100 Days of Hoops

Day 71

By: Hami Arain

At the end of the 1993-94 NBA season, it came down to two post men who were likely to win NBA’s scoring champion.  It was decided on the final day of the 1993-94 season where Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson competed for the scoring title. Before the final game of the season, Shaq told the media he didn’t care about the scoring title and went on to casually score 32 for the Magic while bringing down 22 rebounds.

Like Orlando, the Spurs were already safely in the playoffs thanks to Robinson’s season.    Even earlier that season, he recorded the fourth ever (and to this day the latest) quadruple double; 34 points and 10 rebounds/assists/blocks in a win against the Detroit Pistons and that’s only February.  Robinson also led the season in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) at 26.2.

On the last game of the season, the 54-27 Spurs played against the 27-54 Clippers in Los Angeles.

Here’s all you need to know about what happened during this game, the title gives it away.

Thanks to that performance, The Admiral moved up to #1 in points per game and became the league’s leading scorer for the season.

Points per Game

Rk
Player
(Team)
PPG
Gms
1
(Spurs)
29.8 80
2
(Magic)
29.3 81
3
(Rockets)
27.3 80
4
(2 teams)
26.0 74
5
(Jazz)
25.2 82

Land of Basketball

Total Points

1
(Spurs)
2,383 80
2
(Magic)
2,377 81
3
(Rockets)
2,184 80
4
(Jazz)
2,063 82
5
(Knicks)
1,939 79

Land of Basketball

Robinson won the scoring title through 80 games and just six points ahead of Shaq, so you could say if he had played those last two he wouldn’t have won the scoring title.  Robinson shot 26-41 (including a made three-pointer) dished out five assists and brought in ten rebounds.  Oh and he played 44 out of the 48 minutes in the game, averaging 1.65 points per minute.  And this is all while being double and triple teamed by the Clippers.  And you can say that he was able to get it because the Clippers were terrible but no matter who it is, the 1990s Chicago Bulls or the Poor Mothers of the South, Robinson delivered with 71 points and a scoring champion trophy he probably still has in his bedroom. Do they even give out trophies for that? Who knows?

robinson 71.jpg
David Robinson agrees to become the godfather of John Lucas’ son and the team celebrates. (Photo Credit: NBA.com)

 

 

Day 72

By: Hami Arain

Coming off a disappointing second round exit to the Orlando Magic a few months before, the Chicago Bulls started off the 1995-96 season with redemption on their minds to come back to what they were just two seasons ago.

They started off the season winning five games then a loss to that same Magic team that had just won in six that past May.  The Bulls responded by winning five more, losing to the Seattle Supersonics.  After this loss, the Bulls went on to win 31 of its next 33 games and went halfway through the season with only two losses.  40-3.  And they never faltered.  The Bulls garnered winning streak after winning streak and all of those winning streak reaching at least five games.  The Bulls were unstoppable during the regular season, topping off at 72-10, then the best record in regular season history.

70 wins
Chicago Bulls celebrate its 70th win of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks (Photo credit: Chicagobulls.com)

The Bulls had no trouble in rounds one and two against the Heat and Knicks respectively.  The Knicks did take a game off the Bulls thanks to a clutch effort from Patrick Ewing and John Starks and a classic game nonetheless:

When the Bulls walked passed them, they met with the Orlando Magic once again.  The Bulls dominated them in Game 1 121-83 and in game 2 Orlando gained momentum and kept it until they blew it thanks to the Bulls defense.  The Bulls came back from a nineteen-point deficit to take Game 2.

You didn’t even have to play Games 3 and 4 to know the Bulls were going to get past them.  The Bulls took another step on the revenge tour and Chicago met with the Seattle Supersonics in the 50th ever NBA Finals.

 

In Game 1, the first basket of the Finals, Ron Harper makes a three so at this point you know this game is over, Bulls win 107-90.

The Bulls went up 3-0 against the Sonics before losing two in a row, but it didn’t matter as the Bulls took home the gold on its home floor.   While Jordan took home the MVP as he always did whenever the Bulls won it all, it was Rodman’s strong effort which netted Chicago the franchise’s fourth title.

19 rebounds, 11 offensive rebounds along with five assists.  Rodman played games within games throughout his career.

 

jordan
Michael Jordan saving the ball from going under the table. (Photo credit: Sports Mockery)

 

Twenty seasons later, the Golden State Warriors were in a similar position, having won 72 games already, the team led by Steph Curry was looking for the final win on game 82 against an injured Memphis squad.  Curry was also a few threes shy of getting 400 and when he reached 399, he desperately kept shooting until he reached the new milestone.

The Warriors blew out the Grizzlies, Steph Curry ended up with 402 threes on the season and the 73rd win didn’t get as much attention as Kobe Bryant’s final game in Los Angeles. When Spring rolled around, the 73-win Warriors overcame a 3-1 deficit over the Oklahoma City Thunder but lost a 3-1 lead when playing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

So let that be a lesson to you all; when you achieve the most regular season wins in a certain league, it don’t mean a thing without a championship ring.

 

 

Day 73

By: Zendejas

Dedicated to the only NBA or ABA player ever to wear the number 73 on his jersey, Dennis Keith Rodman.  “The Worm” led the NBA in rebounds for seven years straight and won five NBA Championships.  He colored his hair to call attention to AIDS.  He also dressed in a bridal gown for his wedding and is claimed to be really close friends with the United States’ most imminent nuclear war threat, Kim Jong Un.  He’s all over the place; on and off the court.  He is the ultimate “Bad Boy.”

“I go out with white women. This makes a lot of people unhappy, mostly black women.”

“At least 50 times. I’ve jumped off a building, jumped off a cliff in a car. I’ve been in bedrooms when women came in with knives and guns.”

Friggin’ insane!  Here’s one more:

“I couldn’t care less if the guy I’m guarding has HIV.  I’m going to slam him anyway.”

These “Dennis the Menace” quotes (and picture below) display just how ruthless and extremely bold he was.

rodman
“If I want to wear a dress, I’ll wear a dress” – Dennis Rodman.  Photo courtesy of CNN.com

Rodman was crazy, unique and different.  Let’s just call it what it is.  However,  the 2-Time Defensive Player of the Year channeled that perception and embraced it to produce historic results.  Probably the greatest hustler of all-time, 2nd-round pick was a problem for opposing teams down low.  From his 1991-92 season with the Detroit Pistons to the 1997-98 season with the Chicago Bulls, he led the league in rebounds every single year at an whopping average of 16.7 rebounds per game.  He tallied 7,888 total rebounds over the course of those 7 seasons with 3 different franchises.  Incredible!  Rodman quoted, “I want to do for rebounds what Michael Jordan did for dunks.”  He finished his career with a total of 11,954 rebounds.  He currently ranks 23rd all time in total rebounds.  El Loco won 5 NBA Championships.  Two with the Detroit Pistons (1988-89, 1989-90) and a three-peat with Chicago Bulls (1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98).  He is the prime example of finding what it is you are good at, being the best at it and leaving it all on the floor.

Dennis-Rodman-Chicago-Bulls-Rebound
Rodman “laying out” for a rebound. Photo courtesy of Viral Hoops.

Rodman produced.  Regardless of what image he may have obtained from the media and critics, he produced results.  Results > Image.  His resume shows.  We here at Hardwood Features tip our hats to those who produce.  We show appreciation to the only player to ever sport the number 73 on a jersey.  He definitely chose to go against the flow.

Some other Dennis Rodman quotes:

“They say Elvis is dead.  I say no you’re looking at him.  Elvis isn’t dead; he just changed color.”

“I spent my whole childhood looking for an escape.”

“Fifty percent of the life in the N.B.A. is sex.  The other fifty percent is money.”

“I’ll be the judge of my on manliness.”

 

 

 

Day 74

By Adam Chalifoux

legends-russell-970x442.jpg
The basketball world will never know how many blocked shots Bill Russell tallied over his career. Photo courtesy of nba.com

100 Days of Hoops Day 74 remembers three of basketball’s prehistoric titans; Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Bill Russell, for the part of their game that history can only estimate.

In the beginning of the 1973-74 season, its logo was 35-years-old and averaging 2.6 steals per game with the Los Angeles Lakers. Even in his final season, the average would  have him ranked third all-time in front of Michael Jordan if his 31 games played that season was enough to have him in consideration for the statistic.  Witnesses will tell you that West had several games with more than ten steals. The all-time record for steals in a game is eleven and was set by Kendall Gill of the New Jersey Nets in 1999.

 

In the post, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell block numbers are also lost. Otherwise, the two may be at the top of the list of most blocks of all-time or most blocks per game.  Here he is terrorizing the Lakers in the 1964 finals where we can witness five of his unrecorded blocks

Video and eye legend will tell you that Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain going into the stratosphere was a nightly occurrence to send shots across the gym.

While the numbers can’t be quantified, Russell and Chamberlain may very well deserve to be at the top of the blocks per game list and would likely still dominate in any era thanks to their incredible timing and freaky aestheticism.

 

Day 75

By Brenden Welper

  The underdog Warriors were bolstered by a red-hot Rick Barry, who led the team in a 4-0 sweep of the Bullets. Barry averaged 29.5 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 3.5 steals in the series.

Golden State Warriors’ forward Rick Barry pulls up for a jumper during the 1975 NBA Finals against the Washington Bullets. Barry and the Warriors would sweep Washington in an upset. (Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated)

Day 75 of our 100 Days of Hoops brings us to the Golden State Warriors. No, not the 2017 NBA champions.

Before Steph, Klay, Baron, Richardson and even Mullin, the Warriors pulled off one of the more stunning upsets in NBA Finals history. I know, hearing that in 2017 sounds crazy.

But the NBA was very different back in 1975. The league consisted of only 18 teams, and three-point line wouldn’t debut for another five years. NBA Finals games were still broadcast on tape delay – almost unfathomable now.

As the 1974-75 regular season concluded, two juggernauts sat atop the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics and Washington Bullets each finished with a 60-22 record.

Both of those teams were the favorites heading into the playoffs. After all, the Celtics were the defending champions, and the Bullets boasted a front court of Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld.

On the other side of the country, the Golden State Warriors had found themselves with the No. 1 seed in a weak Western Conference. They finished 48-34, a far cry from the Celtics and Bullets.

But just like today, the 1975 Warriors featured a potent offensive attack. They were No. 1 in the NBA when it came to points per game (108.5). Golden State shot 47 percent from the floor that season while taking more field goals than any other team.

Small forward Rick Barry led the Warriors in scoring with 30.6 points per game. The 6’7″ sharp shooter was able to score the basketball in a myriad of ways. Naturally, he would post up when he had the size advantage. But Barry also brought the ball down the floor and could score off the dribble.

His offensive versatility would be the difference in a short, but competitve, NBA Finals. Barry averaged 29.5 points per game on 44 percent shooting. The forward’s impact was also felt on the other ended of the floor, as he amassed 3.5 steals per contest.

Despite the star power of Washington’s front court, it was the Golden State post players who would win the battle on the glass. Power forward Jamaal Wilkes and reserve center Clifford Ray compiled an average of 19.8 rebounds per game.

Normally, that doesn’t sound too impressive. But both Wilkes and Ray averaged less than 30 minutes per game in the 1975 Finals. So in terms of efficiency, they outplayed Unseld and Hayes. Golden State finished the series with 215 rebounds. Washington struggled in this department, managing a total of just 171.

The Warriors would go on to sweep the Bullets. But it wasn’t a conventional sweep. Two of Golden State’s wins were by a single point.

Rick Barry might have been the MVP, but he couldn’t have done it alone. Just like the Golden State Warriors of today, the 1975 club was built on a familiar ideology.

Strength in numbers.

Day 76

By: Hami Arain, Javier Barrera and Adam Chalifoux

Philadelphia-76ers_asset1

Day 76 of 100 Days of Hoops takes to Philadelphia. Here is the 76ers all-time lineup.  The 76ers began as the Syracuse Nationals from 1949-1963.  They moved to Philadelphia in 1963 to officially become the 76ers.  The franchise has won three championships: 1955 (Syracuse), 1967 and 1983.

