Playing for second place?
ARE 29 teams in the forthcoming 2018-19 National Basketball Association season simply playing for second place?
In a survey among NBA general managers, 87 percent of those polled said the Golden State Warriors would win their third straight title this season – and fourth in five years – this season and become the first team to register a championship three-peat since the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers from 2000 to 2002.
The Warriors’ opponents from the East in the 2019 NBA Finals? Ninety percent of the NBA executives said it would be the Boston Celtics.
And if the NBA general managers were to be believed, the 2018-19 Most Valuable Player derby should be a close one.
Newly-minted LA Lakers forward LeBron James got 30 percent of the votes in the annual NBA GM survey. He was closely followed by Golden State’s Kevin Durant with 27 percent. New Orleans Pelicans frontliner Anthony Davis ranked third at 17% and Houston Rockets guard James Harden, the reigning holder of the Maurice Podoloff (MVP) trophy, was fourth at 10%.
The 6-foot-8, 33-year-old James, entering his 16th NBA campaign, has won the regular MVP hardware four times in the past – 2009 and 2010 in his first of two tours of duty with the Cleveland Cavaliers (his employers of the past four seasons that produced four Finals trip and an NBA championship in 2016) and 2012 and 2013 while helping guide the Miami Heat to the Larry O’Brien trophy each time.
The late Wilt Chamberlain also has four regular MVPs – 1960 with the Philadelphia (now Golden State) Warriors, and 1966, 1967 and 1968 with the Philadelphia 76ers (formerly the Syracuse Nationals).
The player with most regular MVP awards in NBA history is 7-foot-2 center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with six – 1971, 1972 and 1974 with the Milwaukee Bucks and 1976, 1977 and 1980 with the LA Lakers.
A four-time Manila visitor (including a basketball clinic held at the UST campus in July 1981), the 81-year-old Kareem retired in the summer of 1989 after 20 seasons and six NBA title rings (1971-1980-1982-1985-1987-1988). Until now, the legendary Hall of Famer known for his skyhook remains the all-time scoring leader in NBA regular annals with 38,387 points in 1,560 appearances for a 24.6-point career average.
His Airness Michael Jordan, now the team owner of the Charlotte Hornets, and all-time center great Bill Russell each own five NBA regular MVP awards.
Jordan was the best in 1988, 1991, 1992, 1996 and 1998 and won six league crown (1981-93, 1996-98) on a pair of three-peats.
Russell, the winningest player ever with 11 championship rings in 12 Finals trips during his entire 13-year NBA tenure (1956-69) with the Boston Celtics, was the MVP in 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1965.
The 84-year-old Russell, whom the NBA named the Finals MVP trophy in his honor starting in 2009, now lives in Seattle.
After his Celtics stint, Russell subsequently coached the defunct Seattle SuperSonics (the predecessors of the Oklahoma City Thunder) for four seasons from 1973-77. He also mentored the Sacramento Kings for 58 games (17-41) during the 1987-88 wars before being given the pink slip.
The NBA, which opened shop in 1946-47 as the Basketball Association of America, did not hand out an MVP award until the 1955-56 season. Initially, the official winner was selected by a vote of NBA players until 1979-80. Thereafter, the chores were taken over by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters starting in 1980-81.
Meanwhile, the NBA players union has had its own awards in the past three seasons.
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