PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs The greatest power forward in NBA history, Duncan was the reason San Antonio became the only team to make the playoffs every year of the decade. He was the most valuable team player of his era, an active defender who chased pick-and-rolls out to the three-point line and yet hustled back to protect the rim and control the boards. Offensively, the Spurs played through him as a passer in the post, and his dependable mid-range jumper off the backboard will be part of his highlight reel when he checks into Springfield.
Four SI.com writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the NBA each week. (All stats and records are through Dec. 14.)
One, measly point separated Tyreke Evans from making Kings history. One point would have made him the franchise's first rookie to register eight consecutive 20-point games. Yet, with 3:11 left against the Knicks, Paul Westphal motioned Evans to the bench, a request greeted with a look of mild surprise from the 20-year-old.
As Tigergate continues to unfold, the million-dollar question -- actually, make that the billion-dollar question -- remains: will his sponsors stick around?
PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Albert Pujols, Cardinals Look at these numbers: .314 batting average, 40 doubles, 34 homers, 127 RBIs, 118 runs. Those numbers make up Pujols' worst season this decade. Pujols' story is already legend. He was a 13th-round pick of the Cardinals in 1999 ... meaning he was even passed over 17 times by his hometown Kansas City Royals. Eighteen months later, he began one of the great rookie seasons in baseball history (.329, 37 homers, 130 RBIs, 129 runs). He has found something to improve every season -- he cut down his strikeouts, he honed his home run swing, he improved his defense, he worked on his baserunning. In 2009 Pujols stole 16 bases, walked 115 times and hit 47 homers -- all career highs. It seems impossible, but he's getting better.
Five points to consider after a compelling weekend of football:
Two very different thoughts crossed my mind when I heard the cringe-worthy Tiger Woods voice message left on the phone of a woman named Jaimee Grubbs. For those of you who have not heard the message, here it is in verse:
This is going to sound very, very wrong... because, well, it is very, very wrong. But I'm sorry. I'll admit this straight out: I am fascinated by this Tiger Woods accident story. I'm fascinated, and I'm paying close attention, and I will read whatever stories come out about it. Sure, I know it's wrong. I know it's gossip. I know it's rubbernecking on a highway. I know. Tiger Woods and his family deserve some privacy in their lives. They should have the right to go on without having to share the most personal details of their lives. They should not have to deal with reporters and photographers stalking them. And so on. I believe these things with all my heart.
NEW YORK (SI.com) -- In what has already been a banner year for Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees shortstop can add another honor: Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year award. Jeter was chosen as the magazine's 56th honoree (the Dec. 7 issue will hit newsstands on Wednesday) and becomes the first Yankee to be named SI's Sportsman.
Four SI.com writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the NBA each week. (All stats and records are through Nov. 23.)
The NFL's 256-game regular season is half gone (actually 50.4 percent, but who's counting?) You know the drill. It's midseason review time...
How much taller is LeBron James than you?
Four SI.com writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the NBA each week. (All stats and records are through Monday.)
• Their friendship declined on the court. In his upcoming book, When The Game Was Ours, co-written with Larry Bird and author Jackie MacMullan, Magic Johnson admits that his close friendship with Isiah Thomas began to suffer when the two met in the 1988 NBA Finals.
LeBron James is going to the Knicks. He's staying in Cleveland. He's going to the Nets, to play for that Russian billionaire, or maybe he'll find a way to play with his buddy Dwyane Wade somewhere, or he'll go to Europe or China and make $9 million per game for some team named after a cell-phone manufacturer. Then he'll buy the cell-phone manufacturer.
On a recent morning high above the Manhattan skyline, TNT's Charles Barkley was opining about one of his favorite subjects:
SI.com's Ian Thomsen, Chris Ballard, Chris Mannix, Jack McCallum and Arash Markazi forecast the 2009-10 season.
The Lakers and Spurs are on course for a titanic Western Conference finals matchup, with great coaches, deep rosters and superstar leadership. No fewer than four others -- Dallas, Portland, Denver and Utah -- are formidable second-tier contenders. At the other extreme is dysfunction in Memphis and Golden State, rookie point guards and lousy interior defense in Minnesota and Sacramento, and wishful thinking in Phoenix. And in the middle are the cursed Clippers, who would have been (still could be?) a playoff team with a healthy Blake Griffin.
