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I have this strange love/hate relationship with LeBron. Let me clarify, it’s not a relationship because I don’t know him personally.

But you know what I’m saying…

LeBron is the best player of his generation (there may be some debate of where his generation begins). Saying he’s one of the best players to ever grace the hardwood is like saying water is wet. My problem with LeBron is that everything seems so fabricated. That could be the pessimism of living in this artificial social media culture that is tempering my opinion. There are very few moments that feels honest, in a basketball context. His comradery with his teammates all seems posed and corny.

Then there is philanthropist LeBron…

This is a side of LeBron that he is making more public in recent years. He has begun to speak out on social issues and he not only gives money but gives his time to endeavors that he’s passionate about. He is the ultimate feel-good story. His calling “45” a bum was easily one of the best sports moments in 2017. He carried that momentum in 2018 by serving Laura Ingraham an L during All-Star Weekend. He has taken the mantle of being socially conscious in a world that would rather spend time creating a perfect Instagram life than fighting for actual change. This same world has been fragmented by race and class while we live in a created social media world. Instead of being the next Jordan in that aspect, he chose to be the next Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

Then the trade deadline happened…

A team that was pretty much overhauled in the offseason. The mini banana boat crew didn’t work in Cleveland because well – D. Wade is old, hurt, and has lost a step. He often seemed lost in the offense and LBJ wanted Batman and Robin but instead, he got Art and Ben (old guys from Cocoon). Unfortunately, this isn’t a movie so there wasn’t a fountain of youth to be found. He never seems to be happy with his team unless they win a championship.

He continually holds franchises hostage with the refusal to sign a long-term contract which makes him a never-ending sports story. There is a LeBron will sign with ____ story daily on every sports outlet. I can’t be the only person tired of the “Where is the LeBron going “ topics.

It’s annoying. Actually, it’s obnoxious. It’s a self-centered desire to drive sports news.  That’s not to say that sports media isn’t complicit in this.

LeBron is a player whose talent is undeniable but he has an insatiable yearning to be liked and loved. I imagine when you’ve always been “the man” you are probably forever searching for that “real love”. That search is what motivates him to curate his manicured image where even candid moments seem to be a part of the LBJ Reality Show. He has led a scandal-free career and I’m sure that is not by accident. His biggest pox is the fact that he held a television special to announce where he is going in Free Agency.

Overall I love his game. He’s Scottie Pippen 2.0 — bigger, stronger, faster and way more gifted. I was always a huge Pippen fan. He sees the floor like a new generation Magic Johnson. He is a force with the rock whenever he feels like it — like a Wilt in his prime. LBJ makes other players seem small. I’ll never forget the last 2 minutes of Game 5 in the playoffs where he shut down then MVP Derrick Rose. Who can forget the Finals block on Steph or the run-down block of Iggy. He can be so dominant at points that we internally wonder if we can adjust the sliders to make the game a little more difficult for him.

That’s probably why it annoys most of us his about his yearly whining about needing new teammates or incessant flopping.

LeBron is on the Mt. Rushmore of NBA Greats. He’s also one of the most annoying diva personalities to ever grace the hardwood floor. I’m just over his player antics – from the flopping to his fear of commitment to an NBA team. He’s not Jordan or Kobe as he shouldn’t be – but man how great would it be if the LBJ stories were actually just about his basketball and philanthropy?

I want to love him like I love other players’ game I admire. But I can’t. It like being served Chinese food by a white person. It looks good, it may even smell right, but it’s not right – something isn’t right. When all is said done, you eat it, but you walk away feeling unfulfilled.

 

Yeah, Ben is…just good. Truth hurts sometimes. You remember when Lebron was in Miami and he would try to hit game winners by shooting a jumper? People kept begging him to drive to the lane, be more aggressive, get closer take a better shot. Well, it looks like someone was listening, it just wasn’t Lebron.

It was Ben Simmons.

Ben Simmons plays like he believes his athleticism will allow him to get whatever shot he wants on the floor. On most nights in the regular season, he’s right. He gained confidence by playing a diminished Miami team that managed to win a game with Dwayne Wade’s half rotten carcass making big plays.

Now he’s in the second round and he notices that the lane is clogged. He can’t play bully ball against someone like Marcus Morris because of his size and strength. Passing lanes are diminished because everyone in the arena knows Simmons’ worst kept secret.

