Posts Tagged ‘Allen Iverson’

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 130): The Hall Of Fame Debate … A.I. In, T-Mac Out?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Allen Iverson is a lock, a no-brainer, an absolute shoo-in for a spot in the Naismith Hall o Fame when he becomes eligible. Tracy McGrady, on the other hand, might have to wait a while to see if he gets the call.

That seems to be the general consensus after the two former superstars announced their retirements during the past week.

While the cases for and against both Iverson and McGrady seem pretty clear-cut, there are other current players whose Hall of Fame futures require much more examination, an endeavor we were glad to undertake on Episode 130 of the Hang Time Podcast. Superstars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are also locks for Springfield. But what about players like Chauncey Billups, who owns a Finals MVP and stellar career numbers but spent the early part of his career bouncing around the league?

What do we do with Grant Hill and Glen Rice, guys with Hall of Fame credentials dating back to their championship college careers, but come with an asterisk (injuries cost Hill some of his best years and Rice won a title and was a multiple time All-Star but was never what you would call a true superstar during his NBA career)?

And what of Robert Horry, a man with more championship rings (7) than Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal and plenty of the other luminaries who piled up both the individual and team honors necessary for a place in the Hall of Fame. Surely there has to be a place in Springfield for a player who was an integral part of seven different championship teams, shouldn’t there be?

We dive in on all that and a whole lot more on Episode 130 of the Hang Time Podcast, The Hall of Fame Debate …

LISTEN HERE:


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.





T-Mac Provided Sizzle, Little Substance

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HANG TIME, Texas —
When word spread that Tracy McGrady had announced his retirement, how many folks went straight to YouTube?

There were those 13 sizzling points in 35 sensational seconds that defined a career. Memorable and yet fleeting.

For 16 tantalizing NBA seasons, he was never the main event in the center ring under the big top when championships were to be decided, but always in a booth just outside on the carny midway — T-Mac next to the bearded lady.

Oh, there was never any doubting his ability to put the ball into the basket from any angle and from anyplace on the court. He was a deft and willing passer, could be a strong rebounder for a guard and could get after it defensively out on the wings.

Yet after all those years we’re left with a legacy that is lighter than cotton candy and with just as much substance.

While making the announcement on ESPN and looking back on his career, McGrady made the Hall of Fame case for himself that at one point in their careers there was debate about whether he or Kobe Bryant was the better player. And that is exactly the point, there came a fork in the road and their resumes went in distinctly different directions.

The price of admission to the Hall of Fame should not merely be the gaudy jewelry of a championship ring. But it should matter that a perennial All-Star performer, a franchise’s foundational player lifts his team up in the playoffs and, despite a scoring average that often increased in the playoffs, McGrady could not do that. Not in Orlando, not in Houston, where he had his chances.

Until he was a decorative ribbon on the Spurs’ machine as they marched to The Finals last spring, McGrady was the only NBA scoring champion (two times) to never advance past the first round of the playoffs.

For all of the improbable 3-point shots he made, high-rising slam dunks he threw down, thread-the-needle passes that he delivered right on the money, what McGrady could never do was close the deal. He was the front man of teams that blew 3-1 leads in Orlando and Houston and another pair of 2-0 leads with the Rockets.

“It’s all on me,” McGrady said prior to the 2007 series against the Jazz.

“It was never on me,” he said when the Rockets lost.

McGrady never understood how or what it meant to lead, even though he pretended to embrace the role.

It is not enough to say that, because another prolific scorer from another era — Walt Bellamy – was eventually voted into the Hall of Fame, McGrady should be, too. It would be wiser to see Bellamy’s inclusion as a mistake and move on.

Indeed, there were injuries to his back and knees. But there was an ugly end to McGrady’s tenure in Orlando when he sat out the end of a 21-61 season and the microfracture surgery that signaled the end of his relevance as a star or even as a starter in Houston came again with much recrimination and little remorse.

