2002’s Like Mike is another orphan sports story just like Angels in the Outfield. But our hero isn’t watching from the sidelines, he ends up balling with real NBA pros. It’s really like Angels in the Outfield mixed with something like Rookie of the Year. But with basketball. Time to lace up your favorite sneakers and hit the hardwood for this latest update of the SBS Film Vault.
13-year-old Calvin Cambridge (Bow Wow) lives in an orphanage where basketball is his biggest passion. He sells candy bars outside LA’s Staples Center for the orphanage’s crooked proprietor. Calvin remains upbeat and knows he is destined for something big. One day, Calvin finds an old pair of sneakers with the initials “MJ” on the faded tongue. Could they really be Michael Jordan’s old kicks? Well before we can find out, local youth home bully, Ox, tosses the sneakers onto a power line. Cut to later, Calvin and his buds go out in a rain storm with the hopes of getting the shoes down. Lighting, the power line, it’s all very Back to the Future. Calvin survives the lighting strike and now the Nikes seems magically charged.
Later, the orphan kids win tickets to the game and then Calvin wins a chance to play 1-on-1 with LA Knights star (yeah, they have a fake team even though the rest of the league is real NBA) Tracy Reynolds (Chestnut) at halftime. Calvin laces up his shoes and wishes to be “like Mike” and after that, he is. He can dribble, shoot and dunk just like his Airness himself. That’s right, 4’8″ Calvin Cambridge can easily dunk the ball. Yeah it shocks everyone. Calvin gets signed to the LA Knights and this flick is off and rolling. The only catch being, he needs to be wearing the shoes for the magic to work.
Starring Lil Bow Wow or Bow Wow or Shad Moss, depending on how well you know him. The funny little kid from Jerry Maguire (Jonathan Lipnicki) and a whole host of real NBA stars. Including: Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitzki, Gary Payton, David Robinson, Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber just to name a few. Also real actors like Morris Chestnut, Crispin Glover, Eugene Levy, Brenda Song, Jesse Plemons, Fred Armisen, Reginald VelJohnson and Robert Forster.
No it’s not the Lakers or Clippers, the made up Los Angeles team is the Knights which is great. Only thing better would have been the Hollywood Knights. Bob Seger rules! Tracy, the Knights other star, adopts the fucking kids at the end! Just like Angels in the Outfield. Both Calvin and his buddy Murph move in with Tracy. Who is another single man who spends all his time traveling for work and he just brings home two human beings like it’s picking up a pizza. Michael Jordan never shows up. You’d expect at least a small cameo, but nothing. I’m sure there was a very important card game he was attending.
This flick is really just a 99 minute commercial for Nike. I wouldn’t be surprised if the real Michael Jordan was a secret producer on this project. It’s all one big conspiracy to sell more sneakers and apparel. Seems like a bet MJ would take. I mean he is thanked in the credits. Just saying.
In the 2004 movie Napolean Dynamite, the main character’s uncle, Uncle Rico, has some classic lines that depict a type of person that chances are we all know, or have had conversations with at some point or another. In the movie, Uncle Rico, in an effort to showcase his arm strength, claims to have the ability to throw a football over a set of mountains, and then later on while trying to convince others of his prior success on the gridiron, adamantly believes if only his coach would have put him in for the fourth quarter, they’d have been state champs, no doubt in his mind.
We all know “that guy” or have known “that guy” at some point in our lives. Whether it’s the varsity jacket wearing guy some five-plus years after graduation, or the trash-talking guy who you had to go back and check your yearbooks to make sure he was actually in fact on the team. All too often these people are simply attention seekers, living for that next “like” on their Facebook status or Instagram post, probably while trash talking on Twitter at professional athletes when they don’t make the game-winning shot or the needed clutch hit.
On television, we have unfortunately seen a rise in this type of behavior, by hosts who seem to believe that by saying the most outlandish things they will generate conversation, web-hits, ratings, and therefore attention. A few years back, one of the biggest clowns of sports talk, Skip Bayless, was basically owned on ESPN’s First Take by Detroit’s own, Jalen Rose, when Skip had compared his own playing style in high school to that of “Pistol Pete” Maravich. Rose came on the show and embarrassed Skip by pointing out that while playing junior varsity as a junior, Skip averaged just 1.4 points per game during his high school career, and then threw shade Skip’s way by giving him a more fitting nickname, “Water Pistol Pete.”
Now, I couldn’t care less about Skip’s high school statistics, or whether he even played high school basketball to begin with. Hell I didn’t, but this won’t be about which NBA superstar my driveway basketball skills most closely mirrored either. Instead, what I do care about is the fact that Skip Bayless for example, and the conversations or run-ins with “that guy” that we all know in our lives, continuously spit out these horrendous takes on sports, willing to take such asinine (to quote Stephen A. Smith) claims to their graves if need be for the sake of trying to catch our eyes and ears.
Fast-forwarding some fifteen years, former varsity jacket wearing guy is now in his mid-to-late thirties. Married, three children, and perhaps a few waist sizes larger, the varsity jacket now hangs deep in the closet or packed away in the basement somewhere, replaced instead by a newer, fresher crowning achievement, his teenage kids. Yeah, we’ve all seen this guy too. This guy thinks his kids are the best on the team, they’re going to be the superstars, and the only thing that could possibly keep them from getting there is either bad coaching, weak teammates, a referee with an agenda, or a horrible combination of all three.
