October 12, 2016

TV (The Book) is a big, grand success


TV (The Book) begins with a lively debate between old friends Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz over the greatest television series of all time. Their finalists are The Simpsons, The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad and Cheers.

“But ‘greatest,’ to me, implies something else,” Seitz writes. “It signifies a restlessness, an inability to be happy with wringing variations from a particular set of themes, or within a certain framework. The word ‘great’ is associated with scale. Big. Grand. Immense. Epic.”

Seitz and Sepinwall — who met as young television critics at the New Jersey-based Star-Ledger in the late 1990s, when they wrote about a new show called The Sopranos — have produced a grand book. It is the best work of television criticism ever written and belongs on the shelf next to The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992) and Pauline Kael’s 5001 Nights at the Movies.

They are the Lennon and McCartney of television writing. Seitz, the editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com and the television critic for New York Magazine and Vulture.com, has the more august reputation, writing books about Wes Anderson, Mad Men and Oliver Stone in the past few years. Sepinwall, the television critic at HitFix.com, is the populist, the hardest working man in episode recaps. He wrote the essential The Revolution Was Televised about television’s recent Golden Age but also Stop Being a Hater and Learn to Love the O.C..



TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time, which was released last month, is a ranking of the 100 greatest comedies and dramas in television history, with smart, thoughtful essays on each. The authors made the high-wire decision to measure art with numbers, judging each series on a scale from 1 to 10 in six categories: innovation, influence, consistency, performance, storytelling and peak.

There were a few rules for inclusion: (1) U.S. television shows only (2) completed shows only (3) narrative fiction only and (4) one-season shows are eligible, but with some penalties. Rule No. 3 is important, because you won’t find variety series like Your Show of Shows and Saturday Night Live or talk shows like The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson or Late Night with David Letterman in the book.

Three coming of age series — Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life and Buffy the Vampire Slayer — finished tied for 25th with 94 points. Coincidence or Seitz and Sepinwall’s way of not picking that genre’s best?

They admitted to manipulating the math so that Terriers — a personal favorite of Sepinwall that was canceled after one season — finished 100th.

“There was some chicanery going on with the scores,” he said last month at the Strand Bookstore in New York. “It was always going to be in the top 100. But I was determined that it had to be 100th, because it just seemed like a Terriers thing to have happened.”

“It is,” Seitz said. “That’s where it needed to be.”

There will be disagreements with the rankings. If I may … All in the Family is only 10th? Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother made the list? The Fugitive didn’t? No Leave It to Beaver?

But ultimately, the list doesn’t matter. The essays do. The authors write tributes to the shows they love. Seitz’s piece on Deadwood (ninth) and Sepinwall’s on Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been excerpted elsewhere.



But there are many other highlights, including Sepinwall’s essay on The Cosby Show and his struggle to balance the show’s brilliance vs. the rape allegations against its star:

My son looks at me hopefully and asks, “Dad, when are we going to watch another Cosby Show?”

My daughter grimaces and tells him we won’t be watching it anymore. Unlike him, she’s old enough to understand why our marathon viewing of The Cosby Show has come to an end, even if, thankfully, she’s not yet old enough to fully comprehend the sheer horror of the acts in question.

And I shake my head and wish I’d never introduced them to the show in the first place.

Seitz writes about The Andy Griffith Show as well as anyone writes about film — a treatment television series have rarely received:

Griffith’s performance hinted at a persistent sadness in Andy that could be managed only through service to his town, his friends, his family, and, most of all, his son.

Opie and Andy’s relationship is the most important one on the series. The father is always teaching moral lessons to his son — often ones that reflect on his life experiences and his desire to make his town a peaceful, sensible, decent place to live, so that his son can believe that the world is a good place despite having lost his mother before he had a chance to know her.

Seitz’s wife died in 2006 when she was 35 years old. Their daughter was 8. Their son 2. He has written about the grieving process at Salon and RogerEbert.com.



Writing about one’s favorite television show (or favorite anything) is a personal journey. Seitz and Sepinwall write about television the way that some of its best auteurs — David Chase and Matthew Weiner — make it.

They look inward to find something greater. They have made the personal universal.

