Category Archives: Basketball
You can love LeBron James or hate him, but you can’t ignore his greatness. “The kid from Akron” has accomplished much, not just as an athlete but as a businessman, that even his staunchest critics and haters, the “Skip Baylesses” of the world, could not help but sing praises.
The list of his career highlights and awards is long. On top of that list are 4 NBA championship rings and the same number of NBA Finals MVP trophies. He was also voted NBA MVP 4 times. His critics would be quick to mention that Michael Jordan has more rings and trophies than Bron and therefore is a greater player… and the greatest of all time. Bill Russel won more championships than Jordan and Lebron combined. So, should he be the GOAT? I could almost hear basketball pundits calling me names for asking that question. They might even say that I know nothing about basketball for not agreeing that MJ is the GOAT.
For the record, I don’t buy the idea of declaring a basketball player as the GOAT. Each of the aforementioned players is/was great. The list of great players who showcased their superb talents and have brought us entertainment through the years is long. The GOAT debate is just like a championship ring. It is rounded and has no beginning or end. Discussions about it would always end in a stalemate. Nobody could definitively say who among past and present basketball players is the greatest of all time. Nobody could claim that they have a statistically sound metric to objectively determine who among those basketeers should be declared the best. Not because ESPN’s Stephen Smith says that Michael Jordan is the greatest hooper that everybody in the basketball universe would already accept it as the truth.
We cannot disregard the greatness of a certain athlete by saying that another one is better. We should not diminish LeBron’s greatness by saying that Jordan (or anyone else) is a better cager. We should learn to appreciate the accomplishments of players individually, not comparatively.
I find it amusing how the LeBron doubters would eagerly await that he fails at something or his team would not perform as well as expected for them to have something to say against him. Is it because they expect too much from him or do they just hate to see him succeed? They won’t consider him helping bring his teams (Miami & Cleveland) to eight straight finals as an accomplishment but rather a monumental failure having succeeded only thrice in those multiple trips to the NBA finals. They refuse to give him credit for leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to come back from a 1-3 deficit and win the championship citing as the reason the suspension given to Daymond Green in Game 5 of that series. They also considered the championship he won with the Lakers as insignificant because the 2020 NBA season was shortened and disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In short, his critics would always find a way to either downgrade or disregard his greatness.
But no matter what the fault-finders say, LeBron remained steadfast in his quest for greatness. At the age of 38, he remained competitive. I don’t know if any player could beat him in the category of longevity. And it is not just a matter of playing as long as they could but playing at a level the way Lebron has been doing it.
Whether he could play as long as Kareem Abdul Jabbar (who retired at the age of 42) remains to be seen. But what is certain to happen is him passing Kareem as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. As of today (01-04-23), Lebron has 37,903 points. He needs just 485 more points. He is therefore at the precipice of another great milestone. Estimates have it that sometime in February, 2023 the “Kid from Akron” will be breaking the said record that stood since 1984.
King James, for me, is an epitome of a person “aging like fine wine.” At the age of 37, (according to Forbes) LeBron James is the first active NBA player ever to become a billionaire. At the age of 38, he is about to become NBA’s all-time leading scorer. By the way, among the top 5 all-time leading scorers, he has the highest number of assists and is third in total rebounds.
We don’t know if those who despise Lebron so much would be happy to see him add all those feathers to his cap. They may be. Skip Bayless said he is. I have no reason to doubt Skip… or should I?
An Unforgettable Triumph
I am a big fan of basketball. I love the game so much. I can’t recall a day that I didn’t visit websites that cater to basketball – particularly the NBA. It is through ESPN and FOX Sports that I keep track of the standings of my favorite teams, the performance of my favorite players, and the latest developments in the world of basketball. I get updates on professional basketball in the Philippines through pba.ph.
Lebron James is still my favorite player and it is quite difficult to accept the fact that he (and the Lakers) are not playing in the playoffs. But had he not suffered that groin injury, the narrative could have been different.
