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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Allen Iverson's Legacy

Like many NBA observers, I suspect that Allen Iverson's retirement will be short-lived but if it is really true that Iverson has played his final NBA game then today it is certainly most fitting to remember--and be thankful for--his outstanding career. Iverson has more than his share of "haters"--from the "stat gurus" who deem him to be overrated to older fans who don't like his tattoos and hip hop persona--but no sensible person can deny that he is not only one of the greatest "little men" (six feet and under) in pro basketball history but one of the greatest players of all-time, period.

Iverson not only won the 2001 regular season MVP--though I think that Shaquille O'Neal deserved the honor that year--but he received at least one MVP vote in eight of his 13 full seasons. Iverson won the 1997 Rookie of the Year award and two All-Star MVPs while making the All-Star team 10 years in a row (2000-09). Iverson earned seven All-NBA selections, including three First Team nods.

ESPN noted that Iverson is one of only three players in NBA history who averaged at least 25 ppg, five apg and two spg--the others are Michael Jordan and Jerry West; of course, steals have only been officially recorded since 1973-74 in the NBA, so West's "career" average only includes 81 steals in 31 games in his final season, which means that in the past 35 years the only two players to average 25-5-2 during full length careers are Jordan and Iverson.

Numbers rarely tell the whole story but check out Iverson's NBA/ABA ranks in some key categories: fourth in career mpg (41.4), sixth in career scoring average (27.0 ppg), sixth in career spg (2.2), 11th in career free throws made (6277) and 22nd in career points (24,020)--and Iverson stepped up his game in the postseason, ranking second in career ppg (29.7, trailing only Michael Jordan), third in mpg (45.1, trailing only legendary iron man centers Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell) and seventh in spg (2.07, just behind Jordan).

Now, let's put those statistics in historical perspective. Iverson lapped the field in career regular season points among the six foot and under set (Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy is second with 17,949)--but he also scored more career points than Charles Barkley, Robert Parish, Adrian Dantley, Elgin Baylor, Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton or Larry Bird! The regular season career mpg leader list is dominated by Hall of Fame big men like Chamberlain, Russell, Jerry Lucas and Bob Pettit, plus powerfully built swingmen Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor and LeBron James. Jerry West is the only other relatively small player in the top ten and he is a legit 6-3; Latrell Sprewell, a 6-5 shooting guard, rounds out the top 10.

The free throw numbers are a testament to Iverson's mental and physical toughness: he repeatedly drove to the hoop, crashed into players who were literally 100 pounds heavier than he is, accepted the punishment and made the free throws. You can legitimately question Iverson's shot selection at times but you can never question his heart, his toughness or his will to win.

Iverson's defense is often berated but he was a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year at Georgetown and his steals numbers in the NBA attest to the fact that he certainly put forth some effort at that end of the court despite the huge offensive load that he carried. Iverson was not a lock down defender but he proved under Coach Larry Brown in Philadelphia that he could be a cog on a very good defensive team and lead that team to the NBA Finals.

Iverson won four NBA scoring titles, matching 6-7 Hall of Famer George Gervin and exceeding every other player in pro basketball history except for Jordan (10) and Chamberlain (seven). Iverson won as many scoring titles as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined! It is certainly true that Iverson did not shoot a great percentage from the field but TNT commentator Doug Collins consistently made the excellent observation that because Iverson drew so much attention with his bold forays to the hoop his misses often turned into excellent offensive rebounding opportunities for his teammates.

Many players who attempt 18-20 or more field goals per game get labeled as "selfish gunners" (though no one says that about LeBron James or Dwyane Wade). I have often expressed justifiable skepticism about how assists are officially recorded but the assist still remains the only statistic we have to quantify passing and it is worth noting that Iverson ranked in the top ten in the NBA in that category four different times, amassing a career average of 6.2 apg--better than Walt Frazier, Dave Bing and Chauncey Billups, among others.

