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ISSUE TWO.

FROM ‘96 ‘TIL INFINITY

15TH ANNIVERSARY

P

P

ISSUE TWO. PROLOGUE

BY BRAD GRAHAM Top Row: Mamba, Nasty, Jesus, Answer. Second Row: BigBen, J.O, Starbury. Scattered: Peja, Cambyland, ‘Toine.

FROM ‘

96 TIL

Celebrating 15 years of the deepest NBA Draft Class ever.

INFINTY

The 1995 crop of conscripts, captained by mighty mouse Damon Stoudamire – which also included top choice Joe Smith; Antonio McDyess; UNC duo, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace; draft gem Michael Finley and the infrequently spectacular but still raw and uncut, Kevin Garnett – were an armada of serviceable war vessels but their collective artillery, as mighty as it would prove to soon be, never quite conquered like the new-age fighter jets that were about to take-off during the following Summer.

ISSUE TWO.

FROM ‘96 ‘TIL INFINITY

PROLOGUE

June of ‘96 was more than Michael Jordan’s triumphant return to the champagne shower, following his record-setting 72 regular season victories. It was also a platform for the NBA’s 50th recruitment drive where in the Philadelphia 76ers, holders of the No. 1 pick, attempted to correct their horrid 18-64 campaign.

Echoes from Jordan’s now perfect return served as fitting background noise to a night which ushered in both the signifier of his mortality – the Sixers’ new dynamic, lightening quick, barely six foot prize, Allen Iverson – and true heir to his vast fortune – Lower Marion Ace, Kobe Bryant. Of course it’s unfair to only credit those two when the ‘96 Draft is widely viewed as a game-changing tsunami but it’s also impossible to supplant The Answer and Black Mamba as towers along the NBA’s growing skyline. Conveyor of the stance that ‘size is highly overrated’, Iverson did more than simply cross-up his Airness during that transformative ‘97 season, he also and instantly brought about discussions of age, establishment and evolution but none of it could’ve been possible had the Sixers not dropped their confident young gunner straight into the war zone (where he was forced to learn on the job in a backcourt operation that was kamikaze). Contrastingly, Bryant’s early interactions with Jordan and the NBA brought about a much quieter discourse with far less fan applause before taking on a vastly different, almost perversive line of conversation. The early rumblings of the ‘96 Ronin however weren’t limited to the brashness of Iverson or the preciousness of Bryant. Elsewhere, because NBA law states that an expansion franchise can not land the top lottery pick during its first three seasons, the Vancouver Grizzlies, owners of a league worst 15-67 record, went from favourite for No. 2 to having to settle for bronze (as they were leap frogged by fellow Canadian bacon, the Toronto Raptors – who ended their own first term with an equally embarrassing standing of 21-61). While Iverson hogged the national spotlight, as the fish who could save Philly, the Raps nabbed NCAA player of the year, Marcus Camby – to complement Stoudamire – before the Grizz opted to secure the services of one and done phenom, Shareef Abdur-Rahim (in an attempt to make us all forget about instant flameout, Bryant ‘Big Country’ Reeves). On Draft night, the 25-57 Milwaukee Bucks were forced to select fourth after their 20% chance of landing pole position in the lottery failed. Calling out Stephon Marbury’s name, they promptly exchanged his rights with the team going

fifth, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who grabbed UConn darling, Ray Allen. Now Minny had a shiny new ball-handler to fuse with their frontcourt sensation, teenager Kevin Garnett – a promising modernism, who skipped the mandatory retail sector, advancing directly from warehouse pallet to consumer cupboard for the first time in decades. Foolishly giving up their first round picks in both ‘96 and ‘97 (to the Boston Celtics), for cumbersome centre Eric Montross (the C’s first rounder in ‘94), the Dallas Mavericks should’ve enjoyed the sixth selection but instead had to watch their pick default to BeanTown. Boston quickly acquired Antoine Walker and sent the Mavs a bottle of vintage red. From there, another six players, mostly unavailing, faulty clunkers, as it would later appear, where all drafted before the 41 and 41 Charlotte Hornets were put on the clock. When Kobe Bryant’s name was announced by Commissioner David Stern, it was a watershed moment that changed perceptions forever. All of a sudden it was skill, not size, deciding if teenagers could stand shoulder-toshoulder with grown men. In a move orchestrated by league logo Jerry West, the Lakers sent established Euro centre Vlade Divac thousands of miles across the U.S for the rights to Bryant. With Shaquille O’Neal also arriving in Hollywood that same summer, courtesy of free agency, the fate of a dozen franchises changed trajectory as the weight of power shifted from East Coast to Wild West. On the flip side to that same High School coin, the Portland Trail Blazers’ choice, Jermaine O’Neal (taken 17th) had seemingly found himself with littleto-no choice but to throw his name into the Draft hat (because his Senior grades stunk). What made Kobe’s defiance (of the standard NCAA procedure) so startling was the fact that his test scores were exceptional. Unlike the highly publicised journey of Garnett one year earlier, who opted against attending JuCo, Bryant excelled in the classroom and could’ve collected his college degree at any number of the nation’s blue-ribbon campuses and yet, given every possible option, he chose to do what no one dared, what no one thought possible – he declared, as a shooting guard, for the NBA. The notion that a loud, cocky, trigger happy, attention seeking teenager could

ISSUE TWO.

FROM ‘96 ‘TIL INFINITY

PROLOGUE

seamlessly progress from schoolyard bully to boardroom businessman, on his own terms, was laughable, at least at the time. What KG trashed in ‘95, and what the two ‘96 teens exploited that following summer, was the idea that apprenticeships couldn’t succeed in the NBA workplace. Thanks to these oversighted gambles, isolated cases quickly opened the gateway for basketball’s decision makers to trial, and eventually implement, a rogue custom as vogue. At season’s end, without the same first year restrictions as his brethren, and with his brash, individual dexterity towing instant cult-status, Iverson was made numero uno in Rookie of the Year voting, even though his team chalked up a cheerless 22-60 record. He was followed in the final tally by Stephon Marbury, who posted impressive averages of 15.8 points and 7.8 dimes; while AbdurRahim, third, joined them on the podium (despite the Grizzlies’ league worst 14 victories). Expected to be an instant franchise saviour – after setting the 1995-96 NCAA season ablaze as a member of Rick Pitino’s University of Kentucky Wildcats; a squad which has since been widely viewed as on par with the ‘91 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels because of their depth and dominance in the Tournament – Antoine Walker, could only lead his hapless Celtics to 15 wins, a new lowpoint in Shamrock history. Despite the deplorable team ranking, Walker did enough to impress the Association’s coaches, who collectively decided he should join Iverson, Starbury and Abdur-Rahim on the All-Rookie First Team. Rounding out the first year’s top starting unit was Camby, who tallied 14.8 points (his career high), 2.1 swats and 6.3 boards per game for the teething dinosaurs. After their debuts played out behind real talent (Eddie Jones) or completely off the pre-internet radar (Milwaukee), both Kobe and Ray Allen, respectively, could only manage All-Rookie SecondTeam call-ups. Kobe’s Lake-show finished 56-26 while his Draft Day franchise, the Hornets, finished just two losses back, 54-28 (good enough for sixth in the East). As for Allen, he went hunting under Chris Ford’s watch but couldn’t carry the limping Bucks above 30 wins. As the sun set on the 1996-97 season, Michael Jordan claimed yet another title but when the night sky became visible, what emerged wasn’t 46

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complete darkness but a nebula creating bright new stars. Understandably, it took another full season before this miscellaneous cluster would evolve but once they all acclimatised, their gravitational pulls created an unamicable, operatic tempest.

Deep Impact. Global authority and the measuring stick for cultural relevance, SLAM Magazine, loudly proclaims ‘96 as the “best Draft ever” and have since dedicated more than a third of their front pages to this collective. While ‘84 is renowned for its excellence, thanks in large to headliners Hakeem Olajuwon (selected first), Michael Jordan (third), Charles Barkley (fifth) and John Stockton (16th) – and to a lesser extent, Sam Perkins, Kevin Willis and Michael Cage – we’ve also always been drawn, moth to flame, to the ‘96 Class because of how this fluke flotilla has patrolled the modern NBA fishbowl. To gain a firmer grip, we approached SLAM’s Editor-In-Chief, Ben Osborne for insight on why ’96 matters. He offered, “The only other Draft, over the past 15 years, that even comes to ‘96 is 2003 when LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Melo (even Darko for all the wrong reasons) were chosen. That’s a really memorable class, filled with guys who have sold a lot of shoes and become world-famous superstars, but none of them have had the basketball impact of Kobe or the cultural impact of Iverson. Of course the class of ‘03 are still writing their story but it’s hard to imagine people ever viewing that group like they do ‘96. Other than ’03, no other Draft even comes close.” As the discussion advanced, Osborne added, “It’s not just the depth of pure basketball talent or the cultural impact but the global popularity of players like Kobe, Iverson and Nash. The first is the most polarizing – and, if SLAM cover sales are any indication, most popular – player since MJ. Kobe’s presence alone makes it a memorable Class.” But Ben quickly reminds BUCKETS that, “Iverson’s impact has been dulled a little of late but his incredibly average physical build and me-against-the-world mentality made him an absolute hero to young people all around the globe (which was substantial)!” As for Nash, the SLAM Chief submitted this gem, “Steve is another guy whose size (small), race (white), nationality (technically Canadian but

with England and South Africa ties), achievements (back-to-back MVPs) and public persona (intelligent, willing to take a stand on social / political issues) make him one of the most compelling figures in the NBA to this day.” ‘96 is a topic that has served SLAM well as Osborne notes, “one Draft brought us Iverson, Kobe AND Nash. That’s really amazing.” But as we all now know, it doesn’t stop there. What makes the ‘96 phalanx a singularity isn’t just the discovery of a profound periodic element like Kobe but the fact that Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Ben Wallace, Antoine Walker, Marcus Camby, Stephon Marbury, Jermaine O’Neal and Shareef-Abdur-Rahim, among others, all converged from different laboratories at the exact same time.

A Tale of Two Guards. On the road to greatness, ‘96 has shown it all – Multilane interstate highways (Bryant); Main streets with massive potholes (Nash); Gravel goat tracks (Todd Fuller); Suburban boulevards (Allen); Inner city laneways (Camby); Winding country roads (Walker) and Industrial avenues (O’Neal) – but when the Draft took place, it was all about the impact of standout point guards, Allen Iverson (Georgetown) and Stephon Marbury (Georgia Tech): two men who were expected to change city planning. “Iverson’s impact may be diminished a little now but that’s just because people have such short memories”, Osborne informs BUCKETS when we shift the topic over to A.I’s legacy. “I feel like he was one of the three or four most relevant and important athletes in the world from 1996 until about 2005 and that can never be taken away from him.” Meanwhile, the unintentional master of faux pas, Starbury, hasn’t quite been as ever-lasting, as Osborne reminds us, “SLAM’s efforts at building him up notwithstanding, I’m not sure Marbury ever had any big impact or relevance. Sure, he was tied to Iverson right around the Draft, but Allen enjoyed much more success and generated far greater controversy with his style, comments, etc. and that’s what made him such a big deal. Stephon, on the other hand, never played quite well enough, nor won enough games, for all his off-court antics to really matter, good or bad.”

ISSUE TWO.

‘96 DRAFT CLASS

SNAPSHOT

1996-97. Year One. Rookie of the Year.

All-Star Game MVP.

All-Defense.

3-pt Shootout Champ.

All-Star.

All-Star Game MVP.

Dunk Champ.

1997-98. Year Two. All-Star.

2001-02. Year Six. NBA Champion.

Best Defensive Player.

3-pt Shootout Champ.

League Leader. Most Improved. 1998-99. Year Three. NBA Finalist.

2005-06. Year Ten. NBA Champion.

M.V.P.

M.V.P.

League Leader.

Best Defensive Player.

All-NBA Selection.

League Leader.

All-Defense.

2003-04. Year Eight. NBA Champion. All-Star.

League Leader. League Leader.

League Leader.

All-NBA Selection.

2007-08. Year 12 NBA Champion.

All-NBA Selection.

All-NBA Selection.

All-NBA Selection.

2008-09. Year 13 NBA Champion. All-Defense.

1999-00. Year Four. NBA Champion.

Finals MVP. All-Defense.

All-Defense.

All-Star. All-NBA Selection.

All-NBA Selection.

All-Star.

All-Star.*

All-Defense.

All-Defense.

2006-07. Year 11. Best Defensive Player.

All-Star.

*Not shown: Shareef Abdur-Rahim

2000-01. Year Five. NBA Champion.

2004-05. Year Nine. M.V.P.

All-Star. Citizenship Award. All-Star MVP.

All-Star Game MVP. Best Defensive Player.

League Leader.

3-pt Shootout Champ.

2009-10. Year 14 NBA Champion.

League Leader.

M.V.P.

League Leader.

2002-03. Year Seven. Best Defensive Player.

All-NBA Selection.

Sportsmanship.

All-Defense.

League Leader.

All-Star.

All-NBA Selection.

All-NBA Selection.

All-Defense.

All-NBA Selection.

Finals MVP.

All-Defense.

League Leader

All-Star.

All-NBA Selection.

All-Star.

All-Defense. All-Star Game MVP.

KEY.

East

West

League Leaders

pts

rbs

asts

stls

blks

mins

ft%

All-NBA 1st

2nd

3rd

All-Star.

Defensive Teams 1st

2nd

ISSUE TWO.

FROM ‘96 ‘TIL INFINITY

PROLOGUE

2010-11. Year 15. NBA Champion.

League Leader.

All-NBA Selection.

All-Defense.

In a Class littered with sensational perimeter players, it’s bizarre to reflect on a time when Starbury aptly received bigger billing than Kobe and Nash combined but that was his place in ‘96. Undone by hubris, both Iverson and Marbury have since seen Derek Fisher remain an NBA starter while they wait for General Manager’s to call them back. Once the life of the party, the cruel world of next has left them looking like a couple of out-of-touch talents who are lost in their own reputations, fables and forgotten productivity.

All-Star.

All-Star MVP.

All-time point TOTAL

LEADERBOARD Current

No.

Top 100 Ranking

Bryant 06 Kobe 27,868. 1103 games. 25.3 ppg.

No.

Iverson 17 Allen 24,368. 914 games. 26.7 ppg.

No.

Allen 24 Ray 22,286.

1102 games. 20.2 ppg.

No.

Marbury 85 Stephon 16,297. 846 games. 19.3 ppg.

No.

Nash 93 Steve 15,877.

1090 games. 14.6 ppg.

No.

Walker 99 Antoine 15,647. 893 games. 17.5 ppg.

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Pulp Fiction. “The amount of ways the players taken in ‘96 have influenced the NBA and pop culture (and continue to do so today, 15 years later!), is really remarkable, in fact, it’s immeasurable. I hope ESPN or HBO are working on a documentary as we speak!” Osborne’s words hint at the depth and value of ‘96 but what exactly are these men responsible for? While they never invented walking on air or introduced the elephant print, their respective styles remain avant guard. New NBA fans might not remember Iverson’s Reebok line being the only battle axe to ever dent the Air Jordan armour but most pundits sure as hell know all about Kobe and Nash’s uninvited low-cut, light weight Swoosh overhaul. Speaking of footwear, Starbury’s were practically given away once up a time and for long sessions, Antoine Walker (adidas), Ray Allen (Jordan Brand) and Marcus Camby (And1) all provided powerful wattage to their cultural lighthouses. It’s fair to unequivocally state that without ‘96, we’d have a far less interesting NBA universe. Subjugating the consumer spheres of advertising, broadcasting, collecting, electronic gaming, hairstyling, publishing and merchandising, just to name a few – and that’s just off the clock – the spectrum by which ‘96 has captured our collective imagination is simply staggering. On a purely indulgent and stranger than fiction level, the long running, Samson strong subplots which absorb this Tonka tough troupe are as good and titillating as it gets for hoop heads. For additional highlights, check out our “Snapshots” on the previous page.

The Anthill of Accolades. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Iverson but Antoine Walker (eight points, 0-3 outside, in 12 minutes) and Kobe Bryant (a Western Conference best 18 points in 22 minutes) who first broke into the All-Star stronghold, way back in ‘98; with the latter voted in by fans as one of four Lakers selected. Of course since then, another nine players from the ‘96 Class have been called up, including Iverson, Nash, Sugar Ray, J.O, Starbury, Abdur-Rahim, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Peja Stojakovic. That’s eleven players in total – over one-third of the first rounders selected – and that’s without adding undrafted Thundercat, Ben Wallace, who also earned multiple All-Star badges. They’ve netted MVPs (Iverson – ’01; Nash – ‘04 & ‘05, Bryant – ‘08); Finals MVPs (Bryant – ‘09, ‘10); Best Defensive (Wallace – ‘02, ‘03, ‘05, ‘06; Camby – ‘07) and Most Improved Player honours (Jermaine O’Neal – ‘02), as well as other noteworthy Awards from the various All-Star Weekend events but what truly separates this delegation is every chip won over the past 15 years not claimed by either Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan or Michael Jordan is because of someone from ‘96. In fact, 12 of the past 15 NBA Finals have featured ‘96 cast members in key roles (with Kobe showing up seven times). The colossal, chart-topping finish however belongs to their 41, and counting, All-NBA Team selections – the truest measure of an individuals worth. Like gifts under the Christmas tree, members from ‘96 can’t stop, won’t stop, amassing these honours. With no Michael Jordan in sight, the ‘99 First Team found room for Allen Iverson (his debut); while Bryant, who should’ve been a collegiate junior that year, was picked for the Third unit. From there, thanks to Kobe, at least one member from ‘96 has appeared every year, including the 2003 apex when a staggering six players were deemed to be Top 15. Happenstance? Ben Osborne clears the air, “For the most part, I think it’s a coincidence. However, Kobe’s presence makes it extra, extra accomplished. It was certainly considered a strong group but I don’t think the ‘96 Draft was predicted to be as prolific as it has turned out to be. Kobe, astute and calculating, even at 17, assessed the guys he’d be with in

ISSUE TWO.

FROM ‘96 ‘TIL INFINITY

PROLOGUE

the Draft with, and knowing how good most of them were, he STILL entered his name, that helps makes it seem like there was more than coincidence dictating how great the players from ‘96 would turn out.” Osborne aptly concludes, “If I had to bet, I’d say we’ll never see another class that could or will ever match it.” He should know, he’s Chief of the publication that documents Draft proclamations better than anyone else. While this divergent class has served as necessary advancement, their redirection of franchise fate and fan misfortune has also created a paradox, and that fact should never be forgotten. It may still be futile to challenge the cosmic forces ‘84 but for those of us who enjoy the warning of thorns, as much as we adore the various colours which flower atop the stem, it’s hard to look past the eclectic bouquet of ‘96 – truly a Draft Class like no other.

W When Kobe Bryant’s name was announced by Commissioner David Stern, it was a watershed moment that changed perceptions forever. All of a sudden it was skill, not size, deciding if teenagers could stand shoulder-toshoulder with grown men.

--- COUNTING DOWN ---

The top TEN talents (from the Class of ‘96) Honourable Mentions

Derek Fisher

Shareef Abdur-Rahim

Lakers . 6-2 . PG . Arkansas-Little Rock . Senior

Grizzlies . 6-9 . F . California . Freshman

Pick No. 14

Pick No. 14

The current Players Association President, after serving as Vice under Antonio Davis, D-Fish has benefited from his unique situation (alongside Kobe on Phil Jackson’s watch) almost more than any other player but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t stepped up whenever his number has been called. During his many post-season outings – Fisher ranks top five all-time in Playoff appearances – he has been clutch but never more so than his opportune demonstration that 0.4 seconds is more than enough time. A consummate professional who has battled for his spot and contributed as a solid reserve for All-Star’s Gary Payton (Los Angeles), Baron Davis (Golden State) and Deron Williams (Utah); Fisher has rarely been rattled by the enormity of a Finals stage, often delivering in dramatic fashion during key moments, making him both loved (to the Lakers’ faithful) and ultimately loathed (everyone else).

The first to win Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year honours after his freshman season (at Cal.), ‘Reef lawfully ended up on the 2000 Olympic squad which collected Gold in Sydney. While he owns a few regretful records – most games without appearing in the postseason – he should be remembered for A. Being Charles Barkley’s real Rookie of the Year in ‘97 and B. His 2002 All-Star berth. While a member of the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies, ‘Reef increased his productivity each of his first four seasons, even ranking inside the top 20 for 13 categories during one campaign. Traded to Atlanta, for the rights to Pau Gasol, ‘Reef enjoyed little team success at the Coca-Cola capital before ending up with Portland and finally the Sacramento Kings, where he remains their Assistant General Manager.

10

Peja Stojakovic Kings . 6-9 . SF . Yugoslavia . PAOK (Greece)

Pick No. 14 This Serbian sniper remains one of the greatest international marksman to date. The first European-born player to win an event at All-Star Weekend, Stojakovic collected dual three-point shootout crowns. He fittingly sits behind fellow ’96 Draftee, Ray Allen as well as Reggie Miller and (surprisingly) Jason Kidd as fourth on the all-time made triples list. He has racked up numerous international honours and has guided his homeland to various Euro prizes but it’s his shrill offensive play during his tenure with Vlade Divac and Chris Webber in Sacramento which remains his hoop-print. While many still gawk at his Greek model wife, Aleka Kamila, it has been Peja’s ability to nail a target from the other side of a construction site that has seen him overachieve as often as he has under whelmed.

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ISSUE TWO.

FROM ‘96 ‘TIL INFINITY

PROLOGUE

9

8

7

Stephon Marbury

Marcus Camby

Jermaine O’Neal

Bucks . 6-3 . PG . Georgia Tech . Freshman

Raptors . 6-11 . C . Massachusetts . Junior

Blazers . 6-11 . PF . Eau-Claire HS (Columbia, SC)

Pick No. 4

Pick No. 2

Pick No. 17

Synonymous with Brooklyn’s Coney Island, this son of New York City, along the lines of Big Apple alum Kenny Anderson, spiralled from highly touted Abraham Lincoln High School graduate to curious case – proving life doesn’t operate according to the crystal ball. Often complicating his own on-court situation by walking to the beat of a self-serving drum, Marbury passed on a decade alongside Kevin Garnett only to torment New Jersey, Phoenix and New York, as one of the great clubhouse cancers. At his best, Marbury wasn’t all that far removed from today’s most celebrated PGs – strong, explosive, athletic, quick and dynamic – but his successes often cost his team dearly and his ceiling was never realised because he always burnt down every dwelling he took up residency in. A mismanaged masquerader, his public feuds with the NY media have only been eclipsed by his own dysfunctional, volatile relationships with the equally stubborn Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas. His open self-destruction and subsequent labelling overshadowed his philanthropy; and with career averages of 19.3ppg, 7.3apg and 1.2spg, Starbury’s stats suggests fringe All-NBAer but anyone who saw him play knows that he was best when gunning for his own; making him the Nicolas Cage of basketball – highly capable but his choices always imply a peppering of crazy.

One of only eight players to have collected the NBA’s ‘Best Defensive Player’ trophy over the past 15 years, Camby’s legacy is that of a true shotstopping machine – and rightfully so, only he, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mark Eaton have topped the NBA’s blocks per game ranking four separate times. A former John Wooden Award winner and Naismith College Player of the Year (‘96), Camby has continually vetoed offences as a valued contributor for a number of NBA cities – often plugging deficiencies in attitude, among other things. Now a dominate weapon for hire, his topsy-turvy pro career has been cutdown somewhat by infrequent injury but that hasn’t prevented the long-limbed giant from standing tall. While Larry Johnson’s thunderous four-point play often headlines the New York Knicks’ ’99 post-season surge, it was Camby’s convulsion which allowed the eighth seeded MadMen to advance to the NBA Finals. Involved with noteworthy causes, such as Basketball Without Borders and his own non-profit foundation, Cambyland, his diverse pack of colour pencils also includes the much darker shades: including $28,000 worth of illegal payments he accepted while a student at UMass and that horrific episode involving his family being tortured for eight hours. Arguably the best player not named to an All-Star team over the past 15 seasons, Camby has shown that not every stars needs its own solar system to shine.

