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Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End
For all of the talent on Miami’s roster, there seems to be one key element lacking that all championship caliber teams have possessed, especially those with the hardware to prove their basketball mettle: maturity. Other than LeBron, is there anybody in the NBA with a more maddening combination of skill and self-congradulatory hubris? It has been said that ‘pride goeth before the fall’. Miami’s post season success and eventual decline is a clear illustration of snobbery indeed going before the proverbial stumble.
It all started with the overblown pageantry that was the introduction of Miami’s ‘Other Three’ (Thanks to Mike Gorman of Celtic’s play-by-play fame for that moniker) to the rest of the basketball universe. Upon a strobe-lit, smoking stage in American Airlines Arena in Miami stood LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, whooping and gesticulaing wildly while bass heavy music pulsated all around them, as if they had just won the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy itself. The two new acquisitions and the superstar mainstay crouched to audience-member-level and ran up and down the stage’s promontory high-fiving the outstretched hands of a frenzied crowd, all three smiling and no doubt feeling great about all of the attention and confetti being rained earthward upon them.
This smoke-show came well after Jame’s much lambasted “Decision”, a 75 minute exposition on unchecked arrogance that everybody should have expected from the famously vainglorious James, who brought not just his considerable talents, but horrible attitude to South Beach. Predicting prematurely that the newly helmed Miami heat would win ‘not one, not two, not three, not four’ titles seemed a tad presumptous at the time, but now, with Dallas hoisting the trophy skyward surrounded by quickly emptying seats at the other American Airlines Arena, that proclimation seems outright ridiculous.
Post-game, during the well-earned Dallas victory celebration, key members of the Heat’s starting five could be seen walking through the exits and into their locker room, the gloom and defeat hanging over their heads so palpable one would expect to see storm clouds pouring black rain upon the broad beaten shoulders of Miami’s Other Three. Chris Bosh could be seen openly weeping, a pitiful sight for any man, never mind one pushing seven feet and 240 lbs, while his teammates attempted to block the display of raw emotion by positioning their bodies in front of the camera. Perhaps Bosh had reason for the sudden outpouring of emotion. This, after all, was Chris’s first trip to the Finals after languishing for years in the cold unforgiving suburbs of Toronto, where he was on a statistical treadmill: putting up great numbers but while doing so achieving nothing. A couple of trips to the the playoffs and subsequent early exits aside, his tenure in the great white north was not a successful bid. Quite believeably, though, throughout the unmitigated bombast of the much-villified Heat’s up and down season, Bosh was able to remain the most humble of the new acquisitions. Clearly he was elated to join such illustrious basketball talent as James and Wade, but was mellow enough to escape entrapment within the pompous web LeBron had singlehandedly spun. Of the Other Three, Bosh was the one player not effected by Jame’s immaturity, whether it be on of off the court. Wade, on the other hand, has not been so lucky.
Playing alongside LeBron James for 90 or so games can definitely bring about some unwanted psychological changes in the way one precieves the game of basketball. It is clear that Wade’s game has suffered the most after hopping aboard LeBron’s self-important locomotive as it continues to barrel full speed ahread into the uncharted (for James, at least) municipality of I-Told-You-So. With LebBron attempting to dominate the last few minutes of a close game that’s to be decided by 5 points of less, otherwise known as crunch time, Wade’s abilities as a closer continue to gather rust. Once possessing supreme basketball acumen in clutch situations, Wade finds himself repeatedly defering to James in situations where he alone should have the ball. Jame’s size and speed allows him to do whatever it is that pleases him when the ball is his, as does a defender’s unwillingess to get in his way. He could open up several successful travel agencies with all of the steps he takes on the way to the basket. He should be the proprietor of multiple awards for best actor in a television drama series with all of the incredulous looks he shoots at referees after what he believes is a questionable call. Wade seems to be absorbing this infantile behavior, because he too is now asking for the foul on every drive, focusing on running his mouth at a ref instead of running back and playing the ruthless defense for which he’s been known. Wade possesed (and maybe, just maybe, still does) a dagger midrange jumper and superhuman lateral quickness, two attributes he has currenly given up on using by passing the ball to someone who dreams of one day acquiring a skill set like Wade’s. Wade has proven to be a reliable first option during nailbiters, and was almost certainly the exclusive go-to guy when his singular brilliance was needed pre-LeBron.
