“The Last Dance” Episodes 5 + 6

Less than a minute into episode 5 of “The Last Dance” and I can feel the tears forming. 24 seconds exactly after hearing the late announcer Stuart Scott’s voice, we see 19-year old Kobe Bean Bryant pass Michael Jordan in the hallway during his first All Star game.

What followed was approximately five minutes of footage featuring “His Airness” and “The Black Mamba” going at it, exchanging taunts, but mostly exchanging praise. Kobe entered the NBA being looked at as the next Michael Jordan, and while at first Michael was having none of it, by the end of his career Bryant was praised by Jordan as being an all time great. RIP Mamba.

Episode 5 builds up to Episode 6, which focuses on the Jordan “Gambling” crisis, in what is in my opinion a pretty humorous nod to Jordan’s gambling addiction. Episode 5 lays out how Jordan was able to afford his gambling addiction: “Air Jordan.”

“Air Jordan” was MJ’s shoe line, which took Michael from All Star to Super Star. His shoes were an immediate hit and would ultimately completely shake up the fashion industry. Up until Jordan’s shoe line, sneakers were used primarily for playing basketball. No one would just wear a pair of basketball sneakers with their jeans, they were for sport.

Not anymore. The “Air Jordan 1”, Michael’s first basketball shoe which was projected to make $3 Million by the end of year 4, made $126 Million in year 1. Not only could Mike blow everyone’s minds on the court, no one could have predicted how successful his shoe line would be.

The craziest was that it was Nike’s first basketball shoe. At the time, Nike was a track shoe company that wasn’t extremely popular. Jordan helped make Nike what it is now by choosing them over more popular brands such as Adidas and Puma because Nike offered him a much higher stake in the shoe-line.

Boy did that product pay off. Today MJ is the only basketball player to ever be worth over a billion dollars.

What sent MJ from “Super Star” to “International Icon” was the 1992 U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball team, better known as “The Dream Team.”

While overseas, the U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball team (comprised of primarily NBA players for the first time ever) absolutely DOMINATED the WORLD. This team was on a level never seen before and standing out in a sea of stars was Michael Jordan.

There were billboards of him is Barcelona. He couldn’t leave his hotel room without being swarmed by a mass of flashing lights and screaming fans. For most people this would be insufferable, and it was no different for Jordan. There are multiple clips of interviews in the episode of MJ saying he “hates” the attention.

Episode 6: The Price of Fame. Michael was a competitor. It’s what made him stand out as the greatest athlete of all time, and that competitiveness became an obsession that bled into his personal life.

Jordan loved winning, and he wanted you to know it. MJ wanted everybody to know he was better than all, no matter what the contest nor who the contestant. Sometimes, this led to some shady business.

Lots of his escapades are covered in this episode, including his run in with mobsters James “Slim” Bouler and Richard Esquinas, or the time he was at a casino until 2 AM the night before a playoff game.

What struck me most was Jordan’s denial of having a gambling problem, which is obvious. Having enough money to cover all the bets masks the problem I guess.

Episode 6 ends with a cliffhanger, the Bulls have advanced to the 1998 NBA Finals. The viewer is left with the excitement and anticipation of episodes 7 and 8, but I felt there was more to these episodes. These installments were raising a question, but it took me a while to figure out what the question was.

It nagged at me, and I had to re-watch them again, and then, as I was watching episode 6, his Greatness summed it up almost perfectly for me when he talks about his role off the court in an almost angry fashion, almost as if he’s upset the reporter asked. He makes it clear his focus is the sport of basketball and being dominant on the court.

Episode 5 shows MJ on a pedestal. We see him at the height of his career, adored by fans across the globe.

Episode 6 shows MJ being torn down by the media for his gambling problems, and the world stops seeing him as this perfect Godlike character.

The question that’s raised isn’t whether it’s better to be perfect, because that’s impossible. Obviously Michael Jordan wasn’t going to be the best basketball player in the world and loved by everyone forever. It’s impossible to expect that much, even though that’s what was expected of him. It occurred to me that someone else comes to mind.

The question that is raised is whether it’s more important to be more focused on the court, and dominate the sport, or to use your already existing dominance on the court as a platform to be a public inspiration.

Either way, the expectations are high, but that’s why MJ is considered by many to be the greatest of all time.

