NBA Game of Horse Reminder of Classic Commercial

In a world that still needs sports – but that looks increasingly like the wait for the major ones to come back will be longer than we want – it is always interesting to hear a little good news.

The NFL Draft will be going ahead as planned (albeit virtually), the NRL rugby competition in Australia – a county that has not been hit as hard as many others at this point because of its geographical isolation – is looking to get back to something by the beginning of June, and – amazingly – we are about to see some of the premier players in basketball put on a televised HORSE challenge on ESPN.

It is an idea so crazy that it just might work and – if it does – it needs to become a weekly thing until we get the rest of our sports back.

The headliners for the competition are Chris Paul, Trae Young, and Tamika Catchings, a 2020 Hall of Fame inductee. Odds are that everyone reading this has played HORSE at some point in their life, but the basic concept is that if someone makes a shot you have to replicate that shot to avoid picking up a letter. When you have missed enough shots to spell out the world HORSE, you are done.

One catch for this competition is that dunking is not allowed, something that seems fair with Zach LaVine in the field and given his ability to do trick dunks that the rest of the field would find problematic. The hope for ESPN has to be that along with the standard shots, they have a daredevil or two in the field who will be trying their best to recreate the iconic Michael Jordan and Larry Bird McDonald’s commercial on their network.

Speaking of Bird and Jordan, how cool would it be to see this concept expanded to some sort of legends version with those two and a number of other premier players of the game’s history competing. Sports may have stopped, but ingenuity like this is what makes America great and long may this type of innovation continue in the sporting world.

Article By Premier Players

Premier Player Ionescu Voted AP Player of The Year

You don’t see many players dominate a sport like Oregon senior guard Sabrina Ionescu was able to in the Covid-19 shortened 2019-20 women’s college basketball season. Ionescu was named as the unanimous Associated Press Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, only the second player since the award was first given in 1995 to sweep all 30 votes after Breanna Stewart of UConn in 2016.

Ionescu also became just the eighth player to be named three times as an AP All-American after a career with the Ducks where she shattered records. This premier player became the first player in NCAA history – male or female – to post a career triple-double mark of over 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.

It is this ability to do anything on the court to help her team win that characterized Ionescu’s tenure with the Ducks. There are many that believe Oregon would have been the favorites for the NCAA Championship this season if the games had been played, with Ionescu averaging 17.5 points, 9.1 assists, and 8.6 rebounds per game after returning to school to chase the NCAA title that had eluded her.

Oregon, with a 31-2 record, was the Pac-12 regular season and tournament champions when the season was cancelled. Head coach Kelly Graves called Sabrina “A transcendent basketball player” and “The ultimate leader.” These are the traits that Ionescu showed this year.

This premier player wasn’t happy with just being good enough at certain aspects of the game, she wanted to be the best in the country. That will to win – to know when to shoot and when to pass in a purely unselfish way – is what set her apart. Add in a drive and a work ethic that the late Kobe Bryant would have been proud of and you can see why Ionescu is the favorite to be taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft this spring.

Ionescu is the prototypical basketball player. After completing her college chapter, she will be one WNBA player that young players can look up to and learn from with her ability to do literally anything she wants on the court.

Article by Premier Players

NBA All-Star Game Shows The Power of Sports, Athletes

The 2020 NBA All-Star Game was always going to be about Kobe Bryant. This is exactly how it should be after one of the premier players of any sport, anywhere, tragically passes away weeks before the biggest talents of the game gather for a showdown.

However, the 2020 NBA All-Star Game was also a show of the power of basketball and the power of sports in general.  This was a real game down the stretch – more on that in a moment – and not the free scoring shotfest that the All-Star game has sometimes been in recent years.

There was no more fitting a tribute to Bryant – a man who thought winning the exhibition All-Star Game was as important as a playoff win – than the fact this game was played (in the fourth quarter at least) like it really mattered. It was a game that raised $500,000 and counting for local charities based on which team won each quarter, and it was the first game where the NBA has used a novel scoring system down the stretch that its premier players seemed to all embrace instantaneously as the fourth quarter went on.

