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Dan Shaughnessy on Tim Duncan…

March 29, 2010 1 comment

I don’t really want Sports on the Brain to be one of those blogs that searches out articles by established sports writers and tears into them. Partly, because if you’re going to do something so querulous, then you have to do it with an exceptional amount of intelligence and wit, and.. well… I’m just not going to do it better than these guys did. But also, because with the proliferation of FJM copycat blogs, at this point it seems banal, jealous and mean spirited, and that’s not really what I’m interested in…

(you can just see the giant BUT coming here, can’t you?)

But… today, Sports Illustrated’s Dan Shaughnessy wrote a column were he disputes the notion that Tim Duncan is one of the ten best players in NBA history. That he’s wrong is I’m sure obvious to almost everyone with even a rudimentary understanding of basketball, but lets ignore the end result for a minute and look at some of his logic.

Off the top of my head I’d take Wilt Chamberlain (always No. 1, the guy averaged 50.4 points a game during the 1961-62 season), Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Bob Cousy ahead of Duncan. There’s a quick 10 without as much as a three-second violation.

Ok, first off, we know that the Bible took apart Chamberlain as a potential top dog in NBA history so completely that it’s now hard to respect anyone who keeps Wilt ensconced there based upon logic like, he averaged 50.4 points per game in a single season (It’s called context Dan). Yet, obviously Wilt is still in the top ten, as are Jordan, Kareem, Magic, Bird, and Russell. I’d say then that Duncan comes in at the front of a group that includes (in some order) Shaq, Kobe, Oscar, and West, with the Diesel having a big advantage in terms of upside, but also having the biggest caveat, because he spent so many seasons running in neutral.

The real kicker in Shaughnessy’s group though is Cousy. Come on Dan, we all get that you’re a rabid Boston homer, but Cousy? Better than Duncan? Lets use one of Bill Simmons’ favourite constructs. We’ll play a game with our lives on the line and you can have either Cousy, who was a tremendous court leader, a gifted passer, and a cagey player who couldn’t shoot water out of a hose, or Duncan. A player who at his best was a seven foot behemoth, who protected the rim so smartly that he managed to affect shots without taking himself out of the play. A player who was a strong passer out of double teams, which his presence demanded, because his bank shot was so automatic that teams couldn’t let him get in position to take it. And a player who just happened to grab ten boards a game without thinking. Cousy was great, but he’s at least ten players away from the top ten and taking him over Duncan with your life on the line would be a little like saying, “let’s play Russian Roulette with a single barrel shotgun, I’ll go first.”

Nothing against Duncan, but you could also give me Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Julius Erving, Elgin Baylor, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Kevin McHale. Oh, and let’s not forget Bob Pettit, Moses Malone, John Stockton and Isiah Thomas.

I’m sorry, but did you just add perennial runner ups Barkley and Malone into a covnersation with four time champion Duncan? And Stockton? Believe me when I say that I love the guy, but… him? Really? I already mentioned Bryant in my top ten, Hakeem certainly could make an argument, and we all know that unless he’s abducted by the military for some sort of secret cloning project, LeBron will reside somewhere in the pantheon one day, but Thomas? Petite? Baylor? Erving? Great, great, great, and great, but better than Duncan? Please.

Somehow, I’ve missed Duncan’s greatness. Maybe it’s because he played in San Antonio. Maybe it’s the lack of flair in his game. Even his nickname is boring. Please, “The Big Fundamental?” Sounds like a guy you’d fit for a pocket protector.

I’m sorry, did you just argue that you can’t include Duncan in your top ten because his game didn’t have flair and you don’t like his nickname? Maybe he should have flashed more Jazz Hands, given himself a pseudonym like Agent Zero, and then everything he does to (you know) actually win games might have been obvious to you. And SI wonders why it’s subscriptions are dropping faster than an accelerating Toyota.

I’ll admit that the more I scour Duncan’s numbers, the better he looks. He’s a 7-footer who plays great defense, makes the perfect outlet passes and uses the glass like no one else his size. He’s won his whole career, and he’s done it quietly. Too quietly for his own good, maybe. Playing in a small media market has disguised some of his greatness.
Duncan continues to play at an amazing level for a guy closing in on 34…

…Duncan was predictably humble about the whole deal.

We went down my list. I started rattling off names.
“You got 12 right there,” he said.
Tim Duncan is not going to fight about this. Even he admits it is absurd. He is a great player. He’s just not one of the 10 greatest of all time.

Hey, I’ve got a great idea, I’m going to determine that a guy isn’t one of the ten best players of all time. Then, when I actually look into it, I’ll find that he really is, but rather than concede my point, I’ll go ask him if he thinks he’s better than the twelve names I’ve randomly placed above him. If he disagrees, then I can pillory him for being arrogant, but if he doesn’t then I can write, “Even he admits it is absurd.” No Shaughnessy, what’s absurd is your entire column.