Iverson and Billups will always be linked, of course, because Detroit's trade of Billups and Antonio McDyess to Denver for Iverson in November 2008 seems--in retrospect--to be the beginning of the end of Iverson's career. Much has been written about that trade and its aftermath--and most of what has been written is garbage. Let's dispel a few myths:

1) Contrary to revisionist history, Iverson did not "fail" in Denver: he ranked seventh in scoring and eighth in assists in 2006-07 and third in scoring and ninth in assists in 2007-08. The Nuggets made the playoffs both years, including a 50 win season in 2007-08 that was the best regular season performance by that franchise since 1987-88. In 2007, the Nuggets lost in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual champion Spurs, winning one more playoff game against San Antonio than LeBron James' Eastern Conference champions did in the NBA Finals. In 2008, the Nuggets were swept in the first round by the eventual Western Conference champion Lakers; Iverson led the Nuggets in scoring and assists during that series, while Carmelo Anthony shot just .364 from the field and led the Nuggets in turnovers.

2) Although Billups certainly played very well for Denver last season, the "change in culture" in Denver largely consisted of big men Nene and Kenyon Martin getting healthy, Chris Andersen playing better than anyone expected and several Western Conference teams battling injuries to key players (Spurs, Mavs, Suns, Jazz), thus enabling the Nuggets to move up in the standings. The Nuggets exceeded their 2008 win total by four, blew by undermanned Dallas and New Orleans teams in the playoffs and then lost to the Lakers.

3) When the Pistons acquired Iverson, Joe Dumars said that the team would use Iverson's ability to create shots for himself and others to become a more explosive offensive team, particularly in the fourth quarter, a time when the Pistons too often became stagnant during the past few years in the playoffs. Early in the season, Iverson played brilliantly in a Detroit win over the Lakers but the Pistons inexplicably decided that Rodney Stuckey must be in the starting lineup no matter what. That meant that either Iverson or Richard Hamilton would have to come off of the bench, a role that neither All-Star player is accustomed to filling. It made no sense for the Pistons to bring in Iverson and not let him play the way that he is used to playing, especially when Dumars specifically said that he acquired Iverson to make the Pistons more explosive offensively.

There is merit to the argument that regardless of what was said to Iverson that he should do whatever his coach asks him to do--including coming off of the bench--but clearly Iverson is too honest and too prideful to do that; Iverson does not want to sit behind inferior players. I think that Iverson is still capable of averaging 20-plus ppg for a playoff team but the poor way that the Pistons treated him--and the defiant way that Iverson responded--has clearly lowered Iverson's perceived value. The Memphis experiment was obviously doomed from the start and the less that is said about that brief moment in his career the better.

It is bitterly ironic that in the immediate wake of Iverson's retirement announcement, Iverson's name was one of just six--the others being Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal--mentioned during ESPN's NBA Shootaround as a candidate for "Player of the Decade." Love him or hate him, there is no denying Iverson's colossal impact on NBA history.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:46 AM

27 comments

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27 Comments:

At Thursday, November 26, 2009 9:18:00 AM, Anonymous JackF said...

@David,
I don't know, while i agree that Iverson is the best 6 foot bball player ever. You can't deny that Iverson "Me against the world" mentality is what has brought him to this point. It's what you can call the little man syndrome. I'm not an AI hater, i respect how dude goes hard on the court night after night. But at some point you have to understand that basketball is not about being a wild gunner. I hate to admit with Dwyer but he pointed a fact about iverson: his game never evolved.
Enough with the excuses for Iverson. As good as he is/was, his style of play would have never won him a ring. And yes Chauncey Billups was an upgrade over Iverson .That Denver team was underachieving with Iverson on it. Once Chauncey got on that team, the whole attitude of the team changed.
great player? yes but i wouldn't put him in top 30.

on Player of the Decade: "Who is your pick for player of the decade? I go with Kobe. but knowing ESPN, no doubt it'll be Duncan...."

 
At Thursday, November 26, 2009 10:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JackF:

I mentioned that Iverson bears some responsibility for the way that he is perceived and the fact that there currently is not much of a market for his services.

I didn't read Dwyer's article because nothing that he says is worth thinking about, let alone answering but--regarding your comment--it is missing the point to say that Iverson's game did not "evolve." Iverson maximized what he could do based on his size/skill set: he played with extraordinary heart/stamina, he competed very hard and he was a tremendous threat not only as a scorer but also as a playmaker. He and Isiah Thomas are the only "small" players who were indisputably the best player on a team that made it to the Finals (when Cousy was the Celtics' best player they did not make it to the Finals, Stockton was not the Jazz' best player and Tony Parker was not the Spurs' best player even if he did win the Finals MVP once).