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Coward. Punk. Front Runner. “Can’t beat em, join em”

These are all the things Kevin Durant heard last summer. People went as far as questioning his competitive spirit and even his manhood. Why would KD do something like that? It’s something so Anti-Jordan, it’s so, so, LeBron. The fact of the matter is KD saw the landscape of the NBA. In order for OKC to be competitive in the upcoming years after him and Russ signing extension is that they need one more player. Preferably a stretch 4 or a real 2 Guard. Neither of those types of players were coming to that market. Could they convince Paul George to come OKC, not likely. Could they make a move for DeMarcus Cousins? They really didn’t have the pieces to pull a trade like that off. If you step back and look at the Thunder, they are who they are for the foreseeable future. The roster as designed cannot beat the Warriors and would not be able to beat the Cavs in a 7-game series. 

If you want to win what do you do? You go someplace where you can win. Using that as qualification there are only a couple teams that are seriously competing for championship: Golden State, Cleveland, San Antonio, Clippers. Everyone else are pretenders or more than one player away. If he is seriously about winning a championship where else can he go? The choices were limited. Either he wants to win or he wants to look like he wants to. So, he leaves and is in The NBA Finals for the 2nd Time in career and is playing out of his mind. 

As great as players as Steph and Kyrie are there is a huge gap between them and KD and LeBron. It’s like watching Superman and Darkseid battle in the air while Batman is solving The Ridder’s puzzles in Gotham City. There is just a chasm of greatness separating those two sets of players. While both sets have played great  (kyrie not really…yet) — KD and LeBron are in another stratosphere. As of this posting Golden State is up 2-0 and Cleveland is looking completely overmatched. But to the Cavs defense — we’ve heard this song before, twice actually. 

The series doesn’t begin until the home team loses. It’s cliché but it’s true. This Finals series is about Legacy for LeBron, Steph and especially Kevin Durant.  While he is known as a scorer his defense has been what’s been on center stage this series. He finished Game 2 with 5 blocks and had to play the 4 and 5 during the 2nd half because of Draymond Green’s foul trouble. While he struggles with cool nicknames (The Servant bruh, glad that one didn’t stick) he is not struggling with the lights of competing for a championship. While there will be, naysayers — his Finals performance is proving he is right where he belongs; On the big stage, with the biggest name, competing for the biggest prize. 

 

I’m not going to waste words here. These are the best two teams in the NBA by far and if you watched the terrible playoffs you knew this matchup was inevitable. The Cavaliers have a matchup problem. Kevin Durant is a problem that they don’t really have an answer for. They can throw LeBron at him, possibly Kevin Love but that’s it. If they are guarding a scoring dynamo like KD most of the game their offense will suffer. I don’t think Ty Lue would be foolish enough to put JR Smith on him. Even though LeBron is the best player in the world there is multiple people they can throw at him. They can throw the whole starting lineup at him except Steph to slow him down.

Apart of me thinks the Cavs will pull this out in 6

But my final prediction — Warriors in 5. Average margin of victory 15 points.

MVP: Kevin Durant

It’s not really a brave prediction. I think KD wants this. He wants this ring. If he played more games this season he could have been a contender for the MVP. Plus, I like his game better. So there’s that.

In case you forgot, on June 25th 2009 the dancing machine who re-invented entertainment, Michael Jackson, died. 3 days later, during the red-carpet pre-show of the BET Awards, CNN’s Don Lemon briefly interviewed Joe Jackson, Michael’s father. In a matter of minutes Joe Jackson confirmed, to the 10 million plus tuned in, how self-centered he is.

The second question Lemon asked Joe Jackson during the interview was, “The last couple of days, I know it’s been really tough for you guys?”

Joe Jackson replied with one word, coldly he said, “And.”

His reply shocked no one familiar with the Jackson family saga, but with each subsequent question Joe Jackson continued to show his egocentrism.

Lemon continued by asking Joe Jackson, “Is there anything you would like to share with the world about your son and about his legacy?”

Joe Jackson responded to this question by calling on a publicist to read a statement prepared for Joe Jackson and the Jackson family. The moment was awkward, and begged the question, why would a father need to have prepared statement to address the love he had for his son, and the impact his son had on the world?

Further into the interview Lemon asks Joe Jackson, “Do you know anything, Mr. Jackson about funeral arrangements?”

Joe Jackson replied, “Not yet we haven’t gotten to that yet,” and without pause he introduces Don Lemon to his business partner, Marshall Thompson of the Chi-Lites, to gleefully promote his record company, Ranch Records. It was an ego moment reminiscent of the chip on Kanye West’s shoulder.

