We Are All Witnesses…But Not Much Longer.

But I don’t WANT the playoffs to be over!” says Sad LeBron (photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

As Game Two of the NBA Finals looms, things aren’t looking real good for the underdog Cleveland Cavaliers. Unlike his boast when he  took his talents to South Beach  there  would be “Not one…not two…not three.. ” championships with the  Miami Heat, LeBron James didn’t guarantee the Cavs would win any. In fact, after reaching the championship round, James copped to being surprised they made it that far this soon.

The Cavs were already the underdog in the match-up against Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, but when you’ve got the greatest player in the game you’ve always got a puncher’s chance. That was before Kevin Love was knocked out of the playoffs when the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk tried to take Love’s shoulder home with him. That was before Kyrie Irving’s left kneecap blew off and sent him to the surgeon’s table. James is known to make his teammates better than they actually are, but even for him this is a mighty heavy lift.

Pop Quiz: Know who Shannon Brown, Damon Jones, Sasha Pavolic, Scot Pollard and Ira Newble are?

They were  a few teammates of James on the ’06-07 Cavaliers  and a pretty talentless bunch  he carried on his back to the NBA Finals where they were swept away  by the Spurs.  Without Irving and Love, James simply does not have enough bullets in his belt  to take the pressure from him to perform at a superhuman level to win a championship. Role players like Iman Shumpert,  J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavdova and Tristan Thompson are not going to turn into superstars against a team as deep and balanced as the Warriors.

It’s been suggested if James is really that great he should be able to find a way to overcome the odds and carry this depleted roster to the title.   Those suggestions are as useful  as a bag full of broken hammers.

Michael Jordan used to wear the title “Best Player On the Planet” but he needed Pippen and Grant before he put on any rings. Dr. J. needed Moses, Kareem needed Magic and Bird needed Parrish and McHale. Ya feel me?

“Sorry, bro. You on your own. “

In NO way is James diminished as a the Greatest player in the NBA if he loses this championship. Remember when the Lakers had Gary Payton and Karl Malone to go with Shaq and Kobe? They lost to the Pistons that year whose biggest “star” were Rasheed and Ben Wallace! TEAMS win championships. One man gangs playing hero ball do not.

It’s disingenuous to even suggest LeBron is lessened when he’s playing with role players, guys who weren’t even on the team when the season started and scrubs.

I’d love to see LeBron triumph and beat the odds by leading the Cavs to a championship, but my desires are tempered by reality. Even King James cannot play every minute, bring the ball up court, call the play, put everyone in the right place on the floor, distribute the rock, take the shot, knock it down, box out, grab the rebound, get back on “D”, guard all five opposing players, pop the popcorn, shake the pom-poms at halftime, coach the team and drive the team bus.

The bigger problem for the Cavs is their coach, David Blatt.    He took the job before James came back to town and since then  LeBron has made it clear he doesn’t listen to Blatt; he tolerates him (barely).   Curry does not have a similar problem being coached by Steve Kerr.   Unlike Blatt, Kerr played in the NBA and with Jordan no less.   He knows a little something about how to play with a superstar.   Blatt can’t buy a clue.

His name is LeBron James. It would take LeBron Jesus to carry these  Cavs to a championship.    The Warriors want what LeBron already has: a championship ring and their strategy is not to double team him and not try to shut him down.   Let LeBron get his and see who else can get anything.

James dismisses any strategy teams are allowing him to do his thing while challenging the other guys to do anything.

“Well, first of all, you can’t let me have 40,” James said following the Game One overtime loss where he scored the Cavs lone two points,   “You don’t let me have 40. I go get 40. It’s not like they’re just getting out of the way. So those guys aren’t saying we’re okay with letting him have 40. You don’t let me have 40; I’m making those shots.”

But you didn’t make the shot that would have won the game in regulation, LeBron.    You got 44 points.  You needed 46

His performance in Game Three against the Hawks was nothing short of Herculean. His 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists was magnificent and that’s on top of battling his own knee and ankles injuries (as well as  Blatt’s brain fart in playcalling and counting time outs).

Meet The 2006 Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s okay if you don’t remember them.

I was one of those who was royally pissed by the clumsy way LeBron exited Cleveland and The Decision was one of the worst p.r. mistakes ever made by a pro athlete. But he learned and I have learned to forgive and forget. I welcome him back to Ohio and I wish him nothing but well. James doesn’t have brushes with the law. Doesn’t hang out in the clubs and strip joints. Doesn’t seem to be dropping little LeBrons all around the country. He appears to be a family man who is taking care of them and building himself into a global brand. Good for the brother, I say.

