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Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 at 1:31 pm  |  68 responses

Lists Are Bourgeois…

World Premiere

By Myles Brown and Russ Bengtson

If the ever lasting craze of reality game shows has shown us anything, its that people like judging, ranking and eliminating things. Models, musicians, crackheads, p0rn stars, whatever. So do we. But there’s not enough lists in basketball for our liking so Russ and I decided to do something about that. Frequently. Lists Are Bourgeois, but we’re doing them anyway. Our opinions don’t necessarily reflect those of the rest of the SLAM staff, but they should. Otherwise those f*ckers are just plain wrong. Enjoy.

This week: Best Seasons EVAR.

10. 2008
This season was supposed to be done before things even started. The July 24th avalanche of accusations against Tim Donaghy buried what was left of the leagues credibility after record low Finals ratings. Hope for saviors in an esteemed rookie class was soon to be abandoned and the games premier player was having radio trouble. Video too. But just as suddenly as panic set in, the cavalry began to arrive. A call to duty was issued by a determined Boston trio, Detroit continued to deliver, and the yeoman’s effort from their brawny Central Division rival was a sight to behold. The lines of communication were clear again in L.A. and a talented young point was tearing through the West for Utah. (And New Orleans?) Before we knew it, the league was not only rescued from the debris of past summers events alive and kicking, a modern renaissance was unearthed.

9. 2004

The theatrics of the 2004 NBA season dispensed a glossary of literary terms. Static character/defending scoring champ Tracy McGrady continued to amaze-and disappoint-with a bevy of highlights and a paucity of spring performances. Unlike his Eastern counterpart, MVP Kevin Garnett finally had a supporting cast to get past the post seasons first act. But only once. Already a sympathetic character, he became some sort of tragic chiasmus. Blessed with an interminable longing to win, yet he wouldn’t win too long. Then there was the L.A. story. The events of a tumultuous off-season thrust him onto the front page as he found himself the protagonist of this hardwood drama. A life altering accusation. A beleaguering public. A scorned(ful?) teammate. Through it all, he balled. However it wasn’t until the curtain closed in Detroit after Game Two’s anticlimactic events that Kobe Bryant realized he was the anti-hero. Enter LeBron James….

8. 1977

The counterculture came late to the NBA. A generation removed from the Summer of Love, the NBA and ABA merged, leading to a lague wide spike in afros and bell-bottoms. Floppy socked magician “Pistol” Pete Maravich led the League in scoring at 31.6 per (and dropped 68 on the Knicks) and the ABA’s finest, Julius “Dr.J” Errrrrr-ving, was named All-Star MVP (following a one-point East victory) and led the Philadephia 76ers to the East’s best record. Out West, UCLA centers reigned supreme, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made his Lakers the best in the West (and earned the MVP in the process), beating out the ponytailed Bill Walton and his Portland Trail Blazers. Yet in the end, Grateful Red would win out. Walton’s Blazers faced Erving’s Sixers in the Finals, and, despite losing the first two games, the Blazers won their first (and only) NBA championship. What a long, strange trip it was.

This video can’t be http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3k9eWPEbXEembedded]

7. 1969

In a League loaded with future Hall of Famers, a rookie was king. Westley Sissel Unseld, a 6-7 load from Louisville, turned around the then-Baltimore Bullets with his strong rebounding and laser outlet passes and was named both Rookie of the Year and MVP. (His Bullets won a League-leading 57 games before being swept in the first round of the playoffs—so get over it, Dirk.) Over the previous summer, Wilt Chamberlain was traded to the Lakers, joining All-Stars Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. And then there were the Celtics, led by the seemingly ageless Bill Russell, who had also become the L’s first African-American coach. The Celtics and Lakers met in the Finals—Russell v. Chamberlain one last time—and the series came down to Game Seven in Los Angeles. Enraged by presumptuous celebratory balloons suspended in the Forum rafters, the Celtics reached deep one last time. Jerry West would win the first-ever Finals MVP award, but Russell would earn his 11th ring.

