First and foremost, you should know, at heart, I’m a huge sports nerd. While other kid’s my age were devouring the Harry Potter novels, I was nose deep in Michael Lewis’ Moneyball. Second and secondmost, you should know that in college I once uttered the words, “All I want to do is create my own stat.” A pretty lofty goal for someone still not 100% on their 8x tables. While other freshman were trying to sneak beers past their RAs and smoking weed out windows (to cover the smell), I once spent an entire week trying to invent a stat that valued position scarcity in Major League Baseball. (After a long arduous process I basically re-invented VORP expect 1000x less complex.)
Six years later I’m back at it. Expect I’ve shifted my focus to basketball.
I was born in 1988. I started watching basketball sometime in the mid-90s. (I’m not sure the exact year my NBA consciousness kicked it in, but I can definitely remember MJ’s first retirement.) This means during my basketball watching lifetime, I’ve witnessed the greatest player of all-time, fifteen absolutely monster stars and seven arguably monster stars.
(in no particular order)
Arguably Monster Stars
** Jury’s still out on: Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.**
Like a snowflake or a Stanley Kubrick movie, no two star players are alike. No player has Dirk’s combination of size and shooting. No player has Barkley’s combination of lack of size, girth, misappropriated athleticism and rebounding prowess. John Stockton could shoot 40% from three and pick up double digit assists in his sleep. Steve Nash could also shoot 40% from three and pick up double digit assists in his sleep, but they did it so differently Nash runs and guns, while Stockton was a master of the half-court offense. Reggie and Ray could both shoot the lights out, but Ray (at least at the beginning of his career) could take players off the dribble while Reggie was busy breaking my heart.
We accept these players as unique talents. We accept all of them, but one. There is one player we will not accept as a unique basketball talent. It’s why, for the last fifteen years, one question has been asked a million times every season.
Who’s the next Jordan?
Is it Kobe? Lebron? DeMar DeRozan?
The simple answer is no one. Jordan is Jordan. Kobe doesn’t score as efficiently. Lebron passes too much. And DeMar DeRozan is – well – DeMar DeRozan.
But, Who’s the most Jordan-like? That’s the question I set out to answer.
Who can dominate a game like Jordan? Who can change a game with his prodigious scoring ability? Who can score as efficiently? Who showcases an inside/outside game with the same tact? Who can impact games, not only on the offensive end, but at defensive end as well? Who has the all-around dominate Michael Jordan Game?
I looked at efficiency, scoring, free throws, rebounding, assists, perimeter defense and outside shooting, threw them all in a pot added some broth a potato and, baby, I got a stew going.
It’s called the Jordan Stat.
Unlike ESPN, I don’t have a team of interns to run numbers on numbers on numbers, but I did my best to run the numbers on the guys that I thought mattered.
I ran numbers from single seasons, careers, playoff runs and single games. The stat is simple. A score of 100 is Jordan-esque, the closer to 100 the more Jordan-esque you are.
LeBron James – 89.9
No surprise here. LeBron’s ability to get to the hoop, defend the perimeter and control the flow of the game is the closest to Jordan you’ll get. Of course the numbers also show some differences. LeBron doesn’t take the initiative to score as much as Jordan (which everyone already knows) and he jacks up too many inefficient threes (something he’s starting to limit).
Larry Bird – 86.9
Bird and Jordan’s games are similar, in the fact that they were both dominant multi-faceted wing players. While Bird rebounded more and hit more threes, he didn’t force as many turnovers or score with the same volume as #23.
Dominique Wilkins (Hawks Years) – 86.7
I limited Dominique’s number to only his Hawks’ years considering how hard he fell the second he left. I was a little surprised to see him finish ahead of players like Kobe and Clyde, but the numbers love his volume scoring at a surprisingly efficient rate.
Kobe Bryant – 86.1
Quick thing about Kobe, there’s no doubt that his early years playing next to Shaq skewed this number. He’s post-Shaq Jordan Stat is 91.2, a full point higher than Lebron’s.
Other interesting Next Jordan Candidates (and Clyde Drexeler)
Dwyane Wade – 85.8
Kevin Durant – 85.3
Tracy McGrady w/ knees (pre-2010) – 84.5
Carmelo Anthony – 83.5
Allen Iverson (pre-wilderness) – 81.5
Clyde Drexler – 79.2
Paul Pierce – 76.2
Michael Jordan (first championship season) 1990-91, 104.0
Jordan has a few 100+ scores. Since the stat is based on his career averages it makes sense that his best years would be better than his average years.
Kobe Bryant 2005-06, 101.3
Kobe’s most Jordan-esque year and the only single season I tested that came out over 100 since Jordan’s retirement. The only other player not named Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant to achieve a 100+ season (that I tested) was Bernard King’s injury shortened 1984-85 campaign (101.9).
Tracy McGrady 2002-03, 99.8
One of the most underrated/forgotten great individual seasons in recent history. With 32.1 ppg, 5.5 assists per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, a terrific steal rate and a propensity to get to the line, Tracy achieved one of the most Jordan-esque seasons ever.
