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–

 

Congrats to Allen Iverson on Hall of Fame induction

Allen Iverson is one of the 10 selected to the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Allen Iverson is one of the 10 selected to the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Allen Iverson (A.I.) was one of 10 people selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame today. Other notables include Yao Ming, Sheryl Swoopes,Tom Izzo, Jerry Reinsdorf and Shaquille O’neal. All are very deserving but none captured the hearts of the masses like Iverson.

LeBron James was asked about the basketball phenomenon ahead of Iverson’s retirement ceremony in Philadelphia in 2013 and had this to say:

AI“They say he was 6 feet, but A.I. was like 5-10½. Do we even want to say 160? 170 [pounds]? Do we even want to give him that much weight? And he played like a 6-8 2-guard. He was one of the greatest finishers we’ve ever seen. You could never question his heart. Ever. He gave it his all. A.I. was like my second-favorite player growing up, after [Michael Jordan] MJ.”

It is clear that Iverson is revered by fans and former colleagues. Comments from some of today’s best players confirm the respect he has earned. Dwyane Wade added these comments recently:

Iverson has received a great deal of praise from many who appreciated the way he played the game.

Iverson has received a great deal of praise from many who appreciated the way he played the game.

“My favorite moment is getting a chance to play against him for the first time in preseason, it was in Puerto Rico. I got a chance to be around him the night before and it was a cool experience for me. I got a chance to play with him in the Olympics after my rookie year. I got to be around him as well. He’s just a real cool guy, someone who came in and just loved the game of basketball, gave everything he had to it.”

Iverson was a personal favorite going back to his days as a member of the Georgetown Hoyas and has been as influential off the court as he was on the court. Iverson’s Reebok sneaker line has been one of the most successful of all time. Congratulations to all of the Hall of Fame inductees, especially Allen Iverson.–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.

BREAKING NEWS: LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James has decided to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers.

LeBron James has decided to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

In what seems like a WWE plot, LeBron James announced in a first-person letter on SI.com that he plans to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers next season. The terms of his contract have yet to be released. In the statement, James explains his decision:

“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball, I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now…I’m coming home.The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys. I’ve talked to some of them…Nothing will ever change what we accomplished.”

Heat fans at least have two championships to remember their brief period of the "Big Three" (l-r) Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh.

Heat fans at least have two championships to remember their brief period of the “Big Three” (l-r) Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh.

James has informed the Miami Heat and his former teammates (and friends) Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade of his choice. This decision will have lasting effects throughout the NBA and has brought even more excitement to the Cleveland area.–OnPointPress.net–

NBA Finals feature great players, role model fathers

Miami Heat players (l - r) Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade stand during the Pledge of Allegiance with their children prior to a home game.

Miami Heat players (l – r) Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade stand during the Pledge of Allegiance with their children prior to a home game.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The NBA Finals are tied 1 – 1 as the series heads to Miami for the pivotal game 3. The star players in this series have garnered a great deal of praise for their play en route to the championship. As Father’s Day approaches, this writer wants to acknowledge the excellence these players have also displayed in raising their children.

LeBron James has been public with his affection for his sons, LeBron Jr. (r) and Bryce (l) , including them in commercials and featuring them in social media consistently.

LeBron James has been public with his affection for his sons, LeBron Jr. (r) and Bryce (l) , including them in commercials and featuring them in social media consistently.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are not only known for their excellence on the court, but for how frequently they share, show, and discuss their children. James has had his sons LeBron, Jr. and Bryce, featured prominently on his social media accounts as well as featured in commercials with him. James has made it clear that his father’s absence in his life motivates him. James, sharing on Instagram, said: “Like, Wow, Dad, you know what, I don’t know you, I have no idea who you are, but because of you is part of the reason I am [the person I am] today.”

Tim Duncan sits on the bench before game 1 of this year's NBA Finals with daughter Sydney and son

Tim Duncan sits on the bench before game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals with daughter Sydney and son Draven.

The Spurs are not lead by a public star who is featured in many commercials, rather, Tim Duncan is known for his stoic demeanor and exceptional basketball skills. Though Duncan keeps much more of his life private than James does, he also exhibits a tight bond with his children Sydney and Draven. Duncan has not made many public statements about his personal life, but he makes it clear that he wants to have his children around him whenever possible.

Dwyane Wade with his two oldest sons, Zaire (l) and Zion (r).

Dwyane Wade with his two oldest sons, Zaire (l) and Zion (r).

