NBA time capsule | 2010s

It was The Decision, it was The Process, it was the age of Moreyball, it was the age of Linsanity, it was the epoch of 3-pointers, it was the epoch of triple-doubles, it was the season of Golden State, it was the season of Donald Sterling, it was the spring of Luka Doncic, it was the winter of Dirk Nowitzki, we had super teams before us, we had the Knicks before us, we were all going direct to South Beach, we were all We The North — in short, the 2010s …

The 2010s. 20-10. It doesn’t look like a decade. It looks like a game by DeMarcus Cousins. Or Anthony Davis. Or Kevin Love.

This is the 2010s — the 2009-10 season to 2018-19 — in a time capsule:

Age [19] All-Star team

STARTERS | Moses Malone, the first high school player to turn pro, plus two No. 1 draft picks by the Cavaliers

Forward | LeBron James, Cavaliers [2003-04]

Forward | Anthony Davis, Hornets [2012-13]

Center | Moses Malone, Utah Stars (ABA) [1974-75]

Guard | Luka Doncic, Mavericks [2018-19]

Guard | Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers [2011-12]

BENCH | Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and the prep-to-pro generation chronicled in Jonathan Abrams’ Boys Among Men

Forward | Jayson Tatum, Celtics [2017-18]

Forward | Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets [2003-04]

Forward | Tracy McGrady, Raptors [1998-99]

Center | Dwight Howard, Magic [2004-05]

Guard | Kobe Bryant, Lakers [1997-98]

Rookie of the Year award | LeBron James (2004), Kevin Durant (2008), Kyrie Irving (2012), Andrew Wiggins (2015), Luka Doncic (2019)
— Kevin Brewer

Classic episode: The Draft Dodger

The greatest Christmas episode in television history is the story of a bigoted man from Queens who was once a presidential candidate, a Gold Star father and a country and family divided through education and generations. It aired in 1976.

During its first three seasons, All in the Family was the highest-rated and most celebrated series on television: 25 Emmy nominations and 12 wins, including three for Outstanding Comedy Series and one for Carroll O’Connor, who played working-class conservative Archie Bunker. The show was so popular and Archie so iconic that by the third season, during the 1972 presidential election, some commentators were discussing the “Archie Bunker vote” — white working class men. There was an “Archie Bunker for President” parody campaign with T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers.

In the fifth season, the Jeffersons — the Bunkers’ next-door neighbors — moved on and up to their own series. Mike and Gloria moved next door the following season. Archie, living only with wife Edith, was losing his comic (and liberal) adversaries.

But the 1976-77 season represented a creative resurgence — a three-part episode about Archie kissing a waitress, a two-parter about him losing his job and another two-parter about his gallbladder operation. Then, on Christmas night, CBS aired the Emmy-nominated “The Draft Dodger,” an episode about Christmas dinner, secrets and changing the subject.

Robert Forster, 1941-2019

As Max Cherry, the stand-up bail bondsman in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, Robert Forster watches Jackie, played by Pam Grier, walk out of jail in a real movie star moment. He watches the triple-cross money exchange from every angle. In the film’s final scene, he watches Jackie walk out of his office and out of his life forever — one of those faraway, unrequited looks.

Forster didn’t just watch. He watched like Gary Grant listened, like James Dean leaned, like Jack Nicholson raised an eyebrow. He was Jack Webb, except with a pulse and a soul.

Robert Forster, who played strong, sturdy, silent types in more than 150 movies and television series, died Saturday of brain cancer. He was 78.

“Today the world is left with one less gentleman,” Tarantino said Sunday. “One less square shooter. One less good man. One less wonderful father. One less marvelous actor. I remember all the breakfasts we had. … All the stories. All the kind words. All the support. Casting Robert Forster in Jackie Brown was one of the best choices I’ve ever made in my life.”

My favorite albums (1990s), vol. 3

I wasn’t listening to most of these albums in the 90s. I was born in 1984. I was paying attention to a few of these albums when they happened, but for the most part this list was formed in the 2000s with me looking over my shoulder. Now that I’ve finished my list, I notice how little I wrote about the albums themselves. Like most folks, the music I love is tangled up with my own life. I guess that’s why it seems reasonable to me to begin a discussion about Nevermind in a computer class six years after it was released.
— Chris Harrell

10. NEVERMIND (1991) Nirvana

I know by all rights this should be at the top of the list. Probably number one or, at least, two or three. It makes my defense much easier that this is a list of my 10 favorite albums of the 90s rather than a list of the greatest. You can judge me, but you have to take my word that this list is accurate. I’m picking Nevermind to represent Nirvana, but I wouldn’t argue with In Utero or, assuming live recordings count, Unplugged. What a way to kick off a decade of music.

