Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:24 am
Edited on: November 1, 2011 11:33 am
Posted by Royce Young
Photo via KT King
How did Kevin Durant, two-time scoring champ, NBA All-Star and global superstar in general choose to spend his Halloween? On campus at Oklahoma State playing some flag football.
Seriously. (To see video of how it came about and more highlights from Durant, check out our latest post.)
File another story under "Kevin Durant is just about the coolest dude ever." I think he's just showing off now.
Early Monday, Durant tweeted he was one bored basketballer and was in the mood for some flag football. "This lockout is really boring..anybody playing flag football in Okc..I need to run around or something!"
An OSU student, George Overbay, tweeted him back saying his team played at 10 p.m. Durant responded, "Can I play?" (which is hilarious to me). He told Durant to bring his "A" game. And here's the crazy part: He actually showed up. I would say I can't believe it, but I totally can.
Durant made the two-hour drive to Stillwater and threw four touchdowns and had three interceptions. After the game, he tweeted: "I had soooo much fun at Oklahoma st playing flag football! Shoutout my new buddy @groverbey for inviting me! I threw 4 tds and had 3 ints!!" (Here's a picture of KD after his third interception, which sealed the game. Lots of pictures here.)
That TD run remind you of anything? I saw a little Vince Young in Durant there.
At one point an OSU fan got KD to shout "OU sucks!" which of course instantly won over everyone watching. Which you might not be surprised but a solid crowd of something like 500 gathered to watch the game. What can you say about it?
Another feather in the cap of Durant and not because it was some Nike marketing plan or PR ploy. It was just KD being KD. Super cool, as always.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 11:57 am
Posted by Ben Golliver.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are up to their old tricks again, giving up on negotiations on Friday and cancelling two more weeks of the regular season.
Those developments only help reinforce the recurring message coming from the sneaker industry. It's not a particularly complicated message or an especially confrontational one, at least not yet. It basically boils down to "Professional basketball players enjoy playing professional basketball, no matter what," and here's the latest ad pushing that theme.
The ad opens with the lights being turned off in an NBA stadium and then quickly transitions to a spotlight following Miami Heat forward LeBron James, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, New York Knicks forward Dirk Nowitzki and other basketball players of all ages as they work on their games individually, play in late-night pick-up games, engage in pre-game celebrations, play three-on-three in the drive way, see which players made the cut list and play some pop-a-shot.
The symbolism isn't complicated: basketball and its players shine wherever the sport goes, even if the NBA is locked out and the stadiums are dark. The ad's tagline -- "Basketball Never Stops" -- has been used as a slogan throughout the lockout when James, Durant and others have played on the exhibition game circuit and it works in tandem with Jordan Brand's recent "Love The Game" spot which features Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony playing in pick-up and intramural games throughout the country.
Nike's ad winds up being a bit more serious than Jordan's, which had a few humorous touches, but it fits the athletes depicted and it's dealing with a serious and touchy subject. James is, theoretically, focused on a quest for redemption. Durant is a stone-faced killer whenever he takes the court. Nowitzki has a goofy side, but he takes preparation and execution as seriously as anybody. Stoudemire feels a bit like a toss-in, but he's getting old and taking on new burdens as one of the faces of the improved Knicks, so it's not a total stretch.
Video via YouTube user NikeBasketball
Posted on: October 28, 2011 8:06 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 8:16 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
A much-ballyhooed world basketball tour featuring an array of NBA superstars clung to life this week, before ultimately succumbing to a merciful death on Friday afternoon.
Just hours after labor negotiations between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Asssociation broke down, multiple reports surfaced that the World All-Star Classic, an exhibition game featuring 14 NBA stars set to be played in Puerto Rico this Sunday, would be cancelled.
Yahoo reported that this weekend's game was cancelled because "organizer can't deliver players." ESPN.com reported that the game in Puerto Rico has been indefinitely postponed.
The Puerto Rico game was all that remained from the hyped World All-Star Tour, a six-game, four-continent tour that was said to include stars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant.
On Wednesday, the tour melted down to a one-game exhibition in Puerto Rico after word surfaced that James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul had all withdrawn their names from the tour. While Bryant and Durant continued to say that they would be participating in the tour after James and company pulled out, the event apparently couldn't keep it together.
