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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Superstar Status: The Elite 9

OK, this post mutated as I got into it. I started off bemoaning the label of "Superstar" being attached to every NBA player who averaged over 19 ppg, and gettin' my "ornery old man" on about how there are fewer and fewer true superstars in the League. I texted my boy Jake,"Look at the '91 All Star game roster n tell me how many superstars you see." I counted 7. Off the top of my head, I figured that, by the standards we've seen in the past, there'd be only 4, maybe 5 today, with 2 on the same team. I did some digging, had it out with my Brain Trust, and I admit, was pleasantly surprised to pluck out almost double that many superstars in the current constellation of NBA players. 
and THAT'S where we begin. Superstars? Sure, there are 28 All-Stars every year, and every team has it's player or 2 (or 3, if you're in South Beach) who is THEIR star, at least in his respective fan-base. But SUPER? I mean, there's only one Superman. Tecmo Bowl was ok, but Super Tecmo Bowl was where it took off. College bowl games are fun, but there's only one SUPER Bowl. Mario? Plumber who likes spaghetti. SUPER Mario? Bad-ass. So what separates the All-Stars from the ultra-elite superstars? How many legit superstars are in the league right now? I think we can agree that LeBron James and Kobe Bean make the cut. Dwyane Wade? Certainly. Here's where it gets murky. So I took it upon myself to use the most stringent, scientific, meticulous (meaning I arged and shouted back and forth with my boy Dun for an 35 minutes) to come up with the criteria to delineate the really good from the great. So we agree that, to be a superstar, a baller HAS to meet 5 bulletpoints:
  1. Show marked improvement over the course of their formative years
  2. Elevate their team's play
  3. Be able to take over a game, changing the momentum to win it
  4. Their team is appreciably worse without them (meaning, you replace them with an average dude at their position, their team is looking at the lottery).
  5. The eye test, the “It” factor, air of confidence, whatever you want to call it. If someone who doesn't necessarily watch the NBA watches a superstar in a game, he just knows,”That guy is good. Really good.”
Basically, a true superstar's GM is only going to consider trading him for another true superstar (unless he's Billy King or David Kahn; then he'll give up his Lambourgini player for two 2nd round picks, $3,00, and a pack of Newports). This isn't about rings, scoring average, or hype, this is about the players who, through a combination of dominating talent and sheer will, can turn a franchise around. Who are the bonafide superstar's in the league today?
  • LeBron James/Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat- 2 unstoppable scorers, 2 willing passers, both have led their teams deep into the playoffs, each individually capable of destroying the opposition. While LBJ is more physically dominating, Wade's display of a steely will and relentlessness is superior to LBJ's sometime-passivity in the big spots. Say what you will about LeBron's puzzling PR moves over the last 7months, but the Cavs dismal season without him highlight his superpowers.
  • Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers- Right now, LBJ and Wade are his physical superiors due to their relative youth, but Kobe's competitive fire and on-court IQ are on another level. While he may be a cornball off the court, Kobe's ability to beat you in any way necessary (15 boards in game 7 is insane) makes him NBA royalty.
  • Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic- We get it. He's a shaky free throw shooter, his offensive repertoire is still in it's infancy, and his recent rash of techs is calling into question his focus. But MAN, he can play some defense. To witness his claim on superstardom, go no further than Orlando's decimation of the Charlotte Bobcats in last year's playoffs. While foul trouble had Dwight sitting for long stretches, when he was in he bullied the Cats into submission with smothering D. Even though Orlando inexplicably goes long stretches without getting him touches (show me another top-notch player who get's only 10.2 shots a game, like Howard got last year), Howard controls games with tight D and efficient scoring.

  • Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs- His time is winding down, but Tim Duncan is still, at 34, an upper echelon PF. Don't let the career low numbers (about 14 points, 9 boards, and 2 blocks in less than 30 mpg)this year fool you, Coach Pop realizes the end of Tim's time is near and is asking him to do less to squeeze every last year of productivity he can out of Big Fundamental. Younger, flashier power forwards are out there, but think about it, future nonwithstanding, you don't think Pat Riley would jump at the chance to swap Duncan and and Bosh? Jerry Sloan wouldn't ship Al Jefferson out in a heartbeat for TD? He's scoring less, but he's proven he can imprint a game by defending the rim and controlling the boards. Superstar certified.
  • Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls/Chris Paul, N.O. Hornets/ Deron Williams, Utah Jazz
    Here's where I almost lost a homie. D. Will and CP3 have been The Standards at point guard for the last 5 years; tough, efficient, and have shown that they can beat teams with the pass or shouldering the scoring load. I had them tabbed as superstars- they hit all 5 of the criteria dead-on. Rose, though...Naaaaah. My buddy Dun disagreed; more accurately, he stated,”You high.” Words were exchanged, family members defamed, guns drawn. But I can now admit I was wrong; Improvement? Scoring up by 4 points every year since his robust 16.8 ppg, dimes up to 8 a game, with almost 5 boards to boot. No question he's elevated this team's play, as evidenced by the epic 1st round match-up the Bulls and Celtics waged back in '09, Rose's rookie season. Game domination? Just last night, he willed his team to a win over the Heat, hitting more than a couple eye-popping plays down the stretch. (the left-to-right-cross-floater-combo he hit Chalmers off with was Mortal Kombat“Fatality” level sick). Without him, the Bulls would be, in a word, putrid; there'd be bo one to get Boozer the ball, and they'd challenge the Nets and Cavs for a spot on the bottom of the barrel. Finally, just watching him handle the rock, watch him setting up his man with the slow dribble, like a coiled spring, you just KNOW he's about to do something that you probably are going to shout about (Click the link, please. He ducks so he DOESN'T hit his head on the BACKBOARD. Click it). So yeah. Any bias I had about his youth is blown away.
  • Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder-The “KD is a lock for MVP” talk after he shot the world's eye's out at the FIBA Games this summer was a little overblown; he faltered a bit out of the gate this season, Russell Westbrook has been astronomical, and the Thunder took a while to hit their stride. SOMEHOW, my colleague Dun was of the mind that, while Rose was elite, KD was merely “a good scorer who got the refs in his pocket”. My rebuttal? “You high.” Durant's a force to be reckoned with; vast improvement, takes his team on his back, devastating scorer who has no problem diming, and with a team literally built around his talents, he's vital to his teams success. As far as presence, he's like a not-dorky Tim Duncan; quiet and seems humble, but really in tune with his team.
And that's IT. Those are the league superstars. Amare' Stoudemire? Has the “swagger”, scores like nobody's business, doing a bang-up job as Da Man in NY, but does too many dumb things at bad spots, is too caught up in his numbers, and really, besides scoring, isn't a complete player. Steve Nash? A Picasso of passing, but a Dagwood Bumstead of defense, we're learning that maybe he needed Amare' more than vice versa. Joe Johnson? Please. Next....Chris Bosh? After his “chill” comment and the whining travesty he pulled about his “widdle ankle boo-boo”, I'm not sure he's even star status. Carmelo Anthony? BREATH-TAKING scorer, but too much of a volume shooter; like Amare', if he's your best player, no way you're winning a 'ship. And as much as it hurt leaving Blake Griffin off of the SUPERstar list, I need to see it for more than 40 games; he's already ahead of the rest of the pretenders in my mind.

That's what I think, any opinions? Questions? Tell me I stink? Hit me, here or on Twitter, SnottieDrippen.


  1. You high. Maybe not.. But I think I disagree with your definition of Superstar.

    You want to know what makes a superstar in today's NBA. Sportscenter. Air time. Name power.

    Shaq is a bigger NBA superstar than Deron Williams and Derrick Rose put together. Ask anyone who isn't an true sports fan who Deron Williams is and their going to look at you stupid. Blake Griffin is a bigger superstar right now. Why? Because the casual sports fan (not NBA fan) sees him rockin dudes every single night on SC. That's what gets people watching.

    IMO, it's the name that makes someone a superstar. Marketability. Sell merchandise, put asses in seats.


    That's about it as far as full fledged superstars go. Durant is sick, but he needs to take OKC deep into the playoffs. Maybe take over a best of 7 against LA or San Antonio, and have that signature moment. Same with Rose. Chicago has only made it past the first round once since 23(or 45) retired. Hard to be a superstar if you don't win in the playoffs. Tim, is the best boring mf'er I've ever seen. He's got rings, wins every year, and has the market appeal of an empty can of spam.

    Maybe the Shaq thing is a bit much, but I betcha if the NBA needed a big name for a weekend event somewhere, they'd rather have Shaq headlining than Deron Williams.

  2. Interesting point, Sick. I'm not even looking at the marketing side of it though; in that case, Amare' is more of a superstar than Durant, and Duncan NEVER is considered one... I'm talking about superstars on the court. And I gotta admit I'm wavering on Durant for the reasons you just gave. He's a high-level star, but his resume' may not be long enough yet; same with Rose. I put them on because of #5, the eye test. Very debatable; that's why we love sports...