All posts by Chimdi Ike

Kenny film poster

Review: Kenny – a fitting tribute to Liverpool’s ‘King’

Kenny is a retrospective look into the career of the Liverpool player, manager and Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish.

Directed by Stewart Sugg, the 86-minute documentary explore the extreme highs of Dalglish’s career, including winning six league titles, and the tragic lows of experiencing three of football’s most devastating tragedies.

The film examines how the Scot has struggled to make peace with the disasters he witnessed between 1971 and 1989 at Ibrox, Heysel and Hillsborough. The last of those claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans, and Dalglish – as the club’s manager – attended most of their funerals.

The film is a well put-together compilation of interviews, clips from Dalglish’s playing days, re-enactments and comments from former team-mates, world football figures and family.

They come together to form an all-round insight into Dalglish as a player, a manager (and a player-manager at one point), family man and leader.

Liverpool’s greatest signing?

Dalglish joined Liverpool from Celtic in 1977 for a then British record fee of £440,000 and helped the team achieve an era of dominance, both as a player as well as manager.

Former team-mates Alan Hansen and John Barnes sit with Dalglish together on a round table to shed light on those glory days. Dalglish also talks with former attacking partner Ian Rush.

‘He could see things before anyone else’ — Ian Rush

“He could see things before anyone else. He made things easy for me,” says Rush, talking about their deadly partnership upfront. “For me, he’s the best player in Liverpool’s history. He’s the king, without a doubt.”

Sir Alex Ferguson – not always the best of friends with his fellow Glaswegian – even makes a cameo, describing how Dalglish asked him for advice before becoming player-manager in 1985.

At 34, Dalglish was given the task of managing the team as well as playing, a task he couldn’t turn down, especially as his club needed uplifting after the 1985 Heysel disaster.

Player-manager

“I thought it was going to be difficult but I thought if they had belief in me, the most I could do is try to see if I had any believe in myself,” he said.

He would then go on the mark an incredible season with Liverpool winning a League and FA Cup double. Hansen said it was “probably his greatest achievement”.

The documentary really puts into perspective the sheer genius Dalglish possessed as a player and a manager.

Sadly, the second part of the narrative shines light on Dalglish’s struggle with the impact of experiencing three colossal football disasters, with Hillsborough being the one that really broke him.

‘He was falling apart after Hillsborough’ – Marina Dalglish

“I don’t want to go back, I don’t want those memories to come back to the forefront of my mind. People might say you are running away from it, if I am, I am.

“But at the end of the day it still won’t get me back,” he says as he parks his car atop a hill in Sheffield and walks over the end of the road which overlooks the ground of Hillsborough.

It’s the closest he can bring himself to going back to the scene of the tragedy.

Reds resignation

Marina, his wife, speaks about how the event affected her husband’s well-being. “He was falling apart after Hillsborough,” she says.

These effects lead to the early resignation of Dalglish as manager of Liverpool as his struggles proved too much for him to cope with while also making the right calls and leading his team.

The documentary ends with the same flashback footage it started with of Dalglish sitting at a press conference announcing his resignation as Liverpool manager in 1991.

Kenny is extremely well made and I can say, even as an Arsenal supporter, that it is a great watch for any football fan.

LeBron James and Michael Jordan

Is LeBron James a better player than Michael Jordan?

LeBron versus Michael. King James vs Air Jordan. Current great vs the greatest ever?

It’s a question that basketball fans will never tire of debating, but as LeBron James edges closer to rounding off his 15th season in the NBA, which matches Michael Jordan’s career total, it has has never been more relevant. So is LeBron the better overall player?

Let’s say you had first pick in a fantasy game against your boss for a big promotion; who are you picking Jordan or LeBron? I’m picking LeBron every single time, and I’m about to give my reasons why.

Firstly, one of the reasons this debate is so hard to settle is that Jordan played a different position to James, so we’re going to look at some stats on the fundamentals but seeing as we’re talking about positions, it’s only right that this is thrown out there first.

