ALMOST FAME-OUS; OR, How the Ghost of Sidney Moncrief’s Career Haunts the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

I was thrilled to hear of the selection of one of the premier Guards of the Golden Age of Basketball, Philadelphia 76er floor General Maurice Cheeks for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this September. About 5 minutes into posting my photo memories of Cheeks onto my Golden Age of Basketball’s FaceBook Page, I was equally saddened at the exclusion, yet again, of the great Sidney Moncrief, for reasons that completely escape myself, a significant legion of fans of the All-NBA Guard for the Milwaukee Bucks who retired in 1991, Media that covered his career, and current Hall of Famers that battled Sidney’s Bucks for 10 of his 11 NBA seasons.

Now  I wasn’t born last night, I know there are thinly veiled political machinations to all Sports Shrines, or as Sports Illustrated writer Charles S. Pierce described them last year in a scathing indictment of Moncrief’s exclusion,   ” open invitations to pretentious moralism and preening self-regard”.       

Hall-worthy players are held behind the barricades for a myriad of strange reasons, but surprisingly, most players who have earned induction into their respective Sport’s Hall of Fame somehow find themselves blessed by enshrinement, if not on the First Ballot, or Second or Tenth Ballot, then by the respective Sport’s Veteran’s Committees who offer the fresh perspective awarded by the passage of time, and take action to right the Sins of years past (and for far too many deserving veterans, those fences are mended long after they are six feet under, where they may finally rest in peace).

Twenty Seven long seasons after Moncrief’s retirement in 1991,  I’m simply mystified, flummoxed,  stumped, perplexed,  bewildered as to how one of the best players of the Golden Age is still sitting out on the curb across from the Hall, needing to buy a ticket to get in. Was Sid a mirage?. Was I high all those years I watched him play? (no comment). Did he somehow publicly defile or embarrass the Hall or the Game of Basketball during his career or retirement?.  Wasn’t he voted one of the 10 best players on the Planet for 5 consecutive seasons in his Prime?.

To obtain clarity I wanted to dig a little deeper to try to understand this egregious omission, then use what I found to hopefully spark a groundswell of support for Sidney in anticipation of the 2019 Hall nominations.

In this era of AAU stat-mongering, One (dimensional) and Done athletes who call themselves Basketball players,  Moncrief deserves recognition as not only one of the best players of his era but as a template of the complete basketball player that your eight year old can emulate. Sidney was a living monument to Playing the Game the Right Way, a self-depreciating team-first Leader on and off the Court, a devout practitioner of the Mystical Art of Defense, and most importantly a perennial Winner, whose accomplishments in his College and Pro Basketball careers should have spoken volumes but apparently the volume was not been turned up nearly loud enough. I have no Idea who votes in this North American Committee of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, but anyone who reads this Blog or listens to its accompanying Podcast, play it forward and share them with 5 other people, eventually it may find the way to the Computer Monitor, Tablet or Smartphone of someone who actually has a say in this matter.

Then maybe we can finally expose what I believe is one of the biggest Black Marks on the Hall in its storied History.

So, exactly how does one get into the Hall of Fame?.

What are the criteria for selection into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame?. A player who excelled in his or her Era, typically marked by the decade in which they played, a neat, minimum 10-year slice of history,  although the Hall does not necessarily discriminate against a shorter period of sustained excellence. Our Historical mind’s eye has been trained to compartmentalize Eras by Decade; Cousy and Russell, Chamberlain, Oscar, West and Baylor in the Sixties; Clyde and Willis, Havlicek and Cowens, Barry and Walton, The Pearl and The Pistol in the Seventies; Sidney’s Era, the Eighties, dominated by Magic and Bird, Worthy and McHale, Isiah and Dominique. You have players who transited Decades, Kareem, The Doctor, Gervin, Jordan, Hakeem, Kobe, Duncan, but are most closely identified with a particular period of time.

My Book, The Golden Age of Basketball, Volumes I and II chronicled the period from October 1979 (Magic and Bird’s debut), to June, 1989, (the Pistons defeat the Lakers for the NBA Title, the last game of the Magnificent Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

This is the era where Sidney Moncrief made his mark on the Game of Basketball.

So back to my original question, what does one have to do to get into the Hall of Fame?. What exactly determines a Hall of Fame Career?.

(The official enshrinement process can be found here on the NBHOF Website)

The voting is heavily weighted toward championships won, MVP awards (regular season or Finals), Finals appearances, All-NBA selections, All Star selections, or your recognition as a perennial Scoring or Assist leader. The College accolades include All- American Teams, NCAA Player of the Year and Final Four MVP. International fame from Olympic and World Championships. Basketball is first or foremost a team game, so your contribution to a perennial winning team, as its Coach or best player warrants consideration for enshrinement. Finally, your contribution to the Growth, Promotion and Health of the Game as an Owner, Executive, Broadcaster, or Media member can secure your permanent residence in Springfield.

The evidence leads us to a Hall heavily populated by Singular Offensive Talents.  Great Scorers are gifted, they are born with the scoring Gene, then hone their skills through incessant hard work against the greatest competition in the World.

Defense, however is a craft; it is a thankless job, accumulated sweat equity meticulously developed through unforgiving hours of grunt work: film review, studying opponent tendencies, forging a communication network with your Coaching staff and teammates to  plan, anticipate, react, then adjust on a dime while remaining laser- focused for every 24 second possession.  Only a select few in the History of the Game are lauded for a career dedicated to excellence on both sides of the Ball, and we best remember the Big Men that controlled the paint like Russell, Kareem, Walton, Hakeem, Duncan as Defensive Game-Changers.  There was a much shorter list of elite Guards that impacted the game on the defensive end that included Hall of Famers Jerry West, Walt Frazier, Dennis Johnson, Joe Dumars and Gary Payton.

I decided to research precisely where Sidney Moncrief fit in the pecking order of his peers, both in his Era and in the History of the League.

College Career: Sidney Moncrief at the University of Arkansas (SI COVER)

16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 60% FG, 78% FT

A UPI All-American as Junior, Moncrief’s Arkansas team lost to Kentucky in the 1978 Final Four; in his Senior season Sidney was selected to the 1979 All-American First Team with Magic and Bird; he led them back to the Elite 8 in 1979 despite losing 3 players on the 1978 team to Graduation. The Razorbacks would face off against Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores for a chance to return to the Final Four; it was a closely contested game where Sidney put the defensive clamps on Bird in the second half (watch You Tube film of Sid shadowing Bird in that game to get a glimpse of what he would become), but Arkansas would lose a heartbreaker 73-71 when some guy named Bob Heaton hit an 8 foot left-handed floater as time expired…Bird went on to meet Magic and Michigan State in the Game of the Century, the highest rated basketball game since the beginning of Time.

Moncrief, at 6 foot 4 remains the Second Leading Scorer and All Time Leading Rebounder in Arkansas History,  and was selected to The College Basketball HALL OF FAME in 2018.

                                                        Sidney in the NBA

Despite some dissenters in the Los Angeles Laker organization (including Assistant GM Jerry West) who thought Sidney, a 4- Year Senior may be more NBA-ready then Sophomore Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Laker Owner Jack Kent Cooke, who would sell the team to Jerry Buss that summer looked into his Crystal Ball and for his last official move selected Magic number 1 overall. Sidney was selected 5th by Milwaukee after Magic to the Lakers, David Greenwood to Chicago, Bill Cartwright to New York and Magic’s Michigan State teammate Greg Kelser to Detroit.

 Sidney would enter into the League with some Degenerative Knee problems that would trouble him for his entire career.

Career Stats: 10 Seasons:  16.7 Pts, 50% FG, 83% FT, 4.7 Reb, 3.6 Ast, 1.2 Stl.  Sidney averaged 20 or more PPG  in 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1986.

His 10-Year Playoff Average with the Bucks-was remarkably consistent with his regular season numbers:

16 pts, 45%FG, 81%FT,  5 Reb. 3.4 Ast,  1.1 Stl.

 I wrote a section in Volume I of The Golden Age of Basketball on The Milwaukee Bucks of the Eighties titled “Close, but no Champagne”.

Milwaukee won 7 straight Central Division titles from Sidney’s Rookie season of 1979-80 to 1985-86, and averaged 52 wins per season in his 10 years. The 522 wins in that span were the 4th highest victory total in the Eighties after the Lakers, the Celtics, and the 76ers.

Sidney’s Coach, Don Nelson was a disciple of the tried and true Celtic principles of balanced scoring and stingy team defense; the Bucks featured Small Forward Marques Johnson, former  UCLA star and All-NBA Forward in 1979, 1980 and 1981, and in 1979 traded for HOF Center Bob Lanier, a Detroit Piston Icon in his 10th NBA Season.

Lanier would retire at the end of the 1984 season while Johnson and Guard Junior Bridgeman were traded to the Clippers for Power Forward Terry Cummings at the start of the 1984-85 Season. Twelve months later Milwaukee would add Center Jack Sikma for the 1985-86 season; Sikma, the 9 year veteran and Center on the 1979 World Champion Seattle Supersonics would fill the hole in the middle left by Lanier’s retirement. Sidney and Don Nelson would provide the stability that kept Milwaukee in contention through all the roster changes.

Awards and Recognition

 Sidney would make Second Team All-NBA in 1982, First Team All- NBA in 1983, and Second Team All-NBA again in 1984, 1985, and 1986

He was the Inaugural winner OF the NBA’s first Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1983, then followed it up with a second DPOY Award in 1984.

 The Written Word on Sidney Moncrief

 Let’s look at some Published Testimonials to Moncrief’s stature during the Decade from  Media, Coaches, teammates and opponents, as well as some advanced stats.

Moncrief wasn’t just a defensive demon.. I pulled this from a Website called Statitudes; the 2013 Story was titled ” Is Sidney Moncrief a Hall of Famer?.”

The Author quotes: “Moncrief was also an extremely efficient scorer. For his career he produced an estimated 119.4 points per 100 possessions, the sixth-best figure in NBA history since 1977-78 for a minimum 10,000 points produced”.,

Here is an NBA.com Web post dated Sept 4, 2011, after Sidney returned to Bucks as a Bench Coach.

