Rap and basketball

Rap and basketball: Forever intertwined through lyrical references

Rap and basketball go together like peanut butter and jelly. Players are name-dropped in songs and rappers sit courtside. Players have become rappers (Iman Shumpert, Damian Lillard and Nick Young) and rappers have become owners (Jay-Z and Nelly). Getting name-dropped in a song shows that you’ve done enough as a player, for better or worse, to warrant the shoutout.

“Once I got referenced, that is when I felt like I had made it in pop culture” – Dwyane Wade

The better and more successful a player is, the more likely he is to be name-dropped more often in a song. Michael Jordan has been mentioned 194 times in a song and Brevin Knight has been mentioned once (back to Brevin later). Listed below are 16 of the best NBA player references in rap history and my breakdown of the lyrics.

“If Jeezy paying LeBron, I’m paying Dwyane Wade”

Rap and basketball

Dwayne Wade shares a laughs with Jay-Z. (Kelly Dwyer/Yahoo Sports)

“Empire State of Mind” – Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys (2009)

Jeezy is “paying” LeBron because he had recently made a song titled 23,24 where he mentions LeBron and Kobe a bunch. Jay-Z hops aboard the Dwyane Wade bandwagon in Empire State of Mind instead.

D-Wade was at his peak in 2009 when he lead the NBA in scoring by averaging 30.2 points per game. He was the best shooting guard in the NBA at the time, and Jay-Z is stating that he would back Dwyane Wade since Jeezy already backed LeBron James.

“Pyrex, cook it up like Kyrie, trade you off (let’s go), green and white like Celtics, don’t play with me, play with a fork.”

“All da Smoke” – Future and Young Thug (2017)

In this song off the recently released collaborative album Super Slimey, Future talks about the Kyrie Irving trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets 2018 first-round pick.

Pyrex is a cookware brand, and he compares cooking in the kitchen to Kyrie cooking defenders on the court.

Green and white is in reference to the Celtics colorway and the color of money, which Future has a whole lot with his net worth being around $8 million.

“I been Steph Curry with the shot, been cookin’ with the sauce, Chef Curry with the pot boy, 360 with the wrist boy.”

“0 to 100/The Catch Up” – Drake (2014)

Drake starts out the line by comparing himself to Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. He is stating that he is a dead-eye shooter and doesn’t miss on tracks, like how Steph Curry seemingly doesn’t miss shots, especially from deep.

The two-time MVP is a career 43.6 percent 3-point shooter and has made over 2,000 threes already in his career. This puts him at eighth all time, and he is only 29 years old.

The second part of the lyric Drake refers to Ayesha Curry. Ayesha is Steph’s wife, and Drake mentions her ability to whip up feasts in the kitchen. It also refers to James Harden’s “stir the pot” celebration.

“And you can live through anything if Magic made it.”

“Can’t Tell Me Nothing” – Kanye West (2007)

Kanye references Lakers Hall of Fame point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s AIDS diagnosis in this lyric. On Nov. 7, 1991, Johnson held a press conference and shocked the world when he announced that he was retiring from the NBA because he was HIV-positive.

At the time, the disease was deadly as they were still in the early stages of developing drugs to manage the disease. Kanye refers to this by saying you can live through whatever you are suffering through because Magic was able to survive his dire diagnosis.

“I am just like DeRozan, if I shoot it, it goes in.”

“iSpy” – KYLE ft. Lil Yatchy (2016)

This is a questionable lyric at best. KYLE is comparing himself to Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan by saying any track he makes is a hit, just like any shot DeRozan shoots he hits.

This is just a factually incorrect statement. Although DeRozan has improved his 3-point shooting percentage to a more than respectable 35 percent, he is still a 29 percent career shooter from deep. He also shoots 44.9 percent in his career from the field, meaning he makes less than half of the shots he attempts.

To make his lyric even more incorrect, this is the only song he has ever had in the Billboard Top 100, when ‘iSpy” peaked at No. 4. Although KYLE may improve his numbers just like DeRozan has, next time he should choose a better shooter to compare himself too.

“I been ballin’ so hard I swear I think that I’m Kobe”

Rap and basketball

Kobe balled pretty hard over his career. (Photo by AP / David J. Phillip)

“Kobe” – Chief Keef (2012)

Chicago legend Chief Keef believes that he has put in so much work and made so much money that he is convinced that he is Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Bryant averaged 25 points per game, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists over his career. He has earned over $770 million in his career from advertisements and contract money.

On the other hand, Chief Keef has a net worth of around $6 million. Chief Keef feels as if he is on the same level as Bryant because he is making hit after hit. His debut album Finally Rich was a superb success, debuting at No. 29 on the Billboard Top 200 list. Not bad at all for a 17-year-old rapper.

“I’m not from round these parts I’m Stojakovic”

“Pump It Up (Remix)” – Joe Budden ft. Jay Z (2003)

Joe Budden, a rap old head, joins forces with mogul Jay-Z for the song Pump It Up (Remix). There are plenty of references in the song, but the best is the one listed above. It is a remix to Joe Budden’s most successful and acclaimed song Pump It Up.

Budden exclaims that he is foreign to the neighborhood, just like former NBA sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic. Stojakovic is from Serbia and averaged 17 points per game in his career and shot over 40 percent from three. He is one of the best international players of all time.

Just like Stojakovic is from Serbia and not familiar with his surroundings, neither is Joe Budden in this song.

“Klay Thomp’, corner shot (brrr), Eight-Ball, corner pocket(ayy)”

“Call Casting” – Migos (Quavo) (2017)

Migos gives a shoutout to Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson on the track “Call Casting” from the standout album Culture. Thompson is the second “Splash Brother” along with point guard Stephen Curry. They are two of the most accurate and deadly three-point shooters of all time. Thompson has hit many corner threes in his lifetime and will hit many more in the future.

In the second half of the lyric, Quavo talks about his Billiards knowledge by stating that he is calling the corner pocket of the table for the eight-ball when he is going for the win. An eight-ball may also refer to Quavo dealing with an eighth, or 3.5 grams, of a drug.

“James Harden, Swaggy P runnin’ up the budget”

“Facts (Charlie Heat Version)” – Kanye West (2016)

Kanye West is not only a rapper, but a clothing feign. He signed with Adidas after starting his clothing brand with Nike. Both of the athletes mentioned in this lyric also left Nike for Adidas as well. The Yeezy line is one of the most popular clothing and pop culture lines in the world.

West points to Adidas signing both Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden and then Los Angles Lakers shooting guard Nick “Swaggy P” Young. He states that their Adidas contracts are causing the budget to rise. Harden’s contract with Adidas is a reported $200 million over 13 years. That will certainly run up the budget.

“Got a thing for aesthetics, straight shooter like Redick”

“102” – Vince Staples (2011)

Vince Staples states that he enjoys beauty and the pretty things in life. Staples then compares his gun-toting abilities and accuracy with a glock to that of Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard J.J. Redick. Redick is one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA. He is a career 41.4 percent shooter from deep and has made 1,369 threes in his career so far. Redick is someone you don’t wanna leave open from deep, otherwise you might as well chalk up three points for the other team.

“Back-to-back like I’m Jordan ’96, ’97”

“Back to Back” – Drake (2015)

This lyric is from the second of two diss tracks by Drake against Meek Mill. The beef started after Meek Mill called out Drake for allegedly using a ghost writer to write his verses.

