The Sports Expert who Keeps it Real
Will Kobe Be The Same Player?

  

When the starting lineups were announced for the Lakers before Game One of the 2013 NBA playoffs, something felt off.  There were five players on the court wearing Laker uniforms but what I realized was that that thing that felt off was the gigantic hole that could only be filled by one man: Kobe Bryant.  The reality didn’t really hit me until the game began.  Kobe is the premium octane fuel that does anything he can to keep the Lakers moving forward and running smoothly.  When Game One began, it looked like that fuel had been replaced with sugar. 

            A lot of times the team seemed lost, especially in the fourth quarter which is usually when Kobe turns into the Black Mamba and does the most damage.  But this time, it was the Mamba that was crippled.

            I was at work when the news broke about the severity of Kobe’s Achilles injury, which he suffered against the Golden State Warriors.  I proceeded to look for any article I could on the injury while I repeatedly told myself, its not really that bad, the staff is just being extra cautious.  But as updates poured in throughout the day, it began to look like the worst was true. 

            In his postgame interview that night, the normally stoic Bryant welled up in tears when talking about the ramifications of his latest hardship.  This was followed by a rant of frustration on his Facebook page.  All this was very uncharacteristic of the Kobe Bryant we’re used to.  It showed me a more human side of a man who has spent his entire career brushing injuries aside like crumbs on a coffee table.  It showed frustration, disbelief, uncertainty, and anger.  Emotions I certainly felt upon hearing the terrible news. 

            My first semester of college, I tried out for the basketball team after not playing organized ball for a while.  The coach was running late so those of us that were there decided to play a game called 21 until he arrived.  And these guys were GOOD!  Yet, here I was, about to make the last free throw I needed to win the game!  I was feeling extremely confident at that point.  Until the scrimmage at the end of the tryout.  I was on defense when I rolled my ankle pretty bad.  When I tried to run downcourt I couldn’t put any pressure on that leg.  My ankle swelled to the size of a baseball and took much longer than normal to heal.  I was scared, frustrated, and angry.  I didn’t know if my ankle would feel the same after it healed and I was terrified to think of a life where I couldn’t play basketball.  So in that regard, I could definitely relate. 

            In that interview, Kobe removed the Black Mamba cape and armor and allowed his true emotions to flow freely.  And for those few moments, basketball was irrelevant.  I was able to connect with Kobe the man, not the basketball player. 

            This made me think of Magic Johnson.  He’s a man whose circumstances were certainly much more serious than Kobe’s, but who also had to deal with an unexpected turn of events that could’ve affected his career and life.  He discovered that he had contracted the HIV virus.  He had every right to just give up and be negative and angry and I’m sure there were times when he felt that way.  But he handled the whole thing with so much class and grace.  He chose to look at the positives and the opportunities that this new phase in his life could create.  He did briefly retire from the NBA only to come back and play in the 1992 All Star game and in the Olympics for the Dream Team. He then returned for the second half of the 95-96 NBA season with the Lakers as a forward before retiring for good.  He is now a highly successful business man, sports analyst, and advocate for HIV and AIDS. 

            Like Magic, Kobe Bryant seems predictably optimistic about his chances.  He has said he wants to win 1 or 2 more championships and believes he will be back in action in November or December.  He has an innate ability to overcome seemingly any challenge that’s thrown at him, which makes this latest hurdle that much more compelling.  Coupled with his injury and his most recent off court battle with his mother wanting to auction off old hoops memorabilia, I wonder if he will be able to handle whatever happens in the coming months with the same level of maturity that Magic displayed on and off the court.  Assuming he doesn’t come back as the same player, will he be willing to possibly relinquish the role of first scoring option for the sake of the team?  Or will he try to force his body to do what his mind thinks he can do, thus jeopardizing the team’s fragile chemistry?  As of this writing, he has already started shooting and running drills and is said to be way ahead of schedule. 

            One thing is for certain, armed with his incredible work ethic and basketball IQ, I hope and believe he will adapt accordingly.  And when that happens, the only people who will be frustrated and scared as Kobe rises again will be his opponents. 