Win this series or lose it, LeBron is still who he is: The Greatest Player in the NBA Today. Truth.   He will not give up and he will not roll over and crown the Warriors.   If there’s a way to will the Cavaliers to a win, James can do it.    With  King James there’s a chance to avoid a repeat of The Sweep the Spurs laid on the Cavs in 2007.

But they won’t win.   They can’t win.   Warriors in five.

Riley Curry waves “bye-bye” to the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

 

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LeBron Proves You CAN Go Home Again.

I’m back. Get it?

It’s a good thing for both LeBron James personally and for the city of Cleveland specifically that after a bitter four-year estrangement, he’s coming back to the Cavaliers to try to finish what he started. It’s an even better thing for those of whom live in Ohio where this whole “is he or isn’t he” scenario has played out in real-time.

The way James handled The Return beat the hell out of the public relations fiasco that was The Decision. Everything about The Decision was overstated, overblown and a barely concealed flipping the middle finger to Northeast Ohio where James toiled seven years carrying a Cavaliers team mostly devoid of talent. Bitter feelings and bad karma abounded on both sides though Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert carried it too far with a poison pen letter soaked in Haterade that could be found on the team’s website as recently as a week ago.

“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE

You can take it to the bank.

Not one of Gilbert’s non-James teams finished above .500. The bank stayed closed.

That letter has since been scrubbed from the Cavaliers website, but the Internet never forgets no matter how much Gilbert wishes it would.

LeBron’s words to Sports Illustrated (and quite noticeably not ESPN) were far more gracious in showing the grace, class and maturity he had developed in four years that were missing in Gilbert’s published temper tantrum.    If you haven’t read it you definitely should.   It’s pretty damned impressive reading.

I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.

When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.

I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.

To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?

Michael Wilbon, who is from Chicago, said it well when he noted James has “Midwestern values” and he honestly LIKES living in Northern Ohio. James could live anywhere  on the planet. What’s so terrible about going back home?

When LeBron left four years ago and more importantly, HOW he left was awkward, clumsy and a hot mess of hype, bad juju and ugliness. He went out like a punk. I called him “LeGone” and meant every word of the contemptuous vitriol I spat his way.

But a funny thing happened over the last four years. My harsh feelings toward James disappeared. How he played on the court with the Heat and how he lived his life off the court with his family won me over. We never hear about James getting in trouble, being busted for drugs, shooting up strip clubs at 2:00 am, banging women coast to coast and dropping’ Little LeBrons all over the U.S.A. From all appearances, James is a solid, stable Family Guy who stays out of the headlines with all the usual non-sports related shenanigans.

Will the second time around be just dust in the wind for James?

As regards Dan Gilbert goes he was a total a-hole the way he handled LeBron taking his talents to South Beach. He spewed contempt for his lone superstar. But for all his bluster, Gilbert had to know how screwed he really was once James left town. He said they would win a championship before James did but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Check the Cavs record since the ’09-10 season.

09-10: 61-21 (James’ last year in Cleveland)
10-11: 19-63
11-12: 21-45 (lockout shortened season)
12-13: 33-49

If you were Dan Gilbert wouldn’t you pretty much kiss LeBron’s ass to get him back?

Dwayne Wade weighed in with his own thoughts on his former teammate’s return to the Buckeye State:

As a friend and a teammate, I am sad to see my brother LeBron leave to begin a new journey. In 2010, we decided to come together all for one goal — to win championships and we succeeded. We were friends when we first joined the league and created an unbreakable bond the past four years. Our collaboration will always be very special to me both personally and professionally. We shared something unique and he will always be part of my family. LeBron made the right decision for him and his family because home is where your heart is. I know this was not an easy decision to make and I support him in returning to his roots. As an organization, a community, and as individuals, we achieved the goals we set when we first signed on together. We are champions.

Washington Wizards v/s Miami Heat December 18,...

King James and D-Wade say goodbye to all that.

Classy, but then the Miami Heat is a class organization as other well wishes to Lebron from team owner Micky Arison and general manager Pat Riley have echoed Wade’s sentiments. When James returns to Miami in the future he knows he will hear the boos of the disappointed fans, but they will likely be drowned out by the applause of the grateful ones remembering the four consecutive championship appearances and two wins King James led the Heat to.

