The 2013 NBA Finals were brilliant. All a reasonable fan could ask for when the series ended was more. Well, we got it.
Finals rematches don't come about too often, but the Basketball Gods blessed us this season by doling out another helping of Spurs vs. Heat. What makes this serving so rich is that the last course was basically perfect ... provided you aren't a heartbroken San Antonio fan. Last June, we got a compelling basketball series that focused almost entirely on basketball, a wonderful feat in today's media age. With loads of future Hall of Famers, stunning moments and seven games of drama, you couldn't really ask for more.
The question now is whether this edition will live up to that standard. In essence, that's a question for the Miami Heat, who don't seem to be quite as good as they were in 2013. Coming off of back-to-back titles, Miami took it easy this season. Dwyane Wade rested plenty, LeBron James put less effort into his defense and the team seemed totally content to get into the playoffs healthy, even at the expense of home court advantage.
And that's exactly what happened: Miami finished in the East's No. 2 spot and well behind a few West contenders in the standings, but ended up with a refreshed Wade and a healthy roster. The plan worked.
And it's for all the wrong reasons.
But the Spurs made sure to rest key players heavily too and still ended up with the NBA's best record. That's what makes San Antonio the favorites to win this series: the Spurs had the same goals as the Heat and still blew most opponents out of the water. That Miami is back in the Finals should tell us that the Playoff Heat are a different squad than the one we saw for about six months of regular season ball. But the Spurs just cut through the nasty West. San Antonio is better than they looked in the regular season too!
The best thing about the 2013 Finals was that the teams were so evenly matched that any single player on either squad could be the difference. And we're not just talking about the legends of the series, the Duncans, LeBrons, Wades and Parkers. Danny Green could be the difference. James Jones. Kawhi Leonard. Chris Andersen. When two teams match up well, every little thing matters. That makes for compelling basketball.
LeBron isn't used to being the underdog. The last time his team wasn't expected to win may have been in the 2007 Finals, when the Cavaliers faced the rampaging Spurs. San Antonio swept Cleveland easily.
San Antonio has talked about wanting revenge for last year's title loss to LeBron and the Heat. Perhaps they are missing that 2013 was LeBron's revenge for 2007. No one really cares about legacy all that much, but the result here could decide whether the Spurs are seen as a persistent foil to LeBron's reign or one of the Homerian challenges King James overcame in the end.
Regardless of what narrative springs from the loins of this series, the basketball itself figures to be beautiful and compelling. That's all we want in the end: something to make our heart flutter. Here's to the Spurs and the Heat, purveyors of sport magic and worthy champions.
Seth Rollins betrays The Shield and joins Evolution: Reasons to be Excited and Afraid
We've had some time to sleep on it (or at least, those of us who aren't vampires that live for the impassioned blood of pro wrestling fans), so it's time to take an analytical look at the break-up of The Hounds of Justice.
Oh, who am I kidding? SAY IT AIN'T SO, SETH!
Here are the reasons this mark is excited and afraid about a future with Seth Rollins aligned with Randy Orton and Triple H in Evolution against his former Shield-mates, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns.
On the one hand:
1) Those feelings that you're feeling.
So to create something where the dissolution of a team was both meaningful AND a surprise is pretty awesome.
2) Rollins works great as a heel, and this was one of the heelishly heel turns ever.
Prior to his debut as as a member of The Shield at Survivor Series 2012, I wasn't the world's biggest fan of the characters Colby Lopez had portrayed in the independents or in WWE.
With one exception...his heel championship run as Tyler Black in Ring of Honor (ROH) just prior to his departure for WWE.
That character came about because the ROH fans had labeled him a sellout when word of his contract with Stamford broke, and he claimed that they were just then revealing their true feelings. They had never appreciated him, so why should he look out for anyone but number one?
Solo babyface Seth Rollins was always kind of a dull affair. For those familiar with the current NXT product, he was more Adrian Neville than Sami Zayn. He's grown considerably as good guy within The Shield, but it's a good call to have his first work without Reigns and Ambrose on the main stage to be as a rudo.
3) Speaking of NXT, we're about to get some rematches of one of the greatest feuds in the history of its predecessor, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).
Go and seek out the feud between Rollins and Ambrose over the FCW15 title, especially the 30 minute blowoff from September of 2011. And their follow-up matches from the first half of 2012 over the Florida Heavyweight Championship.
You can thank me later.
It'll be fun to see Dean and Seth do it again with the alignments reversed.
Bonus excited: My word, is Roman Reigns going to get one of the loudest babyface pops of all-time when he gets his revenge on Seth (if they do this right).