This is the parent that yells the loudest from the sidelines, typically standing very close to the field or court, often even right next to the head coach, while giving him his two cents. He’s the guy that coaches his kids from the sidelines, even if that direction is opposite of the instructions given out by the actual head coach. This guy is out there, and for those of you who have never met this guy, let me introduce you to LaVar Ball.
LaVar Ball is the father of three very talented teenage basketball players from California who are becoming very popular in the sports world. However, they usually have to play second fiddle to the headliner in the family, their father. Eldest son, Lonzo is a dynamic freshman at UCLA, leading his team into the Sweet 16 of this year’s NCAA Tournament, and is projected to potentially be the overall #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. LaVar’s two younger sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, are currently high school teammates, and both are following their older brother’s footsteps by verbally committing to play for UCLA.
Since LaVar’s kids have burst onto the scene, LaVar has been the one hogging the spotlight by making all of the headlines, and rarely for anything good. Trying to create a brand centered around his kids with the hopes of landing the richest endorsement deals in the history of sports is his goal, however while driving the car that manages and acts as the PR rep for his kids, so far it seems about as wise as handing the keys to your drunkest friend on a Saturday night bar crawl.
LaVar has already said that all three of his sons will be one-and-done players at UCLA immediately declaring themselves for the NBA Draft after just one season in Westwood. While Lonzo is a lock to make such dreams come true, his two younger brothers are anything but a sure thing. With just a 4-star and 3-star recruiting ranking, the two brothers should probably pump the brakes on the assumption that they’ll blossom into the next big thing, even just at the college level. But of course, let me backtrack a bit, LaVar should pump the brakes because after all, again, he is the one driving this car.
Ever since the NBA created the “one-and-done” rule which requires high school basketball players to enroll at a college or play overseas for a year before entering the NBA draft. We have seen dozens of players like Lonzo try their hand at the pro game after their freshman season. With Lonzo receiving comparisons to Jason Kidd’s size and style of play, few doubt he will find success in the league, however just how good will he be is the multi-million dollar question. Fortunately, LaVar already knows not only how good he will be, but also how good he is right now.
A month or so ago, LaVar let the NBA world know that his son, Lonzo, would only play for the hometown Los Angeles Lakers, which he later, backtracked on and re-worded—kind of. Raising on that, LaVar went even further this week to say that if drafted by the woeful Lakers, his impact would rival the impact that Laker legend Magic Johnson had on the franchise. Yes, that Magic Johnson. Three-time MVP winner, Hall of Famer, NBA champion, the orchestrator of the Showtime Lakers.
Magic wasn’t the only former NBA MVP LaVar compared his son to, or even ranked below his son. LaVar also said this year that currently, Lonzo is a better player than Golden State Warriors’ guard, Stephen Curry. Doing one better, saying that if Lonzo and Steph swapped places, there is no way that Steph would have been able to get UCLA to where they are right now, and that Golden State would be better off with Lonzo as well. This topic always makes me shake my head when people want to ask the annual question, “Is (insert dominant college team) better than (insert worst team in the NBA, NFL, NHL, etc)?” The answer of course is always no, and it’s always going to be no. And in this circumstance asking as if the NBA’s MVP of the past two seasons wouldn’t do better than Lonzo is at UCLA right now? Just stop.
Naturally, LaVar’s ridiculous takes don’t stop there, nor do they stop with just his oldest son Lonzo. LaVar, a former college hooper himself, can’t go without letting us know just how good he was back in his day as well. You see, just because that old varsity jacket doesn’t fit anymore, doesn’t mean the memories aren’t there (no matter how foggy and embellished they have now become). LaVar Ball played one season with Washington State in college averaging 2 points and 2 rebounds per game. Now let’s be clear about one thing, in order to even make a Division 1 college team let alone even get some minutes here and there, suggests you have to be a good player, far better than the average college student. That being said, when LaVar Ball looks back to that time of his life and tries to tell us he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one, I can’t help but wonder if this man is sending out a cry for help. By the way, while Ball was putting up 2 and 2 each night up in Washington, Michael Jordan was averaging 35 points a night for the Chicago Bulls.
I am not sure if Jordan has responded to such incredulous claims. My thought is maybe he is doing what we all should be doing when LaVar speaks, and that is to simply not even acknowledge the unbelievable things that have been coming out of his mouth. However, one NBA star couldn’t ignore LaVar’s “hot takes.” As the face of the NBA, LeBron James recently heard his children’s names being talked about by Ball in regards to his claim that LeBron’s kids will have the added pressure of having to live up to the high standards set by their father. LeBron responded by telling Ball to “Keep my kids’ names out of your mouth. Keep my family out of your mouth. This is dad to dad. It’s a problem now.”
LaVar Ball of course deflected the criticism, refusing to apologize and claiming his statements were not malicious and that LeBron was being too “touchy” on the subject. While he may be right, LaVar has been speeding steadily down a very slippery slope for a long time now and while it won’t affect himself, it could be already tarnishing the brand he is just starting to try and create for his kids.
With his three sons all showing the potential to have long-lasting basketball careers, LaVar is doing everything humanly possible to make sure that you know the name “Ball.” Unfortunately though, it seems to me his number one priority is that you also remember to put “LaVar” in front of it.
The Guardians of the Galaxy started as a comic book but was not super well known. So the movie felt like it came out of nowhere and then just blew everyone away. I’d dare say it’s the best Marvel movie to date. The film is a mega-blockbuster because it’s super funny, well paced, and features a wicked soundtrack. The movie is just fun when so many superhero tales are so boringly serious.