July 14, 2016

Tim Duncan: An appreciation



No farewell tour. No essay on The Players’ Tribune. No press conference.

Tim Duncan retired on Monday. His way. Like a man. The strong, silent type. A 6-foot-11 silhouette against the San Antonio sunset.

The Spurs announced his retirement in a press release. There was no comment from Duncan.

Just the facts: two MVP awards, 15 All-Star selections, 15 All-NBA teams, 15 All-Defensive teams. He is the consensus choice as the greatest power forward of all time and the greatest two-way player in modern history.

Duncan was the defining player of this century’s first decade. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant won more championships. Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett amassed more win shares. But by any real measure of greatness — offense and defense, team play and consistency — Duncan towered over the competition.

Duncan was the San Antonio Spurs. He led them to five championships and 17 straight 50-win seasons. He is the only player to win 1,000 games with one team. Duncan and Gregg Popovich have the most wins by a player-coach combination in league history. He is the team’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots.



The Spurs drafted Duncan in 1997, when David Robinson’s broken foot, tanking and lottery luck gave them the No. 1 overall pick. Robinson played just six games. General manager Gregg Popovich fired Bob Hill (3-15) and named himself coach.

Duncan — who won the Rookie of the Year award — and Robinson were the most accomplished twin towers combination of all time. Duncan at the high post, Robinson down low. They played together for six seasons, winning two championships.

The Spurs reloaded. They drafted two foreign players — Manu Ginobili with the 57th overall pick in 1999 and Tony Parker with the 28th in 2001 — and won two more titles in three seasons. Duncan, Ginobili and Parker won more playoff games than any other trio in history.

Duncan played fewer minutes in his 30s, which stunted his statistics. Popovich rested him in fourth quarters and selected regular season games with long playoff runs in mind, introducing the idea of a “healthy scratch” in basketball. But the Spurs missed the NBA Finals in five consecutive seasons, losing twice in the first round — once to the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.

When they returned in 2013, the Spurs lost to the Miami Heat’s super team of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Duncan missed a possible game-tying layup in the final minute of Game 7. He slapped the floor in frustration. “Game 7 is always going to haunt me,” he said.

The Spurs exorcised the pain the following season. They beat the Heat in five games with a 14.0 average margin of victory.



Tim Duncan was hunched shoulders, bank shots and double-doubles. His voice laconic, his public personality as dull as San Antonio’s black, white and silver uniforms.

Even his nicknames were boring. The Big Fundamental, Groundhog Day and Old Man Riverwalk. Duncan was beyond nicknames — a desperate attempt to color what is gray.

Duncan was so good for so long while saying so little that bland became his brand.

He was a public person who remained private. Reclusive. Unknowable.

“He’s the most real, consistent true person I’ve ever met in my life,” Popovich said.

This article originally appeared on Raleigh & Company.

May 25, 2016

Late Night at Mission Valley Cinema


There is a theater in west Raleigh where Lee Van Cleef — the spaghetti western legend — is an A-list movie star. Where John Carpenter is a properly feted genius. Where slasher and blaxploitation films are the equal of film noir.

Mission Valley Cinema presented Van Cleef’s The Big Gundown (1966) and then a late night screening of Friday the 13th a few days later on Friday the 13th amid big studio releases like Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book and Money Monster. About 70 horror fans howled at the 1980 slasher classic — 95 minutes of blood, POV shots and Harry Manfredini’s screeching score.

“There’s just something about watching a movie late at night,” says Denver Hill, business manager for Ambassador Entertainment and curator of Mission Valley’s Late Night series. “It’s just different than during the middle of the day.”

The Late Night series is presented on the second and fourth Friday of every month, while the theater’s Cinema Overdrive series screens on the second Wednesday. Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) is set for this Friday at 11:30 p.m. Admission is $5.



The theater’s Late Night and Cinema Overdrive series are retro movie-watching — a pre-CGI refuge for cinephiles and fans of rough, tough drive-in movies from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The kind of place that the two private investigators in The Nice Guys might frequent.

“For most of us, it’s about seeing these movies for the first time on the big screen,” says Adam Hulin, who runs the Cinema Overdrive series. “They weren’t meant to be seen at home on TV. It’s just different.”

