NBA / Aug 3, 2009 / 9:00 am

Building a legacy: Grant Hill, Phil Jackson, and more

Grant Hill

Grant Hill

In Smack over the weekend, the question of Bruce Bowen‘s legacy came up. Considering the usual level of hate generated by the Spurs and Bowen everywhere outside San Antonio, the reader response was surprisingly positive. Most people were able to appreciate not only Bowen’s game, but his backstory. Reader Bobby Stew put it best: “Bruce Bowen’s story is that of a man who made something out of nothing. He is the symbol of the American dream. He worked his way from the bottom to the top through hard work, determination, and hustle. Think about it, what real talent did Bowen have?”

The Bowen debate got us talking about some other NBA figures who are near the end of their run, and how their careers will be judged when it’s all said and done. Tell us how you’ll remember each of these guys…

One of the most intriguing “What if?” stories in modern sports. For his first six years, Hill was on his way to becoming a legend, something along the lines of Kobe Bryant without the off-court drama and love/hate relationship with the fans/media. In Hill’s prime he was good for 25 points, six boards and five assists a night, and was only getting better. Had he stayed on that path, what kind of force would he have been not just on the court, but as a pop culture icon?

Then the injuries happened, and where somebody like Gale Sayers would’ve just been done right there, Hill recovered and re-made himself into a valued role player in the latter part of his career. At 36 years old, he put up 12 points and five boards last season, and could still be a starter on a playoff team for at least another year or two. Will Grant’s game be his enduring legacy, or will he be remembered more for what he could have been?

You can’t argue with 10 NBA championships, 12 Finals appearances, about 1,040 regular-season wins, and winning percentages around .700 in the playoffs and regular season.

Or maybe you can argue. Phil has never not had a prime Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neal or Kobe Bryant on his team, and the few times he hasn’t had at least two Hall of Famers on his side, he hasn’t won championships. Phil got out of Chicago at the same time MJ retired (the second time), and arrived in L.A. when Kobe was hitting his prime. Is he really a great coach, or just a great opportunist?

Jermaine O'Neal, Dime #20

Jermaine O'Neal, Dime #20

Unlike Kobe, KG, LeBron, T-Mac and Dwight Howard, J.O. is one of the prep-to-pros success stories who is often forgotten. He made six straight All-Star Games from ’02-07, and for a span of a few years, could’ve been considered the best big man in the East before Dwight came around and Shaq got traded to Miami. Dating back to the Palace Brawl, however, Jermaine’s career has been on a downward slope, and today he’s seen as an overpaid decent starter.

At his best, Finley was primarily seen as just a really good player on a good team. As his career winds down, he’s seen as little more than a solid contributor who’s infinitely better on a contending team. People forget Finley was a two-time All-Star. He ranks 11th in NBA history in three-pointers made, and cracks the Top-75 in career scoring — ahead of Joe Dumars, Tiny Archibald, James Worthy, Pistol Pete, Walt Frazier, Tim Hardaway and Bill Russell, among others. There was a five/six-year run where Finley was a dependable 20-ppg scorer, but at the same time, his numbers always dipped in the playoffs. He’s not a Hall of Famer or anything, but he’s more than just another guy.

Everybody knows Sloan has been with the same team forever and that’s he’s more than overdue for an NBA Coach of the Year award. Here’s something not as many people realize, though: Longevity aside, Sloan’s resume isn’t as impressive as you might think.

Before you accuse me of hating, just check the facts. In his 21 seasons with the Jazz — 15 of which he had Karl Malone and John Stockton together — Sloan has made the playoffs 18 times. But Utah has been knocked out in the first round eight of those times, and exited in the second round four other times. For his career, Sloan has a sub-.500 postseason record (94-98). By comparison, longtime coaching peers Rick Adelman, Larry Brown, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley, Rudy Tomjanovich, the late Chuck Daly, and even Mike Dunleavy Sr. (seriously, look it up) are above the .500 mark.

