6. Latrell Sprewell

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Latrell Fontaine Sprewell (born September 8, 1970, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin).

Latrell Sprewell was selected at number 24 overall, in the 1992 NBA Draft, by the Golden State Warriors. He played for almost six consecutive seasons for the Warriors and I say ‘almost’ because he was fined by the NBA during the 1997-98 season – his last as a warrior – after an incident with his coach P.J. Carlesimo at one of the team’s training sessions. The incident stigmatized Sprewell’s career and followed him everywhere. He was able, however, to remain a top player in his new home at New York where he played for the last season of the 90s. He played at New York until 2003 and then finished his career playing two seasons as a member of the best Minnesota Timberwolves team I have ever seen, alongside Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell.

‘Spree’ made his presence felt from his first season, in which he averaged 15.4ppg. in a talented Warriors team, with Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway in its roster, that did not make to the play-offs. In the 1993-94 season, Hardaway’s injury, made the Warriors Sprewell’s team. He averaged more than 20 points for the first time in his career during the 1993-94 season (21ppg, 4.9rpg, 4.7apg.). He was named all-star for the Western Conference, a member of the all-NBA second defensive team, and a member of the the all-NBA first team. That was his best year as a Warrior, in which he played alongside the rookie Chris Webber and led the team to a 50-32 regular-season record and a first-round elimination, 3-0, in the play-offs against the Phoenix Suns, after a short but heated series of great basketball.

Sprewell’s rivalry with Hardaway resulted in Hardaway being transferred to Miami in the middle of the 1995-96 season. Warriors continued playing as a mediocre team and could not reach the play-offs neither in 1996 nor in 1997, which was Sprewell’s more fruitful year (24.2ppg, 4.6rpg.,6.3apg.). The next season (1997-98) was meant to be his worse. He tried to choke his coach and was banned by the NBA. He played only 14 games that season averaging 21.4ppg. At that time, as a fan of Sprewell’s game, explosive and impressive, I thought that the NBA was very harsh and I thought it was Carlesimo’s fault that I was not going to be able to watch one the most spectacular players. Of course Sprewell’s behaviour was unacceptable and especially for the conservative NBA environment of the 90s.

But, the result of the whole incident turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as Sprewell got transferred to a Knicks team that was moving from the Ewing-era with a team filled with talent (Allan Houston, Larry Johnson, Marcus Camby). This is where ‘Spree’ had his chance to advance into the play-offs, coming mostly from the bench in the short 50-games regular season. He averaged 16.4ppg. during the regular season but he exploded to 20.4ppg. during the play-offs and led the eight-seeded Knicks to the NBA Finals. I believed, back then, that the Knicks could be the first eight seed that could make it to the NBA Finals and they did.

In 1998-99 the Knicks upset a great Miami team 3-2 in one of the ‘ugliest’ series ever, they destroyed, 4-0, a good Atlanta Hawks team that once more was not equipped for the next step, and surprised, 4-2, their 90s rivals, Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Patrick Ewing was injured in game-2 of the Conference Finals and the Knicks went to play against the team with the best frontline of the 90s, the San Antonio Spurs of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, without their best big man. They lost 4-1 to the Spurs but Sprewell was their best player in that series, scoring 26 points per game and he came one shot short of winning the last game of the series by himself, while scoring 35 points.

Sprewell played in three all-star games during the 90s and in four throughout his career. He was one of my favourite players and because of his spectacular game I had initially ranked him higher, in number 5. A comment from a fan of the blog made me realize that I was indeed overestimating him and was letting my personal preferences stand in the way of objective judgement. I believe he deserves to be the 6th best shooting that played during the 90s and I think if he had a more disciplined approach to the game he could have been an even better team-player. But then again if he was more disciplined he would not have been the player that we loved. I wish that we will have the chance see more players like Sprewell in the future.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Career 18.3 4.1 4.0 1.4 0.4
1996-97 24.2 4.6 6.3 1.7 0.6
1992-1999 19.8 4.3 4.5 1.7 0.6

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/s/sprewla01.html

Latrell Sprewell

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My new NBA Blog

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Check my new blog about the NBA with critiques, analyses and ideas regarding contemporary and timeless NBA issues: http://nbaphilosophy.wordpress.com/

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NBA 2K90s

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I have decided to name this article after the great NBA video game series NBA 2K. The reason is that NBA 2K introduced a new feature in the 2011 game that gave, to the gamer, the opportunity to take control of historical teams of the 80s and 90s as the basic concept was to play as MJ and achieve what he did as a Chicago Bull. This was a result of the increased demand and interest of the gamers regarding the teams of the past and especially of the golden era of the 90s. In fact in the NBA 2K12 game there are more than twenty historical teams.

