LeBron James Doesn't Owe You Anything

LeBron James Doesn't Owe You Anything

He doesn't have to stay. But we hope he will.

As the NBA finals wind down you can notice an increase in jersey sales, or at least jersey wearing. Little kids claim that one day they'll grow up to be just like their favorite player and we let them. We idolize the players we love and we condemn the ones we hate (sorry, KD, but a lot of people are going to act like we don't see that ring). There are rumors, as there always are, that LeBron James is leaving Cleveland again.

LeBron James, now in his fourteenth year in the league, has made an empire for himself. And it's been nothing short of a miracle. When he was eighteen years old, barely legal to vote, he was drafted into the NBA and given a three-year, $12.96 million rookie contract. Not only was he set free in the world with all that money, but the knowledge that he now had people watching him. When LeBron left Cleveland in 2010 people were furious. They took to the streets burning his jerseys, almost rioting at the fact that their hero dared to abandon them.

Now, on the heels of bringing the Cavaliers their first ever championship in 2016, and getting them to the Finals again in 2017, there is talk of LeBron leaving again. The very mention of it puts people on edge and although as a city, we hope to keep LeBron as long as he'll have us, he has my blessing to do what he thinks is best for him.

Charles Barkley once said, "I'm not a role model... Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids." And I think that it's a good reminder of who these players really are. They are not superheroes, they are not legends. They are men, with families and private lives. They are people, not just spectacles.

LeBron James isn't here to raise your children or to teach them right from wrong. He'll raise his own kids, he'll live his own life. But being part of a sports team does not make you a saint, and it does not make you public property. LeBron never asked for my blessing, and he doesn't need it, because he's a grown man who doesn't owe me anything.

Cover Image Credit: hkk96 / Flickr

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2018 NBA Playoffs First Round Predictions

My predictions for the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Today sparked a regular season win and in playoff game for the Nuggets and Timberwolves. Minnesota won, leaving Denver out of the playoffs and securing their first playoff appearance since 2004. For the first time since 2012, the Philadelphia 76ers are in the playoffs, riding the process to the third seed in the East. On the heels of a 16-game winning streak, the question becomes what role Ben Simmons and company have in the playoffs: spoilers or contenders? Will the Cavs be healthy enough to contend for the East? Will the Warriors finally lose a game? After a hectic final few days of the NBA season where it seemed more questions were answered, let’s look at the matchups in the playoffs.

Western Conference First Round:

1. Houston Rockets vs. 8. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Rockets are one of the best teams (if not the best) in the NBA today. The addition of Chris Paul as well as James Harden, the favorite to win MVP, makes this a pretty good year. The Rockets rank first in offense and sixth in defense.With Luc Mbah a Moute gone for the first round, expect a different rotation, but the shooting and defense will still be present.

Expect a lineup of Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, and Clint Capella to start for the Rockets this series. However, Minnesota is not an easy game to start out, especially with Jimmy Butler and KAT on the opposite team. Since the All-star break, Minnesota has gone 11-10, posting this record largely because of Jimmy Butler’s absence. The team is in the bottom 10 in defense and to win must lock down the Rocket’s three-ball shooting and somehow force them to make turnovers like they did on Monday against the Lakers.

Prediction: Houston in 5

2. Golden State Warriors vs. 7. San Antonio Spurs

The Warriors are just not playing well down the stretch. I know, I say that as a 58-24 team is the 2nd seed in the playoffs. However, this is not the old Warriors team; they seem tired and after going 4-6 in their last 10, which leaves quite a bit to wonder about the ability for this Warriors team to compete on the same level as last year.

That being said, they still have three All-Stars in Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, even as Steph Curry is reportedly out for the first round. The Spurs, on the other hand, are without Kawhi Leonard, who is battling a mysterious injury surrounding his hamstring. The Spurs are also coached by one of the best if not the best coaches in the league in Gregg Popovich. Expect the fifth different starting lineup that coach Gregg Popovich will show the Warriors, most likely using Dejonte Murray, Patty Mills, Kyle Anderson, Pau Gasol, and LaMarcus Aldridge as his go-to lineup for the first round. Not only is it a starting group that the Warriors haven’t seen, the Aldridge vs. Green matchup will be the deciding factor in the series, if of course, the Warriors can keep their cool.

