Archive for the ‘Lakers-Celtics’ Category

Mitch Kupchak was a very good NBA player for the Washington Bullets and L.A. Lakers

March 4, 2012
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Former Washington Bullet Mitch Kupchak at a charity event in Gaithersburg, Maryland in 1980. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

I recently wrote an article on Examiner.com about how professional journalists continue to pronounce Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak’s name wrong. (It’s Kup-CHAK, not Kup-CHEK). That’s pretty pathetic.  Anyway, Kupchak has 10 NBA championship rings – seven with the Lakers as an executive, two as a player, and one as a player for the Washington Bullets in 1978. Kupchak was an All-America at North Carolina, ACC Player of the Year, started on the 1976 U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal, and played a key role as a member of the ’78 Bullets and ’85 Lakers championship teams. Jerry West put together most of the Lakers’ title teams, but Kupchak deserves credit for at least the two most recent ones.  Anyway, if Kupchak led the Knicks to a title rather than the Bullets, everyone would pronounce his name right.

It’s too bad how we always forget the past. Now I’m getting a little off topic, but Charles Barkley always mentions himself, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, and Dennis Rodman as the best power forwards ever, and he never mentions Elvin Hayes, as if basketball wasn’t played before Barkley’s era.

Never forget the Washington Bullets, the 1978 NBA champions.

Click here to read my article on Mitch Kupchak on Examiner.com.

25 years ago Maryland basketball player Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose

June 19, 2011

The grave of Len Bias. Photo by Mike Frandsen

Twenty-five years ago today something happened that was so shocking that it was hard to fathom that it really took place.

On June 19, 1986, University of Maryland basketball player Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose.

The scene that morning, as documented in news reports, was surreal and tragic as family members and teammates learned the news after gathering at Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale, Maryland.

Kirk Fraser recounted the story of Bias’ death in an ESPN documentary, 30 for 30: Without Bias.

It was like a nightmare that seems so real and then you wake up.  Only this was real.  It haunts Maryland fans to this day.

Bias was not only the best player ever at Maryland, he was the greatest player in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference. He was better than Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, David Thompson, and Ralph Sampson. Bias was a power forward with the strength of a center, the quickness of a small forward and the touch of a shooting guard. But that doesn’t come close to telling the story.

To read the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.

Shaquille O’Neal retires: Is Shaq the most overrated center of all time?

June 3, 2011

Shaq retired today, upstaging the NBA finals.  He is one of the most overrated players of all time.  No other great player got to play with so many all-time greats – Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, LeBron James, and at the end, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett though that doesn’t really count.  Has there ever been a player in the history of the NBA who played with more great players?  Shaq could have never won a championship without an all-time great next to him.  Hakeem Olajuwon was better – he got two titles with a worse supporting cast, and swept Shaq’s Magic in the finals.  Wilt Chamberlain dominated the game much more than Shaq.  Bill Russell won more titles and was a better defender and shot blocker.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a much better scorer, wiht an all-time move (the sky-hook) and won six titles, though he did have Magic and Worthy.

Shaq simply didn’t have many offensive moves at all and didn’t rebound as well as you would expect for someone so big and athletic.  He was often out of shape and injured.  He was one of the worst free throw shooters of all time.  Moses Malone was just as good, though no one admits it.  David Robinson was almost as good – Shaq benefitted from his sheer size.  And Shaq got the benefit of many calls from the refs.

Yes, he was great, four titles, excellent scorer, lots of numbers, but I would have loved to have seen how he would have done with the teammates that Patrick Ewing had.  Probably the same – no titles.  At least Ewing won an NCAA title.

And I’m tired of hearing about how outgoing he is.  That shouldn’t be considered in how great of a player he was.

Former Washington Bullet Mitch Kupchak: 8 NBA championship rings

June 19, 2010

Former Washington Bullet and current L.A. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, circa 1981. Photo by Mike Frandsen

Congratulations to former Washington Bullet Mitch Kupchak, L.A. Lakers general manager, for putting together back-to-back NBA champions.

Is anybody ever going to pronounce Kupchak’s name correctly? It’s Kup-CHAK, not Kup-CHEK.  First, it was Jim Rome, who has done his show from L.A. for many years, who mispronounced his name over and over.  Then it was Ernie Johnson of TNT.  Then after Game 7 of the NBA finals it was NBA Commissioner David Stern saying “Kup-check.”  There have probably been many others.

How bout some respect for Kupchak, who has 8 NBA championship rings?  Kupchak won three championships as a player (one with the Washington Bullets in 1978 when he averaged 16 points and 7 rebounds as a reserve, one with the Lakers in ’82, and one with the Lakers in ’85), and five as a general manager.  Ok, Jerry West built the Kobe-Shaq threepeat Lakers, but Kupchak built the team that has made the finals now three years in a row, winning each of the last two seasons.

Kupchak averaged double figures in points for five of his first six seasons in the NBA, and overall, averaged 19 points a game for his nine NBA seasons when his minutes are projected over 36 minutes.

