Player Focus – John Stockton

A lot of people believe that the most difficult position to play in basketball is the point guard. You have to know where your teammates are at all times and at the same time you have to know the play that you are running. In addition to that, you are the head coach’s eyes on the court which means that he would need you to remember certain parts of the game. That sounds like a lot of work. However there are certain guys who have mastered the art of being a point guard that all of that seems effortless to them. One of these point guards is the great John Stockton. Let’s have a look at his game and how he has led the Utah Jazz to great heights for his whole career.

Passing

Perhaps the most popular thing about John Stockton is his almost perfect passing ability. He is the all-time leader is assists in the NBA and 2nd all-time in assists per game, second only to Magic Johnson. Of course it helps that you are playing for great coach in Jerry Sloan and playing with the likes of Karl Malone, making every pass to him a likely assist most of the time, but Stockton has the ability to find the open man every time. Whether in a slow play or in the open court, Stockton knows where to pass the ball for an easy basket.

 

Court Awareness

John Stockton’s passing ability is due in great part to his superior court vision. Even though he is often the smallest guy on the court, he can see everywhere and knows where his teammates are at all times, even his opponents. This uncanny ability enables him to push the ball where the Jazz have a high chance of scoring or getting defensive stops. This is why he played for Jerry Sloan for so long, as he is the great coach’s eyes on the court.

 

Basketball IQ

In relation to his excellent passing and court vision, is his basketball IQ. This may have been because he was coached by Jerry Sloan, Stockton knows exactly what play to run given the circumstances. He knows when to push the tempo or deliberately slow down the game to give the Jazz the advantage. His mastery of Utah’s offense is evident by the countless winning records that Utah had during his career.

 

Physicality

Despite his size, Stockton is known as one of the most physical players in the NBA. He will use anything to gain an advantage, sometimes bordering on dirty plays. Playing with Karl Malone, another physical player, they make a terrifying combo, especially when you become a victim of their painful screen and rolls. Steve Kerr, former Bull which faced the Jazz in 2 consecutive finals, is on record saying that John Stockton is a dirty player. This is quite contrary to his schoolboy looks, which makes his physical forays really surprising.

 

John Stockton may not have been the fastest or most athletic player when he was playing, but he played bigger than his height and always gave it his all on the court. His consistency throughout his career as well as his loyalty to the Jazz has cemented his legacy as arguably the best pure point guard the NBA has ever seen. Magic Johnson was a freak of nature at the point guard position so you could see why he dominated the game, but Stockton is a small guy and looks ordinary which is why him being one of the greatest of all time is truly an inspiring achievement.

Player Focus – Tracy McGrady

Another player to come straight to the NBA from high school, T-Mac was drafted by the Toronto Raptors who also had another high flyer on their team, his cousin, Vince Carter. He has wowed crowds everywhere he played and this was highlighted during the 2000 Slam Dunk contest where he displayed spectacular dunks. He took his talents to Orlando where he would have teamed up with Grant Hill who was severely hampered by ankle issues. Let’s take a look at McGrady’s game and why he was one of, if not the most, electrifying players in the early 2000s.

 

Scoring

When it comes to scoring, only a few can match T-Mac’s arsenal. He can score anywhere on the court, from beyond the 3 point line, all the way inside. He has improved his jump shot over the years, especially during his Orlando Magic days, where he was almost always the sole scoring threat for the Magic. He can beat anyone in an isolation situation and is a great finisher. This is evident when he led the league in scoring during the 02-03 season where he averaged 32 point per game, the most since Michael Jordan.

 

Versatility

Scoring is not the only thing that McGrady brings to the table, he can beat you in a lot of ways. When he puts his mind into it, he is a great defender and can shut down anyone. His length allows him to bother any shot in front of him and his anticipation allows him to steal the ball by playing the passing lanes. He is a great rebounder for his size and because he is such a freak of nature, can start the fast break when he sees the situation calls for it.

