Tag Archives: LeBron James

Must Be the Shoes

A young boy is down game point in a play-to-eleven pickup game in his neighborhood park.  On what might be his last defensive stand, he stretches with all his might to block a right-handed layup for the win.

Using every inch at his disposal, he just taps the ball with his fingertips, gathers it up and takes it out to the three-point line.

Knowing it’s going to take an astonishing comeback to earn bragging rights among his friends, the boy drops down to one knee, pulls back the tongue of his right sneaker and whispers, “Please let me be like Mike.”

The Los Angeles Knights haven’t been the same since Calvin tore his magical shoes open!

We’ve all either dreamed, laughed at or lived one of these Calvin Cambridge moments.  As crazy as it seems, we like to believe there is some fragment of our favorite athlete’s talent embedded within the rubber soles caressing  our feet.

With every pair of shoes comes a sense of confidence, a belief that springing past the competition (yes, a Nike Shox pun) is within the realm of possibility.

This spiritual shoe connection is something any athlete dreams for, but as the most important law of economics goes, “Nothing is free.”

On Tuesday that proved to be truer than ever, as the Wall Street Journal came out  with a report that the Nike LeBron X sneakers will cost $315 at full price, with a stripped down version still emptying the pockets at $180.

The shoes are indeed top-of-the-line, but at some point one has to wonder how much profit Nike and LeBron are taking away from this business venture.  An even bigger unknown is how much negative press the newly crowned champ will endure for overpriced shoes after just having been let out of America’s doghouse.

But the simple fact is that recently, shoe models of high profile athletes have been expensive, and unsurprisingly so.  Decades ago this was not the case, but we now live in a world in which giving in to consumer trends and materialism somehow defines social status.

Sadly, the urge to be current isn’t going away any time soon.  In the meantime, I think it’s time to pull up a chair, keep the New Era sticker securely fastened to the bill of your hat and reminisce over some memorable shoes.

2008 Puma Cell Meio

Puma Cell Meio: Usain Bolt (2008)

Retail: ~$130

To say these shoes were popular after the Beijing Olympics is to say The Fonz was just sort of cool.  A version of the part Jamaican, part gold medal shoes was worn by Lighting himself during a 100 meter final in which he broke stride with 15 meters to go and still posted a world record time of 9.69 seconds.  To Nike founder Phil Knight, Bolt was “the one that got away.”

KD II Creamsicles

Nike KD II Creamsicle: Kevin Durant (2010)

Retail:

2010: $95

Now: $200+

After the release of Durant’s first shoe model, the basketball world was abuzz with excitement over what the newest version would look like.  The world was first graced with the presence of these loud kicks in a nationally televised game against the Dallas Mavericks (a game in which Durant did not play particularly well) during the 2009-2010 season and has since seen many KD models, both in mass and limited release.  Unused original Creamsicles are now considered few and far between and thus the market price for them has increased.

Air Jordan Derek Jeter Mid-Top

Air Jordan Derek Jeter Mid (2007)-

Retail: $90

Nobody aside from Derek Jeter could’ve had the kind of marketability to make baseball cleats stylish.  Think about it—cleats are meant to get dirty, whereas basketball shoes are often taken out then promptly wrapped in tissue paper and neurotically stowed away as collectors’ items.  This shoe and probably Alex Rodriguez’s first Nike Shox model revolutionized the way popular baseball cleats were consumed. Now baseball fans can tune in to Sunday Night Baseball and see Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia wearing size 15 Air Jordan XI Concord cleats.

Adidas Stan Smith II (just one of many)

Adidas Stan Smith II (1971)-

Retail (present, adjusted for inflation): $50 or less

If you’ve lived, chances are you’ve seen this shoe. Despite not being the world’s flashiest creation, the Adidas mainstay has gotten the job done on the tennis court and the training field for over 40 years .   The stripeless (an Adidas rarity) creation has sold over 30 million times since 1971 and is currently available in eight different colors and styles.  Not bad for an old piece of leather, huh?  Consider the Stan Smith II the “Godfather” of modern-day tennis shoes.

Adidas Crazy 8 (Formerly known as the KB8)

Adidas Crazy 8: Kobe Bryant (1998, 2005)-

Retail:

1998: $100+

Now: $225+

Making its debut with Kobe as the Adidas KB8 at the 1998 All-Star Game, this shoe has been a classic ever since.  It disappeared for a while in 2002 when Kobe left for promises of better marketing (see his Nike Black Mamba short film starring Bruce Willis and Kanye West) and pay with Nike, but was re-released by Adidas as the “Crazy 8” 2005 to rival Nike’s sales.  It worked.  Different color combinations using the Crazy 8 design are still worn by UCLA, Kansas and Baylor basketball players, among others.

