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Basketball experts were proven right with their prediction. The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers are locking horns for the 3rd time in 3 years for the right to hoist the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship trophy.

The Warriors almost effortlessly destroyed the pretenders to their throne in the West during the regular season while the Cavs performed erratically relegating themselves to 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

With their (the Cavs’) lethargic performance during the 82-game grind, the “uninitiated” were quick to dismiss the defending champs doubting their chance of reaching the championship round. Conversely, those with keener basketball sense knew that the Cavs were either disinterested in winning games that do not count or were simply reserving their strength for the playoffs.

The inconsistencies on the part of the Cavs could also be attributed to injuries to key players, the need to rest the stars of the team, and the mid-season changes in their line-up.

But when the playoffs gates were opened, the Cavs were like hungry lions unleashed. The players who came back from injury got their rhythm back, the new players got fully integrated into the system, and their key players were seemingly playing with fresher legs and sharper focus. Result? They decimated their playoff opponents, losing only once to the top-seeded Boston Celtics for an impressive 12-1 win-loss record in the playoffs.

More impressive though is the Warriors’ clean slate (12-0). They did not lose a single game in the Western Conference playoffs. However, some experts are not giving the Warriors full credit for such a feat due to Kawhi Leonard’s injury in Game 1 of the Warriors-Spurs series. Many even believe that the Warriors would have lost that game had Leonard not gotten injured.

As it is, it’s Warriors versus Cavs once more.

The oddsmakers installed the Warriors (-270) as the heavy favorites and the Cavs (+230), the underdogs.1

Even majority of ESPN sportswriters predict that the NBA trophy will be reclaimed by the San Francisco Bay team. 23 out of 28 who were asked see the Warriors winning the championship with 8 of them saying that the Cavs might win just a single game.

That much respect the Warriors are given. That’s nothing new for the Cavs. They’re in a familiar territory.

The Cavs were also the underdogs in 2015 NBA Finals. The Warriors defeated them 4 games to 2 but it should be noted that that series was played without Kevin Love when he suffered an injury in the Cavs’ playoffs series with the Boston Celtics. Kyrie Irving got injured as well in Game 1 and did not play the rest of the championship series. But notwithstanding the injuries to those key players, the Cavs extended the series to a game 6 even managing to race to a 2-1 lead.

In the 2016 NBA Finals, the Cavs were give the same tag (underdogs) with the Warriors being predicted to breeze through them having then achieved a seemingly improbable NBA milestone… they set a regular season 73-9 win-lose record eclipsing the Chicago Bulls’ record of 72-10 that stood for 21 years. And when the Warriors raced to a 3-1 lead, their fans started to release the confetti in celebration.

But the whole sporting world knows what happened. the basketball gods had other plans. They allowed the team from Cleveland to set a seemingly improbable record of their own. Given up for dead, the Cavs, with all their key players finally playing together in championship games, rose from the grave to become the first team ever to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA championship.

That was of course, the most painful way to lose a championship. The Dub nation knows that. They are aching for a payback. They were aware that during the 2015 NBA Championship, the Cavs, with Lebron James as the only legit superstar in the lineup to carry the team, they were stretched to a Game 6. The following year (in the 2016 championship series), they witnessed  how potent was the combination of Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love that even when they had what was believed to be an insurmountable 3-1 lead, they lost.

The Golden State Warriors’ front office have probably concluded that the team’s main core of Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have had and will have a hard time dealing with the Cav’s troika of Lebron, Kyrie and Kevin. So, they recruited another superstar… Kevin Durant.

Now, the Warriors have 4 superstars as against 3 of the Cavs. Thus, it doesn’t take a genius to understand why the former are the overwhelming favorites to win the 2017 NBA Championship trophy.

Why is it logical and completely understandable that the Golden State Warriors are heavily favored?

With the inclusion of Durant, the Warriors now have 2 MVPs in their lineup bringing to 4 the total of All-star players in the team. They also registered the best win-loss record in the regular season (67-15) winning 27 of their last 28 games including 12 straight in the playoffs. NBA records show that they ranked first in offense and their defensive efficiency is way above the league average.

On the other hand, the Cavs came 4th in offense and way below the league average in defensive efficiency.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to write-off the Cavs. Why? They have Lebron James in the line-up who knows what it takes to win. He’s been playing superbly in the playoffs. And don’t forget the brilliance of Kyrie and the resurgence of Kevin, not to mention the quiet effectiveness of Tristan Thompson who might as well be the 4th superstar in Cav’s uniform. If Tristan Thompson does not deliver the way he used to (and the way he ought to) and the Cavs end up losing the NBA crown, then the front office of the Cleveland Cavaliers must recruit an additional player, another superstar, in response to the Warriors adding a Kevin Durant in their line-up for clearly, if there’s one reason the NBA championship trophy returns to the San Fracisco Bay area, it’s Durant.

But as the late coach Rudy Tomjanovich said after the Houston Rockets repeated as NBA champions in 1995, “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of the champion!” However, as to which NBA champions (2015 or 2016?) would say so when the current NBA season concludes, remains to be seen.


1Source: Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook (Thru: NBA-ESPN)

2 Source:


A Championship Too Hard To Forget

15696372_10154811800579844_44703450_oHow do I love the game of basketball? Let me the count the ways.

I love it to the point that I can’t recall a day when I didn’t open, PBA (Philippine Basketball Association), and other websites related to basketball in order to watch games, keep track of the standings of my favorite teams and the performance of my favorite players. I also follow college basketball both in the US and in my country.

What about this –  I’m into fantasy basketball. I used to manage a team in Yahoo Fantasy Basketball.

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 – 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. I was also once 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) 16 years ago. That time I coached students taking the course Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM).

It was a championship so hard to forget because it was too good to be true.

It was indeed an epic struggle!

I actually wrote an article about that championship run. It was published in the publication of that school. I decided to reprint the said article which I entitled “No Championship Could Be Sweeter.”


Neither to brag about nor to magnify the championship in men’s basketball which the BLUE team collared during the Sportsfest 2000 inspired me to write about it. No need to brag for bragging is a moronic attitude. 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 6 hours en route to winning the title.

(August 23, 2000)

The BLUE team was undoubtedly laden 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 – Oct), 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 the sole favorite to win the crown.

While the BLACKS developed a cloak of invincibility, the BLUES, with their defeat right on their first gamet, 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 to all and sundry that they are not imbecilic basketeers.

It worked!

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. 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 showed. 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 invincibility. That was the first time in three years that that team suffered a defeat. At that time both the BLUES and the BLACKS knew that the latter can be defeated.

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 miracle and 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 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.

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