This matchup is difficult because the Warriors on paper seem to be the better team, but I don’t know how confident I would be in a sweep or even a 5-game series. Expect LaMarcus Aldridge to take a game or two as the Warriors get it done.

Prediction: Warriors in 6

3. Portland Trailblazers vs. 6. New Orleans Pelicans

Portland got lucky getting the third seed in the West. If they would have had the fourth seed, their playoffs would have gone through Oklahoma City, and then if they won, the Rockets. However, their path now consists of the Warriors or Spurs in the second round and the Pelicans without Boogie Cousins.

I must admit, from a viewing perspective, the Nurkic vs. Davis battle will be fun, but the injuries to the Pelicans in Demarcus Cousins, Frank Jackson, and Alexis Ajinca leave the projected starting lineup as Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, E’twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic, and Anthony Davis, which is far outmatched by the Trailblazer’s five of Lillard, McCullum, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Jusef Nurkic.If the Trailblazers’ eighth-best defense in the league can stop Anthony Davis, then the Trailblazers will win the series.

Prediction: Trailblazers in 5

4. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 5. Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz were left for dead before the start of the season. Hands down, they were not expected to be here, especially not with the league’s second-best Defensive Rating. However, here they are almost a three seed before a loss last night to the Trailblazers. The problems with the Jazz are glaring; their rebounding and turnover percentages are not the greatest. However, their defensive rebounding is fourth in the league and their pace is the 25th in the league. So with fewer shots per game, the turnover ratio is certainly concerning. Especially if you look at the Thunder, who lead the league in offensive rebounding, steals, and opponent turnover percentage, and 10th in offensive and defensive rating.Their offense is predicated on offensive rebounds, which the Jazz cannot afford to give up due to the lack of possessions on their side of the court.

Expect Russell Westbrook to take over as well as Donavan Mitchell to make an impact as a rookie. Expect the Thunder to take this one.

Prediction: Thunder in 7

Eastern Conference First Round:

1. Toronto Raptors vs 8. Washington Wizards

While the Toronto Raptors are cruising into the playoffs coming into the best season to date from their duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Wizards are struggling. However, if the Raptors are not able to play like they have all season and choke when it counts, then the Wizards will make this a series.The Raptors are third in offensive and fifth in defensive rating while boasting the fourth-best turnover percentage. In the month of April, the Raptors are fourth in defensive rating.

The Wizards, on the other hand, are 14th in offensive rating and 15th in defensive ratings. All of this doesn’t matter, however, depending on whether the DeRozan/Lowry concept chokes just like many fans believe. Don’t be surprised if the Raptors need only four or five games to finish off the Wizards.There is nothing that would indicate any longer.

Prediction: Raptors in 4

2. Boston Celtics vs. 7. Milwaukee Bucks

If the Boston Celtics had any weakness all season, their great defense and stellar guard play in Kyrie Irving was all washed away when Kyrie was not on the floor. With injuries to Gordan Hayward and other important pieces later in the season such as Kyrie, Daniel Theis, and Marcus Smart, the Celtics now have the question of who will create for their offense other than Al Horford.

All the Bucks need to do to upset the number two seed in the playoffs is to run the offense through Giannis and to stop the Celtics from finding the playmaker in young players such as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. However, Milwaukee’s defensive rating ranks 17th in the league between Phoenix and Chicago, so they must improve to win the series. The Celtics are also 18th in offensive rating this season while Milwaukee ranks seventh. This is an even match, but with all the injuries that the Celtics are facing, all the Bucks need to do is trust in Giannis.

Prediction: Bucks in 7

3. Philadelphia 76ers vs 6. Miami Heat

The 76ers are 16-0 in their last 16 games... the Heat are not. Even with the experience of Dwyane Wade and the inexperience of the 76ers, you would be incorrect if you didn’t trust the process to win at least four games against a Heat squad that is playing Hassan Whiteside around 25 minutes a game lately.

Prediction: 76ers in 5

4. Cleveland Cavs vs. 5. Indiana Pacers

This is NOT a good matchup for the Cavs. The Pacers and the Cavs have been a staple first round the past few seasons. However, this year the Cavs have something that they haven’t had before: such a bad defense. Ranked 28th in the league, the Cavs defensive rating is a 109.5, a full eight points behind first-place Boston.