On the other hand:
1) What if they don't do this right?
WWE's recent track record feels pretty solid right now, but that's largely the result of the story that culminated with Daniel Bryan's WWE World Heavyweight Championship win at WrestleMania 30. Outside of that and the peripheral angles that it created (of which it can be argued the Batista heel turn which lead to Evolution reforming which lead to last night is one of them), they remain the same hit and mostly miss operation that they've been since the fall of WCW.
So while I'm confident that the BIG story that results in Seth and Triple H getting their comeuppance - and turning Reigns into the next main event hero, a la Bryan - will work out, I'm less confident in other aspects. There's precedent for WWE to screw up all of them...
Do they have Dean Ambrose's story plotted out enough to avoid his spending time adrift as a babyface in the mid-card title scene? I believe that he's got too much skill and charisma to get lost, but it's been known to happen to similar performers (see: Ziggler, D.)
Can they position Randy Orton to not end up just as lost as he was before last Summer? The Viper runs at the top make him an extremely valuable tool in Creative's toolbox. Wins over him need to matter, like they did for Daniel Bryan...as opposed to the way he spent his last year-plus as a babyface adrift...kind of like Sheamus is now.
What's the long-term plan for Rollins? Young guys usually flourish as part of a villainous stable, but "what's next?" can be a bit of stumbling block. Heels are built to lose, and as we've seen time and time again, it's what they do when they get back up that makes the difference between a hot angle and a long career. Ask Wade Barrett, just now recovering from Nexus' defeats of four years ago,
2) Does this development elevate anyone?
Long-term, yes, this continues the capital-M making of The Shield. Making as many of the trio into long-term main eventers is a worthy and essential goal.
But it's also simply a re-arranging of guys that were already big stars. While they've only held lesser titles in the company, The Hounds of Justice have been around the WWE championship since their debut, and have been in one of the top two or three angles in the company for most of the last year.
Does this help with the fact that Bryan will probably still be facing Kane when he returns? Or that John Cena and Bray Wyatt may be (unnecessarily and potentially damagingly) heading into their fourth straight pay-per-view (PPV) against one another?
A large part of the reason that WWE scrambles when top stars leave or go down is because they focus so myopically on the big stars. It's great that everyone is talking about Rollins' turn this morning. But it would be even greater if they were working on the new star or moment we'll be buzzing about in six months or a year.
3) Dean Ambrose: hero of the people?
As talented as he is, Ambrose's performance lends itself to playing an unhinged, even dangerous, character. The multitude comparisons to Batman villain The Joker don't happen for no reason.
The last few months of face Shield has shown that he can do that, but I don't think it allows him to reach his full potential. I want to see solo Dean unleashed to corrupt the WWE's heroes and bring down the whole enterprise, not play Riggs to Roman's Murtaugh in an odd couple buddy flick.
And while an anti-hero face works in small doses, we already kind of have one right now. It would probably be easier to craft a fully realized heel from Ambrose now, with the lessons they've learned from how fans have embraced Wyatt as a "cool heel", than it would be to turn back the tide of audiences singing along to "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands".
Final Analysis: 85% excited, 15% afraid...100% MARKING OUT
How's everybody else feeling about last night's big twist, following twelve hours to process and twelve thousand words on cSs to consider?
For those who didn't see it :(
and Bae responded :(
Trust is completely dead to me. pic.twitter.com/ytvu6LSO1r— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) June 3, 2014
The end of the Donald Sterling saga is a victory for the NBA
Mark J. Terrill/AP
Merely a week after his attorney pledged a fight "to the bloody end" to keep the Clippers, Donald Sterling has bloodlessly dropped his lawsuit against the NBA. The NBA Board of Governors is expected to approve former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who last week reached a deal to buy the Clippers for $2 billion, as the next Clippers owner. Donald and Shelly Sterling, who together own the Clippers through a family trust, will split the $2 billion. According to an estimate by Robert Raiola, a senior manager in the Sports & Entertainment Group of the accounting firm O'Connor Davies, LLP, approximately $662 million of the $2 billion will be paid to the I.R.S. and California Franchise Tax Board in capital gains taxes.
Sterling's decision ends an extraordinary controversy that began about five weeks ago, when TMZ.com published a recording of Sterling making racist comments to an acquaintance, V. Stiviano, about an Instagram photo in which she posed with Magic Johnson. The recording sparked an international controversy for the NBA. Players threatened a boycott, corporate sponsors dropped the Clippers, and President Obama, along with other leaders, expressed outrage at Sterling's remarks. The controversy was like none before it, and it occurred just two months after Adam Silver succeeded David Stern as NBA commissioner.