On April 30th 2017, ESPN senior writer Darren Rovell reported that the three major shoe brands, Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour who traditionally compete for top NBA prospects to endorse their products, would not be offering an endorsement deal to UCLA star, and the #1 or #2 overall projected prospect in the 2017 NBA draft, Lonzo Ball. As unlikely as it is for a superstar College Basketball player destined to be one of the top two picks in the NBA draft to not be offered an endorsement deal by the big three shoe companies, the reason why, is equally perplexing.

It’s because of Lonzo Ball’s father LaVar Ball, the Joe Jackson of Basketball. Rovell quotes Lavar Ball in his ESPN article as having said, “We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal, we’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

Now that’s ego. A really big ego. A Joe Jacksonesque ego.

LaVar Ball in several media appearances has promoted his Big Baller Brand, an athletic apparel company, he hopes will become a household name like the Jordan brand. LaVar Ball’s attempt to leverage his son’s college basketball success into a profitable brand that will inevitably benefit himself and his family isn’t ridiculous in theory. However, when you consider that Lonzo Ball hasn’t played a single minute in the NBA it’s clear how foolish and costly LaVar Ball’s egocentrism has already been to Lonzo Ball.

Last year’s #1 NBA draft pick Ben Simmons received a 5 year $20 Million dollar endorsement deal with Nike, according to USA Today. On May 4th 2017, LaVar Ball and his Big Baller Brand debuted Lonzo Ball’s signature shoe the ZO2 Prime with a price tag of $495. A pair of Nike Air Jordan’s have never been released with a price tag of $495, and Michael Jordan is universally recognized as the greatest basketball player ever. In addition, Big Baller Brand would have to sell more than 40 thousand ZO2’s to equal Ben Simmons endorsement deal with Nike, and that is highly unlikely, especially if you’re in it alone. Lonzo can thank LaVar’s ego for that.

The only thing LaVar Ball’s egocentrism has succeeded in doing thus far is making his son Lonzo Ball’s transition from College basketball player to professional basketball player more difficult than it already is. Lonzo Ball is already a pariah before his new unknown teammates get the chance to meet him.

When LaVar Ball makes such outlandish statements as, he can beat Michael Jordan because Jordan would have been to slow and too small to guard him one on one, or when he says his son (Lonzo Ball) will be better than Magic Johnson, and that his son (Lonzo Ball) is already better than future Hall of Famer Steph Curry, that’s barbershop dialogue. Those statements are not meant to be taken seriously. However, when Lavar Ball makes those statements in an interview or via twitter they get him the attention his ego craves. It is a masterful deployment of the Kardashian business model, always seek the spotlight, watch the dummies follow, and laugh all the way to the bank.

What isn’t funny, however is when others pay the price for Lavar Ball’s ego.

Stephan Gilling was the head basketball coach at Chino Hills High School were LaMelo and LiAngleo Ball, LaVar’s other sons, played this past season. Gilling lead the school to a 30-3 record in his first year, but despite their success Gilling was fired. Gilling’s crime is believed to have been an ongoing feud with LaVar Ball.

Gilling through a twitter video, as reported by For The Win of USA Today Sports, announced his relief in being fired from his position at Chino Hill High School on April 29th 2017. When someone, anyone, announces relief at losing their source of income that means that particular source of income cost more than it was worth.

For The Win reports that Gilling and LaVar Ball’s relationship went sour during the Tarkanian Classic Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas in December 2016. Chino Hills was playing Roosevelt High, and by halftime they were down by 12. At halftime, Gilling instructed his players to stop double teaming Roosevelt’s shooters and to stay in man-to-man defense in the second half, the report says.

His players listened and won the game 76-68, but during the entire second half of that game, For The Win reports, Lavar Ball kept yelling for Chino Hills players to double team Roosevelt from the stands contradicting Gilling’s instructions.

In line with his egocentrism, Lavar Ball following the victory over Roosevelt, as reported by For The Win, was upset and confronted coach Gilling for instructing his team against Ball’s wishes. Gilling replied that he was doing what was necessary to win the game, which they did, but that explanation wasn’t sufficient for LaVar Ball who then headed into the Chino Hills locker room, after Gilling asked him not to.

Gilling requested that LaVar Ball leave the team locker room, and Ball refused, as reported by For The Win. Gilling was forced to have the team leave the locker room, and head back to the hotel, LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball were the only players who didn’t follow the coach back to the team’s hotel at that time.

