The Best to Never

Anyone remember when I wrote last year that the Heat would not win the championship this year. I’m breathing a sigh of relief that my taking the field turned out to be right. While I started the playoffs rooting for the Celtics, and I would still like to see them get another ring, I am glad the Mavericks won it. Not just because it wasn’t the Heat, whom I don’t actually hate, or the Lakers, who I absolutely hate, but also because it is great to see outstanding players like Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd get a ring. Now they won’t end up on the list of greats without rings.

That is a terrible list to be on, no matter the sport. John Stockton and Karl Malone got close several times in Utah but they never won it, neither did Charles Barkley. Dan Marino probably leads the list in the NFL, along with the Jazz-like Bills greats of the early nineties. Or the greatest running back of all time Barry Sanders (yeah, I take Barry over Brown. And I’m right). In MLB, there’s Ken Griffey Jr., Ty Cobb and Ted Williams. It is sad that some of the best players of all time never got to win it all. Being on the greatest to never list is often a reason for commentators to claim that they weren’t actually that good to begin with. And that is pure bullshit.

Basketball, Football, Baseball. These are all team sports. Measuring individual accomplishments primarily by team success is asinine. A great player is a great player even if he never wins a championship. Dan Marino may be the best quarterback of all time, and the fact that he never won it all shouldn’t make a difference. Same for Ted Williams and Ty Cobb. John Stockton is the best point guard of all-time, he doesn’t lose that because the number 2 (Jason Kidd) won a ring.

That is not to say that team success has no bearing at all. If a player spends his whole career playing for bad teams then it should affect his legacy. If Archie Manning had played for the Steelers, maybe his name would come up more. But he didn’t. He played for the cellar dwelling Saints. He was still a very good player, but he is only remembered today because his sons are successful.

Anyway, congrats Dirk and Jason and Jason and the rest of the Mavs. They deserve it. Dirk was absolutely unstoppable in crunch time. And the naysaying about LeBron will reach a ridiculous crescendo, but I have no doubt he will win a championship sooner rather than later.

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