The Guardians are fierce warriors. Some might call them space pirates. But pirate is a dirty word and we know Star Lord and team are good guys. They are not necessarily sports people but when they fight I can’t help but view them like a pro scout. And I see potential. Let’s breakdown the Guardians roster and see which sport would be the best landing place for each hero.
The living tree. Originally acted as muscle for Rocket Raccoon back in their bounty hunter days. Groot is tall, strong and resilient. For those reasons, he would be best suited to play center for an NBA team. Groot can take a lot of damage in the paint and keep going. His limbs can grow and stretch as needed and that will be straight unfair in basketball. Expect Groot to snag every rebound and be able to dunk from super far away, all without jumping.
Groot could be the next big foreign (alien?) star to storm the league. Think Yao Ming but taller and with better roots. His limited vocabularly will make press conferences tough but maybe he just needs to find the right team. Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs come to mind. Groot is the new Tim Duncan and speaks even less than Pop.
The genius engineer. Unfortunately, no pro game lets you carry a plasma weapon but Rocket is more than just a triggerman. You may underestimate him by his size and foul mouth but his ability to make split second calculations make his opportunities in sports almost endless. I almost want to say he could play QB in a no-huddle style offense but I think MLB shortstop is a better fit.
Rocket has the speed and instincts to read the action and track the ball for some insane catches. His superior brain power will aid him in making the right throws to the right places. And we all know the dude has a cannon. Think Manny Machado but faster and stronger. At the plate, Rocket will be more of an opportunistic hitter like Ichiro than a pure power cleanup guy. But make no mistake, you hang a meatball over the plate and he’ll turn your pitch into a souvenir from someone in the nosebleeds.
The destroyer. If he could skate, then hockey would be perfect but I don’t think even Gretzky could teach him to glide. That leaves the obvious, football. Drax is an NFL middle linebacker. He could play any spot along the D line but having him as a free runner from the linebacker level would be devastating.
His play style would be similar to a Von Miller or a Clay Mathews. If those guys did steroids, in space and were completely mental. The biggest obstacle for Drax in the NFL would be himself. Pre-snap penalties. Roughing the passer. The fines and suspensions could really pile up if he isn’t careful. But let’s be honest, it’s probably a success if he doesn’t rip anyone’s arm off. The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly interested.
The assassin. Gamora is an expert in hand-to-hand combat and has the precision of a neurosurgeon. This mastery of coordination will play perfectly in the world of soccer. The green goddess would make a stellar attacking midfielder in the spirit of Zinedine Zidane. She has the endurance to cover the entire pitch and the speed and athletic prowess to win possession over any opponent.
Gamora would be instantly famous for her Messi-like passing ability but it’s her skill in the air that would make her legendary. Simply unguardable on set pieces. A corner or free kick is a guaranteed goal with her roving the field. Like Drax, the only limitation to Gamora’s futbol success is Gamora. If she gets bored with winning, we could see her leave soccer for UFC or something even wilder.
Star-Lord AKA Peter Quill
The unlikely hero. Quill is charming and quick witted but tougher than his attitude suggests. He is the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy so a team sport seem like a good bet. That may be true but he would really shine as a NASCAR driver. He’s already a great pilot and he has the one thing all good drivers need: confidence. Hell, confidence might be his super power.
Star-Lord drives with no fear and would be Sprint Cup champ in no time. His racing persona is strange mix of Dale Earnhardt and Ricky Bobby with a little Michael Jordan for good measure. Quill would shatter any and all records. And this is without Rocket’s help under the hood. Plus he’d do it with a smile and a snarky comment.
Each member of the Guardians is fast and strong. They all have skills that cross many athletic disciplines but the key is to find the best fit. Do you have a better idea of what sports these superheroes should play? Let us know in the comments.
One is a Jesus-obsessed former college football star who couldn’t cut it in the pros. Now he’s switching to baseball, a sport he hasn’t played since high school and wasn’t very good at to begin with…
The other is a pro-wrestling superstar in his late 30s who’s sick of people telling him his sport is “fake.” Now he’s going off script and stepping out of the ring and into the octagon to fight in the UFC!
It sounds like the plot of a terrible 90s buddy comedy, but those are actually two of the biggest stories in sports right now, whether or not they deserve to be. Tim Tebow, the Heisman-winning Florida Gators quarterback, is taking a shot at baseball after he finally came to terms with the fact that his NFL career is over. And CM Punk, once one of the biggest stars in the WWE, made his much anticipated UFC debut on Saturday night. It went about as well as I expect Tebow’s baseball career to…
You may be old enough to remember the great Bo Jackson, an NFL Pro-Bowler and MLB All-Star who serves as the gold standard of dual-sport athletes. If you’re REALLY old, you may remember Jim Thorpe, who won two Olympic gold medals in track and field, and played pro football, baseball and basketball. I’m assuming the practice schedules were a little more flexible in those days…
Two problems here: The times have changed, and to be a successful pro athlete in this era, you have to be completely devoted to one sport from childhood until retirement. Also, Tim Tebow and CM Punk are not Bo Jackson and Jim Thorpe. Jackson and Thorpe didn’t fail at their primary sport, then try to arrogantly jump back into a sport they were mediocre at in high school. Jackson and Thorpe didn’t get a chance to go pro in a sport they had never tried because they were famous entertainers who played pro athletes on TV. At the end of the day, this is just one big publicity stunt. Well, two big publicity stunts, but you get the idea…
For as much credit as he gets for being a clean-cut, good ol’ Christian boy, Tim Tebow loves being the center of attention. For most of his adult life, he was a constant topic in sports media headlines. At Florida, Tebow was one of the most dominant players in the history of college football, winning a Heisman trophy and two National Championships. After stepping into a starting role his rookie year in the NFL, Tebow showed flashes of greatness (or at least goodness), and threw a game-winning touchdown pass in a playoff game, giving the loyal alliance of Tebow fans a lazy argument for why he should still be a starting NFL quarterback. But his somewhat encouraging rookie year was littered with red flags, none more glaring than his awful 50% completion percentage (which was followed up by an even more atrocious 46.5% in his second season with Denver).
