The Nerve of Some Media People

June 25th, 2016

Yesterday afternoon I heard a talking head on one of the sports shows on Sirius-XM make the comment, “Steph Curry most definitely let us down. I’m not going to take back the things I said during the season but” . . . and the he blathered on about something or other. It was like he was saying that, while he extolled Curry’s virtues during the season, he wished he had tempered his comments because . . . now he looked bad. His callers, especially LeBron fans, were coming down hard on him – and it was basically Curry’s fault. His saying he wouldn’t take back any of his initial remarks meant he was a stand-up guy – but if only Curry had the intestinal fortitude, people wouldn’t be questioning the limitless knowledge he obtained by watching and reading about sports throughout his childhood and however much of the adult life he’s experienced. His biggest hope is the program director can get Steph to come on the show and apologize to his listeners for his (Curry’s) poor performance in the Finals (although it would be even better if Steph would ask directly for his forgiveness).

People are bringing up that this is the second straight year Curry has been regular season MVP and in neither, was he Finals MVP. This year, had he gone off in Game 7 and the Warriors won the championship, LeBron James would still have won the award – and not one negative word would have been said. James was simply that dominating (disregarding, naturally, Games 1 & 2).

Last year, Andre Iguodala was named MVP for not only his formidable stats of 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists, but mostly for the job he did on LeBron. For the record, James’ stats in 2015 were 35.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists. Curry put up 26.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists. During the regular season Curry’s stats were 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists so it wasn’t like there was such a dramatic drop-off. Had Curry received the MVP, there wouldn’t have been too much of an uproar.

As I was perusing the Internet last night, I came across an article in which Dan Le Batard was complaining about John Calipari being on ESPN nearly as much as SportsCenter. “It’s simply not right to give him the entire platform to be out recruiting by himself,” said Le Batard. He included his program which Cal was scheduled to make an appearance on later in the day, saying he should cancel it. This criticism coming from a guy who has his father as a regular on his show rings hollow. While there is certainly a segment of the viewing public who thinks his dad adds to the show, I’m not a member of that segment.

Calipari is so far ahead of every other coach when it comes to recruiting. He was the first to master the art of twitter (I assume it’s an art; I decided not tweet – for two reasons: I’m a technological dunce and, more importantly, can you imagine limiting me to 140 characters)? Unfortunately, the greater majority of coaches would rather complain about one of them gaining an edge than to create a (legal) advantage as Cal has. Isn’t it a major plus for Duke’s recruiting that Mike Krzyzewski (and, to a lesser extent, Jim Boeheim, when he assisted Coach K in 2008 & 2012) to coach the Olympic team and have access to all that publicity? Mike was selected because the decision-maker(s) felt he was the best coach to accomplish the United States’ goal of winning the gold medal. Along similar lines, ESPN is going to pick whichever coach they feel is best for ratings.

As far as Curry and Calipari hearing criticism, I recently received an article via email in which the following quote hit me as the ultimate thought process for someone who has been criticized. It was spoken by Mohandes Gandhi:

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

 

 

 

Was this Baylor Recruit’s Dad Really Surprised?

June 24th, 2016

There have been intercollegiate scandals nearly as long as there have been colleges. The only thing worse than the laundry list of recent transgressions by institutions, administrators, coaches and players is the fact that, more likely than not, there were so many more in the past that were never reported. With the power of modern technology, however, illegal and immoral acts are not only more difficult to get away with, they no longer can easily be covered up. That type of progress is applauded far and wide.

When it comes to misdeeds (to use the term much too loosely), one of the worst institutions from a historical perspective is the athletics department at Baylor University. Should there be any Baylor apologists, the Bears’ athletics department needs to be reminded of this: “If one person calls you a horse, it might be an insult. If three people call you a horse, it might be a conspiracy. If ten people call you a horse, get a saddle.”

Few people have forgotten the 2003 tragedy that happened at Baylor when one basketball player shot and killed a teammate. An assistant coach recorded a staff meeting (itself an inexcusable act of disloyalty – even if it did expose the head coach as a liar and someone who had lost his moral compass, if not his mind) in which the head coach had decided the best way to handle the situation was to paint the deceased player as a drug dealer, hoping the public would dismiss the death as one less drug dealer on earth. Naturally, this strategy blew up in the faces of all concerned and the NCAA investigated that and several additional allegations, from players’ drug use to coaches making illegal payments to players. The school self-imposed punishments but the NCAA came down harder, including the elimination of one year of any non-conference contests. It was one of the harshest actions taken against a member institution, short of the death penalty.

