Apr 29, 2008

I've never committed a foul!

There are some players in the NBA who act downright shocked every time the whistle blows and their number is signaled to the scorer's table. It wouldn't matter if they unleashed a roundhouse kick to their opponent's torso -- it would still be reason enough to cry to the officials. There are other players who feel like they are fouled on every play, especially if they miss the shot. Watching the NBA Playoffs this year has increased my annoyance with the NBA's crybabies, and inspired me to take my buddy's suggestion (the only guy who actually reads this blog) and make a list of the NBA's five biggest whiners.

5. Kobe Bryant
If you've read my other blogs, you'd know Kobe is my favorite player to watch in the NBA. I truly believe he is the best player in the world, but he still makes my list.

Kobe can walk all over most of the refs in this league, and he knows it. If he goes into the paint, one of two things will occur: 1) Kobe will get a foul called on his defender or 2) Kobe will remind the ref that he should have gotten the call.

"You can't do this to me -- I'm the best, the best!"

Granted, when you are that good, your defender often gets out of position and is forced to commit a foul. Nevertheless, he thinks he is always fouled. And when it comes to his own defense, Kobe believes it to be flawless. How many times per game do we see Kobe's sarcastic smile/laugh after his number is called for a foul? All you have to do to track this stat is to look at how many fouls he picks up during the game.

If you don't think Kobe is much of a whiner, all you have to know is this: Kobe led the NBA in technical fouls. As I mentioned earlier, he can walk all over most refs... which makes this statistic even more telling.

4. Tim Duncan
Despite Duncan's reputation as a choir boy, he whines with the best of 'em. You can probably picture the typically-stoic Duncan's reaction after a foul is called (or isn't called). The arms out, the shoulders shrugged, and the already-wide eyes even wider. He then picks up the ball defiantly, slaps it with his right hand, and angrily bounces it back to the referee.

A bigger picture would show the ball in his right hand, ready for triple-threat position

I would love to watch a game where Duncan is mic'd. I can't even imagine what he is actually saying to dispute these calls (or no-calls). I'm pretty sure the language wouldn't be as strong as Rasheed's -- there would undoubtedly be a lot of "shuck's" substituted for sh**'s. Regardless of his "clean" whining, it is whining all the same.

It's somewhat amusing watching the way Timmy's whining has almost disappeared against the Suns. Does he realize he doesn't have a gripe because the refs are doing everything they can to give San Antonio the series? Or does he realize he would be whining about Shaq and knows Shaq could crush him with one blow?

3. Rip Hamilton
Memo to Rip Hamilton: just because you are 6'7", 145 lbs, it doesn't mean you are incapable of fouling the opponent.

"I'm too skinny to commit a foul!"

I blame this attitude 100% on their trade for Sheed...

2. Rasheed Wallace
This choice probably needs less justification than his buddy Rip (above). Living in Portland, I became accustomed to Sheed's "poopy diaper" face following every whistle. It got so old, fans overcame their natural biases and did everything short of whining themselves when Sheed wasn't called for a foul.

The "Poopy Diaper" Face

The main difference between Sheed and the other whiners is that it has never mattered if Sheed was involved in the play or not. In fact, he doesn't even have to be in the game. He would probably make the same gestures if he were in the locker room watching it on a monitor.

As noted earlier, his poor attitude seems to make a horrible impact on his teammates. Before long, they all become whiners, too. Not to Sheed's level, of course. He acts like a spoiled 16-year-old girl when her daddy won't shell out the big bucks to buy her a BMW for her birthday.

He broke the NBA record for most technicals in a single season, only to re-break his own record the following season. He whined about "having" to play in the All-Star Game. Seriously, who does that? Only Sheed...

1. Allen Iverson
I never quite noticed the extent of Iverson's whining until these playoffs. While he whines when he is called for a foul, he does his real damage when he's on the offensive end. Quite literally, AI complains after every one of his shot attempts. I think he should be thrown out of every game in the first quarter. In game four, I saw at least three replays where AI made a shot, was not touched, and still managed to shoot a furious look at Dick Bavetta.

His face may soon be frozen in this expression

Sure, the guy is courageous with his drives to the basket, but more often than not he is the one who is creating the contact. Just because he is so tiny, he is the one who takes the brunt of these collisions. Shooting fouls are created by contact initiated by the defensive player or by a defender who's feet aren't set when the contact occurs. They are not created by a player flying into the lane with reckless abandon and falling hard to the floor.