If Wade is ready to move on, why should I hate on LeBron for coming home to take care of unfinished business? Sure he may never win a championship with the Cavaliers, but it won’t be because he didn’t come back to try.

There are plenty of unlikable owners who own great teams. I am not going to boo the Cavs because their boss is a jerkwad. Plenty of us have worked for bosses who were bastards, but we did the job and cashed the check anyway. Why should we hold James to a higher standard then we do ourselves?

Let’s be honest here. James did what he thought was best for him and his family.  I know there are “fans” who honestly believe LeBron should have put their needs ahead of his own.   They need to set the alarm clock and wake the hell up.

Welcome Home King James.   Now can I get back to focusing on NFL football camps opening Friday?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s the “Return of the King.” You got a problem with that?

 

It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over (It’s Over!)

Someone wants this more and someone's going to get it.

Someone wants this more and someone’s going to get it.

Officially, Game Five of the NBA Playoffs will be played Sunday in San Antonio.   Unofficially, this is merely a formality.  This series is over.   The Miami Heat are going to Texas as the champions of the league seeking their third consecutive title.  They are coming back to Florida as the latest sports franchise to fail to pull off the trick of “the three-peat.”

The legend of LeBron James will not suffer from his inferior team losing to a clearly superior one.    Even stuck on two rings, James is still the best player on the planet until someone comes along and makes him second-best and while Kawai Leonard has matched at times surpassed James during the series, his best day would just be an average on for James.

The best player doesn’t win championships.  The best team does and this year that team is the Spurs and it’s not even close.   James is doing what he can but without some help from Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and whatever they can scrape off of their sorry bench, even King James can’t avoid being dethroned by the clearly superior Spurs.

“I don’t really get caught up in what pressure is all about…” James said after the Heat was crushed in their Game 4 loss. “For me, I do whatever it takes to help our team win. If it’s me going one-on?-one to try to help us win, if it’s me getting guys involved and taking threes in rhythm, then I’ll do it. But I don’t really get caught up in the pressure.”

He doesn’t have to.  It’s those other eleven guys whom are feeling the squeeze and coming up small.

I knew the game was over in the second quarter on one play.  One on the Spurs misses a shot, the ball is bouncing back off the rim,  James and a few other Heat are looking up and in position for the rebound and zooming down from the free throw line comes Kawai Leonard to snatch the ball up and JAM IT BACK DOWN with a nasty-ass slam.

Kawai Leonard rocks the rim--and the Heat (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Kawai Leonard rocks the rim–and the Heat (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

It was ugly.  It was brutal.  It was beautiful.   It was over.  The body language of the Heat said it all:  they didn’t want it as much as the Spurs did.

There was still another half to play but that was simply a perfunctory necessity.  The game was over and the Spurs won the championship on that play.   The story isn’t how the Heat lost their title, but how the Spurs took it from them.

There’s no flash or sparkle to the Spurs.  They’re a team built around aging, but effective studs (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker), rising stars (Leonard, Danny Green) and a Foreign Legion of role players (Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, Mario Bellinelli, Patty “Not Pat” Mills) and a craggy-faced, curmudgeon Gregg Popovich who is only the best coach in the NBA.

Duncan is a lock for the Hall of Fame and Popovich will walk into it as well when he retires and turns overs the reigns.   Rarely have a player and coach been as great as long as this duo has and their fifth championship since 1999 would be an exclamation point on both their outstanding careers which probably will end in a year or two.

Win or lose, the chatter has already begun if these are the last games James ever wears a Heat uniform again.   He can declare himself a free agent and take his still impressive talents to any team that wants to back up a fleet of Brink’s trucks in his driveway.    When push comes to shove, I’m betting LeBron gives Heat GM manager Pat Riley a chance of clearing away some of the flotsam and jetsam on the roster and finds some more athletic, energetic playmates.

However, that’s all for the postmortem plans.   After all, when you’ve got the best player in the game, there’s always an excellent chance an elimination game won’t turn out as expected.  What leads me to believe things are going to turn out exactly as expected is while The Heat need and hope to win, the Spurs expect to win.   The math is elementary.  The Heat have to win every game.  The Spurs only have to win one.

Tonight they will and LeBron can start making his summer plans.

The elder statesmen of The Spurs waiting for the trophy celebration.

The elder statesmen of The Spurs waiting for the trophy celebration.

