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Waiting for the Weekend: Is the NBA Using Monopoly Money? 0

Posted on July 07, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Some of the NBA free agent signings makes me think of the guys chasing Butch and Sundance. "Who are those guys?"

Some of the NBA free agent signings makes me think of the guys chasing Butch and Sundance. “Who are those guys?”

As I have read over the last few days about all the NBA players receiving huge guaranteed, long-term contracts, I can’t help thinking about the classic movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Early in the movie when Butch and Sundance are being followed by a group of horsemen, they keep asking themselves “who are those guys?” as they are unable to shake them despite making many maneuvers that typically would have knocked trackers off their trail.

With several of the players who have signed mammoth contracts this week, I have that same question “who are those guys?”

Obviously, a few of the players receiving eye-popping contracts are household names, like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Kyle Lowry, but it seems that many of the large contracts have gone to players who even regular NBA fans barely know.

Tell me the truth, could you really pick Otto Porter Jr. (4 years, $106.5 million offer sheet by the Nets), Danilo Gallinari (3 years, $65 million by the Clippers) or Langston Galloway (3 years, $21 million by the Pistons) out of a lineup? Not to mention, Tim Hardaway Jr. signed a four year, $71.5 million offer sheet with the Knicks. Now, in his day I could see Tim Hardaway Sr. being worth that type of money, but the young Hardaway has a career scoring average of 11 points per game, including a career-high 14.5 ppg this past season. I barely even knew he was still in the NBA.

I remember in the early 1980s when new NBA Commissioner David Stern pledged that the NBA was on their way to an average salary of a million dollars (at a time when a million dollars was a lot of money). Granted that he made that claim early in the era of Bird and Magic, but still, it seemed a bit far-fetched given that the NBA was clearly number three in terms of the professional sports pecking order in the United States.

Now 35 years later, you can argue that in some ways the NBA is still third among a broad group of sports fans in the U.S., but it probably has the most loyal core of young fans (age 10-30) of any of the three professional major sports leagues and is definitely giving its rank-and-file players larger contracts than that level of player can find in the NFL or MLB. Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: Old Fuddy Duddy Watching the NBA Draft 5

Posted on June 23, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Markelle Fultz was selected with the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing only 25 games at the college level.

Markelle Fultz was selected with the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing only 25 games at the college level.

I have decided in this column to serve as the old “fuddy duddy”, which is defined as being old fashioned and fussy.

Last night was the NBA Draft and I must admit, my 11-year-old son had a much better grasp of the players being selected than I did. Not only because he is significantly closer in age to them, but also because in today’s electronic world, he is much more familiar with their exploits than I am. Though most of the top players played roughly 30 games at the college level, if you are interested and tech savvy, you can find all their highlights on YouTube.

Sorry to sound dated and bitter, but I fondly remember a day when players being drafted into the NBA were familiar to fans not because of a YouTube video, but because we had watched them play through usually three or four years of college. Even in a time when cable television was not yet prominent and not every game was available to watch, we still had ample chances to enjoy the top players for quite a while before they moved to the NBA.

When Michael Jordan entered the NBA in 1984 he had played 101 games as a college player, not to mention being on the 1984 Olympic team. While I don’t recall there necessarily being discussion then that he was going to be the greatest player of all-time (such labels weren’t really all that important in a time before sports talk shows), there was no question that he was a great player and would be a successful pro.

You can say similar things about all the other top draft picks from the 1970s and 1980s. In most cases, they were familiar to fans across the country because they had been showcased in college for multiple years.

Now not every great college player in the past panned out in the NBA. As is the case today, there were many players in past generations who were great college players, but just didn’t translate to the NBA. But even in those cases, you had four years to watch them play at college and the number of top picks who didn’t have at least some semblance of an NBA career was pretty minimal. Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: Back from the Abyss 1

Posted on June 09, 2017 by Dean Hybl
LeBron James and Kobe Bryant each have been in the conversation about the greatest player in NBA history.

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant each have been in the conversation about the greatest player in NBA history.

When I started Sports Then and Now in 2009, one of the regular features of the site was a weekly Friday column in which I took a more in-depth look at a couple hot button topics in the world of sports. You may remember that in 2009 the country was struggling with unemployment at a level unseen for many years and I, like many others, was facing a time of being under-employed and had a bit more time to share my perspective about the world of sports.

Fortunately, my battle with under-employment was short lived and now as a country our unemployment levels are at all-time lows. While I have managed to find the time to continue Sports Then and Now as a web site, I have not had the same level of time to focus on the site as I did in 2009. Though I have been fortunate to have some quality articles written either by myself or in many cases other talented writers to keep the site going, things like my weekly Friday column became a victim of my busy life that not only includes a full-time job, but two kids and right now multiple youth sports coaching gigs.

However, I recently decided that I miss having a weekly platform to share some of my musings about sports. While I admit I may have a greater affinity for my work than deserved, I hope that my nearly 50 years as a sports fan as well as my training as a journalist makes my efforts at least somewhat entertaining.

Regardless, I have decided that beginning with this week, it is time to bring “Waiting for the Weekend” back after a seven year “sabbatical.” I promise to weekly give some thoughts and ideas about the current happenings in the world of sports, tie them to sports history when I can, and make them as entertaining as my talents allow.

So, without further delay, here we go:

Is LeBron the Greatest Ever? Does it Matter?: Even though it appears that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to fall short of a second consecutive NBA Title, the fact that LeBron is appearing in the NBA Finals for the seventh straight season has necessitated the obligatory discussions about whether he is the greatest player in NBA history.

