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The Rise of “The Greek Freak”

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The Milwaukee Bucks have had some amazing talented players in the team’s history; from Kareem Abdul Jabar to Oscar Robertson, Glen Robinson to Ray Allen. After Ray Allen left the team after the 2003 season, the team was left “Starless” and had no real identity for years and years. In the 10 seasons post Ray All the Bucks made the playoffs 4 times but failed to make it out of the first round in each of those campaigns.

Back in 2013 The Milwaukee Bucks took a chance on this mystery talent from Greece. The only information anyone had on him was that he was 6 foot 9 with a 7 foot 2 wingspan at 19 years old and that he played in the A2 League in Greece; which is regarded as a second division professional league.

From humble beginnings, a father struggling to find steady work, his mother with a bed ridden illness. Him and his three brothers worked as street vendors selling whatever they could just to eat and help their parents pay bills.

“We would be out on the street together, selling a toy, a watch, something, and we raise $10,” Thanasis (his older brother) says. “And that is good, because we didn’t starve today. We’re going to go home. We’re going to have something to eat. And it is a good day.” (From Adrian Wojnarowski 2014 article, The Vertical, Yahoo Sports).

To playing division 2 basketball in a “Professional” Greek league. He became an internet sensation with his flashy dunks, ridiculous length and crazy handles.

With the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft the Bucks selected Giannis Antetokounpo.

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No one really knew what to expect from the youngster.

During his rookie year Giannis averaged 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks per game in 77 contests whilst playing slightly over 24 minutes a game. So he showed some promise. That promise and those numbers were good enough to earn him All rookie second team honours. He started to raise some eyebrows as it was his first season and he had respectable numbers for someone no one thought would even take the floor that season. Though numbers weren’t as impressive as his fellow rookies , Giannis did show flashes of his potential future. With coast to coast dunks, drives down the lane leading to posterising dunks, as well as fluid finishes at the rim, also some sneaky help defence blocks.

His highlight of the season being making the 2014 rising stars game. he contributed 9 points for team Hill in limited game time.

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Experts began to hype him as they believed he would still grow at 19 years old (he did, to 6’11) and how his length and athleticism could potentially make him a lethal weapon in years to come

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During his second season Antetokounpo started all but 10 games, averaged 12.7 ppg, 6.7 reb, 2.6 ass, 0.9 steals and 1 block per game. The Bucks that season had a record of 41 wins and 41 losses and were good enough for 6th in the Eastern Conference playoffs (such a sad season for the East). He experience his first taste of playoff basketball and didn’t shed away from the spot light. Giannis had very similar regular season numbers against the elite (at the time) Chicago Bulls. The Bucks fell in 6 games; But Giannis did score 25 points, grab 12 rebounds and get 2 blocks in a close game 3 loss. That one performance was just a taste of what was to come for the rebuilding Bucks and the Greek Freak.

 

The next season the Bucks committed to a full rebuild. With the Bucks ridding of longtime veterans Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Illyasova, the starting lineup consisted of players totalling just over 10 years experience of NBA basketball.

Giannis averaged 17 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks. He also grew to 6 foot 11 as the experts predicted he would. This season was his second season playing with the Bucks’ other young prospect Jabari Parker. Parker averaged 14.1 points and 5 rebounds; he was the Bucks; starting power forward with a crazy vertical. Together they were the future of the Bucks.

Although the Bucks did not make the playoffs that year Giannis still got another season of growth under his belt and became the face of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The stories told about Giannis shows what kind of person he really is. In his 3 bedroom apartment overlooking Lake Michigan Giannis bought himself a new Playstation 4 (retailing at $400) which was easily in his price range and affordable from his $1.7 million rookie salary. Whilst playing he thought of his humble beginnings, how he was struggling to transfer the rest of his family from Greece to their potentially new home Milwaukee, how his brother Thanasis was playing in the development league in Delaware and was getting paid peanuts compared to himself. Giannis sold it to coaching staff member Nick Van Excel for its retail value. The thought of not having his family around him was more of a thought on his mind compared to the luxuries he could afford.

Stories of second hand furniture being handed down from his veteran team mates after they renovate their places. Saving every penny to support his whole family remembering what they had all been through before Giannis became an NBA star.

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The 2016-17 season was a breakout year for the Greek Freak. Leading his team in every statistical category he averaged 23 points per game, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and just shy of 2 blocks per game.

As the undisputed leader of this team Giannis also earned his first all star nod (as a starter). Giannis scored 30 points as well as grabbing 6 boards in the game. For those who watched the game it was clear he did not take plays off like the rest of the stars usually do. You could see superstars Steph Curry messing around and having a laugh with the opposition as well as many others. The only 2 players to take the game seriously as if it was a regular season game were Russell Westbrook (surprise surprise) and Giannis Antetokounpo. Giannis dove for every loose ball, chase down blocks and even handed out a couple of hard fouls. It was evident some of the veteran All stars were unhappy with his seriousness, but the crowd and the commentators loved it; it is more entertaining to see rivalry and competition and smiling with the opposition.

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The Bucks made the Eastern Conference Playoffs yet again that season. Giannis carried his team in 6 hard fought games against the Toronto Raptors. The Bucks fell with experience not being on their side. The Greek Freak averaged 25 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.7 blocks.

The Bucks look more and more dangerous each year and the young pieces start to mesh as a team they will be championship contenders come the time Giannis hits his prime.

At the end of the year Antetokounpo took home several season awards including Most Improved player, All NBA second team and All Defensive Second team.

For certain The Greek Freak will be awarded many more titles in his bright future. With his game constantly improving each year. One legend he looks up to in particular being Kobe Bryant. During Kobe’s farewell tour he spoke to Giannis after their final game together. Antetokounpo explained how Kobe gave him the most valuable advice; work in the gym for hours and hours in the off season and pre season, take and make thousands of shots (His 3 point game being one of his only weaknesses) and emphasised how important that the “time off” was the most important time to work on your game.

