Damian Lillard went nuts on Monday night leading his Portland Trail Blazers to a 129-124 overtime win over the Golden State Warriors.
Lillard was great from long range and made all his free throws while scoring a franchise record 61 points in the ballgame. This marked Lillard’s second career 60-point game (his first came in November against Brooklyn).
Lillard joins Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, James Harden and Elgin Baylor as the only players in NBA history with more than one 60-point game.
That’s some exclusive company.
Lillard was 17/37 from the field, 11/20 on threes, and went 16/16 from the line. He entered the game sixth in the league with 27.1 points per game this season.
The NBA has never been in a better place than it is now in terms of popularity, excitement and quality of play. The league has a number of things to thank for that, most notably its superstars led by the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, who continue to perform at a high level. And as we’ve seen in recent years from players such as Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, Father Time remains undefeated.
The best way to delay the inevitable athletic decline is to enhance new skills and play a less physically taxing brand of basketball. Take Dirk Nowitzki, for example. He developed a tough-to-block-shot — a one-legged fadeaway jumper that allowed him to get a high-percentage shot off anywhere on the court — and he remained one of the best offensive players in basketball until late in his career.
Let’s take a look at a handful of today’s older superstars and see if there’s a historical parallel they can model their games after to help them age gracefully into the twilight of their careers. As far as my criteria, a player must:
Be a future Hall of Famer (sorry Jimmy Butler!)
Still be playing at an All-NBA level (sorry Chris Paul!)
Be entering at least his ninth season.
LEBRON JAMES, LAKERS, 17th season (turning 35 this season)
Twilight should mirror: Magic Johnson, seasons 10 thru 12, 29-31 years old. Key three-year averages: 21.4 points, 12.3 assists, 7.1 rebounds per game.
Because of his Karl Malone-like frame, most assumed LeBron would move up positions (small forward to power forward to center) as his career progressed. While he’s clearly capable of that progression as evidenced by him dominating the restricted area throughout his career, he continues to develop his guard skills (8.8 assists per game the past three seasons) to evolve with the wide-open, perimeter-oriented evolution of the game. Put differently, he’s already adopted the Magic Johnson career evolution over the Karl Malone one, so he might as well take it full tilt and become a point guard now that he has a go-to scorer in Anthony Davis whom he can rely upon. Assuming good health, it wouldn’t be surprising to see James flirt with double-digit assists per game this season.
STEPHEN CURRY, WARRIORS, 11th season (turning 32 this season)
Twilight should mirror: Steve Nash, seasons 12 thru 16, 33-37 years old. Key five-year averages: 33.9 minutes, 15.4 points, 10.8 assists per game, 51-43-92 shooting splits.
Curry always will be a better scorer than Nash ever was, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try to mimic the latter stages of Nash’s career as he ages out of his physical prime. When Curry can no longer shake the NBA’s best defenders out of their shoes, he’ll need to focus more on his playmaking (only 5.2 assists per game last season) to remain an elite offensive weapon into his mid-30s. Nash, a player development consultant for the Warriors, was still playing at an All-Star level until his final season in Phoenix by keeping defenses on edge with his brilliant orchestration of pick-and-rolls and willingness to pass up good shots for great shots. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Curry do the same.
KEVIN DURANT, NETS, his next season will be his 13th (turning 31 this season)
Twilight should mirror: Dirk Nowitzki, seasons 11 thru 14, 30-33 years old. Key four-year averages: 24.1 points, 7.5 rebounds per game 48-38-90 shooting splits.
Given what we know about the effect Achilles injuries have on a basketball player’s athleticism, Durant is going to be a different kind of player when we next see him on the court. He’ll still have his amazing bucket-getting skills, but he probably won’t have the same kind of quickness and leaping ability, making this comparison even more apt. Like Dirk, KD has the height (7 feet) and length to get a shot off anywhere on the court. Thus, even if Durant can’t get to the rim like he has his entire career (7.7 free throw attempts per game for his career), he should be able to score 25 per game until he’s 40 if he masters some of the fadeaways, pump fakes and moves Dirk had. Good news Nets fans: He’s already pretty damn good at the one-legged fadeaway.
JAMES HARDEN, ROCKETS, 11th season (30 years old)
Twilight should mirror: A super version of Manu Ginobili, seasons 7 thru 9, 31-33 years old. Key three-year per-36 minute averages: 20.7 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 2.6 turnovers per-36.
I used per-36 averages because Ginobili played only 28.9 minutes per game during this stretch, and Harden will almost certainly be playing more minutes late into his career. When Harden loses his insanely quick first step and elite ability to change speed and direction, he can still be one of the best offensive players in the league by constantly attacking defenses the way Ginobili did his entire career for the Spurs. Ginobili’s ability to play an ultra-aggressive playing style while not turning the ball over was especially impressive. As Harden’s athleticism wanes, his insane usage rate will likely drop and he’ll need to give the ball to the other team less (5.0 turnovers per game the past three seasons). With Russell Westbrook, another record-setting player in terms of usage rate, set to join Harden this season, perhaps we’ll start to see him take care of the ball a little better -– if he doesn’t, the Rockets might be in trouble.
Michael Jordan issued a statement Thursday morning to congratulate LeBron James for passing him on the NBA all-time scoring list Wednesday night.
“I want to congratulate LeBron on achieving another great milestone during his amazing career,” Jordan’s statement read, via CNN’s Jill Martin.
