Category Archives: Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan: A Sports Persona that Will Never Be Parallelled

Arguably the greatest player to ever pick up a basketball

Arguably the greatest player to ever pick up a basketball

By Nick Gelso

There are few NBA stars that possess the ability to have there first names be recognizable above any other name in their sport.

Today’s game boasts interesting names such as Kobe and LeBron but before they were even old enough to lace up sneakers one man separated basketball from sports.

Michael was, and remains, the most recognizable name in not just sports but in popular entertainment. His air-ness may share his name with the King of Pop and their achievements may be similar on a global stage but Michael Jordan’s ability to combine his achievements as an athlete and his ability to bolster his public image with his successes in the business world undoubtidly separate him from the other Michael.

Jordan entered a league dominated by Magic, Doctor J., Larry, Kareem and Moses. Among those titans of basketball, Jordan managed to captivate the sporting world while playing for an untalented Bulls team.

Jordan’s career seemed to reach new levels each season but his team was not always recognized as the second (behind Russell’s Celtics) greatest dynasty in basketball history.

Though MJ led his Bulls to the 8th seed playoff spot his first several seasons, a feat that is underappreciated on Chicago teams that were untalented and under achieving, his early career was marred by injuries and  controversies caused by jealous opponents.

The NBA’s most jealous superstar, Isiah Thomas, unsurprisingly led the charge in 1984. Michael Jordan was voted as a starter, by the fans, to the all-star game in his rookie season. Isiah, feeling the attention Jordan was receiving was unjust, led a player revolt in the all-star game. In a move most forgotten for unsportsmanlike behavior, Isiah refused to pass Michael the ball throughout the game.

Jordan went on to win Rookie of the Year honors and his battles with Isiah had just begun.

His next two seasons were busted by foot and knee problems.

In 1986, Jordan returned from knee surgery in time to face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Though the Bulls were swept by Larry’s Celtics, Jordan managed to set an unbroken playoff record of 63 points in game 2.

In 1987, Jordan averaged an astonishing 37 points per game but was again swept by the Celtics.

It wasn’t until 1988, perhaps Jordan’s most successful season individually, the Bulls emerged from the first round of

Jordan holding on of his 6 Larry O'Brien Trophies

Jordan holding on of his 6 Larry O'Brien Trophies

the playoffs. That season, Jordan averaged 35 points per game, 52 percent from the field. He won his first of five NBA Most Valuable Player award and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

It’s rare to have a player succeed on the offensive and defensive ends of the court in such a dominant fashion.

In 1988, the first of 4 epic post season battles, Isiah Thomas and his Detroit Pistons eliminated the Chicago Bulls in five games.

The Pistons and Bulls would meet again in 1989 and the Pistons, now famous, “Jordan Rules” defense facilitated in once again eliminating the Bulls.

In 1990 the Bulls emerging talent surrounding Jordan again fell to the Pistons as the “Jordan Rules” was now a famous and effective method for slowing down Jordan and stopping the Bulls.

It wasn’t until 1991 that Michael and his now ultra talented squad finally beat the Detroit Pistons. The Bulls were able to finally get revenge and swept the Pistons led by Jordan opting for the assist over the shot, made difficult by the Pistons “Jordan Defensive Rules”.

Isiah Thomas, in typical unsportsmanlike fashion, walked off the court before the final buzzer without congratulating his opponent.

After defeating the Detroit Pistons in 1991, Jordan led his Bulls to their first title.

The Bulls would go on to win 6 titles in 7 years.

Michael Jordan, a man who achieved personal stats unmatched by any player in NBA history,  won 6 NBA titles,  5 NBA MVP awards, 6 Finals MVP awards, Rookie of the Year honors, Defensive Player of the Year honors, 14 all-star appearance, 10 all NBA first team appearances, 9 time defensive first team honors, 3 all-star game MVP awards, 2 Dunk contest championships, and now he will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Jordan, nearly single handedly, made famous such globally branded products as Nike and Gatorade.

Even in retirement, Jordan's endorsements of products such as Nike and Gatorade continues to ensure their profits.

Even in retirement, Jordan's endorsements of products such as Nike and Gatorade continues to ensure their profits.

