The NBA: From Small Cult Like Gatherings To Michael Jordan & The World Stage

Uploaded by MSLawdotedu on 26.12.2011


welcome to the massachusetts school of law educational forum thank you for
joining me
this program is brought to you by the massachusetts school of law today we're
at the RDV sportsplex in orlando florida the topic for today's show is
the n_b_a_ how has it changed over the years which era was better
and michael jordan
how has he impacted the game
joining me now is one of the most influential people in n_b_a_ history
pat williams the senior vice president of the armando magic
previously he was the general manager of the philadelphia seventy sixers
including the season that they were the n_b_a_ champs
prior to that he was the general manager for the atlanta hawks and the chicago
bulls pat how has the game of basketball changed over the course of your career i think
just the magnitude of the game the size of it the scope of it to put it in
when i arrived in philadelphia
as the business manager of the seventy sixers in
early september of nineteen sixty eight
there were four full-time employees in the league office in new york
how many today i mean they could've had a meeting in the phone booth
and today they're
pushing up
towards a thousand oh wow all around the world they've got
satellite headquarters on just about every continent in the country in the world
it's become a huge worldwide enterprise it's just enormous it's big business big big business and getting
bigger all the time
and uh...
international players there would be an example i mean the thought
thirty four years ago of having a player from china
as the first
pick in the draft or one of the high picks in the draft
south america
all across europe
uh... to have
ten twelve
fourteen foreign players drafted in the first two rounds unheard of yeah we never
would have thought of that never
walter kennedy was the commissioner then
the former mayor of stamford connecticut
and walter i think would occasionally drop a little
line you know it's gonna be a worldwide sport someday but who could
envisioned that or who would have believed that
so in many ways diane it has changed
and above all just the the
athleticism the
size the
enormity of these players I mean I look back to my early years
there's no comparison for example
just of the the strength the agility the quickness it's just
group of young athletes that are
coming along from all over the world is part of that change the result of
players engaging in weight training and having nutrition specialists and all the
things that once they didn't have the opportunity to do
and teaching
listen i remember diane when i was uh... a freshman
at wake forest
uh... there was a professor there named gene hooks doctor gene hooks
and he had just written his doctoral dissertation on weight training in
athletics it was very very controversial
this was the fall of fifty eight
I mean it was it was almost like heresy yeah what he was writing about
it ultimately became a book
gene hooks was just
I mean so
far out there
you know there was the whole theory of lifting will make you muscle bound and lifting
this that and the other ruin your touch and your game completely don't do it
I mean it literally that was
what forty four years ago you don't do this and gene hooks argued yes you do
well that was way way
uh... long ago but but now
every team
has around the clock around the year weight training program
we uh... everybody has a strength and conditioning coach an
assistant strength and conditioning coach
I mean it's staggering
now we're building our own facilities we used to
have to go
and um...
hang out and maybe get the gym at a college you know to train at or to
practice or the local Y the local Y I remember in chicago
in the early seventies when i was there our players would go work out at the
lawson street y_m_c_a_ in downtown with a guy named dick white who
would work 'em out I mean that was that was it
and let alone having facilities no I mean so
just these areas diane how 'bout airplane travel
listen the new players don't
have any idea
what travel used to be like i mean
once a week almost every team in the league would meet each other going
through o'hare in chicago
you know with those five o'clock wake-up calls to get a seven thirty flight
to get into the next city change planes in atlanta or chicago
that's how we traveled
not today no
so it's uh... it's uh... it's it's
staggering for me
as a spectator
it seems to me that the game in the past twenty years has really changed
from a team oriented game
to almost an individual accomplishment game am I wrong about that
well there's a lot of that diane i think one of the reasons for that is just the
media attention
you know in the in my early years this was kind of a cult sport
you know the n_b_a_ had kind of a
limited following who were into it it was like a a you know
wrestling fans you were
basketball fans but it was a very
small cult-like gathering
but no longer uh... we're all over the place
and i think the players the young players see all this they see the glamour
they see the glitz that goes with it
you know they begin they see this from the time they're small kids
and there's a tendency to and basketball lends itself you know to individual skills
putting on a show
that is the challenge therefore diane of every coach
to convince these young guys
that this is the team game the ultimate team game
and that you've got a
as bob cousy
used to say you've gotta share the sugar you know you've gotta
get everybody involved and and that's where great coaching comes in to
try and battle
this sociological phenomenon of i'm in it for me
uh... to get involved and make it the ultimate team game that basketball is is
that what phil jackson did with michael jordan did he somehow convince him
to become more of a team player and thus accordingly they won championships
i think that was phil's greatest strength i um
recently wrote a book about michael jordan diane I did over fifteen hundred
in researching the book motivational book called how to be like mike
one of the chapters i wrote about was this whole area of teamwork
and i think it was pretty clear in michael's early years
and granted he did not have much around him
and and had to carry the whole load
but as the bulls got better pippen and grant they got better players
but phil jackson arrived in the fall of ninety as the head coach and
sold michael
that he was going to have to get the other guys more involved
that he was gonna
have to
sacrifice some of his own individual stuff
to get them involved that was the only they way they were going to win
michael bought into that
by the way
and as i said part of it was he had
better teammates to trust
and the end result was the bulls had that
trio of wins in the early nineties then came back with three more
is there any argument to be made that
michael bought into it because at the time he now had a tremendous amount of
endorsement contracts so there was an incentive for him to be able to pass the
ball where before he was individually accomplished and therefore getting all
these endorsement contracts well keep in mind diane that michael jordan is the most
