HOOP HANGOUT • NBA GAMEDAY POST • February 10th 2019

New-look 76ers beat LeBron James and Lakers 143-120

PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid had 37 points and 14 rebounds, Tobias Harris scored 22 points in his second game with Philadelphia and the new-look 76ers beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers143-120 on Sunday.

JJ Redick added 21 points and Jimmy Butler finished with 15 points in front of a packed crowd that brought a playoff-like feel to the nationally televised game. The 76ers have won two straight after acquiring Harris and four others at Thursday’s trade deadline.

Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with 39 points, and James had 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.


OAKLAND, Calif. — Kevin Durant scored 39 points and DeMarcus Cousins made two free throws with 5.4 seconds to play that helped Golden State cap a comeback from a 19-point deficit in the first quarter to beat Miami.

Cousins rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Durant and drew a foul, setting the stage for his winning free throws that gave the Warriors their 11th double-digit comeback of the season, and second straight after rallying from 17 points down in the first quarter Friday in Phoenix.

Klay Thompson scored 29 points and Stephen Curry added 25 for Golden State. Josh Richardson helped shoot Miami to the big early lead and finished with a career-high 37 points with help from eight 3-pointers.


DALLAS — Luka Doncic scored 28 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. had 24 and Dallas erased a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Portland.

Doncic also had nine rebounds and six assists. Damian Lillardscored 21 of his 30 points in the last half of the third quarter to help the Blazers build a lead that grew to 96-81 early in the fourth.

KINGS 117, SUNS 104

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Marvin Bagley III had a career-high 32 points and six rebounds and Sacramento handed Phoenix its 14th straight loss.

Buddy Hield scored 18 points, De’Aaron Fox had 17 points and nine assists, and Nemanja Bjelica added 10 points and eight rebounds to help Sacramento win for the fifth time in six games.

Devin Booker had 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists in his return from injury for Phoenix. The Suns’ losing streak is one shy of the franchise record set last season.

MAGIC 124, HAWKS 108

ATLANTA — All-Star Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 2 rebounds, leading Orlando past Atlanta,

Alex Len led the Hawks with 16 points, despite picking up four fouls in the first half.

Lonzo posts cryptic IG story to Lebron with Diddy lyrics “we ain’t going nowhere” after trade deadline – will he still be a Laker next year?


David Hookstead • The Daily Caller

The Los Angeles Lakers’ locker room might be a very tense place for the rest of the season.

There were multiple talks about trading Lonzo Ball and damn near the whole team in order to get Anthony Davis for LeBron. That failed, and the talented young point guard appeared to have a message for his superstar teammate.

Lonzo posted a video on his Instagram story late Thursday with P Diddy’s song “Bad Boy for Life” playing in the background. The lyrics, “We ain’t goin’ nowhere, we ain’t goin’ nowhere. We can’t be stopped now” could be heard as the oldest Ball brother zoomed in on the speaker.

If that’s not a direct shot at Lebron, I have honestly no idea what is. This also comes after LaVar went on TV Thursday and claimed his son was better than the three-time NBA champion. 

(RELATED: LaVar Ball Guarantees LeBron James Won’t Win A Title In Los Angles If Lonzo Gets Traded)

Again, it’s absolute chaos for the Lakers right now.

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Missed my dawg #TT

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You know things are bad when people are taking not very subtle shots at their teammates with Instagram videos.

That’s not something you want to see if you’re running the Lakers or a fan of the team. I guess this is what you get when you allow one player, LeBron, to seemingly try to dictate massive trades, and then it fails. That won’t go over well with teammates.

I hope LeBron wasn’t planning on spending a lot of his free time with his teammates. They don’t really seem too interested in being friends right now.


Boogie Cousins admires Kevin Durant’s “mental toughness… I don’t think he gets enough credit for how much bullsh-t he deals with on the daily.”

From ESPN :

“…Durant aired his frustrations with some recent stories about his potential future with the New York Knicks and admitted that he didn’t trust anyone in the media.

Durant, who is regarded as one of the most accessible stars in the game, answered questions and then spent a few minutes visiting with Suns guard Devin Booker after his postgame responsibilities were finished.

Warriors teammate DeMarcus Cousins credited Durant with always being able to play at a high level on the floor, no matter what kind of distractions he was dealing with off of it.

“It’s a credit to his mental toughness,” Cousins said. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for how much bulls— he deals with on the daily. He has his personal life. He’s probably top-two, top-three guys in the league when it comes to … just dealing with media — him, Bron, maybe Steph [Curry].

“It’s a tough life — always having a camera in your face, never really having privacy — and it’s obvious how much he gets attacked just on the social media and from a fan standpoint.

He deals with a lot, he has a lot coming at him, and he’s still able to block that out and come out and produce on a nightly basis. So that’s a credit to him. Like I said, I don’t feel he gets enough credit for it.”

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Original article: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/25956294/kevin-durant-not-shocked-lebron-james-first-all-star-pick-else-supposed-do

Anthony Davis reacts to hearing boos from Pelicans fans

Nick Schwartz • USA Today Sports

Anthony Davis returned to action for the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night at home, but some fans weren’t exactly happy to see Davis after the Pelicans’ trade deadline drama. Despite repeated offers from the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pelicans opted to keep Davis until the offseason, when they are expected to field offers from all over the league (most notably the Celtics, who can offer the Pelicans a stash of first round picks).

