Tag Archives: Michael Jordan

One Last Answer: AI Lifted A Generation

18 Sep
Allen Iverson

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Allen Iverson speaks during induction ceremonies at Symphony Hall, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola). Originally appeared in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson’s induction into the National Basketball Hall of Fame last week was the culmination of the hopes and dreams of a generation of young people whose aspirations were often snuffed out before it had a chance to really to blossom into anything special.

As a basketball star and cultural icon, AI was “The Answer” in more ways than one. 

Iverson’s road to the Hall of Fame, to be sure, came from his dynamic basketball prowess. Yes, pound-for-pound he was one of the greatest little men, if not the greatest to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. Iverson’s blinding ferocity on the court against the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal made him popular players in the sport. His jersey sales rivaled that of his aforementioned contemporaries.

Between the 2001 NBA MVP Award, the scoring titles, the All-Star appearances including two MVP Awards in that game and leading an unlikely Philadelphia 76ers team on an improbable run to the 2001 NBA Finals, Iverson deserved to be in the company of the game’s legends. What he did on the court in his career was truly unforgettable.

Along with his legendary skills as a basketball, Iverson was a transcendent icon of an often misunderstood group of young people. Iverson defiantly wore his braids and tattoos much to the chagrin and distaste of the media that covered him. 

To a maligned group of young people who listened to Tupac, Biggie Smalls and Nas while they were being chastised by overly sanctimonious old heads, Iverson was their “folk” hero.  Iverson truly kept it real through the times he was right and through the times he was wrong.  To me, Iverson was the rebel that the late James Dean was to teenagers and young people of the 1950s.

Sometimes words like loyalty to the hood and never forgetting the brothers you met on the way up are not often meant or are thrown around like a punch line from a hood movie or a lyric in a rap song.

Throughout his career, Iverson took those who loved and nurtured him before he became a household name with him on his journey. Iverson was truly loyal to his friends and relatives from the Norfolk,Va.-Hampton roads area — sometimes to a fault.

During his Hall of Fame speech in Springfield, Mass., Iverson mentioned the names of all those friends and family members that put a few dollars in his pocket when he or his mom didn’t have it. That’s true loyalty and true love. That’s not just talking, that’s truly keeping it real.

For those of us here in Philly, Iverson now breathes the same air as the great basketball legends whose statures overshadow the city. As I have always said if you had to build a Mount Rushmore of Philadelphia basketball icons, you would include AI, Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Earl Monroe and John Chaney.

The memories of Iverson crossing Jordan, scoring and stepping over Tyronn Lue in the NBA Finals, outdueling Vince Carter in Game 7 of the 2001 East Conference finals will be stamped indelibly on the hearts and minds of Sixers fans everywhere.

For the young people who grew up in the midst of the crack epidemic and mass incarceration, Iverson was the Answer those who hoped to make out of their predicament whether it was jail or just the devastation of poverty.

Like Tupac and Biggie, Iverson wasn’t afraid to keep it real and tell his truth for a misrepresented generation of young people.  And so now the final Answer is … a Hall of Famer.

LeBron James: Once Upon a Time Called Right Now

24 Jun
LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. The Cavaliers won 93-89. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Instead of spending so much time in the NBA’s past with Michael Jordan, fans should allow themselves to witness the greatness that is LeBron James right now.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The seven-game epic that was the 2016 NBA Finals provided a kaleidoscope of highlights and tremendous plays.

But when the dust settled in Oakland on Sunday night, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was not only bringing the NBA Championship to a long-suffering, blue collar town used to being victimized by “The Drive” (John Elway, 1987 AFC Championship), “The Shot” (Michael Jordan, 1989 Eastern Conference Championship) and “The Fumble”(1988 AFC Championship), he was solidifying his lofty status as the best basketball player in the world.

Now, don’t get it twisted, James didn’t do it all by himself. That clutch three-point bucket by Kyrie Irving with under a minute left put the Cavaliers in the lead for good. Throughout the series, Irving played well enough to make an argument for himself as the Finals MVP. Forward/center Tristan Thompson did yeoman’s work in the low post.  Even Kevin Love played defense well enough to faze Steph Curry at the three-point line late in the game.