Drake responded by dropping “Charged Up” and “Back to Back,” taking shots at Meek Mill and his entourage the entire time. He compares him dropping back-to-back diss tracks with Chicago Bulls shooting guard and the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan winning back-to-back championships in 1996 and 1997.

“She said she need a ring like Carmelo”

“Nikes” – Frank Ocean (2016)

Frank Ocean talks about a woman in his life that he is with that wants to get married. The woman wants to solidify her relationship with Ocean by having the ring. He compares this to Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Carmelo Anthony not having won an NBA Championship, despite being one of the best players of the decade and one of the best individual scorers of all time.

He has averaged over 24.4 points per game over his 16-year NBA career. Therefore, he wants a ring that signifies being a champion. Many pundits and fans believe that’s the last thing Anthony needs to accomplish in his career, despite having one an NCAA Championship with Syracuse in 2003.

“I’ma beat they (butt) up like Ron Artest”

“Floyd Mayweather” – Young Thug ft. Gunna, Travis Scott and Gucci Mane (2016)

In the standout song off of Young Thug’s third major release mixtape Jeffery, Young Thug profusely states that he will beat the up the next person who tries to rob him, and make sure no one threatens him again.

He compares his fighting ability to Ron Artest’s (aka Metta World Peace). Artest is infamously known for his part in the Malace at The Palace fight. In a game between rival Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers in Detroit, the two teams got into a heated brawl in the closing seconds. The fight spilled into the stands with Ron Artest fighting fans after they threw things onto the court at him. It is one of the most infamous moments in NBA history.

So yeah, don’t get into a fight with Young Thug or Ron Artest.

“I bring all my guns to work, Gilbert Arenas”

“Spend It” – 2 Chainz ft T.I. (2011)

2 Chainz states he is always strapped up with weapons in the workplace like Gilbert Arenas was in the Washington Wizards’ locker room. Arenas was the star point guard for the Wizards when he was suspended for the rest of 2010 season after getting in a locker room dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton. They reportedly drew weapons on each other in the locker room after arguing over a gambling debt.

On a somewhat related note, Crittenton is currently serving 23 years in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter.

“Boomin’ out in South Gwinnett like Lou Will, 6 man like I’m Lou Will”

Rap and basketball

Lou Williams with his two girlfriends. (Lou Williams Instagram)

“6 Man” – Drake (2014)

Drake love the Raptors so much he dedicated a song off the album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late to one of their players.

“6 Man” is dedicated to shooting guard Lou Williams, who at the time was a high-scoring guard for the Toronto Raptors. He had recently won the Sixth Man of the Year award for the Raptors in 2014-15. Drake also shouts out South Gwinnett, which is where Lou Williams went to high school in Georgia. He also shouts out producer Metro Boomin with the first word of the lyric.

Drake states he is the 6 man like Lou Will because he is the man of the 6, which is what Toronto is known as. A fun fact about Lou Williams is that he once had two girlfriends at the same time, and one of his girlfriends had a twin.

“I take my Glock and I point god/point guard like Brevin Knight”

“Put ‘Em in the Grave” – Jedi Mind Tricks (2006)

I told you we would get back to out mutual friend Brevin Knight. In one of the most obscure rap references of all time, Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks talks about pointing his pistol and guarding himself and his homies, like point guard Brevin Knight guarding people on defense.

Brevin Knight was a journeyman backup point guard who played for nine teams in his career and averaged 7.3 points per game. While it is a very slick metaphor and lyric, it is still quite odd that he picked perhaps one of the most random NBA players in history.

The only reason I knew Brevin Knight existed was that I had his Utah Jazz basketball card as a kid. I’m sure 99.9 percent of people reading this don’t know who he is, which is quite fair because he did absolutely nothing notable in his career besides being known as a decent defender (I had to look that up).

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did writing this.

 

Featured image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America

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Machado

Where things stand with Giancarlo Stanton

There has been no doubt that the MLB offseason has been engulfed by the rumors surrounding the 2017 NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton. At this point, mostly all there has been is speculation. There are a lot of factors that go into a trade of this magnitude, so there are a lot of things that have to go right in order for it to go through. Here is an up to date summary of all that has been going on surrounding Stanton.

No-trade clause

Stanton

Magic Johnson and the Dodgers probably don’t have the ability to take on Stanton’s contract (Getty Images)

One of the biggest factors in Stanton’s contract at the moment is not only the large amount of money he is owed, but the fact he can reject any trade the Marlins may put in front of him.

Stanton is a SoCal native, and he reaffirmed that when he put the Los Angeles Dodgers as his preferred spot to be traded to, per MLB.com columnist, Jon Morosi. The Dodgers are the only team to be reported on that list. It has also been reported by Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald, that Stanton would reject a trade to either Boston or St. Louis. However, that report has been refuted by others.

The Jon Morosi report suggests that Stanton is keeping an open mind to where he could be traded. He will evaluate his options once there is some more light shed on them though.

This is not the first time a no-trade clause has been a factor lately. Justin Verlander told the Tigers as well that he would prefer to play for the Dodgers. However, once late August came around, Verlander realized that he would not be going to Los Angeles. He then accepted a trade to the Houston Astros, and the rest is history.

Best fits for the Marlins

Stanton

Reyes is a very attractive pitching prospect for the Marlins (ESPN)

The Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are the teams that appear to be pursing the Miami slugger the most. While all of them could use him in their lineup, there are some that can offer more to the Marlins than others.

The only two teams who have actually submitted an offer to the Marlins are the Giants and the Cardinals. It has been reported that Joe Panik and Tyler Beede have been mentioned in that offer. The Cardinals have a lot of pitching to give, and one name mentioned in the offer was Sandy Alcantara while other details remain unclear.

What the Marlins are looking for out of this trade are to relieve some of the financial burden of Stanton’s contract, and to acquire some young pitching. The team that has the most to offer in that department are the St. Louis Cardinals, who may have the best pitching prospect in baseball in Alex Reyes. They are also well below the luxury tax cutoff, giving them a lot of financial flexibility.

The number one priority for the Marlins right now though is speaking to the Dodgers and seeing if they can come to an agreement. Stanton will not consider any other teams without knowing that Los Angeles is out of the running. The Dodgers are already likely going to go over the luxury tax, so it would not be in their best interest to add the largest sports contract in the world to their payroll. It would not make sense for the Marlins to take on a large part of Stanton’s contract for the Dodgers either, as then there would be little point to be trading him at all.

The Marlins need tor rule them out quick though, as some reports have indicated that other teams want a resolution from Stanton by December 10th, the first day of the Winter Meetings. This is so they can move onto other options as the free agent market remains untapped.

What all this means for Stanton

Stanton has made it clear that he does not want to go through a rebuilding phase. Derek Jeter has suggested that rebuilding may be the route the Marlins take though. Stanton has been in the league for seven years now and has yet to play on a winning team. In order to avoid this, he is going to have to redefine where he would like to be traded to.

The Cardinals make sense from a baseball perspective for Stanton. They are in big need for a game changing bat in the middle of the lineup, and are looking to consolidate talent. The Cardinals have also only had one losing season since 2000, so he would be playing for a winner. St. Louis isn’t far off from competing with the Chicago Cubs, and this offseason will really define their future. Stanton would play a big part in helping them compete, and surely could make them into World Series contenders.

