Friday, June 29, 2012

J-Speaks: The Passing of The Greatest Symbol of Injustice

He was the greatest symbol of injustice. The person who brought to the national consciousness about how law enforcement can be against minorities in our country. More than anything what happened after the officers did not face justice for their horrific actions they took against this man brought one of the greatest backlashes in the history of the United States. When it was all said and done a city suffered great damage, many lives were lost and a serious scar was placed on the African American community that still plaques us today. Two Sundays ago, the man who came to symbolize this injustice passed away tragically.

On Sunday June 16 Rodney King, the African American motorist whose brutal beating by Caucausian Los Angeles police officers was caught on camera by George Holliday in 1991, which then led to the famed L.A. riots in 1992 when three of the four officers were acquitted died on Sunday.

King’s fiancée, Cynthia Kelley, found his body lifeless at the bottom of the pool at his home in Rialto, CA. Authorities receive a 9-1-1 call shortly after 5 a.m. from King’s home that was placed by Kelley.

“She did try to save him, however she is not a good swimmer and chose to dial 911 and call the police department,” Rialto Police Capt. Randy Deanda said on Sunday.

Officers at the scene began CPR and took King to a hospital where doctors pronounced him dead.

Kelley who met King when she was a juror on his civil case nearly over two decades ago said to friends that he was drinking and smoking marijuana, according to a TMZ report. TMZ also reports that moments before she heard a splash and found King in the deep end of the pool, Kelley said she saw her fiancée was naked, yelling and banging on a glass door.

King was a 25-year-old paroled robber that was Driving Under the Influence [DUI] on Mar. 3, 1991 when he was fleeing from an attempted traffic stop that would have put him back behind bars. He led the California Highway Patrol on an 8-mile chase.

When the chase concluded, four Caucasian Los Angeles Police Officers Tasered him, kicked him and battered him more than 50 times with wooden batons, making no effort to place him in handcuffs.

What brought this to the public’s consciousness’ across the country is that this brutal occurrence was recorded on video by apartment dweller George Holliday, who recorded the entire attack illuminated by a hovering police helicopter.

Holliday sold the tape to a television and the gut wrenching images were played over and over and over again across the country. The four cops were indicted and the case was brought to trial.

“When I saw the tape, I was so happy that it was on tape and then I was looking at it was like me being in another body,” King once said.

On Apr. 29, 1992, case which did not have one single African American juror in Simi Valley, CA acquitted three of the four officers of all the charges. The jury was deadlocked on the fourth officer.

What was to follow was a flood gate of violence that took place throughout South Central L.A.

Within the next 72 hours 3,600 fires were set and 1,100 buildings were destroyed. More than 2,000 people were injured and 55 people died. Arsonists set 7,000 fires that caused nearly $1 billion in damages.

To get a full scope of what was taking place during the L.A. riots of those three days, a Caucasian truck driver named Reginald Denny was pulled from the cab of his rig and nearly beaten to death by four African American men on live television. He never regained his ability to walk or even talk properly.

The violence was so out of this world that in Koreatown where the riots spread to, shopkeepers were armed with guns and engaged people that were looting their stores.

It got to the point where then President George H.W. Bush ordered troops into L.A. to quell the violence.

At the center of this whole ordeal was King, who was still healing from the beating he suffered at the hands of the four LAPD officers. At the height of the violence, King appeared at an impromptu press conference where, according to him he was supposed to read a long script that was given to him by his lawyers at the time.

King looked at it and rejected what was in front of him and decided to say something very simple, but it would be something that would become one of the most iconic pleas that has ever been heard.

King would say, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”

The question now is what is the legacy and the lessons of this great American tragedy.

The one thing that this has shown us how an event like this can scar an individual. King who eventually was awarded $1 million for his suffering admitted in an interview two months before his death acknowledge that he spent almost all of it.

Despite having a fiancée, King life was in shambles as he was arrested several times and appeared on reality rehabilitation shows like “Celebrity Rehab” and “Sober House” in order to get his life back on track.

