Tuesday, April 24, 2007
1) Tim Duncan. Sure, you may not have love for the robot, but his numbers and championship success put him in insanely rare company for a power forward. Instant HOF when he retires.
2) Kobe Bryant. I hate him, but he is the dominant force of his era. Instant HOF as well. A historical scorer who will probably retire as the second best scorer ever, unless a he gets hot vs. a team worse then those raptors and breaks 100.
3) Lebron James. Magic 2.0 will get a couple of rings soon, but his court vision, stat lines, and physical gifts already put him on this list. Keep in mind he still can't rent a car without underage penalty. Now look in the mirror and curse yourself for your inadequate life.
4) Tracy Mac- My personal favorite 2 guard in the league, a do it all player who hasn't had the personnel Kobe has, and is a vastly underrated defender. If he gets a ring, 1st ballot HOF as well.
5) Dirk Nowitzki. All he needs is a ring to cement his legacy as the first killer shot do everything 7 foot German since Hasselhoff on stilts.
6) Dwyane Wade. Michael remixed makes this list by being the first real contributor out his class (screw you Darko) to win a ring.
7) Shaq- the MDE (most dominant ever) makes this list because the rings didn't start coming til 2000. The only big man arguably still greater then him? Wilt.
8) Allen Iverson. makes this list on heart alone. Could (and will) probably make the 90's list, it's just that he didn't go to the finals until this era. The best sub 6 foot player in NBA history (apologies to Isiah and Tiny). Single handedly ushered in the second crossover era. (Tim Hardaway was the first-read a book flunkie! Or at least watch one of those old NBA Stars VHS)
9) Gilbert Arenas- Hibachi is a killer. A killer. If he makes the eastern conference finals in his career, he can count on a retired jersey in DC and a call from the hall. The only player on this list who can rightfully claim to completely and utterly outplay Kobe Bryant in LA.
10) Steven Nash-The street version of John Stockton makes this list simply because he has shown the ability to raise his teammates stock just by playing with them, a la Shaquille O'neal and Michael Jordan.
Honorable mention: Kevin Garnett. As much as it breaks my heart, KG doesn't break into the list; this has nothing to do with his play, as he is the most physically gifted 3-4 the league has ever seen (leading the league in rebounding weighing in less then 250? Come on.) It's his decision making. A Superstar should be aware of when his current organization is not going anywhere, and is smart enough to bail out. He is easily the player I would pick above anyone else in the league who's loyalty to his organization and city has KILLED his career. I also would love to see him get a ring...actually, I'd love to see him make the West Finals. Just show me a flash of what could have been if Kevin Mchale wasn't in charge of your teammates. Tragic.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Before we begin…
I hope that in spite of the harsh reality that my Mavericks will likely fall short this offseason (due to another no-show by Dirk the Diggler), I hope everyone’s really watching and taking note: Avery Johnson is on pace to become the greatest coach EVER. I mean sure, you inherit a 50-win team, it doesn’t take much to make them elite. But disregard what was given him—look what he made out of it:
- Converts a shoot-first ex-star (Stackhouse) into an efficient, powerhouse sixth man
- Takes a guy who only played for ca$h (Dampier) and turned him into a game-changing defensive player (but of course I use the term “game changer” very loosely)
- Turns a guy who’d NEVER been to the playoffs (Jet Terry) into one of the clutchest players in the league
- Managed to take an early-entry project center, a guy who came into the league highly touted but vastly overrated (Diop) and makes him a defensive STUD who probably would start for most other teams
- Takes time to teach a guy who Nellie had all but given up on (Josh Howard) and turns him into an All-Star sidekick who is strong on both sides of the court
- And SOMEHOW…he took ol’ “wait in the corner for Nashie to pass it,” Please-don’t-touch-me-I-will-crumble Dirk, and made him into a 25-9-3 monster who can drive and post up almost as well as he can shoot now…
…and I’m saying this without argument: if Avery Johnson can somehow, some way get Dirk over his late-in-the-game issues and teach him how to be the clutch player he should be, and lead the Mavs to the title this year… then I’m gonna go ahead and call him, with only 1 ring, the greatest coach of all time.
But this year? I’m gonna go with Sam Mitchell. He’s got those guys up there playing like they expect to win. For doing that in Toronto, this guy has to be rewarded.
So… on to the awards!!!
Coach of the Year
Sam Mitchell – Toronto Raptors
Don Nelson has waaay more talent, Avery is only doing what we now expect him to do, and Dantoni, Popovich, Flip, Skiles, and Jerry Sloan are being blessed by the continuity and chemistry of their players. Oh, and Jeff Van Gundy sucks…that leaves only one man who’s really stood out above the rest.
Only one man successfully brought together a group of guys, none of which had more playoff expertise than RASHO NESTEROVIC, and made them into a team that is genuinely among the best in the Eastern Conference. Anyone who predicted 47 wins out of Toronto, with a group of guys who were more accomplished in Europe than the US, would’ve been stripped of their media guide. Mitchell, in one season, turned Chris Bosh into a leader, Bargnani into a cold-blooded assassin, TJ Ford into Steve Nash’s mini-me, and ALMOST made Anthony Parker as good as his sister (God bless her…).
Even though Avery has done an amazing job reviving the Mavs from their Finals flop, their 66 wins can’t measure up to the work it took for Sam Mitchell to get 47 in Canada. Eh?
Most Improved Player
Al Jefferson – Boston Celtics
I’ve been watching this big bruiser since the McDonalds All-Star game his senior year…I’d never heard of anyone averaging 43-18-7 in high school before. I ain’t gonna lie… I was scared of him.
And now, the rest of the league is learning as well: Big Al is to be feared.
