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1. February 3 vs. Raptors 100-85
2. February 4 vs. Bobcats 99-94
3. February 6 vs. Rockets 114-108
7. February 14 vs. Thunder 110-100
8. February 20 vs. Hawks 103-90
9. February 21 vs. Bulls 86-67
13. March 1 vs. Grizzlies 98-91
14. March 3 vs. Knicks 99-93
15. March 4 vs. Timberwolves 97-81
19. March 12 vs. Hawks 98-81
20. March 13 vs. 76ers 102-93
21. March 15 vs. Bucks 107-94
25. March 22 vs. Pistons 103-89
26. March 24 vs. Bobcats 109-77
27. March 25 vs. Magic 108-94
4. February 8 vs. Clippers 111-89
5. February 10 vs. Lakers 107-97
6. February 12 vs. Trail Blazers 117-104
10. February 23 vs. 76ers 114-90
11. February 24 vs. Cavaliers 109-105
12. February 26 vs. Kings 141-129 (2OT)
16. March 6 vs. Magic 97-96
17. March 8 vs. 76ers 102-93
18. March 10 vs. Pacers 105-91
22. March 17 vs. Raptors 108-91
23. March 18 vs. Celtics 105-103
24. March 20 vs. Cavaliers 98-95
ISSAC BALDIZON (14); LAYNE MURDOCH; SCOTT CUNNINGHAM; JESSE D. GARRABRANT (2); DAVID SHERMAN; GARY DINEEN; RON TURENNE; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; DAVID LIAM KYLE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; JONATHAN DANIEL; NICK LAHAM; CHRIS TROTMAN; GARY BOGDON/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
Had the Miami Heat’s 27-game win streak—the second best all-time behind the 1971-72 Lakers’ 33-game streak—gone any longer, we would have been forced to print the book on bigger paper.
GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Just in case you forgot, reigning Slam Dunk champ Terrence Ross gives a little reminder why he wears the winged crown.
EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
Kobe Bryant hasn’t been a 12-time (and by the time you’re reading this, possibly 13) All-Defensive Team member merely by chance. Throughout his 17-year career, Bryant has been one of the best at getting right under—and occasionally inside—the opponent’s nose while defending him. Just ask Klay Thompson. Actually, we think it just merely looks that way in the picture. Or snot.
Pride of the Fleet. Leader of the Category. SUV of the Year. The GL is Motor Trend ’s 2013 Sport/Utility of the Year.®
When the groundbreaking GL was ﬁrst introduced, it was awarded Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year honors. So what happened when the second-generation GL was recently launched? You guessed it. The 2013 GL was just awarded top SUV honors again by Motor Trend. Proof that history repeating itself is a good thing. Test-drive the new 7-passenger GL at your local Mercedes-Benz dealer or visit MBUSA.com for more details. And you can take home a two-time winner today.
2013 GL 550 4MATIC® shown in Lunar Blue metallic paint. May include optional equipment. No system, regardless of how advanced, can overcome the laws of physics or correct careless driving. First generation GL was the winner of 2007 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year.® Please always wear your seat belt. ©2012 Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC For more information, call 1-800-FOR-MERCEDES, or visit MBUSA.com.
11/27/12 2:52 PM
NOAH GRAHAM (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Yes, you’ve probably had this dunk on repeat so much that your ISP is thinking about cutting you off, but DeAndre Jordan’s monstrous dunk on Brandon Knight bears another viewing (worth seeing is the reactions of the players from both sides). Respect to Knight for having the courage to challenge DJ; ducking a dunk is a worse look if you ask us.
T H E B E S T W AY T O
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LASTS FORR 4 DAYS.
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46 Positive Correlation As cliché as it is to say that “a good defense will trump good offense” or that “defense wins championships,” it’s true. Especially come playoff time—when two teams trade punches in a seven-game series, know each other as well as their signifcant others, and every point save for free-throws are challenged.
53 The Perfect Shot As a 12-year veteran of the NBA, Allan Houston was known for possessing a jumpshot so buttery that it would make even Paula Deen blush. Now retired, Houston has another picture-perfect shot: to be a future GM. If he handles the preparation like he honed his jumper, Houston will have no problem.
61 Decadent It really doesn’t feel like it’s been 10 years since the teenager who played and looked beyond his 18 years stepped onto the stage to shake the commissioner’s hand. Since LeBron James’ arrival (and you can argue he “arrived” long before he put on an NBA uniform), we’ve been constantly reminded of the many past NBA greats that have preceded him—Michael, Magic, Oscar, Bird, Dr. J, to name just a few— every time he steps foot onto a basketball court. LeBron was able to do seemingly everything asked of a basketball player, except win a championship, but with his frst one checked off and in a position to make good on what was once braggadocio, James is on a path to become one of the all-time greats, as he fnishes his milestone Season X.
38 Noah Limits The irony to Joakim Noah is that for someone with a supposedly limited game—lack of a polished offensive game, athleticism and a varied skill set—he also possesses a heart, motor and drive that allows him to surpass those blessed with more potential or natural ability. Look no further than this season—one which Noah has had to play without the Bulls’ best player, personal injuries, and the added pressure of having to do more—to prove how valuable he is. 010
Poster A then and now pin-up to King James. On the fipside is one of LeBron’s favorite players growing up, Allen Iverson.
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THE GAME PLAN MAY/JUNE 2013 DEPARTMENTS
2 Warmups 16 The Point 19 Jumpball Starting 5: Steve Nash reminisces about his favorite teammates to pass to; Dance Life: Charlotte Lady Cats’ Rhema; In His Shoes: Stephen Curry recounts what it was like to go for 54 at Madison Square Garden; Celeb Row: Steven Yeun, aka “Glenn” from The Walking Dead, talks about how he’d survive a celebrity basketball game; First Five: Bismack Biyombo, Gordon Hayward, Lance Stephenson, Tobias Harris, Reggie Evans; Head2Head: the battle for sixth man supremacy between J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford; Numerology: The 123s of the NBA; Peripheral Vision: New Orleans Pelicans longtime equipment manager David Jovanovic; Transition Game: Deron Williams; Brackit: the best NBA threesome of all time; Know Your Newb: The oldest “rookie” in the NBA this season, Pablo Prigioni.
24 Seconds: Paul George The Indiana Pacer sits down with us to talk about his breakout year.
102 Stepback The time Scottie Pippen tried to take it to Charles Barkley in the 1993 Finals.
104 Final Exam As you would’ve guessed, Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard aces his fnal.
85 Check-It Spin Moves: As suspected, eyebrow-grooming was not one of Anthony Davis’ offcourt passions; Goods: The best Android phone in the market is the One; Gear: The Nike Elite 2.0 series, the adidas Crazyquick, and a few choice running shoes to hit the pavement in; Wear: Summer looks.
CHANGES THE WORLD
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THE POINT This is my earliest NBA memory: It was at my cousin’s house,1 sometime in 1981 or so. I wanted to watch cartoons,2 but my older cousin had the TV tuned3 to an NBA game. I have no recollections from the game, but I do vividly remember “Dr. J”4 being shouted a few times. After the game, the pack5 migrated across the street to the playground where we all played basketball.6 As a 6-year-old, it was a time when the NBA took a backseat to midday kung-fu ficks7 and Battle of the Network Stars,8 but somehow the Dr. J moniker resonated. A short time later, as my obsession for comic books grew, I would regularly come across a comic-style ad9 featuring Rick Barry and you guessed it: Julius “Dr. J” Erving. But by then, the good Dr. was coming down to Earth from his otherworldly heights,10 the Magic/Bird takeover of the League was in full effect and a young cat from North Carolina was already lacing up his Air Jordans. Sports fandom, like many things growing up, is set at an early age, and once set, rarely deviates from the original coding.11 For me, it’ll always be Magic smiling down the court while finging no-look passes, Bird clowning dudes with precision in a package that betrayed his basketball greatness, and accepting the fact that the more you wanted Michael Jordan to miss a shot against the Knicks, the greater the likelihood of it falling in.12 What I’m trying to say is, as great as Dr. J was to older fans like my cousin, I grew up with Magic/Bird/Jordan; they were the ones who left an indelible mark on my basketball psyche. And the same is happening now to younger fans who have grown up with Kobe for the past 17 seasons and LeBron over the past decade. Youngsters watching the game now sometimes think the discussion begins and ends with Kobe, LeBron or Kevin Durant, forgetting the previous generation, much like myself 25-30 years ago. To some ’90s babies, Jordan is a guy who sells shoes worthy of getting in line13 for and Magic/ Bird a historical tandem in basketball lore.14 Great players, LeBron, when he covered our March 2005 issue. Look familiar? certainly, but better than 81 points or alley-oop dunks buzzed over on Twitter?15 Hardly. BONUS POINTS And it’s OK. 1. All family gatherings ended up there since they had the double apartment, 13-inch color Sony Trinitron and cable. Every generation has its zeitgeist. Who’s better? It makes 2. The violent shenanigans of Tom and Jerry never got old. for good banter and bridges fans of all ages together, but 3. Pre-remote control days. Changing channels required twisting the dial on the cable box, which hovered out of my reach. that’s not important. The one common thread between them 4. I was very confused why a doctor played such a prominent role all: They’ve all inspired, captured attention/imagination and in basketball. become the standard for greatness. Despite consuming it 5. A dozen of us made up the brood. 6. I couldn’t yet even graze the rim with my nascent shot so through different mediums—VHS vs. YouTube, newspaper box “playing basketball” at the time meant I was relegated to fetching scores the next day vs. instant game-trackers, live Internet the ball every time it errantly rolled away. Which was often. 7. Five Deadly Venoms and the one with the spinning guillotine streams vs. tape delay—the end result is the same. never disappointed. So even if—and it’s looking pretty good right now—LeBron 8. Now we have Dancing with the Stars, Splash and Celebrity Apprentice. one day wins as many rings as his jersey number, scores 9. Spalding ad for outdoor rubber balls that featured Dr. J dunking more points than Kareem, averages a trip-dub in a season and Barry swishing a jumper in front of awe-spewing kids. like Big O, develops a Nike spin-off company with his name, 10. He also had a twinge of gray and had ceded alpha-dog status to Moses Malone and Charles Barkley. you’ll never convince me that he is better. 11. It’s why nostalgia is so strong. And in a few years when the world is fawning over the next 12. Every—and I mean every—Knicks fan growing up in the ’90s is tormented with the confusing feelings of rooting for “Air Apparent” or “Chosen One,” I expect this generation to say your team while at the same time being mystifed with Jordan’s the same about LeBron. performance.
Ming Wong #2
13. Or these days RSVPing on Twitter or playing refresh-a-mole on a retailer site. 14. Kind of like how we regard the ferocity of the Tyrannosaurus Rex or revere the Roman Empire, but think that pitted against the modern world, neither would stand a chance. 15. To kids now, if it ain’t documented on YouTube or Instagram, it might as well have not existed.
Volume 41, No. 4
Editor-in-Chief Ming Wong #2 Design Director Kengyong Shao #31 Assistant Editor Phil D’Apolito #14 Online Editor Darryl Howerton #21 Editor-at-Large Jeramie McPeek #4 Copy Editor Trevor Kearney #8 WNBA Editor Lois Elfman #40 Senior Writer Michael Bradley #53 Contributing Writers Ray Bala #55, Russ Bengtson #43, Myles Brown #37, Jon Cooper #10, Jim Eichenhofer #12, Brandon Edler #36, Anthony Gilbert #1, Brian A. Giuffra #17, Vincent Goodwill #5, Melody Hoffman #34, Andy Jasner #27, Holly MacKenzie #32, Brett Mauser #25, McG #93, Jeff Min #12, Earl K. Sneed #23, Duane Watson #7, Jared Zwerling #3 Illustrator Matt Candela #52 Retired Numbers #6, #11, #13, #30, #99
Professional Sports Publications 519 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10018 Tel: (212) 697-1460 Fax: (646) 753-9480 Executive VP Operations Jeff Botwinick Executive VP, Business Development Martin Lewis Executive VP, Sales Steve Farkas Executive VP, Sales Mitch Gibbs Executive VP, Team Relations Dave Gerschwer Executive Administrative Director Julie Wong Manager, Marketing Services Aron Sawyer Production Manager Jaime Ziegler Production Assistant Tara Malloy
NBA Publishing/NBA Photos Executive VP, and Executive Producer, Production, Programming, and Broadcasting Danny Meiseles Senior VP, Multimedia Production Paul Hirschheimer Senior VP, Entertainment & Player Marketing Charlie Rosenzweig Senior VP, Marketing Communications Mike Bass Senior Director, NBAE Production John Hareas Executive Vice President, Global Merchandising Group Sal LaRocca Associate Director, Global Merchandising Group Matt Holt Senior Coordinator, Global Merchandising Group Brandon Eddy Coordinator, Global Merchandising Group Greg Brownstein Manager, Global Media Programs Felecia Groomster Senior Directors & Senior Offcial NBAE Photographers Andrew D. Bernstein, Nathaniel S. Butler Vice President, NBA Photos Joe Amati Director, Photos Imaging David Bonilla Offcial NBAE Photographer Jesse Garrabrant Senior Photo Editor Brian Choi Photo Coordinator Kevin Wright All NBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBA Entertainment. All WNBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of WNBA Enterprises. All NBDL photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBDL Enterprises. HOOP is published monthly, December through June, by PSP. © 2013 Professional Sports Publications. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without permission of publisher is prohibited. To subscribe to HOOP, call (800) 829-3347. PRINTED IN THE USA
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AS TOLD TO JON COOPER #10 STARTING 5
LOS ANGELES LAKERS For 17 seasons, Steve Nash has set the standard for what a point guard should be as far as unselfshness, professionalism, leadership and just plain excellence. As hard as it is to believe, the 39-yearold Nash, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, but grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, was barely recruited out of high school. He ended up at Santa Clara, where he shined in a small conference. The school would retire his #11, the frst retired in school history. His play got the Phoenix Suns’ attention and they made Nash their frst pick (15th overall) in the 1996 draft. After a trade to Dallas where he established his AllStar credentials, Nash returned to Phoenix and amassed back-to-back NBA MVP awards (2005, ’06), eight Western Conference All-Star Game appearances, and three All-NBA First-Team selections before moving to Hollywood. Making his teammates better has always been at the heart of Nash’s game. He led the NBA in assists fve times in a seven-year period, three-peating 2004-05 through 2006-07, then winning back-to-backs in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Only once from 2004-05 through 2011-12 did he average fewer than 10.0 assists per game. Nash also has been able to score the ball throughout his career, averaging 14.4 ppg for his career, on 49.1 percent shooting, 42.8 from three and 90.4 from the line. It’s hardly a coincidence that Nash’s teams have won. He’s had only four losing seasons in his 17 years, and has been part of 10 teams that won at least 50 games and three teams that took home at least 60. His teams have had a 61.9 winning percentage (782-482) dating into the 2012-13 season. He’s also quarterbacked four teams to the Western Conference Finals, leading Dallas there in 2003, then Phoenix in 2005, ’06 and ’10. The ’05 Suns had the best record in the NBA, going 62-20. In winning all those games and making some deep playoff runs, Nash has handed out assists to some outstanding fnishers. To the right is the team full of Hall of Famers and All-Stars (including himself) he’d put together amongst them.
JUMPBALL SMALL FORWARD: DIRK NOWITZKI Teammates in Dallas from 1998-2004 “I’d play Dirk at the small forward. He’s a great player. He’s a matchup nightmare. He’s a great shooter. He’s terrifc. We got to go to a bunch of All-Star Games together. His size and skill, he was a matchup problem for bigger guys, he’s quick enough and mobile enough to get free and for smaller guys he can shoot over them.”
POWER FORWARD: AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE Teammates in Phoenix from 2004-2010 “Amar’e, just his great hands, great athleticism, he’s an amazing fnisher and a good midrange shooter. He’s just super talented.”
CENTER: DWIGHT HOWARD Current teammate “He is probably the best center I’ve ever played with. He’s just terrifc defensively, physically, he’s a big presence and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate every year.”
SHOOTING GUARD: KOBE BRYANT Current teammate “Kobe, for sure. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the game. He’s a terrifc shot-maker and can always get his shot. He’s just a pure scorer. He plays the game at a level that very few have ever played it. It’s fun to watch.”
POINT GUARD: JASON KIDD/KEVIN JOHNSON
SIXTH MAN: PAU GASOL/MICHAEL FINLEY
Teammates with Kidd and Johnson in Phoenix from 1996-1998 “Take your pick. Both are pretty good. Jason’s just a terrifc all-court player. He could defend, was great in transition, had good size for a guard, could get to the basket.” “Kevin was a terrifc scorer. He could penetrate, pull up for a shot. Both of them could really set up their teammates. Both were very competitive.”
Current teammate (Gasol), teammates with Finley in Phoenix in 1996-1997 and in Dallas from 1998-2004 “They’re two different guys but both, in their day, were great. Fin was an athletic scorer who could get his shot and Pau is just an unbelievable playmaker for his size, a very talented passer and can score the ball as well.”
NOAH GRAHAM (2); LAYNE MURDOCH; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (3); ANDY HAYT; GREGORY SHAMUS; GLENN JAMES/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
JUMP BALL DANCE LIFE
CHARLOTTE LADY CATS What’s your earliest dance recollection? I was probably like 4 years old, probably watching a Michael Jackson Pop-up video trying to do the moonwalk or something along those lines. How has the experience been as a member of the Lady Cats? I love it, it’s awesome, this is my third season with the Lady Cats. We have a blast, just with my teammates alone, the experience naturally is just amazing and a blessing to be a part of. Do you think trying out for the Bobcats is just as grueling as trying out for the Lady Cats? I don’t know, the things that we have to go through... I don’t know exactly what they have to do, but it’s a pretty intense experience through auditions. It’s the longest Saturday of your life, they teach you a dance and you only have 15-20 minutes to learn it. Then they just put you in groups, turn the music on, let the lights go out, spotlight comes on and there’s like 10 judges and a panel of people staring at you. You have like a minute to drop it like its hot, and hope you make it to the next round, and that can go on like all day. Once you make that, you go through a week of boot camp and another fnal auditions, which is similar to
the frst thing with way less girls. It’s certainly a lot of pressure, but honestly a lot of fun too. What was your frst game like? It was super exciting. Our nerves are out of control, anxiety level a 10, and we’re staring back at our coach, staring around at each other, trying to hold it together. Seriously, I don’t even remember anybody being in the stands, I was so focused on what I had to do and my role, I couldn’t even tell you if Nelly was sitting in the front row or not. The greatest basketball player ever is the owner of your team. What’s your greatest MJ memory? Oh my gosh! I’ve been a Michael Jordan fan my whole life! I’m from the Midwest so we grew up watching the Chicago Bulls. Even to be a part of something that has his name on it is such a blessing, cause I remember even as a little girl rocking my Bulls jersey. What’s your pregame routine? We always do a group prayer and I lead that. Me and a couple of my other girlfriends do a little dance, we listen to my Pandora station in the locker
room and get hyped. But we got to have that music, do our make up and we always start before every game with a prayer. What’s been your fondest memory as a Lady Cat? Traveling with the team. I’ve gotten to go on two of the international trips; one was In Cancun, Mexico the other was in Manila, in the Philippines. Just those opportunities are amazing, I love to travel, and to go to these beautiful exotic locations and represent the NBA and the Charlotte Bobcats is absolutely amazing. You’re a big fan of musicals, which one would best describe the Bobcats and why? West Side Story, because you’ve got to start somewhere, but eventually it leads to greatness. Might start off a little slow, but you always end up on top, plus they have awesome dancers. If Dancing With The Stars calls, and you have to choose a member of the Bobcats for your partner, who would it be and why? Kemba Walker, he’s considered the Bobcats resident dancer. He actually performed at the Apollo Theater in New York as a young kid. DUANE WATSON #7
IN HIS SHOES
ON HIS 54-POINT NIGHT AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN The morning started off a little bit different than normal. Breakfast was the usual—waffes, omelet, fruit. Eat with the team from 11-12. But it was the second half of a back-to-back and we just got into New York, following the altercation that happened in Indiana the night before. So I had a bunch of calls with the NBA and found out me and Klay [Thompson] were fned and D-Lee [David Lee] was going to be suspended for the Knicks game. It was a weird day dealing with the repercussions of that. After dealing with that, I got some extra rest at the hotel. The game at New York was going to have a late start on ESPN at 8, instead of the normal 7 or 7:30. Because of the extra rest, I actually took the last bus to the arena, which is something I don’t normally do. My warm-up session at the arena was just OK. It took me a little longer than normal to get going 020
because I have a certain amount of makes that I have to get through before I can fnish. In the game, I knew I had to be as aggressive as possible because we were going to miss D-Lee and his 19-plus points. I didn’t know coach was going to play me all 48 minutes that night, but I started to realize it probably at the 8-minute mark in the second quarter when I had missed my usual rotation substitution. I knew then it was going to be a long night. After the frst quarter, I only had four points. But in the second quarter, I got to the paint, started hitting foaters, didn’t have to force anything as a player. Then I got hot, made some threes after that and it was all gravy from there. I’ve had hot streaks that last for a quarter or two, but this was 50 points in the second-through-fourth quarters in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks. To do it there while being
shorthanded as a team—that was pretty crazy. I can’t say I’ve ever been in a zone like that. It’s hard to describe the electric atmosphere in Madison Square Garden. They weren’t cheering for me or our team, but they were appreciating the performance. Close game all the way. High intensity for 48 minutes. We had a shot to win all the way down to the last possession, but Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith had nice games, too. I hadn’t played 48 minutes in a game all year, so I was exhausted, especially since it was a back-to-back. Even though it was disappointing to lose, it was a night to remember. There were 75 people trying to interview me outside the locker room, bunch of friends from college in town to watch the game. When we went to dinner afterward, all they could do was talk about the performance, talking about how far I had come since Davidson. It was a nice setting to do it in. I didn’t go to sleep until 4 or 5 that morning. I couldn’t go to sleep. I was just so excited about what happened even though we lost. STEPHEN CURRY AS TOLD TO DARRYL HOWERTON #21
COURTESY CHARLOTTE LADY CATS; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Mild Lyrics NBA 2K13 for iOS and Android not rated by ESRB
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JUMP BALL What are some of your fondest Pistons memories? I have more fond memories by proxy. My brother was at that Game 5 in 2004. His girlfriend at the time got the tickets for him. He was crying when they won because of so many years of not winning. Do you get out to The Palace of Auburn Hills much? I go when I’m home. Typically, it’s not the bigger games. I did go to a Christmas game once against the Spurs. I took all my cousins. It was a long time ago, so all I could afford was nosebleed seats, but that was an alright memory. Now that you’re on a hit TV series, do you get courtside seats at games? The lowest I’ve sat was at a Hawks [Ed note: The Walking Dead is ﬁlmed in Georgia] game—about two rows back, which was cool. I haven’t broken the courtside thing yet. I’ve got to go with cooler people than me. Do you and your Walking Dead castmates go to games? Norman Reedus [who plays Daryl on the show], Scott Wilson [Hershel] and I went to the Hawks game together. Everybody loves sports. Andy Lincoln [Rick], I’m trying to get into all the American sports. He’s from the U.K. Do you play basketball? I do play basketball. I play every week. We have this league in Los Angeles with a couple of my friends that I met through church. I’m not terrible at basketball, but I would never want to televise my abilities. So if you’re invited to the Celebrity Game during All-Star you’re declining? All props to them, but everybody that plays at those celebrity games, it seems like the court doubles in size. That proves how big those [pro] ball players are. Everybody looks miniature on those courts. I’m like 5-9. I’d look like a tiny child.
STEVEN YEUN On the hit TV series The Walking Dead, which just wrapped up its third season, actor Steven Yeun plays the role of Glenn Rhee, a risk-taking former pizza delivery guy who is among the survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Growing up in Troy, Mich., Yeun, 29, discovered basketball in middle school and treasures memories of the 2004 NBA Championship. Taking a break from zombie-bashing, HOOP caught up with Yeun while he’s ﬁlming a movie. You’re a Detroit Pistons fan, which makes sense since you grew up in Troy, Mich. At what age did you discover basketball? I discovered basketball around age 11 or 12. I’d just gotten over my love of classical music. I used to say that because I was a huge nerd. I love basketball. We suffered through the teal years. We had Grant Hill for a while, which was great. Then I remember in 2004 when we won, me and my boys in college we lit our couch on ﬁre. That Game 5, they killed them. It wasn’t like a ﬁnal three-second countdown or a buzzer-beater. It was we won and we knew it halfway through the quarter. We were sitting there thinking, “What do we do?” We were already happy. We already celebrated. We just picked up our couch, took it outside and set it on ﬁre. 022
There are a lot of parallels between The Walking Dead and the NBA: There’s very much a team mentality and people keep getting traded or cut, and in your case, eaten by zombies. I guess you’ve got to understand how the dynamics work. If you go, you go. That’s the name of the game. It’s deﬁnitely not easy. It’s sad. I’m sure it’s just as rough to be traded or cut. I can’t imagine it being that much fun. Who’s the point guard on your show? If point guard denotes natural leader, it has to be Andy Lincoln. It is a show about survival and being an actor requires supreme survival skills. I understand your character is a risk-taker. Do you like taking chances in your career? Maybe I’m like the J.R. Smith of The Walking Dead. From comments you’ve made in interviews, it sounds like your father could survive a zombie apocalypse. What are your thoughts on that? My dad is like 5-6 and he’s a jowly Korean man, but you mess with him and it’s game over. My dad has a really good personality. He’s really good at bringing people together. My mom is deﬁnitely the general though. She’s on it. She knows what’s up. It’s my dad doing all the outside facework, but my mom’s actually running the show. LOIS ELFMAN #40 MATTHEW WELCH/AMC
BY BRETT MAUSER #25 FIRST FIVE
FORWARD - CHARLOTTE BOBCATS ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
The wingspan, the vertical, the defensive prowess, the developing offensive game, the promise—the comparisons between Charlotte forward Bismack Biyombo, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Congolese big man Serge Ibaka are inevitable.1. Bobcats fans hope that the production proves that it’s apropos as well.2 There are glimpses from the second-year big man—the 10-point, 17-rebound night in Charlotte’s win at Detroit in January, the sevenblock effort later that month against Houston, or the 10 points, 15 boards and seven blocks against Dwight Howard and Orlando as a rookie. Sustaining that success is the next step to reaching Ibaka’s prowess as one of the game’s rising stars. “To bring it the next level, I have to be more consistent in what I do, and helped the team by being in the right place every single night,” says Biyombo. “I’m working as hard as anyone and trying to be better than I was yesterday. I’m putting everything into my time to make sure I get better.” It wasn’t even that long ago that Biyombo was introduced to the game, giving up soccer to pursue hoops at age 12. His journey3 wound through places like Qatar and Yemen before a three-year pro stint in Spain. Even then, he was still an unknown. Biyombo exploded onto the scene at the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit when he recorded the frst triple-double4 in the World Select Team’s showdown with the USA Junior National Select Team, which featured Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Austin Rivers. Two months later, Charlotte selected Biyombo with the seventh overall pick.5 “It wasn’t about how high I was going to get drafted; it was more of where I was going, how I was going to develop, and what my future was going to be like,” Biyombo says. “I met with all different GMs, and the Charlotte Bobcats wanted me to be part of the organization, and I wanted to be part of their organization.” He’s doing his part to not only prove to be a worthy of a lottery pick but to turn around the Bobcats’ fortunes in the Southeast Division. They’re counting on their raw but highly talented pivot to continue to blossom. “I’m working on a lot of things on those days off, trying to catch up with things, but what I bring to the table is my intensity and my defensive ability,” Biyombo says. “I’m going to work hard this summer to make sure I’m ready to help the team even more next season.”