Decisive legal win for NBA and validation of league strategy
The NBA outmaneuvered Donald Sterling at every step, making it virtually impossible for him to wage an effective legal fight. The league's immediate response to the TMZ story was to conduct an investigation and verify the authenticity of the recording. The NBA retained former assistant U.S. attorney David Anders to lead this investigation, with Silver, an attorney by trade, and NBA executive vice president and general counsel Rick Buchanan overseeing the operation from league headquarters. Anders obtained crucial evidence that authenticated both the recording and Sterling's voice, and he received direct testimony from Stiviano. Stiviano's statements were crucial. They ensured the NBA would not have to rely exclusively on the recording, which may have been created unlawfully under California law. Even though the NBA likely possessed a clear legal right to use the recording, the testimony from Stiviano was powerful backup evidence.
Silver's move to suspend Sterling for life and recommend the Board of Governors end Sterling's ownership was bold and exceeded what many expected. In hindsight, Silver's decisive course of action was the right one, as NBA owners were put on immediate notice the commissioner wanted them to vote out Sterling. Any goodwill Sterling might have obtained over the years from friendships with fellow owners was likely outweighed by Silver's clear directive. Sterling was quickly in the hole.
The NBA then built a compelling legal case against Sterling and adroitly used the league's constitution. To execute this strategy, the league quickly pivoted from expressing outrage over Sterling's words to highlighting the damage Sterling caused the NBA. The NBA made this shift in rhetoric to quash concerns, most notably from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, that Sterling was receiving the harshest punishment possible over fundamentally private comments. Sterling, the league contended, was being punished not for his words but for the deleterious effects of those words on the NBA. The league also assured NBA owners that ousting Sterling would not create a precedent to oust owners, especially since the league constitution was designed to make such an ouster very difficult: a super-majority of three-quarters (22 of the 29 other ownership groups) is required.
This line of argument also helped the NBA mollify serious criticism for the league's past failures to oust Sterling over housing discrimination, an obviously far more serious matter than racist comments made in private. The league's emphasis on impact helped NBA officials talk through the topic of Sterling's housing discrimination. Sterling, officials noted, was able to settle housing discrimination lawsuits before they caused public outrage and thus before they harmed the NBA. Sterling's remarks to Stiviano, in contrast, caused public outrage and negatively impacted the league.
The NBA also used the bevy of legal documents Sterling, an attorney by trade, signed with the league. Two of those documents, the franchise agreement and the joint venture agreement, contained covenants prohibiting Sterling from taking positions adverse to the NBA. Breach of those covenants enabled the NBA to argue Sterling violated Article 13(d), which empowers the league to oust an owner from violating contractual obligations. The league was aware it could interpret the constitution broadly. Any legal challenge by Sterling to the NBA's interpretation of its own constitution would have required Sterling to prove the NBA acted "arbitrarily and capriciously." This is a deferential standard that would have been extremely forgiving to NBA interpretation.
Any fleeting chance Sterling may have held to win at least eight of the 29 ownership votes was forfeited in his bizarre and caustic interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. While Sterling assured Cooper he was sorry for his remarks to Stiviano, he viciously and inexplicably attacked the character of Magic Johnson. If Sterling thought his fellow owners would appreciate an ad hominen assault on Johnson, he was sorely mistaken.
The league catches a break with a cooperative and astute Shelly Sterling
Until the last two weeks, Shelly Sterling was thought to be a potential roadblock for the NBA to remove her husband as owner. Shelly Sterling owns half of the Clippers through a family trust, but she is a non-controlling owner. Donald Sterling, in contrast, is the team's controlling owner, which gives him the power to sell the Clippers with NBA approval. There was some speculation Shelly Sterling, who has been implicated in her own controversies over the years, might use her interest in the Clippers to block a sale. It was also thought she might divorce her husband of 59 years and, since California is a community property state, demand a judge conduct a fair market valuation of the Clippers. Such a valuation could have taken months or longer. Finally, Shelly Sterling's suggestion to Barbara Walters that her husband may be suffering early signs of dementia was initially viewed as an attempt to cast the NBA as trying to oust an elderly man who is no longer responsible for his choice of words.
