The ABA. Monster Of A Man. Diminishing Returns. 162 & 9 Does Not Make Sense. The Great Peter Green.
I have made an attempt to not focus on sports – websites are already saturated with sports information and blogs from many great journalists. With that said, I am going sports this week and my take on things that are top-of-mind.
As the National Basketball Association (NBA) gets ready to resume their season in the “bubble” at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, I reflected back to basketball and how much I enjoyed the sport. As much as soccer has been a part of my life from many different aspects, professional basketball has always been of high interest. Raised in Miami, there was not a local NBA team to follow in those days, so as a kid I became a NY Knicks fan. Fortunately, the American Basketball Association (ABA) started up and put a franchise in Miami. My father took my brother and I to many games, some of them played in a former aircraft hanger that was named Dinner Key Auditorium. The Miami team was only around for a few years and if I remember correctly they were not very good. With that said, I watched Donnie Freeman and Mack Calvin, two guards for the Miami Floridians, handle the ball and basically run the team on the court. What I did not realize at the time was that visiting teams playing in ABA included, in my opinion, a few of the greatest stars ever to play the game. Julius Erving (Dr. J), Connie Hawkins, Spencer Haywood, Moses Malone, and George Gervin all eventually moved to the NBA and went on to have incredible careers. I still hear people talk about how bad the ABA was but what they don’t remember is the number of superstars who came out of that league and helped make the NBA what it is today. I am hoping that the NBA has a great restart in the “bubble”, similar to the success that Major League Soccer is enjoying with their restart. Great memories.
Speaking of professional basketball and reflecting back to the earlier days of the NBA, I often compare the great players in the league now to years past. Of course Lebron James and Michael Jordan represent the amazing physicality of many NBA players, but my all-time favorite was Wilt Chamberlain. Some sports fans know that Wilt once scored 100 points in a game, but his lifetime statistics, including overall minutes played, are remarkable. I enjoyed watching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wes Unseld, Bill Russell, and Shaquille O’Neal play the center position, but as a kid I was amazed at Wilt’s ability to completely dominate a game. He has been called the strongest player ever to run the court, and it has been documented that he once bench-pressed 500 pounds. Here are a few items of note surrounding the career of Wilt Chamberlain and his NBA records that my never be broken:
- Points scored in one game 100
- Points per game in a season 50.4
- Career 60-point games 32
- Rebounds in a game 55
- Career rebounds per game 22.9
- Career minutes per game 45.8
With all due respect to the greatest of NBA players, pound-for-pound I will take Wilt Chamberlain as my GOAT (with all due respect to MJ and Lebron).
I am not happy about it but I am not surprised at Atlanta United’s rough start to the already strange year of 2020. Three straight losses in the Major League Soccer restart tournament, along with the loss to Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League, have the team’s fan base (called the “17’s”) in an uproar. To be clear, I am disappointed with the results, the inability to score goals, and what seems to be a lack of tactical awareness and on-field leadership. Websites and social media called for the manager, Frank de Boer, to be fired and I agreed. Yes, I wish de Boer had come to Atlanta United with a few more years of managerial experience, and maybe a bit more personality from the sideline, but like all of us, his makeup comes from his DNA and upbringing. On Friday, Atlanta United ended their contract with Frank de Boer and most likely will use an interim manager to get through the rest of this season – if indeed the season continues. To all the “17’s” – would you want to be accountable for performance with a team that in one year lost Michael Parkhurst, Tito Villalba, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Darlington Nagbe, Justin Meram, Julian Gressel and Josef Martinez? The on-field leadership from Parkhurst and LGP; the high-energy performance standard set by Gressel and Tito; and the tremendous midfield ingenuity from Nagbe are difficult to replace and it is obvious that there is a gap to fill with these players now gone. Then there is Josef Martinez, who contributes most of the goal-scoring for United, going down with a knee injury. All I am really saying is that managing Atlanta United with the loss of these players is very tough, but at the professional level, the manager is paid to utilize his players to get results. Atlanta United’s ethos and brand promise has diminished and de Boer did not help with his communication, lack of tactical flexibility, and his general demeanor. Kudos to Atlanta United’s front office who made a tough decision but the right one. The good news: it is early on in the season, Jurgen Damm joins the team next week, and there are hints that the league will continue with regular season games on August 22nd.
Speaking of performance, Atlanta United’s rival Orlando City Soccer Club has done some magic with their coaching staff, front office, and player pool. It is very interesting to see and compare the season-over-season dynamics with Orlando City and Atlanta United. Orlando City has been invigorated and their fan base is loving it. While Atlanta United crashed out of the MLS restart tournament with three straight losses, Orlando City’s win last night puts them in the quarterfinals. A Harvard business case study on how to pivot performance.
Major League Baseball – good luck with your restart. Cutting down the number of games for this season is a blessing – now if you can only cut down the number of innings from nine to seven. Yes, I realize reducing the number of games and innings cuts into ad and sponsor revenue but let’s be real about the fortitude of a 162 game season in 2021 and beyond.
Outside of the world of sports, we lost one of the best blues guitarists of all time. He co-founded Fleetwood Mac and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. RIP Peter Green.
Adios, pay it forward, be safe, and have a nice Sunday.