One might recall a Finals series in 2006 when Wade did his best Michael Jordan impression, dominating non-stop on both ends of the floor for three games to win the title, utilizing everything in his arsenal to overtake a good Mavericks team. It is clear that Wade has the better offensive skill set, yet repeatedly gives up great open looks or opportunities to exploit a weak defender and drive to the basket to draw a foul so LeBron can display a horrendous line-drive midrange jumper that is more Randy Johnson than Michael Jordan. During the 2011 Finals James morphed into a 6′-8” 250 pound point guard, shedding his aggresive exoskeleton, opting to pass first and ask questions later instead of lowering his shoulder like a linebacker and using his body as a human battering ram to bludgeon opponents on his way to an easy foul. This should be alarming to Heat fans but no surprise to outside observers of the game. James is aware of his inability to close a game, almost too aware, and what is precieved and praised as unerring unselfishness to everybody else is actually Jame’s way of slyly covering up the fact that he cannot, for the life of him, drive the final nail into the coffin. Adopting a pass first mentality, in LeBron’s case, is a testament to his monumental failure as a model for humility. In any other case (see Magic Johnson, John Stockton, or Isiah Thomas) deciding to make the pass first rather than take the shot would be seen as an admirable quality in a player. In LeBron’s case, it allows him to escape the media’s ire. If LeBron makes a great pass on a game winning play, the praise is never heaped upon the individual lucky enough to make the shot, but instead given to ‘Bron himself, more than happy to lap up the accolades. If the great pass is made and the shot doesn’t fall, it isn’t James’ questionable desicion-making being scrutinized, but the shooter’s inability to make the shot. The Finals-watching nation has seen this happen on more than one occasion during muliple games, and sometimes, during the same game.
The Heat hoped to follow in the Celtic’s footsteps by copying their blueprint for a championship schematic-by-schematic. It worked for the Celtics thanks to instant and sustainable chemistry that saw all three players shed both ego and elements of their respective games to conglomerate into a basketball juggernaut. The Heat’s insta-team failed because ego-shedding and game re-shaping has not happened yet. Perhaps it will, in time, but until someone sticks a hat pin into the hot-air baloon that is LeBron’s gargantuan ego, the team will continue to suffer, as will Miami’s hope of winning a title.
Today’s spotlight in obscurity falls upon the chosen few players in NBA history whose first and last names begin with the same letter. As a Celtics fan, the first and obvious name rendered from my memory is Rajon Rondo, neither obscure nor mediocre. But then, among the NBA’s active players, you have Alexis Ajinca, Brandon Bass, Jared Jefferies, Mike Miller, Patrick Patterson, Samardo Samuels, Tyrus Thomas, James Johnson, and Joe Johnson, a veritable who’s-who of the “All Alliterative NBA Team.” Thanks to NBA.com’s active player list, I was able to come up with these ten or so players with relative ease.
Pondering players from the bygone era was a bit more difficult, and I could only come up with a little less than a handful. The two I could think of off the top of my head, being on the Rockets kick that I am, are Lewis Lloyd and Robert Reid, mediocre all. Lewis and Reid played on the same Rockets squad together during the 1985-86 season and, after a freak Ralph Sampson tip in at the buzzer of game five of the Western Conference Finals that deprived the basketball nation of yet another Celtics-Lakers match-up, were handily beaten by the Celtics in six games. This was largely due to continual defensive lapses by every member of the Rockets with the exception of Hakeem Olajuwon, who altered the basketball skyline during those six games by blocking shots left and right, including tying Bill Walton for an NBA Finals record 8 blocks in game 4.
Coincidentally, Olajuwon would spend some time guarding Walton, who was coming off the bench as the Celtic’s 6th man supreme as well as a Sixth Man of the Year Award. Unfortunately Olajuwon’s individual brilliance was overshadowed by unending offensive and defensive missteps by the other Rockets starters. Let’s engage in some statistical analysis that highlights the obvious mediocrity of both Lewis Lloyd and Robert Reid, two players whose only redeeming factor is the fact that their names are alliterative and easy to remember if one is ever called upon to exhibit their knowledge of the mid 80’s Houston Rockets.
