Basketball, Featured, Sports

Never Be Like Mike

Perspective is the end argument when it comes to unresolvable sports questions. We live in an age where talk and discussion is paramount regardless of whether we will ever find the answers or not. It is the very nature of sports talk radio. This weekend marks the 50th birthday of Michael Jordan, and coincidentally, LeBron James has been playing historically unmatched basketball over the last few weeks (30 points a game, 60% shooting in 6 or more games in a row). It has been a golden opportunity for talk radio to once again highlight the oft-discussed topic of whether or not LeBron is as good, or better, than Michael Jordan.

The answer is simply: no. LeBron James will never be as good as Michael Jordan.

But the reasons behind the answer are more to do with perspective then it does with statistics. Numbers do play a big part, let’s not forget, 6 rings to 1, no final losses to 2. However, it’s a little more intangible than that.

I’m in my early 30s and during the height of Jordan’s powers I was a teen growing up in Indonesia. With feet firmly planted in Air Jordans and head soaring to the basket, there was a mystical element to Jordan. It was an aura of invincibility that made a scrawny Asian kid believe that while I would never make the NBA, the times I flew through the air in my backyard were just as great.

People talk a lot about intangibles and killer instinct. We know Jordan had it, and we know Kobe has it. The last few years have been about whether or not LeBron has it. We balked at this idea when he bailed on Cleveland, laughed when he no-showed in fourth quarters, and definitely believed he didn’t when the Heat came up short against Dallas. But last year, on their run to the championship, he showed something. And now, in their defence of the ring, he’s been playing like no other. Unstoppable, gazelle-like, men amongst the boys- LeBron is head and shoulders better than anyone else in the league.

Yet, LeBron is a victim of our time. Media oversaturation, promise, “The Chosen One”, everything rolled out on a red carpet since high school. Back in 2003, I wrote that the hype that followed LeBron would “devour everything in its path” and in a way, it devoured LeBron too. Every ounce of greatness he has achieved and will achieve will never match this generation’s ridiculous expectations.


Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Dominique Wilkins.

This is a list of Hall Of Famers who never won a ring because of Michael Jordan. This doesn’t include all of Reggie Miller’s teammates on those Pacer teams, Barkley’s, Ewing’s Knicks, Wilkins’ Hawks. And it doesn’t include Shawn Kemp. None of them won a ring because each year Michael Jordan and his Bulls stood in the way. The two years he went to play baseball were the only chance Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler had to win theirs; otherwise they’d be on this list too.

Jordan posterizes Ewing

Jordan posterizes Ewing

Jordan had to play amongst the trees in his prime. He had to literally dunk over Patrick Ewing to get his rings, the best centre LeBron has to play against? Brook Lopez? Tyson Chandler? Only Dwight Howard could hold the paint against Olajuwon, Ewing and Robinson (although the way Howard is playing this year, we should think about scratching him off that list too). The calibre of talent Jordan had to overcome for his rings were named Ewing, Robinson, Olajuwon, Malone, Miller, Wilkins, Barkley and Magic. LeBron didn’t even show up for the fourth quarter against Tyson Chandler.

Then there are those indelible Jordan moments. Over Ehlo, around Sam Perkins, over Ewing, all over Bird, one on one with Wilkins, from the free throw line, standing in the shadow of himself in Barcelona, the shoulder shrug, under the weather, off of Russell. It’s hard to quantify them because you couldn’t YouTube them 5 minutes after they happened- they were at times, mythical occurrences passed on by whispers and VHS videos, but they happened.

For LeBron, I will always remember the shot he hit against Orlando in the conference final as a watershed moment. And right now, I’ll remember how well he’s playing but for someone my age, LeBron’s memories will be The Decision, the Welcome Party and the time he dunked on poor old John Lucas.

