Posts Tagged ‘Kobe Bryant’

As of this posting, the questions surrounding if Kobe Bryant would play or not after suffering a broken nose and concussion at this year’s NBA All-Star game have been answered. Bryant returned against the Minnesota Timberwolves and dropped 31 points, along with almost getting a triple-double – all while wearing a Richard Hamilton-esque protective mask. He continues to play at a high level this season, currently tied with 2 other players for the most 30-point games in the league this year (14).

Kobe Bryant is really a cybernetic killer sent from the future to kill the dreams of rising NBA stars...

Kobe’s not human in the traditional sense of what we’re used to in the NBA. The injuries and afflictions he’s played through are the stuff of legend, so few (if any) thought there was a chance he’d miss this game. Personally, I knew of another reason why he wouldn’t miss the game – it was reported that during the All-Star festivities in Orlando, young rookie sensation Ricky Rubio had the intestinal fortitude (read: guts) to talk trash to Kobe about his team’s upcoming game with L.A. (the majority of media outlets missed a golden opportunity to add to the storyline by not including that nugget of info that was mentioned on TNT). Knowing that, I knew Kobe was going to be on that court no matter what. And I knew he was going to have a high performance. Kobe doesn’t take well to unproven young bucks talking trash to him – especially when he’s spanked that young pup before (Rubio was on the Spanish national team that Kobe obliterated to win gold in the last Olympics).

But there’s something currently happening that I really don’t think people have taken stock of (which made it the perfect topic for me to write about). And that is…

People are no longer scared of Kobe Bryant.

Let me be clear – no one was ever scared of him the way they were a Charles Oakley, younger Ron Artest, Detroit Bad Boys, etc. But Kobe has the reputation of an assassin and a cold-blooded killer on the court, and rightfully so. He’s made a career of taking down players, teams, organizations, etc. – with a ruthless drive only matched by his idol, Michael Jordan. His reel of game-winning shots is crazy. The amount of players – current and former – who have been schooled by the man is extensive. And, regardless of what any detractors say – even right now, the only guy who can shut Kobe down is Kobe himself.

But the years have caught up with The Mamba.

This isn’t saying I agree with the foolish narrative that he’s “lost it” or that he’s old and on the way out – because common sense and a working pair of eyes will clearly tell you different. But Bryant himself will tell you he’s not as fast as he once was (the man was an absolute blur on a fastbreak during the Lakers’ three-peat). His game has been modified the same way Jordan modified his during his 2nd three-peat – he now works to get himself enough space to get off a good shot, not to drive to the basket for a dunk or acrobatic layup. Oh, he can still drive – and dunk – but 16 years of wear and tear behooves him to not do so for 82 games AND playoffs.

And if he makes 1st team All-NBA Defense this year, it would be criminal.

Last year, he played on knees with very little cartilage left in them, and on a bad ankle. He was still able to be one of the Top 5 players in the league, but his limitations were really exposed against the New Orleans Hornets in the playoffs. With the Lakers point guards getting killed by Chris Paul, Kobe took it upon himself to stop the diminutive megastar. Only a funny thing happened – Kobe couldn’t stop him. At all. True, his injuries were a big factor in this – but for 7 games, Kobe was as hapless as his teammates to stop CP3. Which had never happened.

It was all over once Rocky saw that Drago was cut. Kobe - take notes.

It’s not like this was some awakening for the rest of the players in the league. But what it actually was, moreso, was an indication of what has transpired in the mindset of the league’s other star guards and small forwards – he can be touched. He’s not invincible. It’s the equivalent of when Rocky cut Ivan Drago in Rocky IV…his corner famously told him as they looked across the ring at the bleeding Russian “You see?? You see?!? He’s not a machine, he’s a man! He’s A MAN!!!” The same with Kobe. His peers respect him, and even still marvel at him. Make no mistake about it – every player younger than Bryant looks at him the way he himself looked at Jordan. But, just as Kobe wanted to BEAT Jordan, and went all out to do so at every opportunity – the younger stars in the league want to do the same to him.

Because Bryant is the standard of excellence in the league. And everyone wants to measure themselves by beating that standard. And there’s the sense that it’s possible now. Not that it’s able to be done by anyone – it’s still easier said than done – but just that’s it’s possible. Before last year, I get the sense that the only player in the league who truly thought he was just as good if not better than Kobe was Dwayne Wade. He’s always carried himself the same way Kobe does – “Ain’t nobody f’n with me on this court”. Which is why Kobe has always respected him – D.Wade’s coming out party as a star was against Kobe. The first Lakers-Heat matchup after the Shaq trade, on Christmas day…the game was billed as Shaq vs. Kobe, but what actually happened was Kobe vs. D.Wade. Mano y mano, blow for blow, unstoppable force vs. unstoppable force – both men jawing in each other’s faces, neither backing down, but Wade inexplicably being able to actually DO it – go toe to toe with Bryant. Miami got the win, and the world’s eyes locked on Wade and have been on him as a star ever since. Before then…he was what Kyrie Irving is now – a great star that NBA heads know about, but not a mainstream, megastar. Irving is Wade before the Kobe Christmas game.

Wade, of course, is the reason Bryant was doing his best Phantom Of The Opera impersonation against the T-Wolves. While I buy that he wasn’t trying to hurt Bryant, the attention given to the foul isn’t unwarranted. As many Lakers players have said, it was an all-star game – Wade’s excuse that Kobe had fouled him twice prior doesn’t fly. B-ball heads will recognize Wade’s foul as the same hard foul that’s given to send a message. And that message is “you won’t be just getting any easy dunks or layups”. With the softer rules and fact that players are much more buddy-buddy now, you don’t see it from as many players or even as frequently. But you DO see it. Especially from bigger men and those with an old school mentality. Kevin Garnett, Kurt Thomas, Juwan Howard, Kendrick Perkins, Raja Bell, Ron Artest, Matt Barnes – these are all players who will give that foul in a regular season game to a guy. And in the playoffs, many players will do it – Bryant himself famously threw Dwight Howard to the floor in the NBA Finals.