I also follow college basketball both in the US and in my country. My heart bled when Zion Williamson and the Duke Blue Devils were defeated by MI State.
I could not recall missing any FIBA basketball tournaments also, especially when the Philippine team played.
I would either watch basketball games live (thanks to betting websites that stream them for free) or catch their highlights through Youtube.
I am into fantasy basketball as well. In 2016, I joined a Yahoo fantasy basketball league organized by a fellow expat here in South Korea. My team (M2 Trappers) lead by Lebron James won. For winning that tournament, I earned 80,000 won.
I also enjoy playing hoops and coaching/training a basketball team. I don’t have very fond memories as a basketball player though. I have always been a benchwarmer who would be called to play only when somebody needs to rest for a minute or two or when my team needs to send to the foul line a poor free throw shooter from the opposing team.
However, my being a basketball coach-trainer is a different story. It’s a colorful one.
Aside from teaching and writing, another thing that I do passionately is coaching a basketball team. I have coached basketball teams for school and inter-school competitions. Once upon a time that I was also a manager and coach of a basketball team in the barrio (a geographical unit smaller than a town ) where I am residing in the Philippines.
Some of the teams I coached reached championship rounds. There were times we ended up as runner-ups but of course there were times also that we emerged as champions.
What I consider as the most memorable of all the basketball championships in my collection is the one my team won during a sportsfest (in the college where I worked) many years ago. That time I coached students taking the course Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM).
It was a championship so hard to forget because the manner it was won was too good to be true.
It was epic!
I actually wrote an article about that championship run. It was published in the school paper that year. I decided to reprint here the said article entitled “No Championship Could Be Sweeter.”
No Championship Could Be Sweeter
What inspired me to write about the championship which my team (BLUE) collared during the Sportsfest 2000 was not the desire to brag about it nor an intention to magnify our triumph. We could brag about it should we decide to do so but there was no need for that. No need to magnify it either for winning the basketball men crown in the fashion the HRM team did it was in itself huge that need not be magnified. Writing about it is simply my way of giving tribute to the players who immortalized themselves in the memory of those who watched (as well as those who heard) how they bravely persevered in winning three (3) games in a span of six (6) hours en route to winning the title.
(August 23, 2000)
The BLUE team was loaded with talent making them one of the pre-tournament favorites. The team had 2 good point guards, a shooting guard/forward capable of shooting the lights out from beyond the arch, a lanky dependable center, and a formidable go-to guy who can play point-forward. Predictions had it that they will vie for the championship.
But predictions can go either way…right or wrong.
The BLUE team’s lofty billing (and their morale) were sent crashing back to earth when the BLACK team (Com Sci – Octoberian), the defending champion seeking to “three-peat” and composed mainly of the members of the school’s basketball varsity, dealt them an ego-bruising trashing.
All the hype about the BLUE team were gone. Just that and they were no longer regarded as title contenders. Suddenly, the BLACK team had no more competition to being the darling of the tournament and became the sole favorite to win the crown.
While the BLACKS developed a cloak of invisibility, the BLUES, with their defeat right on their first game, began to doubt their capabilities.
(August 24, 2000)
Such a doubt in themselves became very apparent when in their second game on the second day of the tournament, despite the fact that they had a relatively light assignment (against the GRAY team), they held only a 2-point lead at the half.
Before that game, I talked to the players, pointed out the mistakes which led to their eventual defeat to the BLACKS on their first game and asked them to avoid committing the same. We were literally on a cliff’s edge for the tournament format provides that 2 losses would boot a team out of the competition.
Somehow they responded. They made a conscious effort to avoid their loopholes in game 1 but the problem during the first half of game 2 was their lack of enthusiasm. They played a lackluster brand of basketball which was giving their opponents confidence. So, during the huddle when the second half was about to start, I started cursing and swearing and even called my key players names. I told them that they would become a shameful bunch of idiots should they lose the game.
Cursing and swearing and calling my players names come dead last in my repertoire of motivational methods. I was forced to use them for it was my intention to offend them, make them angry, and push them to prove that they indeed know how to play basketball.
