September 21, 2009
OK, we know the first decade of the 21st century doesn't really end until 2011. We think. But we also know there have been 10 full NBA seasons played since the phrase "Y2K" was on all of our lips (1999-2000), and here at Ball Don't Lie we've decided to use this as an offseason excuse to rank some of the best and not-so-brightest of the 10 campaigns in question. The result? Why, top 10 lists!
The criteria here is simple. Anyone who loses their dang mind, gets a vote.
Anyone who decides to hold a candle to their frontal lobe, melting into ooze what once housed sound thinking and practical application of said sound thinking, warrants consideration for this list.
When logic and reason melt down, into something else entirely; the underdog usually gets the award.
Award voters usually prefer slim amounts of research and a great story over less-intriguing and more-deserving players, and the 2005-06 MVP vote was a pretty strong example of that. Instead of recognizing any of the substantial MVP candidates — Dwyane Wade(notes), LeBron James(notes), Kobe Bryant(notes), Dirk Nowitzki(notes) and Elton Brand(notes) all had seasons that historically could be termed "MVP caliber" — the voters handed Nash his second consecutive MVP based on ... well, we like him a lot.
Nash had a great season, and the great story behind him was the fact that the Suns lost Joe Johnson(notes) (following a trade) and Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) for just about the entire season (Stoudemire played three games), and Phoenix still won 54 games. Forgetting, of course, that extended workloads from Shawn Marion(notes) and Leandro Barbosa(notes) helped steady the ship, and the additions of Eddie House(notes), Kurt Thomas(notes) and Boris Diaw(notes) all kept the Suns afloat. Somehow, Nash got credit for all of this.
Then, and now, Nash is my favorite player in his conference. I absolutely love to watch him play. But come on.
9. Nuggets and Knicks slapfest
I taped a lot of games back in 2006-07, and a huge part of me really wishes that I'd taped some of the cable sports news reaction to this pathetic little fight. Armed with the ability to wring hands and tell us how awful things were, desperate to fill up those 24 hours, the TV teleprompters treated this brouhaha between the Knicks and Nuggets like it was assassination coverage. The Internet even allowed some scribes to give it the "will-someone-please-think-of-the-children?" treatment. Good god, get over yourselves.
The Knicks and Nuggets weren't happy with each other. The Knicks weren't happy with anything, and the Nuggets were always out to prove they were tougher than they actually were back then. None of these guys could truly fight, but with the Knicks smarting as the Nuggies rolled up the score, a Mardy Collins(notes) flagrant foul and a whole lot of Napoleon-sized sniping from Nate Robinson(notes) led to a whole lot of millionaires acting like they knew how to throw a punch. Oh, and Knicks coach Isiah Thomas probably called for the whole thing from the sideline.
Somehow, the world managed to continue spinning in its aftermath.
Don't try to get into the logic behind this one. Allen Iverson missed or was late to a ton of practices during the 2001-02 season, and he just couldn't understand why this was a problem. After all, he tried real hard for those 41 minutes a game during the 65 games (regular season and playoffs combined) he played that season, isn't that (Iverson made $11.25 million that year) enough?
Toss in a needless, schoolyard-type mocking of a writer's full given name (calling Philadelphia Daily News scribe Phil Jasner "Philip," as if it were some sort of actual, effective, insult), the grade school-level baseball cap and jersey attire, and the ridiculous notion that dogged effort in one in every three days during the regular season is good enough, and you have one of the more pathetic character revelations of the last decade.
The last line of the Iverson description fits with this one.
On national TV, after submarining Portland's season with huffy play and infrequent trips to the low post, Rasheed Walllace (who registered a shocking 40 technical fouls in 77 games in 2000-01) decided to throw a towel at Arvydas Sabonis during a timeout of a late regular-season game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Sabonis' transgression? He accidently hit Wallace in the face while spiraling backward after being barreled into by Shaquille O'Neal(notes).
Sabonis' type of transgression, just about, spurred this nonsense. Ferry caught Marcus Camby with an inadvertent elbow - I was watching the game, it was an accident - precious Marcus took offense, charged after Ferry and attempted to throw a "punch" that started somewhere below his waist. With his strong hand. Someone hook this guy up with Bert Sugar.