There had been some speculation that the Pelicans could shut Davis down for the season after the trade deadline in order to protect their most valuable asset, but NBA rules require healthy players to play. Davis had recovered from a finger injury but had been scratched from the lineup prior to the deadline, but ESPN reports that the NBA is prepared to fine the Pelicans per game if Davis is benched.

Davis received a mixed reaction from fans when his name was announced, and later said that he was surprised to hear boos from the crowd.


“That was definitely awkward. Boo? OK. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to go out there and play basketball. I was [surprised]. But hey, that’s life, man. Some people are not gonna like me. I’m just happy to be back on the floor playing the game that I love.”

Davis was benched for the entirety of the fourth quarter as the Pelicans beat the Timberwolves in a close game, but he still managed to score 32 points in 25 minutes.

Source: https://ftw.usatoday.com/2019/02/anthony-davis-booed-pelicans


George, Westbrook rally Thunder past Rockets, 117-112

Associated Press

HOUSTON — Paul George scored 45 points, Russell Westbrookmatched the NBA record with his ninth straight triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a 26-point deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 117-112 on Saturday night.

Westbrook had 21 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds to match the record streak set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. Westbrook has 22 triple-doubles this season and 126 overall. He also had 10 turnovers and was 8 of 21 from the field.

James Harden led the Rockets with 42 points, reaching 30 points for the 29th straight game — two shy of Chamberlain for the second-longest streak in NBA history, but far behind Chamberlain’s record run of 65 games. Harden was 11 for 28 from the field, going 6 of 16 from 3-point range, and made 14 of 15 free throws.

The 26-point deficit was Oklahoma City’s largest of the season.

Westbrook gave the Thunder a one-point lead with a driving layup with 26.9 seconds remaining. On the following possession, Harden missed a 3-pointer, and George got the rebound and was fouled with 3.4 seconds left. He made both free throws put Oklahoma City up three. Houston turned it over on the following inbound play.

George made 12 of 22 shots, hit 6 of 14 3-pointers and made 15 of 18 free throws to finish four points shy of his career-high 49 points set in 2013 with Indiana.


BOSTON — Montrezl Harrell forced two turnovers in the final two minutes and Patrick Beverley hit a pair of 3-pointers in front of the Boston bench night and retooled Los Angeles overcome a 28-point deficit.

One game after the Lakers rallied from 18 points down to win in Boston on Rajon Rondo‘s buzzer-beater — and six days after the Patriots beat the Rams in the Super Bowl — the Clippers turned the “Beat L.A.! chants” to boos. The Celtics collapse corresponded to the loss of Kyrie Irving, who left with a sprained knee in the second quarter, when the game seemed comfortably in hand.

Harrell scored 21 points, Danilo Gallinari had 19 points and 10 rebounds and trade deadline acquisition Landry Shamet scored 17 points.

Gordon Hayward scored 19 points and Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier had 16 apiece for Boston. The Celtics followed their highest-scoring half of the season with their lowest-scoring quarter and lost at home to a team from Los Angeles for the second straight time.

Boston scored 15 straight points and finished the first quarter with a 23-point lead, then extended it to 68-40 in the second. The Celtics led 74-53 at halftime, but the Clippers outscored them 28-12 in the third.

Los Angeles finally tied it 100-all, bringing boos from the crowd that expected an easy victory against a team that traded away leading scorer Tobias Harris at the deadline and added five new players. Gallinari followed with a jumper to give the Clippers their first lead.


NEW YORK — Marc Gasol had seven points and six rebounds in his Toronto debut and the Raptors sent New York to its 16th straight loss.

Acquired from Memphis before Thursday’s trade deadline, Gasol played 19 minutes. The three-time All-Star entered late in the first quarter and made a hook shot on his first try.

Kyle Lowry scored 22 points, and Serge Ibaka added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors. Rookie Kevin Knox had 20 points for New York. The Knicks have lost 29 of their last 31 games.


MILWAUKEE — Jonathan Isaac scored 17 points, Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross each added 15 and Orlando snapped Milwaukee’s six-game winning streak.

The NBA-leading Bucks played without All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. He sat out with right knee soreness. They lost for just the second time in 14 games.

Eric Bledsoe had 19 points for Milwaukee.


ATLANTA — Kemba Walker hit nine 3-pointers and scored 37 points, Marvin Williams added 27 points and Charlotte beat Atlanta to snap a two-game skid.

Jeremy Lamb had 24 points to help the Hornets win for the eighth time in their last 13 games.

John Collins had 21 points and Trae Young added 20 for the Hawks.

JAZZ 125, SPURS 105

SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points, Rudy Goberthad 21 points and 13 rebounds and Utah beat San Antonio.

TRoyce O’Neale tied his season high with 17 points and made all four of his 3-point attempts, and Ricky Rubio had 16 points, six rebounds and six assists to help the Jazz win for the third time in four games.

DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points for the Spurs. They have lost four in a row on their eight-game trip while their home arena hosts a 17-day stock show and rodeo.


INDIANAPOLIS — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 points and Indiana beat Cleveland for its fifth straight victory.

Darren Collison added 18 points, Myles Turner had 14 points and eight rebounds and Domantas Sabonis added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Clarkson led the Cavaliers with 18 points.


CHICAGO — Bradley Beal scored 31 points to help Washington beat Chicago in the first meeting between the teams since they swapped three forwards in a multiplayer trade.

The Wizards got Jabari ParkerBobby Portis and a protected 2023 second-round pick from the Bulls on Wednesday for Otto Porter Jr. Parker scored 20 points and Portis had 10 points and 12 rebounds against their former team, helping Washington to a 64-38 advantage in bench points.

Zach LaVine scored 26 points for Chicago.


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Joakim Noah had season highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds to lead new-look Memphis past New Orleans.

Justin Holiday had 15 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 14 points, 10 of them in the fourth. C.J. Miles, playing his first game for Memphis added 13 points to help the Grizzlies win for the third time in four games.

Julius Randle led the Pelicans with 21 points, and Jrue Holidayadded 15. Anthony Davis had 14 points and 16 rebounds in his second game returning to the lineup after seeking a trade.

LeBron reacts to trade deadline deals in the East: ‘They ain’t gotta go through me’

Nick Schwartz • USA Today Sports

When LeBron James chose to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers and head to the West Coast, he chose to leave a conference he had comprehensively dominated for the better part of a decade. James has played in the last eight NBA Finals consecutively with the Cavaliers or Heat – and with James now in LA, the East is wide open.

The Bucks, Raptors and Sixers all made big deals at the trade deadline to improve their teams, and while the Celtics were quiet, the Pelicans’ decision to keep Anthony Davis for the rest of the year will give Boston the chance to trade for him in the offseason.

The 2019 Eastern Conference Playoffs should be fascinating, and if the Warriors’ superteam breaks up this summer due to free agency, we could see the balance of power in the NBA shifting eastward.

James reacted to the trade activity this week in Boston, where the Lakers just escaped with a win thanks to a Rajon Rondo buzzer-beater.

Via The Athletic:

“Those top teams in the East, yeah, they’re going for it. Toronto is going for it, Milwaukee’s going for it, Philly. Boston believes they can do it, too. They know they ain’t gotta go through Cleveland anymore…. Everybody in the East thinks they can get to the Finals because they ain’t gotta go through me.”

Unfortunately for LeBron, the West won’t have to go through him, either. The 28-27 Lakers are currently 10th in the conference, 1.5 games out of a playoff spot. Los Angeles made a few moves to add shooters at the trade deadline and will welcome Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala, but whiffing on Anthony Davis at the trade deadline means that LeBron’s Lakers shouldn’t pose much of a challenge should they sneak into the playoffs as a low seed. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Lakers have just a 37 percent chance to make the playoffs.

Source: https://ftw.usatoday.com/2019/02/lebron-james-eastern-conference-trades

NBA Tank Rankings: Who is in the best spot to get Zion Williamson?

Charles Curtis • USA Today Sports

Enough with your NBA power rankings. We all know who’s going to be at the top of those.

The real intrigue after Thursday’s trade deadline is who’s in the running for the top overall pick in the NBA Draft and the chance to select hulking Duke forward Zion Williamson.

As a reminder, the new odds for getting the top pick are as follows:

Worst three teams: 14 percent

Fourth-worst team: 12.5 percent

Fifth-worst team: 10.5 percent

Sixth-worst team: 9 perecent

Seventh-worst team: 7.5 percent

Eighth-worst team: 6 percent

Ninth-worst team: 4.5 percent

Tenth-worst team: 3 percent

That’s as far as we’re going, because 10 teams is an even number and if you think you’re getting Zion with an 0.5 percent shot, well, good luck with that.

Here we go (and yes, we’re ranking them this way because it’s the weakness rankings, not the power rankings):

30. New York Knicks

Because of these new rules meant to counteract tanking, having the NBA’s worst record as of Friday means only so much. But we’ll put them first because they’ve won 10 games and are a lock to finish in the bottom three. And also it would just be wonderful for hoops fans to throw out conspiracy theories like they did for the Patrick Ewing draft should the franchise win the lottery.

29. Phoenix Suns

They haven’t won a game since Jan. 12 and they just traded for Tyler Johnson, which you can laugh about all you want but it kind of helps with the idea of playing Devin Booker more off the ball. Still, this is a young squad all over the floor. They’re going to keep losing.

28. Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love is coming back, so that could mean they win a few games here and there. And Collin Sexton is waking up a bit.

27. Chicago Bulls

They traded for Otto Porter, who is an upgrade at small forward. Meanwhile, this team has zero depth but an intriguing starting five core. Despite winning twice since the new year, I have the feeling they’ll end up JUST outside the bottom-three, unfortunately for them.

26. Memphis Grizzlies

Bye-bye, Marc Gasol. Hello, Jonas Valanciunas. If they traded Mike Conley, this team would have moved up (down?) our Tank Rankings.

