The Toronto Raptors: Oh Canada!

Raptors Logo. 2

Ok. So the Raptors ripped the reigning NBA royals a new one. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can hear you all the way over here. 

Yes the Raptors won Game One. No, the Warriors did not look like the Warriors. Yes, it was the first NBA Finals game outside of the good ‘ole USofA.  No, Durant did not play. And yes, the fans were pumped and primed and the energy in the building was crazy. And no, the Warriors did not match the Raptors’ intensity. So there; a Game One win for the home team.

But just who were those guys in the home whites? Kawhi turned in a pedestrian performance as he ONLY scored 23 points. But the rest of the Raptors? Who were they? And where did that come from?  I mean a guy named Pascal Siakam scored 32 Points!  Thirty-Two points! On 14 for 17 shooting! Seriously?  That guy shot 82.3% from the floor?!  Are you serious? In other words, that guy, that guy who has a 10 point career scoring average, took 17 shots and missed three.  That only happens once in a never. Is this a dream or what?

Ok — let me try this explanation another way, as I try to lower my blood pressure – breath, breath . . . . Pascal Siakam just played in his first NBA Finals game.  His FIRST. Siakam is averaging 18 points per game in the playoffs and he averaged a very respectable 16.7 for the season.  But his unexpected 32 points in Game One was the most points in an NBA Finals debut since Kevin Durant had 36 for Oklahoma City in 2012, and it made Siakam the first player to score 30 or more on at least 80 percent shooting in a finals game since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 2004.

Those two players, Durant and Shaq, were top-two draft picks, as were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan, the other players since 1970 with 30 points in an NBA Finals Game 1 within their first three pro seasons.

So, do you believe in miracles?  This guy from Cameroon, who was going to be a priest, turned to basketball and now turns in the performance of his life when his team needed it most. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. As I watched Game One in disbelief, I realized that it appears that we may, just may, have an upset in the making?

While I’m pulling hard for “my” Warriors, it appears that the team from up North has all of the farm animals lined up to make a dress for the ball.  The newest entry on the long list of sports Cinderella’s thinks she can dance her way into the prince’s heart, and the pumpkin is ready and waiting outside. That’s the pumpkin that just got turned into a riding carriage. We’ll see.

Here’s how Jackie MacMullan from ESPN saw it:

“TORONTO — When you are champions, you stick with what got you here. For the Golden State Warriors, the formula in these 2019 playoffs had been fairly transparent: identify the best player on the opposing team — see James Harden and Damian Lillard — and harangue him into a night of frustration and disappointment.

Thus, the blueprint against the Toronto Raptors was to reduce Kawhi Leonard’s basketball life to misery, or at the very least considerable discomfort. Blitz him, double him, triple him if necessary, force him to give up the ball and dare the others to beat you.

It was a sound strategy on paper — except the “others” were not only expecting it, they were aiming to exploit it. So, it was a collection of “complementary” Raptors who vaulted Toronto to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals 118-109 in a raucous Scotiabank Arena, delivering a roundhouse right to a team that so often has seemed invincible.

On a night when Leonard, who had been the most transcendent player in the playoffs, was a mere mortal, players such as Pascal Siakam happily filled the void. Siakam, the 24-year old forward who once was on a path to the priesthood — until a visit, on a lark, to a summer basketball camp in his native Cameroon detoured him on an improbable basketball journey — scored 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting. It was a prolific performance that would have been unthinkable two short years ago, when he was a raw, unpolished player who couldn’t shoot.

At all.

‘I was joking with him the other day,” teammate Fred VanVleet told ESPN. ‘We used to shoot together in my rookie year, and me and the guy rebounding used to duck sometimes because his shots would come off the rim so hard.

‘He had some bad misses. But what you are seeing now is the result of a lot of hard work. You can just see his confidence soaring.”

And the confidence of the Raptors is soaring as well. Not only do they think they can win, they believe they will win. And that’s how we should be: full of faith, void of fear and brimming with confidence that the Lord of Hosts, the King of Glory. shall fight for us. Regardless of the opposition, notwithstanding the competition, we must trust and believe that we are victors, not victims. We must cling to the Old Rugged Cross and to the truth that we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us.

As for the Warriors, they have their work cut out for them, with or without Durant.

LeBron James: Still The King

LeBron James just hit a buzzer beater to beat the Indiana Pacers 98–95 in Game Five of a 2018 First Round playoff series. It was vintage LeBron.  The king delivered a certified instant classic with an epic performance at home to give his team a 3-2 series lead. He almost had a triple double:  44 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He had an attack dog mentality as he dominated his opponent and carried his team on his back, again,

LeBron had a huge block when Indiana could have taken the lead. And the block came right after he turned the ball over under his own basket with under a minute to play. Instead of an embarrassing defeat, with only three seconds left on the clock, king James hit a three pointer from the top of the key. Instead of overtime and a possible loss at home, the king of the NBA led his team to yet another thrilling victory with yet another buzzer beater and yet another demoralizing defeat for an opponent that could’ve stolen a game from the James. But not so.

