The King Still Reigns

LeBron-James-cov_0

LeBron James is still the reigning king of the NBA. Period. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, LeBron is getting better with age.  If you love sports, like I do, and you practically loathed LeBron, like I did, after seeing yet another virtuoso performance from LeBron James, you have to at least consider changing your vote for the G.O.A.T.  

Some said that he was the best ever at 20. Now he’s 33 and he’s arguably better than ever. Some say that James has been equally mystical and egotistical, and shall we say downright cavalier?  But he has also earned the right to brag and to boast, especially after his performance in the playoffs this year with multiple 40 point performances. But for now we’ll focus on yet another Game 7 masterpiece.

LeBron single handedly willed his team to a 87-79 Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics ON THE ROAD in front of a harsh and hostile Boston Garden crowd (ok TD Garden, but for us old heads, it’s still Boston Garden).  James played in his 100th game of the season and logged a full 48 minutes. He finished with 35 points on 12-of-24 shooting with 15 rebounds and 9 assists, another near triple double. And it seemed like an “off” night because of tiredness that certainly led to uncharacteristic turnovers and missed free frows. But James also had timely blocks that help bolster the Cavs “D” which stifled the Celtics down the stretch.

LeBron James snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as the “C”s showed that they just didn’t have quite enough to dethrone a destined and determined James who finally got some help from his supporting cast.  Jeff Green, a Cleveland reserve, nearly stole the show from LeBron by scoring 19 points and grabbing 9 rebounds to give the Cavaliers a stunning Game 7 win when Boston had gone undefeated at home in the playoffs. This is the same Jeff Green that had open heart surgery a few years ago. Open Heart Surgery!  And the win was even the more memorable and remarkable because James did it by winning twice after Kevin Love — maybe the most capable of his otherwise underwhelming supporting cast — was lost to a concussion early in Game 6.

Do I still love Michael? Of course. And Kobe won five championships. Five.  Magic and Bird were phenomes, but what we are seeing from the reigning king is nothing short of legendary. He’s going to the NBA Finals for the eighth season in a row. Eight in a row? Who’s done that before? Nobody. Yes I keep going back to Michael’s six-for-six Finals victories, accomplished via two three-peats, but eight Finals appearances in a row? Even his harshest critics, myself included, can’t argue with that.

AND . . . the Cavs went down 3-2 in the series, with Boston playing great ball and their rookie sensation Jayson Tatum having the best playoff’s by a rookie since Magic 38 years ago. But LeBron found a way to win, again. It remains to be seen what will happen in the Finals, but we may well  see the Warriors and the Cavaliers competing for the crown one more time.

And so the lesson is crystal clear. Once again, LeBron James proved the doubters wrong and proved that patience works experience, and experience breads hope. Because of our experience, we know what God can do.  We know that our Lord is still the King. He still rules and reigns. And because our Lord is still the King, you may not be favored, and you may not have the best team, and you may not play pretty, but you can still find a way to win.

You absolutely can.  

The Boston Celtics: “Control the Controllable”

Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics

Is this the end of an era? It just well may be.

LeBron James had a 21 point first quarter and a 42 point, 10 rebound, 12 assist virtuoso, triple double performance in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics; but it wasn’t enough.  LeBron made an incredible, instant classic, step-back three-pointer in that same, ridiculous first quarter, but it wasn’t enough.  The miracle, circus shot was absurd, even by LeBron James’ standards, but it wasn’t enough.

Here’s how Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer put it:

“A step-back, fadeaway, late-clock 3-pointer with one of the league’s best defenders draped all over him. And video of the first-quarter spread like wild-fire on social media as sort of a “Look at what LeBron is doing!” snapshot of his 21-point first-quarter barrage in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Here’s the thing: The Boston Celtics liked that possession an awful lot, too. They liked how Marcus Morris made James work just to navigate from the blocks to the 3-point arc in order to set an initial screen. Or how Marcus Smart, who switched onto James, prevented the Cleveland Cavaliers star first from rolling to the basket, then denied James’ initial attempt to back Smart down.