Kobe Bryant: Dumb Jock

Kobe Bryant is a great baller, not a great thinker. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

There are many great sports figures I respect, but only a few I admire. Among that small (and getting smaller) number are Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown and both for their achievements within their chosen endeavors as well as the bravery to stand up as proud and strong Black men no matter what it cost them (and it cost them both plenty).

We should celebrate these men while they are still with us and mourn them when they are gone. Not just because neither boxing or football are the games they were when Ali and Brown towered over them, but because whatever factory of courage produced these American idols has long since shut down the line, closed up shop, and gone out of business.

There are still great sports figures whose achievements want respect, but far fewer whose pride isn’t simply ugly egotism and whose strength fades away when they attempt to express informed opinions on matters they have no grasp of.

Which brings us to Kobe Bean Bryant, the “Black Mamba” and gradually descending star of the Los Angeles Lakers whose 17th season was limited to six games due to injuries. Bryant wasn’t able to slow the lottery-bound Lakers’ descent to the second-worst record in the NBA Western Conference.   Still, while he can’t knock down jumpers, he can lob bricks at his team, his coach, and rivals like the Miami Heat’s LeBron James.

Speaking in a New Yorker profile, Bryant slammed King James for a 2012 photo of the Miami Heat team dressed in hoodies, heads bowed in respectful homage to Trayvon Martin, the teenager slain by vigilante George Zimmerman. Bryant swatted away what he perceived as a knee-jerk attempt by James to show racial solidarity with Martin.

“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American. That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, we’ve progressed as a society, then don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.”

That should be easy.  When has Bryant ever asserted himself as an African-American?

Bryant was born in suburban Philadelphia, but his dad Joe “Jellybean” Bryant moved the family to Italy when Kobe was six. Kobe spent much of his early years outside of the U.S. speaks both Italian and Spanish and got his name from the Japanese beef his parents saw on a restaurant menu and maintains a love/hate relationship with the town of his birth.

 

Kobe’s not completely wrong.  Supporting someone just because they’re Black is the wrong thing to do, but LeBron and the Heat players didn’t support Trayvon Martin because he was Black.   They supported him because he was innocent.  They supported him because he was a victim.  They supported him because Black people who aren’t obscenely wealthy and totally clueless realize superstar status won’t protect them because they are still Black.

Did Kobe not notice there were a lot of White people who were rocking hoodies in support of Trayvon?

I’ve never warmed up to Bryant. Love his game. Hate everything else unrelated to his game. He’s never been a leader, never been an inspiration, never been anyone worth looking up to. He’s a “Me” guy not a “We” guy. It’s all about him and never about anyone else. Kobe, like Michael Jordan, has spent the majority of his life saying nothing about race in America.  He should  keep quiet about subjects he knows nothing about and he knows nothing about Trayvon Martin.

Bryant is a Black men whose identification with how African-Americans experience life is suspect.  This is something Barack Obama was accused of, but Bryant is living the dream where his wealth and success seemingly insulates him from harsh realities.

Brown caught heat last December for criticizing Bryant’s Switzerland approach to race matters.

“He is somewhat confused about culture, because he was brought up in another country,” Brown said on The Arsenio Hall Show . (Bryant spent part of his childhood in Italy, where his father played professional basketball.) “[Bryant] doesn’t quite fit what’s happening in America.”

In the 1960s, Brown pulled together a collection of top black athletes who shared his social activism. “If I had to call that summit all over,” he said, “there would be some athletes I wouldn’t call. Kobe would be one of them.”

Bryant took to Twitter to fire back at Brown with a sneering, “A ‘Global’ African American is an inferior shade to ‘American’ African American?? #hmmm. that doesn’t sound very #Mandela or #DrKing sir.”

It’s impressive Bryant knows who Mandela and King were but he doesn’t get how they laid their lives on the line for the cause of racial and social justice.  Jim Brown did too.  Bryant believes he floats about mundane trivialities of being Black in the post-racial paradise he made for himself.  Kobe is in La-La Land.  His above it all attitude mirrors that of another L.A. based superstar,  O. J. Simpson.

The hoodie is not the problem. The perception of the hoodie is.

Not a Black thing. More like a human thing.

The late sportswriter Ralph Wiley deconstructed the Juice’s attempted Escape From Blackness fantasy in an ESPN column and it still applies to the Black Mamba. “O.J. tried and almost succeeded at being everything but a black guy — and, more important, his own guy.”

