$11.6M Part III: Why this Means the Knicks Will Continue to Stink

If you haven’t check out Part I and Part II.

In Part II I made a case for how the Anucha Brown Sauders verdict (as well as the handling of Don Chaney’s dismissal) illustrates a fatal flaw–contempt–in Thomas’ decision making style. My point is simply that contempt (a callous disregard for others) is not simply unethical behavior; rather, it is also strongly associated with specific types of poor decisions that continue to haunt this team.

Contempt diminishes the ability to recognize mistakes and learn from them. In moments of complete and total privacy I often wonder if Isiah Thomas recognizes his role in the various messes he’s made. I am not convinced he does, though I suppose only he knows for sure. When Don Chaney said he felt disrespected by the way his situation was handled, Isiah responded that he didn’t think it was appropriate to give Chaney “a 24-hour status update on what was going on.” Of Anucha Brown Saunders, he says, “She made the whole thing up. The jury didn’t listen to the evidence.” Of upper management/ownership in his prior NBA stops in Indiana and Toronto, and in his brief stint with the CBA, Thomas claims they were all just out to get him. Apparently, the international conspiracy dedicated to his downfall continues on unabated to this very day.

The great thing about being contemptuous is always being able to believe that your failures are someone else’s doing–leaving you free to repeat the mistakes you made. So, in Thomas’ mind’s eye the problem is that the players haven’t gelled or that they have underperformed. It’s never that his strategy of stockpiling redundant talent is a limited strategy. Winning the East is a simple matter of landing the right star player. Enter Marbury. Tim Thomas. Crawford. Curry. Steve Francis. Now, Zach Randolph. Without knocking Zebo, who I like, his deal was just more of what Thomas has always done. There’s been no real introspection about the overall approach. He simply doesn’t see a downside.

Contempt breeds an exaggerated need for secrecy and loyalty. If you believed your failures were never of your own making imagine the twisted logic you would need to sustain that kind of fantasy. Real world common sense and people who just won’t play along would constantly threaten this fantasy world with collapsing under its own weight. The Thomases and Dolans of the world, who are contemptuous of others, don’t leave their fantasy world vulnerable to common sense or to people who don’t play along. Instead they prefer to surround themselves with loyalists who enable their fantasies, closing themselves off to “outsiders” as much as possible. Not surprisingly, this behavior suggests intolerance for self-examination, competing approaches, fresh ideas, or honest criticism.

Nowhere has this intolerance been more perfectly exemplified than through the organization’s relationship with Stephon Marbury. If the Brown Saunders verdict has done nothing else it has established beyond any reasonable doubt Thomas’ coddling and enabling of Marbury. Thomas has demanded nothing of Marbury since his arrival, despite making him the face of the franchise. Further, Isiah has sought to punish anyone in the organization or move any player or coach who would dare challenge Marbury to lead. Larry Brown’s no saint. He has his own dysfunctions, which not coincidentally include an exaggerated need for loyalty. But that whole drama is far uglier now in retrospect than it was even at the time.

Where to from here? One reader in the comments on Part II wrote:

How about the fact that the NBA will discipline you for punching someone, but not for sexual harassment?

That’s sticky, because the NBA is a collection of businesses that agree to cooperate on certain aspects of business but leave others to each individual franchise. Since sexual harassment is a civil legal matter I could certainly see the league not wishing to wade in such murky water. If Stern punishes the Knicks it means the league is claiming jurisdiction in that area. That potentially makes the NBA liable to be named a party in the next lawsuit alongside any team. Further, it’s not clear to me that any league punishment (a fine in all likelihood) would be any more of a deterrent than a civil trial. However, the question remains, what will the Knicks do in the aftermath of this case? Given that Dolan and Thomas didn’t have sense enough to keep this case out of court in the first place, and apparently have enough money to throw at appeals, it’s safe to speculate that they probably haven’t learned much.

I imagine that the best the Knicks fans–and I continue to count myself among them–can hope for in the immediate future is a rift between Dolan and Thomas that leads to his dismissal. The problem of course is that Dolan has all the same problems Thomas has. There is little reason to believe he wouldn’t hire another Thomas.