And for those who keep saying that James doesn’t have the “clutch gene”, you might want to pay attention to the last three games of the series. Or the last six seasons for that matter. 

Or have you not noticed that there hasn’t been an NBA Finals in the last six years in which LeBron James wasn’t a participant?

Of course, there are going to be some folks on social media who will continue to belittle James because he will never be as great as Michael Jordan, who won six NBA championships. Thanks to the cult-like deification of Jordan, people tend to forget that he didn’t do without Scottie Pippin, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr et al.

But because I’m an irreverent knucklehead, I do have an answer to those of you who still worship at the feet of his Royal Airness because there are a few things you don’t understand when making such silly comparisons.

Basketball is still a team game. That’s a concept that seems too hard to grasp for young fans that think Jordan actually invented the game and a few older fans who are probably waiting for him to be canonized by the Vatican.

Yes, Jordan was a great clutch scorer in the Finals who knew how to close the deal. But he wouldn’t have gotten into position to make those great plays without fellow Hall-of-Famers Scottie Pippin, a great scorer in his own right, Dennis Rodman, and swingman Horace Grant.

Praising Jordan’s solid supporting cast shouldn’t be used as an attempt to diminish his greatness in the same way that Jordan’s six rings shouldn’t be used to beat James over the head. If he never wins another ring, the fact that James has led two different teams to three of the last six NBA titles is truly remarkable.

In the last two years, James has taken a Cleveland team that was in last place in 2014 to two straight NBA Finals before winning the championship this year.  His mere presence made them a contender along with good players like Irving, Love and J.R. Smith.

Like Jordan, James definitely makes good players around him better. That’s the mark of a great player.

What James did in this year’s Finals was something that even Jordan didn’t accomplish in his storied career.  When the Cavaliers were down 3-1 and teetering on the verge of elimination, James put the team on his back with three straight wins. 

In that stretch of games, he scored 109 points—including two straight 40-point games, 29 assists, and 35 rebounds.

In Game 7, Not only did James have a triple-double with 27 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds—He accounted for 52 of the Cavaliers 93 points with a score or an assist. He scored seven of Cleveland’s last 10 points and he had a key shot block against former Philadelphia 76er Andre Iguodala with under two minutes left.

In the Finals, James supplied 52 percent of the Cavs offense with a bucket or an assist.  In last year’s Finals, James was responsible for 62 percent of his team’s points.

When the series ended, James led in every statistical category, points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocked shots.  No one in the history of the NBA Finals, not Jordan, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West or Larry Bird has ever done that.

That’s a clutch performance for the ages from one of the greatest all-around athletes to play the game.

Now I’m not going to say that James is greater than Jordan or vice-versa.

But I will say that you should appreciate the greatness that’s in front of you because living in the past gets old after awhile.

23 /23 Hype-sight: Comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan Has Become a Tired Conversation

4 Jun
NBA fans enjoy comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

NBA fans enjoy comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

As the 2015 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors continues this weekend, conversations at a sports bars, man caves and your local sports talk station will undoubtedly turn to the subject of LeBron James, his place among the NBA’s greats, and whether or not a series loss from the Cavaliers changes things.

But there’s one name that I’m tired of hearing as a part of that discussion.

Michael Jordan.

Jordan vs. LeBron is one of those discussions that I try to avoid because it’s one that really makes no sense. It often disintegrates into a bizarre intergenerational fight between two cults of personality that has nothing to do with basketball.

Because James was seen as the “NBA’s Golden Child, “The Chosen One, the ”Messiah” or the “Son of Basketball” and a bunch of other goofy names when he came to the NBA, Jordan partisans show James no love despite his numerous accomplishments. To suggest that James’s name should be spoken in the same breath with their basketball immortal is heresy to them.

For example, Jordan partisans are always quick to point out that because James has only two rings to Jordan’s six, he will never be as great. Of course, Jordan didn’t play all five positions on the court to get those rings, but that logic always seems to get lost in these discussions.

(Now I could point out that if greatness is measured by NBA Championship rings, Jordan needs to bow down at the feet of Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell. Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles, something that neither James nor Jordan could ever accomplish. But did I mention that most of the folks having this particular argument have any knowledge of basketball history, and thus have never heard of Bill Russell?)

