Friday, May 20, 2005

Miller Time (Now with Stockton & Malone Bashing)

Galley Friend (and occasional basketball teammate) N.T. writes in:
I know that all three of you all follow the NBA . And so, while it pains me as a lifelong Knicks fan to ask, don't you think Reggie Miller deserves a little blog love for all that he accomplished in his now-complete career?

Good point. There are a number of things about Reggie Miller that deserve remarking.

(1) He was certainly the best clutch shooter in the modern game (post-1980) not named Bird or Jordan.

(2) He will probably be the last great player to spend an 18-year career with the same team.

(3) He is the only great player of recent vintage who has been able to stay with the same team and completely (and successfully) remake his role, going from star to supporting castmember. This speaks not only to his talent and determination, but to his very fine character.

(4) He is one of a handful of great players to retire from the game without a ring. I would argue that of the modern players, he is the second or third best (after Barkley and Ewing) to be denied the ultimate victory.

(5) How good was Reggie? I would pose this question to N.T. and other readers: If you were assembling a team to play one game, upon which your life depended, who would your starting five be?

I would argue for Isaiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and Bill Russell. But if Jordan was unavailable to suit up, I might put Reggie at the two-guard. And no matter what, he'd probably be my sixth man.

(Those of you taking Joe Dumars aren't wrong.)

(6) It wouldn't surprise me at all if Reggie became a very successful NBA coach. He has all of the tools and temperament and leadership skills, too.

Farewell, Reggie. Thanks for playing the game the right way.

Update, 5/22/05, 11:34 a.m.: Many commenters and emailers are extolling the virtues of John Stockton and Karl Malone. I simply can't let this slide.

Stockton and Malone are the most over-rated players of my day. Stockton himself was a very good point guard. Nothing more. If you were picking an All-World team he wouldn’t even get on the bench. At no point in his career was he ever the best (or second- or third-best) player at his position. And let’s not forget that he was one of the dirtiest players you’ll ever see. If you ever watch an old game, pay close attention to Stockton on the defensive end of the court. He holds, pulls, hooks, and pushes constantly. He was almost never without a hand full of jersey. Yet he got away with it because he was short, white guy with a baby face. Don’t be fooled by his Gonzaga creds: John Stockton made Danny Ainge look like the picture of sportsmanship.

And what can you say about Karl Malone? He put up a lot of points because he was the only scoring option for his franchise for almost two decades. He was terrible in the clutch and couldn’t even win a championship when he sold his soul to the Lakers. I know that I wouldn’t even want him sitting on the bench in a game for which my life was on the line. If you’re interested in go-nowhere forwards who put up gaudy numbers, you’d be better off with Dominique Wilkins.

Here’s everything you need to know about Karl Malone: In December 2000, on the night he passed Wilt Chamberlain and became the NBA’s second all-time leading scorer, the team stopped the game in the second quarter to throw a miniature celebration in his honor. With under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, with the Jazz blowing out the visiting Toronto Raptors, Malone was ejected for berating an official over an (obviously correct) call.

Pure class.


Anonymous said...

Malone? Stockton? I posit both of these guys in their primes had it over Miller.

Anonymous said...

Hollywood Miller was a great clutch shooter. Having him come off the bench for MJ would be psychologically devastating to an opposing team. Good call. If I had to pick my starting five after you picked yours, my first pick would be Dumars. I saw him own Jordan on several occasions.

N.S.T said...

I'd take Magic Johnson, MJ, Bird, Kevin Mchale, and Shaq. Sixth man Jerry West.

Now, reason with me here for a second. Magic is bigger, stronger, more sportsmanlike, and at least as clutch as Isaiah(It also helps that he isn't running my Knicks into the ground just at the moment, but I digress). MJ and Bird are two of the clutchest of the clutch in the history of the game. Mchale does a million things well, and shoots a damn good percentage besides. And Shaq, with apologies to Wilt and Bill Russell, changes the game in ways which no one else can. West's clutch credentials are well-solidified.

Also, while I really never liked the guy much as a player, I think Malone has to rank in the same upper echelon of modern players who never won a ring along with Reggie, Sir Charles, and Patrick.

N.S.T said...

Just an addendum to my first comment--one which, incidentally, should've been the first thing I wrote if I hadn't momentarily forgotten my manners:I, as the aforementioned NT, thank you for responding to my e-mail in such a timely manner, or, for that matter, at all.


Kareem, MJ, Doctor J, Oscar Robertson, Sir Charles

Sixth Man, World B Free! No not really, I just love his name. I'm going with Mr. fingerroll himself George the Iceman Gervin.

Anonymous said...

