Monday, June 3, 2013

The Beginning of the End

Today, one of my favorite basketball players retired, Jason Kidd. My dad put me on J-Kidd in the late 90s when he was on Phoenix. He told me to keep an eye on how he passes and finds teammates. I was amazed, not just by the blond hair, but his speed, quickness, and no look passes were incredible. A lot of people forget how good Kidd was because his prime was 10-12 years ago. He is the best point guard of the last 20 years. Better than Payton, Nash and Parker. No point guards, except Magic and Oscar Robertson have been as well rounded as Kidd and its hard to see another one coming.

Along with Kidd, Grant Hill retired on Saturday. Hill was the evolution of the modern small forward/point forward position. There was Scottie then Hill and now LeBron. Hill was robbed by injuries so we'll never know how good he could have been, but we do know that from 1994-1999 he put up 20+ points, 6+ assists, and 7+ rebounds. Sounds really similar to that guy on the Heat. Kidd and Hill retiring has made me think though, this is the beginning of the end of an era.

The early 2000s were an awesome time for me. I was in middle school, throwbacks were dope and I began going through puberty, which led to me lust over just about anything with a vagina. Basketball was also big for me in the early 2000s. I loved watching Kidd, Iverson, Duncan, Kobe, T-Mac, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash just to name a few. Back then these guys were  the next wave of legends and for the most part they did turn in to legends. As I sit here now, in 2013, I realize that time is over. Throwbacks are long gone (but I had a closet full of them!), puberty is over (Wait...I'm done growing?) and I have a girlfriend so I literally am not allowed to peep hunnies (I'm kidding, she's cool!). Along with those changes, many changes have happened in the NBA. Kobe and Duncan are no longer the best, T-Mac is a bench warmer on the Spurs and Vince Carter is a role player. How the f*ck did this happen? Time.

Time is a b*tch. It catches us all. It caught Shaq, it caught AI, and it just caught Jason Kidd and Grant Hill. Who's next? Probably the guys you grew up watching. They aren't getting any younger. Incredibly, Tim Duncan is in the NBA finals, but this is feeling like the last stand for a battle tested warrior. All of these great players from the early 2000s are losing steps or have lost steps. Yes, they are still some of the best in the game, but the windows are closing. Its getting to the point where we have to defend our favorite player's legacy to little kids who don't know s*it. It sucks, on a side note, if you were born after 1994, I don't understand you, and I apologize. Times have changed far too much in the last few years and our disconnect is tremendous. Back to the topic.

The San Antonio Spurs are going up against the Miami Heat this Thursday in the NBA finals. The former MVP vs the current MVP. I don't know who is going to win this series, but I do know this is the last time I'll see some of my favorite players in the finals and it hurts the 13-year-old in me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Problem with LeBron, Kobe and Jordan Fans

Usually I write a little introduction, but its not needed tonight. If you saw the All Star game you saw Kobe block LeBron James not once, but twice down the stretch. This event, which was so insignificant because it happened in an exhibition game, sent Twitter into a sh*t storm. It was incredible. Seriously, some of the most ridiculous banter over an exhibition game. Our society needs help, but that topic is for another day.

The Twitter eruption that took place got me to thinking about what makes us as fans so loyal to these players and what problems arise from this. Kobe's two blocks generated so much buzz about him being better than LeBron and LeBron being better than Kobe and for some reason Michael Jordan came up. I can't reiterate how crazy this sh*t was. It made me think though about the issues I have with fans of Jordan, LeBron and Kobe. 

Before I get into it I want to give my stand on the whole thing. First things first, I do not like Kobe and everyone that is a friend of mine knows that. With that said though, I respect his game and think he is one of the best ever. LeBron is my favorite player right now and I honestly think he has a chance to be the greatest of all time. Jordan is the best of all time, hands down, and its not even close at this point. Lastly, I am a Knicks fan and have been since I came out of the womb and my dad told me this was the way things had to be. 