With averages of 16 & 11, despite the poor coaching job and ilk of his teammates this season, Al is quietly becoming a force out east. This season, he literally doubled his last season averages of 8 & 5. He shot nearly 52% and approached 70% on free throws. And on the defensive end, he posted an average 1.5 blocks per game, but it showed vast improvement for a guy who was only considered an offensive threat.
One other note: once some of the lesser quality coaches and GMs are weeded out, expect the power shift to begin favoring the Eastern Conference in the next 5-10 years. Kobe, Dirk, Nash, Duncan, Garnett, Iverson, and many of the Western Conference stars are in their late 20s, early 30s—but Lebron, Dwight, Wade, Bosh, Arenas, and Big Al haven’t even scratched their mid 20s yet. The West had better watch out.
Leandro Barbosa – Phoenix Suns
You talk about a two-headed monster… Barbosa coming off the bench this season has been no relief for teams trying to keep pace with Steve Nash this season.
Really, think about it: you’ve got a guy, at 33-years-old, torching your point guard. He’s giving him 19-5-11, shooting 53%, making every free throw when you foul him, and finding every opportunity to be sure your big men are a part of the action by routinely lofting oops and floaters around their noggins. You’d think things would be better when that guy went to the bench, right?
So then he goes to the bench for a breather… and in comes THIS guy… he’s taller, he’s faster, he’s quicker, and he’s gonna hit you with 18-30 points in LESS minutes. None of his numbers compare to Nash’s (.532 FG & .455 3P to .476 & .434 for Barbosa), but they’re still good enough to be better than anyone you have guarding him!
Off the bench, Barbosa has led the team in scoring 14 times this season (Nash has done it 17 times). And at 24-years-old, he looks to be still learning the game of basketball, which is absolutely scary. He seems to be every bit the clutch player that Nash is as well, and if he continues this improvement, this will definitely be the last Sixth Man Award he is eligible for.
Rookie of the Year
Brandon Roy – Portland Trail Blazers
I don’t want to overhype or under hype Brandon for what he did this season, so let’s just leave it to the facts to explain what he accomplished:
1. He helped this team win 32 games. Not too impressive… until you realize that he only played in 57 games this season (team only got 10 wins without him. If he’d played 80, who knows—they might’ve won 40+…and in the West, that says a lot.
2. 16-4-4 may sound a bit pedestrian for a ROtY, but it is definitely a line that predicts future success. The last two players who posted similar rookie numbers? Caron Butler ’03 (15-5-3) and Dwyane Wade ’04 (16-4.5-4).
3. On a bad team, as a rookie, the kid still shot .456, .377 from three-point, and was an 84% foul shooter. We haven’t seen many Rookie of the Year recipients have efficiency like that
Still, I wish both he and Bargnani had been able to play more games this season—it could’ve really made for a great end-of-season race for the trophy.
So in absence of both, the ROY … goes to Roy. Look, I made a funny!
Defensive Player of the Year
Bruce Bowen – San Antonio Spurs
My argument is simple—while you have the opportunity to honor great players, you honor them. As much of a hack and a pest as Bowen is, he is also a 35-year-old man who over the last 5 years has been entrusted to guard Kobes, TMacs, LeBrons, and Dirks while in their prime. While the rest of his teammates funnel their man towards Timmy in the paint, Bowen makes it mano-a-mano, and for years has been the best defender on the best defensive team in the game. And this is all without mentioning that he won two rings in those five years.
So before he either retires, suffers some injury, or old age takes him down, I think it’s our duty to place his mark in the record books as one of the best defenders of our time.
Plus, let’s be honest… with Big Ben becoming increasingly geriatric and Ron Artest completely losing his mind…who else really stood out this year on defense?
OFFENSIVE Player of the Year
Seriously… can anyone tell me why there’s no Offensive POY award? The league has made all of these accommodations and re-writings of the rules in order to improve offenses—and then shafts the players who take the most advantage!
Now in case you’re also thinking that the NBA wouldn’t rock the boat and add something like this so late in its history… let me remind you that the great Bill Russell has NO DPOY awards. Why? Because the award wasn’t first given until 1983! Now almost a quarter of a century later, I think it’s time we honor the best of the best on offense, too.
The funny thing is, adding the award to the mix almost always helps to clear up the MVP debate as well. If there was an OPOY last year, for instance, it would’ve gone to Steve Nash, who probably would’ve won it the year before and have been looking for his 3rd consecutive award this year. But since there isn’t an award for offensive players, a lot of times they end up crowding the MVP debate even further. I mean, imagine if there were no Defensive POY award – would Ben Wallace, Ron Artest, and Dikembe Mutombo have been receiving MVP votes all these years too?
That’s why the NBA needs to wake up and put this award in effect. It only adds legacy and achievement to the NBA, and I don’t think the players will mind having an extra award to reach for.
Anyway, here’s the inaugural OPOY pick:
Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
Since I’ve already been too long on this award, here is briefly why Kobe wins it for this year: any time you reach a record, and the only person above you is named “Wilt,” you’re setting yourself up to win something. Count ‘em – seven 40-point games, eight 50-point games and two 60-point games in one season. Give the man a trophy!
…or rather MVP(s)
Dirk Nowitzki & Steve Nash
Since we’ve already set new boundaries by creating an award for the Offensive Player of the Year, I say we dig into another award’s history in choosing this year’s MVP…s.
Remember the ’94-95 Rookie of the Year race between Grant Hill and Jason Kidd? It was between two great guys, both of whom stood out from among their peers. Grant only improved his teams win total by 8 games, but he put up stellar numbers. Jason Kidd had pretty solid numbers, but he led his team to 36 wins after winning only 13 games the year before.
Two good guys, at the peak of their success, seeming equally deserving…. Sound familiar?