Evidence of that interest can be easily found in the various forums around the internet and the numerous modifications, with historical teams,  that gamers around the world created and made available to download through  websites. Anyone, that is not aware of this new trend in NBA video gaming, is free to visit the NBA 2K forums at the official page of the game and find out by himself the interest of the gamers for the teams of the past (https://www.2ksports.com/forums/).

So, as a great fan of the NBA and as a man that grew up playing bball video games like, two on two, double dribble, fast break, tv sports basketball and of course NBA JAM and NBA Live it was not possible for me to do not play a game like NBA 2K that can actually put me in control of some of my favourite teams, some of the teams that I grew up watching. The game is really good and it brings back memories but it gave me also an idea. Why not make a game that will have only teams from the 90s, this means from the 1989-90 season to 1998-99 season.

The question that arose then was which teams should be included and could there be two teams from the same franchise for example the Bulls of 1990-91 season and the Bulls of the 1995-96 season? After some thought, not too much, I have decided that there should be definitely 29 teams, one for each franchise of the 90s including the Raptors and the Grizzles even though according to the rules of this blog they are not qualified.

These 29 teams would be the best that each franchise had during the 90s. So, there would be in the same league the Sonics of 1995-96 season and the Blazers 0f 1991-92 season. This sounds good but what about the franchises that had two or even three teams that could easily be included in such a league? Or what about some teams that we loved to watch but they were not that good, some of them did not even qualify for the play-offs like, for example the 1994-95 Dallas Mavericks of the Three-Js (Jason Kidd, Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashburn)?

The answer is that there should be 11 more teams, to the total of 40, in order to include some of the teams that we loved or that just worth to be a part of it. The 29 teams that I have chosen as the best of the 90s for each franchise are the following:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Teams Season Record Play-offs
New York Knicks 1993-94 57-25 Lost NBA Finals
Orlando Magic 1994-95 57-25 Lost NBA Finals
Miami Heat 1996-97 61-21 Lost Eastern Conference Finals
Boston Celtics 1990-91 56-26 Lost Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
Philadelphia 76ers 1989-90 53-29 Lost Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
New Jersey Nets 1993-94 45-37 Lost Eastern Conference First Round
Washington Bullets 1996-97 44-38 Lost Eastern Conference First Round

Central Division

Team Season Record Play-offs
Chicago Bulls 1995-96 72-10 Won NBA Finals
Detroit Pistons 1989-90 59-23 Won NBA Finals
Indiana Pacers 1997-98 58-24 Lost Eastern Conference Finals
Cleveland Cavaliers 1991-92 57-25 Lost Eastern Conference Finals
Atlanta Hawks 1996-97 56-26 Lost Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
Charlotte Hornets 1997-98 51-31 Lost Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
Milwaukee Bucks 1998-99 28-22 Lost Eastern Conference First Round
Toronto Raptors 1998-99 23-27 Did not Qualify

So, the 90s Eastern Conference would have two NBA champions; the Chicago Bulls with the best record in the history of the league with players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Tony Kukoc and the ‘Bad Boys’ of Detroit that won back to back titles with players like Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman (without the coloured hair). Two finalists; the tough New York  Knicks of Patrick Ewing, John Starks and Charles Oakley as well as the enthusiastic Orlando Magic of the young Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and the three time champion Horace Grant.

Additionally there would be three Eastern Conference Finalists; Pat Riley’s Miami Heat with Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Dan Majerle and Jamal Mashburn, the Indiana Pacers with Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, Antonio and Dale Davis, Jalen Rose and Larry Bird as a head coach and the great team of the Cleveland Cavaliers that was destined to play at the same era with Jordan’s Bulls and never reach the NBA Finals, with players like Brad Daugherty, Mark Price and Larry Nance.

Furthermore, there would be the aged but competent Boston Celtics of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Reggie Lewis, Charles Barkley’s 76ers, Dikembe Mutombo’s and Steve Smith’s Hawks, Glen Rice’s Hornets, Drazen Petrovic’s and Derrick Coleman’s Nets, Ray Allen’s and Glen Robinson’s Bucks, the Bullets of Chris Weber, Juwan Howard and Rod Strickland and the team of Toronto Raptors with the young Vince Carter and the rookie Tracy McGrady.

