Monday, April 29, 2013

Abstract Draft Pick

Players don't always fit the mold.  Discrepancies exist in all forms & beings.  A particular size and shape will produce advantages, but physical gifts many times lead to mental weakness.  It is the method we must place the emphasis.  A nurturing environment is the key.  We must sculpt our people into the positions of society.  A mentor or role model can show them the way.  A team of leaders must encourage their direction.  The result will not always meet our expectations, but love & care will always produce quality people.  A number is meant to record, not to define.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Just A Good-Ole Boy

Anyone who watched Jason Williams play basketball couldn't help but be impressed.  The game of the 6 foot 1 point guard from Belle, West Virginia was as aesthetically pleasing to witness as any player you'd ever see.  That's not to say he was one of the Greats to play the game, but Williams' style made him
impossible to miss on the court & must-see TV.  Here is this short, white kid with a bald head, thick southern-country accent and tattoos making moves that'd take the breath away from a Globetrotter.

Virginia has always been a hotbed of basketball talent.  From Moses Malone to Allen Iverson, the "Old Dominion" state has produced a bevy of hoops superstars.  Jason played high school ball at DuPont High, now Riverside High School, with Randy Moss and amassed 1000 points & 500 assists.

Early in his NBA career Williams became famous for his streetball-esque style of play.  He was the And-1 MixTape of the NBA.  It was the kind of basketball most
purists and coaches frowned upon.  Style over Substance.  Flash over Fundamentals.  But the Sacramento Kings and coach Rick Adelman made it work.  Chris Webber and Vlade Divac were the big guys who could dish and score.  Williams, Stojakovic and Doug Christie formed a dynamic back-court, capable of running you out of the gym every night.  From '98 to 2001, the Kings were the NBA's highlight reel.  They became arch-rivals with the Lakers, whom ousted the Kings from the playoffs three straight years (2000-02).

Jason Williams never made an NBA All Star Team, but he did eventually figure out a way to balance his creative flair with a more efficient approach.  After being traded from the Kings to the Grizzlies, Williams received some tough love from Hall of Fame coach Hubie Brown.  Brown taught Jason to focus on the fundamentals of point guard play.  Williams cut down on his turnovers and improved his shooting percentages by slowing his pace and shooting under control.  The Grizzlies made the playoffs for the first time in 2004 and Brown won coach of the year, but Williams was again traded the season after.

In 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'neal, Williams helped the Miami Heat win their first championship.  He was the starting point guard on a veteran-deep team that included Hall of Fame PG Gary Payton.  J-Dub embraced his role as an efficient facilitator.  The run & gun, quick-fire style that got him noticed and made him famous was now an afterthought.  Jason Williams won an NBA Championship ring playing smart basketball.

Jason Williams was no Stockton.  He's no Isiah Thomas or Magic Johnson.  If I play arm-chair psychologist I think he could have been great, but Jason may have been a prisoner of perception.  He achieved notoriety and fame for his stylized play.  His whole life he was 'the white boy' who played like a street-baller.  From afar I infer Williams was always trying to gain acceptance.  For the majority of his career, instead of improving his game year-to-year I think Jason struggled with dropping the Flash, his identity, rather than just focusing on learning to play good basketball.  Still, from a relative perspective he had a great basketball career.  Williams' pride and joy are his family so there are no struggles remaining.

I still haven't seen anyone else on an NBA court with the moves Jason had.  He wow'ed the crowd and turned a dead franchise into a Basketball town.  Jason Williams played Basketball like an Artform.  And those of us who can't perform with such artistry will always admire the ones who can. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Running is a great exercise.  It's a very underrated activity.  We can do it from the moment when we first gain our balance.  Some of us can go fast and some of us can go for miles.  Even as the years increase and the wear & tear persists, we can still do it.  The weather can't stop us, nor the occurrence of a natural disaster.  You can always find another field or road to run.

I've always preferred a sprint to the marathon.  A sprint takes 10 seconds.  The marathon takes 5 hours, or maybe 10.  The latest Boston Marathon has made
me question my preference for the short route.  I've had asthma since I was a kid so long distance traversing wreaks havoc on my lungs.  I'd love to run in a future event for a charity and to honor the victims of the bombs. 

