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Sports Then and Now



Is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the Greatest Player of All-Time? 0

Posted on November 26, 2014 by Jeremy Biberdorf
Kareem Abdul-Jabaar's famous sky hook was nearly impossible to stop.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s famous sky hook was nearly impossible to stop.

If you had to pick out one basketball star that deserves the title of the greatest player of all time – then the name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is definitely on the shortlist.

Once in a while, there are players in all kinds of different sports who just seem to re-write the way the game is played – along with the record books – and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was most certainly such a player.

One might say the same about the great Pele or perhaps Diego Maradona in the world of soccer, for example – or perhaps Jack Nicklaus or maybe even Tiger Woods in golf. And in tennis both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have been re-writing the record books over the last decade between them. These are all players and sportsmen who learn their trade in the same way as everyone else trying to make it in their chosen sport – then somehow do something different again. It’s not just about being better – it’s about doing things differently than anyone else ever has done before, and taking things to a whole new level.

Perhaps the most obvious aspect of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s game that no-one else had really done was that trademark skyhook shot that punished so many opponents so badly during the player’s 20 year basketball career.

But it was more than that; he played with sublimity – with an elegance and style that few other players have ever been able to match, if any.

Another of his trademarks was to play down low. He looked like he was hunting as he crouched with the ball, looking up from underneath his spectacles that he usually played in – and he was completely single-minded in achieving what he was setting out to do; score points and win games. But he did it all with grace and style and a wonderful fluidity of movement that is the hallmark of so many great players in different sports. It’s rather like watching someone doing exactly what they were born to do – moving with grace and speed like a predatory big cat in a way that is far more about instinct than it is about conscious thought.

By the time Abdul-Jabbar decided to quit basketball in 1989 at the grand old age of 42, no NBA basketball player had ever scored as many points or been awarded as many ‘Most Valuable Player’ awards, or blocked more shots. He had even played in more All-Star Games and notched up more seasons than any other player in NBA history. So when we say that he re-wrote the record books, this is no throwaway sycophancy from an appreciative audience of basketball fans – it is, quite simply, a literal truth. Read the rest of this entry →

17 Most Valuable Sports Teams in the World 2

Posted on November 07, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Th Staples Center is home to two valuable basketball franchises.

Th Staples Center is home to two valuable basketball franchises.

You already know how great your favorite sports team is, but do you how much they’re actually worth? The following list is a pretty simple ranking sheet based entirely on the monetary value of each of the individual teams on the list, regardless of sport. Most of the teams on this list will be familiar to people who aren’t even familiar with the sport because they dominate the headlines of their respective sports year after year. Here goes:

17. Philadelphia Eagles
I bet if you asked anyone in the broader sports world if the Eagles were the sixth most valuable American Football team they would say no. The truth is, the market is deep as the $1.314 billion valuation proves. Eagle fans are avid and are being rewarded with stadium renovations that make it more enjoyable to continue to support their team. These guys are proof that it matters when people love and support their teams.

16. Arsenal F.C.
Arsenal is arguably the most successful club in British Premier league history, particularly because of their reliability. They’re a contender every year. For an American comparison, they’re basically the Yankees. Rich, based in a big city, London, and regularly in the running for the pennant. That’s probably why they’re worth $1.331 billion.

15. Los Angeles Lakers
This list is quickly becoming one of teams that you love to hate. The Lakers are a dynasty franchise that has had periods of dominance every decade since the seventies. With that in mind it’s surprising they’re only valued at $1.35 billion considering Ballmer just bought the Clippers for $2 billion.

14. New York Jets
The Jets have struggled to fill MetLife stadium the past two years and stand at 26th in NFL attendance rankings but they have a slice of one of the largest markets in football so they’re worth $1.38 billion.

13. New York Knicks
The Knicks had the biggest average audience in the NBA this past season with 163,000 viewers per game. It’s pretty astonishing considering they were losing more than 50 percent of their games at that time. Those masochistic fans have made the Knicks worth $1.4 billion.

12. Houston Texans
Texas is one of the most avid football states in America, so much so that there is a TV series AND a movie about how important High School football is to its residents. Although these depictions were fictionalized, that really speaks to the markets yearning for more ever football. $1.45 billion.

11. Boston Red Sox
Now that they’ve broken the curse, they can’t seem to stop breaking it. They’re making up for lost time with a third World Series title in ten years. That’s especially amazing since this is the sport with the second fewest repeat champions in the four major North American sports. $1.5 billion.

10. New York Giants
The more loved of the two New York teams at the moment, the Giants, have a better winning record these days to be happy about. Thus, they get all of the New York bandwagon to tune in. It’s made them $200 million wealthier than their counterparts. $1.55 billion. Read the rest of this entry →

Miami Heat Are Great, But Not GREAT 2

Posted on May 26, 2013 by Dean Hybl
1973-Knicks

The 1973 New York Knicks featured six future Hall of Fame players as well as one player (can you recognize him in this photo?) who would go on to become a HOF coach.

There has been quite a bit of discussion in recent weeks regarding how the current Miami Heat compare to some of the great teams in NBA history.

A pair of Hall of Famers and former New York Knicks stars Walt Frazier and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe have especially been criticized for daring to suggest that while the Heat are an excellent team, they have no business being considered among the great teams in NBA history.

It seems popular in our current society to think that whatever is happening now is “bigger”, “better” and “greater” than anything that could have ever happened in the “old days”. To today’s 20-somethings, NBA history means acknowledging that there was indeed a league before LeBron James and past stars like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are better known as television pitch-men than for anything they ever did on the court.