The Problem with LeBron Fans: 

This is a simple one. LeBron fans, since he was a 16-year-old in high school, have been too quick to crown him the best. A lot of LeBron fans are too young to have seen Jordan and too lazy to do their homework. They haven't seen the game tape of MJ so they can't fully comprehend how great he was. They don't know he had the best fadeaway of all time or that his mid-range jumper was untouchable. They don't know how fast he was or how crafty he was on the defensive end. They've never taken the time to study the tape and see what so many older heads rave about. For the casual fan its cool not to do your homework, but if you're going to argue LeBron verse Jordan you have to. Otherwise you're just living up the the belief that Americans are ill informed. 

The Problem with Kobe Fans: 

The problem with Kobe fans is also their most endearing trait. Kobe fans are ride or die. They rep Kobe no matter what. Kobe drops 81 they're there. The Lakers are on the verge of not making the playoffs and they refuse to jump ship. Its respectable how loyal they are, but also annoying at times. Kobe can go 3/17 with eight turnovers and Kobe fans will still find someone else to place the blame on. Kobe can take 10 bad shots in a row then hit three turn around jumpers and they proclaim, "Black Mamba!" Really? 2010 NBA Finals, game seven, he shot 6-24. They won, but Kobe fans don't mention how bad he played. Nor do they mention Pau Gasol's 19 points and 18 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end. All I hear from Kobe fans is the five championships. I'll give you that, but you have to give me the fact that the first three came with the most physically dominant player of the last 25 years. Sub Allen Iverson for Kobe on those Lakers teams and I think they still come out with at least two rings(see there is some of that Kobe hate coming out). But for real, T-Mac and Vince Carter could have probably even paired with Shaq to get a couple rings. He was just that good back then. With all that said, Kobe's one of the best ever and I will stop.

The Problem with Jordan Fans:

They refuse to believe that someone better can come along. Don't get me wrong, its going to be damn near impossible for someone to reach Jordan's level, but its possible. We seem to forget that LeBron James is only 28-years-old. This guy gets better every single year and is in the middle of his prime. Its not inconceivable to think LeBron could win three of the next four championships and maybe a few more after that. If LeBron wins even three or four rings total playing at the level he's at we have to discuss him in the Jordan conversation. His skill level and dominance of opponents is just too great not to consider. I used to think that no one could ever top Jordan, but LeBron is the best since him in my opinion. He still has at least 10 more years of game left in him and will probably break a number of significant records when its all said and done. Right now its too early to say he can be better than Jordan, I'll admit that, but this notion that no one can ever be better than Jordan is just silly. The world is going to go on for billions and billions of years. Believe me, its possible he can be dethroned, but I bet we will all be dead by then. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

My 5 Favorite Verses

The Way I am (First Verse)- Eminem
This entire song is full of angst and f*ck you. No rapper lets you into their personal life quite like Eminem and on this song, which I think is his best, he did it like never before. He lets you know he's not really comfortable with fame and that like any normal person, he needs some space. The first verse is a favorite of mine just because of how complex the rhymes are. Em is always rhyming words at the end and in the middle of lines, but this one is so complex its almost hard to read.

It Aint Hard to Tell (First Verse)- Nas
To really understand everything Nas is saying you've got to run the track back at least two or three times. On "It Aint Hard to Tell," Nas embodies what it means to be an emcee. The rhyme scheme is complex. The metaphors are intriguing and challenging to understand. His voice, smooth, street poet. And the beat he spits over is a classic with the Michael Jackson sample. Nas' verse explains to you why he's so ill and what separates him from everyone else. Oh and lets not forget, he wrote this when he was like 17.

Notorious Thugs (B.I.G. Verse)- Notorious B.I.G. ft Bone Thugs
 Biggie Smalls was a gift to hip-hop. His flow in my opinion is the best ever and on this track its evident. He rips through the beat and lays down some of the most G lyrics in the history of rap. There isn't much to say about this verse. B.I.G. does all the speaking himself.

Nuthin' a but a G Thang (Snoop Dogg, first verse)- Dr. Dre
When Snoop comes on to the track with that laid back flow and undeniable style its hard not to settle into a groove. Snoop is the coolest dude to ever do this rap thing. I could honestly have picked about 15 of his verses to be in this spot, but when you factor in that chorus and Dre production its hard not to go with this one.