The case seems to be that Stanton wants to play in a more high-profile place rather than St. Louis, and who can blame him? He is a young baseball star with loads of money and wants to spend nights out on the town. Not to mention he is also from Los Angeles and has family and friends there. Stanton will have to make the decision as to what is more important to him though.

The Giants don’t seem to fit the criteria of being soon to be winners either. The fact they don’t have much to offer the Marlins on the prospect side doesn’t help either. Boston would make sense for Stanton as they seem to be perennial contenders. That is why Boston and St. Louis seem like the most likely destinations with all things considered. Which means Stanton has to reevaluate his options in order to play for a winner.

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A look at the teams not in the NBA 2K League

17 teams are entering the NBA 2K League. That is more than half of the 30 teams in the NBA participating in the 2K League’s inaugural season. While a few teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers have deeper roots in esports than others, there are 13 teams waiting for their opportunity to enter the scene.

Eventually the NBA would want every team to join the NBA 2K League. I’m optimistic that it’s not a matter of if they’ll join, it’s a matter of when they’ll join. The NBA 2K League will thrive with more competition synonymous to the NBA. As a result it will present excellent opportunities for the community as well.

Who are these teams?

  1. Atlanta Hawks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Charlotte Hornets
  4. Chicago Bulls
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Houston Rockets
  7. LA Clippers
  8. Los Angeles Lakers
  9. Minnesota Timberwolves
  10. New Orleans Pelicans
  11. Oklahoma City Thunder
  12. Phoenix Suns
  13. San Antonio Spurs

Business as usual

While a number of teams don’t have any reported esports experience, they have the business experience to make the NBA 2K League a success. In a marriage between esports and traditional sports, it’s a transition that’ll help grow both industries for the world to see.

There are three teams that have their feet wet in the esports landscape and have created successful moves. But because these teams have esports experience doesn’t necessarily mean they’re locked in for season two nor does it mean that the other 10 teams are less likely to join either.

Denver Nuggets

One of the two Los Angeles teams in the Overwatch League. Courtesy of LA Gladiators via Twitter.

Josh Kroenke, Nuggets President, and his father Stan Kroenke co-own the Los Angeles Gladiators after securing a league spot in the Overwatch League. Blizzard set a $20 million fee to own a regional franchise in the Overwatch League and the Kroenke’s can pay the bill.

Kroenke Sports & Entertainment is a sports and entertainment holding company based in Denver with control over five professional sports franchises. The Kroenke’s own numerous Colorado sports franchises including the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids and the Colorado Mammoth.

With the Los Angeles Gladiators as their first venture into the esports landscape, the Denver Nuggets joining the NBA 2K League next season is a possibility.

Houston Rockets

Clutch Gaming has a spot in the NA LCS. Courtesy of Clutch Gaming via Twitter.

Tilman Fertitta, Rockets Owner, owns Clutch Gaming after securing a league spot in the North American League of Legends Championship Series. The Clutch Gaming brand coincidentally inspired from the nickname given to the Houston Rockets, Clutch City.

It also helps that Daryl Morey, Rockets General Manager, is an avid supporter of esports and joined the MLG Board of Directors back in 2013. In an interview with ESPN, he spoke esports as “[t]he 1950s basketball right now, where there’s that kind of opportunity.”

 

 

There’s enough esports involvement to believe the Houston Rockets will eventually make their way into the NBA 2K League sooner rather than later.

Los Angeles Lakers

Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson. Courtesy of Fox Sports.

Magic Johnson, Lakers President of Basketball Operations, is an investor for aXiomatic which has an ownership in Team Liquid. Johnson is no stranger to business and Team Liquid may be his first stop among many in his esports career.

Other traditional sports figures include former Lakers, Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal, who are making waves of their own. Both Echo Fox and NRG are continuing to grow and recruit the best talent in their respected esports.

Meanwhile both Northern California teams, the Warriors and Kings, are in the NBA 2K League this year. There’s a lot of opportunity in a large market like Los Angeles and we hope to see the Lakers and Clippers soon.

 

Featured image courtesy of Tito Sar.

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Who is the next best player in the NBA?

On Tuesday night, we saw the underachieving Cleveland Cavaliers face off against the exciting and intriguing Milwaukee Bucks. More importantly, we saw the undisputed best player in the league, LeBron James, square off against potential MVP finalist, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Behind Kevin Love’s 32 points, 16 rebounds and LeBron’s 30 points, Cleveland defeated the Bucks 124-119. Despite the loss, Antetokounmpo poured in 40 points, knocking down 16 of his 21 attempts. The Greek Freak also added nine rebounds and four blocks.

Still, Antetokounmpo’s plus/minus was -7. He also turned the ball over eight times. With that said, even at age 32, LeBron James remains the best player in the NBA. With Father Time being undefeated, it is obvious that James will eventually be dethroned, most likely in two to three years.

Ben Simmons is coming for the top spot (CBS Sports)

Once LeBron stops being the best player on the planet, will Antetokounmpo take over as the sport’s biggest star? What about The Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis, over in New York? Another case could even be made for the emerging Sixers star, Ben Simmons, who through 10 games is averaging 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Simmons already has seven games of at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. Through their first 10 games, both Jordan and LeBron only had four. If he keeps his averages up, he will join Oscar Robertson as the only other player to average 17 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in a rookie season.

The following is an NBA timeline of the greatest players since 1970. This list of names was originally created by Nick Wright, co-host of FS1’s First Things First. While this list is obviously up for debate, it is, in my eyes, an extremely accurate timeline of who was the best player in the league over the last 47 years.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970-71) – (1977-78)

Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., is probably the most accomplished players in the history of basketball, absolutely dominated the seventies. During this eight-year timespan, Kareem won five MVPs, was a two-time scoring champion, and had four seasons in which he averaged at least 27 points and 15 rebounds.

In just his second season (1970-71), the Bucks, behind Kareem and Oscar Robertson, swept the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals. Kareem, who at the time still went by Lew Alcindor, was named Finals MVP. Throughout the 1970-71 playoffs, Alcindor averaged 26.6 points and 17 rebounds. During his 1974 MVP season, Abdul-Jabbar finished in the top five in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage.

Moses Malone (1978-1979) – (1982-1983)

Form 1978-83, Malone won three MVPs, and led the NBA in rebounding five times. For his career, Malone ranks seventh in points and third in rebounds. Malone is the offensive rebounding king, as he currently sits as the all-time leader in that department.

Moses Malone, one of the best rebounders we have ever seen (ESPN.com)

In the 1977-78 season, Malone missed 23 games due to injury, yet still led the league in offensive rebounding, and finished second in total rebounds per game. The following season, after gaining 15 pounds, Malone led the league in minutes, and averaged 24.8 points with 17.6 rebounds per game.

During the 1982-1983 season, his first year with the Philadelphia 76ers, Malone averaged 24.5 points and a league-best 15.3 rebounds per game. He was named All-NBA first-team, as well as first-team All-Defensive. He became the only NBA player to win back-to-back MVPs on two different teams, and his Sixers would go on to win the championship, in an easy four game sweep over Kareem and the Lakers. Malone was named Finals MVP, and outscored Abdul-Jabbar 72-30 in the four games.