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At the end of the 2017 season Kobe has been handing out personal challenges to some of his favourite athletes such as Isiah Thomas to make All NBA First team after being traded from the Boston Celtics to The Cleveland Cavaliers and for Demar DeRozan to rekindle a lost friendship in his hometown of Compton.

Giannis wanted his own personal challenge for the coming season, and did Kobe deliver the ultimate challenge

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I look forward to the season to come and watch one of my favourite athletes aim to completed his anointed task.

 

 

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Ranking The 30 Starting lineups heading into the 2017/2018 NBA Season

With the 2017/18 NBA season just around the corner (Oct 17th), to add some excitement to the tedious pre-season i’ve decided to rank the 30 starting lineups heading into the new season (note:maybe subject to change as this list is made on 31/8/2017).

30. Sacramento Kings

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Starting lineup:

  • George Hill
  • Buddy Hield
  • Justin Jackson
  • Zach Randolph
  • Willie Cauley-Stein

The Sacramento Kings don’t have much going for them. They lost a budding superstar in a lopsided trade, the front office made some questionable signings this off season and they haven’t had a winning season in 12 years!!.

Whilst the team is “rebuilding” they signed some pretty questionable veterans to hefty salaries instead of cheaper veterans to guide the youngsters in the right direction.

D’aaron Fox won’t get the keys to the car straight away, but if the earns his stripes could eventually start alongside George Hill or even relegate him to the bench. Buddy Hield is the owner’s favourite player (By making it the known fact he wanted to draft Buddy last season). Justin Jackson is a rookie….. But who else they got!?! also they’ve got nothing to lose. Zach Randolph is a seasoned veteran and will still make an impact from a starting role whilst leading and guiding the youngsters. Willie Cauley-Stein has proved the is a starting centre in this league.

I still see them being a high lottery team.

29.Brooklyn Nets

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Starting Lineup:

  • Deangelo Russell
  • Allen Crabbe/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
  • Demarre Carroll
  • Trevor Booker
  • Timofey Mozgov

I just see this lineup and shake my head……..

This team will “compete” for the first or second draft pick and they don’t even own it.

Deangelo will be the leader of this team. It would’nt be out of the question to see him average 25+ points (because lets face it…. who’ll score on this team?). Allen Crabbe and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will compete for the starting 2 guard which could go to either one of them. Demarre Carroll has no competition for the starting 3; with his solid defensive ability and decent 3 point stroke we should see his numbers go up to maybe something similar to his Atlanta Hawks days. Trevor Booker because who else? And finally Timofey Mozgov will provide consistency and a solid body in the paint.

28. Orlando Magic

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Starting lineup:

  • Elfrid Payton
  • Terence Ross
  • Evan Fournier/ Jonathan Simmons
  • Arron Gordon
  • Nicola Vucevic/ Bismack Biyombo

The Orlando Magic on paper have some exciting prospects. They just haven’t been able to put it all together so far. With a 29-53 record last season. This coming season doesn’t look any better.

Elfrid Payton is unfortunately poised to start on opening night. While his numbers are consistent with no signs of improvement and his 3 point shot declining (32% to 27% this previous season) he is not right for the modern NBA as a starting point guard. Don’t be surprised if his inconsistencies cost him his starting sport and DJ Augustin takes over.

Terence Ross has averaged 10 more minutes of gameplay since leaving the Raptors and also averaged a whole 2 points more. He’s not the starter Orlando needs, but the one it deserves.

Evan Fournier and Jonathan Simmons will battle it out for the 3 spot. Evan is a great scorer and consistent for the Magic. But why pay Simmons the big bucks to start on the bench am i right?

Aaron Gordon is the looking to be the most promising player on this team. With Blake Griffin-like athleticism but slightly better defence; he has no competition.

Depending on how the Magic want tot play will determine whether Nikola or Bismack start. Do they wanna play more slowed down half court? Or small ball run the ball as fast as possible. Only time will tell.

27. Chicago Bulls

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Starting Lineup:

  • Cameron Payne/ Kris Dunn
  • Dwayne Wade
  • Nikola Mirotic
  • Bobby Portis
  • Robin Lopez

With the losses of superstar Jimmy Butler and starting point guard Rajon Rondo the Chigcago bulls look like a woeful bunch.

Both Cameron Payne and Kris Dunn have no business being starting point guards in the league right now but there’s no one else that could do the job. Nikola has earned his striped and gives the team a great offensive threat. Robin Lopez is Mr Consistent and will get the job done as he always does. You gotta feel for Dwayne Wade, reports being the youngters can’t stand him. he’s almost in a Carmelo Anthony-like situation. Don’t expect him to still be there come All Star Break

 

26. Indiana Pacers

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Starting lineup:

  • Darren Collison
  • Victor Oladipo
  • Glen Robinson III/ Lance Stephenson
  • Thadeus Young
  • Myles Turner

The Pacers are in rebuilding mode, with some fresh new pieces added and a disgruntled superstar traded away they are heading in the right direction. That’s not to say they’ll be very successful this year.

Darren Collison is a worthy starter, very consistnent and will get teh job done.  Former indiana alumni Victor Oladipo (the newly aqcuired piece) will take on a load of the scoring as well as solid defense. Glen Robinson and Lance Stepenson will battle it out for the starting 3 spot depending on which direnction coach Mcmilan has envisioned. Thatdeus Young is the old veteran now and will be tasked with scoring as well as guiding this young team.

Myles Turner is the future of the Pacers. With a decent jumpshot and interior defense he’s Indiana’s only hope for the future.

 

25. Dallas Mavericks

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Starting lineup:

  • Seth Curry
  • Yogi Ferrel
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Nerlens Noel

The Mavs are beginning to say their goodbyes to the best player in their history; Mr Dirk Nowitzki. Not only did he opt out of his current deal, he resigned with Dallas for cheaper. Not many superstars would give their team a hometown discount without knowing guaranteed that other stars were planning to sign with them.