Despite all of that he went through, he still maintained an upbeat attitude. He even said that he saw greater changes in the LAPD from the day the four cops rained more than 50 blows to his body from their batons.

“People looked at civil rights and my situation and said it was time for a change. Now we have a black President,” King said to the Daily News back in April.

While that might be the case, the relationship between the police and minorities across the country is about as strained as ever. Time and time again, we learn of one incident after another about how an African American male comes into contact with the authorities and it results in an incident that could have been avoided. Whether it is NYPD officers taking the life of Shawn Bell back in 2005 or most recently Sanford, FL neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman taking the life of teenager Trayvon Martin and the police do not even report the incident to his family. His body is laying in custody for several days before even being reported.

It is not that hard to believe that on the day of King’s passing that in New York City thousands of people marched on 5th Ave. in silence in protest of the latest form of racial profiling. That being the NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk” policy.

There were barricades placed on 79th street between Madison and 5th Ave. The protestors were not allowed anywhere near the home of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-NY)

Among those that marched was the fiancée of Shawn Bell, Nicole Bell who came to the march with her father.

“The night my husband was killed, he was pulled over twice. The second time he was killed,” Bell said.

Also at the march last week Benjamin Crump, who is the attorney representing the parents of Trayvon Martin as well as National Action Network President and host of MSNBC’s “Politics Nation” Rev. Al Sharpton and President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Ben Jealous.

“We are increasing the pressure on the Mayor. Its been far too long. He’s doing ten times more racial profiling than [Rudolph] Guiliani,” Jealous said.

In recent weeks city leaders have sat down with Bloomberg trying to find common ground to deal with the racial problems with “Stop and Frisk.”

“Our problem is the racial profiling part of it and how we can remove that from it so we can fight crime together,” Rev. Sharpton said.

Last week Bloomberg visited the Christian Cultural Centre in Brooklyn, NY as he for the second consecutive week visited a predominately black church to defend “Stop and Frisk.”

Bloomberg says that the program is a big reason that violent crime has dropped for a decade, but acknowledges that the policy does have flaws, but that it needs to be mended and not completely scraped.

“Innocent people who are stopped cannot be treated disrespectfully. That is just not acceptable,” Bloomberg told those at the church last week.

“Commissioner [Ray] Kelly will not tolerate it and neither will I. If you’ve not done something wrong, you deserve nothing but respect and courtesy from the police.”

Bloomberg also says that the NYPD has constituted reforms to try to improve relations between police and the communities they serve.

Within the communities of many minority groups in the United States, especially among African Americans, being profiled is something that is not new. It is something that unfortunately a part of our history. The beating of Rodney King brought it to the attention to rest of America. While some progress has been made, public authorities across the board still look at us unfavorably and it has resulted in a mistrust on both sides and has even resulted in death before some have even had a chance to make names for themselves.

When it comes down to it, this problem will only change when both sides, minorities and public authorities change their prospective and come together and understand that cooperation and showing respect will their be peace.

King, Martin, Bell and those that saw their lives end to soon will only serve its purpose if and only if policies like “Stop and Frisk” are changed for the better and authoritative figures like those in local law enforcement police that commit despicable acts of brutality are held accountable and punished.

Information and quotations are courtesy of Monday, June 18, 2012 article on page 4 of the Daily News; 6/17/12 11 p.m. edition of WABC “Eyewitness News” with Joe Torres and Sandra Bookman, report from Kemberly Richardson; 6/18/12 6 a.m. edition of (WPIX) PIX 11 Morning News with Frances Rivera and Sukanya Kristian, report from Craig Treadway.

