That was weird, huh? The Cleveland Cavaliers are the reigning Eastern Conference champs, having lost last year’s NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors. They have bounced back with a fury this season, sitting at 30-11. They have a six and a half game lead over the Chicago Bulls in their own division and a three game lead over the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the entire Eastern Conference.
Another NBA season has come to an end. It’s pretty much the same story every year. LeBron James takes a poorly put together team to the Finals and, more often than not, he loses. This year, it was at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, who was simply the better team.
You know, a team? It’s one of those things that has 8 or 9 solid players that contribute 100 percent of the time. One of those things LeBron James has never really had, because they focus on surrounding him with only two other “superstars”, but have been burned by the depth of other teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Warriors because that equation simply does not work. But I digress.
Once again, with his fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, King James is under scrutiny for where he stands in NBA lore. More specifically, it comes down to, yet again, Michael Jordan versus LeBron. MJ vs. LBJ. Well, I already explained my stance over a year ago. You can take a trip down memory lane with Space Jammin’ on the King if you forgot.
Defining greatness in each of the four major sports is unique. Baseball is based on stats, but stats that are measured differently in each person’s eyes. That started with Roger Maris and that pesky asterisk because people wanted longer seasons, but they didn’t want people to do so well that they broke records with those longer seasons. It hasn’t ended over 50 years later, as now stats that were accumulated during the Steroid Era are thrown by the wayside. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Unless you want to dump everyone under the steroid umbrella — even those like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jim Thome who’s names seemingly never came up — then the stats matter. Is Barry Bonds the biggest d-bag of his era? Probably, but he was also one sick player.
In hockey, well, quite honestly, I have no idea what defines greatness. Part of being my age is the fact that in the NFL, NBA and NHL, my generation witnessed the greatest era of each of those sports. Were there greater players before Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey upended the NHL? Of course, but there hadn’t been a dynamic like that until then, and there really hasn’t been one since. Maybe Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, but even Sid the Kid hasn’t come close to that kind of greatness.
The NBA? It’s all about Eras. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain — on paper — were pretty much then two greatest players to put on those legendary short shorts. But we have all heard the argument that they wouldn’t hold a candle to the big men of the 80s and 90s, like Shaquille O’Nealfor example. The Dream Team Era (i.e. the era of the Showtime Lakers and the coming of the MJ Age) was the best of all time, so correspondingly they showcased the most of the greatest players to ever suit up. It doesn’t matter how many championships you won, because in the NBA, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas and Tim Duncan had made it nearly impossible for anyone to do so for the past 30 years.
In football, it’s all about the titles. Seriously, the fact that Peyton Manning is not widely and unanimously considered the best quarterback ever is the prime example of that. Who is? Tom Brady? He is a very good quarterback, but he is also the face of the biggest powerhouse of this millennium, and that certainly helps his reputation. Joe Montana? He’s not in the Top 10 of all time in any stat but passer rating. He took the helms of a team that was full off All Pros and Hall of Famers, manning an offense that had never been seen before, while throwing to a guy who had the best hands and pass running routes in the history of the game. I’m not taking anything away from either of these two, but Peyton Manning is in a league of his own, and he always has been.
King James and Peyton are the same person. They are surrounded by immense talent, but their teams are not built for success. LeBron’s teams have struggled, as I have said, from poorly put together teams. Both in Miami and Cleveland, a bulk of the money was spent on signing a Big Three combo, with little attention paid to the rest of the team. In both cities, LeBron was burned by injuries to those star sidekicks and lacked anyone else to step up. You know who the reigning NBA Finals MVP is? That’s right, the guy who started the Finals as a sixth man. You don’t have depth, you don’t have rings, it’s that simple.
Manning had the same problems. He was always surrounded by top wide receivers and tight ends, but there was very little focus on the running game or defense. When he finally had those defensive pieces in place in Denver, they got smoked in the Super Bowl. Why? They weren’t as deeply rounded as a team like the Seahawks, or teams like the Patriots who don’t have many superstars, but at least solid players everywhere around the field.
They both put up numbers that most athletes can only dream of, but at the end of the day successful role players like Robert Horry and lucky quarterbacks like Peyton’s baby brother Eli have more rings.
Look deeper into the comparison. Both started their professional careers in the midwest. Both moved on to bigger markets who had at least one championship underneath their belts. Both lost their first chance at a title with their new teams to teams that everyone viewed as inferior. And both may very well never win a title again.
Like Peyton Manning, Bron is going to eclipse the most heralded records in his respective sport’s history. If he keeps up his current pace, he’ll shatter the scoring record and also like Peyton, he will probably have the most MVP Awards in his sport’s history by the time he hangs up the ol’ basketball sneakers.
