The “I Promise School:” LeBron Will Not Shut Up and Dribble

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LeBron James is more than a basketball player, an NBA World Champion and a perenial Allstar. He is the driving force behind a brand new, cutting edge school for underprivileged inner city kids.

Unfortunately, earlier this year, journalist Laura Ingraham sought to rebuke the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James for “talking politics” and being active off of the basketball court. She had the audacity to tell LeBron to “shut up and dribble.” Yet LeBron continues to defy the naysayers and do more than dribble.

LeBton’s “I Promise School” in Ackron, Ohio is a wonder to behold. And LeBron deserves all of the credit in the world for giving back to his home town and the community that he came from. LeBron hasn’t forgotten his roots and the rough road he had on his way out of poverty and adversity.

It just goes to show that sports and life go hand in hand. Being active socially and civicly and even politically should not and even cannot be divorced from sports. LeBron demonstrated that you can translate and transfer your influence from the hardwood and the diamond and the gridiron to where the rubber meets the road; everyday life.

We all would do well to follow LeBron’s shinnimg example.

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Toronto?  Kaw-Why!?

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Sometimes somethings just don’t make a whole lot of sense on paper. And sometimes somethings make less sense in reality. And Sometimes somethings weren’t even a good idea at the time. Hence is the Kawhi Leonard trade from San Antonio to Toronto. Yes, Toronto. That perennially great regular season team that can’t do a darn thing in the playoffs. Now they’ve essentially rented Kawhi for one year, because next year he’s a Free Agent. (And why does free agency cost so much?)

Toronto traded Kawhi for DeMar DeRozan, but “in the initial aftermath, reports came out indicating that neither of the star players involved were thrilled about the deal, and in fact Leonard had no interest in playing with the Raptors. However, it seems that Leonard has softened that stance a bit. According to a report from Bruce Arthur, the Raptors have had ‘positive’ talks with Leonard’s camp, and the star has shown no indication that he’ll holdout.

And so Kawhi Leonard finally got his wish. He’s no longer a member of the San Antonio Spurs. Only, the blockbuster trade that got him out of town sent him not to Los Angeles, but the polar opposite: Toronto. Early on Wednesday morning, the Spurs and Raptors swung a huge deal that sent Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors and DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick to the Spurs.

So again, the $25,000 question is “Why?” Why did the marriage between Kawhi and San Antonio, and more specifially between Kawhi and Greg Popovich, go so bad so fast? Why Toronto? And why do teams trade their best player to a team they don’t want to play for?

Sometimes somethings just don’t make sense. But for those who know and trust God, there is a silver lining. Romans 8:28 says that “And we know that all things work together for good for them who love God; to those who are called according to his purpose.” The Message Bible puts it this way:

That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Every detail is worked into something good. I don’t know what Kawhi’s spiritual status is, but I absolutely know mine. And that means that all of the bad and the ugly are working together for my good. Thank God. Job felt the same way. He went thorugh somethings that did not make sense. And without this promise, Job and I would have gone crazy a long time ago. So we hold to this promise, and all the while sing this old hymn, until our change comes:

We are tossed and driven
on the restless sea of time;
somber skies and howling tempests
oft succeed a bright sunshine;
in that land of perfect day,
when the mists are rolled away,
we will understand it better by and by.

Refrain:
By and by, when the morning comes,
when the saints of God are gathered home,
we’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome,
for we’ll understand it better by and by.

Coach Jimmy V: Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds

UCT Cover

Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds: get your copy TODAY!

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, this photo is worth a thousand pictures. The image is that powerful. 

Every time I look at the cover photo for Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds, a book about God and sports, I get goose bumps. It’s a photo that you almost want to jump into. It’s the party that we all want to crash. It’s the celebration that we all want to be a part of. It’s a picture of pure, unbridled and unapologetic joy. There’s nothing in the world like it. That’s why we need Heaven’s help to get it. It’s unspeakable joy.

Coach Jimmy Valvano experienced this kind of indescribable joy when his team pulled off the upset of the ages and won the 1982 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship. The picture speaks volumes. After the big win, Coach Jimmy V is being carried off of the court by the fans. The FANS!  It’s not that this doesn’t happen often, it’s that it NEVER happens. Being carried off the court or the field by the players? Yes, that’s happened. But to be carried off by fans is unheard of. After this historic win, the excitement and ecstasy of victory was so moving that it moved the fans close to the winning coach to the point that they undertook this unprecedented uprising.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack defeated the heavily favored University of Houston Phi Slamma Jamma team in a NCAA Men’s Basketball Final that will never be forgotten.  Coach Jimmy V’s arms and hands are stretched wide, as the hands and arms of his fans are stretched high to lift him and laud him and raise him and rally around him for the great victory he’d won. And great victories deserve and even demand great celebrations. And that’s what we witness here in this iconic photo.