Moncrief, most Aristocratic Buck, back on Milwaukee bench
by Steve Aschburner
, NBA.com 

“He guarded like Michael Cooper but, with 11,931 points and a .502 shooting percentage, scored like James Worthy. His outside game grew dangerous but he stayed springy enough to attack, recreating numerous times for Milwaukee his famous 1978 Sports Illustrated college cover shot. Five times each, Moncrief was an all-NBA pick, an all-defense selection and an All-Star.
The Bucks’ record in his 10 seasons there: 522-298 (.637), with 10 postseason appearances and those seven division titles. In terms of “win shares per 48 minutes,” Moncrief ranks 30th in NBA/ABA history, which means little until you frame it this way: The 19 players ahead of him on that list who are eligible for the Hall of Fame are in the Hall of Fame. And so are the next nine”.

But Moncrief never won a ring. Neither did Lanier, Johnson or, for that matter, Nelson as a coach.
“It wasn’t that we didn’t have a good team,” said Moncrief, now 53. “It wasn’t that we couldn’t compete. It wasn’t that Don Nelson wasn’t a good coach in big games. It’s just that they were just a little better than what we were. Their talent level was a little better, they competed, they were smart players and timing was not perfect for us.”

The “they” were Boston and Philadelphia primarily and “they” always stood between Milwaukee and a Finals trip. Even when the Bucks could handle one — they swept the Celtics in the 1983 Eastern Conference semifinals — they couldn’t handle the other, managing only to stick the 76ers with their lone defeat in Moses Malone’s near-“fo’, fo’, fo'” championship run.

“The purists know [how good those Bucks teams were],” Moncrief said. “Certainly we were overshadowed and, had we broken through to win a championship, more people would remember. But when you look at those teams in the ’80s — the Lakers, the Celtics, the 76ers — it was very easy to get overshadowed.
“What I don’t think people realize is how great those teams were. You start looking at the old games on NBA TV and you see, ‘Gol, they had this player and this player and this player? You start looking at the personnel, it was scary.”

Scary indeed, yet how did the Bucks stay competitive with Philly and Boston all of those seasons?….Hmmm.

This is from Bill Simmons, the Author of The Book Of Basketball responding to a mailbag question  regarding Hall of Fame credibility for Moncrief when compared to some other inducted players who I won’t mention here as this Podcast/Blog is not intended to disparage any Player currently in the Hall or in consideration :

Simmons’ description of Moncrief in his Book: “Best player on a perennial contender (Nellie’s Bucks); one first-team All-NBA, four second-team All-NBAs, five All-Star Teams ; two Defensive Player of the Year Awards; NEVER TRADED; iconic SI cover in college; if he never blew out his knee, he’s the best all-around guard of the 1980s (and that might have been true, anyway); a more polished, less combustible version of Dennis Johnson; the league’s best 2-guard from ’82 through ’86 (21.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.7 APG, 50% FG, 20.5 PER, six playoff series wins); ranked 72nd in my book”

Next,  I found this snippet from the old Web Column titled “PAGE TWO” on the ESPN Website all the way back in 2002; The Editors chose the “Top Ten former NBA players since 1946 not yet in the Hall of Fame….in the order of “deservedness”.

The List was as follows...

  1. Spencer Haywood, 2. Artis Gilmore,  3. Sidney,  4. Bernard King,                   5. George McGinnis, 6. Mel Daniels (ABA’s Indiana Pacers), 7. Dennis Johnson, 8. Maurice Stokes (All Star Forward in the 50’s who died of a rare Neurological disease), 9. Marques Johnson, Sidney’s teammate on those Buck teams and UCLA National Champion, 10. Max Zaslofsky, 40’s/50’s NBA Star.

Honorable Mentions  …11. Paul Westphal, 12. Roger Brown (ABA’s Pacers), 13. RIchie Guerin, NY Knick Guard in the late 50’s and 60’s and 14. Forward Gus “Honeycomb”Johnson of the Baltimore Bullets.

Here are the players from that list that have since been inducted into the Hall : 1, Haywood, 2, Gilmore, 4, King, 5., George McGinnis, 6. Mel Daniels, 7. Dennis Johnson, 8. Maurice Stokes, and Three Honorable Mentions: 9. Roger Brown, 10. Richie Guerin and 11. Gus Johnson.

So two starters on those Milwaukee teams of the Eighties have not been selected….curious, which shows how little the evolving NBA Marketing Machine got behind the Bucks. Once Jordan got to Chicago, and the Bad Boys rose in Detroit, the League just lost interest in their Midwestern neighbors.

This is an excerpt from an October 28th, 1985  Sports Illustrated  NBA Preview Story on Moncrief by Writer Jaime Diaz:

“It has become a maxim among the Bucks that “Sidney is the guy who won’t let us lose” . Without a dominating center, Milwaukee has won its division in each of Moncrief’s six seasons, with an overall record of 324-168. The classic lines of his game may clash with the pop art design of the Mecca floor, but Moncrief is the soul of the Buck machine. Last season, on a team that was supposed to be rebuilding after Marques Johnson and Junior Bridgeman were traded and Bob Lanier retired, Moncrief was again a dynamo—scoring 21.7 points a game, with 5.4 rebounds and a career high of 5.2 assists—and the Bucks won 59 games”. Diaz then goes on to compare Sidney to an Olympic Athlete…

 (But press pause for a minute…”without a dominating Center”….Kids, in the Eighties, Bigger equaled better. Quality Centers dominated the game, dictated the style of play and were essential to winning a Title. Mikan, Russell, Chamberlain, Kareem, Reed, Cowens, Unseld, Walton, Sikma, Moses, Parish, McHale. Between 1956 and 1987, Thirty One Seasons,  only three Guards won League MVP Awards: Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson).

Back to Diaz’ SI article…”At 28 Moncrief is the best Pentathlete of the NBA—no one does so many things so well. Moncrief is a relentless rebounder and inside scorer, a reliable outside shooter, a creative passer and a master of the man-to-man, switching and rotation defenses in coach Don Nelson’s hefty defensive playbook. This has made him a member of four NBA All-Star teams and three All-Defensive teams, and Defensive Player of the Year twice. Remarkably, however, he has never been in the top 10 in any category. In a sport where coaches strive to find the best blend of specialists, Moncrief has become its most accomplished generalist”.

Here’s Sidney on Sidney from the SI Article

“Moncrief’s mental ability has always been on full power when it comes to defense. “In college, you can get up in somebody’s jersey and everyone says you’re playing great defense,” he says. “Do that in the NBA, the man’s by you. There is so much more strategy in professional basketball. Each time you take something away from the offensive player, you give him something else. So, to be effective, your teammates have to know what that is, just as you have to know what they’re giving the players they’re guarding. That’s why good man-to-man defense is really team defense.”

How many NBA players in the Eighties, or in any Era do you think went to sleep at night thinking…Ok, how am I going to defend this Guy tomorrow night, what shots am I going to allow him, and what am I taking away vs… Ok, how many shots can I get up tonight?. “…and where’s the After-Party?.

The SI article continues, quote….”Moncrief then delivers tidbits on the scorers he guards as though reading from some inner computer readout. On George Gervin: “Force him right. He has many more moves going to his left.” Magic Johnson: “Take away his right. Don’t let him shoot a set shot. Make him move when he shoots.” Philadelphia sharpshooter Andrew Toney: “Keep him out of the middle, where he can go all the way or hit in-between shots.” Michael Jordan: “Finishes his drives on opposite side of basket. Don’t foul him in the air.” “Actually,” says Moncrief, discarding the readout, “you don’t play Michael Jordan. You play at him.”

A close examination of the ALL NBA and All Star Rosters during the Decade of the Eighties, still leads me to wonder,  If this Guy was voted one of the 10 Best Players in the World for 5 Consecutive Seasons,

 WHY WASN’T HE A HOUSEHOLD NAME?. WHY WASN’T SIDNEY MONCRIEF A PART OF THE EIGHTIES NBA ZEITGEIST?.

 Here’s One Theory… Sidney’s game lacked the “WOW!” factor in a League that needed “WOW!” to survive.

In the Early Eighties the NBA’s Marketing Machine, in its partnership with flagship Networks CBS and Turner Broadcasting quickly realized the Basketball Gods had dropped manna from Heaven with the arrival of Magic and Bird at the doorsteps of their two most storied Franchises in Boston and Los Angeles; for a League desperate to keep the lights on in the Arenas and make Payroll, they needed to maximize the entertainment value of their Stars on every platform possible. Remember Kids, the NBA was on the brink of insolvency in 1979; in the sporting world pecking order they were the financial and popular equivalent of today’s WNBA( and I love the Women’s Game, just making a point).

In the MAGIC vs BIRD Era, the League would brilliantly showcase the skills of their two protagonists and their teams every week on Network Television, giving the viewing public what they wanted: running, gunning, high flying no look passing, sky hooking, finger rolling, dream shaking, sharpshooting, ThunderDunking action at every turn.

Led by newly minted Commissioner David Stern in 1984, the NBA would push that Marketing Machine into hyperdrive, and after the Iconic first meeting of Magic and Bird in the 1984 NBA Finals, an Epic Armageddon won by Boston in 7 Games, the NBA would become the new Cool Kids on the Sports Block, basking in unprecedented Popularity.

Stern and the NBA took that momentum to  promote Flash, Brash and Talking Trash , on and off the Court, while Sidney maintained his quiet, unassuming, plain-vanilla personality.  He remained a fierce competitor on the hardwood, but he lacked that funky, Rucker-Park Streetball repertoire worthy of endless Sportcenter highlight loops every night (or at the least a catchy Nickname), and his Bucks were a fundamentally sound reflection of their leader. The only flash Moncrief possessed was the one on top of his Camera. He wasn’t a trash talker on the court or supplier of colorful sound bites in the Locker Room.  Moncrief had zero interest in Showtime, or shameless self-promotion; his only concern was winning, so he let his game do the talking. Sidney wasn’t a stat-chaser, he only cared about an NBA Championship  and shutting down the other team’s stat-chaser.

The NBA’s Marketing and Broadcasting partners did not just promote the Bird /Magic Show to its rapidly-growing fanbase in the first half of the Eighties;   even as Bird was flying high in the East and the Magic Show played to sellout crowds in the West, the Networks produced a number of television pregame, halftime or post-game features on the crossover stars from the Seventies, Dr. J, Kareem, George Gervin and Moses Malone; Bird’s future HOF teammates Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson, and later  the iconoclastic Bill Walton; Magic’s “Two Amigos” Isiah Thomas and Mark Aguirre; the Towering Ralph Sampson in Houston, and High Fliers James Worthy of the Lakers and Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks.