The report by For the Win also goes on to detail how LaVar Ball, after the locker room incident, went to the hotel and talked to the team on the 18th floor and advised them that he was running things and not Coach Gilling.

For the Win writer Andrew Joseph quotes Coach Gilling describing the after-tournament hotel incident this way, “An assistant coach comes up to me and tells me that he sees LaVar rallying the team up, I guess he got them out of their rooms on the 18th floor and tells the team that it was his system that won. That we’re doing what he says. ‘I run Chino Hills! I run UCLA, about to run the NBA!’”

That is ego. A really big ego, especially considering LaVar Ball averaged a measly two points in College during his playing days.

Joseph goes on in his report to quote Coach Gilling as saying the following regarding the team chemistry after the hotel incident, “So, throughout the rest of the year, we had games that I would not talk to them (LaMelo and LiAngelo), The kids looked at me different. Not all of them, but some. They understood and knew they were caught in the middle of it all. It was sad for the kids because it was from that point on that they didn’t know who to listen to. It was also noticeable that things were being said at home, and brought back to the gym in a way of, like, they’re not listening to the coaches.”

To be clear I am not critiquing LaVar Ball for wanting the best for his son’s or being involved in their lives, and nobody should have an issue with LaVar Ball encouraging or even requiring his sons to work hard, and protecting them from the inevitable collegiate and professional vultures who will pick their carcass bare if not checked, but clearly LaVar Ball has reached a point where what he is doing is no longer about LaMelo, LiAngelo, and Lonzo Ball. Through his actions, not just his cartoonish proclamations, LaVar has most assuredly scorched bridges his sons have yet to cross.

LaVar Ball through his actions is going to force, LaMelo, LiAngelo, and Lonzo Ball to muster the will to write LaVar out of their lives. The same way Michael Jackson, because of his father’s actions, wrote Joe Jackson out of his will.

If, and I believe most likely when, that happens, LaVar Ball will become an opponent to his son’s, an opponent they can’t afford to lose too, because it will mean the end of their careers, and could potentially jeopardize the families they will eventually develop for themselves.

It is at that point LaVar Ball will be left with his ego, him and his ego, his really big Joe Jacksonesque ego.

 

You can find Deonte’s Podcast on Youtube: Run It Back Radio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog – Mark Twain

As cliché as size metaphors are in sports there isn’t one more apropos than that one for Isaiah Thomas III. The one man show he put on last night against the Wizards is something that has been done by few. I have donned him officially the Young Mamba. He dropped 53 in the New Garden. And of those 53, 29 points in the 4th Quarter and overtime. You know who has scored more than that in a Celtic playoff game: Hondo (John Havlicek). That’s it.  He has the most points in a playoff game since Allen Iverson dropped the double nickel in 2003. He did it all with a new tooth to boot.There wasn’t a chance he was going to shy away from the big shot. He wanted the ball, he wanted to be the hero. He sought the spotlight and it wasn’t too bright on him. While this wasn’t a win or go home game — this was in the playoffs against a quality Wizards team that has been giving them the business all night. 

Now watch how quickly I drop 50
I don’t like playing, niggas can’t stick me – Jay – Z

Game 2 of the Celtics/Wizards series was a legendary battle of the point gawds with IT coming out the victor. When the 4th Quarter hit he went on ‘extra grind’ and put the Celtics on his back and carried them to victory. There is a backstory to this — IT’s sister who died 2 weeks ago, last night would have been her 23rd birthday. He has the weight of grief that he is carrying as well as a historic franchise. That nor the Wizards defense was enough stop or even slow him down. Scott Brooks looked inept on how to coach and get his team to execute on pick and rolls. Gortat on Young Mamba is a mismatch 10/10 times. 

There have been discussion on if a 6’0 (maybe) player can lead a team to a championship. If anyone can it’s him but he does need someone else on that team because the flip side to this story is they need another consistent perimeter scorer. Avery Bradley is a decent shooter and an above average defender but he missed a lot of open shots in the 4th Quarter. In a game that was physical they were unable to get the ball to Horford consistently in the high or low post down the stretch. 

The coronation of Young Mamba has begun. He and Russell Westbrook are the closest people we have to Kobe in the league now. He’s a straight assassin and when it’s time to step on the necks of his competition he does not hesitate. That is how you build a legacy — that’s how you become historic, Young Mamba is carving his path to greatness one clutch performance at a time.