25. Washington Wizards

They’ve already won 22 games, which could be a hair too many for a team that should be tanking, and there are actually too many just-good-enough players on the roster along with bona fide star Bradley Beal to beat some teams. They put up 129 points on the Bucks the other night! They lost, but still!

24. Atlanta Hawks

Look out for the Hawks! They beat two of the teams on this list in February and their rebuild has taken that “hey this team might be pretty good in a couple of years” turn.

23. Orlando Magic

They traded a rotation player (Jonathon Simmons) for a project who likely won’t play this year (Markelle Fultz). That might help lose a bit more. But Nikola Vucevic is still having an All-Star year, Aaron Gordon is still flying around and Evan Fournier is pretty good. Also, wowzers, they won three of their last four!

22. Detroit Pistons

We’re heading into the “Could totally make the playoffs or lose 10 straight” tier. I’m leaning into the latter with the Pistons but Blake Griffin is still pouring in 26.1 ppg.

21. Dallas Mavericks

Post-Kristaps Porzingis and Harrison Barnes trades, they’ve got a decent shot at increasing their odds the rest of the way.

20. Los Angeles Clippers

Hmm. They’ve already won 30 games. But they dealt Tobias Harris. Let’s revisit this in like a month, but I don’t see them winning a ton more.

Souce: https://ftw.usatoday.com/2019/02/nba-zion-williamson-chances-knicks

How Wilt Chamberlain paved LeBron’s path to Los Angeles


50 years ago, the NBA’s biggest star took his talents to the Lakers

BY JOHNNY SMITH• February 8, 2019

When LeBron James decided to take his talents to Los Angeles, he began retracing the steps of another game-changing player who wanted to move beyond basketball into the world of entertainment: Wilt Chamberlain.

Fifty years before James set his sights on Hollywood, Chamberlain reconfigured the intersection between basketball and celebrity. In orchestrating his move from the Philadelphia 76ers, the Big Dipper was instrumental in bringing both glamour and the Lakers’ first championship in Los Angeles to the “Fabulous Forum.” The NBA’s first true off-court celebrity, Chamberlain built the platform that James stands on today.

Comparing their playing careers, personalities and politics, it’s clear that although they differ in many ways, James and Chamberlain came to Los Angeles at similar stages in life. Leaving their hometown teams — James in Cleveland, Chamberlain in Philadelphia — both joined the Lakers in their early 30s. Chamberlain had won one title in Philadelphia, while James won two in Miami and one in Cleveland. Yet both men uprooted themselves to move to California, realizing their value as basketball players and celebrities was worth far more in Hollywood. Only in Los Angeles, a city of infinite beginnings, could they find a stage big enough for the final chapter of their playing careers.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – 1953: Wilt Chamberlain #5 of Overbrook HIgh School jumps circa 1953 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Charles T. Higgins/NBAE via Getty Images)

At an early age, they were viewed as transformational athletes, the very future of the sport. In 2002, Sports Illustrated crowned James, a 17-year-old high school junior, as “The Chosen One,” a once-in-a-generation talent whom scouts compared to Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Nearly 50 years earlier, in 1955, Sportmagazine labeled Chamberlain “The High School Kid Who Could Play Pro Ball Right Now.” His enormous talent inspired the first national recruiting campaign in college basketball. According to a 1977 biography by sportswriter Bill Libby, more than 100 schools offered him a scholarship, many of them promising cash for his services. His recruitment signaled the beginning of treating high school basketball players as commodities, a lesson that James learned when he became a household name playing on ESPN for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.

St. Vincent-St. Mary’s LeBron James dunks during the second quarter against Walsh Jesuit on Friday, Jan. 24, 2003, at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s in Akron, Ohio. (AP Photo/Scott R. Galvin)

Despite their common experiences with fame, the personalities of the two men could not be more different. Born and raised in Philadelphia, one of nine kids, Chamberlain was a loner who trusted few people. He never married, and most of the women in his life passed through like it was a revolving hotel door. “He was always afraid someone would see through him or look inside him,” Lakers trainer Frank O’Neill told Libby. A complicated figure, Chamberlain could be extremely confident and egotistical, boasting of his achievements, and yet he was also deeply sensitive.

On the court, fans could see his ego and insecurities on full display. For Chamberlain, basketball was not truly a team game; it was a one-man show. At times, his overwhelming presence diminished his teammates. “It was as if when he was in the room, they weren’t,” Gary Pomerantz wrote in Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era. “He made them feel their inadequacy and smallness. He was large, luminous, and occasionally loud, at the center of every moment. … He existed apart from his team, orbiting in his own glittery realm.”

Off the court, Chamberlain sought the attention and recognition that came with being known as the best. And like James, who is an active television and film producer, Chamberlain was a businessman, investing in real estate, restaurants and racehorses. Early in his career, he spent much of his time in Harlem, New York, where he used his money to cultivate fame, purchasing the legendary nightclub Smalls Paradise. Moving comfortably among entertainers and musicians, it was a place for him to be seen, impress people (especially other ballplayers) and revel in the company of women.

