Usually the mail is answered during my Weekly Countdown column on Fridays, but the holidays are momentarily negating that schedule. So here is the best of what was found hiding among the spam.
There was no small amount of mail regarding my
In answer to Bob's first question: The last time Abdul-Jabbar helped beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals was 1987. That would be a long time to maintain hatred, especially over something so relatively unimportant as a basketball game.
But I never hated him. And I'm not looking to discredit Kobe either. I was pointing out in this column that you can distill the pool of NBA championships over the last three decades to a small group of nine players. But of course that's not the only way of looking at it. In the bigger picture, Magic would not have won without Kareem, and Shaq would not have won without Kobe.
In this column, however, I was focusing on the leader of the recent championship teams. When it comes to the '80s Lakers, the leader was unquestionably Magic Johnson. As terrific as Abdul-Jabbar was, his Lakers didn't win a championship until Johnson arrived. Magic drove that team, he won three MVPs during their championship era ... I could go on and on.
During the Lakers' more recent run of three championships, Shaq was league MVP while averaging 28.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks over those three seasons. He was the dominant force in basketball.
Why do you call it a snub when all I did was praise Olajuwon? For each one of you who complains that Olajuwon isn't appreciated, there are at least two more sniping that Olajuwon won his titles only because
Isiah's Pistons won two championships over the last three decades. He was the leader of those teams. That's why he was on this list. Dumars was tremendous, absolutely. But there is no way Detroit wins those titles without Isiah.
Dan, we agree: Garnett deserved the championship that he and his Celtics won last season. I think everyone agrees with that.
So where is the disagreement? The other players you mentioned have all won more titles than Garnett, so of course he isn't in their class yet.
Boston won because Garnett transformed the Celtics into the league's leading defensive team, with Pierce and Allen following his example at that end of the floor. He has been recognized as league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. To say that Garnett isn't a superstar or a leader is ridiculous.
On my column
This is a great letter. I'd like to see more regional rivalries, but there are no answers. People used to think that the NFL could never overtake baseball because there weren't enough games in football, but that was before the growth of the NFL as a televised weekly holiday. Maybe the trends of media will cycle in another direction, or maybe the NBA's investments internationally will create a global audience that can exploit its extended schedule. But for the time being, there is no way for the 82-game NBA season to replicate the focus of the NFL's 17-weekend schedule.
I have long praised Duncan. But consider Garnett in the context of the previous letter noting the dreariness of the long NBA season. So he gets carried away once in a while. Big deal.
If Garnett gets too excited every now and then, that's a small price to pay for the effort he gives. Maybe he deserves a technical foul every now and then, but nothing should be done to decrease his effort because he sets an example that shames all of those who don't play hard.
I used to argue (sarcastically) that the league should ban coaches from the sideline and force the team captain to run the team and all substitutions during the game. In other team sports around the world -- soccer and rugby, for example -- coaches have very little influence while the ball is in play. But NBA coaches have become part of the televised drama, especially when the team is struggling.