The young Mavericks drafted Dennis Smith Jr this off season, he will be a piece for the future and if he earns his stripes may see decent game time this coming season. Coach Carlisle doesn’t have much to work with. Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrel with do their best dual point guard tandem. Harrison Barnes will be the best player on this team with 20+ ppg whilst defending the other team’s best player. Dirk will still steadily declining whilst hopefully still giving us some momentous Dirk moments. Nerlens Noel signed for one year hoping this seasons’ tryout will get him something close to a max deal next summer; his defensive ability as well as underrated passing ability are to be respected.

 

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

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Starting Lineup:

  • Lonzo Ball
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Poope
  • Brandon Ingram
  • Julius Randle
  • Brook Lopez

I truly hope i’m wrong about this ranking. I believe the Lakers are one of those teams that can surprise the heck out of the league.

Lonzo Ball is the new face of the franchise and will receive the keys to the car from day 1; he has the ability to make his team mates around him play better. KCP is a good addition to the team, adding scoring (a good 3 point stroke) and decent defence. Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle will only continue to get better and Brook Lopez is a decent center that adds another 3 point threat shot to the starting lineup. This team could easily scrape into the 8th spot in the western conference playoffs depending on how their season goes.

 

23. Phoenix Suns

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Starting Lineup:

  • Eric Bledsoe
  • Devin Booker
  • TJ Warren
  • Marquese Chriss
  • Tyson Chandler

The Phoenix Suns are halfway through a rebuild; and depending on the next few season will determine whether succesful or not. The back court is set. With Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker starting; there is no competition. TJ Warren is looking to rise from a decent 3rd season performance and will be looking to impress teams or even his own team to pay him big bucks soon. Marquese Chriss looks to build upon his second year in the league and seems to be a sure thing for the starting 4. Tyson Chandler is a no brainer for the centre position, his interior toughness and veteran leadership are crucial to this team. Even if his numbers slowly start to decline; that’s not what he’s there for.

 

22. Philadelphia 76’ers

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Starting Lineup:

  • Markelle Fultz
  • JJ Redick
  • Dario Saric
  • Ben Simmons
  • Joel Embiid

Another exciting young team on the rise. I “trust the process”.

With nothing to lose and all to gain Markelle Fultz will be the starting point guard on opening night, but will have to double down on ball distribution duties with Ben Simmons who looks to play a point-forward type of role (see Lamar Odom). JJ Reddick was a good addition this off-season, the savvy veteran will add a good 3 point stroke as well as veteran leadership on and off the floor. Dario Saric will look to improve in his second season in the league as he impressed doubters during his debut. Joel Embiid I’m sure will be excited to see more minutes on the floor as his limit last year frustrated him and the fan. Won’t be shock to see him in the all-star game this year.

Any record better than the last 5 years will be considered a success for the front office.

 

21. New York Knicks

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Starting Lineup:

  • Ramon Sessions
  • Tim Hardaway Jr
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Kristaps Porzingis
  • Joakim Noah

The Knicks starting lineup on paper seems decent. But with the decline of overpaid veterans like Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah this team is going nowhere real fast. Ramon Sessions will win the starter position over newly drafted Frank Ntilikina whilst he acclimates himself to the American game (former pro in France). Tim Hardaway just signed a big deal for no reason with the Knicks (hopefully his numbers go up). Kristaps Porzingis the 7ft Latvian unicorn is the only ray of hope for the team this season. Look for his numbers and usage rate to go up and possibly contend for a spot on the weak Eastern all-star team.

20. Atlanta Hawks

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Starting Lineup:

  • Dennis Schroder
  • Kent Bazemore
  • Taurean Prince
  • Ersan Illyasova
  • Dewayne Dedmon

This team shipped out its starting frontcourt to add youngsters and roster flexibility to the mix. The Hawks began a rebuild this off-season and their overall season grade will be determined at the season’s end. Dennis Schroder is the leader and face of this team now. See his numbers and usage rate go up this season. Kent Bazemore brings consistency and decent defense to the table. Taurean prince looks to make a good second season impression just like he left in his first. Illyasova adds rebounding and a decent 3 point shot. New acquired Dewayne Dedmon is another diamond in the rough discovered by coach Popvich who will come in handy for the hawks this season

 

19. New Orleans Pelicans

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Starting Lineup:

  • Jrue Holiday
  • Rajon Rondo
  • Darius Miller
  • Anthony Davis
  • Demarcus Cousins

The above picture basically is the starting lineup for the Pels.

Newly acquired Rajon Rondo can still ball, he’ll provide pass-first point guard skills so that Jrue Holiday can play off the ball and focus on scoring. With Solomon Hill likely to see some time on the sidelines Darius Miller looks to be the only logical answer at starting small forward. You already know the frontcourt is set in stone. Depending on how this second season experiment pans out look for “The Brow” and “Boogie” to do some damage this year.

 

18.Utah Jazz

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Starting Lineup:

  • Ricky Rubio
  • Rodney Hood
  • Joe Ingles/ Joe Johnson
  • Derrick Favours
  • Rudy Gobert

The Jazz took a hit this off-season. George Hill left town, Gordon Hayward saw how weak the East was and didn’t look back. So now their entire starting lineup will be reshuffled. Ricky Rubio was traded to the Jazz and will continue to put up similar numbers to his past Timberwolves days. Rodney Hood will fill the 2 guard and look to add more scoring punch to the team. Joe Johnson or Joe Ingles will start at the 3, they might see the floor together at some points to add diversity mixed with scoring and defence. The traditional front court stays intact, the two bigs will be looked up to (literally) to lead the pack and take over games. Rudy Gobert will continue to improve, look to crack the all-star team and probably contend again for defensive player of the year.

 

17. Memphis Grizzlies

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Starting lineup:

  • Mike Conley
  • Tony Allen
  • Chandler Parsons
  • Jamychal Green
  • Marc Gasol

Memphis and the grindhouse took a hit this season as the let Zach Randolph go (he wasn’t starting anyway) so their grit and grind is a bit less this year.