As Howard Cosell looks on, Muhammad Ali (center) attempts to ward off a playful jab thrown by Wilt Chamberlain just before the taping of a television show. Chamberlain, 7’1″ star of the Philadelphia 76ers, said he was ready to debut as a fighter. Ali, 35, who suffered his only defeat in 32 professional fights the month before to Joe Frazier, and Chamberlain, 34, made plans to fight in Houston’s Astrodome on April 26 with each man receiving $1 million. Chamberlain was reported to be flying to Houston April 22 to complete arrangements for the bout.

The press portrayed him as a villain, a brooding star who destroyed team morale and undermined coaches. Chamberlain represented indulgence and excessive individualism, expressing his persistent desire to prove his greatness, whether it meant scoring 100 points or bragging that he had slept with more than 20,000 women. “More than anything else,” he told Libby, “I am Wilt Chamberlain, an individual. It is my individualism I treasure most.”

James has also been criticized for his egotistical displays, especially for the way he handled The Decision, his move from Cleveland to Miami. He, too, has been the dominant player on his teams. But, unlike Chamberlain, James is widely recognized for pushing his teammates to succeed. At his core, he is a creator and facilitator, directing his teammates like an orchestra conductor. The only child of a single mom, James is a family man, an involved father to his three kids and well-known for his philanthropy in Akron.

Akron, Ohio 8/30/2018 Before taking the stage Lebron James greets 3rd and 4th graders on their first day at his I promise school in Akron, Ohio. school photo by Michael F McElroy for ESPN

At the height of their careers, James and Chamberlain, the most recognizable basketball players of their respective eras, both dabbled in politics. Early in his career, Chamberlain had made clear that he did not share Bill Russell’s impulse for confrontation or protest. In 1960, he told a writer for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, “I’m not crusading for anyone. I’m no Jackie Robinson.” But in 1968, after joining the Lakers, Chamberlain and a handful of other black athletes campaigned on behalf of Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon even though most African-Americans supported the Democratic Party. Endorsing the “law and order” candidate, a slogan that many black citizens associated with racism, convinced Chamberlain’s critics that he had sold out his people.

James, by contrast, is an outspoken leader among athletes publicly challenging racism and injustice. He wore a hoodie with his teammates on the Miami Heat to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin and used The ESPYS award show to voice his concern about gun violence. During the 2016 presidential campaign, James criticized Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed law and order presidential candidate, and endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton. Rejecting a conservative pundit’s demand that he should “shut up and dribble,” James has emerged as one of the most influential voices in sports, unafraid of jeopardizing his business interests at the expense of his social activism.

FILE – In this March 2, 1962 file photo, unidentified fans and teammates rush onto court to congratulate Philadelphia Warriors Wilt Chamberlain (13) in Hershey, Pa., after he scored his 100th point in a 169-147 win over the New York Knickerbockers. For 50 years, Chamberlain’s 100-point night has stood as one of sports magic numbers. (AP Photo/Paul Vathis, File)

The origins of basketball’s place in American entertainment culture and the worldwide fame of NBA stars like James can be traced to Chamberlain. When he entered the NBA during the 1959-60 season, professional basketball was played mostly by earthbound white men in half-filled arenas. Standing 7 feet, 1 inch tall, the Big Dipper transformed professional basketball into a game played above the rim in front of packed crowds. No single event garnered more attention than his 100-point game against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962. In that moment, Pomerantz wrote in Wilt, 1962, Chamberlain became “a one-man revolution,” the central figure in the first generation of black stars who elevated the NBA from obscurity. “Almost by himself,” Oscar Robertson told Pomerantz, “he made the league a curiosity, made it interesting.”

No basketball player was more recognizable than Chamberlain. “At first glance,” historian Aram Goudsouzian wrote, he appeared “almost a cartoon giant, a man of dazzling dimensions and magnified mythology.” The most talented basketball player of his time, Chamberlain ruled the court with an unprecedented combination of size, strength and athleticism.

His gargantuan presence made him an object of fascination, jealousy and scorn. For many white Americans, Goudsouzian suggested, he represented a threat to the established order of the game and the limits imposed on black people. He was Goliath terrorizing David. Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray compared him to Frankenstein’s monster, reducing him to something less than human: “He was put together in a laboratory by a mad doctor with a pair of pliers, a screwdriver and a Bunsen burner. If you look close, you can see the bolts in the forehead. You don’t feed it, you oil it, baby.”

The Chamberlain mythology created enormous expectations for him to dominate every game. When he failed, the press reduced him to a broken-down heavyweight fighter who couldn’t throw a knockout punch. After the 76ers squandered a 3-1 series lead to the Boston Celtics in the 1968 Eastern Conference finals, reporters blamed Chamberlain. Refusing to shoulder the blame for the team’s collapse, he decided it was time to move on.

(Original Caption) San Francisco, California: The Philadelphia 76ers are shown in dressing room after defeating the San Francisco Warriors for the championship here, April 24th. Wilt Chamberlain drinks champagne as coach Alex Hannum and team look on.