savage competitor ever to walk the face of the earth
and has a maniacal need to win
so so that has always been the centerpiece of his life and his career
and I don't care what it is
what what activity it is
i mean he is relentless it's it's it's almost animal like
this this need to win
so I I think that has always been the driving force in his life the early years of his
pro career were so frustrating to him
upsetting to him
that uh... whatever it took and and give phil jackson credit
phil jackson sometimes is criticized
you know for being a
push button
coach and all this but i'll tell you what
it's hard to coach talent
it is hard to coach talent because you are
the author of a book how to be like mike
let me ask you how did michael jordan change overhaul the game of basketball
if at all
well he um
he took interest to the highest level ever
you know on every nation on earth
I don't think you could ever deny that
as i got into the restriction you know what I discovered diane
michael jordan
sold all of our tickets
he sold all of our
jerseys and hats
he sold the t_v_ ratings
he sold the international aspects of the game
he did all of that
i don't think we understood
michael jordan as it turns out in my opinion was the most underrated
player of all time and you would say underrated yes i would but
but i don't none of us realized i didn't
that that he was res he sold everything
I mean he he took to game the entire sport up on his back
and just
vaulted it
to the highest level imaginable
and and and i'm not minimizing you know the league office in new york and
all the marketing people
but we were deluded
michael was doing it all himself
and we just road we just rode his coattails
go back with me if you would to my favorite era
in basketball and that was the the
bird magic matchup
at that time
the NBA was in terrible shape as i recall there were drug problems you
were watching games on rerun um it was principally black
that was not good for advertisers at least they perceived that it wasn't good
then all of a sudden we have all this focus on bird and magic and their match up
how did that change basketball it certainly brought it back to the front pages of
the newspaper oh it was perfect you know if you were sitting
in madison avenue and trying to design this wonderful wonderful scenario
to change the face of a sport I mean you couldn't invent this could you no I mean
here's here's larry bird from french lick indiana
you know hay seed kind of a guy
and we're going to put him in boston the old standby city of hoops
and here's this kid from lansing michigan
ebullient you know
and we're gonna plop him down
out here in
the land of the stars hollywood you know
so let's plan to put him here I mean can't you see the
marketing people in new york working on this plan and you would you'd be
this could never happen
well it did
and and and larry bird was new england and michael and magic was LA southern california
and and right in the middle of this not too long there after four years later
five years later here comes michael jordan
and we're gonna plop him right down here in the city of the big shoulders
you know right there
and this is where he's going to be oh boy
and david stern came along at this point and just rode that baby
oh I mean he was just still riding it still riding it but he was whipping that horse you know
with his
perfect perfect perfect setup
so and and uh... i understand and they both were great passers these two
guys were great passers they were the ultimate team players yet they were marketed as
and that's what helped the NBA so much oh I mean you couldn't couldn't go back
as i said diane and create that but you know what
it always it it happens you know it takes time
you know we're still transitioning out I think
of the bird jordan magic era
you know we're still
trying to get over that I mean in a good way now we're trying to
create new rivalries and
new stars
you know that's what's sports is about will we ever go back though to the great
team play
in the same type of basketball that we saw in the bird magic era well that's a
good question
but don't ever minimize diane i mean they were great teams but don't ever
that when it came down to winning time
you know they just took over
mhm okay yeah that's true they took over
and when it when it came down to making
great plays to win games
get out of the way gimme the ball
so i think you know we learn from the past
and we enjoy memories of the past
but we can't pitch a tent in yesterday
but i'm still trying I understand i mean
you're you're a purist you know you you have won and we should have wonderful
but the past should be a springboard not a hammock
and there's a tendency in sports you know to always kind of
think back to the good old days
and and i have warm wonderful memories of my youth and
going to the palestra in philadelphia and watching the old philadelphia warriors
you know win a championship in nineteen fifty six when i was
fifteen years old good stuff
that's what sports is anchored on well i worry i worry that were leaving
an era of sport and we're moving to an era of entertainment perhaps that's why
i want to do this show
when i was a younger person
and I watched larry bird to me he was the person i most wanted to be like
diving in the stands after balls when they were down twenty points or up
twenty points it didn't matter but he cared so much and i don't see that
today well diane i would disagree with you uh... you know and and and and to to
model everybody off larry bird
isn't is probably not fare
you know 'cause he was he was
was he not
you know he he he great shooter
the hardest worker ever
you know you'd go out early to the boston garden and you'd hear the thump thump
thump of the ball there was larry at four thirty
and then running the steps you know in the old boston garden
this is where hoosiers came from
and role models but trust me diane look in my face
trust me
players are still working hard
I mean here we are
in the magic
facility here in orlando we got a weight room over there
we're taping you know months months before the training camp our guys are in
you know every day lifting their weights
you know working hard
nobody's watching them
uh... that we have personal trainers with them now we have what four five
coaches assistant coaches
who are out teaching instructing
yeah the work ethic is there
now now the problem maybe a little bit of the
the modern era you know that we're all adjusting to tattoos we're
all adjusting to body piercing you're adjusting I'm never going to adjust to it I guess
well and part of it part of it is the is your new england background
you're you're all influenced by bob ryan
from the boston globe
the ultimate purist
who who absolutely my dear friend bob just
hates what's going on
I mean in bob's world there's no music
in the games let alone dance teams and
shooting t-shirts up into the stands I mean don't even go there with bob
right right no the fleet center versus the garden i can't take it I really truly cannot take it that's
that's your new england backround
you know and and and uh... at this point the
celtics do not
have as far as i know a mascot
no they do not i mean could you see uh...