BONUS POINTS 1. Ibaka hails from the Republic of the Congo, just west of DR Congo, but like Biyombo arrived in the NBA via Spain, having been taken 24th overall by Seattle—now Oklahoma City—in 2008. In 2012, Ibaka led the NBA in blocks and was named to the All-Defensive First Team. 2. Of course, they’re both tailing DR Congo-born Dikembe Mutombo, the eight-time NBA All-Star and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year who played 18 seasons in the NBA between six teams. “He was an inspiration to me because I dreamed to be a part of this league,” Biyombo says of Mutombo. 3. The 20-year-old speaks fve languages: two from the Congo—Swahili and Lingala—as well as English, Spanish and French. 4. “That’s when everything came knocking,” says Biyombo, who had 12 points, 11 rebounds (7 offensive) and 10 blocks in 28 minutes. Rivers led the US with 20, while Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist had 16 apiece in the Americans’ 92-80 win. 5. At No. 7, Biyombo was the ffth of fve consecutive international big men to come off the board. It started with Turkish center Enes Kanter going third to Utah, and Canada’s Tristan Thompson went fourth to Cleveland. Toronto took Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania with the ffth pick, and Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic went sixth to Washington. Three more went in the frst round—Nikola Vucevic (Montenegro), Donatas Motiejunas (Lithuania) and Nikola Mirotic (Montenegro).
JUMP BALL HEAD 2 HEAD
Jamal Crawford vs. J.R. Smith
The prototypical sixth man enters the game blazingly hot, even before that last button on his warm-up pants gets undone. Two of the best this season—not to mention the cover boys in our last issue—are J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford.
01 Scoring: With nicknames like JR Swish and JCrossover, you get the idea that putting points up is not a problem for either. Give or take a point or less, both contribute 17 points off the bench and are second in scoring for their respective teams. Crawford’s style is deception, using his improvisational handle to buy time to get his shot off. Smith is more assertive, relying on his frst step to blow by you or his hops to go over you. Neither of them are lacking confdence in shooting it from any spot on the foor. Crawford has the uncanny ability to fnd the four-point play (he leads the NBA in career “four-pointers”). Smith would shoot from 30 feet out if it could net him four points (shout out to Antoine Walker). Crawford has surpassed the 50-point threshold three times, while Smith is awaiting (not for a lack of trying, mind you)—to enter the half-century club. Right now, Smith outguns Crawford slightly because of his versatility in spite of his sometimes questionable shot selection. Crawford doesn’t venture inside as much anymore, whereas Smith (increasingly as of late) has shown a willingness to not just fall in love with his jumper and mix it up around the court. Advantage: Smith
02 Floor Game: A former point guard, Crawford still has some instincts of a foor general, looking for others and seeing how the pieces should move. While he’ll never be confused with John Stockton, Crawford occasionally spells Chris Paul and can direct an offense. He can also fll in a lane on transition, but let’s face it, with teammates like Blake Griffn and DeAndre Jordan, Crawford is more a facilitator. Despite his magical ballhandling reputation, Crawford takes care of the ball, averaging just two turnovers per game in his career. Smith is paid to shoot and he makes no effort to hide that fact. Smith sometimes drops an eye-opening pass to a teammate, but his natural inclination is to get buckets. It’s not that he’s incapable of more, it’s just that on most teams he’s been on, he’s been tabbed to score. Smith is excellent in the role and has no intention of a career change. Advantage: Crawford
03 Defense: If given a chance to exchange baskets and outscore their opponent or digging in their heels to prevent buckets, Smith and Crawford would choose the former. Sure, they’ll garner the steal, but their intention is to get the ball back and score. For Crawford, compounding things is his history of suiting up for teams that didn’t stress defense. On the Clippers this season, Crawford has showed some life on D, notably on pick-and-roll coverage. Smith hasn’t been coached defense, either, since he entered the NBA out of high school. Since joining the Knicks, Smith has been more focused as a defender and set a new high for rebounds this season.He’s been given the responsibility of checking big scorers, and in addition to making his man expend energy when Smith has the ball in his hands, he’s also been giving them something to think about on the other end, too. Blessed with good size and natural athletic gifts, Smith is slowly shedding his offense-only rep. Advantage: Smith
Jamal Crawford Guard, 6-5, 200 pounds Los Angeles Clippers PPG
2012-13 regular season statistics
EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
BY MING WONG #2
Intangibles: For 13 years we’ve marveled at Crawford’s shake n’ bake move and penchant for leaving guys turned around as he drove past them that we forget he’s a very cerebral player. Crawford is a basketball junkie who watches as much basketball as he plays and combines his knowledge with the hard-to-teach skill of improvising on the fy. While this might come off as reckless showboating, his creativity is born of a natural feel for the game as he’s never out of control. Smith is borderline cocky about his scoring prowess. This double-edged sword can be a boon, depending on where the blade lands. It can lead to explosive stretches where he’ll dazzle with dunks, three-point plays and long triples, inspiring teammates and electrifying the fans. The sword can also chop off his team’s legs when he’s off. His undying belief in his shot leads to more bad shots being hoisted, dampening team morale and causing fans to fret and moan. As he’s matured, the good Smith has reared its head more than often than the bad one, and when he comes out, he makes the Knicks click and become good enough to challenge any NBA team. Advantage: Smith
Guard, 6-6, 220 pounds New York Knicks 05 Leadership: Like everything else with their games, leaderships takes a backseat to scoring. Smith is just coming into his own after entering the NBA out of high school. He’s been in the doghouse several times over his career (his brief stint in China withstanding) and even gotten into some heat over Twitter. With a sage like Jason Kidd, franchise player Carmelo Anthony and defensive ace Tyson Chandler in the fold, there’s not much leadership for Smith to provide. He is, however, the team’s most energetic player. Like the volatile John Starks in the past, Smith is able to energize the Garden crowd with one play—nothing to sneeze at. Crawford has played on teams flled with dysfunction. From his post-MJ Bulls days, the circus environment of the mid-’00s Knicks and some one-year stints on the Warriors and Trail Blazers, Crawford has been in the middle of teams in the midst of transition and instability, making it diffcult for leadership training. Things are at its best for Crawford on the Clippers now, but with one of the best generals in Paul running point, there’s just not much need for Crawford to do anything beyond being a good foot soldier. While not in the traditional sense, Smith does earn a slight edge for his ability to rev the Knicks up, even if it can also go the other way. Advantage: Smith
ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
The Verdict The Verdict: This is one of those Head2Heads where it’s not defnitive. Even if you fipped things around, you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. We put our money on Smith for his greater payoff (even if he can just as easily put you in the red). 025
JUMP BALL NUMEROLOGY
BY PHIL D’APOLITO #14
The number of coaches in NBA history to reach 1,000 wins—Rick Adelman joined the club this season when his Timberwolves beat the Pistons on April 6. The seven ahead of him in ascending order: Larry Brown, George Karl, Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Jerry Sloan, Lenny Wilkens and Don Nelson.
9 The number of years it’s been since the Minnesota Timberwolves made the playoffs. The T-Wolves, who last made it in 2004, own the longest active playoff drought.
50-Win Club The L.A. Clippers joined the 50-win club this season for the frst time. It took the Clippers 43 seasons to reach 50, the longest stretch in League history. The only remaining franchises that have yet to eclipse the 50-win plateau are the Toronto Raptors (18 seasons) and Charlotte Bobcats (9).
The number of consecutive seasons (dating back to 1999-00) in which the Spurs have won at least 50 games. Technically, it’s 16 seasons if you extrapolate the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season in which the Spurs fnished 37-13. San Antonio has made the playoffs 16 straight years, the longest current active streak in the NBA.
9 The number of threes Deron Williams hit in the frst half against the Wizards on March 8, which set an NBA record for most three-pointers in a half. He fnished the game with 11, one short of the NBA record.
The place Kobe Bryant sits on the alltime scoring list after surpassing Wilt Chamberlain on 3/30. The only three ahead of Kobe: Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The number of players who dropped 50+ point games in 2012-13. (Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant). The only season in the past fve that saw more than three 50-point scorers was 2008-09, which had 11. In the 1961-62 season, Wilt Chamberlain alone scored 50 or more 45 times, which includes his legendary 100-point game.
NED DISHMAN; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER (3); VICTOR BALDIZON; MELISSA MAJCHRZAK; MITCHELL LAYTON; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; JESSE D. GARRABRANT; JERRY WACHTER; NOAH GRAHAM; ROCKY WIDNER; DICK RAPHAEL; DANNY BOLLINGER; ISACC BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; DOUG PENSINGER; JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
BY JEFF MIN #12
BONUS POINTS 1. Tweener is the word that scouts and player personnel folks use to describe them. 2. Gordon started 58 games during his sophomore campaign, averaging 11.8 points, 3 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. 3. With the departure of Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams, Corbin slowly transitioned out of a pick-and-roll heavy offense to a slower back-to-the-basket system. 4. In addition to averaging a career-high in points, Gordon also led the team in three-point percentage (.419). 5. Hayward is not afraid to use his athletic ability on fastbreak dunks and contesting shots at the rim. 6. Off the bench Hayward is the third-leading scorer on the Jazz at 14.2 per, behind Al Jefferson (17.3) and Paul Millsap (14.9).
MELISSA MAJCHRZAK/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
20 FORWARD - UTAH JAZZ
Two seasons ago Gordon Hayward was struggling to fnd his place in the League. Too big to be a small and too small to be a big, he was the odd man out—a walking quagmire with no real defnable position.1 That time of uncertainty, however, was one of many blessings in disguise for the Indiana native. It gave him a bird’s-eye vantage point of what it takes to be a successful pro. As most rookies do, Hayward struggled through that frst year, but in his sophomore season his hard work and patience paid off. It was a campaign punctuated by bumps in points, assists and games started.2 He was well on his way. But as this season began with a new system put in place by head coach Tyrone Corbin,3 Hayward was relegated to the bench. “As a basketball player you got to be ready for anything, and you got to get out there and compete every time they put you out on the foor,” says Gordon about his reserve role. “I have the opportunity to see the game and how the defense is guarding. I’m able to get more touches from that second unit and have more opportunities to make plays for myself and my teammates.” The pregame intros might be a rare occurrence now, but Gordon has certainly made the best out of the time allotted. His stats are about as even as when he was a starter, and most impressively he’s averaging a career-high in points.4 Much of that success can be attributed to his growth as a player, steady demeanor and whiteknuckle approach5 to the game. “It all starts with preparation,” explains Gordon. “You practice, you watch flms, and see how they’re guarding you, and you keep that in mind going into it. You get an idea of how you want to attack, and adjust on the fy because they’ll defnitely switch it up. You got to be able to beat your man, and when you get open, you can dish it out and make plays for someone else.” Also on the Utah bench are budding players Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but the frst player that gets the nod from Corbin is Gordon, a sleeper candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.6 “It’s something I never really thought about,” says a humble Gordon. “I don’t really focus on individual accolades. I feel if I go out there and compete and play hard and do the best I can for the team, those accolades will come, so I try not to worry about that. But it would be a nice thing to have.”
JUMP BALL PERIPHERAL VISION
David: Anthony Davis is a great guy. I enjoy being around him. Back in the Charlotte days, guys such as Dell Curry, Baron Davis and Brad Miller. One of my all-time favorite people is Bobby Phills, who passed away (Ed Note: Phills’ #13 is one of only two numbers retired by the New Orleans franchise). We’ve been very lucky—we’ve had a lot of great people.
PELICANS EQUIPMENT MANAGER
This past season, a few players were signed to 10-day contracts and played in the game later that same day. How do you get their jerseys ready in that short of a timeframe? David: We have a lady in town who can sew names onto the jerseys a few hours before a game. Adidas also has a service where they can ship you a jersey within 24 hours anywhere in the United States. You just have to give them the jersey number and size.
New Orleans Pelicans equipment manager David Jovanovic has seen it all: the birth of Charlotte’s frst major professional sports team in 1988, a franchise relocation to the Crescent City in 2002, Hurricane Katrina three years later, a two-year temporary stay in Oklahoma City, a return to New Orleans in 2007 and—most recently—a nickname change. Known affectionately as “Big Shot” by most friends and colleagues, Jovanovic is the only team employee who has been with the club for each of its 25 seasons. You’ve now been with this franchise for 25 years, since Day 1 of its existence. What initially made you want to become equipment manager for the team? David: I went to college at Belmont Abbey (N.C.) and was the basketball team manager there. Our head coach at the time asked me if I wanted a job in athletics. To be honest, at frst I didn’t really know what he was talking about. But I sent out 250 résumés (in 1988). One of them happened to be in Charlotte, which was about 20 minutes away. I ended up working a CBA minor-league tryout minicamp that the Hornets ran in the summer of ’88. I enjoyed it and have been with them ever since. In a nutshell, what are the main duties of an NBA equipment manager? David: I provide everything that’s used by the players in a game or practice. From shoes to balls, gum, towels— every item a player might use. I also have an assistant who helps. We try to get all details done beforehand. Who have been some of your favorite players to work with over the years? 028
How many extra jerseys does each player have, in case of a tear of the jersey or blood getting on it? David: Every player has at least one extra that I take with me on the road. Some players might have more, depending on wear and tear. Some players give away their jerseys after every game, so for those guys, you have 80-plus. How about sneakers? David: It varies, from guys who wear the same pair the entire season, to others who wear a new pair every game. A lot of players need a new pair every six games or so, on average. Anyone ever complain about their uniform number? David: Oh yeah. That happens quite a bit. Sometimes you give a new player a number you’ve seen him wear in the past with another team, but then you fnd out that it wasn’t the number he had actually wanted there. How challenging is it to keep the uniforms and all of the other additional gear for players clean during road trips? David: There’s a lot of coordination between NBA equipment managers on opposing teams. We generally like to have the game shorts and jersey hung-dry, so they don’t actually tumble in the dryer. So the home team’s equipment manager always helps out with that. Have you gotten a sneak peek at the new Pelicans uniforms yet? David: No, I haven’t seen them yet. It’s defnitely a big thing for us, because it’s not just the jerseys changing. We already put in pre-orders for things like practice jerseys (worn by draft prospects at pre-draft workouts). We’re trying to be ahead of the curve, because there are so many things that need to be ordered and ready for next season. JIM EICHENHOFER #12
DERON WILLIAMS 2005
2013 LAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
BY MELODY HOFFMAN #34
GUARD - INDIANA PACERS
In his third year in the NBA, Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson doubled his minutes1 from his sophomore run. Because of a knee injury to Danny Granger,2 Stephenson was handed the starting role. While circumstance gave him the opportunity, it was Stephenson’s readiness3 and dedication to defense that has kept him in the role. “When I came into the League,4 I always wanted to be a scorer and unstoppable like Kobe Bryant, but everybody can’t be that person,” says Stephenson. “I was used to just scoring5 and that wasn’t good enough for the team. As I watched the people that were in front of me, I learned what they do on the foor to keep them on the foor. Just learning how to play defense and be in the right spot at the right time, it took awhile…but once I got the opportunity I tried to take advantage of it and show everyone I’m ready to play.” The Brooklyn-native is averaging 8.6 points, 2.8 assists and 3.4 defensive rebounds a game this season. At 6-5 and 225 pounds, his strength and value is being a “big guard” with handles, which has helped the Pacers clinch a playoff berth for the third straight season. Stephenson admits it is a challenge to balance his offensive and defensive roles. “I’m still learning how to make everybody happy, penetrating6 and dishing, making the right plays and learning weakside defense,” he says. “I’m used to guarding my man and making sure my man doesn’t score, but now it’s more of helping my teammate being in the gap and being in the right places to help my teammates out.” FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
BONUS POINTS 1. Stephenson averaged a scant 9.6 minutes his rookie season and just 10.5 minutes, and started only one game in his frst two years. This season he has started 73 games, averaging 29 minutes. 2. Granger led the Pacers in scoring the last fve seasons before being sidelined most of this season with a left knee injury. 3. As a teen phenom playing at Rucker Park in Harlem, Stephenson was bestowed the nickname “Born Ready” by courtside announcer Bobbito Garcia. 4. In 2009-10 as a Cincinnati Bearcat, Stephenson was the top freshman scorer in college basketball. He averaged 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds and was named the Big East Conference Rookie of the Year. In the same year he was drafted in the second round (40th overall) by the Indiana Pacers. 5. In 2009, Stephenson graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn as the all-time leading scorer in the history of New York with 2,946 points. 6. While he is perfecting his defensive skills, the 22-year-old is seeing his feldgoal percentage improve as well. He is shooting 45 percent, up from last year’s 37 percent. “By me hitting the three-ball, everybody closes out on me hard,” explains Stephenson. “So that gives me the opportunity to drop right past them. That helped me out a lot: improving my jumpshot.”
JUMP BALL BRACK-IT
EIGHT THINGS. ONE UNDISPUTED CHAMP.
All-Time Best Trio
BILL RUSSELL/BOB COUSY/SAM JONES VS. TIM HARDAWAY/MITCH RICHMOND/CHRIS MULLIN
MAGIC JOHNSON/KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR/JAMES WORTHY VS. LEBRON JAMES/DWYANE WADE/CHRIS BOSH
Perhaps the easiest way to do this is envision the matchup as a full-court game of three-on-three. With Bill Russell starting and fnishing every Celtics fastbreak— perhaps punctuated by an occasional Sam Jones jumper off glass—the C’s would mercilessly destroy their West Coast opponents. Yes, Tim Hardaway’s crossover would vex Bob Cousy, and Chris Mullin would undoubtedly splash in a three or two (until the Celtics fgured out what that line meant) and the Bay Area trio would zip down the court in transition (only to be met with Russell at the rim). These two trios aren’t even in the same class. Red Auerbach could spark a cigar while writing out the lineup.
Keep in mind that this is being compiled in the spring of 2013, and the Miami Heat have only won one championship so far (although, after 27 straight wins this season, a second seems almost predetermined). When all is said and done, history may judge them differently. But for now the edge has to go to the Showtime Lakers, which teamed up the No. 1 overall picks from 1969, 1979 and 1982, and resulted in three NBA Championships (Magic and Cap won their frst two before Worthy got there.) LeBron, Wade and Bosh go out in the frst round—but hey, they like challenges.
RUSSELL/COUSY/JONES VS. JOHNSON/ABDUL-JABBAR/WORTHY As much credit as the “Showtime” Lakers got for pushing the action, they were just replaying a 30-year-old script that was written by the Boston Celtics. Bill Russell would use his athleticism to block a shot or corral a rebound, he’d fnd a guard, and they’d be off to the races. Only lack of proper video prevents them from getting their due. Magic, Kareem and Worthy represented the best (and perhaps only) championship triumvirate of No. 1 overall picks, but the Celtics were on a whole other level. Time for them to reach another Finals.
RUSSELL/COUSY/JONES VS. BIRD/McHALE/PARISH With all due respect to Phil Jackson, 27 champ;ipnsikp[ ringhs. That would be 11 for Bill Russell, 10 for Sam Jones, and six for Bob Cousy, who retired in 1963. Which means Russ and Jones by themselves trump the nine rings won between Bird, McHale and Parish. There is also the indisputable fact that Russell’s teams laid down the foundation of the Celtics mystique, without which the Celtics would have all the championship aura of the Knicks. Russell, Jones and Cousy played together for fve seasons—Jones’ frst fve and Cousy’s last—and fnished each of those fve seasons with championships. We’ll never know what would have happened in a head-to-head matchup, but we do know that Russell didn’t lose. Ever. And he won’t start now. 030
BY RUSS BENGTSON #43
LARRY BIRD/KEVIN McHALE/ROBERT PARISH VS. KEVIN GARNETT/PAUL PIERCE/RAY ALLEN
MICHAEL JORDAN/SCOTTIE PIPPEN/DENNIS RODMAN VS. TIM DUNCAN/TONY PARKER/MANU GINOBILI
The ’80s Celtics were built the old-fashioned way—through the draft and clever Auerbach trades. Robert Parish, the eighth overall pick in 1976, was acquired by the Celtics via trade from the Golden State Warriors in 1980 along with their frstround pick—the third overall—which they used on a long-armed forward named Kevin McHale. Parish and McHale joined Larry Bird on the Celtics frontline, who Red Auerbach had selected with the sixth pick in 1978 even though he was returning to Indiana State for his senior year. Clever, that. Together, they would win three titles. The latter-day Celtics, assembled the new-fashioned way—via staggering sums of money—only managed one. Score another one for the old guys.
By the time the summer of 1996 rolled around, the Chicago Bulls had already won three championships with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. But the last of those had been in 1993, and the roster needed refreshing. Enter 35-year-old Dennis Rodman, one-time Detroit Bad Boy and eccentric of eccentrics, but still a tremendous defender and rebounder. The Spurs built their own trio slowly around 1996 No. 1 pick Tim Duncan, plucking Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili from the late frst and second round respectively. Each won three championships, but only one won 72 games. The Bulls move on.
BIRD/McHALE/PARISH VS. JORDAN/PIPPEN/RODMAN This is diffcult to the point where it’s nearly impossible. The Pippen-Jordan-Rodman led Bulls turned in the best season in NBA history, and won three consecutive championships, but were only together for those three seasons. The Bird-McHaleParish Celtics matched them in titles, had perhaps the second-best NBA season ever in 1986, and led the Celtics to fve Finals between 1981 and 1987 against a rival (Lakers) that was as equally potent. If the Bulls had stuck around for one more goround, maybe this is different, but they didn’t. The Celtics advance.
BEST ALL-TIME NBA TRIO IS…
NBA PHOTOS (8); ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (6); DICK RAPHAEL (5); ISSAC BALDIZON (2); KEN REGAN; FERNANDO MEDINA; D. CLARKE EVANS; JIM ROGASH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
JUMP BALL BY JON COOPER #10
Tobias Harris may be a kid1 but he acts like a veteran when he gets out on the court. “His demeanor, his approach, his competitive nature on the ﬂoor, you see his will to try to drive guys,” says Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn, who inserted Harris into the starting lineup on March 8, after coaching him for only seven games. “Whether it’s bringing them together on the huddle at the freethrow line or talking to them in timeouts, you don’t see that often from a 20-year-old, which makes him very impressive.” Harris, as he has at every level, impressed almost immediately after being acquired by Orlando on Feb. 21.2 A former McDonald’s All-American and New York Mr. Basketball in high school, despite not playing within New York’s ﬁve boroughs,3 Harris played one year at the University of Tennessee, where he earned the nickname “All-Business” from the Tennessee coaches and Second-Team All-SEC honors. He chose to enter the NBA Draft following his freshman year and was selected by Charlotte with the 19th overall pick.4 The Bobcats subsequently traded him to Milwaukee in a three-team deal that night. Court time was limited as a rookie with the Bucks as in 42 games (nine starts), he averaged 5.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.5 assists in 11.4 minutes. But Harris never got down. “I look at everything as happening for a reason,” he says. “Being in that position taught me to be patient and to learn and to continue to grow as a player and work on my game.” Harris is prepared to make Orlando his home for a while, but he hasn’t worn out his welcome in Knoxville, where he’s still quite the celebrity.5 Vaughn expects Harris’ celebrity and game to continue to bud in the Magic City. “He’s deﬁnitely going to grow,” he says. “You want to have respect in this league among your peers. The way he’s playing, the way he’s approaching the game, approaching practice, you gain respect awful quickly.”