But not in an all-star game. But again – this stems from the desire to beat Bryant and not be subject to his dominance. Kobe had been eating Wade up to that point, and talking junk to boot. The play itself – Kobe juiced Wade, and was certainly going to go up for a 2-hand dunk. Look again:

Wade, though not trying to hurt Kobe, doesn’t do that to any other star. Guaranteed. No, it’s my opinion the competitive spirit within was just about sick of Kobe scoring and then letting him hear about it. Add some intense defense on Wade – you get, as Reggie Miller said, “the first flagrant foul in all-star history”.

Now just look over the course of this season. Jeremy Lin had his career high against who? Kobe’s Lakers. James Harden was seen talking smack to Kobe for a good chunk of the 4th quarter in the Lakers’ recent loss to the OKC Thunder (until Metta World Peace entered the picture and literally pushed him away – no non-big man is stupid enough to mess with Metta). Though not a single expert, analyst or even NBA insider is picking the Lakers to win the championship this year – every team seems to get up and get excited at the prospect of playing them. They don’t get anywhere near as excited for playing the champs, the Dallas Mavericks. Or for playing the Celtics, or the Thunder, or the Chicago Bulls. The only teams that match the excitement drawn by the Lakers – the NY Knicks and Miami Heat. Why? Their stars.

And best believe, no one gets up to play L.A. if Kobe isn’t playing. No one is geeked to beat Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Sorry.

Kobe has made the transition from invincible star and idol to marked man. The same way people went at Jordan late in his career – including Kobe. Remember that all-star game where Kobe tried to go at Jordan, and Jordan SCHOOLED the young pup?

Yeah. It was BAD. But you know what happened when Kobe got the chance to pay MJ when he was a Wizard? He made sure to have big games. In fact – in Michael Jordan’s last trip to L.A., Kobe stole the show by scoring 55 points. I’ll never forget it, because my boy Dre knew Kobe did that on purpose. And so did everyone watching. He wanted to make his mark against the best. He wanted to show Jordan was the best – and that at that point, he was NOW the best.

This is what’s currently happening to Kobe in the league – he’s a marked man. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Deron Williams – virtually any star you can name wants a piece of both Kobe and his Lakers. No one goes at Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan like that – even though they’re from the same generation and are all-time greats themselves. Which makes Kobe’s performance this year all that more impressive – even though the hunter has become the hunted, the old hunter is still leading the league as THE apex predator of the NBA.

There are a lot of potential contenders for the throne. But make no mistake – while the “best of” debate for the younger players shifts from Durant to Rose to Wade to LeBron on any given week, those players themselves are gunning for the top dog – Kobe. And all of Kobe’s talking, preparation, modifications, etc. is to fight off both Father Time and the young pups nipping at his heels for the undisputed title of best on the planet.

Because as long as he’s still playing at a high level, leading the league, dominating all-star votes, garnering not only America’s attention but the entire global basketball community’s – none of them can claim King of The Hill. It was like when Muhammad Ali was fighting – no one could truly claim to be “The Man” until he was permanently out of the picture.

The problem is – Kobe’s not ready to give it up. Not yet. And while he’s more vulnerable than he’s ever been – that doesn’t mean he’s ripe to be knocked off his perch. He’s lost a step, and beats people more on b-ball IQ than athleticism – but Jordan did the same thing his entire 2nd three-peat. As long as he stays healthy, I think Kobe could play at a top ten level for another 2-3 years.

Whether Kobe will get his desired 6th championship ring before retiring is anybody’s guess. But one thing’s for sure – Kobe knows that all these players who have idolized him now want to beat him – and some want to be him. And similar to his idol, Jordan – Kobe intends to keep them from taking his spot as long as possible.

How long can he do this? Your guess is as good as mine. But it will be enjoyable watching to see them attempt to topple the current Lord Of The Rings.

Yes - even your favorite Marvel superheroes want a piece of The Black Mamba.

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Well, we’re about 20 games into the abbreviated post-2011 lockout season of the NBA. Thus far, ratings are up, excitement is evident and injuries are building up (they always DO after a lockout). Outside of the obvious big storylines (Miami Heat as the favorites, Lakers vs. Clippers is relevant now, where is Dwight Howard going), I figured I’d look at 10 things you may or may not have noticed, considered or thought about.

 

The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference this season.

1. Atlanta, Indiana & Philadelphia are surprise power teams in the Eastern Conference (so far) – It’s true. Take a look at the top 5 spots in the East – these team occupy spots 3-5. And if you’re telling me you thought that would be the case before the season began and you’re NOT a fan of any of those teams, I’m calling you a liar. The obvious retort anyone can offer – it’s the Eastern Conference. It’s been weak for well over a decade. This is true, but you have to still play your schedule, and thus far, these teams are winning. Atlanta has even beat Chicago, Miami and Portland; and Indiana boasts wins over the Lakers and Chicago (Philly has been beating up on weaker teams). Just under one-third of the season has been played, so there’s still time for things to getter better or worse for all 3 squads – but the fact they’re all currently doing better than New York, Boston and Orlando has to be noticed and applauded.

 

2. Kobe Bryant truly may not be human – No, really. Forget the fact that regardless of the same doubters and haters who come out the woodwork yearly, this guy proves himself to be amongst the absolute best in the game. Forget that he’s killing the league in his 16th season. I don’t think people understand how insane it is that he’s playing with his wrist injury. And doing it well. By comparison, Rajon Rondo hasn’t been able to play in 5 games, and can’t even shoot or dribble consistently. And he doesn’t have torn ligaments that should require surgery. Luol Deng has an injury like Kobe’s, but not as severe – on his left hand. His non-shooting hand. He requires surgery (as Kobe was supposed to get), and he’s been missing games too.

