Strotty's Blog

All your Wisconsin sports news and more!

Kobe and the Lakers Will Win Tonight, Bring Home Another Title

Come on, it was destined to go seven games. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics will battle to become the newest NBA champion when they square off in Game 7 tonight. Every game of this series has felt like a Game 7 and there is no reason to believe tonight will be any different, but at the same time it’s hard to imagine the Lakers not pulling this one out when it’s all said and done.

After the Celtics took a commanding 3-2 lead following a Game 5 win, it was strange to see how calm the Lakers were and how the momentum, that should have been in Boston’s favor, was still even at best. With the Lakers going back home for the next game and a potential Game 7, many assumed the Lakers still had the advantage. One game later, that assumption is now fact.

A Game 6 blowout win for the Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant’s 29 points and Pau Gasol’s near triple-double, has them feeling extremely confident as they prepare for the series finale at home. No one in the Western Conference had a better home record (34-7) than the Lakers this season, and they are 10-1 in the playoffs when playing at the Staples Center.

The personnel factor is also in the Lakers’ favor, as Boston’s Kendrick Perkins has been ruled out of tonight’s game after tearing knee ligaments early in Game 6, while LA’s Andrew Bynum is expected to play through a sore knee. Perkins hadn’t made much of a dent in the box score this series (averaging 5.8 points and 5.8 rebounds), but his defensive impact in the paint was something the Celtics will not be able to replicate. The team that has won the rebounding stat is 6-0 in the series, meaning Boston could be in deep trouble.

The Celtics have been great this season, but it's hard to bet against Kobe Bryant in a Game 7 at home. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Instead, Doc Rivers and the Celtics will counter with a combination of Rasheed Wallace, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, and Shelden Williams. What was once considered to be an advantage for the Celtics in the series, their bench disappeared in Game 6 and will have to be expanded further tonight with the loss of Perkins. On the other hand, the Lakers bench combined for 25 points and stifling defense that contributed to the win. With the crowd behind them and the Celtics now being forced to jumble rotations up after 90+ games, the tides have turned in the bench department.

For as much as an NBA title would mean to each franchise, with the Lakers looking for back-to-back titles and the Celtics looking for title No. 18, there are also personal accomplishments and even legacies on the line. Phil Jackson looks for his 11th NBA title in the last 20 years (he’ll also receive a $2 million bonus from the Lakers) and Adam Morrison will attempt to bring home his second title in as many years. OK, that was a joke.

But when it’s all said and done, the spotlight will be on one player and one player only: Kobe Bryant. It’s near impossible for a player with four titles, an MVP trophy, and a Finals MVP to have his legacy determined by one game, and tonight will be no exception. Bryant and the Lakers had the most talented roster from top to bottom, but the Celtics are competing closely to be considered the league’s best unit. A loss by the Lakers won’t ruin __ incredible seasons from Bryant, but at the same time a win could make his legacy that much stronger.

With a win tonight, Bryant would rack up his fifth NBA title as well as his second NBA Finals MVP (which he might do even if the Lakers lose). It would put him that much closer in the debate over best ever and put him one more Finals closer to Michael Jordan. He hasn’t reached Jordan by any means just yet, but a win tonight puts him that much closer to one day doing so.

This game could go down to the wire, and each team will make their respective runs in the game, but it’s awfully hard to imagine Bryant walking off his home court as the Celtics celebrate an NBA title. He hasn’t been spectacular in the Finals and he’s got one heck of a supporting cast around him, but tonight’s game will be won or lost by Kobe Bryant. I won’t be betting against him when the lights go on.

Advertisements

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NBA Finals | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lakers-Magic: Six Keys To Success Revisited

Before the start of the 2009 NBA Finals, six keys were brought to the table as the things that either the Magic or the Lakers would need to do in order to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the series.  Let’s take a look at how each of these keys played out in the five games that took place.

1. Will Dwight Howard take over the series or can someone slow him down?

The 6’11” manchild averaged 15.4 points and 15.2 rebounds per game in the series and overall played pretty well.  However, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum did enough to make sure that he did not take over the series. It became evident as the games went on that Howard does not have very many moves in his arsenal down low.  Also, the Lakers did a good job of denying Howard the ball, which on occasion, led to offensive fouls.