Note: Retail prices are averaged where no singular price could be found.  Current prices  reflect eBay and other for-sale values, as many of these shoes are no longer produced.  At original release, more expensive, deluxe versions of each shoe were sold to consumers but not recorded here.  For the Stan Smith II’s, a market equivalent of $50-ish has been maintained since its original release.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars (1917)
  • Air Jordan 1 (1985)
  • Adidas AdiPower Predator TRX FG: Kaka (New: 2012)
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Taking A Look Back At The Stellar 2003 NBA Draft

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It’s been nine years to the date, June 26, 2003, from one of the best NBA drafts of all time. Here’s a look at the top nine players from that draft, in the order they were drafted, including career updates and what scouts/analysts thought of them going into the draft.

No. 1, Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James

The expectations were sky high for James from the get-go as ‘The Next Jordan’ labels started in middle school. One NBA Scout called him the “Best high school player I’ve ever seen. He is a freak.” after only his sophomore season in high school. James has lived up to the hype, with three NBA regular season MVP’s, six All-NBA First team selections, and 32 triple doubles, fourth all time, so far.

No. 3, Denver Nuggets – Carmelo Anthony

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Not sure if Carmelo’s a freshman in college or a 6th grader…

Going into the draft, NBA Scouts were drooling over Anthony’s scoring ability. He hasn’t let them down, developing into possibly the NBA’s purest scorer. Scouts did call him out for his perimeter defense pre-draft, and nine years later, Melo hasn’t improved much. Still, Anthony figures to have a spot in the NBA Hall of Fame, even if he doesn’t win an NBA Championship in his career.

No. 4, Toronto Raptors – Chris Bosh

NBA draft analysts thought the talent pool went very thin after the top three, but many players selected fourth or after went onto become NBA All-Stars like Chris Bosh. He has developed into a 20-10 player, and with another championship or two, should be a Hall of Famer.

No. 5, Miami Heat – Dwayne Wade

Scouts thought Wade was too short (6-4) to play shooting guard in the NBA. Pat Riley wasn’t sure on Wade, and wanted Chris Kaman on draft night. Wisely though, he opened up the decision to a vote by his scouting staff and one name kept coming up: Dwayne Wade. So Miami surprised many and took Wade early at No. 5. (projected to go as early as No. 8) Wade led Miami to the 2005 NBA Championship in his third year in league, and won NBA Finals MVP that year.

No. 6, Los Angeles Clippers – Chris Kaman

Just the Clippers’ luck, they pick right after four future Hall of Famers are selected. Still Kaman developed into a solid NBA big man with career averages of 11.9 points per game and 8.3 points per game, with one All-Star appearance.

No. 7, Chicago Bulls – Kirk Hinrich

ESPN’s Jay Bilas listed Kirk Hinrich above Dwayne Wade in his ‘Best Players Available’ list before the draft. So much for that. Hinrich though has developed into a solid point guard and exactly what he said he would be when EA Sports asked him, “The team that drafts you – what are they going to get?” before the draft.

 “They’re going to get a hard worker, a competitor, and a guy that’s going to come in and try to immediately help their team. A total team player who is very coachable and just cares about one thing, and that’s winning,” Hinrich said.

Hinrich has career averages of 12.5 ppg, 5.4 apg, and 37.8% three point percentage and would be a good veteran free agent pick up for many teams this offseason.

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Somewhere Mark Jackson was caught saying, “Mama, there goes that man!”

No. 18, New Orleans Hornets – David West

ESPN’s Chad Ford gave the Hornets a ‘C+’ in his draft day grades primarily for this pick. West though was a draft day steal at No. 18. He played the role of Chris Paul’s sidekick to perfection when New Orleans earned the No. 2 seed in the West. In nine seasons, he has made two All-Star games and has career averages of 16 ppg and 7.2 rpg.

No. 29, Dallas Mavericks – Josh Howard

The Mavericks hit big when they landed Howard at No. 29, who was talented enough to go much higher. From 2005 – 2009, he averaged over 16 ppg, made an All-Star appearance, and helped Dallas make an NBA Finals run.

No. 47, Utah Jazz – Mo Williams

Most second round draft picks are out of the league in a few years. Williams was an absolute steal at No. 47 who no one saw coming. He has developed into a solid point guard so far, with an All-Star appearance and career averages of 13.8 ppg and 4.9 apg.