So just like we did in 1995, I say we reward—and award—them both. I mean, what would it harm to forever tie these two guys together in the history books, considering their past and their relationship?
Every season, there seem to be 5 criteria for selecting an MVP. Let’s see if we can one can separate from the other:
Statistics – A player has to have numbers that are AT LEAST top 3 in their position. Also, his stats from the current season should compare favorably or easily surpass his stats from previous seasons. This one goes to NASH, who is having a career year. Dirk has improved…but not that much.
Team Success – This is what separates these two from the other candidates. Their 66 & 61 wins are a cut above the rest of the league. Because they obviously have more wins, we give this one to DIRK.
CHAMPIONSHIP Contender – If you look at the last 20 years of MVP candidates, you will find that, interestingly enough, all of their teams were top 3 record-wise in the league, and almost all of them either played in or won the Finals. I think the NBA prefers to bestow the MVP on the player it feels will more likely be playing in June. Because the Mavs play more defense, and because the Suns have Nash’s “Never say die” attitude, I’m calling this one a DRAW.
Offensive AND Defensive Impact – Both of these guys are innovative, unique offensive players—and liabilities on defense. Another DRAW? You bet!
Overall Dominance Factor – What this comes down to is, simply, how good can this guy be? Ignoring averages, disregarding off nights and unimportant games, this simply looks at the greatest achievements of the player this season and observes where they stack up to what others have done. THIS is why Kobe is always in the MVP debate—there is no questioning his dominance. When you look at Dirk & Nash’s numbers, neither of them really dominated like we know they can in the postseason. But both of them showed consistent numbers that prove that no one all season has learned to limit them offensively. So neither has the edge offensively, and neither bests the other offensively, so … yes, my friend… another DRAW.
So what have we learned? First, it is impossible to rank the accomplishments of these two this season. They have been a cut above the rest, and that precedence is how we have typically identified the MVP each season.
But the last thing we have to consider is how the story will be told. If we give only one of them the MVP, won’t the other’s name automatically come to mind? Will either side have a convincing argument against the other? I think not. AND for all those that don’t want Nash to go into elitest of elite “3-Consecutive MVPs Club,” we know that Russell, Chamberlain, and Bird NEVER shared an MVP award.
See? My picks help everybody win!
Except the Mavs… :(
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
So in case you didn't know, I'm pretty random. My esteemed colleague and co-blogger Clifton already revealed this about himself, so I figured I should be completely honest with the reading public (all 2 of you, including the one person who accidentally clicked the blog expecting porn and left upset). (Sorry to disappoint you.) I am a huge hip hop fan, yet I will not defend some of it's incredibly crude and sexist views. I am a sneaker freak, and a fan of anything Nike....Some of this has rubbed off on my friends, as Clifton will probably tell you that he now knows way more about sneakers and their history then he ever wanted to...but at the same time he will talk to you about which ones he likes (air penny, Lebron III and IV) and what colors he would "definitely charge to his card." I'm pretty eclectic when it comes to how I feel about a lot of different issues; sometimes I agree with the general consensus, other times I go against the flow. Here comes some randomness now:
1) according to ESPN.com, NBA ref Joey Crawford has been suspended for the rest of the season and the playoffs for his on court conduct in the dallas-spurs game this past week. He tossed TD for laughing at one of his calls, and I for one applaud the league for finally showing some cojones and policing their refs.
2) Michelle Malkin is now on my most hated list of political pundits. She has been a staunch enemy of hip hop and has attacked it repeatedly, yet still tries to put on the front that she is fair and balanced. One of her statements from last weeks O'Reilly factor made me fall off the couch: "I know hip hop, I know about Queen Latifah and MC Lyte." LOL. First of all, when is the last time you heard a hip hop artist use MC in front of their name? When is the last time Queen Latifah put out a record?? Last time I heard her rapping was the intro to living single. Malkin's comments smack of the same ignorance you hear from caucasians who say "I'm not racist, I have black friends." Just because you can name two people who have rapped in the past 30 years does not mean you know or understand a genre, Ms. Malkin. Educate yourself.
I have a lot of stuff I will be putting into this blog, so I hope both of you who read the blog will stick around to see what's in our heads.
P.S. I'm not sure why gatorade made the title of this blog, but I was sipping on the new A.M flavor while typing and it probably slipped in through osmosis. It tastes fantastic by the way.
By Todd BoydSpecial to Page 2 (ESPN.com)
Now that disgraced radio talk-show host Don Imus has been booted, can we finally get down to some "real talk" about the multiple issues embedded in this racial theater? There is a lot to sort through here, but after a week of debate centered around "nappy-headed hos," half-assed apologies, cries of censorship, and a curmudgeonly shock jock's lame attempt at being funny, many pundits have moved beyond the core issue and now are talking about the perceived double standard they feel exists between what Imus said and what often comes from the mouths of rappers.
Don Imus lost his job for using words that are commonplace in hip-hop culture.
Yet Imus and hip-hop really don't have much in common. Imus was host of a radio show that focused on the real news of the day, while hip-hop is a fictionalized form of cultural expression. Imus is real, featuring real guests and humor based on real topics. However loudly hip-hop might claim to be real, it is not real; it is a form of representation. This is why so few rappers use the names on their birth certificates when performing. Rappers are in essence characters performing a fictional life. Though the culture is rooted in the notion and style of authenticity, it is decidedly fictional. If not, the cops could arrest every rapper who talks about selling drugs or killing someone in his or her lyrics. So we should be judging hip-hop the same way we judge a novel, a movie, or a television show, and to do so means we have to afford hip-hop the same latitude we afford any other form of artistic expression.