If the Denver team was "underachieving" that was not wholly or primarily Iverson's fault (look at Melo's playoff numbers and the performances of the team's bigs during those seasons).

The ironic thing about the idea that Billups "changed the culture" in Denver is that by the end of the season and in the playoffs his shot selection had gotten worse (some of the TV analysts even commented about this during a few of the playoff games). It seemed more like his teammates "changed his culture" than the other way around. Denver only won four more games with Billups in 2009 than they won with Iverson in 2008--and in 2009 they had a healthy Nene and KMart plus a revitalized Chris Andersen, while several of their Western Conference rivals were decimated by injuries.

Kobe Bryant is obviously the most complete basketball player of the decade, while Shaq and Duncan were the two most dominant big men. Depending on the criteria being used, one of those three players should be chosen as Player of the Decade.

 
At Thursday, November 26, 2009 7:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

its kind of ironic huh. The fact that iverson basically in my opinion had the whole world in his hands. wow have times changed. Anyways I think that iverson is a future hall of famer and one of the greatest little guys and one of the unique talents of the NBA.
But you know whats funny and this topic has been swept under the rug. The sixers shouldve won the 2001 NBA Finals. I know what youre gonna think ohh they have shaq, one of the most dominating big men ever and kobe the wonderkid. But think about for a minute and ill show you why.
1)first of all, the sixers werent healthy. I mean iverson was basically going at 75% and they had to go through 2 seven games series including the famous miss by VC aka quitter(ps im obviously a raptors fan).
2) The sixers next to the blazers, and kings gave the dynasty their biggest challenge.
3) the sixers lost game 2 by 9 points and they missed 10 free throws, doesnt take a magician to know what happens if they did make the free throws.
4)they lost game 3 by five points and take out robert horry shot and they couldve won.
when i look at the whole series, had theyve been at hundred percent, who knows what might happen and just imagine this, how scary wouldve it been to see iverson at 100%. I mean look what he did while hurt. anyways ive always been a fan of iverson, the dude will be in the hall of fame and will go down as the greatest little guard of all time and one of the greatest players and unique players we'll ever see

 
At Thursday, November 26, 2009 11:40:00 PM, Anonymous J said...

Both Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith have talked several times in several interviews about the change to the team that Billups brought compared to Iverson -- no more AI dragging out the younger Melo and JR to bars and nightclub life.

One can still appreciate that Iverson had a tremendous career and is a top, top NBA player, but there is simply no doubt whatsoever that 2008-09 Billups added significantly more value to the Nuggets than Iverson had.

 
At Thursday, November 26, 2009 11:51:00 PM, Anonymous J said...

I now see your comment, and your attack on the "change the culture" line is even more incoherent. The culture change referred to the end of the lazy, me-me-me-first, party-hard, practice?!?!?!-me-AI-practice?!? era of Allen Iverson. Maybe Billups took a few poor shots as the playoffs wore on, but he wasn't enticing other teammates out to party hard, dog it in practice, etc.

 
At Friday, November 27, 2009 1:28:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

You bring up some interesting points about the 2001 NBA Finals. I do not completely agree that the Sixers "should have" won that series but you are right that if the Sixers had been healthier then they certainly could have made that series much more competitive; one slight flaw in your reasoning is your suggestion that the Sixers could have won a game if they had made all of their free throws: how many teams shoot 100% from the free throw line in a game, let alone a Finals game? That is not realistic. If they had made 10 out of 30 (or something like that) and you said that if they had shot just 20 for 30 then they could have won that would be more reasonable.

 
At Friday, November 27, 2009 1:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

J:

My article had nothing to do with what the players are or are not doing away from the court. Let's just stick to the simple, verifiable facts: the 2008 Nuggets with Iverson won 50 games and lost to the Lakers in the playoffs; the 2009 Nuggets with Billups won 54 games and lost to the Lakers in the playoffs. The 2009 Nuggets were slightly more successful in the regular season but they played in a much weaker Western Conference because several teams were decimated by injuries; as a result, the Nuggets obtained a much higher seed even though they increased their win total by just four. They took advantage of the better seeding to win a couple playoff series. If the Nuggets had kept Iverson they likely would have won 54 games, made a similar playoff run and then been blown out by the Lakers.