Kobe hasn’t missed a single game. Compare this to the injuries he’s played through over the years – he once separated his shoulder and shot left-handed for a number of games, to good effect at that – and the only thing I can come up with is this dude is one of those mutants we see in the X-Men universe. That’s the only explanation for a guy who routinely plays with injuries that sideline every other NBA player for weeks and months.

 

The common denominator in terms of all the problems with the Knicks' play? Mike D'Antoni.

3. Mike D’Antoni SUCKS – I’ve gotten to the point in sports where hearing certain opinions about things lets me know the difference between people who really watch the sport and those who let ESPN tell them how things are. The “Knicks/’Melo/Amar’e sucks!” opinions are an example of this. No, there’s nothing wrong with any of those players on that team. They are who they are, and WHAT they are. In particular, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler were all extremely successful for their previous teams – you’re telling me they got together and just became terrible? That they inexplicably have no idea how to play together?

All of those guys knew how to play during Olympic try-outs and on those squads. Every other superstar pairing over the past few years doesn’t seem to have issues working out the gate – Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Clippers this year, etc. What gives? It’s the coach.

It would take me too long to spell it all out – that’s an article in and of itself. If you’re interested in understanding how it’s the coach, there’s a pretty good article I’ve read that echoes what I’ve thought for a long time about D’Antoni here. But it’s NOT the players – a good coach would have this team near the top of the East, easy. And non-knowledgeable Knicks fans are running out of excuses – you can’t even say Denver is winning with the Knicks’ old players, because 2 of those players are already gone from the team (Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler), one gets limited minutes (Timofey Mozgov) and the other is putting up Carmelo-esque numbers at times ever since he began playing for a good coach (George Karl).

And for anyone who was riding the “It’s ‘Melo’s fault” train – remind me – how have the Knicks been doing without Mr. Anthony??

Oh.

Place the blame where it belongs – coaching and inept management.

 

4. Chris Bosh and Kevin Love are under-the-radar BEASTS – Yup. They sure are. Look at their numbers – Kevin Love gives you 25 points, 14 rebounds and a steal and is shooting 41% from three – and he’s a power forward. Bosh’s numbers are 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, a block, 55% overall from the field and 33% from three – again, at the power forward position. Those numbers increased when Dwayne Wade was been out of the Heat lineup – he averaged 27 points without his all-star 2-guard.

Neither man is flashy nor do they consistently provide the ESPN Top Ten highlights casual viewers crave. They suffer from Tim Duncan syndrome – they provide steady, consistent production, and are huge assets – but get overshadowed by the highlight-driven, guard-led highlight packages. But make no mistake about it – they are playing out of this world, and are they keys to their teams success. That’s right – I just called Bosh the key to Miami’s success over LeBron AND Wade. Because if he’s a totally unstoppable beast in the playoffs with those guys doing their thing?? Who gon’ stop them?? Well – it’s possible. But not highly likely…

 

5. David Stern is completely full of hot, steaming CACA – Okay, you already knew this. I’m sure I’m surprising exactly no one with that declaration. However, I’m specifically referring to a little something the little bastard said after he traded Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul to the Clippers…wait – what’s that, you say? Chauncey Billups was picked up in free agency, not in a trade? Uh-huh – sure. YOU believe that if you want. Most NBA insiders certainly don’t – and Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski referenced the shadiness all the way back in December (read that article here).

Back to what The Runt Who Would Be King said: “Tonight’s transaction is better

David Stern - or as Laker fans like to call him - @#$%^&*!!!

for the Hornets than the transaction that I did not sign off on four days ago.” Really? Okay – let’s look at the facts. The New Orleans Hornets are currently fighting the Charlotte Bobcats to see who can be the absolute worst team in the league. You’re telling me that the pieces they got in that trade are better than Kevin Martin (currently averaging 20 points per game), 6th Man Of The Year Lamar Odom, Luis Scola (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Goran Dragic?? In fairness, SG Eric Gordon has been hurt – but Gordon IS injury-prone. So you know that going in.

And to add to what a farce this trade was – the Hornets are currently shopping center Chris Kaman (whom was one of the players acquired) for a trade. He’s not even playing any longer.

No one who knows ball could rationally  compare the pieces in those trades and think the Hornets did better with the second one. Oh, they got the Minnesota Timberwolves’ unprotected #1 pick as well too, right? That should be worth something – except the T-Wolves are flirting with a .500 record. Oops – that supposedly valuable pick might not even wind up being a lottery pick. So Houston’s 1st round draft pick might wind up being only a few spots away from that pick. Essentially, they have the same value.

Yup. Stern is a shiester. And the excuse of not wanting Chris Paul to go to a big market – um, he still winded up in L.A., as I’ve pointed out before. That was jealous owners (Michael Jordan, Dan Gilbert and Mark Cuban, amongst others) not wanting him to go to the Lakers. And that’s just wackness. But make no mistake – Stern is full of more manure than even you possibly could imagine. He’s the Dung Beetle of sports commissioners. And that’s saying a lot.

 

Being the greatest NBA player of all time hasn't helped Jordan when it comes to running a team. At all.

6. The Charlotte Bobcats SUCK, and I love it – No offense to my North Carolina readers. But after being one of the biggest reasons FOR the lockout happening and the length of it, in addition to crying like a little b***h when the Lakers made the (rescinded) trade for Chris Paul, I’m very happy to see Michael Jordan have to watch his team stink it up every night. He had 2 top draft picks, and they’re doing absolutely nothing in terms of stopping the suckitude in Charlotte. Stephen Jackson, Emeka Okafor, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace are just some of the good players that His Douchey-ness Airness couldn’t figure out how to get wins with. I’ve never really liked the guy as a person, but of course I respect him as the game’s greatest player. But after his crabbiness in the past few months…I will take great joy in seeing things he’s involved with FAIL. As I’m currently doing – happily.