Jordan argued that being a dominate basketball player is what mattered to him. He never had intentions of being this public idol. He never wanted to be more than basketball, and to him that was OK because he was the most dominant and skilled player to ever attempt the game.

To me, Beau Russell, that didn’t sit right, and it reminded me why I don’t consider MJ the “GOAT.” To me, if you want to be the “Greatest” of all time, you have to use your skill and talent and platform to inspire. Yes, being a dominant player and among the most skilled ever is a prerequisite to enter the GOAT conversation, but where Jordan falls short for me is his lack of philanthropy. If you’re the richest and best basketball player ever, in my opinion, you should start diverting your focus to things “greater” than a sport.

Lebron gets that. Lebron understands the importance placed upon his public actions and decision as the “King.”

No, Lebron doesn’t have six rings. He doesn’t have a perfect NBA Finals record. “King” James DOES have 3 championships, one of which was for his home state and was achieved by being the first team to ever come back from being down 3-1 in a finals series against the best regular season team ever; however he’s only 3-6 in the Finals.

BUT… *and it’s a big but* Lebron has never had any controversy surrounding his personal life. He’s built a school for children in under funded areas and has “promised” (the school is the “I Promise” school) to pay for students’ college tuition. Lebron has been the first to respond to many political wrong doings, and is always a voice for the voiceless.

To me, that is why James is the “Greatest” of all time. He’s the most dominant player when he’s on the court, and more importantly Lebron is “More than Basketball.”

Thanks for reading!!!

– Beau

“The Last Dance” Episodes 3 and 4

Sunday, April 26th 2020, ESPN aired episodes 3 and 4 of “The Last Dance”, a 10-part series focused on the 1998 Chicago Bulls and Superstar Legend Michael Jordan. If you haven’t seen episodes 1 or 2 yet, I highly recommend watching those first before 3 and 4. I also have an article that summarizes the main points of those episodes here:

https://ballingstats.wixsite.com/ballingstats/post/the-last-dance-episodes-1-2

While the first two episodes focused on two very specific people, namely Jerry Kraus and Scottie Pippen, episodes three and four explore the 80s-90s Bulls through the perspective of Dennis Rodman.


Dennis Rodman is a name that almost all NBA fans know, yet some know very little about. Going into last nights episode, I only knew that Dennis Rodman was a forward for MJ’s bulls that had some wacky hair and got into fights. That was about it. Oh, and that he was a monster at rebounding.


I wasn’t old enough yet in 1998 to appreciate the NBA as I was just born, but not knowing much about Rodman made Sunday night’s episode so much more fun.

Dennis Rodman was an extremely interesting character. He didn’t play Division 1 Basketball in college, he played in the NAIA. Rodman averaged 7.1 points a game over his career, yet is a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame. Rodman was never really seen as a third all star on the Bulls, yet has more rings than Michael Jordan.


Dennis wasn’t the traditional basketball star. He clearly dealt with a lot of personal struggles, and the way he dealt with them wasn’t always healthy. Episode three shows Rodman taking an unapproved vacation to Las Vegas during the middle of the season. That’s insane! I can’t even imagine what would happen if someone like D’wight Howard or Draymond Green showed up to games with beers or disappeared for long periods of time.


What’s even crazier? It worked for Rodman. Dennis would come back from these long benders refreshed and ready to go.

Most coaches would have cut Rodman right then and there. Most coaches.

As we learned more about Dennis Rodman, the story naturally flowed into his relationship with Phil Jackson. Jackson was a different kind of coach. He used yoga and Native American meditations during his practices. He looked at basketball through a more analytical lens than most coaches did at the time. Phil Jackson understood that to get the most out of Rodman, he had to let him blow of steam.

Jackson also knew that if the Bulls wanted to win a championship, he’d have to get the ball out of MJ’s hands. Jackson saw that teams could just pile coverage onto Michael and shut him down. Needing a way to get more players involved, Jackson started using a “Triangle Offense” which allowed everyone to get involved.

Jordan didn’t like this at first. MJ knew he was the best player in the league, and wanted the ball in his hands. His Airness also wanted a ring. He wanted one bad, and said on numerous occasions how he wanted to be in the same category as guys like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Here’s what was also covered:

  • A close look at the Shot, Jordan’s 1989 buzzer-beater in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavs. Ron Harper, later a Bulls player during their second three-peat, claims that history would be different had he, not Craig Ehlo, been tasked with defending Jordan on the play.
  • A brief look at Phil Jackson’s unconventional upbringing.
  • A look at the “Scottie migraine game”—Game 7 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, when Pippen, weakened by what he said was a devastating headache, wasn’t able to play and the Pistons ran all over the Bulls, 93-74.
  • The doc also showed just how physical the game was played back then. It’s amazing how more players weren’t more seriously injured back then.

