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Who is the best player in the NBA?

September 20, 2010 1 comment

Kevin Durant has had a dream year. He won the NBA scoring Championship, gained plaudits galore, recently led the USA to the FIBA World Championship title and won the championship MVP in the process.

Many people have had their say on KD’s skills, with some claiming he may even go on to be the greatest scorer in NBA history, but is he even the best player in the NBA at the moment? Is the praise hyperbolic and premature or is Durant the real deal?

Categories: Basketball

Teams Wade in for Lebron

July 1, 2010 5 comments

Back in the 19th Century, European superpowers such as France, Britain and Germany engaged in a free-for-all for control of African countries rich in natural resources. This became known as the scramble for Africa. Right now in the NBA, there is a scramble to put this to shame as organisations from all around the league look for control of the NBA’s very own diamond mine, Lebron James. As if that wasn’t enough to get them going, Dwyane Wade is also up for grabs.

The reason is that the two superstars are now unrestricted free agents and free to sign for whoever they please and owners and general managers are falling over themselves to meet with them. For those of you more familiar with football than basketball, imagine Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both being available on Bosmans at the same time…

Just about every team in the NBA has been linked with King James, from Jay-Z’s abject New Jersey Nets to the once great Chicago Bulls. So what are the options for the current league MVP?

New Jersey Nets

The Nets finished last season with a dismal record of 12-70, becoming only the fifth team to lose 70 games in a season in the process. They need something and they see Lebron as the answer, or at least part of it. The Nets are due to move from Newark to Brooklyn for the 2011-2012 season and many believe that they are banking on the lure of the Big Apple to entice Lebron. However, the move appears to be behind schedule with groundbreaking at the site of the new Barclays Center only beginning in March of this year. So why would Lebron join what is quite frankly a shambolic outfit? The honest answer is I don’t know and I don’t think he will. That said, the Nets did meet with the great man and his representatives today (July 1st) and they feel it went well. Incoming Nets coach Avery Johnson said they had a “great presentation” and that he was glad they had “a chance to swing.”

Chicago Bulls

The NBA powerhouse of the 90s has fallen off the radar somewhat. They have never come close to replacing Michael Jordan (not that you can, mind!), but they really have fallen from grace. They do however, now have promising youngsters in the team. Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose look like stars of the future and many are excited at the prospect of them linking up with James, who is, let’s not forget, still only 25 himself. Indeed Lebron has spoken excitedly about Rose stating that the sky is the limit for him and there is of course the theory that Lebron is a life long Bulls fan. If this is true, can he resist the chance to restore the organisation to its former glory?

New York Knicks

Like the Nets, the Knicks had the chance to meet with James and his representatives today. They sent Coach Mike D’Antoni, President Donnie Walsh and former star player and now Walsh’s assistant, Allan Houston. There is again a theory that Lebron will be lured by the thought of living in New York, but surely he can go there whenever he wants anyway? Besides, he will spend half of the year on the road. Like the Bulls, the Knicks are a sleeping giant, but they have not shown any signs of being ready to compete for titles and they do not have youngsters like Noah and Rose. If Lebron wants a championship ring, he may go elsewhere, if he’s in it for the greenbacks, he may choose the Knicks.

Cleveland Cavaliers

James has turned the Cavaliers from a laughing stock to a genuine contender and is adored in Ohio as a result. He plays in a good team and earns great money so don’t rule out him staying put.

Dwyane Wade may not quite be the crossover star that James is but he is arguably a more interesting free agent case than him. At 28, D-Wade would be well-advised to choose it well as it will probably be his last chance to move whilst in his prime. Of all the star free agents on the market, Wade is arguably the least likely to move. He loves Miami as a city and Florida’s generous tax laws are a further incentive to stay put. He likes playing for the Heat and is acutely aware of the fact that no-one else will be able to match his current salary. Unlike James, Wade already has a ring and so the pressure to chase a championship is not there, but the complication comes in the form of the Bulls. Wade is a Chicago native and self-confessed Bulls fan. Will he be tempted? Furthermore, if the Bulls bag James, will this prove too much to turn down? We will see.

The two star players have only been free agents for a matter of hours and so their futures are still very much up in the air. The fact is that there are a lot of rumours and smoke and mirrors stuff going on. No one knows who is going where, but it is sure going to be fun watching and finding out!

Other free agents to watch

Joe Johnson (SG) – looks likely to stay in Atlanta on a six year $120 million contract

Dirk Nowitzki (PF) – the big German is tipped to remain a Mav despite a trip to NYC

Chris Bosh (C) – rumoured to be interesting the Knicks who may even try to unite him with James and Wade in an ambitious play

Amar’e Stoudemire (PF/C) – looks to be on the next plane out of Phoenix. Some sources claim the Knicks are keen on taking him and bringing him together with Johnson and James

Categories: Basketball

Kevin Durant: A star is born

May 7, 2010 Leave a comment

The 2009-2010 NBA season has catapulted one man to basketball superstardom: Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant. Sure Durant performed solidly in his first two seasons in the league, but this season, he flew off the charts.

