Kobe Bryant, the ultimate perimeter player, signs off

Bryant ended his career on a high note scoring 60 points in the season finale.

Bryant ended his career on a high note scoring 60 points in the season finale.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Kobe Bryant played the last game of his 20-year career for the Los Angeles Lakers amid much fanfare on Wednesday, April 13. Bryant dazzled fans, scoring 60 points as the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz in the season finale, capping a farewell tour for Bryant that started once he made it clear he was retiring at the end of this season.

"Penny" Hardaway (left) and Grant Hill (right) were two players primed to fill the void of Jordan's departure until injuries severely altered their careers.

“Penny” Hardaway (left) and Grant Hill (right) were two players primed to fill the void of Jordan’s departure until injuries severely altered their careers.

While not accurate, it is often said that Michael Jordan passed the proverbial torch to Bryant.

The similarities between Bryant and Jordan are easy to see. Both are similar in height, position played, disposition on the court, and team success.

However, many forget that there were two superstars who were poised to follow in Jordan’s footsteps but suffered career altering injuries: Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway, and Grant Hill. Both superstars were similar to Bryant early in their careers because they had charisma, exciting talent and marketing appeal.

On the strength of two championships at Duke university, Hill emerged quickly as a superstar leading all NBA All-Star Game players in fan voting in his rookie season and soon afterwards leading the Detroit Pistons to multiple playoff appearances. Hill was a dynamic player with excellent scoring and play-making ability.

While Bryant was carving his niche early in his career, other players like Tracy McGrady (left) and Vince Carter (right) were among the guards that Bryant battled with.

While Bryant was carving his niche early in his career, other players like Tracy McGrady (left) and Vince Carter (right) were among the guards that Bryant battled with.

Hardaway also had quick success, helping to lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995 with Shaquille O’neal. Hardaway and Hill had huge endorsement deals and were well positioned to be pre-eminent perimeter players in the NBA upon Jordan’s second retirement in 1999.

Other perimeter player contemporaries of Bryant who entered the NBA during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s include Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, and Ray Allen.

All of these players helped lead their teams in different ways, while displaying entertaining and captivating styles of play. All of these players were also major faces in advertising, which assisted in bringing extra attention to the NBA internationally.

(I - r) Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, are among the list of players Bryant had brief rivalries with during his career.

(I – r) Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, are among the list of players Bryant had brief rivalries with during his career.

Bryant might have the highest international profile of all of the previous mentioned players, except Jordan, and his battles with those players helped pave the way for the current wave of perimeter All Stars. Bryant’s 20 year career has allowed him to compete with players already in the basketball Hall of Fame as well as number of players likely to land there as well.

Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, James Harden, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James headline a long list of perimeter players that have carried the torch of exciting the fans and helping fans fill the impending the void created upon Bryant’s retirement.

Bryant had a fond farewell and received respect and admiration from fans and peers throughout the night.

Bryant had a fond farewell and received respect and admiration from fans and peers throughout the night.

As Bryant retires, perimeter play is on the uptick in the NBA. The last several regular season and NBA Finals MVP have been perimeter players. Bryant reminded all spectators that current NBA fans enjoy seeing their perimeter stars score in bundles as he scored the most points by a player this season in his final game. A great ending to an even greater career.–OnPointPress.net–

 

Have the New York Knicks learned from the Pat Riley saga?

The Knicks seemed poised to bring New York a championship in the 90's with the pairing of Pat Riley (l) and Patrick Ewing (r).

The Knicks seemed poised to bring New York a championship in the 90’s with the pairing of Pat Riley (l) and Patrick Ewing (r).

By Charles Glover Jr.

With rumors swirling that Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson is considering a front office position with, the New York Knicks, the team he once won a championship with as a player, the question that comes to mind is, can even he save this team? The Knicks’ franchise has a tortured recent history of mishaps and missteps that traces all the way back to 1995 when then head coach Pat Riley wanted final control over personnel matters. While it wasn’t clear at the time, the Knicks should have given in to his request.

Pat Riley is the only person in the 3 major sports to win a championship as a player, coach and an executive.

Pat Riley is the only person in the 3 major sports to win a championship as a player, coach and an executive.

The immediate aftermath of Riley’s acrimonious departure was actually favorable for the Knicks. The Miami Heat, where Riley signed on the day after turning down the Knicks contract extension offer, were found guilty of tampering and the Knicks would consistently get the better of the Heat in the several times the teams would meet in the playoffs between 1996 and 2001. However, the takeaway from Riley’s early tenure is that the Heat became immediate championship contenders shortly after his arrival as a head coach/president of operations. Meanwhile, the Knicks’ post-Riley experience peaked in 1999 with an upset of the Heat, with the Knicks as a #8 seed, and another unsuccessful trip to the NBA Finals. When Riley stepped down as head coach of the Heat in 2004 after a string of disappointing seasons, it was the beginning of a successful stretch of executive moves.

Riley is hoping to be at the helm of a 4th championship for the Miami Heat.

Riley is hoping to be at the helm of a 4th championship for the Miami Heat.

Riley has made some smart decisions in the NBA Draft, taking players like Eddie House, Caron Butler, Dwayne Wade, and Mario Chalmers, all players that have helped the Heat teams win championships. Riley is more known for his ability to attract free agents and make significant trades. In 1996, Riley traded for Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, then signed key free agents like Jamal Mashburn, P.J. Brown, and Dan Majerle over the next couple of seasons to make that team a championship contender. In 2004, Riley signed Lamar Odom, then used him in a trade, along with a draft pick, Caron Butler, and Brian Grant, to acquire Shaquille O’Neal from the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Riley will forever be linked to successfully convincing LeBron James to take his “talents to South Beach” when James, Wade, and Chris Bosh all joined forces in the summer of 2010. The signing of Ray Allen proved that Riley possesses the ability to convince high quality players that championships can be had if they join his team.

Will Phil Jackson become as legendary as an executive as he is a coach?

Will Phil Jackson become as legendary as an executive as he is a coach?

As Knicks fans jump for joy with the possibility of Phil Jackson taking over as president of basketball operations, there is a lesson to be learned from the Riley saga. As successful as Riley has been with the Heat, it took him 10 years to bring that franchise a championship. It took another six years and the best player in the NBA to win the second championship. There’s no doubt that the Knicks would have to be better with Jackson at the helm, as long as James Dolan stays completely out-of-the-way.

But, if Jackson’s goal is to bring a championship to New York, that does not seem to be on the way any time soon, based on NBA trends. So Knicks fans should temper their expectations regarding Jackson’s final decision and ask this question instead: Have the Knicks really learned from the Pat Riley saga, or is this just more of the same, with a so-called executive in charge on paper and Dolan meddling as usual behind the scenes?.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.