Larry Bird/ Magic Johnson (1983-1984) – (1989-1990)

It’s hard to decide who was the better of the two, but Larry and Magic ran the 80s. In the 1983-84 season, Bird’s Celtics defeated Magic’s Lakers in the NBA Finals. The following year, the Lakers beat the C’s in six. In 1985-86 Boston reclaimed their spot on top, only to be defeated the following season by, you guessed it, the Lakers. From the ’79 playoffs, up until 1988, the Lakers and Celtics combined for eight NBA championships.

Throughout this extraordinary run, both Bird and Magic won three MVPs apiece, and the two legends combined for five Finals MVPs. Magic winning three, and Bird with two.

Michael Jordan (1990-1991) – (1992-1993)

To sum it up, the Bulls won three championships in a row, Jordan was named Finals MVP in all three of them. During this three-year span, “His Airness” also won a pair of MVPs, and led the league in scoring each year.

Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-1994) – (1994-1995)

Because of Jordan’s hiatus (Minor League Baseball), the NBA needed a new star. In stepped Hakeem, who led the Rockets to back-to-back titles. In 1993-94, “The Dream” averaged 27.3 points and 11.9 rebounds on 52.8 percent shooting. That same year, he became the first player in NBA history to be named MVP, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year awards all in the same year.

The following season, on a mission for his second championship, Hakeem averaged 33 points in the 22 playoff games. In the Eastern Conference Finals, up against MVP David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs, Olajuwon put on a show. During that series, he averaged 35.3 points a game, and outscored Robinson by 40 points in the final two contests. In the Finals, Hakeem dominated a young Shaquille O’Neal, outscoring him in all four games.

Michael Jordan (1995-1996) – (1997-1998)

Just another three-peat, and three more Finals MVP trophies to add to his illustrious career. Again, Jordan led the league in scoring all three seasons, and tallied up two more MVPs.

Shaquille O’Neal (1998-1999) – (2001-2002)

“The Big Diesel”, Shaq was an absolute monster. Each year from 1998-2002, O’Neal led the league in field goal percentage. He only won one MVP, but helped the Lakers win three straight titles. Shaq averaged at least 25 and 10 in his first seven years with the Lakers. The guy was flat out incredible.

Tim Duncan (2002-2003) – (2004-2005)

In 2002, Duncan won his second consecutive MVP trophy, while also notching his second ring. In this particular three-year span, Duncan won a pair of titles, and earned Finals MVP honors in both. He averaged at least 20 points and 11 rebounds, while easily shooting over 50 percent in all three seasons.

Lebron James (2005-2006) – (??)

The King. (Billboard.com)

Who knows how long this run will last, but boy has it been special. LeBron has been an All-Star in 13 straight seasons, and has made the NBA Finals seven years in a row. It might as well be called the LeBron James Invitational at this point. LeBron is clearly the most talented player this game has ever seen.

To this point in his career, King James is a 4x MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 3x NBA Champion, 6x All-Defensive, and also the 2007-08 NBA scoring champion. Keep in mind that when LeBron originally left the Cavs, they had the first pick in the draft. When Jordan left, the Bulls went from 57 wins, to 55.

Who is next?

 

Featured image by SI.com

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Knizner

Five early predictions for the National League offseason

The 2017 World Series has come to a close, and the Houston Astros are champions for the first time in franchise history. That means it is time to look forward to next season as we will be without baseball until the spring. This ought to be an exciting offseason due to a star studded free agent class, especially in the outfield.

Not only are there a lot of good free agents, but this ought to be an interesting winter on the trade market. There are some big names floating around that could shake up the whole league. With that being said, here are five early predictions for the 2017 offseason.

The Los Angeles Dodgers sign Jake Arrieta

The Dodgers are coming off a tough World Series loss against the Astros. The front office knew that 2017 was a prime year to break their 30-year drought since the start. Now that it didn’t happen and a large part of their roster still in tact, they will look to push even harder next year.

National League offseason

The Dodgers may look elsewhere for help after Darvish’s collapse in the World Series. (Photo from Newsweek)

Yu Darvish is a free agent now (which may be a relief for the Dodgers after his World Series performance), and Los Angeles is looking to bolster their rotation. Jake Arrieta may be the best starting option on the market after his proven track record in the postseason and reliable arm in the regular season.

 

He won’t come cheap though. The Dodgers already have the highest payroll in the league, but Magic Johnson and company are surely not going to remain complacent after falling short this year. The Dodgers’ starting rotation and bullpen are what separated them from the rest of the league this season, but it may have been what costed them a championship.

A Kershaw-Arrieta duo would look to accomplish what a Kershaw-Darvish pair couldn’t. Darvish was successful in the NLDS and NLCS. However, he could not manage to put much together in the World Series. Arrieta has proven himself in those situations, so it would make sense for him to give the Dodgers that final push.

The St. Louis Cardinals get a reliable bat

The Cardinals had a glaring issue all season long, and that was their lack of an impact bat in the middle of their lineup. The problem is that St. Louis already has a crowded outfield full of players that they seem dedicated to, due to their high-value in their homegrown players. However, it is time for them to make a move for a big bat.

National League offseason

Christian Yelich would be tough for the Cardinals to get as Miami highly values him. (Photo from CBS Sports)

Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins are looking to cut payroll big time under new ownership. The one name that sticks out immediately is Giancarlo Stanton. St. Louis is not known for taking on such large contracts, even though Stanton is exactly what the Cardinals need.

If the Cardinals do end up trading with the Marlins, it would most likely be for Christian Yelich. Yelich is much more affordable and is under team control until 2022, which is very appealing. He also would provide a solid 3.0-4.0 WAR every year out.

What the Cardinals most likely will accomplish though is getting a corner infielder. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are both hitting the free agent market, and both would fit nicely into the lineup. What is important to keep in mind though is the Cardinals have an eye on the 2018 free agent market as well, and Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson will be available then. Expect the Cardinals to especially push for Machado next year, or even look to trade for him this offseason.

The Diamondbacks will retain J.D. Martinez

National League offseason

J.D. Martinez was one of the hottest hitters in the league after being traded. (Photo from Detroit Free Press)

J.D. Martinez was traded to the Diamondbacks from the Tigers during the summer. He thrived in Arizona, hitting a monstrous 29 home runs and hitting .302. The Los Angeles Angels have already announced that Justin Upton, another Detroit Tigers outfielder traded at the deadline, will be signed through the 2022 season. Now some are wondering if Martinez will do the same and stay in Arizona, or seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Martinez announced on Wednesday that he is switching to contract negotiator extraordinaire Scott Boras. At first glance, this seems like it is a move to negotiate with other teams, but he can still be very helpful in discussions with Arizona’s front office.

In a conversation with azcentralsports.com, Martinez expressed his desire in staying with Arizona long term. Being next to names like Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock makes him a good fit. Martinez may also feel it is the right place to stay after such a successful two months in the desert.

The Diamondbacks will have to give Martinez a large chunk of change in order for him to stay, but it may be what they have to do in order to compete with the reigning NL Champs in the West.

The Cubs will sign RHP Alex Cobb

With Jake Arrieta most likely leaving Chicago due to his high price tag, Alex Cobb could potentially come in and provide a solid third starter role behind Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Cobb has spent six years in the league and has had at least 20 starts in four of those years. Other than his 2016 campaign where he was sidelined most of the year for an elbow injury, he has been an extremely reliable pitcher for Tampa Bay.