charlie the celtic running around in his little costume they haven't
gone there yet
do we have dance girls in boston no okay okay
i'm going to burn the place down when we do I swear this goes back to your
calvinist background diane but you're going to get over this you're going to be ok you know
we're not i want to say to all of your viewers we're not killing the sport
you know with towels waving and
balloons being waived and lights flashing lights flashing and the score board
indoor fireworks and
t_-shirts being shot into the upper deck
my background goes back to bill veck
bill veck had a huge influence on my life
for twenty five years he was a friend and a mentor and in my very early days in
in sports
although it wasn't called sports marketing then it was called promoting bill veck had one
philosophy diane and that was
it's fun
we're selling fun
and he preached in the thirties in the forties and the fifties
and i bought into it
don't sell the game on the won and loss column
it is too risky
because at the end of the year there's only one team that wins
he said in in exchange for that and and it wasn't that bill didn't want to win
but bill said every time you come to my ballpark I guarantee you
you're gonna have fun
money-back guarantee
if you don't have fun come by the box office we'll refund your money wow
tell me all the eras that you've been a part of what have been your favorite
teams and your favor times oh one of my favorite teams was the uh... team in
that I helped put together with dick motta
sixty nine to seventy three
oh that was a very very favorite team
and how could it not be
chet walker bob love tom borwinkle the great passing center
the toughest
most hard-nosed back court jerry sloan and norm van lear
norm van lear who
bob cousy coached for a while in cincinnati
oh that was a wonderful team
and and the city of chicago really fell in love with them
because they were chicago
black and blue you know you'd have loved that team diane all over the floor floor
match-ups with milwaukee you'd see
jerry sloan toe to toe with oscar robertson in the old chicago stadium on
a freezing cold january night
ah! that would've warmed the cockles of your heart take me back there and
uh... the celtics would come in with a young dave cowens
good stuff
that was one of my favorite teams and then of course the team that won in
philadelphia in eighty three oh sure moses malone and doctor j_ and
andrew tony the celtic
strangler the boston strangler
maurice cheeks
marvelous team great match ups saw oh that was
and and and
may we always remember philly boston
uh... every spring it was kind of a rite of spring right
uh... they would match up what a what a marvelous rivalry
as far as i'm concerned diane the most intense rivalry in all of sports
you know and i'm not minimizing the yankees and the red sox I'm not minimizing michigan
and ohio state or duke carolina
but what philly boston in the n_b_a_ heads my list and remember when doctor J
retired and he made his final tour through boston I mean
for us it was almost as though larry bird were retiring
well he had that massachusetts background you know he was a U. Mass guy
so so doc was kind of a adopted new englander
but uh...
new england sports fans diane have a great respect for the game
and they and they admire
people and and athletes of
great character
great talent great success and
and they uh... they realized that that
earvin bird era was
indeed special
I mean we talk about bird magic I mean don't ever minimize
the erving bird era right
uh julius was a little bit older
than larry you know he'd been around longer
but that was that was a special
six seven year period
and in your career you were responsible for the
acquisition and the trade of doctor J as I recall is that correct yeah we were in
and it was nineteen seventy six
the merger had just taken place of the two leagues that summer
and julius had a problem with the owner of the nets they had a major
disagreement hm mm
and uh... the nets were just coming into the n_b_a_
and julius was not in camp
and it went on i remember talking to the g_m_ there billy melkioni
and asking him a question would julius ever be available he said nope I said if
it ever changes call me
and about three weeks later he called
and said our owner needs money
wow i said how much he said three million
mhm I said what's it gonna take to sign him he said probably another
uh that's six diane
now in nineteen seventy six
that was a ton of money staggering yeah
we had a new owner
a man named f. eugene dixon who had
good guy but had no background in basketball was you know brand new to him
never seen a game really
I had to drive out to his farm on the edge of philadelphia
to tell him what was stirring
and I'll never forget fitz he looked at me and he said now
tell me pat he said who is this
julius erving
I said well fits let's call him the babe ruth of basketball
he said well how much is it gonna take to get him said uh...
and and I said it real quick in kinda six million you know
and he said tell me are you recommending this
this is my new owner
and i said uh...
