Friday, March 14, 2008

A personal slant on NBA history

I've been prowling YouTube for NBA videos from the time when I was playing a lot of basketball at school and watching the games we'd get telecast on the ABC in Australia the night after they'd played. 1989-1990 in particular developed a regular friday night routine. The weekly game with my school team, come home, shower, eat, and wait till 10pm or so for the NBA game to come on.

Some of the games were classics that people talk about. It was the Detroit "Bad Boys" era; the Jordan/Pippen Bulls; the end of the Lakers "Showtime" era of Magic, Worthy, Green, etc; the closing seasons for Celtics legends like Bird, McHale, & Parrish; the Spurs with David Robinson; Barkley at the 76ers coming close time after time; Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues at the Hornets; Dominique Wilkins; Clyde the Glide at Portland; its a long list.

Here's a few of the videos I really enjoyed...

John Stockton

I wanted to be John Stockton. The man had the ball on a string. Or a rubber band to be more precise. Of course, he had Karl Malone to feed to time and time again. " Malone...basket" was a commentary track that they could've had on tape and just pressed a button everytime they were on a fast break. And like Hoopedia says: "As Stockton giveth, he taketh away." A league leader in assists and steals, he had fast hands and the kind of skills I'd have loved to have. He always seemed to be the kind of player who knew his limitations. Running a fast break he'd never get high enough to dunk over a retreating forward, or maybe even a stronger guard. So, he'd look, sometimes without anyone realising, he just knew where his team mates were. Away would go the ball once the defence was in the air or out of position, and the points flowed. Always good to watch.

Charles Barkley

This was a guy I didnt get into much when I watched him play as when I was a teenager because I was always a guard. Now that I've played as a forward, I understand and appreciate this guy a whole lot more. Perhaps as a kid he was the guy you loved to hate, but you cant hate people who arent good at what they do. And Charles was good. The series of blocks he pulls off at about 1:25 in are amazing. I know its a highlight reel and all, but still, there's probably a whole lot more that didnt get featured. It's a shame Sir Charles didnt win a championship.

Magic Johnson

He didnt get that nickname by deed poll. Magic earned it. By the time I was watching enough of him, he'd been playing 6 or 7 years in the NBA. Showtime came about because Magic and the rest of the team were of like minds and skills. Behind the back, between the legs, no-look, inside, outside, upside-down, Magic could do it and make it stick as well as look easy. Los Angeles suited Showtime, and lapped it up. Other teams had the same skills, but couldnt or didnt add that flair to the game like Magic did.

Larry Bird

Larry always struck me as the dorky white guy. But he was a great player. If you needed a buzzer-beater, Larry was The Man. It was awesome to watch Celtics/Lakers matches where he and Magic were playing to see who won on the night. Of course, you cant have flair without a good base, and both Bird and Magic had incredibly solid base skills. Bird was no fuss, do what needed to be done, and celebrate later. Which he did with 3 Championships. The sight of Larry Bird laying on his stomach on a towel courtside while he was on the bench is enduring, the temporary remedy for his many late-career back problems.

The Bird/Magic story is a long one, and perhaps one of the best in NBA history. It started in the 1979 NCAA Championship and ended when Bird retired in October 1992. 1979, Michigan State, with Magic Johnson, beat an as yet undefeated Indiana State team with Larry Bird in the NCAA Final. 1992, Larry Bird retired with back problems. Magic retired for good in 1995.

There's a great list, "The 50 Greatest NBA Players", as named in October, 1996, and links to all the players here. Well worth a read if you're into basketball history.

Also, scour the YouTube 'related' tab if you want to take a walk across years of basketball talent, too.

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