Mike Conley has a done a great job so far leading this team, so has Marc Gasol by adding a 3 point stroke and carrying the scoring load. Hopefully this season Chandler Parsons can contribute more and be more like the Parsons of the Houston Rockets/Dallas mavericks days. Jamychal Green is a young up and comer with the potential to improve. Don’t sleep on this team, the grit and grind of play is still alive in the city of Memphis and don’t be surprised if they sneak into a lower seed in the Western Conference playoffs

 

16. Detroit Pistons

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Starting lineup:

  • Reggie Jackson
  • Avery Bradley
  • Stanley Johnson
  • Tobias Harris
  • Andre Drummond

The Pistons improved this summer. Adding Avery Bradley to the mix adds playoff experience, defense and scoring to this young Detroit team. Reggie Jackson should distribute the ball more to get the most out of this lineup. Stanely Johnson has been patiently waiting to be called up to the plate. After going toe to toe with Lebron in his first year, he flunked second year. But with Marcus Morris leaving town Johnson can now fill the void left at starting small forward. Tobias Harris will continue to add scoring and long-range shooting to the front court. Andre Drummond hopefully has been working on his free throws this summer (come on man, you getting 23 million a year and you can’t hit free throws!). This team could easily steal a lower spot in the weakened Eastern Conference playoffs.

 

15. Los Angeles Clippers

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Starting lineup:

  • Patrick Beverly
  • Austin Rivers
  • Danilo Gallinari
  • Blake Griffin
  • Deandre Jordan

The Los Angeles Clippers took a big fat L this summer, losing Chris Paul (the best point guard in the team’s history) for a few decent assets in return. The bench has been solidified (but this list is about starters). Patrick Beverly and Austin Rivers will most likely run a two point guard tandem from the get-go. Beverly adds defensive toughness and a 3 point stroke whilst Rivers can score the rock.

Danilo Galliniari joins the team as the starting small forward, he adds size and a great shooting touch. Blake Griffin will play a point forward role this year, don’t be surprised if he leads the team in assists either. As an underrated passer Griffin will feed his team mates whilst still scoring at a respectable rate. DeAndre Jordan contributes with defensive toughness and a decent touch around the rim. Watch his knees shake with fear at the free throw line though.

This team has taken a major blow, they still have the opportunity to scrape into the lower Western Playoff seeds with a decent bench and consistent play from their starters.

 

14. Charlotte Hornets

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Starting Lineup:

  • Kemba Walker
  • Nicolas Batum
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  • Marvin Williams
  • Dwight Howard

The addition of Dwight Howard only improves this team. A team with great defensive ability added another piece to bring interior defence. Kemba Walker made his all-star debut last season, look for his assist numbers to go up by feeding the big fella in the paint. Nic Batum adds great defence and length whilst averaging 15ppg. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been working on his shot during the off-season, look for his scoring to go up whilst contributing to the defence. Marvin Williams is more of a stretch 4 which complements the lane clogging Dwight Howard perfectly. As long as Dwight accepts his role on the team (interior anchor and finisher around the rim) and continues to defend and rebound this team has the potential to make some noise in the East.

 

13. Miami Heat

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Starting Lineup:

  • Goran Dragic
  • Dion Waiters
  • Justise Winslow
  • James Johnson
  • Hassan Whiteside

Goran “The Dragon” Dragic looks to lead the Heat into the playoffs this year with this young team full of potential; his scoring, passing and leader ship skills are second to none. Dion Waiters just re-upped with the Heat and looks to improve upon his great season rebirth last year. Justise Winslow is coming into his own and looks to be the starting small forward of the future. Depending which direction coach Spoelsta wants to go will determine the starting front court partner of Hassan Whiteside. Newly acquired Kelly Olynyk adds height and range to the lineup. Another direction could be small ball with gritty defense in James Johnson. Hassan Whiteside will look to crack the weak Eastern All star team this year and earn All defensive team honours as well.

 

12. Portland Trailblazers

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Starting Lineup:

  • Damian Lillard
  • Cj McCollum
  • Al Farouq Aminu
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Jusuf Nurkic

One of the best back courts in the NBA aimed at recruiting Carmelo Anthony this off season to join them in the hopes he would join them as they try to take down the Golden State Warriors (to no avail). Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are always gonna be a dangerous combination for any opposition. Al Farouq Aminu takes the starting 3 sport as Allen Crabbe has departed. Maurice (Moe) Harkless will start as a stretch 4 that will give Jusuf Nurkic more room to maneuver in the paint and do his thing. Nearly every statistical category improved for Nurkic when he joined the Blazers late last season. Look for that kind of play to carry on in his first full season with the team.

If this team meshes well and get the pieces going together they could make some noise in the West.

 

11. Denver Nuggets

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Starting Lineup:

  • Emmanuel Mudiay
  • Garry Harris
  • Wilson Chandler
  • Paul Millsap
  • Nikola Jokic

The Nuggets are ready to make some post season noise this year. The new young recruits are coming into their own and they just acquired the perfect complimentary veteran that won’t take away from these youngsters but add to the arsenal. Emmanuel Mudiay isn’t a bust but he kinda seems like one. His numbers havent really impressed anyone since he’s entered the league. If his numbers and game don’t improve he could lose his starter job to a consistent veteran like Jameer Nelson.

Gary Harris is starting to come into his own, each year his numbers continue to rise. Look for this year to be a breakout year. Wilson Chandler will receive more game time since Danillo Gallinari left town. He adds tough defense, athleticism as well as range to the starting lineup.

Newly acquired Paul Millsap will only make the team better. he’s a jack of all trades kind of forward that can even handle the ball. If a consistent ball handler cannot be figured out this season look to Millsap to take up a point forward role. “The Joker” Nikola Jokic must be jumping for joy to see a big man join the team that will finish at the rim, shoot the outside and even set Jokic up for easy buckets this season. Look for his impressive play to continue to improve and Jokic contend for an all-star spot in the West.

