Tag Archives: Kobe Bryant

The Lakers’ Major League Collapse

Movie quotes are a form of friendship identification for me. If I spout off a line from “Tommy Boy” and you have no idea what I am talking about, we have to re-evaluate the grounds of our relationship. The sports movie that I most quote is a comedic classic with top-notch actors and great plot. “Major League” is the comedic sports movie EVERY person should watch when able. It has everything. Loveable losers, villainous owners and hijinks abound make this a great watch any time (only on channels allowing swearing, the PG version is lame). There is a team in the NBA that reminds me of the lovable Cleveland Indians of “Major League”, but without the winning. The LA Lakers are going nowhere fast and have a cast of characters worthy of a movie script. The line from “Major League” that pops into my mind when thinking of the Lakers this season is “a bunch of has-beens and never was.” This describes the Lakers roster minus a couple players. Let me break down this analysis cast member by cast member.

Kobe Bryant as Jake Taylor
Jake is the older, injured catcher leading a team with emotion and smarts. He solves problems in the clubhouse no coach or admin wants to touch. Kobe is the older, injured leader of the Lakers. Both Kobe and Jake’s bodies are falling apart and they are ready to walk away from the game. Kobe is trying to have fun with a young team and lead them while not wanting to kill everyone for not being better. The flaw in this comparison is everyone likes Jake.

Jordan Clarkson as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn
Ricky is a raw talent. He has control issues and doesn’t always fit in. His talent needs guidance and when he gets it he is a true star. Jordan Clarkson is a second round pick (by the Wizards) that flashed stardom last year and was named first team all-rookie. Despite his rookie year success Jordan doesn’t fit in with this team. The Indians featured Ricky the next year, the Lakers are pushing Kobe and Deangelo Russell combo. This could be a huge mistake for the Lakers moving forward.

Roy Hibbert as Roger Dorn
Roger Dorn is a veteran third baseman with an inflated sense of self. He is also deathly scared of using his body to make a play at third. A fear he conquers and becomes a valuable asset and cornerstone to winning. Roy Hibbert is a veteran big man with an inflated sense of self and fear of getting dirty in the post. He is the tallest player on the court most days and isn’t even the rebounding leader on his own team (Julius Randle has him beat by nearly 3.5 rebounds per game). Similar to Dorn, if Hibbert can learn to clang and bang on the inside he would be a valuable part of the Lakers and their rebuilding.

Julius Randle as Pedro Cerrano
Pedro Cerrano is the hot-headed power hitter with a hole in his swing. He can only hit the fastball and looks to everything from Jesus, voodoo and golf head covers to help. When he figures out the solution to his deficiency is in him he becomes the terror the Indians need. Julius Randle is not a one trick pony like Pedro is, but he hasn’t figured out pacing, team basketball or how to fit in quite yet. Julius was taken out of a game recently (after 16 minutes of total playing time) and was not a fan. This led his coach, Byron Scott to say, “He’s got to grow up. Simple as that. I think the main thing I don’t like is when you take him out of games, how he reacts sometimes. I chalk it up to immaturity and just being inexperienced in this level. It’s going to happen again. I’m going to take him out of other games that he’s not going to like.” Similar to Pedro, Julius can be the terror they need. He has the talent and the aggressiveness Hibbert is missing. He just needs to understand his role and the solution is in him.

Jim Buss as Rachel Phelps
Rachel Phelps is the owner of the Indians. She wants to move them to Florida and tries to sabotage the team so they lose value and must move. The team rallies around her plan and wins despite her. Jim Buss is in charge of basketball operations for the Lakers. He doesn’t want the Lakers to move, he isn’t purposely putting a poor product on the court and the team is definitely not rallying despite him. He is the person in charge of this group of has-beens and never-was and that is a good enough reason to cast him in this role. “Major League” is a great movie. It is funny, exciting and lively. The Lakers are…not any of these things and if they don’t land a free agent to pull them out of their current state the sequel will not be worth watching.

Appreciating Kobe

Why do we always find it necessary to compare great players to one another instead of appreciating them for their greatness alone?

In his book, “The Four Loves”, C.S. Lewis said this: “The human mind is generally far more eager to praise and dispraise than to describe and define. It wants to make every distinction a distinction of value; hence those fatal critics who can never point out the differing quality of two poets without putting them in an order of preference, as if they were candidates for a prize.”

I can’t disagree with Lewis. This is precisely what we do. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Nobody peers out onto the jaw-dropping beauty of the Grand Canyon and says, “That’s pretty awesome, but it’s no Bryce Canyon.” We just appreciate it for the gloriousness that it is. We don’t feel compelled to compare or contrast it with any other canyon, but if we do, it isn’t in order to ascribe greater value to one than the other, it’s only to point out how they’re different or how they’re similar.

Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of hi-tops recently announced his retirement from basketball at season’s end. I know many of you are already mentally placing him in your preferred pecking order of great players.

But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to tell you where I think he ranks among Laker greats or all-time greats. I’m not going to give you a list. I’m tired of lists. My purpose isn’t to create social media banter for you. I’ll leave that to list-happy ESPN. Nor am I going to mention how poorly he has played this season, for one season does not whitewash a lengthy achievement-filled career or diminish greatness.

Instead, my one and only purpose is to tell you what made Kobe Bryant great. I’ll tell you why watching him play the game of basketball brought you and me great pleasure and great joy.

He is an artist. Not only was he exceptional at his craft, but he was also aesthetically pleasing. Kobe has made no bones about his being a student of one Michael Jeffrey Jordan-in every way. He even walks like Michael, talks like Michael, and carries himself like Michael.

