Monday, February 7, 2011

My top 5 continued...

Here is the rest of my Top 5 Today list. Remember, this is my personal opinion, but I encourage your feedback on why yours may be different or any additional feedback that supports my thoughts. 

#3 SG/SF Kevin Durant
-Arguably the most improved player over the last 3 years. Dude keeps improving in every aspect of his game (offensively speaking for the most part). Since entering the league, only 4 short years ago, he's increased his PPG each year by 5 points, followed by increases each season in assists and rebounds as well. He's proved he can close games and he's earned the respect of not only his teammates, but dudes across the league. As much as I hate to say this, I'm going to anyway... "He's the best scorer in the league today!" Playing out of OKC doesn't help him put his talents on display nearly as much as Kobe or LeBron, but the fact that he's still considered by many as the new face of the NBA is certainly saying something. The scariest part of it all is Durant could be even better if he had the body to match his game. With a year or two more to continue to develop and perfect his game, I think Durant will start generating talk around the league about possibly being one of the best to step on the hardwood in the last 10-15 years. My personal thoughts... Durant is the TRUTH!!!

Strengths: Scorer, Clutch, Leadership, Potential
Weaknesses: Strength, Post Game, Defense
Improvements I'd Like to See: Body, Defense, Recruitment of Players to OKC (to compete for Ring)

#2 SG Kobe Bryant
-"Black Mamba"! With a nickname like that, you have to be considered for the top spot on any basketball list. And if you asked me 2 or 3 years ago to list my Top 5, Kobe would've probably appeared one spot ahead of this (even as much as I loved Bron and hated Kobe then, I recognized the venom he possessed). Kobe has transformed the game of basketball and has proven to every single player on an NBA roster that hard work pays off. For over 10 years now, Kobe has been the consensus pick among the WORLD as "One of the Greats". He's proven himself on every level (w/ the exception of college for obvious reasons... his game was ready for NBA talent at only 17 years of age) and his recent USA Gold Medal is proof that Kobe is WCT (World Class Talent). Personally, I've never been a fan of him (cocky early in his career & selfish throughout his career), but I've never once denied what he has accomplished. These alone are worth noting: Top 10 scorer of all-time, a league MVP award, a 5-time NBA Champion, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and an 81-point individual thrashing of Toronto. With all that said (I could go on for days about this guy, but will move on for your reading eyes), it's remarkable how much Kobe really appreciated the game. He played all 84 feet of the court every time he stepped on the hardwood, so there was never a dull minute in his effort. I'm forever grateful that he played during my era of being a basketball fan! There is no doubt I'll mention to my kids and even grandkids about the game this man had. When he does finally decide to step away from basketball, the WORLD will lose "ONE OF THE 3 GREATEST EVER TO PLAY BASKETBALL (yes...I said it)". My personal thoughts... this quote and/or comment I saw someone post on Facebook sums them up - President Obama calls Kobe to let him know his Bulls have their number (meaning the Bulls beat his Lakers once already) this year, to which Kobe responds, "Tell them I'll pick up after the 5th ring" (not sure if you get this or not, but Kobe has 5 rings (NBA Championships) already and him basically saying to the PRESIDENT... have them come talk to me after accomplishing that, is just ballsy). The fact that this man has that type of demeanor when it comes to basketball proves he's on a different level in every single aspect of the game. 

Strengths: SCORER, DEFENDER, LEADER (in the latter part of his career), COLD-BLOODED CLUTCH (he gets all CAPS because he's that good)
Weaknesses: Let me get back to you on that...

