Big 3: Part 2

“Larry Bird just throws the ball in the air and God moves the basket underneath it.”

  • Cleveland Cavaliers’ public address announcer Howie Chizek

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N.B. – special thanks to designer Oliver Gilbert, available at @OliverGilbert1.  The front page image was designed by him.

 History Lesson

The team must have three All-Stars, preferably three top 20 guys  – best or top 3 at their respective positions – a superteam, some would go so far as to say. James, Wade and Bosh in Miami.  Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in Boston. Now, arguably, James, Love and Irving in Cleveland. But that kind of concentration of talent wasn’t seen in the league so often before Danny Ainge resuscitated the Celtic’s storied history over the 2007 offseason. Before then, the focus was just to get two big stars. Now, everyone is trying to get a Big Three — particularly Houston.

Dime sums up the history of the ‘Big 3’ in a stellar (but droll) article that I recommend if you want to get down and dirty with some primary sources.

The ’60s

Starting in the 60s, the NBA had a Celtics team which was defined by its 3 biggest names: Bill Russel, Bob ‘The Coos’ Cousy, and John Havlicek.  This team was as great as their shorts were short.  Look at the booty on number 32.  I remember back in the day when a man wasn’t judged by his success or his kindness, but instead by the curvature of his booty.

The 3 of these nerds won 9 titles, and they did it in style.  Bill Russel was a dominant defensive center before that was a thing.  John Havlicek was the swingman of the trio, doing whatever scrappy thing had to be done.  Bob Cousy was the primary ball handler and was also kind of a weird looking dude.  I can only assumer that his game was the product of Kent Cigarettes.  Science has proven that if you want to win, you have to smoke cigarettes.  Don’t take my word for it, ask NBA legend Bob Cousy what cigarette he prefers:Z

Kent Cigarettes: Go Ahead, It Probably Won’t Kill You to Smoke Another.

The ’70s

Filthy hippies can’t play basketball.

Moving along…

The ’80s

The Celtics were amazing again, but I’m sure they were deflating balls like that Tom Brady dick or poisoning gatorades or poisoning puppies or something.  Luck of the Irish my ass.  Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish strutted around, acting like they were sooooo great.  What a bunch of jerks.  They won 3 championships: big frickin’ deal.  Chumps.

Crap, I can’t do this.  I can’t keep lying to myself.

Tom Brady is so handsome.  That chin dimple.  Those elegant, yet virile, cheek bones.  Those Adonis features.  Truly he is a God among men.  Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night, haunted by his beauty.  I weep at the mention of his name.
larry-bird-0And oh yeah, the 80s Celtics were also one of the most dominant teams in NBA history.  Larry Bird was unbelievable.  Watching him play was a thing of beauty.  No one in NBA history demanded your attention to the same degree that Larry did: except for that one guy.  We’ll get to him later.

His highlights doesn’t do the man justice.  Despite his name and his bird-like appearance, he never flew through the air.  He didn’t really dunk, he wasn’t a spectacular athlete, and wasn’t awe-inspiring in quite the same way as some of the other greats.  But that dude could ball.

Rather than watch some good, fundamental basketball, I’ll just leave you with a couple of quotes, courtesy of NBA.com:

“Larry Bird just throws the ball in the air and God moves the basket underneath it.”

– Howie Chizek after Bird set a club record with 60 points in one game and scored 48 in another during the 1984-85 season

“Any living legend can take over a game in the last few minutes. Only Bird can take it over in the first few minutes.”

– Peter Vescey

A Challenger Approaches

The rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics is one of the most famous and most electrifying rivalries in professional sports.  This wasn’t the first time the two squared off, and it wouldn’t be the last; but there was something different about this chapter in the Lakers/ Celtics history.

On the other side of the United States, Magic Johnson was doing thangs.

Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were made for each other.  Kareem’s post presence drew additional defenders, and as soon as that happened, the Lakers had 2/3 points.  Worthy, the unsung hero of the bunch, spread the floor much like Bosh did for Miami’s Big 3, or Ray Allen for the Celtics.’

The immortal Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hit his old-man stride during their run, which was perfect for the role he was asked to play – hold down the paint, pull off some sky-hooks, and anchored the offense with his consistency and veteran wiles.

The trio’s defining player was Magic – in fact, the era’s defining player was Magic  Even after Kareem retired in ’89, the Magic led the Lakers to 2 consecutive Finals, beating the 76ers in the first of two.  Kareem was sidelined for the last game, and Magic responded:

If not for his untimely exit from the league, Magic might be remembered as the best to ever play the game.