On the court: his impeccable footwork, his body control, his creativity, his ball-handling, his majestic textbook shooting form, his fadeaway, and his insatiable will to win were all vintage Michael. If you wanna be like Mike you don’t mimic and model Paul Mokeski.

image

Oops. I have a confession to make. I almost fell into doing the very thing I just railed against; I was about to compare Michael and Kobe and then realized what I was doing. Even I like to compare. But alas, I will not.

I remember when I saw Kobe play for the first time. He oozed head-turning athleticism and obvious swagger. He was only 17 years old when he played his first game; but you knew he was, for lack of a better word, special.

What struck me most about Kobe when he came on the scene was his brazen willingness to take crunch-time shots; now he didn’t always succeed; you might remember his four consecutive air balls in game 5 of the 1997 Western Conference semifinals versus the Utah Jazz. But he didn’t mind taking the heat if he failed.

Isn’t this what we love to see in all walks of life?: fearlessness. This is what we loved about Jordan, Bird, and Magic. There are great players, but beyond them are the transcendent ones who combine immense skill with a robust appetite to win by their willingness to put the burden of winning or losing on their back. Kobe was and still is one of those players, despite his diminished skills.

How can you tell a transcendent player from merely a great player? Transcendent players are the ones we compare up-and-comers to. We say things like, “Could this guy be the next Jordan or the next Shaq or the next LeBron or the next Kobe. No one ever wondered who the next Barkley or Payton would be.

Another trait of a transcendent is that they cause us to sit on the edge of our seats in anticipation of their next spectacular feat. You could love them or hate them, but you were compelled to watch them. We put everything on hold to put ourselves in position to watch them. We fit them into our schedule.

Transcendent players also win. Tiger Woods didn’t become must-see television on Sunday afternoons because of talent alone. He won. He won often. So too did Kobe. For the majority of his career, the last couple of years not withstanding, his Lakers were in the mix to win championships. Kobe won five. He was the necessary Robin to Shaq’s Batman for three of those titles, although when Shaq left for Miami, the Lakers had in many minds, become Kobe’s team. He went on to win two more rings as the indisputable top dawg.

Like Jordan, Kobe is the extremely rare blend of charisma, swagger, superior athletic ability, basketball IQ, skill, gracefulness, and work ethic.

His departure from the league at season’s end will leave a void that will never be refilled. Only time will make us forget how truly special he was. Ten years from now, even watching footage of his glory years won’t be able to replicate what they meant to us and did for us the moment they happened. His 81 point game against Toronto can be watched on film but can never be experienced again. Those emotions have already been spent.

Kobe, thank you for being a part of our lives. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for the joy we experienced watching you play the game that we, both you and I, love. It’s been a grand treasure. I appreciate you Kobe “Bean” Bryant! Next!

 

Kevin Love and LeBron James Don't Have to Be BFF's

The Cleveland Cavaliers are 46-26. There are ten games left in the regular season and they sit squarely in second place in the Eastern Conference. They’re on their way to a fifty-win season, which I think is something most Cavs fan would’ve taken before the year started.

Yet not all is well in The Land (I cannot believe I just used that worn out, lazy nickname that could indicate hundreds of other cities in the United States).

Things may or may not have been blown out of proportion (they were) when Kevin Love went on a media tour this Monday. A couple of quotes sent the media into a frenzy, including:

From Mike & Mike:

“You know, we’re not best friends, we’re not hanging out every day, but we see each other every day, whether we’re at the practice facility, whether we’re on the road or going to a game.”

From the Dan Patrick Show:

“They’re both having an MVP-type season, but I’m going to go with Russell Westbrook because he’s, every single night you’re looking at his stat sheet, they’re fighting for a playoff spot, with Serge Ibaka going down now, Kevin Durant potentially being out the rest of the year and him still going out there and fighting for his team, and winning, and fighting for that seventh or eighth spot in the playoffs,” Love said. “I think Russ is arguably having the better season.”

Of course, cherry picking a small quote is dangerous and usually destroys the context of the whole interview. But that doesn’t stop people from doing this.

Even when using tunnel vision to focus on a singular part of these two interviews, is it really a big deal that Kevin Love and LeBron James aren’t best friends? It shouldn’t be.

Don’t get me wrong; it’d be a whole hell of a lot more fun if we, for instance, saw Love piggyback LeBron in a postgame interview… wait.

https://vine.co/v/OY33nUpiWWV

I don’t think I’m that naïve though. One moment of fun doesn’t equate to a lifelong friendship. But that still doesn’t mean that their commitment to a 50-year brotherhood is crucial to the Cavs.

And we had that at one point in LeBron’s first seven years in Cleveland. The Cavs didn’t have the most talented group of players but people were reluctant to trade players for fear of messing up the great chemistry. Where did all the fun on the sidelines leave the Cavs? Ringless after being swept in the 2007 NBA Finals.

Chemistry is important, no doubt. But the two superstars being friends off the court isn’t.

And in case you’ve missed it, it’s not like no one on the Cavs is getting along with each other. This is an ultra fun group.

https://vine.co/v/OPataYdE3F5

https://vine.co/v/OEn3ud6gxua

It doesn’t matter that Love and LeBron don’t have a bromance or that Love is excluded from LeBron’s dumb “clique.” What’s important is that they relatively get along on the court and in practice and respect each other as basketball players. LeBron has already expressed his respect for Love as a player, namely in January after a win over the Lakers (pointed out by Tom Pestak of Cavs: The Blog here in this incredible breakdown of Kevin Love).

If you don’t want to take my word for it, that’s fine. The only thing I have to my name basketball-wise is a 24-0 record against division opponents on my junior high CYO basketball teams.

However, maybe the words of a five-time NBA champion, 17-time NBA All Star, 11-time All-NBA First Team member, and 2008 NBA MVP will attract more weight.

Kobe Bryant was on The Grantland Basketball Hour earlier this month with Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose. And while I don’t typically like what Simmons has to say, Kobe shared some candid responses. One of which I thought applies to the situation Love and LeBron are in now.