Improvements I'd Like to See: Attitude Toward Other Greats

#1 SF LeBron James (Was there any doubt?)
-"Chosen One" Came into the league with the weight of 5 planets on his back and has done nothing but exceed every expectation. There has never been another player like this guy... He makes teammates better and has single handily been responsible for the making of some of his teammates' careers. He rebuilt basketball in the city of Cleveland and took them from worst to best (record wise) in the league. He's carried his teams to the NBA Finals, made them a constant contender in the playoffs, won back-to-back league MVP's, and set the bar for almost every statistical category that is recorded in history. It was clear for me as a fan of the game that Bron would make an impact like no other in the NBA. Scoring, rebounding, assisting, and playing defense are all found in his arsenal. Every time he plays in an NBA game, there is another record falling to his waist side. Leaving Cleveland has put a bit of a sore spot on his career but he has the opportunity to remove that when NBA Championships are won. It is only a matter of time until this happens... TRUST ME! Personally, I had hoped he would stay in Cleveland and won a ring the hardest way possible, by taking the worst team to the best team, but with his best interests in mind (And the front office not making the right moves), it was easier for me to accept him leaving for South Beach. I mentioned above that Kobe would have probably been ahead of Bron 2 or 3 years ago and here is why... Bron doesn't possess that clutch bone that all the "greatest ever" have displayed throughout their careers. Bron wants the ball at the end of games, that is clear, but the confidence it takes to do something with hasn't been put on display. If he ever develops this clutch trait (don't think you can develop it... personally, I think it's something you're born with), I think it can really boost his name up the "greatest ever" list, but without it, he's merely just one of the "greatest statistical" players ever. Two separate lists that are recognized and appreciated by every "real" ball player. I say all that to not discount what he's done or will do, but for the reasoning as to why he couldn't touch Kobe until the last year or 2. Back to why he's the best in the WORLD now though! There is no need for me to blog about his stats because those can be found on any website - I just want to share one more sentence as to why he's at the top of this list (a quote actually). "Bron is a force of motion that is hard to understand but easy to love... this is because you're still trying to figure out how someone can be that good - why he'll never be duplicated, why he'll never be solved, why he'll never be stopped, and why he'll never be forgotten, ever!" - quote by Francis H. Ramirez III  -- My personal thoughts... Aside from Michael Jordan, my all time favorite basketball player to walk this earth. A game that can't be summed up with just words... more like noises you make from watching the stuff he does. 

Strengths: Scorer, Rebounder, Passer, Physical Attributes, Leadership
Weaknesses: Not Clutch, Confidence (not the same as the other greats)
Improvements I'd Like to See: CLUTCH, RINGS!!!

And #1 gets a video appearance as well:

Again, these are my thoughts and I'm interested in hearing all your feedback(good or bad)!

Until next time...


Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Top 5 Today!

Deciding who the top 5 basketball players are is rather difficult. I factored in many different things but I feel this is about as accurate as I could be. Please share your thoughts!


#5 SF Carmelo Anthony
-Melo, Melo, Melo... an unbelievable knack for scoring the basketball. He is the guy you want to have the ball at the end of the game. Wants the ball because he believes in his abilities. Great rebounder for his size and enjoys the game. I've seen improvement in his footwork and you can tell he cares about being the best. I think with the right mixture of teammates, he could be a real winner. His career stats, 25ppg, 3apg, 6rpg, are all worthy of notoriety, but it is his attitude and mental approach to the game that keeps him from being at the top of this list. With the NBA stacking players and the almost certainty that Melo will either become a Free Agent or be traded, I think this will do nothing but help his game. Landing in NY with Amare and perhaps, CP3, the game of Melo would reached a place its never been before. Melo has room for growth defensively and off the court, but these are all things I think he is learning as he continues to mature as a player and person. My personal thoughts... 2nd best closer around, behind someone else who will make an appearance on this list!

Strengths: Scorer, Rebounder, Clutch
Weaknesses: Leadership, Selfish, Mental Approach
Improvements I'd Like to See: Better Team Player, Leadership, Defense

#5 PG Derrick Rose
-He's continually making a case as the best PG in the league. I've seen tremendous growth from him since he's entered into the league. Has the ability to score the basketball from anywhere in the paint (just ask Dragic), but now has developed into a pretty decent jumpshooter. His J looks more fluid and it doesn't seem so mechanical. He is turning into a triple-double type guy nightly (although his 1st one just happened Jan. 17 vs the Grizz). He has improved his FG percentage every year since entering in the league and that has a lot to do with his improved jumper. Also, increases in his assist and rebounding distribution this season (career highs at 8.2 & 4.5 respectively) has helped him gain more and more attention from the media and fans. And he's single handedly responsible for reuniting the Chicago Bulls with playoff contender thoughts since some guy named, Michael Jordan. I see big things for this guy as he continues to age and climb into the peak (he's only 22 years old) of his career. My personal thoughts... BEST PG IN THE LEAGUE!!!