Till I Collapse Remix (50 Cent Verse)- Eminem

50's verse on this remix is nothing short of amazing. He doesn't waste a single breath, word or line. Every syllable is perfectly placed and each rhyme hits harder than the previous. 50's genius on the mic is undermined by his business savvy, but we shouldn't get it twisted. When 50 wants to be, he's one of the best rappers and thats unquestionable.

Barely Missed the Cut

How I could Just Kill a Man (B-Real, second verse)- Cypress Hill
B-Real's voice is unmistakeable. One of my favorite rappers to listen to along with Snoop. On this track B-Real keeps it just that while chronicling the rules to LA street life. The rule? If someone tries to get you, you get them first.

99 Problems (Second Verse)- Jay-Z
Jay-Z's second verse tells a story about him riding with some work in the trunk. We've all been there right? Something in your car that you shouldn't have? I digress, Jigga's verse tells a simple story in a clever way and in the end he makes it out alive and becomes the biggest rapper of all time. HOV!

Da Art of Storytellin' Part 4 (Andre 3000 Verse)- Outkast
This verse is just perfect. You don't expect less from Three Stacks, but my goodness. He tells a story, uses metaphors, makes you think and is the coolest while doing it. My favorite part is when he explains to a young lady why he doesn't spend money in strip clubs, its both thought provoking and economical (And that is not a joke).

*Disclaimer: These are not necessarily their best verses, just my favorites, so don't come at me. Who am I kidding? No one will see this.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Is 2 Better than 1?

At Still on the Bench, I try to keep my focus on sports, but when something amazing happens outside of that realm we must touch upon it. So by now everyone has seen Kate Upton hit the Cat Daddy, considering the video has over 13 million hits. However, there is a lesser known video with only 4 million views, which features the beautiful Melanie Iglesias and the equally attractive Lisa Ramos. So I've got to ask, is two better than one?

Kate Upton in my opinion takes the W, purely for the video quality.....Sike! That slow motion is no joke! On the other hand, Melanie Iglesias is that elusive Spanish mami we're all looking for. Really at the end of the day, we're all winners, because both of these videos are masterpieces.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Early Season Awards

Kevin Durant- The best player on the best team in the league has to be in the MVP conversation. Not to mention that guy is Kevin Durant. KD has improved across the board this year. He is scoring as efficiently as ever while putting up career highs in rebounds and assists. Its scary that Durant is only 24. He's still far from hitting his peak and thats got to be scary  for the rest of the league.

Lebron James- The reigning finals MVP and league MVP is having yet another incredible year. Its hard to quantify how good LeBron is purely off the numbers. His stats are right around what they usually are 25 plus points, almost nine rebounds, and about 7 assists. While those numbers are impressive they don't really do the man any justice. LeBron affects the game on both ends of the floor more than anyone in the league. He makes his teammates better and has come to the point where he can dominate a game without even scoring.

Chris Paul- CP3 is the best point guard in the NBA hands down. He has the Clippers playing the best basketball they've played in my lifetime and looking like they could come out the west. His handles are impeccable, his creativity is unmatched and his Napoleon complex keeps him hungrier than any player in the league. I'm not sure if anyone wants to win more than Chris Paul. He's changed the culture in LA and has his team poised to make a push toward the finals.

Carmelo Anthony- When talent meets desire you get Carmelo Anthony in 2012. Melo is playing the best basketball of his career. He lost weight, got focused and the results are coming through. The Knicks are way better than I expected they would be and have a real chance to dethrone the Heat. Its going to be a tough task and I've never seen a team do it with the 3-ball like the Knicks are, but if Carmelo keeps up his play, sky is the limit (word to B.I.G.)

Rookie of the Year
Damian Lillard- If you've read this blog before you know Damian Lillard is my guy. In my opinion he's separated himself from the pack as far as rookies go. His game is smooth and his talent is endless. Did you see the game winner? Supposedly he said "Oakland bitch," after he hit it. I'm kidding, he seems like a nice guy, but if he did, how gangsta would that be? As of right now, its a one man race and rightfully so. Lillard looks like the next great point guard.

