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Pippen Was the Most Valuable Player

21 Jan

Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics


Yes, Michael Jordan is possibly the best player to ever play professional basketball, but he was not the most important player on his team. People admired the highlight dunks and fade-away jumpshots that Jordan routinely made, and they were spectacular. However, Pippen’s other-worldly athleticism and consistent teamwork made a significant amount of Jordan’s play’s possible. Before Pippen, Jordan broke scoring records and lost games. With him, Jordan tempered his scoring and became the champion that we remember. With his stellar defense and bonus scoring prowess, uber-athleticism, and various other intangibles, Pippen allowed Jordan to be the player he was for the team. Jordan was the best player, but Scottie Pippen was the most valuable player of all the Chicago Bulls.

Pippen was the consummate teammate, possibly the best teammate ever. He was one of the top 50 players in NBA history, despite playing second fiddle to possibly the best player in NBA history. Michael Jordan definitely lowered his shot attempts once Pippen arrived, but imagine what Pippen could have averaged without Jordan. Pippen averaged 17.9 points, right under 1 block, 2 steals, 5.2 assists, and 6.7 rebounds as a Bull. He was the second leading scorer behind Jordan and either led the team in steals or was second in steals behind Jordan in that category also. He was first or second in assists, rebounds, and blocks in almost every year of his career with Chicago. Scottie Pippen was a six time champion in the NBA, winning three consecutive titles twice. He was a seven time All-Star, with seven consecutive All-NBA appearances. He was an All-Star MVP in 1994. And, he led his team to the playoffs in 16 of his 17 years in the NBA. The Bulls reached the playoffs in each year of the 12 that he played in Chicago.

Pippen allowed Jordan to be the best player in NBA history by affording him rest on the defensive end and keeping Jordan in single coverage on the offensive end. Pippen was the key to the Bulls’ success.

Scottie Pippen always guarded the most versatile scorer and usually the best player on the opposing team.  No matter what the marquee name was on the jersey, Pippen denied him the basketball. He wore down, point guard Isaiah Thomas and shooting guard John Starks in two separate Eastern Conference Finals. He slowed the 6’9″ assist machine Magic Johnson in the NBA Finals on the way to his first ring and blanketed the NBA’s all-time assist leader John Stockton for his 5th and 6th rings. He shut down high-scoring forwards Glen Rice and Jamal Mashburn. Pippen even defended power forwards like the high-flying Shawn Kemp and bruising, bullying Karl Malone. He could defend 4 of the 5 positions in any basketball game. He was one of the most versatile defenders in NBA history and his versatility was a product of Pippen’s athleticism. It is almost sacrilegious to say as a basketball fan, but Scottie Pippen was a better athlete than Michael Jordan. He was bigger. Pippen was 6’8″ with long wiry arms. Jordan was listed at 6’6″ but closer to 6’4″. He was stronger than MJ and faster from one end of the court to the other too. Pippen was also quicker laterally. Jordan was definitely more polished of an offensive player and more dominant as a scorer, but Pippen was more gifted than him as an athlete and a better defender. Being able to take the best scorers on defense actually allowed Jordan to save his energy for the offensive end of the court.

But, Pippen did his share on the offensive end too. He slashed his way to the rim relentlessly in the Bulls triangle offense. Since Jordan loved to catch the basketball at the free-throw line, it was imperative that there was a viable option to dump the ball to when he was double-teamed. The passes that reached Pippen in the lane ended in violent dunks. The passes to him on the perimeter ended in 3′s. He was one of the best finishers in the 90′s and he also averaged 6+ assists per game. The breath-taking break away dunks that Michael Jordan made during the 90′s, were often the direct result of a steal and pass from Pippen. He always seemed to be in the right place and to make the right play.

