February 4, 2013

Leave a Comment

The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Baltimore Ravens hang on to win Super Bowl over San Francisco 49ers, 34-31: What looked to be a dud of a game early finally became interesting with the help of … a power outage. Down 28-6, the San Francisco 49ers rallied to score 17 consecutive points. The comeback came up short, though, after the two teams traded touchdowns.  Baltimore added a field goal with about four minutes left in the game and after driving nearly the length of the field, the Niners were stopped inside the 10-yard line. Baltimore got the ball back and wisely took a safety with only a few seconds remaining to provide the final score.

49ers fans will focus on the non-call of what appeared to be pass interference in the end zone on that final drive, but the Ravens’ defense should be lauded for coming up big twice in the fourth quarter. In addition to the aforementioned stand, the D stopped a two-point conversion attempt by the 49ers that could have tied the game (and would have meant they would have only needed a field goal on that final drive). The Ravens allowed 31 points, but stopped San Francisco when it mattered.

Seven elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: Lost a bit in all of the Super Bowl hoopla were the Pro Football Hall of Fame elections. Coach Bill Parcells and players Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, and Larry Allen will all be inducted later this year. In addition, senior selections Curley Culp and Dave Robinson were elected as well. All were deserving, but if you’re looking for a snub, that would be former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. Bettis ranks sixth on the all-time NFL rushing list, but still couldn’t find a way into the Hall despite eight 1,000-yard seasons, six Pro Bowls, and a Super Bowl victory. He should eventually get in, but it has to be a bit disappointing that it didn’t happen this year.

Dwyane Wade tries to convince Lebron James to participate in All-Star weekend activities: The NBA has been fighting a losing battle in trying to add more excitement to their All-Star weekend. Unlike the 1980s and 1990s, the league’s biggest stars generally no longer take part in the slam dunk championship or three-point shootout. Gone are the days when players such as Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, and Larry Bird were participating, but one guy wants to change that: Dwyane Wade. Wade has been pushing for teammate Lebron James to suit up for the slam dunk and three-point contests this year. While LBJ has reportedly said he’s not interested in dunking, we could see him in the three-point shootout. I’d be all for it, to be honest. If there’s one thing that will draw more eyeballs, it’s the participation by the game’s best players. I don’t think the league should try to force its stars to join in, but the players should want to do it. The weekend is all about the fans and if there’s any way to reward them, it’s by doing more than sitting on the sidelines.

Adrian Peterson wins NFL’s MVP award: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award, beating out Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning. You can make a strong case for Manning, who came back strongly after an injury kept him out last year. But Peterson is the right choice in my opinion. Not only did he carry the Vikings on his back to the playoffs this year, but he nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record for most rushing yards in a season. Others have challenged the mark, but Peterson came the closest falling only nine yards short. Manning had one of his best seasons ever and for one of the best quarterbacks ever, that’s really saying something. But Peterson had less to work with if you look at it objectively. The Vikings passing attack was one of the worst in the NFL and the team won only three games last year when he suffered an injury. Meanwhile, Manning had a solid rushing attack and also took over a team that won a game in the playoffs last year. In other seasons, Manning could be an easy pick. But this year, the award belongs to Peterson.

Yankees may try to void Alex Rodriguez contract: As his career winds down, Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez has found himself in a number of controversies. The latest came last week when he was accused of using performance enhancing drugs. That’s nothing new as Rodriguez previously admitted to such use earlier in his career, but he has maintained that he has not done so recently. But because of the new allegations, the Yankees may be looking to void A-Rod’s expensive contract in the hopes of saving some money. That likely wouldn’t be the case if Rodriguez was in the prime of his career, but with his numbers in a steady decline, it makes sense that New York would want out of his hefty deal. Stay tuned.

Caltech ends historic streak: Chances are you’ve probably never heard of the California Institute of Technology if you live outside of the state. But their baseball team snapped a historic 228-game losing streak last week, winning their first game in nearly a decade, 9-7 over Pacifica. Even more shocking is that the school has had several other unbelievable recent streaks of futility. The men’s basketball team lost 310 straight games until winning in 2011 and the women’s volleyball team also lost 56 in a row at one point before a victory in 2012. Congratulations, I guess?

