The Empire State RE-Building

The Empire State RE-Building

Ahh, New York City. The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. The Empire State. Is New York the ‘Empire State’ when it comes to sports? Not anymore. Sure, the evil empire Yankees are still around and winning at a high level, but even they haven’t won a championship since 2009 (2000, 1999, 1998, 1996 & many more before that). Although, who knows what might have happened if the Astros or Red Sox weren’t cheating in 2017, 2018 (and possibly 2019), but let’s stick to what we do know. Even an organization as prestigious as the Yankees haven’t added to their 27 championships in over a decade. What’s going on, New York? I thought you were supposed to be ‘the greatest city in the world?’
It would appear that every New York sports team is rebuilding – and has been for quite some time. The last NY team to win a championship was the New York Giants in 2011 (2007, 1990 & 1986 before that). Which other team was even close? Well, the Mets made it to the World Series back in 2015, but lost. They haven’t won since 1986 (1969 before that). What about the ‘mecca of basketball,’ Madison Square Garden? How about those Knickerbockers? Maybe we shouldn’t go there. It’s been a rough go of it lately for the Knicks, who have basically become the laughing stock of the NBA. They made the playoffs back in 2013, and a few other times a few years prior, but never were really much of a threat in the East. The Knicks haven’t been to the NBA Finals since 2000, and haven’t won the Finals since 1973 (1970 before that). What about the other team that plays in that building, the New York Rangers? They had a nice run of sustained success with Henrik Lundqvist in goal, reaching the Finals once in 2014 and making deep playoff runs during that span, but haven’t hoisted the Stanley Cup since 1994 (1940, 1933 & 1928 before that). What about the other NHL team that plays in New York? The Islanders have made the playoffs here and there (made it to the 2nd round just last season), but haven’t won the Stanley Cup Finals since they won it four consecutive years (1980, 1981, 1982 & 1983). Then of course there’s the New York Jets, who also have sporadically made the playoffs, but have only won the Super Bowl once, back in 1969.
So what’s going on with New York sports? Sure, they’ve had their share of championships, which not every organization gets to claim. But it really does seem like all New York teams are in a constant cycle of rebuilding as of late. So where do these mighty Empire State teams stand now? Well, the Yankees are favorites to go to the World Series this season, and finally got their hands on the pitching ace they’ve been missing in Gerrit Cole (although the news about Severino was certainly troubling, but they already showed they can be great without his services). The Mets fell just short of making the playoffs in 2019, but seem to have the talent to get there this year, and a pitching staff that can certainly make noise if they do in fact get there, led by back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom. The hockey teams both seem to be in good hands. The Islanders finally have great organizational structure, with GM Lou Lamoriello and Coach Barry Trotz, and a young star in Mat Barzal. The Rangers have a very talented young team, with a great young goalie and they just inked their star Chris Kreider to a 7 year extension (to go along with recently signed star Artemi Panarin), and the Rangers have been a notoriously well-run organization for a long time. The football teams leave a little to be desired, but at least both seem to be set for a long time at the quarterback position, with the Jets led by Sam Darnold and Giants led by Daniel Jones.
As for basketball, New York has only the Brooklyn Nets to look forward to. This team has a good core of young players, they just really are waiting to get a full season with free agent star signings Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. As for the Knicks? To quote the great Dr. Evil, “rrrrriiiiiiiiight…” Let’s hope for their sake the recent front office hires pan out, so they can finally convince some stars to sign with the struggling organization. Will New York return to glory in this new decade? Only one way to find out, folks. You’re just going to have to wait and see!
First loss of the season? Why it’s a good thing for San Diego State

