Tao Of The Passing Big Man

What I found most compelling about 80’s Celtics vs Lakers were the incredible passes on both ends of the court by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. I became more enamored with making flashy passes than I was with scoring the basketball (or just as much). I find more joy in setting someone up for a bucket than to get one on my own. It wasn’t until I started playing religiously that I realized how much players enjoyed playing with teammates who liked to share the ball. I could always find someone to pick me up for a run because they knew I’d give up the ball and didn’t care if I scored a single point. The following is a list of all my favorite passing big men to play the game, past and present. We’ll start out with the honorable mention and move on to my favorites.

HONORABLE MENTION

Brad Miller and Vlade Divac both benefitted from Rick Adelman’s offensive system in Sacramento. Vlade with his excellent post passing and Brad Miller 6’10 made him great passer out of the high post.

Julian Wright was one of the best passing big man I’ve ever seen in the college game. He could make the dazzling play, but turn around a make a simple play into a turnover. His highlights include Kansas-Florida in 2006 and any game where he faced Texas. It was a shame he couldn’t last in the NBA, because he was an entertaining player–incredible dunker and athletic, his passes had heat on them.

These two Knicks legends, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason, were so known for their bruising defense that most fans overlooked that they were incredibly deft passers in a system that was not very sophisticated.

Arvydas Sabonis‘ NBA numbers don’t reflect how great of a passer he was. He came to the league late into his career and played before the age of social media and the explosion of the internet. You had to be there. Seeing him play changed how I imagined the game could be played. He had incredible touch on his entry passes and his large hands hid the ball as he whipped passes into the interior or behind his head.

Favorites

Chris Webber (C-Webb) 4.2 Assists Career avg. Career high 5.5 Assists (2004-2005)

Known more for his high flying dunks and scintillating post play, C-Webb’s passed with the flair of a flashy point guard; dishing out assists with pizazz. His great big paws made it easy for Webber to perform wizardry with the ball. Webber threw countless beautiful behind the back, no look passes. He was equally as great at finding the open man from along the perimeter, as he was passing from the high post and in the post. His best assist numbers came during his years as a Sacramento King, playing in Rick Adelman’s motion offense. Running the high-low with Vlade Divac, and a dearth of perimeter shooters on the floor at all times, the early 2000’s Kings were often considered the height of beautiful and fun basketball.

Bill Walton (Big Red) 3.4 assists Career avg. Career high 5.0 (1977-1978)

Many think Walton is one of the best passing big men of all time. Highlights of his peak years are grainy, but he had some gorgeous passes from the high post and perfected the touch pass as a way of catching defenders off guard.

Tim Duncan

(Big Fundamental, Timmy Time Machine, Old Man Riverwalk) Career avg. 3.0 assists Career high 3.9 (2002-2003)

There is a reason why Tim Duncan was called the Big Fundamental. There was not one aspect of the game that he did not excel at. His outlet passes were a thing of beauty–they always were the perfect spin or speed for the occasion. Blessed with superb court vision, Duncan threw passes to where a player was going to be–like a quarterback leading a wide receiver. In his early years, he perfected passing out of the high post to other big men including Hall of Famer David Robinson. Near the end of his career, he was throwing alley oops to future Clipper great Kawhi Leonard. There are even clips of Duncan running the fast break and embarrassing young players who doubted his handles (shout out to a young Lebron James).

Larry Bird (Larry Legend, Hick from French Lick) 6.3 career assists, Career high 7.6 (1986-1987)

Watching Larry Bird is where I learned to perfect the no look, over the head, post pass. Bird was also a master of the touch pass off a rebound carom. Larry’s game was pure spectacle and his passes were highlight worthy. You could get lost watching old footage just by typing the words, Larry Bird, passing clinic.

Joakim Noah (Jo) 2.8 assists Career avg. 5.4 career high (2013-2014)

It is hard to believe Noah played 13 seasons in the league. It felt like his career reached a grinding halt after playing for known hard ass Tom Thibodeau. At his zenith, he was the best passing big man in the league– in addition to being a defensive player of the year candidate, year in and out. In 2013 -2014 when he averaged his most assists for a season, it seemed like he was on Sportscenter every other night with a highlight worthy pass.

Nikola Jokic (the Joker) 6.0 Career assists, 8.3 Career high (2020-2021)

Two words: Basketball savant. Plays with the pizazz of a mixtape player on the playground. Not only can make a pass from anywhere on the court, but also great handles for any player–especially a big man. He reminds me of Arvydas Sabonis, but with handles. His doughy frames only adds to his likeability, as he reminds me of a guy you happen to pick up during a run and you realize he’s the most fun player you’ve ever played with; pointing to each other after every assist while you win game after game, after game.

