Off the court, Lebron James is greater than Michael Jordan (6/2/17)

While Lebron James may not have surpassed Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball on the basketball court (well, at least in my opinion), it is a different story, off the court.

Both Michael Jordan and Lebron James are icons of their time.

During the 90’s, Jordan was must see TV. His sneakers were top sellers (and are still to this day), he was an endorsement magnet for commercials and advertisements, and he was the greatest basketball player in the world.

However, ‘His Airness’ never used his platform to get involved in any political affairs or social issues, at least not until recently.

Lebron will be the first to admit that he wants to be like Mike. And to be fair, Lebron is a lot like Mike. He, too, has amassed enormous wealth and fame, and is also the greatest basketball player in the world (sorry, it’s not Russell Westbrook or James Harden).

Yet, while Lebron might not have had the career, at least so far, equal to that Michael Jordan had, it is undeniable that his impact on the black community, as well as his impact politically, is much greater than Jordan’s.

Michael Jordan declined to endorse Democrat Mayor Harvey Grant in his bid in the 1990 and 1996 election for Senate against known racist and bigoted Republican Jesse Holmes. Jordan famously stated, “Republicans buy sneakers too” implying that he didn’t want to lose valuable sneaker sales by potentially alienating Republicans.

Jordan took a lot of flack for his comment, particularly from the black community, with some African Americans feeling that he was more concerned with money than racial fairness and civil rights.

On the other hand, Lebron James has been much more active politically, endorsing Hillary Clinton in this past election, claiming that he wanted to build a better America for his kids. He even spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

James has also been involved heavily in civil rights activism, publicly supporting the Black Lives Matter protests, even wearing the famous “I Can’t Breathe” warmup shirt after the death of Eric Garner. At the ESPY Awards last summer, he and a few other fellow NBA players, spoke out on the need for political activism. He has also done much for his community of Akron in Ohio, donating millions of dollars to public services and helping impoverished children.

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Lebron speaking at one of his foundation events after proposing to build a new school in his hometown. (Pic: Ohio News)

So, why do I bring this up now?

Well, Lebron James has been in the news recently, and while it might be because of the devastating 113-91 loss to the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, it is also because Lebron James was recently the victim of a racist hate crime.

Earlier in the week, James’ Los Angeles home was vandalised with racist graffiti. The “n-word” had been spray-painted on the front gate of his home. James spoke about the incident in a press conference before the finals.

“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough,” James stated.

Lebron also referenced the death of Emmett Till and spoke about how Till’s mom wanted to show the world about the true horrors of racism. He spoke about his concerns for his children and the world they are growing up in.

While I have been a little bit concerned about athletes taking political stances in the past, Lebron’s messages on race that he spoke about during the press conference are extremely important. Lebron not only showed that racism is still very much alive, but that even successful, famous people can be targets of racism.

That’s a big deal, because for a lot of us, it’s hard to imagine these super star celebrities as regular people. While many of us associate racism in America with the lower class, Lebron reminded us that all African-Americans, regardless of social class or celebrity, are still  fighting racism today.

Lebron’s statement, “Being black in America is tough” is powerful because it is so true. Even with the world appearing to be more and more accepting, racial hatred still exists and surfaces too often.  While America has certainly come a long way, it’s important to remember that we still have a long way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why March Madness is more important for America this year (3/17/17)

The 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament is underway this year.

At first glance, “March Madness” seems the same this year; brackets being busted within the first early games, students and coworkers crowded around TV screens and laptops at either school or work, and many wishing they hadn’t bet any money.

But this year, ever so subtly, something is different.

For Americans these days, everything seems to have to do with politics. Award shows have turned into political stages, where famous celebrities have not been afraid to speak their mind. Advertisements and tv- shows have increasingly turned to political satire. These days, politics dominate the headlines, and it is clear that in today’s America, every act can be considered a political act.

Sports, for the most part, has usually been an escape from the politics of the world. The idea of people getting together and either watching or playing a game they love is essential to the American culture. Sports is a release for most people – something that people watch or play just to have fun.

But recently, even the world of sports has become increasingly political. From athletes protesting the national anthem, to several NBA and NFL players criticizing the president, and arguably the most famous athlete in the world campaigning for Hillary Clinton, sports has stopped becoming the “release” from the other pressures of the world.

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Lebron James, arguably the most famous athlete in the world, was not shy about voicing his political opinion during the 2016 election season. (Pic: SI)

This is why, this year, March Madness is ever so important.

