It’s time to Break It Down!
For most of my life, my favorite sport has been basketball. In the formative years of my youth, I cut my sports teeth on baseball. It was my father’s sport. Though he never told me, I learned from a relative, just a few years ago, that my dad played semi-professional baseball. I never knew, when I was playing Little League Baseball, I was in the early stages of following in my father’s footsteps.
He came of age during the Golden Age of the Negro Leagues. He lived through and watched unfold the phenomenon that was Branch Rickey. Mr. Rickey, an innovative Major League Baseball (MLB) executive was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967. He is likely best known for breaking MLB’s color barrier, by signing the sport’s first African American player, Jackie Robinson. Though not as widely recognized, he also signed the first Afro-Hispanic superstar, Roberto Clemente, and was responsible for creating the framework for the modern minor league farm system, for encouraging the Major Leagues to add new teams through his involvement in the proposed Continental League, and for introducing the batting helmet. Indeed, he was a proverbial force of nature in MLB.
For his part, after integrating the sport, Robinson went on to become a star player for my dad’s beloved Dodgers. They were the Brooklyn Dodgers when Jackie broke into the League, but they would move to Los Angeles, as did the fan support for generations of African Americans. So it was, my dad’s team became my team.
Similarly, my dad introduced me to the Sweet Science, better known as boxing. In those days, big boxing matches often took place on Friday evenings, billed as Friday Night at the Fights. Baseball was a Saturday afternoon affair. My weekend TV sports viewing pattern was set. LOL!
Then, through the course of normal growth and development, I found my own sports passion. I truly believe since the first day I picked up a basketball, I have never viewed the broad spectrum of sports the same. It became basketball, then everything else. Oh, I dabbled with sandlot football, softball, bowling, and tennis. I even played stickball, and handball, during summers in New York. But they were all always just an interlude, a mere distraction until I could return to hoops, my game.
So it is, today, you might say I’m Jonesing; waiting out the inescapable NBA imposed interval until the Games resume…tomorrow. The NBA Finals will pit against one another, two formidable opponents.
In one corner we have the team that amassed the best record in the League this year. The Golden State (Oakland, CA) Warriors, feature this year’s League Most Valuable Player (MVP), Stephen Curry.
In the other corner, their opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers feature the player most people consider the best in the World, LeBron James, a veritable walking record book. James has won two NBA championships, four NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, two NBA Finals MVP Awards, two Olympic gold medals, an NBA scoring title, and the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. He has also been selected to 11 NBA All-Star teams, 11 All-NBA teams, and six All-Defensive teams, and is the Cavaliers’ all-time leading scorer. He is appearing in his fifth consecutive NBA Finals.
“The NBA is Fantastic,” and I can hardly wait for the hostilities to begin. There is no lack of allegiance for either team. Whether the dividing line is East vs. West, or Curry vs. James, or Cleveland vs. Golden State, or Ohio vs. California, or some other varied machination of the two, people, for the most part, including me, have chosen sides.
I really like LeBron James. At 6’8”, 250 pounds, he brings a combination of size, strength, speed, and skill seldom seen in any athlete, in any sport. Many folks think he would be a force on the football field. On the basketball court, he is a virtually unstoppable force. To put a finer point on matters, LeBron and I share the same birthday (not the year of course).
On the flip side, Steph Curry is simply amazing. In contrast to LeBron, he’s listed at 6’3”, and weights 190 pounds (they say). He is assembling his own portfolio, which impressively includes, while playing the point guard position, being considered by some to be the greatest shooter in NBA history. He is the 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player and a two-time NBA All-Star, and the son of former NBA player Dell Curry.
Curry displays incredible control of the ball, and his body. But his stock-in-trade is “the shot.” He makes three point shots with ease, from all over the court. His relatively diminutive size, combined with his ability to control or change the flow of a basketball game, single-handedly, is on occasion, breathtaking.
Enough already, I like both teams’ leader. But as I alluded earlier, I have chosen sides. I’m picking Curry and the Warriors. Allow me to be clear. I’m pulling for the Warriors. Curry has Charlotte high school and AAU roots, attended college at Davidson, right here in Mecklenburg County, plus the Warriors have two players who matriculated at North Carolina (and I’m a Tar Heel).
That’s great and all, but truth be told, I am pulling for Golden State. I’m pulling for them because I will not; in fact I just cannot pull for Cleveland. Not yet anyway. When LeBron chose to leave Cleveland for Miami, the Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert wrote a scathing letter (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=5365704) lambasting his former star player, calling him a coward, former hero, and deserter, among other derogatory things. Mr. Gilbert owns the Cavaliers, not LeBron. In my view, his tirade revealed far more about himself than it did about LeBron. He revealed himself to the core. I took note.
He said a lot of other things, including, making an assertion that LeBron was taking “the curse,” bad karma, and the spell with him. He also said one other thing that continues to resonate with me:
“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”
Actually, he was correct; LeBron won two, while Cleveland regularly toiled in the NBA Lottery…without the so-called former King. Karma is real!
I fully appreciate Mr. James’ right to exercise his prerogative and make a business/family decision to return to the Cleveland community and the Cavaliers. Mr. James, to the credit of his negotiating ability, is being paid handsomely to do so; I, on the other hand am not. So, Go Warriors!
Oh, one final thing. None of this means I “think” Golden State will win. But I sure hope so. “Tomorrow: The Finals!”
I’m done; holla back!
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