Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. It is finally time for LeBron James (pictured above) to win his first ring.
By Josh Kramer
Mark it down. The third time will be the charm for the King. Call this the championship of threes. It is LeBron’s third appearance in the NBA Finals. James is coming off of his third MVP award. While Kevin Durant is coming off his third consecutive scoring title. Each team is led by an outstanding “Big Three.” Plus the pressure seems to be three times what it was in the conference finals on the King. As much as I and the rest of the world hate to admit it, it is time for LeBron to acquire a ring. Oklahoma City is a great team. They have proved that since December. The Thunder are young, exciting, and have outstanding overall team chemistry. But Miami won’t be denied this time. Besides, if OKC somehow pulls off the impossible, there may be a nuclear like explosion in South Beach.
On paper, this matchup is about as even as it gets. That is why I have been calling it a dream matchup for months now. Both teams finished second in their respective conference. The Heat won 46 games and had an average scoring margin of six points per game. OKC won 47 games and won by an average of 6.1 points per game. Both teams are led by an outstanding “Big Three.” And they split in their regular season battles. It is safe to say that on paper, not too much is revealed.
One key in OKC’s favor is the fact that they have home-court advantage. The Heat were nearly unbeatable at home this year, but showed their fair share of flaws when traveling. Next, the last time an MVP faced off with an NBA scoring champion in the finals was 1997. The scoring champ (Jordan) led his team to a victory over the MVP (Malone). But Miami also played in the NBA finals last year, while OKC did not. In addition, the Heat did better than the Thunder overall this year when their “Big Three” were healthy. OKC’s “Big Three” is not quite at the level of Miami’s outstanding trifecta, though they are very close. The agony of last year’s defeat will be a major driving force for the Heat. Expectations in Miami are so high, that if the Heat lose, it will be as if they had a worse year than the Charlotte Bobcats did. If the Thunder are to lose, there will be disappointment, but also a ton of pride in a very successful season. Losing is not an option for Miami.
Finally, Durant is playing great, but nobody is even on the same stratosphere as LeBron James right now. The guy is playing like a hybrid of Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, and Magic Johnson. As his teammates said after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron has that look in his eyes. He won’t be denied. He can’t be denied. It is time for the King to finally take his seat on the throne. Continue reading
Posted in Miscellaneous
Tagged Bjorn Borg, Chad Ochocinco, Charlotte Bobcats, Cincinnati Bengals, French Open, Geno Auriemma, Karl Malone, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Manny Pacquiao, Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat, Michael Jordan, NBA, New England Patriots, Novak Djokovic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Oscar Robertson, Rafael Nadal, Ryan Tannehill
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Manu Ginobli (pictured above) stole the show in Game 1. Will OKC slow down the streaking Spurs tonight?
By Josh Kramer
Continue to doubt the Spurs. I know that I have. 19 victories in a row is no fluke. Not to mention that nine of them have occurred during playoff basketball. Through three quarters on Sunday night, it looked as if the Thunder were on their way to making a major statement, and negating San Antonio’s home-court advantage. Instead, San Antonio came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth court, denying OKC a major opportunity. Sunday was as prime example of why no game is every over until the final horn sounds. Now history is against the Thunder who lost in the conference finals last year as well.
First of all, winners of Game 1 in the conference finals have gone on to win the series 80% of the time. Secondly, San Antonio became the fourth team in NBA history to start the playoffs with nine straight victories. All of the previous three advanced to the NBA finals with two taking home the championship. Thirdly, the Thunder outplayed the Spurs for well over three/fourths of the game and still lost. Scott Brooks has to be scratching his head still as to what happened late Sunday night.
Manu Ginobli was the difference maker as he has been for the better part of a decade now. How many players can come off the bench and influence a playoff basketball game the way he can? Not many, though James Harden, OKC’s bench star, can really play. Also, OKC has to find a way to get some point production out of their bigs. The Spurs cleaned up in the paint, outscoring the Thunder 50 to 26.
Despite all of my rambling, I still like the Thunder to take this series in the end. There is something about this young and exciting group out of OKC that has really caught my eye. The “Big Three” of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden will not be denied two years in a row. They are far too good and determined to let that happen. Look for an inspired effort tonight from Russell Westbrook after a less than stellar Game 1 performance. The majority of the country wants a Thunder versus Heat finals matchup. With a victory tonight, the Thunder will really increase the likelihood of this dream matchup coming to fruition. Continue reading
Posted in Miscellaneous
Tagged Barry Bonds, Bjorn Borg, French Open, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Kings, Manu Ginobli, Mark McGwire, Martin Brodeur, Miami Heat, NBA, New Jersey Devils, NHL, Novak Djokovic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Russell Westbrook, San Antonio Spurs, San Francisco Giants, Scott Brooks, St. Louis Cardinals, Stanley Cup
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Rafael Nadal (pictured above) is looking to make history in Roland Garros with a seventh French Open title.
By Josh Kramer
Paris. Roland Garros. Philippe Chatrier. It is time for the year’s second Grand Slam. Though this is not typically a favorite tournament for Americans (last Men’s winner was Andre Agassi in 1999, Women’s winner was Serena Williams in 2002), people love parity in sports. This is the closest thing that the tennis world has to March Madness. Before Rafael Nadal came along as the “Clay Court King,” the French Open had nine different men’s champions in a ten-year period. Despite Rafa’s dominance, this tournament is always scintillating as the clay court specialist come out in full force and enjoy their time in the sun. On the Women’s side, there have been four different winners the past four years. Strap in, and get ready for a little taste of Paris.