Dwyane Wade 2008-09, 98.2
Jordan led the league in scoring eleven times, so it’s understandable to have a Jordan-esque season you’ll have to score A LOT. This was Wade’s only scoring title, but what pushes him so close to Jordan was his terrific perimeter defense and, more than just the volume, his scoring efficiency.
LeBron James 2007-08, 96.3
Oddly enough James’ Heat numbers are not nearly as Jordan-esque (though they’re still pretty high) as his Cleveland numbers. This is simply due to the fact that he was asked to score more while at Cleveland. In Miami he’s able to play a more Magic-esque game (what I suppose he always wanted in the first place).
Other interesting Next Jordan Candidates (and Pippen doing his best MJ impression)
Kevin Durant 2009-10, 93.1
Allen Iverson 2004-05, 90.2
Carmelo Anthony 2009-10, 89.0
Scottie Pippen (Jordanless-Bulls) 1993-94, 79.6
(some of the best individual performances of the last decade and one gratuitous Michael Jordan moment)
MJ Game 4 vs. Suns (1993), 132.7
Kobe’s 81 point game, 206.7
LeBron Game 6 vs. Celtics (2012), 121.0
Dwyane Wade Game 3 vs. Mavs (2006), 118.9
MJ 1993 Playoffs, 103.0
Jordan’s first last Championship run. Chicago swept through the first two rounds easily. Then Jordan delivered a triple-double and a 50 point game against my beloved New York Knicks to send them packing in the Eastern Conference Finals. Jordan finished his ungodly playoff run averaging 41 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 6.3 apg in the Championship series aginst Charles Barkley’s Phoenix Suns.
LeBron James 2012 Playoffs, 91.8
LeBron’s first Championship run (note first, I expect a few more on the horizon), where he proved the haters wrong. This run featured a few AMAZING individual performances. Most notably including his transcendent 45 point, 15 rebound game 6 against the Celtics and a championship clinching triple-double against the Thunder.
Kobe Bryant 2009 Playoffs, 90.1
Kobe’s first non-Shaq title.
Dwyane Wade 2006 Playoffs, 86.1
The run that propelled Wade from great player to all-time great player and for a second (even if it was just a second) made, “Is Wade better than LeBron?” a plausible question.
So, who’s the next Jordan?
Great players can have Jordan-esque games here and there. Great players can even throw up some aberrational Jordan-equse seasons (keyword aberrational). In the end Kobe and Lebron are the closest things we have to “the next Jordan” and even they are pretty far off.
Like I said, the only Jordan is Jordan, at least according to the Jordan Stat.
“I’ve had a chance to sit back and think about it and there are some things I could’ve done better.”
Really Dwight, what makes you say that? Was it your persistent whining and bitching? Was it the fact that threw your entire team under the bus? Was it this?
It took you seven months of “reflection” to come to the conclusion, “there are some things [you] could’ve done better.” SEVEN MONTHS? That there were SOME THINGS you COULD”VE done better? Somethings? You could’ve?
Try “all things,” you “should’ve.”
I’m so glad Nate Robinson beat you in the dunk contest.
P.S There’s only one Superman.
The NBA season is right around the corner. Get ready.
The Jeremy Lin Era has officially ended in New York. It’s truly a bitter sweet pill to swallow. Jeremy Lin was, undeniably, my favorite sports story of the year (I’m a Giants fan and that includes their Super Bow Run). I loved the Lin story for three reasons and none of them have to do with race, sleeping on couches or handshakes (okay, maybe a little has to do with handshakes).
The first reason: his play. The guy was easily the most exciting player on the Knicks (sorry Melo, sorry Amare, sorry Chandler, sorry Novak(?)) this year, even without all the story lines. Alley-opps, crossovers and game winners, it was like watching an And 1 mixtape every night.
The second, and most self aggrandizing reason: I called it. I know this sounds like bullshit, but hear me out. It was January 24th, the Knicks looked terrible, a lot of that terrible coming from whoever was playing the point. To say Toney Douglas was playing like garbage, isn’t fair to garbage. To say Mike Bibby looked old, isn’t fair to Larry King. And although, Iman Shumpert definitely has tools to be a very good basketball player, he definitely doesn’t have tools to be a very good full time point guard. Then on January 24th, the Knicks, in the midst of a blow out win, brought in Jeremy Lin. In six minutes he had eight points and four assists, he was blowing past guys, getting into the lane, drawing fouls, getting his teammates involved, he looked good, really good. It occurred to me, in the few games (and even fewer minutes) he played, he always looked good. He always seemed to get into the lane, he also seemed to make good passes, he looked like a real player. My biggest regret of 2012 came on that night. I watched that blow out game at work, went on Facebook, typed in the status bar, “This kid Lin needs to play,” then thought “who wants to read this (?),” and deleted it. I missed my chance to have it time stamped. Two weeks later, Linsanity exploded.
The third, and most important reason: he saved the Knicks’ 2012 season. The Knicks were 7-15 when Linsanity hit. Melo and Amare were injured, they looked dead in the water. Then, BOOM, they rattle off seven straight wins, and head into the All Star break on a 9-3 tare. All of a sudden, the Knicks became the most interesting team to watch, the entire team came together, Jared Jeffries looked competent and Steve Novak caught fire. Of course then Carmelo came back, ruined it all, before eventually saving it all (again), but without that mid season injection of Lin the Knicks would have been buried.