Anthony Daivs- Davis has had a pretty injury riddled first year in the league, but now that he's healthy we are seeing some promising signs. Davis is smart, plays tough defense and is a great finisher. He still needs to beef up and gain more experience, which will come with him staying healthy, but for now he is looking like the smart choice at number one.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- MGKis a do it all kind of player. He'll score, grab boards and play tough D on a nightly basis. As of now, I can't say MGK is great at anything, except maybe defense. He kind of reminds me of Gerald Wallace, just solid across the board. He is way ahead of where Gerald Wallace was at this age and will probably be a guy that never turns into the best player in the league, but is a model of consistency and effort.

6th Man of the Year
Jamal Crawford- Crawford is one of the most fun players to watch. Once he catches the ball his defenders butt hole instantly tightens in fear of shitting himself after Jamal puts the moves on him. Honestly, I almost shit myself sometimes when I watch. He is giving the Clippers serious fire power off the bench and is one of the reasons why they have the best record in the NBA.

JR Smith- This category is really a two-man-race in my opinion. JR Smith is one of the most talented players in the league. He has the athleticism, shooting ability, and defensive prowess to be one of the best players in the league, but for some reason he has never been able to put it together. This year with an increased role and more importantly, increased trust with his coach, we are seeing Smith blossom. His defensive rating is the highest of his career and his PER is the best its been since 2009. Smith is also putting up great rebounding numbers and has even sealed a few games for the Knicks. I'm glad to see him finally getting some respect.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Damian Lillard: Doin' it for the Old Guys

Damian Lillard is my favorite rookie in the NBA this year. No, I'm not a hypebeast who jumped on the bandwagon a couple weeks into the season. I'm a hypebeast who jumped on the bandwagon during the rookie workouts. Insiders kept talking about this guy from a small school called Weber State, so I checked him out and I was more than impressed. Lillard's blend of ball handling, quickness, and shooting touch made me a fan.What I was even more impressed by was his work ethic, which is on display in his web series "License to Lillard."

This man really puts in the work. If I attempted to do his workout, I'm almost certain I would vomit. Now before you knock my conditioning, let me say I run three miles a day. Lillard however; is just one of those rare people who is willing to go that extra mile. He wants to be great and you can see that in how he works.

My favorite thing about Damian Lillard you ask? He's 22, just like me. Damian Lillard is the part of a dying breed, four-year college players who get drafted. He spent four years at Weber State honing his game, coming back from injury and turing into one of the best players in the country.

Lillard's experience comes across in his game. When I see rookies or just young players in general, their inexperience is evident. For example, John Wall is a great player, but he does a lot of asinine shit. Andre Drummond, endless potential, but has no idea how to play basketball. When you see Lillard, averaging 19 and six, you see the maturity and understanding of the game. He plays with a calm and control that is often associated with veterans, not rookies.

It's refreshing to see a guy out there who knows the game and is clearly ready for the NBA. I'm not saying the one and done kids can't play, clearly some can, but not everyone is Anthony Davis or Kyrie Irving. There are a number of guys who had great potential coming out of high school, but have not been able to reach their full potential. Guys like Jerryd Bayless or Michael Beasley have been in the NBA for years now and still are unable to fulfill initial projections. Maybe the projections were off, but maybe those guys just needed to stay an extra year or two and really develop.

There is no clear answer as to whether or not guys need to stay in college or just jump to the big stage, but there is a certain maturity and awareness that comes with staying in school. Think about your own life. How are you different today from when you were 18? You're probably smarter, more aware and more sure of yourself. Those are all things that come with time and experience. Damian Lillard seems to have figured that out, hopefully some others will follow his lead.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Comparing Today's NBA Players to Today's Rappers

I was born in 1990. I was just a kid during the golden era of hip-hop and the championship run of Michael Jordan's Bulls, but the 90s are still close to my heart. I sit back and watch Fresh-Prince before work, bump Illmatic and wear slap bracelets when I'm feeling crazy. There's a lot of nostalgia for the 90s going on right now and with good reason. The mainstream creativity of this generation sucks. Don't get me wrong there are tons of talented people out there in a number of fields (technology, fashion, film); however have you listened to the radio lately? Or turned on the TV? Shitty music and terrible reality shows dominate the airwaves. Now, don't get me wrong there is still good music and TV out there, but its hard to find.

