MVP! MVP! MVP!

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Andre Iguodala is the 2015 NBA Finals MVP. And he earned it. And he deserves it. Period. “Iggie,” as he is affectionately called, was a onetime Philadelphia 76er (Being from Philly, I had to get that in). Anyway, Iggie saved the series for the Warriors. The winner of the Bill Russell Award, whom Kerr inserted into the starting lineup for the final three games, was a force. Responsible for defending James at one end, Iguodala provided timely offense at the other.

The Most Valuable Player of the Finals wasn’t even a starter this season. No, the Bill Russell Award was handed to Golden State Warriors shooting guard Andre Iguodala, a steady veteran player who scored 25 points in Tuesday’s championship-clinching 105-97 win. His first start came in Game 4 of the Series, and his stops on defense and his points on offense turned the tide for the champs. “He saved this series for us,” Green said. No doubt, Curry would have liked to have received the MVP Award, but without Iguoldala’s energy and effort, the Warriors may not have made it to the top.

Down 2-1 in the series, Kerr wisely made the right adjustment and replaced a starter with his sixth man. And the gamble paid off. Kerr now looks like a basketball genius for coming up with the antidote for LeBron and the solution to success for his struggling team. Iguodala was the best defender the Warriors had and he slowed down the Cavs King James just enough to give his team the breath to breathe new life into the series. Iguodala was the key to the Game 4 win, and the rest, well, is history.

Coach Kerr said it always bothered him that people paid so much attention to his team’s gaudy numbers on offense. The Warriors also had the league’s top-ranked defense. No joke. And Iguodala is a big reason why. Basketball, and life, are about the balance of combinations. “When you get that combination (of the top rated defense and the top rated offense) then you’re going to be pretty good,” Kerr said. “Whether you’re shooting 2s or 3s, it’s about the balance.”

“It’s about the balance.” Sounds like sage words of advice for life.

And so the lesson here is to get the right balance; to get the right combinations in general, and the right combination of offense and defense in particular. Humility is a weapon that can be used on offence and defense. So use it wisely, as did Iguodala, who was a lifetime starter, and yet he sacrificed his wants and wishes for the team and came off of the bench all season. And for that he was called on to come on the big stage at just the right time. And his unassuming attitude resulted in his unpretentious gratitude for an MVP Trophy well deserved.

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Congratulations Iggie. Your example is helping us to learn the lesson.

The Coronation of King Curry

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Wardell Stephen “Steph” Curry II is now King of the Basketball World. He’s eaten his Wheaties so his spice and his dice are so nice they’re without vice. He has a boyish frame but a manly game and he has led his Warriors to the brink of an NBA crown. The 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player and a two-time NBA All-Star, Curry is considered by some to be the greatest shooter in NBA history. And that’s high praise.

Up until now, LeBron “King” James has ruled the basketball world. He has won 2 out of the last four NBA Championships, and this is his 5th Finals appearance in 5 years. But it looks like the reigning ruler will have to share the scepter and pass it on to the up and coming kid king. And it’s not for lack of effort, either. It’s just that LeBron has tried and tried to carry his team on his back, but that’s a tall order, even for the best player in the world. It appears that no Love and no Irving will spell no championship for the outgoing king.

Curry is a likeable, laudable, brash “splash” brother who is handling the spotlight pretty well. And that is one of the reasons he’s so loveable. So what’s not to like? I like almost everything I know about him. He’s hard not to like. I like his game and his fame and his game face and his Under Armor shoes lace. His Dad is an NBA old hand and his family are cheering at hand at all of his NBA games. The girls think his “cute” and the guys are jealous of his repute.

But more importantly and more significantly, Curry is a Christian. And an outwardly open Christian at that.

Curry spoke about his faith during his MVP speech by saying, “People should know who I represent and why I am who I am, and that’s because of my Lord and savior.” He also said the reason that he pounds his chest and points up is that he has a “heart for God” and as a reminder that he plays for God. On some of his “Curry One” basketball shoes, there is a lace loop scripted “4:13”. It is a reference to the Bible verse Philippians 4:13.

So let’s pound our chests and point up to Heaven for Him, and for the prince who has since become a duke who is no fluke.