The current incarnation of the series began at The Colony in north Raleigh in 2009. When that theater closed at the end of last year, Hill asked Hulin to bring the series to Mission Valley.

“Denver gave us carte blanche to play good audience crowd-pleasers,” Hulin says. “We’ve had a few shows where nobody in the audience has seen the movie before, but they trust us enough to not lead them astray. So far, they haven’t revolted.”

Hulin selected The Big Gundown. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) — another Italian picture — is scheduled for next month. Sam Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron (1977) is set for July with Truck Turner (1974) starring Isaac Hayes coming in August. Hulin hints at a surprise in October to commemorate the 100th Cinema Overdrive film.

“They put a tombstone there for the 35 mm projector,” Hulin says after the latest screening, looking at the big artifact in the lobby. “I hate that, but time marches on.”

Or stands still. At least a few times a month at Mission Valley Cinema.
— Kevin Brewer

March 26, 2016

Garry Shandling, 1949-2016


Garry Shandling was meta comedy before it was the term of art, playing himself and later the show business version of himself in two classic television comedies.

He spoke directly to the camera on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show (1986-90), a knowing deconstruction of the sitcom, introducing and closing each episode, and encouraged audience participation. Two years later, he played a neurotic talk show host on The Larry Sanders Show (1992-98), a realistic look behind the curtain of a fictional late night talk show, inspired by his experiences as a guest and guest host on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. The two series received a combined 60 Emmy nominations.

Shandling was also a Buddhist and a Buddha to a generation of younger comedians. “It’s all right not to know,” he told GQ in 2010. “Just calm down a minute. I give you permission to not know. That’s the key. Only from there can come answers.”

Garry Shandling — stand-up comedian and talk show host, actor, writer and producer, recreational boxer and Buddhist — died of a heart attack Thursday. He was 66.



Shandling began his career writing sitcoms — four episodes of Sanford and Son and one Welcome Back, Kotter — but was frustrated by the formulaic nature of the medium.

That ended in 1977, when he was 27 years old. Shandling was hit by a car, leaving him in critical condition with a crushed spleen for two days. He laid in the hospital for two weeks. Then he decided to become a stand-up comedian.

“I had a vivid near-death experience,” he later wrote, “that involved a voice asking, ‘Do you want to continue leading Garry Shandling’s life?’ Without thinking, I said, ‘Yes.’ Since then, I’ve been stuck living in the physical world while knowing, without a doubt, that there’s something much more meaningful within it all. That realization is what drives my life and work.”

The ability to transform himself, through will and meditation and a desire to not repeat himself, would become a recurring theme in Shandling’s career.

His persona as a stand-up comedian was neurotic and whiny with smart observations about life, particularly life as single man:

“After making love, I said to my girl, ‘Was it good for you, too?’ And she said, ‘I don’t think this was good for anybody.’ ”

Shandling had big teeth and lips and was self-conscious about his hair, but he rose quickly, making his first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1981 and the Showtime special Garry Shandling: Alone in Vegas in 1984. By the time he made The Garry Shandling Show: 25th Anniversary Specialan homage to the talk show genre — in 1986, he was the permanent guest host of The Tonight Show.



Shandling was a possible successor to Carson, but he gave up his guest hosting spot to Jay Leno in order to make It’s Garry Shandling’s Show for Showtime. The series was one big in-joke about sitcom conventions — from its theme song that began, “This is the theme to Garry’s show,” to Shandling’s canned announcement of guest stars to the set, which was supposedly an exact representation of his condo in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

After the Showtime series ended, Shandling turned down numerous opportunities to host a late night show — David Letterman’s Late Night, which eventually went to Conan O’Brien, the 12:35 time slot after Letterman on CBS and a syndicated talk show from the Tribune company, which eventually went to Dennis Miller.

“The only thing odder than being on TV every night is wanting to be on TV every night,” he said on Later with Bob Costas in 1992.

There is an iconic photo of Shandling standing between Letterman and Leno with Johnny Carson — all in tuxedoes on the occasion of Carson’s 26th anniversary special in 1988. The three of them would dominate late night television in the 1990s: Letterman on CBS, Leno on NBC and Shandling on HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show.