First loss of the season? Why it’s a good thing for San Diego State

47-35 halftime deficit. Malachi Flynn inefficient from 3. Yanni Wetzel in single digits. Less than 40% field goal percentage as a team. All these factors contributed to San Diego State, the last remaining unbeaten team in college basketball, finally suffering their first loss to a 14-14 UNLV team that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2013. This is a bad loss that could affect them from being a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is a bad loss that could potentially give other teams with similar styles coaching film on how to take down San Diego State. All of that is understandable. However, at the same time, I believe this is a blessing in disguise for them, as the winning streak they were on is just not sustainable for the rest of the season. If the Aztecs want any shot to win a title, this loss will allow them to refocus rather than remaining overconfident they can win with a lot of the same styles of play on the big stage.
I mentioned in an article I wrote a few weeks ago how the pressure of being undefeated was going to make it difficult for San Diego State to succeed in the tournament, in addition to being a mid-major Top 2 seed, likely a 1. Even a team as talented on paper as 2014-15 Kentucky couldn’t finish off their undefeated season, losing to Wisconsin in the Final Four 71-64. There are too many good teams and a strong amount of parity in college basketball now, and that makes this kind of feat next to impossible, hence why it hasn’t been accomplished since Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers in 1976.
From that logic, would your team rather have that loss then within the tournament or even within the conference tournament which would directly affect seeding even more, or would you rather have it happen now when there is still time to turn things around? I think 99.9% of people would take it now, and have time to focus and reset rather than just trying to play with the same overconfidence, because it is not sustainable. Throughout recent NCAA Tournament history, there are plenty of cases where teams that have streaked into the tournament and then lost early, whether they were 1 or 2 seeds. In 2015, we saw Villanova end the regular season on a 12-game winning streak and win the Big East Tournament, and then within 2 rounds of the NCAA Tournament get shocked by #8 seed North Carolina State, leading to the famous crying flute girl meme. That team entered the tournament having not lost since January 19. In 2016, Michigan State ended the season on a 10-game winning streak, including winning the Big Ten Tournament, and then got shocked by #15 seeded Middle Tennessee State in the first round. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know what I know now and fell into the trap of picking that Spartan team to win it all. But 4 years later, they help prove this theory. Gonzaga in 2013, aided by the easy West Coast Conference, entered the tournament on a 14-game winning streak having not lost since January 19 against Butler. In the NCAA Tournament, they ended up almost being the first 16 seed to lose to a 1, but surviving against Southern University of the Southwestern Athletic Conference 64-58. After that, they lost 76-70 to #9 seeded and eventual Cinderella team Wichita State. Ironically, the year after, Wichita State did the same thing, entering the tournament 34-0 and then losing in the Round of 32 to a #8 seeded Kentucky team. Lastly, we have my favorite of them all, 2018 Virginia, engraved in history as the only 1 seed to lose to a 16. While their winning streak wasn’t as big (8 games), they hadn’t lost since February 10, and they kept winning the exact same way, just thinking their philosophy of defense was going to carry them through. Then, they made the wrong side of history, getting obliterated 74-54 by #16 seeded UMBC, hitting the lowest of lows for a 1 seed the NCAA tournament has ever seen.
There are also examples the other way too, where good teams can have good losses and that will help them go far. I’m not saying these teams end up going all the way, but they make it to the Final Four or Elite Eight overcoming other expectations, which San Diego State will likely have to do being a Mountain West team. Examples of this include Gonzaga in 2016-17, that made their first Final Four in school history and eventually went to the National Championship Game, falling to North Carolina. Before that run, they lost 79-71 in the final game of the season to BYU, allowing them to refocus and play with that extra effort to do the little things in the tournament, which they did in a lot of key games later on in that tournament. Granted, they were aided by the worst non-call I have ever seen in an NCAA Tournament, when Zach Collins stuck his hand through the hoop and got away with what should’ve been a goaltending call against Northwestern. However, that doesn’t guarantee that Gonzaga would’ve lost that game either, even though it was more likely the case with Northwestern having a big second half. Looking 9 years before, 2007-08 Memphis had very similar circumstances, back when they had John Calipari and were still in Conference USA. They lost on February 23 of that year to Tennessee, which wasn’t a bad loss, as Tennesee was a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament that year. However, that loss helped them reset and allowed them to make it to the Final Four and within seconds of a National Championship before Mario Chalmers broke their hearts. In 2004-05, Illinois lost in the final game of the season to a 20-12, not bad but not great, Ohio State team. They ended up using that loss as a wakeup call and made it all the way to the Final Four and then the National Championship before, similarly to Gonzaga, losing to Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels. Go back a year, you have St. Joseph’s, who similarly to 2014 Wichita State ended the regular season undefeated. However, they got shocked in the Atlantic 10 tournament by Xavier. However, they still recovered nicely and made it all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to a good Louisville team. Lastly, a team that did win it all was the 2005-06 Florida Gators, who lost on February 26 of that season to a very average Alabama team. That among with some other losses knocked that team down to a 3 seed. However, that didn’t phase them and stop them from taking home their first of two National Championships. Not to mention, despite being a 1 seed, the second championship team also lost February 27 of that season to Tennessee before being able to refocus and overcome the pressure of repeating as National Champions.
This is far from a perfect theory, as most Championship and Final Four teams are somewhere in between the two extremes being shown here, and most Top 3 seeds that get upset in the Round of 64 and Round of 32 are in the same boat. However, if I’m trusting a team with a good loss to reset and refocus or a team riding an unrealistic winning streak into the NCAA Tournament, I’m taking the team with the good loss. San Diego State would’ve been the unrealistic winning streak team had they stayed undefeated into the NCAA Tournament, almost guaranteeing they would’ve lost the first weekend. This loss puts me slightly more confident in this Aztecs team, especially since they are well-rounded and well-coached. They will still most likely have the pressure of trying to succeed as a mid-major conference Top 2 seed in a weird year, which still could get to them. However, they avoid having the double whammy of that paired with an undefeated season and an unrealistic, unsustainable winning streak.
Rob Manfred’s Words Are Worse Than His Actions