The Marathon is the ultimate test of endurance for a runner.  26.2 miles.  It's really a test of will for athletes accustomed to putting their bodies through rigorous training.  Most of us do an hour in the gym then go home.  Marathon runners do hours of painstaking steps for miles.  I do my running in fields of soft grass to be kind to my joints.  Marathoners usually stick to the streets and tracks.

The people of the 2013 Boston Marathon have inspired me to dream.  They had to endure more than the course.  It's a shame the tragedy they've experienced.
The cowardly, barbaric acts of two thugs I won't dare call human, ruined what should have been a perfect Patriot's Day.  This was once again an attack on Freedom.  The uneducated, uninformed and indoctrinated extremists around the world are misled about America.  They know nothing of our history and culture.  To them we are money, sex, women-empowering, gay and hedonistic people.  Extremists can be found in any country or culture, but their is a common link to them all; Religion.

Amazing how choice and the ability to live life how every individual sees fit can create such hate.  We are free to choose the way we live, but we still have rules.  We still have ethics and morals.  Extremists are never about the truth though.  The facts are irrelevant to terrorists.  The World is vast and everyone cannot be educated.  But Freedom & Kindness travel well.  It's not that simple though.  Changing minds and perceptions takes time.

Running is a symbol of freedom.  Maybe a United Nations Marathon would be a good idea.  I'd run it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The King is Getting Closer

Recently I had an argument with a buddy of mine about the Lebron vs MJ debate.  He said Lebron isn't half the player Jordan was.  I told him Lebron's all around game is better than Jordan's ever was.  He laughed in my face.  I conceded Jordan being the superior player, but not by much.  I argued the NBA is much more talented now than it ever has been.  Once again, he laughed at me like I am crazy.  I don't see what's so crazy about that statement.  Look at the League player for player back then compared to now.  Look at the athletic ability of the guys now compared to then.  Michael Jordan was a superior athlete playing against inferior athletes.  Look at the footage of Jordan's games.  He's being guarded by guys like Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell, David Wesley, Reggie Miller, Anthony Mason, Craig Ehlo LOL.  Where are the Iguodala's, Sefolosha's, Avery Bradley's Tony Allen's, Westbrook's, Harden's, Barnes', Rondo's etc...?

Athletes and the sports they perform improve with time as education, coaching, sports medicine, training methods and the competition pool increases.  Look at the NBA in 1995 the middle of Jordan's career.  Aside from Jordan, the leading point scorers were all Centers & Power Forwards(guys who can't move their feet or jump high).  Jordan was one of the few great athletes in the league(run fast, jump high and physical specimen).  Look at the League rosters at in '95 compared to Present.  You can go down the lists of Leading Point Scorers, Rebounds, Steals, Blocks; all the Athletic Stats.  The League was built around Scoring Centers & Big Guys back then, and great athletes were few and far in between.  The League now is built around highly athletic Scoring Guards and Forwards(guys who can move their feet and jump high i.e. play better defense).  Now I"m not saying Jordan would not still be able to score 30 ppg in his prime, but he would not be scoring 37 or 35 ppg like he did from 86-88.  Jordan was ahead of his time and way ahead of his competition.  If he played today in his prime he would not be way ahead of the competition.  I believe he would still be the best player, but he would not dominate today the way he did back then.  "NOW CONSIDER YOURSELF EDUCATED & FEEL FREE TO SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH YOUR FRIENDS," I said to his face.

Lebron James or Michael Jordan?  At the moment there is really no discussion.  Jordan dominated the NBA in such a way he changed the sport of basketball.  The game has become more global than ever before.  Who would've ever thought ten years after the Dream Team, USA basketball would be dominated by European teams from 2002-04.  The rest of the world had caught up to America in basketball.  At least for a couple years, but not anymore.  The competition rose up, but USA made the adjustment and came back stronger.  The Dream Team dominated the World so the World evolved.  Now it doesn't just happend automatically.  People need to have the desire to get better for the evolution to occur.  Scientists, Doctors, Educators and Athletes work together to improve.