Was he the best player of his day? Another all-time great thinks so.

‘Magic is head-and-shoulders above everybody else,” Larry Bird once observed in the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’ve never seen [anybody] as good as him.’

Legends Profile, NBA.com

The ’90s

The ’90s belonged to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.  The team swaggered through the league, winning 6 championships in 7 years, failing to win only during the year Michael trolled the league by opting to play baseball poorly.

Jordan was the focal point of a handful of different roster iterations, but the best Bulls team was easily the one headlined by the trio of MJ, Pippen, and Dennis Rodman.  Each player was arguably the best among their position:

1. Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman was a maestro in the defensive arts, the first player capable of shutting down any player of any size, at any position.  His game was a perfect coalescence of each of the defining strategies of a lock-down defender.  Despite being under-sized under the basket, he protecting his turf like a crazed grizzly bear with bleached hair and facial piercings.

rodman-blocks-bird

The analytics on Rodman are odd: some methodologies don’t apply to his unique outlier status as a statistical phenomena.  His analytics mirror his personality – bizarre and impossible to compartmentalize or standardize:

082010_1312_TheCaseforD1

Ambicourtedness is a representation of a player’s ability to contribute on both sides of the court.

His profound effect on the success of his team is undeniable

His profound effect on the success of his team is undeniable

In analyses suited to his dynamism, Rodman makes his presence known:
082010_1312_TheCaseforD2

WiltandBill_28675_image009_thumb

His historical total rebounding percentages are unassailable.

2. Scottie Pippen

Pippen was a jack of all trades for the Bulls through the 90s. He invented the Point-Forward position (a forward who brought the ball up the court, and handled the ball–basically what LeBron is epitomizing now), allowing Jordan to play off the ball. The ’93-’94 season was when Pippen became the alpha dog on the Bulls. Jordan had just retired due to gambling his desire to go play mediocre minor league baseball. While he wasn’t thought of as a scorer, as shown above, he posted career highs in scoring, and actually averaged 17.8 Field Goal Attempts per game.

Jon Getz, Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

‘Five Tool Players’ are those honored few players who pull off a season in which they lead their team in points per game, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks.  Thus far, only 5 players have managed to be “five tool” players thus far in NBA history: Dave Cowens, Julius Erving, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, and Scottie Pippen.

Andre Igoudala’s recent Finals MVP trophy seems to indicate that the league’s willingness to appreciate high utility players.  It’s a move in the right direction.

The 6 championship Bulls squad typically known as ‘The Jordan Bulls” only maintained 2 players, MJ and Pippen, throughout each of the 6 titles seasons.  Pippen is a franchise player, and would be a candidate for Most Underrated Player if it were not for the over-compensation by most members of the media.  Top 50 players ever?  Sure.  I agree.

Let’s remember the real muscle though:

3. Michael Jordan

Nothing needs to be said.  Particularly because I’m in the middle of a different article that will get into this.

It’s MJ.  Michael Jordan.

He’s pretty good.

he’s not as good as LeBron though (article to come!)

The 00’s

First, a qualification: the Shaq and Kobe/ Pau and Kobe Lakers are disqualified from this discussion because there isn’t a clear 3rd star that their team’s offense clearly revolved around.  That leaves, in no particular order (yet):

  • Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion – Phoenix Suns
  • LeBron, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade – Miami Heat
  • Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili – San Antonio Spurs
  • Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce – The Boston Celtics

514bae64d115f69364d2a97f86157b3a919711bf045078b3e5cba8704972dc21There’s one clear winner:

The Spurs.  They just won’t stop winning and this year they managed to get even better.

The thing is, that I have plans to write articles on each of these teams: My LeBron analysis will go deep into the Miami Heat, My Popovich article will briefly mention the Spurs (lol), My Paul Pierce article will focus on his years as a Celtic, and I’ve already written the Suns article.

So just deal with that.

I don’t need to hear your shit right now, honestly.  I have a lot of stuff on my plate: I just started a podcast, I’m doing tons of research for my LeBron article, I have a social life too, you assholes, so back off.

Fuck you.

What Do?

Go to the store, and purchase 3 all-star NBA player contracts.  It’s as easy as that.  I think K-Mart might have some.

That Doesn’t Really Help

The third and final installment of the Big 3 series will focus on statistical analysis, basketball theory, and running the numbers.  There will be charts and graphs and stuff, so get ready for that.  It’ll probably still be funny; either way, it’ll be informative.

Stop being so needy, it’s really unattractive.

the prophet