(5:21-6:12)

Simmons: “So Westbrook and Durant are buddies. You and Shaq were coworkers; I don’t think you were ever buddies. Does it even matter?”

Kobe: “No. It doesn’t.”

That should really tell you all there is to understand about the Love-LeBron dynamic right now.

There is a difference between those Lakers teams and this Cavs team, though. There is no other player to offset LeBron. Kobe mentioned in that sit down that he was the one to get on his teammates and Shaq was the one to put his arm around someone. Simmons accurately described it as a good cop/bad cop dichotomy. I don’t think that’s what the Cavs have.

Sure, they have the type of talented players that the Lakers have. But Kobe and Shaq were guys that had won playoff games and championships. Kyrie and Love can go on to become those types of players – we all hope so. But they’re not that yet. Neither has even sniffed the playoffs in their career. I’m not sure they would garner the type of respect that a Kobe or a Shaq got starting in the early 2000’s.

LeBron is the sole player that will bark out orders. He’s the only player that can take over a huddle or put players in certain situations (like when he yelled for Mozgov to be put in to guard an inbounds play late in the game against Indiana last Friday). You don’t see Love or Kyrie getting on guys for screwing up a defensive rotation or not being at a spot on offense. Conversely, there’s no Shaq on the team that has won championships and also happens to be one of the best players at his position.

James Jones, Mike Miller, and Shawn Marion have won championships, but are they the type of guys that teammates want to put their arm around to tell them everything will be okay?

The one thing that can help this is winning. Winning cures all. That may be the one sports cliché that rings true time and time again.

The Cavs winning multiple playoffs series – which they will probably do this season – and winning a championship – something they might do this season – would go a long way to ease anyone’s worries. These petty debates as to whether Kevin Love feels slighted for being left out of an Instagram picture should fade away.

Kyrie Irving Was Awesome Before He Scored 57 Points

Kyrie Irving is a player that people look for reasons to dislike. There were plenty of reasons to question his championship pedigree in the first few years of his career. Despite plenty of roster turnover, coaching and general manager changes and opportunities to have a large role in the offense, the Cavs went 78-152 in his first three years. There were questions about how competent he was at running an offense, about his leadership and how good a team with a shoot-first point guard can be.

635618108668861040-2015-03-12-Kyrie-Irving3As Cleveland fans, we had a front row seat and could see how good Irving was. There were times where it looked like there were legitimate reasons to question him as a star player, but the talent has always been obvious to us. After all, League Pass junkies weren’t exactly lining up to watch a team that heavily featured Antawn Jamison, Luke Walton, Daniel Gibson, Luol Deng, Spencer Hawes, Anthony Parker, Jarrett Jack and Alonzo Gee.

It is for this reason that NBA fans are slow to adapt in regards to Kyrie Irving. There were plenty of lazy talking points that were easier to repeat than to actually have a nuanced discussion over what Irving would look like on a team with real talent, coaching and leadership at the top. Prior to the all star game, Irving was averaging 21.7 PPG on 46.6% shooting, 3.3 RPG and 5.3 APG. Despite that, NBA fans voted in Kyle Lowry and John Wall as starters into the game. It should be noted that the Cavs were losing a lot of games when voting primarily took place, but that doesn’t change the fact that people were looking for reasons to not vote for him.

If you are looking for proof, look at the 180 that Bill Simmons has made in regards to Irving. Simmons has a large platform and an online voice that people love. His opinions are fun, easy to repeat and are generally funny to the typical NBA fan. It took a 9-3 post all star break run and a 57 points on 32 shot performance against the defending champions for Simmons to change his tune in regards to Irving.

Kyrie Irving is very good and one great game doesn’t change who he is, but it’s worth looking at the numbers. Irving scored 57 points, which is an all-time franchise record. Nobody, not even LeBron James or any players in the fast-paced 80s era, scored more points in one game than Irving did. This is a 3,627 stretch of regular season games and Irving did it on a team that plays at 25th slowest pace in the NBA this year.

Taking a deeper look at the numbers is even more impressive. Nobody has ever come close to a scoring output as impressive as Kobe Bryant’s 81 point performance in January of 2006. No matter how many times I see it, what he did that night is incomprehensible. Having said that, it’s worthwhile to compare Irving’s 57 point game and Bryant’s 82 point performance. Bryant’s is clearly more impressive given what he did as the only star player on his Lakers team, but I am bringing this up to put into context how remarkable Irving’s game in San Antonio was. Kobe Bryant needed 46 shots on a 73.9% true shooting percentage to score 81 points. For Irving, he needed 32 shots and did it on an unreal 78.3% true shooting percentage. Irving had a 37.6% usage rate and Bryant had a 56.8% rate. Kobe Bryant had less talent on his team so it makes sense that he should use up more possessions than Irving. There is also something to be said about a player being the only star on a team and to score that many points. Kyrie Irving’s offensive rating was 157 which is only one less than Bryant’s 158.

It probably is going to take more winning in addition to Irving’s historic night against the defending champions for people to finally buy in on him, but the rumblings are getting louder. It doesn’t hurt that he has stepped up his game this season. Any questions about how he will perform in the playoffs are becoming less and less relevant every time he plays well in a big game.

The improvement this year compared to his first three is very real. He has raised his catch-and-shoot three point percentage from 31.6% last year to 43.3% this year. His effective field goal percentage is up from 48.1% to 53.2%.

