Category Archives: NBA

The Problem With Legalized Sports Gambling

May 14th, 2018 will go down in history as one of the most impactful days in sports history. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the federal ban on state sanctioned sports betting is “unconstitutional.”  Dan Patrick  put it best when he said “the floodgates are officially open for other states to allow sports betting.”

Many sports pundits and gambling professionals have made themselves vocal about wanting sports gambling to be legalized.  Bringing about the “unconstitutional” nature of denying citizens the right to gamble and because “everyone does it anyway.”

A sports betting room at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Prayitno

I am a sports-gambling enthusiast. I love the science that is sports-handicapping. I talk with other sports-snobs who understand that picking a winner against the spread – instead of “straight up” – takes more skill than people give it credit for.  My best literary works come during the football season, when I pepper social media with my “Beating Vegas” articles, detailing who I feel will “cover the spread” in college and professional football.  It’s fun.  I get it.  .  . for some people.

The truth about sports gambling, is that it is an addictive and dangerous hobby.

For as long as sports has been around, the sports gambling racket has been a main source of income for the criminal element.  The guy at the corner store, the guy outside the bowling alley, your grandfather – so on and so forth – the bookie, has been a part of every neighborhood forever.  Yes, even yours.  It’s a dirty world where if you don’t pay up – you can literally lose your life.

Now with the legalization of gambling across the fifty states, just coming in a matter of time, think about the dangers this now puts on society as a whole.

People who have no idea how addictive sports-gambling is, or who have never tapped into that addictive part of their personality will now see that with gambling being legalized, it is somehow harmless.  These people who have never ventured into the perils of “chasing bets” and hitting a string of bad-luck will now feel as if they have been invited to a fun new hobby that brings no-ill-effects.

Photo Credit goes to CalvinAyre.Com / Article written by Kirby Garlitos “NFL Prop Betting Part 1: Offense”

Also, for all of those who do gamble and think this is better than the “guy at the corner store.” At least you knew what the parameters were if you didn’t pay up – those things usually involved intimidation by use of baseball bats and / or turning over a your family-owned-business to the person you owed money to.  Although those parameters never scare off the  true degenerates – for the most part, people understand the code of the streets.

Now, if gambling is legalized.  Be prepared to pay taxes on your winnings and be prepared for government agencies to start garnishing your paycheck with no questions asked if you don’t pay up on your losses.  Be prepared for people’s credit to nose-dive and be prepared to see more people losing their homes. . .

Everybody thinks of sports gambling and they don’t realize, after the first game you bet on – one of three things happens to you.

  1. You win and automatically start thinking how you can win more.
  2. You lose and begin to wonder how you can win that money back.
  3. (this is the most dangerous of the three) Winning or losing doesn’t matter at all.  It was the rush and the thrill for those three hours that you want to re-live again.

I am not here to preach.  I would be a hypocrite if I told folks how to live their lives and give them every reason to not gamble on sports.  It’s more about society as a whole.

With sports gambling being allowed, this leads us – the regular folk – to think about a placing a $50  or a $100 bet as a legal means to make some quick and easy cash in a fun way. . . All the while – it’s the casino’s, the government and the sports leagues that will be the real winners.  The rich will continue to get richer at our expense.  ‘Merica. But we’re too blinded by the immediate opportunity to make money on a game – that we won’t recognize it.

The NBA has already said they want 1% of all wagering action on their entity. That’s now.  What stops them next year from asking for 2%. . .then 3%, so on and so forth.  Major League Baseball would be the biggest of hypocrites to take on a percentage (and even support) sports gambling.  If you don’t believe that, why don’t you go and Google, Pete Rose.

There is no doubt that the idea of legalized sports gambling is on the way.  Just because something is now legal – it does not mean it is okay to do.   Be smart.  And as I always say: “Good Luck and Wager Wisely.”

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Lakers: Having A Ball

This Monday night, some of you may have flipped through channels and because of curiosity, boredom or a “secret guilty pleasure” you viewed WWE’s Monday Night Raw.  Personally, I stopped watching Monday Night Raw since Charlotte Flair was moved to WWE Smackdown on Tuesday nights, but for a few others, they might have stumbled across something that to some may have seen as “over-the-top” and to others may have been “entertaining.”  Regardless of what you felt, watching LaVar Ball take off his shirt in the middle of the wrestling ring flexing some kind of shadow-martial arts talent, was a sight to behold.

LaVar Ball, the famed (or in some circles “infamous”) father of Lonzo Ball, this year’s number two pick overall draft pick, selected by the Los Angeles Lakers, has been making waves for some time now.  You have heard him claim that his son is better than Steph Curry and how he himself, LaVar could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one.  Of all his ridiculous claims he’s made, there was one that he nailed:  that his son would be a Los Angeles Laker come draft night.