Defensively, Howard really played exceptionally well.  He averaged 2.6 blocks per game including a nine-swat performance in game four and shutdown the Lakers frontcourt pretty well.  Pau Gasol got his expected averages of 18.6 points and 9.2 rebounds, but outside of him the Lakers were quiet in the paint.  It seemed that only Kobe was able to get in the lane and do any damage.  Unfortuantely, that was enough.

Overall, Howard had an excellent series but, outside of Game 4 on defense, he never took over a game like he did against Cleveland.  The Lakers took this key and it proved to be big for the Lakers.

2. Can the Lakers step up their three point defense or will the Magic shoot freely?

In what would prove to be the biggest key to the series (as it had been for the Magic the whole playoffs), the Lakers stepped up big and did not allow the Magic to beat them from beyond the arc.

Mickael Pietrus struggled all series to get shots off.

Mickael Pietrus struggled all series to get shots off.

For the series, the Magic were 38 of 115 from downtown, good for a 33 percent average.  That percentage and the 7.6 threes they made per game were both down from their season averages (10 3pg, 38.1 percent) and playoff averages (8.4 3pg, 36 percent).  They shot the same amount of threes as their playoff average at 23 per game but they did not fall.

While it was evident the Magic were trying to work the ball into Howard, the transition game never got going and because of it, the Lakers took this key as well.

3. Can Orlando find their “X-Factor” to cancel out Lamar Odom?

No, they could not.  Odom, while his numbers were not huge, played a key role in the Lakers bringing home the title.  As did Trevor Ariza, who single-handedly brought the Lakers back in game four, scoring 11 of the Lakers’ 13 points during a key run.  Odom shot 54 percent from the field and put in 13.2 points per game while grabbing almost eight rebounds.  Foul trouble cost him some minutes but overall Odom was huge.

Ariza played solid in Orlando after having two terrible games in the Staples Center.  He played his usual fantasitc defense and was a spark in the Lakers’ lineup.

The problem was that the Magic were looking for a player to cancel out these two role players and could not get it done.  In the preview, we mentioned Mickael Pietrus as an X-factor type guy that could have a big impact on the series.

It was interesting to note that in Pietrus’ only real good game of the series, game three, the Magic won.  Outside of that game, the France native never got anything going and struggled much of the series to find his shot.  He only shot 12 threes in the entire series.

4. Can Jameer Nelson give the Magic good minutes or will he just mess with the chemistry?

I really thought this was going to be one of the biggest factors going into the series and it is up for debate on whether or not it actually mattered.  In no game did Nelson receive more minutes than starter Rafer Alston, but after game one Alston said that Nelson being in the game threw him off.  While some saw it as an excuse for Alston’s two for nine shooting slump, I fully believed him.

Kobe Bryant deserved to win it all this year, and that is exactly what he did.

Kobe Bryant deserved to win it all this year, and that is exactly what he did.

Coincidentally, the only the game the Magic won in this series, Alston played the most minutes of any game and Nelson played the least.  It’s one thing for a player to be out for some of the playoffs and come back and try to mesh with the team.

Nelson, however, had missed over half the season and tried to play with a team that had already decided Alston was their guy.  The two are similar in style of play but it didn’t matter as Nelson looked lost on the court at times, and Alston was clearly frusterated.

I believe that Nelson did more harm than good in the series and that game four would have been different had Alston received more minutes.  Head coach Stan Van Gundy said Nelson was part of a unit in that game that had played well and that is why he stuck with Nelson over Alton for the fourth quarter and overtime.

I am sure Van Gundy would have liked the extra two inches Alston would have given him playing defense on Derek Fisher as time ran down and Fisher made the game-tying three.

5. Which team will take advantage of the home court advantage first?

The Lakers did an excellent job of taking games one and two of the series to make it near impossible for the Magic to come back in the series.  Who knows what would have been different had Courtney Lee made the last-second shot in game two?

It was hard to imagine Orlando taking either one of the first two games but they definitely had their shots to tie the series back up playing at home.  Kobe and the Lakers proved to be just too much as they would end up hoisting the trophy in Orlando.

6. Will Kobe Bryant make this his series or will the Magic make someone else beat them?

As much as the Magic tried not to let Kobe beat them, there is still a reason he is the best player on the planet and hoisted the Bill Russell Finals MVP Award at the end of the series.  Double teams came.  They hacked him in the paint and wrapped him up whenever possible.

None of it mattered.

As much as I wanted to make this a key to the series, it was hard for me to believe that Kobe was not going to take over the series and do everything he possibly could to win it all.  He did so, averaged 34.2 points per game, 7.8 assists!, and 5.6 rebounds.