Although LeBron is a forward, he plays every position in the game more than proficiently, Jordan on the other hand and as versatile as he was, was more of an outfield player and would have never been able to hold his own beyond the small forward role. I know that’s not a proven fact – so sue me…

With the help of Basketball-Reference.com, let’s look at some of their regular season stats:

Field Goal percentage: Of course, Jordan was more than an efficient shooter, but James’ record has the slight edge with James hitting 50.4% of his career shots while Jordan retired at 49.7%.

Assists: This is another vital part of the game where LeBron has the edge. James is well-known for his passing ability, as we mentioned earlier he plays every position of the game more than proficiently, and despite being a small forward he averages 7.2 assistants per game, the highest for a small forward in NBA history and higher than Jordan’s 5.3 average.

Rebounding: Thanks majorly to his height and size advantage, James has a significant edge over Jordan when it comes to defensive rebounds, sitting on 7.3 to Jordan’s 6.2. It is worth noting, though, that Jordan has a slight edge over James when it came to offensive rebounding.

Three-point percentage: Despite not being the strongest part of James’ game and something he is often critiqued for, he is a deadlier three-point shooter than Jordan ever was. James is currently sitting on a 34.3% average while Jordan retired at 32.7%.

Triple Doubles: Although this isn’t really a stat that should decide who a better player is, it definitely helps illustrate the dominance on a court a player possesses to be able to post double figures across a combination of three key stats – points, rebounds, assists, blocks or steals. James sits on 71 so far in his career while Jordan retired on 28.

Now let’s look at some post-season stats:

Play-off win shares: This stat is one of the stats that illustrate how detailed stats get in the NBA today. It’s an estimate of how many play-off wins a player is individually accountable for with a combination of points, assists blocks, steals etc.…considered.

LeBron has a significant edge over Jordan on this one, with him currently on 45.8 while Jordan retired at 39.8. James and Jordan hold the top two spots for this stat in NBA history which makes James the only player to ever reach and breach 40.

Finals reached: Not only has LeBron reached two more finals than Jordan already with eight to Jordan’s six, it is also worth noting that LeBron has been to six finals consecutively while Jordan only managed three in a row. LeBron is also more than likely to reach a few more finals before he retires which – at the age of 33 – is looking like a long way off.

Play-off assists: Despite how often in the playoffs LeBron has had to carry his team on his back and produce most of the points, he maintains his regular season ability to elevate his team means and produce good scoring opportunities for them averaging 6.9 assists per game in the playoffs to Jordan’s retired average of 5.7.

Play-off rebounding: Like in the regular season, James’ rebound average takes the cake over Jordan’s in the play-offs with 8.8 to Jordan’s 6.4. The fact it is more significant in the post-season also shows how LeBron levels up when more is on the line.

Play-off triple doubles: Again, not a stat that says James is a better player but one that highlights how much more versatile his game is to post double numbers across 3 key stats in the game. LeBron’s playoff triple double total of 19 again goes beyond eclipsing that of Jordan who retired with 2 playoff triple doubles.

Play-off blocks: I will never forget when the Miami Heat faced the San Antonio in game two of the 2013 NBA Finals, and 6ft 10in Spurs big guy, Tiago Splitter took flight for an open windmill dunk finish in the paint only for LeBron to pop up out of nowhere to stop the ball mid-air with such power it nearly floored his opponent.

Besides saving them conceding the points, the show of sheer dominance boosted Miami’s morale, and they went on to win the game 103–100. Such is the importance of this defensive part of the game which again LeBron takes the edge over Jordan with 209 to 158.

Strong argument

With all these stats in mind, and LeBron’s clear dominance in terms of versatility all-round, it should be clear why I choose LeBron every time as my all-time best basketball player.

Most individuals on the Jordan side of this debate base their argument on finals record which yes Jordan is six for six while LeBron is currently on three of eight.

‘Of course, all the stats in the world can’t prove that LeBron is a better player than Jordan as it’s impossible to know how they would have faired up against each other’

It’s a fairly strong argument, but don’t get lost in the sauce and fail to notice that LeBron has reached two more finals than Jordan did in his career. And this needs to be put into the context of the much harder competition he faces in today’s game, with majority of teams looking like contenders.