The tournament is a reminder that, even in this ever so partisan and divisive world, we can still all come together and watch basketball.

For the next month, Americans will not have to hear an anti-Donald Trump speech inside a stadium, but rather, they can watch the best colleges in the nation face off in the biggest tournament of the year.

We’ll jump up and down and scream when the team we have picked to advance hits a game-winning shot. We’ll cover our faces with our hands and berate ourselves when the college team we support is eliminated. But most importantly, we’re going to enjoy a sport for what it is supposed to be: fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More athletes protesting during the National Anthem (9/11/16)

America is at the top echelon in world sports. Just last month, the world witnessed the U.S. come out on top at the Rio Olympics, with the highest medal and gold medal counts. The professional athletes who play in leagues within the U.S. are highly blessed with the opportunities that the country provides.

Recently, however, several athletes have publicly expressed their protest on the playing field.  Most notably, Colin Kaepernick, NFL quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, has made his”protest” during the singing of the National Anthem. Kaepernick, who at first sat throughout the playing of the  National Anthem, is now kneeling during the playing of the song.  Kaepernick was heavily criticized for these actions, but despite this, Kaepernick has stated he would continue his protest until “oppression towards black people and people of color” stops.

Several NFL players, including Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, and Kaepernick’s teammate, Eric Reid, have joined Kaepernick in protest. Other athletes, including U.S. women’s soccer player, Megan Rapinoe, have also protested during the national anthem.

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Eric Reid (left) and Colin Kaepernick (right) kneel during the National Anthem at a preseason game in early September. (Pic: Getty Images)

These athletes received a lot of criticism for their protests. Many felt that while Kaepernick’s reasons behind the protest were valid, he could have found other, more respectful ways to protest. Kaepernick’s fame and fortune are the fruits of the opportunities that America has given him. Many felt that Kaepernick shouldn’t be disrespecting the very country that gave him these opportunities.

The thing is, we, and the athletes who are protesting, live in America, where no matter how ridiculous or heinous a protest is, people have the right to protest. The right to protest is based on the constitutional right of free speech.  While the exercise of free speech may come with negative consequences, there can be no denying that people have the constitutional right to express themselves.

While I am not a proponent of athletes sitting or kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem, I do recognize their right to protest. I suggest that these athletes express their views on social media, start a fund or campaign, or join a social cause.  Personally, I will do what I believe every American SHOULD do during the National Anthem.  I will stand tall and sing out loud in celebration of this great country.

Interesting Players to watch at the 2016 U.S. Open (8/28/16)

Once again, the U.S. Open is nearly upon us, as tennis fans get ready to watch the last Grand Slam of the 2016 calendar year. This year, however, Roger Federer will not be participating due to injury, and his absence will leave a considerable mark in this year’s Championships.

Many interesting stories dominate the headlines of this year’s U.S. Open: the race for the number one spot between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber, Andy Murray’s quest to finally get a second grand slam this year, and the impact recent silver-medalist Juan Martin Del Potro will have in the men’s main draw.

Along with some interesting storylines, there are also quite a few interesting players to watch (different from the main stars, as they’re always interesting to watch). Here are some of the interesting players on both the men’s and the women’s side to take note of this year.

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Mens: Mackenzie Mcdonald 

Mackenzie “Mackie” Mcdonald will make his Grand Slam debut at this year’s U.S. Open. This year, after an incredible season at UCLA (in which he won both the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships), Mackie decided to go pro. Possessing very solid groundstrokes, great movement, and a very smooth gameplay, it will be interesting to see how an accomplished college tennis player like Mackie does in his first Grand Slam. Standing at 5’10 and weighing around 150 pounds, Mackie is on the small side for most men’s professionals, but his strong mental composure makes him much bigger on the court,

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Mackie lining up a forehand. (Pic: Daily Bruin)

 

Womens: Monica Puig

Monica Puig is a national hero. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Puig won the Olympic Gold medal, defeating the No. 2 player in the world, Angelique Kerber. Representing Puerto Rico, Puig’s gold medal was the first in the small nation’s history and just its ninth overall. Puig’s brilliant tennis and fighting spirit were displayed throughout the match, as she fired powerful groundstroke after groundstroke at Kerber. This year’s U.S. Open is a chance for Puig to show the world that the Gold medal she won was no fluke. In the same quarter as world No.3 Gabrielle Muguruza, Puig’s journey will be a fascinating story to follow.

