There have been several days of controversy and criticism since NBA player Stephen Curry suggested he would vote against accepting Trump’s invitation to the White House. When Trump heard about this development, he decided to un-invite the entire Warriors basketball team and has since sent out a number of tweets regarding both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL). The latter is the result of Trump’s comments that NFL players should be fired for taking a knee during the National Anthem and the resulting protests from NFL teams such as the Steelers.
The Steelers decided to remain inside of the locker room during the performance of the National Anthem. The head coach of the Steelers, Mike Tomlin, stated that he did not want the team to feel divided and that, essentially, he wanted the team to stay out of the politics going on. However, being absent during the Anthem is something of a political statement in and of itself.
Trump has stated, both at his rally in Alabama and on Twitter, that he believes anyone who does not stand up or takes a knee during the Anthem should be fired. He has also stated on Twitter that the games have been losing viewers because they are “boring” but people would keep watching if the NFL teams were loyal to the U.S. That being said, Trump is probably not the best person to give commentary on how viewership has increased or decreased for sports teams. Or in a position to really give any commentary at all. What the President has to do with a NFL game or NBA team is unknown, especially when he has more serious matters to attend to. Regardless of what Trump says, and in fact because of it, many players and teams are now making a stand and/or protesting, such as a number of players at the Jaguars and Ravens game in London. Perhaps it is time to listen to what other people have to say about why they are protesting, instead of threatening them.
The 2015-16 NBA season tips off in less than a month, and this generation’s greatest player is entering his twentieth season in the league with the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant is unquestionably one of the greatest players of all-time, and is certainly the closest thing to Michael Jordan the game has ever seen. The 5-time NBA champion has done it all. He’s won MVPs (1 regular season; 2 finals), won Olympic gold, and currently ranks 3rd on the all-time scoring list, just to name a few. Bryant has nothing left to prove, but the self-titled “Black Mamba,” who has built a career fueled by his unmatchable, competitive nature, might have some new motivation.
ESPN just released Nos. 91-100 in their NBA Preseason Player-Ranking Countdown, and guess who came in at No. 93. Yep, Mr. Bryant. Now although Bryant is no longer the freakishly athletic, dominating force he once was, the criticism of Bryant has simply gone too far. Never mind the critics who claim he shoots too much, or the ones who say he needs to pass the torch and move on. This ranking is personal, and although Bryant will likely write this off completely, it’s downright disrespectful.
The most popular explanations for Bryant’s ranking are that “the rankings are based solely on the last two seasons,” and “Kobe’s player efficiency rating is around 100th in the league.” Some also attribute it to his low shooting percentage over the last two seasons. Although stats rarely lie, the latter explanations don’t hold up in Bryant’s case.
First and foremost, players are people, not robots. Ranking each player based on statistics and neglecting the mental aspect of the game contradicts the way the greatest players have been ranked throughout history. Jordan, Magic, Bird, and Kobe are all notorious for their gaudy stats, but are arguably more known for their intimidating mentality. If the “greatness” of a player was based solely on statistics, than Jordan himself would be considered the 4th best player of all-time. I think we all know how preposterous that sounds. Furthermore, the biggest criticism of Lebron throughout his career has been his mental toughness, yet I’m sure he’ll come in at number 1 based on statistics alone.
Secondly, by ranking Bryant No. 93, ESPN is saying that there are 92 players in the NBA who are better than Bryant right now. Not only is this far from true, but this is also where the argument falls apart. Here’s a list of some of the players ranked higher than Bryant: Brandon Knight, Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng, Tobias Harris, Marcus Smart, and Jahlil Okafor. Arguments could be made against each of these players being ranked higher than Bryant, but the most obvious arguments can be made against Marcus Smart and Jahlil Okafor. Smart is entering just his second season and Okafor is entering his rookie season. In other words, neither player has played two full seasons (much less 1 game in Okafor’s case), yet are ranked higher than Bryant. Furthermore, Smart missed 15 games last season due to injury. So much for the rankings being based on the last two seasons.