To effectively, truthfully and respectively break down what the Lakers got on draft night comes not only in the form of Lonzo Ball, but also his father LaVar.

It’s a package deal.  If you get Lonzo, you get LaVar.  And if you get LaVar, you’ll get the swag, the Big Baller Brand, the mouth and the confidence.

But lets start with the basketball side of things.

The Lakers sent former first round selection, D’Angelo Russell packing to Brooklyn, which brought along veteran center Brook Lopez.  The Lakers felt it would be fine to move Russell, who team president Magic Johnson said what they needed was “a leader,” because of the talent they have in Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram – two young players who have shown growing potential in the Lakers organization.

On good days, Lonzo Ball has been compared to Jason Kidd, and although Kidd may have been the physically stronger of the two, Ball is a wiry, athletic type and in terms of instincts and passing ability the comparison is valid.  Ball has an awkward jump shot but in college shot 55% from the field and 41% from three-point-range.  His free throw percentage of 67% is a little off-putting but one would think with his shooting ability, that will improve to at least 75%.

The Lakers, at their best, are known as the Showtime Lakers.  Los Angeles loyalists have been waiting for those glory days to re-appear, and although there is still building to do (even making the playoffs won’t easy – remember, it’s the Western Conference) – LaVar brings  a lot of Hollywood, to those fans clamoring for “showtime.”

LaVar ball is in the  belief that good or bad press, is good press at the end of the day and what he has done in establishing a market not only in the basketball world but outside of it, is remarkable.  The Big Baller Brand may not have a lot of purchasers due to ridiculous price tags attached to their merchandise, but everyone knows the name, and it’s a topic more times than not in basketball discussions.   The Ball “presence” has been felt by the NBA and Lonzo hasn’t even played in a scrimmage yet.

LaVar has already made himself nearly a regular guest on the ESPN and Fox Sports networks, and although the things he says waver on the “ridiculous” it’s entertaining.  For this Lakers team, they take on probably the biggest personality in the league in LaVar Ball.  He has already spoken against Lonzo’s college teammates publicly – who’s to say that pattern won’t repeat again with the Lakers? It will be interesting to see how the Lakers “handle” LaVar Ball.  Will there be any sit-downs with him, restrictions, etc. ?

The LaVar Ball antics, might actually be tolerated now because, Lonzo and the rest of this Lakers team is young – and barring any ridiculous acquisitions or multiple key injuries on other teams – the Lakers will be lucky to hover around being a 9th or 10th seed in the Western Conference.  With that being said, LaVar may be the best show in town – BUT – if and when the Lakers become a more serious contender LaVar may have to be quieted down, or maybe the return of the Showtime Lakers, will be enough to silence anything else in the city of Los Angeles.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Brook Lopez: Class Act

It’s crazy to think that back in 2008 the New Jersey Nets selected Brook Lopez in the first round of the draft.  Lopez has never gotten the credit he deserved while on the Nets.  Mostly because playing for the Nets is generally a curse to those who are doomed to play for the franchise – but mostly because Lopez was consistently under-the-radar his entire career.  Maybe it’s because he’s a finesse-type center, soft-spoken, kind of doofy looking – whatever it may be, the spotlight was never on Lopez.  Even at times when it was obvious he was the best player on the Nets roster, the spotlight was always on somebody else: Kris Humphries (for all the wrong reasons), Deron Williams (for all the wrong reasons), Kevin Garnett or even Joe Johnson.

Lopez was a guy who came to work and enjoyed what he did, with whoever was around.  It’s a rare quality in people – let alone a professional athlete.   Brook Lopez somehow managed to be an  unassuming seven footer.  This, as well as his price tag which came with an injury history, is why his name has come up in trades for the last three or four seasons.  On paper trading Lopez always made sense: a finesse-center, with a big salary, lower leg issues, who can’t run the floor – seems like the type to be a welcoming issue on a good team, instead of a player it’s fan-base looked at as “holding back.”  To be fair to Lopez, he was never, holding back this team – the team, eh and Billy King, have put the Nets in a perennial moon-walk avoiding the big dance – but anyhow. . .

The day has finally come for Lopez to be traded.  Reports have come out that on draft day, the Lakers and Nets have agreed to a trade in which the Lakers give up D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov and the Nets give up Brook Lopez and their 27th pick in the first round.  The Lakers relieve themselves of the Mozgov contract and get in return assets – and for the Nets their big takeaway from this is acquiring D’Angelo Russell – a young player with the potential to become a very promising piece to the Nets much needed rebuild.

With Lopez now gone, the Nets have nothing but young guys trying to prove they can hand in this league, and veterans filling in spots and collecting pay-days.

