Dame Time: With the World at a Standstill, Lillard Finally Getting the Respect He Deserves

“Put some respect on my fucking name,” Lillard barked after leading the Blazers to another crucial 134-131 victory over the Mavs to keep their playoff hopes alive. With the stakes higher than ever and the public microscope gleaming on him, it’s only brought out the best in No. 0.

Lillard tied his career-best with 61 points (22 in the 4th quarter!!) and made history by joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only NBA players ever to post three 60+ point efforts in one season.

Following his missed free throws as part of the Clippers debacle last week, Dame Time has been fully in session, as he’s carried Portland with back-to-back 50+ point games and a pair of victories to keep the Blazers in the driver’s seat to clinch the 8-seed with a win on Thursday vs. the Nets. That’s 112 points in 81 minutes for those keeping score at home and the 10 and 11th 50-point games of his career, which ties him with Allen Iverson for 8th most all-time.

“When I first came here, I told you I didn’t come here to waste my time. They gave us a chance to get in like we asked for, and that’s what we’re here to do. The job still ain’t done, but I said, ‘You know what I’m here for.’ Our work ain’t done yet, but we fighting for it,” he told TNT’s Chris Haynes after the win.

As someone who lets his game usually do the talking, unless he’s in the studio, it’s been awesome to see Dame unleash on detractors while backing it up on the hardwood (averaging 37 points and 9.3 assists inside the bubble).

After calling out Paul George for switching teams and “running from the grind,” Logo Lillard then turned his focus to ethering the fraudulent Skip Bayless with an absolute haymaker on Monday. Not many things this pandemic have made me happier than seeing Skip getting put on his ass with an eviscerating knockout punch of a tweet from Lillard. Take that, old man!

The 30-year-old’s had several prolific “moments” in his career, as walk-off shots to defeat the Rockets (2014) and Thunder last year in the playoffs come to mind when the basketball world was in his palms. With Portland playing on the West Coast, it’s easy for Lillard’s late-night heroics to be reduced to an Instagram clip for followers to take in the next morning.

But this feels different, as the world’s stuck in a five-month standstill, every Blazer game has been must-watch cinema, and Lillard is the A-list star of the show. He seems to finally be getting the mainstream praise and collecting the accolades he’s quite honestly deserved for years. I have him on my All-NBA first team in the guard spot alongside Harden and conversations of him usurping the point guard throne from Steph Curry are bubbling on social media, as Steph and the Warriors have taken a gap year.

The job isn’t done just yet, as the Blazers still need to defeat the Nets on Thursday then win one of the possible two play-in games over the weekend to have the right to face the one-seeded Lakers. If all goes according to plan, Lillard should be the regular season Bubble MVP. This also wouldn’t be your typical 1 vs. 8 matchup, as L.A. has issues of their own to sort out. Being a student of the game, LeBron’s definitely taken note of Dame’s run and knows they don’t have any sort of answer for Lillard at the guard spot defensively.

Oh, and as a gift to fans, Dame and Adidas teamed up to make his Dame 6 sneakers on sale for $61 just for Wednesday in honor of his performance last night.

 

 

Remembering the Late Wrestling Superstar ‘Kamala’

Another great has left us. The Ugandan Giant Kamala, whose real name was James Harris, died this weekend at age 70. Despite being from Mississippi, he had many fans convinced that he was just an uncivilized savage. A lot of people who got to know him had nice things to say. It seems that most considered him a gentle giant.

Kamala feuded with the biggest (literally and figuratively) stars in wrestling. His first WWF stint featured matches against Andre The Giant. In 1986, Kamala returned to the World Wrestling Federation. Again, a string of three bouts against a rival at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens culminated with a steel cage match. This time, the opponent was Hulk Hogan. These two wrestled twice at Madison Square Garden. Both cards were sold out. A match between Hogan and Kamala at Boston Garden also brought a sold-out crowd. There were even bouts between Kamala and King Kong Bundy. It was very odd for two major stars who were both bad guys to battle at that time, but this only added to the intrigue.

I can remember being on vacation in 1987 and watching wrestling from a store television as Paul Roma and Jim Powers were on the receiving end of top rope splashes from Kamala. My eyes were glued to the action. Kamala’s team was counted out, but it didn’t matter. The message was sent. This man needed to be feared. Hulk Hogan had a title defense on NBC against Sika less than two months later. It seemed like an odd and random match.

Years later, I found out that Sika was a substitute for Kamala. This would have been an awesome match with incredible hype. That was the night when Hulk Hogan became friends with Randy Savage after Elizabeth ran back for help. She was brutally shoved down by the Honky Tonk Man. Hogan came out and was triple-teamed before gaining the advantage. I remember a comment about how Hogan could possibly lose his title after he already had been worn down. You couldn’t really buy in. However, if Kamala was his opponent, you could believe!