 

Offensive Awareness

When talking about T-Mac’s offense, his offensive instinct has to be mentioned. He is not only great at putting the ball in the hoop, but making his teammates better as well. When he has the ball, the defender knows that T-Mac has the ability to find the open man, which makes him such a terrifying offensive threat. He won’t force shots when he sees a better opportunity for the team to score. This is why unlike other volume scorers in the league, a lot of players like to play with McGrady.

 

Leadership

It has been often a knock on McGrady that he has not advanced past the first round when he is leading a team. However there are times when the circumstances are not in your favor. T-Mac certainly did everything in his power to advance but it was just not meant to be. He has always took responsibility for his team’s performance and this is how a leader should act, win or lose. It’s you job to lift up your team’s spirit, even if the opponent in much more talented than you are.

 

The biggest question regarding McGrady’s legacy is if his achievements were enough to catapult him among the all-time greats. However, injuries and failure to go on deep playoff runs will certainly play a part in putting him among the best. Make no mistake though, the run he had during his peak years were absolutely marvelous. There was even a time that people were arguing on who was better between him and Kobe Bryant, so that says something about your talents. Whatever the case may be, T-Mac is one of the best basketball players in recent memory.

Player Focus – Magic Johnson

No one during the 80s captured the hearts of both hardcore and casual basketball fans quite like Earvin “Magic” Johnson did. His Showtime Lakers helped bring the excitement of the game to the fans and marked the golden years of the NBA. The combination of flashiness, flamboyance, and competitiveness has made Magic one of the all-time greats and even arguably the best player during the 1980s. Let’s take a look at the best aspects of Magic’s game and how he changed the way basketball is viewed.

passing

Passing

It’s impossible to talk about Magic Johnson without mentioning passing. If you look at a highlight reel featuring the best plays of his career, almost all of them involve him passing to an open teammate. Whether fancy passes or low key passes, Johnson has mastered them all. He is not the all-time assists per game leader in NBA history for nothing. His passing ability is arguably unparalleled by anyone, in any era.

 

court-awareness

Court Awareness

Magic’s passing excellence is actually a by-product of his uncanny court vision. Most of the time, especially on fast breaks, it seems that he has eyes behind his back as he knows where everyone is throughout the basketball court. Standing at 6’9″, his height allows him to have a better view of the court compared to the typical shorter point guard. On defense, he might not be a good defender, but he can anticipate where the action is going which results in him pushing the pace immediately upon getting the ball and get easy baskets.

 

leadership

Leadership

When talking about the Showtime Lakers, the first thing that comes to mind is the fast breaks and flashy plays that Magic mostly instigated. Their team success almost takes a backseat to the highlight reels, and this team success wouldn’t be achieved without a capable and assertive leader such as Magic Johnson. He not only leads with his words and motivation, he does it by example also by showing his teammates just how hard he works on his game, as well as rewarding them on the court via his precise passes, giving them opportunities to contribute.

 

final-words

Mentality

When you see Magic Johnson, the first thing you would notice is a big smile coming from his face. Part of his charm with the fans is his very outgoing personality and he comes off as this friendly fellow. What isn’t that noticeable though, even on the basketball court, is his killer instinct. He will do anything to win but and this relentlessness has made him a very competitive opponent. You do not lead your team to multiple championships, in his case 5 titles with the Lakers, without being ruthless.

 

mentality

Magic is one of the most well-respected athletes not just in the NBA, but in every major sport. It was just an unfortunate event when he was forced to retire early due to being HIV positive, but this has enabled him to contribute to society in more ways than an athlete could imagine. His battles with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics was the golden age of the NBA and put the league back on track as fans flocked to arenas to witness their epic battles. As colored as the history of the Lakers are, with several great players donning the purple and gold, Magic is arguably the best of them.

Player Focus – Jason Kidd

One of the premiere point guards in the NBA during his career, Jason Kidd is a one of a kind player. He is known as having one of the greatest instincts inside the basketball court, which is a point guard skill, yet his all-around brilliance has allowed him to dominate the game in other ways too, as evident by his countless triple doubles. Let’s go back in time and see the best aspects of Jason Kidd’s game and what made him the best point guard in the NBA during his prime years.

