Before we get to the mailbag, I wanted to announce that a record was broken during Round 2 of the NCAA Tournament for “Most e-mails about the exact same random subject.” Let’s have Vicki from Charlotte explain:
“I was enjoying a lovely Sunday afternoon at the gym when I realized March Madness was on the television screen in the fitness area. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to impress my boyfriend (a diehard Tar Heel fan) and return home with some knowledge about one of the games. However, as I watched the Bradley (BRAD)/Pittsburgh (PITT) game and checked out the score (in the bottom corner), I couldn’t get past the fact that the score read “BRAD PITT.” I actually laughed out loud. It was even spelled correctly! Needless to say, I couldn’t tell my boyfriend a single fact about the game and wound up looking even more like your stereotypical girl. Any suggestions?”
Don’t worry, Vicki — you weren’t alone. At least 50 male readers e-mailed me just to say that their wives or girlfriends noticed the exact same thing. A quick sampling:
While watching the Pittsburgh-Bradley game for 2 hours, my wife sits down on the couch and within 3 minutes asked why it says “Brad Pitt” on the screen. I guess the tourney really has something for everyone.
— Ted Reed, Minneapolis
Wife walked in while I was watching Bradley-Pitt in the second round, looked at the score in the bottom right of the corner, and said, “Wow … the screen says Brad Pitt!” Yet another reason to ban all women during tournament time.
— Kevin, Albany, N.Y.
In the spirit of your Sports Gal/Sports Mom NCAA Tournament brackets, my wife had the following comment during the Bradley/Pitt game. She says in the most excited voice I have heard from her during televised sports and tells me that the box score says “Brad Pitt.” Only a woman would notice that.
— Ryan, Phoenix
And so on. My favorite e-mail came from David Rushall in Denver, who noticed the graphic before his wife and reported afterward, “I kept telling my wife ‘Look, there’s Brad Pitt!’ She could not believe I could pick him out of the crowd during live play, so she continued to scan the crowd. After a while I let her know it was just the score in the upper left corner: BRAD 74, PITT 66. I giggled and continued to point him out every 10 minutes until the games ended.”
Was this some sort of sociological experiment by CBS? Were they trying to increase the number of domestic violence incidents during that first weekend? Nobody knows. But the BRAD PITT saga led to an intriguing question from Dan in Villanova:
“This made me wonder if there were any other match-ups in any sport where the abbreviation would be a celebrity’s name. I bet each of my buddies $5 that I could think of another one besides BRAD PITT. Can you come up with any? I don’t feel like losing $30.”
Well, I racked my brain trying to come up with one match-up so Dan didn’t have to lose the 30 bucks. Couldn’t think of one. So I went to ESPN.com’s page that lists every college hoops team and wrote down every possible name that could fit into one of those spots for a graphic: TEX (Texas), RICH (Richmond), PITT (Pittsburgh), BRAD (Bradley), PENN (Penn), BROWN (Brown), BALL (Ball State), CAL (California), JACK (Jacksonville), SAM (Samford), BUCK (Bucknell), KEN (Kentucky), KENT (Kent State), RIDER (Rider) and BROWN (Brown).
Playing the mix-and-match game, there are two possibilities: Either a Jacksonville-Bucknell game (JACK BUCK) or a Troy-Brown game (TROY BROWN) … and those two names aren’t even remotely in Brad Pitt’s class, nor would they have gotten your average female viewer to scream excitedly at the screen. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to realize that this BRAD PITT graphic was a once-in-a-lifetime event, not just because of the odds but because of the male-female ramifications in every household.
(By the way, I spent more than an hour figuring this out. And you wonder what I do all day.)
In the meantime, let’s break open another mailbag. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.
Q: So, let me be the first (or 1800th) person to ask: Where in the hell did Vinatieri signing with the Colts rank on the all-time ESPN “ticker shock” moments? I’m guessing somewhere above “Doc Gooden violates probation” and under “O.J. on the run from double murder.”