Over the years, hip-hop has taken a lot of words -- "diss," "pimp," and "bling," for example -- that were once the exclusive domain of black street culture and put these words into widespread circulation. In many ways, one could say hip-hop took a private conversation and made it public. As hip-hop has grown from being a New York subculture into a global phenomena over the last 30-plus years, the language of the culture has come to present a number of complicated scenarios for a public that never really learned how to talk about race in the first place. There are times when I'm not even sure if we know what constitutes racism, really, short of someone getting beheaded while being dragged behind a pickup truck.
On this point, many in America feel that with the end of legalized segregation in the 1960s, racism ended as well. Thus, racism is often viewed as something confined to the PBS "Eyes on the Prize" documentary series from the 1980s. The fact that someone like Barack Obama is currently mounting a serious challenge for the Democratic presidential nomination further complicates matters for those who subscribe to this "racism is dead" thesis. How could a black man be considered for the presidency if racism still existed, they ask ever so discreetly?
Then there are those who seem to think racism potentially lurks around every corner. Any untoward gesture, remark, or idea, however slight or incidental, is thought to reflect America's problematic racial history rearing its ugly head once again. A good example of this type of paranoid thinking can be found in the 1992 film "Boomerang" where Martin Lawrence does a hilarious analysis of the racial symbolism of the colored balls on a pool table. In this line of thought, even the game of billiards has a racist undertone.
While neither of these extremes is ultimately relevant, extremes often draw the most attention. This means that those who feel there is no racism and those who feel everything is racist tend to get all the airtime, while the thoughtful and logical tend to get short shrift.
I thought about all of this while watching Imus and Al Sharpton on the latter's syndicated radio show. If ever there were two people who deserved each other, it would have to be Imus and Sharpton. While I am certainly not a supporter of Imus, I wish there had been a way to "fire" Sharpton as well. Sharpton needs Imus as much as Imus thought he needed Sharpton. Unless there are idiots like Imus who spout vile nonsense, then clowns like Sharpton wouldn't have anything to do. Sharpton and his race-baiting kin need public displays of racism in order for them to seem relevant. Racial opportunists like Sharpton are like ambulance chasers in this regard. So when the Imus train crashed, Sharpton was "Johnny-on-the-spot," ready to exploit fully every possible angle of this controversy for his own self-interest.
As the curtain closes on this most recent performance of racial theater, though, hip-hop culture and the controversial use of language has now moved to center stage. Does the Imus firing represent a racial double standard with regard to hip-hop? For those who believe the firing does indicate bias, their evidence would be that rappers use such language all the time and they seemingly get away with it. In this case, these people conclude that there is a censoring of free speech when it comes to white people and their discussion of racial issues.
This sentiment of a racial double standard goes back to the days of the landmark 1978 Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke, which helped to float the idea that came to be known as "reverse discrimination." Alan Bakke was a white male applicant to the medical school at the University of California, Davis, who had been denied admission several times. Bakke was regarded in some circles as a victim of reverse discrimination, because he had been denied admission, though several black students had been admitted under a quota system the school had used. In the end, the Supreme Court ruled quota systems unconstitutional and Bakke was admitted to the school. In the ensuing years, there were many who believed that the integration of black people into mainstream society came at the expense of whites.
Rappers have long been held accountable because of their speech. For people who do not really pay attention to hip-hop, but only focus on stereotypes of the culture, this is something they might not be aware of. Here are but a few examples: In 1990, The 2 Live Crew was arrested, taken to court and eventually acquitted on obscenity charges. In 1992, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton blasted rapper Sista Souljah and her lyrics, comparing Souljah's words to that of former Klansman David Duke. Ice T's single "Cop Killer" was deleted from the album "Body Count" and his band bearing the same name as the album was dropped by Time Warner because of the controversial song. William Bennett and the late C. Delores Tucker prompted congressional hearings on the impact of gangsta rap music in 1994, hearings that eventually lead to Time Warner selling its shares in Interscope Records and its rap subsidiary Death Row Records. Jennifer Lopez came under fire for her use of the n-word in the remix to her song "I'm Real" in 2001. A Nelly concert planned for Spelman College in 2004 was canceled because some of the women at this historically black woman's college felt his video for the song "Tip Drill" was demeaning to black women. Jadakiss received a great deal of heat for his rhetorical question "Why did Bush knock down the towers?" on his 2004 single "Why? "
The point is, hip-hop history is replete with examples of the culture being challenged over its lyrical content, in the court of public opinion as well as in the real halls of justice. To say that hip-hop has received a free pass on its language and sexual politics is simply uninformed and ignores the ongoing heated debate that has been raging for some time now on hip-hop's societal impact. I mean, who hasn't heard about Bill Cosby's senile rants against hip-hop the past few years? Critics of hip-hop are a dime a dozen these days.
In hip-hop, the widespread use of terms like "bitch" and "ho" is often interestingly set against the overwhelming admiration of the mother figure. A good example of this was the late Tupac Shakur, whose love anthem to the plight of single mothers, "Dear Mama," was getting much airplay at the same time that he was in court on sexual-assault charges. While many rappers have disparaged women in general, many of these same rappers often celebrate their own mothers as role models of feminine virtue. This contradiction exposes hip-hop's at its weakest, most indefensible point. Sexism in hip-hop works to undermine the culture's strength and overall message of racial and economic empowerment.
Though the culture has been progressive on a number of issues, when it comes to the representation of women, hip-hop is stuck in the 1950s. In order to address this, hip-hop must recondition its mind about women and their roles or else it will remain an easy target for those who want to see it shut down. Further, when rappers use these contested terms, it is often in relationship to women in general, as opposed to specific women. I guarantee you if a rapper was to single out the U.S. Olympic women's figure skating or gymnastics team by calling them the white equivalent of what Imus said, there would be a similar firestorm of protest and actions would be taken accordingly. The difference being that as one moves from the general to the specific, the stakes are raised accordingly.