This scoring system – known as the Elam system – set the final quarter to be a race to 157. The score was calculated by adding 24 (Kobe’s number) to the score that the leading team had entering the fourth quarter. It is a scoring system that literally anyone who has ever played a team sport, where points are counted, can endorse. How many games of flag football between friends have been drifting along until the magic call of “first to five wins” is made.  At that point, everyone playing becomes ultra-competitive and the game matters.

That is what happened in this NBA All-Star Game as the teams ramped up down the stretch to the point that coaches were challenging replays and players were caring about every foul. Kobe would have LOVED this environment and he would have thrived in the pressure of such a game. It helped that the Chicago crowd were into the contest from the minute the tributes to the great Laker ended, finishing by barely sitting down from the middle of the third quarter onwards.

Sometimes we forget how sports – and certain athletes – can bring people together on a local, national, and global scale. Sunday night in Chicago was all the proof we needed to remind us of that.

Article by Premier Players

Kobe’s Skills On The Court Drove All Parts of His Life

There is way too much to be said about Kobe Bryant and his legacy that we could ever hope to capture in one article. That is why this piece is going to look at Kobe as a player and athlete only, not touching his amazing transition into life as a coach, father, and family man that occurred before his life was cut tragically short at the age of just 41 in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning.

There are many players in the sports we cover that are said to be premier players. Kobe was not just a premier player in his own time; he was one of the premier players in the history of his sport. He was a premier player in the city of Los Angeles, a city where he would be on the Mount Rushmore of sports icons. He was a premier player who transcended his sport and became a household name around the world thanks to 20 seasons of highlights, determination, and excellence.

His legacy is a complicated one, but his playing style is one that we will likely never see again. In this era of load management, no player will eat the minutes that Kobe did throughout his career. This is a player that once played to the point of tearing his Achilles tendon, but still went to the free-throw line to finish his play with two successful shots, such was his will to win and his dedication to making that happen.

Kobe took shots that kids today would be benched for trying. He retired leading the league (historically) in just one single stat. That stat was the number of missed shots over a career. While that should be a negative, it’s not. That’s because the toughness of Kobe made him want to take those shots, knowing that every shot not taken was two (or three) points that would never be made.

You can’t be a shot-selection player and score 60 points in your final game. You can’t be that and put up the second most points ever in a single contest with his 81-point explosion against the Raptors in 2006. You can’t be that and win five NBA titles, be an 18-time All-Star and a 15 time All-NBA selection. You can’t be that and be feared each and every night by every opponent you face.

Kobe had the footwork, the stroke, and the competitive fire to take himself to the very top. That so many of the premier players in the NBA today cite Kobe as their inspiration says more about his legacy than anything that could be put to paper. The world is a worse place without Kobe Bryant in it, but we must push forward and strive for success every day to the best of our ability. After all, that is what Kobe would do.

Article by Premier Players

Curry Makes Biggest Impact Off The Basketball Court

We all know that Stephen Curry is one of the premier players on a basketball court in the world. The six-time All-Star and two-time NBA MVP winner has proven he is a player who will not rest on his laurels in his quest to keep getting better.

Curry is a player known for getting back into the gym early in the offseason. He has that drive and desire that all the greats find in their genetic make-up; that will to win and the need to improve on their skill set year after year to present new problems and new issues for defenders.

The three-time NBA champion knows that at 31-years-old he must keep pushing to get better. That is how Curry went from a player who was expected, in some circles, to be nothing more than a spot-up shooter in the NBA, to a player who can win games on his own with his passing and quickness off of the dribble.

Curry, though, also picks up his inspiration and his skills around the sport in other ways. One of those ways is that this premier player of basketball also loves to challenge himself with a round of golf.

When news broke that Curry had made a seven-figure donation to Howard University to bring back golf – and Division 1 golf at that – to its sports offerings, it raised a few eyebrows. Curry attended school at Davidson before making his NBA name on the West Coast, so news of him giving money to a small college in D.C. didn’t make much sense.

