Everything Old is New Again

In May, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan announced that the team would drop the Bobcats moniker and would once again be known as the Charlotte Hornets for the 2014-15 season. More recently, the team revealed that the original Hornets color scheme would be coming back, too. Yesterday, the Bobcats unveiled the new Hornets logo. Celebrate with the team by clicking here for your chance to win this sweet jacket!

In a slightly related development that is much more exciting, Converse recently re-released the signature shoe of Larry Johnson, a.k.a “Grandmama,” whom the Hornets selected with the first overall pick of the 1991 NBA draft. (My favorite thing about the re-release is that one of the colorways in called “Black/Peacoat Blue.” If you ever come across a peacoat that matches those sneakers, please let me know about it.) Incidentally, Johnson, now retired and a devoted golfer, recently told the Charlotte Observer that the return of the Hornets name is “a great idea.”

Speaking of great ideas, what fan of Charlotte basketball hasn’t wondered what might have been if the team hadn’t traded the player it selected with the 13th pick in the 1996 draft for a veteran center who learned English, at least in part, by watching the Flintstones?

(Here is an interesting account of that ill-fated trade, if you’re curious.)

The King James Version: A Good Game in the First Half

LeBron in Game 6: If I can't do it, it can't be done. Photo by Elise Amendola (AP), courtesy of cnnsi.com.

Tom Robinson is almost certainly right: everyone would be better off with less sports talk radio in their lives (or even none at all).

Even so, LeBron James’ performance in the Heat’s woodshedding of the Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals makes me want to tune in today (at any hour of the day, to any host) to find out who eats his crow like a man.

ESPN’s Chris Palmer tweeted that LeBron became the first NBA player with 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in a playoff game in 48 YEARS. The last player to put up that line? Wilt Chamberlain. Palmer also used the twitter machine to point out that Game 6 was LeBron’s 11th career 40-point playoff game. Among active players, only K. Bean Bryant, Esquire has more (13).

Yesterday afternoon, some local radio hosts were going on about Dwyane Wade’s post-Game 5 glasses (to be fair, the specs were a little silly – can Paul Pfeiffer have them back now?); one national host held forth on Wade and LeBron’s post-game sartorial decisions. The point of these meanderings seemed to be that Wade and LeBron care too much about how they look for the post-game presser. This is emblematic of a lack of competitive fire and toughness in the face of adversity and, according to the voices on the airwaves, shows that James, Wade, and the Heat lack the “heart” necessary to become champions.

With regard to Wade individually, this is absurd: he won a ring in 2006. Res ipsa.

Even taking that aside, it’s a stretch to assert that there is any correlation between an eye for fashion (however dubious) and the likelihood of winning a championship. Without going where better bloggers have gone before, the most obvious flaw of this “heart of a champion” claptrap is that it doesn’t account for the fact that only one team can win the title each year.

It’s always been extremely difficult to win an NBA crown; the number of legitimate contending teams in this year’s playoffs makes it even harder. Three of the four conference finalists (Spurs, Thunder, and Heat) were viewed as possible champions before the playoffs began. The Celtics have been a surprise thus far, but keep in mind that the core of the team is mostly intact from the 2008 title team and the 2010 team that lost in the Finals. The 2012 playoff field also included the defending NBA champions (admittedly, this Mavs team was a shadow of last year’s edition) and the always-dangerous Kobe and the Lake Show.

(By the way, when was the last time you thought about the Bulls, the top seed in the East? They didn’t make it out of the first round after they lost Derrick Rose. The threat of an injury to a key player is always hanging over every team.)

Any way you slice it, there are several very good NBA teams and several Hall of Fame players that won’t win a championship this year.

A look back to the 1990′s reveals a similar pattern. Did Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Karl Malone somehow fall short in the “heart” department? Did they fail to win a championship between them because they were too concerned with wardrobe decisions? Did they just not want to win badly enough?

Of course not – they just had the bad luck to play during the heyday of a dominant Chicago Bulls team led by the dominant player of the era, Michael Jordan.

Radio hosts would probably make the following counterargument: of course there are players with the requisite championship heart who failed to win a championship, but no player ever won a ring without the heart of a champion pumping the ice water through his veins! Take that, basement blogger!

Scroll back up, though. Jordan has six rings, Wilt had two. Jordan stayed out until the wee hours gambling during the playoffs; there’s no way Wilt got to 20,000 without a few sleepless nights before playoff games. Doesn’t being on the prowl like MJ or the Dipper show less commitment to winning than any conceivable post-game outfit?

Back to LeBron: no one will give the man his due. He does everything that people say they want NBA stars to do. First and foremost, he passes the ball. Not only does he play defense, he can guard anybody from point guards to power forwards. He cares about winning: he put aside his own ego/reputation/need-to-be-the-alpha to share top billing with Wade in Miami because he believed that gave him the best chance to win a title. (Cf. Kobe: how many championships would the Lakers have won if Kobe hadn’t needed to prove he could do it without the Big Aristotle?)

What’s LeBron’s reward for all of that (other than huge paychecks, signature sneakers, and State Farm commercials)? He gets to be living proof that no good deed goes unpunished.

To watch LeBron is to witness basketball greatness. You may not like it, but you have to respect it. Stop sniping around the edges and appreciate it while it lasts.

Once more, with feeling! Photo by Charles Krupa (AP), courtesy of cnnsi.com.

A Rose by Any Other Name

It’s fair to question whether ESPN reports on sports or runs them (especially college football). To its credit, the Worldwide Leader is conscious of the issue and has partnered with the Poynter Institute to police itself to some degree. (The first order of business, though, will always be to turn a profit for Disney and its shareholders.)

Despite all that, ESPN’s commercials are still funny, especially this new entry in the “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports” series:

Clever, certainly, but the ad is a clear case of life imitating art.

Did you know that Michael Jordan played for the Penn Quakers, made the All-Ivy League first team three times, and was Ivy League Player of the Year for the 1999-2000 season?

The "other" Michael Jordan in action for the Quakers of Penn. Photo courtesy of penngazettesports.com.

Wait a minute. His Airness was not on an NBA roster for the 1999-2000 season, but did he somehow convince the NCAA to make him eligible again? After six NBA rings, did Jordan covet the Ivy League award, one of the few basketball honors he didn’t achieve?

No, of course not. (Aren’t you the least bit curious, though, what a 37-year-old Jordan would have averaged against Ivy League competition?)

Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the man behind the shoe from which this blog takes its name, was born on February 17, 1963, and played his college ball under Dean Smith at UNC.

Michael Hakim Jordan, fourteen years younger than Michael Jeffrey, graduated from Abington Friends School in Philadelphia and played four seasons at Penn under coach Fran Dunphy (currently the head man at Temple).

Michael Hakim finished his college career with 1,604 points, currently good for fifth on Penn’s all-time list. Michael Hakim and Michael Jeffrey both wore number 23, but the Quaker Michael was humble about any comparison between the two, telling the Chicago Tribune, “People just assume you’re going to going to go out and play like him, which nobody can do.”

Even so, Michael Hakim played several seasons of professional basketball in Europe and hopes to transition to a coaching career.

For his part, Dunphy said that, “[H]ere at Penn we’re real proud of our Michael Jordan.” Although that comment came in 2000, Dunphy can continue to be proud of Penn’s Michael Jordan, who remains a devoted supporter of his alma mater and blessedly has nothing to do with the Bobcats.

The gold standard.