In September of 1987, Kamala left the WWF over frustrations with his pay. He claimed that they would tell him none or only a small amount of his action figures sold. Between the crowds he drew with Hogan and his action figures, Kamala should have been well compensated. I wish he had stuck around longer for selfish reasons. His third WWF stint was much different. Kamala became a good guy, but lost most of his matches. The character became a joke. It made no sense. The character didn’t know how to roll over opponents and pin them. He had been doing it for years. Pretty ridiculous. Even for wrestling. There was one other major feud before his face turn. Kamala battled the Undertaker. Their match at Survivor Series was the first-ever televised casket match. They also met a few months earlier at Summerslam. Kamala claimed that he was paid $13,000 for that bout, while Undertaker’s pay was $500,000.

Although his wrestling run as a good guy was awful, there is one funny moment that lives on. Kamala learning to bowl is pretty funny.

There were numerous health battles in Kamala’s life. Each leg was amputated below the knee in recent years. Last week he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Four days later, he was gone. His death apparently took place in Brooklyn. I had no idea that he was there. If his health was better and we were in different times, it would have been very cool to see him. Definitely one of my favorite characters ever. Rest in peace, big man.

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Sabrina Ionescu is Already a Superstar

On April 17, 2020 36 names were due to be called for the WNBA draft. There was a lot of tension and even more mystery. Who would be the steal? What playoff contender was going to get THE piece to push them to the top? Would there even really be a season with the COVID-19 pandemic running virtually unchecked throughout the country?

There were so many questions, it was good to know there was one certainty: Sabrina Ionescu was going to be the first name off the board. The Oregon star shocked a lot of people when she went back to school after a junior season in which she essentially rewrote the record books and wanted to fulfill her dream of winning a national title. She was primed to do so alongside a historically great Oregon team, and then the world went berserk and the season was finished, leaving a dream unfulfilled. She finished her career as the first player of any gender to attain 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in their careers.

With the draft over, and Sabrina a member of the Liberty, it was now a matter of how good she was going to be. Yes, you can dominate the college game but it’s easier to get assists when you’re flanked by the #2 (Satou Sabally) and #8 (Ruthy Hebard) overall picks. It’s also easier to score when defenses can’t collapse on you because they have to respect everyone around you more. We heard it all. Most importantly, Sabrina heard it all too, and she took notes.

It can’t be easy making your mark as a rookie in any league. When your star is as bright as Sabrina’s, you often get some…err, tough love, and this was no exception.

Could you imagine showing up to your new job in IT and the guy who’s been there forever and who is friends with everyone in the office comes right at your neck like this? It would be easy to be intimidated. And who was her first game against? Look no farther than Sue Bird’s Seattle Storm. Ionescu went 4-17 from the floor as Seattle refused to give her an ounce of space. This would become a recurring theme over their next few games. Was Sabrina just nervous? Was there a simple solution to shutting her down? Had the riddle been solved?

Let’s ask the Dallas Wings for a consult on that, who were the victims of Sabrina’s breakout game. Ionescu went out and dropped a 33-7-7 line without a second thought, and captivated the basketball world. This was it – the moment that a generational talent finally arrived. This was history incarnate – it felt significantly more “LeBron goes for 25-9-6 in his first career game” than it did “Brandon Jennings going for 55 points in his 7th career game” – the next WNBA Superstar had arrived. Ionescu tore up the Wings with the savvy of a 10 year vet, and did it putting the weight of the entire team on her back, flashing everything in her bag that made her worthy of the #1 overall pick – distribution, control, energy, a hyper awareness and game sense years beyond her age – it was something that a 22 year old rookie shouldn’t be able to do. Ionescu just has IT. Whatever “it” is, Sabrina has it in spades, and you can see that in all it’s glory in this 12 second clip:

This is the look and effort of someone who knows that one of the game’s biggest stars called her a pussy for the world to see. This was only the beginning of something special. Then, in a flash, it wasn’t.

Ionescu suffered a potentially season-ending ankle sprain in the Liberty’s matchup with the Atlanta Dream, in only Ionescu’s third career game. The Dream would go on to win by 6. Under normal circumstances, she would miss about a month or so and it would not be a death knell to her year. The Liberty have looked absolutely lost without their floor general and best player, and at this point you can feel comfortable saying that the season is not going to be salvageable for this team. The best they can hope for is to remain competitive and try to find out who’s good enough to earn minutes flanking their new superstar. Even if Ionescu is back before the end of the season, how much is that development going to help her if she’s not 100% or if the team has checked out?