Lewis Lloyd was drafted early in the fourth round (7th pick, 76th overall) directly out of Overbrook High School in Philidelphia, which primed him for an undistinguished career highlighted by that brief Finals run. Perhaps most the most notable event in Lewis’s career happened late in 1986 when he, alongside Rockets teammate Mitchell Wiggins, tested positive for cocaine and was suspended immediately from the league for 2 1/2 years. Despite playing most of his career with the Rockets, the organization felt the coke-addled Lloyd was no longer a good fit for their team, who were now wisely building around the talented center Hakeem Olajuwon.
Post suspension, Lloyd played a whopping two games for the Philadelphia 76ers, and finally another 30 for the Rockets, not starting a single game for either team in the 1989-1990 season. Lloyd, between 1981 and 1990, posted career averages of 13.2 points per game on a respectable 52% field goal percentage while grabbing 3.1 rerbounds and handing out 2.9 assists. He scored an underwhelming 5,130 career points, or approximately 33,000 less than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Lloyd made the playoffs only twice with the Rockets, though the appearances did come back to back, in the 84-85 and 85-86 season. Lloyd’s playoff averages are again underwhelming: 14.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, and 4.4 assists per game in 25 total playoff games in two years. Let’s talk now about Robert Reid, another giant of alliterative sports nomenclature.
Reid was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1977 in the second round (18th pick, 40th overall), and he would remain in a Rockets uniform for 10 years, reaching the finals twice in a five year span, being beaten both times by the aforementioned Celtics. In thirteen seasons Reid reached the playoffs nine times, but alas, his post season glory was cut short with the exception of the 80-81 and 85-86 seasons, the only playoff appearances in which he played twenty or more post season games. In fifteen seasons, Robert Reid scored 10,448 career points while shooting a modest 45% from the floor and 73% from the free throw line.
Despite his height and athleticism, he averaged just under five rebounds in 919 career games, of which he started only 284. Despite their statistical differences, both Lewis Lloyd and Robert Reid hold a number of dubious mutual distinctions. Both have first and last names that start with the same letter, have both been beaten by Larry Bird (Robert Reid having been ousted twice from the Finals by Bird), have both been Houston Rockets, and have both washed down the cruel bitter pill of mediocre obscurity that has tainted their careers inexorably and prevented any kind of meteoric rise to NBA stardom. Robert and Lewis, though, can both rest easier knowing that in some far-flung microcosmic corner of the internet world, their obscurity is not only appreciated, but celebrated.
Dan Marcin is a basketball columnist for Obscure Athletes
I’m sure I speak for the majority of NBA fans when I profess my underwhelmed surprise at Kevin McHale being selected as
the new coach of the Houston Rockets. As good a player as McHale was during his playing days with the Boston Celtics, he doesn’t exactly bring an Auerbach-like coaching resume to an already mediocre team. By signing a three year deal, he dooms this Rockets franchise and its once passionate fanbase (prone to such creative proclivities as rewording a billboard ‘Akeem, I saw, I conquered’ during the 1986 finals) to about a thousand days of stunningly mediocre basketball.
In his Celtics days, McHale had a definite player profile. He was your prototypical finesse power forward, electing to use sly post moves to out manuever an opponent and drop the ball in the bucket with a nifty up an under while the defender went looking for his PF Flyers, rather than relying on raw aggression and athleticism to overpower and punish an opponent above the rim. His coaching profile, however, was decidedly undefined. He coached the Minnesota Timberwolves on two separate occasions, coaching a total of 94 games and missing the playoffs both times. During the 2004-2005 NBA season he replaced Flip Saunders ( who had gone 25-26 when McHale superseded him) and, orchestrating the last 31 games, amassed a 19-12 record, during which he found himself in the middle of a five game winning streak that was Windexed by a 107-98 Pheonix Suns victory on April 1st, 2005.