Rob Manfred’s Words Are Worse Than His Actions

NEW YORK, N.Y.- In most cases, the cover-up is worse than the crime. In the case of Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s discussion about the Houston Astros cheating scandal, the explanation was worse than the punishment. Manfred amazingly has upset basically everyone involved in the sport of baseball despite issuing a punishment almost as severe as he possibly could have issued given the circumstances he was working with. The punishments, including a season-long suspension of both general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch on top of a five million dollar fine and the forfeiture of first and second round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts, weren’t a slap on the wrist. But his reasoning for these punishments in the numerous times he’s spoken since have only infuriated players and fans while minimizing the actual punishments.

The commissioner spoke two separate times last Sunday, and it had the feel that he was working crisis management exclusively for the scorned Astros franchise instead of siding with the other 29 organizations who are distraught, frustrated and angered by the cheating the 2017 World Series champions committed. When the punishments were first released in January, it felt that Major League Baseball had levied a punishment about as harsh as possible considering the circumstances. Yet the more Manfred speaks, the less significant the punishments seem.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred addresses reporters during MLB Media Day activities on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Smiley N. Pool / Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer)

Both gaffes occurred when Manfred was talking with ESPN’s Karl Ravech, as the first foot-in-mouth moment came when he was asked why the Astros players weren’t suspended for cheating. He could have justified his decision to not punish the players involved by citing the immunity he granted in favor of getting to the bottom of the entire scheme. Instead, Manfred’s explanation was that the public’s outrage was enough of a punishment.

“I think if you watch the players, watch their faces when they have to deal with this issue publicly, they have paid a price,” Manfred said. “To think they’re skipping down the road into spring training, happy, that’s just a mischaracterization of where we are.”

This is where the disconnect comes in. Thinking that public displeasure towards the Astros is enough of a punishment is just not being in tune with reality. People want accountability. People want the players involved to be held responsible. Hearing a few extra boos or questions about the cheating won’t satisfy a majority of those passionate about the sport, but Manfred is forgetting he didn’t have many options to begin with.

The tough part for the commissioner’s office in conducting this investigation was that they were left with two options, neither of which would have satisfied everyone. Their first option was to do what they did, which was grant players immunity from punishment in return for honest and truthful testimony about when the cheating occurred, how it was executed and who participated. Giving the players a get out of jail free card was the only way to truly get to the bottom of how the entire scheme operated, which in the long run will help in preventing this type of cheating from happening again.

The other option was to interview Mike Fiers, take what he said as the gospel and hand down punishments based on his testimony. No Houston player was knowingly going to admit to cheating or provide details that would implicate their teammates. So Manfred would have had to go off of the only player who was willing to go on the record and dole out suspensions that he seemed to fit the crime.

Manfred chose the option that fits society’s mentality and served to improve the game’s long-term health. We as a society pride ourselves on being a “woke culture,” that is always being aware of what is happening around us and never just accepting a reasoning without digging into it more. The immunity granted by Manfred allowed the details to emerge, helping to truly inform the public about how the sign-stealing was devised and executed. This information also allows the league to put parameters in place to prevent further cheating from ruining the game. The issue here isn’t that Manfred valued information over justice, but it’s that his definition of justice doesn’t jive with the public’s definition.

In that same interview with ESPN, Manfred made another comment that really made many players hot. The question was simple. Ravech asked about the potential of stripping the Astros of the 2017 World Series. Manfred’s response was as short as it was damaging.

“The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act,” said Manfred in response to the question.

It’s like the commissioner took the same PR advice as Astros owner Jim Crane, as every answer seemed to undermine his punishment. These answers aren’t hard. Stripping titles has little to no effect. Just ask the NCAA as they desperately try to punish schools by stripping titles and vacating wins that do little in terms of real consequence. Everyone still remembers Louisville winning the 2013 basketball national championship, USC’s 2004 football national title and Reggie Bush’s Heisman Trophy. Stripping titles and taking banners down do little to wipe away the memory of watching those teams and players accomplish greatness. So Manfred is right when he says stripping the Astros of their World Series would be futile. Except he bungled the delivery and completely lost control of the message.

It’s frustrating to see Major League Baseball continually shoot themselves in the foot and only dig a deeper hole to get out of. With weeks to map out an explanation and defense of the punishments, first the Astros and then the commissioner looked totally off guard and ill-prepared for the questions they received. Unfortunately for the game, this entire cheating scandal has blown up in their face and taken the attention away from the Astros and placed it squarely on the sport’s leader. Rarely do words speak louder than actions. The commissioner accomplished that feat to the dismay of baseball fans everywhere.

