“I think he plays a little bit like Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), but he’s a defensive Kareem more than an offensive Kareem. He’s not going to be a power player, but he’s going to be an athletic-length-long player.”
— Nuggets coach George Karl on newly acquired center JaVale McGee, via The Denver Post.
Um, no. No he is not. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was on 11 NBA All Defensive Teams. He averaged 2.6 blocks per game (McGee is at a respectable 1.8). I know the rep on Kareem comes from Airplane — “My dad says you don’t work hard enough on defense” — but he was a quality defensive player.
But here is the real difference between the two: Kareem’s defensive game was smart. Like his offensive game, Kareem was less about overwhelming physical skills — although he had those — but playing smarter than you. He understood what you wanted to do and what your counter was. He was a step ahead of you and your team’s move. On the other side of the scale, we have JaVale McGee. Enough said.