Sports Illustrated's annual NBA predictions can be found in this week's magazine, and once again you can blame me for them. Here are my explanations for why I think ...
The NBA's 64th season tips off Tuesday night. Who are the players and what are the stories that will shape the next eight months? SI.com's Ian Thomsen offers a sneak peek ...
This article appears in the October 26, 2009, issue of Sports Illustrated
Every NBA season is a novel, with multiple subplots and an endless parade of characters converging on June. It's a story guaranteed to bring unexpected drama and comedy, but some of the plot lines are just sitting there, waiting to play out.
Game of the weekend: New England at Denver. Intriguing player of the weekend: Elvis Dumervil.
If you weren't impressed by the way Joe Dumars built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions, you weren't really paying attention. But if you think his latest makeover is going to bring back meaningful postseason hoops to Detroit anytime soon, your hero worship may be corroding your common sense.
It starts as a crack. It develops into a chink, grows into a hole, and pretty soon, it's a crater. Basketball season is fast approaching, but so is another of winter's traditions: pothole season.
Football Insiders: Check out Stewart Mandel's College Football Overtime.
The team of the aughts will be decided this postseason. The Yankees have the most wins this decade and the most World Series appearances, but the Red Sox have the most world championships and are looking for a third when no one else has two. The Cardinals could get into the mix with their second world championship this decade.
The season is in its twilight, but the stars of Diamond Digits shine on. This week an all-time great hurler continues his improbable comeback run, a young star shortstop is unprecedentedly good in the field. At the plate, we have a Royal who puts up triple-doubles like Oscar Robertson, and for the second consecutive week, Ichiro hits a huge milestone.
I live in a nice part of Chicago. Saul Bellow wrote some of his best novels while living here. Barack Obama represented the neighborhood in the Illinois Senate. My apartment is around the corner from the site of the first sustained nuclear reaction and one of Frank Lloyd Wright's more beautiful houses, and, more impressively, right down the street from Bill Veeck's old digs. Neither Mr. Sammler's Planet nor the fission reactor nor the exploding scoreboard can, though, quite rate with Hyde Park's greatest contribution to world culture: The Latke-Hamantash Debate.
The television in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse was tuned to the Brett Favre Channel. Everybody on the TV was talking about Favre's second unretirement, what it means for the NFL, what it does to Favre's legacy and whether cows in Wisconsin can ever bring themselves to produce milk again.
With Brett Favre once again striding the gridiron and Michael Vick safely in the Philadelphia fold, we couldn't help but notice that Eagles QB Donovan McNabb made a bit of a pitch for securing the services of troubled wideout Plaxico "Big Bang" Burress.
Two years ago, in the central Chinese city of Chongquing, the local government set out to build the world's largest bathroom.
The Twitter questions came fast and furious this week. Here are the top five, with a reminder that you can read about everything that I'm hearing and send questions my way on Twitter by clicking here. Now let's get to it.
For anyone who marks time by the NBA calendar, this time of year is a little like opening the Christmas stocking, only filled with the complete NBA schedule, before tearing into the big-ticket gifts under the tree come late October. Here's a look at some highlights of the just-released 2009-2010 schedule:
1. eBaum Nation, entertainment style Web site: The scrappy Rochester, N.Y.-based Web site outflanked Web giant TMZ by securing superior-quality footage of Jordan Crawford's much-talked-about but ultimately mundane flush over LeBron James. About two weeks before the release of the video, representatives of a local cameraman who had taken footage of the dunk at James' Nike camp in Akron, Ohio, contacted eBaum Nation (which offers humor-based viral videos, among other features). The site finalized the deal after learning that TMZ had lesser-quality video.
Here's the thing about Twitter: It's kind of addictive. It's also a good forum for questions. So I bring to you the first of what I hope to be many Twitter mailbags:
Twenty-three years after Jose Canseco, 19 years after Ken Caminiti, six years after Alex Rodriguez, there still exist people who would like to believe that somehow their team and their players avoided steroids. People actually broke down The Mitchell Report on a team-by-team basis, as if it were the official box score of the Steroid Era. For such people there is a day of reckoning with reality, the day that ends the charade of "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain with the syringe." Thursday was such a day for Red Sox Nation.
