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Monday, May 28, 2018

KU coach Bill Self sounds off on King James’ streak

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James salutes after his team was presented the trophy for beating the Boston Celtics 87-79 in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, Sunday, May 27, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James salutes after his team was presented the trophy for beating the Boston Celtics 87-79 in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, Sunday, May 27, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

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A man who knows a little about streaks himself, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self was in complete awe on Sunday night when he watched Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James knock off the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to reach his eighth consecutive NBA Finals.

“It's unbelievable,” Self said during a recent conversation with the Journal-World. “I mean, try going to eight straight Super Bowls or try going to eight straight World Series. I'm totally impressed with that. It's an unbelievable accomplishment.”

Self said he paid particularly close attention to James' most recent series because he was facing one of Self's former players in Marcus Morris.

“I was pulling for the Celtics because of Marcus,” Self said. “And I thought Marcus played him great. But you're talking about a guy that can dominate a guy that can dominate a game basically any way it's required, though.”

Self, of course, has led his team to 14 consecutive Big 12 Conference regular season titles, but he said the feat achieved by James was absolutely mind-blowing in his eyes for a couple of reasons.

The first is because it has come at the highest level of the sport. The second is because of the specific circumstances of each one.

“With the NBA, there can be upsets but there aren't as many of them because you play a best of seven,” Self said. “So, maybe 60-70 percent of the time — or maybe more, I don't know — the better team wins. What makes his deal so impressive to me is he hasn't always had the better team. You know, to win a series, to win four out of seven, when, on paper, your opponent may have three or four guys that could start for your team and you may only have one guy that could start for their team, that kind of speaks to his greatness and the accomplishment.”

That last thought inspired Self to go in on a whole other topic, one that has been hotly contested throughout the NBA postseason in all corners of the sports world — LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan for the title of greatest player of all-time.

While Self said he would still give a “slight edge to Mike,” he was not willing to count James out of it completely.

“I don't think it matters,” Self said. “I think they're both incredible. I think they're going to go down as 1-2 and one of them still has some time to even improve on his legacy.”

Before putting a bow on the debate, Self made sure to toss a little Jayhawk love into the conversation.

“If you're going to talk about most dominant, I'd still say Wilt,” he said of former Jayhawk and NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain. “If you're going to talk about most titles, you'd say Mike, but the consistency with which LeBron's done it is second to none. I would say I'd still have to give the slight edge to Mike. But that's like picking who's tougher, King Kong or Godzilla.”

Big week for Azubuike

The immediate look of the Kansas basketball team will become a little clearer this week, when the deadline hits for underclassmen to decide whether to stay in the NBA draft or return to school for the 2018-19 season.

For the Jayhawks, that decision rests with sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, who put his name into the draft shortly after the 2017-18 season ended in order to test his status with NBA franchises.

Azubuike, who attended the NBA's pre-draft combine earlier this month interviewed with a handful of teams and worked out with the Los Angeles Lakers before the combine.

The general opinion among those who cover the draft is that Azubuike should return to KU but he has until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to make a final decision one way or the other.

2019 SF to decide Wednesday

Jalen Wilson, a four-star small forward from Guyer High in Denton, Texas, is ready to make his college choice known, according to his Twitter account.

Wilson, 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, is expected to pick between Baylor, Kansas, Marquette, Michigan, Oklahoma State and UCLA.

Most recruiting analysts believe that Michigan is the favorite to land Wilson, who is ranked No. 39 overall in the class of 2019 by Rivals.com.

Comments

Garry Wright 3 weeks ago

I'm glad that Self finally brought up Wilt. There is no doubt in my mind that he's the # one basketball player ever. Too many are putting him too far down their list of the greatest. Wilt would fit in very well in today's NBA, probably even better than he did when he played. As Wilt pointed out once, they changed many rules to slow him and the game down, they changed some rules to speed the game up for Jordan.

Bill Kackley 3 weeks ago

Agree 100%. Wilt would dominate in todays game as well as he did when he played. The 3 best post players ever played then. Wilt, Russell and Kareem.

Dee Shaw 3 weeks ago

Wilt in my opinion was the most dominate player to ever play the game. The best player to ever play the game in my opinion was Michael Jordan.