Nets players went on to social media to show love to Brook Lopez as soon as the news came out.

Sean Kilpatrick posted a touching picture of him hugging Lopez during a game followed by: “First player I met once I became a Net & said do what you do best. Thanks for making sure I was always alright. Good luck in LA big fella”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson posted a video of him and Lopez reinacting theme song from the television show The Wayans Brothers, and you can tell RHJ was really hurt by this move: “Couldn’t sleep… I’ve had a lot of teammates throughout my life and I loved and embraced every single one of them. But this guy right here became a best friend, biggest critic, big brother, smart ass, goof ball, turned me into a Disney lover and more. But the one thing that always meant a lot to me is no matter what we went through on or off the court we always talked to each other. You will be truly missed “BROTHER” good luck with everything and remember “We ride together We die together……. Bad boys for life”

This is what made Brook Lopez special in the Nets community.  Sure, the Nets are on nobody’s radar – ever.  They are the worst team in the NBA today but there are two things nobody can take away from them.  One is, the re-brand is a much better look (from New Jersey to Brooklyn, new uniform, new home) and that Brook Lopez was always a class act.

Back to the trade itself.

As previously stated, for the Nets this was a small price to pay to get someone like D’Angelo Russell.  CBS Sports’ Chris Barnewell says this is good for Russell, in that he gets a “fresh start” in Brooklyn.  Russell bumped heads with Byron Scott, then had that infamous “snap chat controversy” with Nick Young – there was definitely a need for change.  Brooklyn has a bunch of young guys on the squad, but none came into the league with more potential than Russell.

It’s a shame Brook didn’t get a chance to be traded to a contender though. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Brook Lopez and I always said that he deserves better, he deserves to be on a winner.  There is no telling what the Lakers plans are with Lopez, but my guess would be to have his veteran presence in a locker room full of young guys – to help them along the way.  Or maybe, ultimately, to be used as a piece for another trade before the draft or mid-season before the trade deadline.

Regardless, it’s officially the end of an era for a franchise riddled with errors.  Lopez leaves the Nets as the team’s all-time leading scorer and one of the most over-looked stars in the last decade of New York area sports.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Ayesha Curry: Shut Up Already

Who is Ayesha Curry?  Wife of NBA Superstar, Stephen Curry.  And that’s it.   She’s not a motivational speaker.  She’s not a model, an actress, a singer  – she’s nobody.  A basketball player’s wife.  But, don’t tell her that, she doesn’t want to be classified with those over-the-top reality television folks – she’s different.

Is she really though?

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In December of 2015, Ayesha Curry took a shot at all the Instagram “models” out there who bring so much joy to men all over the world: “Everyone’s into barely wearing clothes these days huh? Not my style. I like to keep the good stuff covered up for the one who matters . . .I’ll take classy over trendy any day of the week. . .You guys definitely entertain me that’s for sure.”

Excuse me?

Let’s not forget who these Instagram “models” really are?   Escorts/Strippers – looking for ways to use their talents to build a brand;  others are struggling actresses/singers – looking for a hook-up and banking on that hook-up with their looks; and others are just girls out to get paid, by any means necessary (play on playa).   Ayesha Curry should know that if it wasn’t for lucky circumstances she might’ve been right with these ladies.  Ayesha was an actress when younger but stopped getting calls early in her “career” and she netted a young-Steph Curry, got wifed-up – end of story.

These women out here are trying to get what she has – that comfortable lifestyle with an NBA player – so they can live the life of luxury and push “their brand.”  Ayesha has an issue with this though – this bothers her enough to a point that she has to make it vocal and throw shade to all the women that make Instagram entertaining for us men. . .

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Social media and every loser who uses the hashtag “relationship goals” have put the marriage of Steph and Ayesha Curry high on their list of “vicarious living.”   On Twitter and Instagram, you’ve surely seen the memes with people saying things like: “You can keep Kim Kardashian, I’ll take Ayesha Curry.”  No you wouldn’t – just stop it.  Kim Kardashian pays off a $53 million dollar debt for her man, and will do whatever-it-takes to keep herself looking fine for the rest of her life.  Ayesha Curry is a wife of a ball-player. . . and her fore-head seems to get bigger and bigger as time passes. . .

After game six of the NBA Finals, where Stephen Curry and the Warriors got bullied by the Cavs, Ayesha thought her words meant something to the rest of the world again as she tweeted out: “I’ve lost all respect sorry this is absolutely rigged for money… or ratings, I’m not sure which. I won’t be silent. Just saw it live, sorry.”   This tweet paired up really well with her husband fouling out, throwing a temper tantrum on the court and throwing his mouth-piece into the crowd.  This couple’s “spoiled brat” personalities came out boldly after game six.   You think Ayesha Curry thought the league was “rigged” when the Warriors came back from being down three games to one in the Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City?  Of course not.  The brat got what she wanted in the end so she didn’t have to pout about it. . .