I was just on Facebook and someone posted a stat that compared Jordan and James scoring averages after the first 141 playoff games in their careers. Jordan had the better scoring average which reassured his followers.

Then someone posted Jordan’s and James record in the NBA Finals—which was …you guessed it advantage Jordan. Of course, everything I’m saying I’ve seen LBJ parishioners do the same thing with their man coming out on top.

To be honest, I don’t care either way. But the comparisons between the two are totally and utterly ridiculous, especially considering that they play different positions and have their own unique qualities that make them great players.

Jordan was a great clutch scorer who made his teammates better and played defense. James is a versatile player who can score, rebound and share the ball. He’s taken three different teams to the NBA Finals and has made other guys around him even better by his leadership and will to win.

Both James and Jordan were the best of their time.

So do me a favor okay?

Let’s keep this in perspective. We got to enjoy the ups and downs of Michael Jordan’s career and the championship years, not-so-championship years and everything in between.

How about letting the LeBron James Era unfold the same way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Better Team Won: LeBron’s Greatness Not Diminished By Finals Loss

16 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

The Spurs simply outplayed the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. (from left to right): Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.

The Spurs simply outplayed the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. (from left to right): Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.

PHILADELPHIA—Now that the San Antonio Spurs have emphatically captured the 2014 NBA Finals in five games over a proud, but outgunned Miami Heat squad, I hope fans will realize that the better TEAM won.

The emphasis on team with all caps goes out to all those on social media, sports talk radio and in various sports bars throughout the country who are under the impression that winning championships come down to the individual efforts of one superstar by himself.

In this series, fans were in one of two camps those who adore and worship LeBron James and those people who want to see him fall on his ass every time he steps out on the court.

To a generation of fans weaned on 24-hour cable sports networks, sports talk radio and social media, James not getting “his” third ring will somehow invalidate his greatness as a player. That’s the cult of personality among NBA fans today.

LeBron James scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds in the Heat's Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. The Spurs won the series 4-1.

LeBron James scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds in the Heat’s Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. The Spurs won the series 4-1.

LBJ detractors are out in full-force saying that he choked and is overrated, etc. Some are saying that it is proof positive that he is not as good as Michael Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six titles and current Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant who has five championship rings.

Of course, that’s total nonsense because seemingly lost somewhere between the rants of those two guys on ESPN’s First Take and some of the silly arguments I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter is one obvious and simple thing: basketball is still a team game.

Always has been, always will be—whether you’re talking Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls winning six titles or Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics winning 11 titles in 13 years. Contrary to popular belief, Jordan and Russell had other guys around them to help win those crowns.

One little detail that folks seem to forget—The Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics names are on the trophy—not Jordan’s or Russell’s.

If wasn’t for the collective efforts of players like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman, Jordan and the Bulls would not have won those titles. If Russell didn’t have Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, John Havlicek or Don Nelson, the Celtics would not have won.

In the case of the Spurs, you had a core group of three great players Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker that’s won championships together as a unit along with a solid supporting cast and a coach in Greg Popovich, who molded that team into playing as a singular unit.

The 2014 edition of the Spurs got a tremendous contribution from an unexpected source from Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who slowed down James on defense and was a huge contributor on offense, especially in the last three games when he averaged 23 points and nine rebounds per game.

The former San Diego State star gave the Spurs that stop on defense, a key rebound, a big dunk or a big three-point bucket among all the Spurs Hall-of- Fame stars. Under Popovich’s system, everybody can be great because everybody can contribute.

Explaining that there is a team concept in basketball to NBA fans caught up in the cult of personality is the equivalent of your mom telling you to eat your greens because they’re good for you when you’d rather have ice cream.

On one hand, I do believe that all great teams need that one superstar, that go-to guy in the clutch when the game is on the line. That superstar also needs a solid group of teammates behind him to play specific roles. He can’t do it all by himself—everybody has to play defense and everybody has to contribute whether it’s setting the pick to get a teammate open or making a key offensive rebound.

James played well for the Heat and he did everything he could to help his team in the 2014 Finals. He averaged 28 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, four assists while shooting 57 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from three-point range. Arguably, those are Finals MVP numbers.

Unfortunately, the rest of his team didn’t play well enough when he needed them. That’s because the Spurs exposed, as they did in last year’s Finals, the Heat’s weakness at the point guard position and a thin bench.