The Basketball Gods would make another Golden Deposit in the 1984 Draft that featured Akeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton. In New York City, the NBA’s largest TV market  would tout the Knicks’ Bernard King, who led the league in Scoring in 1985,  then welcome the Inaugural Lottery Pick Patrick Ewing that summer,  while John Stockton’s new running Mate in Utah, Forward Karl Malone would quickly raise eyebrows throughout the League. The NBA had their own monthly Magazine, entitled Hoop, to tout their Stars, while the National NBA Beat continued to carve out more space in Newspapers and Basketball Themed Magazines around the World with expansive  feature Articles on the Superstars of the Game.

By the Mid-Eighties, NBA  stories found their way into the Newsmagazines such as Time and Newsweek, and the Network News reports would tout the NBA’s  complete 180 degree reversal of fortune from the death knell they all predicted in 1979.

The League would unveil an All Star Weekend in the mid-Eighties to merge the NBA’s past and present, featuring a Saturday Night Slam Dunk and 3 point competition, gathering retired players to  celebrate the “NBA Family”, and leaning on perennial All Stars Isiah Thomas and Magic to go head to head as opposing East-West point guards in the All-Star Games, revving up the pace and taking the game back to their Midwest Playground Days for 2 1/2 hours.  All Star Weekend was a smashing success, but you won’t find many highlights of Sidney, a five-time All Star and one time Starter who never participated in either the Slam Dunk or Three Point Competitions, and never took enough shots for All Star MVP Consideration, certainly lost opportunities for Historical self-promotion.  Another excerpt from Sidney’s Book: ” Making the All Star Team was especially exciting the first time, but you can’t establish the teamwork and rapport that is important to me in a game like that”.

In a loosely played Game designed for the sole purpose of individual highlights, Sidney still can’t stop thinking about his core values, teamwork and rapport. Hear that, Springfield?. The “I” in Sidney was silent.

 Moncrief’s Milwaukee Bucks were not appointment Television and people were not selling out Arenas around the country to watch them play. Guy’s weren’t sitting around Barber shops in Harlem, Chicago, Dallas or Watts waxing poetic about who they saw Moncrief dunk on last night. Milwaukee did not have a National Fan following like the Celtics, Lakers and Knicks when they played on the Road.  Sidney wasn’t featured in  crossover National TV ads, or peddling Converse Sneakers; his poster didn’t adorn every adolescent’s bedroom (except for his Sports Illustrated Cover Shot at Arkansas by Photographer Manny Millan). I don’t have today’s sales numbers on top Throwback Jerseys from the NBA Eighties, but I am confident Sidney’s was not in the top 25.  Sidney explains in his Biography, “I would not, for example be a part of a beer commercial…it bothers me that alcohol is so glamorized and connected with Sports through Television”. A moral compass that probably cost him a ton of notoriety (and money) in Milwaukee of  all places, known as the Beer Capitol of the World.

He didn’t fare much better on the Networks. I searched the Web and found few  In-Depth regular season or Playoff features on Moncrief. Kids, remember this was a different media landscape, today’s glut of Basketball-themed Web Pages, Blogs, Podcasts, Basketball Twitter, Instant You Tube highlights,  NBA TV or Satellite NBA Radio were still the musings of Tech Nerds in 1985, operating DOS systems on 8 inch floppy Discs, excited for the Launch of Windows 1.0 coming that November.

It was left up to the Flagship CBS/TBS networks, Newspapers or National Mags like Sports Illustrated to turn you and your game into a household name. Sometime around 1986-87 the League started a series of Videos called NBA Superstars; they were MTV-style Highlight reels of the NBA’s Stars put to ’80’s Popular Music; I have an old VHS tape buried somewhere, as Magic shows off his dazzling no-look passes backed by Janet Jackson’s “Control”,  Bird hits game winners to Springsteen’s “Small Town”, Isiah’s dribbling wizardry backed by Vanessa Williams’ “The Right Stuff”, Jordan takes flight to the “Top Gun” Soundtrack, and my personal favorite, Akeem the Dream, shakin’, fakin’, drop-steppin’ and bakin’ to Kool Moe Dee’s “How ya like me Now??”.  You can probably find it on EBAY, there were a number of them.  I doubt you will dig up an NBA Superstars video of Sidney playing tenacious one-on-one defense, or sitting in some musty film room, breaking down his opponent’s offensive tendencies.

MONCRIEF LACKED THOSE INDELIBLE  “SIDNEY MOMENTS” THAT WOULD CAPTURE THE IMAGINATION OF FANS AND MEDIA  FOR ALL TIME.

I had to dig up a passage that I read years ago in Oscar Robertson’s Biography “The Big O”,  that stuck in my mind back then and popped to the forefront when researching Sidney’s career. Oscar, now in his Golden years may seem a bit surly, even bitter when comparisons are made between players of his generation and modern ballplayers, but he forgot more about Basketball than most of us collectively will ever know, so this is what he said, and I quote…

“The  fact is, you do need one on-on-one skills, you do  need to be able to isolate your man and break him down. You need to be able to create enough space for yourself to take a tough jump shot, to hit shots with a high degree of difficulty, to drive and dish to the open man. When you watch Kobe Bryant play Basketball, you see a great offensive player. But you also get the sense that he grew up and learned to play as if there was a television camera on him at all times. His style is something of an extension of Michael Jordan’s game, and Michael’s game not only had flair, it was the embodiment of flair. Both play a spectacular, highlight-oriented game, cherished by the cereal-box crowd and the marketing executives of corporate America. There’s nothing wrong with that”. 

He continues, “I had a different style, someone once suggested it might have been because I grew up in a time before television controlled everything. It wasn’t flashy. At the same time, if you watch Jordan’s fadeaway jumper, or his back to the basket fallaway, now that’s Oscar Robertson’s shot. If you pop in a Videotape of Magic Johnson protecting the ball with his body as he runs the halfcourt offense, then isolating his man on one side of the basket, bulling and backing him down, then spinning off his man that’s Oscar Robertson. My play influenced them. And I did these things before they were around to watch them”.

Moncreif had many virtues as a player, but he was certainly not the embodiment of flair; if anything, he was the Anti-Flair. He played a style in the Eighties tailor made for the Sixties. My theory is that it’s been costing him a phone call from the Hall of  Fame.

The Velvet Rope Theory 

Sidney’s painfully long wait for induction reminds me of going to a Trendy Nightclub.  Now this never happened to me, because well, I’m an A-Lister!., but some of you less fortunate have been in this situation: standing at the end of an interminably long  “VIP” line outside an exclusive Nightclub with 50 people in front of you, all of your friends inside and the Behemoth bouncer at  the front holding the clipboard with “The List”. Now imagine Godzilla with an earpiece  finally opening the velvet rope and everyone gets in until he gets to you…”it will be just a little while longer”. An hour later the line behind you has stretched around the corner when he asks you to step aside so he can admit the next 50 people behind you (“wont be long, now”), then another 50 ( as he asks me “how many in your party, sir?…ONE, DAMMIT!!), then so on, then so forth.

Finally he announces to me (uh, I mean you), now the only one in line, “Sorry, folks, Club is at Capacity!..bring this voucher with you to stand in line all night tomorrow!”.

Popularity Still Matters.

Now fast-forward to the 2018 Milwaukee Bucks as an example of the NBA Marketing Machine at work in today’s game.

The current star of the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo (pronounced YAHN-iss ah-deh-toh-KOON-boh), at the tender age of 23 has now played 5 years in the NBA and is designated as one of the League’s brightest stars; known as “The Greek Freak” because of his incredible athleticism and 8 foot wingspan,  Giannis was a starter for the Eastern Conference All Stars this season, A Two-Time All star who was voted second team All NBA and Second team All Defense in 2017, and was recently featured in a profile on CBS’ 60 Minutes, still to this day one of the top rated TV shows in the Country. In 2017-2018 he  averaged 27 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, including at least one rim-rattling SportsCenter highlight per game. He is an absolute beast who will be an ALL-NBA level Talent for as long as he stays healthy, and especially if he stays in the Eastern Conference. A League MVP or two before his career is over is well within his reach if the Planets align for him, and he will unquestionably make his second All NBA team this season, deservedly so.

So lets look at a 5 year sampling of his Giannis’ career to this point.

His 5-year Career averages are 17 points, 7 rebounds and 3.8 assists, and in that 5-year span the Bucks won 15, 41, 33, 42, and 44 games, with no division titles. They made the playoffs twice in his first 4 seasons, in 2015 and 2017, both first round losses. He has won 4 playoff Games in his first 4 seasons. The Bucks finished with a 44-38 record this season, good for the Seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.  They faced the Boston Celtics (yep, Bucks fans, the Celtics again) in the first round where they lost in seven spirited games as Giannis averaged 25.7 points on 57% shooting, 9.6 Rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.4 steals. Milwaukee finished in the Bottom 5 in attendance 4 of his first 5 seasons in the League, and are currently 21st of 30 teams in attendance. Back in the Day we used to call certain stats empty calories if you put up lofty numbers for a average team. My point is that  Giannis’ rising game in his first 5 seasons has not translated to team success anywhere near the level of Sidney Moncrief’s Bucks over the same period, but there is no argument that Giannis has enormous name recognition in the Global Game of Basketball, and if he maintains 2018’s numbers for at least the next 5-7 seasons without ever sniffing an NBA Title he will remain a strong first ballot HOF candidate, will be a staple in the MVP conversation every year and no one will ever use a lack of playoff success as a detriment to his getting into the Hall…just keep posting those SportsCenter Highlights.

The Bucks’ methodical but extremely effective style of play in the Eighties did little to excite the national fan base, or their own fan base for that matter. In a 23 team League, Milwaukee averaged between 11th and 14th in attendance in the Decade while the Lakers, Celtics and Sixers were among the League leaders in Home and Road attendance every season. Milwaukee was then and always will be a Green Bay Packer Town, with ironically one of the great national fan bases.

 So what have we learned so far about Sidney Moncrief’s Career?.

Let’s review Kids, remember this test is 50% of your Grade…

Moncrief played in a consecutive NCAA Final 4 and Elite 8 where he’s one of the 4 best players on the Floor, A First-Team All-American with Magic and Bird in 1979, was drafted by an NBA team that won an average of 38 games the previous 5 seasons then led the team to an average of 52 wins for the 10 seasons that he played; in a Division that featured Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, then Michael Jordan in 1984-85, Moncrief’s Bucks won 7 Division Titles in his first 7 seasons. He was selected to 5 All NBA teams, 5 All Defensive Teams and won the first 2 Defensive Player of the Year Honors in 1983 and 1984.