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Puig’s backhand gave opponents all sorts of trouble in the Olympics. (Pic: Getty Images South America)

 

Mens: Michael Mmoh 

Another promising young U.S. star in the making, Michael Mmoh, joins Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, and Stefan Kozlov as young American tennis players who are destined for greatness. Currently 18 years old, Mmoh won the 2016 Boy’s National Tennis Championship at Kalamazoo in early August. A strong young player, with good groundstrokes and great feel at the net, Mmoh will be a fun player to watch at this year’s open. He faces a tough opponent, Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, in the first round, but Mmoh will have the American crowd supporting him the entire way.

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 Michael Mmoh striking a backhand. (Pic: Getty Images)

 

Caroline Wozniacki 

Caroline Wozniacki has had a tough year. In the early hardcourt season, she struggled to find form, and later on during the clay court season, an ankle injury kept her out of the French Open. Wozniacki’s ranking slid to 51, and, at 26 years old, she is no longer one of the younger stars on tour. At her best, she is the No. 1 player we saw a few years ago, who lit up the tennis world with her movement and charming personality. Wozniacki’s two Grand Slam Final appearances have both been at the U.S. Open, so hopefully she can find her form again.

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Wozniacki hopes to find good form at this year’s U.S. Open (Pic: WTA)

 

Good luck to these guys at the tournament!

 

 

 

Despite being a U.S. Soccer legend, Hope Solo remains a controversial figure (8/7/16)

In their first match of the 2016 Rio Olympics, the United States Women’s Soccer Team clawed and fought their way to a 1-0 victory over France. Carli Lloyd scored the lone goal for the U.S.,  tapping in a rebound in the 63rd minute. However, it was Hope Solo, the United States goalkeeper, who was the hero of the game for the U.S., making save after save and consistently denying the French efforts to score.  Hope reminded us why she is the top goalkeeper in the world, and certainly one of the the game’s greatest keeper ever.

However, greatness, often comes with controversy, and with Hope Solo, it is no different. With two Olympic gold medals (possibly a third in Rio), a World Cup title, and numerous other awards, Hope has become the definition of greatness in women’s soccer. On the field, no one can reasonably deny that Solo has been a figurehead for U.S. women’s soccer and is one of the game’s greatest.  However,  her reputation off the field is much more polarized.

Several incidents off the field have caused Solo to become a controversial figure. There was her arrest, in 2014, on charges of domestic abuse.  Solo’s words to police officers on the night of her arrest received significant media headlines, and the media coverage of the fight between her and two family members portrayed Hope as an angry and violent person. Hope received a one-match ban from the National Women’s Soccer League, sparking a debate about a possible double standard between genders regarding domestic violence. While Solo’s charges were dropped, they were reinstated in October 2015.

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Solo’s domestic violence case casted a dark cloud over both her legacy, and the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.  (Pic: Reuters)

More recently, Solo became involved in more controversy right before the 2016 Rio Olympic games. Solo posted pictures of insect repellents and “Zika” repellent spray on Instagram, claiming she “didn’t want to take any chances,” and that she “knew of what was going on in Brazil.” While Solo later defended her comments, fans attending the Olympics were offended and, in the United States’ opening game, they booed her and shouted “Zika” every time she had the ball. After the match, Solo stated that she knew the fans were booing her, and that the jeers did and would not affect her at all.

Hope Solo came to Rio with one goal: to win another gold medal for the United States. A gold medal would certainly add to Solo’s plethora of awards.  However, controversy appears to accompany Solo where she goes.  Solo has been an inspiration for girls, women and athletes all over the United States, but her numerous controversies are starting to overshadow her accomplishments in her illustrious soccer career.

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All that glitters is gold? (Pic: USA Today)

 

 

 

 

 

Wimbledon Final Preview and Prediction (7/916)

As the Wimbledon Championships draws to a close yet again, only one main event is left. That event is the Men’s Championship match, which will include players Milos Raonic and Andy Murray. Here is my prediction for the Men’s Final tomorrow.

Milos Raonic at Wimbledon 2016

Raonic has had an exceptional Wimbledon this year, making it to his first Grand Slam Final of his career. Raonic overcame David Goffin in a Fourth Round match in which he was down two sets. It was the first time Raonic had ever done that in his career. Perhaps even more impressively, Raonic took down living legend Roger Federer in the semifinals, in a match in which he was also losing. Raonic held his nerve against Federer, and played incredible tennis in the final set to win it.