Kobe Bean Bryant

Kobe Bean Bryant

I can not and will not ever act like I enjoy writing this article. Sadly this is a part of journalism, sports broadcasting and most importantly life. To Vanessa, Natalia, Bianca and Capri, my heartfelt condolences from my family to yours. This article is not something I’m doing to try and get attention, to be honest I’m pushing through to symbolize and honor what Kobe really stood for, hard work and persevere through adversity.

Kobe Bryant was born on August 23rd 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Son of former NBA player Joe “jellybean” Bryant. Kobe was named after a town in Japan. Ironically Kobe is known for its marbled beef and amazing scenic views of mountains framing the harbor. Don’t see why it’s ironic? Good. Enjoy where I’m taking this.

In 1984 Joe Bryant would leave the NBA and move his career, and family to Reggio Calabria, Italy. He would become fluent in Italian and would also move to Pistoria and Reggio Emilia. Kobe would grow up around the game of basketball, he loved the feel of the ball, the noise in the gym of the nets “swooshing” or the different noises of the ball bouncing off hardwood or concrete. It became his passion, and in hindsight, would go on to start the next generation. Kobe would move back to America. He would return back to Philadelphia, and he would attend Lower Merion High School. It has been reported by Sports Illustrated about how Kobe Bryant would challenge a teammate to games of 100. The worst Kobe ever did in these games was win..yes win..100-12. Think about that. But another mind numbing high school approach Kobe had. He would go to the gym at 5a.m and would leave at 7a.m. But we all know the work ethic Kobe put in. USA Today’s Jason Jordan interviewed fellow teammate Gregg Downer about any stories of High School Kobe he would go on to state this “We were getting ready to play in the state semifinals in 1996, his senior year, and he had broken his nose a few days earlier in practice. He was experimenting with the face mask and it was hurting his peripheral vision; he really didn’t like it. After warming up with it he took it off in front of his teammates during our last few moments of preparation and threw it off the wall and said, “Let’s go to war!” That memory just kind of symbolized what a warrior he is and how much tolerance he has for pain. It was a very inspirational moment.” Kobe his senior year averaged 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4.0 steals and 3.8 blocked shots. Kobe would go on to play in the McDonald’s All-American game. Where he would shine. So naturally after an amazing senior season and shining against other elite high school prospects, the big question that faced Kobe was what’s next? College? NBA? Europe? All floated through the Mambas mind. Where would he go? Kobe has been on record saying Duke and North Carolina would lead the pack. However during his press conference at Lower Merion H.S Kobe, well he did the Kobe thing. He gave that beloved smile, and sent notice to a league with the likes of Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Karl Malone and oh yeah the guy Kobe was putting in tireless hours to one day perhaps pass…Michael Jordan. That’s right, Kobe announced he was declaring for the NBA.
Kobe was selected 13th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. For those of you who are reading this assuming I told you the truth I’m gonna make you reread that sentence. Kobe was selected 13th overall. Fact. By the…drumroll insert here…Charlotte Hornets…well that’s how it happened don’t shoot the messenger. Knowing the Lakers had signed Shaquille O’Neal in the off-season, then GM Jerry West loved Kobe and his work ethic. Charlotte ironically now owned by Michael Jordan..traded away his heir apparent. So what’s the overhaul the Los Angeles Lakers had to give up? Vlad Divac. Tyler stop lying to us. Guys that’s the truth. As much credit as Jerry West deserves for being a basketball Einstein, again Kobe was not a sure thing. A lot of people questioned whether anyone could go from High School to the NBA, again Kobe embraced and accepted the challenge. Kobe his rookie year started a total of 6 games. And appeared in 71. Head Coach Del Harris did not want to start Kobe due to Eddie House and Nick Van Excel being more NBA ready. Kobe was the youngest player to ever play in an NBA game when he debuted. The following year, Kobe started in a grand total of 1 game, yes 1 game. And appeared in 79. Despite that 1 start Kobe would make the All-Star team, making him the youngest starter in All-Star Game history and yes competed and won the Slam Dunk Contest.
So after an All-Star season, and putting in hours and hours of work MORE than the rest of the team, Kobe would start the 98-99 season. Yes. But not for the reason you may think. Kobe on “All the Smoke” with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes Kobe shared the story of how he actually started. Noting that due to the lockout, and an injury, Kobe Bryant was forced to start. Kobe would average 19.9 points a game, on 46% shooting with 5.3 rebounds a game and 3.8 assists. There was a small starting point however during this time, during a scrimmage in practice, Kobe and fellow HOFer Shaquille O’Neal would get into a fist fight during practice. Nothing would come of anything at this point but going forward it is important to mention this for both Kobe and Shaqs history.
After that the Lakers never looked back. Kobe used his misused time on the bench as motivation. Brian Shaw, friend former teammate and coach of Kobe would tell stories of Kobes hard work. Brian Shaw during an interview with Business Insider would tell them a story of how he once found Bryant alone in the gym. Scott told Business Insider:

“I heard the ball bouncing. No lights were on. Practice was at about 11, it was probably about 9, 9:30. And I go out to the court and I look, and there’s Kobe Bryant. He’s out there shooting in the dark. And I stood there for probably about ten seconds, and I said, ‘This kid is gonna be great.'”

