I am starting to smell Autumn. Welcome back football. I saw my first NFL game in the early 1980’s. It’s not like I’ve seen all of NFL history in real-time. I’m trying to rank the 55 greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. By naming only 55 guys, I’ll be leaving off several elite players and champions.
How many more titles will LeBron James win? How many more does he need to win? Some say his June success is over. We could be technical and say he doesn’t “need” to win anymore. He is after all a record-breaking, three-time champion. If he stayed put on that total, James would have top two to five player of all time status locked up. LBJ has bigger goals than that. For the path this King is on, winning big is still a requirement.
At the end of his fifth pro season in 2008, James had yet to play on a Finals winning team. He was over passive at times, and many media members crushed him daily. At that point, I thought LeBron was an NBA legend. I predicted he would end his career with four rings. That number seemed to be a fair goal for this phenom.
This Fall, LeBron will play his 16th season in the league. He’s at the end of his prime. His drop from being the best player, will be a slow leak. James changing teams provides advantages to his legacy. It’s lame in some ways as he recharges with new groups of talent. It’s brilliant in other ways because he proves his adaptability to different situations. Every time he leaves a city, it creates celebration dividers for his story. The mobility enhances his brand. King James is wearing the basketball world down with his relevance. Being a champ in a third city will be his fans claim to justify why he is the greatest. It may be a more muddy road than MJ took, but many will see James fourth chip as “G.O.A.T. like status.”
This means LeBron needs one more ring. I think he will get two.
This is the goal. I need to pick 53 NFL players to fill out a roster. I have to get ten guys for a practice squad. The pool of athletes I’m choosing from is from 1980 to 2018. Let’s say they are playing a season for me, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. This is not a list of the 63 best players I’ve seen. I’m trying to build a team. Here are the NFL player’s I’d trust the most.
Tom Brady/Joe Montana/Aaron Rodgers/Steve Young
I rank Elway higher than Young all time. In this case I’m mixing it up with a lefty, and a beyond scrimmage runner like Steve Young. Rodgers can be my “hail mary” guy. I would have used John there as well.
Walter Payton/Marshall Faulk/Terrell Davis/LaDainian Tomlinson/Marcus Allen
Payton is the best football player on this team. T.D. and L.T. can carry the load. Faulk stretches the field and will excel in the slot. Marcus Allen can play full back and gets it done in short yardage.
Jerry Rice/Randy Moss/Calvin Johnson/Michael Irvin/Larry Fitzgerald
The first three are the best I’ve seen do it. Irvin is the groups motivator. Fitzgerald beat out Cris Carter by an inch.
Tony Gonzalez/Rob Gronkowski/Jason Witten
Witten will also help make up for not having a traditional full back.
Larry Allen/John Hannah/Anthony Munoz/Bruce Matthews/Jonathan Ogden/Gary Zimmerman/Randall McDaniel/Dermontti Dawson
These dudes are impressive. They can all play the entire defensive backfield. Most versatile unit on this trust squad. They can block and tackle on special teams. Some can play running back and receiver. If Reed touches the ball, he’s magic. Barber can cover the Welker types. Lott and Polamalu can play spot linebacker duty, and a couple can throw.
LeBron James has hit the point where he is only compared to legends of the past. His name is involved in daily G.O.A.T. conversations. What matters most is who you have to face in your time. There is a simpler way to measure how dominant LeBron has been. Think about Kevin Durant.
Kevin will thrive in the NBA for years to come. If we paused his career today, he’s a top 20 ever type. KD is a unique, all time great.
2012 NBA FINALS: LeBron let the NBA know that he was King. His Miami Heat handled Kevin’s Oklahoma City team in five games. Durant did his part scoring over 30 a game, and shooting 55 percent from the floor. James was the best player in the world. KD was the second best.
2013-2016: This was Durant’s OKC prime. He became a better defender and passer. He was the NBA MVP. He delivered scoring title number four, dropping a ridiculous 32 points a night. KD was like a better Dirk. He was part of deep playoff runs. He was still the second best.