There was nobody in the gym that could stop him or even slow him down.  As much as I hate that Pau Gasol has a ring, I am unbelievably happy that Kobe finally has a ring to fully call his own.


June 15, 2009 Posted by | Basketball, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NBA Finals, Orlando Magic | , , | Leave a comment

Lakers-Magic NBA Finals Preview: 6 Keys To Success

What, you thought I wasn’t going to write something about the Finals?  The Los Angeles Lakers host the Orlando Magic tonight in a best of seven series to determine NBA’s champion.  Most experts are picking the Lakers to take the series in six or seven games, but the arrival of Jameer Nelson has given some doubts about the Lakers rolling.  These five keys will be crucial in determining who stands last at the end of the series.

1. Will Dwight Howard take over the series or can someone slow him down?

I almost finished the question with “can someone stop him?” before realizing that it’s near impossible to stop Superman.  In the playoffs, Howard is averaging 21.7 points and 15.4 rebounds and has a double-double in all but one game.  What’s even scarier is that his free throw percentage is up almost ten points to 65 percent, making it less than a guarantee for him to miss one when he is fouled.

Trying to stop Howard will be the combination of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum…good luck.  Bynum has failed miserably at giving the Lakers any solid minutes while in the lineup as he has averaged just 17 minutes in the playoffs this year.  He is more of a liability than a presence on offense and his defense has been less than stellar.

Can Andrew Bynum stop this sight from happening?

Can Andrew Bynum stop this sight from happening?

There is no room for error going up against Howard and if Gasol guards him, it will get ugly.  In game six against the Cavs, Howard took over the extra period and showed no signs of slowing down.  Both Gasol and Bynum will have to, in a sense, “take turns” with Howard trying to keep him away from the basket.

2. Can the Lakers step up their three point defense or will the Magic shoot freely?

Everyone knows Orlando’s game runs on the three point shot and Los Angeles has had trouble stopping it this year.  Orlando made 12 threes in each of the games they played Los Angeles in the regular season.  The Lakers, like Cleveland, defend the three point shot very well but with Howard owning the paint, double teams might be necessary.

Because of that, whether or not the Lakers can close out on shooters will be huge.  This goes back to Bynum and Gasol being able to stop Howard by themselves.  In Orlando’s playoff wins this year, they have shot 39.2 percent from downtown, while in losses they have shot just 32 percent.

While one would expect percentages to be down in losses, the gap here is bigger than usual.  They shoot around the same amount of threes every game (24 in wins, 22 in losses), so it’s a matter of whether or not they go in.

3. Can Orlando find their “X-Factor” to cancel out Lamar Odom?

Odom has had such an up-and-down season but has carried on through it all.  His hard work has paid off as he has been given the opportunity to play large minutes for Phil Jackson and has answered that call.  All of his numbers are up in the playoffs and it seems as though the Lakers go as Odom goes.

Mickael Pietrus could hold the key for the sharpshooting Magic.

Mickael Pietrus could hold the key for the sharpshooting Magic.

For Orlando, Mickael Pietrus is the reason Orlando has had so much success from beyond the arc.  Pietrus is 33-84 (39 percent) in the playoffs and played about as good of defense on LeBron James as humanly possible.  Coming off the bench, he will have the fun responsibility of guarding Kobe Bryant whenever he is in.

For Odom, he will more than likely be guarding Hedo Turkoglu and have to play solid defense as Turkoglu can do just about everything on the court.  The better performer of these two players just might determine the outcome of the series.

4. Can Jameer Nelson give the Magic good minutes or will he just mess with the chemistry?

Everyone was amazed to hear that Jameer Nelson was going to be activated to the roster for the Finals, even after Magic officials said there was no chance he would play.  Now the question is what can he bring to the table?  In the two regular season meetings, the would have been All-Star averaged 27.5 points for the Magic and was the best performer Orlando threw out there.

However, why would you want to mess with a team that has just won the Eastern Conference and whose backcourt seems to be meshing as good as it has all year?  I’m all for Nelson gutting it out and trying to play (he will not play in Game one), but how will this affect Rafer Alston’s minutes and will it also throw off his rhythym?  Hopefully these questions are answered in a positive way for the Magic, but I am not as confident that this is the right move.

5. Which team will take advantage of the home court advantage first?

The Magic are 7-2 at home in the playoffs and the Lakers are 8-1 at the Staples Center, so the ability to steal a win on the road will be both tough but important.  With the NBA’s odd 2-3-2 format, the Magic will have a chance to take a huge advantage in the series if they can take games one or two.