The World All-Star Classic will go down as another eyesore for NBA players, who have run a number of successful charity games during the lockout but have, by and large, failed to monetize their talent. A "Lockout League" held in Las Vegas drew scant crowds, and even the exhibition game circuit has had to deal with last-minute no-shows and scheduling concerns.
This would all be water under the bridge if the NBA and the players had reached a handshake deal on Friday, but that didn't happen. Instead, there will be no NBA games through the end of November and only a scattered collection of charity exhibitions to fill the void.
The league's superstars had a real opportunity to showcase their talents internationally and to prove their marketability here. Instead, the lockout continues and fans are forced to continue to cope with a basketball blackout.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 5:04 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 10:30 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
It sounded too good to be true, didn't it?
A full galaxy of NBA stars travelling the globe to bring basketball to all corners of the Earth during the biggest hoops drought in a decade?
As recently as a few hours ago, plans were reportedly all set for Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and a host of other NBA stars to make a six-game tour that would have included stops in Puerto Rico, England and Australia.
Unfortunately, multiple reports broke on Wednesday afternoon that many of the biggest names would not actually be participating.
Although his name was mentioned by tour organizers, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that James "not only won't be part of NBA world tour but had never committed to [the] project in [the] first place."
Shortly thereafter, ESPN.com reported that James, Anthony and Paul had all chosen not to participate. HoopsWorld.com then reminded everyone that Rose and Westbrook were recent scratches too.
I guess if you're going to fail, fail big.
Update: The Sun Sentinel reports Wednesday night that the world tour has been repackaged as a one-game exhibition in Puerto Rico, starring Bryant, Durant, Stoudemire, Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Diwght Howard, Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Carlos Boozer and Tyson Chandler.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:26 pm
Posted by Royce Young
The NBA wants you to believe something. We’re fighting for the little man. We’re sticking up for the small market team that can’t fend for itself.
That’s what Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver hammered home this week while basically announcing that the league is screwed right now.
“I know we’ve had lots of back and forth with people in this room, but we think that a team that spends $100 million on its payroll versus a team that spends $50 million is at a huge competitive advantage. It’s not a perfect one-to-one correlation, but there’s a huge competitive advantage that comes from the ability to spend more time. And there’s a reason we believe why the NFL has been so successful from a competitive standpoint with a hard cap and a reason that the NHL has been so successful from a competitive standpoint with their flex cap type system which has a hard, absolute cap at the top of the band.”
Before that, David Stern went on and on during his media blitz about how the Sacramento Kings are trying to live in a world where they spend $45 million to the Lakers $100 million. It isn’t fair. No way around it. It’s not. Historically, the trophies live in the big markets. Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles — over the past 60 years, 36 championships were won by those cities (40 if you count the four won by the Minneapolis Lakers). Four cities accounted for 60 percent of the NBA’s champions since 1950. There’s never, ever been a precedent for competitive balance in the NBA. Never has the playing field been level.
And has the league grown? Has it succeeded? Yes and yes. Most would say the top of the mountain for the NBA was the 1990s with Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Or if not that, the 1980s with Magic’s Lakers battling Bird’s Celtics. Or if not that, maybe right now with the plethora of talent littered throughout the league.
This isn’t to say small markets haven’t ever won. There’s the Spurs, who have served as the beacon of hope for little guys. Except remember: When those boring Spurs were winning, that was kind of a dark time for the league. Scoring was down, ratings slipped and interest waned. That could’ve been because of a post-Jordan hangover, but the 2000s weren’t great for the league.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who plays in a small market, wouldn't speculate on what the league's real intentions are.
"If they're saying it, then hopefully they're trying to do it," he said after Sunday's charity game in Oklahoma City.
Which is kind of what you have to think with it. If they're saying it, then hopefully they really mean it.
But even with the league preaching that, I get the feeling it’s a red herring to divert attention away from the fact the owners are trying to squeeze the players out of a 20 percent (or so) paycut. It’s the owners’ version of “Let us play!” Preach fairness and tug at the heartstrings of small market fans to win support. All while reaching in the back pocket of the players. Preach parity and win public support. It’s a brilliant move. Maybe they mean it this time, but the league’s never really cared much for competitive balance, so why now? With proper revenue sharing, big market success often leads to more small market money. Or at least, more money and more success for the NBA. Which is what it’s really all about, right?
