Tag Archives: Hakeem Olajuwon

THE 35 GREATEST PLAYER’S I’VE SEEN IN THE NBA

Jay C. Brandriet

7/1/18

This is not an all time list. It’s not even a “my time” list. There are several players I watched that I did not include (Kareem. Moses, and more).  I wanted to focus on those I felt I saw at their best.  It’s a challenge not to list about 125 guys. Here are the 35 I’d claim are the best I’ve seen to date. Kyrie, Dominique, and Alonzo Mourning just missed the cut.

 

#35- TRACY MCGRADY – If you can score 13 points in 35 seconds to beat the Spurs, you’re hired.

#34- JAMES WORTHY– I picture him waving the ball around like it’s a grape fruit. First step, spin move, two points.

#33- PAUL PIERCE- I always thought of Paul as a grind it out, low-level superstar. In the end, he had a phenomenal career.

#32- GRANT HILL- He was such a big deal as a new age point forward. As an older player, Grant became a defensive guy.

#31- KEVIN MCHALE– Karl Malone and Charles Barkley both called McHale their toughest matchup. Kevin was a back to the basket stud.

#30- JASON KIDD- Pushing the ball with that hard dribble, J Kidd had eyes everywhere.

#29- CHRIS WEBBER – His hands were basketball magnets. Sensational passer. Chris hit the top five player level in the pros.

#28- GARY PAYTON – In his defensive crouch, Palms showing. Rocking his head side to side, and chewing his gum like the cockiest man alive. “The glove” was legit.

#27- JAMES HARDEN – Point flurry’s, step back threes, makes you foul him…Harden is an offensive witch.

#26- RUSSELL WESTBROOK- More than all these triple doubles, Westbrook’s competitive fire is the story.

#25- PATRICK EWING- Patrick had the size, rugged traits, and one of the most elegant shots from the baseline.

It’s a joke Chris Webber is not in the Hall of Fame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#24- SCOTTIE PIPPEN- On six title teams, Pippen ranged anywhere from the third to twelfth best player in the world.

#23- CLYDE DREXLER- Clyde was a classic aerial player and finisher at the basket. Rare Drexler note: He finished in the top ten in steals, seven times.

#22- STEVE NASH- He almost glided as he ran. Nash was a degree of difficulty shot maker, and his percentages are clean.

#21- KAWHI LEONARD- Before he went down with injury last May, I thought Kawhi was ready to challenge LeBron James as the best in the game.

#20- ALLEN IVERSON- His blinding quickness, aggressiveness, and long arms made him so unique.  Iverson mopped up the floor with his body.

#19- CHRIS PAUL- He competes like he wants to bite your face off. Chris has led the league in steals six times.

#18- JOHN STOCKTON- He destroyed bigger people fighting through picks. John’s precision and decision-making were an art.

#17- ISIAH THOMAS Isiah played the game like he knew he was being watched. He was a showman, built for the big moment.

     

At this point, Steph Curry does not need the validation of a “Finals MVP trophy”. Dude is brilliant.

                                                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

#16- CHARLES BARKLEY- He shot 58 percent from the field over his first six seasons. Chuck’s work on the boards is still baffling for his height.

#15- DIRK NOWITZKI- His Finals MVP performance in 2011, is etched in my mind as true greatness. Five players in history have more points than Dirk,

#14- DWYANE WADE- I remember those hesitation dribble moves, before he’d explode to the hoop. Wade was a  closer from day one.

#13- DAVID ROBINSON – Robinson was chiseled, mobile, and cat quick. He owns the NBA’s last quadruple-double.

#12- KARL MALONE – “The Mailman” running the outside lane, and rattling the rim  in his early days was a scary sight.

#11- KEVIN GARNETT- One of the most versatile players to live. KG wouldn’t even let the other team score, after the whistle.

#10-STEPHEN CURRY- He became the first player to attempt a three point shot from 29 feet….early in the shot clock…and it still felt responsible.

#9- KEVIN DURANT- Looking at Durant’s controversial move a couple years ago, he’s now covered himself by his June performances.

