Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Isiah Thomas and Napoleon Bonaparte

Today is the 205th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1803, we acquired 828,000 square miles of territory from the French. Thomas Jefferson was the President at the time, and it was Napoleon Bonaparte that negotiated the sale of the land to the US. We got it for the low low bargain basement price of $11,250,000. Including interest, the US ultimately paid just over $23 million for the territory, which now comprises 23% of the territory of the US today. We doubled the size of the country at a price of about three cents per acre. Not a bad deal. Basically, we fleeced the French government. Apparently we were prepared to pay $10 million just for New Orleans.

It's probably not a coincidence that today is also the birthday of Isiah Thomas (born in 1961). He is obviously the "Napoleon" of NBA executives. Like Napoleon, he was great on the battlefield. As a military leader, Napoleon was a General during the French Revolution, which obviously was a very successful endeavor. However, once he became the ruler of France, he made some ill-advised moves - invasion of Russia (which led to his exile and death) and the Louisiana Purchase.

Similarly, Isiah was a great leader as a player on the floor. He was arguably the best point guard of all time - certainly among the top five. He led his teams to one NCAA championship and two NBA championships, and his teams were perpetually competitive. He played injured (scored 25 points in the fourth quarter on a broken ankle against the Lakers in the NBA finals). He scored in bunches (scored 16 points in 1:33 against the Knicks in a 1984 playoff game). He continues to be one of my favorite players ever. However, like Napoleon, things went horribly wrong once he became the head honcho. He bankrupted an entire basketball league (the CBA) when he turned down the NBA's offer of $11 million to make it the official minor league. This led to the formation of the NBDL. As a coach, he has never taken a team past the first round of the playoffs. As an executive, he was an absolute train wreck, particularly his most recent stint with the Knicks. He signed mediocre players to huge contracts (Jerome James, Jared Jeffries). He made ill-advised trades (Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry). The Knicks and Isiah were sued by an MSG employee for sexual harassment, which ended up costing the Knicks $11.6 million dollars.

Here is a quick "Tale of The Tape" between Napoleon and Isiah - some striking similarities:

Napoleon Bonaparte

Isiah Thomas

heightDisputed (5'-2" to 5'-7")6'-0"
battlefield gloryFrench RevolutionBack-to-back NBA titles
worst tradeLouisiana Purchase - doomed France to second-tier nation statusAcquiring Stephon Marbury - doomed Knicks to years of ineptitude
worst tactical moveInvasion of Russiaturning down $11M from NBA for CBA
termination Exiled to ElbaFired as Pacers coach
resurgenceEscaped from exile, governed for 100 daysHired by Knicks
disgracedre-exiled to St. HelenaFired by Knicks
humiliatedchronic hemorrhoidsSexual harassment lawsuit
cause of deathdisputed (poison or stomach cancer?)Shot by deranged Knick fan in 2012

Anyone else see the similarities? Just me? Okay, I can live with that. Any other suggestions are welcome.

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