 

7. Ricky Rubio Is The Real Deal – we were all waiting to see if he could live up to the hype, and most of us figured “no”. Um…have you watched this kid play?? 11 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and steals – off the bench?? Wow. And the questions about whether he can shoot – he sure looks like he’s shooting on an NBA level to me, seeing as his 3-point percentage is at 35% and overall FG% is 37. And he can still improve.

This kid has Steve Nash Jr. written all over him.

 

8. Injuries Are Piling Up – So far this year, Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowtizki, Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Al Horford, Zach Randolph, Deron Williams and Stephen Curry have all missed significant time due to injuries. And that’s just the superstars’ whose names came to me off the top of the head – there’s a gazillion non-superstar players with injuries.

The lockout, outside of being completely unnecessary and idiotic, is killing players in the injury department. Nice job, owners. Putzes.

 

9. The West Is Still The Best – Don’t believe me? 10 out of 16 teams in the Western Conference have records over .500. In the East? That number dips to just 6 teams. And in the East, pretty much everyone acknowledges it comes down to Chicago and Miami for who comes out of the conference. The West? Claim can be made for OKC, San Antonio, Dallas, Portland, Denver and both L.A. teams. That’s a lot of options, and a lot of competition.

I have no idea when The East will rise again. But it hasn’t been the better conference since the 90s – and even if you go back then, both conferences were really competitive. So I actually can’t even remember when the East was demonstratively better than the West…if you’re only comparing teams and not Finals wins.

News of the Boston Celtics' demise has been greatly exaggerated.

10. The Boston Celtics can beat The Miami Heat in a 7-game playoff series – I’m just saying. I figured I’d put this here so I can be held to that…as I’ve said it and been told I’m crazy to think so. Boston got out to a slow start, but look at them lately…they’re gelling, and looking pretty damned competitive. Dare I say it – they’re starting to look good. And this isn’t a team meant to get an impressive regular season record – this is a team made to make a run in the playoffs. And that’s all they want to do – make the playoffs. When I look at the players, matchups, coaching, etc. – call it a hunch, call it intuition – I just see Boston being able to pull the upset off. I know people will disagree and call them old, etc. – remember. Boston 2 years ago made LeBron James crawl in a shell and completely give up.

All I’m saying – I can see an upset happening if a healthy Boston team faces Miami. Remember I said it.

As always, feedback is highly encouraged and sought out. What do you think? Agree or disagree? Things to add? I’d love to see it. And don’t forget to spread the word – have your friends and family add the blog on Facebook and subscribe to get e-mail updates for new posts when they go up.

As always…Shoot, Pass, Quibble!

Hello, everyone. Happy New Year to all who have read or kept up with Shoot, Pass, Quibble! since this blog’s inception. Admittedly, in the waning weeks and months of 2011, my writing trailed off due to becoming increasingly busy in life, and not really wanting to keep up with things as much as I’d like in terms of daily writing. However, if you were on Facebook and had added the SPQ page, you know that I often posted various sports articles, news bits, blogs and updates – and provided commentary and opinion on those things posted.

I thank you all for keeping up with SPQ, and hope to be able to offer articles and insight on a more regular basis in 2012. Having a blog is indeed like having a second job – but I do enjoy it.

I won’t rehash stories and subjects that have obviously been dealt with, written about, and talked about – but here are my thoughts on a few things:

  • It’s been so gratifying to see Cam Newton break all types of rookie records and be one of the biggest stars in the NFL this season. I LOVE that all these chumps had to shut their mouths since about week 5 about him when they had written the book about him. I also love the shine Tim Tebow got, although it’s very clear – he has a lot to learn at the QB position. Still, I love the kid’s moxie and leadership.
  • Good offensive coordinator. BAD coach.

    I find it inexplicable that I know a handful of people who actually think Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey is good at his job. Like…it’s not even close. And if you look back, I SAID what would hurt the Bills in the long run would be coaching. I don’t want to hear they had injuries – EVERY team had injuries. The NY Giants lost almost their entire starting defense, and lost their TE, starting RB, and both starting WRs at different points this season. They won the NFC East. No, Chan sucks. No qualifier.

    Any time you put together consecutive loss streaks of at least 7 games in back-to-back seasons? Only a delusional person can defend that, in my opinion.

  • Now that the NBA is back, don’t believe the hype that the older teams will all suck and the teams with younger players will dominate. It will be hard, but if they can avoid injuries – the veteran-heavy teams will be able to maintain.
  • You’re a complete fool if you’re one of the people who subscribes to the belief that Kobe Bryant has “lost it”. Not a single NBA coach or GM would agree with you.
  • I don’t care about the BCS title game. At all. That may sound crazy to some, but I truly have no desire to see a LSU-Alabama rematch. I stopped watching the first game at halftime.
  • Though some might call me biased because it’s my alma mater…if you haven’t had a chance to see #1 Syracuse play basketball, you need to. They are by far the best team in the country. This may be the best complete squad Jim Boeheim has ever had. And that says A LOT – because he’s had some killer squads.
  • Color me tickled that people argued with me that both Tiki Barber and Terrell Owens would be on NFL rosters this season – when I said before the season began there was no chance…
  • The Oakland Raiders collapse to give up the AFC West was truly horrible. I’m hoping coach Hue Jackson cleans house on defense, which was horrible all year long.
  • It’s not true sports, but rather “sports entertainment…but the few times The Rock has appeared in WWE in the past year HAS  to have been the most entertaining moments for the company in years. Dude is just fantastic in front of a camera…and his feud with wrestler John Cenahas provided some of the best comedy in years…
  • The Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant issue will pop up again at some point this season. Count on it. Westbrook just doesn’t get it.
  • I don’t know how Time Warner can possibly justify dropping MSG, when it plays Knicks, Rangers and Sabres games. People are NOT happy about that. Luckily, I have DirecTV – so I not only get MSG, I get multiple MSG channels. But that really stinks for fans of those teams if they have Time Warner.

