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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Placing Kevin Durant's Incredible Scoring Streak in Historical Perspective

When a player does something great it is not only enjoyable to watch but his accomplishment also serves as a reminder of just how tremendous some of his predecessors were. One of my favorite sportswriting passages is William Goldman's take on Wilt Chamberlain's incredible records, which I discussed in a 2006 article about one of Kobe Bryant's scoring barrages:

Goldman wrote of Chamberlain, who still had offers to play in the NBA when he was in his early 50s, "the news finds him. Either when some team wants him to come back and play for them...or whenever a record is talked of." (the ellipses are present in the original text). Goldman continued, "During Michael Jordan's amazing '86-'87, Wilt was always in the papers because Jordan was always scoring the most this's since Wilt Chamberlain or taking the most that's since Wilt Chamberlain. And that ain't gonna change, folks. Not in this century. Take big-scoring games, for example. Michael Jordan hit 60 points, twice last year. In the eighties, only two other men have done it, each once: Bernard King and Larry Bird. Four times this decade. Seven other guys did it once: Fulks (the first), Mikan, Gervin, West, Barry, Maravich and David 'oh-what-a-fall-was-there-' Thompson. Elgin Baylor did it thrice. And Wilt? Well, it's been done 46 times so you subtract. Wilt: 32. The rest of basketball: 14. At the present rate, we will be well into the twenty-first century before the NBA catches up."

Kevin Durant is averaging 37.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 5.9 apg in 11 January games while shooting .522 from the field, including .392 from three point range. He is also shooting .884 from the free throw line while attempting 12.5 free throws per game. Durant may very well seize the title of "best player in the NBA" from LeBron James, who has worn that crown since 2009--and yet Durant's amazing scoring streak does not yet quite measure up to Bryant's best scoring streaks, let alone the unparalleled numbers posted by Chamberlain.

Bryant averaged 43.4 ppg in 13 games in January 2006, the highest scoring calendar month by an NBA player since Chamberlain averaged 45.8 ppg in March 1963. Bryant's total included an 81 point outburst versus the Toronto Raptors, the second best single game scoring performance in NBA history behind only Chamberlain's legendary 100 point game. Bryant also averaged more than 40 ppg in February 2003 (40.6 ppg), when he had nine straight 40-plus point games, the fourth longest such streak in NBA history; in comparison, Durant's current run features eight straight games with at least 30 points but "only" four games of at least 40 points. Subsequently, Bryant averaged more than 40 ppg in two other calendar months: 41.6 ppg in April 2006 and 40.4 ppg in March 2007. Chamberlain, who authored 11 calendar months during which he averaged at least 40 ppg, is the only player other than Bryant to accomplish this more than once.

Durant is performing extremely well and he deserves full credit for shouldering such a huge load for the Oklahoma City Thunder while Russell Westbrook is out with an injury but the fact that Durant can perform at a higher level than LeBron James--at least for a short period of time--and still not quite match the scoring exploits of Chamberlain and Bryant is a timely reminder of just how great Chamberlain and Bryant were in their respective primes.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:21 PM


Ray Allen's Interests and Contributions Extend Far Beyond the Basketball Court

Ray Allen is renowned for his three point shooting prowess and he will long be remembered for the clutch three pointer that enabled the Miami Heat to push the 2013 NBA Finals to seven games en route to capturing their second consecutive championship--but he is a lot more than just a guy who scores prolifically from long distance: Allen is a well-rounded person who continually strives to educate himself and educate those around him. He has made it an annual personal tradition to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., bringing along teammates, team personnel and others. In a 2010 interview conducted by Aleisa Fishman, Allen explained why he first went to the U.S. Holocaust Museum and why he continues to do so:

My first visit to the Holocaust Museum, I had just gotten to the NBA. And I heard about it. I've always been, you know, a guy that's gone to museums. My coach in college was very much into taking us places and teaching us things while we traveled throughout the course of the season. And so, I just picked up that. When I traveled, I always went to places, cities. I'd try to figure out what different cities had to offer. And I just remember the first time I went there, it being so profound. And it's a lesson for everybody. That's something that stayed true to me. And I've been four or five times. And every time I go, I see something different. And when I come back, I always take somebody different.

I brought a friend of mine and he was an older black gentleman. And he, you know, he walked through and he had so many questions, and he couldn't believe that some of the things that he saw had taken place. And after we got done, we walked out and the first thing he questioned was, "What about slavery?" He was an older gentleman but, you know, it kind of made him angry, because he wanted to see something like that about the plight of the black people in America, about slavery. And I told him…I said, "This is about slavery." This is about people being enslaved and people being annihilated. And this is a lesson, so slavery doesn't happen anymore, so people don't believe that they're better than the next person. This is all about slavery. It just so happens to be spoken through the words of the Jewish people in the Holocaust, people who the Nazis tried to annihilate.

You take any person through the Museum, based on their experiences and their life, they're going to see different things. And they're going to talk about the things they want to talk about. But I think the most important thing is communication. That's a powerful, powerful tool, just talking about it and trying to understand it, and learn from it, and grow.

Allen is also playing an integral role in the NBA's celebration of Black History Month; he helped to design a shooting shirt that the Heat will wear during selected games in February. The shooting shirt features images of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Bill Russell and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Allen explained, "It's another celebration that we can improve on to try to create greater awareness, talking about where we've come as a people, as a league and as a country. It's an opportunity to talk about a great leader of the past, but even Martin Luther King, what he fought for was civil liberties not just for black people, but for all people. So to me, Black History Month has always been about equality of all people."

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/17/3877230/heats-allen-designs-shirt-for.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/17/3877230/heats-allen-designs-shirt-for.html#storylink=cpy

He added, "It's not just about the black players in the league. It's about where we've come, what we've fought for, equality amongst all races, ethnicities, cultures and groups."

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:29 PM