Western Conference

Pacific Division 

Team Season Record Play-offs
Seattle Supersonics 1995-96 64-18 Lost NBA Finals
Phoenix Suns 1992-93 62-20 Lost NBA Finals
Los Angeles Lakers 1990-91 58-24 Lost NBA Finals
Portland Trail Blazers 1991-92 57-25 Lost NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors 1990-91 44-38 Lost Western Conference Semi-Finals
Los Angeles Clippers 1991-92 45-37 Lost Western Conference First Round
Sacramento Kings 1998-99 27-23 Lost Western Conference First Round

Midwest Division

Team Season Record Play-offs
Houston Rockets 1994-95 48-34 Won NBA Finals
San Antonio Spurs 1998-99 37-13 Won NBA Finals
Utah Jazz 1997-98 62-20 Lost NBA Finals
Denver Nuggets 1993-94 42-40 Lost Western Conference Semi-Finals
Dallas Mavericks 1989-90 47-35 Lost Western Conference First Round
Minnesota Timberwolves 1997-98 45-37 Lost Western Conference First Round
Vancouver Grizzles 1997-98 19-63 Did not Qualify

Thus, the 90s Western Conference would have two NBA champions as well; the Houston Rockets of the two former members of Phi Slamma Jamma, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler and their fierce rivals from Texas San Antonio Spurs of the twin towers David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

It would also have five victims (NBA Finalists) of the Chicago Bulls; the supersonic team from Seattle with Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf, the all-star Suns of Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle and Cedric Ceballos, the Utah Jazz of the one of the greatest duos in the history of the NBA in John Stockton and Karl Malone, the great Blazers team that lost two NBA Finals with players like Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Buck Williams and Kevin Duckworth and finally the aged but powerful Los Angeles Lakers of Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Vlade Divac.  

Furthermore it would have the Run-TMC-Warriors of Hardaway, Mullin and Richmond, Mutombo’s Nuggets that surprised the world by beating the no.1 seed of the west in 1994 NBA play-offs, the only competitive Mavs team until the coming of the great German with players like Blackman, Harper, Donaldson and Tarpley, the Wolves of the youngsters Garnett, Marbury and Gugliotta, the Clippers’ team of Danny Manning and Ron Harper, the young Sacramento team that became one of the greatest teams of the next decade with a mature Weber, a veteran Divac and the youngsters Jason Williams and Predrag Stojakovic, and the Grizzles of Shareef Abdur Rahim and Bryant Reeves. 

In addition to this already impressive league, eleven more teams, to a total of forty teams, from the 90s would complete the NBA 2k90s project. These teams would be the following:

Team Season Record Play-offs
Philadelphia 76ers 1997-98 31-51 Did not Qualify
New York Knicks 1998-99 27-23 Lost NBA Finals
Atlanta Hawks 1992-93 43-39 Lost Eastern Conference First Round
Detroit Pistons 1996-97 54-28 Lost Eastern Conference First Round
Charlotte Hornets 1991-92 44-38 Lost Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
Golden State Warriors 1993-94 50-32 Lost Eastern Conference First Round
Los Angeles Lakers 1997-98 61-21 Lost Western Conference Finals
Portland Trail Blazers 1998-99 35-15 Lost Western Conference Finals
Dallas Mavericks 1994-95 36-46 Did not Qualify
Houston Rockets 1996-97 57-25 Lost Western Conference Finals
San Antonio Spurs 1994-95 62-20 Lost Western Conference Finals

The additional eastern teams would be the 1997-98 76ers team which was full of talented players with Iverson, Stackhouse and Coleman in their roster, the Knicks of 1998-99 that had an aged and injured Ewing but had an all-star starting five with Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell, Larry Johnson and Marcus Camby, the Hawks of the 1992-93 which was the last Hawks’ team that had Dominique Wilkins for a full season, the 1996-97 Pistons that was a team that supposed to have a great future built around the unlucky (comparing to what he could have achieved if he hadn’t been injured) superstar of the 90s Grant Hill and the 1991-92 Hornets’ team of Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning that upset the Celtics in the first round of the play-offs.

On the other hand the additional western teams would be the Warriors of 1993-94 with players like Sprewell, Weber and Mullin, the super talented Lakers’ team of 1997-98 with four all-stars that season (O’Neal, Bryant, Jones and Van Exel) that reached the Western Conference Finals, the ‘gangsta’ Blazers’ team that reached the conference finals with players like Isaiah Rider, Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire and Arvydas Sabonis, the Mavs of 1994-95 which was considered as the team of the future with the three-j’s in its core, the Rockets of 1996-97 with the big-three of the 90s in Olajuwon, Drexler and Barkley and the Spurs of the MVP of the 1994-95 season David Robinson and the first rebounder of the NBA Dennis Rodman alongside him that had the best record in the NBA and lost in a memorable series to the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals. 

