Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Duncan Point

So it did happen.

After a particularly surprising beat down loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan has announced his retirement.  There is, of course, sadness all around.  While many have recognized the effects of Father Time has had on even the Big Fundamental, they see one more possible championship run in him; or at the very least, a farewell tour like fellow retiree Kobe Bryant.

Once the initial, violent sadness dissipates, tributes will come in.  Championships will be counted (Duncan won 5 NBA Titles and an Olympic Gold Medal).  Statistics will be analyzed (He is one of only two NBA players to score over 26000 points, grab over 15,000 rebounds and block 3,000 shots). Skills will be revered (He had tremendous footwork and dribbling skills for a big man and an unflappable bank shot).  His humility will be celebrated (Players and coaches alike pick him to be the best teammate and extremely coachable). His loyalty exalted (He is one of only 3 NBA players to retire after playing more than 18 seasons with 1 team).

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Kobe and the P Word

Whenever a player retires, or a person passes away, the lure to romanticize their careers and/or lives is strong. I am, however, not a fan of Kobe Bryant, so the lure is not as strong. Yet I caution myself as I write this piece as I want to get this right.  Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA’s greatest players, will be remembered for a great deal of things; he made sure of that.  The question is, “What will he be most remembered for?”

How about his five NBA Championships?  Perhaps two Olympic gold medals will top your list.  There’s that unsavory incident of a sexual crime allegation in Denver, where he ended up not guilty of a crime, but himself confessing to adultery.  There was also a civil case that followed which was settled quietly. Maybe his Most Valuable Player Award and multiple inclusions in the All NBA lists?  There was his much publicized rift with Shaquille O”Neal which led to Shaq heading to the Heat.  How about Kobe torching the Raptors for 81 points in a single game? Everyone probably still remembers his expletive-filled rant at his teammates and team officials during a public practice session just last year.  I’m sure many would remember his renaissance man qualities, able to conduct press conferences (including his latest one) in English, Spanish and Italian.

If one remembers Kobe for any one of these, or even all of these, they would not be wrong.  They would be incomplete though.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Remember This Story

It was, certainly, a head kick heard around the world.  Holly Holm knocked out erstwhile unbeaten Ronda Rousey to win the UFC World Women's Bantamweight Championship.  As referee Herb Dean stopped the fight, the world reacted with shock, disbelief, inspiration and "I told you so's," but here's the thing.

It's not a story of the perils of living a rockstar life.  Yes, Rousey had movie and commercial shoots, TV guestings and events, but she's always been a strong woman who could multi-task. there was never an occasion where she didn't train enough.  People love to bring out this story to any fighting champion with crossover personality, but there was never an occasion where she didn't train enough.  Rousey is a training junkie. She made weight and didn't look dehydrated.

It's not a story of hubris or good vs evil either.  Yes, Rousey had the scowl, the fighting words, the weigh in snafu and the refusal to touch gloves while Holm was gracious and mostly silent. But to infer that one protagonist is good while the other is bad makes no real observation other than the commenter is a casual fight fan.  Fights are fought outside the ring as much as in it and fighters build and cultivate the personas that help them win.  Holm projects the "I'm silent but I am a killer" vibe; Rousey projects the "I will get on you and destroy you" vibe.  Neither lady is as simple as just the persona they project.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?

Watching Gilas battle China for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship was difficult, almost painful even.  From the pre game and in game shenanigans, partial officiating, to the unruly crowd, to the shots that went in and out, it was a nightmare.  It was the worst case scenario.  It was watching a time bomb count down and any wire you cut results in explosion anyway.  It was like watching your friend or your relative go after something or someone they want when it was clear to you and to them the odds would never be in their favor.  It was like that scene in the Matrix, when the character Switch realized she was going to die because they were betrayed.  “Not like this,” she lamented.

As Gabe Norwood crumpled to the floor from a finger to the eye and the referee just watching the ball go out of bounds, there was really only one question.  

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Grab and Believe

It was supposed to be simple. A historic win in the World Cup in 2014 meant the most logical conclusion would be that the same Gilas team would represent us in this year's FIBA-Asia Championships, but as is our country's wont, things got extremely complicated. Players started getting injured, backing out of the Gilas line up. Questions began building up. Why did so and so back out? Is he really injured? What in heaven's name is Plantar Fasciatis? Why is so and so included in the line up? Can he make a contribution in the international game?

At the end of the day (or the month of July) Coach Tab Baldwin of Gilas 3.0 was left with a 17 man pool with only 6 holdovers from Gilas 2.0, one of which just came out of retirement. The others were split into 4 groups. First, those who many questioned if they were too old to be useful. Second was the group many questioned if they were too volatile and unpredictable to be counted on. Third was a group some questioned if their recent suberb play was only because they played for weaker teams. Last was the group many questioned if they were too raw to make a difference. Many feared these unexpected, seemingly unreliable players spelled trouble and some started to turn angry at those who said "No" to the call of the nation. 

But life's best stories are always filled with seemingly "unfit" people being thrust into the spotlight. Take the world's best-selling book, the Bible. Moses, Noah, Gideon, David, Matthew, Zachaeus, all names that, when they were entrusted an enormous honor or task, people scoffed or got nervous about. Then, they took their opportunity, believed and made the most of them. That's how they became noteworthy. That's how they became heroes. 

People feared Asi Taulava, Don Don Hontiveros and Sonny Thoss to be too old. Given the opportunity in the Jones Cup, they came up big, each leading us with big baskets to power us to wins. Moala Tautuaa and Troy Rosario were feared to be raw but they showed veteran composure and toughness and made laudable contributions. People bristled at JC Intal and Aldrech Ramos being given slots, but their outside shooting was invaluable to our halfcourt spacing and their length added versatility to our defense. The unpredictability people feared with Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva turned out to be the positive energy and bravado the team needed to regain that swagger we thought we had lost in Estonia. 

It's simple, really. Many feared and questioned each and every one of these guys' inclusion into the line up, but each and every one of them grabbed their opportunity, believed, and showed us their Puso. That's how they have become noteworthy. That is how they have become our heroes. 

Now, as the FIBA Asia Championship nears, we also get an opportunity. We get an opportunity to stop concentrating our energies on hating/shaming those who said "No" to the call of Gilas 3.0. Instead, we get an opportunity to cheer and support those who have stepped forward, despite the questions and doubts surrounding them. Are we going to grab this opportunity? Are we going to believe? Are we going to be noteworthy? 

I'm in.