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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Love's Double Double Streak is Impressive but the NBA's Orwellian Memory Hole is Disturbing

In George Orwell's brilliant dystopian novel 1984, a totalitarian regime controls the future by rewriting the past, sending unfavorable historical facts down the "memory hole." Kevin Love's active points/rebounds double-double streak--which currently stands at 52 games--is most impressive, surpassing a 51 game streak that three-time NBA MVP Moses Malone compiled in 1978-79; any time a player does something that had not been done for over 30 years--particularly when the last player to do it was a Hall of Famer--he should receive much praise and I disagree with anyone who tries to diminish Love's feat by pointing to his team's lousy record; that criticism makes about as much sense as knocking Kobe Bryant's 81 point game because it came against the Toronto Raptors: if it were easy to score 81 points then someone else would have done it--Michael Jordan certainly would have hit that mark if he could have--and if it were easy to put up consecutive double-doubles for more than half of a season then many players would have done it in the past three decades.

However, contrary to the NBA's Orwellian hype machine, Love's accomplishment is not an NBA record--and it is disingenuous to speak of "modern" NBA records, as if everything that happened prior to the 1976-77 ABA-NBA merger took place in the Dark Ages before statistics could be tracked. It has been confirmed by the Associated Press and other sources that Wilt Chamberlain had a double-double streak of at least 220 games during his career; keep in mind that Chamberlain averaged 30.1 ppg and 22.9 rpg during his career--including a mindboggling 1962 season in which he averaged 50.4 ppg and 25.7 rpg and six other seasons in which he averaged at least 33.5 ppg and at least 22.9 rpg--so two words best describe a game in which Chamberlain merely managed a double-double: "off night." Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Walt Bellamy, Elvin Hayes, Jerry Lucas and Bill Russell each had at least one streak of at least 50 games with a double-double.

It is senseless and disrespectful for the NBA to in any way diminish the accomplishments of the legends who built the game. Commissioner David Stern has repeatedly said that the Legends Brunch is his favorite event of All-Star Weekend; I would be more impressed if instead of talking a good game about the Legends Brunch he would act forcefully to make sure that the official record book--and the information that is fed to the NBA's media partners--completely and accurately reflects the true history of the sport. Commissioner Stern rightly takes swift action when coaches, players or other league employees act or talk in ways that place the league in an unfavorable light, so he should act equally forcefully to make sure that the history of the game is preserved and celebrated.

It must be added that this history simply has to include the ABA, just like NFL history includes the records and stories of the AFL. One of my earliest pro basketball articles dealt with the pro basketball subject that I feel most passionately about: ABA Numbers Should Also Count (and even though I disagreed with some of Brett Ballantini's subsequent editorial decisions at Basketball Digest, I have to give him credit for providing me the platform to state my case on this very important issue, an issue that Ballantini also feels very strongly about). I don't have complete game log data for the ABA but that information is probably available if one would track down all of the various ABA team media guides. Consider what we do know about two ABA legends who should have been inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame a long time ago:

1) Artis Gilmore, the 1972 ABA regular season MVP and 1975 ABA Playoff MVP, averaged at least 18.7 ppg and at least 15.3 rpg in each of his five ABA campaigns; he played all 84 games in each of those years, in four of those five seasons he averaged at least 20.8 ppg and in three of those five seasons he averaged at least 17.6 rpg. Gilmore almost certainly had a double-double streak of at least 50 games and he probably had some impressive 20-20 streaks as well.

2) Two-time ABA regular season MVP Mel Daniels--whose Hall of Fame worthiness has been praised by the great Julius Erving--averaged at least 18.5 ppg/15.4 rpg in each of his first six professional seasons and in three of those seasons he averaged at least 21 ppg and at least 15.6 rpg. Daniels probably had at least one double-double streak of 50 or more games.

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:43 PM

19 comments

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19 Comments:

At Thursday, March 10, 2011 8:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharp

On point as always, David.

I kept on not thinking about the "NBA/ABA merger caveat," that goes with Love's accomplishment, and thought it was strange that someone like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell or Nate Thurmond hadn't pulled off a longer streak.

Love's accomplishment is still incredible though, especially when you view it in the context of a more physically gifted player like Brook Lopez averaging something like 6 rebounds per game for the season. He's getting those rebounds off of pure desire and solid fundamental play.

Glad to see you've been posting more lately: keep up the great work.