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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at Knickerblogger.net and Seahawks at FieldGulls.com. In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

32 thoughts to “$11.6M Part III: Why this Means the Knicks Will Continue to Stink”

  1. in addition if there were a rift between thomas and dolan and dolan were to have to find another person to run the knicks the type of person that we would want, someone who is strategic thoughtful intelligent and respected, would know that they do not want to work for dolan in the first place leading to the knicks never being able to find the right person to run the franchise and continuing this current cycle of decay

  2. The most prescient commentary here is that the fate of Knicks is largely a product of Dolan. Isiah has made plenty of questionable manuevers (both on and off court) but is really any different than Layden? Not enough, I would argue.
    So long as Dolan is pulling the strings, the Knicks will likely continue the trend of the past few years. That’s not to say lightning won’t strike. Certainly, there is a flood of talent on the team but talent does not equate to win totals. Performance does.

  3. “Isiah has made plenty of questionable manuevers (both on and off court) but is really any different than Layden? Not enough, I would argue.”

    The contrast between Thomas and Layden is interesting at this point. Both have their fingerprints on the poor state of the franchise. But Layden screwed up with dignity and class. He was boringly silent on all issues, he had a stone-face with the media and the fans, kept his hands close to his vest, and he was loyal to a fault. Thomas has had as little success on the court as Layden, but acts audacious, arrogant, childish, and meanspirited.

    If character matters (as it does for Frank O. and others who are ready to withdraw their support of the team), should Knick fans now apologize for chanting “fire Layden” for two straight seasons? Throw ourselves at his feet and beg him to come back and reinstate class to this tarnished organization? Admit we sold our soul to the devil and now regret it and want it back? Layden is everything that Isiah is not and suddenly, in the wake of the jury’s ruling, his leadership stands to be re-evaluated. Classy, moral, professional.

    Everything Isiah is not.

    Oh, except one thing. They are both crappy GMs.

  4. Z:
    A good, successful coach and a class coach are not mutually exclusive.
    Red Holzman, for example.
    Jeff Van Gundy also in his curmudgeonly way exhibited loyalty and class.
    Hell, there are plenty of examples.
    Tom is right: So long as Dolan is running this team, the Knicks will continue to fail.

    Isiah is a formerly downtrodden guy who uses his angst and anger to motivate.
    He needs to set up a strawman so that he has something to knock down.
    So, I’m sure he’ll use this case as motivation.
    And he’ll try very hard to make this team win.
    But that misses the point. In this case it wasn’t about winning or losing.
    It was about him.
    And until someone he loves, or respects, points out to him this tendency to be contemptuous of anyone he can beat in one-on-one basketball, he’ll remain a subpar coach and a subpar human being.
    And, well, Dolan can’t even claim to be downtrodden. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, the only thing he has to complain about is that papa was too busy making money and enabling his son’s dysfunction.
    Or, he’s simply a moron.

    His mental problem is simply unfathomable.

  5. what pisses me off the most is that Isiah is so good at drafting people. why didnt we just get him to help the organization, not give him full control. we shouldn’t hav let him make trades and things, but just advise how we drafted. if we hadnt made the curry trade we could hav the draft picks of that guy from LSU-i forget his name- and Noah. plus all our draft picks in the last while we hav great talent.

  6. I just want to add a story/comment about Isiah’s arrogance. I’m a Raptor fan. In 1997 he failed in his attempt to purchase the team and abruptly left the Raptor’s organization, leaving them in what can be described as nothing short of a catastrophy.

    3 years later the Raptors had been completely rebuilt by Glen Grunwald and won their first (and only) playoff series over the Knicks. Now that the team was finally getting some love as up-and-comer, Isiah, working a studio gig for NBC during the playoffs, made a comment along the lines of ‘I’m the one that built this Raptor team’.

    Of course this set Toronto basketball fans and even reporters into a frenzy. because the number of players that still remained from the day Isiah quit the team? ZERO. Now that’s arrogance.

    So to answer the question of whether or not “Isiah Thomas recognizes his role in the various messes he?s made”, IMO the answer is clearly NO.

  7. Great last two articles, David, just GREAT. They’re another two examples of why I always stop in to see what Knickerblogger has to say in regards to the foibles of our tragically, horrifically, flawed team.

    PS – any time Owen starts channeling Johnny Carson, you have to have dug up a good anecdote. Wild, wacky stuff, indeed.

  8. As I posted in the other thread, what you are talking about is the well known “waiter rule” espoused by CEOs everywhere. (Google it if you’re not familiar with it.)

    Never trust a leader who treats subordinates badly. Clear sign of what you are calling “contempt for others” and it bodes ill for anyone you appoint as a leader.

  9. “the number of players that still remained from the day Isiah quit the team? ZERO.”