And unfortunately for King James, LeBron is always going to have to live in the shadows of, yes MJ, but even some of his contemporaries. Is Kobe Bryant better? Is Russell Westbrook set to become the best player in the NBA? If that guy can finally get back to staying healthy, he very well could.
Manning and James are both Hall of Famers. They will both be remembered for eternity for their accomplishments, both on and off the playing field/court, because for the most part, they are both pretty standup guys. But both will be haunted by the fact that they couldn’t nail down more titles. If they each had two or three more titles under their belts, this conversation would never be happening. But until they do, I’ll keep on writing away!
Well, folks, baseball season is over. The end of the World Series will now bring endless amounts of rumors as to where each big free agent is going to go. College football had some big games and the playoff picture may have gotten a little bit clearer. That’s still weird to hear, huh? Playoff picture and college football in the same sentence? Russell Westbrook proved to be one of the most fragile “superstars” in the NBA and the Dallas Cowboys dropped their second straight loss. Pretty eventful week, huh?
The reason I started Wayniac Nation, for those that are still unaware, was my complete and utter disdain for ESPN. I think a majority of their anchors are hacks and that their programming has become complete fluff. As I have said before, they are the TMZ/ Enquirer of sports. I get way more from my daily dose of Chuck and Chernoff than I do from ten minutes of SportsCenter. The coverage of the LeBron James Decision Part Deux has only justified my remorse.
That said, the biggest sports news of the week comes from the NBA. First overall pick Andrew Wiggins completely outplayed second overall pick Jabari Parker in their first meeting Friday in the NBA rookie summer league from Las Vegas. Elsewhere, LeBron James, aka The King, aka The Chosen One, also returned home to Cleveland, the place he left four years ago to rise to amazing heights in Miami while Cleveland sunk into obscurity. Fans burned Bron’s jerseys when he left for the Heat, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said some harsh words about his character, and people across the nation deemed The Decision as the biggest egotistical piece of horse manure they ever had to endure. And now he is back. The Cavaliers went from 60-1 underdogs for the NBA title to the 3-1 overall favorites to win the whole dang thing. Here’s the thing: if this whole sign and trade with the Lakers and Bulls falls through for Pau Gasol and the Spurs wind up with Gasol, none of this matters. Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich will have one for the other hand.
This whole thing smells fishy to me. I feel like this was David Stern’s master plan, and if any league in the world would set something up simply for ratings, it is certainly the soap opera that the NBA is. No one cared when Bron was in Cleveland, so did the NBA ship him to Miami, a major market, to revive the fading NBA viewership? You can’t argue that it didn’t work. The NBA is back and now, LeBron can go home. Maybe I give to much credit to the Illuminati, but I feel like that this was all set up four years ago. And now poor Carmelo Anthony has resigned with New York. I guess this guy never wants to win a championship, but at least he got a chip with my boys up in ‘Cuse!
Moving on to futbol, today is the day we find out the kings of the world. The 2014World Cup concludes today with Agrentina facing off against Germany. Germany decimated host country Brazil, scoring more times in six minutes than seniors do on prom night. It was unreal and seemed entirely too easy. Four goals in six minutes and a nation was left crying. CRYING!!! Could you imagine if Jimmy Dugan was the coach?
Lionel Messi gets the chance to add the final piece to his ultimate trophy collection and prove that he truly is the best player in the world. Argentina advanced to the finals after a grueling 120 minutes of nothing. Seriously, that game was why it is so hard to get Americans to completely convert to futbol. Then, when nothing was decided, they turned to penalty kicks. I like the concept of penalty kicks, but I do have a problem with such a big game being decided by them. They are largely luck, either the goalie chooses correctly and dives in the right direction, or you lose. Regular season games, sure. Quarter final games, why not? But once you are in the semi finals, I think you play until someone scores. And if players start collapsing then so be it! Could you imaging Game 7 of the World Series tied after 10 innings and they go to a home run derby to decide the world champion? Wait a second, that actually sounds amazing!
Speaking of the MLB, Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum continue to do ridiculous things with the baseball. Kershaw’s scoreless innings streak was snapped at 41 yet he still hurled a complete game. His last seven starts are video game-esque: he has allowed a mere three runs while striking out 71 and walking six with a no hitter along the way. The Freak has been equally superb allowing just one run over his last four starts with a no hitter as well. Meanwhile, the Yankees have one, ONE, starting pitcher in their rotation that started the season with them. Looks like I picked the right year to start writing for my favorite team. Oooo, can I really line up that Jeff Francis interview now?