FORWARD - ORLANDO MAGIC
BONUS POINTS 1. Only rookie Maurice Harkless (born 5/11/93) is younger than Harris (7/15/92) on an Orlando roster that averages 25 years, 262 days old, the sixth-youngest roster in the League. 2. The trade deadline move also brought guards Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih and cash to Orlando, in exchange for guards J.J. Redick and Ish Smith and center Gustavo Ayon. 3. Harris played high school ball at Half Hollows Hills in Dix Hills, N.Y. He led the Colts to a 24-2 record as a senior and the Class AA State Championship Game. He was selected to play in the 2010 USA Basketball Men’s U-18 National Team training camp but missed it due to a foot injury. 4. Harris was the eighth ﬁrst-round pick in the Tennessee program’s history, the 37th Volunteer selected in the draft, and the ﬁrst Vol drafted in nine years. 5. Harris became a YouTube sensation after leading the UT student section in the now-playedout “Harlem Shake” on 2/16/13 at ThompsonBoling Arena. It worked as the Vols shook up Kentucky that night, 88-58.
SCOTT CUNNINGHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
The Headblade CO.indd 1
2/22/13 3:58 PM
JUMP BALL KNOW YOUR NEWB
PABLO PRIGIONI NEW YORK KNICKS
Nearly two decades after going pro, Argentinean Pablo Prigioni ﬁnally made it to the NBA when he signed with the Knicks in July, instantly becoming one of the oldest rookies in NBA history. How old? Try 35 when he signed and 36 as of May 17. But despite his age, Prigioni has played a key role as a backup point guard for the Knicks. Now he’s here to dish out, in a South American accent, his thoughts on life in the NBA. After 13 years of playing in Spain [he played in Argentina for four years before that] what’s it been like playing in the NBA for the ﬁrst time? It’s a great experience for me. I played many years in Europe and overseas and now I discovered a different league, a different style of basketball. It’s more physical, more talented, so it’s been a great experience for me. There are so many new things. The challenge for me is to adjust to these new things.
What’s the biggest difference between playing in Spain and South America and playing in the NBA? I think the biggest is trying to adjust to the rhythm, the up and down, high speed rhythm of the game. In Europe we control a little bit more the ball, more passes, try to ﬁnd all the time a good shot. Here sometimes it’s boop-boop-boop-boop-boop, up and down quickly [he moves his ﬁnger back and forth as he says this]. And then, in defense, here it’s a faster player—you know, quicker, more challenging. So you must be all the time paying attention because if you just turn the head, voof, they go.
Do you spend much time in New York City? No. I’m 35 about to turn 36 and I think to play in this league at a high level I need to use all the time off to rest and try to eat good and work out. I don’t have time to be a tourist.
Do you consider yourself a rookie considering you’re 35 and about to be 36? No, no, no, no, no. I don’t consider myself a rookie. [laughs] I just feel like this year I’m playing in a different league that I don’t know exactly all the players and I don’t know how every team play. I just try to adjust to my new teammates and my new style of the game. The challenge for me is to give good minutes to the team and try to improve every time I’m on the court.
Was there one place you enjoyed going with your family the most during training camp? Yes. We went many times during training camp when the weather was great to Bryant Park [in Manhattan]. We’d stay there and relax and the kids would play. It’s one of my favorite places in the city.
Do you have to do any rookie chores? No, no, no, no, no. The guys were great with that with me. They don’t consider me a rookie and I appreciate that. [laughs]. What are the biggest differences off the court from here to Europe? Off the court, I am a quiet guy. I like to be home with the family. So every time I have a day off I stay home. And with the guys in the locker room it’s perfect because here, there are many old people like me. [laughs] So we are quiet. We don’t have this crazy head when you were 22 or 20 that you all the time do crazy things. It’s great to be in this locker room because they are great guys and quiet. Everybody’s quiet.
So you haven’t done any sightseeing since you signed with the Knicks this summer? No not now. During the training camp, yes, I used to go with my family. But since the season start, I just focus on my job. I’ll have time when the season ﬁnished to visit any place I want.
Are fans here different than in Europe? No, no, no, it’s the same. People support us all the time. There are a lot of Latin people in the city, so many guys who speak Spanish come to me and say “Keep going,” “We like your game” and “We like the Knicks.” So basically they’re the same. Do you have a big fan base here? Yea, yea, yea, yea, yea. Like in Spain, the Knicks are a big, big team so everybody knows the players and the people treat me great. Thank you so much for your time Pablo. I’m sorry my English isn’t great. I try. No, it was ﬁne. Thanks. BRIAN A. GIUFFRA #17 JENNIFER POTTHEISER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
For your daily HOOP ﬁx, visit
BY McG #93
30 FORWARD - BROOKLYN NETS
He plays in the big city.1 The team store sells replicas of his jersey and shirts with his face supersized on the front. You could say that Reggie Evans has become a star2 in his frst season for the Brooklyn Nets. After a late-season game at the Barclays Center, where he had just grabbed a career-high 24 rebounds and fans chanted his name the same way they do when Jay-Z performs3 there, the assembled rabid New York metro media were waiting to descend on the low-key Evans like a pack of wolves. As he emerged from the showers, the scrum ensued, with recorders, notepads and video cameras shoved in the face of the 10-year veteran who has never averaged more than six points in a season,4 but has turned into a rebounding machine and defensive force for the playoff-bound Nets. “Excuse me, that light is killing me,” Evans says, as one television camera’s light shot directly in to his eyes. OK, so maybe he has not quite adapted to the spotlight yet. But on a roster with a young All-Star in Brook Lopez,5 a franchise point guard in Deron Williams and clutch marksman in Joe Johnson, Evans has also carved out a niche as an equally vital cog in the Brooklyn machine. “When he defends and rebounds the way he does, it’s great,” says Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo. There have been times when his lack of an offensive game have frustrated Nets fans, but his relentless effort, defense and rebounding make it hard to be mad for too long. Plus, underneath the 6-8, 245-pound chiseled frame is a bashful, gentle giant. When asked how the cheers felt, Evans sounded like a kid opening a present on Christmas. “I was happy, I was just smiling on the inside,” he says. “That was exciting man. I felt that.” BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
BONUS POINTS 1. With more than 2.5 million residents, Brooklyn would be the fourth most populous U.S. city if it were independent of New York City. 2. He’s been anointed by locals as “Brooklyn’s Beard” and Nets fans often show up wearing fake beards and headbands in honor of Evans. 3. Jay-Z opened the arena last fall with eight sold-out concerts in his home borough. 4. Evans is also averaging more than 20 rpg per 48 minutes. He led the League in offensive, defensive and total rebounding percentage this season. 5. Before the season began, Lopez credited Evans with toughening up his own game in the post. Lopez was named an All-Star for the frst time this year.
JUMP BALL 24 SECONDS
with PAUL GEORGE
HOOP: You have personally had a career season. Why? GEORGE: A lot of things went into the season I had. Obviously, injuries2 and the whole changing of the roster. But also my summer workouts and my whole preparation for games, playing with the USA Select Team...everything has really improved me. HOOP: Where have you improved most? GEORGE: Probably ballhandling. Being able to put the ball on the deck has really helped me out, as far as making plays and getting to the basket. HOOP: Do you enjoy playing offense or defense more? GEORGE: I enjoy playing defense. Defense is really where games are won. When you have an opportunity to take away what guys like to do, it’s fun because it is a challenge. HOOP: How much of defense is mental? GEORGE: It’s all mental. It’s something that you’ve got to wrap your mind around. A lot of guys come into this league and think it’s all about scoring and making highlights. It’s really about defense. I think defense creates longevity in this league. HOOP: What did it mean to you to break Reggie Miller’s franchise record3 for three-pointers in a game? GEORGE: It meant a lot. Obviously, Reggie had a long career here and was a superstar and the franchise guy. So to beat his record is very humbling. HOOP: What did it feel like when they just kept falling? GEORGE: It’s indescribable, honestly. You don’t get that feeling a lot. It’s just a different conﬁdence level. Every shot I took, I just knew it was going in. HOOP: Is it true you surprised Pacers employees with autographed All-Star posters. GEORGE: Yeah, we’re all in it together and we all represent the same thing and that’s the Indiana Pacers. It’s a family here. It was just my appreciation for everybody that works here. HOOP: How did your All-Star experience this year compare to the previous year when you were in the dunk contest? GEORGE: This one was obviously better being in the main game.4 But my ﬁrst time being there in the dunk contest, and cheering on Roy [Hibbert], really brought the realization to myself that this was somewhere I wanted to be. That was the goal coming into this year, to try and make it to the All-Star Game.
HOOP: What can we expect from the Pacers this postseason? GEORGE: I think we’re capable of big things. We’re a big team and we have the ability to make shots. Our defense is off the charts. There is just so much that this team brings, that it’s ready to be a playoff contender.
HOOP: Where did the idea for the glow-in-the-dark dunk come from? GEORGE: It came from my agent. I think at the time, Will.i.am was doing a show for All-Star Weekend that was glow in the dark, so we knew that the lighting would work, and we came up with the idea to try and glow in the dark.
HOOP: Do the Pacers have what it takes to get out of the East? GEORGE: That’s down the line, but I do think we have an opportunity to compete for a championship. We understand that defense1 wins championships and our defense is top ﬁve in this league.
HOOP: We thought it must have come from those glow-in-thedark bowling alleys. GEORGE: [laughs] That’s what it looked like, Cosmic Bowling.
JENNIFER POTTHEISER; RON HOSKINS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
BY JERAMIE MCPEEK #4
HOOP: We hear you’re a big bowler? GEORGE: Huge bowler. I love to bowl. I’ve been bowling since I was around 12, 13. All my friends were into bowling. The bowling alleys were our kick-it spot. Even now, that’s the place I like to hang out at. HOOP: What do you like about the game? GEORGE: It’s a strategic game. As much as I’m a team guy, I like to stand out in individual competition. Bowling is really you against whoever else is challenging you. HOOP: What’s your highest score? GEORGE: I bowled like a 242 once. Pretty solid. HOOP: Do you have any special throws? GEORGE: I’ve got the curve down. Mine has a break at an end. It’s a line drive and then it breaks and curves at the end HOOP: Do you have your own ball or glove, or shoes? GEORGE: I’ve got the whole package. I’ve got my own shoes. I’ve got about four or ﬁve bowling balls.5 I’m serious about it. HOOP: Speaking of shoes, we hear you have an impressive shoe collection. GEORGE: I probably have around 300 or 400 pairs of shoes. Growing up, I wasn’t fortunate to own a lot of shoes, so I told myself that if I ever got the opportunity, I was going to collect shoes. HOOP: How many of those do you actually wear? GEORGE: I probably wear about 20 or 30 pairs out of them. Most of them are just for the collection. HOOP: Any favorites? GEORGE: I’ve got a couple of pairs of Yeezys,6 Kanye’s Nike shoes that I love wearing. HOOP: What do you wear when you play? GEORGE: I wear the Hyperdunks. I switch it up from Jordans to the Penny Hardaways Flight Ones. I wear a lot of Kobes. Just whatever is comfortable. HOOP: How important are kicks to the hoops culture? GEORGE: Well, a lot of them have stories behind them. When you wear Jordans, you know that he wore those shoes during a particular time in his career or for a special game. Take the “ﬂu game,” when he wore the 12s; a lot of people wear those 12s and you understand why, because of the big game that Jordan had when he was sick. So a lot of shoes have meaning. HOOP: You mentioned making the All-Star team was a goal for you this year. What’s your next goal? GEORGE: Now it’s making a name in the playoffs. I think that will be the biggest goal, because that stays with you. HOOP: When you entered the League, you said you wanted to become a household name. GEORGE: That’s still my goal. I take this serious and if that’s not where I am at the end of the day, then I’m not making an impact.
BONUS POINTS 1. At press time, the Pacers led the League in opponent ﬁeld-goal percentage, holding teams to 44.6 percent shooting. 2. An injury to Indiana forward Danny Granger resulted in more playing time for George, who is averaging 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 37.4 minutes this season, compared to 12.1 points, 5.6 boards and 2.4 assists in 29.7 minutes in 2011-12. 3. George hit 9-of-13 three-pointers, en route to a career-high 37 points vs. the Hornets on 11/20/12. The previous record of eight was held by Miller, who tweeted: Congrats Paul George, nine 3’s, that’s what I call “ON FIRE”!!!!! 4. George scored 17 points in 20 minutes for the Eastern Conference All-Stars. 5. Paul says he usually uses a 14-lb ball when going for a strike and switches to a 12-lb ball when he needs to pick up the spare. 6. According to Wikipedia, an online auction for one of the Yeezy 2’s went for $90,000.
By Christopher Cason #24
In a season where an injury to their most talented player left the Chicago Bulls with a huge void, Joakim Noah flled it with heart and soul. ROCKY WIDNER (7)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
re you willing to die for this? Put everything on the line to help your team to evolve into something great?’ That just shows where his mind and his heart is at.” The heart and mind belongs to Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah. The question is asked to teammate Taj Gibson—who, even in his fourth season, is still known as “My rookie” by Noah— before each game and practice. Gibson’s answer to the question is always yes, and the challenge by Noah speaks volumes to how serious he is about approaching the game, and more important, winning at it. “That’s what makes him such a great player, just coming from being known as a scrub to outworking everyone and [now] getting recognition and still being humbled by it at the same time,” Gibson1 says. “He’s a real humble dude and those are the kind of guys you want on your team. Guys that are real humble and that want to work every day to get better. And every day he makes everybody on this team better with his energy and passion.” Energy has always been the known commodity Noah possessed in abundance. But in the absence of Derrick Rose2 and the offseason departure of stud backup center Omer Asik to the Houston Rockets, his opportunities as well as his responsibilities increased and the arsenal of the game’s most unique center have been on full display all season long. Sure, there may be better scorers, but what player at his position anchors the defense, drops dimes, snatches rebounds with Rodman-like fury, runs the foor—hard—on both offense and defense, can step out and guard perimeter players on pick-and-roll switches comfortably, and leaves everything on the foor each and every single night? “I’ve never played with a center that can do the things that Jo can do,” says teammate Carlos Boozer. “A lot of games, he leads us in assists. What center3 does that?” Noah is quick to tell you that he isn’t doing anything differently this season. It’s just all opportunity and his teammates trusting in him. While that may be true of what he’s doing on the court, there have indeed been changes off the court that were made in preparation of this season that have continued and are paying dividends for him.
Three years before he’d be drafted by the Bulls, Noah played at the United Center as a prep star at the 2004 EA Sports Roundball Classic.
This year he averaged career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots, steals and minutes. The increase in production helped lead to his frst All-Star nod and there is mounting consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. He’s notched two of his three career tripledoubles this season, which have also been two of the most historic performances in league history: career high in points (30) and rebounds (23) to go with six assists in a Dec. 7 win4 against Detroit, and in a Feb. 28 victory vs. the Philadelphia 76ers, 23 points, 21 rebounds and a career-best 11 blocked shots.5 Aside from the bump in numbers, Noah has stepped up in a category that isn’t refected on any stat sheet. “I’ve been watching him since high school,” says Bulls assistant coach Ed Pinckney.6 “He’s always tried to improve his game, each and GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
every year. One thing I didn’t expect that I know about now is he’s— especially this year—grown into more of a leader. He’s taken on more of a leadership role for the team in Derrick’s absence. He’s done a great job in assuming that role. Sometimes guys change their attitude with the way they are to try and fll the void of leadership. Jo hasn’t done that. He’s just tried to be himself, but lead by consistency with his energy on the foor, talking to some of the newer guys and he’s done a good job with all that stuff.” The attention and respect is appreciated by Noah, but the same force that drives his all-out style, the consistent focus on improvement, is also the deterrent as to why he couldn’t care less about the career numbers across the board. “I’m never focused on individual goals,” Noah says. “I just want to help the team the best way that I can.” After all the hard work the Bulls put into the lockout shortened 201112 campaign to secure the top record in the East for the second straight season—and to improve on their Eastern Conference Finals fnish the year before—they were dealt the harshest blow when Rose went down with the season-ending knee injury in Game 1 of their frst round series vs. ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
the 76ers. Noah would also fnish the series watching helplessly, after suffering a severely sprained ankle in Game 3, and Chicago would be eliminated three games later. Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau had things he wanted Noah to focus on in the offseason, but the biggest thing was getting healthy. In preparation of not having Rose for most of the season, the core of Noah, Luol Deng, Boozer and Richard Hamilton would be needed to take on more responsibilities. Adding to that, the team lost each and every member of its “Bench Mob”7 and brought in six new additions.8 The bum ankle would cost Noah the opportunity to play for France in the summer Olympics in London, and he says it didn’t feel 100 percent until the middle of September. With most of the focus on resting and strengthening the ankle during the summer, he did get a chance to work out with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and big wave surfer Laird Hamilton. After working with the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, most expected the skyhook to become a fxture in his repertoire. While some basketball pointers were given, Noah spent the two weeks with the native New Yorker learning about his roots, how he prepared himself during the season, and even implemented yoga into his regimen to help improve 041
fexibility and concentration. Training with a Hall of Fame center is a natural and logical ft, but what could come from working with a 49-year-old surfng legend? “I think at the end of the day, the psychological ramifcations of opening your mind to new things kind of creates an opportunity to continue to learn,” Hamilton says from his home in Kauai, Hawaii.9 “I think that’s a big part of enduring any long season, being a better player or just performing better in general. Just getting smarter, be open, learning and then continuing to do that. “Other than I think he likes what I do, he’s also kind of using me as a gauge. I’m going to be 50 next year, and I’m doing what I’ve been doing for more than 30 years, since I was a little kid. I don’t fall victim to ‘Hey, you’re old now.’ ‘You can’t do that,’ or anything society tends to put on us, especially in professional sports. I think he liked that.” Hamilton has worked with other athletes, most notably Grant Hill. Hamilton and Noah share mutual friends and met years ago, and the pair of like-minded individuals hit it off instantly. They worked out briefy the summer before last and Noah vowed to come back and spend more time. He did exactly that, visiting Hamilton’s home in Malibu, Calif., on a few occasions for a few weeks’ time and the surfer begin assessing the proper workout that could beneft his mentee. “Obviously, the pool is a big part of it just because of all of the stuff you can do in the pool,” says Hamilton of his famed pool jumps and underwater workouts. “We can work really hard without taking a lot of impact and damage, which he probably has more than enough or way too much during the season. You don’t need to do more of that when you’re training.” The underwater workouts were perfect as Noah still couldn’t do any running for conditioning because of the still healing ankle. The intensity of the pool workouts picked up as he got more accustomed to them and being a good swimmer also helped. He left with a new understanding of recovery and also the importance of breathing, having to control lung capacity with the air he took in before diving underwater, which transitions over toward maintaining endurance on the court. Noah’s enthusiasm10 is what Hamilton says is the essence of what makes Noah who he is both on and off the court, and the surfer is looking forward to working with him again. Noah returned to Chicago early as many of his teammates did, new and returning, to start 042
JONATHAN DANIEL (4); BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES SPORT; SAM FORENCICH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Noah’s open-mindedness to different forms of training and always looking to add something benefcial to his game led to him working out with professional surfer Laird Hamilton [fanked by Noah and BMX biker Dave Mirra]. When the pair worked out last summer, Noah’s personal trainer Alex Perris joined them and called the opportunity to work with Hamilton “pretty cool,” as the surfer is just as famous for his ftness as he is on the waves. “Laird is a great physical specimen,” says Perris. “The guy is a freak, but he’s awesome. It was different training for Joakim. [Noah] had done [the pool workouts] a couple of times before I had got out there. I’m a decent swimmer, so that helped a little bit, but it was still very scary. You’re under the water with very heavy weights and it takes a while to get used to it.” Hamilton is still going strong at 49, defying father time and has no intentions of slowing down as he says he has friends who are in their 80s still pulling off “radical stunts.” With his outlook on life and love for doing what he does, it’s no wonder why he and Uki, a native Hawaiian plant and the name Hamilton calls Noah by, hit it off so quickly. “First of all, I believe that I can do it and I haven’t fallen victim to the social pressures of ‘Hey, you’re getting old,’” says Hamilton of his mindset that should extend to athletes in any profession. “Part of it is retaining your youthful enthusiasm. I always say athletes burn out from the mental aspect before the physical. The physical is just a representation of the mental. You’ll fgure out how to make the physical work if you continue to maintain the mental discipline. You have to make a conscious effort to make it, but make it so that you can continue to love it.”—#24
getting to know one another and also speed the adjustment process up. With 15-year veteran Nazr Mohammed being the only big under contract to begin training camp, Noah was poised for more duties as Thibodeau stresses inside-out play. With his minutes and role increasing, so came the changes. “Preparation during the season, if anything, has been less workouts, besides what he has to do with the Bulls, to preserve his body,” says friend, BSN sponsored athlete and personal trainer Alex Perris, who has known Noah since the big man moved back to New York from Paris when he was 13, when Perris was assigned as his mentor at the United Nations International School. “We still get a good amount of lifting in, but I think getting that rest is more important this year. He has a massage therapist that he works with during the season. He has a guy that stretches him out and warms him up even before he warms up at the United Center. He has pretty much everything covered. He’s got all the bases covered. This season is pretty much manage, rest, keeping his nutrition good, lots of water and just trying to stay on top of those things.” Noah also purchased a place in downtown Chicago, just minutes away from the United Center. The move might seem like a small one, but Perris calls it an “immeasurable factor.” Before the relocation, the Northwestern suburbs were where COURTESY LAIRDHAMILTON.COM; NBA PHOTOS; GREGORY SHAMUS; ISSAC BALDIZON; ROCKY WIDNER; GARY DINEEN; NOAH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; JARED WICKERHAM/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
he resided. While it made for getting to the practice facility on time easy, battling rush-hour traffc on game days, through a drive that’s still approximately 45 minutes without traffc, wasn’t conducive with satisfactory preparation. “I can’t believe we didn’t do it sooner, but it’s huge,” says Perris of the closer residence. “Sitting in the car was maybe the worst thing you can imagine. It was dreadful. It screwed up his eating time, his legs—just so many things. Now, after shooting around at the Berto [Bulls practice facility], [Noah has] time to nap, time to stretch out, warm up and eat his meal sitting down at a table, not in his car. The whole vibe is much better.” Perris also credits his friend for his improvement in his nutrition and the seriousness in which he has taken on proper dieting. There’s still some cheat meals here and there with being on the road as often as he is, but Noah now pays closer attention on what he puts into his body. If you’re an opposing fan, chances are you still dislike Noah. His animated style and frenzied passion can sometimes be mistaken11 for arrogance but it’s been hard to ignore what he’s done through all the adversity the Bulls have faced this season. Thibodeau, who might be even more critical than Noah is of himself, is pleased with the current production, but wants nothing but continued improvement and won’t let him rest into he gets everything out of his abilities. “He’s had an All-Star season,” says Thibodeau. “He’s done a great job for us. I think he’s maturing with his experience. He’s been in a lot of situations now, so he continues to grow and that’s what I want him to do. I want him to keep on getting better every day from now until the end of his career. I think the great players do that. I just want him to make consistent progress and continue to improve. I think there’s a lot of room for growth and the only way you can get there is by making a commitment to doing it each and every day and putting everything you have into it. That’s an area I still want him to concentrate on. I want him to continue to get better. I think he’s making strides, but I also think he can improve a lot.” He could always put some length on his shot (don’t ask about changing his form—it’s worked for him so far) and improve in the post. But these things are more about confdence than they have to do with him not having the ability to do so, as he works on all facets of his game and 044
BONUS POINTS 1. Noah and Gibson have known each other since their AAU days with the New York Gauchos. 2. As of this writing, Derrick Rose had yet to suit up for the Bulls, but reported no setbacks and that he was stronger and shooting better than he ever had. 3. “He might be the most unique center in the game, defnitely in Bulls’ history,” says Boozer. 4. Only three players have done that in the last 25 years: Kevin Garnett (12/5/03 against Sac.), Dirk Nowitzki (2/21/02 against Boston) and Charles Barkley (11/28/88 against Lakers) 5. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Noah became the frst player in NBA history to record at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, 10 blocks and shoot at least 65 percent from the feld in a single game. Blocks did not become an offcial stat until the 1973-74 season. 6. Adds Pinckney on Noah: “He’s been around a lot of winning. In high school, his teams won. I can remember watching him play at a tournament in Neptune, N.J. The thing that I said to myself then, because he wasn’t highly rated, but I said ‘He talks on every play.’ He is always talking on the defensive end. He’s very vocal and the last guy I saw to do that was Kevin Garnett. He’s just always talking, always very vocal. Those are some of the things that stuck out as a young player to me. It wasn’t about how high he could jump, doing a special dunk, a head to head matchup he won on the AAU level—it was just that his teams always won. And unfortunately, we had to play [Florida] in the NCAA tournament [Pinckney was an assistant coach at Villanova from 2003-07] and the same held true then. His teams always won.” 7. it consisted of C.J. Watson (Brooklyn), Ronnie Brewer (NY, since traded to OKC), Kyle Korver (Atlanta), John Lucas III (Toronto) and Asik (Houston). 8. Bench Mob 2 is Nate Robinson, frst-round draft pick Marquis Teague, Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic, Marco Belinelli and Kirk Hinrich. 9. Noah has family in Maui. 10. Says Hamilton of Noah: “He is so enthusiastic and that comes out on the court. That emotion that he brings, that’s what gets you through [games] when your legs are sore, your back hurts and you been on the road.” 11. Of course, sometimes Noah likes to play the villain role, riling up the opposing team and fans with a scream or gesture after a big dunk or block. 12. Lee was a senior at the University of Florida during Noah’s freshmen year. Lee was in charge of making sure the young Gator got to class on time. 13. Hinrich, Hamilton, Deng, Boozer, Noah, Gibson and Belinelli have all missed time with injuries this season. 14. The Bulls fnished with the League’s best record in Thibodeau’s frst year in 2010-11 and tied with San Antonio for best record last season.
there’s that motor that not too many big men with his skill set can lay claim to. “You know what to expect out of him each and every night,” said Golden State Warriors’ David Lee.11 “He’s consistent in being hard-nosed, a great rebounder, great passer and a guy that’s going to compete every single night, which in the NBA is as big of a skill as anything else. I’m a big fan of his game and I think he’s continued to get better each year; to not only be a good NBA player, but to be a great one. I’m very proud of him.” Pinckney says that Noah wants to be one of the greats. Wants his name brought up when conversations of the best at his position are brought up—past, present and future. However, all of that is a moot point as Noah’s big picture goals always outweigh individual ones. He wants what he still feels is attainable for the Bulls, even with the hands they’ve been dealt recently by the basketball Gods. “We’ve been dealing with a lot of injuries12 and a lot of adversity,” says Noah. “Nobody really cares, so it’s just on us to fnd a way to get it done.” Since Thibodeau took over two seasons ago, the work and preparation that’s goes into everything involving the team has been geared toward building championship habits.13 Strong fnishes and playing their best14 basketball toward the end of the season have defned the Bulls the past two seasons. This season is different in that untimely injuries have put the focus on being as healthy as possible going into the second season. For the Bulls, there is the hope that with going into the playoffs with their full roster, they can compete with any team and take their shot at claiming what 30 teams covet, but only nine have won in the last 30 years. Having their most valuable player back would help their chances immensely, but if that’s not to be this season, you can be sure Noah will put his life on the line making sure the Bulls take their best shot at claiming that elusive title. Just ask Taj Gibson. BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
The NY Times.indd 1
10/4/12 12:01 PM
BY McG #93
POSITIVE CORRELA 046 PHOTO
The harder a team is to score against, the greater its championship hopes. 047
t’s the epitome of sports clichés.1 You know, the one your junior varsity coach screamed daily in practice as you were running suicides. The saying every broadcaster, pundit and columnist dusts off each spring and makes their mantra until the Larry O’Brien Trophy is handed out in June. But ask players around the League and they’ll tell you it’s as defnitively true as Einstein’s theory on relativity or Newton’s laws of gravity. Defense wins championships. The postseason is a whole new beast. After games, you spend hours after games in the flm room looking for the slightest hint at an advantage. The ability to adjust on the fy can make the difference between a win and a loss. If an opposing player dropped 30 on you one night, if you let that linger, he will know it and so will the opposing crowd, whose thirst for blood multiplies tenfold in the spring like mosquitos attacking bare ankles. “It’s tough,” Utah Jazz forward Marvin Williams2 said with a laugh. “You better believe that every seat in that stadium’s gonna be packed so you better believe it’s gonna be diffcult.” The NBA is home to some of the fnest athletic specimens in the world, but that doesn’t mean that you can simply fip a switch come the postseason and expect to shut down an equally talented opponent over the course of a seven-game series. Teams can’t change their entire defensive philosophy in the playoffs either—there’s just not enough time for that. That’s why the Oklahoma City Thunder—who came within three victories of winning it all last season—prepares for the pressures of playoff defense throughout the regular season.
