Posts Tagged ‘Magic Johnson’

Magic Johnson Tweets That He Will Stop Complaining About The Lakers

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Over the last few years, as the Lakers have tried to get back to championship level, Lakers legend Magic Johnson has not been shy about sharing his thoughts about his former team. Johnson, who owned a portion of the Lakers before selling it in 2010, has been particularly outspoken in recent years about the failings of Lakers management to assemble a title-worthy team and staff, as well as their game play. Just last week, when the Lakers lost in overtime on a last second lay-up against the Bulls, Johnson tweeted…

Earlier this week, Johnson appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” where he was sharply critical of Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni
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VIDEO: Magic On The Lakers
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Since then, however, Magic appears to have had a change of heart. He took to Twitter yesterday to explain that his days complaining about the Lakers are over…

What do you Lakers fans think? Is Magic right? Should he stop complaining about the Lakers? Or do the Lakers need criticism from one of their all-time greats?

Talk Show: John Stockton


VIDEO: John Stockton’s Playing Career

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — During his 19-year NBA career, played entirely with the Utah Jazz, John Stockton was known for many things. His court vision was unparalleled — he led the NBA in assists for nine consecutive seasons and retired with 15,806 assists, more than any player in league history, as well as 3,265 steals, the most all-time. He was unbelievably resilient — Stockton missed a total of just 22 regular season games over his career. And of course, Stockton teamed with Karl Malone to create teams that were consistent contenders in the Western Conference (if not the league).

But Stockton was also perhaps just as well known for the things he did not do — Stockton eschewed showing off, being flashy for the sake of flash. He wore the most uniform uniform possible, and he never said anything designed to make headlines or draw attention to himself. So it might come as something of a surprise to fans of both Stockton and the Jazz that Stockton has penned an autobiography, Assisted, available now. The book details Stockton’s remarkable story, of how a guy just over six feet tall and weighing maybe 170 pounds was able to make himself one of the giants of NBA history.

Earlier this week we sat down with Stockton in New York City to talk about the book, his career, and his take on the NBA today.

Assisted Stockton_cover Book

ME: You write about how you started this book because you were really just trying to get all this information down for your kids to have one day. Previous to this had you ever really had any interest in writing?

STOCKTON: No. I was looking for alternatives for something to do with my life. I am very busy — I do coaching, I have parts of businesses — but there’s a void in those days that was pretty quiet, and I was shuffling my feet, trying to figure out what to do. That was the first time I thought [writing] might be a good solution. I didn’t want to find another career, because I didn’t want it to interfere with the stuff I really was enjoying since retirement. So it seemed like a nice fit, and I found a nice project in it.

ME: Were you a reader at all?

STOCKTON: Yeah, I love to read. I didn’t read much in college except for homework, then afterward I fell in love with books. Our (assistant) coach, Phil Johnson with the Jazz, was an avid lover of non-fiction. He’s turned me on to lots of books. So I read a lot now.

ME: Non-fiction?

STOCKTON: Mostly, yeah. There are some great stories out there.

ME: What was your process like as a writer? Did you carve out a couple of hours every day? Or were there times where you’d wake up in the middle of the night and jot something down?

STOCKTON: That’s a great question. It started with the idea. I went and visited my old coach (Kerry Pickett), who was a really well-read guy and who helped me throughout. So we talked for a long time. He took notes and kind of made a little sketch of an outline, which I would never do, because I just want to write, I didn’t want to organize. So he organized, then he’d send me little assignments. He said, “OK, this is what you seem to want to talk about, you go write about this for a while.” And then it might be a month, it might be three months, it might have been six months, depending on what my schedule was like — like summertime, we’d go on AAU trips and stuff like that, there’s no time. So we’d wait. So it took about four or five years but that’s how it would work. But yeah, I’d be sitting in church and would think, “Why didn’t I think about that?” And I’d write it down on the envelopes. Or I’d wake up in the middle of the night — not often — and I’d write down a note. So that was helpful.

