Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green were voted as the most overrated players in the NBA in a poll conducted by The Athletic.
The poll used anonymous feedback from 127 players in total to conduct its research; the website’s 30 beat writers helped tally the results. However, not every player answered every question.
The players were asked a variety of questions, from choosing the MVP and best defender in the league to best ballhandler. For instance: Paul George was voted third in the MVP race.
While George placed pretty high on a few questions, Westbrook and Green garnered 17 percent of the votes from the 47 players polled as the most overrated in the NBA.
Who’s the most overrated? (47 votes)
Draymond Green, Russell Westbrook (17%)
Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns (6.3%)
James Harden, Ben Simmons, LeBron James, Kyle Lowry (4.2%)
Semi Ojeleye, Kyrie Irving, Brook Lopez, Myles Turner, Luka Doncic, Hassan Whiteside, John Collins, Lonzo Ball, C.J. McCollum, Nikola Jokic, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul Millsap, Klay Thompson, Jayson Tatum (2.1%)
The results from the 47 players polled appear to be mixed with James Harden and LeBron James — arguably two of the best in the NBA — receiving votes for being overrated.
Westbrook and Green have become two of the most polarizing players in the NBA over the years. They have each become fierce competitors in the NBA and have been known to talk trash to the opposition — Green was voted No. 1 in the biggest trash-talker category and Westbrook was third.
On the season, Westbrook is averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10.7 assists per game this season. He clinched a third consecutive season averaging a triple-double on Friday night.
While his shooting numbers have been historically bad this season, Westbrook has still been one of the best players in the league and is arguably a top-two point guard.
Meanwhile, Green is averaging 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, seven assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game this season for the Warriors. He has become an elite defender given his versatility and ability to guard multiple positions.
By being two of the most polarizing players in the league, Westbrook and Green likely haven’t made many friends around the NBA and that could have had a huge impact on them being named two of the most overrated in the league.
However, the two players probably don’t care either way …
It was a long, painful road for the Brooklyn Nets and their fans, but the team is finally, improbably back in the NBA playoffs.
With a 108-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, the 41-40 Nets clinched their first playoff berth since the 2014-15 season. It remains to be seen whether the team will get the sixth or seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but the good news is already here for Brooklyn.
After spending years in NBA purgatory thanks to a bad mixture of lack of star talent and the inability to develop any thanks to a catastrophic trade with the Boston Celtics in 2013, the Nets have a young core again and a way forward.
As far as the Nets’ odds to make the playoffs went, both Las Vegas and the numbers didn’t seem to think highly of them entering the season.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook gave the Nets a moneyline of +300 to make the postseason, while FiveThirtyEight had the team at around 30 percent. Those odds likely became even worse when the team’s leading scorer, Caris Levert, went down with a severe leg injury.
The Nets still persevered thanks to the breakout season of D’Angelo Russell, who has found new life since he was traded away from the Los Angeles Lakers to make room at point guard for Lonzo Ball. Russell made his first career All-Star appearance and is now averaging 21.2 points and 7.0 assists per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field.
Russell didn’t even know the team had just clinched a playoff spot as he stepped in for a postgame interview.
Between Russell, Levert and other players like rookie center Jarrett Allen, it might not be long before the Nets make the playoffs again.
In the piece titled “Privileged,” Korver touched on a variety of race-related topics and shared his own experiences, citing a 2015 arrest of a teammate and a racial incident last month involving Thunder star Russell Westbrook and a fan in Utah.
“There’s an elephant in the room that I’ve been thinking about a lot over these last few weeks,” Korver wrote. “It’s the fact that, demographically, if we’re being honest: I have more in common with the fans in the crowd at your average NBA game than I have with the players on the court.”
Korver mentioned his “privilege” on multiple occasions in the piece, writing that, as a white man, he has the option to engage or disengage in the fight against racism.
“What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color … I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it,” he wrote. “Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.”
LeBron James, a former teammate of Korver, praised the piece on Twitter.
