Tag Archive | "kobe bryant"

Michael Vick, greatest redemption in sports

It is often said that America is the land of second chances.  If you’re a doubter just look at the fates of celebrities-turned-criminals who have repaired their images and gone on to succeed after serving jail time: Michael Milken, Martha Stewart, Robert Downey, Jr. and Lindsay Lohan.  OK, maybe not Lindsay, but you get the point.

The sports world is no exception.  Star players who have had brushes with the law and managed to regain their popularity include Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez, Ray Lewis and (so far) Ben Roethlisberger.  But no athlete in the 21st century has been more vilified and reviled than Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.  Vick was the first overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft.  While he never seemed to completely live up to his billing, he was still one of the bright young stars in the league.

By the summer of 2007, it all came crashing down.  Vick was charged with running a dog fighting ring (which included the torture and killing of dogs), eventually pleading guilty to federal felony charges.  His 10-year, $130 million contract with the Falcons was voided, millions of dollars in endorsement deals vanished, he was suspended indefinitely by Commissioner Roger Goodell and he ended up serving 21 months in federal prison.  He was the scorn of animal lovers, sports fans and Americans in general.  His career, for all intents and purposes, was over.

He was then released in the summer of 2009, and earned a conditional reinstatement from Goodell.  The Philadelphia Eagles took a chance on him, and he served as a backup to quarterback Donovan McNabb and decoy at times.  This year, with McNabb traded to Washington, Vick quietly accepted his backup role to new starter Kevin Kolb.  After Kolb suffered a concussion during their opening day loss to the Packers, Vick came in and nearly rallied the team to victory.

He hasn’t looked back since.  Despite being injured in the Eagles first match-up with the Redskins last month and missing three games, Vick returned last week and led his team to a 26-24 victory over the Colts.  But his crowning moment came on Monday night, when he had six touchdowns (four passing, two running) and racked up 413 total yards in a 59-28 thumping of the Redskins.  On a national stage, Vick’s career came full circle.

But let’s not go overboard and award Vick the MVP for this season.  Yes, he’s played great, but there is still a lot of football left to play – including a tough game against the rival Giants on Sunday night.  But it is nice to see a good, old fashioned “second chance” story in sports.  And kudos to former coach Tony Dungy, who became Vick’s mentor and clearly has given him sound advice.

As both a dog owner and lover, I was (and remain) appalled by Vick’s past transgressions.  But keep in mind; he did his time in prison – a sentence far longer than some violent criminals and the masterminds of the financial collapse of 2008 haven’t even served a day in jail – and he apologized for his actions.

This also serves as another reminder of what Charles Barkley once said, “Athletes aren’t role models.”  While the Vick story is intriguing and inspiring, he ultimately is a talented entertainer and an example of how humans are imperfect.  But neither he (nor any other athlete) should be held in higher regard than the men and women defending our country and our streets, or performing life-saving surgeries.

Ultimately, the Michael Vick story epitomizes what we teach our children – we all make mistakes, but own up to them and make sure not to let them happen again.  If not, your actions have consequences.

Are you paying attention, Plaxico Burress?

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in Features, NFL, West Coast ViewComments (0)

LBJ and “The Decision”

“The Decision”, a one-hour special on ESPN is the first network program to receive our Bitch-Slap-of-the-Week and it shares the honor with the show’s star NBA free agent, LeBron James who will be making his decision regarding where he will land and attempt to become, in his words, the world’s first billion-dollar athlete.

During the FIFA World Cup game between Spain and Germany, ESPN’s ticker tape “Breaking News” announced the show that in many people’s minds is nothing more than a network handing an egotistical, arrogant overpaid athlete their own one-hour special to announce to our recession-infested country, where he will be making his 100’s of millions of dollars.

That’s great, King James, now your audience can go climb up on a hot roof and nail some shingles for $800 a week or flip burgers at their second job so they can have electricity to pay for air conditioning this summer. Hope you enjoyed rubbing it in their faces and reminding them the reality of how overpaid pro athletes like you really are.

Kevin Blackistone of AOL Fanhouse wrote this about James in his article entitled, “Free Agent Circus Stains LeBron’s Image”.

“. . . all of a sudden [James] appears to be as egotistical and megalomaniacal as any of the most self-absorbed athletes we’ve come to know over the years. What a shame. Over the past few weeks, James has made himself as easy to dislike as he’d made himself over several years easy to like.”