For as much talk as there is about whether or not Kyrie Irving a “real point guard” or not, it is becoming more clear by the day that it doesn’t really matter. The Cavs are winning a lot of games and doing so in a convincing fashion by having LeBron James play the role of the point guard and with Irving as the main scorer. To put it into perspective, Irving’s assist percentage (the percentage of a teammates’ field goals that are assisted by him) was 31.1% last year. That puts him in line with where Kyle Lowry is this year at 31.8%. On this year’s Cavs team, Irving has taken a back seat to LeBron James (36.4%) and is assisting on 23% of his teammate’s field goals. People can nitpick him for being too shoot-first oriented or for trying to score too much on this team, but the bottom line is that it’s working for the Cavs.

The silly narratives the kept Irving out of the starting lineup in the all star game will actually work in Cleveland’s favor. This is because Irving’s contract will not increase due to the Derrick Rose Rule. Irving will be making $15.8 million in 2016 when the salary cap balloons up to potentially over $90 once the new TV deal kicks in. It’s disappointing that Irving couldn’t be recognized for his immense talent, but it will help out the team from a salary cap perspective.

It’s funny how things tend to work out.

How to Choose an NBA MVP

As the NBA nears its regular season conclusion, end-of-the-year awards rise to the forefront of conversation, especially the award for Most Valuable Player. In many ways the late-season MVP race parallels the final weeks leading up to the Oscar’s. Pundits tirelessly discuss the hottest candidates, seemingly updating their rankings daily in response to each triple double, flashy ball handling display, or box office result. Inevitably, the campaigning thunders from all corners—players state their teammates’ cases, fans shower their stars with M-V-P chants, writers choose sides, and suddenly ubiquitous G.M.s vouch for their guys. I can just imagine Daryl Morey inviting the voters to a private screening of James Harden’s highlights then sending them home with gift baskets filled with Rockets merchandise, a Fear the Beard t-shirt, and a poster of the new King James.

The importance of campaigning must not be overlooked. The media frenzy that swooned over Derrick Rose during the 2010-2011 season carried him to the award win. The hype storm raged so torrentially that respected sports analysts were openly referring to Rose as the league MVP by January. I’m not saying that Rose didn’t deserve the MVP that season; I think that he did, although it was certainly debatable. In Rose’s MVP year, and virtually every season that features a competitive MVP race, the age-old question resurfaced: what is the actual meaning of “most valuable?”

The answer: not much. It’s simply the name that the NBA chose for its “player of the year” award. Other leagues use different names for the same honor. College football has the Heisman Trophy. College Basketball has the Naismith Award. The PGA Tour simply calls its award the Player of the Year. These are just different titles for the same award.

Would the NBA writers adjust their votes if the league changed the name of the award from MVP to Most Outstanding Player or Player of the Year? Of course not. The presence of the word “valuable” garners far too much attention. It was an arbitrary choice. The NBA execs probably opted to use the word “valuable” because they thought that MVP was the coolest sounding acronym. The bottom line: do not fixate on the word “valuable.”

With that said, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what makes a player the MVP. Since there are no specific criteria outlined by the NBA, I decided to create my own. My criteria consist of questions to ponder, classic pitfalls to avoid, and how to break the tie in an extremely tight race. Let’s begin with the questions.

If the MVP candidate was replaced with a serviceable player at his position for the entire season, what would be the effect on his team’s record?

This is the most important question and the one that determines which way many voters lean. In essence, this is what an MVP is all about. In a league obsessed with winning, the player who is worth the most wins to his team should always be one of the MVP favorites, if not the eventual winner.

If two knowledgeable NBA fans are drafting teams for a giant pickup game and every player in the league is available, who would be taken first?

I borrowed this idea from Bill Simmons. Hopefully he doesn’t mind.

I feel that this question needs to be included because it prevents us from voting each year for the best team’s best player and gives hope to a great player stuck on a bad team like Kobe Bryant was with the Lakers after Shaq left. Kobe carried truly pathetic supporting casts to 45-win seasons. Unfortunately, those are not the type of performances that MVP voters typically favor, which is why Mamba was twice beaten out by a Canadian with feminine hair.

What did the MVP candidate do to distinguish himself from the rest of the league/What stood out about his season?

This can be accomplished via a gaudy stretch of triple doubles (like Russell Westbrook’s recent run), by carrying the team on a historic winning streak (à la LeBron James in 2013), or by becoming so furious about not winning last year’s championship that you mercilessly massacre the rest of the league for an entire season, ultimately winning 72 games (Michael Jordan in ’96).

Upon review, most seasons feature a standout performer. In 2006, Kobe averaged 35 points per game, scored 62 points in 32 minutes, and recorded the second highest scoring game in NBA history with 81. In 1962 Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points per game for the entire season. That same season Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double. In 1987 Michael Jordan averaged 37 points per game and in 1989 he recorded seven consecutive triple doubles en route to averaging 32-8-8. These are some of the most acclaimed and memorable seasons in league history, yet none of them were deemed MVP worthy. I repeat: not one of these seasons resulted in an MVP for these players. (*Note* In 1962 players voted for the MVP, and they selected Bill Russell. Wilt scored 50 points per game, Oscar averaged a triple double, and Bill still won MVP. That’s really one of the greatest testaments to how revered Russell was by opponents. He was the exception to this question, and since he won 11 titles, I’ll give him a pass.)

While it seems impossible that none of these standout performances earned an MVP, there is actually a pretty simple explanation for how this happened: the voters had not yet learned about my criteria for choosing an MVP. It’s a real shame. Sadly, it’s mostly the kids studying old NBA seasons who suffer. They toss and turn all night as they attempt to fathom why Michael Jordan only won five MVPs (I may or may not have done this).

Once voters have contemplated the questions, they should review the common pitfalls to be sure that they are avoiding them. One of the most important things to remember is that the MVP vote should be based solely on the player’s performance this season. These are not lifetime achievement awards.