    I was under the impression Isiah drafted McGrady. Is that not true? He was a key player on the Raptor team that defeated the Knicks in 2000.

    Frank O.–

    I totally understand the outrage associated with MSG right now; however, I also think there is a level of hypocrisy in the fans that are now withdrawing their support of the Knicks because Dolan condones a culture of base behavior. I don’t think Dolan can be held accountable since, ultimately, he does answer to the fans. He hired and stuck with a president who had great character. The fans ran Layden out. If they hadn’t chanted “fire Layden” for years on end he’d still be GM and Chaney’d still be coach and there would be no sexual harassment trial driving lifelong fans away from the franchise. The fans got sick of a GM with integrity running a losing team. Those who now think integrity in a GM trumps all else should have stood up for Layden. There were very few chants of ?extend Layden? back in 2002. Had this blog been in effect back then I doubt there would be many entries supporting Layden because of his high character.

    I’m not saying the fans were wrong to chant “fire Layden”. I don’t think they’re wrong to want Isiah fired now either. I just don’t think that character has much to do with either argument, and if it does, there is an inherent contradiction between the two.

  10. teddd – I live just outside Toronto and I remember that incident very well.

    I remember being really excited that Layden was fired…until I learned who his replacement was. I think I am the only person I know who didn’t want Isiah in town right from the very beginning. He has done absolutely nothing to change my mind.

  11. Great piece. Probably the best critique of the Knicks’ problems I’ve seen.

    re: Tom’s point, to me, the interesting parallel between Layden and Thomas is that despite the differences in their personalities and approaches, they’ve both spent a lot of money on quick fix moves to construct rosters which few outside the organization thought were worth the money. I guess it speaks to the delusional state of the organization discussed in Dave’s piece.

    It also speaks to Ben’s point. I think the Knicks could have given Isiah full control over personnel decisions, just not given him a blank check. If Toronto had played its cards right post-Isiah, they could have had a lineup that looked something like Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Shawn Marion (with the Bender pick they traded for Antonio Davis), Marcus Camby, with Doug Christie coming off the bench. We can speculate about plenty of ways the Knicks roster might look had Isiah stuck to the draft and relatively low-cost acquisitions. Unfortunately, it seems the adgenda was already set when he got the job, as I’ve heard speculation that Layden was fired in part because he refused to take on Hardaway to get Marbury.

    Z- Don’t really understand your point. A good guy couldn’t get the job done, so the only move Dolan could make was to hire an asshole? And we can’t blame him for the fact that the team he owns sucks?
    Dolan once turned to his right-hand man during a Cablevision meeting and in front of all the other executives said something to the effect of “that was the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, next time think before you open your mouth.” He also brought in an entirely new team to run the company, but retained the old team and made them report to the new team. There is no doubt in my mind that he has a lot to do with the state of the Knicks.

    As far as the supposed hypocrisy, both Layden and Isiah have sucked at their jobs. I think fans have an equal right to chant for Isiah to be fired as they did for Layden.

    At the same time, I agree that in Layden’s case ethics had nothing to do with it, he did a bad job running the team. In Isiah’s case, I think ethics have a lot to do with it: even if he had the Knicks winning 60 games, I still couldn’t argue against someone who said he should be fired. It’s just that in that case I’d be sad to see him go.

  12. In regards to Isiah’s tenure in Toronto, I remember reading that he went into the organization as a part owner. After some years he pissed off the majority ownership (“I built this organization, it’s nothing without me”) and was intractable on key issues. Which then led them to triggering a capital call (“your an owner, right? Pay your share”). Which he wasn’t interested in doing and so he bolted. Toronto guys is this wrong?

    This anecdote’s relevance is that it supports the thesis that amazing hubris is at play. He doesn’t think he does any wrong and everyone else is to blame for whatever ills befall whatever he touches. He gets his way, expects to get his way, has always gotten his way, or he walks.

    Interesting this morning to read David Falk’s confirmation that he has spoken with MSG post trial. While I posted previously that I was hoping for Stern to step in my guess is that the rest of the owners wouldn’t want to change a thing.

    Under Dolan’s/Thomas’ leadership each team is getting about $2 mil each year from the Knicks’ luxury tax payment. They want things to stay exactly as they are.

    [ED: Last line deleted. C’mon a little civility.]

  13. Forgot to say that my kudos to the last three topics…and many of the excellent posts…well written and intelligent, present company notwithstanding.

  14. great comments guys. wow. seriously, i love the knickerblogger faithful. you guys are awesome.

    btw, teddd – i didn’t know that about isiah and the raps either. that’s awful, but i can’t say i’m surprised.