He had led the 76ers to their first NBA championship the previous season, but soon afterward he became disenchanted with team owner Irv Kosloff. The Big Dipper maintained that when he re-signed with the Sixers in 1965, co-owner Ike Richman, his close friend and attorney, offered him half of his team shares, which would have meant giving Chamberlain 25 percent ownership of the franchise. The verbal agreement would have violated league rules since no player could hold equity in a team, and after Richman died later that year, Chamberlain had no proof of the deal. Kosloff claimed that he had no knowledge of his partner’s arrangement and had no intention of giving away any shares. “Kosloff and I argued about that through the whole summer after we won the championship,” Chamberlain told David Shaw, his co-author on the 1973 book Wilt. “I finally decided I couldn’t play for that man if that’s the way he was going to treat me.”

A furious Chamberlain threatened to hold out unless Kosloff fulfilled Richman’s commitment. This was before free agency, when every player’s contract effectively bound him to one team unless the owner decided otherwise. Yet Chamberlain had some leverage: He knew, as did Kosloff, that the 76ers could not contend for a championship without him. On the eve of the 1967-68 season, with one year remaining on his existing deal, they struck a compromise: Kosloff shredded Chamberlain’s original contract, paid him a “sizable” cash settlement and signed him to a new one-year deal for $250,000 with the understanding that after the season Chamberlain would be a free man.

Almost immediately after the ’67-68 season, Chamberlain began contemplating a future outside Philadelphia. Still, Kosloff understood the enormous value The Big Dipper brought to the franchise. The 76ers had set a team attendance record, outdrawing the Celtics and Lakers. The owner offered Chamberlain the opportunity to become a player-coach like Russell, but he turned it down. If he was going to return to Philadelphia, he wanted a significant raise, one that general manager Jack Ramsay refused to pay. Insulted, Chamberlain threatened to sit out the whole year. He told a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, “When you become more than just a player, when you’re an attraction, a personality, you can’t put it into figures.”

UNDATED: Los Angeles Lakers center Wilt Chamberlain #13 lounges on his deck chair in his backyard. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Chamberlain wanted to move to Los Angeles. Playing in L.A. appealed to him for a number of reasons: He owned properties there. His parents lived in Los Angeles, and he wanted to be near them. (He was especially close to his father, who was dying of cancer.) It also was no secret that he dated white women, and Chamberlain believed that his life would be easier in a more progressive city like Los Angeles.

He aspired to start a career in the movie business too, although it never amounted to much. Chamberlain appeared frequently on television but had only one significant movie role: Bombaata in Conan the Destroyer.

CONAN THE DESTROYER, from left: Wilt Chamberlain, Olivia D’Abo, 1984, © Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

Most importantly, though, Chamberlain thought he could win a championship in Los Angeles.

Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke viewed the team as one piece of his larger entertainment portfolio, and he had wanted Chamberlain to be part of it since he bought the team in 1965. When he spent $16.5 million building the palatial Forum, a circular structure with massive, Roman-inspired columns, Cooke envisioned it as a grand theater for entertaining the masses. “The Fabulous Forum,” as Cooke called it, showcased not only basketball and hockey but also boxing matches, tennis, ice skating, the circus and rock concerts. The Lakers were already an excellent team. Adding Chamberlain, Cooke estimated, would bring sellouts at the largest NBA arena and earn him another million dollars each year.

Once Chamberlain and Cooke started contract discussions, though, Kosloff hesitated to let his star player go. Fortunately for Chamberlain, the upstart American Basketball Association (ABA) desperately needed marquee players and the league’s owners were willing to pay top dollar for his services. Negotiating without an agent — “I make my own deals because I make the best deals,” Chamberlain told Libby — he leveraged an offer from the ABA’s L.A. Stars to get what he wanted. By threatening to jump leagues, Chamberlain forced Kosloff to trade him or receive nothing in return. Finally, on July 9, 1968, the Lakers announced they were sending three players — Darrall Imhoff, Archie Clark and Jerry Chambers — to Philadelphia in exchange for the reigning MVP. It was, Joe Jares wrote in Sports Illustrated, “as if the Niblets people traded the Jolly Green Giant to Heinz for a soup recipe and two vats of pickles.”

Milwaukee Bucks’ Oscar Robertson (1) is seen in dribbling action, with teammate Lew Alcindor (33), Jerry West (44), Elgin Baylor (22), and Wilt Chamberlain of the Los Angeles Lakers looking on; during a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks on September 30, 1970 in Los Angeles, Calif. (AP Photo)

James did not build the original NBA “superteam” when he went to Miami. Chamberlain did. In 1968, after he forced a trade that made him the highest-paid player in basketball history, a five-year deal reportedly worth $1 million, he joined Hall of Fame players Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, making the Lakers, at least on paper, Jares concluded, “the greatest basketball team ever.” Writers and basketball executives predicted that the “Big Three” would easily win the NBA title. Although the Lakers finished the 1968-69 season with a 55-27 record, the best in team history, they lost in the championship series to the Celtics. Since the team moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles in 1960, it was the Lakers’ fifth NBA Finals loss to the Celtics. And for the seventh time in a decisive playoff series, Russell got the best of Chamberlain.