Imagine being able to play a season with all these teams, not all of them at the same league of course but 29 of them, in an old school 90s league with four divisions and play-offs with a best-of-five first round series. Imagine being able to customize the league with the additional eleven teams in the place of the original (eg. instead of playing with the 1989-90 76ers to chose the 1997-98 76ers team). I would really like to see a project like this in a future game of the NBA 2K series because it would undoubtedly bring back memories and give us the opportunity to relive some of the great moments of the 90s even in an artificial environment. But if you think about it in a more philosophical way ‘what is real’?

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7. Steve Smith

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Steven Delano Smith (born March 31, 1969, in Highland Park, Michigan).

Steve Smith was drafted, in number 5 overall, by the Miami Heat in 1991 NBA Draft. He played for the Heat for three years and made an immediate impact as he helped the franchise reach the 1992 NBA play-0ffs for the first time in its short history (founded in 1989). Although he had an impact in the league and was considered a young star with a lot of potential, he was not that advertised. That is why I was really surprised when I saw his name included in Dream Team’s (version 2) roster. In fact I believe that he was at least one level below the rest of the players on that roster, at that time, that is why his selection was surprising.

This was the moment that most of us, that lived outside the US, learned Steve Smith, even though his playing time was limited with Dream Team II he was introduced to the world and from the next season we were all expecting to see how the, until recently, unknown Dream Teamer performs in the NBA. The truth is that we have just seen him playing against the Bulls in 92 play-offs where from a point and on MJ had fun with him (as with the rest of the Heat defence).

Smith finished his Heat career at the beginning of the 1994-95 season averaging 15.2 points, 3.9 redounds and 5.0 assists per game. Because of his style of play and his height (6’8) was considered by many as something like the Magic Johnson of the poor. ‘Smitty’ would prove, in the following seasons, that he had his own playing style and that was a star with a deadly perimeter shoot in his arsenal that every team would like to have in her roster. Smith played two games for the Heat at the beginning of 1994-95 season and then was traded to the Atlanta Hawks (with Grant Long for Kevin Willis and a 1996 1st round Draft pick).

In Atlanta Smith played the best basketball of his career. He stayed there till the end of the 90s and then he was traded to Portland. Smith was the star alongside Dikembe Mutombo of a really good Hawks’ team that missed just a piece or the factor that transforms good teams to championship teams. In fact the closest they got to a championship was the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in three cases: in 1996 the lost to the Magic 4-1, in 1997 they lost to the Bulls 4-1 and in 1999 they lost to the Knicks 4-0.

Smith’s best season was 1997-98 where he was averaging 20.1 ppg., 4.2 rpg. and 4.0 apg. in the regular season and 24.8 ppg., 2.8 rpg. and 2.3 apg. during the first round playoffs loss to Hornets (3-1). At that season he has been selected to participate as a sub, for the East squad, in the only all-star appearance of his career. In the previous season ( 14 March 1997) Smith made nine three-pointers (including 7 in a quarter) on his way to a 36 point performance against Seattle.

I really liked the attitude of Steve Smith on the court and towards the game. I liked the fact that except from his talent he knew the game, he possessed the fundamentals so good that could make a difference in the game by just being in the right place the right moment. He did not have to do anything fancy he could get everybody excited by making a simple but brilliant pass or a footwork that seamed so simple but made his shoot impossible to defend. He was one of the players that I enjoyed watching play and I was really happy for him when he played for the Spurs and finally won an NBA title (2003).

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Career 14.3 3.2 3.1 0.8 0.3
1997-98 20.1 4.2 4.0 1.0 0.4
1991-1999 17.4 3.9 4.1 0.9 0.3

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/s/smithst01.html

Steve Smith

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8. John Starks

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John Levell Starks (born August 10, 1963 in Tulsa, Oklahoma).

John Starks’ story is really interesting. He was not the typical NBA star. John Starks has not been drafted by any team as none of them thought that he was good enough to play in the NBA. He finally signed with the Warriors, as a free agent, in 1988 but got cut a year later. He then played in the CBA and tried again to play in the NBA with the Knicks in 1990. This time he did it but with some help from his, latter, good friend; Patrick Ewing. The legend has it, that during a practice Starks tried to dunk on Ewing but the huge Jamaican threw him on the floor. Starks got injured and the Knicks could not get rid of him and this is how they got “stuck” with him, which was something that finally worked out in the benefit of both sides.

John Starks was not the super talented all-star shooting guard. But he became an all-star because he was determined, hard worker and competitive in nature. Although he was not an original New Yorker he had all the characteristics of the tough straight outta Harlem guy (at least the way documentaries or stories about Harlem describe them as I have never been to Harlem!!!) that made him really popular amongst the Knicks’ fans. Of course the main reason that Starks became so popular in New York was his attitude and the way he approached the game that fitted perfectly the style of play the Pat Riley wanted for his Knicks during the 90s. Another thing was his role in New York’s rivalry with two of the most hatred figures in Madison Square Garden; Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller.

