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Keidel: Side With Clyde? Walt’s Waltz Around The Miami Heat

Walt Frazier (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Walt Frazier (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

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By Jason Keidel
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Despite all the adrenaline coating March Madness, Opening Day and the NFL draft, it’s hard to tune into any sports program today without banging into Walt Frazier.

About the only Knick in history worth listening to, he said that the Miami Heat aren’t even close to the top 10 teams of all-time. Frazier recently said in a radio interview that Miami is clearly the best team in the NBA, but their 26-game winning streak is more an indication of a diluted league than a dominant team.

Unless you’re one of Frazier’s peers, the rest of us retort with the obvious disclaimer that Clyde knows more about the game than we ever will. And most reactions are the same. Most who agree with Clyde are equally nostalgic and don’t give contemporary players much credit or credence. Many who disagree with the Hall of Fame guard think that Frazier is a jaded old man who can’t see over his salad days. The truth, as always, is in the middle.

It says here that the point guard has a point, even if he takes it too far. Teams aren’t nearly as deep as they were 20 or 30 years ago. The 1985 Lakers started three Hall of Famers (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy) and rounded their roster with borderline greats like Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, Bob McAdoo and Jamaal Wilkes. The 1982-83 76ers were absurdly gifted, from Moses Malone to Julius Erving to Mo Cheeks to Andrew Toney to Bobby Jones. The ’80s Celtcs (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Bill Walton, Cedric Maxwell, etc) were thick with talent, too.

But LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are transcendent talents — throwbacks, if you will — who would have prospered in any epoch. And Clyde would be the first to admit it. Chris Bosh is a fantastic player, and Ray Allen will park his car in Springfield within the next decade. Miami is handicapped by a bottom-heavy Eastern Conference — aside from the Heat, the Western Conference has at least five teams that would win the East — and a lack of legitimate rivals. The Celtics and Lakers had each other for the ’80s. The ’90s Bulls had the Pistons and Knicks tugging at Michael Jordan’s cape. The Lakers and Spurs of Y2K also had each other. Miami has only a mirror for perspective.

We all want to think we’re part of history. But there’s a difference between being a delusional, Kool-Aid guzzling, jock-sniffing sycophant and an objective sports fan. As much as I love the sports of my youth, I don’t pretend that Patrick Ewing is Bill Russell, or that Barry Sanders is Jim Brown. Babe Ruth hit more home runs than many teams did, so it’s silly from a strictly statistical point of view to question his place in the pecking order. Pedro Martinez, at his best, was the best pitcher I’ve ever seen. But was he Sandy Koufax? Mike Tyson was the best heavyweight of my generation, but Muhammad Ali would have jabbed both his eyes into closed, swollen walnuts before dropping him in the ninth round.

40-somethings like me airbrush the past, while 20-somethings ignore it. Sports didn’t exist before ESPN. Music didn’t exist before MTV. In our ADD-addled culture of self-reflection and rampant narcissism, anything new is confused with something great. That could explain New York’s fixation over Carmelo Anthony, who’s never come close to winning an NBA title, yet his conga line of admirers grows daily.

The Heat have six games to go — seven games to break the 1971-72 Lakers’ record of 33 consecutive wins. I was three years old when they won the NBA title, which gives me very little perspective (or about the same perspective as Anthony apologists). But it says here — and it should say anywhere — that if Miami breaks the record and records another championship, they should stand tall next to any team that has ever played, no matter the age, wage or wager.

Maybe by that time Frazier will see a little more clearly.

So Walt Frazier believes that this current Heat team isn’t one of the top 10 NBA squads of all-time. Are you with him or is he dead wrong? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…