I remember listening to Nirvana a lot in seventh grade, especially in computer class. Timmy, one of the first kids in our grade to start learning guitar, got us listening. We all knew the album, because everyone who grew up in the Nirvana explosion knew it. But now we were getting old enough to flirt with teenage angst. Now it mattered for us. I associate this album with Timmy, because he’s a great real-life example of a new generation picking up guitars and getting interested in a new kind of music. Even if that “new” kind of music was six years old.

My favorite albums (1990s), vol. 2

As someone born in 1975, I should be a musical child of the 1980s. And in many ways, I am. Those were the formative years that shaped my tastes. However, it was the 1990s where my musical proclivities were fine-tuned. Those were the years of growth and development; that was the decade of high school and college, of becoming a man. My favorite music of that era reflects the period.
— Matt Lail


Right in the midst of grunge taking over the music scene, the boys from Athens, Ga., decided to zig while everyone else zagged. Of course, in true R.E.M. fashion, they weren’t necessarily pivoting in response to what was going on in the world. Instead, R.E.M. decided to transition from what R.E.M. had been doing. So, in 1992, on the heels of a monster hit in “Losing My Religion” and the album Out of Time, R.E.M. unleashed Automatic for the People. It’s essentially an album about death and loss. With a couple of exceptions, there is very little electric guitar on this album. But there are a lot of strings, arranged courtesy of Led Zeppelin’s version of Mike Mills, John Paul Jones. Automatic for the People — for the reasons just mentioned — is HIGHLY unconventional, especially for a band that was at their creative peak AND at the top of their commercial selling power. Oh, and they didn’t tour for this one. (Warner Bros. must have been having a cow.) But what an album it is. It still managed to spawn major commercial hits (“Drive,” “Man on the Moon,” “Everybody Hurts”), as well as critical and fan favorites (“Nightswimming” and “Find the River,” to name just two). When the dust had settled, R.E.M. was still arguably America’s greatest band. And they had done it their way. As Michael Stipe sings in “Drive”: “Hey kids, rock and roll / Nobody tells you where to go, baby.”

My favorite albums (1990s)

By the early 1990s, Johnny Cash had spent almost two decades in creative and commercial decline, playing in front of disappearing audiences at banquet halls and dinner theaters. He had been dropped by both Columbia and Mercury Records. His final resting place: Branson.

Enter record producing buddha Rick Rubin. Drop the needle on the greatest comeback in the history of popular music — and I don’t mean maybe.

The 30-year-old Rubin had produced almost exclusively rap and heavy metal artists, like LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, Slayer and Danzig. His production style was minimalist, putting little space between artist and listener. The back cover of LL Cool J’s Radio read: “Reduced by Rick Rubin.”

But he wanted to work with a mature artist, a great old artist who had not been doing their best work. Rubin approached Cash.

The result was American Recordings, a stripped-down Johnny Cash, and the closest he had come to his earliest work at Sun Records. The album was universally praised, winning a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. “Delia’s Gone,” the album’s controversial first single, made MTV’s rotation.

It became fashionable to say that Johnny Cash was cool. Or cool again. Which was, of course, complete bullshit. Because a man and his guitar, with a Biblical voice, wearing black, standing up for what’s right, never stopped being cool. Because Johnny Cash was the walking, talking definition of cool.
— Kevin Brewer

1. AMERICAN RECORDINGS (1994) Johnny Cash

American Recordings might be the most handmade, most organic, most Johnny Cash album of them all. It was recorded in Cash’s Tennessee cabin, Rick Rubin’s living room and The Viper Room in Los Angeles. No studio. Cash, in his autobiography: “We experimented with added instrumentation, but in the end, we decided that it worked better with me alone. We bore down on it that way and got our album: no reverb, no echo, no slapback, no overdubbing, no mixing, just me playing my guitar and singing. I didn’t even use a pick; every guitar note on the album … came from my thumb.” Essential tracks | “Delia’s Gone,” “Drive On,” “Tennessee Stud”

postmodcast | Quentin Tarantino

Listen to this episode of postmodcast.

host | Kevin Brewer
stunt double | Chris Harrell

1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (0:00)
2. Bad internet opinions (16:00)
3. Best (and worst) Tarantino films (37:00)
4. Casting flexes (57:00)

Hey, 19, it’s Luka: 2019 player rankings

Luka Doncic won the NBA Rookie of the Year award last night at the NBA Awards — an anticlimactic made-for-television event that most fans don’t care about because they are thinking about Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and free agency and not trophies for the regular season, which ended more than two months ago.