Curry got the idea to restart the golf program after meeting a Howard student named Otis Ferguson who passed up on furthering his golfing career to attend Howard, a school that did not have a golf program at the time. Curry, intrigued by Ferguson and his life story, decided to bring the program back to life.

Curry played golf in high school, and fans often see him on the pro/am and celebrity golf scenes. Golf is a sport he cares about and one that has impacted his ability to be a premier player in basketball.

“Golf is a sport that has changed my life in ways that are less tangible, but just as impactful,” Curry said about the imminent donation in a press release. “It’s a discipline that challenges your mental wherewithal from patience to focus, and is impossible to truly master, so when you hear about these passionate student-athletes who have the talent but don’t have a fair shot at the game, it’s tough. I feel really honored to play a small role in the rich history of Howard University.”

This act of charity is not the first time Curry has supported others, and it will not be the last. He is making an impact in ways that people will not only remember him for his greatness on the court but his greatness as a person.

Best Ever In NBA Discussions Must Include Larry Bird

The debate around the best player ever in a sport will never be truly answered. Even comparing players of the same generation – Messi vs. Ronaldo, Brady vs. Manning – is difficult enough. So how do we look at two players from different eras and decide which of the two is the premier player?

When it comes to basketball, most of the debate around the best player ever focuses on Michael Jordan and LeBron James. They are seen as the 1a and the 1b of the game – in some order – with most people putting Jordan at the top due to his number of championships and the iconic ways he won games in an era where individual stars weren’t as prevalent as they are today.

There are some, a small minority based either in the 617 area code or in French Lick, Indiana, who will tell you that neither Mike nor ‘Bron is the premier player in basketball history. For those people, it is all about Larry Bird.

Larry Legend was a premier player. He’s talked about in mythical ways in some circles, even though his career in the NBA didn’t come to an end until the 90s. He, before LeBron, was widely regarded as the best small forward the game had ever seen. A player who could do it all on the court, and who always did so with a systematic style of play that belied his skillset.

Bird was a 12-time NBA All-Star, a nine-time All-NBA First Team selection, a three-time NBA Champion, and a three-time NBA Finals MVP. In addition to that stacked resume, Bird was voted the NBA MVP for three years in a row from 1984-1986. That means that for 36 consecutive months, – almost 1,100 days – there was (by popular opinion) no better in the game of basketball. Larry Bird was the premier player in the entire sport.

To see the value of Bird, you have to look past what Isaiah Thomas has coined the “winning plus” mindset. This school of thought – one that dominates the game today – is that merely winning is not good enough. Instead, you have to win with style and flash, you have to be an above the rim player who can be a SportsCenter highlight every night, and it is a mindset where only winning championships in the style of a Tim Duncan isn’t enough.

That is not to say that Bird wouldn’t have adapted. One look at his highlights on YouTube shows a player with a passing range that is unlike any small forward in the NBA today. That he was able to pass, dribble, and shoot his Celtics to three NBA Titles in an era where defenders could basically mug the attacking player is a testament to his otherworldly skill level. There is a school of thought that the greats could find their way to adapt and play in any era, with another school saying that if Bird’s Celtics had played in the Eastern Conference over the past decade, they would have made 10 NBA Finals trips due to Larry’s ability and work ethic.

Maybe the best way to put Bird’s career into perspective as one of the premier players of all time is too look at his scoring. Bird scored 21,791 NBA points, good for 24.3 points per game (while rebounding at a rate of 10.0 per game). This puts Bird 30th on the all-time scoring list. Bird also won the first-ever 3-point contest at an All-Star game. Even with those numbers, and that ability, Bird rarely practiced the outside shot as he played in an era where it was all about getting the ball inside.

If he played today, Larry Legend would be over 30,000 points without breaking a sweat. That is how the premier players in a sport cross generations and come into the conversation as the best to play their game and, based on that, no discussion about the best basketball player ever would be complete without the mention of Larry Bird.

Article by Premier Players, Inc.

