Sports Editor: @NickiBroussard
(HHUCIT Magazine – Sport’s Corner) - The date is Thursday, May 13, 2010. TD Garden, Boston. Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals. Celtics lead the series 3-2. The final minutes of the 4th quarter wind down as the Boston Celtics pull off one of the biggest upsets (but not really) in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Lebron James’ 27 Points on 8/21 shooting, 19 Rebounds, and 10 assist did not come close to matching what Lebron fans had seen all season long. His demeanor read “I give up,” James immediately snatched off his Cavs jersey before he reached the end of the tunnel to the locker room.
The big question was would that be the last time Ohio would see Lebron play for the state that raised him, crowned him KING, and the city that thrived off of his national attention? The flood gates of free agency rumors and madness began.
NBA fans followed every NBA Executive move this summer, as the most highly anticipated NBA offseason unfolded. Among the eligible free agents were Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudamire, and Joe Johnson.
As Laker fans celebrated a repeat, the rest of the world looked ahead to July 1st, the first day of NBA free agency. Teams such as the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, and New Jersey Nets romanced these players during private meeting with hopes of finding true love.
It all played out like a NBA reality TV show, everyone had forgot about the oil leaking in the Gulf during the weeks leading up to “The Decision,” in which Lebron James told the world and Cleveland in the most unapologetic way –
“This fall I’m going to take my talent to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
We all watched in disbelief. Miami Heat GM Pat Riley had used his ultra appeal along with the help of his superstar “free agent” Dwayne Wade to romance two more All-Star free agents to South Beach. Lebron James at point/forward, Chris Bosh at the four, and Dwayne Wade at the two, never mind the fact that Miami had to clear their entire roster to free up cap space, Pat Riley had done the easy part.
Besides being the most hated man in Cleveland and most of Ohio, New York and Chicago fans took their bitter loss in the free agency madness and for once shared the same likeness -both hating Miami. Many felt it was bad for basketball.
It was obvious that during James’ one-hour “The Decision,” special Nike had no parts of that decision. You didn’t see the normal Nike commercials, or even one swoosh during the entire telecast.
It’s hard to convince people to “witness” your Batman run for help and turn into Robin. His brand was changed forever.
It had happened in sports before, with Brett Favre leaving the Packers for the Jets, Alex Rodriguez leaving the Texas Rangers for the Yankees, and even in basketball when Kevin Garnett left Minnesota to join All-Stars Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. But this was different, Lebron had left the very state that birth him, leaving a very bitter after taste. It was almost as if Lebron was saying Cleveland you should be thankful I gave you so many memories, but I rather be on someone else’s team (literally).
It seems that the entire time leading up to free agency, James was only considering leaving Cleveland if he was offered a deal he couldn’t refuse. Teaming up with Bosh and going to Chicago to join Noah and Rose seems pretty enticing; however, Miami remained the only team that could sign three free agents at max.
Even after acquiring role players such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mike Miller, and resigning Udonis Haslem Miami still has work ahead. To put in the words of Bulls Center Joakim Noah
“It’s gonna be real Hollywood down there, but at the end of the day you got to go out there and play.”
My very premature NBA predictions:
Western Conference Champions:
The LA Lakers are out for a three peat in Phil Jackson’s last run at coaching. Expect nothing short of greatness. Kobe and Company finally have the motivation they need to play like the champions they are all season long.
Eastern Conference Champions:
Things have got really interesting in the off season out East. The Chicago Bulls are looking like the Chicago Jazz with the acquisitions of Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, and Kyle Kover joining a young and talented roster including All-Star point guard Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
The Celtics are essentially bringing back the same set of players that made it to the Finals minus Rasheed Wallace who retired after this past season.
The Hawks resigned Joe Johnson for an insane amount of money, let’s hope they go deep in the playoffs for the sake of someone’s front office job.
That leaves us with the new “Big Three” in Miami. On paper they look good enough to win a few championships; however Kobe Bryant is still a Laker and Phil Jackson has not retired yet.
In the NFL the most significant move in the offseason was Eagles’ 12 year veteran QB Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins. McNabb will be the star in Mike Shanahan’s movie this season; however, the big question is will McNabb be able to add wins with a mediocre offensive line, and his injury prone, aging body? McNabb has played a full season in just one of the past six years due to injuries.
In the AFC the Ravens are favored to be in Dallas come February since bringing on three-time Pro Bowl WR Anquan Boldin from the Arizona Cardinals. The Ravens, who advanced to the second round of the AFC playoffs last year will look for QB Joe Flacco, and MLB Ray Lewis to lead the Ravens pass the defending AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts led by Payton Manning.
The Colts show no signs of slowing down, winning at least 12 games each season since 2003. The New York Jets were busy in the offseason. This Jets team is under the radar but could easily beat any of the top teams in the AFC. The defensive toughness of the Jets in addition to acquiring veteran RB LaDainian Tomlinson, CB Antonia Cromartie, DE Jason Taylor, and first round pick Kyle Wilson are an AFC contender for sure.
In the NFC look for the Minnesota Vikings to come back strong with a big “IF” Brett Favre returns for a final season. Favre went through surgery for a knee injury he suffered during the NFC championship game where they lost in overtime to the Saints.
The Vikings are essentially bringing back the same core, in addition to backup RB in dynamic draftee Toby Gerhart of Stanford. The 2010-2011 NFL Season Kicks off on September 9 when the Minnesota Vikings take on the defending champion New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
My preseason picks for the NFL:
Baltimore Ravens have made solid playoff runs the past two years, can they finally get over the hump and make it back to the Super Bowl since their title in 2000?
Minnesota Vikings should be back this season for revenge after their devastating loss to the Saints in overtime last season. Look for RB Adrian Peterson, WR Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin to make major contributions to the final chapter of Brett Favre’s legacy.