Joy is great delight, and only comes from something exceptional and unusual. And the 1982 Wolfpack win was truly exceptional. It was a stroke of coaching genius on the part of Coach Jimmy V. The theological tie in is this: isn’t our spiritual victory over sin and Satan by the power of the Cross even more exceptional and extraordinary and moving and marvelous? I believe that Jimmy V’s sports victory is God’s way of giving us a glance and a glimpse of the glorious celebration we will have in Heaven with Him at the end of time.  It’s pure, unspeakable joy, and we don’t have to wait till the end of time to get it.

 We can have this joy in Jesus right now. 

The Rich Get Richer: “Booggie” Boogies to Golden State

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DeMarcus Cousins signed with the Golden State Warriors, and we can’t believe it either.

This Just In: In case you haven’t heard, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins has signed a one year deal with the Golden State Warriors. That’s right, the reigning NBA Champions just got better.  It’s so incredible, so inconceivable, and so indescribable a development that I must defer to ESPN to give us the low down:

“According to most, when healthy (and that includes his attitude), Cousins is maybe the best center in the world, and that includes Joel Embiid. He is utterly unstoppable at what he does, one of just eight players in NBA history to average at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a single season — which he accomplished last season through 48 games before he went down.

He also shot 47 percent from the field, and better than 35 percent from 3-point range, as a seven-footer. Seriously, I think people have kind of forgotten how incredibly dominant this guy is, or they’re at least leaning a little too heavily on the idea that his injury is going to keep him from ever being that player again. No doubt, an Achilles tear is a big-time injury. Probably the worst one a basketball player can suffer. And it’s only worse for a big man carrying around 270 pounds of listed weight.

But this is where smart teams weight the risk vs. reward, and right about now, the Warriors are looking a lot smarter than, well, just about everyone else. Again, the guy took a one-year deal on the mid-level exception for $5.3 million. Kevin Durant saved the Warriors pretty much that exact amount when he signed for $5.6 million less than he was eligible to make in the first year of his new two-year contract. In essence, the Warriors got Cousins for free.

Cousins reportedly said he didn’t receive even a single offer from another team. That may or may not be true. Perhaps he just didn’t receive an offer to his liking. It’s understandable that he would want max money, or something close to it, and it’s equally understandable that no one would dream of giving him that with the uncertainty surrounding his injury. But clearly the guy was willing to talk, and ultimately take a small deal as an opportunity to prove himself, particularly with a team that could offer him the chance to play alongside superstar(s).

In the end, the real winner here is Cousins, who can take his time getting back to full strength on a team that doesn’t need him in any way. Seriously, they don’t need him. Potentially one of the best players in the league is a luxury. And a very cheap one. If he makes it back to something near full strength, the Warriors are going to be the greatest basketball team ever assembled, bar none. Discussion over.

Imagine trying to keep your eye on the two greatest shooters in NBA history in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, quite possibly the greatest pure scorer in history in Durant, and even if you somehow manage to stop those three (which you won’t), you now have to deal with a seven-footer who averaged 25 points and 13 boards last year. Then, even if you shut all four of those guys down, you have a borderline Hall of Famer in Andre Iguodala COMING OFF THE BENCH. Then, on the less than 1 percent chance all those guys are having an off night on the same night, the Warriors, behind one of the 10 best defenders ever in Draymond Green, have the best defense in the league, too. It’s a joke.

All of this is going to let Cousins do nothing but shine if his Achilles is up to it. The guy is used to defenses swarming him. He won’t believe the one-on-one matchups he’ll get with defenses terrified of leaving those shooters open. He’ll learn to play a more modern style with all the Warriors’ ball and player movement, and he’ll remind people that he’s a good passer when given the opportunity. He’ll probably win a championship for his trouble. And then he hits the open market in 2019 as an unrestricted free agent having proved to the league, in the most player-friendly environment imaginable, that he’s still a force. Then he gets paid. It’s brilliant.”

“This is my ace of spades,” Cousins told ESPN on Monday. “This is my chess move.”

Sports once again gives us life lessons to live by. The rich indeed do get richer. But it does not mean that the poor need to get poorer. At least not any NBA teams.  There should be enough talent to go around. Shouldn’t there be?  So what’s your chess move? How will you get better? 

Kawhi Leonard: Demand A Trade

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LeBron James has opted out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This means that the King is now an unrestricted free agent. While this is not a big surprise, what happens next could be.  The Sixers, yes the Philadelphia 76ers, are in the LeBron James sweepstakes. Reportedly, the Sixers can pretty reasonably create the cap space to just sign him outright, but that’s not the big news either. Here’s the skinny from CBS Sports staff writer, Brad Botkin:

“Where this really gets interesting is Philly has a very attractive package to offer for Leonard, with reports out there that the Spurs could be interested in a deal involving Dario Saric and Robert Covington. San Antonio would clearly prefer to trade Kawhi to the East, even if they’ve predictably backed off their stance of ruling out a trade with a team from the Western Conference, and if he were to end up in Philly, if the Sixers could live with the risk of him being a potential one-year rental, suddenly James joining Philly would become his only real chance to play on a super team next year.

