i. The eye test;
ii. A cursory look at his basic game stats while a student-athlete at Harvard University; and,
iii. His stellar performance in this specific game against UConn and Kemba Walker:
The simple facts are these:
1. The vast majority of so-called basketball experts … which, unfortunately, includes most General Managers, and coaches, and players, and stats gurus, etc., in the NBA … do not have the necessary level of basketball acumen to accurately assess the actual skill-set of a player like Jeremy Lin;
2. The Golden State Warriors’ decision to sign but then use Jeremy Lin only as a 3rd string PG, in arrears of Monte Ellis and Stephon Curry, is akin to the Phoenix Suns’ decision in the 1996-1997 season to use Steve Nash, as an after-thought only, behind initially-perceived-to-be “more dynamic” players like Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd;
3. If Jeremy Lin was diligent enough to work hard to improve his left-hand dribble, he was always more than capable of becoming a legitimate Starting PG in the NBA … if he was also fortunate enough to get the opportunity to play for the right head coach in a best-fit system;
4. Nothing which Jeremy Lin has done so far in the NBA should really come as a surprise to a legitimate basketball expert.
Muhammad Ali’s brilliance was not that he was an antiwar prophet. He wasn’t Malcolm X in boxing gloves, debating foreign policy between rounds, jabbing his hands and then saying, “So how about that Cuban missile crisis.” But unlike the Ivy League advisors who made up the “best and the brightest” in power in those days, Ali understood that there was justice and injustice, right and wrong. He knew that not taking a stand could be as political a statement as taking one.
Ali, strictly in boxing alone, was an all-time great. He was an Olympic gold medalist at 18, the sport’s first three-time heavyweight champion and the participant in multiple matches that contend for the title of Fight of the Century. But it was his highly improvisational political courage that transformed him into a legend.
Ali’s refusal to fight in Vietnam was front-page news all over the world. In June 1967, he was found guilty of draft evasion by an all-white jury in Houston. The typical sentence was 18 months. Ali received five years and the confiscation of his passport. He immediately appealed, and his sentence was eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Ali, undefeated and untouched at this point in his career, was stripped of his title for refusing to serve in the military, beginning a 3 1/2-year exile from the ring.
One group that deeply understood the significance of Ali’s stand was Congress. The day of his conviction, the House voted 337 to 29 to extend the draft four more years. It also voted 385 to 19 to make it a federal crime to desecrate the flag.
By 1968, Ali was out on bail — with no boxing ring to call home. But he was never more active, because a young generation of blacks and whites wanted to hear what he had to say. And Ali obliged. In 1968, he spoke at 200 campuses. In one speech, brimming with confidence — as if the might of the U.S. government were no more menacing than a club fighter — Ali said, “I’m expected to go overseas to help free people in South Vietnam and at the same time my people here are being brutalized; hell no! I would like to say to those of you who think I have lost so much: I have gained everything. I have peace of heart; I have a clear, free conscience. And I am proud. I wake up happy, I go to bed happy, and if I go to jail, I’ll go to jail happy.”
The significance of what this meant to people around the globe cannot be overstated. Even in extreme isolation in an island prison, Ali’s courage reached a former boxer turned political prisoner named Nelson Mandela. After his release, Mandela said: “Ali’s struggle made him an international hero. His stand against racism and war could not be kept outside the prison walls.”
Until the N.B.A. has true revenue sharing, as do Major League Baseball and the N.F.L., competitive balance will be difficult (although not impossible) for the small-market teams to achieve. And the collective bargaining agreement is too convoluted with provisions counterproductive to the viability of the game. Until those issues are addressed, which they will not be for at least six years, teams will continue to spend too much money on both unproven players and proven mediocrities.
With or without revenue sharing, it is a big challenge to put a team on the floor that competes for the championship year after year. Only a few franchises, including some in the smaller markets, know how to do it. It takes more than money. Attracting high-priced free agents — even those who are worth the money — will not guarantee a winning team overnight. It takes a deep, balanced roster and a system that gets the most out of the talent on hand. Star players might draw at the box office, but fans will also support teams that are not star-driven but play exciting basketball and win consistently.
In an earlier era, the Lakers had Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, but the title in successive years went to the Boston Celtics (in Bill Russell’s final season), the Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks before the Lakers finally won.
Whenever an authentic giant speaks, do yourself a favour and listen intently.
If you really do, then, it will make THE difference between future failures and successes.
The most important story you will read about on-line today is courtesy of Dave Zirin:
1968 Olympian Lee Evans has a brain tumor and no health insurance
Lee Evans needs our help. The Olympic Gold Medalist and political activist, who exploded all records in the 400 meters at the 1968 Olympics, has been hospitalized with an aggressive brain tumor. The prognosis for the 63-year-old Evans is not good. As his fellow 1968 Olympic activist John Carlos said in an email, “All of our teammates want to go out and say some prayers. All there is left to do is pray.”
But the situation is made far worse by the fact that Lee Evans, after four decades teaching and coaching at schools ranging from the University of South Alabama to Nigeria, doesn’t have health insurance. This has meant, according to Lee’s sister, Rosemary, that he has been terribly mistreated during his hospitalization. Rosemary said to me, “I heard his doctor in the hall and I heard him say he wished [Lee] had been transferred somewhere else because he didn’t have insurance…. Lee is in intense pain. Not even morphine is helping. He hasn’t eaten in several days, yet there was no IV in his arm when I first went into his room. He’s lying in his filth and nothing is happening. If family members aren’t vigilant… If we aren’t vigilant, I don’t know what would happen.”
Thanks to this pressure and vigilance, the basic conditions of Lee Evans’s room has improved in the last 12 hours. But the fact that his care is even a question constitutes a national disgrace. Lee Evans, in addition to his 1968 Olympic gold medals in the 400 and 1600-meter relays, is a central part of athletic and American history. A founding member of OPHR, the Olympic Project for Human Rights, Lee Evans helped turned the sports world on its head by attempting to organize a boycott by African-American athletes of the ’68 Olympics to protest racism and oppression both at home and abroad. They wanted South Africa and Rhodesia disinvited from the games. They wanted the Hitler-sympathizer Avery Brundage removed as head of the International Olympic Committee. They wanted Muhammad Ali’s title, stripped for his opposition to the war in Vietnam, restored. They wanted more African American coaches hired. They pledged to boycott, protest, and raise hell if their demands were not met.
This protest was punctuated with Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s famous raised fist salute after finishing first and third in the 200 meters. As for Evans, he famously wore a black beret, in a nod to the Black Panthers, on the medal stand. Recently, Evans has been working to build a school on 13 acres of land he purchased in Liberia. He has even been trying to sell his gold medals to raise money for this dream saying, “I don’t need the medals,” he said. “I need money to build the school.” Evans’s wife, Princess, is a Liberian refugee and his dream was to build the school and name it after her.