The rivalry between the Bulls and the Knicks was the greatest of the 90s and John Starks had been considered, falsely, as the solution to the MJ problem. All I have to say is that I enjoyed their duels and although MJ was the clear winner, John Starks stood tall and had his moments. I will never forget “the dunk” in 1993 play-offs nor the “360 degree lay-up” in 1996 play-offs. But during the 90s the Knicks was a team that simply created rivalries everywhere (Bulls, Pacers and Heat) and John Starks had to face another great competitor; Reggie Miller. This was a more balanced battle but I could say that Miller made some emphatic statements on whether he was better or not during the 1994 and 1995 play-offs where he literally abused the whole Knicks defence and left John Starks wondering!!!

Anyhow, John Starks was never a superstar but he knew how to handle his superstar opponents; by trying to even the difference in talent with a lot of attitude and some times pure inspiration. Starks had his best season in 1993-94 when he participated in the only all-star game of his career, as a sub for the Eastern Conference, and had also his best numbers in ppg. with 19.0, apg. with  5.9 and spg. with 1.6. 1993-94 was also the season that himself and the Knicks came close to win the NBA title as they lost 4-3 to the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals. In the previous season 1992-93 he had been selected for the 2nd all-defensive team, in 1994-95 he led the NBA in 3pt field goals made and attempted and finally in 1996-97 he was coming from the bench but was named Sixth Man of the Year. In January 1999 he was traded to Warriors (with Terry Cummings and Chris Mills for Latrell Sprewell) and missed New York’s second unsuccessful trip to the NBA Finals (lost 4-1 to the Spurs).

I could write more and more things about Stark’s career as there were many more interesting moments and performances but this is not the point of this post. I will always remember John Starks not as a rival of MJ or Reggie “Killer” but as John Starks; an all-star player that combined hard work, attitude and imagination.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Career 12.2 2.5 3.6 1.1 0.1
1993-94 19.0 3.1 5.9 1.6 0.1
1990-1999 14.1 2.7 4.0 1.2 0.1

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/s/starkjo01.html

John Starks

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Why the ranking of NBA players, of different eras, is a false procedure (part 1)

I have read many articles about the top 10, top 50, and top 100 or most recently, even, top 500 NBA players of all time. I have also heard many people, from sports casters to basketball fans, talk about the greatest players of all time and who is the greatest. My perception is that the whole procedure of ranking players of different historical periods is fundamentally wrong. Furthermore I believe that when somebody uses the word ‘great’ should be able to identify what greatness means and how can someone judge if a player is great or not. The question in both cases is; which are the criteria or greatness? Because if we get to a point where we are able to identify a certain number of criteria that will identify greatness then we might be able, at least hypothetically, to compare players from different generations.

Firstly, I will like to explain why the ranking of NBA players of different NBA eras is fundamentally wrong, by using a notion from philosophy and particularly the concept of ‘genealogy’ of Nietchze and Foucault. According to ‘genealogy’ any event should be treated in its own singularity outside of any monotonous finality and even those instances that were absent, must be defined, the moment when they remained unrealized. Another thing that ‘genealogy’ does “is to identify the accidents, the minute deviations-or conversely, the complete reversals-the errors, the false appraisals, and the faulty calculations that gave birth to those things that continue to exist and have value for us; it is to discover that truth…not lie at the root of what we know…but the exteriority of accidents”. In a nutshell, ‘genealogy’ is a way of reading history. A way of finding out, explain and understand how several events occurred.

To illustrate my point I would like you to think of how many times have you read or heard about the greatest team that ever played the game or the greatest player of all time. Thus, let’s assume that the comparison comes down to the Chicago Bulls that won 6 titles during the 90s (91-93 and 96-98) and the Boston Celtics that won 11 titles back at the late 50s and the 60s.

The crucial question here is which are the criteria that these two teams are going to be compared? Someone could easily and falsely answer; statistics. So, in that case we would be comparing the statistics of the two teams, like their winning percentage, their titles, their scoring or rebounding averages and every possible comparable statistical category. This would give as an answer based on the result of the statistical analysis and comparison but would live aside variables that are more important than statistics. We must consider the environment and the circumstances that those two teams won their titles, the antagonism, the rules of the game, the coaching tactics, the team bonding and many more small instances and events that took place during those years on and off the basketball court to fully understand the meaning of the accomplishments of these two teams.