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Raonic celebrates after defeating Roger Federer. (Pic: Associated Press)

Andy Murray at Wimbledon 2016

Andy Murray came into Wimbledon this year after his best clay court season yet. Murray continued to show his exceptional form during Wimbledon this year, with notable wins over Nick Kyrgios and Tomas Berdych in straight sets. Murray was dominant in both matches. Murray’s greatest obstacle came against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the quarter-final stage. Murray was cruising after winning the first two sets, but Tsonga made a comeback and won the next two sets. Murray would go on to win the fifth pretty easily, but it was still a shocking turn of events.

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Murray has continued his good form from the clay court season into the grass at Wimbledon. (Pic: Getty Images)

Prediction:

Murray def. Raonic: 7-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3

I predict Andy Murray will defeat Milos Raonic in four sets. Raonic is playing the best tennis of his life, but Murray will have a packed crowd behind him on Sunday. Murray is also playing quite well, and his defense and returning abilities will give Raonic a lot of trouble. Murray makes players hit a lot more shots than they want to, and I believe his movement and defense will give him the edge over Raonic. The two played an epic semi-final earlier this year in Australia (in which Murray prevailed in five sets), so we should be in for a treat on Sunday.

 

 

 

Is Lebron better than Michael Jordan? (6/24/16)

It has been a few days since Lebron James’ legend grew to an even more insurmountable size. On Sunday, Lebron completed the near impossible comeback against the league’s best team, The Golden State Warriors, and gave the city of Cleveland its first title, ending the 52 year title drought that the city was going through. Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers faced elimination three times in a row, but did not crack under the pressure. After Lebron was named the MVP of the NBA Finals (for the third time in his career), many analysts became to question whether or not Lebron James is better than Michael Jordan. Lebron averaged a near triple double in the Finals, and led all players in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots. While there is no doubt Lebron James put up an NBA Finals performance for the ages, he is still not better than Michael Jordan. Here are several reasons why Lebron still has a long way to go.

FINALS RESUME/ LEGACY

Now that Lebron has won a third NBA title and was named the Finals MVP for the third time as well, he joins an elite company. Lebron James joined Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal as players with three Finals MVP awards. He is now tied with those three gentlemen for the most Finals MVPs ever, behind only Michael Jordan, who has won six. While many analysts point out that Lebron already has more Finals appearances (7) than Michael Jordan (6), this stat means little, as Lebron has lost in the Finals four of those seven times. Losing on the biggest stage should never be an addition to a player’s resume, even if the the player made the NBA Finals every year in his career. The goal for all athletes is to win, and Lebron’s mediocre record in the finals (3-4) is no where near Jordan’s perfect (6-0). The only similarity between both Michael Jordan and Lebron James is that for every championship they won, both were always awarded the best player. Lebron’s performance in the 2011 NBA Finals is what hurts him the most, as his dismal performance against the Dallas Mavericks put a major dent in his “greatest of all time” chances.

Lebron joined elite company after winning his third Finals MVP. He now trails only Michael Jordan (6) for the most Finals MVPs all time.

PRIME TOTAL DOMINANCE

When Michael Jordan stepped on the court during his prime, there was no doubt that he was the best player on the court and that he would not be stopped by anyone. Sure, other players had won MVP awards during his tenure, but there was still no doubt that Jordan was the best player on the planet. Lebron does not have that same reputation. While Lebron is similarly viewed as the best player, there have been many times where he has not delivered. For one, after the 2015-2016 regular season, many felt that Stephen Curry had taken Lebron’s throne as the best player in the world. While Lebron’s Finals performance might have proven people wrong, the speculation and the belief that a player had come up and was better than a prime Lebron was still introduced. This is something Michael Jordan never faced. Fans, opposing fans, and even Michael Jordan haters knew that when Michael Jordan stepped on the court, he was going to be the best player out there. Michael Jordan rose to the occasion in the biggest games and on the biggest stage. His Finals performances were legendary, as he delivered for the Bulls and led them to championship after championship. While Lebron had delivered for his championships many times, there were also times Lebron shrunk and didn’t look like the best player on the court. There was the 2011 Finals against Dallas where, at times, Lebron was bullied by smaller players in the post. There was the 2014 NBA Finals when Lebron at times looked like he was undone by Kawhi Leonard. It’s not that Lebron lost in the Finals, it’s just that in some of those losses, he came up short, and that was almost never seen in a big game by Michael Jordan.

