Champs and Chumps

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The Golden State Warriors are champions. They are the defending NBA champs and they are returning to the NBA Finals after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-88 in a decisive Game 7. The win capped off one of the most stunning comebacks in NBA history.

The Warriors found themselves on the brink of elimination days ago when they trailed the Thunder 3-1 in the series. In Games 3 and 4, the Thunder blew out the Warriors, raising eyebrows as to how the Thunder had elevated their game and how the Warriors had seemingly melted.

However, the Warriors responded with a big Game 5 win at home, then stole a game in Oklahoma City with a wild, fourth-quarter comeback in Game 6, then sealed it in Game 7 at home again. And so the defending champs are going back to the finals to defend their title.

A Champ is a champion. And a champion is a victor and a vanquisher and a prizefighter and a prizewinner. On the other hand, a chump is a lowly, lackluster, poor, pathetic character that lacks the wherewithal to become a champion. In fact, the Urban Dictionary defines chump this way: “A pathetic character who is often reminded of his (guys are labeled as chumps far more than girls) shortcomings by superiors.” Ouch.

So, while champ is an apt definition for the Wizard-like Warriors, who just wiggled and wormed their way out of a whale of hole, chump may be too heavy handed and harsh a header for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Yes Durant and Westbrook had a 3-1 lead in the series going into Game 5 — AT HOME. Yes, Durant and Westbrook laughed at the prospect of losing to the Warriors after taking that commanding 3-1 lead in games. And YES, the Thunder should have won. But wouldh’ve, shouldh’ve, couldh’ve just doesn’t cut it, does it?

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And so, while we all want to be champs, sometimes we feel, and are treated like chumps, because we didn’t measure up to someone else’s standard. Durant is still a great player. Durant is still an NBA MVP. And Durant still is in search of his first NBA Championship. And in some minds, after blowing that big lead, he’s not a champ, he’s a chump. And that’s too bad. Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post may have said it best:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/dan-steinberg

“To the extent anything matters, this is why it matters: because something about this current sporting moment seems to push us toward immediate group scorn for losing teams, as much as (or even more than) any appreciation for winning teams. We have Crying Jordaned all our sports, gathering ’round the sad losers to point at them and make faces. It’s not that the losing team wasn’t as good; it’s that the losing team had some basic internal flaw, some nasty genetic mutation that’s anathema to winning.

Jordan Spieth choked. Dustin Johnson choked. Cam Newton choked. The Vikings choked. Peyton Manning won, but that just meant that someone else was now a bigger choker. The Capitals were destined to choke. Heck, even the Warriors nearly collapsed. And that’s all just from one writer (whom I like!) in the past two years.

But if the Warriors nearly collapsed, and the Thunder choked, that set up a pretty binary option in Game 7: Choke vs. Collapse. Which is a pretty miserable way to watch sports. Are we really watching sports just to see failure?

Well, you could just say one excellent team wound up with fewer points, but the group that scored more points was a really, really good team doing some unprecedented things and putting itself in an elite historical category. And also that both teams played hard.

Sure, probably. It just seems silly to ruin what was an entertaining and unpredictable seven-game journey by mocking a team that did better than expected but that ultimately proved not quite as good as the team that just won a record number of games in the regular season. Sometimes a team that is better will come from behind and win, and it doesn’t mean the inferior team gagged.

Every loss isn’t a choke. Every loss isn’t a collapse. The Warriors are great, and they were favored to win, and they did. It can be that simple, even if it doesn’t make for a great Photoshop.”

Don’t Throw In The Towel: You Can Come Back From Way Back

Curry Towel Head

Who will win, or even be in, the NBA Finals? It’s Anybody’s Guess. Durant? DeRozan? LeBron? Curry? Take your pick. Which star will outshine the others in the NBA galaxy of stars this year? Who knows? And who will win, or even be in, the Finals is as wide open as the future of every year’s No. 1 Draft Pick.

