Saturday, April 16, 2005

 

B-Ball's Back!

It was not too long ago that I couldn't have cared less about NBA basketball. Somewhere around the time Michael Jordan retired (the first time), I really lost interest. At such point, to me, pro basketball slipped into a slump of blandness. Or worse, it seemed a club of spoiled primadonnas who cared more about padding their own personal stats than winning games and having allegiance to their teams.

But now, something's changing and I'm pretty excited about it. It's almost beckoning back to those glorious Larry Bird/Magic Johnson days of yore. And I'm not just saying that because the Denver Nuggets are in the midst of an unbelievable turnaround this season. (Currently on a ten game winning streak, they are hitting their stride at exactly the right time.)

Finally, there is formidable competition between the East and the West, as well as some really exciting guys to watch. And these young guys actually have class. Lebron James is barely 20 years old and this kid is amazing. He's immensely talented, mature, and fairly humble for someone who is already drawing comparisons to the legendary MJ. In a similar camp, though I'd tone down the hyperbolic praise for him just a tad, is Dwayne Wade. He's a cool, smart kid with some big time skillz.

This also happens to be one of the first years in recent memory that anyone really cares about the MVP award. Bill Simmons offers up some of his patented wit on the subject here. Among his highlights from the top 3 contenders:

3) Dirk Nowitzki - "One of the biggest surprises of the season: Dirk Nowitzki developing a nasty streak. Who knew? Has there ever been a tougher European player? Actually, let's rephrase that – has there ever been a TOUGH European player? ... Having a cocky, snarling 7-foot German guy with 25-foot range has to rank among the highlights of the season. Who's more fun to root against than Dirk Nowitzki?"

2) Allen Iverson - "I mean, this has been going on for like 10 years – he keeps getting knocked down, keeps getting up, keeps ripping teams' hearts out. Throw in his insanely intense interviews and he's a solid No. 2 choice. Plus, he's the new Clubber Lang – I don't think he's cracked a smile in six years."

1) Shaquille O'Neal - "Try to follow this equation:
A. The Lakers won 57 games last year ... they're headed for 35 wins this year.
B. The Heat won 42 games last year ... they're headed for 62 wins this year.
I'm no John Hollinger, but even I can add that up: That's a 42-game swing, not to mention the balance of power shifting to the East. And yes, that should have been enough to win Shaq another MVP."

I do think Simmons is crazy, however, for not putting Steve Nash in his top three. In fact, I'd have to agree with Marc Stein that Nash should win the top award. But just the fact that I even care about who wins the NBA MVP this year is good enough for me. Afterall, we've still got a bit of a wait until football season starts back up...

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