Kobe Bryant, the ultimate perimeter player, signs off

Bryant ended his career on a high note scoring 60 points in the season finale.

Bryant ended his career on a high note scoring 60 points in the season finale.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Kobe Bryant played the last game of his 20-year career for the Los Angeles Lakers amid much fanfare on Wednesday, April 13. Bryant dazzled fans, scoring 60 points as the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz in the season finale, capping a farewell tour for Bryant that started once he made it clear he was retiring at the end of this season.

"Penny" Hardaway (left) and Grant Hill (right) were two players primed to fill the void of Jordan's departure until injuries severely altered their careers.

“Penny” Hardaway (left) and Grant Hill (right) were two players primed to fill the void of Jordan’s departure until injuries severely altered their careers.

While not accurate, it is often said that Michael Jordan passed the proverbial torch to Bryant.

The similarities between Bryant and Jordan are easy to see. Both are similar in height, position played, disposition on the court, and team success.

However, many forget that there were two superstars who were poised to follow in Jordan’s footsteps but suffered career altering injuries: Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway, and Grant Hill. Both superstars were similar to Bryant early in their careers because they had charisma, exciting talent and marketing appeal.

On the strength of two championships at Duke university, Hill emerged quickly as a superstar leading all NBA All-Star Game players in fan voting in his rookie season and soon afterwards leading the Detroit Pistons to multiple playoff appearances. Hill was a dynamic player with excellent scoring and play-making ability.

While Bryant was carving his niche early in his career, other players like Tracy McGrady (left) and Vince Carter (right) were among the guards that Bryant battled with.

While Bryant was carving his niche early in his career, other players like Tracy McGrady (left) and Vince Carter (right) were among the guards that Bryant battled with.

Hardaway also had quick success, helping to lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995 with Shaquille O’neal. Hardaway and Hill had huge endorsement deals and were well positioned to be pre-eminent perimeter players in the NBA upon Jordan’s second retirement in 1999.

Other perimeter player contemporaries of Bryant who entered the NBA during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s include Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, and Ray Allen.

All of these players helped lead their teams in different ways, while displaying entertaining and captivating styles of play. All of these players were also major faces in advertising, which assisted in bringing extra attention to the NBA internationally.

(I - r) Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, are among the list of players Bryant had brief rivalries with during his career.

(I – r) Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, are among the list of players Bryant had brief rivalries with during his career.

Bryant might have the highest international profile of all of the previous mentioned players, except Jordan, and his battles with those players helped pave the way for the current wave of perimeter All Stars. Bryant’s 20 year career has allowed him to compete with players already in the basketball Hall of Fame as well as number of players likely to land there as well.

Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, James Harden, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James headline a long list of perimeter players that have carried the torch of exciting the fans and helping fans fill the impending the void created upon Bryant’s retirement.

Bryant had a fond farewell and received respect and admiration from fans and peers throughout the night.

Bryant had a fond farewell and received respect and admiration from fans and peers throughout the night.

As Bryant retires, perimeter play is on the uptick in the NBA. The last several regular season and NBA Finals MVP have been perimeter players. Bryant reminded all spectators that current NBA fans enjoy seeing their perimeter stars score in bundles as he scored the most points by a player this season in his final game. A great ending to an even greater career.–OnPointPress.net–

 

Will the NBA’s post-season live up to its exciting regular season?

The Golden State Warriors (top) and Atlanta Hawks (bottom) enter the playoffs as #1 seeds in their conference this year.

The Golden State Warriors (top) and Atlanta Hawks (bottom) enter the playoffs as #1 seeds in their conference this year.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The NBA regular season came to a scintillating conclusion Wednesday night as playoff positions were finally set. The eighth seed was decided on game 82 for both conferences and the scoring title was settled as well. The end of the regular season means that struggling teams can move on to making preparations for betters seasons next year, while playoff teams prepare for the post-season marathon.

After a close MVP race this NBA season, James Harden (l) and Stephen Curry (r) are the clear frontrunners to win the award.

After a close, nail-biting MVP race this NBA season, James Harden (l) and Stephen Curry (r) are the clear front-runners to win the award.