6. 1987

It was a year of lamentable last looks and exciting glimpses into the future. Julius Erving announced it would be his final year in the operating room and fans filled sold out arenas across the country for one last visit with the Doctor. If only Michael Jordan had announced he was about to start raising hell. A season removed from a broken foot, Jordan (37.1 PPG) walked-better yet flew-his way to unimaginable heights, becoming the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to score 3,000 points. And opponents was illin’ if they thought Money would rest on defense as he also became the first guard ever to record 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season. The defending champion Celtics swept Jordan and stole the Eastern Conference Finals from an upstart Piston squad, however Magic Johnson (+5 PPG) would take both MVP honors after leading Showtime to 65 wins and another title in their last Finals showdown with Boston.

5. 1980

Three things were introduced in the 1979-80 NBA season that would change the League forever: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and the three-point shot. Throw in Michael Ray Richardson leading the L in assists and steals, Darryl Dawkins shattering two backboards in less than a month (leading to the overdue introduction of breakaway rims), and the first cable TV contract, and you’ve got the makings of a hell of a season. And it was. Bird, whom Red Auerbach had cannily drafted the previous summer, was the Rookie of the Year, leading the Celtics to the biggest single-season turnaround in League history. As for Magic, he went from hugging MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after the first game to replacing him in the last, starting at center in Game Six of the Finals and piling up 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in a 123-107 win over the Sixers. Title won, rivalry born, League saved.

This video can’t be embedded either.

4. 1996

He walked away from the game with nothing left to prove, but once he came back he’d have to prove it all over again. Michael Jordan returned to the NBA in 1995 due to his well chronicled love for the game, but in 1996 he proved to love winning more. Actually, ‘winning’ doesn’t even begin to encapsulate it, perhaps an ‘unflinching, merciless despotism‘ is more appropriate. Notoriously driven by even the most minuscule of perceived slights, the whispers of Jordan being washed up stirred a wave of motivation in him that would lift all ships in his armada and drown out the competition. The Chicago Bulls were so good in ’96 that the two other 60+ win teams (Orlando & Seattle) in the league were a complete afterthought. Actually, ‘good’ doesn’t even begin to describe it, but maybe things can be summed up with a number. 72. It’s a lot easier that way.

3. 1993

The tone for the 1993 NBA season was set in the summer of 1992. On June 14th, the Chicago Bulls defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, earning their second straight NBA title. On June 24th, Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning were selected 1-2 in the NBA Draft. And on July 17th, disgruntled superstar Charles Barkley was traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Phoenix Suns. Barkley stomped his way through the West, leading the Suns to an NBA-best 62 wins and winning the MVP in the process. O’Neal won rookie of the year, and appeared in a Fu-Schnickens video. Then there was Michael Jordan. His Bulls didn’t even finish with the best record in the East, recording 57 wins to the Knicks 60. But he shone in the Finals against his good friend Charles, scorching the Suns for 41 ppg, the threepeat and the MVP award that mattered. Revenge served piping hot.

Video

2. 1962

You know how old game film looks like it’s been sped up? Once upon a time they actually played that fast. And the numbers showed it. In 1961-62, 23-year-old Cincinnati Royal Oscar Robertson became the first (and only) player in NBA history to average a triple-double: 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and a League-leading 11.4 assists. And he didn’t win MVP. That same year, 25-year-old Philadelphia center Wilt Chamberlain became the first (and only) player in NBA history to score 4,000 points in a season, averaging 50.4 points and 25.6 rebounds in a knee-destroying 48.5 minutes per. He even dropped 100 on the Knicks. Only he didn’t win MVP either. Bill Russell did. The 27-year-old center averaged a mere 18.9 points and 23.6 boards, but led his Celtics to an NBA-best 60 wins. The Celtics won their fourth straight title despite Elgin Baylor’s Finals record 61 points-with 22 boards-in Game Five.

