Tag Archives: NBA

Just who is LaVar Ball?

I’ll admit readily that I am not all that keen on pop culture personalities. I don’t keep up with them.

I’m actually a bit unclear whether LaVar Ball fits into that category of celebrity. But he’s intriguing me in a curious sort of way.

He’s the father of a professional basketball player, Lonzo Ball. His second-oldest son also is a pretty good basketball player who, until just the other day, was enrolled at UCLA; his name is LiAngelo Ball. There’s a third kid, too, who I reckon is going to play hoops for someone.

LaVar the Loudmouth thrust his name into the news, which I guess is his specialty, when LiAngelo and two UCLA teammates got caught shoplifting at a department store in China, where they were playing some non-conference games.

Chinese authorities were threatening to imprison the young men. Then Donald Trump intervened. He persuaded the commies to let the boys out. They came home. Daddy Ball got into a public beef with the president over whether he thanked the president sufficiently.

Back and forth they went.

Then LaVar pulled LiAngelo out of UCLA.

This is a case of someone hogging attention away from others. Imagine that. LaVar Ball and Donald Trump engaging in a man-to-man fight over who should bask in the spotlight.

So, what’s going to happen to LiAngelo? Is he going to play basketball for another college? As for Lonzo — who’s playing hoops for the Los Angeles Lakers, what does the future bode for him? What if he washes out? What is Daddy Ball going to do?

I’ll presume that LaVar loves his sons. He might think he’s doing them a big favor by cheering them on so loudly — and obnoxiously — from the front row.

However, the very idea that this guy — whose major talent seems to rival that of the Kardashians, Paris Hilton and the whole roster of Housewives of Wherever — is able to thrust himself into the public discussion speaks so very graphically about what has become of popular culture these days.

It seems that anyone can be a celebrity in the Social Media Age.

Trump keeps fomenting anger

Donald Trump seems to have found his latest lodestar.

It is to pump up his base, to use a flashpoint argument that keeps ’em fired up, as angry as he is. The target now happens to be highly paid professional athletes who are demonstrating — peacefully, I should add — against law enforcement treatment of African-Americans.

The consequence of the president’s ongoing battle against the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and anyone else who sides with the protesting players is to foment more anger, more division and more rancor.

I mean, it’s not as if we don’t have enough of it already simmering out here across the land.

NFL players are kneeling at the start of their games when the band strikes up “The Star Spangled Banner.” Trump calls them SOBs. He is getting lots of cheers from many Americans. He is getting consternation and condemnation from many other Americans. He is listening only to the cheering squads and is ignoring the rest of the country.

As Politico reports: Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend, said on Monday that the president is focused on the patriotism angle of the debate and is brushing off the charges of racism.

“He’s in a bubble here because he knows he’s not a racist. His friends know he isn’t,” Ruddy said in an interview. “He sees himself standing on the high ground of the truth. But the media are telling the rest of the country a different story about him.”

I get that the president sees himself as standing on moral high ground. Except that it’s not realistic for him to keep believing it.

Trump must see what is happening out here. As for the “media telling … a different story about him,” the media merely are reporting the fiery rhetoric that keeps pouring out of the president’s mouth.

The consequence is continued division — and rancor that seems to be quickly approaching hatred.

That’s not how you “unify” the country, Mr. President.

That’s how you ‘unify’ a nation, Mr. President?

My goodness, Donald Trump. When are you going to get it?

You’ve been handed yet another opportunity to say the right thing. To offer a soothing word of assurance. To tell those who are protesting U.S. government policies toward an important segment of our population that you hear them, that you will work to assuage their concerns.

So, what do you do?

You suggest that National Football League owners and football execs should fire the “sons of b******” who refuse to stand during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the start of games. Then the NBA champion Golden State Warriors said they oppose your view on the kneeling issue. Your response to them was Classic Trump when you disinvited them to the White House for a ceremony honoring their accomplishment.

