“I don’t care that he talks about LeBron,” Maverick Carter told ESPN.com. “He could say he’s not that good or the greatest in the world as a basketball player. I wouldn’t care. It’s the word ‘posse’ and the characterization I take offense to. If he would have said LeBron and his agent, LeBron and his business partners or LeBron and his friends, that’s one thing. Yet because you’re young and black, he can use that word. We’re grown men.”
I always find comments about “egos” in discussions regarding college basketball players fascinating. Most of these guys have spent greater part of a decade playing on AAU/Traveling teams that are essentially All-Star quads, so why would playing with a bunch of McDonalds All-Americans be all that different?
Here is LeBron James with a recent example of the effusive praise of John Calipari’s ability to manage egos:
“What I admire is how he’s able to take, year after year, these high egos coming out of high school and turn it into a team,” James said of Calipari. “He makes them believe, not even believe, it’s what it should be, that the team is more important than the individual. No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, in order for the team to have success everyone has to buy in.
Calipari does deserve some credit, as does any coach, but his ability to manage his player’s egos does not seem particularly unique. Rather Calipari’s success seems to lie mostly in getting talented players to embrace the challenge of earning playing time on as close to an approximation of an NBA roster you’ll find in college ball.
And it’s not like this is all that new. Take a look back at how many lottery picks were on those UNC & Duke teams of the 90s for example. Or the in the 80s when UNC had Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy on the same roster.
Moreover, why does Calipari rarely get credit for developing players like Willie Cauley-Stein, Malcolm Lee, the Harrison twins, or Dakari Johnson? While people are focusing in one his “one and done” players, Calipari is developing a quality core of upperclassmen who provide the experience and resiliency often needed to overcome challenges and mentor Calipari’s highly touted freshmen.
This E-60 profile on Penny Hardaway and his work as a Middle School basketball coach in Tennessee is powerful. As a person who was often in awe of Penny’s brilliance in the early 90s, watching this second act in his life makes me only appreciate his skills even more.
The fabled draft class of 1996 that produced superstars and Hall of Famers such Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant may quite literally be on its last legs now that Bryant is likely sidelined for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Similarly, the toll of 10+ seasons is beginning to show on some of the stars of the 2003 class as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony endured their first prolong stints on the injured list this season. Chris Bosh, who along with James and Anthony have virtually been iron men when compared to their draft mate Dwyane Wade, also saw time due to injury very early in the season.
As the league slowly begins its slow transfer of power from the two greatest draft classes of the last twenty years some of the NBAs elder statesmen are showing that they still have what it takes to compete.
Moreover, the group of 35 and over stars listed below are showing that they’re not ready just yet for the Legends portion of all-star weekend, and that they’re worthy of some all-star votes themselves:
Vince Carter (F)
Dirk Nowitzki (F)
Tim Duncan (C)*
Jamal Crawford (G)
Manu Ginobili (G)
Steve Blake (G)
Elton Brand (F)
Kobe Bryant (F)**
Caron Butler (F)
Rasual Butler (F)
Kevin Garnett (F/C)
Kenyon Martin (C)
Andre Miller (G)
Jermaine O’Neal may eventually work his way to this list by season’s end if he signs with one of the western conference superpowers as many have speculated. The top half of this roster is faring pretty well and one is hard pressed to think that a team sporting Nowitzki and Duncan as its starting forwards couldn’t give one of the top teams a run for their money. They have a deep reservoir of heady guards, but this squad’s downfall might be its lack of quality big men behind Duncan and Nowitzki.
Still, looking at this list does a lot to make an old man like myself feel as if I can still go out there and push myself to see what I got.
* Duncan made the 2015 squad as a reserve.
** Bryant was voted among the 2015 Western Conference starters by fans.