Archive for ‘NBA’

June 11, 2008

Simply put; More is expected

Last night I witnessed one of the most unsatisfying victories I have ever witnessed as a Laker fan. Don’t get me wrong, I will take it but man did that game make me nervous. The reason? It has been three games already and Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol are yet to show up.

In game 3, Odom had more fouls (5) and turnovers (also 5), than points (4). Pau did get 9 points and 12 rebounds but it really didn’t feel that way as he once again appeared soft and unsure. What worries me is that last night’s game was basically the most important game in their lives thus far and yet they couldn’t even get up for it. If not last night, then when?

Odom needs to become that guy that the other team can’t guard. Paul Pierce can’t cover him and neither can Kendrick Perkins. Gasol is at least tied up with Kevin Garnett who is more athletic and stronger than him. However, the kicker is that Odom cannot be effective unless Gasol is being a force. Odom gets his licks in by playing off of Gasol.

Therefore the key to Odom finding his game, is Gasol finding his. How can the Lakers acheive this? Well, strangely missing from the Lakers’ game last night was the pick and roll between Kobe and Gasol. This might be because Kobe was so aggressive that he kept attacking and a lot of iso plays were run for him. I would go back to it to start game 4 as a way to get Gasol up and rolling. The Celtics have not been able to defend it effectively and they won’t be able to this time either. This would get Gasol some buckets and get his confidence soaring. More importantly, it would establish Gasol as a force and create space for Odom to be dominant.

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March 15, 2008

NBA MVP. Kobe over Lebron

Sometime last week my brother took the time to call me up. He was in a panic. He had this to say; ESPN is starting to hype up Lebron James over Kobe for M.V.P. I assured him that it wasn’t going to happen. I told him that ESPN was only hyping LBJ because he had just dropped 50 points the day before. Don’t get me wrong, Lebron is a worthy candidate but I don’t think he should be given M.V.P over Kobe Bryant or even Chris Paul.

Everytime it was Kobe’s turn to win M.V.P, the media has come up with some reason not to give it to him. My favorite one is the ever popular; “he is the best player in the world but he isn’t the most valuable player”. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t M.V.P supposed to be handed to the best player? All those years Jordan was winning them, was he the best at making his teammates better? Wasn’t it just his pure dominance, his motion that was straight poetry and his charisma off the court. In fact, didn’t Jordan’s team do pretty well without him when he went off to play baseball?

Don’t even get me started on this myth of making your teammates better. It is more like working with your teammates and not making them better. You are a team so by playing your role you are making the team work. Your teammates make themselves better by putting in work and in turn you trust them with the ball. No amount of passing is going to make a person make a wide open shot unless they have practiced that shot by themself. Yet this was the rationale given for wresting it away from Kobe all this time.

To show how inconsistent this award is, Steve Nash won it two times in a row and then went ahead and posted better numbers than he had those two years but it was given to someone else. Why? Well they just didn’t want to give it to him three years in a row. The M.V.P should just go back to being what it used to be; the best player that season and not a popularity contest. It isn’t Mr. Congeniality or M.L.P (Most Liked Player).

This season, Kobe has become the leader that he supposedly wasn’t all those years. He has drastically reduced his shot attempts and is averaging more assists. However, the mistake that most people are making is assuming that more assists means he is passing the ball more. Kobe had always passed the ball. The difference is that his teammates are making those shots on a consistent basis. He is also very tenacious on defense when he is locked in and he is playing with an injury that would otherwise require surgery. Input the fact that he is still the best player in the league (Lebron being a close second) and he should be a run away winner. Why shouldn’t Lebron win it? Well because Lebron’s team is in the Eastern Conference and still isn’t doing as well as Kobe’s. Look how tough the West is and don’t even bother comparing it with the east. Game over.

February 20, 2008

Turn off your TV, turn on your mind…

Schopenhauer on thinking for Oneself: “The safest way of having no thoughts of one’s own is to turn on the TV set every moment one has nothing else to do. It is this practice which explains why watching TV makes most people more stupid and silly than they are by nature.”

“What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.” -Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf.

“It is easy to overlook a deceptively simple fact: one is always watching television when one is watching television rather than having any other experience. Whether the program being watched is Sesame Street or Spiderman, Nova or Fantasy Island, there is a similarity of experience about all television watching.”

Are you sitting down? Good because I am about to dive into a controversial topic. Bernard McGrane, a renowned Sociologist once pointed out that TV is designed to dominate your life. Think about it. You see it best in a dark room by its own light. It has its own sounds and images. It is dominant by nature. Turn it off and you might even forget it is there. Turn it on and you have to stare at it. It is getting bigger and bigger, the images are getting clearer and clearer and now, it even includes surround sound. The new tvs demand that you put them up on a pedestal above every other thing. Can you think of any other electrical appliance that demands such majesty, such visibility? No. You can’t.