"I just want the fans to trust us and know that we're far from greedy," Chris Paul said following the charity game. "We just want a fair deal. We want to get out there and play more than anybody. But we understand that at the end of the day, we're the product. We're the reason the fans come and we just want a fair deal.”
The league though, says it wants to make life fair for a team like Paul's Hornets (which it happens to own, but nevermind that). The league wants to give equal opportunity to everybody not in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Boston. Last season's champion Mavericks? They had a payroll upwards of $90 million. That would never happen in Sacramento, Minnesota or Oklahoma City, where all the stars gathered Sunday.
The Thunder have become a poster child for parity, the beacon of hope to every struggling small market franchise. Before them were the Spurs. Even playing against the system, both teams built a perennial contenders. Why? Brilliant management, shrewd financial discipline and a good amount of luck.
Luck? Yeah, don’t deny it. OKC's general manager Sam Presti’s done wonderful work in the draft, but let’s face it: He drafted No. 2, 4 and 3 in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2007, he snagged the fifth pick in Jeff Green. Kevin Durant fell in his lap after Portland whiffed on Greg Oden. Now to Presti’s credit — and you won’t find anyone that sings his praises louder and more often than me — he’s three-for-three. Where other general managers pick duds — Hasheem Thabeet, Oden, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo — Presti has taken players that not only fit well into his roster structure, but have develop-able talent.
The Thunder thrive on rookie contracts and high-value veteran. Why? Because it’s the cheapest labor there is. There’s no coincidence that on every “underpaid NBA stars” list the Thunder register three or four players. The question is though: What happens with Serge Ibaka and James Harden? After Durant and Westbrook see their paydays, will Clay Bennett have the pockets to keep Ibaka and Harden too? If the Thunder were in Los Angeles or New York, it would happen. Will it in OKC?
Once upon a time, Geoff Petrie was Mr. Genius in Sacramento when he was rolling with Chris Webber. Kevin McHale drafted Kevin Garnett in for the Wolves and built a playoff contender. Eventually the well runs dry. At some point, Tim Duncan’s going to retire. And the Spurs will either reload or have to go through some small market pains.
(The opposite example has been the Knicks over the past decade though. Tons of money, tons of spending and tons of futility. Money doesn’t always equal wins. Management does. The league is cyclical. Sometimes your team is good, sometimes it’s not. Do the big markets have an advantage? Sure. But does it always matter? Nope. Do I like asking myself questions? Sometimes.)
But it’s worked so far in Oklahoma City. It worked in San Antonio. Which is why some are quick to wonder why it can’t work in Sacramento, Minnesota or Milwaukee. Why? Because there aren’t 10 Tim Duncans. There aren’t 10 Kevin Durants. And there sure as hell aren’t 10 Sam Prestis or R.C. Bufords. It’s the world we live in — some people are better at things than others. And when you’re better, you see success. Are organizations like the Thunder, Spurs, Wolves and Bucks at a competitive disadvantage? Sure they are. But is it a death sentence for mediocrity? Absolutely not. History says it’s harder to win, but it’s not impossible.
History also says the league doesn't really care. The league always has and always will look to do what's best for it, and its owners as a collective whole. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop put it well: “Instead, the league asks us all to celebrate competitive balance—so long as the pain of creating it is felt primarily by the players. When owners could do something real to make the league more competitive, like change the playoff format or pay Chris Paul far more on the open market, they lose interest.”
What does the league want this upcoming season? An NBA Finals featuring the Celtics and Lakers or a competitively balanced Finals with the Bucks and Kings. I think we all know the answer to that. Don't sell me on looking on for the little man, because we all know what you're really after -- getting your checkbooks competitively balanced.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:21 am
Edited on: October 24, 2011 12:26 am
Posted by Royce Young
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City got as close as it'll probably ever be to an All-Star Game Sunday with stars like LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony showing up for Kevin Durant's charity game. Durant's team -- included LeBron, Russell Westbrook and LaMarcus Aldridge -- topped Paul and Melo's squad 176-171 in a fairly exciting overtime game.
But there was always an unspoken theme to the game. It might've been a fun night featuring a hefty number of stars, but this game shouldn't have been happening. We're just over a week away from the actual tip of the NBA season and it's not going to be happening, at least not on Nov. 1. The players wanted to talk about charity and how fun it was to be playing hoops, but of course the topic of conversation after the game was the lockout.