June 20, 2011

Leave a Comment

Boston Suddenly Becoming America’s Sports Town

By: Anson Whaley

It wasn’t always this way. If you could somehow wind back that old, creaky grandfather clock in the hallway about a decade, you could see that. Ten years ago, the Internet was a fairly new invention (just whose invention is up for debate), your Star Wars movies were likely on VHS instead of DVD, and America was going through one of the roughest times in recent memory with 9/11. On the sports front, Kobe and Shaq were still together, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were busy breaking up the latest Yankees dynasty as members of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Tiger Woods had just won something called a ‘Tiger Slam.’ Oh yeah, and Hulk Hogan was king of WCW’s rivalry against the WWE – can’t leave that out.

Boston? Well, the Red Sox still were under the curse of the Bambino and with the Yankees’ success, there appeared to be no end in sight. When you mentioned the Celtics’ Big Three, it wasn’t Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but instead, only distant memories of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. The Patriots were in the Drew Bledsoe era while some guy named Tom Brady was a sixth-round Draft Pick and on the bench, and the Bruins hadn’t won a Stanley Cup in 30 years.

Let’s just say things weren’t exactly looking up in Beantown.

Now, in 2011, the tide has changed and Boston sits atop the sports world. In recent memory, the city has not only fielded competitive sports teams, but championship ones. With the recent Stanley Cup win by the Bruins, all four of Boston’s major sports teams have won a championship in the past six years. Along with those titles, those franchises boast plenty of individual star power. Leading the way for the Red Sox are Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jacoby Ellsbury. The Pats’ Brady is a future Hall of Famer and playing at a high level. The Celtics triumvirate of stars – Garnett, Pierce, and Allen – is still a collection of big names and good players. And, by the way, the Bruins’ Tim Thomas may be the best goalie in all of hockey.

Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale

And while none of the city’s professional sports franchises are guaranteed or maybe even expected to continue winning titles, all have legitimate shots to do so.

The Celtics, while an aging group, have a chance to get out of the Eastern Conference for at least a few more seasons.  The Red Sox put together an All-Star lineup this year in hopes of winning another World Series and while they got off to a slow start, they’ve moved into first place in the AL East and have the horses to make another championship run. The Patriots have taken a step back from their dominance of the mid 2000s, but with Brady at the helm, are not going away anytime soon. And the Bruins, fresh off a Stanley Cup win, will be able to compete as long as Thomas continues to post unbelievable performances in net.

Another reason Boston could be on their way to winning additional championships is that there are no current dynasties in sports. The Los Angeles Lakers and Pittsburgh Steelers may have been the closest to that, but both fell short in title bids in 2011. The sports landscape is wide open and Boston could continue to capitalize for many years to come.

April 20, 2011

Comments (2)

NBA Stars Poised to Rise

By: Rick Jarrell

The NBA Playoffs are a proving ground for young NBA players. The new kids on the block can look great at times during the regular season, showing flashes of greatness, but the greats show what they’re made of in the postseason. Aside from Wilt Chamberlain type stat lines, fans don’t remember your regular season performance. In the grand scheme, it doesn’t matter. The playoffs do. It’s where great NBA players become Hall of Famers, and great teams become dynasties.

A fantastically exciting regular season has led us to high expectations for these 2011 NBA Playoffs, sure not to disappoint, with a few rising stars you need to keep an eye on. Of course, we have Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, but their thrones may be in jeopardy if these NBA players live up to their hype.

Derrick Rose

It’s hard to put into words how much Derrick Rose progressed through the season, but I will. Picked as one of the top three NBA teams in the Eastern Conference early on, the Chicago Bulls suffered various injuries to their frontline. Carlos Boozer, their prize free agent signing, was lost for six weeks with a broken thumb before the first game. Then, defensive stalwart Joakim Noah tore a ligament in his thumb and was lost for six weeks.

Not a problem for Rose. He carried the team through the rough patch nearly single handedly (not to diminish the performance of the rest of the team, a series of perfect role players for Coach Tom Thibodeau’s system). And when Boozer and Noah came back, the Bulls went full steam ahead to the number one overall seed. It’s laughable to think that NBA experts suggested Michael Beasley be drafted number one overall instead of Rose.

But as I said, his regular season performance pales in comparison to what he needs to do in the playoffs to begin his legacy. Rose has big shoes to fill in Chicago, where a guy name Michael Jordan dominated the league for the better part of the 1990s. While there will never be another MJ, Rose has shown he’s more than ready to take the Bulls back to dynasty status. Rose scored 39 points in Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers, with a key drive and kick out to Kyle Korver to ice the game, and another 36 points in Game 2. The first round is supposed to be a warm up for the top seeds. If tradition remains true, I can’t wait to see what D-Rose does the rest of the NBA Playoffs.

Kevin Durant

Touted as an amazing pure scorer coming out of Texas, Durant has lived up to the hype. A wet jump shot, ability to twist his way to the rim, and a great system have helped propel KD to NBA superstardom. But playoff success has eluded him so far.

Last season, Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder pushed the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers to the sixth game of the first round. A correct box out by Serge Ibaka would have most likely sent the series to seven. That’s an incredible leap for such a young team. But although Durant’s team had a good series, his performance was not up to his regular season numbers.

Fast forward to this year, and OKC has secured a fourth seed and become a trendy pick to make it to, and even win, the NBA Championship. Durant knows his performance the previous postseason was not acceptable for legacy building and is making up for it by starting with 41 points and 9 rebounds in a win over the Denver Nuggets.

Russell Westbrook

As a sophomore, Westbrook’s performances mostly fell into the shadow of Kevin Durant. There were flashes of what would be – a diesel train into the paint, much like Derrick Rose – but it took the 2011 NBA season for fans to see what Westbrook is capable of. The UCLA product has become a solid second option behind Durant and one of the top five point guards in the league. Some analysts say Westbrook still has a lot of room to improve, that he still makes a lot of “rookie mistakes” a Hall of Fame point guard shouldn’t make (true), but he’s only in his third year. I’d argue that Westbrook is nearly as important to the Thunder as Durant, and Durant’s star would not be shining as bright with another point running the offense. Batman’s Robin added 31 points and 7 assists to help push the team to a Game 1 win. In all likelihood, Durant and Westbrook will rise together – each as important as the other.

So while you’re watching the NBA Playoffs and marveling at Kobe Bryant’s campaign for a sixth championship, or the Miami Heat’s big three’s attempt to justify their offseason decisions, remember the young guys. I’ve heard stories of fans watching MJ, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird rise from stars to legends. Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook offer the younger fans a chance to enjoy the transformation themselves.

February 24, 2011

Comments (3)

Simply the Best

By: Stephen Arnold

In an era heavy on flash, one player still brings substance to the court night after night: Kobe Bryant.

The best and most valuable player on the planet is consistent in his approach to the game, the leadership of his team and his relentless will to win. He produces from preseason to postseason and everywhere in between.

He doesn’t need a flashy nickname, and he doesn’t bother with elaborate handshakes, choreographed dances or premeditated powder tosses. Like the stars of yesteryear, all that matters to him is the scoreboard.

His stubborn pride and distaste for losing are the hallmarks of his ultra-competitive personality. He would never run away from the spotlight, the last shot or his team. He would never run off to join another star’s team.

Kobe Bryant believes in himself. He craves pressure, revels in adoration and accepts blame. Money doesn’t drive him. Endorsements don’t own him. Off-court issues haven’t stopped him. He plays to win in every sense of the word, from the opening tipoff to the final buzzer without making faces or whining for calls.

Sure, there are stars that score more points, make more assists and pull down more rebounds. But Bryant is a complete player and has five NBA titles to prove it. In an era where lots of superstars love to win; Kobe Bryant hates to lose. The difference is subtle but enormous.

The L.A. Lakers are Kobe’s team. He won with Shaquille O’Neal and without him. And while the supporting cast has changed, the star has remained the same. To be truly great, an athlete must be willing to accept the responsibility of being “the guy.” He must embrace the pressure of expectation and rise above the fear of failure. Kobe is up for the challenge. He has too much ego, too much pride, too much confidence in himself to be anything else.  Few others are like him.