From 1982-83 to 1885-86  Moncrief averaged better than 20 points and tallied at least 330 rebounds and 300 assists each year. In 1982-83, perhaps his finest all-around campaign, he averaged 22.5 ppg 5.8 rpg, and 3.9 apg, shooting .524 from the field. That was also the year he earned the NBA’s first-ever Defensive Player of the Year Award and named to the All-NBA First Team, joining Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Magic Johnson. Advanced stats showed he was the sixth most efficient scorer in NBA History since the 1977-78 season.

If Shaquille O’Neal Nicknamed Tim Duncan the Big Fundamental, then 6’4″ Sidney Moncrief was the Little Fundamental. Sid was the Leader of one of the best Defensive teams of the Era, as the Bucks averaged the 3rd best Defensive Rating ( or points allowed per 100 possessions) in the League from 1981-1987.

The Clarion Call of the NBA was then and is still “Defense wins Championships”. Sidney’s personal and team defensive stats made Milwaukee serious title contenders every  year. This without a dominant Center.                      

So does Defense not matter to the Hall when you did not win Championships?.

Simply by the Numbers he was without peer the best two-way Guard in the NBA for half a Decade, who lead his team to the 4th Highest win total of the Eighties behind the Lakers, Boston and Philadelphia, the  3 Title-winning teams of the Decade that were led by 4 of my Top 10 players of All Time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Julius Erving;  The Lakers, Boston and Philadelphia featured 15  future Hall of Fame Players between their Rosters from 1979-1989. 

Sidney Moncrief, my friends, faced STIFF competition in his attempts to win an NBA Championship.

I can say with 100% confidence Moncrief would be in the Hall if the Bucks could have gotten by Philly or Boston to get to at least one NBA Final. The Bucks’ failures to advance was a direct result of the Two-Headed Monster in the Eastern Conference, Julius Erving and Larry Bird. The Bucks were the only NBA team to have played both Philadelphia and Boston in the same postseason during the Decade, and were eliminated twice in the Eastern Conference Finals by two of the 3 Great Teams of All Time, the 1983 Sixers, who went 12-1 in the Playoffs (with the Bucks giving them their only loss) and the 1986 Celtics, who won 67 regular season games, including 40 of 41 at home.  Bird is still one of the top 5 players in History (MVP in 1984, 1985 and 1986, A World Champion in  1981, 1984, 1986), and The Doctor remains in my top 10 (because yes, It’s the Basketball Hall of Fame and I count his ABA days); Doc won NBA MVP in ’81, Played in the Finals in 1980 and 1982, then added the League and Finals MVP Moses Malone to a stacked Philadelphia team on his way to his first NBA Title in 1983. Bird and Erving didn’t do it alone; Bird played with HOF teammates Tiny Archibald, McHale, Parish, DJ, and Bill Walton  in Boston, while Hall of Famers Malone, Maurice Cheeks and Charles Barkley flanked Doc in Philadelphia, as well as All Star Andrew Toney at Shooting Guard and 7 time all Defensive team staple Bobby Jones at Forward).

 STIFF COMPETITION.

It’s difficult to judge players and teams on their own historical merits when they are repeatedly thrown up against Iconic Players or Teams in a Playoff situation. The Lakers won the Western Conference eight out of ten seasons but the Hall still welcomed the best of their Playoff opponents. Moncrief and the Bucks had some victories against Doc’s Sixers and Bird’s Celtics in the postseason but never in a  Conference Final.

A LOOK AT Sidney Moncrief  in the NBA Playoffs

1980:

Sidney came off the bench in his rookie season to backup Brian Winters (in his Biography, Sidney says he wasn’t happy coming off the Bench but remembered what Coach Sutton taught him at Arkasnas; “Wait for your opportunity and when it comes, take advantage of it”). The Bucks were  still members of the Western Conference as they lost in the Conference Semifinals to the Defending World Champion Seattle Supersonics in 7 Games, the first of 3 Classic 7-Game Playoff Series Sidney would participate in. Sidney would get thrown in the fire early; he made the most of his opportunity when he subbed for Brian Winters who had fouled out in the second overtime of Game Two in Seattle; he responded with 6 points in the 2nd OT and 16 points overall as the Bucks outlasted the Sonics 114-112. 

Seattle would lose in WCF to Rookie Magic, League MVP Kareem and the  World Champion Los Angeles Lakers.

1981:

Moncrief moved into starting Lineup, Bucks would lose in Conference Semis to League MVP Julius Erving and Philadelphia in 7 Games  (Philly would cough up a 3-1 Eastern Conference Finals lead to Boston, losing in 7 Games as Boston would move on to win Bird’s first of three NBA Titles).

1982:

Bucks once again defeated by Dr. J and Philadelphia in the Conference Semifinals in Six Games (Philly defeated Boston in ECF in 7 games then Lose to Lakers in Finals)

1983: 

Milwaukee breaks through to Sweep Bird and Celtics in Conference Semifinal, then meet a 65 win Philadelphia team with League MVP Moses Malone in the Conference Final, where the Bucks manage to salvage one Game with a 4th quarter run at home against a team that steamrolled to a 12-1 NBA Playoff record, sweeping the Lakers on their way to Doc’s precious NBA Title.

1984: 

Bucks return to the Conference Finals only to lose to League MVP Bird and the Celtics 4 games to 1; In what may be the best Finals ever, Boston would defeat Los Angeles in 7 games to win the Championship.

1985:

Bucks trade Marques Johnson to the Clippers for Forward Terry Cummings, Bob Lanier retires and is replaced at Center by Alton Lister. Moncrief, in arguably his best season leads Milwaukee to 59 wins but their chemistry gets exposed in the Conference Semifinal as they get swept in 4 by Doc, Moses, and Rookie Charles Barkley, who averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds in Philadelphia’s surprisingly easy victory. Philly would lose 4 games to 1 to Boston and MVP Larry Bird in the Conference Finals. (Boston would lose to the Lakers in ’85 Finals).

1986:

Milwaukee beat the Sixers in another 7 Game Semifinal slugfest as Sidney only played in 3 of the 7 games due to injury but averaged 17 points, including 23 in the deciding game 7, a 113-112 nail-biter. That led them to right back to Bird, winner of his 3rd consecutive MVP Award and the 67-win Celtics, who amassed the third best regular season record in NBA History. Boston again made short work of the Bucks, sweeping them in the Conference Finals 4-0 on their way to their Sixteenth World Championship.

1987:

The Bucks would add veteran Center Jack Sikma to their roster, but a hobbled Sidney would play in only 39 Regular season contests. He would return for the Playoffs, and the 50- win Bucks would defeat Philadelphia in the First Round (Dr. J’s last Game), only to cross paths again with Bird and the Celtics in the second round, another Seven Game Classic featuring 2 Overtime Games, two 40 point games by Bird (including 42 in a 138-137 Game 4 double overtime win in Milwaukee) , followed by back to back 30 point games by Moncrief in Games 5 and 6 as Milwaukee battled back from a 3-1 Deficit to force a Game Seven at Boston Garden. The Big Three of Bird, McHale and Parish would combine for 80 points as Boston would eliminate the Bucks 119-113, then defeat the Pistons in 7 to advance to their 4th Consecutive NBA Finals, losing to League MVP Magic and the Lakers in Six.

For an incredibly detailed account of this Classic Matchup, read Part One Here and Part Two Here

So from 1981-87 the Bucks had Six Playoff Matchups with Philadelphia, finishing 2-4, and 4 Matchups with Bird’s Celtics, finishing 1-3. In 4 of those seasons they were eliminated in the Playoffs by the team with the MVP of the League, and 3 times they were eliminated by the eventual World Champions. In 3 of those six seasons they played both Philadelphia and Boston. They reached the Conference Finals 3 times, losing once to Philadelphia and twice to Boston.

Stiff Competiton.

 Keep Digging…..Let’s look at Sidney’s Hall of Fame Comps

I looked at the rosters of the Five ALL-NBA teams from 1981-82 and 1985-86; the following thirteen players went to the Hall:

Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Robert Parish, Julius Erving, Isiah Thomas, Ralph Sampson, Adrian Dantley, Akeem Olajuwon, Dominique Wilkens, Alex English and George Gervin.

The Five players below made one All-NBA First or Second team in those 5 seasons and are not in the Hall:

1982: Gus Williams, Seattle Sonics; 1983: Buck Williams, New Jersey Nets; 1984: Jim Paxson, Portland Trailblazers; 1985: Terry Cummings, Milwaukee Bucks; 1986: Alvan Robertson, San Antonio Spurs.

(I hate repeating myself, but Sidney made the All NBA Team 5 times!!).

Finally, I took a look back from the early Seventies to the present to see which Guards were the best two-way players in the History of the League.. my Criteria were to meet Sidney’s 5 time First or Second Team All NBA selections and 5 time First or Second team  All Defensive team selections.  Defensive Player of the year Awards started with Sidney winning the First in 1983, so otherwise deserving players like Jerry West and Walt Frazier didn’t get an opportunity to win a DPOY.

The League added 5 Third Team All NBA selections starting in the 1988-89 season, but I did not count a Third Team selection, as I only wanted the Top 10 players in each season. I looked at 22 Hall of Fame Guards and Sidney.