Prior to a late-season matchup with the Atlantic Division-leading New York Knicks, Thabo Sefolosha, OKC’s go-to defensive wing, broke down how the Thunder gets their fow going. “I think in the regular season, you build for that time in the playoffs and try to get good habits and trust within the team, to know where everybody’s going to be on the foor,” says Sefolosha, an All-Defensive Second Team selection in 2010. Sefolosha, who would be tasked that night with guarding J.R. Smith, the
Knicks’ dynamic scorer, proved exactly how that philosophy rings true. After three quarters of play, the Knicks had 81 points with Smith already having chipped in 31 points. With 5:15 left in the game and the Thunder clinging to a two-point lead, Sefolosha and Smith exchanged scrappy play and got called for technical fouls. At that point, Sefolosha didn’t lose his cool. His teammates let him stay on the hot-handed Smith, one-on-one, for the remainder of the game. They trusted him—with emotions at their peak—in a playoff atmosphere in one of the most hostile arenas in the League. The result: Smith went 1-for-5 after the double-T. As a team, the Knicks scored 13 points in the fnal frame and the Thunder won, 95-94. That’s the kind of defensive effort a team can build on and refer back to in the playoffs, where the stingier team usually moves on to the next round. “Everybody who steps on the court, LeBron, D-Wade and them, in the playoffs, it seems like they can’t get much better than the regular season, and all of a sudden it’s to another level,” says Toronto Raptors guard John Lucas III.3 Lucas III, who made playoff appearances with the Houston Rockets (2007) and the Chicago Bulls (2012), said players could even hold back certain moves for the playoffs, bringing the ace from under their sleeve when you least expect it.
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“Derrick Rose just takes it to a whole ’nother level in the playoffs. Kobe goes into the Black Mamba. Carlos Boozer, Joakim, Dirk, just go down the list,” he says. “That could mean just being mentally tough more, or making sure you don’t go into your whole bag of tricks in the regular season, so when the playoffs come people haven’t seen everything. Sometimes you’ll say, ‘Oh, when did he get that? When did he add that?’ But he knows he always had that. It’s just a different look.” Williams, who made the playoffs fve times with the Atlanta Hawks, experienced that what-the? moment in his frst foray versus the Boston Celtics in 2008. “My position is a tough position in the NBA,” said Williams, a small forward currently with the Utah Jazz who is routinely asked to also guard twos and fours. “You got a lot of small forwards that are able to do a lot of things with the basketball, but I think the very frst playoff experience with Boston, guarding Paul Pierce, he really taught me a lot about making adjustments. Just individually, you can’t give a guy like that the same coverage every time, so I had to move to mix things up to just kind of keep him guessing, because he’s such a great scorer. So I think it defnitely taught me something, for sure.” In that 2008 series, the young Hawks took the Celtics to seven-game brink. After getting blown out by 19 or more in the frst two games of the series, Atlanta regrouped and Williams held Pierce to 38 and 35 percent shooting in the next two games to even the script. But eventually the Hawks didn’t have an answer in the end, even after already playing the Celtics three times in the regular season. “It’s tough. That team that you play in a Game 7—you take when I was in Atlanta. With Boston, you played them [three] times in the regular season and then you get them seven times in a series, so by that point in the season you know pretty much what they’re gonna do. Obviously coaches make adjustments, but you know pretty much what they do. The team that
comes out and executes best on both ends of the foor is usually the one that wins the series.” By the end of that 2008 frst round series, Atlanta’s execution paled in comparison to the seasoned vets. The fnal game was a 99-65 laugher, as Boston rode its pinpoint precision to an NBA title.4 Williams’ current teammate Derrick Favors, who made his frst playoff appearance last year at age 20, was taken aback by the intensity of his opponent in the playoffs. His initiation came at the hands of none other than the usually-perceived mild-mannered Tim Duncan. The young buck didn’t stand a chance. The San Antonio Spurs swept the Jazz. “I think the difference was the physicality of the game,” he says. “When I went into the game I had to guard Tim Duncan and I noticed a difference from the regular season to the postseason; he was more focused and physical out there.” With players turning up the physical play, that leaves no room for going less than 100 percent, even though one’s body may feel like it’s been put through a meat-grinder during a grueling seven-game series. “I don’t think anybody’s thinking about burning out,” says Linas Kleiza, who made the playoffs four times in the high-altitude of the Rocky Mountains with the Nuggets. “On Denver, everybody used to just go out J. MERIC; JAMIE MCDONALD/GETTY IMAGES SPORT;
and play big minutes. It was never really a problem.” “You can’t pace yourself because it can always bite you in the butt if you try to hold back,” says Lucas. “You go all out every single game and try to get that four wins as fast as you can so then you can get as much rest for the next round.” Along with going full speed, mentally, players have to balance a delicate mix of staying cerebral, but not leaving anything to chance. That’s when the behind-the-scenes work, in the flm room and the coaches’ offce, comes into play. “The playoffs are defnitely turned up a notch,” says C.J. Watson.5 “Teams have more time to prepare, especially for one team. They know all the plays, what you’re going to do, all of your counters, so you have to bring a new sense of urgency into the playoffs. You gotta go over every single detail.” “Film is probably your biggest helper when it comes to the postseason, because you see yourself do good things and also where you made mistakes at and try to correct those mistakes,” says Williams. “The coaches watch a ton of flm in the postseason to see where they can do things
differently in certain situations.” Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll, who saw limited minutes in his frst playoff appearance last season, said no matter what your role is you have to put in extra time with the coaches and staff in case your number is called. “You can pick up on little things that you might not have known about the person,” notes Carroll. “Really studying the opposing player with the coaches, I think that’s the best thing, especially when it comes to playoff basketball.” Nick Collison,6 a key defensive cog in the Thunder’s run to the Finals last season, says just one extra day of flm can make all the difference. “You have so much more time to prepare that scouting is much more in-depth. In the regular season, you got a day to prepare and you just can’t get as much in and so you kinda just rely on your principles—now, I think your principles always have to be good in the playoffs and the regular season. But then in the playoffs you can really try to fnd out some of the more intricate details, you get a better idea of what exactly the other team is trying to run and how you’re going to guard things and really take time. Coaches really have more time to think about it and put together a
FIVE MOST INTRIGUING POSTSEASON MATCHUPS TO WATCH The following fve battles may or may not come to fruition during the playoffs. If they do happen, we hope they go the full seven games.
5. JAVALE MCGEE VS. DEANDRE JORDAN We spotlighted these two jump-out-of-the-gym bigs in Head2Head last issue and we’ll pay good money to see the two matched up in a seven-game series. Besides the standard stat line of points, rebounds, assists, etc., for the two, there should be an additional one for ridiculous dunks or blocks that cause the arena to ooh and ahh and Twitter to buzz with 140-character descriptions.
4. CHRIS PAUL VS. STEPHEN CURRY Paul is clearly the top of the class at the PG position, but Curry represents the next wave of contenders. Curry has had a breakthrough season—showing plenty of sizzle in leading the Warriors to the playoffs, making strides defensively, and becoming the best shooter from the one spot. He still has a lot to learn from the master, but Curry will give Paul every bit he can handle as he’ll make the Clipper guard work warding off screens and stretch him out further because of his range and shooting prowess.
3. NEW YORK VS. BROOKLYN Geographically, the Nets and Knicks were always just a short distance from each other, but with the move to Brooklyn, the rivalry gets that much more intense. Expect a seven-game series for Gotham supremacy to end up as black-and-blue as the uniforms the two teams wear. Just a 15-minute subway ride on the 2 or 3 train across the East River separates the intra-city teams. While the on-court battles will be ferce, the off-court rivalry will be just as big: 718 vs. 212, upstarts vs. tradition, Spike vs. Jay-Z.
2. RUSSELL WESTBROOK VS. JAMES HARDEN Harden was supposed to be one-third of the homegrown Thunder trio to win it all together, but because of economics and circumstance, he is now the enemy that stands in Oklahoma City’s way of a title. Having grown up together, Harden will know all the trade secrets of his former teammates, particularly his former practice adversary, Westbrook. Once OKC’s crunchtime backcourt, expect the two competitors to go at each other hard. While they play different styles—Westbrook the more unpredictable whirlwind, Harden the more calculating tactician—they might also be the two top combo guards in the game.
1. LEBRON JAMES VS. KEVIN DURANT We got a glimpse of this during last year’s Finals and every indication is that we might see a repeat performance of this matchup for the rest of the decade. Besides being the top two players of their generation, LeBron and Durant have no problems checking each other when it matters. While LeBron’s change to power forward and the Thunder’s aversion to having Durant rack up fouls might make the scenario less frequent, fans will enjoy seeing No. 1 go head-to-head against No. 2. LeBron showed the world he is the top dog, but overlooked by many is Durant’s improvement on defense, which along with his athletic gifts and length could pose problems for James in the Finals.
GARRETT ELLWOOD (2); LAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; EZRA SHAW; AL BELLO/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
gameplan and scouting’s much more in depth. You’ll have two practices where you talk about it a lot.” “It’s just about your mind getting ready,” says Lucas III. “You can yell out to everybody else, ‘Fist down is coming, loop screen, loop action,’ just because you constantly went over the plays and it’s like studying for a test.” With the repetition of playing the same team four-to-seven times in a row, you’d think by the middle of the series you’d know your opponent like the back of your hand. But what happens when plans go awry? Teams aren’t necessarily bound to one single philosophy and it’s the attention to detail that can mean the difference between an early exit and extending the series. “Usually when you’re changing it’s because you’re not doing it real well,” Collison7 said. “You can make changes—we did that in the San Antonio series last year. We made a couple of changes that really helped us after Game 2.” In case you forgot, the Thunder faced a 0-2 defcit heading back to Oklahoma City against the Spurs in the 2012 Western Conference Finals. But with a renewed commitment on defense, including winning the battle in blocks and steals for the rest of the series, OKC surged back to capture the conference title. “You always want to make adjustments cause you never know what the other team’s gonna pull,” says Watson. “I think the playoffs are all about adjustments. Whichever team adjusts more and has different counters I think is the team that’s gonna eventually win.” Lucas says facing the same opponent night in and night out can be RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
equally frustrating as it is an advantage. “It’s give and it’s take. It’s harder and easier. You have certain plays that teams can’t stop, then you might throw little wrinkles in the offense just to throw them off a little bit, then you might put another wrinkle in the next game to throw them off again so one team can’t key in on one play, because now you have counters and different options than what you had before. It’s just giving them a different look offensively and defensively. You constantly gotta come up with different ways to keep them off balance so they can’t lock in on what you wanna do and what you wanna accomplish.” History has shown that teams that prioritize offense don’t always fare well in the playoffs, despite regular season success. Amir Johnson, who played at the tail end8 of the runs made by the defensive-heavy Detroit Pistons teams of the early-to-mid ‘00s, has a simple philosophy when it comes to playoff strategies. “Pretty much every team has to guard their yard, which is just a middleman defense,” he says. “It will make it a lot easier on defense if everybody can stop penetrating and guard their yard. If you’re playing a quick team, a fastbreak team like Oklahoma City, you pretty much have to shrink the paint, to help out a little bit more. If you’re guarding a three-point shooting team like the Knicks,9 you have to close out the shooters all the way to the touch, because they’ll fre at will. “It’s a whole new ballgame. We go through every player just to see video of what that player likes to do, what he does in certain situations and pretty much everyone locks in on that team. It’s a lot more intense. It gets a lot more interesting.” Kleiza, Johnson’s current teammate with the Raptors, says opposing team’s defensive strategies in the playoffs often posed problems when he was in Denver. “I think every team makes adjustments. It becomes harder to run. Teams defnitely try to take the transition out and easy baskets. Good teams, when you move the ball, that’s when you get successful. But when the ball gets stagnant and there’s too much one-on-one, that becomes diffcult. You’ve got unbelievable players in the playoffs [on defense].” Just imagine all that work that goes into winning one playoff series. The best part, after the pounds of sweat have dripped off your body, the eyes go blurry from watching hours of flm and you can barely get out of bed in the morning, you get to do it again (and if you’re lucky, again, and again). “You’re talking about the top eight teams in your conference—they’re probably the top eight defensive teams in the conference,”10 says Williams. “You’re not gonna get anything easy. Everything at the basket is always challenged; people are always helping each other in rotations. The further you get in the playoffs, the better teams get defensively, so it’s no surprise the teams are that good. Playoff defense is different, 100 percent.” BONUS POINTS 1. Right up there with “You play to win the game!” “He’s got great poise,” and “Giving 110 percent.” 2. Williams has had to play playoff series in front of hostile crowds in Chicago, Boston (twice) and don’t forget those annual trips to Durham during his college days at North Carolina. 3. His father, John Lucas III, played in the playoffs six times, twice with the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks, and once with the Washington Bullets and Seattle Sonics. 4. The 2007-08 Celtics held opponents to under 100 points 19 out of 26 games that postseason and Kevin Garnett was the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year. 5. Watson has played in 22 playoff games in his career, all with the Chicago Bulls, in 2011 and 2012. 6. Last April, in an interview with GQ, Collison explained how he takes a charge: “I usually fex my powerful ab muscles and my chest to brace for the collision, then when I get hit and fall, I try to push off my heels and slide back, as opposed to letting my back go straight into the foor. It usually doesn’t hurt. Every once in a while you bang knees or get hit in the family jewels, but not often.” 7. Collison also said in the GQ interview that Reggie Jackson would be the teammate least likely to survive a Zombie Apocalypse. 8. In Johnson’s frst playoff experience, the Pistons made their last of fve consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances. The next year, they lost in the frst round and haven’t made the playoffs since. 9. At press time, the Knicks led the League in 3-point shots attempted and made. 10. At press time, only three projected non-playoff teams were in the top 16 in opposing feld goal percentage (Washington, Dallas and Philadelphia were the outliers.)
9/25/12 3:40 PM
As a player, he had a textbook jumper. Now Allan Houston is studying to ready himself for his next NBA role.
BY BRIAN A. GIUFFRA #17
y search for Allan Houston and what he is searching for began in June 2012. He was attending a promotional event1 on West 23rd Street in Manhattan and there was a chance of a one-on-one interview, so I had to be there despite a forecast calling for rain. You have to understand interviews with Houston, the Knicks former All-Star guard and their current assistant general manager, are rare nowadays. Like getting an audience with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, you either have to be inside the regime or Dennis Rodman2 to easily reach him. So if the opportunity presents itself, be ready to get wet. Houston arrived by chauffeured SUV a few minutes after 1 p.m. under a light drizzle. He wore a neon green shortsleeved golf jacket with a white collared shirt poking out NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
the top, crisp black golf slacks and black tennis sneakers. The shoes threw me off. But I fgured he just got off the course. “No,” he says later, “going to play now.” Before Houston arrived, the event organizers installed a basketball half court on the east end of Flatiron Plaza, which is next to the triangular Flatiron Building3 and across the street from tree-lined Madison Square Park,4 not to be confused with concrete-lined Madison Square Garden. Houston walked onto the court looking very much like the same man who retired from the NBA seven years earlier:5 long toned arms; young clean shaven face; tight fade haircut. Only there was something unmistakably different about Houston now: an air of invincibility no athlete can possess forever. 053
Like the moments after he made a running, one-handed foater just before the buzzer sounded to eliminate the Heat in the frst round of 1999 Eastern Conference playoffs,6 Houston looked like a man on top of his game, impervious to outside threats. The reason for this unwavering confdence, I later discovered, is Houston knows what he wants and is on the fast track to getting it. But we’ll talk about that later. So Houston did his promotional thing; engaging in small talk with pedestrians as they tried to make as many free throws in a row as they could to win a backpack full of prizes.7 He joked when they shot air balls and, perhaps feeling bad for one of them, gave a middle-aged man a shooting lesson after his practice shot missed the rim by half a foot. “You’re using your arms too much,” Houston says as he bends his knees slightly and ficks his wrist in the air. “It’s all in the legs.” Swoosh. The man’s next shot went in.8 The light drizzle gradually dissipated and the sun cut through the clouds. Houston schmoozed the crowd for a little more than a half hour before a female public relations assistant directed him away from the court to an area where he could do fve interviews. “But no more because he has to go,” the PR woman announces. The guy has got a tee time. Somehow I landed one of the interviews. I was third in line and started re-rehearsing the different questions written down on my notepad. But there was one question my eyes kept scanning back to and it was the question I knew Houston sidesteps like a seasoned politician. Do you want to be the Knicks’ next general manager? The honest answer is yes, though Houston would never say so publicly, and didn’t when I asked him a few minutes later. “I just look at it as whatever God has in his plans,” he says. How District of Columbia.9 But the fact is Houston has been groomed for the position for the last fve years as a member of the Knicks executive front offce and will likely get the job whenever current GM Glen Grunwald10 either steps away or is relieved of his duties. Even with this knowledge, the question still seemed important at the time, magnifed by the fact that this would likely be my only chance to 054
Likely the biggest shot of his career, Houston’s 9-foot runner in Game 5 of the 1999 frst round bounced around the rim a few times before going in and bouncing the top-seeded Heat out of the playoffs; in his fnal NBA season in 2005, Houston guarded then-rookie/now-Knick J.R. Smith; as a rookie in 1994, Houston took part in the Slam Dunk Contest.
speak directly with Houston. But as I found out in the 10 months that followed our fve minute interview, being named Knicks general manager is not what Allan Houston is searching for. He’s searching for a different ending.
Wade Houston could always spot talent. He had enough himself to become the frst African American to earn a basketball scholarship to Louisville,11 and as an assistant coach with the Cardinals from 1975-1988, he helped recruit many of the players who led Louisville to the 1980 and 1986 national championships.12 FERNANDO MEDINA; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
In his oldest child, Wade spotted talent right away. “From day one Allan just started shooting balls of paper into lamp shades… or whatever he could fnd,” Wade says. “The stroke was always there.” It was a stroke that eventually helped Houston win the Kentucky high school state championship in 1988,13 set the scoring record at the University of Tennessee from 1989-1993, earn an Olympic gold medal with Team USA in 2000, lead the Knicks to the 1999 Finals14 and earn two NBA All Star selections in 2000 and 2001. It was a stroke his former teammate Kurt Thomas describes as “one of the purest I’ve ever seen,” and one Thomas says Houston could, “pretty much get off on anyone.” But it is also a stroke Houston worked endlessly to perfect his entire life, starting when he was 7 and tagged along with his father to Cardinals practice, where he would fnd an open rim and shoot until the last team huddle broke. “I never had to push him,” Wade says. “He loved playing on his own.” Houston was the small kid on the court growing up. Not because he was small. In fact, he was always one of the taller kids in his class; lanky, with long arms and legs, sharp elbows, taut muscles and a tight fade haircut. But during pick-up games in Louisville’s gym, where he spent much of his time growing up, Houston was the smallest boy on the court battling against grown men; usually a mix of current and former Cardinals players, some of whom would come back to college during the summer to prepare for the NBA season. “Some of those games were like a NBA All-Star game,” Wade says. “Basketball in Louisville during that time was off the hook.” Houston took that experience with him to the University of Tennessee, where he played for his father, who left Louisville in 1989 to become the Volunteers head coach.15 He scored a school record 2,801 points in his collegiate career, a record that still stands, and was drafted by the Pistons with the 11th overall pick of the 1993 draft. After three years in Detroit, he signed as a free agent with the Knicks in 1996. No matter where he was, Houston never stopped working on his stroke. “He was a gym rat,” Thomas says. “He was always one of the frst guys in the gym and one of the last guys to leave the gym.” That comes from being a coach’s son and growing up in a gym. “He enjoyed hanging around practice and shooting with the guys,” Wade says, referring to the players on Louisville. “And he was lucky because had the facilities to do it.” Even now Houston still works on his craft. At his Connecticut home he has a court where he shoots with his six children, aged 11 to 1.16 When he’s working at the Knicks practice facility, he’ll step onto the court and remind everyone his shot hasn’t left. ANDY LYONS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
“I still think he could sign a 10-day [contract] and play,” former teammate and current Knick Marcus Camby says. “But his knee probably won’t hold up.”
Ah yes, the knee. No story about Houston would be complete without the story of his left knee. In 2001-02, the frst season after he signed a $100 million, six-year contract extension, Houston had arguably his best individual year as a pro, averaging a career-high 22.5 points. Just as noteworthy, he started all 82 games, though at the time, his durability wasn’t in question.
In his frst seven seasons in New York, Houston missed just 10 games because of injury or illness. He also became a fan favorite because of his penchant for performing in the big moments, none more memorable than the buzzer-beating foater in 1999. But all that changed in June 2003 when Houston had microfracture surgery on his left knee. He returned to the court just over four months later and started 50 games for the Knicks that season, averaging 18.5 points. But his knee was never the same and neither was he. Houston appeared in just 20 games the rest of his career and retired in 2005. “I honestly think he had three good years left in him prior to the injury,” his father says. “I think he feels his career was cut short.” Houston attempted two comebacks in 2007 and 2008 after retiring. During his frst comeback, he made this comment about why he wanted to play again: “It’s really like I never got to fnish. You ever been cut off in midsentence and never been able to fnish what you were saying? It feels like I get to fnish now.” Houston never did get the full sentence out. Both of his comeback attempts ended in training camp with Houston being cut from the Knicks.