While I have my own opinions regarding LeBron’s historical status as well as the current talent level of the NBA, the question I have for anyone who fuels the discussion is why does it matter? When I was a kid we heard stories about the greatest from the early generations of NBA history including George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson. In the 1970s, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving ruled the day. In the 1980s it was Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The 1990s were dominated by Michael Jordan with Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Karl Malone among those earning honorable mention. In the 2000s it was Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal ruling the land before LeBron took over.

The point is that regardless of what generation you connect with, there were NBA players who stood out above the crowd and were the best of that era.

Just given the physical evolution of the game and the methods of physical fitness, there is no question that LeBron James has a level of physical ability and skill that is unmatched in basketball history. However, that doesn’t necessarily make him the greatest player ever or conversely ensure that he isn’t the greatest of all-time.

Though by the time I was old enough to follow the NBA Wilt Chamberlain was better known for making car commercials with jockey Willie Shoemaker than he was for his basketball dominance, during his peak, Chamberlain was as dominant in terms of physical ability and skills as Jordan in the 1990s or LeBron today.

However, some would argue that because Bill Russell and a Boston Celtics roster filled with stars routinely kept Chamberlain from winning a title, Russell was better and Chamberlain was flawed. Read the rest of this entry →

2017 NBA Finals – No Surprises Here 4

Posted on May 29, 2017 by Dean Hybl
LeBron James and Steph Curry will be meeting in the NBA Finals for the third straight year.

LeBron James and Steph Curry will be meeting in the NBA Finals for the third straight year.

Finally. After a month and a half of preliminaries, the main event that every basketball fan has been waiting to see is finally upon us. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will be meeting in the NBA Finals for a third straight year.

After splitting the first two meetings, this one promises to provide more excitement and at least for now some clarity on which team can claim the title of being the NBA’s most dominant.

While this marks the first time that two franchises have met in the finals for three straight years, the fact that neither the Cavaliers or Warriors are among the big-market marquee franchises of the NBA has made it a bit harder to garner the type of excitement past NBA rivalries have enjoyed.

However, what the cities may not be prime time, both have marquee superstars.

Leading the way is LeBron James, who is without question the best player of this generation and is now in the conversation when discussing the best players in NBA history. Counting his four-straight appearances (and two titles) with the Miami Heat, James is making his seventh straight NBA Finals appearance.

Last year James finally accomplished his longtime mission of bringing an NBA Champions to Cleveland. While there isn’t the same sense of urgency as a year ago, winning another title would be another high mark on James’ career resume. Read the rest of this entry →

Vintage Video: Michael Jordan Becomes MICHAEL JORDAN 1

Posted on May 07, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Lifting the Bulls over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 NBA Playoffs helped propel Michael Jordan to NBA Super stardom.

Lifting the Bulls over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 NBA Playoffs helped propel Michael Jordan to NBA Super stardom.

Prior to the 1989 NBA playoffs, Michael Jordan was already known as one of the best players in the NBA.  He was a three-time NBA scoring champion and had already earned his first NBA MVP Award. However, Jordan didn’t yet have a signature playoff moment. That all changed 28 years ago on May 7, 1989.

After first round playoff exits in each of Jordan’s first three playoff appearances, the Bulls had finally advanced to the second round in 1988. However, they lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Detroit Pistons.

Facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round of the 1989 playoffs, the Bulls were on the brink of being eliminated in the first round for the fourth time in five years. The best-of-five series was tied at two games each and the Cavaliers led by a single point (100-99) when Jordan and the Bulls broke the huddle with three seconds remaining.

It was in those three seconds that Jordan started his rise from NBA star to all-time legend.

Taking the inbounds pass, Jordan drove to the foul line and then took a jump shot over the outraced arm of Cleveland guard Craig Ehlo. As the ball fell through the next, Jordan jumped in joy and pumped his fist as the Bulls celebrated.

Though they eventually lost in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan was now established as a clutch player and the legend continued to grow.

Two years later the Bulls won their first NBA title and Jordan was on his way to being known as the greatest of all-time.

Conversely, the shot by Jordan proved to be a dagger for the Cavaliers. The struggled the next two seasons before reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 1992 (losing to Jordan and the Bulls). While the Bulls went on to win six NBA Championships, the Cavaliers never advanced out of the Eastern Conference while losing in the opening round six times between 1989 and 1998.

Check out video from the first defining playoff shot of Jordan’s career.
Read the rest of this entry →

The Sky Is the Limit for Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans 0

Posted on May 06, 2017 by Nathaniel Hybl
Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins should lead the New Orleans Pelicans to victory next season.

Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins should lead the New Orleans Pelicans to victory next season.

Anthony Davis has conquered the NBA in just five seasons.

He is a four-time NBA All-Star, including earning All-Star game MVP honors in 2017.

Despite playing on primarily losing teams with the New Orleans Pelicans, Davis has earned first-team All-NBA honors once, second team All-Defensive honors, while twice leading the NBA in blocks and made the NBA All-Rookie team in 2013.

During his career he has played in 335 games, with a .513 field goal percentage, a three point shooting percentage of .290, free throw percentage of 78.7, 10.2 rebounds per contest, 1.8 assists per game, 2.4 blocks per game and 22.4 points per game.

Between his sophomore and senior year in high school Davis grew from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-10. He went from a mediocre point guard who just might get a college scholarship to a Division II team to the number one prospect in high school basketball and could attend any college in the country he wanted.

He would be an Olympic Gold Medalist straight out of college after leading Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament and winning it all. He was the SEC Player of the Year and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year during his one season in college. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Sudden Sam McDowell
      July 4, 2017 | 8:48 pm
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      Sudden Sam McDowell

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a hard-throwing lefthander who often led Major League Baseball in both strikeouts and walks. His off-the-field story also made him the prototype for a famed television character.

      Sudden Sam McDowell made his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians a week before his 19th birthday and pitched in the majors for 15 seasons.

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