Branding him “a loser,” critics questioned Chamberlain’s desire. It seemed that he experienced little joy playing basketball for the Lakers. The following season he suffered a serious knee injury, rupturing his right patellar tendon. Until then, he had appeared indestructible, missing only 12 games in 10 years. After surgery and an intense rehabilitation schedule, the 34-year-old center returned in time for the Lakers’ playoff run. Despite losing to the Knicks in the NBA Finals, Chamberlain believed that fans appreciated him more because he had worked hard to return and help his team. Getting hurt, he told the Los Angeles Times, made people see that he was human, “not some kind of animal.”

Predictably, Hollywood’s bright lights magnified everything about Chamberlain — his fame and his failures. He grumbled about the public scrutiny and enormous expectations that he faced. “I have done things no man ever will,” he told Libby in 1971. “But people keep expecting me to top myself, and I can’t do that. Nothing I do ever seems enough.” Increasingly, he became disillusioned with basketball and the pressures of celebrity. “Dressing rooms all come to have the same stale smell about them after a while,” he said. “Defeat and victory all smell the same after a while. You get so you don’t feel elation, you just feel beat. Basketball burns you out.”

Wilt Chamberlain, named the most valuable player in the NBA playoffs, goes up to tap in a basket for the Los Angeles Lakers against the New York Knicks, May 8, 1972 in the Forum. At left is Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks and in foreground are Pat Riley and Leroy Ellis, right, of the Lakers. Los Angeles won, 114-100, to capture the first championship since the team moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis 12 years ago. (AP Photo/David Smith)

Finally, during the 1971-72 season, Chamberlain found redemption. Persuaded by coach Bill Sharman to accept a new role concentrating less on scoring and more on defense and rebounding, Chamberlain’s outlet passes to Jerry West and Gail Goodrich galvanized the Lakers’ fast-break offense, spurring a record winning streak of 33 consecutive games. The streak transformed the Forum into a destination for celebrities. Doris Day, Peter Falk, Angie Dickinson, Tony Curtis, Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood, among others, brought Hollywood into the Forum, making the Lakers the most entertaining team in professional sports. The team won a regular-season record 69 games and beat the Knicks 4-1 in the Finals.

Looking back, Chamberlain’s championship team established a new standard of excellence in the NBA. Shifting the epicenter of pro basketball to Los Angeles, Chamberlain and his teammates created the world that James inherited. Raising the first of 11 L.A. championship banners, Chamberlain made Los Angeles a destination for franchise players and elevated the expectations of fans and players alike. Upon his retirement in 1973, Chamberlain knew that he had changed the game. “My impact,” he declared in Sports Illustrated, “will be everlasting.”

Someday, LeBron James will be able to say the same.

Johnny Smith is the Julius C. “Bud” Shaw Professor of Sports, Society, and Technology and an Assistant Professor of History at Georgia Tech. His research focuses on the history of sports and American culture. He is an author whose books include “The Sons of Westwood: John Wooden, UCLA, and the Dynasty That Changed College Basketball,” which explores the emergence of college basketball as a national pastime and the political conflicts in college athletics during the 1960s and 1970s.

Original article : https://theundefeated.com/features/how-wilt-chamberlain-paved-lebron-james-path-to-los-angeles-lakers/

WATCH: LeBron & Giannis pick their players for 2019 NBA All-Star Game + more…

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Best moments, biggest questions from the NBA All-Star draft


The 2019 NBA All-Star Game captains’ draft is in the books as LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo have assembled their squads for Feb. 17 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here’s everything that went down — including a first-of-its-kind trade — on draft night:

We have a trade!

After the draft, LeBron offered to trade Russell Westbrook for Ben Simmons. Giannis agreed, the deal was upheld, and history was made.

ESPN NBA Insider Kevin Pelton grades the deal:

Team LeBron gets: Ben Simmons
Team Giannis gets: Russell Westbrook

From a value perspective, this trade is hard to understand. Westbrook, the 16th pick, was still available when Team Giannis took Blake Griffin with the previous pick. So why didn’t Team Giannis take him then instead of trading 13th overall pick Simmons to get him?

That said, in terms of roster-building I still like the move for Team Giannis. Westbrook plays harder than just about anybody else in the All-Star Game, which is how he won MVPs in 2015 and 2016. Team LeBron putting the ball in Simmons’ hands will take it away from Damian Lillard, a superior pick-and-roll option. I just wish Team Giannis had been able to get swap rights on a 2020 second-round pick.

Team Giannis: B
Team LeBron: C

‘Isn’t that tampering?’

Giannis delivered a clever response to LeBron choosing New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis as an All-Star reserve (the Los Angeles Lakers and the Pelicans failed to reach a deal for Davis by Thursday’s trade deadline).

Welcome to the team!

Biggest questions from the All-Star draft

1. LeBron or Giannis — who won the draft?

André Snellings, ESPN Fantasy: LeBron’s team has more talent, but Giannis’ team is more balanced with more versatility. In an All-Star Game, defense isn’t prized but rebounding is still important. Team Giannis has both 7-footers in the starting lineup, and with shooters like Stephen Curry and Kemba Walker to play off the bigs — plus Russell Westbrook as the battery off the bench — Team Giannis is in a strong position.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN.com: Team LeBron. He picked guys who can score voluminously (James Harden), who can defend voluminously (Kawhi Leonard) and fleeced Giannis into taking on Russell Westbrook in exchange for Ben Simmons.