Monday, June 25, 2012

J-Speaks: The “Big 3” of the Miami Heat Win Their First Title

Two years ago, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade joined forces in South Florida to get what every professional basketball player wants to do. Win championships. When they first came together, the whole world was against them. At every turn, their actions on the court, how they interacted with one another was looked at with a fine tooth comb from each and every angle, James especially. Despite all of that they went 58-24 on the season, winning the Southeast Division and finishing second in the Eastern Conference standings. In the playoffs, they defeated in five games the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round; the took care of the Boston Celtics in the Conference Semis and they knocked off the No. 1 seeded Chicago Bulls in the Conference Finals. In the NBA Finals however they lost to the Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks 4-2 and a season which was considered by many championship or failure became reality. With the scrutiny even higher this season and the lens magnified even closer, the Heat this time came through led by James.

On Thursday night, the Miami Heat defeated the Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106, winning the series 4-1 to capture the team’s second title, the first in the “Big 3” era of James, Wade and Bosh. More than anything they as a team silenced a lot of critics and demons that plagued them a year ago.

James was the main catalyst as the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player had his 8th triple double of his playoff career with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. He averaged 28.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg and 7.4 apg in the Finals. It is a far cry from the 19.5 ppg and 7.1 rpg averages he garnered combined in the 2007 Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers who were swept by the San Antonio Spurs and the aforementioned Mavericks a year ago.

James with his performance in Game 5 became just the 5th player in NBA postseason history to have a triple double in the clinching game of the Finals. He joined ESPN/ABC NBA studio analyst and Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic”’ Johnson who had 13 points, 13 boards and 13 assists in Game 6 of the 1982 Finals versus the Sixers in a 114-104 victory. Johnson did it again three years later with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists in Game 6 at the rival Celtics in the old Boston Garden as the Lakers won 114-97. One year later, Hall of Famer Larry Bird put the Celtics on the winning side of the equation with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists as the Celtics won Game 6 of the 1986 Finals 114-97 versus the Houston Rockets. In the 1988 Finals in the winner take all Game 7 at the Great Western Forum, Lakers forward James “Big Game” Worthy had 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons 108-105. The last triple-double in a title clinching game in the Finals prior to last Thursday came nine years ago when Spurs forward Tim Duncan had 21 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a 88-77 victory over then New Jersey Nets in Game 6.

“It means everything,” James, who also became the 7th player in NBA history to have multiple triple doubles in his Finals career told ESPN/ABC’s Doris Burke after the game.

In being self reflective about his journey to being a champion, James also told Burke, “I made a difficult decision to leave, but I understood what my future was about and I understood coming to Miami and being a part of this organization and then being able to put together this team, I knew we had a bright future. This is a dream come true for me. Been through a lot the last two years, but this is definitely the way that it pays off.”

This was more than just a victory that gave James his first title as well as Bosh, Wade his second, it was also the culmination a long journey for the Heat as a whole.

After the team won its first title six years ago in defeating the Mavs 4-2, the Heat (44-38 in 2006-07) lost in the first round to the Bulls 4-0. The next season, they missed the playoffs entirely going just 15-67 for the 2007-08 campaign. They made the playoffs the next two season going 43-39 and 47-35 respectably, but they lost in first round first to the Atlanta Hawks 4-3 and the next season to the Celtics 4-1.

In this postseason alone, the Heat on three occasions saw their dream of winning a title hanging in the balance. They trailed the Indiana Pacers 2-1 in the Conference Semis, but won the last three games to reach the Conference Finals. James began that three-game stretch with 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in a 101-93 victory Game 4 to tie the series 2-2. In Game 5 James had 30 points, 10 boards and eight assists, while Wade had 28 points as the Heat’s 115-83 win gave them a 3-2 lead in the series. Wade propelled Miami in the closeout victory in Game 6 with 41 points and 10 boards. James had 28 points, six boards and seven assists as the Heat won 105-93 to take the series 4-2.

After the Heat won the first two games of the East Finals, they lost the next three, which included a devastating loss at home in a Game 5, they trailed 3-2 and stood one loss away having their championship dreams go up in smoke.

In Game 6, James flexed his MVP muscles to the tune of 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists as the Heat tied the series 3-3 to send it to a decisive Game 7. In Game 7 James came through again with 31 points and 12 rebounds and Wade had 23 points six boards and six assists and Miami won 101-88 winning the series 4-3.

