Kobe’s Farewell

20 years after his legendary career began in 1996, the great Kobe Bryant has decided this season will be his swansong year. Bryant, 37, posted an emotional message on The Players Tribune Sunday saying that although his heart and mind can still handle the NBA grind, his body has nothing left to give. Whether you’re a diehard Kobe fan or not, it’s immensely depressing to see such an amazing legacy come to its final chapter like this.

The Black Mamba is shooting an abysmal 67 of 220 (30.5%) from the floor this year, his worst ever. But it will not tarnish his amazing legacy.

17 All-Star selections, 11 All-NBA 1st Team selections, an MVP award, five championships, and two Olympic gold medals is merely scratching the surface of what Kobe has accomplished. He’s one of only four players in NBA history with 25,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, and 6,000 assists. The other three are Oscar Robertson, John Havlicek, and LeBron James.

His competitiveness was second to none. Many NBA greats consider Kobe to be the closest thing we’ve ever seen to Michael Jordan. Kobe is a winner. He always will be.

Byron Scott, the Lakers head coach, was shocked and depressed upon hearing the news. His words do a great job of summing up how many are feeling at this moment. “I’m just sad more than anything. Just sad more than anything. Somebody who I truly care about, have a lot of respect for. I think it’s always hard when greatness like Kobe decides to hang it up.”

Four and a half months is all we have left to cherish one of the very best of all time. Let’s make the most of it.

The King (And His Numbers) Has Returned

As the young NBA season continues, it’s important we remember not to look too much into certain trends that may be short-lived. We must remain cautious of overreactions, especially with us only having a small sample size for this NBA year. Streaks inevitably die down. Most trends have a short life-span. Obviously, Steph Curry won’t average over 33 points per game for an entire season (At least I think…).

However, even with only a small portion of the NBA season in the books so far, there are some inferences we can draw. The first three weeks of the year have been very telling of the year LeBron James may be set to have. James’ stats in his first five games compared to his most recent five are staggering.

Through the first week or so it looked as if James would really cruise through the regular season. It’s not like he needs another regular season MVP award anyways; he already has four at home. What James really wants this year is his third ring and, in particular, the first Cleveland pro sports championship in what will be 52 years. So since James needs to save his body for the postseason, many predicted his numbers would take a big dip. And they did.

Through the first five games, James was averaging a horrid (for him) 22.2 points per game while shooting 49 percent from the field. He had no 30 point performances, and didn’t even look he was trying at times early on. His usual 27-7-7 stat line looked like it may be a rarity for this year. But then LeBron played his next five games.

He’s been scorching the last week and half, putting up 31.8 points per game on 52 percent shooting. He’s had four games of 30 or more in the last five, and is the main reason the Cavaliers are 8-2 and leading the East right now. Through three weeks of the season now, LeBron’s numbers have been looking more LeBron-like. His averages are back up to 27, 6.8, and 6.4, and he even has an above-career-average 2 steals per game. He’s still not playing as many minutes as he used to, but that seems like a smart choice by he and Blatt. James will have plenty of heavy lifting to do come May and June, so keeping his body relatively fresh will be key.

All in all, it’s been a great start for LeBron and his Cavs. They’re winning games, and James has his numbers back to normal after a shaky start to his campaign that included a 12 point outing in Memphis.

Now all the king has to fix is his 61 percent free throw percentage…

Remembering Flip

As you may have heard by now, NBA legend Flip Saunders has sadly lost his fight against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and passed away at the age of 60. Saunders, who is 20th on the all-time wins list with 654, made an impact to the game in multiple ways, and his kind spirit will be genuinely missed by many. A myriad of former and current players and coaches have already come out with emotional messages via social media and interviews. Most notably, Saunders’ longtime player, Kevin Garnett posted a passionate picture on Facebook of him sitting in his coaches’ parking spot.

Many people who knew Flip saw him as a lighthearted man who always kept the mood light, even in the face of turmoil and adversity. It’s difficult to find people who have anything bad to say about the former coach. Saunders’ character is so strong it outshines his incredible coaching acumen that led an improbable Minnesota Timberwolves team to a Conference Finals appearance in 2004. He also coached the Detroit Pistons to three straight Conference Finals from ’06 to ’08.

As we enjoy NBA opening night, it is important that we keep that late, great Flip Saunders and his legacy in mind. He knew how to make the rigorous and grueling 82 game NBA season truly fun for everyone involved. Hopefully he will be watching the league he gave so much to tonight from a better place.

NBA Opening Night Preview

The 2015-2016 NBA season is almost upon us. Tomorrow night the basketball new year gets underway with a tripleheader headlined by the champion Golden State Warriors hosting the New Orleans Pelicans. It’s been 132 days since the Warriors won game six to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, but tomorrow night they will finally receive their rings as proof. Golden State looks to be a top favorite to win this year’s title as well as they returned every key player from last year’s run, sans David Lee. Tomorrow evening they welcome the Pelicans to the Bay Area as Anthony Davis and company look to build on a promising campaign last year. Davis led the league last year in Player Efficiency Rating with 30.8, and has the 7th highest PER rank of all time through a player’s first three years. A key storyline in this game is the return of Alvin Gentry. Gentry, now the Pelicans’ head coach, spent last year as the associate head coach for the Warriors. Certainly he will have mixed emotions as Gentry will receive his Warriors championship ring and then proceed to coach against them.

The other big game of the NBA opening night is also a playoff rematch from last year as the Chicago Bulls play host to the Cavaliers. For LeBron James and crew, health will be the big key all season long. James knows all too well what it means to have to shoulder a heavy load due to teammate injuries. He’s coming off a finals where he averaged 35.8 points, 8.8 assists, and 13.3 rebounds per game. After doing so, James became the first player in NBA Finals history to lead each team in all three categories. With James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, and J.R. Smith all resigned, the Cavs figure to be in the title race once again. For the Bulls it’s all about new head coach Fred Hoiberg and how much he can get out of this team that has been a regular playoff team the past seven years. If Derrick Rose can stay healthy, it may be these two teams in late May battling it out for the Eastern Conference crown.

I know where I’m going to be tomorrow night at eight; sitting on the couch and enjoying one of life’s most fun gifts. Basketball is back.