NBA

We Need More Activist Athletes

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-ESPYs

There’s no doubt America loves its sports, and its champions.

Earlier this week, two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers went on the radio waves in Milwaukee, where he shared that he felt NFL culture and its administration discourage its players from being vocal and speaking out on social issues.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback pointed at the NBA, where players are promoted to speak out. It’s an environment that he praised Commissioner Adam Silver for creating.

Although Rodgers admitted that he, himself, is not exactly the most outspoken, he would like to see more players freely share their opinions.

He had a chance to do just that. After the weekend riots and unrest in Milwaukee, on Monday, Rodgers was in front of microphone once again and was asked to give his opinion on what had just happened.

He said: “I don’t know the specifics about it, but I do know that our heart goes out to those affected down there. This is a connected world. Anytime there’s a disconnect like that, it’s disappointing to see. Our thoughts and our prayers go with all of those affected, and we hope that the violence doesn’t continue down there.”

After digesting Rodgers’ sentiments on the Milwaukee riots and athletes speaking out, as well as, processing Jabari Parker’s heartbreaking essay in The Players’ Tribune on his experiences in Chicago and how he and fellow citizens can make it a better place — I was thinking. (more…)

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A Storm is Brewing

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-Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Russell Westbrook put an end to the speculation surrounding where he will be once his current contract expires at the end of next season.

On Thursday, Westbrook inked a deal worth over $85 million to last for the next three seasons that will keep him in Oklahoma City. He will have the option to enter free agency after the 2017-18 season but for now, the Thunder have him locked in for at least the next two years.

The news came as a great sigh of relief for Oklahoma City and its fans, who have already experienced one thunderous blow of heartbreak when Kevin Durant left for Golden State this summer.

Not only did Westbrook’s new contract put an end to hypothetical scenarios of Westbrook playing in Los Angeles or for another team, it also has shown the growth of his persona. (more…)

The End of an Era

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers

-Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

 

The NBA is going to look very different next season, as two of its superstars are retiring–Kobe Bryant and as of Monday, Tim Duncan.

Bryant and Duncan have been around for what feels like forever. Their playoff clashes on the court during the early to mid-2000s seemed just like yesterday. The comparisons between the two can easily fuel a ‘who-is-better?’ conversation for hours.

Out of the last 18 championships, they amount for 10 of them–five for Kobe and another five for Duncan.

San Antonio was fortunate to have Duncan for 19 seasons. Los Angeles was blessed to have 20 years of Bryant–the only player to have spent more seasons with one team than Duncan.

Next season will have a different feel to it, with the Lakers losing its iconic face of the franchise for two decades and the Spurs saying farewell to the one player that has been a part of all five of their NBA championship teams.

Not only will the league and its fans miss seeing the two long-time stars suit up for their respective teams, but they also represent the end of an era. (more…)

Et tu, Kevin? NBA Free Agency Has Become a Farce

-The Fumble

-The Fumble

Let’s talk about free agency, shall we?

After seeing the events since July 1st unfold in the NBA, one line comes to mind for me.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Good Fellas, you know what I’m talking about.

“F*** you, pay me.”

Ever since striking mega deals with television networks ESPN and TNT, the NBA has a new revenue stream that is not just from putting butts in seats or from selling short sleeved jerseys.

No, it is a river of cash flowing with greater force than the Mississippi and brings richness to anyone who inhabits it like the Nile.

As a result, the NBA salary cap–the one device implemented in this league that tries to keep parity afloat–has grown at such an astounding rate.

The inflated cap has caused a series events that has taken the life out of the NBA. It has made bench players multi-millionaires and has allowed for the formation of a super teams that have come to dominate the league year in and year out. It has taken away parity of the game, mainly because the superstars of the league have control of every little nuance of the NBA on and off the court. (more…)

This is Not a Dream

Dream-vs-ReDream

-ballislife.com

USA Basketball unveiled its 12-man roster for the upcoming Olympic games at Rio next month, and quite frankly, this lineup is looking inferior in comparison to some of the past Olympic teams in recent history.

Yes, this year’s squad certainly has some top-tier superstar talent in Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, but it’s missing some other big names–LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, just to name a few.

Granted, some players like John Wall, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake Griffin withdrew their names from consideration to recover from injuries or surgeries, but their presence will be missed. (more…)

How Far We Haven’t Come

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-altonline.tv

Nope, sorry, even if the United States had upset Argentina on its own turf, soccer in the United States still has a long way to go.

After a 4-0 beat down by the best player on the planet and his national team on Tuesday night, it became even more apparent that the United States needs a lot more work.