Then after losing the first game of the Finals at the Thunder 105-94, the Heat won a close Game 2 100-96. They proceeded to win Games 3, 4 and 5 and as mentioned beat the Thunder in the Finals 4-2 to win the title.

Two win it all was very important especially for Heat Managing General Partner Micky Arison, Team president Pat Riley, who garnered his 8th title as a player,
coach (Lakers and Heat) and executive and head coach Erik Spoelstra, who was an assistant coach on that 2006 title team.

“But for the grace of God I go. That’s what stands out about it,” Riley told ESPN/ABC’s Stuart at the trophy presentation after Thursday’s victory.

“This is a great, great, great group. This is right now not about anybody else, but the coaches, the players, the staff, the employees that work for the Heat.”

Wade a major part of these rough times as he went from being MVP of the Finals in 2006 at age 24 to going through the lows of injuries, problems in his personal life and then having to be the true leader of the team both on and off the court.

Thursday was the completion of his journey back to the top with another championship. He can also say now that he has his family in tact with custody of his two children, an wonderful relationship with actress and Susan G. Komen ambassador Gabrielle Union, his two good friends and teammates in James and Bosh who he hopes to win more titles.

“I’m speechless,” Wade, who averaged 22.6 points, six rebounds and 5.2 assists per game in the Finals, said to Scott after the game on Thursday.

“Winning the championship in 2006 was amazing, but I didn’t go through nothing yet. Six years after that, I’ve been through a lot in my personal life and I’ve been through a lot in my professional life and this means so much more.”

In speaking about how he, James and Bosh joined forces Wade also said to Scott on Thursday, “We made a decision two years ago to become a team. LeBron, Chris and myself and other guys decided to come together. So you got to do what you got to do to make sure you reach your goals and I had a position I had to play. It might have changed a little bit, but at the end of the day we all have one common goal and that was becoming champions.”

The one person of the big three that had to sacrifice the most was Bosh, whose value to the team showed when he was absent for nine games in this playoff run because of a strained abdominal muscle that he suffered in Game 1 of the East Semis versus the Pacers. In his absence the team went 5-4.

He came through big time though in Game 7 of the East Finals with 19 points, eight boards going 8 for 10 from the floor, which included 3 for 4 from 3-point range in the aforementioned 101-88 victory.

In the Game 7 clincher on Thursday, Bosh scored 24 points, going 9 for 14 from the field and pulling down seven boards.

“The reality is a lot better, but you know what all those times we were working hard in the gym. Working hard together. Suffering through everything together. It’s all worth it,” Bosh told Scott after the game on Thursday.

While the greatness of James, Wade and Bosh is a big reason why Miami has its second title in franchise history, this is not possible if it not for the supporting cast of Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers.

After the first four games of the Finals, Miller in 21 total minutes had scored just eight points, shot 40 percent from the floor and had made no three point field goals. In Game 5 he had 23 points in 23 minutes off the bench and made seven 3-point field goals in eight attempts. The team hit 14 three pointers in Game 5, which tied the record with the Rockets and Magic who accomplished that feet in the 1995 Finals. Not bad for a guy that since he came to the Heat in free agency last season has been battling one injury after another.

When you think of a teammate that is all about the team. Will do whatever is necessary to win and makes others better, you think of Shane Battier. In one game, he can give you 10 points and 10 rebounds, which he did in Game 1 of the East Finals versus Boston. In another he can go 4 for 9 from 3-point range, which he did in Game 7 of the East Finals. In the first two games of the Finals, Battier went 9 for 13 from behind the arc. In the close out game, he had 11 points and went 3 for 7 from the 3-point line.

When it comes to big moments and taking the moment and rising to it, two players who epitomized that are Chalmers and Haslem.

While James and Wade played big in Game 4 of the Conference Semis at Indiana, it was the play of Haslem that made the difference. By the numbers he played well scoring 14 points and pulling down four boards off the bench, but it was his effort and presence on both ends that helped the Heat pull out the win and tie the series 2-2.

