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Thursday, March 14, 2019

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PA Sports Edition: Jordan is the GOAT

True and Speed recently discussed NBA GOAT-ness. The following is a transcription of this conversation. LeBron stans, don't be triggered.

Speed: Who's your NBA GOAT and why?

True: Jordan. No reason needed.

Speed: I'd either have to say Jordan or, maybe, someone like Bill Russell or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (with an admitted bias concerning KAJ). Not LeBron or Steph, though. Not yet.

True: It's Jordan and it's not even close. No one changed the dynamic of the game like him minus, maybe, Steph. In a point guard and big man-driven league, he was the most-versatile player in the game and played both ends every night. Ten scoring titles, 6-for-6 in the Finals, 5 MVPs, DPOY, and these accolades were amassed over 13 full seasons. Actually 11, since he missed one season and missed 80% of another.

And yes, I gloss over the Wizards years.

But even then, people don't know how taxing it is on the body to retire and come back and dominate the sport again like he did between 1996 and 1998. It's never been done and it'll never be done again. He's the greatest player ever. He did what every player aspired to do, which is why he's so emulated and why so many wanted to be him.

Sure, Russell won eleven titles. His era, however, was kind of bad comparably speaking and his team was full of HOF talent. Kareem, in all his legend, had one of the best-assembled teams when he won as part of the Showtime Lakers. He wasn't always the best player on the team. That's my argument against him as the GOAT.

Speed: With Russell, his team was stacked and not many other teams of the era, Wilt's Warriors and Sixers included, were that full of talent top to bottom like the Celtics were. With Kareem, his teams were stacked. But, I'd argue and say they also revolutionized the game, albeit in not a grand a way as Jordan did.

Steph could go down as, like, 1B, when it's all said and done because he helped revolutionize the game like Jordan. LeBron to me now, and this is not hate, is essentially what Magic Johnson would've been had he not lost the time from HIV. That's not to say that, statistically, they're identical. No. However, and I like LeBron, I just think calling him the GOAT isn't exactly accurate.

True: With Jordan, he was always number one. There was no 1B or 1C. Pippen was his number two, and he was great. However, his number threes were Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman. It's not like Bird, who had McHale and Parrish and Dennis Johnson. It's not even like Magic, who had Kareem, Worthy, Byron Scott, and countless others.

LeBron isn't even in my top three. People think I hate him. No. I just hate the narrative around him. He's a legend. He lived up to his hype fresh out of high school. That's incredible. Too bad his teammate list includes a ton of HOFers and he never really changed the game. People argue that Bron made the game positionless. But he, as you said, was a more skilled version of Magic. Magic was a 6'9" point guard who could play senter or even SF. Magic just couldn't shoot and had some defensive issues.

But Bron? He was a guy who could defend and has learned to shoot decent enough. He isn't a great shooter, nor will he ever be. That's KD. That's Steph. He doesn't have the midrange of a Jordan--or even his finishing touch. And defensively? Bruh's been almost nonexistent for the past five years.

Speed: Look no further than this.

True: As for Steph, it's no secret he's my favorite player today and one of my all-time favorites is Steph. I've never seen anything like him. Undersized guy who puts fear into the league like he's a 6'7" sniping shooting guard or a 7'1" versatile center. He's gonna be top 10 all-time to me. Already is.

No one changed the game like him. He damn near eliminated the impact of the midrange and then developed a solid midrange game of his own. Jordan changed the game from being all about the big men.

Jordan was the guy who changed the game from being all about the big men. Steph changed the way the game is played. Both are the two most-impactful players in the last thirty years. Now, think about what you thought of when you saw greatest shooters ever before Steph Curry.

You thought of Ray Allen, Reggie Miller--even a guy like Kyle Korver--out there sniping. Steph is miles ahead of those guys already. Perennial All-Star, All-NBA player, 2x MVP, 3x champion. This is his era. On top of that, he's unselfish when it comes to giving his teammates shots and options. Jordan got flack about selfishness from some. Kobe got flack about things, too. LeBron, as well. Who has said anything bad about Steph Curry? No one. He's the best player in the world right now, if you ask me, with Durant as a 1B.

Speed: So, in terms of eras of the last thirty years, would you have it along the lines of Jordan, Kobe, Steph--with a few years for LBJ?

True: Era-wise, I break it down like this. From 1988 through 1998, it was Jordan's time. The Pistons and folks like Hakeem had runs in this time, too, but it was mostly defined by Jordan. From 1999 through 2009, I'd say it was the era of Duncan, Shaq, and Kobe. This is where players like LeBron and Dwayne Wade came of age and came into their own. From 2010 through 2014, it was LeBron's era. And from 2015 on, it's been Steph's time.

Speed: Forgive me, but I almost forgot about Duncan's dominance in the 2000s. That's how stacked the NBA was.

True: Duncan is a top-ten guy. Not top five, for me personally, but definitely legendary. My personal lists and who I think are the best are almost identical.

Speed: But that makes sense. You can't be saying someone like, say, Steve Blake or Juan Dixon is a best all-around player. Even if they're personal favorites.

True: Juan was definitely a favorite. But, you have to separate fandom from reality.

Speed: I used to want to go to Maryland because of Juan Dixon and I stayed at Maryland, athletically-speaking, because of folks like Greivis Vasquez. But, neither one of them were legends in the league.