Musical Theater is a Sport!!

      I have decided to officially declare that musical theater is a sport!  Now the only successful musical about sports that I can think of is Damn Yankees(those of you who have no idea what that is, allow Google to lead the way to enlightenment).  I have found several similarities that connect sports and musical theater and I only discovered this through first hand experience.  Yes I have participated in the world of show tunes and dramatic dance numbers.  I have been a Winkie, a brother of Joseph, a Roman soldier, and an enchanted rug, just to name a few.  And I’ll tell you this: like sports, musical theater is not for the faint of heart. 

PREPARATION

I grew up loving sports and I still do.  For a while it was all I knew and cared about.  As far as I was concerned, doing something like musical theater was way too lame and wimpy for my lofty standards.  But my mom felt that I needed to broaden my horizons beyond sports.  So I was coaxed into this new world that changed my perception of musical theater forever.  For one thing there is so much prep!  Memorizing lyrics, lines, choreography, music, knowing where you should be in a scene, etc.  One summer I was in Beauty and the Beast.  Me and another guy were enchanted rugs.  We had to learn how to do a two-man somersault.  On concrete.  We had little foam noodles on our backs to cushion the impact but it was still not fun to see concrete rushing up to your head that quickly.  We had to practice and adjust and practice and practice some more until we were in perfect sync.  I’d love to see Kobe and Lebron try that.

TEAMWORK

     One of the shows I did was an adaptation of the movie Ben-Hur.  There’s a scene in the movie that shows an opponent on his deathbed after being severely injured in the chariot race.  The way we did it was having him on a stretcher that was held by two soldiers, one of which was me.  Now this guy was not light by any means.  Plus every night he squirmed more forcefully and added more fake blood which made it very hard to get a firm grip on the stretcher.  But I looked across from me to the other soldier who silently encouraged me to hold on and helped me believe I could do it.  It’s like a player who has been struggling offensively but is being constantly supported and encouraged.  Sometimes that’s all you need to succeed.

EXECUTION

Have you seen a flawlessly executed alley oop?  Youtube these combos for examples: Blake Griffin/Chris Paul and Lebron James/Dwyane Wade.  No one has perfected the art of the alley oop like these guys have.  You can practice these to a point but you can’t really prepare for the in game obstacles that present themselves.  You have to improvise.  And because of that, it’s crucial that both players are on the same page.  I was doing Wizard of Oz as a Winkie and one of the scenes I was in was a big fight scene.  With real daggers.  They had been dulled but were still no less dangerous.  This scene consisted of quick movements and fight choreography.  A piece of cake in rehearsal.  But when those lights come on, you hear the audience and the adrenaline starts pumping, you have to be much more alert and focused in that scene and make sure the timing and everything else flows seamlessly.  One misstep can be the difference between exciting entertainment or an embarrassing disaster.

INTERMISSION 

Halftime.  Intermission.  Two different words that have a universal meaning that says, break time!  I always enjoyed those times between Act 1 and 2.  It was a time to rest, go over lines, eat, change costumes, socialize, or in my case, hop the fence at the nearby Christian school and shoot hoops with some like minded cast members.  All in all, it was a time to relax.  Many athletes use this time to go over film or plays, or retape a stubborn ankle that refuses to heal.  And it’s an opportunity to bond with your teammates.  Musical theater is no different.

     And after the 2nd half or 2nd act, when the bright lights have been shut off, you still have your fellow actors, your teammates.  You all become a second family and make memories that will keep you connected well after the last note or sound of the buzzer has pierced the air.

Josh

its been a while but i’m back!!!

     The NBA is in the midst of a painful lockout and the NFL has just recently righted the ship.  But while these two sports are working out the kinks, you should partake in a sport that is cruising along smoothly in the middle of a great season.  I know some of you think I’m talking about baseball, but fortunately for all of us, I’m not.