Before the start of the 1999-2000 season the Lakers and Jerry West would add their 3rd and final piece to the next NBA Dynasty. Head Coach, and zen master Phil Jackson. In Phil’s first year with Shaq and Kobe the Lakers would win the first of 3 NBA finals. 2000,2001,2002 Kobe added 3 rings to his resume. Another quick pivot here, because during this run is when tensions and hostility really grow between Shaq and Bryant. During 2000-2001 after winning the NBA Championship Shaq would come into camp out of shape. Due to this, and my biggest gripe against the whole “Shaq carried Kobe” argument, the triangle was now really a Kobe ran system. So much so that Shaq asked for a trade after Kobe dropped 38 points on Phoenix and Shaq contributed only 18. They would repeat. Tensions would diminish slightly the following year as Bryant and Jackson both suffered losses in their personal life. Also the country would be tested as a whole following September 11th 2001. Making LA forget their drama and focus on the job at hand. There’s the 3 peat. And that would be the last for Shaq and Kobe. However they would return to the NBA finals in 2004 with Shaq, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. They would be upset by the Detroit Pistons, and before long the Lakers dominance would end. And would go from the Shaq and Kobe era, and enter a Mamba.

This would be a very crucial and important pivot in both the Lakers and Kobe Bryant’s growth. The Lakers would trade Shaq to the Miami Heat. He would form another dynamic duo with future HOFer Dwayne Wade. The Lakers would get back Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a 1st round pick that the Lakers would draft Jordan Farmer with. Lakers brass would give Kobe the keys to the Laker franchise. They had little to doubt, the work ethic, the no excuses and the I am going to get this done attitude was what LA knew and saw and felt comfortable with going forward. During the run of 2004 Karl Malone would also feel the wrath of Kobe Bryant, the reason I’m including this brief story is to again shed light on who Kobe Bryant the man is. That again is more important than the player. Karl Malone, known to be a bit outspoken, hence voicing concern about Magic Johnson returning after announcing he had HIV, and having a child, as a 20 year old with a 13 year old. Vanessa Bryant, who had grown close to Karl and his wife, had seen Karl dressed in hunting gear, so she simply asked “What are you hunting” so the mature response any male would say surely would be “I am hunting for little Mexican girls.” And I do not believe in hearsay however Malone has for years never denied it and has said on numerous occasions that if Kobe has a problem he knows where to find him. The reason I bring up that story is not to bad mouth Kobe or even Karl Malone. But Kobe unfairly got this bad rap for being a “bad” teammate or “difficult.” But I ask you, would that not implode a locker room? Shaq, was getting jealous that the harder working player was becoming the offense. Karl Malone was hitting on his wife. What was he supposed to do? Would you be a good co-worker if someone hit on your wife or husband? Would you want the company going to the equally talented but lazier worker? The answers here are probably no. So why did Kobe’s reputation take such a bad wrap? Well..that’s the side of Kobe’s life and career that makes everyone look slightly different.
June 30, 2003. Kobe Bryant would be accused of sexual assault. Being that this case was dismissed due to the accuser refusing to take the stand, and it being 17 years later. And to the respect of Kobes daughters and wife I will not go into detail on this accusation. You are able to do your own research, Google is a thing. I refuse to pour salt on a very deep wound, no one mentioned it for years. If you’re reading this to talk about that I am sorry you’re reading the wrong article. But it was a part of his Lakers history.

Why? Why’s it so important? Well for those of you who know Bryant, it’s what turned him into the next phase. After being painted as a villain. And numerous outlets reporting his lack of warmth towards teammates. Kobe would look to study and analyze anything to be a better basketball player. For example, Kobe’s midrange game. This is how brilliant of a mind we are talking about. This man, this cerebral brilliant obsessed man, studied Cheetahs hunting to improve his fade-away jumper. Phillip Galanes, New York Times interview with Bryant was told how Bryant figures this out. “When you watch me shoot my fadeaway jumper, you’ll notice my leg is always extended. I had problems making that shot in the past. It’s tough. So one day I’m watching the Discovery Channel and see a cheetah hunting. When the cheetah runs, its tail always gives it balance, even if it’s cutting a sharp angle. And that’s when I was like: My leg could be the tail, right?” Amazing. But this would spark a deeper passion. And one that would change the NBA, and well frankly the world, forever. Kobe after watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” Kobe was interested in a code name. In an article with the New Yorker Kobe explained why he would create this persona. “The name just evokes such a negative emotion,” Bryant would tell the magazine. “I said, ‘If I create this alter ego, so now when I play this is what’s coming out of your mouth, it separates the personal stuff, right?’ You’re not watching David Banner — you’re watching the Hulk.” To follow up this segment Kobe was with friend Ahmad Rashad and would give the most Kobe-like quote yet. “When I step on that court, I become that. I am that killer snake. I’m stone cold, man.” So what type of mindset was he using? What ego did he adapt? Why’s it game changing? Because Mamba Mentality would change the league forever.