Michael Jordan never won a ring without Scottie Pippen. He was considered to be an arrogant, undisciplined scorer before Pippen became a Bull. After him, Jordan was labeled the best player ever. Before Scottie Pippen, the Chicago Bulls were a desperate playoff team. After him, they were World Champions. The one year that the Bulls played with out Michael Jordan in the 90′s, Pippen led the team to the Eastern Conference Finals before bowing out. His peripheral stats did not change even though his role did. He had basically the same scoring, assist, and rebounding averages facing a constant double team, without one of the best players in NBA history beside him. Michael Jordan was the best player to play in the National Basketball Association, but he was not the most important player on the team. Through suffocating defense, versatility on offense and defense, and ability to finish plays, Scottie Pippen was the most important Chicago Bull.

Coach K Is Overrated

20 Jan

coach k - mike krzyzewski05

Mike Krzyzewski may be the best college coach that ever lived. He has one of the most decorated coaching careers in NCAA history and has sent countless players to the National Basketball Association, however he has halted just as many NBA careers as he has developed. And, the 50+ players that Krzyzewski sent to the NBA have all floundered at the next level with the exception of a handful of athletes. Coach K has a history of stunting his players growth for the sake of his program. High school All-Americans go into the Duke University basketball program as college freshman and assistant coaches come out in four years. All-State athletes go in and accountants come out. No college defense is as stifling as Krzyzewski’s coaching. He takes promising athletes and forces them into a style of play that serves his legacy and is not necessarily conducive to perfecting their craft. The way that Coach K treats his players, his reliance on his system, and the lack of teaching individual basketball positional fundamentals all contribute to the mediocre pros that come out of Duke University under his tutelage.

To properly address the deficit between the talent of Coach Krzyzewski’s players and the end result of those student athletes, one first has to begin with the man himself. Though he has a public persona of a genuinely affable and intelligent man who seems both gracious and humbled by his position, Coach K can be brutish and self-serving in regards to his players. No one and nothing comes before the Duke program even when highlighting a particular player could possibly help both the school and the player. Coach Krzyzewski has a long history of riding his players relentlessly regardless of how talented they are, and a significant amount of kids who play at the university never learn to play basketball because of the way that he approaches them. He does not know how to talk to people, or he does not care. The unsavory language that he uses with his players, the students, and the media at Duke show Krzyzewski’s disinterest in cultivating a nurturing atmosphere at the college even though he is charged with guiding the lives and careers of young men, being a role model to a community, and being the face of the university. Coach Krzyzewski often berates and belittles those closest to him. Taylor King, a former Duke Blue Devil was rumored to have thought that his name was ‘motherfucker’ during his freshman campaign at Duke according to reports of people close to the team. Krzyzewski challenged King daily and showered him with F-bombs throughout practice. Following his freshman year, he left Duke, and thrived on the court at Villanova University under coach Jay Wright. Krzyzewski bullies both his players and anyone else who draws his ire. Coach K has numerous public incidents where he spoke inappropriately to staff, students, or the media. He reportedly cursed at the mother of William Avery, one of his former players, when Avery decided to declare early for the NBA draft. And, some of his profanity laced tirades are well-documented, including but not limited to this gem aimed at the Duke student body newspaper when they gave his team a B+ midseason rating:

“I just wonder where your mindset is that you don’t appreciate the kids in this locker room. I’m not looking for puff pieces or anything like that, but you’re whacked out and you don’t appreciate what the fuck is going on and it pisses me off—I’m suggesting that if you want to appreciate what’s going on—get your head out of your ass and start looking out for what’s actually happening.”

Krzyzewski also publicly called the report “full of shit”, and according to some of the student reporters, the 15 minute speech was full of scatological and anatomical references.

His vulgar and disrespectful antics do not stop there. Krzyzewski’s sideline rants at his players and the referees during games spew just as much vitriol as does his treatment of the team behind closed doors. Dewey Burke, a former rival guard of the Blue Devils at nearby UNC, says that the reputation of Coach K being difficult and emasculating towards his players is well-deserved.

“His mouth is terrible. He has that reputation. You don’t want kids sitting behind the bench, that’s for sure. It takes a certain kind of player to deal with that over the course of four years. As players sitting around, yeah, we’ll talk about how I don’t know how I could play for a guy like that.”