Thank you all so much for reading, and please check back next week!

Beau Russell

“The Last Dance” Episodes 1 + 2

As days blended together and sleep schedules were obliterated, life was starting to seem increasingly monotonous. One episode of “The Bachelor” after the next, one Diet Coke after the other, four walks up the street. I wasn’t depressed, but there wasn’t anything to look forward to. Life was beginning to turn gray for this sports fan as the world of athletics went completely silent…

*POW*

*BAM*

*BOOM*

But suddenly, Sunday April 19th, 2020 crashed onto earth like a meteor. Twitter was firing at a hundred miles an hour as everyone made claims of anticipating “The Last Dance”, the ESPN 10-part series on Michael Jordan’s career, more than the next.

My family and I sat down during dinner on Sunday night to watch the 2 hour special, and it lived up to all the hype. In a desert of tranquility with no excitement to be found, we were gifted an oasis in the form of two hours of watching His Airness throw it down.

The documentary was great, and most all of the “givens” were covered. We knew he was a legend. We knew he won six rings. We knew he was kinda a dick.

What we didn’t know was that the first two episodes would not be about Michael Jordan. While we got our healthy dose of MJ, the initial installments had other stories to tell.

These were the stories of Jerry Krause and Scottie Pippen.

We were provided never before seen footage of how the players interacted with an extremely resentful general manager Krause. We also saw how under appreciated Scottie Pippen was by the management of the Bulls.

The two facts that jumped out at me were:

1. Scottie Pippen signed a 7 year, 18 million dollar deal. That was ludicrous. That is like saying Anthony Davis, the second best All-Star on the 1 seed in the west Lakers, had signed a 6 year 30 million dollar deal. It’s absolutely insane.

2. Krause said to Bulls head coach Phil Jackson that he could go 82-0 and he would still be fired the next year. That is the craziest thing I have ever heard. A general manager blatantly telling a coach that it didn’t matter how good his team might be, he would still be out. What’s even crazier, the owner of the Bulls sided with Krause!

Other than these two bombshells, there were some great moments: President Barack Obama recounting what it was like to be in Chicago when MJ was playing, Dwayne Wade emphatically stating that MJ was the greatest of all time, MJ sippin’ on some bourbon the ENTIRE show.

One of my favorite moments was when MJ was recounting his teammates doing coke in the hotels, but that he himself would never partake — cut to: a puffy faced, bloodshot eyed Jordan smoking a cigar.

If you haven’t seen the first two episodes, it’s a must watch. Do yourself the favor and follow the series. It definitely reminded me of my passion for sports, and I can’t wait for the next episodes.

Thanks for reading as always.

— Beau

Covid in Context

On what would have been the opening day of Major League Baseball, arenas and stadiums remain empty around the country. Fans sit at home idly waiting for the quarantine to end, and players turn to streaming services like Instagram Live or Twitch to stay connected and try to pass the time.

The World is a scary and quiet place right now, and having all professional sports on hiatus makes it even quieter. In my lifetime, I have never experienced anything like this. But is this a first for the world of professional sports? Could this really be one of the most bizarre things to happen to sports since the modern era of sports began?

The NBA started as the Basketball Association of America in 1946, and played under that name for three years before merging with the National Basketball League in 1949. At the time, there were only 17 teams. However, because of financial troubles in smaller market areas, within six years the league had only 8 teams. The NBA has had plenty of troubles throughout its history, but has also seen huge growth and success due to the rise in popularity of its stars.

It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the NBA made its first major television deal, and that was largely because of the game-defining rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The 1990’s saw Michael Jordan become the single greatest athlete of his time, causing the league to see another major upswing. By the 2000’s, the NBA had become a staple for fans in the United States. Today, the NBA has become the country’s most popular sport, due in large part to the personality and leadership of Lebron James.

In recent weeks the League was forced to close it’s doors due to Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert testing positive for the pandemic “Corona” virus. In the days that followed Rudy Gobert’s diagnosis, other professional athletes were diagnosed with Covid-19, such as Donovan Mitchell and Kevin Durant.