Yes, James eventually got the ball back and made a ridiculous shot, but the Celtics made him work hard for a low-percentage look. And therein lies one of the secrets to Boston’s success through the first two games of the series: making everything hard for James.

‘If you can, watch every possession. We have a bunch of guys coming out that give everything we got every possession,’ Morris told ESPN. ‘LeBron is great, we all know that. That’s something that everyone knows. So, at the end of the day, we can’t hang our heads on shots that he makes. We know he’s going to take those shots, we know he’s going to make some shots. ‘t the end of the day, we control the controllable.’”

We control the controllable.

That’s the quote, and that’s the lesson. We must control the controllable. There’s so much in this life that we can’t and don’t control. We can’t control what others say or do. We can’t control other’s actions or emotions or responses, but we can control what comes out of our mouths and what goes on in our hearts and heads. And we can absolutely control how we treat people. You may not feel like being kind or caring or forgiving or forbearing, but you can control how you act and you react.

So control the controllable. Control what you can, and don’t worry about what you can’t.

Now, back to the presumptive Eastern Conference Champions, the Boston Celtics:

“What the Celtics have controlled is their turnovers, which has eliminated easy transition opportunities. They’ve controlled access to the paint, limiting the chances for James to drive and create for either himself or his teammates. And the Celtics have controlled the intensity, dispatching a never-ending stream of versatile defenders, essentially tasking every player in their rotation with defending James at some point.

The other thing the Celtics control: the series (2-0). Yes, Boston knows it cannot relent in its defensive tenacity as the series shifts to Cleveland for Saturday’s Game 3 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But an already irrationally confident group took a James haymaker in Game 2 (42 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) and still won by technical knockout”.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/23541621/boston-celtics-defending-lebron-james-east-finals

And so the moral of the story is this: Exit, LeBron, enter Boston.

Escape From New York: Carmelo Is A Knick No Longer

Carmello Anthony Running and All Smiles
NEW YORK, NY –  Carmelo Anthony, #7 of the New York Knicks, is all smiles as he’s running out of  Madison Square Garden in NYC and is on his way to play for the Thunder in OKC.
Carmelo Kyam Anthony is smiling now. He’s smiling because he’s running out of and running out on New York. That’s right, Carmelo Anthony is a New York Knick no longer.  Too bad, so sad (for New York Knicks fans, that is). And the really sad part is that he seemed like he never really wanted to be there in the first place. Talk about continuous compunction.   

So let’s get it out there right up front: this has been one of the messier and muddier sports separations in recent memory. Discord, disharmony, and dissonance all led to distrust and the destruction of a viable team playing at MSG, and you could see it a mile away.

The spiritual lesson is eternally, powerfully poignant: always and forever, where there is unity, there is strength. But since there was only disunity and dysfunction in New York, it had to end in disaster, at least for the Knicks. And since one teams’s trash is another teams treasure, it appears that the OKC Thunder are now even more primed to go toe to toe with Golden State for the Western Conference Title.

So much for the color commentary; here’s the play by play:

Anthony, 33, is a ten-time All-Star, but the Knicks are prioritizing a full rebuild centered around Kritaps Porzingis after a tumultuous last few seasons. The team fired Phil Jackson as general manager and replaced him with Scott Perry in July. (And just who is Scott Perry?)  Anyway, New York went 31-51 last season and has not made the playoffs since 2012-13.

In Oklahoma City, Carmelo joins a team that acquired Paul George in the offseason, and reports say George and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook played an “immense part” in convincing Anthony to waive his no-trade clause.

Even after losing Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors in free agency last summer, Oklahoma City went on to win 47 games and make the playoffs.  If the Thunder are able to keep their new stars, they could set themselves up for many more  seasons of sustained success.

Anthony leaves the Knicks with uneven results. They made the playoffs three times during his tenure, including a 54-28 record and Eastern Conference semifinals appearance in 2012-13. But New York never reached the conference finals and had four coaches and one interim coach in Anthony’s seven seasons with the team.