Memories must run short in Waco. The most recent transgressions include allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence and other acts of brutality involving several Baylor football players, as far back as 2011 and as recent as this past season. It’s been reported that some coaches and administrators knew about the actions, yet the players involved were not disciplined. Worse, it’s alleged that school officials failed to adequately investigate, or did not investigate at all, the allegations of sexual violence.

In no way can any of what occurred at Baylor be discounted but in a story that could be entitled Ultimate Naivete, the father of a Baylor Bears football signee said he felt betrayed by the school. He said no one from Baylor ever informed its recruits that they were investigating sexual assault allegations. Because of the oversight, he demanded a release for his son from his national letter-of-intent.

Wait, this parent was disappointed the school never notified the prospects they were trying to recruit that there was an investigation going on regarding the mishandling and outright covering up of sexual assaults? What if they had told him and his son, he was asked.

If we would have known, we would never had considered Baylor,” was his response.

How could a school, undergoing a plethora of sexual assault and domestic violence cases, not tell a recruit and his family?

“Sir, I think you just answered your own question.”

NBA Draft Captivates Prognosticators and Fans

June 22nd, 2016

The NBA draft is an exciting process. The days leading up to it, the day of, and the days following, i.e. trades made after team officials lie claim they got exactly the guy they wanted – and the young kid saying how happy he is that he’s going to the organization that selected him; how he appreciates the faith that franchise has shown in him. Wonder what the over/under is on how many times “I’m blessed” will be heard?

When the fashion show draft begins, so will the drama. Ben Simmons, who’s believed to be the 76ers choice as the #1 pick, described the best part of his game as making other players better. This, after coming off a season in which he couldn’t get LSU into the NCAA Tournament (it’s not like the selection committee has a quota of SEC teams invited to the Big Dance). Simmons didn’t help the Tigers advance to the Final Four, their name wasn’t even considered on Selection Sunday. Certainly his basketball skills outweigh his evaluation of his game. His main weakness is his inability to shoot consistently. It’s not like the Sixers had a plethora of shooters on their squad; it’s not like they have a plethora of anything on their squad, with the exception of bad luck with injuries.

Next to be called is Brandon Ingram, forward from Duke, the team that won the national championship just two short years ago – when Ingram was graduating from high school. As long as he keeps his priorities straight, i.e. that, although he’s in Tinseltown, he’s getting paid to play basketball AND that he keeps his romantic escapades to himself, all indications are that he and the Lakers will be perfect for each other.

Next up are the Celtics – or whichever team they trade the pick to. As of last night, they were finding it difficult to locate somebody who wanted to give up a good veteran(s) the Celts would want for such a high selection. Possibly that’s because there is no consensus as to which player is third pick material. One rumor had Dragan Bender, an 18-year-old who averaged 13/game overseas. That’s 13 minutes a game. In last week’s Sports Illustrated article the reason for his lack of playing time was that his team was more interested in winning now and couldn’t afford to take a chance on playing such a young, not-yet-physically-developed kid. NBA coaches get fired when their team is winning! When did the NBA become such a bastion of patience?

The NBA draft is usually an interesting show to watch, especially if you’re a sucker for emotional stories and happy endings for families. The two greatest things about it, though, are:

“The explanations given by the media guys of why the picks were good or bad . . . and five years from now when the same guys are telling everyone how stupid some teams were to pass on kids drafted later who’ve become stars.”

A Few Lessons that Can Be Learned from Ben Simmons’ Latest Commercial

June 22nd, 2016

The hottest NBA topic that has nothing to do with Xs & Os, coaching or drafting is the Foot Locker commercial that features Ben Simmons – who has yet to play a minute of professional basketball. This is the NBA – that’s what agents are for.

The part of the commercial that should mean most to Simmons is not how much his agent negotiated for him but the advice Karl-Anthony Towns offers at the beginning. The rest of it is what everybody’s talking about and why Foot Locker’s advertisers created it. “Getting drafted doesn’t mean a thing,” Towns replies when Simmons asks him what’s next after the draft. “Now the real work starts. This isn’t college. This is a grown man’s league.” Towns would be a wonderful mentor for the newest #1 pick when it comes to basketball advice. Not sure exactly how much KAT knows about college (other than the hoops part) as he was a one-and-done product out of Kentucky but it certainly couldn’t be any less than what Simmons experienced in the one year basketball season he spent at LSU. Still, the message is spot on and, if Simmons’ attitude actually is what he claims it to be, Towns’ advice should solidify that philosophy.