Jim Stauffer 3 weeks ago

Kinda disappointed in Bill. He mentions Wilt from the older era as the most dominant and then attributes most titles to Mike. What about Bill Russell? I realize most people consider his accomplishments to be when he had less competition, but a major part of his competition was Wilt. I still think Russell had the best overall comprehension of how a team should play to win than any I have seen before or since.

Doug Longstaff 3 weeks ago

I think Bill's comment about "most titles" is understood to be among those in the running for "greatest player of all time." Bill has the 11, but few seriously consider him to be the best player of all time. Besides, there are close to 10 Celtics with more title's than Jordan's 6. Plus Robert Horry.

Love Russell, but he's not seriously in a contender for the GOAT.

Marius Rowlanski 3 weeks ago

You can make a strong case for Bill Russell. 13 years in the league with 11 NBA titles. Yes, Russell lost the head-to-head meetings with Wilt Chamberlain but Russell always got the ring.

And not only did he win 11 titles in a relatively short career but he coached the team and played his final two seasons winning the NBA title in both years.

But I think it comes down to Jordan and Lebron and Lebron is quickly evening the scales and maybe passing Jordan in my mind.

You can't use the argument that Jordan was 6-0 in the NBA finals. If winning championships is the deciding factor than Russell is the best ever.

Doug Longstaff 3 weeks ago

Which is why you can't make that argument, or else Tom "Snatch" Sanders would be regarded as a better player than Jordan. After all, he has 8 rings. Jordan has just 6.

Number of titles is an awful measure of a player's greatness. Particularly Russell's. He has the fortune of being around for the longest time during the Celtics' great run of dominating a small and relatively new league. But even in his era, there were few that thought he was a better player than Wilt. In the 10 years their careers overlapped, Wilt was the 1st team All-NBA selection 7 times. Bill got it twice (although he did also get one the year Wilt was playing for the Globetrotters).

Marcus Balzer 3 weeks ago

Don't forget Shaq as one of the most dominant big men of any era.

Darold Whetzel 3 weeks ago

When Russel was winning all those championships, most years the starting five for the Celtics were hall of famers. Some years the sixth man was also a hall of farmer. Wilt usually only had one hall of fame teammate until his last years with the Lakers. Wilt was only on two or three championship teams, but I am old enough and lucky enough to have watched them both play on TV a lot of times and there is no doubt in my mind that Wilt was the better all around player. Check out their stats, especially while playing against each other.

Steve Corder 3 weeks ago

Is it common, in situations like Udoka, to wait this long after the evaluations/workouts, etc. to make a decision to return?

Matt Tait 3 weeks ago

Yeah. It's pretty common. I think it tells you a couple of things...

  1. He wants to go and is talking with teams and trying to set up workouts to find the one or two teams that might be out there who want him.

  2. The system works. It's great that he (and others) get this opportunity to really take a hard look at it instead of having to guess. That will provide them valuable insight moving forward, regardless of what he decides, and will serve him well in the future either in college for a junior year or in the NBA.

The guess here is still that he'll come back to KU and I'm betting he'll announce it tomorrow.

David Friend 3 weeks ago

I find it interesting that we have not had one comment from HCBS on the athletic director situation.

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks ago

Other than the statement he made the day of the firing...

Marius Rowlanski 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Seriously? I find it interesting that you didn't bother with a web search.

Dirk Medema 3 weeks ago

From a consistency standpoint the only thing that kept Mike from winning 8 in a row were the 2 years he walked away from the game.

The other thing that makes him the greatest imo is that when people were gushing over his O early in his career and turning it into a criticism for being 1 dimensional he accepted the challenge and became all-NBA defensively as well.

Tim Orel 3 weeks ago

IIRC, similar criticism was leveled against Wilt and he proceeded to lead the league in assists (because they said he was just a scorer and rebounder, not a team player).

Dirk Medema 3 weeks ago

Svi went to the very last day last year also iirc.

Scott Proch 3 weeks ago

I agree David. I commented a few days ago that the 'king' of the athletic department was invisible on the subject.

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks ago

So because you didn't read his comments the day of the firing you think he's not said anything?

Harlan Hobbs 3 weeks ago

I think you are spot on about Udoka, Matt. He clearly wants to go, but he is likely receiving consistent information that he won't currently make it in the NBA. It will come down to whether or not he feels that he can ever develop the type of diverse game that the NBA seems to want. Also, having suffered injuries the past two years, he surely is considering the various risks.

My hunch is that he won't be back, but I certainly hope that you are right.

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