Kobe Bryant has won five NBA championships. While other superstars pile up stats and individual awards, Bryant fills stat sheets and wins championships. And while pre-game rituals are great for the camera, only winning feeds the meter of greatness. Add it all up—from production to leadership to competitive spirit—and in the post-Jordan era, Kobe Bryant is simply the best.

Now in the 13th year of his NBA career, Kobe Bryant has enjoyed unparalleled success. Consider his stats:

  • 5 NBA Championships
  • 1 NBA MVP
  • 2 NBA Finals MVP Awards
  • 4 NBA All-Star MVP Awards
  • 13-Time All-Star
  • 8-Time NBA All-Defensive First Team
  • 8th All-Time NBA Scoring List
  • 4th All-Time NBA Playoff Scoring List
  • 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist
  • 2nd Most Points Scored in an NBA Game (81)
  • Career Scoring Average: 25.3

Kobe Bryant is more than his championships and far more than his stats. He is so intertwined with the Lakers that you can’t mention one without the other.

While other superstars want the tag of greatness, they must first earn championships. At the end of the day, the pathway of success leads to the gate of greatness—the place where legends are made. Entrance has nothing to do with being “The Chosen One,” and everything to do with being “The Proven One.” Michael, Magic and Larry all proved it. Among superstars in the current NBA landscape, Kobe Bryant has not only proven it, he is it.

February 15, 2011

Leave a Comment

NBA All-Star Weekend Needs a Makeover

By: Joe Williams

The year was 1999. The world was preparing for Y2K. The NBA All-Star Weekend was canceled because of a lockout-shortened season and Keanu Reeves starred in the Matrix.

Since 1999, Reeves has been making movies like Thumbsucker and The Lake House while the NBA All-Star Weekend has lost some of its excitement as well. Reeves’ career and the All-Star Weekend are both in need of a makeover. I’ve got some suggestions for the NBA (sorry Keanu, you are on your own).

Maybe the NBA should follow the NHL example. The NHL just held an All-Star Game with two team captains picking teams in a live draft. This is a great idea. The NBA should take it a step further.

Instead of having current players as the team captains, I say David Stern should bring in two NBA legends to coach/captain the teams. Nothing against Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich, but I would much rather see the teams led by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. We see Rivers, Popovich and Phil Jackson on TV all season. Why not change things up?

This weekend’s all-star game will be in Los Angeles. The Lakers and Celtics met in the NBA Finals last season. Both teams are among the favorites to reach the Finals this season. Why not keep the rivalry going? Imagine Larry Bird taking Kobe Bryant with the first pick, putting Kobe on the visiting team in his own building and playing against Magic Johnson’s team. Magic could counter with LeBron James as his first pick and then draft a couple of the four Boston Celtics who are in the game.

The NBA could create some great matchups with this system. I would love to see John Stockton lead a team against fellow Utah Jazz Hall of Famer, Karl Malone. How about a Reggie Miller and Spike Lee matchup? Anyone for Charles Barkley against Michael Jordan? The matchups are endless.

I also believe the NBA should take the all-star game back to the cities that no longer have an NBA franchise. When places like Vancouver and Seattle lose their team to another city, the NBA ought to keep in touch with those fans. They deserve an all-star game.

My next suggestion would be to have a HORSE competition with some of the NBA greats. I’d like to see Michael Jordan and Larry Bird play for a Big Mac like they did in a Super Bowl commercial in 1993. There are some great possible matchups for this too. I suggest a Dennis Rodman (58.4% free throw shooter) and Shaq (52.8% free throw shooter) in a free throw showdown. Of course, for the sake of time, they may have to shorten a game of HORSE to a game of H.

The last thing I would like to see change for the NBA All-Star game is the voting process. Currently, the fans vote in the starters for the game and that’s how it should be. But when a guy (Yao Ming) is voted as an all-star starter despite only playing in five games all season, something needs to change. Nothing against Yao, but he should not be on the ballot if he can’t play. That spot should go to someone who has earned it with a great first half of the season.

I would love to see these things happen but I’m sure there is someone smarter than me at the NBA headquarters who has a whole list of reasons why these ideas won’t work. I’d just love to see it happen.