So, that’s the sweet, now for the bitter. Carmelo Anthony.
In crunch time they always show the stat, what active players have the most game winning shots, on the top of that list, Carmelo Anthony. If you ever watch him play there is a pretty simple reason for this, in the fourth quarter of close games he takes EVERY SINGLE SHOT. I’ve seen Jordan pass on the last shot, we’ve all seen Lebron pass on the last shot, but I’ve never ever seen Melo pass on the last shot or, for that matter, any shot with less than
two five minutes left in a close game. Why? It’s simple. There is no way Carmelo Anthony will ever let anyone eclipse him on his own team. He wants the attention. That’s why he demanded a trade from, a better team, Denver to, a worse team, New York. Players are motivated by different things. Micheal’s motivation was winning, Kobe’s motivation is being better than Micheal and Carmelo’s motivation is the attention. There is no way Lin and Melo could have co-existed. Impossible. Much to Carmelo’s chagrin, Lin was the most popular player on the Knicks, the media darling, the star. But here the rub, for all the nice things I said about Lin and all the Hater-ade I just threw on Melo. Melo is the better player, plain and simple.
It all culminates in deleting this photo from my phone. The photo that encapsulates Jeremy Lin’s rise like no other .
“Lebron James.. World Champion, finals MVP, 3 Time NBA MVP….Say something now haters”
I’ve been reading a lot of Facebook status’ like the one above for the last fifteen hours or so. What these Lebron James disciples do not understand is my
hatred (too strong of a word) displeasure for Lebron does not come from his lack of skill, accomplishment or championship pedigree. He’s the best player in the league, no contest. He already has the same amount of MVPs as Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. His Championship run was inevitable to anyone that was watching. So, why do I hate Lebron?
Is it this? Nah.
Was it this? Not really.
How about this? Nope.
It was this.
In 2007, with Lebron’s impending free agency looming (still three years away, but still very much anticipated), the New York Yankees played the Cleveland Indians in the 2007 playoffs. Lebron, the face of Cleveland sports at the time, showed up to Progressive Field donning the interlocking NY. ESPN’s talking heads exploded, exclaiming this was Lebron telling the world, in three years, he was headed for the bright lights of New York City. It wasn’t without context, leading up to this, there were whispers that Lebron may bolt from Cleveland when his contract expired, looking to expand his brand in a bigger city. It was the beginning of Lebron’s flirtation with New York.
Soon the Knicks hired Mike D’antoni, who would instill his up-tempo, player friendly system, that Lebron would presumably thrive in. It also didn’t hurt that D’antoni and James had an existing relationship from their overseas exploits at the Beijing Olympics. For the next few years the Knicks absolutely purged their roster to create cap space for the summer of 2010. Trading away more than capable players, Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford, and David Lee, for nothing more than scarps, expiring contracts and the prospect Anthony Randolph may not be a total waste of seven feet (he was). As the Lebron sweepstakes crept closer other teams (Bulls, Pistons, Heat) jumped on the bandwagon, clearing cap space at any cost.
Listen, I’m not delusional. Lebron was definitely flirting with the prospect of playing his home games at MSG. This wasn’t just a fantasy I fabricated in my head. Every time he visited, he praised the Garden as a basketball Mecca, he talked about how great the city was and how he loved playing in the world’s most famous arena. It seemed in the stars. The Knicks were about bring home the prettiest girl from the bar and it felt good. Real good
The Knicks though were not without trepidation,
they Donnie Walsh (president of basketball operations) knew he had to have a plan B, C and D. The went into the summer locked in on Lebron, but knew if they fell short they could still possibly woo Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh (the two other jewels of the 2010 free agency market). The Knicks threw everything they had at Lebron, enlisting celebrities, financial experts and former players to try and persuade James into coming home with them. Even after all his flirtation, it seemed apparent that the Knicks would not be going home with the prettiest girl in the bar, but this was New York and there were plenty of pretty girls. Or so it seemed.
What happened was the prettiest girl in the bar (Lebron), who had been showing a lot of interest in the Knicks decided to leave, but she didn’t leave alone. She decided to take the next two prettiest girls available (Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh) to Miami for a nice little ménage à trois, leaving New York out in the cold. The bar was about to close and the Knicks needed someone to go home with. They took a few shots of tequila and made a run at Joe Johnson, he promptly rejected them. Maybe it was the rejections, maybe it was all the shots, but the Knicks picked up Amare Stoudemire, ignoring, his balky knees, bad back, lack of rebounding and aversion to defense. Anybody was better than nobody, right? Well now the Knicks are sober and they’re married to that late night pick up and the future doesn’t look bright.
Now when I walk into the bar I never assume I’m going to take the prettiest girl home, but when she starts showing me attention (a lot of attention) and then slams the door in my face and takes the next two best options I get kind of pissed off. Is it petty? Yeah. Am I bitter? Hell yeah. Lebron’s a tease and that’s why I’m a hater.