#8- TIM DUNCAN- Tim was a coaches dream. Poise. Brains. Worker. Unselfish.  All time winner.

#7- SHAQUILLE O’NEAL- Shaq couldn’t be guarded in his prime. He was an automatic dunk, and led the NBA in field goal percentage ten times.

#6- HAKEEM OLAJUWON- At his apex, his offense and defense were both a ten. He covered space in the blink of an eye.

“Dream” is the best defensive player I have seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#5- LARRY BIRD– For all the attributes he brought to the game, Bird also had an intimidating swagger.

#4- KOBE BRYANT- For my money, the most over all skilled player in NBA history.

#3-MAGIC JOHNSON- Most fitting nickname in all of sports.

#2- LEBRON JAMES- Think of the career he has had. LeBron will dominate for at least five more years and it’s mind-blowing.

#1- MICHAEL JORDAN – From what I’ve seen over 32 seasons, Jordan is the clear standard by which basketball excellence is measured.

 

Jay C. Brandriet

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THIS DECADES TWO MOST OVERRATED PLAYERS ARE NOW UNDERRATED

Jay C. Brandriet

6/26/18

Think about how often Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard are ripped on. They now seem to be people’s punching bags more than they are ball players.  Both are Polarizing men whose flaws have been the bigger part of their stories.

The following is understood. Carmelo hasn’t won enough. NBA insiders almost refer to him as the “he can’t win guy.” He will always be seen as a non defender. It’s too late in his journey to be among the VERY best to play. Today, he’s over paid while his game is failing. The media loves his struggle and proves it by piling on.

From a capability stand point, Anthony is one of the 15 greatest scorers to come along. The mid range game was butter, and he was clutch. Melo is an Olympic basketball hero. When he was on “my team”, I trusted him. He will score point 26,000 this winter, and has ten All-Star games on his resume. For all the grief Carmelo gets, don’t forget he will end up in the Hall of Fame.

These two have been criticized so much, fans may have forgotten they are great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howard is a more extreme case. He’s better than Melo, and is disrespected a level worse. Dwight’s reputation has struggled because his results seem less than his body and talent suggest they should be. His light-hearted nature and demeanor do not help. Kobe Bryant calling Howard “soft” was another blow to his image. Many of you tell me he never turned into the scorer you thought he’d become. We know he can’t shoot free throws. Dwight is going through teams at a rapid rate. Stephen A. Smith just called him “irrelevant.”

Howard once led a team to the NBA Finals. He finished second for league MVP in 2011. What he lacked in offensive structure, he made up for by being a special athlete.  For a window of time, he was a true superstar. He will never be Hakeem or David Robinson. With that said, he’s better than Dikembe Mutombo and as good as Alonzo Mourning (I like Zo’s game more, but it’s close). Howard HAS accomplished things that suggest he did work.

Three time Defensive player of the Year.

Led the NBA in total rebounds six times.

Averaged 20 points or more four times.

Finished first or second in field goal percentage six times.

In 95 playoff  games… Howard averages 18.4 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks.

Last year, four seasons after being called “finished”…Dwight was on the floor 81 times. He delivered 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds. He had 32 points and 30 boards in a game last March. Nobody had done that in seven years. That’s as good as irrelevant gets.

Jay C. Brandriet

 

 

 

 

WHY THE “NBA MOUNT RUSHMORE” DOESN’T WORK ANYMORE

Jay C. Brandriet

6/23/18

A common challenge often handed out in pro basketball chatter is to name your “NBA Mount Rushmore”.  I assume this means the four players you think were the best, who won the most, and had the largest impact on the sport.  I’d ask who you would choose, but it doesn’t work anymore. Too many legends have come through to fill just four spots.

I believe there are ten guys with a case SO STRONG, they can’t be left off this massive South Dakota sculpture.

MICHAEL JORDAN

LEBRON JAMES 

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR

MAGIC JOHNSON 

BILL RUSSELL 

WILT CHAMBERLAIN

KOBE BRYANT

LARRY BIRD 

SHAQUILLE O’ NEAL 

TIM DUNCAN

 

No matter which four I pick, you can pick four just as good.