Mamba was in. And he was ready. After taking over the Lakers. Bryant took over the league. He would lead the league in scoring in both the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.

On January 22,2006 Kobe showed the Mamba Mentality to the purest form. He would also drop the most memorable scoring performance of the century. Kobe would drop 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. He was 28-46. 60%…60% from the field and 7-13 from 3pt range. He would also drop 62 against the Dallas Mavericks on December 20th 2005. Why’s that impressive? He didn’t play the 4th Quarter!! Kobe would average 35.4 points per game in the 05-06 season, and 31.6 in 06-07. The following season 2007-08 Bryant would go on to win his first Most Valuable Player Award. However during this time Bryant would also ask the Los Angeles Lakers for a trade. Kobe wanted to be traded to the Chicago Bulls. Bryant was growing frustrated dragging teams with Kwame Brown, Smush Parker and company to the playoffs and being eliminated fairly early. During this time, Spurs, led by Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginòbili and Tony Parker would be a power house in the western conference. The Phoenix Suns would also become dominant led by 2x MVP and eventual teammate of Kobe, Steve Nash, would lead an upbeat offense that would take the league by storm. Nash, was not along either. Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, and Leandro Barbosa would also battle with Kobe. The Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks would also emerge as a team built well for postseason play as well. Jazz led by Andrei Kirilenko, with young upcoming guard Deron Williams, with Carlos Boozer Paul Millsap and Laker alum Derek Fisher. Dallas would be led by future Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki with Jason “the Jet” Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and Erik Dampier. So Kobe wanted out to be on a building team after he felt the Lakers grew complacent. There was a trade in place with the Detroit Pistons, Kobe would head to Detroit, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and draft picks would go to the Lakers. Kobe said no, I gave you a list of teams I want to go to, Detroit was not that team. A Bulls trade never emerged as Chicago did not want to include a package involving Luol Deng. So what resolves the issue. The mamba would get his next co-star. A 7-foot Spanish forward from the Memphis Grizzlies, Pau Gasol.

The 2007-2008 season the Lakers would renew one of, if not the most historical rivalry in sports. They would go to the NBA finals against the Boston Celtics. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen made a big 4 that would run through the eastern conference like a knife going through butter. The Celtics would win the finals in 6 games. Giving Kobe his second loss in the finals. Bryant would be deeply annoyed by this. The Lakers legend would then go back to back finals where he would defeat the Orlando Magic…again not kidding..led by Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkolou. Bryant had gotten ring number 4. And more importantly ring number 1 without Shaq. Kobe was on a mission for at least 6, if you really know Bryant you know he wanted 8. Hence the number 8. But He would return to the finals one last time in 2010 to again take on those same Celtics. With the addition of Ron Artest, aka Metta World Peace. He would then go on to win ring number 5. Redeeming his loss to the Lakers biggest foe, and further cementing he did not need Shaq, Bryant was ready to win number 6, and three-peat for the second time, just like mike.
Bryant would form another super team. With Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Steve Nash. The Lakers seemed poised for another ring. With the season being a huge disappointment due to injuries and chemistry issues. However the Lakers were playing their best basketball of the season the final month and a half and were emerging as a possible 8th seed. Kobe playing every minute of every game for most of the season drew ire from basketball experts. However Kobe being Kobe would fight through, and sadly cost him his last chance at a ring, tearing his Achilles against Golden State.

Kobe would return faster than expected from this injury only a few months later to be sidelined again by a fractured kneecap. Kobe would return and monitor his minutes as he planned to retire. In typical Kobe fashion he went out on top. Kobe in his final game, dropped 60..yes..60 points. Mamba mentality on full display.