What irks me even more than AI's constant lobbying for "And 1's" is his overall attitude towards authority. Isn't he supposed to be a full-grown man? He logs more minutes than any player in the NBA, yet still throws temper tantrums every time he is taken out of the game. He publicly criticized George Karl for not putting him back in the game when the Nugs were down by 23 with 7 minutes left against the Lakers. He is constantly involved in self-promotion with regards to his playing through injuries (as if we don't hear about it enough from the announcers). He demands trades and doesn't practice hard ("practice, we're talking about practice!"). As far as I'm concerned, the guy is poisonous to his team and the locker room.

It is frequently mentioned that AI is "the best player pound-for-pound in NBA history." Maybe so. I'd argue that he's "the biggest whiner pound-for-pound in NBA history."

Apr 23, 2008

Enver Nuggets -- a Statistical Nightmare

After watching the Lakers-Nuggets game tonight, I decided the Nuggets must have the worst chemistry of any team in the NBA. How else do you explain all of these statistical studs' failure to coexist on a single basketball court?

They have two of the top four scorers in the league. They have the league's top shot blocker (and 2nd best rebounder). They have a solid bench (namely Smith & Kleiza). They even have arguably one of the better coaches in the game (look at Karl's resume). Yet, they barely squeezed into the playoffs and will probably get swept in the first round.

Obviously, their number one problem is there just aren't enough shots to go around. Carmelo & AI are undoubtedly two of the best scorers in the game. In fact, there are only a few players in the league I would rather have taking the final shot with the game in the balance. As we've seen, having two scorers of this caliber can be both a blessing and a curse. Who takes the big shot? In games I've watched, AI has taken the majority of these shots (seniority, I guess). However, there have been a number of occassions where the play seems to be designed for nobody in particular -- whichever big gun has the ball in his hands as time expires takes the shot. What a nightmare.

Is A.I. #1, #1a, or #2?

As for the defense, or lack thereof... "But Marcus Camby won defensive player of the year last year!" "AI has been amongst the league leaders in steals for, forever!" "How can two of the league's best defenders be part of the league's worst defense?" Wow, what a misconception. Sure, these two put up gaudy defensive stats (in the form of blocks, steals, and rebounds), but that doesn't mean they play great -- or even good -- individual defense. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Camby gave up 36 points to Gasol in Game One. Camby is a terrifically gifted shot blocker, but it certainly helps that he gets countless opportunities against 6-foot-nothing guards that have been blowing past the Nuggets' hapless perimeter defenders with ease.

To keep things short and sweet, here's my conclusion: the Enver (thanks Charles) Nuggets are a fantasy owner's dream and a reality owners' nightmare.

Apr 18, 2008

My favorite all-time basketball kicks

I'm fairly categorized as a basketball shoe fanatic. I became infatuated with basketball shoes in elementary school and the love hasn't since died. This love led me to wait in line for the re-issuance of the Jordan IV's and to stockpile weekly allowances to purchase shoes outside of my parents' budget. This love now leads me to devote half of my closet space to shoes I haven't worn in over three years.

Making a list of the "best" basketball shoes of all-time is nearly impossible. If I had unlimited free time and a non-existent social life I could probably draft a top-100 list. However, for sake of time & energy I have narrowed the list to my top five.

5. Air Penny II
This pick is probably pretty controversial. Given Penny's titanic fall-off, I'm not sure anything associated with him deserves a top-5 ranking. To be honest, I probably put them on the list out of fear that this would turn into "the top five pairs of Jordans of all-time" more than anything else. Nevertheless, I think these shoes were sick. When they were released, shoe fanatics like myself were exposed to new levels of consumerism. We began to re-think what we would pay for the best new shoe -- in this case ~$140/pair!

4. Nike Air Force I
I realize that the version in the picture is not the "true" Air Force I, it is the variation created by Nike for Sheed to wear in the 2007 All Star Game. When I was looking for a picture of Air Force I's, this came up and I couldn't pass it up. Sheed has been the twentieth century in-game model of the Air Force I, and the pictured version was only worn by him for one game. That being said, the Air Force I has probably had more influence on Nike's basketball shoe evolution than any shoe outside of the Jordan Series. Air Force I's came back with a bang a few years ago, and any time a shoe can have that kind of impact 20 years after its release, it deserves a spot amongst the basketball shoe immortals.