For the first time in its history, the NBA has now been forced to cancel the rest of its regular season, as well as, post season and finals. The NHL had to cancel the Stanley Cup in 1919 due to the Spanish Flu. The NHL also had to cancel it’s 2006 season because of a players’ strike, and the MLB likewise had to cancel it’s 1994 post season due to a players’ strike. Still, in all of professional sports history, widespread and lengthy cancellations are rare.

Andrew Rei, a former basketball official, told me, “This is the first time all four major professional sports leagues have had a simultaneous shutdown that lasted more than six days. After the 9/11 terror strike in 2001, all major sporting events were cancelled, but only for six days. Internationally, in 1944, both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games were cancelled because of World War II and the 1916 Summer Games were canceled due to World War I.”

Waking up to no sports scores or games to watch is a strange feeling.Sports will return though. They always have. They may look extremely different when they do. Tom Brady will be Tampa Bay’s quarterback and Kevin Durant will be on the court in a Nets uniform. Until then, we all just have to do our part in helping things get back to normal.

When the NBA does return, whenever that is, it will be welcomed with open arms. I’m sure the first game after this hiatus is going to be watched by a massive audience, maybe the largest in the league’s history, and it will be a great time to finally come together again.

NBA Season “Suspended”

Following a wild week in the news, I find myself sitting at the computer on a Friday night with nothing to do. I can’t go out to a movie or party and I can’t even play 2K because Xbox is down. I can’t stay home and watch Basketball or even Baseball either. Why? Because of the Corona Virus.

After a weekend of growing concern over the Corona Virus, the NBA had announced that it would play games without fans in the arena, and only “essential staff” in would be in attendance in order to keep the players, and other people, safe from the new illness. A few short days later, NBA center and Utah Jazz All Star Rudy Gobert was found to have Corona Virus, and soon after the NBA declared that the season was “suspended.”

Initially, I was extremely upset to see such an amazing season go to waste. Lebron’s 17th year, Giannis’ possible back to back MVPs, a possible (and probable) Lakers championship. There was so much to look forward to. It took me a while to look past that and read the term “suspended”, which at the very least implies that there is hope to close the season out in some way.

So…what exactly does a suspended NBA look like. Lets break it down.

Now that the season has been suspended, players will stop seeing their paychecks coming in, and will likely have to pay back some money that has already been received-and potentially a lot of it.

The employees of many different stadiums in which the teams play will also not see work for at least 30 days. This means thousands of people without pay for a month. Kevin Love, Center for the Cleveland Cavaliers, vowed $100,000 to the employees who work for the Cavs game, and encouraged his team to follow suit. Many other NBA stars have made contributions since, and teams have begun to create plans to make sure their employees are payed during the suspended season.

Finally, it would be tough to calculate the amount of money that will be lost during these thirty days, but it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to say that it will be massive. Organizations and players and sponsors and owners and stations all rely on these games happening. Sports carry a large culture and market outside of the teams themselves, and this will surely take a big hit.

In terms of the season itself, many players will be effected in different ways. Vince Carter may have just retired because of something completely unrelated to basketball. Lebron James will be another year older. Zion Williamson will have more time to shed a few pounds. The point is, the league will look completely different even if this season were to resume given the amount of time that may pass. There could be major and massive unforeseen changes to the NBA landscape without a single trade being made. Klay Thompsen, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, and Kevin Durant might all be healthy by the time the season resumes, which already makes the entire NBA look different.

The effects of this suspension are sure to be wide reaching, and many more updates will come over the next few weeks.

Lebron making argument for MVP

35 year old Lebron “King” James is absolutely dominating his 17th season.

2 days after exclaiming that the MVP award meant nothing to the King, Lebron bodied up Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Lakers 113-103 win over the NBA’s top dogs, the Milwaukee Bucks. Lebron dominated his way to 37 points on 12/21 SA/SM, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, beating Giannis Antetokounmpo on both ends to tie the teams’ season series at 1-1.

Lebron, who is a decade older than the Greek Freak at 35, didn’t let Giannis breathe, snatching the ball out of his hands and taking away his baskets. Antetokounmpo had eight points on 3/5 shooting in the third quarter, finishing with 32 points and 11 rebounds.

Two nights later, Lebron went on again to absolutely thrive against the Clippers. Even though Lebron had a solid night offensively, putting up 28 points, it was his defense all weekend long that was getting him MVP chants in both games.