Stats with 76ers

Center: Wilt Chamberlain (27.6 PPG, 23.9 REB, 6.8 AST)

Power Forward: Charles Barkley (23.3 PPG, 11.6 REB, 3.7 AST)

Small Forward: Julius Irving (22 PPG, 1.5 BLK, 1.8 STL, 6.7 REB)

Shooting Guard: Allen Iverson (27.6 PPG, 2.3 STL, 6.1 AST)

Point Guard: Maurice Cheeks (12.2 PPG, 2.3 STL, 7.3 AST)

Sixth Man: Moses Malone (21 PPG, 12 REB, 1.3 BLK)

And the coach of the 1982-83 championship team:

Coach; Billy Cunningham (454-196 coaching record)

 

 

Day 77

For Day 77 of our 100 Days of Hoops, we look up at one of the most inspiring stars the league has seen, Slenderma-I mean, Manute Bol stands at 7’7 representing South Sudan.

In his early life, he tended cattle, killed a lion (in its sleep) and played soccer nonstop. Bol didn’t pick up basketball as his main sport until he was 15 years old.  Bol played for the Sudanese National team and worked under the military.  When he played at Khartoum, college basketball coach Don Feeley saw Bol play and convinced him to go to the United States.

Bol was drafted in the fifth round of the 1985 NBA draft by the Washington Bullets.  He is the tallest player to ever play in the NBA.  In a New York Times interview after the draft, Bol told a reporter his mother was 6’10, his sister 6’8 and great grandfather a skyscraper 7’10.

manute bol is tall.jpg
Manute Bol’s wingspan is 8-foot-6-inches (Photo Credit: 

In his rookie season, he earned all-defensive 2nd team honors, led the league in blocks and took the Bullets to the playoffs. He averaged five blocks in his rookie season in 26 minutes per game. In his first playoff game, he recorded four points and nine blocks.

Bol has several nicknames like the Dinka-Dunker, The Iron Bull and Nute.  His name in Dinka means “Special Blessing”.  He is second all-time in blocked shots per game and the only player to block more shots than points scored.  Bol also has the Philelphia 76ers record for most three pointers made in a half after a stunning long-range performance in Phoenix.

 

Bol retired from the NBA with the Golden State Warriors in 1995.  Bol was also known for his charitable efforts off the court, he started the Ring True Foundation and gave most of his NBA earnings to the cause for Sudanese refugees affected by the genocide in South Sudan.

He passed away on June 19, 2010 but his legacy lives on.  Bol’s charitable impact continues to this day and his son, Bol Bol is a five-star high school recruit from Santa Ana, California.

bol is also tall.jpg
Bol Bol, who is also tall (7’2), is getting offers from Arizona, UCLA, Kentucky, Kansas and more

Day 78

cal
Calipari points and smiles at a cute dog after another Kentucky victory. Courtesy of  theclassical.org

John Calipari has changed the complexion of college basketball forever. In his 25 seasons as a head coach at the UMass, Memphis, and Kentucky, Calipari has won 78 percent of his games. Only Gonzaga’s Mark Few (81 percent) and Roy Williams (79 percent)
are the only active coaches with a higher win percentage than Cal. Only 12 coaches have a higher win percentage than Cal ever.

Win-Loss Percentage

  • Includes record as coach of major (D-I or equivalent) programs
Rank Coach W-L%
1. Sam Burton .8333
2. Clair Bee .8244
3. Adolph Rupp .8218
4. Mark Few .8166
5. John Wooden .8039
6. John Kresse .8012
7. Thomas Kibler .7962
8. Ralph Jones .7918
9. Roy Williams .7907
10. Jerry Tarkanian .7902
11. Al McGuire .7867
12. James Freeman .7830
13. John Calipari .7824

courtesy of sport-reference

Calipari has been a master of in-game adjustments, recruiting, and developing talent which has made him one of the most impactful figures despite coaching from the college ranks. In Cal’s 25 years, he has helped to produce 42 NBA draft picks.

In the last nine years, three of the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award winners, starting with the youngest MVP in league history, Derrick Rose who won the award in 2009 were coached by Cal the previous year. The year after Rose, Tyreke Evans won the award in what unfortunately looks likely to be the best season he will ever have. Most recently, Karl Anthony Towns took the award home in 2016. Apart from the Rookie of the Years, however, Calipari has groomed players from Marcus Camby, to Derrick Rose, all the way to De’Aaron Fox.

Calipari began to dominate when other programs failed to evolve. While the one-and-done rule set in place by 2005 hindered many programs who were unable to establish continuity, Calipari embraced the system, altering his own system into an NBA player factory just as much as a college basketball team.

Imagine if there was a team made of just players that played under Calipari. Would the Warriors be reduced to mere mortals? Let’s imagine what that team would look like…

davis_embed_.jpg
DeMarcous Cousins and Anthony Davis chest bump after seeing a cute dog in New Orleans.  photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated

PG – John Wall
SG- Devin Booker
SF- Eric Bledsoe
PF- Anthony Davis
C- DeMarcus Cousins

BENCH

Derrick Rose
Julius Randle
Nerlens Noel
Jamaal Murray
Brandon Knight

However, as Calipari has owned the one-and-done game, he may need to evolve yet again to prove himself to be placed on the short list with Dean Smith, John Wooden, and Coach K, all coaches who dominated before the one-and-done rule or both, in Coach K’s case.

Word on the street is that the one-and-done rule may be changing sooner than later. Could that end the decade of dominance for Cal? Only time will tell. The great basketball floating in space that we know as the earth spins on, change is the only constant. Only those who can evolve will survive; especially on the hardwood.

 

 

 

 

Day 79

22 games into the 1977-78 season, the Sonics started 5-17.  Because of this poor start, Seattle fired head coach Bob Hopkins to bring in Lenny Wilkens.  Wilkens played for the Sonics from 1968-1972 where he was a player-coach.  When he returned, the Sonics suddenly won eleven out of twelve.  Seattle ended the season 47-35 for fourth in the Western Conference.  The team was led by Jack Sikma, Gus Williams, a young Dennis Johnson and Paul Silas.

In the 1978 playoffs, the Sonics upset the defending champion Portland Trailblazers in six games though it’s worthy to note that Portland star Bill Walton suffered an injury during game 2 and missed the rest of the series.  After another six-game series win over the Nuggets, the Sonics found themselves in its first NBA Finals.

The 1978 Finals was a classic back-and-forth between the Sonics and Washington Bullets. It was both teams’ first appearance in the Finals.  In Game 1, the Bullets blew a 19-point 4th quarter lead on the road as the Sonics clawed their way to a 1-0 early lead.  In a weird 1-2-2-1-1 scheduling format, the Bullets came back in game 2 in Maryland.  Then the Sonics won a thriller in game 3, then the Bullets bounced back in game 4 (in front of 39,000 fans).  This series was already a classic through four games.

Game 5 was another close game in Seattle and the Sonics won by four points thanks to Dennis Johnson’s 24 points, seven assists and Freddie Brown’s 26 point effort.  The Bullets blew out Seattle in game 6 which lead to the two best words in sports: Game 7.

Game 7 was pretty anticlimactic until the end.  The Bullets controlled the poise throughout the game and led by eleven with about two minutes remaining.  The Sonics led a furious comeback in the final minutes, despite Dennis Johnson’s 0-14 night and Gus Williams 4-12 night.  Marvin Webster and Jack Sikma picked up the slack but it wasn’t enough as the Bullets were crowned champions, 105-99.  Until the 2016 Cavaliers, the Bullets were the last team to win a game 7 on the road in the Finals.

Fast-forward about a year later, when Seattle played the season with vengeance, earning a top seed and the Bullets trying to defend its title.  Two first-seeded teams collided in the Finals, the same matchup as the year before.  After a Bullets surprising game 1 victory in Seattle, it seemed all was lost.  The fans lost confidence even though it was only a game, but the players were far from losing it.  The Sonics eased wins in games two and three.  After a two-point game four victory, the Sonics proved they were the better team and finished the job in game 5 on home court.  Redemption from the season before, Dennis Johnson’s status as a star rose up beyond the Space Needle.  Johnson secured the Finals MVP averaging around 21 points per game, four assists, six rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks; yes, he’s a point guard.  Here’s how the Sonics celebrated:

 

It wouldn’t be quite the same for the Sonics as they lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Magic and Kareem-led Lakers the next season.  The Sonics would make it back to the Finals in 1996 but would lose to the 72-10 Bulls.  Even though playing the best regular season team of all-time in the Finals seemed like a predetermined outcome, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton led the Sonics to two straight wins in the 1996 NBA Finals (albeit facing elimination both times).

 

michael jordan pisssed
Gary Payton calls out Micahel Jordan’s taste in fashion, Jordan is upset. (Photo Courtesy of Complex)

 

Ten years later, Howard Schultz sold the Sonics to Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett for $350 million.  Bennett and his ownership group publicly claimed they would do their best to keep the Sonics in Seattle.  At the end of the 2007 season, co-owner Aubrey McClendon tells an Oklahoma newspaper the group intends to move to OKC.  That offseason, the Sonics landed into the #2 pick for a lanky, scoring machine in Kevin Durant.  2007-08 would end up being the final season for the Seattle Supersonics.  Its last game was a 126-121 win over the Golden State Warriors.

 

fullgetty71469936jr005_sonic_owners_2_47-e1328911704466.jpg
Thanks, Howard! Can’t wait to make a new fran-I mean…change the color scheme! (Photo Courtesy of  The Seattle Times)

 

Commissioner Adam Silver says NBA expansion is inevitable down the line.  C.J. McCollum interviewed him for the Players Tribune.

The Sonics will be back, it’s only a matter of when. Jump on the bandwagon while you can.

Day 80

In this world where everything is measured down to the nitty gritty, there should be a “confidence” stat. Maybe calculated by the percentage of low percentage shots attempted by the percentage of those low percentage shots made. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors is the best shooter the league has ever seen. 80 percent of the reason why he is such an elite shooter is because he plays with elite confidence. He shoots the rock knowing he is going to make it. Not hoping he doesn’t miss. He’s knows his game. He’s confident in it. Being the son of a really good shooter, “he got shooter royalty inside his DNA.” That’s the confidence I’m referring to. The mental battle we all face everyday. Am I going to be okay versus I AM going to be okay. Two different mindsets which yield two the different outcomes. For now, let’s keep it basketball. We can discuss philosophy and help each other find the light we all seek another day. Promise.

Basketball is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical. For you true hoopsters out there when you walk in the gym for a couple runs, what’s the first thing you normally do? Look for the best guy, right? Why? Because if he’s the best and you beat him, you’re the best. Even though you’re not the tallest or strongest, you step into the gym with the mindset, “I’m the best player in here. My game is the tightest.” You may not say it out loud (unless you want a huge bullseye on your back) but the first step to owning the gym is having that mindset you already own the gym. Stephen Curry looks like he’s toying with people on the hardwood because he is toying with people on the hardwood. It’s nothing personal, it’s basketball, bruh.

“When you just that confident it’s going in.” Photo courtesy of SFGate.com.
2-Time NBA Champion and reigning Defensive Player of the year Draymond Green is the perfect modern day example of this rule. At 6 foot 7 inches and 230 pounds, night after night he battles the best bigs of NBA and is extremely effective at neutralizing those positions. How is he so successful? Loads of confidence. His level of confidence out weighs his opponents’ which gives him the advantage each outing. And what makes him even more effective is he will test your confidence by him being that confident. This is referred to as “trash talk” or talking “smack.” Very effective tactic for those who lack the mental toughness to play at the highest level every night.

draymond_green_top_100_
Pumped up DOY Draymond Green neutralizes the NBA’s best bigs by going mental. Literally. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

You know that super annoying guy by the name of Gary Payton? Known as “The Glove”? He was a superior defender because the confidence he had in his defense was superior to his opponents’ confidence in their offense. He was extremely confident and took pride in trying to prevent an opponent from scoring. He’s probably one of the best trash talkers of all time. His confidence in his defense led him to be on the All-Defensive Team 9 times.

i
Gary Payton talking s*** to the GOAT. Photo courtesy of welcometoloudcity.com.