ME: That reminds me of the “Seinfeld” episode where he wakes up in the middle of the night and writes down a hilarious joke and then the next day can’t read his writing.

STOCKTON: (laughing) “Seinfeld’s” great!

ME: In the book one of the things you write about is the importance of balance and vision for a basketball player. Is that something that can be taught? Or is that something that has to be innate for an athlete?

STOCKTON: I think it can be enhanced. One thing I’ve watched coaching my own kids and their friends, for instance, is there are some kids that have certain things, it seems like from the get-go. You almost don’t have to say anything to them, but they get it. And then there’s other ones that you can’t turn your back on them because you’re trying to get better as a team, so they need to get it. So yeah, you can definitely get better at balance, can definitely get better at vision, but can you go off the charts if you’re not wired for that? Probably not.

ME: You wrote in the book about Jeff Hornacek having such a great knowledge of the game when you played with him. How much does having a great knowledge for a sport play a part in success versus just outstanding athleticism? Basically, how much does knowing where to position yourself matter versus having just great natural ability?

STOCKTON: Well, you see it every day. I think it’s the most overlooked thing in sports, in all sports. You watch baseball, a centerfielder may not run a 4.2 forty, but he gets to every single ball. What is he seeing that the rest of us aren’t? Jeff Hornacek was a plenty good enough athlete — he didn’t have a deficiency in that area that he overcame with intelligence — but boy was he bright. And he knew things in advance, he had numbers in his head and he could combine them all. So, special guy. I think right now it’s easier to go find that cookie-cutter athlete and say, “That’s my next starting center fielder.” Where I think they miss — and I’m picking on baseball but this is all sports — is they’re missing that guy that gets it, who has great anticipation, has a feel for where the pitch is and where it’s going to strike the bat and is already there. That’s a baseball player to me.

ME: The book talks a lot about your competitive streak. If you hadn’t become a basketball player, do you think you would have done something else in sports?

STOCKTON: I would have sure tried. As with all kids growing up you’ve got a ball in your hands, you’ve got a bat in your hands. So I would have sure tried like crazy. I was probably most equipped for baseball, although I never really shined in it and never had the type of coaching I had in basketball. Football, I just matured too late. I thought someday maybe I could be a quarterback but when you’re 94 pounds in high school, it’s pretty tough to enhance those skills much (laughs).

Portland Trailblazers  vs. Utah Jazz

ME: Karl Malone says in the foreward of your book how when you played you never really opened up much with the media, even though you did have thoughts and opinions. But because you never talked about those things, people thought you didn’t really have opinions on those things. Why did you feel like now was the time to open up?

STOCKTON: Well, I have a lot of opinions that didn’t make the book. That’s a fine line. When you’re talking and you and I are in a room and this (points to digital recorder) isn’t on, we could have a lot more open discussion about sensitive topics because we could get through any hiccups. Once you’re writing and it’s on paper and you’re defending it to nobody, that’s a tough proposition. I don’t feel like I’m really venting a lot of opinions. I would like to have, in a way. But it’s a tough venue. Karl and I could talk about anything, but most of that stuff I’m not putting in print.

ME: Were you at all leery about opening yourself up and putting it down on paper?

STOCKTON: No. I don’t feel like I have. I don’t feel like I have betrayed myself or my family. It’s really important to me that they have their privacy. My kids should have the choice of following in that or in being a perfectly anonymous citizen. So it was really important for me not to spoil any of that hard-sought stuff for this. So I tried to tell good stories about good people and how they were helpful without betraying any of the confidences and privacy that they deserved.

ME: Throughout the book you details lessons you learned from situations in your life or in your NBA career. Was that something you wanted to hammer home?