LeBron has also never played with a team as strong the ones Jordan played on.

I know the Jordan torch-bearers will read this and still say ‘Yes, but he still has more rings than LeBron’.

But if it was down to the number of rings, then LeBron’s and Jordan’s combined total don’t even add up to Bill Russell’s, who won 11 championships in his 13 years with the Boston Celtics.

Of course, all the stats in the world can’t prove that LeBron is a better player than Jordan as it’s impossible to know how they would have faired up against each other.

But they definitely show that LeBron, in many aspects of the game beats Jordan and is the better all-round player and for me, the guy who will win me that promotion my tight boss is making me play for!

Can Derrick Rose ever regain his NBA MVP form?

Derrick Rose’s recent CV doesn’t make for good reading.

The 29-year-old point guard is currently trying to resurrect his career at the Minnesota Timberwolves after being waived by the Utah Jazz back in February.

This came shortly after being traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers after a year, who in turn picked him up after a season with the New York Knicks.

In short, Rose has suffered perhaps one of the most devastating career declines that has befallen an NBA star player in recent years.

He was originally recruited by his hometown team the Chicago Bulls as the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, after a year of playing college ball for the Memphis Tigers, and soon became one of the brightest prospects in the NBA.

Rose went on to earn Rookie of the Year in the 2008-09 regular season and then at the age of 22 became the youngest player in NBA history to win the MVP title.

His athleticism, speed, ball control and ability to blow past defenders in a flash to get into the lane and finish was unmatched, and at such an early stage he widely tipped to go on to be one of the sport’s greats.

Game over?

Unfortunately, in 2012 – just a year after being crowned NBA MVP – Rose suffered a devastating season-ending injury when he tore his ACL, and even though he has recovered from that he has suffered more injuries since and is no longer the elite player he once was.

But can he hope to ever recapture anything even close to his MVP form again? The answer to that question is, sadly, no he can’t. In essence, his career is over.

‘So, what happens to a player like this after a series of serious injuries means they are simply not as explosive as they once were?’

Why? Well, let’s talk about some other point guards in the NBA currently, notable reigning MVP Russell Westbrook as to me he is the only player whose game compares to that of Rose back in the day.

He is lightning fast, athletic, blows past defences to get to the bucket like no other and finishes with assassin-like precision. Although Rose possesses these skills too, there are reasons why he will never come close to Westbrook, even though they’re both just the right side of 30 and playing the same position.

The main one is Westbrook also has the fundamentals in his back pocket, something Rose never has had. Rose’s style of play in his prime was quite selfish, ball watching on defence and taking the ball to the rim himself and scoring, with not many assists.

In his MVP-winning season he averaged 21.8 PPG (points per game) and only 7.9 APG (assists per game) but was never held accountable as he was scoring plenty and leading the team to wins, but as a point guard that assist percentage is pretty poor.

His long-range shooting was also always suspect, but again he wasn’t taken to task for this because he could get to the rim whenever he wanted.

Chase down

So, what happens to a player like this after a series of serious injuries means they are simply not as explosive as they once were?

That is where Rose has found himself in the past few years and that lack of the fundamentals now means his game isn’t even close to being good enough for the elite standards currently on display in the NBA.

‘First of all, Rose needs to accept he is no longer an elite point guard, go back to the basics and work on his defensive game’

Still trying to ball watch on defence is not working for him anymore because he can’t gather the speed to chase down a defender after losing them to make a block.

His shooting is still below average so you don’t have the confidence in him hitting most of his shots like other point guards including Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Westbrook, Damien Lillard… this list could go on and on.

So, no Rose will never be able to rub shoulders with the elite of NBA again and get in on the MVP conversation, but that’s not to say he can’t rebuild his career and secure his status as a reliable above-average player again.

But first of all, he needs to accept he is no longer an elite point guard, go back to the basics and work on his defensive game, his shooting and his basketball IQ to improve his assisting ability.

I used to love watching Rose before his sad decline, and I just hope he makes these improvements before it is too late.