1. 1988

Has it really been 20 years since All-Star weekend in Chicago? Already? Twenty years since the best dunk contest there ever was and ever will be, 20 years since Larry Legend walked off the floor in his short sleeved warmup, index finger raised in triumph wile the red, white and blue ball still rotated lazily through the air, 20 years since Isiah fed Michael en route to 40-freeze out long over and forgiven-and Magic no looked dimes to everyone in sight?With apologies to Nas, there’s no bringin’ ’88 back. Too bad. That was the true dream team era, with Magic and Larry in their absolute primes, Jordan dominating on both ends with pure unbridled athleticism, guys like Nique and Karl Malone and Akeem Olajuwon finishing anything their point guards could start, and Isiah Thomas among them, dazzling smile firmly in place, free from the politricks that would keep him from fulfilling the Dream four years later.

It started on Saturday night, TBS, live from creaky old Chicago Stadium hosted but a still-human Craig Sager and a curmudgeonly Rick Barry. I was 16 then and quick with the tape on Saturday night, recording everything from the three-point shootout on. If I remember correctly, I was as excited to see the new Air Jordan commercial as I was to see Air Jordan himself.

I re-watched the tape just yesterday, marveling over details I’d forgotten (or blocked out)-the offensive Joe Piscopo Miller Lite commercials, the awful guitar music during the three-point shootout, Detlef Schrempf’s mini mullet, Barry’s questionable commentary during the dunk contest. But much of it remains as clear as day-Bird killing the entire second-to-last rack in the final, missing his first two on the last rack, then draining the last three shots for the win. And of course Dominique and Jordan in a dunk-off for the ages, Jordan getting robbed on his second-to-last dunk and then ‘Nique getting even more robbed on his last, setting up the inevitable finale. As Jordan paced back to the baseline for another free-throw line launch (he actually missed the first attempt and had to try again), one of the announcers presciently said “the only way he’s gonna lost the competition is if he misses this dunk.” He didn’t, and he didn’t. Arguments continue to this day.

For whatever reason, I didn’t tape the next day’s game. Watching highlights now, it’s clear that I should have. There would have been no better way to remember the best year in NBA history.

There are two types of nostalgic sporting moments: the ones that make you remember exactly where you were when they happened and the ones that make you wonder how the hell you missed them. The 1988 season was a string of the latter moments for me, and my being 10 years old is not a valid excuse. Instead of mourning the loss of the Transformers and familiarizing myself with Super Mario Bros., I should have been intently imbibing the exploits of that seasons superstars.

It would be years before I realized the significance of their accomplishments. I knew the Lakers had gone Back to Back, but not that they were the first repeat champions since the ’69 Celtics. Nor did I know that they survived three Game 7′s on their road to glory. I knew they called him Big Game James, but I couldn’t have told you the nickname was justified since he had the only Game 7 triple double in playoff history.

As a Chicagoan, all I knew of Isiah Thomas was that I wasn’t supposed to like him. I wish I knew how much I was supposed to respect him. Zeke’s Bad Boys had exercised the demons of past defeats to Boston’s green machine and found themselves thisclose to a title as Thomas put on a Game 6 show for the ages. Speaking of, Dominique Wilkins also was all too familiar with spectacular performances in harrowing playoff defeats.

Then there was Michael Jordan. I wasn’t completely oblivious, I knew who the man was, but I had no idea exactly what he was doing. To this day Money remains the only player in NBA history to capture both the scoring title and the Defensive Player of the Year. Justly, he is also the only player to pair those honors with the MVP award. I vaguely remember the disappointment in our household as the Bulls were run over by the Pistons, but as others I also remember being more preoccupied with the commercials of that day than the main event. I was 10 years old in 1988 and all I really knew was that I wanted those f*cking shoes.

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  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    1998 was a good year because i can remember it, vaugley, but the memories are their.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    1988 i have no idea

  • Dirtybird

    I dug the 88 tribute issue. Good tunes that year as well.

  • http://whitehoteboysworld.blogspot.com Eboy

    Damn boys, that was excellent. So many great years, so many great moments. I guess the 2008 season could be pushed back a little if we get a shi*ty Finals, but yeah, this season has been ridiculously great. Nice rewind through history, excellent work.

  • http://www.myspace.com/hemantsbeats what

    Youtube is pretty much da bomb. Nice writeup.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    knick knack paddywack

  • http://tadone.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Great stuff Russ, Myles. This took me a while to read, but it was well worth it. Luckily I’m at work, so I can’t get too distracted by the videos, because they are long. Thanks for this.