Shandling’s second series was a revelation. While the on-air interactions would have fit right in on any other late night show, Larry Sanders was concerned with the inner workings of show business and what it does to those involved. When Sanders cut to a commercial, he and the guests spoke frankly. He asked Robin Williams if he was going “to do Arsenio or Leno,” and Carol Burnett told him that she saw his balls when he wore a loincloth in rehearsal. The series burrowed into the backstage machinations and dysfunction of Sanders, his producer and his sidekick. Rip Torn was a bulldog as Artie, the show’s producer, who was based on longtime Tonight Show producer Fred de Cordova. But sidekick Hank “Hey Now” Kingsley was only possible through the imagination of Shandling and the bizarre interpretation of Jeffrey Tambor, who made Sanders look almost functional in comparison.

“That show really became a lab for the study of human behavior,” Shandling said.



Shandling had not worked much in television or movies over the past decade or so, showing up on a few late night shows or making occasional cameos in Zoolander, Iron Man 2 and The Dictator. But he remained present in comedy, doing standup and acting as a script guru for friends Judd Apatow and Sarah Silverman, who both worked on The Larry Sanders Show.

For the show’s DVD release in 2007, Shandling filmed interviews or “visits” — as the called them — with friends who had appeared on the series. The best and most organic was the one with friend Jerry Seinfeld. They talked about all those awful prefaces people use before saying what they really want to say, Seinfeld’s disdain for acting and commiserated about the process of ending highly successful series.

The two reunited on the most recent episode of Seinfeld’s web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee released in January. The name of the episode was “It’s Great that Garry Shandling Is Still Alive.” Shandling talked about his hyperparathyroidism and told a story about getting a CT scan and the technician being relieved that he was still alive.

The episode captured what Seinfeld and Shandling hold true — the removal of show business artifice and the search for what is most naturally funny. The old friends walked around The Comedy Store in Los Angeles and talked about their early days as stand-up comedians. They also talked about the deaths of their comedian friends David Brenner and Robin Williams, and Seinfeld lamented that they had accumulated so much wonderful material and “now it’s gone forever.”

GARRY | That material and your material is purely a vehicle for you to express your spirit and your soul and your being, and that’s why you’re fantastic. So you keep —

JERRY | So it doesn’t have any value beyond that?

GARRY | It doesn’t have any value beyond you expressing yourself spiritually in a soulful, spiritual way. It’s why we’re on the planet!

This article originally appeared on Raleigh & Company.

February 12, 2016

The point forward: An oral history



The origin story of the point forward is disputed. The hybrid position — part point guard, part small forward and All-Star teammate — dates to the mid-1980s. Or the late 1970s. Depending on who you believe. John Johnson said he was the first point forward and that then Seattle SuperSonics coach Lenny Wilkens named the position. Point forward Marques Johnson said he coined the term, while longtime NBA coach Del Harris has always claimed ownership.

Harris is this story’s Kevin Bacon — the connective tissue in the biography of an idea. He was an assistant and later head coach with the Houston Rockets, playing Rick Barry and Robert Reid at point forward, and an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks when Don Nelson started Paul Pressey at the position.

Nelson continued to build a reputation as the league’s mad scientist. He created Run TMC — the fast-paced trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin — with the Golden State Warriors in the 1990s and developed 7-foot shooting forward Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash with the Dallas Mavericks in the 2000s. He also played Anthony Mason at point forward with New York Knicks and did the same with Stephen Jackson in his return to the Warriors. Nelson had five qualifications for his point forwards: (1) 6-foot-5 or taller (2) rebounding (3) 2.0 assist / turnover ratio (4) defense and (5) leadership.

Draymond Green meets all of Nelson’s criteria. The 6-foot-6 forward — who will play in his first All-Star Game on Sunday night — leads the NBA’s best team in rebounding (9.5) and assists (7.2) with a 2.5 assist / turnover ratio. He finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, the tough guy conscience of the league’s best defensive team. He leads with his mouth, talking to opponents, teammates and himself. When the defending champion Warriors (48-4) visited the White House last week, President Obama praised Green for “showing us heart over height every night. Draymond’s also known to add a few more words that I can’t repeat.”

The point forward was born decades ago, in a gym somewhere, out of necessity. Or some other reason. This oral history — which is footnoted, no original interviews were conducted — is not a straight line. It starts and stops and starts again.



