Jerry Sloan had a long list of accomplishments both as a player, and as a coach. As we say goodbye to one of the legends of the game, let us take time to acknowledge what he brought to the game of basketball.
Since most of us remember him as a Hall of Fame coach, we should shed some light on an illustrious playing career. He entered the league in 1965 as the fourth overall pick to the Baltimore Bullets.
The Bullets traded Sloan after his rookie season to the Chicago Bulls. In his first season in Chicago, he became an NBA All-Star and led the Bulls to their first-ever playoff appearance. It was Chicago’s first year in the NBA.
As a Bull, he was known as the “Original Bull” due to his defense. The Steal and Block weren’t recorded on the stat sheet until 1973; where he averaged 2.4 steals a game and maintained that average until he retired in 1976 due to a series of knee injuries. Another known attribute was his rebounding and at 6’5 the man could flat out rebound averaging 7.4 boards a game. Sloan was the definition of a complete basketball player. To sum up his playing career, he was a 2x All-Star, 6x all defense, and is in the Hall of Fame.
His coaching career is something that should be looked at in-depth. Sloan has a 63% winning percentage over his 26 years as a head coach, but he never won a title. His coaching goes way beyond his winning record. When you faced a Jerry Sloan coached team, you knew right off the bat you would be tested defensively. His attention to detail and player analysis is one of the main reasons why he was so successful as a coach. The ability to understand a player on and off the court is a trait that many coaches lack. Sloan is third all-time in NBA wins (1223), with him being one of five coaches to receive that honor and one of two coaches doing so with one franchise.
When he took over as head coach for the Jazz in 1988 everything changed for the franchise. Under Sloan the Jazz missed the playoffs three times in Sloan’s 23 years as coach. How was he so successful? The offense he implemented was designed to keep up containing the fast break which was made popular heading into the ’80s. The basic flex involves constant movement from all five offensive players, with down screens and cuts utilized in multiple areas of the floor. While the basic system itself is quite simple, the variations are nearly endless, part of what makes it such an effective system. (Salt City Hoops) The offense is designed to get looks at the rim off of a cut. This is why Stockton and Malone benefited from this system for years.
The teams he coached were disciplined and competitive and you made sure to pencil them in your schedule. Sloan is a kind of coach who produces high level basketball talent. Something you can’t say many coaches do in the league nowadays, except for Poppovich.
Today we say goodbye to a legend in the NBA world and a man whose offense is being run around the world and his philosophy and career will forever live on. RIP Jerry Sloan you will never be forgotten
The NBA is always growing and expanding and the same goes with the talent. As those brand name stars get older, the younger generation looks to fill those shoes, but some have made their mark already, influencing fans.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (23): Booker wasn’t a hot talent coming out of Kentucky in 2015, but these past few years he’s become a staple in Phoenix. The Suns franchise has been a dying one for years after Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and vets like Grant Hill left. Booker turned this franchise around and now this year we are seeing his hard work pay off.
Among being a huge influence the 23-year old has accomplished a lot already, making an impressive resume. Booker became the 8th-youngest player in NBA history to notch 6,000 career points, joining LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Andrew Wiggins and Shaquille O’Neal (via nba.com- Cody Cunningham). On the contrary, he’s recorded the 10th highest points scored among all players with 70 against the Boston Celtics.
This season, Booker is averaging 25 points, 5.8 assists at a 54% (career high) clip after 12 games. With the way he’s been able to perform the Suns sit 7-5 in a grueling western conference where they currently are 7th. Can they maintain this level or play throughout the whole season? That’s the question everyone is asking.
Lastly, we can all learn a little something from Devin Booker. He’s donated $2.5m to Suns charity for the next five years as he labels it his “favorite accomplishment”. He’s spent five years on the Suns and hopefully he can stick it out and play his whole career there. Bring back that player loyalty Book.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks (21): Just a year ago in 2018, Young was involved in a deal with Luka Dončić that sent him to Atlanta. Now, some of us were a bit skeptical on why Young went so high, but the ultimatum is that the Hawks were very high on him. In fact, they were so high on him that he changed the culture of Atlanta before he even stepped foot on the court for them.