We’re down to the NBA’s version of the Final Four: the Warriors and Thunder in the West and the Cavaliers and Raptors in the East. At one point this postseason, plenty of the pundits predicted and portended a Warriors/Cavaliers rematch. Given the events of the past 48 hours, that scenario seems far from certain right now.

The Warriors are falling apart, the Thunder are coming together and LeBron and the Cavaliers have to figure out how to put away the pesky Raptors in order to keep their date with destiny. But it’s not time for any of the four teams playing to throw in the towel. Not even Curry and the Warriors.

So who ya got? My money (even though I don’t bet) is on Durant. But Curry could come back. It’s unlikely, but it is possible. My Sixers were up 3-1 way back in the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals, and our arch rivals, the Boston Celtics, rattled off three straight wins to win the East. And in order to do it they had to have a plan. So they adopted a motto: “Win one.” That’s it. It sounds so simple yet it’s so profound.

Bird and the Celtics knew that they couldn’t win three in a row all at once, so they decided to take it one win at a time. And it worked. Bird, Parrish and McHale went on to win the 1981 NBA Championship. It was painful for us Philly fans to watch, but coming back from a 1-3 deficit is doable. It has happened. And it can happen again.

So I hope that the Warriors are watching the tape of the Celtics coming back from a 1-3 deficit in the Conference Finals from so many years gone by. They’re going to need more than a shot in the arm to gather some steam and garner some strength to mount this climb in front of them. And that’s what we need to do in our everyday lives. We need to remember yesterday’s triumphs as we face today’s tragedies.

We need to do like David did and remember how, with God’s help, we defeated the lions and the bears of our lives. Then we need to say to ourselves that Goliath can be beat too. Looking back at victories is better than looking back at defeats. Looking at what you can do is better that complaining about what you can’t do. And it’s so much better than whining and whimpering and withering and weltering away.

Because you can come back from way back.

Falling Apart and Putting It Together

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Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors are falling apart. I told my sons as much. When the Warriors were being walloped in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant, and more specifically by Russell Westbrook, I saw it in their eyes; because the eyes don’t lie. And the eyes are the windows to the soul.

Westbrook’s fiery eyes look like those of a rabid, wild animal in heat after her young had just been eaten by a predator. And that’s being kind. Westbrook is playing like a man possessed. It just seems like he has determined that the Thunder are NOT going to lose. Period.

On the other hand, the glazed, glassed over eyes of Steph Curry look like a weak, wounded water fowl miles from land and headed into a perfect storm. The gale force from the Thunder’s storm has scattered the Warriors to the wind and they have little to no hope of regrouping and recouping what they had last year or even earlier in these 2016 NBA Playoffs. The Warriors have no energy and no synergy; all they have is lethargy. And Draymond Green’s foolish flagrant foul in Game 3 certainly didn’t help. So if Steph doesn’t work his wonder and wizardry, the Warriors will be wasted by the wayside, wondering what could have been.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are putting it together. More pointedly, OKC is putting it ALL together. They have a light lift in their legs and a surprising spring in their step. They took out San Antonio and they’re about to dispatch of the defending Champs. Incredible. No one, and I mean NO ONE saw this coming.

So sports shows us that it’s all about effort and energy and positive exertion. Not talent or practice (Practice? We talkin’ ‘bout practice?) or salaries or seeding. It’s all about effort. Period. We’re talking chutzpah and hutzpah and gall and guts and all of the other intangible, unquantifiable qualities that you just have to have in order to win when no one expects you to. And the Thunder are thundering right over the Warriors in route to the NBA Finals, and, dare I say, Durant’s first NBA Title?

You can say you heard it first right here at ww.Godandsports.net

Why I’m Pulling For Kevin Durant

Los Angeles Clippers v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Five
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK –  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder sits on the court as Russell Westbrook makes three free throws.
Kevin Wayne Durant is sitting and waiting. He’s waiting for his turn to come. He’s waiting for his turn to come in the NBA Championship Line.