The Knicks have had four consecutive losing seasons – three of them under Phil Jackson’s unproductive run as president. Jackson alienated Anthony as the team tried to go into rebuild mode. Though Anthony may have enjoyed living and playing in New York, he also realized his time with the Knicks was over.

http://www.msn.com/en-ph/sports/basketball/what-does-carmelo-trade-mean-for-knicks-thunder/ar-AAsokPu?li=AA4RHM 

https://www.si.com/nba/2017/09/23/carmelo-anthony-trade-rumors-knicks-oklahoma-city-thunder

So let’s learn the lesson again; in sports and in life, where there is unity there is strength. And when there’s not . . .

Don’t Throw In The Towel: You Can Come Back From Way Back

Curry Towel Head

Who will win, or even be in, the NBA Finals? It’s Anybody’s Guess. Durant? DeRozan? LeBron? Curry? Take your pick. Which star will outshine the others in the NBA galaxy of stars this year? Who knows? And who will win, or even be in, the Finals is as wide open as the future of every year’s No. 1 Draft Pick.

We’re down to the NBA’s version of the Final Four: the Warriors and Thunder in the West and the Cavaliers and Raptors in the East. At one point this postseason, plenty of the pundits predicted and portended a Warriors/Cavaliers rematch. Given the events of the past 48 hours, that scenario seems far from certain right now.

The Warriors are falling apart, the Thunder are coming together and LeBron and the Cavaliers have to figure out how to put away the pesky Raptors in order to keep their date with destiny. But it’s not time for any of the four teams playing to throw in the towel. Not even Curry and the Warriors.

So who ya got? My money (even though I don’t bet) is on Durant. But Curry could come back. It’s unlikely, but it is possible. My Sixers were up 3-1 way back in the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals, and our arch rivals, the Boston Celtics, rattled off three straight wins to win the East. And in order to do it they had to have a plan. So they adopted a motto: “Win one.” That’s it. It sounds so simple yet it’s so profound.

Bird and the Celtics knew that they couldn’t win three in a row all at once, so they decided to take it one win at a time. And it worked. Bird, Parrish and McHale went on to win the 1981 NBA Championship. It was painful for us Philly fans to watch, but coming back from a 1-3 deficit is doable. It has happened. And it can happen again.

So I hope that the Warriors are watching the tape of the Celtics coming back from a 1-3 deficit in the Conference Finals from so many years gone by. They’re going to need more than a shot in the arm to gather some steam and garner some strength to mount this climb in front of them. And that’s what we need to do in our everyday lives. We need to remember yesterday’s triumphs as we face today’s tragedies.

We need to do like David did and remember how, with God’s help, we defeated the lions and the bears of our lives. Then we need to say to ourselves that Goliath can be beat too. Looking back at victories is better than looking back at defeats. Looking at what you can do is better that complaining about what you can’t do. And it’s so much better than whining and whimpering and withering and weltering away.

Because you can come back from way back.

Why I’m Pulling For Kevin Durant

Los Angeles Clippers v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Five
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK –  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder sits on the court as Russell Westbrook makes three free throws.
Kevin Wayne Durant is sitting and waiting. He’s waiting for his turn to come. He’s waiting for his turn to come in the NBA Championship Line.

Durant is a bona fied, certified, veritable, charitable, tried and true super star. He’s won an NBA MVP award and is a perennial All Star. And stand out studs like Durant are easy to like and love and laud. And so, as much as I’ve become a Warriors fan, I wouldn’t mind it if this year, Durant won the whole dang gum thing. That’s right. Kevin deserves and merits and warrants an NBA Championship ring on his finger — at least one.

So, this year, in order to find the Holy Grail of the NBA, the Larry O’Brien Trophy, Durant will have to best Steph Curry in the West. And then, if that happens, he’ll have to fleece King James in the East, presuming of course that LeBron and the Cavs’s beat the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, and that shouldn’t be that hard to do.

I’m a sports fan. So while I’d love to see Steph and the Warriors win another title, this one a back-to-backer, I’m torn. On the other hand, I’d love to see Durant win one. But Curry and James are standing in his way, and Durant is saying “Don’t forget about me! What about me?”