The Argument with my buddy continued and got as intricate as the individual skill level of each player's game.  My friend being a Jordan disciple and completely against any possibility of Lebron getting close to Jordan's level, left my logic & reasoning mute to deaf ears.  But that's OK.  If someone wants to be defiant and wrong, I can be progressive and right all day and night:)  So next he insisted Jordan's dunking ability was superior and that Lebron is not clutch.  Better Dunker, that's debatable and really not an important skill.  Really only a matter of vertical leap and creativity and last I checked Lebron has a great vertical and is very creative.  4th Quarter, hands down Jordan is better.  Jordan is way better clutch player, but again Clutch-ness is predominately a result of Great Shooting Ability, which Lebron does not have.  I also agree Lebron's killer instinct is nowhere near Jordan's.  Lebron has been the best basketball player and has won on all his teams since he was a little kid.  Jordan as we know had to struggle to earn a spot on his varsity team so he had to endure much more adversity to achieve success in b-ball.  And don't forget Jordan didn't win his first Championship till he was 27, same exact age as Lebron so you cannot presume to know how many titles Lebron can or cannot win.  Not long after that point, Lebron James and the Heat beat the Celtics for their 23rd straight victory with King James willing his team to victory.  His Killer Instinct is developing.  Lebron is still a work-in-progress.  Once his athletic talents begin to diminish with age, he will continue to UP his cerebral game and one day we'll look up at a scoreboard that reads 35,000 points
and 10,000 assists.  And if all goes according to plan, "not 4 not 5 not 6 not 7", the King will approach those lofty goals.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Best Laker of All Time is.....

Monday February 6th 2012, Kobe Bryant surpassed Shaquille O'Neal for 5th on the NBA's all time scoring leaders list. The milestone has sparked the conversation and debate over which Laker is the best. From Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Magic Johnson, Shaq and Kobe, the discussion seems to lean toward Jabbar and Magic. Many NBA analysts and writers, like Mike Wilbon of the Washington Post, believe Magic is the best ever Laker. They list his 5 championship rings, historic impact on the game, his all around skill set and Magic's ability to make every player around him better.
I myself grew up watching Magic and showtime in the latter years just before he contracted HIV, cutting his hall of fame career short. In looking at the argument objectively, I begin by looking at the statistics. Kareem's stat sheet is incredibly impressive for its consistency and longevity. For 20 consecutive years in the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar played in no less than 65 games at 7' 2", averaging almost 25 points per game, 11 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. He dominated the game offensively and defensively consistently for such a long time that his numbers stack up better than anyone else's for all around game.
First noticeable and noteable thing about Magic's stat sheet is how much smaller it is than Kareem's. There is something to be said for the longevity of a player's career, especially when discussing or making an argument for which player is best. Obviously we know why Magic's career was much shorter. He does not get a pass though for this discussion. It cannot be overlooked the fact that he did not have a long career. Greatness and for that matter All-Time Greatness must be measured with time and numbers. Intangibles and immeasureables do not connote the best players; leave those to the role players. All that considered, Magic did average 19 points, 11 assists and 2 steals in 13 seasons with the Lakers. If you project Magic's stats out for the 6 to 10 probable years he would have played had he not contracted HIV, he would have ended up with around 25,000 points, 18,000 assists and 2700 steals. Clearly Magic is one of the all time greats. But I can't put him above Kareem.  NBA analysts and fans lose their objectivity with Magic when they refuse to acknowledge character or a character flaw in Magic Johnson. Yes, he was great. Yes he made his teammates better. All great players make their teammates better. But he did not do it long enough and his sexual trangressions and lack of judgement led to contracting the HIV virus cutting his basketball career short.  Basketball ability and Magic's personal life have nothing to do with one another, but Magic's personal failures absolutely factor into his Basketball longevity or lack thereof.
Though West and Baylor are certainly noteworthy for the discussion, their numbers and their overall notoriety do not approach that of all time greatness. It is worth noting they did not play in an era where 3 point field goals existed in the NBA, which would have increased their point totals especially West's. Their part in the argument ends quickly when noting West won 1 championship, Baylor won none.
Which brings me to Kobe Bryant. Winner of 5 championships. Kobe garners comparisons to Michael Jordan which is certainly worth mentioning when talking about the best players of all time. Oh yeah and statistically Kobe mos definitely stacks up. 15 years into what is looking like will be a 20 year career just like Kareem's, Kobe Bryant has 28,600 points and every award from MVP to multiple all defensive team awards. Clearly Kobe excels in scoring. The knock on Bryant may be that he did not make other players around him better until Phil Jackson became his coach and instituted his assistant coach Tex Winter's Triangle Offense. I argue that early on Kobe struggled with sharing the basketball efficiently. With experience Kobe learned to be a better teammate and won 3 rings with Shaq, then two more without Shaq.
At this point the argument comes down to overall ability, numbers, career longevity and championships. Kareem wins the championship tally with 6 and Magic and Kobe have 5. It's clear Magic Johnson can be touted as the best point guard of all time winning 5 titles in only 13 seasons. Kobe and Kareem are the pure scorers of the basketball in this discussion. Kobe and Kareem win for consistency and longevity for their careers. All three players win for their overall abilities. Magic falls short in longevity and numbers. Objectively, I put Magic third on the list. Like I said, I think his lack of longevity must be taken into serious account. Kareem is at the moment, the best Laker of all time. However, I think at the end of Kobe Bryant's career he will come close enough or even surpass Jabbar in scoring giving him the nod to be The Best Laker Ever.  If Kobe does not equal or surpass Kareem in championship titles or scoring, then for me Kareem remains #1. 