yes sir i a m
and then he said
well let's do it wow
like that
and that was off we went to new york to
hammer the deals out overnight and boy it happened like that good for you oh my
what a time joining me now is one of the most spectacular passers to ever play the
this hall of famer was a member of six n_b_a_ championship teams
nineteen fifty-seven nineteen fifty-nine
and nineteen sixty through nineteen sixty three he revolutionized basketball with
his razzle-dazzle ball handling skills
and today he is one of the most respected n_b_a_ analysts bob cousy welcome to the
show thank diane I
bring you on the road with me as my pr agent love to go
bob describe the changes in basketball
if there are any
over the course of your career from the time you were one of the best to play
the game to the the period that you were a coach and finally to being an n_b_a_
i guess it was more simple when we played diane
and uh... and i think frankly
i was gonna say the coaches have complicated it i'm not sure that's
probably an easy answer that
maybe it's a reflection of some of their insecurities
because the game has become much more structured
and much more disciplined
the transitional part of the game which i grew up with we we featured
on those great celtic teams even in college
at every level
most of the offenses that were being played
were transitional in nature if you had to go
uh... controlled in terms of half court sets and calling plays or systems
you did that if the
fast play to the transition part of the game didn't work uh...
now that's completely reversed uh... even on a professional level
uh... everything is kinda by design
and in my humble judgment
the game
is a game of free flow
the option to the play for instance works better than the play itself in basketball
whereas in football
in contrast
you know eleven people have to be completely on the same page uh...
have to
on each play carry out specific assignments
uh... in order for the play
to be successful every now and then a broken play in football will work but generally
speaking eleven guys as I say have to be doing it simultaneously
in basketball it's just the reverse you know it's uh... the defense tells you the
offensive player
or the point guard
what to do what to create what to develop etcetera
so uh...
we don't see this as much any more there are twenty nine teams in the n_b_a_
perhaps four of them
are focusing on some degree of the transitional game
most of them the coaches like to jump up and hold up fingers every time down well
obviously if you have to stop and see what the coach wants you to do
forget the transition game it's not going to happen
uh... obviously as an old-timer i would make a strong argument in any forum that
part of the game should be in every coaches arsenal on any level
in every game absolutely
do you believe or do you agree with me that the game has changed from a team
oriented game to more of an individual focus
i assume you're talking about professional level uh not yeah not really
the successful teams
are all
team-oriented diane
because the game can't be played without
five guys actually it's
again in my judgment it's a seven or an eight-man game
uh... so
for you have to integrate five or eight people together and and
uh... doing it in a
in a cohesive
unselfish manner in order to reach the top of whatever level you're at
the n_b_a_ or professional sports is also show biz so now that they've developed
the high-profile
players and basketball especially they're know literally all over the world
you know obviously this is what we hear about what
what the ESPNs and the...
you know the sports channels of the world feature because they know that you the
fan if you're gonna pay eighty bucks to see
grown men play a child's game
you want to relate to and it's easier to relate to the larry birds or the michael
jordans or whoever the
the high profile guy of the moment is
than it is to
to perhaps selling a team
but the bottom line is the uh... the teams that are successful
and also on the final analysis i think what draws you the fan
is the
the competitiveness of the two teams that you are going to see obviously
celtics lakers uh
uh... celtic philadelphia you know the rivalries change but
i think you've gotta sell both you've gotta sell the individuals and the team
but the game uh... is not successful
uh played by individuals it's successfully executed played by
by as i say six or seven or eight people
are the great match ups still there like the bird magic era
oh absolutely
you know in our days it was it was uh...
russ and wilt I mean you know this is marketing this is uh... you know you
said you know interviewed pat williams I mean he was the originator of marketing
techniques in the n_b_a_ and and a lot of the other leagues' uh...
in football and
I think adopted a lot of his techniques so
as we said a moment ago sports professional sports is showbiz
you know it's get the people in there
and uh... what what
once you get 'em in in case the game sucks and is not a good game
you know how do you keep them coming so now it's a happening it's an event
in basketball every time out every half time is chock full i mean you're
you'r never out of focus in terms of something going on on the floor
even though the teams are sitting
you know having their rest and their
their water or whatever during time-outs
you the fan
uh…are constantly being quote entertained by something that is happening so
you know uh... it's you've gotta sell your product and
you've got all these
uh... all these different varied ways of of focusing on that
I'm a fan though that really resents it
i love sport i don't necessarily want to go to a game to be entertained when i
went to the old garden with the flags and no air conditioning i went to see the
game of basketball
go to the fleet center today I mean I can't take it
you're a purist diane
you know and a lot of people
uh... although you're young to be a purist
usually it's the old timers that relate
you you should talk to red auerbach my old mentor arnold to this day as a
matter of fact i was struck by the fact
the celtics are starting to do a lot of this marketing we talked about but at
halftime in the
first four playoff games we've gone to
they have some little kids running up and down the floor you know some
mickey mouse contest that they they had nothing
professional uh... they're offering the fans or anything
this is a throwback to arnold who used to say hey give them a winning product
and they will come you know build it and the fan will come
uh... he had no patience whatsoever for any peripheral thing he thought
this was bastardizing the product obviously or
the wonderful game of basketball he wouldn't stand for it and
you know he's eighty four he still shows up occasionally and maybe they just do
he's been to the games that i've been to maybe they do it when he's there
and uh... they go back to their showbiz format
you know when he's not but uh...
