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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vintage Erving Jersey Fetches $190,000 in Auction

Greg from DrJStuff.com informed me that a 1972-73 game used/signed road Julius Erving Virginia Squires jersey was just sold for $190,414 at an auction. Greg shared the auction listing, which includes some cool photos and a description of the jersey (you can scroll through the images at the bottom of that link to get a closer look at each picture).

Most fans primarily know Julius "Dr. J" Erving as an 11-time NBA All-Star who won the 1981 regular season MVP and who was an All-NBA First Team performer for the 1983 NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers but Erving enjoyed several of his best seasons during the first five years of his career, all of which were spent in the ABA. Erving averaged 27.3 ppg (fifth in the league) and 15.7 rpg (third in the league) as a Squires rookie in 1971-72 but 2011 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Artis Gilmore won both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP awards that season. Erving topped the 40 point barrier five times during his rookie season but that was just a warmup for the playoffs, when he led both leagues in scoring (33.3 ppg) and rebounding (20.4 rpg); Erving tied Roger Brown's single game ABA playoff scoring record with 53 points, a total that also equals Wilt Chamberlain's mark for most points in a playoff game by a rookie (both records still stand). Erving was even more sensational in 1972-73, the season from which the aforementioned jersey originates. Erving won the first of his three scoring titles, averaging a career-high 31.9 ppg and authoring 13 40 point games in 71 regular season contests (Erving missed the early part of the season because of the contract dispute that ultimately resulted in Erving and Pete Maravich briefly joining forces with the Atlanta Hawks).

Erving spent the remainder of his ABA career with the New York Nets, winning three MVPs in three seasons (sharing the 1974-75 honor with George McGinnis, his future 76ers teammate) and leading the Nets to ABA titles in 1974 and 1976. In the 1976 ABA Finals, Erving played at a level that few--if any--superstars have ever reached, topping both teams in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots.

Erving was a great ball hawk, he still ranks as one of the top scorers in NBA Finals history and he was an obvious choice as a member of my Basketball Pantheon.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:19 AM


Monday, May 16, 2011

Sticks and Stones...

Kobe Bryant received a $100,000 fine from the NBA and heavy censure from the media for calling referee Bennie Adams a "faggot" after Bryant disagreed with a call that Adams made during an April 12 game. Bryant offered a full apology: "The comment that I made, even though it wasn't meant in the way it was perceived to be, is nonetheless wrong, so it's important to own that. The concern that I have is for those that follow what I say and are inspired by how I play or look to me as a role model or whatever it is, for them not to take what is said as a message of hate or a license to degrade or embarrass or tease. That's something I don't want to see happen. It's important for me to talk about that issue because it's OK to be who you are, and I don't want this issue to be a part of something or to magnify something that shouldn't be." Bryant skipped the "if I offended anyone" cliche and wholeheartedly admitted that he was wrong. When NBA Commissioner David Stern announced the $100,000 fine he issued a statement that read in part, "While I'm fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. Accordingly, I have fined Kobe $100,000. Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society."

LeBron James called a reporter's question "retarded" during a press conference on May 7 after Miami's game three loss to Boston. James initially denied using the word but later reversed his denial and offered this line straight out of Weak Apology 101: "If I offended anyone, I sincerely apologize." There is no indication that the NBA plans to fine James nor has there been much of a national media outcry about what James said.

Neither of these stories fits under the purview of what I usually cover here and that is why I did not write a word about either one until now--but what is interesting is not so much what Bryant and James said but rather the vastly different ways that the two incidents have been covered. I almost wrote "similar incidents" but that would not actually be correct: Bryant uttered his slur during the heat of battle and likely would have gotten away with it if a TNT camera had not been focused on him at the very instant that he yelled at Adams; James uttered his slur on live TV in front of an open microphone (James covered his mouth and spoke in a stage whisper, apparently not understanding how modern microphones work) right after a reporter asked Dwyane Wade about the Wade foul that dislocated Rajon Rondo's elbow. There is no defense for either word choice but if the NBA is going to fine players for "insensitive or derogatory comments" then Kevin Garnett would have been broke a long time ago considering how many times he has yelled a word starting with "M" that refers to people having sex with their mothers. Garnett and many other NBA players regularly utter profanities that are easily audible to courtside observers but the only thing that the NBA and its television partners have done in response is institute a several second delay during live telecasts (that is why you sometimes hear dead air when an analyst is commenting about a play that includes courtside audio--a player cussed within earshot of the microphones and the offending words were bleeped out, along with the rest of the live audio during those seconds).