Wilt, Russell, Jordan, Magic, Bird. Unseld and Thomas off the bench. All the combinations.

Anonymous said...

I thought you had more bball knowledge than that. Reg is a second tier star, not even close to the pantheon of greats and not worthy of mentioning in the same breath as the Round Mound, The Mailman, and Stockton.
some quick points:
Mailman: 14 all stars, 11 1st team all NBA, 2 2nd team, All star MVP and NBA MVP
Sir Chuckles: 12 time A-S, 5 1st team, 5 2nd team, NBA MVP
Stockton: 10 A-S, 2 1st team, 6 2nd team, 2 time A-S MVP, career assists and steals leader
Ewing 11 A-S, 1 1st team, 6 2nd team.

THE REG- 5 A-S (never a starter), 0 all-NBA 1st or 2nd team. He's a career 18, 3 assists, 3 rebs a game guy who couldn't play defense. Meanwhile, the Mailman is a career 25 and 10 guy, Stockton is 14 and 10 and a superb defender, and sir Charles was a monster for his size. We all remember that Reggie made some clutch shots, but night in and night out he simply wasn't that great, his numbers don't even compare to guys like Reggie Theus or Alex English. He was one-dimensional.

As for my starting 5:

Magic, MJ, Pippen, Bird, Shaq.

That Dude said...

What if you put a starting 5 together of the main 5 dudes whodidn't win a title in this last era?

SF-Sir Charles

Thats a fucking starting 5 my friends, although withthe game on the line DO NOT GIVE THE BALL TO EWING! lol

N.S.T said...


Don't go knockin' Alex English. Stockton and Malone are average players taken by themselves. They're only good as a package. I know that's blasphemy, but it's the truth. Malone is a 25 and 10 guy because of Stockton, and stockton is a 14 and 10 guy because of Malone. Besides which, they're both nothing without underrated genius Jerry Sloan at the helm. I personally would rather have Reggie if my life depended on winning one game. Reggie, probably the most notorious big-game player of the modern era, if not ever, torches opponents when it counts. Malone on the other hand does not. Scottie Pippen put this better than I ever could. He said, "the mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays." I.E. When it counts. Ouch.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't knocking English, I was pointing out that he was probably a better player than The Reg. I also think Theus is probably better than given credit for. Miller was clutch, but he had hsi best season early in his career as a 6th man, and was never able to duplicate that output again. He was relatively one dimensional in the way that a player like Erik Dampier is today. Miller was a shooter, that is it. He could not pass, he could not rebound, he could not defend. Ben Wallace is a far more important player to his team in that he can defend and rebound. We love Reggie because he's the last link to the golden era of the NBA, the era of Magic, Bird, MJ, Hakeem, Patrick, Isaiah, etc... If I had a Hall of Fame vote Reggie would not make it, but it's likely that he gets in rather easy.

N.S.T said...

I hope you aren't implying that we shouldn't aspire to return to the golden era of the NBA. This era certainly isn't doing it for anyone. No one has any fundamentals, no shooting, passing, or moving without the ball skills. If basketball weren't the exclusive property of hip-hop culture, shoe companies, AAU teams, and endorsement deals, then maybe kids would go to college and the level of play would return to the height it was at before MJ left. A height, incidentally, which had been consistently maintained for 30 or 40 years. But until then, we'll continue to see high school trash-- making more money than you or I will make in a lifetime to play a game they aren't qualified to play professionally-- riding NBA benches. Sure, Lebron James, KG, T-Mac, Rashard Lewis, Jermaine O'neal and Kobe are great. But for every KG there a 15 Kwame Browns. Now, if these kids went to college, learned how to play the game a little bit, maybe even--what a concept-- got a frickin degree, then the college game would be more fun to watch and easier to follow, and the pro game would improve. But as it is now, the NBA is a league where AI is an elder statesman, a mature superstar. Now, no offense to AI, I love him and I really do believe that he's become more mature while continuing to be the natural-born leader that he is(not to mention being patriotic enough to show up to the olympics), but he's not the guy you want as the face of your league.

Anonymous said...

no offense, but you need to read up on your bball history. You said:
" A height, incidentally, which had been consistently maintained for 30 or 40 years."
Apparently you don't realize that in the late 70's before Magic and Bird joined the league the NBA was on the verge of collapse. It's pretty much fact that Bird and Magic saved the NBA, and that without MJ it might have faced a terrible fate in the early 90s after Bird and Magic retired. Also, I don't think you watched much bball this year or you have realized that scoring was up across the NBA. Want these kids to go to college, that's admirable, and in many cases probably beneficial to the players. Please don't wax poetic about how great the NCAA game is, because honestly, it's terrible. The shooting percentages are only higher because nobody knows how to play defense. It's truly pathetic watching the college kids sit around while everyone takes wide-open shots. One of the reasons the GMs in the NBA take the high school kids is so they can teach them how to defend, rather than picking a college kids who is already ruined and will never be a decent defender (see Allen, Ray, and Nash, Steve). I never cared for the Knicks-Heat type of play, but the Pistons are a revelation. As the great R-Dub said shortly before he passed away, this new NBA is about who can get their shot off, and it's the evolution of the game.

