Joe Gordon Elected to the Hall of Fame; New NBA Golden Age?

It’s been a busy day.  I had some work to do around spending time with my son, who has been sick with the flu and a fever.  He awoke in the middle of the night vomiting in his bed, then awoke this morning with more of the same in the bathroom.  Poor little guy, all with a fever over 102.  He’s been either in front of the tv crashed, or spending some time on the computer or in his Dad’s arms.  It wasn’t a bad day to be home sick.  After a cold week last week, with morning temperatures in low single digits, it warmed up but to the tune of freezing rain, leaving the local roads a grid of narrow skating rinks, like frozen canals in Denmark or Holland only not as tasteful.

When I got home this afternoon, I was pleased to see on, then via e-mail from Mike Sommer at The Sommer Frieze, that the Veterans Committee elected the great Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon to the Hall, with the great Yankees pitcher Allie Reynolds missing out on a trip to the Hall of Fame by a mere one vote.  I’m almost as disappointed about Reynolds (182-107, 3.30 ERA, six-time all-star, two no-hitters in 1951 including a 1-0 classic against Bob Feller of the Indians 7/12/51) as I am excited about Gordon, and Mike and I both touted the deserving Reynolds as well.  The second baseman spent most of his time with the Yankees, from 1938 to 1946 (missing 1944-1945 due to the war), during which he was the MVP in 1942.  Blessed with more power than most second basemen before recent decades, Gordon amassed 253 HRs, 975 RBIs, .268/.357/.466, drove in more than 100 runs four times (3 as a Yankee), was a nine-time All Star, won five rings (four with the Yankees), and began batting seventh on some powerhouse teams such as the 1938-1941 Yankees.  It’s about time, and Reynolds should be next given his accomplishments and centrality to the 1947-1953 great Yankees dynasty.

Watching Boston, Cleveland, and the Lakers run away from the rest of the league in the first quarter of the NBA season has me thinking, or perhaps more appropriately dreaming, of the kind of franchise intensity that the NBA saw from 1980 onward, with the Celtics, Sixers, and Lakers driving each other to tremendous heights, accomplishments, and frenetic games and playoff series.  I say this not to disparage the great rivalries of the 1960s and 1970s but, to me, the golden age of professional basketball truly began in 1980.  The Celtics and Sixers battled in the same division and for the opportunity, except for Houston in 1981 and 1986, to play the Lakers for the title every year from 1980 through 1987–an incredible eight years of some of the best basketball ever.  The games were always up tempo and very physical.  Just as importantly, the teams pushed each other all year, with occasional teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks of the early to mid 1980s, and later the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls, providing new and equally intense rivalries in the East to determine a finalist.

I think the NBA  this season is shaping up similarly to those great years and, with the changes made and not made, 2008-2009 has the chance to rival the great 1980s.  At 20-2, Boston the defending champion is winning games against good teams in lopsided fashion, especially at home, allowing their older roster to rest in many fourth quarters while getting younger and bench players the opportunity to shore themselves with the departures of James Posey and PJ Brown.  Crucially, the Celtics have witnessed the blossoming of Rajon Rondo, who is becoming difficult to control at the point and on the drive as he also sharpens his mid-range jumper.  Averaging just over 10 a game, Rondo has become a very good, reliable distributor as well as a good backcourt rebounder.  The better he becomes, the easier it gets for the big three of Pierce, KG, and Allen.  They also need Rondo all the more without as solid and well-rounded a bench as they had rolling into the playoffs last year.

The Lakers (17-2) made a very good move when the decided to bring Lamar Odom off the bench in favor of size up front in Gasol at power forward, and a healthy Andrew Bynum at center.  The Celtics were sharper but also much more physical than the Celtics in last year’s NBA Finals, with the one-and-done Game 6 clincher in the Garden probably convincing the Lakers’ brain trust that they needed to be able to bang with the Celtics to compete.  As with Rondo, the more Bynum develops, the easier it becomes for Kobe.  Plus, a quasi-“Twin Tower” approach affords them the chance to have a big man in the game most of the time, to avoid the worst of front-line foul trouble most nights, and to diversify the offense away from being exceedingly reliant on Kobe.