Now that the Liberty have their superstar, the easy part is over, as the Liberty look to rebuild after an offseason in which they traded Tina Charles and fired their head coach Katie Smith. The return of Asia Durr next season should be a significant boost, but to quote Hamilton here (yes, this is a humble brag that I paid $7 for a month of Disney+ before cancelling my subscription so I could understand your tweets), “fighting is easy, governing is harder”. The here-and-now of the Liberty is in place, now it’s all about the future. How do you manage and build around a player who’s skillset is unlike almost anything ever seen in the WNBA? Time will tell. You only needed 3 games to tell that Sabrina has it. It will take longer to get the rest in place.

Madden is FINALLY Upgrading Franchise Mode (Sort Of, and Also It Might Take Years)

We worked so hard for this moment. All it took was weeks, months, years of publicly slandering Madden and EA for the way that they comprehensively and systematically ruined Franchise Mode. Specifically, I’m not sure that they did anything actively to kill the mode (I have not bought a Madden since 2012, as the first signs of a reckoning were upon us), but rather ignored Franchise Mode in it’s entirety all while promoting “brand new features” and “up to date, ultra realistic graphics” that were essentially just a more in-depth sweat generators and increased fatigue on long runs.

Franchise mode is beloved by die-hard Madden fans, many of whom grew up without online play and wanted a break from exhibition games against the AI. For years, this portion of the game has laid stagnant all while EA promotes Ultimate Team in search of those sweet, sweet in game purchases. Trading was never fixed (seriously, it was impossible to trade whenever I’d snag a game at my buddy’s house), the in game physics are constantly broken, and it just was not that fun. Years of mismanaging this mode in favor of Ultimate Team and the quest for a more functional spin move have festered frustration in fans of the game for years.

That frustration came to a head about a month ago, when fans of the game (including several players) came forward in a campaign to get EA to #FixFranchiseMode. After years of pent up frustrations came to the fore, Madden finally issued a statement on the matter.

It was a sincere effort at letting people know they were heard, and appreciated. But words meant so much, only actions would truly mean anything. Today, just over a month on, EA announced upgrades and updates to Franchise Mode for today and Madden 2022.

The reason that they are focusing a lot on 2022 is naturally that the latest iteration of the game is due to drop soon and it’s simply too late to scrap it and update everything. So, they let us know their plans moving forward; what are the notable changes possibly coming over the next couple of years?

-Fixing trading logic

-Engine enhancements (heard this one before)

-Team chemistry

-Increased content such as management, relocating, new uniforms, scouting, and coaching improvements

What does this mean exactly? Well, it might lead to a deeper Franchise Mode, which would be excellent given that the mode has been heavily criticized for being very surface level. It might make the game make more sense, which, sure. Overall, I’m not sure there are a ton of improvements coming. What can not get overlooked is that this was possible because they finally listened to the people and are open to criticism. That’s a tough first step to make and an important one. It kind of reminds me of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, where fan backlash made the film re-animate entirely. The effort is there and that’s a big step. I don’t think this is a groundbreaking change to the game and I’m not sure that it’s enough to get a lot of people back into Madden, especially with minimal changes coming this year. But a brighter future *might* just lie ahead for Madden, one where they have a deeper, more meaningful gaming experience.

It’s not much, for now, but it’s a start. FIFA, we’re coming for your broken ass Manager Career Mode next.

10 Players To Watch During the NBA’s Restart Inside the Orlando Bubble

It’s been 138 days since the NBA was shut down on March 11 following the unforgettable scene in Oklahoma City which saw Rudy Gobert test positive for COVID-19 as a harsh reality for the pandemic began to set in.

That horrifying number will (hopefully) be no more on Thursday when the Pelicans and Jazz tip-off serving as the official restart of the NBA regular season inside the Orlando bubble, which just might bring a tear to my eye.

Instead of doing an official playoff preview just yet (I’ll save that for August), I wanted to highlight 10 under-the-radar players who just might win their team a playoff game and could be someone you may have forgotten about during the layoff.

If you’re looking for star players like ‘Bron or Kawhi on this list, you’d be better suited just turning on FS1 and listening to Colin Cowherd talk about how Russell Westbrook and James Harden aren’t a top 10 NBA duo.

1. Gary Trent Jr. – Portland Trailblazers

Gary Trent Jr. became one of my favorite hidden gems coming off the bench this season. Ever since his 30-point explosion back in mid-January against the Thunder, the former Blue Devil has been an integral part of the Blazers’ rotation. That trend should only continue for the playoff-hopeful squad, as Trent Jr. put up 12 ppg and shot 41% from behind the arc during the month of February. He’s also a rock-solid defender on the wing.

P.S. My only issue with GT was seeing him on the virtual blackjack machines in the Bahamas. As a millionaire, it’s time to move to the legit high roller tables, my guy! 