2017 NBA FINALS: We had adjusted to Durant having joined the Golden State Warriors. Kawhi Leanord was now in this conversation. KD had been amazing all year, and had another shot at LeBron in the NBA Finals. James was now a Cleveland Cavalier and had Kyrie Irving by his side. Golden State took down the Cavs four games to one. KD was the man! It was truly his moment. He made the two signature buckets of the series to close out game three. He took home his first Finals MVP trophy.
The series ended. James was walking into the tunnel with another championship loss. I paused the TV to soak something in. I remember thinking James physical impact still outweighs KD’s gifts. Durant was the best player in the Finals, but was still the second best in the NBA.
2018 NBA FINALS: Kevin got a second straight shot at LeBron in June. The Warriors were heavy favorites and made Vegas look smart. It was a four game sweep. Durant was once again named the most valuable player. James hurt his hand irresponsibly after game one. He lost steam in game four. Kevin was rolling, and right on schedule made clutch memories at the end of game three. This is where they switch in ranking right? This is the peak of being able to argue that Durant is better than James. He’s still number two.
There are some things Durant does better. He still has a little time to catch or pass him. He’s just played his best when it matters most, twice. He is still not as good as King James. It’s fun comparing LBJ to guys from thirty years ago. To see LeBron’s true greatness, just look at Kevin Durant.
I enjoy ranking players. Separating teams is a more difficult task. I’ll rank the rosters that played between 1986 to 2018. These are the ten best team’s I’ve ever seen. They are all champions, and I listed each groups key members.
#10-2013-14/ SAN ANTONIO SPURS (62-20) Gregg Popovich
They outscored the Heat by 70 points in their five game Finals series. No doubt Spurs fans will see this as a slight. I may not even have picked their best club. It’s my favorite Spurs roster.
Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leanord, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green.
#9- 1990-91/ CHICAGO BULLS (61-21) Phil Jackson
Chicago lost two playoff games by a combined four points. Sweeping the Pistons in the East Finals was the needed break through that led to a dynasty. Jordan himself, likes to push this team into conversations.
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, John Paxson, B.J. Armstrong.
#8-2007-08/BOSTON CELTICS (66-16) Doc Rivers
I was a Kobe fan, watching him play this Boston group for the world title. My take before the series was, “The Celtics are too barrel chested and tough for these Lakers.” They were a team full of gritty stars.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen, James Posey, Glen Davis, Eddie House.
#7- 2012-13/MIAMI HEAT (66-16) Erik Spoelstra
This was LeBron trusting his ability to win. Beating the Spurs made this back to back even more impressive. The Heat won 27 straight games.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Norris Cole.
#6- 1999-00/LOS ANGELES LAKERS (67-15) Phil Jackson
The following year the Lakers were 15-1 in the playoffs. I picked this unit because it had a bounce, and a fresh energy. Phil Jackson was exactly what was needed. Shaq was his most motivated self. Kobe became the perfect second best player on the team….while being the second best player in the league.
Shaquille O’ Neal, Kobe Bryant, Glen Rice, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Ron Harper, A.C. Green, Brian Shaw.
#5- 1988-89/DETROIT PISTONS (63-19) Chuck Daly
“The Bad Boys” defined the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with rough and tumble basketball. Over their time, they went through Jordan, Bird, and Magic. They traded Adrian Dantley mid season, and kept the ship floating.
Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, Bill Lambeer, Adrian Dantley/Mark Aguire, John Salley, Rick Mahorn, Vinnie Johnson, James Edwards.
#4- 2016-2017/GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (67-15) Steve Kerr
The most talented shooting team to ever lace them up. They played defense. The way they shared and moved the ball was brilliant. The Warriors went 16-1 in the post season on their way to this ring.
Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguadola, Shaun Livingston, David West, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee.
#3- 1985-86/BOSTON CELTICS (67-15) K.C. Jones
Look at the front line here. Bird at his apex, McHale, Parrish, and Walton off the bench. Best front court ever. These Celtics were 40-1 at home.
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Bill Walton, Jerry Sichting, Scott Wedman.
#2- 1986-87/LOS ANGELES LAKERS (65-17) Pat Riley
This was showtime running at its smoothest. James Worthy tore it up in the playoffs. He had prime Magic, and Byron Scott on his side. Kareem had his last star caliber season. Michael Cooper was the Defensive Player of the Year. Taking down Boston was the icing on the cake.
Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, A.C. Green, Mychal Thompson, Kurt Rambis.
#1- 1995-96/CHICAGO BULLS (72-10) Phil Jackson
This team could guard all over the floor. They were long and versatile. Are the 1996 Bulls the best ever? They are up there. When things are even, I’ll take Michael Jordan in any number one spot.
There is no disputing that Terrell Owens is one of the most polarizing athletes of all time. He’s a guy that’s left us with a lot to talk about.
Here are my memories of the unforgettable T.O.
HE POSED ON THE TEXAS STADIUM STAR– It was the opening month of the 2000 NFL season. After catching a touchdown pass early in the game, San Francisco’s Owens ran to the middle of the Texas Stadium field to celebrate on the star. It was one of the most obnoxious things I’d ever seen. Dallas came back down the field, and Emmitt Smith plunged into the end zone. Emmitt headed to the same place in the center of the turf. He slammed the ball down, turned to the 49er side line and yelled, “this is our house!” I was actually more upset with Smith than Owens. Instead of being proud of Emmitt’s retaliation, I felt like he was adding to a weird circus. I also knew the Cowboys were over matched on this Sunday, and better be quiet. Late in the game, Owens scored again. He ran back to the middle of the field. This time he was greeted by Dallas safety George Teague, who shoved him off the spot. Terrell made sure and got in the pose like he had intended. At that point, T.O. was public enemy number one to Cowboys fans.
HIS PEAK AS AN EAGLE– The Owens, Donovan McNabb thing ended horribly. Before that, Owens peak as a Philadelphia Eagle was something to behold. Terrell’s physical attributes were on full display. His explosion off the line of scrimmage is unmatched to this day. His football IQ, dominance, and his ability to play winning ball were all melting in harmony. His Super Bowl performance, coming off an injury was likely his most impressive feat as professional.
THE SAYING “81 ON A MISSION”– A short time later, Owens became a Dallas Cowboy. Naturally, he was easy to hate until he put on my favorite teams jersey. I then put his jersey on my back. There is a sports hypocrite in all of us. Early in his journey on one of his sound bites, T.O. said the following: “They say Randy Moss is Mr. Clutch? They better look again…81 on a mission!” That saying took over mine and my buddy Jon Brown’s life. It wasn’t just something we said when Owens made a play. We said it for everything. I just woke up, “81 on a mission”. I just got groceries, “81 on a mission.” When we saw Terrell before a 2008 game, you can guess what we yelled to him in unison… “81 on a mission!”
A TIMELY CHANT FROM THE CROWD– October 5th, 2008. The Cincinnati Bengals were in Dallas to play the Cowboys. It was a competitive game. I was in the stands with Jon Brown, Anthony Mower, Tyler and Randall Pettit. Late in the third quarter this fan in front of us starting chanting “T.O… T.O…T.O…” It was a little random. The fourth quarter started and it was obvious what Dallas needed WAS a play from Owens. There was twelve minutes left in the fourth quarter. I decided the annoying guy was right. If you can’t beat em, join em. As loud as we could we chanted “T.O… T.O….” I’d guess we got about 600 people to join us during a time out. On the very next play, Owens caught a 57 yard TD pass from Tony Romo. Dallas eventually won the game, True or not, we felt like we did our part.
A SAYING THAT I TOOK TO HEART– On his episode of “A Football Life” T.O. said one of the coolest things ever. “You got to stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready.” I love it, and try to live it.
EVEN WHEN HE WAS SINCERE, HE WAS CRITICIZED– January 13th, 2008. The 13-3 Cowboys lost a playoff game against the eventual world champion New York Giants. Owens felt Romo was the one being blamed. In a sincere, tear filled defense T.O. said, “You can point the finger at him. You can talk about the vacation. If you do, it’s really unfair. That’s my teammate. That’s my quarterback. If you do that, that’s unfair. We lost as a team.” I thought that was the most genuine moment of his NFL life. Instead of getting credit for his team first attitude, Owens has been clowned for it ever since.