I would probably guess Kevin Garnett talks smack to his mom. While he sleeps, he talks smack to the hoopers of the beyond. The anchor to one of the greatest defensive teams ever, he knew exactly how to tap into a weak mind because he was just that mentally strong. He was never rattled or spooked. He did the rattling and spooking. He knew what buttons to push and what triggers to pull. He made a grown man cry in public (Glen “Big Baby” Davis). What left is there to say? I probably would have cried too.

2011-Kevin-Garnett-
Kevin Garnett is probably the most terrifying human being in existence and to ever exist. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.com

The mental aspect of the game is overlooked, yet so obvious. Lebron lost in the NBA Finals against the Mavericks simply because he lacked the mental toughness to do it. All the physical aspects were there for him to win, but small and big mental lapses throughout the season and playoffs hindered him from claiming his first title. “The Chosen One” even admitted to trying to do too much of what other people asked. Weak minds worry when the anecdote is to simply ignore.

LeBron James of the Miami Heat pauses du
LeBron James of the Miami Heat pauses during Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks on June 12, 2011 at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida. Jason Terry scored 27 points and Nowitzki finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds as the Mavericks won 105-95 to take the best-of-seven championship series four-games-to-two to claim their first NBA championship in franchise history. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

The head hang. Universal sign of surrender and defeat. Photo courtesy of The Brooklyn Buckeye.

Lastly but certainly not the least. “His Royal Airness.” Oozing with confidence as he sticks his tongue while driving to the hoop to dunk on your whole squad. Instead of tallying up his point total as the game progresses, he counts down from 50 and makes sure you hear him doing so. Most people can’t walk and chew gum at the same time let alone play basketball while doing so. Michael J. Jordan. The greatest basketball player of all time. Nuff said. I’ll let you do the research.

The 80-20 rule. Pareto’s principle. Of all the variations out there, it all boils down to one main concept. Of everything you do and how well you do it, 80 percent of it is all mental. Will. Determination. Perseverance. Adversity. We live in a very limited, physical world where physical things submit and succumb. No one can or should ever make you think you are something you are not and do not claim to be. That’s ultimately your decision. No one else. As old (physical) and decrypted (physical) MJ at this point in his life, he still thinks he’s the best player in world and can beat anybody (mental). If you want to be the best, then think you’re the best. In doing so, you’re 80 percent of the way there which is most than most. The odds are already in your favor. It’s surprise how much self doubt is out there. Everyone has their days but don’t let it consume you. Embrace it, try to understand why it is you feel that way. Become of a better person/player because of it and move on. Refuse to let your mind sink into depths of worry and stress over things beyond your control. Control the controllables: your confidence and mental state. The more you do so, the stronger you become. Dare to be great, everyday. There’s your light. Go shine!

Day 81

Rose-FFA fan-made picture of Kobe Bryant posing like Wilt Chamberlain after his 100 point performance on March 2, 1962, circled the internet after Bryant’s 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006. (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Former NBA player and current ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose perhaps said it best, “If Michael Jordan is the original then Kobe Bryant is the remix baby!”  But on January 22, 2006, a 27-year-old Bryant did something that “His Airness” never accomplished on the NBA hardwood. The only other player who can be spoken in the same sentence as Bryant is Wilt Chamberlain. What Bryant and Chamberlain have in common is that they are the only two players in NBA history to score a minimum of 80 points in a game.

In the same 2006 season, Bryant scored a career-high 62 points a month prior against the Dallas Mavericks. In that game, Bryant sat out the entire fourth quarter since the Mavs had been outscored by Bryant 62-61, and 95-61 overall. The Toronto game was different. The Lakers found themselves in an 18-point hole after the Raptors extended their third quarter lead 71-53. Bryant literally shot them back into the game and into the win column.

http---hypebeast.com-image-2017-06-kobe-bryant-jalen-rose-81-point-commercial-video-jalen-vs-everybody-0
The Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant (right) reacts after scoring a basket against the defense of Raptor’s guard Jalen Rose (left) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 22, 2006. (Photo courtesy of hypebeast.com)

This wasn’t a typical Bryant game.  It was not a game where Bryant shot the Lakers out of a game and then back into it.  Every point Bryant scored was “instrumental” in rallying his troop of Lakers.  Bryant was never known as an efficient scorer, more like a high-volume shooter who was the best bad-shot taker and maker since Jordan.

Exhibit A:

Bryant drives towards the right sideline, just inside the arc and appears to be stuck as Mo Peterson is draped all over him. A series of fakes and a made tough, contested shot later, Byrant goes to the charity stripe to complete the unconventional 3-point play.

Bryant lit up the Raptors for 55 points in the second half.  Scoring 27 in the third and 28 of the team’s 31 total fourth quarter points. Bryant was 28 of 46 from the floor (61 percent), knocking down 7 of 13 from three-point range (54 percent) and going 18 of 20 from the free-throw line (90 percent).  By far the most efficient, high-scoring performance of his illustrious career. Just look at all that green! The same color as money. On that night Bryant was a cash king.

kobe-81png-8b8bc817dc22f2af

After the game, Byrant was asked by members of the media about the Raptor’s lack of defensive adjustments, “We were thinking when is Toronto going to start doubling or tripling you?”  “Were you surprised they didn’t?”

“A little bit, I noticed that they started zoning me up alot more and started to send guys at me” said Bryant. “I just moved the ball on and then when I got it back I got in a position where i could attack quickly, and get to a postion where I’m on a spot on the floor where I could shoot a pull-up jump shot or get all the way to the basket before the double team came and try to draw some fouls.”

Bryant rallied the Lakers to a 122-104 victory as the 18,997 screaming fans inside the Staples Center loudly gave him a thunderous “MVP” chant as he left the court with 4.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

In the process Bryant set a Laker’s franchise record for most points scored in a single game, breaking Elgin Baylor’s record of 71.

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 3.29.23 PM

Bill Simmon’s former website Grantland had video segments called ‘Story Time with Jalen Rose’. In a short video, Rose describes what it was like to be on the same court as Bryant when he torched his then Raptors team on his way to 81 points.

Rose, who is a regular contributor on various ESPN media platforms, and often has to deal with the reminders that Bryant dropped 81 on him and his team.  Rose often sidesteps the venom being spewed his way by crediting Bryant for not “saying a word, pounding his chest, or pointing up to the heavens” during his 81-point onslaught.  Something that has faded from the league during this Twitter and social media era.

That doesn’t mean that both parties can’t have a little fun taking a trip down memory lane over a decade later as part of his Rose’s Jalen vs. Everybody video series.

Day 82
(In my singing voice):  “Four million, three hundred and twenty thousand seconds.  How…do you measure?  Measure a career?”If you don’t know the movie, educate yourself.  Go “Rent” it somewhere and be cultured.  But back to the task at hand.  Kareem Adbul-Jabbar totaled 66,297 regular season and playoff minutes over the course of 20 seasons.  That’s an average of 3,315 minutes per season which breaks further down to 40 minutes per game.  In today’s game, that’s 40 minutes out of the 48 total game minutes.  One must wonder the toll it must take on the body to play NBA basketball as a center, against the best players in the world 83 percent of the game, night after night for 20 seasons.  The All-Time leader in minutes but someone is on pace to crush those numbers.Enter…Lebron JamesThrough his 14 seasons, James has tallied a total of 50,399 regular and post season minutes.  That’s an average of 3,600 minutes per season.  At his current pace, if he were to play 20 seasons (which he is totally capable of doing) just as the all-time leading scorer, he’d log 72,000 total combined career and playoff minutes.  That’s 4,320,000 seconds.  That’s the number “The Chosen One” is headed towards.  That’s how you measure a career.

lebron-james-has-claimed-another-victim-as-the-raptors-say-they-have-to-reset-after-an-embarrassing-sweep-to-the-cavs.jpg
Lebron James in on pace to log 72,000 total career and playoff minutes.  Photo courtesy of Business Insider.

“The King” has received much criticism for resting during the regular season.  In 14 seasons, Lebron has never played all 82 regular-season games except for the lockout season where he played all 62 games.  The 62 games played is the lowest regular season total in all 14 seasons.  Still, the mileage he has put on is stunning.  And after observing those insane numbers, why should anyone have any beef with him resting a game or two, other than playing five times face value for a ticket just to watch the best player in the world ride the pine.  The dude takes care of his body, but what one takes from the body, the body will take back.  Lebron knows exactly this, which is why he rests.  He knows that it is a long season and he must be in full and the best health for the crucial and grueling playoff run.

Other players have gone on record vowing for a shorter season because playing at the highest level against the best players in the world on back-to-back nights is almost insanity.  Players are stronger than they have ever been and banging in the post one night with the super physical Draymond Green and then Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan on a back-to-back set is absolute punishment on the body.

LeBron James, Draymond Green
Two of the Association’s strongest players, Lebron James and Draymond Green, do battle in the 2017 NBA Finals.  Photo Courtesy of NBC Sports.

With all this in mind, next year when LBJ takes a game off, or two, or three, or four, or five, or how many ever he doesn’t dress, remember the numbers you have been provided in this article.  Again, he’s on pace to total 72,000 minutes of basketball on the NBA hardwood.  Just imagine an intense full body workout for 1,200 hours.  That’s 180,000, entire 24-second shot clock possessions having to check the Kevin Durants, Russell Westbrooks, Steph Currys and James Hardens of the world.  Trust me when I say, you’d need a break too.  Cut the man some slack.  Let him or anyone else who wants to rest if he chooses to.  Let the man rest in peace.

Day 83
valvano_primary.jpgLorenzo Charles (left) and Head Coach Jimmy Valvano (right) lifted up by players as they get dibs to choose which strip club they are going to celebrate at. (Photo Credit: NCAA)Throughout the 100 Days of Hoops, we’ve looked at some of the greatest memories on an NBA basketball court but today, we’re taking you back to school.The 1982-83 North Carolina State Wolfpack deserve a place in this project, not only for the unlikely season in which the program ended up winning the national championship but for the method in which they played the game.The Wolfpack loved to run, run and run some more.  They loved to get ahead on fast breaks and get the most out of their possessions.  The fans loved it too, giving the team the nickname the “Cardiac Pack” or “Cardiac Kids” due to the team’s postseason run where six of the eight tournament wins came down to the final possession.  Head coach Jimmy Valvano, in his third season as coach, set the tone for the players and quickly earned the team’s respect thanks to his fiery antics.

On the court, the players trusted Thurl Bailey (16.4 PPG) and Derek Whittenburg (15.7 PPG).  Both of these players were critical on the final possession of the 1983 college basketball season and obviously proved to be the best players for NC State during the run.

The ESPN 30 for 30 about this team is worth watching, and if you watched that you already know what happens. Let’s fast forward to the championship game.  NC State was going on to play against the Houston Cougars, known for their air, they were nicknamed “Phi Slamma Jamma”. Wolfpack coach Jimmy Valvano said in a press conference the night before they were going to slow the tempo down, but when the game began it was clear he said this to deceive the Houston Cougars.

The National Championship game took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Albuquerque has an elevation of 5,100 feet.  As we know, athletes are often tested when they play in a high-altitude city and that’s what happened to Houston star Hakeem Olajuwon. Because of Olajuwon’s fatigue, Houston coach Guy Lewis took the approach to slow the game down in the second half.  This troubled Houston as NC State loved to foul and force opponents to miss free throws.  It didn’t seem too good for Houston as they weren’t a great free throw shooting team.

With the game tied at 52 and a minute remaining, Derek Whittenburg fouls freshman Alvin Franklin for a one-and-one attempt.  Franklin misses the free throw and NC State’s Cozell Mcqueen and Thurl Bailey both grab for the ball, Bailey lets go as he sees McQueen but the ball goes towards out of bounds, McQueen saves the ball to Whittenburg who brings it up court as Head Coach Valvano calls time out with 44 seconds remaining.  At this point in college basketball, there was no shot clock so teams could hold onto the ball as long as they wanted to and that’s exactly how NC State played out these final seconds.