NCAA vs. NBA: The battle for the top high school ballers

For the premier players looking to take their basketball careers to the next level, the path has always been pretty clearly defined.

Starting out shooting hoops with dad, a player would then slip into the junior ranks and play ball in local gyms and leagues. Next would come a jump to AAU and high school ball, with a player showcasing his skill set in tournaments at the regional, and even national, level to get scouted by college programs. Next would come a scholarship offer, and a player would decide to play anywhere between one and four years in college depending on skill level and ability to make a move to the NBA.

The one-and-done rule has always been a controversial one. It is a rule that some college coaches took to immediately, with John Calipari at Kentucky being the obvious example. Coach Cal deliberately goes after players who need just a single year of seasoning before entering the NBA, gambling that he can teach enough fundamentals and teamwork into what can primarily be seen as a bunch of one-year mercenaries to make Kentucky competitive every year. In fairness to Coach Cal, it works.

The threat to the college game was initially thought to be through the NBA. That is one of the reasons why this rule was adopted in the first place. We never got to see the likes of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant tear up the courts in college because they jumped ahead one level and went straight into the league.

For players of their skill, it was a beautiful thing. They were able to adapt to the game and now sit as two of the top 25 players that have ever played the game. For every LeBron and Kobe, however, countless other players made the mistake of trying to jump immediately to the NBA, only to see their careers fade out quicker than they would have with college seasoning.
College is not for everyone. This is especially true for a college athlete who has to balance studying with the demands of their sport. Top level college basketball is a grueling concept, with players traveling all over the country (and sometimes outside of it) to play in games, while still having to practice and maintain their lives.

That is why players are looking for other options. The latest player to do something a little different is Texas native RJ Hampton. Hampton is one of the premier players in the nation. He is the fifth-ranked prospect in the class of 2019, and until recently he had been expected to sign for Kansas, Memphis or Texas Tech. Instead, Hampton will spend 2019 playing for the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League of Australia.
It is a fascinating decision for an 18-year-old to make. Hampton wants to follow in the steps of Luka Doncic, a player who was a professional at 14-years-old in Spain and who entered the NBA ready to compete at professional speed.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has already taken note of this trend. He wants the premier players to stay in America, and he is looking at ending the one-and-done rule by the 2022 draft to make this happen.  The big question is where does this leave the NCAA?

By opening the league up again, it is likely that we will never see the likes of a Zion Williamson, for example, playing in college. We want to see the premier players playing in college because college basketball is both a tradition and a fun sport to watch. Short of paying players, it is hard to see what the NCAA would do, but let’s hope that the game is not negatively impacted by players choosing other routes to their NBA dreams.

Article by Steve Wri

Nowitzki Success In Dallas Ends In Hall of Fame Career

Dirk Nowitzki made his mark on the NBA as one of the premier players in the game not only of his era but of all time. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer as soon as he is eligible as he put in a 21-year shift with the Dallas Mavericks to go down as the greatest player in the history of the franchise.

Nowitzki was born in the West German town of Wurzburg in 1978. Wurzburg is not precisely a hotbed of NBA talent, but as the son of a professional basketball playing mother and an international handball playing father, the young Dirk certainly had the athletic ability in his genes.

Dirk also had height on his side from an early age, often standing a foot or more above his peers as he excelled as a handball and tennis player. His decision to join the local DJK Wurzburg team as a 15-year-old set Nowitzki on a path that would see him become one of the most recognizable athletes on both sides of the Atlantic.

What people grew to love about Dirk, his carefree and fun attitude off the court playing in stark contrast to his talent and focus on it, was apparent even at this age. It is impossible to bottle whatever combination of genes and outside factors it takes to make a player a star, but have no doubt about it, Dirk was always going to be a star.

Progressing through the ranks at his local club, this premier player had to spend a year doing compulsory military service alongside advancing his basketball career. At 6-foot-11, with unnatural quickness and ball handling for a player of that size, Nowitzki started to have his progress noted by those outside of his native Germany.

