With the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first NBA title, LeBron James joins a small list of hometown stars who played huge roles in their team’s quest for a championship.
1. Byron Scott. Although he was born in Ogden, Utah, Scott grew up in Inglewood, California and played at Morningside High School that was just near the Los Angeles Laker’s home court, The Forum. Scott used to sneak inside just to get to watch the Lakers play never knowing that one day he’d wear the purple and gold and be a part of three champion teams. He would also go on to coach them.
2. Clyde Drexler. Like Scott, Drexler was born in another state, Louisiana. But his family later moved to the South Park area of Houston, Texas. Drexler attended Ross Sterling HS in Houston then played college ball at the University of Houston. Although he was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers where he spent the best of his professional basketball years, Clyde was traded to the Rockets for Otis Thorpe who played a key role in Houston’s title run of 1994. Drexler reunited with University of Houston teammate, Hakeem Olajuwon, and they conspired for the Rockets’ second consecutive NBA title in 1995.
3. Udonis Haslem. Miami born and bred. Played for the University of Florida along with later Heat teammate Mike Miller. Played in France after college then was signed by the Miami Heat as an undrafted rookie in 2003. Was a key part of three Heat champion teams playing the power forward-center slot.
4. LeBron James. The Akron, Ohio native who made a name for himself while in high school at St.Vincent-St. Mary. We all know the rest of his resume.
There were hopes in Chicago when they drafted hometown kid Derrick Rose that he would lead the Bulls to a NBA title, it’s first since the Michael Jordan years. They came close on two occasions but a series of injuries not only grounded Rose but also hurt the team.
With Rose’s trade to the New York Knicks, that effectively ends this Bulls’ team’s championship window. With Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol leaving (and Tom Thibodeau gone for a couple of years now), it’s time to rebuild.
It’s painful for Bulls fans because since the new millennium, the front office put together two solid teams that contended — the Ben Gordon-Luol Deng teams that included Andres Nocioni, Chris Duhon, Tyson Chandler, Tyrus Thomas, PJ Brown, and Kirk Hinrich and the Rose, Butler, Noah, Gasol, Kyle Korver, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson line-up. They both came up short and now Chicago is rebuilding again. Furthermore, none of those who left enjoyed the same level of success or stardom.
With Rose in New York, he arrives to pick up a team that doesn’t have much of a roster yet having cleaned house for the nth time since the end of the Patrick Ewing era. Rose will try to help the last of the hometown players in Carmelo Anthony, the Brooklyn-born player who led New York-based college Syracuse to the 2003 National Championship win a NBA title. And if the reports are true that the Knicks are also pursuing Rose’s running mate in Chicago, Joakim Noah, that will bring to two the number of New York-born players.
Noah was born in New York City then moved to Paris for 10 years. He returned to NYC at age 13 to play high school ball in both New Jersey and New York then at Florida where he won two NCAA titles under Billy Donovan (another New Yorker) who is now with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But for Anthony, this is a step in that direction of winning a NBA title. He’s been in the league for 13 years and time is running out. This is the third year of the Knicks under president Phil Jackson. It’s winning time. If he can add Kevin Durant to the puzzle that would be massive for New York.
But as of Sunday, Durant’s agent announced talks regarding KD have been arranged with teams like the Warriors, Celtics, Clippers, Heat, Spurs, and his own team, the Thunder.
The Knicks are hoping to be added to the list but the odds are stacked against them because of those teams, only Boston seems to be the rising one while all the other teams have a shot at winning it.
Right now, the anxiety for Melo Anthony continues as he wonders if he made the right decision to re-sign with New York.
The days when the NBA had the territorial draft are so far gone. It’s a nice story if a hometown kid can win a championship for his city. But as the New York Post described the Knicks’ ambition of landing Durant to form an instant contender with Kristap Porzingis, Rose, Anthony, (former Bulls and NY guard Jamal Crawford is said to be reacquired), “it’s a pipe dream.”