Although he once stated he “modelled his play after legends Bill Russell and Hakeem Olajuwon”, the dangly teenager couldn’t dominate the classroom like he did the lane while at Eau Claire High School of the Arts. Declaring for the ’96 NBA Draft – an overtly ambitious move which wouldn’t have stuck had it not been for Kevin Garnett’s bold prep-to-pros transition just 12 months earlier – the youngest player ever, at the time, served out his apprenticeship in Portland under a crowded frontcourt of Rasheed Wallace, Gary Trent, Brian Grant and Clifford Robinson, before being traded (for Dale Davis) to Indiana. Reinventing himself as a primetime peacock, the multiple All-Star signed a titanic seven-year, $126 million contract during which he was forced to serve a 25 game suspension (for his role in the toxic Malice at the Palace). J.O has spent the past four NBA season’s auditioning for leading roles but has been best cast as a wandering zombie without knees. Remembered most for his expiring contract status; a call-up to represent Team USA; that MoTown melee and an NBA career which was always hampered by various injuries, the highly skilled, largely gifted, J.O still rightfully owns a handful of Indiana Pacer records

6

Antoine Walker Celtics . 6-8 . F . Kentucky . Sophomore

Pick No. 6

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As Optimus Prime to one of college basketball’s greatest ever convoys, Walker helped the formidable University of Kentucky Wildcats rank as one of the top collegiate squads of all-time (en route to the title). A devastatingly talented point producer, one which predates Carmelo Anthony, ‘Toine spent his early years lighting it up from outside and confusing post defenders on the interior alongside Paul Pierce, restoring Celtic pride in the process. A rare NBA (Miami Heat, ’06) and NCAA (Kentucky, ’96) champion, Walker’s out of the ordinary 12 year career saw the combo forward’s wild, temperamental, poorly-timed, often inappropriate and hard to understand gun-slinging land him the dreaded ‘cowboy’ tag before he was forced to play pro in Puerto Rico and more recently, the D-League. Once reportedly robbed at gunpoint for $200,000, ‘Toine has since made headlines for issuing bad cheques (for gambling losses to Las Vegas casinos) before filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy; but it’ll be his infectious, all-shimmying, all-court character which will endure with hoop-heads.

ISSUE TWO.

FROM ‘96 ‘TIL INFINITY

PROLOGUE

5

4

3

Ben Wallace

Ray Allen

Steve Nash

6-9 . C . Virginia Union

Timberwolves . 6-5 . SG . Connecticut . Junior

Suns . 6-3 . PG . Santa Clara . Senior

Undrafted

Pick No. 5

Pick No. 15

From humble beginnings – just 5.8mpg with the Washington Bullets – to chimeinducing, home crowd favouritism, and eventually the rank as Best Defender of the decade (00s), Big Ben never just crashed the glass, swatted weak shit or patrolled the paint, he instead gave the less glamorous end a cosmetic upgrade and flexed a new kind of commander muscle. Capable of intimidating a volcano and mentored by Charles Oakley, this one-man border protection agency failed to win over the affections of NBA scouts before showing up in ‘96 after a stint in Italy. Shopped multiple times before (and since) landing in MoTown, Wallace clocked up four Defensive Player of the Year awards as well as multiple AllDefensive Team selections; and he did it with an unmistakable afro-centric panache. His hard shove on Ron Artest incited the Pacers-Pistons Brawl but that didn’t stop PlayAir Systems from created an Inflatable Defender in his likeness. With dreams of one day trading in the locker room for the courtroom, this undersized pivot often made a Dennis Rodman-like difference. A fictional character come to life; the engine inside the Bad Boy’s 2.0 monstertruck and the reason why Detroit won a chip in ’04 (and made six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals), Wallace is a straight up bad mutha-f**ka.

Named USA Basketball’s Male Athlete of the Year (‘95) while a student at the University of Connecticut, Allen also collected All-American and Big East Player of the Year honours before heading to the NBA. Early on, Allen managed to guide both Milwaukee and Seattle, respectively, to superior records on more than one occasion, even being instated as the Bucks’ third best player (when they announced their 40th Anniversary Team). Although he had to wait more than a decade before calling Kevin Garnett his full-time teammate, despite being drafted fifth by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sugar Ray has since aligned with the Big Ticket, securing the Celtics their 17th title. A notable Jordan Brand torch bearer, it was Allen’s co-starring role in Spike Lee’s He Got Game that allowed him a career-defining blaze. Owner of NBA records for most trifectas made in a single season and career, his strict dietary practices, military like game-day scheduling and well documented, largely neurotic preparations have only added to his overall appeal. Lately, Allen’s weaponry has been refined to include long distance rifles (built on accuracy and precision) over the more clumsy, automatic machine-guns many of his peers prefer to take into battle. As a member of the 20,000 point club, Allen knows how to make it rain but the 6-5 guard also sheds sunlight and a little ‘Ray of Hope’ too.

He has walked in Kurt Rambis’ NCAA footsteps, learnt the realities of NBA life from Kevin Johnson, Sam Cassell and Jason Kidd, and turned a deplorable 29 win Suns outfit into a 62 win powerhouse (after Mavericks owner Mark Cuban failed to meet the market’s asking price). Helping seven different players register career-highs in seven seconds or less, Nash was declared the Association’s Most Valuable Player, an honour he would repeat, joining both Magic and Michael as the only members in the back-to-back MVP guard club. President of the extra curricular ‘50-40-90’ honour roll, Nash is also the laboratory splicing of Pistol Pete Maravich and John Stockton, sprinkled with a little of Mark Price’s genes. Criticized for his matador D, Nash’s razor sharp, narcissistic playmaking has always meant the glass is half full. Charismatic, funny as hell, eco-friendly and socially conscience, this active and positive role model has remained elite well beyond his expected expiration date. He has entertained, enthralled and educated a generation; received the Order of Canada; and has seen his status rise from global icon into everlasting sporting legend. No wonder Time Magazine declared this nationally responsible treasure one of the 100 most influential people (‘06).

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ISSUE TWO.

FROM ‘96 ‘TIL INFINITY

PROLOGUE

2

Allen Iverson 76ers . 6-0 . G . Georgetown . Sophomore

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Question Answers >>

Only MJ and Shaq (and arguably Kobe and LeBron, and all in that order) can claim to have left a wider, deeper and more permanent footprint on basketball’s coastline since Iverson left Georgetown University to tread on the NBA’s sandy shores. Although a young Tim Hardaway embarrassed all with his killer crossover, it was Iverson’s shake and bake that caused the establishment to amend its rules. A revelation who only moved at top-speed, Iverson wore his heart on his shooting sleeve, found self expression in a boxscore (as often as he did a tattoo), and introduced many of us to the braided / cornrow aesthetic. A lifetime endorser of Reebok, his most popular soundbites have since become replay folly but that doesn’t remove his Midas meets Mr. Freeze epoch, when everything he touched turned to solid bars of gold (before ending up as Jewelz). The lone Shinobi, by choice, who helped the Sixers to their only Finals appearance in the past 25 years, A.I has been a disciplinary nightmare as often as he has been scoring champion. His bold attempts at being the diplomat saw him bashed by bigots but always resurrected by adoring fans; and although he has acquired hundreds of millions in salary (and endorsement deals) he has given so many of us something much more valuable in return. After Philadelphia, he collided with Carmelo Anthony in Denver; became a sideshow turned distraction whilst in Detroit (and later Memphis) and although his emotional homecoming showed him to be a false prophet, Philly is where he’ll remain forever young – thanks to his ‘01 MVP. An all-out survivor and true cultural titan, Iverson has earned his right to be labelled a bulletproof basketball messiah.

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Pick No. 1

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Kobe Bryant Hornets . 6-6 . SG . Lower Merion High School (Ardmore, PA)

Pick No. 13 An ostentatious offensive force who has flawlessly worn both sidekick and superhero cape’s, Bryant’s vocation to date has three distinct stages: Ascension; Fall from Grace and Deliverance from Evil. The youngest All-Star starter at just 19, this self-proclaimed Black Mamba has since rolled off a long list of accolades; capped off by scoring the second most points in a regular season game. Wunderkind turn world-class surgeon, the devastatingly gifted Bryant only recently patched up the great fan divide en route to claiming the highest selling jersey of the Naughties. Changing identities multiple times, this NIKE billboard has also been seen Puttin’ In Work for Spike Lee and besting everyone from basketball’s past – including Wilt Chamberlain, Bernard King and Jerry West – while dually dominating its present. A maligned extra-marital transgressor, this melodic master’s many desertions may have once shouted sinner but his on-court splendour now bellows saintly sounds – tunes heard perfectly as he redeemed Team USA (’08) and reinstated his beloved Los Angeles Lakers (‘09, ‘10).

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AWARD WINNERS / THE ETERNALISTS.

ISSUE TWO

FaceBook + Twitter search “bucketsmag”

DIRECTORY

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14 2011 Season Review. F Our Most Valuable Player. F All-NBA Team’s. F Defensive Player Of The Year. F All-Defense Team’s. F Rookie Of The Year. F All-Rookie Team’s. F Most Improved. F Best Single Game Performance. F Marketing Campaign Of The Season. F NBA Champions. F Finals MVP. F The June Draft.

36 SNEAKISTRY.AWARDS. F Sneaker Of The Season. F Best Sneaker Under $100.00. F Top Boutique Store. F Retro Release Of The Year. F Best Sneaker Website. F (New) Brand of the Year. F Our Favourite Player Edition. F Best Product Design. F Designer of the Year.

48 ICONOCLAST. F Shaquille O’Neal.

50 THE ETERNALISTS. 1986. F Going For Three: NCAA adopts the arc. F Converse’s Line in the Sand: Weapon ‘86. F Len Bias & Drazen Petrovic. 1991. F (First) Running of the Bulls. 1996. F The Magic Of Penny Hardaway. F 72. F Kickin’ It in ‘96. 2001. F The Streetball Movement. F Allen Iverson’s Perfect Odyssey. 2006. F The Golden Age (Rule).

70 DOMESTIC BLITZ. F Local Star’s Offer Us Their Award Winners.

72 WNBA (15TH ANNIVERSARY). F 11 To Watch In 2011.

74 THE INSIDER. F 2011 NBA All-Star Weekend: Los Angeles.

80 VITALS. F The Good Guide + NBA DVD Reviews.

82 EPILOGUE. F The World According To: Charles Oakley.

84 END CREDITS. F Thank You’s And Contributor Listing.

SNEAKISTRY.SPOTLIGHTS. F At The Speed of (Crazy) Light. F The LeBron 8 PS. F Air Jordan 2011. F Jordan Fly Wade. F Cinematic Footwear. F How To Remain Original This Off-Season.

WIN

NBA DVDs courtesy of see page 84 for details.

C 2011 BUCKETS MAGAZINE INC.. PRINTED IN AUSTRALIA. C 2011 THE BOOK OF BASKETBALL GOODNESS PROPERTIES.

ISSUE TWO.

BEST OF THE BEST

NBA AWARDS

Kings, Flowers, German’s, Car-hopping, Snake bites, Superman & Who Says You Can’t Find Love On The Rebound?

Season: 2010-11

The free-agent pool of 2010 moved a stack of chess pieces around the NBA board but after the season’s dust finally settled, it was a maverick, both figuratively and literally, who offered us all a buffet of podcast palaver. In many ways, it was just Dirk Nowitzki’s time. That, or he had waited in line so long that it was just his turn. Either way, the narrow window of opportunity allowed Dirk to grab his cape, jump through the ring of fire, snatch the trophy and escaped back to his luxurious condo before anyone had a chance to notice the Mavs were in fact a highly skilled team of Green Berets. Nowitzki, a loser last time he appeared on the biggest stage, didn’t foolishly shout like teammate Jason Terry (who prematurely tattooed the Larry O’Brien trophy on his inner bicep... before the Finals even tipped off), instead, Dirk remained cool, collected and German like Klaus Daimler. In doing so, he seized his moment in the sun, taking no hostages and pouring sauce all over his choice cut steak. But no matter how much one tries to escape it, even as the 2011 Finals were all about Jason Kidd, Dirk and the Mavs, they were also really all about LeBron James (and to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade, and the artist formerly known as Chris Bosh), as well as Pat Riley’s sticky taped together Miami Heat.

2011 League Leaders Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3FG% FT%

Kevin Durant (27.7) Kevin Love (15.2) Steve Nash (11.4) Chris Paul (2.4) Andrew Bogut (2.6) Nene Hilario (.615) Matt Bonner (.457) Stephen Curry (.934)

Best Player Showings Russell Westbrook 38 pts, 15 rbs, 9 asts, 3 stls. Kevin Love 43 pts, 17 rbs, 3 asts. Dwight Howard 40 pts, 15 rbs, 6 blks. Monta Ellis 46 pts, 3 rbs, 2 stls. Paul Millsap 46 pts, 9 rbs. Ty Lawson 37 pts, 7 rbs, 6 asts. Kobe Bryant 42 pts, 12 rbs, 9 asts. Blake Griffin 47 pts, 14 rbs, 3 asts. LeBron James 51 pts, 11 rbs, 8 asts. Blake Griffin 44 pts, 15 rbs, 7 asts. Carmelo Anthony 50 pts, 11 rbs, 3 blks.

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Rajon Rondo 12 pts, 10 rbs, 23 asts, 6 stls. Kevin Durant 47 pts, 18 rbs, 2 stls, 2 blks. Rajon Rondo 10 pts, 10 rbs, 24 asts. Russell Westbrook 35 pts, 13 rbs, 13 asts. LeBron James 44 pts, 13 rbs, 6 asts. Dwyane Wade 45 pts, 7 rbs, 2 stls. Kobe Bryant* 37 pts, 14 rbs, 3 stls. Dwight Howard** 46 pts, 19 rbs Derrick Rose** 44 pts, 7 rbs, 5 asts. Dirk Nowitzki** 48 pts, 6 rbs, 4 blks.

Kevin Love 31 pts, 31 rbs, 5 asts.

* All-Star Game ** Denotes Playoff contest

The 2010-11 NBA season might’ve commenced in July with (that highly discussed Decision) and) the formation of a new super power but it concluded the following June with the new Puppet Master himself, LeBron James, being out smarted by classic German engineneering.

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NBA AWARD WINNERS. MOST VALUABLE PLAYER.

Our 2011 MVP

Derrick Rose Youngest Ever

MVP

Words: Daniel Buerge. Image: courtesy of adidas.

PG. 6-3. Chicago Bulls.

B.O.D: Oct 4, 1988 //Years Pro: 3 // Height: 1.91cm Weight: 86.2kg College: University of Memphis

Without a strict set of criteria, the views and subsequent winners of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award often flow along a multi channelled river. Many believe the honour should be awarded to the best player on the best team while others lean towards the best individual averages (regardless of record). Almost every season there’s a raging debate over who should be given the award, with controversy often shadowing the announcement. This year however that hullabaloo was non-existent thanks to the play of Chicago native and Bulls playmaker, Derrick Rose. And when it came time to consider the competition, it wasn’t even close. In a year that was supposed to belong to the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, Rose’s Bulls well and truly stole the (regular season) spotlight. His various contributions to Chicago’s impressive 62 win run left no doubt that he was as valuable to his team as any other star player (including Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant). And as impressive as the numbers have been (37.4mpg, 25ppg, 7.7apg, 4.1rpg, 10.spg, 0.6bpg; to go along with shooting averages of 45-33-86), it was the Bulls’ win / loss record multiplied by Rose’s stat-less contributions which allowed him to become the MVP frontrunner. More importantly, it was the first legitimate MVP candidate Chicago has been allowed to enjoy since Michael Jordan retired in mid ‘98.

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One quantifiable way to deconstruct who is most deserving of the Maurice Podoloff trophy is to remove said player from their team and calculate how successful that franchise would be without said player. The Bulls were able to win consistently, all season long, because of Rose’s play, despite Centre Joakim Noah missing 30 games and (over priced) Power Forward Carlos Boozer missing an additional 20. With nearly 30 points and 20 rebounds per outing on the injured list for half the season, Rose provided all the sheet music, and back-up vocals, just so Chicago didn’t miss a beat. Showing composure and veteran leadership well beyond his years, while also steering the Bulls’ 2010/11 stampeded through adversity (to the top of the heap in a brutally competitive and improved Eastern Conference), Rose found himself as just the fifth point guard (and eighth guard overall) to collect the ultimate basketball honour. The average age for this season’s Chicago Bulls was just 27, and that’s including the 38 year-old Kurt Thomas, so it’s no wonder everyone is giddy over DRose. He has morphed the big-market franchise from Cinderella into the big bad wolf, and he did it almost single-handedly. There’s no other player, regardless of Conference, who was more valuable and instrumental to their team’s 2010/11 success than Derrick Rose.

NBA AWARD WINNERS. MOST VALUABLE PLAYER.

Honorable mentions. Words: Christian Trojan.

LeBron James

SF. Miami Heat.

The halfway point MVP, James posted impressive digits (26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and seven assists per), while also sharing the spotlight with his two new bromances in South Beach. Remaining a powerful force which dually underwhelmed and overachieved, James instantly, and entertainingly, returned the Heat to Eastern Conference relevance while stamping his distinctiveness on both the team’s slumps and highlights (like few others can), causing over analysis and exhaustion not seen since Michael Jordan in the late 90s. An obvious and somewhat predictable work in progress, LeBron’s impressive but faulty win / loss record may have cost him a third straight MVP honour but with his hardware cabinet already full, it’s clear that James’ primary preoccupation rests with his need to avoid the dreaded label carried around by Charles Barkley, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing.

Kobe Bryant

SG. Los Angeles Lakers. Sad as it sounds, the transcendent Kobe Bryant might be stuck with just one MVP trophy for his career, even though he is widely viewed as the best post 2k player. Which may be an ironic but fitting fate he is forced to share with Shaquille O’Neal (who also only claimed one regular season MVP award). Averaging 25.5ppg, 5.1rpg and 4.7apg, the Black Mamba once again turned in another fine season while also leading his Los Angeles Lakers to the second seed in the West (despite being infected with the disease of more and a crappy roster). For Bryant, it has never been about the 82 game schedule where amazing happens, rather he was born for the Playoffs, where greatness, especially his, is often defined. Which is a kind way of stating that he’d rather claim another chip because he was always a long shot for this season’s MVP.

Dwight Howard

C. Orlando Magic.

While the NBA might just rename its Defensive Player of the Year trophy after Howard one day (for his continual dominance on the defensive end of the floor), the son of Jor-El still lacks the overall offensive playmaking and firepower needed to be taken seriously as an MVP recipient – despite recent and vast improvements on his often overshadowed offensive game. Working against Howard in 2011 were strikes for: A. Landing the fourth seed in the East. B. His counter-productive foul trouble. C. Silly technicals. D. Inability to create from the post. E. Lack of a consistent wingman. More so, it’s hard to bestow the game’s greatest individual honour to a player who is as mighty as Howard but without any real measure. Not his fault, sure, but it remains a consideration that still holds a tank full of water.

Kevin Durant

SF. Oklahoma City Thunder. Last season Kevin Durant flamboyantly announced is arrival as a legitimate NBA superstar by becoming the Association’s youngest ever to claim the scoring title. In 2010/11, he became the youngest to defend his gold medal scoring output, while also creating a logjam for All-NBA First Team Forward honours. At almost 28 points per (to go along with 6.8 boards) Durantula’s averages have become even more dangerous, often single-handedly taking over key stretches in big games. Unlike Dwight Howard’s need for superior help, the beautiful contradiction caused by the rise of Russell Westbrook’s play actually hurt Durant’s chances of making a top three case for MVP.

[Worthy of consideration] Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets) Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) Sorry, New York Knicks fans, Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t appear on our radar. Maybe next year?

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NBA AWARD WINNERS. RESERVOIR DOGS.

Best In Show D-Rose & King James Headline The 2010-11 All-NBA Team’s

Words: Christian Trojan. Image: courtesy of adidas. There was just no telling how the Miami Heat’s triple headed experiment or Kobe Bryant’s quest for a third straight chip would have played out back in early October, 2010; and while there were dozens of other subplots (the aging Boston Celtics; Collective Bargaining Agreement; next great free-agent agenda), little attention, if any, was scheduled for the Chicago Bulls – including first year Head Coach, Tom Thibodeau and star point guard, Derrick Rose. The lack of interest was soon flipped and by the time the 2011 All-Star Weekend showed up, the Bulls were not only in the discussion, they were often headlining the majority of chatter. Not completely without early season curiosity, Derrick Rose did raise eyebrows when he answered the question of who would win the 2011 NBA MVP with three simple words: “Why not me?” As it turns out, D-Rose may have been the first to seriously consider himself a viable MVP candidate but after six months and 82 (plus) games, he surely wasn’t the last. Being the only player to rank among the NBA’s Top Ten in both scoring and assists, with career highs of 25 points and 7.7 dimes per contest, respectively, Rose turned heads like a naked Jessica Alba and caused many experts to re-evaluate his place, worth and importance. Rose underlined his outstanding statistical season by adding career highs in rebounds (4.1), steals (1.0) and blocks (0.6 – first among PGs); feats made all the more impressive because the Bulls’ two most valuable front court pieces – Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer – both suffered long term injuries. With Rose running at full speed, the Windy City crew also never lost more than two straight... an impressive mark no other elite team could accomplish (in 2010-11) and the noteworthy subservient

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let it be know, “I don’t care how many assists I’ve got, how many points I’ve scored. I wanna get it [meaning the MVP trophy] from winning.” And win he did. Granted, receiving Jordan’s unequivocal endorsement (for MVP) might’ve put an insane amount of pressure on the shoulders of your average 22-year old point guard but the franchise saviour didn’t stumble. In fact, he led the Chicago Bulls to the best overall record and a 21-game improvement over their 2009-10 campaign. In just his third pro season, Rose achieved an ultra rare (Bulls) milestone (60 team wins), a mark Jordan needed seven season’s to accomplish while a paid resident of Illinois. In a single season, Rose forced his way into the discussion with Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade as the best overall guard in basketball. Rarely have hoop specialists enjoyed a player’s climb up the fame ladder like Rose in ‘11. After spending invaluable time at the 2010 World Championships in Turkey, Rose not only visibly improved his ability to connect from deep, his rapid rise even gave him a solid case (as the most logically and deserving recipient) for the Most Improved Award (an honour which was ultimately granted to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love). While Rose’s regular season had shades of Allen Iverson’s 2001 campaign, much has been made about

his PER rating of just 23,62 (ninth in the league). According to ESPN stat guru, John Hollinger, a rating of 25 or higher is needed to be recognised for an MVP-type season and only three players qualified, according to those conditions, with all three playing down in Florida: LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade (in that order) but neither one of them won as many games, or won on their own. Will we inevitably view Rose’s MVP in the same light as Steve Nash’s first Maurice Podoloff trophy, or even Dirk Nowitzki’s honour in ‘07? Is Rose the only one who made an MVP case without counterpoint, thus elevating him through default rather than unquestionable merit? There’s little argument that Rose was this season’s Most Visceral Player and he has definitely earned the MVP award by turning the simple question of “Why not me?” into “Who else but him?” by season’s end. What also needs to be remembered is Rose put in work, stepped up, and delivered, time and again, both with ambitious action and reckless guile, while all those who believed they were greater – from Bryant to Wade – only offered words and mixed signals of their greatness. In just three season’s, Rose has risen from the PG of the future to the best positional player in the NBA today. In a league ruled by floor generals, Rose’s direction emerged as boss.

NBA AWARD WINNERS. ALL-NBA TEAM’S.

The Over-Crowded Room.