Titles Finals Finals MVP MVP Scoring All NBA All Star All Defense DPOY
Jerry West 1 7 1 0 1 12 14 5 0
Clyde Frazier 2 3 0 0 0 6 7 7 0
Nate Archibald 1 1 0 1 1 5 6 0 0
Jo Jo White 2 2 0 0 0 2 7 0 0
Earl Monroe 1 2 0 0 0 1 4 0 0
Pete Maravich 0 0 0 0 1 4 5 0 0
Dave Bing 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 0 0

 

Gail Goodrich 1 2 0 0 0 1 5 0 0
Dennis Johnson 3 5 1 0 0 2 5 9 0
George Gervin 0 0 0 0 4 7 14 0 0
Maurice Cheeks 1 2 0 0 0 0 4 5 0
Isiah Thomas 2 3 1 0 0 5 12 0 0
Joe Dumars 2 3 1 0 0 3 6 5 0
Michael Jordan 6 6 6 5 10 10 14 9 1
Clyde Drexler 1 3 0 0 0 5 10 0 0

 

Sidney Moncrief 0 0 0 0 0 5 5 5 2

 

Gary Payton 1 2 0 0 0 7 9 9 1
Mitch Richmond 1 1 0 0 0 1 6 0 0
Reggie Miller 0 1 0 0 0 1 5 0 0
Kobe Bryant 5 7 2 1 2 13 18 12 0
Ray   Allen 2 4 0 0 0 1 10 0 0
Jason      Kidd 1 3 0 0 0 6 10 9 0
Dwayne Wade 3 5 1 0 1 8 12 3 0
                   

 

Best two way players By the Numbers (ALL NBA/ALL DEFENSIVE TEAMS/DPOY)

Kobe Bryant 13/12/0
Michael Jordan 10/9/1*
Jerry West 12/5/0
Gary Payton 7/9/1
Jason Kidd 6/9/0
Walt Frazier 6/7/0
Sidney Moncrief 5/5/2
Dennis Johnson 2/9/0

*(MJ Missed entire 1994 and 80% of 1995 season)

**( DJ made only two All-NBA teams, but Nine All Defensive teams?. Damn.)

 

 

 

 

On these numbers alone, Sidney was one of the Top Eight two-way Guards in the History of the NBA..the other 7 are in the Hall. Those 7 All won NBA Titles. MJ, Kobe, DJ and Clyde won multiple titles. Only Jordan, Payton and Sidney had at least 5 All-NBA, 5 All Defensive Team selections and 1 DPOY Award.  Four of these 22 Guards in the Hall do not have Championships; Pete Maravich, Dave Bing, George Gervin and Reggie Miller.  Maravich, Bing and Gervin never played in the NBA Finals.

A Final Appeal to the Court of Public Opinon

(Or, Did NBA Historians fail Sidney Moncrief?).

I’m relatively new to the NBA History Game; but I’ve been watching Basketball over 40 years and my eyeball tests remain 20-20 when it comes to my assessment of NBA teams and players through the  years. In the Decade of the Eighties I tried to inhale as many Magazines, Newspapers and Basketball-related television shows as I could, moving to Los Angeles and trying to break in as a Sports Photographer in 1980. There were Writers that I considered the Creme de la Creme;

The Sports Reporters: Print Journalists Bob Ryan, Boston Globe, Mike Lupica, NY Daily News, Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press, and William C. Rhoden of the New York Times, who all rose to household fame on the classic and sadly now-defunct ESPN Series; there was Sam Smith, Chicago Tribune, George Vescey, Dave Anderson and Harvey Araton of the New York Times, Dan Shaughnessy, Jackie McMullan of the Boston Globe, Jan Hubbard, Dallas Morning News, the late Brian Burwell for USA Today, and the Man who was Basketball Twitter before Twitter, the irrepressible Peter Vescey of the New York Post, whose NBA Insider column was required reading around my dinner table growing up in Connecticut.

Sports Ilustrated, the Bible that I looked to for both words and pictures, featured writers Jack  McCallum, Curry Kirpatrick, Bruce Newman, Anthony Cotton and John Papanek covering the NBA.

When I moved to Los Angeles the Lakers were covered by Melvin Durslag, Alan Malamud and Doug Krikorian of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Thomas Bonk, Scott Ostler , Lyle Spencer and Mike Downey of the Los Angeles Times.

Then there were the Icons, Dick Schapp, host of Sports Reporters, Frank Deford of SI, Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times , who could keep all the hype in perspective while offering a unique view of any Sport and its participants.

The Number of Sports Talk Radio hosts around the Country in the Eighties were too numerous to mention here, but Mike and the  Mad Dog in New York were at the top of the Mountain.

The Voices of the NBA on CBS: Brent Musburger, Bill Russell, Rick Barry, Dick Stockton, Tom Heinsohn, Billy Cunningham;TBS Network’s Skip Caray, Barry,  Bob Neal, Doug Collins, the  late Steve “Snapper” Jones.                               

Hall of Famer Eddie Douchette, Jim Paschke and his television partner, Jon McGlocklin, the Voices of the Milwaukee Bucks from the Sixties to the Present. All of the Beat Writers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that covered the Bucks in the Eighties.

These Journalists and Broadcasters were the Griots of the History of the NBA; they were close enough to the action to take a charge or shoot free throws, they were in the winning and losing locker rooms, at practices  during an 82 Game Regular Season, Playoffs, Finals, All Star Weekends, at every press conference, conducting thousands of one-on-one interviews while analyzing every team, every Coach, every player that mattered. They put a Microscope to the NBA and dissected every corner of the Hardwood so even the most casual fan could better understand the Game and develop a greater appreciation of the magnificent talents in the Eighties who carried the League on their backs from the Outhouse to the Penthouse.

New Age Platforms include TNT’s Inside the NBA with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley (who played against Sidney in the Playoffs), Kenny Smith and Shaq; Isiah Thomas, NBA TV Analyst; The Mouth that Soared, Steven A. Smith of ESPN’s First Take, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser’s Pardon the Interruption, ESPN’s The Undefeated Website, featuring Mr. Rhoden, Mark J. Spears and Jemele Hill,  and Bill Simmons’ Bully Pulpit on his Ringer Network.

We also need, any living, breathing former Coach, teammate, Beat Writer, Basketball Website, Podcaster or Television Personality in Milwaukee that played with, Coached or covered Sidney over his 10 seasons to redouble their efforts in the next 11 months.

Former and Current NBA Commissioners David Stern and Adam Silver, you were there in the Eighties, I know  you can’t directly influence Hall of Fame Voting (wink, wink, nod, nod), but maybe the subject of Sidney’s exclusion subtly (wink, wink, nod, nod) comes up over cocktails during power lunches with some of those North American Committee members over the next few months. Former NBA Coaches, General Managers and Scouts from the Eighties who had to Game Plan against Sidney’s Bucks may know someone who knows someone.

To Michael Jordan, Owner, Charlotte Hornets, Magic Johnson, President of Basketball Operations, Los Angeles Lakers, Julius Erving, Retired Basketball God, Advisor to the Sixers and Philanthropist, Pat Riley, President of the Miami Heat and Larry Bird, former NBA Executive, Indiana Pacers: See my message to the Commissioners above, I know you all run in the same circles.

Some members of the NBA family and Media that saw Moncrief in his prime are no longer with us, some are retired, but many are still active, with their hand on the pulse of today’s NBA. Their stories are immortalized in digitized archives to be uncovered like buried treasure (thank you Sports Illustrated Vault), taking you back to the moment when they were written, unfiltered through the Revisionist History of these new  Bloggers, You-Tube Hosts and Podcasters who think the NBA was founded by the 2015 Warriors and players in the Eighties shot 2-handed set shots in  dusty YMCA Gyms with no Air Conditioning.

They bore up close and personal witness to Sidney Moncrief’s relevance in the most relevant Decade in the History of the Sport. So it’s up to them (you) to become the “Sidney Whisperers” to this clandestine “North American Committee” of the Basketball Hall of Fame, whoever they are, before Sidney disappears from memory like Marty McFly’s family photo in the 1985 movie Back to the Future (another timeless gift from the Eighties).

Hey, you all have plenty of time to do something about it before 2019…there is still time to campaign, to cajole, persuade, bully, reason, but most importantly to use the medium that you master to shame the North American committee into fixing this oversight which has turned an exemplary candidate who checked all the boxes into the Susan Lucci of Hall of Fame Induction (Kids, Susan Lucci was a daytime Soap Opera Star on a successful series your Grandparents watched who was nominated 18 consecutive years for a Daytime Emmy Award and lost 18 consecutive times).

I’ve done all the background work for you here, I could care less who gets the credit, as long as Sidney Moncrief gets a Bust in the Hall.

He is literally being penalized for:

  1. Not having better players on his teams,
  2. Losing to teams with better players,
  3. Playing in a small Market
  4. Not being popular enough,
  5. Not having a flashy game
  6. Lacking the minimum daily requirement of Swag for an NBA All Star..
  7. Worst of all, a Dearth of Advocates; Hell, even Susan Lucci finally won on the 19th try.

Sidney speaks of  his legacy in his Book:

“I hope when they remember me, they’ll say that I was dedicated, that when I put my foot on that Court I gave everything I had to give”.

Does Induction into the Hall of Fame Matter to him?….of course it does, but this passage in his Book may make one think otherwise..

“The Decision (to retire) was not traumatic because I had never considered Pro Basketball my life, I considered it part of my life. Yes, I worked hard at it and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t as much fun as it had been when I was in Junior High School, High School or even in College. After all, we were a bunch of grown men out there throwing a ball around. What we were doing was not really serious. Being a Heart Surgeon is serious, being an Engineer is serious, designing Hospitals is serious, teaching Kids is serious, having the skill to repair an automobile is serious. Playing Basketball is entertainment-pure and simple”.

Wow. No pretentious moralism or preening self-regard in those words.

So it should be no surprise that induction into the Hall of Fame is not a life or death prospect for Sidney Moncrief, It didn’t define him. God, Family and Service to others still come first, and he will be fine, thank you if he never hears the phone ring. Which is exactly why his should be selected, because I assure you that Springfield has no one gracing its Hallowed Hall who is more deserving based on Achievements and strength of Character than Mr. Moncrief, a pristine role model for every young boy or girl that dreams of not only Basketball glory, but to be the very best version of themselves.

To further inspire you, I Hijacked and re-worded a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on a subject much more important than Basketball, but for some reason it fits here…

“The Arc of Inclusion into the Hall of Fame is long, but it bends toward Justice”

And one last quote from another High-Ranking Official, Da Mayor in  Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing…

Da Mayor: “Doctor…

  • Mookie: C’mon, what. What?
  • Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.
  • Mookie: That’s it?
  • Da Mayor: That’s it.
  • Mookie: I got it, I’m gone”.