Tim MacMahon: ESPN.com: Give the edge to experience. Team LeBron has a total of seven All-Star MVP trophies among its members. It took a trade for Team Giannis to get any (Russell Westbrook has two). The Greek Freaks do have a significant size advantage, though. We all know how much LeBron loves playing center, so perhaps he’ll volunteer to match up with Joel Embiid.

Chiney Ogwumike, ESPN: I have to go with LeBron’s squad because — forget all the noise — in these types of games it really just comes down to shooting. I know they don’t have Curry, but Team Bron does have the hottest shooter and reigning MVP (Harden), defending Finals MVP (Durant), most clutch performer (Kyrie Irving) and the greatest player in the world (James) all in the same starting lineup. Plus, shooters like Klay Thompson and Bradley Beal are coming off the bench. Not to mention that they also have a guy who has been begging to hit the court and also wields enough power to completely derail Super Bowl coverage by the name of Anthony Davis.

Royce Young, ESPN.com: LeBron’s team makes a little more sense top to bottom, with shooting, versatility, playmaking and just enough size. It’s the perfect combination of players for today’s NBA. Giannis went a little heavy on the size, taking a series of bigs, meaning some of those lineups could get a little bit awkward. Giannis also let his loyalty affect his picks, taking Khris Middleton with his first bench pick, leaving LeBron an open door to take Anthony Davis.

2. Fact or fiction: LeBron drafted with ulterior motives

MacMullan: Fact, fact, fact! LeBron used his first three picks — and four of the first five — to select players who will be unrestricted free agents at season’s end. That includes Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis (not to mention Klay Thompson with his second reserve pick). Considering the kind of day the Lakers had at the deadline, he’d probably happily settle for any one of them come July.

Ogwumike: Fact! The best thing about televising the draft (thank you, Rachel Nichols) is that it was not only funny and entertaining, but it was also extremely transparent. What we just witnessed was the wildly perfect scenario where the forbidden word and deed — “tampering” — became the perfect joke and perfect storyline to get us hyped for the game. Some of the biggest players of the summer — KD, Klay, Kawhi and Kyrie — somehow all made it onto LeBron’s roster. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that locker room …

MacMahon: Fact. And he did it with a big smile on his face. LeBron followed the script by taking Klutch (and potential future Lakers) teammate Anthony Davis, then yucked it up about tampering. Then he went right back to the pending free-agency well with Klay Thompson.

Snellings: Fact. LeBron chose every major free agent this summer, including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard, and he also drafted the much coveted Anthony Davis. Add in that he got buddy Dwyane Wade AND traded for workout partner Ben Simmons, and it’s hard to see how LeBron could have had a better draft.

Young: Fact. It’s hard to believe LeBron doesn’t do anything without ulterior motives. It’s not just highly suspicious that he literally took every player who’s headed for free agency — Durant, Irving, Leonard, Davis, Thompson — but it’s flat-out blatant … and brilliant. Giannis even called him out on it, which was fantastic, and LeBron didn’t deny it. If you’re not cheatin’, you’re not tryin’, right?

3. What surprised you the most?

MacMullan: Both captains passed on James Harden through the first six picks. Giannis could have had him but opted instead for Paul George, who apparently left an imprint when he dunked on him. If Harden isn’t the ultimate All-Star selection, then who is?

Snellings: I was stunned that James Harden was among the last round of starters. He’s in the midst of one of the greatest offensive stretches in NBA history, and the All-Star Game is all about offense, right?

MacMahon: Reigning MVP James Harden lasted until the second-to-last pick among starters. And it seemed that LeBron took him in part because he didn’t want to disrespect a dude who is making history. I guess I can understand not wanting to play with a ball-dominant scorer in an All-Star Game, but Harden sure as heck should have gone higher based on impact.

Ogwumike: I love how they allowed the captains to make a trade — another reason why the NBA always finds innovative ways to win.

Young: How fun it was! 

Snellings: I was stunned that James Harden was among the last round of starters. He’s in the midst of one of the greatest offensive stretches in NBA history, and the All-Star Game is all about offense, right?

MacMahon: Reigning MVP James Harden lasted until the second-to-last pick among starters. And it seemed that LeBron took him in part because he didn’t want to disrespect a dude who is making history. I guess I can understand not wanting to play with a ball-dominant scorer in an All-Star Game, but Harden sure as heck should have gone higher based on impact.

Ogwumike: I love how they allowed the captains to make a trade — another reason why the NBA always finds innovative ways to win.

Young: How fun it was! It was awesome. It was lighthearted and highly entertaining. Both LeBron and Giannis didn’t take it too seriously and had a good time with it. And then to cap it off, there was a trade, sending Russell Westbrook to Team Giannis for Ben Simmons. LeBron should’ve asked for a future first-rounder, but it’s still a pretty good deal.