— Mike D’Ambrosia, Jacksonville, Fla.
SG: I have to admit, I let out an audible, “Noooooooo!” yelp that ranked right up there with seeing Al Davis in HDTV for the first time. But I’m glad you brought this up — I’ve been thinking about this whole Vinatieri thing, and the real problem isn’t that he’s leaving, but that he’s going to be absolutely impossible to replace. I went on Mike Felger’s radio show in Boston last week and compared the experience of replacing Vinatieri to dating a girl whose previous boyfriend was hung like a camera tripod. In other words, you don’t have a chance in hell of making her forget the previous guy. You just don’t. You’re dead coming out of the gate.
And sure, that point was followed by about five seconds of dead air on the radio while Felger adjusted his hairpiece and struggled to come up with a response, but I think it’s a valid point: This might be the ultimate no-win job in the history of sports. How do you replace the greatest clutch kicker of all time? What happens the first time Kicker X misses a big kick at home? It’s not like a television show or something, where Coach from “Cheers” can die in real life, and the producers move in another direction and hire a younger, dumber, more handsome character who can bring a different wrinkle to the show. In this case, you’re replacing the most reliable kicker of all time with someone who can’t possibly be as reliable. Why even risk it? I will never understand this one.
Q: Where does Peter King’s colonoscopy story rate on the “Too Much Information” scale?
— Mike Rooney, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
SG: High enough that the “Too Much Information” scale has been officially changed to the “Anything that Reminds Me of Peter King’s Colonoscopy Story.”
Q: I have a 10-month-old daughter and I don’t know how people were able to take care of their children before “Baby Einstein” and “Baby Genius.” Isn’t it funny how they put the “repeat play” option on them? It is my “go to” babysitting move. I hit “repeat play” and go watch the other TV and enjoy my freedom while my daughter is hypnotized by these inane DVDs put on a continuous loop. I think that they are plotting world domination by controlling our children through “Vinko the Dancing Bear.”
— Will Brinkley, Pittsburgh
SG: That’s not your babysitting move, Will Brinkley … that’s OUR babysitting move. The Baby Genius DVD is basically a barbiturate for babies — it’s like pumping carbon dioxide directly into their bedroom. Vinko, the dancing bear, the dancing bear is here … he’s loads of fun for everyone, he’s Vinko the dancing bear! It’s “V” … it’s “I” … it’s “N-K-O” … Vinko the dancing bear … the dancing bear is here!
That sounds like the most annoying song ever, right? Well, imagine hearing it six times a day. I’m telling you, your IQ drops 0.3 points per day as soon as your child is old enough to watch TV. By the time my kid is 18 months, I won’t be able to beat Vince Young in the Wonderlic test. And you know why? Because of Vinko the Dancing Bear … the dancing bear is here! My brain is melting.
Q: I live by a certain code, and I’ve just adopted another rule: If “SportsCenter” can chronicle every single dunk in the history of your sport in a two-minute segment, I’m not gonna tune into the next one of your games on television.
— Tom Heston, Boston
SG: And while we’re on the subject, allow me to make my annual demand for women’s basketball scores to only be presented in pink during the month of March on any sports ticker or highlight graphic. I’m tired of looking up at the TV and seeing, “Western Kentucky 94, Villanova 81 F” and having a heart attack for 0.2 seconds before realizing it’s a women’s score. I bring this up every year. I have been bringing it up since 1998. Never changes. Shouldn’t the goal be to NOT confuse viewers?
Q: I just sat through your two-hour chat session where you were asked at the end how the performance could be topped, and you answered that it was like Wilt’s 100-point game. I’ve been wrestling with the same question of “How can I top this?” ever since I got 44 consecutive dances from the same girl at $5 a dance at a strip club once in Phoenix. You should just do what I did — enjoy the memory and realize it’s a record that can never be broken.