yeah a lot of people
feel like you do and
and in the long run i think that's true whatever product you've got on the
market you know
you can just you can fake the people out for so long with spin and hype
and mirrors and smoke and all that stuff
eventually the product you're selling is gotta be a quality
otherwise obviously they won't come be keep coming back
and if you've got a losing team in the n_b_a_ you can surrounded it with as
much hype and spin and
half-time shows as you want
you know it's going to be a tough sell the next year
it seems though that players today their focus is shoot first get
endorsements second
i don't know that they're necessarily on the floor worrying about winning the
game am I wrong about that oh absolutely especially when they reach that level
you wouldn't reach you know to begin with
and don't misunderstand me i find a lot of things to criticize
today's jock for but uh... but that's not one of them
i think the analogy that is
appropriate in that regard is that
we uh...
you know today's jock will fight every bit as hard to get to the top of the
hill as we did every bit as competitive and determined
i don't think they'll fight any where near as hard as we did
we the players from thirty four years ago
to stay on top of the hill
you know we won those units uh...
which I don't
i'm a uh...
uh... today person I'm not a yesterday so I don't go down to the cellar and look at
the trophies and worry about what happened
thirty years ago very much
but if i have a couple of beers and want to boast a little bit about the old days
i feel very proud and privileged to have been a part in what i consider the greatest
team sport
professional team sport dynasty frankly of all time you can talk yankees
montreal's green bays and the other sports
no one ever dominated their sphere of
as completely as those celtics teams did from about fifty seven to sixty nine there was
eleven championships
in thirteen years
uh... that has never
been done before and in my judgment will never be done again given what you're
referring to all the distractions all the money
that uh... that these guys are being
uh... given today to play a child's game for eight months
so that
they're still every bit as determined because they wouldn't be at that level
but there there are so many distractions
they have financial security from the time they uh... they
for this lifetime
and if you believe in shirley maclaine for the next two or whatever
uh... so where's the it's it's a
motivational thing you know
uh... they'll say to you hey man we got great pride and we want to be the best we can be
as we all do
but at some point when you wake up with that hangover
and you got forty million in the bank it's easy to roll back on the pillow and not go
to work and fight your ass off you know
so uh...
yes that's present it's a distraction
uh... you can't you know you can't give kids get out of
never mind getting out of college getting out of high school now some of them don't stop at
forty million dollars to play a child's game
and expect to get a
a smooth
concerned community-oriented
you know people person out of all that because none of us here
if we're given
those kind of
of goodies so early in our life i think you know it's the animal that's at
we have we the system has created a frankenstein monster in
sports and uh...
and so you get a lot of examples
that you the fan
uh…you know for you the fan they're turn offs
uh... and you say you know what's with all the
the uh... demonstrations the trash talk the uh...
the tattoos oh absolutely everything the crime I mean we can't relate to
but there's a reason for that again
without making excuses for the jocks this is what the society or the sports
world has created
describe what it was like coaching these young players
i coached very happily for six years on the college level at boston college
uh... I'm happy to say
and to a sophisticated audience
this they probably won't think this is a big deal but every young man that i
recruited in six years graduated from boston college
and as they say for the for the novice out there they'd say what's the big deal doesn't everybody
graduate from school no we know
i don't know that there's another coach it was only six years but i don't
know if there was if there's another coach in the country who can make that
statement alright
so we had good kids we had successful
kids but even then
the recruiting process was
becoming a quagmire and now it's obscene
okay now all the nasty things that colleges do to recruit
high-profile high school kids to their colleges so they can win make and a lot of
are obscene it would make your
your hair curl
and it was starting to happen then
and… I chose to leave at that point and i
just so I I'm not putting myself
up above everyone else in regard to
values or
thank god i had options to go to
and that's why i could exercise that option
and say i don't want to be part of this recruiting thing i'm outta here
if i didn't uh... I'd have been doing what everyone else unfortunately is
forced to do in this business you know
then i coached for five years
four and a half five years
with the pros with cincinnati that became kansas city that is now
and that's when the tail was starting to wag the dog
when the coach was more of a hand holder because even then
at three hundred thousand dollars a year for playing a child's game the
players were starting to get affected okay
now compound that
well compound it how many times ten times anyway the average salary last
year in the n_b_a_ was two point six million average
that's the guy not getting off the bench ok uh... so if i thought they were
sixty nine to seventy four
you can imagine
there's a way however and jim o'brien with the celtics is one of the
coaches that have found a way
to bridge that gap to maintain respect and some discipline
and and also let the little boys think that they're kind of
they have enough freedom and are running the show but it's uh...
i got out of that
also because i i wasn't
you know i think there's one chief
and twelve indians and if the indians are going to run the show
then I'm outta there again but I had something to go to you know I I came back
and i called my old buddy arnold and said arnold I need a job and he said well come and do
the celtics games on television and so for the next
twenty-five years you know so i was able to earn a living and how grateful we are
thank you but uh...