Strengths: Quick, Strong, Passing, Scoring, Rebounding (for a guard)
Weaknesses: Jumpshot, Leadership, Mid-Range Game
Improvements I'd Like to See:  Jumpshot, Mid-Range Game, Leadership, Closer

#4 SG Dwyane Wade
-DWade seems refueled now that Bron and Bosh have been added to the mixture in South Beach. There has never been any doubt about his ability to put the ball in the basket. Coming out of Marquette, he was the player I pegged at "Super Stardom" in the making. At a practice of mine in college back in 2003, legendary coach, George Karl, was speaking with my team and said, "DWade in my opinion will be the better of the top 3 in the upcoming draft (Melo, Bron, DWade)". Those words stuck with me ever since then and I don't think DWade has disappointed. Wade gets to the basket with ease and scores just about whenever he wants. With very respectable career averages of 25ppg, 6.5apg, and 5rpg, Wade proves he can get it done on his own. Now throw in Bron and Bosh... shouldn't be long before he adds to his O'Brien Trophy count. He's clutch and wants/demands the ball at the end of games. He's capable of scoring 50 any night! He's a great leader to his teammates! What else can he do to move up the list??? Hope Durant doesn't keep getting better at the pace he's at and that Bron starts tailing off with his production. My personal thoughts... he'll be remembered as a great player but not "top 20 ever" type great.

Strengths: Leader, Scoring, Winner, Defense (at times)
Weaknesses: Injuries, Movement w/o Ball, Passing.
Improvements I'd Like to See: Better Team Player, Consistent Effort (when he doesn't have the ball)

The top 3 players will be revealed in my next post. Hope you enjoy my thoughts!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

College Ball

After making the decision to attend Rochester College, I was able to check off two of my life goals... going to college and getting an athletic scholarship to play basketball. Heading into college I got to meet a couple very close friends, all with the same game plan as me, make a good impression and work your tail off to do so. Shout out to Chris, Gump, E King, Ty, Hacias, Jason, and E Brice!!! I'm not going to break this down nearly as much as I did for my high school years but I did want to share a few things. Basketball for me took on a total new meaning at RC. It was a place I found God, my beautiful wife Kristen, some of my closest friends ever, and people who cared about my future just as much as I did.

Here we go...

During my first year in college, I had to deal with something unfamiliar to me during my basketball journey... being injured. Two days before my first collegiate game, I was dealt a broken ankle and some torn ligaments. It was devastating to me... I had to Redshirt that season and missed playing with all the close friends who entered college with me. This was very hard for me to deal with, but I handled it as best as I could. I showed up for every practice, game, bus trip, community service project, and suicide given by the coaches. I think this did far more for me than I could imagine looking back now. It drove me to work harder to get back in shape and rehab the ankle so I could be out there next time with my teammates/brothers/family.

The next season was very memorable for me. I was reunited with my teammates on the basketball court and showed an appreciation for the game like never before. I was beyond thankful for the opportunity to play the game and I tried to show that every time I stepped on the floor. This particular year was a journey like no other though, as we were fortunate enough to play for a Small College National Championship. We were in Tulsa, OK for our national tournament and it was my first taste of basketball on that type of stage. We rallied together and came out as victors that time. NATIONAL CHAMPS!!! One of the best memories I have to date playing basketball in my lifetime (And I'll tell you what, no matter the level of play, that feeling someone gets from being a national champion is the same at every level of basketball).

My next two years (only played 3 seasons, opted to graduate on time) of basketball were probably the ones that have impacted my life the most as an adult. I developed a relationship with God and that was the best decision I've ever made. This was in large part due to my wife and coach, Garth Pleasant. He was a minister, coach, professor, and friend to me. Garth introduced his passion for God from the time I stepped on campus. He came off odd to me at first, but after finally uncovering the meaning behind his purpose in life (coaching players in life by showing them God and then basketball), it all started to make sense to me. He cared more about me as a person and how I would grow up as a husband, father, and son. Coaching basketball was his tool to get his foot in the door with players, but teaching them how to be good, productive people was his real purpose. For all that he's done, I'm forever indebted to him! Sorry for running off on that tangent... Back to basketball! These final two seasons contained life experiences I'll never forget, road trips with Gump doing something unforgettable, to playing against Division I teams, to arguing with Chris about who's better between Bron and Melo, to visiting states I will only see once in my lifetime. These experiences all were generated from me being a basketball player. Basketball had opened doors for me in life that I would not have seen otherwise.

Hopefully this series on how basketball started in my life and my walk with it, has shown you why I decided to start a blog on something so meaningful to me. There will be lots of my personal thoughts and beliefs about the game, different topics I'll expect feedback or your thoughts on, and hopefully a different perspective about the game of basketball. We'll see where in the world basketball takes me this time.

Please ENJOY!!!


High School Ball

I decided to take my talents to (sorry Bron)... Waterford Mott High School (the white school for those of you who've read my prior posts first).

This meant new setting, friends, and a new kind of basketball. I must say though, I was eager for this new adventure, especially because I didn't know anyone and they didn't know me. I felt like I could start out in the driver seat there and nobody would know I had been in the passenger seat with basketball my whole life.

