How Good is Patrick Mahomes?

Patrick Mahomes AFC CG 2020
Patrick Mahomes leads the Kansas City Chiefs to a 35 -24 Victory over the Tennessee Titans in the 2020 AFC Championship Game.

Some say that Patrick Mahomes is the best QB in the NFL. Period. Mahomes is the reigning league MVP, and he’s leading his team to the Super Bowl in just his third year in the league. And the Kansas City Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. Wow. No pressure!

Quarterback honorable mentions go to several star quarterbacks, including first runner up Lamar Jackson, who had a phenomenal regular season, but now he’s home watching TV along with Deshaun Watson. Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees all had early playoff exits, and Dak Prescott and Jared Goff didn’t even make the playoffs this year. Go figure.

That leaves Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers star quarterback, in Super Bowl LIV.

But Garoppolo, while a steady, reliable QB, hasn’t risen to the ranks of super- stardom yet. Mahomes has. And in this year’s playoffs, he’s played lights out, especially when his team needed him most. The Chiefs were down by 20 to the Houston Texans last week in the NFL Playoffs Divisional round, yet Mahomes rallied his troops to come back from near death and pulled out a 51 – 31 victory that will not soon be forgotten. And the Chiefs were down 17 -7 to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game only to rally and win 35 – 24.

The AFC and NFC Championship Games featured the reigning Statefarm commercial QB’s, Mahomes in the AFC and Rodgers in the NFC. Even though they didn’t’ play head to head, a casual comparison reveals that Mahomes outmatched and out dueled and flat out outplayed Aaron Rodgers. The comparative level of play wasn’t even close. At one point, the 49ers were beatin’ up and beatin’ down the Packers 27 – 0. Yeash! The Packers scored some garbage time points just to make the final score a reasonably respectable 37 – 20.

Jimmy Garoppolo played well, but not as well as Mahomes. And the Chiefs and 49ers have solid defensive units, so the big game may well be won on the offensive side of the ball.

And so there you have it. Mahomes is at the peak of his game, and the Chiefs are playing like a true team. And good things happen when good teams play as a team. And from all appearances, both the Chiefs and 49ers are playing like there’s no tomorrow.

So my sister’s and brothers, let’s play as a team. Let’s all pull together and pray together and stay together, and leave the results to Heaven.

Kawhi Leonard: 2019 NBA Champion & Finals MVP

Kawhi wins NBA Championship with Toronto

His hands are raised Heavenward, his eyes looking upward, his heart and soul certainly looking onward, all the while celebrating the moment inward,  Kawhi can now say “mission accomplished!”  How spiritual is that? Kawhi is the example of how we should be; our hands lifted up and our mouths filled with praise, celebrating the Victory.

Kawhi came to Toronto for one reason and one reason only — to win an NBA Title.  Done.    

Kawhi crushed and killed every living opponent that came a calling by playing lights out night in and night out. At times he played like a rabid wild animal, demanding the ball from friends and commanding the attention of his enemies. Most times he played consistently excellent and masterfully brilliant, dicing and slicing his way to nightly double doubles from game to game and from series to series as he led his new team to the NBA’s promised land.

The Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors, 114-110, in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, the last Game at Oracle Arena, sealing the first title in franchise history and claiming Canada’s first championship in a major American sports league since the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.

Kawhi Leonard, who posted 22 points, six rebounds and three assists, was named Finals MVP for the second time in his career, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players to win that award while representing multiple teams. The all-star forward, who sealed the title with three free throws in a surreal closing second, previously won in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs, who traded him to the Raptors last summer

Now, Kawhi can demand whatever he wants from whomever he wants. And now he’s got his newly stocked resume to back up every commanded penny. From his four bounce buzzer beater against the Sixers to win Game 7 of that series to overcoming and overpowering and overtaking Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals to outperforming and overwhelmingly whupping the defending champs, Kawhi and the Raptors earned every bit of this championship. Every bit.

On the other hand, we must mention and acknowledge the wounded Warriors. The hobbled and humbled defending champions fought like cornered canines but in the end it wasn’t enough.  In the end, anything and everything the Warriors did or even tried to do wasn’t enough. Even the injured Klay Thompson running back out of the tunnel onto the playing floor to shoot his two free throws wasn’t enough.  The weary and well-worn Warriors were well on their way to defeat long before Klay went down,  for the SECOND time. Physically dent and emotionally spent, the W’s were tired and they were beat long before the final buzzer sounded. Curry was not himself and the team was reduced to a shell of their former championship form. But fight they did.

Here’s how ESPN Senior Writer Ramona Shelburne put it:

“This season has been a war of attrition and attention for the Warriors. At times, the team seemed to be dragging itself along — too talented and proud to surrender, but too tired and injured to mount the kind of fight it has become known for.  Five straight years of breathing the same air with the same group of human beings can wear on the most gentle soul. Five years of doing that under the spotlight that accompanies being the best team in the NBA is when pipes start bursting.”

