5. Gregg Popovich vs Scott Brooks
This is a matchup of great minds, both who have received the Coach of the Year award, Brooks in 2009-2010 and Popovich in 2002-2003 as well as this season. Brooks represents a fast-paced young team ready to take over the NBA while Popovich is the wily veteran who has managed to get his veteran players to buy into a system that values the team over any single player. What amazes me about the Spurs are their ability to rotate so beautifully on defense and their knack for passing up a good shot for a great shot, they always seem to make that extra pass. The Thunder surprised me several times last night when the rotated just as well, stopping the Spurs from any good looks no matter how many passes they made. If the Thunder can keep that up all series (or at least for an entire game) this series is going to be even better than anyone anticipated.
4. Tim Duncan vs Kendrick Perkins
Perkins brought to the Thunder a defensive minded post player with championship experience and toughness in the paint. He has been very important in their rise to the top, but unfortunately his counterpart in this matchup exceeds his pedigree by a longshot. Duncan has receded from his super-stardom with great dignity, taking a reduced scoring role all while maintaining solid interior defense, rebounding, and passing out of the post. Perkins may be able to stop Duncan from scoring inside (Duncan was 6 for 15 in game one) but Duncan’s vision from the post frequently leads to an assist or a pass leading to an assist. Watch for Duncan to hit those open midrange shots when Perkins is slow to rotate.
3. Kevin Durant vs Kawhi Leonard/Stephen Jackson
Last night we saw Popovich throw the combination of Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson at the scoring king Kevin Durant in an effort to at least slow him down. That strategy didn’t work so well as Durant scored 27 points on 42% shooting and was 11 for 12 from the free throw line. Leonard was struggling offensively and Jackson wasn’t a detriment on that end so the Spurs’ coach opted for the veteran late in the game. Personally, I think Leonard has a better chance at stopping Durant if you keep him out there most of the game. He has the length and athleticism to stay on him and contest those difficult shots that KD is known to make so frequently. Obviously you can’t expect anyone to shut Durant down, but if you play defense well enough on him he’ll be forced to pass it to Westbrook who has the unseemly talent of putting up terrible shots, especially late in the game. If the Spurs can figure this out they’ll have no problem in this series, but if Durant continues to produce at this level expect every game to be as competitive as last night.
2. Manu Ginobili vs James Harden
James Harden may have won 6th Man of the Year, but Ginobili has long been one of the greatest bench scorers in the NBA. Manu easily won the matchup in game one, scoring 26 points on 9 of 14 shooting while Harden struggled, going 7 for 17 with 19 points, but Harden will come out on top over the course of the series. Ginobili really stepped up his game last night, but he has struggled throughout the playoffs, which we delve deeper into here, shooting 30% from beyond the arc and 43.8% from the field. Meanwhile Harden has slipped a little in shooting from the field (41.8%) but has maintained his 3-point shooting (38.1%) and has gotten to the line almost twice as much as Ginobili (7.1 times per game compared to 3.6) while shooting 90.1% from the line. Harden’s youth, consistency, and ability to get to the line really give the Thunder an outstanding option off the bench that will surely pay dividends throughout the series.
1. Russell Westbrook vs Tony Parker
Westbrook is the epitome of what teams look for in a young point guard. He’s incredibly quick and athletic, gets to the lane with ease, has a developing jumper, and rebounds well for his position. Parker, on the other hand, is a coach’s dream of what a point guard can become. He creates his own shots as well as setting up others for shots. He always seems to know whether he should take the jumper, drive the lane, or pass up the shot and make the key extra pass to a wide open teammate. In Game One of the series this wasn’t much of a competition. Parker had 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, not to mention some key buckets towards the end of the game to extend San Antonio’s late run. Westbrook, however, went 7 for 21 from the field while accumulating 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. His shot selection towards the end of the game was a momentum killer and he could not seem to contain Parker. If the Thunder are going to win this series they will need their star point guard to step up, put that athleticism to use on defense, and work on being much more choosey with his shots.
10. Tim Duncan
That’s right, the most mild-mannered man in the NBA has two tattoos and one of them is this bad ass death jester! Combine this with his knee brace and you start to think maybe he’s hiding some sort of hard-core alter-ego that he keeps from the public because he knows we just can’t handle it.
9. Kenyon Martin
Supposedly, Martin has an exact replica of his one-time girlfriend’s lips tattooed on his neck. Just too odd to not make the list.
8. Quentin Richardson
Yeah, there is a lot going on here, but you’ve gotta love the Chicago skyline. I can take or leave everything else here, but it is interesting to say the least.
7. Brad Miller
A seven foot monster of a man has a tattoo of a cartoon dog on his bicep? Yes please. Miller gets some recognition for having the cajones to put a cartoon on his body for the rest of his life. However, he certainly picked a winner in Scrappy Doo.
6. Marquis Daniels (top) and Udonis Haslem (bottom)
Clearly, this is not the most original tattoo in the world if two guys have seemingly the same exact thing tattooed in the same exact location. But these two deserve some credit for their dedication to their home state, though I have to give the edge to Halsem for having a more geographically accurate depiction of the sunshine state.
5. Amare Stoudemire
Stoudemire has a tattoo on his neck that reads “Black Jesus.” Need I say more?
4. Chris Anderson
This guy should get recognition for his entire body of work, Anderson gets some much deserved love here for incorporating his nickname of “Birdman” into his tattoos. Yeah, he has wings tattooed on his arms. Wings, Birdman, get it? His “Free Bird” tattoo isn’t nearly as original, but it still deserves some ink (pun absolutely intended).
3. Stephen Jackson
Yes, those are two hands praying while simultaneously holding a pistol. I never said these had to make any sense.
2. Nikola Pekovic
As if his opponents needed any more reason to be afraid of this man. Pekovic’s warrior tattoo is simply perfect for him. Stare at it for 2 seconds and tell me it doesn’t give you the creeps. I can only imagine his victims in the post are merely trying to avoid adding to the pile of skulls Nikola’s throne sits upon.
1. DeShawn Stevenson
And finally we come upon number one in the countdown. There is just so much to analyze here, so let’s get right down to it. First off, the man has one of the greatest Presidents in the history of the United States tattooed on his body. Why? Well, Stevenson explains, in so many words, that he did it to honor the man who ended slavery. That is a noble gesture, but what about those 5’s? Stevenson says “I had to put the 5’s on each side because nobody could recognize Abe. They kept asking me who it was?” Considering the tattoo is a stunning replica of the 16th President, it seems like the 5’s were entirely unnecessary and don’t help to clarify all that much, but what do I know? Lastly, and most obviously, the tattoo is planted firmly on Stevenson’s throat, a very unique placement if you ask me. Now when you look DeShawn Stevenson in the eyes you’ll be staring right in the face of one of the greatest men to ever live, and no, I do not mean DeShawn Stevenson.
Any tattoos that I left off the list? Comment below and let me know!