After being traded by the Broncos, benched by the Jets, refusing offers to change positions or sign with a CFL team (because he takes too much pride in being a shitty NFL quarterback), Tim Tebow returned to his college roots by joining the SEC Network as an analyst. Four years removed from an NFL roster, and beginning to accept the fact that he sucks at football (He won a playoff game! And Rex Grossman went to a Super Bowl. Give it up Tebow fans), Tebow was upset that he was’t getting any undeserved attention, so he decided to arrange a publicity stunt and announce his intention to play major league baseball. So not only is Tebow’s arrogance level so high that he scoffs at playing in the CFL, or switching positions in the NFL, it’s so high that he thinks he can go pro in a sport that he hasn’t played in over ten years. The force is strong with this one.
Tebow insists this is not a publicity stunt and he is “all about baseball.” Of course any team that signs him would need to allow him to continue his broadcasting job on the side, and he’s already selling autographed bats on his website for $175 a pop, but those are just things that you do when you’re a minor league baseball player fighting for a shot in the bigs. Like he said, “all about baseball.”
In an attempt to boost ticket sales at Columbia Fireflies, or Brooklyn Cyclones games, and sell a few thousand “Tebow” jerseys during a spring training stint that will likely make Michael Jordan look like Ken Griffey Jr, the Mets have signed Tim Tebow to a minor league contract. Of course, the Mets official reason for signing Tebow was an “opportunity to associate with excellence.” They went to the World Series last year, but that’s nothing compared to signing a washed up college football star.
I know, this isn’t really a big deal. We shouldn’t get too excited, or too angry about it. Tim Tebow will look lousy in the minors, bat under .200, and hit one big home run that all his fans will overreact to. He’s a winner! He’ll get his name back in the press, where he likes it, and when the Mets decide it’s time to stop parading this failed football player around as a real baseball player, Tebow will say something like, “It was a humbling experience. I gave it my all and I have no regrets. I just want to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me this great opportunity,” and it’ll all be over… But I can’t help but be a little irked when I see the updated version of Tim Tebow’s wikipedia page:
Is he though? Is he?
While Tebow’s publicity stunt is disingenuous both on his and the Mets behalf, CM Punk’s publicity stunt is really only disingenuous on the UFC’s behalf. You may think it’s a bit odd that I’m referring to him as CM Punk and not his real name, which apparently is Phil Brooks. Well the UFC didn’t bill him as Phil Brooks, his real name, as they have every other fighter in UFC history, they billed him as CM Punk. After the UFC decided to sign a 37-year old WWE wrestler with virtually no martial arts experience to the most prestigious mixed martial arts promotion in the world, one would think they would start using his real name instead of billing him in his wrestling character nickname. But Dana White and the UFC have often embraced the publicity stunt aspect of their sport, which is why Dan Henderson is fighting for a championship at age 63 after losing his last 21 fights (note to self: fact check those numbers).
Despite the UFC treating this like a total sideshow, CM Punk went about his business the right way, unlike Tim Tebow. Punk did a few initial press conferences, “Yeah, I know people are going to think it’s a joke, but I’m taking this shit seriously, and I’m gonna put in the work.” Something like that, I’m paraphrasing… Then he went away for about two years, stayed fairly quiet, went out of character, took the shit seriously and put in the work, linking up with veteran trainer Duke Roufus who has led many UFC stars to victory. He did the necessary promotions leading up the fight, did a few TV specials, but for the most part, he stopped being a pro wrestler, and did everything in his power to become a pro fighter.
He walked away from making millions for pretending to fight other pretend fighters, to take on the challenge of actually fighting the best fighters in the world. For that alone, he deserves a lot of respect. Sure, he got his ass kicked and submitted in the first round without landing a single strike, so it may not have showed up in his performance, but he took the shit seriously! After his loss to Mickey Gall on Saturday, hopefully he learned he seriously shouldn’t be doing this shit.
Basically, Punk’s fight showed us exactly how Tim Tebow’s baseball career will go. In both Tebow and Punk’s case, they are being handed an opportunity to do something they have no business doing based solely on their fame. The difference is, Punk was inspired to challenge himself, Tebow was inspired to get his name in the headlines again. Where Tebow is only risking a few minor league strikeouts and spring training errors, Punk risked getting brutally beaten by a professional ass-kicker. So if I had to pick a winner of this publicity-stunt-off, I’d go with the guy who just got his ass kicked, CM Punk. But Tebow was once actually great at an actual sport, so he has that… I’m not saying wrestling isn’t a sport… but it is scripted television…
Either way, Jim Thorpe and Bo Jackson are probably rolling in their graves… Well Jim Thorpe is rolling in his grave. Bo Jackson is alive and well. He’s probably rolling in a deer hunting blind in Alabama. Or maybe Thorpe and Jackson are smiling down from heaven, knowing they are still the greatest multi-sport athletes who ever lived… Again, Bo Jackson is NOT dead, it just makes for a more dramatic ending.