Cleveland is not a great team but they still have the game’s greatest player. The argument for the greatest of all time still rages as the jury is still out because the verdict is not in. Is James better than Michael? Kobe? Magic? Wilt Chamberlain? Oscar Robertson? Larry Bird? Bill Russell? The debate rages on. For now, once again, the great one proved that he is still the reigning undisputed heavyweight champion of the basketball world.

The great ones always find a way. Always. And once again this great player found another way to win.

The corollary is clear. You might not be that good or that great. None of us are. But with the great God we serve, you’re still great. And every day and in every “game” you have the chance to win even though you’re down and it looks like you may be out. But not so. Not with the the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on your side.

Jesus is the ultimate greatest One, and He will always find a way for you to win. Always.

It’s Unanimous! Curry Wins The 2016 NBA MVP Award

Steph Curry Looks Up

It’s unanimous! Steph Curry is the best player on the best team in the best conference. He’s simply the best. He’s better than all the rest. He’s worked hard and he’s played smart and he’s retained the right and he deserves the distinction of being decorated King Curry – again. Move over King James; another prince and lord has solidified his rule and reign over the basketball world.

Not Michael nor “Magic” nor Wilt Chamberlain nor Willis Reed nor Bill Russell nor Larry Bird nor Julius Erving nor Moses Malone nor Isaiah Thomas nor Kevin Durant nor King James himself – none of them won the NBA MVP award on a unanimous ballot. NONE of ‘EM! Yet here comes this fair skinned, slight of build, youngish and youthful, boyish and boy like blessing to the NBA, and he takes it by storm. He’s won an NBA title, back-to-back MVP Awards, and he’s only 28!

Curry is seen in the photo above, looking up and pointing up. What an example for all of us to follow. I believe this is one of the reasons why he’s as blessed and as beloved as he is. And to top it all off, to show you how humble and heartwarming he is, Curry spent most of his acceptance speech emotionally thanking his wife Ayesha. Here’s what he said at the MVP presser in Oakland:

None of this is possible without you. You’ve given me the opportunity to go out here and work as hard as I do, spend the hours I need to do at the gym, during practice, in games, on the road – all the while holding down the house and doing the little things that keep our family going.

Wow. What a class act.

And here’s what the sports and basketball and NBA pundits are saying about Curry:

“Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry was officially named the 2015-16 Most Valuable Player on Tuesday, and with that he earned another distinction: Curry is the first unanimous MVP winner in the award’s 61-year history, receiving all 131 first-place votes. 

The official announcement came on Tuesday, but the results have been all but locked for months. Curry’s shooting arm permanently etched this Warriors team into the annals of NBA history, as Curry led Golden State to the league’s best-ever regular season record (73-9) along with a host of other firsts and bests.

The stats are stunning. With a left-wing, step-back, defender-in-his-face three pointer in a March 7 game against the Orlando Magic, Curry nailed his 300th three of the season. That mark alone was considered unbelievable, as no other player had ever hit more than 269 in a year before 2015-2016. And the one other player who had reached that tally was Ray Allen — the man.”

“Stephen Curry celebrated early reports of his second consecutive MVP award by pouring in 40 points, including an NBA record 17 in overtime, to carry the Warriors to a dramatic comeback win over the Blazers in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. The victory pushed Golden State to a 3-1 edge in the second-round series, while Curry’s individual play marked perhaps the most iconic performance of his career as he returned from a knee sprain in spectacular fashion.”

The spiritual and theological tie in is obviously clear. It’s also unanimous, and even more importantly so, that the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is STILL Lord! That’s right, God is still on the throne, despite the chaos and the madness and the craziness of this world, the God of Heaven is still sits high and looks low. He still puts up and tears down. He still deserves our adoration and praise and worship.

So, if you believe that Steph Curry is unquestionably the king of the court, then how much more so should we honor and pay homage to the God that still answers by fire?

Sports and ISIS

MD Terps BBall

I know what everybody wants for Christmas: “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” And permanent peace will only come when the Prince of Peace comes back to earth. He came the first time as a bouncing, baby boy wrapped in swaddling clothes. He will come the second time King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But for now, peace requires that we prevail against a new world evil and the pandemonium that is ISIS. This new threat must be put out to pasture. While it’s easier said than done, it can be done, because it’s been done before.

Old enemies such as Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin Dada and recent enemies such as Osama Ben Laden and Sadam Hussein have all been vanquished. Now, this new enemy must be met and matched. But the question is, “how?”  I submit that sports supplies the solution.

My University of Maryland Terrapins Men’s Basketball team is ranked in the top ten and they may be one of the best teams in the country. They seem destined to go the Final Four, and, dare I say, bring another National Championship back to College Park. But for that to happen, more of what I saw in last night’s win against Princeton has to happen.

