View Full Version : Comparing players, teams - Why it's done and what it turns in to

06-16-2016, 09:53 AM
Ever have that kid in elementary school? When nobody is looking, he hits someone or steals their chocolate milk, and then when you go to hit him back, he makes sure he gets the attention of the teacher. His message, loud and clear, is that there's no hitting.

That's how NBA comparisons work.

What were they like when I was young? The media constantly over glorified the past in ways that were incorrect. Bulls playoff games had constant cut ins of great Celtics or Lakers moments where the tone was "and these were the real great moments, regardless of whatever piddly events unfold today."

I remember the "shut up" moments from a lot of people in Chicago in 1992. You see, when Jordan was losing to Detroit because Pippen was young and raw, the Chicago media loved to latch on to the Bulls of the 70s. "you want a real team? You want to talk about a tough, cagey, awesome team of Bulls? Man those 70s teams with Sloan, Van Lier, Boerwinkle.. now THAT was a team!" You would actually be listening to this from Bulls radio guys while Michael freaking Jordan was playing a playoff game.

It became kind of embarrassing for the media when you get to 92 and it's like, "wow, this Jordan/Pippen outfit is about to win title 2, and here we've been glorifying Sloan and Van Lier as somehow better than them." A lot of Chicagoans didn't want to hear it and the tone on brand new sports radio (LOL - 670 the Score had their debut in 92) was "shut the F up… this guy is already a top 5 player ever and you're talking about Jerry Sloan."

So that's how it was. The media probably went too far in reminding you that everything that happened before was the best thing ever, and Michael Jordan might as well have been Michael Redd.

Then, Jordan became big. Mass communications, mass media, big endorsements.. they were all ready for his come back in 1996… ready to hype an athlete like never before. I believe those who think that this made Jordan look better than he really was were idiots.. he was that good. Like he and Barkley said, "when corporations came to us, we already had the game first, unlike today."

The elevation of Jordan created a very interesting effect that I call the "post Jordan vacuum." What happens when very powerful people start making unprecedented money during the latter part of MJ's career, and then MJ is no longer winning rings? Do you think billionaires are just fine with it? Or do you think that there is almost pathetic desperation to shift that phenomenon to someone else?

Think this sounds like a conspiracy theory? Okay, go watch Harold Miner.. or "baby Jordan" actually play NBA games and come back and talk to me. Think Kobe Bryant was the first big time "next Jordan"? Wrong. The Bryant thing was started in full force with.. GRANT HILL. Sports Illustrated or some similar publication, before he'd proven a damn thing, called Hill "like Scottie Pippen with Michael Jordan's scoring, only better!" (barf)

The idea is "Jordan made X dollars, if we can make someone else = Jordan, then the dollars will be equal also." I call this the Pathetically Desperate Non-Jordan Jordan Artificial Creation equation.

In the 2000 NBA Finals, game 4 or 5, NBC ran an interview with Kobe Bryant saying that he "thought he could be better than Jordan" or hoped it or whatever.. and then the halftime and in-game discussion turned in to comparisons of a still ringless 20 year old.. who wasn't the best player on his team.. to Michael Jordan. What it should have been was a time to celebrate the brilliant play of Shaquille O'neal, who had added a devastating passing game to three point shooters off of his unstoppable back to the basket game. But, people who collect dividends by the pool in places like Highland Park, Manhattan Beach, Manhattan, NY.. etc., weren't going to make Jordan dollars off of a 300 lb. center that nobody could relate to.

And that's also why Lebron James in 2013 won a second ring and rained down the passive aggressive Jordan comparisons (the media learned from how bad they looked down the stretch of Kobe's career; it became much more of a "could Lebron be better?" than "Kobe IS better" type thing).

That's further why GSW doesn't have a second ring yet and the 96 Bulls comparisons were very much started by ESPN, a company whose shareholders would stand to gain more money if ANYONE who is marketable is perceived to be as good as Jordan.

So here's my thing… in big bold letters…

If you want to have the comparison, HAVE THE COMPARISON.

But have it… all the time, when Kobe, Lebron or The Warriors are UP or when they're down… when you have a tiny piece of evidence that you tweet out that favors your argument OR when someone who was there in 91 wants to say "wait a minute" and add context upon context.

Because that's the thing. When ESPN sits in a production meeting with Mark Jackson and said "okay Mark, let's practice this, Charles will make a comment in the preceding game on TNT, then we'll have someone tweet about it, then if Curry has a big time first half, during halftime, we'll say that 'Mark Jackson is PUTTING IT OUT THERE that he thinks Steph Curry is actually BETTER than Michael Jordan" then Reggie will agree and we'll have 200 follow up tweets.. and we'll have someone offer Bill Simonson through backchannels a little extra money to talk about Mark Jackson's 'hot take' next week"… then everyone should allow the discussion to go as long as it needs to or as long as the other side wants it to.

But that's not what today's society wants. They want to have a discussion about comparative greatness where they get their point in, and then if you want to get your point in too, you're just an angry blowhard.

So I'm confused.. do you want to have the discussion or don't you? Because.. when the 96 Bulls v. 16 Warriors stuff started, it started with people now…not people who were rooting for the Bulls in the 90s. When GSW got to 38-3 or whatever, there wasn't anyone I knew preemptively saying that the 92 Bulls would beat the Warriors. It all came after the fact.

What today's media and modernists want is to make a comparison, crap on a past great, and then for everyone to stop talking about it until their precious next "hot take."

The first time I witnessed this was in 04, when Kobe shot 37% v. the Pistons in a Lakers loss (where incidentally, O'neal shot like 65%). The conversation was like this…

2 years of: "Kobe at 22 = 3 rings, Jordan at 22 = 0; Kobe = lord of rings" over and over and over and over annnd "oh my god, why do you want to keep talking about this!!! Stop living in the past!!!"

The "can't compare eras" crowd is always the crowd that compares eras, and then when the comparison isn't going so well, doubles back to "it's silly to compare eras."

I just read an article on bleacher report from earlier this year where a guy notes that the "96 Bulls lost to the Knicks, a team with stars mostly in their 30s (Jordan was 33, Pippen was 30), and the Sonics, who are statistically worse than GSW" and then within a paragraph he's talking about how it's silly to compare eras…

From a guy who just.. compared eras.

So either want the comparisons, or don't. But don't want the modern perspective, only to get aggravated because players who can't sell the new "hot mountain dew download" (because they aren't still currently playing/currently possessing branding appeal) are brought in to the discussion.

06-16-2016, 11:25 AM
Really enjoyed reading this. Not really sure what comment to make afterward? :laugh: But enjoyed it. Especially remembering so vividly the Bulls stuff from the 90s and Harold Minor/Grant Hill being hyped as the next big thing.

06-17-2016, 05:30 PM

I have no doubt the hot take, drive by comparison (when said person/poster's guy is on top of the world) mentality will continue, but I just wanted to call a spade a spade.

06-17-2016, 07:16 PM
i love comparing eras but i mustve missed the boat on the harold minor talk. nice tidbits oh history here.

06-17-2016, 10:39 PM
i love comparing eras but i mustve missed the boat on the harold minor talk. nice tidbits oh history here.

I personally love comparing eras and think you can do it if you can actually register what you see and variables. I just don't like when people who say you can't compare eras, try to compare eras lol.