The Cavs this year alone are giving Lebron the most minutes of his career, the least amount of help and just a lot of usage where he either scores or is responsible for points scored by the Cavs. Make no mistake, the Cavs will most likely win this series, but it will be a lot closer than a lot of people may believe. The Cavs simply have no answer for large players such as Myles Turner and Trevor Booker. Kevin Love’s defense is not amazing, and he certainly cannot compete with a young athletic big down below like Myles Turner. That being said, just think for a moment how left for dead the Indiana Pacers were thought to be before the season started. Everyone thought they got absolutely fleeced by the Thunder. But looking back, the Pacers seemed to overcome all obstacles of their season and move into the fifth seed. Overall, this game is not a lock for any team. It all just depends on what version of the Cavs play in game one.

Prediction: Cavs in 7

These are my predictons. What are yours?

Cover Image Credit: Michael Tipton

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As A Gymnast I Learned These 9 Things And Always Left School Early Every Day For 4.5 Hour Practices

I learned how to focus.

Growing up, I was a gymnast. I wasn’t the kind who went to a gymnastics class once a week, I was the kind that left school early every day to get to my four and a half hour to five-hour practice. I was six when I started gymnastics and I competed on my first team when I was seven.

At age eight and a half, I switched gyms and joined the team where I remained until I graduated high school and retired from competitive gymnastics. Now, four years later I can look back at my career and see the nine things that I learned from my experience as a USAG competitor.

1. I learned how to be focused.

You can’t be distracted training gymnastics skills because they can be dangerous and you can get seriously hurt. Even as a seven and eight-year-old child you have to concentrate, pay attention to what you’re doing, listen carefully to your coach, and don’t allow other things to distract you.

2. I learned to take criticism.

In gymnastics, we strive for perfection but never quite reach it. Every move you make is analyzed and picked apart. Sometimes there is praise but more often than not you are told that your legs aren’t straight or your toes aren’t pointed or your hips aren’t flat enough. As a gymnast, I listened to the critiques and tried to make the corrections. Getting hurt feelings wasn’t an option.

3. I learned how to be physically fit.

Besides the uneven bars, floor exercise, vault, and balance beam, gymnastics practices include over an hour a day of conditioning and flexibility. The exercises that we did are ones that I have incorporated into my life and I do every single day.

4. I learned to wait.

Practice was all about waiting your turn. Waiting your turn to get on the equipment, to talk to the coach, or to use the chalk was constant. Patience is a quality that gymnastics taught me.

5. I learned how to deal with disappointment.

There were times on the team when I wanted to move up a level or compete a new skill. Many times I’d work for weeks and be told that if I did it in practice I could compete it. Then, at the last minute, the coach would take it away from me and I had to smile and say ok. These things happen a lot in the gym and in life.

6. I learned how to work with people.

I spent twenty four-twenty five hours a week at the gym including practice, private lessons, and competitions. Most of the girls were very nice but some were bossy, mean, or just thought they were better than other girls. We all had to get along though and, in spite of attitudes, for the most part we did.

7. I learned to be confident.

As a gymnast, I had twenty seven fractures and numerous sprains and strains. I know that even with the best training and safety equipment accidents can happen. It is so important not to take unnecessary risks because anyone can get really hurt.

8. I learned that I am not invincible.

Gymnastics is an individual sport and when you are competing, you are up there on the equipment alone. It is important to be able to get up there and present yourself to the judges with confidence and that is something that the coaches drilled into us.

9. I learned that if you work hard, sometimes dreams come true

I learned that if you work hard, sometimes dreams come true. I decided when I switched teams that I wanted to win a state championship award. So, I worked at home, on my days off, and at practice. I added numbers to my strength exercises and asked for more. When the state meet came that year, I won three state championship awards as well as the “Hardest Worker Award” for my team at the end of the year.

Being a gymnast made me strong and confident and willing to work hard for what is important to me. It made me someone who follows her dreams and never quits. And, even with all the disappointments, injuries, and hard times, I look back on my career and I’m grateful to the sport that raised me.

Cover Image Credit: Hopie Flieger

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