Cobb is no Arrieta, but Cobb may be one of the better affordable pitchers on the market this offseason. Lance Lynn is a similar pitcher that could fit in Chicago. However, Cobb’s relationship with Joe Maddon and new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey could have a big impact on decisions for both sides.

Out of all the potential offseason moves that could happen, this one makes the most sense.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will trade for Giancarlo Stanton

As mentioned earlier, Derek Jeter and the Marlins are trying to cut payroll as much as possible in order to fully engage in a rebuild. Stanton has come out and said that he does not want to go through that process again. He is ready to win now.

National League offseason

Stanton may be on the Dodgers’ radar, as trading for him would make sense for all parties involved. (Photo from CBS Sports)

The Dodgers, despite having the highest payroll, have some money they can spend. Stanton has the most expensive sports contract in the world, so this would be a whole lot to take on. Even with the high payroll, the Dodgers don’t break the bank on one player too often. They are an organization that likes to spread their payroll out between many good players. However, this player is worth it.

Stanton also has the right to veto any trade he doesn’t like. The perfect fit may be in Los Angeles though. He is a California boy who grew up in the Los Angeles area. He also wants to win, as he has not done that much in his MLB career with the Marlins. It would be unlikely if a deal were to be put in front of him that he could deny such a tempting offer.

The Dodgers have a couple of solid prospects in their system with RHP Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo, who rank 10th and 23rd in the MLB’s best prospects rankings. Those two players, along with the Dodgers taking on the daunting contract, should be plenty to acquire the 2017 home run king. The question is if the Dodgers are willing to put that high of an investment into Stanton, who only put in his third full season of work this year.

There is a lot of upside with this player though. He turns 28 next week, which means he is at the beginning of the hitter’s prime (27-32). Acquiring Stanton, along with signing Jake Arrieta, would make the Dodgers an even bigger juggernaut to fear. One thing for sure though is L.A. is hungry for a World Series after watching the Astros win it on their home turf.

 

Featured image by Getty Images  

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The top five usage percentage seasons in NBA history

These players took “putting a team on their back” to the next level. With the NBA season starting tonight, let’s take a look at the all-time single season leaders in terms of usage rate. According to RotoGrinders, usage rate is “defined as an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor.” To put this into perspective, in 2004-05, Jermaine O’Neal’s usage rate was 36.22 percent. This means that 36.22 percent of the time Jermaine was on the floor, plays ended with O’Neal either shooting the ball, turning it over, or getting to the line.

 

5. Allen Iverson 37.78 (2001-02)

The year after winning NBA MVP and reaching the Finals, “The Answer” did all he could to get his Sixers back to the promise land. In just 60 games of play, Iverson led the NBA in scoring (31.4), steals (2.8), and minutes per game (43.7). 2001-02 marked the fourth year in a row in which Iverson led the league in usage rate.

The 76ers other four starters, Matt Harping, Eric Snow, Derrick Coleman, Dikembe Mutombo, all averaged under 16 points per game. Mutombo, who, like Iverson, is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was 35 years old. Due to this weak starting lineup, Iverson took almost 28 shots per game, which ended up being his career high. He had nine games in which he scored at least 40 points, including a monster 58 points, 6 assists game against the Rockets. Iverson’s 42 shots in the win over Houston is good for 14th all time in terms of most field goal attempts in a single game.

In the first round of the 2001-02 playoffs, Philadelphia was eliminated in five games against Boston. Was Iverson gassed? Although he averaged 30 points per game in the playoffs, Iverson shot a rough 38.1 percent from the field. Following the series loss to Boston, Iverson was criticized by coach Larry Brown for missing practices. We all know how Iverson dealt with this one.

 

4. Michael Jordan 38.29 (1986-87)

Following the season in which Jordan missed 64 games due to a broken foot, MJ would go on to have one of the best scoring seasons the game has ever seen. While averaging 37.1 points per game on 48.2 percent shooting, Jordan joined Wilt Chamberlin as the only two players to score 3,000 points in a season. He would also go on to become the first player in NBA history to record 200 blocks and 100 steals.

Young MJ, circa 1986 (NBA.com)

Jordan, who was just 23 years old, took an absurd 2,279 total shots, which is good for sixth all time. Since 1980, the only other player to eclipse 2,000 shots in a season is Kobe Bryant, who achieved this in 2005-06. MJ played in all 82 games, leading the league in minutes, player efficiency rating, and win shares. Even with this historic season, Jordan came up short in MVP voting. Magic Johnson was named NBA MVP, after averaging 23.9 points and 12.2 assists per game.

Before playing with guys like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, and Dennis Rodman, Jordan struggled to bring Chicago deep into the playoffs. Even in this record setting 1986-87 season, Jordan and the Bulls only won 40 games, and were swept by Boston in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Just a reminder for those who think Jordan is the undisputed GOAT: At age 22, Lebron James led Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Eric Snow to a 50-win season and a trip to the NBA Finals.

 

3. Russell Westbrook 38.37 (2014-15)

Before the start of the 2014-15, Westbrook’s former superstar teammate, Kevin Durant, was diagnosed with a Jones fracture in his right foot and was out the first 17 games of the season. Durant would end up playing in only 27 games, as he would eventually be shut down for the season due to foot surgery.

This meant “The Brodie” was ready to ball. In the season opener, Westbrook went off for 38 points in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. After being sidelined due to a fracture in his hand, Westbrook erupted. In a win over the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook tallied up 17 points, 15 rebounds, and 17 assists. He became only the fifth player in NBA history with a stat line of 15-15-15 in a game.

In the 2015 NBA All Star game, Westbrook recorded 41 points, and was named the All-Star MVP. In a three game stretch in February, Westbrook became the first player since Lebron James to record three straight triple-doubles. This was a historic February for Westbrook, as he finished the month with a stat line of 31.2/10.3/9.1.

In 67 starts, Westbrook led the Thunder to 40 wins, while recording 31 double-doubles, and 11 triple doubles. Unfortunately, The Thunder missed out on the playoffs. This was only a preview of what was to come for Russ.

 

2. Kobe Bryant 38.74 (2005-06)

In the 2003-04 season, the Lakers were upset by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals. Phil Jackson did not return, and Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat. The following year, the Los Angeles Lakers won only 34 games, and missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1993-94 season. Bryant missed out on the NBA All-Defensive Team, and fell to the All-NBA Third Team.

81. (BleacherReport)

The “Black Mamba” had a lot to prove during the 2005-06 season. With Phil Jackson back as coach of the team, Bryant was able to carry the Lake Show back into the playoffs. On December 20th, 2005, in a game against the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant scored 62 points in just three quarters. He became the first player, since the shot clock was added, to outscore a team going into the fourth quarter.

On January 22nd, 2006, Kobe scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. This still stands as the second most points in an NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlin’s 100-point performance in 1962. Fortunately, Kobe was not done dominating. In the same month Bryant scored 45 or more points in four straight games. He would go on to average 43.4 points per game in the month of January, which is the highest for any player not named Wilt Chamberlin.

Bryant set the Lakers single-season records for most 40-point games (27) and total points in a season (2,832). He led the league in scoring, with 35.4 points per game, and finished 4th in MVP voting. Still, the Lakers were eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

 

1. Russell Westbrook 41.65 (2016-17)

When KD was hurt, we saw a preview of what was possible for Westbrook. When Durant was officially gone, as he chose to sign with the Warriors, Russ did what he wanted. His 42 triple-doubles is now a league record, and he currently sits at fourth place for most triple doubles in NBA history. Trailing only Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Jason Kidd.