Mike Krzyzewski alienates most of his players at some point in their careers because of the way that he constantly berates the team. The athletes who can adjust to his gruff scowls and the numerous expletives that are going to be hurled at them over the course of their college careers will excel if they have superior athletic ability and an undying devotion to being demeaned by their superior. Others like Taylor King and William Avery left as soon as the opportunity presented itself despite their athletic gifts. Coach Krzyzewski marginalizes the talent of his players by failing to connect with them. His harsh treatment of student athletes halts the success of a significant number of his players.

basketball - william avery - collegeCoach K disrespected his mom, and allegedly lied about his draft position.

And, the players who are capable of adjusting to the harsh treatment that Coach K imparts on his team still have to be able to adjust to the way that he wants them to play. Krzyzewski’s system hinders as many of his players as his lack of verbal restraint does. He built a basketball dynasty at Duke University through his reliance on three point shots and man-to-man defense, but his reluctance to embrace a different style of play when he has a talent base of different skills often results in the under-utilization of that talent. Players who can not pattern their games to his preferred style of play languish on the bench regardless of their natural abilities. Coach K preaches man-to-man defense and deep shooting while disregarding what type of game that the level of athleticism and the skill sets of his players dictate that the team should play. NBA talents like Nate James and Brian Zoubek were relegated to the pine until their senior years because they did not fit Krzyzewski’s vision of what his team should be. James was an inconsistent shooter and Zoubek was incapable of locking up his man one-on-one, however when they were put on the floor in 2001 and 2010 respectively, both players became the most valuable player of their squads because they were uniquely talented. James slashed to the rim from the wing and used a streaky jump shot from fifteen feet to score the basketball when he was cutoff from penetrating. Krzyzewski gave him limited minutes prior to his senior season in 2001, because the coach prefers sharpshooting players who play within the offense. The prototypical Krzyzewski small forward is a cerebral, physically gifted 3 point shooter, who can penetrate and find short jumpers in open space like Shane Battier, James’ teammate and another one of Krzyzewki’s former players. But, James was an athlete who created his own shots with his dribble. And honestly, he was better when plays broke down than he was within the confines of the offense. He was more primal in his approach than calculated, and he was effective. His only saving grace at Duke was that Coach K literally had no established shooting guard talent on his team, and he had to trust James to lead the way for the team. James won a national championship in 2001 as team captain and entered the NBA after a great season, but how much better could he have been if Krzyzewski tailored his offense to fit the player’s strengths earlier in his career and developed his skills? Krzyzewski’s refusal to tweak his offensive philosophy hurt his team and almost derailed Nate James’ career. Brian Zoubek faced a similar situation at Duke. He was given very few minutes on the basketball court before his last season in Durham primarily because he did not fit one of Coach K’s basketball ideals for a post player. Zoubek was a lumbering big man who had few offensive weapons outside of 12 feet from the rim. Krzyzewski prefers to run his offense through big men who spread defenses out with deep shots and score efficiently with a polished post game. Fortunately for Zoubek, the coach had no other options under the rim, so he had to play more minutes at center in his senior campaign. Zoubek’s tough rebounding and put backs, his aggressiveness on the block, and his overall play inside the paint pushed Duke to unexpected heights that season. Zoubek only had modest career averages of 4.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game at Duke despite being an All-American in high school, but in his senior year of college, he upped those averages to 5.6 points and 7.7 boards. When the NCAA tournament arrived, Zoubek averaged a double-double in points and rebounds even though he never averaged ten points and ten rebounds during his entire college career. Krzyzewski was forced to give him more minutes in the tournament because he was the only rebounder on the team, and he flourished in his role. In a down year for Duke, Zoubek led them to a national championship because he finally received the playing time that he needed to be effective. Either Krzyzewski can not recognize the talent on his teams or he ignores talented players who do not fit his scheme. Those are the cases of two players who were successful at Duke despite Coach K. Several other players never fully blossomed at the university because they were stifled by Krzyzewski’s system. In two lackluster seasons at Duke, Billy McCaffrey averaged about 19 minutes minutes per game and scored 9 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in competitive play. He was an effective player at Duke, but he did not get the opportunity to be a main contributor. Ultimately, McCaffrey chose to transfer to Vanderbilt University because he felt underutilized. Over the course of two years at Vandy, the same guy averaged 20 points, almost four assists and three rebounds per game. McCaffrey was a star that never shone under Coach K. Similarly, Elliot Williams, an athletic combination guard played for Duke during the 2008-2009 season. Under Mike Krzyzewski, Williams averaged 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in 16.6 minutes. After his freshman season, Williams transferred to the University of Memphis due to his mother’s failing health. The NCAA granted him a waiver to play basketball immediately due to his specific circumstances, and the 6’4″ guard averaged 17.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game in his first and only season there. Williams was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft, where he was selected with the 22nd overall pick. Had he stayed at Duke, his dream of playing in the NBA might have never been realized. He was forced to stand on the perimeter and shoot threes in Durham which was not his strength. Krzyzewski should have used his athleticism in the open court rather than bogging him down in half court sets. The coach is inflexible. Consequently, Duke University endured multiple transfers in 2013 because of his failure to use all his talent. All-Americans Michael Gbinije and Alex Murphy are the latest to leave Durham because of the lack of minutes, but many more may be on the way out. Krzyzewski has 5 McDonald’s All-Americans who average less than ten minutes per game and 4 of them average less than two points per game. Both Miles and Mason Plumlee (former Dukies) struggled to get consistent minutes under Coach K at Duke, but they are both starting for NBA squads this year. The youngest Plumlee, Marshall, is glued to bench in Durham right now, averaging 8 minutes, 1.3 points, and 2.2 rebounds per game. He was considered the most talented of the three by most basketball analysts before he got to Duke. Krzyzewski’s coaching style only caters to a specific type of athlete, and all other players get left behind with their talent unrealized. Coach K kills basketball dreams because he will not adapt his preferred style of play to accommodate his talent.