A classic finish etched in history.  The Cardiac Kids will always be remembered as the Team of Destiny.

Day 84

rs-20213-nba1800fixed-1403208574Michael Jordan (left) making sure the ball isn’t deflated.  Charles Barkley (center) shakes hands with A White Guy and Hakeem Olajuwon (right) checks out a Lunar eclipse. (Photo Credit: Rolling Stone)

 The 1984 NBA Draft Class ushered in a new era of basketball for the NBA. The class of 84 was highlight by the big four; Akeem Olajuwon (1), Michael Jordan (3), Charles Barkley (5), and John Stockton (16). There was not a single NBA Finals matchup from 1991 through 1998 that did not feature at least one of these four dudes. Whether it be in the stats or in the ships, someone from the class of ’84 seemed to always be at the top for the better part of the next decade and a half.

His Airness soared onto the scene to win the scoring title his rookie year, proceeding to do so each of the following seasons.

1984-85 NBA 2313 (1st)
1986-87 NBA 3041 (1st)
1987-88 NBA 2868 (1st)
1988-89 NBA 2633 (1st)
1989-90 NBA 2753 (1st)
1990-91 NBA 2580 (1st)
1991-92 NBA 2404 (1st)
1992-93 NBA 2541 (1st)
1995-96 NBA 2491 (1st)
1996-97 NBA 2431 (1st)
1997-98 NBA 2357 (1st)
Career NBA 32292 (4th)
Career 32292 (4th)

basketballreference.com

While Jordan was on his way to averaging the most points per game in NBA history, Johnny Stockton was dropping dimes. Stockton led the league in assists for nine straight seasons on his way to finishing with the most in NBA History.

Assists
1987-88 NBA 1128 (1st)
1988-89 NBA 1118 (1st)
1989-90 NBA 1134 (1st)
1990-91 NBA 1164 (1st)
1991-92 NBA 1126 (1st)
1992-93 NBA 987 (1st)
1993-94 NBA 1031 (1st)
1994-95 NBA 1011 (1st)
1995-96 NBA 916 (1st)
Career NBA 15806 (1st)
Career 15806 (1st)

17 Seasons in Top 10

In the post, Hakeem (as his name would later be spelled) was the Dream indeed for Houston but a nightmare for opponents inside, leading the league in blocks twice on the year while accounting for the most ever over a career.

Blocks
1989-90 NBA 376 (1st)
1992-93 NBA 342 (1st)
Career NBA 3830 (1st)
Career 3830 (1st)

14 Seasons in Top 10
basketballreference.com

Only half of these four players won rings. The other two were stopped by Jordan in the Finals (Barkley in 1993, Stockton in 97 & 98). The two years between Jordan’s three-peat of 91 through 93 and 96 through 98 were owned by Olajuwon and his Houston Rockets.

And the player often playing inside and out of the paint was the fifth overall pick, Charles Barkley.  The Round Mound of Rebound led the association in rebounding in 1987 and won the MVP in 1993.  Despite him being 6’6 (it helped that he was 252 pounds), Barkley gave shorter, stockier kids more confidence to always position yourself around the basket to grab boards.

“I always laugh when people ask about rebounding techniques.  I’ve got a technique. It’s called get the damn ball,” Barkley once said.

And it wasn’t just about rebounding as Barkley found himself in the top five of field goal percentage seven out of his sixteen seasons in the league.

One player who never had a chance to play in the NBA despite being drafted and one of the world’s greatest talents is Oscar Schmidt.  Schmidt (drafted 131st overall pick by the Nets) is constantly referred to as Mao Santa (Holy Hand) in Brazil.  Schmidt had opportunities to play in the NBA but declined them all so he can continue playing for the Brazilian National Team for world matches.  It makes sense considering NBA players were not allowed to play in the Olympics until 1989 and American players not allowed until 1992.  Aside from playing for his home country, Schmidt also played for clubs in Italy and Spain. His professional basketball career goes from 1974-2003 and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.

The 1984 draft features seven all-stars, five Hall of Famers, a plethora of memories and classic rivalries.  At the time, it was the most stacked draft class of all-time and the argument is often made as 1984 being the Greatest Draft Class.  The impact and inspiration each star player had on and off the court continues to this day.  No matter the position they play on the court, many players work with Hakeem Olajuwon in the offseason for post moves. Some are drafted by Michael Jordan’s team and others join Charles Barkley in the TNT studio.  The 1984 Draft holds up pretty well to this day and rivals the draft classes of 1996 and 2003 for title of Greatest Draft Class in NBA history.

Day 85

stern envelope
David Stern robotically snatches an envelope that may or may not be frozen from strange mixing contraption on left.

Love it or hate it, tanking has been a strategy employed by the NBA for decades. Prior to the first NBA Draft Lottery in 1985, the tanking problem was even worse. The NBA Draft order used to be determined by records. The first two picks in the draft were determined by the flip of a coin, the winner getting the first selection and the loser getting the second.  Some teams would constantly tank and win the coin flip, like when the Houston Rockets picked Ralph Sampson and won the lottery again to nab Akeem Olajuwon.

“We’ve got to bite the bullet, we can win by losing,” Donald Sterling said about his upcoming 31-51 San Diego Clippers.

Owners who weren’t benefiting from the coin flip strategy were beside themselves, and the NBA held a board meeting in June of 1985.  In one of his first seasons as NBA commissioner, David Stern and the NBA put the lottery system in place, that is still used to this day. In 1985, the choice for the number one overall pick was a no-brainer.

Coming out of Georgetown, Patrick Ewing was the best big man prospect since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. NBA owners salivated at the thought of the ticket sales, merchandise, playoff revenue, and marketability. If there was a perfect place for Ewing to land

But if there were one place he should have ended up, it was on the team that drafted him. The Knicks had just suffered a 24-58 season and needed a transcendent big man to being a new era of New York basketball. When they won the first draft lottery, it was no secret that their prize would be Ewing.

However, there are many rumblings of the 1985 Draft Lottery being rigged.  Fans use the theory that Commissioner David Stern grew up as a fan of the Knicks and made sure they had won to secure Ewing. Popular conspiracy theory states that Stern and the boys may have used a frozen envelope or a bent corner of an envelope to indicate which envelope belonged to the Knicks so that he could ensure that they would receive the first pick.

Let’s be honest… we are never going to know for sure whether or not the draft lottery was rigged but if you want to break out the magnifying glass or whatever detective tools you see fit, be my guest and we’ll go down the rabbit hole together.

Here is a video of that fateful night. Watch for one of the envelopes to be banged against the round contraption on the way in. Some say that was in order to bend a corner to distinguish the envelope.

Day 86The Celtics were one of the greatest super teams of all-time and 1986 just may have been their greatest year. Boston owned the best defensive rating in the league, Larry Bird was at the height of his powers, along his side were the “Chief” Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. Off the bench was Bill Walton and his archival knowledge of the Grateful Dead. The four towers were a green nightmare for all opponents, dominating their way to a record of 67-15.Bird averaged 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists per game per game, while finishing eighth in steals to win his third straight MVP. Meanwhile,  injury-ridden Bill Walton came off the bench to play a career-high 80 games, have the highest defensive rating in the league, and win the 6th Man of the Year award. Walton’s miraculous year would be all but his last, only playing ten games the following year. But we can all thank the basketball gods that the world was able to see Larry Bird and Bill Walton on the same team, even if it was just for one year.The Celtics beat young Jordan’s Bulls in four games despite send-year MJ serving up a fresh 63 on the Parquet floor. The only loss on their way through the East came in the second round to the Atlanta Hawks. After dismantling the Bucks, the Celtics faced the Houston Rockets and their twin towers, Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon. The Celtics would defeat the young “Dream” in six games.
Day 87When the Lakers won the 1985 championship, Los Angeles expected the players were just getting started.  Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar proved to be the duo that could seemingly last forever.  However, a season later, Ralph Sampson of the Rockets makes a prayer of a shot in a series-deciding game, stunning the Los Angeles Forum and ending the Lakers quest for a repeat.  The Lakers rivals won the NBA championship that in 1986. In 1987 their arch nemesis tip-toed by to end up in the 1987 Finals.The Lakers weren’t the same Lakers they’ve always been.  Sure, they were still a fast team to watch but they weren’t the constant speedsters they were at the start of the decade.  The Lakers style was more controlled yet still kept defenses on its feet.  Magic Johnson led the Lakers way as he started to become the number one option.  Magic averaged almost 24 points per game and 12 assists, two numbers that became career highs.  You can also notice how Johnson’s field goal attempts increased in the 1986-87 season.  Riley’s approach was to use Johnson for most of the game and get Kareem touches at the end of games.Magic Johnson captured his first MVP, the first for a point guard since Oscar Robertson, swingman Michael Cooper won Defensive Player of the Year and the Lakers cruised to a 65-17 record, its best in the Showtime Era.  The Lakers sailed to the Finals and faced the opponent they wanted to face: the Boston Celtics.

magic_johnson_1987_04_01.jpg
Dennis Johnson accuses Magic Johnson of having sex with referee, Johnson denies immediately. (Photo Credit: GettyImages)

The Celtics just came off a championship parade in 1986 and a miraculous steal by Larry Bird to send them back to the Finals.  This time though, the Celtics just weren’t the same.  The Celtics 1987 run had them easing through Chicago, though it didn’t help that they had to play seven games against both the Bucks and Pistons.  The Celtics were very injury-prone in the 1987 playoff run and its starting five was forced to play extended minutes throughout the run including Kevin McHale’s broken foot; an injury he played through for the remaining three months of the Celtics season.

The Lakers dominated the Celtics in games one and two.  The Celtics tried to get in Magic’s head in Game 2 and stuck Danny Ainge with him, but Magic responded with twenty assists, only one assist shy of tying his own NBA Finals record.  The Celtics took game three but then Magic Johnson sky-hooked LA to a 3-1 lead.  On the last play of Game 4, Dennis Johnson tries to find someone to inbound to when Larry Bird fakes out (and pushes) James Worthy to free himself to the corner, he catches the inbound and the shot goes long, barely. Everyone assumed the shot would have gone in.  The game remains an all-time classic and maybe more so had Bird made that shot. The Celtics had to take game 5 to defend home court for the last time and they did comfortably.  The Celtics controlled the pace of the game and left Magic Johnson doing his business without much help from his supporting cast.

NBA-Finals-1985.jpg
Ainge notices his lover, the referee, is cheating on him with Magic Johnson.  Johnson still denies and uninvites Ainge to a party at his mansion. Bird tries to calm Magic down.          (Photo Credit: Sportage)

In game 6, similar to games one and two, the Lakers breezed through the Celtics and won the franchise’s tenth championship (fifth in L.A.).  At the championship parade, Pat Riley guaranteed the Lakers to go back-to-back.  The Lakers delivered, but not without a Game 6 controversy.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar being “fouled” by Laimbeer in the same game Isiah Thomas suffered from a jammed finger and broken ankle to will the Pistons in a pivotal Game 6 stands out as some of the most memorable moments in NBA Finals history.  In the end, Los Angeles celebrated the 1988 Championship as well, the last Lakers title until twelve years later.

Day 88January 23, 1971: The UCLA Bruins lose to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Southbend, Indiana. The loss pushed them behind the Marquette Warriors (Yes, that was their name back then). But as the late Harvey Dent once said, ‘it is always darkest before the dawn…’And what a sweet dawn it was… In fact, it was 1,450 dawns until the Bruins next loss. The Bruins bounced back against U.C. Santa Barbara following their loss to the Irish and went on to win all of their games from January 30, 1971, until they finally lost number 89 on that same Southbend floor, January 19, 1974.UCLA’s 88 wins is to this day the longest streak in men’s basketball history. From 1971 through 1974, the Bruins were led by the greatest player in the nation, Bill Walton. Over his three seasons of play, Walton averaged 20.3 points per game and 15.7 rebounds.Incredibly, Walton’s win streak was even longer than UCLA’s, having won his last 49 high school games at Felix High in La Mesa California. When Walton started playing for Coach Wooden and the Bruins, they had already won five straight NCAA championships spanning from 1967 through 1971. Walton and the Bruins would continue to win, win, win, no matter what… banners on their mind, that they would never give it up.

