Well it’s on! The 2014 NBA Finals started last night on ABC. The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Throughout the Finals we get to hear all of the scenarios and personal opinions about who is the best player, or who has the best team. Legacy, which is a word that I hate in basketball terms, will be used as much as twerking was used when Miley Cyrus put on that display at the MTV Music Awards.
For the record I believe that the word legacy should be used for people in history who made a real difference. People such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela. None of these guys hit a NBA jump shot, but what they accomplished in their lifetime gave these players the platform to be able to abuse the word in the first place. Now that I’ve said my piece. Let me get off the soap box and get back to basketball.
If the Miami Heat win this NBA Finals series (I picking them in six games) this will be three titles in four years with a chance for more. With another championship, the debate comparing LeBron James with Michael Jordan will be in full force. I did an earlier piece comparing King James to Air Jordan on an individual situation. But this is a team game let’s break down a potential Miami three-peat squad with the Chicago Bulls first three-peat squad.
Since the Miami Heat have advanced to their fourth straight NBA Finals series now the discussions of whether a LeBron James’ led Heat squad could beat Jordan’s teams of the 90’s based on the fact that the Bulls never went to four straight Finals. Well this didn’t happen because of two reasons…
1) After the first three-peat Michael Jordan retired for the first time to pursue a baseball career.
2) Jerry Krause had this crazy notion that organizations win championships and not players shooting the round ball into a basket. The feuds that went on throughout the Bulls organization, Phil Jackson vs. Jerry Krause, Michael Jordan vs Jerry Krause, Scottie Pippen vs Jerry Krause (Jerry Krause wasn’t liked very much was he?) led to the blowup of the dynasty.
Horace Grant made the headlines saying that the Bulls teams were much better than the teams the Heat put on the floor the last four years.
He might have a point. Let’s take a look at the facts.
The Bulls had tougher competition.
The Chicago Bulls usually had to work to get to the Finals. The Bulls had to deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers who believe it or not used to be good before LeBron James showed up in 2003. They had Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, John “Hot Rod” Williams, Larry Nance and Gerald Wilkins. They were a perennial 50 win team under Lenny Wilkins. Their problem was they were never physical enough with Jordan and he would burn them every time. The last chance they had ended with a Jordan series clinching jumper over Gerald Wilkins back in 1992.
How about the New York Knicks? They brought Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks and Derek Harper who were coached by Pat Riley. Plus they had the X-Factor, Xavier McDaniel. The New York Knicks took a page out of the Detroit Pistons book and were physical and tried to get in the heads of the Bulls, most notably Scottie Pippen. Their problem could be blamed on the media. They criticized Michael Jordan for going to Atlantic City with his father during the series. Oops. Remember when Jordan got angry and dropped 54 points on the Knicks the very next game that report came out? Another problem was John Starks, he kept going “Lance Stephenson” on Michael Jordan. Like Jordan needed any more motivation. The last chance the Knicks had was Charles Smith getting his shot blocked 714 times in the last 10 seconds to end the their chances until Jordan went on hiatus.
How about the Indiana Pacers led by Reggie Miller? The Pacers back then actually had a better team than you saw the last week. With a better coach. You see Larry Bird was the coach back then. How about a decent point guard? Mark “Mama there goes that man” Jackson accompanying Reggie Miller in the backcourt, Jalen Rose at the wing, the Davis boys (Antonio and Dale) upfront with the Dunking Dutchman Rik Smits. These guys pushed the Bulls to seven games in the last title run. The last chance they had was in the last five minutes. Larry Bird left Travis Best in the game instead of Mark Jackson. Travis cracked and Jordan took the series and went to Utah.
The only real rivalries the Miami Heat had was the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics. Boston gave the Heat all they wanted with an aging “Big Three” that eventually broke up. Remember one of these players, Ray Allen plays now with the Heat. Well you saw the downward spiral of these Indiana Pacers. The Pacers really don’t compare with the old school teams the Bulls played in the 90’s
Let’s break down these teams shall we? Who has the better matchup?
Mario Chalmers/Norris Cole vs. John Paxson/BJ Armstrong.
