Often blinded by the athleticism of the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the current crop of stars, many NBA fans will fail to realise that earlier eras of the National Basketball Association were stacked with athletic talent and razzamatazz too.
As you'll see in this highlights video, the 1960s had its fair share of flashy passes and high-flying dunks. There are too many stars to name in this well-created "mix tape", but look out for Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Willis Reed, Walt Bellamy, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes and Nate Thurmond, amongst others.
The year was 1999. Lamar Odom was the fourth pick in the NBA Draft, joining a young Los Angeles Clippers team which had just won a horrendously low nine games in the Lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. Whilst the arrival of Odom only resulted in a 15 win season for the severely talent-deprived Clippers, things were starting to look up for LA's other team.
The following season the Clips scored swingman Darius Miles with the third pick in the draft and followed that up in 2001 by winning the ultimate lottery prize in stud power forward Elton Brand (all three are pictured above). Thus led the path back to respectability -- it was an exciting time to be a Clipper.
Odom showed what type of all-round performer he could be in his early years in the league. A 6'10" swingman, capable of handing and dishing the ball, shooting the three and pulling down a power forward's share of rebounds is a rare commodity anywhere in the world. So it was no surprise that Odom was highly sought after as a free agent in 2003 when he signed with the Miami Heat.
We know the rest of the story from there. After one season in Heat colours, Odom was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers in a trade that netted Miami Shaquille O'Neal and an NBA title. For his part, Odom found himself back in LA, this time on the other side of town playing with the big boys in the Showtime strip.
In Los Angeles, the New York native became regarded as one of the most versatile players in the league -- one who wins games. The Lakers went on to win the 2009 and 2010 NBA titles, with Odom being a key component in that success. The stats don't lie.
All the while, the basketball player was also a star off the court. His marriage to and reality television appearances with Khloe Kardashian garnered him fame outside of the sports sphere.
Then, in December 2011, Odom received an early Christmas present from the Lakers -- one that he really didn't want, as he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. His 50 games with the Mavs were by far the worst of his career, averaging a career-low 11.6ppg at an ugly .352 from the field.
Clearly, Dallas was not the high-profile locale that Odom enjoyed in the big smoke of LA. You didn't have to be a sports betting genius to connect Odom's poor performance to his displeasure in leaving Hollywood.
Now comes the 2012 Draft Day news that Odom has been traded back to where it all began: the Los Angeles Clippers. Funnily enough, as part of the four-way trade, Clippers guard Mo Williams is dealt back to his first NBA club, the Utah Jazz. As part of the transaction, the Mavs gain a trade exception and cash from the Houston Rockets. The Rockets receive the draft rights to 20-year old Turkish big man, second round pick Furkan Aldemir from the Clippers.
It's no long shot to guess that Odom will enjoy a renaissance in play after his return to LA. No doubt his screen-loving wife will be pleased too. The big factor here worth consideration is what this does for the Clippers and their title aspirations. Combining the multi-talented Odom with superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, as well as the likes of Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan could pay huge dividends for the Clips.
Ben Coupet (Simeon) is a 6'7" eighth grader from Chicago. Check out this dunk he throws down during the 2012 Fab Frosh Camp in Atlanta. Just remember, this kid doesn't graduate from high school until 2016.
As once upon a time the cover of NBA Live was highly anticipated, as fans and media seeked to find out who would be beset with the dreaded "NBA Live Cover Curse", now the most hotly awaited hoops video game cover of the year comes from the NBA 2K series.
2K Sports have played to this anticipation this year, by starting with a slow reveal on their facebook page, which could be chipped away at through every tweet that fans hashtagged with #UncoverNBA2K.
Patty Mills has had a roller-coaster past twelve months in his basketball life. After finishing the 2010/11 NBA season with the Portland Trail Blazers, he entered the Summer of 2011 with the uncertainty created by the NBA Lockout.
Being a proud Australian, Mills took the opportunity presented by the Lockout not to better his stocks for another NBA contract, but to contribute to the game downunder by joining the Melbourne Tigers in the National Basketball League in Australia. Mills put up 18.6ppg and 5.0apg during his nine games with the Tigers, before a too-hard-to-refuse offer came from the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in China.
Mills put up some sizable numbers in China (26.5ppg), before a hamstring injury cut his time and contract short. Controversially, the Flying Tigers officials chose the press as an outlet to criticise Mills' injury and to make claims that his time away from the game was for fictitious reasons. The Chinese club did themselves no favours on a public relations front with that outburst.
The unfortunate scenario for Mills -- like other NBA players contracted in China -- then unfolded that he was restricted from returning to the NBA (or any other basketball league) until the Chinese Basketball Association season ended in March 2012. As soon as that time hurdle had been jumped, Mills was signed by the San Antonio Spurs, guided in part by Assistant Coach Brett Brown, of the Australian Boomers.
Mills had a successful 16 game stint with the Spurs, to close out the season, averaging an impressive 10.3ppg and 2.4apg in 16mpg, shooting at an efficient .485 from the field and .429 from three-point range. During his time with the Spurs, he added eight games to his total 13 game NBA Playoff career and put up a career high 34 points and 12 assists in the final game of the regular season.