 

 

 

 

 

Smart arguments could also be made for Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Dr. J, and Hakeem. Elgin Baylor or Havlicek would be legit choice for an older fan. I’d get your pioneer angle if you just had to add  Mikan or Cousy. Give KD and Steph some more years of domination, and wow. I know it’s just for fun, but we need a bigger mountain.

Jay C. Brandriet

 

 

 

THE DRAMATIC SHIFT IN THE PERCEPTION OF MICHAEL JORDAN

Like every part of his craft, Jordan took pride in his passing skills.

Jay C. Brandriet

5/10/18

It’s been 20 seasons since Michael Jordan added his sixth ring and retired as a member of the Chicago Bulls.  From that time to today, there has been a dramatic shift in how people perceive MJ.

 

 

Jordan is the greatest player I’ve ever seen, in any sport. The first 10 years after hitting that shot at Utah, he was actually overrated. Really!

Fans said he was WAY better than Magic and Bird. I had to explain it was closer than that.

They said Pippen was a joke. The focus was on how he was NOT a top 50 player. They talked about how in his first few years he was essentially a nobody. I was told how Michael had to push him physically and challenge him mentally. It was said Michael created Pippen. I had to tell them regardless of that, Scottie was anywhere from the 4th to 13th best player in the world on six championship teams.

People said Rodman was a detriment. They said he was a distraction, Apparently all he could do was rebound, and was not worthy of the Hall of Fame. I would talk about the energy he created to change crowds and games nightly.

Hakeem and his Rockets still don’t get enough credit for their back to back titles in the mid 1990’s, because Mike was playing baseball.

Even from people who hated MJ, his reputation became inflated. It’s like he never missed a shot, never lost a game, and never failed in the clutch.  The idea was “Air Jordan” couldn’t possibly have a flaw or have done anything wrong on the basketball floor. As a Washington Wizard, he was still a legit All-Star (top 24 to 30 player). He was viewed as a mythical figure, even as he now had cracks. I had to bring up  the mistakes, and the failures. Jordan was not perfect, he’s just the closest thing to a perfect player I have seen.

Now its two decades later and a shift has occurred. Time has passed and new greats have emerged. Many lovers of the game did not see MJ at his apex (1990-93). Jordan has actually become, underrated. I never thought I’d see it. I never thought I’d say it.

Kobe was a sobering figure in some ways. Not only did he play like Michael, he came awfully close to being as good. His career reminded us, legends keep coming and number 23 was probably a human being. LeBron James is the real deal. He is worth the noise he creates in sports. He also has legions of fans (who never saw prime Mike) making up lies and trying to alter the narrative on Jordan.

All of the sudden in 2018,  being undefeated and never being pushed to seven games in the Finals is not that big of a deal.

There is now this hilarious take that “Jordan never beat great teams in the Finals.”

Some TV personalities say with a straight face that Michael had help on his early Chicago teams, and underachieved.

The once ultra criticized  Scottie Pippen is now said to be among the VERY BEST to ever play, and MJ could never do anything without him.

There is this idea brewing that Michael was mostly a scorer, and may have lacked a complete game.

I’ve heard his numbers somehow have flaws compared to others.

I saw Jordan. He was the most complete, fundamentally sound player I have watched (he hit his free throws too). He was the most fierce, the most athletic, and creative. His ability to close games and choke teams out was THE KEY to his biggest victories.

No Michael could not average 50 points if he wanted, and he could not win games simply by using the force. If you are invested in LeBron’s climb up the ladder, put your focus on him. If you are trying to diminish who Jordan was, you are playing the fool.

 

 

 

I ADMIT IT…LEBRON JAMES IS THE SECOND BEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME

Jay C. Brandriet

3/25/18

Nobody has ever been this good at this stage of their career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just finished watching LeBron play a string of 20 straight games. It’s late in his fifteenth NBA season, and something hit me like a ton of bricks today. I think it’s time to say “King James” is the second best basketball player of all time. I could not be more objective on this subject. I’m not a “LeBron guy.” My buddy Russ used James as a weapon in arguments against my favorite players. I was built to hope LBJ did not succeed. Modern commentators (Nick Wright) that lie about Jordan, to build up James also annoy me to no end. If you saw Michael Jordan play in real-time at his apex, it would likely be obvious to you HE is the “GOAT.”