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    Watching some of the older videos really illustrate how tough the game used to be.

  • http://whitehoteboysworld.blogspot.com Eboy

    You think, izzo? (sarcasm permiates that comment)

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    All of those links are full games of Jordan, Kobe, McGrady etc. Those guys were ridiculous. Especially that 61 Money hung on Detroit in 87. I hope this season does end with a bang and Im glad you guys liked it.

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    F*ck hand checks and f*ck Eboy.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    I miss hand checks.

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    Oh and great piece,Myles.The title was pretty good also.Good to see you observed that people are only interested in things presented in list form.The West,I think it’s safe to say will be ridiculous,this year.Do League Pass broadband show the playoffs?

  • http://tadone.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    The Jordan Rules.

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    Edit:F*ck the outlawing of hand checks.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Holly MacKenzie

    I LOVE MYLES AND RUSS AND I LOVE THIS LIST IDEA. Can this please become a staple of the site during the offseason?? ;) “I was 10 years old in 1988 and all I really knew was that I wanted those f*cking shoes.” fantastic. Thanks, guys.

  • http://tadone.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Playoffs should be on regular tv, izzo.

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    TAD:Not here they’re not.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Should have been “Micheal Ray Richardson.” I do believe that got overzealously edited, ’cause I didn’t spell it wrong. Hmph.

  • http://tadone.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Wow, that sucks izzo. I have to imagine some ‘pirating’ site will have the games.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    And “league-wide spike.” Dammit.

  • http://tadone.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I love how Russ self edits after it’s posted.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Yeah that was my fault. Shouldnt be editing at 2 AM. Lesson learned.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    And Im still not sure if 93 was better than 96.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Thoughts?

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    For purely sentimental reasons,96 probably trumps 93.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    I dunno. 93 had a great rookie class and a more exciting playoffs, but yeah the memories of 96 may have all been from one team, but there were still plenty of em.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    ’93 > ’96. We are not wrong. Well, at least I’M not. ’96 was a better season for Jordan and the Bulls, ’93 was better for the NBA as a whole. Leastwise that’s how I see it.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Fight! Nah, Russ is probably right. But the AJ XI kicks the XIII’s ass. Or sole. Whatever.

  • WhaHuh

    SLAM magazine need to do a feature on how youtube perfectly captures the NBA. as a new watcher I would never know the greatness of these teams or great players such as Jordan/Kobe/Vince/McGrady etc.

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    Myles,you two should not be seen to disagree in public in front of the great unwashed,it really goes against the whole mission statement thing at the start.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Not so much a disagreement as an exchange of idle thoughts. And since one of us is always right, the other is also right by default. Its everyone else thats stupid. Moving on, its weird how little seven game series there were between 96-01. There were some great regular season moments, but he playoffs were so anticlimactic. Which sucks for such a long format. Hopefully thats not a problem this year.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Co-sign Izzo’s 2:16 comment. I love handchecks. If they haden’t been outlawed there wouldn’t be all these stupid Kobe is better than Mike arguments.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Great great work BTW.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Cmon now…

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    And thank you.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    And now that you mention it, people talk about how hand checks would have affected Kobe, or Nash. But what about the big men? Shaq? Amare? Or even KG?

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    That’s true Myles, off course the handcheck also affects them to a certain point. But it is much more evident and easy to call when it comes to quicker players in the open court. Therefore the effect IMO is way smaller for the bigs. You still see plenty of handchecking in the post. Not to degrade their performances but look at how easy quick guards get to the rim these days, Tony Parker leading the league in points in the paint come on that would’ve never have happened with handchecking.

  • WhaHuh

    Lz is still a hater

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    I see your point, and agree with you, but I still wonder what the Shaq Rules wouldve been like back in 89. And if they wouldve been the slightest bit effective.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Good argument Whuhuh.. !d!ot..

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Myles, please refresh me on the Shaq Rules?

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    Tyler Hanbrough would have done well in 1987.