 

passing

Passing

The thing that made Jason Kidd a very popular basketball player is his passing. He has perfected the art so that he could make any guy a better player. They say that great players make their teammates better. There are only a handful of players that can do a better job at this than Jason Kidd. He will almost, always find a way to find the open man. Not only does he rack up assists in every game, but he also makes the important passes which do not show up on the stat sheet but is every bit as important.

 

court-awareness

Court Awareness

During his time, there was perhaps no one who could rival J-Kidd’s court awareness and vision. He as the ability to know where everyone on the court is, including the opposing team. During fast breaks, he can spot anyone from what seems like a mile away and make the perfect pass or finish it himself. It sometimes appear that he has eyes in his back enabling him to see everything happening in the game. Coupled with his instincts, he makes the right decision almost every time.

 

defense

Defense

Not only was Kidd known for his ability to set up his team’s offense, but also for his skill in shutting down opposing guards. Due to his superior strength, size, and speed against most point guards, he can guard anyone which makes it very difficult for opposing teams to set up their offense and score. Of course, his superior physical gifts are not the only things that enable him to play lockdown defense, but his effort as well, something you won’t find lacking in him.

 

rebounding

Rebounding

Kidd was known to be the best rebounding point guard during his time, maybe ever. This is why he has a ton of career triple doubles. Adding to his all-around brilliance, he combines his strength, speed, and anticipation to snag boards. This is also why he is very dangerous in the open court. Since he can grab rebounds by himself, he can start the fast break immediately and either find the open man or score the basket himself.

 

competitiveness

Competitiveness

Everywhere Jason Kidd goes, his team instantly becomes a contender. This is because not only does he makes the players around him better, but his competitiveness rubs off on his teammates. His will to win is matched only by a few players in the NBA, and you can see this with every game he plays. Watch him play during the playoffs and finals, and you will see a man who seems possessed and will stop at nothing to win the game for his team.

 

final-words

Combining passing, ability to control tempo, leadership, competitiveness, and all-around skills, Jason Kidd has been a pleasure to watch for all basketball fans. The 2 finals appearance of the New Jersey Nets during his time there is a testament to his leadership skills while his 107 triple doubles, which rank 3rd all-time behind Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, is to his all-around skills. The 2011 NBA Championship he won while being the starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks was well deserved. Even though his skills weren’t what they once were, he was still an integral part of the team and coach Rick Carlisle’s voice on the court.

Player Focus – Dwyane Wade

One of the best perimeter players ever, Dwyane Wade has been the face of the Miami Heat franchise for more than a decade until this year when he shockingly signed with the Chicago Bulls. Even when LeBron James jumped ship and joined him in Miami, the consensus was it was still Wade’s team despite James being arguably the better player. This is because he is beloved by the fans due to his unrelenting playing style and clutch moments. We shall take a look at the aspects of Dwyane’s game which made him a hero in the eyes of the Miami Heat fans.

 

athleticismAthleticism

One of the best known aspects of Wade’s game is his athleticism. If there was one thing that everyone knew when he was drafted by the Heat, was that he was already one of the most athletic wings in the league. His physical gifts has allowed him to dominate both on offense and defense. It goes together with his work ethic, keeping himself in game shape every season, which is also a requirement in every Pat Riley led team, as he demands that all of his players be in shape.

 

scoring

Scoring

Dwyane can score in a variety of ways but the best way he does it is by his penetrations. He has been compared to Michael Jordan countless of times due to his fearless forays to the hoop. When he blows by you, you can bet that he would get to the rim and either score or get a foul. This is because he is a very strong finisher who leaves nothing to chance. His jumper is not that accurate but he can hit from anywhere, including behind the 3 point line. However it is his penetrations that led them to the 2006 championship, where he almost single handedly won them the series after being down 0-2, due to his relentless drives.