 
At Thursday, March 10, 2011 11:09:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sharp:

Placing Love's accomplishment in proper historical context does not take anything away from Love; it is disgraceful that the NBA and its media partners try to pass off what Love has done as an all-time record instead of simply recognizing him for doing something that has not been done for more than 30 years, an impressive feat in and of itself.

As Love himself mentioned during a recent NBA TV interview, Bill Russell (who had an extraordinary vertical leap, as did Wilt Chamberlain) often pointed out that roughly 75% of rebounds at the NBA level are taken at or below the rim, which means that it is not essential to be a great leaper in order to be a great rebounder (though leaping ability is unquestionably a useful asset).

 
At Friday, March 11, 2011 1:34:00 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

David:

1. K-Love is a terrific rebounder.

2. K-Love's current streak of double-double games should not be considered as the NBA record, given the past accomplishments of all-time greats like Chamberlain and Russell, etc.

3. K-Love's major problems, as an authentic elite level PF/#4 in today's NBA game are grounded in his short-comings at the defensive end of the floor, when it comes to:

i. Being able to effectively check multiple positions in a variety of "switch" situations;

ii. Rotating to provide effective "help" for his teammates;

iii. Get back quickly in defensive transition situations; and,

iv. Being an effective shot-blocker.

 
At Friday, March 11, 2011 2:41:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

We agree about points 1 and 2; point 3 has nothing to do with what I discussed in this article.

 
At Friday, March 11, 2011 10:41:00 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

David:

re: " ... point 3 has nothing to do with what I discussed in this article."

Since we agree on Points 1 & 2 ... and, I knew that we probably would, :-) ... I simply tried to extend the discussion further, by identifying the areas of K-Love's individual game which separate him from rightly being considered as one of the best PF/#4's in today's game, since they have a significant effect on the ability of the team he plays heavy minutes for to succeed in a major way, in terms of collecting Ws and Ls.

Please accept my sincere apology, if you did not wish to go there.

 
At Friday, March 11, 2011 3:44:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

No apology necessary, I just wanted to emphasize that the point of this article is to critique the NBA's "memory hole," not to evaluate Love's skill set strengths and weaknesses.

 
At Monday, March 14, 2011 1:54:00 AM, Blogger The Dude Abides said...

Well, that's over.

 
At Monday, March 14, 2011 2:29:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Dude Abides:

Yes, it's over but doing something that had not been done for more than 30 years is impressive--even if it should not have been portrayed as a record.

 
At Tuesday, March 15, 2011 1:02:00 AM, Anonymous J said...

All excellent points, and you know I support your general view that ABA records should be counted. But I think, when it comes to some rebounding stats, the view that the NBA has a "modern" era is not necessarily bogus. The NBA introduced the 3-pt line in 1979-80, right? And the ABA only introduced it in 1968, right? (I could be wrong, I just took a quick glance at wikipedia). With the caveat that this is off the cuff and not confirmed by looking at the numbers, but surely the advent of 3-pt shots affected rebounding #s for interior big men? Long shots like a 3-pt shot or far-away 2s tend to bounce back farther, which likely leads to more distribution of rebounds among players on the perimeter or some small forward types, a little farther away from the basket.

Anyhow, it's food for thought. It's probably not purely a product of chance that no one has put up such consistent rebounding numbers (and had talent to pair it with decent scoring) over a sustained period since the advent of the 3-pt shot, which has likely decreased rebounding opportunities for low post players. You can point to many players who surely had such streaks before 1968, as well as to a few ABA folks early after the adoption of the 3-pt shot. But I do recall reading a post somewhere that noted use of the 3-pt shot really took quite a few years to take off, hanging around at fairly low %s of possessions used on a 3-pt shot until the last decade or so.

Keep up the good work -- will be interested in reading a take on Kobe's Miami practice session, the Heat's big win against the Spurs and (as I type this), the Lakers' win over the Magic, after their win over Dallas...

 
At Tuesday, March 15, 2011 7:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

J:

The "modern era" in the NBA is a fiction invented by the media outlets that cover the league--and the NBA should put an end to such nonsense. I don't think that there is any evidence to support the idea that the usage of the three point shot has changed the distribution of rebounds and, even if it did to some minor degree, that would not change the fact that Wilt holds the record for consecutive games with point/rebound double doubles.