In another article entitled, “ESPN Defends LeBron Special”, the network is quoted as they explain the purpose of the show. “We believe this is a unique program,” Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president of production said.

Yeah, it sure is. No network has ever wasted an hour of air time for an announcement of a free agent on where he will land.

The great champion NBA players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaq, players who have all WON championships, something LeBron has not come close to accomplishing, have discreetly made decisions and taken their $100 million contracts as quietly as possible.

Getting beat by Orlando two years ago and again losing to the underdog, aging Boston Celtics this year, I guess LeBron can accept this special as a consolation prize as opposed to the back-to-back victory parades that Kobe and his Lakers team had, the confetti Shaq was driven through in Miami and L.A. and the half dozen Michael celebrated in the Windy City.

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in Bitch Slaps, The Mosh PitComments (1)

Artest MVP of Game 7, thanks psychiatrist

Ron Artest became one of the heroes of the clinching game that gave the Lakers its second straight NBA Championship when Los Angeles topped the Boston Celtics 83-79 in a game that was ugly on the offensive side of the ball and tough as it comes on the defensive end.

Just saying Artest’s name in the same sentence as the word “heroes” is unexpected and against all odds, but the man scored 20, grabbed five boards and had five steals. Video posted on my Examiner.com column here.

On a night when Kobe Bryant had one of those games in which he couldn’t find his shot but tried anyway, Artest was the glue outside that held it all together. He was Mr. Outside with Pau Gasol playing his companion role of Mr. Inside.

Pau could have easily been chosen as the MVP of the series and on this most of important of nights, he shed his “Pau Gasoft” monicker forever. A game seven stat line of 19 points, 18 rebounds and four assists is manly, clutch and worthy of a trophy.

But let’s get back to Mr. Artest. A guy who kept his emotions in check all season and never allowed himself to get giddy about his place on the Lakers, let it all hang out on Thursday night.

His first moment as a Lakers player, in front of media at his introductory press conference he knew he had to be different and said:

“I am not in a position to do anything to win, or I’ll get suspended. I try to be as smart as possible and as aggressive as possible without being ejected.”

He thanked his shrink in his immediate post-game interview on the Staples Center floor. He mentioned her again when he met with the press. She helped him follow through on that day one intention. Lakers fans should send her a fruit basket, at the very least.

He fulfilled his promise to Kobe Bryant from 2008. Bursting into the Lakers locker room at the TD Bank North Garden in Boston after the Lakers lost the championship in soul crushing fashion, he found Kobe in the shower.

Then and there he sized up the situation and knew Kobe couldn’t win without someone else having his back.

Despite him still under contract for another team, Artest decided he was the man for the job and promised Kobe he would help him win a championship and soon. When the call went out for Ron during his free agency summer of 2009, he couldn’t believe his good fortune.

Kobe needed every one of his teammates to fill in the gaps in his game on Thursday night and Artest was the man for the job. Despite his childlike exuberance and stream of conscious orations, the man made good on his pledge.

All the audio and video clips today will highlight Ron-Ron’s random thoughts, his inability to filter himself on a night of pure joy. Yeah, he’s crazy but not the kind that hurts a team’s chances to be the best they can.

It was acknowledged by coach Phil Jackson who called Artest the MVP of the final game. And for Artest, that makes it all worth while.

Re-printed with permission of the author.

Paula Duffy is a national sports columnist for Examiner.com and the Huffington Post and regularly comments on sports/legal matters for radio affiliates of ESPN and Fox Sports. She founded the sports information site, Incidental Contact, is the author of a line of audio books designed for sports novices and in her spare time practices law in Los Angeles. 

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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Lakers beat Celtics for 16th NBA title

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A night of shooting 6-of-24, just 25 percent from the floor, many times spells disaster for Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers but not in last night’s NBA Finals Game 7 against their hated rival Boston Celtics.

Despite sloppy play and the hideous night of shooting from the floor, when the final second ticked off the clock, Kobe and the Lakers celebrated an 83-79 win under a purple and gold confetti shower and hoisted their back-to-back NBA Championship trophy.