But, the biggest way that Mike Krzyzewski stops the professional basketball careers of his players is by failing to develop their talent. Krzyzewski does not teach fundamental basketball skills to his players, so most of his players never grow beyond the skill level that they acquired prior to their arrival at Duke. Basketball players do not get better under his tutelage, they just get more acclimated to his system. If an athlete’s skill set matches what Coach K wants from his players, then they play more and ultimately become the focus of his offense. Guys like Jayson Williams and Jabari Parker fitted the mold of a Krzyzewski coached team, so they had successful careers at Duke. Jayson Williams led his his team from the moment that he stepped on campus as a freshman. He was a quick point guard who had great ball-handling skills and a good outside shot, Coach K’s favorite type of player. By his second year, he was the star of a team that was led by seniors and future NBA stars. Jabari Parker fit the role of a Krzyzewski player too. He was a polished, athletic wing who could make the three or use a few dribbles to take short jumpers. He starred in his freshman year at Duke and led the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding (the only freshman to ever do so) because he fit the mold of a classic Krzyzewski player. But, Williams and Parker came to Duke as highly skilled, above average athletes. Most college athletes do not enter college with both the natural gifts and a skill set that is developed enough to play in the pros. The average college athlete needs his game cultivated by a patient mentor to succeed at any university or at the next level. Coach Krzyzewski only gives his players a larger platform to be seen. He does not teach them the game of basketball. College guards may not need ball handling clinics in every practice, but they do need to be counseled on when to shoot and when to pass the basketball. The point guards who have trouble with shot selection at Duke University are benched no matter how talented they are. College wings come into universities as shooters who can not dribble or slashers who have trouble shooting the basketball. Krzyzewski allows both types of players minutes in his system, however only elite shooters or spectacular athletes are recruited to the school at the wing position. So, he never has to develop his swing man’s skills, he only has to tweak their decisions on the court. And, the Duke posts have been neglected and mishandled. No one shows them the finer points of rebounding, the importance of positioning, and advanced footwork. Until he landed a head coaching gig at Marquette this season, Steve Wojohowieski, a 5’7″ former point guard for Duke, was teaching the post players at Duke how to play. Consequently, some of the more hyped prep stars never dominate at Duke. As a starter at Duke, DeMarcus Nelson, a former All-American, only averaged 14.1 points per game in his junior year and 14.5 in his senior year. Throughout his college career, Chris Duhon averaged 7.2, 8.9, 9.2, and 10.0 points per game as a Blue Devil. There was no measurable progress in his entire career. Jon Scheyer scored 18.2 points per game as a senior, however he only shot above 40% from the field once in his college career, his sophomore year. Shelden Williams upped his scoring every year, but he never learned the nuances of post play so he failed once the level of athleticism was equal in the NBA. And, Kyle Singler entered Durham with a hefty 13.3 scoring average, but the difference between his next three years were negligible. He scored 17 points grabbed 7 rebounds, and handed out two assists for the next three years as Duke. These are respectable college statistics for any player, but in every case there was no significant growth for any of these kids as basketball players. Each of these young men came to Coach Krzyzewski with talent and a dream, and he used their abilities to fuel the Coach K legend instead of helping them to hone their craft.

