Sportsperson of the Year…Again
Lebron James was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year earlier today. He joined Tiger Woods as the only people to have won the award twice. Woods earned the honor in 1996 after winning 3 consecutive U.S. Amateur Titles and the NCAA individual Championship. He earned the honor for a second time in 2000 after becoming the youngest golfer in History to achieve a career Grand Slam and won 9 of 20 PGA Tour Events that he had participated in. Woods’ achievements were incredibly impressive, so James must have achieved something amazing to join the club with Woods. Something amazing is exactly what he did. Lebron James brought a ring to Cleveland, something that hadn’t been done since 1964 when the Cleveland Browns won an NFL Title in the pre Super Bowl era. This was a feat that officially immortalized James as a hero in the eye’s of Cleveland and the state of Ohio.
Lebron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2010 offseason after reaching the NBA Finals only once (2007) in his 7 seasons with the team. James signed with the Miami Heat, which wouldn’t have been as bad as it was, if he had quietly signed his contract. Instead he announced where he was signing on a live ESPN special titled “The Decision” in which he told the whole world that he was “taking his talents to South Beach”. This shocked the fanbase of the Cavaliers. One Cleveland Cavaliers fan, Claudia Behrens said “It wasn’t that he left, it was the way that he left. He was cowardly.” Needless to say, Behrens was not alone in how she felt about James. The once-hero of Cleveland was now being treated as a villain. “Fans” burned his jersey’s and vandalized posters and billboards with his likeness.
Lebron James had a tenure in Miami that truly solidified his place in the discussion for the greatest NBA player of all time. Between the 2010-11 and 2013-14 seasons, the Heat reached the NBA finals every season and won twice in 2011-12 and 2012-13, in which James was named NBA Finals MVP both times. After losing the NBA finals in the 2013-14 season, James decided that he would opt out of his contract and rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Prodigal Son Returns
In the seasons following James’ departure from Cleveland, the Cavaliers were left without a prayer. They finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference in the season following his departure and proceeded to flounder around the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings for the next three years as well. Upon his return to Cleveland, James and the Cavaliers won an astounding 20 games more than the team had won the previous year and made it to the NBA Finals. This was an incredible feat for a team that finished in 10th place in the Eastern Conference in the prior year. Although the Cavaliers lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, there was an air of optimism surrounding the state of Ohio. This optimism was the right feeling to have, because James led the Cavaliers to their first NBA Title in the teams history in the 2015-16 season, defeating the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, a rematch from the year before. As if a victory wasn’t sweet enough, the Cavaliers were losing the series be a deficit of 3-1, making every game a must win from that point on. James capped off his 3rd NBA Finals MVP performance with an emphatic come-from-behind block on an attempted layup by Warriors Forward Andre Iguodala in which James pinned the ball against the backboard.
Greatest of All Time?
Lebron James is 31 years old and likely has 5 years remaining in his career as being a top player in the NBA. That being said, he still has time to solidify himself as the greatest player in NBA history. The discussion of the greatest player of all time has recently shifted to whether it is Lebron James or Michael Jordan. James is 1 Season MVP Award, and 3 NBA Finals and NBA Finals MVP awards away from reaching the major accomplishments in Jordan’s career. Will he reach Jordan and assure everyone that he is truly the best to every play the game? Only time will tell.
The 2016 NBA offseason was one to remember. Contract records were shattered and players signed with new teams. Some teams and players made some big moves that just aren’t paying dividends while other teams and players are exceeding expectations. Before I dive into what is going on now, I’m going to quickly highlight the offseason.
- The Salary Cap
- The NBA Salary Cap leaped from $70 Million to a number that seems to be $94 Million
- This means that teams new money to spend on free agent signings, and contract extensions for current players
- Major Moves
- Kevin Durant (2 year $54.5 million contract with Warriors)
- Dwyane Wade (2 year $40 million contract with Bulls)
- HUGE Extensions
- Demar Derozan (5 year $145 million with Raptors)
- Mike Conley (5 year $153 million with Grizzlies)
- Russell Westbrook (3 year $85 million with Thunder)
- NBA Rookies
- Ben Simmons (1st Pick of Draft by 76ers)
- Brandon Ingram (2nd Pick of Draft by Lakers)
- Joel Embiid (3rd Pick of 2014 Draft by 76ers(1st season due to injuries))
I’m going to talk about the good starts to this season because I honestly think that the negatives are just not as much fun.