Sloan will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame next month, and nobody is saying he shouldn’t be there. Forget the Coach of the Year thing; the reason he’s never won it is because his teams have been too good from year-to-year for him to go into a season with very low expectations. But given those other numbers, Sloan might rank lower on the list of all-time great coaches than his reputation warrants.

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  • karizmatic

    Grant Hill should go down as one of the best NBA athlete stories ever, just the resilience he showed in getting himself back to the NBA is the stuff of role models. No he never realized what could have been but he never quit either and that is a success in itself. Plus he’s just one of the great NBA guys as far as personality.

    Phil Jackson is a great coach period.

    I don’t know what to say about Jermaine O’neal great player when he finally got of the Blazers bench. But it seems to me he never quite realized his potential.

    Michael Finley should just be remembered as a solid player to me

    Jerry Sloan is another great coach he’s in the same class as all the guys mentioned in the article even if his post season numbers weren’t as great. He’s one of the long list of NBA characters that would have a ring or two if MIchael Jordan didn’t exist.

  • Ross

    Jackson’s a good coach, but he’d still be nothing without the Hall of Famers.
    What’s his win/loss record when he only had 1 HOFer?

  • Ashlov

    Jermaine O’Neal arrived in Chicago over the weekend and is working with legendary trainer Tim Grover for the next eight weeks. This is the same trainer that helped Dwyane Wade before the Olypmics, and you saw how that went.

    I’m not saying O’Neal will be his former self again, but I think we may see him vastly improve his performace from last season.

  • JRav

    I’m not sure but did the other coaches coach as long as Sloan (playoffs) since then it might be easier for them to have a over 500 record, especially since Sloan is always with a team that he personally developed. Meanwhile didnt Dunleavy coach Magic/Lakers after Pat Reilly left in 1990?

    Also Sloan was a pretty good baller himself during the 70s wasn’t he? Better than Phil, Pat and Rudy I believe. That needs to be included also when Sloan is remembered.

  • dk

    Im not gonna let Dime get me in an ignorant debate over the fact, obviously, Phil Jackson is the greatest coach in NBA history. Red won with HOF’s and mafia style payoffs and threats, do the math.

  • dk

    Also, Sloan is a ultra positive image of whats done right in the NBA on and off the court. A class act and a definitive HOFer. Winning in the playoffs is never a given.

  • vince

    Grant Hil”s prime was a bit better than 25/6/5. In Det (96-97) he did 21.4 with 9 rebounds and 7.3 ast. 1.8 stls and 50% fg.

    Basically Lebron numbers.

  • vince

    Also, Finley was one of my favorite players. Hated it when the suns traded him away. He was another one of their great draft picks.

  • dk

    Can you idiots remind of the last team that won a chip without some HOFers? lmfao This bs forum never ceases to amaze me.

  • Citizen B

    Name one rookie Phil Jackson ever “coached” into an all-star?

  • dk

    Im sure Jackson and Sloan are only respected by the entire NBA and the majority of the sports world for just letting great players run with the ball, no skills involved… Unfinbelievable….

  • dk

    @10 Your a tool bro. I guess Pat Riley turned Majic and Kareem into All Stars. Without Pat, them cats wouldnt have made it in live…. OMFG your a fool and theres the first of 100 ignorant comments.

  • bigdoggchad

    @10 When has a Phil coached team ever had a pick that wasn’t one of the last first rounders? You rarely get a starter in those picks let alone a all-star.

  • Shrink This

    For me, having watched Grant Hill throughout his NCAA career, I’m left wondering what could have been. I’ve always had a hard time comparing him to anyone else on the floor; I’m not sure he had Kobe’s scoring ability but I think in his prime he might have been a better passer, rebounder and (sorry kobe fans) facilitator.

    The guy is a class act and really articulate but I’m not sure he had the charisma to reach pop culture icon status. Then again, corporate America seemed to like him…

    Nice piece Austin.