But surely we digress. This is Kawhi’s time. This is Kawhi’s moment. So Congrats to the Raptors who ripped Kawhi from San Antonio. Congrats to first year Coach Nick Nurse who came from out of nowhere to do what previous and banished head coach Dwane Casey couldn’t do. Speaking of Coach Nick Nurse, what about him? He’s got a feel good, upsets, comebacks and turnarounds story all of his own as well.

“Coach Nick Nurse’s team Toronto defeated Orlando, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Golden State in these playoffs. That means Nurse got his team past ones coached by Steve Clifford, Brett Brown, Mike Budenholzer and Steve Kerr. That foursome is about the toughest draw a first-year coach in the league could get in his maiden postseason voyage.

‘He’s one of the hardest-working coaches I’ve seen,” Raptors assistant Jamaal Magloire said during Toronto’s victory celebration after the title-clinching win. “When it comes to this team’s success, he deserves every bit of it.” Nurse played at Northern Iowa, started his coaching career there as an assistant and wound up becoming a head coach at Grand View when he was 23. He coached in Belgium and Britain. He won a pair of British Basketball League titles as a coach, in Birmingham in 1996 and London in ‘00, then got a couple of titles in what is now called the G League.

The second G League crown got Nurse noticed. He was at Rio Grande Valley, guided them to a title in 2013 and that’s when the Raptors called and wanted to talk to him about offense. They ended up hiring him as an assistant.” And the rest is history.

Finally, congratulations to this Raptors team that made it work. Kawhi’s teammates, from Pascal Siakam in Game 1 and certainly to Kyle Lowry Game 6 — with Serge Ibaka and Fred VanFleet and Marc Gasol mixed in between — they all pitched in. And whenever they would and wherever they could, each did their part, and it amounted to a total team win.

So always remember, it’s “Team, team, team;” that’s what it always takes to pull off a quantum victory  like this.


Oh Cananda!

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 You Should Be Watching The NBA Playoffs

James and Simmons
The NBA’s Past, LeBron James, and it’s Future, Ben Simmons

LeBron James. Ben Simmons. Joel Embiid.  James Harden.  Kevin Durant. Anthony Davis. Giannis Antetokounmpo. And that’s just to name a few. These athletes are why you and I should be watching every possible game of these 2018 NBA Playoffs.   And it’s just the first round.

Let’s start with LeBron.

How long has LeBron James been in the NBA?  Fifteen seasons?  Wow. But time is no factor because he says he’s like fine wine; he just keeps getting better with age. And to prove it, just look at his stats, which are staggering.

James has:

3 NBA Titles

3x NBA Finals MVP

3x NBA All-Star Game MVP

4x NBA MVP

14x NBA All-Star

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Yes, LeBron James is still the king of the NBA. And this year, King James is trying to lead his rag tag, bumbling, and sometimes blundering band of basketball bums to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. But it won’t be easy. The Cavaliers are in trouble because LeBron does not have a strong supporting cast. But then again, James has been to the finals with less talent.  So we’ll see.

But LeBron is at the end of the line in Cleveand. And Ben Simmons’  Hall of Fame career is just getting started. Could this be the passing of the torch?

Philly’s phenomenal young rookie, Ben Simmons, had a double double and was 3 assists shy of a triple double in Game 3 on the road in Miami. His partner in the prime of his life is Joel Embiid who returned from an eye injury wearing a mask and led the Sixers with 23 points and seven rebounds. Not too shabby for a seven footer who needed to knock the rust off. Philly won a rough, tough, physical game which was close through 3½ quarters. But the Sixers pulled away and put Miami away down the stretch and won by 20. It was an impressive team win to say the least.

So who ya got?  The Houston Rockets have James Harden who is trying to prove that he is indeed the League MVP and can lead his team to the Promised Land of an NBA Title.  But not so fast. The defending Champs, the Warriors still have something to say, and the upstart New Orleans Pelicans are leading favorite Portland 2-0, and they are winning Game 3 handedly. But don’t sleep on the Philadelphia 76ers.  Don’t do it. They’ve got their best player back and they’re playing their best ball, so the sky is the limit for this young talented team. I’m just saying.

To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.  What’s true in sports is also true in life. Living life involves tests and trials, and in order to come out on top, we’ll need to bring our best. But sometimes our “A” game isn’t quite enough. That’s why we need the help of Heaven. The enemy of our souls tries to throw everything he has at us in an effort to knock us off and knock us down and ultimately knock us out. 

But have no fear. This is The Year of Jubilee.  This is the year that God shows off and shows out and shows up for us. Believe you me.  God is at His best when we are at our worst.

 

Are The Cavaliers In Trouble?

Dallas Mavericks v Cleveland Cavaliers

Is this the end of an era? Is this the end of the line? Is this the end of the end of LeBron James’ dominance in Cleveland?  It just may be. Because the Cavaliers are in trouble.  LeBron is looking off, looking for answers from someone, somewhere that don’t seem to be coming.

All season long, Cleveland has struggled with roster moves after moving Kyrie Irving to Boston in the offseason. And the end result is this?  The end product of all of the tinkering and tempering and tampering with trades and acquisitions this season still seems to be a big question mark. In other words, there’s trouble in LeBron Land.

