There Is No Asterisk For the Toronto Raptors Just Like There Isn’t One For the 2015 Warriors

Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors for winning the 2019 NBA Championship.  While I’m the first to admit that it would have been nice to see the Golden State Warriors at full strength, I certainly can’t belittle the Raptors for their accomplishment.  You play the team put on the floor, and you try to beat that team.  Period.

For those who are arguing that the Raptors have an asterisk by their name for this championship, I disagree.  After all, nobody says that the 2015 Warriors championship should have an asterisk, yet the Cavaliers suffered similar significant injuries to their roster leading up to and during those 2015 Finals.

If you recall, the 2014/2015 Cleveland Cavaliers were a newly reconfigured team with the return of LeBron James, the arrival of Kevin Love, and the late season additions of Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, and Timofey Mozgov.  They joined superstar Kyrie Irving and made it to the NBA Finals under rookie coach, David Blatt.  (Keep in mind that Blatt was a rookie head coach in the NBA, but he had a very robust resume  from coaching internationally.)

Unfortunately, Kevin Love did not play at all in that series due to a shoulder injury, and Kyrie Irving broke his kneecap during that first game of the Finals.  This left LeBron James to pretty much try to do it all by himself, which, against that Warriors team, proved insurmountable.

Yet, no one seems to remember that two of the Cleveland’s three all-stars were out of commission for that championship series.  No one questioned whether it was a legitimate win or not for the 2015 Warriors.  I never heard anyone say they should have an asterisk next to their name.

The Warriors played the injured Cavaliers, took advantage of their depleted roster, and won a title.  The Raptors did the exact same thing.

This is the nature of sports.  Injuries, exhaustion, and bad luck always play a role.

I wish all of the injured players a speedy, complete recovery; I congratulate the Toronto Raptors on their first title; I also remind you that the healthy 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers beat the intact Golden State Warriors for their championship, which prompted the Warriors to acquire Kevin Durant.

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I Once Made An Amazing Basketball Play … That My Coach Hated

Though I now love basketball as an adult, I wasn’t into it at all as a child.  In fact, I didn’t really start playing basketball until I entered seventh grade.  I’m guessing a four inch growth spurt (also, my last growth spurt) prompted this interest in the sport.

I liked it a lot, more than football, but had some catching up to do with the guys who played in the youth programs.  Luckily, I was from a small town, so if you tried out for the team … you were pretty much on the team.

Seventh and eighth grade basketball treated me well.  I wasn’t anything better than average, but I learned a lot about the sport and, even more importantly, had a great time.

By ninth grade, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I still wasn’t anywhere close to being the star of the team, but I regularly did particularly well on the “B” team, so I thought I still had plenty of room to improve, and I believed that I would improve.

With my confidence soaring, I once made a play that I thought was inspired, efficient, and full of style.  My coach completely disagreed.  Thankfully, this all happened at practice.

I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I somehow gained possession of a loose ball while playing defense.  I remember I had to chase it down and bend over to retrieve it.  I knew members of my team were already fast breaking to our basket.  Sure, I could pick the ball up, turn, and then thrown it down court to them, but that would waste precious seconds, seconds that would allow the defense time to catch up.

In perhaps one of the most ingenious moments in basketball history, I figured out how to bypass those three wasteful moves into one economical motion that would surely result in two points.

I bent over to grab the ball with both hands.  I spread my legs nice and wide.  And then, with the efficiency of an NFL center and with my butt facing the basket in which we wanted to score, I launched the ball with both hands right between my legs to the lead fast breaker.

I’ll never know if my teammate scored because I stopped watching him when I heard my coach scream, “AXLE!”

A quick side note: My coach called me “Axle” after the character “Axle Foley” from Beverly Hills Cop.  Remember, this was all happening in the early ’90s.  I kind of liked the nickname.  “Axle” always sounded pretty cool.  Of course, looking back, I’m pretty sure half the time he wasn’t actually saying “Axle.”  Apparently, my unorthodox methods often befuddled him.

Coach had a brief chat with me about my pass.  He said something along the lines of, “I never … ever … want to see that again.  … Ever.”

I’ve watched a lot of professional basketball since that moment.  I’ve loved the NBA, and, more specifically, the NBA playoffs, since ninth grade.  In all the games I’ve watched during the last thirty years, I can attest that Coach was right.  I’ve never seen that pass executed by, well, anyone.