The main point of the commercial – and what has been getting rave reviews throughout the nation – comes from D’Angelo Russell, the first pick of the Los Angeles Lakers last year. He asks Simmons if he has a phone and when Simmons hands it over, the Lakers guard throws it out the window, saying only, “Trust me.” This, of curse, refers to the incident in which, during their miserable season, Russell used his cell phone to record his teammate, Nick Young, aka Swaggy P, discussing how he cheated on his fiance, Iggy Azalea, the Australian rapper, songwriter, and model. Coincidentally, Simmons hails from Australia, although there’s no indication that makes the advice any more meaningful.

The recording went viral (“Really, in this day and age, how did that ever happen?”) before Russell deleted it, but in the category of “You can’t unring a bell,” the damage had already been done. Young tweeted, “Real funny,” supposedly in response to the TV spot. Many people saw Young as the victim, someone who had been betrayed by a teammate. To that extent, there is no doubt that Russell violated a confidence and can no longer be viewed as someone who deserves to be trusted.

Without delving too deeply in moral judgment, however, shouldn’t the reaction be that Young was the guiltiest party in this melodrama. It wasn’t the first hint of infidelity by the Lakers’ flamboyant guard. Such actions, however common they are in the NBA (or society in general), eventually doom a relationship. In those situations, isn’t just a matter of time? In any case, Iggy reacted as most women would and immediately “got rid of her Swag.”

When my late mentor, John Savage, would speak to insurance salesmen around the country, he used to issue this proposal to the married men in attendance. The message never failed to resonate with the audience:

“You married guys out there who are cheating on your wives? You’re all frauds! And if you don’t agree with me, I’d be happy to debate the subject with you – on local television, in YOUR neighborhood.”

Don’t Expect the Cavs to Repeat

June 21st, 2016

One takeaway from the just completed NBA Finals is that the Cleveland Cavaliers made more people happy by winning the championship than the Golden State Warriors would have. One obvious reason is that Dubs’ fans have been riding an (almost) two year high. They need a break from celebrating. The star crossed city of Cleveland, with its 52 years of misery and series of bitter endings, as well as the entire state of Ohio, couldn’t have asked for a better ending. Include all the softhearted people out there who said they were rooting for the Cavs “because they haven’t won anything in so long.” Think about it. Doesn’t that group comprise a large majority of the nation? After all, when was the last time you won anything of significance (not counting the medium fries you scored in the last Monopoly game at McDonald’s)?

Something that’s been floated is that Cavs faithful should completely soak in the glory of this championship. Rather than giddily hoping for a repeat, the people should bask in the glow of this year – and not because of “staying in the moment.” The champagne wasn’t even dry when the rumors began flying around about the potential break up of the championship team. Richard Jefferson immediately announcing his retirement removed a vital cog in this season’s championship run. It’s unclear whether Kevin Love will be returning (not too frightening a proposition for many Cleveland people). In fact, if the Timberwolves want to swap Andrew Wiggins for their once consistent 26 & 13 machine, odds are favorable Dan Gilbert could be persuaded. How about the proposition of LeBron James, having fulfilled his promise of bringing home a championship for The ‘Land, bolting to another franchise (Los Angeles)? Who in the world would believe a kid born and raised in Akron would prefer living in La La Land? You don’t have to answer that.

Post game hugs and tears aside, there were too many stories of James and Irving not wanting anything to do with each other – on or off the court – but more of the “on.” A sportswriter who covered high school hoops in Oregon claimed Kevin Love’s high school teammates didn’t particularly cotton to his overall demeanor. As far as how Love got along with the best player in the NBA (tough to dispute after the recently concluded NBA Finals), Love admitted during the season he and LeBron were not “best friends.” NBA assistant coaches (many of whom revel in gossip – hey, they have a lot of free time on their hands) will readily disclose that K-Love has another member of the franchise who’s not a big fan of his. A hint is he may have the shortest name in the NBA (and he’s the coach). Come to think of it, though, how many coworkers really are?