Durant is a bona fied, certified, veritable, charitable, tried and true super star. He’s won an NBA MVP award and is a perennial All Star. And stand out studs like Durant are easy to like and love and laud. And so, as much as I’ve become a Warriors fan, I wouldn’t mind it if this year, Durant won the whole dang gum thing. That’s right. Kevin deserves and merits and warrants an NBA Championship ring on his finger — at least one.

So, this year, in order to find the Holy Grail of the NBA, the Larry O’Brien Trophy, Durant will have to best Steph Curry in the West. And then, if that happens, he’ll have to fleece King James in the East, presuming of course that LeBron and the Cavs’s beat the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, and that shouldn’t be that hard to do.

I’m a sports fan. So while I’d love to see Steph and the Warriors win another title, this one a back-to-backer, I’m torn. On the other hand, I’d love to see Durant win one. But Curry and James are standing in his way, and Durant is saying “Don’t forget about me! What about me?”

Over the years, in a single season, multiple stars have contended for NBA titles. And since there’s only one trophy to go around per year, some stars have never won a ring. The list is notable: “Sir Charles” Barkley; Karl “The Mailman” Malone and his sidekick John Stockton; Chris Mullin; Chris Webber; Steve Nash; George “Iceman” Gervin; Artis Gilmore; Reggie Miller; Patrick Ewing; Allen Iverson; and to my surprise, Elgin Baylor, who went to 8 NBA Finals, never to win one while active on a Lakers team.

I’d just hate to see Kevin Durant join this club.

Back in my day, and that would be the ‘80s, great players and great teams went back and forth from year to year trading championships like baseball cards. Magic would win and then Boston would win and then Dr. J and the Sixers took it one year, and then it was back to Magic and Bird going back and forth. Later, the Pistons jumped in and won two back-to-back titles before Michael took over. Then the Houston Rockets won two in between the Bulls two separate three-peats.

More recently, King James got two in a row in Miami after losing to Dallas before they won and then losing to the San Antonio Spurs after they won. Timmy Duncan has won a total of five titles, as did Kobe. And of course, Michael won 6 titles, with two of the aforementioned three-peats, in what seems like forever, but really wasn’t all that long ago.

So where does that leave my may Kevin Durant? He’s cool and he’s clean and he’s a cold blooded killer when it comes to scoring points and winning games. He’s been to the finals once, but lost to LeBron and the Heat in 2012. No it’s no shame not to win it all, because many of the aforementioned players without a Championship Trophy to call their own are forever legendary and sedentary in NBA lore.

But it seems that a ring seals the deal. Just look at Curry. Now he’s a household name, but if he hadn’t won the NBA Title last year, things in his life would certainly be a whole lot different for him. So while I’d love to see Curry win one again, I’d be more enthralled if Kevin can beat the best and pass the test to reach the top of the NBA.

So that’s why I’m going to push and pull and scream and shout for Kevin to get over the hump. He just seems to be kind and commendable, yet fierce and admirable, and it would be lamentable if he plays out his career and does not get to the NBA’s top. And if it’s not this year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who knows when the planets will be aligned and the force will be behind him again?

Fights, Fracases, Brawls and Mêlées, a.k.a., Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right

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Talk About Ugly! Fights during a baseball or football or baseball or hockey game are nothing new. Especially hockey. But the latest and not greatest clash between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers this past weekend takes the cake. Here’s what happened as reported by MLB.com:

“Texas was leading by one run in the eighth when Bush started the inning by hitting Bautista with a 96-mph fastball. The two exchanged words, and there appeared to be verbal barbs between Toronto’s slugger and the Rangers’ dugout as well, but the game continued uninterrupted.

That changed two batters later, when Justin Smoak hit a grounder to third baseman Adrian Beltre, who tried to get a forceout at second base. Bautista came into the base with a hard slide that was ruled a violation of MLB’s new slide rule and made contact with second baseman Rougned Odor’s leg. And even though Odor’s throw sailed wide of first, the Rangers were awarded an inning-ending double play because of Bautista’s illegal slide.