1972Champs.jpg
“Damn, we won again? How long have I been held hostage?” (Photo Credit: UCLA Athletics)

By the time the Bruins visited South Bend again January 19, 1974, Walton was going for his 143rd straight win, UCLA going for their 89th straight. With the Bruins up 70-59 with 3:32 it looked like #89 was in the bag… Lets pick up with 4 minutes left in the video below.

While the 89th game ended up becoming a heartbreaker as well as the upcoming March where the Bruins fell to North Carolina State in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament,  the only dynasties comparable to UCLA’s include all three UConn women’s basketball streaks; winning seventy straight in the early 2000s, then winning ninety straight in the late-2000s and going 111/111 from 2014-2017 and losing on a buzzer beater against Mississippi State in the championship game.

The Bruins accomplishments within the 1,450 day span includes three straight championships (four before them) and three straight Player of the Year honors for Bill Walton.  The dynasty stands as one of the greatest, most improbable runs in NCAA history and something we may never see again.

160px-Bill_Walton_1974_cropped
Bill Walton attempts to block the California sun from his eyes as he goes for a dunk. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
Day 89Image result for 1989 nba finalsFrom left: Bill Davidson, John Salley, Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer celebrate after Game 4 of the 1989 NBA Finals. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)Day 89 of our 100 Days of Hoops brings us to one of the more polarizing teams in NBA history – the Bad Boys. Few teams in sports history have garnered as much hate as the 1989 Detroit Pistons.But the Pistons and their fans have taken pride in their overall disdain. Nobody hates a loser. Winning upsets some people. Winning with an attitude? People don’t usually like that. If the opposing players, fans and the media are rooting against you, chances are you’re doing something right.They were, after all, bullies. No, better yet, they were the villain. A starting front court of Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer was an opponent’s worst nightmare. Detroit made their money on defense by shutting down penetration in the lane.Multiple Pistons would collapse onto the ball handler, forcing him to pick up his dribble or take an off-balanced shot. If Mahorn or Laimbeer were caught out of position, Dennis Rodman slid inside from the wing.Despite playing small forward, Rodman could deliver the physicality needed to defend larger forwards. He drew charges and dealt out punishing beatings alongside his vaunted front court.Remember, flagrant fouls didn’t exist in those days. A cheap shot here or there would make a guard think twice the next time he attacked the basket. Every team did it, but the “dirty” label only seemed to apply to the Pistons.While defense was their calling card, it should be noted that Chuck Daly’s 1989 club boasted some deadly scorers. Their back court consisted of two Hall of Fame guards in Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. The pair offered different skill sets that complemented each other.

Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas ride along Woodward Avenue during the 1989 championship parade in Detroit.  (Lennox McLendon/Associated Press)

Thomas was a master with the basketball. He was one of the NBA’s best when it came to keeping his dribble alive. His quickness matched with his ability to score made him the ultimate threat.

Dumars’ success as an off the ball scorer made the duo nearly impossible to guard. The eventual 1989 Finals MVP would shoot 48 percent from beyond the arc that season. Thomas (18.2) and Dumars (17.2) combined for an average of 35.4 points per game in the same year. A balanced scoring attack up top drew the defense away from the basket, and opened up the floor.

They might have epitomized the word “bad”, but that Pistons team was no slouch. Detroit had the best record in the NBA that season, finishing 63-19. Their dominance would transition into the playoffs. The Pistons lost only two games (both to Chicago) during their 1989 championship run.

The Bad Boys were a lot of things.

Physical? Absolutely.

Dirty? Occasionally.

Great? Without a doubt.

Love them or hate them, one thing is for certain. The Bad Boys left their mark (“bruise” would be more appropriate) on the league in an unapologetic fashion. A mixture of superb guard play, team defense and consistent rebounding willed a once-desolate franchise to NBA supremacy.

Day 90Day 90 of our 100 Days of Hoops is dedicated to some of the most consistent free throw shooters the game of basketball has ever seen. The theme today is about players making 90% of their free throws or better.

Throughout ABA/NBA history, there have been 125 times a player has shot 90% or over throughout a season.  Rick Barry has led the NBA in free throw percentage six times throughout his career, Reggie Miller has five times in his career, including his final season in 2004-05.

Yes, free throws are important. And yes, no one guards you at the line so people think it’s easy.  It’s true, anyone can make a free throw, but it takes serious skill to swish them consistently.  Before we reach All-Time Status, these are the top five free throw percentages in a season:

5). Jeff Hornacek (1999-2000)  .9500

4). Ray Allen (2008-09) .9518

3). Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (1994-94) .9563

2). Calvin Murphy (1980-81) .9581

1). Jose Calderon (2008-09) .9805

You guessed it! Jose Calderon’s biggest superpower is from the free throw line.  While Calderon is pretty forgettable these days, he’s panned out a solid career when he played for Toronto. Don’t expect his number to be retired or anything because of this, maybe he can help bring up LeBron’s free throw percentage?

Let’s focus on the all-time list and look at the three most consistent free throw shooters of all-time:

Honorable Mentions: Peja Stojakovich (.8948); Chauncey Billups (.8940); Ray Allen (.8939)

Steph Curry

curry ft.jpg
Curry tries to taste the air around his mouthguard as Gary Harris expresses jealousy.            (Photo Credit: SI)

Curry is third all-time in free-throw percentage and we’re thinking he could end up as number one or two by the time he retires.  When Curry isn’t crashing house parties to play beer pong, he keeps shooting.  He currently sits at .9010 on the all-time list at twenty-nine years old.

Mark Price

price FT
Mark Price shoots the ball as he sees his uncle assassinated. (Photo Credit: Trading Card Database)

Price totaled out his free throw percentage at .9039.  He is second on the all-time list after playing thirteen seasons.  Price led the league in free throw percentage three times in those thirteen seasons.  Although Price was drafted as the first pick of round two, he surpassed his critics by becoming the Cavaliers all-time leader in assists and steals (at the time). Those accomplishments are good enough to make his #25 retired by the Cavs.

Steve Nash

nash ft.jpg
…Still waiting for Nash to put this ball up. (Photo Credit: ESPN)

Nash is the all-time leader in free throw percentage at .9043. That’s .04 ahead of Price if you can do math.  Nash led the league in free throw percentage twice, in 2004-05 and 2009-10.  We saw the Suns retire his number in 2015 and Nash’s influence still touches on today’s game with the importance of the three-point line and spacing.

If there’s anything you can take away from Day 90 of our 100 Days of Hoops, it’s the importance of making your free throws.  The players mentioned above make it look easy, but when the pressure is on the line you can see players falter.  Also when one team keeps purposefully fouling a poor free throw shooter, you can see what kind of impact the free throw line has in basketball.

Day 91
inaismi001p1
Dr. James Naismith holds a soccer ball and peach basket in the earliest days of basketball. photo courtesy of Britannica. 
And on the eighth day, God created basketball and gave it man and woman. “Play of it, and be joyful,” God said; and basketball was good.No, that is not exactly how it happened but close. Basketball was invented one East Coast winter by Dr. James Naismith. The 115 years of growth and evolution of the sport all began with two peach baskets and some cabin fever.The winter winds were a limit on the physical activity at the YMCA International Training College as a severe blizzards kept people inside for long stretches at a time in Springfield Massachusetts in 1891. 30-year-old, James Naismith was a physical education instructor, tasked with developing a game to help the restless students relieve their cabin fever and get some much-needed exercise.  Naismith grabbed two peach baskets and a soccer ball, nailing the baskets high above the ground and gathered a group to participate in the world’s first ever basketball game.A recording rare recording of a radio interview with James Naismith shared the details of basketball’s invention from its creator himself.“I called the boys to the gym, I showed them two peach baskets I had nailed up at each end of the gym, and I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team’s peach basket,” he said. “I blew a whistle, and the first game of basketball began,” said Naismith.Naturally, all hell broke loose…“The boys began tackling, kicking and punching in the clinches,” Naismith said. “Before I could pull them apart, one boy was knocked out, several had black eyes, and one had a dislocated shoulder.”Naismith was then prompted to make the original 13 rules. In 1936, Naismith would watch what started with two peach baskets be played in the Olympics. Roughly ten years later, the Toronto Huskies took on the New York Knickerbockers in the NBA’s first-ever game. Naismith could not possibly have imagined the global phenomenon that has grown out of those two peach baskets in 1891.
Day 92

Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley pose with Olympic Rings at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona

The United States men’s basketball team of 1988 in South Korea featured college basketball players of the United States against professionals around the world.  The Americans finished bronze and weren’t qualified for a gold medal game after losing to the Soviet Union 82-76.  The [filthy] Soviets took home the gold.  In 1992, the United States restored order to the basketball universe by allowing NBA stars to participate in the Olympic Games. The 1992 Dream helped transform basketball into a global phenomenon, resulting in an international rise in talent that is now prevalent throughout the NBA.
Just as Reagan ordered Gorbachev to “tear down that wall” freeing Eastern Europe from its political oppression, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) tore down the Wall of Restriction that had prevented NBA superstars from competing.  The greatest collection of talent to ever grace the hardwood was assembled. Let’s go through the 1992 Dream Team.dreaaaaaaaaaamChuck Daly – Coach: Daly had won the NBA championship in 1989 and 1990 but no Pistons were on the Dream Team.#4 Christian Laettner : Yes, Christian Laettner participated. 1997 All-Star#5 David Robinson: The True American Hero. An Admiral of the United States Navy. 2x NBA Champion (1999, 2003) and MVP (1995). Member of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players#6 Patrick Ewing: 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist. Member of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players.#7 Larry Bird: 3x NBA Champion (1981, 1984, 1986) 3x MVP (1984-86). 50-40-90 season averages in 1987, 1988. Associated Press Athlete of the Year (1986). Member of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players#8 Scottie Pippen: 6x NBA Champion (1991-93, 1996-98). USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (1996). Member of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players#9 Michael Jordan: 6x NBA Champion (1991-93, 1996-98) and 6x Finals MVP. 5x MVP (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998). 1988 Defensive Player of the Year. 10x Scoring Champion. 2x USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (1983, 1984). #1 All-time in PPG. Member of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players#10 Clyde Drexler: 1995 NBA champion. Member of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players.#11 Karl Malone: #2 All-time points, 2x MVP (1997, 1999). Member of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players.#12 John Stockton: All-time leader in assists and steals. Member of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players.#13 Chris Mullin: Also participated, 5x All-Star

#14 Charles Barkley: 1993 MVP. Member of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players.

#15 Magic Johnson: 5x Champion (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987-88). 3x Finals MVP (1980, 1982, 1987). NBA Playoffs all-time assist leader. Member of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players

The team was led by arguably the two greatest point guards, shooting guard and small forward of all-time (Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird).

jordo birdo johnsonoooo.jpg

Cheesin’

USA: 838

World: 588

This is the aggregate (total sum) score of the 1992 USA basketball team versus its opponents.  Team USA started off by decimating Angola 116-48, stealing the ball thirty times.  They marched their way through the competition to beat the Toni Kukoc-led Croatian National team in the Gold Medal Game, 117-85.  The 32-point difference was the closest any team had come.


Day 93sprewell gordon

Latrell Sprewell is the first player to go nine for nine from three without a miss in a game, Ben Gordon has done it for two teams. (Photo Credit: ESPN)

By Hami Arain and Adam Chalifoux

Instead of looking at the number 93, let’s take a look at the number nine and three. There have been three times in the history of the NBA when a player reached such a smooth level of buttery hotness that they could not miss from deep. Latrell Sprewell, February 4th 2003 and Ben Gordon on April 15, 2006 and March 21, 2012.