To compare them just because their cases look similar and use the numbers that are available through statistical sheets is not the way to compare sports. Whatever happens on the court is the result of various actions that take place on and off the court. The performance of a team or an individual player should not be judged only by what is imprinted on the box score. Sports are a social event and it should be treated like that.

It is the same with the best NBA players of each era. How could somebody compare Wilt Chamberlain to David Robinson? I could easily, without thinking too much, propose that if ‘The Admiral’ was playing in Wilt’s era he could be, by far, the best center in the game and thus the best player, if we agree that Wilt was the most dominant player of his era. Putting a player with the height, the body, the athletic and basketball abilities of David Robinson in the 60s it would just be unfair to the rest of the players in the league. Imagine that, in that case David Robinson would be considered by everyone as, probably, the best player ever as Chamberlain is considered by many right now. This means that any comparison between them is unreal and fundamentally wrong. Statistics is the only, seemingly, realistic base of comparison between them which means that, in that case, forget about anything else like the competition that each of them faced, the teammates, the rules of the game and any other small or big event that may occurred in their different eras that might have affected their statistics (an injury for example). Chamberlain averaged 50.4 ppg. in 1962 and Robinson 29.8 in 1994 except form the fact that they were both leading the league in scoring those seasons this numerical representation of their performance tells us nothing more. So, one must know and consider many more things and not statistical measures, but true events before comparing two players from different eras. Think about it. How can you compare George Mikan to Allen Iverson? Who was the greatest?

It is like comparing Alexander the Great to Napoleon the Great. Who would win in a battle like this? It is impossible to know. Each of these great strategists, and their armies, were the greatest of its era, but what would be the case in a different historical period under new rules of war, new technologies and different circumstances is not possible to predict. Every comparison would be unreal, it would be metaphysical.

From the above it is obvious that there is definitely an essential problem in saying who the best, player that ever played, is. It is impossible to say. You can only compare players of the same era and find out who is the best but there cannot be an ‘intra-era’ comparison. Who is the best, point guard, between Derrick Rose or Bob Cousy? At this point I must say that term ‘greatest’ is not used in the same manner as the term ‘best’ and vice versa. For example, statistics tell me that Glen Robinson was a better player than Robert Horry, but what about the rest of the factors and even if ‘Big Dog’ Robinson was better than Horry, was he greater than him?

Thus, we can use the term better to compare players of the same era, where statistics and accomplishments can be examined under the same circumstances and the only way to compare two players from different eras is by introducing a standard measure that will be comparable. This measure is greatness. In a future article (part 2) I will try to identify greatness and the criteria by which we can measure greatness.

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Battle in the Paint I

battle in the middle

This is the first part of the article about the battle that took place in the paint of the NBA courts during the 90s. A very controversial battle, at least, until the 1995 play-offs. The 90s was a decade with many great players, but as we have said in other articles of this blog, many of them were playing the Center position and were the franchise players of their teams. I have always wanted to summarize the battles of the top-5 Centers of the 90s in an article and be able to see, statistically, whom was the best. I believe that when somebody read statistics, must be aware of more than the statistics. I am pointing this out because for example O’Neal and Mourning were rookies in 1993 and at the second half of the 1990s Robinson, Olajuwon and Ewing were over 30. So, their battles may not say the exact true, because except from their age other external factors like the quality of the supporting cast and coaching should be considered. Anyway, this first article summarizes the battle of these five Centers against each other, during their regular season meetings, and the second that will come later, will analyse their battles in the play-offs, the honours of the players (e.g. all-star, MVP) and the overall presence of their teams.

hakeem-olajuwonHakeem Olajuwon VS David Robinson (34 games)spurs13_resize

Olajuwon Stats Robinson
39.4 Minutes 39.7
9.7 Field Goals 7.5
21.8 F.G. Attempts 15.8
44.6% F.G.% 47.6%
0.0 3Points 0.1
0.2 3P. Attempts 0.1
16.7% 3P.% 75.0%
4.6 Free Throws 6.0
5.9 F.T. Attempts 8.4
77.5% F.T.% 71.1%
3.3 Off. Rebounds 3.8
8.6 Def. Rebounds 8.1
11.9 Total Rebounds 11.9
3.2 Assists 3.4
1.9 Steals 2.1
3.6 Blocks 3.4
3.1 Turnovers 3.4
4.2 Fouls 3.6
24.1 Points 21.1

hakeem-olajuwonHakeem Olajuwon VS Patrick Ewing (15 games)s_patrick_vt

Olajuwon Stats Ewing
36.7 Minutes 38.1
10.1 Field Goals 7.9
19.7 F.G. Attempts 17.9
51.2% F.G.% 44.0%
0.0 3Points 0.0
0.0 3P. Attempts 0.0
0.0% 3P.% 0.0%
4.7 Free Throws 5.2
6.3 F.T. Attempts 6.3
75.5% F.T.% 82.1%
3.2 Off. Rebounds 2.0
8.5 Def. Rebounds 8.8
11.7 Total Rebounds 10.8
2.9 Assists 1.9
2.1 Steals 1.0
2.9 Blocks 2.3
3.5 Turnovers 3.3
4.1 Fouls 3.1
24.9 Points 20.9

hakeem-olajuwonHakeem Olajuwon VS Shaquille O’ Neal (14 games)CNBC_Sports_defectors_shaq