The Monstars, the Tune Squad, Michael Jordan and Bill Murray. How could Space Jam not be great? It’s got that sweet R Kelly song “I believe I can fly” plus Danny Devito lends his voice to the roll of of the villianous manager of the Monstars, Swackhammer. 1996 could only be so lucky. This was obvious pandering but it worked out so well. So let’s take another look at a perfect hybrid of NBA action and Saturday morning cartoons that was Space Jam. Hands down, Jordan’s best movie. Maybe the best thing he has ever done.
During a relaxing game of golf, hall of fame basketball player, Michael Jordan gets sucked into the cartoon world where he is recruited by Bugs Bunny to play a basketball game against the Monstars. A super charged group of aliens who mean trouble for the tunes. Jordan agrees to help Bugs and the others. Now, MJ must whip the Tune Squad into shape before the big game. But that is easier said than done.
Besides Jordan, the Tune Squad is made up of Bugs Bunny, Lola Bunny, Taz and Daffy Duck. These are your starters with Michael as player/coach. On the bench is Elmer Fudd, Tweety, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, Wile E. Coyote, Yosemite Sam and some other animated scrubs. Bill Murray Joins later.
The Monstars come from a place called Moron Mountain and are led by coach/evil space tycoon Swackhammer who will stop at nothing to trap the Looney Tunes and force them to be entertainment back on Moron Mountain. Swackhammer stole the athletic ability of known NBA stars Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing and Muggsy Bogues and transferred that power into his own team. Making a pretty lethal squad. Luckily for the tunes, they have Jordan.
The big game
At halftime, the Tune Squad is getting destroyed. MJ gives this great speech and all the tunes drink this secret potion they think is going to make them play great. It’s really just plain old water but the stupid tunes don’t know any better. I’m kind of surprised they went with a performance enhancing drug angle. But hey, it was the 90’s.
Let’s talk real basketball real quick. The Monstars literally have no bench. You think that fatigue would catch up to them in the second half. Also, if the ref (Marvin the Martian) called even a faction of the fouls that the Monstars routinely commit then they would all foul out of the game by the second quarter.
Also there is this insane Pulp Fiction reference where Elmer and Yosemite pull guns on the court. Totally illegal by the way.
Cut to the end of the game. It comes down to the last possession. Jordan gets the ball. Clock running out. He takes a dribble and…well I’m not going to spoil it. If you don’t know then go watch it.
There have been rumors about a Space Jam 2 with LeBron James but I don’t ever think that is going to happen. Maybe drop James and replace him with Kevin Durant or maybe Steph Curry. I know they will make (or remake) anything these days but I kind of hope they never make a part two. The original was a perfect storm of popular things colliding that trying to reproduce it will almost certainly be a failure. If one must expand the world of Space Jam, then can I suggest changing the sport? Make it soccer with Messi or football with Cam Newton. I’d pay to see that.
It’s all over. The confetti has fallen and the nets have been cut down. The Villanova Wildcats are your 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champs. They defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels 77-74 in regulation. It was an epic game that came down to the last few possessions. Let’s rewind the tape and see exactly how it all happened.
Villanova’s D came to play
This swarming unit was all over UNC from the opening tip. They forced turnovers and contested every shot. They really made life hell for the Tar Heel offense which is accustom to working the ball into the paint where they usually dominate. Not in this game. The passing lanes were clogged and North Carolina struggled to get consistent looks down the stretch. Coach Jay Wright should be proud of his team’s stellar defense.
The guards led the way
Senior Ryan Arcidiacono was a leader all tourney and he showed up big on Monday with 16 points. More importantly, he provided a calming presence in those wild last seconds as UNC stormed back. He also smartly passed the ball to Kris Jenkins who nailed the game-winning three. Arcidiacono could have taken the shot himself but Jenkins was open. This buzzer beater will go down in history as one of the all time best.
Marcus Paige is a beast
The only reason Nova was tied with UNC was because guard Marcus Paige was draining threes. His last shot was insane. He jumped, made a ball fake and then forced it up. It tied the game at 74 with only 4.7 seconds left. He led all scorers with 21 points, plus had another 5 rebounds and 6 assists. This game could have easily been out of hand but Paige’s heroics keep things super dramatic. Keep your eye on this dude.
Booth off the bench
Phil Booth finished with 20 of Villanova’s 77 points, all while coming off the bench. He was the leading scorer for the Wildcats when no starter had more than 16 points. He continually hit clutch shots, made all 6 of his free throws and both of his three point attempts. It seemed like every time Carolina hit a big bucket, Phil Booth answered the call. There is no victory without Booth. He may just have secured a spot on someone’s starting five.
Nova refused to lose
Down 34-39 at the half, it seemed like the popular narrative was playing out. The #1 seed Tar Heels had a lead and were playing their game. Coach Roy Williams was 20 minutes from his third championship. But Nova would not go away. Their defense locked in and suddenly things started to turn. UNC couldn’t get a pass inside and the Wildcats were swarming. Mikal Bridges was especially great in those end moments.