Here is Ben Gordon’s first nine of nine game from downtown…in (some language).

When the Bulls played the Heat the next evening, he continued the streak of three-pointers without any misses by making his next three-pointer.

Gordon tied the record with the Pistons in 2012. In this game, he led the Pistons to a comeback in Denver. Here are all 36 of his 45 points.

The Pistons still found a way to lose, 116-115.

Day 94
jordan press conference

Michael Jordan announces his retirement from basketball in the Bulls training facility before the 1993-94 NBA Season.  Jordan would return eventually. (Photo Credit: NBA.com)

 By Hami Arain

It’s the final seconds in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals.  John Paxson just made the three to put the Bulls up 99-98 with 3.9 seconds remaining.  To this point of the game, Michael Jordan had scored all nine points of the quarter until Horace Grant found John Paxson wide open to make the three.  The Bulls were up one and about four seconds away from something never been done in the NBA in almost thirty years.

The Suns inbound to Oliver Miller who hands it off right away back to Kevin Johnson.  Johnson crosses over Horace Grant, KJ finds an open lane and puts up a runner and as his shot goes up, Grant blocks the shot attempt and time expired.  The Chicago Bulls are the first team to win three championships in a row since the Boston Celtics from 1964-1966.  Michael Jordan, the obvious Finals MVP, averaged 41 points per game in the six-game series and was all smiles in the press conference.

“Magic, Bird, Isiah never did this,” Jordan told the press.  “I won’t say I’m better than those people but I’d say in terms of success consistently, that puts me right up there with them, if not a step above.”

And he was right, Magic and Isiah only went back-to-back, and Bird missed three-peat status by losing to the Lakers in 1985.  A month after Jordan and the Bulls won the third straight title, his father had been shot.  Let’s fast-forward to October to get closer to the 1993-94 NBA season.

In early October, Jordan called for a press conference in the Bulls training facility in Deerfield, IL.  When a press conference was announced, many basketball fans wondered if Jordan was actually going to retire.  Bulls owner Jerry Resindorf started the press conference by saying it was a bittersweet day for such a respected athlete and Chicago fans worldwide panicked.  Jordan confirmed the rumors, that he would retire basketball to play baseball.

Wait, what?

Even though Jordan had already won three, part of the basketball world already called him the Greatest Of All Time, why did he leave a sport he was the best in?

Jordan is never hesitant when he explains how his father initially wanted him to become a major league baseball player.  But even Jordan in that press conference said he would still make this decision even if his father were around.  He was also quick to mention how there wasn’t anything else he had to prove now that he’s accomplished so much in the NBA.  Jordan and Reinsdorf confirmed that Michael was to join the White Sox farm system, the Birmingham Barons. Damn, Michael, you were #1 in Chicago and couldn’t cut a deal with Chicago’s #1 team at the time?  I get it, the White Sox at the time were closer to a championship than the Cubs but still Mike you could’ve done better. At least you helped the White Sox and Birmingham Barons merchandise sales, so that’s good for their fans (and especially Jerry Resindorf).

A few days after that press conference, Jordan was spotted at what was then known as Comiskey Park II (now Guaranteed Rate Field) for Game 1 of the White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series.  Jordan left the game early for his safety, as people started to recognize him at the game.  The White Sox eventually lost the series in six games and the Blue Jays defended its title and went back-to-back.

Jordan began Spring Training in February for the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A minor league affiliate to the White Sox.  In Jordan’s book For the Love of the Game, he claimed he could have retired as early as 1992, citing the Dream Team run and the Bulls back-to-back championships took a toll on him, especially mentally.  Jordan’s baseball career isn’t really anything to write home about either,  it wasn’t like basketball, where everyone tried to mimic his skills but surely the Birmingham Barons appreciated it. Especially the number of people who would show up to games on a nightly basis. Jordan eventually batted a .202 average with 3 home runs, 51 RBI’s and 30 stolen bases.  Jordan’s baseball career wasn’t particularly great, but he was the subject of conversation everywhere he went.  Even the sports media knew this and wouldn’t give him an easy time.

In Chicago, the Bulls finished the 1993-94 season 55-27 and third in the Eastern Conference.  In the playoffs, Chicago swept the Cavaliers in three games, then faced the New York Knicks in Round 2.  The Bulls-Knicks rivalry was at its peak in 1994.  The Knicks prevailed in seven games after what Scottie Pippen believes to be a blown call in Game 5.  With the final seconds winding down, Hubert Davis of the Knicks looks to make the go-ahead basket in the waning seconds, Pippen tries to go for the block and Davis falls to the ground.  Referee Hue Hollins called a foul on Pippen which sent Davis to the free throw line.  It was a late whistle and Pippen’s contact with Davis’ arms was after the shot.

“That’s a call you don’t normally get,” Hubert Davis recalled fourteen years after the game.  The Knicks went on to lose the NBA Finals to the Houston Rockets in seven games.

In November of 1994, the Bulls retired #23 for Jordan and released The Spirit, a statue you can see inside the United Center today.  A few months later Jordan sent a fax to the Bulls training facility in Deerfield, IL.

i'm back

Thanks again for being in the news, Michael. (Photo Credit: Complex.com)

Jordan came back wearing #45 because he couldn’t wear his retired number 23, but he switched it back in the middle of the playoffs.  At one point in the Bulls 1994-95 season, the team was 31-31.  Jordan propelled the Bulls to win thirteen of the final sixteen games as the team finished 47-35 and the 5th seed in the East.  The Bulls beat Charlotte in four games and eventually lost to Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway of the Orlando Magic.  Former Bull Horace Grant was on the Magic as well and the Orlando beat the Pacers in the following round en route to its first NBA Finals appearance.  It wasn’t over for Jordan and the Bulls though. We now know #45 Jordan was mortal but it was far from over.  The Bulls would be back for sure but would they be the same?

Day 95
95 trophy
The Houston Rockets celebrate its second straight championship on the podium with the Larry O’Brien Trophy (Credit: CNN)
By Hami Arain

Coming off a 1994 Championship parade, the Houston Rockets cruised to a 9-0 start to the 1994-95 NBA season.  Expectations were beyond the stratosphere for the Rockets, even though the team was basically Hakeem Olajuwon and The Other Guys, the Rockets looked fresh as the season began.

Two months from the November opener flew by and the Rockets win some and lose some. There was no substantial winning or losing streak until January when Houston won six straight.  At this point, the Rockets were 20-9, and back they went to winning some games and losing others, playing .500 basketball for the next month.  There was something off about this team compared to last year; the role players are still serviceable but that’s all they were, it wasn’t enough to go back-to-back.  The Rockets management finally made a decision on Valentine’s Day.  Houston made the move to send Otis Thorpe and a first round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for former Houston Cougar Clyde Drexler.  Once again, Drexler and Olajuwon reunite from the days of Phi Slamma Jamma.

The Rockets won the first three games since they acquired Drexler, then lost two straight.  Then they come back to win three straight, then they falter and lose five straight but come back to win five straight.  However, since they traded for Drexler, Houston went 17-18 to finish the season.  The team was an enigma and its 47-35 was enough for the 6th seed in the Western Conference.

Houston went up against the Utah Jazz in round 1, which is best of five.  The Rockets and Jazz split the first two games and game three became a convincing win for the Jazz. Then the Rockets storm back in game 4 to take the series to the limit. In game 5, the Rockets were steady behind Drexler’s 31 and The Dream’s 33.  When it came to the fourth quarter and the Rockets led 92-90, the Rockets gave it to Clyde to send him to the free throw line to ice the game. Drexler squares up for his first…and misses it, igniting the Utah crowd.  They were getting louder by the second, Drexler went through his routine and nails the second.  93-90.  Stockton races up the court, less than seven seconds remaining, as he crosses half court he gets fouled by Kenny Smith.  This sends Stockton to the line since Utah is over the bonus.  Stockton makes the first and purposefully misses the second, hoping for an offensive rebound.  It was Drexler who secured the rebound with two seconds left and he was sent to the line once again.  This time Drexler doesn’t skip a beat, makes both and the Rockets were up four.  Stockton rushes down the court and throws up a half court shot, but it didn’t matter, the Rockets prevailed the rival Utah Jazz in five games.  Next up was the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns took the first two games of the 2nd round series and the Rockets took care of game 3, none of these games were particularly close but a game 4 featuring a 43 point game from Kevin Johnson and 26 from Charles Barkley put the Suns foot right on the Rockets throat.  The Rockets took care of business in game 5 on the road, with 31 from Olajuwon and 21 from Kenny Smith (only 4 for Drexler), the game went into overtime and the Rockets won by six.  In game 6, the Rockets comfortably beat Phoenix by 13.

The final minute of game 7 was a classic back-and-forth between the Suns and Rockets. Both teams showing a lot of ball movement and when Phoenix were up 1, Rockets guard Kenny Smith draws a foul with a little less than a minute remaining.  Smith makes them both and the Rockets led 110-109.  On the other end of the court, Kevin Johnson finds Charles Barkely, who loses his balance but kicks out to Dan Majerle for a wide open three-point attempt…Majerle misses the three but Barkley tips the rebound towards Johnson in the baseline corner, who resets the shot clock.  With 25 seconds remaining, Johnson drives towards the basket and draws a foul.  Johnson makes the first to tie the game but fails to give Phoenix the lead as he misses the second. Now 20 seconds remain as the Rockets inbound out of a time out, they inbound to Kenny Smith, Smith is immediately double teamed as the Suns use a trap.  Smith finds Robert Horry wide open by the half court line, Horry catches the ball, crosses the line and throws it to the corner. You may as well watch until the end of the video as it became sort of a free throw contest from this point on. (Credit YouTube user RetroBasketballHighlights)

Now, the Rockets had to go through the team with the MVP, the San Antonio Spurs.  Many basketball fans may remember this series as the one Olajuwon makes a statement to the NBA fans and media.  The Rockets edged out the Spurs by one in game 1 and were led by The Dream’s 41 points and 16 rebounds in a convincing game 2 victory. Oh and by the way, Spurs fans were lucky enough to see Robinson receive his MVP trophy before Game 2 began and while he did score 32 points, he was not the premiere story that night. The Spurs won the next two in Houston and the Rockets won game 5 at San Antonio.  All the road teams have won to this point in this series, until an impressive game 6 from Olajuwon and Robert Horry.  The Dream scored 39 in the series clincher with 17 rebounds and five blocks and Horry scored 22 along with seven rebounds.  The Rockets were back in the NBA Finals and the Orlando Magic had just beat the Indiana Pacers.  This was Orlando’s sixth season in the NBA and Houston’s second year in a row in the Finals.

95 finalsShaquille O’Neal squares up against Hakeem Olajuwon in the 1995 NBA Finals. (Credit: BallisLife.com)

The hype around the NBA Finals centered around two of the big men facing off, Hakeem Olajuwon vs. Shaquille O’Neal.  In game 1, which is really all there is to talk about in this series, the Magic came out blazing.  The Magic loved to run and feed Shaq in the post and it worked every time but the Rockets were right there with them.  In the fourth quarter, the Rockets gave it to The Dream in the post, as he started his move, Olajuwon falls down trying to get past Shaq.  The referee calls a traveling violation, erupting the Orlando crowd.  In the final twenty seconds, Brian Shaw attempted a three-pointer and missed.  Luckily for Orlando, Penny Hardaway was there for the rebound and the ball moved around several times before the Rockets could get a hand on the Magic.  The ball ended up in Nick Anderson’s hands, who quickly tried to throw it away but it was too late, he had already been fouled.

At this point of Game 1, Anderson was 9/17 for 22 points and five assists. It was his first free throw attempts on the night.  Anderson misses them both but after a Houston player tips it in the air, Anderson gets it back and draws another foul.  A second chance for Anderson and one he wanted badly.  Anderson lines up for his third free throw and misses again.  As he missed, Anderson turns around in slight embarrassment, but he only needed to make one, this was his chance and he knows it.  Anderson smiles as he waits for the referee to pass him back the ball and the replay shows Penny Hardaway turning around as Anderson’s third free throw is in the air.  On his fourth attempt, he rushes through his free throw routine, leading to another miss.  Four straight misses and the Rockets recover.