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe, one of the most respected sportswriters in the country, wrote two years ago, “Neither the 1978 Bullets nor the 1985 Lakers could have won championships” without Kupchak.

By the way, Kupchak also won a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics and was an All-American at North Carolina.

Lakers-Celtics

June 13, 2010

Lock of the year — the Lakers win Game 6 Tuesday night.  The league wants it to go 7 games.

Are these the worst NBA playoffs ever?

May 22, 2010

No drama at all, boring games, too many sweeps.  The playoffs were so much better years ago.  It seems like the Suns, Mavs, Spurs and Lakers had some amazing 6 and 7 game series in the last decade, and in the 90s it was the same for the Pacers and Knicks, plus you had Jordan and the Bulls.  Remember the Lakers-Kings and Lakers-Blazers series?  True, the league gave the series to the Lakers back then but they were unbelievably dramatic games.  The Kings in 2002 were one of the best teams ever – the best passing team I’ve ever seen.  Back in the 78 series the Washington Bullets got by the Iceman and the Doctor, beating the Spurs and Sixers in 6 games each, then outlasted the Sonics in 7 games, winning the title on Seattle’s home floor.  The quality of play is much worse now.  We can only hope for a 7 game series between the Lakers and the Celtics.

Former Washington Bullet Kevin Grevey on the ’78 NBA title season, Kentucky, and the Wizards

May 13, 2010

Kevin Grevey of the Washington Bullets shoots over former Kentucky teammate Rick Robey of the Boston Celtics.

Before the Redskins won their first Super Bowl, and before Maryland and Georgetown won national championships in college basketball, the Washington Bullets gave D.C. its first championship in 36 years when they won the NBA title in 1978.

Before the blue and bronze of the Washington Wizards, there was the red, white, and blue of the Washington Bullets. Local musician Nils Lofgren wrote a hit song, “Bullets Fever,”  that was played over and over during the spring of 1978 on Washington radio stations. The name Bullets was synonymous with winning, as they made the playoffs 18 times in 20 seasons in the ’70s and ’80s.

For the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

Lakers-Celtics Rivalry

December 4, 2008

The L.A. Lakers-Boston Celtics matchup in the 2008 NBA Finals reminded us of the great Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 1980s.  The games in the 1980s were spectacular and those teams made the NBA more popular than ever.  But the media seem to forget that the Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers also had a great rivalry in the 1980s.  In fact, the Lakers and Sixers played each other in the NBA finals the same number of times (three) that the Lakers and Celtics played each other in the finals.  It just seems like the Lakers and Celtics played each other more often, because the Lakers won five championships in the 80s, the Celtics won three, and the Sixers had one. 

 

Speaking of the Celtics, hearing about Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen being called the “Big Three” and being compared with the “Big Three” of the Celtics in the 1980s also gets tiresome.  Not because the current Celtics stars don’t stack up – they do, talent-wise (whether they could beat the 80s Celtics is debatable).  But the Celtics of the 1980s were more than just the Big Three of Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish.  As much as I rooted against them (and I hated them like I hated the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees, UNC basketball and Duke basketball), I have to admit that they had other players who were equally as important as Parish.  Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge were just as important as Parish, especially since the Celtics already had great front court players in Bird and McHale.  (Slam Magazine agrees that Parish wasn’t so much better than Dennis Johnson – on its top 75 NBA players of all time as of 2003, Johnson comes in at 63 whereas Parish was 56th).

 

Back to the Lakers.  The teams of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil, who won three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002, were nowhere near as good as the Lakers of the 1980s.  In 2002, the Sacramento Kings were a better team than the Kobe-Shaq Lakers, but the referees called the infamous Game 6 of the Western Conference finals overwhelmingly in favor of L.A., awarding the Lakers 27 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter to the Kings nine.  Most fans know that something wasn’t right in that game. 

 

But less memorable was the fact that two years earlier, the Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers in game 7 of the Western Conference Finals after being down by 15.  Of course, the Lakers played great and the Blazers choked.  However, at the same time there were a whole lot of bad calls made against the Blazers, probably because the NBA wanted the more glamorous, big market Lakers to advance.  The Lakers were granted 37 free throws in that game while the Blazers got 16.  You can only argue so much that the team that penetrates more gets more favorable calls because the 37-16 disparity was too great. 

 

Back to the point, though, that not only were two of Shaq and Kobe’s championships possibly tainted, but they simply wouldn’t have stacked up against Magic, Kareem, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott and A.C. Green.  Finally, the teams the Kobe-Shaq Lakers beat – the New Jersey Nets, 76ers, and Indiana Pacers were not teams for the ages, and in 2004 they lost to the good but not great Detroit Pistons.  Meanwhile, in the 80s, the Lakers beat Dr. J’s Sixers twice, Bird’s Celtics twice, and Isaiah Thomas’ Pistons once.


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