Michael Jordan counts the rings, picks Kobe Bryant over LeBron James

77 Comments

Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? It’s a discussion almost every sports fan has had at some point, and we know the arguments for both sides.

This is nothing new. Rings, assists, scoring, rebounds, defense, choker, clutch, blah blah blah. You’ve heard it all before.

But when the guy most consider to be the greatest player ever weighs in on the debate? People tend to listen.

So who would Michael Jordan take? Kobe or LeBron?

“If you had to pick between the two, that would be a tough choice,” Jordan, now owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, told program host Ahmad Rashard, “but five beats one every time I look at it.”

Bryant has won five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, with James winning his first NBA title last June. Jordan, of course, won six championships with the Chicago Bulls

“And not that he won’t get five,” Jordan said of James. “He may get more than that, but five is bigger than one.”

Ira Winderman | South Florida Sun Sentinel

It’s the only argument he needs, Shawn! In one fell swoop, Michael Jordan just vindicated everyone making the “Ringzzz!” argument all these years. This is a real watershed type moment for the screaming basketball fan who gives you unsolicited hot sports takes. Michael Jordan is on their side! The greatest ever! Who is more qualified to judge greatness than Michael Jeffrey Jordan?

What does LeBron think about all this? He doesn’t care so long as he can keep talking in the third person.

Told of Jordan’s view regarding Bryant, James left the conjecture to others.

“That doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “If you take Kobe one and then I go second . . . it doesn’t matter. I don’t really get too involved about what guys say about me, or if you take Kobe or if you take LeBron.

“As long as I’m on the floor and I try to make plays for my teammates, I don’t do what I do for other people’s approval.”

Make plays for your teammates? That’s a nice subtle dig, LeBron. Although he can’t do it now, ask LeBron about this seven years from now when he’s in full blown no filter mode like Kobe is now. Bet the digs might not be as subtle then.

With LeBron all but abstaining from the debate, Dywane Wade was asked for his opinion on how LeBron stacks up with Jordan instead of Kobe. That’s a whole different debate, but Wade made the tough choice the only way you should make tough choices, obviously.

For a moment, Kobe-LeBron took the spotlight from Jordan-LeBron, but only for a brief moment.

And yes, Heat guard Dwyane Wade said Thursday, teammates are more than aware of the growing comparisons.

Of Jordan-LeBron, Wade said, “If I’m a GM, I close my eyes and I pick out of a hat if they’re both at the same age. I close my eyes and pick out of a hat.”

Like many, though, Wade said the comparisons are unfair.

“It’s simple,” Wade said, “there’ll never be another Michael Jordan. He was the first kind of to do a lot of things. Whenever you’re the first, there can never be another.”

So Jordan would take Kobe over LeBron, LeBron doesn’t care if you take him or Kobe, and Wade would leave the LeBron-MJ choice to fate.

Got all that?

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim: ‘NBA has never drafted a player for defense’

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
1 Comment

Syracuse lost to Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

So, now Syracuse returns to recruiting. That means convincing prospects with NBA aspirations that Syracuse’s infamous zone defense won’t interfere with their pro path.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, via ASAP Sports:

What I do when I start out, I say the NBA drafts for one reason: Offense. The NBA has never drafted a player for defense. At any position, even at center. Like when they drafted Tim Duncan or David Robinson, or Olajuwon or Shaq, they didn’t get one of those guys because of their defense. They didn’t draft Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, go down the list. They didn’t draft one guy because of defense; they draft because of offense.
We had more first-round picks in the old Big East than any school because they draft guys based on their offense. That’s what we tell recruits and that’s the truth.

There are degrees of truth here. NBA teams generally value offense more than defense and more than they should.

But defense absolutely affects players’ draft position. Some players are drafted primarily for defense.

Maybe Syracuse’s zone helps players look good to NBA teams. But it’s a tough sell the zone actually prepares the players for the next level.

