LeBron and Boobie Turn New Orleans into Cleveland South
New Orleans seemed like Cleveland South by the end of All-Star Weekend. LeBron James nearly posted the second triple double in All-Star Game history, finishing with 27 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots en route to capturing the All-Star MVP as the East beat the West 134-128. Prior to that, Daniel â€œBoobieâ€ Gibson won the Rookie-Sophomore Game MVP after scoring a game-high 33 points, matching Jamesâ€™ 2004 output and tying for the second most points in the 13 year history of the event (Amare Stoudemire scored 36 points in 2004 as his Sophomores trounced Jamesâ€™ Rookies, 142-118). Gibson shattered the Rookie-Sophomore single-game records for three pointers made (11) and attempted (20). Gibson also performed very well in the Three Point Shootout, finishing second behind defending champion Jason Kapono, who scored a record 25 points in the final round to take the crown.Overall, this is probably the greatest All-Star Weekend in Cavaliers history. The only other one that even compares to it is 1993. That year, the Cavs had three All-Stars (Mark Price, Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance) for just the second time in franchise history and Price won the first of his back to back Three Point Shootout titles. Price scored 19 points in the 1993 All-Star Game on 6-11 shooting, trailing only Michael Jordanâ€™s 30 points for the East squad, and Price had four assists, which tied for the second most on the East team; Price set an All-Star Game record that still stands by draining six three pointers. Daugherty finished with eight points and seven rebounds, while Nance had seven points and three rebounds. That trio also appeared together as reserves in the 1989 All-Star Game, but made less of an impact: Nance had 10 points (5-9 shooting) and six rebounds, Price scored nine points on 3-9 shooting and Daugherty grabbed three rebounds but went scoreless, missing all three of his field goal attempts. Price finished third in the NBA in three point percentage in 1989 but did not participate in that yearâ€™s Three Point Shootout.
James is the only Cavalier to start in an All-Star Game and he has been a starter each time he has made the team. He has only led the fan voting one time, so he is a long way from matching Jordanâ€™s record (nine), but James has a good chance of setting career records in multiple All-Star categories. Most significantly, Pettitâ€™s record of four All-Star MVPs seems to be in serious jeopardy because James has won two of the last three All-Star MVPs and he will likely be a perennial contender for this honor for at least the next decade.He needs to score 166 points to break Michael Jordanâ€™s career All-Star scoring record.
If James keeps scoring at his current pace, he will accomplish this after seven more All-Star appearances. James has scored 29, 28 and 27 points in his last three All-Star Games, shooting at least .545 from the field on each occasion, so it is not out of the question for him to break Wilt Chamberlainâ€™s single game scoring record of 42 points, a mark that has stood since 1962. Jordan (40 points in 1988) is the only other All-Star to join the 40 point club.
Magic Johnsonâ€™s career assists record (127) is probably out of reach but James has a decent shot of becoming just the second player with more than 100 career All-Star assists. James has 10 steals in four games, so he could eventually threaten Jordanâ€™s record of 37.
Jordan owns the only All-Star Game triple double (14 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists in 1997) and James is obviously more than capable of duplicating that feat; he should have plenty of opportunities to do so, both in terms of how many All-Star Games he is likely to participate in and how many minutes he will probably receive in those games (he has played at least 30 minutes in each of his four All-Star appearances).
In 2005, at the age of 20 years, one month, James became the second youngest All-Star ever (Bryant was 19 years, five months old in 1998) and if James lasts long enough to eclipse Kareem Abdul-Jabbarâ€™s record for being the oldest All-Star (41) then he will have a shot at breaking Abdul-Jabbarâ€™s record for most All-Star selections (19).
James actually â€œonlyâ€ needs to play until he is 38 (and make the All-Star team each season) to tie that mark. Jordan, Karl Malone, Shaquille Oâ€™Neal and Jerry West are tied for second place with 14 All-Star selections each, a number that is certainly a reasonable target for James if he stays healthy.You may recall that last year James lobbied for Gibson to receive more playing time and that when Gibson performed well James joked that he will be a great general manager someday.
During All-Star media availability, James said of Gibson, â€œIâ€™m excited for him and I try to be a mentor to him and just help put him in a position where he can succeed.â€ Donâ€™t be shocked if Gibson one day makes an appearance in an All-Star Game.
He is not the biggest or most athletic guard in the NBA but he is a better athlete than a lot of people probably think. More importantly, he understands how to play the game and he is willing to take and make pressure shots in big games; in those respects, he is much like B.J. Armstrong and Sam Cassell, two guards who cut their teeth playing reserve roles for championship teams before becoming All-Stars later in their careers. Gibson put on an amazing shooting display in the Rookie-Sophomore Game.
Yes, that is just an exhibition contest but every time Gibson has had a chance to shineâ€”most notably the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals versus Detroitâ€”he has stepped up.During that same media availability session, I asked Gibson about his colorful teammate Damon Jones, the self-proclaimed â€œbest shooter in the world.â€ Gibson replied, â€œI wouldnâ€™t say that he is the best shooter in the world because he is not the best shooter on our team.â€ Gibson would not go so far as to say that he is the best shooter on the team, replying with a smile â€œWho knows?â€ when I asked him that question.
However, Gibson is not afraid to take on James in a shooting contest: â€œAny time that LeBron steps behind the three point line with me, itâ€™s trouble. That is one thing that I can say: I have the upper hand on LeBron James shooting threes. There are not many things that you can say that you can do better than he does on a basketball court but as long as it is not an in-game situation I can get him. In a game, he makes any shot that he takes; itâ€™s a little different at that point.â€James does not dispute this and when someone asked if he gives Gibson advice about shooting James laughed and said, â€œNo, heâ€™s giving me pointers. He shoots the ball better than I do.â€
David Friedman is a freelance writer specializing in professional basketball. His work has been published in several magazines, including Hoop, Lindy’s Pro Basketball, Basketball Times and Basketball Digest. He has also contributed to NBCSports.com, HoopsHype.com and ProBasketballNews.com and his articles are frequently reprinted at Legends of Basketball, the official website of the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA). Friedman wrote the chapter about the NBA in the 1970s for the anthology Basketball in America (Haworth Press, 2005). Check out his basketball blog: 20 Second Timeout