On the day of Jordan’s first retirement, the NY Stock Exchange actually took a dip because of Jordan’s effect on global business.

No professional athlete can boast such a claim.

I consider myself to be a somewhat astute NBA historian and yet I had to research all of Jordan’s accolades online as to not forget any.

Above all of his personal and team achievements, perhaps Jordans most admirable contributions to professional sports was his ability to face defeat, adversity, world fame, and tremendous success with grace, maturity, sportsmanlike conduct, and humility.

His brilliance on the basketball court is missed but his presence is still felt by the players that follow him. Players such as Kobe and LeBron emulate Jordan in their on court highlights. We can often be found, jaw dropped, at an amazing move made by today’s players while thinking and sometimes shouting:

 “That was a Jordan move!”

Today’s players may be able to resemble Jordan in their play but they certainly cannot reach the levels Michael achieved, always carrying himself with class, on and off the court.

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Should NBA Players Be Allowed To Compete in the Olympics?

I think a player’s team has the right to say NO.

Though I am very proud to be an American and very patriotic, I do not feel that the Olympics should trump a team’s right to deny a player approval over it’s players desire to play in the Olympics.

The NBA is a business like any other. When a team is paying it’s stars 20+ million, such as with Kobe Bryant, a team has hinged it’s entire financial future on that player. Finances have become (almost) as big a part of the game as the talent level of it’s players. A serious injury to Kobe during the summer of 2008 could have wiped away the Lakers chance at winning their 15th title. I am not even going to dive into the amount of play Kobe had between the 2008 NBA finals and the Olympics before even lacing up for the 2009 season.

With that in mind, I do not think it is unreasonable for NBA teams to put stipulations in it’s STARS contracts to ban them from competing in the Olympics. Though in recent years, the USA has not held up well against the world’s competition, their is no question that, win or loss, the USA has the best basketball players in the world. I would be lying if I said that i didn’t enjoy watching the redeem team blow through the rest of the world’s competition, however, I would not risk the health of my superstar to stroke my own (or his) ego.

Prior to the original Dream Team’s bid to bring glory back to USA basketball, NBA players were not allowed to compete. We all knew that no team in the world could play with the likes of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, etc. Whether our team consisted of NBA legends or college stars, their was no question that as a whole the USA controlled the market on basketball.

I loved watching the Dream Team destroy the rest of the world in 1992. Let’s face it though, that team was more of a traveling celebrity tour then it was a determined basketball team. I found more entertainment value in watching Bird, Magic and Michael in a photo shoot or Barkley and Ewing hamming it up on the bus trips then the actual play on the court. Their is no doubt that watching the US destroy the rest of the world’s opponents by 50 points was fun the first 5 games but it became expected after the 5th game, not to imply it was any less fun, it was just expected.

It was fun watching the opposing team looking at Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson goofing off during warm ups in complete amazement. It was great for my ego as a proud American who loves basketball.

So.. should NBA teams have the right to stop it’s stars from playing in the Olympics?

I do not feel that NBA players should be banned from competition completely but I do believe that a team should reserve the right to stop it’s stars from playing with contract stipulations.

Take Yao Ming for example. Yao competed in the 2008 Olympics only to see them lose to Lithuania. Yao, and his 2009 (15 million dollar) pay check, returned to Houston only to have another (possibly) career ending injury strike him down in the playoffs as the Rockets were looking to upset the Lakers.

Should the Rockets have a right to say “if I am paying you 14 million dollars I do not want you to wear any other uniform then our Rockets”?

I say yes. What do you say?

LeBron James Competition Weak Compared to the NBA’s ‘Golden Era’

Amidst the rampant off-season trade rumors circulating, I thought it would be healthy to take a break from it and do some more annoying era/player comparisons.

Today i decided to pick apart LeBron James’ Eastern Conference vs. the Eastern Conference of Larry Bird’s era. Though the league’s players have developed into athletic and physical freaks, compared to the 1980’s, the NBA team’s overall roster talent has drastically dropped.

The 1980’s brand of basketball was more team oriented, fast paced and high scoring, though watching the games, it often appeared as if the players were competing in slow motion. It’s obvious that the athleticism of today, is unparalleled by any era in NBA history.