Anyway. Doncic’s award was the most anticlimactic. The Mavericks polymath — who averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists last season — received 98 of 100 first-place votes.

Even more impressive: Doncic might be the best 19-year-old in NBA history.

He is at least on the short list with Dwight Howard (2004-05), Anthony Davis (2012-13), Jayson Tatum (2017-18), LeBron James (2003-04) and Kyrie Irving (2011-12). Doncic turned 20 on Feb. 28, but a player’s age is his age on Feb. 1, per Basketball-Reference.

Among 19-year-olds who played at least 1,500 minutes, Doncic is the all-time leader in Box Plus/Minus, well ahead of Irving. Using the same criteria, he is third all-time in Player Efficiency Rating, behind Davis and Irving and just head of Marvin Bagley (2018-19). He is just seventh in win shares, right behind LeBron, partly because the Mavericks were 33-49.

Those numbers project Doncic to be a multi-time All-Star with a shot at becoming a superstar in the LeBron James-Anthony Davis range.

One caveat: Doncic is not the best 19-year-old in the history of American professional basketball. That is still Moses Malone, who averaged 18.8 points and 14.6 rebounds for the Utah Stars in 1974-75. In the ABA.

Another thing: Zion Williamson will be 19 in 11 days.
— Kevin Brewer

My annual player rankings — the (roughly) top 50 players in the league sorted by age — based only on last season, including the playoffs. …


Age 19 | 1. Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Age 20 | 1. Jarrett Allen, Nets.  2. Mitchell Robinson, Knicks.  3. Deandre Ayton, Suns.  4. Jayson Tatum, Celtics.

The Celtics have not acquired Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis because of the supposed future greatness of Jayson Tatum.

Age 21 | 1. Bam Adebayo, Heat.  2. John Collins, Hawks.  3. De’Aaron Fox, Kings.  4. Thomas Bryant, Wizards.  5. Jamal Murray, Nuggets.

Three Kentucky players.

Established talent, with free agents highlighted:

Age 22 | 1. Ben Simmons, 76ers.  2. Domantas Sabonis, Pacers.  3. D’Angelo Russell, free agent (restricted)

Sabonis and Russell enter the rankings. Donovan Mitchell is out.

Age 23 | 1. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets.  2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves.

Jokic is six months older than Towns.

Age 24 | 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks.  2. Joel Embiid, 76ers. 
3. Pascal Siakam, Raptors.  4. Clint Capela, Rockets.  5. Jusuf Nurkic, Trail Blazers.

Siakam should be an All-NBA player next season. Nurkic broke his left leg in March. His return is uncertain.

Age 25 | 1. Anthony Davis, Lakers.  2. Bradley Beal, Wizards.  3. Andre Drummond, Pistons.  4. Montrezl Harrell, Clippers.  5. Steve Adams, Thunder.

Great story by Kelly Dwyer about when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was traded to the Lakers. His situation was not so different than that of Davis.

Age 26 | 1. Rudy Gobert, Jazz.  2. Kyrie Irving, free agent.  3. Tobias Harris, free agent.

Gobert won his second Defensive Player of the Year award last night.

Age 27 | 1. Kawhi Leonard, free agent.  2. Derrick Favors, Jazz.  3. Khris Middleton, free agent.  4. Dwight Powell, Mavericks.

Yes, Dwight Powell.

Age 28 | 1. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers.  2. Paul George, Thunder.  
3. Nikola Vucevic, Magic.  4. Kemba Walker, free agent.  5. Draymond Green, Warriors.  6. Klay Thompson, free agent.  7. Jrue Holiday, Pelicans.

Green will be entering a contract season.

Age 29 | 1. James Harden, Rockets.  2. Jimmy Butler, free agent.  3. Blake Griffin, Pistons.  4. Eric Bledsoe, Bucks.

Harden: DNS (did not show) for last night’s awards.

Age 30 | 1. Stephen Curry, Warriors.  2. Kevin Durant, free agent.
3. Russell Westbrook, Thunder.  4. Danilo Gallinari, Clippers.  5. Brook Lopez, free agent.  6. Thaddeus Young, Pacers.