Chris Paul put it this way: "We try to explain (the situation) as much as we can, but it's really hard to understand unless you're in the situation. But I just want the fans to trust us and know that we're far from greedy. We just want a fair deal. We want to get out there and play more than anybody. But we understand that at the end of the day, we're the product. We're the reason the fans come and we just want a fair deal.”
Paul isn't wrong. The players are certainly the product. Nearly 13,000 fans turned out in one of the league's smallest markets to watch a group of stars play in a completely meaningless game.
Durant was asked if games will be played by Christmas.
"I wish," he said. "But I really can't say right now. We're just trying to work to get a deal done. We're going to continue to play in these games and show the fans that we love the game and we want to play.”
Thunder guard James Harden was very matter-of-fact a few weeks ago when he said the players absolutely wouldn't drop below 53 percent in terms of revenue split. And he reaffirmed that position Sunday.
"No, no. Fifty-three. That's where we're staying at. We've had plenty of talks and we're not dropping," Harden said. "We already dropped and set our number at 53 so that's what we're sticking to."
Despite the hardline approach, Harden thinks it'll be settled soon.
“I'm definitely confident we're going to have a season. I just don't know when.”
Talks fell apart last week supposedly after Blazer owner Paul Allen intervened. LaMarcus Aldridge wouldn't comment about that or even expound on if Allen strikes him as the kind of owner willing to bring the hammer down.
"I can't really speak on that," he said. "It's not my place."
Fans are growing increasingly frustrated with the situation as games will officially be missed in 11 days. Paul was asked if he felt the same way.
"I don't know if frustrated is the right word. It's close," he said. "We just want to keep giving our fans an opportunity to see us. Because if not for the fans, we're not who were are. We just want them to know we still want to keep working towards a deal because it's not just about us. It's about the fans, it's about the employees, about all the people that makes our game happen. We want to play. Just want to make sure everyone understands that."
Said Rudy Gay: “We like playing these games for the fans, but we'd rather be doing our jobs. This is fun, but of course we want to get back to work. We're sorry to the fans for the long wait, but we're looking for a fair deal and that'll happen soon enough.”
Posted on: October 19, 2011 3:26 pm
Posted by Royce Young
I think we can all agree that the charity hoops circuit is a little played out. NBA fans are ready for real basketball. From Washington D.C. to Philadelphia to Miami to Los Angeles to Oklahoma City, fans have seen their stars play glorified pickup games. It's getting a little old now.
So the players have recognized that and are taking the next step: They're taking their talents overseas.
No, not to play professionally. They're taking their charity games on tour. Via ESPN.com:
While the final details are still being worked out, more than a dozen of the league's best players are working to join forces on what would be a two-week, six-game, three-continent blockbuster tour, sources said.The tour is planned to take two weeks and has been in construction for some three months by Atlanta business mogul Calvin Darden. While some players have actually reportedly signed contracts to play in this, there's a chance it could fall apart. One major reason being if a labor deal is worked out.
The tour is scheduled to start Oct. 30 and go through Nov. 9 with stops in Puerto Rico, London, Macau and Australia. Each game will be held in arenas with at least 15,000 seats. There's a hope to air the games internationally as well as in the U.S. too.
Here's the kicker: The players will make some bank off this too. The report says players will receive somewhere between a six-figure payout and $1 million. "Some" of the money will go to charity.
Here's to hoping the whole thing falls apart because the players are in training camp by then.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 10:17 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 6:44 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Note: Potentially bad words ahead. Though it's kind of hard to tell for sure.
Enough of Kevin Durant dropping 50-spots in pickup games. It's time for him to impress us some other way.
So how about grabbing the mic to bust out a little rap? Tell me how my Durantula taste.
Now of course this isn't the first time Durant's shown off his flow. As his alter ego, Velvet Hoop, Durant dropped some lines and showed off a little ability.
I have no idea what he's saying here, but he definitely has the presentation down. Mic cocked just right, using the off-hand to play up the crowd and saying words fast in rhythm.
And let me tell you who seems to be loving it: Russell Westbrook. See everyone! They're friends! (It's unconfirmed though whether or not Westbrook grabbed the mic from Durant later though.)