Posts tagged Magic Johnson
Ball Don't Lie EP 53 - F**K The Fans

And now our watch has ended. The final episode of Game of Thrones has come and gone. Scott Flows and Pierce talk about where the show ranks among the greatest of all time. Plus, the bad-assery of John Wick 3: Parabellum, the NBA Playoffs, Magic Johnson airing out his dirty laundry with the Lakers and so much more.

CHICAGO! Come out and hang with The Barber's Chair Thursday, May 30th for Game One of the NBA Finals! The Golden State Warriors will face off against the Eastern Conference Champion at 8:00 p.m. Fall through for drinks and the big game and meet Scott, Flows and Pierce. 3439 N. Sheffield

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

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Ball Don't Lie EP 51 - Giannis, First of His Name

Scott and Dante open up about Giannis' dominating series win over the Celtics, the mess going on with the Lakers, and more surrounding the NBA Playoffs. Plus, episode four of Game of Thrones season 8!

Follow Scott on Twitter: @BarbersChairNet
Follow Dante on Twitter: @OctobersOwnTae

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
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Ball Don't Lie - Lavar SZN has returned

Hoops N Brews' Pavy fills in for Joe for two DEEP hours of NBA basketball and trade deadline talks. Everything from the Sixers stacking up to the Lakers' failed pursuit of Anthony Davis to Kevin Durant's zesty press conference Wednesday. Oh, and I guess we'll talk about that shitty Super Bowl last Sunday.

Topics:
Patriots win Super Bowl
Bulls president John Paxson rattled during radio interview
NBA trade deadline news
Lavar Ball returns
KD lashes out at media
NBA All Star Game draft
Goofy Mog of the Week

Follow Pavy on Twitter: @Pavyworld
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Follow Pierce on Twitter: @HennyOmega

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Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
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Undoing the dynasty: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and how the Bulls blew a shot to become the Lakers

I can’t think of a more sobering highlight of the intertwining history of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers than Gar Forman’s 20th anniversary of Bulls employment occurring while Lakers fans prep for LeBron James.

Yes, Gar Forman’s first day on the job with the Bulls was August 1, 1998, less than two months after the last day of the dynasty. He was hired as a scout by Tim Floyd, of all people, making Forman the longest standing link to the darkest days in the franchise.

I mention LeBron James in relation to Gar because the Lakers’ answer to their own dark days is always to acquire arguably the game’s best player. You want to talk dynasties? In 70 seasons, the Lakers have won the championship more times (16) than they’ve missed the playoffs (10). When they do miss the postseason, they typically come back with a vengeance by acquiring one of the league’s best players.

The first time they missed the playoffs was 1958. They went 19-53, got the first pick in the draft, and took Elgin Baylor. Their next missed playoffs was 1975. They went 30-52 and traded for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. They missed the playoffs in 1976 and then didn’t miss again until 1994, three years after Magic Johnson retired due to HIV. Two years later they signed Shaq to the richest contract in sports history. They essentially re-launched the franchise after 2004 by choosing Kobe over Shaquille, lost Phil Jackson, missed the playoffs in 2005, convinced Phil Jackson to return, and rode Kobe and Phil to two more rings.

And now, after missing the playoffs for five straight seasons (as many as they’d missed previously, all together), they’ve signed LeBron James.

The key difference between the Bulls as a franchise and the Lakers as a franchise is that the Bulls were a dynasty, but the Lakers are a Dynasty — big D. They’ve done this in three related ways:

  1. An unending pursuit of superstars

  2. An unwavering pursuit of championships

  3. Using the former to gain the latter and the latter to gain the former

Look at this list of the Lake Show’s owner, GM and coach year by year, and then add to that an imaginary fourth column of its star players. What the Lakers have done consistently as well as if not better than any professional American sports franchise ever is use the goodwill and victory-driven capital of one era to build the next.

When GM Max Winter resigned in 1954, owner Ben Berger lured recently retired star George Mikan into the front office. Mikan ran the team for three years and had a horrific coaching stint in the 1958 season, going 9-30, but that down year brought Baylor. Two years later the franchise moved to Los Angeles, but not before landing the #2 pick in the draft and taking West Virginia star Jerry West.

When Baylor and West got tired of losing in the Finals — they were 0-5 together in their first eight seasons — they signed off on a trade to bring three-time reigning MVP Wilt Chamberlain on board. Three seasons later, Wilt and West led the Lakers to the franchise’s first championship in Los Angeles. West retired in 1974, and in 1976 — the year after trading for Kareem — the team moved coach Bill Sharman to GM and hired West as coach.

