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Sports Then and Now



Can Magic, Larry and Michael Dominate the NBA Again? 1

Posted on March 02, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were teammates during the 1992 Dream Team, but have been competitors for most of their careers.

Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were teammates during the 1992 Dream Team, but have been competitors for most of their careers.

Of the 19 NBA seasons between 1979-1980 and 1997-98, only three times did the NBA Finals not include at least one of the trio of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan (two of which none of the trio played an entire season). With Johnson now joining Bird and Jordan leading an NBA franchise, can this trio again dominate the NBA?

The easy answer would seem to be no, but given the determination of all three NBA Legends, anything is certainly possible.

Michael Jordan’s track record leading an NBA Franchise has been a bit less than earthshaking. He had a dubious front office start by drafting Kwame Brown with the first pick of the 2001 NBA Draft while serving as Director of Basketball Operations for the Washington Wizards. He was ultimately fired by the Wizards following the 2003 season.

He became a part-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006 and as part of his role was the primary decision maker for basketball operations. Jordan became the majority owner in 2010 and has maintained that role through the name-change of the franchise back to being the Charlotte Hornets.

During the past decade, the Bobcats/Hornets have not been particularly impressive on the court. They have managed only three winning seasons and in each of those years lost in the opening round of the playoffs. The 2011-2012 team posted a 7-59 record during the strike-shortened season for a winning percentage of just .106.

Last season the Hornets had an impressive 48-34 record, but were again knocked out in the opening round of the playoffs. Expected to be a contender this year, they are currently 11th in the East with a disappointing 25-33 record.

Given his competitiveness, you can bet if Jordan sees Magic Johnson come in and return the Los Angeles Lakers to past glory, it will light an even greater competitive fire under the best player in NBA history.

While Jordan’s tenure as an executive has clearly been below par, Larry Bird has had some stretches of success leading the Indiana Pacers.

Bird served for three seasons as head coach of the Pacers from 1998-2000 and had an overall record of 147-67. He guided the Pacers to the 2000 NBA Finals where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.

He became President of Basketball Operations for the Pacers in 2003 and in 2011-2012 was named the NBA Executive of the Year. He left the team for a year from 2012-2013, but since 2013 has again served as President of basketball Operations for the Pacers. Read the rest of this entry →

Is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the Greatest Player of All-Time? 5

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 3

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 →

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    • Paul Blair: Defensive Whiz
      May 30, 2017 | 9:21 pm

      Blair-OriolesMore than 40 years before current stalwart Adam Jones first patrolled centerfield for the Baltimore Orioles, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month roamed the field with grace while also providing the Orioles with timely hitting for more than a decade.

      On a team that built its strength through pitching and defense, Paul Blair fit perfectly. He is one of seven members of the Orioles from that era who won at least three Gold Gloves and is tied with Mark Belanger for the second most in team history.

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