From Repeat to Three-peat? Who is Going to Stop the Golden State Warriors?

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 Houston said they would. They had Chris Paul teamed with James Harden, and they were up 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals. Then Chris Paul went down with a hamstring injury, and he DNPed in Games 6 and 7. No matter, the Rockets couldn’t hit the side of a barn, and missed twenty-seven three pointers in a row in the Game 7 loss at home.

LeBron said he could. King James once again carried a team of nobodies and no accounts to the NBA Finals only to find out once again that you can’t beat the Warriors without balanced scoring and more than a little luck on your side. What’s that? We don’t believe in luck? Well then it must have been Providence, right?

The Cavaliers were leading the Warriors in Game 1 ON THE ROAD at the Oracle in Oakland when a charge call was reversed and LeBron was called for a block. Durant hit both free throws and gave Golden State back the lead. But don’t blame the loss on the referees. The Cavs had a chance to win in regulation when JR Smith inexplicably dribbled out the final 4.7 seconds of the clock, forcing overtime. George Hill missed the free throw that would have given Cleveland the lead. But JR grabbed the offensive rebound and could have made a point blank layup to win the game. Say it aint so.  

So Houston couldn’t. And LeBron and the Cavaliers couldn’t.

Now the Golden State Warriors are, once again, the NBA champions after they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in a clean four-game sweep of the 2018 NBA Finals. The series was far closer than the series outcome would suggest, as the Cavaliers took Game 1 at Oracle Arena to overtime and led for much of Game 3 in Cleveland, but Golden State’s overwhelming talent behind Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green was just too much for the Cavaliers to handle. This is the third championship in four years for the Warriors, and it leaves not only the Cavaliers, but the rest of the league with plenty of question marks.

2018 NBA Finals - Game Three
CLEVELAND, OH – JUNE 6: Stephen Curry #30 and Draymond Green #23 yell and celebrate with Kevin Durant #35 after Durant scored 43 points in Game Three of the 2018 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers  at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Warriors appear primed for a run of dominance that should span for at least another few years, potentially bringing their championship total into the range of Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers or Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. The rest of the NBA’s players will do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening, and it all starts with LeBron James. His free agency will dictate who Golden State’s greatest rival is next season, and he likely has already formed his own ideas on how to beat this Warriors juggernaut. https://origin-assets.247sports.com/ContentGallery/Golden-State-Warriors-defeat-Cleveland-Cavaliers-to-win-NBA-championship-and-players-respond-on-Twitter-118908129So who’s going to stop Golden State? No one. They can only beat themselves. And no one can stop you when you make up your mind that you’re going to get the job done and you lean on Heaven for help.

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Are You A Warrior?

Kevin Durant is a Warrior. Since he came into the NBA and especially since he came to Oakland in the summer of 2016, Durant has proven that he has guts and grit, boldness and backbone. He’s as cool as the underside of a pillow and smooth like silk with ice water in his veins; and he’s not afraid to pull the trigger.

Kevin Durant is a warrior with grit. And the key word here is “grit.”  To grit ones teeth means to clench them together. In sports and in life, when you  clench your teeth, it means that you bear down but you don’t buckle under; you may bend but you don’t break; you bounce back from way back in order to come up big when the game is on the line and performance matters most.

Kevin Durant is a winning warrior. He’s a champion in the arena who is mentally tough and knows what it takes to win. A warrior is a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.  Once again, Kevin Durant did just that as he torched the Cleveland Cavaliers with 43 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists in the NBA Finals, specifically Game 3, when Klay Thompson was cool and Steph Curry was cold. But when Golden State needed a leader and a scorer and a warrior, the Warriors turned to the former NBA MVP to save the day.

Kevin Durant is a Golden State Warrior. And he’s shown great vigor and valor when it was needed most. LeBron is also a warrior. This season, perhaps more than any other season, he’s had a herculean playoff run. But the ride is over. LeBron’s time in Cleveland is coming to a close, and some say his career may be winding down as well. And it’s another warrior that’s aggressively and unapologetically throwing down hammer and pinning LeBron to the mat.

And so the question is this: are you a warrior? Are you living with vigor and valor, carrying teammates on your back and scoring at will, doing all of the little things that it takes to win at the highest level? The lesson is literally laid out before us in plain sight: stop trying and start doing. After watching LeBron score 40 points a game nearly night in and night out just for something to do, and now seeing Kevin Durant slam the door on LeBron, it gives us gumption and gusto to live our lives like warriors.

Sooooooo, are you a warrior? Do you have the faith and the courage to take and make the big shot when your life is on the line? With the help of Heaven, you can.

 

SPORTS360 Podcast

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Hey Everybody! 