TheNHL free agency period continued this week.
Lastly, the Andre Johnson soap opera continues out of Houston in the NFL. Andre wants out, but John McClain, who knows more about the Texans than Gary Kubiak ever did, says Johnson isn’t going anywhere. Due to his hefty contract, the Texans won’t trade Johnson and eat all of that money, so the question remains whether he will hold out or play. Across the state in Dallas, Kyle Orton still hasn’t reported either, leaving Brandon Weeden the backup for Tony Romo. That is the worst sentence ever typed in the history of the NFL.
Another week of sports is in the books. We have a lot on deck here at Wayniac Nation this coming week, including a look into why minor league baseball is so much fun. When you are finally Bron-ed out, come on back and check out some quality sports insights! Till next time.. MESSI MESSI MESSI!!!!
Yet another week of sports has found its way into the books. (Incidentally, I always wondered what books stuff seems to find its way into, especially with the Internet and Wikipedia these days. But I digress…) It’s also the last day of my ten day road trip up and down the east coast. After taking in a lovely Single-A Hickory Crawdads baseball game last night, I am ready to head home. But not before one last week in review from the road!
The final four in the World Cup is set. The host nation of Brazil is set to take on Germany on Tuesday, while the upstart Netherlands club, who sent my beloved Ticans of Costa Rica home yesterday vi penalty kicks, is ready to play Argentina. The big news moving forward is that two of the biggest names in the world will be absent from the pitch for the remainder of the Cup. Sergio Aguero of Argentina remained sidelined but hopes to be prepared for the semi finals, although it looks bleak. Brazil lost Beats By Dre spokesperson Neymar for the remainder of the Cup. He broke a vertebra in his back on a controversial play against Colombia and would eventually be airlifted to a hospital. His absence could invoke them to play stronger to bring home the Cup for him, or it could be a devastating blow as he is their clear cut leader. This past Tuesday brought an end to the United States impressive run. Although many were happy and proud of this team, I saw it a little differently. In case you missed last Wednesday’s story, here are the three reasons you should not be happy with the USMNT performance in the World Cup. Also, as depicted in the picture above, the largest locust in the history of the world assisted in a goal for Colombia’s James Rodriguez. After the game, the locust tested positive for PEDs.
Does Josh Gordon simply not want to play in the NFL? Justin Blackmon Part Deux was arrested on Saturday morning for a DUI after blowing a 0.9. This of course comes after he was caught in May for marijuana. While Gordon seems like a blast to hang out with, his 2015 season and career are clearly in jeopardy. This would be a huge blow to the Browns and fantasy geeks nationwide. For those of you who don’t know Josh Gordon, he was the guy who made Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer, and Jason “Captain Checkdown” Campbell look like NFL quarterbacks last season. Johnny Manziel reportedly tweeted how angry he was at Gordon as Mr. Football felt he was the only Browns’ player allowed to hog the limelight. In other big NFL news, Jimmy Graham was declared a tight end and not a wide receiver as he had hoped in his franchise tag ruling. So if you get a chance, please tweet Jimmy (whose own Twitter account says he’s a tight end, Einstein) and tell him how sorry you are for him that he has to make ONLY a little over seven million this season while he negotiates what will most likely be the largest tight end contract of all time.
Queen James and the Big Three are still currently unsigned in the NBA. Early reports were that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were negotiating amongst themselves to figure out a way to get all three back together on the Heat next season. Now, there are reports surfacing that James may indeed go his own way, with Phoenix being a potential suitor. I guess he figures Phoenix will be a shorter flight home from San Antonio when he loses to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, aka The Real Big Three, again next season. In other NBA news, the 2014 draft picks have started play in the Orlando Summer League. Shabazz Napier and Marcus Smart had shaky debuts but finished out strong. Nerlens Noel impressed everyone, dropping 19 points while grabbing two boards, and adding three assists, four steals and one block in his first professional performance.
How do you describe the play of Clayton Kershaw of late? Gnarly? Sick? Silly? Whatever you choose, Kershaw has decimated MLB lineups and has now dealt 36 consecutive scoreless innings over 32 innings while allowing a mere 13 hits while striking out 44 and walking four! That’s insane. Kershaw is honing in on his second consecutive season with an ERA under 1.90 and back-to-back Cy Young Awards. That would give him three in four years at the age of 26. That’s right, folks, Kershaw is just hitting his pitching prime. Throw on top of it that he just got paid some serious loot and unlike other divas in the world of sports, he’s still actually performing! We are watching something truly special in LA and pretty soon everyone of his starts is going to be a prime time game. Across the country, this past July 4th marked the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s immortal farewell speech. The greatest first baseman of all-time gave a speech on July 4, 1939 that rivals any ever given. It evokes tears and gives chills to every sports fan to this day.