You ever knew a girl, who walks into a bar with her boyfriend. Gets drunk.  Starts trouble with people in the bar, which ultimately gets her boyfriend beat up?   That’s your girl, Ayesha. . . Her saying that game 6 is rigged will probably do nothing more than anger an already pissed off LeBron James and send her husband home crying with no more hardware to boast about. . .

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But this isn’t even about game seven of the NBA Finals.

This is about Ayesha Curry.

The nobody, who thinks she’s somebody because of who her husband is. . . for someone that people have called a “role-model” or an “inspiration” – she kind of just acts like the worst girl you ever met in high school.

It’s just funny what people will turn a blind eye to, or make excuses for in society.  The Curry’s are now the NBA’s Royal Family and people want to see it that way, because they have no belief in themselves to be as happy as they portray. 

When Ayesha Curry “the celebrity” became a thing, she forgot something along the way.  We only know her because of who she married, not who she is.  Her “celebrity” title is one that should be decorated with an asterisk.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

For more on the “Curry-family-brand”, check out this article by Rosalyn R. Ross of The Sports Fan Journal “A Not-So Charmed Life”

Curry Don’ Cur

Stephen Curry, the NBA’s first ever unanimous MVP, has played five games in these NBA Finals and has scored more than twenty points only twice during that span.  Steph Curry became this first ever unanimous MVP mostly because of his ability to score the ball.  His ability to average thirty-points a night – knocking down 402 three pointers during the season at a forty-five-percent clip.  We’re not seeing that guy so far this time around, but let’s be fair about it. . .

Games one and two of these finals were pretty much nipped in the bud by the middle of the third quarter, and there was no need for Steph Curry to be on the floor much.  Considering he just came off injury during the playoffs and has a history of getting hurt, it was just smart coaching on the part of Steve Kerr.  Sure, if Curry stood in those blowouts, he could’ve piled on useless buckets to inflate his numbers – but it really wouldn’t be worth it.

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In games three and four of the series, there isn’t much to blame Curry for either.  In game three, he was on the opposite side of a blow out.  Curry and the rest of his team looked completely off and pathetic.  You kind of know it’s not your night, when J.R. Smith is looking like a throwback Vince Carter against you. .  . Game four was the Curry we were waiting for: Thirty-Eight points and a fifty-three percent three point percentage. There’s your unanimous MVP.

In the game five loss, he struggled from the field, still managing twenty-five points in a loss to Cleveland, which again – just looked like it was Cleveland’s night.

So, should Curry really care about what folks say when it comes to his “disappearing act” in these Finals?  Absolutely not.

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Curry has a ridiculously good team around him.  Colin Cowherd even voiced that Klay Thompson is the type of player every team in the NBA would want and need.  For what it’s worth, Thompson is just as good a shooter as Curry, he’s six foot seven inches tall and plays defense – usually given the job on the oppositions best guard (Lillard, Westbrook, Irving in this year’s playoff run alone).   Draymond Green has been noted by everyone to be the most important player on this team – regardless of the fame the “Splash Brothers” garner and his absence in game five proved that.  Green is there emotional leader and more importantly their “enforcer.”   Let’s not forget, this team still has last year’s NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala out there as well (that is such a great trivia question 10 years from now by the way).

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In other words, Curry got a squad.  This is why they won seventy three games this season.  Unlike LeBron James – Stephen Curry doesn’t have the stress of carrying his team – night in and night out.  Where LeBron gets inconsistent play and some notable disappearing acts from his teammates (anybody seen Kevin Love?) – Curry can play within his system and expect success because of the players around him.  Yes, Curry is the unanimous MVP – but basketball is still a team sport and the best team usually wins – that’s what Curry is most concerned with and that’s what he’s focused and cares about.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Durant’s Best Option: Russell Westbrook

Now that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have been embarrassed losing a best out of seven series to the Warriors after having  a 3-1 game lead – it’s time to talk about the future.  If you read every tweet posted on twitter, Kevin Durant is expected to meet with half of the NBA in the off-season.  Durant is the NBA’s hottest free agent piece in this year’s market and for good reason.  Durant is a former MVP, a four time scoring champion and a seven time All-Star, since his rookie campaign in 2008 – of which he won rookie of the year honors as well.

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Durant has had a little more of an “attitude” accompanied by his game in the last two years or so, but it seems to suit him well.  He seems to have a more competitive drive and his goal to win an NBA Championship (or championships) have become quite clear.