This article appears in the July 27, 2009, issue of Sports Illustrated magazine.
Now that we've seen the tape of LeBron James getting "posterized," or at least dunked on by Xavier's Jordan Crawford at his summer camp, we have the context to gauge James' and others' reaction.
In the annals of abject disgrace, apparently LeBron James now stands atop this dubious mountain. TMZ, which seems to have its fingers in every titillating, salacious and controversial pie these days, has posted a video that Nike attempted to squelch. In it, the King is -- gasp! -- dunked on by Xavier sophomore Jordan Crawford in a pickup game at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron.
SI.com's NBA writers size up the first two weeks of free agency.
Each week, SI.com's Richard Deitsch will report on newsmakers from the world of TV, radio and the Web.
Some scattered thoughts on a historic Wimbledon ...
So, Roger Federer has passed Pete Sampras, which means I now will make a statement -- of somewhat sound mind, with a good night's rest behind me -- that is inarguable, indisputable and incontrovertible:
The untouchable twosome who usually dominate the top of Sports Illustrated's Fortunate 50 list of the top-earning American athletes don't look so untouchable anymore.
Claiming to know the greatest draft pick of all time in each of the top 30 slots is a good way to start an argument. In this case, I leaned toward draft picks who helped create team success. While going through the lists year by year, I was reminded just how difficult it is to find impact players -- even when dealing with a top-three pick. To go through the draft lists over the last six decades is to realize that the likes of Bill Russell and Michael Jordan are rarely discovered.
"A season for the ages," commissioner David Stern said of this NBA year gone by. But I prefer to view it as a recasting of the 1980s: The names have changed, but the dynamics are familiar.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Where does Kobe Bryant rate among the modern superstar NBA champions? Here is a good place to start:
There is never a time -- never a time -- when I look at Sammy Sosa's page on Baseball-Reference.com and do not come away with a shock. Sure, I know this stuff. I KNOW Sosa beat Roger Maris' famed 61-homers-in-a-season three times in his career (as many as Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds combined). Three times.
A few years ago, Muhammad Ali's wife, Lonnie, gave me her business card. And the name of her company was: GOAT, Inc.
Before the championship is won, the champion must respect and understand his opponent. So what goes through Kobe Bryant's mind as he sizes up Dwight Howard?
The Olympic swimmer is alarmed by the Indy racer's comments to Sports Illustrated
Well, I never saw anything like that before.
Every graduating class brims with hopes and dreams, as full of promise as so many of its members are full of themselves. In the NBA, in terms of thrilling, game-deciding big shots, the Class of 2009 has to rank among the best.
The last time I saw Chuck Daly was in the spring of 2006, at his condo in Jupiter, Fla. We watched Game 2 of the Detroit Pistons-Cleveland Cavaliers playoff series. I wanted to see if he could detect any similarities between the way the Pistons were defending LeBron James and the way that Daly's Pistons -- the Bad Boys of the late 80s and early 90s -- defended Chicago's Michael Jordan. In the late 80s Daly's "Jordan Rules" enabled the Pistons to shut down the game's greatest individual talent, giving the Bad Boys a place (infamous, some might say) in NBA history.
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week.
CLEVELAND -- This column, eventually, will be about LeBron James and the best moment going in basketball: That moment when James has the basketball and the shot clock's running down and he has to create something. There's nothing quite like it in sports, really. It makes you wish the referee would just give him the ball every time down and put six seconds on the clock and say, "Go."
Here we are, a few days into the second round of the NBA postseason, and already I'm pining for the first round. And I don't just mean Boston-Chicago. Even Atlanta-Miami would do.
Observations and analysis of the NBA playoffs, which is all the Cleveland Cavaliers figure to be doing, too, for a few days now:
SI.com NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week.
This week I polled a half-dozen NBA advance scouts and pro personnel executives -- experts who spend the season traveling the league to break down players firsthand and again on tape -- for their choices for the regular-season awards. You'll find their opinions differ from the media voters, myself included, who decide most of these contests. (I'll reveal my selections next week.)
Since 1955, Sports Illustrated has been on the scene at the Masters. Here is a look back at 54 years of golf's greatest tournament:
Tiger Woods' former coach, Butch Harmon, sits down for a chat about the golf pro.