Maryland has weapons. Lots of ‘em.  We’ve got Rasheed Souliman, the transfer from Duke that we’ll take any day (Thank you Coach K) and Robert Carter Jr., another transfer from GA Tech, and freshman sensation Diamond Stone (more on him in coming blogs.) And of course we’ve got Melo Trimble, a prodigy who has come of age and can score at will and dish out assists with reckless abandon. But last night, it wasn’t anyone of these stars that won the day.

Jaylen Brantley
Maryland Guard Jaylen Brantley 

Enter No. 1, Jaylaen Brantley.  Before last night, I barely knew this kid existed, and most of the Maryland faithful didn’t either. But last night, Jaylen came off the bench and lead the Terps to victory. Brantley scored 14 points on six of seven shooting, dished out two assists and grabbed two rebounds in a super, surprising and superlative show of timely talent. And he did it all in 14 minutes! And another Terp who doesn’t usually shine that brightly, senior Jake Layman, lead the team with 19 points and 8 rebounds. 

Layan averages 11.3 points per game. And Brantley averages 2.3 points per game. And yet they managed to combine for 33 points when nobody, and I do mean NOBODY expected that kind of production from either of them.

So, what’s the lesson, you say? The lesson is that the weapons that we need to defeat our foes are hidden in plain sight. The weapons that we need to survive the fierce fight and subdue the dark knight have yet to be used and utilized to their potential.

Prayer is a weapon. And it’s a weapon that shouldn’t sit on the bench but should be a starter in the game of life. And the sooner that people of faith come together and unanimously use this lethal and legitimate spiritual weapon, the better. Unity is a weapon. We are better together. Humility is a weapon. Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. All of our weapons are at our disposal; we just have to use them and not forsake or lose them at the far end of the bench.

Sing Your Fight Song

  Rocky-with-kids

Fight songs.  They inspire, motivate, and drive.  I believe they are called “fight songs” because our teams are in a fight for victory. A fight is a clash and a contest, a battle and a brawl to determine supremacy.  The weekly competitions on the gridiron, however, are no match for the epic, eternal struggle between Heaven and Hell, good and evil, right and wrong. So, if we sing fight songs for the earthly competitions between flesh and blood, why not join in the eternal chorus for the ultimate prize? 

Fight songs. We don’t call the songs, hymns and spiritual songs we sing in church “fight songs”, but they are fight songs nonetheless. We are singing and cheering for our “team.”  Our team is “Team Jesus:” Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We worship the creator and the redeemer. We praise the Alpha and the Omega.  We cheer on the King of Kings and Lords because the victory has already been won, and the outcome has never been in doubt.

Heaven and earth sing fight songs.  Continue reading

Fantastic!

Hogettes

Fantastic means extravagantly fanciful; marvelous; incredibly great or extreme; exorbitant.  A “Fan”, the word being derived from the word fantastic, is a fanatical enthusiast or supporter, especially with regard to entertainment and sports. Its root comes from the Greek word “phantastikós”, meaning able to present or show (to the mind). Our English rendering means conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination.

For 30 years, the Redskins’ most recognizable fan group was “The Hogettes”, a name was inspired by Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel in the 1980’s, who referred to his lineman as hogs.

The fan group was founded in 1983 after one member went to Halloween party at his grandmother’s retirement home wearing one of her old dress as his costume. This state was posted on the Hoggettes website; “After 30 seasons, the Hogettes® are hanging up our pig snouts & dresses. It has been an honor being a part of the greatest 12th Man fans in the NFL. We will forever be Redskins’ fans and cheer for our beloved team. It is a new era and we will continue to support RG3 and his teammates. HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!!! We will also continue to help (incognito) raise money for Children’s Charities.” (Mikey T. Boss, Hogette) 

If grown men were willing to wear dresses and pig snouts to cheer on a sports team, then shouldn’t we go all out for our Lord?  We are not just fanatical supporters of a team, but we are dedicated disciples and faithful followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He did more for us than a sports team could ever do.  He defeated death, Hell and the grave. He Purchased our salvation on Calvary.  Jesus is the reason we can sing “It was my Savior’s blood . . . I know it was the blood for me.” We should yell louder, scream harder and jump higher for Jesus than we do for the Redskins or Eagles (pronounced “Iggles”) or Cowboys or NY Football Giants.

Fantastic. That’s how we should be for the one who deserves all the glory and the honor.  We should lift our hearts, we should lift our hands, and we should lift our voices. We should lift our voices in jubilant praise. We should lift our hands in fervent worship.  And we should lift our hearts as we are “filled with His goodness and lost in His love” in expectant devotion to Him.  So lift every voice and sing.

 “Lift up your hearts!” We lift them, Lord, to Thee;
Here at Thy feet none other may we see;
“Lift up your hearts!” E’en so, with one accord,
We lift them up, we lift them to the Lord.

H. Montagu Butler, 1881