Some thought that if the Oklahoma City Thunder won the Western Conference, it would solidify Durant’s ties to OKC.  Now, after a game seven loss, any and everything is up for discussion.  Durant has publicly said that he needs to talk with his inner circle to see all of his options, but in the meantime let’s help him out.

1. New York Knicks – They have Kristop Porzingus, who Durant has admitted to being a fan of, but is that enough for Durant to want to join this media circus led by the weirdest of all team presidents in the league, Phil Jackson?  K.D. has established his brand in Oklahoma City, so the bright lights and all that come with New York City, won’t mean a thing to him.

2. Golden State Warriors – Remember this rumor earlier this year?  If Golden State frees up the cap-room, they might be a team who Durant would consider. . . something just tells my above average intelligence K.D. is not down with the old “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mantra. . .

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3. Philadelphia 76ers  – Apparently the Sixers want to win games now, and no longer tank for draft picks.  They want to make a pitch to K.D. and intrigue him with all the young talent they’ve acquired over the years.  Problem is, K.D. has seen how a good franchise can maintain their position and still acquire talent without tanking.  He has a nice blend of young and veteran players on OKC, so why’d he trade that for a bunch of “wet behind the ears, lottery picks.”

4. Washington Bullets – Yes, we call them the Bullets here, not the Wizards.  This team disappointed not only their fans, but even casual NBA fans this season. Playing alongside John Wall isn’t as appealing as playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Washington is really banking on the “home-coming” feel.  It’s the same feel, that brought LeBron James back to Cleveland.  The problem is, LeBron won his championships elsewhere “just in case” he doesn’t win them in Cleveland – and also LeBron was pretty much promised total control of the team.  K.D. doesn’t have any of those things in his back pocket.

5. Miami Heat – This one is “kind of” intriguing but only because of Pat Riley, who no doubt “can sell water to a whale,” to quote Jay-Z’s lyrics from “U Don’t Know”.   .  .

There are a few other teams with rumored interest like the Celtics and the Spurs, but smart money says that Kevin Durant with sign a two year deal with OKC, with a second year opt out clause.  As mentioned earlier, he wants a championship and this team has the tools to deliver that championship trophy on Durant’s mantle.  Other than Westbrook, the pieces that make up the Thunder are intriguing in Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, and Andre Roberson.  It also would seem as if this team now has the right coach in Billy Donovan. If you exclude the ridiculously unrealistic options of San Antonio and Golden State – every other option for Kevin Durant moves him a step further from his goal of winning an NBA title.

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The league is designed for star players to unite and win championships.  He won’t go anywhere else and find a better star to work with than Russell Westbrook.  Him and Russell have a great understanding of each other’s games and it would seem that they have a great respect for each other.  K.D. and Russ need to figure this thing out for themselves because if they separate, the road to winning a championship only becomes harder for each of them.

Smart money says Kevin Durant gives it at least another year with Russell Westbrook.  Maybe they both decided to stay in OKC for the long haul, maybe they decide to leave together and go somewhere else — maybe they decide to split up and start anew. . . Whatever the outcome, expect the media to be all over Durant’s travels in the off-season and in the end, expect a lot of teams to be left with nothing but a hefty dinner bill after Durant decides to stay put with the Thunder and Russell Westbrook.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Our Guy, Kobe

I went from high school to the pros.  I was anointed as “the future.”  I was a winner.  A champion.  I was Kobe Bryant.  .  .  okay, not realistically, but figuratively and for a generation of us – we all felt that Kobe represented us.

We were young when we watched, in awe of Michael Jordan.  To us, he could fly, he coudn’t be stopped and he was everything a super athlete should be – super human.  Then, Kobe came into the scene and we saw someone like us, and where we could only dream to be.

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Except he wasn’t like us.

While at family dinners, we were the type trying to scheme younger cousins out of their deserts, while Kobe was trying to find his way into a conversation at the adult’s table.  While we watched basketball on TV, Kobe was outside, practicing jump-shots until the sun went down.  Kobe knew what his destiny would be – it was to be an all-time, NBA great.

5 time champion.  Two-time NBA Finals MVP.  Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time leading scorer. Eighteen time All-Star. And shockingly only one NBA league MVP award.  One.

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Sure there have been other great players who only one the award once like Kobe’s old teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, as well as Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett.  All of whom are great players – but for Kobe that’s like sitting in an honors class and still knowing you’re the smartest one there. . .

That singular award given to the league’s best was only given to Kobe Bryant, one time.  Let that sink in.  Let it sink in because that is proof that the world missed on the “big picture” with  Kobe Bryant.  The “Black Mamba”  is without a doubt the biggest sports MEGA star – that sports fans have taken for granted.

There are reason’s for this though.