I’m a Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant fan. I have no horse in this race. I do not cheer for LeBron. If anything, I’d be the guy pointing out James said he would hit 80 percent of his foul shots for the first time this year, and that he’s currently at 72.6.

King was already in the argument as the second best ball player to live….then this season happened. He’s 53,000 total minutes into his career, and actually getting better. It’s not like he’s still an all-star or a superstar. LBJ is the best player in the world and it’s not close (and I AM a KD guy)! He’s adding onto his brilliance every single night. His turnaround jump shots have conviction, and they often resemble MJ and Hakeem. He feels himself from the three-point line. He’s thriving in odd team circumstances. James footwork is better, and his fakes have fakes. His post game is growing. I see more and more of his left hand. Even his missed shots are popping me out of my seat. If he’s lost foot speed or elevation, it’s a non issue. Coach Gordon Chiesa says he has “jack hammer power.”  That muscle and finesse are a wonderful marriage. LeBron reminds me of Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, and Clyde Drexler. He is better than an amazing basketball player at this point, he’s a walking parade of greatness.

His level most times this season felt similar to Michael Jordan late in his Bulls career (1997-98 window). He’s abusing teams in the clutch, and doing it in a variety of ways. He will sometimes point to his pretend watch as if to say, “It’s time for me to close things down.”  King is taking what he wants and his creativity and court vision are  outrageous. He’s aware of his legacy and enjoying the ride. He’s smiling and laughing a lot. LeBron should be getting heavy legs, instead he’s somehow been reborn.

Let’s mention the guys we are all thinking about.

Jabbar remains more accomplished than James, but I would now put Kareem third all time.

I know you are the games greatest winner Mr. Bill Russell.

Wilt was so legit, I’d guess he would average 32/15/5 in today’s game.

Earvin had the perfect nickname in “Magic.” I’d trust him to make a goofy trick shot in pressure, more than I’d trust James to knock down a free throw.

Larry Bird. Larry freaking Bird!

It’s not that Kobe Bryant bailed LeBron and his teammates out in crunch time in the Gold Medal Game….it’s that James fans were texting me “give it to Kobe” when the game was on the line. Bryant was the “Killer” on the “Redeem Team.”

Shaq was that guy for a handful of years.

Hakeem was this level for a minute. Oscar? West? No.

Tim Duncan won a “few games.” He’s not LeBron.

 

I’ve seen enough. LeBron is second! His sustained excellence with what’s to come is a tough package to beat. While there are aspects of other players gifts I prefer more, James will have a resume that will look like it’s own mountain. I can no longer deny just HOW great the king is. I’m factoring in that I expect him to dominate for another half decade and win one to three more titles.

I envision James carrying the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals this summer. Once there, against a better TEAM I give him a coin flips chance to win it all. I think he can actually do it. He scares me that much. James is a little over celebrated for getting to Finals series and losing (he should get a complete pass for 2007). LeBron wants to be the best ever. We need to be stricter at holding him to “AirJordan” standards.

It’s hard for me to put him over Kobe and Magic. It is just a Sunday in late March when the Cavs won a road game in New Jersey. I don’t want to be right, I want to get it right. I also don’t want to be late. This LeBron storm is coming.  If you can’t beat em, join em. James performance will back up my words, so it’s an easy claim to make.

Now, what will it take to catch that “ghost” Michael Jordan? Let’s talk about that after this season comes to an end.

Jay C. Brandriet

 

 

THE 25 BEST PLAYERS IN UTAH JAZZ HISTORY

Jay C. Brandriet

2/22/18

I’m grateful to have grown up in the same city as the Utah Jazz. While they have yet to win a world championship, the story of the NBA can not be told without them. Larry H. Miller, Jerry Sloan and others have created a culture that has been emulated by many.  Here is my version of the franchises 25 best players. I’m only factoring in each guys time playing for the Jazz (including New Orleans).