Charlie Ward17 could see what was coming next for Houston. The two were teammates with the Knicks for seven years and friends off the court who shared the same Christian values. He knew what kind of person Houston was and is: an intelligent businessman who studied math at college, started his own successful 056
Houston covered our February 2002 issue. charitable foundation,18 felt comfortable in a suit and tie and was a basketball lifer who would never want to leave the game completely. So it just made sense to Ward that Houston would end up in the Knicks’ front offce. “He had that business savvy when he played,” Ward says. “He had the entrepreneur spirit and he had great leadership qualities. With the way he dressed, the way he carried himself and the circle that he ran in, you kind of saw it coming.” Ward might have. Houston didn’t. “Even before I was offcially retired, Larry Brown [the Knicks former coach] told me ‘I think you could be a GM one day,’” Houston recalls. “I really hadn’t thought about it before then.” Perhaps the Knicks had a plan the whole time. Not long after Houston’s second comeback attempt ended, the Knicks president of basketball operations at the time, Donnie Walsh,19 called him into his offce for a meeting. Walsh had a strong affnity for Houston, as does Knicks owner James Dolan, and they wanted him to stay with the organization after his playing career. “Donnie sat me down and said, ‘We want you to look into being in the front offce,’” Houston says. “I think he really wanted to see how much time I wanted to put in and how committed I was.” Houston proved his commitment, accepting a job as Walsh’s assistant JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
SWISHING TO DISHING When his Hall of Fame career ended, Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier never thought he would become one of the most beloved color TV analysts in the New York metropolitan area. His plan was to move to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, rent out the properties he owns there and take tourists on scenic cruises around the island in his sailboat. Walt “Captain” Frazier, if you will. “I didn’t really have a game plan after basketball,” Frazier says. “My only plan was St. Croix because I have a few properties there and I have a sailboat. I was going to get my captains license and I was going to sail people around the island. That was going to be my life.” In 1987, that plan changed. “When I was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame, I was doing interviews around the city and some people at The Garden saw me and approached me about perhaps doing some radio and TV work there,” Frazier says. “Before then, I never thought of it.” Despite his inexperience as a commentator, the Knicks hired Frazier to do 3-5 minute spots as a pregame, halftime and postgame color analyst with Greg Gumbel. He didn’t like the job initially [“I was bored to death,” Frazier says with a laugh,] and found the transition from player to analyst challenging. “I was intimidated,” Frazier says. “I had no idea what [Gumbel] was going to ask me or what I should say.” So Frazier went to home school. He read books on how to improve your vocabulary, looked up new words in the dictionary every morning, read The New York Times Arts & Leisure section with an eye for their descriptive verbs and started keeping a journal with his favorite words and phrases. He studied the journal until its contents were engrained in his mind and then started rhyming words together in threes as part of his commentary – “linking and thinking,” he says with a laugh. “Then I started having fun with it,” he says. “It changed my perception of everything and gave me a lot of confdence.” It also helped Frazier land a spot as the full-time color radio analyst for the Knicks in 1990, where he worked with and was mentored by legendary announcer Marty Glickman. After seven years of radio, he moved back to TV as the Knicks in-game color analyst, fnding that transition just as diffcult as the initial one. “It was like learning how to talk all over again,” Frazier says. “On TV people can see the game. On radio I’m your eyes. So I had to give them something different.” He has ever since, becoming one of the most famous color analysts in the New York area by combining his unique insights as a former player with an innovative vocabulary and stylish wardrobe. “I never envisioned any of this,” Frazier says. “I thought I’d be retired now sailing off into the sunset in St. Croix.” He still owns properties in St. Croix and has a captain’s license, so it is a possibility for the future. But for now, Captain Frazier’s boat will have to wait to sail.—#17 DICK RAPHAEL; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; RON TURENNE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
in 2008 and working around the clock to learn the ropes from him. He also reached out to other GMs he knew for advice and guidance. Now the Knicks are honoring their commitment to him. In 2010, Houston was promoted to Knicks assistant general manager and GM of their D-League affliate, the Erie BayHawks. His job duties include evaluating college, NBA an international players, helping Grunwald with personnel decisions, overseeing all of the decisions with the BayHawks and passing along his knowledge of the game to any player who asks. Essentially he’s learning how to be a GM. “He’s picking it up well,” Knicks assistant coach Herb Williams says. “He’s going to be a real good one.” Williams didn’t use the word general manager. But that’s what he was talking about.
Houston’s body is relaxed. His brown eyes are focused and his head is tilted slightly downward so he can hear the question being asked by the reporter in front of him. It’s drizzling again. “Do you want to be the Knicks’ next general manager?” Politician answer with a God citing. “I understand that. But isn’t it something you think about often?” “Yes, but I just look at it as…” Houston pauses. He thinks. He doesn’t want to say something wrong and have this quote become the next back page headline 057
of every New York tabloid: HOUSTON DEMANDS HE BE KNICKS NEXT GM. After a few seconds, he comes up with: “I just look at it as I want our team to be as successful as we can be.” That’s what I waited an hour and a half in the rain for. That was the money quote. Only it was predictably nothing. A minute later, the PR woman instructs me my time with Allan is up. Before she fnishes shooing me away, I ask Houston if I can do a follow up interview. He says yes and writes down his assistant’s email address on my notepad. I’m elated. I thank him twice. He thanks me once. I walk away smiling, thinking I’ve just got the piece of information needed secure a second interview. Almost a year later, I’m still waiting for it.
The last time I saw Houston was at the Knicks’ practice facility at the end of March. He was sitting in a chair having just watched the Knicks fnish a morning shootaround. He was wearing grey sweatpants, a white Knicks T-shirt and basketball sneakers. I wondered if he had just shown Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Knicks that his stroke was still there. His sneakers were loosely tied, which threw me off, and this time I was left to wonder. For nine months I tried to get another interview with Houston. At frst I was greeted by a “probably,” then a “maybe,” then a “we’ll see,” then a “he’s really busy” and fnally an “it’s not going to happen.” I’m not alone in this rejection. Even a longtime Knicks beat writer, who once wrote an article so fattering about Houston that Wade personally sent him a thank you note, can’t get an interview. Yet here Houston was sitting at the Knicks practice facility talking freely with Williams20 and another man I had never seen before. I couldn’t interject in the conversation because Houston is strictly off limits at Knicks games and practices without prior approval for an interview, and all the reporters around the team know this rule and respect it. But as I peered over at Houston talking to Williams and the other man, I thought about something Williams told me a week earlier. The two of us were standing center court at Madison Square Garden and I asked him if he thought Houston was driven as an executive because of his injury as a player. “Well no one wants to walk away from the game because of an injury,” Williams says. “You want to walk away, pretty much on your own say so.” For a man who dedicated his whole life to the game, who grew up in the gym working on a stroke that was perfect from the frst time he picked up a clumped-up ball of paper, Houston never got that chance. His right knee wouldn’t let him. Now he’s building a new career, one that will likely include a stint as the Knicks’ general manager one day, and one that can’t be taken away from him because of a balky knee. The perfect ending is still in front of him. And like that little kid perfecting an already perfect shot, he won’t be satisfed until he gets it. 058
BONUS POINTS 1. The event was sponsored by Jeep. 2. Rodman became one of the frst Americans to meet the North Korean ruler face-to-face on February 28. 3. The Flatiron Building is one of the original skyscrapers in New York and still one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. 4. The original Madison Square Garden was located right by the park. Now the park is known for being the home of the original Shake Shack, a shake and burger joint that has been consistently voted best burger in New York the last several years. 5. It has now been eight years since Houston retired but at the time it had been seven. 6. Houston’s shot gave the Knicks a 78-77 lead with 0.08 seconds left in the decisive Game 5. 7. The ultimate goal was to make 12 in a row and earn a chance to win tickets to a Team USA exhibition game. No one came close. 8. He missed the shot after that. 9. Houston was selected as an All-Star in 2001 when the game was played at Washington D.C. 10. Grunwald is in his second year as Knicks general manager. 11. Wade played at Louisville from 1962-1966 during the height of the civil rights movement. 12. With its most recent one, Louisville has three national championships in school history.. 13. Houston attended Ballard high school in Louisville. 14. The Knicks eventually lost to the Spurs in the Finals that year. 15. Wade was the frst African American basketball head coach in the Southeastern Conference. 16. Houston has two sons, Allan III (11) and Asher (1), and four daughters, Rowan (8), Jade (5), Jodi Jean (4) and Truth Grace (2). 17. Ward won the Heisman Trophy in 1993 and led Florida State to the national championship the same year. He was drafted in the frst round of the 1994 draft by the Knicks and played in the NBA for 11 years. His number in college football was 17. 18. Houston’s foundation is called the Allan Houston Legacy Foundation and is aimed at helping promote strong family values. 19. Walsh is currently the president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers. 20. Williams had a 19-year career in the NBA, played with Houston and was the interim coach for the Knicks in 2005.
JESSE D. GARRABRANT; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; DAVID SHERMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
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DECADENT A CELEBRATION OF LEBRON JAMES’ DECADE OF EXCELLENCE
We’ve witnessed 10 years. It started off with inﬂated hype, but LeBron James managed to do the unfathomable: Surpass it. We’ve watched intently over the decade—his Icarusian rise with the wings bestowed by us, smote when he decidedly chose to ﬂy too close to the Heat of the Sun, then see him reborn from the ashes and ﬂames like a Phoenix to fulﬁll his preordained destiny—and we have been captivated, enthralled and entertained. We’ve seen greats before, but never one that has reached the 10-year milestone with such accomplishment and with so much promise to come.
I HYPERBOLE HURDLING
ow did LeBron James tempt the fates? Let us count the ways. The most hyped-up high schooler since, well, anyone, Bron was leading the 11 p.m. SportsCenter when other kids his age weren’t even allowed to stay up late enough to watch it. LeBron was an All-American as a sophomore, dubbed “King James” before he was old enough to shave, and everything he did only seemed to increase the hype. Here’s three in particular that stood out—any of which taken alone should have derailed his NBA career from the start.
By Russ Bengtson #43
• The dreaded Sports Illustrated cover jinx in 2002 when he was a junior in high school— compounded by his having “The Chosen One” cover line tattooed across his shoulders. This wasn’t as much tempting fate as it was outright taunting it. • Watching as his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers got the frst overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Sure, there were some rumblings that Euroteen Darko Milicic would go frst. Also, One Direction are the new Beatles. While playing in front of the home crowd is an oft-stated dream, it can quickly become a nightmare. • Wearing that blinding white suit to the draft. It wasn’t so much a fashion faux pas (*cough* Jalen Rose) as it was an outright proclamation of saviorhood. Fortunately he didn’t get then not-so-prominent New York designer Jeremy Scott to affx wings to it. The Chosen One, indeed. If it’s hard to remember an NBA player who hit the League with more hype surrounding him than LeBron James, that’s probably because there had never been one. Not Magic, not Michael, not even Shaq (although he might come the closest). But the landscape was far different in 2003 than it was in 1992. Shaq was able to get through his pre-NBA career in relative silence compared to LeBron’s Internet-fueled fame. And with Michael Jordan retired—for good— and the NBA scoring charts topped by the talented-yet-fawed Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, everyone was looking for that next new superstar. It shouldn’t have been LeBron. At least not right away. Forget the pundits (*cough* Charley Rosen) who fgured him for a glorifed role player before he even played a single NBA game—no high-schooler had made an impact in the NBA in his frst season. Even perennial All-Stars like McGrady, Bryant and Kevin Garnett had to go through a period of adjustment. LeBron? Nope. With the whole world watching (and NBA defenders not eager to be shown up by an overhyped teenager), he scored 25 points in his frst game, 21 in the second— then 8 and 7 in his third and fourth—before stringing together 11 straight double-digit games. So that was a tough week. He wouldn’t make the All-Star team, but he’d win Rookie of the Year and fnish ninth in MVP voting. His 20, 5 and 5 stat line was Oscar-like, given pacing and whatnot. Fast-forward to the summer of 2010 and free agency. Faced with even more pressure than he faced coming out of high school, the defending MVP chose to spurn his hometown team for the Miami Heat via an hourlong TV special. This was not hubris. This was hubris’s entire extended family. (If LeBron loves Gladiator as much as he claims, he should know all about it.) The “not one, not two, not three…” championships rock star introduction did not endear him to anyone outside of Miami, either. Any pressure that lifted via those two MVPs and 2007 Finals appearance was back squarely on those Chosen One shoulders. So what does he do? Another MVP (and counting), two more Finals appearances (and counting), one championship and Finals MVP (and counting). To live up to the hype, he may have to be the best ever by the time he’s done. It’s worth noting that Michael Jordan didn’t win his frst title until 28, either. LeBron turns 29 in December. 062
CHRIS CHAMBERS/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
By Oscar Robertson as told to Michael Bradley #53
BIG O ON LBJ W
ith every successive year, LeBron James becomes a more complete player. His physical skills are vast, and he has learned how to apply them many different ways. He scores, rebounds, assists, defends and wins. Sound familiar? Fans of NBA legend Oscar Robertson will recognize a similarity between The Big O and LBJ. Although James hasn’t yet averaged a triple-double for a season, as Robertson did in 1961-62 (30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg), he can still fll a stat sheet like few others in NBA history. Is Robertson impressed? You bet he is. Here, in his own words, is The Big O’s take on today’s best player. I think that’s the way LeBron was taught to play when he grew up. He’s very good with the ball, and he can do so many things. It’s great to see someone play like that. Nowadays, players can only do one thing. If you can shoot, they want you to do that. If you can rebound, they want you do to that. You see big men today, and they can’t dribble. They dribble the ball once and pick it up, because they’re afraid they’ll lose it. LeBron is adept at doing many things, and he’s going to get smarter with the basketball. When he gets to be about 30, he’s going to get the mental part of the game down. And here’s what gets me about people who say he’ll have to be smarter, because he won’t be able to do as many things. They said [Yankees closer] Mariano Rivera couldn’t get anybody out when he got to be 40, but he still got them out. [Rivera notched 44 saves at age 41.] Of course, some guys aren’t as effcient when they get up into their 30s, because there are some younger guys coming up. When I went to Milwaukee [in 1970, at age 32], I realized that I had to get other people involved in the game. It wasn’t up to me to score 30 a game. People always compare LeBron to Michael Jordan. Michael was just like LeBron. For a while, the Bulls weren’t beating anybody, because Detroit was the king of the mound. Then they got some better players. When LeBron was in Cleveland, they had a good team, but they couldn’t get over the hump. They made it to the Finals, but they ran into an experienced San Antonio team. A team is experienced when it’s tied late, and they don’t get upset. They just play. I like the way the Heat is playing now. It’s almost like the European game. One person goes to the basket, and then he kicks it out to the shooters. In Europe, when the ball comes upcourt, the shooters run to their spots behind the arc. When I played, if you stood 25 feet from the basket when I drove to the basket, I wasn’t going to give you the ball. You were too far away. But LeBron would have done well when I played in the 1960s and ’70s. He’s big, quick, and can shoot the ball. It would have been a great NBA PHOTOS; DAVID LIAM KYLE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; CLAUS ANDERSEN/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
matchup if we played against each other. I didn’t mind playing against anyone. He utilizes his players. They have confdence in him, and he has confdence in them. But it’s not about taking over the game. It’s about letting the game come to him. That’s what happens. You play and play, and try to get other guys into foul trouble. When I played, I never thought about whether it was time to take over. I was just playing basketball. But at the end of games, LeBron asks, “Who would you rather have shooting the ball, me or that guy over there?” I like his temperament when he plays. If he comes down the foor, and his team is down three points, he doesn’t get upset. He has confdence the Heat can come back. That’s good, because when other people are playing the Heat, it’s like a championship game to them. That makes you a better team, because you should come out onto the foor ready to play, mentally. As LeBron gets older, he’s going to get mentally stronger, and he’ll make players around him even better. That’s the key. He’s going to understand the game. He’s going to understand what people are trying to do to him.
What happened the last time, and what worked? He’ll have a feeling for that on the court, and he’ll almost be able to sense the people around him. That comes with experience. But he can’t become complacent. I’m sure he knows that he can do certain things against certain people, but he can’t be complacent and think he can do it all the time. It was good that he and the Heat won the championship last year, especially for the press and the rest of the country. It’s sad when a few commentators can indict someone. I know the NBA should be glad the Heat are winning, because the TV ratings go up. I know a lot of people talked about LeBron, because he said he wanted to win seven championships. So what? A lot of people would like to win seven championships. I wanted to win seven championships, but I didn’t. 063
III A KING’S JOURNEY At age 19, LeBron is named to the 2004 Olympic team. However, the team struggles and fnishes with a bronze medal.
Nike unveils “The LeBrons,” a campaign that involves the four personalities of LeBron: Wise, Business, Kid and Athlete.
LeBron becomes the youngest player to win an All-Star Game MVP.
LeBron wins the Rookie of the Year award.
Kingdom Come With absolutely no mystery or intrigue, the Cleveland Cavaliers select hometown kid LeBron James with the frst selection of the NBA Draft.
Even before his senior year of high school is fnished, Nike inks LeBron to a seven-year $93 million endorsement deal.
Witnessing the Rise In just his second year, LeBron shows tremendous growth, fashing to the world what the future will hold: He averages 27.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 7.2 apg and 2.2 spg. He leads Cleveland to its frst winning season (42-40) in seven years but just missed out on the playoffs. James cracks the AllNBA (Second Team) for the frst time, a streak that is still going.
Along with Yao Ming, Tom Brady, Michelle Kwan and Warren Sapp, LeBron cameos on an episode of The Simpsons.
LeBron debuts against the Sacramento Kings, scoring 25 points and dishing out nine assists, but the Cavs lose, 106-92.
Playoff debut Cracking the 30-ppg mark with 31.4, LeBron brings the Cavs to 50 wins and his frst playoff series. The kid had to be nervous, right? Twenty-one years old in his frst playoff game. In front of the home crowd that waited years for this moment. Psssh. Not only did he play every minute of a 97-86 win over the Wizards, young money posted a trip-dub. In case you were wondering, it wouldn’t be the last.
Growing Legend Just like MJ had to get past the Pistons to reach the top, so did LeBron. After losing the frst two games in Detroit, the Cavs evened up the series. In Game 5, LBJ simply went HAM. He scored 29 of Cleveland’s fnal 30 points en route to a 109-107 win, including the game-winner, a drive through the lane that even Detroit’s fnest automobiles couldn’t have stopped.
The 10-foot story Nike mural of LeBron James makes its debut right across from the Quicken Loans Arena. LeBron co-hosts the ESPY awards with Jimmy Kimmel.
Summer Redemption After a disppointing loss to his new nemesis, the Boston Celtics in a bitter seven-game series, LeBron chased the aftertaste away with a taste of gold. As a member of the “Redeem Team,” LeBron leads Team USA to gold.
Taking in an MLB playoff game between the Yankees and the Indians, LeBron draws the ire of Clevelanders by sporting a navy blue NY ftted.
The Cavaliers are swept in the Finals by the San Antonio Spurs.
Best of both worlds: LeBron hosts the season premiere of Saturday Night Live with Kanye West as musical guest.
d) te c e j ro (P
Named to the frst of four consecutive NBA All-Defensive First Teams.
Handshake-gate. LeBron refused to offer congratulations to the Magic after losing in the Conference Finals. Despite scoring 38 points, LeBron is unanimously booed in his return to Cleveland as the Heat routed the Cavaliers 118-90.
The documentary of LeBron’s high-school career, More Than A Game, opens in theaters. Big Game James After winning his frst MVP during the season, LeBron silenced critics who said he couldn’t hit the big shot. Down by two, with one second left in regulation, it looked like Cleveland was headed to Orlando in a 0-2 hole. Guarded by Hedo Turkoglu, LeBron quickly got separation and caught the ball at the top of the key to nail a dagger. Marv Albert on the call said it best: “A miraculous shot by James!”
LeBron transcends basketball, crossing over to cover Vogue with supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
A web series, The LeBrons, is launched, based on his popular Nike ads. Playing Matt Damon’s homeboy, LeBron cameos on Entourage and helps raise funds for Damon’s charity.
The Fateful Decision By a landslide (596-points to be exact), at 25, LeBron became the 10th player to win back-toback MVPs. Those other names? Oh, just guys like Russell, Wilt, Kareem, Bird, Magic, Moses, Jordan, Duncan and Nash. Only Kareem did it at a younger age, at 24. But once again, the Celtics stymied LeBron in the playoffs. In the ensuing offseason, LeBron opted out of his contract and in in front of a live national TV audience, LeBron fatefully announced he will take his talents to South Beach.
0-for-Finals After dispatching of the arch-rival Celtics and looking like he’ll make good on muliple Heat championships by going up 2-1 in the Finals, Miami falters over the next three games to Dallas. At the postgame press conference, LeBron acknowledges all his “haters” and “all the people that was rooting on me to fail…”
The Coronation It looked like the cagey Celtics would deliver more heartache. After the Heat won the frst two games of the East Finals, the C’s gave LBJ all he could handle, making him earn every bit if he wanted that frst ring. With 31 points in the Game 7 clincher, we all knew he was ready. Although his team held a 3-1 series lead in the Finals against the Thunder, the Heat needed to close the series in Game 5 more than you may think. The last two games would’ve been in OKC with the pressure of losing the big one slowly creeping into the James legacy once again. But all that was put to rest, thanks to a trip-dub clincher game—26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists—as he took his place on the throne.
Condolences, Jason Terry. We’ll remember you fondly when we stare at the poster.
X Years and Counting Perhaps after winning his frst ‘chip, he was going to get too cocky. The fame was going to get to his head. I mean, if you were the King of South Beach, with every team in the League coming at the target on your back, how could you not wilt under the pressure? Folks, this season we’ve seen LeBron (seemingly unfathomably) take his game to another level and the Heat have put together one of the most dominant regular seasons ever. There hasn’t been such favorites for the championship since the ‘96 Bulls.
Giddy with joy, LeBron does his best Clay Matthews impression and tackles a fan who sunk a $75,000 halfcourt shot.
LBJ x MVP x 4. (It’s a lock.) LeBron cops his third Maurice Podoloff trophy. Only frst-name luminaries Kareem, Mike, Russ and Wilt have more.
LeBron wins his frst scoring title with a 30-ppg average. This.
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER (4); JENNIFER POTTHEISER; ROCKY WIDNER; DAVID LIAM KYLE; GREGORY SHAMUS (5); JESSE D. GARRABRANT; FERNANDO MEDINA; ISSAC BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; JAMIE SQUIRE; RONALD MARTINEZ; LARRY BUSACCA; MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
Heart (wherewithal/clutch): KOBE BRYANT For years, James endured his harshest criticisms from those who believed he lacked the clutch chromosome. He was ripped for passing to teammates in key moments, even if he set them up for higherpercentage shots. What superstar doesn’t want the ball at the end of a close game? He took shots for disappearing during critical junctures. In the last year-plus, James has embraced the responsibility of applying daggers to rivals’ hopes. He has become as lethal and coldblooded as—dare we say—a black mamba. It’s not just about hitting game-winners, like the one he drilled in mid-March to keep Miami’s winning streak alive. James now controls big games from the start. His 45-point, 15-rebound performance in Game 6 of last year’s Eastern fnals against Boston tied the series at three games and established James as a pure killer. Bryant may not be ready to anoint a foe as his successor, but he has to be impressed.
Torso (upper body strength/endurance): DWIGHT HOWARD People who encounter James in person for the frst time are amazed at the size of his upper body—and this was LeBron as a rookie in 2003. It’s almost unbelievable that a basketball player can have such defned musculature, particularly one who doesn’t solely operate near the hoop, where Howard makes his living. There have been strong men in the League before, but few—if any—have ever been able to blend the power James has with the athletic ability that makes him so elusive. James has the strength to absorb contact on his way to the basket or while in the air shooting and stay with the shot, making and-ones a regular occurrence. His upper body is that of an NFL defensive end, and his accompanying strength is well beyond that of the typical NBA player. And even if you’re able to out-muscle him, there might not be a single player in the NBA who can out-last LeBron. He is the top minuteman over the last 10 years, a testament to his durability, endurance and ability to avoid fouls.
Eyes (court vision): STEVE NASH Nash makes the kinds of passes that suggest he sees a different game. James hasn’t yet started fring no-look tracers through the lane to wide-open (and occasionally surprised) teammates as frequently as Nash, but he is now capable of seeing the game from a perspective usually not considered natural for a man his size. It doesn’t hurt that James can see over a lot of his opponents, but just being tall doesn’t give one excellent court vision. It’s as much a matter of anticipating what comes next as it is the actual visual component. James understands the game so well that he can see things that others don’t. Cutters’ destinations are obvious. Teammates running off back screens will arrive in certain positions on the court that only he sees. Like Nash, James has the ability to observe basketball as a fve-on-fve concern (imagine an overhead view while playing NBA 2K), therefore giving him the ability to anticipate and deliver as if he were an MVP point man.
Head (basketball IQ): TIM DUNCAN James didn’t spend a minute in college, while Duncan lasted four years at Wake Forest, plus another 16 years of on–the-job training that has netted four championships. But there can be no denying James’ growing knowledge of what to do in just about every situation on the court. At frst, he was criticized for knowing when to pass and where to distribute the ball. Now, his decisions are rarely questioned, because they end up being correct most of the time, just like Duncan’s. That’s why Heat coach Erik Spoelstra can let James run the team at times and never have to worry about the offense breaking down, or James making moves that beneft only himself. He understands when it’s time for him to take over and when it’s appropriate to set everybody else up, perhaps better than anyone else playing now. Put him in virtually any basketball situation—at either end of the court—and he’ll use his growing basketball acumen (probably the most overlooked part of his game) to create the right result. James may not have an undergraduate degree, but on the hardwood, he’s a Ph.D.
IV PIECES OF
Since no one in the NBA is quite like LeBron James, there is only one solution: Create a replica from parts found throughout the NBA. Take a pinch of this, a helping of that and add a dollop of this—10 parts all told—and cobble it all together.
By Michael Bradley #53
GARRETT ELLWOOD (2); NOAH GRAHAM; DANNY BOLLINGER; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; ROCKY WIDNER (2); D. CLARKE EVANS; CAMERON BROWNE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
Lower Legs (speed): ANDRE IGUODALA Watching Iguodala in the break is like seeing a fne sports car opening it up on a closed course. He glides down the court with ease and achieves top speed quickly. Despite his substantial size, James has a similar gift. One might imagine him as an 18-wheeler, barreling down the court. But to watch him get going on the break is to be surprised. He, like smaller men, runs with ease. Granted, you don’t want to get in his way while he’s at top speed, but he certainly doesn’t run like someone his size might. James doesn’t need too many strides to cover the length of the court, but when he does open it up on a straight line, he is quite impressive. James goes from paint position for a defensive rebound to the takeoff runway for a fastbreak dunk in a blink of an eye. It’s one thing to have to handle his power in the halfcourt, but those capable of matching up with him there can never stick with him in a sprint. Iguodala is built for speed, and he delivers. James appears constructed for demolishing brick walls—and he’ll reach that brick wall before anyone else.
Hands (passing/touch/ballhandling): JASON KIDD When Magic Johnson arrived in the NBA as a 6-9 point man, people didn’t quite understand how someone that big could play a position generally assigned to smaller, quicker men. But Johnson proved them wrong, and now James is showing that someone built for life on the wing—and near the basket—can have the same ballhandling skills as a point man. You won’t see James slaloming through defenses like Curly Neal. But, like Kidd, he has the ability to get where he needs to on the court and make precise plays with the ball. James has a deft handle and remarkably soft hands for someone so big. James’ size helps him protect the ball from those seeking to displace it from him, but brute force does not allow one to run an offense and set up opponents. His career 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is impressive for a wing player, and his uncanny ability to control the ball is rarely seen in a forward. Further, James is quite adept at gathering in any type of pass that comes his way. Take a look at some of the numerous alley-oops lobbed his way and you’ll notice how many are a bit off mark, but he manages to turn lemons into incredible dunks.