Syracuse’s first-round picks since Carmelo Anthony:

  • Tyler Lydon (No. 24 in 2018)
  • Malachi Richardson (No. 22 in 2017)
  • Chris McCullough (No. 29 in 2016)
  • Tyler Ennis (No. 18 in 2015)
  • Michael Carter-Williams (No. 11 in 2014)
  • Fab Melo (No. 22 in 2013)
  • Dion Waiters (No. 4 in 2013)
  • Wesley Johnson (No. 4 in 2011)
  • Jonny Flynn (No. 6 in 2010)
  • Donte Greene (No. 28 in 2009)
  • Hakim Warrick (No. 19 in 2006)

We can’t know how those players would have turned out if they played elsewhere in college, but that’s an extremely uninspiring list. I would not advise a recruit on track to make the NBA to pick Syracuse.

Obviously, Boeheim is strongly incentivized to spin it the other way. He has made millions of dollars by convincing good players to help him win games.

There’s something to his sentiment here. But he goes way too far, to the point he’s wrong – as per usual.

Court reverses nearly $1.5M oil-spill award to David West

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
1 Comment

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court says former NBA star David West is not entitled to a nearly $1.5 million award stemming from BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Court records show West submitted a claim under the terms of a settlement BP entered after the spill to avoid prolonged litigation with those claiming spill-related losses. The claim was based on his compensation as a member of the NBA’s New Orleans franchise having dropped after the spill.

BP challenged the award, saying West earned what he was expected to earn under a “front-loaded” contract he signed years before the spill. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday that there was no loss. West’s attorneys did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

James Harden: I want to play in 2019 World Cup

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
1 Comment

James Harden skipped the 2016 Olympics.

But he sounds ready to rejoin Team USA for the 2019 World Cup.

Harden, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“Of course I want to play,” Harden said. “It’s an opportunity to represent your country, go out there and play basketball. It’s something I love doing. If that opportunity presents itself, I’ll be in. Not everyone gets that opportunity. As a basketball player, that’s one of the highest points you can get for basketball.

Harden is among 35 players listed as in consideration for a roster spot, but the MVP candidate is likely a lock if he wants to play. He won gold at the 2012 Olympics and led Team USA to another gold medal in the 2014 World Cup.

With the World Cup being held in China, where there are lucrative marketing opportunities, expect many other stars to participate. The competition for Team USA roster spots could be intense.

But Harden is good enough and has proven his commitment to USA Basketball. He’s probably safely in.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving says he’ll rest before playoffs: ‘Makes no sense’ to emphasize regular-season games

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
4 Comments

Remember when Kyrie Irving asked whether a November 2014 Cavaliers-Bulls game felt like a playoff game?

He has come a long way since.

Before LeBron James returned to Cleveland, Irving hadn’t made the playoffs. Three NBA Finals and a trade to the Celtics later, Irving is focused on the postseason.

Irving, via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

“I’m definitely taking some games off before the playoffs,” Irving said at Boston’s morning shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. “Makes no sense, the emphasis on these regular games, when you’re gearing up for some battles coming in the playoffs.”

Irving will probably be more effective in the playoffs with additional rest.

But will the Celtics be more effective in the playoffs if Irving rests now?

Boston is fifth in the East. If that holds, that’d mean not having home-court advantage in any Eastern Conference playoff series and likely facing the Bucks – who’ve been the NBA’s best team throughout the regular season – in the second round.

That might not daunt Irving. After all, when asked why he’s so confident about the Celtics’ postseason chances, he said, “Because I’m here.”*
*That sounded a lot like LeBron.

But his teammates might benefit significantly from a better seed. Without Irving, Boston went 10-1 at home 1-7 on the road in last year’s playoffs – a historic split.

Catching the 76ers for the No. 3 seed is probably farfetched. But the Celtics are only a half game behind the Pacers for the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round.

Boston’s closing schedule is easier than Indiana’s. The teams even face each other twice. So, there’s an opportunity for the Celtics to clinch the No. 4 seed and rest Irving.

But little has gone to plan this season in Boston. If the Celtics’ seed is still up for grabs late in the regular season, will they rest Irving or keep pushing for a better record?