Olajuwon Stats O’ Neal
37.8 Minutes 40.1
8.6 Field Goals 9.7
19.1 F.G. Attempts 16.9
45.3% F.G.% 57.4%
0.1 3Points 0.0
0.1 3P. Attempts 0.0
100.0% 3P.% 0.0%
3.9 Free Throws 3.6
5.3 F.T. Attempts 6.9
74.3% F.T.% 51.5%
2.9 Off. Rebounds 4.2
6.9 Def. Rebounds 9.0
9.8 Total Rebounds 13.2
3.7 Assists 3.4
1.6 Steals 1.1
2.9 Blocks 1.4
2.5 Turnovers 3.9
3.9 Fouls 3.6
21.3 Points 23.0

hakeem-olajuwonHakeem Olajuwon VS Alonzo Mourning (12 games)Alonzo_Mourning_hornets

Olajuwon Stats Mourning
37.1 Minutes 35.0
8.0 Field Goals 4.8
16.5 F.G. Attempts 10.2
48.6% F.G.% 47.3%
0.1 3Points 0.0
0.2 3P. Attempts 0.1
50.0% 3P.% 0.0%
3.9 Free Throws 4.1
6.2 F.T. Attempts 5.5
63.2% F.T.% 73.8%
2.1 Off. Rebounds 2.5
8.3 Def. Rebounds 6.9
10.4 Total Rebounds 9.4
3.5 Assists 1.6
1.8 Steals 0.9
2.7 Blocks 1.4
2.1 Turnovers 4.0
3.8 Fouls 3.8
20.0 Points 13.7

spurs13_resizeDavid Robinson VS Patrick Ewing (14 games)s_patrick_vt

Robinson Stats Ewing
38.7 Minutes 38.1
9.4 Field Goals 9.7
18.1 F.G. Attempts 22.4
51.8% F.G.% 43.5%
0.0 3Points 0.0
0.1 3P. Attempts 0.1
0.0% 3P.% 0.0%
6.9 Free Throws 3.2
10.5 F.T. Attempts 4.7
65.3% F.T.% 68.2%
3.4 Off. Rebounds 2.4
6.8 Def. Rebounds 8.9
10.2 Total Rebounds 11.3
3.0 Assists 2.7
1.8 Steals 1.1
3.2 Blocks 3.0
3.6 Turnovers 3.6
3.7 Fouls 4.1
25.6 Points 22.6

spurs13_resizeDavid Robinson VS Shaquille O’Neal (12 games)CNBC_Sports_defectors_shaq

Robinson Stats O’Neal
38.5 Minutes 38.8
8.6 Field Goals 10.3
18.3 F.G. Attempts 19.1
47.0% F.G.% 53.7%
0.0 3Points 0.0
0.3 3P. Attempts 0.0
0.0% 3P.% 0.0%
7.3 Free Throws 5.7
9.5 F.T. Attempts 9.8
77.2% F.T.% 57.6%
3.2 Off. Rebounds 3.4
7.3 Def. Rebounds 9.0
10.5 Total Rebounds 12.4
3.8 Assists 1.8
2.3 Steals 0.8
2.3 Blocks 2.1
2.4 Turnovers 3.8
3.5 Fouls 3.9
24.5 Points 26.2

spurs13_resizeDavid Robinson VS Alonzo Mourning (10 games)Alonzo_Mourning_hornets

Robinson Stats Mourning
35.4 Minutes 35.1
10.5 Field Goals 7.2
19.0 F.G. Attempts 14.2
55.3% F.G.% 50.7%
0.1 3Points 0.1
0.2 3P. Attempts 0.4
50.0% 3P.% 25.0%
8.2 Free Throws 6.2
10.5 F.T. Attempts 9.0
78.1% F.T.% 68.9%
3.0 Off. Rebounds 2.4
7.3 Def. Rebounds 6.0
10.3 Total Rebounds 8.4
2.5 Assists 1.6
1.5 Steals 0.8
2.0 Blocks 3.0
2.4 Turnovers 2.7
2.4 Fouls 3.6
29.3 Points 20.7

s_patrick_vtPatrick Ewing VS Shaquille O’Neal (19 games)CNBC_Sports_defectors_shaq