N.S.T said...

Or, maybe, just maybe, basketball is always better when no one can play defense. Yes scoring's up this year, but it isn't as if it could have gone down much more. No, the college game was never perfect, but all of this modern shit has effectively made the NCAA tournament ten-times less enjoyable to watch because there's no continuity whatsoever. The NCAA does nothing to help. All they do is provide ample incentive--by way of their, nonsensical, oppresive rules-- for kids to leave as early as possible. The argument against an age limit, that we can't deny kids the right to earn a living, is a crock of shit. They shouldn't have ever had that right to begin with, because they rarely do EARN their pay. If teams refuse to stop drafting high-schoolers, lured by the potential pay-off 5 or 6 years down the road, then the league will just have to prohibit them from doing so. Because what makes a polished, effective league is the presence of more players like Emeka Okafor and Elton Brand. As to the argument that the league was going to collapse in the late '70's, I think you miss my point. The quality of play was consistently better for 30 or 40 years. Not the financial state of the league. When you show me a league that's populated with the Kurt Thomases of the world, one where infants like Ricky Davis, Jamal Crawford and Dajuan Wagner have no place, and then we'll talk. Until then, the league sucks.

Anonymous said...

A couple of thoughts on the interesting debate from above:

The quality of basketball has significantly eroded over the last decade and a half. I believe that there are a couple of reasons for this (not all original, by the way.) First, the rules have significantly changed during the MJ era. I don't mean that the rule book has been amended, I mean that the referees simply don't blow the whistle for stuff that they used to. In particular, the carry is not called at all. If you watch these guys dribble it's outrageous. They roll their hand under the ball on every dribble and effectively carry the ball in between dribbles. There is a reason Bob Cousy looks like he's tapping the ball in those old reels of Celtic games, the refs would have blown the whistle otherwise. Secondly, traveling is not called. This is an old complaint, but still valid. Third, moving screens. The refs do not call moving screens at all anymore. Watch a game and see someone like Ben Wallace set a screen, it's irritating. Finally, (though not all) they have stopped calling a foul for over the back on rebounding. This is why no one bothers blocking out anymore. Why should they when the guy behind them is just going to jump over them and snatch the ball over their heads?
All of these de facto rule changes have resulted in a game that is overly physical and dependent on individual play. The raw athleticism of a player is all that matters now (part of the reason we see fewer white guys in the league, Larry Bird wouldn't even get a scholarship today).
The NBA now rewards athletes rather than solid basketball players. They don't care if a kid can produce on the court, if he can jump out of the building and be physically stronger than his opponent he will get drafted and paid.
As for Reggie Miller, he is THE greatest clutch shooter of all time, bar none. The mid 90's when the pacers where having those great battles against the knicks and the bulls he was absolutely incredible. Every game he came up big. It's a tragedy he didn't get a ring, he deserved one. He never had that complementary player to get him over the hump a la pippen. Firt ballot hall of famer.

N.S.T said...

Judos to you Jonathan for bashing Stockton and Malone. I happen to agree with you. While I would dispute that Malone isn't classy(we'll get to that in a minute), I think that he, along with Stockton are overrated. They are overrated because:

A) They succeeded not because of any particularly extraordinary talent, but because of Jerry Sloan's genius and the use of the oldest play in the book: the pick and roll. If Malone had begun his career in different circumstances, he'd be not a first-ballot HOF'er, but a Kurt Thomas clone. In fact, I think Thomas might even be a better shooter than the mailman, and I KNOW he's a better defender.
But, since Thomas has spent his entire career playing second fiddle to overpaid babies who shoot to much(I mean you Allan Houston, and you Starbury), and Malone spent his entire career, as you point out, the number one scoring option for the same team, he leaves the game a superstar.

B) Stockton is nothing without Malone, and Malone nothing wthout Stockton.

C) Stockton was very dirty, as you point out

D) Stockton's legacy has to be discounted a bit because of the short shorts.

E) They're overrated because they are much like the Pete Rose and Hank Aaron of basketball. They played for a really, really, really long time, and consequently racked up all-time records while remaining average players throughout their careers.