At the conclusion of the 2011/12 NBA season, Mills was left with a player option in his Spurs contract, giving him the decision of whether to return for $1m or to test his value (and potential playing time) on the broader market. Mills is currently considering his options on that front.
To get a better feel for how Patty has performed in San Antonio and where he may head next season, we have the privilege of the expertise of Paul Garcia of Project Spurs (the preeminent San Antonio Spurs site) to answer a few questions.
Mookie: What have you thought of Mills' play this season with the Spurs? Did he over/underachieve on what you expected?
Paul: I think he overachieved. It's rare that the Spurs sign someone late in the season and they have an instant impact once they're thrown into the game. His first game was against the Phoenix Suns where he played just four minutes, but his second game on the second night of a back-to-back showed his ability to score points quickly as he scored 7 points in just 6 minutes of play, most from beyond the arc. He would go on to get more minutes as the season finished off, but his last two games of the regular season were his best, as he led the team to back-to-back victories. He wasn't a part of the regular playoff rotation, but his season play gave a glimpse of how good Mills can be if he gets a full training camp and regular season.
Is Mills a good fit in the Spurs system?
He's a great fit in the Spurs' system because he's already learned the bulk of it playing with Australia in international play and being coached by Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown. Mills knows that any guard who has a consistent 3-point shot and who plays hard on defense will get more playing time on the court. When he ran the point guard either as a starter or backup off of the bench, he knew how to run the offense. But it was his ability to know how to find the open spot, where the Spurs' attackers could pass him the ball, that showed his understanding of the offense. That's something Richard Jefferson and other Spurs players have struggled with in the past, Mills picked up the spacing right away.
What chances do you see of Mills coming back to the Spurs next season, and if he does, where would he slot into the rotation?
I think that's ultimately up to him. He told an Australian radio station that he was looking to test free agency, but that he wouldn't have a firm decision until June 25, when players with player options have their last day to opt out of their contracts. Should he opt out, I can see him getting a better offer elsewhere because he did showcase himself as a valuable piece to a team that needs help scoring in their backcourt. If he stays in San Antonio, then I see him getting more consistency as Tony Parker's backup. The problem with the Spurs' backcourt is that they might have too many players to divide the minutes. French guard Nando De Colo might be making his way to the team this summer, and he can also play backup point guard. So he and Mills would be challenging each other for that slot, while there's also the issue of playing Mills alongside Gary Neal. Both are "smaller" guards and are a defensive liability though they can both put up points in quick spurts.
Was there a moment where Mills made the most impact in a Spurs uniform? If so, what was it?
His last two games of the regular season are two games I'll remember most about Mills in the regular season. The Spurs elected to rest the "big three" of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan, so Mills and the team were shorthanded, yet they still won both back-to-back games to send the Spurs into the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak. Mills had the most impact as he scored 27 points the first night in Phoenix, most notably not by hitting 3-pointers, but by attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. The next night in Golden State, Mills followed up his performance with a 34-point game, this time displaying his strong mid-range game.
Many thanks to Paul Garcia for his insights. Check out Project Spurs for the best Spurs coverage around.
So, the Miami Heat in their current Big Three incarnation finally got that NBA title. More to the point, LeBron James, one of the most opinion-splitting players in all of basketball, got the ring that will serve to briefly mute his detractors.
James sat down with ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Sunday Conversation to discuss the relief of defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder and what it means to him (video below). On LeBron, I will say this: over the years watching James and his public persona, he does seem to have matured and grown more humble in particular over the past year. The impact of his public shaming after The Decision and the ridicule attached to years of failing to win a title seems to have finally mellowed the ego -- or at least the amount of ego that he is putting on public display.
Watch the interview and see what you think.
Oh, and one other thing: I still find it hard to believe that he has been in the league for nine years now...
I guess after finally winning the title after all that has gone down, LeBron feels like this right about now:
Whilst the Miami Heat are well on their way to an apparent Game 5 Finals victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it's worth noting the array of dunks that Thunder superstar Kevin Durant has been putting up this season. Check out this baseline hammer dunk by Durantula against the Heat in Game 5 (in progress).
With the Miami Heat on the cusp of winning their first NBA title in the "Big 3" / "Miami Thrice" era, this is an interesting video which compares the introduction of the Boston Celtics Big Three (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen) in 2007 to that of the Heat (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh) in 2007.
This is the documentary that everyone in the basketball world has been waiting for. There is over one hour of hoops bliss in this Dream Team Documentary, as featured on NBA TV.
For those that just commenced following basketball last week, the Dream Team moniker refers to the mighty Team USA Mens Olympic Basketball squad of 1992 -- the team that took the Barcelona Olympics by storm.
The names are a who's who of the Hall of Fame:
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler, the indescrible Charles Barkley, and of course the phenomenal Christian Laettner.
Watch the HD video and enjoy!
(props to @jose3030 for the video - he's always first)