Kobe was known as a warrior further cementing his legacy, whether it was playing with injuries or inspiring teammates by being the first one in the gym or the last to leave. Bryant would play with numerous injuries, develop a historic clutch gene only shared by a select few. Bryant would retire an 18x All Star, 2x scoring champ, 5x NBA Champion, 15x All NBA, 12x All Defensive Team, 4x All Star Game MVP, 07-08 MVP, 2x Finals MVP, Leading scorer in Los Angeles Lakers history, and 3rd all time leading scorer. Now 4th all time since being passed by Lebron James. And just to add a little more this Lakers trophy case, he also helped USA win 2 Gold Medals.However all the accolades and accomplishments still don’t surpass one thing..his work as a Husband and Father to Vanessa, Natalia, Giana, Bianca and Capri.
Kobe after retiring would not stop being in the eyes of entertainment. Kobe would only go on to win an Oscar for “Dear Basketball.” Kobe would also fall in love with basketball again. Why? Because Kobe’s 2nd daughter Gianna, “Gigi” would fall in love with basketball. Kobe also would facilitate a raise for WNBA players, knowing Gigi was on her path to becoming a young Kobe herself, even got nicknamed Mambacita. Tragically, January 26th Kobe Bryant, his daughter Giana, and 7 other civilians were taken from us. Moms, Dads, Sisters, Brothers, Husbands, Wives, Children. In a fatal helicopter crash on the way to an AAU practice before the game. This was nothing new however for Kobe, flying. He would start taking helicopters from his house, to practice, or games, then go back home to spend more time with his family. Kobe would tell stories about how he would tell Vanessa “I don’t want to sit in traffic if it saves me time to pick me daughters up from school, I’ll do it.” No story of Kobe hurt more than ESPN’s Elle Duncan. Who would explain she was waiting to interview Kobe and after waiting she no longer had to approach Kobe. Kobe addressed her. She was 8 months pregnant at the time, and Kobe was enamored with the fact that she was pregnant. Kobe would ask “what are you having?” Mrs Duncan would reply “ A girl”. And that’s when the famous line Kobe uttered would started trending and become a hashtag cemented in society. “ Girls are awesome, I would have 5 more girls if I could, I’m a girl dad.” This segment on ESPN, forever changed my mind. I am, was, and will be, one of Kobe’s biggest advocates and supporters. I always found it rude, unjustified and quite frankly uneducated when people would bash Bryant for his playing style. The man studied and worked harder than anyone this league has seen, dare I even say more than Jordan. But when Duncan gave her story of her only encounter with Byrant, it made me realize, Kobe was not this warrior, or robotic basketball zombie we all painted him as. (On the court, he is still all of these things.) Remember how embarrassed he was when the Colorado incident was announced, because he unintentionally made national news and his family would have to deal with it. Remember how angry Bryant got as Karl Malone hit on his wife, remember how proud and joyful he was when he would talk about his daughters, and his wife. Kobe was a robot. Kobe was the man we all should want to be. Devoted to his craft, passionate, cerebral, intuitive, and yes a bad bad bad somebody on the court for 48 minutes. I will forever thank Kobe for the life lessons he has taught me. Passion, put 110% in to whatever you do. Work hard. Work harder when you feel weak. And love your family.
Real quick, I too would like to share my Kobe story. Working at a town street fair, a sports venue was selling a plaque of all athletes. Kobe had just torn his Achilles, so I bought this plaque. One day thinking me and Kobe would talk about the cards the plaque has on it. And maybe even sign it. To be honest it is still in the wrapping, and it will always be. And one day I will tell Kobe this story, and we will laugh and joke about life in general. Until that day. Mamba thank you. Prayers to Vanessa, Natalia, Bianca and Capri Kobe Bryant. You are all in our prayers. No other way to end this except how Kobe would want.


Chase Young to the Falcons? Why Atlanta should give up a huge haul and why the Redskins should take it on.

Chase Young to the Falcons? Why Atlanta should give up a huge haul and why the Redskins should take it on.

