In just over three months, Dennis Rodman was the highest-profile American to ever have an audience with North Korea's political hierarchy, then returned to the states and finished in ninth place on Celebrity Apprentice.
HoopsVibe Very Quick Call: Dennis Rodman gets around.
HoopsVibe Very Quick Call: Julius Erving of the Philadelphia 76ers was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, making him the only player to win MVP honors in both the NBA and the ABA.
To this day, only a handful of players have revolutionized the entire game, not just the NBA, the way Dr. J did. And not just in terms of on the court success, of which he had plenty, but in terms of personal style. Dr. J was the alpha male of his era and even if you knew nothing about basketball, just seeing the way he floated across the court, told you he was the man everyone else wanted to be.
Erving won three championships, four Most Valuable Player Awards, and three scoring titles with the ABA's Virginia Squires and New York Nets (now the NBA's Brooklyn Nets) and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. He is the fifth-highest scorer in professional basketball history with 30,026 points (NBA and ABA combined).
And he wasn't just a finesse scoring type of player- Dr J was mean and reflected the era in which he played. Case in point, his fight with Larry Bird:
Erving was inducted in 1993 into the Basketball Hall of Fame and was also named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time team. In 1994, Erving was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the 40 most important athletes of all time.
For crying out loud, the term "slam" dunk was coined to describe the way Erving attacked the rim. Before him, dunking was a practice usually among big men to show their dominance, strength and physicality. There was no art or style to it. The dunk was judged by manyas style over substance and unsportsmanlike. Erving, however, changed that misconception and turned the dunk into the most exciting, expressive shot in the game. The "slam dunk" became an art form and came to help popularize the sport.
With no Dr. J, there would be no Michael Jordan, no Charles Barkley, no Kobe, and certainly no LeBron James.
HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: The season's not over, but comparisons have already begun. This one's a lot closer than Heat haters want to admit.
The question has been boiling to the service as the Miami Heat's winning streak kept growing. Now that it's over some comparisons are unavoidable. Both teams are clearly dominating the league, but lets go inside the numbers.
Win Streak: Lakers 33 games, Miami 27.
Overall Record: Lakers 69-13, Miami 56-15 (11 games left)
Big 3: Lakers (Chamberlain, West, Goodrich), Miami (James, Wade, Bosh).
Lead over closest team: Lakers 18 games ahead of the Warriors, Miami 11.5 ahead of the Knicks.
Points Per Game: Lakers 121, Miami 103.4.
Points Allowed Per Game: Lakers, 108.7, Miami 95.6.
Field Goal %: Lakers 49%, Miami 49.6%.
Computer Simulation: Gives the edge to the Lakers 54% of the time. (Got to love the age of computers)
Looks like the Lakers are the better team on paper. If these two squads went head-to-head it would be a match-up nightmare for both squads. Who does Miami put on Chamberlain? Who do the Lakers put on LeBron? Although both teams would put up big numbers the Lakers would eventually win. They'd dominate the boards and although Wade's quickness would offset some Laker offense, the big three of Los Angeles are more balanced in terms of skill sets. West, Goodrich, and Chamberlain are position players. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are hybrid players that still today don't always know their roles.
Of course, all bets are off if the Heat don't win the championship at the end of the season. If we learned nothing from the New England Patriots almost undefeated season before they lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, it's that great regular season count for almost nothing if you don't cap it off with a ring.
So it got me thinking: Who are the best one on one match-ups in NBA history?
Here are the first batlles that came to mind.
Shaquille O'Neal vs. Hakeem Olajuwon
Their match-up in the 1995 NBA Finals has been washed asunder by the tides of history, but at the time, this may have been the best duel I have ever witness. Hakeem was paying the best basketball of his career this season (in the playoffs particularly)and maybe the best stretch for any center in NBA history. Shaq led the NBA in scoring this season (29.3 ppg) and was in the midst of establishing himself as the most physically dominant center ever. In the Finals, Hakeem averaged 32.8 ppg and Shaq scored 28.0 ppg.
They played against each other 27 times, including 11 games in the playoffs of 1971 and 1972. In their first 11 meetings, Chamberlain was still able to (i.e. inclined to) score with Jabbar. In those first 11 games, Wilt averaged 22.8 ppg and 17.6 rebounds, while Kareem averaged 26.0 ppg and 15.6 rebounds.
50 ppg, 30.1 ppg over his career, 23 rebounds/game over his career, the only non-guard ever to lead the league in assists, 100 points in one game, the list goes on...Wilt was simply more dominating.
Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James
This is absolutely the most exciting match-up in the current NBA, with both players battling every night for supremacy. In five playoff games (last year's NBA Finals), KD outscored LBJ 30.6 ppg to 28.6 ppg. But James dominated in every other statistical category and also won the title, by a margin of 4-1. In 11 regular season match-ups it's the same story; Durant averages 29.0 to LBJ's 28.1, "Bron Bron" has the edge in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks and has won nine of the 11 games. "Durantula" has some work to do, potentially in this years NBA Finals.