 

Steven A. Roseboro is a former Photojournalist and Author of The Golden Age of Basketball, Volumes I and II: The NBA in the Decade of The Eighties.

www.thegoldenageofbasketball.com

 

 

 

 

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (The Eternal Hell of being a Knick Fan)

As the start of a new NBA season fills the air with hope for the elite teams, the stench of desperation pervades the air around 7th Avenue and 33rd Street in Manhattan, where the New York Knicks, fresh off of the Soul-Sucking Melo-drama of the past 6 seasons now turn to  their newest Savior, the still-wet-behind-the ears  22 year old, 7 foot 3 inch Unicorn Kristaps Porzingis, born in August, 1995 just a few months after that Decade’s designated Savior, Patrick Ewing rimmed out a buzzer-beating layup in Game 7 of the Knick’s Eastern Conference Semifinal loss vs the Indiana Pacers and Pat Riley walked out of the Garden as Knick Coach for the last time, on his way to South Beach to collect a small fortune and 3 More NBA Championships. The Knicks?. They were on their way to one more Finals loss in 1999, an unceremonious dumping of Ewing to Seattle in 2000, followed by 17 seasons of misery, 3 Saviors (Stephon Marbury, Amare Stoudemire and OKC-Bound Carmello Anthony) and exactly one Playoff round Victory.

But the sellout crowds at the World’s Greatest Arena year after year prove the ever-delusional Knick fan has mastered the art of smelling the roses growing from a festering pile of Feces, so they dropped Melo’s number 7 jersey into the Hudson River and now bow at the feet of the precocious neophyte they call KP, who will don the Blue and Orange Jacket as THE MAN who will lead this Black Hole of a Franchise of nearly 45 years to the Glory days of Willis, Clyde, Earl the Pearl, Dollar Bill and Dave D.

And there’s the Rub. As a Knick fan since 1971 I have had more Poop shoveled my way than a Texas Cattle Rancher; my BS detector is so fine tuned I can tell what you had for Dinner in Dubai from my Home in Los Angeles County. The Knicks are currently in the 45th year of their 5 year plan since the 1973 Champs rode off into the Sunset…so of course their Media Day celebrates the passing of Melo like a bad Kidney Stone and the unveiling of….wait for it….Their 5-Year rebuilding Plan!..  OMG this is Unprecedented!  

So in my now-infinite wisdom, I present to you a peek at the future: the inevitable endgame of the Porzingis Era, to save you time, money and searing back and neck pain suffered from hours on the Couch watching the pursuit of ineptitude by the Franchise that made ineptitude their Credo….

June 21, 2020 (Draft Night)

The  New York Knicks have traded 2 Time All Star Forward Kristaps Porzingis to the (Your Team Here) for (1-2 Players of overrated Talent here) and (future first round Pick in the low 20’s and second round pick in the mid 50’s ). Porzingis refused to sign an extension with the Knicks due to their miserable 85-161 record over the past three seasons; his Agent (his older Brother) had informed the team at the beginning of the season that the Face of the Franchise would test Free Agency this summer.

Porzingis  has  averaged 23.7 points, 8.4 Rebounds, 3 assists and 2 Blocked shots over the past 3 seasons, and was selected as an All-Star Starter in 2019-20 despite the Knicks finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference and not making the Playoffs since 2012-13. He played under 4 Head Coaches in his New York tenure: Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis, Jeff Hornacek (fired after the 2017-18 season after repeated clashes with Porzingis) and (add Next Lame Duck Knick Coach here). 

Porzingis came under unrelenting scrutiny from the New York tabloids for failing to lead his team to the playoffs the last 3 seasons; every potential game-winning shot missed, rebound lost to a physically stronger opponent or nagging injury that kept him in his KristapsWear Apparel (No 1. Selling Sports Apparel in New York in 2020) on the bench became back page and sports talk fodder for his detractors; he became progressively sullen and withdrawn from the Media as he was compared ad nauseam to his contemporaries Karl Anthony Towns (second in MVP voting last season to Boston’s Anthony Davis) and All-NBA second team Center Joel Embid, whose Philadelphia teams have been Eastern Conference contenders the past 3 seasons. Porzingis continually took a beating in the tabloids for his inability to solidify a porous Knick defense that  ranked 27th, 28th and 27th in Defensive Efficiency from 2017-2020.

Embattled General Manager Scott Perry is currently in the last year of his Contract and under fire by media and fans alike for the disastrous selections of (add Draft Busts 1 and 2 here) in the 2018 and 2019 Drafts over (add future NBA All Stars 1 and 2 here, both selected after the Knick picks), which led to the abrupt firing of team President Steve Mills in February. Perry, who also sent the Knicks’ 2021 First round draft pick to (Your other favorite team) for (add declining former All Star player with a chronic injury history here) in a desperate effort to placate Porzingis, stopped attending Knick home games as ever-larger throngs of fans at Madison Square Garden chanted for his firing.

Perry  released the following Statement this morning  at JFK Airport as he hastily left for his scouting trip in Outer Mongolia:  

“The New York Knicks wish Kristaps the very best; he has been a consummate professional in dealing with a challenging  situation as the team has faced an uphill climb to playoff contention. The Knicks remain committed to building a Championship contender that the City of New York can be proud of, and we are excited to add (lame duck players traded for Porzingis) to a promising core led by Frank Ntilikina (who has logged a 10 Player Efficiency Rating in 3 seasons), Willie Hernangomez (15 PER),  the 2018/2019 draft busts and Tim Hardaway Jr. (who the Knicks have unsuccessfully attempted to trade for months after he averaged career-worst offensive numbers across the board last season and spent most of it in the Lame Duck Coaches’ Doghouse). The Battle for New York Basketball just became more exciting”.

Knick Center Joaquin Noah, whose signed a 2-Year, 30 million dollar contract extension after averaging 2.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in 55 games last season (his most games played since 2014 in Chicago) said “I’ll miss Kristaps, he was a great player and teammate, but we have more than enough to contend  for a 3rd or 4th seed with the guys still on this roster “.  (Noah immediately tripped over his Gym bag, spraining his knee and will be out indefinitely).

In an emotional farewell to Knick fans on  the Player’s Tribune Webpage, Porzingis thanked them for their unconditional hero worship over the past 5 seasons and hoped their future would one day include a Championship Parade along the Canyon of Heroes before they reached retirement age; he closed his letter with “you are all First-Ballot Hall of Fame Suckers” (Sucker is Latvian for fan).

Porzingis will play for the defending Eurobasket Champion Latvian National team this summer before reporting to Brooklyn where he will become the centerpiece of the Nets’ resurgence to the top of the East after they lost a heartbreaking 7 Game second round Series to the Boston Celtics in May. He joins (First team All-NBA Point Guard) and (First Time All Star and steal of the 2018 Draft picked after the Knicks’ selection) to form a team picked by ESPN to finish first in the Eastern Conference in 2020-21.

2019-20 NBA Executive of the Year Sean Marks stated ” The acquisition of Kristaps represents the continued pursuit of excellence by the Nets Organization with the single minded Goal of an NBA Championship. The future is now”.

Porzingis’  5 year, 350 Million Dollar Contract catapults him into the top 20 of NBA salaries, still a far Cry from LeBron James’ new one year 80 million per year deal with the 5 time NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, where he will join Kevin Durant, Stephon Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmello Anthony, Duane Wade and Chris Paul in pursuit of the Franchise’s 5th title in 6 seasons.

Knick owner James Dolan, on tour with his Band JD and the Sure Shots in the Cayman Islands, where they will open for a Fleetwood Mac cover band released this statement: ” I wish Mr. Porzingis smashing success in the Western Conference except the one night per season that his team visits Madison Square Garden…wait, what…The NETS?”.

The Back Page of the New York Post saluted Porzingis’ tenure as a Knick with a tribute inspired by the Patrick Ewing Farewell Cover in 2000:

                   “GOOD RIDDANCE!!!”

Pouty Porzingis lugs his losing legacy across the Bridge to Brooklyn

 

The New York Daily News Back Page, not to be outdone simply stated:

                  “Crooklyn!”

Porzingis takes his Not Ready for Prime Time game Off- Broadway for big $$$$…

 

….and the (JD) Band plays on.

Editor’s note…

(I was only kidding about the LeBron thing)

 

REPRINT OF “THANKS, ‘NAAD’ FROM THE GOLDEN AGE OF BASKETBALL PART ONE

I was watching Derrick Rose’s press conference yesterday, and as a Chronic Knick Fan I couldn’t help being transported back in time when another seriously injured Fallen Star was unceremoniously let go from his beloved team in a city that loved him, only to recapture glory, if only briefly, on another team.

A RE-EDITED STORY FROM THE GOLDEN AGE OF BASKETBALL, VOLUME ONE, THE NBA IN THE DECADE OF THE EIGHTIES.

THANKS, “‘NAAD”

Knick fans know the never-ending saga, featuring a history of senseless trades, weak drafts, oft-injured players, revolving door Coaches, clueless General Managers, rudderless ownership, horrendous starts, worse finishes, forgettable decades. Jordan. Charles Smith blocked x 4. Starks 2 for 18. Isiah and Marbury. Yada, yada, yada.

Fans of my generation, born around 1960 were still young enough to smell the liniment on Willis Reed’s knees, hear the twine of the net pop on a Bill Bradley jumper or Dave DeBusschere’s grunts while snatching down rebounds; race downcourt with Walt “Clyde” Frazier after he’d hijack an opponent’s dribble or throw a patented head fake, then hit the dagger shot of the game; spin with Earl Monroe thru the lane, double pump, flip the ball off the backboard, into the cup. Catch a Phil Jackson elbow, watch the flight of a Jerry Lucas bomb. Watching Coach Red Holtzman deftly orchestrate the show from the bench. Listening to Marv Albert’s golden voice on the radio, “DeBusschere over to Bradley in the corner, now to Frazier across to Reed, down the lane, Yes!! and it counts!.”

My memory could still hear the roar of the MSG crowd, the thunderous din of “Dee-Fense”, “DEE-FENSE”; feeling my heart beat through my chest while yelling at the top of my lungs on so many winter weeknights into spring in front of the TV, from middle school thru high school, together with my older Brother leaping out of our seats time and time again, experiencing basketball poetry in motion, while the Knicks would prevail time and time again.

Then it was gone.

By 1984, the 10 year drought of Championship caliber Basketball weighed heavier on fans than the New York skyline. The Knick faithful, (of which I am a charter member), was still easily seduced by the continuing Knick soap opera, known as “This Season’s Savior”. Spencer Haywood, Marvin Webster, Bob McAdoo, Bill Cartwright (who had the misfortune of entering the league the same year as Bird and Magic, which amplified his deficiencies, then distinguishing himself for having all of Bill Walton’s foot injuries but none of Walton’s game); mercurial but troubled guard Michael “Sugar Ray” Richardson and the like; either their best days were behind them, or the crucible of New York pressure just got the best of them.