 

MIAMI - JANUARY 3: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat blocks Brook Lopez #11 of the New Jersey Nets on January 3, 2009 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Victor Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dwyane Wade;Brook Lopez

Defense

An underrated aspect of Wade’s game is his defense. When he is motivated, he can be one of the best lockdown defenders in the league. He has the tools to shut down even the best perimeter players. He has the speed to keep up with fast players, and he also has the strength to body up his man, forcing them out of their comfort zone on offense. He also stalks the passing lanes like a hawk which enables him to anticipate careless passes with ease. The only problems he has is the very long and tall perimeter players that he has to guard. Their length and height gives them an advantage against Wade’s defense.

 

leadership

Leadership

Another less talked about aspect is Wade’s leadership. Sure, during the 2 championship runs and 4 straight finals appearances from 2011 to 2015 it was LeBron James that was the Heat’s best player, but Dwyane was still the heart of the team. Especially before that period and during the 2006 championship run. He showed his teammates his willingness to sacrifice his body just to get the victory. This is why he is so beloved in Miami as he steps on the court and gives it his 100% every night, making him a great leader.

 

clutch

Clutch

There are a few players who you want to have possession of the ball when the game is close, and D-Wade is one of them. Drawing comparisons to MJ not only because of his style of play, but also because of his clutch plays which has helped the Heat win championships. His will to win and ability to thrive under pressure has made Wade one of the most feared players whenever the game is on the line. He can drive, draw the foul, hit jumpers, and pull out a critical defensive stop. He can, and will, do everything to win the game.

 

final

Despite being a bit undersized for his position, D-Wade has more than compensated for this with his strength, toughness, mental fortitude, and will to win in being recognized as one of the greatest shooting guards of all time. His countless gutsy plays and courageous heroics has been a staple in his career and has defined his game. Nowadays he is not as athletic as before, which may also be the result of his reckless style of play, but he has shown that he still has what it takes to be an elite player especially in the 2016 playoffs where he almost single handedly led the Heat to as 7 game series victory against Toronto. He will be taking his talents to Chicago where he will most likely take a backseat to Jimmy Butler, but we still expect some very high level performances from Flash.

Player Focus – Michael Jordan

Universally known as the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan has been the face of the game ever since he won his first championship. It could even be argued that he had this title even before winning his first title but he was still not known as a winner then. He was obviously the best individual player at that time, but there were serious doubts as to whether he is capable of leading the Chicago Bulls to a championship. All of those doubts were shattered the moment he beat Magic Johnson and the L.A. Lakers to capture his first championship. Let us take a look at the facets of MJ’s game which made him the greatest player ever.

 

athleticism Athleticism

When Jordan first came into the league, his physical gifts were practically unmatched. No one had the same combination of speed, quickness, strength, and jumping ability which made him one of the best scorers in the league immediately. His athleticism also made him a 2 time slam dunk champion, highlighted by the duel he had with Dominique Wilkins where both were exchanging rim rattling and gracious dunks and wowing the crowd.

 

fundamentals

Fundamentals

One of the more surprising aspects of MJ’s game is his fundamentals. Typically an athlete like him will use every ounce of athleticism he has in order to gain an advantage over opponents since it is much easier to do than take the long road and learn the basics, but not Jordan. He studied the game and learned from the best coaches such as Dean Smith and Doug Collins. This made him so much more ahead compared to his peers. He knows what to do while being double teamed, when to make the extra pass, where to go on the defensive end when the play is broken. These traits made MJ such a feared competitor.

 

offense

Basketball IQ

MJ’s basketball IQ is sky high, especially for someone as athletic as him. Players with natural abilities tend to do the physical work only and just get by on it. Jordan’s insistence on being the best allowed him to study the game inside and out. Knowing the intricacies of the game made MJ able to adjust to any situation and enabled to him to set the pace of the game just by scoring or defense alone.

 

basketball-iq

Offense

Perhaps the most known aspect of Jordan’s game due to his multiple scoring championships and clutch basket. While this is definitely the highlight of his offense, there is so much more to his offensive game apart from scoring. His passing, off-ball movement, and help given to teammates are what sets him apart. He may score a lot and be a ball hog during stretches, but he does whatever is needed from him on the offensive end aside from scoring. Of course scoring is his bread and butter and his team goes to him always when the game is on the line.

