Sixers vs. Celtics: Just Like Old Times

Here we go! The Sixers and the Celtics are getting ready to go at it in the playoffs one more time. And it will be just like old times, right? For those that can remember, Dr. J. played against Larry Bird all season long and almost every year in the playoffs. They went toe to toe, duking it out, sometimes literally, each leading their team, each vying for Eastern Conference supremacy. It was great theater and better basketball.

And here we go again. Now we have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid versus a new band of Bostonians including Al Horford, Terry Rozier and rookie sensational Jason Tatum. It should be an instant classic series. All of Philly and all of Boston are sitting on the edge of their seats already in gleeful anticipation — and the opening tip off hasn’t even come yet.

And that’s the anticipation that Christians have living in these toxic and turbulent times. We don’t fear what’s going to happen next. We anticipate the lively hope we actually already have, and now enjoy the promise of the soon coming of Christ. The gloom and doom of yesterday and today will fade in God’s tomorrow as Christ will usher in a truly golden age of bountiful blessings for all who trust and believe in Him.

We have the promise now, and will inherit a retirement package second to none. The theologians call it “the already and not yet.”

And that’s the lesson that this new, highly anticipated Philly/Boston NBA Basketball Playoff series teaches us. Anticipation and expectation are spiritual things. And they belong in church and in sports too.

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Is Baker Mayfield The Answer to the Cleveland Browns’ Question?

Baker Mayfield is the embodiment of faith and hope and love for the game that Cleveland Browns fans have everywhere. At least some think he is. He’s a risk and a gamble and a wild card and a wild one as the Browns are going out on a limb and betting the farm on a hothead who’s got a hot arm who hopefully can get on a hot streak. We’ll all have to just wait and see how it turns out because right now he’s just numbers on paper. Here’s what an ESPN staff writer had to say about Mayfield being the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft:

Pat McManamon

ESPN Staff Writer

 

“The Cleveland Browns surprised the NFL world by making quarterback Baker Mayfield the first overall pick in the draft Thursday night.

The Browns has been expected to take a quarterback and had insisted Mayfield was under consideration through the pre-draft process. Most speculation still centered on USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen, but momentum started to build in the last few days that the Browns favored Mayfield.

Cleveland also had the fourth pick Thursday and used it to select Denzel Ward, a cornerback back from Ohio State.

Mayfield, who had a stellar college career at Oklahoma but also made headlines with his behavior on and off the field, will be tasked with turning around a Browns team that went 0-16 last season.

Mayfield joins a roster that has Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback and Drew Stanton as the backup. The Browns hope to play Taylor this season, allowing Mayfield time to learn and grow. Mayfield, though, said at the scouting combine he would never “settle” for a backup role.

The Browns have not made the playoffs since 2002, which is the longest active drought in the NFL. Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have had 28 different starting quarterbacks — the most in the league during that span.

Baker Mayfield will be tasked with turning around a Browns franchise coming off an 0-16 season in 2017. Harry How/Getty Images

Mayfield led FBS with a 70.5 completion percentage in 2017, and he set a single-season record by averaging 11.5 yards per attempt. He threw for 4,627 yards with 43 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

But Mayfield also garnered negative attention in recent years for his on-field antics, which included making an inappropriate gesture toward Kansas’ sideline and for planting Oklahoma’s flag on Ohio State’s logo at the 50-yard line after the Sooners’ victory over the Buckeyes. And if that wasn’t enough, on top of all that, Mayfield also was arrested last year in Arkansas on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest. He reached a plea deal last June and paid fines for several of the charges.

Throughout the draft process, the Browns said they felt Mayfield had admitted to mistakes and they were behind him. Browns general manager John Dorsey even joked with Mayfield at the team’s combine interview, asking how he liked food trucks, a reference to the February 2017 arrest that took place near food trucks.

Mayfield, who is from Austin, Texas, transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma after his freshman season. During his college career, he threw for 14,607 yards and had 131 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. He also rushed for 21 TDs and caught another during his college career.”

LeBron James: Still The King

LeBron James just hit a buzzer beater to beat the Indiana Pacers 98–95 in Game Five of a 2018 First Round playoff series. It was vintage LeBron.  The king delivered a certified instant classic with an epic performance at home to give his team a 3-2 series lead. He almost had a triple double:  44 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He had an attack dog mentality as he dominated his opponent and carried his team on his back, again,

LeBron had a huge block when Indiana could have taken the lead. And the block came right after he turned the ball over under his own basket with under a minute to play. Instead of an embarrassing defeat, with only three seconds left on the clock, king James hit a three pointer from the top of the key. Instead of overtime and a possible loss at home, the king of the NBA led his team to yet another thrilling victory with yet another buzzer beater and yet another demoralizing defeat for an opponent that could’ve stolen a game from the James. But not so.

Cleveland is not a great team but they still have the game’s greatest player. The argument for the greatest of all time still rages as the jury is still out because the verdict is not in. Is James better than Michael? Kobe? Magic? Wilt Chamberlain? Oscar Robertson? Larry Bird? Bill Russell? The debate rages on. For now, once again, the great one proved that he is still the reigning undisputed heavyweight champion of the basketball world.