— George, San Francisco
SG: Will do, George. And yes, I’m already thinking about breaking my own record. What are the limits? How much caffeine would need to be involved? Would I have to insert an IV into my arm that was directly connected to a coffee pot filled with Peet’s? Actually, the biggest problem seemed to be the quality of the questions, which started to decline after the 90-minute mark. Could the readers step up to the plate and carry me to another level, especially as I started to fade in the third and fourth hours? So to answer your question, George — this isn’t over. Maybe you would never get 50 straight lap dances from a stripper in Phoenix, but I think I have a four-hour chat in me. It’s going to happen in your lifetime.
Q: Come on you don’t have any thoughts on the tournament other than Morrison crying? It’s like I don’t even know you, man.
— Robby, Reno, Nev.
SG: Actually, I have five thoughts …
1) The underrated Seth Davis called it with the “in college basketball, the earth is flat right now” theory — because so many high schoolers and one-and-out guys came out for the NBA draft these past few years, there just weren’t any franchise guys or ultra-loaded teams out there, so the games were much more competitive than usual. Just last week alone, there were four games in four days (Villanova-BC, Gonzaga-UCLA, George Mason-UConn and Washington-UConn) that were exceptionally entertaining and dramatic, and the George Mason-UConn game was even well-played. I really enjoyed the last two weeks of hoops, I have to say. And after watching the loaded McDonald’s All-American Game this week, I’m convinced that it’s a one-year thing — next year, it will be the same four-five powerhouses beating up on everyone else and natural order will be restored. Too bad.
2) Is there a better match between announcer and sporting event than “Gus Johnson and March Madness?” I mean, he’s not someone you would want on the 16th hole of the Masters, but for these purposes? Nobody’s better. He could make grocery shopping sound exciting.
3) Randy Foye, Brandon Roy, Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas: Four guys who can absolutely play at a high level in the NBA. I like all of them as much as anyone in last year’s draft except for Chris Paul and Danny Granger. And yes, I still think Adam Morrison is good for 16-18 a night in the pros. I know I’m in the minority.
4) During the GMU-Florida game on Saturday, if Craig Littlepage charged the CBS broadcasting booth and started swinging at Nantz and Packer while screaming, “I told you! I told you! Eat it! Eat it you scumbags!” … I mean, would any jury convict him?
5) The George Mason thing has been beaten to death, but here’s the highest tribute I can give them: I can’t remember the last time when I didn’t have a vested interest in a sporting event — no favorite player, wager, gambling pool, gentleman’s wager, fantasy league side effects, nothing — and found myself as involved as the George Mason-UConn game went along. We’re talking “leaping off the sofa after baskets.” Just a tremendous sporting event. It’s easy to forget how great sports can be sometimes. And I mean that in the least corny way possible.
Q: To what would you compare the scene in the randomly placed smoker’s lounges in the Las Vegas airport?
— Marcus Guerriero, New York
SG: Hmmm … you’re talking about the most hopeless, desperate, depressing social setting on the planet — everyone in that room has hit rock bottom and doesn’t seem to care whether they live or die, but they’re so addicted to nicotine that they’re willing to share this smoky, cancer-ridden, glass-enclosed space with 10 other complete lowlifes. And that mere realization ruins their will to live even more than it was already ruined. It’s like the spirit in the room has been collectively broken. And there’s no going back.
In other words, it’s just like the crowd at the average 2005-06 Knicks home game.
Q: I have been a big fan of yours ever since elementary school and have tried countless times to get into your mailbag, but to no avail. You see, I am going to graduate high school here at Acton-Boxborough in about a month and a half and have accomplished almost everything I have wanted to: A) Attend Game 4 of ’04 World Series; B) Write my own column in school newspaper; C) Receive the requisite MJ comparison after scoring 13 points, including a rare double-bank 3-pointer, in my final townball league game, which was also an all-star game; and D) Eat a Wendy’s triple cheeseburger, with fries, and without aid of drink, in five minutes. But there has been one thing that I have not crossed off my high school to-do list: Make your mailbag. Please. I need this. It would complete everything for me and it would also be unbelievably gratifying. Please, and thank you for your great work over the years.