One thing to keep in mind is that, teammates on championship teams aren’t always the closest of buds, e.g. Kobe & Shaq, Rondo & Ray Allen (or Rondo & Doc for that matter). Anyway, if you ever want the real scoop, figure a way to corner Brian Windhorst. Although, if he were to play basketball, his position looks less like point or shooting guard than pulling guard, the guy has his finger on the the pulse of the Cavs organization. It would be interesting, if not eye-popping, if he were hooked up to a polygraph.

All in all, there are a variety of personalities on Cleveland’s squad and, in a profession that has nearly as many outsized egos as outsized players, none of this is shocking. However, should the Cavs – or any other organization inside the world of professional sports or any other business for that matter – want to continue their era greatness (or begin one), the employees would be wise to heed the advice of a man who understood what it took to galvanize a group, lead them into battle and come out victorious. It was the late Vince Lombardi who said:

“Try to be great athletes, but don’t forget to be great friends. Teammates, above all, and leaders.”

Random Reflections on Father’s Day 2016

June 20th, 2016

From a personal standpoint, this was the first Father’s Day for me in 28 years without at least one of our two boys present. Probably won’t be the last. Not complaining – just another difficult part of growing old even if that’s the way we planned life to work. Raise the kids, have them leave the house and make a successful life for themselves.

On to the NBA. Game 7 was a nail biter. It’s baffling beyond words as to why the first six were so lopsided. It’s not as if the players didn’t understand what was at stake until last night.

Although the Warriors were obviously not at full strength (Bogut, Ezeli, Barnes and especially Curry – it wasn’t that he was missing shots, it was how badly he was missing them, including bricks and air balls seldom seen during the year), all with major or minor injuries – that should never be brought up because of the good fortune that shone on them last year.

Turning point of the series was Draymond Green and his inability to control his emotions. To me there is little to no doubt that, had Green played in Game 5 in Oakland, with his team up 3-1 and the Cavs devastated after being so dominant in Game 3, there would be a parade in the Bay Area in the near future. However, if any of his teammates had “brought it” to Game 7 like Green did, the Warriors would be back-to-back champs. 32 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists is a monster game from their third option and should certainly should have been enough to win.

Forget the idea of James baiting Green to throw a punch south of the equator so he’d be suspended. The 2016 Finals MVP was simply frustrated that, after such a beat-down they placed on the Dubs in Game 3, that his bunch were going to lose at home, go down 3-1 and have to win three straight, two of them in Oakland (after not coming close in Games 1 or 2) to claim “one for the ‘Land.”

If Harrison Barnes wants a max contract, he must have faith that some NBA front office didn’t watch the Finals. It’s hard to claim you’re a max player when, as a #4 option, you play as badly as he did. Maybe a bad ankle was to blame but, only in the NBA would somebody be able to turn down a $65+ million offer, put on such a bad performance and still wind up with a multi-year contract at $20M/per. Yet, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if a franchise offered him just that. If multi-million and multi-billion dollar owners made decisions for their companies the way they do for their toys franchises, they’d never be in the position they were in to be able to purchase them in the first place. Barnes might be a Kevin Love type – put up big numbers for a losing squad.

Key play last night was LeBron James running down and blocking a sure layup by Andre Iguodala. It’s a remarkable talent of LeBron’s, one we’ve seen again and again but, while most players don’t have the jumping or timing skills he does, a major part of the skill is that it’s all-out effort - something anybody can do.

Forget the idea of Golden State’s pursuit of the Bulls record wearing down the defending champs. In many of those games, the main characters didn’t play the whole fourth quarter. Other games were like the Globbies and the Washington Generals. So, unless someone in the medical field comes out and says that Curry (or others) sustained an injury in a late season game, suck it up and congratulate the new champions.

A valid point, however, is this fact: Cleveland breezed through the Eastern Conference Playoffs (two sweeps and a less difficult than it seemed 4-2 beating of Toronto) while the Warriors swept no one and needed a super human performance from Klay Thompson just to advance to the Finals. Mentally and physically, after an 82 game season (plus exhibitions), nothing is more welcome than an easy path to the Finals.

Something we’ll never know but a lot of people (majority?) feel: Had Oklahoma City beat the Warriors, that parade would have been in oil country.

Kudos to Ty Lue and Steve Kerr for the honest, forthright comments they made in the all the post game press conferences, actually explaining answers to difficult questions, as opposed to the politically correct BS we hear from other coaches and players.