Not to be overlooked, the 17-3 Cavaliers are a bit more (perhaps too?) reliant on guard play than either the Celtics or Lakers, but have in LeBron one of the two best players in the game (with Kobe), have a healthy Big Z Ilgauskas, and have a good bench with Varejao, Daniel Gibson, and Szczerbiak playing key roles.  They lack offensive firepower up front, and that may hurt them against the Celtics, but their defense is tight, and their guard play might be the deepest.  LeBron has a ton to do with that, playing multiple roles of scorer, distributor, and young leader.

Think the parallel between now and the heyday of the 1980s isn’t an apt analogy?  Perhaps not yet, but check out the records of the Sixers, Celitcs, and Lakers on this date in the 1982-1983 season, when the Sixers eventually won the big one, sweeping the Lakers in the NBA Finals: Sixers 17-3, Celtics 16-4, Lakers 15-5.  They were far and away the best of the league that year, and the class of the NBA throughout the first half of the 1980s–just as the Celtics, Lakers, and Cavaliers of today.

We’ll see if the first decade of the new millenium witnesses the re-emergence of a dominant triumvirate of teams over a span of several years.  We could only be so lucky, and the start to this season has me summoning up fond memories of Bird versus The Doc versus Magic, Kareem versus Parish versus Moses Malone/Darrly Dawkins/Caldwell Jones, DJ, Mo Cheeks, and Cooper, McHale and Worthy, Byron Scott and Andrew Toney–ahhh, the gold ol’ days.  May they return.

Published in: on December 8, 2008 at 7:47 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. First, I hope your son feels better! And I, too, was pleased to see Joe Gordon in the Hall. As for the NBA, I’m old enough to remember the Knicks when they had Willis Reed, Clyde Frazier, Earl the Pearl. So good.

  2. Looks like the Yankee influence will be present in Cooperstown. Gordon, now Kubek. Tony gets in as a broadcaster, as well he should. He was fabulous either with Gowdy or with Costas on NBC’s Game of the Week.

    Next up…Rickey Henderson’s election. Rickey of course is most famous as an A, but that 1985-1989 Yankee connection will be there.

  3. “K-rod” $37 million/three year with a option for a fourth year at $14 million. You have to wonder that the Yanks could of took a shot. I mean there are constants there’s Moe. We technically have 1 1/2 suberb closers (since Joba’s undecided). I would think the Yankees only playing six inning games a good thing and hence are starters can barely manage to go six. It’s a thought but we can all agree that shipping Franky to the NL is far enough.

  4. Sorry to write here but I could not find your email address. I have been a fan of your blog for some time and want to thank you for promoting my site, The Bronx Daily, on your site.

    I am looking for a writer for the site and thought you may be interested. We could change the name of the site to your name and we would be honored to have you join our network.

    We have advertising on our sites and you would earn revenue for your posts while also gaining greater exposure for your site. For more information please email me. We hope you are interested. If not, keep up the great writing.


  5. Thanks, Jane. He’s up and back to school this morning. Great Knicks team–DeBusschere, Phil Jackson also. What a back court later with Clyde and the Pearl. Forget it.

    I totally agree, Mike. Kubek was just great, and I always preferred him to Garagiola. Kubek was very solid and detailed as an analyst. With Gordon, just great news for Yankees and the Hall. Kubek certainly deserves it.

    I think K-Rod’s desire to close made coming to the Yanks a non-starter, Leo. Plus, the Yanks just don’t need him. That money can and should go for a starting pitcher and at least a better bench, if not Teixeira–thinking big still, I know.

    I will get a hold of you, Bill. Thanks for contacting me.

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