During this illustrious season, Westbrook racked up three 50-point triple doubles, which is most all-time. He finished the year with 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. Russ joined Oscar Robertson as the only two players to average a triple-double for an entire season.

Even with his unforgettable season, the Thunder were eliminated in the first round by the Houston Rockets. In the five games, Westbrook had a stat line of 37.4/11.6/10.8. He was named the NBA MVP, and now has Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to help propel the Thunder to the next level.

Do you see a trend here? When players’ usage rates are this high, the team is never successful in the postseason. One guy cannot do it all. Of the top 20 usage rate seasons, none of the players went on to win the championship in that same year.

Featured image by TheSource.com

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The Top 10 NBA Finals

The basketball world has been sitting around dying for the NBA Finals to start. We are only one day away from one of the most anticipated Finals in NBA history. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are set to go head-to-head for the third year in a row. Many believe this is going to finish as one of the best NBA Finals of all time. With just one day remaining before the start of this year’s NBA Finals now is the perfect time to countdown the 10 best NBA Finals.

10: 1978 FINALS: WASHINGTON BULLETS VS. SEATTLE SUPERSONICS

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo by NBA Photo Library/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 1978 NBA Finals displayed a great matchup of teams not expected to make it to the Finals. Seattle was the four seed from the Western Conference that went 47-35 while Washington was a three seed that went just 44-38.

It was a back-and-forth series as each team traded wins every game until Game 7. Game 7 took place in Seattle and when Washington won the game it marked the first time in the series that either team won back-to-back games. Wes Unseld scored 15 points and also added six assists and nine rebounds and was later named Finals MVP.

The 1978 NBA Finals are the only Finals in NBA history in which both teams had under 50 wins in an 82-game season. It was also the first and only championship for the Washington franchise that is now named the Wizards.

9: 2005 FINALS: SAN ANTONIO SPURS VS. DETROIT PISTONS

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://www.nba.com/finals2005/video.html0

In 2005, the Pistons were trying to do what the Lakers accomplished in 1988 and that was to win back-to-back titles. The Spurs were going for their second title in three years. It was a battle of the previous two champions. The Spurs went up 2-0 behind two big scoring games from Manu Ginobili. The next two games were won by the Pistons to tie the series up at 2-2.

Once the series was tied up, the Spurs and Pistons traded wins to force a Game 7 in San Antonio. The Spurs held Detroit to just 41 percent from the field and 14 percent from behind the arc. San Antonio won the battle of champions in Game 7, 81-74. Tim Duncan won Finals MVP averaging 20.6 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.

8: 1970 FINALS: NEW YORK KNICKS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit:http://outsidethehype.com/)

In 1970, the Knicks were very different from today’s Knicks team, as they were actually good enough to make it to the Finals. Not only did they make it to the Finals, but they beat the Los Angeles Lakers in a tough seven-game series. This series was as back-and-forth of a Finals as possible as neither team strung together two wins in a row and Games 3 and 4 both went into overtime.

This series is widely remembered for the return of an injured Willis Reed. Reed reportedly tore a thigh muscle in Game 5 and did not play in Game 6. Reed did not have a major impact in the game but his teammate, Walt Frazier, had one of the greatest games in NBA Finals history.

The Lakers lost the series despite Jerry West averaging 31.3 points and 7.7 assists per game. West’s numbers were impressive but what Wilt Chamberlain did was even more impressive. Wilt averaged 23.3 points per game and an astonishing 24.1 rebounds per game. Neither performances were enough to win though.

Frazier shot 12-17, (70.6 pecent) scoring 36 points and he also added 19 assists to go along with seven rebounds. He put the Knicks on his back to win Game 7, and the series.

Even with Frazier’s epic performance in Game 7, Willis Reed was actually named the Finals MVP. Reed averaged 23 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and had 37 points in Game 1 and 38 points in Game 3. It was the first of two championships for the New York Knicks franchise.

7: 1988 FINALS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS VS. DETROIT PISTONS

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://outsidethehype.com)

The Lakers won the 1987 NBA Finals and at the victory parade head coach, Pat Riley promised a repeat. Los Angeles won 62 games and got back to the Finals to meet the Bad Boy Pistons.

Heading into Game 6 in Los Angeles, the Pistons had a 3-2 series lead. Pistons star point guard, Isiah Thomas, twisted his ankle in the third quarter but that didn’t stop him from dropping 43 points in the game. The Lakers held on to a 103-102 victory behind 28 points from James Worthy. Magic Johnson also had a double-double with 22 points and 19 assists.

Game 7 was in the famous Laker Forum. Entering the fourth quarter, the Lakers led 83-73. Detroit pushed hard in the fourth quarter outscoring the Lakers 32-25 but it wasn’t enough as the Lakers won 108-105. After a big Game 6, Thomas had just 10 points. James Worthy had a triple-double putting up 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists and was named the Finals MVP. It was the Lakers fifth title in nine years and last of the Magic and Showtime era.

6: 1962 FINALS: BOSTON CELTICS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://www.totalprosports.com/2013/06/03/the-13-greatest-game-7s-in-the-history-of-the-nba-playoffs/)

Hop into your time machine for this one. The 1962 NBA Finals was one of the best in NBA history. Boston was going for its fourth championship in a row. Los Angeles had dreams of ruining the Boston dynasty that was forming. Fast forward to Game 7, one of the best games that most NBA fans have never seen.

The game went into overtime tied at 100. Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Bill Russell each played more than 50 minutes. The only reason the game went into overtime was because Lakers guard Frank Selvy missed a baseline jumper as time expired.

The Celtics were able to outscore the Lakers 10-7 in overtime to win their fourth NBA title in a row. They would continue to win the next four as well finishing with eight NBA championships in a row.

In the 1962 Finals, many records were set. Elgin Baylor set and still holds, the record for most points in a Finals game with 61 in Game 5. Bill Russell had a record 40 rebounds in Game 7 and finished with an NBA-record 189 for the entire series. The 1962 NBA Finals will always be one of the best in the Lakers versus Celtics rivalry.

5: 2006 FINALS: MIAMI HEAT VS. DALLAS MAVERICKS

The 2006 Finals is the first one on the countdown that didn’t go seven games. This series has to be on the countdown because Dwayne Wade had arguably the greatest finals performance of all time. The Heat team was loaded with Hall of Fame talent around Dwayne Wade. Players such as Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal and Hall of Fame head coach Pat Riley surrounded Wade. Despite all the talent around him it was Dwayne Wade who stole the spotlight.

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://www.definearevolution.com)

Dallas went up 2-0 in the series and it looked like they were on their way to winning the championship. Dwayne Wade preceded to score 42 points, 36 points, 43 points and 36 points in games three through six. An average of 39.3 points per game in those four games. He finished the series as the Finals MVP averaging 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game.

His domination is still remembered to this day as legendary and because of his performance, the 2006 Finals was one of the top five NBA Finals of all time.

4: 2010 FINALS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS VS. BOSTON CELTICS

It was a rivalry renewed. In 2008 these two long-time rivals met and Boston came away victorious. The following year Los Angeles got redemption by beating the Magic. It was now time for a chance at revenge.