At the end of the day, the best TEAM won.

One Last Post from Super Bowl XLVIII: Do Championships Define a Player’s Greatness?

4 Feb

Today’s Final Report from  Super Bowl XLVIII is powered by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society

PBPRS image

by Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Russell Wilson reflects on Seattle's Super Bowl win. Photo by Chris Murray.

Russell Wilson reflects on Seattle’s Super Bowl win. Photo by Chris Murray.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—With the Seattle Seahawks 43-8  thrashing of  the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, the talk in social media, sports-talk radio and the various 24-hour cable sports networks has centered around the legacy of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

The current narrative among sports fans these days is that the more championship rings you have the greater you are as a player.  Of course, you will have someone saying the Manning’s greatness is now diminished because he didn’t get that second Super Bowl ring.

Of course, whenever I am in these discussions on social media or even sports-talk radio, I often point out the absolute silliness of that notion in team sports because it takes more than one player to win.

Pointing out to sports fans that it takes teams to win a championship is the equivalent of your mother telling you to eat your nasty-tasting vegetables because it’s good for you.

I think the popularity of this notion in the current era comes from one Michael Jordan who helped to lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships. Never mind that he had help from teammates like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, Jordan is the face of those championships.

That mindset has invaded the ultimate team sport that is football and this is the stuff you see in the ongoing vilification of Manning after losing to Seattle.  The former Tennessee star has one Super Bowl ring, but it’s never enough for the limited, narrow scope of fans who are bedazzled by the glow of the ring or the trophy.

What they often fail to understand or maybe they don’t want to understand is the collective effort that it takes to get to win that championship.

There are a lot of great players in football who never won or even played in a championship game. Yet, in the eyes of various sports media types, the jockocracy, and fans, not winning a title somehow takes away from a player’s greatness.

During this past Super Bowl Week, I asked some prominent members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame if it was fair to tie a player’s greatness to the amount of championship rings he has or the  lack thereof.

“I would have to say that it is because that’s what this game is,” said Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, who helped lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowl crowns during the 1990s. “I don’t care how great you play individually if you can’t get others to play great we gotta to measure you on that. We can’t call this the ultimate team sport, but give you accolades for individual success.”

Then I asked Irvin what about guys like Dan Marino, Don Fouts or Barry Sanders? Those guys were Hall-of-Fame players who never won a championship. Surely their greatness is not diminished by their lack of rings, right?

“A Tom Brady couldn’t play defense, but can Tom Brady get a little more out of the guys that are playing defense? Is Tom Brady reaching and associating with guys in a way that brings more out of them?” Irvin asked rhetorically.

“So when we say hand the ball off to the ref like Barry Sanders. Barry Sanders never spiked the ball or acted crazy. Maybe he should have because maybe it would have gotten the defense fired up and maybe they would have gone out and made some plays.”

Cris Carter, a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee and an outstanding receiver for the Minnesota Vikings would beg to differ with Irvin on that one. He said the notion of a great career being diminished because of lack of a Super Bowl ring is something created by the media.

“When you play certain positions you don’t have that much of an impact on who’s gonna win or lose the game,” Carter said. “Ninety-seven percent of players that play in the NFL don’t even play in a Super Bowl, 97 percent. So to think that you have to win a Super Bowl to be in the Hall of Fame wouldn’t be fair.”

Carter said it’s easy for Irvin to say championships define greatness because he played on a Cowboys team that had Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Larry Allen—all of whom are Hall of Famers.

Former New England Patriots linebacker and ESPN football analyst Tedy Bruschi was a part of three Super Bowl winners. I thought he would share Irvin’s sentiment, but he didn’t.

“Championships define greatness of teams that’s the way it is,” Bruschi said. “I don’t need Cris Carter to have a championship ring to know how great he is.  He’s one of the greatest of all time.”

As fans we have a weird kind of Drum Major Instinct when it comes to our athletes because we all like the glitz and the glamour of the guy who stands out in the crowd. In football and for that matter any sport, the guy who stands out does so because he stands on the shoulders of his teammates who are holding him up.

We Like to thank all our Chris Murray Report at the Super Bowl Sponsors:

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun, the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society, WriteMeInc., Aviationqueen.com