SI.com NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Monday.)
The talk around the office water cooler has been especially grim lately as the realization hits home that, beyond just money, what so many of us are losing in this economic strife is time. Time, as in seeing your 401(k) dialed back to 1997 levels. Time, as in losing a decade's worth of presumed equity in your home. Time, as in the 40 hours each week that soon might be freed up by your downsizing employer (no more water cooler then, either).
Legendary athletes are known by their deeds, not by their words.
The NBA is widely considered to be a young league, owing mostly to the age of its players and the target of so much of its marketing. That's how we get 19-year-old franchise players, edgy footwear commercials, "tweets'' from the office of a commissioner who fondly remembers 45-rpm records (maybe even 78s) and, until a couple of years ago, team scouts squeezing elbow-to-elbow into the bleachers of cramped, sweaty high school gyms, lusting and fretting all at once over their clubs' next big draft gambles.
You could assemble a veritable dream team from the pool of talented and otherwise accomplished players who have never won an NBA championship, including Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Allen Iverson, Patrick Ewing, Steve Nash, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Elgin Baylor and Dominique Wilkins. Come to think of it, six of the 12 members of the real Dream Team, the 1992 men's U.S. Olympic squad that ranks as one of the great successes in basketball history, never managed a gold medal in their day jobs.
Nary a day goes by that someone Dominique Wilkins doesn't know, someone he's never met before, tells him how much the former Atlanta Hawk's dunks meant to him as a basketball fan or, at least, thrilled him as a television viewer. Sometimes this stranger is talking about highlight plays from serious NBA action, Hawks vs. Celtics, Hawks vs. Sixers, of the sort that earned Wilkins his nickname (the Human Highlight Film). More often than not, it's some gush or other about the slam dunk contest from All-Star weekend, the event on which Wilkins put his signature from its inception in 1984.
"Excuse me," the teenager in the Suns hat says. "Who is that guy?"
Quick, what is the NBA All-Star record for most points scored in a single game? Who holds the individual mark, one game? Anyone have a clue what the series record is, East vs. West, or what the widest margin of victory was, or who made more trips to the foul line than any player in his trips to the All-Star Game?
As entertaining as the first half of the 2008-09 season was for those of us who work in and watch the NBA, the second half is going to be better. It always is.
Midterm grades are the halftime speeches of the educational world, way more important for motivation than evaluation and with a shelf life about as long as, oh, governmental transparency. Even the profs we used to seek out time and again -- y'know, the sort referred to as "Easy Ed'' or "All-A's Abramowitz'' -- would try to huff and puff eight weeks into a semester, sticking you with a lower grade than you might have expected. Yeah, yeah, we knew the drill: If we kicked butt late and aced the finals, we'd be fine.
There never being a bad time to pass out trophies, here's a look at the best performances over the first half of the season. (The NBA's official awards ballot includes five spots for MVP and three for the other major awards. The media vote on all the awards below except Executive of the Year.)
The season isn't halfway through, but we've seen enough to anticipate what may yet come. Here is a New Year's preview to the better half of 2008-09.
Usually the mail is answered during my Weekly Countdown column on Fridays, but the holidays are momentarily negating that schedule. So here is the best of what was found hiding among the spam.
Dwight Howard and LeBron James have the early lead in the Eastern Conference, while Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming top the Western Conference after the second returns of 2009 NBA All-Star balloting. Howard, the reigning slam dunk champion, is the overall leader with 1,421,882 votes.
In honor of the extended holiday, here is an extended look at the simplest way I know to gauge NBA championship potential. Search the roster of any team for an MVP-level talent with the leadership and drive of Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Hakeem Olajuwon or (to cite the newest example) Kevin Garnett. Well more than half of the NBA teams are absent this kind of star, which means you can essentially write them off as championship contenders (unless they are the Detroit Pistons of a few years ago, as you'll see below). Here's a look at who makes the biggest difference in the biggest games -- and who may be next to join them.
SI.com NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Monday's games.)
Five SI.com NBA writers take stock of the first month of the season and look ahead as 2008-09 nears the quarter pole. (All statistics and records are through Monday's games.)
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 2. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer. For more essays, click here.
