THE DNA OF THE NBA

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April 29, 2016

Over the years there have been many fathers who preceded their sons in playing in the NBA.  Most of them have not only been successful but carried on their family legacy to reach new heights.

What triggered the idea for today’s Blog was when I read that Luke Walton might become the next coach of the hapless Los Angeles Lakers.  It’s difficult for me to use the appellation “hapless”, because I remember when I was there, (1971-1972), as an Executive working for the then owner Jack Kent Cooke, the Lakers. The Lakers were invincible! At one point, they won 33 straight games.

It wasn’t until this past season that any team came even close to surpassing that record.  The Golden State Warriors headed by Steve Kerr, came the closest than any team has come to establishing a new record.

Last year, Steve, as a rookie coach, led the Warriors to the NBA Championship. Ironically, Steve was bothered by Back problems resulting from Back Surgery and missed the first 24 games.

Only in his second year as an NBA assistant coach, Luke was at the helm did the impossible. Never before had a team won 24 consecutive games without a loss to start the season.

When Steve Kerr returned,  the Warriors went on to break the Chicago Bulls 20 -year old record of most games won in a season.  The 1996 Bulls won 72 games and the 2016 Warriors won 73. Steve Kerr was named coach off the year and he deserved it.  Yet, Luke’s record is listed as 0-0-for the season.

Nevertheless, what is happening for Luke is what has gave me the idea for this Blog.  Mainly, it’s the fact that other teams in the league have noticed the job Luke did and have started to court him to possibly coach their team.

Among those teams asking permission to talk to Luke about available opportunities are his old team the Lakers. He played 10 seasons in the NBA and was on two Laker championship teams.

So it got me thinking about the genealogy of many who have been part of and still are a part of the NBA legacy. Luke’s dad, Bill who is my friend, is in both the Collegiate Basketball and the International Basketball Halls of Fame.

Luke, not only inherited his love for Basketball and much of his dad’s knowledge and philosophy of life, he also inherited Bill’s desire to overcome any adversity. Bill, who is considered one of the greats, had a career  plagued by injuries. Still. he shone!

Luke bears the name of his father’s close friend and teammate on the NBA Champion Portland Trailblazers, Maurice Lucas.

When I first met Bill he was hampered by constant stuttering. To his credit, today he is in great demand on the lecture circuit and as a Television Commentator.

As a result, I started thinking… there are probably quite a few second generation, even third generation siblings making their mark in the NBA… Here, for your edification, are just a few.

Two of the most prolific father-son teams that immediately come to mind are those of Kobe Bryan and Stephen Curry.

Kobe Bryant’s pedigree comes directly from his dad,  Joe ”Jelly bean” Bryant.  “Bean” as he was called started his career with his hometown Philadelphia 76ers. He played well into his 50’s in a career that started in 1975 and ended in 1992.

He eventually played and coached all over the world. Among his stops were Japan, France, Italy and Thailand.  Along the way, he did manage to establish some impressive statistics.  For example, he put up nearly 13,000 points in his 17 years of playing in the NBA and Serie A teams.

His son Kobe was born while Joe was playing for his hometown 76ers. Kobe grew up all over the world, but it was at Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania where he was recognized as the top high school basketball player in the country.  He signed with the Pros right out of High School.

Although originally drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, he was traded to the Lakers which BECAME the only team he played for in his entire 20 year career. Along the way, he far surpassed anything his father did. He was twice MVP of the finals.  Five times, his team won the NBA Championship. One season, he was the league MVP.

He made the All-Star Team eighteen times and in four of those games, he was MVP. Still there was more but my Blog is too short to mention everything.  However, I shall sum up his story by saying his 33,643 total points making him the 3rd most prolific scorer in league history speaks volumes… and how about his last game? In a pure Hollywood ending, he scored 60 points.

How about today’s reigning MVP, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and his dad Dell? In his 16 year NBA career, Dell  scored 12,670 points.  In 1994, he won the sixth man award while playing for the Charlotte Hornets and to this day, remains the Charlotte Hornets all-time leading scorer.

Steph, although currently nursing a seriously sprained ankle that might see him out of the Playoffs completely, has cast a long shadow over the Warriors rise to prominence ever since he was drafted in 2009.  However, in a season that saw the Warriors establish many firsts. Steph was league MVP, and scoring champion.

He has been elected to the All-Star Team 3 times, has led the league in steals. In 2012-13, he set the NBA record for most 3-pointers in a season, making 272. He surpassed this record in the next two seasons sinking 286 and 402 respectively.

Steph has also won the Sportsmanship Award. Since 2011, another  NBA sibling, Clay Thompson became his running mate. During the 2013-14 season together they hit a combined 484 three pointers which stands as the current record. They share the unusual nickname of “The Splash Brothers”.

Clay who has been an All-Star selection twice currently is looked upon to shoulder the burden of  winning another Warrior championship in the absence of the injured Steph.

In 1978, the Portland Trailblazers made Clay’s dad, Mychal their number one pick out of the University of Minnesota.  He made the All-Rookie team and in 1981 averaged 20 points a game.

In 1986, the Trailblazers, where he had been a fixture for eight years, traded him to the Spurs. A year later, he joined the Lakers. This gave the Lakers a team that had four players who were overall the number one selection in their respective draft years.

The others were Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy. Of the four, Thompson is the only one not enshrined in the Hall of Fame. However, he was no slouch, playing an important role in helping the Showtime Lakers win titles in 1987 and 1988.  During his career, he scored almost 13,000 points.

Of course anything I might write about DNA IN THE NBA must include the Vandeweghes . Both of them bare the same name…“Ernest Maurice Vandeweghe”.  The only difference, my friend until the day he passed Dr. Ernie was Ernie Jr and Kiki is the IIIrd. Plus the lineage goes on.  Kiki’s son is the IVth.

Both brought an unusual intelligence to the game.  When my friend the Late Ernie Jr. came out of college, he was everyone’s unanimous choice.  However, in order for him to play for the Knicks, Ned Irish had to agree to special terms which will never again be seen.

Ernie the eldest negotiated Ernie IIs deal which saw the Knicks playing many games without him in the lineup. He was busy  going to Columbia Medical School and successfully getting his degree as a Pediatrician.

At the same time marrying the reigning Miss America, Coleen Faye Hutchins whose brother Mel was Ernie’s teammate. A generation later, both father and son had played for the Knicks.

Kiki’s Biography says that he was born in Germany. He never has been a foreign national. It’s simple! His dad was stationed there as a Medical Officer in the USAF.

Kiki spent 13 years in the NBA.  He scored almost 16,000 points and in one game against the Detroit Pistons, he scored 51 points.

But it’s his Basketball mind that has seen him rise from General Manager positions to become NBA Executive Vice President. His  analytical thought process has been held in high esteem by just about every professional.

There are  many other notable father-son teams.  Many whom I could just as easily talk about, but there is no space.

For example, Henry Bibby and his son Mike… Rick Barry and his sons Jon, Brent and Drew. Brent and Rick won NBA Championships. All three sons played for the Warriors at one time or another. Individually, each ended his career with the Rockets. There have actually been a three generation family.  Tick’s father-in-law and the boys’ grandfather was Coach Bruce hale.

John Stockton and his son David, the Dunleavys-Sr. and Jr., (Sr. coached against Jr.), Doc Rivers and Austin, ( Doc is currently coaching Austin on the Clippers, the great George Mikan and his son Larry, are all part of the generation continuance.

Yet, I have at least a 100 more combinations.  If I have not mentioned someone who interests you, I apologize!

I know they are out there.