 

#25- MATT HARPRING (474 games) Harpring was a hard-nosed player who brought stability with 15 footers off of a curl play. Matt enjoyed irritating Carmelo Anthony. 

#24- BRYON RUSSELL (628 games) Bryon was the 45th overall pick in 1993. His 32 minutes a game in a ton of post season contests is why he beat out Donyell Marshall and John Drew for this spot on the list.

#23- RICH KELLEY (497 games) Kelley’s most productive year for the Jazz came with him scoring 15.7 points. He was also second in the NBA in rebounds (12.8) and eighth in blocked shots (2.1).

#22- GAIL GOODRICH ( 182 games) After an excellent career, Gail played his last three seasons in New Orleans. He could still fill it up. His best ever field goal shooting (49.5 percent) came with the Jazz in 1977-78.

#21- TRUCK ROBINSON (125 games) Len “Truck” Robinson made his time with the Jazz count. He averaged 23 points and 15 rebounds in his two seasons in New Orleans. The 6’7″ Robinson was invited to the All Star game in 1978.

#20- DERRICK FAVORS (478 games) Favors is a stout presence protecting the paint. He has also has shown value at center. Derrick has very good hands and continues to seem like an x factor in the team’s success.

#19- AL JEFFERSON (221 games) Al Jefferson will not go down as the biggest of names in basketball circles. With that said, Al could score and rebound in any city. In three campaigns with Utah, he dropped 18.5 points and pulled down 9.5 boards a night.  

During the 2018 All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, the league was buzzing about Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

#18- DONOVAN MITCHELL (55 games) Mitchell has arrived! Mature. Playmaker. Clutch player. His rookie awards won’t mean much long-term. This guy will end up in the Hall of Fame.

#17- MEHMET OKUR (474 games) Memo once put on a two month run of clutch shooting that would have made Larry Bird blush a little.

#16- JEFF MALONE (279 games) Malone had a remarkable ability to score, falling backwards. In his four years in Utah, Jeff shot 88.1 percent from the free throw line.

#15- PAUL MILLSAP (540 games) Paul was another drafting gem the Jazz can be proud of (47th overall in 2006). He’s the classic lunch pail player who has turned into a low-level NBA star.

#14- THURL BAILEY (708 games) Thurl was consistent. Old reliable. He was one of the best sixth men of his generation. Over the 1988 and 89 seasons he scored 19.5 points a night. Bailey made himself available in the community and fans in Salt Lake City love the man.

#13- RUDY GOBERT (301 games) The impact he makes on an NBA game is quietly all time great. The skill and the wingspan are outrageous. Rudy’s intense desire to compete is why the franchise trusts him.

Jeff helped the Jazz win 15 straight road games. He played in 100 playoff games and two slug fest Finals with the Chicago Bulls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#12- GORDON HAYWARD (516  games) In his seventh season in Utah, Hayward grew into one of the 25 best players in the world.

#11- RICKEY GREEN (606 games) I can still hear Hot Rod Hundley yelling, “the fastest of them all.” Green had three straight steals seasons of 2.3, 2.8, and 2.7 per game.

#10- CARLOS BOOZER (354 games) In May 2007, Carlos scored 35 points, and grabbed 14 rebounds in a game 7 at Houston. He also had memorable big game battles with Gasol and Odom where he held his own. I would often watch Boozer from 20 feet away. His high arcing baseline jumper was automatic.

#9- ANDREI KIRILENKO (681 games) “AK-47” was an exotic talent. He was like an elastic band being shot out of a cannon. Kirilenko’s  help defense and shot blocking made him a league wide stand out. Some of his all around talents, left him in statistical categories only he and Hakeem Olajuwon share.

#8- DARRELL GRIFFITH (765 games) The 1981 NBA Rookie of the Year, Griffith was an offensive star for five seasons before an injury. Darrell and his chain were 1980’s cool. His athletic play and rainbow jumpers are a popular memory in Jazz lore.

