Legacy Watch: Part One

One of the many things I find so interesting about the NBA is that although basketball is the epitome of a team game, there is such a focus on individual accolades and that buzzword we absolutely love to throw around so often— legacy. Since this will be a point of discussion in a couple of weeks when the two teams playing in the NBA Finals have already been decided, I figured I might as well beat everyone to the punch. What you have before you are the basics when it comes to what 20 of the most prominent figure remaining in the playoffs have to gain legacy-wise in the ensuing two rounds of postseason action. To simplify everything, I’ve arranged this from “least to gain” to “most to gain.”

May 15, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat point guard Norris Cole (30) reacts during the second half against the Chicago Bulls in game five of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 94-91. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

20. Norris Cole- The rest of Norris Cole’s postseason holds significance for not just the Miami Heat, but also for an entire hair style. Cole could end up being an off the bench catalyst for the Heat, and also an off the court catalyst for the high top fade hair style. Surely, Will Smith, Doug E. Fresh, Kid ‘N Play, and Big Daddy Kane are pulling for Norris Cole.

19. Justin Timberlake- Here is JT’s resume since September 2012: Became a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies… Got married to super-hot actress Jessica Biel… Released The 20/20 Experience… Retained his championship belt as “Coolest Man Alive”… and adding an NBA title on top of all of that is just unfair to every other man in the world, yet, I can’t help but root for him. He’s that damn cool.

18. Tayshaun Prince- A title for the Memphis Grizzlies would mean Tayshaun Prince was the starter on two NBA championship winners, as well as a member of a gold medal winning Olympic Team in 2008. That is a tremendous trivial nugget right there. You’re welcome for that! How many people in the world would know that about Tayshaun Prince? How many people even know Tayshaun Prince isn’t on the Pistons anymore? Regardless, two NBA titles, an Olympic gold medal, and being able to say he was one of the better perimeter defenders in the league for a five to seven year period equates to a pretty nice resume that Prince has built for himself.

17. Shane Battier- It can’t be a complete coincidence the Battier played for one of the great college teams of the 2000’s (2001 Duke Blue Devils) as well as the teams with the 2nd and 3rd longest win streaks in NBA history (this year’s Miami team, as well as the 2008 Rockets). There is just something about Battier that is vital to success. Maybe it’s the professionalism he brings to the table or his play on the court, but with a stretch of play as impressive as he was in last year’s Finals (11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 61% FG, 58% 3PT in 5 games), Battier could easily stumble into some “Poor Man’s Big Shot Bob” comparisons.

16. Ray Allen- The greatest shooter of all-time until Stephen Curry shatters all of his records is coming off the bench for the juggernaut Miami Heat, but that doesn’t mean his legacy wouldn’t be boosted with a 2ndring and at least one trademark “Holy crap Ray Allen is really effing good at shooting” game in the next two rounds. My mom has been Ray Allen’s biggest critic over the last two rounds—I can almost hear her future self saying “He’s stunk so far! If Chris Bosh missed as many open shots as Ray Allen has you wouldn’t let me hear the end of it!”—but I keep telling her that the time will soon arrive when Ray Allen goes absolutely bonkers from behind the arc. Frankly I’m glad it hasn’t happened yet. Let’s save that game for some time in mid-June.

May 19, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen (9) loses control of the ball during the third quarter against the San Antonio Spurs in game one of the Western Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at AT

15. Tony Allen- Allen already has the well-deserved reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He’s a relentless competitor whose personality and play is the driving force of this “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies team. Hell, his nickname is The Grindfather. Allen has as good of a chance as anyone to effectively “D-Up” any perimeter player in the entire world, so just imagine what a playoff run that could potentially include guarding Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili, and LeBron James/Dwyane Wade would do for the perception of Tony Allen. To put this a little more simply: Tony Allen could very well take on the responsibility of guarding at least four of the top 12 players in the NBA for stretches of time over the course of the playoffs and that, coupled with a Grizzlies title, would seemingly establish Allen as one of the premier defensive players of his era. I’m sure it would almost make you forget about his offensive shortcomings and sometimes comedic attempts at fast break layups.

14. Roy Hibbert- After his evisceration of the Artist Formerly Known as Tyson Chandler last round, I’ve found opinion of Roy Hibbert turning drastically. I never thought that someone who was forced into playing basketball by his parents because tennis, golf and piano didn’t work out would eventually be twisting a member of the All-Defensive team into a pretzel in the post during the Conference Semi’s, while simultaneously making it impossible for the Knicks to score in the paint. Hibbert worked over Chandler pretty badly, and much to my surprise I’m actually pretty concerned with what he could do to Miami’s small ball lineup.  I don’t know that I’m prepared to live in a world where Roy Hibbert is the responsible party for why LeBron James won’t be winning a 2nd NBA Title. The fact is the Pacers need Roy Hibbert to exploit Miami’s lack of size in order to have a shot of advancing to the Finals. If Hibbert could do that then I’m forced to eat all of the distasteful words I’ve spoken about Roy Hibbert since last spring.

13. Manu Ginobili- Although Ginobili’s role and productivity have diminished while his bald spot has grown larger, he’s still the third most important player for the Spurs title hopes, and similar to Ray Allen, it’s a foregone conclusion that there will be a few games every postseason when Manu is the x-factor. It’s just going to happen whether you expect it to or not. And if the Spurs win a title, there will be able least two games in the next two rounds where Ginobili carries the Spurs offense for a long stretch of time. You have to know how the story goes by now. He’ll have the Euro-step in full effect. He’ll be nailing step back jumpers and he’ll be finding teammates with Peyton Manning type accuracy. He’s a big game player, a truly unique player and one of the most accomplished foreign players to ever step on a basketball court. Ginobili already has three NBA titles, a Euroleague title and a Gold Medal. By my account, he only stands behind teammate Tony Parker in the discussion of best foreign guard ever.  And he killed an effing bat!

12. Zach Randolph- Yuck! Do you smell that? Yeesh, that’s terrible! Oh man, that must be the smell of Z-Bo’s 2 point, 7 rebound, 1-8 shooting and -28 +/- from Game 1 against San Antonio. We’ll cut this section short so the stink of that performance doesn’t get on anyone’s clothes.

Apr 28, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Miami Heat center Chris Bosh shoots a jumper over Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

11. Chris Bosh- Remember a few months ago when Chris Bosh said, and I quote, “Hell, yeah, of course. I’ve been a Hall of Famer like four years ago.” Unless back in 2008 Chris Bosh hopped into The DeLorean and gunned it to 2018 and saw a future where he would leave the Raptors and win not one, not two, not three (you get the idea) NBA Titles, then he would have no way of predicting he’d be a Hall of Famer. But in Bosh’s defense, I will say with another title he’s getting closer. In all likelihood, a Heat title this year would mean Bosh was the 3rd best player on back to back title teams (or maybe the 2nd best player on this year’s team if Dwyane Wade keeps playing like a wussy) and arguably the “Non-LeBron James Key Piece” for both teams as well.