In Atlanta, it’s a very prominent music city and is home to a lot of artists like Quavo, TI, Andre 3000, and 21 Savage. Young gained the attention of Quavo in a matter of a day and when we think of the Hawks, Trae Young is now the first name that comes to mind.
A huge reason why the Hawks are performing so well is due to Young. His offensive arsenal, and elite IQ is tough to contain at times. Averaging an impressive 27 points and 8.7 assists, Young has seen improvements in mainly every statistical category:
Needless to say Young has been getting into a healthy rhythm on both sides of the ball when last season the problem was inconsistency. It’s expected of a rookie to lack at times, but in my opinion I don’t think we have ever seen a player bounce back as quick as young has. Coach Lloyld Pierce is playing him 33.8 minutes a night and running the offense through the 6’1″ guard as he takes roughly 20 shots a night.
His impact dives deeper than just performance. As I look at the fan base from afar, the morale and hope for improvement is high. Even when the Hawks has Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Hordord, and Jamal Crawford the fans didn’t make nearly as much noise as Trae has been.
From a community standpoint, Young is seen throughout the Atlanta landscape participating in charity events, being a social media guru, and working on his craft everyday. More importantly Young wants to be in Atlanta and that’s rare to find nowadays.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (23): Mitchell to me was the most NBA ready coming out of the 2017 draft. From a performance standpoint the first thing you noticed when watching is his athleticism and ability to murder the rim. He’s listed at 6’1 (who knows if that’s true or not) but plays like he’s 6’5. A true shooting guard, Mitchell is consistently averaging 24.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists on 44% from the field (career best), and 38% from deep which is all a career best.
From an off the court perspective people have grown to like Mitchell. His greatest influence has always been his mother and we saw this first hand as he is determined to complete his degree at Louisville. “I’m the type of person that if I put it off, I’ll forget about it,” he says. “But I really am just focused on that and determined to get it. It’s a good thing to have, especially as a basketball player.” (AJN)
Being a professional athlete is a huge accomplishment, but if you have nothing to back that up once your playing career is all said and done, then it’s hard to recover from. Mitchell demonstrates an athlete with a life plan. Just by his actions he will do right by the community and Utah; hopefully for years to come.
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (24): The biggest question heading into this season was if LaVine can carry a franchise over the hump. Coming off of a career year last season, Young Hollywood is putting up ‘ok’ numbers in 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists.
So let me guess you’re probably wondering why LaVine is so influential if his numbers have been on a downhill slope. His influence comes from giving the city of Chicago hope. They haven’t felt like this since Derrick Rose and that alone is what drives his influence for a franchise.
The rebuild might be a failure, but the LaVine still has time to turn things around. With a 5-10 record there is still time to improve. With Lauri Markannen by his side, posing as one of the upcoming young tandems, LaVine has his work cut out for him. Just because things aren’t working out the way we would all like them to doesn’t mean he isn’t beneficial and influential to the Bulls franchise and the league around him.
Luke Dončić, Dallas Mavericks (20): Luka magic has been proving himself on a nightly basis and why some might hate him you have to tip your hat off to the guy. In just 14 games, Dončić has posted an impressive 29.9 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 9.4 assists on 34.4 minutes a night. Dončić is nearly averaging a 30-point triple-double on the season, and his back-to-back triple-doubles this week have made him the youngest NBA player to accomplish such a feat.
Needless to say this kid is breaking record after record and we haven’t seen someone this talented since LeBron James. Don’t believe me? It’s all in the accomplishments and numbers.
List of player that have averaged 25, 7.5 and 7.5 over a single season looks like this:
Oscar Robertson (six times)
Russell Westbrook (twice)
None of those legends was as young as Dončić. (via FiveThirtyEight). I’ve went on record stating that he’s had 12 years of professional experience and that we are expecting him to play at this level, but the past month I’ve been eating my words. Nobody predicted Dončić being this good this early in his career.