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://www.definearevolution.com)

Kobe Bryant had a wonderful resume but to truly be a Laker legend you had to beat the Celtics in the Finals. He was on a mission to not lose to the Celtics for the second time.

Kobe was the leading scorer in all games except Game 2. Game 7 was a low-scoring nail-biter. Entering the fourth quarter the Celtics led by the low score of 57-53. Kobe and the Lakers were in danger of losing to the Celtics in the Finals for the second time.

The Lakers outscored to the Celtics 30-22 in the fourth quarter to win 83-79. Kobe finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds and was awarded his second consecutive Finals MVP.

The Lakers avenged a 2008 loss to the Celtics in a historic seven-game series. Kobe won his fifth and final ring to cement his legacy as a Laker legend and an overall all-time great.

3: 2016 FINALS: CLEVELAND CAVALIERS VS. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

The repeat to the 2015 NBA Finals was one of the most historic and entertaining the NBA had ever seen. The Warriors had defeated the Cavaliers 4-2 the previous season to capture their first title in 40 years. Cleveland was still looking for its first major championship for the city in 52 years.

The chances of ending that drought looked very grim. Golden State took a 2-0 series lead with the largest margin of victory ever through the first two games to Cleveland. After four games the Warriors had a 3-1 lead and no team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in Finals history.

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: NBA.com)

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving went bonkers in Game 5 dropping 41 points each to force a Game 6. In Game 6, LeBron had another 41 points and 11 assists to force a decisive Game 7 at Golden State.

Game 7 was close from start to finish. LeBron had an epic block on Andre Iguodala and Kyrie Irving hit a three to seal the game and the city of Cleveland’s first championship in over 50 years. Cleveland will remember this one forever as LeBron brought the trophy home. He was named Finals MVP averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game.

2: 1998 FINALS: CHICAGO BULLS VS. UTAH JAZZ

This series is only one of two that wasn’t a seven-game series. It was also a rematch of the previous year’s Finals in which the Bulls won 4-2. The Jazz were looking for their first-ever title and revenge on Michael Jordan and the rest of the Chicago Bulls.

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Credit: http://www.complex.com/sports/2014/06/the-greatest-nba-finals-of-all-time/)

Jordan was going for a 6-0 record in the Finals and his second three-peat. M.J. came into Game 6 averaging 31.2 points per game and his team had a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 was in Utah, which is a tough place to play. He was going to need a legendary performance to close out the Jazz on their home court.

Jordan did not disappoint. He scored 45 of the team’s 87 points, which was 51 percent of the team’s scoring. The Bulls needed all 45 of those points too because, with just 27 seconds left in the game, the Jazz were up 86-85.

Michael Jordan stole the ball and dribbled down towards the basket. M.J. hit his famous mid-range jumper giving the Bulls the 87-86 lead. It was the game-winning shot for his sixth championship and cemented him as the greatest basketball player of all time.

 

1: 1984 FINALS: BOSTON CELTICS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

The 1984 NBA Finals could be considered the Finals that saved basketball. Ratings had been dropping until Larry Bird and Magic Johnson took center stage. The rivalry that started to form was captivating the entire country.

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: Youtube)

Bird vs. Magic was deeper than just a head-to-head matchup. It was white vs. black, east vs. west, and some say it was rich vs. poor, even though Bird wasn’t the richest kid growing up.

Magic had beaten Bird in the 1979 NCAA Championship game and Larry Bird could never shake that loss out of his head. He used it as motivation and it made him obsess about being better than Magic.

He got his chance to face Magic in the 1984 NBA Finals. The Lakers franchise was still struggling to beat the Celtics in the Finals and they would have to wait another year to accomplish that feat.

The 1984 Finals went seven games. In Game 7, Larry Bird had 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead to an 111-102 victory. Bird was named Finals MVP averaging 27 points and 14 rebounds in the series.

Because of the social impacts of the series and the falling ratings of the NBA, this ranks as the greatest Finals matchup in NBA history. It created a true rivalry between Bird and Magic that saved the game of basketball.

 

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Participation Trophies

Participation Trophies Are Ruining Sports

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There are two completely opposite sides of the fence when it comes to participation trophies in sports. Those who believe participation trophies are good for sports and those who think they are the worst thing in the world for sports.

One side of the fence is totally right. The other side of the fence are the losers who have never won a trophy fairly. They are the people who have been handed everything and believe they are entitled to a trophy. Participation trophies are ruining sports.

Any athlete who has ever played a sport knows that sports teach lessons that help in the game of life. Hard work, dedication, accountability, adversity, learning how to win, learning how to lose, trust, teamwork and perseverance are things sports teach people about life.

Athletes learn better than non-athletes that you have to fail to eventually become successful. An athlete doesn’t give up when they fail, but instead gets back up and makes adjustments so that failure turns into success. Sports teach athletes to become leaders throughout the workforce and the world. Sports are hard, but life is harder. Being an athlete teaches you how to push yourself to the limit both mentally and physically.

Handing out participation trophies undermines all of these amazing skills. It teaches children that no matter what happens, you’re a winner. That is completely false. Walk down the street or go to a store and you will find many losers in life. Simply existing or trying isn’t always enough.

Kids are taught that everyone is special when in reality, that just isn’t the case. A job search is the easiest way to realize that. Simply applying or trying doesn’t get the job. How many of you have not gotten the job you have interviewed for? How many of you have missed out on a promotion? There are many cases in life in which if something isn’t earned, you aren’t rewarded. Why should we reward the losers a trophy just for showing up?

Participation Trophies

(Photo Credit: http://verysmartbrothas.com)

James Harrison said it best on Instagram.

“I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies!” Harrison said. “While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues

Harrison could not have conveyed a better message. Sometimes your best is not enough. There are times you are not special as a person and there is nothing wrong with that. We must all find our niche in life. Anybody who has ever won a trophy or earned something they worked extremely hard for knows this. Earning is better than entitlement.

Participation trophies teach children at a young age that hard work is meaningless because no matter what happens, trying is good enough to earn a trophy. Kids who have received participation trophies have been programmed to think and feel entitled to something not deserved.

It has led to the death of competition in the NBA. Everyone has fun playing with their friends and believes that no matter what, they will be ok and have fun even if they lose. Now teams have to form “Big Threes” or a “Big Four” like when Kevin Durant joined the Warriors. Everyone is looking for the easiest route and it is because of participation trophies.

“There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry (Bird), called up Magic (Johnson) and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team,'” said Michael Jordan. “In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys.”

Participation Trophies

(Photo Credit: http://faculty.wagner.edu)

This is what life and sports should be about. Competing to be the best. I may be completely biased because I have won trophies and never been given something just for showing up. There is pride to be taken in that though. Earning a trophy validates hard work and, anytime I failed, I knew I had to work harder. Participation trophies ruin the idea of hard work and incentive.

Vince Lombardi once said, “If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?” If everyone gets a trophy why should we keep score? Winning and losing builds the character society needs to succeed. Please stop giving kids trophies just for participating. The world is better off, and much more exciting when you overcome an obstacle and earn your reward.

 

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Miles Bridges Declines Draft

Why Miles Bridges Declining the Draft is a Good Thing

Last week, Miles Bridges said he would return to Michigan State for his sophomore year of college basketball. Spartan fans couldn’t be happier that their star freshman will be coming back.