Different eras have featured various shooting percentages and pace levels, two factors that clearly affect the number of available rebounds, but even though it may be interesting to speculate about how Wilt's rebounding numbers "translate" to a "modern" milieu it is not right to set up some kind of separate record book, either in actuality or by default. Joe DiMaggio did not compile his 56 game hitting streak under the conditions that exist today but no one suggests that some player who hits safely in 30 straight games has the "modern" record.

I wrote the article you are thinking of regarding the evolution of the usage of the three point shot. It was originally published at NBC Sports.com but then for some strange reason they nuked their old NBA site, later replacing it with a new site run by Henry Abbott acolytes (go figure). I updated the article and reprinted it at 20 Second Timeout; here is the link :

Evolution of the Usage of the Three Point Shot

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2011 2:12:00 AM, Blogger The Dude Abides said...

David, I know for a fact that Kurt Helin over at NBC's NBA site is not an Abbott acolyte. Nobody who writes or posts on the main Laker blogs can stand Abbott's blind hatred (disguised as evenhandedness) for Kobe and the Lakers. Sometimes it comes out, i.e. the Ariza/Fernandez incident in the 2009 season when Abbott posted his thoughts (and linked to the thoughts of others who agreed with his view) non-stop for a full week, while ignoring and (not linking to) all articles and blog posts with a different take on the play except to send scathing, vituperative emails to the authors.

As far as I know, Kurt didn't receive one of Henry's nasty emails at the time, but others at prominent Laker blogs did receive them.

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2011 4:19:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Dude Abides:

Helin's FB&G site is a member of Abbott's hand picked True Hoop Network, just like Krolik's site is. NBC essentially picked Abbott acolytes to reboot their NBA coverage after getting rid of the previous editors/staff. Abbott has repeatedly bragged that everyone who has gotten a full time NBA writing gig recently was associated with THN in some fashion; I don't know how one verifies whether or not that statement is accurate but it certainly speaks to how this business operates: if you want to get certain jobs, you have to kiss up to certain people (and whether or not you actually have writing skills/understanding of the sport is basically irrelevant).

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2011 4:53:00 AM, Blogger The Dude Abides said...

I know FB&G is affiliated with True Hoop. I have good reason to know ;-)
I also know that the people there are not in lockstep with Abbott's thinking, and never have been.

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2011 11:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Dude Abides:

The distinction that you are attempting to make is disingenuous; Helin raised his profile by hooking up with Abbott and joining THN. If FB&G had not become affiliated with THN then I doubt that Helin would be at NBC now, nor would Krolik.

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:07:00 PM, Blogger The Dude Abides said...

I wouldn't call it disingenuous. "Acolyte" implies that one is a devoted follower or a devoted attendant/assistant. Just because one person is a benefactor for another person and/or another website doesn't make the latter person an acolyte or the latter website a rubber stamp for the benefactor's opinions. I'm just making the point that "acolyte" is too strong of a word, and not necessarily accurate when describing Kurt's opinions and/or writings.

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2011 5:56:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Dude Abides:

Each member of THN is handpicked by Abbott. I have repeatedly documented exactly what I think both of Abbott's biased writing and the way that he selects what he links to/who he includes in THN. As a member of THN who has parlayed that membership into a job at NBC, Helin can accurately be called an acolyte of Abbott.

If Kurt Helin has ever publicly disassociated himself from Abbott I am unaware of it.

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2011 10:39:00 AM, Anonymous J said...

On the subject of Kevin Love, this blog post is unintentionally hilarious:

http://arturogalletti.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/perspective/

I liked this comment a great deal:

"Nothing in this process gave you the slightest bit of pause? I mean, talk about extreme results. Talk about stretching the suspension of disbelief. How are you supposed to keep a straight face while reporting Kevin Love is responsible for 144% of his team’s wins?"

 
At Friday, March 18, 2011 7:33:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

Nice article David. The coverage reminded my of the ongoing coverage of Kobe Bryant's quest to match Michael Jordan's 6 title (as if it's some kind of record, and as if other pantheon level players do not have as many or more).

 
At Saturday, March 19, 2011 3:47:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

There has been a seemingly endless quest to identify MJ's "heir" and then to mercilessly say that this "heir" does not measure up; Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, Harold Miner, Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady have all been subjected to that scrutiny in some fashion. Kobe is the only one who really has even come close to living up to that billing for a sustained period of time but you are of course correct that even if Kobe matches MJ by winning a sixth title he will still be barely halfway toward matching Bill Russell's 11 championships.

 

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