How very fitting then, for comparison’s sake, that McGrady’s retirement comes within days of Allen Iverson calling an end to his career. They entered the NBA a year apart and for nearly a decade they were the yin and the yang of the league for nearly a decade. Passion and passivity. Fire and ice.

Iverson was the rail-thin waif that seemed to be held together by pipe cleaners who threw himself into every game he ever played and constantly went crashing to the floor like grandma’s finest china, only to always pick up the pieces and come back even stronger. Iverson was voted MVP of the league in 2001 when he carried the Sixers to The Finals with an indomitable will. McGrady was cooler than an ice cube, but just as prone to melt.

The Hall of Fame should be a place for enduring greatness, a career masterpiece like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

We looked up at T-Mac like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Oooh, isn’t that pretty?

Good thing we’ll have those 13 points in 35 seconds on YouTube to remember him.

T-Mac Calls It Quits, Retires From NBA





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Tracy McGrady‘s NBA career is over, by his own volition.

The seven-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA pick and two-time scoring champ closed the door this morning on ESPN’s First Take, announcing that he was “officially” retiring from the NBA after 16 seasons in the league. He did say he was leaving the door open to opportunities in China, but said he was done playing bit parts on NBA teams.

He spent a decade as a franchise player in Orlando and Houston but knee issues derailed his career. He played in New York, Detroit and Atlanta in his final three full seasons in the league.

McGrady began the 2012-13 season with the Qingdao Eagles of the Chinese Basketball Association, where he averaged 25 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 5.1 apg on a last-place team. He joined the San Antonio Spurs during their playoff run that ended in The Finals last season. He was 30 seconds away in Game 6 from earning the NBA title and ring that eluded him his entire career.

His announcement comes on the heels of the retirement of another one of the marquee players of his generation. Allen Iverson announced his retirement last week.

While Iverson should be a lock, the Hall of Fame debate for McGrady will crank up now. If you go by the numbers alone, McGrady should also be a lock. He even mentioned as much on the air this morning, pointing out that during his prime there was an ongoing conversation among basketball insiders and fans as to who was the better player: McGrady or Kobe Bryant.

Of course, Bryant has an edge in championships (5-0) that McGrady will never overcome. But there once was a legitimate debate as to who was going to be a better player between himself, Kobe and Vince Carter during the early stages of their respective careers.

McGrady and Carter never did enjoy the team or playoff success that Bryant did, ending that debate years ago.

Still, McGrady’s transcendent talent and jaw-dropping exploits when he at his zenith (check his highlights above) leave no doubt that he was one of the most unusual talents to ever grace a NBA floor.

A 6-foot-9 shooting guard with otherworldly athleticism, shooting range basically anywhere in the arena and the passing ability most point guards could only dream of, McGrady entered the league straight out of high school as the ninth overall pick to Toronto in the 1997 Draft. He leaves with a Hall of Fame worthy body of work, even it was marred by injuries and postseason failures.

Iverson: The Uncomfortable Answer

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HANG TIME, Texas – He stood there at mid-court cradling the Most Valuable Player trophy and the transformation was complete.

Not quite a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, because Allen Iverson never would be described as something so light and delicate. But just as dramatic and, maybe, just as natural.

It was as jarring a sight that night at the 2001 NBA All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., perhaps, as seeing Mike Tyson in a set of tights with the Bolshoi Ballet or having the chiseled visage of Richard Nixon join the great ones high up on Mt. Rushmore.

Yet this was the way it had to be if his game, his league, his sport was to have continued hope to grow and flourish. For 14 seasons, people said Iverson was the changing face of the league — and that was not always meant in a good way.

But tattoos are only skin deep. Hairstyles change and grow, just like people.

The recent news that Iverson planned to announce his official retirement brought back a sudden rush of so many memories of the will-o’-the-wisp guard who broke ankles, broke protocol and broke the mold of what a little man could do.