He told fans at his press conference last week, “I have personal goals here. I want to win a national championship.” ESPN has had a few mock drafts which put him in the top 20 but the NBA will not see Bridges for another year. Here is why Bridges made the right decision to return to college:

1. Another Year with Coach Izzo

Coach Tom Izzo is unarguably a legendary coach, and his awards are mere evidence of his success. Izzo won a national championship in 2000, appeared in the Final Four seven times and has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year three times. In 2016 he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with a .712 winning percentage in his career.

Miles Bridges Declines Draft

Tom Izzo speaks with guard Miles Bridges (22) during the first half against the Wichita State Shockers. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This is all to say that the guy knows his stuff. Bridges will continue to learn a lot about Izzo’s motto: “players play, but tough players win.”

Coach Izzo is also well known for scheduling a very tough non-conference schedule in preparation for March, which will only benefit Bridges and the rest of the Spartans.

Along with Coach Izzo, think about Draymond Green. He stayed at Michigan State for four years and is now having one heck of a career in the NBA.

Green has had a lot of success with the Golden State Warriors over the course of five seasons. He won a championship in 2015 and has the perk of a 15.3 million dollar salary for 2017.

Miles Bridges is a lot like Green with a 6’7” stature and strong explosive moves. Bridges looks more like a guard than Green did in his Michigan State days, however there are lots of similarities.

2. The College Experience Will Help Miles Bridges and his Draft Stock

Miles Bridges Declines Draft

Miles Bridges of Michigan State Spartans. Mandatory Credit to spartanavanue.com

This statement rides on a lot of “ifs” because it won’t be true unless Bridges really improves his sophomore season. The experience will help if he can produce better statistics, take his team further in the tournament and have more success. However, if all of these ifs become reality, his draft stock will increase.

Bridges had the potential to make millions but he turned it down for the opportunity to go to school and win a national title. That says a lot about him as a player and a person.

He also averaged 16.9 points per game, which is the highest for a freshman since Magic Johnson who averaged 17 points per game his freshman season.

A lot of people are worried about his draft stock declining if he stays another year. However, the risk of staying another year could put him in the top 5 for overall picks. Another year with Coach Izzo and more growth, could be the key to even greater success in the NBA.

3. NEXT YEar is looking even better

The Spartans will have a lot of returners for the 2017-2018 season. Cassius Winston and Nick Ward will be coming back, along with Joshua Langford and Tum Tum Nair Jr. for his senior season. Eight of the top ten players will be returning for next year. They will have something special if Coach Izzo can keep everyone healthy and working hard.

Just last week Jack Hoiberg, son of Fred Hoiberg (Chicago Bulls head coach), said he would be walking onto Michigan State’s basketball team for the 2017-2018 season. Hoiberg will be joined by Jaren Jackson and Xavier Tillman, two power forwards who have signed with the Spartans. Jackson stands at 6’11, ranked 16th in the nation and will play good minutes for the Spartans next year. Tillman is 6’9 and 250 pounds, a little bit thicker than Jackson but will also add size to the Spartan roster for next year.

Bridges made the right decision to stay, despite the NBA being a very enticing choice. Teammates and fans of Spartan Basketball will get to watch him at the college level for one more year and next year could be big for the Spartans because of his decision.

 

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D'Angelo Russell Future Star

D’Angelo Russell Future Star?

When young players enter the NBA, fans expect them to become stars immediately. If at 19,20 or 21 years old they aren’t dominating the game, many people start to think of them as busts. The fact is they need time to gain experience in the professional game. It requires patience that many fans don’t have.

Players must go through the long, draining NBA regular seasons that last from October to April. These players are still kids barely out of college and usually aren’t ready for full NBA seasons until they have experienced a few.

One of the players often mentioned as not living up to his potential has only been in the NBA two seasons. That player is Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell.

Laker Nation

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org)

The Lakers’ fanbase is one of the most impatient in all of sports, but for good reason. The Lakers franchise was founded back in 1947 in Minneapolis and moved to Los Angeles in 1960. In their franchise’s illustrious history, the Lakers have played in 31 NBA Finals and captured 16 championships, which is second most all-time.

Los Angeles is used to great players and winning teams. The team has had some of the most legendary players in the history of the game like Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Winning is all the Lakers have ever known, which is why they have such an impatient fanbase. From the 1948-1949 season until the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers had only missed the playoffs five times. It is absolutely incredible to think about that level of consistency over six decades.

The recent Laker seasons have had nothing to do with winning. Over the past four seasons, including this one, the Lakers have gone 84-225. L.A. will miss the playoffs four consecutive seasons after this one. In their first 65 years, they missed the playoffs five times and are now about to miss the playoffs four straight. It is understandable that Laker fans are frustrated.

The departure of Kobe Bryant has left the Lakers searching for a star to carry the franchise. They do not have to look far for that star because they have already drafted him.

star Point Guards in their early years

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Photo Credit: http://sportige.com)

D’Angelo Russell, also known as D-Lo, is already off to a great start to his young career. Russell is going to be constantly overshadowed by Karl Anthony-Towns, who was the first overall pick in the same draft class.

Towns has gotten most of the attention due to his unbelievable play so far. However, Russell’s first two seasons in the NBA are right on par with some of the NBA’s star point guards.

To really understand the projection Russell’s career should take, we must look at how he compares to these star guards in their first two seasons in the NBA.

The first comparison will be to Damian Lillard. Lillard averaged 19.9 points, 6.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 37.2 minutes per game in his first two seasons . Lillard is one of the best guards in the league now and was off to a great start due to the high minutes he was playing.

The next comparison is MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. After two seasons in the league, Westbrook averaged 15.7 points, 6.7 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Just as Lillard averaged high minutes, so did Westbrook with 33.4 minutes per game.

The last guard for comparison will be Wizards star John Wall. Wall averaged 16.4 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Wall’s minutes were right on par with Lillard’s as he averaged 37 minutes per game.

These three guards are all considered top guards and leaders of their respective teams. How close is D’Angelo Russell to following in their footsteps?

D’Angelo Russell: The Future Star

The first thing noticeable about how Russell stacks up with these other guards is in minutes played. D’Angelo Russell is playing far fewer minutes than the other guards mentioned above. Russell has averaged just under 28 minutes a game (27.8) in his first two seasons. Compared to Wall and Lillard, that is 10 minutes less per game.

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Gif Credit: http://thedoublescreen.com)

Considering he is playing far fewer minutes, his stats are still pretty similar to theirs.

This season, Russell is averaging 14.9 points, 4.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Per 36 minutes, those numbers jump to 19.7 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds. If Russell was playing more, he would be averaging around the same numbers as these stars were in their second seasons.

Along with the solid numbers, Russell has proven he can hit big shots. He has made the saying “ice in my veins” famous all because he pointed to his arm when he hit a clutch 3-pointer as you can see in the gif to the left.

Russell not only has the pressure of living up to the hype of the second overall pick in the draft, but also has to follow the legendary Kobe Bryant. He is taking over a franchise that for the last 20 seasons was led by a man who won five NBA Championships.

There is a long list of stars to live up to in Hollywood, but Russell just needs more time. He is just 21 years old, but the future looks bright. The current star point guards in the NBA were once doing exactly what he is doing now so be patient and don’t worry Lake Show. D’Angelo is on his way to becoming the next Laker star.

 

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