The great ones always find a way. Always. And once again this great player found another way to win.

The corollary is clear. You might not be that good or that great. None of us are. But with the great God we serve, you’re still great. And every day and in every “game” you have the chance to win even though you’re down and it looks like you may be out. But not so. Not with the the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on your side.

Jesus is the ultimate greatest One, and He will always find a way for you to win. Always.

The Mother Of All Comebacks: Ieshia Champs

“When I was six years old, while playing with an old doll on a beat up sofa, I heard a knock at the door. My grandmother opened the door to reveal a woman I had seen earlier at school that day. My grandmother burst into tears and I was terribly confused. In that moment, I was being taken away and placed in the custody of Children Protective Services. Where was my mother? My father? Both were out on drug binges and I had not seen them in days.

Over the years, the only ounce of stability I received was in the eight hours I spent in the classroom. It was my comfort zone. I was a confused fourteen year old child who had already lived in over six different residences between all four years of high school. Some were friends whose parents allowed me to stay long term, and others were friends who sometimes had to sneak me in to stay the night. I was supposed to be thinking about what color lip gloss to wear or where to hang out with my friends over the weekend, however, I was worried about whose house could I stay at the following day. Soon things became overbearing and I reluctantly dropped out of school during my senior year. I wanted to help others who were in awful situations, perhaps plead someone’s case for innocence, yet I had no diploma and no desire to return to school. As the years grew, my dreams for becoming an attorney died.

By January of 2009, I was a mother of three and given the news of expecting my fourth child. As excited as I was, this turned out to be the most traumatic year I had ever experienced. Each month presented an overwhelming tragedy. I lost everything I owned in a house fire, was laid off from my job, and while seven months pregnant, lost my children’s father to cancer. I was suddenly a single mother of four with nothing to fall back on; not even my sanity.  I had four children, and I was already in my late 20’s. However, in the midst of this turmoil, I went back to school to obtain my GED. I did not want my children to experience what I did as a child. I had to succeed for them and for myself.

Upon matriculation into Thurgood Marshall School of Law, I was scared. I was a mother of five young children, and the only help I had was that of my church family and my sister, who also has five children of her own. My sisters’ love and care for me and my children helped me out in ways that are indescribable. She cooked for us, watched my children and hers after doing long hours at work, and most importantly, she always encouraged me and was a shoulder to lean on when I cried. She has been there every step of the way for me, despite her own personal obstacles she’s had to overcome. My church family has walked this journey with me since day one and has prayed for me daily, talked me out of giving up and most of all, they’ve been a family like no other. They’ve opened their home to me and my children and comforted me. It is situations such as those that gives me the drive and eagerness to become a successful attorney. Many of my peers identify me as a walking testimony, and are amazed at where I am today. I was once told that the odds were against me. I responded by not just defying the odds, but destroying them by resurrecting a dream that died.

I took the pictures with my kids because they helped me through school. They’re graduating too! They would help me review with flash cards while I cooked. They would sit as a mock jury while I taught them what I learned that day. I would sit in my closet and pray and cry because I was overwhelmed and my oldest son, David, would gather his siblings, give them a snack, make them take a bath, gather their school clothes, all to make things easier for me. And I had no knowledge of him doing that until I went to do it!”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ieshia Champs of Houston, Texas.

Flip The Script, aka, Change Your Ending

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons Flipped the Script and They’re Having Fun Doing It

You can’t change your beginning, but you sure can change your ending.  You can’t go back and change what happened, but you can, spiritually speaking, reach forward and change what you want to happen.  That’s what Philly teams are doing, and that’s what I’m doing too. The Urban Dictionary says that Flip the Script means “to gain control in a dialogue that is being dominated by another person so that you are now in charge.”

Spiritually speaking, we all need to gain control of the dialogue of our lives and flip the script, just like Philly sports teams have done and are doing.

In the dialogue of the 2018 NFL season, no one, and I mean NO ONE, picked Nick Foles to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a win in Super Bowl LII. Except me, right?  But they did it. They flipped the script. They won the big one.  When Carson Wentz went down, Nick Foles got up and led the Eagles to an unforgettable Super Bowl victory. 

And now, another Philadelphia team, the Sixers, is flipping the script.  The Sixers won a whopping ten games just two short seasons ago. This season, in their wildest dreams, they hoped to break even and be a .500 team, and maybe, just maybe, if they were lucky, possibly make the playoffs. Instead, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid led their young teammates to 52 wins. They are the No. 3 Seed in the Eastern Conference and they ended the season on a 16-game winning streak. That’s a winning streak six games longer than the win total just two years ago. Are you kidding me? AND . . .  this was the longest winning streak in FRANCHISE HISTORY.  And now they’re on the verge of advancing to the second round of the playoffs in convincing fashion. WHAT?

It just goes to show ya — you can’t change when you were born or where you were born or how you were raised, but you sure can change where you live and where you work and where you worship.  You can’t change where you’ve been, but you absolutely can change where you’re going. You can’t change your past, but you can change the trajectory of your future.