He was Rookie of the Year (1997), MVP (2001), a four-time scoring champion, three-time steals leader, three-time All-NBA First Team member and twice was given the top prize at the All-Star Game. The first time, the award came for his performance in the nation’s capital when Iverson showed that behind the hip-hop persona of a modern player was an old-fashioned pro who simply lived and loved to compete.

The player whose reputation would a year later become eternally stamped by a rant about “Practice!?” was the ultimate gamer who brought the Eastern Conference from 21 points down in the fourth quarter of an exhibition game because, well, if you’re gonna play, you might as well try to win.

Iverson’s style was always far less an artistic display and much more a competitive exercise, as if there was something to prove. And there was. The guy who had been called “Me-Myself-and-Iverson” spent much of his career, as he’s spent most of his troubled life, listening to people doubt not only his motives, but what’s inside his heart.

He came into the league wearing tattoos and cornrows and bandanas and traveling with his posse. He put himself into the center of a storm with his caught-on-national-TV microphones slur about sexual preference to a heckling fan in Indiana.

Iverson was as far removed image-wise as one could get and still live on the same planet as two of the three players who preceded him in winning his first All-Star MVP trophy — the quietly purposeful Tim Duncan and the regal Michael Jordan.

He was the foam on the front of the new wave.

“I’m one of them,” Iverson said, “but I’m also me.”

For just over a decade that’s who the demanding, discriminating Philadelphia fans got to see: the fearless competitor, the tough nut that wouldn’t crack, the lump of coal that used the intense pressure to transform himself into a diamond.

A few months later, Iverson would willfully, sometimes it seemed singlehandedly, drag the Sixers to the NBA Finals and earn his due respect from the public at large. However, it was that game amid other All-Stars when he demonstrated to the masses what, behind the perception, was his reality.

In those flashing, brilliant final minutes when Iverson was everywhere on the floor, making steals, setting up fast breaks, scoring on twisting, jack-knifing drives, he could have been a player from any era, no different from Bob Cousy, Bob Pettit, Julius Erving, Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and the other greats who had been introduced to the crowd at halftime.

He looked and acted different, this new kid, like new kids always have. They make us uncomfortable, force us to look at things from a different perspective. But what it was about that day was showing that many things never change on the inside, no matter how they’re packaged. Competitors compete.

Sometimes the torch is passed and sometimes it is a wild spark that burns down the forest to make room for new growth.

He was never going to be Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell. You were asking too much to replace that. They laid the foundation, established the game in the consciousness of a worldwide audience. They made it possible for the next generation to follow in their footsteps even if it meant never wearing their shoes.

The question, of course, is always: What comes next?

Allen Iverson was always The Answer, even when we didn’t know it yet.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 129) Featuring Damaris Lewis and Marc J. Spears

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Don’t look at the calendar and assume that just because we are still months away from regular season games that there’s nothing to talk about.

That’s not the way we roll here at headquarters. There’s plenty of news (Allen Iverson‘s pending and “official” retirement, the comebacks of Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Danny Granger and others, Jeremy Lin suggesting that his coaches in Houston lost faith in him last season, the mounting pressure on Blake Griffin in Los Angeles, etc.) and views to be had with our guests.

Super model and “Brooklyn to the bone” hoops fan Damaris Lewis and Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears don’t hold back in their assessments of what’s gone on this summer and what  could be in store for us all during the 2013-14 NBA season.

There will be no Nets takeover of New York, says Lewis, and the Indiana Pacers might be “pound-for-pound” better than the Miami Heat right now, per Spears.

We dig into that and a whole lot more on Episode 129 of the Hang Time Podcast featuring Damaris Lewis and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports …

LISTEN HERE:


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

Report: A.I. ‘Officially’ Ready To Retire



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Father Time always wins. Not even the all-time greats can survive his pull.

Allen Iverson will become his latest victim sometime this week, with sources telling SLAM Magazine that the former Philadelphia 76ers star will “officially” retire later this week.