— Brian Callahan, Boxborough, Mass.
SG: Thanks, Brian — I’m happy to oblige, even though the elementary school comment kinda made me want to hang myself. More importantly, we won’t judge you for not including “make out with [fill in token cute girl at Acton-Boxborough High]” on your high school to-do list. Seriously, we won’t judge you at all. No judging going on here.
Q: I’m sure you’re aware that season two of “The White Shadow” DVD came out in stores today. Any idea why your favorite season THREE characters are on the front of the box? They had nothing to do with season two! Yes, I know we should just be thankful it’s finally out, but please, did NOBODY catch this? Surely you must have some idea or an opinion on this.
— Steve Winters, Eau Claire, Wis.
SG: As far as I’m concerned, season three never happened, so putting the season three cast on the season two box would be like releasing the “Rocky 3” DVD with Sly Stallone and Tommy Morrison on the cover. It isn’t just nonsensical, it’s reprehensible. More importantly, I have been waiting for 10 years — really, ever since the DVD format was created — to have the episode on DVD when the coach takes Coolidge, Salami and Thorpe golfing … and now I have to look at the losers from the season three cast every time I pick up that DVD? It’s like they’re trying to torture me.
While we’re here, the best six episodes of season two: The golf episode; the one where Hayward avenges his brother’s death; the one where Jackson gets shot; the one where Coolidge moves in with the coach; the one where Thorpe gives Coolidge’s girlfriend VD; and, of course, the one where Gomez gets beaten up by his dad, leading to the coach’s classic joke, “Look, this isn’t the Swiss Family Gomez!” What a show. Dated as hell, but what a show.
Q: You really do not know anything about sports. I find it pitiful that you act as though you do. You truly are not funny either. Your personal attacks toward those who have achieved more success than you is disgraceful. Lies eventually lose their effectiveness to entertain. And your act, Billy, is tired. I am from Boston as well, and trust me, we aren’t “feelin’ you” anymore. So please come back with a played-out “90210” or WWE quote. You’ve never done that before. Rip Isiah again. Is that all you do? I guess I should pat you on the back, because at least you are environmentally responsible, as you continuously recycle your material and jokes. I bet you don’t have the guts to post this in its entirety. Prove me wrong, player!
— Ted, Boston
SG: You had a great piece of hate mail going right until the final line. Prove me wrong, player? Who are you, Coolio?
Q: So after popping his poison pill contract and knifing the Seahawks in the back, is Steve Hutchinson primed to overtake Carlos Boozer as “the professional athlete most likely to suffer a karma-induced career-shredding series of freak injuries”?
— Sam Stone, Champaign, Ill.
SG: He’s a blown-out triceps muscle waiting to happen. But here’s my question: How are these poison pill contracts legal? What are the limits here? For instance, let’s say that New England’s Deion Branch was a restricted free agent and the Bills wanted to sign him away … could they put a clause in there like, “If your coach goes more than 24 hours without cracking a smile in public, the entire contract is guaranteed?” Or what if Dallas’ Julius Jones was a restricted free agent … could another team sign him with a clause that said, “Your head coach cannot wear pants on the sideline with a waist size bigger than 34 or the entire contract is guaranteed?” How far does this stuff go? This never would have happened if Paul Tagliabue was still alive.
Q: How do you know when you’ve been watching too much porn? I recently went 15 nights in a row and I was wondering if that was a tad excessive.
— Jon, Brooklyn, N.Y.
