Over the past two weeks, it seems as if I have been showing a tad bit of favoritism towards the Boston Celtics. I apologize. I did not mean to offend anyone, and I didn't mean to harm LeBron James. So I'm writing to dismiss the myth that I only like one thing in the NBA, the Boston Celtics. From here on out, I shall not mention "The Team Who Shall Not Be Named." Wink, wink!
#10 LeBron James: I love hating on King James as much as I love seeing him drive to the basket. He's simply a physical beast. When God made him, He made him to drive and to dunk. If I ever met James, I wouldn’t know whether to bow down or to show him a picture of what a championship ring would look like. I kid, I kid! But, seriously, he’ll be lucky if he ever comes close to it. His best chance is this year. However, the NBA is better for James. He's a future Hall of Famer.
#9 Dwight Howard in the All-Star Game Slam Dunk Competition: First of all, who doesn’t like the creativity of the NBA's highfliers? When Howard a.k.a. Superman puts on his cape, steps out of the phone booth and appears at least 5 ft above the rim for an eye popping dunk it is nothing short of spectacular. Got dang! Is that even physically possible? It’s a bird; it’s a plane; no, it’s Dwight Howwward!
#8 Charles Barkley: I just love his flamboyant personality and antics. Besides, he gives the best quotes ever. Here’s a sample:
1) While responding to Kevin James saying “Yao Ming is the best player on the Houston Rockets," Barkley replies, “Next thing you’re gonna tell me is that Robert Horry and Rick Fox are the Lakers' best players.
2) “If I want to lose every dime I have, it should be up to me."
3) [One of my favorite quotes by him] “I can be bought. If they paid me enough, I’d work for the clan." When will America give that man his own show? I’m talking about a stand-up comedy show titled “What the BLEEP?" Anyhow, Barkley was a stand-out player and will always be a great basketball personality.
#7 The Baby Bulls: They remind me of the Baby Braves of a few years ago. They’re eager, determined and passionate. Led by Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, and Joakim Noah (I forgive the fact that he is a Florida Gator) the Baby Bulls are once again giving the Windy City something to cheer about. And, they haven’t had anything to cheer about since Michael Jordan’s retirement. I should know. I couldn’t watch my Bulls for that long after Jordan left. I slowly watched Pippen, Kukoc, Kerr, and the rest of the family faded into memories of the past. They’re back and fighting for their lives in the first round. As Dick Vitale would say, "SHOOT THE J!"
#6 The Playoffs: After you weed out all of the sorry teams, all you have left are the competitors. These are the teams that make the NBA watchable during the regular season. These are the guys that put on the shows and clinics. I’m talking about the same game that brought new meaning to the mail man not delivering on a Sunday. I’m talking about Reggie Miller hitting 3 three-pointers in like 20 seconds against Jordan’s Bulls. I’m talking about Magics' Lakers going toe-to-toe with Bird’s Celtics. I’m talking about Game 4 of the 2007-2008 Finals. I’m talking about a possible match-up where the legend (Kobe Bryant) meets the myth (LeBron James). 40 Games in 40 Nights and the headline still is "Anything is Possible!"
#5 The Foreigners: In the past decade, there has been an influx of foreign players stepping onto American soil. Players such as Steve Nash (Canada), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Yao Ming (China), Tony Parker (France), and Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) have all improved the NBA and American basketball. They have made our centers learn how to shoot and to better defend the outside shot. The American players now have more competition. Any tough college competitor has to earn his way into the NBA. It is no longer a rite of passage for the best collegiate players. Also, in international basketball, the Americans are no longer what they used to be. The other teams don’t fear them. In doing so, it has made our Olympians hungry once again. To the foreigners: Thank you for making us better and the game better. Competition, indeed, drives performance.
#4 The Villains: The list of villains goes on and on and on. Still yet, it is so great. Some of the most notable villains are Isiah Thomas, Latrell Sprewell, Ron Artest, Stephon Marbury, and Dennis Rodman. These are the people that either help run a team into the ground (Isiah), the people that bring a new definition to the term "choke artist" (Sprewell), the people that aren’t afraid to attack the hecklers (Artest), and the people that talk way too much while sitting on the bench and getting paid millions (Marbury). Rodman is just Rodman. From the women to the defense of Shaq to the numerous hair colors, Rodman kept the NBA interesting. The NBA needs villains. But, on their behalf, I would like to apologize to the Knicks’ organization, to the Pacers’ organization, to the Golden State Warriors’ organization, and to P.J. Carlesimo (no coach ever expects to get choked by a player during practice). Long live the villains.
#3 Point Guards: I have an affinity towards point guards. Besides, I used to play the position. These are the true ballers of the game. Nash, Tony Parker, John Stockton, Jason Kidd, and Magic Johnson have all led their teams. In fact, their teams wouldn’t be the same without them. They bring basketball knowledge and court awareness into view. Without a good point guard, you better have a Jordan, Bryant, or James on your team.
#2 San Antonio Spurs: I haven’t been giving the Spurs their full recognition. It’s not because they don’t deserve it, but at the time of discussion, they just didn’t fit the bill. However, the Spurs are a team of consistency and determination. (Look at what they are currently doing in the playoffs.) They have been the team that has won more titles (4) than anyone else since the Jordan era. They have done it through teamwork. Every starter and every bench player is important to the organization. They may not be as flashy, but they get the work done. Though they don’t bring many followers to the NBA, they are a team that the NBA should be proud to have as a part of their organization.
#1 Kobe Bryant: The Lakers’ fans would assume that he would never be on my top 10 list, little do they know me. Bryant is a tremendous player that shows how his off-the-court routines enhance his on-the-court game. He now has the insight, the skills, the drive and the unselfishness to lead a team to a championship without Shaq. He is a player that seems like he is never on the down slopes of greatness. What most amazes me about Kobe is his heart. When you see him on the court you realize as soon as the ball is tipped off that he is a competitor and that he truly loves the game. At the Olympics, people were watching James, and I was watching Kobe. The gold meant so much to him. The same way that he went after the gold medal, with tenacity, he goes after the NBA Championship. Ali once said, "Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision," and Kobe Bryant has all of those things within him.
The NBA is filled with so many exciting things. I simply had to choose 10 of the things that have kept me tuned in for the past decade or so of my life. It’s been one helluva ride. It’s been filled with ups and downs with some stagnant parts thrown in. However, it keeps pulling me back in. Whether it is the emergence of new contenders and rookies, old rivalries getting re-heated, an All-Star gathering or a foreign invasion, the NBA is worth watching and worth talking about.
* I just can’t get enough of Charles Barkley.
"Somebody hits me, I’m going to hit him back. Even if it does look like he hasn’t eaten in a while." "My family got all over me because they said Bush is only for the rich people. Then I reminded them, 'Hey, I'm rich'." "My initial response was to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized that I had no character."