Over the years, in a single season, multiple stars have contended for NBA titles. And since there’s only one trophy to go around per year, some stars have never won a ring. The list is notable: “Sir Charles” Barkley; Karl “The Mailman” Malone and his sidekick John Stockton; Chris Mullin; Chris Webber; Steve Nash; George “Iceman” Gervin; Artis Gilmore; Reggie Miller; Patrick Ewing; Allen Iverson; and to my surprise, Elgin Baylor, who went to 8 NBA Finals, never to win one while active on a Lakers team.

I’d just hate to see Kevin Durant join this club.

Back in my day, and that would be the ‘80s, great players and great teams went back and forth from year to year trading championships like baseball cards. Magic would win and then Boston would win and then Dr. J and the Sixers took it one year, and then it was back to Magic and Bird going back and forth. Later, the Pistons jumped in and won two back-to-back titles before Michael took over. Then the Houston Rockets won two in between the Bulls two separate three-peats.

More recently, King James got two in a row in Miami after losing to Dallas before they won and then losing to the San Antonio Spurs after they won. Timmy Duncan has won a total of five titles, as did Kobe. And of course, Michael won 6 titles, with two of the aforementioned three-peats, in what seems like forever, but really wasn’t all that long ago.

So where does that leave my may Kevin Durant? He’s cool and he’s clean and he’s a cold blooded killer when it comes to scoring points and winning games. He’s been to the finals once, but lost to LeBron and the Heat in 2012. No it’s no shame not to win it all, because many of the aforementioned players without a Championship Trophy to call their own are forever legendary and sedentary in NBA lore.

But it seems that a ring seals the deal. Just look at Curry. Now he’s a household name, but if he hadn’t won the NBA Title last year, things in his life would certainly be a whole lot different for him. So while I’d love to see Curry win one again, I’d be more enthralled if Kevin can beat the best and pass the test to reach the top of the NBA.

So that’s why I’m going to push and pull and scream and shout for Kevin to get over the hump. He just seems to be kind and commendable, yet fierce and admirable, and it would be lamentable if he plays out his career and does not get to the NBA’s top. And if it’s not this year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who knows when the planets will be aligned and the force will be behind him again?

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.

All Hail, King James! a.k.a., You Can’t Beat The Heat

miami-heat-the-big-three-wallpaper

Lebron James prophesied that the Miami Heat would win multiple NBA Championships. More to his point, he predicted that he, with the help Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, would win championship after championship playing together on Miami’s South Beach. Odds are that no team can or will beat the heat before they win at least one more ring. The only thing standing in their way is in the mirror staring them in the face: they can only beat themselves.

Lebron has been crowned “King” James. Right now, he’s the biggest and brashiest, fiercest and fastest athlete on the court. He’s the king of his jungle. He’s a proven winner, he’s nasty with a smile, and he’s got a game face second to none.

Lebron James and the Miami Heat have eight, count ‘em, 8 wins to go before accomplishing what only a few other teams have done; winning a third consecutive title. Some think Indiana or even the Spurs or the Thunder have a chance at beating the Heat. Please. If the Indiana Pacers defeat Miami in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, I will personally pass out dollar bills on Main Street. That’s the proverbial Main Street, mind you. The only way Miami gets beat is that they beat themselves. And that just aint gonna happen.

Lebron James has made up his mind that he’s gonna win. Not going to win, but GONNA win. “What separates champions from the rest of us is a line so thin you can barely prove it exists.” (Michael Wilbon: Doing What Champions Do: Washington Post, June 3, 1993) There a thin line that separates the men from the boys; the prevailers from the pretenders; the up and over’s from the down and unders. The also rans don’t have what those who are determined to disappoint the devil do.

So let’s take a page from Lebron’s book. Let’s make up our mind what we’re going , I mean “gonna” do. Let’s renew our resolve and redouble our efforts, let’s dictate and determine our futures and focus on the goal. The goal is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The goal is knowing and doing the will of God. The goal is the acknowledgment of the truth. The goal is the discernment of the Urim and the Thummin, the revelation and truth and the light and the perfection of God.