This is Villanova’s first title since 1985 and these guys truly earned it. They played a killer tournament and ended on the highest possible note. This team was a Marcus Paige away from winning by 10 and I’m sure they never wanted it to be that close but I’m positive that Kris Jenkins and other Villanova Wildcats wouldn’t have it any other way.
The NBA is in its prime. The Magic, MJ, Bird, Bad Boys era was incredible. But right now, the NBA is just as good and the proof lives online.
In general, can we all wrap our heads around the notion that things are not better right now than they will be? I know it’s popular to prep for doomsday, but that’s just one possible scenario. Can we try to band together to project a positive outlook regarding the innovations and changes taking place throughout our lifetime and beyond? The Earth might be a literal garbage dump, but it’s not too late to turn it around. Instead of lamenting about the so-called “Good Ol’ Days” of the way things used to be during “simpler times,” let’s realize now that life evolves. So when this generation of millennials ages, we don’t sound bitter and shortsighted. Just like Oscar Robertson talking about Steph Curry:
“He’s shot well because of what’s going on in basketball today, In basketball today, it’s almost like if you can dunk or make a three-point shot, you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread.
There have been some great shooters in the past. But here again, when I played years ago, if you shot a shot outside and hit it, the next time I’m going to be up on top of you. I’m going to pressure you with three-quarters, half-court defense. But now they don’t do that. These coaches do not understand the game of basketball, as far as I’m concerned.”
Barring a dystopian future (which is plausible, especially if Trump 2016 happens…), life could and should get better. All aspects can progress positively: technology, convenience, our attitudes toward improving the environment, our treatment of one another, quality of entertainment to distract us in case none of the above comes to fruition. When platforms like Vine and Snapchat dropped, I was very Oscar Robertson about them. Didn’t get it. Didn’t care. Bitched about them. Felt old and simply dismissed them. A few years removed from their inception, I can admit I was wrong. Vine has made my favorite sport, basketball even more fun and accessible.
However, the old guard of the NBA loves to bitch about the state of the game. Lots of NBA Hall of Famers complain about the lack of defense due to rule changes and the focus on the league’s public relations making the game and players “soft.” Charles Barkley and Shaq, two of the game’s most entertaining players, both on and off the court, are also culprits of being such old timers who whine about “how much better the game used to be…” The game done changed. Just get on (hover)board so you don’t seem so dated.
I’m not saying The Diesel and Round Mound Of Rebound need to become the equivalent of a middle-aged white dude named Noah in a backwards hat and board shorts, calling everyone “Bruh,” attending Coachella year after year as he suppresses stories of Woodstock ’94 so he seems relevant. Noah’s old school buddy Dean still wears a 2012 AC/DC tour shirt unironically regaling anyone who will stand close to him about the “hey-day of culture” peppering in critiques of everyone having their nose in their phone, how computers ruined music and how rappers only rap about money. That’s what Shaq and Charles sound like when they bitch about guards not getting nearly paralyzed when they drive the lane and the league lacking “True Centers.” Hopefully one day people will be able update the way they operate easier than downloading the latest version iOS.
Shaq and Charles
Fuck ESPN, they’ve jumped the shark (a term that itself has jumped the shark). ESPN is totally corporate and thus becoming obsolete, but it’s not going anywhere for the time being. Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Reddit and Podcasts give everyone instant highlights, genuine coverage and access to all our favorite players, coaches, teams, plays and behind-the-scenes discourse. Social media, more than rule changes, player safety protections and PR concerns have revolutionized sports overall. With the NBA being the biggest benefactor. Go ahead, bemoan “everyone being on their phones all the time” instead of engaging in the moment, but maybe you’re the one who isn’t engaging in this moment. You can cry about how “defense just isn’t the same” so players like Steph Curry wouldn’t be able to light it up in the past the way he does now.
Shout it from the rooftops how no one talks to each other face to face anymore. No one will hear you because you don’t have a relevant outlet/wifi signal. Regardless of whether you’re right or wrong, you’re wrong because your time’s expired. Society changes. Sports evolve with it. Games are watched in their most important 6-12 second increments on people’s phones without having to hear Stuart Scott-knockoffs make bad puns and bastardize current slang. Isn’t it convenient that there just isn’t that much footage of what Oscar Robertson is talking about is supposedly missing from the present day game of basketball? Cool grainy highlight of the Big O literally running circles around a bunch of dudes who would get cut from teams in China if they played today.
Nevertheless, coverage of every aspect of life has changed, it’s not so easy to hide mistakes, for better or worse. The way the NBA is played and consumed now is not perfect. Nothing is. The implications on our own personal entertainment being a distraction from the miserable, violent, unjust (and hopefully temporary) present state of the world has its pros and cons: the speed and efficiency of how we consume Steph’s latest 35 foot swish or Kristap Porzingis’s putback slam happen so rapidly we don’t get a break from our timelines of watching to think or do anything about who and what are hurting the world. That’s a cause I wouldn’t mind hearing retired sports legends speak out about. Ya know, those who lived through protests that brought about change.
They’d rather criticize DeAndre Jordan’s free throw percentage. Bill Russell gets overlooked for his on court talent because he absolutely annihilated inferior competition, but his contribution to activism gets overlooked along with it. Bill Russell dwarfed his competition the way social media is dwarfing Sportscenter. However, he didn’t have as much of a platform to spread his message to fix inequality during an era when people were more proactive about causes that meant something to them. Yeah, LeBron and some other players wore that t-shirt because their publicists told them to stand with Freddie Gray.