Dončić is becoming a household name, commentators are falling in love with him, and fans are mirroring their game after his. I did a survey with around 100 people asking them to name a young player who you keep hearing about in the league. More than half of the people I asked don’t follow basketball, but the analysis doesn’t lie:
50%: Luka Dončić
30% Zion Williamson
10% Trae Young
10% Tacko Fall
A 20 year old gaining this much attention this early is something special and we can’t help but sit back and watch history before our eyes. Mark Cuban picked a diamond in the rough for sure. RIP Hawks.
Michael Jordan was the undisputed owner of all 90’s NBA franchises, especially these ones. The Jazz and the Cavs are bringing back the past this season with 90’s throwback jerseys, let’s look at what went down the first time around. There was a collection of very decent teams that just couldn’t compare to Chicago’s collection of all-timers.
First, let’s look at the Cleveland Cavaliers. These might be the best 90’s jerseys out there. They’re arguably more 90’s than any other thread. They had a squad too. Mark Price ran point next to Ron Harper, who was always good for a bucket. With the defensive presence that was Larry Nance next to “Mr. Everything” Craig Ehlo, the Cavs were a team to be reckoned with.
Cavs Circa Dawn of the 1990’s
Unfortunately, they always ran into the buzz saw that was Michael Jordan. MJ is actually the founder of these threads. He embarrassed Cleveland so bad that their franchise ultimately needed a new look. This gives us an excuse to go back and relive some of the glorious (notorious by Cleveland standards) moments. First, we start at the dawn of the new decade. In the ’89 Eastern Conference 1st round. The Cavs had pushed Mike to a decisive elimination game 5 back in Cleveland. 50 points from MJ wasn’t enough for the Bulls in game 4. He followed up with 44 more and “The Shot” to advance his Bulls by a single point. Craig Ehlo collapses in defeat as his potential game winner on the other end left 3 too many seconds of the clock for MJ magic. All Defensive caliber player Larry Nance and Ehlo doubling was not enough to stop Mike from getting his. He would average 46 points over the last 3 games with that cherry on top.
The following season, MJ once again embarrassed the Cavs in their home arena. A 69 point game that will forever solidify him in the GOAT conversation. Use this as an excuse to watch a straight buckets clinic. The Cavs changed their entire scheme and logo a couple years later in attempt to put these GOAT demons behind them.
Late 90s Jazz
The Jazz battled with their share of the GOAT demon as well. The Jazz switched up their scheme for the ensuing 1996-’97 season after falling in 7 games in the Western Conference Finals to the SuperSonics . They would return the following two seasons and triumphing over talented Rockets and Lakers teams. Jazz a 2/2 WCF record in the new threads, they must’ve been good luck… for the Bulls. Chicago owned them. Two years in a row they fell to the Bulls in game 6 of the Finals. They really had a squad. Prolific power forward Karl Malone. Aided by legendary point guard John Stockton. Flanked by Jeff Hornacek and Byron Russell, there were options. All of these options vaulted them to the top of the Western Conference in ’97 & ’98. It wasn’t enough to overcome arguably the greatest team of all time. The 72-10 Bulls took care of business in ’97. The following year, MJ hit his second “The Shot” which vaulted him to his second 3-peat and retirement. Utah would never recover from the “push off” and hasn’t seen the conference finals since.
There’s an underlying theme to all of these teams. You could say that with MJ out of the picture, they might’ve stood a chance. But he wasn’t for 6/7 years. Even in his absence, Scottie and co. tested a young Penny Hardaway and Shaq in the Eastern Conference Semis. A liege of ‘HOFers’ served “His Airness” during his reign. Dennis “The Worm” Rodman, the greatest rebounded of all time. Scottie Pippen, the best, most versatile defender in the league that wasn’t Michael Jordan. As well as 7 time world champion Robert Horry, who was ahead of his time as a stretch forward. During a couple of his championship runs he even had the likes of Ron Harper and Steve Kerr alongside him. Under one of the greatest coaches of all time, Phil Jackson, the 90’s Bulls had the greatest run of all time and it may never be matched. Even if a team could match up to the cast around him, no man in the world could hope to contain “Air Jordan”.