“Dynasty, man. Dynasty.”
I remember those words like it was yesterday. It was during an NBA Action feature on the then-young guns of the Los Angeles Lakers Eddie Jones and Kobe Bryant. They were being interviewed outside scenic La Jolla and both were looking towards the sea when Jones answered host Summer Sanders’s question on where they saw the Lakers over the next few years.
“Dynasty, man. Dynasty.”
That was in 1998; the last year of the Bulls’ dynasty. And a new one was about to reign.
In March of 1999, Jones was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in the middle of the strike-shortened season to give more room and playing time to an emerging Kobe Bryant. When the team began to lose, the Forum crowd would chant, “Eddie! Eddie!” as a sign of their displeasure over Jones’ trade for Glen Rice. The Lakers’ first full year without their familiar #6 was a little chaotic but by June of 2000, the Lakers won the first of three straight titles.
Dynasty. Only Jones wasn’t a part of it.
After a year of purgatory in Charlotte, Eddie was picked up by the Miami Heat where he would join a team that was poised to snatch the eastern crown vacated by Chicago – I really thought he’d join the Bulls after his stay with the Hornets. In South Beach, he joined Anthony Mason, PJ Brown, Dan Majerle, Brian Grant, Tim Hardaway, Bruce Bowen, Alonzo Mourning, AC Green, and Cedric Ceballos to form a talented team that ultimately fell short. But that was some team, huh?
In 2003, the Heat drafted Dwyane Wade out of Marquette and a year later, picked up Shaquille O’Neal. They lost to Detroit in the Eastern Finals of 2005 but figured to be a contender what with new additions and the maturation of Wade. Only the following season, they traded Jones who had become a favorite at the American Airlines Arena in his five years with Miami. And then the Heat won the NBA title.
After another brief stint this time with the God-forsaken Memphis Grizzlies, Jones was taken back by the Heat after being loaned for one year in exchange for Jason Williams and James Posey who both contributed to Miami’s title drive. Guess Pat Riley fleeced old mentor Jerry West over that one. As much as I don’t root for any team coached by Riley, it sure was nice to see Jones back in a Heat uniform. The other day, he scored 13 points in a win over the Wizards and nine points in another victory against the Pistons last Saturday.
While Jones missed the championship run, he’s here for the defense of the crown. “All I can do is try to fit in and contribute,” he says at the prospect of finally bagging a ring that has eluded him. “Maybe this time, I’ll get lucky.”
Eddie Jones has always been a crowd favorite wherever he’s been, but being a good team player and teammate doesn’t necessarily guarantee success on the hardcourt. Maybe this time and if D-Wade gets back for the play-offs, Jones will finally be able to have “champion” in his career resume (he never won a national championship during his college days at Temple).
I always loved Eddie’s slashing game, those power dunks, and Gervin-esque finger rolls. Yeah, the finger roll is a dying art (locally, it’s only JC Intal who does that). Aside from EJ, the last NBA player who used this as a part of his arsenal was Scottie Pippen.
I was too young to watch ABA ball, but I kinda loved watching old game films of the Stilt, Dr. J, and Iceman flip that ball over the pterodactyl-wingspans of NBA centers like Kareem, Russ, Willis, and Moses; the likes of whom we will never see again. Of course, its nothing quite like the airborne game it is now, but still...
I use to work on the finger roll in the backyard of my home. And from time to time, I still try it out during games. EJ was just fun to watch when he’d elevate over his guard and roll the ball over the outstretched hands of his defender for a deuce.
There have been a lot of great players who have never won a title: Charles Barkley, Adrian Dantley, Chris Mullin, Larry Nance, and Darryl Dawkins are but a few. And there are those like Eddie who’ve had the misfortune of missing out on titles with their former teams.
Another such is the Philadelphia 76ers’ current television analyst Steve Mix who used to play center alongside Chocolate Thunder for the Sixers. He was there for their Finals’ losses to Portland and the Lakers. In 1983, Mix was traded to the Lakers; the year Moses Malone led Philly to the Promised Land with his “fo, fo, fo” play-off prediction (turns out that Malone was wrong by one game as they suffered a solitary loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Finals). The Lakers and Mix were subsequently swept out of the Finals by the title hungry Sixers. Mix would move to the Bucks the following year after which he called it a career. Mix, like Jones, was a solid player with a level-headed demeanor in pro sports. It’s too bad that good guys like them don’t get to win the Big One all the time.
But at least Jones still has one more chance to win an NBA title before he calls it quits. And if the chants of “Eddie! Eddie!” cascade down American Airlines Arena, maybe #6 will have the chance to raise his arms in triumph for the title that always eluded him.
Monday, March 5, 2007
“Dynasty, man. Dynasty.”