How do you solve a problem like Lance Stephenson? The third-year man has averaged a career-high 13.9 points per game for Indiana this year, though he has struggled mightily in the last two games. The bigger story which has emerged, however, is what pundits call his “antics” and what the Internet simply dubs “trolling.” In Game 5, Stephenson used a questionable defensive tactic by blowing into the ear of LeBron James, who was in the midst of a foul-troubled, seven-point game which was the worst of his playoff career. Elsewhere, Russell Westbrook is the crux of the Thunder discussion, as he has pretty much been since the James Harden trade, and Gregg Popovich doesn’t want to hear any more of your stupid, stock interview questions.
Songs crafted solely for the World Cup are nothing new. This has been happening since 1962 when Chile hosted the tournament. Official songs gave way to unofficial songs and then to a whole anthemic soundtrack that serves as half souvenir and half advertising campaign. This year is no different with FIFA officially sponsoring another soundtrack entitled The 2014 FIFA World Cup Official Album: One Love, One Rhythm. The cover art alone is a vibrant collage of people dancing, a soccer ball, and a toucan that converge to illustrate someone’s face. The album includes “banging pop tracks by artists from around the globe”, according to iTunes. That is why Pitbull is the first artist featured on this album.
Paul George, the do-everything swingman whose up-and-down season has mirrored the fortunes of his Indiana Pacers team, suffered a concussion in Game 2 against the Miami Heat. Early pessimists pinned him as missing the rest of the series, but now it appears as though he will be ready to play Game 3 on Saturday night in Miami. Elsewhere, Serge Ibaka is facing a similar situation, and his return couldn’t come soon enough for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who face an 0-2 deficit to the all-conquering San Antonio machine. Also, Cleveland wins the draft lottery for the third time in the last four years, prompting questions of faith and critical reason in the city by the lake.
Five wins on the trot, three of them from pole. Slashed and burned history books. A locked contract until the end of 2016. Cheerful oppression and the dawn of a new age. The buzz of the world’s media and fans frothing at the mouth for more. It’s all happening right now, right as you read this. And you already know what it means.
But the world keeps turning even while you move out of your dorm room. Things happen even while man sets foot on the moon. Life goes on elsewhere even when Columbus lands in America. There are plenty of people aiming for a big splash into adult life. There are countless thousands dreaming of the stars. There are plenty of explorers who aren’t there yet and never will be. But that won’t stop them from trying to move up.
It’s like having three feet: One foot firmly planted in the future, one stubbornly rooted in the present, and one ghost foot from your past as bonus ballast. It’s easy to stand by idle. But the world keeps turning, even when you’re stuck. Victories still happen elsewhere. Contracts still get locked. It still moves. But that won’t stop Jonathan Rea from trying to move to MotoGP.
“Excellence is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
No player in the NBA has been as consistently great over the last fifteen years as Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental has come to embody the difference between excellence and success as well as the parallels between them, as he has achieved both. Even through his 30s, Duncan has played at a high level, delivering double-doubles and smart defense at every turn. What may be even more impressive, however, is Duncan’s demeanor as a bastion of calmness and understated brilliance, both on and off the court. He is the anti-#LETWESTBROOKBEWESTBROOK. In an era of increasingly ridiculous and individualistic postgame attire and behavior, the Spurs are the iconoclast professionals who simply show up and do their jobs at an alarmingly efficient rate. Duncan has become a hero to those who value utility and grace under pressure, perhaps unwittingly setting the league’s standard for professional basketball normcore as a fashion non-statement.
Like music, film and other leisurely activities, people often view sports as an escape from the mundane, a way of retaining what little creativity and spontaneity we have left from childhood. The most ardent sports fans truly treat the games they watch as heroic battles of life and death, although the overwhelming majority recognize the necessity to create a distinction between sport and life. We, the onlookers, use sports as the way out of reality, a way of succeeding and failing vicariously through people we’ve never met and whose personal lives we’ll never infiltrate, giggling stupidly when recounting an athlete’s greatest moments to his or her face, as if he wasn’t there, as if he wasn’t the one who did it. We only see those images; that’s what stays with us, courtesy of SportsCenter and size-90 font newspaper headlines. But what happens when the lives they lead bleed across the pages and into our collective subconscious, giving feeling to the emotionless robots who score, save, rebound and run for us?
The San Antonio Spurs may be the best-run organization in the NBA by many standards, but one area in which it may have a clear-cut, unparalleled advantage made itself apparent prior to the Spurs’ 114-97 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals. Elsewhere, Kevin Durant deservingly wins the MVP award over LeBron, and Mark Jackson sees his way out of Golden State, for better or (more likely) for worse.