  • rangerjohn

    phil jackson is nothing but the luckyest coach in the history of the nba.

    he had arguably the 3 best players in the history of the game. hell mj “retired” for 2 yrs and what happened? phil couldnt get it done. 1994 2nd round exit 1995 2nd round exit.

    then he throws kobe under the buss, (yes intentional) and plays at least a part in shaq leaving, then what happenes. 2005 missed the playoffs, 2006 1st round exit, (let kobe take the team to a 3-4 loss but kobe ALMOST got past the 1st round alone) 2007 lose 4-1 in 1st round. 2008 they get a gift from the griz and almost get things done. 2009 with a stacked team (hmmm did i say stacked?) he fianlly gets it done.
    oh thats right he was “retired” for the 04-05 season hmmm? seams he never wants to coach if eh doesnt have teh teams stacked. wonder why? is he worried his numbers migh fall?
    phil jackson is the most over rated coach EVER.

  • rangerjohn

    @ # 13 2005 nba draft, lakers took andrew bynam, who is being babied by kareem but cant stay healthy or consistent.

  • Soopa

    Shortly after I began following the NBA, Grant Hill was all the rage. Hyped as the next MJ, he was Kobe before Kobe and had Lebrons allround game. Good-character-guy is an understatement for the ages.

    Leading vote getter as a rookie for the all-star game if I remember correctly? It was the year Jordan wasnt there, but still… Remember him dunking over a ‘still-in-his-prime-best-shot-blocker-in-the-NBA’ Zo? I sure do!

    I still have him as a top10 talent in NBA history, with talent written in bold.

  • TJ

    I think Jermaine O’Neal is as far as you can get from a preps-to-pros success story. He couldn’t even get on the court for Portland and didn’t do anything until he got traded to the Pacers.

    It took him 5 years to contribute to an NBA team. He’s the poster boy for guys who should have gone to college instead of going preps-to-pros.

  • TJ

    I loved Finley on those Mavs teams. He was a great #2 option for them.

  • Sanssasin

    Grant Hill – I am just glad I got to see him when he was good. Some have questioned his “pop culture icon” status, but didn’t he get the most votes to the All-Star Game his ROOKIE Year? Dude was pretty close to pop culture icon as you could get. His status was a short 5-6 years. Seems like he ended up third in MVP voting in his 2nd or 3rd year? The dude was great and was getting all the pub before the injury. I always think of Grant Hill in a Pistons uniform. Dude wasn’t Kobe, dude was bigger than Kobe. He stayed all 4 years in college and had a clean record, what wasn’t there to like about this guy? He was Tim Duncan before Tim Duncan.

    Phil Jackson – Phil is a helluva coach. The guy is good. Best Coach ever????

    Jermaine O’Neal – I wish the guy would have had a fire under his ass throughout his career. He showed us a lot when he got moved to Indiana. But since the “Brawl” he hasn’t shown us anything.

    Mike Finley – I like him but dude never really built much of a legacy. Wasn’t he in a dunk contest??

    Jerry Sloan – I love this head coach. Most head coaches leave when HOF talent leaves, not Sloan. He stuck around when the team rebuilt. That right there tells me all I need to know and has won over my respect. It’s been pointed out that he isn’t all that impressive in the post season, but I would challenge any head coach to get as many wins out of the rosters he has had. And if Michael stayed retired, Sloan is at least wearing 2 rings. Hate all you want but this guy is a blue-collar American, which I can relate to.

  • bigdoggchad

    Yep forgot about Bynum. Thought he was a rookie the year Rudy T was the coach. But Bynum has a good chance at making the all-star team this year with Yao out n Shaq being back in the east.

  • BiG ShoT BoB

    The one thing people cease to realize when it comes to Phil Jackson is none of those HOFers never won a championship without him either. Phil had the know how on how to get those stars to play the way that would get them a ring like a coach is suppose to do.

  • BiG ShoT BoB

    But let’s not also forget Phil’s secret weapon through all those championships…Tex Winter…beleive the chips don’t come without this guy.

  • johnsacrimoni

    How about Shaq with Miami in ’06? Rodman with the Pistons in “89 and ’90?