#7- MARK EATON (875 games) He was never appreciated by Jazz fans while he was active. Mark was the Defensive Player of the Year twice, and made five All-Defensive teams. He led the NBA in blocks four times. Eaton’s 5.6 rejections per game in 1984-85 is the best shot blocking season in NBA history.

#6- JEFF HORNACEK (477 games) His handles made Stockton’s life easier. Jeff’s sweet passing was over shadowed by his ability to shoot. Hornacek had the gift of ridiculous, crafty shot making.

#5- DERON WILLIAMS (439 games)  For a small window of time, Williams was the best point guard in the NBA. I always trusted his outside shot. Deron’s level in Utah, landed him on the Olympic “Redeem Team” in 2008.

#4- PETE MARAVICH (330 games) Arguably the most important model of showmanship the game has ever seen. “Pistol Pete” added an artful texture to basketball’s history. It’s awesome he played for the Jazz.

#3- ADRIAN DANTLEY (461 games)  AD would spin the ball in his hands, rock you to sleep, and score buckets for a living. He averaged 29.6 points on 56.2 percent shooting from the floor in his Jazz career. Dantley carried the Jazz organization before they were a true contender.

#2- JOHN STOCKTON (1,504 games) I loved to watch John think the game. His decision-making was so good, it seemed tangible. Most would be surprised John scored just under 20,000 points and hit 51.5 percent of his field goals. Stockton crushed bigger people’s bodies fighting through screens for two decades.

 

The two most durable players of all time. It’s so difficult to separate who is better. I took Karl’s power over John’s clutch play

#1- KARL MALONE (1,434 games) “The Mailman” led the Western conference in scoring six times. Malone may be the best player ever, without a ring. Red Auerbach said of Karl, “He’s a 6’9″, 260 pound monster, who runs the break like a deer.”

 

 

Jay C. Brandriet

 

 

THE MOST UNDERRATED BASKETBALL TEAM OF ALL TIME-DREAM TEAM 3

Jay C. Brandriet

8/29/16

The original “Dream Team” remains the greatest, most impactful group in basketball history. They are so iconic, they have cast a shadow over a team that could have hung with them on the floor. The 1996 version of Team USA was on the level of the 1992 squad. They are not given much credit for their sensational roster. Even “The Redeem Team” in 2008 gets more love because of their storyline. “Dream Team 3” is the most underrated basketball team of all time.

 

1992 VERSE 1996 THOUGHTS

I’ts close. I’d guess the 1992 squad would be a two or three point favorite each time. The reason would be Michael Jordan and Earvin Johnson, who was still Magic enough. It should be noted Larry Bird had a broken NBA body and was doing  Americans a favor by suiting up. Christian Laettner (a good pro) as a rookie would be the worst player on either squad.

 

1996 UNITED STATES MEN’S OLYMPIC BASKETBALL TEAM

 

CHARLES BARKLEY (Age 33)

KARL MALONE (Age 33)

JOHN STOCKTON (Age 34)

DAVID ROBINSON (Age 30)

SCOTTIE PIPPEN (Age 30)

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (Age 24)

HAKEEM OLAJUWON (Age 33)

PENNY HARDAWAY (Age 24)

GRANT HILL (Age 23)

GARY PAYTON (Age 28)

REGGIE MILLER (Age 30)

MITCH RICHMOND (Age 31)

 

COACHES: Lenny Wilkens, Jerry Sloan, Bobby Cremins, Clem Haskins

 

MY POINT?   

                                                                                                                                        “Dream Team 3” had five players from the 92 group. Then add Shaq at his peak of running fast and jumping high. Next is merely Olajuwon who had just been the best player in the world for two years. Penny and Grant Hill were superstars, right in the middle of putting their versatile stamps on the NBA. Gary Payton was at the top of his game. Reggie Miller had already proven he was a clutch legend. Oh my goodness Mitch Richmond could ball. They won by 32 points a game on the way to gold. This team got lost between the “Dream Team” breaking ground and the “Redeem Team” having to overcome struggle. For how good the 96 team was, it’s like they hardly exist in fans memories.

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Looking at this photo says it all.