 

 

10. Washington Wizards

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Starting Lineup:

  • John Wall
  • Bradley Beal
  • Otto Porter
  • Markieff Morris
  • Marcin Gortat

Another contender for top back courts in basketball. John Wall and Bradley Beal have publically expressed the details of their relationship (lets just say it doesn’t go as far as the court). but their stellar on court play is all that matters. Both guards will most likely contend for all-star spots this season and look for a deeper playoff push than they ever have had. Otto Porter signed for max money this summer, lets see if he lives up to the contract and makes this his breakout year. Markieff Morris is a great piece to pair with Marcin Gortat in the front court as he can stretch the floor and make shots at a respectable rate. “The Polish Hammer” plays consistent basketball on both ends of the floor. The Wizards can contend  anywhere from 4th to 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.

 

9. Milwaukee Bucks

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Starting Lineup:

  • Malcom Brogdon
  • Khris Middleton
  • Giannis Antetokounpo
  • Jabari Parker
  • Thon Maker

These “Young Bucks” are coming into their own.

Their starting point guard is last season’s Rookie of the Year. Malcom Brogdon is the perfect point for this team; with his unselfish play (pass first mentality) and ability to get down and dirty with the hustle. Khris Middleton is on the comeback this year. After missing the majority of last season Khris looks to prove a point (that he can ball with the best of them), look for his numbers to go up (especially 3pt attempts and makes) and an all star campaign.

The “Greek Freak” is tearing up at the minute. The leagues “Most improved player” looks to take his young team to the promised land, one of the most tantalising talents since King James Giannis can do it all. He even asked the Black Mamba Kobe Bryant for a personal challenge for this season. Mamba Replied on twitter with “MVP”, that’s not out of the question for this special young man.

Jabari Parker is also on the rebound from an injury. If he can pick up where he left off last season he adds another lethal weapon on this Bucks team.

Second year center Thon Maker will start, after impressing coach Kidd all season Maker adds a 3 point shot, athleticism and solid interior defence to the Bucks.

Look for this team to contend for a top 3 spot in the Eastern Conference and a deep playoff push.

 

8. Toronto Raptors

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Starting Lineup:

  • Kyle Lowry
  • Demar Derozan
  • CJ Miles
  • Serge Ibaka
  • Jonas Valunciunas

I was on the fence between the Bucks and the Raptors for their rankings. The only thing that the Raptors have over the Bucks is overall experience.

Kyle Lowry came back late in the season from injury and picked up where he left off, sharing the offensive load of the team whilst distributing the ball.

Demar Derozan lived up to his max contract; averaging 27ppg and 5 rebounds (whilst barely attempting a 3). Look for Derozan to add a 3 point shot to his repertoire and lead his team deep into the Eastern Conference finals.

Newly acquired CJ Miles completes the guard of this team with top notch defensive play as well as a 3 point shot (Just don’t ask him to make the last shot of the game in the playoffs lol).

Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valunciunas are the perfect combination of offence and defence in the post. With Ibaka able to guard an opposing team’s best big whilst making long range shots and good help defense; Jonas can focus on his soft touch and making easy buckets around the rim.

This team didn’t really improve this off season, neither did they regress.

7.Oklahoma City Thunder

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Starting Lineup:

  • Russel Westbrook
  • Andre Roberson
  • Paul George
  • Patrick Patterson
  • Steven Adams

The Brodies are back! And with a new and improved team this season.

The Thunder traded an overrated Victor Oladipo, a youth with some potential and Damontas Sabonas and a draft pick for Paul George!!!

Now Westbrook has his sidekick; he can focus on distributing and setting up for team mates with easy looks at the rim whilst not having to carry such a big scoring load. Look for Russ to be more “win focused” as opposed to just stuffing the stat sheet.

Andre Roberson is back, not a cheap price but at least he can defend the opposition’s best player and rebound (i pray he’s been working on his 3’s and free throws!!).

Paul George……… The Thunder only have him for one season before he plans to depart for the Lakers (which isn’t a secret). So they have one year to do something special to convince to stay coming into next free agency. George will guarantee 20 points a game, good wing defense and most (importantly) will defer to Westbrook. Paul George is not a dominating personality and can play off the ball quite well which should help Westbrook a tonne!

The Thunder also signed Patrick Patterson from the seasoned Toronto Raptors. He provides floor spacing (3 point ability) whilst rebounding at a decent rate.

Steven Adams hasn’t made the elite leap most analysts thought he would. Look for him  to make some noise and consistently bring toughness to games. his rebounds might go up this year since he won’t have to give them up to Russ.

Look for the Thunder to make some noise in the playoffs and give the Warriors a good fight or potentially upset the Rockets.

 

6.Minnesota Timberwolves

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Starting Lineup:

  • Jeff Teague
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Andrew Wiggins
  • Taj Gibson
  • Karl-Anthony Towns

 

This team is the biggest eyebrow raiser of the offseason.

Trading and injured Zach Lavine and a potential bust Kris Dunn for Jimmy Butler; a top 10 talent in the league who can do it on both ends of the floor.

Signing a decent point guard to complement the other starters whilst being able to hold his own, getting rid of the Ricky Rubio situation, signing another player to bolster the front court with KAT and signing multiple 6th Man of the Year award winner Jamal Crawford!

It’s easy to see why Teague signed with this team, to see the moves they made lots of free agents wanted to join them. Teague averaged 15ppg 7.8assists and 4 rebounds. Look for his numbers to go down this season, but that’s to be expected with such a strong starting lineup.

Jimmy Butler, just wow. Butler joins his old favourite coach Thibodeau, he’ll get to co-lead this team with Towns and most importantly they’ll win games. As Butler claimed before being traded he wasn’t too worried about being “the man”, well he gets what he wished for playing with a top 5 talent in the league.