However, In the 1980’s, Larry Bird had to contend with a more stiff level of competition in route to the playoffs and ultimately the NBA Finals.

Let’s use the 1987 season as the model for my hypothesis. As opposed to recent history, in the 1980’s the Eastern Conference was always stronger then the West.

In 1987, like 2008, The Boston Celtics were looking to repeat as champions. Like 2008, Age and injury got in the way but not before Boston blew through the regular season, ending atop the Eastern Conference, with a 59-23 record.

The Eastern Conference was stacked with names like Doctor J., Charles Barkley, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Sidney Moncrief, Terry Cummings, Patrick Ewing and Dominique Wilkens.

During the playoffs Boston faced such formidable foes as Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas and Sidney Moncrief before facing Magic Johnson and the Lakers in the Finals.

Today, though entertaining, the NBA relies heavily on the media “hype machine” to promote televised games and playoff series. Sure, hype existed in the 1980’s as well, but it was hype backed up by true excitement on the court.

For example, in the 1987 playoffs, The Celtics swept the Chicago Bulls and then was forced into seven game squeakers before narrowly defeating Milwaukee and Detroit.

Both series created such historic moments as Larry Bird’s (4) clutch fourth quarter three pointers in game four in Milwaukee, the Celtics 10 point comeback vs Milwaukee in the last 3 minutes of game seven, Adrian Dantley and Vinnie Johnson’s on court collision in game seven that resulted in Dantley being carried off on a stretcher and, of course, Bird stealing the ball from Isiah Thomas in game five.

NBA Playoff Basketball at it’s best. Where amazing originated…

In 2009, With the exception of the Boston/Chicago series (certainly one of the best first round series of all time), the Eastern Conference consisted of two sweeps, two six game series, and Orlando’s game seven blow out of Boston at home.

The Miami/Atlanta series went seven games but it might as well have been a sweep as the winning team won by an average margin of 15 points.

Sure, their were exciting moments, such as Ray Allen’s 50 point explosion versus Chicago and multiple clutch jumpers, Big Baby’s 17 footer vs Orlando, LeBron’s game two heroics versus Orlando and “Turkish Jordan’s” multiple clutch shots.

If you think about it, with the exception of LeBron’s game two heroics, I can’t see the NBA playing any commercials of highlights from this years playoffs twenty years from now. Yet Larry Bird’s steal and Magic Johnson’s “Jr hook” are still getting commercialized 22 years later. Now that’s amazing!

In conclusion, though the NBA has great talent today and is very popular, Nothing can compare to the legacy’s created during the 1980’s. I guess that is why they call it the NBA’s “Golden Era”…

This article can also be found on Bleacher Report

‘Where Amazing Happens’: The Stories Behind the Commercials

This post season has certainly not lacked for amazing moments.

The NBA marketing machine has had another fantastic post season with their latest edition of “Where Amazing Happens” Commercials.

This round of playoff commercials have been so fantastic that even non basketball fans have applauded them.

The avid NBA fan, 30 years of age or older, probably remembers watching 3 of the 4 commercials live. Anyone younger then 30 years old has seen all four of those commercials on highlight reels.

Each commercial is a snippet of NBA history that is revisited in the most unique and emotional fashion. The commercials conjure up emotions that I had long forgotten.

I don’t know if it’s music, the sound of forgotten broadcasters voices, the drama of the crowd emerging from the empty stands or the different perspective of a play I have seen so many times that invokes emotional chills. The same chills I first felt when I watched the plays live so many years ago.

Even then, at such a young age, I knew I was watching something memorable and historic.

There is, however, one major era missing from this series of commercials.

The Michael Jordan Era has not yet made an appearance. I am sure the NBA is saving Jordan’s highlight for the Grand Finale that starts this week.

I have examined the story behind each commercial below.

Enjoy “NBA History; Where Amazing Happened”

1980 NBA Finals – Doctor J’s “Baseline Move” vs. the Los Angeles Lakers

Game 4 of the 1980 NBA Finals featuring Doctor J. and his 76ers vs Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his LA Lakers, featuring a 20 year old rookie named Magic Johnson.