Ultimately, the fact that rappers are now being held accountable for something Imus said shows the bias many people have against hip-hop culture. Hip-hop is often the scapegoat of everything gone wrong in America, but hip-hop didn't slander the Rutgers women's basketball team, Don Imus did, so let's stay on point here.
Let me add that if we are going to censor hip-hop, then let's not stop there. David Mamet has made a career in theater using similarly vulgar language like that in hip-hop, while Martin Scorsese has done the same in cinema. Are they not to blame, too? Should we be talking about canceling "The Sopranos" because of Tony's cursing? Perhaps Dick Cheney should have been impeached for his use of foul language toward a U.S. senator?
The point is, hip-hop didn't invent cursing, slurs, bad language, sexism or misogyny, though hip-hop like so many other fictional forms of the culture uses this type of language as a form of expression, however problematic it might be. This expression represents the way people in the streets talk. It might not be pretty or politically correct, but it is a unique form of fictional expression that emerges from the minds and mouths of young black men.
Censorship is a slippery slope. Once you start, it's not so easy to stop. Hip-hop is most certainly guilty of sexism in many cases. This is a point that cannot be denied. But the purpose of art is often to provoke, to shock, to annoy, to agitate, to say things that might not otherwise be permissible in real life. It might not always be appropriate, but it fulfills a purpose in a society that prides itself on free expression.
Which leads me to my final point. I'm not so sure that firing Imus was the best course to take. Don't get me wrong, I am not losing any sleep over this, nor have I or will I shed a tear. Imus has made a lot of money over the years being a crude, obnoxious, insensitive bigot. At least that's the persona he projected. He was like Archie Bunker, only not nearly as funny. His firing will lead many to regard him as a martyr, which he most certainly is not. I'm sure he already has begun negotiating another radio deal. Make no mistake about it, just like Trent Lott, Imus will be back in some form or another.
I have never spent five minutes listening to Don Imus. Why? Because I don't have to. I have choices. What is really great about America is there are choices. Haters of hip-hop don't have to listen to it, either. I don't particularly care for heavy metal or country music, but I'm not trying to censor it simply because I don't like it. They wave Confederate flags at NASCAR events all the time, but considering that NASCAR is not on my TiVo list, I could care less.
Let's be real about this. Again, context is important. What Imus did was insult a group of innocent young women for no apparent reason. At the end of the day, this was slanderous. It was the equivalent of a verbal drive-by shooting. One of the main reasons Imus ultimately was fired was because once people saw the poise and class of the Rutgers woman's basketball team, Imus' unprovoked comment came across as that much more egregious. Imus likely would not have used the same phrase to describe a team of white women, so he was being racially specific with his otherwise sexist comment.
Had Imus used the same phrase to describe, let's say someone like Star Jones, I doubt the furor would have been as strong. I'm not saying he would have gotten away with it, but Star Jones is someone who has generated enough public animosity that the insult would have seemed justified to many people. It also would have been personal. But considering Imus had no personal knowledge of the Rutgers team beforehand, and the fact the players simply were minding their own business after a great run to the NCAA finals, his unprovoked comments represented his own prejudiced view, not only of the team, but of black women in general.
The bottom line here is we should hold Imus accountable for Imus, and not use this as an excuse to censor hip-hop culture, because, at least as it pertains to the Rutgers women's basketball team, hip-hop is innocent of all charges.
Dr. Todd Boyd, a columnist for Page 2, is an author, media commentator and a professor of critical studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. His next book "The Notorious Ph.D.'s Guide to the Super Fly '70s" will be published in June.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Not Tavis, Not Reverends Al or Jesse, but a sports reporter out of Kansas City will lead Black folk to the promised land.
Or, at the very least, save us from rap music.
At face value, Jason Whitlock appears to be a very intelligent, thoughtful, and charismatic individual genuinely concerned with the Black American crisis. His platform for reaching the masses has not been through protest or pulpit, but through the sports pages. From playoffs to unwanted pregnancy, lewd touchdown celebrations to lewd rap lyrics, Whitlock had it pretty much covered.
But even 'Big Sexy' can get ugly.
For a while now, Whitlock has a had a running feud with hip hop culture, particularly its music. He has referred to rappers as thugs, coons, and bojanglers on a regular basis, and has even gone far enough to refer to specific rap artists as "the Black KKK." Now he's set his sights on the Don Imus situation, and the heavy involvement of Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
In a recent interview on MSNBC, Whitlock referred to Sharpton and Jackson as "terrorists," and accused them of "starting fires and creating divisiveness" with their involvement in this incident, and in the Duke lacrosse scandal. Not an outrageous claim in the least bit, but from a man who was fired from ESPN after criticizing a fellow African-American broadcaster in Michael Irvin, and an African-American sportswriter in Scoop Jackson, well, you know what they say about kettles and that pesky color-complex they can have.
Whitlock has made a career on analyzing, dissecting and elaborating on points that go against the general consensus. Anyone can be a contrarian, but it takes a special talent to make a living off of it. Now its putting him at the national forefront as a leading voice on America's Racial Problem. While Jason Whitlock is a master at eliciting thought and emotion at the same time, what he has not mastered is giving considerable thought to his own arguments, particularly in regards to the hip-hop culture and the generations living in it.
Much of Whitlock's angst against Hip-Hop is that there is little to no responsibility in its misogynistic and violent lyrics. Bitches and hoes, gatts and blow, that all a young brother knows in the African-American community, according to Whitlock. Single moms, delinquent dads? Yep, that's hip-hop's fault. More Black men in jail than in college? Yeah, mixtapes have been known to have an adverse affect on decision making and SAT preparation.