Additionally, these are not Most Improved Player Awards. That vote is separate. Simply because a player exceeds expectations does not make him the MVP. We are so often wowed by the flashy player who is having a breakout season that we overlook the perennial MVP contenders. This is similar to the most frustrating pitfall of all—voter fatigue. The voters grow tired of selecting the same player year after year so they become tempted to choose a less qualified candidate merely because he is someone different. They must resist this urge.

Voters must also be wary of favoring an MVP candidate based on his team’s improvement. For instance, they should recognize that the Warriors have made a significant leap this season for a litany of reasons, only one of which is Steph Curry’s stellar play. Curry is certainly a viable MVP candidate; voters just need to be careful about showering him with praise because of the team’s win total this year. Many parties are responsible for the team’s progress.

Most voters would agree that this is the tightest race in years. When facing a difficult decision like voters will this season, the questions are pitfalls are not always enough.  Then the voters should look to the numbers. First, compare how many games the candidates have played. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to overlook. In a close MVP race, the candidate who played 82 games has made a greater impact than the guy who played 72. This could be the difference maker. Despite how great Russell Westbrook has played lately, he has missed 15 games this season. That will severely inhibit his chance to win MVP.

If the games played numbers are equal or negligibly different, voters should turn to the most common advanced stats such as +/-, PER, and win shares. While it’s best to determine who deserves the MVP through mostly subjectively means (after all, it’s your own personal vote; of course it’s going to be subjective), an objective look at the key stats can be a helpful way to make that final decision.

What do you think? Follow Jared on Twitter (@JaredAndrews3) or leave a comment! Make sure to like More Than a Fan on Facebook!

Review: Muse, An Honest Look Inside Kobe Bryant

It started with a dream. Or more accurately, it started with a nightmare.

The movie opens with Kobe describing his most terrifying dream. In his patented tone, dripping with gravitas, he recounts, “The stadium is full. I’m attacking the basket, and I can’t get off the ground… like I’m cemented to the floor. I was conscious of the fact that I was dreaming. So now I’m trying to control the dream. ‘You can jump through it. You can push through it. You can get to that basket.’ And no matter how hard I try my legs are too heavy. I can’t jump.”

What is inside Kobe Bryant? What drives him? We often ponder the inner workings of the greatest athletes. We wonder what makes them tick. We wonder what keeps them inspired day after day as they strive to reach their full potential.

This movie attempts to shed some light on one athlete’s motivation. Told by a seated Kobe facing a single fixed camera, two separate storylines unfold—one detailing his Achilles tear and the rehab process, the other covering his growth from passionate youngster to NBA legend. Muse chronicles the evolution of Kobe’s competitive fire and reveals how hot that flame still burns.

The film is extremely well made. It sets a high bar for any future self-documentaries made by athletes. From the fitting score to the carefully selected footage of Kobe’s past, the production is crisp throughout. The highlight of movie is Kobe’s turn as narrator. His rumbling voice alone exudes such authority that he can command a room. Pair that with his carefully timed pauses, and you will be gripped by his every word. Seriously, the guy could replace Morgan Freeman if he opts to go that route after his playing days are over.

We know that nothing about Kobe is traditional, so it comes as no surprise when the film reveals that there was nothing traditional about his upbringing. The son of a well-traveled professional basketball player, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, Kobe spent much of his childhood in Europe, often staying only a year or two in each location. He struggled to make friends. In his ever-changing world, he searched for something stable, something comforting.

“The only constant was basketball. It was my refuge. It was the place that I could go where I would have complete familiarity,” Kobe recalls with a smile.

Eventually, he and his family moved back to the United States. Shortly after, he found a way to revolutionize his game. Formerly relying on passion, playing basketball because it was fun, he now used it as a source of catharsis. All the pent up frustration from moving, struggling to fit in, adjusting to the culture, now had an acceptable means of release—basketball. He harnessed his anger from his personal life then unleashed it on the court, destroying his opponents. This revelatory new mindset quickly propelled Kobe to the summit of the high school basketball world.

While the film centers on Kobe’s basketball domain, it does not overlook the exploits of his personal life. Bryant addresses his infamous failure as a husband, even though he avoids directly mentioning any specifics. He admits that he lost sight of what was most important. Blinded by his ambition, he had neglected his domestic responsibilities. The wakeup call in 2004 made him realize that basketball was not what mattered most in his life. After this epiphany, he made a concerted effort to become a better father and husband.

This was the most enlightening moment in the movie. We were reminded that the robotically focused Bryant is still a human being. Despite his sociopathic competitiveness on the court, he has a softer side that the public rarely glimpses. Just as desperately as he wants to win, he longs to be a good dad.

Muse also reveals the depth of Bryant’s self-awareness. He explores the circumstances of childhood and how they molded his personality. He believes that the perpetual change of scenery during his youth made him reluctant to establish close relationships with people. He knew that he would inevitably move again soon and the friendship would end. This forced him to become independent, thus largely concerned about only his own needs. Kobe candidly admits that he is capable of being a “good friend” but not a “great friend” because he gets “too wrapped up in my own s***.” While the narrow focus has guided his journey to fame and fortune, an introspective Kobe seems to wonder if this path is the happiest one.
The storyline covering Bryant’s recent slew of injuries is heartbreaking. One scene captures Kobe after his latest injury. As the Doctor details the severity and the surgery needed for repair, Kobe hangs his head. In a touch of brilliant film-making, the sound of the doctor’s voice fades out as he continues his explanation.  The camera remains glued to Kobe’s solemn expression.  It’s a powerful moment.  Kobe had heard this speech before. Overwhelmed by this latest setback, he tuned out the doctor’s spiel to temporarily escape the harsh reality that he was facing once again.

In the closing minutes of the film, Kobe speaks about how he is “unable to process failure.” It is unclear exactly to what he is referring. Does Kobe believe that retiring after this injury is a failure? Perhaps he considers winning less than six championships a failure. Or maybe he considers retiring before clearly establishing himself as the GOAT a failure. After all, that has been his mission all along.