You, Mr. President — the Leader of the Free World and head of state of the greatest country on Earth — have used your high, exalted office to score points with your political base. You have inflamed emotions on both sides of this issue.

Have you forgotten, sir, how you pledged to “unify” the nation once you took office? Or how you intended to be president for all Americans? Or how you would spend your waking moments working to “make America great again”?

I know the answer to that. You haven’t forgotten any of that. In my view, they were empty platitudes. You didn’t mean a word of it when you made those pledges.

I am left to wonder out loud, Mr. President: Do you have any idea what you are doing? Do you have a clue about what this high office to which you were elected entails?

You have managed yet again to make an absolute hash of a situation that has spiraled out of control partly because of your divisive, fiery rhetoric that is precisely the wrong thing to provide at a time when we need words of calm assurance.

One of the unwritten rules of your high office means you are obligated to be the voice of reason during difficult circumstances. As you have demonstrated time and time again since taking office, sir, you are failing this test.

I am left, then, to ask yet again: When are you going to get it? Ever?

NASCAR owners weigh in on anthem controversy

This might be the least surprising development imaginable in the festering controversy over athletes refusing to stand when they hear “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Some key NASCAR heavyweight owners have issued fair warning to their crew members — including drivers — who don’t stand when they play the National Anthem at the start of each automobile race.

You stand or you will get fired! Got it? Good!

This issue has become a serious talking point ever since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a protest this past season by kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Kaepernick said he was protesting treatment of African-Americans.

It’s gotten a lot bigger this season. The president of the United States has weighed in, suggesting NFL owners should fire the “sons of b******” who refuse to stand during the Anthem. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors were disinvited to the White House because some of their star players have expressed support for the sideline demonstrations.

The protests are being led by mostly African-American athletes. NASCAR, of course, comes from a different environment altogether. It’s rooted in the Southern culture. Its fan base is overwhelmingly white. As are its drivers, owners and associated crew members.

The different approach to this National Anthem protest business is on stark display. As The Sporting News reported: Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty and current team owner of the No. 43 Cup Series team of Aric Almirola agrees with Trump.

“Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States,” Petty said, adding that any protester within his organization would be fired. 

We live in a tremendously diverse country. Its diversity is being played out right before our eyes as we prepare to watch sporting events — and see how athletes of all stripes react to the sound of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Trump pulls WH invitation for NBA champs? Huh?

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember the last time this has happened.

A president of the United States withdraws an invitation to the White House to greet a professional sports team that has won a national championship.

Trump pulls invitation

That happened this week when Donald Trump told the NBA’s Golden State Warriors they aren’t welcome at the White House, where they were supposed to be feted by the president for winning the NBA title earlier this summer.

Trump posted this tweet: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” 

What? Huh?

At least two of the Warriors’ top stars — Steph Curry and Kevin Durant — had said they wouldn’t attend the ceremony apparently because they oppose the president’s policies. The president reacted by yanking the invitation.

So, there won’t be the obligatory photo op with the president and the NBA champs, something that has occurred since, oh, I cannot remember how long.

What in the world is going on here?

Didn’t some of the NFL’s New England Patriots say they opposed President Obama’s policies and, thus, wouldn’t attend a similar ceremony for the Super Bowl champs? And, hey, wasn’t all-universe quarterback Tom Brady one of them? Did the president cancel the event? No. He welcomed those team members who came, had some laughs, took a few pictures and that was that.

My head is still spinning over this latest kerfuffle.

I am trying to figure out the root of all this.

Donald Trump is finding out under the most curious of circumstances that he is as polarizing a public figure as anyone who’s ever occupied the White House.

He announced earlier this year he and the first lady wouldn’t attend the annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. Why? Because some of the entertainment honorees said they cannot support the president.

Now this.

Is this the national unity that the president promised he’d deliver?

Thanks for reminding me, Fox Sports

Joel Embiid was supposed to be the next big thing to take Philadelphia by storm.

The 76ers drafted him high in the draft. Then he appears to be breaking down. He’s out for the rest of the 2016-17 season with a meniscus injury that appears to be worse than the doctors first feared.