so you know so i had options and and i and i think that's the criteria
frankly in life without philosophizing about it
that whatever it is you do
you know you don't have to keep chasing the bouncing ball for the sake of
chasing it
if you have options and you're being forced to do something that is illegal immoral
you know
that doesn't coincide with your values you gotta stand up and say i'm outta
and a lot of people stay
you know as i say for the sake of chasing the ball and i think that's the
the divider that
that should be there in all our lives
do the young players today understand
the degree to which they're role models to young kids
yeah some of them do you know unfortunately it's it's the
what's the cliche the rusty wheel that gets the attention and that's
the way in sports i was involved
twenty years ago
with the that superstar show that was on ABC you know was the longest running still back there
again I don't know if it's on a_b_c_ but i saw some version of it where
they had all the high-profile jocks come and
do an olympic
style format and uh... it ran sunday afternoons for years and years dick
button the old ice skater created the concept yes okay
very successful uh... i was with it
for about five years as the commissioner
which meant i did nothing I'd sit under a palm tree in these exotic places with
the hat pulled down over my eyes
every now and then someone would shake me and say wake-up commish make a decision
and I'd say down or up you know whatever
so it was great but it was the first time that i noticed
these were all high-profile jocks in the various sports
that I'd noticed that they'd do outrageous things
for the camera
you know they wouldn't drop your pants and moon the audience but they'd do
things that would get your attention and the director in the truck and the uh... camera guy
follow that you know at the time it was the mediocre
high-profile guys as opposed to the big wheel jocks who wouldn't
deem to do that okay
but it happened frequently enough for i said jeez there's a reason this
well this was
again the beginning of the agents types telling these guys especially if they
they couldn't sell 'em
their talent wouldn't sell 'em in other ways say hey you got an opportunity here
do something foolish or outrageous
and this is going to be shown to
millions of households
it's gonna make you more
you know make you stand out and you're gonna get endorsements and things
and now of course
every time there's a touchdown
you know somebody goes in the end zone and does some outrageous dance or
we got the
the wiggles or all demonstrations and i find that repulsive yeah well I do to we're from another era
but the point is there's a reason for it diane it's not
it's not happens it's not necessarily
you know a guy's personality coming out you know
you mentioned gold chain all of this
that draws attention
the agent
has told a high school kid or the college kid as he gets into the pros
hey your talent is very marketable and they're going to give you twenty million
but guess what
if you where gold chains if you make a fool of yourself if you trash chalk
you may you're gonna make forty million you're going to double that because now
everybody's gonna want you to endorse a product that you see what I mean so there's a
some of it is
is uh... is done uh...
spontaneously but i think for the most part it's done by design
and yeah it does turn people off but by the same token we started this question
by you know
I started
the answer by saying that this is still a minority
but unfortunately they're getting overexposed
but there are still a lot of the uh...
of the professional jocks also but doing it by design to some degree
becoming community involved doing all of the good things that we expect from our
quote role models to be doing
a lot of them
completely sincere a lot of them
being you know told to do it by their agents but
but that's the majority of them but a few are acting like jack asses and
uh... those are the ones we remember
joining me now in new york city is ira berkow
a sports columnist for the new york times for more than twenty years
ira has been a finalist for the pulitzer prize for distinguished
commentary and in two thousand shared the pulitzer prize for national
reporting with his article on the minority quarterback
he is the author of a number of books including to the hoop
a simply terrific read
thank you for joining me ira do you agree that the game of basketball has
changed from a team-oriented game
to an individually oriented game
uh... not at the highest levels
the the skills
of some of the players are are greater than they probably have ever been
uh... kobe bryant may physically may be the equal of of uh...
michael jordan
and but uh... but in comparable ages for example kobe is probably ahead of
michael and the aspect of team play
uh... is still essential in winning teams
uh... two perfect examples
uh... michael jordan was in the league for seven years one of the great
maybe the greatest physical uh...
player we've ever we've ever had ever have seen
and for his first seven years in the n_b_a_ he did not win a championship it was
only until he began to trust the other players
and particularly getting in a big center bill cartwright did the
uh... the bulls win their first championship and they won their third next
three to what degree has michael jordan changed the game of basketball michael
jordan has changed the game of basketball in that uh sneakers are
the wearing of sneakers are more important in the the kinds of sneakers you where may be
a more important even than your skills
um... but uh... but michael's flying through the air
uh... 'course he wasn't the first but he was maybe
the most famous the first who really began flying through the air
well going all the way back to the forties was someone named jumping joe fulks who a lot of people
don't remember but then elgin baylor
came along
and elgin baylor was famous for hanging
in the air
and then of course doctor j_ julius erving went flying through the air like a like a
um... but uh... and then but then jordan took it to not only a higher level
but to a more commercial level because jordan was seen doing it
in television commercials so jordan became more famous because through
television probably than than baylor than uh...
uh... or julius erving ever had an opportunity to
to what degree is michael jordan responsible for the notion
shoot first get endorsements second and worry about team play later maybe get
endorsements first and then shoot uh... and then shoot but uh...
again um...
