Acknowledging Lebron James

Photo credit: Isaac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
Four years ago, I wrote this very impassioned post criticizing how Lebron left the Cavaliers. On it, I detailed (among other things) why I believe he blew up his chance of ever being considered the greatest, or at least, one of the greatest ever to play basketball. I mentioned something about his immaturity, his lack of mental toughness, and the utter selfishness and foolishness which characterized “The Decision”. It was one of the longer posts I had ever written on this blog, because “The Decision” ignited something in me that I had long been wanting to express: my utter dislike for Lebron and anything Lebron.

Last July 12, 2014, Lebron James announced that he was going back to the Cavaliers after four straight NBA Finals appearances and two NBA championships with the Miami Heat.

Unsurprisingly, the reaction was met with mixed feelings. Cleveland fans rejoiced. Twitter went busy. Haters jumped in to criticize Lebron.

Surprisingly, I was not one of them.

In fact, I was surprised to find myself actually defending Lebron James.

Oh, how the years have softened my dislike.

Maybe what they said was true. Maybe winning does change everything. Or at least, it changes something. It changes our perception of the athletes. Look at Kobe Bryant, for example.

Kobe’s reputation was so badly damaged by his rape case that he was once considered one of America’s most hated athletes. But winning changed people’s perception of Kobe, slowly. While he may still be disliked in some parts of America, I think its mostly because they hate him because he is a polarizing figure, or that they are simply rooting for somebody else. Like Lebron James, for example.

Fans like myself, we love to pit our favorites against each other, comparing their merits as to why they are greater than the other, better than the other, etc. It’s part of what makes sports fun.

I realized however that in the process of rooting for somebody, we turn a blind eye on the merits of greatness of the perceived “equal” (i cringe as i write this), just because. And we “hate” (it’s such a strong word, come to think of it) them, because they are in direct opposition to our personal favorites in many criteria, which if you think about it, may not even be valid or logical. Or, just because. Again, the culture of sports fandom.

Lebron’s decision to come back to Cleveland was hailed by critics, writers, even haters, calling it “a stunning victory for maturity and perspective”.  I agree that his decision is a great example of how much Lebron James has grown. I now realize that it was not only Lebron James who had some growing up to do. Fans, like myself, also had to grow up.

Because as I just learned, you don’t have to like a person to respect him. Respect is after all, earned. And Lebron James has made me acknowledge him.

I am still a Kobe fan, of course. That’s never going to change.

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2014 NBA Season: Regular season awards and playoff predictions

The 2014 Regular NBA season is finished, and in a few days the 2014 Playoffs will begin. What a season this has been. As a Lakers fan / Kobe fan, this was one of the worst seasons ever. I read that the Lakers missed a combined total of 381 games (!!) due to injuries. If you are a Laker fan, or an NBA fan who was up-to-date with the happenings in the league, you’d know just how nightmarish this season was for the Lakers particularly. This tweet from Kobe pretty much sums it up:

So the past is past, and I’ll look forward to next season. In the meantime, here are my predictions for the regular season awards:

NBA MVP : Kevin Durant
This is his year. He once said he’s tired being second to Lebron James, and this year, I believe he did more than enough to rise to the top. I’d be surprised if he didnt get unanimous 1st place votes for MVP this year.

Photo credit – taken from website: kevindurant.com

Coach of the Year: Gregg Popovich

Photo credit: D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images

Hands down, one of the greatest coaches, ever. The one word I always think of when I think of Pop and the Spurs is consistency. They are consistently great. 60 wins for the nth time, best record in the NBA for the nth time, and this–with a core group of players that are over 30–says so much about the kind of coaching and culture that has characterized the Spurs. Teams like the Miami Heat, in fact, want to emulate the Spurs, largely because of Coach Popovich and the culture of the organization.

Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah
I was actually surprised at myself that he was the first name that popped into my mind. Not because of his stats, but because of the way he has helped anchor the defense the Chicago Bulls, which is one of the best in the NBA. When I think of Joakim, I think of the word “relentless”. He is a relentless defender, and he does all the little things on the defensive end. My first bet for this award was Roy Hibbert, but as the season went on, particularly towards the end, he unraveled and his stats went down.  Dwight Howard? Eh.

Playoff Predictions:

Western Conference Finals: Spurs vs Thunder

Easter Conference Finals: Heat vs Pacers

Pacquiao-Bradley rematch: A story of humility and redemption

Photo credit: AFP Photo/John Gurzinski

And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. – Matthew 23:12, KJV

Just quick thoughts on the rematch:

  • Pacquiao won in 2 ways: technically, he had over-all better skill set. He was in very good shape, his boxing was outstanding and his footwork was, as usual, amazing. He may not be the Manny Pacquiao of 2009 (of course, age catches up) but at 35, he is still one of the best, and he defeated (again, it may be argued) a fighter in Bradley who has never lost or been stopped. Philosophically, and more importantly, Pacquiao won because of his composure, maturity, and humility. Watch the video below to understand.