To this day, though, I maintain that it was a brilliant pass.  I hit my breaker right on the money.  Sure, it looked silly, but it was so efficient.

Man, I loved basketball.

Maybe I should have played past ninth grade.

Maybe one day I’ll tell you why I didn’t.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

 

 

Love Moderately

You probably know that I’m first and foremost a Bulls fan.  It’s been a tough couple of years, but I think we are finally on the upswing and ready to seriously compete.  But as good as my Bulls are, I can’t deny the Cavaliers are going to be extremely good, especially with the impending acquisition of Kevin Love.

How good?

That’s a matter of debate.

I heard on ESPN today that Vegas is placing the Cavaliers as three-to-one favorites to win the whole enchilada next season.  Wha-huh?  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, guys.

Yeah, LeBron James is the best basketball player in the entire world – no doubt.  Yes, the Cavaliers look great and if they get Ray Allen to join they are only getting better.  But you cannot discount the Bulls, and you certainly can’t ignore the eternal phenomena known as the San Antonio Spurs.  The Trailblazers, the Warriors, and the Clippers could also go all the way if they get hot.  Heck, I’ll be honest, I think the Heat have even recovered from James’ exit pretty well.

Yes, Kevin Love is fantastic and I’m glad he’s going to get a chance to play for a team trying to win immediately.  But, as Miami’s big three can tell you from their first year, there’s something called chemistry that must come into play.  Irving, James, and Love have never played together on the same floor at the same time as far as I know.  They each excel at their position, they each spread the court, and they each do their own unique thing that shouldn’t trample on the others’ egos, but I think they’ll still need a year to build that elusive chemistry.

So, let’s take a breath and slow that championship talk down.  What’s going on with the Cavaliers is wonderful for the league, for the players involved, and especially for the community, but I think we need to avoid getting caught up in the moment.  Will they escape the East?  Yeah, I can see that.  But can they beat the West?  Right now I’m inclined to say no, but we’ll have to wait and see the guys actually play together before we can know for sure.

Wait and see … that’s not a popular concept among people who talk sports, is it?

You know I love my Billy Shakespeare, and as he told us in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, “Love moderately.”

Crossover Dribble by PJ Farris – A Book Review

One thing’s for sure: PJ Farris knows basketball!

In this young adult novel released by Mayhaven Publishing, Joe Perkins is a young man desperately in love with the game of basketball and willing to do anything to improve his playing skills.  However, his father—a hardworking, relentless farmer—is constantly after Joe to help out more on the farm.  Joe concedes, but always with his mind on the courts.

Unfortunately, Joe’s father becomes seriously injured in a car accident and now Joe, along with his grandfather, must somehow meet the farm’s every need if they hope to keep it alive.  Before long, they hire Cuda, an older boy and star basketball player.  An unlikely bond forms between the two ballers, and Joe even learns a thing or two from both his granddad and Cuda.  But will their combined efforts be enough to keep the farm afloat in the father’s absence?  And will his sudden preoccupation with the farm prevent Joe from reaching his basketball goals?

Farris did a nice job of providing a streamlined story full of conflict, tension, and humor.  Joe underwent serious change throughout the novel, which is always the sign of strong characterization.  In fact, all of the main players were believable and utilized a distinct, charismatic personality.  Even Joe’s father—dour as he was—proved to be multilayered and identifiable in the end.

As mentioned, the novel had some truly funny moments, but it also contained very serious, life-threatening situations as well.  Farris juggled the changes in tone seamlessly, and, like life, one led to the other and then back again without much ruckus.

Being from a small, rural community, I especially appreciated the accuracy of farm life displayed throughout the story.  Farris has obviously spent time in the country because the farm machinery, livestock, industry methods, and even dialogue reflected the reality of country life.

Moreover, Farris knows the game of basketball.  No matter what Joe does, he always relates it to his game, often recounting lessons from his coach and things he’s learned on the court.  Farris, through narration, delivers several fundamentals of basketball in such a way that readers can’t help but pick up a helpful tip or two about the sport.  Best of all?  Everything mentioned about basketball is correct and essential to playing well.  If I had to guess, I’d say Farris has coached a player or two over the years.

Crossover Dribble has crossover appeal to all readers, whether they are basketball fans or those wanting to read about farm life.  Young adults will surely find the novel approachable, informative, and exciting.