“He fooled himself. He fooled white people. But he didn’t fool very many black people. Not the ones who knew him well, anyway.”

Who really knows Kobe Bryant?   Kobe has never before taken a stand on any social issue or controversy in the news.  This is why he kept his mouth shut.  He knew something stupid would fall out of it.

Bryant took to Twitter again, but this time there was a decidedly different message dribbling out of his brain.

“Travon Martin was wronged THATS my opinion and thats what I believe the FACTS showed. The system did not work #myopinion #tweetURthoughts”

Bryant hasn’t asserted himself on yet is the proper spelling on George Zimmerman’s victim. It’s “Trayvon,” notTravon.” You would think a guy named “Kobe” would sweat a detail like that.

It is undeniable Kobe Bryant is among the select few in the history of NBA who as an athlete and winner belongs among the few, the elite and clearly superior talents of the game.

It is equally undeniable he is a supreme jerk off it.

"So what was up with the hoody, man?'

“So what was up with the hoody, man?’

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Abuse of the Elderly (or Why Air Jordan Against King James is a Bad Idea)

Michael, please.  Don't embarrass yourself.

Michael, please. Don’t embarrass yourself.

The silliest debate is What If the best of the best of one era could square off against the best of another?   Depending on the quality of the match-up,  the advantage will almost always go to the younger over the older.  Youth may be wasted on the young, but it’s a significant advantage over the old.

Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Bobcats, the most terrible team in the NBA.  That’s pretty impressive to own the most terrible team in a league full of terrible teams such as the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, and Sacramento Kings, but the 16-54 Bobcats are the lousiest of the lousy.

The primary purpose of the Bobcats is to give better teams an easy win and offer Jordan dumbstruck young players he can scrimmage against, break a sweat, and entertain the fantasy that even now Jordan could play in the talent-diminished NBA.

He can’t.  There are some opponents even His Airness can’t beat and one-on-one Father Time hasn’t lost a game yet.

Which isn’t going to stop rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from feeding the fantasy after he admitted he lost to Jordan playing one-on-one.

“It was hard for me,” Kidd-Gilchrist said,  “I lost. He’s the greatest man that ever played the game.

“Oh, yeah. He’s good.”

Okay, MKG.  You’ve shown how much you can brown nose the boss.  Now get back out there on the court and do what you do best.  Losing repeatedly.

Hey LeBron, where's the rest of yours?

Hey LeBron, where’s the rest of yours?

Anyone who thinks a 50-year old Michael Jackson can come off the golf course to ball with dudes half his age is on dope or dog food.

The only thing MJ can do in the NBA on the court at this point is to get his feelings hurt. Badly.

I read a ESPN story about Mikey wanting to get back on the court and hoop. Puh-leeze. He’d better sit his butt down in the executive seats and watch his lousy team get creamed. The Heat pounded the snot out of the Bobcats on Sunday, 109-77 and number #23 was nowhere to be found.

Could you imagine Jordan trying to challenge LeBron James one-on-one? There would be nothing but broken ankles, soiled skivvies and bad karma from Jordan. I like Mike, but Space Jam was a looooonnng time ago.  At this point even Bugs Bunny could dunk on him.   If he could find a time capsule and go back to when he was 25 he could give Lebron a game.  At 50, it’s not going to even be contest.  Mike would face someone stronger, faster, bigger and who could take him to the hole repeatedly.   LeBron should spot Mike the first shot because it would be the only one he’d get.

His Airness could hang with King James…for all of one, maybe two trips up and down the court. LeBron would kill Michael. Not just beat him like a runaway slave. He would KILL Jordan. He’d go up on M.J. for a sick dunk like he put on Jason Terry last week, but Jordan would hit the floor and dissolve in a puff of smoke and dust. OLD smoke and dust.

“Oh, yeah. He’s good.”

“Dear Mike. You ARE too old for this shit. Love, Father Time.”

 

Correction.  Past tense.  WAS good.  Jordan WAS the greatest player of all time in the NBA and it’s not even a close call.  I loved watching Julius Erving  play but he wasn’t better than Jordan.   Larry Bird had a sweeter shooting stroke and a competitive streak as mean and nasty as Jordan’s, but he wasn’t better than Jordan.   Shutting down Kareem Abdul-Jabbar exquisite (and never duplicated) “Sky Hook” was an impossibility, but Kareem wasn’t better than Jordan.