Korver, 38, is about to complete his 16th season in the NBA. He was a member of the Atlanta Hawks in 2015 when teammate Thabo Sefolosha was arrested in New York for allegedly interfering with a crime scene.
Sefolosha suffered season-ending leg injuries during his arrest and, later that year, was found not guilty on all three misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident.
Korver wrote that he was “embarrassed” by his initial reaction in 2015 to learning about Sefolosha’s arrest, saying that his “first thought was: ‘What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back?'”
“Before I knew the full story, and before I’d even had the chance to talk to Thabo … I sort of blamed Thabo,” Korver wrote.
Korver also recounted his role in the Jazz’s team discussion about the March 11 incident at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, where Westbrook shouted, “I’ll f— you up” to Jazz fan Shane Keisel in response to Keisel telling him, “Get on your knees like you’re used to.”
Westbrook, who considered the comment “completely disrespectful” and “racial,” was fined $25,000 by the NBA. Keisel was permanently banned from the arena.
Korver said the “incident struck a nerve with our team,” prompting a closed-door meeting the next day with Jazz president Steve Starks.
“This wasn’t the first time they’d taken part in conversations about race in their NBA careers, and it wasn’t the first time they’d had to address the hateful actions of others,” Korver wrote. “And one big thing that got brought up a lot in the meeting was how incidents like this — they weren’t only about the people directly involved. This wasn’t only about Russ and some heckler. It was about more than that.
“It was about what it means just to exist right now — as a person of color in a mostly white space.
“It was about racism in America.”
Korver also discussed his own feelings of guilt and responsibility and listed several ways that he, as a white player in the NBA, can help deal with forms of racism.
“I know that, as a white man, I have to hold my fellow white men accountable,” Korver wrote. “We all have to hold each other accountable.
“And we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a ‘safe’ space for toxic behavior.”
Kyle Korver confronts racism, white privilege in a must-read essay
Hemal Jhaveri | USA TODAY SPORTS
Racism in this country is a hard thing to talk about, a difficult topic that many people would like avoid, but Utah Jazz guard Kyle Korver confronted race and his own white privilege in a powerful essay for The Players’ Tribune.
Simply titled “Privileged“, the essay is a straightforward acknowledgement of the space Korver occupies not only in a league that’s over 75% black, but in a world where inequality seems to be woven into the fabric of the nation. The statements are a bold, unflinching look into a mirror, that strips away performative inclusion to dig into the real work of being an ally…
He goes on to say that white people may not be guilty for the sins of their forefathers, but they certainly bare the responsibility.
“It’s about understanding on a fundamental level that black people and white people, they still have it different in America. And that those differences come from an ugly history….. not some random divide,” he wrote.
There’s a tendency, among fans and in the media, to heap undue praise on white men for often doing the bare minimum, but Korver’s essay deserves to be acknowledged for what it is, an attempt to hold himself and other white athletes accountable for their behavior.
“I have to continue to educate myself on the history of racism in America,” he wrote. “I have to listen. I’ll say it again, because it’s that important. I have to listen.”
You can read the entire essay here. It is very much worth your time.
The dance rehearsal hall where Prince once held his pickup basketball games at his Paisley Park estate is now a shrine to “Purple Rain,” the hoop removed and supplanted by one of the motorcycles from the movie and, among other things, an Oscar.
As with his music, the legend lives on.
The Final Four has arrived in Minnesota, and with apologies to Kevin McHale, the state’s most famous homegrown hooper is better known for something other than his basketball skills – but those were, as aficionados of Chappelle’s Show might already be guessing, formidable.
Prince, who died in 2016, was a big a star as any artist of his generation and as cool a human as ever walked the planet, but as Prince Rogers Nelson, he was also a basketball player of some renown.
Prince’s basketball skills were immortalized on Chappelle’s Show by one of Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories, in this case after Eddie Murphy and his crew ran into Prince and his crew at a club in 1985.
They ended up playing basketball, with Prince and the Revolution still wearing their club clothes – “shirts against the blouses,” Charlie Murphy quipped, to Prince’s apparent displeasure – and Prince dominating.