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Grabbing the Tail of the Tiger…

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Tiger Woods, that enigmatic ladies man who has either spent the last two months in a Mississippi sex addiction clinic, or in space, has called a press conference for tomorrow. Presumably, he will appear and read a very lawyered statement, which will pave the way for his return to golf in time for the Masters. He has already said that he will not take questions, which is fine although having a few trusted scribes ask beach ball questions might have been prescient.

Nonetheless, already this news has brought a litany of reactions. Ernie Els was quoted yesterday as saying,

“It’s selfish,” former U.S. Open and British Open champion Ernie Els told Golfweek magazine. “You can write that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament.”

Really Els? Really? Much like all the other golfers who’ve thought that the world needed their opinion on Tiger Woods over the last three months, Els needs to shut up. Whatever they might think of him personally, golfers need to remember that their bottom line has increased immeasurably over the last fourteen years because of Tiger. I don’t mean an extra thousand here or there, I mean exponentially. The popularity that Woods’ brought to golf has meant that prize money has expanded more than Rex Ryan’s waistline. For someone like Els, who has been successful throughout Tiger’s prime (although not head to head), that’s a lot of coin in his South African pockets.

I’m not saying that Woods should be beyond reproach by other golfers, I’m just saying that the golfers need to be aware of what he has done for them, before they start throwing around words like selfish. After all that his presence has meant to the well being and livelihood of guys like Els, is it selfish for Woods to hold a press conference, at ELEVEN AM no less, on the same day that a tournament is being played? Really?

And, how exactly is Woods’ statement taking away from the tournament? Do you actually believe that the thousands upon thousands of people who will be following what Woods is saying were going to be watching and fervently discussing the Match Play? Sorry Ernie, despite the public’s rabid excitement over your play, we weren’t. In reality, when Woods is finished his press release, at say 11:20, some who might not otherwise have tuned in to the tournament, having been reminded that there is golf without Tiger, might flip over and watch a little. To claim that he should have done this Monday, that he owes the other golfers, or the tournament sponsor*, in any way is just dumb. So please Els, do yourself and everybody else a favor and just shut up.

*(ED. Note: The sponsor released a statement today that said they were in full knowledge of Woods’ press conference plans and that it was timed, again at ELEVEN AM, so that it did not conflict with the tournament. Or, put another way, they told Els to suck it.).

Then there’s SI’s blowhard Michael Bamberger, who writes,

Tiger Woods is a world-class control freak, and in his re-entry into public life — which has showered him with wealth and opportunities and trappings that we can only imagine — he is picking up right where he left off. He controls all. He’s the same way with his golf ball. He tells it exactly what he wants it to do.

I don’t want to come off as a Woods apologist here, because while I certainly watch golf almost entirely because of him, I don’t have any special pull towards him, but I do want to bring a little perspective to this situation. Lets remember what Woods has done here. He has been unfaithful to his wife, numerous times, but… He hasn’t murdered anyone, he hasn’t hit Elin, he hasn’t been buying, using, or distributing crystal meth, he hasn’t been driving drunk, heck he hasn’t even been driving down the highway with a shotgun attached to his back. He has slept with women to whom he is not married. That’s it, that’s all.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning infidelity. If the Bride were to make a cuckold of me, I would be extremely distraught, but that’s the point. This is Elin’s tragedy. Not ours. Elin’s. Tiger Woods has to make restitution to Elin, and perhaps the penalty will be more than he can repay. But what the penance for his crime shall be, is something to be determined between the two of them. There is nothing more to this than that. Sure, Woods has been a fool and as a public figure he has opened himself up to ridicule and that’s all fair, but Woods does not owe us anything.

But in the meantime, he’s getting off on the weakest of notes, with this non-press conference in a ridiculous palace that pays homage to all the excessiveness Tiger’s gaudy Phase I brought. On his first step back, he’s showing that he has all the cards, and you and I and all the people who like golf and are fascinated by what he’s done in the game, well, we have none. Don’t blame Steinberg for this move and don’t blame the high-priced polo shirts at the PGA Tour. This move has Tiger Woods written all over it.

Michael, seriously, when you slip off your high horse, I hope you hit a soft patch of grass to cushion the fall.

I said above that I thought taking a few gimme questions would help Tiger and I think it would, but as Woods reenters public life, he doesn’t owe us those questions. We don’t have a right to know who he slept with, how many times, where, when, why. We don’t even have a right to know what happened that mythical Thanksgiving night, or where he was for the past three months. It’s the TMZ inside all of us that wants something more from Woods. We want to know the lurid details and then we want to have him atone to us, so that we can feel smug at his descent. Unfortunately, we don’t get that right.

This doesn’t mean we have to continue to follow him, buy his endorsed products, or cheer him on the golf course. We have every right to decide that as a “cheater” he isn’t the type of person we want to cheer for and support. That’s the public’s choice. That’s what we control and that’s all we should control.

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