James surpassed Jordan’s 32,292 career points during the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 115-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets, and by doing so became the fourth-most prolific scorer in NBA history.
James once admitted he’s chasing the “ghost” of Michael Jordan, and his pursuit of said so-called apparition will continue after Wednesday night’s accomplishment. After all, James has a long, long way to go to catch MJ in NBA titles, not to mention how the superstar has aspirations of one day emulating Jordan by becoming an NBA owner.
For one night, though, James allowed himself some time to reflect on such a remarkable achievement, one of the many countless accomplishments that ranks him among the greatest basketball players to ever take the court.
And then along came LeBron James, a challenger to the throne unlike any before him. The comparison between James and Jordan, once premature, is now fair to make. This is James’ 15th NBA season, matching Jordan’s total, and he has already played 71 more regular-season games and an incredible 49 more playoff games. With James still established as the league’s best player at age 33 and adding playoff game winners to his résumé seemingly by the week, the question is worth asking: Jordan or LeBron?
Championships added: James closing fast
Two years ago, when ESPN was ranking the best players in NBA history (result: Jordan first, with James third behind Abdul-Jabbar), I developed a metric that could evaluate the league’s greatest stars throughout the decades on a level playing field. The result was championships added, which uses Basketball-Reference.com’s win shares to estimate how much a player added to his team’s chances of walking away with the title that season based on regular-season and playoff performance.
The Miami Marlins, who are currently hosting MLB’s All-Star Game festivities, are up for sale. We know that much. We also know that the league hopes to have a resolution on the sale sooner than later. But after that? Woo wee are things getting messy.
Forbes reported Monday that Miami businessman Jorge Mas was closing in on a deal to purchase the Marlins for $1.17 billion. The Marlins and Mas have since denied such an arrangement is in place, per the Miami Herald:
“There’s no agreement reached with anyone,” Marlins president David Samsonsaid.
The Mas group indicated they have no agreement to buy the team. Mas remains very interested and has spoken to owner Jeffrey Loriabut is still doing due diligence
Fair enough. Except another report (this one from the New York Post) later surfaced indicating that Derek Jeter’s team was nearing a deal to purchase the Marlins for around $1.2 billion. Oh, and by the way, Jeter’s group now apparently includes NBAlegend Michael Jordan (albeit in a small role). Jordan is reported to be one of 15 investors and, according to the Post, he is said to be “kicking in very little cash.”
As has been the case with the Jeter bid throughout, things remain very “fluid” to say the least:
While the situation was extremely fluid, Jeter’s group, which includes deep-pocketed Naples, Fla., money manager Bruce Sherman, is now seen as the leading contender to buy the money-losing franchise from New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria, sources close to the talks said.
Like we said, messy stuff.
If you read between the lines, though, it appears the Marlins will have their new owners sooner than later
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James passed Michael Jordan for first place on the all-time playoffs scoring list with a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:40 left in the third quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday.
The shot gave him 29 points for the game and 5,989 points for his postseason career to edge him past Jordan’s mark of 5,987. He ran back down the court with his index finger up in the air, signaling his place in history.
James finished with 35 points in the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win over the Boston Celtics, clinching the third straight conference title for the Cavs and James’ seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals.
“I wear the number because of Mike,” James said of the No. 23 on his uniform. “I think I fell in love with the game because of Mike, just because of what he was able to accomplish. When you’re watching Michael Jordan it’s almost like a god. So I didn’t think I could be Mike.”
Jordan’s record stood for 20 years, as he scored his last playoff points in the Chicago Bulls’ Game 6 win over the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals.
Following the accomplishment, Kyrie Irving could be seen yelling in James’ ear as he sat on the bench with a towel draped over his head. James told ESPN it was Irving urging him to celebrate and enjoy the record, using colorful language of course, after the four-time MVP was initially acting modest around his teammates.
By the time the game was over, James was ready to relish the moment, even slipping into a pair of retro Air Jordan 1 sneakers, appropriately enough, to complete his postgame attire. James claimed the footwear choice was unplanned, but he did take delight in JR Smith’s wearing a pair of Supreme Nike Air More Uptempo sneakers.
Two days after a black Charlotte police officer shot and killed 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, Charlotte Hornets owner and basketball legend Michael Jordan issued a statement urging “peaceful demonstration and conversation” following nights marked by violence and unrest in which hundreds have taken to the streets to protest thegrowing number of fatal shootings of black men across the United States by members of law enforcement.
Here’s Jordan’s statement, as released by the Hornets:
“First, I want to express my condolences to the Scott family for their loss. I also wish for a full recovery to those who have been injured.
“In light of the tragic events of the past three days, it is more important than ever that we restore calm and come together, as a community, in peaceful demonstration and conversation, and in constructive and non-violent ways. As part of the fabric of Charlotte, the Hornets organization is committed to working with civic leaders, our elected leaders and law enforcement to foster more trust, transparency and understanding so we can heal and grow together as a community.”
The statement comes nearly two months after Jordan wrote an essay responding to nationwide unrest stemming from multiple instances in which police shot and killedblack men and officers were shot and killed.
“We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers — who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all — are respected and supported,” wrote Jordan, who also contributed $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to help “build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement.”
Fellow NBA legend and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson also offered his thoughts via Twitter.