In the 82-83 Season, the Knicks traded Richardson, who had a problem with substance abuse that eventually cost him his career, for forward Bernard King, raised in Brooklyn, who had a history of alcohol abuse which nearly cost him his career. While Fans saw this move as another botched Knick transaction, Bernard King sensed an opportunity for recovery and redemption. Released from the relative obscurity of the Golden State Warriors (yes kids the Warriors used to suck), Bernard returned home to play in the place he dreamed of as a kid, Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of Basketball, with a clean slate, in a city starved for heroes, desperate to win again.
.

To say the Bernard King carried a Knick fan’s hopes on his shoulders is the understatement of the decade. Coach Hubie Brown, as tough a taskmaster that ever walked an NBA sideline, knew he had struck oil and gold in the same vein. Brown coupled the prodigious King’s offense with a full- court, 48 minute pressing, trapping defense, and by the 1984 season, the 47 win Knicks rekindled the flame that had been barely a flicker for far too long. Bernard’s performances had Knick fans thinking about a deep playoff run for the first time in a decade. New York finally found a player to look Magic and Bird in the squarely in the eyes without blinking.

King was fearless. Deftly mixing an assortment of quick-release 15 to 18 foot jumpers with dynamic slashes to the basket, he played every game as if possessed, locked in for 48 minutes. He became the most dangerous scoring machine in the NBA, power lifting the Knicks into conference contention, while dueling for 1984 league MVP honors with Larry Bird the entire season. This while playing with a clearly inferior supporting cast to the Lakers or Celtics, as King, Knick defense and Brown’s coaching made up for lack of All Star support. Larry Bird won the regular season MVP award, but made it clear he would have voted for Bernard, the supreme compliment.

The 5-game, first- round playoff series are typically footnotes during the “second season” of any year, that initial round and all performances in them typically forgotten before the second round gets underway. The Celtics, who would win the East, then the NBA Championship that year had minimal concern with New York and King, as Boston was big, deep, and experienced, while the Knicks were viewed as little more than a one man show on a junior varsity squad. The Knicks’ first round opponent, the Detroit Pistons were led by diminutive but tough as nails Isiah Thomas. New York and Detroit were tied 2 games apiece, and game 5 on a steamy hot Friday night in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena found the Knicks 8 points ahead and the Pistons 94 seconds away from elimination.

Thomas, in what was to be the first national display of his individual playoff brilliance, wasn’t ready to go home. He scored sixteen points in those 94 seconds, all on a variety of playground moves, stunning New York, nearly giving Hubie Brown a coronary, and sending the game into overtime.
New York once again turned to their savior, and King carried them in the extra period, featuring a Spiderman meets Superman putback slam to seal the deal.

King scored 213 points in the series, an average of 42.6 per game, to this point the all-time record in a 5 game series, passing the 23 year old record of 197 points set by Laker legend Elgin Baylor.

The Celtics weren’t impressed. Celtic defensive stopper and infamous trash talker Cedric Maxwell took the King challenge with relish, vowing pre-series that King would never visit the neighborhood of 40 points against their superior front line. The Celtics outlasted the Knicks in 7 games, winning their 4 home games by large margins, but the King of New York gave Knick fans 3 fantastic performances in MSG, scoring 43 and 44 in games 4 and 6, both Knick victories. The Celtic depth and majesty of Bird, who averaged 30.4 points in the series, proved too much for King and the Knicks to overcome, but new hope rose from the ashes of defeat on the streets of Manhattan. Basking in the glow of King’s 34.8 ppg average in the 84 playoffs,
the Knicks seemed only a few players away from serious title contention, as King was now a certified All NBA first teamer, league leading scorer and cornerstone of the future.

That future was short-lived. The Knicks couldn’t capitalize on the momentum of 1984, struggled through 1985, and suffered a devastating loss when King shredded the Anterior Cruciate Ligament of his Knee in March of 1985, shredding Knick hopes, driving them into the basement of the Atlantic Division. King would treat knee rehab as he played the game, working out like a madman, finally ready to return 18 months later. In my meager defense of Knick Management, the later advances in Orthopedic Surgery, Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation were just scratching the surface in 1985. Players of that era just didn’t come back from ACL tears, and if they did, they were shells of their former selves, not Franchise Players.

A silver lining in that dark cloud would emerge, as the King injury positioned the Knicks to win the 1985 Draft Lottery and its biggest prize, Georgetown Center Patrick Ewing. Welcome, new Savior. Keeping faithful to their legacy of short-sided decisions, King would only play only 6 more games with the Knicks, who refused to sign King and his post-surgical Knee to a big dollar contract extension.

Folks, this exchange actually happened; I saw Knick Coach Rick Pitino at the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles during an early season game with the Lakers in 1987 before the news of King’s departure to Washington had been reported; (remember kids, this was light years before social media).

Our conversation went like this…
Me: “Hey Coach, how’s Bernard?”
Pitino: “We had to let him go”

We…had…to…let…him…go……..

What followed was that long, painful, awkward silence when your mind is racing at the speed of light trying to bring something out of your mouth that has even an iota of coherence, similar to the shock of being rear ended by a Bus while your car is at a complete stop. At that moment my gaze looked completely through Pitino, into the inner depths of his very soul.

Me: “Uh, Who…who’d you get for him?”.
Pitno: “Nobody…He had us over a Barrel”.

Nobody. NOBODY FOR BERNARD KING.
…yet another eternal pause….
Me: “Uh, good luck this season, Coach”.

Bernard took his reconditioned limb and wounded pride on an Amtrak ride south to the Nation’s Capital, where he would star for 4 seasons with the Washington Bullets, reaching the 40 and 50 point game marks again, making the playoffs, embarrassing the Knicks in 1991, smoking them for 49 in the Garden, even making the 1991 NBA All Star Team, if not quite returning to All- NBA form. Knick fans can only speculate how King would have benefited from playing in a frontcourt alongside Patrick Ewing for 4 years, and vice-versa. Ten excruciating seasons later, in 1994 once again with a stifling defense, a great coach and an average supporting cast, Ewing played in his first NBA Final. He too, lost in 7 games to the league MVP, Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. Some things never change. The soap opera continues, the Knick Management spending last 15 years looking for their next chapter of “This Year’s Savior”, while Knick fans just look for empathy.

So Maybe, just maybe, for at least one fun-filled season Derek Rose (aka This Season’s Savior) is the Karmic debt payoff for Bernard King.

And 29 years later, the wheels on the Knick Bus still go round and round, round and round, round and round….

The King of New York
The King of New York (Photo Copyright 2016 Steven A. Roseboro)
Photo Copyright 2016 Steven A. Roseboro
Photo Copyright 2016 Steven A. Roseboro
Photo Copyright 2016 Steven A. Roseboro
Photo Copyright 2016 Steven A. Roseboro

 

 

 

The (Second) Summer of Lebron and Friends, PART TWO

So where are we?.
First, let’s tune into TMZ, NBA Style…
Lebron James, his leg cramps and Kevin Love are headed to Cleveland, Number One Draft pick Andrew Wiggins’ career path took a dramatic turn for the worse before he played a single game, Chris Bosh cashed in, Dwayne Wade didn’t, Carmello Anthony found 50 million reasons to stay a Knick, Linsanity’s coming to Staples Center, Larry Bird’s Pacers lost 70% of an already dysfunctional offense in a week, Lance Stephenson became Michael Jordan’s headache, Derek Rose is back with Pau Gasol in tow, and Paul George replaces Rose in sick bay, gone but not forgotten. MVP Kevin Durant, nearing an Uber-deal with Under Armour abruptly ditches USA Men’s Basketball, citing “physical and mental fatigue” (hey, counting to 300 million by ones is exhausting, folks!).

Houston crapped out in free agency, losing Lebron, Carmello and Bosh while Dallas slipped Chandler Parsons out the Rockets’ back door. Houston did overpay Trevor Ariza, who the Wizards replaced with Paul Pierce, the latest casualty of the latest failed Superteam. Speaking of slipping out the back door, Jason Kidd cashed in his rubles and bid adios (or dah svee-DAH-nee-yah in Russian) to Mikhail Prokhorov and the Nets, giving up on their aging, injured, overpaid roster for beer, bratwurst, Jabari Parker and the Diaper Dandies of Milwaukee. After at least 37 “second interviews”, Byron Scott is a Laker again; David Stern, Alonzo Mourning and Mitch Richmond have been immortalized, and Donald Sterling has finally been kicked off the Island (warning, NBA owners…that leggy vixen in the oversized shades is V. Stephano!!!).

In another related development, the Spurs won their 5th NBA Championship in a brilliant display of dribbling, passing, shooting, coaching and team defense. San Antonio re-signed all their principals for next season, and hired Becky Hammon as the first Female NBA Assistant Coach. And If you missed those press releases, it’s because there weren’t any coming out of San Antonio. Do the Spurs even have a Press Agent?.

All caught up now?.

That’s the 411, now the Basketball…
Lebron, now the de-facto GM and Coach of the Cavaliers, manipulated the off-season like a master puppeteer; he wasted no time re-booting his Title pursuit, dumping Miami’s aging, beat up roster for Kyrie Irving and the Cavs like a Baby Boomer takes on a new Trophy Wife. Kevin Love will finally have a chance to prove if he’s just a numbers-chewing fraud on bad teams who couldn’t taste a single playoff game in 6 seasons or a major upgrade over Chris Bosh as the third option in a Cavalier offense built around Lebron James and Irving. If he has the mindset of Bosh, who was reduced from first and second option in Toronto to a space-clearing, shot clock expiring three point chucker for the Miami Lebrons (good for two parades), Love could decide his role is to lead the league in offensive rebounds. LBJ and Kyrie Irving will dominate the Ball for 48 minutes, and team defense will determine how deep Lebron can take the Cavs into the playoffs.

Chicago lost Melo but gained Gasol, who will once again find the love he lost in LA, where none of his good deeds went unpunished; Pau was the picture of unhappiness as he was seemingly blamed for Nash and Kobe’s brittle bones, Dwight Howard’s immaturity, Phil’s defection, Mike D’Antoni’s irrational coaching philosophy and that goofy Dysfunctional Family otherwise known as the Laker front office. Gasol, who has plenty left in the tank will thrive under the high-octane coaching of Tom Thibodeau, the manic energy of Joaquin Noah and Taj Gibson, and he’ll love the easy buckets he’ll get playing with the Human Video Game, Derek Rose. Rose’s return may actually trump the homecoming of the prodigal Lebron, as the Bulls are bloodthirsty for a trip to the Finals after playing the underdog role the past two seasons.
The injury to Paul George and departure of Lance Stephenson effectively slammed Indiana’s Championship window shut, and made it a two-horse race to the Eastern Conference Title. I think a healthy Rose, the Bulls front line and a possessed Thibodeau is enough to edge the Cleveland Lebrons in late May. The only storyline in the East this upcoming season is the race for slots 3-8.