Andrew Wiggins numbers might slighlty drop. But that is to be expected when you play with another dominant wing player. he’ll at least get easier looks whilst the opposing defenses focus on his team mates. He’ll have his moments this coming season. Wiggins’ biggest challenge will be the post season. Somewhere he has never ventured before.

Another Coach Thibodeau favourite in Taj Gibson joins the team. Gibson adds playoff experience, hard nosed defence and a decent mid range jumper. His presence in the locker room and on the bench is priceless though. For the youngsters that have zero playoff experience and not yet accustomed to coach Thibs; Gibson is an invaluable asset to assisting implement the system Coach his envisioned.

Karl-Anthony Towns is already a top 2 (between him and Demarcus Cousins) center in this league. With all these new pieces around him, we can expect the T-Wolves to make some noise in the Western Conference. Look for his numbers to grow in every damn category and Towns to make the Western All star team.

It’s a very exciting time to be a Timberwolves fan.

5. San Antonio Spurs

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Starting Lineup:

  • Tony Parker
  • Daniel Green
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Pau Gasol

The player in the above image is the only player that matters. Kawhi Leonard is a top 5 talent in this league and finished third in MVP voting last season. He will continue to play at the elite level this coming season and carry the old Spurs to a top 3 seed in the West.

Tony Parker is on the wrong side of 30, see him as the starter on the court but most likely not receive starter minutes. The majority of point guard minutes will go to Patty Mills who brings a great energy off the bench. Parker will still have his moments and hopeful help his team out come playoff time if he can stay healthy.

Daniel Green is the perfect 3 and D player which does not draw too much attention from opposing defences whilst being able to guard their best player.

LaMarcus Aldridge was very disappointing when Kawhi went down in the Western Conference finals last season. He seems to perform better in the regular season. With lackluster defence and his only offensive ability being a mid range jumper look for his minutes to go down as coach Pop will most likely want to play smaller and quicker next season with the newly acquired Rudy Gay able to play along side Kawhi. Don’t be surprised to see Aldridge on the trading block either.

Pau Gasol is like a fine wine; he only gets better with age. Pau has accepted his role on the Spurs team and seems to have adapted well to the coaching staff’s strict minutes on the their older players. He can still provide a body in the paint, great passing ability, veteran leadership and a multitude of ways to score.

Never ever count the Spurs out. It doesn;t matter who’s on their team. They’ll still make the playoffs with ease whilst resting their keys players when needed throughout the season and still upset the big dogs in the league with their fundamental style and blank faced MVP candidate (I think he’s got it this year).

 

4. Houston Rockets

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Starting Lineup:

  • Chris Paul
  • James Harden
  • Trevor Ariza
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Clint Capella

The Rockets stole top 5 point guard Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers this past summer. Chris Paul is serious about winning and was happy to join MVP candidate James Harden to make a deadly duo in the West. Him and James will be tandem point guards this season most likely running plays for each other and making easy passes to team mates for easy finishes.

James Harden got the short end of this stick, he was not completely stripped of his point guard duties, they are now just shared amongst himself and Paul. This could make or break the Rockets. Expect his point average to stay the same but assists to go down.

Trevor Ariza is still a valuable 3 and D wing in this league. He will benefit from having Paul running the ball up the court. That will make for more open 3 point shots.

Ryan Anderson stretches the floor and complements this 5 well. As long as Anderson spaces the floor and keeps making deeps shots, this team can succeed.

Clint Capella will most likely league the lead in field goal percentage this season. Look for his numbers to go up. Y’all remember lob city right? Well Chris Paul is bringing that to Texas.

This Rockets team can make a deep playoff push if they don’t have problems against newly formed teams like the T-Wolves or the Thunder.

 

3. Boston Celtics

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Starting Lineup:

  • Kyrie irving
  • Jaylen Brown
  • Gordon Hayward
  • Marcus Morris
  • Al Horford

Any team that acquires Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving in the same off season is gonna be dramatically better the next season.

Kyrie got his wish granted.He will be expected to be “The Man” of this team from day 1. At least on this team he’ll have the ball in his hands more. Lebron did most the distribution in Cleveland. Expect Irving’s assists to go up clutch ability to come through late in games. This a great fit for the young point guard with a chip on his shoulder.

Gordon Hayward also go his wish. As mentioned in their introductory press conference. Hayward wanted to play in Cleveland with Kyrie before Lebron jumped on board.

Hayward will be a good piece that can carry a scoring load whilst playing solid defence and showing leadership. He’s a jack of all trades guy that will benefit from playing in the East (watch each of his stats blow up)

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will now be relied upon to take a load on the wings. These two youngsters (ones a second year player and the other a rookie) will have plenty of opportunities to show Coach Stevens what they got. They won’t be expected to do much, as long as they can play decent defense, score easy baskets and not mess up. They’ll have a successful campaign.

Marcus Morris leaves Detroit who struggled to make last season’s playoff to arrive at the former top seed in the East. As long as he spaces the floor, makes his open shots and plays defense he’ll fit in nicely.

Look for Al Horford’s numbers to digress this year as two stars have joined the team. He’s not a big stat guy anyway, he plays nice fundamental basketball and has the ability to spread the floor as a big which makes this team even more dangerous.

Look for the Celtics to give the Cavaliers more of a fight next playoffs with their newly formed team.

2.Cleveland Cavaliers

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Starting Lineup

  • Derrick Rose
  • JR Smith
  • Lebron James
  • Kevin Love/ Jae Crowder
  • Tristan Thompson

If you look above. that is the face Lebron made when he found out they traded his starting point guard for an injured one.

Any team with Lebron James on it will be near the top of a rankings list. He’s the best player in basketball.

Isiah Thomas is predicted to be back after the all star break. This leaves Derrick Rose as first in best dressed starting point guard come opening night. He’s not expected to be Derrick Rose of 2009 anyway. He just needs to be a body on the floor that Lebron can pass to or blame if something goes wrong.