STOCKTON: I think everybody’s perception, especially for a professional athlete, is that it’s always been easy: You’re always a great shooter, you always cruise through it, whatever. But when you get to the point of learning opportunities, I looked forward to them. Being the younger child, my brother was better than me at pretty much everything. I didn’t weigh much at all, so I was kind of just saying, “You got me there, you got me there,” and little by little you kind of whittle the difference down until you’re a better player. I don’t know if an older brother has a chance to do that, because you’re always the king.

ME: I’ve heard people talk about a boy having an older brother being a big thing because they kind of show you the ropes — they show you what music to listen to, what TV shows to watch, all that stuff.

STOCKTON: (nodding) When my brother and my Dad would get mad at each other about anything — maybe it was mowing the lawn — I figured, “Hey, I’m going to mow the lawn. I’m not going to get caught in this.” There were so many lessons every day.

ME: And then you get the brownie points — “Hey, John mowed the lawn without us asking!”

STOCKTON: (laughing) Exactly!

ME: One story I liked in the book that you didn’t go into a lot of detail on is when Karl got drafted by the Jazz and first visited Salt Lake City, the two of you spent a day getting to know each other at the zoo. What compelled you guys to wake up and go to the zoo?

STOCKTON: I don’t remember. He’s just a country kid, and we’re in Salt Lake and I’m just a year into it, so I don’t exactly have command of it myself. I said to him, “We could drive up into the mountains, that’s gorgeous. Or maybe we could…go to the zoo?” And he said, “Zoo? Sounds good. Let’s go.” So we had a beautiful afternoon there. Pretty peaceful.

ME: You talked in the book about how Adam Keefe was one of the best teammates you ever had. What other players that people might not immediately think of were some of your favorite teammates?

STOCKTON: Greg Foster was one. Antoine Carr was a great teammate. Bryon Russell. Shannon Anderson. Howard Eisley was absolutely one of my favorites. The team that went to the Finals was loaded with the type of teammates that you hope for. I know I left out some guys, but those were some of my favorite teammates.

ME: What made them good teammates? Good people? Good players?

STOCKTON: First of all, great players. And players where it wasn’t all about them — they were willing to make their sacrifices for the squad without feeling sacrificial. Fit in, got better — they didn’t just sit there and think, “Hey, Karl Malone is going to carry us.” They got better and we got better as a result. They were not afraid to say something to you, “Hey, I’m seeing this. Take a look at that when you’re out there.” And having the right approach with different guys — you can’t talk to everybody the same way.

ME: When you retired you said something about making sure your shorts were hemmed up high throughout your career. Were the short shorts a deliberate choice?

STOCKTON: My second-to-last year, I think — my seventeenth year — the equipment manager came up to me and said, “Would like to lengthen your shorts?” I really didn’t know that it was an option. I’d never asked, and they’d never asked me. So we just kind of kept plugging on. Everybody kept talking about my shorts and I thought, “Well, I didn’t change anything…”

ME: You didn’t maybe notice around you that the shorts were getting bigger and longer?

STOCKTON: Yeah, but I was comfortable with it. I also saw other guys with 34-inch waists get 40-inch shorts and then just cinch them, and that…that didn’t make any sense to me.

Utah Jazz

ME: What made Jerry Sloan such a great coach?

STOCKTON: Fiercely competitive. He eliminates nonsense. The hard-nose tag is probably accurate, but you don’t sit there thinking that he’s tough every day — he’s a very reasonable man. Smart. He’s been around the game forever. Furthermore, if we won, it was a credit to the players. If we lost, it was all him, so he always took the blame, gave the credit, and provided the opportunity for us to play without having to be something more than basketball players. He said, “Hey, you guys want to shine, play better.” He said, “Do it with your play.” So I think those were some of the reasons that he was great.

ME: Was he the kind of coach who gave the fiery motivational speech? Did he have the quotes on the wall? He seems a little more pragmatic than that.

STOCKTON: Not a quote on the wall guy. Every once in a while, a little fire and brimstone. But, you know, you play 100-something games every year, I don’t know how many times you can afford to go to the well on that. He called it like you saw it, you knew where you stood, and knew what he expected of you.