All hail, King Curry.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13, New Living Translation

Talk Is Cheap But You Still Need To Win The War of Words

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So who really wants to win the war of words? Who really wants to win when chips are down and game, and the championship for that matter, is on the line? You can talk the talk; just make sure you walk the walk.

Both the Cavaliers and the Warriors have an equal chance at winning the 2015 NBA Championship. The series is tied at two wins apiece, and Game 5 is the rubber match either could win. Both have played well and played poorly. Both have All-Star MVPs who can carry their team. And Both have something to prove.

The Apostle Peter said that people who are full of themselves talk more than they do. “For when they speak great swelling words of vanity . . . they live in error” (2 Peter 2:18). Amen to that. Those that talk but don’t do are like “springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For (they) speak out arrogant words of vanity.” (NLT)

So support what you say. Validate your voice and certify your cry. Specify your speech and tally what you tell. Because what you say can and will be used against you. Yes sticks and stones may break our bones, but words do indeed hurt us. And they also help us.

So what are you willing to do to win the war? What are you willing to wage to unbalance the score? Hopefully more than talk. Hopefully much more than chitchat and chatter and a loud mouth and a lot of mutter. It’s going to take putting your money where your mouth is.

LeBron James and Stephen Curry are the best of the best. And thankfully, both do more “walkin’” than they do talkin’ . LeBron had yet another triple double in Game 5 but it just wasn’t enough. And Curry was vintage Curry as he carried his team in the 4th Quarter and hit home run, touchdown, three-point shoots when it mattered most.

And so Stephen Curry seems to have the upper hand. And he seems to have had the last say. At least for now. Game 5 is in the books; and even though Game 6 is in Cleveland its Curry’s for the taking. So we’ll see. And let’s hope that Curry is a Warrior who wins the war, and the championship, with his hands and feet and not just with his mouth. So it’s time for James and Curry to put up or shut up.

And that goes for you too.

“Delly!” From Guts to Glory: It’s Not If You Win, It’s How You Win

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Winning is the decisive and definitive goal in sports. And winning “It All,” aka, winning the championship, is at the top of the list of things to do for all athletes everywhere. But I submit that it’s not just if you win, it’s how you win. And LeBron James and his new sidekick, Matthew Dellavedova, are showing the sports world how to win.

Before Sunday night, the narrative for the NBA Finals was essentially that the Cavs didn’t stand a chance against Stephen Curry and Co. with Irving sidelined for the rest of the series. Yet after LeBron James let out an emphatic roar following the “emotional win,” you get a much different feeling. There’s reason to believe the script has been flipped. 

Fueled by a gritty defensive performance from backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland’s beloved “Delly,” the Cavs showed resolve and willpower that the Warriors were lacking. And that’s how you win. To get the glory you’ve got to have, and spill, some guts. Winning takes courage and vigor and valor and that’s what the Cavs have, especially in the person of the fill in point guard, Matthew Dellavedova, who almost got cut from the team early in the season.

“I doubt this will happen again,” Curry said after the loss and an uncharacteristically ugly performance — 5-for-23 from the field, 2-for-15 from three-point range and 0-for-8 against Delly. It’d be too easy to label it a bad shooting night for the league’s MVP. But you’ve also got to give Delly his due.

Dellavedova has played lights-out defense on Curry and you have to wonder how much of it is Curry not shooting well or Delly “doing the do” on the MVP of the League, a shooting Don. And because of Delly, an unsung, come out of nowhere hero, the Cavs are going into Game 4 in Cleveland with serious momentum.

Can the Cavs win the NBA title without Kyrie Irving, their All-Star PG? You betcha. LeBron scored 44 points in Game 1 and had a triple-double (39 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists) to will Cleveland to victory in Game 2. Does James need to play at this level for his team to win two more games? Yes. But he’s been playing the alpha dog (increased shots) role all playoffs, as Irving was far from 100% and Kevin Love got sidelined.  Now there is no Big Three. This is James and a band of brothers that anywhere else would be a motley crew of castaways; rugged, rustic, role players at best – and not an all-star in the lot of ‘em.

But there’s something about this group — their grit and fire — that championship teams must have. How many times have we seen the more talented team get beat by the hungrier, more determined one? Plenty.

