Welcome Back NBA!

2009 Lakers Championship Ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glad to see the NBA is back and the Lakers are set to defend their championship.  They got things started with a win over the cross town Clippers without Pau Gasol who sat out with a minor injury. 

I think the Ron Artest thing is going to work out too.  Kobe looks like Kobe already.  Drew Bynum looks great and if we can keep him playing he may be an All-Star by mid season. 

On the other tip the Cavs suck!  Let me be clear, LeBron is great.  But the Cavs suck and the Celtics showed them that last night by punking them on their own court.  Shaq does not command the double teams he used to.  LeBron has to go 1 on 3-4 people. 

Daniel Gibson has not gotten any better whatsoever.  They miss Delonte West for sure.  I hope that he is able to settle his life down first and is able to return to the team soon. 

Paul Pierce dribbled into a screen set for him by Kevin Garnett (right), allowing Pierce to squeeze past Cleveland's LeBron James.

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A Tale of Friendship and Backstabbing

Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas

Let me say this up front.  I grew up a huge fan of both of these guys.  The first NBA game I watched on TV was the Lakers vs. the Sixers in the 1980 Finals.  It was then that I fell in love with Magic and the Lakers organization.  I was an instant fan of team LA and as many of you know who read this blog regularly, I speak in terms of ‘we’ and ‘us’ when I refer to the Lakers. 

Since Magic left the team, my loyalty hasn’t changed towards him nor the Lakers.  I loved them when they were horrible, and I’ve celebrated with the championships as if they were my own.

As a player Isaiah Thomas is a well deserved member of the Hall of Fame.  I loved his game and for the most part his attitude.  I appreciated the way he competed even against my Lakers, especially during the Finals when he played the most incredible injury ridden third quarter you will ever see from anyone.  Thomas was the little man with the heart of a fierce lion.  Some may have been fooled by his infectious smile, but he didn’t take no shorts from no nobody as he took his team from nothing to two-time world champions.

Magic and Thomas were not only fierce rivals, but very close friends as well.  They greeted one another with a kiss before each Finals game before trying to rip each other’s hearts apart on the court.  Fitting.

Like Magic, I always wanted to meet Thomas and talk to him about life and basketball.  One of my favorite authentic jerseys is his #11 that I probably wear less than once a year.  It’s flat-out classic!

Thomas’ fall from grace for me however, started when he walked off the court during the Eastern Conference Finals when Michael Jordan’s Bulls finally got over on them.  The Bulls were the Piston’s bitch for years as they laughed at MJ when he would try to beat the team that invented the “Jordan Rules.”  Jordan would spend all of his energy in one on one battles while the better Pistons team dismissed the Bulls year after year.  When Michael got a better team around him and treated them like a team, they beat the Pistons fair and square, even at the Piston’s own game.  But instead of congratulating the Bulls and shaking their hands, Isaiah and several of his teammates walked off the court with well over a minute left in the final game.  It was the ultimate “F You!” moment. 

Thomas can say what he wants about that.  But I remember when the Pistons were the Celtic’s bitch.  When they finally beat Boston and advanced to the Finals it was Kevin McHale, (a proud champion in his own right) who I distinctively remember talking to Thomas after the game exhorting him to finish the job and beat the Lakers to get his own championship.  Isaiah is a gamer, a real sportsman who appreciates the best of competition and that gesture by McHale meant a lot to him.  In this way Thomas was a hypocritical not to give Jordan that same respect.

Since the two have retired from basketball the paths of these two basketball icons have taken on different altogether.  For Magic, he tried coaching but was unsuccessful and eventually kept to the owners box when it came to the NBA.  He dabbled in show business and in the long run became one of the most successful entrepreneurs certainly in modern times.  Some know him more for his business associations than his NBA legacy.  In spite of being diagnosed with HIV in 1991, Magic totally reinvented himself and has contributed more to the world than most any athlete I could think of save Jim Brown.  Today, when you see Magic’s face, you see the success of a brand that took a life time to achieve.

Thomas’ life is quite the contrast.  He ruined the CBA, the former minor league of the NBA.  He was a successful coach with the Indiana Pacers and those teams were always playoff contenders.  When Larry Bird was hired as team president, he quickly released Thomas, (years of bad blood there) and Thomas was forced to move on.  His tenure with the New York Knicks was a disaster.  He was in charge of everything and he pretty much wrecked the entire organization.  The players he drafted and hand-picked were bad, the play was bad, the results were bad.   Thomas, like Michael Jordan seemed to be one of those players who played like a champion most of the time but was horrible at team management. 