     I’m talking about the wide world of track and field.  Now before you say anything, I know the Olympics aren’t until next year but it’s actually happening right now! In fact you can tune in to the World Championships going on next week.  But now you’re probably wondering, is there anybody I would know?  Well let me throw one name at you.  Usain Bolt.  Ok now I’m starting to see some looks of recognition.  Here’s the names of some other present track stars: Allyson Felix, Tyson Gay, Jeremy Wariner, Lolo Jones, Asafa Powell, and Carmelita Jeter.  These are some stars of just the track.  I haven’t even mentioned the stars of the field events.

     For me, there are two things that make this sport so compelling to watch.  I firmly believe that track & field shows athletes in their purest form.  In basketball and football for example, you have superb athletes who can run, jump, and throw with the best of them.  But they don’t necessarily have to excel at all those aspects.  They have other attributes they can rely on to keep them competitive.

     Most track and field athletes don’t have that luxury.  They focus on that one skill, whether it be running, jumping, or throwing.  And they have to because, unlike most other sports, they don’t really have teammates to rely on to help get a win if they’re having an off night.  Not including relays, track is one of the few sports that focuses almost exclusively on individual performance.  So as a result, they train to be the best on the planet, not just the league.

     The other thing I love about this sport is that it’s truly international.  It’s just fantastic to see so many different countries represented and knowing that not only are these athletes trying to win but they’re proudly representing their country every time they set foot on the track.  Everyone talks about the big sports: basketball, football, baseball, and hockey.  But none of them are nowhere near track and field when it comes to global representation.  You get countries from the U.S. to Ethiopia to New Zealand and no matter how different each country is, the competitors are equals when they put on that uniform.  It’s always a beautiful sight to see all these different countrymen and women gathered for one common purpose: to win and take pride in their country while doing so.  Now that’s a world class athlete in the truest sense.

Josh Riley

30 day basketball challenge: day 30!

Something random that you like that is basketball related.

WELL IT MAY NOT BE RANDOM BUT I JUST LOVE GOING TO A PARK OR A GYM AND HEARING THE BOUNCE OF THE BALL ON THE HARDWOOD OR THE ASPHAULT….I KNOW IM A NERD BUT ITS A GREAT SOUND LOL

30 day basketball challenge: day 29

A basketball secret/confession you have.

MY VERY FIRST BASKET IN A GAME HAPPENED WHEN I WAS IN 2ND GRADE…AND I SHOT IT AT THE OTHER TEAM’S HOOP LOL

30 day basketball challenge: day 28

What you think is the best rivalry:

by far.

What Will Make LeBron a Champion?

When LeBron James thunders down the lane it looks as if he’s parting the sea of defenders, like a modern day Moses, en route to a rim shattering dunk.  However, the ability to part things isn’t the only commonality between LeBron and Moses.  They also both have achieved unparalleled individual greatness.  Among other things, Moses parted the Red Sea, he was a prince of Egypt, and he received the Ten Commandments.  LeBron James has won two MVP awards, led the Cavaliers to the finals in just his fourth year, and earned the title of arguably the game’s best player.  The greatest thing these two men share is the desire to lead their people to the promised land.  For LeBron, it’s leading his teammates to an NBA championship.  For Moses, it was leading the Israelites to the land of Canaan, the land that God promised them.

               They both fell short of their goal.  It wasn’t because of a lack of ability; instead it was their attitude that failed them.  When Moses was leading his people through the desert they quickly became parched.  So God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would pour out.  But Moses had become increasingly frustrated and upset with the people constantly complaining about the lack of food and water, even after they had been provided with these very things.  So in his frustration, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff.  Because of this direct disobedience to God, he was not allowed to set foot in the promised land.  Fast forward over 2000 years and LeBron James is about to suffer a similar fate.  With about three minutes left in game six, LeBron decided to settle for second place.  And that was displayed plainly in his body language.  Like he had in those previous fourth quarters, he showed his frustration by becoming timid.  He jacked up ill advised threes, became allergic to the paint, and stood around dribbling the ball while the offense got stale.