It’s strictly a formality at this point for Iverson, who has not played significant minutes in the NBA since 2010 with the 76ers. His last game action professionally was in Turkey in 2011.

One of the league’s most popular players during the height of his NBA career, Iverson closes the door on his career as one of the game’s greatest scorers and one of the best 6-foot and under to ever wear a NBA uniform.

But it was clear months ago that he was prepared for this moment, per SLAM’s Tzvi Twersky:

When he last spoke publicly, at a Sixers game on March 30, Iverson answered a question about continuing his career by saying, “My No. 1 goal is trying to accomplish to be the best dad that I can. And if basketball is in my near future, then God will make that happen. But if not, I had a great ride and I’ve done a lot of special things that a lot of guys have not been able to accomplish and people thought I couldn’t accomplish.”

Included amongst those accomplishments are: 13-year career averages of 41.1 mpg, 26.7 ppg, 6.2 apg and 2.2 spg; 71-game playoff averages of 45.1 mpg, 29.7 ppg, 6.0 apg and 2.1 spg. He also won one regular-season MVP award, four scoring titles and was named an All-Star 11 times. Maybe most impressive of all, omitting the obvious impact that he had on the culture off-court, was the resilience that the 6-foot guard showed in driving into the lane, into men a foot taller than him, time and time again.

“He might be the greatest athlete I’ve ever seen,” Larry Brown, Iverson’s coach from 1997-2003 and the current coach at SMU, told SLAM today. “I don’t think there’ll be another one like him.

“I’m sure we faced a lot of obstacles, maybe even on a daily basis, but when it came time to play, to try to win a game, he tried to play as hard as he could for his coach.”

It’s hard to put Iverson’s career into words for those of us who witnessed his rise from two-sport (football) high school phenom to future Hall of Famer. Few players in the history of the game, drew the attention of fans worldwide the way Iverson did during his best days.

When he does make his retirement official, my main man Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog and formerly of SLAM will reflect on Iverson’s impact on the game and hops culture.

Brown And The Sixers A Good Fit

HANG TIME, Texas – So it looks like the 76ers will not go into the Oct. 30 season opener against the Heat without a head coach.

The job belongs to Brett Brown, assuming he accepts the offer, and the process of repairing one of the NBA’s most moribund franchises can continue.

It’s a move that should have happened a long time ago and, no, I’m not talking about the past three months since Sam Hinkie took over as general manager. I know all about the impatience of Philadelphians. I am one. Which is why I’m so perplexed about the furor over Hinkie taking his time in the dead of summer to finally get this right rather than an uproar over the past two decades as the Sixers have replaced one Band-Aid with another.

Let’s face it. Even the Allen Iverson Era was ephemeral, since any endeavor involving Larry Brown has the lifespan of a moth.

The hiring of the 52-year-old assistant from San Antonio would be the next step in the kind of sweep-it-all-clean maneuvering that should have taken place in the organization a long time ago instead of the Sixers peripatetic wanderings through the want-ads.

Hinkie has plainly said — though few seemed to listen — that his focus was on a future of two to five years, not beating LeBron and the Heat in less than three months. That’s why he was willing to trade away the team’s best player and All-Star Jrue Holiday and put his faith on Nerlens Noel eventually becoming the No. 1 draft pick talent that was once projected. That’s why the new GM is willing to suffer through a miserable 2013-14 season, and maybe even the next, in order to establish a solid foundation that will serve the team down the line. Hinkie is confident, decisive and forward thinking.

Brown fits into the model with a resume that includes more than a decade of working inside the most consistently successful franchise of the past 14 years and working under Gregg Popovich, the best coach in the league.

After starting out in the operations department in San Antonio, Brown became the director of player development in 2002 and worked extensively with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as they made the successful transition from the international game into NBA All-Stars. Hinkie, too, has an eye on international talent and would have a coach who is simpatico. The presence of Noel and young point guard Michael Carter-Williams could also take advantage of the teaching abilities of Brown, who also has long experience as the head coach of the Australian national team.

