In Ace Ventura’s voice: “Trump is Jackson… Jackson is Trump… Jackson is a cuck!”
The two biggest news makers on my timeline (besides me and my brand new comedy album Fireside Craps – only $4.99 on iTunes) this week have been “President” Donald Trump and Knicks “President” Phil Jackson. Trump is the worst president in American History by Secretariat margins and Phil Jackson is the most inept president of a basketball team since my last NBA 2K season on Play Station. I thought a quick comparison would be interesting and it sure was.
Donald Trump entered the presidential race based on an unearned, but highly public reputation as a business genius because he turned his father’s empire and money into a bigger empire and several bankruptcies. Phil Jackson took over the Knicks with an unearned reputation as a basketball genius (whose signature offense was designed by a former assistant coach) built on the backs of 4 of the top 20 players of the last 30 years in the NBA, including 3 of the top 10.
Both have their roots in 1970s New York City – Trump as a young real estate douche bag. Phil Jackson as a player for the Knicks who threw a lot of elbows like a douche bag.
Trump took his job with no experience, but lots of unearned arrogance. He clearly did not want to live in the city of the job and believed his charisma and confidence would somehow make the job easy. Jackson had no experience in management, wanted to do the job remotely from Montana, and believed that his reputation would lure players to NYC.
Trump has been a colossal failure, unless your only reason for support is “I am a spiteful bigot so Trump is crushing it right now.” Similarly, Jackson has been a colossal failure unless your only hope for the Knicks is “Maybe they will be so bad the NBA forces James Dolan to sell the team.” Both fan bases probably hope for Trump and Jackson to say racist things on tape, but for very different reasons.
Trump has alienated allies, shown zero knowledge of politics, government or the world and has made horrible personnel decisions. Jackson has alienated fans, shown no knowledge (in fact has been dismissive) of the modern NBA and has made horrible personnel decisions (the Joachim Noah trade is his Michael Flynn, and suggesting he would trade Porzingis is basically his version of putting Jared Kushner in charge of everything).
But here is the main difference between Trump and Jackson. Trump told America all the stupid things he believed and would do. And America still elected him. But if Phil Jackson had said “I will give Joachim Noah $72 million, berate our star player and lower his trade value and then threaten to trade our best player in 2 generations” no Knick fan would have supported his hiring. So take heart Knick fans and even James Dolan; it could be worse. You could be as dumb as Trump voters. I guarantee 35% of Knicks fans are not sitting at home wearing Donald Sterling jerseys claiming that “trading Porzingis would Make the Knicks Great Again.”
I learned after writing this that Observer.com had written an article in April comparing Trump and Jackson, but mine was written without this knowledge (and is funnier).
Yesterday I experienced a joy from an NBA game that I had not felt since seeing Paul Millsap drop 46 points on the Miami Heat In November. I watched Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers get torched by the Dallas Mavericks, effectively ending the Kobe Bryant, a/k/a Diet Jordan, era in the NBA. The first joy was in seeing the Lakers lose badly. If we cannot see video of Seal Team 6 invading Bin Laden’s compound, then I suppose seeing Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovich and Dirk Nowitzki (“an international coalition of the willing” if you will) destroy Kobe and Company is a good second best. But the other part of the defeat that was so great was seeing the increasingly dirty and frustrated play of the Lakers as the game wound down. First was Lamar Odom’s cheap shot on Dirk Nowitzki, a clear boiling over of the frustration of being the third Laker married to the third Kardashian (oddly, psychologists say that bronze medalists are often happier than silver medalists, but that wannabe Christian Bale, Scott, who is married to Kourtney, seems happier than Lamar). Then there was Andrew Bynum’s mid air takedown of JJ Barea that will earn Bynum a suspension next season and a prescription of P90X, based on his jersey removal while leaving the court. I was actually convinced that the game would end with Ron Artest running down the court on a fast break shooting Dallas Mavericks with a handgun like the opening scene in The Last Boy Scout.