9th Grade Year:

Try-outs were a success... I had no doubt I was one of the better kids on the team and that all my hard work was starting to pay off. It was during this season I would say I learned the most as a basketball player to date. I had good coaching and great teammates. I learned from them and I hope they learned from me. X's and O's made more sense than ever and I cherished being on that team. It was a "roller coaster" type season though. I came into the season with a big head (thought I was the best player) and finished the season humbled (appreciated the team aspect and developed a deeper love for basketball than EVER before/wasn't the best player). This also happened to be the year I met a player with similar interests and love for the game of basketball, Mr. Jeff Jayson (AKA Tre Jizzle, my very best friend in life (excluding my wife of course!)) We were a tandem that shared my thoughts and beliefs on the game and pushed one another every day to get better.

10th Grade Year:

Came into this season with high hopes... Thought in my mind that maybe I should get an opportunity to play on the varsity team. Jeff had proved he belonged there so why wasn't I getting the same opportunity? My JV coach did a good job of snapping me back into reality and telling me I needed this team to improve some things in my game. Being hard-headed, but a good kid, I listened! I used that season as fuel to improve and prove I belonged with the big boys in the school. We were a great team and had the record to match that season!

11th Grade Year:

I started playing with the varsity in the summer between my 10th and 11th grade year and I was much more hungry than ever before. I had a fairly good summer and knew I needed to keep the ball rollin' if I wanted to make the type of impact I had already set in my head. Mannn, did I work my tail off! I ended up starting for the Varsity team that year and was reunited with the confidence I once had. Our season was a success and I had the best statistical season of my career as a basketball player. Life was good!

12th Grade Year:

With high expectations being carried into my senior year, I wanted to win and make it as far as possible in the state tournament. We had a pretty solid team and I felt personally responsible for every single win and loss we had that season. It had bright shining moments to go along with some bad sore spots. Nonetheless, I continued to develop as a player and my love for basketball was beyond endless. Toward the end of my high school career, I often got caught up thinking, "I may never play basketball in a competitive setting like this ever again". There weren't scholarships being offered and no coaches were at my door step asking for me to play for them. This sadly brought the realization to myself that I was finishing a relationship with basketball that I didn't want to give up. Shortly before graduation and going off to college (not as a basketball player), I finally got a call with some interest in my basketball game. George Evjen, Assistant Coach at Rochester College, called to invite me over to the college for an open gym try-out/evaluation. So here I am... in the middle of June, with my financial aid letter signed and ready to be sent into University of Detroit, with my roommate for the fall semester already picked out, and a basketball-less future already being accepted in my head, I'm left thinking... should I give basketball another chance? I think most of you reading this know what I chose to do...

The Finale... College Ball


Middle School Ball

As mentioned in the earlier posts, I was the most nervous for this part of my basketball life. I was starting to mix it up with the city's best and I didn't know where I stacked up against them. However, I was excited at the opportunity to possibly play middle schools in other cities and see if we were the best in the county.


The PA system goes off during 7th period announcing a reminder that boys basketball tryouts were being held after school this week. This was the most nervous I can remember being. 2 days of putting my skills on showcase with hopes the coach will find something he could use in me. Day 1 got off to a great start and I seemed to be one of the better fundamentally-sound kids there. Then came the actual scrimmaging... I held my own! I played within myself and got the ball to the people who were clearly better than me. Day 2 was more scrimmaging and more of the same results from Day 1 - good passes, with the occasion shot sprinkled in. My thoughts - I hope I did enough to stand out and make the team. I DID!!! Probably one of the most thrilling moments in my life. We were a good team that year and only lost to 1 damn (sorry! still hate them!) team (our rival Washington Middle School). 7th grade years = success!

8th grade was more of the same... I had more confidence this time and developed into one of the better all-around players. It didn't hurt that we had a kid on our team who averaged like 40 ppg (seriously!). I got better and started developing this confidence that I never had before. I starting believing I belonged on the court and was no longer content with sitting in the passenger seat. Just for the record, we lost to the same DAMN team again in my 8th grade year (Washington). Not a shabby middle school career... 30 something and 4 record. Those 4 losses were all to Washington... once in the regular season and once in the championship, both years.

Following my 8th grade season, I had some thinking to do. What, you may be asking??? It was time for high school... that's not the thinking part. I had to choose between going to the city school (where all my friends for the last 8 years were going) or changing school districts and attending a predominantly white school (at the time, I thought they were all preppy and stuck up - remember, I was a city boy w/ classmates from the "ghetto"). Immediately I thought about basketball!!! No shocker there! How would this affect my path for basketball? Is basketball worth the relationships it would cost me changing schools? Will I even enjoy basketball anymore without my friends in the mix? All these questions put pressure on my decision about which high school I would attend.