For the first few minutes of the second half my players played like men possessed in both ends of the floor. While they scored an avalanche of points their counterparts struggled and had to bleed for theirs. At the end, the BLUES emerged victorious with plenty to spare.
(August 25, 2000)
The third game was very meaningful and integral. Not because we won over a formidable opponent (the GREEN team); not because I finally discovered the team’s best offensive and defensive combinations; and not because the players got their confidence back burying in oblivion the ghosts of game 1. It was meaningful and integral for what one of my players did (not in the playing court but before the start of the game). When I granted him permission to talk he reminded me about one missing ingredient to make the team stronger…PRAYERS. He asked if we could pray before the game. He put me in an awkward position because I’ve never done that. Yes I believe in God and I pray but I do it privately. I don’t know if it was his way of telling me that instead of cursing and swearing to motivate the players why not try praying to God instead. Praying before playing wouldn’t do the team any harm. Nobody objected to it. So, from then on, we would always have a short prayer in one corner of the tournament venue before entering the playing court.
For our second win, we claimed the scalps of the GREENS and faced the tall order of defeating the WHITES for the right to square off against the BLACKS (who enjoyed a twice-to-beat advantage) for the championship.
That night was almost a sleepless one for me. I pondered about the bleak prospects that await my team the following day. We had to beat the WHITES once the BLACKS twice so we could hoist the championship hardware.
Winning three games in a row was a tall order. Honestly, I doubted our chances. Defeating the equally-determined WHITES in the do-or-die game and the seemingly invincible BLACKS twice all in the same day was “mission impossible.” I believed it was probable for us to win the first two games. But when the third game comes, it would take super-human efforts from my players to win.
(August 26, 2000)
I was so disappointed upon seeing that morning that of my 14 players only 7 came. To make matters worse, one of my two good point guards, was one of those who did not come. I used to play both my point guards together during the 1st 5 minutes of the game and one of them not showing up affected my rotation. But we were at the point of no return.
I told the players to employ a half-court offense in every possession unless there’s a clear fastbreak opportunity. Not that they can’t run but with only 7 players, and with the possibility of playing a total of three games that day, they needed to conserve energy.
Though I predicted a win for us, the WHITES we knew were tough nuts to crack. We watched the previous day how they gave the BLACKS a scare before losing by just two points. But as it turned out, my players were tougher. Despite playing with only 7 men in the rotation, the BLUES won and primed themselves for the daunting task of defeating the BLACK team twice for the crown.
Our team was given by the tournament officials just half an hour to rest before we began with the championship game. We prayed, as usual, before entering the playing court. Then one more of my players came, not the good point guard, but an additional pair of fresh legs just the same that somehow deepened a bit our rotation.
While the BLACKS were busy with their pre-game rituals, I asked my players to just shoot free throws and catch-and-shoot from the 3-point line to conserve their energy.
I reminded the players that they were up against the defending champion with most of the members playing together for the past three years and that they were trying to nail another championship to complete a “three-peat.” I told the BLUES that only them are capable of spoiling the BLACK’s impending victory party. The following were my words for them before the opening tip-off… “You have nothing to lose but everything to gain. We’ve gone this far. Let’s go a bit further.”
Once more I asked them to use the game plan we employed against the WHITES earlier that day.
When the final buzzer for that game sounded, the BLUES raised their hands in triumph.
By winning against their first-game tormentors, the blue team effectively exorcised the ghosts of that defeat shattering at the same time the BLACKS’ cloak of invisibility. That was the first time in three years that that team suffered a defeat. At that time my players knew that they were capable of defeating the defending champions. The players of the opposing team recognized also that despite having only 8 players our team could defeat them.
The winner-take-all match was scheduled to be played at 1:00 PM giving both teams just one hour to rest. My players had a light meal and I bought for them energy drinks (Lipovitan). Then, we again prayed… harder… for we all knew that it would take a miraculous performance from them to win a third straight game (twice) against the BLACKS who had more players and fresher legs.
