(Adonal Foyle, Greatest Warrior of the Contemporary Era?)
As the 2010 Boston Celtics versus Los Angeles Lakers finals match-up gives us more reason to wax nostalgic about the historical NBA empires that are the Celtics and Lakers, it also raises interesting questions about whether anyone on the current Celtics or Lakers squads can hold a torch to anyone from their star-studded pasts.
Based on recent discussions here and here about whether Kobe is the greatest Laker ever, it made me wonder whether the criteria critics used could possibly be used to identify a Warrior in the more contemporary-era (90s and 2000s) that could even be considered for "The Greatest Warrior-ever" Debate.If you've ever been to the Oakland Coliseum, you will notice that there are only a few names hanging from the rafters. If you're a Warriors fan, the names should be pretty obvious as is the metrics for why they deserve to be up there. But based on these recent debates about why someone, such as Kobe, be considered as 'the greatest Laker of all-time,' it is perhaps IMPOSSIBLE for any Warrior fan to even make a case for any Warriors player of the last 20 to 30 years.
That is, all discussion about great Lakers, aside from their greatest achievements in terms of statistics and winning, is the unspoken metric of their duration with the actual organization. While the obvious metrics include wins, most-valuable-player trophies, all-star game nominations, and, of course, championships, time-spent-with the team is also indirectly accountable for their recognition as Laker greats. Take for example Kobe Bryant's reasoning for why Jerry West is better than Kobe or anyone else to don a Laker Jersey:
"In my opinion, it's Jerry West," Bryant said, "because in terms of everything that he's done, as a player and then as a general manager. He's responsible for Magic being here, he's responsible for Shaq, he's responsible for myself."
Perhaps is just Kobe being 'modest' (ha, yea right), but hidden within that language of 'G.O.A.T' is West's continued contributions to the Lakers for years after this playing days were over.
Rick Reilly, ESPN.com contributor, suggests that it's Magic's ability to take down the Celtics:
No, the answer is Magic because before Magic, the Lakers had never beaten the Celtics. Not in eight straight tries. Before Magic, the Celtics were Sluggo and the Lakers Mr. Bill. It's easy to forget now that when Magic showed up with all those teeth and that flat-palmed dribble and those David Copperfield fakes, the L.A. Lakers had one NBA title. And they needed to import Wilt Chamberlain to do that. Magic changed the culture of the Lakers and the town, catapulted them past the Dodgers, hung window flags on beat-up Chevys and shined-up Lexuses alike. Magic did all that because he beat the Celtics and Kobe never has.
For Reilly, dethroning the Celtics empire is why Magic deserves the G.O.A.T title. But I would also argue that the amount of time that Magic spent with the team, a decade full of those 'David Copperfield fakes,' is equally important to the equation.
Magic and Kobe have spent their entire careers with one team. Same could be said for players like James Worthy. And while neither Gail Goodrich, Shaquille O'Neal, nor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spent their entire careers with the same team, they spent the bulk of their careers, possibly their best years with one team. Based on the elite list of candidates for the G.L.O.A.T (Greatest Laker of All Time), all of them spent at least 10 years with their organizations (O'Neal only 8).
If duration with team, or loyalty, is the unspoken criteria for a player to be considered as the 'greatest' of your franchise, then can any Warriors even be considered? Since the last Warriors to be placed up in the rafters, there has yet to be a Warrior in the last 20 years to have their number and jersey retired.
The number of wins and achievements for any Warriors player is going to be incredibly low in comparison to any recent Laker or Celtic great. Any any Warrior fan favorite of the last 20 years has either been traded or had a tumultuous relationship with a coach or the front-office in general, which often leads to their eventual dismissal (traded or let go to sign with another team) within a few years of arriving onto the scene. The only Warrior player recently to stay with the team more than 10 years is Adonal Foyle and can you imagine his name up in the rafters? If anything, epic failures by Warrior players (choking coaches, alienating fans, beefing with coaches, beefing with teammates) have been greater reason for why recent Warriors should be remembered, if not revered, in Warriors historical lore.
With that said, do we need to create a new set of metrics for who is considered a Warrior great? If it is about duration, should we shorten it to one great season? Is it more about failures than achievements? Does Mike Dunleavy Jr.'s ability to take hilarious in-game photos make him a perfect candidate as a great Warrior of the contemporary era? Is it Stephen Jackson for his tantrums on the court and his public blasting of teammates and the front office make him worthy? Or is it Donyell Marshall's laziness? Mookie Blaylock's love for golf?
As the Celtics versus Lakers finals has given us some fun debates about whether the 2008 or 2010 Celtics or Lakers come close to the Celtics and Lakers of the past, I soon realized that the Warriors can't even be in the same breath as any of these teams...but I hope someone can prove me wrong.