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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If I could be like 'Nique... wait, what?

There seems to be very few questions on who some players in the NBA are compared to most times…
Kobe is compared to Mike, whether Cheese Eyes himself or any of his minions will admit to the validity of it.

[Phlip note – we can leave it to the nice folks of bleacherreport.com to explain their argument for the validity of comparison]


Carmelo Anthony has a lot of George Gervin in him, in the sheer number of ways he can find (and make) his shot.

Kevin Durant is Larry Bird; not a freak athlete like his peers, but more than makes due with effort and the use of the skillset he does have.

I could go on and on, but I would rather get to the point.

LeBaron James…

[Phlip note – yes, I know it feels like I am picking on the guy… well I am]


I am inclined to compare him to Dominique Wilkins more than I am the first person that people try to compare him to; Magic Johnson.
Perhaps it has a great deal to do with the fact that I am a Lakers fan since my Granddaddy was and Magic is a legend in Lakers lore, so I do not have it in me to rate lesser beings on the level with such.

Bust the facts…

Lebaron James:
  • 6’8”
  • 250lbs
  • 27.8PPG
  • 7.0RPG
  • 7.0APG
  • 2003-04 Rookie of the Year
  • 1 x NBA Scoring Champion
  • 6 x All-Star, 2 x All-Star MVP
  • 2 x NBA MVP
  • Named after the worst car that Chrysler ever made.

Dominique Wilkins:
  • 6’8”
  • 230lbs
  • 24.8PPG
  • 7.6RPG
  • 2.5APG
  • 1 x NBA Scoring Champion
  • 9 x All-Star
  • 2 x NBA Slam Dunk Champion
  • Euroleague and Greek Cup Champions (MVP of both, 1996)
  • Named after fake diamond product sold on QVC


Disparity MIGHT be noted on their weights – never even minding that LeBaron’s is rumored to be more than his listed 250. Personally, I don’t buy that shit when considering his knees are not already fucked with the way he plays.
However!!!
Understand that Dominique came up in a league where anyone 6’8” and 230 might as soon play power forward and would surely find himself guarding centers sometimes… But he didn’t. With that said, a 6’8” and 230 pound dude, when counted in 1982 math is equal enough to a 6’8” and 250 pound one in 2010 money.

Several parallels can be drawn to between their careers beyond just physical size. Both were prolific scorers when going to the hoop and used their physical gifts – both at their times unheard of to the league – to make someone a poster on any given night.

[Phlip note – in fact, the earliest “in my poster” that I STILL remember is a 3-footer that my older sister had on her wall if Dominique defining what we would come to know as the definition of “embarrassed” to a defending player]

Spotty jump-shooting, questionable defensive habits erased by simply bullying the shit out of the opposing player, or simply being able to jump higher than normal human beings to erase those flaws. Each was/is overrated to the point where their shortcomings were/are overshadowed by their physical gifts.
Both players are/were reluctant passers. The edge falls to LeBaron in that while he has NEVER learned to play without the ball, he will at least enter a play with the possibility of making a play for someone else, and a +4.5 assist average will easily speak to that. Where LeBaron passes as a means to getting his name on SportsCenter, ‘Nique DIDN’T pass en route to becoming the highlights that made a not-yet-born LeBaron WANT to be on SportsCenter.



One more place where their careers share a dubious similarity is in the playoffs. Personally, I am more inclined to place Dominique’s losses on his generally one-dimensional game being more easily exposed by competition. Having to play in the eastern conference during the reigns of Detroit’s Bad Boys, Bird’s Celtic teams and of course the Cheese Eyes-led Bulls regime(s) is an ugly fucking proposition. They showed, making the post season in all of his years in Atlanta, only twice seeding in the bottom half the standings – twice even first – but never even made the NBA finals.

LeBaron, coming from a more terrible beginnings with the team – joining via draft (and during Carlos Boozer’s screwjob) and not via trade – would not make the playoffs until his third season. From there, he would always be in the top of the conference, having had the league’s best record two of them and surprising the world, carrying the team to the NBA Finals before being swept. That feat would be the similarity to ‘Nique’s 47-in-a-loss in Boston in 1988. From there, it would be big showings, blowouts and sideline dancing during the regular season, followed by unceremonious exits from the playoffs just short of all expectations, followed by excuses.


Now to the “end,” which would be the downswing of ‘Nique’s career – in which his most oft-compared rival was racking up rings, taking adventures to avoid being kicked out of ball for gambling and then coming back to get more rings – while Nique gets nothing. Really not his fault, considering how horribly run an organization the Hawks were. Hell, they traded the team’s best and most popular player ever in the middle of a 36-16 season to the Clippers (if that ain’t a slap in the face). He would turn up the heat for a non-contender for the balance of the season, stopping by to light their asses on fire to the tune of 36 and 10 on the way through town.
Following the season, he signed in Boston but split town when he saw that rebuilding was coming, instead choosing to go to Europe and monster on their leagues, winning two championships and MVP awards, with one attempted return to the NBA and one final hoorah before retiring. Yes, it was as much a hall of fame career as one could expect from someone who, for all his actions, came from his career with not a lot of hardware.

LeBaron’s story is fresher in our collective memories, so I can probably skip it… Dragging a team from the depths of hell to the league elite, only to fail on the biggest stage – twice with no excuse and appearing to have quit – then escaping, via a TERRIBLY carried out process to what should have been greener pastures, only to have found trouble in paradise way earlier than most thought possible.
To his credit, his story is still being written, but damned if it ain’t starting to look like something we’ve seen before. Luckily, we also know the means to fixing the shit, but to his criticism, he seems totally oblivious to his own culpability in this mess. I know that he did not single-handedly bring this Miami Heat fiasco to be, and was acting within his rights to change teams, considering that he too was stuck with a bad organization… The fact remains that he is the FACE of the team, damning what anyone says about it being “Wade’s team.” Dwyane Wade’s name is not on a sneaker. The wins will be credited to the dude with the biggest highlights on ESPN every morning, and so shall the losses.


If he wins, there is no question as to whether his name is welcomed in the Parthenon of the greats.

If he doesn’t, then EVERYTHING worth questioning (and a bunch of shit that isn’t, but will be anyway), then he joins the ranks of Mitch Richmond and Dominique, who were forced to sit and watch their peers win the big shit that matters. His Cleveland Cavaliers were to the Lakers and Spurs as ‘Nique’s Hawks were to the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls.
And while that is a career that can and has netted people entrance into the hall of fame, it has to feel REAL empty to have not led one to the promised land.

For now, the similarities are more to those who have ALMOST done it than it is to those who have.
And we all know that close only counts in horseshoes, hand-grenades and shit-fights.

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