2. Ben McLemore – Houston Rockets

When your career needs to be revived, every offensive-minded player should give Mike D’Antoni a call. MDA gave a lifeline to another career that was on its last breaths with Ben McLemore this season, who evolved into a sniper for the three-point happy Rockets this season. Averaging just under 10 ppg on 40% from three, McLemore’s brought his magic to Disney, as he lit up the Grizzlies during Sunday night’s scrimmage for 26 points on 6-7 from downtown.

3. Bol Bol – Denver Nuggets

Bol Bol is one of the early winners from the NBA restart. After not playing a game this season in Denver, Bol exploded onto the NBA Twitter scene with highlight-worthy plays on both ends of the floor, which flooded IG timelines in the first couple of scrimmages while starting in the BACKCOURT!! with Nikola Jokic. Seeing that untapped potential on display could vault Bol into a secret weapon type of role for Mike Malone’s deep Denver Nuggets.

4. Seth Curry – Dallas Mavericks

For quite possibly the first time in his entire life, the stage will now entirely be set for Seth to shine without overshadowing from older brother Steph anywhere in sight. With Luka and Porzingis occupying the defense’s focus, three-point assassins like Seth Curry become indispensable. Seth was 2nd in the entire NBA while shooting 45% from downtown and the Mavs are going to need him to be lights out in Orlando to spread the floor.

5. J.R. Smith – Los Angeles Lakers

J.R. Spliff is back!!! After going unsigned the entire 2019 season, the Lakers finally decided to listen to me and roll the dice on Earl and reunite him with LeBron inside the bubble. For that reason alone, we need a documentary on the Lakers’ Orlando playoff run. With Avery Bradley opting out and Rondo injured, L.A. will be heavily relying on the likes of J.R., Alex Caruso, KCP, and Dion Waiters to supplement A.D. and Lebron with outside shooting late in games. Smith’s microwave scoring ability came to life on Monday with 14 points in the first half of their scrimmage against the Wizards.

6. Matisse Thybulle – Philadelphia 76ers

One of the most unique young players in the NBA. Matisse not only shines on the court as a lockdown defender, but he’s also become a YouTube sensation off the floor with his Welcome to the Bubble VLOG series, which he shoots and edits himself. The rookie’s versatility on the defensive end and streaky shooting will be needed to help power the Sixers, as coach Brett Brown has his hands full regarding how to best deploy his talented arsenal of weapons.

7. Duncan Robinson – Miami Heat

From Division III standout, to Michigan 6th man, and now a top 100 NBA player, according to Bleacher Report‘s latest rankings. Stories like Duncan’s are to be celebrated, as he landed in the perfect spot to flourish under the tutelage of Eric Spoelstra, Pat Riley, and co. in breezy South Beach. Another 45% shooter from three makes the list, and a bright future is definitely ahead for the Michigan man. Admittedly, I didn’t think there was a chance DR would be an NBA player during his time as a Wolverine.

8. Luguentz Dort – Oklahoma City Thunder

Lu Dort is a name you might not be familiar with if you haven’t caught many Thunder games this year, as I had no clue who he was coming into the season and only found out about him through my brother after watching him pop off the screen one night. Dort has a knack for making good things happen on the floor, as OKC went 16-5 once Billy Donovan inserted him into the starting lineup and management rewarded the Canada native with a four-year extension for his efforts.

9. Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic

With the potential to be transcendingly special on the defensive end, Jonathan Isaac’s breakout campaign was forced to take a detour following a devastating knee sprain on New Year’s Day. After the shutdown’s extended layoff, the Florida State product has been cleared for action to participate in the bubble scrimmages, which should bring a smile to Magic fans’ faces if there’s any still out there. During his return to the hardwood Monday night, JI managed 13 points and grabbed 7 boards in just 7 MINUTES on the floor.

10. Norman Powell – Toronto Raptors

Another underrated cog in COTY candidate Nick Nurse’s army that somehow has Toronto back in the mix for an Eastern Conference run even without Kawhi Leonard. Powell would have a case for 6th Man of the Year but ended up starting 21 games. When returning from an injury in late February, Powell posted five straight box scores with at least 22 points to give the starting five unit a jolt before the shutdown.

This Is Long Overdue

I have never once felt in danger because of who I am. I have never once felt unsafe or that I did not have the right or ability to be anywhere I wanted to be. I have never once looked at a cop behind me and feared for my life. I cannot begin to understand, but the best I can do is to understand that I will never understand. No, we have failed. Not just over the last 9 days, not over the last few years, but over the past 400 years. The question is not, “Where did we go wrong?”, it’s “What have we even done right?”.