A good starting five, with Durant taking a redshirt season.

Age 31 | 1. Mike Conley, Jazz

The Jazz are NBA Finals contenders.

Age 32 | 1. Kyle Lowry, Raptors.  2. Al Horford, free agent.

Glue guys. Indispensable. Every season.

Age 33 | 1. LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs.  2. Chris Paul, Rockets (58 games).

Big contracts. No titles.

Age 34 | 1. LeBron James, Lakers.  2. Marc Gasol, Raptors.

LeBron turns 35 on Dec. 30, the age when many players lose a step or two.

Old players, a complete list:

Age 35 | 1. Andre Iguodala, Warriors.  2. Devin Harris, Mavericks. 
4. Channing Frye, Cavaliers (36 games).

Age 36 | 1. Tyson Chandler, Lakers (55 games).  2. Nene, Rockets (42 games).  3. Tony Parker, retired (56 games).

Age 37 | 1. Dwyane Wade, retired.  2. Kyle Korver, Grizzlies.  3. Jose Calderon, Pistons (49 games).

Age 38 | 1. Pau Gasol, Bucks (30 games).  2. Jamal Crawford, Suns. 
3. Udonis Haslem, Heat (10 games).

Age 39 | none

Age 40 | Dirk Nowitzki, retired

Age 41 | none

Age 42 | Vince Carter, free agent

The best 42-year-old of all time. The three others: Robert Parish, Dikembe Mutombo and Kevin Willis.

Kawhi Leonard and every playoffs MVP

Kawhi Leonard has been called a cyborg, because of his supernatural two-way excellent and mechanical laugh. Except he’s not. Leonard is a dynasty-stopping, two-time NBA Finals MVP cyborg with the highest winning percentage in NBA history.

Leonard four-bounced a game-winning shot in Game 7 of the Eastern conference semifinals, guarded the freakish Giannis Antetokounmpo in the conference finals and snuffed out a possible three-peat by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals on Thursday night, leading the Toronto Raptors to their first championship in franchise history.

Just a couple weeks short of his 28th birthday, there is a mythical aura surrounding Leonard. He scores and stops his opponents from scoring in a Michael Jordan kind of way, only with none of the panache. He is both guarded and unguardable, an immortal warrior from another century, winning championships past and present in a Highlander kind of way. He is the third player to win a Finals MVP award with two different teams, the first to do it in both conferences, the first in two countries. There can be only one.

While the “best player” debate was an Antetokounmpo vs. James Harden matchup during the regular season and Kevin Durant’s reputation seemed to grow the more he didn’t play, the more the talking heads talked about his impending free agency, the unanimity now rests with Leonard, the Bill Russell trophy in his large alien hands.

But Leonard wasn’t just the Finals MVP. He was also the “playoffs MVP,” which sounds less prestigious but includes a larger sample size — excellence over one-fourth of a season instead of four to seven games. It is also a worthy placeholder in the “best player” debate. (Leonard played 24 postseason games or about the same number that he missed during the regular season. That strategic rest, coupled with playoff injuries to Golden State’s Durant and Klay Thompson, makes a strong case for “load management.”)

Leonard was first in playoff win shares — a quick way of determining the “playoffs MVP” — with 4.9, easily ahead of second-place Stephen Curry (3.3). That’s the sixth-best total of all time, behind Tim Duncan (2003), Dirk Nowitzki (2006, when he lost in the Finals) and three playoff runs by LeBron James. Using win shares as a guide, this postseason’s All-Star team would be Leonard, Curry, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (3.0) and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry (2.8) and Pascal Siakam (2.4).
— Kevin Brewer

Here are the playoff win shares leaders since 1969, when the NBA Finals MVP award began. The winners are in bold, with my “playoffs MVP” selections highlighted — when they differ from the official selections:

1969 | Jerry West, 4.3

1970 | Jerry West, 3.2; Walt Frazier, 2.8; Willis Reed, 2.6

1971 | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 3.3

1972 | Walt Frazier, 3.3; Wilt Chamberlain, 3.0

1973 | Walt Frazier, 3.0; Wilt Chamberlain, 2.7; Willis Reed, 1.0 (14th)

1974 | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 4.7; John Havlicek, 3.5

1975 | Rick Barry, 3.1

1976 | Dave Cowens, 2.7; Paul Silas, 2.3; Jo Jo White, 2.1

1977 | Julius Erving, 3.4; Bill Walton, 2.5 (fifth)

1978 | Elvin Hayes, 3.1; Wes Unseld, 2.0 (fifth)

1979 | Gus Williams, 2.7; Bob Dandridge, 2.5; Dennis Johnson, 2.2 (fourth)

1969-1979 | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 17.8

2. Walt Frazier, 15.8
3. Wes Unseld, 12.6
4. John Havlicek, 12.3
5. Wilt Chamberlain, 12.1

Willis Reed owes Walt Frazier two trophies.

