Clutching tightly to memories of younger, better times, Houston Rockets fans do not take to kindly to the denigration of the legacy of one Hakeem Olajuwon. His remains a nebulous one, though, fraught with hypotheticals (“If he had actually got a chance to face Jordan in the Finals…”) and gross exaggerations (as all good mythical types accrue), to the point that it’s quite hard to place the towering figure of Houston sports. While certainly one of the greatest centers of all-time, where he ranks on that ridiculously stacked hall of champions continues to be the subject of debate among many angry forum heads around the world (shoutout to all my brothers in the struggle against getting sunlight). While this sort of semantic, sports-radio-in-hell argument seems to be strictly for the birds, for a fanbase so desperate to protect its relevancy, exactly how great Hakeem Olajuwon was takes on an importance usually not given by franchises who’ve had a little more going on in the last 15 years.
The 2006 McDonald’s High School All-American Game might boast the best combined roster in the history of high school basketball. Of the 24 selected to participate, 17 are in the NBA (16 coming by way of a first round draft selection with10 being lottery picks) and 13 played in a Final Four. The rosters were loaded with top tier talent like Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Ty Lawson, Thaddeus Young, the Lopez twins, so on and so forth. The game was so loaded with awesomeness, not one, but two players were named MVP. The first, naturally, was Kevin Durant—a scorer so transcendent, at times his superior skill level feels like it belongs inside even more accomplished competition than the NBA can offer. With heavyweight endorsement deals already locked up with the likes of Nike and Gatorade, Durant is the future face of professional basketball. He stands to make approximately $88 million from his direct employer, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the next five years, and 50 years from now he could be remembered as one of the 10 best players who ever lived. That’s a decent resume for someone born in 1988.
On the other side of the tracks, sharing this award with one of the most prodigious players in recent memory, is Chase Budinger, the one out of 17 from 2006 who wasn’t a first round selection. Budinger isn’t Kevin Durant, nor is his name and stature in the same class with almost every player who competed in that classic game. No, Budinger is something else: The best bargain in basketball. Read More
Last week I wrote a piece about identity. More specifically, Houston’s search for one that will allow them to consistently win basketball games in the long term and impose themselves on the rest of the league. Several factors were touched on—common denominators within the current roster’s makeup—to try and figure out if Houston’s foundation is good enough to grow from within, and improve upon.
But one of the more interesting similarities almost every player on the team shares came to me hours after that article was posted. The similarity I speak of is powerful enough to form a bond between all those who share it; strong enough to either shatter a man’s psyche or motivate him further than even he knew was previously possible. What I speak of is doubt. Doubt that’s relentless and constant. Doubt that attempts to cut a player at his knees before he’s able to stand. Read More
For NBA fans like me, having recently witnessed the single most thrilling season and playoffs of my adult life, the excitement of sitting down to dig into a complicated economic analysis of major corporate bookkeeping ranks somewhere between listening to my mother describe the flower arrangements at my cousin’s wedding and going to the dentist.
And I understand that this is a major issue throughout our culture that is more concerned with the president’s hairline and timber of his voice than necessarily with the changes he will make to our way of life, but I still don’t really care. And you can’t make me.
This fundamentally is the current problem with the NBA. Capitalism turns eyeballs into profit margins. The more attention a thing garners, the more real-life actual money it stands to make. The league could not survive without your local sporting goods store selling out of Dirk jerseys, all the idiots with Kobe’s face tattooed on their forearms, and all the other idiots who had LeBron’s removed from theirs.
The NFL season starts this week, on time, the players and owners having happily reconciled and returned their sport to its rightful place as America’s favorite bone-crushing entertainment, while the NBA, currently, doesn’t even exist at all.
So in honor of the lockout and the money the league stands to lose, I’ve put together a list of all the things N.B.A. currently stands for, because, as of right now, it certainly doesn’t stand for basketball.