Yes, Major League Soccer, America’s domestic soccer league, has been on a gradual rise. A new, shiny broadcast deal with ESPN and Fox Sports before the 2015 season has helped the league get more coverage and attention, while putting more money into their pockets.

The eight-year deal between ESPN, Fox Sports, and Spanish broadcast network Univision, have an average estimated value of $90 million per season. 125 games will be shown annually across the three networks. This is almost five times larger than the previous broadcast deal between the MLS and ESPN, Fox Sports, and Univision, that was only averaging an $18 million value.

MLS franchises have become more valuable, with the average team worth $157 million, according to a 2015 report by Forbes.

While these upward trends are nice for the MLS, the league and the American cultural perception towards the sport still remain well in the back seat.

The United States’ professional leagues for football (NFL), basketball (NBA), hockey (NHL), and baseball (MLB) still trump the MLS.  (more…)

Game of Thrones: Underdog City Rules the NBA Landscape

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-Jason Miller/Getty Images

There’s no doubt that Cleveland has been the butt of many sports jokes, but that was put on hold on Sunday night, when the Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in game seven to clinch the title.

The city itself had been known of its poor luck when it comes to its sports franchises. Before June 19, 2016, Cleveland’s major sports teams hadn’t tasted the sweet flavor of victory since 1964, when the Browns won the NFL Championship.

From 1964 to this past Sunday, Cleveland sports fans have had their hopes shatter before their own eyes time and time again.

Since their last run for the championship, the Browns haven’t come close to reaching the Super Bowl. Even more devastating, is the fact that the original Browns franchise was relocated to Baltimore and became the Ravens, where they have won two titles since the move in 1995.

Meanwhile, the rebooted Cleveland Browns haven’t had the same success, leaving the city wondering what could have been if the franchise never moved to begin with.

The Indians last reached the World Series in 1997, but lost to the Florida Marlins.

Then there are the Cavaliers, led by Akron native LeBron James.  (more…)

Breaking Glass Ceilings

 

-Associated Press Images

With Becky Hammon, it was never a matter of if she could do it, but rather how and when. She has always been in control of her own path, never allowing outside criticism to define her destiny. For Hammon, external pressure has always been around her. At a young age, there was the physical defense in the paint that stood in her way whenever she played basketball with her older brother and his friends. Little by little, she would learn how to compensate for the lack of size and age difference. She figured out how to use her body as a shield against the much bigger competition as she attacked the basket. In high school, she put on a show for those who watched her play. However, for the most part, she was unnoticed. She never received attention from the premier Division-I programs. Coaches of the high-profile schools did not want to invest the time to go scout her out in South Dakota. For the coaches who did make the trip, they did not have faith in a 5-foot-6 guard playing in the collegiate level. No matter how many points she would put up, they did not feel confident in investing their time and resources in a slow and small guard.

Finally, an assistant coach from Colorado State witnessed Hammon play and was immediately impressed. After the recruiting process, Hammon committed to the Rams. From the moment she stepped onto the court at Colorado State, her presence was felt. In her four years there, she helped lead the Rams to three tournament appearances, including a 33-3 season in 1999. All of this happened while she was breaking and setting new school records. Hammon also broke Keith Van Horn’s record for the WAC all-time leading scorer. When it came time for the WNBA Draft, she was met with the same disbelief and lack of faith that she encountered during the college recruitment process. Despite all that she had accomplished at the collegiate level, coaches did not think she was big or quick enough to last in the pros. She did not let that stop her. She worked her way onto the New York Liberty, a feat that many undrafted WNBA players could only dream of. She started off on the bench for her first few seasons on the Liberty, but worked her way up the ladder, becoming a starter, then an all-star, Olympian, and, eventually, one of the best to play in the WNBA ever. Now, she’s ready to continue exceeding expectations. She has a much bigger role ahead of her now: coaching in a men’s league. (more…)

The Aftermath

-Washington Post

-Washington Post

Only a few days have passed since it occured, but by now you have probably seen or heard about what happened to Paul George. The gruesome injury has been replayed and discussed on all forms of news media. It was reminiscent of another grisly injury that took place a couple of years ago to Louisville’s Kevin Ware during March Madness. Team USA held an inter-squad scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. It gave fans a chance to witness what Team USA had in store for this year’s FIBA World Championships. During the fourth quarter, Paul George attempted to chase down James Harden’s layup. What happened next would shake up the basketball universe. On his way down from trying to block the shot, his right foot hit the stanchion and the awkward landing resulted in an open tibia-fibula fracture. George is expected to miss all of next season as he tries to recover from his injury. This is a big blow to USA Basketball as well as the Indiana Pacers.  In light of recent events, discussions regarding reform to international basketball have reemerged.