30.1 PPG were enough to give him the NBA Scoring Championship ahead of Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony. His other statistics stacked up too. Field Goal % of.476, three point field goal % of .365 and a free throw % of.900 were up there with the best in the league. He also chipped in with 7.6 RPG, 2.8 APG and 1.4 SPG. He has clearly become a top-level, all round-performer at the tender age of 21 and a place in the All NBA First Team proves it.

Big things were expected of the Washington born small forward from the start. He played only one year’s college basketball at Texas and was prolific. He consequently declared himself eligible for the 2007 NBA Draft, at which he was the second pick for Seattle Supersonics behind Ohio’s Greg Oden. Durant’s first season for the Sonics was commendable if unspectacular as he won Rookie of the Year honours.

Kevin Durant in action (This image is the property of NBA.com)

At the end of 2007-2008 season, the Sonics relocated to Oklahoma and became the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Sonics had already become a somewhat unfashionable outfit after the glory years of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp in the 90s and the relocation did not help matters. In their inaugural season, the Thunder, despite the best efforts of Durant, slumped to a record of 23-59. The 2009-2010 season however, was a different story.

There is undoubtedly a direct correlation between the improvement in the franchise’s fortunes and the upsurge in Durant’s own form. As Durant moved in to the elite player category, the Thunder qualified for their first playoff series with a record of 50-32, something which echoes Lebron James’s early career. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, they met the top seeds and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers and lost in six games. It was still a laudable performance from the team with the youngest average age in the NBA and they will look to improve further next year, with their number 35 no doubt spearheading their charge.

At the age of 21, Durant has the world at his feet. Now an NBA superstar with a whopping endorsement contract from Nike to match, he really is close to a complete player. He is able to post up against bigger guys and shoot over the top of smaller guards. He can drive the lane or he can shoot from the perimeter. Perhaps Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are the only players currently in the NBA who are better all-round performers than Durant, but they have been doing it for years at the highest level. Can Durant go on and cement his place as a genuine megastar who consistently performs off the charts? This writer certainly thinks so and is very much looking forward to finding out.

For Kevin Durant’s Player Profile, visit http://www.nba.com/playerfile/kevin_durant/

Categories: Basketball

Lebron James: Global Superstar or US Phenomenon?

April 20, 2010 1 comment

If you were to ask basketball fans; “who is currently the best player in the NBA?” the likely answer would be Lebron James. A quick glance at his stats for the season shows why: 29.7 points per game, 8.6 assists per game and 7.3 rebounds per game, impressive numbers. Basketball is, however, much more than a numbers game and the positive effect Lebron has on the Cavs when he plays is intangible. His teammates show increased confidence levels and there is an extra buzz amongst spectators when he takes to the floor. Furthermore the sight of his name on the team sheet strikes fear into the hearts of opposing players. Whilst Cleveland is certainly not a one-man team, there is no doubt that they are a different proposition without their star man.

Lebron goes airborne for the dunk (This image is the property of NBA.com)

The effect the man nicknamed ‘King James’ has had on the franchise since he joined straight out of high school at the beginning of the 2003-2004 season is astounding. In the five seasons before James joined the Cavs, they failed to muster a single winning season and were frankly not even close to doing so. Their combined record over this period was a dismal 130-248. During the reign of King James, the improvement has been drastic. In every season bar Lebron’s rookie year, they have had a winning record and their steady improvement culminated this season in a highly impressive 66-16, the best record in the NBA. It remains to be seen whether this will translate in to playoff success.

So as we can see, the Akron born star is a genuine elite performer and his talent is beyond doubt, but has he transcended the sport and become a bona fide global superstar? There is no doubt that he is a big deal in the US where he was a nationally renowned figure even in high school. Endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, Sprite and Glaceau have helped boost his profile and made him a very wealthy man in the process but if you stopped people in the street in say the UK, Germany, France or China, how many people would know who he is?

Basketball has perhaps only ever had one true superstar, the great Michael Jordan. He singlehandedly gave the game a global presence and the vast majority of people know exactly who he is. A one-man marketing machine that even Bill Cosby must have envied, Jordan’s fame was undoubtedly all consuming. Who can forget the cardboard figure of the Bulls legend being used to ward off burglars in Home Alone!? Yes, he is the greatest player to ever play the game but there are many who believe that Lebron could go on to emulate and maybe even surpass the great one himself, so why is his fame much less widespread?

It is hard to put your finger on exactly why but it possibly owes to the fact that basketball is, to a great extent, still a US-centric sport. The influx of top level foreign players in to the NBA in the last 10 years or so (Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Yau Ming and Manu Ginobili amongst others) has helped popularise the game in other territories and the NBA is actively trying to bring the game to new fan bases, the now annual pre-season game at London’s O2 arena showing their commitment in this regard. Whilst this has had some success, the NBA still lacks the global exposure of football’s Premier League or golf’s PGA tour and consequently, Lebron James, whilst arguably more talented than David Beckham and Tiger Woods, will most likely never achieve their level of fame on a global scale.

Categories: Basketball