Dominique Wilkins vs. Michael Jordan
Of their era, these were the two most athletically gifted, electrifying players. WIlkins at times, looked like he almost had too much energy for his body, while MJ was always smooooooth. In 45 career games against each other, Jordan won 27 while "Nique" won 18. MJ averaged 31.6, while Wilkins poured in 29.8 as both players had almost identical stat lines. In one playoff series that the Bulls swept, Jordan averaged 34.3, 6.7 rpg, 4.3 apg to Nique's 30.0, 5.3 rpg and 3.0 apg.
Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan
The significance of this rivalry isn't as much about the head to head play, though that was extremely entertaining, but about what it meant to the league- was it not old MJ versus a young version of himself? Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan played each other 8 times, four when Jordan was with the Chicago Bulls and 4 when he was with the Washington Wizards. The Lakers won 5 of those games. Across these games, Bryant scored an average of 22.8 points, while Jordan scored 24.5 points.
Lebron James punks a lot of people by dunking on them, but no one was more enjoyable to posterize than Jason Terry.
Hoopsvibe's quick call: Terry is known for trash talking; now he can also be known for getting dunked on.
There's been a lot of bad blood brewing between Jason Terry and Lebron James for the past few years. I'm pretty sure the rivalry elevated after Terry aka "Jet" and the Dallas Mavericks beat Lebron James and the Heat in the 2010-11 NBA Finals. And now that Terry has made the move to Boston, the Heat's main Eastern Conference rival, fuggetaboutit.
After Miami beat the Celtics in Monday night's game to earn their 23rd straight win, Lebron was interviewed by ESPN and explained why it was nice to dunk on the man they call Jet.
"I've had a chance to [review] it, and it was one of my better ones," James said of his dunk on Terry after the game. "The fact that it happened to J.T. made it that much sweeter. Because we all know J.T. and he talks too much sometimes. And I'm glad it happened to him."
But you got to give credit to Lebron and the Heat because the dunk was pretty nasty. Not only the dunk, even, but the entire play. First, Wade stole it from Terry in the backcourt, flipped a pass behind his back to Haslem who volleyed it over to Norton who lobbed it up to Lebron. It was like something you see from the Harlem Globetrotters.
Before the game, Terry commented in regards to Miami's win streak, saying, "[I'm] not really impressed with it or anything they do."
I can only imagine he wasn't impressed getting dunked on either.
(On a side note, the Heat came back from a 27-point deficit Wednesday night to beat Lebron's former squad, the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was the largest blown-lead in Cavs history, and Miami's 24th straight win. The Heat currently have the second longest win streak in NBA history behind only the '71-'72 Lakers.)
LeBron and the Heat have won 17 in a row, but they've got their work cut out if they want to break this record.
HoopsVibe Very Quick Call: The Heat are currently tied for the 12th longest winning streak in NBA history.
The current 17 game streak is tied with the Clippers for longest winning streak this season. But, both are just slightly more than half as long as the all-time best.
33, LA Lakers 1971-'72
The Lakers didn't lose a game for over two months, going a combined 30-0 in November and December.Led by Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, Pat Riley and Jim McMillian (and including former Phil Jackson assistant coach Jim Cleamons), the 1971-72 Lakers are arguably the greatest team of all time.
22, Houston Rockets 2007-'08
You may be surprised to know that the second longest winning streak is 22 held by the Houston Rockets in 2007-08. Nobody expected anything out of the Rockets that year and they somehow went off before showing "they are who we thought they were" and losing in the first round of the playoffs. Sadly for T-Mac and Yao, this was the height of their time together.
20, Washington Capitols 1947-'48 thru 1948-'49
The Capitols were part of the Basketball Association of America before being absorbed into the NBA in 1949. Not coincidentally, the team was led by NBA Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach, who led the squad from 1946-'49. The team won 20 games through two seasons.
20, Milwaukee Bucks 1970-'71
Already boasting Lew Alcindor at center, the Bucks acquired Oscar Robertson in a trade and found immediate success. The Bucks set a franchise record for wins that season (66) that still stands and won the NBA title in their third year of existence, the fastest for an expansion team in NBA history. The 20 game win streak was exceeded a year later by the same Lakers team that leads this list. Interestingly, this Bucks squad beat that Lakers team and snapped their NBA record 33 game win streak.
19, LA Lakers 1999-'00
In Phil Jackson's first year as coach, the Lakers started the season by winning 31 of their first 36 games, which included a 16 game winning streak. Later in the season, from February 4th to March 16th, LA won 19 in a row. After that loss, the Shaq and Kobe led squadron won another 11 in a row and earlier in the year also had a seven game streak. One of the best teams in NBA history, LA won the title by beating the Pacers 4-2.
19, Boston Celtics 2008-'09
The Celtics started out 27-2, including the 19 game win streak, and also had a 10 game streak to their credit. Boston won 62 games but lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs after Kevin Garnett was injured and missed most of the second half of the season. The first round seven game series versus the Bulls is arguably the greatest playoff series in NBA history.
Just two more wins would put the Heat into the top five. Four more wins would make their streak the second longest in NBA history. 16 more (man, that's a ton of games!) Would tie them with the Lakers for longest streak ever- think they can do it?