NOT ATTENDING HIS OWN HALL OF FAME ENSHRINEMENT– Everyone knows Terrell Owens is a Hall of Fame player. It’s not about the incredible numbers. It was about his level. He was a work ethic guy, and a bionic force. I’m a Hall of Fame nerd. I love the process, the arguments, and the induction speeches that come along with it. I’m very disappointed that Owens has decided to not go to Canton Ohio this August. He will speak at his alma mater, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. This has been scheduled on the same day (August 4th) that the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be conducting their ceremony.
I thought Owens should have been elected into the Hall in his first or second year of eligibility. When year three came, he was voted in. He has the right to be mad, and to not show up in Canton. Owens told Eric Dickerson last week he would have attended if he made it on the first ballot. There have been many players near Owens level who had to wait much longer. The process is flawed. Cris Carter put it, “he thinks his tears are more important than the other guys.”
I reached out to a mentor, Derrick Pearson a couple of weeks ago to rant. DP said to me, “So, you are sensitive that he is sensitive?” That comment threw me off. I then said, “yes. If I’m sensitive about his choices, I get Owens is someone who has made it in life.” Terrell is one of the most important characters in the games history. He has the right to do what he wants, and I have the right to be bugged by it. What he says next month matters. I want his Hall of Fame peers to know he DOES respect them. This is not a daring, pioneer like move by Terrell by skipping out. He felt insulted by having to wait for this honor. Perception wise, this cements T.O. as the greatest individual, in a sport built on the idea of team.
The only offended people that should matter, are those that have gold jackets themselves. It’s like Terrell gets one more game this August. I bet he says some things that help me see his side of things. The selfish fan in me, wishes he would celebrate with the class of 2018. On a day he will be king of a league he dominated, he could be starring on their stage one more time. Terrell Owens will live in the Pro Football Hall of Fame forever. I wanted to see him there on the day he gets the keys to the place.
When you see potential gaps of time missing from Jordan’s career, it’s in three places. He broke his foot in his second season. He retired twice. A few of his legendary peers went right from high school to the NBA. Michael spent three years at the University of North Carolina. It was a different world in 1983. The VHS tape was just catching fire, and we had to watch commercials. To be a student at Chapel Hill was the best choice for his path at that time.
Jordan’s college and Olympic success reached the highest levels. Dean Smith helped mold him. In 1983-84 Michael peaked as the best player in the country. He was an NCAA champion in 1982.
Most of you know the story. MJ was a freshman and his UNC Tarheels were playing Georgetown for the NCAA championship. UNC was down one point with fifteen seconds left. Michael’s iconic jump shot was the go ahead basket. North Carolina is a champion forever. That play was Jordan’s clutch side introducing itself.
Right before he became an NBA rookie, Mike was busy taking other countries to summer school. The 1984 United State’s Olympic team was the last amateur U.S squad to win a gold medal in men’s basketball. They were 8-0 and won by an average of 32 points.
Wikipedia describes the tournament in the “Legacy” category this way. “The 1984 Olympics were a coming-out party for Michael Jordan, who led the U.S. team in scoring and dazzled the worldwide viewing audience with his athleticism and speed.”
He won with terrific players in both situations. Fact remains, Jordan was a winner before his NBA days. It should matter just a little more than it does. This is the age of debate and details.
Team USA was coached by Bobby Knight. He is one of the biggest names and controversial figures known to the sport. Shortly after Jordan’s first retirement in 1993, Knight sat down with David Letterman and said the following:
“Michael Jordan is the best that’s ever played anything. To draw a comparison maybe you could pick Jim Brown or Babe Ruth. I think Michael took it to a different level.”
“We were going for the gold medal in Los Angeles in 1984. We are playing Spain and we led by 28 points at the half. Jordan has played 11 minutes. He has 19 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists. We played the game as well as basketball can be played. I’m a great believer of lets play better in the second half. I’m walking across the floor and thinking, what am I going to say to get us to play any better? I open the locker room door and the first person I see is Michael. I figure I should jump all over him, to make a point to the other guys.”
“I walk over and I say Mike, when you gonna set a screen? We got four guys out their screening, when the hell you gonna screen somebody? All you’re doing is rebounding, passing and scoring. Screen somebody out here! Mike looked up at me and said…”coach didn’t I read last week you said I’m the quickest player you’ve ever been around?” I said, ya, what does that have to do with you screening? MJ answered “coach, I think I set them quicker than you can see them.”