Imagine the possibilities of a lineup including James, Kawhi, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Yes, James would have to play off the ball more as Simmons is not equipped at all to do so with his inability to shoot outside 10 feet, but from every other perspective, this is a juggernaut. Defensive versatility. Playmaking everywhere. This would be an incredible team. Keep an eye on this.”

So, it seems that Kawhi, who has done well in San Antonio under the reigning dean of NBA coaches, Greg Popovich, is “demanding a trade.” Not overtly or vehemently, but he seems to want out of San Antonio nonetheless.  So what’s the spiritual lesson to be learned here?”

If you are not victorious in any and every situation in your life, you should demand a trade. If your situation is not to your liking, demand a trade. Is the job stressful? Demand a trade!  Is your money funny?  Demand a trade. Is your current station or status in life not working?  Demand a trade. You might not get out of the situation, but you can demand that your situation improves and gets better than it is.

A better situation is what we all strive and struggle for and want and wish for, right? An improved and enhanced life and lifestyle should always be the aim and ambition of our hearts. So, in prayer, beseech and believe Heaven to trade your stress and strain for a bigger and better and higher and healthier situation than the one you’ve got right now.  Stop settling for the mild and mediocre. Stop accepting less that what you deserve. Stop letting the abundant life that Jesus promised slip away. Just trust Him.

And demand a trade.

Who Is The Best Player in the 2018 NBA Draft?

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Deciding and choosing and picking and reaching a conclusion about a person are not easy tasks. For those of us who actually LIKE people, getting to know someone is actually an enjoyable experience. One of my absolute favorite things to do is talk to strangers. That’s one of the reasons I love to hire, because I get to meet and evaluate talent by conducting dozens of interviews each year.  In selecting talent, it’s necessary to evaluate resumes and character and presence. It’s not easy.

Choosing someone means that you elected (a tricky theological term) to select them above and before and instead of others. Along this line, Christianity is a superior belief system to all others because God actually chooses us, not the other way around. And God chose us, knowing our faults and flaws and faux pas before we even committed them! How about that for taking a chance on a pick!  And God the Father still wants us, despite our limits and limitations and liabilities.  He still drafted us. He actually wants to be our friend in additional to being our deliverer and, through Jesus Christ, our personal Savior.

So if you don’t know God for yourself, just know that He chose you, he picked you and he wants you to “play” on His team. How about that for a Draft night tie in?

So who’s the best player in the 2018 Draft?  DeAndre Ayton? Marvin Bagley? Luka Doncic? y Mo Bamba? Who’s got the most “potential?” Pick ‘em!

Only time will tell.

Philly Fans To LeBron: “Don’t Come To Philly”

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Philly fans would rather see LeBron James wear a LA Lakers uniform in the Fall of 2018

What makes anybody think that LeBron James should come to Philly? I mean, why does everybody think that the Sixers need, much less want LeBron James? I mean, do they think we’re desperate or something? Sheesh! Philly doesn’t want LeBron because we don’t NEED LeBron. We don’t. Period. And here’s why:

Number one: LeBron is all about LeBron. Don’t get me wrong; he’s the best player on the planet right now. But if LeBron comes to Philly, the team will be all about him, and to me, that would create a chemical imbalance on the team, and winning is all about creating just the right chemistry.  

Number Two: The Sixers can do just fine without King Janes. We have a few promising princes of our own in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons that are doing just fine. Embiid and Simmons are stars in their own galaxy; introducing the wrong supernova into their orbit might not be such a good idea.

Number Three: The Sixers may have to give up too much to get him, and then how long is going to stay? Championships are NOT, repeat NOT, guaranteed to All Stars who switch teams or to teams with the highest payrolls. Just ask LeBron himself. While he’s won three NBA titles, he’s also lost six, and he’s learned how to lose in the NBA Finals the hard way (Note to LeBron: you still want to defend JR Smith?).

Number Four:  LeBron wants to land in the right “situation.” Well then, go to LA. LeBron should just go on to the Southland where there are plenty of opportunities to diversify his professional portfolio. I’m not knocking my hometown, but Philly is NOT LA. Not hardly.

And Number Five:  I don’t want it to be said that the Sixers “needed” LeBron to win another NBA Championship. We can win it on our own merits and with our own mettle and using our own muster. We can. So let LeBron go to another club where he can take the credit for winning and help them out as they try to win a title.  

Spiritually speaking, sometimes we want to help God out. He can jiggle us out of jams and pick us out pickles with little or no effort. Just ask Moses and the Children of Israel about that whole Red Sea thing. We just need to trust Him and stop trying to help Him. Becasue when God promised Abraham a child in his old age, he consented with Sarah to “help God out” by throwing Hagar into the mix. Bad idea.  Bad, bad, bad idea.

Miriam and Moses and Esther and Elijah give us examples and teach us to have patience and to have faith in the process. And that’s what the Sixers should do. Trust the Process! And LeBron is not a part of Philly’s process.

In other words, Philly fans want to say to LeBron “We got this!”