This is inspired from a phone conversation I had with one of my boys in my sports circle about how basketball has revolved around one Timothy Duncan for the past decade. So, for all you Kevin Garnett fans out there, you can have him and his versatility and his, "play all five positions on the court-ability." I'll take Timmy and will see you watching us in the Finals. These players are ones that have great statistical careers, but aren't guilty of knowing how to win. They can't seem to get over the proverbial hump and make any type of deep playoff run. Without further ado, let's get to the starting lineups...
At guard, 6'2" from Georgia Tech. Stephon...Marburyyyy
As a devoted New York Knicks fan (yes, these New York Knicks), it pains me to my heart to see this once-proud franchise in the [mess]hole it's in now. As with all of the players that make this team, there's no denying Steph's natural talent. Strong, quick, and blessed with court vision, he could be capable of leading a team to a title or two--if he had the mental toughness to do it. For some reason or another, he can't seem to make his teammates better, and every team he's left has gotten better soon after his departure. Need proof? When Steph was traded to the Knicks during the 2003-2004 season and Steve Nash was signed the following season, the consensus was that Starbury was better than Nash. Well, 62 wins later, Nash was an MVP; and Steph was leading an under-.500 Knicks team to a first-round sweep at the hands of the Nets. That's just the recent example; I didn't mention New Jersey, or Minnesota. With him being out for the rest of the season with bone spurs in his ankle, this is all the entertainment I now have of him...smh...
At the other guard, 6'6" from North Carolina. Vince...Carterrrrr
Let me preface this by saying: I have never been a fan of Vince Carter. To me, he's been lazy his entire career, and not really fulfilling his boundless basketball potential. Sure, he can provide a dazzling highlight; but if you're a real basketball fan, ask yourself this: Do you still care about him? Does he resonate with the same deified reverence in your memory banks anymore? The answer is no. He has not done anything of worth in the playoffs, except a first-round duel with Allen Iverson in which he had the better team but couldn't beat the player with more willpower than anyone in the game. Granted, he was a vital piece to New Jersey the season he was traded; but he's never made it past the second round in his career; and that's not totally about having better players on your team (see: Lebron's Cavs last year). Sometimes, as a superstar, you should be able to will your team past better teams based on your sheer awesomeness. Hopefully, he gets it while he's still productive...
At forward, 6'8" from Mt. Zion High School. Tracy...McGradyyyy
Unlike the members of the backcourt, I actually like T-Mac; however, my only beef with him is what earns him the starting small forward spot on this roster. In ten seasons, including six of them extending beyond the regular season, McGrady has never advanced past the first round of the playoffs. His best chance came in 2003 when his Orlando Magic were ahead 3-1 in their opening series against the Pistons. McGrady was asked about his probability of finally reaching the second round and said, "It feels good to finally make it out the first round," thinking the series was a best 3-out-of-5. Well, in was a best 4-out-of-7, and the Pistons proceeded to win the final three games and add to McGrady's list of early playoff exits. I honestly believe he has bad luck. No one gets that injured that frequently; and the McGrady-Yao experience hasn't equated into winning so far. For his sake, I hope the Rockets figure it out.
At the other forward, 6'10" out of Michigan. Chris...Webberrrrr
What can I say about him. Winning has eluded Webber's grasp since college. It has nothing to do with his basketball game. He's one of the smartest and most offensively skilled big men to ever play. The numbers speak for themselves, as he has a higher points per game average (20.79) than Alonzo Mourning (17.09), Kevin Garnett (20.49), and Moses Malone (20.33). It's just something about his presence on a team that keeps talented teams from winning. As a member of the 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings, in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers (the Robert Horry Game 5 winner series), he couldn't buy a free throw in Game 7, and the Lakers gladly strolled to the final of their three consecutive championships. Granted, Shaq and Kobe were a formidable tandem; but dynasties hadn't existed since His Airness retired, so there was no reason C-Webb's Kings couldn't pull through one year. He's the reason Detroit didn't beat Cleveland, and why Golden State will be quickly ushered out of the postseason. He just doesn't bring winning with him. I don't think it has anything to do with his attitude or chemistry. It just doesn't/hasn't happened.
And at center, 7'0". From Georgetown. Patrick...Ewwiiiiiinnng
Surprise, surprise. Another Knicks player. Unlike C-Webb, Ewing won in college. He was in the NCAA Championship Game three of his four years, winning once and losing twice. Losing to Jordan and UNC, then the famous defeat at the hands of Villanova. A lot of Pat's playoff dreams have died with a flick of MJ's wrist; but Pat did reach the Finals twice. He was injured in 1999 against San Antonio; but in 1994 against Houston, he pushed Olajuwon and the Rockets to seven games (thanks a lot, John Starks). There's no denying that Ewing is a hall-of-fame, top ten center to ever play professional basketball. While he's probably number 10, he's still great by anyone's statistical standards. His only problem, as with the other players on this team, is that he's without jewelry.
Now, I can't finish my team without at least having a few reserves on the bench...
This probably hurts more than the two Knicks players being on this list, since AI is my all-time favorite player (yes, ahead of Jordan); but it's undeniable--the man is third in career points per game average; and has one Finals appearance to show for it. He plays with too much heart and intensity, and maybe he hasn't been properly surrounded with talent. However, I can't use that excuse for him and not say the same about Vince, T-Mac in Orlando, or the next man on this list. Superstars have to be able to get past the first round more than just once. Please, Allen, do it for the DC area..
This is what separates The Big Ticket from The Big Fundamental. Four rings to none is pretty lopsided, especially when he's only been out the first round once in 12 seasons (2003 to the Conference Finals with Minnesota). While it's highly likely that'll change as he's now a member of the Boston Three Party, but we'll see (for the record, I hate Boston fans now...sorry). He certainly will be bumped up to starter on this team if the Celtics experiment fails...
My final reserve spot is for the Round Mound of Rebound. Barkley's gaudy stats (career 22.1 ppg, 11.7 rpg) and one finals appearance (1993 with Phoenix), don't fit well together. Yes, that Finals loss was, again, at the hands of Michael Jordan; but, again, one team with one superstar and a talented supporting cast (Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, to name a few) should snatch one title in the years they've been together..
So that's the roster. These players are guilty of not translating their stats into postseason wins. Bill Russell laughs and applauds as his rings clang together when his hands meet. Bottom line: you gotta win to cement your legacy.