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He came in right after the Jordan-Era.  That was a tough spot for anyone to be in.  Michael Jordan is considered in most circles (and rightfully so) as the greatest ever.  It wasn’t supposed to be for many, many years that someone could even be mentioned in the same breath as “His Airness.”  Folks didn’t want to believe that Kobe Bryant was the closest thing we’d get in comparison to Michael.  Similar playing styles, intensity, position and they were both polarizing.  Also, an important fact that is ignored in comparing great players – they played in era’s that over-lapped and weren’t too far from each other’s.  Add to the fact that Kobe’s game was influenced by Michael –  we were given the closest thing to Jordan that we could’ve received as fans.  Many just didn’t want to believe it.

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Another reason for Kobe being taken for granted was that he became the bridge from Jordan – to LeBron.   LeBron brought a different kind of dominance and athleticism never seen before, in the modern basketball era.  Kobe became an after-thought as comparison’s of LeBron James to Michael Jordan seemingly leap frogged Kobe Bryant on the NBA’s All Time great-timeline.

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Kobe realized a fall from grace that no other athlete of his caliber had come across, while still being relevant and in his prime.   A rape charge, that had turned itself into a story of adultery on Bryant’s part.  It didn’t shock folks that Kobe, the world’s biggest basketball star in the world was unfaithful, but his public image took a shot to the ribs.  Sponsors dropped him quicker than one could imagine – who could blame them?  The word “rape” is a hard one to shake off.  Kobe came back from that though.  Winning championships and in turn winning back fans and endorsements.

So why is it Kobe Bryant is taken for granted?   Could it be that in the two season’s prior to this one, his body has not been able to keep up with the physical demands of the sport and has limited him to 41 games?   Could it be that sports-pundits point fingers at him and his contract as the thing holding the Lakers back from rebuilding?  And could it be that questions like those are the ones people have been waiting to throw in Kobe’s direction?

The wanna-be Jordan.  The guy who broke up the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. The adulterer.  The loner. 

The Legend.

You’ll be hard pressed to find another one like him.  The game is changing and personalities like Kobe’s are too “honest” and “upfront” to be taken with the right amount of sarcasm in today’s “over-emotional” and touchy sports-media.

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Some of us grew up with Kobe in the NBA.  As the new class of players came in, we rooted for Kobe because it was how we could fight against the inevitable losing battle to father time and the uprising of a new generation.  We saw our dreams come to fruition and our lives become humbled through Kobe Bryant.  Every generation has their guy.  This one was ours.  We were just lucky enough that it was Kobe Bryant – and nobody else.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

NY Sports Today, Pt. One: The NBA

New York is pretty much the center of the universe.  Us citizens in New York acknowledge that fact and we ride with it.  Even those who aren’t from the great city of NY – when they compare our city to any other, it usually ends in a defeated mutter: “. . . but nothing is like New York.”   Yes, it’s the city all others love to hate and for good reason.  We stick our noses in the air,  and we are all in a rush because we all have somewhere to go or someone to meet.  Another reason this city is the one most love to hate, is because of it’s sports fans.  Personally, I get it.  Growing up in New York, I grew away from the fan bases of all the metropolitan franchises and mainly because the fans were just awful.   It’s not the fans’ fault though.  They grew up in the city that the world revolves around, so why wouldn’t the sports world revolve around their teams as well?

For the next few weeks I’ll be breaking down exactly where the professional franchises in this great city are in respect to the leagues they’re in.  This week we’ll tackle the NBA.  Here is where on one side you have a team that’s holding on to some imaginary greatness in the Knicks, and on the other side is one of the more forgotten professional franchises in the Brooklyn Nets, who are (unfortunately) the only team I care about in this great city. . .

The New York Knicks:

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Since the start of the new millennium, the New York Knicks have been a downtrodden franchise, who have been the focal point of frustration for most New Yorkers. Some blame Donnie Walsh.  Others blame Mike D’Antoni or Isiah Thomas.  The truth is, it was a cluster of stupid mistakes combined with ill-timed trades that had the Knicks in a perpetual state of hopelessness.  Since appointing Phil Jackson as the team president, the fan base has gone through  many ups and downs, in what is now – just about two years.  Phil Jackson hasn’t done much to re-ignite hope in the fan base until (let’s be honest) he got lucky and drafted Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth pick in the draft.  Why, lucky?  Because, in all truth he wanted Towns or Okafor – everyone did.  When he drafted the 7-footer out of Latvia, nobody knew what to expect.  And in true New York Knicks fashion – their fans expected the worse.  Much to their delight Porzingis has shown enough flashes in his rookie season that Knicks fans are comfortable moving forward with him.