SG: Back when I was living in Boston, my then-roomie Ricky somehow landed us one of those doctored cable boxes that received every channel, so we were suddenly getting Playboy and Spice Hot 24 hours a day. And here’s how you know when you’re watching too much porn: As soon as the line blurs between “real-life situations” and “porn situations” in your everyday life, you need to cut back.
For instance, about a week after we acquired the box, I remember standing in line at Dunkin’ Donuts, ordering a “Big One” coffee and fully expecting the lady behind the counter to coo, “Oh, why am I not surprised you’re ordering the big one?” … followed by “bow-cha-cha-bow-bow” music playing in the background and her dragging me into the unisex bathroom. And by the way, she had a mustache. But that’s when you know you’re watching too much porn. It’s a little like when you’re playing way too much “Grand Theft Auto,” then find yourself resisting the urge to careen into pedestrians and police cars when driving your own car. If you start instinctively expecting crazy outcomes from everyday interactions, you have crossed the line.
(One other way to know if you’re watching too much porn: If you start acting and talking like Johnny Damon.)
Q: My wife and I agree to abide by your choice. We want to move someplace else. Here are the requirements: 1) East of the Rockies; 2) Smaller than 1 million people but bigger than 100,000; 3) Minor league and Division I sports; and 4) Good weather. You pick the town, we’ll move there. Swear to God.
— Kit Moss, Bend, Ore.
SG: Since you just described Austin, Texas, that’s my pick. Hell, they even have a bar on 6th Street that has shuffleboard tables. You can’t go wrong.
Q: You don’t know what happened to sports? How can you say that? ESPN happened to sports. The company who writes your checks happened to sports. SportsCenter happened to sports. The thing is, I would expand on this, but I don’t have to. You already know everything I’d say. I’ve often read your columns, then wondered how you sleep at night. Granted, this is a perfect medium for your style. By writing for ESPN, you’ve made your living. But you still work for the network that brought sports to its current state.
— Andy, Athens, Ga.
SG: That was this month’s runaway winner for the “Backhanded Compliment of the Month” Award.
Q: Is it just me, or is David Hasselhoff starting to look like the third Canseco brother?
— David D., Louisville, Ky.
SG: That e-mail could have been the final impetus Hasselhoff needed to take his own life.
By the way, is anyone else astounded that Canseco has retroactively emerged as one of the only heroes of this entire steroids scandal? I remember Buster Olney half-jokingly calling Canseco the “Woodward and Bernstein” of the steroids scandal last year … now that doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Would any of this have happened if Canseco didn’t get the ball rolling? Sure, he did it because he was broke and desperately needed cash, even at the expense of his own self-worth … but shouldn’t we be thanking him for what he did? Can you be a hero AND be a “Surreal Life” alumnus? Actually, maybe Hasselhoff should hold off on that suicide attempt — he’s probably the best bet to play Canseco in the movie if Wilmer Valderrama turns the part down.
Q: In your previous mailbag, Bob from Atlanta states that your book is 189 poops long. I have to call BS on this. First of all, who keeps track of such a stat? But beyond that, your book hit stores Oct. 1, 2005. That’s only like 150 odd days. And I doubt he read at every stop. Plus there’s no way he double dipped on enough days to cover the difference. This guy is the James Frey of poop stories. Take your 189 poops and go home Bob.
— Kris, Franklin, Mass.
SG: You’re right, 189 poops does seem a little high now that I’m thinking about it … I wish I had a daytime talk show so I could berate Bob into admitting that he lied about the number. It wasn’t 189 poops, was it, Bob? It was more like 89, wasn’t it? But you lied. You lied to everyone. You lied to YOURSELF!
Q: I have been reading you since your Digital City days, I came to your book signings, I have 34DD breasts, I went to Wellesley, I play fantasy football … quit pissing me off by equating breasts with stupidity, sports-related or otherwise. Thanks.