The NBA post-season will have to be spectacular to equal the exciting regular season which featured an MVP race for the ages, a scoring title race decided on the final day, and several meaningful games Wednesday night.  The Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks set season records for franchise victories, while teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics rebounded from the cellar of the NBA last year to make the playoffs this year.

Anthony Davis (l) and Kyrie Irving (r) are 2 of several notable players making their playoff debuts this postseason.

Anthony Davis (l) and Kyrie Irving (r) are two of the many notable players making their playoff debuts this postseason.

The pairings for the playoffs are:

EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF MATCHUPS
1. Atlanta Hawks vs. 8. Brooklyn Nets
2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7. Boston Celtics
3. Chicago Bulls vs. 6. Milwaukee Bucks
4. Toronto Raptors vs. 5. Washington Wizards

WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF MATCHUPS
1. Golden State Warriors vs. 8. New Orleans Pelicans
2. Houston Rockets vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks
3. Los Angeles Clippers vs. 6. San Antonio Spurs
4. Portland Trail Blazers vs. 5. Memphis Grizzlies*
*Grizzlies will have home-court advantage

The playoffs will be different this season as playoff regulars like Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook will be absent this year with their teams’ failure to secure playoff berths. The NBA post-season is in good hands though, as emerging superstars like Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, and James Harden will have the opportunity to add important playoff experience to their impressive regular season resumes.

In the end, it is highly possible that either LeBron James (c) and his Cavaliers or Tim Duncan (l) and Greg Popovich (r) and the Spurs will be playing for the championship again this year.

In the end, it is highly possible that either LeBron James (c) and his Cavaliers or Tim Duncan (l) and Greg Popovich (r) and the Spurs will be playing for the championship again this year.

Other stars like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving will be able to take the next step in their careers and advance deep into the playoffs for the first time. As interesting as it will be to see some of the new faces in the post-season, in the end, LeBron James and the San Antonio Spurs will likely play a major role in determining the championship. Again.–OnPointPress.net

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a training/benefits consultant. Follow me @GloverIsGood on Twitter.com.

OKC’s Russell Westbrook’s popularity soars in wide open NBA MVP race

(l-r) James Harden, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook have made strong cases for NBA MVP this season.

(l-r) James Harden, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook have made strong cases for NBA MVP this season.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

There are roughly six weeks left in the current NBA regular season and the race for NBA’s Most Valuable Player is still wide open. As teams finish the last quarter of the regular season, fans will weigh in on their favorite for MVP this year. The MVP race is indicative of an excellent NBA regular season that has about two thirids of the teams jockeying for playoff position at this time.

Karl Malone finished just ahead of Alonzo Mourning and Tim Duncan to win his 2nd MVP in 1998-99.

Karl Malone finished just ahead of Alonzo Mourning and Tim Duncan to win his 2nd MVP in 1998-99.

This MVP race is setting up to be the closest race since the 1998-99 lockout shortened NBA season when Karl Malone won his second MVP award. What makes this season comparable to that one is that there was no strong favorite to win the NBA title for that season which seemed to enhance the importance of the regular season. This season has the same uncertainty about the postseason, which makes playoff seeding and the regular season seem more important than usual. Here is the case for the top MVP candidates:

LeBron James is in the MVP conversation every season and this  year is no different. He might be in line for his 5th MVP this year.

LeBron James is in the MVP conversation every season and this year is no different. He might be in line for his 5th MVP this year.

Four- time regular season MVP-winner LeBron James is helping his Cleveland Cavaliers move up in the standings in the Eastern Conference while having his usual fantastic season. James is currently third in scoring with 26.3 ppg and seventh in assists at 7.3 apg. His value is not only determined simply by his numbers as the Cavaliers had a recent stretch of winning 19 out of 21 games. James can solidify his fifth MVP if his team can continue moving up in the standings because James will continue playing at his current high level.

Stephen Curry has emerged as a top star this year while his team has emerged as a title contender this season.

Stephen Curry has emerged as a top star this year while his team has emerged as a title contender this season.