However, unless they go out and dominate the series in five games, they will have to win the series in Los Angeles.  For the Lakers, winning games one and two would secure a return back to LA for a game six and potential game seven.  The stakes are greater and games at home, especially for the Magic, will be key.

Will Kobe finally win a trophy to call his own?

Will Kobe finally win a trophy to call his own?

6. Will Kobe Bryant make this his series or will the Magic make someone else beat them?

While it’s true Mickael Pietrus did a good job guarding LeBron James, the King still went for 38 points per game and was pretty much unstoppable.  In guarding Kobe, Pietrus will have to always have a hand in his face and never let him get out of sight.  Kobe is not as quick as James is in getting to the hole but has a much better jump shot. With Howard sitting in the paint, Pietrus must make Kobe beat him off the dribble and hope for a pass.

As it goes for Kobe, he says he has been waiting for this moment forever.  He finally has his team in the driver’s seat and he is the main part that makes the machine run.  He knows what is at stake for his team and that this is his last best chance to take home a title.  I have always said Kobe has never received enough credit for being such a good teammate, and he will need to rely on those teammates to beat a very balanced Magic team.

Everything runs through Bryant for the Lakers and the table is set for him to take over this series.  Will the Magic let him?

June 4, 2009 Posted by | Basketball, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NBA Finals, Orlando Magic | , , | 1 Comment

Why the Magic, not the Cavaliers, are the Team to Beat in the East

It seems as though every sports writer and their grandmother have put the Cleveland Cavaliers into the NBA Finals to face the Los Angeles Lakers.  The West has a few people torn, but the general consensus is that the Lakers will come out on top.  Whether or not the Denver Nuggets will give them a series remains to be seen, but back in the East there is a team that has a very good shot at giving LeBron and the Cavs a run for their money: The Orlando Magic.

The Magic did not have any of the big storylines on the year like the Heat did with Dwyane Wade’s MVP-type season, or the Celtics did with Kevin Garnett’s injury, or the Cavs did with the can-do-no-wrong LeBron James.

Sure, Dwight Howard was a key contributor to the team this year as he picked up Defensive Player of the Year honors, but the award seemed to come and go this year unlike last year when Garnett won it.  Maybe it was the “under the radar” mentality that the Magic had despite winning 59 games, or maybe it was Dwight Howard’s big smile during every game.

Don't let the smile fool you: Dwight Howard is all business when he steps on the court.

Don't let the smile fool you: Dwight Howard is all business when he steps on the court.

It might have even been that they were not flashy at all this year.  Whatever the reason, the Magic are here to stay and are going to do some serious damage in the playoffs.

In the first round, the Magic overcame a few hiccups to take four of the last five games, including three straight, against a talented but injured Sixers team.  They did not look like world beaters in the first three games of the series.

Their defense was struggling and the Sixers had the swagger of a team looking to knock off Howard’s third-seeded squad, especially after two buzzer beating shots to take wins in the first three games of the series.

However, the thing to note was that even in the two losses, both games were close because of Orlando’s capability to step up and play critical defense when necessary.

In the second round, the Magic will match up against the most tired second seed in NBA history.  After seven overtimes and one of the most exciting (not best) playoff series of all time, many wonder what, if anything, the Boston Celtics have left in the tank.

Whatever they have left, they might want to get some more as they go up against six feet, 11 inches, and 265 pounds of rested, hungry Dwight Howard starting Monday.  I am going to make the prediction right now that the Magic and the Cavaliers will advance in their respective matchups, and that is where the fun starts.

Is it just me, or do the Orlando Magic have a striking resemblance to last year’s Boston Celtics?  Wait, hear me out!  They are not last year’s Celtics because they do not have potentially three Hall of Famers and are not the favorites in the whole league to win it all.  What they do have is the Defensive Player of the Year in Howard, who was arguably more efficient this year than Garnett was last year as he led the league in rebounds and blocks.

For a comparison’s sake, let’s call Rashard Lewis this year’s Ray Allen.  Lewis was stuck in Seattle forever, not only being hurt by the fact that he played for the Sonics but also because he played second fiddle to Ray Allen.

Say what you will about position differences, but in the end Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen's stats are very similar.

Say what you will about position differences, but in the end Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen's stats are very similar.

