Kobe Bean Bryant entered the National Basketball Association (NBA) right out of high school as the first guard to ever do so, in 1996. On draft night the Hornets selected him and he was immediately, as was prearranged, traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Black Mamba stayed with the Showtime Lakers for his entire 20 year career, earning 18 trips to the All-Star game, being named 15 times to the All-NBA team, locking in 12 All-Defensive Team honors, taking home 5 NBA Championships (one three-peat and one repeat), nabbing 2 NBA Finals MVP Awards, and 1 NBA MVP, among many other honors and accomplishments. His 18X All-Star appearances is second only to NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 19 nods.
He was a monster on the court, offensively and defensively, and earned the respect of virtually anyone who played or watched the game, even those who hate on the Lakers, for their 16 total NBA Championships, second only to the Boston Celtics who have won 17, 11 of which were gathered with NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer Bill Russell.
Kobe was the first-ever NBA player to amass at least 30,000 career points coupled with 6,000 career assists, and is one of only four NBA players with 25,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists. In 2006, the Black Mamba scored 81 points in a W over the Toronto Raptors, second only to 100 dropped by legend Wilt Chamberlain.
During his career, Kobe averaged 25.0 points, 5.20 rebounds, and 4.69 assists per game. His 33,643 total points scored ranks 4th all-time in the NBA. He played 1,346 regular season games and another 220 NBA playoff games.
Due to a very serious torn Achilles tendon in 2013, and further injuries to follow, his remaining few years with the team were not vintage Kobe, although his last game, the 2016 season finale on April 13, saw him scoring a season-high 60 points against Utah, where, during this last hurrah, he outscored the entire Jazz team 23–21 in the fourth quarter, ensuring a Lakers 101–96 victory.
He was also a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (2008 and 2012) and, after his retirement he won an Oscar in 2018 for the Best Animated Short Film, titled “Dear Basketball.”
For 16 days in August, the Games of the XXXI Olympiad were played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For all of those days, there were intense competitions where individuals and teams fought to be the Best-of-the-Best, to achieve winning a Gold Medal.
This post will not attempt to recap these Olympic Games, as that would be a massive undertaking. It is, however, paying tribute to prior Games and to all those who came together in Rio to compete.
The below video contains short clips of past opening ceremonies, dating back to London 1908.
It really is a journey through time and does capture the human spirit.
The next video is the campaign song and video for the Rio Olympics.
Suffice it to say, while there were many, here are some of the highlights of the 2016 Rio Olympics:
The USA walked away with total medals, at 121. They were the tops in all three with 46 Gold, 37 Silver and 38 Bronze. China came in 2nd with 70, followed closely by Great Britain with 67.
Swimmer extraordinaire Michael Phelps grabbed five more Gold medals and a Silver, bringing his total to 28 medals overall, of which, 23 are Gold.
Lightning Bolt, Usain Bolt, added three more Gold medals to his count, racking up a Triple Triple. Three Golds in three straight Olympics. He set a record being the only person to win three consecutive 100m and 200m Olympic sprints, as well as winning the 100×4 relay for the third straight time.
Scottish tennis pro Andy Murray successfully defended his Gold Medal by winning in Rio, after doing so in the 2012 Olympics in Great Britain. The #2 ranked player is the only person to ever win two singles Golds. This year, he won after capturing the 2016 Wimbledon in July.
Singapore won its first ever Gold medal when Joseph Schooling upset Michael Phelps in the 100m Butterfly. The 21 year old grew up idolizing Phelps and beat him by 0.75 seconds.
The 100m women’s hurdles saw three Americans sweep the medals. Brianna Rollins took Gold, followed by teammates Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin. American women have medaled in this event in the past five Games.
For the first time since 2000, the women’s soccer championship was not won by the United States. Instead they lost early and the German women defeated Sweden 2-1 to Capture the Gold.
Ren Qian of China, at 15 years and 6 months, is the youngest athlete this year to win a Gold, taking the 10-meter platform. However, she is not the youngest ever to do so. That honor goes to 13 yer 11 month old Fu Mingxia, also from China, in Barcelona 1992, for the same event.
Yes, there were more glorious victories, some disheartening losses, as there always are in the Olympic games. The beauty of the competition is bringing the world together in a peaceful, yet competitive setting (other than one).
So we wait another four years, for the XXXII Olympic Games which will be held in Tokyo, Japan.
The road to the NBA Finals for the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers could not have been more different.
The Dubs sailed through a historic regular season with a record breaking 73-9 (.890) mark, eclipsing the previous high by the legendary 1996 Chicago Bulls by one win. When they hit the Western Conference Playoffs it was a bit different. They handled Houston (4-1) and Portland (4-1) fairly easily, but they were facing a 1-3 deficit after four games to the #3 Oklahoma City Thunder (who took the #2 seed San Antonio Spurs out 4-2). Turning on the fight, the Warriors came back, taking the final three, hard-fought games. Honestly, any of the last three games could have gone either way, but the Thunder fell short when it mattered most.
The Cavaliers finished the regular season with a respectable 57-25 (.695) record. As with the Dubs, when they hit the Eastern Conference Playoffs things were different. For the Cavs, they demolished and demoralized their opponents, though that is not to say there were not close games. They took out the Detroit Pistons 4-0 and did the same to the Atlanta Hawks. With homecourt advantage in the Eastern Finals the Cavs took the first two from the #2 seed Toronto Raptors, then slipped and lost both in Canada. Having no more of that, the Wine & Gold erupted in the final two, with blowout victories to take their second straight Eastern Conference title.
Thus, the stage was set for an epic showdown between the Warriors and the Cavaliers. Last year, without Love (at all) and Irving (after game one, which they lost), LeBron James led his team to capture the next two games, taking a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, the depth of the Dubs overcame James’ incredible performances to win the next three games.