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Things don’t get easier for the Knicks though.  Phil Jackson’s first choice as head coach, Derek Fisher was released this year and he has been replaced by Kurt Rambis.  Rambis, by resume or sheer looks is not the guy Knicks fans want.  To complicate things even further with the Knicks this year is they don’t know what/who they are.  They should be a team looking to groom it’s young star in Porzingis and even give more playing time to the youngsters Langston Galloway and rookie Jerian Grant but it seems like Jackson and Rambis want to “push for the playoffs.”  For what?  To get swept by the Cavs in the first round?  What does that do for you?  As it stands right now the Knicks are the 12th seed.  Last time I looked this wasn’t the NCAA Championship Tournament so being a 12th seed does you no good here.  In the Knicks’ weak attempt at trying for the playoffs, they are consistly playing with a back court of Aaron Affalo and Jose Calderon – those are two guys you couldn’t package in a deal even if you threw in all the Beatles masters and the sword of Gryffindor.

So, when it comes to the Knicks they have this one piece to build with in Porzingis.  A fading star in Carmelo Anthony.  And three interesting role players.  Oh and they’re all being coached by a guy who looks like this:

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and when he played, he looked like this:

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Someone needs to tell Phil Jackson to pump the brakes.

The Brooklyn Nets

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If there was ever a “wrong” team to root for – it might be this one.  You have to search high and low to find true Nets fans in New York.  Unfortunately for me, I see one in the mirror everyday (albeit it’s not a horrible sight, but I digress. . .).   When Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets in 2009, he brought with it a re-branding, a fresh start and an excitement rarely seen by this fan-base.   That lasted all but 3 years.  Give Prokhorov credit though, it’s not like he didn’t try.  He wasn’t shy with his money (as he had the most expensive and over-paid back court in the history of the NBA with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson) and he was quick to pull the trigger on a trade to bring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn (which resulted in the NETS giving the Celtics every first round pick from now until I’m in my 40’s.)   “The Mad Russian” tried to bully his way into the league and he realized the err of his ways.  This brings us to the present day where the NETS are the fourth worst team in the NBA.  Put that into perspective they have only 15 wins, which is currently only one game better than the Phoenix Suns – a team that fights with itself on the bench.

The Nets have hired Sean Marks to be the team’s new general manager.  This got the fan base excited because he comes from the San Antonio Spurs offices and he waived Andrea Bargnani right away.   Marks has his work cut out for him though.  There are no draft picks to speak of and the entire roster from top to bottom needs to be reworked.  The NETS should’ve traded Thaddeus Young at the trade deadline because his stock will most likely never be higher than it is right now.  And although everybody loves him, it’s time to part ways with Brook Lopez.  Besides the injury bug that always haunts him, it’s the fact that the NBA is moving in a different direction.  Big men like Lopez still have a place in this league, but not on a team like the NETS that really can’t do anything to protect his weaknesses as a player.  Joe Johnson should’ve found a spot on a playoff team at the trade deadline, but that didn’t happen either.

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The good thing about being a NETS fan is that you really don’t expect much. . . ever.  So Sean Marks has more than enough time to put something together, and if he doesn’t – oh well, we’re the NETS. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Is Love’s Heart in the Wrong Place?

Many thought and speculated about Kevin Love’s options before free agency began this season.  He opted out of his contract late in June with the Cavaliers, which surprised nobody – it was just “good business.” Soon after,  many assumed he was done in Cleveland.

There was actually good reason to believe that would be true.

It was nearly a year ago that Kevin Love was traded to Cleveland and it seemed that LeBron James had constructed another power-house “Big Three” in his homecoming to Cleveland.  James, Love and Kyrie Irving, were looked upon as a younger version of James, Bosh and Wade in Miami.  LeBron James is arguably the most unselfish superstar the league has known and it seemed like an easy fit with Love and Irving.

Things didn’t work out for Love as he had planned though.

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Love’s points per game averaged dropped by ten points (26.1 in 2014 compared to 16.4 in 2015), his rebounds per game dropped from 12.5 to 9.7 a game, three point percentage, field goal percentage and free throw percentage – all took a slight drop.

There is a simple reason for the numbers being dropped.  Aside from many who think it’s a “system” thing – it was more of a “culture” thing.  Love played in Minnesota, where he was the star of a bad team.  He was able to put up numbers and play however he wanted without the stress of “expectations.”  Before he knew it, he was thrust into a position where the expectation in Cleveland was “to win a championship,” (it’s still kind of weird to see the words “Cleveland” and “championship” in the same sentence, but that’s another story.)

Love had his struggles in Cleveland and they were all well documented.  He was not getting many minutes in the fourth quarter, and when he did, he didn’t get many touches – and every body language expert in the world told us he was un-happy.  Love and Jame’s relationship seemed to be sour and Love just looked like the odd-man out in Cleveland.   This is why many expected Love to look elsewhere in free agency.