If you go back and look, Lewis’s stats this year are almost identical to Allen’s last year.  Despite Lewis playing more of a forward position (an added bonus), he is more than capable of playing shooting guard on the Magic and is the sharpshooter that does a little bit of everything.

Hedo Turkoglu, aside from percentages, matches up even better with Paul Pierce from last year and plays the same style of basketball that Pierce does.  While the leadership qualities might not be there for Turkoglu, the stats and performance are.

In Rafer Alston, you have a shoot-first point guard who takes care of the ball extremely well.  While Rajan Rondo was much more of a pass first point guard last year, the roles that each player had on their teams were more of the court general, making sure things were running smoothly as the “big three” took games over.

If anything, Alston is more valuable because he does what Rondo does and adds a few more points over the course of a game.  His field goal percentage, always a point of scrutiny for Alston, jumped over four points with Orlando while his attempts went down.  That’s always a good combination for a point guard.

Because of matchup combinations, Courtney Lee matches up with Kendrick Perkins as we round out the starters.  However, the more I think about it, the two of them matching up makes a whole lot of sense.

Lee is a rookie that has given big minutes, 25 per game, and produced with about eight points per game.  Last year Perkins was also the young gun on the team, in his fourth year seeing decent minutes and first year starting.  He averaged 24 minutes and poured seven points per game.  The similarities between the two are striking.

As we all know, one of the biggest reasons that the Celtics were able to take home last year’s crown was because of bench play.  James Posey was the unheralded star off the bench in the playoffs for the Celtics, and Mickael Pietrus is the closest thing to him.

While Posey was much more efficient last year, Pietrus offers versatility off the bench and is really capable of playing three positions on the court.  Also, being on Golden State really hurt Pietrus’s stock on defense but was one of the main reasons that he received minutes in Golden State.

As J.J. Redick proved in game six, he is more than ready to take on the role of Eddie House this year.  Despite the attention that House got last year, he only averaged 2.4 points per game and made less than one three-pointer in the playoffs.

Redick did not play in two of Orlando’s first round games, but had to start in game six due to Courtney Lee’s injury.  He finished the game with 15 points and drained five threes.  There is no reason why Redick can not come off the bench when a big shot is needed or Orlando is looking for shots.

Like any championship team, Orlando's bench will have to do more than just cheer if they want to be playing in June.

Like any championship team, Orlando's bench will have to do more than just cheer if they want to be playing in June.

Tony Battie is capable of giving the team good minutes, just like P.J. Brown did last year and the veteran Anthony Johnson has given the Magic quality and efficient minutes, just like Sam Cassell did last year.

While Marcin Gorat is hardly equal to Leon Powe and Glen Davis, he is still going to give good minutes for the Magic, as seen with his double-double in game six when Dwight Howard was suspended for his elbow on Sam Dalembert.

It’s true that Orlando is not nearly as deep as Boston was last year, but then again no team in the East is.  Not even the Cavaliers.  While you can make the argument that some of the comparisons are reaches and that Boston’s talent was better last year, the stats and situations do not lie and it is possible that Orlando makes the run Boston did last year.

Standing in Orlando’s way of an Eastern Conference Championship, barring a miraculous upset from Miami or Atlanta, will be the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Breaking down this potential matchup only gives me more confidence that Orlando will be standing tall at the end of the series.

Yes, I am writing this piece based on more than the fact that the Magic have defeated the Cavaliers twice this year against just one loss.  In the first game, Jameer Nelson was still running the show for the Magic and J.J. Hickson was getting decent minutes for the Cavs, with the Magic running away with the game in the second half led by Dwight Howard’s 22 points and 18 rebounds.

In the second matchup, the Magic went into the Quicken Loans Arena and hung with the best home team in the league until the final minute, when King James took the game over to take the 97-93 win.  Rafer Alston had been successfully traded after Jameer Nelson’s season ending injury took place, and starred in the game with 23 points to go with four rebounds and four assists.

In the finale of the season series, the Magic led by as much as 40 points as they coasted to an easy 116-87 victory, having seven players in double figures for the game.

In these three games, we saw that the Magic are able to, at the very least, hang with the Cavaliers on any given night.  More importantly, their play on the road shone brightly in Cleveland in a game that it took the eventual number one seed down to the final minute.

From a regular season standpoint, the Magic looked great in their games against Cleveland and were as competitive as any other team in the league, but an even stronger sign to Orlando’s potential success against Cleveland lies in the man-to-man matchups in the series.