Arms (shooting range): KEVIN DURANT Few players in the NBA can match Durant’s ridiculous shooting range, but Durant is getting better and better at drilling deep shots. Through March 19, he was shooting a career-best 38.9 percent from behind the arc. Think about that for a second: a 6-8, 260-pounder nailing triples like a lithe sniper. It almost doesn’t make sense. But James has worked hard to become a more accurate shooter from distance, and while his jumper is not as pretty as Steph Curry’s or as smooth as Durant’s, and he’s not a volume shooter like either, it is highly effective. In the process of becoming a better long-range shooter, James has debunked the old adage that lifting weights hurts the shot. A look at the man’s arms reveals a pair of pythons even the Hulkster can be proud of. But he has a great combination of strength and shooting touch, and by honing his stroke, James has become the ultimate weapon, capable of overpowering opponents off the dribble and strafng them from the outside.
Feet (footwork): CARMELO ANTHONY Neither James nor Anthony is ready for the Bolshoi stage, but each has the ability to move with tremendous grace, despite their sizeable frames. Whether they are working off the dribble or setting up a hapless defender for a shot from the perimeter, each has tremendous control of his feet and can create space well without using force. That’s a rarity for bigger forwards, but the eyes provide the evidence. Watch James jabstep and shuffe while dribbling off the perimeter, and you’ll often see the man guarding him lose balance or separate too far and allow him to hit jumpers. James’ improved post work and turnaround jumper are also testaments to his outstanding footwork. His development into a complete offensive player has come courtesy of his being able to move smoothly in many different situations. Like Anthony, his slick footwork makes all of that possible.
Knees (jumping ability): BLAKE GRIFFIN Just ask Jason Terry about this one. Or any of the others who have tried to match James’ stratospheric exploits. His ability to jump quickly, explosively and to signifcant heights puts him in elite company, such as Griffn. Why do people want to see James in the dunk contest? Because they know he is able to blend raw fury with a liftoff that achieves considerable altitude. James is outstanding in the open court, and his fastbreak slams are memorable. But the best indicator of his outstanding jumping ability is what he does in traffc, when others try to rise to his level. Few get there, thanks to James’ pure leaping ability, but those who meet him fnd that he has another rung he can climb. And when he lands, he has the springs to get airborne again, more quickly than most. James is one of the League’s elite leapers, and like Griffn, he enjoys showing off that skill nearly every night.
Upper Legs (lower body strength/rebounding): DEMARCUS COUSINS Say what you want about Cousins’ behavior, but there is no disputing his physical gifts. And his strong lower body allows him to stake out territory underneath and gather in missed shots. James has a similarly stout base, although he moves like a man much smaller at times. One of the reasons the Heat isn’t too worried about its relative lack of size on the interior is that James is powerful enough to handle the four position when he must. In order to handle a regular diet of interior work, a player must have a strong power plant. Big arms are nice, but real power and the stamina to keep going up against larger opponents comes from below the waist. Cousins has good lower-body strength, as does James, who can hold his position in the lane when rivals lean on him and has the durability and heft to get bumped around and still fnish the job.
V WHAT IF…
By Ming Wong #2
LEBRON STAYED IN CLEVELAND? “T
his fall, I’m going to be keeping my talents in Cleveland and stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers.” What if those were the words that LeBron James uttered in reply to Jim Gray’s question on primetime TV on July 8, 2010? No #23 jerseys would be set aﬂame. LBJ Q ratings would’ve remained sky high. Overlooking Quicken Loans Arena would still be the Swoosh-sponsored homage to King James. Scribes/talking heads across the country would be split down the middle. One half would praise LeBron for his undying loyalty to his extended hometown. The other half—and likely the same ones that penned critical columns on his defection to Miami—would lambast him for staying with a team that would likely never win. Some things don’t change.
If you recall, the team that LeBron broke up with for the alluring prospect of 80-degree days year-round, Dwyane Wade and sexy South Beach was anything but Miamian. Outside of a sale rack version of Shaq, a questionable “All-Star” in Mo Williams, the roster was full of ﬂawed, incomplete role players. In spite of that, LeBron still managed to get 61 wins and a Conference Finals out of the outﬁt. What follows is all speculation. Cavs GM Danny Ferry (ed note: Ferry actually left the organization a few days before “The Decision,” but let’s assume in this alternate universe, he 068
stays), relieved that his irreplaceable star is giving the team another shot, goes into front ofﬁce beast mode. Ferry jettisons the nonworking/cap-busting parts (Shaq, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Antawn Jamison, Jamario Moon, Daniel Gibson), trades a few commodities (Williams, J.J. Hickson, Delonte West) for draft picks/cap space and re-tools the roster with parts that take advantage of LeBron’s ability to give guys good looks at the basket. The emphasis to this new roster would be defense, shooting and cap ﬂexibility. The Cavs had no draft picks in the 2010 draft, but as a result of the wheeling and dealing, the franchise comes out with a player from the draft, not a gem like No. 1 John Wall, ﬁfth pick DeMarcus Cousins or even 10th pick Paul George, but a sleeper like Larry Sanders (No. 15), Eric Bledsoe (No. 18) or even Derrick Favors (No. 3, but the Nets did trade him 56 games into his rookie run). This team wouldn’t win 60 games like the 2009-10 outﬁt, but they’d be competitive, as any team with LeBron would. In the East, it would mean about 45-50 wins and a playoff spot. The goal would still be a championship, but peripherally, the other prize would be Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, who would both begin their exodus from their teams during the 2010-11 season. The Cavs’ roster and middling draft picks would probably not get a deal done, but cap space and the opportunity to pair up with the game’s best player would be alluring for Paul or Howard to consider the Cleveland real estate market. LeBron with Paul or LeBron with Howard or even a formation of the trio (going into that tangent that would cause these pages to combust) would unquestionably make the Cavs a front-runner. The rest of the roster spots go to complementing role players, young talent and hungry vets looking to get their ﬁngers ﬁtted in June. Phil Jackson, in his quest to chase Red Auerbach’s 16 titles and wanting the chance to have coached four of the best players of the past 30 years, signs on to coach the Cavaliers. The Mistake By the Lake comes correct. Earnest Byner, Jose Mesa, Craig Ehlo…all is forgiven when LeBron lifts the Larry O’Brien Trophy and along with it, an entire city over his shoulders. Greatness cannot be denied.
SEASON TIPS MAY 24 WNBA.COM/TICKETS
4/17/13 4:43 PM
By Darryl Howerton #21
GAME OF THRONES In order to take the crown, you need to accomplish the impossible: stop LeBron.
uch like when it was bandied about some 25 years ago with Michael Jordan, the term “stopper” applied as a suffx after LeBron James is a bit of a misnomer. Like a tornado, hurricane or other force of nature, the goal is to merely survive it while minimizing damage. As Omar from The Wire famously coined, “You come at the king, you best not miss.” When the topic turned to trying to stop the best player in the world, one with a never-beforeseen package of power, speed and IQ, we turned to the two most logical places to start: Indiana and Memphis. Not only are the Pacers and Grizzlies the two best defensive teams in the NBA this season, they both have as much success as anyone in containing the three-time MVP and the defending NBA champs. Indiana has the NBA’s best defensive effciency at 96.1 points per 100 possessions and a 280-271 point-margin advantage over Miami this season in three games. Meanwhile, Memphis ranks second in NBA defensive effciency (97.8) and has a 195-184 point-margin advantage over Miami this season in two games.
So a phone call was put into the Pacers to set up an interview with AllDefense candidate Paul George who in three head-to-head games against James—the Pacers won two, the Heat one—George has helped limit James to 14 assists against 14 turnovers. James also has only 63 points on 47 shots in those three games—numbers as good as any against LeBron. That is, until Pacers spokesman David Benner broke the news that Pacers head coach Frank Vogel was no longer allowing his Pacers to answer any Heat-related questions. Apparently, Vogel didn’t want likely playoff foes to be the subject of conversation. Fine. We’ll turn our attention to Memphis, namely the man most qualifed to speak on the subject to get the lowdown on how to slow down LeBron: Tayshaun Prince. Again, it seems to be a topic that touches off a nerve. “Why is everybody coming to me about LeBron since I’ve been on the Memphis Grizzlies?” asks Prince, when the subject is broached. “Every media person is coming to me about LeBron.” Let’s see. Prince has the best historical and current track record, having 10 years of checking LeBron while with the Pistons and insight as a teammate on USA Basketball. Prince’s Pistons had relative success—albeit early on—against James during his Cavaliers days. Prince has seen LeBron 070
evolve through the years and usually had the assignment of facing off against him with relative success. The slender 6-9, 215-pound forward soaks it all in, shakes his head and decides to dive deep into the subject. “Man, no one person can guard LeBron,” says Prince. “At the end of the day, it depends how good your bigs are defensively. Because LeBron gets to the rim whenever he wants, especially in pick-and-rolls. So at the end of the day, if you got good big defenders, who can hold their ground, move their feet quick, stuff like that. It makes things so much better for us. “Back in Detroit, we had Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, Jason Maxiell—guys who can move their feet pretty quick. We had success a lot of times and a lot of times we didn’t. But that’s what great players do. I think at the end of the day, it’s all about how good your team defense is and how good your bigs are defensively, as far as protecting the rim, getting away from the rim and showing on pick-and-rolls. It’s a lot of work, man, for those bigs. The guys who guard LeBron go through a lot of banging, go through a lot of different things where he wears you down. But I think the bigs, all in all, if they put forth the effort to try to contain and do things like that, it’s more work for them as opposed to us.” So do the Grizzlies (and other teams playing against LeBron) depend heavily on their bigs to contain LeBron?
“No question,” Prince agrees. “My job is just to try to stay in front of him as much as possible. Make him take tough shots. But the game today is so much about pick-and-roll, getting bigs away from the basket. So people with the caliber of LeBron can penetrate, get in there, make plays, fnd shooters, get to the rim. Those things are tough. What makes it even tougher to guard him today are the shooters he has around him with Miami. Then also having Chris Bosh who can play inside-out and Dwyane Wade who can play off the ball, slash, and do those type of things. Marc and Zach Randolph, Ed Davis, Darrell Arthur, and those guys—when we play against Miami, those guys have to be prepared to be at the right spots at the right times. When it comes to one-on-one, man, the Kevin Durants, the LeBrons, the Melos of this league, you’re not going to stop them.” Prince is asked if he likes his chances of beating LeBron and the Heat with the Grizzlies’ current group of centers and power forwards if they were to meet in the Finals. “I like our chances with these guys, just for the fact we trust one another. We’re a good team. We got great chemistry. If you want to be a good defensive team, you have to work. It’s not going to come easy, but more so, you have to have great chemistry. Everybody has to be on the same page. No matter whether you’ve got good individual defenders or bad individual defenders, if everybody can get on the same page, it’ll make your job easier. “On the other hand, our guards pretty much play the same, no matter who we play. They’re aggressive defenders. They get a lot of steals, a lot of defections, things like that. They’re going to continue to do the same thing. If we’re playing a team that doesn’t do a lot pick-and-rolls, then ISSAC BALDIZON (3)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; CHRIS TROTMAN/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
we don’t need the bigs’ help as much. So from a perimeter standout, me and Tony and Mike have to stay on our Ps & Qs all the time. Not get broken down and let the bigs get in foul trouble because of us. Tony Allen and Mike Conley have been doing this for a long time before I got here. Just me being a part of them is an added plus.” Ultimately, it falls on the last line of defense. “But it all doesn’t work if you don’t have the bigs,” says Prince. “Yes, Marc and Zach [who adds: “You got to try to slow LeBron down the best you can. Really got to be up on those pick-and-rolls.”], they have a load when we play certain teams, and they got tough matchups and we have to help them at times. But more often in this league, they have to help us. We don’t take those guys for granted. We know their jobs are hard. We ask so much from them. “So, to answer your question, yes, I do like our chances with this team— no matter who we play—because win or lose, we’re going to go out there and give it our best effort.” Grizzlies reserve guard Quincy Pondexter might describe it best. “We just buckle down. We help out. Limit his touches. Try to make it really tough for LeBron. Send a lot of guys at him. Everyone helps. Marc Gasol does a great job of coming over and helping and making his shots at the basket very, very tough. We’re always throwing different guys at him every time we play him. Give him different looks. Force him to a weakness he doesn’t have.” It’s trying to beat Superman when he’s stopped being averse to Kryptonite. 071
VII FEET OF THE THRONE You really don’t know LeBron James until you’ve walked 10 years in his shoes.
NIKE ZOOM LEBRON II The Zoom Generation were LeBron’s frst Nike signature shoe, but the sequel was the frst to feature his name on the box and is still argued as the best LeBron sneaker to date. That’s not the only reason it should be sentimental to Bron—he recorded his frst triple-double and his current career high in variations of the LeBron II ($125). With a lot of pressure on Team Swoosh to step it up for King James’ sophomore run, they came correct for the most-anticipated basketball shoe of 2004-2005 with the Ken Link designed kicks. The stacked full-length Zoom Air units were a huge success comfort wise and the lasered details on the ballistic mesh-reinforced upper made them just as lethal for performance as aesthetics. The sneaker was also the introduction to James’ nowsignature lion logo.
NIKE ZOOM GENERATION LeBron had just signed a deal with Nike for $90 million before he even got his frst two points. With all the hype around James, The Swoosh had no issues ushering the young king into the League. For the Chosen One’s frst NBA game, Nike did up a special version of his frst signature shoe, the Nike Dream Team-designed Zoom Generation ($110), complete with the date of the game embroidered into the ankle lining. Designer Aaron Cooper used the infamous Hummer H2 that had the media in a frenzy during ‘Bron’s high school days as inspiration for the model. The Timberland-infuenced “Wheat” colorway take on his frst signature sneaker still is one of LeBron’s greatest concept sneakers. He should have worn them in his frst All-Star Game; instead he had to settle for the Rookie Challenge. It has been 10 years Nike, can we get a retro already?
By Brandon Edler #36
NIKE ZOOM LEBRON IV Before sneaker blogs had really come into their own, most buzz about shoes was word of mouth, but the LeBron IV ($125) had Nike forums going crazy when the frst photos released – it was offcial, people were checking for LeBrons the same way we used to check for Jordans in the ‘90s. The main reason was the Foamposite take on the upper and it was the frst pair of ‘Brons that were really street cosigned, just like Jordans. Link’s design on the IVs might be the most unique in James’ 10-year career. The Hardwood Classic color scheme (not the Knicks, please) and the limited numbers made them a must-get pair.
NIKE ZOOM LEBRON III Just like The Godfather III the LeBron III ($125) was good, but compared to the frst two in the series, it came up a little short of progressing things the way fans had hoped. Link was behind the design board again and the performance elements were almost identical to the II. Nike made the sneaker a little more durable than the last one to help support James’ Karl Malone like frame but with moves like Vince Carter—they were practically a tank on Zoom Air. The shoe was also one of the frst to see dozens of colorways throughout the season, leaving sneakerheads chasing limited editions, and further proving he could move units. Paying homage to his alma mater with a green and gold pair is just another reason, among many, why he will always be Akron’s son.
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; GARRETT ELLWOOD; BILL BAPTIST; JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
NIKE ZOOM LEBRON V After the success of the last three Zoom LeBrons, Nike decided to make a price hike from $125 to $140 with the Vs. The theme behind the ffth installment of the series was royalty – Nike was embracing the King James moniker more than ever with gold emblems and diamond designs via Link’s vision. The Zoom LeBron V was the frst shoe to earn special colorways for schools outside of his own playing experience. It was never a secret that Bron-Bron was a big fan of the Yankees — rocking the NY ftted to an Indians game in Cleveland will get you noticed, and also earn you a Yankees-themed shoe. And people wonder where all the NYC Free Agency talks began.
NIKE ZOOM LEBRON VI – $140 The Zoom LeBron VI ($140) was one of the frst of the series to actually make its way off the court, but with the sixes it blurred the line of performance and style perfectly. At frst look the Link design seems fairly simplistic like many of the original ‘80s Nike Basketball shoes but the attention to detail such as the miniature crowns on the heel is what set apart James’ 2008–09 sneaker. It was also the lightest in the series since the Zoom Generation from his rookie campaign. The “Yankees” colorway is the most iconic thanks to his near triple-double at Madison Square Garden (they took away a rebound the next day to strip him of the accolade), up there with Michael Jordan as the greatest performance on the road in NYC.
NIKE AIR MAX LEBRON VII – $160 The LeBron VII was an entirely new beast (and price point at $160) and you have Nike designer Jason Petrie to thank. Team Nike ditched the Zoom Air used on its frst six models and decided to give James an entirely new vehicle for his feet with the 360 visible air sole—the obvious change from the previous models. Petrie’s frst take also used Nike’s new innovation, Flywire, and incorporated it into possibly the brand’s most important shoe, giving LeBron all the support he needed for the harsh 82-game season and also trimming the fat for added comfort so he could stay light on his feet and save himself for the playoffs. The shoe also took sneaker colorways to another level; function met fashion and the model had something for everyone, but we have to give the nod to the chlorine blue All-Star edition that King James rocked at Cowboys Stadium.
NIKE LEBRON X
NIKE LEBRON 8 When LeBron said he was taking his talents to South Beach, it caused a lot of negative emotion in the sports world, but on the sneaker tip we knew we were about to get some greatness cooked up from the coats in Beaverton with James transitioning to such a trendy city and Petrie back as de facto designer. The initial black and red Heat version ($160) that was introduced at the shoe’s launch had everyone pleased with the newest signature line and Nike was just getting started. The “Pre Heat” LeBron 8s that dropped a few weeks into the season might go down as one of the sickest colorways in Swoosh history. Who cares if #6 never rocked them on the hardwood? It didn’t seem to stop the kicks from selling out in minutes and re-selling at 10 times stock price.
NIKE LEBRON 9 Petrie was on a run with the VIIs and 8s and he wasn’t about to take things easy with LeBron on the cusp of winning his frst title. Nike has done a great job doing more with less for their athletes after a grueling season, and the 2012 playoff kicks for LeBron might be the best ones yet. The accents on the branding set them off and unlike the previous few seasons they didn’t strip too much off the sneaker and make it look like another Hyper-whatever general release. The $250 price tag felt steep compared to the $170 for his in-season shoes, but you got a lot for your buck. In the end we saw what felt like 100 different versions in general releases and player editions for LeBron-only on the court. The playoff reserved Elites provided us with one of the greatest playoff performances of all-time—45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists; Wilt Chamberlain was the only other player to achieve those numbers.
DOUG PENSINGER; RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES SPORT; ROCKY WIDNER (2); NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
The craze for the LeBron X ($180-270) might be the realest yet with new colorways dropping like No Limit albums in the ‘90s (that’s every week) and certain sizes hard to fnd after the frst few days. Petrie offcially is to LeBron what Tinker Hatfeld was to MJ—we’re not comparing their strength of design, simply the rapport they have built with the players. There’s no denying that people weren’t the biggest fan of James after The Decision but after winning that frst ring and helping America win gold in London, debuting the Xs for the frst time, you could say this sneaker was like a fresh start for a big (big) kid from Akron who just wanted to have fun playing hoops. The LeBron X also had everyone going crazy when people were falsely reporting a $300 price tag for the general release of the sneaker. Nike did debut its ‘+’ technology at $270, giving you the ability to track numerous stats while playing. (We really didn’t need to know we had a 9-inch vertical on our jumper. Oh well.) Either way it’s further proof that a once in a lifetime athlete backed by one of the most innovative companies has made for some of the greatest shoes and sports moments of all-time, and with the Elite version dropping (reviewed on page 91) we have a feeling they still have a few walls to break through.
VIII X FOR 10
It’s only been 10 years, but has a decade of greatness propelled LeBron to the all-time top 10?
11. LeBron James We don’t quite have him cracking our top 10 this minute. If things play out accordingly in June, this list will have to be revised, making LeBron’s rise unlike any other before him. Like Sandy Koufax, James has managed to make an impact in a short amount of time. Unlike the Dodger pitching great, James is still looking at another ﬁve to eight peak years followed by a still-pretty good decline before his eventual spot in the Hall of Fame (which, by the way, if he were to call it quits after this season, he’d still be a shoo-in for). Much of this is thanks to his early start out of high school, but if you think about it, it’s also amazing that a prep star can enter a man’s league and star from day one. When it’s over, where do we project him? It’s purely speculative, but he has a chance to one day supplant Michael Jordan (gasp!). Even if at 28 he never plays another game, he’s still at No. 11. That’s pretty damn good for anyone’s ﬁrst 10 years.
10. Hakeem Olajuwon Why he’s ranked here: Even with a winner like Russell, a force like Wilt and an unstoppable scorer in Kareem, the most complete center on this pantheon might be Dream. As an offensive player, his myriad moves and counter moves were a match for the one-trick pony of Kareem’s skyhook. Defensively he was every bit as agile and relentless as Russell. And while he didn’t overwhelm like Wilt, he won as many titles. Can LeBron reach this spot? He’s certainly knocking on the door. Not to diminish Olajuwon’s pair of championships, but they both happened to come while the best player in the world was struggling with hitting a curveball or recovering from the ordeal. James bested a very good Thunder team that featured his closest rival in Kevin Durant. Much of LeBron’s growth this season has been attributed to his low-post game, something he turned to none other than Olajuwon for help. The pupil might be soon overtaking the master. And by soon, we mean this June.
9. Oscar Robertson Why he’s ranked here: The Big O was the beta version of LeBron, the one player on these two pages whose DNA matches the best with LeBron’s. Every skill required of a basketball player was inside Robertson’s toolbox, the best example of this being Oscar’s magniﬁcent 1961-62 season, when he put up a 30.8-point, 12.5-rebound, 11.4-assist per game average. A oncein-a-lifetime talent, Big O averaged a triple-double over his ﬁrst ﬁve seasons in the League. Like many others during his time, Robertson’s brilliance was tempered come the postseason when Russell’s Celtics thwarted almost every attempt at the crown until a young Abdul-Jabbar aided a declining Robertson to his lone title.
8. Tim Duncan Why he’s ranked here: You probably forgot—or likely didn’t notice—the four championship banners hanging at the AT&T Center. Every single one was co-signed by Duncan, the closest as any to a modern equivalent of Bill Russell. Duncan has a better offensive game, but other than that, the two have similarities in their defense and penchant for just winning. Duncan has been the reason for the Spurs dominance. Every Duncan season has meant the following constants for San Antonio: 50 wins (or at least the equivalent during lockout shortened seasons), a high seed in the playoffs and a chance for a championship. And Duncan has made good on winning it all four times. In today’s NBA, that’s practically Russ-esque.
Can LeBron reach this spot? LeBron has already matched Oscar with titles, and had he played during Oscar’s faster-paced era, he’d undoubtedly notch a triple-double season or ﬁve. But Big O has rightly earned his seat as the godfather of all-around basketball excellence, so he deserves to sit on it for a little longer. As the seasons change and the numbers continue to compile, LeBron should easily settle into the throne.
Can LeBron reach this spot? When it comes to giving his team a shot just by suiting up, LeBron is every bit as valuable as Duncan. Having LeBron on your team is a guarantee your team will compete, since like Duncan, his mere presence raises the quality of the basketball played by the other four guys playing alongside. With the exception of his rookie year straight out of high school, LeBron’s teams have won more than they’ve lost. Once in the playoffs, a seven-game series means LeBron’s teams always stand a chance. Once he shows more results, LeBron will supplant Duncan’s place on this list.
7. Kobe Bryant Why he’s ranked here: Even after 17 years, ﬁve chips, an MVP and 31,000-plus points (fourth all-time), Bryant is still refusing to let anyone— Father Time and injuries included—beat him. Through sheer excellence and stubbornness (Kobe in a nutshell), he’s accomplished what he put his mind to do the ﬁrst time he picked up a basketball: be the best. Eclipsing Kareem’s alltime scoring mark might be out of reach, but don’t ever doubt Kobe. Same goes for that sixth ring. After he’s rehabbed the achilles tear (count on it) and when all is said and done, Kobe might be the top guy on this list that LeBron will be chasing. Can LeBron reach this spot? Some years back, it was commonplace to debate “best player in the NBA” between Kobe and LeBron. LeBron has since taken the mantle, but while Kobe might be in his rearview mirror, Kobe is relentless. LeBron still has plenty to accomplish before he can measure up to Kobe’s career (LeBron would agree himself). Comparing the diverse games of the two is a pointless exercise—simply put, Kobe is the supreme scorer, LeBron the more all-around player—so the verdict will come down to titles, especially since the two played in essentially the same era. Kobe has ﬁve and LeBron is playing catch-up at the moment.
By Ming Wong #2
6. Wilt Chamberlain Why he’s ranked here: Wilt is the very defnition of dominance. He towered over the opposition and racked up some mind-boggling numbers: a 100-point game, a 50-ppg season average, 20K mark…we’ll stop right there. He’s the Babe Ruth of the NBA— big on court, put up big numbers and lived just as big off the court—except he didn’t win as much (two rings) as expected of him. Blame Russell, blame expectations, but you can’t argue his sheer dominance over his peers. Can LeBron reach this spot? Before winning his frst, LeBron was on track to a Wilt-like career (nothing to sneeze at). He had dazzled with his all-around brilliance, in breathtaking and dominant fashion, only to fall short when the chips were stacked the highest. LeBron looks to be in good position to match Wilt’s championship deuce and has done it while looking like he’s playing a different gear than the competition. While he won’t match Wilt’s shock and awe, a few more seasons and a second title should see LeBron’s star fy over the Big Dipper.