A theme throughout the film, and particularly evidenced by his dream, is that Kobe is conflicted. He believes that through sheer mental will power he can overcome any obstacle, even if his body is failing him. He has as much confidence as any athlete who has even lived, yet he still has his doubts. Somewhere deep within his subconscious, he fears coming up short. That’s his fuel. He has battled his entire life to overcome that doubt. No matter how great he has become, those underlying thoughts remain. Part of him still believes that he isn’t good enough, so he seeks to extinguish the doubts by continuing to push himself. He constantly strives for more. This tireless drive inside Kobe Bryant is what makes him great.

Love Isn’t Always In The Air In The Sports World.

Sometimes things just don’t work out like we all had hoped for. Sometimes things start off great, but then somewhere down the road everything becomes very disfunctional and becomes very dramatic between player and coach or the organization itself. Sometimes a life without a certain player or coach can be pretty bitter and very unpleasant.

If you are one of those people that won’t be alone on Valentines day, good for you, bud. With Valentines Day coming up this Saturday, there is obviously love in the air. But there isn’t always love being exchanged throughout the sports world. If you are one of those people that are single or just recently had a breakup with your significant other and are a sports fanatic, maybe this little diddy will cheer you right up.

When there is a breakup between player and coach/organization or coach and organization, it appears to be really dramatic and bitter sweet for the most part. Breakups in the sports world tend to get ugly and escalate very quickly. A lot of these breakups tend to be very memorable and they tend to stick in the back of your mind like it happened just yesterday when it happened 10-20 years ago. Here are some of the most memorable breakups throughout the sports world.

LeBron and Cleveland: How could you not have a list like this without this being mentioned first? LeBron was loved in Cleveland from his high school years and into his professional years at Cleveland when he first graduated high school. LeBron was a dominating force in Cleveland by putting up insane numbers game in a game out. During the 2007 postseason, he led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, but would lose to the San Antonio Spurs. When LeBron became a free agent in 2010, he held a televised show called The Decision to announce that he would leave Cleveland to join the Miami Heat. He got severe backlash from Cleveland no matter where they were by burning his jersey and Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert expressed his fustration towards LeBron via letter.

However, since this happened, LeBron and Cleveland fans have gotten back together and all is good in Cleveland as LeBron has come back to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers once again.

Rich Rodriguez leaves WVU for Michigan: As a Mountaineer fan, this breakup sticks out the most to me. I am over this whole incident, but I can guarantee you that most of the Mountaineer nation still hates Rich Rod with a passion. Just some time after the devastating loss to Pitt back in the 2007(I’m sure most Mountaineer fans want to forget that evening), Rich Rod packed his bags and left in the middle of the night to take the opening coaching gig for the Michigan Wolverines to succeed Lloyd Carr.

His resignation from West Virginia University came just four months after renegotiating his contract which included a $4 million buyout clause. Speculation of his departure stems from a conflict of interest with new WVU president Michael Garrison. His contract states that he would have to pay his $4 million buyout if he had left the program within a year of his new contract. WVU filed a lawsuit against Rodriguez in which was later settled.

Bobby Petrino and Arkansas: Man, was this breakup ugly. Petrino had built the Arkansas football program from the ground up. Arkansas had become a force to deal with in the SEC during his tenure. However, a motorcycle crash changed all of that.

On April 1, 2012, Petrino was involved in a single motorcycle accident and hospitalized for it. He made a full recovery, and showed up to a press conference two days later. It was later revealed that he had a young female who had just been hired onto the Razorback football staff with him that night and it was later revealed that she was having an affair with Petrino. With Petrino’s rep in total shambles, he was forced to leave the program shortly after the incident.

Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers: This breakup probably still stings to Edmonton Oilers fans to this day. In a surprise move, the Oilers traded “The Great One” to the Los Angeles Kings for draft picks and cash. Gretzky delivered the Oilers 4 Stanley Cups before his departure. Gretzky never saw the success with the Kings like he had with the Oilers.

Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers: How could you replace one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time? Well, the 49ers seemed to have done that in 1993.

Joe Montana was plagued with injury after injury. Steve Young took over as quarterback over Montana and proved himself that he was now going to be the “face of the franchise”. A rift in the locker room later developed, and Montana requested a trade. The Kansas City Chiefs would eventually pick him up, but by the time he got to Kansas City, Montana’s career was pretty much over.

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neill: These two had built a dynasty together out in LA by winning three titles together in the early 2000s. Eventually their egos collided, and eventually had a falling out. Shaq would eventually go on to join the Miami Heat after losing in the NBA Finals back in 2004 to the Detroit Pistons . After their falling out, both of them had no problem with publicly calling out the other.

As of right now, both of them have cleared the air, and have made up.

Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers: Favre seemed to have so much trouble handing over the reigns to now quarterback Aaron Rodgers after Rodgers pretty much kicked Favre to the bench. It seemed like Favre wanted to get back at the organization for it when he decided to sign a deal with their rival in the Minnesota Vikings. It seems as if the wounds are beginning to heal for Packers fans but this will always have a stain on Favre’s Hall Of Fame Career.

Lance Armstrong and Everybody: Lance was once loved by, pretty much, everybody throughout the world. He was the only professional bicyclist that anyone has ever heard of. Just after overcoming testicular cancer, Lance would go on to win seven straight Tour De Frances.

Eventually, allegations broke out that Lance was taking PHDs during those seven straight wins. In 2012, the USADA would investigate these claims and accused Armstrong of doping based on blood samples in 2009 and 2010.

In an interview in January 2013, Armstrong admitted to doping with Oprah Winfrey, and all seven of his titles were stripped from him and he was banned from professional cycling.