The Lakers are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. That was the last season Lebron made it to the all-defensive first team. It was also the last time he was in the top 10 for defensive win shares, for which he now sits in 7th. For all of the talk about him leading the league in assists, moving up the ranks in all-time scoring or icing Sunday’s matchup with the Clippers with a three-point play with 40 seconds left, Lebron’s defense is the reason the Lakers came 2-0 this weekend.

The King’s defense is what has him in a close race with reigning MVP champion The Greek Freak.

Curry’s imminent return

On October 30th 2019, the Warriors Stephen Curry injured his hand against the Phoenix Suns.

When Steph went down during the game it was extremely apparent that he had broken his hand. For Warriors and NBA fans, this was a likely sign that Steph would be missing the rest of the season. It was later announced that Curry would be getting surgery on his hand, and that he was assuredly done for the year.

As the season progressed, the young Warriors have struggled. Golden State made lots of moves before the trade deadline, accruing many future first and second round picks, and ensuring that they would be a powerhouse next season with a healthy Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

Now, at the time of this writing, the Warriors are sitting on a record of 14-48, and it’s being announced that Steph could be back on the floor as soon as tomorrow, March 5th, 2020.

To many, myself included, it seems like an extremely risky move for the Warriors, but more importantly, it seems unnecessary. The Warriors have no chance of making the playoffs, and are in a good place to rebuild for the next season. They don’t need to run the risk of injuring Steph Curry again before he is ready to play, and jeopardize future seasons.

So why would he play?

Many are arguing that Steph should play if he is healthy. Fans pay to go to games, and if he is able to play he should.

Time will tell how the early return of Stephen Curry will end.

Why James Harden’s comments about Giannis are simply wrong

As team captain of the 2020 NBA Eastern Conference All Stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo drafted his team mates against Lebron James for the second year in a row. With two players left on the board, Giannis had the second to last pick. Kemba Walker and James Harden are left. Giannis chooses Kemba, and jokes that “I want someone who can pass the ball.” While this was a fun jab at James Harden taking lots of shots and not passing often, Harden’s ego couldn’t exactly handle it.

In a recent interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Harden snaps back at Giannis saying “I wish I could just run and be seven feet and just dunk. Like that takes no skill at all. I have to actually learn how to play basketball and have skill.”

There’s a lot to unpack here. First off, it is well known that James Harden believed and still believes that he should have won the MVP trophy last year over Giannis. He believes that his scoring ability is above any other players in the game, and that no one even comes close. While Harden does put up insane scoring totals on a regular basis, I’d have to argue that this isn’t true.

During the 2018-2019 season, when Harden led all scorers with 2,818 points, he also led the league in shot attempts. Before I reveal how many shots he took last season, lets look at respective field goal percentages.

Giannis made 57.8% of the shots he attempted last season. That is an extremely high field goal percentage, especially for a power forward who has a taller center playing on the court at the same time. Harden on the other hand, shot 44%. Okay… not the worst fg% ever, but best scorer of all time numbers? Not exactly. That same year, similar scorers like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and even Demar Derozan were shooting 47%, 46%, and 48%.

So Harden misses some shots, but how many? Well, last season, Harden led the NBA in field goal attempts with 1,909. I’ll let that sink in for a second. He scored 2,818 points, on 1,909 shot attempts. With nearly 2,000 shot attempts, the “best scorer in the league” only made 843. Giannis was third in shot attempts, at 1,247, and he made 721 of them. Not only was the third highest volume shooter in the league taking 662 less shots than the shot attempt leader, he only made 122 less shots!!!

So just by looking at the numbers we can see that there are some issues with James Harden’s confidence, but what can we discern just by watching the game of basketball.

We can watch James Harden. We can see a guy take shot after shot, missing most of them, and heading to the free throw line more than any other player in the NBA. We’ll see him put up just horrible shots with the hope that it might go in. We’ll see lots of arguing with referees, lots and lots of foul calls, and a ton of borderline travels. In my opinion, it’s not the most exciting basketball to watch. Here’s an example below.

Giannis on the other hand has been very rapidly making the sport of basketball feel a bit more normal. The dude is aggressive. He attacks the rim, runs plays, and physically dominates the other players on the court. He doesn’t whine and beg for calls from officials, he simply plays hard.