Well, there you have it – first post of 2012. Like I said – I hope to post more regularly. It’s good to be back – I’m looking forward to the year. As always, feedback is welcome.

Until next time…Shoot, Pass, Quibble.

Great past few days in American sports. No big intro needed – let’s get in to it…

  • Tony Romo bit more than turf this past Sunday...

    Okay. I’ve never been one to be a Tony Romo basher; I think he’s a pretty good QB who is not worthy of the fawning some do over him – but definitely not worthy of the bashing others give him. But make no mistake about it – the Detroit Lions coming back from 24 points down to stun the Dallas Cowboys?? That rests solely on his shoulders. The guy threw 3 INTS – 2 of which were returned for touchdowns. He was hands down putrid as a QB in the 2nd half, and it resulted in the 4th-biggest regular season collapse in NFL history. Um – that’s bad. There’s no way you can look anywhere but Romo’s direction on this. Whatever you hear negative about Tony Romo this week? He MORE than deserves it.

  • And speaking of the Detroit Lions – wow. How about that comeback? This comes after being down 20 points to Minnesota last week! This team definitely has heart to go along with their tremendous talent. What stands out most to me in this game – WR Calvin Johnson, AKA Megatron,  BEASTING all over the hapless Cowboys defense, the way your pre-teen cousin would do whatever he wanted to you when you were 8 years-old playing in the back yard. It was embarrassing to see how easily he used them to go up and down the field and bring the Lions back for the win.And speaking of embarrassing – that’s how I feel about Cris Carter and Rob Ryan’s comments about Johnson. Make no mistake – Johnson is clearly one of the most unstoppable, dynamic WRs we’ve seen in the league in the past decade. His speed, size, pass-catching ability and vertical jump leave on-lookers breathless weekly. Yet, we’ve got these egomaniacs downing the guy. Rob Ryan, I kind of understand – he’s Dallas’ defensive coordinator, and if you know anything about Ryan, his brother Rex (Jets head coach) and their father Buddy (famed NFL defensive coordinator and head coach) – that’s what they do. They run their yaps, and tend to back it up more often than not. But saying the Cowboys’ defense played against 2 better WRs than Johnson each week in practice (Miles Austin & Dez Bryant)? Not smart, man. I get trying to fire your team up – but as the results prove, you might’ve fired HIM up a tad bit more. Ask your defense.

    What’s even better was Lions’ coach Jim Schwartz’s comments after the game: “I’m just glad that the third-best receiver on their team is on our team.” Ouch – BURRRRRRNNNNN!!!

    Even worse are Cris Carter’s comments at the beginning of the year. Carter is a Hall Of Fame WR, and there are few more qualified to talk about the WR position on TV than him. But when asked to name the top 6 WRs in the league, Carter made a point of excluding Johnson, and dismissed him as a “video game wide receiver”. As recently as last week, when Johnson had 2 TDs in each of the first 3 games of the season, Carter refused to give him props. This goes to the point I made earlier this season about today’s sports reporters, analysts and experts never being able to admit being wrong on a position they hold.

    The man they call "Megatron" has lept above criticism to become the most dynamic, exciting WR in the NFL this season.

    To his credit, after Sunday’s performance, Carter finally relented and gave him his props. “Right now, Calvin Johnson — there’s a king in every crowd, and he’s the king of the National Football League as far as wide receivers,” Carter said. It should be noted – Johnson tied Carter’s NFL record of 4 consecutive games with at least 2 TDs, set back in 1995. Even noted hater Merril Hoge had to give it up and name Johnson as his MVP of the league so far.

  • There was some REALLY TERRIBLE officiating going on Sunday. First off – the Buffalo Bills got hosed. Big time. It’s bad enough that inane “Tuck Rule” reared it’s ugly head in the 1st half, calling back a Bryan Scott fumble recovery for a touchdown (Scott would get an interception for a TD later). But towards the end of the game, with Buffalo driving for a score that could’ve put the game away, WR Stevie Johnson clearly made a catch for a 1st down (on 3rd down) – and it was ruled no catch. The replays clearly showed he made the catch – the call stood. Now, one could try to put it on the Bills defense for not stopping the Cincinnati Bengalson their final drive, but the Bills are a young team. You could definitely see the frustration and dismay on their faces, and it looked like they were deflated and distracted after that play. And the call was pure bull.The Arizona Cardinals got jobbed as well. Driving at the end of the game, NY Giants WR Victor Cruz makes a catch, and goes down to the ground with no one having touched him. He drops the ball, which was picked up by an Arizona player. Arizona could’ve run the clock out. Instead, the refs inexplicably declared Cruz down, saying he “gave himself up” by falling to the ground, and didn’t allow Cardinals’ coach Ken Wisenhunt to even challenge the ruling. NY scored one play later.

    I’d check these refs bank accounts. I’m sure they have more money in them than what’s declared on their income statements. Somebody got paid.

  • Madonna is set to perform at halftime of the Super Bowl. Um – why?? Seriously – I’m beyond sick of the NFL and it’s pre-games and halftimes selling out to Pop stars who have nothing to do with the game of football. Ugh.
  • Aaron Rodgers threw for 4 TDs, and ran for 2 more – while throwing for over 400 yards. You can’t even do that on a video game nowadays. Holy spit.
  • Speaking of video games – the follow-up to the greatest sports video game of all-time came out today. NBA 2K12 should tide NBA lovers over until we really get basketball back. I’m resisting my strong urge to buy it – for now.
  • I'm used to GOOD QBs at my alma mater Syracuse University - not average guys pretending to be D-1 caliber passers.