Bryant and James were both wrong (and so are Garnett and the other foul-mouthed players). Commissioner Stern is wrong for having a double standard regarding fines. As for the differing media responses to Bryant and James, this could mean that there are more homosexual writers than there are mentally challenged writers (insert your own punchline, because I am not touching that one), that the homosexual community has more powerful lobbyists/media advocates than the mentally challenged community does or that certain media outlets are much more interested in a negative Bryant story than a negative James story. I would like to see consistency and fairness. If Commissioner Stern has decided to target "insensitive or derogatory comments" then I am sure that he can institute a policy to get rid of such remarks just like he instituted a game day dress code; media members who consider social commentary to be a central part of their beat should be consistent in how they cover the utterances of star players: as I indicated, neither of these stories fits into what I cover here--but I have always had a keen interest in media bias, so the vastly differing responses to the unfortunate word choices made by Bryant and James is a natural subject for me to address in this forum.

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posted by David Friedman @ 10:22 PM


Dallas Versus Oklahoma City Preview

Western Conference Finals

#3 Dallas Mavericks (57-25) vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)

Season series: Dallas, 2-1

Oklahoma City can win if…Kevin Durant averages 28-plus ppg while shooting at least .450 from the field, Russell Westbrook uses his athletic ability to dominate the point guard matchup and the Thunder's bigs control the paint. The Thunder will not likely be able to slow down Dirk Nowitzki, so the way for them to win the series is to create advantages in the other matchups.

Dallas will win because…the Mavericks have enough big men to at least fight to a draw in the paint, they have multiple bodies to throw at Durant defensively and the Dirk Nowitzki/Jason Terry duo will control any games that are close down the stretch.

Other things to consider: In each of the past two seasons, the media have voted Kevin Durant to the All-NBA First Team instead of Dirk Nowitzki, who would have been my choice both times. Durant is a fabulous scorer and an improving all-around player but he can be bullied by physical defenders and he generally can only beat a team with his scoring; Nowitzki is a proven postseason assassin who can beat teams not only with scoring but also with rebounding and even with his passing: ABC's Jeff Van Gundy made a very insightful point early in Oklahoma City's game seven win over the Memphis Grizzlies when he noted that Durant has not yet learned how to beat opponents by effectively passing out of double and triple teams (Kobe Bryant's mastery of this skill has often been praised by Van Gundy and Hubie Brown and was a very underrated factor in the Lakers' 2008-2010 playoff success). Nowitzki has averaged 25.6 ppg and 10.6 rpg in his playoff career, making him just the fourth player in ABA/NBA history to accomplish this feat (Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor, Hakeem Olajuwon and Bob Pettit are the others).

Westbrook became just the fifth player to post a game seven triple double (14 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds as the Thunder eliminated the Memphis Grizzlies, 105-90), joining a list that includes Hall of Famers/Top 50 selections Jerry West, Larry Bird, James Worthy and Scottie Pippen. Westbrook will be a very tough matchup for the Mavericks--too quick for Jason Kidd, too strong for Jason Terry or J.J. Barea--but even though I expect him to put up great numbers in this series I don't think that this will be quite enough to tip the balance.

The NBA's youth movement came to the forefront this postseason as the veteran teams that combined to win the past four championships (Lakers, Celtics and Spurs) each failed to advance to the Conference Finals but the Mavericks are not a young team by any stretch of the imagination; their rotation players are actually older on average than the Lakers' rotation players, with Dirk Nowitzki being a couple months older than Kobe Bryant (though Bryant has logged several thousand more career minutes than Nowitzki has) and Jason Kidd still performing effectively a couple months after celebrating his 38th birthday. Barea and starting center Tyson Chandler are the only members of Dallas' eight man rotation who are less than 30 years old. However, the Mavs have a deep, well balanced roster and their long range shooting prowess compensates for the fact that they do not have blazing speed at any position (Barea is the only regular member of the rotation who is really quick). The Thunder will certainly play with more energy and effectiveness defensively than the Lakers did last round versus Dallas but the combination of Nowitzki, Terry, depth and homecourt advantage will prove to be enough to lift the Mavericks to their second NBA Finals appearance in the Nowitzki era.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:51 PM