The 2009 Nuggets played better defense than the 2008 Nuggets did but that emphasis/"culture change" began in training camp (i.e., before the trade) when Coach Karl mentioned that the team's primary focus would be on improving defensively, particularly in transition.

As for the infamous "practice" rant, Jamal Mashburn made an excellent point: Iverson's statement was correct--there was no reason for the media to spend a whole press conference talking about nothing but practice. Iverson missed a practice, admitted that he was wrong to do so and said that he understood that practice is important--listen to the whole clip, not just the sound bite that gets played over and over. Iverson was not saying that practice is unimportant but rather that he did not want to spend a whole press conference talking about practice. It is worth mentioning again that Iverson is a 6-0 guard whose mpg numbers are on par with Wilt Chamberlain's and Bill Russell's. Iverson certainly gave his all. It is also worth mentioning that although Bill Russell did not miss practices there were times when Coach Red Auerbach let a tired Russell sit out practice and drink some tea on the sidelines instead of putting more strain on Russell's worn out body. There are other examples of stars who are not forced to take part in every single practice. Iverson should have showed up to practice to keep abreast with what the team was working on but it was not necessary for him to fully participate physically in every single practice.

 
At Friday, November 27, 2009 3:43:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

What makes Kobe a more complete player than Duncan? Free throw shooting? Or the fact that he's a guard?

I certainly think Iverson gets more criticism than he deserves. However, I'm not convinced that Billups hasn't been a better fit for the Nuggets than Iverson. He's a better defender, and better at playing the role of a traditional point guard. I think the Nuggets have needed that more than a scorer like Iverson.

The Nuggets may have had similar win totals in 2008 and 2009, but I think they were a little better in 2009. In 2008 they got trashed by the Lakers. In 2009, the series was much closer, and could have gone to the Nuggets if they executed better in the clutch.

What do you make of Tom Friend's article on Billups from a few months ago? I believe you posted a link to it when it came out. It goes into detail about some of the changes that took place after Iverson was replaced by Billups. Many of the Nuggets' own players implied that Billups changed the team culture for the better.

 
At Friday, November 27, 2009 9:41:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

Yes, Kobe is a much better free throw shooter than Duncan. Kobe is also better able to create a shot for himself and others. As I said, depending on the criteria one uses one could choose Kobe, Shaq or Duncan as the Player of the Decade.

There is no question that Billups has been a good fit for Denver and that he has played very well for the Nuggets. However, I am not convinced that given the same circumstances in the West--namely the injuries that brought down several West contenders--that the Nuggets would not have enjoyed similar success without making the trade.

I linked to Friend's article on May 11; in that post I wrote, "Tom Friend has written a tremendous story about Chauncey Billups' journey from high school star in Denver to starting point guard for a Denver Nuggets team that is poised to reach the Western Conference Finals."

 
At Friday, November 27, 2009 7:50:00 PM, Anonymous J said...

Also included among simple, verifiable facts are the numerous, repeated quotes from the rest of the Nuggets praising Billups' leadership and end of Iverson's party hard, no practice reign.

And it appears that you and Mashburn should really read the whole transcript -- AI was clearly denigrating practice and launched into his rant with very little provocation; the quote below begins with the first mention of "practice"

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/basketball/news/2002/05/09/iverson_transcript/

Reporter: "Could you clear about your practicing habits since we can't see you practice?"

Iverson: "If Coach tells you that I missed practice, then that's that. I may have missed one practice this year but if somebody says he missed one practice of all the practices this year, then that's enough to get a whole lot started. I told Coach Brown that you don't have to give the people of Philadelphia a reason to think about trading me or anything like that. If you trade somebody, you trade them to make the team better...simple as that. I'm cool with that. I'm all about that. The people in Philadelphia deserve to have a winner. It's simple as that. It goes further than that.

Reporter: "So you and coach Brown got caught up on Saturday about practice?"

Iverson: "If I can't practice, I can't practice. It is as simple as that. It ain't about that at all. It's easy to sum it up if you're just talking about practice. We're sitting here, and I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're talking about practice. I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we're talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game last it's my last but we're talking about practice man. How silly is that?