— Sydney F., San Francisco
SG: Good Lord, I’ve angered a reader with 34DD breasts! This is terrible! Sydney, please accept my apology — to make it up to you, I’m going to forward you the 3,000 e-mails over the weekend from readers asking, “Hey, I know this is gonna sound strange, but can you give me Sydney from San Fran’s e-mail address?”
Q: How do you leave Gary Payton off your list of 10 best point guards of the last 60 years (in the last mailbag)? You put Kidd and Nash ahead of him on your little list! How can you justify your omission?
–Ta Ron Barnes, Chicago
SG: You’re right, that was an egregious oversight — I apologize to Sonics fans everywhere, as well as GP, Don Cheadle and President Palmer’s brother on “24.” We need to rectify this immediately. The problem is that I have 12 guys for 10 spots, forcing me to bump Lenny Wilkens (who snuck onto the NBA’s “50 at 50” list over Dominique Wilkins and Bob McAdoo for reasons nobody can adequately explain) and Kevin Johnson (who I mistakenly included on my previous list, which was dumb because he doesn’t have the resume of the other guys, he didn’t play long enough and he didn’t show up for the 1993 Finals until Game 5). But it had to be done.
So here’s my official top-10 “Greatest Point Guards of the Last 60 Years” list (in reverse order):
10. Tiny Archibald
Positives: Three first-team All-NBAs, two second teams … only player to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season (1974) … blew out his Achilles in 1977, then rejuvenated his career in Boston and helped them win the ’81 title (note: the ’82 team was even better, but Tiny separated his shoulder in the Philly series) … the last great New York City point guard who actually delivered the goods in the NBA: he could always beat his guy off the dribble and knew exactly how to run a team … don’t you miss the days where point guards were named “Magic” and “Tiny?”
Negatives: Played on five teams in all (never a good sign) … put up his biggest stats during some weak NBA years (1972-76, when the ABA was stealing young talent from college and high school) … only played 47 playoff games total … a hero to New York point guards like Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair, and that sentence is scary enough in itself.
9. Steve Nash
Positives: Has an excellent chance to win back-to-back MVP’s, a sentence that looks so unbelievable in print, my eyeballs just popped out of my head Allan Ray-style … exceptionally fun to watch on the offensive end … helped bring back three dying art forms this decade: passing, fast breaks and crappy hair … following the Janet Jones betting scandal, replaced Wayne Gretzky as the most popular athlete in Canada … this ranking could go up or down depending on how the next few years pan out, but the bottom line is this: not only are Cousy, Oscar, Magic and Nash the only point guards that ever won MVP’s, but Bird, Magic, MJ, Russell, Wilt, Duncan, Moses and Kareem were the only ones that went back-to-back. Yikes.
Negatives: Only made two third-team All-NBAs and two All-Star teams before last season … struggled with injuries for his first five years (missing 73 games) … an atrocious, ATROCIOUS defensive player … looks like Jackie Earle Haley and James Blunt … everyone forgets this now, but the Suns were ridiculed by nearly everyone (not me) for spending $60 million two summers ago on a guy with a bad back who couldn’t play D … definitely lucked out by peaking for consecutive seasons without a true dominant player in the league.
8. Jason Kidd
Positives: Five All-NBA first teams (1999-2002, 2004), one second team (2003) … easily could have won the 2002 MVP (he finished second to Duncan) … still playing well, which will move him up on this list if he can keep it going for 3-4 more years … turned flawed guys like Rex Chapman, Keith Van Horn, Kerry Kittles, Todd MacCulluch and others into assets … single-handedly dragged a ho-hum Nets team into the Finals for two straight years … averaged an Oscar-esque 20-9-8 in the 2002 playoffs … maybe the only person alive who could have salvaged Vince Carter’s career … made every All-Star Game 30 percent more watchable … with the notable exception of Magic, nobody grabbed a rebound, turned on the jets, went coast to coast and got to the rim like J-Kidd.