F) They were never clutch, as you also point out. I refer you to the Pippen quote I referenced above: "The mailman doesn't deliver on sundays." Once again, ouch.

Now, as for Malone not being classy, I think I'd have to disagree. Compared to the association these days, where every other player has a 20-man posse, Malone is a nice guy. He does a lot of charity work which he doesn't excessively publicize(to my knowledge anyway) and he's definitely not a part of hip-hop culture. These days, that qualifies you as a classy NBA player, at least in my book.

N.S.T said...

Dunno what this has to do with anything, but the memories are still priceless. Soak it up Pacers fans.

Anonymous said...

OMG, The Stockton and Malone bashing must end. You people are idiots. Stockton is nothing without Malone, and Malone is nothing without Stockton, and they are both overrated. The logic here is retarded. If Stockton was nothing without Malone, that would make Malone a superb player who lifted Stockton, and if Malone is nothing without Stockton, that would make Stockton a superb player and Malone the beneficiary of his great looks. Nevermind that both were voted on the 50 greatest players of all time list, and both were starters on the Dream Team. You may logically claim that one was better than the other and therefore the other player benefitted from the greatness of one of them. But you cannot claim that neither was that great and that they simply came together in the perfect NBA storm to create 2 Hall of Fame careers where each is considered to be top-3 all time at their position. Lest we forget that Malone had an excellent year at age 40 for the Lakers, and when he went down in the regular season and then again in the playoffs the team suffered terribly. Shaq considered him to be the greatest player he ever played alongside. Stockton's numbers cannot be ignored, all-time leader in assists and steals, and the 3 or 4 highest per game assist totals for a season of all time. As for the charge of "dirty player", well that originated from a Dennis Rodman interview, and you must consider the source. Stockton wasn't dirty, he was tough, there's a difference. Malone is known for being dirty for one play, the elbow to Isaiah. Hate to tell everyone this, but Thomas had it coming. Thomas was dirty, and he was a bitch to boot. He bitched about every call and complained about everything. Breaking his face was classic, and it couldn't have happened to a more classless guy. If you compare Malone to Kurt Thomas you're either an idiot or so blinded by your love for the worthless Knicks that you've lost all ability to reason. Just ask NBA players if the two were great, they'll uniformly tell you that both are top 3 at their position, and probably #1. IDIOTS!!!!!!!!!

N.S.T said...

Please don't tell me they're great because they made the fifty greatest list. C'mon now. What kind of objectivity is that? Bernrd King didn't make that particular list, does that mean he is definitively not one of the fifty greatest ever? I think not.

Anonymous said...

You're right, that list is flawed, Bernard King should be in Isiah's spot.

N.S.T said...

I don't really like Isaiah either, buddy, but I'm not daft enough to make a statement like that(only enough to compare KT to the mailman). I'm not saying that stockton and malone don't belong on the list. I'm just saying that they are collosally overrated, even if they had great careers.

Anonymous said...

The mailman don't deliver on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Stockton & Malone are all time greats, but they were certainly better than Reggie. Reggie is BORDERLINE hall of fame, nothing more.

All time 5: Magic, MJ, Bird, Rodman, Wilt.

Anonymous said...

Also, putting Isaiah over Magic? JVL has obviously been smoking crack again.

Anonymous said...

Kurt Thomas wouldn't average 25 and 10 for his career if he played every single game against a team with only 4 players, even if they were midgets!

N.S.T said...


Rodman? Are you nuts? Elvin Hayes over rodman any day. Hayes not only averaged 16rebounds a game, or something close to that, but he was also a great scorer, which Rodman never was. Mchale, my original pick, also over hayes any day.

miklos rosza said...

For a long time Malone's primary move was to take a couple of dribbles into the lane and then both arms up into the air as if he'd been grievously fouled. Replays always showed it was a joke.

But then he'd miss the free throws, especially with the game on the line.

Stockton got almost all of his assists on the same simple pass. Did he ever create his own shot?

They were both dirty, having been schooled by all-time dirty player Jerry Sloan. How many people did Malone badly injure with his elbows? It happened quite a few times.

Anonymous said...

NST - Re: my choice of Rodman.

Given who you already have in the starting 5, you don't need another scorer. You need a great rebounder and someone who will play defense and do the dirty work (dive for loose balls, commit flagrant fouls, etc.). Perfect for Rodman.

Also, you need an interesting character on the team; the others are pretty boring. You could have gotten that, along with the rebounding, with Sir Charles too, I suppose; the only problem is that he would have been chucking up 3-pointers all the time!

N.S.T said...

but why NOT take Elvin hayes, who, as I've already said, could score and rebound with the best of 'em?