Thank you, Kobe Bryant

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There’s a first for everything, I suppose, and this is truly a first for me.  Kobe’s been on my sports fan radar since the early-’90’s and not until I woke up this morning did I ever come close to feeling the need to thank him for anything.

Yet there it was, first on the Sports Illustrated Instagram page, and soon followed by ESPN’s IG page and many others:

“Don’t debate what can’t be definitively won by anyone.” That one sentence amidst his tweet supposedly paying homage to LeBron and Michael (while shamelessly inserting himself into the GOAT discussion) totally made my morning.

Okay, can we just start with the fact that Kobe’s a clown? He’s actually a clown with an extreme lack of self-awareness. I’m sure his ludicrous tweet may have been prompted by several sycophants in his inner circle whispering in his ear that he’s part of the “greatest” discussion, but COME ON! On my scorecard I can make a case for him not even making the Top 10.

Previously I’ve debated whether LeBron has passed Michael on my list as the Greatest NBA-er of All-Time, and I’m still grappling with that one.  It’s a legitimate question at this point, although I must admit to being taken aback when Sir Charles put LBJ 6th.

But when I ponder the topic of Greatest Basketball Player Ever, Kobe Bryant — doesn’t…even…come…up.  The three centers do for sure.  Wilt, Kareem and Russell. Oscar Robertson does.  I can even make a strong argument that Magic and Larry precede Kobe on the list (they certainly did more for the game and the league than Kobe ever did).

That puts him 9th already, and that’s without me even working hard at justifying who else might belong ahead of him. Elgin? Elvin Hayes (hah, that one would really piss Kobe off, but take a look at the Big E’s stats if you have a minute)?  Stockton or Malone? Jerry “The Logo” West? Even Havlicek (I practically spit on my keyboard typing that one, but to me it’s really not all that far fetched) warrants a mention in the same breath. And what about Shaq? Kobe was merely Robin to his Batman on those first three title winners in L.A. that cemented Big Chief Triangle’s legacy.

Sure, Kobe will point to his five titles (as a matter of fact, he already did that in his ridiculously self-promoting, missing the limelight, adult in need of attention tweet), but c’mon again!  As noted above, for his first three rings he was barely above a role player riding Shaq’s coattails (Shaq was head and shoulders the best player in the league for those three seasons), so Kobe really just earned two as a leading man.  Great yes, but not enough to dignify his self-proclaimed contention for GOAT.

And besides, if it’s number of titles that define the GOAT, then how about Derek Fisher?  He won five, too, yet I haven’t seen Fish inserting himself into the GOAT discussion this morning.  But maybe Fish is living more comfortably in the relative anonymity of retirement (after having elbow-dropped my Knicks into their latest state of disfunction) than Kobe is.

Or what about Robert “Big Shot Bob” Horry?  Horry won seven rings! Where’s his tweet?  Robert Horry — clearly the greatest — stop the debate right there!

So thank you again, Kobe, for providing me inspiration on a Monday morning.  Now you can return to that over-promoted ESPN pay-per-view channel that nobody watches where you break down game tape for up and coming AAU ballers.  We’ll look forward to further gauging the level of your over-inflated sense of self as the finals progress.

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Sorry, but I can’t resist.  I’m not on twitter, but if I were, I would definitely be compelled, following my proud reread and edit of today’s blog post, to put to rest the debate, once and for all, pertaining to the GOAT discussion around us literary icons who reside at the pinnacle of the world of the written word. My totally sincere and objective tweet would read something like the following:

“We can read one without tearing down the other. I love those two guys, and without their influence I wouldn’t so frequently find myself in the midst of this argument. Don’t debate what can’t be definitively won by anyone. Those dudes are dead anyway, so let’s just give them their props, too, and move on.”  

Kobe Bryant — in contention for Top 20 of the all-time greatest NBA-ers — take a bow.

Now back to the NBA playoffs (and the Isle of Me). Last night’s Cavs-Celts Game 7 tipped off at 2:30 a.m. Belgium time. I rolled over this morning and immediately reached for my phone hoping that my powers of prognostication had been restored by a resounding Celtics home victory at Boston Garden.  I was disappointed, but not all that surprised, to see on the Yahoo Sports app that somehow LeBron had found a way to advance to yet another Finals. The momentary ego jolt of another wrong SportsAttic call was quickly replaced by an extreme case of deja vu.

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Back in the ’70’s it seemed like the Knicks and the Baltimore Bullets faced off every year in the playoffs.  Fortunately for young me, with the exception of 1971 (when the Bullets somehow came into MSG and won a Game 7 to advance to the Finals, and an extreme ass-kicking that awaited them from the Kareem/Oscar Bucks), the Knicks always seemed to get the better of these matchups.

In those days I was rarely allowed to stay up late enough to witness the game’s conclusion, so one of my parents would write the final score on a slip of paper and leave it under my pillow. This was a delightful routine, particularly in the championship season of 1973 (much less so in ’74 when the hated Celtics put an end to the Knicks “three Finals appearances in four years” run), when every day seemed to start with the sun shining a little brighter following another Knicks win over big bad Wes Unseld and the boys from Baltimore.