Rose, just the seventh player in NBA history to average at least 25 points, seven-and-a-half assists and four rebounds per, was a clear-cut lock for All-NBA First Team selection but the other guard spot was a coin toss (between Kobe Bryant and Dywane Wade) with both choices being correct. Same goes for the other forward position (next to LeBron James – who became the first player to ever surpass 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 100 steals in four consecutive seasons). One could’ve easily have made a solid case for both Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin Durant. Again, both are correct choices, with personal bias being the only divider. Words: Brad Graham. Image: courtesy of Nike.

All-NBA First Team.

C – Dwight Howard (Magic) SF – Kevin Durant (Thunder) SF – LeBron James (Heat) SG – Kobe Bryant (Lakers) PG – Derrick Rose (Bulls)

All-NBA Second Team.

C – Amar’e Stoudemire (Knicks) PF – Pau Gasol (Lakers) SF – Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks) SG – Dwyane Wade (Heat) PG – Russell Westbrook (Thunder)

All-NBA Third Team.

C – Al Horford (Hawks) PF – LaMarcus Aldridge (Blazers) PF – Zach Randolph (Grizzlies) SG – Manu Ginobili (Spurs) PG – Chris Paul (Hornets)

Honorable mentions.

Rajon Rondo, Celtics. Paul Pierce, Celtics. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets + Knicks. Kevin Love, Timberwolves. Tim Duncan, Spurs. Blake Griffin, Clippers. Tony Parker, Spurs. Kevin Garnett, Celtics. Deron Williams, Jazz + Nets. Steve Nash, Suns. Andrew Bogut, Bucks. Monta Ellis, Warriors. Nene Hilario, Nuggets.

History Lesson.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the alltime record with 15 All-NBA selections. Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal have both been honoured 14 times apiece; with Malone leading the First Team honour roll with 11 nods. Bob Cousy, Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Michael Jordan (along with Abdul-Jabbar) are all deadlocked at second, recording ten First Team appearances each. Worth noting, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant each have been called up 13 times, with Bryant making his ninth career (and sixth consecutive) All-NBA First Team in 2011. Dolph Schayes, Bob Cousy, Hakeem Olajuwon and Jerry West each have found their names entered into the NBA history books a dozen times with call-ups to the First, Second and Third Teams over the course of their respective campaigns. Dirk Nowitzki now joins Charles Barkley and John Stockton as player’s who have been selected 11 times while David Robinson and Magic Johnson have both registered ten marks next to their iconic careers.

NBA AWARD WINNERS. ALIEN NATION.

Must Watch TV: The Blake Griffin Show Words: Christian Trojan. Images: courtesy of Nike.

(Unanimous)

Rookie of the Year

PF. 6-10. Possible Alien Los Angeles Clippers.

38.0mpg //22.5ppg //12.1rpg //3.8apg // 0.5bpg //0.8spg // .504 FG% //.292 3P% // .642 FT%

One could easily make the case that the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin was as big an individual success story as Derrick Rose during the 2010-11 season, and they’ll more than likely find little challenge. Named the first unanimous Rookie of the Year since David Robinson (‘90), Griff swept the six Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards (for only the seventh time in league history; both Conferences), leaving many experts wondering how they could’ve ever doubted the former number one overall selection. Not only was Griffin the feel good subplot of the season – who chalked up more YouTube views than a ranting Charlie Sheen – but he left his footprint on an NBA campaign which scored the highest TV ratings in years. Not even Nostradamus saw Griffin topping the charts this fast. Flashback to the beginning of the 2009-10 season: Griffin’s original rookie year. It’s late October and the Los Angeles Clippers have just discovered that they will be without their top draft pick for the start of the season. Shortly after shooting their much talked about pilot, word surfaced that The Blake Griffin Show would be put on ice before it ever got its chance to headline primetime. During a routine take, the show’s host and emerging talent, broke his left kneecap (after putting down one of his famous dunks). The resulting injury forced producers to shut the show down for an extended period of time. Six weeks become two months and in January 2010, Griffin ultimately opted to have surgery to repair his damaged left knee. TV Guide’s Fall Preview wondered if the rising star was washed-up before he ever got a chance to fly. As team mates and fans alike learnt that their new franchise cornerstone wouldn’t be playing a single game, the infamous Clipper curse crept into the minds of all >>

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NBA AWARD WINNERS. ROOKIE OF THE YEAR.

NOTE: This is record of only one of the 218 gravity defying experiments that Professor Griff demonstrated during his 2010-11 campaign.

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NBA AWARD WINNERS. BLAKE GRIFFIN. associated with the Blue, Red and White of L.A. Memories of former bust, Michael Olowokandi sent many running for Hollywood’s hills while others were quick to draw comparisons to 2007s first choice, injury-prone big man Greg Oden but as Griffin now admits, “I was forgotten about last year. That kind of put everything into perspective.” What a difference a year makes... 22.5 points per, 218 memorable dunks and one leap over a Kia Optima later, and Blake Griffin is now the brightest rising star in David Stern’s galaxy. In just 82 games, Griffin gave the gift of optimism (to a once stumbling franchise), carried the weight as its centrepiece and displayed a promise that he was worth the wait (justifying why the Clippers took the former University of Oklahoma student first in the ‘09 Draft). We’ve all seen the rubble left by this (Rookie of the Year) Hulk but what exactly did Griffin do during his one year removed from the game? Thanks to his recent heroics, few people have stop to wonder about the details of his comeback but there’s one person who doesn’t take Griffin’s success for granted, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Athletic Trainer, Jasen Powell. “Our biggest challenge was explaining and letting [Blake] know that the recovery was a marathon and not a sprint,” he confesses to BUCKETS. “We had our battles within the process to make him understand the importance of not rushing back.” The trainer’s approach certainly appears to be the right choice as Griffin clocked 3112 minutes, starting all 82 games (without re-injuring his once damaged knee). Powell worked with the bulky forward during the entire 2009-10 season and is able to offer clarification on how this athletic freak turned dunking phenomenon was able to return even more explosive, than he was before the procedure. “The methods that were performed in the surgery made his tendon stronger. The rehab process really allowed him to start from the ground up,” Powell explains. “Coming out of surgery we made sure that Blake would establish a good stability base in his knee first. That was key. The strength program would follow much later.” Most rookies might have difficulties remaining patient throughout such a longsome rehabilitation process but as we now know, Griffin was no ordinary rookie. “You cannot let it get into your head,” the 22-year old notes when describing his

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approach. “I was off the radar last year but that made me work even harder.” And his trainer is quick to back that statement up, “Blake definitely had youth on his side, but most important was his desire and his will to attack the rehabilitation process.” Powell praises the young star’s dedication but it appears like the tremendous work ethic comes naturally for Griffin, and he shrugs as he notes, “That’s just how I’ve always been.” But even if the first year forward remains surprisingly calm and collected (when talking about his time away from the timber), there’s no doubt that Griffin’s patience and resolve have both been put to the test during a less than enjoyable healing process. “There was just a lot..,” he pauses “[sic] really a lot of rehab.” Blake buries his face in his hands while reminiscing. After a deep breath, he continues. “I was in [rehab] for two and a half hours every day after the surgery from October to April.” But Griffin had a mental advantage with this specific type of knee injury compared to micro-fracture surgery (which has been known to affect players in all sorts of ways). As Griffin explains with confidence, “My doctors told me right from the beginning: the harder I work the faster I get back. It really put me at ease, that it was on me. That’s why I was never worried.” If Donald Sterling and the Clippers’ Front Office ever doubted their franchise saviour’s work ethic, it’s statements like that which indicate the young man from Oklahoma has brought the right mindset to change the fate of the City of Angels’ other franchise. Acknowledged as the new NBA highlight factory, Griffin’s multitude of dunks, memorable as they might be, aren’t destined to be the constant of Griffin’s whole NBA career. It’s his tremendous work ethic, proven by the notion that without it, his dunk-o-matic season wouldn’t have blossomed so quickly, that appears to rule as his legacy going forward. Whether its weights with Powell and the Clippers training staff, or the man behind the mask, the mysterious Frank Matrisciano, chasing Griffin up steep sandy hills during gruelling off-season workouts, Blake has always put in the time to ensure his game is prime. At the end of the day, he might be ‘The Incredible Griffin’ to fans worldwide, but Blake doesn’t posses any real super powers; he just works harder than any human before him. That, or he’s an alien.

Jasen Powell Los Angeles Clippers’ Athletic Trainer.

BLAKE GRIFFIN Nike Vault, Los Angeles (Feb 2011). Just minutes after winning his first NBA Slam Dunk competition.

NBA AWARD WINNERS. ROOKIE ROUND-UP.

The Next Episode Words + Image: Brad Graham.

All-Rookie First Team.

C – DeMarcus Cousins (Kings) PF – Blake Griffin (Clippers) SG – Landry Fields (Knicks) PG – Gary Neal (Spurs) PG – John Wall (Wizards)

All-Rookie Second Team.

C – Greg Monroe (Pistons) PF – Derrick Favors (Nets / Jazz) SF – Paul George (Indiana) SG – Wesley Johnson (T-wolves) PG – Eric Bledsoe (Clippers)

Honorable mentions.

Once he was selected first overall by the Washington Wizards, the lightning quick John Wall was expected to run away with the 2011 Rookie of the Year Award but then The Blake Griffin Show aired and everyone instantly forgot what a rookie was supposed to look like. In any other season, Wall would‘ve made a solid case for ROY; instead, he had to settle for being a member of the All-Rookie First Team. Joining the lone unanimous choice (Griffin) and the Wiz kid (Wall), were the New York Knicks’ surprising freshman guard, Landry Fields; the Sacramento King’s talented hot-head, DeMarcus Cousins; and the where-the-hell-do-they-always-find-these-undrafted-gems?, the San Antonio Spurs’ reserve gunner, Gary Neal. Griffin finished his first full season ranked 12th in scoring, fourth in rebounds and third in double-doubles. Those aren’t his rookie placements, they’re league-wide (just thought we should point that out, you know, incase you forgot how great Griffin was in 2010-11). He was also the first rook, since Yao Ming in ‘03, to appear in the annual All-Star Game. The NBA’s 30 Head Coaches then elected to place talent bigman Greg Monroe; sniper Wesley Johnson; playmaking bulldog Eric Bledsoe; third overall selection, Derrick Favors and the multitalented Paul George on the T-Mobile All-Rookie Second Team. Looking for a do-over, the Philadelphia 76ers’ second overall choice, former NCAA Player of the Year, Evan Turner, was nowhere to be seen but that doesn’t mean dude didn’t make any noise this season, in fact, he was instrumental in cheering on Philly’s starters as they returned to the post-season.

Ed Davis (Raptors); Evan Turner (76ers); Jordan Crawford (Wizards); Gordon Hayward (Jazz) and Omer Asik (Bulls).

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NBA AWARD WINNERS. MONSTER MASH.

Dwight Has This Place on Lockdown Words: Brad Graham. Images: courtesy of adidas.

3x Defensive Player of the Year

Since the Award’s inception, following the 1982-83 season, few have dominated the defensive domain like Dwight Howard. The cliché states that records are meant to be broken and in 2011 the Magic’s centrepiece snapped a records in half on his way to an (unprecedented) third consecutive trophy. Howard not only paced the Association with 66 double-doubles – including six 20 / 20 games – he finished second in rebounds (14.1rpg) and fourth in blocks (2.38bpg). As it stands right now, only Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace, each with four enrolments, have won the ‘Best Defender’ Award more times. Orlando finished fourth in the NBA in points allowed (93.5ppg) en route to Howard becoming the first player since Moses Malone (in 1973-74) to tally at least 1,000 rebounds and 100 blocked in six consecutive seasons. Howard received 114 first-place votes, with only Grant Hill, Chuck Hayes, Joakim Noah and Keith Bogans stealing his remaining first-place nods. Despite leading the league in blocks per, Andrew Bogut finished sixth overall (in voting) with 32 total points. Kevin Garnett collected 77 points (silver medal) while Tyson Chandler tallied 70 points of his own (good enough for bronze). Howard’s name now sits atop a pecking order which includes stalwarts Sidney Moncrief (winner in ‘83 and ‘84), Mark Eaton (‘85 and ‘89), Dennis Rodman (‘90 and ‘91), Hakeem Olajuwon (‘93 and ‘94), Mutombo (‘95, ‘97, ‘98 and ‘01), Alonzo Mourning (‘99 and ‘00) and Big Ben (‘02, ‘03, ‘05, ‘06). The son of Jor-El reigns over these defensive icons as the only one who has claimed the Award via trifecta (with a fourth honour well on its way). Joining the Magic’s primary muscle on the All-Defensive First Team were all-round bear trap, KG; the Association’s lion, LeBron James; master craftsman, Kobe Bryant and Boston’s Praying Mantis, Rajon Rondo. Following their ninth First Team All-Defense selections, both Garnett and the Black Mamba have tied Michael Jordan and Gary Payton for most First Team participations in NBA history.

All-Defense.

C – Dwight Howard (Magic) PF – Kevin Garnett (Celtics) SG – LeBron James (Heat) PG – Kobe Bryant (Lakers) PG – Rajon Rondo (Celtics)

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Second Team.

C – Tyson Chandler (Mavs) PF – Joakim Noah (Bulls) SF – Andre Iguodala (Sixers) SG – Tony Allen (Grizzlies) PG – Chris Paul (Hornets)

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NBA AWARD WINNERS. BRUINS MAY COME UP TO THE WINDOW (AND CLEAN GLASS).

Dances Rebounds With Wolves Words: Brad Graham. Image: Getty.

‘Improvement’ is often a double-edged sword (found on the same supermarket shelf as ‘potential’). While on one side there’s the clear increase in productivity, often seen in boxscores, the flipside finds a less flattering suggestion, one which indicates a start in some kind of mediocrity, or worse yet, a failure of nurture or drive. Of course the measure of one’s ‘improvement’ can vary widely depending on factors such as age, history, situation, environment and so on. That’s why there’s often a lot of heated debate within basketball circles about the kinds of ‘improvement’ we often see rewarded in, and by, the NBA. Pundits often question the difference between making the jump from bench fodder to full-time starter and the greater signs of ‘improvement’ when a player rises from All-Star regular to All-NBA staple. One thing is clear, when it comes to quantifying ‘improvement’ on David Stern’s time and timber, the only kind of increase that matters is the kind from a player who can not only forge their way into the topic of conversation (whatever it may be) but they can also present themselves as a ‘winner’ with some form of real market value. Despite being the worst team in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves actually had plenty to celebrate this past season, largely due to one man: Kevin Love. The somewhat un-athletic, former University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), standout became the first player to average at least 20 points and 15 boards since Moses Malone (24.5ppg, 15.3rpg) in 1983. Not only that but the Love Machine earned his first All-Star berth en route to posting new career highs in most every major statistical category – including points (20.2 ppg), rebounds (leagueleading 15.2 rpg), assists (2.5 apg), double-doubles (64), field goal percentage (.470), three-point field goal percentage (.417) and free throw percentage (.850). Promoted to the T-Wolves’ starting unit, Love responded under the added weight and teamed with fellow cub Michael Beasley to form one of the most promising young (forward) combinations in the NBA. Above all else, Love’s 2010-11 campaign will be remembered for two reasons:

Most Improved: The Love Machine

1. Setting a new franchise record with 53 consecutive doubledoubles (the longest streak the NBA has seen since Elvin Hayes ran off 55 straight in 1973-74) 2. His 31 point, 31 rebound outing – the first 30 / 30 game in 28 years – against the shallow New York Knicks’ frontline. Love’s 66 first-place votes (from a panel of 116 sportswriters and broadcasters) helped him claim the trophy ahead of LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers) and Dorell Wright (Golden State Warriors). The All-Star now joins ‘Most Improved’ alums, Danny Granger, Monta Ellis, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas, Tracy Grady and the inaugural award recipient, Alvin Robertson.

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NBA AWARD WINNERS. IDIOT BOX(ING).

One Ad Rises Above Them All

Words: Brad Graham. Images: courtesy of Nike Basketball.

You can check it out (again) here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdtejCR413c Although adidas’ (April long) All In campaign featured highly inspired pop-culture might (coupled with rare energy), we simply couldn’t look past this droll, sharp and timely promotional response by NIKE, who once again called upon the services of their favourite creative collaborators: Wieden + Kennedy. This polarising spot is part commentry, part statement, and all about what happens when you’re the King. This ad motivated parody, gave plenty ammunition, featured super slick production and was fully realised in that it effectively helped James’ eighth signature Swoosh release become a marketplace hit.

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NBA AWARD WINNERS. IDIOT BOX(ING).

Best Marketing Campaign 2011

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NBA REVIEW. 2011 POST-SEASON.

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NBA REVIEW. 2011 POST-SEASON. Words: Brad Graham. Images: courtesy of adidas. From day one of the 2011 Playoffs, hoop heads were put on notice. Rarely does one see parity like we did in 2010-11 and it even escalated to the stage were one couldn’t afford to miss a single play, let alone an entire half, game, or gulp, a full series. Led by their first regular season MVP since Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls didn’t fall to their eighth seeded challengers (like their West Coast counterparts) but their arm-wrestle with the Indiana Pacers did unveil a different kind of curio – Carlos Boozer: NBA paperweight. The Atlanta Hawks meanwhile swooped in, crushing their previous post-season foes, the Orlando Magic, shaking the monkey from their collective backs (only they forget the postseason still consists of four rounds, not one). Elsewhere, the aging Boston Celtics swept the New York Knicks, thanks-inlarge to Ray Allen’s long distance dialling; and although Madison Square Garden dusted off the old cobwebs, welcoming back its first Playoff action in over a decade, the Carmelo Anthony x Amar’e Stoudemire experiment was stuck at the Petri dish stage, despite being billed as ‘ready for clinical trial’. After bringing out the brooms on Broadway, Boston then fell to Miami in a short lived 4-1 series (much to everyone’s disappointment) before the Heat was eventually turned up, cooking Chicago before being turned off by Dallas. As we now know, despite emerging from the Eastern Conference fog, King James and the Heatles failed to top the charts with their debut album. Instead of turning in a classic, must-own compilation, they rushed out the release – which was a somewhat predictable collection of pop-rock fused singles; songs that can now only be enjoyed by drunken South Beach bandwagoneers. Cleveland Cavaliers fans announced it as a miracle. The Vatican is yet to confirm. Looking back, there was Rajon Rondo’s dislocated arm, Derrick Rose’s masterful offensive output, Dwight Howard’s early vacation, the Knicks’ bright future and the overachieving Pacers and Philadelphia Sixers, respectively, but what we’ll remember most of all is the way LeBron and Dwyane Wade steamrolled their so-called (Eastern Conference) competition, like they promised us they would, only to see it count for naught. Shame about the second halves of both Game’s Five and Six, but what doesn’t kill you only makes you… stranger (to quote The Joker).

Out in the Wild West, the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies joined the ‘94 Denver Nuggets and ‘07 Golden State Warriors, for ‘greatest first-round upset’, as they toppled the once mighty San Antonio Spurs in six contests. From there, Zach Randolph became ‘jersey worthy’; Marc Gasol squeezed his way into the ‘best Spaniard alive’ conversation; Mike Conley showed he was worth that lucrative contract and the mid-season trade for Shane Battier was a gamble that paid massive dividends. It’s almost comical now that their in-flight feud somehow managed to be the necessary turning point. Then again, what other sure-fire formula for success was there for wildcards like Tony Allen and OJ Mayo? In equally strange news, Jason ‘White Chocolate’ Williams retired after his team played just two games. It appeared like helping Memphis win their first ever post-season contest was just too much for the playmaker. The Blue Bears then pushed Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games, in what was an instant classic series, one which is destined to be re-watched decades from now (or as it would’ve been known back in ’98, Vancouver vs. Seattle). After landing on the All-NBA Second Team, Westbrook got it in his head that he was Kevin Durant. Only problem being, he actually runs alongside KD. That powerplay almost forced the 2011 All-NBA First Teamer into the shade, where he could start to see the first cracks appearing on his gold sidewalk. Almost overnight, questions about the team’s ceiling, based on what we know about co-existence, started to creep into the framework like termites. After his self-important, don’t-forgetabout-me sermon, Carmelo Anthony’s former employers, the Denver Nuggets, shopped their All-Star forward to the opposite coast and eventually won one more playoff game before being dumped into the deep-fryer. The two-time defending champions were not themselves, appearing like a block of Purple and Gold swiss cheese, despite almost running the table, post the mid-February AllStar Weekend. With two wobbly wheels on their already overloaded shopping trolley, coupled with their impossible dinner plans, Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers fell short of claiming their second triple crown in the past 15 years. In a rare twist of fate, the man who was once hi-jacked from Memphis, Pau Gasol, was himself held at gunpoint and robbed by... his girlfriend. Gasol probably still wishes it was his wallet and not his heart but this untimely happening forced the

Euro-standout to book a corner room at heartbreak hotel, giving us the best pro-sports meltdown this side of Richie Tenenbaum (and the most animated, chest slapping Phil Jackson we’ve ever seen). After narrowly escaping the clutches of the best PG in basketball, Chris Paul, the Lakers eventually crawled out of their contamination suits with the New Orleans Hornets still buzzing in their ears, only to be swept by the eventual champs, the Dallas Mavericks. Those same Texan’s dismantled a highly favoured Portland Trail Blazers unit (in six) before brushing aside L.A in four lopsided outings. This also meant Michael Jordan was no longer forced to pretend he was happy keeping company with Kobe at the ‘Six Chips’ club. After punching OKC out cold in an old fashioned Conference Finals scuffle, and fiddling with the thermostat (during the later stages of the 2011 Finals), the Mavs ruled supreme. It almost didn’t happen but once it did, it made it’s own kind of chaotic sense. In what has been the greatest single pre-, regular and post-season combination of NBA play over the past 20 years, the Dallas Mavericks, namely Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, Peja Stojakovic, DeShawn Stevenson, Ian Mahinmi, Rodrique Beaubois, Corey Brewer and Brian Cardinal – along with their Head Coach, Rick Carlisle, and owner, Mark Cuban – have surfaced as vanquishers and they did it by resembling a complete team (while Miami only showed us signs of what they’re capable of becoming and that’s meant as both compliment and insult). The Mavs collected basketball’s most coveted prize with a traditional blend of star power (Nowitzki) and well distanced planets (Chandler, Haywood, Marion, Kidd, Terry, Barea, Stevenson); all while being held together by gravity (Carlisle) and the always-looming dark matter (Cuban). Had this team been assembled five years ago, when Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and co. were all at the height of their powers, these easy riders might not have inflicted equal amounts of damage but that’s just the thing, with the NBA’s forever evolving universe, what stands as science one day can be reacting in a much different space the next.

Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks, you kicked ass like Major Dutch Schaefer in the 1987 action classic, Predator.

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NBA REVIEW. FINALS MVP.

Dirk Nowitzki The Mercedes Benz Of Basketball Words: Brad Graham. Image: Getty.