How familiar does this now sound?
After four games this year, the Dubs held a significant 3-1 edge and then things started falling apart with the suspension of Draymond Green for his flagrant fouls throughout the playoffs and finals (at least the ones where the refs blew the whistle on him) and in game 5 Andrew Bogut damaged his left knee and was lost for the remainder of the run. All of a sudden, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving imposed their collective wills and took the next two games, tying it at 3-3.
In the process, in game 5 James and Irving both scored 41 points, the first time teammates had each scored 40+ in a finals game. James followed in game 6 with another 41.
I am not going to debate things like Dubs Coach Steve Kerr calling out refs for fouling out Stephen Curry. They didn’t. Steph did. Period. Nor about Curry’s wife tweeting that the games are rigged, though that comment itself is really quite insane. The refs have a damn hard job and they are very good at officiating. I would love those who complain step in and do a better job. Or even as good. Really, I would love to see that!
Watching games, I see a lot of contact going on that I would call if I were on the floor. I see Green (and others, to be sure) get away with lots of fouls. If you really want to nit-pick, every player on every team gets away with holding, blocking, moving fouls every game. When they get caught … they complain … so what … play ball. And don’t throw your mouthpiece. Lastly, regardless of what Charles Barkley says, don’t hit anyone in their privates. Ever. IMHO any shot like that is pretty much automatic ejection. Especially kicking.
And, a side note on fouls. I abhor when a shooter, especially beyond the arc, jumps forward into a defender (wildly flailing the ball in the air) to engineer a foul. That is not a defensive foul. Period. It has no place in the game. Similar to flopping.
Back to the topic at hand … yes, this year’s series had more drama … different drama. And game 7 was a game to anticipate and wonder whose will and talent was going to best their opponent. This would be the 19th game 7 in league history. And no team had ever come back from a 1-3 deficit to take the crown.
This Game 7 was the kind of game we really wanted to see in every one of them. Tough. Close. Competitive. Lots of lead changes. Down to the wire.
A blocked shot by James that would have given the Dubs a 2-point advantage. A beautiful beyond-the-arc shot by Irving, taking the Cavs up by three. A free throw by James for some icing, with 10 seconds left. Two missed attempts at the opposite end. It was over.
The result was a LeBron James triple double (27-11-11), with overall good support from his team, and a couple of firsts – the first time that Cleveland has ever won an NBA Championship and the first NBA team to ever win the title after having been down 3 games to 1. Quite an accomplishment.
Oh, one other first. James is the first player to lead both teams in the Finals in 1) Points, 2) Assists, 3) Rebounds, 4) Blocks, and 5) Steals. That is over the top! Scores by game:
Cleveland Cavaliers 89 – Golden State Warriors 104
Cleveland Cavaliers 77 – Golden State Warriors 110
Golden State Warriors 90 – Cleveland Cavaliers 120 Golden State Warriors 108 – Cleveland Cavaliers 97 Cleveland Cavaliers 112 – Golden State Warriors 97
Golden State Warriors 101 – Cleveland Cavaliers 115
Cleveland Cavaliers 93 – Golden State Warriors 89
Congratulations to LeBron on his 3rd NBA Finals MVP, very well deserved, and to the Cavaliers team and family. A championship that was a long time coming and, seemingly, well worth the wait.
Associated Press named Muhammad Ali (Jan 17, 1942 – Jun 3, 2016) the “No. 1 heavyweight of the 20th century.” Sports Illustrated named him “Sportsman of the Century” while the BBC agreed, citing him as “Sports Personality of the Century.”
At 18 he won the Summer Olympics light heavyweight gold medal in Rome, Italy, and at 22, as a strong underdog, he defeated Sonny Liston for the professional heavyweight title, becoming the youngest person to take the title from the then-current holder.
Throughout his career, and beyond, the retired champion fought more than just his opponents. The Champ was a strong and vocal advocate of civil rights and it is said that he even inspired Martin Luther King Jr.
Over five decades ago, young Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. addressed a room full of journalists and announced that he had converted to Nation of Islam. Further, he let them know that he was changing his name to Muhammad Ali. This announcement was met with great hostility and his response was, “I don’t have to be what you want me to be.”
That stance, that statement, that backbone, helped define the champion and greatly assisted the civil rights movement in America and around the world.
A cultural phenomena, Ali was sentenced to five years in prison for draft evasion during the Vietnam conflict, holding to his religious belief as a conscientious objector. In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court overturned his conviction because the Appeal Board gave no reason for the denial of his conscientious objector exemption.
When he retired at the age of 40, his pro record was 56-5, while earlier compiling a 100-5 amateur record. He was never one to quit, always fighting for what he believed in. He said, “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.”
He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Within two years after his retirement, the legend was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, a disease that commonly results from severe and repeated head trauma. Not to be slowed, he remained active for years. He made many notable accomplishments over the following decades and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and the Liberty Medal in 2012.
On the date of Ali’s 19th wedding anniversary (Nov 19, 2005), the non-profit Muhammad Ali Center opened in his hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. Sitting along the riverfront, the $60 million center displays many items from his boxing career as well as highlighting peace, personal growth, respect and social responsibility. Of the center, he says, “For many years I have dreamed of creating a place to share, teach and inspire people to be their best and to pursue their dreams.”
Since the time of his diagnosis, Ali also fought back, specifically through the establishment and funding of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center. He created the annual Celebrity Fight Night events, responsible for raising over $123 million to combat the disease. One thing he firmly believed is “The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
Concerning life, he said, “People look for miracles. People look for surprises of all kinds. Yet the greatest wonder, the greatest miracle, the greatest surprise, is to be found in ones heart.”