Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Jabari Curse

Jabari Parker is in the news again.  A highlight video of his was making the Twitter rounds and he garnered some praise from Jimmy Butler.

That makes this as good a time as any to re-state a long held #BucksForest position: we are skeptical.

Jabari Parker has explosive athletic ability and NBA size and a willingness to work.  He was the second pick in the Draft for the reason.

Here's the problem: he's a ball-stopper and he always will be.

Playing basketball, like so many things in life, is a combination of one's Being and Becoming.  Being is who you are.  Becoming is what you're learning.  You are what you are, and then you learn (and, hopefully, improve) as much as you can on top of that.

I have full faith in Jabari's Becoming.  I think he wants to be great.  I think he will work like mad at it.

The problem is Jabari's Being.  On the basketball court he is within himself.

Some of the greatest basketball players of all time were within themselves.  Heck, the greatest was: Michael Jordan.

When Jordan won the MVP in 1988, there were many skeptics (including myself) who thought that Jordan was not a team player.  We thought the same thing in '89 and '90, even as Jordan advanced to the Conference Finals.

Even on June 6, 1991, the morning after Michael Jordan did "The Move" against the Lakers in Game 2, I said the same thing: this guy does spectacular things, but he's not a team player.

And here's the thing: I'm right.  Jordan wasn't a team player.  He might have been the most successful athlete of all time in a team sport, but his game was always a selfish one.

That's why, out of Jordan's twenty-four NBA Finals wins (still an amazing number), only four came when an opponent scored 100 points or more.  Jordan won ugly.  He scored one-on-one baskets, used every trick in the book on defense and reigned through an era where heat was more important than light.

So, Jabari can be successful.  Possessing the Being of a selfish player doesn't disqualify him from that.

But you know what, I don't care.  I didn't become a Bucks fan to watch a crew of talented, selfish players slug harder than the other guy.  I'm a Bucks fan because I love Milwaukee and I love NBA basketball.  And, to me, basketball is best when it's played by unselfish players.

The afterglow of the 2016 Warriors is too bright to conduct a forensic investigation.  But when we, as the basketball-loving public, do, we are going to find a few things.  We are going to find that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are not elite athletes.  We will find that none of them would have added as much had they not been lucky enough to play with each other.  And we will see that adding a talented, selfish player to their stew would ruin the taste.

I want the Bucks to be the 2016 Warriors.  I wanted that when I started this blog in March, 2013.  At that time, both the Bucks and Warriors were contending for a bottom Playoff spot.  (In fact, one week after this blog started the Jennings/Ellis/Sanders Bucks ran the Curry/Klay/Draymond Warriors off the floor in Oakland.)  But the Warriors valued that low Playoff position and tried to add to it.  The Bucks -- perhaps kowtowing to pro-tanking calls by online Bucks fans -- were frustrated with their low Playoff position and tried to blow things up.

Today, the Warriors are the biggest thing since Jordan's Bulls and the Bucks are the home of Jabari and Giannis.  And that's no accident.  The Warriors could never have drafted Jabari.  They don't pick up the Carmelos and Rudy Gays of this world.  They are not interested in talented players who are cursed with the selfish gene.  And Jabari Parker, for all his good qualities, carries that curse.

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