Boris Diaw (French Magician, Bobo, The Big Croissant) 3.5 career assists, 6.2 career high (2005-2006)

Boris’ big frame, incredibly high basketball I.Q. and great court vision made him an excellent player. Diaw was one of the best skilled big men of his era and one of the best French players of all time. Playing at the 3 and the 4, Diaw had decent handles and made excellent entry passes. He could pass from the perimeter, the high post and the interior. His passing was the difference maker in the 2014 NBA Finals for the San Antonio Spurs providing another ball handler and shot creator that the opposing Miami Heat had to worry about. Legend has it that Magic Johnson was his favorite basketball player growing up, and that Diaw’s mother taught Boris that being a good passer would entice older players to let him join their pickup games.

  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found social distancing. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

Tom Meschery

I watch them play and I’m taken back in time

To the heat and smell of the sunbaked asphalt

of playgrounds and youthful competition that for all

of us marked the beginning of our careers, when there

was not a care in the world except the ball back-spinning

into the net and girls watching us from behind the net.

Hiatus

I love basketball so much and miss playing it more than I miss watching it. Right now we’re in the most contentious period this country has faced since the Civil War and watching or even writing about basketball seems frivolous and gigantic waste of energy. With the spread of COVID and an anti-Black war going on, my brain power is best suited to be focused on more urgent matters. We’ll see what the future holds for us as a society, but unfortunately, the world we knew may no longer exist after this is all said and done. If anyone still cares in five or ten years, maybe this project will be completed. If not, well, we had a lot of fun didn’t we? Stay safe out there.

 

BM

Good Ass Game Alert: Manu Giveth, and Manu Taketh Away

 

Random takeaways from rewatching this Spurs classic:

 

  • Really loved the assortment on role players on both sides. Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack (used to kill the Jayhawks when he played for Georgia Tech), David Lee, and Harrison Barnes on Golden State. For the Spurs, you had DeJuan Blair, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, and I liked Gary Neal enough.
  • This playoff run gave us a glimpse of what was to come for Golden State. Even though San Antonio knocked them out of the playoffs this round, the Warriors gave the Spurs all that they could handle (and arguably outplayed them outside of a couple of endgame scenarios that were costly). Golden State was ascending and San Antonio had plateaued as a dynasty, reaching the Finals the next two years, but leveling off the following six seasons. Warriors would beat the Spurs handily the next two times they’d face each other in the playoffs.
  • Warriors were a really scrappy bunch with Draymond Green coming onto the floor as an energy guy. You can already see the chemistry developing between he, Steph and Klay when the three of them are on the court together. At the time, it seemed like Harrison Barnes was knocking on the door of being a top player at his position. It is fascinating to watch an emerging dynasty in the works. The team had yet to pick up Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, David West, or Mo Speights. The Warriors weren’t quite the destination team yet, but you can see the nuts and bolts of the squad coming together during that run.
  • Watching this 2013 Spurs team is tough knowing what is ahead for them down the road. If you put that roster side by side with the championship team from the following year, its easy to understand why they couldn’t get the job done against the Heat during the Finals. Outside of Duncan, Ginobili, Matt Bonner, and Parker, no one on that team had been to an NBA Finals (which makes you wonder if they could’ve used Stephen Jackson who was cut right before the playoffs that year). The team lost Blair the next season, and Gary Neal, replacing them with Jeff Ayres and Marco Belinelli. Plus all those role players who’d lost in the Finals the year before were back and better prepared for challenge. It is also worth mentioning that the 2014 Heat were on their last leg having been to four Finals in a row with a core of slow aging veterans.
  • This game reaches its competitive peak in the 3rd, 4th, and second overtime periods. Steph Curry went on one of his epic third quarter runs that were still a novelty; scoring 14 points in 3 minutes (22 in the third quarter). Unfortunately for the Warriors their inability to finish the quarter would ultimately cost them. The Spurs went on an 8-2 run during the final 35 seconds that started with a Ginobili and 1 layup, then a Danny Green 3 pointer, and finally, a careless inbound violation by Curry, that was followed a silly foul by Jarrett Jack; which led to two free throws by Gary Neal.
  • The real turning point of the game came in the 4th quarter at the 3:51 mark when Tony Parker fouled out Klay Thompson on a baseline drive towards the basket. With Tim Duncan in the locker room battling the flu, it seemed like it was all but wrapped up for Golden State. Even Chris Webber says at the time, “luckily they won’t need him the rest of the game.” This is when “shit got real” for the young Dubs.
  • Down by 16, and less than 4 minutes left in the game, Tony Parker put the team on his back for an  18 to 2 run, and the Warriors shot themselves in the foot with every following possession–only scoring on a Jarrett Jack jumper with 29 ticks left in the game.
  • The Danny Green game tying three was the result of a well designed play by five individuals executing their roles with perfection.1)After the timeout, Coach Popovich elects to take out ball by the Spurs bench at full court instead of at half court giving the Boris Diaw room to inbound the ball to Tony Parker. 2) Parker brings the ball up the court– letting it roll til Draymond Green comes forward to make him pick up the ball. 3)Parker then passes it at midcourt to Diaw, who does a dribble handoff to Manu Ginobili, who releases from defender Harrison Barnes from the wing to the top of key to become primary ballhandler. 4)At the same time, Danny Green goes from the top 3 point corner to sets a pick for Kawhi Leonard (who started on the left block then shifts to right block) on Jarret Jack. 5) Kawhi dives toward paint moving back to left block on a defensive switch by Golden State and now has Steph Curry is guarding him.6) Diaw screens his man , Harrison Barnes, out on the wing after realizing he doesn’t need to run to set a baseline pick on Jarret Jack who due to a miscommunication on a switch with Steph Curry, is caught in no man’s land, and  leaves Danny Green free to roam along the baseline towards the 3 point line where 7) he catches a perfect pass from Manu Ginobili for a wide open, catch and shoot, game tying 3 pointer
  • The Warriors bench which at one point was going nuts during the Steph Curry 3rd quarter run, now looked shook. To the Warriors credit, they managed to regain their composure in the 2nd overtime and still almost stole victory from the jaws of defeat. I honestly saw enough to believe the snafu that left Ginobili open for the game winning three pointer would not have happened with Draymond Green on the court, but unfortunately for the Dubs, he’d fouled out earlier just a few minutes into overtime.
  •  

