Monday, January 02, 2006

AN END OF CLASSIC NBA STAR WARS

Kobe Bryant faced a tough week with a two-game suspension, due to a dispute with teammate Lamar Odom. Bryant's suspension came for a castigatory elbow on the Grizzlies' Mike Miller after a Miller elbow opened a big wound over Bryant's left eye. This came just a few days after Bryant and Dwyane Wade were guarding and elbowing one another in the Christmas Day game. The disappearing marquee matchup is a big predicament for the NBA. These days it is seldom to see a star player take on the challenge of guarding the other team's best player. There are usually thinly veiled excuses of not wanting to get in foul trouble and various forms of help defenses that didn't exist years ago. Perhaps the best rivalry ever in a time when they would go against each other at least a dozen times a season, the game's best offensive center against its best defensive center was of Wilt Chamberlain-Bill Russell. Michael Jordan-Dominique Wilkins were the two leading scorers in their era and put on some of the best combined offensive displays of the 1980s. One usually would go for 50 against the other, and it wasn't always Jordan. The late `60s and early `70s Knicks-Bullets matchups and playoff series were some of the best ever with classic battles at every position. Larry Bird-Julius Erving were matched in some great 76ers-Celtics series, it was two of the classic players of their era taking on the challenge. Sam Jones-Hal Greer were the two best guards or their era but didn't play one another much.

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/sports/13530813.htm

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