The NBA and the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

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Perhaps you’re familiar with NBC’s hit comedy “Parks and Recreation” (9:30 p.m. EST Thursdays on NBC- MEGA-PLUG). Perhaps you’re familiar with the season premier last week in which the Parks Department was forced to operate a youth basketball league on a shoestring budget. And perhaps you’re familiar with head coach Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness. But if not, check it out:

And that my friends, is awesomeness.

Which got me thinking. What could NBA teams take from the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness? And who best fits the model of Swanson greatness? Let’s go to the tape, Bill! (You can be called Bill for this exercise. Or if you’d prefer, Duke Silver.)

“Body Grooming: Only women shave beneath the neck.” Carlos Boozer approves.

“Handshakes: Firm. Dry. Solid. 3 Seconds.”  Gary Neal needs to work on this.

“Poise. Sting like a bee. Do not float like a butterfly. That’s ridiculous.” Dwight Howard should pretty much have this tattooed on his forehead. Between the technicals and his penchant for floating like a butterfly in the post, maybe big block letters. Nice strong font.

“Rage. One rage every three months is permitted. Try not to hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.” By this value, Kevin Garnett has violated the pyramid… approximately 7,458,082 times.

“Facial Hair. Full, thick, and square. Nothing sculpted. If you have to sculpt it, that probably means you can’t grow it.”  Good on this measure: Baron Davis, James Harden, DeShawn Stevenson. Bad on this measure: Pau Gasol, Reggie Evans, Brian Skinner.

“Capitalism. God’s way of determining who is smart, and who is poor.” In the NBA, this translates as “Stern’s way of determining who are the Lakers and who is the Grizzlies.”

“You. You are your biggest ally.” Kobe.

“Perspiration. Only sweat during physical activity or love making. No emotional sweating.”  Also Kobe. Dude is cool as a cucumber. Probably smells like fresh laundry after the Finals. Conversely, Shaq seems to sweat more in conjunction with how upset he gets at calls. You’d think he’d sweat the weight off. You’d be wrong.

“Masonry. Building walls makes you stronger. Defending them makes you even stronger.” Danny Granger. Nothing stronger than the Bat Cave, right? On the other hand, the Warriors should pay more attention to this. Maybe hire some masons. Can’t defend any worse.

“Friends. One to three is sufficient.” C’mon. Do I have to spell out L-E-B-R-O-N for you?

“Stillness. Don’t wast energy moving unless necessary.” Have you ever seen Sasha Vujacic try and defend? It’s like watching an epileptic watch “Tron.”

“Old Wooden Sailing Ships. They’re beautiful.” Admit it. You can imagine Ron Artest saying this.

“Torso. Should be thick and impenetrable. ” Perhaps if Bosh adhered to this principle he’d be able to guard actual frontcourt players. On the other hand, Kevin Garnett once described defending Tim Duncan as “trying to guard a tree.”

“Intensity. Give 100%. 110% is impossible. Only idiots recommend that.” That’s a very Phil Jackson thing to say. And his Lakers give 100% nearly 80% of the time. Conversely, maybe if the aforementioned Kevin Garnett adhered to this principle, not as many people would think he’s a jerk.

“Deer Protein.” Brad Miller. Obviously.

“Suspicion. Do not trust anyone else.” Stan Van Gundy has a giant poster of this on his office wall.

“Self-Reliance. Trust yourself.” Ironically, this is Vince Carter’s favorite element.

“Attire. Shorts over 6” are capri pants. Shorts under 6” are European.” John Stockton is offended, sir. Meanwhile, Allen Iverson asks what a capri is.

“Discipline. The ability to repeat a boring thing over and over.” UBUNTU.

“Greatness Itself. The best revenge.” Derek Fisher invites all you point guard aficionados to check his bling.

“Selfishness. Take what’s yours.” This will be J.R. Smith’s 900th tattoo.

“Teamwork. Work together as if your life depended on it… IT DOES!” This is actually from the Utah Jazz handbook under Jerry Sloan.

“Wood Working.” Kevin Love believes strongly in this. You know, since all he does is get boards. Wocka-wocka-wocka!

“Weapons.” I bet you’re thinking I’m going to make a Gilbert Arenas joke here. … Okay, yeah, I was.

“Buffets. Whenever available. Choose quantity over quality.”  Glen Davis liked this so much he tried to suck on it like a hard candy. Then he spilled drool all over the rest of the pyramid. It was awkward.

“Honor. If you need it defined, then you don’t have it.”  This should replace the logo at center court.

“Parks and Recreation” stars on NBC every Thursday at 9:30 p.m EST right after “The Office.”

Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers
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LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.


Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.