    Give it up for the assistants in the game, Mike Malone, Mike Budenholzer and Bret Brown. All three would go on to be head coaches very very soon, and for now still all have jobs with–playoffs teams– the Nuggets, Bucks and Sixers.

 

I watched this game live at an Austin bar down on Red River and was the only one paying attention as the sound was off and some singer songwriter was playing her depressing music on acoustic guitar. My ill fitting and inappropriate yells, moans, and guffaws elicited some nasty looks from the other patrons, but I couldn’t contain myself during the second half and overtime portions of the game.

It was a different experience being able to listen to the announcers and stop the feed an replay different segments of the game to my heart’s content. I can’t describe the buzz I had that night of the game replaying that Ginobili shot over and over again in my head. Of all the most improbable comebacks, this was the craziest I’d seen outside of the Duke vs Maryland, “10 points in one minute game.” It didn’t look good for San Antonio, and somehow they still pulled it out.

I would be fortunate enough to see the Spurs clinch this series in person at the famed Oracle arena and it was quite the experience. The year before, I was in Oklahoma to watch the Thunder knock San Antonio out of the playoffs during the Western Conference Finals, and so it seemed fitting to be in Oakland to see them take care of the Warriors. Warriors fans joy was infectious and walking out of the arena that night, I felt bad for them. I’d lived in Oakland during the “We Believe” era that already seemed like ancient history. At the time I didn’t know that this was a team still on the horizon and that their playoff runs were just beginning. Of course, this also meant that the Spurs were a team that was already on the decline, but no one had time to think about that. Their run was still ongoing.

 

 

BM

 

 

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Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

A Little Pizzazz

Basketball never stops…..it only rotates

Nuclear Polio Vaccination

I spend my down time daydreaming

of snagging tough rebounds

then immediately throwing full court outlet passes

that lead to fast break points.

I visualize touch passes

to baseline cutters for easy buckets.

No look bounce passes hit my teammates in stride–

right into the hand that’s closest to the basket.

Dump off passes thrown over my shoulder

into the pal of someone curling from

the paint to the rim

and over the top lobs to big men

skillfully sealing off their defender.

I guess you could say that I miss hoopin’.