But what about the deeper lying aspects of these problems? They don't call pimping and hoeing the world's oldest profession for nothing. Materialism and greed? Mostly American ideals that our folks just happened to pick up when we didn't have much else going for us between slavery and Ronald Reagan. Broken households, a lack of value on education and a reliance on crime? Institutionalized for much longer than it hasn't been. Surely no one can expect hundreds of years to be undone with less than 50 years of "equal rights."
Or maybe we're supposed to.
While Whitlock's perspective is easily understood, and can even draw a certain level of acceptance, it's completely unfounded, and he's smart enough to know that. In his position, with his level of experience, I'm sure he knows that he's vainly rallying against symptoms, and not actual problems. As a football aficionado, I'm quite certain he wouldn't look at a quarterback with a broken wrist throwing interceptions, and say he's unable to read coverages. So why is it so simple to assign blame of the crisis of our culture to one singular aspect? Oh, I know, because it comes on
TV and makes millions of dollars.
Something I'm sure Whitlock wouldn't mind doing.
Could you really blame Whitlock if he found a path to getting some of that action, particularly if the folks mostly interested in his views are nervous, conservative White folks willing to pay him to keep it up? Interestingly enough, rappers and coons have probably made more money off shucking and jiving and have fed more folks through their buffooning then he ever will criticizing them.
Let's face it, Whitlock is capitalizing off this moment in the sun like no other. I'm not saying his views are totally wrong, I'm as conservative a brother as there is for someone who uses the term "n*gga," and listens to rap music. But I'm smart enough to know that in the blame game, nobody wins. I'm not making excuses for hip-hop and the problems that it has with denigrating women, worshiping material acquisition and celebrating violence. But if Italians don't have to worry about Tony Soprano representing them, and Jewish brothers and sisters don't have to worry about Larry David representing them, I'm not tripping off anyone who looks at me and hears "Straight Outta Compton" in their minds.
I respect Jason Whitlock's attempt at trying to help our people. He deserves attention because, in a distinct and peculiar way, he's just trying to help. Still, you wouldn't walk up to a screaming child and call it a Sambo for being so loud. The problems he is addressing as the ills of the Black community are symptomatic of a true American crisis, and his brash and undeveloped approach to discussing it makes him as big a terrorist as Rev. Al.
A big, media-sexy terrorist.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The truth is (as I see it) that Scottie Pippen was the best defender on the best team ever. Quick, name someone who locked down Magic Johnson during the regular season. Nobody? Well, what about the playoffs? Nothing? Well what about the NBA finals? Only one: Pip. Scottie stuck the dagger threes, always defended the other teams top player (regardless of position 1-4), and completely disrupted other team's offense. Michael scored, defended, and lead the team, but it was Pippen who kept teams from completely defensively keying in on Michael. It really is an unfair connundrum. If you are playing against the Bulls, do you double team Michael and leave spot up jump shooters open? (Sidebar: by statistical measurements, the Bulls have had the greatest role playing jumpshooters in the HISTORY of the NBA in Paxson and Kerr.) Or do you allow Scottie Pippen to post up and collaspe on him? How do you defend Michael if Pippen is the one bringing up the ball and can see over the top of your defense? You can't tire Michael out on defense if Pippen is the one defending your best player, etc. While Pippen wouldn't have won all those rings without Michael, the same can be said about Jordan. Shaq and Kobe, on the other hand, are different. Shaq proved he could win with any great guard, not just Kobe Bryant. Which is why I come to this question. At this point in their careers, it might be a better comparison to look at Scottie Pippen vs. Kobe Bryant. Outside of scoring, Pippen has Kobe beat in every statistical category. 6 rings vs. 3. Lead a team BY HIMSELF to the Eastern Conference Finals and a 54 win season. Kobe has not gotten out of the first round since Shaq left LA. I would humbly submit to you that Kobe's best team since Shaq left is far better then the team Pippen had to lead in the 94-95 season without MJ.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Two subjects have been on my mind for the past week…I don’t really want to do two full-length articles, but I want to cover both subjects as comprehensively as possible.
First… the ever-prevalent “nappy-headed hoes” incident...
I don’t even need to go into the specifics. What Don Imus said was not really so terrible. It was that his attack was so unwarranted, so vicious, against a group of women that almost couldn’t be more undeserving of it. I think most people have heard much more vicious attacks on TV or radio…but never to a group of more accomplished, more respectable young women, who excelled defensively on the court, yet found themselves defenseless to the attacks from the airwaves. I almost wish that the punishment for Mr. Imus would be left in their hands—that would be justice…
…but it wouldn’t solve the greater problem, the deep questions that remain unanswered by our culture.
What is unacceptable language in today’s society?
Who determines language acceptability?
Are persons with comedic intent supposed to be given free license to say anything? Or should they be held to the same standards as the rest of us?
Does a person’s history of actions/comments weigh more heavily than an individual incident?
How many people does a comment have to offend to be proclaimed offensive?
…or really, which groups have to be offended for a statement to truly be proclaimed offensive?