Maybe it’s time to go back to how it once was – sending amateur college stars and young guns to compete in the Olympics and other international tournaments. Keep the stars and big names out of it. Owners have anonymously commented on how anxious and nervous they get when they see their highly paid players run up and down the court for international games. However, there’s one NBA owner who is not afraid to share his thoughts with the public when it comes to FIBA, the Olympics, or any other international competitions. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is known for “telling it like it is.” He is never afraid to give his honest opinion and he has been one of the most outspoken people when it comes to changing how the NBA handles international play.

Cuban doesn’t like the risk involved when it comes to watching his players represent their national teams. Dirk Nowitzki, who has been the face of the Mavericks franchise for many years, has recently just retired from international play. However, he has represented Team Germany numerous times. With that comes the wear and tear for being the star of a team with little depth. He has had to carry and lead the Germany squad for years through games, scrimmages, and practices. This is all taking place during the short NBA offseason. With basically little to no time to rest, players who play internationally don’t get that time to reenergize for the demanding NBA season. NBA teams and owners don’t like that idea of players putting in extra mileage for extracurricular activity. The San Antonio Spurs kept Manu Ginobili from participating in this year’s FIBA World Championship for Argentina, citing that he needs to recover from an injury.

While it is rather selfish that NBA teams are in it for their own good, it is very understandable.  Owners who share the same opinions and beliefs as Cuban just want to be able to protect their investment – after all, money talks. Not only do the Indiana Pacers’ hopes for a deep run into the playoffs or even a championship look slim, but Paul George does not come at a cheap price either. George’s contract is worth up to $92 million over the course of five years. It has been reported that he will cost them up to $16.5 million for this upcoming season, which is a lot of money going down the drain. One of Cuban’s main arguments is that FIBA and IOC get all of the money and financial gain. In this case, they are gaining profit at the Pacers’ (and the rest of the NBA’s) expense. The NBA doesn’t get anything from international play. Basically, FIBA and the IOC get to rent high-profile players for free. Cuban is calling for change and that the NBA hosts their own World Cup, where they will be free from the international committees.

Not everyone is against international basketball, and the Indiana Pacers seem to be handling it all like good sports. Team president Larry Bird, who suited up for the blue and white in 1992 as a part of the Dream Team, issued a statement shortly after George’s injury, “We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA’s goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide. This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly-visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere.” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver seems to be diverging into a different direction than his predecessor David Stern. Stern pondered upon the idea of making Olympic basketball for those 23 years of age and under only. Silver said, “”I don’t anticipate a major shift in the NBA’s participation in international competitions.” However, he did mention that it would be discussed at meetings in September and October.

The NBA needs to calm down. It was an unfortunate injury, and we are lucky that this is the first injury sustained from international play that will require an extended recovery time. Since 1992, when Team USA opened the doors to professionals, players may have had little nicks and sprains here and there, but nothing as bad as a season ending injury. This is just one terrible injury that happened at the wrong time. International play helps build the league’s brand. Look at the impact the 1992 Dream Team had on basketball and the millons of people who witnessed the 2008 Redeem Team take home gold medals. It is exciting to see each country’s best of the best go against each other. There is nothing like seeing NBA superstars like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin etc. team up together. Aside from the FIBA World Championship, the Olympics, and other international competitions, there is no other opportunity to see these great athletes play alongside one another to represent the USA. If you look at it outside of the USA, many stars take great pride in representing their country. Manu Ginobili would have played for Argentina if he could. Dirk Nowitzki did it for Germany for a number of years. There’s a sense of patriotism involved.

If the rules do change and Team USA goes back to fielding college amateurs, it would be a great disservice to basketball. The product would not be as good as it could be; people watch to see the best of the best. Olympic soccer currently has an age restriction, and no one cares about it as much as the World Cup for a reason. The same arguments can be applied to college athletes. Why should they risk injury to represent Team USA? They are playing in college with hopes to make it to the NBA, they don’t have the millions of dollars or the stability that the pros have. One injury like Paul George’s and their draft stock plummets. While the NBA would miss out on millions of dollars, a college player would lose much more. They would not only miss out on a big contract, but also on their future, especially in this day in age, where college basketball is all about the one-and-dones.

One of the main reasons why the 1992 Dream Team was assembled in the first place was to relieve the public outcry. People were simply tired of seeing the USA lose in world competitions at their own sport. If we go back to the way it was, the evolution of basketball is hindered and the sport takes a few steps back.

Get better soon Paul George.