Now I know that I'm supposed to lead by example and all that but I'm not shoving that aside like it don't mean anything. I know it's important, I honestly do but we're talking about practice. We're talking about practice man. (laughter from the media crowd) We're talking about practice. We're talking about practice. We're not talking about the game. We're talking about practice. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you've seen me play right, you've seen me give everything I've got, but we're talking about practice right now. (more laughter)

Reporter: "But it's an issue that your coach continues to raise?"

Iverson: "Hey I hear you, it's funny to me to, hey it's strange to me too but we're talking about practice man, we're not even talking about the game, when it actually matters, we're talking about practice."

 
At Friday, November 27, 2009 8:40:00 PM, Anonymous JackF said...

David,
While I agree that the Nuggets win totals of 08 and 09 were similar, You can't deny that Billups changed the team. If there was for the more complete player between the two players, I'd choose Billups over Iverson. There is more to the game than offense. From billups press conference after he was traded you could sense that things would be different in Denver.
Iverson held the team back in Denver. I have watched a lot of Denver games and after Billups came to the team, guys didn't feel compelled they had to take shot because they didn't know when they were going to touch the ball again. Even Carmelo's attitude changed with Billups on the team.
Was Iverson dominant on the defensive end? yes but at what cost? at the detriment of team's offense and the improvement of his teammates. 42.6% career shooting percentage, 31.1% 3pt shooting percentage, 78% Ft percentage and 3.6TO. When you dominate the ball and takes a lot shots and lot free throws, these are terrible numbers.

Remember what you said about Ariza. Forget that Iverson is a better player than Ariza for a moment. The same argument you used that any player can average 20ppg on 40% shooting if they take a lot of shots for Ariza can also be applied to Iverson. Guys like Jerry Stackhouse, Tmac, Gilbert Arenas, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Oj Mayo, Iguodala, can all put Iverson numbers or better if they dominate the offense as much as he did in such an inefficient manner.
That's why when it comes to great players, I'd put Iverson in second-tier great players category.

Interesting Discovery: Did you know that Elgin Baylor was ranked as the 6th best player of all time and according to a lot pundits, that seemed about right. But did you also know that those same pundits say kobe is out of top 10 among bests of all time while Kobe has put better numbers and more hardware than Baylor ?

On Cavaliers: Do you think Lebron regrets signing off on Shaq joining the team? It seemed to be that they are a better team without shaq in the lineup and Lebron is allowed to be Lebron. Shouldn't they have after a guy like Tyson Chandler who at this point was better option than Shaq?

 
At Saturday, November 28, 2009 2:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jack F:

Billups played well for Denver. I never "denied" that. What I "deny"--or dispute--is the myth that Iverson somehow "failed" in Denver and that the Nuggets could not have been just as successful last year with him as they were without the trade. When Iverson played for the Nuggets their bigs were banged up and Melo had a nasty habit of playing poorly in the playoffs. Billups had nothing to do with the bigs getting healthy. You can say that Billups helped to make Melo better but there is no way to prove or disprove that--and it is just as plausible to say that Melo changed his attitude as a result of playing alongside Kobe with Team USA. Kobe clearly had a positive effect on many of his teammates, including LeBron, Wade, Howard, Bosh, etc.

Iverson ranked in the top ten in assists throughout his tenure in Denver, so why should his teammates have thought that they would not get the ball? That statement could be more accurately applied to Melo or J.R. Smith than Iverson.

You listed Iverson's career FG% but the relevant numbers in this regard are his stats as a Nugget; in 2007-08 he shot .458 from the field, the second best full season FG% of his entire career. Iverson shot .454 from the field in 50 games as a Nugget in 2006-07.

The truth is that Iverson played more efficiently in Denver than he did during his Philly years because he had higher quality teammates in Denver--and he helped lead the Nuggets to their best regular season performance (in 2008) in two decades, even if the spin doctors and "stat gurus" want to pretend that this success never happened.

Iverson did not average 20 ppg on .400 shooting; he averaged over 25 ppg on better than .450 shooting as a Nugget.

Reread my article about Iverson again. Iverson accomplished things that only Jordan, Wilt, Russell and other all-time greats did and Iverson is the only "small" player other than Isiah Thomas to clearly be the best player on a team that advanced to the NBA Finals.

I don't know which list you are talking about that ranked Baylor sixth all-time, so I have no comment about that. You can read my take on the all-time greats by checking out my Pantheon articles, which can be found in the right hand sidebar of the main page.