basketball - kyrie irving - collegeOne of the best Duke players ever only played 8 college games under Coach K.

By and large, the best basketball players to come out of Duke are guys who did not stay under Krzyzewski for very long. Corey Maggette, Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng, and Jabari Parker all left after their first year. Maggette averaged 20+ points over the course of several seasons in the NBA, Irving and Deng are NBA All-Stars, and Parker will likely be a good pro (Irving only played a total of 8 games in college). Elton Brand and Jayson Williams left in their sophomore years. Jayson Williams started what seemed to be a good NBA career before it was derailed by a motorcycle injury, and Brand is a former All-Star who regularly averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds in the NBA when he was healthy. The less time players spend in Durham, the better they seem to be in the National Basketball Association.

Do not be bamboozled by the propaganda machine behind Duke Basketball. Mike Krzyzewski is not the wholesome, affable coach that he is portrayed to be by the national media. Krzyzewski is a bullying, self-serving coach who is willing to solidify his legend in the NCAA at the expense of hundreds of athletic careers. Attending Duke University for four years will get an athlete more exposure, and the brief stint there could possibly get a student athlete a Final Four ring, but for most basketball players, attending Duke University ensures that they will sit on the bench despite being fairly talented or skilled, and that their potential will never be realized. Mike Krzyzewski kills careers.

Defense Does Not Win Championships

14 Jan

basketball - offense wins championships

This article was originally posted on April 12, 2011. Due to our great reader feedback at, we decided to run it again. Enjoy.

Legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant Jr. famously told his football team, the Alabama Crimson Tide that, “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” Bear Bryant was right about that. In football, a dominant defense can carry a paltry, underachieving offense to the pinnacle of the sport, and great offenses often lose to teams less-talented teams that hit hard on defense. The feared Tampa Two of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens proved this assertion. The Tampa Two defense, perfected by Tony Dungy, revolutionized the defensive side of the football. In 2000, the Baltimore Ravens produced the stingiest defense in NFL history and won a championship despite having mediocre quarterback play at best. This was possible because, in football, the defense can score too, and when a NFL team has Hall of Fame athletes like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on the defensive side of the football, that side of the football team scores often. However, basketball coaches are adapting this old adage too, and it has resulted in structurally flawed teams like the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers or the 2002 Philadelphia 76′ers. Those NBA teams had one part of the equation to win a National Basketball Association championship, but their team concept and extraneous personnel was poorly assembled. LeBron James and Allen Iverson, respectively, were the best players in the league in 2007 and 2002. They could score when necessary, but their teammates were accumulated to bolster the team concept of defense. The players that surrounded the league MVP in those two years were put there to stop other players from scoring, instead of scoring themselves. In football, the defense can score points to supplement a suspect offense, but in basketball, the team with the highest skilled, most talented players, almost always win. Both the Cavaliers and the 76′ers lost the Finals series and never returned. Winning in basketball is about having a unstoppable go-to player, having a second and third scoring option on offense, and having respectable rebounding and defense.