Ewing Stats O’Neal
39.3 Minutes 39.3
10.9 Field Goals 11.2
24.2 F.G. Attempts 22.7
45.1% F.G.% 54.1%
0.1 3Points 0.0
0.4 3P. Attempts 0.0
25.0% 3P.% 0.0%
4.4 Free Throws 5.2
5.4 F.T. Attempts 10.5
80.6% F.T.% 49.5%
2.5 Off. Rebounds 4.3
9.1 Def. Rebounds 8.0
11.6 Total Rebounds 12.3
2.0 Assists 2.3
1.0 Steals 0.7
2.3 Blocks 3.1
3.3 Turnovers 2.8
4.2 Fouls 4.5
26.3 Points 27.6

s_patrick_vtPatrick Ewing VS Alonzo Mourning (17 games)Alonzo_Mourning_hornets

Ewing Stats Mourning
38.2 Minutes 38.7
10.6 Field Goals 6.9
21.7 F.G. Attempts 15.8
48.8% F.G.% 44.0%
0.1 3Points 0.1
0.1 3P. Attempts 0.4
50.0% 3P.% 16.7%
5.0 Free Throws 7.4
6.5 F.T. Attempts 9.8
76.6% F.T.% 75.4%
3.1 Off. Rebounds 3.4
8.2 Def. Rebounds 7.4
11.3 Total Rebounds 10.8
2.0 Assists 1.2
0.6 Steals 0.6
2.5 Blocks 3.2
2.6 Turnovers 3.5
3.9 Fouls 4.4
26.2 Points 21.4

CNBC_Sports_defectors_shaqShaquille O’Neal VS Alonzo Mourning (12 games)Alonzo_Mourning_hornets

O’Neal Stats Mourning
39.5 Minutes 32.6
12.8 Field Goals 6.9
22.3 F.G. Attempts 15.7
57.5% F.G.% 44.1%
0.0 3Points 0.1
0.2 3P. Attempts 0.3
0.0% 3P.% 25.0%
6.4 Free Throws 7.9
12.9 F.T. Attempts 10.9
49.7% F.T.% 72.5%
5.7 Off. Rebounds 3.2
7.7 Def. Rebounds 6.2
13.3 Total Rebounds 9.4
3.0 Assists 1.2
0.6 Steals 0.7
3.2 Blocks 2.4
2.7 Turnovers 2.9
4.3 Fouls 4.2
32.1 Points 21.8

Each one of them against the others (e.g. Olajuwon vs the rest etc.)

Stats Olajuwon (74 games) Robinson (70 games) Ewing
(65 games)
O’Neal
(57 games)
Mourning (50 games)
Min. 38.2 38.7 38.5 39.5 35.7
F.G. 9.3 8.5 9.9 11.0 6.5
F.G.A. 20.1 17.1 21.7 19.8 14.2
F.G.% 46.5% 49.6% 45.5% 55.5% 45.9%
3P. 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
3P.A. 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.3
3P.% 33.3% 33.3% 27.3% 0.0% 20.0%
F.T. 4.4 6.7 4.5 5.2 6.6
F.T.A. 5.9 9.3 5.8 10.0 9.0
F.T.% 74.3% 72.0% 77.6% 51.6% 73.1%
O.R. 3.0 3.5 2.5 4.4 2.9
D.R. 8.2 7.6 8.8 8.4 6.7
T.R. 11.2 11.1 11.3 12.8 9.8
Assists 3.3 3.2 2.1 2.6 1.4
Steals 1.9 2.0 0.9 0.8 0.7
Blocks 3.2 3.0 2.5 2.5 2.6
Turn. 2.9 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.3
Fouls 4.0 3.4 3.8 4.1 4.1
Points 23.1 23.8 24.2 27.1 19.7

The statistical presentation of the battles between the top-5 centers of the 90s does not give a clear answer on who was the best of them. O’Neal outscored all of them during the 90s but he created this small difference in scoring per game(except from Mourning) between him and the rest of them in the last three years of the 90s where Olajuwon, Ewing and Robinson had undergone major injuries and where at the twilight of their careers. They were in front of him during the first half of the 90s when O’Neal was a rookie with a little experience. On the other hand all of them were great players since their first year in the league which means that the rookie excuse is not good enough. The tables only show us that Alonzo Mourning was a great center but was defeated in almost every battle against the top-4 centers of his era. I leave the rest of the conclusions to you and I hope that the second part of this article will make it clearer if my ranking is right.

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