~Bob E. Freeman

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Local Legends: Seattle

                                     Best NBA Players to come out of Seattle

 

Jason Terry 

  • won back to back state titles for Franklin High School in 1994 and 1995
  • Won NCAA championship on Arizona Wildcats in 1997
  • Played in 2 NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks winning in 2011
  • Only Arizona player in school history to score 1,000 points and get 200 steals
  • Pac-10 player of the year with 21.9 points, 5 assists, and 2.8 assists his senior year at University of Arizona
  • 13. 8 points a game in NBA, 38% from 3, 44 % from field 
  • Sixth man of the year award in 2008

Jamal Crawford

  • 3 time sixth man of the award
  • 16.6 pts and 4.5 assists at University of Michigan
  • Started the Pro-Am Crawsover
  • At one point was considered the best volume shooter in the league
  • Only NBA player to 50 or more points for 4 or more teams
  • 2,000 three pointers made 
  • State title at Rainier Beach 1998

Nate Robinson

  • Started the local pipeline to University of Washington, teamed with Brandon Roy to take team to Sweet Sixteen 2004-2005 season with 29-6 record
  • State title in 2002 at Rainier Beach High School
  • 16.4 points 4.3 assists his junior year
  • 17.7 points 4.7 assists his Senior year
  • 3 time NBA slam Dunk Champion
    Brandon Roy

    • 2007 Rookie of the Year
    • Retire due to degenerative knee condition, zero cartilage in both knees
    • Took University Washington to Sweet Sixteen 2 years in a row
    • Pac-10 Player of the Year 2006
    • All American 2006 
    • 3 X NBA All Star
    • 14 pts 5.5. Rebounds, 3 assists at Washington
    • 18.8 pts 4.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists in 326 NBA games, 6 seasons (only twice played at least 70 games)
    • Won back to back titles as a high school coach with Nathan Hale (2016-2017)  and Garfield (2017-2018) 

    Doug Christie

    • 1988 title at Rainier Beach 
    • 16 pts, 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists at Pepperdine University
    • Solid role player 3 and and D player; 4 time all NBA defensive team
    • 35% from 3, 45 % from field
    • 15 year veteran 1992-2007
    • 11 points, 3 assists 4 rebounds for career

    Other Notable Seattle Facts

  • Garfield High School has most state tiles in Washington history producing Brandon Roy, Tony Wroten,  and Will Conroy
  • Rainier Beach High School State titles (1988, 1989, 1998, 2002,2003, 2008, 2012, 2013 2014, 2016) Notable Alumni: Doug Christie (1988), Jamal Crawford (1998), Nate Robinson (2003),  C.J. Giles (2003), Terrence Williams (2002, 2003),  Dejounte Murray (2012, 2013,2014) 
  • Franklin High School state titles (1994, 1995, 2003, 2006, 2009) Notable Alumni: Jason Terry (1994, 1995), Aaron Brooks (2003), Payton Siva (2009)

     

    Other notable players from Seattle area

    Michael Dickerson (Federal Way High School)

    Martell Webster (Seattle Prep)

    Rodney Stuckey (Kentwood High School)

    Spencer Hawes (Seattle Prep)

    Marvin Williams (Bremerton Prep)

    Avery Bradley (Bellarmine Prep)

    Zach Lavine (Bothell High School) 

         Michael Porter Jr. (Nathan Hale High School)

 

 

BM

 

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Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

Sonicsgate: A (sort of) movie review

 

[The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Tao of the Passing Big Man, and other essays. Due out if and when we survive this global pandemic.]

 

 

When people bring up the city of Seattle, its typically to talk about Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain (maybe even Quincy Jones’ depending on who you’re talking to), coffee, and months of rain.

Outside of the diehard NBA fans, the normal American does not think of basketball. Seattle, however; is a fertile hotbed for talented basketball players. On top of that, it is a really dope city–one of the dopest cities in the United States. So dope– that the majority of the millionaires living in this country, live in Seattle. It is downright head scratching that a city so dope, does not have an NBA team. 

What the average person does not know is that Seattle has a rich history of hoop dating all the way back to 1967. They won an NBA title in 1979, and from 1993 to 1998–led by Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and a collection of high level role players–had a 60% winning percentage. 

 

Things took a tumble for Seattle when they signed center Jim McIlvaine to an enormous contract (mistakenly) believing that he was the final piece to a championship puzzle. This alienated the franchise face Shawn Kemp (who was lobbying for a new contract) enough to the point that he demanded a trade before his contract was completed [Folklore has it that Kemp had already been dangled in a trade once before with the Chicago Bulls for then small forward Scottie Pippen]. The Sonics traded Kemp to the Cleveland Cavaliers–for a two piece and a biscuit meal– starting a gradual decline that culminated with George Karl not getting a contract renewal in 1998. The 1998-99 lockout immediately followed; which hurt the Sonics revenue when not all their fans returned to the Key Arena when the basketball did.