While there might be those who are urging Brown to turn down the Sixers because Philly has been a coaching graveyard and a merry-go-round of old friends and tired names with local ties, there is a better chance that it’s exactly the kind of opportunity that a first-time coach would crave, an opportunity to build from the ground up.

With Mike Budenholzer gone to the Hawks, there is a school of thought that Brown could remain in San Antonio and wait for Popovich to retire, then take over. After all, Popovich has said often through the years that he’ll walk out the door with Tim Duncan, who has two years left on his contract. However, the fact that Brown was willing to previously interview for the Nuggets job might indicate that Pop plans to stay on and usher in the next era with the Spurs. And at that point, are the Spurs any different from the Sixers right now, searching for new blood and new direction?

More than that, you simply don’t tick off years on the calendar waiting for things that might happen. You find a job that is a right fit at the right time and you go for it.

It might have taken a few months longer than some would have liked for Hinkie and Brown to come together. Or it could be the exactly the right kind of marriage that’s been years overdue in Philly.

D-League Diary: Justin Dentmon’s Long Wait

FRISCO, Texas — Sometimes Justin Dentmon wants to strangle his cell phone. But like the rest of us, he can’t live without it. It’s just that so few of us experience the stomach-wrenching anxiety he does with each ring of an incoming call or beep of a text.

“I feel like I’m on call every day, I’m waiting every day,” Dentmon said. “Every time Bill [Neff, his agent] calls and leaves a message, I’m thinking that it’s somebody calling for a contract. I’m really just trying to be patient.”

But time is running short, on the the NBA season, on that elusive call-up and ultimately on the 6-foot point guard’s NBA dream.

“I’m just hoping for that call-up, man,” Dentmon said. “Just the chance, the opportunity.”

Dentmon, 27, plays for the Texas Legends. It is his second stint with the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League affiliate in the last three years, and he leads the league in scoring at 21.5 ppg. He’s averaging 25.9 ppg in 15 games with the Legends since being traded mid-season from the Austin Toros, the San Antonio Spurs’ affiliate he won the league MVP with and led to the D-League title a year ago.

That season, while averaging 22.8 ppg and 5.5 apg while shooting lights out from beyond the arc, it took until March 24 for Dentmon to get the call for his first 10-day contract with the Spurs. A few days after San Antonio released him, the Toronto Raptors quickly scooped him up with another 10-day contract. But they decided to hold onto Ben Uzoh, a D-League staple this season with the Springfield Armor.

But Dentmon felt like he had finally got himself on the map and closer than ever before to realizing his dream. Last summer he was set to play for Dallas’ summer league team and Dentmon and his agent believed that the Mavs, whose president of basketball operations, Donnie Nelson, co-owns the Legends, were ready to sign him to a partially guaranteed NBA contract. That would get him to training camp in October where he could compete for a roster spot.

But disappointment followed. He didn’t play as much as he would have liked in the five summer league games and then four days later his desired contract fell through because Dallas re-signed veteran, but troubled guard Delonte West. Without an NBA contract, Dentmon returned to the D-League Toros this season to begin the fight all over again.

And now with just 13 games left in the Legends’ season, West’s shadow looms again. The Mavs waived West prior to the season for detrimental behavior and he’s been out of the league since. Five weeks ago he failed to report to the Legends after signing a contract, however he is apparently ready to join the team now in a late attempt to salvage his derailed career.

It’s a difficult pill to swallow for Dentmon. He essentially plays the same position and could lose essential playing time. It seems like that’s been a constant threat since the Legends traded for him on Jan. 22. West signed his original Legends deal on Jan. 25 and days later a report revealed the team was making a play for former NBA MVP Allen Iverson, who declined the invite.

Still, with flirtations with West and Iverson, the prospect Dentmon was left wondering what it all meant for him.

