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  1. Among the great athletes of the 20th century Julius Erving, Dr. J, deserves mention among the most famous, most relevant, best and most impactful. He played professional basketball from 1971 to 1987, 11 years in the NBA for Philadelphia, five years in the ABA for two different teams. Dr J, who has been referenced here quite a bit, albeit without a thread, introduced artistic soaring, starting from the outer edge of the court slam dunking to the NBA. He was certainly not the first, but he elevated it and turned it into a "thing", now, and for 3 decades one of the most commented and revered parts of the game. During his first five years of professional ball he played in the upstart ABA, winning two championships and dominated his team and the league, at times leading his team in points rebounds assists and guarding the best forward on the other team. In the NBA he led a Philadelphia team that kept competing for a championship all the while featuring the individual play of stars, (like Erving) while negating the team game. Frankly I got to watch him a bit in the 70's and 80's. In the 70's I saw him play for the Nets against a Denver team with a similarly talented super duper star, David Thompson, wherein they both elevated their games to lead their teams and created one of the more memorable sporting events I've ever seen. Dr J is among the 50 great basketball players of all time, appropriately so. Some of his most startling plays..... and then a look at his ABA slam dunk competition against among others David Thompson.....
  2. David Thompson was at NC State right around the time when I became a sports fanatic. My uncle was a professor at the University of Maryland, and my aunt was Assistant Superintendent of schools in Howard County - bottom line: free season tickets to University of Maryland basketball games for several years, dating all the way back to the Jim O'Brien years and continuing through their "three-guard offense" years (remember that?). At my age, Thompson, by sheer reputation and from the couple of times I saw him play in college, was essentially a space alien. I didn't really follow pro basketball back then, so Thompson, to me, was the best player in the world. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Kobe Bryant have scored more points than David Thompson in one NBA game.
  3. Don: I think this is the ONLY great 17 year run characterized by a single coach and a single starter. The ONLY one. Simply unprecedented. One other remarkable thing about this run of coach/player/superstar and many many changing parts: Their style of play has changed ...and changed dramatically over this run. In the early years Duncan was the hub of the offense and was a "twin tower" with David Robinson. Robinson, who had been a huge star in his own right graciously moved from being the offensive highlight of the team and put even more effort into defense...and Tim Duncan was the offensive focus. Then over many years the team changed and kept changing in composition...and over the last several years especially as Duncan has aged the focus of the offense changed considerably. Between the Robinson years and the more recent years...a different offensive focus arose as Parker and Ginobelli became stars in their own right and style and partook in 4 of the 5 championships while becoming stars in their own right. Parker significantly evolved as he added passing to his repertoire and his remarkable ability to penetrate, along with developing a reliable jump shot. Ginobelli is a remarkable player in his own right. In the last couple of years the team evolved again. This particular team this year remarkably showed off an exquisite passing attack spread throughout the team. So many players contributed in this thorough passing attack. Really remarkable that an entire team participated. I particularly found it fascinating in that Tiago Splitter, who looked like a big stiff to me, became the recipient and the passer of so many effective incredibly quick "touch passes" that resulted in baskets. Was he capable of this before he joined the Spurs? I doubt it. Finally this article expounded on advanced metrics by stats.com that chart things like "miles run by the team" spacing, and other advanced metrics that work to explain this transformation. The spurs outran the Heat by almost 1 mile in their 3rd and 4th games...and outpassed them by over 100 passes per game in that dominant stretch. Of relevance here: within the world of basketball, and often publicized, Coach "Pop" is well noted as a foodie. Last year, after losing the championship, two long time assistant coaches left to take over other pro teams and two new assistant coaches joined the team. One thing they noted was that at team and group preparatory meetings there diets were going to change from beer and burgers to wine and fish and finer dining. Maybe its Coach Pop's foodie obsession that has helped fuel this extended period of excellence. Were the Spurs that great in this series or the Heat that bad? I'm not sure. But it was a dominant victory during a long stretch of excellence.
  4. The last line in this video can teach us that greatness almost *always* stands on the backs of giants. Had Erving only known, had he had himself to draw from, had he spent ten years practicing this dunk and training to do it, who knows what kind of flare he would have come up with? Instead, it's something he came up with on short notice. Michael Jordan and Vince Carter (shown at the end of the video) grew up in their gyms dreaming about being Dr. J. One very interesting component to Jordan's version: He held the ball low, with a bent elbow, at the same level of his forehead, right up until the point when he began to descend. Only then did he slowly extend his arm upward, so it appeared that he was rising the entire way to the basket, when, in fact, he began dropping long before he reached the rim. It was a brilliant slight-of-hand illusion, and was probably well-thought-out in advance.
  5. Moses Malone passed away last week in his sleep at age sixty and was buried yesterday in Houston. Charles Barkley, an ex teammate was asked by the family to give the eulogy and did so in a moving story, evidently so true to the many basketball players tha knew him. A portion of the eulogy can be seen here. Malone mentored Barkley, pushing goading and training with him to get Barkley to shed weight and become the player he ultimately did. Malone is one of the all time greats. He ranks very highly among NBA stars for a significant number of career achievements including: points 7th games 5th minutes 6th rebounds 3rd offensive rebounds 1st (the nba doesn't have stats on this for Russel or Chamberlain) free throws 2nd In many lists of the greatest NBA players Moses usually ranks somewhere between 12 and 20th. Locally Moses played two years for the Bullets in the mid '80's. During those years the Bullets made the playoffs, probably mostly because of Moses. He picked up the mantle from Wes Unseld, as the fundamentally powerful center that dramatically improved the team, mostly doing it in ways that were neither exciting or breathtaking, but key to great basketball. Where he was great was at being relentless on the boards and specifically the offensive boards. Between his rebounding and shooting he drew an incredible number of fouls. On that basis he knew he could compete with any center in history, as he knew he could draw fouls on them. While he doesn't shine as one of the most exciting players one can see this relentlessness feature in old videos of Moses circa 1978-1984 when he was probably the best center in the game, (having surpassed Jabbar). You'll see Moses on the boards, rebounding scoring, and getting defenders to foul him. In an NBA championship series against the Celtics, before Moses was traded to the 76ers Moses had the Celtics big men (Parish and McHale) in constant foul trouble and made a seeming mismatch into a competitive series. Moses played 2 years for the Bullets, during which I got to watch him a good bit, and before that he played for the 76ers in the same division, thus playing quite a few games at the old Cap Center. Again I was privileged to see him play. He simply dominated in the middle, always with a relentless style on the boards and with short simple shots around the basket. He might well have been the least spectacular NBA star playing at such a high level, that simply added to his team's strength, while not pulling the ball or attention from other players. That might have been his greatest asset to the team game. During his hey day he was a 3 time NBA MVP...clearly being identified as having a dominant stretch probably from his mid 20's to the time he hit 30. According to Bill Simmons in his epic book about the NBA, The Book of Basketball, per Simmons after watching endless old tapes of the NBA, Moses invented the Ass Attack. While on offense and ostensibly being boxed out, Moses would circle around, go out of bounds, come back in under the basket and ass shove any defensive player out of his way to grab offensive rebounds. Did he do that?? I don't know. Haven't watched the tapes. But boy if I were a coach of a big galoot without offensive skills I'd do what Simmons claimed he did and watch old tapes of Malone. If Moses did do that, its pure basketball genius and I'd coach up any monster tall man to replicate that strategy. Big Mo', a solid super star with a dominant streak and one who played locally albeit for two years. An all time great.
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