These questions could not come at a more important time…let’s just recap the last 8 months of “events”…
(sucking in a big gulp of air)
Kramer called a group of black hecklers “niggers” while informing them how blessed they were not to be hung from the nearest tree like their ancestors…(hmmm…) Ann Coulter has been cited numerous times for using the word “fag” derogatorily in reference to liberal and democratic leaders, particularly former Vice President Al Gore… Michael Chertoff, our Secretary of Homeland Security, referred to European terrorists as “clean skin” terrorists—so what does that make the non-European terrorists? Exactly… Rush Limbaugh poked fun and made a mockery of Parkinson’s Disease after its lead spokesman, Michael J. Fox, began campaigning for stem cell research as a hopeful resource for eliminating the disease… Newt Gingrich inadvertently referred to Spanish and Latin American languages spoken in America as “languages of the ghetto.” He obviously was referring to them, because he apologized directly to them—in Spanish… Tim Hardaway said four words that stirred the entire nation: “I hate gay people,” and thereby severed his own ties with the NBA. His timing didn’t help, either—John Amaechi had just become the first openly gay NBA-affiliated player, leaving Hardaway on the opposing end of what many saw as progress for the league…Senator George Allen of Virginia was ultimately responsible for the Republicans losing control of the House after calling an Indian American in his audience “Macaca,” a racial slur that most Americans had never even heard of, and thus he thought he could get away with…Last September, Pope Benedict XVI found himself in a world of trouble for quoting an anti-Muslim passage in one of his lectures. He said his point was to discourage the notion that religion could be spread by violence—but being Catholic, he definitely could have read from his OWN churches passages to prove that point.
(chest heaving, gasping for air)
So in this paragraph, we’ve offended: African Americans, Spanish-speaking Americans, citizens of Middle Eastern nations, Far Eastern peoples, liberals, democrats, Parkinsons sufferers, homosexuals, and Muslims.
So what have the punishments been for the above offenders? Half-hearted TV apologies, statements from PR persons, long explanations on interview circuits, and the occasional loss of sponsorship or affiliation. Or if you’re Ann Coulter or the Pope…nothing.
NOW, when you look at the Don Imus incident in this context, as well as in the context of his own career and actions, you understand why we have a problem.
The problem isn’t that we have people like Don Imus on the radio spewing insults and covert/overt racism on millions of homes. The problem is that our society hasn’t really grown culturally in 30 years, and we’ve suppressed race and cultural issues in various ways as best we could, but now we are seeing them seep back to the surface.
So where are they coming from? The Civil Rights movement was the catalyst for much of the change and advancement we experience today. But in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, the focus shifted to the Vietnam War, and the false unity of anti-war sentiment masked our need for growth and racial exploration. The following eras of drug use, drug war, satanic music, and Persian Gulf conflict gave us another two decades of distraction. All these eras distracted us until now—the era of information/accessibility. And now we all sit a YouTube visit away from the harsh reality of what other Americans really think of us—whether we’re black, gay, Muslim, or whatever else.
I haven’t said many words about Don Imus, or the women of Rutgers, in this article, but that’s because it just doesn’t seem like the central issue in this story. The truth is this: American culture, whether black or white or in between, has created numerous double standards when it comes to self-expression. And even though Don Imus is a rabid bigot, even he is able to see that we are becoming a nation that’s selectively PC, wanting others to push the envelope, just not when it make US feel less of OURselves. Let’s face it, America, WE made Borat one of the richest movies of the year. WE embraced Dave Chappelle’s racially-charged humor to a level that even he could not maintain his sanity. WE are the ones that support artists and labels that produce music that is wreaking havoc on youths from the projects to the suburbs.
And as long as we create a culture of “acceptable offense” in our entertainment, as long as we embrace certain levels of abusiveness as merely “pushing the boundaries of self-expression,” then we can expect the Kramers, Ann Coulters, and Don Imus’s of the world to keep spreading their filth as well.
And one last thing—this isn’t about the black community needing to toughen up or “fix itself” (Imus and every sympathetic white figure has turned to rap music as his excuse for his crime)—it’s about AMERICANS realizing that we haven’t done anything but TALK about unity since Martin Luther King died. We’ve still got a long ways to go before we’re Civil. Or Right.
[NOTE: It was announced after 4pm today that Imus was officially fired from CBS, ending his more than 30 years in broadcasting]
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Web Posted: 03/27/2007 11:53 PM CDT
Michael Finley saw enough highlights of this season's dunk contest to know this much: Had Spurs rookie James White been in the event, he would have won.
"Seriously," Finley said. "The dunk contest has come to a point where we've seen everything. But he has dunks that people haven't seen."
Finley said he has seen White take off from the free-throw line and put the ball between his legs before flushing it through the rim. He also claims White can throw down a two-handed dunk from the foul line.
"Nobody's seen that," Finley said.
Aside from the Spurs, nobody's seen White doing much of anything this season.
Since signing with the Spurs on Nov. 3, White has performed most of his work at the team's practice facility or in the NBDL. Almost all of his court time on game days has come during private workouts long before fans are allowed into the arena.
That changed Monday when Robert Horry was placed on the inactive list after suffering an abdominal injury the previous night in Seattle. With about three minutes left in the third quarter and the Spurs well on their way to a 126-89 victory over Golden State, White made his NBA debut. He finished with nine points and three rebounds in 15 minutes.
"It's got to be hard for him after a whole year waiting for this," Manu Ginobili said. "He did very good, so we're all happy for him. It's not easy to be on a team and never have the opportunity to play."
White also doesn't know when his next chance will come. If Horry's injury has healed or coach Gregg Popovich decides the team could need Melvin Ely's size tonight against the New Orleans Hornets, White will go back to his familiar seat behind the bench.
"You have to approach it as a job," White said. "It's my job to stay professional, go out there and come to work every day like nothing has changed. You never know when you'll get your opportunity to play.
"Basketball is fun; you can't beat that as a job."
So far, that attitude has served White well. Spurs officials, while acknowledging they might have to wait until summer league to better evaluate White, are pleased with how he's fit in the locker room.
White also handled his two assignments to the Development League fairly well, averaging 16.3 points on 47.7 percent shooting in 15 games for the Austin Toros. With minutes few and far between on a veteran-heavy Spurs roster, he has spent some of his time working with shooting coach Chip Engelland.
"I've improved so much since I've been here," White said. "My shot, my mental preparation, my professionalism — everything basketball-wise, I've gotten better."
