Is there a less appreciated winner than Mike Bibby? American sports fans will set aside just about anything if a guy is a winner. You can be a gunslinger if you sling tds at the right time. You can take whole seasons off if you try hard for a contender and win. I mean just going off the top of my head with other guys named Michael, Jordan gave one of the least gracious hall of fame speeches you will ever see, Irvin stabbed a teammate with scissors, and Tyson did everything. All three are in a different stratosphere than Bibby but all three have been forgiven or loved or had certain events selectively ignored because they won.
People hate Mike Bibby. He is an on going joke among some NBA writers. He rarely gets credit for anything other than a quick, above average jump shot. But nothing negative is ignored. Not his defense or his ball handling. Not his tatooes or his ability to finish. Not his leadership or passion. The good things are at best acknowledged and the bad things are almost always dwelled upon.
Not that pointing out weaknesses is abnormal in the sports world or that people are making things up about Bibby. It is just a bit weird since Mike Bibby is a winner. He won a title in college. If you do not count the Vancouver years against him (and no one should have the Vancouver years counted against them except Big Country Reeves), he has made the playoffs every year but one in his NBA career. It could be argued that he was the most clutch performer on one of the greatest teams not to win a championships the last decade. And if you want to revise history that is up to you, but truth be told, the Hawks looked well on their way to extending their playoff drought until that Mike Bibby trade.Yet the benefit of the doubt, or even the benefit of the positive is rarely afforded to him.
Of course, Mike Bibby has real weaknesses. He is as bad on defense as anyone says. If you hear an argument as to why Mike Bibby is good at defense, right it down and retell it later in the context of a joke. It will kill. Bibby rarely drives the lane. He is not always great at pushing the pace. Lacks, to the fans eye, any demonstrative leadership ability. And for some unknown reason, winning does not soften any of those weaknesses.
Maybe it was his enormous previous contract. Maybe it is his tattoos. Maybe it is because he looks a little like Dr. Evil. I don't know, but I don't entirely get it. From game to game, Mike can be annoying beyond measure. You see the defensive lapses, you dream of a drive and kick point guard, but on the Hawks, he rarely is the catalyst for losing (either a game or a series). And since the Hawks have congealed as a team best and most visibly under Mike, it may be time to admit that our point guard offers a little more than meets the eye.
The negatives of Mike Bibby's game are strikingly visible. We will complain about them throughout the year I am sure. But for the most part, all the man has ever done is help teams win. So maybe there is more than meets the eye. Maybe Bibby brings more than a nice alley-oop pass and a slightly streaky three point shot. There are real reasons to be nervous and to complain and even to say Mike Bibby should not be starting in three years for this team. But there are worse people to plug in to keep the ship afloat and nurture a young scoring point guard along than Mike Bibby. There are worse things to have than a veteran point guard who can shoot and win.