Before the play was over, Odor shoved Bautista with both hands and then punched him squarely in the jaw with his right fist as Bautista’s helmet and sunglasses went flying into the air. The dugouts cleared and play was delayed for a lengthy period of time as the umpires tried to sort through the chaos.”

Athletes, and especially male athletes, have an extra dose and dosage of testosterone flowing all of the time, and a heaping helping of the natural steroid during a good game. And then, to top it all off, players have a whopping, walloping, massive and mammoth extra added portion of the stuff when the chips are down and the stakes are high.

That was the scene in Texas when these two teams went at it and tempers got the best of almost everybody, especially second baseman Odor when he punched Bautista. And he didn’t just punch him; he pummeled and pommeled him with a right that knocked Bautista’s hat and glasses off. Man! No the pitcher (Bush) should not have hit Bautista, and no, Odor should not have punched Bautista. But Bautista is no boyish boy scout of a choir boy in this incident either. Do your homework and read up on the backstory for yourself.

So what lesson can we learn from this unfortunate unfolding? Keeping your cool and tempering your tone is the mark of a strong man. Not flexing or fronting or flashing or trash talking. No. that’s not the way.  Unfortunately, some must and just resort to their physical, carnal, animal and visceral instincts instead taking the high road.

Giving in and giving up to the want and will and whim of the moment is never a good idea. Ask me how I know. And I know there are some that rejoiced with glee at the punch, but this wrong was absolutely wonton and went absolutely wayward, and it certainly without question will lead to another. In the meantime, egos were injured and psyches were socked and some players are even now plotting revenge.

But as mom taught us all, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Westbrook Slams The Spurs, a.k.a. Can You Hear The Thunder Roll?

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

This year, more than any other year in recent memory, the NBA Playoffs are as unpredictable and un-scriptable and unforeseeable and undeterminable as could be. I mean, the twists and turns and bumps and bends in the road are enough to throw anybody off of their game. And that’s just like life. That’s why you play hard and play smart and trust and believe that all things will work together and work out for good (Romans 8:28).

Sometimes and oft times and most times you think the ball is going to bounce your way and you think that things are going to go your way and all of a sudden, out of the blue, you’re injured and break your hand or bust your knee and everything changes. Just like that. On the other hand, you could win when no one gave you a chance and you could defeat the favorite when they were supposed to blow you away, and just like that, you’re contending for a title.

Yes, King James is going to play in the Eastern Conference Finals, and yes, Stephen Curry is going to defend in the Western Conference Finals, but all in between we’ve had unbelievable and unpredictable results.

In the East, the Raptors and the Heat are playing Game 7 in Toronto tomorrow. And it’s anybody’s guess who will come out on top, as the Raptors look like champs one minute and chumps the next. So, if they get by Dwayne Wade and his band of boys from South Beach, there’s no tellin’ how they’ll fare against King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the next round. But the gift we really want to see under the tree is Wade and LeBron going head to head. But this year’s playoffs don’t seem to be in the giving mood.

More importantly, the LA Clippers are as snakebit as they come. I felt really bad for Chris Paul. I did. He and the Clippers just can’t seem to win in the playoffs. And the amount of injuries the Clippers dealt with in just one series was almost unthinkable; losing Chris Paul (hand) and Blake Griffin (quad) in Game 4, they could’ve phoned it in when their stars went down. Instead, the banged-up, beat up, severely depleted Clippers fought and scraped for every loose ball and every long rebound in an elimination Game 6 against the Portland Trailblazers, before eventually falling just short in the game, the series and the season in a 106-103 loss.

