Back to the NBA Journey, Week Twenty: Achievement Unlocked

The 2018-19 NBA season is in its home stretch. The Association still believes that its destination will be another championship for the Golden State Warriors. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the season as a whole. Last year was wonderful, so let's return to the path. Let's go back to the Journey.

Song of the Week: Jay-Z and Nas - "Success"

As people, we need to be rewarded. Whether we come up with that reward internally — as in doing a good deed out of kindness — or receive an award for some form of merit, there has to be some result in it for us in order to do most things. Achievements are a special type of reward. The root word achieve is defined on as, "to bring a successful conclusion; to reach a goal." This is simple cause and effect: set a desired result for something, successfully reach it and one will have achieved said goal. Goals are met and we're satisfied. Goals are not met and we're disappointed. And goals can be surpassed, resulting in an elation that surpasses simple completion.

The deeper element to the feeling behind achievement is that elation is a result of a lofty goal. Usually, once someone sets out to achieve a goal, there is an even higher goal above it. For example, if an NBA player wants to average 20 points in a season, that's something to shoot for. There are players who've averaged 30 a game before. So the more that player exceeds 20 but doesn't reach 30, that later average still seems so high — until it is close to being reached and even surpassed.

Video games, especially in the newer consoles, have built-in achievements players can collect. From the simple task of defeating a boss or even finishing the last level of a game, to ridiculously specific and difficult goals like the "Seriously 3.0" achievement in Gears of War 3, games give players things to strive for and to reward their time and commitment to the product.

Some achievements can even be tracked while players grow closer to them. In Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, one achievement is landing a 30-hit combo. The game's interaction includes a counter for how many consecutive hits the player is landing. In some instances, players can see the goal and try to reach for it. Or through the course of just playing, achievements can be reached and unlocked.

Last Wednesday night, LeBron James passed Michael Jordan for fourth on the NBA's all-time scoring list. From the onset of a player's career, Jordan's 32,292 points seem so far away and the NBA odds on someone passing him were extremely low. Let's do a little math for perspective. In order for a player to score 2,000 points in one season, they would have to average 24.4 points per game and play every single one of the 82. Then imagine 16 of those types of seasons. That player, averaging 24.4 points per game and playing every game for 16 years, would still fall short of Jordan's average. With this knowledge, it's easy to see why only two players have surpassed him since his retirement 15 years ago. LeBron James became the second on Wednesday, scoring 31 total points in a loss against the Denver Nuggets.

This shot resulted in Lebron James surpassing Michael Jordan on the NBA's career scoring list. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Yes, the Los Angeles Lakers lost again, all but cementing the team missing the playoffs. This has been the worst team season James has been a part of since 2004-05 and his first season where injury caused him to miss games. Youth, inexperience, distracted minds, defensive lapses, lost cohesion for various reasons and overall disappointing play have attached themselves to LeBron's greatness this season. As he ages and time begins to close the gap on him, the milestones he reaches like the one on Wednesday should be recognized and celebrated. Yes, we'd like our greats to stay forever great and mystical, with nothing to taint our ideas of them. But once LeBron the player does eventually leave basketball behind, we'll shine his legacy accordingly. For now, let's celebrate the good and great things to come from those who achieve them alongside the criticisms and speculation on how to fix everything that's wrong. Congrats on a wonderful career, LeBron.

March to the Blurbs!

  • Long live "The Shammgod." That is the name for a crossover created by former Providence standout guard God Shammgod. Shammgod did not become an NBA star, but his move lives on even in professional games. Brooklyn Nets All-Star D'Angelo Russell broke it out in Wednesday's game while on a fast break. This gives me the reason to link to other players using the move, and you can watch the video here.
  • Around this time, the worst few teams in the league try to lo... uh... play not to win in hopes of securing the best chance at the number one pick in June's NBA Draft. The Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks are all in play to secure the best odds at landing the top pick. Just like teams jockey for position in the playoffs, teams now also do the same at the bottom of the standings. It is all in the idea of trying to build the best team possible — or at least make it look that way.
  • This week's Hooper Appreciation Blurb goes to Boston Celtics guard Gordon Hayward. He's struggled much this season after returning from that horrific injury at the beginning of last year. But he scored 30 points off the bench in the Celtics' throttling of the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. He also made the game-winning runner Wednesday night as they edged the Sacramento Kings. Hopefully this propels him to better play going into the postseason.

Twenty weeks in and the Journey continues. Happy NBA, folks.

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