Before analyzing the Kobe Era, a moment to reflect on Phil Jackson, the greatest coach of all time in professional sports (to never coach without 2 of the top 5 players in the NBA). Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen never won without Phil Jackson. They also entered their prime as basketball players as Phil Jackson showed up. Ditto for LA. Shaq, from 2000-2003, was the most dominant physical presence since Wilt Chamberlain and by the third title, Kobe had emerged as the best wing player in the NBA. They also had Robert Horry, the most clutch role player in NBA history. But by sheer volume of winning he has to be considered one of the greats.
But now onto the eulogy for the Kobe Bryant era because make no mistake, he is done being the top dog on a title team. So if in the 2012-2013 season Kobe Bryant is playing with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard or some combination of star power like that, Michael Jordan’s legacy as the single greatest player/winner (all due respect to Bill Russell) is under no threat. If Michael Jordan had joined the San Antonio Spurs instead of the Washington Wizards in his third career, those would have still been Tim Duncan-led titles. But let’s not talk about Kobe’s inevitable and impossible quest to pass Michael Jordan. Let us examine the Kobe era, which Kobe fans would have you believe spanned from 1999 until the day Kobe Bryant dies. I would argue that, if I were generous, the Kobe Era int he NBA was from 2003 to 2009. But whether you agree on these years or not, a reasonable person should agree that it is over now.
Kobe – The Early Years
Everyone knows about Lebron’s “Decision” but have people forgotten how Kobe refused to go to Charlotte and said he would only play for the LA Lakers? Kobe fans like to mythologize or lie and pretend that teams “passed” on Kobe, but most teams were scared off by the threat of a petulant 18 year old to not sign with anyone besides the Lakers. Lebron told Cleveland to fu*k off after 7 seasons. Kobe told Charlotte to fu*k off on day 1.
Kobe – The Shaq Years
One of the keys to making the Shaq-Kobe alliance was Phil Jackson’s admission that he needed to handle Kobe with kid gloves for the early stage of his career. That nursery school treatment of his fragile ego (ahem, I mean competitive fire) plus playing alongside the most physically dominant player since Wilt Chamberlain allowed Kobe to get three titles. Shaq collected three Finals MVP trophies, deservingly so, but I will admit, that by the third title they had gone from 1, 2 to 1A, 1B. But Kobe, like any Shakespearean or Disney villain, decided that after 4 straight trips to the NBA Finals it was time to make the Lakers decide between Shaq and Kobe (team first, right?). So the Lakers picked wisely in the long run (I will admit) by sticking with the younger player less likely to pack on pounds.
The Kobe Only Years (a/k/a What Lebron took the Cavs to the Finals with in 2007)
2004-05 – 37-45 (missed playoffs, but beat a rape charge)
2005-06 45-37 (1st round loss to the Phoenix Suns)
Let’s not forget that the series against the Suns went 7 games and Kobe quit during the second half against the Suns (taking 3 shots the entire second half, apparently to prove that a shi*ty team would lose without it’s best player – very Jordan-esque).
The Pau Gasol Years (2006-2009)
Kobe finally got an All Star big man to compliment him again (but fortunately not to overshadow him). Three trips to the finals (with another memorable quit performance when Paul Pierce took Kobe’s will and the decisive Game 5 in 2008. By the way that same year Lebron led Mo Williams and Anderson Verajao 7 games against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals). But then Kobe took the title in 2009 and 2010, but taken in the context of 2011 there are a couple of reasons why I think the Kobe era (as individual best player) cannot be reasonably extended beyond the 2009 victory (even though I personally think it ended the year LeBron won his first MVP in 2008-09).
