Brian Hoffman Collumn – June 8th, 2017

110

 A LOT OF PLAYERS ARE GREAT

Why do we always have to worry about who is the “best of all time?” Can’t several people just be great and leave it at that.

This has come up again recently as LeBron James advances his NBA basketball career. He’s starting to approach, and break, some life time records and his accomplishments are in the neighborhood of Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, etc, etc.

Recently LeBron broke Jordan’s all-time record for playoff points, which certainly is an accomplishment. Of course, Jordan fans will point out that it took James more games to reach the mark, and that’s a good point.

With the finals going on right now, with the Warriors up 2-0 as I write this, a lot is being made of LeBron going for a fourth championship. Of course we know Jordan has six, and he never did lose in the finals. So, you might give that edge to Jordan because he never lost in the finals.

Then again, if you’re arguing for Lebron, this is his seventh straight finals and eighth overall. His teams won the NBA Eastern Conference title two more times than Jordan’s did, and LeBron still has plenty of gas left in the tank.

What does all this prove? Is LeBron the all-time great? Is Jordan the all-time great? How about just leaving it at, “they’re both great.”

It’s tough to compare players who did not play against each other since they played in different eras. You could say Jordan’s accomplishments mean more because the game was more physical when he played. Then again, LeBron is a much more physical player than Jordan ever was, so why hold that against him?

They don’t do this as much in other sports. In baseball you could say Babe Ruth was the greatest player ever, but how can you justify that in an era of segregated leagues? Josh Gibson might have been the best baseball player ever. If you watch the baseball documentary Ken Burns did there are plenty of old timers who will tell you that.

But it doesn’t matter, because in baseball you have lots of great players and no one is deemed “the greatest.” Personally I would say Willie Mays, but that’s just one man’s opinion.

I think people tend to lean toward players from their formative time. I was amazed by Mays when I was growing up. Likewise, if you pin me down I’d say Jim Brown was the best football player I ever saw, and no one ever dominated basketball like Wilt Chamberlain. They made rules to change the game just for him. They widened the lane and put in “offensive goaltending” directly as a result of no one being able to stop Wilt around the basketball.

One thing that drives me nuts is determining who is the greatest by the number of rings they own. Many times a great player can’t determine what he has around him. Not unless you’re a bandwagon jumper like Kevin Durant, and I don’t count anything he might win with the Warriors as being as worthwhile as Jordan’s titles or LeBron’s championship in Cleveland.

You always hear Bill Russell’s name come up among the greatest players. No doubt, he was a good player, but he always had a strong cast around him. I’m 64 years old and I saw Bill Russell play a lot growing up, even live. He was a terrible foul shooter who couldn’t hit a jump shot if he was in the gym alone. He was a terrific rebounder for his size and a great shot blocker and leader, but far from the greatest ever if you look at his all-around game.

I was talking about this with a friend the other day and I came up with a bunch of centers alone who I consider better than Russell. I’d take Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, Akeem, David Robinson, Moses Malone and several others as far better centers than Russell. They weren’t all on better team, but they were better players. Put 6’9” Russell at center today with the same skills and he wouldn’t even make the all-star team. Do you think he could stop Anthony Davis?

My grandsons match players of different eras on their NBA computer game. It’s interesting to watch, and the graphics are undeniably realistic, but it still doesn’t settle who is “the greatest.”

I can remember years ago someone did a simulated tournament with computers as to who was the best heavyweight boxer of all-time. They took the best 16 or so and had a single elimination bracket until only one was left. I don’t even remember who won, but it was interesting to see matchups between, for example, Jack Dempsey and George Foreman.

Of course, everyone has an opinion on that and I grew up with Muhammad Ali, so in my mind he’s the best. In fact, he might be the only one who actually called himself “the greatest” and didn’t get much of an argument.



O’KEEFE COMPETES IN NCAA TENNIS

 

Salem’s Harrison O’Keefe had another great year playing tennis for the University of South Carolina.

The redshirt junior was named 1st Team All SEC, named MVP again, was a two-time SEC player of the Week and Gamecock Athlete of the Week once. Harrison also competed in the NCAA singles and doubles competition as well as playing for the Gamecocks team in the NCAA tournament. Only 15 men playing Division 1 tennis qualified for all three and he’s only the fourth Gamecock to ever achieve that feat.

In the NCAA final rankings USC was 21st in the nation. Harrison and his doubles partner, Yancey Dennis, are 16th ranked nationally and Harrison is 70th ranked in singles. He also finished with the most doubles wins and total wins on the team again.



RC RANKED 3RD IN FINAL BASEBALL POLL

 

The Roanoke College baseball team almost didn’t make the conference tournament, but he who plays last has surely played best.

NCAA Division III champion Cal Lutheran is the top ranked team at season’s end, followed by tournament runnerup Washington & Jefferson. Roanoke College finished third in the NCAA final rankings.

Cal Lutheran, who received all 25 first place votes in the final poll, was ranked 15th before the tournament while Washington & Jefferson was 16th. The Maroons weren’t even ranked before they made their historic run to the final four.

LaGrange, the top-ranked team heading into the tournament, finished ninth in the final poll. Shenandoah of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference was 11th.

The Maroons played five teams ranked in the top 14 in the final poll. They beat sixth ranked Oswego State, seventh ranked Concordia-Chicago and 14th ranked Salisbury. RC lost to second ranked Washington & Jefferson, twice, and 11th ranked Shenandoah three times, twice in the regular season and once to open the ODAC tournament.