True: Factual. I never understood not being able to separate fandom for sports. Music is different, it's subjective. Sports isn't nearly as subjective. There are actual levels to this.

Speed: It's like people saying that Kaepernick was better than Michael Vick, playing-wise, because he knelt for police brutality instead of possibly kneeling on dogs' necks.

True: Kap wasn't better than Vick or McNabb. He was a good player, sure. But, his social activism makes people overrate his legacy.

Speed: In terms of dual-threats, you'd probably have to put people like McNair and Randall Cunningham over Kaepernick. I like Kap and I think he should get another shot in the league. But, just based on stats alone? He was just "good." Better than I'd be in the league, sure, but still just good.

True: I feel like he'd be better off joining AAF or XFL and balling out there.

Speed: Maybe. So, back to the topic at hand. We're in agreement that Jordan is the GOAT, Steph has a claim for the greatest of this generation, and LeBron is ever so slightly overrated?

True: I wouldn't even say overrated. Like I said, he's a legend. But, the narrative around him skews everything to make it appear he's out here moving mountains at all times when he isn't. Plain and simple.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

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WIRTB Review: Space Jam

By Speed on the Beat

Greetings, all. Speed on the Beat back with the first WIRTB Review in a while on EOTR. Today, we’re going to take a different route. We’re still talking sports and the like, but we’re going to merge the worlds of WIRTB Review and talk a bit about Michael Jordan’s foray into children’s film. No, this won’t be a review of Come Fly with Me or Michael Jordan’s Playground. Instead, let’s keep it light and fluffy…like a bunny tail. With LeBron James recently passing Michael Jordan on the NBA All-Time scoring list—and a Space Jam sequel on the way, because what else can LeBron ape from Jordan Hollywood ran out of ideas yet again—let’s look at 1996’s perennial millennial “classic.” 

And, no, I won’t go all Nostalgia Critic and talk about bunny boobies. While furries are people, too, I think people have run the whole “I think Lola is ‘hot’” thing into the ground a while ago. Besides, I don’t understand the logistics behind it well enough to speak on it and think it’s odd. Sorry.

Space Jam isn’t really a movie that you can say definitively it’s good or bad without offending (or fake offending) someone. Call it good and you’re flying in the face of those who’d call it a by-the-numbers commercial for Jordan’s brand, the NBA, and Warner Bros. Call it bad and you’re pissing on the memories of millennials who cry (for differing reasons) when “I Believe I Can Fly” comes on. It more so lies in that middle ground; we know it sucks, but it’s our suck. It’s so ‘90s, you can smell the Surge and Pizza Cravers Doritos seeping from its pores and it doesn’t hide this. It revels in the fact that it wasn’t setting out to be timeless by lobbing in as many ‘90s references you could into a kid’s movie (Pulp Fiction gets lampooned, Madonna dating Charles Barkley gets spoofed, The Mighty Ducks gets riffed on—both the team and the movies).

On its surface, it’s a basic movie and is kind of a commercial that, ironically, sprang up from a commercial starring Jordan and Bugs Bunny. The plot is simple: Michael Jordan is coaxed back into playing basketball by the Looney Tunes to save them from being turned into alien slaves. Said alien slavers, led by Danny DeVito playing the Dad from Matilda, have sucked the basketball lifeforce out of MJ’s friends to become the Monstars (get it? They’re monsters and they’re stars). And it’s up to MJ and the Looney Tunes to save the players’—and their own—skins by doing Looney Tunes antics, taking placebo steroids, sexually harassing Lola Bunny until she turns the tables and lays a kiss on Bugs (is this equality or Stockholm’s. So confused), trotting out Bill friggin’ Murray, and Gurren Lagann-ing the already-loopy physics of the Looney Tunes mythos.

It’s a shameless cash-grab (though not as shameless as Looney Tunes: Back in Action). But, it’s also a ‘90s kids movie. Most of them, aside from the Disney ones, completely sucked. The fact that Space Jam was even halfway coherent is a victory in of itself. It has moments of brilliance and moments of putridness. But, to be completely frank, it’s not good.

It’s not “bad,” but it’s not good. It seemingly exists as a time capsule of the positives and negatives of 1990s consumerism where everything had to be a movie with an amazing soundtrack. It was fun and funny, but that’s because it was more in on the joke that it wasn’t all that deep or good/it was meant to be just “MJ getting money playing with cartoons while Charles Barkley is a real star.” It’s one of those “so bad it’s good” movies that knows what it is and doesn’t really hide it. Usually, I hate those, but here? It works, and not just because of the nostalgia.

I think that’s what has made it as revered among millennials and others as it is. Never mind the fact that it was Michael Jordan’s first—and only—starring film appearance (outside of the NBA Home Video documentaries and the like). The movie knows it’s ridiculous and runs with it, wallows in it, and reminds you of it until you’re forced to say “well, damn. This is brilliant in a so bad, it’s good sort of way.” Plus, it’s ‘90s as hell. So, if it comes on, would I say go out of your way and watch? Eh, no. However, if you want to see Michael Jordan play Stretch Armstrong and save Daffy Duck from working the corner working for aliens, by all means.

Just...don't expect me to sing R. Kelly ever again.