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    Actually,he wouldn’t have been fouled and not have gotten to the FT line half as much as he does.He wouldn’t have done well,AT ALL.My last comment is now void.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Harder fouls? And more of them? I dont know, thats what Im asking. How would Detroit have defended him?

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Izzo; Tyler would have been alright, not so sure about Douglas-Roberts though?

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    I think Detroit would have been coming hard at Shaq in any way, they had plenty of bodies (read elbows).. But Shaq in his prime not so sure how effective it would have been, but I know one thing he would have killed Laimbeer at some point.

  • WhaHuh

    Lz you are the most negative guy on this board, ou are always looking for ways to put down players, these players cannot help the fact they play within the current era. The attitude that the old days were better helps NO ONE. Kobe and Tony Parker are playing great in the current system we will never know how they would have played with old rules. How would Kobe/Jordan/LeBron have dealt with Russell and Wilt? Stop these childish vs arguements and celebrate Basketball

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    I think CDR would do alright,but The Miami Heat definitely would not be NBA champs.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    I need to build a time machine.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Whuhuh, I will always celebrate basketball – happens every day. Negative?! Towards Kobe Yes; that I admit. Don’t know what else you refer to, I do my fair share of praising on this forum as well. It goes both ways I can assure you. And seriously you want people to discuss sports, without having Vs. arguments? Get real.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Whuhuh; BTW didn’t say anything bad about Tony, actually like the guy, just pointed out that he wouldn’t lead the league in points in the paint with handchecking still going on – You can see negativity everywhere if you look for it.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn would have come out with 2x4s. If that didn’t work, the Pistons may have signed Andre the Giant and King Kong Bundy.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    So true about the Heat Izzo..

  • http://tadone.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I didn’t get a chance to comment on how the Bad Boys would have guarded Shaq before Russ got the best comment in. But I agree with LZ in saying that Laimbeer’s career would have been severely shortened.

  • http://why-bother-reading.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    There would probably have been a lot more on court stabbings.

  • http://www.firemitchkupchak.com Reggie Evans

    This season is my favorite season.

  • http://myspace.com/mrdyalekt d.Y.

    I can t count 96 as a good season. How can a season where 1 team wins 72 games be enjoyable unless you’re a fan of that team. No room for speulation, mystery, drama, competition, just a season long coronation. Turrible.

  • http://its-mitch.blogspot.com Paps

    1962! Those stats are unreal

  • Young Chris #3

    It is kind of fitting that the League could stage such a comeback after all of last summer’s controversy, and the disappointing 2006-07 season and playoffs (the highlight of which, and likely the only thing that stands out was the Warriors upset – Lebron’s destruction of the Pistons withstanding).

    And to think two dumbfounded GMs are to be credited for much of it (Grizzlies and T’Wolves, thank you very much).

    Well that, and Chris Paul is that dude for real…

  • Young Chris #3

    And ’96 was that year, d.Y. Yeah, the Bulls ran through the league, but so did the Sonics (64 wins) and Magic (60 wins). This was the last year of the Penny-Shaq Orlando squad, and the beginning of the end for the Payton-Kemp Sonics, two of my favorite teams growing up (with Orlando probably being held above all, even now).

    If it were wine, the general consensus should be that ’96 “was a good year”

  • http://www.nba.com hursty

    nice chris. Excellent series of links and posts. I full agree with everything (and some of the comments).

  • oneshot

    Great post. Not seen the vids yet but just reading about all these great seasons heightens my anticipation of a (hopefully) great, but not quick, finish to this season.

  • http://www.clutchfans.net nick

    I wonder what the cieling for this season is. This is the most meaningful regular season in years. Boston, Lebron, the smorgasborg of fun teams in the west…if the playoffs are anything like i hope, this could be insane.

  • oneshot

    Forgot to say, nice job with the little pop ups on the links.

    Kazaam!

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » The Post Up: Nuggets and Hornets Escape with W’s

  • Fyan

    The earliest year I can remember is 1996 and that was a fantastic season. We only got ESPN here and live NBA games in 1994. 1996 was the first season that captured my imagination. The Bulls took everyone by storm here.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    The thoroughness of this post explains why it was in WordPress for a LONG time. Nice work, fellas.

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