Honorable Mentions:      

No. 8, Milwaukee Bucks – T.J. Ford, No. 21, Atlanta Hawks – Boris Diaw, No. 27, Memphis Grizzlies (traded to Boston Celtics) – Kendrick Perkins, No. 28, San Antonio Spurs (traded to Phoenix Suns) – Leandro Barbosa, No. 31, Cleveland Cavaliers – Jason Kapono

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Pressure Sinks Heat, Will it Drown Them?

“I never thought we would be in this situation,” said Dwyane Wade after the Heat’s game five loss.

No one did. Wade didn’t make any excuses for his team’s current situation.

He could have pointed to he absence of Chris Bosh for four games. He could have called out his teammates for missing open shots down the stretch.

The Celtics, who no one gave a chance, are one win away from the NBA Finals.

He did neither. He shouldn’t have anyway. For the Heat, in year two of the “Super Team Experiment”, there are no more excuses.

Last year they were given a pass. It was the Big Three’s first year together so even a collapse in the Finals, where the Heat had a 15 point 4th quarter lead in game 2 and a 1-0 series lead, went by the wayside.

This year there is no other option besides winning an NBA Championship.

“Our focus is to fight any kind of noise from the outside, or any human condition,” said Coach Eric Spolestra after game 5.

Shouldn’t Spolestra’s main focus be finding a way to slow Kevin Garnett? What about better offensive execution in crunchtime situations?

No, instead his biggest concern is shielding this team from what it can’t handle: the pressure.

Lebron James hasn’t fared too well in playoff elimintion games. If history is to tell the tale, then the house will come crashing down on the Heat in Boston.

For two years the media have bombarded the Heat by overdramatizing every loss, critizing every late game mishap to the fullest, and rarely giving them credit for success they have had.

Basketball fans everywhere, aside from true Heat fans, have joined together to root for this experiment to fail.

The weight of the expectations has become this team’s Achilles’ heel.

Spolestra knows it too. That’s why as Miami prepares for the elimination game, he has sheltered them from the media.

Still nothing he does will stop the swirling thoughts destined to give the Heat player’s a few sleepless nights before game six.

The thought that this could be the end of the Big Three? It’s been two years for this experiment, and the initial surreal expectations have yet to even be touched on the surface.

How about the fact that this could be the last hoorah for Spolestra? With Pat Riley potentially waiting in the wing, Spolestra knows a loss to the Celtics is as good as a pink slip.

What about Lebron reminiscing on his victimizing failures before in similar situations?

Eric Spolestra may be coaching his final game for the Miami Heat tonight.

Two years ago with Cleveland, Lebron played possibly his worst game ever in Cleveland’s game 5 loss to Boston, and was called for ‘tanking the game’ after.

Down 3-2, Lebron and the Cavaliers fell short in an elmination game in Boston.

Last year in the NBA Finals, Miami was down 3-2 with an elimination game on their home floor. They too bit the dust as the Mavericks celebrated on their home floor.

Game six in Boston will be biggest game of the Big Three Era so far. The electricity of the TD Gardon crowd in Boston will be like no other.  The pressure will be higher than ever before.

The whole world will be watching to see whether Miami will crumble under the weight of expecations that have been mounting since day 1.

If that isn’t enough for the Heat, they still have a game to play against the Celtics.

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Down 2-1, Celtics Still Have Upper Hand on Heat

Quietly the murmurs stirred from Boston. Contrary to what many believed, the Boston Celtics wanted to play the Miami Heat.

Not just in Game 1, or Game 2, or even in Game 3, but from the get go. When the seeding for the NBA playoffs became official, the Celtics seemed determined to have another showdown with the Heat.

The bitterness of being dismantled by Miami in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals, 4-1, never quite left their taste buds.

When last season’s MVP, Derrick Rose, went down for the Chicago Bulls in their first playoff game, the road to Miami became more reality than fantasy.

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Chris Bosh, the routinely overshadowed member of the Big Three, has been sorely missed by Miami

The chips continued to play in the Celtics’ favor as the Philadelphia 76ers advanced, ensuring Boston would have home court advantage again.

Then the biggest chip of all fell their way: Chris Bosh, Miami’s only consistent offensive big man, got injured. He hasn’t returned to the court in over two weeks, and will miss game four, if not more games.

Boston, though down 2-1 in the series, has Miami right where they want them.

Rajon Rondo has developed his game beyond being just a playmaker. He has become the scorer the Celtics have needed, averaging 27 points per game in the series.

At age 36, a rejuvenated Kevin Garnett is playing his best basketball since his days in Minnesota. He is tied for the most double-doubles in the playoffs, with who else but Rondo.

Miami has no answer for these two superstars.