First off, no one on the Cavaliers, or the NBA for that matter, can match the brute strength of Dwight Howard.  His size and quickness just add to his arsenal of lethal attacks that he puts on defenses every night.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao will get the daunting task of matching up with Howard, but how they will stop him remains to be seen.  In three games this year, Howard has averaged 18.3 points and 14.7 rebounds to go along with 3.7 blocks.  His field goal percentage against Cleveland was higher than his season average and his turnovers were down.

Howard will have his way with the Cavaliers defense and get most any shot he wants. Everyone talks about Cleveland’s stellar defense, but as it has been all year, Orlando seems to go unmentioned.  LeBron James lives on driving to the hoop and finishing a one-on-one matchup at the rim or dishing off to an open teammate if help comes.

Dwight Howard has averaged almost four blocks per game in the three meetings against the Cavaliers this year.

Dwight Howard has averaged almost four blocks per game in the three meetings against the Cavaliers this year.

James will face the toughest matchup of the playoffs if he is matched up with Howard, and by not needing much help defense, Howard is more than up to the task of taking on James.  James is going to get his points, rebounds, assists, and Sportscenter Top 10 dunks.

Any team that tries to stop him will get beaten by Mo Williams or Delonte West as they watch LeBron, with three defenders on him, laugh at his wide open teammates shooting threes.  Howard can contain James and make sure someone else beats them, but not without a fight.

While Hedo Turkoglu will give up strength to most power forwards in the NBA, Anderson Varejao averaged just a little over nine points per game in the three meetings.  Because Cleveland’s forwards outside of James are not big scorers, Turkoglu’s matchup problems mean less than they would against other teams.

Rafer Alston is by no means an All-Defensive player, but he has stepped up his play on defense since joining the Magic, as most teammates of Dwight Howard could attest to.  Shutting down Mo Williams is second on the list to containing LeBron James and Alston will have to take on that task.

Having Courtney Lee back from injury might be the single most important ingredient, but thankfully due to the NBA’s ridiculous playoff system, the Magic would not play the Cavaliers for about two weeks.  That should be plenty of time for him to get healthy, but they will need it because while Lee is a great perimeter defender, his replacement Redick is a liability on defense.

While it remains to be seen whether someone can knock out the current Beasts of the East, the Magic are the most prepared team to take the job.  While getting past the Celtics will be no easy task, defeating the Cavaliers in a seven game series means that you would have to win a game on the road.

Only one other team (not counting Philadelphia) has done that: the Los Angeles Lakers.  It should be an interesting series and hopefully the games can continue to be as exciting as they were in round one.

May 3, 2009 Posted by | Basketball, LeBron James, NBA, NBA Finals, Orlando Magic | , , , | 3 Comments

Bill Russell: A True Winner

Yesterday, commissioner David Stern announced that, starting this year, the NBA Finals MVP will be renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in honor of the

Absolutely awesome.

If Russell didn’t define what a winner was, nobody did. The only pleasure I ever had to watch Russell and the dynasty he created was on Saturday mornings on ESPN classic. I can remember watching him in epic battles against Jerry West and the Lakers, day in and day out. But Russell was so much more than Saturday morning re-run entertainment. What made Russell one of the greatest players of our time was his ability to win at any level. Before he personally hung 11 banners in The Garden, Russell won two national championships with the University of San Fransisco in 1955 and 1956, and during his time there won multiple events in the high jump, including the Central California AAU meet, the Pacific AAU meet, and the West Coast Relays.

After dominating college, Russell went to the Olympics for part of the 1956 season before joining the Boston Celtics. There, his team won the gold medal in basketball in one of the most dominating Olympic teams of all time, winning games by an average of 55 points.

As for his time in Boston, all Russell did was win 11 titles in 13 seasons and 5 NBA MVPS, as well as being elected to 12 all star games, winning the MVP of the game once. His number was retired just 3 years after he retired, and was elected to the Hall of Fame 3 years after that.

The real crime is that the NBA Finals MVP did not come out until the last year of Russell’s storied career. In that year, the Celtics won their last title with Russell, but the MVP went to Jerry West of the Lakers in what would be the only time a player on a losing team won the award. It’s a shame that Russell wasn’t able to add a few more pieces of hardware to his trophy collection, but the honor bestowed to him all but makes up for it. Everyone knew how good Russell was, and now his legacy will continue to live on.

February 15, 2009 Posted by | Basketball, Boston Celtics, NBA, NBA Finals | | Leave a comment