There is no more ridiculous or annoying argument in sports than “count the ringzzzzz.” Yes Kobe Bryant fans, I’m looking at you.
Basketball remains a team sport — Bill Russell was a great player but he has 11 rings because he was on a great team. We’ve mythologized Michael Jordan into a superhuman player (and he was no doubt one of the all-time greats) but forget the first year he ditched the Bulls to play baseball they won 55 games without him. He lifted that team up, but he didn’t win six rings alone. Karl Malone and John Stockton deserve more credit than some give them just because of the ring thing. This list goes on and on and on.
Steve Nash doesn’t have any rings and very likely will leave the game without one, so you can say of course he thinks the argument is overblown — but he’s right, the argument has become overblown. Here is Nash talking about it with the brilliant Zach Lowe of Grantland (you should read the entire Q&A, it’s fantastic).
“We’re in an age in North America where it’s championship or bust. I don’t think it was like that when I first came into the league.”
“I don’t know. I never felt it was like that. But now, with all these media outlets online, there’s gotta be a “take,” there’s gotta be a story, and there’s gotta be a winner and a loser. It has to be black-and-white. Even if someone doesn’t even necessarily believe it wholeheartedly, they have to pick a side and go with it. I want there to be one winner, and I want that team to be upheld as the most important thing. But there are other things. There are other factors. I don’t end everything right there. And I agree with you on the Spurs. You could say they choked. You could also say a million things happened. Maybe you could say Miami choked by not winning in five games. It’s myopic to go with these narratives….
“I don’t know where that came from. When I came into the league, it was different than it is now. I mean, I get it. I’m OK with it. I just don’t subscribe to it. I want to win. I’ve had some opportunities, and we had some bad luck. I don’t even look at it so much as bad luck. Things just happen. You could say it’s bad luck, but you could also say that if I made every shot, we would have won. Nothing is black-and-white, except for winning and losing, and maybe that’s why people gravitate to that so much. I find it much more interesting to look at the details.”
In a world of uncertainty and shifting sands, we tend to gravitate toward what we believe to be certain. Nash is right, winning and losing is black and white and there is an appeal to that. But life is lived in shades of grey — things are usually more complicated than we tend to believe. It takes a great team to win a title, but then that team needs some luck, too. Not just the Heat, but also the 90s Bulls and the 80s Lakers and all the rest.
Unfortunately, I don’t see nuance becoming a sports narrative again, if it ever really was.
The Cleveland Browns are trying something new: Making smart decisions. That included drafting Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
Garrett has NBA ties. His half brother, Sean Williams, was the No. 17 pick by the New Jersey Nets in 2007. Williams played just four years in the NBA, also spending time with the Mavericks and Celtics. He serves as a cautionary tale for Garrett.
Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated in a 2015 profile of Garrett:
Then there’s Sean Williams, Myles’s older brother by almost 10 years, a pro athlete who accompanied him on an official visit to College Station and served as a role model and mentor. More important, he offered a cautionary tale. “Myles looks up to Sean and loves Sean but knows the things Sean went through and how my mom hated watching her son self-destruct,” says Brea. “Myles never wanted to let my mom down. Honestly, the best thing Sean could have done for Myles was to f— up.”
Myles remembers approaching a Chevrolet Avalanche with smoke pluming from its windows. He was around 12, and as he pleaded with the man inside to stop smoking weed, tears streaked his face. Sean, then a 6’10”, 235-pound shot-blocking power forward for the Nets, had heard his little brother make this request many times before but never heeded him. “Definitely not,” Williams, 28, says when asked if he maximized his potential. “I let bad decisions get in the way, [let] smoking so much get in the way.”
As he got older, Myles played a lot of basketball with Sean, and despite the gaps in age and size, they went at it hard. Along with the stellar genes, Audrey gave her children an edge: “There was no allowing the kids to win in our house, be it Uno or tic-tac-toe. They could have been bums, but they would have been competitive bums.”
Myles idolized Sean. After the Nets picked Sean, Myles spent vacations in New Jersey with him, celebrating when he finally won in video games and when he first dunked on his big brother by grabbing onto him with one arm and tomahawking the ball with the other. In 2011-12, when Sean was playing for the Mavericks, the brothers often squared off at the team facility. One day Sean’s agent, Bernie Lee, got a call from Dallas GM Donnie Nelson. “You have to tell Sean to stop bringing his friend in to play one-on-one,” Nelson told Lee. “We’re scared they are going to hurt each other.” Nelson didn’t know who the friend was but guessed he was Sean’s bodyguard. Myles had just turned 16.
Check out the rest of Thamel’s story for a fuller basketball-colored introduction to Garrett.
Isaiah Thomas has played – and played well – in all five games of the Celtics’ first-round series against the Bulls, which Boston leads 3-2.
But he has done so while travelling more than his teammates, flying home to Washington to be with his family after Game 2, following his sister’s death in a car crash. He’ll again make the extra trip after Game 6 tonight.
Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:
After the Celtics and Bulls play Game 6 at the United Center on Friday night, Thomas is scheduled to fly to Tacoma to attend his sister’s funeral at noon on Saturday. If the Celtics win Game 6, this series will be over. But if Chicago wins, Game 7 will be played in Boston at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Teams up 3-2 with a road Game 6 in a 2-2-1-1-1 have won Game 6 just over half the time. The Celtics have been inspired to play for Thomas, who is admittedly emotionally exhausted, and I suspect this will only intensify his teammates’ desire to win for him.
I can’t imagine how Thomas has handled such a heavy burden, but it’d be nice if he had a little relief rather than the pressure to return to Boston by early Sunday afternoon.
MISSISSAUGA, Ontario (AP) Bruno Coboclo led Raptors 905 to the NBA Development League title Thursday night, scoring 31 points and adding 11 rebounds in a 122-96 victory over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Raptors 905 won the best-of-three series 2-1, taking the last two at home after dropping the opener at Rio Grande.
Caboclo was 13 for 19 from the field, going 5 of 7 from 3-point range. Fred VanVleet added 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting and 14 rebounds, and Pascal Siakim had 17 points. Troy Williams led the Vipers with 23 points.
Raptors 905 is affiliated with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, and Rio Grande with the Houston Rockets.
The Spurs are on to the second round of the playoffs, and the reason is Kawhi Leonard. Through six games he averaged 31.2 points per game on 54.8 percent shooting overall and 48.3 percent from three. Plus he was taking on Mike Conley — the toughest Grizzly to defend — for stretches of the game. Leonard has a PER of 36.4 through the first round of the playoffs, which is flat-out ridiculous.
That comes on the heels of a season where Leonard was a legitimate MVP candidate who will draw a lot of votes.
“We have a knack for hanging in ’cause things happen, and obviously Kawhi Leonard is, in my opinion, the best player in the league right now,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in his postgame press conference. “He’s the best two-way player, and does it all with such class, it’s impressive.”
“His conditioning is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Grizzlies coach David Fizdale added about Leonard. “I mean, the guy, he just keeps coming and keeps coming and keeps coming and he finds a way to make a play, a winning play, whether it’s a steal, a block, a rebound, a drive, pass. He made plays tonight off the dribble.”
If Leonard isn’t the best player in the game — LeBron James can stake a claim, among others — he’s damn close. He’s a Swiss Army knife who can do whatever a team needs to win — get buckets driving the lane, hit threes, grab a board, or lock down an opponent on a key play. That kind of versatility is rare.
It just feels like an MVP trophy and some more rings are in Leonard’s future, although probably not this season. On either count.