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. 

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

DeMarcus-Cousins (1)
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? 

Can LeBron and the Lakers Make Magic? (look like a genius?)

lebron-james-signs-4-year-154-million-deal-with-los-angeles-lakers

LeBron James just signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, and now Magic Johnson and the team from Tinsel town seems to be one free agent away from building the talent that can contest and wage war with Warriors for supremacy in the NBA’s Western Conference. Wow.

LeBron James chose LA for obvious reasons. One, he lives there. Two, he wants to stay there. Three, and this is the one most of us question, he thinks he can win another championship there.  We’ll see.  The Lakers were not good last season, but now the fans are dancing in the streets. And now they must go from not so good to great overnight if the Lakers are to return to their former glory.

And that’s where we all want to be; back to the glory days of our youth and our better days when we were at our peak and played at our finest. LeBron’s no spring chicken, but he’s also proven that he, like fine wine, is just getting better with age. And that’s the other lesson. Can we all get better instead of getting worse? Can we improve our game and not stay the same but instead progress and proceed in spite of the wear and tear of everyday life? 

LeBron showed us that it can be done, because he did it in Cleveland. Now, we’ll see if he can stage a comeback and turn the Lakers franchise around. Now, we’ll see if he can play with Lonzo Ball and Brandam Ingram and Kyle Kuzma and make them better players.

Now, we’ll see if LeBron can pull a rabbit out of Magic’s hat in LA.

Kawhi Leonard: Demand A Trade

Kawhi Leonard

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.

It’s Time To Be A Philly Fanatic, a.k.a., Baseball Anyone?

It’s officially time to watch baseball fanatically! Just don’t be like the Phillies mascot who injured a female fan by nailing her in the face with a hot dog shot out of the hot dog cannon. Sheesh.

It’s officially summertime so that means that the boys of summer now get to take center stage. The NBA just crowned the Golden State Warriors again and the surprising Washington Capitals finally captured Lord Stanley’s Cup, after a very long chase. So all that remains is baseball.

What’s that you say? The World Cup is being played in Russia? Seriously? So why didn’t the good ole US-of-A get invited? Huh? They didn’t qualify? Really? I thought Trump and Putin were buddies?

Anyway, it’s now time to pay attention to baseball. What’s that you say? The WNBA is playing their summer league season? Like I said, it’s time to pay attention to baseball and the boys of summer (no offense to the basketball ladies, but the WNBA just doesn’t do it for me).

Anyway, back to baseball. The Evil Empire New York Yankees and their bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox, are at again, going at it, neck and neck, tooth and nail, and it’s fun to watch — the standings that is. I mean, it’s just June and we have a pennant race! And that’s not the only one.

My Philly Phillies just whipped and whupped the presumptive National League favorite to go to the World Series, the Washington Nationals, 12 – 2, and reclaimed second place in the East! Whoop whoop! So there! Here’s what one ESPN writer had to say about my Phillies:

“In the opener of a three-game set in D.C., the Phillies trounced the Nationals 12-2, in the process leapfrogging them for second place in the NL East. Philly is now 8-3 in its past 11 games, while Washington is 3-8 in its past 11. Even though the division rivals will square off twice more this weekend, not to mention 13 more times after that, and even though there’s over half a season still left to play, the upstart Phils sent a clear message on what turned out to be a Freaky Friday: They’re not planning on going away anytime soon.”

And there are other races worth watching too, like the National League Central with Milwaukee and the Cubbies going head to head and the National League West with Arizona and the Dodgers going neck and neck. And did I mention it’s still June? Pennant races aren’t supposed to start untill late August or mid September. Man!

So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go to the TV, take the remote, tune in to the guide (remember the actual TV Guide that came with the Sunday paper? My little sister and I used to fight over it all the time, but then again she had it memorized) — err, where was I?

Oh yeah- it’s time to watch, and pay attention to baseball!

Go Phillies!

Who Is The Best Player in the 2018 NBA Draft?

NBA-Draft 2018

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.

Why Aren’t You Watching The World Cup?

So the reason you’re not watching the 2018 World Cup is what again, exactly? This is the WORLD CUP! It only comes around once every four years. So what’s the problem?

Ok, ok, ok, so let’s fess up. I’ll stop being so hard on you because I’m not watching the World Cup either. Why am I not watching the 2018 World Cup? Here’s my list of excuses:

Number One: To my horror, I found out that the US Men aren’t in it. They’re not? Nope. (Please excuse me while I argue with myself). I mean, I was about to turn on a game (I mean match) and I went to my ESPN App to see when the good ole US of A was playing, and I said to myself or to the App, I’m not sure which, “Where’s the USA?” But low and behold, the US isn’t playing. They’re not. Here’s how one sports reporter put it:

“With the World Cup about to kick off, a lot of Americans are about to commence the quadrennial tradition of following international soccer. However, once you start paying attention to the coverage (or maybe you already have if you’re not a casual fan), you may notice something off. No one is talking about the United States. The reason is simple, so don’t overthink it: The United States didn’t qualify for the World Cup in Russia this year.”

Whaaaat? Seriously?

“So how did this happen after the United States made it to the round of 16 in 2014? What happened in four years that caused the United States to fail to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986? Thirty-two teams qualify, so just what the blank happened?”

I kept reading the article and my head got foggy. So no USA men’s team this time around.

Number Two: We just got finished with the NBA Finals and the Washington Capitals historic Stanley Cup Championship win. So I’m exhausted and need a sports break.

Number Three: I don’t know who to route for. I mean, I’m not touting for the home team, right? So who else is there to cheer for, Nigeria? No offense, but I saw that their fans were banned from bringing live chickens to their games? Seriously?

Oh well. Let’s watch. Let’s watch the USA-less World Cup. Let’s just tune in for the love of the game.