Abdul-Jabbar is the most underrated and disrespected basketball player of all time, just like Hank Aaron in baseball.  They're both atop very important statistical lists in their sport (Points, HRs, RBIs) yet they were overshadowed by peers who had more personality and flair.  Kareem dominated during the golden age of NBA Big Men.  There is no argument denying that he played against the best crop of Centers.  From 1969 to 1989, Abdul-Jabbar dominated against the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Dave Cowens, Billy Cunningham, Patrick Ewing, Elvin Hayes, Jerry Lucas, Moses Malone, Kevin McHale, Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Parish, Willis Reed, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld and Bill Walton(by the way, they're all apart of the NBA 50 Greatest).  

Every great player makes their teammates better. To say Magic Johnson makes his teammates better than Kobe Bryant does isn't fair. Though Magic is probably the best facilitator ever, he comes nowhere close to Kobe's scoring ability. What is more important? Being a great facilitator or great scorer? Magic needs great players around him to truly be at his best. Kobe needs someone to pass him the ball to be great. Kobe and Magic are equal when it comes to defensive prowess, with a slight edge to Kobe for his great athletic ability, which allows him to defend better. When all is said and done I project Abdul Jabbar 2nd, Kobe Bryant 1st, but Kobe still has some work to do.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mike Rice continued...

Seriously, what time period is this guy living in?  Can you say out of touch?  The scariest part is some of his players are actually coming forward to defend him.  They're saying things like, "Oh the video is taken out of context."  And, "Coach Rice was just motivating us in his own way."  Basically the players are saying this is how we function as a team and it's perfectly normal to us.  Mike Rice has his team conditioned.  They are at the point after 3 years of this abuse that it's completely acceptable and expected behaviour.  We've all heard victims of abuse defend their perpetrators.  The prolonged abuse makes the victim begin to believe they deserve the mistreatment or that it is for their own good.

What these college kids don't know is it's not acceptable.  It's not OK.  You don't physically abuse people.  You don't verbally abuse people.  Coaches motivate players every day without physically and verbally assaulting them.  Rutgers basketball players are at the point where the coaching and teaching methods they've endured over the last 3 years have become learned.  The Adult figure has made it Ok.  A person of High Authority has made it acceptable.  The Administration for 3 years deemed it perfectly reasonable Coaching conduct!!!