In 1979, West retired as coach, yet the franchise drafted Magic Johnson first overall. West replaced Sharman as GM in 1982, the year after team owner Jerry Buss signed Magic to a 25-year contract for $25 million. We’ll come back to Magic shortly, but keep in mind that as a high-ranking executive from 1982 to 2000, West oversaw the drafting of James Worthy, the signing of Shaquille O’Neal, the draft-day trade for Kobe Bryant and the hiring of Phil Jackson, meaning he had a hand in eight Lakers titles from 1985 to 2010.

Despite flirtations with other franchises, Kobe ended up remaining with the Lakers his entire career, from his draft trade in 1996 to his 60-point finale in 2016. Less than a year after Kobe’s retirement, the Lakers hired Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations.

For those scoring at home, since the 1948-49 season, the only seasons the Lakers have not employed in some capacity George Mikan, Jerry West, Magic Johnson or Kobe Bryant are 1959 and 1960 (Elgin’s first two years) and 1975 and 1976 (Kareem’s first two years).

That's what I mean by Dynasty vs. dynasty. The subtext to all of the 20-year retrospectives that I and others have written about the Bulls since 2011 is the grim reality that six championships in eight years were a basketball dead end.

***

(Bettman / Corbis )

(Bettman / Corbis )

To see the starting point, let’s jump back to 1981 and Magic Johnson’s historic 25 years, $25 million contract. When team owner Jerry Buss announced the deal, he said that he was already grooming Magic, then 21 years old, for a post-playing position with the club.

“He may even be my coach, or general manager,” Buss said. “Or maybe he’ll run the team and I’ll just sit back and watch. Magic is a bright kid and I plan to make him my protege, teach him the business aspect of sports. I realize this is a very unusual contract because we’re talking about a kid whose college class just graduated. But what it comes down to is that Magic is part of the family.”

Buss said that about Magic after two seasons — the first was a championship, the second was a three-game first-round sweep to a team with a sub-.500 record.

Now look at what Jerry Reinsdorf said about Jordan to Jordan in July 1996 — one month after MJ brought the Bulls back to the promised land with their fourth championship in six years — as Reinsdorf signed Jordan to a one-year, $30 million deal, the richest one-year deal in sports history:

“I might live to regret this.”

That quote was Reinsdorf’s clarification to author Roland Lazenby, to which Jordan replied: “Actually, he said, ‘Somewhere down the road, I know I’m gonna regret this.’ It demeaned what was happening. It took away from the meaning of things. The gratitude seemed less because of that statement.”

Again, Jerry Buss, about a 21-year-old Magic Johnson with one championship: “Magic is part of the family.”

Jerry Reinsdorf to a 34-year-old Michael Jordan with four championships: “I might live to regret this.”

AP Photo/Mark Elias

AP Photo/Mark Elias

But the Bulls didn’t just miss out on becoming a Dynasty because of a feuding Jordan and Reinsdorf. For the final season of the greatest run in the modern era of professional American sports, Jackson, Jordan and Scottie Pippen were each locked in public, separate yet interconnected blood feuds with the Jerrys, all rooted in contract negotiations. Krause drew the visceral hatred — even Phil publicly called Krause “the only dark spot” on the 1997-98 season — but Reinsdorf’s leave-your-emotions-at-the-door approach actually cut deeper on a personal level, because Jordan and Jackson held an affinity and respect for Reinsdorf that did not extend to his general manager.

To put it plainly, those guys liked Reinsdorf, which made his approach to negotiations all the more injurious.

“He’s loyal, he’s honest, he’s truthful,” Jackson told Lazenby about Reinsdorf. “But there’s something about going in and trying to get the best every time. Winning the deal. When it comes to money, to win the deal. … He has actually said those things, according to people I’ve been close to, and those things really hurt, because most everybody likes Jerry Reinsdorf.”

***

The second three-peat Bulls splintered along several internal fault lines, so I think it’s tricky to blame any one person for the breakup. And considering that Phil Jackson originally planned to end his Bulls coaching tenure after seven years, which would have been 1996, Reinsdorf, Krause, Jackson, Jordan and Pippen could have all gotten along famously and Phil still could have decided to retire for at least a year after the sixth title.