Armstrong just recently made headline news when he had done a hit-and-run on two cars, and he let his girlfriend take the fall for it. Chivalry will not die as long as there are guys like Lance around.

Jimmie Johnson and the Dallas Cowboys: Jimmie Johnson served as head coach for the Dallas Cowboys from 1989 through 1993. The reason for the departure was due to the fact that Johnson and Jerry Jones could no longer work with each other.

It all started when Jerry Jones wanted more say into controlling the football team on the field, Johnson wasn’t open arms about this idea. Just after the Cowboys won their first Super Bowl with Johnson, Jones told the media that any coach could have led the Cowboys to the Super Bowl that year. This infuriated Johnson. Another incident happened when Jimmie expressed interest in coaching the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jones told the media that he would now decide Jimmie’s future with the team. On March 28, 1994, they they agreed to part ways just after the Cowboys won their second Super Bowl under Johnson.

To this day, Johnson is not on the Dallas Cowboys “Ring Of Honor”. When asked in the summer of 2014 why Johnson was not in the ring of honor despite his two Superbowl victories as coach of the Cowboys, Jones stated: “Disloyalty … I couldn’t handle the disloyalty.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the Association: Dissecting the All-Star Teams

The NBA All-Star starters were announced last week and the league had us guessing on who would fill out the remainder of the roster in the game in Madison Square Garden. The Eastern Conference starters consist of: Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Pau Gasol. Some of the ones that didn’t make the starting cut may have (are) been more deserving than the starters voted on by the fans.

East AS

Jimmy Butler of Chicago will most likely win most improved player of the year with his 20.4 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game improving from 13.1-4.9. Jimmy Butler is well-deserving of a starting position, but you know we have to cater to those of the high-powered organizations i.e. New York (Yes, I am aware that Chicago is a high-powered organization. Don’t get sassy). Kyrie Irving received a heap of an amount of harsh criticism at the beginning of the season, but used it as motivation and is now a big part of the red-hot Cavaliers.

Speaking about being red-hot, the Hawks were on the verge of breaking in a 20-game winning streak before the All-Star break. The phenomenal duo of Paul Millsap and Al Horford make a strong case for the best low-post one-two punch with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol as they have dominated the paint. Horford has been apart of an injury free season. Their much improved point guard Jeff Teague will join them.

You could make the case that the Western Conference bench could beat the starting five with players like Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook all considered as second teamers. The starting five is currently drawn out with Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, and Marc Gasol. Of course, now with Kobe’s injury one will take his place in the rotation and James Harden will probably be the favorite to do so after arguably being one of the league’s early MVP candidates.

West AS

Andy Furman of Fox Sports Radio (before Cousins got to take Kobe’s spot): Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.18.52 PM

Demarcus Cousins got the late invite after the Kobe injury news.

From a straight up unprofessional analytic standpoint, the West is freakin’ loaded. When the bench consists of Durant, Westbrook, and Paul (three of the league’s top ten players) the answer is clear to the question on which conference has the better players and might be the overall reason why this side of the league is in a constant battle every night in the standings.

The All-Star teams consist of the heralded stars of the game in its current state with Griffin, Wall, Curry and others, but what about the others that have had more of the eye-popping type seasons like Kyle Korver with a 74% shooting percentage and is currently on the case for a 50-50-90 stat line for the season? Damian Lillard is left off? Weird. Lillard has a stat line that is as impressive as any other stars in the league with 21.8 points per game, 6.2 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game. Lillard also stars for the league’s fourth best team.

When All-Star news breaks, critics come out and sign me up as one. Sure, I like to see the big names and superstars in the game every season, but when can we just admit that the spots (starters) don’t always go to the players having the best seasons or most deserving, but to the ones that are popular on 2k and have a big time following? But hey, who am I to judge?

Around the Association: Week Seven

All-Star Synopsis

John Wall, Wizards
John Wall’s improved play was recognized this week as he was awarded the Eastern Conference player of the week leading the Wizards to a perfect 4-0 record from December 8th to December 14th. Over the four games, Wall averaged 18 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, and two steals per game. He also showed his refined shooting hitting 54% of his field goals and knocking down 50% of his shots behind the arc. This is Wall’s best week as a pro.

James Harden, Rockets

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

James Harden has upped his game this season in all aspects. His improved defense stands alone and many NBA followers have taken notice. Harden was just recently named Western Conference player of the week while averaging 34 points, seven assists, seven rebounds, two steals, and one block per game. Harden achieved a season-high 44 points in an overtime win over Sacramento and recorded his third career triple-double versus Denver.

Flying Under the Radar

Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Kevin Durant, Thunder
It’s weird to think that Kevin Durant has been flying under-the-radar even after his return to the season, but Durant hasn’t received much attention this season so far. Durant, as expected due to injury, hasn’t had his 40 point moments and closing victories as he is notoriously known for, but he has been effective in turning around the Oklahoma City Thunder from a 5-12 record to only losing one game since his return (11-13 overall; 6-1 with KD). Even though the record doesn’t show, the Thunder will be right in the thick of things starting next “year.”

Power Rankings

1. Golden State Warriors                        gstate                     
No Golden State team has ever won 16 games in a row until the 2014 version did it Sunday night at New Orleans. And history likes Golden State’s 21-2 record because of the eight teams that have started the season at 21-2 five have made a trip to the Finals and four of those have hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the season. Remember that Golden State has been rolling without the presence of David Lee and most recently an injury to center Andrew Bogut.

2. Memphis Grizzlies

grizz

Many people are waiting for the moment that Memphis fades and becomes more of a pretender than a contender. But that’s not the case  in 2014. Memphis has held their own with a four game winning streak inching by Charlotte and Philadelphia in overtime. Marc Gasol has been playing lights  out with four 30-point games this season only having one in his previous seasons. This article is/was written before the game last night, but I still like the Warriors at one and the Grizz at two no matter the outcome.