Negatives: Traded an astonishing three times before he turned 29 … a career 40-percent shooter (39 percent in the playoffs) … failed to stick his wife and son in a suite during the 2002 and 2003 playoffs, leading to roughly 300,000 shots of them in the crowd during that time … involved in the famous Toni Braxton Love Triangle with Mavs teammate Jimmy Jackson that ended up leading to the dissolution of that roster (although it did lead to countless Brandon/Dylan/Kelly jokes) … once traded straight up for Stephon Marbury … you could argue that the “J-Kidd” moniker was partly responsible for the whole sports/acronym craze that spiralled out of control and eventually led to Linda Cohn calling Pudge Rodriguez “I-Rod.”
7. Walt Frazier
Positives: Two All-NBA first teams, four All-NBA second teams, two rings … one of the great big-game players of his generation, as well as one of the best defensive players ever … played one of the single greatest games ever (Game 7, 1970 Finals — 36 points, 19 assists, 5 steals) and was totally overshadowed by Willis Reed (justifiably, but still) … pulled off mutton-chop sideburns, mink coats, Rolls Royces and everything else in the ’70s and probably had more sex than any New York athlete short of Joe Namath … had one of the great nicknames ever (“Clyde”) … none other than my father (a 33-year Celtics season-ticket holder) believes that Frazier and MJ were the two best guards he’s ever seen in person.
Negatives: Surprisingly short career (only nine quality years) … gave up 68 points to Pete Maravich during the ’77 season … it’s tough to know how great he was in the ’70s because of the ABA factor … also tough to evaluate former Knicks because old-school New York fans continue to brainwash everyone into believing that A) the ’70 Knicks were the greatest team ever (even though they followed a Celtics team that had won 11 out of 13 titles and beat them the previous season); and B) Monroe, Frazier, Reed, DeBusschere and Bradley were five of the greatest 15 players ever … seems to be intentionally trying to shatter the Unintentional Comedy Scale with his announcing (which I can’t condone).
6. Gary Payton
Positives: Two All-NBA first teams, six All-NBA second teams, five top-six finishes in the MVP voting … one of the best defensive players ever (nine straight All-Defensive first teams) … best player on a ’96 Sonics team that won 64 games and took two in the Finals from the 72-win Bulls … legendary trash-talker … helped make the “shaved head” thing popular in the early ’90s, then stuck with it through thick and thin … should have been nominated for an Oscar for his turn in “Eddie” … on a personal note, I watched Kidd, Stockton and GP in their absolute primes and thought GP was the best player of the three (he just had no holes as a player) … if Shawn Kemp hadn’t self-destructed, GP would have won at least one ring.
Negatives: Only played at a high level for 12 years (not as long as Stockton) … shockingly traded by Seattle in 2002, which was strange because franchises normally don’t trade signature guys … his last three seasons (Los Angeles, Boston and Miami) have been shockingly bad, to the point that I suggested changing the name of “jumping the shark” to “pulling a GP” after the 2004 Finals … the Celtics once turned down a “GP for Dee Brown” offer in 1992, which continues to bum me out 14 years later.
5. John Stockton
Positives: Astounding durable and prolific … almost Ripken-esque in that he played every regular-season game in 17 of 19 seasons (and missed a total of 22 in the other two seasons) … one of the underrated clutch players of his era … affected Karl Malone’s career to the point that it’s almost impossible to evaluate Malone’s career accurately …. looked like David Duchovny … made a valiant attempt to keep the whole Tight Shorts thing going in the mid-’90s despite mounting opposition.
Negatives: Only made two All-NBA first teams and never placed higher than eighth in MVP voting … was only the undisputed “best point guard alive” for two seasons (’94 and ’95) … one of the dirtiest players of his era; everyone was thrown off by his Lego Man haircut … never won a title … couldn’t guard anyone in the league during the last 5-6 years of his career … gets partial blame for all those Jazz teams that were so methodical and appalling to watch.
