Today I accidentally caught myself using “Dream Team” in reference to the USA men’s basketball team competing in the 2012 London Olympics. I quickly corrected myself as the words sounded blasphemous the second they left my lips.
The 1992 “Dream Team” is irreplaceable, not only because of the star-studded roster, but because that team was a historical first that will never be duplicated in Olympic competition as far as the U.S. is concerned. It is, however, absolutely possible for the dominance and ferocity of the first NBA player-led Olympic team from the USA to be replicated.
The 2012 men’s team has one thing the 1992 didn’t… an uber-talented, healthy roster from top to bottom. Remember, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson may have been the most famous names on the Dream Team, but they were both at the end of their careers, serving primarily as figurehead fan-favorites and were no longer the most talented men on the basketball court. Bird was in such poor health that he didn’t participate in practice and his teammates said he could hardly walk because of severe back pain.
That is not the case as the 2012 roster is deep with skill and talent. Despite a lack of size without marquee players like Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Chris Bosh and Blake Griffin, Team USA is still chalk full of hoops greatness.
So then what is holding the 2012 squad back from that top-tier where the original Dream Team resides? Well, the guys have to play the games before we can crown them kings. Period.
Team USA has looked great in two of three international games played thus far. Brazil gave the guys a bit of trouble, exploiting USA’s lack of size down low but not enough so to beat the red, white and blue.
If the Americans will be tested by anyone at all in London, Spain and Argentina will do the honors. And they’ll have the pleasure sooner rather than later as the U.S. will face two of the world’s best teams for some pre-Olympics friendly fun within the next few days.
Interestingly enough, the exhibition games are being played at Palau Sant Jordi, the site of the Dream Team’s gold medal game in Barcelona back in 1992.
The U.S. faces Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola on Sunday, the two NBA stars, leading an Argentine team that won the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Games. Tuesday, the U.S. is up against a ridiculously stacked Spanish team that ultimately lost to Team USA, taking home silver in the 2008 Beijing Games. If you recall, that game was no gimme as the U.S. could’ve been beaten by the Spaniards.
Speaking of Spain, the national team has seven current or former NBA players, plus another two whose draft rights are owned by NBA teams, on the roster. Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka headline the group that is incredibly talented, despite losing phenom Ricky Rubio to injury during the NBA season.
Back in 1992, Team USA beat opponents by an average of nearly 44 points per game in Olympic play. But there was no Manu Ginobili playing for Argentina, or Pau Gasol representing Spain. Instead, those guys were young kids inspired by the NBA stars they were watching in the Olympics on television.
The presence of the Dream Team in 1992 changed the course of history for international basketball, ultimately ensuring that no team could ever dominate at Team USA’s level again, by way of increasing the popularity of the sport worldwide.
Could another American team come close to earning the “Dream Team” name? It’s unlikely. The 2012 team definitely has the star power, but do they have what it takes to dismantle significantly tougher teams than the Americans faced 20 years ago? We’ll find out soon enough.
Ahhhh yes, the so-called “coronation of King James” finally happened Thursday night as the Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 for the NBA Championship. LeBron James, the self-proclaimed King, earned his crown in his ninth season in the League, leaving everyone asking questions like “is this redemption,” and “does a title signify the pinnacle for James and will it quiet the haters?”
With one notch on his Championship belt comes a level of respect for James that even the toughest of the haters must acknowledge. You don’t have to like the guy or forgive some of the crappy choices he’s made in the past, but with this title comes the confirmation that LeBron is more than just a superstar; he’s a winner.
James has experienced a true career evolution, but in reverse. As a high school phenomenon, James was, without earning them, handed the keys to the kingdom -based on talent, not results- before making an NBA roster. While he was a celebrity from Day 1 and showcased an arsenal of offensive skills in his very first season as a Cleveland Cavalier, it took James a few years to get his defense up to par, which elevated his game and reputation significantly.
Since becoming the complete package circa 2009, the question seemed to be not “if” but “when” James would win a Championship and enter the elite ranks of the NBA.
For years, nobody doubted James’ talent, instead, using non-basketball reasons to pick the man apart. From the rumored affair between ‘Bron’s mom Gloria and Delonte West, to Handshake-gate vs. the Magic, to The Decision and The Heatles, much of the James-hatred was self inflicted.
The criticisms of being unable, and even worse, unwilling to take “big” shots tainted James’ on-court image just enough to change the question to, “will he EVER win a title?”
Individual talent is no longer good enough for those playing team sports. The debate exists, “can you be at the most elite level without a Championship ring?”