Mario Ellie inbounds the ball to Kenny Smith with seven seconds remaining, Smith goes to the center of the three-point line and fakes a shot sending Hardaway to the air.  As the clock winds from three to two, Smith has to launch a three and makes it.  Now there are two seconds remaining and the Rockets have all the momentum.  The Magic gave the final possession to Dennis Scott but his shot was blocked by Robert Horry.  Game 1 was now going into overtime with Magic fans in doubt.

the jet for 3.jpgKenny Smith makes the game-tying three, at the time he set the record for most three-pointers in an NBA Finals game with seven. He still holds the NBA Finals record for most three-pointers in a half with six. (Credit: Sneakerhistory.com)

Robert Horry wasn’t done for the night, as he made the first six points of overtime from two three-pointers.  When Horry missed what would have been his third straight three-pointer, the Magic used the transition the other way and Penny Hardaway dunks the ball and gets fouled on a fast break.  The Magic weren’t done with two minutes remaining, but the Rockets were just getting started.  The Rockets were up three with about a minute remaining, Penny Hardaway attempts to dunk it over Hakeem Olajuwon but The Dream rejected Hardaway.  In the final ten seconds, the Magic tie the game from a Dennis Scott three-pointer, leading to the final moments of game 1. (Credit YouTube User The NBA Showtime).

The Rockets prevailed and the game was a microcosm of that NBA Finals.  It wasn’t that the Magic were bad, but the Rockets just played with more energy and determination.  The Rockets swept the Magic in four games and once again won the title at home. The 1995 Houston Rockets are still the lowest seed to ever win the NBA Finals, even if fans don’t see those Rockets as the underdogs, just realize that every team they matched up with during the playoff run won at least 57 games.

Because of the Rockets back-to-back championship runs, Houston was dubbed “Clutch City”.  Why Clutch City?  The Houston Chronicle would commonly mock Houston sports when the teams would lose, usually with the headline “Choke City” on the papers following a crushing defeat.  Clutch City became official after the Rockets beat the Phoenix Suns in 1994 NBA Playoffs after trailing 2-0.  The city’s nickname became that much more relevant as the Rockets blew away their opponents dreams.

After the NBA Finals Game 4 celebration, Ahmad Rashad asked head coach Rudy Tomjanovich how it feels to win back-to-back titles and what he has to say to anyone who doubted them.  Tomjanovich responded in what has now become a classic quote. (Credit to YouTube user Karol K).  The 1995 Houston Rockets playoff run is the most challenging road any team has ever faced to get to the NBA Finals, the fact that they swept Orlando in the Finals became that much more shocking.  The team was a machine once their backs were against the walls.  Their patience and attitude towards adversity earned them a memorable championship and a spot on our 100 Days of Hoops.

Day 96

slam photo
96 lottery players posing for Slam Magazine (Photo Credit: SLAM MAGAZINE)

By Hami Arain and Adam ChalifouxOn Day 97 of our 100 Days of Hoops, we saw the NBA, as well as the media, celebrate some of the greatest coaches and teams to have ever stepped onto the court as well as the 50 Greatest Players; today’s post celebrates the 50th ever NBA Draft.  1996.The Vancouver Grizzlies were favored to win the NBA Draft lottery in 1996, but because they were an expansion team, the agreement in the CBA was to have them not select first but if they were to win the lottery, they would receive the second pick.  Another expansion team which had the same rules apply to them was the Toronto Raptors.  In fact, it actually did happen to the Toronto Raptors as they won the draft lottery but because of this expansion rule, Toronto was forced to pick second and the original “third” pick became first pick, the original “second” pick for Vancouver fell to three as the Philadelphia 76ers selected Allen Iverson out of Georgetown.This draft is often referred to as one of the greatest of all-time.  The 3rd pick of that draft, Shareef Abdur-Rahim is one of the biggest advocates for why the 1996 draft is best. The draft has produced three MVP’s (Steve Nash in 2005, 2006; Kobe Bryant in 2008 and Allen Iverson in 2001) two Defensive Players of the Years (Marcus Camby in 2007 and Ben Wallace in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006), eleven different all-stars, and even five different shoe deals (Jermaine O’Neal, Kobe Bryant with Adidas then Nike, Allen Iverson, and Stephon Marbury). No question this draft is very loud and passionate about the game (credit YouTube user LamarMatic) and that’s what made them memorable.  The great thing is each player from this draft has its own captivating storyline. One of which drafted #13 overall, Kobe Bryant.Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets straight out of Lower Merion High School but was traded right away to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.  This move became significant throughout the years as Kobe showed superstar potential right away.  Would it have been the same if he had started his career in Charlotte?  His accomplishments speak for themselves but it makes you wonder how different the league would look today had he remained with the Hornets, even if it were for a few years.You also had Steve Nash, the young run-and-gunner for the Phoenix Suns then being traded to the Dallas Mavericks after just two seasons. Don Nelson and the Mavericks felt the Suns under-utilized Nash in his early years, and once you started to pair Nash with Nowitzki, you saw an offensive powerhouse blossoming along with up-and-coming wing Michael Finley.  After a conference finals appearance in 2003 and a disappointing first round exit in 2004, Nash became a free agent. After Nash and Cuban could not agree on a deal (rumored to be around 4 years/$36 million), Nash went back to Phoenix for 6 years/$53 million.  He went on to win back-to-back MVP’s right after his departure in Dallas.  However, you could say the Mavericks got the last laugh as they beat the Nash’s Suns to advance to their first NBA Finals and eventually brought home a title in 2011.  Then again, you could argue the Suns won the initial trade since they were the ones who drafted Nash…either way it worked out for both sides in different ways.

Another sharpshooter in this draft is Ray Allen.  Allen started out as an all-around guard with hops for days and was often the most accurate shooter throughout the NBA as the seasons went on.  Five years into his career, Allen lead the Bucks to a game 7 against fellow draftee Allen Iverson, the 76ers prevailed in seven games.

Allen was also a first option for the Seattle Supersonics, giving the franchise fresh life after they traded away franchise-great Gary Payton.  After the 2003-2004 season,  Allen and Kobe Bryant spewed back-and-forth through the press.  Allen accused Bryant of “alienating teammates proving he won’t need Shaq to win championships.”  Allen continued paraphrasing that Kobe would demand a trade if the Lakers were mediocre or terrible, Bryant responded by saying “don’t put me and that dude in the same breath”.

Allen read the future correctly, as Kobe Bryant did ask management to trade him in 2007. Allen went on to face Kobe twice in the finals; 2008 and 2010.  Each got their rings, but Allen is known for a bigger shot a couple of years later.  No, it wasn’t his three-pointer to surpass Reggie Miller to make him #1 on the all-time three-point list nor was it his game-winner vs. the Knicks right before the 2011 playoffs.

Ray Allen had no choice but to throw up that corner three against the San Antonio Spurs, especially as he was in rhythm as he was stepping back towards the line.  Allen saved the 2013 Miami Heat and, you could even argue, LeBron James’ legacy.  It’s a shot still talked about to this day, and people ask each other where they were as it unfolded. Allen still holds the record for most 3-point field goals with 2,972.  Many people believe Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry will inevitably break this record, Curry currently has made 1,917 three-pointers which is 10th all-time.  Curry could realistically reach up to 5th all-time by the end of the 2017-18 season.

ray allen the shot
Ray Allen sends Game 6 of 2013 NBA Finals to overtime. His most well-known achievement, the Heat went on to win game 7. (Photo Credit: ESPN)

One player that may be forgotten to Americans in the future is Stephon Marbury.  Marbury, often nicknamed “Starbury”, jumped around the league after his first three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Marbury made 2 all-star games but was often seen as a headcase around the league.  When the Knicks bought him out after Chris Duhon won the starting point guard spot, Marbury refused to come off the bench.

The Celtics picked up Marbury who contributed to the 2009 playoff run that ended in round 2 by the Orlando Magic.  Since 2010, Marbury has been playing in China and it all worked out for his basketball career.  As you can expect, he dominated early and earned all-star spots his first five years in China.  It worked out even better when he joined the Beijing Ducks and brought home championships in 2012, 2014 and 2015.  The latest title he won the Finals MVP and in 2013 he won the league MVP.  At the end of the 2017 season, Marbury announced he would retire at the end of the 2017-18 season, the Beijing Ducks parted ways with him.  It ended up becoming a dream come true, as Marbury made himself a home after going through rough patches when he left the NBA.  China loves him so much, he even has his own statue.

starbury statue
Stephon Marbury poses with his statue in Beijing (Photo Credit: NBC SPORTS)

While players like Iverson, Kobe, Ray Allen, and Starbury dazzled on offense, the 1996 NBA Draft’s greatest defensive player was never actually drafted. At 6-foot-9 and out of the small program of Virginia Union, Ben Wallace was passed over by the entire league on draft night. The Washington Bullets (now the Wizards) eventually signed Wallace. “Big Ben” as he would eventually be come to known as, hardly got any minutes at all early in his career but made the time on the floor he did receive count, averaging two blocks and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes his rookie year even though he only played 197 minutes in 34 games. By his second year, the young big slowly began to earn his stripes, playing in 67 games, 16 of which he started in, and playing a respectable 16.8 minutes per game. Wallace again made the most of his time on the floor, averaging 10.4 rebounds per game to go along with 2.4 blocks. Finally, after in a season shortened by the lockout of 1998, Wallace broke his way into serious playing time in his third year in the league, averaging just under 27 minutes per game alongside 2.6 blocks and 11.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. The following offseason, Wallace Wallace signed with the Orlando Magic, continuing to prove himself as a hard-nosed defensive specialist and elite rebounder. Finally, in the summer of 2000, Wallace was packaged with Chucky Atkins as part compensation for a sign and trade for Pistons super-star, Grant Hill.

wallace block
Ben Wallace gives Shaquille Oneal an identity crisis at the rim in the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals. Photo courtesy of NBA.com

If you are a basketball fan, you know how the rest of this story goes. Wallace became a defensive superstar with the Pistons, winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award in the 2002 and 2003 and repeating again in 2005 and 2006. Wallace was an icon and the centerpiece of the Pistons title 2003-04 title run. For all you aspiring young hoopers or just plain dreamers reading this, let Ben Wallace’s be a lesson for you. Never give up, always work your ass off, and if you can, grow a bad-ass afro.

The 1996 NBA Draft Class may just be the best ever. But day 84 of the 100 days of hoops may have something else to say about that.

Day 97

NBA's 50 Greatest Players
CLEVELAND – FEBRUARY 8: The Fifty Greatest NBA players poses during a photo shoot during the 1997 NBA All-Star Weekend at Gund Arena on February 8, 1997 in Cleveland, Ohio. The 50 (or 47 in this case) Greatest Players in the NBA showed up to celebrate in the 1997 All-star game in Cleveland, Ohio. Missing from the picture are Shaquille O’Neal, Pete Maravich and Jerry West. (Photo Credit NBA.com)

The NBA’s 50 Greatest Players is exactly what it sounds like.  Well, sort of.  Fifty of the NBA’s greatest players were chosen by a panel made up of fifty members; 13 media members, 16 former players and the rest either coaches or front office executives to determine the best players to ever step onto the hardwood.

The 1996-97 NBA season was its 50th and this was how the NBA wanted to celebrate.  The list released just as the season began and it features all of the greatest players who have made a substantial impact on the NBA.  At the time, eleven of the fifty players were active during the ’96-’97 campaign.  David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Parish, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen and one who stuck out amongst the rest of them: Shaquille O’Neal.

50-greatestNBA’s 50 Greatest Players. (Photo Credit The Raisin Review/Landon T. Horstman)

One thing readers should notice is O’Neal was only in his fifth season when inducted to the 50 Greatest Players List.  His impact on the Orlando Magic was gigantic and the Magic soared fast, similar to Shaq’s play style at the time.  It makes sense though, as O’Neal helped lead Orlando to the NBA Finals in the franchise’s sixth season in the league and at that point, he had been named an all-star every season until the selection and then some, a scoring champion in 1995, and the USA Male Basketball Player of the Year the year before. Man, 1995 was magical for the Big Diesel, but not quite golden yet.