First, look at the box scores of the 2010 Finals. Kobe averaged 28 pts per game on 40.5% FG shooting. Meanwhile, Pau Gasol, who led the Lakers in minutes that series and had to do battle with Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins inside led the series in rebounding, blocked shots, was second on the Lakers in scoring and shot 48% from the field. Not to mention that Kobe shot 6-24 from the field in the decisive Game 7. Meanwhile Lebron, who was leading the squad of diabetically-fat Shaq & Co. had just had back-to-back Jordan-prime level seasons. (Yes he got blasted from the playoffs by the Celtics and yes he appeared to quit on his team in the final game – making Kobe the 2-1 split decision winner in games quit), but based on many trips to Cleveland there really appeared to have been truth to the “Delonte West, or one of his personalities, fu*ked Lebron’s crazy mom” rumors. Imagine Karl Malone had fu*ked Kobe’s wife in 2004 when he was “hunting little Mexican girls.” I bet Kobe would have more than 2 quits under his belt.
But the Mavericks series that just ended really exposed the end of the Kobe era. Admittedly his supporting cast played terribly. But there was not even a fight. The lesson – when Kobe has the supporting cast he can be a champion – this is true of any champion, so this is not a shot at Kobe. But when Kobe has had underperforming supporting casts (2004-05, 05-06, 10-11) he lies down with the rest of his team. He may get his stats, but unlike Magic Johnson or LeBron James, or obviously Michael Jordan, his stats do not necessarily make those around him better.
2009-Present – The Lebron James Era
I believe LeBron James is the most dominant player in the NBA and has been for the last three years. The same way from 2000-2003 Shaq may not have been the “most skilled” player on his tea or the league, he was the single best player in the league during that span based on the simple criteria “no one can guard him or stop him.” It cannot be understated how awful LeBron’s supporting cast was. He took the equivalent of Kobe’s 2004-06 team (yes Smush Parker and Chris Mihm, but also Lamar Odom was on the team too) to an NBA Finals appearance and twice had the best regular season record in the league. He left Cleveland ringless and in a poor fashion to say the least, but remove Kobe from the 2009/09 Lakers you have a 50 win playoff team (in case you doubt me from 2004 to 2006 Pau Gasol won between 45 and 50 games each year as the star for the Memphis Grizzlies). Remove LeBron from a 66 win Cleveland Cavaliers team and you have… well you have the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach, probably for two reasons. One is that many people refused to acknowledge his greatness without the currency of championships. Fair enough I suppose. The other is he wanted to play with his friends. Sort of lame in the Michael Jordan model of champions. But neither of these things stop LeBron from being the single most impressive force in the NBA today. And for the next several years it will be his league, no matter who they give MVP trophies to.
To put it into James Bond terms – Michael Jordan is Sean Connery, Kobe Is Roger Moore and LeBron James is Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig (in Casino Royale only) combined. And yes, I think we need to acknowledge Tim Duncan here as a 4 time champion so he is George Lazenby.
Why Kobe is Diet Jordan
With the passing of the Kobe Era I feel it is time for me to acknowledge something out of Kobe’s control. He grew up in the shadow of the NBA’s greatest player, playing the same position as MJ. If he played small forward, or point guard or power forward there would have been room for him to carve out his own image and transform the position. But playing shooting guard he just played out as the greatest Michale Jordan cover band of all time. For example, if someone was a Whitney Houston impersonator in Las Vegas, they would have to have incredible vocal talent. But they would still not quite be Whitney Houston. That is how I look at Kobe. He is better than almost anyone in NBA history (but I would have him behind both Jordan and Lebron), but his comparison is to the greatest and he is wanting. Fewer titles, fewer Finals MVPs, fewer regular season MVPs (I am making this comparison because they have had equal career totals – comparisons with LeBron on career statistical measures is not realistic yet) more games quit and lower career averages. Plus, all his copycatting of MJ and most awfully the “Jaw Face” is far inferior to “the tongue.”
So Kobe had a great career and was the closest thing we had to Jordan since Jordan. But LeBron is a new mold of player – a sort of genetic hybrid, evolutionary step forward of Karl Malone and Magic Johnson. Kobe was a descendant of Jordan and a worthy heir, but not quite as good as the original. That said, if Kobe’s Hall of Fame speech is a list of people he didn’t like I will start booing and chanting “MJ!”