Then there was the sexual harassment case against him, and the sleeping pill incident where he overdosed and needed medical attention but allowed his daughter’s name and reputation to be sullied by saying publically it was her who took the pills.

Thomas’ life seemed in pieces since he left the Knicks.  Finally something good happened as he was hired as head coach of Florida International.  Even that started as a joke when he was introduced as ‘Isaiah Thompson’ at the school’s press conference.’  He raised a stink about having to play North Carolina in an early season game where the proceeds benefit cancer research.  I thought to myself, ‘Boy was this guy going to say or do anything right?’

Comparing the post NBA lives of  Magic and Isaiah seemed like a contrast of success and tragedy.  Well not quite.  Isaiah isn’t broke by any means.  He’s not in jail and it seems like in spite of his spoiled attitude he still has the good sense his mother Mary instilled in him.  I think Thomas, while making mistakes is a decent man, a loyal man who has made some bad decisions like the rest of us.  The difference in he and Magic is that Magic’s mistakes were not made so public with the exception of his HIV confessions in the midst of legendary extramarital sexual escapades.

Which brings me to the story that broke on SI.com regarding  the new book Magic wrote as part of a collaboration with Larry Bird. 

In this book Magic buries his old buddy by confessing that he got him blackballed from the 1992 Olympic team.  According to the book Magic said,

“Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the Olympics. Nobody on that team wanted to play with him. … Michael didn’t want to play with him. Scottie [Pippen] wanted no part of him. Bird wasn’t pushing for him. Karl Malone didn’t want him. Who was saying, ‘We need this guy?’ Nobody.”

Other accusations include that Thomas questioned Johnson’s sexuality when he retired following his HIV announcement.  And that he spread rumors to people in the league that Johnson was gay or bi-sexual.  Johnson also claims that it was he who got Thomas hired with the Knicks, as if he convinced owner James Dolan to do Magic a solid by giving Thomas an opportunity.

Thomas makes a pretty good case regarding his feelings for Magic and the past in the SI article.  For his part denies such accusations and expressed being ‘hurt’ and ‘blindsided’ by Johnson’s claims.  He claims he stood up for Magic when no one else did during those early HIV days.   In the early 90s Thomas was the head of the players association and he said he fought prejudice among players who were misinformed about HIV.  He pushed for Magic’s participation in the All Star Game in Orlando which lead to Magic making a brief come-back with the Lakers.    

Putting all that aside what bothers me the most is what was Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson thinking about when writing this book?   Isaiah is simultaneously a hero and a pariah all at the same time.   He will always have his fans and detractors.  Magic’s reputation is all but flawless.  In the game of life he seems to have won over his former friend and rival.  What does he get out of this?  Am I supposed to appreciate Johnson more and value Thomas less?  If anything I feel the opposite.  I think Johnson should have left that dirty laundry out of the book and talked about something more productive.  I think if he had a problem he should have manned up and talked to Thomas about these things years ago and been a bigger man if he thought he was slighted.  I actually see Johnson, my childhood basketball hero as a petty and self promoting giant sticking it to a little man when he’s down.  Thomas is an easy target. 

I say this in light of my own friendships with men whom I respect yet have had hard disagreements with.  There were hard feelings because we were close.  Words were exchanged,  even some conversations among common friends where each heard our sides of the stories.  Eventually understanding and reconciliation was reinstated.  Respect and friendship was restored.  And even if it were not, no way am I burying even an ex-close friend in such a public fashion for the sake of a book.  Even if I didn’t have Magic’s status and reputation.

I never saw Magic Johnson as a celebrity snitch.  Never thought of him as a Jon and Kate plus 8 side story clammoring for a spot on Larry King and TMZ.  I never saw him as petty.  I thought he was ‘Magic.’  Now he seems more like a trick.

Air Shame!

marcus-jordan

When I read this story yesterday it really pissed me off.  I know it shouldn’t.  But it did.

It seems that University of Central Florida player Marcus Jordan aka Michael Jordan’s son wants to wear his father’s named shoe as he suits up for the basketball team.  The problem is that the university has a contract with Adidas. When an apparel company sponsors a program, they give away free shoes, uniforms, sweats, warmups, baseball caps and everything else the company thinks it can slap a logo on so that you can represent their brand.   All the gear a guy ever wants is at his disposal.  Not to mention the school also received a lot of cash from the company to have their players wear their stuff.  According to ESPN that cash for UCF is $3 million per year.

Well Marcus in the spirit of dear old dad doesn’t understand that simply because he can have as much free Air Jordan gear as his heart desires, neither he nor the school is actually a signed to a Nike/Jordan deal. 