The best NBA regular season ever – winning 73 of 82 games (nearly 90%) should not be dismissed by anyone – unless those people can illustrate that they went through the same amount of time “winning” 90% of whatever it is they do. Including talk show hosts and their callers whose main message is, “The 73 game record means nothing. The simple fact is the Warriors just didn’t finish the job.” Compare their entire season to your own. How do they match up? And, consider, no one is playing defense against you.

No doubt who was going to be voted Finals MVP – whichever team won. It’s doubtful we’ll ever again see anyone lead a Finals in every statistical category: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.  That said, no one should forget that the same feeling existed after the regular season – or that that MVP voting was unanimous for very similar reasons.

Idiocy was on display but not in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The USGA is a laughing stock. In this day and age of technology, their officials told Dustin Johnson, a guy who hadn’t won a major – and gave away (OK choked away) last year’s U.S. Open – that he might be assessed a penalty stroke for something that should have been easily dismissed since he had nothing to do with his ball moving. In no other sport does an official go up to a player during the sporting event and say about a ruling:

“We’ll get back to you.”

Aren’t There Enough Controversial Stories for Stephen A. Smith?

June 19th, 2016

Ayeesha Curry tweeted that “the NBA is absolutely rigged.” Reaction? C’mon, Ayeesha, we realize you were emotional because your husband, Steph’s, team didn’t close out the Cavs in Cleveland to earn their second NBA Championship in two years. The fact that Steph also was called for six fouls (a few “cheap” ones), plus a technical, which caused him the first ejection of is career had to add to her frustration. From the little we know about Mrs. Curry (from the Mr. & Mrs. commercials for example), she seems like a bright woman who, if she, at one time, was camera shy, has definitely conquered the problem. However, as far as the NBA Finals being rigged, there’s only one conclusion: they’re not. The NBA doesn’t need to rig their finals, they get their money independent of how many games are played. The contract was signed long ago. The ratings are high and the drama is plenty intense.  Someday, especially if the Warriors prevail tonight, Ayeesha Curry will most likely admit it was a spur-of-the-moment reaction and will regret she had ever tweeted what she did.

Most people feel the same way and will let it go. But Stephen A. Smith isn’t most people. He has shows to do, opinions to offer, rants to dispense. So, not only does he take Steph’s wife to task but he feels it necessary to bring up the wife and mother of LeBron James, questioning how people would feel if either of those two (focusing mostly on LeBron’s spouse) put out such a tweet. Smith gushes over LeBron and the two main women in his life, using the adjective “wonderful” to describe the trio.

Could it be because, earlier in the series, Smith attacked LeBron James, calling him everything short of a coward and choke artist? While that idea sounds plausible, it’s doubtful that was the reason behind his rage. Stephen A. Smith makes his living using the “ready, fire, aim” philosophy and makes no excuses for it. It has made him a media star and loads of money.

More likely, it was a case of a man who enjoys confrontations – and doesn’t mind risking putting his foot in his mouth when it comes to comments regarding women. History has resulted in at least three occasions in which he’s later apologized for his insensitive, or downright foolish, remarks (German women soccer players, Ray Rice and Floyd Mayweather domestic violence cases). This could possibly rank as the fourth. While admonishing the lovely Mrs. Curry, he feels the need to compare her looks to that of LeBron’s wife. “As beautiful as everyone wants to say Ayesha Curry is, and she is, Savannah is something special. Ain’t a man alive, particularly a black man, that’s going to look at LeBron James’s wife and not say that that woman ain’t gorgeous.” Why he felt the need to add the “black man” part must be that only black men can appreciate beautiful black women. If that’s not the case, it sure as hell (employing a favorite term of his) comes off as a racial slam.

He concluded,“If this were Savannah, acting like this, do you know how much heat LeBron James may have taken? I just want people to think about that and I’ll leave it at that.” But he didn’t. Rather, he wasn’t allowed to. Ayeesha Curry tweeted (she is a woman of today when it comes to communicating) why Smith felt it necessary to compare the two superstars’ wives. Your rebuttal, Mr. Smith?

Stephen A. went into backtracking mode, or what Ricky Ricardo used to call ‘splainin’. First he uses “wonderful” to describe Curry’s wife and parents, while calling Steph Curry “one of the best people I know.” His defense continued. “I’m just saying to you you need to watch yourself because it may put your husband in a compromising position that I’m sure you don’t want and Savannah James, whose been around, who has a husband who is universally recognized as one of the greatest players in the world, has been around for quite a long time, and she appears to know that. It’s not about comparing or anything.” It’s not?!?!? That’s exactly what it is.