Champion: Rafael Nadal
How could you pick against this guy in Paris? He is the “Clay-Court King” for a reason. This will be the year that the one they call “Rafa” surpasses Bjorn Borg as the greatest clay court player of all time with his seventh title at Roland Garros. Coming off of a huge victory against Novak Djokovic in Rome, not even the world number one holds a mental edge on the star from Majorca. If I were Bjorn Borg, I would give Djokovic and Federer some serious advice on how to thwart Nadal on the clay. Continue reading
Posted in Tennis
Tagged Andre Agassi, Andy Murray, Bjorn Borg, French Open, Li Na, Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Roland Garros, Samantha Stosur, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka
Photo courtesy of nikeblog.com. Rafael Nadal (pictured above) continues to show why he is the “King of Clay.”
By Toni Headley
Toni Headley is a tennis expert who worked at ESPN for 10 years and has been a freelance writer there for the past 2 years. She also previously worked at CBS Sports and has covered every major tennis tournament in the world multiple times.
Rafael Nadal has begun the clay court season in spectacular fashion by winning his first two tournaments without dropping a set. First he defended his Monte Carlo title at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters – 1000, where he won his 8th consecutive title, his first title since winning the French Open last year. He is 44-1 in Monte Carlo with his only loss coming during his debut in 2003 in the round of 16. Not only did he defend his title in Monte Carlo, but he was finally able to best his arch-rival Novak Djokovic, whom he had lost to in seven finals dating back to last year. Nadal is the only player to win at least 1 ATP Masters – 1000 title for eight consecutive years. In doing so he won is 20th Masters – 1000 trophy, which broke a tie with Roger Federer.
At his home club, the “Real Club Tenis Barcelona,” Nadal won his 7th consecutive title and his 35th straight match on the 10th anniversary of his professional debut. This makes Nadal the only player in the open era to have won two tournaments seven times (Monte Carlo & Barcelona). He is 35-1 in Barcelona with his only loss coming in his debut in 2003 in the 2nd round. He defeated fellow Spaniard David Ferrer for the 4th time in the championship match (2008, 2009, 2011, & 2012); he did not defend his title in 2010. Nadal has now won 77 straight matches on clay in the month of April to go along with his 15 titles. This is how you earn the title “King of Clay”. Continue reading
Photo courtesy of bleedingeaglegreen.com. Plaxico Burress (pictured above) has been released from prison. How will his comeback end up?
By Josh Kramer
It has been a wild past 48 hours. So many big time stories going on. Plaxico, Tressel, French Open finale, playoffs, and more. The following are the main items that have caught my attention.
The second coming of Michael Vick?
If you are not living in a box, you have probably heard something about Plaxico Burress finally being released from prison. After 21 months, the former Super Bowl champion, and one of the League’s most electric receivers will finally have an opportunity to finish his career off right. Or it at least appears that way. Continue reading
Posted in Miscellaneous
Tagged Bjorn Borg, French Open, Jim Tressel, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Miami Dolphins, Michael Vick, Michigan Wolverines, New York Giants, NFL, Ohio State Buckeyes, Pittsburgh Steelers, Plaxico Burress, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Roger Goodell, Roland Garros, Super Bowl
Photo courtesy of LiveTennisGuide.com.
By Josh Kramer
I cannot believe that a good portion of the tennis world doubted Rafa heading into this year’s version of Roland Garros. I cannot believe that I doubted Rafa heading into this year’s French Open. On Day 1 of this year’s French, upstart American John Isner pushed him to the brink of elimination in a 5-set thriller. Nadal survived and conquered as he always does. Djokovic was the odds on favorite for many, after this near first round disaster (and rightfully so). Ever heard the expression, “Fuel to the fire?” The talk of the media and the doubters would normally give a guy motivation to prove the doubters wrong. Also losing two clay court finals to the 2nd ranked player in the world all in the last six weeks might have a normal guy doubting himself. Rafa is not a your typical guy though. And no fuel was needed to light his fire. Continue reading
The 39th ranked player in the world John Isner (pictured above) pushed Clay Court King Rafael Nadal to the brink of elimination today. It would have been an upset for the ages.
Earlier today, Rafael Nadal, the uncrowned King of Roland Garros, was pushed to 5 sets in his first round match by American, John Isner. Nadal has won the French in five of his six appearances at the Grand Slam Event. He has turned Roland Garros into his 2nd home. Court Philippe Chatrier has become his playground of sorts. They may as well give Nadal a throne to sit on during changeovers.
In his quest toward tying Bjorn Borg for the most French Open titles ever at six, he was pushed to the brink in his first round match. Surprising yes. Shocking? No. The French Open, year in and year out, is the most unpredictable of the year’s 4 Grand Slam Tournaments for a reason. Clay court tennis is grueling. It is highly unpredictable. And it is highly entertaining. Continue reading
Posted in Tennis
Tagged Bjorn Borg, Butler Bulldogs, Francesca Schiavone, French Open, Georgia Bulldogs, Grand Slam, John Isner, March Madness, Nicolas Mahut, Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros, Tomas Berdych, Wimbledon