Prince later confirmed the basic elements of Murphy’s story in a later radio interview, although not quite exactly as Murphy described on the show.
“To be honest,” Prince said, “it ain’t that I’m so great, but he’s that bad.”
Even that is up for some debate, as USA Today’s FTW blog once examined. While Prince was far from a star at Bryant Junior High and Central High in Minneapolis, where he played football, basketball and baseball and his basketball coach described him, to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, as a “sixth or seventh man.” But the author Toure’ would later write approvingly of Prince’s skills after playing one-on-one against Prince.
“He moved like a player and played like one of those darting little guys you have to keep your eye on every second,” Toure’ wrote in his book I Would Die 4 U. “Blink and he’s somewhere you wouldn’t expect. Lose control of your dribble for a heartbeat and he’s relieved you of the ball. He jitterbugged around the court like a sleek little lightning bug, so fast he’d leave a defender stranded and looking stupid if he weren’t careful.”
That’s more the player Murphy describes in the skit: “This cat could ball, man. He was crossing cats like Iverson. Crossed me up, made my knees slam together. He was getting rebounds like Charles Barkley.”
The victorious Prince – “Game, blouses!” – after suggesting a cleansing dip in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, then offered the Murphy entourage pancakes, as the skit would have it, but there’s every reason to believe that’s how it ended.
He did the same when he hosted a celebration for the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx at Paisley Park, the breakfast somehow becoming inextricably linked with his basketball exploits. (Prince used a photo of Dave Chappelle, dressed as him, holding a plate of pancakes for the cover of his 2013 single “Breakfast Can Wait.”)
The basket is gone, but the television in the lounge where Prince would watch his beloved Lynx and Timberwolves play was tuned to basketball on Saturday, which a tour guide noted approvingly, and a Prince-themed Final Four corporate party was being prepared for Sunday night.
And Paisley Park has a cafe that offers dishes from recipes left behind by Prince’s personal chefs. You may no longer be able to subject yourself to a purple rain of jumpers or play shirts against blouses on the court he once dominated, but you can still relax like Prince once did afterward.
The real story behind the famous Chappelle skit about Prince’s late-night hoops challenge
JERRY BEMBRY | THE UNDEFEATED
As Micki Free checked into a Nashville, Tennessee, hotel earlier this month, the clerk, glancing at the name on the reservation, did a double take.
“Are you the Micki Free?” the clerk asked. “The guy who played basketball with Prince?”
Free laughed as he recalled the encounter. “Happens all the time when I check in,” Free said. “Been that way the last 12 years.”
It started on Feb. 18, 2004, when comedian Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Central series aired a skit called Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories. In the segment, Murphy — comedian Eddie Murphy’s older brother — describes a late-night basketball outing that portrayed Prince as a shot-calling, trash-talking baller.
It was a made-up comedic masterpiece, right? A fictionalized account of a scrawny, 5-foot-2 musician as dominant athlete, right?
“Everything in that skit is true,” said Free, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter who was a member of Shalamar in the 1980s. “I played in that game. And Prince was Steph Curry all m—–f—— night!”
Prince wasn’t just some famous dude who was breaking ankles of other nonathletic famous dudes in late-night runs. Prince could actually play, a guy who might have been an impact high school basketball player under different circumstances while growing up in Minneapolis.
He played two years at Central High School in Minneapolis, and his high school coach, Albert Nuness, says he was extremely talented.
“His game was quickness. He wasn’t the best shooter, but he could split the seams and pass the ball and because of his size people loved to watch him,” Nuness said. “The player he reminds me of — Spud Webb. He didn’t have the leaping ability like Spud, but his quickness was very similar.”
One of the reasons Prince quit basketball was because he was unhappy with his playing time.
“At the time, that team was considered the greatest ever assembled in Minnesota,” Nuness said. “So it would have been hard for him to get time with us, and lot had to do with his size. But had he gone to any other school in the city — West or South — he would have played. A lot. No question.”