Now the next time a Rutgers basketball player gets insulted or offended by a personal attack, they will react accordingly.  They've been encouraged to react with physicality.  They've been taught to fight back, not with words or tact, but with violence!  Mike Rice and the Rutgers Administration have taught their basketball players that physical and verbal abuse are acceptable forms of communication and action.

I hope the Rutgers basketball players all receive counseling because so far they think their coach got caught, but that he was not doing something completely wrong and inhumane.  They need to be educated so they don't repeat this behaviour in the workplace or at home.  Mike Rice was dooming the future relationships of his players in ways he doesn't even understand.  Where did they dig up this piece of garbage?  He shouldn't be allowed near any child as a coach or employed in any position of authority, EVER.

Someone please fire these people and hire a staff of educated folks....

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Get A Clue Coach Rice, Sweetness Inspires

The season begins with workouts and high hopes.  Players compete for starting spots and coaches strategize to squeeze every inch of talent out of their team.  Weeks and months of games, wins and losses, till it all comes down to the post-season.  Year after year for nearly every team this is how it goes down.  Some of them win, most of them lose.  Teams with the most talent usually win.  In the professional ranks, teams with a mixture of talent, experience and grit usually win.  Then there are those teams who overcome something.  A teammate's wife dies.  A coach gets cancer.  A team member gets injured, allowing for the rest of the team to step up pulling everyone closer together.  An extra boost is derived from that adversity, making an already good team into a championship team.

The team from the University of Louisville is the latest to endure such adversity.  By now we've all seen the video of Kevin Ware jumping to block a shot, then coming down awkwardly on his leg, compound fracturing it.  Early in the NFL Playoffs, Ray Lewis announced he would retire after the Ravens season was over.  The Colts head coach Chuck Pagano announced he had cancer and would be undergoing chemotherapy in hope that he would be able to come back late in the season.  Each of these teams underwent a mental change when tragedy struck and each of them succeeded.  They were good before, but once they became forced to fight for a trandscendent goal they became almost unbeatable.

The season is long and arduous.  Teams endure adversity in the natural course of every season.  Sports are adverse by definition.  Competition is adversity between opponents playing and fighting toward the same goal; Winning.  So what is it about these teams whom are forced to overcome additional painful circumstances?  Why does it appear a team with a greater purpose or a tragic story have the advantage or seem like the team of destiny?  A Diamond is created with immense pressure over a long time.  A Great Team is created with a common mindset and a common goal.

This is what every coach must cultivate in his or her team.  They must create chemistry.  You can't just tell players where they have to be, you have to tell them why.  You have to give them a purpose.  Coaches like Jim Valvano & Vince Lombardi told a story.  They inspired their players.  Teams with talent lose all the time.  The teams who finish the regular season with the most wins, routinely lose in the playoffs.  We always hear the sayings, "The team who gets hot at the right time is going to win."  Or "the team playing it's best come playoff time will win."

Coaches with great knowledge and X & O superiority pray for it.  Ask any coach what they prefer: A team with great talent or a team with great purpose?  Now of course no matter how much purpose a team like the Chicago Cubs have, it doesn't really matter.  But even the Cubbies can be inspired.  Someone or something has to create purpose for them.  A coach will never admit it, but when he or she has a really good team, they almost hope for some kind of adversity.  No matter if it's traumatic or trivial, every coach prays for something to bring their team closer together.  The Great Ones can create it themselves.  The good ones can only hope for it.  The ok ones, it happens and they can't explain or understand it.

Leaders of men and women need to inspire.  They must understand what brings people together and what drives them apart.  A team without a purpose is a team without hope.  Whether it happens by accident or a coach is able to create it, adversity always binds a team and gives them the edge.  And it doesn't take a death or a tragedy that touches many people.  A great coach will find a commonality in their team.  A great coach will look his players in the eyes and uncover that hidden beast.  America is the country of Great Coaching.  Our People and our Constitution inspire our greatness.  Capitalism is our system of immense pressure and competition.  Through it all, we strive to find our ways.  We strive to inspire ourselves and others.  Our lives are hard but we perservere through the stress to achieve well beyond our means.  So to every coach looking for inspiration, you need to use your imagination.  Or show up to practice on crutches....