Bill Simmons put on his Celtics-colored glasses again today and churned out a color-by-numbers post on Grantland he christened "The Footnote Title".
Spoiler Alert: Simmons is not kind to the Rockets' championship teams. He lists the 1994 Rockets as the biggest "footnote" of all championship teams. For the sole reason being that Michael Jordan retired the previous year. Yup, of all the analysis for the previous 19 teams, he truncates the analysis for his #1 team and just declares it so. Lovely. Here's his conclusion:
1. 1994 Rockets
What Happened: Houston squeaked out the title by stealing Game 7 in Phoenix in Round 2, throttling the Jazz in five, then barely eking out an ugly seven-game war against the Knicks that we'll remember for OJ's car chase and that's about it.
David Stern suspended Jordan for gambling Jordan retired before the season, leaving behind a talented Bulls team that added Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr, had Scottie Pippen headed toward a career year and cranked out 55 wins anyway. Chicago's best three guards were B.J. Armstrong, Kerr and Pete Myers that year. Throw MJ in there and … I mean … is that suddenly a 70-win team? 72 wins? 74 wins? How high would you go?
The Verdict: Hakeem the Dream deserved to win at least one championship. (Look at this clip, for god's sake.) But winning it the season after the league's greatest player ever briefly and inexplicably retired at the peak of his powers? Come on. That's earning a 48-point WTF footnote. At least.
Amazingly, Simmons gets through the entire 20 team list without a single reference to The Karate Kid or Rocky or the Wire. He does, however, spend an inordinate amount of time waxing nostalgically about the Celtics and Bill Russell and he defers greatly to the 1990s Jordan-era Chicago Bulls teams. He also name-drops repeatedly to Bob Ryan, as if I'm going to just accept that guy as an expert because he is also a Celtics fan who actually got to see Bill Russell play.
The problem with this entire list is that any team that pre-dates the ABA/NBA merger should have far bigger "footnotes" than any post-merger team, including the 1994 Rocket team
(I'd go into more detail here about why the 1994 Rockets would have destroyed Jordan's Bulls. But I already did that. Four freaking years ago. No need to repeat myself.)
Instead, let us list all the reasons the Bill Russell era Celtics teams should have giant-sized footnotes or asterisks or whatever fancy symbol is used to call into question historical results that have been white-washed by history.
1. There were only 8 freaking teams when Bill Russell broke into the league.
2. Racism. There was lots of it. Quotas were not official but were firmly in place.
3. Seriously. 8 teams. Eight, dude.
4. Only 14 teams by 1968, when the Celtics run was over.
5. Basketball shoes, training and overall technology was rather primitive in that era.
6. No International Players in the NBA. None.
7. All the truly good athletes were playing baseball in the 60s and 70s.
8. Bob Cousy would be a 12th man on an NBA Team today.
9. Players did not make a lot of money and could not spend entire offseasons honing their game. Imagine if LeBron had to get a 2nd job in a factory.
10. Oh, yeah, no salary cap. Red Auerbach could throw money at players and cigars with no penalties from anyone. Roger Goodell was not alive yet to fine him. There's a reason the Celtics got all the good players and everyone else seemed to end up with scrubs. Those 50s and 60s Championship era Celtics teams were good but they had extreme control over a tightly-regimented system. A system that only had eight freaking teams competing for the rings. THAT is what I call a footnote.
Yet the 1994 Rockets are tainted because we just presume that Jordan would win, even though his Horace Grant-era teams oftend struggled to win and barely got by the Knicks and Pacers on a few occasions. Okay, sure.
Revisionist history is awesome, huh?