Nobody really remembers or cares because the media cycle revolves too quickly. Today, you don’t like the way cops treat black people. You tweet something self righteously or post something indignant on Facebook and get to feel like you’re part of the solution. You want to try to make a difference today? Your message has to be constant, but ya know, don’t mess up your endorsement deal. There are always drawbacks, holes to be poked in the innovations by those who have lived to witness the change, but not ready to accept it. Sometimes those flaws are very real, but the criticism is hard to take seriously when it’s served upon every stand-out player.
Way back at the beginning of this decade, before Snapchat, LeBron moved from Cleveland to Miami so he could play for a team with his best friends and win. Not a single NBA alumni even remotely encouraged LeBron to do what made him happy. That’s indicative of the difference between the old versus new guard: the old guard doesn’t understand or appreciate millennial’s choice to do what makes us happy.
James and Wade
Say you have a buddy from college, the kind of guy who partied his ass off but still managed to get all A’s. Charismatic, friends with everyone, the kind of guy who could stay up for two days on a bender then go to brunch with your parents and charm their pants off before acing a test he barely studied for. This guy graduates, but moves back to his hometown to work for a notoriously fledgling local business that has potential to turn it around now that he’s there, but has organizational problems that no one man could turn around on his own no matter how focused, talented or committed.
Then one day, this guys gets an offer to be a partner at a hot new start up, run by his college drinking buddies who still party, but are more mature now. The salary is comparable, company HQ is in a cool city with great weather, social life and no income taxes. If you’re this guy, what would you choose? We know what his parents and their friends would think. The older generation loves to glorify their loyalty, the same loyalty that makes them miserable. Romanticize sacrifice, suffering and hard work in the same breath exhaled with carbon monoxide-like sentiments.
That’s why old timers can’t let go of the notion that their way was better. They’re haters. Generally, most people over 47 can’t and won’t wrap their minds around today’s conveniences and innovations in both technology and lifestyle choices. Why? They’re “stuck in their ways,” which is old people code for “refuse to accept the possibility of an easier path.” Too tired out from doing what they didn’t want to have to do most of their lives. Sacrificing joy and satisfaction for “security.” I get it, it’s hard to change once you’re used to a routine, but what if that routine suddenly got way easier and more enjoyable, but just took a litttttttle bit of effort to figure out?
With all this said, when we as a generation hit middle-age, let’s all agree to examine the way things with an open mind. Realizing most things get better, not worse. Or at least let’s pretend to get on board so we don’t age faster than we need to. Being someone like Noah with grey hair and saying shit like “stay woke” while Snapchatting might seem like it’s trying too hard.
Albeit, that’s immensely less sad than not knowing how to text message on your LG Flip Phone as you lament how sports were better when athletes were slower and way more barbaric to each other, when it wasn’t even broadcast live over the medium of terrestrial radio. Maybe the sound bite goes viral, but the person saying it doesn’t even know what that means. “Going Viral,” whether you get it or not, is the most significant way to convey a message today. The How and Why of Going Viral is still puzzling. I’m rocking the White Van’s trying to get everything I do to Go Viral. Damn Daniel! Tomorrow will be different. Get on board or bundle up to suffer through the winter in Cleveland.
The NBA is better now than it’s ever been. I stand by it. NBA basketball might have been better 25-30 years ago, but it didn’t have a constant flow of memes and Vines. Who knows if Steph Curry would be as prolific against MJ, Isiah or John Stockton? I do know this: Spudd Webb would be global phenomenon if Instagram was around in the 80s.
Final Note: I’m doing my best to swallow my own pill and adapt to the future, but the old timer in me still gets ornery observing that anyone under 16 only knows Michael Jordan for crying and his shoes, they think Kobe is better then him, the OJ Simpson Murder Trial is a comedy series on FXX and everyone who retired from pro sports before 2000 is a whiny old fart. Instead of diminishing today’s stars, we all should just focus on ourselves.
Post Script: can Turner Broadcast turn TNT into an all sports network? ESPN is like a dumpster behind a Trading Card shop: there might be a treasure in there, but contains mostly flammable garbage. Fox Sports 1 is that dumpster on fire. How awesome would a Turner Sports channel be headlined by Charles, Shaq, Ernie and Kenny The Jet?
I’m just writing it here so when it happens I can claim to be ahead of my time.
The 1996 Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, finished the season at an NBA all time best with 72 wins and only 10 loses. That record seemed unbreakable. Until this year. The defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors currently sit at 49-5. With 28 games to play, they need to go at least 23-5 to tie the ’96 Bulls. Sounds tough but I think the Warriors might be able to pull it off. Their active winning percentage is .907 and they only need .821 the rest of the way out. So even a little slip in production won’t ruin their run. Let’s breakdown the info and see if Golden State really has a chance to make history.
Why they will
Because the Warriors feel like there is still something to prove. The team isn’t yet viewed like one of the all time greats and this squad seems committed to playing hard until everyone respects them. One ring isn’t enough for this crew. They want to be the next dynasty. Emphasis on Nasty. They have Klay Thompson, the current 3-point contest winner, Draymond Green, the NBA leader in triple-doubles, Andre Iguodala, last year’s NBA Finals MVP. Oh yeah, and Riley Curry’s Dad, Steph. The reigning MVP of the league is looking to repeat as both Most Valuable Player and champion.
