Stuart Scott: Guts. Grace. Cool.

Here’s my personal Stuart Scott story.  I was attending a journalism convention and hustling from one part of the host hotel to another to meet some friends at a party.  I saw Scott standing outside of a hall where ESPN was hosting an invitation-only gig.  I stepped to him, introduced myself and we exchanged “hellos.”  I was surprised by how short, but fit he was.

When he died Sunday, Scott was only 49, Scott fought a long, hard fight against cancer, but he never lost the fight.  He simply ran out of time.

Stuart Scott brought something to ESPN and SportsCenter there wasn’t much of when he got there: soul.

The average score-reader can pronounce the right words and read the script and tell you who won and won lost. Scott brought realness, flavor and some street style swagger to his presentation and that made him my favorite anchor on ESPN.

It’s not surprising Scott’s approach rubbed some the wrong way who didn’t dig what he was doing. That’s okay. Innovators always attract plenty of critics who don’t get it as well as fans who do and Scott was an innovator. He wasn’t just another diversity hire delivering the details in the same old way  all the old White guys had already done it before .  Scott was young, stylish, was up with the current slang and down for not pretending to be something he wasn’t.  Scott was more Authentically Black than any other anchor on ESPN ever had been before and he did so while crossing over to enjoy mainstream acceptance.

Scott was funny, smart and pulled off the delicate trick of keeping it real without selling out, which is why he got love today from across the spectrum:

Michael Jordan:  I’m so sad to hear the news that Stuart has passed away. He was truly a trailblazer in his field, and by refusing to change his style, made himself into a star. I always enjoyed sitting down to talk to him. But to me, he wasn’t just a broadcaster, he was an old friend, who I’d known since college. He fought so hard against cancer and I hoped he’d win the battle. I send my sincerest condolences to his daughters, Taelor and Sydni, and his family and friends. Boo-yah, brother.

LeBron James: Can’t believe you’re gone from us! I am deeply saddened because not only will not be replaced as an anchor or reporter but more than that as a genuine cool person. What u did for our culture, bringing that Swag to reporting can only be copied(which I hear it today on tv watching sports). I would say not because they stealing your swag, it’s all out of RESPECT! It was always a breath of fresh fun air when u would show up and we’d chat up. Thank you so much for being u and giving us inner city kids someone we could relate to that wasn’t a player but was close enough to them.#RIPStuartScott #FuqCancer#GoneButSurelyNotForgotten

Tiger Woods: Stuart wasn’t covering heroes & champions, it was the other way around. Thinking of my friend & his daughters.

Samuel L. Jackson: “I had a lot of laughs with Stuart Scott & he was truly one of the Good Guys, beginning to end. RIP on da cool side of the pillow!!”

Danica Patrick: “Mornings like this remind me of how short life can be. Carpe diem and love like there is no tomorrow. Stuart Scott, you will me missed.”

President Obama: “I will miss Stuart Scott. Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favorite teams and the day’s best plays. For much of those twenty years, public service and campaigns have kept me from my family – but wherever I went, I could flip on the TV and Stu and his colleagues on SportsCenter were there. Over the years, he entertained us, and in the end, he inspired us – with courage and love. Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to his family, friends, and colleagues.”“I will miss Stuart Scott. Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favorite teams and the day’s best plays. For much of those twenty years, public service and campaigns have kept me from my family – but wherever I went, I could flip on the TV and Stu and his colleagues on SportsCenter were there. Over the years, he entertained us, and in the end, he inspired us – with courage and love. Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to his family, friends, and colleagues.”

R.I.P. Stuart Scott. You lived like a champ and you fought like a boss. Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Boo-yah!

Don’t give up the fight. Scott never did.

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.

A Man On A Mission

Like it or not, nothing can stop LeBron now.

The NBA Playoffs don’t take forever.  It just feels like they do.  Truth be told, there have been some halfway decent basketball played.   Problem is, it’s almost all been in the Western Conference where teams get out and run the ball instead of grinding it out in the half court and lockdown defense. 

Between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat, I can’t guess which team David Stern would like less handing over the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy to.   It’s a choice between his nemesis among team owners, Mark Cuban, or the most despised team in the NBA, the Miami Heat, led by two superstars in LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and an occasional one in Chris Bosh.

These may not be the two best teams in the NBA, but they’re the only two who made it all the way. Sorry for all you Celtics, Lakers, Magic and Spurs fans.  Now it’s just a matter of who gets to hoist the championship banner when it’s over.

If I were a betting man I’d put it on the Heat.   The Mavericks have the talent to get the job done, but LeBron is on a mission.  He’s not going to let Dirk Nowitzki stand between him and the chance to finally shake off the rap that’s dogged him for eight seasons now:  LeBron is the greatest player since Michael Jordan, but Jordan won six.  Lebron hasn’t won anything.

That’s all going to change within a week or so.. Sure, D-Wade and Bosh want to win a championship too and Nowitzki would like to shake that “soft” label he’s been saddled with once and for all, but nobody wants this like Lebron.  He needs this is a way they don’t.  

Despite Jordan’s former caddy, Scottie Pippen having a senior moment and saying LeBron is greater than M.J. nobody will ever take that assessment seriously until James starts putting together a string of championships like Jordan did.   It’s possible he could, but it’s just as possible some other team like the Knicks or the Lakers will bring in a Dwight Howard or a Chris Paul and upset the balance of power all over again.  The Heat have demonstrated you can put together an instant contender with three stars in their prime and a bunch of role players along for the ride.  

The Mavericks are the last obstacle standing between LeBron’s long-awaited glory and they aren’t going to have enough to stop him from getting it.   The Heat take in it six games.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if Lebron put the rest of the team on his back and tried to sweep the Mavs even if he personally has to play one-on-five to do it.

LeBron and the Heat know they’re the bad guys here and more people want them to lose than to win.  They know everybody hates them and it hasn’t killed them.  It just made them stronger. They feed off of  it.  That hate will give them the motivation that’s going to lead them to the title.   

You can’t stop an idea whose time has come and it’s Lebron James time. 

They know you hate them. They just don't care.