Lebron’s loss and particularly his performance against Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals will forever haunt his legacy. 

THE BEST AT WHAT HE DOES

Lebron is currently regarded as the best overall player in the NBA, and one of the finest overall the game has ever seen. His versatility on defense and his ability to score efficiently, grab rebounds, and get assists makes him a triple threat on the court. While Michael Jordan doesn’t have the size Lebron has, his individual skills are better than Lebron’s.

Jordan is arguably the greatest scorer of all time, even if the career totals don’t reflect it. His dunks, his post moves, his mid-range game and his transition scoring abilities made him the most formidable offensive player. His scoring capabilities are much stronger than Lebron’s. While many analysts argue Lebron is a much better rebounder than Jordan, this argument is not entirely true, as Lebron only averages one more rebound than Michael Jordan per game for his career. Many argue that Lebron could average a triple double if he wanted to, but many people fail to remember Michael Jordan’s 1988-1989 season, when he averaged 33 points, 8 rebound and 8 assists. He also averaged 2.89 steals per game. Michael proved that he, too, could be a dominant all around player.

Michael Jordan’s lock down defense also made him the most dangerous overall basketball player on the planet, as not only was he the best offensive player, but players knew it would be tough to score on him as well. While Lebron boasts versatility on defense, Jordan’s lock down defense led him to a Defensive Player of the Year award, something Lebron doesn’t have, and also a record nine-time selection to the All Defensive First-Team.

While mainly known for his offense, Michael Jordan also proved he was the best defender on the court, being named The Defensive Player of the Year in 1988.

Lebron’s talents are at an all time great level, but several suspect performances on the big stage diminish his overall resume for passing Michael Jordan as the greatest player ever. While Lebron has certainly become the Michael Jordan of his era, he still has long way to go to pass Jordan, legacy wise. As an overall player, Lebron is certainly as talented  as Michael Jordan was, but in the end, Jordan comes out on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo finally gets his golden moment (5/29/16)

It’s hard to argue that Cristiano Ronaldo will go down as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. His goal scoring ability, individual success and team success throughout his career have led him to be called one of the greatest players of his generation. Yet, throughout the career of great athletes-whether in soccer or another sport, there is always that one golden image or moment that we remember them by. For Ronaldo’s great rival, Lionel Messi, there is that memorable goal against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League. Messi’s mesmerizing dribbles that dropped Bayern’s Jerome Boateng are indelibly sealed into our minds, and we will remember that image forever when we talk about Messi. For Zlatan, it’s his famous bicycle kick against England, and for Aguero, it’s his famous stoppage time goal to win the title for City back in 2011. All these great players are having fabulous careers and have cemented themselves as some of the best players of this generation. Cristiano Ronaldo is certainly in that group of sensational players, but unlike them, he had never had that one pivotal moment we will remember him for. While there are certain individual games and performances we remember about Ronaldo, we never really had that trophy winning, game-changing image or moment of him. This Saturday, that all changed.

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Ronaldo’s hat trick performance against Sweden in the World Cup Qualifiers was sensational, but it isn’t an image we will remember Ronaldo for in years to come. (Pic: ESPN)

While Ronaldo had a dismal game in Saturday’s Champions League Final, he stepped up and came through when Real Madrid needed him to convert. With Real Madrid up 4-3 in the penalty shootout, Ronaldo stepped up and buried the penalty shot in the right hand corner and took off his shirt to celebrate Real Madrid’s eleventh Champions League title. It was the moment he was missing in his career, and for years to come, we will talk about that image of Ronaldo. It’s the greatest players who in the end come through for their teams, even if initially they struggle. While Ronaldo didn’t play a great match, his heroic game-winning penalty kick will be permanently etched into Real Madrid and soccer lore for years to come.

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Unforgettable. (Pic: Fox Sports)

 

 

NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four Prediction (3/28/16)

It has been a wild couple of weeks in the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Top seeded teams, such as Michigan State, Baylor and Cal, all lost in the first round, and many other upsets in later rounds destroyed the brackets of countless people. My bracket was destroyed within the first days of the tournament, as I had picked Michigan State to win the title this year.  Michigan State lost to Middle Tennessee in the opening round. As the tournament is drawing to a close, and only four teams remain, I would like to offer my predictions for the final four teams left in the tournament.

