Five Letter H-O-R-S-E + Five Hard Truths

Without further adieu, I’ve been suspended by the NBA today for watching the movie Happy Gilmore at some point in the past four months when I had nothing better to do on another tedious Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the character S****** McGavin is far too controversial for the tastes of Dictator Dave Stern. A man came to my apartment and unplugged my television because I simply was unfit to watch it. I couldn’t argue with the man, because he knows better than me what I should and what I should not be doing.

Apparently the newest profane word in the English language starts with S and ends with T, but it has five letters in it.

I have also been suspended by the Cambridge Athletic Club for using my fingers in a g**-like motion after making three-point “field goals.” Also, my national bank has prohibited me for humbly referring to myself as a “bank s*** artist” as I describe my occupation to random strangers at dinner parties with finger food trays. Gilbert Arenas has now become my agent as he’s looking for a temporary gig.

All I want to do is BANG BANG BANG BANG!!! And Ka-Ching! And take your money…

Ah well, David Stern could be intellectually honest and tell Norby Williamson and his band of ADD-stricken henchmen to only use the phrase “field-goal attempts” when a basketball player, you know, makes an attempt at hurling a basketball into a round iron rim. Easy off the tongue. Besides, it’s not like the Sherlock Holmes movie that the NBA was pimping out over Christmas Day had any violence in the movie whatsoever. Truth be told, I also pulled out an unloaded S**** & W***** when Mariah Carey sang “All I Want Christmas For You” 57 million times during the second half of the Portland-Denver game that I sadly watched around midnight EST on Christmas night. There’s no way I can be the only person that thinks the same thing on this matter.

If there were ever room for a segue, here it is. Like Dwight D. Eisenhower, I’ve stopped on a dime and I’m changing it up to talk about basketball. After reading Bill Simmons’ latest article this morning and watching a bunch of YouTube clips of old-school hoops, I’m just pumped up. So let the discussion begin. These are five basketball-related truths that you cannot question in any shape, form, or fashion, even if I put a metaphorical gu…err, guillotine over your head.

Five Hard Truths:
1) Rumeal Robinson was never fouled. 1989 NCAA Finals. In OT. 3 seconds left. Phantom foul called. Defender probably didn’t even touch Rumeal. If you believe that the mob or gambling has some influence on sports, this would be one of the major starting points to investigate along with Don Denkinger’s blown missed-the-base call in the ’85 World Series. Seton Hall probably wins the title. P.J. Carlesimo becomes one of the great college coaches of all-time and Latrell Sprewell becomes an MVP in Golden State. (How great was Glen Rice that game?) Thank you, Sean. It really is a travesty that no one talks about how phenomenal this basketball game was, yet the tainted last play probably is the reason. People want to forget egregious injustice by storing it away to never be seen again.

2) Pervis Ellison was a very good basketball player.
20 and 11 with 2.7 BPG for 66 games in the 91-92 season? Unfortunately, bigger guys tend to get injured more often. Still, doesn’t mean they weren’t great for flashes of time.
When you factor in his collegiate career at Louisville with his clutch performance (1986 Final Four MOP), the case is solidifed for a big guy who was good for about a seven-year stretch in the hoops world. He’s not a Hall-of-Famer, but a guy that hopefully more people appreciate.

3) Basketball is the greatest professional sport in the world. Behind soccer. Only because Joe Buck does not broadcast it. What a disgusting act.

4) Greatest single performance I’ve ever seen on a basketball court is Allen Iverson’s masterful Game 1 of the 2001 Finals. 48 points. Including the incredible shot he made with Tyronn Lue in his face and the infamous step-over on Lue. Biggest single-game upset in the NBA in the last 20 years. (The ’01 Lakers, hands down the best team of the decade. Would have beaten the 90s Bulls because of Shaq in a head-to-head match-up.) Because the national media dogs Iverson for his taken out-of-context rant about practice (which, oh wait, no one wants to admit that AI’s right because AI’s one of the few guys that went all out every game night for the fans), his legacy gets trampled on. This man is a staunch AI defender and there are a lot of people that feel the same way. Hence, why Iverson was voted to the All-Star Game this year when he had no business making the team. Iverson, future Hall-of-Famer. Best small guard to play in the last 25 years.

5) This last one really irks me. The greatest player in NBA History is not named Larry Bird. Nor is he Michael Jordan. Or even Magic Johnson (who’s better than Larry Bird.) His name is William Felton Russell. Some people call him Bill. Maybe you’ve heard of him, he’s the guy that the NBA decided to name their Finals MVP trophy after. Bill Russell is hands down the greatest player that ever played the game of basketball. He won ELEVEN championships in the premiere basketball league on the planet. Before that, he won an Olympic gold medal and he actually led the University of San Fransisco to back-to-back national championships in the 1950s. The USF Dons won two NCAA titles. This would be the equivalent of some crumbum school like Elon University (some crap school in North Carolina, they’ll never be any good) actually winning it all. It really is amazing when you think about it.

A lot of people think Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all-time and there is no argument. MJ is the most influential basketball player of all-time, but that does not equate to the greatest player. For one reason, Russell’s the man. Russell never walked away at the apex of his skills. If Jordan had stayed in the league and if he had won eight consecutive titles (you know, like Russell and The 60s Celtics did), Jordan may win this argument. Bill Russell functioned in a superior manner where he simply focused on repeating winning mannerisms until he finally ran out of steam. When he did, he had won 11 titles in 13 seasons (an injury prevented a probable, but not definite 12th). Russell won eleven titles. Jordan won six. Eleven is greater than six.

Stats are just a mirage. People get caught in the wave of statistics and the glory of their name being documented. Ultimately, basketball is about winning games until you are the champion. A winner can willingly sacrifice parts of his game for the benefit of the team if the team is winning. Bill Russell revolutionized basketball more than any person would care to tell you not by his brand name or image, but by his body of work on the court. The art of an outlet pass or a tipped block to a teammate are things that are lost in the space of today’s ‘modern’ game. We’ve become obsessed with a highlight of a slam dunk or a three-pointer, where all of the other nuances created and inspired by intelligence, hard work, and long-term vision are not as present as they should be. You’ll never see ESPN show a proper entry pass to a big man, but yet winning teams know you don’t go ‘ground floor’ on a 6’11” guy on the block when he wants the ball.

There is no greater accomplishment in sports than winning a championship. In our individually driven culture, we have lost sight of the fact that team play and doing the ‘little things’ correctly are what drive champions. Winners don’t care about shooting threes at the end of a blowout, nor do they care about seeing their name in an emotionless recap cobbled together by the Associated Press and local sportswriters. Glory is found in memories with your teammates, whether it be throwing up in a locker room before every game or having your teammate bail you out with a big steal after a rare mistake. Glory lives within your heart and it never can leave you, no matter what anyone says. When you beat every other team, you become a champion and that is something no one can ever take away from you.

Bill Russell is the greatest player in the history of basketball because he is the greatest winner. That fact is a hard truth.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

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