STYLE Talks with ESPN Analyst Kurt Rambis About the NBA Season
The NBA season has begun and while excitement is at a record breaking high, unanswered questions are still stacking up. Will the Lakers monopolize the wins with their new starting five? Does Oklahoma City still have a chance in the west? Can the ‘Big Three’ push the Heat to another title? The sports world is buzzing with rumors and as basketball talk runs rampant, Kurt Rambis, ESPN NBA Analyst and Lakers Legend, is the source for facts behind game-changing line ups, pre-season stats, and why this NBA season in particular is going to have everyone’s eyes glued to the court.
With 8 National Championship rings as a player, coach, and front office, Kurt Rambis knows what it takes to win NBA titles. Known for his toughness as a player and successful coaching record with the Lakers, Rambis has racked up over 30 years of experience in the game, making him one of the most knowledgeable NBA Analysts on ESPN. STYLE spoke with Kurt about his NBA career, time in Charlotte, predictions for this NBA season, and his take on style!
Most of us think of you as a Laker with 8 rings as a player, coach, and executive, but I think our readers would be interested in learning more about your time here in Charlotte as part of the inaugural Charlotte Hornets team.
I signed as a free agent, and was looking for a change along with a chance to play more. I had two young boys at the time and I was looking to move to a part of the country that would be a great environment for my family which it certainly turned out to be. I wanted to see the changes of the seasons and it certainly was intriguing to be a part of a team from the beginning. Charlotte was interested in bringing some experience to the roster and I had four rings at the time with the Lakers. I really thought it was going to be a place I was going to spend the rest of my career.
The Charlotte Hornets set an NBA record for attendance that year, talk about the team and the fan involvement.
The fans were fantastic and for such a young team, we really were a competitive group. I remember hitting a game winner against the Bulls during the season and remember the atmosphere in the arena was amazing. I believe we sold out every game for the rest of the season and set an attendance record. It was pretty unheard of to get that type of attention. We really were the only professional team in town and Charlotte was growing as was the popularity of the NBA and it really just took off. It was a college basketball town that fell in love with the NBA game and the Charlotte Hornets.
It still seems like every year we see a new book or documentary coming out chronicling the Magic-Larry relationship. What has it meant to your career to be a part of the great Celtics / Lakers rivalry of the 80’s
It really was a magical time for the NBA. Before I came into the league it wasn’t getting the TV revenue or certainly the recognition it does today. I believe there were only 23 teams and this is a guess, but I think about half of the teams were on the verge of folding. You then enter the rivalry between Larry and Magic and it had all of the components to make everything right. You had two storied franchises, two teams that have had a long history of battling in the NBA finals, coastal differences, explosion of media, and the emergence of ESPN, cable TV, etc. Again, it was this overflow of everything moving in the right direction. The talent on both teams along with the rivalry of the fans just made for an explosive time in the NBA.
What type of advice would you give to the fans and even players of the Bobcats as they come off the worst season in NBA history and begin another year where they are predicted by most to struggle to find wins?
There has to be a lot of patience involved. There has to be patience within the organization, within the fan base, and realistic expectations with the players and coaches. Quite honestly you have to get lucky moving forward. For example, shortly after I left the Hornets, they got lucky in the lottery and picked up Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning and were in the playoffs and really played at a high level for a long time. You have to be patient and have a plan and stick to that plan.
Obviously the Charlotte fan base was quite disappointed when we lost a chance at the number one pick in the offseason. That was certainly not lucky.
Draft picks are a big component of rebuilding. It’s not only what draft pick you get, but what year you get those picks. The example of Oklahoma City getting the second pick a few years ago and ending up with Kevin Durant was very lucky. What if Portland drafted Durant and Oklahoma City picked Greg Oden? Where would Oklahoma City be right now? Again there has to be some luck involved and there has to be patience. You have to give young players a chance to grow and build consistency. If you keep changing things, it can be difficult to build stability within the organization.
I would like to switch gears before we get your predictions on the upcoming NBA season. We are a style magazine and I am curious as to your take on the eyewear movement that took the league by storm last year. I believe you were way ahead of your time with the goggles. Do you see goggles coming back and do you consider yourself a pioneer in some ways?
That’s funny; I am not sure I see that happening! In my generation it wasn’t cool or hip to wear glasses or eyewear. It certainly wasn’t a part of fashion. You were a “four-eyes “ and it was something you were teased about. I don’t see the goggle making a comeback!
It seems like players today spend just as much time planning their pre and post game outfits as they do on getting ready for their game. I find it hard to believe that players in your generation like McHale, Worthy, or Barkley spent this much time on their style. I have seen the footage from these drafts in the 80’s. What do you think about this emphasis on style?
I think it really all stems from players having varied interests in music and fashion. I believe a few years ago the league put in a mandate to wear suits to upgrade players’ images. This encouraged players to dress up and since they had to do it, they did it the right way and it has opened a whole new revenue stream around endorsements for the players and the league. Some of it actually stings your eyes a bit which may be the reason for the eyewear!
Ok, lets get down to business. This has been a pretty exciting off-season and the recent moves by the Lakers have drawn the most attention. On paper, the west coast version of the big three look great, but we saw in Miami it might take a year or two for the team to gel. Is it a foregone conclusion that the Lakers will be back in the finals this year?
I wouldn’t say it’s a foregone conclusion that the Lakers will get back to the Finals. I think Miami, Los Angeles, and Oklahoma City are on an even plane, with Boston being just a notch below. When you look at the Lakers, they do have to go through the process of learning new terminology and how they’re going to play on both ends of the floor. But, I do believe the pieces fit naturally on that team. Steve Nash is a perfect fit with Kobe and Dwight. If he did not attempt one shot and they won, he would be fine with that. Kobe is at a phase of his career where he would be happy to take less shots if it means a championship. Pau is a very cerebral player and really doesn’t have an ego so he will be okay being the fourth man on the totem pole. I think Dwight is obviously one of the best pure, big men in the game. The buzz out here is quite high because of the expectations and the talent match up. It should be an exciting season!
I think you can provide a unique perspective as to how you forecast the upcoming seasons for the Thunder and the Heat. You have had to defend titles in the past and also had to come back after losing in the finals. Can you touch on the mindset of the two organizations coming into this year?
I would usually give the advantage to the Thunder because they made it all the way to the finals and lost. It is a very long and frustrating summer. You have this intensity and anger to get back to the finals and win a championship. They are a very prideful group and could easily get right back there again because of the way that they play and the talent on that team. On the other hand, Miami reloaded. You always have to ask yourself after you win- “Should we bring back the same group or make adjustments?” Pat Riley decided to bring in Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen and it should be an even better team. Lebron still has expectations to win multiple championships so I think the drive and determination will be strong in Miami as well. I will say that there is nothing like the anger of losing in the Finals and should make for a great season.
Kurt, I have to get a championship prediction from you. As the season kicks off, who do you see winning it all this year?
I really see those three teams on an even playing field; Miami, Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles. The Lakers challenge is putting everything together. They look good on paper and if it all comes together and they stay healthy, I could see them winning it all. I can justify seeing Oklahoma City getting there with their drive and determination after getting so close last year. I can also see Miami getting back with their goals of winning multiple championships. It really is going to be an intriguing year. There are a ton of different story lines all over the country and it really should be one of the best years we have had in the NBA in a very long time and I am certainly looking forward to it!