My book Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds is now available on Amazon.com!  Please check it out and let me know what you think.   If you like the blog, you’ll love the book. AND a dear friend featured me on his new, insightful and thought provoking Podcast, SPORTS360.  Jeff and I discuss the book, how we connect with God through sports, my Philly teams, and the intersection of sports and spirituality. Check it out on YouTube.com.

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.”

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.

Why Dallas Dumped Dez

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You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why the Cowboys dumped their ALL TIME leading receiver, Dez Bryant. It’s as plain as the nose on your face. Since he came into the League and made a home in Dallas, Dez has been a brew of venomousness that is frighteningly viral. His actions, on and off of the field, have been radical (to say the least) and ultimately lethal to his team and fatal to his career.  In other words, Dez is a hot mess.

Dez may be talented, but he’s also toxic. What Dez did not realize is that no stand out statistics or ridiculous records can take the place of a player who is reliable and dependable and stalwart and not unpredictable. In other words, character still counts.

Bryant was the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2010. He amassed more than 1,000 yards receiving, with double-digit touchdowns, for three straight seasons from 2012 to 2014. He finishes his time with the Cowboys with a team-record 73 touchdown receptions to go with 531 catches for 7,459 yards in 113 games. And yet, the Cowboys were all too eager to say “Bye Felicia” to their golden boy of a receiver. In other words, see ya, don’t want ta’ be ya.

Dez is done in Dallas because he did not think he was a distraction to the team. It just goes to show; you can’t do what you want or say what you want and still get what you want. It just doesn’t work that way. Dues must be paid.  And in order to play in the NFL, or on any other reputable sports team, you need to do as mom taught us all, and that is to mind your manners. Here’s what the Dallas Cowboys had to say about cutting Dez:

“The other thing that we all see, and it is certainly visible to anyone who watches our games, watches our sideline, is Dez is certainly a fiery guy who plays with a lot of emotion both on and off the field,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on the team’s podcast. “Sometimes that can be a distraction. It can be a distraction for Dez, it can be a distraction for other teammates. And we just have to really get our hands around when you put all the full body of work together where that’s headed.” http://www.espn.com/blog/dallas-cowboys/post/_/id/4766019/cowboys-cut-dez-bryant-due-to-lack-of-production-attitude

Once again, the lesson is crystal clear; your central core is more important than all of your shiny outer trimmings combined.   People might say that they like the attitude and all of the antics, but at the end of the day, we want to cheer for someone we want our daughters to marry. And Dez just doesn’t deliver. He may be able to catch a football, but lately, he can’t catch a hint. Owners and managers and coaches are only willing to put up with so much. So let this be another lesson for every and all other “characters” out there. Character still counts.

You can’t have it both ways. At the end of the day, careless, callous and reckless, abandoned living gets you nowhere fast.  The end of the line for loud mouth, undisciplined, show-boat behemoth players (and people) who can think no farther than their last antic or antagonistic tweet is a life of regret.  The sad part of the story is that Dez will land with some team somewhere but will go no farther than he’s gone before, unless he decides to mend his ways. 

It was said that the only person that can stop Dez Bryant, is Dez Bryant.  Because people, like owners and coaches, are only willing to put up with so much.

Villanova All The Way, Baby!

  

Villanova looks invincible, and virtually, if not totally unstoppable. The Wildcats dismantled Kansas on Saturday night in the second half of the Final Four, and it was so bad it wasn’t worth staying up to watch till the bitter sweet end to hear the final buzzer sound.  So that’s that.  Villanova will defeat Michigan tonight, and it might not even be close.

As for the Cinderella team that everyone wanted to see win it all, the ballerina’s debutant ball ended all too early for Loyola-Chicago. Sister Jean’s prayers took them farther than she thought, but not as far as they wanted to go.

And that sounds just like life. Sometimes our prayers are answered immediately, and other times we must do exactly as the hymn writer says: “watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in his love.” Sometimes the best place to be is found in Jesus and lost in God.

Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Sometimes the lessons we must learn are more important than getting an “A” on the test. And sometimes the final grade is not as important as the scores of notes we’ve taken along the way. If March Madness doesn’t teach us anything, then the madness has been for nothing. The life lessons we learn along this sometimes rocky road called life can’t be for naught. They just can’t be.

In everything there is a lesson. One of them is everything is subject to change. Because the only constant is change. We must be ready to roll with the punches and rock with the boat. And that’s what winners that did not expect to win many games, such as Loyola-Chicago and UMBC and Kansas State did.  And the losers that did not expect to lose, or to lose so early, such as UVA and North Carolina and Kansas, had to handle unexpected headache and heartbreak too.

Sports helps us with the fact that in life, you win some and you lose some. And that’s just the way it is. Because it’s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game.