“I talked to Bill [his agent] and I’m like, ‘Bill what’s going on? They’re bringing in all these guys and they just traded for me,’” Dentmon said. “He just told me to continue to be me.”

So Dentmon does. He’s scored 30 or more points in five of the last 10 games and has averaged 27.9 points during that stretch to get the Legends on the cusp of playoff contention. He arrived to the team during a 12-game losing streak and has since helped them win six of their last nine. Still, he waits for the call he has yet to receive.

“I’m still hoping that he will,” said first-year Legends coach and former NBA forward Eduardo Najera. “I’ve been working with him in terms of mentoring what he needs to be doing. I think scoring takes you a long way, but you’ve still got to be able to play defense and be in great shape. I’ve been pounding on that because I really believe this kid, in top shape and he when plays individual defense — and we’ve been working on it every single day in practice — he can make it to the NBA and also stay there because he’s that talented.”

Dentmon, who went undrafted out of Washington in 2009, has played overseas in stints, in Israel and Italy and even the Dominican Republic. At home, he’s fought the constant battle of being labeled undersized and the perception that he’s a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body. He keeps coming back to the lower wages of the D-League, he said, because he deems it the second-best league in the world and the best way to make it to the No. 1 league.

I just really want to stay here, but playing here it seems like it keeps pushing me away,” Dentmon said. “I’m trying my hardest. Last year, I did a great job of playing the point and this year I’m playing a little bit of both, but it’s just tough, it’s tough.”

So he plays, practices and practices some more as he waits for the phone to ring. If it doesn’t ring soon, Dentmon said it will be time for him to make his own call whether to stay or go make a better livelihood playing overseas.

It all depends on if I’m getting any looks or if get called up this year,” he said. “If I don’t get any call-ups this year, maybe it’s telling me I need to go overseas for a little bit.”

Sizzling Stars: LeBron and KD Meet Again

OKLAHOMA CITY – The historic impact of the supremacy of LeBron James and Kevin Durant is impossible to ignore. Legends are being made before our eyes, and before All-Star weekend arrives, the NBA gives us the final regular-season meeting between two of the most uniquely gifted players compiling two of the most individually intriguing seasons ever.

No, it’s not a stretch to make such a pronouncement about two players dominating individually and who also have their teams positioned for ultimate goal: a potential NBA Finals rematch in June.

James, built like a bull at 6-foot-9 and 25o pounds and defying every traditional position on the floor, is averaging 27.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 6.9 apg. He’s shooting 56.5 percent overall and 42.0 percent from beyond the arc. The Heat (35-14) have won six in a row and lead the Eastern Conference by three games.

Durant is listed at 6-foot-9, but everybody knows his 235 pounds (probably a stretch) are spread out over a near-7-foot frame and boasts a ridiculously wide wing span. He’s averaging 29.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 4.4 apg. He’s shooting 51.9 percent overall, 43.2 percent on 3s and 90.4 percent from the free-throw line. The Thunder (39-13) own the league’s best point-differential at plus-9.1, although they trail San Antonio by one game in the loss column.

When it comes to LeBron and KD, no matter the era, the numbers don’t lie.

“They’re two unique bodies and two unique styles of play,” said former Atlanta Hawks great and 1986 scoring champ Dominique Wilkins. “Totally different, but with the same efficiency. The thing with these guys is you rarely see them take a lot of bad shots. That’s why they shoot the percentages they are. When guys have great shooting percentages, they limit their bad shot attempts. That’s what both those guys have done.”

James floats into Thursday’s game at Oklahoma City (8 p.m. ET, TNT) on a run for the ages as the only player in NBA history to reel off six consecutive 30-point games while shooting better than 60 percent in each. And forget about 60 percent, James is 66-for-92 in those games for a blistering, almost unbelievable, 71.7 percent.

It’s the kind of stretch that has practically assures him of joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to twice win consecutive MVP awards. And if he does win it this season, James and Bill Russell will be the only players named MVP four times in five seasons. Oscar Robertson – perhaps the player James most resembles — stopped Russell’s run at three in a row in 1963-64. Russell followed the next season by winning it again.