5. Larry Bird Why he’s ranked here: Joined at the hip with Magic, it’s a given that he’ll always be listed with his rival, albeit just a notch below because of one less championship and Magic’s 2-1 record against Bird in the Finals. As a player he was every bit as multidimensional as Magic, he only did it with slightly less pizzazz (there was no shortage of mustard in Bird’s game) and without a smile. Can LeBron reach this spot? Although he can never attain the “savior” status bestowed upon Bird/Magic, LeBron in some ways will be the face (along with Kobe Bryant) as the two NBA players who’ve ushered in the global era of the NBA that the Dream Team (Magic, Bird, Jordan) laid the groundwork for. As far as games and statistical achievements go, you can say that LeBron has already surpassed Bird and Magic. But true greatness is measured by success, an area that LeBron still has some catching up to do.
4. Magic Johnson Why he’s ranked here: Magic (along with No. 5 on this list) revived the NBA and did it by making basketball an event combining sporting competition with entertainment. Magic wasn’t just all “Show”— when the “Time” came to play, he did. Five championships (none being easy since the Lakers were essentially competing with the potent Celtics for them), three MVPs and three Finals MVPs says it all. Can LeBron reach this spot? If LeBron equals Magic’s fve titles, it’s a non-argument that he leapfrogs the player whose game he most resembles. But even if he falls short with four, LeBron will likely move ahead since his game is essentially Magic but with unlimited turbo.
3. Bill Russell Why he’s ranked here: Playing 11 years is a decent NBA career. Imagine doing the same and winning the championship each year. Essentially, that’s what Mr. Russell did. Russell did not wow with raw numbers. Hell, one of his most dominating categories, blocked shots, was never even tracked. It does not take advanced metrics to gauge Russell’s impact. All you have to do is look at the name of the trophy handed out to the most accomplished player of the Finals: The Bill Russell Finals MVP Trophy. Says it all. Can LeBron reach this spot? Matching Russell’s 11 rings as a player is all but impossible in today’s NBA. Free-agency, salary caps and a deeper breadth of talent are all things that have evolved to promote parity in any sports league. It can someday be accomplished, but by someone who wins fast and furiously. Even the best-case scenario would see LeBron winning two in his frst 10 years. Taking the change in NBA climate, six chips seems to be the magic number of modern immortality, a number LeBron has his gaze on.
RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES SPORT; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; NBA PHOTOS(2); LAYNE MURDOCH; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (2); JERRY WACHTER; DICK RAPHAEL;ANDY HAYT; BILL BAPTIST/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Why he’s ranked here: You can make the argument Kareem deserves to be the greatest ever. The alltime leader in points scored (38,387) and Most Valuable Player trophies (six), Cap also has six championships. Want more? How about 1,560 games-played (plus another 237 playoff ones) to showcase his longevity? And winning Finals MVPs in 1971 and again 14 years later in ’85. He is also the author of the most famous and unstoppable shot in history. Can LeBron reach this spot? If he can’t take the top spot, James will have to have a long-burning career that will give him a shot to pile up the 17,000plus points he’s trailing Kareem by. The frst decade has seen LeBron hit the 21K mark, so it’s conceivable, given the fact his offensive game is still growing and he’s getting more effcient as his post game develops. Unlike Kareem, LeBron doesn’t have a go-to move like the skyhook and isn’t 7-feet tall; LeBron’s athletic and size advantage will also wane with time, lessening his odds. KAJ’s six MVPs are within striking distance (assuming LBJ wins his fourth MVP this year).
1. Michael Jordan Why he’s ranked here: By almost all accounts, Jordan is the undisputed No. 1. While he trails Russell in rings, he also played during a time when the NBA had an unprecedented number of talent dotting its landscape. Jordan is not the all-time leader in any traditional basketball stat category like points, assists or rebounds, but leads the immeasurable metric of imaginations captivated. Can LeBron reach this spot? It’s certainly reachable, but the climb will be steep. The easy part might be the six championships. After the frst, LeBron knows what it takes the reach the top and it’s conceivable that it’ll happen given his entering the prime years of his career. The big challenge for LeBron to eclipse Jordan is to overcome the mystique of MJ, the aura of being the best, never losing, the unfappable competitor, the ability to rise to the occasion, even against insurmountable circumstances, the corporate pitchman with the Midas touch. In short, LeBron needs to become the standard for athletic greatness. Chasing ghosts is never easy, but it’s something LeBron is tasked to handle.
IX AND BEYOND TO INFINITY…
By Michael Bradley #53
t’s rather hard to imagine a 28-year old as a grizzled veteran, but as LeBron James concludes his 10th NBA season, he is just that. In fact, if he lasts 20 years in the League—a rarity, given that only four players have hit the XX milestone—he is indeed about to embark on the second half of his career. Maybe he’ll blast past the 20 mark and stick around for 25, although Moses Malone, who played 23 seasons, was a part-time performer his fnal three years, appearing in a total of 83 games and starting none. Even Kobe Bryant, who like James entered the NBA directly from high school, is thinking about cashing in after 17 years, and he began his career at 18. (James was 19 his frst season in the NBA.) The odds say that by the time we hit 2023, James will be gone, or at least hanging around as an elder statesman, perhaps wearing a smart suit and tie on the bench and dispensing wisdom and high-fves to younger teammates. (See Howard, Juwan.) Let’s suppose James will play 10 more years after this. It should be a pretty interesting decade. First, there is the matter of whether he will remain with the Heat for the remainder of his time in the League. This has nothing to do with perceived wanderlust that came from his “Decision” to leave Cleveland for Miami. Any possible future movement will be a byproduct of the salary cap restrictions that could cause the Heat to break up its Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. If that happens, James could look for a place where he’ll have a better chance to win. Could that be in L.A., with the Lakers? Maybe. Even though Bryant continues to defantly stare down the still undefeated mortality with a death stare, he has perhaps just a season or three left. Could it be a reunion with the Cavs? The prodigal son returning to complete his NBA circle would make for a feel-good story, one that would be coupled with success if Kyrie Irving continues to mature as a star. But James’ home will be less important than his game, which has continued to improve over the past several years. As the reigning Greatest Player on the Planet, he can do pretty much anything he wants on the court. And now that he has embraced the role as Main Man on a 078
championship team and the 2012 Olympic squad (really any basketball team), James is using his powers to infuence games as he sees ft. As he gets older, that will change some, although at 28, he is still four or fve years away from having to accommodate fraying skills with improved guile. Nope, his change will come from the neck up, as he understands the game better and knows how to do more with less energy. It’s hard to imagine someone who is 6-8, 260 and runs like a scatback as a wily veteran, but James will eventually come to that. He has already shown a much greater ability to infuence games with more than just his sheer talent, and that ability will grow as he gets older. No one can predict how many more championships James will win—if he wins any at all. It’s easier to forecast that over the next 10 years, James will become equal parts skill, strength and wisdom. Once that happens, he’ll be bulletproof. He will continue his climb among the game’s greatest ever and eventually leave at the top or very near the top of the heap. As we sit at halftime of a once-in-a-lifetime career, it will be fun to see what comes next. We know he’ll go a long way. It’ll be a matter of whether we can see that far. JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
BEFORE AND AFTER EVERY PLAYOFF GAME. TM & © 2013 Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. © 2012 NBA Properties, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Getty Images.
4/17/13 8:58 AM
X ALL THE KING’S M LeBron James, In Their Words
DWYANE WADE, CURRENT TEAMMATE
SHANE BATTIER, CURRENT TEAMMATE
y all-time memory of playing with LeBron was in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals in Boston. We were down 3-2 and the Garden was ready to send us home and end our season. LeBron simply would not let us lose. He just had a different look in his eyes. He came out and put up 14 points in the frst quarter and everyone knew he was on a higher level that day. He didn’t speak to anyone and no one spoke to him. We just wanted to give him the ball and get the hell out of the way. It was like he was throwing a perfect game. After the game, the Garden was as silent as I’ve ever heard it. Everyone in Boston knew the series was over, even though we still had Game 7 in Miami. Unreal. “My favorite personal memory of LeBron happened at ‘South Beach Battioke,’ which is the main fundraiser for the Battier Take Charge Foundation. ‘Battioke’ is an event where my teammates get on stage and give their best karaoke performance. It takes serious cojones to get on stage and sing a song in front of a roomful of people. This was
esides winning the 2012 championship together, I would say the moment we came together in 2010 and it became offcial. We looked at each other with this look of disbelief: We were actually going to be playing together. “By teaming up with him, I’ve had to adjust my game some. So I believe he’s opened up my talents to where I’m more effective. Off the court, we’re best friends, so anything I deal with or he deals with we run it by each other. Because we tend to deal with similar situations, we can relate with each other. “He just keeps getting better and better. It’s scary. He could possibly be MVP four out of the last fve years, and he still works like the 18-year-old that got drafted. He is a great teammate that does for others more than he gets credit for. “There’s a lot of stories I can share, but the most impressive thing about him is that from day one when we frst met in Chicago at the 2003 pre-draft camp, he has been the very same person to me and others around him. When the camera and lights are off, he is normal and regular just like you and me. “I haven’t seen anything like him in person. He is a freak of nature, seriously. The things he does in the game, he also does in practice and shootaround. I’m impressed by his ability to do it every day. “He knows he has a special talent that only a select few have ever had, ever. So he enjoys the gifts that he has, and practices with the same fun and energy that he has in the games.”
the frst year of ‘Battioke’ in Miami and my teammates were skeptical. LeBron kicked off the festivities by putting on a terrible wig and giving his best Rick James impersonation by singing ‘Super Freak.’ It brought the house down and, more importantly for me, broke the karaoke ice for my teammates. Everyone wanted to sing after LeBron’s number, and it became one of the best fundraisers of the year. I owe LeBron big time for that one.” 080
S MEN HOLD COURT
Compiled by Jared Zwerling #3
CARLOS ARROYO, TEAMMATE FROM 2010-11
will always remember Bron as a great leader. He was never afraid to speak his mind, and he did it with great intentions and unbelievable respect toward his teammates. No matter what the challenge was, Bron was willing to take complete responsibility. He always understood that by speaking in a way that honors your dignity. He knows the eminence of others builds bridges and trust. To me, those are qualities of a great leader. “What has most impressed me with Bron is how well he’s managed to deal with all the pressure, criticism and, more than anything, expectations. Consistency requires an unbelievable amount of focus. I think he embraces that every year. He improves every year in every aspect of the game. That’s why he’s the best. The sky is the limit for Raymone. That’s his middle name. I wish my brother nothing but the best. “We were on the West Coast one time leaving the hotel to the game, and it was way too crowded with fans. After security gets him on the bus, we start to leave and he yells, ‘Stop the bus!’ He saw a kid crying with his LeBron sneakers on his feet, so he got the kid on the bus, signed his shoe and took a picture. Respect.”
WALLY SZCZERBIAK, TEAMMATE FROM 2008-09
y biggest memories of him was just as a teammate, what a great guy he was, what a fun guy he was and what a professional he was, as far as his craft and as far as his game. Every day in practice, he would be working with our coaches on improving his game, on trying to get better. One thing that was amazing to me, that will always stick out, it could be after a back-to-back, and we have a little walk-through or shootaround, and he can be in his sweats and he would just go do a 360 dunk. He didn’t even need to warmup at all. It was just incredible, the athleticism. He would just pop out of the locker room and just do something crazy. It was just unbelievable. “I got traded from Seattle right around the 2008 trade deadline and when I got to Cleveland, it was a big adjustment playing with him, spacing the foor and being kind of more of a [spot-up] three-point shooter—as opposed to one of the go-to scorers. It took me a little bit of time to adjust, but he showed faith. I probably went through my worst shooting stretch of my career, but he continued to show faith in me. Whenever I was open, I would always get the ball on time and on target. And then I had a really good playoff run that year, and then came back the following year and I had a great year my last year in the League before my knee kind of went out on me. We, as a team, used to have a lot of fun. It used to be myself, Mo Williams, Delonte West, LeBron and Boobie Gibson, and we would just do shooting drills, just
ISSAC BALDIZON (2); DAVID LIAM KYLE (2); VICTOR BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
DANNY GREEN, TEAMMATE FROM 2009-10
e was playful and a big kid, playing games on the plane, cracking jokes and his hysterical laugh. We sometimes raced each other to the airport. The pregame handshakes and dancing. It was a lot of fun. He always impersonated characters from Martin. He’s also really good with his kids. Family is important. He always looked out for me and his teammates. “It was impressive how quickly he could turn it on. He’d joke around, but it was interesting how he could turn the game around. In practice, coach would divide us up to scrimmage and put him on the less-stacked team, but he’d carry his squad to victory. It was impressive how he approached the game. I learned a lot about the business of the game and how to grow within the game. LeBron talked a lot about having a multifaceted game. He used to say, ‘Don’t be a one-trick pony.’”
competitions. We would go around the horn where you’ve got to make a few threes, make a few inside the arc in order to get to the next spot. The loser would have to do pushups and stuff like that. We just had good team chemistry. I was always impressed with LeBron as a spot-standstill shooter. He can hang with some of the best shooters I’ve seen. That was one of the memories that I have: us after practices.”
DJ IRIE, HEAT TEAM DJ
eBron will be like, ‘Yo, play some 2 Chainz.’ He loves 2 Chainz, he loves T.I., obviously Jay-Z. LeBron will actually school me on stuff because there are songs he’ll ask for and I’ll be like, ‘Where did you get this from? That’s dope.’ I think he just like scours the ‘Net. I don’t know what he does, but he’s up on stuff frst. There are a lot of times where he’ll fnd a song before I even know about it. “The dude is one of the coolest guys you’ll ever meet. I do this event in Miami called Irie Weekend, and when we lost to the Mavericks in 2011, obviously our spirits were broken. We lost at home. I remember LeBron broke out [following the loss] and went to Ohio to go be with his friends and family and all that. I was talking to Eddie Jackson—he’s actually the guy that kind of like raised LeBron when his dad wasn’t around. He’s a really cool dude. This was Friday night of my weekend; I do a big party at LIV. I had Flo Rida performing and Eddie hits me—this is about six
o’clock at night—and he’s like, ‘Bron…he’s still in Ohio. I doubt he’ll be able to make it.’ Next thing you know, it’s about two o’clock in the morning and I’m just about to bring up Flo, and guess who taps me on my shoulder in the DJ booth? Bron. And he’s like, ‘Yo, I got the plane to come back tonight. I had to come support you.’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ That just really made my night. That was really, really cool.”
PAT RILEY, HEAT TEAM PRESIDENT BRIAN WINDHORST, CURRENT ESPN WRITER WHO HAS SPENT MORE THAN 10 YEARS COVERING LEBRON
he moment I will never forget was Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals in Detroit. It was like 80 degrees in the building. I was sweating just sitting there courtside. LeBron ended up needing an IV after the game; he’d lost so much fuid. The Pistons just kept taking the lead; they were like a boxer who was throwing haymakers and LeBron kept carrying the Cavs off the canvas. Like three or four times my mouth just dropped open watching that. There was such a demand for coverage after the game, I didn’t leave until 4 a.m. “He decided when he was in high school that he was going to get the max out of himself. He knew he had the talent and he could’ve been an All-Star and worth $100 million by coasting. But watching him dedicate himself, especially in the offseason, to really wanting to become one of the best ever has been remarkable to watch. “The stretching and recovery routines he goes through just for maintenance are impressive. He goes through a half hour of stretching before every workout. Every minute pregame he’s doing something with a purpose to peak just for the start of the game. Then on off days, he has a whole recovery process with these hyperbaric chambers. He pours in hours not even lifting or drilling; just on maintenance. “When he came into the League, he didn’t care about defense and preferred to play outside in. Now he’s a relentless defender who has learned to play from the inside out. He’s completely renovated his game, even though I’m not sure he gets enough credit for it. “LeBron was on vacation one summer and he detoured his trip to fy to Jackson, Miss., to make an appearance at Mo Williams’ basketball camp. Obviously this was going out of his way. He’d never been to Mississippi before and probably hasn’t been back since. But he went there and spent time with the kids because he wanted to help out a teammate. Then he stayed and got a workout in before fying on. He was supposed to be on his free time, but wanted to make a bunch of kids’ weeks, earn the respect and admiration of an important teammate, and also make sure to work on his game.”
, like everybody else, going back 10 years ago when he frst came into the League, was really truly a witness to a player that all of us felt was great, but we never knew, at that time, just where he was going to go. And that happens a lot. That happens a lot with young players right out of high school coming into the NBA. They may show that they can score, that they have the talent, they have the athleticism—all of those things—and a lot of them just die on the vine, or they become just average players or rotation players. “LeBron has obviously surpassed all of that thinking to becoming the best player, the most impactful player, one of the brightest players this game has ever seen. And we probably haven’t seen the best of him yet, so it’s really been an incredible run for him because I think the frst seven or eight years was an educational process as he was going through the pain of losing, really wanting to win very much. Michael Jordan experienced that. There’s been a lot of players that have gone through that, and last year was his frst world championship where he could feel the absolute satisfaction of all that hard work, and then also understand that it’s really hard and really a diffcult thing to do. So he has risen to the top. “He organized this [Harlem Shake] and I’m thinking to myself, ‘We’re in the middle of this humongous winning streak, there’s a lot of pressure, there’s a lot of things going on.’ These guys went out to these costume stores or went online, and they picked out all these costumes and didn’t tell anybody. And the next thing I know, we’ve got this ‘Harlem Shake’ going on in our locker room and our best player looks like a warrior. I mean, he’s full of life, he wants to have fun, it was a bonding situation for the team. It was hilarious. When I watched it—and I’m an old-school cat—I just laughed my ass off and I said, ‘Let’s put this thing out there. This is who they are, this is their personality.’”
ERIK SPOELSTRA, HEAT HEAD COACH
’ll start with just the work ethic. Those are the things that stand out to me when you’re talking about the best player in the game. I look back to our whole playoff run in 2011. Every morning, I was getting in very early and I kept on noticing a big pile of dirty practice jerseys and towels in the middle of the locker room and the frst few times, I didn’t mention it. It was just before dawn, before the sun came up. Finally, after the third or fourth time, I asked our trainer. I said, ‘Why don’t we clean the locker room? It’s supposed to be clean from the day before, and in the morning it’s a mess. Why is that?’ He said, ‘Oh, that’s LeBron’s practice gear. He’s been coming in every night around 12 because he can’t sleep and he shoots for an hour and a half or whatever.’ And he did that for virtually the whole playoff run. “Then last year, I went home for lunch on one of our home game days. We had a shootaround, went home for lunch and I’m coming back to the arena about four and a half hours before the game. So I’m driving down Bayshore Drive and I see this big, athletic, really enormous guy on a bike. I just kept driving down the road and I’m like, ‘Jeez, who is this guy?’ It really looks like an athlete. He looks way too big to be on a bike. And then as I get closer, I started shaking my head. I said, ‘Please, no. This is not LeBron.’ And sure enough, as I drive by, it is LeBron and he’s biking to the game. He felt like he had a lot of energy to burn. And then, of course, that game he had a monster game against Chicago. He had 30 or whatever it was, and we got the big win. That was the frst time I had seen it. Now, he does it a handful of times. Another time was this year when we met the President in Washington. We practiced in Washington and we were going to fy out to Brooklyn that night. So we had practice at Georgetown University. We fnished up the practice, our guys were getting extra shots and Ray Allen starts putting on his sweatshirt, tightening up his shoes and he starts stretching. And I found that kind of odd because we had already fnished and everybody was taking off all their stuff. They were icing down and everything. And then [Allen] says kind of everybody but to no one, ‘Hey, guys, I’m going to
“He’s taught me a lot because I come from eight coaches who were hard-asses, and so I’ve always been a very, very strict disciplinarian, and he has allowed me in a way to enjoy and have some levity in this life, which is so hard. “[LeBron] is always being compared to somebody—the ongoing debate that can never be really answered, when you’re a part of that conversation, best ever, when you’re a part of it, you are a best ever. But I think LeBron is like a hybrid. He has a little bit of everybody’s game in him. If you go back to [Bill] Russell, if you go back to [Jerry] West and [Oscar] Robertson and Dr. J [Julius Erving] and Elgin Baylor and Magic, all of them, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, he has a little bit of everything in him, and that’s why I think he’s so unique—not just because he’s 6-9 and 265 pounds. He’s an incredible athlete, but he has a mental capacity. He’s watched all these guys play. There’s nothing wrong in learning how that player did it, and I think LeBron was one of those kinds of people and players who studied all of these guys, and took a little bit from every one of them, and that’s why he is, right now, the most unique player in the game. You can’t scout for the next LeBron. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player and it’s been a privilege to watch him the last two and a half years.”
ISSAC BALDIZON; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
run back.’ And this was in late January, so it was pretty cold out. And as soon as he said that, LeBron, who was shooting, says, ‘Oh, you’re running? Well, then I’m going with you.’ So the two of them ran back to our hotel, which was about two-and-a-half, three miles away. And that was after the practice, after post-practice work, extra shooting. To me, it not only pointed out Ray’s work ethic and what he’s all about, but also LeBron. He doesn’t want to be outdone by anybody, including his own teammates when it comes to work and improving.”
TAYSHAUN PRINCE, 2008 OLYMPIC TEAMMATE
n and off the court, he’s the leader type. Off the court, he always got us up early in the morning to have breakfast, breakfast meetings. When everyone’s at dinner, he wanted to do it as a team. Whenever we wanted to go hang out, he wanted to do it as a team. And I think that’s why so many people have a lot of respect for him because when you’re playing with him, he wants to do everything together to build that chemistry, to be able to be more effective on the basketball court. Everything he does on the court is self-explanatory—his ability just to have everybody involved in the game. He’s just a great leader on the court, he was a leader for us off the court. He’s just a very down-to-earth guy, he liked to have fun. He just makes you feel comfortable being around him. He’s just one of those guys that is a very positive guy, and when guys are positive and upbeat and high-spirited like he is, guys want to be around guys like that. “Whenever we were on the bus, whenever we were going to different events, we were always having fun and things like that. But when we were playing a game, he knows when to turn serious. There are a lot of guys who are comedians all the time, fun guys all the time. He’s a pretty fun guy, but he knows when to be serious. That’s the thing that a lot of people say about Dwight Howard. He jokes and he laughs and he does it so much that he doesn’t take lot of stuff serious. But LeBron knows when to take things serious, he knows when to have fun and joke. It was just worthwhile spending time with him because he’s just a great character guy. He’s one of those guys that if you’re having a down day, if you’re around him, he’ll pick your spirits up. “He won a championship last year, kind of got the monkey off his back. Now, he’s just got to continue to build and I know he can do that.”
2/27/13 8:53 AM
CHECKIT 86 SPIN MOVES 88 THE GOODS 90 GEAR 96 WEAR
The playoffs also go by the “second season,” a reboot of the 82-game marathon, so it makes sense that the player “re-boot” up as well. Nike, as it’s doing again with the ELITE 2.0, will be offering up playoff-ready and Superheroinspired versions of its signature models (top to bottom: Kobe 8 System, LeBron X, KD V) that will see weight reduction, extra reinforcements and other upgrades, all to better equip its superheroes (even rehabbing ones) in their quest for a championship. Turn to page 90 for full reviews of each.
CHECK IT SPIN MOVES
BY JIM EICHENHOFER #12
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2012, Anthony Davis provided numerous glimpses of his unlimited potential throughout his rookie season. Having completed his indoctrination into the League, one of the 20-year-old’s objectives during the offseason is to add muscle and weight to his spindly 6-10, 220-pound frame. When Davis isn’t in the gym this offseason, he’ll be recovering with one of his many varied interests.
I’m usually listening to a little hip-hop. Lately it’s been Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and the new J.T. (Justin Timberlake) album. Those are the main ones I’m into right now.
I play 4 Pics 1 Word, but other than that, I don’t have much on my phone.
I watch Family Guy and ESPN. Those are my two favorites. Other than that, I watch a lot of cartoons. If my TV isn’t on ESPN, it’s probably on cartoons. I also watch a little bit of BET.
I just got the new Tomb Raider. It’s nice. Also I play NBA 2K13 and NFL Madden 2013. And I can’t forget Call of Duty.
I just saw the latest G.I. Joe movie [G.I. Joe: Retaliation] last night. It was awesome. I also loved Haunted House. I watched that three straight times when it came out. I want to go see The Call next when I get a chance.
Videogames are probably my favorite hobby out of all of them. Other than that, probably sleeping. And eating—especially in New Orleans.
ILLUSTRATION: MATT CANDELA
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9/25/12 3:42 PM
CHECK IT THE GOODS 01
Hobie Pro Angler 12
By the time you’re reading this, several playoff teams (including the 14 that failed to qualify for the postseason) have—as Kenny Smith famously coined—“Gone Fishin’.” What better way for them to do it than on the American-made Pro Angler 12, a lightweight and compact fshing boat that can support up to 500 pounds of fsherman and gear. Based off of a penguin’s wings, the MirageDrive pedal propulsion system makes getting around as fast and easy as pedaling a bike. There’s even a pivoting tackle management system in the center hatch and the boat can stow up to six rods.
Netgear D6200 Router
There’s typically nothing sexy about a wireless router. It’s main function is to handle the fow of traffc between your ISP and devices on your network, but the D6200 does it all in an eye-catching package. The sleek fat-paneled router will look nice as it performs the utilitarian tasks. The D6200 has the latest WiFi protocol (AC1200) and the gigabit WAN means it can handle the latest and fastest cable or fber connections.