His second stint was, by all accounts, as exhaustively underwhelming as his fist. With the 2008-2009 season already underway, McHale was brought in again to breath some life into the stagnant Timberwolves, who, under then coach Randy Whittman had started out a putrid 4-15. Coach McHale took proverbial clipboard in hand and thundered to a resoundingly awful 20-43 record, helping the hapless ‘Wolves rank near last in the ratings both offensively (24th) and defensively (25th). Did the Rockets’ basketball executives even manage a glimpse at one of many easily accessible websites that contain this information to review his coaching record? What about this dreadful resume screams, “Hire me!”? Does the Houston staff expect Coach McHale to be the architect of a miraculous turnaround in fortune for the Rockets? I’m going to throw a guess out there and assume that the answer to all three of these questions is a resounding ‘no’. It looks like three years of Kevin McHale-helmed Houston Rockets will be more Challenger than Skylab 2.
Remember when Kobe called a referee a “fucking faggot?” And the ridiculous backlash that followed? ESPN created that story out of thin air because they COULDN’T WAIT to demonize Kobe Bryant. They questioned his sensitivity toward the gay community and effectively forced an apology from him. Lest we not forget, the Kobe incident occurred ON THE FUCKING COURT of an NBA basketball game. If you think that was the worst thing that was said on the court that night, you’re nuts. Yet there was the worldwide leader, once again creating news and coercing Bryant into making a public apology.
Notice anything about the media response to this story? Like how nonexistent it was? The Lebron incident is quite obviously the more egregious of the two–this occurred during a press conference… ya know, where everything you say is INTENDED to be heard by the media–that’s what a press conference is. Not some kneejerk reaction on the sidelines of an NBA game during the heat of the moment. It was in a press conference, in which your words are made for public consumption, he called the reporter asking the question retarded. And yet, crickets out of Bristol.
Could this be because ESPN would rather draw negative attention to a guy like Kobe, whom they’ve already changed the image of multiple times, because over the course of a lengthy career with a tremendous record of leadership and winning, they’ve essentially run out of ways to sell him to us? And that the latest season surrounding the drama of the big three in Miami, is FAR, FAR more marketable than Kobe ever even dreamed of being? ESPN couldn’t wait to make an insensitive bastard out of Kobe, while their silence on this latest Lebron mishap, given the influence the network has in the sporting world, constitutes an active cover-up of the incident. It’s quite simple: If ESPN can make a huge deal out of Kobe calling a referee a faggot, then they wield the same power to make it so the more profitable Lebron James, calling a reporter retarded, essentially never happened. Bunch of fucking faggots over at the Worldwide Leader.
So I’ve been thinking…
What were Knicks fans doing last night booing Lebron James and Chris Bosh? And chanting ‘overrated?’ Knicks fans,
don’t you understand? Lebron was NEVER going to New York. And just because ESPN and the New York Daily News spent two years selling you on the idea that he might take his talents to the MSG, doesn’t mean it was ever going to happen. They just plain made it up. So fuck you. I bet you were feeling pretty good when the Knicks were up 51-50, eh?
To me it’s always seemed that the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement was made with one thing in mind: to make sure that there’s
an obscure white guy on the end of every NBA team’s bench making a rediculous amount of money. Raef LaFrentz averaged 10.1 points per game in his 11-year career. Over that span, he made $84, 135,000–a hefty sum for a guy who was once traded along with Chris Mills and Jiri Welsch to Boston in exchange for Tony Delk and fellow contractual albatross Antoine Walker.
LaFrentz went to Kansas where he played four seasons before being picked by the Nuggets third overall in the 1998 draft. Raef had a tough rookie season however, tearing his ACL just thirteen games into his innaugural campaign. He would come back strong the following season, starting 80 games and 78 in the 2000-2001 season. In Denver, LaFrentz established himself as an accurate outside shooter and feared shot-blocker.
The LaFrentz era ended in Denver in February of 2002, when he was traded to the Mavs in a many-player deal that included obscure athletes Juwan Howard and Tariq Abdul-Wahad. It was his best season in the NBA, and one in which he became the third player ever to record 100 blocked shots and 100 three-pointers made in a single season. That offseason, the Mark Cuban and the Mavericks wanted to make sure they’d have a contrat that one day every team would want as it was about to expire, so they elected to give Raef LaFrentz a seven year, $70 million contract. Just a year later LaFrentz and the Mavs parted ways in the aforementioned deal with the Celtics.