When James switches to guard Rondo, it leaves an undersized Miami team vulnerable to offensive rebounds and Garnett more room to operate.

Even with James helping in the paint, no one on Miami beside Bosh has the length to stop Garnett’s tear.

Yet Garnett is chipping in much more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game in the playoffs for Boston.

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Some people dissapprove of Kevin Garnett’s “bully-like” demeanor on the court, but it’s just what his team needs to beat Miami

His renewed grit and toughness are the motor behind the Celtics’ playoff run. His desire to bully his opponents on the court, gives Boston the confidence and swagger it needs to beat Miami.

Thru three games so far, the Celtics have never acted like underdogs. Neither have they acknowledged it. They have gone nose to nose with the Heat.

At the end of game 2, Rondo was seen jeering at Lebron James as he defended the three-time MVP on his attempted game winning shot as regulation ended.

James missed. Even though he shook Rondo on defense to get the open look, he couldn’t shake him out of his head.

Though Boston lost that game, and are down 2-1 in the series, they know they could just as easily be up 2-1. The Celtics took game three behind ‘desperation basketball’ but they won’t need that heading into game four tomorrow.

Instead they’ll be playing their typical ‘bully basketball.’

Boston knows they have their superstars, in Rondo and Garnett, clicking at the right time. They know they have their raucous home crowd behind them.

Even more, they know all the chips are on their side of the table, and it’s their turn to roll the dice.

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12 NBA Players And How They Chose Their Jersey Number

6 8 23 9 37 0 7 3 85 45…To me and you, these are just numbers. To athletes, one of these numbers might just be their jersey number, and that “number” is never just a number.

How do athletes pick this “number”? For many, it means more than just their birthday, or their favorite month, their number holds a special meaning to them.

Here are some NBA players, and why they picked their jersey number: 

Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards (‘03 –‘10), #0

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Gilbert Arenas, also known as “Agent Zero”, wore his jersey number like a chip on his shoulder.

At the University of Arizona, Arenas wasn’t able to pick number 25, his high school number, because it was retired. So to prove his doubters wrong, Arenas’ picked number zero and it was his number until he left Washington.

“Zero is the number of minutes people predicted I would play my freshman year at Arizona,” said Arenas…“I decided to go with it because I love proving people wrong.”

Arenas’ averaged 32.1 minutes per game as a freshman at Arizona.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder, #0

Westbrook on why he wears number zero,

You go with the zero when you’ve been through something and you are looking to get a new beginning. It helps you get going again. It helps you get the swag back.”

In high school, Westbrook’s only offer from a top tier school was UCLA. Aside from that, his main offers were from Creighton, San Diego, and Kent State. Westbrook never forgot that disrespect, eventually taking UCLA and the NBA by storm.

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers, #3

Chris Paul wears the number three because his dad and his brother, who have the same initials CP, were CP1 and CP2, so he wanted to be CP3.

Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat, #3

Wade, who is deeply Christian, chose number three because the Trinity, a principle of Christianity, has three parts.

Lebron James, Miami Heat, #6

Lebron James took No. 6 in honor of Julius Erving.

James on why he chose the number six,

“My second-favorite player was Julius Erving, and he wore No. 6,” James said. “I wore 32 in high school because Dr. J wore it at first. My first child was born on Oct. 6, it’s my Olympic number, and my second child was born in June.”

While in Cleveland, James wore number 23 because of his favorite player, Michael Jordan. Here’s why he switched,

“I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I’m starting a petition, and I’ve got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I’m not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it.”

*Note to Lebron James: Just because you’re not going to do something, it doesn’t mean everybody else shouldn’t do it either. I mean if that were true, then nobody would have any NBA Championships.

Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, #12

Howard chose the number 12 as a reversal of his idol Kevin Garnett, who wore 21 during the prime of his career in Minnesota. It must have been tough for Howard to get punched by his idol though.

Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz, #20 Hayward chose the number 20 in part because of Manu Ginobili, who wears the same number. Hayward on his idol,

“He’s one of those guys I looked up to when I was growing up,” Hayward said…  “I tried to emulate some of the stuff that he did and put it into my game because he’s a great player.”

Shawn Marion, Phoenix Suns (’99 –’08), #31

Marion grew up as a fan of the Reggie Miller, and chose his number because of him. It’s ironic how Marion, who has one of the worst shooting strokes in the NBA, looked up to Reggie Miller, who has one of the best shooting strokes in league history.

Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers, #33

Here’s what Granger tweeted on why he wears number 33,

“It’s because when I was 9 or so Scottie Pippen reached up and touched my hand at a bulls game. Been #33 since.”