However, it wasn’t just about the 50 Greatest Players, there were other awards given out during that All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.  The list also included Top 10 coaches of all-time and the Top 10 Teams in NBA History.

The Top 10 Coaches: Red Auerbach, Chuck Daly, Bill Fitch, Red Holzman, Phil Jackson, John Kundla, Don Nelson, Jack Ramsey, Pat Riley, Lenny Wilkens.

The Top 10 Teams: ’64-’65 Celtics, ’66-’67 76ers, ’69-’70 Knicks, ’71-’72 Lakers, ’82-’83 76ers, ’85-’86 Celtics, ’86-’87 Lakers, ’88-’89 Pistons, ’91-’92 Bulls and ’95-’96 Bulls.

As our previous two posts also prove, the evolution of basketball is dependant on the pioneers of style that take the game to the next level. Today’s version of a top 50 list would almost certainly include players who have helped tell basketball’s story since. However, you could not have a Kobe Bryant without a Michael Jordan to influence him or a LeBron James without Magic Johnson. Although the list is no longer accurate, today the list is a documentation of those who most influenced the first 50 years of the league.

Day 98

jordan game 6 shotMichael Jordan (right) shoots a jump shot to give the Bulls the win in his last NBA Finals game. (Photo from NBA.com)

1998 was a year of many memorable moments around the world.  The largest airport (at the time) was finally completed in Hong Kong, the USA had a $70 billion budget surplus for the first time in thirty years, Bill Clinton claims he did not have sexual relations with that woman and Michael Jordan still played for the Chicago Bulls. At this point, the Bulls had won the previous two years looking to complete a second three-peat.  After 1997, the championship pandemonium sparking Chicago was seemingly never-ending, until a few months later when negotiations between Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause began.

“I don’t care if you go 82-0 this year, you’re fucking gone,” the quote that finalized the beginning of the end of the dynasty Bulls.  Krause and Jackson often butted heads throughout the Bulls run but Krause made it clear this is the last straw.  This line is a shadow of what Krause really believes, that “players and coaches don’t win championships, organizations do.”

Fast forward through the season and the Bulls finish the season 62-20 as Michael Jordan nabs his fifth MVP.  The Bulls sweep the New Jersey Nets with poise, ease through the Charlotte Hornets and squeak by the Indiana Pacers in seven games to play the Utah Jazz in the Finals for the second straight year.  Meanwhile, the Jazz had just swept the Lakers, LA’s first run with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

While Marv Albert spent his suspension watching the NBA Finals from his home, Bob Costas called the 1998 NBA Finals for NBC, the most-watched NBA series of all-time.  The Jazz had ten days to rest for game one, the Bulls only two, and the Jazz took game 1 in overtime.  The Bulls bounced back and won three straight including a tense game 4 which came down to Dennis Rodman nailing clutch free throws.  In game 5, the United Center crowd anticipated another championship at home against Utah, but Karl Malone had other plans.  Malone scored 39 points, bringing in nine rebounds and dishing out five assists and forward reserve Antoine Carr scored 12 crucial points to give the Jazz an 83-81 victory to send it back to Utah for game 6.

Game 6. Delta Center.  The game started off with a Scottie Pippen dunk, a play which re-aggravated his back injury and caused him to slow down throughout the game.

Fast forward to the second quarter, where the Jazz have a 28-24 lead, Antoine Carr tries to throw it to Shandon Anderson and the ball flies over his head leading to guard Howard Eisley to immediately shoot the ball as the shot clock expired.  Eisley makes the three leading the crowd to go wild, but referee Dick Bavetta is quick to call the shot off.  After looking at replays, the announcers agree that the referees missed the call, as the ball left Eisley’s hands as the buzzer sounded. The Jazz however, were still ahead by four points at halftime.

In the fourth quarter, Bulls guard Ron Harper makes a jumpshot to tie the game at 79, it was a similar situation to Eisley’s shot, the clock winding down and he has to throw it up and sees it go in.  The plays look similar and when the crew at NBC showed the replay, the shot clock buzzer had sounded and the light was on before Harper let the shot off.  It’s important to note the NBA did not have instant replay until 2002, the referees can call off any shot but they did not call off Harper’s like they did Eisley’s.

Let’s fast-forward to the end of the game, you know, one of the most significant sequences in NBA history.

Stockton hits a three to put the Jazz up by 3 with around 40 seconds remaining.  Jordan comes back and makes a layup to cut it back to one.  When the Jazz come down the court to give it to the previous seasons MVP Karl Malone in the post.  Malone is double-teamed by Rodman and Jordan when Michael swats the ball for the steal and jogs back towards the Bulls basket.

“17 seconds.  17 seconds from game 7, or from championship #6. Jordan” Costas continued.

Jordan steadily dribbles with his right hand,  the clock winds down…11…10…9…Jordan starts his move, loses his defender for an open look and nails at the top of the free throw circle to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead. Jordan holds his shooting pose to take in the moment with 5.2 seconds remaining and the Jazz call a timeout. Jordan fakes out Russell or..wait a minute…

mj push off

Credit to SI/NBA Photos/Getty Images

He pushed off. But what did it matter if you were a Jordan fan? The Chicago Bulls had an 87-86 lead with 5.2 seconds remaining, his 45th point of the game. And there was still time for the Jazz to force a game 7.  The Jazz are known to have countless clutch moments, especially from John Stockton in the playoffs. We’ll let Bob Costas take it from here…Credit to YouTube user CatchTheTaste.

And so it was official.  The Chicago Bulls have only won its championships in increments of three-peats. 1998 was often known as “The Last Dance” thanks to Krause’s successful commitment to get rid of Jackson and most of the Bulls core veterans to start fresh.  In the previous video at around the 10:35 mark you can even hear Krause saying “we are gonna talk about what happens but this is a great occasion.” Here’s Bob Costas signing off on the 1998 Finals and why the Bulls dynasty is special. (Credit to YouTube user USYAY).

6 rings. 6 finals appearances in 8 years. Game 6 of the 1998 Finals was also the most watched basketball game of all-time.  It scored a 22.3 on the Nielson ratings which means 35.89 million tuned in (at least those with a Nielson box) and that doesn’t account for the many people who had to save the game on VHS or those who watched with multiple people on one television set.

98 bulls

Michael Jordan (left) holding the Finals MVP trophy and Phil Jackson (right) with the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the championship rally in Grant Park, Chicago. (Photo credit Jeff Haynes/Getty Images)

Game 6 of the 1998 Finals is so well-known the game itself has its own Wikipedia page.  The significance and historical impact of the Bulls 6th championship is a moment worthy enough to make it on our 100 Days of Hoops.

Day 99

George_Mikan_1945.jpeg.jpeg
George Mikan showcases his size in Alumni Hall for the DePaul Blue Demons

As hard as it may be to believe, there was once an era when basketball was a little man’s sport. Prior to the 1940s, basketball was better-suited for smaller and quicker players with better coordination than your typical big man due to the necessity of superior quickness and coordination. At 6-foot-10, Mikan had the coordination and athleticism as a smaller player but the size and athleticism to literally change the game. Mikan’s dominance in the low post resulted in several rule changes including the widening of the lane from six to 12 feet and goaltending, a skill Mikan had perfected in an era when few players had the size or ability to play above the rim.

Mikan’s transformation from mortal man to basketball titan began in 1941 when he first entered DePaul University to shake hands with their basketball, Ray Meyer. One summer, Meyer challenged Mikan to shoot 1 thousand hook shots a day, 500 with each hand. Mikan already had dominance in his right, developing the ability to score with both hands soon made him virtually unstoppable. Meyer and Mikan led the DePaul Blue Demons to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament in the 1942-43 season to launch his revolutionary career as the game’s first-ever dominant big. By the time Mikan left the Blue Demons, he was three-time All-American and well on his way to becoming the most dominant force the game had ever seen to that point.

espn mikan marquee
Madison Square Garden’s Marquee famously advertised George Mikan vs. the Knicks, completely leaving out the rest of the Minneapolis Lakers. photo courtesy of ESPN.com

As a professional, Mikan starred for the dynastic Minneapolis Lakers, winning five titles in six years ranging from the 1948-49 season to the 1953-54 season. Over his eight-year career, Mikan averaged 23 points and 13 rebounds per game, to rule the basketball universe. Mikan’s talent and size alone were not all that made him special, however. Mikan was quite simply one of the toughest S.O.B.s ever to lace up a pair of high-tops, missing just two games, due to a viral infection, throughout his career despite sustaining multiple broken bones, fractured elbows, fingers, and arms to go along with 166 stitches.

Mikan changed the game forever and laid the foundation for the NBA’s dominant centers to come. Not only was he the league’s first dominant center but as the first dominant center for the Lakers, a franchise that has since heralded all-time greats, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Shaquille Oneal.

Day 100

CHAMBERLAIN

Wilt Chamberlain holds up the number “100” after scoring 100 points against the New York Knickerbockers. photo courtesy of thescore.com

Basketball is a journey in and of itself. The story of the game is told by those with the talent, grace and awe-factor to redefine, reshape, and revolutionize what started with two peach baskets 126 years ago. 100 Days of Hoops is a celebration of the evolution and history of the game we love. This is a journey through both time and space through the basketball realm.

Over the course of the next 100 days, Hardwood Features invites you to join in on this exploration of hoops heritage, counting down from 100 to 1. The number of each day will feature a piece of hoops history significant to the day of the countdown. These posts will commemorate groundbreaking years, revolutionary players, and basketball titans that were so influential the very rules of the game were altered around them.  This is 100 days of hoops.

100

On March 2, 1962, New York Knickerbocker’s starting center, Phil Jordan was out with the flew. No day is ever a good day to be sick, but the day your team is slated to play the Philadelphia Warriors and your assignment is to guard a 25-year-old Wilt Chamberlain… let’s just say you may be letting the squad down a bit by taking a sick day.

Guarded by Darrall Imhoff and Cleveland Buckner, Chamberlain got off to a very hot start, scoring 23 of the Warriors’ 42 first-quarter points. Chamberlain is well known as the most dominant player ever to play the game and this game took place in his most dominant season, averaging a preposterous 50.4 points per game. The only place Chamberlain was even close to stoppable was at the free throw line where he shot only 61 percent. Through the first 12 quarter however, “Wilt the Stilt” was a perfect nine of nine from the stripe. By halftime, he had accumulated 41 points. In the third, he added another 28. With fans chanting, “Give it to Wilt!”, Chamberlain went 12 of 21 from the field and seven of 10 from the charity stripe through the final 12 minutes of the game to finish the night.

Chamberlain played all 48 minutes in the Warriors 169-147 victory over the Knickerbockers. 100 of the Warriors’ points, famously belonged to Chamberlain who went 36 of 63 from the field and 28 of 32 from the foul line. While Chamberlain’s 100 is unlikely to ever be matched or surpassed, another Warrior recently came close in his own way.

Thompson-60.jpg

Golden State Warrior guard Klay Thompson shoots over Indiana Pacers’ forward Paul George in his 60-point performance at Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif. (Photo courtesy of thehoopdoctors.com)

December 5, 2016, Klay Thompson of the now Golden State Warriors scored 60 points in just 29 minutes to traumatize the Indiana Pacers. Thompson’s performance breaks down to 2.07 points per minute which is just shy of Chamberlain’s 2.08 54 years earlier. When adjusting Thompson’s performance to the same minutes played by Chamberlain, Thompson was on pace to finish between 99 and 100 points.  If Chamberlain’s record ever is to be broken, it will likely be done by a player like Thompson who went eight for 14 from the 3-point line that night. The 3-point line was not implemented to the NBA until the start of the 1979-80 season, seven years after Chamberlain’s retirement following the 1972-73 season.