If Savannah James had decided to mentor Ayeesha Curry, with advice like, “Ayeesha, you and I are in similar situations in our lives and I’ve seen what can happen,” that might be something Ayeesha would have appreciated – if it were given person to person, not over the national airwaves for the entire sporting world to hear. But to insinuate what he said wasn’t comparing the two, he is insulting the intelligence of … everybody – the Curry’s the James’ and his listeners.

Stephen A. Smith is paid to give comments, even outrageous ones but, in this particular case, he should have heeded the phrase that’s become popular today:

“Stay in your lane.”

What LeBron and the Warriors Have in Common

June 18th, 2016

Whether or not fans feel LeBron James is the best player in the game today, one of the top 3 or one of the top 25 of all time, everyone would have to agree that with the series he’s having, most notably back-to-back 41 point outbursts (plus the rest of the stats he provides on a nightly basis), he’s certainly a formidable talent. Golden State has to flip a coin as to how to game plan him, e.g. double him and let role players get wide open shots, play him straight up and force him to hit jumpers (both mid-range and threes) or switch which puts them in mismatches, allowing him more control at the Cavs’ offensive end of the floor. Without Andrew Bogut and his shot blocking ability/six fouls, James doesn’t have the fear he once did when deciding to attack the basket. Whatever the case, Cleveland’s chances ride mainly on James’ performance – as in nothing short of sensational gives them a chance to win the title.

What the Warriors have going for them is their wildly passionate home crowd. After all, this is the final NBA contest of the season. Yet, as my former boss, Jerry Tarkanian (a guy whose home court record bordered on phenomenal) used to tell his teams, “Playing at home gives us a better opportunity to win but it doesn’t guarantee anything.” Another factor in the Warriors’ favor (or is it) is the fact that they won it all last year. Nearly the identical nucleus from last season’s World Champs (over these same Cavs) return to keep the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the Bay Area. Experience can be a vital component in dealing with pressure situations and being at home aids that exponentially.

It’s no revelation that only one team can win Game 7. LeBron James has been at the top of the NBA’s best players ever since he entered the league in 2003. He’s in his sixth straight NBA Finals and is trying to capture his third championship. The Warriors backed up last season’s title with a record-breaking 73-9 record. It’s been a series of minimum double-digit wins in each of the six games, yet the teams have scored the exact same number of total points (610).

There’s tremendous pressure on both LeBron and the Dubs. To sum up the plight of each, we lift a quote from Phil Knight’s new book, Shoe Dog:

“When you’ve achieved greatness, you have a bullseye on your back. The more successful you get, the bigger the bullseye.”

What Did NBA Game 6 Tell the World?

June 17th, 2016

Before last night, fans of the NBA had a multitude of feelings about Steph Curry (and the Golden State  Warriors). A majority of them were positive. Those same fans had just as many feelings about LeBron James (and the Cleveland Cavaliers). A majority of them weren’t so.

Curry had the reputation of the quiet baby-faced assassin, oh-so-cool and clutch under fire; his Dubs were a team in the truest sense of the word, an unselfish passing and cutting squad who worked together as a well-oiled unit.

James’ character was always under scrutiny, incredibly skilled but with a proficiency of coming up short, especially in big games; his Cavs a group of talented individuals with little chemistry who, when the heat was on, resorted to “hero ball.”

So what happened in Cleveland yesterday? LeBron matched his unbelievable 41-point performance in Game 5, added 8 rebounds, 11 assists, with only one turnover while shooting nearly 60% from the floor (50% from three) and 75% from the line. From the 5:00 mark of the third quarter to 4:22 of the fourth, he accounted for 27 straight Cavalier points (scored or assisted). When he was subbed for an ovation, rather than heading directly to the bench, he went over and shook hands with each of the five Cavaliers who were entering the game.

Meanwhile, Steph did score 30 points, but had only one assist (unacceptable for a point guard), fouled out, added a technical foul on top of his sixth and was ejected (for the first time in his career). To cap off an unforgettable evening, he threw his mouthpiece (which hit a fan) and dropped a few obscenities on the referee to boot. (He did apologize to the fan).

After Game 6 we learned that it’s possible in a six-game series, in which no game was decided by single digits, that the two teams’ total number of points can be exactly the same (610 a piece). How does something like this occur?

I have absolutely no idea but, regarding the two observations on the superstars, here’s what fans learned from Game 6:

“1) That Steph Curry is human (and has emotions)

and

2) That LeBron James might not be human (and has his emotions completely under control).”