But based strictly on the inherent power dynamic of a professional sports team, it’s difficult to look at the past 20 years of ring-less Chicago Bulls basketball as anything other than a result of the decisions made by ownership and management in 1998.

It’s easy to imagine a world where the goodwill and excellence of the 1990s Bulls led to a subsequent run of titles. Instead, in July of 1998, just one month after MJ dragged the Bulls to ring #6, Phil was retired and Jerry Krause’s two-year pursuit of his friend Tim Floyd of Iowa State was chugging toward fruition. That month, a reporter asked Jordan if hiring Floyd would be akin to pushing Jordan out of basketball.

“I think that’s exactly what it is,” Jordan said. “It’s very obvious that my feelings haven’t really been considered when they’ve made coaching decisions. Jerry (Reinsdorf has) always been a man of his own. He’s never really been influenced by too many people, and I wouldn’t expect him to be influenced by me. If that was the case, Phil wouldn’t ever have gone.”

And later:

“I don’t want to play for a college coach, and no, I don’t want to play for any other coach. I’ve always said that I want to play for Phil Jackson. That hasn’t changed. (Krause) made the stance on Phil Jackson, and that pretty much made the stance on me.”

Getty Images

Getty Images

The next week, the Bulls hired Floyd as something called “director of basketball operations,” with Reinsdorf stipulating that, “Should Phil not return by the end of the lockout, Tim will succeed him as head coach.” Jackson and his agent found this comical, since Krause at the start of the 1997-98 season had told Phil, “I don’t care if (the Bulls go) 82-0 this year, you’re fucking gone.”

As for Floyd, his take on MJ was as simple as it was naive, considering Jordan’s public comments one week earlier that he would not play for Floyd, any college coach, or any coach other than Jackson.

“I know this much: I was not about to take this job if I felt it would affect, in any way, Michael Jordan’s return to the game,” Floyd explained.

Sure enough, Jackson did not return, and on January 13, 1999, with the NBA lockout ongoing, Michael Jordan announced his retirement. The dominoes fell from there in the most stunning roster changeover in NBA history:

  • January 15: Bulls name Floyd head coach

  • January 21: Bulls renounce the rights to six players including Jordan and Rodman and trade Steve Kerr to the Spurs

  • January 22: Bulls trade Pippen to the Rockets

  • January 23: Bulls trade Longley to the Suns

Incredibly and tragically, these 10 days ended up defining the franchise rather than the 10 years that came before them. The Lakers have always reloaded by either trading for or signing arguably the best player in the league (Wilt, Cap, Shaq, Bron) while also drafting franchise-changing Hall of Famer (Elgin, West, Magic, Kobe).

Yet in 20 years since ruling the sports world, the biggest veteran acquisitions the Bulls have pulled off are Ron Mercer, Jalen Rose, Ben Wallace, Carlos Boozer and Pau Gasol. There are many reasons for this failure, but perhaps the most damning is the ongoing, league-wide perception that the organization did the dynasty years dirty.

“I think the biggest question (about the Bulls) that you think about has to be loyalty," said Illinois-native Dwyane Wade in May of 2010, as he and his future teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh were in the process of choosing their next team, heavily weighing both the Heat and the Bulls. “I see Michael Jordan is not there, Scottie Pippen is not there. … You know, these guys are not a part (of the franchise). That is probably one of the biggest things for me, because I am a very loyal person."

***

The irony is that in many ways, Jerry Reinsdorf is one of the most loyal owners in sports. He paid Jordan the two richest single-season contracts in NBA history. He hooked up Pippen ($67.2 million over 5 years), Longley ($30 million over 5) and Kerr ($11 million over 5) with lucrative sign-and-trades in January of 1999 that vastly increased their salaries despite getting barely anything of value for them. In the post-dynasty world, he spent heavily on extensions or long-term deals on Derrick Rose ($94.8 million over 5), Luol Deng ($71m/6), Joakim Noah ($60m/5), and Kirk Hinrich ($47.5/5).

The Bulls under Reinsdorf have also been spectacularly loyal to many retired players, most notably John Paxson, who has worked with the organization in various capacities since his retirement in 1994, meaning he has been with the Bulls since 1985 when he arrived as a free agent from the Spurs. Among the other ex-Bulls who played during Reinsdorf’s ownership years and went on to work for the team: B.J. Armstrong, Randy Brown, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, Stacey King, Toni Kukoc, Pete Myers, Scottie Pippen, Bill Wennington, and of course Fred Hoiberg, who played for Floyd both at Iowa State and with the Bulls.