Stephen Curry has helped the Golden State Warriors  reach the top of the Western Conference at this point of the season. Curry is currently fifth in scoring  with 23.8 ppg sixth in assists at 7.8 apg. Curry has seen his national profile grow in conjunction with the success of his team this season. At this time, the Warriors have the best record in the West at 47 – 12. If they can maintain their lead in the conference, it will greatly help Curry’s MVP case.

James Harden won the 6th man of the Year Award a few years ago while playing for the Thunder. Harden is hoping to add MVP to his mantle in Houston this year.

James Harden won the 6th man of the Year Award a few years ago while playing for the Thunder. Harden is hoping to add MVP to his mantle in Houston this year.

James Harden has been excellent this season for the Houston Rockets. His impact has  has been necessary with Dwight Howard’s many injuries. Harden is currently second in scoring with ppg 26.9 and tenth in assists at 7 apg. His scoring and playmaking have helped the Rockets stay in the hunt for home court advantage in the playoffs this season. If Harden can regain the scoring lead and help the Rockets finish as a top four seed in the West, it will drastically help his case for MVP.

Russell Westbrook's recent hot stretch has helped change perceptions that Westbrook is a selfish player. Westbrook may add regular season MVP to All-Star game MVP if continues playing at his current pace.

Russell Westbrook’s recent hot stretch has helped change perceptions that Westbrook is a selfish player. Westbrook may add regular season MVP to All-Star game MVP if continues playing at his current pace.

Russell Westbrook has helped keep the Oklahoma City Thunder’s playoff hopes alive with the prolonged absence of last season’s MVP Kevin Durant. Westbrook’s recent stretch of four consecutive triple-doubles has helped move him to the top of the NBA in scoring with 27 ppg and fourth in assists at 8.2 apg. The Thunder are still battling with the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans for the final playoff spot in a tough Western Conference. If Westbrook can maintain his high level of play and help the Thunder move up from the 8th seed, it would help his MVP case.

This season will be remembered for many things: James’ reunification in Cleveland, injuries to top stars, and the disappointment of some the NBA’s most esteemed franchises. However, the playoffs and MVP race will likely make this season remembered fondly for years to come.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a training/benefits consultant. Follow me @GloverIsGood on Twiiter.com. For business inquiries contact (646)309-1938.

NBA players’ exemplary financial maturity is a model for other athletes

Grant Hill

Grant Hill retired after a 19-year NBA career in 2013. Hill partnered with billionaire investors Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh to develop an ownership group to place a bid for the Los Angeles Clippers. Hill currently works for NBA TV/TNT.

By Charles Glover

NBA players are recognized for their talent on the basketball court but there is also a growing number of current and former NBA players who learned entrepreneurial lessons from their predecessors. This new breed of player-entrepreneurs know how to put what they learned in business to grow their personal brands and enhance their financial legacies.

Webber was the #1 overall draft pick in 1993. He retired after the 2008 season. Webber owns a restaurant, and an investment company. He currently works for NBA TV/TNT.

Webber was the #1 overall draft pick in 1993. He retired after the 2008 season. Webber owns a restaurant, and an investment company. He currently works for NBA TV/TNT.

Recent NBA retirees like Grant Hill and Chris Webber have learned their lessons and have an eye towards NBA ownership. Hill put together a group of investors that attempted to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers, while Webber put together a group that is hopeful of purchasing the Atlanta Hawks.

But despite the examples set by the player-entrepreneurs, there have been many accounts of professional athletes, and in particular some NBA players, who have blown their fortunes shortly after retiring from the game of basketball.

Rumeal Robinson

Rumeal Robinson last played in the NBA in 1997 after being the 10th overall draft pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. Robinson’s legal troubles include charges for bank fraud, bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and perjury.

There’s the tragic story of former NBA guard Rumeal Robinson who swindled his foster mother out of her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2003, Robinson tricked his foster mother into signing over the deed to her own home. He then transferred the property to people unknown to her. These thieves eventually forced the foster mother from her home of over 30 years.

Jason Caffey

Jason Caffey was taken 20th overall by the Chicago Bulls in 1995. He finished his NBA career in 2003. Caffey faced a brief jail stint for failure to pay child support.