The Heat’s Dwyane Wade can echo Duncan’s sentiments for privacy after a marriage ends as Wade went through a very publicized custody battle with his ex-wife and mother of his two sons Zaire and Zion. Wade was awarded full custody of his sons in 2011 and stated after hearing the news: “For me, it shows a lot of people that you need to fight to be in your kids’ lives sometimes.” Wade recently had a third son, Xavier, in 2013, and maintains that fatherhood is the most important part of his life.

A photograph of Ginobili holding his younger twins Dante and Nicola.

A photograph of Ginobili holding his younger twins Dante and Nicola.

Meanwhile in San Antonio, Manu Ginobili has had a recent addition to his family. Shortly after the first game in this year’s playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Ginobili’s wife gave birth to the couple’s third son, Luca. Ginobili did not have much time to rest after the birth, heading directly to practice from the hospital. He seemed moved by the experience, sharing with reporters: “I think the baby thing is very unique…When I saw the head for the first time, it’s hard to contain tears and stuff. It’s an incredible moment.” Ginobili is now a father of three sons, with Luca joining twins Dante and Nicola.

The San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich (l) is viewed in a patriarchal role for the organization. The same can be said for the Heat organization and Pat Riley (r).

The San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich (l) is viewed in a patriarchal role by the organization. The same can be said for the Heat organization and Pat Riley (r).

These are just a few of the great fathers in the NBA and in professional sports. It seems as if the NBA organizations that made it to the Finals have gone to great lengths to create a family-like atmosphere that encompasses some wonderful role models. The patriarchal figures for each organization, Pat Riley for the Heat and Gregg Popovich for the Spurs, appear to emphasize strength of character as much as they preach about strength of body. As Father’s Day nears, let us recognize the positive examples of fatherhood being put forth during the NBA Finals this year.–OnPointPress.net–

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

What to expect in the Spurs vs. Heat NBA Finals rematch

The NBA FInals start June 5, 2014 at 9pm with the Spurs hosting the Heat. Featured above (l - r) Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

The NBA FInals start June 5, 2014 at 9 p.m. with the Spurs hosting the Heat. Featured above (l – r) Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) will begin the Finals on Thursday night at 9 p.m.. The matchup, pitting the Miami Heat versus the San Antonio Spurs, will be a rematch of last year’s Finals. The Spurs’ big three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker will have a chance to avenge their loss to the Heat’s big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Heat won that tightly-contested series in 7 games last year, and it looks as if these two teams will again be evenly matched. But this time around the Spurs, in Duncan’s words want to get rid of “the bad taste in our mouths” that was the direct result of their epic loss to the Heat.

The best player for each team, Tim Duncan (l) and LeBron James (r) are going to need to be excellent throughout the series to lead their team to a victory.

The best player for each team, Tim Duncan (l) and LeBron James (r) are going to need to be excellent throughout the series to lead their team to a victory.

The Spurs will have home court advantage this time around, but this year the NBA will revert to the 2-2-1-1-1 home/away split that is typically used throughout the playoffs. Last year’s 2-3-2 home/away split allowed the Heat to have games 6 and 7 on their home court to come back and win the title. These teams are pretty much the same as they were in terms of composition and style last year so they will be extremely familiar with each other.

The Larry O'Brien trophy is awarded to the team that wins the NBA Finals. Will a NY team win this award in my lifetime?

The Larry O’Brien trophy is awarded to the team that wins the NBA Finals. Will a NY team win this award in my lifetime?

Both teams have some minor injury issues to worry about going into the Finals series but both should be close to full strength come Thursday night. For the Spurs to win this time, they will have to defend the perimeter, make their three point shots, and score in the paint often. If the Spurs are successful, it would be the franchise’s 5th title, all during the Tim Duncan era, since 1998.

The Spurs look to add the franchises 5th title while the Heat are seeking their franchises 4th.

The Spurs look to add the franchise’s 5th title while the Heat are seeking their franchise’s 4th.

Conversely, the Heat will need to make their three point shots, defend the interior well, and pressure the ball to cause turnovers, in order to win the series again. The Heat have been to 4 consecutive Finals and are looking to win 3 straight times and the 4th overall for the Miami franchise. If they are able to stay healthy throughout the series, I believe they will accomplish that feat and join the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Boston Celtics as the only franchises to win 3 consecutive championships in NBA history.

But count on the Spurs to offer a solid fight because they are on a mission to redeem their costly loss from a year ago. One thing is certain, the NBA Finals will be must-see television, with two teams determined to secure a powerful legacy.–OnPointPress.net–

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