I finally figured out why I'm so lukewarm on the subject of Amare, and also why I'm not on the same page with so many here re a lot player transactions, Paxson, and various other subjects. Don't get me wrong, I love the company of so many passionate fans and wish I could be in agreement more often. And Walter Payton crystallizes my "problem".
I consider Walter the greatest team sport athlete in history. Not necessarily the best runner, but for sure the best running back. And it comes down to what he did on the plays that he didn't carry the ball. You see, the threat of what he might do could be as potent a weapon as the actual carries, and Walter put as much effort into those plays as he did his head-first goal line vaults over the entire line of scrimmage. When he decoyed, he took the inevitable pounding that came from really selling the fake. When he blocked, he was ferocious. I saw him go up for an overthrown pass into a sandwich and leave both defenders on the ground semi-conscious. He was never less than 100% supportive for any teammate, even those who through their lack of effort were stifling his achievements; same for coaches, mgt, owners, etc.
And I believe that this is the model for a winner. There are at least a dozen running backs I can think of who might be a better pick for any particular play that involves them carrying the ball. But I can't think of one superstar I'd choose over him for an entire game, let alone career. I was disgusted when the end was near and fans were murmuring for him to step aside and let Neal Anderson take over; didn't they realize that Walter was still doing more than Neal would ever be capable of? The truth is, they didn't. They just saw the occasional breakaway that Payton just wan't capable of any longer. The consistent 3-7 yard gains that resulted from really knowing the game weren't good enough.
Contrast that with the mythical scorer who underachieves at all other aspects of the game, and it's easy to see where I'm going with this. I HATE the super-talented but uncaring players who garner the huge NBA money because they are so easy to promote; the majority of fans are pretty simple in their understanding of the game. I wonder what percentage of fans would understand that Duncan is one of the best ever if he didn't have the rings.
So, my tastes run for those who are trying to play Walter's game. MJ was. So was John Paxson. So was Scottie. Iverson wasn't. Shaq usually wasn't. And Amare isn't. I think that what the Bulls have been trying to do for the past five years is put together a team that gets it. I think the 49 win team symbolized the success that's available to any team that just plays the game right. So does Jerry Sloan's consistent success. And Popo's. If you can add just one unstoppable force to that mix, you can win titles. That's the gold ring that so many teams consistently overpay for, and fail to recognize that the crap they put out when not trying destroys the winning attitude bit by bit. Occasionally teams have put so much talent out there they can get all the way to the title game, but come up short when playing a less talented team that plays 48 minutes of good basketball.
Yeah, I'll agree, Dream Team one isn't going to lose to anyone, ever. So much talent, they can beat you playing one on one every time down the court. It's just not the model I'd choose for building a team.
Walter, wherever you are, thanks for epitimizing everything I ever thought was good about sports. I could go on for hours on this topic, but I have to go to work. To all my friends at Blogabull (yes, I really like all of you, even you, Exult), have at it. Hope to have a lively blogalogue with you later!