Validation. Redemption. Liberation. Deliverance. All these words have been pinned to the ultra talented, highly unorthodox and largely rebellious Dirk Nowitzki now that he has thrown a lifeboat overboard and rescued his own legacy from a sinking yacht manned by Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing and Clyde Drexler. After 13 NBA season’s and a resume which includes 11 straight All-NBA Team selections (including four First Team nods), ten Western Conference All-Star squad call-ups, a once suspicious MVP honour (’07; which has since been reinstated) and his recent 2011 title – not to mention the Bill Russell Finals MVP award – the big German has us all congratulating him over his reign, rather than running from it. Looking more like a dominant tennis star from the 70s than your average modern day hoop hero, Dirk Nowitzki has served reminder that offensive architecture can indeed help you win it all, even at the cost of affecting the outcome defensively, so long as the right concoction of cagey vets and coaching chops are a part of the blueprint. Our collective credence on NBA bigmen, especially the power forward position, has long been narrow sighted and even void of hardwood creativity. During a blue-ribbon decade ruled by Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber; in a land recently refashioned by Amar’e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh and now Blake Griffin, it has been Euro legend Nowitzki who has taught us how to appreciate a different kind of shooting skill over straight-up power and size; all while putting weight behind work ethic over wrought wunderkind. Now that he has guided his Mavericks back to the NBA Finals, and walked away triumphant over the same franchise, Miami, who once robbed him of earlier season ending success, Nowitzki has become a different kind of historically relevant beast. His final place among the best to ever lace them up remains uncertain and although he now has an NBA chip to call his own (and that Finals MVP with his exotic name etched into it), the exact ranking, status and cultural importance of Dirk’s NBA legacy probably can’t be pin pointed until his narrative reaches its epilogue. While we may want to bestow ‘Top 25’ crowns, staple order forms with ‘best Euro ever’ explanations and find an unreserved seat at the ‘banquet for champions’, it’s best to let this season simmer in the kitchen of time before digesting a bowl of relevance. What we do know for sure though is his career averages of 23.0ppg (including 11 straight season’s of more than 21 points per), 8.4rpg, 2.7apg and 1.0bpg – as well as a well-deserved reputation that few others warrant – will automatically land him on the Hall’s rollcall one day soon. More importantly, his career shooting percentages of .476 (FG%), .877 (FT%) and .381 (3PG%); including three season’s of that all-impressive 45-90-40 mark, all add up to register a clear cut first ballot invitation. So regardless of where you want Dirk’s named to be parked, his place in the Hall is a given and his reputation has been salvaged. 32

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Expanding the notion, Dirk Nowitzki, in some unranked order, has rightfully been handcuffed to Mark Price, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Larry Bird, Peja Stojakovic, Glen Rice, Rick Barry, Pete Maravich and Jerry West as the greatest marksmen basketball has ever produced. At times, this all elbows and knees turned all water and purity gunner can also be both heart breaker and hard to like… but that’s mainly because he plays in Texas and for a polarising owner, while dually serving as a true basketball geek – one that’s not all that different from Tim Duncan. In fact, one could argue that what Duncan is to the paint, Dirk is to the perimeter, as far as PFs are concerned; and both belong to the same master class for opposite reasons. Dirk has seemingly come a long way since his beard growing, backpacking sabbatical around outback Australia, following the ’07 Enron style collapse his Mavs displayed against the Golden State Warriors but the resolve he showed on his previous journey to the NBA’s final stage wasn’t all that different from the Dirk we witnessed this time around (in 2011). The betrayal of memory aside, Dirk circa ’06 and Dirk, edition: 2011, are in fact one and the same, only we somehow forget how good he could be, probably because we looked elsewhere while he retied his primetime shoelaces. Although he still adjusts his uniform more than another other two players combined, the Diggler appears to finally be receiving his due credit (after being both unfairly and accurately maligned for five sessions). Even when his team’s delivery service went out for a cigarette and his own desire showed up next to Shaggy and Scooby-doo, we continually marvelled at this seven footer’s prowess knowing that bigmen aren’t supposed to connect on the kinds of baskets Dirk so often takes. Until Dirk, big men weren’t built with these kinds of credentials. After 20 years and countless hours refining his craft, Dirk appeared to be overcome with nothing more than an overall sense of relief (instead of the standard exhilaration) as his Mavs claimed their six game series subjugation over the Miami Heatles. Maybe it was because his won in hostile territory but his celebration was that of classy elation, one which stands as the polar opposite to Kevin Garnett’s ’08 roar. If Indiana Jones and modern pop culture have taught us anything, it’s that Germany isn’t supposed to beat the Americans at anything but in a strange, almost bizarro-world plotline, the traditional bad guy (Dirk = German) became the people’s champ while the usual protagonist (LeBron = American) failed to emerged victorious and ultimately caused us all to view his once inspiring rise as nothing more than that of a spoilt child of destiny, one who is yet to surpass the cruel and rigorous testing grounds essential for immortality. Pulling back his career curtain, right now, may yet reveal that Dirk stands ahead of both Barkley and Malone (and behind Duncan, Garnett and Kevin McHale) on the all-time PF pecking order, especially now that his cabinet contains two trophy’s Sir Charles and The Mailman shall never lay claim to; and while his ’07 MVP honour doesn’t look so silly any more, no matter what else he now adds to his C.V, from this moment forward, Dirk shall be aptly branded as ‘NBA conqueror’.

NBA REVIEW. DIRKALICIOUS.

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NBA DRAFT RECAP. CLEVELAND ROCKS!

2011 NBA Draft

Ohio Player Kryie Irving

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NBA DRAFT RECAP. CLEVELAND ROCKS! Words: Brad Graham. Image: courtesy of Duke University. After being touted as the most promising playmaker, in a somewhat shallow but diverse class, Australian-born point guard, Kyrie Irving was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Considered a no-brainer (by almost every respectable hoops outlet, except us), the Irving selection goes a long way towards easing some of the trauma caused by LeBron James’ sly departure; while also serving as a highly concentrated dosage of fresh hope, one which will be injected straight into the veins of a franchise lacking identity, star power and charm. The selection of Irving marks the third time, in the past four Draft’s (following Derrick Rose in 2008 and John Wall in ’10), where a point guard was taken with the top pick. As Irving informed reporters during the ESPN broadcast, “I didn’t have any doubts about going to Number One. I was looking to the organisation to pick who they felt was the right choice.” Irving’s Australian linkage (born Down Under while his father, Drederick, played pro) has seen the guard mention trivial interest in playing for Brett Brown’s Senior National Team (when probed by reporters), despite having clocked minutes as a Team USA Junior, meaning that FIBA, along with USA Basketball, would have to make exceptions before Irving would be cleared to rock the Boomers’ Green and Gold. Having two world-class nations after your skills, one in the medal hunt and the other offering great(er) on-court opportunity, is never a heavy burden. As for the other top choices, three of the next five players taken (after Irving), were all internationalists. Centre’s Enes Kanter from Turkey, taken third by Utah, and Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania, drafted fifth by Toronto, were joined by the Czech Republic’s Jan Vesely, selected sixth, who is set to join last season’s first prize, Wall, in the US capital. Overall, with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement still unwritten at the time of the Draft (and with followup labour talks continually suffering contravention), sure-fire Lottery picks, namely Jared Sullinger (Ohio State University) and Harrison Barnes (University of North Carolina), among others, opted to remain in the classroom, creating a lacklustre, glass half empty Draft, one which might’ve included more collegiate stars had it not been for the CBA storm clouds... but thanks to multiple roster rearrangements, the 2011 Draft was mildly rewarding.

Although the early selections saw few ripples with no major waves – minus twins, Markieff and Marcus Norris, both being nabbed inside the lottery (13th by the Phoenix Suns and 14th by the Houston Rockets, respectively) – a host of General Managers keep themselves extremely busy by reshaping their respective line-ups. The important Draft Day relocations included the Dallas Mavericks sending both their choices (No. 26 Jordan Hamilton and No. 57 Targuy Ngombo) to Portland for talented swingman, Rudy Fernandez. Hamilton was then sent to Denver, along with savvy PG Andre Miller for the services of Raymond Felton. The Indiana Pacers, looking to strengthen their rotation, sent their top choice, small forward Kawhi Leonard to the San Antonio Spurs for Gregg Popovich’s favourite employee, George Hill. In need of an offensive boost, the stingy Milwaukee Bucks agreed to a three-team deal involving fellow postseason hopefuls, the Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats. The Draft Day trade saw Milwaukee land both Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston (via Charlotte) as well as Beno Udrih and the 19th pick, Tobias Harris (both courtesy of Sacramento). Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats obtained former Buck, Corey Maggette as well as Congo native, Bismack Biyombo, while the soon to be relocated Maloof Kings added proven point producer, John Salmons and the rights to former NCAA standout, Jimmer Fredette, to a roster which already boasts the talented Tyreke Evans and the gifted DeMarcus Cousins. By moving both Salmons ($24 million, three years) and Maggette ($21, two years), the Bucks shaved considerable amounts from their heavy payroll while adding the right kind of veteran stability. Elsewhere, the Houston Rockets sent their veteran centre, Brad Miller and the rights to both Nikola Mirotic (23rd) and Chandler Parsons (38th) to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Jonny Flynn and promising Lithuanian prospect, Dontas Motiejunas (the 20th selection). Minny then dealt Mirotic to the Chicago Bulls for guard Norris Cole (chosen 28th) and point guard Malcolm Lee (43rd overall). Not satisfied with their long distance phone calls, the Wolves then traded Cole to the Miami Heat for the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic, a future second round pick and cash. If that wasn’t enough, Houston then (re)acquired their 38th selection, Parsons.

Draft Board (Round One) 01. 02. 03. 04. 05. 06. 07. 08. 09. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

Cavs Kyrie Irving T-wolves Derrick Williams Jazz Enes Kanter Cavs Tristan Thompson Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Wizards Jan Vesely Kings Bismack Biyombo Pistons Brandon Knight Bobcats Kemba Walker Bucks Jimmer Fredette Warriors Klay Thompson Jazz Alec Burks Suns Markieff Morris Rockets Marcus Norris Pacers Kawhi Leonard 76ers Nikola Vucevic Knicks Iman Shumpert Wizards Chris Singelton Bobcats Tobias Harris T-wolves Donatas Motiejunas Blazers Nolan Smith Nuggets Kenneth Faried Rockets Nikola Mirotic Thunder Reggie Jackson Celtics Marshon Brooks Mavs Jordan Hamilton Nets JaJuan Johnson Bulls Norris Cole Spurs Cory Joesph Bulls Jimmy Butler

PG PF C PF C SF PF PG PG PG SG SG PF PF SF C PG SF PF PF SG PF SF PG SG SF SF PG PG SF

As for Round Two highlights, well, there was Irving’s Duke teammate, Kyle Singler, who fell to No. 33 before the Detroit Pistions saved his Draft status and the Los Angeles Lakers selected Australian Ater Majok just before the finish but all the news tickers were onto something else that late June day... Ron Artest’s official name to, yes, that’s right, Metta World Peace.

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SO(LE) AMAZING

While the 2010 Free-Agent frenzy set the stage for one of the most anticipated (and fittingly timeless, spectacular, memorable and rewarding) NBA season’s ever, the shoe game brought its own kind of heat (pun intended). With every brand stepping up their product quality (and a few minor outlets ruffling feathers), the new; retro; vintage; re-issued and various Player Edition kicks released throughout 2010-11 formed more of an All-Star troop than a reccentre scrimmage squad. Looking down the roster of brands who supplied NBA athletes this season – Above The Rim (ATR), adidas, And1, Anta, Ball’N, Converse, Jordan Brand, Le Coq Sportif, Li Ning, New Balance, Nike, Peak, Reebok and Under Armour – it’s not surprising that everyone was forced to bring their A-Game. In addition to the labels cited, honourable mention goes out to Athletic Propulsion Labs. Their controversial debut, the Concept 1, enjoyed unprecedented attention when the NBA banned the product (citing competitive advantage). While the countless releases have kept us on our collective toes, we couldn’t have been happier with the overwhelming excellence produced this past season (thus we felt it necessary to reward the very best).

SNEAKISTRY. THIS SEASON’S FINEST.

Sneaker Of The Season Words: Ray Bala. Image: courtesy of Jordan Brand.

Air Jordan 2011 - Year of the Rabbit

Anticipation often succumbs to disappointment (whenever standard performance issues are forcibly fused with rarefied treatments) but in the case of the Air Jordan 2011 ‘Year of the Rabbit’, failure was never an option. Aesthetically pleasing because of its restraint, the predominantly Grey and White AJ 2011 is helped by its Red sockliner and classy Gold accents. Further aided by its interchangeable Quick or Explosive insoles, the AJ 2011 is widely considered the best performance shoe currently available and rightfully so, it’s an exceptional sports orchid. More so, not only do the insoles live in an individual compartment but the appropriately designed red and gold box (which houses the AJ2011 ‘YOTR’) is itself extra icing on an already perfect sneaker cake. In an age of overcompensation, this sublimely crafted, elegant pair of kicks sits atop the class.

Silver.

Reebok Omni Zone Pump x Packer - Dominique Wilkins PE

Bronze.

Nike Zoom Kobe VI ‘3-D’ (Hollywood Pack)

Honorable mentions adidas AdiZero All-Star Nike Foamposite One Nike Foamposite Pro Electric Green Air Jordan XIII Flint Air Jordan III Doerenbecher

SNEAKISTRY. SEASON’S FINEST.

Sportie LA.

Best Boutique Store Words: Ray Bala.

Best Shoe < $100

Nike Zoom KD III $88.00 (USD)

Words: Christian Trojan. Image: courtesy of Nike. Kevin Durant’s third signature sneaker, designed by Leo Chang, arrived at the finish line long before its competitors even got their chance to start the race. Durant made the conscious choice to keep his kicks affordable and at just $88.00 they’re an excellent all-round performer for any level of play. KD even made it an essential point when first negotiating his endorsement deal with the Swoosh – not only is his game likable but KD has real character to boot.

SILVER. Under Armour Black Ice Low ($89.99USD) Bronze. AND1 ME8 Sovereign Mid ($70.00USD)

Retro Release Of TheYear Words: Ray Bala. Image: courtesy of Nike. Re-released in February, 2011 (arguably the single greatest month of footwear releases known to mankind), these kicks sold out as quickly as Rajon Rondo picks pockets. One of Nike’s most iconic (90s) kicks, this highly anticipated model has retained it illustrious place atop the Swoosh catalogue with its incredibly fresh design and superior comfort. 2010-11 also saw a move by the Swoosh to release more Foamposite models, including the Metallic Pewter and Deep Green but the sequels can’t touch the original.

SILVER. Air Jordan XI (Cool Grey) Bronze. adidas Krazy 8 (Red / Black / White) 38

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In 2010, Sportie LA celebrated its 25th anniversary and haven’t shown any signs of slowing down since. Though they may not be your typical hole-in-the-wall, alley way style boutique offering per se, they remains THE spot to hit for anything and everything you’ve ever been looking for. What they lack in snobby collabo exclusives they more than make up for with sheer volume of must-own performance kicks. Their three locations boast hundreds of current models and throwback pairs – often stacked from floor to ceiling – delivering a complete range for all consumers. If you’re in Los Angeles, make Sportie your first and last stop (for the freshest kicks).

SILVER.

Size? (England)

Bronze.

Flight Club (LA + NYC)

Nike Foamposite One

SNEAKISTRY. SEASON’S FINEST.

www. CounterKicks .com

(New) Brand Of TheYear Words: Christian Trojan. Image: Brad Graham.

Under Armour

Best Kicks Website Words: Ray Bala.

CounterKicks did this impossible this season: they created a listing of every sneaker (by franchise) currently being worn in the NBA. If that wasn’t enough, the SLAM Magazine affiliate even provided all the latest information on the hottest drops, complete with mountains of images. They consistently delivered exclusive and insightful interviews (with industry insiders); broke down technologies and even outlined how to start up your own shoe company. CounterKicks became our first online stop and primary shoe resource (each morning) and that says a lot about their game. Best of all, they displayed plenty of ‘breaking’ pictures, so we regularly got our fix on what’s next.

SILVER.

NiceKicks.com

BROnze.

KicksOnFire.com

Bin 23 Air Jordan XIII Retro ‘Premio’

The sneaker market often appears to be flooded with Nike Basketball releases (with occassional rain also coming fom Jordan Brand and adidas). However, the sports performance experts from Baltimore, Maryland, Under Armour, have recently emerged as the brand to watch, thanks in large to their product development, energy and timing. Their courageous first steps, along with their innovative first wave of product (Micro G footwear) and charismatic signature athlete (Brandon Jennings) have forced us to award them an overall A-grade. U.A’s approach has been simple, effective, memorable and timely... all necessary ingredients for success in the sneaker jungle. With careful planning and precision, their initial line-up of (five) different basketball sneakers helped Under Armour win our (New) Brand of the Year honour. Under Armour, we hear you.

SILVER. Athletic Propulsion Labs Bronze. Above The Rim (ATR)

Best Luxury Release Words: Ray Bala. Image: courtesy of Jordan Brand. How do you take the classic, Tinker Hatfield designed, Air Jordan XIII and make it even more desirable? Just ask the good people at JB. Part of their ‘Premio’ series, this Bin 23 Jordan XIII Retro footwear Medusa was an easy choice for our Luxury category. Comprising of a Team Red / Desert Clay-White upper, this take on the Black Cat capped off an incredible run of AJXIII retro releases which also included the Black / Altitude Green; White / Black / Varity Red; French Blue / University Blue-Flint Grey; and Black / Varsity Red-White-Vibrant Yellow make-ups.

SILVER. Reebok Zig Slash Gold – MSG debut Bronze. Athletic Propulsion Labs’ Concept 1 bucketsmag.bigcartel.com

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SNEAKISTRY. SEASON’S FINEST.

Nike LeBron 8 (Air Max, V.2 & PS) Ray Allen’s Air Jordan XIII P.E.

Favourite Player Edition Words: Christian Trojan. Image: courtesy of Jordan Brand. Who else but Jesus? On February 10, 2011, the Boston Celtics’ Ray Allen drained the 2561st trey of his career (the most by any player in NBA history, sorry Reggie). In the process, he knocked sneakerheads off their feet with his Player Edition Air Jordan XIII in White / Green. After warming up in ‘Ring Ceremony’ Jordan kicks, Sugar Ray decided to lace-up the XIII “Home” models – a fitting companion to his record-breaking outing.

SILVER. Landry Fields’ ‘Knicks’ Kobe VI Bronze. adizero Rose 1.5 “St. Pat’s Day”

Best Product Design Words: Christian Trojan. Image: courtesy of Nike. Jason Petrie’s chef-d’oeuvre: the Nike LeBron 8 is actually a trifecta series comprising of the Air Max original; lighter V.2 model and PS (PostSeason) signature sneakers, respectively. While some may see greed of gain on Nike’s part, the concept actually makes sense – as LeBron makes his way through the NBA season, his shoe evolves and moves with him. The LeBron line now offers three distinct versions, depending on your sole and upper preference. As always, Petrie managed to combine top-notch performance with ‘Bron specific cosmetic touches.

SILVER. Air Jordan 2011 Bronze. Nike Zoom Kobe VI

Top Designer

Eric Avar

Words: Christian Trojan. The duo of Kobe Bryant and Eric Avar appears to be developing into one of the all-time great tandems – or the poor man’s Hatfield / Jordan – and the Nike Zoom Kobe VI may have just confirmed their first-ballot (Sneaker) Hall of Fame placing. While Kobe often pushes the Nike developers like they’re his Laker teammates, his desire for a reduction in unnecessary weight and improved court feel lands the Kobe VI in championship territory. With Kobe’s on-court needs in mind, Avar managed to renovate the already sturdy Kobe V and create one of the best performance shoes to date (all while implementing the heart and soul of a signature athlete release).

SILVER. Jason Petrie (Nike Basketball) Bronze. Robbie Fuller (adidas Basketball) 40

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SNEAKISTRY. DESIGN OF THE SEASON.

Spotlight On The LeBron 8 P.S. Words: Christian Trojan. Images: courtesy of Nike.

Designed by Nike footwear architect, Jason Petrie, the eighth release(s) in LeBron James’ signature series concludes with the LeBRON 8 PS. In our debut issue we featured the impressive Nike Air Max LeBron 8 and now we’re encoring that showcase with a spotlight on the third and final version of this widely adored footwear trilogy. As Jason Petrie stated, “One of the main things LeBron and I talked about was how do we develop a series of shoes that syncs with the change in his body and game over the course of the season, especially as he moves from the regular season into the intense and critical post-season.” The resulting product is the LeBRON 8 PS, which is lower to the ground, more responsive and is James’ first signature release to feature the Swoosh’s patent Hyperfuse construction. Inspired by outdoor basketball in Beijing, the Hyperfuse’s edifice provides breathable, strong and lightweight lockdown support. The LeBRON 8 PS combines three unique materials together to form the Hyperfuse upper. The first layer is made of synthetic underlays, all strategically placed for support; the second layer is mesh, for ventilation; and the surface is a thin TPU layer (which has been placed in high-wear areas for durability). Much like its predecessors: the Air Max LeBRON 8 and V.2; the LeBRON 8 PS again contains distinguished details. The full-length Cushlon midsole provides a springy, resilient and durable cushioning system; along with desirable comfort. The solid rubber herringbone patterned outsole provides superior traction, quickness and lateral stability; while the exaggerated flex grooves in the forefoot and heel expose the midsole foam to reduce weight. Petrie has also elected to swap the Max Air 360 unit to a lighter Max Air 180 unit (in the heel) while including a Nike Zoom unit (in the forefoot), along with carbon fiber in the arch (to create an evolved cushioning system), all specifically engineered for King James.

Memorable LeBron 8 Releases.

From the ‘South Beach’ look to his ‘Lenticular All-Star East’ make-up, LBJ’s 8th signature series has grown to become one of the best ever by James and the Swoosh.

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SNEAKISTRY. ADIDAS’ LIGHTHOUSE.

At The Speed Of (Crazy) Light Words: Brad Graham. Images: courtesy of adidas. More than two years in the making, the highly flexible and durable adiZero Crazy Light has set a new, lighter standard for high-performance basketball footwear. At just 9.8 ounces / 278 grams, this offering is the breeziest release by any brand and features a revolutionary SPRINTWEB exoskeleton (which has been seamlessly bonded to a nylon textile base). The Crazy Light’s upper is also made with translucent materials to further decrease weight and give nearly 360 degrees of ventilated comfort. An incredible and evolutionary product, the adiZero Crazy Light is a must-have addition; if for no other reason than it simply must be worn to be believed. A high-performance hoop sneaker which is almost as light as a feather... crazy indeed. As Lawrence Norman, adidas’ Vice President of Global Basketball stated: The ultra lightweight design is built for players who want to be faster, jump higher and perform better on the court. From the NBA’s best to pick-up games across the world, players are asking for light footwear to help them become one step quicker and the adiZero Crazy Light delivers this in a way like no shoe in history.

adiZero Crazy Light is available now at selected stores. RRP: $180.00 (AUD)

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SNEAKISTRY. ADIDAS’ LIGHTHOUSE.

--- Page 5 Promotion ---

“Lighter footwear makes you faster and speed dominates on the court. The adiZero Crazy Light is the lightest basketball shoe I’ve ever worn. In the final minutes of a tight playoff game, just a halfstep can be the difference between winning or going home.” – Derrick Rose (2011 NBA MVP).

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SNEAKISTRY. AIR JORDAN 2011 SPOTLIGHT.

Quick Meets Explosive. Words: Brad Graham. Images: courtesy of Jordan Brand. “Each year I challenge the brand to push the envelope in all aspects of the creative process including design, technology and the overall performance of the shoe. The Air Jordan 2011 is representative of where we are headed as a Brand in 2011 and beyond. With each passing year Jordan Brand will look to challenge the way the footwear industry and consumers think about performance, and consistently look to improve upon where we have already been.” -- Michael Jordan.

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All you really need to know about the Air Jordan 2011 is Nike’s Vice President of Special Projects + Design, Tinker Hatfield (the mastermind behind the Air Jordan’s III-XV, XX and XX3) co-designed this lavish basketball sneaker with Tom Luedecke, Jordan Brand’s Senior Footwear Designer. That and the AJ 2011 reinvented basketball footwear by being the first performance shoe to feature two interchangeable midsoles, named ‘The Quick’ and ‘The Explosive’. The Blue midsole incorporates forefoot and heel Zoom Air Units; perforated peeva sock liner; and composite woven plate for midfoot support and torsional rigidity… while the Red midsole features a 3/4 length Air Unit; ortholite sock liner; and cushlon midsole. In addition, the handcrafted Patina leather (on the shoe’s upper) is also a worldfirst and pushes the AJ 2011 into ‘premium’ territory. There’s also the classic elephant print outsole and lateral perforation in a constellation inspired pattern. Best of all, it’s our ‘Sneaker of the Season’. For more information, visit: www.Jumpman23.com.