During 1975-76, Prince’s senior year, Central finished 25-1 and had four players receive Division I scholarships, including Prince’s half-brother, Duane Nelson, who played for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Although Prince’s basketball skills weren’t widely known at the time the Chappelle’s Show skit aired, there were signs that he had talent: He had a basketball court on the stage during his 1988 LoveSexy Tour, for instance, and during the concert he would shoot baskets and spin a basketball on his finger.
In his video for the song The Daisy Chain, which was recorded in 2000, Prince handles a basketball throughout. The closing seconds of the video, which was shot in his indoor court at the Paisley Park complex in Minneapolis and didn’t surface until after his death, show perhaps the only known footage of Prince playing basketball.
Going back to the basketball game made famous on Chappelle’s Show: Free said it happened sometime in the mid-1980s as he was hanging out with Prince, Eddie Murphy and Charlie Murphy at a private club, Tramps! at the Beverly Center in Beverly Hills, California. When the club closed, Prince invited the group to his Beverly Hills home.
While playing music for his guests, Prince asked the group, “Do you want to play basketball?” The invite was met with laughter, but once the Murphy brothers saw Prince was serious, they geared up and took to the court at his house.
The TV skit portrayed the game as 5-on-5, half court. In reality, it was the Murphy brothers and their uncle, Ray, against Prince, his brother, Duane, and Free.
Murphy’s crew changed into athletic gear. And Prince’s crew?
“Yes, it’s true, we had on ‘blouses,’ and frilly shirts,” Free said. “The same clothes we had at the club. Prince played in 6-inch heels!”
Free remembered that Murphy’s crew didn’t take the game seriously at first.
“They checked the ball to me, I gave it to Prince and he went to work,” Free said. “You know that one move where Curry dribbles up and they got him covered, but he steps back behind the 3-point line and hits nothing but net? That was Prince.”
In the TV skit, Murphy described Prince as a combination of basketball greats Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley, a scoring and rebounding machine. Prince dominated the game, according to Murphy’s account, and capped off his game-winning shot with these oft-repeated words: “Game, Blouses.”
And after the game?
“It was just like they showed on TV,” Free said. “His chef served us blueberry pancakes, for real!”
Free first met Prince in the early 1980s and, over time, the two became friends. Prince offered to buy Free out of his contract with Shalamar and place him in his Minneapolis-based group, Mazarati. But the owner of Shalamar’s label declined and the two grew apart as Prince’s star began to shine brighter following the success of Purple Rain.
“What happened between us? He became Prince,” Free said. “He got huge and I was just one of many people he knew. I was just lucky to have my experiences with Prince, because anytime you got a chance to spend one-on-one with him, it was like a religious experience.”
Memories of their time together returned on Feb. 18, 2004, with an out-of-the-blue email from Charlie Murphy.
“I got you, m—–f—–,” the email read.
Free was still trying to figure out what he meant when he got a hysterical call from his mother.
“ ‘They’re talking about you on TV, son,’ ” he recalled her saying. “ ‘They’re calling you a girl.’ ”
She was watching the portion of skit where Charlie Murphy described her son: “And Micki Free was like the new cat in Shalamar, that when he joined the group I heard mad cats like, yo, Shalamar got a new girl, man, that b—- is fine like a m—–f—–.”
Free’s reaction was the total opposite of his mother’s.
“I was rolling,” Free said. “It was hilarious. And it was true.”
The skit captured the true competitiveness of Prince, which stretched beyond basketball.
David Z, a sound engineer, told the Minneapolis StarTribune that Prince once challenged Michael Jackson to a game of pingpong while the two were recording in the same studio.
Apparently, Jackson wasn’t a player. And it didn’t end well for the gloved one.
Prince asked Jackson, “You want me to slam it?” As Jackson cowered, Prince did just that, and Jackson was humiliated. “Did you see that?” Z recalled Prince saying. “He played like Helen Keller.”
After Prince’s death, Jimmy Fallon, the host of The Tonight Show, described being destroyed by Prince during a late-night game of pingpong. Prince delivered the beatdown while wearing a “double-breasted crushed blue velvet suit.”
That’s exactly how Free remembers Prince: a man who took everything seriously.