It is way too early for the Cavs or LeBron to "regret" anything. They have hardly had an opportunity to put their best projected lineup (i.e., one featuring Shaq and West) on the court together. Prior to the season, I listed the positive and negatives about bringing in Shaq. The positives include the fact that the Cavs gave up very little (B. Wallace, Pavlovic) to get a player who is a low post presence at both ends of the court and that Shaq can help specifically in matchups versus guys like D. Howard and K. Perkins. The negatives include Shaq's injury history, his declining mobility and the fact that he has not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2006.

 
At Saturday, November 28, 2009 2:50:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

J:

Quotes are not "facts"--they are various people's opinions and they have to be considered in context. Do you really expect that after winning 54 games the Denver players are going to praise Iverson and/or criticize Billups? Nevertheless, the facts--as outlined in this article and in my above response to Jack--prove that Iverson enjoyed a lot of success in Denver and helped to make the team better than it had been in decades. It should also be mentioned that the Nuggets lost a lot of salary cap flexibility in order to bring in Billups; even if you think that Billups is wholly responsible for the "huge" four win increase, keep in mind that by taking on Billups' contract the Nuggets essentially gave up the opportunity to potentially sign a young star player to team up with Melo. The Nuggets are not good enough to win a championship now and there is no reason to think that they will be able to do so in the foreseeable future as Billups ages and declines.

As for the transcript you cited, I don't know if it is complete and/or if it is accurate but it certainly is devoid of context. That q&a session took place after the Sixers were eliminated from the playoffs but the reporters kept asking Iverson (in various ways) about practice/how his practice habits affected his relationship with Coach Brown. At one point Iverson said, "Now I know that I'm supposed to lead by example and all that but I'm not shoving that aside like it don't mean anything. I know it's important, I honestly do but we're talking about practice." He clearly never said that practice is unimportant; Iverson questioned why a press conference about the end of a playoff series was turning into a referendum about one missed practice. Considering how Iverson left his blood and guts on the court night after night as a heavy minutes player who was highly productive, he had good reason to be upset that one missed practice was creating such a media firestorm.

 
At Saturday, November 28, 2009 8:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent points David,

I agree with you on most counts, and I do think that Iverson is a better player than Billups.

Billups has been given a lot of praise but he has been declining since the Pistons won the title.
I don't have all the data but from what I did observe, Mr. Big Shot has been firing blanks throughout the playoffs.

To say that Billups changed the defensive culture of the Nuggets is unfair to Nene, Birdman, and Martin.

What does give me pause, is that none of the Denver players defended Iverson.

I would say that Iverson didn't know if he should defer to Carmelo. I would guess that it was implied that Carmelo is the franchise, and Iverson should follow his lead. Nevermind the fact that during that time, Melo was a knucklehead. I think this hurt Iverson's chemistry with the Nuggets. He couldn't lead because nobody gave him that "go signal" and following Carmelo at that time wasn't the wisest move either.

When Billups was brought in, he was given a clear role(bring Pistons level poise so basically 'lead the Nuggets') and Melo had matured somewhat. Your thoughts?

Z

 
At Saturday, November 28, 2009 10:43:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

i never liked the whole memphis scenario. i hope that he would realize that at this point in his career that the ring is important and that he should put his ego to the back for a minute. but thats not his way. i heard he was going to back to the sixers, which makes no sense from a winning perspective. nevertheless i have always enjoyed his play and what he brought to the nba. he basically created a revolution with the tattoos and cornrows and the carry crossover. the whole style he created has been mocked by youth black, white and asian throughout the world.

anyone bought any of these new basketball books? i asked this before but its interesting the sudden variety of basketball books that are out.

 
At Sunday, November 29, 2009 4:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Z:

The Denver players--and the mainstream media--have thrown Iverson under the proverbial bus. Iverson was a major reason that the Nuggets had their best season in two decades in 2008 but just because the Nuggets had a few more wins in 2009 (after essentially adding three new bigs with a healthy Nene and KMart plus newly signed Chris Andersen to make up for the departed Camby) everyone acts like Iverson's contributions in 2008 never happened. Iverson was a much more dominant player in 2008 than Billups was in 2009--or in 2008 with Detroit, which is why the Pistons were willing to part with him in the first place. What makes no sense is that Dumars traded for Iverson but never really let Iverson do what he does best. Now the Pistons have what they apparently wanted--Stuckey in a major role--and they are tied for 12th-13th in the East with a .313 winning percentage after making the playoffs last year.

