After a busy weekend, some sports thoughts.
LeBron got his ring. While I was pulling for OKC, I’m glad the national nightmare of LeBron not having an NBA title finally came to an end. I enjoyed his enjoyment of getting the proverbial monkey off of his back. LeBron has made a few poor choices in the PR side of his career, but for the most part he’s been an exemplary professional. He doesn’t get in trouble. He doesn’t act like an idiot. He is thoughtful and humorous and often humble. He’s also both the best player in the game and the best teammate in the game. His individual accomplishments may never live up to what the public wants from him, but I think he’s well on the way towards not only being one of the five greatest players of all-time, but also carving out a niche as one of the most unique ballers ever.
What did bug me about the Heat winning was this meme that LeBron has been through so much. Why do we have to equate not quite winning it all with having some kind of unimaginable burden? It’s not like he’s been playing in Minnesota or New Jersey and had no chance at a title. This was his third trip to the NBA Finals. He made the conference finals another year. Both individually and with his teams he’s had a fantastic start to his career. Yes, winning a title is the holy grail of sports, but once again we’re losing sight of all the other great things about sports by focusing just on the end result.
Isn’t it funny how, when the Heat trailed in their series with the Pacers and Celtics, how people were rushing to fire Erik Spoelstra or figure out what roster moves the Heat needed to make? Analysis and speculation are part of sports. They are what help pass the time between games and seasons. But it drives me crazy how our hyper-media culture has to jump to scenarios X,Y, and Z when A, B, and C still haven’t been resolved. Another reason I don’t watch ESPN very much these days.
The NBA draft is Thursday. Which means the unofficial 9th anniversary of the blog is Thursday. That also means LeBron was drafted nine years ago this week. Seems like something I should write more about later this week.
Remind me not to write anything else positive about the Royals this year.
The Euro 2012 soccer tournament has been fun to watch. Or at least it was until yesterday, when Italy totally dominated England but could find the goal and had to rely on penalty kicks to advance to the semifinals. Man the English know how to make a beautiful game ugly. If form holds, the Spain-Germany final should be epic.
Finally, I’ve mentioned before that I don’t follow many athletes on Twitter. I’ve made two exceptions over the past year, though. Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy is smart, funny, and understands that he’s leading a charmed life. The other exception is Keith Langford, one of my all-time favorite Jayhawks who has become arguably the best American basketball player plying his trade in Europe. Keith has always been a thoughtful and different guy, and I enjoy reading about his adventures overseas.
I mention that because Dana O’Neil has a terrific story on ESPN about players like Keith, who excelled in college but never caught on in the NBA and how their careers are often viewed. I think the average fan probably doesn’t realize how many of their favorite college players have carved out successful, lucrative careers in places other than the NBA.
Statistics tell us that only 2 percent of all high school athletes earn Division I scholarships. Only 15 will be named All-Americans (that’s including first, second and third teams) and only five to an All-Final Four team, like Langford was. Far less will play in a Final Four and an infinitesimal percentage will play in two national semifinals, as he did.
By any normal number crunching, he is the elite of the elite. Yet on the basketball yardstick, which measures one to D-Wade, he felt like he came up short.