The biggest key to winning in the National Basketball Association is obtaining the franchise player with an established go-to move. The best defensive player in the league can not even slow a franchise player without help from other teammates. Did Micheal Cooper ever hold Larry Bird to under 15 points in a game? No, Bird was one of the most polished basketball players that ever reached the NBA and could score on anyone. Did any one player ever stop Michael Jordan from averaging 30 points per game? No, Michael Jordan was better than everyone athletically and skill-wise. The best players in the league put the basketball in the rim, regardless of who is in front of them. Basketball is an offensive sport. If a guy gets hot, it does not matter what junk defense you throw at him, he is going to score. LeBron James scored 22 straight points against the Boston Celtics in a playoff game. They boasted the best defense in the league that year and focused all their defensive acumen on stopping him. It did not matter because a great offensive player always beats a great defense in basketball.

Eventually, a smart coach will double-team the best player if he begins to dominate the game, however this defensive strategy only works if the opposing team is flawed structurally. Good offense still dictates the outcome of any given game. This is where the Cavaliers and 76′ers fell short. Their second and third options were not adept at scoring the basketball and their offenses stalled. James and Iverson penetrated and made easy shots for their teammates, however those teammates specialized in team and individual defense and therefore could not score the basketball. The teams that they faced, the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers had superior offensive firepower and won the series 4-0 and 4-1, respectively. Teams that hope to win it all have at least three stars. Every former National basketball Association champion has had at least three scorers.

Below is a list of NBA champions over the last thirty years and their offensive stars.

Los Angeles Lakers – 2009-10 Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Boston Celtics – 2008 Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
San Antonio Spurs – 2007,05,03 Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker
Miami Heat – 2006 Dwayne Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning
Detroit Pistons – 2004 Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton
Los Angeles Lakers – 2000-02 Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Rick Fox or Robert Horry
San Antonio Spurs – 1999 David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and Sean Elliot
Chicago Bulls – 1996-98, 1991-93 Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, then Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc
Houston Rockets – 1994-95 Hakeem Olajuwon, Otis Thorpe, Vernon Maxwell, then Clyde Drexler
Detroit Pistons – 1989-90 Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson
Los Angeles Lakers – 1987-88, 85, 82,80 Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, James Worthy
Boston Celtics – 1986, 84, 81 Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish
Philadelphia 76’ers – 1982 Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Bobby Jones

Every team shown in the graph above has at least one Hall of Fame candidate, with the exception of the 2004 Detroit Pistons. But, the Pistons had the best defense in basketball history at the time, only allowing opponents to score 89 points or less against them, and they put 4 great offensive players on the court nightly. Rasheed Wallace was one of the most talented and versatile scorers in the league at 6’11″. He had great footwork in the post, a soft touch on every shot, and range out to the 3 pt. line. Chauncey Billups became one of the most revered leaders and clutch shooters in the NBA in that season. Tayshaun Prince, their best individual defender was a star offensive player in college, and his scoring prowess resurfaced in those NBA Finals. And, Rip Hamilton was a tireless worker on offense, running defenders off a myriad of screens while putting up 20-30 points in any game. Winning in basketball is more contingent on having multiple offensive weapons than having defensive stalwarts, though defense is important too.

There have been many great NBA defenses that have been crowned champions at the end of the season, but they also had viable scoring options. Literally, every team that has won a NBA championship has played strong defense, but has had some of the best scorers in the league. Defense is important, but it does not win championships. To win in basketball, you have to put the ball in the hole.

How to Win a Championship in the NBA

27 Nov

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers

Winning championships in the National Basketball Association is not completely contingent on talent, though a certain level of physical ability is necessary. The aptitude of a team is predetermined by the management’s ability to find certain, specific traits in players individually and in their team as a whole. Often, the general managers overlook the smaller subtleties of creating a balanced, cohesive unit while trying to put together a talented team, like the Atlanta Hawks. Or, they put together a team that plays well together, but cannot compete because they are athletically inferior. Putting together a winner depends on finding the right parts and putting them in a position to be successful.