    Z -i see your point; well said. i completely agree that people frequently take so-called “character” issues to the point of hypocrisy. so for me it’s not a question of whether character matters but precisely where and how. sometimes the character flaws that lead to ethical lapses are directly implicated in why a person is bad at his or her job.

    in isiah’s and dolan’s case the bad decision making that has plagued their regime is not about the kind of incompetence that plagued scott layden. it’s about the men themselves. in this instance, sexual harassment (ethics) is just a context that really illustrates the fundamental problem with the way the two make all their decisions.

    the ethics context allows us to see that the problem here is deeper than hiring a salary cap specialist or changing the approach to roster construction. (if only it were that simple.) unfortunately what we have is leadership that thinks acknowledging mistakes is a sign of weakness and that loyalty (of others to them) is among the highest moral values.

  15. I wonder if Messrs. Berman, Isola, Lawrence, Vescey et al. read blogs such as this one and realize that not only can ‘amateur’ writers such as the Knickerblogger crew can do their job infintely better than they can. Esp. when you take into account the laughable “blogs” that the Post/News has started cranking out (which are inevitably just shorter excerpts of their articles).

    Do they curl up in bed with a bottle of Amaretto? Do they walk uptown and punch the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism in the nose?

    Then again, considering the fact that a majority of posters on this forum think they could do Dolan/Isiah’s job better than they do (and have no chance of securing that gig either), perhaps they just laugh and toast the gods to their good fortune…

  16. Oh man. I just heard on the news that Al Sharpton is going to get involved in this Knicks fiasco. If Thomas doesn’t apologize to all black women of America, Sharpton is going to protest outside of MSG during games. You know Thomas never apologizes for anything, so this is going to get really ugly!!!

  17. I wonder if Messrs. Berman, Isola, Lawrence, Vescey et al. read blogs such as this one and realize that not only can ?amateur? writers such as the Knickerblogger crew can do their job infintely better than they can. Esp. when you take into account the laughable ?blogs? that the Post/News has started cranking out (which are inevitably just shorter excerpts of their articles).

    I would imagine that a good amount of them are like Jay Mariotti who rail on blogs for being full of nonsense. I heard Mariotti has a blog, but calls it something else. I would look this up, but I really don’t care to read it. However there are some mainstream guys that do read blogs, including this one.

    Could you sees Dave’s piece being in the Post/News? I couldn’t imagine it. Maybe Times magazine, but even then it’s not along the lines of what they would print either. In a way it’s sad because if it’s happening in sports, how many great ideas are passed up in the other areas that the papers cover? But on the other hand it’s great that a generation of people will grow up on blogs and see through the crap that the mainstream feeds us.

    That is unless Senator Ted Stevens gets his way.

  18. Just to extend the question,

    How much would you know about the war (or W’s recent healthcare veto) if you only read the Post/News or watched only Fox. If you want to get at something resembling the truth in this country, you absolutely have to seek it out yourself, invariably from alternative sources. Why should the sports world be exempt?

    And to really divert the topic – the reason that blogs like Knickerblogger are able to delve into subjects is that the profit motive has been removed. The Post/News/Times has one job – to sell newspapers. If that means doing a feature on LeBron wearing a Yankee hat, so be it.

  19. Owen – That is a really interesting article and he is totally right about lack of parity in the NBA.

    I do not like the idea about extending the shot clock or shortening the games but I do think a 3 game playoff series would be really good for the NBA.

    On top of that I would shorten the season, (fifty games maybe)institute a hard salary cap and get rid of max salaries.

    By shortening the playoffs and season it would lend more importance to every game. Also by having a hard cap and no max salaries it would be hard for teams to be able to afford multiple superstars. Great players like Duncan and Shaq would be so expensive that their value would be lessened, making teams without such great players able to compete by signing better surrounding players.

    Also if players were constantly playing for their jobs it would motivate players to never rest on their laurels. I would still have gauranteed salaries but would not count waived players against the cap. That way teams would be punished by being irresponsible but not at the detriment of the league or their fans.

  20. One more thing I would also make the max contract length 3 years that way players could not underperform or overperform their contracts for very long and players would generally get paid what their worth lessening the holes badly run frachises dig themselves into.

  21. Newspaper guys are insanely bitter than their industry is rapidly dying. Although I think 99% of blogs are absolutely nonsense, so are papers. Blogs are nonsense in that delusionally paranoid sort of way, and newspapers are nonsense in that vapid form letter sort of way.

