Wednesday, April 16, 2003

The NBA and ME

Before I get into what I was scheduled to write today (I am my own boss, so I won't mind if I don't get right to work), I need to address something I have noticed. We are writers. I use "we" here to include myself, all my writing peers in the BFA program, and the faculty. As writers, we need o experience life, not just write about it. Everything we do has the potential to make us better, not just as writers, you see, but as humans as well. Yet I see this growth of contempt amongst the writers around me for physical activity. I am not saying they are lazy, though some are I would imagine. Instead, it seems to be a deep seeded hatred for the sports world.

Perhaps, in their developmental years, hey were not picked first (or worse still, picked last) for all the group activities in phys ed. Perhaps they took the classic look at writers and thought they had to be studious book worms and geeky techies in order to be thought successful. Perhaps they weren't hugged enough. Whatever the case may be, they have grown into a group, by and large, that thinks sports is a departure from academia. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Even though some atheletes seem sloth like in speech or cave man like in attitude, the fact of the matter is most are very intelligent. It takes a lot more reasoning than one might think in order to break down a defense, make a no look pass, or execute a well designed play. Just because they are phsically endowded does not mean they are lacking in intellect. To think so is akin to thinking women should only be able to cook and clean, or that all chinese people are good at math. It is a stereotype, and should be treated as such.

Still, as a writer who enjoys sports, or a jock who enjoys writing, I am met with this bais regularily. What do I do about it? I let them think what they will, knowing my own anger would only fan the fire, and I continue to enjoy the two things equally. The more passions you can gain the better, I think.

And Now, As Promised, MVP Awards

Today is the last day of the regular season of the NBA. Of all the sports I enjoy, basketball is my favorite. It seems to be the perfect balace of team and individual. The team award is a simple one: the team who wins the playoffs is the best team-cut and dry. The individual awards are a bit harder. Defensive player of the year, Most improved, Best Sportsman, and Most Vaulable Player. These are all hard things to quantify. The stats don't always do the man justice. Some defenders can break you down with their on court presense as much and their defensive talent. I don't think you can measure that fully. I don't want to try.

I am going to look only at the MVP award, as it is the most exciting race we have had in a long time. There are five candidates who are mentioned, and another who is mentioned without serious regard. I will show the merits of each, as well as the shortcomings, and try to decide who should get the award.

More to come readers...taking a break.

Tracy MacGrady:

This guy is doing it without help, at all, and is doing it well. He lead the regular season in scoring, and managed to become one of the 25-5-5 ers. Other previous 25-5-5, Michael Jordan was one, Wilt another. But that alone won't make you an MVP. Kobe has similair numbers, so does Duncan and Garnett, for that matter. Tracy gets his nod because he is doing it all alone, and the magic are better of for it. Before, when McGrady would take matters into his own hands the result was a spectacular show, and a loss for the Magic. Now they are winning. He has found that he can make his team better by playing better, and he is distributing the ball now. All these things are improvements, which is why he should be looked at for Most improved (but he won't, because the league doesn't give that to stars).

Allen Iverson:

This is another one man show kinda guy, but he has a bit more help than T Mac does. Eric Snow has done a grat job for the team, and AI gets production from his frontcourt on occasion. Still, a guy who can drop double nickels while standing 5'11"(and that's generous), he should be talked about every year. He really gets a good nod because of the growth he has gone through as a person. He is a leader now. Whatever people think about him off the court-this guy makes other players better. He is good at the point, and has improved in the assist column, and he has not lost his edge with his maturity. Plenty of games would have been lost for Philly if AI had not stepped up.

Kobe Bryant:

Listen, you can't talk MVP without talking Kobe. This guy does it all. He shoots better than anyone in the league, creates space when it shouldn't be there, and still gathers over 6 boards and assits a game. People can say what they want, but there are some nights where he just isn't getting any help either. He played very well without Shaq this year, when he had to, and he put up that killer string of 40s. But during that time his team did more losing than winning. THis guy will be the next Michael Jordan, but he needs to learn how to lead. Like Mike, he is a yeller-he yells at the other players on and off the court. He called them out after that horrible 11-19 start and got production-and that is saying a lot when you look at some of the guys starting to produce (Mark Madsen-c'mon). But Jordan knew WHEN to do it, and Kobe needs to learn that. He could take a look at his coach for that skill. In the end though, the guy is just too self-reliant. He needs to Learn how to differ. If I had Shaq on my team, I would defer like crazy.


He doesn't really get talked about, and that is a shame. He IS the dominant force in the NBA. BUt is he the most valuable? No. What he does is something special, but without him, Kobe did pretty good. Smaki stepped up into the saddle, and Kobe went off. I don't think the same could be said in reverse...Without Kobve, Shaq qould have to take the whole load. I would like to see that, just to see how he would handle it, but I don't think it would go too well. Shaq needs someone to take pressure off of him, and defer to him when they need to overpower. I don't think he has learned how to lead, and I question his work ethic at times. an MVP is an MVP for 82 games, and I think the real Shaq only showed up for about 40 (injury and lame excuses kept him from the others).

Tim Duncan:

Now we are getting somewhere. This guy is a 20-10-5 a night guy. That means a lot for a team. He also wrangled the number one seed, and that speaks highly for him. He is the reigning MVP and he is putting up similair numbers this year. I am not sure of his abilty to finish this year, though. It seems like I saw Tony parker with the ball too much at the end of ogames. Or Jackson. Duncan should want it. He doesn't seem too hungry anymore. I think maybe he is looking too far ahead at other teams to move to next year, and it is hurting th ehere and now.

Kevin Garnett:

This years winner, in my book. He is another 20-10-5 player, but the numbers are even better this year than last. And he got the ailing T wolves home court advantage. He leads games now, makes role players stars (wally and Troy) and takes over games at the end. He lead the Crunch time stats with over 300 points this year, the next being Kobe with 270ish. That says a lot to shut up his critics, who claimed he didn't finish. Most importantly though is he is an all around player. He plays defense and offense all game long-is second in total minutes, with over forty, leads SF position in rebounds and assists, and gets 23 ppg. Not too shabby. A lot of players are one sided, but he also has over 2 blocks a game, and somewhere around a steal and a half. He usually gets the terams best player, and he shuts them down regularly. He also led the league in triple and double doubles. What he does in the post season (series tied 1-1 as I write) has no bearing on this award, but I should point out he just had a 35-20 night. Without him, the T wolves would be a lottery team.

SO KG gets it this year in my book, and I think he might from others as well. David Aldridge wrote him up, as did SI writer Jack MacCullum. You can check out what they, and a host of other writers, had to say about KGs chances here

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