As a matter of fact, Marcus Jordan isn’t even a top 200 college player.  If it were not for his father, no one would know his name. 

This reminds me of when his dad famously went ‘cover up’ with the American flag as his weapon of choice during the olympic games in 1992.  Jordan was obviously with Nike and his own label but Team USA had been sponsored by Reebok and thus had Reebok made uniforms and warmups. While the actual uniforms didn’t have a company logo on them, the team warm up jacket did.  Jordan, while standing on the podium, put the large flag over his shoulder as if he were a proud American when in reality he simply wanted to cover the Reebok logo.  On one hand it’s understandable that he was in a competetive shoe business and didn’t want his image associated with a competing company.  Equally true however is that Jordan didn’t have to play in the olympics.  He could have paid more money to Team USA than Reebok did and had his logo on everyone’s gear.  But he didn’t.  Instead he used the opportunity and reaped the benefits while doing something shewed and calculating while masking patriotism.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that young Marcus thinks he’s also better than everyone else on his team, and at his school.

The fact is Marcus can rep his father’s gear everyday of the week in class.  He can wear Jordan’s in practice.  But in the game he represents the University of Central Florida not Air Jordan.  Its a shame the school will bow down to this foolishness based on being scared that this average player will leave and go to some other school where they can say, “Hey, that’s Michael Jordan’s son on our team!”

Shutever!

As for the people at Adidas;  

If Marcus shows up in a game with some Air Jordan’s on… they would be well served to yank that contract right out from under them.  Let Marcus sponsor the team.  Maybe he should coach it too!  Maybe all the fans should be required to wear Jordan gear.

I digress~

So Much for Post Racial, Part 567

 Terence McKay claims a justice of the peace refused to give him and his white girlfriend a marriage license.

Seems the justice of the peace Keith Bardwell in Louisiana refused to marry an interracial couple.  Of course like other racist, he denies that he is and says he’s “worried about the kids.”  WHAT?   Oh he really cares about the kids!

I see.  Well I am sure the gentleman pictures above and his bride to be will work things out.  But Bardwell need not hold this post.

Quick! Somebody Please Arrest & Charge These Pranksters!

Six-year-old Falcon Heene is shown with his father, Richard, ...

Not only that!  Please make them pay for all of the police and manpower work that it took away from other needful cases.  The things folks come up with to try to get fame!  Freaking shameful!

Richard Heene can say what he wants.  But he is the pathetic one!   The last thing I’m going to do if I think my child is in some balloon flying across the country is to do a round robin of network and cable news shows talking about how scared I was and I relieved I am. 

CHARGE THEM I SAY!  And make examples out of them for this foolishness!

Presidential Nobel Prize

U.S. President Barack Obama comments on winning the 2009 Nobel ...

I’ve been pretty busy lately and didn’t have much of a chance to blog.  But I have to back track a bit and discuss the old news of Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace prize.  First of all I have to say I am proud.  Though many were put off at his winning it, saying that he hadn’t accomplished anything, that in itself is ridiculous.  But besides that the reasons given were very specific.

 
With the recent climate we’ve had and still with the personal static that comes his way from within his own country over essentials and non-essentials alike, the president is and has continued to be a person of class giving opportunity for positive dialogue.
I think any president will garner needed criticism from the people he governs as we muddle through our nations issues.  But the prize itself is just that.  A reward and acknowledgment of great achievement.  It should be celebrated as just that.  Our nation should be proud.  I am. 
 
 

A ‘Rush’ To Judgement?

I don’t have much of an opinion on whether Rush Limbaugh owns the Rams or any other NFL team.  It’s a free country and certainly there are racist owners in all of professional sports.  (See Donald Sterling)  And could he be worse as an owner than say, Al Davis?

What this does tell me though that Dave Checketts’ trial balloon of Limbaugh as a partner didn’t fly like as hoped.  And it also tells me that though Limbaugh has amassed wealth in the hundreds of millions of dollars by being a pariah and a hate mongerer, this is drawback that even his money couldn’t buy him out of.  At least not yet.  This is the price, or at least a side effect of the hate medicine he has sold for his life’s work.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Stephen A. Smith who don’t believe many African-American NFL players would turn down money to play for an unapologetic demagogue like Limbaugh.  Lord knows most of them don’t stand for anything but the game they play and the money they make from it.  I’m just saying I won’t cry tears or carry water for Rush in order to be politically correct or in some attempt to be more fair to him than he is to people who look like me.  Oh no. I won’t get on that wagon.  If it happens it happens.  But I truly IDGAF about Rush’s rights to buy an NFL team.