This is because I didn’t grow up with LeBron. He’s not a basketball hero to me, just a commodity; a great ball of talent, energy and marketing. I figure this is how the older generation feel about Jordan and people like me when they talk about Bill Russell, Chamberlain, Kareem and Oscar. And I figure this is how LeBron’s fans will feel when in 20 years, whoever is top of the chain then, is compared to LeBron.

Maybe I just dislike LeBron and the NBA today. Or maybe we just know too much of LeBron, like we know too much of everyone these days.

We have tried in vain to find the next Jordan for more than a decade now. We’ve had a line of candidates who all fell short- Grant Hill, Kobe, Vince Carter- and most embarrassingly, Harold Miner- and now LeBron, who for all the talent in the world (which on a pure talent stand point, would probably surpass Jordan), falls short because he is the product of his generation.

But Jordan was Jordan; and for someone of my generation, a larger than life figure who at a given time was as famous as Muhammad Ali was in his prime, known to the citizens of America as he was known to a housewife somewhere in Southeast Asia. They invented The Jordan Rules to stop Michael, until this year, all you had to do was show up in the fourth quarter to stop LeBron.

Like LeBron, I am a product of my generation; pulled into the draw of the NBA when the Bad Boy Pistons had dethroned Magic’s Lakers. They were the villains of a sport in need of a hero. And through all the moments that transcended an entire generation, Number 23, who soared and graced the court like no one before or after, became that hero, the first and last Jordan. 

Bonus video:

This is an old VHS tape called ‘Michael Jordan’s Playground’ that I watched countless times marveling at the Jordan mystique. Most telling is Jordan describing the importance of determination and will in order to succeed and become the best.

Podcast, Sports

The Blitz: Episode 2 Podcast Preview

The NBA’s conference finals heats up before their respective game 2s as the Miami Heat pulled away with a strong second half in today’s Miami-Boston opener. The Celtics sputtered to 11 anemic first quarter points before bouncing back strong in the second. After being tied 46 a piece at the end of the half, the Heat would dominate the second behind LeBron James’ game-high 32 and Dwayne Wade’s 22. The biggest talking points however, poor officiating and ghost technical fouls- one of which Celtics coach Doc Rivers has called, “the worst he’s ever had”.

The Blitz podcast will talk about all things Heat and Celtics as they progress through game 2 Wednesday night. Do the Celtics have enough in their aging legs after a bruising 7-game series against the Sixers? Can the Heat finally get over the hump of last year?

We’ll also talk Western Conference where fundamental basketball takes center stage as both the Spurs and Thunder showcase good ol’ fashion basketball the way Dr. Naismith drew it up. Are the feisty Thunder too inexperienced to topple the Spurs? Can the Spurs continue their impressive winning streak?

We’ll talk NBA and more when the second episode of The Blitz Podcast comes streaming through very soon!

In the meantime, want to get your bets in before game 3? Can the Celts turn the tide? Can the Spurs go 2 up? We’ll see you soon on The Blitz!

You can also check out the first episode of The Blitz right here.

Football, Podcast, Sports

The Blitz: Episode 1

The Marshalltown begins its journey into podcasting with The Blitz, our all-new sports round-up show hosted by the two guys that used to do the radio show. The inaugural broadcast features some dodgy recording, some post-radio broadcasting haze and a blocked nose, but it’s step 1 in returning to regularly scheduled material from the world of sports.

Episode 1 features a round up of the crazy English Premier League season, recent NBA playoff developments and our incorrect Champions League Final prediction.  Check it out below. It’ll get better… we promise.

The Blitz: Episode 1

Music, Videos

Plugged in and ready to fall

In response to the debacle that has become LeBron James’ forever tarnished legacy, I could not help but think of the very best break-up songs I’ve encountered. The choices are great and many, and not including the more accepted mainstream offerings (please, no Guns N’ Roses, no Bob Marley, no Fleetwood Mac, and for the love of all that is good and pure, no Billy Ray fucking Cyrus), some of them are just down right venomous— the way they’re meant to be.