1. Have an identity – The 1980’s Showtime Lakers blew by their opposition with most explosive fast break in NBA history. The 1988-90 Detroit Pistons played hard-nosed defense and did not allow anyone into the paint without some physical contact or a hard foul. The 1991-93 and 1994-96 Chicago Bulls used Tex Winters’ patented, triangle offense to post and slash their way to NBA championships. Great champions are determined by style. They impose their style and their will onto games and force their opponents into playing outside of their comfort zone. Each one of those historically great teams had a signature style of play predicated by a unique head coach. When building a franchise, the coach that manages the inflated egos of superstars and the game-time decisions must be decisive, motivational, and insightful. All of the aforementioned styles of play were taught by Hall of Fame coaches, Pat Riley, Bill Fitch, and Phil Jackson, respectively.

2. Get a franchise player with a go-to move – What is the difference between Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard? What is the difference between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James? They are all considered to be franchise players, but there are are quite a few differences that separate these players. First, there are 8 championships separating Timmy, Dwight, Kobe and LeBron, Tim with 3, Kobe with 5, Dwight and LeBron with none.* Howard and James have infinitely more physical ability than their more successful counterparts. Numerous NBA champions, like Hakeem Olajuwon and Dwayne Wade, have won with the amount of talent that LeBron and Dwight have had around them, so why have they not won it all? A go-to move is the real difference between these players. When you think of great NBA champions, images of timeless plays are revisited. Hakeem Olajuwon with his “Dream Shake” and flawless footwork in the post, Michael Jordan shooting his unstoppable, fade away jump shot, and Magic Johnson throwing a no-look pass to his Lakers teammates play regularly on NBA films. NBA champions have players that can score every time that they touch the basketball, because of a polished move that they have refined over years of practice.

3. Draft well – Your franchise player needs some help. No NBA champion over the last 30 years has had less than three stars. The best teams have 4-5 players that can score twenty+ points on any given night. The teams that do this draft well. The best general managers find the most talented players that fit their teams’ needs and systems. The best teams in the league, like the Lakers and the Spurs, have general managers that do this particularly well. The general rule of drafting is to always take the best talent available, no matter what if the player is an elite athlete who makes the type of shots that the average NBA player cannot make. People that fell under this rule were players like Brandon Roy and Dwayne Wade from the NCAA tournament, and LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant straight from high school. If an elite talent is unavailable, then you draft by team need. Two things that always translate from lower levels of basketball to the NBA are shooting and rebounding. So, GM’s should draft for whichever of the two skills in which their team is deficient.

4. Rebounding – Rebounds equal possessions.The better your big men are at rebounding, the better your team will do. General managers generally get the most gifted big men in an attempt to get more rebounding. This aspect of the game is the only situation where finding the most athletic guy, seldom works out admirably. Rebounding is completely about, technique, positioning, and desire. How high you can jump, has very little to do with who gets a rebound. Ideally, you procure the big man that wants the ball and is a superior athlete, but the two things are often separate. Rebounding is a lot like shooting the basketball, in that, some people will have a greater proclivity for it than others through sheer physical makeup, but the person that works harder than the others will be better, regardless of talent.

5. Defense - People say that defense wins championships. However, unless a basketball team is historically dominant on the defensive end, defense itself does not win championships. The sports pundits who believe that one end of the basketball court decides games are deluded, but defense is definitely necessary. A stout defense can carry a team to a title.The ability to make stops on the defensive end results in more possessions for the offense and thus more opportunities to score. Plus, it limits the scoring opportunities for the other team. Good defensive possessions bring momentum changes, especially when a block or steal leads directly to a score on a fast break .

Every National Basketball Champion in the history of the league has been among the league leaders in three categories, field goal percentage, defense, and rebounding. To build a winning team, you need a coach to make and teach the strategy, a franchise player with an unstoppable move, a team concept and personnel that are built in rebounding, and sound defensive philosophy. There is no other formula to NBA immortality.

*Editor’s Note: LeBron has since won three championship rings, and is always a favorite to win another ring because of his dominance on the court. But, LeBron has also worked on his back to the basket moves and his team goes to him in the post when they need a score. His post game has become his signature go-to move.