In 2001, the Ackerley family sold the team to Coffee baron Howard Schulz, and to quote Gary Payton, “he tried to run the basketball team like a coffee business.” Frustrated with low attendance, poor team performance, and a venue that was outdated compared to the new wave of NBA multi purpose arenas, Schultz sold the team to an Oklahoma City investment group–led by Aubrey McClendon and Clay Bennett–that had just seen promise while hosting the New Orleans Hornets for an interim period during post Hurricane Katrina. 

 

After realizing that the city was not going to pay for either a new arena or renovations (the city eventually passed initiative 91 More Important Things i.e. no sports subsidies) despite spending over $517 million on SafeCo field (for the Mariners) and $430 Million for the Seahawks’ new stadium, Questfield. The Okies saw their chance and took it, using this initiative as an excuse to move the team to OKC, even though they were sued for breaking the lease. The city settled for a 75 million dollar buyout, with 45 million of it paid upfront and the rest of the 30 to be paid out over the next 5 years; if the city could put together a renovation plan for the Key Arena (Are you confused too? Okay. Good I’m not the only one who can’t make sense of this deal) The city never put together that plan an forfeited the 30 million from the settlement. There is a prevailing thought that had the city of Seattle fought harder to keep the team, that the OKC based group would have eventually caved, and sold the team as majority stakeholder (Aubrey McClendon lost over 90 percent of his fortune in the upcoming 2008 economic recession). 

While it is true that the OKC buyers ( and arguably the league—err–David Stern) probably did some underhanded actions to acquire the team; with the agenda to move the team, the city of Seattle did everything it could to help give away their franchise. One could argue that in Seattle, basketball was this esoteric sport that only urban kids and hipsters supported. The city ponied up the funds for their baseball and football teams, but left the basketball team dangling in the wind. I know that no one wants to see a bad product, but historically, the Sonics were the only franchise at the time consistently winning [my argument against this would be Warriors fans who supported their team through thick and thin–although Oaklanders eventually lost their team too once it started winning].

The Mariners had a brief run in the late 90’s and early 2000’s (with an expanded playoff format starting in 1995), and the Seahawks were perennial doormats until the early 2000’s. Sonics fans just have to face up to the fact that the city didn’t care about basketball enough. They even let Bennett and the other okies take all the team records, banners, stats, and history with them to Oklahoma. Say what you will about the whole process being unfair, the fact is that the city didn’t want it enough. As Sir Mix A lot said, Seattlites were always “fair weather fans when it came to the Seahawks and Sonics”, comparing them to the wine and cheese crowd that 49ers fans are reknowned for. He called them “Upscale cats drinking 4.50 cups of tea.” I WOULD LOVE to see a team back in Seattle (and Vancouver while we’re at it. Move Memphis to the east where they belong) but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Outside of the hardcore hoop heads up there, no one in Seattle really misses basketball. 

 

BM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

Good Ass Game Alert

 

Random thoughts from watching this game:

  • This game illustrates how silly the Draymond Green/Charles Barkley comparisons sound. If anything, maybe Green should be referred to as the Dennis Rodman remix? The various ways that Chuck scores buckets and dominates this game could never be duplicated by Draymond (even in today’s NBA). I would argue that from about 1992-1994, Chuck was the second best player in the world.
  • I just realized from watching this game (for the first time ever–didn’t have cable until the following season) that I actually saw these Warriors in person that season when they played the Mavericks in Dallas. I was obsessed with Chris Webber so I wore my blue Warriors Webber road jersey (with shaved head of course). I was such a novice back then that I didn’t realize that Latrell Sprewell and Chris Mullin were also on that team. I saw Mullin and Sprewell play in person and did not even remember until yesterday when I watched this game. Kind of sad, huh?
  • Speaking of, my two favorite NBA players at this time were actually Webber and Barkley. Despite my height, I would work on my post moves and picked up my bassline spin move off the right shoulder from watching both players.
  • Hard to think of a better time to be in the Bay–especially in Oakland: 1994 was the peak of the golden era of Bay Area hip hop, the A”s were still near the top of the AL West division in baseball, and the Warriors were still exciting despite breaking up Run TMC. Its also nice to see Warriors fans back the Oracle was still lit.
  • Seeing Gregg Popovich on the bench as an assistant coach with Donnie and Don Nelson was kind of mind blowing considering what lay in store for the three of them down in Texas–along with backup point guard Avery Johnson. Makes you realize how small of a world the NBA really is.
  • Lastly, It was fun watching peak Chris Mullin again. It would only be a couple seasons later when Mullin would go on to play with another Fab Five member, Jalen Rose, at Indiana–for those of you who like random trivia.

 

Don’t let the final score fool you. This was a good ass game and very entertaining with lots of good runs. Its worth the sit down. Trust me.

 

BM

 

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Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com