4. Isiah Thomas
Positives: Best pure point guard ever … three straight All-NBA first teams (1984-1986) … sacrificed his own stats (and probably a few records) to get everyone else on his team involved … unstoppable at the end of games … the best player on a team that won two titles in a row (and should have won three) … had an overcompetitive/nasty/tenacious side that was almost unparalleled … got the absolute best out of flawed players like Kelly Tripucka, Vinnie Johnson, James Edwards, John Salley, Rick Mahorn and others … along with Moses Malone, the most underrated superstar of the past 30 years … completely killed the Knicks as a GM to the point that their fans might start rioting soon … only player on this list to threaten me on a radio show.
Negatives: That overcompetitive/nasty/tenacious streak also made him the poorest sport of that era … disgraced the Pistons and their fans by leading the walkout before Game 4 ended in the 1991 Bulls series … inexplicably kissed Magic before every game in the 1988 Finals … one of the five worst color analysts of all time (in any sport) … once choked his own trainer during a game … destroyed the CBA to the point that he could have invited all the players and executives into one building, then dropped an atom bomb on that same building and not done as much damage.
3. Bob Cousy
Positives: The greatest pure point guard for the first 35 years of the sport … 10 All-NBA first teams, one MVP, three top-four finishes, six rings … revolutionized the game with his passing … got robbed with his career stats because, back in the ’50s and ’60s, you could only earn an assists on passes that directly led to a basket … Holy Cross grad … as an announcer, had a phenomenal French/New York accent in which he couldn’t pronounce “R’s,” leading to the outstanding scenario in 2002 when he had to call Rodney Rogers “Wodd-ney” for three months … broke down during Bill Russell’s “SportsCentury” episode, which remains the most emotional moment in ESPN history that didn’t involve Jim Valvano.
Negatives: As time passes, his statistical resume looks worse and worse because of the low field-goal percentages (even though everyone was in the 35-40 percent range back then) and the low assists (not his fault) … never won a title without Russell … born in France.
2. Oscar Robertson
Positives: Just about every relevant guy from the ’60s (Russell, West, Havlicek, Wilt, Baylor) maintained that Oscar was the best player of that decade … nine straight All-NBA first teams from 1961-1969 … the 1964 MVP … averaged a triple-double in 1961 … won a ring with the ’71 Bucks … cool nickname (“The Big O”) … called rebounds “ball boards.”
Negatives: The triple-double in 1961 was a little overrated because all the offensive stats were completely skewed that season (it was like a steroids year in baseball) … famously intense and rough on his teammates, almost to a fault (like a miniature version of KG) … by all accounts, he was about as fun to hang out with as a viper snake … was more of a guard than a point guard, much like Dwyane Wade now … traded by Cincy in 1970, which seems strange because teams don’t usually trade one of the greatest players of all time.
1. Magic Johnson
Positives: Nine straight first-team All-NBAs, five rings, three MVPs in four years (1987, 1989, 1990) … played one of the greatest single games ever (Game 6, 1980 Finals — 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists) … cracks the starting five of any “Greatest Team Ever” discussion … along with Bird, helped bring back the art of passing in the early ’80s … shattered the Unintentional Comedy Scale with “The Magic Hour” … launched his own line of movie theaters … once said the quote, “There will nev-ah, ev-ah, ev-ah be another Larry Bird.”
Negatives: Magic’s HIV announcement in 1991 scared everyone in my generation from casual sex (which just happened to coincide with my senior year in college and my early 20s; thanks, Magic) … three embarrassing comebacks (two as a player, one as a coach) … inexplicably kissed Isiah before every game in the 1988 Finals … wasn’t even the best player on his own team until 1987 … you couldn’t hide him on defense … one of the five worst color analysts of all time (in any sport) … proudly held up a Three-Ball trophy three years ago.
Bill Simmons writes two columns per week for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can reach his Sports Guy’s World site here. His book “Now I Can Die In Peace” is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.