First, I want to talk about the first line of defense: our education system. Coming from Long Island, I can sum up everything that I have learned about the black community in all of my history classes in about two sentences. The slave trade was bad (but we did it for 200 years!), the Civil War was fought over slavery (after which we freed the slaves and then proceeded to remove every single right that “free” people should have), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first time black people have been shown an iota of respect by this nation’s leadership (and that’s where it starts and ends, as nothing more than an iota), and in 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. That’s it. As it turns out, 18 years in the American education system gets you the bare minimum when it comes to black people and their history – as if this entire country wasn’t founded off of the backs of slaves – and you get maybe 2 weeks total worth of education. That needs to change. I’ve learned more about the history of African-Americans over the last 9 days than I did in 18 years through a publicly funded education system. Educate the youth, make them see, make them understand.

Our policymakers have failed to adequately protect the rights of black people for far too long. They’ve gotten away with giving small bites of the apple to black people in this country. The way the right has treated people of color is abhorrent, but do not let that excuse the left. Democrats have hid behind the curtain of “being the good guy” for too long. Propping up minorities and using them for votes is violently disgusting behavior. If they really were the party that they claimed to be, any of the past blue controlled White Houses and Congress’ could have passed bills to fix at least some of the problems facing black people in this country. But no, they are used for votes and nothing more. You wonder why people have flocked to Bernie and are rejecting your centrist views? Look no further than the riots that are taking place in our cities. This is on you, too, and don’t pretend that it’s not. Laws have been in place for decades to minimize the rights of black people in this country – go repeal them. March in the streets. Be an ally, then you get our trust back.

Finally, I want to address the way that black people are treated by law enforcement. I won’t say much, because all you have to do is look outside your window and see what they have done. How they have systematically tried, time and time again, to break the will and the spirit of black people in this country. And how every time, it hasn’t worked. It’s only built up, and hibernated, and grown. And now we sit at the crux of what has been – decade after decade, generation after generation – a broken system. You don’t need the statistics from me to paint the picture for you. To say that it needs revamping is the understatement of a generation. This is not a few bad apples, if it were we wouldn’t be doing this again. This is about more than just murder, it is a system that has been specifically designed to put black people at a disadvantage and incarcerates them without a second thought. No, it is not a few bad apples, this is what happens when the root of the apple tree is infected and rotted to the core. Maybe you need to burn the old tree down and plant a new one.

This has been a long time coming. This is not simply a reaction to one or two people’s deaths – this is 400 years of oppression coming to the fore and they know it. That’s what scares them. That’s why they arrested those four officers that murdered George Floyd. To make it stop, because those arrests can be a stopgap to end protests and anger. They’re afraid that this is something larger, because it is. No more. George Floyd is not a stopgap. Breonna Taylor is not a stopgap. Trayvon Martin is not a stopgap. It ends now. Stop saying that they “lost their lives”, because they didn’t. They had their lives ripped away from them by a system that has never once given them a chance. Black people have every right to be angry, and to protest, and to demand that for the first time in the history of this nation to be treated as equals.

If you’re walking home from school, and every single day a kid kicks you and beats you up, only to give you a pack of ice afterwards to treat your broken ribs and shattered teeth, you wouldn’t call that kid your friend just because he treats you with a shred of decency after whooping on you and beating you for days, weeks, years. That’s a bully. And the United States has been bullying black people since before its inception. Every day. Non-stop. It’s time to fight back.

Not so fun when the rabbit has the gun.

Bad Pizza, Ripping Utah’s Hearts Out & Leaving a 7th Ring on the Table Bring ‘The Last Dance’ to a Close

Once again a topic from The Last Dance has actually taken off after the show. Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” might have actually been the “Food Poisoning Game.” Well, maybe. Apparently this pizza rumor was already out there, but we hear about it in great detail. This story has gone in all different directions. We’re told that five people showed up to deliver Jordan’s pizza. However, a man has since stated that he made the pizza and wanted to personally deliver it. Just two people total. This guy said he is a Bulls fan, and disputes that something was intentionally done to cause Jordan harm when he ate his dinner.

Jason Hehir directed the ESPN documentary, and added that Michael spit on the pizza to prevent anyone else from eating it since they had already eaten without him. This part was another subject that didn’t make the final cut. I’ll get back to what else was left out later. There is also a rumor that Jordan went to Vegas and was hungover. I don’t know what to believe. WFAN’s Joe Benigno talked about how he felt at the time. Joe didn’t think anything was wrong with Michael. Another host chimed in after the latest story came out. Craig Fite is the Chicago fan who spoke about making Jordan’s pizza. Fite said he bet on the Bulls, and obviously would not poison Jordan. WFAN’s Maggie Gray could not understand why somebody would bet on the Bulls. This is probably the dumbest take I have heard in quite some time. Nobody bets favorites. The team that is expected to win. Your favorite team. The one that has won championships before and would do so again. I’m not even getting into series prices and spreads. Sometimes she makes me want to rip out my remaining hair.

SB Nation on Twitter: "The Kings brought up an old food poisoning ...