Lastly, there is the loyalty Reinsdorf showed Krause, and the loyalty he has since shown both Gar and Pax, for whom 2018-19 will make a combined 55 consecutive seasons of Bulls employment.

Yet when it came to the three most critical pieces of the most dominant NBA run since Russell’s Celtics, loyalty took a backseat to business. After 1996, Reinsdorf and Krause feared that the Bulls would slowly decline the way the 1980s Celtics did in the early 1990s, and thought that being proactive about turning the page would keep the team relevant.

Instead, the franchise has been doomed by 20 years that have vacillated between supreme irrelevance and mostly mid-tier playoff performances. Oh, the dynasty has had its impact, both that has been largely financial, where the United Center keeps cranking out sellouts, the team keeps churning out merchandise, and new global sponsorships come aboard led by CEOs who want to bask in the glory years.

“The Bulls are an American legend, a pop-culture icon,” said Vice President Piotr Kicinski in November 2015 when his Cinkciarz, a Polish currency exchange company, began a partnership with the Bulls that is now locked in as a seven-year deal. “It means many positive things in Poland. My generation was brought up on the Chicago Bulls playing in the ‘90s.”

John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune

John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune

So yes, the dynasty still resonates. Yet incredibly, the Bulls have managed to remain deeply loyal to the dynasty years without actually benefiting from them. We haven't been able to sign a single top tier free agent on the strength of those six rings. The team’s best player since Michael and Scottie was Derrick Rose, who was only secured in the draft when the ping pong balls came our way despite only a 1.3% chance at the #1 pick. And like Jordan, Pippen and Jackson, Rose’s Bulls tenure ended in animus.

Gar Forman justified the Rose trade by saying it helped the team get “younger and more athletic,” the most infamous assertion by a Bulls executive since Krause’s “players and coaches alone don’t win championships — organizations do.” The link between these two comments is more than just thematic. Krause’s insistence that “organizations win championships” was driven by a hubris that turned that mantra into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That attitude led to him pushing Phil Jackson out the door. He replaced him with Tim Floyd. Floyd’s hiring pushed out Jordan. Floyd also hired his former Iowa State assistant coach Gar Forman on Aug. 1, 1998, and Gar has been winding his way up the team’s food chain ever since, getting his wings in 2009 as general manager, Krause’s former title.

Which brings us back to the Lakers. The day Floyd hired Forman, the Bulls had six championships. If you remove the Lakers’ Minneapolis titles, all of which came before the shot clock, on Aug. 1, 1998, the Lakers had six championships too.

Less than a year later, Jerry West hired Phil Jackson as the Lakers’s new head coach, setting the stage for the next five Lakers championships. In the Minneapolis days, the Lakers were led by George Mikan, DePaul University alumnus and former star of the Chicago American Gears of the National Basketball League. The Lakers beat the Bulls in the playoffs four times between 1968 and 1973. In 1979, the Lakers beat the Bulls in a coin toss for the right to draft Magic Johnson. And in both 2004 and 2007, Kobe Bryant took serious steps to joining the Bulls before being lured back to L.A.

Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

But the history-altering event that stings most is the Lakers hiring Phil in 1999, an underrated seismic shift in the NBA landscape of the past two decades. Phil is a huge part of the reason that Kobe Bryant spent his entire career in the Purple and Gold, and Phil was only available because while the Lakers build generational success, the Bulls act like Orson Welles’s talented, tortured hero of “Citizen Kane.” One era of success built their mansion, and now they’re going to die in it.

The city of Chicago is a basketball pillar, with an NBA franchise whose glory should regenerate every 10 years. Instead, all we have are the memories. Every few years they give us a new coach and a new young talent. They sign the available free agents and pack the UC nightly.

And the marketing team rolls out a new slogan. And young fans buy young jerseys. And management tells us of “The great tradition of Chicago Bulls basketball.”

And they smile. And nod. And count the gate receipts.

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Jack M Silverstein is a sports historian covering the Bears for Windy City Gridiron. He is the author of How The GOAT was Built: 6 Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls” and proprietor of Chicago sports IG account @AShotOnEhlo. Say hey at @readjack.

Hitting the reset button on the Lakers using NBA 2K
(Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers have been playing inspired ball recently & it hasn’t gone unnoticed that this has coincided with the team not having its biggest conundrum in the lineup due to injury. To my excitement, it’s allowed people to be reminded of the talents of the players around him.