Playing in the Nike “Hoop Heroes Tour,” Nowitzki was placed in a showpiece match against NBA stars like Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley. His dunk over Barkley was the most impressive play of the entire game, and it was at that moment it became apparent his future, and his path to becoming a premier player was to be through the NBA.

A prep-to-pro player back when that was allowed, Nowitzki passed up scholarship offers across the country to declare for the NBA. Selected with the ninth overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, the future 14-time NBA All-Star and over 31,500 points scored was traded to Dallas for a combination of Robert Traylor and Pat Garrity. This is a trade that will live long as one of the greatest draft-day steals in the history of the game.

Dirk’s list of highlights and awards is as long as they come. The 2011 NBA Champion won the Finals MVP award that year and the regular season MVP crown in 2007. Nowitzki worked his way into being one of the most versatile bigs ever to play the game, and he is known for his scoring ability, and a fadeaway jump shot so picture perfect it should be trademarked.

His place among the many legends that make up the sporting scene in Dallas, the likes of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, is secure. A street running by the American Airlines Center has been named Nowitzki Way, a fitting tribute for this premier player who won so many games for the Mavericks inside that building during his storied career.

Story by Steve Wright
Independent Writer

All-Time Top 25 Premier Players of The NBA

There is always talk about The G.O.A.T.  In this article, we list our All-Time, Top 25 Players of The NBA:

25 – Dirk Nowitzki
The best European import in league history and one of the premier players of his era, Nowitzki was a 7-foot tall scoring machine for the Dallas Mavericks after they selected him with the ninth pick of the 1998 NBA Draft.  A player who could hit any shot at any time, his one-legged fade-away jumper will become the stuff of legend.  Nowitzki led the Mavs to 15 playoff appearances in his 21-year run with the franchise. An NBA champion (and NBA Finals MVP) in 2011, the only thing that stops the 14-time all-star and four-time All-NBA First Team selection from appearing higher on this list is his lack of rings.

24 – David Robinson
The Admiral was a defensive force throughout his entire 14-year run in the NBA.  Robinson ranks sixth in NBA history with 2,954 blocks, using every inch of his 7-foot-1 frame to dominate the paint defensively. Along with Tim Duncan, Robinson formed ‘The Twin Towers’ frontcourt for the San Antonio Spurs, giving opponents little chance of making an impact around the rim. The two-time NBA champion and 10-time all-star was an absolute double-double machine over the course of his first decade in the league.

23 – Scottie Pippen
Would Michael Jordan be where he is on this list without the power of Scottie Pippen?  Pippen is often seen as the Robin to Jordan’s Batman, but that is undervaluing the skillset of the Hall of Famer who was also a seven-time all-star as the Bulls dominated the league in the 90s. While Jordan could take over a game, Pippen was a consistent force on both sides of the ball. He averaged 16.1 points per game while shooting almost 50% from the field for his career. The ability of Pippen to run like a guard, rebound like a power forward, and hit buckets like a shooting guard should never be overlooked.

22 – Charles Barkley
A Hall of Fame power forward, Barkley is best remembered for his ability to rebound the basketball. He was a machine on the glass, averaging 11.7 rebounds per game throughout his career in Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Houston. He was also a member of the USA Olympic basketball “Dream Team” where he won gold medals in 1992 and 1996. A player who could have adapted to the playing style in any era, Barkley never won a ring but he was an 11-time NBA All-Star, and he was named the league’s MVP in 1993.

21 – John Havlicek
Havlicek won eight NBA titles as part of the Boston Celtics team that owned the NBA in the 1960s and 70s.  A 13-time all-star, Havlicek was defined by his relentless hustle on the court and his commitment to being a team player in a sport where self-promotion has become the norm over the years. The seventh pick of the 1962 NBA Draft out of Ohio State, Havlicek was a defensive leader who is still the Celtic’s leader in games played and total points scored (26,395).