Hearing about Jordan’s ordeal brought me back to 2002. I took Sacramento in game 2 after they lost to Kobe’s Lakers in the opener. Bryant was suffering from food poisoning. The spread seemed to indicate that he would either be out or most likely ineffective. Bryant played more minutes than any of his teammates. Sacramento covered by hitting late free throws. I searched to find information on the game, and stumbled upon a new conspiracy theory. An article said that a New Jersey mob guy was the one responsible for Kobe’s food poisoning. Supposedly there was a heavy mob bet on the Nets to win it all. Or, you could believe another story in that article. Kobe was too drunk to even find his hotel room.

This weekend’s episodes opened with footage of the feisty Pacers-Bulls rivalry. Reggie Miller and MJ going at it. Mark Jackson gets a ball thrown at him. No mention of how Jackson was on both teams that took Jordan to 7 during his championship seasons. Patrick Ewing used to lose and afterwards say that his Knicks were the better team. Miller said this about his Pacers. At least they went right down to the wire in a game 7 on the road. Speaking of Patrick, there was a trivia question about Jordan eliminating HOF players. It claims that he knocked out Ewing 4 times. It was actually 5 if you count 1989. That wasn’t a title season for Chicago. Throw in the college days if you want one more Ewing loss to MJ.

Since I referenced things being left out a couple times so far, I’ll get into that. The teams split games 5 and 6. That was their way of skipping over Jordan falling down late in game 6 against Indiana. As the documentary rolled on, it seemed like the blatant omissions became even more egregious. MJ hits a winning shot at the buzzer against Utah to begin the 1997 NBA Finals. Nothing about Karl Malone’s missed free throws just before that. Scottie Pippen said, “The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays.” Totally left out. They didn’t even put that Jordan finished up with Washington when listing how players moved on after 1998.

Dan Patrick talked about Jordan’s career on WFAN. He took a shot at the 90s Knicks. I have tried to explain how people thought they were ruining basketball. Ratings dropped. Rules were changed. It’s funny how Detroit didn’t seem to get this criticism. There was a 1994 Sports Illustrated cover saying that the NHL was hot, and by contrast the NBA was not. Obviously MJ went through the Knicks quite often. Basketball really suffered when he wasn’t around. Patrick’s point was about how low NBA scores were. Cleveland limited possessions by draining the shot clock. Final scores were often around 80 points. James Harden might put up impressive offensive numbers when his team scores 120-130 points. Jordan would likely average much more in today’s game with higher final scores.

You knew we would see that MJ was motivated to face different players. Malone won an MVP. Bryon Russell made a comment when Jordan was retired. Good thing these players gave Michael some extra motivation. I’m not sure if he would have been able to take the NBA Finals seriously. MJ somehow had the urgency when he won the MVP award all those years. You can tell that certain things were wearing on me as this documentary was winding down. Jordan also brought back his old security buddy. Gus Lett returned to inspire MJ in game 7 against the Pacers. Lett died in 2000 after a long battle with cancer.

We learned about the murder of Steve Kerr’s father in Beirut 36 years ago. That was clearly the most emotional part of these latest episodes. Kerr said that he never discussed this with Jordan. It was unfortunately something they had in common. Kerr talked about John Paxson taking Steve under his wing. I often thought of Steve as the later version of John on that team. Steve mentioned his early years with Cleveland. I became a fan of his back then. He threw in a long heave against the Nets, and seemed like a Mark Price clone to me.

Dennis Rodman always has to cause trouble. He missed practice during the 1998 NBA Finals so he could attend a wrestling show. Maybe I should rephrase that. He participated in a wrestling show. I liked Phil Jackson’s response about it being a distraction. Players play. They don’t sit around crying about something stupid. Unless you are Bill Cartwright getting upset that Scottie Pippen asked out. Media members will keep asking if something is going to be a distraction. Maybe, if they keep bringing it up. Anyway, Jackson said it might be a distraction for the reporter.

Scottie Pippen had an injured back against Utah in the 1998 series clincher. He was only able to score 8 points. Tough to kill him for it, but with that guy somehow it was always something. Migraine in game 7 against Detroit. Not wanting to ruin his summer and missing regular season games because surgery was put off. The infamous final 1.8 seconds of a virtual must-win contest during the 1994 playoffs. Dealing with Pippen and Rodman only adds to Jordan’s legacy in my opinion.

The Time Michael Jordan Almost JOINED The NEW YORK KNICKS! - YouTube

One ridiculous Jordan story is that he would have missed time in 1999 due to a severed tendon in his finger. He suffered the injury attempting to cut a cigar. People argued that playing only 50 games would have helped Chicago, but I just don’t see how it could have worked. Apparently Phil Jackson was not interested in waiting through a rebuilding stage. That’s what I figured based on his reputation.