SNEAKISTRY. JORDAN FLY WADE.

Flash Becomes Superfly. Words: Brad Graham. Images: courtesy of Jordan Brand. Although he dominated most of the NBA’s regular season in the polarising Air Jordan 2010 (and it’s younger brother, the slick 2011 model), when news broke that Dwyane Wade would in fact be receiving his own signature Jordan Brand sneaker, there’s little doubt that the Miami Heat guard bounced around the room like Flubber. After growing up in Chicago, idolising the man who changed the game, Wade has seen his childhood fantasies become footwear reality; joining his friends, fellow Olympians and now Jumpman endorsees, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony (as signature athletes under Michael Jordan’s adroit tutelage). Acclaimed footwear designers, Mark Smith (Jordan Brand Creative Director) and Tom Luedecke (Jordan Brand Senior Footwear Designer) both worked closely with Wade to perfect this modish yet unmistakably magnificent shoe. At just 13 ounces (369 grams), the Jordan Fly Wade not only marks the debut of a new signature line, it also makes history as the Jumpman’s lightest performance release to date. Taking inspiration from Wade’s aggressive style of play, his debut JB release was designed to withstand his all-court game, while also providing lightweight responsiveness and long-lasting impact protection. Featuring a full-length Phylon midsole; Nike Zoom unit (forefoot); Max Air unit (heel); asymmetrical collar and a classic outsole, complete with Jordan elephant crackle print and clear rubber sole, this kick is fittingly flash for The Flash. With its longstanding history of premium quality performance footwear, Jordan Brand has once again delivered a forward thinking, next generation product. The first two colourways of the Jordan Fly Wade were made available from May 5. Additional make-ups available later in the year.

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SNEAKISTRY. LIGHTS. CAMERA. KICKS.

Cinematic Footwear Words: Ray Bala. Images: courtesy of the respective brands.

We all love going to the movies, right? Since we also love sneakers, we decided to compile a ‘best of’ Film Inspired Footwear list...

Nike Hyperdunk McFly (Back To The Future). Taking its inspiration from the second installment of the ever-so-popular Back to the Future franchise, this Swoosh release looked every part like the self-lacing shoes Marty wore. Primarily Grey with Light Blue and White accents, along with Flywire panels, this neatly crafted shoe was both strangely contemporary and equally futuristic.

Nike Dunk Hi - Coraline Limited Edition. Forget the ‘movie’ theme, this shoe rates as one of the finest pop culture collaborations of all-time. The unique Grey / Taupe upper and Light Blue outsole give this model a strong appeal and divergent appearance. The shoe features hand sewn black stitching and oversized cat / mouse head lace locks, matching tails on the rear and button accents. If you’re feeling super lucky, try land one of the 15 individually numbered pairs which came packaged in a beautiful lockable wooden shoe box (complete with velvet lining).

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Nike Dunk Lo SB - Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street).

adidas Forum Hi Hellboy II: Golden Army Limited Edition.

Made of light Grey suede and dotted with Red smears, this themed sneaker is a real looker. The toebox and upper both come fittingly dressed in Red and Black stripes (similar to the pull-over worn by the nightmare stalker himself). The inserts are made to look like the charred flesh of Mr. Krueger and if you can stomach Wes Craven’s movies, you can definitely wear the shoe inspired by the horror icon.

adidas rode the Hellboy (sequel) wave by creating this devilish release. A limited edition Forum Hi, featuring an apt Gold and Red leather upper, Black suede accents, and White and Red sole, this shoe not only bears the Hellboy II logo, its foot inserts also carry the image of Hellboy himself.

Honorable mentions. adidas Originals Star Wars Attitude Hi ‘Jabba the Hut’; Nike Air Force 1 Invisible Girl (Fantastic Four); Reebok Alien Stomper (Aliens); Nike Dunk Hi SB Jason Vorhees (Friday The 13th) and the adidas Originals Star Wars Attitude Hi Storm Trooper.... Guess this is how you’re supposed to kick it at the movies.

adidas Heatcheck - Tron Legacy (Not released). Originally released as a promo for San Diego’s ComicCon, this pair looked as ultramodern as the film it represented. Our favourite aspect – and quite possibly the coolest element of any shoe this year – was the electric blue glow-inthe-dark triple stripe and heel counter, which were very fitting of the Tron sequel (shame they’ll never hit retail).

SNEAKISTRY. STACKS OF STYLE.

Remaining Original This Off-Season Is Easy. Words + Images: Brad Graham. Check out this tasty array of adidas Originals which will be hitting retail while the NBA is all Locked out. Whether youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re kicking back and playing NBA 2K with friends; working all the angles to score a date this weekend or reading this very publication in the most stylish manner possible, be sure to visit your adidas Originals store, or local footwear provider, to grab yourself a pair of these wardrobe essentials today! (Yes, even the BUCKETS team have to admit that we could be seen rocking a pair of must-have Originals while writing and editing this very copy. For more, check out: adidas.com.au/originals

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ICONOCLAST. SHAQUILLE O’NEAL.

The

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ssipation Much like the di cle-bound us m of once great liner, ad he od wo Holly

Shaquille O’Neal’s retirement, after 19 memorable seasons, marks the end of a rather powerful convention.

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Words: Brad Graham. Images: Getty. While a snapshot listing of his career accolades could never do the mighty O’Neal justice – his pro tenure ended with unquestionable influence, game-changing propensity and pop culture side-effects – a quick refresher of what he was able to accomplish will forever feel, to this outlet at least, a touch garish. Collecting an NCAA Player of the Year award (‘91) while a Louisiana State University student, O’Neal turned his collegiate authority into instant NBA ascendancy. He went from first overall selection (’92 – Orlando Magic) to Rookie of the Year (’93) without ever breaking a sweat (although he did attempt to refurbish the Meadowlands and America West Arena). Bulldozing his way through supposed ‘pro’ competition, Shaq was even (oddly) named one of the Association’s 50 Greatest before his crusade was even half-a-decade old. From there, David Stern’s brains trust cashed their cheques as O’Neal collected numerous MVP Awards (at every level – 3x All-Star, 1x Regular Season and 3x Finals – joining Willis Reed (’70) and Michael Jordan (‘96 and ‘98) as the only other player to run the MVP treble in a single season) en route to turning the Association into his personal playground. Crushing most who dare challenge his supremacy, O’Neal walked away from the NBA with four chips (Los Angeles Lakers: 2000-02, Miami Heat: ’06); 15 AllStar acknowledgements; 14 All-NBA Team selections (including eight First Team honours); a pair of scoring titles (’95 and ’00); Olympic (’96) and FIBA World Championship (’94) gold medals; and the best collection of sidekicks known to mankind (Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, LeBron James and Paul Pierce)... and if that wasn’t enough, he retired ranked fifth on the all-time scoring list; seventh in career blocked shots and 12th in total rebounds, all while earning almost $300,000,000 (USD) in playing contracts. And as for his endorsement dollars, well that’s another monster altogether. Just ask Pepsi and Reebok. Embracing the idea of celebrity from the jump, O’Neal capitalised on his connectivity, likeability and fame as

well as any mainstream athlete can (or ever has). An early adopter of everything modish, O’Neal even clocked up three million Twitter followers before the microblogging platform was household. In many ways, it has been his hyperactive off-court activity which has often kept his name in lights (even when his endeavours stank). Over the past 20 years, only Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan can claim they’ve had a bigger impact on the culture (and game) of basketball. O’Neal forced the Association to change their rules (to make things fairer) and because of his dominance, he now resides in an exclusive club where only Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdual Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Bill Russell and Hakeem Olajuwon are sent membership newsletters. As a philanthropist first, multiple champion second, quote machine third, and nickname aficionado fourth, the all encompassing force, fantastic team mate and brutally cold frenemy known as O’Neal redefined bigman traditions, created new spaces and disappointed as often as he destroyed. For those who lived through his prime, it’s hard to forget the fact he took large portions of the regular off; but because he was such a rare diamond, one who commanded attention like few others before him, and given he often ruled the greatest era of NBA centres, ever (one which included David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo), his desultory approach can be forgiven. He was the first larger than life personality who took full advantage of MJ’s blueprint, securing endorsement deals with every label he could – even sticking his neck out for video games, movies and alternative sneaker brands – eventually carving out space for him to be a brand himself. His career character meant he could jump into strangers cars without it being creepy, dance like a man half his size and capture our collective imagination with flamboyant celebrations (from thunderous dunks that were more hammer of Thor than sure fire two-points). He was the original Superman, an all-acting, all-

joking superstar who operated and lived on a platform only Magic Johnson could touch. As likable as he was central, O’Neal was the bridge between Jordan and Iverson, the headliner who helped Penny, Kobe and Wade invade our consciousness and the class clown who re-imagined who and what a basketball bigman could be. From his collaborations with Nick Nolte (Blue Chips), Michael Jackson (2 Bad) and the Fu-Schnickens (What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock)) through to his alliances with Justin Bieber, Aaron Carter and the Boston Pops Orchestra, O’Neal has always shown great diversity and an ability to cut through racial lines; all without damaging his rep on the court (or his placement off it). From his memorable Reebok commercials through to his cameo in Scary Movie 4; from his five solo albums – his debut single: (I Know I Got) Skillz, from his 1993 emit, Shaq Diesel, landed at No. 35 on the Hot 100 – through to his inability to rescue Steve Nash; crown King James or revive Boston’s Big Three (plus one) at the tail end of his illustrious pro career (in Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston, respectively), has meant the Big 401k’s on-court milestones could never escape the peppering of his off-court hilarity. One part his own undoing, two parts purpose built manufacturing and three parts gift and curse, his off-the-clock lifestyle remained a fundamental part of his all-court brilliance until the very end. And as with all things O’Neal, we either made too big of a deal (about his doings) or not enough, depending on how you feel about this ultra-rare cultural titan. With most things Shaq, rarely did he sit just as we imagined he should and that’s what helped make his journey so enjoyable – he was the perfect dosage of unpredictability mixed with a little shape shifting. That’s where and why there’s a beauty to everything O’Neal. He came packaged both overly sensitive and unfiltered. Quiet and boisterous. Calm and loud. Constant and contradictory. Unstoppable and unmovable. An unmistakable talent who never quite recorded the gaudy numbers of some of his peers (or the consistent box scores which his talents should’ve allowed)... but Shaq ultimately won everyone over by flicking a post-season switch (time and again), all while surpassing our expectations of what a bigman could and should be. From his many selfperpetuated personas through to his overall impact and firecracker statlines, O’Neal, above all, was a giant.

TopFive SHAQMoments 1.

On Shaq’s 28th birthday, the Los Angeles Clippers refused to give the Diesel extra tickets for his friends and family, so he destroyed the Lakers’ cross-town rival with 61 memorable points. Fearing for the safety of their children, the Clips’ front office haven’t declined an O’Neal request since.

2.

His infectious character and love of movement were on full display following the 2007 Eastern Conference practice at All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. O’Neal took to centre court after grabbing LeBron James’ headband for an impromptu breakdancing contest with both James and Dwight Howard. Players and fans alike were treated to one of the greatest All-Star moments in recent memory.

3.

Robbed of his first scoring title in ’95 (during the final day of play, thanks to an eye-popping 71 points by David Robinson), O’Neal took out his revenge the next season by serving up one of the greatest facials of all-time. Shaq crammed the ball down The Admiral’s throat during play at the ’96 mid-season contest. Adding extra insult to injury, he did so on Robinson’s home court.

4.

Despite his (Nike) credentials as a Godzilla killer, Charles Barkley found himself battling a tougher monster when Shaquille O’Neal wouldn’t stand for his antics during their Fall ’99, Lakers vs. Rockets match-up. Shaq fouled Barkley, hard, so Charles threw the ball at Shaq’s face. A scuffle ensued. O’Neal swung at CB34 and was later ejected for the attempted punch. Why Barkley thought he could bounce the ball off of Shaq’s head is anyone’s guess but the rest, as they now say, is... YouTubed.

5.

Not only did O’Neal shatter a backboard at the ‘92 Draft Combine, he once dunked it with so much ferocity (against the Suns) that the entire basket support reclined on itself. He also dunked the ball so hard, during a regular season contest with the Nets, that the central arm of the backboard framework snapped. These incidents forced the NBA to reconfigure their own backboard systems. Damn!

Honorable mentions. l During his final All-Star showing, on his then home court in Phoenix, Arizona, O’Neal delighted fans – both inside the arena, and those watching at home – by being introduced alongside “America’s Best Dance Crew”, the Jabbawockeez. Wearing one of the group’s signature white masks, O’Neal performed a minutelong choreographed routine, dancing his way into master status with coordination, class and combustibility. Player intros just haven’t been the same since. l As the hoops Madonna, O’Neal continually reinventing his relevance. From ‘Shaq’ to ‘The Diesel’; from ‘Shaq Fu’ to ‘Superman’; from ‘The Big Shaqtus’ to ‘The Big Galactus’; from ‘Wilt Chamberneezy’ to ‘The Real Deal’; from ‘The Big Shamrock’ to ‘The Big Aristotle’, no one’s nickname game has been as correct. l While a member of the Orlando Magic, O’Neal assaulted the New Jersey Nets for 24 points (12 from 19 shooting), 28 rebounds and 15 blocked shots. He tallied a long list of mega boxscores, especially during the NBA Finals, but this statline remains our favourite and proof of his command. l Playing scrabble on the ESPN bus, O’Neal spells out words from his own dictionary, like ‘Shaqtastic’ and ‘Shaqesque’, prompting Stuart Scott to ask “How are you getting so many Qs.” Champagne comedy. Speaking of which, in 2005, TNT ran a series of promo spots with Sacha Baron Cohen as Ali G. Interviewing the Association’s most popular athletes, Ali G debates the meaning of the term “NBA” with O’Neal. It was funny then and remains hilarious to this day. Check it out on YouTube.

And His Worst... We’re torn between his role as the rapping genie (who emerges from an enchanted boombox) in Kazaam; the unforgivable mess spelt S.T.E.E.L; and his involvement with the one-on-one fighting mud puddle known as Shaq Fu. Hmmm, three equally awful piles of shit. Luckily O’Neal turned up on Season Two of Curb Your Enthusiasm to save himself from an eternity in pop-culture hell.

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ANNIVERSARIES.

THE ETERNALISTS 25...

20...

15...

10...

5...

1986. F NCAA adopts the arc. F Converse’s Weapon ‘86. F Len Bias & Drazen Petrovic.

1991. F Jordan’s First Championship.

1996. F Penny Hardaway. F 72 win Bulls. F ‘96 Kicks & Threads.

2001. F The Streetball Movement. F Allen Iverson’s MVP Season.

2006. F The Golden (Age) Rule.

(NCAA ADOPTS THE THREE POINT LINE)

THE GAME FINDS ITS TRINITY POST 1986

Words: Brad Graham. Image: courtesy of Google. The introduction of the arc, combined with the shot-clock and the game’s most famous move, the slam dunk, netted Basketball a distinctive trinity to help it forever put its best foot forward. First tested in 1945 (on the NCAA’s timber), when Columbia played Fordham, the arc wasn’t adopted nationally until

PRE 1986

1986. The Southern Conference was first to paint their hardwood with the line in 1980 with the next five years being spent sorting out all kinds of teething issues before the 19 foot, nine inch standard became the rule. FIBA, the NBA, WNBA and NCAA now all use varying distances with the latter extended their Men’s line out to 20 feet, nine inches (2007). Just imagine how many fates in the past 25 years have been altered because of this one marking.

ANNIVERSARIES. ...5...10...15...20...25...

LINE IN THE SAND: WEAPON ‘86 Words: James Martin. Images: courtesy of Converse. Imagine the top two players in any major sport having more in common than the league they play in. Imagine these two names on the same team, despite never playing together for a common city. Imagine if one player dominated the Eastern Conference while the other ruled the Wild West. No, we’re not talking about Kobe Bryant and LeBron James but imagine, if you can, those two giants wearing and endorsing the exact same performance shoe? That’s what pro hoops was like back in 1986, when both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the two biggest basketball stars on the planet, both kicked it with Converse. Before the major brand’s figured out how to best exploit consumers and deliver product which was custom built for specific player needs, the aim of the sneaker game was to assemble the greatest roster of talent available and have them unite under one banner. Magic and Larry Legend…take a moment to let those two iconic nicknames marinate. Unfortunately by the time many started to realise that they cared about basketball, both of these titans were already in the twilight phase of their respective career’s. Like all timeless art, enduring motion picture or classic album, one can still relive and experience greatness in sports, even if they weren’t aware it was happening at the time. The same goes for an important pair of

sneakers, which is pretty fitting given the history of the two headliners which promoted the classic ‘86 Converse model. Shortly after entering the NBA, both Bird and Johnson signed endorsement deals with Cons (in ‘81) and they starred opposite one another in various commercials, none more famous than the ‘86 TV spot involving a black limo’s arrival at French Lick, Indiana, where last season’s MVP (Bird) would be challenged by the new title holder (Johnson) while both wore different upper variations of the new Converse release: The Weapon. It might’ve taken this promotional event for their intense rivalry to evolve into a life long friendship, especially given that the TV spot called for filming at Bird’s own house, where his mother invited Magic in for lunch and the subsequent conversation revealed (to concurrent company) that the two rivals actually had a lot in common. The 30 second ad, much like the shoe is promotes (a principal release in Converse’s storied past), ranks as one of the ten most important and popular events in athletic shoe history. Nostalgic for ballers and highly desirably for collectors (worldwide), the Yellow / Purple (Magic) and Black / White (Bird) team colourways urge avid hoop-heads to pick a side and ‘Weapresent’. The fantastic commercial was pivotal in making the Converse Weapon a motif of

modern hoops, not to mention one of the most beloved footwear releases of all time. The TV spots were also accompanied by a memorable print campaign featuring Magic and Larry standing back to back, ready to duel, with now famous the tag line: Choose Your Weapon. If you were an Bird-lover, you had to have the Boston colourway but if your heart was draped in Magic Gold, then you belonged in Los Angeles, with the Lakers’ make-up as your only option. The Converse Weapon helped to broker the treaty and alliance of the two super-powers; back when the NBA was well and truly theirs. After 25 years, thanks to Magic and Larry, those same ‘86 Weapon’s remain a genuine fashion staple… imagine that. To mark the 25th anniversary of the Converse Weapon (’86 edition), the century old brand have released the classic silhouette in a fitting Year of the Rabbit make-up. The saying that “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to” could be slapped across the upper of the ‘86 edition and no collector or hoop-head would ever think to complain. Now that’s proof of power, and position. Long live the Weapon.

For the latest, check out:

www.theConverseBlog.net or follow @TheConverseBlog.

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Death of a

Salesman Words: Todd Spehr. Images: Getty. Even 25 years after the fact, the 1986 NBA Draft is still largely remembered for its heavy dosage of heartbreak. While one side of the coin sees noteworthy vocations by Mark Price and Dennis Rodman, as well as impressive post-playing coaching tenures by Scott Skiles and Nate McMillan, the flipside, the face which defines the class of ‘86, includes a slue of careers derailed by drugs, injuries, or unfulfilled expectations as well as a collection of names quickly forgotten or remembered for all the wrong reasons. Its two saddest figures, without doubt, are Len Bias and Drazen Petrovic. Bias, drafted second overall by the Boston Celtics as the ideal compliment to Larry Bird, was an athletic freak who could easily match the exploits of a young Dominique Wilkins or Michael Jordan. Widely assumed to be the next real NBA star, following his successful collegiate career at the University of Maryland, Bias was the category five storm which never hit land. Petrovic, taken in the third round (sixtieth overall) by the Portland Trail Blazers, was a relative unknown in ‘86 who had achieved great fame in Europe, with an intension to replicate that same success in North America. Both were taken too soon. One, before he could deliver on an NBA promise, the other, as he was doing it. Watch Len Bias’ highlights on YouTube and you’ll immediately gawk at his sheer force. At 6-8, LB’s chiseled physique, swagger and tenacity made him an imposing combatant. He always attacked the basket with ferocity, often with two hands, with a vertical leap that would at times leave him head-high to the backboard, staring at the world beneath. He had uncommon polish for an amateur, not just as a finisher but as an athlete and jump-shooter and was reportedly offered a staggering $3 million by Reebok to endorse their products because of his market value. Twice an All-American, twice voted the ACC’s finest, Bias averaged 23 points per as a Terrapin senior and when June 17 rolled around, he was quickly taken second overall by the defending NBA champion Celtics – arguably the greatest NBA team of all-time. Except two days later news broke that he was dead. Just 22 years old, the promising Bias suffered cardiac arrhythmia due to excessive cocaine intake. Crushed by the announcement, Beantown excitement quickly turned to interment as a new generation had their own J.F.K moment, with entire the sports sphere speechless and in shock. The death of any young athlete often leaves room for embellishment, with the potential to exaggerate their endearing qualities, to predict and assure greatness, and with Bias it’s always an easy route to take but one grounded within reason. He was manly, masculine, aggressive and determined; proven collegiately and deemed desirable enough to be drafted by the league’s preeminent franchise with hopes of him one day inheriting the team from Larry Legend... But what about original Croatian sensation?

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Leonard Kevin Bias

2nd Pick (First Round). F . Boston Celtics Born: November 18, 1963. Died: June 19, 1986.

ANNIVERSARIES. ...5...10...15...20...25...

Death of a

Salesman Drazen Petrovic

60th Pick (Third Round). G . Portland Trail Blazers Born: October 22, 1964. Died: June 7, 1993.

A demigod in Europe, Petrovic was the former Yugoslavia’s Mozart, and certainly ascending as a player. A star on the international, Olympic, and then NBA levels, respectively, his remaining career was also susceptible to lofty interpretation. Petrovic came into the league via Europe in ‘89, three years after he was drafted by the Blazers, already a seasoned and verified professional. Petro had both the ego and game befitting of a star, cultivated into the role by his overseas exploits and yet unsatisfied by it, not interested in becoming a mere complimentary piece upon his NBA arrival. But for all that he desired on the floor, it was superseded by what he craved most: Respect. Landing limited minutes whenever Clyde Drexler took a breather, his placement on the rotation in Portland left him frustrated. Determined to succeed in the USA, Petro later demanded a trade and with it, the room to spread his wings and the freedom to play his game. As a member of the New Jersey Nets he became one of the league’s top shooting guards, possessing an uncanny stroke and fiery on-court personality. He was ruthless and driven, giving life to an ailing Nets franchise and coming to serve as a symbol for all international athletes who dared dream of succeeding in the harsh climate of the NBA. He averaged 22 points per game for the Nets in ‘93, but that summer was killed in an unfortunate car accident (on the autobahn in Germany). Dead at 28, taken just as his flower was starting to bloom. No more a legend posthumously than he was when alive, Petrovic remained loved unashamedly post-accident and is still considered (by many to be) the best player to jump the Atlantic. A fundamental Euro Invader, Petrovic’s impact has been honoured by the Nets (retired his No. 3) and enshrined by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (class of ‘02). Bias, the ultimate ‘what if’, whose remnants exist not only in the memories of his glorious potential but in his elicit and tragic death, remains the posterchild for a dangerous lifestyle choice and all that can go wrong with it. Petrovic, on the other hand, died in mid-flight but both crammed a lifetime worth of highlights and lessons into their short but memorable lives. The examinations of their deaths pale in comparison to the questions that linger – just how high could these two have flown had their careers not been stolen? Unfortunately, they’re queries that will forever remain unanswered. -----For more, check out (5) Without Bias directed by Kirk Fraser and (25) Once Brothers from the highly recommended “30 for 30” series by ESPN.

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1991. LORE AND MYTH DISAPPEAR INTO AIR.

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Words: Steve Smith. Image: Getty.