20 – Kevin Garnett
Garnett may have spent too much of his career playing for a non-competitive team in Minnesota, but the 21-year veteran plied his trade into becoming an all-time great. Widely considered one of the best power forwards of all time, Garnett is one of just four players to win both the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Known for his intensity and his lockdown defensive ability, Garnett was a 15-time All-Star and is the only player in league history to average 20 points, 10 boards, and five assists for six straight seasons.

19 – John Stockton
One of the premier point guards in the history of the game, Stockton spent his entire 19-year career with the Utah Jazz after being selected 16th overall in the 1984 NBA Draft.  His guard-forward combination with Karl Malone saw Stockton rack up the most assists in NBA history with over 15,800 dimes. Stockton is also the all-time steals leader with 3,265 over the course of his career. A 10-time all-star, Stockton averaged a double-double in points (13.1) and assists (10.5), and he was known for his nearing fanatical work ethic that saw him miss just 22 games over 19 seasons in the league.

18 – Elvin Hayes
Hayes was a Jack of all trades player who just happened to be very good at everything on a basketball court.  He ranks tenth all-time in scoring, 24th all-time in blocks, and fourth all-time in rebounds. The amazing aspect of this is that Hayes was playing in the league before blocks were counted as a statistic, so he sits that high on the all-time block list despite playing for five seasons when none of his shot rejections were counted. Hayes averaged 21 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for his career as one of the premier players in the NBA.

17 – Julius Erving
Dr. J was one of the first NBA exponents of playing the game above the rim with his athleticism and ability to dunk the ball while taking off from the free throw line.  Playing for five years in the ABA for the Virginia Squires and the New York Nets, Erving is the greatest 76er of all-time thanks to his success with the Philadelphia franchise in an 11-year stint in the NBA. The two-time ABA champion was an 11-time NBA all-star, and he won the NBA Title in 1983. Dr. J is also the eighth-leading scorer of all time if ABA and NBA scoring records are combined.

16 – Moses Malone
A double-double career player with 20.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, Moses Malone showed that a player could be a successful NBA player without a college career. The 12-time all-star and three-time league MVP was named to eight All-NBA teams, and he finally won a league title in 1983. A first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2001, Malone began his career with teams like the Utah Stars and Spirits of St. Louis in the ABA before joining the NBA in 1976. A player that tends to be overlooked as one of the premier players in basketball history, Malone was a physical presence with an endless motor which did everything well.

15 – Karl Malone
Known as The Mailman because he always delivered, Karl Malone formed a formidable guard-forward combination with John Stockton as members of the Utah Jazz. Unlucky to be playing in the same timeframe as one Michael Jordan, Malone was never able to get his hands on an NBA championship, but he was able to achieve everything else in the game. The recipient of 11 straight All-NBA First Team nods, Malone remains second all-time in scoring with 36,928 points.

14 – Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon was a 7-foot center out of Lagos, Nigeria who dominated the paint for the Houston Rockets (and then the Toronto Raptors for a year) for 18-years in the league.  A skilled played on both ends of the court, Olajuwon had a unique combination of size and speed that allowed him to be effortless defending at whatever position was needed. The center was an insane shot blocker, but his hand speed also made him a threat to steal the ball. He is the only 200/200 player in NBA history after compiling 200 blocks and steals in a single season. The Dream averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.

13 – Jerry West
The most surprising aspect of Jerry West’s career is that he won just one NBA Title during his playing career with the L.A. Lakers. That title in 1972 says as much about the Boston Celtics dominant run as it does about the Lakers, but West was a constant force throughout his NBA career. A 14-time all-star and 10-time All-NBA First Team selection West was known as Mr. Clutch due to his ability to make big shots when big shots were needed. The guard once recorded 46.3 points scoring averaged over the course of an entire playoff series, an NBA record, and you have to be considered one of the premier players ever to have your silhouette incorporated into the NBA logo.

12 – Kevin Durant
A sure-fire Hall of Famer whenever he hangs up his sneakers, the 30-year old Durant already has a resume that makes him one of the best players of all-time. The second pick of the 2007 draft, Durant was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2008, and the accolades have only continued to build from there. Durant is already a double-digit All-Star and, as of writing, he is a two-time NBA Champion and was named Finals MVP in both of those victories with the Golden State Warriors. Durant is an outstanding shooter and scorer in general, and he averaged over 27 points per game for his career.