3. Air Max Force I (Barkley I's)
Interestingly enough, this shoe wasn't even first made famous by Barkley. It was actually brought to the forefront of the basketball apparel world by the University of Michigan's "Fab Five" in 1993. The starting five sported these beauties when they were the most en vogue team since the showtime Lakers. The design was simple but had enough detail to catch the eye. The shoe's design pretty much personified Charles Barkley's game, and that was probably the determining factor in making this list -- my number one qualification is that the shoe must fit the player. This shoe certainly did.

2. Air Jordan XI
I could have easily put Jordan III, Jordan V, Jordan XIII, or Jordan VI in this spot. This shoe narrowly edged out those other versions because it was just a tad bit flashier -- and who was flashier than Michael Jordan? I copped a pair of the black & red version of the XI's, and they certainly didn't disappoint. They fit like a glove, and they're one of those pairs of shoes that when you wear them for the first time you feel like you're quicker and can jump higher. I know they didn't actually expand my physical capacities, but it sure felt like it... most basketball players (who are also shoe fanatics) can associate with this feeling.

1. Air Jordan IV
Maybe I'm partial -- I've owned this shoe twice -- but it wasn't even much of a competition for the top spot on this list. These shoes are everything. They came out before styles got too chaotic, but after Nike had perfected the air pocket and had improved the durability of its products. Oh yeah, they were also worn by the greatest player of all time, just as he was beginning to earn that reputation. Enough said.

Honorable Mention: Air Jordan V, Air Jordan III, Air Jordan VI, Air Jordan XIII, Air Huarache 2K4, Air Zoom Lebron II, Nike Air Up (original Pippens), Air Flight 89, Nike Air Zoom Flight 5 (original Kidd's).

Yes, only Nikes made my list (including honorable mention). I don't think this needs to be justified.

Apr 10, 2008

Worst Sports Predictions of All-Time

Seems like we hear it every year, especially around playoff time: "I guarantee we will win this game" or something to that effect. Give an outspoken player a microphone, and let the camera roll. Once relegated to boxers, the art of the prediction has spread to virtually all of America's professional sports.

Normally, coaches cringe at these public displays of arrogance. They seldom do enough to motivate the team of the player making the unabashed prediction. More often than
not, these predictions actually have a bigger impact on the opposing team. Let's face it: the predictions are generally made by the overwhelming underdogs, as the favorites don't have as much to prove. A ballsy prediction by the underdog often lights the fire of the more talented, favored team, giving them extra motivation to run up the score and rub it in the predictor's face. Consequently, we have witnessed several meltdowns of historic proportions after these predictions have been made in recent years.

In the age of the prediction, I had many to choose from in drafting this post. While I normally stick to basketball, I threw in a few football predictions that went sour - they were just too good (or bad) to not mention.

Without further ado, my five favorite predictions-gone-wrong (in ascending order):

5. Anthony Smith's predicted upset of the Patriots

After the Steelers opened the 2008 playoffs with a win, their high-energy safety made a prediction to do what no other team had done: beat the 2007-08 New England Patriots. By high-energy safety, you must be thinking, "Polamalu, right?" Wrong. Anthony Smith. "Who?" My thoughts, exactly.

Smith's comments puzzled virtually every member of the national media. Had he studied any film heading into the game? Did he fail to notice the 6'4 gazelle or the 5'10 spark plug being hit in stride by the best quarterback in the NFL? Even so, he must have caught at least one Sports Center segment that tabbed this offense as the best ever.

If he underestimated the Patriots' machine, he was quickly enlightened. Then he was abused. Then he was stolen of his manhood. Bellichick, Brady, & Co picked on Smith early and often. He got caught in open space and didn't stand a chance. Brady even looked his way when other receivers were wide open. In the end, Smith got scored on twice and looked foolish doing it.

"Anthony, where are you? Ahh, there you are..."

When the dust settled, Smith's Steelers were pummeled 31-14 and he was forced into the fetal position by a Quarterback. After the game, Darth Vader himself (Bellichick) had the following analysis for Smith: "We've played against a lot better safeties than him, I'll tell you. The safety play at that position was pretty inviting." I'll say so. Smith's post-game comment? "We will see them again. Well, it's gonna have to wait until next year at the earliest. Next time, Smith would be wise to just shut up.