In the pivotal Game 4 of the Finals, Chalmers who is no strangers to making big plays in big times games was incredible in Game 4 of the Finals with 12 of his playoff career high 25 points in the fourth quarter to help the Heat win Game 4 104-98 to take a 3-1 series lead.

The greatness of the big three and the valuable contributions of the role players is not possible without the steady hand of coach Spoelstra.

In the best of times or in the toughest of times that the Heat have gone through the last two seasons, their head coach has never changed. He has been steady, never getting too high or too low. He always stayed the course and had the kind of faith and belief that rose him from video coordinator with the Heat in 1995 to assistant
coach/video coordinator, assistant coach/advanced scout, assistant coach/director of scouting to assistant coach and now head coach, who has a record of 194-118 in the regular season and his 34 postseason wins tie the Heat record of Riley who named him as his successor back in April of 2008.

Asked about what it was like to get to this point one year later and this time coming through by Scott, Spoelstra said “A lot pressure. Probably a lot more gray hairs, but this one was so gratifying.”

Addressing the crowd, Spoelstra said, “We love you Miami. Thank you for your patience. We remember last year. We wanted to make up for it.”

The question now is can this Miami Heat team with the “Big 3’ of James, Wade and Bosh under the guidance of Spoelstra win more titles?

Coming into next season they are the clear cut favorites in their conference with the Celtics getting older, the Bulls will start next season without Derrick Rose, who suffered a major leg injury in the first round of their series with the Sixers in Game 1. The West will still be formidable with the Thunder, the Lakers to name a few.

The best way to describe the true meaning of the Heat becoming NBA champions is that James stared into the face of adversity and took it on and won. He put to rest the fact that he shrinks in the biggest of moments. More than anything else, he got back to playing the game with the kind of joy, confidence and relentlessness that made him the player that we have come to know him his nine seasons in the NBA and not being the selfish person he was perceived to be.

“That’s the only thing that bothered me that a lot of people said I was selfish and I strive on being a team player,” James, who averaged 30.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 23 games this postseason, said after the game.

“Doing whatever it takes to help this team win, but at the same time I use it as motivation. I’m happy I was able to make enough plays to put ourselves in a position to win this championship.”

The Heat also showed in capturing this title that Wade, who has always been the face of the franchise from the day he was drafted nine years ago was able to take a step back in order for James to flourish and be the player we saw this postseason and allowed the team to make up for how last season ended.

“This team we had so much pain. So much hurt. So much embarrassment from last season that it was nothing needed to be said,” Wade said after the game.

“From the first day. From Christmas Day we was on a mission and that mission was not complete until tonight.”

When Bosh came to Miami, he had not gotten out of the first round of the playoffs in his career with the Toronto Raptors. He had to sacrifice most in terms of shot attempts to fit in with his new team and teammates in James and Wade. It took him missing a nine-game stretch this postseason for those that watch to see his value and when he did come back, he played a big role in the Heat capturing the title.

“This city and my teammates, they were they’ve supported me all along,” Bosh, who averaged 14.6 points, 9.4 rebounds on 45 percent shooting in the Finals said after the game.

“We came here to win a championship. We came here to win a championship and we got it done.”

As for the aspect of what will happen in terms of winning more titles, Riley answered that after the game by saying, “We believe that we built a team that’s going to be around for a while and our goal is to hopefully come back every year. It’s always started out as an upstart. You become a team. You become a winner. A contender and then one day you might be something special and that’s what were shooting for.”

Information, quotes and statistics are courtesy of; 6/21/12 9 p.m. edition of Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat on ABC, commentators Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, sideline reporter Doris Burke; 6/21/12 edition of ABC News “Nightline” with Bill Weir; 6/22/12 6 a.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter” with Neil Everett and Robert Flores; 6/22/12 6 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter” with John Anderson and Jonathan Coachman, report from Rachel Nichols; 6/25/12 6 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter”with John Anderson and Cindy Brunson;;;;