Look at Dan Marino, or Peyton Manning before he finally led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2006?
With career averages of 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 48 percent shooting in 39.9 minutes per game, PLUS a host of hardware including three MVP awards, four NBA All-Defensive First Team honors and eight All-Star appearances, all that remained was a Championship to put a bow on an already-Hall of Fame worthy career.
John Stockton & Karl Malone, TOGETHER, never won a championship.
Eglin Baylor never won a championship.
Charles Barkley never won a championship.
Reggie Miller never won a championship.
Dominique Wilkins never won a championship.
Patrick Ewing never won a championship.
These guys are some of the best to EVER play the game of basketball, an opinion backed up by the fact that each one is a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Had James failed to win a title during his career, he would still be in great company. That said, he would be haunted forever, just like the men listed above remain, to this day.
Michael Jordan won his first of six Championships in his seventh season. It took Shaquille O’Neal eight years, and poor Dirk Novitzki toughed out 13 seasons before winning it all.
While second place is indeed the first loser, there is something to be said for the fact that James had already been to the Finals twice, with two different teams. Neither the Cavaliers nor last year’s Heat team would’ve made it there without James on the roster.
Every great individual basketball player needs a good team surrounding him (or her) to win at the highest level. It took James a LONG. ASS. TIME. to get the right people around him on the court, clipboarding on the bench and sitting in the front office before he could possibly put on a ring.
After Miami’s Big Three went through all kinds of trial and error in its first season together, the players finally fell in place this year as the Heat figured it all out. Miami completely dismantled a Thunder team that looked unstoppable, losing a mere three playoff games heading into the Finals.
There would be no taking a backseat for James in the Finals this year, no sir. He did not defer to his teammates. James was the first option, period. That says a lot when Dwayne Wade is on the court as well. I don’t care if Wade looked old and beat up at times, he’s still a damn good basketball player who was dwarfed by LeBron in this series, a few specific moments aside. James averaged 28.6 ppg and 10.2 assists in the series, earning him the title of Finals MVP.
After the series-clinching Game 5 win, Wade said of James, “I don’t know if I could be happier for another guy, another man to succeed in life as I am for him.”
Talk about a different tune. Not so long ago, word would occasionally leak from Cleveland depicting a young, cocky and often times selfish player who was so untouchable that the head coach was afraid to discipline him, causing resentment among fellow Cavs players. Now, it sounds like James is clearly adored by his Miami teammates, including Wade, the brightest of stars in his own right.
The haters will keep on hating. “Well, how many rings will he get? I mean, Mark Madsen has more rings than LeBron.”
True. But who cares?
In my book, all it takes is one, therefor James can finally rest on top of the mountain and enjoy the view.
In a condensed season that has lacked consistency in quality of play and top-notch rivalry games, the NBA fed its hungry fans with a prime time basketball feast on Wednesday night. Both the Thunder vs. Heat and Lakers vs. Clippers games were full of excitement and intensity, fueling the competition as the league prepares for the playoffs.
The Heat and Thunder proved that in fact, basketball is a game of runs, and typically the team that puts their foot on the gas last comes out the victor. Oklahoma City couldn’t sustain its early lead as the Heat came roaring back in what turned out to be a nail-biting 98-93 finish, good for Miami’s 17th consecutive home win, which is the longest streak in the league this season.
Sitting just two games behind the Bulls for first place in the East, Miami would do itself a huge favor by pulling ahead of Chicago as home court clearly means a lot to this team which is poised to, once again, do real damage to opponents come the playoffs.
That was just one of a few pertinent messages delivered by the Heat with a victory in which they overcame an 11-point second quarter deficit and were held to a dismal 37 percent shooting overall. Apparently, some people think the Heat are a bunch of wussie, prima donnas. Now, the latter might be true but this is one tough group of players that has battled injury, top-notch defenders and physical play throughout much of their careers.
Wednesday night brought more of the same as the Thunder weren’t the least bit intimidated by the defending runner-up Heatles. It was no guts, no glory for OKC which was evident in their chippy style of play and the willingness of Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins to go one or two body slams short of WWE on LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. With the evolution of Perky in OCK comes more and more of a Celtics-like attitude of entitlement and fearlessness that the Thunder need to survive the playoffs out West.
Despite relinquishing an early and ultimately losing the game, the Thunder made just as big of a statement as the hometown Heat in the fact that they are a forced to be reckoned with on the court, both physically and fundamentally. With the media’s coronation of these two as eventual Finals foes, both teams had to send a message and both did, even though only one team got the “W” at the end of the night.
