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In Wilbon's World

Chat House: The Addition

Each week I'll post a few questions I didn't get to during The Chat House and respond to them in depth. Today's topics: Norman Chad on Kobe, the Colts and LeBron's decision not to participate in the dunk contest.

Rockville, Md.: Norm Chad called you out in his column on Monday. I loved his shot at Kornheiser. Good stuff. Now it's your turn to return fire. have at him! Kobe Bryant is the best finisher in the NBA. Ever.

MW: Of course, Norman's shot made me laugh out loud in Monday's "Couch Slouch." It was beyond hysterically funny. Then again, so is Norman Chad. And you know what? There's no shot aimed back at him. Sorry. Well, other than that Kobe is NOT better than Michael Jordan. If he wins six or seven, I'll reconsider.

And to be candid, I was thinking last week about reconsidering some of the Kobe comparisons, like the one with Jerry West. I always list the top five Lakers, all-time, as being Magic, Kareem, George Mikan, Baylor and West. I've always put Shaq and Kobe after them. Thing is, Kobe has now surpassed Shaq in championships won as a Laker, 4-3. Kobe has been a Laker his entire career. And Kobe leads Jerry West in NBA titles 4-1 at this point. Why do I have still have Jerry West ahead of Kobe? Well, consider this a shift in position. West, brilliant as his career was, wasn't more clutch than Kobe because if he was he'd have led the Lakers past the Celtics a time or two in all those seasons...but he didn't. Same for Baylor. Hell, Baylor and West played together with Wilt some of those years...with Gail Goodrich some of those years. I know Russell was the most dominant player, the most fiercely competitive and the greatest winner. But that also means West and Baylor, great as they were and those were the formative years of my sports life so I watched it all, were dominated by another team ALL THE TIME. I don't believe Kobe would be dominated all the time by anybody in any era, so I'm elevating Kobe above West and Baylor...But not above Jordan.

Seriously, what's Kobe done that Michael hasn't done? What does Kobe do that Michael didn't do better? The answer is nothing. And the Los Angelinos, which Norman has become over the years, can't stand that. They want to say one of their Laker darlings is better than Jordan and he isn't. You know who you can make that argument for? Magic. That's it. If I was starting a team today, from scratch, I might want to take Magic first...ahead of any player in the history basketball...because he could play all five positions, under pressure, and do it with a precision and grace not even Michael Jordan could. Look, Kobe is the best player in the game today, but not equal to Jordan...Sorry Norman. Also, I can NEVER be upset with a man who introduced me to "Uncle Bill's Pancake House" in Manhattan Beach, California, a place no Diabetic should ever visit. But I do, a great many Sunday mornings when I'm in Southern California. I love the place, just about 150 yards from the ocean. Norman first took me there and we've been there several times...though not enough lately.

Quick story: I began at The Post at the same time as Chad and Peter Mehlman, who said "later" to sportswriting in the late 1980s and became writer, producer, and later co-executive producer (I think I've got that right) for a little show called "Seinfeld." I've teased our former boss, George Solomon, over the years that keeping me and not Mehlman could be the worst talent decision in the history of employment. Peter is one of the funniest people I've ever known, and it's a damn good week in Southern California if I can get together with Chad and Mehlman. You can't have better company. So, if Norman (or Peter) wants to attack me occasionally, we only go back 30 years now. They're allowed. And since they're much funnier than I could ever dream of being, I have to be careful with my retorts.

Washington, DC: Hi Mr. Wilbon, Just a few short weeks ago, you wrote: "Caldwell is betting that with good health, the Colts will get their groove back. I'll take that bet. The Colts have been here before, in 2005 and 2007, and lost in the first round of the playoffs, to the Steelers and Chargers specifically. Caldwell is betting that the Colts can stay championship sharp through film study and practice, perhaps some light scrimmaging. I'll take that bet. I'll bet that the Colts won't be able to turn it off and then back on, especially with the players so massively disappointed. I'll take that bet and the Chargers or Steelers or Patriots in the AFC half of the playoffs.
The great change-of-direction the season has taken is that the Saints and Colts no longer feel like the favorites. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if the Saints don't win another game this season. Hell, you can't get any worse than losing at home to Tampa Bay, which the Saints did Sunday. Now, it figures they'll rest everybody in a season-ending loss at Carolina next week, then after a bye-week wind up losing their very first playoff game. Wouldn't surprise me if the Colts exit ASAP either. Would I take them, even playing at home, against the Patriots in mid-January? Not a chance."