you know because of michael's incredible skills uh... he became such an
uh... entity
and um... but
also he wasn't doing quite as well with commercials until his team
began to win and uh... and again as a uh... as i said and his relying on
other players
like scottie pippen even like later dennis rodman
uh jordan never went to the same degree
of change of changing dying his hair green and wearing feather boas the way dennis
rodman did
but uh... but jordan kept it in the in the team concept
let's go back to the late nineteen seventies and the early nineteen eighties to the
bird magic era
with the coming of bird and magic did a previously lackluster n_b_a_ change its
marketing strategy to focus on players and individual personalities
well the league began to understand uh... to a to a greater extent than it
ever had
that individual players had to be marketed now remember
before this there were the celtics and the the seventy sixers uh playing
head to head in playoff games almost every year
but it was even marketed then in many respects as russell versus chamberlain
and so
so we've so but we've taken this to to another level and in the
beginning of the eighties
we had this phenomenon of
magic johnson on the west coast
and larry bird on the east coast
boston verses los angeles and this was a match made in heaven
was it their match up was it that one was black that one was white um the
attraction of black verses white absolutely did play into it
but the players were so good
and they were such team players
magic and bird
and they could do such extraordinary things with passing the ball that they
became such great entertainment but and they both lifted the level of of their
teams so isn't it ironic that these two great team players helped breathe
life into the n_b_a_ because of the focus on them individually
well you need
you know a great movie i mean if you see casablanca
and it's a great movie with a great story
but there's humphrey bogart and ingrid bergman which enhance you know the
uh... the glory
of the movie and uh... but but magic and bird also were very good
uh... with the press
which is also very important
and uh... uh... and they understood the needs of the press uh...
magic particularly and uh... and they would
you would go to the their locker their lockers after a game and they would
invariably give you good insightful stuff and then of course then there was
television but but for the print media which i'm a part of uh... we love
those guys
was it bird and magic that brought the n_b_a_ back to the front pages of the
newspaper because as i recall
at the time they started to play ball
the n_b_a_ was in trouble
i mean we had drug problems we had reruns of the games really a lot of
problems in the industry right
uh... well before bird and magic came and really just sparked things
um... there was a there was a dullness
to the n_b_a_ and the and the drugs
and uh... uh... what was this a a major part of it you'd see 'em almost every day uh... some
n_b_a_ player was being busted for drugs and it just uh
crowds were were were getting low and i there wasn't
uh... television uh... uh... participation or viewership uh wasn't
great and uh... these two guys really just came and revolutionized
uh... this is not news but it's uh... it's it's remarkable still
to to look back and to contemplate
and to see what these two guys are and the respect
that they had for each other
and the respect that they had for opposing teams
uh... people don't realize that bird was a great trash talker
but he didn't do it out in public
i mean he would just antagonize the opponents but in a a
in almost a graceful way except one time I mean he was antagonizing
uh... uh... julius erving who was at the end of his career
and uh... and julius erving went went for bird's throat
but beyond that uh... larry did it in a in a quiet manner but effective manner
he also would ride his own players he would trash talk his own players
and to to raise them to higher levels
he was always on uh... danny ainge
uh... danny ainge and he was always and mchale he was on mchale a lot
by the mid-nineteen eighties the all-star game no longer was enough
in nineteen eighty four the slam dunk contest was added and in nineteen eighty
six the three-point shooting contest was added why
well uh... uh...
the three-point shooting the dump dunk contest these were added in the same
way by the marketers uh in the same way that
uh... that you go to a bask a professional basketball game now and the
game isn't enough
every time there's a time out you have some kind of
goofy thing going on uh...
uh... games that uh... that they're doing from from the marketers
some guy goes and he twists around twists around and then he tries to make a basket but he's all
he's so confused that uh... people are laughing it's like someone slipping on a
on a banana peel but these are during timeouts they think this is this
attractive to the audience that
that uh... that just the game of basketball isn't enough uh three point contest
I love I love watching the you know
the three-point shooters and
i love the uh...
i love the when larry bird was in it uh... before one contest
uh... all the contestants were in a locker room and he walks in and he says
so who's coming in second you know
and and and i think it was that same contest in which
in which that same three-point contest in which uh...
uh... he needed to make one one last basket to win the game uh to win this this a
and he shot the ball in the air and as he did the ball still in the air
larry turns around walks away with his finger up in the air
I win and the ball
swishes right through the hoop it was fabulous jordan's entrance into the n_b_a_
coincided with the growth of cable television
networks like ESPN and it's sports center
put athletes on display like never before oh absolutely
I mean instead of if there's a fast break
instead of making just a normal lay-up
they'll make a three sixty dunk behind their head
uh... that's that's one eighty behind you know if they do it behind their
but three
they'll twirl around and then they'll just do whatever they possibly
can do
because they're thinking
i'm going to be on sports center with this one just a normal lay-up uh
won't get you uh...
uh... anything
you know and uh...
so won't get you uh... certainly won't get you on the nightly news what enforcing rules that
are largely ignored today make a difference for example
would the individual skill of allen iverson be diluted if he were called for palming
when he does his crossover dribble
it's an interesting question if if alan iverson were called
for palming in in his crossover move more than well yeah i i don't think
he is
called anymore
they were calling palming you know a handful of years ago or more but they they've stopped
doing that some of the players were were called for traveling when they take
five and six steps
uh... I remember when patrick ewing was playing here
it seemed uh he would go from one end of the court to the other
uh with the ball and never and never take a bounce
uh... and you just you look at this it's just it's transformed the game in
so many ways
but the reason and and and and and I remember when i was coming up
um... you could take one and a half steps for like a lay up and now you take
you can take two steps
uh... this is legal two steps is legal now
and um... it it makes uh... a huge amount of difference in that uh...
