Page 2 columnist
There's an old boxing saying that "styles make fights." Throw Gatti and Ward in the ring together, and it's pure magic. Throw De la Hoya and Trinidad together, and you'll be asleep by Round Six. It's all about the matchup. That's why the Frazier-Ali rivalry stood the test of time, not because of the personalities as much as two simple facts: Ali was a better boxer, but Frazier's sprawling left hook was the one punch he couldn't stop. Styles make fights.
|The Sports Guy will not only be watching the ugly NBA Finals on Father's Day Weekend, he'll also be missing his dad, who's back home in Boston. Check out Bill Simmons' column from ESPN The Magazine in which he explains how his father turned him into a "Sports Guy."|
And best of all, the right kind of matchup: A superior offensive team against a superior defensive team. Now that's a series I want to watch.That doesn't mean we're giving the Spurs and Nets a free pass for what they've inflicted on the American public. For one thing, the Pantheon Committee just spent the past week reviewing Jason Kidd's application, and here's what they came back with:
- Dear Jason,
Thank you for your interest in joining Larry, Magic, MJ, Hakeem and the other legends in the NBA Pantheon. Sadly, we are unable to process your application at this time. Not since Karl Malone played the '97 and '98 Finals with both hands wrapped around his own neck has there been a more disappointing meltdown
by a player on a big stage. Either you're crapping the bed, or the Eastern Conference is much worse than anyone originally believed. Regardless, we wish you the best of luck.
You're going to your washed-up center on the biggest play of the game? What's more disturbing, the fact Popovich thought that was his best option, or the fact Duncan didn't pull a Pippen in the huddle and demand the ball? More importantly, Duncan has a 7-foot-2 dinosaur covering him at crunch-time -- why isn't he moving away from the basket, facing up from 15 feet and daring Dikembe Mutombo to come out and defend him? How could the Nets possibly stop this? Isn't this supposed to be the smartest guy in the league?Anyway, unless something drastically changes over these next three games, this will be the first NBA Finals since 1981 when nobody stepped to the forefront and said, "I am the best player on this court, nobody can stop me, and every time you think about this series, you will remember me first." In fact, here's the list. And yes, all of these people are in the Pantheon. 2002: Shaq (maybe his last great moment unless he gets the Eye of the Tiger back) 2001: Shaq. 2000: Shaq (honorable mention to Kobe for Game 4).
|UGLY & UGLIER|
|Why have the 2003 NBA Finals turned into a horror show? Well, Page 2's Charley Rosen says it's because Gregg Popovich is too stubborn and Tim Duncan still has some flaws in his games. Meanwhile, Ralph Wiley says Richard Jefferson is still the culprit for most of New Jersey's problems.|
1988: Isiah (the Pistons would have won this series if he didn't sprain his ankle in Game 6, end of story).1987: Magic. 1986: Larry. 1985: Kareem. 1984: Larry. 1983: Moses (everyone forgets, that '83 Sixers team was Moses's team, and let there be no doubt ... don't get carried away by the sentimental crap with Doctor J). 1982: Magic. Admit it, you never thought you would miss Shaq and Kobe so much. Duncan might be the Most Valuable Player in the league, certainly the first guy you would build a franchise around ... but after watching him for six seasons, should we still worry about his crunch-time nerves like this? Will he ever peak the way Hakeem did in '94 and '95? Will he ever destroy the league for an entire spring, lay his stamp on everyone and everything, and head into the summer thinking to himself, "You know what? There isn't a guy in the league who can stop me." I'm just not getting that vibe from him. Duncan is great, but he's not that great. At least not yet. Before the series, Kidd actually seemed like a better bet for the Pantheon, but that was before he reverted back to the late-'90s version of himself in Phoenix. Don't these 3-for-17 and 5-for-16 performances look a little familiar? I keep waiting for Rex Chapman to throw on a Nets jersey and come out for Game 5. So after four games, this series has been a disappointment in every sense of the word, from the matchups to the stars to the coaches (I loved how it took Byron Scott three full games to realize that he should be posting up Kidd on Parker and running the offense through him down low). The quality of play was so sloppy and ugly on both ends, WNBA fans were saying, "Hey, I didn't realize we were on tonight!" My favorite moment happened during Game 4, when the Nets "ran off" nine straight points to take a 45-34 lead near the end of the half, and ABC ran this graphic: "NETS ON 9-0 RUN." Wait a second ... a 9-0 run? In a half where both teams couldn't crack 80 points combined? Shouldn't we call that a 9-0 "jog"?
Then there are the halftime acts ... Thus far, we've been stuck with Jewel, Lisa Marie Presley and KC & the Sunshine Band; apparently the Pips were busy.And then there's ABC ... (NOTE: THE FOLLOWING WAS CUT OUT BY MY EDITORS, BECAUSE OF A LONG-STANDING POLICY THAT PAGE 2 WRITERS AREN'T ALLOWED TO CRITICIZE ANYONE ELSE FROM THE ESPN FAMILY, AS WELL AS ANY ANNOUNCERS FROM OTHER TV NETWORKS. I THINK THIS RULE IS UNFAIR, AND IT MAKES ME HATE MY JOB SOMETIMES. BUT I ALSO LIKE GETTING PAID EVERY WEEK, SO YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO BEAR WITH ME.) (HOLD ON, I'M STILL BEING EDITED.) (WAIT, I'M STILL VENTING ABOUT ABC. ... THEY'RE CHOPPING THIS OUT, TOO. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY I'M STILL TYPING. HONESTLY, IT FEELS GOOD TO GET THIS OFF MY CHEST.) (HOLD ON, ALMOST DONE. THIS PARAGRAPH DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE IN HELL OF MAKING IT, I WAS REALLY ANGRY. THERE WAS EVEN SOME SWEARING. AND SOME VEILED THREATS.) (AND ... WE'RE DONE.) Man, that felt good. Anyway, we're heading into Game 5 tonight with the title up in the air, Kidd trying to salvage a disastrous series, and Duncan needing two memorable games to validate his temporary Pantheon membership. The Spurs are probably going to win. They should win. As always, it's going to come down to the team with the best player. But here's the thing ... The best player isn't here. We never officially decided who was better -- Kobe or Shaq -- but the combination made it nearly impossible for the Lakers not to be the best team every year. They could only get toppled if a series of circumstances submarined them: