Home is where the playoff wins are (cont.)
I appreciate the fact that you recognized Dwyane Wade's long odds against being named MVP. D-Wade's season is similar to Kobe Bryant's from a couple of years ago, when the award went to someone else. Kobe's team just didn't win enough that year. Plus, the Heat would not be a playoff team in the West.
That's a pretty good parallel, Jarvis. In 2005-06, Bryant led the NBA in scoring at 35.4 points per game. He also averaged 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and was ninth in steals at 1.84. But the Lakers went 45-37, finishing third in the Pacific and sixth in the West. Steve Nash, the MVP, boosted his scoring from 15.5 to 18.8 while his assists dipped from 11.5 to 10.5. He shot 51.2 percent overall, 44 percent from the arc, and that was enough for the voters, despite the Suns' drop from 62 victories to 54. Me, I voted for Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki that year, based on the Mavericks' franchise-tying 60-22 record.
What about Latrell Sprewell's "I've got my family to feed" when he turned the contract extension down? I'd say that is probably the most remembered basketball quote.
Actually, in the column on quotable NBA people, my praise of Shaquille O'Neal was based more on his willingness and attempts to say colorful things, rather than the wit, irony or pithiness of whatever he has said. Or, for that matter, the lack of taste, class and tact sometimes shown in his unedited brain-to-mouth remarks. But I was remiss in rounding up some of the league's most famous statements. Here are four that readers passed along, plus a personal favorite I neglected:
-- Latrell Sprewell: "I've got my family to feed."
I was there that day, in the gym after practice, when Sprewell hissed the line that would hang his career. It was a simple, out-of-touch comment by a pro athlete reacting to what he saw as a sizeable pay reduction -- from $14.6 million for the 2004-05 season to a three-year offer from Minnesota worth $21 million. It was the beginning of the end for both that Wolves team, which failed to repeat as Western Conference finalists and hasn't made the playoffs since, and for Sprewell. An incredible slasher, a coachable player on the court and a team leader when he didn't feel threatened as, I dunno, a businessman or something, Sprewell never played again after April 2005.
-- Darryl Dawkins: "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam-I-Am-Jam."
OK, so it's more of a label than a quote, but the NBA's all-time man-child (and king of the hyphen) deserves some mention here. He was an entertainer first, player second, and his masterwork came after he smashed the first of two backboards during the 1979-80 season. This one came at Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium, sending a shower of glass shards down on the Kings' Bill Robinzine. Then Dawkins did it three weeks later at home at the Philadelphia Spectrum, this time ripping the rim -- bolts and all -- right out of the glass. His other dunk names were famous -- the Go-rilla, the Dunk You Very Much, the Yo Mama and the In Your Face Disgrace -- and Double D's legacy was intact. Basketball changed rules for guys like George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but it changed its equipment -- unveiling the collapsible rim -- because of Dawkins.
-- Rudy Tomjanovich: "Never underestimate the heart of a champion."
The Houston Rockets had a bumpier ride in 1994-95, their status as NBA defending champs not helping as they plummeted from 58 to 47 victories and faced the postseason as a constant underdog, starting each series on the road. San Antonio and Utah both had won 60 or more, and Orlando -- with Shaq and Penny Hardaway -- was the dominant team in the East. But the Rockets beat Utah in five games, Phoenix in seven and San Antonio in six before sweeping the Magic for a second straight championship. Hence, Rudy T's famous quote.
-- Larry Bird: "Who's coming in second?"
This comment, made by Bird upon entering the locker room prior to the 1987 Three-Point Contest at All-Star weekend and surveying the other participants, is so good that, even if Bird hadn't said it, he should have. It perfectly summed up his extreme confidence, burning competitive drive and brutal gamesmanship.
-- Dick Motta: "The opera isn't over till the fat lady sings."
Somehow, it doesn't seem right that the most amusing quote in NBA history gets credited to the wrong guy. Motta, then coaching the Washington franchise, was actually the person who popularized the comment. But it was San Antonio sportswriter Dan Cook, who also worked Spurs broadcasts, who said it before Motta during the Bullets-Spurs clash in the 1978 Eastern Conference semifinals. San Antonio trailed 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, but forced a sixth game. The quote came in handy when Washington trailed Seattle in the Finals 3-2 before taking Games 6 and 7. Still the franchise's only NBA title, it came in a seventh game, on the road.
Steve Aschburner covered the Minnesota Timberwolves and the NBA for 13 seasons for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He has served as president or vice president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association since 2005.
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