and so
players can do more things
if you don't have to it's like uh... walking and chewing gum at the
same time you know i mean now you don't have to
uh... you can drive to the hoop
and not have to dribble the ball I mean that makes a big difference
uh... in in in many respects but
you know the game
yeah and i i would like to see those things
called again the way the game was
when i was coming up i just thought it was more interesting and
and and more skillfull
that's our show on the n_b_a_
from here at the RDV sportsplex in orlando florida I'm diane sullivan thank
you for joining me and until next time be well
who was the best player of all times and the best team of all time well you know i
would argue
that our team in philadelphia in nineteen eighty three for one year was among them
and uh... that eighty three club was very special and being part of that was a big
part of my life
however having said that how about the seventy win bulls team you know it'd be
awfully hard to argue against that the these are these late night discussions
that would go round and round forever some would argue the the one great
boston club you know
they had many but there was one that was just
dominant you know just exceptional
so this would go on and and the knicks fans would tell you wait a minute it was
our team
and and we talked about michael i i think if you asked me to pick one player
to start a team with of all time
you'd have to pick michael
i think based on reading your book that was the obvious conclusion well i got i
got consumed with michael diane because
when he left in ninety eight or appeared to be leaving
my thought was we had lived through a period of genius yes basketball genius
but a fifteen year period the likes of which we have never seen before
and and may never see again and so i was determined
to dig in here and figure out what it was that set michael apart and more
importantly what can the rest of us learn from that
and apply to our lives and and uh...
boy i get
absolutely engrossed in this product in this project and
wrote the book and
i think figured out a way that we all can be like mike
uh... i still think
russell is
you know when you say best you know was the most productive center that's ever
played the game
jabbar for instance in terms of the skills if there was a machine that could
measure skills uh... jabbar did everything quite well
didn't have russell's
animal intensity for instance you know
and so he didn't quite complement those skills as well as russell complimented
lesser skills in terms of shooting passing etcetera but as a result you
know he complimented the guys that he was surrounded with so well that we as I say we won
eleven championships in thirteen years
the best guards that i played with in those days were west and oscar who would
obviously still be
amongst the elite in the league uh... from the old days uh... bob
pettit was the best power forward you know the doctor js the
larry birds
I mean you can go on and on and on try to pick four diane is doing a disservice to
so many others you know because there's not a lot of difference between the the really
great ones
would you pick any of today's players
oh there's jason kidd that that's uh... leading the nets
against the celtics at the moment uh...
uh i think the premier john stockton has
been the uh...
the outstanding point guard for years and years and years
and he he was the whole package but this jason kidd is a little bigger
penetrates a little better
he at the moment is the best point guard in the league and he could have played
in our day or any day
so yeah there are uh... you know obviously larry bird who's not that
far removed uh kevin mchale both have to be mentioned in this kind of
company uh...
I'm probably you know uh... forgetting elgin baylor going back to small forwards uh
I'm probably forgetting a lot of guys that are going to get upset 'cause I haven't mentioned 'em right
what about michael jordan
jeez that that's what i mean about senior moments you know
no no I concur along with everyone else in the basketball world michael is the best player to
play this game since dr.
nasmith hung up the
the hoop yeah michael uh at his position certainly but uh best
michael is the best all around player
that has played the game
you know ten years from now maybe twenty we'll be picking someone else
you you'd have to say that uh... that michael jordan was was the best player
of all time
but it's interesting
if i were in a schoolyard and there were ten guys on the
I mean if i was going to play in the game and to flip a coin i have first pick okay
that's the question may be a little bit different question who's the best
player of all time
uh…the best player probably of all time is michael jordan but if i flip a coin okay
i have first pick who do i pick in the school yard
I pick
bill russell
bill russell was a phenomena uh... uh... in team sports no-one as even got close to what
he did in team sports he played in the n_b_a_ for thirteen seasons
his team won the world championship eleven of the thirteen seasons
and one of those seasons they uh... uh... they were going into the final a
game of a seven game series against st. louis
i think he sprained his ankle and didn't play in the game and they lost uh if he had been in the game
probably would've won that
so uh... and then he uh... he won the n_c_a_a_ championship two years
in a row
uh... and he got a gold medal in the uh... in the olympics um... the most
maybe the for the shortest period of time the most remarkable
uh... record
in far as team sports and winning is concerned is magic johnson
in a period of four years magic johnson won three championships on three
different levels
uh... what he was a senior in high school they won the michigan state high school
basketball championship
when he went to michigan state as a sophomore they won the n_c_a_a_
as a rookie in the NBA in the NBA the lakers won with him the lakers won the
n_b_a_ championship three tremendous championships on three different levels
in four years
uh... i don't think that will ever be repeated how about the best team
I would say the most the most entertaining team
of all time I'll start there
uh... for me anyway were the celtics with with larry bird
uh... and and as far as the best team of all time
uh... i would have to say again the celtics with bill russell and what seven
or eight hall of famers from sam jones casey jones
hineson havalicek uh... sharmin cousy uh... uh... they all didn't play
quite at the same time but they're all in the same era and uh...
uh... i don't know of any team
that that has so many hall of famers
uh... and that and and won at that uh...
so regularly and uh... but uh... they would
it'd be hard I'd be hard-pressed to get a better team uh... than those bill russell