The play by play was executed by the legendary Brent Musberger.

Musberger would announce as Julius Erving fell to the ground, “watch this fantastic moooove by the Doctor!”

This episode is bone chilling. The way the Spectrum’s customary, misty-upper level darkness gives way to the looming crowd, in hysterics, sends shivers down my spine.

This commercial also showcases a camera angle never before seen. Though the angle does not properly accentuate the greatness of the shot nor the degree of difficulty in which it was pulled off, it does offer a different perspective for one of the NBA’s signature highlights.

The 76ers won the game, 105-102, to even the series 2-2. Doctor J. had 23 points.

1987 Eastern Conference Finals – “Bird Steals the Ball” vs. The Detroit Pistons

The pivotal game five of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals featuring the upstart “Bad Boy” Pistons and the fabled Boston Celtics.

I remember watching this game on the floor in my grandmothers living room with my older brother. Boston was up by one point with 27 seconds left.

Detroit ball.

Isiah Thomas drills a 17 footer over Jerry Sichting giving Detroit a one point lead with 17 seconds left. The Pistons celebration had begun.

To me, Everything was okay. Legendary assassin, Larry Bird was on the floor and we had 17 seconds to score – an eternity.

Larry takes the ball inbounds, drives hard to the basket drawing a lot of contact but this was 1987’s NBA, not 2009’s. The refs called no foul, Larry missed and the Celtics went down 2-3 in the best of seven series. Or so everyone watching assumed.

With 5 seconds remaining and the Pistons in possession of the basketball, I remember the feeling of total desperation. Even the Celtics bench looked resigned to defeat.

The sequence of events that followed were nothing short of legendary…

1987 NBA Finals – Magic’s “Baby Hook” vs. The Boston Celtics

The 1987 NBA Finals was the last epic meeting of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

The badly injured Celtics were down 0-2, losing both games in Los Angeles to the rested and more talented Los Angeles Lakers.

After winning game 3 in Boston, The Celtics looked to even up the series in the waning moments of game four.

Larry Bird had just hit a difficult three point shot to put Boston up by one with 7 seconds left. I recall celebrating, the Celtics had tied the series.

Five seconds left, Magic drives the lane and hits a baby hook over the original Big Three. I, as a young basketball fan, had never seen the basketball immortals look so dejected. You can still see (in the commercial) Larry Bird’s shoulders sink to the parquet floor as he disappears.

As a Celtics fan, I would watch the re-play of that shot and pray it bounces off the rim and Boston won. Of course that didn’t happen but watching the “NBA Where Amazing Happens” version of this highlight Two things struck me:

#1 How WIDE open Kareem was as Magic drove the lane. Imagine if Magic had passed the ball and Kareem had dunked it. That is probably what would have happened years earlier as Magic had often deferred to Abdul-Jabbar.

#2 If Magic had missed the baby hook Kareem would have snagged the rebound and dunked it.

Either way Boston loses.

This has always been one of the more difficult highlights to watch. It ultimately marked the end of Boston’s NBA dominance. Time heals all wounds even those incurred by your worst basketball enemy.

Today, watching this version of the “NBA Amazing” Commercials chokes me up. It takes me right back to 1987. A Los Angeles Lakers highlight may actually be my favorite.

2000 Western Conference Finals – Kobe’s “alley-oop to Shaq” vs. the Portland Trailblazers

This play clinched game seven in dramatic style sending the Lakers back to the Finals for the first time since 1991.

The youthful (and skinny) Kobe Bryant had a hand in the final six points of the game.

He scored on a pair of free throws, a jumper and this phenomenal alley-oop assist to Shaq – it’s fitting that Shaq shared credit with Kobe (and teammates) on Twitter last night.

This marked the beginning of the tumultuous “Shaq-Kobe Championship Era” in Los Angeles.

It has been said in several blogs that this commercial shows that as early as 2000, their were signs of the rift between Shaq and Kobe. You can see Shaq pointing to the crowd and ignoring Kobe’s outstretch hand looking for a high five.

After further investigation, I decided not to speculate or examine any further for this article, any findings diminished the splendor of this commercial.