While White needs to continue working on his fundamentals, no one has ever questioned he has the athleticism to succeed in the NBA. His leaping ability is extraordinary, and some among the Spurs rank him alongside David Robinson as one of the franchise's greatest athletes. Before he had even finished his college career at Cincinnati, "Flight" White's impressive dunks had made him a YouTube star.
Some NBA scouts thought White had the potential to be a first-round selection last summer. He lasted until the opening pick of the second round when Portland chose him and immediately traded him to Indiana. The Pacers thought enough of White to give him a guaranteed two-year contract, unusual for second-round picks.
Indiana, however, was fairly well-stocked at the wing positions. Some in the organization also were rankled a little by White's attitude, which they perceived as too cocky. Called for a hand-checking foul during an exhibition game, White played the ensuing possession by holding his hands behind his back.
Still, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle called the decision to cut White at the end of the preseason one of the most difficult he has had to make.
"It was surprising at first, it took me a while to get over the shock," White said. "It kind of motivated me just like draft night. I felt like when I was drafted, I got shafted a little bit.
"When I came here, it was a whole different situation from Indiana, the tradition of winning, the professionalism of the whole team. ... I've learned something new from the older guys every day."
Finley has helped mentor White, providing a few words of advice or encouragement when appropriate.
"He's young, so he really won't appreciate this time with this team until maybe five or six years into the league," Finley said. "Hopefully, he can stay grounded and stay humble, and he'll be OK."
Popovich thought White played "pretty confidently" Monday. He rimmed out a 3-pointer for his first shot but settled down after making an easy layup off a pass from Brent Barry.
With less than 30 seconds left, White finally received an opportunity to show off his legs, jamming a lob from Fabricio Oberto through the rim. The dunk brought applause from the bench, but the Spurs also have seen better from the rookie.
"Hopefully, he'll get an opportunity to be in (the contest) next year," Finley said. "He has my vote."
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
So when the Mavericks drafted Dirk... or really, traded away a solid, BLACK collegiate player for Dirk... Don Nelson became the biggest racist on the planet. To me, he did. Another crappy Euro/Cauc player to guarantee us a 15-win season! Whoopee, let's see who's at the top of the draft board for next year!
Now of course, Dirk panned out pretty nicely. But I guess from then on, I've still held a strong interest in race and sports, and in presence or lack of coverage when the two become entangled.
Since 2001, the Mavericks have won 50+ games every season, contesting for a championship each year and seeing defeat from the Kings, Spurs, Suns, and Heat in the later rounds. The only player present throughout this run has been Dirk Nowitzki, who has been surrounded by one of the better supporting casts in basketball. Witnessing this team's transformation--from laughingstock to perennial contender--has been great for me.
But there's just one thing that still bothers me.
Sometimes, Dirk irks me. Or not really Dirk, but the way the media sometimes covers Dirk.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not underappreciative. He's earned the All-Star status, the All-NBA Selections, and the all-around accolades.
But I sometimes feel like he and his buddy Nash are made to be the "Great White Hoop Hopes," when I thought we were past that era.
Here's one thing I've noticed... you remember in the late-Jordan era (man, we're gettin old) how many superstars there were? Jordan...Olajuwon...Barkley...Malone...Shaq... not many. But that was because the definition of a superstar was different. It was a player who changed the ENTIRE game---all 90 feet of the court. Now? It seems like the title has been stretched in order to be a bit more accommodating. I mean, let's face it--Nash and Nowitzki are two of the GREATEST--I said it--GREATEST offensive players in the game's history, but superstar status? I'm not so sold.
And let's put this out on the table... JASON KIDD was Steve Nash LOOOOOONG before Steve Nash was Steve Nash! Remember? Came to the Nets, 2 straight NBA Finals appearances, yet he couldn't beat out Tim Duncan for an MVP, which Nash has now done twice...hmm??? JKidd is almost as good on offense as he is on defense. He's about +3% shooting from being a juggernaut unto himself.
And let's also be honest about THIS... Nowitzki, from the onset of his career, has been the beneficiary of the Mark Cuban Bed & Breakfast they call the Mavericks organization. Every decision was made to benefit him.... Couldn't play defense? ONLY give him teammates who are solid defenders. Not the most aggressive rebounder? Josh Howard, Diop, and Dampier should help with that. NOT CLUTCH? Let Jet Terry pilot the late game heroics! And on top of that, Dirk is receiving one of the best and most underrated coaching jobs in the history of sports. Have you ever seen an entire 15-man roster of players improve under the direction of one man? Avery Johnson has made every player he's coached better, and no one has benefited from it more than Dirk. Just imagine... give KG a team that's suited to his strengths and weaknesses. Give Paul Piearce a Josh Howard and Jason Terry. Give Jason Kidd a 10-man rotation, or Allen Iverson a no-nonsense, coachin-like-its-ABCs coach like Avery.
What I'm saying is, the media rides certain players--who happen to be...well let's not be obvious--for not winning, for not coming up big. Yet they shower accolades at two guys who--yes, they are--and who have yet to win anything, despite being a part of two of the best organizations, and with some of the best teammates, in professional basketball.
What Dwayne Wade did to Dirk in the Finals was a revelation. As a Mavs fan, yes, I was pissed at the calls. I wanted to choke a ref! But let's face it--we put Wade's back to the wall, started planning our championship parade, turned around, and looked up at a 4-2 closed case. Dirk did not show up--he got shown up. And before then and even more since he's looked increasingly shook up about it. I know what it is. He feels the pressure. He sees the whole world telling him who he is and what he is... but he knows the truth. He is a great offensive player, a freak of nature, but NOT a superstar. In order for the Mavericks to get back to the Finals in this year's loaded west, he'll have to pretty much prove me wrong.
And boy, I hope he can.