3. San Antonio Spurs
San-Antonio-Spurs-Logo

The Spurs have been in-and-out with various starting lineups and only three players have appeared in every game for the Spurs this season: Aron Baynes, Boris Diaw, and Danny Green. But whatever the method may be, it seems to work for Coach Pop. The Spurs aren’t the flashiest and are not sound on all cylinders, but can you blame me for putting them at three even after Houston’s solid week?

4. Houston Rocketshouston-rockets
Dwight Howard is finally back after missing 11 games with a back injury. But Houston was 8-3 without Howard and banked off of Harden’s stellar performances. One of Howard’s biggest assets is his defensive presence, but the Rockets have held their team defensive efficiency rating in the top two just behind, you guessed it, Golden State.

5. Portland Trail Blazersblazers
Portland is one of only few teams to place in the top ten in offensive and defensive efficiency in good company with Chicago, Golden State, Memphis, and San Antonio. To credit the Blazers’ 2014 success so far, you have to credit the defense that has improved from 104 points per game to 99 and is currently sixth in defensive efficiency, yet last season finished sixteenth last season.

28. New York Knicks

knicks
The Knicks have been terrible and there’s no sugar coating it. There is no consistency and the group of players that have been with each other for two seasons still have no chemistry and are still not developing as individuals or as a team. It’s not Derek Fisher to blame, but I really don’t know what’s going on. The Knicks have had some pretty bad seasons, but none have started off worse than the 2014-15.

29. Minnesota Timberwolves
TWOLVES-LOGO There is a positive for Minnesota. First round pick Andrew Wiggins had a great week with two 20-point games, while also recording his first double-double as a pro. The future is bright with this kid. Hang in there Minnesota

30.Philadelphia 76ers
sixers-logo

Nothing to say here as the status quo has continued.

What’s Trending?

Kobe passes MJ
It was only a matter of time that Kobe Bryant would surpass Michael Jordan as one of the all-time best scorers in the NBA. Bryant achieved this milestone versus Minnesota after nailing two free throws with five minutes left on the clock in the second period. Kobe finished the night with 26 points and a win improving the Lakers to an 8-16 record. Bryant is now third on the all-time scoring list with 32,310 career points only behind Kareerm Abdul-Jabbar (38,837) and Karl Malone (36,928). Congrats Kobe!

Kings Coach Out
Even though it seemed as the Kings were a much improved team, the fornt office didn’t think so. Here’s what ESPN analyst Henry Abbott had to say about Mike Malone: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:12033418

Knicks continue to struggle
The Knicks have had their worst start in franchise history and Chris Rock had a few things to say:

Atlanta Hawks Streaking
Atlanta continues to fly under the radar winning ten of their last eleven. Atlanta fell short to Orlando, but have still played some good basketball as of late.

*All stats and rankings compiled before last night’s games.

NBA Basketball, Where Amazing Doesn't Happen

When I was a kid, the NBA was all about rivalries. For many years the Lakers and Celtics, Pistons and Bulls, 76ers and Celtics or even Bulls and Knicks fought tooth and nail to see which team was the best in the league. Today, the landscape of the league has dramatically changed into what players are going to join together to form a super team and dominate everyone else.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the Lakers, Celtics, and 76ers, along with the Bulls, Pistons, and Knicks of the late 80’s to mid 90’s were the epitome of team. While they all had their superstars, including Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Larry Bird, Dr J, and Patrick Ewing, the team was paramount. Those players all stayed with their teams for most, if not their entire, career. Today that is almost unfathomable. Looking back to the 2003 NBA draft, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were all drafted. Only Wade is still with his original team. In the summer of 2010, Bosh and James took their talents to join Wade and form their version of an AAU team, which is now looking to three-peat this coming June. While that’s all well and good, does anyone really expect this trio to stay together beyond this season? Certainly not me, as all three players have opt out clauses and will be looking to cash in on their next big pay day. Meanwhile in New York, Carmelo Anthony will be looking to opt out of his contract to cash in. At least the “Big Three” in Miami can say they’ve won two championships, while Carmelo looks to pad his stats, as evidenced by his recent 62 point scoring effort. Will Carmelo stay in NY and maximize his next pay day? Or will he maneuver his way to LA and join Kobe Bryant in an effort to win something other than a scoring title? Only time will tell.

Going back to those great teams of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, could you imagine if Magic Johnson had left the Lakers and Larry Bird the Celtics to join Michael Jordan’s Bulls? That team would have been like the original Dream Team, throttling everyone in the league. That powerhouse never happened because those players were dedicated to their teams, embraced the team rivalries, and were driven to defeat their opponents. They would have just assumed punch each other in the mouth, as opposed to joining together for a barnstorming tour of the NBA.

This isn’t meant to knock the players of today. It just shows how the new mentality of the “superstars” of the league dismiss team rivalries and the value of playing for one team. In other words, if they can’t beat their rivals they’ll just join them. Problem solved. This lack of competitive drive is one of the reasons the NBA’s popularity has waned in recent years and why so many fans now have favorite players instead of favorite teams.

What does this mean for the future of the NBA? More than likely you’ll see players spend five to seven years with the team that drafted them, three to five years with their next team, and then finish their careers with a third, or even fourth, team. Gone are the days that your favorite player spends his entire career with his original team. While this may frustrate fans that have to root for a different team every few years, the real loser is the league. The NBA’s popularity exploded during the 80’s and 90’s due to those intense rivalries. Now, the league is relegated to a super team that is the flavor of the year and their victims. While this may please some fans, those that remembers the historic rivalries will be changing the channel. In the end, the players get their cash and glory while the fans are stuck figuring out which team to root against.