There’s also the unfortunate story of former Chicago Bulls players Jason Caffey. Caffey eventually had to file for bankruptcy after having trouble paying child support for 10 children with 8 different mothers. Former NBA power forward Derrick Coleman also had to file for bankruptcy after having a series of investments go sour. Coleman’s former New Jersey Nets teammate Kenny Anderson has also faced serious financial hardship for many years following his NBA career.

Latrell Sprewell

Latrell Sprewell was the 24th overall draft pick of the Golden State Warriors in 1992. Sprewell was a four- time All-Star, making the team with the Warriors and New York Knicks. Sprewell endured many financial woes including a $200 million lawsuit against him from an ex-girlfriend and auctioning off his yacht to make his defaulted mortgage payments.

Latrell Sprewell, after turning down a three-year, $21 million extension from the Minnesota Timberwolves was quoted as saying “I’ve got my family to feed.” A few years later Sprewell’s home was in foreclosure and he had to sell his yacht as he experienced financial difficulties shortly after retiring.

Ray Williams

Ray Williams was the 10th overall draft pick of the New York Knicks in 1977. Williams finished his NBA career playing for the New Jersey Nets in 1987. Williams would experience extreme hardship in post-NBA career resulting in homelessness. Williams was a victim of a real estate scam and filed for bankruptcy in 1994. Williams died on March 22, 2013 of colon cancer in New York City at the age of 58.

Antoine Walker, formerly of the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, has also had to file for bankruptcy after earning over $100 million during his playing career. There was also the sobering tale of 10-year NBA veteran Ray Williams. Williams, who played for the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He ended up homeless, living out of his car in Florida, before dying at a relatively young age.

Russell Westbrook (i) and Kevin Durant (r).

In the summer of 2014, Russell Westbrook (l) had his Westbrook XO line debut at Barney’s New York and launched his own line of sunglasses. Kevin Durant (r) opened a restaurant in Oklahoma City in 2012, appeared in the 2012 children’s film “Thunderstruck,” and had a documentary about his life air on HBO in the summer of 2014.

Many of today’s NBA players have learned from both the cautionary tales and the impressive one. They new breed of player-entrepreneurs are making strides in taking care of their finances for their families’ future. The Oklahoma City Thunder have two dynamic All-Stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durrant has used his popularity to garner major endorsement deals and appearances in film and television. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook has taken his notoriety for style and turned it into an opportunity to earn through fashion. Westbrook not only has his own clothing line, as an extension through with his endorsement deal with the Jordan Brand, he also has his own brand of sunglasses.

Amar'e Stoudemire with the stars of Beyond the Lights.

(l – r) Writer/Director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, NBA Player/Producer, Amar’e Stoudemire, Co-stars of “Beyond the Lights,” Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Nate Parker.

Amar’e Stoudemire has taken some of his NBA earnings and translated it into a film production career that featured production credits on the recently released film “Beyond the Lights.” Stoudemire also has a clothing line and writes children’s books. Stoudemire’s New York Knicks teammate Carmelo Anthony has taken some of his NBA earnings to begin to prepare for his post-NBA career through the funding of tech companies that he hopes can eventually grow to be successful as over the next several years.

Chris Paul (l) and Blake Griffin (m) on the set with Jimmy Kimmel (r).

Chris Paul (l) and Blake Griffin (m) on the set with Jimmy Kimmel (r).

Blake Griffin and his Los Angeles Clippers teammate Chris Paul have taken their popularity and translated it into off the court opportunities as well, with Paul contributing handsomely to President Obama’s social initiative “My Brother’s Keeper,” which is designed to offer opportunities to Black and Latino boys.

LeBron James.

LeBron James is not only a minority owner of the Liverpool soccer club but has also expressed interest in teaming up with soccer star David Beckham to own a Major League Soccer (MLS) team in Miami.

Perhaps no NBA player has done more to build his own personal brand then Lebron James. James has not only had large endorsement deals but he also has co-ownership  of the Liverpool soccer club in England. James is already on record as stating that he wants to become a billionaire and he appears to be on his way.  Kobe Bryant is also creating waves with his own production studio, to make films.