Across the country in Downtown L.A., another edition of intra-Staples Center play commenced between the Lakers and Clippers, duking it out in front of a Red and White home crowd.
It is truly fascinating how one player can change the tone of a team, and thus the ambiance of an entire rivalry.
Blake Griffin brought boatloads of excitement and confidence to the Clippers in his debut NBA season last year and while the “other” L.A. team certainly improved, they didn’t exactly instill fear in their bully big brothers wearing Purple and Gold.
But this season is completely different. Not only are the Clippers in the playoff hunt - and by that, I mean actually going to make the post season, instead of hovering between 8th and 12th out West (and that’s during a good year!) - but the team’s attitude has undergone a complete makeover with the addition of Chris Paul.
It started with the first two pre-season games on the schedule for both teams, which saw the two LA squads playing each other. From opening tip, there were no smiles and only scowls, specifically on the face of Blake Griffin, which would soon spread to the rest of his Clippers teammates.
The Clipps put the Lake Show on notice: we’re no longer the lovable underdog who you share an arena with and whose fans buy our cheap season tickets just for the two games here at Staples where you, the Lakers are considered the “road team.” We have an All-Star-caliber lineup of our own with Paul, Griffin, De’Andre Jordan and Chauncy Billups (pre-injury, of course), so don’t mess with us or you’ll be sorry.
The Clippers carried that swag right into the regular season and have not let up against the Lakers. Heading into their third and final meeting of the regular season, the series was tied 1-1, with those two games consisting of 11 individual technical fouls between both teams.
A red-hot Kobe Bryant and the Lakers put the little Clipps in their place early on in the rubber match, but the Red and White fought back with a massive run of their own, making the Heat’s comeback look lame in comparison to CP3 & company’s comeback from a 15-point third quarter deficit.
There were dunks, threes, and fouls galore in a game full of high-flying antics and brutal physicality that scared the Lakers straight, as late-game defense coupled with the hoops-heroics of Bryant and Bynum sealed a 113-108 Lakers victory.
The Clippers are now 2 1/2 games behind the Lakers who own the 3-spot in the Western Conference, at least for the time being. More importantly, the Lakers own the tiebreak as they won the season series against the Clippers 2-1.
Including the two pre-season games, each of the five meetings between the Lakers and Clippers this season were worth watching as every one of them involved a sense of urgency, rivalry, bitterness and importance. A few years ago, when the Clippers made the playoffs for the first time in what felt like forever, there was a possibility that the Lakers would meet their neighbors in the second round, but that never came to fruition as the Phoenix Suns knocked out the Lakers in round one before giving the Clippers the same treatment in the second round.
A Lakers/Clippers playoff series could easily go seven games even though I think the Lakers are a stronger team on many levels at this point.
Aside from providing ratings gold for the NBA and various TV networks, both a Lakers vs Clippers and Heat vs Thunder playoff series would be a welcome treat for basketball fans.
While news outlets were busy falsely reporting the death of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, the sports world was missing out on a spectacular sight. The uniforms worn by the Miami Heat during Saturday’s home game against the Philadelphia 76ers loud, bold and strikingly similar to Robin Williams’ wardrobe in “The Birdcage.”
At first glance, one might wonder where the heck the pink and orange striped outfit came from. Sure, the NBA loves throwback unis, but I never saw Alonzo Mourning wearing THAT.
Turns out, the pretty in pink getup is indeed a legitimate throwback piece. The Miami Heat paid homage to The Floridians, the ABA team based in Miami (although the team played games in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach as well) from 1968 through 1972, according to the website RememberTheABA.com.
The Heat rocked the Floridians’ black away uniforms in 2004, according to ESPN.com, but Saturday’s 113-92 win over the 76ers marked the first time the Heat wore the old school white home uniforms.
I was in shock for a moment upon first seeing the guys in the colorful uniforms, but they quickly grew on me. What woman doesn’t appreciate a daring statement piece? Plus, the rumors are true; real men wear pink.
No wonder that Miami Heat vs. Minnesota Timberwolves game was so close the other night! Perhaps LeBron James had a case of cold feet and shaky hands during the Heat’s game in Minneapolis on Friday, but if he did, James didn’t show it as the South Beach star logged 34 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists in a near-loss to the Timberwolves. Less than 24 hours after Miami’s 103-101 victory, James proposed to the mother of his two children and girlfriend of eight years, Savannah Brinson on New Years Eve.