To the current generation, the standard for a “great” team has been a squad with two or three legitimate All-Stars and then a collection of solid role players.  That model actually dates all the way back to the Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s when Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant (for the first three)/Dennis Rodman (for the last three) and a bunch of guys who made occasional contributions and filled specific roles won six titles.

Of course the “big three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are the latest and greatest example of this strategy for building a team. Since their celebrated move to Miami in 2010 this group has led the Heat to a pair of appearances in the NBA Finals and the 2012 title. This season the Heat won 37 of their final 39 games, including 27 straight, and appear poised for another title run. Read the rest of this entry →

NBA Preview: Why Even Play The Regular Season? 0

Posted on October 29, 2012 by Dean Hybl

The Miami Heat are one of only eight franchises that have won the NBA Championship during the 28 year reign of Commissioner David Stern.

As the 2012-2013 NBA season begins in earnest this week, you have to wonder why they are even bothering playing the 82 game regular season. In the 28 seasons since David Stern became NBA Commissioner in 1984, only eight franchises have won the NBA Championship and given the continued stockpiling of talent by the most dominant franchises it seems highly unlikely that the monopoly will be broken this season.

In fact, on paper it looks like you can pencil in the defending champion Miami Heat and perennial champion Los Angeles Lakers for a star studded championship series.

Of course we all know that you don’t play the games on paper, but in a sports world where achieving parity and creating a competitive balance that provides every team and their fan base legitimate hope that they can win a title has generally become the norm, Stern and the NBA have gone in the exact opposite direction.

Not only does the NBA rank dead last in the percentage of franchises that have won a championship in the last 28 years with just 27%, compared to 43.8% for the NFL, 50% for the NHL and 60% for MLB, but they also are easily last in the total number of franchises that have even simply made it to the finals. Since 1984, 60% of NBA teams (18 of 30) have reached the finals. The NHL has the next lowest percentage at 73.3%, followed by the NFL at 78.1% and MLB at 80%.

What is quite amazing about those statistics is that the NBA continues to be able to convince cities across the country to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new facilities and fans to shell out thousands of dollars on season tickets even when there is little chance their team will ever have a chance at significant, or long-term, success.

In 2010 the Orlando Magic opened a new arena at a cost of about $480 million with the Magic contributing about $50 million and the remainder being financed through public funding. Read the rest of this entry →

Earvin Johnson Still Has the Magic 15

Posted on February 24, 2012 by Joe Gill

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were one of sports greatest rivalries of the 1980s.

When I was invited to a conference call with NBA and Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson, I was awe struck. I grew up in Boston with the Celtics-Lakers rivalry dominating the sports world in the 80′s. I can still recall my early teens watching CBS on Sundays witnessing the epic battles between Magic and Larry Bird.  As a Boston sports fan, this was my first taste of winning prior to the new millennium.

It always seemed to come down to the Celtics and Lakers and Magic and Larry. They met three times in the NBA finals in ’84, ’85  & ’87. Larry and my hometown Celtics taking the first series but dropping the next two. I still recall being in my eighth grade field trip in 1987 in Hershey, PA watching Larry Bird’s shot clank off the rim as the Lakers were headed to another championship.

Did I hate the Lakers? Yes. Did I hate Magic Johnson? No.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson was an opponent that you had to respect. He played the game the right way. Along with Larry Bird, he helped save the NBA which was poisoned by rampant drug use. He had and still has a smile a mile long. Magic was someone that you could talk to about anything. These are all the same qualities that Larry Bird saw in him and that’s why they are great friends until this day.

So to say I was excited to hear one of these legends speak is a vast understatement. Read the rest of this entry →

Ten Sports Dynasties That Might Have Been 21

Posted on December 07, 2011 by Jena Ellis

Despite having many of the top stars in Major League Baseballs, the Brooklyn Dodgers won only one World Series title.

Now that the 2011-12 NBA season will happen, sports prognosticators will return to projecting how many championships the Miami Heat will win. Forget about the disappointment of last season — this team has more than enough talent to bring home at least a few Larry O’Brien Trophies, right? That’s what people were saying about the Lakers in the ’60s, Mets in the ’80s, and Mariners in the ’90s (different trophies for the latter two, of course), yet they wound up with just two championships between them when all was said and done. The following would-be dynasties failed to meet expectations for a multitude of reasons — including injuries, team chemistry problems, free agency, drugs, and even a strike — leaving fans wondering what might have been had things gone a little differently.

1940s and ’50s Brooklyn Dodgers
Even if the Dodgers had won multiple World Series titles during this era, the franchise would’ve been more remembered for its role in integrating baseball by signing and promoting Jackie Robinson. More than just an inspiring figure in the Civil Rights Movement, Robinson was an ideal second baseman with tremendous speed, excellent contact ability, and exemplary defense. He played alongside Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Don Drysdale, and Sandy Koufax, one of the most talent-rich rosters in baseball history. From 1947 to 1956, the team won six NL pennants and the 1955 World Series, a resume worthy of NL dynasty status, but not MLB dynasty status.

1960s and ’70s Los Angeles Lakers
Before the Buffalo Bills, there were the Lakers. Sure, they had already won four of the first 10 NBA championships, but, with seven Finals losses in nine seasons during the 1960s and ’70s, they were the original poster child for second best. The primary culprit for their failures was the Celtics, who reeled off a remarkable 11 championships in 13 seasons. The Lakers also faced a 76ers team with perhaps the most dominant player off all time, Wilt Chamberlain, and a hungry Knicks team led by Willis Reid and Walt Frazier. When management figured out the mere presence of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor wasn’t enough, it added an older but still effective Chamberlain. The team finally got over the hump in 1973, after Baylor retired and Gail Goodrich had been added to the roster. Read the rest of this entry →

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