My players were very tired having played twice in the morning that day. Fatigue was one of the two formidable opponents they needed to contend with that afternoon the second one being the strong and determined team BLACK aching to avenge their defeat and continue their winning tradition.
However, neither fatigue nor the strong determination of their opponents could prevent the BLUE team from realizing their victorious date with destiny.
The BLUES vanquished the BLACKS, crowned themselves the school’s Sportsfest 2000 Basketball-Men champions and handed me my first (and sweetest) championship as a basketball coach.
Thank you Niño, Hector, Ramon, Irish, Edward, Ruel, Rommel, Rowell, Arnold, Jaysan, Francis, Ivan, Angelo, Audie, and Sir Jyx. But remember…it was GOD who made it possible for us.
Warriors-Cavs: It’s 3-1…Again
The Cavs avoided the dreaded broom and prevented the Warriors from celebrating a historic sweet 16-0 Playoffs sweep.
The Warriors’ flirtation with a perfect Playoffs record ended. However, despite losing Game 4, the faithful citizens of Dub Nation are not worried believing that the 2017 NBA Larry O’Brien trophy is still heading to the San Francisco Bay area. They may be right for it would take a super human effort to win 4 straight games against their “juggernaut” of a team.
It may seem a tall order to recover from a 0-3 hole to make a series a little more competitive but it has been done in the past. NBA records show that there were 9 teams that forced a Game 6 after losing the first three games and 3 forced a game 7.
It would take a super human effort for the Cavs to win 4 straight games against the “juggernaut” Warriors. They had that kind of effort in Game 4 clinching them a win. But still the “Hydra” from San Francisco Bay is up 3-1. Do the Cav’s “Hercules” (Lebron) still have what it takes to slay the many-headed monster? The Cavs indeed face a herculean task of clawing back from a 1-3 hole. They did it last year. Would they be able to do it again this year? They cut one of the Hydra’s head (Curry) last year. But cut one head and two heads would emerge from the fresh wound. It happened. Curry’s back playing healthy and with him sprang the Hydra’s additional head, Durant!
All roads lead to the Oracle, not of Delphi, but the arena in San Franciso on Monday night! Let’s see who the basketball gods favor this time.
The New York Knicks snared 3 consecutive wins after losing the first 3 games of the 1951 NBA Finals to push the Rochester Royals to a deciding Game 7. The Knicks lost the deciding game though, something that the Warriors could hope would happen should the Cavs, again, succeed in bringing the series to a winner-take-it-all finale.
The Warriors and their legion of hopefuls are counting on the fact the no NBA team has brought home the championship trophy after going down 0-3. But the Cavs and their throng of believers are certainly not looking at the picture anymore as rising from a 0-3 grave but climbing a 1-3 mountain. And there was a team who succeeded in scaling that mountain to become NBA champions…the Cavs themselves.
Déjà vu? Not exactly.
Just like last year, after four games, the Warriors are up 3-1. Then, horrendously, they dropped the next 3.
Will history repeat itself?
However, the circumstances (which favor the Warriors) are much different this year. Now the Warriors have a Kevin Durant and a healthier Stephen Curry. These are the reasons that made basketball experts believe that it’s almost impossible for the Cavs to recover from either a 0-3 or a 1-3 deficit.
But, again, nobody knows what would happen. With Lebron finally getting ample support from Irving and Love, the Cavs are harder to beat. It’s worth noticing that when Smith finally got out of his scoring slump, they almost won in Game 3. Smith again came out to play in Game 4 scoring 5 threes and Tristan Thompson, finally, played the way he was expected to contributing 10 boards and 5 points. Finally, the Cavs won. Not only that Lebron’s teammates started contributing, but the Cavs are also finally shooting better from downtown.
Analysts of the game are unanimous in saying that the Warriors need to need to win Game 5 to end the series. If not, the possibility of a playing a game 7 is strong. Then, it can be anybody’s ballgame.