Two-plus seasons in Boston saw LaFrentz starting most of the games he appeared in, and anchoring the middle during the dark ages of Celtics basketball. He was both hilarious and a burden to watch at times in Boston, though to this day he remains one of my all-time favorite Celtics. In June of ’06 LaFrentz was jettisoned to Portland in the Sebastian Telfair deal. Fuck Sebastian Telfair.
LaFrentz’ last three seasons, all in Portland, were both the statistically worst, and most lucrative of his career. His numbers went down each season he spent with the Blazers, and the ’08 offseason saw that giant contract given to LaFrentz seven years and two teams earlier, finally expire. No team was willing to give the 31-year old LaFrentz a deal, and he was forced to retire. And to this day, if you ask me about the Raef LaFrentz era in Boston, I’ll fondly remember some of the otherwise darkest days the Fleet Center/TD Banknorth/TD Garden ever saw.
This year Allen Iverson’s dressing up as a Turkish basketball player for Halloween. He’s expected to finalize a 2-year, $4 million deal,
with Beşiktaş Cola Turka of the Turkish Basketball Association. It marks the likely end of the NBA career for the oft-villainized Iverson, who once took his Philadelphia 76ers, basically single-handedly, all the way to the ’01 NBA Finals. That season Philly went 56-26, and Iverson averaged 31.1 a game, winning every award but the Heisman. But let me ask you, Obscure Athletes reader, how many more players on that roster can you name? The truth is, I could have come off the bench for that ’01 team. Let’s have a look at who else is an Eastern Conference Champ in that glorious 2001 season.
There were three players not named Iverson who averaged ten points a game for the Sixers that season: Theo Ratliff who dropped 12.4/game–he only appeared in 50 games that year, before being traded, however. A 34-year-old Dikembe Mutombo (For whom the aforementioned Ratliff was traded) chipped in 11.7 a game, in 26 appearances. And Aaron McKie who managed to stay healthy basically the whole season, contributed 11.6 in time split between the starting lineup and a bench role. Also appearing on that team? Eric Snow, brought in during the 97-98 season, no doubt for his offensive prowess from the point, kicked in 9.8 a game on his way to the finals, also courtesy of Iverson’s coattails. Snow would eventually go on to to serve as Lebron James’ prison bitch in Cleveland, a similar role to that which he occupied in Philly under the Iverson administration.
Tyrone Hill also appeared on the 76er roster that season. Look him up in the “How the fuck was that guy an Allstar?” file during the 94-95 season. It would be Hill’s last full season in the NBA. A few more laughable names that appeared in a Sixers uniform that year? Nazr Muhammed and Toni Kucoc, as well as the great Pepe Sanchez, who were all also involved in the Mutombo deal, and didn’t end up playing the whole season. Was there any reason for Allen Iverson not to be the unhappiest man in the NBA in Philadelphia? He gave his team 31 points a game and his organization gave him Eric Snow and Pepe Sanchez. Rodney Buford? Like, what the fuck? He might just have more help in Turkey.
I have one memory of Bryant Reeves, and that is from January 15, 1998, when the 7 foot, bear-looking man himself came to the Fleet Center in Boston with the Vancouver Grizzlies, and proceeded to drop 41 on the Celtics. To me he was forever a big jerk. But to everyone else, Bryant Reeves was a 6th overall draft pick, and a young NBA big man with seemingly unlimited potential.
Bryant Reeves grew up in Gans, Oklahoma and went to school close to home, at Oklahoma State. There he averaged 21.5 points per game in his college career, highlighted by OSU’s trip to the Final Four during his senior year in 1995. Two and a half months later, in the ’95 draft, Reeves was selected sixth overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies, and was immediately plugged into the Center position by the young team.
Reeves’ performance his rookie season landed him on the NBA’s all-rookie second team, averaging 13.3 points per game. In his second season, Reeves continued to improve, this time posting 16.2 points per game, after which he was given a six-year, $62 million extension. After one more solid season in Vancouver, Reeves’ health and weight became concerns, and over the next three seasons would miss significant playing time due to several injuries, including a chronic back ailment.