But that was then and then was from between 1984 to 1998 as the unquestioned leader of the Chicago Bulls.    The Michael Jordan whose ego told him it would be a good idea to come out of retirement to  play for the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003?   The M.J. who used to slap his own teammates upside the head should have slapped that guy back into a rocking chair.    Well, that 40-something Jordan should be slapping this one and anybody else who doesn’t want to see his legacy tarnished any further by yet another pointless comeback.

Jordan didn’t have the reflexes to stay with Allen Iverson after his killer crossover juked him outta his jockstrap.   And now you want Jordan to drag his ass up and down the court trying to stay with the bigger, stronger, faster and BETTER LeBron James?

Even Kobe Bryant knows better than that.     James is 28.  Bryant is 34.  Jordan is 50.   Kobe can’t get out of LeBron’s 6’8″, 250 pound body quick enough when he’s making a special delivery slam dunk.   Kobe isn’t likeable, but he’s not stupid.   What would Jordan do with James barreling down on him full speed and bad intentions?   If he’s smart he steps aside and says, “Pardon me, Mr. James”  otherwise he had better leave  final instructions on what to do with the body.

Somethings are not “must-see TV.”   Jordan might choose Bryant over James if he were holding a fantasy draft for the Bobcats, but that’s only because going mano-a-mano, Bryant would just make Jordan look stupid.    Going up against King James would be abusing the elderly and who wants that?

Let that dream go.   It would only be a nightmare for Michael.    Jordan likes poking the bear, but the bear named LeBron would eat hm alive and not even bother to swallow.  He’d spit him out and just glare at him with a sad look that says, “I can’t believe you wanted any of this.”

Please don’t encourage abuse of the elderly.  Let M.J. have his awful team, his cigars, his swirlie girlfriends, his Ball Park franks and tagless undies and his hideous and overpriced sneakers.  In his time and prime Jordan used to enjoy to take sadistic pleasure out of bullying weaker, slower opponents.

I’m not so cruel as to enjoy seeing the young bully now being bullied.

Prepare Thyself to Hail the King

The NBA Finals resume Thursday evening, but they ended last night.   For all intents and purposes it’s all over.   Lebron James and his Miami Heat have no intentions of going back to Oklahoma City until next season.   They want to put an end to the series on their own court before their own fans.

Barring an unforeseeable miracle, that’s exactly what they will do by 11:30 Eastern Standard Time.

The Heat’s 104-98 win over the Thunder was the difference between a two-man game and a team.   Going into the series, it was assumed it was Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden who were the new “Big 3” and James along with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were three superstars trying to learn how to play as teammates.

Oh, what a difference ripping off three straight wins makes.   The Thunder hasn’t played bad, but the Heat has played lights out.  When OKC ripped off a lead in the first quarter that stretched to 17 points, the Heat played it cool.   Beyond their own Big 3, they got major contributions from point guards Mario Chalmers (25 points) and Norris Cole who came off the bench to knock down two three-pointers that chipped away at the Thunder’s lead.

Durant scored 28 points and Westbrook led all scorers with 43.   Westbrook is a score first-pass second point guard who trusts his own abilities more than he trusts any teammate not named Durant.  With good reason as it turns out.  Harden has been more bust than bad-ass in the Finals.  He was 2 of 10 shooting in Game Four including an embarrassingly botched breakaway(slam? lay up?).   Harden is stinking up the series with his lousy play.

It was supposed to be a showdown, not a beatdown.

The rest of the Thunder scored a total of 19 points.  Derek Fisher is old, slow, and simply can’t play anymore.  Fisher’s stats for the game: 22 minutes, no assists, no points, no rebounds, no turnovers, one steal and the one shot he yoked up was a bricked three-pointed that only served to waste a fast break opportunity.

For all the criticism of Westbrook for not being a distributor as the point guard, Fisher, 37 years old with 15 years experience, has been absolute garbage.   The biggest favor he could do for the team is to retire today and let somebody play tomorrow who looks like they belong on the court instead of an assisted living facility.

But this is less about the Thunder blowing it than it is the Heat winning it.  James is playing fiercely.   There’s none of the dancing, joking and playing around with a mock camera as he did in his last season with the Cavaliers.   He’s dialed in completely and whatever it takes for him to win his first championship James is willing to do.  He’s rebounding, scoring, distributing, playing lockdown “d” and making the rest of his teammates step up their game.   James is on a mission and he will not be denied.

