I just know that this rant is going to meander around a wide swath of the sporting cosmos today … Yesterday, I – and much of the sports commentary – was consumed by the Supreme Court decision to get rid of PASPA. I read lots of stuff about who were the “winners” from this decision and who were the “losers”; I read lots of stuff tracking the history of the decision; I read lots of stuff about what the decision might mean in the far future with respect to sports in the US. If you were interested in that sort of stuff, you too were able to find it.
I did enjoy reading a thoughtful and analytical piece in the LA Times written by Sam Farmer et. al. Sam Farmer’s claim to fame has been his league-wide coverage of the NFL – a beat that he covered like a blanket even before there were two LA teams. Here is a link to his analytical piece from yesterday; I found it insightful.
At the other end of the commentary spectrum, I found several Tweets from Brad Dickson formerly with the Omaha World-Herald on the decision handed down by “The Supremes”:
“The states can now legalize sports gambling. Don’t count on it in Nebraska where the legislature is scheduled to vote on a bill requiring zoo animals to wear pants.”
“Now the states are going to decide whether sports gambling is legal. Don’t hold your breath on the Nebraska Legislature which is this close to banning dancing in public.”
“Sports gambling may soon be legal. Millions of Americans will abandon playing the Powerball Lottery to bet against the Cleveland Browns.”
Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week regarding LeBron James and the playoffs this year:
“Futurewatch: His most faithful devotees have to decide whether they want LeBron James to advance to another – his ninth – NBA Finals. That, after all, would likely lead to the sixth Finals loss of his career. In my mind, it wouldn’t tarnish LeBron’s legacy if, at 33, he carried another underdog Cavaliers team to a runner-up finish. Others looking to diminish this era’s greatest talent, though, would relish any opportunity to toss brickbats.”
I really hate arguments that take the form of “Who is the greatest [fill in the blank here] of all time?” In basketball terms, the modern form of that question is LeBron James versus Michael Jordan. In a previous era, it was Wilt Chamberlain versus Bill Russel. Today’s arguments omit consideration of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan and Akeem Olajuwon. In the 60s and 70s, the “Wilt vs. Bill” argument wrote off Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. Moreover, in order for me to take a position in favor of Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time as opposed to LeBron James, I have to say relatively negative things about LeBron James and that makes no damned sense at all.
It “matters” who is the fastest 100-meter sprinter in a year because those folks race against one another and the winner is clear. In team sports – and particularly in team sports over different eras – the comparisons are foggy at best. Why not simply accept this fact that virtually no basketball fan would consider challenging?
- Michael Jordan and LeBron James are both extraordinary basketball talents. It was a pleasure – and a privilege – to be able to watch them play basketball over the arcs of their careers.
Thinking about Michael Jordan and LeBron James naturally makes me think about the NBA as an entity. Bob Molinaro – whose comment above got me on the track of the “MJ vs. Lebron” controversy – has opined for years that NBA basketball is significantly superior to college basketball simply based on the huge gap in player talent. He and I have debated that point off-line several times. The current status of the NBA playoffs supports one of my arguments that college basketball is the more interesting sports spectacle:
- Take yourself back to October 2017 as the NBA regular season was about to begin. Who did you think would be in the NBA’s version of the “Final Four”?
- Most folks thought it would be the Warriors/Rockets in the West – – with a few folks touting the Spurs and even fewer pointing to the Thunder.
- Just about everyone on the planet thought it would be the Celtics and the Cavaliers in the East.
- The “Final Four” are indeed Warriors/Rockets and Celtics/Cavaliers. The issue is that it took more than 7 months and 1230 regular season games – plus two playoff series – to get to what most everyone knew was going to happen.
The NBA regular season is getting close to the status of “pointless”. Notwithstanding that fact, it goes on forever and presents to fans a ton of games that almost no one gives a fig about. Indeed, there are early season college basketball games that are cupcake games and mean nothing. However, once conference play begins, there are far fewer meaningless games put before the sports fans of the country.
The prosecution rests, Your Honor…
Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that is the opposite of the argument over “Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James” discussed above:
“The film ‘Never on Sunday’ is:
a) a 1960 Greek black-and-white romantic comedy
b) a mythical showdown between the 0-16 Lions and the 0-16 Browns.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………