Here’s an example:

When asked to comment on James Harden’s comments, Giannis kept it simple: “I never tried to take shots at anybody…My game is not just power for sure. I came in when I was 18, I was 180 pounds, so to power through big guys was kind of tough.”

If anyone in the league has worked hard to acquire the skill it takes to play basketball, it is Giannis, the skinny kid who worked his way from the slums of Greece to the MVP award ceremony.

If anybody is good for the game of basketball, it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Fear the Deer: Why you don’t want your team playing the Bucks in the post season

Following a 108 – 97 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks have reached 50 wins, and have clinched a playoff spot. It’s February. The 2019-2020 Bucks have passed the legendary Golden State Warriors in the fastest playoff spot clinch. This team is scary.

During the preseason, all the hype was surrounding the two LA teams. The Lakers looked stacked with their addition of big-man scoring machine Anthony Davis, and the Clippers seemed to be just unfair, adding Finals MVP Kawhii Leonard and perennial all-star Paul George. Right now, both teams are looking great. The Lakers are sitting atop the West with a record of 44-12, while the Clippers are not far behind with their record of 38-19.

Both LA teams have been dominant, but unfortunately, don’t even come close to the sheer cruelty the Bucks have shown this season. The Clippers are 6th overall in winning margin, averaging wins by 5.7 points. The Lakers are second in scoring margin, an accomplishment that in normal circumstances would seem great, averaging wins by 7.4 points.

The Bucks are averaging 12.2 points over their victims. This may not seem like a huge feat, only five points more than the Lakers, but let me put into context why this number is so jaw dropping.

In the last 20 years, the only other team to average over 11 points in margin victory was the 2016-2017 Warriors, the Warriors that would win 67 games in the regular season and then win the NBA finals. In the HISTORY of the NBA, the only teams with higher averages in victory margin, are the 1995 Bulls with Michael Jordan, and the 1971 Lakers with Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and the legendary Wilt Chamberlain.

What’s especially terrifying about this Bucks team, is how similar they are to the 1995 Bulls with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Michael Jordan = Giannis Antetokounmpo. Michael Jordan won MVP that season, Giannis won last season and is looking to repeat. Scottie Pippen = Khris Middleton. Both complementary pieces to their MVPs who are great at what the MVPs lack.

If the Bucks keep this pace up, I’m afraid there is no team in the NBA that will be able to stop them. Not only will they be cemented as one of the greatest teams ever, look to Giannis being entered into the GOAT conversation.

Damian Lillard: MVP Contender?

The Portland Trail Blazers are a team that many thought would be playoff contenders, but after a rough start to the season, that was put into question. Following multiple losing streaks, the Blazers picked up Carmelo Anthony, who added a much needed scoring boost.

However, even with Carmelo, the Blazers still seemed to not be 100%. Now that we are approaching the end of the regular season however, there is one person that is carrying the team towards the eighth seed in the west: Damian Lillard.

“Dolla” Dame Lillard is averaging 30 points and 8 assists on the season, but is averaging 34 points per game since January 1st, and 41.5 over the last 10 games.

Lillard is carrying the team on his back and it is impressive to say the least. The Blazers are winning games they should lose simply because of the clutch play by Lillard. He’s shooting 40% from three, and 49% overall. The guy is a walking bucket.

Is this enough to make Dame an MVP candidate? Well, let’s look at what an MVP candidate should be.

In my opinion, a regular season MVP should be judged based on these five qualifications:

1. Are his stats better or comparable to the best in the league?

2. Does he make his teammates better?

3. Is the team better when he is on the floor?

4. Is he helping the team to win games?

5. How much better does he make the team than other teams in the league?

Well, to answer the first question,yes. Damian Lillard right now is first in the league in scoring, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. With James Harden taking a dip in his efficiency, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lillard take home the regular season scoring award.

He also checks the second and third box. When Damian Lillard plays more minutes, the team does significantly better. Period.

Boxes four and five however, is what time will tell. As of now, the team holds the ninth seed in the west, and is desperately fighting to get to the eighth seed. If Dame can manage to carry his team into the playoffs, I’d say he’s in the conversation.

Until then, unfortunately, it is too hard to even mention him in the same conversation with players such as Giannis “The Greek Freak” who is leading his team to a wildly impressive 46-7 record.

It will be extremely interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out. If Dame manages to take his team to the playoffs and they make a run (even though the play offs aren’t supposed to matter in voting, they often do) then he will definitely be in the conversation.