The four teams that remain are Oklahoma, North Carolina, Syracuse and Villanova. North Carolina will play Syracuse, and Oklahoma will play Villanova on April 2nd. Each team has a unique story going into the Final Four. North Carolina, the only No. 1 seed left, is clearly the favorite to win it all, with a strong front-court and a veteran back-court leading the way. Oklahoma is arguably the hottest shooting team remaining, with the scoring superstar Buddy Hield averaging close to 30 points per game while shooting nearly 50% from the three-point range. Villanova, one of the top teams for the past few years, is proving that it should have been the number one seed, as they are fresh off of a nice win over Kansas. Finally, Syracuse, the big underdog, is arguably one of the biggest Cinderella stories in the history of  college basketball. With the Final Four stage set, here are my predictions:

Game 1: North Carolina vs Syracuse

Prediction: North Carolina wins by a big margin

While Syracuse has had an improbable run, it avoided a likely second-round loss when Michigan State was upset by Middle Tennessee. Other than Virginia, the teams Syracuse has faced haven’t been great, meaning Syracuse has not been really tested. While the win over Virginia was huge, the lapse Virginia seems to have had is unlikely to occur with the veteran North Carolina team, a team that seems to have the knack of pulling ahead after getting a modest lead. Despite the strong play of Syracuse guards Michael Gbinije and Malachi Richardson, I believe the formidable North Carolina front court consisting of Brice Johnson, Isaiah Hicks and Justin Jackson, as well as its star guard Marcus Paige will be too much for Syracuse to overcome.  North Carolina will win.

UNC Forward Brice Johnson has had an amazing tournament so far, averaging a near double-double. (Pic: UNC Athletics)

Game Two: Oklahoma vs Villanova

Prediction: Oklahoma wins by a tight margin

The game comes down to one player and one player only: Buddy Hield. If Hield continues to explode on offense, Oklahoma will win and play for the national title. If Hield falters, as he did against West Virginia in the Big 12 Final, then Villanova will win. Villanova’s back-court is extremely strong, with star guards Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins leading the way. Villanova can easily take this game if Hield has trouble producing, making it even more vital that Hield continues to play well. Despite the pressure, I believe Oklahoma will play through Hield, and his hot streak will continue, leading Oklahoma into the final.

Prediction: North Carolina vs Oklahoma in the National Championship

North Carolina wins, despite strong play by Hield. While Hield might be the best individual player in this year’s tournament, North Carolina’s overall unit is too strong, and I believe it will win it all this year.  

Kobe’s Last All-Star Game: Is he the greatest player of the 2000s?

As Kobe Bryant waved to the audience with a minute remaining in Sunday’s NBA All-Star game, the audience all stood and applauded the man who had dominated basketball during the peak of his career. I too, applauded, as I looked back and thought of the great moments Kobe Bryant had during his career. As a fan since a young age, there are countless memories I have of watching Kobe play. His 81 point game against Toronto, his game-winning three pointer over Dwyane Wade, and his 61 points against New York in MSG are just some memories that come to mind. As a Boston Celtics fan, there is a hatred towards Kobe I have, as he was the main part of the Laker team that defeated Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals. Along with that hatred, however, there is a lot of respect. There is no question that he is one of the greatest players to ever play, but is he the greatest player of the 2000s? In an era packed with many legends, Kobe stands out as a major figure, but where is his place among the best of his generation?

As an individual basketball player, Kobe’s talents were never in doubt. His ability to score the basketball in every way was witnessed throughout his career.  At a young age, he attacked the basket and then, as he got older, he developed a breath-taking mid range and three point shot. On defense, Kobe proved he was a quality ball-stopper, as he made the All-Defensive First Team nine times, a record shared with Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton and Michael Jordan. Kobe’s ability to hit clutch shots throughout his career was also apparent, as his game tying/winning efforts in the 2006 Playoffs against the Phoenix Suns sealed his fate as one of the greatest closers in NBA history. Legacy wise, during the 2000s, Kobe had seemingly done it all. In the 2000s, Kobe is a five-time NBA champion, a two-time Finals MVP, a two-time Scoring Champ, a three-time All Star Game MVP, a ten time all-star, and the 2008 MVP. His ability to win back-to back titles in 2009 and 2010 proved that he could carry a team (albeit with Pau) and win without Shaq. As a whole player, it is hard to go against Kobe during the 2000s.