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said just that Sunday. The relationship with GM Jerry Krause seemed damaged beyond repair. Michael might have thought he could convince Pippen to return for another year, but Scottie was going to get paid. He definitely wanted big money and a long deal. Scottie was starting to break down, and big bucks were finally coming his way. Jordan and Phil were pretty spent. They could have tried to reload, but there were certainly changes coming. I think Reinsdorf had no interest in breaking the bank for potentially one more championship. He had told Jackie MacMullan that they wouldn’t be the 90s Celtics. That team got old and guys were injured. It ended unceremoniously.

Utah coach Jerry Sloan did not come off looking very sharp. He apparently had no idea that Jordan was less than 100 percent, although Michael still played well. Jordan wasn’t just a decoy. The Jazz only scored 54 points in one of their losses. Sloan looks down and asks if that was really the score. I’m not sure if Sloan was kidding either time. Karl Malone has asked people to say prayers for Jerry. The coach has had health issues in recent years. Jerry has battled Parkinson’s disease and dementia since 2016. Speaking on a 90s NBA Zoom call, Malone said that Sloan is not doing well.

Watching highlights from Chicago’s games against Utah and Indiana brought me back to my early days betting NBA games. There were some close calls each way. One of my friends took the Bulls giving 5.5 in one game. He lost on a shot at the buzzer. Scott Van Pelt played it along with Uncle Brent’s radio call for a final vintage Bad Beats segment.

In recent days there has been a video circulating of Bob Costas putting a bow on the Chicago dynasty. He knew that it was at least possibly their last run. I can remember Bob speaking after the 1993 championship. He speculated that perhaps they could come back for a fourth straight title and be known as the “Quad Squad.” It would have been interesting if that really happened. I wonder if Costas trademarked the phrase. Hopefully I can speak with him one day. I have a lot of questions. We can get into his classic 1989 interview with Bobby Heenan.

Finally, there was an interesting exchange between Jordan and Larry Bird after the Pacers-Bulls series. Colorful language. It really was strange to hear the curses flying on ESPN. Getting back to 1993, I vividly remember watching a press conference after Phoenix stayed alive with a win in Chicago. Businesses were boarding up windows in anticipation of a wild celebration. Charles Barkley told people that they could take the “stuff” off their windows. It always stuck with me. I never expected ESPN to air this clip 27 years later. Especially an unedited version. 2020 certainly has been unpredictable.

With that, I thank you for taking the time to read this. Hopefully you enjoyed the documentary and my recaps.

Emotions Run Deep as ‘The Last Dance’ Heads Toward Anticipated Finale

As we entered this past weekend, the world was fascinated with security guard John Michael Wozniak. Unfortunately, the security guard for Michael Jordan passed away before he could become famous after his appearance in ESPN’s documentary. This guy would have done more appearances in these last 10 days than anyone could possibly keep track of.

Sunday night introduced many of us to a new person. LaBradford Smith. He was one of Jordan’s sources for motivation, but this story was pretty ridiculous. Michael made up a story that Smith said something. First of all, I don’t understand how you make up a story to fool yourself. Overlooking that, the offensive comment by Smith was apparently, “Nice game, Mike.”

George Karl avoided speaking to Michael when they both attended the same restaurant. He knew of Jordan’s tendency to twist any comments. Michael then motivated himself over the snub. I didn’t think this was a mistake by Karl. Many thought George should have had Gary Payton guarding Jordan sooner. MJ watches a video of Payton speaking and laughs hysterically. If you want to talk about a mistake, Karl told Scott Van Pelt after the documentary that Seattle flew home following Friday’s game and played a 12:30 Sunday contest. It was 4:30 out there. 7:30 where us normal people live.

They barely acknowledged a Knicks-Bulls series in 1996. Just showed that Chicago had advanced with their series win over New York. Chicago was 14-1 in the postseason and just one win away from wrapping up the title until Seattle won twice at home. Sticking with the motivation topic, Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy once talked about how Jordan was basically a con man. He would be friendly with a player before lighting him up for 45. Naturally this didn’t sit well with Jordan. Michael hit the Knicks up for 51 when they next met. MJ also had some choice words for Van Gundy after the game.

Another Knicks moment that was glossed over and could have been featured would be the Hue Hollins foul call against Scottie Pippen. This might have been the difference between Chicago getting past New York without Jordan and a loss in 7 games. Some speculated that it was left out because maybe Chicago could’ve advanced and possibly won it all when Michael wasn’t there. One caller to WFAN had an interesting take about this. Perhaps the NBA didn’t want to highlight a controversy involving an official. Apparently somebody who was announcing criticized Hollins and was reprimanded. I am not convinced that Chicago would have defeated Indiana, and Houston certainly wouldn’t have been easy.