    I’m sick of debating with people about obvious crap in sports. My beloved Syracuse Orange lost to Rutgers in overtime this past weekend, in large part due to the unfettered crappiness of QB Ryan Nassib. This fool threw for 3 INTs – against Rutgers. I have a fellow alum who swears this bum is good because he’s put up some pretty good numbers until this game. Those numbers came against such garbage football teams such as Wake Forest, Rhode Island and Toledo. The one real program we played, USC, his numbers were inflated by late game throwing in a blowout – he was unable to move the team at any point against the Trojans when it counted.Nassib simply doesn’t look like a upper-level D-1 QB. He puts up good numbers against weak talent. Remember – this is the same guy who couldn’t beat out Greg Paulus for the starting nod a few years ago, and Paulus hadn’t played QB since high school. I grew up watching great SU QBs, and attended school in the Donovan McNabb era. This sort of garbage play that passes for “good” is not acceptable to me.

  • Speaking of McNabb – the boo birds are calling for him to be benched. But you know what? I’ve watched the Vikings past 3 games on “NFL Replay”. While no one can argue he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level, he is absolutely not the reason the Vikings are losing. His WRs can’t separate from anyone, and his defense is surprisingly bad. McNabb may take the fall, but if you watch the games and don’t listen to ESPN – he’s actually not the problem in Minnesota. Does he need to play better? No doubt. But how much better do you need to be when you’re giving your team 20-point leads and they’re still losing??
  • Well, it’s official – no deal in the NBA Lockout. This should shock no one if you pay attention; the owners’ endgame has always been to not bargain in good faith, and to try to force a crappy deal down the players throats after they miss game checks and begin to panic. Sorry, folks – we won’t see pro basketball for quite some time. Feel free to read up on things here, but just know – this is all on the owners. Even moreso than the NFL Lockout.  But what should shock the NBA – Kobe Bryant is actually going through with his pledge to play abroad.This is a huge shock, because it was always viewed as though the NBA

    Even though he's the most popular active basketball player in the world - Kobe Bryant playing in Italy is a HUGE shock.

    stars would use that as a threat, but not actually carry it out. My cousin pointed out how big it would be if one of the major stars did this, and opened it up for others to show they don’t need the NBA. It would hurt their image if a bunch of their players simply discarded them and were playing all over the world. Well, Kobe, who has quietly been doing a lot to help the players in the lockout (along with LeBron James, D.Wade, Kevin Durant and other star players), is going through with it – and at the same time actively raising his profile as the most popular sports figure in the world not named Michael Jordan.

    I don’t think people grasp how huge this actually is. I’ll save my prolonged commentary on it for now – but this could be a major game-changer. Props to my cousin Zeek and my man Marlon who called this possibility out back in the Spring. They apparently were on that Sword of Omens (“Thundercats”) type-stuff – they had “sight beyond sight”…

  • Wow – The Yankees are down 2-1 with an elimination game tonight? Smh. I know a lot of you will blame Joe Girardi for this state of affairs, and you may not be off in doing so. But you know who I blame??

    Those of you crabby fans who rejoiced in the Boston Red Sox not making the playoffs.

    I swear, it’s absolute truth – every single time I’ve seen people cheering for other teams to do crappy instead of worrying about their own team, their team never succeeds. And I saw too many Yankees fans acting like they had been given the World Series when Boston was eliminated from contention. That’s not how you do it, folks. Chuckle, razz Boston fans – and move on. Cats who rejoice in other teams losing or find an overwhelming amount of joy in the failings of rivals when they aren’t at the hands of your own team – wack, son. I also believe cats cheering for teams to lose in the playoffs so their team doesn’t have to play them subconsciously don’t have true faith in their team. I always want my teams to play the hardest, toughest teams en route to a championship and/or success – I want my team to be the best, not get lucky and slide into a title.

    So all you happy Yankees fans who acted like it was a holiday when Boston lost? This is your fault. If NY loses – it’s on you. Suck it up.

  • ESPN pulled their familiar “Are You Ready For Some Football??” intro from “Monday Night Football” last night, due to Hank Williams going on Faux News and making a bad comparison between president Barack Obama and Hitler. This guy has probably had one of the steadiest paychecks in music history, and yet he couldn’t keep his inner idiot redneck inside. I for one applaud ESPN for making the decision to pull him – the network isn’t exactly known for making wise decisions when it comes to controversies or controversial subject matter.

    Williams gave the obligatory “sorry if I offended anyone” backhanded apology. I’d love to see ESPN can him for good – I personally can do without the musical theatrics, and would much prefer a standard open like Fox Sports does on their Sunday broadcasts. But I’m thinking Williams appears back on the network in the near future.

    They day ESPN gets rid of this redneck's intro for good is the day I stop complaining about Jon Gruden's man-crushes when he's on the air.