The win earned the Lakers their 16th NBA title overall and is Coach Phil Jackson and Kobe’s fifth with the team. Jackson has another 6-pack of rings from his days with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

The Celtics battled hard on the Staples Center floor, running up a 13-point lead in the second half and clinging onto a 3-point lead late in the final quarter, but the Lakers battled back in an exciting final few minutes and squeaked out the win on their home court.

This 16th NBA title for the Lakers moves them to within one of Boston’s NBA record 17 and Bryant didn’t pull any punches commenting on the rivalry:

“This one is by far the sweetest, because it’s them.”

Bryant, who was off his game and attempted several off balance ill-advised shots throughout the night, got much needed support and a chunk of it came from Pau Gasol who chipped in 19 points, including 9 in the final quarter, and 18 boards. Ron Artest, who earned his first ring, netted 20 points including a clutch 3-pointer late in the game.

Overall the Lakers shot about as bad as a team can shoot, nailing just 21 from the floor over the first three quarters while looking like they had attended a Ben Wallace free-throw clinic, barely hitting over 50 percent at the line.

Stats from the losing bench included Paul Pierce (18 points, 10 rebounds), Kevin Garnett (17 points) and Rasheed Wallace (11 point).

‘Sheed, the NBA’s guru of technical fouls, fouled out late in the game and attempted to get into the official’s locker room after the game but was not allowed access by arena security.

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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Don’t blame refs for Lakers loss to Celtics in Game 2

What happened to the Lakers in the final few minutes of game two of the NBA Finals? Rajon Rondo is the answer. But that’s starting at the end of the story.

The Celts 103-94 victory wasn’t inevitable. The game could have gone either way down the stretch, but let’s just go back to the beginning.

Ray Allen created an NBA Finals record of seven three-pointers in one half. He left the court at half-time with 27 total points. The rest of the big four were lagging way behind with most of it due to foul trouble and some Lakers defense.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were ineffective offensively and Rondo had not begun the heroics. The entire front line of the Celts was in foul trouble including back-up Glenn Davis, and yet the Lakers needed a three-pointer from Kobe Bryant to bring his team within six at half-time.

Thoughts for the home team at the half?

Well, how about putting a body on Allen, slow up on the outside shots that don’t drop and cause fast breaks led by Rondo, keep giving the ball to Bynum who was effective on both ends of the floor, send a search party for LO and tell Ron Artest to get his head in the game.

How did the boys in purple and gold do with that to-do list? Allen only had five more points the entire game, but managed another three-pointer, breaking the existing record of seven in an NBA Finals game.

Odom was still MIA, Bynum had a career night in a playoff game, Gasol and he blocked 13 shots between them and despite Artest dribbling more than a teething infant, the Lakers kept it close, even leading with five minutes left in the contest.

And then the Rondo show began. Kobe had five fouls and had to be as delicate as possible. The inside game of the Lakers was thwarted, turnovers were committed at the most inopportune times and Rondo was absolutely everywhere.

He was like Batman in “The Dark Knight”. You didn’t know what angle he was coming from but he was there to hurt you with scoring, passing and rebounds. With his second triple-double of the post season, Rondo made the Lakers pay.

Don’t listen to the critics who claim the officials tilted this game the Celts’ way. They punished both teams with fouls that were not there.

This was about no contributions from Odom and Artest, very little from Fisher, Kobe unable to score his average in the playoffs and Rondo emerging as the guy who can make the difference when two of the Big Four are absent offensively.

Now the scene shifts to Boston for Games 3, 4, and 5. The Celts haven’t defended home court as well as the Lakers this post-season and the Lakers have shown, against all their opponents in previous series that they can win on the road.

Game 3 starts Tuesday at 9 pm ET.

Re-printed with permission of the author.

Paula Duffy is a national sports columnist for Examiner.com and the Huffington Post and regularly comments on sports/legal matters for radio affiliates of ESPN and Fox Sports. She founded the sports information site, Incidental Contact, is the author of a line of audio books designed for sports novices and in her spare time practices law in Los Angeles. 

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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Thunder squash Kobe and Lakers to even NBA playoffs series

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK. – The Oklahoma City Thunder came to play on Saturday, out-rebounding the L.A. Lakers and thunder beat lakerstheir 7-foot duo, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum and thrashing the Lakers 110-89 to even the NBA Playoff series 2-2.

