Wisdom From Kammbia 3.8: Marion’s NBA Season Preview

Well, tomorrow begins the NBA regular season again. Pro Basketball is my favorite sport and I’ve decided to write a preview for the upcoming season.

Coming off a sixty-six game strike shortened season where the Miami Heat won the championship last June over the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games, I’m glad the full eighty-two game season has returned for the 2012-2013 campaign.

Here are the major storylines I will be looking at this season:

1) Will the Miami Heat repeat?: The ringless king, Lebron James, finally won his first championship last season and the weight of the basketball world has been lifted off his massive shoulders. Is this the start of a new dynasty on South Beach? Will Lebron add another championship to his legacy? Will D-Wade be content as Robin? Will Ray Allen (once a villain and now a teammate) make clutch shots for them in playoffs?  Will the Heat have that hunger to repeat? (Look what happened to the Dallas Mavericks last season.) Repeating is not easy (just ask The Spurs) and the last team to do it was the Lakers from 2000-2002 with Shaq and Kobe.

2) Will The Lakers return to glory and get title number 17?: As usual, the Lakers made the biggest off-season splash by signing Steve Nash as a free agent and trading for Dwight Howard in the 4-team blockbuster trade that included sending Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers and Andre Iguodala to Denver Nuggets while the Orlando Magic received draft picks and journeyman players.

Can Kobe, Nash, Dwight, and Gasol co-exist and make a smooth transition? The last time the Lakers tried a superstar lineup with Shaq, Kobe, Gary Payton, & Karl Malone in 2004 where it got them to the finals when they got exposed by the Detroit Pistons.

Will The Lakers get production from the bench?  Their bench has been an Achilles heel for them the past few seasons.  But the signings of Antwan Jamison and Jodie Meeks should help.

As always, The Lakers (like The Yankees and The Cowboys) will receive all the media attention and be interesting to follow the entire season whether you like them or not.  Not…..in my case!

3) Will The Oklahoma City Thunder take a step back after trading James Harden to Houston Rockets?: The Thunder, the league’s newest small-market darlings, made to the NBA Finals last season with the big three of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden leading the way. Now, Harden is gone.  How will it affect the rest of the team?  Will Kevin Martin be able to replace him?  Will their chemistry take a hit as a result of the trade?

I will get to see them up and close on November 1st against the Spurs here in San Antonio. I’m looking for a little revenge (I will admit it won’t be the same now that Harden is gone.) and hoping they meet again in the playoffs to return the favor after spoiling the Spurs great season.

4) Can The Spurs return to glory and get title number 5?: The San Antonio Spurs, the most overlooked, underappreciated, but well-respected team in all of pro sports are still hanging around as a title contender even though its been 5 years since they’ve won their last title. As usual, they didn’t make any big splash free-agent signings or blockbuster trades. They decided to resign their free-agents: Duncan, Danny Green, and Boris Diaw and are hoping a full training camp will get them closer to number 5.

Can Green and Kawhi Leonard grow enough to help more in the playoffs?  Can Spurs return to being a defensive-oriented ballclub after doing their best Phoenix Suns imitation for the past several years? Can Tim, Tony, and Manu remain healthy?  (Well, Manu is already out for the season opener against the New Orleans Hornets.)

Of course, the pundits will pronounce the Spurs are officially over and good riddance to the most boring team in the league.  Only to see they are right there at the end of the season one of the best records again and forcing their way into a national discussion (We have overlooked the Spurs again. They’re not sexy. They’re not front page news. But they are effective.)  As a Spurs fan, I have come to expect this kind of reaction now.  LOL!

5) Can The Boston Celtics make one run at the title?: I guess what I just wrote about the Spurs could apply to the Celtics.  Well, the Celtics are not considered boring like The Spurs.  Anyway, can KG, Paul Pierce, and Rondo will their way back to the Eastern Conference Finals?  How will Jeff Green, Jason Terry, and Courtney Lee incorporate themselves into the team? Will Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo have an impact this season?  Will the Boston fans ever forgive Ray Allen for signing with the Miami Heat?

The Celtics-Heat rivalry is the best in the NBA and I can’t wait to see how the city reacts when Ray Allen returns to town as a visitor.  Also, I’m looking forward to another playoff battle between these two teams.

6) Will there be a new team emerging out of the shadows of the best teams in the league?:

Can the Los Angeles Clippers continue from last season’s playoff run and make it a true rival with the Lakers for city hoop supremacy?

Can the Indiana Pacers learn from their defeat against The Heat in last season’s playoffs and take that next step towards the Eastern Conference elite?

Can the Brooklyn Nets (with their new arena, new uniforms, and a Russian billionaire owner) join the Eastern Conference elite?

Can the most overrated team in basketball, the New York Knicks, finally be relevant instead of all hype because they are in NYC?

Can the Memphis Grizzlies or Denver Nuggets make noise the tough Western Conference?
These are the major story lines, I will be looking at all season.  I’m glad my favorite sport is back and I hope the Spurs can bring home title number 5 next June.