I don’t like where I am, what I do or how things are going at work. Since I don’t like it, I’m changing it. I’m changing where I’m headed and where I’m going and what my situation is so I’m sure to change my ending. I’m going to flip the script.  For some, living in the suburbs in a picturesque subdivision in a house with a two car garage on a cul-de-sac backing to woods sounds nice, but it’s not working for me.  Working a hoity-toity job in a destination location where there is a long line of applicants trying to get a foot in the door may sound like the cat’s meow, but it’s not working for me. It may fit the mold and the make and the makeup of where one would kill to be, but it’s not for me.

Spiritually, we need to know what works and what doesn’t. We need to know what’s working, and what’s not working.  The Eagles and the Sixers flipped the script. They turned negatives into positives. They used all of the adversity and hardship and hindrance’s they faced and turned them into fuel for the turnaround. They used all of the bad to help them go from worst to first. They went from the bottom of the pile to the top of the heap.  The Eagles were underdogs in every playoff game.  Underdogs! So many people had written their ending, but they flipped the script, proved the doubters wrong, destroyed the odds, and came out on top.

 And I’m going to do the same. How ‘bout you?

Why You Should Be Watching The NBA Playoffs

James and Simmons
The NBA’s Past, LeBron James, and it’s Future, Ben Simmons

LeBron James. Ben Simmons. Joel Embiid.  James Harden.  Kevin Durant. Anthony Davis. Giannis Antetokounmpo. And that’s just to name a few. These athletes are why you and I should be watching every possible game of these 2018 NBA Playoffs.   And it’s just the first round.

Let’s start with LeBron.

How long has LeBron James been in the NBA?  Fifteen seasons?  Wow. But time is no factor because he says he’s like fine wine; he just keeps getting better with age. And to prove it, just look at his stats, which are staggering.

James has:

3 NBA Titles

3x NBA Finals MVP

3x NBA All-Star Game MVP

4x NBA MVP

14x NBA All-Star

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Yes, LeBron James is still the king of the NBA. And this year, King James is trying to lead his rag tag, bumbling, and sometimes blundering band of basketball bums to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. But it won’t be easy. The Cavaliers are in trouble because LeBron does not have a strong supporting cast. But then again, James has been to the finals with less talent.  So we’ll see.

But LeBron is at the end of the line in Cleveand. And Ben Simmons’  Hall of Fame career is just getting started. Could this be the passing of the torch?

Philly’s phenomenal young rookie, Ben Simmons, had a double double and was 3 assists shy of a triple double in Game 3 on the road in Miami. His partner in the prime of his life is Joel Embiid who returned from an eye injury wearing a mask and led the Sixers with 23 points and seven rebounds. Not too shabby for a seven footer who needed to knock the rust off. Philly won a rough, tough, physical game which was close through 3½ quarters. But the Sixers pulled away and put Miami away down the stretch and won by 20. It was an impressive team win to say the least.

So who ya got?  The Houston Rockets have James Harden who is trying to prove that he is indeed the League MVP and can lead his team to the Promised Land of an NBA Title.  But not so fast. The defending Champs, the Warriors still have something to say, and the upstart New Orleans Pelicans are leading favorite Portland 2-0, and they are winning Game 3 handedly. But don’t sleep on the Philadelphia 76ers.  Don’t do it. They’ve got their best player back and they’re playing their best ball, so the sky is the limit for this young talented team. I’m just saying.

To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.  What’s true in sports is also true in life. Living life involves tests and trials, and in order to come out on top, we’ll need to bring our best. But sometimes our “A” game isn’t quite enough. That’s why we need the help of Heaven. The enemy of our souls tries to throw everything he has at us in an effort to knock us off and knock us down and ultimately knock us out. 

But have no fear. This is The Year of Jubilee.  This is the year that God shows off and shows out and shows up for us. Believe you me.  God is at His best when we are at our worst.

 

Are The Cavaliers In Trouble?

Dallas Mavericks v Cleveland Cavaliers

Is this the end of an era? Is this the end of the line? Is this the end of the end of LeBron James’ dominance in Cleveland?  It just may be. Because the Cavaliers are in trouble.  LeBron is looking off, looking for answers from someone, somewhere that don’t seem to be coming.

All season long, Cleveland has struggled with roster moves after moving Kyrie Irving to Boston in the offseason. And the end result is this?  The end product of all of the tinkering and tempering and tampering with trades and acquisitions this season still seems to be a big question mark. In other words, there’s trouble in LeBron Land.

The Cleveland LeBron’s (aka the Cleveland Cavaliers) lost to the hungry, upstart Indiana Pacers AT HOME in Game one of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. Cleveland looked absolutely apathetic and the home team got booed off of their own court. Now the Cavs are left with trying to figure it out and how to avoid disaster. So, is there trouble in LeBron Land? I’ll say.

But maybe this is just Game One. Maybe it’s just one game, right? I mean, every team is entitled to an off day, right? Maybe. But if the play of the supporting cast LeBron is stuck with is any indication of things to come, then LeBron will be saying goodbye, audios and Auf Wiedersehen to Cleveland in search of the next team he can take to the Promised Land of an NBA Title.