Why they won’t
Because winning that many games is really hard. The Chicago team that hit that mark was one of the best ever assembled. The Warriors could easily fall a few short of the 72 wins just based on fatigue, injury, or bad luck. The important thing to look at here is the remaining schedule. They play the San Antonio Spurs three more times. Those will all be tough outings. Also, the next six games feature some strong opposition: Hawks twice, Heat, and Thunder twice. And if the Warriors want the record then they can only lose another four games. There could be five or six defeats against those legit contenders.
The Warriors break the record with 74 wins and Riley dances forever. No joke, I’m rooting for Golden State. Not just because I hate the Bulls and want to see their records smashed, but because the Warriors have been a fun story and better team. They play excellent ball and are good for the NBA. They have a complete roster and can beat you in a number of ways. Honestly, if they can escape the next six games with only a loss or two then they should coast into the playoffs as the real-deal number one and holding the new record for most wins in an NBA season.
I can’t wait to see what happens. Either way, it’s going to be great to watch. I wonder if Jordan and the other 1996 Bulls are nervous. They should be.
If you haven’t heard yet, congratulations are in order for LeBron James and his new life-partner, Nike. The two got married earlier this week in a private ceremony near his home in Cleveland, with a few of their closest friends and family. Press photographers weren’t permitted access but reports are that it was a beautiful ceremony.
After a 12 year relationship, Nike finally decided to make an honest woman out of LeBron. The dower that Nike provided is rumored to be significantly more than the original reports of $500 million. It seems like a paltry price to have the (arguably) best basketball player on the planet on your team for the longest of hauls, the rest of his life. LeBron James and Nike are simply meant for each other and I, for one, am glad that they decided to take it to the next level. It’s a match made in basketball heaven.
In the 44 years history of Nike, it is the first lifetime commitment they have made to an athlete. Michael Jordan is assumed to be a de-facto partner for life, but even he can’t get Nike to commit publicly or make it ‘Facebook Official’, and they’ve been together since 1985. So this is a big step for Nike, and it really seems like they are growing up and putting aside all those ‘fast’ athletes. For once they are buying the cow even though they’ve had the milk for free.
So now that these two lovebirds have tied the knot, I guess the next question is where do they go on their honeymoon? They have more money than they know what to do with, so that’s not really an issue. The sky is the limit. And even that might not be the case. I bet if they pooled their funds, they could take their honeymoon on Mars or even Titan. I hear the Lakes are lovely and the views of Saturn are beautiful this time of year. If they aren’t up for that long of a trip, I guess they could go somewhere lame like Bali or the Seychelles, but I think they’re better than that. They are probably already building a heavily branded space ship for their deep space love voyage as we speak. Once the season is over they’ll blast off to the heavens and hopefully get to work on making some adorable little Nike/LeBron babies, or at least some new version of the LeBron shoes.
Either way, I wish them the best in their new life together and hope they have many years of happiness. I would have sent a gift but I never found out where they registered. I bet it was somewhere really fancy like Williams-Sonoma… Guess I’ll just have to make sure I get them something when they renew their vows in decade or two. Until then, congratulations to America’s favorite new husband and wife, Nike and LeBron James.
A dark bedroom, Tim sits up in bed, his face only visible from the glow of his open macbook. He glances to his sleeping girlfriend. She’s in dream town. He opens a new tab, a few keys and back to the old habit; cards, well Basketball cards, 80’s NBA Fleer to be exact. Another check. Still sleeping. Scrolling, scrolling, then, wait. What? Tim’s eyes dart over the post “Mint condition”, “Michael Jordan”, “PSA 10”, and then the doozie “Rookie card” Tim holds back a shriek, his girlfriend stirs but doesn’t wake. Then he reads “Autographed”. He screams.
The next day, Tim pulls up the ad and types a response. “I’ll trade you my whole collection…” He hits ‘send’ and crosses his fingers. Tim, in his red Jordan jersey, waits inside Chipotle. No burrito. He eyes the door. Finally, Kent arrives. He’s tall, older, windbreaker, briefcase, like Clint Eastwood, if he sold drugs. Tim waves him over. Kent sits and opens the briefcase. The Jordan. In its hard plastic case. Tim inspects it like a jeweler while Kent gets in line. Tim looks up and realizes he is alone with the prize. He looks across the dining room to the door. He calculates the distance. He looks to Kent then back to the door. In walk two Chicago Police Officers. Tim’s eyes go back to the card. Kent returns with a soda. “So we got a deal or what?”
In the parking garage, Tim opens the trunk to his car and pulls out two huge boxes of cards. Kent gives them a quick look and nods. He hands the briefcase to Tim. Kent loads the boxes into his car. Tim locked in a trance, starring at his new baby. Before leaving Kent asks “you wanna know how I got the autograph?” Tim never looks up from the card. “Of course”. Kent gets close and leans in “I met him at the grocery store” with that, Kent stabs Tim in the gut. He stabs him again and again. He is the Michael Jordan of stabbing people. Tim gasps as his last breathe oozes out. Kent pulls the rookie card from his hands. Blood all over the case. He wipes it on Tim’s jersey and then drives off.
Kent in his trophy room. Wall to wall memorabilia. He adds Tim’s cards to his collection and returns the Jordan to its rightful place on the mantel. Later, Kent lies in bed with his laptop, his wife next to him. He posts “Rookie Card for sale or trade”.