And it is through tv that we have lost our sense of reality. I’ll give you an example. Think of the Katrina tragedy in New Orleans. Remember the countless hours of coverage that it got? Have the problems all been fixed? Not at all. Then how come it isn’t getting much talk around the water cooler? How come more people aren’t demanding answers, or volunteering or even thinking about it? Because the cameras are gone. TV and the media have moved on to other things like Britney Spears and Roger Clemens and steroids. We were told something as ridiculous as the New Orleans Saints were playing for the victims of Katrina. That sports were a way to heal the wounds left over from the disaster and that was bull. Throwing a ball doesn’t fix things or make them better. It only causes people to ignore just how bad things are. Sure sports might bring people together. But the tragedy which most people miss is that we even need sports to bring us together. What has New Orleans gained from the Saints making the playoffs that year? Moments of joy and happiness, yes but it didn’t feed anyone or clothe anyone or rebuild their torn down homes or give them back what they lost. The fact that these people even gain joy from that is a big example of how skewed our reality has gotten.

The allure of TV and indeed the media on the whole is that we believe that it is a good thing for the city that the Saints were playing well. Look closely though and you’ll realize that it was all a marketing ruse. The Saints got more publicity, sold more tickets, television ratings went up and they sold more jerseys. In the end what has the city gotten? Ten to twenty minute segments at halftime of games while the games go on. Imagine that all the people who watched the superbowl (including me) saved the money they used to buy tickets, even buy big screen Tvs, alcohol and other refreshments and sent them to New Orleans. Wouldn’t the problem be taken care of?

There are countless other examples but I will leave you with that one as the point has been made. We need to spend more time thinking about others and setting examples and learning and loving other people instead of being glued to the tube. Gotta go. I have to go watch the Lakers play the Suns.

January 14, 2008

Indicting the Black Athlete of Today

You know about Elgin Baylor. You’ve seen his records being broken. Maybe you know that in the 61-62 NBA season he averaged 38.3 points to go with 18.6 rebounds. Such numbers are eye popping but there is more to this man than that. You may not know that Elgin was a United States Army Reservist that same year and could only play for the Lakers when he got a weekend pass. You may also not know that Mr. Baylor single handedly saved the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1958, when Elgin was drafted number 1 overall by the Lakers, the Lakers were in trouble. They were lousy. The George Mikan era was over and the players who were left on the team were “slow, bulky and aging” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elgin_Baylor). The Lakers owner at the time, Bob Short, begged Baylor to skip his junior year and join the Minneapolis Lakers. Mr. Hope would later say in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1971: “If he had turned me down, I would have been out of business. The club would have gone bankrupt”. The Lakers drafted Mr. Baylor to save the franchise and in his rookie year, he led them to the NBA finals. To help put this in perspective think of this; the Lakers had finished 19-53 one year before Elgin came to town. Talk about clutch.

You definitely know about Jackie Robinson. You know what he accomplished by being the first black person in the big leagues. Jackie had to be good you see, Jackie had to be very good or this experiment was going to end just as quickly as it had begun. He was carrying the hopes and dreams of every little boy and girl who wasn’t white but had picked up a bat, a glove, or a ball and dared to dream. Talk about pressure. He knew exactly what he had to do. He had to carry those dreams and hopes on his back. Good thing he had a strong, broad back.

What about Oscar Robertson? He was the only man to ever average a triple double in a season. During the 61-62 season, he pulled off 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds per game. But you knew that. You may not know just how poor Mr. Robertson was growing up. In fact, he picked up basketball because it was a “poor boy’s sport”. His family could not afford a basketball so he learned how to shoot by tossing tennis balls and rags bound with rubber bands into a peach basket. The Big O had to put up with a lot of racism during his career especially in college and high school. He often had to sleep in dorms on the road instead of hotel rooms like the rest of his teammates because he wasn’t allowed in. Despite all of that, Mr. Robertson flourished and even helped bring an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA which led to a reform of free agency and draft rules.

There are many more old time black athletes. Some of them we’ll never hear about because their sacrifices went unpublicized. In a time when their white counterparts were renowned for what they did on the courts, pitch, field, etc., these men had to be champions both on and off the court. They were called upon to look beyond themselves and help bring change and they came through convincingly. Without them, there would be no Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, etc. The NBA wouldn’t be fantastic, Major League Baseball wouldn’t be importing players from Japan and the Dominican Republic, and Football wouldn’t be America’s new pastime. Yet these men are at risk of being forgotten. Some of them are still alive but aren’t celebrated. When the average fan of today calls Michael Jordan the greatest, I beg to differ. All Michael had to do was just play. The people before him had to win the hearts of people who didn’t want them there.

We are losing a valuable piece of American history. Part of the problem is the apathy shown by current athletes in their refusal to take up causes outside of their comfort zone. There is still some racism left, some injustice in this society, and yet the people who have the power to do so much do nothing at all. The current black athlete is failing off the court despite their high marks on it. Meanwhile history continues to be lost, one piece at a time.