Wisdom From Kammbia 3.6: A Review of Broke (Why Does It Happen to Pro Athletes So Often?)

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching ESPN 30 For 30 Documentary Series called Broke. It was about pro athletes going broke and it’s become an epidemic in the last twenty years. The documentary focused on a March 2009 Sports Illustrated article where it made these claims:

–By the time they have been retired for 2 years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress.

–Within 5 years of retirement an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.

Those were alarming statistics. It was suggested by one of the commentators that those statistics might be inflated. Even so, if you cut those percentages in half it would still be alarming.

The documentary was presented into segments like chapters from a book that covered getting their first professional check, spending it on bling bling, being a target for women looking to get pregnant by a pro athlete, to being a victim to bad agents, con-men posing as financial advisers, suspect investment opportunities, and even being milked like an ATM from family and friends to frank advice for other athletes.

Many athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB spoke on the documentary honestly about their financial troubles and looked back realizing how much money they spend and lost during their short careers. I appreciated their frankness and would recommend all athletes watch this documentary to learn what not to do.

Moreover, I saw something that stood out for me in watching Broke. In the segment about bad agents, con-men, and family and friends, many of these athletes were taken for a huge portion of their wealth.

For example, Andre Rison, former NFL wide receiver, told a story that he gave thirty-thousand to a friend who wanted to open a frozen drink place.  The friend said it would be in a prime location in the city of Atlanta.  Rison said he only visited the business twice and lost his money shortly after.   Bernie Kosar, former NFL quarterback, said it became too exhausting to hear about every story that he could invest into in order to make millions or save the world.  William “Tank” Black, a prominent agent to many NFL and NBA athletes were convicted in July 2000 for embezzling fourteen million dollars from his clients for personal use.

In watching these examples, I was reminded of this:

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”   (1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV Bible)

Those popular verses of scripture highlighted from the above examples what the love of money can do to those around pro athletes.  In context, Paul was writing to the church of Ephesus through Timothy about the false teachers that had infiltrated the congregation and corrupted the church.  Also, he exposed those false teachers for their love of money and once that took root would eventually lead to destruction.

Well, those bad agents, con-men, even family and friends are false teachers and their target is the pro athlete.  I know many of us don’t have a lot sympathy for millionaire athletes and their financial troubles. Especially when many folks in this economy have their own issues.  However, I believe there is a bigger issue at play and watching Broke has illuminated it for me.

When athletes salaries were first publicized (which I have never liked) it started a dehumanizing effect on those athletes.  As a result, fans and others can only see pro athletes in terms of how much money they make and not who they are as a human being. I’ve heard on sports talk radio all the time….he makes 15 million a year and should play hurt.  I would if I was making that kind of money.  This player is making 27 million dollars a year and he can’t get a hit.  What’s wrong with him.  And there are many similiar comments.

But, we have lost the fact that athletes are people.  While they have entertained us, awed us with their athletic gifts, and created civic pride when they are pursuing a championship….there’s a dark side and the documentary effectively pointed this out.

Broke has shown a human side to professional sports and created sympathy for those athletes who are caught up in this high-stakes game of money, fame, and its excesses.

Wisdom of Marion 2.13: The Quiet Dynasty: San Antonio Spurs (And Why I’m a Fan)

This year’s version of the San Antonio Spurs entered the NBA Playoffs as the number one seed in the Western Conference with a 50-16 record (tied with the Chicago Bulls for the league’s best record) in a 66 game shortened season.

And winning last night’s game against the Utah Jazz, 102-90, gives the Spurs a commanding 3-0 series lead in the 1st round of the playoffs. They will go for the series clinching win in Game Four on Monday night.

The Spurs are respected and even admired by most basketball analysts and media pundits. However, they seem to get overlooked in the eyes of Spurs fans as not getting enough love from the public and media as a whole.

I have lived in San Antonio for nearly nine years and I’ve heard it all on that front by Spurs fans. But, I do believe some of it is Spurs fans paranoia for this perceived lack of attention.  It reminds of this quote:

“People would rather be recognized and appreciated for their contributions than ignored or overlooked even if they are wealthy.” (Aaron Johnson)

Those words ring true to me and I believe in many Spurs fans’ ears.  Well, let’s look at some reasons and why I’m a fan because of it.

Since 1998-1999 (I consider as the Spurs Golden Age):

–They have 9 Division Titles (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012)

4 Western Conference Titles (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007)

–4 NBA Titles (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007)

They have won 774 games out of 1100 during that period.  That is a 70% winning percentage and the highest in the NBA during that span.

–They have averaged 55 wins a season during this period and that’s the highest in the NBA as well.

–They’ve had one coach for the entire time: Gregg Popovich

–They’ve had one superstar for the entire time: Tim Duncan

–They drafted two other stars to compliment the superstar player in Manu Ginobili (Since 2002) and Tony Parker (Since 2001) and found role players from Steve Kerr to Danny Green to fit their system.

With all these accomplishments and success, it seems outside of the San Antonio Metro Area (which includes the Rio Grande Valley down to the Texas/Mexico border and West Texas to El Paso), the Spurs are not beloved or hated (Well in Phoenix, they are) like the Yankees, Cowboys, Lakers or Celtics.