Next comes High School Ball...


Elementary Ball

Started with rec ball on the yellow team in the Salvation Army League... Being from a city where I was typically the only white kid on the team, I had some ground to make up fast. I wasn't half the athlete my peers were so I had to find a way to somehow still compete. I did everything I could to blend in with my friends, but like I said before, I was far too competitive to be a role player. Every day of the year, and I mean every day, I could be found with a basketball in my hand. Whether it was me playing or doing some drill, or watching MJ (my favorite of all time) (we'll be sure to discuss the impact he had/has on my love for basketball) on TV, I couldn't get enough. During the elementary days, a 4th grader had two options, play for their school team or continue playing for the rec team you played on from the 1st grade.  For me, it was an easy decision... play for the team that introduced me to the game (yellow squad - probably something Mexican affiliated because most of us were Mexican). We were competitive too! We always seemed to get to the championship every year, but always lost to the same team. A team with a kid who killed us every time. I learned a lot during my experience with this team. I developed relationships with good friends and my appreciation for basketball skyrocketed. I remember going to school during these times and arguing with my friends about whose squad was better. This is where my passion and competitive fire I have today developed and matured.

By the time elementary school ball was coming to an end, I had turned into not only a starter on my team, but one of the top 3 players. During that 5th grade year, with us coming off 3 straight losses in the championship to the same team, we found ourselves in the championship once again. You would think I'd be thrilled at this opportunity again but I wasn't... Why? Because the family vacation we took every year to Florida was scheduled during the championship game. So I'm left with this dilemma... miss my first trip to Disney World w/ the fam or try and stay with a family member for a 1 hr game that would probably end the same way it had the previous 3 years (an L). My decision on this problem did nothing but instill in my mind that I would be in a relationship with the game of basketball for the rest of my life. You know I had to stay!! Was there ever any doubt?!?!

So opting to stay with my coach and missing out on a week long vacation as a 10 year old wasn't as difficult as you would probably think (told you my love for the game was authentic from the beginning!). All I could think about going into this game was, "I sure hope we win so I can make the missed vacation worth it". Let's just say, IT WAS WORTH IT!!!! We squeaked out a nail-bitter in the championship and I didn't think twice about missing out on the vacation. Instead, my mind coming off that W at the time (yes, I remember what I was thinking because I went to the park and shot 500 jumpers the very next day) was wrapped around the fact that I need to get a lot better if I think I am going to make my middle school team in 2 years. You might be asking why I was thinking about something that was still 2 years away... Well, I proved to my coaches and teammates that I was a better player and improved dramatically over the last few years, but I had never had to try out for a cut sport and I was scared to death of rejection. Making a team with the best players from a very competitive city was the scariest thing a 10 year old boy like myself could think about. I'll save these thoughts for later!

On deck - Middle School Ball



Blogging has been on my mind for over 2 years now and I'm just now getting around to it. When thinking of what I would discuss, the obvious choice was something I love and appreciate... BASKETBALL (with the occasional other major sports sprinkled in)! I've been around ball my entire life. Started on the playground in Pontiac, MI, watching an older kid in the neighborhood play. I worshiped that dudes every move and thought I should probably start trying to play myself if I want to get out there one day and play with the older kids. From that very moment, when I realized I wanted to start playing the game, I fell in love with it. Now most throw the word "love" around, but I really mean that I fell in LOVE with the game. Back in the early 90's it started with shooting around on my own and putting in work with the recess kids daily, to playing pick-up with the kids in my neighborhood. I use to drag my brother, Nick, around with me so I always had someone to play with. Then came trying to play against others in a league setting. I got my first opportunity when my baseball coach asked me to play for his basketball squad. We were pretty good and it was there that I got my first taste of how to move and cut and share the ball. Before it was all ME and doing whatever I could to get my own shot. Let's just say that my world was rocked when I got left out from playing big minutes because I didn't understand (from my coaches' perspective) the game. That devastated me! But like the competitor I am, I worked hard at improving my game and playing with others to prove I could compete. Boyyyy did that help! From that point on I made sure I would never be the one on the bench again. My goal was to outwork everyone and to contribute to my team, regardless of the level of ball I was playing.

Now that you have some background on how the love of the game for me started, I want to break down my experiences from every level I played at...

Stay tuned!!!