11 – Shaquille O’Neal
When he was in his best shape, and when he cared enough to be dominant, then there was no stopping Shaq as he became the most dominant physical force in the league since Wilt Chamberlain. The top overall pick of the Orlando Magic out of LSU, Shaq was a 15-time all-star with a larger than life personality that sometimes hid his basketball greatness. Playing for six teams over 19-years, Shaq was a four-time NBA champion, a three-time NBA Finals MVP, and an eight-time All-NBA First Team selection. His power also broke backboard supports twice during his first year, leading the NBA to increase brace strength for the 1993-94 season.

10 – Kobe Bryant
Love him or hate him and his style of play, Bryant will go down as one of the greatest scorers in the history of the league. Sitting at No. 3 on the all-time list with 33,643 points, Bryant averaged 25 points over his career, and he was an 18-time all-star with five NBA titles to his name. The 20-year Laker was also a 12-time member of the All-Defensive team, and his fall-away jump shot was compared to that of Michael Jordan when Kobe was in his prime.

9 – Oscar Robertson
The Big O was a 6-foot-5, 205-pound point guard when players of that size were unheard of at the position. The 12-time all-star and winner of the MVP award in 1964 became the first player to average a triple-double over the course of a season in 1962. Robinson took the league by storm when he averaged over 30 points per game as a rookie, and his triple-double number of 181 over his career is one that has never been approached since. Robertson is also credited with inventing the head fake and the fade-away shot.

8 – Tim Duncan
A 19-year NBA player, Duncan was the rock which the San Antonio Spurs built a five-time NBA championship team from the turn of the century until well into the next decade. A player with a double-double career average in points and rebounds, Duncan was a beacon of consistency who would have won more titles if not for the Lakers and LeBron. Duncan, unlike some on this list, continued to be dominant until the end of his career, a fitting legacy for the man known as “The Big Fundamental” thanks to his simple and effective playing style.

7 – Bill Russell
The case for Russell as the greatest in NBA history begins and ends with the number 11. As in 11 NBA Titles, the number that Russell won during his career as one of the premier players in the game. An exceptional defender, Russell was not a heavy scorer, but he was able to set his team on fast break opportunities because of his presence in the paint. Russell played in the NBA for 13 years, and in those 13 years, he won more championship rings than you can wear across both hands. The 6-foot-10 center was a five-time MVP and a 12-time all-star, showing what value he had as part of a dynasty the likes of which we are unlikely to see in the sport ever again.

6 – Larry Bird
Larry Legend might not be the most decorated Boston Celtic of all-time, but he is the one that is regarded as the greatest player in the sweeping history of the franchise.  A three-time NBA Champion, and two-time Finals MVP, Bird may not have looked like an NBA player, but he had a skill set that set him apart. Bird averaged over 20 points in all but two of his NBA seasons, and he was named to the All-NBA First Team nine separate times. Three consecutive league MVP awards and an average of 24.3 points over his career, while also excelling as a passer and defender, earn Bird this spot on the list.

5 – Magic Johnson
An assist machine that could also score, Magic epitomized the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. His battles with Larry Bird are the stuff of legends, with magic averaging double figures in assists for nine of his 13 seasons in the league. It was not just that Magic could pass the ball; it was the no-looks and behind the back passes that led to scores that set him apart as one of the greatest ever. At 6-foot-9 Magic was not created to be a point guard but five NBA titles in 13 seasons show his impact on the game.

4 – Wilt Chamberlain
If Bill Russell did not exist, then Wilt Chamberlain would be No. 1 on this list with double-digit championships to go along with every other insane statistic he produced.  Chamberlain had to settle for just two rings, but the four-time league MVP and 13-time all-star was a freak of nature who forced the NBA to widen the lane in order to stop him from terrorizing smaller players. His 100 point performance against the New York Knicks will never be broken, nor will the 55 rebounds he amassed in one game against the Celtics. Wilt also led the league in assists in 1968, showing there was nothing he could not do while playing basketball.