Whether it’s an iPhone or a once-folded slip of paper, there’s something to be said for a world where the first thing a kid (even a 50-something one) wants to know upon waking up in the morning is the score of the big game from the night before.  The world of sports — keeping it simple, keeping it real.

Obviously the true cause of this morning’s negative outcome was my own self-induced dose of bad karma.  First of all, my selecting the Celtics to win anything immediately set the NBA Gods to conspiring against me. Second, compounding that foolishness by betting against LeBron in a big game when there weren’t huge stars on the other side to counteract him was simply stupidity on my part (the Dirk Nowitzki-led Mavs back in 2011 did somehow buck that trend — but who saw that one coming?).  Yup, just plain stupid and I admit it.

Now I’m stuck with the Cavs back again on one side of the finals, with a total conundrum facing me in terms of who survives out west. Should Houston salvage a little bit of my prediction pride and hold on at home and advance to the Finals, I’ll feel slightly good about having picked them (only “slightly good” because I waffled like a sugar-infused middle schooler on this pick).

The problem is, I’m totally uninterested in seeing a Rockets-Cavs final.  I don’t care for either James Harden or CP3, as both strike me as cry babies who buckle when things get tight (Harden passively, Paul usually in a fit of poor sportsmanship). But my disinterest is mostly because I see LeBron leading another victory parade should Cleveland face the Rockets, which I’m not sure I can stomach leading into the inevitable “where will the King land” free agency storyline. Too much LeBron already and I see no one on the Rockets roster capable of defending him or even keeping the series close.

On the other side of that conundrum coin, a Warriors win in Houston tonight provides me with a much more desirable finals matchup. Also an easier rooting scenario, where I can jump (with considerable trepidation) onto the local Dubs bandwagon and cheer hard against LeBron. And I’ll be doing so with a high likelihood that the Warriors take him down in four or five games. But doing so will extract a cost. The expense being a further  acceleration of the sinking of my personal prediction ship, which has been taking on water for weeks now (yes, you are still welcome Caps fans).

Factoring in all of these critical data points I’m going to have to take a deep breath and root on the Warriors tonight.  As painful as it will be being on the wrong side of another postseason prediction, there will always be another big sporting event out there for me to gaze into my crystal ball, but this is it for the 2018 NBA playoffs and I just can’t stomach seeing The King as the last man standing.

Besides I still have Swaggy P to root against, or for, depending on how you view it.  I’m currently handicapping the “Swaggy P Poison” index thusly:

*Nick “Swaggy P” Young sees the floor for fewer than five minutes — Dubs win big.

*Swaggy exceeds five (mostly garbage time) minutes, but doesn’t exceed 10 — Warriors in a close one.

*Young sees meaningful minutes (something on the order of either team within 10 in the 4th quarter with Swaggy P on the floor) — look for the Rockets posing for celebratory selfies in caps and t-shirts postgame.

Could Steve Kerr really not see the danger of having this guy anywhere in the arena for a Game 7 on the road?  He’s got to.  Here’s betting on a DNP-Coach’s Decision for Swaggy P tonight (actually 3:00 a.m. Belgium time tomorrow morning), with Kerr further cementing his legacy as one of the most perceptive coaches in NBA history (and please, one last time, I humbly appeal to the NBA Gods — do NOT put Swaggy P in a Knicks uniform in 2018-19).

A few final notes across the sports spectrum:

*Hey Mets fans — is Sandy Alderson secretly bummed he signed Jose Bautista now that Hanley Ramirez is available? Seems like signing Hanley would create even higher hopes among the Mets faithful with an even greater likelihood of him crashing and burning. Just sayin’.

*Is it too soon for me to hate Gleyber Torres?  Kid’s hitting like .550 and homers every game.  Oh yeah, decent to above-average glove and doesn’t act like a horse’s ass.  Man I can’t stand the Yankees organization.  Wasn’t Aaron Judge enough? Back to back years with new pinstripe phenoms, both possessing Monument Park potential?  And I only waited 20 years for Jeter and Rivera to go away.

*More Mets fan pain. Wasn’t Amed Rosario supposed to be the next Francisco Lindor?  Why can’t we ever get awesome, young position players out of our farm system?  Who’s this kid at Double-A for us that’s hitting bombs and plays first base? I can’t remember his name, but I’m certain he’ll change the trajectory of our franchise. Right? Like Ike Davis did.  And Lucas Duda…

*The Mets went from having eight viable starting pitchers at the beginning of Spring Training to being unsure who starts the second game of today’s double-header.  And it’s still May, folks. Talk about the present day “Spahn and Sain and pray for Rain.”  Can anyone say “Jake and Thor and pray for a compete game?” Yeah, I know it doesn’t rhyme, but our pen is atrocious. Plus we are the Mets.  No rhymes.

*Any Mariners fans out there?  They’ve won three straight since I wrote off their chances for success this year.  The SportsAttic may have just won you guys the pennant.

Happy Memorial Day everybody!

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