Ron Artest, Los Angeles Lakers (’09 –’10), #37

While wearing #37, Artest helped the Lakers to the NBA Title in his first season with the team.

Artest chose number 37 to honor Michael Jackson whose album, “Thriller”, spent 37 weeks atop the pop charts.

Derek Fisher, Oklahoma City Thunder, #37

Derek Fisher on his number switch, from #2 with the Lakers to #37 with the Thunder,

“(My age) seemed to be a negative thing for so long, especially this season. It was a negative thing I was 37….I figured since everybody likes to throw my age around in negative conversations, I’d just go put it out there and let everybody know from the beginning, I am 37, but I think I can do some great things to help this team,” Fisher said.

Throwback Edition: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, #23

Jordan idolized his older brother, Larry, who wore number 45. But when Jordan got to high school, his brother had already taken number 45. So he halved it to 22.5 and rounded up to 23.

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Celtics-Heat Preview: What to Watch For

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The Celtics and the Heat, the past two Eastern Conference champions, will face each other in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Rajon Rondo defied logic in the final minutes of Boston’s 85-75 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday which earned them a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. Rondo, well known as perhaps the league’s worst-shooting point guard (He shot 23% from three and 60% from the line this season; for a point of reference, Sacramento’s sweet shooting Chuck Hayes is a career 61% foul shooter), had been struggling with inconsistent focus the entire game, but up 3 with 2:10 left, Rondo swished through a three-pointer from a good two feet behind the line to seal the deal for the Celtics.

Now heading into a series with the Miami Heat, a team featuring the two hottest players this postseason in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, Rondo and the Celtics may need some more of that magic in what could be the aging squad’s final shot at another title. But from the Heat’s side, Boston is no pushover themselves, with a rejuvenated Kevin Garnett leading the way. Here are a few key topics that could decide who will represent the East in the NBA Finals.

1. Dealing with injuries

The Heat are prepared to play this series without the help of power forward Chris Bosh, who is out indefinitely with a strained abdominal muscle. His absence clearly complicates things for Miami, particularly on defense.

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Chri Bosh’s injury could set up Kevin Garnett for a monster series.

Garnett has been playing like a man possessed this postseason and is putting up numbers reminiscent of his T-Wolves years, averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds. So with Bosh out, Miami has to decide who to guard KG.

One option is shifting LeBron to Power Forward, as they initially did when Bosh went down. James, however, claimed banging in the post was too heavy a workload for him. Having James, arguably the league’s best perimeter defender, on Garnett would also leave the task of guarding Paul Pierce up to a weaker defender. Ultimately, Miami will likely keep LeBron on Pierce and hope Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, and Ronny Turiaf can keep KG in check.

Boston has an injury problem of their own which, while not as major a concern as Miami’s, coud still have an impact on the series. Avery Bradley, the Celtic’s top perimeter defender who would likely have guarded Wade, will miss the remainder of the postseason after having surgery on his shoulder.

Ray Allen will have to pick up Bradley’s duties, and while Allen did a decent defensive job against Philadelphia, the Heat have a much more potent offense than the 76ers.

2. Star power

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After scoring 41 points on 68% shooting to close out the Pacers, Dwyane Wade is entering the series against the Celtics red hot.

The Big 3 vs. The Heatles. The Boston 3 Party vs. The Miami Thrice. The 3 Amigos vs. The Super Friends. This series will have about as much star power and terrible nicknames as is possible.

While the Celtics’ “Big Three” get the title, Rondo has really become the team’s top player, especially in the playoffs where he has 9 career triple-doubles. His performance to close out the Philadelphia series (7 straight points in the last four minutes) exemplifies how much of an impact he can make.

Even with Bosh’s return questionable, the tandem of James and Wade quite possibly trumps all four of the top Celtics combined. Even with his 2-13, 5 point dud in game 3, Wade still managed to average 26 points a game throughout the series with the Pacers. James, meanwhile, managed to top that averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.

3. Defense wins championships

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KG and the Celtics face an uphill battle if they hope to relive their 2008 glory.

Despite the offensive skill and marquee names on both teams, don’t expect many high scoring games. The Celtics and Heat are numbers 1 and 2 respectively in the points allowed category during the playoffs, both giving up less than 86 points a game. This series won’t be won by who scores the most points, but by who gives up the least.

Prediction: Miami in 6.

Wade and James are just too athletic for the older Celtics to keep up with and are coming into the series on such a hot streak that they’ll be tough to stop. The Celtics’ defense and experience will give them a chance though. As Kevin Garnett said, “Anything is possible.”

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