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Sports Then and Now



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 20

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 →

NBA Won’t Be The Same Without Shaquille O’Neal 7

Posted on June 02, 2011 by Dean Hybl

At his peak Shaquille O'Neal was the most dominant player in the NBA.

There is little debate  that Shaquille O’Neal, who finally announced yesterday that he was retiring from the NBA, stuck around a couple years too long, but even the memories of him laboring up and down the floor for the Boston Celtics cannot taint his career as one of the best players of his generation.

We are quick today to throw out the names of Lebron, Kobe and Derrick Rose when discussing the best player in the NBA, but when Michael Jordan retired from the NBA for the second time in 1998, his position as the best player in the game didn’t go to a forward or guard, but instead to a 7-foot-1 center who was as athletic as any big man in league history.

From the time he entered the NBA with his fresh personality and illuminating smile, Shaquille O’Neal was more than a great player, he was a dominant presence both on and off the court.

During his four seasons in Orlando, he captivated the city and the league. Teaming with Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott, he led Orlando to the NBA Finals in 1995 and could have likely spent a decade making Orlando a basketball power.

But Shaq always had his eye on more than just basketball and after just four seasons in Orlando left for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles.

When Shaq was selected in 1996 as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history after just four years in the league he wasn’t chosen as much on the merits of his accomplishments as the promise of what he could become. Read the rest of this entry →

Counting Down the 20 Greatest NBA Finals of All-Time 1

Posted on May 31, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Willis Reed scored only four points in the seventh game of the 1970 NBA Finals, but his mere presence on the court helped lift the Knicks to a championship.

The NBA Finals begin tonight, as the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks battle it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

With that in mind, it’s time to take a look back at the 20 greatest NBA Finals of all time.

These are the 20 best series, not best moments, so moments like Magic Johnson’s “junior, junior” sky-hook are not on this list.

To get on this list, the series had to feature multiple close games or more than one classic moment or performance.

So, here are the 20 greatest NBA Finals of all time:

20. 2010 Lakers-Celtics
The latest edition of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry was another seven-game series as the Lakers avenged their loss to Boston in the 2008 Finals, with a win over the Celtics in 2010.

Five of the seven games were decided by single digits and featured Ray Allen’s record-breaking performance in Game 2 with eight three pointers.

Game 7 was low-scoring but memorable as the Lakers overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter, to pull out an 83-79 win.

19. 1974 Celtics-Bucks

The home court advantage was worthless in this series as the road team won five of the seven games in these Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks.

The series also featured a pair of overtime games, including the famous Game 6 double overtime win by the Bucks on Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s 17-foot sky hook in the second overtime for a 102-101 win in Boston Garden.

Game 7 went to the road team, which was the Celtics, as they defeated Milwaukee 102-87 win, for the franchise’s 12th NBA championship and first without Bill Russell.

18. 1958 Hawks-Celtics
The St. Louis Hawks got revenge for their loss in the 1957 Finals, as they defeated the Celtics in six games, with all four of the Hawks’ wins by a combined eight points.

The most memorable moment from this series came in the clinching sixth game, as Hawks forward Bob Pettit poured in 50 points, including 18 of the last 21 points in St. Louis 108-107 win.

17. 1951 Royals-Knicks
No team in NBA history has ever won a best-of-seven series after falling behind 0-3, but the 1951 New York Knicks came very close.

After losing the first three games of the series, the Knicks won Games 4 through 6 to force a Game 7 against the Rochester Royals (now Sacramento Kings).

Game 7 was tied at 75-75 with almost a minute to play until Royals guard Bob Davies sank two free throws to break the tie as Rochester went on to win the game 79-75 and their only NBA title.

16. 1976 Celtics-Suns
The 1976 Finals is remembered most for the Game 5 triple overtime win by the Celtics over the Suns in perhaps the greatest NBA Finals game of all time.

But the series itself was pretty exciting as the heavy underdog Suns came back from a 0-2 deficit to win Games 3 and 4 in Phoenix to force the memorable fifth game.

Much like they did in Game 5, the pesky Suns did not go away as they held a 67-66 lead in the fourth quarter of Game 6, before Boston outscored Phoenix 21-13 over the last 7:25 of the game to pull out an 87-80 victory and clinch their 13th NBA championship. Read the rest of this entry →

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