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Kobe’s back to back NBA Finals wins showed the world how dominant he truly was, as it elevated him into the “Greatest Players of All-Time” discussion. (Pic: CNN)

However, there are several players that can legitimately contend with Kobe in the “greatest of the 2000s generation” discussion. Tim Duncan is a player that should certainly be considered. His fellow Laker teammate, Shaq, deserves consideration as well. Other great players such as Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett and Allen Iverson also deserve mention.  Even players who didn’t play for the entire 2000s, such as D-Wade and Lebron James, made their mark in the era. I believe Kobe was better than all of them during the 2000s. While Lebron is a dominant player in the 2010s- era, he was just one of many great players during the 2000s. He didn’t win much during the 2000s, yet his 2007 Playoff exploits earned him a mention here. D-Wade was a fantastic player in the 2000s, winning a scoring title and winning a championship and Finals MVP award in 2006. Had D-Wade won more in the 2000s and not later on, he could rival Kobe in many areas. D-Wade was a terrific scorer and defender and also proved himself in clutch moments. Dirk Nowitzki was a fabulous player, winning the MVP award in 2007. One of the greatest scorers and shooters ever, Dirk didn’t win any titles in the 2000s, which knocks him down a peg, but his efforts would soon be rewarded, as he propelled the Mavericks to the 2011 NBA title. Allen Iverson was a fantastic, electric player. He lit up score sheets every night, and his ability to get steals was incredible, as he was always among the league-leaders. His clutch heart was also prevalent, hitting numerous big shots for Philadelphia throughout his career. He won the 2001 MVP award and was an All-Star ten times. Iverson propelled the Philadelphia Sixers to the 2001 NBA Finals, where despite losing to the Lakers, he proved himself to be a legendary player in the making. However, it turned out that it would be his only trip, as he never won an NBA title, which knocks him down a peg on our list. Kevin Garnett is a player who could quite easily considered one of the best 2000s players. He won a title in 2008 with Boston Celtics, won MVP in 2004, was a ten time NBA All-Star and was on the Defensive First team eight times. His overall legacy stacks up well with Kobe Bryant, as he was a scorer as well as a defender.  However, Kobe’s championships and Finals MVPs make him the much more dominant player during the era.

Now, there are only two players who can really contend with Kobe for the honor of being “Greatest Players of the 2000s”. The two players are Shaq and Tim Duncan. As for Shaq, he was the dominant player in the early 2000s. He and Kobe were an unstoppable duo during his tenure with the Lakers, as they completed the rare “three-peat” of winning three NBA titles in a row. Shaq was named Finals MVP for all his titles with the Lakers, making a good case for being the best player of the 2000s. He even won a fourth title with Miami and very much looked to be the best player of the 2000s. Yet Kobe’s later title wins and MVP award, along with Shaq’s eventual decline in the latter half of the 2000s lowers Shaq a little bit in the discussion. Shaq’s defensive production was also never as good as Kobe’s. As for Tim Duncan, the legendary Power Forward, he has arguably been as dominant throughout the 2000s as Kobe. Throughout the 2000s, Duncan proved he could be the best scorer on his team, constantly averaging 20+ points for many seasons. He was a terrific rebounder, averaging ten or more rebounds per game throughout the 2000s. He was also an amazing defender, being elected to the Defensive-First team seven times in the 2000s and winning four titles throughout the 2000s. He was named Finals-MVP three times. While Kobe has more titles than Tim Duncan, Duncan’s more Finals-MVPs show how dominant he truly was during the postseasons. His two MVPs are also more than Kobe’s lone 2008 MVP. His consistent great results put Duncan in a category only matched by Kobe. Due to this, I would consider Duncan to be the greatest player of the 2000s generation, not Kobe. While Kobe started and finished the decade on top, Duncan was right there with him. Duncan’s constant regular season and post season greatness outlast Kobe’s regular season and post-season exploits, as Duncan carried his teams to great records and deep post-season success. While Kobe’s post season and regular season success dipped for a few years, Duncan’s success in both remained constant. Kobe might have been the more marketable player, but Duncan, to me, remains the greatest of the 2000s.

It was bittersweet seeing Kobe playing his last All-Star game. He was one of the game’s greats and certainly one of the best players of all time. He was the face of a generation of players, and the entire NBA community will miss him when he retires after this season. He has influenced countless up and coming players and has left the game in good hands. He falls short to Tim Duncan on the “Greatest Players of the 2000s” list, but he is still one of the greatest to ever play the game. I and the entire NBA will miss seeing him play.