FanPost

Scoring points overrated?

I just saw this this morning, and it made me stop and consider it because it revealed a picture of NBA history with which I am unfamiliar. I grew up with MJ as the main window into the NBA, but now I wonder if our focus on a singular terrific scorer is misplaced. Venturing out on a limb a little, perhaps the direction our team is heading is precisely (as someone the other day put it) relying on four or five 15 ppg scorers and terrific passing because historically that is the way to championships, not an independently magnificent scorer (e.g. Allen Iverson). 

Michael Jordan ruined it for everybody. The biggest impact of Jordan's success in Chicago was his creation of The Man. Before he came along, that title --The Man -- didn't exist in an admirable way. As a matter of fact, if you had someone who saw himself as The Man on your team, you probably weren't going to win the championship.

In the 43 years before Jordan's title breakthrough in 1990, only once had a player ever led the league in scoring while leading his team to the championship. The only time it happened was in 1970-71 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who at that time went by his given name of Lew Alcindor) led the NBA with 31.7 points while carrying the Milwaukee Bucks to their only title. For more than four decades it was a golden rule in the NBA that the highest-scoring players weren't winners. The Celtics lead the NBA with 17 championships, and they've proudly never had a player who led the league in scoring.

In the pre-Jordan years, an NBA player could follow one of two roads: You could be like Wilt Chamberlain, whose scoring average ranged from 33.5 points to 50.4 points over his first seven seasons, but didn't win a championship until his scoring plummeted to 24.1 points as a 30-year-old with the 76ers in 1966-67; or you could be like Bill Russell, who averaged an unimpressive 15.1 points yet led the Celtics to 11 championships in his 13 seasons.

The best players couldn't have it both ways in those days. You were either selfish or selfless, either a prolific scorer or a team player. Even Abdul-Jabbar spent much of his career hearing complaints that he was -- apart from his lone breakthrough with the Bucks -- too self-indulgent to be a dominant winner.


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