Over the past several years, my sons have loved playing a game called “Would you Rather…?” I thought it would be fun to play an NBA-Style “Would you Rather…?” So here goes.
A: The age-old question asks, are great shooters made or born? I’m not sure, but Kevin Durant has a touch that no amount of practice can develop in the vast majority of players. Elite athleticism is also not something developed by most athletes. Athleticism can be robbed by injury and age. Shooting ability is the player’s last skill to go. Still, I’d take Russell Westbrook’s athleticism because work and dedication can develop enough shooting touch to be competitive, where no amount of work would get me athletic enough to make the league. Elite athleticism hides a lot of mistakes.
A: Vince Carter. I know, I know, this is probably an unpopular thing to admit that I would take individual accolades over team success, but I think a high level of individual success can make up for what I will call a low-level of team success. While Horry hit a lot of big shots and was a contributor on 7 championship teams, he was also never one of the top 5 players on any of those teams. Horry’s career earnings were a relatively modest $20M and so were his career averages of 7 points, and 4.8 rebounds. Carter made 8 All-Star Teams, racked up more than 40,000 minutes, represented Team USA, and captured the imagination of a generation as he cemented his place as one of the greatest dunkers of all-time. He has put himself in a pretty good spot to get he and his 23,574 points elected to the Hall of Fame and he made over $165M in the process. Winning championships as a bench player would be great, but taking care of your family for generations to come is better.
A: Bill Walton. This one is a little bit different than the Carter-Horry question in that Walton had already achieved MVP, Finals MVP, and Championship status before his injuries robbed him of what might have been. He then contributed, post injuries, to one of the greatest teams in NBA history (the 1985-86 Celtics) and won another championship and 6th-Man award. The combination of greater team success and some, but less individual success trumps Barkley’s superior individual accolades. Walton finished his NBA career with only 2 All-Star selections and 6215 points and less than 5000 rebounds (and somehow was named to the NBA at 50 team, which is a different story). Walton’s individual accomplishments pale in comparison to Barkley’s 23,757 points and 12,546 rebounds. Barkley scored an MVP and 11 All-Star teams, but advanced to the Finals only once and didn’t win. Walton’s combination of big, though short-lived personal success, combined with high level team success, trumps Barkley’s high and sustained personal success with lower-level of team success.
Q: Would you rather join forces with other superstars to win a championship or stay with your current team and try to compete for a championship even though you know you would likely never win a ring?
A: I think I would stay with my current team and try to compete. This is a tough one and very fact-dependent because of the many factors you would have to take into account. I grew up following the Utah Jazz and Stockton and Malone. I remember how so many Jazz fans resented the Mailman for leaving to LA to play with Kobe, Shaq, and Payton to chase a ring. Jazz fans eventually forgave Malone, but Stockton never fell out of grace with Jazz fans. Stockton gave his heart and soul to Utah and never would have left to join forces with a better team in an attempt to win a championship. On the flip side, times have changed and superstar players often become great friends playing up through the ranks of AAU in high school and continuing those friendships playing for team USA. It’s tough to fault a guy for going to play with his close friends and live out a dream they have always had. Times have changed, but I’d like to think I’d be loyal to my team, endear myself to my fans, and stay to strive to compete, even if it meant not winning a championship.
A: Best player on a bad team. Many players have had amazing careers on bad teams. Mitch Richmond comes to mind. I’d rather be in the battles, even if I was losing, than to be watching the battles from the sidelines as my team wins.
Q: Which all-time record would you rather hold, points, assists, or 3-pointers made?
A: 3-point king. There is something pure about the 3-point shot. To me it is the most beautiful thing in sports. The scoring king would bring fame and fortune that I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy and I’d never want to knock my man Stockton off his pedestal, so I’ll take being known as the greatest shooter in the history of the game. To become the 3-point king, a player would need to enjoy a long career and play with some amazing players that set you up with some good looks over the years. That sounds like a perfect career, I’ll take that one.
If you have other “Would you Rather…?” hypotheticals for me, please share.