Sure enough, LeBron received his own break up “song” of sorts; a somewhat hilarious (and perhaps, written in a drunken rage) letter from Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert. In it’s horrendously fonted text, Gilbert calls James, among other things, “cowardly” and a “betrayer” … I like this sort of ranting.

Nonetheless, in song form, I tend to gravitate towards Alkaline Trio’s spitefully crafted wordplay when it comes to songs of woe. They’re great at it, and I immediately thought of the song “Radio”, which includes one of my favorite refrains of hatred;

“I’ve got a big fat fuckin’ bone to pick with you my darling
In case you haven’t heard I’m sick and tired of trying
I wish you would take my radio to bathe with you,
plugged in and ready to fall.”

Unfortunately, they never did do a video for it (you can listen to it streaming here), so in place of such fine songwriting, we’ll go with the second best song of hate and regret they’re written; “Stupid Kid.” It’s simple enough, but combined with the video, is a swift song of revenge that hits the mark in just the right places. I hope for your sake LeBron, karma isn’t as big of a bitch.


The Bandwagon of Gold

It is the sad fact that we, the modern sports fan, the media and all who are involved expect superhuman things from mere mortals. Contrary to popular belief, driving around in an expensive hummer while flashing the best in “bling” makes one no more a human than cappuccino Joe down at your local coffee distribution centre (expensive way of saying “Starbucks”). And yes folks, Shaq’s little superman tattoo will do his aging mass no good when he’s pushing 40 (although, it seems to have worked for Jon Bon Jovi). So why is it that the sports fan can get so down on one player? How can one player go from being tomorrow headlines to yesterday’s punch line in such a swift swoop? Easy, it’s about the hype.

Often construed as a good thing, “hype” in reality, is just a bad four letter word. A stamp of expectation, a limit set so high that only the few can reach. It is the reason why we see so many prime athletes come and go before we can even snatch a bit of whatever and sell it on eBay. And in these recent months, that “hype” has reached previously unseen proportions, so much so that the hype itself has “hype”. If you’re a sports fan, or most accurately a basketball fan, you will undoubtedly have heard of a young and multi talented man-child who will soon make the big leap. Like so many before him, the call of mega bucks and bright lights will see him don an NBA jersey come this summer’s draft. We of course, like everyone else for the past few months, are talking about LeBron James, or as Sports Illustrated calls him, “The Chosen One”.

His high school games were nationally televised, he drives a VERY expensive hummer and his mom is already making Allen Iverson’s mom look like the dispirited cheerleader. Yes, there was all the flap about the throwback jerseys he received that ultimately led to his suspension – but his jersey, the #23, has already been RETIRED by his high school. At the age of 18, the amount of pressure put on his shoulders is astronomical – the expectations he will have to face when he is (most definitely) selected as the #1 overall pick will be like no other before him. While other 18 year olds will worry about performing adequately on prom night, James will try to live up to all the talk, all the potential and hoopla that surrounded him. True, those who have received attention before him took awhile to develop – Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett took a few seasons – but neither got the microscope treatment LeBron is getting. They will be expecting him to make a big splash – every move he will make, every shot he will take will be analyzed, scrutinized and Sportscenter-ized. Every bad game taken as sign he is underachieving, every mediocre performance a sign he was not all he is cut out to be … all the makings of what could very well lead to the biggest bust in NBA history, if not sports history altogether.

While a little hype can do wonders, too much of it can place a burden of unsurpassable expectation. While hype itself applies to almost all aspects of life, it is in the sports world where its head is the ugliest. This NBA fan will hope for the best when it comes to LeBron – because only the greatest achievements in the sport will satisfy all that preceded him. Whether or not he will live up to all this hype remains to be seen, and it will without a doubt, be seen. It is the world of today’s sports – there is no escape from the hype. It is an entity of its own, devouring those in its path and making rich those who see the bandwagon of gold.