Then Fox Sports, in a report posted online, took note of the following. “Now, the soon-to-be 23-year-old is staring into the abyss — as the ghosts of Greg Oden, Yao Ming, Sam Bowie, Bill Walton and the like stare right back.”

More than a few of us out here took particular note of three of the four men mentioned: Greg Oden, Sam Bowie and Bill Walton.

What do these young men have in common?

They all were first-round picks of the Portland Trail Blazers, my hometown NBA team.

Ugghh!

Oden and Bowie never made the grade in the pros. They broke down. I guess I should fess up that the Blazers picked Bowie over another up-and-comer, a young man out of North Carolina named Michael “Air” Jordan.

Walton was injury-prone from the start, although he did put together two great seasons for the Blazers, leading them to the NBA title in 1977 and winning the league’s most valuable player award the following season; he then suffered yet another serious injury — and sued the Blazers for medical malpractice.

Oh, the memories. Some of them I’d rather forget.

‘Glass Palace’ still standing tall

PORTLAND, Ore. — This picture is of a building that in its day was considered a state-of-the-art, never-to-be-duplicated sports and entertainment venue.

I have so many memories of this place. It was built in 1960. Its cost was — get ready for this — $8 million. Think of that. Eight million bucks today perhaps wouldn’t pay for rest-room upgrades today.

It was called the Memorial Coliseum. It became known colloquially as the Glass Palace. It was home for many years to a minor-league hockey team, the Portland Buckaroos. Then the National Basketball Association started looking around for a place to install an expansion franchise. In 1970, the Trail Blazers started playing hoops in the place.

Where is this blog going? I’m taking in two directions at once.

First, some of the Trail Blazers came back to Portland this week to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the team’s only NBA championship. Bill Walton came; so did Larry Steele, Bobby Gross, Lloyd Neal and many of the rest of them were here to celebrate.

So many memories of that era. My bride and I used to go to those early Blazers games. We would plunk down $2 each for a ticket, which were discounted by half for students; we’d sit through the first quarter of a game and then gravitate to the empty seats nearer to courtside to watch the rest of the game.

Ah, yes. The memories.

I watched my first rock concert, with my sister, in August 1965 in that building. A British band came to play: The Beatles. Mom scored two front-row seats for sis and me. We listened — as best we could over the din of screaming fans, my sister included — to a 30-minute show by John, Paul, George and Ringo. Then they were gone.

The memories.

The second direction?

The Blazers abandoned the Coliseum in 1995 to play their home games in a fancy new venue, the Rose Garden, now has a corporate name: Moda Center. It seats nearly 20,000 fans, compared to the 12,600 or so seats in the Coliseum. It’s got those fancy corporate suites and, oh yes, the fans pay an arm and both legs for seats to watch the Trail Blazers.

What would they do with the Coliseum? Some folks here wanted to tear it down to make room for better vehicular access. Others wanted to preserve it.

The preservations apparently have won out.

The building now carries the name “Veterans Memorial Coliseum.” That’s brilliant! Why? Because the building was erected in 1960 to honor the veterans of World Wars I and II and the Korean War. It didn’t have the name displayed so outwardly for all those decades.

It does now. Which is why — in my view — the building is standing to this day. They aren’t going to destroy a structure that honors our veterans. They wouldn’t dare!

It gladdens my heart because of the tribute it pays to our vets — thank you very much for that — and for keeping alive the memories I have kept for so many years.

Well done, Portland!

Pro sports team owners should remain hidden

We’ve heard the term “narcissist” tossed around during the past year or so, usually while referencing Donald J. Trump, the next president of the United States.

Trump is one of them, for sure. He might place a fairly distant second to the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones.

jerry_jones_2015_2

Jones, of course, isn’t your typical sports team owner. He doubles as the Cowboys’ general manager, which means he gets to make all the critical decisions related to running the team. He doesn’t hire some high-powered GM to make those calls; Jones does it himself.