Maybe it’s the playing-with-nothing-to-lose aggressiveness or odds-against-us approach that re-instilled a fiery engine in the Cavs’ psyche. Maybe Irving’s gutsy Game 1 performance and subsequent injury provided necessary inspiration a la “Remember the Titans” sans Gerry Bertier.

And so clearly, the lesson is this: are you playing pretty and sassy and cute and cheeky or are you playing forceful and feisty? Jesus did. Yes He did. Jesus lived like everything was on the line. What our Lord did for us on Calvary was not pretty at all. It was all guts, and it led to His glory.

So, are you playing not to lose or are you playing to win? And are you mad enough to win? http: //godandsports.net/?s=Mad+enough+to+win Are you gutsy enough when it matters most? To get it done, sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and play like, and live like, everything is on the line. 

Because it is.

The Sweet and Sour Side of Sports

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Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12, KJV

It is pleasant to see dreams come true   Proverbs 13:19, New Living Translation

The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul:
Proverbs 13:19, KJV

Anybody out there like sweet and sour sauce on chicken or pork? It has a funny yet fantastic taste. It’s tangy and tasty and sharp and sassy all at the same time. Some love the pinkish red sweet and sour sauce that is served in Chinese restaurants because it’s two things at the same time; in other words, they can have their cake and eat it too.

Sweet and sour works for Chinese food, but not so much for sports, but that’s the way it goes. We have to take the good with the bad, and, well, the sweet with the sour. And that’s life.

Kyrie Irvin showed us the sweet and sour side of sports in Game One of the 2015 NBA Finals. Irving suffered a season ending injury after playing almost 40 minutes and helping his buddy LeBron almost take out and take it to the host team, the Golden State Warriors.

The sour side was that the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that Irving suffered a fractured left kneecap during his team’s riveting, 108-100 overtime loss in Game 1. Irving had been nursing tendinitis in the same knee for several weeks, and had taken games and parts of practices off. The latest diagnosis will force Irving to have surgery in Cleveland and he is expected to be sidelined for three to four months.

“I’m saddened by the way I had to go out but it doesn’t take away from being a part of a special playoff run with my brothers,” Irving posted on Instagram shortly after the results of his MRI were made public. “I gave it everything I had and have no regrets. I love this game no matter what and I’ll be back soon.”

The sweet side was that before his knee buckled Irving was giving the Cavaliers more than anyone could have expected under the circumstances. Irving outscored league MVP Stephen Curry through regulation, 23-22, and added seven rebounds and six assists. He also had four steals and two blocks, which isn’t bad for a player with a reputation for relaxing on the defensive end. He even gave the Cavaliers a chance to win the game in the final seconds when he chased down Curry to block a layup that could have put the Warriors ahead by two points with about 24 seconds remaining.

But in OT, Irving went down, and so did the Cavaliers chances of winning the championship. Oh well.

That’s the sweetness and sourness of sports.

Why Aren’t You Watching The NBA Playoffs?

Stephen-Curry-10If you haven’t been watching the NBA playoffs this year, then shame on you. This year we are witnessing history in the making. This year is not like many or any of the recent past, previous years. This year the playoffs are actually worth the watch. And to be sure, we’re talkin’ the Conference Finals.

Two teams and two men. The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stephen Curry and LeBron James. Two who seem totally determined to define their destiny. Steth Curry is the newly crowned League MVP and LeBron “King” James is proving that he’s still the defacto MVP. And they’re both headed for a head-to-head showdown in this year’s NBA Finals.

We are watching and witnessing in awestruck wonder the best in recent memory. In the Western Conference Finals, the No. 1 Warriors are playing the No. 2. Rockets. And in the Eastern Conference Finals, the No. 1 Hawks are playing the No. 2 Cavaliers. And “playing” is certainly in quotes, because both the Cavs and the Warriors are up 3-0 against their inferior foes, and both teams are redefining basketball as we know it.

