Jess and Lewis are BFFs that attended Arizona from 2004-2008 and have bled, puked and pooped red and blue ever since (real fans do more than just bleed their teams colors). Every Wednesday this season each of us will spotlight two players. The players we love will be signified as our Wilbur of the Week, named after our glorious push-up champion, family man of a mascot Wilbur Wildcat and our hated player will be designated as our Sparky of the Week because Sparky represents all that is wrong in the world and he should stay in hell where he belongs. To see last weeks edition click here.
Wilbur of the Week - Lewis
I don’t think it’s crazy to say that my Wilbur of the Week Steve Kerr belongs on the list of people who have had the best basketball careers in history. By career, I don't just mean his playing career but rather I mean his involvement with all elements of the game of basketball. There have been men throughout basketball history that have had better playing careers, coaching careers, management careers and broadcasting careers than Kerr, but no one man has ever been as good at every single facet of the game as he has. Let's break it down.
College - As one of the best Arizona Wildcats of all time, Kerr has his jersey hanging from the rafters at McKale. Kerr made a Final Four and he still holds the NCAA record for his ridiculous three-point shooting percentage of 57% for a full season. As a fan favorite and one of the first guys to put Arizona on the map in the early stages of the Lute Olson era, Kerr still loves U of A and talks fondly about his time as a Cat.
NBA - Kerr then went on to win five championships in the NBA and in one of them he hit the championship winning shot. He also got punched by Michael Jordan which is an awesome story to tell the kids. As the 50th pick in the draft, the fact that he lasted 17 years in the NBA is astounding. Kerr finished his career with 45.4% 3 point percentage which as you may have guessed, is the best career percentage in NBA history. Steve had four complete seasons about 50% from the three including a career high 52.4% on the best team in history, the 1995-1996 Bulls that finished 72-10. Later in his career he also starred in one of the NBA's greatest comebacks when the Spurs came back from down approximately infinity to beat the Mavericks in the playoffs en route to another championship.
Broadcasting - Kerr then went on to be one of the most popular NBA broadcasters as him and Marv Albert made a top announcing duo. In a world where almost everyone is hated, Kerr was always well liked behind the mic as his knowledge, infectious love of the game and cheery demeanor always made watching the game a pleasure.
General Manager - Kerr then went on to become the GM of the Suns where he pulled off one of the ballsiest trades in recent NBA history. Kerr gambled big time by trading away Shawn Marion for Shaquille O'Neal and although Shaq did not come through on his promise to bring a ring to the desert I still believe the trade was the right move. In the season of the blockbuster, the Suns finished with 55 wins which in a ridiculously loaded Western Conference was only good enough for the 6-seed but was only two games back of the 1-seed. In Shaq's only full season in the desert he made the All Star team and led the league in field goal percentage. I don't want to talk about Tim Duncan's three or the Spurs beating the Suns in the playoffs so lets move on.
In his stint as GM, Kerr made other savvy moves like trading for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley who both ended up being pivotal in the Suns run to the Western Conference Finals in 2010. Kerr also basically traded Malik Hairston for Goran Dragic, he signed Grant Hill and Channing Frye on the cheap and managed to retain Steve Nash for $22 million for two years which is a steal for a 2-time MVP. I'd pay $22 million just to be his friend though so I'm the wrong person to ask.
Head Coaching- Now in his first Head Coaching stint he has turned the Warriors into a juggernaut that at times this season has been first in offensive and defensive efficiency. The Warriors currently sit first in the Western Conference and are the Vegas favorites to win it all and Kerr has deservedly been getting a lot of the credit for the teams success.
Yes, everything this wonderful Wildcat does turns to gold and although it seems crazy to say, I genuinely believe Steve Kerr belongs on a short-list with guys like Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich and Michael Jordan as the people who have had the greatest careers in the sport of basketball in the modern era.
Sparky of the Week - Lewis
To be named the Pac-12 Player of the Year is a special honor. As one of the historically great conferences in college basketball that is known for producing many, many excellent professionals, being named the best in the conference is usually a very difficult feat to accomplish. When I think Conference POY names like Love, Harden, D-Will, Terry, Bibby, B-Roy and Payton come immediately to mind. What names emphatically do not come to mind are my trio of Sparky's this week, Jorge Gutierrez, Jerome Randle and Alan Crabbe. The three of them have been the slightly above-average stars of a recent run of mediocre Cal Golden Bears basketball that has somehow won three of the last five Pac-12 Player of the Year awards.
In his award winning year, Gutierrez averaged just 13 PPG, 5 RPG and 4 APG while shooting a very sub-par percentage from the field. Cal lost in the first round in the tournament that year and Gutierrez won a grand total of one Tournament game in his career. He also rocked a ponytail and a lifetime of pick-up basketball has taught me you never want to play with a guy with a ponytail.
Randle won his award after a statistically impressive season but he beat out Quincy Pondexter, the only player to ever win four or more Player of the Week awards and not win Player of the Year. Randle had a good year but he did not deserve the award. Oh, and Randle won one Tournament game in his career.
Alan Crabbe was so, so dominant that he was able to lead Cal all the way to a 4th place finish in the Conference and a loss in the Round of 32. That's dominance on the level of Wilt and Kareem. In Crabbe's career he won a grand total of (you guessed it) one NCAA Tournament game. Now, Crabbe was the only guy on this list who may actually stick around the NBA and his college stats really were impressive so he upsets me the least of any of these three but still -- Cal's last five season of basketball are hardly deserving of three separate conference players of the year award winners.
Wilbur of the Week - Jess
Arizona has obviously had a number of stars over the years, and usually has a household name on the squad nearly every season. Sometimes, like Derrick Williams in his incredible sophomore campaign, the team is carried by a player or two, with a smaller rotation. But this year more than any other I can remember in my Wildcat fandom is my Wilbur of the week: our depth.
Remember when 6'7 Jesse Perry was our starting center? That wasn't because he was an unstoppable force in the paint, it was because the cupboard was bare of any other options. Now think back to the UCLA game, when seven-foot freshman stud Dusan Ristic entered and proceeded to score the first six points of the game for Arizona, and finish shooting 4-4 in eleven efficient minutes.
Or how about Gabe York's last three games? 13 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 APG, shooting 50% from three point land, all as the sixth man.
My worry is that this is happening against a Pac-12 Conference that is having an off year. At the moment only three teams are projected to make the tournament. If the Cats come out cold against the Kentucky's and the Duke's of the nation, it could be a much larger hole to dig themselves out of than they're accustomed to and against much more talented teams than almost any they've faced this year. Ultimately, this Arizona team is one of the best in all the NCAA, and they have the pieces needed to win it all, but I want to make sure their journey to a title isn't cut short because they couldn't get things going to start a game.