Your take on Iverson makes sense. As I stated before, I think that Melo's maturation process had at least as much to do with his Team USA experiences as it did with Billups. Are we really supposed to believe that as soon as Billups showed up Melo magically matured? The wheels for that process had already been set in motion before Billups arrived and, as I have said many times, if the Nuggets had not traded Iverson I think that they would have won roughly the same number of games, earned the same playoff seeding and beaten the two depleted teams that they defeated in the 2009 playoffs.

 
At Monday, November 30, 2009 7:41:00 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

On the Player of the Decade issue, I would rank it this way:
1. Duncan
2. Bryant
3. Shaq
4. Garnett
5. Nowitzki
6. Nash
7. Iverson
8. LeBron

Who will be the top players of the next decade? I would go with LeBron, Howard, CP3, Durant, Anthony, and Rose. (Note that I omit Wade, who is nearly 28 and has experienced several injuries. I also omit Roy due to his heel problem.) Several of the 2009 rookies look good, as well.

 
At Monday, November 30, 2009 11:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

BhelAtlantic:

That is a solid list. I cannot argue with numbers 1-3 being Kobe, Duncan and Shaq in any order--they really are the tri-players of the decade, though for promotional purposes I suspect that whoever is formally making the list will not accept a three-way tie.

I would not have put Garnett number four until the Celtics won the championship but the way he served as the cornerstone of that team's defense elevated his status in my eyes; Garnett was always a top notch player but I had some questions about him as a clutch performer.

It looks like you made your list based on overall impact as opposed to pure skill set considerations or who is most dominant; on those terms, I can accept placing Nash and Iverson ahead of LeBron, because the former two players played all decade long while LeBron has only been around the NBA for part of the decade.

Projecting who will be the best next decade is very tough. Barring injury your choices make sense. Here are a couple hypotheticals to consider:

1) What if Kobe leads the Lakers to titles in 2010, 2011 and possibly 2012 and remains a solid All-Star for a couple years after that? He could end up as the most accomplished player of the next decade even if he retires by 2015. I'm not predicting that Kobe will do all of that but it is not out of the realm of possibility, either. Kobe is young enough, healthy enough and in good enough condition to remain a top five player for the next three years.

2) There is probably someone who is in high school right now who will end up being one of the top NBA players of the next decade.

 
At Tuesday, December 01, 2009 6:46:00 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

David: Good point about the high school players whom nobody knows about yet. Also, there may be current pros who are merely "good" right now but will become "great" in the future. In December 1999, I think few people would have predicted that Nash and Nowitzki would eventually win 3 MVP trophies between them, or that Chauncey Billups would be one of the three best PGs of the decade. Who among today's pros has that potential? I'd go with these: Bosh, Stoudemire, Bynum, Oden, Lopez, Josh Smith, Jefferson, Love, Noah, A.Randolph, Rondo, Mayo, Westbrook, E.Gordon, D.Williams. I've omitted several candidates for brevity, of course.

As for Kobe Bryant being one of the best players of the 'Teens, sure, it's possible! With a core of Gasol, Odom, and Bynum, they will be in the championship hunt for several more years.

 
At Tuesday, December 01, 2009 7:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Garnett was always a top notch player but I had some questions about him as a clutch performer."

He's still not. Pierce was clearly the best player on that team when the game was on the line. KG can probably be in a list of greatest second bananas of all time, but he just doesn't seem comfortable in taking over a game. He took a lot of 22-footers in important possessions.

He can usually look like the best player on the floor but when the game is up for grabs, he's not exactly a go-to guy.

Z

 
At Wednesday, December 02, 2009 4:28:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Z:

Garnett is a very unique player. He is a great rebounder and defender but despite his size and athletic ability he does not have a go to post move; he plays like a big man in terms of defense and rebounding yet he is essentially a perimeter player on offense. You are correct that Pierce is the Celtics' money player in crunch time situations on offense but we saw in 2008--and in 2009 after Garnett got hurt--that Garnett is the linchpin of the Celtics' stifling defense; he almost singlehandedly turned the Celtics into a defensive powerhouse and his presence/example helped transform Pierce and Allen into better defenders than they had been previously.