JR Smith keeps his starting job since the Cavs didn’t really acquire any better 2 guards this off season. He provides mediocre defense, a good couple of 3 point shots and streaky shooting.

Lebron is Lebron. Even though he’s 33 at the end of the year James will still put up phenomenal numbers. Look for him to bash around in the paint more this season (You guys seen all the core strength training on his instagram?)

He’ll carry this team when necessary (the whole next season) and come up short in the playoffs without the help of his former clutch point guard. Seeing as it is expected Lebron leaves home at the end of this season. Don’t expect too much from “The King” in terms of winning record or even a finals appearance.

Jae Crowder takes pressure of Lebron to defend the best player on the opposing team. He’s good for 15 a game and a decent 3 ball. Kevin Love is a spot up 3 point shooter. Expect his numbers to rise in the absence of his former team mate.

Tristan Thompson is Mr Consistent. Good for 10 points, 10 rebounds a game and solid interior defence as well as help defence. The Cavs face many challenges this season.

  1. Getting Isiah Thomas instilled into the system and playing well enough before the playoffs
  2. The Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving
  3. Golden State Warriors

1. Golden State Warriors

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Starting Lineup:

  • Steph Curry
  • Klay Thompson
  • Kevin Durant
  • Draymond Green
  • Zaza Pachulia

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Am I right?

The champs did not touch their starting lineup, and why should they?

They have won 2 championships in 3 years and added Kevin Durant last year.

Look for Steph Curry not to defer as much this year as Kevin Durant has now settled and knows his place with the team.

The same goes with Klay Thompson. Look for his scoring numbers to spike as he takes a step forward this season as opposed to a step back last year.

Kevin Durant will continue to be KD and continue to give opposing defences trouble whilst keeping an eye out for Steph and Klay. What impressed me last season was his rebounding and blocking numbers. Look for them to increase or stay consistent.

Draymond Green is coming off a Defensive Player of the Year award. This year he won’t let anyone forget it either. His assists will increase as he will get back some ball handling duties while shutting down opposing players and flexing his biceps.

Zaza Pachulia will be Zaza. That Euro style passing big with a short jumper and pretend toughness. That’s all the Warriors need him for.

This Warriors team is just too dangerous. Some teams will give them trouble. but definiately not the Cavs. That’s a miniscule weight of the champion’s shoulders.

 

Ranking the best Newly formed teams that can compete with the Warriors 

With training camp just beginning in the National Basketball League. There are a few teams that are newly acquainted that will take time to adjust to their new environments in the hope of having a successful season.

Every man and his dog knows that the only team that is the roadblock in front of championship glory is the Golden State Warriors


The current champs have won 2 out of the last 3 NBA finals, have 3 of the last 4 most valuable players as well as 4 Western Conference All Stars in their starting 5. They have range, defence, depth and talent. 

So now that they’re public enemy number 1 it’ll be nice to see which teams will be the ones who have he possibility of “Dethroning” the kings.

Minnesota Timberwolves


The Minnesota Timberwolves turned an injured Zach Lavine and a disappointing prospect in Kris Dunn into a top 10 swing man in Jimmy Butler. Not only that, this offseason saw them sign multiple 6th man of the year award winner Jamal Crawford, Two way big man Taj Gibson as well as an upgraded point guard in Jeff Teague

With a scary looking starting lineup that boasts a top 5 big man in the game (which Golden a state have no answer for) as well as Gorgui Dieng/Taj Gibson up front for length and defense there’ll be no help defense for Draymond Green from Kevin Durant and Co (Zaza Pachulia is basically non existent on D)

The back court will have their hands full with Andrew Wiggins, Butler and Teague. Whilst the Warriors bench will have competition from the Wolves’ bench.

Doesn’t hurt either that 2 former prodigies of current coach Tom Thibedeu have spent numerous years with him in the past making the transistion to a different team even more fluid.


Oklahoma City Thunder


The three stars in the above picture are all you need to know.

Sam Presti turned Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter into Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

2 of the top 10 forwards are on the same team as the Swiss Army knife that is Russell Westbrook.

With the two outer players manning the wings (with the possibility of Melo in the post) whilst Westbrook distributes the ball and attacks the basket, as well as Andre Roberson locking down the opposing team’s best player and one Steven Adams filling the paint. This team looks very dangerous and the Warriors will have heir hands full on defence. 

The only weakness lies in this team’s bench. But with the season not even started there’s still time to load up. 

The Thunder will put the Warriors’ good help and rotation defence to the test.



Houston Rockets


Chris Paul and James Harden make for one of the most competitive back courts in basketball. The dual point guard lineup will cause plenty of problems for the Warrior’s defence. With a plethora of 3 point shooters on the wings and respectable big men down low. This team will be top 2 or 3 in the Wild Wild West. 

Along with the addition of Pj Tucker, a decent 3 point option. But his main talent being shut down defence even at his advanced age.

This team has defence and offence as well as star power. Look for the ball to move fast……. very very fast under a Mike DAntoni system.


Cleveland Cavaliers


The picture tells a thousand words. The Cavs basically have 2 starting lineups! One of the floor and the entire bench!! The newly added pieces to the Cavs this year include Former MVP Derrick Rose, Isiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jose Calderon, Jeff Green and DWAYNE FREAKIN WADE!!!! 

With the addiction of one of Lebron’s banana boat buddies JR Smith will be relegated to the bench. And as mentioned before the entire bench could possibly start on a number of teams around the league. 

While the loss of Kyrie Irving was dramatic. They improved dramatically since then. So many offensive weapons added in Rose, Wade, Thomas and Green as well as Jae Crowder a great 3 point and defensive option for the 3 or 4 spot. Look for him to share the court with Lebron James when he needs a rest guarding the opposing team’s best player.