1990-91 Chicago Bulls. The following, for those unfamiliar with the concept, is a list. It’s a directory of mediocre, erratic, unmemorable and selfish talents. It is, if nothing else, a snapshot of the NBA at its lowest ebb – even as a hayseed from Indiana State University and a beaming playmaker from the University Michigan were resurrecting a stumbling league. It is a list of mistakes, of too much too soon, of hopes raised and dashed… and of ill-conceived judgements and prognostications. It’s a catalogue of laughingstocks mixed with triers and very occasionally, a diamond in the rough. And although none of these players were deemed championship-worthy, it’s a record of persistence, of discovery, and ultimately, of triumph. Dave Corzine; Quintin Dailey; Chris Engler; Sidney Green; David Greenwood; Rod Higgins; Steve Johnson; Caldwell Jones; Charles Jones; Wes Matthews; Jawann Oldham; Ennis Whatley; Orlando Woolridge; Gene Banks; Ron Brewer; Tony Brown; George Gervin; Mike Holton; Kyle Macy; Billy McKinney; Charles Oakley; Mike Smrek; Mike Brown; Fred Cofield; Steve Colter; Earl Cureton; Darren Daye; Pete Myers; Ben Poquette; Brad Sellers; Sedale Threatt; Elston Turner; Granville Waiters; Perry Young; Artis Gilmore; Rory Sparrow; Sam Vincent; Tony White; Charles Davis; Jack Haley*; Anthony Jones; Ed Nealy*; Dominic Pressley; David Wood; Clifford Lett; Jeff Sanders; and Michael Jordan. Wait, what? Michael Jordan? His Airness? Yes, you read that right. Even MJ was discarded by the Chicago Bulls... only it’s not in the way that you may think because Michael Jordan discarded himself. Sure, he looked the same, scored roughly the same number of points and had his usual array of spectacular dunks and ‘wait, did-I-really-just-see-that?’ moves. But he was different in ‘91. Sure, it took a while for the change to manifest but he still berated his teammates when they couldn’t play to his lofty expectations. He still derided Horace Grant and mocked and belittled Stacey King and Dennis Hopson at every opportunity but eventually, the subtle hand of Head Coach Phil Jackson proved itself where the emotional Doug Collins could not.

Regular Season. 61-21, finished 1st in NBA.

Playoffs. First Round: Defeated the New York Knicks (3-0). East Semis: Beat the Philadelphia 76ers (4-1). E.C Finals: Swept the Detroit Pistons (4-0). NBA Finals: Crushed the L.A Lakers (4-1).

Michael Jordan.

Sixth season. Age: 27. Salary: $2,500,000. Honours: MVP; Finals MVP; All-NBA First Team; All-Defensive First Team. Averages. Regular Season – 82 games. 37.0mpg // 31.5ppg // 6.0rpg // 5.5apg 2.7spg // 1.0bpg // 54-31-85 Playoffs – 17 games. 40.5mpg // 31.1ppg // 6.4rpg // 8.4apg 2.4spg // 1.4bpg // 52-36-85 Finals – five games. 44.0mpg // 31.2ppg // 6.6rpg // 11.4apg 2.8spg // 1.4bpg // 56-34-85

Maybe Jordan didn’t so much as re-invent himself as he chose to finally trust in his team mates. And if you’re wondering why the Greatest had trust issues, take a look at that roster of fodder again. It’s uglier than Shawn Marion’s jumper. Don’t forget, the Bulls had at least one serious opportunity to discard Jordan. Literally. In 1987-88, the Los Angeles Clippers offered Chicago any combination of five players and the Draft rights to their picks for No. 23. Bulls G.M, Jerry Krause figured he could use the Clips’ dual top-six picks to nab both Rik Smits and Mitch Richmond, team them with Scottie Pippen and Grant, trade away Charles Oakley for a young playmaker like Kevin Johnson and contend for at least half a decade. This was in almost certain belief that he would have a championship-calibre core after years of sifting through the waste and debris of the Bulls’ roster he inherited. Between 1984-85 and the start of the 1990-91 season, the Bulls had used 55 players in a frustrating, occasionally successful but mostly futile search for that elusive championship mix. For Chicago, it was like trying to grab smoke.

Every time the Bulls thought they had it right, something happened. Or, more accurately, the Detroit Pistons happened. Yep, MoTown’s championship winning Bad Boy and their grind it out with defence – smiling politely while they kicked you – owned the Chicago Bulls like Danny Ocean owned Las Vegas. But by 1990, it was only the home court advantage that separated the two teams, the Pistons making the most of Pippen’s once-in-a-lifetime migraine to claim a seventh game in the Palace of Auburn Hills on their way to a championship re-up. Hindsight – always in H.D with Dolby surround sound – showed Detroit had peaked only they didn’t even know it (yet). Only problem, their replacements on the Eastern Conference throne, Chicago, didn’t trust itself (yet). Even after a franchise-best regular season campaign in 1990-91, the Bulls still had their doubts and doubters. So when the ‘91 Playoffs rolled round, Jordan wasn’t so much thinking NBA title as much as he was focused on an Eastern Conference crown. Call it revenge, heck, call it redemption, or call it the ‘First Running of the Bulls’, but beating the Pistons was clearly their primary and only agenda. Witness Jordan’s flagrant elbow on Joe Dumars in Game One; catch Jordan jawing with Dennis Rodman and watch Cliff Levingston, of all people, provide an unlikely boost off the bench. And with that series going to Chicago, the giant was slain, ceding its crown in a manner befitting the ugly champion it always was, walking away without due acknowledgement of their vanquisher – save for the always classy Joe Dumars and a surprisingly mature John Salley. It was a sweep of Ben-Hur proportions, in some ways more satisfying than the subsequent title win over Magic Johnson and his Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, Jordan and his Bulls relished in causing a Detroit blackout over their Hollywood ending. Somewhat stunned by the relative ease in which they triumphed without any perturb from the Purple and Gold, the Bulls claimed their first franchise title. Jordan cried and hugged his Holy Grail; and the Windy City’s roster ensured their names were forever enshrined on the most important list of all: Champions – a truly proverbial concept.

*Jack Haley was an injured reserve for the 1995-96 title winning Bulls, while Ed Nealy got himself a ring as part of the original three-peat squad in 1992-93. bucketsmag.bigcartel.com

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Anfernee Hardaway The Season of ‘96: the Pennycle of His Career. Words: Jon Thompson. After Michael Jordan’s first retirement (in ’93) left a Grand Canyon sized void in the NBA hierarchy, meddlers Clyde Drexler, Latrell Sprewell, Mitch Richmond and Reggie Miller, among others, were all quick (and happy) to try and populate the abyss. And it was here, during MJ’s 18 month baseball sabbatical, that a talented young player named Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who had more in common with Magic Johnson than Mike, ascended from Memphis, Tennessee, towards the top of the basketball world to (temporarily) fill the cavity. Drafted in ‘93, Hardaway was taken with the third overall selection by the Golden State Warriors behind the University of Michigan’s Chris Webber (snapped up first by the Orlando Magic) and Brigham Young University’s 7-6 string-bean, Shawn Bradley (drafted second by the Philadelphia 76ers). Penny was then immediately traded to the Magic, along with a handful of future picks for the rights to Webber because on June 28, just two days prior to the annual Draft, he convinced the Magic’s Front Office that he was the perfect counterpart to their established headliner, Shaquille O’Neal. Dubbed the “The Next Magic” because of his versatility, proficient style of playmaking and unusual height (for a perimeter player), the 6-7 Hardaway effectively and seamlessly interchanged between both guard spots and the small forward position; creating all kinds of mismatches in Orlando’s favour. After starting his rookie campaign at SG, Hardaway became a Jedi and quickly learned the ways of the point (from cagey veteran Scott Skiles), taking over the running of Orlando’s offensive by midseason. Never the apprentice, Penny united with centerpiece O’Neal too quickly became basketball’s most beloved (by fans) and most feared (by opponents) dynamic duo. For his outstanding debut, Hardaway was named to the AllRookie First Team (joining Webber, Vin Baker, Isaiah Rider and Jamal Mashburn) but was snubbed as the ‘94 Rookie of the Year after voters elected to honour his Draft Day exchange mate: Webber. More importantly however, Hardaway carved out his own NBA alcove and was instrumental in leading the Magic to their first ever Playoff appearance (which resulted in a 0-3 First Round sweep to the Indiana Pacers). Even with Jordan’s rumored return slowly creeping over the horizon, the second year Hardaway continued to gain credence with fans while also rapidly improving his play. He was voted in as an Eastern Conference starter (to the ‘95 All-Star Game in Phoenix, Arizona) and ended his sophomore run averaging 21 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and almost steals per contest. He again teamed with O’Neal to guide the Magic to a Conference best 57 wins and the top seed (for their bracket) of the ‘95 Playoffs. In the East semis, Penny and co. locked horns with the Chicago Bulls, emerging triumphant and eventually landing a spot in the NBA Finals where they were swept (once again), only this time they had no answers for Hakeem Olajuwon and his Houston Rockets. On the game’s biggest stage, the All-NBA First Team debutant didn’t disappoint, collecting 24.5 points and five boards to go along with eight assists per outing, while shooting 50% from the field.

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Then came the 1995-96 season. As Jordan was regaining his own might in the Windy City, Penny’s game and popularity continued to soar. With O’Neal out injured, Penny flourish, leading his franchise to a red-hot 17 win, five loss start. Now a household name, the Swoosh came calling, promoting the young, likeable and highly marketable guard into the position of brand spokesperson. While the product he was pushing – the aptly named Air Penny signature sneaker – was a memorable release, it was Hardaway’s wise-cracking sidekick, a wooden puppet named Lil’ Penny (voiced by comedian Chris Rock) which allowed the giant guard to instantly gain cult hero status. Along with Spike Lee’s indelible creation, Mars Blackmon – a character who assisted the early Air Jordan releases; Converse’s cross-dressing React representative, Grandmama; and the outlandish usage of cult Japanese icon Godzilla (as the only sizable foil to Charles Barkley’s larger than life personality), Penny, with the help of his lil’ subordinate (and a cameo from then supermodel Tyra Banks), cast a solid gold cultural footprint, ensuring his impact would be looked upon kindly, forever. Penny encored his off-court success by being named a starter to his second consecutive All-Star Team, joining a fully re-imagined Jordan as one half of arguably the most popular East backcourt ever. As the 1995-96 season wore on, MJ unleashed a new kind of clinical devastation, collecting an NBA record 72 regular season wins while Hardaway helped his Orlando Magic set a new franchise benchmark with 60 wins (while posting averages of 21.7 points, 7.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds – good enough for First Team All-NBA, again). Third in MVP voting, in just his third season, Hardaway appeared to already have it all, except of course for the most coveted prize: an NBA title. Like so many other heroic (yet mortal) hoops stars who lived during the age of Jordan, Penny’s quest became increasingly difficult as the years passed, especially when adverse injuries surfaced and his Airness refused to share the shine. Hardaway’s Magic lost their Eastern Conference Finals series to MJ’s Bulls but Jordan was so impressed by the level of Penny’s game that he said he felt comfortable passing down the torch to Hardaway. From there, Penny’s ’96 crusade fittingly concluded with selection to Dream Team III (where he joined the likes of Grant Hill, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Miller, Richmond, Olajuwon, Barkley and O’Neal) to claim Olympic Gold for Team USA during the ‘96 Summer Olympics (on home soil in Atlanta). Shaq then caused a monumental power shift and headed out West, signing a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving Hardaway all alone to deal with a slue of injuries and inferior teammates. Penny was never the same and although he remained a favourite (for many years), his supernova quickly became a white dwarf. He was later traded, at the request of Jason Kidd, to the Phoenix Suns but never again recaptured the wondrous enchantment of his perfect ‘96.

ANNIVERSARIES. WORTH EVERY PENNY.

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ANNIVERSARIES. ...5...10...15...20...25...

Just a Pronic number; room temperature (in Fahrenheit); the percentage of water in the human body or the recorded heartbeats per minute for a resting adult,

72 is now synonymous with Basketball,

Michael Jordan and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. Words: Brad Graham. Image: Getty.

ANNIVERSARIES. LXXII. Starters: C – Luc Longley PF – Dennis Rodman SF – Scottie Pippen SG – Michael Jordan PG – Ron Harper Bench: Toni Kukoc (6th Man) Bill Wennington (C) Dickey Simpkins (PF) Jud Buechler (SF) Randy Brown (SG) Steve Kerr (PG) Jason Caffey (12th Man) Injured Reserves: James Edwards (C) Jack Haley (PF) John Salley (PF/C) Head Coach: Phil Jackson Assistants: Tex Winter John Paxson Jim Rodgers Jim Cleamons General Manager: Jerry Krause

15 years ago, the NBA chalked up its 50th season and expanded from 27 to 29 teams – to include franchises in both Toronto and Vancouver – dually diluting its own product and setting the stage for Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls to register the single most successful military operation on record. Historically, the 1995-96 season mattered... Even before the Bulls became bossy superpowers. The Philadelphia 76ers played their final game inside the old Spectrum. The Boston Celtics entered a new age, calling the Fleet Center (now the TD Garden) home. John Stockton became the all-time assists and steals leader (passing greats Magic Johnson and Maurice Cheeks, respectively). Hakeem Olajuwon moved atop the block shots leaderboard. Arvydas Sabonis made his NBA debut. Joe Smith was selected first overall by the Golden State Warriors (in a Draft class which included Jerry Stackhouse, Michael Finley and Rasheed Wallace). Kevin Garnett became the first High School player, in 20 years, drafted directly to the pros. Magic Johnson came out of retirement (for 32 games)… and the always slippery Pat Riley became the Miami Heat’s Head Coach / President of Basketball Operations (immediately trading for Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway) but all that now lives in an apartment complex – on levels three thru eight – under the penthouse occupied by the 72 win Bulls. Finishing with a staggering .878 winning percentage (going 39-2 at home, 33-8 away and 24-4 in their Division) the ’96 edition of the Bulls bamboozled the NBA despite competing with a complete absence of anything resembling a traditional point guard; no forceful bigman or major low-post scoring threat in sight; a physically reformed but somewhat slower franchise headliner; the untamed wildcard known as Dennis Rodman; and a very shallow reserve rotation. So how did they ever break the miracle ‘70 win’ plateau? As Scottie Pippen once informed NBA.com, “We had a dominant style, a dominant defense and we were a very good offensive team. I just felt like that really separated us from any [other] championship team. Our defense was the greatest attribute of that team.” To help MJ reclaim his kingpin status, the Bulls traded known stiff, Will Perdue (and cash considerations) to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for the colourful Dennis Rodman (and Jack Haley), in a swap which was approved by both Pip and MJ (in the hope that the rebounding machine would effectively fill the crater left by former muscle Horace Grant). The Bulls then drafted the ultra athletic Jason Caffey (University of Alabama) and Yugoslavian center Dragan Tarlac (with their two picks, respectively) but neither was expected to clock major minutes. Neither did. In his first full season back on the timber, Jordan turned his powerful ‘no days off’ motor into an infectious team ethos, attacking every contest, training session and basketball activity. He captained and commanded his troop with precision and expectancy, never allowing them to suffer from fatigue, boredom, pressure or over-confidence. As far as he was concerned, there was way too much at stake and he knew there would be times when they’d be needed, so he kept them all ready, 24/7. And from all reports his

teammates followed their (demanding) leader, if for no other reason then to keep his fire and customary ire in check. The resulting season was an impressive body of work which formed that training camp from a staunch backbone, vigorous heart, unremitting mindset. Prior to ‘96, no team in NBA history collected more regular season wins than the Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich-led 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (who tallied a 69-13 record, including a run of 33consecutive Ws). While the ‘unstoppaBulls’ may never be deemed the best team on paper – that title arguable belongs to the ‘86 Boston Celtics and ‘87 Lakers – but thanks to ’96, they’re easily the most successful. They did it by going 12-2 in November; 13-1 thru December; undefeated in January; 11-3 in February; 12 and two in March and finally by collecting ten wins in April. They paced the league in scoring (105.2ppg), finished third in defense (92.9ppg) and could’ve easily chalked up 75 wins had they not dropped late season one-point game’s to the new kids on the block, the Toronto Raptors (109 - 108; behind Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudemire’s primetime showing); the Charlotte Hornets (98 - 97; April 8) or Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers (100 - 99; April 20). Before the All-Star break, the Bulls also uncharacteristically lost back-to-back games for the first (and only) time during their ‘95-96 campaign. First they lost at high altitude inside McNichols Sports Arena, to the Denver Nuggets, and then they stumbled (two days later) against the Phoenix Suns, 106 - 96, but even with those minor missteps the Bulls improved by 25 games (over the previous season, 47-35), becoming the fastest team to 41 wins; even winning a record 33 road games. As great as the Bulls were, Scottie Pippen’s adjustment (to support player) and Toni Kukoc’s appeasing reduction, can’t be discounted as major factors. It was this dual modification which allowed his Airness room to reclaim the throne. The beneficiary of Pippen and Ron Harper sharing the ball handing duties (along with Tex Winter’s triangle offense), Jordan’s mastery also saw him become the second player (after Willis Reed in ’70) to earn the MVP trifecta – Regular season, All-Star and Finals. Chicago also built a new trophy cabinet for their Coach of the Year (Jackson), GM of the Year (Krause), Best Sixth Man (Kukoc) and aforementioned MVP hog. Rodman also collected his fifth consecutive rebounding crown (14.9rpg) while Jordan won his eighth scoring title (30.4ppg; replacing Wilt’s ownership). Heck, Jordan was even unanimously named to the All-NBA and All-Defensive First Team’s, respectively, where he was aptly accompanied by both Pip and Rodman (on the latter). In the post-season, the Bulls took a page out of the University of Michigan’s Fab Five fashion guide, rocking all black socks with all-black sneakers before sweeping Miami in three games; dismantled the fifth seeded New York Knicks in five and brushing away the Orlando Magic... before facing Gary Payton (winner of the Defensive Player of the Year Award), Shawn Kemp and the Seattle SuperSonics – who defeated the Kings, Rockets and Jazz out West – in the ’96 Finals. The Bulls closed out the series with an emphatic 87 - 75 home win in Game Six, eventually pouring hot gravy all over their perfectly cooked regular season steak. bucketsmag.bigcartel.com

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ANNIVERSARIES. 72 WIN GAME LOG. 01

November 3

Charlotte

W

105 – 91

Michael Jordan (42)

1-0

42

January 30

@ Houston

W

98 – 87

Scottie Pippen (28)

39-3

02

November4

Boston

W

107 – 85

Scottie Pippen (21)

2-0

43

February 1

@ Sacramento

W

105 – 85

Michael Jordan (27)

40-3

03

November 7

Toronto

W

117 – 108

Michael Jordan (38)

3-0

44

February 2

@ L.A Lakers

W

99 – 84

Scottie Pippen (30)

41-3

04

November 9

Cleveland

W

106 – 88

Michael Jordan (29)

4-0

45

February 4

@ Denver

L

99 – 105

Michael Jordan (39)

41-4

05

November 11

Portland

W

110 – 106

Michael Jordan (36)

5-0

46

February 6

@ Phoenix

L

96 – 106

Michael Jordan (28)

41-5

06

November 14

@ Orlando

L

88 – 94

Michael Jordan (23)

5-1

47

February 7

@ Golden State

W

99 – 95

Michael Jordan (40)

42-5

07

November 15

Cleveland

W

113 – 94

Scottie Pippen (27)

6-1

48

February 13

Washington

W

111 – 98

Michael Jordan (32)

43-5

08

November 17

New Jersey

W

109 – 94

Toni Kukoc (19)

7-1

49

February 15

@ Detroit (OT)

W

112 – 109

Michael Jordan (32)

44-5

09

November 21

@ Dallas (OT)

W

108 – 102

Michael Jordan (36)

8-1

50

February 16

@ Minnesota

W

103 – 100

Michael Jordan (35)

45-5

10

November 22

@ San Antonio

W

103 – 94

Michael Jordan (38)

9-1

51

February 18

@ Indiana

W

110 – 102

Michael Jordan (44)

46-5

11

November 24

@ Utah

W

90 – 85

Michael Jordan (34)

10-1

52

February 20

Cleveland

W

102 – 76

Ron Harper (22)

47-5

12

November 26

@ Seattle

L

92 – 97

Michael Jordan (22)

10-2

53

February 22

@ Atlanta

W

96 – 91

Michael Jordan (34)

48-5

13

November 27

@ Portland

W

107 – 104

Michael Jordan (33)

11-2

54

February 23

@ Miami

L

104 – 113

Michael Jordan (31)

48-6

14

November 30

@ Vancouver

W

94 – 88

Michael Jordan (29)

12-2

55

February 25

Orlando

W

111 – 91

Toni Kukoc (24)

49-6

15

December 2

L.A Clippers

W

104 – 98

Michael Jordan (37)

13-2

56

February 27

Minnesota

W

120 – 99

Michael Jordan (35)

50-6

16

December 4

New York

W

101 – 94

Michael Jordan (22)

14-2

57

March 1

Golden State

W

110 – 87

Scottie Pippen (25)

51-6

17

December 8

San Antonio

W

106 – 87

Michael Jordan (28)

15-2

58

March 2

Boston

W

107 – 75

Michael Jordan (21)

52-6

18

December 9

Milwaukee

W

118 – 106

Michael Jordan (45)

16-2

59

March 5

Milwaukee

W

115 – 106

Michael Jordan (33)

53-6

19

December 13

Orlando

W

112 – 103

Michael Jordan (36)

17-2

60

March 7

Detroit

W

102 – 81

Michael Jordan (53)

54-6

20

December 14

@ Atlanta

W

127 – 108

Scottie Pippen (30)

18-2

61

March 10

@ New York

L

72 – 104

Michael Jordan (32)

54-7

21

December 16

L.A Lakers

W

108 – 88

Scottie Pippen (33)

19-2

62

March 13

Washington

W

103 – 86

Michael Jordan (37)

55-7

22

December 18

@ Boston

W

123 – 114

Michael Jordan (37)

20-2

63

March 15

Denver

W

108 – 87

Michael Jordan (33)

56-7

23

December 19

Dallas

W

114 – 101

Michael Jordan (32)

21-2

64

March 16

@New Jersey

W

97 – 93

Michael Jordan (37)

57-7

24

December 22

Toronto

W

113 – 104

Michael Jordan (27)

22-2

65

March 18

@ Philadelphia

W

98 – 94

Michael Jordan (38)

58-7

25

December 23

Utah

W

100 – 86

Michael Jordan (30)

23-2

66

March 19

Sacramento

W

89 – 67

Michael Jordan (20)

59-7

26

December 26

@Indiana

L

97 – 103

Michael Jordan (30)

23-3

67

March 21

New York

W

107 – 86

Michael Jordan (36)

60-7

27

December 29

Indiana

W

120 – 93

Michael Jordan (29)

24-3

68

March 24

@ Toronto

L

108 – 109

Michael Jordan (38)

60-8

28

December 30

Atlanta

W

95 – 93

Michael Jordan (33)

25-3

69

March 28

Atlanta

W

111 – 80

Toni Kukoc (24)

61-8

29

January 3

Houston

W

100–86

Michael Jordan (38)

26-3

70

March 30

L.A Clippers

W

106 – 85

Scottie Pippen (22)

62-8

30

January 4

@ Charlotte

W

117–93

Michael Jordan (27)

27-3

71

April 2

@ Miami

W

110 – 92

Michael Jordan (32)

63-8

31

January 6

Milwaukee

W

113–84

Michael Jordan (32)

28-3

72

April 4

Miami

W

100 – 92

Michael Jordan (40)

64-8

32

January 10

Seattle

W

113–87

Michael Jordan (35)

29-3

73

April 5

@ Charlotte

W

126 – 92

Scottie Pippen (28)

65-8

33

January 13

@ Philadelphia

W

120–93

Michael Jordan (48)

30-3

74

April 7

@ Orlando

W

90 – 86

Michael Jordan (27)

66-8

34

January 15

@ Washington

W

116–109

Michael Jordan (46)

31-3

75

April 8

Charlotte

L

97 – 98

Michael Jordan (40)

66-9

35

January 16

Philadelphia

W

116–104

Michael Jordan (32)

32-3

76

April 11

@ New Jersey

W

113 – 100

Michael Jordan (17)

67-9

36

January 18

@ Toronto

W

92–89

Michael Jordan (38)

33-3

77

April 12

Philadelphia

W

112 – 82

Michael Jordan (23)

68-9

37

January 21

@ Detroit

W

111–96

Michael Jordan (36)

34-3

78

April 14

@ Cleveland

W

98 – 72

Michael Jordan (32)

69-9

38

January 23

@ New York

W

99–79

Michael Jordan (33)

35-3

79

April 16

@ Milwaukee

W

86 – 80

Michael Jordan (22)

70-9

39

January 24

Vancouver

W

104–84

Scottie Pippen (30)

36-3

80

April 18

Detroit

W

110 – 79

Michael Jordan (30)

71-9

40

January 26

Miami

W

102–80

Michael Jordan (25)

37-3

81

April 20

Indiana

L

99 – 100

Michael Jordan (24)

71-10

41

January 28

Phoenix

W

93–82

Michael Jordan (31)

38-3

82

April 21

@ Washington

W

Michael Jordan (26)

72-10

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ANNIVERSARIES. KICKIN’ IT IN ‘96.

