I don’t know about you, but last week’s games with the Lakers vs. Utah and the Warriors vs. Memphis were certainly the most memorable season-ending NBA games in my lifetime. I have been a huge fan of the NBA since the early 70s so last week’s regular season was an absolutely riveting finale. It was certainly a night to remember for West Coast NBA hoops.
I was focused on watching Kobe but disappointed I couldn’t see the Warriors as they were blacked out (at least on our local cable system). No matter. What we saw in the Laker’s game was perhaps the greatest departing performance of any athlete in history - in any sport.
In my book, Kobe is one of the five greatest NBA players of all time. My NBA all-time team consists of Magic Johnson at point (five rings) Michael Jordan at shooting guard (six rings) Kobe as small forward (five rings), Kareem at center (six rings), and I’ll move Bill Russell to power forward (11 rings).
Kobe played 1,346 games in 20 seasons. He averaged 25 points per game (33,643 total points, third all time). Like MJ and Kareem he was always on the NBA all-defensive team (12 times) won titles, and even speaks three languages. Did you see the press conference? Wow, he gave answers in Spanish and Italian. Other than MJ, I haven’t seen an athlete in the NBA with the will to win like Kobe. I will miss him.
73-9 - The all-time best regular season record in NBA history now belongs to the Golden State Warriors. Despite the record-setting regular season I won’t consider putting this team as the all-time best unless there is a corresponding title.
The other ‘greatest all-time’ teams, the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10) and the Bulls of 1996-97 (69-13), both won titles. So did the 69-13 Lakers of 1971-72.
In two seasons the Bulls were 141-23 (84% winning percentage) - greatest in my book. But the Warriors are right there. Take last season’s 67-15 total and Golden State’s regular season totals are 140-24 in the last two years. Go and win a title, Warriors, so we can continue the debate.
YHS boy’s basketball
It took a while, but the Central Section boys basketball leagues announced their all-league teams. David Rico was MVP, and Yosemite’s record-holder Kade Cross was selected as the North Sequoia League’s defensive player of the year.
The first team: Anthony Pachec and Hector Acosta (Kerman), Trae Ellsberry (Washington Union), Clay Ford (Sierra), and Tristan Eames (Yosemite).
For the most part, the coaches who voted got it right. A huge omission would be YHS power forward Peter McLean. McLean was huge inside for the 19-10, 7-3 NSL Badgers. McLean had nine ‘double-doubles’ averaging 10 points and 10 boards per game. He is also a record-holder.
Junior point guard Tristan Eames deservedly won his first all-league selection. The three-year starter (nine games in his freshman season) averaged 12 points and 3.5 assists a game. Most of Tristan’s points were driving into the paint. Of the 29 games he played, Tristan failed to score in double digits only eight times. He was a co-captain, along with Cross, and is a fiery leader.
In my opinion, Tristan is currently the best athlete at YHS. He is the quarterback in football, the point guard in basketball, and had he played baseball instead of tennis, would be the starting shortstop. All the above are the most difficult positions in each sport.
The NSL, for whatever reason, doesn’t select a coach of the year. Sure, the logical choice would be Kerman’s Tim Hurt (20-8, 10-0 in the NSL). A close second would be Aaron Eames. The Badgers won 19 games vs. six the previous season. Taking over from Steve Lopez last season, Eames and assistant Eric Peterson rebuilt the team mentally. Both had a vision of a defense first mentality. Eames has now guided four different programs (football, tennis, girls and boys basketball) into the playoffs.
Cross departs as one of the greatest
What else can be said of Kade Cross? The senior center leaves, from a statistical standpoint, as one of the greatest Badger boys basketball players ever. Cross ended up as the YHS career leader in rebounds at 781, breaking Todd Hood’s 1984-85 mark of 619. Cross is No. 2 all time in points scored (1,135) and No. 3 all time in rebounds in a season at 305.
The rebound mark replaces Chance Gaal’s 247 in 2005. Cross led the Central Section with 118 blocked shots (4.1 a game). Unfortunately, blocked shot records are not kept at YHS. They should be.
Kade will most likely move on to play at Reedley College. He will be the first YHS boys player to enter the next level since Larry Ramirez (1998) played at Reedley. Cross will be a great addition to any program. He is a quiet leader, never changing his demeanor, and always works hard.
Kade went through a difficult coaching change last year, but made the best out of tough circumstances. He credits Steve Lopez for “taking my game to another level as an inside player.” He also credits Eames and Peterson for “bringing the team together and for changing our mentality.”
“I was proud to be a part of this program. I am most proud that we made playoffs. I think it’s the best legacy. We are going to be good for a long time. I’ll definitely be back to watch Yosemite basketball,” Cross said.
Other records broken
Besides Cross, the record board changed a lot this season. McLean is the owner of most rebounds per game (24) and No. 3 at 22, tied with Tim Thomas (1982).
Sophomore Cannon Eames had an incredible season on both offense and defense. Cannon is now third all-time in 3-point shots made in a season (59), eclipsing JV coach and former Badger great Charlie Medley’s mark of 54 in 1999. Perhaps even more impressive was Cannon’s 82 steals for the season, now fourth all-time.
For me, it was a blast to cover this team. The boy’s program’s foundations have been set. Playoffs loom for the next few years. Congrats to the players, coaches, and parents.