Then, to top it all off, the San Antonio Spurs lose in six games to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Who saw that comin’? The favored and fundamental Spurs fell from grace in six games, losing two games AT HOME, as Russell Westbrook and the 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant wouldn’t go down without a fight. And it turns out they were determined not to go down at all. The Spurs were supposed to win going away and set up a showdown with Curry and the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Oh well; there goes the script.

So who ya got? Can Curry carry his comrades past the plucky, perky, chirpy duo from the dustbowl destined to derail the destiny of the boy wonder? We all want Curry to win another title. It would be a shame to waste a record setting 73-wins season and not win another Championship, right?

But who could argue against a Kevin Durant/LeBron James Finals? Steph Curry could. So this is a tough one. If Curry loses, the basketball world will be voting and pulling and cheering for Durant to finally win the NBA Championship he so clearly and dearly desires and deserves. That’s why we play the games and keep score.

So tell me again – why aren’t you watching the NBA playoffs?

It’s Unanimous! Curry Wins The 2016 NBA MVP Award

Steph Curry Looks Up

It’s unanimous! Steph Curry is the best player on the best team in the best conference. He’s simply the best. He’s better than all the rest. He’s worked hard and he’s played smart and he’s retained the right and he deserves the distinction of being decorated King Curry – again. Move over King James; another prince and lord has solidified his rule and reign over the basketball world.

Not Michael nor “Magic” nor Wilt Chamberlain nor Willis Reed nor Bill Russell nor Larry Bird nor Julius Erving nor Moses Malone nor Isaiah Thomas nor Kevin Durant nor King James himself – none of them won the NBA MVP award on a unanimous ballot. NONE of ‘EM! Yet here comes this fair skinned, slight of build, youngish and youthful, boyish and boy like blessing to the NBA, and he takes it by storm. He’s won an NBA title, back-to-back MVP Awards, and he’s only 28!

Curry is seen in the photo above, looking up and pointing up. What an example for all of us to follow. I believe this is one of the reasons why he’s as blessed and as beloved as he is. And to top it all off, to show you how humble and heartwarming he is, Curry spent most of his acceptance speech emotionally thanking his wife Ayesha. Here’s what he said at the MVP presser in Oakland:

None of this is possible without you. You’ve given me the opportunity to go out here and work as hard as I do, spend the hours I need to do at the gym, during practice, in games, on the road – all the while holding down the house and doing the little things that keep our family going.

Wow. What a class act.

And here’s what the sports and basketball and NBA pundits are saying about Curry:

“Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry was officially named the 2015-16 Most Valuable Player on Tuesday, and with that he earned another distinction: Curry is the first unanimous MVP winner in the award’s 61-year history, receiving all 131 first-place votes. 

The official announcement came on Tuesday, but the results have been all but locked for months. Curry’s shooting arm permanently etched this Warriors team into the annals of NBA history, as Curry led Golden State to the league’s best-ever regular season record (73-9) along with a host of other firsts and bests.

The stats are stunning. With a left-wing, step-back, defender-in-his-face three pointer in a March 7 game against the Orlando Magic, Curry nailed his 300th three of the season. That mark alone was considered unbelievable, as no other player had ever hit more than 269 in a year before 2015-2016. And the one other player who had reached that tally was Ray Allen — the man.”

“Stephen Curry celebrated early reports of his second consecutive MVP award by pouring in 40 points, including an NBA record 17 in overtime, to carry the Warriors to a dramatic comeback win over the Blazers in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. The victory pushed Golden State to a 3-1 edge in the second-round series, while Curry’s individual play marked perhaps the most iconic performance of his career as he returned from a knee sprain in spectacular fashion.”

The spiritual and theological tie in is obviously clear. It’s also unanimous, and even more importantly so, that the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is STILL Lord! That’s right, God is still on the throne, despite the chaos and the madness and the craziness of this world, the God of Heaven is still sits high and looks low. He still puts up and tears down. He still deserves our adoration and praise and worship.

So, if you believe that Steph Curry is unquestionably the king of the court, then how much more so should we honor and pay homage to the God that still answers by fire?