Today's NBA is actually in a much better place than today's music or TV. Tons of talent and tons of excitement right now. I'm a huge fan of all music, seriously I'll give anything a listen, but rap is closest to my heart. Today I want to compare the music scene to hoops by way of matching players to rappers. Lets begin...

Kevin Love/Action Bronson

Action Bronson is a raw ass dude from New York, with immense skill and incredible delivery. This guy is a throwback to the old days of rap. He's spitting street stuff through complex rhymes coupled with a voice reminiscent of Ghostface Killah. His counterpart, Kevin Love, is also a throwback to the old days. Love doesn't go out on the court and overwhelm you with ahtleticism, he does it with his brain and ever-expanding skill set. There's not a lot of flash to Love's game, but there is a shit load of substance. He boxes out well, shoots with great form and makes the right plays. Love isn't out there trying to break backboards and smash rims, he's trying to find the open space on the court, use his body to create space and exploit the defenses weakness. These guys are complete opposites in terms of appearance, but in terms of bringing the old school back they do it admirably.

Tim Duncan/Nas

I know what you're thinking. This is absolutely ridiculous. Let me explain though. Tim Duncan, one of the all-time greats, proven track record, longjevity, still schooling the young heads. Nas, one of the all-time greats, proven track record, longjevity, still out classing the younger generation. Nas and Timmy D have more in common than people would think. Duncan rarely talks, but when he does its captivating. Nas obviously speaks more than Duncan, well because he raps, but like Duncan he's ever insightful. What makes these guys most similar to me is the fact that they both are still doing it despite the odds. Duncan is still one of the driving forces behind the Spurs despite the fact that he's "old," and has "lost a step." Nas just put out his 10th album to much acclaim despite haters saying he was finished. Hell, they thought he was finished after Jay-z did "Takeover." While Nas may not be the 17-year-old who wrote Illmatic and Duncan not the guy who won four rings, they're still at the top. What these guys both have endless amounts of is skill, which allows each to thrive regardless of age and the changes in their respective fields of work.

LeBron James/Drake

This is another one that probably doesn't make sense off the bat, but give me a chance. LeBron James and Drake are both at the top of their professions. I don't think Drake is the most skilled rapper or the best or that he even says anything profound, but Drake is at the top of the rap game. Don't believe me? Turn on a radio or go to a show and see the legion of Drake fans out there. It says a lot about the state of hip-hop, but that is where we are.

LeBron is clearly the best basketball player on the planet at the moment. He scores, he rebounds, he passes, he defends, he does it all. LeBron has been the best in the game for years now, but certain critics were blinded by hate and never gave him his just due. This year, with another MVP trophy, his first championship and a gold medal, LeBron has separated himself.

Why are Drake and LeBron similar? When they came out, both had a buzz and were anointed without ever achieving anything. LeBron the "king," Drake the "first name greatest, last name ever." The credit they received angered both hip-hop heads and basketball critics alike. That anger turned into hate, which became as abundant as oxygen for both men.

Like I said, Drake isn't a profound artist in my opinion, but he does have skill and can obviously put a song together. I used to be a big fan, but he's gotten a little out of control and full of himself over the last couple of years. LeBron, like Drake, was hated on and ridiculed despite obvious skill and numbers to back claims of greatness. It wasn't until this spring that LeBron was able to send a huge fuck you to the haters and get his first ring. Unfortunately, for Drake, music has no championship and has much more room for subjectivity. Drake could put together a real hip-hop classic and will still have his detractors. That's just music.

I think people would like LeBron and Drake more if we knew the real them. Drake is a mixed, jewish kid from Toronto who sometimes acts like a thug from the south or a pussy whipped character from a Nicolas Sparks book. Who are you really? And LeBron is a guy who never says anything controversial and does every interview like its scripted. LeBron has shaken the hate now, but in years past if he would've just been real people would have respected him much more.