For Android true-believers, the one drawback from the iPhone crowd is the lack of a truly sexy handset—until now. The clean lines of the One are enhanced by the brushed aluminum body, making it stand out from the sea of plastic-bodied handsets that make up the majority of the Android phone market. The gorgeous body serves as a canvas for the 4.7-inch edge-to-edge 1080p screen that makes the videos and pictures come to life. Speaking of pictures, the camera on the One is excellent, once properly focused, which can take some time. But the camera’s many features, including Best Shot mode (which does a burst of many pictures and enables you to manually or automatically pick the best one) and Zoe (simply put, it’s a shooting mode that captures 2.6 seconds of HD video and 20 six-frames-per-second photos, giving you a unique take on a moment) come in handy. At its heart, it runs Android Jelly Bean, but is skinned with HTC Sense 5.0, which offers up some proprietary software and features.
$199 (with two-year contract) 088
Norelco Click & Style
The “triple-double” of personal grooming tools, the Click & Style can take care of your face with its dual rotary razor attachment, line you up properly and/or give you perfect stubble with its beard/moustache trimmer, and tame everything south of your chin with the safe foil trimmer head. Each tool can quickly be swapped out and the entire unit can be used in the shower for easy cleanup and convenience.
V-Moda Crossfade M-100
With headphones being treated as accessories and more of them more concerned about aesthetics and garnering people’s eyeballs instead of the wearer’s ears, it’s nice to have a pair like the Crossfade. Sound quality rings through—from the highs to the lows—and the looks aren’t bad, if understated is how you roll. Black faux leather wraps the headband and ear pads, matte black brushed metal comprises the hardware and a durable braided cable (it comes with three cables: black, orange and purple) carries the sound. A padded hard shell case comes with the package and a thoughtful feature is cable ports on both ears, giving you right- or left-ear options.
Oh Boy! Oberto Bacon Jerky
If bacon jerky were an NBA player, it’d be LeBron James—the perfect and lethal combination of Dwight Howard’s power with the quickness and cunning of Chris Paul. Combining the ever-popular bacon with the standby-goodness of jerky, Oh Boy! Oberto takes real applewoodsmoked strips of bacon and then gives it the “jerk” treatment, making on-the-go bacon-snacking that is 20 percent leaner than traditional pan-fried bacon.
Mountainsmith Monarch O-Degree Synthetic
With outdoor weather here, your iPhone will be subjected to the extremes and hazards that adventure will bring. “Proof” it from such disaster with the LifeProof case. Designed to military specifcations, the case will offer shock and impact protection (up to 6.6-foot drops on all surfaces), water protection (depth of 6.6 feet) and makes it impenetrable to dust, snow and ice. Best of all, the protection comes with minimal bulk—the LifeProof case adds just 1/16 of an inch to the iPhone.
Even during the spring, a chilly night in the outdoors is not unheard of. The Monarch’s generous ft can accommodate the average NBA point guard—up to 6-4 in height with a shoulder width of up to 65 inches— and the mummy-ft and synthetic MontainLoft flling will ward off the frost. The sleeping bag weighs about 4.6 pounds and when stowed into its stuff sack, takes up only 16 x 10 inches of real estate.
LifeProof iPhone case
WHERE TO BUY: Hobie Pro Angler 12: hobiefshing.com; Norelco Click & Style: Norelco.com; Oh Boy! Oberto Bacon Jerky: oberto.com; LifeProof iPhone Case: lifeproof.com; Mountainsmith Monarch O-Degree Synthetic: mountainsmith.com; V-Moda Crossfade M-100: vmoda.com; HTC One: htc.com
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Carbon ﬁber heel clip for heel lockdown. Articulated foam tongue to lessen lace pressure.
KD V Elite 2.0 Weight: 13.5 oz. (size 10) Price: $180
Nike Zoom unit in heel for cushioning.
Carbon ﬁber midfoot shank for lightweight stability. Dynamic Flywire reinforced with Kevlar aramid for strength.
OUR TAKE: With the postseason here, Nike, as it always does, equips their athletes with footwear that jettisons any excess baggage not needed for the playoffs and reinforces it with stronger, premium materials for the trophy push. For the KD V Elite 2.0, Nike drops the top, transforming the midcut KD V into a low-cut shoe. We had high hopes for the Elite version of the KD V. We’re always championing low-cut shoes for basketball, but this cropped version of the KD V disappointed. First off, some of the lace loops pinched the foot when the laces were tightened. The culprit was likely the Hyperfused upper, which was so thin (not a bad thing usually) that the embedded lace loops on the shoe dig into the foot when cinched. This could’ve been corrected with either some additional padding or by extending the tongue. That said, the KD V is a very spry shoe. If you recall, we originally tested the KD V without lacing them up to the top and we had no ill effects, conﬁrming our suspicions that the KD V would play well as a low. Overall, the Elite version was a huge departure. One drawback is the translucent heel outsole, which slips a little. Not too bad, but compared to the Crazyquick (reviewed also) the KD V outsole may as well be made out of KY Jelly. The other big change in the shoe, performance-wise, is the removal of the Air unit in the heel and Zoom Air in the forefoot, replaced with just Zoom in the heel. The result was a more rigid shoe. Cushioning wasn’t lacking—but like a stripped-down racecar, there was less luxe at the cost of more no-frills performance. Ventilation, like with the non-Elite KD V, is lacking. The mesh articulated tongue provides some respite, but the shoe could use some more. A meshed panel on the hot zones of the upper would’ve gone a long way. From a looks standpoint, we prefer the low version of the KD V to the mid version and you can’t deny the striking blue and volt colorway of the pictured “Superhero” edition is not striking to the eye. We also dig the pearl-like midsole. It’s the little details like that on the KD V Elite that make it compelling, despite the high price tag.
LeBron X PS Elite
Articulated foam tongue for extra protection and interior padding.
Weight: 18.5 oz. (size 11) Price: $260
“Diamond” panels of mesh provide ventilation.
Stretch-resistant Kevlar aramid laces.
Carbon ﬁber heel counter for heel stability and rear lockdown.
Full length Zoom Air/Max Air for responsive cushioning throughout.
Carbon ﬁber midfoot wings for additional lateral stability.
Dynamic Flywire (reinforced with Kevlar aramid) underneath the upper and integrated with lacing system ensures a tight, yet adaptive ﬁt to the foot.
OUR TAKE: Before you let sticker shock get to you (and it affects us as well), it can’t be said the LeBron X doesn’t ooze luxury and performance. Once in hand (or on foot) you can really appreciate all the time, work and research that went into the LeBron X, and the Elite version only serves to up the ante even more. Far be it for us to tell you how much you should or shouldn’t spend on a pair of sneakers, but relatively speaking to its peers, the LeBron X does feel a good $60-90 more than the high-end competition (Air Jordans included). Although this “Superhero” Elite 2.0 edition is without the embedded Nike + Basketball tech in it, it’s still a very tech-heavy shoe, from the impressive full length Zoom/Max Air unit, the Dynamic Flywire and the fused upper in a ﬁnely constructed and durable package. Of the three shoes in the Elite 2.0 series, the LeBron X was the least touched and we can’t blame Nike for that. Much like LeBron the player, the LeBron X was and will go down as one of the best basketball shoes ever made. It’s got a little something for everyone (like Bron’s game) from the bruiser down low to the power guard. The only major upgrade from the X to the PS Elite is the use of carbon ﬁber in the heel counter and the midfoot (this was also extended higher on the PS Elite) to shed weight and beef up foot stability. And to be honest, we didn’t notice much of a difference. As stated, it leans more toward the power player, but a “speed” player won’t be bogged down by the shoe. Laterally, there are better shoes out there, but for a shoe this feature-packed and big-oriented, it’s really not that bad. And for those who have wide feet, especially toward the front, the LeBron X is made for you as it is narrow on the midfoot and wide in the front. Cushioning, as expected, was aces. Even if you’re not coming down from the heights that LeBron scales, we’re positive you’ll appreciate the landing the X offers. Ultimately, the sticking point for the X comes down to the price. At an SRP of $280, it’ll cost more than an iPhone with a month of service. Still, the LeBron X, especially this dope hero-inspired PS Elite edition, is a head-turner. It’ll go down as a milestone shoe, not just for LeBron, but overall. It’s easily the best basketball shoe of the decade thus far and we guess it’ll inﬂuence all future basketball releases going forward, be it internally at Nike or the competition.
CHECK IT Poison green colorway and x-ray vision graphic on collar is a nod to the lethal green pit viper snake with its heat-sensing eyes.
Articulated foam tongue offers impact protection while minimizing lace pressure.
Kobe 8 System Elite Weight: 11.75 oz. (size 10) Price: $200
Exposed Flywire reinforced with Kevlar aramid.
Kevlar aramid laces for increased strength and stretch-resistence.
Lightweight carbon ﬁber heel counter for rear foot lockdown. Zoom technology in the insole for responsive cushioning. Engineered mesh for a lightweight breathable upper.
Phylon midsole for impact absorption.
OUR TAKE: You can’t really say anything too bad about Kobe’s signature line. Much like the player it’s designed for, the Kobe 8 is full of minute technical details that give it an edge. At this point in his career, Bryant’s continued on-court dominance isn’t so much because of his physical skills (and even at 34, they’ve not dampened too much), but his knowledge of the game, particularly the small details—the proper angle to attack the basket, the impeccable footwork, the uncanny timing—that allow him to continue to get his shot over defenders. The same can be said about the Kobe 8. It might not be packed with the obvious bling and bang of the LeBron X, but don’t underestimate it; like a coiled snake, it can attack just as ﬁerce. The Kobe 8 Elite 2.0, like recent iterations in the Kobe line, has this amazing combination of a natural snug ﬁt (without having to force your foot into it), lightweight (without feeling ﬂimsy) and low proﬁle (without sacriﬁcing cushioning and stability). The Elite version feels faster than the regular season edition of the shoe, but what makes the Kobe 8 the premier low-cut shoe in the marketplace is the excellent heel counter that keeps your heel in place, which is especially crucial in low cut shoes. It’s rarely changed through the years, and for good reason: it just works. Of the three Elite shoes, the Kobe grades the lowest when it comes to impact protection, and it’s likely by design. Knowing the obsessive nature of Kobe, he likely instructed the designer (Eric Avar) to sacriﬁce some cushioning just so he can shave .0000001 of a second off his ﬁrst step (pure speculation), and it does indeed feel fast, especially graded against its Elite peers. While Nike is in the business of producing a shoe that will sell in the marketplace, Kobe is only concerned about having a shoe that will help him (after he rehabs from his schilles tendon injury) win No. 6 and score another 7,000 or so points (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s present lead in the all-time scoring ledger). Good thing for us, the Kobe 8 Elite is both those things.
Crazyquick Weight: 11.25 oz. (size 9) Price: $140
3D molded collar for a contoured ﬁt around the ankle and top part of the foot.
Angled placement of laces for ergonomic ﬁt.
One-piece upper is made of Techﬁt, an engineered material that can stretch and return.
Enlarged SprintFrame provides lightweight and strong support.
Quick Zones Outsole is designed to maximize quickness, the outsole is divided into four zones: • Toe zone emphasizes push-off movements. • Forefoot zone focuses on quick cuts and change of directions. • Midfoot zone provides support and allows foot to ﬂex. • Heel zone handles multi-directional stopping.
OUR TAKE: We were excited by the Crazyquick when they were ﬁrst announced. According to adidas, the Crazyquick went through rigorous and extensive testing, exceeding any previous adidas basketball shoe. Over 1,000 basketball movements were studied in developing the technology in the Crazyquick, relying on adidas NCAA teams like national champs Louisville, Wisconsin, UCLA, Cincinnati and Baylor, and NBA athletes on its roster. The ﬁrst thing that you immediately notice once you put on the Crazyquick is the lockdown on the midfoot area. The entire upper is one piece, including the tongue, so once the foot is in, your foot is cinched in. Essentially, the ﬁrst four lace loops are decorative as they serve no function until you reach the top three loops where they can be used to tighten the collar. Once tightened, the ﬁt is good, but we do wish for more heel lockdown. We deﬁnitely recommend you go to your local shoe spot to try them on before purchasing as every foot is different. As touted by adidas, the Crazyquick shines when you’re moving on the court, providing “quickness” with its emphasis on ﬂexibility and traction. Being that new-to-the-adidas-family John Wall and his game predicated on quick is repping the shoe on court, it better be. Most of the “quick” on the Crazyquick can be found on the underside of the shoe. Divided into four zones—toe, forefoot, midfoot and heel—that all work together (within the four zones, the entire outsole is further divvied up into 17 pods) to make lateral movement and toe-offs to be faster. We didn’t notice too much of a difference laterally. Comparatively with the DRose 3, there was not much a difference. The area where we did notice an uptick is north-south movements, particularly on ﬁrst-step toe-offs. Once you explode, you can feel like you’re “coming off the blocks.” Quick, indeed. The Crazyquick also shines in traction. Using classic herringbone, the outsole also has multi-directional patterns tuned for speciﬁc movement. The front and rear are more north-south, while the midfoot has an east-west emphasis. Together, they provide excellent court grip. On our wishlist for the Crazyquick is better ventilation. The TechFit upper trapped in heat and moisture. A few mesh panels might’ve helped avoid the dreaded “trechfoot” after a marathon playing session. We’re admittedly not loving the Crazyquick’s aesthetics [ed note: In our basketball shoe reviews, we’re strictly about the performance value of a shoe]. The Techﬁt upper offers some performance attributes and will likely offer up plenty of design possibilities. Curiously, Wall’s production surge in the second half of the season (Wall was playing as well as any of the top point guards in the League) coincided with him moving to the Crazyquick, a ringing endorsement if we’ve ever seen one.
CHECK IT GEAR
Run Your World
Dedicated runners get at it 365 a year. No, we’re not talking about the indoor type of infnitely lapping on a moving belt while catching up on your TV; we mean getting out there and seeing the world while you navigate the local terrain. For the meek, the spring weather means the end of the “It’s too cold out to run” excuse. So lace up a pair that works for you, open your front door and start logging miles on the treadmill of life. For the minimal runner, there are many options available. The Free is Nike’s most barefoot-like runner for those who prefer to “feel” the pavement as they hit it. The Free 3.0 [ 06 ; nike.com, $110] has just a 4-milimeter midsole offset, making it the closest in the Free line to barefoot running. The breathable engineered mesh on the upper is more open in the areas that require more fexibility and more closed where not required. Nike also offers a slightly less “free” option in the Free 5.0 [ 01 ; nike.com, $100] that has a higher midsole, closer to that of a traditional runner. Both are Nike+ ready to sync up with your smartphone. Along the same lines is the RealFlex Strength TR [ 08 ; reebok.com, $89.99] with its RealFlex outsole that consists of multi-directional fex nodes that forces your foot to get stronger by encouraging it to meet the demands of whatever the road throws your way. For those looking for more cushioning, the Energy Boost [ 05 ; adidas.com, $150] features adidas’ new Boost midsole that returns more energy on every strike compared to traditional midsole foams, making every step more effcient and comfortable.
Another option for spring-seeking runners is the DMX Sky [ 04 , reebok.com, $129.99]. Utilizing Reebok’s SMXSky tech, it funnels air along three independent moving channels in the shoe’s outsole for cushioning where you need it. If you’re the type that tends to overpronate, the Charge RC II [ 09 ; underarmour.com, $120] has a medial side that is built at a higher angle while the lateral side of the heel is scooped out, helping to compensate the foot into a more neutral stride. Inspired by nature and geared towards a toe-to-heel runner, the Toxic Six’s [ 02 ; underarmour.com, $100] midsole offset encourages mid-/forefoot strikes, while the aesthetics mimic a cross between a cheetah and pack of Skittles. For those in the opposite camp, the ZigTech Shark Pursuit 360 [ 03 ; reebok.com, $99] uses Reebok’s ZigTech sole to transfer energy from the heel to the toe. Eye-catching by day, the ZT Shark also has refective accents for night shift runners. An all-around good option at a good price point, the Crazy Fast [ 07 ; adidas.com, $100] is a breathable and lightweight shoe that covers every checkmark most runners look for (durable adiWear outsole, refective details, miCoach compatibility).
10/10/12 9:40 AM
CHECK IT 01
Junk Food NBA Los Angeles Clippers VIntage Heather Tee Celebrate the Clippers frst 50-win campaign with a tee that takes vintage details from the Clippers’, um, less-fruitful years.
Stance NBA Collection Socks
You’ve rocked their jersey, maybe even their kicks, now you can rep them on your feet. The printed player on each Stance sock in its NBA collection demands that these be yanked up to the knee for proper stuntin’. Available players include James Worthy, Larry Bird, Bill Walton, Dennis Rodman, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dr. J, Kenny Smith and Patrick Ewing. Our favorite? The fttingly inseparable leftright duo of Karl Malone and John Stockton.
Reebok Scrimmage Mid
Get your training on, ’90s style. Reebok brings the nostalgia back heavy with the trainer that looked good then and looks right in place now with the loud teal and sport red sitting above a speckled midsole on a gum bottom.
Jordan Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG The Air Jordan 1 celebration this year continues as the folks at Jumpman took three things that sneakerheads love—patent leather, gum bottoms and black shoes—and came up with this colorway that will snap necks. Oh, and don’t forget the OG “Nike Air” on the tongue. But you knew that.
Jordan Air Jordan XX8
We predicted the Air Jordan XX8, with its uter shroud, would be the perfect canvas for all kinds of creativity. These two pairs showcase the potential. One is a take on the Air Jordan VIII with its swirling pallete of Bulls’ colors; the other draws inspiration from carbon fber, a mainstay in AJ shoes dating years back.
After its monochromatic debut earlier this year, Tyga’s signature line with Reebok sees some color and texture, namely the leopard-camo print and the suede on the toe.
Jordan Rise 2.3 Short
At the HOOP offces, we have a few go-to shorts and the Rise 2.3 is among them. Let us count the ways: lightweight and moisture-wicking (Dri-FIT) material, the classic paneling on the sides and the perfect length that’s neither too high nor too low.
Jordan 1 Poster Tank
The classic Michael Jordan photo that spawned the now ubiquitous Jumpman logo leaps onto a tank that would ft just as well on the court or on the streets of your neighborhood hipster scene.
WHERE TO BUY: Junk Food NBA L.A. Clippers tee: junkfoodclothing.com; Stance NBA Collection Socks: stance.com; Reebok Scrimmage Mid, T-RAWW : reebok.com; Jordan Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG, Rise 2.3 Short, Air Jordan XX8, Jordan 1 Poster Tank: jordan.com
CHECK IT 01
Air Jordan 1 OG Clover
The gold and green of this AJ1 could be a play off of the leprechaun’s pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or the Celtics’ 17 championship trophies , but in this case, it represents the legendary 63-point game Mike dropped on the C’s on April 20, 1986 in the playoffs. So good was he that no less an authority than Larry Bird said afterwards: “I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
WHERE TO BUY: New Balance 501 Camo: newbalance.com; Jordan Air Jordan 1 OG Clover, Dominate Compression Tank, Bright Lights Short: jordan.com; Reebok Classic Leather BRK SC: reebok.com
New Balance 501 Camo
Is camo played out? In small doses, it’s fne. Unless you’re actually trying to be covert and blend into the foliage, you’re doing it the wrong way if you’re going head-to-toe camo.
Jordan Dominate Compression Tank
Public service announcement: Unless you are built like LeBron James or similar, make sure you put on another layer over the compression top during your workout.
Reebok Classic Leather BRK SC As much as it’s nice to have modern shoes with its newfangled materials and contruction methods that pare down weight and increase performance, there’s nothing like a classic leathered shoe. And few get more classic than this one by Reebok.
Jordan Bright Lights Short
Even if your game can’t make you stand out on the court, the day glow orange hue of the shorts will speak on your behalf.
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CHECK IT WEAR 01
Junk Food Star Wars “Where’s the Party?” Triblend
A storm trooper carrying a Death Star balloon looking for a party. T-shirt comedy gold. 01
Kitted with Carl Zeiss sunlenses and housed in frames crafted with fne Italian acetates, IVI sunglasses is a perfect combination of form and function. The Sepulveda has a subtle hit of camo (remember the rule of not overdoing camo) while the Standard is a classic “Wayfarer.”
Sepulveda: $180 STandard: $160
Reebok Ex-o-Fit Plus Hi R13
If you dig the wet look for your shoes, this pair is made for you. The faux raindrops on the Ex-o-Fit’s upper mimic droplets of moisture. So real, we tried to wipe them off when we frst got them.
Reebok GL 6000
It’s been 28 years since the GL 6000 debuted as a high-tech running shoe. You can still run in them, but they’d do better as part of your summer rotation, especially the blue and yellow pair.
WHERE TO BUY: Junk Food Star Wars tee: junkfoodclothing.com; IVI eyewear : ivivision.com; Reebok Ex-o-Fit Plus Hi R13, GL6000: reebok.com
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10/24/12 2:27 PM
June 9, 1993: The Finals, Game 1, Chicago Bulls vs. Phoenix Suns, America West Arena The high-powered Suns had seven players average more than 10 points per game: Charles Barkley (25.6), Majerle (16.9), Kevin Johnson (16.1), Richard Dumas (15.8), Cedric Ceballos (12.8), Tom Chambers (12.2) and Danny Ainge (11.8). On the contrary, the Bulls only featured four: Michael Jordan (32.6), Scottie Pippen (18.6), Horace Grant (13.2) and B.J. Armstrong (12.3).
Barkley had his most successful—if not best— season in 1992-93. He ﬁnished with 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 1 block per game and took home his lone MVP.
Pippen was awarded his second of 10 All-Defensive Team appearances in 1993. Alongside teammate Jordan, Pippen joined Joe Dumars, Hakeem Olajuwon and Dennis Rodman on the First Team.
Barkley had a rough shooting night in his Finals debut, going 9-of-25 from the ﬁeld, ﬁnishing with 21 points while chipping in 11 boards and 5 dimes.
Pippen led the NBA in steals during the ’93 playoffs with 41. He is also the NBA’s career playoff leader in steals with 395. Among active players going into the 2013 playoffs, only Kobe Bryant has more than 300 with 310. In Game 1, Pippen scored 27 points (his high during the series) on 12-of-20 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He could have led the team in scoring had he not gone 3-of-9 from the free-throw line that night.
The 1992-93 season was Barkley’s debut season with the Suns. During the summer of 1992, Philadelphia traded Barkley to Phoenix for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry.
Bill Cartwright might be remembered as the blue-collar, slow-moving center for three Bulls’ title teams, but before foot injuries took their toll on his game, Cartwright was the No. 3 pick in the 1979 draft, an All-Star as a rookie and a 20-ppg scorer for the Knicks.
The Suns made their second appearance in the Finals. Before that, Phoenix made its Finals debut in 1976. Like ’93, the ’76 Suns also lost in six games.
Grant just missed his third double-double season of his career with averages of 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds. Grant secured a spot on the All-Defensive Team for the ﬁrst time in 1993, as he was named to the second team.
Frank Johnson was the understudy to Suns All-Star point guard Kevin Johnson. That season he was returning from a three-year stint playing overseas.
Ainge was playing for his third NBA Championship as he had won two previously with the Boston Celtics (1984 and ’86). As the Suns’ sixth man, Ainge totaled 947 points in 80 games off the bench.
Less than a year before, Barkley and Pippen were teammates on the legendary Dream Team in Barcelona during the 1992 Summer Olympic Games.
Now the president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, Ainge won his third NBA Championship in 2008, helping assemble the titlewinning team in a season where he also won NBA Executive of the Year.
The Bulls stole homecourt advantage from the Suns in the opening game of the Finals, winning in Phoenix, 100-92.
Pippen is wearing the Nike Air Maestro. Fittingly, he totaled 507 assists that season, averaging 6.3 for the season.
The 1992-93 Phoenix Suns had the best record in the NBA at 62-20, but needed to come back from an 0-2 deﬁcit in the First Round (they were ﬁve-game series at the time) and were down 3-2 against the Seattle SuperSonics in the Western Conference Finals. 102
He might’ve famously said he wasn’t a role model, but many people took after Charles Barkley’s Nike Air Force Max 93.The rugged mid-cut basketball shoe had the medial/lateral cross strap popular on many mid’90s shoes. So popular was the Air Force Max 93 that it’s been given the retro treatment a few times now since its original release.
The 1992-93 Chicago Bulls were the only championship team in franchise history to win less than 60 games during the season. They went 57-25 as the second-seed in the East.
Both Majerle and Grant are wearing the Nike Air Force 93, a shoe that made its debut in the spring of ’93. Largely forgotten now, it was packed full of features: a back-and-forth midfoot cross strap, neoprene sockliner, mesh tongue and a visible heel Air unit. Majerle’s was the mid cut, while Grant sported the high version.
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
CALL OUT Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon stand at ease while meeting with local military personnel at the Joint Reserve Base Naval Air Station in appreciation of their service. LAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Giving a helping hand (and high-fve) with boxing food for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma brings out the smile in Kendrick Perkins. We can’t say for sure that this is the frst photograph ever of the Oklahoma City Thunder center smiling, but it’s quite possible. LAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Even in a town used to celebrity, Shaquille O’Neal stood out from the pack. He brought his big game, bigger personality and most importantly, three NBA Championships to the Lakers, and they reciprocated the appreciation by retiring O’Neal’s #34 jersey among the Laker greats.
Used to taking a ball and putting it through a hoop, Blake Griffn does his best to adapt to a game where a ball is rolled down a lane to knock down pins at the Clippers Foundation Charity Basketbowl Challenge. Oh, and nice personalized ball, Blake. NOAH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
NOAH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Denver’s Corey Brewer (left) and Jordan Hamilton show off their green thumbs planting vegetables for a group of second-graders as part of NBA Cares Green Week at the Denver Botanic Gardens. GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
DOES DAMIAN LILLARD MAKE THE GRADE?
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10/8/12 9:01 AM