The Golden State Warriors are the NBA Champions for 2014/2015 and they deserve the title. They were the best team all season long and came from behind in two playoff series to secure the championship. Moreover, they were the most interesting team to watch this season because of their style of play. The conventional wisdom has been that a “jump-shooting team” will not win a championship because when a jump-shooting team has a cold night, they have no other recourse. Well, the Warriors are a “jump-shooting team” and what they showed is that when they do not have cold nights – and when they shoot those jump shots as proficiently and in as great a number as they do, they can beat anybody. Congratulations to the Warriors…
However, what I want to talk about this morning is LeBron James. Let me put something squarely in the center of the table at the outset:
LeBron James was the best player on the court in all of the NBA Playoffs.
LeBron James is currently the best basketball player on Planet Earth.
Taking those two statements as self-evident, this demonstrates that basketball is a team sport. The Warriors had a much better team than did the Cavaliers despite the fact that the Cavs had the best player on Planet Earth. In fact, I would argue that the second best player the Cavs had at their disposal in the final series – Timofey Mozgov – would not start for the Warriors.
For those of you who were sentient and following sports in the 1960s, you have seen this opera play out before. Back then, it was the Warriors who had the best player on Planet Earth in Wilt Chamberlain and those Warriors routinely lost out to the Celtics who had the far superior team. As I thought about the comparison of Chamberlain and James and their team situations over this span of 50+ years, I realized that LeBron James needs to be considered in the same breath as Oscar Robertson when you think of great all-around players.
Most folks know that Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double for an entire season. For the 61/62 season:
Robertson averaged 30.1 points per game
Robertson averaged 12.5 rebounds per game
Robertson averaged 11.4 assists per game
Today, we get excited if a player achieves a triple double two or three games in a row; Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double while playing 79 games in a season. Moreover, the 61/62 season was not some statistical freak; Oscar Robertson was not a “one-hit wonder”. He flirted with season-long triple doubles for quite a while. In fact, consider these aggregate stats from the first 5 years Roberson was in the NBA:
Robertson averaged 30.3 points per game for those 5 years
Robertson averaged 10.4 rebounds per game for those 5 years
Robertson averaged 10.6 assists per game for those 5 years
That one season was the only one where he had a triple double for the season, but he was damned close in all of the others too. All of this is a prelude to saying that LeBron James and Oscar Robertson both belong in the conversation when the topic is:
Best All-Around Basketball Player Ever
For the record, I would add Elgin Baylor and Magic Johnson to the discussion for this accolade should the topic ever come up in a bar debate…
And that leads me to LeBron James’ pronouncement after Game 5 with the Cavs down 3-2 in the series where he said he was confident in the Cavs’ chances because he was the best player in the world. I do not recall any athlete in any major sport making such a self-proclamation in the past. However, I do not consider what James said to be braggadocious for the simple reason that I think what he said is absolutely correct. The reason his “confidence” was misplaced is that basketball is a team sport and he happened to be on the lesser team this month.
Speaking of the Cavaliers, Brad Rock had this item in the Deseret News recently suggesting that some folks in Cleveland may have taken some of the series a bit too seriously:
“Cleveland weatherman Mark Johnson was critiquing NBA playoff officiating during his broadcasts last week, even bringing in a weed trimmer to illustrate poor calls.
“Consequently, NBA officials are preparing to hit Johnson with a Flagrant 2 for incorrectly predicting sunny skies on President’s Day.”
Here is an unusual bit of news from college basketball. Ohio State and Michigan were both recruiting a high school small forward named Seth Towns from Northland High School in Columbus, OH. Naturally, Ohio State had to be one of his strong considerations; and of course, Michigan would love to “steal” the player from under Ohio State’s nose. Neither school got what they wanted here because Seth Towns committed to Harvard. He is obviously a good student and currently thinks he wants to be an engineer – entering freshmen in colleges everywhere change their minds about their ultimate major more often than not. Nevertheless, choosing Harvard is not a bad idea for any serious student because even if he changes his mind with regard to his major from engineering to medieval Norse music, he will likely find that Harvard can provide him with challenging educational opportunities.
Finally, Jimmy Fallon had offered an interesting analysis of NBA basketball as it relates to US society in general:
“Basketball is an important part of our lives. Without basketball, think of all the ridiculous-looking shoes we wouldn’t have.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………