In this, the age of 35-foot pull-up threes, scoring point guards, & stretch bigs, everyone is expected to impact the game in the same kind of way or they’re labeled obsolete or old-school.

However, while the players & puppeteers change, the name of the game doesn’t: You must have a team of cohesive players with unique personalities all working towards a singular goal. THIS is where I think Lakers brass has gone wrong.

Granted, this isn’t the work of any singular entity. Mitch Kupchak & Jim Buss were stragglers from an era of basketball that was dope but also monotone & bland as the world caught up to the United States. There was a complacency in all aspects & the rat race we call existence is the result of such laziness.

But as we millennials shift to the vanguard, I had hopes that Magic Johnson & Rob Pelinka had seen enough of both the real & inside the NBA world to appreciate that you cannot buy into the hype if you want to build a successful business brand.

Ask Golden State & Minnesota.

Call up Koby Altman, ask him how he’s doing.

Then, do the same to Danny Ainge. Then let’s chat.

There’s a huge difference in swinging for the fences when you’ve put in the work versus taking a chance & hoping it works. Don’t get me wrong. Koby Altman has a dope story & he’ll be just fine. But Danny Ainge is a multi-sport athlete. There’s transferrable qualities you look for in athletes of the old school vein.

Danny also understands & knows what it’s like to fail at the highest levels.

He traded fan favorite Antoine Walker, who never truly recovered & even publicly clashed with former head coach Jim O’Brien. Meanwhile, Koby hasn’t experienced much difficulty.

Unfortunately, Koby, this is your tape. Reconfiguring the decision 2.0: From Man back to Luh Boy.

Best wishes.

Meanwhile, back in LA LA Land, the purple & gold brass is trapped in the upside down themselves. They got it right retiring both of Kobe Bryant's numbers. Being that Rob is Kobe’s former agent, that was a sitter.

But everything else? ShamWOW.

Even the Bogut experiment didn’t encompass the entire season.

Not a great sign.

Not a great start.

Luke Walton flexed his basketball mettle & in my limited purview, showed more when faced with adversity than Steve Kerr has with a lot of the same pieces that are in Oakland now. And yet Luke is now being discussed as an average or subpar basketball mind, partially due to the spotlight he accepts as being the Lakers coach but also the fact that nobody is holding management accountable for shaky decisions.

I don’t have enough words to rant on Mozgov & Deng’s contracts now but let’s just say this: I’ve never seen a more pathetic waste of money & I watched someone voluntarily spend money on a Keri Hilson concert. DO BETTER KINGS & QUEENS!

Mind you, what you’re about to experience is a three-part journey using a medium that you probably brushed off: NBA 2K video games.

Going as far back as the Julius Randle draft, I’ve had issue with Lakers picks.

It has been understood for a while now that one of the LA threesome of Kevin Love/Paul George/Russell Westbrook would potentially be interested in coming home while knowing Kobe couldn’t play forever. Yet management has been piss-poor in at least sustaining an entertaining product in the meantime. Randle’s grown on me over the last few seasons – which you’ll see later - as his skillset grows but I had hopes of getting Jabari Parker in his draft.

While that was unrealistic, everything I speak of next was wholly plausible:

I called ESPN radio on the day after the 2014 draft from San Antonio, Texas to ask the panel if the Lake Show would regret passing on Okafor for Russell & it was a resounding “no.”

Yet, they trade him & the Mozgov contract for a player with nothing more than NBA production to show that Okafor doesn’t. Ingram was the grand slam pick. They couldn’t get it wrong. Simmons would’ve been beautiful but he wasn't falling past the first pick & I’m okay with that.

But that latest choice is the one that drives me most nuts.

Byron Scott tried to warn folks & got sacked for it. But Russell wasn’t made for this spotlight.

Neither is Lonzo. There’s character flaws, maturity questions & quite frankly, now that I have numbers that can back it up: Lonzo’s intangibles are really nothing more than what you ask the average basketball player to bring to the table in a normal sense.

He seems the anomaly in the age of Steph, Kyrie, Dame & Russ at the one but hit-ahead passes & looking up the floor first are simply old school ideals. I know because I’m an old school athlete. I’ll never win a sprint or high jump, but I have a strong IQ. Well, Lonzo plays like me except with no jumper.

Meanwhile Tatum literally checked a ton of boxes, mainly off the court in his capacity to do & say the right things. Not to mention, that single mom’s plan would be a super hit in LA.