This is not an argument to put Bryant in the top 10 based solely on his reputation. It’s a reality check on how ranking 92 players ahead of him is ridiculous. Bryant spent the majority of the last two seasons injured (only playing around 40 games), and although some use this fact against Bryant, it does not hold up when compared to the rest of these rankings.
Last, and now that we’re not restricting the rankings to the last two seasons, people do not realize that Bryant was averaging over 25 points per game, and shooting just under 50 percent while leading the Lakers to the playoffs in his last full season (2012-2013). These statistics would rank him easily into the top 10 today. Also, any other superstar would have shot just as much had they been in the same position as Bryant the last two seasons. Who was he going to pass to?
We are still waiting to see what Bryant has left in the tank, but make no mistake, he’s not the 93rd best player in the NBA. I think the other 499 other players would even agree with that.
The NBA season has officially begun and there are three major teams that come to mind when the time comes to pick who will be #1: The Cleveland Caveliers, the Boston Celtics, and the L.A. Lakers. The Celtics have a history of being the best team in the NBA, the Cavaliers were the Eastern Conference regular season champions last year, and the Lakers, who also have a history of being the best in the NBA, are the defending champions from. They also went to the NBA finals two years ago, where they fell 4-2 to the Celtics.
The Boston Celtics, who began their season this year with a 95-89 win over the Cavaliers in Cleveland, finished their season last year with a record of 62-20. They had the second best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland. They won their first playoff series against the Chicago Bulls, 4-3, and then fell 4-3 to the Orlando Magic. The Celtics were the NBA champions two years ago when they finished with the best record in the NBA and eliminated the Lakers in game 6 of the NBA finals with a commanding 131-92 victory. Last year, the Celtics began their season strong, with a record of 27-2. Later in the year, Boston lost Kevin Garnett, and the remainder of their season was a struggle. With Garnett back this year, and having already defeated Cleveland on their home court, Boston is sure to be one of the best teams in the NBA.
When one thinks of Cleveland Caveliers, one person comes to mind: LeBron James. Well this year, he’s not the only player on Cleveland the Cavaliers’ opponents have to worry about. This year the Cavaliers have signed Shaquille O’Neal to their roster, a 37 year old star who’s still playing strong. Cleveland finished their regular season 66-16 last year, the best record in the NBA. They swept their first two playoff series, wiping out the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks, and defeated both teams each time by more than 10 points, which is something that is extremely rare for a team in the NBA to accomplish. The Cavaliers fell 4-2 to the Orlando Magic last year in the Eastern Conference finals, which was a shock to everyone. This year, they already have their first loss to the Celtics. That loss is also the first time in a long time that Cleveland and Boston played and the home team didn’t win. So the Cavaliers will undoubtedly turn out to be one of the best teams in the NBA this year, but in order to do so, they’ll need to shape up the next time they play an opponent like Boston.
When a person thinks L.A. Lakers, the hot player that comes to mind is Kobe Bryant. The only player who beat Bryant out for MVP last year was LeBron James. Bryant and the Lakers are this year’s defending NBA champs, and they’ve already opened their season with a 99-92 victory over the Clippers. Last year they finished their regular season 65-17, which was the second best record, behind the Cavaliers. The Lakers are a pretty good team. They always have been and no other teams in the Western Conference can really match up to them. They’ll most likely be the Western team to bet on when NBA playoff time comes around.
Boston, Cleveland and L.A. will each have their struggles this year, and there are other teams who could come on strong and turn out to be #1. You never know in the NBA. However, most likely when the playoffs roll around, you can expect to see all three of these teams in contention. When it comes time for the finals next June, one of these three teams will almost be a sure bet. So let the race for the #1 team in basketball begin. Remember now that the NBA season has started and it won’t be long before college picks up as well. The scent of basketball season is already starting to fill the air.