Rick Barry scored 25,279 points in 14 NBA and ABA seasons and led the Warriors to their first championship in 1975. He signed with the Rockets in June 1978.

MARQUES JOHNSON (All-Star forward, 1977-78 to 1989-90) | Rick Barry played [point forward] for Golden State when he ran their offense when Jamaal Wilkes was a rookie [in 1974-75]. (1. NBA.com, June 1, 2012)

Del Harris coached for more than 30 seasons in the NBA. He began his career as an assistant with the Rockets in 1976-77.

DEL HARRIS | Rick was one of the great passers of all time as a forward. We worked him with [Calvin] Murphy and Mike Newlin, neither of whom was true point guards — they were scorers. A lot of the stuff we ran, the guards would get it up the floor and then Rick would break into the middle, above the circle, get the ball, and then the main movement would begin. He would sort it out. He would make the plays. He was really the first guy to be utilized in that role very heavily. But there was no name attached to it.

RICK BARRY | I actually did that early in my career [played point forward]. In Houston, I ended up being totally misused. I was playing like a point guard, standing 30 feet from the basket, passing the ball and only shot 12 or 13 times a game. That team should have been so good. Even with John Lucas leaving, we should have been better. It was such a waste of talent it was unbelievable. Murphy and Newlin should have shared the two-guard position, Mike Dunleavy should have been used more and I should have been utilized more effectively, along with Rudy Tomjanovich and Moses Malone. (2. JockBio.com, 2003)

SLICK WATTS (Rockets guard) | [Rick] and John Johnson probably developed the position point forward. They were the players who could see the floor, get the ball to people, as well as score. (3. Slick Watts’s Tales from the Seattle SuperSonics by Slick Watts and Frank Hughes, 2005)

Barry led his teams in assists seven times — six with the Warriors and once with the Rockets.



Harris replaced Tom Nissalke as Houston’s head coach in 1979-80 and played Robert Reid at point forward.

HARRIS | Robert could dribble, he could pass. He had a pass-first mentality. He was an unselfish player, but he could make a shot — you had to guard him. We would have Tommy [Henderson] bring it up the court and get it to Robert, then cut on through so his guy couldn’t just drop off in front of Moses [Malone]. … I came up with a name for the position. Robert was our point, but he was a forward, so I called him point forward.

Reid never led the Rockets in assists.

Lenny Wilkens coached 32 seasons, winning 1,332 games and one championship. As Seattle’s director of player personnel, Wilkens fired Bob Hopkins in December 1977 and named himself coach. He started John Johnson at small forward.

LENNY WILKENS | The small forward is supposed to be an offensive position supplying 15 to 20 points a game, but we needed our small forward to run the offense, like a point guard. (4. Unguarded: My Forty Years Surviving in the NBA, Lenny Wilkens and Terry Pluto, 2000)

JOHN JOHNSON | Lenny coined that phrase [point forward].

WILKENS | I knew JJ had a great understanding of the game, and so, after he’d rebound, I’d tell our guards: Just take off, and he’ll find you.

MARQUES JOHNSON | Johnny Johnson, we played Seattle in the playoffs [in 1980] … and he was the one who would bring the ball up the floor while Gus Johnson and DJ [Dennis Johnson] would curl off screens.

JOHN JOHNSON | I was a point forward before they called it a point forward. I ran the show — took all the weight off the guards. (5. The Associated Press, Jan. 9, 2016)

Johnson led the SuperSonics in assists twice. They won the NBA Finals in 1979 and lost in the conference finals in 1980. Johnson died last month.



Marques Johnson was a five All-Star forward with the Bucks and Clippers.

MARQUES JOHNSON | At the start of the playoffs, [Bucks coach] Don Nelson came up with the idea to initiate the offense through me at small forward. So after we went through how we were going to make the adjustments to different plays, my response to Nellie was, ‘OK, so instead of a point guard, I’m a point forward.’ I remember his response clear as mud, like it was yesterday, saying back to me, ‘Yeah. I like that. You’re my point forward.’ … I’m not so hung up on the whole deal to think that I’m the original point forward. … But my claim to fame is just coming up with point forward. The coinage of the term.