  22. __

    Improbable as it may seem to sports enthusiasts, Jimmy Dolan is as much responsible for Cablevision’s success as his father is, say a combination of industry leaders, high-profile family friends and Cablevision itself. “I have no idea about the court case or the Knicks,” says Internet mogul Barry Diller of IAC. “But I do know he has run Cablevision, the major asset of his family, in a way that only gives him good marks.”


  23. Ben – The article is interesting and it is interesting to hear Bill James talk about basketball, but I didn’t really care for his suggestions. I think your commment is 100% correct. They need to do something on the financial end to make it easier for bad teams to improve. What that is exactly I don’t know but I hope it means making it easier for Lebron to come to NY.

    GB – I don’t know if I can trust Diller on this one. I would think he is highly incentivized to say nice things about Cablevision.

  24. I don’t agree with a hard salary cap or forcing parity. As Knicks’ fans know, the lack of parity in the NBA has nothing to do with some teams lacking financial resources. Teams like the Knicks and Hawks are worse than teams like the Spurs, Mavs, or Pistons because their management is worse. Coddling bad management rather than exposing it to competition simultaneously punishes good management and seems to be removing rather than promoting justice.

    I also like the Bird/Arenas rules which allow teams that draft and trade well to go above the cap to keep their players. Not really fair to draft and develop three franchise players and then watch two of them walk.

    Finally, I’m generally against measures to limit players’ earning potntial as they, not the owners, are the ones who the fans pay to watch. You could argue that with lower payrolls fans will pay lower prices for tickets and merchandise, but I highly doubt that’s the case. Prices are likely to continue to reflect demand rather than cost and the hard salary cap would likely only benefit the owners.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing the max salaries go.

  25. Isiah’s time is up. Espicially if the team struggles to a subpar record by the allstar break. Maybe we should give Kiki Vandewahe and/or Magic Johnson a shot. I believe Isiah will be making an awful mistake in giving Houston a roster spot and cutting Nichols. Houston will not beat anyone off the dribble, can’t defend and will have trouble getting his shot off over taller quicker 2’s.

  26. As always, Bill James is right on… even if he he ignores the biggest reason for basketball’s (some say boring) predictability, i.e. with fewer players, chosen from a smaller pool of candidates (tall people), the variation in talent is relatively wide (compared to NFL or MLB) and therefore outcomes are more predictable.

    Aside from that, BJ’s suggestions won’t come to pass because a shorter regular season or fewer playoff games would directly reduce revenue. For all the bad-mouthing of the NBA, fair questions about product quality, and declining TV ratings (as with everything – the same audience divided by more choices = lower ratings)… the league is still setting attendance records.

    For Example A in how a shorter schedule increases unpredictability, look at the Knicks’ last run to the NBA finals…

    BJ is also accurate about what it would mean to eliminate the shot clock. That would also be a lesson for any remaining doubters in “possession theory.” Myself, I’m intrigued – talent in the NBA is so much more evenly distributed than college, I don’t think we’d see any audience-dispersing “Princeton-UNLV” battles. It would just be another strategic option. More variety in style is good for the league. But in reality, that idea is a non-starter. NBA would never take that gamble.

    Moving in the three-point line is more realistic, and would have a modest benefit to unpredictability. I think there’s already some small momentum to standard the NBA 3–point line with the international line.

    In general, I totally agree that the NBA (and other leagues) would do well to explore this field of research. There is increasing competetion for viewer/fan attention and dollars, and any league that looked at this systematically would have a big edge. As a byproduct, it would help the fans by creating a better game.


    October 8, 2007 — CABLEVISION patriarch Charles Dolan is so “livid” and “embarrassed” over last week’s multimillion-dollar sex-harassment victory against Madison Square Garden, which is run by his unpolished son Jim, he’s planning a major shakeup of the tarnished “World’s Most Famous Arena,” sources say.

    A high-ranking MSG source said things are so tense since fired Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders won her case that father and son Dolans ended up in an ear-splitting screaming match. Daddy Charles is now mulling management changes from top to bottom, the insider said.

    Not only is the elder Dolan, whose company owns the Garden as well as the Knicks and the Rangers, personally upset about the humiliating black eye his empire has been dealt – he also has both the NBA and NHL breathing down his neck to clean things up fast, another insider tells The Post’s Patrick Gallahue.