ME: What younger players do you like to watch today?

STOCKTON: That’s a good question. I don’t see enough games to be fair about it. My kids are very active in sports, so I’m going to football games, basketball games, baseball games, practices. So I get home and the Jazz game will be on — we are in their territory since Seattle departed. So we get a large portion of their games. Really, all I get to see is them and who they’re playing against on any given night. So I don’t have a great feel for the guys that are out there. And yet I probably still have some decent opinions, but they’re so snap-shotty, that I really don’t feel it’s fair.

ME: Do you still watch a lot of NBA games?

STOCKTON: I watch a lot of playoff games. The timing seems to work better, for whatever reason — the high school sports are done by then. But regular season I don’t catch a bunch. I’ve coached in high schools with the boys and girls, and then we’ve got kids in AAU and all that, so it’s busy. Maybe someday.

ME: Who was the toughest player for you to play against in the NBA?

STOCKTON: There are a number of them. When I was younger, clearly Magic Johnson was tough, probably impossible for me to guard. Kevin Johnson, Mark Price, Isiah Thomas — those were the killer guys at my position. Evolving into, of course, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash. There was never a shortage of guys at that position.

ME: We had Isiah on our podcast recently and I asked him how many points he would have averaged if he played in his prime with the rules the way they are today, and he said might average 40.

STOCKTON: He might be right.

ME: Would your career have been different if you had played the entire time with these rules — no hand-checking, all that stuff?

STOCKTON: No question. I think it’s a lot less physical game. I think in some ways they’re almost attempting to ruin it. The charge line drives me crazy. I hate that line. And I didn’t take a ton of charges — you might think that I did, but I didn’t. The advantage is just to anyone that leaves their feet. I think there’s such a game that’s being missed when they’re protecting those guys. In our day there was a risk to that. Now you leave your feet and you’re protected. Now if you get touched on the head it’s a threat of concussion and maybe this person should be suspended for a couple of weeks. I saw guys — myself included — clotheslined. Whether intentional or not, it happens. So I’m disappointed in that trend. I’d like to see them maybe discourage some of that and give basketball players a chance to blossom a little bit, instead of just people who can leave their feet.

ME: What do you think of the advance stats that are so pervasive in sports today? Do you think there’s a place for that in basketball or sports?

STOCKTON: Well, I watched Moneyball and read that book, and I watched the Oakland A’s every year. So I think about that: Is there some sort of formula that would work for a basketball player? I’m not smart enough to figure that out. I imagine there’s something in there, but it’s going to be a long time before I can help you with it (laughs).

NBA Style: Classic Lakers #TBT

NBA Style
By the NBA.com Style Crew

The Los Angeles Lakers have always embodied Hollywood. They are glitz and glamour, celebrities and championships, swimming pools and movie stars. And part of the gig of being Hollywood’s best, from Magic to Wilt To Shaq to Kobe, has been being on fashion’s cutting edge, all the time. From classic suits to workout gear to casual wear (including, yep, suspenders!), part of being among the Lakers’ starring cast has always meant embracing the styles on the cutting edge. No matter how they look in retrospect.

What’s your favorite look of all-time? Let us know in the comments section, and don’t forget to continue the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #NBAStyle

NBA Style: Classic Uniforms #TBT



By the NBA.com Style Crew –

While the NBA is a League that has always had its share of individuals, the one unifying feature of all players is that everyone wears uniforms. But that doesn’t make them uniform. Some franchises have opted for simple jerseys with their team name in a stylized font, such as the Knicks or the Minneapolis Lakers, other teams have gone for more interesting expressions. Check out, for instance, the New Jersey Nets, with a red/white/blue stars and stripes motif; All-Star Game jerseys, with stars literally all over them; a Toronto Raptor jersey featuring an enormous cartoon raptor. Sometimes it’s in the details, like with the trim on the throwback Syracuse Nationals jersey. And then sometimes we’re drawn to the colors, like with the gorgeous baby blue and red of the old Sacramento Kings jerseys.