BONEHEAD OF THE WEEK AWARD: Finally some NHL news that is worthy to write about. Philadelphia Flyers’ captain and forward Claude Giroux was arrested on Canada Day in Ontario for repeatedly grabbing a male police officer’s rear end. Seriously. I didn’t even have to make any of that up, so I say thank you Claude. According to USA Today, Giroux said, “”I regret my actions on Canada Day and sincerely apologize to my fans, teammates and the Philadelphia Flyers organization for my misguided attempt at humor.” Don’t sell yourself short, pal, you’re the funniest hockey player to ever live. Well, next to these guys at least:
There you have it. An entire week in less than 1000 words. Hope everyone had a good Fourth of July Weekend and stay tuned for another wacky week of sports!!!
The NBA Finals are set and I can’t wait. Despite Lance Stephenson‘s best efforts, the Pacers blew the series (see what I did there?) and the Heat rolled to their fourth straight title series. The Spurs and Thunder played a bizarre series out West in which the home team completely dominated the first five games until last night’s overtime thriller that sent the Spurs back to the Finals for a second consecutive season.
USA! USA! USA! What a way to wake up yesterday, America! Another episode in one of the classic rivalries in the history of the world. Starting with the 1972 Olympics when the Russians cheated us, to The Miracle at Lake Placid, all the way to Rocky and Ivan Drago, yesterday was yet another opportunity to show the world we are the Yankees to their Red Sox. Segue to this evenings NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, where the biggest All-Star of them all takes the stage for the East against his Western Conference counterpart Kevin Durant and his gang of high-flying hoopsters.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the Wilt vs. Russell or the Bird vs. Magic of the new millennium. They are the best in the business and they are the clear cut leaders of the two best teams currently in the NBA. So, on this NBA All-Star weekend, it is time to reflect on one of the current great debates: The King or His Airness?
With each season that passes, many feel King James makes a bigger case for himself as the greatest the game has ever seen. I don’t think it is even close. In fact, I would argue Kobe Bryant is closer to Jordan 2.0 than the King. A lot of the debate circles around a wait and see approach, wondering how LeBron James will end his career. I don’t think it will matter. If Lebron were to win 4 more championships and tie Jordan, Jordan is still the greatest of all-time.
5 REASONS HIS AIRNESS REIGNS SUPREME
5. The Stats:
The easy and lazy way to approach the topic is to merely whip out the numbers and whoever has better stats is clearly the best. That being said, I’m still going to do it. Not counting LeBron’s 2013-14 stats at the halfway point, let’s examine Jordan versus James through year 10 of their careers:
Michael Jordan:21,998 points, 4,219 rebounds, 4,025 assists, and 2,445 steals. LeBron James:21,081 points, 5,553 rebounds, 5,302 assists, and 1,323 steals.
Well this just doesn’t help much at all. Jordan is tops in two stats and James ousts MJ in the other 2. Here’s something that may help separate the two. Jordan’s official tenth season was his first retirement which means to get stats for 10 seasons we need to jump to his ’94-’95 return, when played in 17 whole games. Nine seasons earlier, Jordan’s second, he broke his foot in the third game and wound up playing in just 18 games that season. James has never played in less than 62 games in a season. You give Jordan those missed games back or have him not retire and these numbers are ALL Jordan. To appease to the bling is the thing mentality, Jordan has three rings by year 10 and LeBron has two.
4. Do you know, do you know, do you know?:
Sure, LeBron has his own line of sneakers, but that’s because Jordan paved the way. I was in middle school when Air Jordan’s hit the market and for those of you who weren’t alive, it was total pandemonium. People were getting killed for their shoes. Mars Blackman, aka Spike Lee, became Jordan’s sidekick in one of the more memorable ad campaigns of the 80s. (Incidentally, a few months back I found an It’s Gotta Be the Shoes Nike shirt at Rag-O-Rama in Atlanta and I snatched that baby right up!)
Yes, LeBron is Mr. Gatorade and even had his own gum flavor for a minute but EVERYBODY knew Michael Jordan. By the mid-1990s he had to be one of the most recognizable faces in the world. He was an actor, he was on the Dream Team, he was an adman, he sold out minor league baseball games, he IS one of the most famous logos ever which in turn made Nike into what we know it, and he made an awesome guest host appearance on SNL. Like Magic before him, Jordan knew he WAS the NBA and he stepped up to bat, put the NBA on his shoulders and carried the league to new heights. Sure he was smug and arrogant, but he was Michael Freakin’ Jordan. LeBron? We can’t even get this guy to dunk on All-Star Weekend. Which brings me to…
3. The Slam Dunk Contest:
Imagine if you would, that the year is 1988. NBA All-Star Weekend is in Chicago. Bill Lambier, Mugsy Bogues, Kevin Johnson, and Terry Porter take the stage for the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest. A sold-out arena heads for the doors.