 

defense

Defense

Another aspect of MJ’s game that is not nearly known as his scoring is his defense. Being an All-NBA Defensive team member countless times and winning a Defensive Player of the Year award confirms his brilliance in this area. Anyone guarded by Jordan will have nightmares due to his physical play and constant pressure. If you are not paying attention, he will strip the ball from you. If you manage to get off a shot, be prepared for him to challenge you up to the end. He and Scottie Pippen made the Bulls perimeter defense almost impenetrable.

 

leadership

Leadership

There are countless stories to how MJ treated his teammates, especially during practices. There were tales of fights and just downright insults being thrown. Despite all of this though, there is one thing that he commanded from all of them, respect. Everyone respected Jordan as they all saw just how hard he worked. This will rub on anyone connected to him. He not only led by his words, but he also led by example. When you see the best player in the league working as hard as he does, you would have a hard time not to follow the man.

 

competitiveness

Competitiveness

Another one where perhaps nobody can match Jordan on, is his competitiveness. He was so competitive that he would not stop until he wins. This is evident not only in basketball, but in other areas too such as golf, gambling, etc. On the court, he will do anything it takes to win, he will use anything and everything as motivation, from perceived slights up to the crowd jeers. Which is why if you want to win against him, not only do you have to worry about his talents, but also his will to win, which nobody really matched since he won his first championship.

 

final-shot

Looking at all of the things that we discussed, there is no doubt that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player that ever lived. He is virtually unstoppable and he is above-average to great in all aspects and levels of the game. His competitiveness, mindset, and will to win, just adds to his athletic ability and natural talent to basically have the complete and almost perfect player in basketball. He is made to play this game. This is what makes Jordan the greatest and most feared competitor in the game.

Player Focus – Kobe Bryant

One of the greatest players to ever play the game is Kobe Bryant. One of the very first prep to pros stars, he has been captivating audiences around the world with his basketball skills. The closest to ever resemble Michael Jordan in both playing style and demeanor, he has been one of the most popular athletes around the world. We will take a look at the best aspects of his game and what exactly makes Kobe Bryant one of the greatest basketball players ever.

kobedwight20110123bAthleticism

When he came into the league fresh out of high school, he was one of the most athletic young players in the NBA. This fact was further confirmed with him winning the slam dunk contest during the All-Star weekend. His athleticism is the main reason why he is the most identical player to Michael Jordan. He literally copied his moves on the court, and with great success at that. What makes this impressive is that Jordan’s moves are all very difficult to emulate and requires serious athletic ability to even come close Kobe has done this his entire career which is impressive.

 

The Los angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant exhalts after a three point shot in a game that he finished with 49 points and a 2 games to none lead over the Denver Nuggets in a NBA Western conference play-off game.

Killer instinct

Perhaps the most popular aspect of Bryant’s game, which again is emulated from His Airness, is his killer instinct. He is known as someone who will do anything to get what he wants. He has won games and championships because of this mentality of wanting to win at everything. His competitive nature enables him to focus on nothing but the goal. Of course this has some downsides too as some players do not want to play with him due to his aggressive behavior and also might have cost him some championships as well. Shaquille O’Neal was traded as he was clashing with Kobe, and because of Kobe’s nature, despite Shaq being the older and a bigger part of the team.

 

0632758001449776029_filepicker

Basketball IQ

Despite his penchant for tough shots that would make the highlight reels, Kobe has demonstrated that he has very high basketball IQ when needed. He knows when to make the right passes and shots. He is one of the most cerebral players in the league and has used this to his advantage throughout his career. However he tends to ignore this ability especially when there is no one to reign him in. This is evident in the fact that he has only won his championships when playing for Phil Jackson, who is a master of getting his players to also use their heads when playing.

 

kobe-bryant-buzzer-beater-vs-the-kings-2010

He may not achieve his obvious goal of surpassing the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan, but he still became one of the greatest basketball players to ever lace them up. His athleticism, mindset, skillset, and intelligence made him one of, if not the most, feared competitors during his time. While his overall rank may have been affected by playing with exceptional big men such as Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol, his overall contributions to the game has always been recognized by anyone who follows basketball.