  • hahns

    Sanssasin is right on the money about sloan- the reason his post season numbers arent popping is because he is ALWAYS in the playoffs- austin, you just wrote a story about lottery to luxury, but the jazz have never really had many of those opportunities to get that marquee lottery pick. the jazz have always been good no matter what rag-tag roster they had. i remember for a while there matt harpring was one of their main offensive weapons.

    and yeah finley is like iggy w/o the number one option status

  • BiG ShoT BoB

    @ John Sac…Shaq in ’96 was after Phil. Rodman is just being nit picky for the sake of arguing but you get the point

  • BiG ShoT BoB

    oops ’06 *

  • Ian

    jackson is a good coach. great?? well i dont know hes not the best ever cant say hes close. hes lucky and a bit opportunist like horry but at least he has delivered.

    they arent talking about no hofers they are talking about one. many coaches have done a better job with one hofer. btw how many hofers did the 04 pistons have??

  • the cynic

    grant hill – sadly i’ll remember him most for the amazing number of injuries mostly because his piston teams never really did anything

    phil jackson – maybe the greatest coach ever, not for his questionable x’s and o’s, but his unmatched ability to prepare his players for any situation. Sure he wouldn’t have won those titles with some of the greatest players to play the game, but he made them better

    O’Neal – the brawl

    Finely – paid 20 mil by owner to win championship for bitter rival

    Sloan – one of the few brutally honest people involved with the NBA; and 1000x times the coach Mike Dunleavy tries to be. Playoff record be damned

  • the cynic

    also, Tex Winter is a HOF coach. Will the retards that vote just vote him in already, before he dies

  • doc

    Grant Hill-Was a absolute BEAST before injuries.Phil Jack-One of the greatest coaches AND opportunists of all time.Jermane-Good pro.Mike Finley-Good Pro.Jerry Sloan-Good coach.

  • ww

    Obviously PJ won 10 championships on pure luck. Just like guys who always make it to the final table at poker tournaments are just “lucky”.

    Shaq did win a championship in Miami w/ another coach, but he admitted himself that he was no longer the best player on that team. I would say MIA won that year b/c of DWade, not b/c of Shaq.

  • Tim W

    wow the hating on Phil?

    who HAS won a chip without a HOF player? maybe larry brown with the pistons?

    Truth is.. you need a these types of players to win rings.
    Phil is the best all time. everyones just taking him for granted

  • JoV

    I will always remember Finley for doing an ugly cartwheel at the All Star weekend dunk contest.

  • matt

    phil jackson and jerry sloan, while seperated by ten rings, are two of the better coaches of all time, nd while their coaching legacies are more than three quarters of what their legacies are, they were two great players during their playing days.

    Jerry Sloan is still remembered as one of the nastiest defenders in Bull’s History, much less NBA history, because of how tough he was to play against, so I think that will be remembered as part of his legacy.

  • changster

    don’t think you can mention grant hill w/o also mentioning penny hardaway.

  • chief youngblood

    a very wise man said to me once grant hill is the ken griffey jr. of basketball , how true , how how true.

    the would be jordan turned into penny hardaway ( albeit a more productive one )

    phil jackson , no question about his legacy. nothing to debate. a maybe the great .

    jermaine o’neal was a very good player.

    jerry sloan is a chump with no style, utah. holy shit if the spurs weren’t around they might could hold their crown.

  • nige

    you can’t have Grant Hill in this discussion without also having Penny. Both never fully reached the levels they should have due to Injuries and both would of been what Kobe is now if not better.
    And for those who said G-HILL was soft…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkC-is6cW9U

    Dude was smooth, but not soft!

  • TIG

    Who is the second HOFer in last year’s Lakers roster ???

  • http://dimemag.com kyle

    ok, here r the facts..
    phil jackson is over rated, but he is defintly a future hall of fame coach..

    he coached mj, kobe, shaq and pippen in their primes.
    I am 15 yeard old and i guarantee i woulda won titles with them too. (prob not 10 though, lol)

    and the fact is hes always shad at least 2 hall of famers to coach.

    (pippen and mj, kobe and shaq, kobe and gasol)

    but then again every team in the last decade has had that, with the exception of the pistons in 2004.

    so ya, hes very over rated

    but the fact that he was offered the position to coach those teams says a lot.