The NBA's latest version of a long-running presidential election involves LeBron James and more than a dozen other high-profile candidates. The issue: Where will they land when they become free agents in 2010?
I don't normally do this, but it's a different week. I have two column leads today. The first concerns the stars -- Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Wes Welker -- carrying their teams with the season on the line.
Leave it to the league's most decorated franchise to discover a new path to the top: Last spring the Celtics became the first team to earn a title immediately after overhauling its roster. One law of hoops history held that teams had to take their lumps before ascending the podium; think of Isiah Thomas' Pistons, who endured five years of playoff frustration before winning rings in 1989 and '90. But Boston leapfrogged from the back of the Eastern Conference line all the way to the front of the league, becoming the first champion with two newcomers (power forward Kevin Garnett and shooting guard Ray Allen) among its top three scorers -- while also incorporating an untested point guard in 22-year-old Rajon Rondo, a revamped bench and a new defensive system.
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
A new website lets you invest real money in virtual shares of real sports superstars. Is this new game worth your time, and money?
Michael Phelps, who lists five minutes in his own bed back in Baltimore near the top of his post-Olympics priorities, can spend the next four years there, just as long as he is ready for London in 2012. Usain Bolt has until then to choreograph a touchdown dance that IOC president Jacques Rogge finds acceptable, as far as many American (and plenty global) sports fans are concerned.
We've already evaluated the Eastern Conference based on the offseason moves to this point. Now let's assess the West.
BEIJING -- A thought occurred during the first half of Team USA's 92-69 defeat of Greece on Thursday, as Kobe Bryant missed his first two three-pointers of the game. Those bricks left him 1-for-17 for the Olympics from beyond the international arc -- a three-point line that's actually shorter than the NBA's.
The former Laker star visited Romo at the Dallas Cowboys training camp
It is, quite possibly, the most overwrought, snarky, hand-wringing, interminable, nitpicked and some would say nitwitted story in the history of professional sports.
I have the right to predict what may happen next season, even at this early date. And I have the right to change my mind in the months ahead, based on pending events and an unexpected leap in wisdom.
LOS ANGELES -- It's easy to knock the ESPYs. Just the self-serving name deserves to be mocked like a "McLovin" fake ID. Factor in the slew of corporate sponsorships, the parading of on-air personalities on stage as if they were celebrities and the four-day tape delay and you're talking about a target as easy as Paris Hilton trying to sing.
The NBA's free-agent market is drying up quickly, at least as far as marquee players are concerned. Elton Brand (Sixers), Baron Davis (Clippers) and Corey Maggette (Warriors) have changed uniforms. Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison have re-upped with the Wizards.
This month marks the 40th anniversary of a five-part series in SI that remains among the most powerful and socially significant pieces ever to appear in the magazine's pages. The Black Athlete - A Shameful Story (SI, July 1, 1968) explored the experience of African-Americans in sports with depth and detail -- often stark, saddening detail -- that much of white America had never before confronted. Senior editor Jack Olsen and a network of correspondents spent four months interviewing hundreds of athletes, coaches and educators, both black and white, and came away with a portrait of the "Negro athlete," to use the term more common to those times, as isolated, exploited and dehumanized, with an anger at that treatment that was boiling just beneath the surface.
In the annals of Junior Achievement, this milestone looms large, even on his considerable, Cooperstown-bound résumé. It's not every night someone hits home run No. 600, even in these pharmaceutically enhanced times.
Over the five years we've tracked the money game, the Sports Illustrated Fortunate 50 has featured hundreds of athletes worth billions of dollars. As we present our fifth annual rundown of the 50 top-earning American athletes (taking into account salary, winnings, endorsement and appearance-fee income), we drew a number of conclusions:
Now that Kobe Bryant stands on the verge of winning an NBA championship as the best player in the world, I find myself remembering the first time I met him. Ten years ago. He was 19 and in his second year with the Lakers. He lived with his parents in a home overlooking the ocean.
I was certain Danica Patrick was going to win the Indianapolis 500 Sunday. Just positive. After all, this 2008 is a year, when, surely, women have been more prominent in sports than ever before -- and in every way: good, bad and sad.
I've lost count of how many times I've heard friends and family whine to me about how foreign a sport soccer is. It's futile to get defensive because they're wrong and right at the same time.