The main reason for me is that consistency or stability doesn’t sell in a culture that wants drama and conflict as a form of entertainment. I wrote about this in my article, Why Tim Duncan is My Favorite Athlete.

Consistency and Stability are boring to the public but are so hard to obtain in everyday life. That’s one of my reasons why I’m a fan. There is genius in consistency and stability and it deserves appreciation just like other traits for success.

Also, I believe the San Antonio Spurs are like Smooth Jazz.  Brilliant, technical, talented but are inoffensive in a world where people are expected to be offended.

Even though they are some real artists playing smooth jazz like George Benson, Ronny Jordan, Marc Antoine, Joe Sample, or The Yellowjackets. The genre is considered bland or vanilla and the Spurs have been accused of playing bland (code word for “fundamental”) basketball.

Unfortunately, perceptions die hard because the Spurs have been anything but bland this season.  They have changed their trademark defensive-oriented style in the past for a more free-wheeling, high-tempo offense that was second in the league for points per game and first in offensive efficiency. These are not your father’s San Antonio Spurs!

Also, the other reason why I’m a fan of this team, that it shows me the little guy can compete with the big boys at the highest levels of competition.

Like the Spurs, the city of San Antonio has been overlooked as a major American city. Tuck down here in South Texas, people forget its the seventh largest city in the country with 1.3 million (surpassing more glamorous cities like Dallas, Atlanta, and Miami.)

Even in the Lone Star State, San Antonio gets overshadowed by Houston and Dallas (and Austin to some extent), but has grown quietly in the shadows and become “Military City, USA” and a major American city because of it.

I do believe that sports can mirror real life at times and being a San Antonio Spurs  fan has shown me that consistency, stability, and finding the right people can work in any location in order to compete at the highest levels in any profession.  That’s an American success story exemplified.

Go Spurs Go and Let’s Get Number Five for the Thumb!!!!!

Wisdom of Marion 2.11: Why Tim Duncan Is My Favorite Athlete

He has 22,413 points, 12,466 rebounds, and 2,455 blocks (through last night’s game against the New Orleans Hornets) for his career.

Also, he has career averages of 20.3 points per game, 11.3 rebounds per game, and 2.2 blocks per game.

Moreover, he is a two-time NBA MVP, Rookie of the Year, three-time NBA Finals MVP, nine-time All NBA 1st Team, eight-time All Defensive 1st Team, All Star MVP and 4 NBA Championships on his resume.

With all these accomplishments to an incredible career, I know some of you are wondering what other reason would Tim Duncan be my favorite athlete?

There is one word for me: Consistency

Somehow in our current culture, we have overlooked and undervalued the role of consistency in creating greatness. We all believe greatness comes from being dynamic or spectacular, but not from consistency.

Tim Duncan represents the perfect vehicle to show how consistency is greatness and that we should appreciate it more when we see it in our lives.

He has never had the high-flying attack of a Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan and currently Blake Griffin or the dramatic flare of a Magic Johnson or the brute strength of Shaq or Karl Malone and now Lebron James.

Duncan has done with smarts, excellent timing and antipication and doing it over and over again the same way for 15 years.  So much so that Shaq gave him the nickname, “The Big Fundamental” as a compliment. I have never heard the word, fundamental, ever being used as a compliment.

The question is why has consistency while respected but overlooked just like Tim Duncan has been for his career?

Unfortunately, being consistent in anything is considered boring or dull (one of the criticisms of Duncan) and also if you are consistent then you are considered more of a craftsman than an artist.   You are more like a blacksmith or jeweler instead of a Picasso or Van Gogh.

Moreover, NBA Basketball is the only professional sport where one individual can dramatically affect the outcome in a team concept and can create an image in the public’s mind that’s nearly unshakeable.

We have been spoiled by Dr.J in the 70’s, Magic and Bird in the 80’s, Jordan in 90’s, and Kobe Bryant and Lebron James in the 2000s with their dramatic and spectacular play.  While Tim Duncan has chiseled away at his greatness like an ax chopping down a huge tree.

Also, I believe Duncan is like a Honda Accord or Nissan Maxima. While everyone respects these cars on how well made they are, but no one desires them as their dream car. However, both cars have lasted over 20 years in an extremely competitive car industry where flashy cars have come and gone.

Well, I have appreciated his career and the fact that he has a hand in (along Coach Popovich) creating the winningest franchise (San Antonio Spurs) in all of North American Professional Sports since the beginning the 2000 decade.

He has helped create a passionate fan base in this South Texas city of San Antonio and for the entire region down to the Texas/Mexico border. Also, as his career is winding down and coming to a close, people are beginning to realize how good he has been in his career and up and coming big men like Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers, DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings, Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers have all considered Duncan as their role model (and even mentor) on how to have an excellent NBA career.

In closing, I wanted to write a blogpost about my favorite athlete and appreciate that he has shown all of us that being consistent is greatness too.  And greatness can’t be overlooked no matter what kind of package it comes in.