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Vince Thomas

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This is soon to be an old-school jersey.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Let players wear jersey No. 23, retire these things instead


Posted Nov 17 2009 11:44AM

I know that LeBron James is viewed as a messiah in Ohio, but apparently all of America is now following suit, considering his word is becoming like gospel. Bron says that Dwyane Wade's vicious hammer on Anderson Varejao was one of the greatest dunks of all-time and, suddenly, everyone is co-signing.

What? Some non-playoff dunk that wasn't even a clean flush? It's like someone clubbed me over the head and I awoke in Ridiculousland.

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The all-time greatest dunks are known by initials and codes -- KJ-over-Dream; BD-on-AK; Chambers-on-Jackson; MJ-on-Knicks; Doc-on-Coop; VC-over-Weiss, etc. That's rarefied air. In fact, the season's most impressive dunk happened Friday night when lil' Ty Lawson hawked on 7-foot DJ Mbenga.

I get that almost anything that comes out of LeBron's mouth is news. I love that he has these fan-guy moments where he actually states an opinion and says something interesting (unlike, say, Kobe). But ... get real.

After the game against the Heat, while being interviewed by Craig Sager's ice-blue suit and shoes, LeBron told the world he would be switching his jersey number from 23 to 6 in honor of Michael Jordan. As far as LeBron is concerned, no one should ever be allowed to wear No. 23 again.

Well, thanks, Bron. We're glad you feel that way, homey. But as great as MJ was, he was not a civil rights pioneer like Jackie Robinson (who, as we all know, had his No. 42 retired by Major League Baseball) and he wasn't as singularly important to his sport as No. 99 Wayne Gretzky was to the NHL. The NBA has Bill Russell and Magic Johnson and Larry Bird who, although they may not have been better than Jordan, were arguably equally great.

I think No. 23 stays in play. But I do have a few things I think we need to retire.

The Brandon Jennings can't shoot rhetoric: The 2006 Rajon Rondo couldn't shoot. The 2008-2009 Sasha Vujacic can't shoot. Don't put B.J. in that class. That was his knock coming out of Italy, it has been his knock since ... but let's kill all that noise. After Saturday's epic 55-point outburst, the youngster said that, finally, in his 29-point third quarter, he grew tired of the Warriors disrespecting him by going under the screens on pick-and-rolls. So he torched them. I know he's a blur with his first step and I know he's not automatic, but defenses need to stop treating this kid like he's Avery Johnson incarnate.

The Oden/Durant discussion: For a while, we tried to hold out. Maybe this was going to be more of a "Houston drafting Hakeem Olajuwon over Jordan" thing. But, come on, let's just be real. This is "Blazers draft Bowie over Jordan" all over again. Durant is headed for a perennial All-NBA career. Poor Greg? Does he even make four All-Star games before he calls it quits? He's looking more like an Erick Dampier (solid big man) than an Andrew Bynum (blossoming stud).

Cornrows: Word? I call them NBA mullets. I just shook my head when I saw Allen Iverson BACK in cornrows. Let's put 'rows up in the rafters, please. Mohawks, you're next.

Voting for the All-Star team before Christmas: Seriously, people. Can we let the players get 20 games under their belts before we start deciding who gets the honor of starting in the league's ultimate showcase?

Shaq and Big Z on the floor at the same time: Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are not Hakeem and Ralph Sampson with the Rockets or Tim Duncan and David Robinson with the Spurs. This is the most immobile big-man tandem in the league playing a game that places a premium on mobile big men, especially over the past five years. Please stop this, Mike Brown. And while we're here, no power forward in the league can check Bron when he moonlights at the 4-spot. I'm just saying ...

Kareem's sky hook: It's been 20 years since Kareem retired and no big man has seen it fit to master the most unguardable shot in league history. Part of that can be attributed to the difficulty of the shot's mechanics (Kareem is undoubtedly the most graceful 7-footer in league history), but I think it more has to do with something very trifling -- youngsters don't think the shot is cool. The sky hook is no different than leather helmets to kids born after 1980. So, because no one is going to retire goggles or awkward bald spots to commemorate the Captain and no big man is going to actually put in enough work to master a shot that would only guarantee 25-plus ppg for their career, we should just retire the sky hook. Let's make a video reel and send it to the Smithsonian.

Shawn Marion and Kevin Martin's releases: I don't want to ever have to look at anything that even remotely resembles those two jump shots again.

2010 talk: Let's hang it up, like Bron says. At least until All Star week -- do me that solid.

Thinking players' prime years end in their early-30s, like it's the 1980s or 1990s: Have you seen the way Steve Nash is playing basketball? He's 35 freaking years old. Isiah was out of the league at 32. The season John Stockton turned 35, he averaged career-low everything (since his first three largely-inconsequential seasons in the league, that is). Do you remember Tim Hardaway the Denver Nugget? Didn't think so. Nash, meanwhile, is playing some of the best basketball of his career. How many guards were playing 2009 Kobe-ball 950 games into their careers? Ray Allen is 35. Nah, seriously, he really is. Advances in training, medicine and therapy have rendered moot whatever we previously thought to be the typical age-range of an athlete's peak years. So if someone were to tell me that LeBron would be leading a contender in 2023, that's not unfathomable.

Big men going out like suckas: Under no circumstance should a big man fall to the ground when taking a charge from a guard. Let's finally put that insanity to rest.

Muse's Uprising: The second I heard this joint at a preseason game at Philips Arena, I knew it was going to become a ubiquitous anthem at games and soundtracking commercials. I know SPIN Magazine and Pitchfork and all the pop music tastemakers have anointed this band as the next big thing. And the songs does have a very triumphant and bellicose feel to it. But any song forced on you 10 to 20 times a week can make you want to mangle your eardrums with Wolverine's claws. Let's lay this baby down. If this becomes the 2010 playoff anthem (a la Let's Get It Started), I swear ...

Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. You can e-mail him here.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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