Of course, because Camby's truly tough, Ferry's back was turned completely to him as he attempted the sucker punch to the back of Ferry's head. And, because Jeff Van Gundy (poor rotation choices aside) likes having his best players on the floor, he attempted to stop Camby from throwing the wild punch, and caught the worst of it. So did Selena Roberts, then a Knicks beat writer, who took the brunt of a dislodged media row when Camby kicked it. Because that's what 26-year-olds do. They kick things.
All of this happened on Martin Luther King Day, by the way.
5. Ha Seung Jin vs. Nedzad Sinanovic
Never heard of either of these men? I don't blame you.
Ha Seung Jin (above, yelling) and Sinanovic (below, posting) were both Trail Blazers prospects hoping to catch on as lanky reserves trying to make a poor Portland team back in 2005. The former actually played 46 NBA games, poorly, over two years, registering nearly as many turnovers (26) as field goals (28). Sinanovic? Not so much.
The pair, however, is best known for a summertime battle that saw both men (neither of which had what you could call a "strong" grasp of the English language) jaw and yell and threaten each other following a one-on-one game gone horribly wrong at the Blazers' practice facility. At one point, the Portland golden boy (Ha Seung Jin) decided to chase Sinanovic around the court with some sort of stick, or stick-inspired device.
John Canzano originally passed the story along in an interview, and we strong suggest you go read his engaging take on what had to be an epic show of awful; both in terms of the play and the pugilism.
This was back in 2001-02, when Miller was a Chicago Bull, and a few months before the above picture was taken. And, as fights go, this was a little scary. Because as wild as Shaquille O'Neal's punch was, he still could have basically warped Miller's mind for decades had it connected.
I couldn't find a clip of the fight online, but the back story as I remember it (watched it as it happened, but not in person) was that Miller had been frustrating O'Neal all night with physical play. As is usually the case with these fits of anger (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Kent Benson, anyone?), Shaq felt like he wasn't getting any calls while being roughed up, an underdog Bulls team was beating the defending champion Lakers, Miller fouled Shaq one time too many, and O'Neal responded with a roundhouse that (luckily, for Miller) roundly missed.
You're going to have to follow a link to this, with the warning that the audio involved is extremely not safe for work if you speak Serbian, and the English subtitles are not intended for use by children 13 and under. Or 23 and under. In fact, maybe everyone should just go take a nap, instead.
During Eurobasket 2007 Greece won a hotly contested overtime match against Milicic's Serbian team by one point, and it's safe to say that Darko (pictured, above, not cursing) was less than thrilled with the work of that particular game's referees. Here's the link again to his postgame meltdown in front of the assembled media, please be warned.
2. Chris Mills challenges several Trail Blazers to a fight
You don't hear about this one too often, because the details behind the interaction between Chris Mills and (possibly) the entire Portland Trail Blazer roster are a bit sketchy.
Here's what we do know. During a Dec. 20, 2002, match between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors, Chris Mills took great offense to the physical play of Bonzi Wells(notes). The entire Golden State crowd, actually, took the same offense to the entire Blazer team, showering Rasheed Wallace (who had to be restrained from going into the stands to fight) with garbage and insults after he hit a game-winner and tried to leave the court.
For Mills, the work of his hometown supporters wasn't enough. He tried to get into the Blazers locker room after the game to have a go at Wells. After being denied access, Mills and some friends decided to park Mills' SUV in front of Portland's team bus, refusing it access to the outside of the arena, with Mills standing outside the bus shouting at the team, spoiling for a fight.
That much we do know, because Mills was suspended for his conduct a few days later. What we don't know is whether or not Mills may have been armed, as some have suggested, or whether or not he followed the Trail Blazers' bus to the airport before turning away.
1. The melee in Auburn Hills
Blanket statements work here. Everyone was wrong.
Ron Artest(notes) was a little wronger than most, there's no doubt about that, but there's no point in stopping there. That night's referees; who let the game get out of control initially? Wrong. Ben Wallace's(notes) reaction to Artest's hard foul? Wrong. Pacers teammates who didn't drag Artest off the scorer's table? Wrong. Pistons fans? Wrong. Ron Artest? Way wrong. Assorted Pistons and (mostly) Pacers? Wrong.
Everyone got it wrong. An embarrassment to anyone boasting more than half a brain.
Questions? Comments? Furious and righteous anger at a world, not to mention top 10 list, gone wrong? Swing by later today at about 2 p.m. Eastern for a BDL mini-chat regarding this very list.
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