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Last Thursday, the NBA’s trade deadline came in like, if not necessarily a lion, then a tiger cub exploring wilderness without its mother for the first time, but it went out like Dwight Howard – generally functional, marginally compelling, much more infuriating and with its movers likely coming away with the impression that they are all champions, no matter what.
While arguably the biggest move of the day involved Orlando sending Tobias Harris to the Pistons for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova and was more or less functionally about basketball, a number of less-heralded moves seemed to speak to the cultures of the teams involved: Cleveland traded for Channing Frye to hedge against Kevin Love questions, Oklahoma City nabbed Randy Foye as a more stable proxy for Dion Waiters in the backcourt and the disappointing Wizards ended up with the annoyed Markieff Morris. None of these says “cultural fit” so much as it does “cultural change,” but sometimes in the NBA, as in life, a move is good for the soul.
It happens every so often: out of the inbounds pass, someone, whether Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway or another person whose legal job description is “playing basketball,” will jog up the court, turn, see a 7’3″ Latvian who can’t legally drink in the United States and hurl a pass in his general direction above the crest of the three-point line, like someone lazily tossing a frisbee forehand. Upon surveying his amicably deserted surroundings, the young giant will hoist a shot, hold his still developing form and, much to the delight of damn near anyone who is lucky enough to be present no matter the arena, watch his effort sail through the rim, as easily as depositing a letter in a mailbox.
Both on and off the court, NBA All-Star Weekend always manages to provide once-in-a-lifetime moments and opportunities. This edition, held over the weekend in Toronto’s polar hellscape, was no exception, with a live reading of Space Jam and an all-time classic duel between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon in the Slam Dunk contest° preceding a record-smashing Game on Sunday.
Amidst the revelry, it would have been easy to miss the announcement of this year’s finalists for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Along with Shaquille O’Neal, Sheryl Swoopes, Kevin Johnson and Yao Ming, Allen Iverson received a nomination for the players category, re-opening a dialogue which had somewhat flamed out since Iverson last played in the NBA in 2010¹. It stands to reason that Iverson deserves to be in the Hall, if only for the sake of his play and, subsequently, his influence not being so easily forgotten.
I had about 300 words down for why I love the Super Bowl (and Peyton Manning and the Panthers), and why the Panthers were going to win 35-13. Pretty glad I didn't publish that sucker, now that I think about it.
So, we're not quite 48 hours past the end of Super Bowl 50, and I think I'm about 85% recovered from the loss. I was convinced that the Panthers would win. I thought that their play throughout the season, coupled with a declining Peyton Manning, would result in a fairly easy win. I ignored the fact that this was Cam Newton's first SB, and I covered my ears when smart people talked about the likelihood of Von Miller and Demarcus Ware shredding the tackles for Carolina. Of course, the latter happened to a degree that we've never seen before, and the Panthers seemingly were overmatched from the first drive on. At the end of the night, I end up sitting through my third-toughest sports experience ever, I think (In case you were wondering, I actually wrote down my other awful sports experiences).
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I had a dream the Friday before Super Bowl Sunday. It was one of those lucid episodes where you remember everything so vividly to the point where there’s no question that what you’re experiencing isn’t real. I was in a bar, and it was the week after the Super Bowl. I ran into one of my friends, and, in the midst of our conversation, he pointed up at the television screen with feigned indifference. “Welp,” he said. “Can’t believe the dab’s over.” I looked up and read Super Bowl 50’s final score in glowing gold type: Denver Broncos 29 – Carolina Panthers 13.
In the dream I was livid. I began to yell and gnash my teeth and scream at anyone around me about the stupidity of the NFL. Then, before I could finish a coherent sentence, I woke up. It was Saturday morning and the sun started peaking through the blinds. There were no think pieces about the loss, no crying Jordan memes and no odes to the “everyman” brilliance of Peyton Manning. There was just the sound of a dog barking in the apartment over. I would have to wait another day to wake up again.
On Sunday, perhaps the best wide receiver in the NFL informed his coaches that he was retiring from the league at age 30. The most pressing question to arise out of this may very well be: wouldn’t you, if you were him?
Backtracking for a moment: Johnson, affectionately referred to as Megatron, has played nine seasons for the Detroit Lions, one of only four NFL franchises yet to appear in a Super Bowl. He has played in two playoff games, both of which the Lions lost. Combine that with growing concerns about what the sport of football does to the human body over time, and Johnson may have just become the biggest star to set a template for exiting the NFL on one’s own terms. But even more than that, he just seemed fed up, like your dad being asked to do some menial tasks after mowing the lawn.
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
Election season kicks into full gear today with the Iowa caucuses, an occasion riddled with dispute, intrigue and the eternally raging debate of democracy’s precise place in this country. While the caucuses can be good indicators of a political party’s eventual Presidential candidate, they are by no means perfect, as peer pressure and community influence° can alter the outcome.
In this election season, it bears remembering that the purest form of democracy left in this nation, and possibly in the world, happens in sports. Leaving All-Star voting to the fans can cause some anomalies, not the least of which being that fans voted career enforcer John Scott to play in the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday. Unlike some of the new bosses we meet, who end up being same as the old boss, Scott did not disappoint the voters, nor did he leave any question about how deserving he was.