Instead, Shelly Sterling, with Donald Sterling's apparent knowledge if not his blessing, sought out offers for the Clippers. She did so while recognizing the NBA Board of Governors was going to vote out Donald -- and by legal extension her -- on June 2. She wisely created a brief but intense bidding war for the Clippers, with bidders having to put in their best offer as their only bid. Ballmer's $2 billion offer topped the list, but there were several other bids that far exceeded expectations for the Clippers, which were valued last year at $500 million. Shelly Sterling also knew Ballmer would be well-received by the NBA, which had favorably screened Ballmer last year when he tried to buy the Sacramento Kings. Ballmer is also friendly with many NBA owners and is a lock to be approved by the Board of Governors.
Shelly Sterling still faced an obstacle: how could she sell the Clippers while her husband was uncertain about selling the team? Her attorneys believed she could take over the family trust because doctors had apparently declared Donald Sterling mentally incompetent due to dementia. It remains unclear if a probate court ever approved such a declaration, and we may never find out.
Donald Sterling's lawsuit had almost no chance of success
Shelly Sterling's declaration her husband was incompetent was initially met with hostility by Donald Sterling's attorney, Max Blecher, who denied his client was in anyway incapable of making decisions. This view was cemented when Donald Sterling filed a lawsuit last Friday against the NBA, arguing the league was unlawfully forcing him out.
Donald Sterling's lawsuit set the table for a long and potentially historic fight with the NBA, but sources confirm the league was decidedly unimpressed by Sterling's legal arguments. Sterling built a case around three basic areas of law that were difficult to conceive as carrying much weight. Sterling argued California privacy law blocked the NBA from using the recording, but the NBA was aware the law only extended to parties to the recording, not third parties like the NBA. Sterling then argued the NBA misinterpreted its own constitution, but the NBA knew it would be afforded wide discretion by a judge in interpreting its own document, especially since Sterling himself contractually consented to league discretion. Sterling lastly raised the always-threatening antitrust law, but the league knew Sterling could likely prove no antitrust injury. Sterling's ouster from the Clippers would likely help, not hurt, the Clippers' standing with consumers.
The NBA was worried even less by Sterling's lawsuit because Shelly Sterling, on behalf of herself and the Sterling family trust, indemnified the NBA from all costs related to Donald Sterling suing the league. In essence, then, if Donald Sterling defeated the NBA in court, he would effectively be paying half of the damages awarded to him: the trust, which he co-owns, and his wife, with whom he shares half of their wealth under California community property law, would be paying him.
The one issue that may have undermined the NBA's legal strategy was if Donald Sterling contested to his wife's account of his mental competence. He could have sued her, arguing she lacked the legal right to take over the Sterling family trust. If a court found she lacked the legal capacity to sell the team, then her sale of the Clippers to Ballmer would have been jeopardized. But apparently Donald Sterling, who is 80 years old, reasoned that such a battle was not worth his time, energy and expense, especially when compared to a $2 billion payout.
Silver's newfound power will help him with other issues
Silver's ouster of the notoriously litigious Donald Sterling with essentially no resistance, while simultaneously raising the value of all NBA teams through the Clippers' $2 billion price tag, was masterful. It cements his authority over the NBA, and Silver will likely use his newfound capital to pursue his original agenda items, with raising the NBA's age limit to 20 years old at the top of the list. Raising the age limit will require negotiation with the National Basketball Players' Association once the union selects a new executive director. But Silver has built goodwill with prominent NBA players, including Lebron James (who ironically entered the NBA out of high school), and that should help him obtain his goals, including an elevated age limit.
Michael McCann is a Massachusetts attorney and the founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. He is also the distinguished visiting Hall of Fame Professor of Law at Mississippi College School of Law.
Jurgen Klinsmann says the United States can't win the World Cup in 2014
n many ways, 2014 is a transitional year for the United States men’s national team. For the first time since France 1998, the team will be without American icon Landon Donovan, who made his World Cup debut in 2002 but failed to make the final 23-man roster for Brazil. The team headed to South America, filled with strong central midfielders, is adapting to a a new 4-4-2 diamond formation to better suit the roster. The United States faces the Group of Death, having been drawn in a group with superpowers Germany and Portugal, and World Cup rival Ghana.
Klinsmann’s willingness to part with a legend like Donovan sends a clear message, though: This is his team, and he’s focused on the future, not the present. Seven of the United States’ 23 players heading to Brazil are under the age of 25, and only six outfield players are over the age of 30. Klinsmann noted that most pro sports franchises tend to rely upon established stars, many of whom have reached their peak and have no room for growth. With the national team, he’s doing the opposite.
“Kobe Bryant, for example — why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?”
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Who do u guys have in the NBA Finals ? and WWE fans what do you think of Seth's swerve ??