  • Speaking of ESPN, their annual “Body Issue” of their magazine is coming out soon. This issue is famous for showing the naked, buff physiques of some of the best athletes in sports in an artful, interesting manner. You can check the list of who will appear in the buff here. I for one am looking forward to seeing soccer star Hope Solo and pro snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, who has already appeared in the mens’ magazine “FHM”. Plenty of male stars for the ladies as well…
  • Yes, America – Brett Favre is still a douchebag.
  • The NFL injury bug is running rampant again – Texans’ WR Andre Johnson, Steelers LB James Harrison, Jets’ LB Bryan Thomas and 49ers’ DT Will Tukuafu are just some of the players who suffered injuries this Sunday and will miss anywhere from a few weeks to the rest of the season…
  • Everyone spent all last week talking about the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills and their hot starts to the season. But has anyone outside of the Bay area noticed that the San Francisco 49ers are very quietly 3-1??
  • The Philadelphia Eagles are a mess.
  • Andy Roddick dropped his first-round match at the China Open to Kevin Anderson, 6-4, 7-5?? Wow. Andy hasn’t had a good year by his standards at all. It must be really hard for most athletes, I’ve always thought, to go out and talk to the press after a terrible loss. And then to maintain your cool as well with some of the stupid questions they can ask. Which sets up this video:

    Kudos, Andy. You have learned very well from The Coach Bill Parcells School Of Snarky Comebacks to Stupid Questions

I’m hoping you guys are all having a good week thus far. I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on the NBA Lockout, as a few have asked me specifically about it. Look for that in the next day or so. I look forward to all comments and feedback. And subscribe to the blog so you can get updates on when new articles are posted; as well as “like” SPQ on Facebook if you haven’t already done so. And more importantly – spread the word! The more people reading, the more I feel obligated to output.

As always – Shoot, Pass, Quibble!!!

It’s football season. The NBA is officially in a lockout. So why am I talking about LeBron James??

Well – to me, it’s important to give any readers some background who aren’t already acquainted with me or my mindset. Because the truth is, I dislike the guy as an athlete/entertainer so much, that his name randomly comes up in convos I have or posts I write about a variety of subjects. Some of the things that make me think of him – choking, fronting (if you don’t know what that means, please go to Urban Dictionary), discussions of things or people that are overrated, trying to take the easy way out, throwing people under the bus…

I think you get the idea.

But where did this dislike come from? I don’t know this man personally. The only time I’ve ever been in his vicinity, he was busy in a club trying to look cool against the wall, waiting for everyone to go “Ooo! That’s LeBron James!” and entertaining the groupies women who were trying to get a quick come-up off a sports superstar. No, I can’t say any personal experience caused my dislike of the man. Like most sports fans, my dislike comes from what he’s done in regards to his sports persona.

James was a superstar before even halfway through his senior year of high school.

I remember the first time I really watched LeBron – hell, I suspect most of us do. It was 2002, and the buzz around this kid was deafening. Greatest ever, they were saying. Better than Jordan was what some whispered in regards to his destiny. Never, from then until now, in the history of sports, had a high school kid had this much hype nationwide. Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson were all people who had attended his games and swore up and down this kid was unreal. He got more buzz than the great New York City phenom Felipe Lopez – a player so astoundingly awesome, my first paper in college was about him (not by choice, either – I was given the subject. That just underscores how awesome he was in his time).

And then, there was the Sports Illustrated cover. After that, it was over – the kid was a rock star. So when ESPN announced they were going to broadcast a game by this kid – this “Chosen One” – yeah, it was a wrap. The basketball nation of fans had to see if this kid lived up to the hype.

Live up to the hype was the understatement of 2002 in regards to him.

He started off somewhat slow, but then – in a flash, he was all over the place. Rising up for fast break threes, one-on-five mastery, insane dunks, menacing defense, Magic Johnson-esque passes – it was unbelievable. Not that someone could do this – that someone could do this IN HIGH SCHOOL. He was literally better than most of the collegiate athletes that year. It was like watching regular high schoolers play against an NBA Jam character. It just couldn’t be real – could it? Could a kid actually be this absurdly unstoppable, and not even be out of high school yet??

Oh yeah. ESPN would air a few more of the stylings of Mr. James to prove it. Sure, his jumper wasn’t NBA ready – but what kid DOES have an NBA-worthy jumper?? No one. No, this kid was so much more than you could imagine. It was incredible.

But what many didn’t see, I’d argue, is what this did to this kid. There’s an old adage about how many great athletes are coddled, pampered and catered to – and grow up with a false sense of themselves and reality. The “never told no” cliche. I admit – I didn’t see it. How could I? Who is even thinking about that when watching the greatest televised high school spectacle ever? But something did a give a little bit of an alert on the guy – when he got that brand new Hummer H2, and it was quite well-known he and his mother did not have it like that. Then, shortly after that, he was caught with the expensive throwback jerseys – both transgressions nearly cost him the rest of his eligibility and his teams’ wins. As it stood, it was “worked out” that he would serve a 2-game suspension and his team would forfeit one game.

It was the only game they were credited with losing that entire season.

Michael Jordan's image was carefully created and maintained by Nike.

We all know the story of what happened when he got to the league, and what’s gone on up until now. So – why the dislike? Well – let’s call it the Michael Jordan effect. This is what I call it when someone has a superb public image, and has fans fooled – but in reality, is something very different than the facade they’re maintaining. This is not unique to LeBron – many athletes over the years have been seen as different than what they are. Larry Bird is an absentee father. The entire 80’s Lakers squads were partying whores. John Stockton was one of the dirtiest players in the league. Michael Jordan is quite possibly the biggest arsehole in the history of professional sports.

Those players benefited from living in an age before transparency and social media. Jordan in particular had his image carefully controlled and cultivated by the marketing geniuses at Nike, so much so that so many years after he played, it shocked people to see the REAL MJ reveal himself at his Hall Of Fame ceremony. James obviously can’t sneeze without the world knowing about it, but then again – neither can any superstar.

James burns me and many others the wrong way for a myriad of reasons. His ego is unbelievable, and there are many stories detailed by writers and analysts of some of the things he’s said and done (which I won’t recount here – Google is your friend, people). Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski was one of the few to write what I and many in media circles knew – that Team USA didn’t even want him in the last Olympics, and Nike basically forced his inclusion by threatening to not allow other Nike athletes to participate.  But more than that – the stories of how he treated the Cleveland Cavaliers, their employees, his coach and the staff are pretty much disgusting to me. People often get on me for having Kobe Bryant as my favorite player, but there are no stories of Kobe ever exhibiting similar behavior to Lakers staff, employees and leadership. In fact – Bryant gave a sizable donation to Lakers employees this summer in the wake of the lockout.