1980 | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 3.3; Magic Johnson, 2.8

1981 | Moses Malone, 3.5; Larry Bird, 3.1; Cedric Maxwell, 2.5

1982 | Julius Erving, 3.0; Magic Johnson, 2.7

1983 | Moses Malone, 2.8

1984 | Larry Bird, 4.7

1985 | Magic Johnson, 3.0; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 2.5 (fifth)

1986 | Larry Bird, 4.2

1987 | Magic Johnson, 3.7

1988 | Magic Johnson, 4.0; Kevin McHale, 3.3; James Worthy, 2.8 (fifth)

1989 | Michael Jordan, 4.0; Magic Johnson, 2.2; Joe Dumars, 2.2 (fourth)

1980-1989 | Magic Johnson, 27.1

2. Larry Bird, 23.6
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 17.7
4. Kevin McHale, 17.2
5. James Worthy, 13.5

Magic Johnson should have five playoff MVPs. Larry Bird should have three.

1990 | Michael Jordan, 4.0; Isiah Thomas, 3.1

1991 | Michael Jordan, 4.8

1992 | Michael Jordan, 4.1

1993 | Charles Barkley, 4.6; Michael Jordan, 4.4

1994 | Hakeem Olajuwon, 4.3

1995 | Clyde Drexler, 3.0; Shaquille O’Neal, 3.0; Hakeem Olajuwon, 2.8

1996 | Michael Jordan, 4.7

1997 | Michael Jordan, 3.9

1998 | Michael Jordan, 4.8

1999 | Tim Duncan, 3.7

1990-1999 | Michael Jordan, 32.0

2. Scottie Pippen, 20.2
3. Karl Malone, 17.9
4. Horace Grant, 15.9
11. Reggie Miller, 12.0

Michael Jordan was the best player in the playoffs eight times in 10 years.

2000 | Shaquille O’Neal, 4.7

2001 | Kobe Bryant, 3.8; Dikembe Mutombo, 3.8; Shaquille O’Neal, 3.7

2002 | Shaquille O’Neal, 3.8

2003 | Tim Duncan, 5.9

2004 | Shaquille O’Neal, 3.9; Chauncey Billups, 3.7

2005 | Chauncey Billups, 4.6; Manu Ginobili, 4.2; Tim Duncan, 3.5

2006 | Dirk Nowitzki, 5.4; Dwyane Wade, 4.8

2007 | LeBron James, 3.7; Tim Duncan, 3.3; Tony Parker, 1.6 (14th)

2008 | Kevin Garnett, 4.1; Ray Allen, 3.1 (third); Paul Pierce, 3.0 (fourth)

2009 | LeBron James, 4.8; Kobe Bryant, 4.7; Dwight Howard, 4.5

2000-2009 | Tim Duncan, 23.0

2. Kobe Bryant, 21.7
3. Shaquille O’Neal, 21.2
4. Chauncey Billups, 20.3
16. Robert Horry, 9.8

Tony Parker is the worst MVP selection of all time.

2010 | Pau Gasol, 4.3; Kobe Bryant, 3.6

2011 | LeBron James, 3.8; Dwyane Wade, 3.7; Dirk Nowitzki, 3.6

2012 | LeBron James, 5.8; Kevin Durant, 4.0

2013 | LeBron James, 5.2

2014 | LeBron James, 4.3; Tim Duncan, 3.2; Kawhi Leonard, 2.9

2015 | Stephen Curry, 3.9; LeBron James, 3.0; Andre Iguodala, 2.2 (seventh)

2016 | LeBron James, 4.7

2017 | LeBron James, 4.3; Stephen Curry, 3.4; Kevin Durant, 3.1

2018 | LeBron James, 5.2; Kevin Durant, 4.0

2019 | Kawhi Leonard, 4.9

2010-2019 | Tim Duncan, 38.6

2. Kevin Durant, 23.1
3. Kawhi Leonard, 17.6
4. Stephen Curry, 17.1
5. James Harden, 14.4

The constant criticism of Stephen Curry is getting tiresome.