Johnson never led the Bucks in assists during the regular season or the 1984 playoffs.

Don Nelson — who won a record 1,335 games in 31 seasons with the Bucks, Warriors, Knicks and Mavericks — was in his ninth season with the Bucks in 1984-85.

Paul Pressey was in his third season with the Bucks.

NELSON | Both Marques and Press have done a good job at it, but Press has a better feel for the position. ... [Marques] didn’t feel confident being a point guard. So when he advanced the ball, we could only run a couple of offensive sets. With Press, we can run any of our sets. (6. Milwaukee Journal, Nov. 6, 1984)

Harris was an assistant on Nelson’s staff.

HARRIS | I remember it clearly. We were at a meeting at the American Club in Lake Geneva (Wis.), and Nellie said, ‘I’ve got Pressey and he’s got to play forward, but he’s not really a forward. He can pass. He can see over people. But I don’t know what to do with him.’ I said, ‘Well, you could use him as a point forward like I did with Robert Reid.’ Nellie just jumped all over that. He loved it and that’s the way it was from then on. Nellie was not shy and he talked a lot about it, so he gets credit for it. But Tom Nissalke started it, I named it and Nellie popularized it. That’s the honest truth.

PAUL PRESSEY | I loved it. Nellie put the ball in my hand, and he trusted that I was going to do the right thing as far as getting the ball to our scorers. It went over well with the other guys, because they knew I wasn’t going to be taking a whole lot of shots. I was going to be a playmaker. They were going to get their shots, so they were all for that.

NELSON | We did it to get the maximum out of Press’s skills. It allows us to release our guards, who are not real quick, earlier, and alleviates some of the pressure on them and gives me a chance to play two non-ball-handling guards, like Kevin Grevey and Sidney Moncrief, together. (7. The New York Times, Jan. 3, 1985)

HARRIS | I wouldn’t want to call Marques a liar, but when he saw what Paul was doing, he probably said, ‘I used to go up there and make plays. I was a point forward.’ But he was never called that, because I remember Nellie’s reaction when I told him about it.

NELSON | We gave it a name really to help give some identity to what Press is trying to do for us.

Pressey led the Bucks in assists three times and made three All-Defensive teams. The Bucks averaged 55 wins, losing in the conference finals in 1986.



Larry Bird is probably the only player to use “point forward” derisively. In November 1989, Boston Celtics point guard Dennis Johnson criticized his teammates, including Bird, for selfish play.

BIRD | I’m always hot when I get the ball, when they call my play and let me shoot. I had no opportunity to shoot the ball in the first half. But I’m just going by what they tell me to do. I’m a point forward now. They want me to move the ball around and get it to open guys, so that’s what I’ll do. (8. Chicago Tribune, Dec. 3, 1989)

Bird led the Celtics in assists five times, including the 1989-90 season.

Scottie Pippen was a 6-foot-1 point guard when he walked on at Central Arkansas. Then he grew seven inches in college, becoming a forward with point guard skills. Pippen led his teams in assists nine times — eight with the Chicago Bulls and once with the Rockets — and helped lead the Bulls to six championships.

PRESSEY | I didn’t see him initially being that player. But he definitely could pass, he could shoot, he could handle the ball at 6-8. He played with Michael [Jordan] and B.J. Armstrong, guys who could make shots. [John] Paxson. All they had to do was spot up and be ready to shoot when he brang the ball up the floor.

SCOTTIE PIPPEN | I was LeBron James before LeBron James. (9. Northeast Ohio Media Group, June 29, 2015)

LEBRON JAMES | I’ve always looked at Scottie Pippen and of course Magic [Johnson]. Magic was a 6-9 point guard who could also play different positions. Pip played point forward in the triangle offense. Grant Hill, when he was in his prime in Detroit, was also kind of that point forward guy. (10. ESPN.com, Sept. 28, 2012)

Grant Hill led the Pistons in assists five times.

DOUG COLLINS (Pistons coach, 1995-98) | [Hill] can dominate a game more subtly by getting the ball to open people, by rebounding and, with two dribbles, getting his team into the open floor the way Magic did as a rookie.