(Before anyone jumps on that admission, let me assure you – I am NOT one of those fans who feels compelled to dislike another player simply because that player may be considered by some as equal to or better than the player I like. At different points of his career, the “better than” argument with Kobe has arisen with players such as Grant Hill, Scottie Pippen, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce and Dwayne Wade, to name a few. Outside of Pippen, who I never liked, I like/liked ALL of those players.)

“The Decision” didn’t help either. While Lebron loyalists and lovers try to spin that entire fiasco as people somehow being upset that he chose to leave Cleveland – that’s simply not it for most. It’s HOW he did it, something even he admitted was wack. In comparison – how many people even realize Kevin Durant was a free agent that year? Very few. Durant tweeted that he re-signed with his team. He did not hold his team ransom for 2+ years with various statements and actions in the media, refusing to even give his squad an indication of what he was going to do. He owed them and the people of Cleveland better than that, rather than to rip their hearts out on national TV.

By comparison, Miami and Toronto had pretty good ideas what his star teammates, Wade and Chris Bosh, were going to do. It’s not hard to tell someone in your organization “I’m leaning towards…,” so they can try to make arrangements to benefit the team and city.

LeBron James walks off the court after choking for the 3rd season in a row.

Even those things aren’t just it. I tend to root for those who produce, because at the end of the day – winning and producing is how greatness is measured in sports. Especially in basketball, the only one of the major 4 sports in America where one transcendent superstar can will his team to a championship series. Sure, he needs help to actually win one. But LeBron had help. Outside Paul Pierce and, to a lesser extent, Kobe Bryant – no other team could argue similar complements to a superstar than what LeBron had in Wade and Bosh. And Wade and Bosh were better complements than those other 2 guys had (although one could easily argue Pierce had the best, since he has a 4th in Rajon Rondo). And yet, with the 2 superstars he teamed with to form Voltron – The Chosen BUM (as I’ve called him for many years now) decided to pull one of his infamous choke jobs.

This time, it was comical. LeBron loyalists would argue he didn’t choke in ’09 against Orlando; I argue differently, but it wasn’t as pronounced. That one people try to pin on his coach Mike Brown (who James threw under the bus on numerous occasions and who he exhibited little respect for).  In ’10, the convenient tabloid rumor that teammate Delonte West was sleeping with his mother made for a convenient excuse for the inexplicable actions on the court of the Akron Arse.

This year? Not only do we get him choking it to the max, we get it on his frontloaded team that he ran to like a little chump (yeah, I said it – he was ring chasing, and no one respects when young superstars do that) – for THREE STRAIGHT GAMES. It was so blatant, the announcers were forced to point out how he inexplicably couldn’t figure out how to score on J.J. Barea and Jason Kidd in the 4th – players he torched in previous quarters. Do you KNOW what Kobe, Pierce, or even Wade do if you put those small fries on them in the 4th?? If you watch NBA basketball, you know EXACTLY what they do – back them down and score on them like you do your baby brother on the Nerf hoop on your bedroom door, that’s what.

A number of pictures and videos clowning James popped up after his most recent failure.

It was a hard pill to swallow. To this day, there’s no explanation. Those who know me who are LeBron lovers hurt worse, cuz I had predicted he would choke and Dallas would win – although, I did say it would be a one-game choke, and it’d be in game 7. NO ONE could predict a 3-game meltdown where J.J. Barea was more effective in the 4th than LeBron. But that didn’t stop myself and others from flooding the Internet with a seemingly endless stream of video, photos and words clowning not only LeBron, but the Miami Heat as well. And it was hard to feel sorry if you weren’t a LeBron lover – from he and D.Wade clowning Dirk Nowitzki’s illness earlier in the series, to his petulant, arrogant arsehole-ish comments right after the game – he brought it on himself. They brought it on themselves. And they got the ribbing they deserved.

LeBron’s still one of the top five players in the league, and if he worked on his game rather than reveling in his own hype, he could actual be the most unstoppable force in the league. But I’ve correctly banked on this chump’s lack of killer instinct and conveniently disappearing b-ball I.Q. in crucial situations to assure he won’t reach the promised land. He so desperately wants to be in the pantheon of the greats, but the truth is – LeBron is nothing more than T-Mac 2.0, with more accomplishments and no injury issues.

Another talented, great player with all the potential in the world – who will be remembered for what could have been instead of what was. Even if he wins a title – it will be akin to what was said about Shaq when he retired. “What if he had played harder? What if he had worked on his flaws? He could’ve had (x) amount of titles.”

I know that I risk incensing a lot of James lovers with this being one of my initial posts. People will probably comment “Oh yeah?? Well, you’ll feel stupid when he wins this year/next year/soon, and he passes (insert all-time great here) on the list and holds all the records, blah blah blah.” I’ve heard every variation of the “what he’s GOING to do” argument. I go off of what people have demonstrated to predict what they will do. And 3 years in a row don’t give me faith in the most high-profile loser we currently have in sports today. So if you love this guy, hold on to your hopes of what will happen. Trot out the stats of how long it took others to win, and make the comparisons to make yourself feel better.

Then realize – until he wins, it don’t mean spit. And it doesn’t change the fact that he hasn’t, and it doesn’t look likely he will if he’s the central component to a win or a loss. And, more importantly – I STILL won’t stop liking him. Because to me, and to so many others, he’s not “King James, The Chosen One”. He’s LePawn James – The Chosen BUM.

Besides – what type of douchebag literally refers to himself by his Nike given nickname of “King James”?? Or wears a t-shirt proclaiming himself as the MVP??

Oh. This guy.

I don't remember Steve Nash, Duncan, Kobe, Dirk or Shaq wearing MVP shirts.