  • Bradley lost because he was too emotional and he was too cocky. I think he got caught up so much in wanting to prove he won the first fight so he was pretty careless, throwing and flinging wild shots at Pacquiao which worked to his disadvantage. He was never a slugger to begin with, and I got the feeling while watching him fight that he was hoping to get lucky with one of those wild punches.  Bradley was cocky during the fight which I think was actually just a mask to show he wasn’t fazed. But his constant backpedaling towards the latter rounds, along with his open mouth and slightly mangled face betrayed this facade.
  • As if we didn’t already know, but this fight nevertheless proved who really won the first fight, and who is the better boxer.
  • Manny Pacquiao is truly one of the most entertaining, transcendent personality in sports. His magnetic personality, humility and class are what endear him to the world. In victory or defeat, he is always classy, humble and gracious. He rarely speaks ill of his opponents. He fights to entertain. His heart is always evident in his fights. He makes me proud as a Filipino because he carries himself with so much class and humility.
Champion again. Photo credit: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Tweet of the night:

 

Related articles:

 

Out of nowhere: Pacquiao – Marquez 4

WOW.

For the first time in 13 years, Manny Pacquiao was knocked out cold, by his arch rival, Juan Manuel Marquez. It took four fights to finally arrive at a definitive decision. And what a way it had to happen.

Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports | http://twitpic.com/bkdi1i
Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports | http://twitpic.com/bkdi1i

Pacquiao was winning the fight (judges had it 47-46 Pacquiao) when he got knocked out. He out-landed Juan Manuel Marquez, 94-52, in total punches, 68-41 in power punches. (via @ESPNStatsInfo). He was in good shape, perhaps in a better shape than their last meeting, and in his last fight with Bradley. It was impressive, actually, the way Pacquiao seemed to be winning. It was turning out to be an exciting fight, one that felt going the distance again. But, this time around, it wasn’t meant to be. That’s how it is in life. You win some, you lose some.

Today is a sad, sad, day for Filipinos and for Manny Pacquiao fans everywhere. I actually felt like crying :(  I can never get used to seeing Pacquiao on the canvass. In this fight, it happened twice, actually. When he was knocked down in Round 3, (I think) I thought to myself, “wow, that never happens.” Then he was knocked out for good in Round 6, and I was just speechless. Like, bam.

I want to congratulate Marquez for finally getting the closure he needs. This is as definitive as it comes.

To Pacquiao, you will always be our champion. As always, even in defeat, you were gracious. We are proud of you.

Same script, different players. Welcome, Dwight Howard.

When news first broke out that the Lakers landed Dwight Howard, I caught myself furiously typing away at my Facebook and Twitter pages, unable to contain my excitement.

Then I realized, this deal isn’t final until David Stern says so. My initial reactions then were,

Dwight Howard to the Lakers

Now, 24 hours later, we can officially say it: Dwight Howard is a Laker.

Dwight Howard Lakers Press Conference

 

And so is Gasol, still. (For now?)

Anyway, as I’m writing this, I’m also watching the live streaming of Dwight Howard’s introduction as a Laker. I do feel bad for him, because while this is supposed to be a very happy day (and it is for us Lakers fans) he cannot seem to escape the questions surrounding his very public and downright ugly departure from the Orlando Magic. I keep hearing the words “fresh start”, “today is all about the Lakers”, “I’m just blessed to be here”, “I’m just glad its over with”,  “no need to go back to the past”,  come out of his mouth, with a tinge of pleading, maybe, to get away from what has happened in Orlando, and just allow him to start anew.

Unfortunately, I don’t think basketball fans will be too forgiving. I mean, for one, let’s all admit it. Dwight was able to do what I thought was impossible: He was able to out-villain Lebron and make “The Decision” a little less unpalatable (it didn’t help that Lebron finally won a championship). Okay I admit, that’s taking it too far. “The Decision” will forever stand in its place.

Going back to Dwight, the long process of his eventual departure, dubbed the “Dwightmare” all but sucked out  the goodwill fans generally had towards him. So I guess it is right, LA offers him a fresh start. But it’s not going to be easy. As a Lakers fan, I can already sense we’re being looked at as Miami Heat 2.0 – the team everybody wants to hate. What’s not to hate, anyway? Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol all in one team?! Add in Metta World Peace, and we’ve got arguably the strongest starters in the NBA!

Fan art grabbed via Facebook

But I’m not here writing to bash Howard – of course not. He’s now on my team. I’m merely stating the facts. What I’m writing about is that after all is said and done, I really truly hope this works out for the Lakers; for Dwight, for Kobe, for Pau, for Mitch, and for all Lakers fans. I mean, simply, I hope to see RINGS :D

After all, that’s what’s expected from such blockbuster deals like this, right?

And that’s how Howard will get back to the good graces of basketball fans,  right?

Just like Lebron.

Somehow.

So Dwight, welcome to the Lakers!