3 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The man that saw slam dunks banned in college so that other teams could compete with UCLA slots in at No. 3 on this list for his sheer dominance on the court.  Somewhat ironically it was that dunk ban that saw Kareem learn the sky-hook, a shot he would use to obliterate teams with over his 20-year career. The accolades are staggering as Kareem was a 19-time All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team player. He won six NBA championships and six MVP awards as he finished first all-time on the scoring list with over 38,300 points (at a clip of 24.6 points per game) for his career.

2 – LeBron James
The 2018-19 season may not have been his best, but LeBron hits this list at No. 2 as one of the premier players in NBA history.  The only player close to passing Jordan, LeBron has already climbed to No. 4 on the all-time scoring list and will likely pass Kobe early in the 2019-20 season. He is a four-time NBA MVP, a three-time NBA champion and he won the Finals MVP in each of those victories.  The 15-time all-star has won a slew of individual awards, and his ability to play all five positions on the court makes him almost unguardable when he is at his best.

1 – Michael Jordan
Even with the strong push that LeBron has made for the No. 1 spot over the last decade, there is still no touching Michael Jordan. The ultimate competitor, Jordan was a player who refused to give up. Few could match the Bulls great when it came to intensity, while no one could match him for sheer skill on the hardwood. He might be the most clutch player in the history of the league, and he is a player who was every bit as good as the stories surrounding his legacy.  Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game on his way to five MVP awards and six NBA championships along with six Finals MVP honors.

Article by Steve Writer
Independent Sports Writer

Wildcats’ John Calipari Is Not Going Anywhere – Today

John Calipari of Kentucky is widely regarded as a premier coach in his sport. Calipari sits alongside perhaps on Coach K (Duke), Bill Self (Kansas) and Roy Williams (North Carolina) as coaches who can lead their blue blood schools and all the expectations that come along with being in charge of a program that simply HAS to be among the best in the country on a yearly basis.

It seems like it would be easy to argue that a college basketball blue blood should never fall from grace. These programs have built in advantages for recruiting and coaching with their combination of money, boosters, alumni groups, and tradition. It shouldn’t take a premier coach to keep them at the top.

That, though, is simply not true. Historically there are six programs (give or take) that would be granted blue blood status. Of those six, UCLA and Indiana (to a lesser extent) are heavily underperforming their status.

It is also hard to imagine a coach leaving one of those key job voluntarily. When you have one of the best jobs in your sport, one where you can hand pick whatever recruits you think you need to reach the Elite Eight (at a minimum) every year, you tend to keep it. After all, what could be better than cementing your coaching standing in the history of a blue blood?

How about the prospect of becoming a coaching legend at two of the premier institutions in the history of the sport?

Calipari is paid very, very well in Lexington. His total compensation of $9.2 million dollars for this season will only increase in the future as he hits specific escalators in his contract. Kentucky knows they have a premier coach and the powers that be at the school know that they have to pay to keep him in place.

What those powers that be cannot have expected, however, is legitimate interest from UCLA to return the Bruins to their glory days.

Calipari also might have been tempted by a change of scenery. After reaching the Final Four in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015, the Wildcats have now bowed out at some point during the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for three straight years. While there is no danger that Calipari would have been under any type of job scrutiny at Kentucky, this is a trend that he will need to reverse quickly to justify his monster contract.

UCLA was offering something in the region of $48 million over six years for Coach Cal to jump to the West Coast. Sensing that their premier coach may be intrigued by the offer, Kentucky is set to offer Calipari a lifetime contract that will transition his role from coach to ambassador when the time is right.

The moral of this story is a simple one. Schools realize that coaches that can recruit, develop, and win don’t come around all that often. It also shows that Calipari, or his agent, is a shrewd businessman who knows how to turn rumored interest into the type of contract we would all dream to be on. Being a premier coach really does have its perks!