Since the start of the College Football season, Chase Young has been one of the most
highly-touted prospects of any position in recent memory. Similarly to Nick Bosa last year,
Chase Young is a prospect that has that “can’t miss” label on him. While I don’t think he will be
as good as Nick Bosa, his skills and athleticism are phenomenal where it will be very difficult to
pass up. With the Bengals likely taking Joe Burrow #1 overall in this year’s NFL Draft, the
Redskins would be the next team that would ideally take Chase Young. However, looking at the
way the Redskins are constructed right now, do they really need him? The Redskins defense,
especially in the front 7, already has a lot of talent that, outside of Ryan Kerrigan, is young.
Meanwhile, the Redskins offense, outside of Terry McLaurin and a couple offensive linemen,
has significant question marks everywhere, which is something one draft won’t be able to solve.
This is why I think the Redskins should trade the pick and try to get a haul back, because I think
they can when it comes to a player of Chase Young’s caliber, or possibly a quarterback as well.
A team that can afford to give that haul that desperately needs pass rushing help and not much
else? The Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons roster is Top 5 in football right now probably only
needing some corner depth, running back depth, and outside linebacker if they lose De’Vondre
Campbell to free agency. But the one thing they need badly is pass rush, losing Vic Beasley and
Adrian Clayborn who both had bad years, and Takk McKinley being injury prone. With them not
needing much else, they can afford to give up the large amount of draft capital needed to jump
from 16 to 2, which will take multiple 1st and 2nd round picks. But for the Falcons, I think it is
worth it, and all the Redskins need on offense, taking on that draft capital would be well worth it
for them. Here is why it would benefit both teams.
For the Falcons, they have desperately needed pass rushers for a long time. Historically,
they have a hard time holding onto them, from Claude Humphrey to Patrick Kerney to John
Abraham, and now recently Vic Beasley, who the Falcons will no longer be pursuing contract
negotiations with. Within the last century and even in the 1990s, they have been one of the
better player development franchises at pretty much every other position, from Deion Sanders
to Jamal Anderson to Keith Brooking to Julio Jones. Yet when it comes to pass rushers they
never seem to get it right, and that is a big reason why they haven’t gone further in the playoffs
than they should, and a big reason why they didn’t win Super Bowl 51, in addition to bad
defensive play calling getting too conservative too early against a Patriots team that doesn’t like
to throw the ball deep. Sorry Kyle Shanahan bashers, no NFL defense should never allow 25
points in 18 minutes. Chase Young would provide the rest of that defense the outside pass
rushing leverage they need to fuel the rest of that defense, with already talented linebackers in
Deion Jones and DeVondre Campbell, and a good secondary when healthy in Desmond
Trufant, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and a promising young and well-rounded corner in Isaiah
Oliver. It will also help Takk McKinley flourish as a 2nd option outside pass rusher, because 3
years have shown he probably isn’t a first option, which Chase Young can develop into pretty
instantly with the skillset he had in college rushing the passer and stopping the run in so many
different ways. With Young alongside Grady Jarrett and a decent back end defense, the Falcons
should be able to flourish with a top end offense that they already have, and that kind of
production allowed them to make it to a Super Bowl 4 years ago that they should have won if it
wasn’t for Dan Quinn and Richard Smith playing Cover 3 and Cover 4 defenses midway through
the 3rd quarter thinking their 28-3 lead was safe. A good pass rush helps them hold leads like
that, and what better of a current draft prospect to do that than Chase Young? Also, when it
comes to the Falcons, they are already cash-strapped as it is, with just $6.1 million in salary
cap, so it will be hard for them to add a top free agent pass rusher. That only makes it more
valuable to add somebody home grown, young, and controllable, and when it comes to the draft
capital involved, which will take multiple first round picks, second round picks, and possibly third
round picks, it is worth it for the Falcons.
When it comes to the Redskins, there’s a good amount of offensive talent they can
accumulate in this draft to help give support to Dwayne Haskins and Terry McLaurin, who has
already blossomed in his first season given as bad of circumstances offensively as you can get.
With already having good young front 7 talent in Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Ryan
Anderson, and Montez Sweat, Chase Young would only just improve a strength for them while
leaving offensive areas extremely weak, which is something they can improve on with this draft.
Between skill players and offensive line depth, the Redskins should profit on a lot of it within the
first two rounds, especially with the Falcons getting a second round pick from the Patriots for
Mohamed Sanu. When it comes to this draft, receiving talent they can get includes Colorado
receiver Labiska Shenault (who I like a lot), TCU receiver Jalen Reagor, and Clemson receiver
Tee Higgins, all of which will most likely available at Pick 16 if they were to trade back with the
Falcons. If they wanted to trade up, this potential trade would give the Redskins extra 2nd and
3rd round picks, which could help them jump back into the Top 10 if they wanted somebody like
Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb. When it comes to running backs, there will be a lot of good ones,
including DeAndre Swift, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jonathan Taylor, and even guys you can get
in the second round, such as Cam Akers and Zack Moss. As for top offensive tackles, there is
good depth throughout the first round, with Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs,
Alabama’s Jedrick Wills (I don’t like him as much but he still is getting a first round grade),
Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, and Auburn’s Prince Tega Wanogho. A combination of 5 or 6 of those
players makes the Redskins offense, despite being young, something they can build on, with
already established offensive linemen in Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff, as well as a
running back that is talented when healthy in Derrius Guice. Outside of McLaurin, Dwayne
Haskins doesn’t have much else that is consistently trustworthy to work with, and one player
won’t solve that either. The Redskins need the draft capital to create an offense with several
different weapons to work with, as they did in the spread offense era with Joe Gibbs throughout
the 1980s and 1990s. One pick at #2, in terms of this draft, while it could potentially be a great
player, won’t solve that issue in a spread offense NFL as well as make it significantly easier for
a young quarterback that has had his issues at the professional level in Dwayne Haskins.