Air Jordan XI Words: Sandy Dover. Image: courtesy of Jordan Brand. Michael Jordan, the G.O.A.T, once took to the timber in a strange pair of signature sneakers which were inspired by leather dress shoes (complete with 19th century spats attached). Although his Airness was sceptical, designer Tinker Hatfield knew what he was doing and conceived a combination silky Cordura ballistic mesh with high-grade patent glossy leather, carbon fibre, transparent rubber and patented Air; to fashion a ground breaking shoe; one which now ranks as basketball’s most influential. Reborn in these kicks, Jordan proved he could do anything, even dunk a 100 foot high hoop. The AJXI not only captured world-wide attention, it created an enduring standard (for style + performance) and remains MJ’s best business card.

UniformWatch The Good,The Bad & The Ugly. Words: Sandy Dover.

Avant garde in their convention; refreshingly modish at the time and displaying both lauded and laughable boldness, the topical NBA uniforms from the ‘96 campaign remain worthy of celebration. In the mid-90s, there was an au courant of Black threads coming through just as the major sneaker brands were starting to use accented colours to match with game worn uniforms, and with that innovation, teams with heritage were suddenly making wild departures from their previous identities. New classics and major missteps shone equally bright, each offering something memorable... First up: The Good. The Milwaukee Bucks quietly distinguished themselves with a deer motif, prominently displayed amidst colour-faded graphics of Silver, Grey and Purple on a Forest Green game set. It should’ve been offensive, or ugly, it was neither and never quite received its due credit (for making a bad idea work so well). Likewise, the San Antonio edition All-Star threads welcomed a cheesy Tex-Mex aesthetic. The Alamo area inspired patterns and colours were helped along by an epic Michael Jordan appearance, making the off-key attire very memorable All-Star garb.

Nike Air Zoom Flight ‘95 Words: Sandy Dover. Image: courtesy of Nike.

Sure, Ron Shelton’s popular, White Men Can’t Jump impertinently but somehow adequately summarised Brent Barry’s showing at the ’96 Slam Dunk Contest in San Antonio; but remove the clichés and shootaround jacket for just a second and you’re left with a half-naked Barry in a pair of kicks that were fitting of his biblical walk on air. Dressed in his Clipper themed White and Varsity Red Nike Air Zoom Flight 95s, Barry took the iconic Jason Kidd signature shoe and made it a resonating chapter in his immortal high-flying fable. Yeah, his limbs were gangly, too gangly for young children to appear on the national television but with his aerial exploits and Zoom Air, Red checkered faux-carbon fiber upper, prettiest-at-the-party shoes, it makes sense that Barry received positive attention (in equal measure) for his underdog performance; beloved Swoosh footwear; and that damn warm-up jacket.

Up next: The Bad. Material noise and fades were obviously all the rage because there’s no other way to explain why the Houston Rockets ditched their classic, championship winning ketchup and mustard, McDonald’s style uniforms with re-branded nonsense that included thick, cartoonish pinstripes, the entire (oversized) logo slapped on the chest and a confusing Navy Blue base. No wonder Clutch City failed to produce another champion. Out East, the Atlanta Hawks decided it was a good move to drape their entire refurbished logo across the mid-section of their home and away jersey. While their White uniform offered something unique, it was difficult to tell whether their road unis were primarily base Black or Red… but they raised eyebrows and stood out nonetheless. Lastly, The Ugly. Atlanta’s Central Division rivals, the Detroit Pistons, were so determined to associate automobiles with the animal kingdom that they offered rising star Grant Hill a chance to take on the world in a new look Teal Green, Gold and Black jersey, complete with horse head logo and silly car-exhaust inspired font – it failed miserably. In ’96, there were the new design hits (Milwaukee) and then there were the shameful, outlandish NBA looks (Detroit) but looking back, it does appear as though the good folks at common sense HQ have at least learnt a few valuable lessons about game-wear gear along the way.

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ANNIVERSARIES. ...5...10...15...20...25...

A Return to Asphalt Avenue: The Global Streetball Movement. Words: Ray Bala. Image: courtesy of And1.

During an era in which VHS tapes accompanied footwear purchases, grainy playground footage offered blackboard notes on basketball’s next great commercial advance. Under the corporate guise in which it was labelled, packaged and sold, Streetball, would grow to become an international movement, complete with its own cultural markers, fashion and daily influx of nicknamed superheroes. In a few short years, street level hoops took an epic leap into the mainstream, capturing the attention of the game’s global media eye – as well as the imagination of an entire generation.

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“(Streetball players) reinvented its pace, texture, and style, and created an entire sub-culture surrounding it. That passion was bound to ripple to the rest of the globe,” says Bobbito Garcia, New York City native, world-renowned DJ and Cofounder of the quintessential publication, Bounce: From The Playground. Coincidently, rather than strategically, the rise of Streetball’s movement coincided with a decline in the NBA’s popularity (following Michael Jordan’s second retirement and the notorious 1998-99 lockout). Streetball, with its highlight driven, trash talking, braggadocio brand of basketball became a refreshing, timely and appropriate alternative to the pro game which seemed riddled with distant superstars and corporate diagrams. In Streetball, playground guys entertained in a way that was both invigorating and inspiring, offering those who were unable to call an NBA court their office an opportunity to display their skill without conventional (or coached) limitations. Although Streetball already ruled the metropolitan summer, the phenomenon exploded in the early 2000s when established basketball staple, And1 and their popular playground aesthetic, corralled a collection of dynamic NYC players. Filming their exploits on illustrious outdoor courts and inside recreational centers (or wherever a hoop was erected), And1’s edited highlight packages, dubbed ‘MixTapes’, were escorted by neck-snapping beats and carried the growing spectacle to a whole new level of popularity. The various moves, inventive tricks and creatively named players all moved from isolated, citycentric fables to living rooms all over the globe. As fans flocked to the anti-pro Streetball faction, every media outlet and online hub picked up on the sensation, making it a truly viable commercial commodity. “Nike Basketball, And1, ESPN and magazines such as SLAM, Dime, and BOUNCE all played a huge role in spreading playground basketball into the minds of the rest of the world,” states Bobbito. At the apex of Streetball’s evolution in the early to mid 2000s, And1 – the most visible of the brands involved – took the lawless product on a global tour (which also featured a weekly 30 minute program

on ESPN) while Nike Basketball produced their cutting edge, and now classic, Freestyle commercial. Mainstream publications like Sports Illustrated even devoted cover features to Streetball while boutique magazines dedicated entire ‘special’ editions to the ever-growing sub-culture, and at the time, it seemed like people just couldn’t get enough... but like all bubbles, it wouldn’t last forever. As the pro-game regained its might, and embraced a different generation of fans, a phase which married perfectly with the savvy staging of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and others, the novelty of commercialised Streetball began to wear off. As casual fans reconnected with a rejuvenated NBA, and Streetball reached unprecedented financial success, the most popular names from And1’s global tour split from the brand which gave them their notoriety, rolling the dice on a removed and rival festival. This splinter proved to be the beginning of an end and the two divisions became less of an attraction as the movement faded from public eye. And1, the initial purveyor of the advancement, began to scale back their annual globetrotting and by 2010, the once mighty juggernaut was removed from the mainstream circuit altogether. Streetball continues to flourish, just on a smaller, more pure and largely more appropriate scale. Travelling bands still exist and players such as Grayson ‘The Professor” Boucher continue to perform, play and entertain. “People talk about it in the past tense but it actually never stopped,” says The Professor. “I don’t know if it will be at the same level as it was (at the height of popularity) but there is still a market … and I believe we’re gonna bring it back.” Until that time, Streetball will continue to dominate playgrounds and will live forever young in the space where its heaven is also its home, the streets. -----Be sure to checkout Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau’s co-directed independent documentary: DOIN’ IT IN THE PARK: PICK-UP BASKETBALL, NYC (Flambée Films) due out in 2012... And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Kool Bob Love’s critically acclaimed tome: Where’d You Get Those? NYC’s Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987 (Testify Books).

ANNIVERSARIES. 2(00)1 Jump Street.

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ANNIVERSARIES. ...5...10...15...20...25...

Words: Todd Spehr. Image: courtesy of Reebok

SG. 6-0. Philadelphia 76ers

42.0mpg //31.1ppg //3.8rpg //4.6apg //0.3bpg //2.5spg // .420 FG% //.320 3P% //.814 FT% David Stern, the NBA’s undisputed patriarch, is present at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, PA, sporting a suit that marks his life’s work and a smile that forever belies his control (and always-calculating nature). It’s springtime; May 2001, in a pre-9/11 world where prosperity rules amidst the season for rebirth and renewal… and as far as symbolism goes, few moments can rival the one about to take place in the City of Brotherly Love. Beside Stern stands Allen Iverson – body soaked in ink, proud champion of the people, leader for the new school – a generational talent capable of messing with the commissioner’s vision of a neat and tidy NBA. Iverson, smirking, is drowned in din for a transcendent yet somewhat aberrational season. Together, the two stood at midcourt, no more than three inches separating their respective heights; both small in stature but giants in their respective fields, and yet diametrical in almost every other facet of their fused yet foreign lives. Stern’s speech is initially swallowed by the noise of the Sixers’ home crowd, while Iverson’s eyes carefully and precisely move around the faces within the arena. As Stern’s words move from the requisite listing of season accomplishments to his broader, heartfelt sentiments, Iverson’s attention suddenly squares on the man standing beside him. “Desire,” Stern notes, as Iverson’s attention focuses in. “Determination, and most importantly, an athlete whose love of competition and intensity is a joy for the world of basketball to behold.” And with that, Stern hands his Association’s Most Valuable Player Award to the barely six foot Iverson, who cracks a wide smile. The impressive size of the annual trophy is enhanced by the size of the man now hoisting it with his shot-weary right arm. A world once skeptical, even fearful, relaxed and learned – a prudent embrace.

Allen Iverson and 2001.

ANNIVERSARIES. GOOD ANSWER.

Few players have been so inextricably linked or freely defined by one season; its foundation was contradiction and resurrection, at once both an everlasting snapshot and an unsustainable furor. It made no sense, or some sense, and was fundamentally fluky but not beyond comprehension. Iverson, the game’s single most talented offensive player, whose career to that point had been a maddening blend of individual brilliance and generation-defining behavior, made a truce with himself, his team, the game – or we made it with him – for that one season. His season. At the time, Iverson was largely looked at with caution. He seemed of a different world in style of play, in dress, in how he lived. In the way he thought, perceived, approached and delivered. There were concerns about his circle of friends and occasional brushes with the law. Detractors saw his encounters as just reward; devotees saw it through another set of goggles, with Iverson as victim of the system, this all making him a polarizing and contradicting figure to his sport (and pro sports in general). His failure to develop positive rehearsal habits led to timeless sound bites while his notable run-ins with Philadelphia head coach Larry Brown only enhanced his reputation as everything wrong with the post-Jordan superstar – a slot Iverson fell into but never gunned for. So unsure of their headlining talent [was the Philadelphia Front Office] that they seemed poised to trade Iverson by the summer of 2000. Brown even appeared before the media to express his fatigue with Iverson’s inability, or unwillingness, to live up to his own professional expectations. So the Sixers constructed a four-team deal that would’ve sent Iverson to Detroit, only the proposed trade fell through. Soon after, lyrics from Iverson’s rap single 40 Bars became public before its release, and the song’s pro-violence, anti-gay, and ‘hood’ themes did plenty in the way of controversy but little to waver the wider opinion of him as irresponsible, both as man and athlete. The trade possibility scared Iverson. The response to his rap single, though predictable, left him with no choice but to be remorseful. He went to Sixers management and begged to become team captain, vowing that he wanted more responsibility (in hopes he would respond). Surrounded by a collection of players whose value lay not with obvious talents but instead that of a willingness to blend, sacrifice, or play a role, the world began to turn in Iverson’s favour. Everything that season, in alignment with Iverson’s life, seemed to point to overcoming insurmountable odds. The Sixers won their first ten regular season outings and wound up with the Eastern Conference’s best record. Iverson even led his East AllStar’s to an improbably upset over the bigger West, claiming game-MVP honours, and reconfiguring his might within the game. As the winning momentum built, so did the attention, resulting in the media-polled regular season MVP going to Iverson – just the fifth time a guard collected the award (joining Bob Cousy – ‘57; Oscar Robertson – ‘64; Magic Johnson – ‘87, ‘89 and ‘90; and Michael Jordan ‘88, ‘91, ‘92, ‘96, ‘98). When the 2001 Post Season rolled around, the Answer’s Sixers defeated Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers in four games (during the opening round) before facing off against Vince Carter’s Toronto Raptors in the Semi-Finals. It pitted the NBA

nightmare: Iverson, against the darling of the airways: Carter, in a hardwood version of good versus evil. Representing the antithesis to Iverson, the 2001 version of Vinsanity was a wholesome, clean cut, warm and welcoming poster child who played his game above the rim. The commonality, however, became evident during competition. Both players averaged over 30 points for the series, each posting 50-point games (Iverson twice), as they mutually raised the other’s level with each passing game. Classic sports theatre. The series went to a deciding seventh game and Iverson delivered an anomalous performance, recording his career high in assists despite a litany of injuries to his battered frame. As the media so desires for it to christen its stars, Iverson had delivered critically within and for his team on the big stage. Iverson’s qualities, once enjoyed only by insiders or unconditionally devoted fans, went unobstructed to an anticipating national audience. He was presented to them in his rawest, unfiltered form: Playing hurt, playing in big games, exuding desperation but hard-headedness, willing his overachieving team. The once uneasy fan was now consuming him in a positive light, able to accept his eccentricities. Iverson professed to be operating as normal, that winning was the allure that had allowed him sudden adulation. The media found itself in admiration, the first peace offering between two parties previously uninterested in appeasing the other. The national networks highlighted his every glory, right up to leading his Sixers past Ray Allen’s Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals and onto the NBA Finals, where Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers awaited. If Iverson had somehow won his good versus evil battle with Carter, and more importantly, the larger duel versus his own perception, then facing a Lakers team undefeated in the postseason (to that point) seemed a somewhat fitting occurrence. He scored an eye-popping 48 points (on the road) in the opening game’s overtime victory, stunning the L.A crowd and reinforcing the notion that he’s an uncompromising competitor. He treated the Staples Center timber like it was his own recreation centre, stepping over players, jawing, scoring, forcing his will over the contest and raising the level of everyone’s intensity – his own team’s and the one he was against. That showing, those couple of hours, the boxscore, all delivered his career defining performance. It was, however, short-lived. The Lakers regrouped and overpowered Philadelphia, winning the next four games to claim the title, the closest Iverson has ever been to winning it all It was also the death of his mainstream acceptance. Evidently, it wasn’t Iverson who changed, but instead, our willingness to look beyond the perception of him. Appearance and lifestyle choice became secondary behind traits – play hard, play hurt, compete – that were suddenly realised as hereditary, embodied by previous greats of the game who were universally adored and commemorated. Iverson, somehow, was like them. He forced us to look at him that way, to strip his best qualities to their bare minimum and view them for their essence. What is left is an unshakeable memory of an iconic player; a satellite for innovation and revolutionary prototypes – an odyssey known solely as 2001.

ANNIVERSARIES. ...5...10...15...20...25...

Five years ago, prior to the start of the 2005-06 season, an updated Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified between the NBA and its Players Association. One of the new rules implemented was Article X, which established an age restriction for players entering the league. Its purpose: prohibit High School athletes from foregoing College and declaring for the NBA Draft.

AGE

Amar’e (‘02)

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LeBron (‘03)

TH E G O L D E N R U L E Words: Duane Watson. Images: courtesy of the Jordan Brand Classic

Preps to Pros

NBA players drafted out of high school by year (1995-2005)

Dwight (‘04)

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Year

# of players

Name (Round)

1995

1

Kevin Garnett (1)

1996

2

Kobe Bryant (1st); Jermaine O’Neal (1)

1997

1

Tracy McGrady (1)

1998

3

Al Harrington (1); Rashard Lewis (2); Korleone Young (2)

1999

2

Jonathan Bender (1); Leon Smith (1)

2000

2

Darius Miles (1); Deshawn Stevenson (1)

2001

3

Kwame Brown (1); Tyson Chandler (1); Eddie Curry (1)

2002

1

Amar’e Stoudemire (1)

2003

4

Lebron James (1); Kendrick Perkins (1); Travis Outlaw (2); James Lang (2)

2004

8

Dwight Howard (1); Shaun Livingston (1); Robert Swift (1); Sebastian Telfair (1); Al Jefferson (1); Josh Smith (1); J.R. Smith (1); Dorrell Wright (1)

2005

8

Martell Webster (1); Andrew Bynum (1); Gerald Green (1); C.J. Miles (2); Monta Ellis (2); Louis Williams (2); Andray Blatche (2); Amir Johnson (2)

ANNIVERSARIES. NUMBERS GAME. The rule stated, “The player (A) is or will be at least 19 years of age during the calendar year in which the Draft is held, and (B) with respect to a player who is not an international player, at least one NBA Season has elapsed since the player’s graduation from High School.” Of the 34 players drafted out of high school in the decade prior to the rule, (1995-2005), 26 are still in the NBA, 16 are starters, while ten actively contribute to their respective teams. Only seven of those drafted are out of the Association; two suffered serious injuries, three were flame-outs (that disappeared shortly after their respective rookie campaign’s), and two played at least four years in the league... and then there’s Eddie Curry. Amir Johnson was the last player drafted directly from High School in ‘05, taken with the 56th pick by the Detroit Pistons. The 6-9 rookie forward had to compete for a roster spot against Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Dale Davis, Antonio McDeyss, Darko Millic, Kelvin Cato and fellow rookie Jason Maxiell – a tough task, even for a seasoned collegian. Now, a starter on the Toronto Raptors, Johnson feels it should be an individual player’s choice. “I don’t think there should be any age limits as rules,” he says. “Players should have the option to decide on their own. Every situation is unique, so I feel it’s a decision that has to be made by the person. For me, I knew I was ready, so I’m glad I made it to the league just before the rule was in place. If you’re ready, you’re ready.” Kevin Durant, the NBA’s youngest ever scoring champion, and two-time league leader, played a single year at the University of Texas before declaring for the NBA Draft, as a result of the rule, and is fully in favour of it. “Having guys wait till they are 19 or have one year of college, I think it’s good like that,” he said in a recent interview. “Kids get experience playing against good competition in college, instead of going straight from high school. I can only speak on my experience, but I think once I went down to school I grew up a lot as a person and as a man off the floor. It got me prepared for my time in the league. A lot of kids may want to go out of high school, but I think if they go to college they really [learn] what the game is about, what life is about, and you can move forward from there.” The notion for the rule is based on the ideal that a year in the collegiate ranks offers all young men more time to develop, both physically and mentally. However, the biggest argument against it was that it didn’t allow these same athletes a choice in their own future. While the rule was agreed

upon by the league and the NBA Players Association, it was still met with significant criticism. “I thought it was absolutely ridiculous,” says sports & culture critic, author and radio host Dave Zirin. “If you’re 18 years old and if the country thinks you’re old enough to carry a gun and fight overseas, it’s ridiculous to think that you can’t play professional basketball. America is the only country on earth that uses our institutions of higher learning as feeder farms for professional sports leagues and the age restrictions has just made that situation all the more transparent and all the more pathetic with the one-and-done syndrome. You go for one year and then you’re gone. The league gets you branded for free, a year older, more mature and that’s it.” There’s no doubting the side effects of the rule come in the form of a potent “One-and-Done” phenomenon; with players going to college for the obligatory freshman year before jumping to the pros. Collegiate programs are even recruiting blue chip prospects with a clear understanding that their tenure won’t go beyond their first season. In ‘08, four of the top five Draft picks were one-and-done players, (Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. May and Kevin Love). Since the rule, certain players have even elected to bypass college altogether (Brandon Jennings) to play professionally overseas. Jennings’ ground breaking decision not only landing him in Italy, fresh out of high school, it also secured him a multi-million dollar sneaker deal with Under Armour before declaring for the Draft. Or there’s the path walked by Latavious Williams, who last year decided to remain closer to home and became the first High School athlete to take the D-League route. Ineligible for an NBA call up (until he turned 19), Williams was drafted and played for the Tulsa 66ers (Oklahoma City Thunder affiliate), which in itself is somewhat contradictory, given the D-League is operated by the NBA but doesn’t itself adhere to the age restriction. As players continue to find ways to leave early or skip college completely, there needs to be an alternative, or player’s educations and the collegiate game will continue to suffer. “I do mourn for what the college game used to be,” Zirin exclaims. “When you would have players like Patrick Ewing or Hakeem Olajuwon stays four years, those days are just dead. I think maybe the NBA should do something like Major League Baseball, where you can go right out of high school, but if you go to college you need to stay for three years. I would be most in favour of

a system where players get a share of the revenue when they are in the college system. Especially in colleges where they play for big time programs which are sponsored by major brands and the coach is making six or seven figures, yet the players are the ones advertising it, running up and down the court. What you have instead is a system that’s built on rank exploitation that the NBA takes full advantage of. The system should be geared towards protecting these kids as opposed to profiting from them.” Five years later, has the age restriction helped? While it’s hard to quantify the number of young people it may have saved, especially those who weren’t mentally or physically ready, it remains a topical subject with the NCAA’s product reaping the largest reward. The big question still lingers: is a single year of Collegiate play enough of a difference? Beasley dominated all comers during his one and done year at Kansas State University but has since shown signs of not being mentally mature enough for life in the pros (as just one example of how one, four, or even zero years, as an unpaid NCAA athlete doesn’t necessarily change who or what a person is). What’s good for Blake Griffin isn’t always right for Derrick Rose and that’s often the crux of this age rule: the number. Being one’s legal age, doesn’t always reflect the individual’s character, their situational disposition or ability to make rational and age appropriate decisions. Regardless, so long as players of John Wall’s ilk attended NCAA schools, athletic program coffers will be fattened. Ironically, the NBA and NBAPA have created a rule that imposes on the rights of others, when it needs to better govern itself. When the 30 franchise owners complain about the state of the luxury tax or the exorbitant salaries (their own players are receiving), it makes little to no sense that such strict laws be enforced when there are so many other, real basketball crimes being perpetrated. The market has always found a way of filtering these fads out and if there’s a concern that too many young, black and over-hyped prospects are entering the league (that simply aren’t ready), then it’s the duty of General Manager’s, Owner’s and Executive’s to NOT draft them. The athletes, as a result, will know their options are limited and will either stay in school longer or find other means to play professionally. If teams exercise discipline and return to drafting “proven talents” over “long term potential,” they will begin to self police, in turn correcting the problem of totalitarian rulings.