The Thunder certainly has shown they have no idea how to do it.   Lebron is too strong for Durant, too big for Harden, too fast for any of the useless Thunder big men.

Last year when he was being humiliated by the Dallas Mavericks, James was the best player in the NBA with the worst reputation.   People were pulling for him to lose, including me.  He made himself easy to root against after his awful kiss-off to Cleveland with the brain-dead debacle that was “The Decision”  After that farce he went from King James to “LeGone James” and why not?  What was he supposed to be king of anyway?

I’m still a little frosty by the graceless way he left, but I can’t deny Lebron his due.  He is the best player in the NBA and has proven it by his play throughout the playoffs.   Now that he is standing on the verge of finally winning his first championship, only the most hardcore of Lebron haters can refuse to recognize the grandeur of his reign over the basketball world.

Ready or not, it’s time to hail the King.

The Thunder don’t need a miracle. They need a win.

There can be only one.

Who will be the lord of the ring?

I grew up loving the Philadelphia 76ers and despising the Boston Celtics, so despite not being a Lebron James fan, it’s always sweet to see the Celtics choke like dogs and don’t let anybody tell you differently: The Celtics choked up a big-ass hairball.   Before they got to the Miami Heat, the Celtics squeaked and creaked by a scrappy, but not all that talented Sixers team.   The low moment was when Kevin Garnett went up for an uncontested slam only to find he couldn’t get up to slam.

How embarrassing.   Showing their age that way should have been a warning sign that the Celtics were ripe to be plucked.  Actually, they were overripe, but after winning the first two games, the Heat fumbled and bumbled away the next three with a particularly awful showing in Game Five where they look listless, confused and were getting absolutely killed on ESPN and by every sportswriter across America.

Then came Game Six where Lebron put on his Superman suit, told the rest of team, “I got this” and went off on the Brothers from Beantown scoring 45 points, grabbing 15 boards and dishing five dimes as he pulled off a playoff performance not Michael Jordan, not Larry Bird, not Kobe Bryant, not anyone had pulled off since Wilt Chamberlain.

The Heat vs. the Thunder is a better match-up for the NBA than the Celtics making one last run (again) for the Big Three.  That storyline is tired, played out and with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen both free agents, finally ready to be retired once and for all.  Someone might have hoped for a last clash between Garnett and Tim Duncan, the Batman to his Joker, but not me.  The Spurs are a class act, but is likewise made up of AARP members.

Grace Slick gave up playing with the Jefferson Airplane because she said she hated seeing old people on stage.  I hate seeing them wheezing up and down a basketball court.  Any way all the old men of Boston are officially on summer vacation.  See ya, suckers!

James vs. Kevin Durant is a match-up I want to see.  They play the same position which means they will be going mano a mano most of the time.  Durant is a mama’s boy meterosexual whose “cool nerd” fashion sense arrived in last year’s playoffs when he showed up at the post game interviews wearing a damn backpack.  Now it’s bow ties, big plastic eyeglass frames with no lenses and shirts whose designer name are Garanimals and Oshkosh By Gosh.

James has worn the label of Best Player In the Game Who’s Never Won Anything for years now. Part of me is pulling for him to finally get his ring, but a bigger part of me hopes it’s not this year.   It could be a television series: Everybody Hates Lebron vs. Everybody Loves Kevin.

Lebron is a mama’s boy too, but he’s dialed in this year into winning a championship.  Every year that goes by without a ring he looks less like Jordan and Kobe and more like Barkley and Karl Malone: just great player who was never a big winner.

No country (or playoffs) for these old men.

One more thing about the Heat and Thunder series that must be said.  As much as Boston had to hate having their Big Three bounced out and likely broken up by Miami, Cleveland had to hate it even more because they hate Lebron.  Oklahoma City loves their very own and only professional sports franchise, but they should remember, they stole it from Seattle.

If there are televisions in Cleveland and Seattle tuned in to the series at all, it will be because they’re rooting for both teams to lose.

The Celtics almost succeeded in solidifying King James’ rep as the Biggest Choke Artist in Sports, but he would not be denied and willed his team to victory.   When he took his talents to South Beach, it appeared he was there to help Dwayne Wade win his second ring, not Wade helping him wear his first.    It was the much maligned and overlooked Chris Bosh who was the second-most important player on the Heat.  Wade played well sometimes, terrible occasionally and damn near disappeared the rest of the time.