Poor Andrew Wiggins; he could have been filling the lane on the other side of Lebron every night, turning slick feeds from Kyrie into thunderous Dunks that would even make the King envious; now he’s playing to half-empty crowds in the god-forsaken Siberia of the NBA, where his chances of making the playoffs during his 5- year rookie contract are less than the Cavs ever winning another Lottery (read into that what you will). I rarely care about fates like that, but I was hoping Lebron would take the challenge of grooming this Kid to become his Scottie Pippen; the timing was just wrong for Wiggins in this lifetime. Lebron, for all of this feel-good return to Akron, his vision for helping the community, and his love for the fans, is about Lebron winning, Lebron winning now, and Lebron keeping the Lebron Brand at the top of the Mountain. The Heat, and his formerly best buddies Wade and Bosh had outlived their usefulness in just one week in June gone horribly wrong, so the King bailed, again for greener pastures. Love was there for the taking, Irving was a young Star on the rise, and Dan Gilbert is officially in the King’s pocket. The two year contract gives him time to survey the NBA landscape until he makes the next move that’s best for Lebron. If that means finding a new city with new best buddies, so be it. Savvy business moves by one of the sharp young business minds of his generation. I believe his first unsuccessful tour in Cleveland gave him the acute understanding of how brief a moment in time an NBA career is, how incredibly difficult it is to get to and stay on top, and he’s finishing his career by draining every drop of opportunity available to him. Good for him, it’s the NBA’s New World Order, the lasting legacy of David Stern’s vision, and we’re living in it.

I’m just glad it wasn’t the NBA I fell in love with as a Kid.

Pat Riley, architect of the 4 time Eastern Conference Champion Heat, was without question devastated to lose LBJ but as we would expect remained unflinching, making Bosh rich while appeasing Wade with a 4 year contract that most certainly included a promise he will be a part of the Miami franchise for life. Bosh’s new role as the Man coupled with Wade’s wounded pride could make Miami a dangerous out come playoff time.

Melo took the money…for his legion of critics, one more nail in his career coffin; for the Hundreds of millions living check to check, and the Mega-Millions living below the poverty line, ….what took you so long?. The Knick roster next season plays barely above the Mendoza line with Melo; but you could have read the Franchise their Last Rites if he had bolted. Phil Jackson has a plan and Derek Fisher will be an outstanding Coach/future GM, they can walk the walk and their resumes on the court back it up. But to build a contender they desperately needed a Chip and Melo perfectly fits the bill. One of the few Stars of his generation that wanted to play in the Garden, he played his ass off in front of the toughest critics in America, and was a consummate pro while doing so, positioning him for the big payday. I was amused how his street cred went through the roof in July, how even his harshest critics knew how valuable he was during Melo’s “Not really a Free Agent” tour, shuddering at the thought of pairing him with Rose and Noah. No Franchise on Earth needs a culture of stability more than the Knicks, and with PJ, Fish and Melo signed on for the next 5 seasons, they can mold a roster in their image, drafting, trading for and signing players that FIT. Keeping James Dolan, the New York Press and their devoted legion of fans around the world from pulling their hair out the next 12 months until (wait for it…..”the Summer of 2015!!!) will take all the Zenergetics the Zen Master can muster. However, one of the things the Knicks have done better than any team, in any sport in the last 42 years, is sell hope.

There’s no hope of Pacer star Paul George leading Indiana to the Playoffs next season; George’s gruesome Knee injury in the Olympic Basketball scrimmage in Las Vegas gave Pacer President Larry Bird visions of suiting up this fall. Indiana’s dysfunctional 2013-14 campaign was a tale of two seasons which ended with a ton of question marks, but the loss of ticking time bomb Lance Stephenson to the Hornets coupled with George’s season-ending injury left a gaping wound in the Pacer lineup that even Basketball Jesus can’t mend. Indiana may turn to full blowup mode, as there is no timetable for George’s return to All-NBA form.
Roy Hibbert’s value will never be higher, and David West could land some valuable future assets. From the front door of the Penthouse to the Outhouse in 6 weeks. Ouch.

None of these Eastern Conference follies moved the needle on the 2015 Championship meter; the West remains the Best by a landslide, and there are surely some moves to be made among those contenders in the coming months. The Rockets may have actually lost ground in the Conference with their tunnel vision pursuit of the big names this summer. In the end, Trevor Ariza is a nice piece but was losing Parsons to a Division rival worth a PhotoShopped Banner of Melo in a Rocket uniform on the side of the Toyota Center?. Was moving Omar Asik or Jeremy Lin, two productive bench players, for next to nothing?. I was waiting for Ashton Kutcher to come into the Rockets’ front offices with a Camera crew, they were Punked.

The shame of these dog and pony shows, first in 2010 (where Lebron also called the shots and gave Riley all the credit) and this summer is Franchises have to play the game at the cost of future assets they move like trading cards in the hope Lebron or Melo returns their phone calls. Teams are either paralyzed from making moves, make panic moves, or unnecessarily clear roster spots waiting for the cream of the crop make their “Decisions”. The real winners are the second-tier stars, who cash in on the losers in the Lebron, Dwight Howard, or Melo Races, as their GM’s must appease disappointed Owners and fan bases. In February of 2010, Charles Barkley, who is edging closer to Howard Stern than Howard Cosell as he enters his AARP years, was prophetic when he predicted Amare Stoudemire, a free agent in the upcoming summer of 2010 , would be the big winner in the Lebron sweepstakes as half of the league was clearing cap space for “the big three”. “They ain’t all getting Lebron”, said Barkley, and these teams gonna need somebody to give all that money to”. 5 months, 5 years and 100 million dollars later, Amare is limping his way back into Free Agency, after giving the Knicks 6 solid months of production.

Chris Bosh is the recipient of this summer’s Amare Award, 118 million over 5 for a guy who was 4th option on nights Mario Chalmers was feelin’ it. Luol Deng also held his ground, waited for the smoke to clear and landed 12 million per from Riley. Not a bad haul.

This second Summer of Lebron leaves us no choice but to brace ourselves for the Summer of 2015 propaganda (starting next weekend), and with a 24/7 , 365 day news cycle on hundreds of Media outlets to fill it’s never too early to discuss the Kevin Durant to (your favorite team here) in 2016 rumors on your local station.

God spare us.

A shout out to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops, Ramona Shelbourne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who consistently outshined their media competition by reporting fact vs. fiction. A rarity in the Twitterverse.

Best of Luck to USA!! USA!! At the World Cup in Spain

Get Well Soon Paul George.

Best of Luck to the US Men’s Team in Spain, stay tuned.

A tale of two Cities

The Knicks and Nets, who just a year ago were touting the New York Metropolitan area once again as the “Mecca of Basketball”, face a stark reality.. .. they are both back to square one. The Nets were cold-cocked by the slithery Jason Kidd, who once again reared his ugly head and high-tailed it for potentially greener pastures in Milwaukee, as their new Coach (oh, would someone call Larry Drew and let him know?), and future President of Basketball operations. Kidd has officially become the Larry Brown of his generation, power-hungry narcissists that leave a trail of broken coaches, bloodied GM’s and stunned Team owners in their wake. And are always kind enough to leave forwarding addresses to send their checks. Brooklyn can now tout a 100 Million Dollar point guard with one playoff victory and two surgically repaired Ankles, a 90 Million shooting guard on the downside of his career and an 80 million Dollar Center who missed half of last season with two screws in his foot. Oh yeah, and they just lost one of their best players, Shaun Livingston to Golden State and will probably lose Paul Pierce, who rues the day he left Boston, to the Clippers. But they still have the carcass of Kevin Garnett to stare down the refs, sneer at fans and cheap shot opponents. So that’s something. Still good enough for 6th in the East next season.

And My beloved Knicks. We’re now entering our 10th 4-year rebuilding plan since 1973.  They did get to two NBA Finals in the 90’s so thankfully we have the MSG Network to replay the 1994 season 7 days a week to remind Knick fans that individual game tickets for next season go on sale soon!. With or without Carmello Anthony, the NBA requires 12 Knicks to suit up on October 31. God (known in the greater Metropolitan area as Phil Jackson) only knows who is going to suit up, show up out of shape, get suspended, get traded, demand to be traded, pull some muscle no one’s ever heard of, get arrested for some random felony, be accused of sexual harassment, have the worst year of their career, break some bone we’ve never heard of, go 2 for 18, miss a finger roll, rip out a tendon we never heard of, get 4 shots blocked at the rim, have some surgery we’ve never heard of, piss off Spike Lee;  you get my drift, Knick Fans. We’ve been to Hell and Back to Hell, and now, 4.5 years after they drilled “The Summer of 2010!” in our heads so we could watch Lebron’s vapors head to South Beach and toy with our team for 4 years, Knick Management is premiering the sequel, “The Summer of 2015!”. Yay!. At least Melo would bank a cool 33 Million bonus if he suspended common sense, rejected sure-fire contenders in Chicago and Houston and returned to the Garden with us to suffer through “The Summer of 2015!”. What the Hell do the rest of us  get?. We have to pay for tickets or League pass or Cablevision to watch Phil clean his glasses and make glib remarks about Native American Meditative Triangle Sage Championship Teepee Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance JibberJabber while Lebron, Durant, Duncan, Parker, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Rose, Melo, Noah, Paul George and Company run rampant in MSG. Jeezus, the Knicks are really the Milwaukee Bucks of Manhattan!. Wait, the Bucks just drafted Jabari Parker!. Charlotte and Cleveland have better rosters!. God,  If that sounds really bad, Knick Fans, in a week it might be even worse.  I think it’s time to get Netflix.

Free Agent Frenzy

Well, the plot thickens….the Heatles opt out, Melo is a travelin’ kind of fello, and the NBA is hard at work printing money to throw at players they hope will make them contenders, or at least relevant in 2014-15. Once the Melo domino falls, all hell will break loose in the NBA’s version of Musical Chairs. Stay Tuned.