- Star Shooting Guard Demar Derozan got an enormous contract extension this offseason from the Toronto Raptors. After leading the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals, Derozan received a contract extension that truly showcased his worth in the NBA. Derozan is not making the Raptors regret their decision. Derozan is currently averaging 29.2 points per game while leading the Raptors to an 11-6 start, putting them in 2nd in the East.
- Joel Embiid entered his first NBA season with a lot of questions being asked about him. Is he going to remain healthy? Is he going to be worth waiting 2 years for? Embiid quickly answered all questions and silenced his critics by averaging 18.2 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game. I forgot to mention…Embiid is having his minutes restricted to prevent injury aggravation. He is averaging just above 22 minutes per game. To put this into perspective: Justin Hamilton is averaging the same amount of minutes as Embiid. Like Embiid, Hamilton is also a Center who plays for a low-level team. With the same amount of minutes, Hamilton is averaging more than 10 points per game and 3 rebounds per game fewer than Embiid. Yes…the 76ers are still in last place in the Eastern Conference and hold the second-worst record in the NBA, but it is a tremendous improvement over last year. The 76ers lost their first 18 games last season, while through the first 18 this season, they have won 4.
- If you need any information on Russell Westbrook and how well he is doing this season, just refer to my first blog: “Russell ‘Triple-Double’ Westbrook”.
- Point Guard Mikey Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies can not stay healthy. Over the course of his 10 year career, Conley has played in at least 75 of the 82 games in the regular season only 4 times. In other seasons he played in 53 (2007-08), 62 (2011-12), and 56 (2015-16), and yet the Memphis Grizzlies decided to give him the most valuable contract in NBA history. It seemed like a good idea for a while: through the first 17 games of the season Conley averaged 19.2 points per game and 5.7 assists per game. The numbers aren’t phenomenal but the Grizzlies were +4.4 points per game while Conley was on the court. Then Conley fractured his lower back and is going to be sidelined for at least 6 weeks. The Memphis Grizzlies are in trouble as they are missing 3 of their 4 key players. Zach Randolph ($10.3 million), Chandler Parsons ($22.1 million), and Mike Conley ($26.5 million) are all sidelined. The Grizzlies sit in 4th place in the West, but that is likely to drop dramatically.
- Ben Simmons, a player who was supposed to come into the NBA and light up the courts, has not played a minute this season due to injury. He’ll be back, most likely in January, but 3.5 months without the 1st pick in the NBA draft is not how the 76ers wanted to begin their season.
- Brandon Ingram, the second pick of the NBA draft, is playing like a late first round pick. In 19 games, Ingram is averaging only 7.6 points per game and is shooting only .372 percent from the field. If Ingram plans on living up to all the preseason hype that surrounded him, he needs to pick up his game.
I feel as though there is no better way to start my blog, than talking about the most exciting player in the NBA at the moment. Through the first 19 games of the NBA season, Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double (3 statistics in which he averages at least 10 per game) in points, rebounds, and assists. A triple-double is not something that is easy to come by in the NBA, as the player with the most in history only had 181 in over 1100 career games. That person was Oscar Robertson, a person who was ranked third in SLAM Magazine’s top 75 NBA Players. He was ranked behind only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. Russell Westbrook is the only player to have gone 19 games into the NBA and average a triple-double through those 19 games since Oscar Robertson himself in the 1963-64 season.
Russell Westbrook is playing the game of basketball with an anger that has not yet been witnessed in the NBA. Up until this season, he had never had full control of a team like he does now. The Oklahoma City Thunder were a powerhouse team in the Western Conference for the past 7 years, making the playoffs 6 times, the Western Conference Finals 4 times, and the NBA Finals 1 time. Over the course of those 7 seasons, the Thunder had stars such as Kevin Durant (1x NBA MVP 2014, 7x NBA All-Star 2010-2016), James Harden (NBA Sixth Man of the Year 2012), and Serge Ibaka (3x NBA All Defensive First Team 2012-2014). This season is Westbrook’s first without any of those three star’s and he can really light up the court.
After losing the Western Conference Finals in 2016 to the Golden State Warriors after leading the series 3-1, Kevin Durant left the Thunder in free agency to join the Thunder’s Western Conference rivals, Golden State Warriors. Westbrook and Durant had a very strong, almost brotherly relationship, so when Durant jumped ship, Westbrook was left absolutely livid. He has always been a prolific player and aggressive scorer, but now he has an anger inside of him that appears to be untamable.