Somebody’s going to have to defend Russell Westbrook who’s even faster than Rajon Rondo who almost outplayed the entire Heat team,   Wade will have to play much better for the Heat to win the series.  Bosh should be ready to go and present major match-up problems for the Thunder big men.

As for emerges the winner, I don’t know or care.  I follow the A-B-C rule.  Anybody But the Celtics.

King James versus the Heir Apparent. Let’s go!

Taking his talents on vacation: LeBron Lechokes

There can only be one. This year its the Mavericks.

This was supposed to be easy.

LeBron James, the NBA’s greatest player had fallen short of true greatness due to his failure to win a championship.   After seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers he publicly announced in a widely ridiculed interview/slash/performance piece that he would “take his talents to South Beach” and play with the Miami Heat.

The Heat was a shiny BMW to the beat up Dodge the King’s former team.  Dwayne Wade was already there waiting for the King and soon others followed such as Chris Bosh from the Toronto Raptors dead zone, a power forward prone to power outages.  With Pat Riley acolyte Eric Spolestra as the coach/designated ball boy charged with the task of guiding this merger to the first of many championships, The Heat put together a decent, if not devastating roster of journeymen, role players, has beens, and spare parts.  It was enough for King James and his court to survive the grind of the season and crush the 76ers, Celtics and the Bulls in the NBA Playoffs.

Leaving only the Dallas Mavericks, a group of perennial bridesmaids and one superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, a seven-footer from Germany with a sweet jump shot and a reputation for being the worst thing any pro athlete can be.  Soft.  Far too soft to deny LeBron, who had LeGone from the snows of Cleveland to the sun of Miami.

This was going to be easy.  Miami would brush aside the Mavs and LeBron would finally enjoy the glory his nickname as King James proclaimed was his by Divine Right.

Then a funny thing happened.  LeBron turned into LeGone again and then, LeChoke.  He pulled a disappearing act in the championships would make Harry Houdini and Cris Angel jealous as hell.

"You want the championship? You can't HANDLE the championship!"

The underdog Mavs beat the Heat in six games after closing them out with a 105-95 win on the opposing team’s home court.  Nowitzki won the series Most Valuable Player (though he scored no points for good sportsmanship by immediately leaving the floor after Dallas secured the win and declining to shake the hands of James, Wade or any Heat player).

Dallas is a better coached and much more complete team than Miami, but are they a better team? No.  Miami has great players, but Dallas has a great team and like when the Pistons destroyed the 2004 O’Neal/Bryant/Malone/Payton Lakers, great teams beat great players (despite what David Stern might wish).

Dirk didn’t cut and run on the Mavs the way LeGone did with the Cavs. Dirk didn’t hold some arrogant reality show to announce he was taking his talents to South Beach. Dirk didn’t boast how he was going to win “not one…not two…not three…championships.

If I were building a team I’d rather have Dirk Nowitzki than LeGone James.   Not because he would be a better player.  Because he would be a better teammate.

Nowitzki explained bolting from the court when he later told ESPN’s Hannah Storm, “I had to get a moment. I was crying a bit. I was a little emotional. … I actually didn’t want to come out for the trophy, but the guys talked me into it.”

I can’t imagine a guy who just won his and his team’s first championship not wanting to share in the glory and hoist the trophy and I’ll cut him a little slack for not wanting to cry in front of the cameras.  But Dirk, if your teammates can hang on the floor and shake the opposing team’s hand and you are the leader/best player of your team, you can do it too.

That goes for you and LeGone.  Flip the script and if this had been James walking off the court without shaking Dirk’s hand after winning the championship, he would be ROASTED by the press and the fans.

But being a bad sport wasn’t exclusively Dirk’s problem. LeBrick (thanks Facebook friend Merlisa Lawrence Corbett for that one) retreated to Twitter account to say, “The Greater Man upstairs know when it’s my time. Right now isn’t the time.”

It’s never been your time LeChoke. The Greater Man decided it was Dirk Nowitzki’s time, not yours.  One day LeBron James will be a champion, but first he’s going to have to learn a bit about humility. So far, he’s proven to be a slow learner.

Since LeBron lost to Dirk, a German export, here’s a German word for him: schadenfreude.  It means finding satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.  There’s a lot of satisfaction and pleasure in Cleveland today.

There can only be one.  Once again, it’s not you, LeChoke.

LeBron is now a two-time loser in the NBA Finals.