  28. Interesting comments on the James piece, which by the way is a cool read – the kind of interesting read that is becoming increasingly rare in news.

    I agree with Owen and Caleb. I suspect that the dominance exerted by a handful of NBA teams is primarily a function of factors that aren’t amenable to the “quick fixes” James suggests. Or some of the quick fixes are non-starters, like a shorter season. The most meaningful reform probably lies in the underlying salary structure.

    One factor that may make studying “the league” far more difficult than it might first appear is the very notion that “a league” is a singular object to be studied. Each pro sports league is a cartel and cartels are notoriously difficult to study. It’s difficult to make generalizations about an abstraction that is by definition exceptional. Relationships between the organizations that comprise a cartel are inherently unstable, ad hoc, and non-standard. That makes coming to any kind of understanding about what is “best” for a league a very sticky proposition. It’s not just a big linear programming problem where there is ONE answer out there that optimizes a set of constraints. As Caleb points out, sports leagues draw on different distributions of natural resources (talent). They also have radically different histories that in large part determine how much power and influence each organization has or can have. (Think OPEC – you’d rather be Saudi Arabia than Nigeria.)

    James might be right in saying that “leagues” constitute the new frontier of sports research. But, I have my doubts about how helpful math-based approaches will be in figuring anything out about them.

  29. I thought the James piece was interesting as well. However, I’m a little disappointed he didn’t address a factor more significant in the NBA than in the other major sports – the impact of one player.

    In basketball, one player can negate (or overwhelm) attempts at tweaking rules. I?m of the belief that rule changes can?t prevent a Jordan-esque performace or string of performances on the way to winning. In the other major sports, those performances can win games, but in the NBA, they can win titles. The James piece sites Lebron?s challenge against the Spurs, but missed Dwayne Wade?s finals run the prior year against what most still consider a better team top to bottom.

    One player can also mean the difference between perennial title contender (and, even more importantly, actually winning a title as already mentioned) vs. perennial bottom-dweller or still trying to get over the hump. For example, what would be the current state of the Spurs if they didn’t happen to have an uncharacteristic bad 96-97 season (admittedly due in large part to the injury of “one player” – David Robinson) and happen to benefit from Tim Duncan playing an uncharacteristic four years of college ball then graduating that same year? Only true NBA fans remember what a big deal David Robinson was when he arrived for his first NBA season? in ’89, two years after he was drafted because he was fulfilling his Navy duty. Since they drafted Robinson in the ’87 draft, one could argue that only Shaquille O?neal would have been a more worthy pick than Duncan in the 20 years since. Yet, there?s much written about their management, coaches, player personnel decisions, chemistry, etc. In my opinion, those factors combined are still less important than the unusual circumstance that landed Duncan in San Antonio in the first place. As an example, I?m a Chicago native and die-hard Bulls fan. Their current combination of management, coaches, player personnel decisions, chemistry, etc., might be better now than in the Jordan years. Yet, no one would dare compare them, and I say it?s because of one player (with all due respect to Pippen, Grant, and Rodman).

    Beyond those first two points, I believe research has yet to truly identify a metric that correlates the contributions of one NBA player in winning a title. Because perhaps I?ve had the fortune of rooting for the eventual NBA champion six times in my lifetime (Chi-town), I?m of the opinion that winning the championship is the only barometer that matters. Others might help you pick a fantasy team, but that?s a different subject. If someone researched past sports seasons and documented a list of things it took to win the title in each of the major sports, I would argue that a single NBA player’s contribution was disproportionately higher than any one player in the other sports. In contrast to what I think the James piece implies, the best NBA teams don?t have the best players; they typically have the best player (singular). I believe Michael Jordan not only best exemplified this phenomenon, but triggered the equivalent of ?.com? investor mania that in NBA terms drove the fascination with drafting high school players. Once a player goes to college and plays enough games for an NBA team to discern that he?s not quite the next Jordan, Duncan, or whoever, is that ?one player? worth more than someone who might be, but just hasn?t played enough games against better competition to prove it. On the other extreme, nostalgic NBA fans wonder what ever happened to teams like the ?80s Celtics and Lakers that featured (so they think) great teams or collection of players rather than a single dominant player. My problem with the ?80s Lakers/Celtics argument is that those teams featured two players who make every publication?s list of NBA all-time starting five. As great as their teams were, I don?t think people appreciated how great those two players truly were. How many hall of fame players (notice I didn?t say ?any player?) could you use to replace Bird and Magic and still achieve not only the results ? championships ? but flare with which they won it.

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