Last night, May 24th, on paper, the Cavs beat the Hawks 114-111 in overtime. It was a thriller. LeBron and the Cav’s started slow, as LeBron went zero for his first ten shots. Yet the Cav’s forced OT, and then gutted out a gutsy win in the end. In reality, LeBron beat the Hawks, all by himself. His stat line was 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists. A triple double. When his team needed him the most, he proved that he could be counted on to be the best. And not only is LeBron playing without the Cav’s starting center, Kevin Love, but their point guard, Kyrie Irving is out with injuries too. So how are the Cav’s winning? One guess: LeBron James.

On Saturday night, May 23rd, the Warriors wiped and walloped the Hawks, IN ATLANTA, 115 to 80. That’s a 35 point win. Curry had 40 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. He led his team against a team that HAD to win in order to avoid falling into a 0-3 hole. And yet Curry proved yet again that he is a true warrior. He proved that he’s the new kid on the block that’s here to stay and he’s not going away.

“To be the best you gotta’ beat the best.” And it looks like that’s what we’re going to have in this year’s finals. The best meets the best. Everybody that understands the spirituality of sports understands that this is no ordinary occasion or routine ride. Anyone and everyone who understands anything about any sport at all knows that the best team doesn’t always win. But we say it anyway. In reality it’s like this: may the best man win. And this year, it’s coming down and shaping up to just that.

Two teams who have two men who are the best at their position. These two men who are answering the bell round after round and winning the fight. These two men are hitting the go ahead shot and making the game winning catch and sinking the tournament winning put like only superstars can. So long live the King. All Hail King James. And here’s to the new kid on the block.

Who’s going to win? Who’s going to prove to be the best? Let’s just watch in wonder and witness as each super star tries to knuckle the other under.

So let’s take it from LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Let’s do our best and give our best and be our best every round, every day and in every way because the world is watching the witness of Christians. If we do or give or say anything less, we won’t be worth watching. We will be like salt that has lost its savor. And remember, our best is not our perfection. It’s trusting that God will perfect us.

Did They Win or Did You Lose?

Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin, left, and Chris Paul, right, walk off the court during a timeout in the first half in Game 5 of the NBA basketball Western Conference semifinals Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

I feel bad for Chris Paul. I do. But I don’t feel bad for the Clippers. I don’t. I don’t feel for the Los Angeles Clippers, the team, but I do feel for Chris Paul, the point guard dream.

The Houston Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Clippers today in a Game 7 that didn’t have to be. The Clippers, coming off of that dramatic Game 7 win over the defending Champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round, hammered and humiliated Houston and had a three games to one LEAD in the series. Three to ONE!

And so the question is this: did Houston win or did the Clippers lose? Did I mention that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had a three games to one advantage in the series? Yet and still they lost three straight as the lead slipped through their fingers, slid through their hands and slithered through their arms.

The good news is that Chris Paul did his part. Paul played his heart out in Game 7. The bad news is that he had little to no help. The lead was cut to three late in the third quarter but somehow it ballooned to 20 early in the forth as the players purportedly and supposedly positioned to support Paul failed, flopped and fizzled. Truth is, the Clippers got clipped and zipped and stripped of a series win en route to a huge let down loss. Too bad. Truth be told, they choked. They croaked. They got smoked. And the Clippers lost more than the Rockets won.

And it was a team loss. Other than Paul, with an honorable mention to DeAndre Jordan, no other player on the Clippers had the zip or the zeal needed and necessary to win a Game 7 on the road. And the Clippers coach, Doc Rivers, who is a good coach, got out done by his counterpart Kevin McHale. For all of you youngins out there, McHale made his mark with Larry Bird and Robert Parish and the Boston Celtics back in the ‘80s when I was growing up. McHale has the heart and the mind and the soul of not only a winner, but a champion.

So lest we’re too hard on Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin and the rest of the “Trippers,” I mean the Clippers, let’s take a long look in the mirror. How many games have you and I lost when the other team didn’t win? McHale and Houston had the heartiness and the headiness to come back from an almost insurmountable deficit. The Rockets won as a team; they had rich players and role players all doing their part to overcome overwhelming odds to win while the Clippers withered and waned their way to an offseason of whining and wondering.

So let’s learn the lesson. Yes its hats off to James Harden and the Rockets. They put together a classic comeback win that was well deserved. But sometimes the other team doesn’t win; sometimes you just lose. So when you’ve got your enemy down, you best bet you better knock them out.