4. Gilbert Arenas' prediction to score 50 points against Nate McMillan's Trailblazers

After being cut by Team USA in the summer of 2006, Arenas had undisguised beef with Nate McMillan (an assistant coach on Team USA). From Arenas' blog came the following prediction: "The most important game is on Feb. 11 (2007). Well, it's not the most important but that's the game I'm going to say is my next 50-pointer."

The 50-point prediction came on the heels of multiple (successful) predictions: the 54 pts he dropped on Phoenix and the game-winner against Utah. This prediction didn't go so well. After much was made of his prediction, Arenas dropped 9 pts on a disgraceful 3-for-15 (0-3 on threes) shooting in 33 minutes. Oh yeah, the Wiz also lost by 21 points to the lowly Blazers and Arenas contributed 5 turnovers to boot.

Yes, Gilbert... it was THAT bad.

3. Jerramy Stevens' "sad day" prediction for Jerome Bettis & the Steelers

In the days leading into the 2006 Super Bowl, much was made of Jerome Bettis' return to his hometown of Detroit to play in his first Big Game. Knowing Bettis & his Steelers were the sentimental favorites, little-known Seahawks Tight End Jerramy Stevens made the following comment (publicly): "It's a heartwarming story and all that, but it will be a sad day when he leaves without the trophy."

This statement made headlines leading into America's biggest sporting event, and it woke up Steelers linebacker Joey Porter. Porter responded by saying: "When a guy says something who lines up in front of me every play, I have to like that. He has to see me. There's no way he can hide from me. We have to meet - over and over and over. . . I'll remind him every time I put him on his back." Yikes -- just what Stevens wanted to hear. A 255 pound linebacker with a propensity for violence is relishing the opportunity to put him on "his back."

Did Stevens feel Porter coming on this drop?

And Porter did just that, laying out Stevens on multiple plays. When Porter didn't get him, Stevens heard footsteps and dropped key passes. These dropped balls (most notably the pictured ball in the red zone) may have cost the Seahawks the game. Interestingly, we haven't heard much from Stevens since...

2. Joey Dorsey's "I am Goliath" prediction against Ohio State's Oden

Before Ohio State & Memphis matched up in the '07 NCAA Tournament, Memphis Center Joey Dorsey called out college basketball's golden boy (err, Man), Greg Oden. He called Oden a "little man" (really?), and said he (Dorsey) was Goliath and Oden was David. He also went on to say Oden was "way overrated" and that he would hold the Ohio State "little man" to 9 points and 5 rebounds. Dorsey also said that he would put up 15 points and 20 rebounds against Oden. Calipari must have been ecstatic about these idiotic predictions.

The biggest "little man" in the world

You know the story - "David" beat, no, massacred, "Goliath" just like in Biblical times. Dorsey's line for the game (a 92-76 loss) was 0 pts, 3 reb, and 4 fouls in 19 minutes. Oden? 17 pts & 9 rebounds on 7-8 shooting.

The future still looks bright for Dorsey, though. I'm sure he will replicate the draft position of Oden in this summer's draft (#1 overall). Right...

1. Matt Hasselbeck's coin-flip guarantee

First, my apologies to Seahawks fans for giving you two spots in the top 5. Living in the Northwest, your team has just blessed me with too much good material. This one takes the cake.

In the 2004 NFL playoffs, Seattle and Green Bay were gridlocked in a tie at the end of regulation. The two teams sent their captains to midfield, where a coin toss took place. Seattle won the toss, and that's where all the fun began. Matt Hasselbeck grabbed the mic and estatically proclaimed: "We want the ball, and we're gonna score!"

Watching the game live, I could almost feel the grumble from Holmgren's beer belly. At that point, Hasselbeck hadn't proved anything in the league. He was a poor-man's Favre, high-risk/high-reward type of player with no postseason experience. This was a setup for disaster.

I'll give Hasselbeck a little credit - it was pretty ballsy. In reality, the first part of his prediction came true: the Seahawks did get the ball. The second part? Not so much. Not only did the Seahawks fail to score, but Hasselbeck (Mr. Prediction himself) was picked off by Al Harris. Harris returned the interception for a score on the same play, leaving a dejected Hasselbeck and his bold pronouncement in his wake. Classic.

Uh, Matt, they scored...

I know I have missed some worthy predictions, so make mention of these omissions...