                I’m sure James would be the first to say emphatically that that wasn’t the case and he very well may be right.  But how many superstars have you seen disappear like that in pressure situations and still win?  Kobe Bryant would not have five rings if he didn’t bare his teeth like some rabid animal and hit shot after cold-blooded shot.  And not even a high fever could keep Dirk Nowitzki from being unstoppable in the fourth quarter.  Those guys refuse to let their teammates down and they both firmly believe that as long as the clock is ticking, they have a chance to win.  I didn’t get that from LeBron.  But I think this is a blessing in disguise for him.  He had the opportunity to see how a team truly operates and Dirk showed the type of leadership that’s needed to inspire and empower his teammates.

               Now unlike Moses, who was too old to have another shot at the land of Canaan, LeBron has a chance to learn from what this season has shown him about character and put it to use in his continued quest to gain entrance to the promised land.  But is he willing to accept the challenge?  That’s a question only he can answer.

reachhard:

Look, I love the NBA and all, but seriously this lockout is flat out ridiculous.  You mean to tell me that some rich fools can’t work it out and compromise when in the end, they’re all millionaires anyway?  So wait, lemme get this straight – even after taking a pay cut, the lowest paid player in the NBA is still making about seven times more than the average US yearly income of $50K?  I have no sympathy at all for both the players and the owners.  None.  When these dudes are “downgrading” from a Bentley to a Lexus next year to cut costs, cuz Lord knows, times gonna be hard for them, just know that I’m usually saving up two months in advance to be able to afford a ticket to watch the Lakers at the Staples Center.   And when these dudes are going down to just two bottles of Ace of Spades Rose whenever they in the club in order to “cut corners”, just know that the equipment managers, trainers, team and arena staff that supported the players and owners throughout the season will be penny pinching and trying to find ways to support their families while there is absolutely no NBA activity going on.  Now at the very least, this lockout will be depriving fans like me, the pleasure of watching NBA basketball for the foreseeable future until an agreement is reached.  And mind you, these are the very fans that make it possible for these owners to make money off these NBA teams and for these grown men to be paid millions for playing a child’s game.  All because some rich dudes fighting over a pile of money.  C’mon man, that’s like two people fighting over some potato salad at the buffet.  In the end, ya’ll gonna eat anyway.

reachhard:

Look, I love the NBA and all, but seriously this lockout is flat out ridiculous.  You mean to tell me that some rich fools can’t work it out and compromise when in the end, they’re all millionaires anyway?  So wait, lemme get this straight – even after taking a pay cut, the lowest paid player in the NBA is still making about seven times more than the average US yearly income of $50K?  I have no sympathy at all for both the players and the owners.  None.  When these dudes are “downgrading” from a Bentley to a Lexus next year to cut costs, cuz Lord knows, times gonna be hard for them, just know that I’m usually saving up two months in advance to be able to afford a ticket to watch the Lakers at the Staples Center.   And when these dudes are going down to just two bottles of Ace of Spades Rose whenever they in the club in order to “cut corners”, just know that the equipment managers, trainers, team and arena staff that supported the players and owners throughout the season will be penny pinching and trying to find ways to support their families while there is absolutely no NBA activity going on.  Now at the very least, this lockout will be depriving fans like me, the pleasure of watching NBA basketball for the foreseeable future until an agreement is reached.  And mind you, these are the very fans that make it possible for these owners to make money off these NBA teams and for these grown men to be paid millions for playing a child’s game.  All because some rich dudes fighting over a pile of money.  C’mon man, that’s like two people fighting over some potato salad at the buffet.  In the end, ya’ll gonna eat anyway.

30 day basketball challenge: day 27

Another sports team that plays in one of your favorite teams’ arena (e.g., the Clippers at Staples Center if you like the Lakers, or the Blackhawks if you like the Bulls, the Flyers if you like the Sixers, etc.) If any.

30 day basketball challenge: day 26

Do you like the Eastern conference or the Western conference better?

the west is much more competitive but the east is coming up!