Eight years LeBron? Sounds like this was the real decision.
After pondering the possibility for nearly a decade, Brinson said “yes.” According to website theybf.com, Brinson was surprised by the proposal which came in front of a large group of the couple’s friends at a New Years Eve party. The photo posted above came from theybf.com and if you look closely, you can see some bling on Brinson’s ring finger.
Oh hey Chris Bosh, is that you wearing a funny top hat behind the bride to be? I think so!
Of course, the congratulatory tweets started rolling in soon after James popped the question. Here are a few:
@MickyArison (Micky Arison, Miami Heat Owner): Congrats to Lebron. @KingJames and Savannah so happy 4 u guys.
@CP3 (Chris Paul): Happy for my brother @KingJames and sis @SavannahRB on their engagement!!! Extremely happy for them and the good times to come #HappyNewYear
Jada_AP (Jada Paul, wife of CP3): CONGRATULATIONS to 2 of my favorite people @SavannahRB and @KingJames! SO happy for you guys! LOVE you!!
Between an early undefeated record, celebrating his 27th birthday on Friday and getting engaged on Saturday, 2012 could finally be LeBron James’ year. After receiving pretty good press during the offseason, including stating his regrets over “the decision” in an interview, the dust seems to have settled and people are jumping back on the James bandwagon.
The truth is that it’s hard to hate on beautiful basketball, regardless of what you may think of the players on a personal level. If the Heat build upon what we’ve already seen them do thus far and stay consistent, LeBron and Savannah better keep their schedule open through late June and play it safe with an August wedding.
At least somebody has found a way to make money off of NBA players during the lockout - that somebody is President Barack Obama who, according to his website is holding “a game featuring basketball’s greatest super stars in support of the Obama Victory Fund.”
Shell out $200 for a general admission ticket or up to $5k for a courtside seat at the first ever Obama Classic Basketball Game on Dec. 12 in Washington DC at a location to be announced later.
Here’s the roster of confirmed players thus far, straight from barackobama.com :
Ray Allen - Carmelo Anthony - Chris Bosh - Vince Carter - Tyson Chandler - Jamal Crawford - Kevin Durant - Baron Davis - Patrick Ewing - Derek Fisher - Rudy Gay - Blake Griffin - Tyler Hansbrough - Dwight Howard - Juwan Howard - Antawn Jamison - Dahntay Jones - Brandon Knight - Kevin Love - Jamal Mashburn - Cheryl Miller - Alonzo Mourning - Dikembe Mutombo - Chris Paul - Quentin Richardson - Doc Rivers - Steve Smith - Jerry Stackhouse - Amare Stoudemire - Tina Thompson - John Wall - Russell Westbrook
Nice mix of super stars, role players and retirees on the roster, but who will coach? I vote for either Doc Rivers and Cheryl Miller, or Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as surprise guest coaches. Just a thought.
Man, if I weren’t unemployed and without any income right now, I’d definitely be there (in the cheap seats, of course). Even if you don’t like President Obama’s politics, he has impeccable taste in various areas of the arts and entertainment, as was evident in the Motown tribute concert he and the First Lady hosted at the White House that I watched on PBS last night. DVR it if you get a chance; Martha Reeves’ diva on-stage takeover of the finale is absolutely classic.
Okay, I digress. From filling out brackets on ESPN to sitting courtside at the Carrier Classic on Veteran’s Day, it’s no secret that President Obama loves hoops. He has hosted a BBQ and pick-up game for NBA players in the past and even got elbowed in the lip (requiring several stitches) while playing with his staffers.
According to ESPN.com, “Proceeds will go to the Obama Victory Fund, which is jointly held by the Democratic National Committee and Obama’s re-election campaign. Whether Obama will directly take part in the event was left an open question.”
For the sake of entertainment, I hope Obama suits up and even better, since it’s a co-ed event, I would love to see Michelle out there too. I bet she could post guys up, no problem.
Since the event is a fundraiser, I doubt it could be televised on a network because of equal time laws, but what about Pay-Per-View? People could pay $60 to watch from their couch for a cause. This way folks who might not normally pay attention to politics can find a way to get involved while simultaneously getting perhaps the only opportunity to watch NBA players this season.
Good call on this one Obama. Sounds like fun. Now, if you could somehow convince both parties to compromise…. and by both parties, I mean the owners and players :)
For more information or to purchase a ticket to the Obama Classic Basketball Game, click here https://donate.barackobama.com/page/contribute/o2012-decemberobamaclassic?source=20111118_Athletes