How Late Night Comedy Has Changed

June 16th, 2016

The late night shows of today are quite a bit different from those of my generation. First of all, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was the late night talk show. As in the only late night talk show (I have to admit I can barely remember Steve Allen and Jack Paar but won’t bore anybody with that). Those shows were predominantly made up of dialogue between Johnny Carson and his guests (mainly TV and big screen stars, i.e. “famous people” but, every so often people like zookeeper Jack Hanna would make an appearance with his animals). Occasionally, the format of the program would branch out and, there would be performances of tomfoolery – like Don Rickles and the hot tub. A piece that will live forever is when Native American Ed Ames, who played Mingo, a Cherokee tribesman on the show Daniel Boone, was Johnny’s guest. He illustrated how to throw a tomahawk – at a wooden cut-out of a cowboy. If, somehow, you’ve never seen it, suffice to say that where the tomahawk landed would make Draymond Green proud. (Google it if you haven’t seen it – it’s one of the greatest spontaneous moments of comedy ever televised).

Today, late night TV shows are plentiful. With ratings being the end-all for networks, these shows have morphed into more than just conversations between host and guest. While the opening of each is still the host’s monologue, after that anything goes. Skits set outside the studio are used – some funny, some not so (although that might be the baby boomer in me speaking) as well as other in-studio ideas to entice viewers to tune in. One invention is the competition model, where guest and host compete against each other, or two guests face off.

Last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live! - one of the main three network shows that come on following the late night news – Jimmy had two NBA stars answer questions from the other’s era. The “contestants” were Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier, representing “yesteryear” and New Orleans superstar Anthony Davis, repping today’s generation. Kimmel would pose a question from “back in the day” to Davis, then one from from today for Frazier. If one didn’t get the answer, he other had a chance to correct him.

The first (practice) question for Clyde was, “What is the name of Beyonce’s latest single?” No clue.

After the break, a picture of Jimmy Carter was put up and A.D. was asked to tell the audience the name of the former President. Davis just shook his head. Someone who had spent a year in college (not to mention all those years in elementary, junior high and high school) couldn’t name a president who is still alive. I mean, it wasn’t like he was shown a picture of James Buchanan. Yet, it’s extremely doubtful anyone from UK is in any way embarrassed because, come on, A.D. was here only one year and he led the ‘Cats to a national championship. How much could somebody expect out of the young man? Besides, the most important president to Kentucky players is the one they accumulate so many of when they leave campus – Benjamin Franklin. (Uh, yeah, it’s a joke). Frazier not only said who it was but prefaced his remarks by informing the studio and viewing audience that he hailed from the same state as Carter.

Then, Frazier was shown a picture of Jay Z and was asked what the rapper’s last name was. Cleverly, but incorrectly, he said, “Z.” Davis said, “Carter,” and the game was tied. It continued in similar fashion. Frazier didn’t know the ending to “Netflix and ____” while Davis immediately responded with “Chill.” A.D. said the ending to the line, “up your nose with a rubber ____” was “duck.” He was corrected by Clyde who, somewhat surprisingly, knew it was “hose” (that bit of knowledge possibly the result of all the years he spent with Bill Bradley). Frazier did not know the music festival in Indio, CA was Coachella (Davis did), but the results were reversed when the question about Woodstock was presented (Frazier actually said he was there).

Another history question stumped Davis (if he didn’t know who Jimmy Carter was after seeing his picture, how could he have been expected to come up with who was responsible for the New Deal)? His answer “of what” was a hit with the audience and even drew a response from his opponent who, after saying FDR, commented, “He was thinking of his new deal” (which, of course was full of Benjamins). A white and yellow logo was put up on the screen which Frazier thought stood for “ghost” while Davis quickly said, “snapchat.”

The game winner came when the Pelicans’ all-star recognized Bruce Lee but the former Knicks’ great could only guess “turtle” when shown a picture of a green turtle ready for battle. Maybe Anthony Davis wasn’t keen on American presidents but he’d be damned if anybody thought he couldn’t pick out Michelangelo.

All in all, it was a fun segment, although it does make you wonder, are they exposing themselves as fools or are they simply good sports? Admittedly, the only one of the new generation questions I knew was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle because I had a son who grew up in that era (the green guys’ first one). “Contests” like this have some humor but, for my (old) taste buds:

“Give me Ed Ames and the tomahawk anytime.”