The Cavs basically have a cake walk in the east all the way up to the NBA finals. So it’s just a matter of if they can get it together come June next year
Sean Turner 


THE MAMBA MENTALITY

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For the readers who don’t follow the NBA closely. There once was a player named Kobe Bean Bryant. Son of Joe Bryant; a pro basketball player in Italy. Kobe spent his younger years travelling around Europe for his father’s profession. When Joe retired they resided in Philadelphia back in the USA.

Kobe Bryant attended Lower Merion High School and was drafted without going to college which was a rare occasion in 1996. Usually a high school player would play a season or two in college before attempting to make the pro’s to sharpen their skills.

Kobe would go on to have a historic career:

  • 5 time NBA Champion
  • 2008 Most Valuable Player (MVP)
  • 2 time Finals MVP
  • 18 time Western Conference All Star
  • 11 Time All-NBA First Team
  • 2 time All-NBA Second Team
  • 2 Time All-NBA Third Team
  • 9 time All-NBA Defensive first team
  • 3 Time All-NBA Defensive Second Team
  • 2 time Scoring Champion
  • Career Average of 25 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists

The self proclaimed “Black Mamba” was the “Next Michael Jordan” and seen as the best in the league where he reigned supreme. He will be remembered for all his accolades, all his tantalising highlights.

One other reason he will be remembered……………… His Mentality.

Kobe Bryant in his earlier years played with one of the best centers the game has ever seen. Shaquille Oneal. In their time together they won 3 championships and made 4 NBA finals. Shaq even won the finals MVP to all three of their championships together. They only flaw Shaquille had been staying in shape in the Off Season. Kobe would call out team mates if he didn’t respect their work ethic or didn’t believe they were pulling their weight on the team.

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In the summer of the 2002/03 NBA season Shaq packed on the pounds and returned to training camp overweight and out of shape. All the while Kobe did not take the summer off and trained as if the season never ended. Best believe Kobe called out Shaq publically and both their names made headlines as they feuded. Shaquille Oneal was notorious for returning to training camp overweight and eventually working himself back into shape as the season began. Kobe Bryant’s own work ethic and high standards he held for himself and the team would not allow him to shrug it off or keep his mouth shut. That’s just the type of person he was.

The ridiculous work ethic can be proven by NBA players and staff members alike. From waking up assistant coaches to rebound for his shooting practices at 3 am in the morning. To staying back hours and hours after a game to work on missed shots that he believes cost his team the game. 
 

To Jay Williams story about shooting around before facing Bryant and the Lakers with Kobe only to already be at the courts shooting. Then staying much much longer than Williams decided to before a game. Williams then lost the game to Kobe whilst Bryant had a magnificent game. In post game discussion Williams asked why Lobe was practicing so long before the game and why he stayed much longer than Williams. Bryant replied with “I saw you come in, I stayed longer than you because I matter how hard you worked I wanted you to know that I’ll always work harder”.True story 

The mentality does not end at just work ethic. His leadership skills were also of a Mamba-esque fashion.

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Kobe Bryant once made young team-mate Stanislav Medvendenko cry. Kobe explained how his play was letting down the team and maybe he was not cut out for NBA Basketball. Coming from such a legend like Kobe Bryant must have hurt poor Stanislav’s feelings as he only played 7 games that season.

Or the time he called former team-mate Dwight Howard soft and physically confronted him the season after Dwight abandoned the team.

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The fearlessness and relentlessness displayed on the court was like a glowing aura surrounding the sure to be hall of famer one day. The way he dismantled teams; like in 2006 when Kobe scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors (second most points scored by an individual player in the history of the NBA) and he would have reached close to 100 had coach Jackson not pulled him from the game in the 4th quarter.

Or his ability to get into his opponents’ heads during a game and force them the exert their rage (like Matt Barnes attempting to make Kobe flinched by pretending to hurl the ball at his face only for that to backfire and Kobe not even blink).

 

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The main characteristic of “THE MAMBA MENTALITY” being playing the game with a ferocity that no other person can match, wanting to take over games and actually looking like you hate your opponents with a burning passion. Kobe Bryant always wanted the ball in his hands. He truly believed he would win every single close game. He wanted the final shot and the ball in his hands to close each game.

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Very few posses the “Mamba Mentality” in the modern NBA. Majority of the league’s superstars rather team up than beat each other on opposing teams (see Golden State Warriors or the 2011-2014 Miami Heat).

Two modern-day players that come to mind when thinking of successors to the Mamba throne are Russell Westbrook and Kryie Irving.


This Offseason Westbrook was awarded league Most Valuable Player for his triple double average and his ability to carry his team. Also Westbrook has never been buddy-buddy on the court with other superstars; forever considering the opposition a rival. He never takes plays off and even in the fan friendly All Star games takes it seriously and aim to take over.

Irving on the other hand is known as responsible for assisting the Cleveland Cavaliers 2 seasons ago secure the organisation’s first championship with a huge game winning shot in the finals

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Also this offseason saw Kyrie voice his frustrations being second fiddle to Lebron James on their team and forcing his way out of Cleveland and onto the Boston Celtics where he can be “The man” and run the team. Kyrie also publically says that he views Kobe as a close friend and mentor.

The Mamba mentality will be the main reason (besides all the awards and accolades) Kobe Bryant can be compared to the greatest of all time Michael Jordan. Because he knew how to get the job done and when his time was called upon carried his team and took them to the promise land (as did Jordan).

The Mamba mentality will probably be the only reason Lebron James will not be considered on the same level as Kobe or Jordan. When he couldn’t win on his own he joined his close friends in Miami, when his team loses he points the finger and blames others, when he failed to win another championship in Miami and saw Cleveland beginning to look promising again he jumped ship and “moved home”. The most important one though……. when the game is on the line he cant execute and win the game or he just does not want the ball in his hands.

The Mamba Mentality can be described as being the Alpha Male on a team, staying competitive to the end of a game and wanting to dominate and win games for your team, taking and making no excuses, holding himself and team mates all accountable, staying loyal and sticking to a single team. That is what Kobe Bryant did and will always be remembered for.