Were you wrong on the Colts and Saints resting players? Both teams looked very, very sharp (and well-rested) in their wins this weekend. In fact, most are saying that given their home field advantage they are favorites to make it to Miami. You were VERY harsh in your criticism of the Colts coach. Do you agree with Caldwell's decision now?

MW: I was harsh. And I might have to take it back...but certainly not after one playoff game they were favored to win. If the Colts lose to the Jets this week and fall short of reaching the Super Bowl, then what? In fact, if the Colts win I might feel even more resentful, and I seem to have plenty of company. If the Colts win the Super Bowl, then why should we not assume they could have held on to beat the Jets and Buffalo the following week to go 16-0 and then 19-0. It's no more presumptuous than insisting somebody would have gotten hurt and they couldn't have gone 19-0. I like people/players/teams/coaches/executives who dare to be great, to be special. And I KNOW Peyton Manning dared to try, as did most of the Colts. But the leaders of the organization decided to be safe. I understand if others feel differently, if winning the Super Bowl is enough. It's just not for me...not when something else is within reach and you don't try.

Brooklyn, NY: I called it last week, but you did not post it - perhaps it was premature - but the Colts decision to let the Jets win is coming back to haunt them. Remember Steamboat Willie from Saving Private Ryan? The German who Tom Hanks and the guys let live, only for him to show up at the end and kill Tom Hanks? That's the Jets. The Colts are Tom Hanks.

MW: Ahhhhh, another way to look at the Colts-Jets debacle from a few weeks ago. If the Jets beat the Colts, after the Colts had a chance to put them out of the playoffs by beating them in Indy in December, then what would you make of the Colts decision to tank that game? Poetic justice, perhaps? By the way, he doesn't kill Tom Hanks, does he? It's somebody else who lets him live that he returns to kill? It's not really Hanks, is it? Goodness, my memory is failing!

Washington DC: LeBron James said at last years Slam Dunk contest that he would compete this year, but now he isn't. Listening to Tony K's show today it was mentioned that LeBron is scared to lose to a lesser opponent. Thoughts?

MW: It would be insane for LeBron to enter the dunk contest. What would he have to gain. It's not like trying to go undefeated or something. It's an exhibition game. It means nothing. Okay, it would be good for the show and I'd like to see it. But to what extent? LeBron has been in the league, what, seven years now? Michael Jordan stopped being in the dunk contest after his fourth season, I think. You enter that stuff when you're young and your legs are like pogo sticks. LeBron, while he's only 25, is getting some mileage on him. He wants to save his strength for the post-season.

That idea Shaq had to get Kobe and D-Wade and all the marquee players to participate in the dunk contest and give half the money to the relief efforts in Haiti sounds good. How can you not love the idea? Problem is, you get old quickly in the NBA. The 100-game seasons (including the playoffs and international competition) wear you out. You think Vince Carter can dunk now like he did eight, nine years ago? No chance. It's not worth the risk. Already, even though he's still a very young man, LeBron James has reached the point where he needs to pick his spots. Flying through the air every night is exacting. Jordan stopped that stuff by 1993. He cut his flights by about 75 percent during his second act, from 1996-1998. LeBron needs every bit of energy he has to drag that Cavaliers team deep into the playoffs. Taking part in the dunk contest would be a waste. Whether he could win or not, I don't know. But afraid? Please. Tony must have been smoking something.


Michael Wilbon

 |  January 21, 2010; 10:32 PM ET  |  Category:  NBA , NFL , The Chat House Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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