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DOMESTIC BLITZ. (LOCAL) AWARD WINNERS.

(Male) Player of the Year: Andrew Bogut

nbl.com.au

Adam Gibson says...

Patty Mills Australian Player of the Year: Khazzouh NBL Player of Season: Julian ee Cad n Jaso : Year the Rookie of k Import of the Season: Ira Clar anis Lem rej And h: Top Coac ey Best Offensive Player: Kirk Penn in Mart ien Dam r: Playe nsive Best Defe

LOCAL

AWARD WINNERS ENTS PRES

PG of the Season: Gary Ervin SG of the Season: Kirk Penney SF of the Season: Glen Saville PF of the Season: Ira Clark zouh C of the Season: Julian Khaz

We teamed up with MVP Sports Management to let the best in the business tell us who they believe are the most deserving NBL hardware recipients for season 2010-11. These are their picks...

Peter Crawford says...

Australian Player of the Year: Andrew Bogut NBL Player of Season: Gary Ervi n Rookie of the Year: Lucas Walk er Import of the Season: Gary Ervi n Top Coach: Andrej Lemanis Best Offensive Player: Kirk Penn ey Best Defensive Player: Damien Martin

Oscar For man says...

Andrew Bogut Australian Player of the Year:

PG of the Season: Gary Ervin SG of the Season: Kirk Penney SF of the Season: Glen Saville PF of the Season: Alex Loughton C of the Season: Julian Khaz zouh

n NBL Player of Season: Gary Ervi gen Mad Ben : Year the of ie Rook n Import of the Season: Gary Ervi od Mcle ie Gord h: Coac Top ey Best Offensive Player: Kirk Penn lle Savi Glen r: Playe nsive Defe Best PG of the Season: Gary Ervin SG of the Season: Kirk Penney SF of the Season: Glen Saville age PF of the Season: Shawn Redh zouh C of the Season: Julian Khaz

says... Dusty Rychart e Year: Bogut / Mills r of th Australian Playe

ey ason: Kirk Penn NBL Player of Se en dg Ma n Be ar: Rookie of the Ye ason: Ira Clark Import of the Se drej Lemanis Top Coach: An Khazzouh Player: Julian e siv Best Offen Martin en mi Da r: ye Pla Best Defensive n : Damien Marti PG of the Season : Kirk Penney son Sea the of SG : Ron Dorsey SF of the Season : Ira Clark son PF of the Sea h : Julian Khazzou C of the Season

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g says... Chris Gouldin e Year: Patty Mills r of th Australian Playe

ason: Gary Ervin NBL Player of Se ar: Ben Madgen Rookie of the Ye Brad Hill says... ason: Gary Ervin Se e th Import of Gleeson Australian Player of the Year: Patty Mills Top Coach: Trevor r: Kirk Penney ye Pla e siv Best Offen Martin ye NBL Player of Season: Kirk Penn Pla r: Damien ey Best Defensive Rookie of the Year: : Adam Gibson Import of the Season: Gary Ervi PG of the Season n : Kirk Penney son Top Coach: Gordie Mcleod Sea the of SG ton Mark Worthing : son Sea Best Offensive Player: Julian the SF of Khazzouh rk Cla Ira : son Best Defensive Player: Damien PF of the Sea azzouh Martin son: Julian Kh C of the Sea

PG of the Season: Gary Ervin SG of the Season: Kirk Penney SF of the Season: Ron Dorsey PF of the Season: Adam Balli nger C of the Season: Julian Khaz zouh

DOMESTIC BLITZ. (LOCAL) AWARD WINNERS.

Nathan Herbert says...

says... Aaron Grabau Year: Patty Mills

Australian Player of the Year: Patty Mills

r of the Australian Playe

ey ason: Kirk Penn NBL Player of Se dgen Ma n Be ar: Ye e Rookie of th ey ason: Ron Dors Import of the Se son ee Gl or ev Tr Top Coach: nney Player: Kirk Pe Best Offensive n Damien Marti r: ye Pla e siv Best Defen : Adam Gibson PG of the Season : Kirk Penney son SG of the Sea : Ron Dorsey SF of the Season ger : Adam Ballin PF of the Season lian Khazzouh Ju : son Sea C of the

SF of the Season: Thomas Abercrombie PF of the Season: Adam Ballinger C of the Season: Julian Khazzouh

... tty Mills en says Ben All Player of the Year: Pa an

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zouh n Khaz n: Julia o s a e S f yer o Madgen NBL Pla ear: Ben of the Y Ervin G : Rookie n ary e Seaso th f o rt rd o Imp Robbilia zzouh ch: Ian an Kha Top Coa yer: Juli la P e a iv M rtin ens Damien Best Off e Player: iv s n fe e Best D Gibson n: Adam e Seaso Penney PG of th k ir K : n rd e Seaso Crawfo SG of th n: Peter e Seaso ghton u o L SF of th x n: Ale h e Seaso hazzou PF of th ulian K eason: J S e th C of

wnbl.com.au

Cameron

T raga

rdh says.. NBL Player of Season: Julian Khazzouh Australian Player . of the Year : Andrew Rookie of the Year: Bogut NBL Player Import of the Season: Ira Clark of Season: Adam Gib Rookie of son Top Coach: Marty Clark the Year: Import of Best Offensive Player: Kirk Penney the Season : Ira Clark Top Coach Best Defensive Player: Damien Martin : Gordie M cLeod Best Offens ive Player: Kirk Penn B es t PG of the Season: Adam Gibson Defensive ey Player: Dam ien Marti SG of the Season: Kirk Penney n PG of the Season: Da mien Mar SG of the tin Season: Ki rk Penney SF of the Se ason: Glen Saville PF of the Se ason: Shaw n Redhag C of the Se e ason: Ira Clark

Tom Daly says...

Australian Player of the Year: Patty Mills NBL Player of Season: Kirk Penn ey Rookie of the Year: Import of the Season: Gary Ervi n Top Coach: Marty Clark / Gord ie Mcleod Best Offensive Player: Kirk Penn ey Best Defensive Player: Damien Martin PG of the Season: Gary Ervin SG of the Season: Kirk Penney SF of the Season: Ron Dorsey PF of the Season: Adam Balli nger C of the Season: Julian Khaz zouh

Special Thanks:

mvpsports.com.au

FEMALE

AWARD WINNERS

(Female) Player of the Year: Liz Cambage Sharin Milner says...

says... Natalie Porter yer le Pla Australian Fema en Jackson of the Year: Laur

mbage Season: Liz Ca WNBL Player of len Al a cc ar: Rebe Rookie of the Ye on ason: Amy Dens Import of the Se Maher Top Coach: Tom age Player: Liz Camb Best Offensive ll Hi Player: Jo Best Defensive r : Sharin Milne PG of the Season isten Veal Kr : son Sea SG of the : Jenna Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Hea SF of the Season lo : Marianna To PF of the Season Liz Cambage : son Sea the C of

Australian Female Player of the Year: Lauren Jackson

WNBL Player of Season: Liz Cambage / Kathleen McLeod Rookie of the Year: Gretel Tipp et Import of the Season: Tracy Gah an Top Coach: Tom Maher Best Offensive Player: Liz Cam bage + Kathleen McLeod Best Defensive Player: Tully Bevilaqua PG of the Season: Kathleen McLe od SG of the Season: Sarah Grah am SF of the Season: Carly Wilso n PF of the Season: Amy Denson C of the Season: Liz Cambage + Marianna Tolo

Dee Butle rs

ays... Australian Female Play er of the Year : Liz Cam bage WNBL Play er of Season : Liz Cam Rookie of bage the Year: T ess Madge Import of n the Season : Amy Den Top Coach son : Tom Mah er Best Offens ive Player: Liz Camba Best Defen ge sive Player : Carly W ilson

PG of the Season: Ka thleen McL SG of the eod Season: Sa rah Grah SF of the Se am ason: Rach el Jarry PF of the Se ason: Mar ianna Tolo C of the Se ason: Liz Cambage

Special thanks to Natalie Porter. Catch up with the Flames star at: www.npire.com.au bucketsmag.bigcartel.com

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WNBA. 11 NAMES TO WATCH IN 2011.

Queens Of The Crystal Age 15th season wnba.com

Words: Ben York. Image: Brad Graham. The WNBA’s 15th season is shaping up to be its bet yet, with true parity offering all fans a highly competitive, unpredictable and world-class product. While staples Diana Taurasi, Lauren Jackson and Candace Parker resume their battle for the right to be named the best in the business, debutants Maya Moore and Liz Cambage provide the league with a new collection of top-flight rookies to fuel an already compelling sub-plot. With the fore-mentioned star power permeating and both attendance numbers and television ratings continually on the rise, the 2011 campaign could very well be the league’s finest hour. Need a quick refresher course? We got you covered – here are 11 players you need to watch in 2011…

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11. Angel McCoughtry. Atlanta Dream.

6.

In just her second year in the league, McCoughtry led the Dream to their firstever WNBA Finals appearance while nearly doubling her scoring average. McCoughtry does a little bit of everything on the timber and can score the ball from just about anywhere inside the halfcourt line. Look for McCoughtry, and the Dream, to be Eastern Conference noise makers again in 2011.

After earning MVP honours her rookie season, Parker missed the majority of the past couple of years due to the birth of her first child and a shoulder injury. Back to full health, Parker feels she has something to prove to the rest of the league. Pushed by the fact that both Taurasi and Jackson are at the top of their game’s, expect Parker to aim her sights at the WNBA throne.

10. Candice Dupree. Phoenix Mercury.

5.

Dupree shot 66% from the field in 2010…66%! The smoothest and most unique post-player in the game, Dupree will be looking to once again guide the Phoenix Mercury back into championship form. If she shoots anywhere close to 66% in 2011, look for her to earn another All-Star birth along with All-WNBA Team selection.

Like Dwight Howard in the NBA, if you give Sylvia Fowles the ball then good things will inevitably happen. Her shotattempts, field goals, and points per game were all up in 2010 and they’ll continue to increase in 2011 (with Pokey Chatman now coaching the Sky). A monster in the paint, Fowles is the most dominant postplayer since Lisa Leslie.

9.

Diana Taurasi. Phoenix Mercury.

4.

Candace Parker. Los Angeles Sparks.

Sylvia Fowles. Chicago Sky.

Alana Beard. Washington Mystics.

After enjoying much-needed time off, following her Turkish League controversy (or non-controversy, since she was declared innocent), Taurasi’s well-rested body will see play injury free after, amazingly, she won the 2010 scoring title with an injured shooting hand. Imagine what a healthy Taurasi is set to unleash.

After missing all of 2010 with an ankle injury, Beard has made it her mission to return with a vengeance in 2011. The Mystics finally have the necessary pieces in place to make a legitimate run at the Eastern Conference crown and Beard will be an integral part of their quest on both ends of the floor.

8. Seimone Augustus. Minnesota Lynx.

3.

Seimone Augustus is widely considered the Carmelo Anthony of the WNBA; there are few players who can put the ball in the hoop like she can. The best part? She is now healthy and playing her best basketball in years. Look for Augustus to form a dynamic duo with rookie Maya Moore and lead a loaded Lynx team back into the WNBA Playoffs.

A case could be made that 2010 was Lauren Jackson’s finest in the WNBA. She collected the regular season MVP trophy, the WNBA Finals MVP award, and captured her second championship with the Seattle Storm. How will she follow up her 2010 showing in 2011? If history is any indication, Jackson will be in the conversation for MVP honours at season’s end… again.

7. Tamika Catchings. Indiana Fever.

2.

Perhaps the most complete player in the game, Catchings returns in 2011 after notching her fourth Defensive Player of the Year award (in 2010) to go along with a career-high 48 percent shooting. A player with no visible weaknesses, Catchings will aim to revisit the Fever’s ‘09 success: a trip to the Finals.

Perhaps the most-hyped (female) collegiate player of all-time, Maya Moore comes into the WNBA fold on top of the world. Like most first year pros, she might not dominate right away but once she gets her feel for professional basketball, she has all the offensive tools to become a hurricane.

Lauren Jackson. Seattle Storm.

Maya Moore. Minnesota Lynx.

WNBA. 11 NAMES TO WATCH IN 2011.

1.

Liz Cambage. Tulsa Shock.

Now that Cambage has landed in the WNBA, the league has definitely been put on full alert. Already showing how versatile she can be, by winning the WNBLâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s MVP and guiding the Bulleen Boomers to their first ever championship, Cambage might experience a few growing pains at first but thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s little reason to doubt that Cambage will be an impact player right from the start.

THE INSIDER. 2011 NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND: LOS ANGELES. Images: Brad Graham.

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THE INSIDER. 2011 NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND: LOS ANGELES.

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THE INSIDER. 2011 NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND: LOS ANGELES.

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THE INSIDER. 2011 NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND: LOS ANGELES.

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THE INSIDER. 2011 NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND: LOS ANGELES.

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VITALS. YOUR (NEW) NUTS AND BOLTS.

The Good Guide Words: Sandy Dover. Images: courtesy of brands. Anytime a player, regardless of skill level, wants to retain peak performance, the right choice of fuel is essential. Those who understand exactly how the human body works are always quick to mention that it’s much better to eat something than nothing at all. It’s a universal truth, no matter what the food may be, especially when exercise is involved… but what if you don’t need to eat marginally? Check out our latest find: P28 Bread. The BUCKETS team have been huge fans of the taste, lean muscle promotion and healthier lifestyle option for months now and figured it best to share the secret with you all. P28 Bread was originally conceived by three American brothers: Chris, Mike and Peter Christou (and their Personal Trainer / Nutritionist: Billy Sullivan), all of whom remain successful baking industry businessmen; and their masterstroke, P28 Bread contains 28 grams of protein (for every two slices or single bagel), hence the name: Protein 28. We’ve found P28 Bread directly benefits our athletic endeavours and this resource comes highly recommended for anyone looking for a healthy, lifestyle improving alternative. Composed with all-natural ingredients, P28 Bread is perfect for a low carbohydrate diet, marking the future of baked goods where greater nutrition and a balanced diet not only aid athletic performance but help with overall well-being. To order your serving, check out: www.highproteinbread.com

Hers #1 Wade Fan (white) and his #1 LeBron Fan (black) tees www.purpleheartclothing.com Oak crewneck by K1X www.k1x.com

Written by our two favourite Canadian podcasters, Audley and Dave (hosts of The Breakdown. ED. -- subscribe to their show on iTunes), Basketball Talk, The Way It Should Be! is a fun, entertaining and surprisingly inspiring quote book. Best of all, the dynamic (podcasting) duo have announced that they’ll be donating a portion of the proceeds from their debut book to ErinoakKids and Epilepsy Halton Peel Hamilton, respectively. The book is available now in both paperback and audio e-book versions. Make sure you visit their ‘Order Now’ page on www.thebreakdownbook.com and grab your copy today!

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NBA x Marvel Comics Superhero Collection www.store.nba.com

VITALS. EDUTAINMENT.

Albums Of The Year

NBA Dynasty Series – Los Angeles Lakers: The Complete History (10 Disc Box Set) Duration: 1338 mins Rated: E (For Everyone)

Words: Brad Graham. Images: courtesy of Beyond.

Ultimate Jordan – Collector’s Edition (6 Disc Set) Duration: 330mins. Rated: E (For Everyone) All you really need to know about this Collector’s Edition boxset is Ultimate Jordan comes complete as an all-inclusive tribute to our favourite out and out American icon. As pleasing as it is personifying; as revelatory as it is rousing, this ever-lasting hoops omnibus of excellence recounts MJ’s untouchable career via his five best Chicago Bulls outings – each in its entirety (making this more of an educational DVD instead of your standard sports title). The invaluable game footage of Michael at his finest makes this package a real delight but with his five classic, best-selling programs also included: Come Fly With Me, Michael Jordan’s Playground, Air Time, Above and Beyond and His Airness, one would be insane not to add this reference guide to their home entertainment catalogue. If that wasn’t enough (to get you working an extra shift to free up the cash to nab one of these compilations), there’s also dual six minute segments about Jordan’s top games, titled Michael’s Great 8.

Also Available...

Undeniable: The Rise of Dwayne Wade. Duration: 78mins

Greatest Rivalries & Upsets: Volume 1 Duration: 79mins

Chronicling the Lakers franchise from their glory days in Minneapolis (with the Association’s first true headliner, George Mikan) thru to their current standing as the most capped franchise of the past the 40 years in Los Angeles (thanks to the Showtime era giants: Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Magic Johnson; the Kobe Bryant x Shaquille O’Neal trilogy and the Black Mamba’s recent repeat); this incredibly detailed, easy to enjoy history lesson is more than a must have for any self respecting Laker fan, it’s also a chance for all hoop heads to (re) discover both the divine and the divide this organization has endured since its inception. Offering rare archival footage, complete games and extensive highlights, as well as vital interviews (and necessary era overviews), this Special Edition Collector’s box-set isn’t just 22 plus hours of nostalgia, it’s as good as it gets. They don’t call the greatest Blue / White or Purple / Gold outfits ‘dynasty squadrons’ for nothing. This collection explores each and every significant Laker troop in painstaking detail, so while you may not like the Lakers, after seeing this anthology, you’re sure as hell going to respect them.

Complete LA Lakers’ game’s included: 1972 Finals: Game 5 1980 Finals: Game 6 1982 Finals: Game 1 1985 Finals: Game 6 1987 Finals: Game 4 1988 Finals: Game 7 2000 Finals: Game 4 2001 Finals: Game 5 2002 Westerm Conference Finals: Game 7

Los Angeles Lakers: ‘08-09 NBA Champions / ‘09-10 NBA Champions Duration: 150mins

For more must-own DVD releases, check out www.beyondhomeentertainment.com.au bucketsmag.bigcartel.com

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EPILOGUE. OAK-WASH.

orld The W

Oakley is wearing the “Together We Chill” tee by K1X. Check out www.k1x.com for more.

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EPILOGUE. OAK-WASH.

Feared by his peers and colleagues; daunting to referees and fans in the expensive seats; and the ultimate muscle to Michael Jordan’s social circle, CHARLES OAKLEY is still an impressively imposing personality, even though his basketball shorts have since been traded in for boardroom pinstripes. As BUCKETS sat down with the newly appointed Charlotte Bobcats Assistant Coach, one brain wave is hard to escape: this dude has seen it all. From his bodyguard days in Chicago to his indelible badass run on the 90s Knickerbockers frontline; when this Oak tree speaks, you do yourself a favour... you shut up and listen. You’re finally back in the NBA but how does it feel to sit on the bench and work while many of the guys you played against – Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Reggie Miller, etc. – are now enjoying cushy jobs and covering your Bobcats’ games?

You’ve always referred to yourself as an average NBA player but with all the success you’ve enjoyed, not to mention all the memorable Playoff battles in front of those sell-out Madison Square Garden crowds, many players continue to strive to have a career like yours…

I didn‘t look to get a pat on the back. I just played the game. I mean Patrick [Ewing] and John [Starks] were our main two scorers. I wasn’t trying to compete for publicity or anything like that. I was just trying to play the game. Not too many guys could play the way I played and not too many guys did play the way I played. I was a Power Forward but most fours wouldn‘t hit free throws or hit jumpers or play defense like that. I mean it was all out, every night. That‘s exactly why I have a hard time with the “average player“ label…

I don‘t really care about that because nine times out of ten they don’t know what they are talking about. Most of the commentators are joking anyways.

I think it was just different back then. There were a lot of good teams that we faced. Many times we won, but sometimes we lost. The thing was that everybody was really competitive back then.

Now you get to see the game from the bench, scouting reports and all… what are your thoughts on the current state of the Association and quality of product that is being put out on the floor?

The product put on the floor by the NBA during the golden years was, at least in my opinion, the right one. Can you tell me what the atmosphere was like in the Garden back in the day?

The situation is the same way it was when I last addressed this topic [last year], and in other ways it’s even worse. It‘s really bad. I mean the players are all athletes but their basketball education is quite bad. I see it first hand every day around the league. A lot of players are letting themselves go. That’s why I say that the league is inferior because you’re scouting teams, preparing for a team and you see that the talent level is poor. It‘s unbelievable.

The thing about New York City is that the fans kept coming every night because of the way basketball was played, especially games against teams like the Lakers and the Bulls. The other thing is that when you play hard the fans will notice and they will appreciate that. That’s what is so special about that era. But today it’s the same thing. Just look at the way you’re playing and you will figure out where you’re at.

So how do you try and address changing that?

Dwight Howard is working out with your former teammate [and Magic Assistant Coach] Patrick Ewing. How do you evaluate his development?

It’s a league problem first and foremost. You can only affect your own team, your own players. What do you think when you hear about players spending their off-season recording a rap album or shooting a movie, rather than spending that time in the gym to improve their game?

I’ve never really followed what is going on in that regard but each to his own. Look at guys like Derrick Rose. He put in work, got better. Westbrook same thing: worked, got better. You can see who is putting in the work. Do you think that an intensified focus on teaching the fundamentals of the game and the values of respect for veteran leadership would be a start?

That can help but you have to influence the culture of the league in its entirety. That‘s tough to coach. The NBA has to take care of this situation. I mean it’s nerve wracking.

Howard is not a scorer to me. He should be able to put up 25 points every night. He should be able to go get 20 and 20, easily. When a guy jokes around a lot, I don‘t like that demeanor on the basketball court. With his talent, he could completely dominate and understand the game of basketball. You’ve been know to view basketball as an everyday job. Is that something that you try to teach to the guys on the Bobcats’ roster?

I just talk to the guys and tell them to treat each day as though it was their job. Come to work. Don’t be weak-minded. Be attentive, focused. Players complain a lot these days and I’m always telling them, “You can‘t do that. You’re nobody, you’re not getting any calls. Stop complaining.” I mean, when you are winning 65 plus games a year the refs might take the time to know you but if you‘re loosing, you’re getting a lot less attention. I always tell them, you’ve got to get it together.

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AWARD WINNERS / THE ETERNALISTS.

ISSUE TWO END CREDITS

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SPECIAL THANKS To all the people who have helped (BUCKETS Magazine) out over the past few months; and to all those who have provided support for this Issue, and you all know who you are, a huge thank you. To all the respective and hardworking P.R + Communications contacts, your efforts are greatly appreciated. Finally, BUCKETS would like to shout out and give an extra special thanks to Brian Duff, Ben Funnell, Melvin Gapido, Mathew Herring, Gary Lee, Davin Sgargetta and Wayne Hunt, this wouldn’t be possible without your priceless support and ongoing endorsement.

WIN One of three NBA DVD Packs!

Thanks to:

To be in the running, to win one of our three Beyond Home Entertainment NBA DVD Packs, simply visit our FaceBook page and tell us, in 25 words (or less), which moment from the 2010-11 NBA season was your favourite (and why). Winners receive: F 1x Greatest Rivalries and Upsets Vol. 1 F 1x Dynasty: The Complete History of the Lakers DVD boxset F 1x LA Lakers 2008/09 & 2009/10 Championship DVD Double Pack.

Leave your responses here: facebook.com/bucketsmag NBA DVDs courtesy of Beyond Home Entertainment. Winners will be selected based on the strenghth of their argument. Prize Pack winners will be notified via email. Compeition concludes on Friday, September 30, 2011.

FINE PRINT.

All rights reserved. All materials cannot be reproduced in part or in full, by any means, without the permission of the publishers. While the publishers have taken all reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the material contained in this publication, it is a condition of purchase of BUCKETS: The Book of Basketball Goodness that the publishers do not assume any responsibility or liability for any inaccuracy or omission, or from the use of the information contained herein and the publishers make no warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to any of the material contained herein.

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