But in case you forgot, there is one other reason Kobe can never be as great as Michael Jordan…
This week I was treated to not one, but two great cinematic experiences. Up, the new film from Pixar, is incredibly touching and fun and, in my opinion, is only second to Finding Nemo in the Pixar universe. I then, bolstered with confidence form strong reviews, went to see Drag Me To Hell, which like Crank 2, is a deceptively, but completely intentionally funny film, while at the same time delivering creepy and scary moments. But apparently the entertainment gods believed me greedy because what the Movie Lord giveth, the Sports Lord taketh away.
First was the elimination of the Denver Nuggets Saturday. I need to give the devil his due. Kobe is immensely talented and clutch and he demonstrated both characteristics during the Denver series. However, I cannot ever be a fan. He and the Lakers are like Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees are in baseball – an obssessively and obviously media-savvy star on an unlikeable franchise. The talent is great, but it is overshadowed, to anyone who is not a fan, by the need to look and act the part of the star. And the way Kobe speaks sounds like he bought the Rosetta Stone “Michael Jordan” immersion program because his speech, along with his fadeaway jumpshot, have become more and more Jordan-esque as his career has gone on. Kobe is the most Jordan-esque player since Jordan, which is one of the non-rape reasons why some people don’t like Kobe. Dwayne Wade has adopted a more quiet persona that seems unique to him, while LeBron has been the more engaging superstar, Magic-esque, but clearly free of plagiarism of Magic. Kobe seems to have attempted a re-make of Jordan, and like someone who dares re-make a classic (think Sheryl Crow doing Sweet Child O’ Mine for the Big Daddy soundtrack) it ends up being less likeable than it might have been if it was at least original. So now I am forced to root for the Orlando Magic. I actually think the Magic can win, but would not bet on it. Here’s my matchup breakdown:
- Battle of Superstars – Kobe vs. Dwight. Dwight Howard has proven to be unstoppable in these playoffs, due almost entirely because of his size 72 shoulders and sick vertical leap, because he still does not seem to have a discernible vertical leap. Kobe has been better. Edge – Kobe
- Eurotrash matchup – Hedo Turkoglu vs. Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic. Because Pau will be marginalized by Dwight Howard and because Vujacic sucks the edge goes to Hedo “I push off every single time I dribble” Turkoglu.
- Tall, underachieving black guys who randomly show up and disappear: Lamar Odom vs. Rashard Lewis. Odom tends to disappear like a pit bull at Michael Vick’s house. Rashard Lewis can do the same thing, but has been playing with more and more confidence. However, in his first trip to the finals I expect to see him piss down his leg at least once. Edge – Odom.
- Coaches: Lurch versus Ron Jeremy. Phil Jackson is “the Zen master,” which is enough of a reason to root against him, but Stan Van Gundy was screwed out of a title by Pat Riley and Shaq, but has still managed to come back with a vengeance with a new team, all while looking like a less athletic Ron Jeremy. So in this one I have to give the edge to Stan.
So it looks like a draw, which means if the Lakers win I believe it will be because of a great effort by Kobe and I will have to acknowledge that. But hopefully the Magic win.
But as if the Lakers win was not enough of a reason to step in front of a bus, Rafa Nadal lost yesterday in tennis. Nadal-Federer has become my 2nd favorite sporting event after a Utah Jazz hoops game. Mainly because I watch their matches in awe and I probably change who I am rooting for 3 or 4 times during the match. Insult to injury for Nadal: the French were cheering on the challenger during the match which seemed a little doucheconsidering Nadal is one of the two greatest champions they’ve ever had. I think I just heard Nadal order some Freedom Fries.
Well this week I have two more movies to consider and two NBA finals games. The Hangover (sneak preview tonight), which along with Transformers 2 is my most anticipated film of the Summer, and Land of The Lost, which looks potentially funny, but also potentially awful. Looks like odds are that The Finals will be 1-1 headed to Orlando by the end of this week.