LeBron James has led his teams in assists every season of his career. On Feb. 25, 2015, he broke Pippen’s record for most assists by a forward.

JAMES (on the assists record) | When I started to shape my game, I kind of knew that that point forward was something that was going to be my trademark. Obviously, I looked up to Michael Jordan. That’s someone that gave me a lot of inspiration, but as a kid I never thought that I could get to that point. You know, Jordan just felt so surreal. Pippen and Anfernee Hardaway and Allen Iverson were those guys that I kind of really, really thought that I could be. (11. ESPN.com, Feb. 25, 2015)

MARQUES JOHNSON | LeBron is probably better than anybody, and one of the best in the league at any position, in pushing the ball up with sheer speed.

JAMES | Honestly, even if I say I don’t want to play it, I am playing it. I play it on the court every night, being the point forward. I bring the ball up a lot for this team. I initiate a lot of the offense. At the same time, I can create for myself also. Just like Pippen did. People look at Grant Hill in his heyday when he did a lot of those things, too.



Point forwards have marked the history of the game. On ESPN.com’s recent list of the best small forwards of all time, five fit the profile of a point forward: LeBron, Bird, Pippen, Barry and John Havlicek, who led the Celtics in assists six times. Among the leaders in career triple-doubles, four are point forwards: Bird, LeBron, Havlicek and Hill. Draymond Green leads the league with 10 triple-doubles this season.

In the lineage of point forwards, Green is most similar to Pippen — a versatile two-way player, the indispensable guy beside the guy, the wingman for the best player in the game. Michael Jordan, Pippen and the Bulls won a record 72 games in 1996. Stephen Curry, Green and the Warriors are on pace to break that record this season.

The Warriors win with pace and space and a point forward who sometimes plays center. Like the game itself, the point forward is constantly evolving.

This article originally appeared on Raleigh & Company.

January 20, 2016

All-time CENTER rankings



In an effort to glom onto ESPN.com’s recent center rankings, here are my choices. Their rankings are in parentheses.

1. Wilt Chamberlain (2)
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1)

3. Shaquille O’Neal (4)

4. Hakeem Olajuwon (5)
5. David Robinson (7)
6. Bill Russell (3)

7. Moses Malone (6)
8. George Mikan (9)

9. Dwight Howard (x)

10. Patrick Ewing (8)

January 17, 2016

All-time SHOOTING GUARD rankings



In an effort to glom onto ESPN.com’s recent shooting guard rankings, here are my choices. Their rankings are in parentheses.

1. Michael Jordan (1)

2. Kobe Bryant (2)
3. Jerry West (3)

4. Dwayne Wade (4)

5. Clyde Drexler (5)
6. George Gervin (7)
7. Tracy McGrady (x)
8. Allen Iverson (6)

9. Reggie Miller (9)
10. Ray Allen (8)

All-time POWER FORWARD rankings



In an effort to glom onto ESPN.com’s recent power forward rankings, here are my choices. Their rankings are in parentheses.

1. Tim Duncan (1)
2. Karl Malone (2)
3. Dirk Nowitzki (3)
4. Charles Barkley (4)
5. Kevin Garnett (5)
6. Bob Pettit (7)

7. Dolph Schayes (x)

8. Pau Gasol (9)

9. Kevin McHale (6)
10. Chris Webber (x)

All-time SMALL FORWARD rankings



In an effort to glom onto ESPN.com’s recent small forward rankings, here are my choices. Their rankings are in parentheses.

1. LeBron James (1)
2. Larry Bird (2)

3. Kevin Durant (4)
4. Elgin Baylor (5)

5. Julius Erving (3)

6. Dominique Wilkins (10)
7. Scottie Pippen (6)

8. John Havlicek (7)
9. Rick Barry (8)
10. Adrian Dantley (x)

All-time POINT GUARD rankings



In an effort to glom onto ESPN.com’s recent point guard rankings, here are my choices. Their rankings are in parentheses.

1. Magic Johnson (1)
2. Oscar Robertson (2)

3. Chris Paul (6)

4. John Stockton (3)

5. Gary Payton (x)
6. Walt Frazier (9)
7. Bob Cousy (10)

8. Steve Nash (7)
9. Jason Kidd (8)

10. Stephen Curry (4)