A strong case can be made that Bill Russell is the greatest player of all time but if you look at his stats/skill set he was hardly a number one offensive option or a player who the Celtics could go to for a clutch basket. I don't for one second think that Garnett is even close to being as good or as dominant as Russell was but in the 2008 season Garnett essentially played a Russell-like role for the Celtics, with Pierce and Allen serving as Havlicek and Sam Jones--the players relied upon to carry the scoring load throughout the game and provide clutch baskets when necessary.

 
At Wednesday, December 02, 2009 4:37:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

BhelAtlantic:

Bosh is a player who could really blossom in the right situation (right coach, right supporting cast)--he is already an excellent player but he could be an MVP caliber player in a different setting; I think that he needs a coach who really challenges him (the way that Jackson challenged MJ, Shaq, Kobe, Pippen, etc.) and a legit second star to help him carry some of the load.

We have probably already seen the best of Amare considering his injuries and how many years he has already played.

I don't see Andrew Bynum as a transcendent player but as someone who can be an All-Star if he stays healthy and continues to work on his game.

Lopez, Josh Smith, Love, Noah and Randolph are all too limited in their skill sets to reach the level that we are talking about.

Rondo, Mayo, Westbrook, Gordon and D. Williams will have to be exceptional to overcome their (relative) lack of height. Iverson is the only "small" player being considered for Player of the Decade honors--and I don't think that there is any chance that he will actually win. Your group of eight included two "small" players (Iverson and Nash). I don't think that Rondo, et. al. will ever have quite the impact on a consistent basis that Iverson and Nash did.

 
At Friday, December 04, 2009 8:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David:
What i meant to say is that they couldve won the 2001 NBA Finals and if you look at game 2 more closely, most of their misses came in the fourth quarter inluding A.I. missing two himself. what i shouldve said also was them missing alot of 4th quarter free throws. And i'm also only fifteen so i only just watch it for the first time.

 
At Saturday, December 05, 2009 1:13:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Fair enough; your observations are valid, I just can be very particular about word choice ("should have" won versus "could have" won). Thank you for your comments.

 
At Saturday, January 02, 2010 9:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, i am a big allen iverson fan, the due was a stud and a true treat to watch. I think in my eyes, he had the preformance of the decade even though it was only game 1 of the 2001 NBA finals. The reason why is because, here you have a man who people thought couldnt reach this point, lead his team to the finals. People argue that his style is over substance, its me myself and iverson. and what does he do. All he does is just goes through two seven game series just to reach the lakers. in the series against toronto, aka the miss shot, AI showed that in my opinion he was one of the greatest pure scorers that has graced this court. 2 50 point games in the same series and in the 7th game, he goes out and get a career high 16 assists. Then he has to go through a more difficult obstacle in defeating the bucks, also in 7. In this series, this really showed how he was a leader,a soldier and nothin will deter him, I mean for gods sake, he scored 26 in the 4th quarter of game 6 when they were by 30+ points to get them within striking distance and then goes out and has a 44 point game to cap it all off. But anyways the reason why his game 1 performance was the performance of the decade is because he showed it all in that game, Energy, courage, passion, clutch, and that dirty stepover on lue. But the main reason, He gave that city the rude awakining they havent recieved all playoffs and he gave his city that belief that david can beat goliath and anything his possible. Unfourtanetly as the years went by after that spectacular run, he just ran out of gas. His style may not have been the best but in my eyes he is the greatest pure scorer under 6 feet and one of the greatest pure scorers of all time

 
At Saturday, January 02, 2010 9:29:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Your passionate, fan's based perspective on Iverson's career contains more truth than all of the statistical formulas that try to parse out the exact "value" of each player. As I wrote in this post, Allen Iverson is perhaps the greatest sub-6 foot player of all-time and one of the greatest players of all-time regardless of size. He is not a flawless player, by any means, but--as you mentioned--at his peak he proved that he was capable of carrying a team to the NBA Finals, a feat that two-time MVP Steve Nash has yet to accomplish despite being blessed with a vastly superior supporting cast.

 
At Wednesday, January 06, 2010 12:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

THanks a lot means a lot considering I'm only 15 and trying to become a sports writer

 

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