Whatever you like, for many of us uniforms can be much more than just a statement of which team we’re cheering for. We picked some pics in the gallery below of uniforms that caught our eye.

What is your favorite uniform of all-time? Let us know in the comments section, and don’t forget to continue the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #NBAStyle…
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All Ball Fave Five: Best Last Name Teams

by Micah Hart

You may have noticed it’s the offseason, which means we have plenty of time to sit around and think about many of the things that make it fun to be an NBA fan. Here at All Ball, we’ll be passing the time until the start of the season with a new series, the Fave Five. Each week will count down a list of the five best, or worst … somethings. We’ll try to get creative with it. Plus we’re taking requests! If you have a suggestion for a Fave Five post, give us a shout and you may see it appear in this space over the next several weeks.

Remember last year when the Nets had four Williams on their team? Crazy right? Maybe not, actually. As it turns out, Williams is the most populous last name in professional basketball history, with 69 players.

Williams is the most popular surname — but is it the best? For this week’s Fave Five, we took a look at the history books to pull out the five best teams by last name.

A couple quick notes: This list is entirely subjective, but there was a little method to the madness. First off, given the sheer mass of players who have competed over the years in the NBA and ABA, we narrowed the list to last names with at least 10 players listed in the Basketball Reference database.

Then, to help whittle down the contenders even more, we used Win Shares (if you are unfamiliar with them, here’s a brief description) as a baseline for judging performance. With a few exceptions, the five players we chose for each team had the most career Win Shares within each last name. To help further guide our hand, we then averaged the win share totals per starting five. I’m sure anyone with basic skills in statistical analysis could poke any number of holes in this methodology, but like I say, this list is ultimately subjective. So too bad.

Also — we used statistics to help frame the debate, but ultimately the rankings came down to answering this question: If these teams played each other head to head, with each player in their individual primes, who would win?

Here we go!

5. Miller

 


Total Millers:
16 (including 2012 Draft picks Quincy and Darius)
Starting Five: Reggie Miller (174.4), Andre Miller (90.1), Brad Miller (76.5), Mike Miller (53.5), Oliver Miller (21.1)
Hall of Famers: One, as of Friday
Average career WS of starting five: 83.1

The Miller name is pretty top heavy. Reggie, making his way into the Hall of Fame this weekend, is 15th on the all-time list in Win Shares, while Oliver has the least amount of any starter in the top five. In fact, only one other Miller (Larry, a G/F who played seven seasons in the ABA from 1968-75), has put up even double-digit career WS totals*.

*Quincy and Darius, you have your work cut out for you.

This isn’t the flashiest bunch of players, Reggie aside, but the rest of this lineup put together a fine collection of NBA careers in their time. And yeah, Oliver is the weak link here, but the dude — when he was fit enough, which perhaps wasn’t so often — could ball.

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Magic Johnson and Larry Bird Appear On The Late Show

by Micah Hart

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman Wednesday night to promote “Magic/Bird”, the new play starting on Broadway that chronicles their world-famous rivalry throughout the years. Here’s a little taste:

I could spend hours listening to the two of them talk about basketball and their relationship. Next time I’m in New York, it’s The Book of Mormon, then Magic/Bird, then, I dunno, maybe Rock of Ages or Once or something.

Seen something that belongs on All Ball? Let us know via email or Twitter.

Awesome basketball players hanging out together

by Micah Hart

Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan at 1997 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain
Walter Iooss Jr.

In light of a pretty sweet single-serving Tumblr making the rounds this week entitled “Awesome People Hanging Out Together“, I wondered if you could do a similar, even more narrowly-drawn listing of the same concept but applying solely to basketball players.

It’s easy to find shots of NBA players together on the court, but are there enough of them at leisure, so to speak, to sustain the concept?

If you have any suggestions for additions to the gallery, let us know.

Seen something that belongs on All Ball? Let us know via email or Twitter.