The end of the Grizz’ run in Vancouver proved to be the end of Bryant Reeves’ career in the NBA. Big Country never played a game for the Grizzlies after they moved to Memphis, save for two exhibition games. Reeves started his NBA career, and his demise as an NBA big man was highly unfortunate. The man once highly touted as the next great NBA center, is now just another obscure athlete.
First off, my heartfelt condolences to the friends, family, and all of those affected by the unfortunate and untimely passing of Manute Bol. That being said, what the fuck?! Manute Bol was scheduled to be the subject of this Monday’s Obscure Spotlight. The article you’re about to read was written Friday; the day before Bol’s untimely demise. Coincidence, or the Obscure Athletes’ Jinx??? You decide.
Manute Bol was a tall basketball player. So tall, in fact, that until the debut of Gheorghe Mureşan, he stood alone as the tallest man to ever play in the NBA. The Sudanese-born Bol was initially drafted in 1983 by the (at the time) San Diego Clippers, in the now long-extinct fifth round, but never played a game for the Clippers, as the NBA declared that Bol was ineligible for the draft.
Bol would go on to be drafted again, this time legally, in 1985 by the Washington Bullets in the second round. In his rookie season
with the Bullets, Bol appeared in 80 games, during which he set the NBA rookie record for blocks with 397. He averaged 5.0 blocks per game in that season, a career-high. Bol played in Washington for two more seasons before landing in Golden State, where he played two seasons with the Warriors. In that time Bol added the jump shot to his repetoir, and you may remember screaming SHOOT every time Bol got the ball behind the arc, and rightfully so. Bol’s career began like one with promise of a bright future, but soon after leaving Golden State, took a turn for the obscure.
In August of 1990, the Warriors traded Manute Bol to the 76ers for a draft pick that ultimately ended up being fellow obscure athlete Chris Gatling. For the Sixers, Bol played only one full season free of injury, with his games played decreasing each season he was in Philly. Injuries plagued the big man, and eventually Philadelphia released Bol in July of 1993.
Manute Bol came off the bench for the Heat for 8 games during the 1993 season. Miami signed him in October of 1993, and by January the 7′ 7” center was once again a free agent. That season he appeared in two games for the Bullets in a homecoming with the team that originally drafted him 8 seasons earlier. It was a ten-day contract, after which he would make yet another homecoming in Philadelphia for another ten-day deal. In four games for the Sixers, Bol scored 6 points, snagged 6 boards, and blocked 9 shots. It looked as though the big man from Sudan was finally heading for a retirement, until the following season when he made yet another comeback, this time in a second stint with the Warriors. Just a week into his latest comeback, however, Bol suffered a career-ending injury on national television, and so ended the Manute Bol era in the NBA.
Manute Bol’s name faded into obscurity after his retirement, or at least as much obscurity as can be found for a 7’7” former NBAer. Bol was known best for his shot-blocking ability and his rediculously short stints on three of the NBA’s more obscure franchises. The only bummer about the career of this obscure athlete is that I always hoped one day we’d see him sign a Manute Bol-esque, ten-day contract with the Celtics and fuck shit up, for just a glorious week and a half.
It’s Game 7…YOU CAN’T HOLD ANYTHING BACK!
This is it, huh? The Celtics are actually in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. This is ridiculous. If you told me they’d get this far two m onths ago I’d have called you a dirty liar. Fast forward to now, and here we are. Rasheed Wallace is going to have to STEP UP tonight. He could concievably get his entire contract’s worth in this one game if he manages a good game. It’ll be like when JD Drew hit that grand slam in Game 7 in 2007.
I’m not even going to pretend that I know what’s going to happen tonight. Like seriously it’s fucking game 7. You can’t hold anything back. Gotta go 1000% tonight. I wonder what Doc’s gonna say to these guys in the lockerroom. You figure this will be the last time for a while that the C’s are gonna sniff an NBA title. This has to be where the road ends, right? The Big Three will be that much older, Allen’s probably not even gonna be here next year. Garnett’s knee will be shit by then seeing as it’s fairly shitty now.
Fuck the Lakers, go C’s.