Magic Johnson.

Magic Johnson’s sports ownership includes being a part of the majority ownership group of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Sparks. Johnson is also working to develop an expansion team in the MLS in the near future.

These current players seem to have taken the lead from two of the best 12 who ever graced a basketball court in Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Both Johnson and Jordan are owners of major sports teams. Johnson is the majority owner of the  group which purchased the  Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Sparks while Jordan is the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets.

Michael Jordan.

With the recent increase of his ownership stake in the Charlotte Hornets to 89%, Michael Jordan has had his personal value evaluated at over $1 billion.

Jordan and Johnson are phenomenal businessmen who provide a template for their contemporaries and future NBA stars, while sending the message that it is important to value themselves as professional commodities beyond the game of basketball. The example set by Jordan, Johnson, Hill, Weber and the current player-entrepreneurs is a strong reminder that it is important to prepare for life after basketball. Their examples offer a good mirror for other athletes to use and plot their future before their sports careers end..-Onpointpress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a management/employee training and benefits consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com. For business inquiries contact (646) 309–1938.

My Brother’s Keeper initiative expands with funding, support (Part II)

NBA Players Association president Chris Paul attended to announce the NBA's involvement in MBK and introduce President Obama to the crowd.

NBA Players Association President Chris Paul attended to announce the NBA’s involvement in My Brother’s Keeper (MBK ) and introduce President Obama to the crowd.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

On July 21, President Obama provided another update about the progress he has made in attracting new support for the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative, which was launched earlier this year. Several new partnerships were announced to demonstrate the growth of the initiative since it has been signed earlier this year. Among the most recognizable partners announced was the NBA, who teamed up with MENTOR, to announce a five-year-commitment to the initiative.

President Obama addressed the crowd to share updates on the My Brother's Keeper initiative.

President Obama addressed the crowd to share updates on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

NBA Players Association President Chris Paul, who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, attended the event and shared his views on the importance of the initiative. Paul’s statement before he introduced President Obama to the audience said:

“This is our opportunity to stand together as athletes, parents, mentors, and as leaders in our communities, to show our young men and boys of color with our actions that we are behind them and that their success matters.”

President Obama surrounded by participants in the My Brothers Keeper Initiative when it was initially launched.

President Obama surrounded by participants in the My Brothers Keeper Initiative when it was initially launched.

Some other notable partners announced were AT&T, The College Board, Citi Foundation, and Discovery Communications. In total, over $100 million is expected to be contributed by the growing list of partners to the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. That makes roughly $300 million committed towards providing services, mentorship, and opportunities through the MBK initiative.

President Obama shared his personal experience as he announced the growing list of collaborators  to the MBK initiative.

President Obama shared his personal experience as he announced the growing list of collaborators to the MBK initiative.

President Obama shared his personal experiences as a way to further demonstrate the necessity for the program:

“When I was in my teens, I didn’t have a father in the house. It took me a while to realize that I was angry about that, and I acted out in some ways. I was raised by a single mom. We didn’t have a lot in terms of wealth, although we had a lot of love in the house and my grandparents helped out. But despite their best efforts, sometimes I made some bad choices. I didn’t always take school as serious as I should have. I made excuses sometimes for misbehavior. The only difference between me and extraordinarily talented young men that I see all across the country is I was living in a pretty forgiving environment.

President Obama is joined by his adviser Valerie jarett and US Attorney Eric Holder in discussing the importance of My Brothers Keeper.

President Obama is joined by his adviser Valerie Jarrett and US Attorney Eric Holder in discussing the importance of My Brothers Keeper.

So that’s why, earlier this year, we launched what we call My Brother’s Keeper. My Brother’s Keeper isn’t some new, big government program. It’s actually a team effort. It’s all about a whole bunch of folks — educators, business leaders, faith leaders, foundations, government — all working together to give boys and young men of color the tools that they need to succeed and make sure that every young person can reach their potential. And so the reason that we’re here today is to announce some of the pledges that have already been made, some of the commitments that have already been made by a series of institutions that just give you a sense of the kind of progress and excitement that we’ve seen since we launched this initiative.”–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.