He’s got his own radio show in the Dallas area. He fairly routinely pre-empts the head coach, Jason Garrett.

Just recently he said he foments rumors about former starting quarterback Tony Romo resuming his role just to stir things up, apparently with little regard to how it might mess up the psyche of Dak Prescott, the team’s current starting QB.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/jerry-jones-says-he-fuels-qb-controversy-on-purpose/ar-AAlIJZJ

I just wish Jones would find it within himself to do what sports team owners usually do: write the checks that pay the salaries, make an occasional public appearance at sports banquets — and step away from the spotlight.

I get that he isn’t the first sports owner to make a spectacle of himself. Al Davis did it with the Oakland Raiders of the NFL; Donald Sterling managed to do so with the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA; Georgia Frontiere of the LA Rams did, too.

I don’t “follow” the Cowboys the way a lot of Texas residents, too, let alone “worship” them.

However, I do grow weary of seeing and hearing the team’s owner.

Put a sock in it, Jerry.

Would the Cowboys’ owner fire himself … please?

 

Baseball strips its all-star game of any meaning

baseball-catcher-collision

I detest major sports leagues’ all-star games.

National Hockey League all-star matches produce 14-10 results, with players refusing to check each other hard to prevent goals.

National Basketball Association all-star games routinely end in scores such as 160-152, which are the product of dunk fests and zero defense being applied.

The National Football League might produce a 42-35 result at its Pro Bowl all-star game as the players refuse to hit each other with the same ferocity they do during the regular season or postseason.

Now we have the baseball all-star game, which until this week actually meant something. The winning league gets home field advantage during the World Series. That’s a big deal, man!

Now, though, Major League Baseball has just agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement with the players union. For the next five years — the length of the new agreement — the MLB all-star game will not determine which league gets home field advantage in the World Series.

That means base runners won’t necessarily try to stretch doubles into triples, or try to score from first base on a single, or try to take out the shortstop with a hard slide into second base.

Sure, occasionally big-leaguers play some serious hardball during these all-star games. Cincinnati Reds infielder Pete Rose in the 1970 all-star game? He barreled into Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse at the plate, bowling Fosse over, injuring him so severely that he never recovered fully. Must’ve been an Ohio rivalry thing.

Oh well. These big-leaguers don’t want to provide further risk to injury by playing an all-star game to a result that actually means something of value to the eventual winners of the American and National League playoffs.

It was nice while it lasted.

Meet me in St. Louis …

stlouis-landmark-480x330

It took me a few minutes to digest this little bit of trivia.

Here goes …

The unluckiest and most disrespected professional sports fans in America might live in St. Louis, Mo. You might ask: Why is that?

Consider these tidbits.

The city once was home to the St. Louis (football) Cardinals, which then moved to the Phoenix area in 1987, where they’ve become the Arizona Cardinals.

Then the Los Angeles Rams decided to move to St. Louis in 1994. Beginning this season, though, the Rams are moving back to LA, leaving St. Louis — once again — without an NFL team. That’s a shame. I mean, come on! The St. Louis Rams won a Super Bowl!

Where do you think the Atlanta Hawks used to be play pro basketball in the National Basketball Association? Yep. You guessed it. St. Louis, man. The St. Louis Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1968.

Let’s go way back, shall we? The Browns used to play Major League Baseball in St. Louis. They moved to Baltimore in 1954 to become the Baltimore Orioles.

OK, so it’s not all gloomy for some St. Louis sports fans.

The St. Louis Cardinals have played big-league baseball since the beginning of time and the Cards’ fan base there is as loyal as any in the MLB.

The St. Louis Blues were among six franchises added to the National Hockey League in 1968 and they don’t appear to be headed anywhere.

I’m willing to bet real American money as well that if the NFL wants to put yet another team in St. Louis that the city leaders likely will jump at the opportunity.

If I were among them, though, I’d need some assurance that their fans’ hearts won’t be broken yet again.

And that, sports fans, is my contribution for the day to your glossary of useless information.