The Cleveland LeBron’s (aka the Cleveland Cavaliers) lost to the hungry, upstart Indiana Pacers AT HOME in Game one of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. Cleveland looked absolutely apathetic and the home team got booed off of their own court. Now the Cavs are left with trying to figure it out and how to avoid disaster. So, is there trouble in LeBron Land? I’ll say.

But maybe this is just Game One. Maybe it’s just one game, right? I mean, every team is entitled to an off day, right? Maybe. But if the play of the supporting cast LeBron is stuck with is any indication of things to come, then LeBron will be saying goodbye, audios and Auf Wiedersehen to Cleveland in search of the next team he can take to the Promised Land of an NBA Title.

UVA Coach Tony Bennet: “You Enjoy The Good Times, and You Got To Be Able To Take The Bad Times.”

Once again, sports personifies our favorite professor giving us a sound lecture on how to live life.

UVA Coach Tony Bennett was gracious in defeat. And in defeat he needed grace. Critics derided him for the loss, saying he didn’t do enough for his team or say enough to his team as they went down in defeat to a red hot UMBC team that could do no wrong.

For as humiliating as this must have been for Bennett, the coach handled himself with dignity in the moments after the loss.

The fact is that Bennett was right on the money on this point: “when you enjoy the good times you got to be able to take the bad times.” Amen brother. Here’s the rest of the Coach Bennett post debacle, I mean post game, interview:

“A week ago, we’re cutting down the nets and confetti is falling,” Bennett said. “And then we make history by being the first 1-seed to lose. I’m sure a lot of people will be happy about that, and it stings. But, trying to tell the guys in there, this is life. It can’t define you. You enjoy the good times, and you got to be able to take the bad times.”

And this wasn’t the first time Virginia struggled as the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers trailed by five at halftime in 2014 to Coastal Carolina but went on to win 70-59.

“When you step into the arena and you’re in the arena, the consequences can be historic losses, tough losses, great wins, and you have to deal with that,” Bennett said in the interview with CBS. “That’s the job.”

And in another interview, Coach Jim Boeheim of Syracuse came to Bennett’s defense and balanced out the situation with these sage words:

“They pay this guy about $10 million, which they’re to renege on, which is great for a university to do, you have a signed contract with a guy and then say, well, he yelled at his players. That’s — 350 coaches are going to get fired tomorrow for that.

Come on, the tournament is — I’ve lost in this tournament, everybody has. I’ve looked at the list of bad losses, and I couldn’t believe we weren’t even on it. But Mike Krzyzewski has lost, I’ve lost, Roy Williams has lost, Bill Self has lost. Dean Smith lost. There’s nobody that hasn’t lost.

I think you could easily make the case that Tony Bennett’s way overachieved in the regular season and they played like they probably are in the tournament. You could possibly make that case. This year’s a little aberration, obviously. That was a bad — but the other losses, you know, it’s a tough tournament.

And really good coaches, good teams get beat. Tom Izzo is one of the best tournament coaches ever, and I sat there two years ago and watched Middle Tennessee beat them. They played a perfect game. We beat Middle Tennessee the next game by 30, by 30. It’s just basketball.

We lost to Vermont and the next day Tom Izzo, next game Tom Izzo beat Vermont by 20. It’s just the game. It’s a crazy game and the tournament’s a crazy thing. We all know that. We all say that, but then we don’t follow through on that.”

Well said, Coach. Well said.

Cleveland Makes Wholesale Changes

Cleveland Cavaliers Logo

Sometimes we need to make changes, wholesale changes. When there are structural deficiencies and institutional incompatibilities, cosmetic corrections and surface suggestions just won’t cut it. When the apple is rotten to the core, radical reforms are needed in order to right the ship and produce lasting results. And that’s what the Cleveland Cavaliers figured out.

Isiah Thomas is gone. Dwayne Wade was shipped back to South Beach. And other fixtures of the franchise that revolves around LeBron James are gone too. Were such drastic steps necessary?  Only time will tell. But sometimes you have to do some deep cleaning in order to get rid of all of the dross.

Not that individual players were the problem; it was the chemistry of the team that was the problem. And in order to fix what’s wrong chemically, you need an entirely new formula. That’s what happened when Jesus came to town.

Jesus came to make wholesale changes. The Pharisees and Sadducees and the religious establishment had settled unto a fixed, flat-rate, unforgiving system that they thought worked for them, when in truth it didn’t work for anybody. Jesus came with new rules and a fresh perspective and a better way of living. The only problem was, he had to blow up the old system and make wholesale changes. And the establishment didn’t like.

That’s the lesson. So, let’s take a page from the Cleveland Cavaliers playbook. When things aren’t working, look at everything. And I mean EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY.  Some of the things you’re doing may need to be revised, revamped or even revoked. The same goes for the people in your life that you may even like.  If they’re not working for you, they may in fact be working against you.   

So do yourself a favor. If you must, and some of us are in a season or situation where we must, make wholesale changes. It’s better that being bitter.  Indeed, the changes may hurt.  But the changes, if done with the goal of getting better in mind, will in fact help.