was my favorite active player and Pippen remains my second favorite player of all-time. I respect Kobe Bryant's single-minded focus to become a player who has no weaknesses and I think that it is unfortunate that his dedication and work ethic are not better appreciated.

 
At Wednesday, September 16, 2009 3:16:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

It is ironic that people complain that I write too frequently about Kobe Bryant but when I post archival articles about other players the articles either receive no comments or receive comments that are not related to the original article. In the future, an Antoine Walker fan--or an Antoine Walker detractor, for that matter--will wonder why this article drew so many comments about the 2009 HoF ceremony, not realizing that the ceremony took place in close proximity to when the article was posted.

Anyway, since we started down this whole path, I'll wrap up the non-Walker thread by saying that I saw about nine minutes' worth of Vecsey's speech on YouTube. It was obvious that portions of his speech had been edited out but in the part that I saw Vecsey lamented that Artis Gilmore, Roger Brown, Slick Leonard, Jamaal Wilkes and Dennis Johnson are not in the Hall of Fame; Vecsey rightly noted that ABA players who played in the NBA for significant periods of time got their due in some respects--Erving, Hawkins, Issel, David Thompson are in the HoF--but that Brown, Leonard and Daniels have been neglected because their best years took place in the ABA (I would add that Gilmore's omission is inexplicable, because he was a perennial All-Star in both leagues). Vecsey used his bully pulpit to advocate the HoF causes of players/coaches who have sadly been forgotten and this is a subject matter that he has also discussed in his articles, so it was completely fitting and appropriate; it would have been nice if Jordan had said a few similar words about Tex Winter (and former Bull Gilmore, for that matter) instead of rehashing real and imagined slights. Any intelligent, aware reader of this site knows that I am a strong advocate for Brown, Daniels and Gilmore to be inducted in the HoF (I support Leonard as well but whenever I have talked with him he always downplays his own candidacy and says that the attention and praise should be directed toward the players).

Vecsey also talked about how he has enjoyed spending the past year researching and writing about NBA history instead of appearing on TV talking about the current game; I am in a very similar frame of mind, as can be seen by the obvious fact that I am posting archival articles about historical subjects as opposed to discussing every trade and free agent signing. As Vecsey suggested, basketball history is fascinating and is too often neglected.

I am proud of the significant contribution that I have made to basketball history with the articles and interviews that appear in the righthand sidebar of 20 Second Timeout's main page and I know that those works will last a lot longer and have a much greater impact than the disposable bleatings emanating from the vast majority of mainstream basketball websites and the pretentious, narcissistic and, frankly, irrelevant nonsense spewed from most basketball blogs.

 
At Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:39:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

As you know I love your blog and have been a reader since youve had the blog. Ive always said you have a Bryant obsession because you bring his name up when its not needed and you sound like you have to defend him. I know how good he...why do you care how the media portrays him? I never said he was your favorite player and I have read your sidebar. I know you love Dr J but sometimes I read you and im like what does Bryant have to do with this. I could care less about Antoine Walker, by the way.

Im not missing the point on Mikes speech. What you are saying it was everyone talks about when they are inducted. Thank you Tim Duncan and Avery the General, etc. Mike went a different route and it was HIM. He thanked players and coaches in the way he knows how....as the antagonist. All of those ancedotes are what fueled Mike and made him the player he was. I didnt want to hear Mike say thanks Doc and Elgin and so on for showing me the way. It was entertaining and great to see Mike in that light.

Weve discussed the Barkley/Vecsey scenario so I know the reason for the vitrol that Vecsey displays towards Charles. Im still laughing at that. Peter also has killed Collins so to include him added to the comedic nature of that part of his speech. It was basically his Hoop Du Jour column in an oral fashion. Most people dont realize that.

The ABA made Vecsey who he is. Hell always admit that. So im glad he mentioned those players.

You should be proud of what you have done and I dont know why TrueHoop is part of ESPN and not your blog. Keep doing good work.

 

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