Derrick Rose‘s awesome 2010-11 MVP season stopped James at two straight and Rose could ultimately prevent him from being the first player to ever have won it five consecutive seasons.

Still, a fourth MVP would already give LeBron, at age 28, more than the three won by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malone, while tying him with Wilt Chamberlain and moving him one away from matching Michael Jordan and Russell at five. A sixth would put LeBron with Abdul-Jabbar on the mountaintop.

In any other season, Durant would be the frontrunner for his first MVP. As it is, he’s locked in a battle with Carmelo Anthony for a fourth consecutive scoring title — both lead the league at 29.0 ppg. Only Wilt (1959-66) and Jordan (1986-93), each with seven consecutive scoring titles, have won more than three in a row.

Durant is one of just five players to claim three straight: Jordan (1995-98), George Gervin (1977-80), Bob McAdoo (1973-76), Neil Johnston (1952-55) and George Miken (1948-51).

If Durant — who is also on pace to notch the ultra-rare 50-40-90 season (50 percent field goals, 40 percent 3-pointers, 90 percent free throws) – claims the scoring title, he will tie Allen Iverson and Gervin — the player Durant is most often compared to because of his slender frame and cool demeanor — with four.

Even if Durant doesn’t pick up his fourth in a row, at only 24 years old, he’s still lined up to threaten Jordan’s unprecedented, and once thought to be untouchable, 10 scoring titles.

For history in the making, stay tuned.

Dirk Passes Wilt In Free Throws Made

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Dirk Nowitzki moved past Wilt Chamberlain Saturday night and into 15th place on the NBA’s all-time free throws made list.

In his 1,076th career game, Dirk collected eight more free throws to total 6,059 on 6,910 attempts. That’s 87.7 percent, currently good for a tie for 13th all-time with Jeff Hornacek. Only four active players have better career free-throw percentages — No. 1 Steve Nash (90.4), No. 5 Chauncey Billups (89.4), No. 6 Ray Allen (89.3) and No. 12 Kevin Durant (88.2).

But back to Wilt’s free throws and a little comparison to Dirk because these numbers are really mind-blowing:

* In 1,045 games — 31 fewer than Dirk has played to this point — Wilt made two fewer free throws (6,057) on 4,952 more attempts.

* Dirk has averaged 6.4 free throws a game; Wilt averaged 11.4.

* Dirk, 18th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (24,442 career points), has missed 851 free-throw attempts.

* Wilt, fourth on the all-time scoring list (31,419), missed 5,805 free- throw attempts.

Dirk’s percentage has dipped a bit this season. After going 8-for-11 from the free-throw line in Saturday’s blowout win over the Golden State Warriors, Dirk is shooting just 78.5 percent from the free- throw line, his low-water mark by far since finishing his rookie season at 77.3 percent.

The slippage is rather stunning considering Dirk finished six of the last seven seasons at 89.0 percent or better (the other season was 87.9 percent).

The only conclusion is that the Oct. 19 athroscopic surgery on his right knee that sidelined him for the first 27 games of the season has taken a toll on a player who has always featured a pronounced knee bend in his shooting form (his 40.7 field-goal percentage is also the lowest since his rookie season).

That aside, Dirk remains one of the game’s all-time great free-throw shooters and he needs to average just under 4.0 made free throws in the final 32 games of the regular season to pass Bob Pettit (6,182) and move into 14th place.

In any other season, that would seem automatic, but this season Dirk is averaging just 2.9 made free throws a game. Prior to this season, he averaged 5.7 made free throws a game. 

Whether it happens this season or next, it will happen. In fact, by the second half of next season Dirk should take his place in the top 10 all-time for most free throws made.

He’s just 317 away from overtaking No. 10 Allen Iverson (6,375), who despite his preference, doesn’t appear headed to an NBA free throw line ever again.