The Slam Dunk Contest is the Slam Dunk Contest because back in MJ’s day the best dunkers in the NBA participated. Jordan, Dr.J, Drexler, Nance, Spud Webb, and Dominque Wilkins all participated in dunk contests leading up to the greatest of them all, the 1988 ‘Nique versus Jordan showdown (which Dominque should have won). Last night was a bunch of bench or role players dunking. I grew up walking the streets of New York City where I could watch dunk contests with guys I never heard of quite often. I want to see the big guns go at it. If you are too good to be in the Dunk Contest then you are too good to play in the meaningless showboat game that the NBA All-Star Game is. Stay home and let someone else shine.
2. The Hardware:
It’s not just what MJ has on LeBron in the rings and trophies, it is how he accomplished it all. King James beat up on 15 and 16-year-olds half his size to win some state championships and jumped right to the NBA. Jordan decided to go to college first but not because he couldn’t have made the jump. Want proof? In his first year at UNC, he won the 1982 Freshman of the Year en route to the National Title in which he hit the game-winning shot over Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas. 2 years later in 1984, he was the NCAA Player of the Year winning the Wooden, Rupp, and Naismith Awards which of course earned him the honor of being drafted AFTER Sam Bowie. Imagine if Jordan had those three years in the NBA?
Both James and Jordan won the Rookie of the Year award in their NBA debuts. Jordan has 5 MVPs and LeBron has 4, so he may very well surpass him. LeBron has 2 NBA Championships while Jordan finished with 6. Make no mistakes, folks, the Rockets weren’t the ’93-94 and ’94-’95 NBA Champs because they were the best team in the league. They won because MJ “retired”. The Bulls would have won 8 Championships in a row if Jordan stayed. If that were the case this wouldn’t even be a debate.
1. The Joran Era:
I’m probably biased but I feel that I grew up in the greatest era of NBA basketball which is why I find it so hard to watch today’s NBA. The early 80s to the mid-90s was an amazing time for the NBA. They had characters like Sir Charles and Magic, they had classic player rivalries like Bird and Magic and Ewing and Olajuwon, and they had The Bad Boys. That era also had the greatest players to ever suit up.
This is what makes MJ’s 2 “three-peats” so amazing. His Bulls won 6 championships defeating the likes of Magic Johnson and James Worthy, Drexler, Sir Charles, Gary Payton, and John Stockton and Karl Malone. These aren’t just Hall of Famers, these are Top 50 NBA all-time players. Jordan and Pippen routinely beat up Ewing and Isiah Thomas in the East to get to the Finals. LeBron and the Heat lost to Dirk and the Mavericks their first go at the title. Jordan’s Bulls didn’t lose, and he made sure of it.
Jordan never had to leave and go join another team to win. People came to him. Dennis Rodman could have gone anywhere and probably had a bigger role but instead he decided to go to Chicago and form possibly the deadliest Big Three combo in history. If Pippen, Jordan, and Rodman had stayed together a few more years who knows what would have happened. On the other side of the debate, many experts already see James, Wade, and Bosh’s window quickly closing with more discussions weekly on where LeBron will sign next.
Dissecting it even further, look at the MVP awards we discussed earlier. Here are the second place finishers in Jordan’s MVP seasons: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, David Robinson, and Karl Malone. That’s some pretty hefty competition. They were all members of The 1992 Dream Team and they are all Hall of Famers. LeBron has beaten out Kevin Durant three times and Kobe once. There just hasn’t been much competition for the MVP trophy and it seems like lately it’s a two man contest. When it comes down to comparing the greatest ever, Jordan beat the greats to prove it, LeBron never will. He won’t get to play a Magic, a Bird, Mailman, or a Sir Charles. Yes, he ousted the Tim Duncan led Spurs, but what would have been if that Spurs team was in their prime like the Heat. Even Kobe had a few years to go at Jordan to prove his greatness. LeBron never will.
All in all, LeBron is no slouch. He will finish amongst the greatest to ever suit up. Maybe one day, Sega will make us a Jordan Vs. James throwback game to try and help the discussion. Until then, King James rules the current NBA but His Airness still rules the world.
I need to cool off. Until next time, remember, lucky wins are good wins. Refuse to lose Cuse! UNDEFEATACUSE!!!