The Lakers were always a team that many thought Love would ultimately end up.  He’s a native of Santa Monica, California who went to school in UCLA so the math made sense.  Love wasted little time when free agency began and agreed to go back to Cleveland for five years at $110 million.

The money is great obviously and the ongoing sentiment as to why he stayed in Cleveland is because “he has the best chance to win a championship there.”  Fine.  Considering how weak the Eastern Conference is, there is a lot of truth to that statement – but so what?

Love did not seem happy in Cleveland.  How could he be?  He’s the third offensive option on a team who’s star apparently favors the likes of Tristan Thompson over him.   This brings to light a  question:  Is success worth one’s happiness?

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In short the answer is “no.”  How many successful millionaire businessmen are alcoholics on suicide watch?  How many actors choose to live in seclusion to hide from the bright lights?  How many music artists end up hating the music industry after a successful career?   The answer to all of these questions is many.  Love may have joined the Cavaliers just to avoid publicly being scorned.  Let’s all be honest, that’s what would have happened.

LeBron for one, controls the basketball media.  Everyone wants to be LeBron’s friend and would’ve written stories on Love being soft or wanting to be a star on a losing team again.  Many would’ve said if Love couldn’t fit in with the ultimate team guy in LeBron then he won’t fit in right anywhere.

Most would’ve said Kevin Love cares more about getting paid and putting up ridiculous stats than winning championships.  Let’s say that was true – what would be wrong with that?

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What’s wrong with wanting to have fun while playing ball and getting paid nicely for it?  Nothing.   The rhetoric here is all backwards from people who will never be given the choice in their lives that Kevin Love had to make.  Kevin Love’s career could turn to a guy who was a 25-10 a night guy to someone who is just another name on a roster with LeBron James.  Yes, his career could add an NBA Championship or two with Cleveland – but was that even Kevin Love’s end-game when it’s all said and done ?

Knowing who LeBron James is though, Love would not be there if LeBron didn’t want him there.  With that being said nobody should be surprised if Love requests to be traded one day from Cleveland – with or without a championship.  A lesson is to be learned here.  If you’re not happy where you’re at – move on.  Love had that choice but decided to stay in Cleveland.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

The Social Media Merry Go Round

Sometimes we speak out of anger.  Sometimes we speak just to hear our own voices.  Sometimes we don’t even mean the things we say and still say it.  When you find yourself in one of those moments, stay off of social media.   When your blood is boiling or you feel overcome by the sudden urge to take a jab at someone – take a minute and think about it.  Should you let your hands run rampant on a keyboard?  Should you pull out your phone and “keep it real?”  Or should you just keep it to yourself?

With access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and numerous other social media outlets, it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and say something that was better left unsaid.  For Larry Nance Jr., he’s learning that the hard way.

It’s been well noted that in May of 2012, young Nance sent out this tweet:

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Pretty harsh attack on the “Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant.

Three years later, Nance is drafted by the L.A. Lakers and finds himself in the Black Mamba’s snake pit.

Luckily for Nance, when he apologized to Kobe about words said three years ago, Kobe accepted his apology and said : “We all say things we regret.”  Maybe our usually venom-infused-basketball -reptilian is getting tired in his later stages.  Or maybe, Kobe really just doesn’t care what the 27th pick of the NBA draft had to say about him, 3 years ago.  Whatever it was that let Nance, slip out of the wrath of Kobe – a lesson should be learned to all.

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This isn’t the first time an athlete made a statement on social media and was publicly crucified for it.

Sure, sometimes it’s fun – like when we see Richard Sherman beefing with the likes of Darrelle Revis or Patrick Peterson.  We even enjoy it when the Twitter handles of organizations take cheap shots at each other – but some of these kids have to chill.

Social media has become part of society and has made a huge impact on journalism.  Blog sites can write a two paragraph piece on a single tweet and try to blow up a meaningless joke as something harsh or disrespectful.  Athletes, especially younger athletes – need to understand this.

Some coaches in college like Rick Pitino of Louisville, frowns down at his students who update their lives on social media, because of the risk of saying something stupid that will come back to burn them.   It may seem ridiculous but maybe some college coaches should be hiring social media coaches – or social media regulators on their staffs just to make sure these 18 or 19 year old kids aren’t saying anything reckless for the whole world to see.

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Larry Nance Jr. is just one instance and there will be many more that follow.  Young men like Nance are more concerned with “retweets” and “likes” then maturity.  It’s not totally their fault though, it’s encouraged to be outrageous on social media – those things can make you a star in today’s world.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio