The Basketball Hall of Fame last night announced that Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming and Allen Iverson will each be inducted as part of the 2016 hall class. While there are hundreds of all time greats who have been inducted into the hall for the past 57 years, these three stand out as individuals who appealed to groups that had not been represented in any professional sport before. Yao introduced NBA basketball to billions of Chinese citizens and made the game global. Shaq was a dominant big man in the mold of Wilt and Kareem but could run the floor, sell rap records and be marginally funny. Iverson was the one who broke the mold though.
Although Allen Iverson is being inducted into the hall based on his ability to dominate on the basketball court and his jaw dropping statistics, his impact as a cultural icon is what will keep his name in the minds of his fans forever. Iverson was unapologetic when it came to his love for and expression of hip hop culture.
Iverson’s style was his own. He arrived at arenas looking more Method Man than Michael Jordan. The long white tees, baggy jeans, throwback jerseys and durags were something that the casual NBA fan in 1996 was not used to seeing on a budding superstar. The genesis of the Iverson era also coincided with the release of some of hip hop’s most creative/innovative albums in 1996. All Eyez on Me (2Pac), It Was Written (Nas), The Score (The Fugees), ATLiens (OutKast) and Reasonable Doubt (Jay Z) all dropped in 1996.
While Iverson’s rookie year was an introduction for most to what a professional athlete who loves hip hop culture looks like, he was still on a team that only won 22 games. Also, in the middle of the Michael Jordan era, everything else can seem small. It was not until the second MJ retirement and the development of a winning organization did attention turn to Iverson and his different approach to everything.
By 1999, the Sixers were a playoff team with a credible coach, Larry Brown. At this point, Iverson is on a national stage and stays there for the next ten years. He ultimately becomes league MVP in 2001 and steps over the Cavs coach later that season in the NBA Finals.
However, even though Iverson’s star is rising, his hip hop style becomes an issue for owners and NBA commissioner David Stern. In 2005, the NBA instituted a league wide dress code which basically ruled out everything in Iverson’s closet. The impact Iverson had on NBA style was seen a threat to the brand and profitably of the NBA. Even though his talent and leave it on the floor mentality was selling out arenas around the country.
After 2005, Iverson did not win much as a member of the Nuggets, Pistons, Grizzlies and one final stint with the Sixers. However, his legacy remained intact. Current NBA superstars like Stephen Curry and LeBron James all look to Iverson as a reason to play as hard as you can each game. Iverson’s willingness to express himself make it easy for Melo, KD and Russ to openly express their love for hip hop music and culture. This is something that MJ, Scottie or Chuck could never relate to.
The induction of Allen Iverson into the Basketball Hall of Fame equates to the induction of hip hop into the hall. Cant wait for his speech.
Speaking of Jordan…
When the NBA Finals end every June there is a void left on my television and in my life. After the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat in six games to capture the NBA championship I was probably more hurt than the Heat. The reality of almost three months without the NBA (maybe more with a lockout) sunk in and so did depression. So what should a die hard NBA fan do to maintain his/her sanity during this offseason?
First, call up that woman who’s calls you have been ignoring and set up a date. She may be crazy, but she’ll remind you of Game 4 of the western conference semifinals when Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum lost their minds when they knew their elimination was inevitable.
Second, head over to the doctor’s office and get rid of that “cold” you caught when you were vacationing in Miami/Cancun/Dominican Republic. The waiting room may remind of the death row scenes in the Green Mile, but it will also remind of Michael Jordan scoring 38 points against the Utah Jazz in the 1997 finals while suffering from flu like symptoms.
Third, invite some friends over to play some video games. This get together may only be happening because every girl you called was “busy” that night, but it will remind you of Kobe Bryant’s video game-esque 81 point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006.
Fourth, take your kids/nieces/nephews to the circus. The flying trapeze artists and elephant manure should be the shock to your system that helps keeps you awake through these few hard months. The unbelievable ability of the circus performers should also remind you of Vince Carter’s 2000 NBA All Star Weekend Dunk Contest performance. Still to the date it is the most amazing thing I have ever seen produced on a basketball court.
This guide should help you get through those NBA off season blues, until of course the lockout comes.
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson announced at the start of this season that he would be retiring. Jackson has earned 11 championship rings as a head coach and made superstars like Michael Jordan, Scotties Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant into Hall of Fame players. However, during this postseason Jackson is in uncharted territory. For the first time in his career, he is coaching a team in the playoffs that is down 0-3 in a best of series.
The Lakers have struggled against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Maverick in the western conference semifinals. Lakers center Andrew Bynum attributed the Lakers struggles to “trust issues” the two time defending NBA champions are dealing with. These trust issues could result in a series sweep for the Mavericks and a less than spectacular end to the career of the most successful head coach in NBA history.
Jackson has lost playoff series before but never like this. In game three, Jackson was seen beating on power forward Pau Gasol’s chest to get the big man’s attention. Jackson has traded in his usual calm demeanor for a fire and passion that have seen to be birthed from a feeling of desperation.
Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant told the press that he feels the Lakers will be the first team to win a best of seven series when facing a 0-3 deficit. Hopefully for Jackson’s sake, Bryant’s supreme confidence and determination will trump the trust issues the Hollywood Lakers seem to be dealing with. If not, Jackson and his 11 championship rings will be swept off into the sunset by a newer and tougher Mavericks squad.
The NBA has a history of being a big man’s league. The early domination of players of like George Mikan, Bob Pettit, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain made it impossible for any team in the league to succeed with out size. The trend continued into the 1990s when players like Shaquille O’Neal, Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning became anchors for their respective teams.
The 90s were also dominated by big shooting guards. Micheal Jordan, Mitch Richmond and Allan Houston used their strength to create space and dominate their opponents. As time has progressed, the game has gotten bigger and faster.
The new trend in the NBA over the last decade has been the development of superstar point guards. The recognition for these smaller floor generals started when Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash won back to back MVPs in 2005 and 2006.
The player who has made the biggest jump this season has been Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose. Rose is averaging a career high 25 points and 8 assists per game. The biggest addition to Rose’s game has been a reliable jump shot. Rose is shooting 40% from the three point line and hit five threes against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. The addition of free agent forward Carlos Boozer to the Bulls has helped Rose get, take, and make more jump shots. The form and consistency on Rose’s jump shot shows the commitment he made to getting better in the off-season.
Rose’s development instantly makes the Bulls a threat to the Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics, the superstar heavy Miami Heat, and the Superman powered Orlando Magic. Plus, he can still do this…
Cleveland Cavaliers free agent forward LeBron James has decided to play with the Miami Heat next season. James says his heart remains in the Cleveland area and noted how much he appreciated the love and support they showed him for seven years. James also mentioned that is was time for a change and that the opportunity to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is a great one. The opportunity to win a championship with two other All-Star talents is something that was worth more than the extra money James could have received if he stayed with the Cavs.
James broke the news on ESPN during his hour-long special titled, “The Decision”. Leading up to the show, ESPN Insider Chris Broussard reported that most of his sources had James joining the Heat. The show also brought James a lot of criticism regarding the attention he was seeking by drawing out his decision and making it into a dramatic movie.
When James joins Bosh and Wade in Miami, his scoring and overall dominance will have to take a hit to keep the other stars happy. The max contracts that the all three demand will make it difficult for the organization to fill the Heat roster with capable NBA players. However, the Miami Heat will be the super-team of the NBA. James feels he, Bosh and Wade’s talents could lift each other up and eventually lead them to multiple championships.
The verdict is still out on whether or not the Heat will be championship contenders this upcoming season. The mental toughness of James and Bosh in long and tough playoff series is still up in the air. However, what we all should do is applaud James’ commitment to winning which obviously out weighed his desire to “get paid”. Also, James never compared himself to Kobe Bryant or Micheal Jordan, we did that. James joining the Heat is a reflection on his commitment to winning, which is something we can use to compare him to MJ and Kobe.
As an NBA fan, I am excited to see what the three All-Stars can do. As a die-hard Knicks fan, I AM UPPPPP-SETTTT!!!!