Kevin Durant scored 22 points and Russell Westbrook netted 18 and added 8 boards for the Thunder who are suddenly making believers out of their fans and opposition around the league.

After the game Durant was composed and seemed all business during a courtside interview saying, “It’s a seven game series.”

“We knew what we were capable of and how hard we play every day and how hard we practice every day,” said Durant. “With those attributes, I think that we can go far as a team. It’s all on us. We control our own destiny at this point.”

“A lot of people didn’t expect us to be here and once we got here, people were saying we were going to get swept.”

Kobe Bryant was held to 12 points and his decision to not take a shot for the first 15 minutes of the game, got his team in a 15-point deficit hole they could never dig out of.

The Thunder responded with a vengeance and the Lakers never got within double-digits after the first quarter.

“This is as big as a game can possibly be,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “You’re playing against one of the best teams in the playoffs on your home floor. Like I told the guys after the game, the Lakers did a good job the first two games. They took care of their home court. We did the same thing.”

Bynum and Gasol led the Lakers in scoring with 13 and Kobe took his 12 points to the bench, spending the entire 4th quarter there with 3 other Lakers starters.

“Our expectation is we wanted to win both of these games and be done with it. I think that’s every team’s mindset coming on the road being up 2-0,” Bryant said during post-game. “We’ve got a tough fight.”

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax™

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Lakers Kobe Bryant Agrees to Three-Year Contract Extension

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Los Angeles Lakers just announced a three-year contract extension with Kobe Bryant. ThisLakers Kobe Bryant is the companion piece to a four-year extension for Pau Gasol announced in December, 2009.

The Lakers press release quoted General Manager Mitch Kupchak as saying:

” Kobe has been a cornerstone of the Lakers for well over a decade…and in the process developing into one of the greatest players in basketball history.”

The lack of an extension for Bryant was creeping back into sports analysts’ conversation as a result of the Lakers’ uneven performance since the All-Star game (13-8), most particularly the just concluded 2-3 road trip.

The level of uncertainty rose a bit more after coach Phil Jackson’s mysterious comments about returning next season. Kobe’s return was rumored to be tied to Jackson’s only adding to the paranoia of Lakers fans.

Despite Kobe being as clear as he could be after the team won the 2009 NBA Championship, the anxiety in Los Angeles was fueled by the memory of that horrible time in the summer of 2007 when Kobe demanded a trade.

Bryant told the assembled 100,000 people at the Lakers victory celebration last June, when asked if he was going to re-sign with the team: “Where am I going to go? This is my home.”

The team now has four of its starting five signed through the 2012 season. Ron Artest took a multi-year deal last summer and Andrew Bynum was given his big money contract at the beginning of the 2008 season.

Sixth man, Lamar Odom is under contract for the same time period after last summer’s mysterious standoff.

Re-printed with permission of the author.

Paula Duffy is a national sports columnist for Examiner.com and the Huffington Post and regularly comments on sports/legal matters for radio affiliates of ESPN and Fox Sports. She founded the sports information site, Incidental Contact, is the author of a line of audio books designed for sports novices and in her spare time practices law in Los Angeles. 

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax™

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LeBron Files For Uniform Number Change

It was reported that Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James filed the necessary paperwork to wear a uniform sporting the No. 6, foregoing theLebron Jersey No. 23 that he has worn throughout his NBA career.

Here’s the wrinkle: he only has to ask permission if he stays with the same team. Should he move teams he picks whatever he wants when he reaches his destination.

The report noted that he wants to leave the No. 23 for Michael Jordan’s legacy but of course it fails to explain the timing of it all. So there’s that guessing game going on among Cavalier fans which I’m sure is fascinating.

But, as morning dawns in Los Angeles today, Lakers star Kobe Bryant has now heard the news, the man who switched his number from No. 8 to his old high school No. 24. And he did it after winning three NBA championships, long into his career.

Is he smiling, using that knowing grin he sports when something confirms what he thought would happen? Or is he shaking his head wondering what the heck he’s got to do to keep that distance himself from his fellow super star.

Paula Duffy is a national sports columnist for Examiner.com and the Huffington Post and regularly comments on sports/legal matters for radio affiliates of ESPN and Fox Sports. She founded the sports information site, Incidental Contact, is the author of a line of audio books designed for sports novices and in her spare time practices law in Los Angeles. 

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