Remember back in the days when John Paxson had hair? The one thing about the position these four players play is in name only. These players played the point guard position but let’s not get it twisted. In Chicago Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen took care of the ball handling duties while LeBron James and Dywane Wade handles the Miami ball handling duties. The only thing these players had to worry about is being an outlet in the offense shooting jumpers and occasionally set up the offense so the stars can play off the ball.
Advantage: Chicago Bulls
This is an easy one. John Paxson was easily the best shooter out of all of these players. He helped clinch the NBA title against the Lakers in 1990-91 with numerous daggers in the fourth quarter of Game five. If that wasn’t enough, Paxson hit the series clinching three pointer to sink the Phoenix Suns in the 1992-93 season. BJ Armstrong eventually took over the starting point guard duties because he was younger and quicker but he had a nice jumper as well. Plus he played very well defensively with Jordan and Pippen.
Mario Chalmers in my opinion is so overrated. I have a question. What player that hits a last second shot to force overtime in the NCAA title game that they eventually win gets picked in the second round? Sure Chalmers has done well at times in the playoffs but he is riding the coattails of the “Big Three” since he got to town. Norris Cole is still young and maybe not ready to take the starting job at point but he does play better defense at this point.
Bill Cartwright Vs. Do the Heat really have a center?
Advantage: Chicago Bulls
Bill Cartwright at one time actually was a twenty point a game scorer. Those days were in New York. When the Bulls traded Charles Oakley to New York for Cartwright, he was used for defensive purpose and a presence in the middle. Most night the Bulls would run a few plays for him in the post to get him engaged then moved on to getting others involved. Cartwright was known for those elbows. He could knock players out like Mike Tyson in the early days. I’ve seen Jordan ride him at times so I feel he’ll play hard…out of fear.
The Miami Heat have Udonis Haslem who is a very tough but undersized center that the Miami Heat use to spread the floor to open lanes for LeBron and D-Wade. As for Greg Oden, anyone else want to admit his knees won’t allow him to play in the NBA?
Horace Grant vs. Chris Bosh
Advantage: Miami Heat
Sorry Horace. Even though you believe that the Heat would not be able to handle the Bulls of the 90’s, Chris Bosh could handle you. Easily. I think a lot of people underestimate how good this guy is. Bosh has three-point range, can hit the mid range jumper and can post you up and score on the block. Chris Bosh has had to change his game to fit in with LeBron who needs space to operate in the offense. He could rebound more, but some of that is because he plays out of position and the Heat have him on the perimeter.
Horace Grant is a solid player that fits perfectly within the triangle offense that Phil Jackson ran in Chicago. Makes you wonder why he wasn’t interviewed for the New York job considering everyone else got an interview. He was a quick defender for the power forward position but he would be overmatched in this one on one set up.
Michael Jordan vs. Dywane Wade.
Advantage: Really? Come on now.
D-Wade is a great player and a future hall of famer. Michael Jordan is considered the greatest of all time. He’d score 50. No analysis needed here.
Scottie Pippen vs. LeBron James.
This matchup will be closer than a lot of people realize. You see when the Chicago Bulls played the Lakers in 1990-91 Phil Jackson made a defensive adjustment. Michael Jordan started out defending Magic Johnson. The Magic man was killing him because he was too big. Jordan kept getting in foul trouble. Pippen drew the assignment and guarded Magic on the ball the full length of the floor and disrupted the rhythm of the offense. This move was quietly turned the series around and the Lakers had no answer. The way I see it, If Pippen could make an impact on Magic Johnson one on one, what do you think he would do to LeBron James who we all can see struggles at times on the big stage?
LeBron James is starting to become a symbol of the generation gap between old school and young fans today. No question, he is a great talent, but James would struggle against the Bulls. He may get his 20-25 points but he would not dominate the series like Jordan. There is something missing in him that would put the Heat over the Bulls if they went up head to head.
My opinion? Bulls in five. Chicago always seemed to throw away a game in the Finals, even when they had things in hand. The Miami Heat can’t deal with the mental strength of the 90’s Bulls. They put in the work over the years to achieve what they accomplished. The Miami Heat are a microwave version.
Pippen Peoples leave your comments below. Let the debate begin!