The 2009 playoffs have been a long “Where Amazing Happens” commercial, loaded with spectacular footage for next years post season.

Can’t wait.

BOSTON CELTICS: TIME TO REBOOT?

Players and coaches met yesterday at the Waltham practice facility.

The game seven loss had finally sunk in.

According to Boston.com the Celtics had a brief team meeting and then departed. Paul Pierce promised reporters that he would communicate via text message this week. Rondo sent the following text, “All we can do is get ready for next year, really. That’s it. That’s in the past. We gotta’ look toward next year.”
Brian Scalabrine stuck around to chat, saying, “it finally sunk in”. Scalabrine continued, “I know one thing: we are going to be geared up to win a championship, no matter who is on the team. We are not going to be playing just to make it. We are going to be playing to win a championship. We are a championship team, we have a window of opportunity, and we need to take advantage of that.”
The much discussed Celtics “window of opportunity” that Scalabrine refers to, seems to be on every ones mind in the sporting world. Boston fans, having watched the tragic dissolution of the 1980’s championship teams, are extremely aware of father times “closing window”.
In 1991, Arguably the original “Big Three’s” last truly competitive season, the team’s record was 56-26. Boston finished that year first in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference. 
With the injury plagued “Bad Boy” Pistons losing their two year grasp on the Eastern Conference and the Chicago Bulls having not been to the NBA Finals, it looked like a perfect year for the Fabled Celtics to make one last run.
The Celtics had rebooted their line up after a disappointing 1st round loss to the Knicks the previous season. The front office had released the legendary Dennis Johnson, the tired Jim Paxon and terminated head coach Jimmy Rogers.
Boston had promoted former player and long time assistant Chris Ford to head coach. They took 2nd year point guard Brian Shaw to court requiring him to return to Boston for the 90-91 season.
Larry Bird and company were publically skeptical of a team that featured a new starting point guard for the first time in 7 years. The skeptics were quickly put to rest as Boston started the season 25-5 while steam rolling over opponents. 
After several arduous seasons, Bird, Parish and McHale FINALLY had a supporting staff of emerging, young, stars. Reggie Lewis (18.7 points per game) led the way for point guards Brian Shaw and Rookie Dee Brown to employ a faster style of play. The new look Celtics were the perfect combination of youth and veteran experience.
It wasn’t until a game right before the All-Star break at Madison Square Garden that the Celtics boom had suddenly come to a crashing halt.  Larry Bird did not make the trip, hospitalized with back spasms. Though Bird’s basketball IQ never diminished, his shooting range, and durability never returned.
Soon after the all-star break, Kevin McHale went down with a heavily sprained ankle. Mchale played two more seasons as a limited role player but was never the same after his 1991 injury.
That season Larry Bird averaged 19.4 points per game, 45% field goal percentage (both career lows), while missing 22 games with a debilitating back injury that off season surgery couldn’t remedy. Larry was 34 years old.
Kevin McHale averaged 18 points per game (his lowest in seven seasons) while missing 14 games.
McHale also underwent off season surgery but his foot would never fully mend. Kevin was 33 years old.
Robert Parish, indubitably the most durable of the three, averaged 15 points per game at 37 years of age while playing an incredible 80 games.
Parish and Reggie Lewis kept Boston competitive in 1991 but seamlessly, age and injuries slammed the “window” shut on the “Original Big Three’s” reign of titles.
In a cruel twist of fate, Magic Johnson would lead his Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals for the final time that year losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The torch had been passed.
When the 2009-2010 season begins, it will have been 19 years since the 1991 season. Today’s Celtics seem to be discussing this familiar “window of opportunity”.
Today Eddie House (30 years old) put it best when saying, “Everything we did was for nothing. We came up short, also-rans. We lost, bottom line. We expected to win with what we have, regardless of injury and all that stuff.” House continued, “All that’s behind us. At the end of the day we didn’t get it done, so it’s a failed season.”
Kevin Garnett turns 33 years old today (Happy Birthday big fella), Ray Allen will soon be 34 and Paul Pierce is turning 32 in October. 
If anything can be learned from the past it is that the window is closing, now is the time.