LeBron James and the Miami Heat may be down 2-1 to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, but still have their sights set on a third consecutive title this year. With three more wins, James and the Heat will have pulled off what Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls accomplished twice in the 1990s - a "three-peat."
But even with a third ring, James is still not on the same level as Jordan, according to Minnesota Timberwolves forward Robbie Hummel, a Valpo native who played prep basketball at Valparaiso High School and starred in the Big Ten at Purdue University.
“Though LeBron is dominating like an animal stalking the court, MJ is still the greatest ever,” Hummel said, noting that Jordan was his “favorite player” while growing up in Valpo.
“LeBron is a freak of nature with skills at every facet of the game, but MJ is the best ever,” Hummel added.
James is one of a number of stars Hummel has competed against since he began his NBA career prior to this season.
League MVP Kevin Durant “can own you in a heartbeat,” Hummel said, remembering the time this past season when he was tasked with guarding the Oklahoma City Thunder star.
“I had to play three minutes of a half against him,” Hummel recalls. “He shot four times and only scored three points. So I took that as a blessing. When you see him come at you, you are on an island. No one can save you, you just have to contain him.”
Playing in the NBA is a dream come true for Hummel, one that was achieved through hard work and inspiration every step of the way. With the dream comes great moments of performing on the world’s grandest stage.
“Playing in Madison Square Garden was cool,” said Hummel. “There’s magic in playing there. Spike Lee and John McEnroe are there. Playing at Staples (Center in Los Angeles) is the same thing seeing Jack Nicholson and Fred Couples courtside.”
Hummel touched on the race-related challenges brought to light by the racist remarks made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in April. As the player representative for the Timberwolves, Hummel has been involved in conference calls and discussions with the NBA regarding the matter.
“You absolutely cannot act like that and be an owner,” Hummel said. “My parents at the earliest age taught us to be nice to everyone and that skin color does not matter. I was blessed through my AAU teams to play with a diverse group of players and thus I have never thought about the difference. E’twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are two of my closest friends. We grew up playing together.”
Hummel said he thinks the NBA has done “a great job” in addressing the situation.
“You could see (Commissioner) Adam Silver was mad, and he should be mad,” Hummel said.
Hummel says his hope for the 2014-15 season is that he will remain with the Timberwolves and that his agent has been “very positive” in that wish.
Whether he remains in Minnesota or is signed elsewhere, he will play for a different head coach, as Rick Adelman retired following the 2013-14 season after a 25-year NBA coaching career that included stops in Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota. On Thursday, it was announced the Timberwolves will be coached by Flip Saunders next year. Saunders led the Minnesota franchise to their only two playoff-series victories in 2004.
“Coach Adelman has redefined many areas of coaching basketball and it was a privilege to play for him,” Hummel said. “He invented the corner offense, and now every team runs a variation of it.”