There were so many major storylines in Sunday’s episodes. Probably none more interesting than Jordan’s decision to retire in 1993. I was watching the ALCS when CBS broke that shocking news. No tweets back then. If everybody was telling lies, they did a good job. It seems like Jordan definitely was suffering from burnout, and reportedly talked about retirement a year earlier. The last few weeks have shown us that people in this country enjoy conspiracy theories. I don’t know the details about his father’s murder. People just assume that it was tied to Jordan’s gambling. If you believe that, I probably will not be able to convince you otherwise. David Stern says there was no secret suspension.

I side with those who feel Stern probably would not willingly sideline his cash cow. Let me put it another way. Has anyone ever assumed something about you that wasn’t true? They just decide that you are guilty of something because it makes sense to them. No shred of evidence. It’s hard to prove a negative, so you’re powerless. Throw in the part about your father being murdered. As you grieve, people decide that this was your fault. Things either happened or didn’t. This isn’t some fun sports debate where we can talk strategy and what would have happened if certain teams met. It might be interesting to hear from the people accused of Mr. Jordan’s murder. Maybe it should be looked into a little deeper. The thing that makes absolutely no sense to me is when people say they wanted Jordan to step away for a year or so and let things cool off. It’s 2020, and people are still talking about it. They were before this documentary. Michael leaving would only increase speculation and conspiracy theories.

A huge topic was Scottie Pippen’s refusal to play the last 1.8 seconds of game 3 against the Knicks in 1994. I remember this leading to a big argument on WFAN between Mike Francesa and Chris Russo. Occasionally I’ll question myself. Maybe I was too hard on someone or didn’t judge fairly. Usually, I’m reminded to trust my judgement. This guy always was an idiot. He says he’d do the same thing today. Thanks for your honesty. You are honest, but can still be considered stupid and a jerk. So, the play was called for Kukoc. Pippen said he at least wanted to be a decoy. You would be. On the floor. Knicks players don’t know that you’re not an option. They do when you are not on the floor. I can’t spend much more time on this. It makes me angry. I hate him so much. However, Bill Cartwright crying over this was a little much. Pippen proved that he didn’t deserve big money. The guy was not a leader, and he should not be mentioned among the greatest ever. Anyway, Kukoc made the shot. Phil Jackson’s choice was a good one.

Jordan’s return was so big. I usually watched games at home, but that day I went to watch with a friend who rooted for Chicago. As you see in the documentary, Bob Costas spoke before the game started. Without knowing it would be in the documentary, that came to mind as I was getting ready to start watching Sunday night’s episodes. I also remember that there was another NBC game on that day. Jordan announced his return the day before his first game back. NBC had no idea that this would happen. Obviously just about everybody saw Michael, but I remember feeling bad for those local markets that couldn’t. It was the highest rated regular season game in 20 years. MJ must have been pretty nervous. His shorts were on backwards. Doug Gottlieb wasn’t the only one who did this. Maybe Doug was just trying to be like Mike.

Bill Wennington speaks throughout the documentary. I kept thinking about his final shot when Jordan scored 55 against the Knicks. We finally saw that. People talk about how the 1993-94 Bulls were very good without Jordan. Chicago was 34-31 the next year when Michael came back. They went from barely having a winning record to 72-10 one season later. Yes, Rodman was added, but I think we know who deserved more credit.

Game 1 in 1998 against the Nets went to overtime. We don’t see that the Nets nearly won it in regulation on a desperation heave. This documentary has been great, but youtube is often a better way to discover exactly how things played out. I didn’t watch all of that game. The Knicks-Heat opener was also scheduled for that night. It started earlier. When they finished, I flipped over to Nets-Bulls.

Steve Kerr and MJ had a feisty exchange in practice. Coach Jackson sent Jordan home. I don’t think Chicago was necessarily great because of incidents like this, but we have definitely seen Michael’s competitive spirit. Even when struggling. It seemed as if Michael willed his teammates to championships. I definitely think that he was capable of elevating others around him. He tried to beat other strong teams instead of joining them.

Episode 7 started with a question from Craig Sager. Jerry Krause was annoyed, and walked away from the gathering. It ended with a surprising moment. An emotional Jordan spoke about how he played the game and his mentality. Jordan then asked for a break to compose himself. We also saw Michael crying on the locker room floor after winning the 1996 championship on Father’s Day. SVP spoke about hearing it. The image was famous. Actually hearing him cry was shocking.

One other note. Jackie McMullan talked about Scottie Pippen in 1994. She said it was more than 15 years ago. This is technically correct, but sounds like a mathematical error. 1994 was 26 years ago. Those of us who remember that era don’t want to admit we’re getting old. It was a long time ago. I graduated high school that year. Just two more episodes remaining!