Saturday, December 23, 2017

J-Speaks: The Passing Of A Legendary Broadcaster

For 60 years, he was the voice for some of the best games, and moments in collegiate, and professional sports in California and for networks of NBC, CBS, ESPN. His catchphrases would become signatures of his career that made him a multiple Emmy award winner throughout his career, and made an impact on many of today’s sports broadcasters. On Thursday, that great voice that became the soundtrack for some of the most memorable sports moments over the past six decades was sadly silenced at the end of this week.  
On Thursday night, Richard Alan “Dick” Enberg passed away at his home in La Jolla, CA. He was 82 years old. He is survived by his wife Barbara (nee Hedbring); their son Ted, who is also a sportscaster, and their two daughters Nicole Enberg Vaz, and Emily. His first marriage to Jeri Taylor, a television scriptwriter, and producer, who is best known for working on the famed show “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and “Star Trek: Voyager” they had three children, Alexander Enberg, who is an actor; Andrew, who is an actor-musician; and daughter Jennifer. Enberg is also survived by three grandchildren
Enberg, who was a 14-time Emmy award-winner, which included garnering a Lifetime Achievement honor, confirmed the passing of her father to The Associated Press. 
She said that the family had become concerned when her father did not arrive on Thursday from his L.A. flight to Boston, MA. He was found dead at his previously mentioned home in the San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla, CA with packed bags. 
Nicole mentioned to The Associated Press that the family believes that her father passed away from a heart attack, but are awaiting the official word on what he died from. 
“It’s very, very, very shocking,” Vaz, who now resides in Boston said. “He’d been busy with two podcasts, and was full of energy. 
It was reported by that Barbara was already in “Beantown” awaiting the arrival of her husband. 
In a statement released by the Enberg’s lawyer Dennis Coleman, it stated that the family, “is grateful for the kind thoughts, and prayers of all of Dick’s countless fans, and dear friends.” 
“At this time, we are all still processing the significant loss, and we ask for prayers, and respectful privacy in the immediate aftermath of such untimely news.” 
On Friday, flowers were placed on Enberg’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as said by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, according to 
Born on Jan. 9, 1935 in Mount Clemens, MI to Arnie, and Belle Enberg, Dick, and his family first lived in Bridgeport, CT, and then at the age of two, the family moved to Southern California in 1940, and then moved back to a farm in Armada, MI. 

Enberg would listen to Detroit Tigers games on the radio, and he would create his own broadcasts as he hit rocks across a nearby road with a stick. 

His baseball idol was the late great Hall of Famer for the Boston Red Sox Ted Williams. 

At Armada High School, Enberg played basketball, baseball, and football, where he played quarterback. 
After graduating from high school in nearby Armada, Enberg attended Central Michigan University, where he played baseball for the Maroon and Gold Chippewas. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1957. 
Twenty-three years later, he would return to his alma mater to be the commencement speaker for the 1980 graduating class. 
In his memory of the great sportscaster, the Central Michigan (8-5) football players in their 37-14 loss in the “Famous Idaho Potatoes Bowl” versus Wyoming (7-6) wore decals on their helmets, and the coaches had written on their hats one of Enberg’s signature phrases that he used a lot during his career, “Oh My!” 
While he was earning his master’s, and doctorate in health sciences from Indiana University, Enberg’s sports broadcasting journey began as a radio station custodian in Mount Pleasant, MI at WCEN Radio as a junior at Central Michigan.

He parlayed that job, where he made $1 an hour, where he commentated weekend sports, and disc jockeying, where he also made $1 per hour into a sports casting position, where his first sports broadcast was a semi-pro baseball game at a field in Rose Bush, MI in 1956. 

"In the first inning, one of the players in sliding into second base broke his leg, and they only had nine men," Enberg said in recalling that game. "So, they had to call off the game. So, my first baseball broadcast lasted less than an inning. 

From there, Enberg would go on to graduate school at Indiana University, where he called basketball, and football games. It was here where he tried out what would become one of his signature phrases "Oh My!"

"My mother being Midwestern, 'Oh My!' was part of her vocabulary. So, I tried 'Oh My!' in a couple of exciting moments," Enberg said once. "And later, in the graduate dormitory, a couple of the guys said, 'He Enberg, Oh My! I figured well that's it."

In 1961, Enberg would call the first of many NCAA Tournament games when he was the commentator for the championship game between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Ohio State Buckeyes. 
Enberg then became the voice of the first radio broadcast of the “Little 500,” a bicycle racing event that gained its popularity in the 1979 comedy-drama film “Breaking Away.” He was also the play-by-play commentator for Hoosiers football and basketball games.

After graduating, Enberg in search of a teaching position got his dream job at then San Fernando Valley State College, which is now California State University, Northridge. There, he taught health, and was the assistant baseball coach.

"I get to teach, and I finally get to coach as well. I loved wearing that uniform," Enberg said of this milestone.

That dream job did not pay as much, and Enberg picked up work broadcasting L.A. State college football games, and eventually was discovered by California Angels owner, music, and movie star Gene Autry, who also owned a Los Angeles television station.  
With the support of Autry, Enberg's broadcasting career really hit its stride, where he anchored the nightly sports report for the CW-affiliate KTLA as well as calling UCLA Bruins basketball games, and doing radio commentary for the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, and for the then California Angels baseball for KMPC for a decade. 
Each time the Angels won, Enberg would conclude each broadcast by saying, “And the halo shines tonight,” referencing the “Big A” scoreboard at Anaheim Stadium, and the halo at the top of the scoreboard, which lit up for all to see, particularly from the adjacent freeway. 
In 1968, then UCLA athletic director J.D. Morgan recommended Enberg to be national broadcaster for the syndicated TVS Television Network to cover what would be dubbed the “Game of the Century,” between the Houston Cougars, led by NBA Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes, and the Bruins, led by then Lew Alcindor, who would later be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Jan. 20, 1968.
The No. 2 Cougars defeated the No. 1 Bruins 71-69, ending UCLA’s 47-game winning streak. 
That game Enberg, and his TV partner Hall of Famer Bob Pettit called between the three time national champion Bruins against the Cougars at the Astrodome in Houston, TX, that was attended by 52,693, and watched by many more on television demonstrated that people would watch college basketball in “Prime Time,” and started an evolution that is at great heights today with games happening nightly not just locally during the college basketball season, on the nationally on CBS, ESPN, and on FOX Sports 1. 
Enberg said that contest was the most historically important event he ever covered in his broadcasting career. 
“That was the platform from which college basketball’s popularity was sent into the stratosphere,” he said prior to his retirement from broadcasting last year. “The ’79 game, the Magic-Bird game, everyone wants to credit that as the greatest game of all-time. That was just the booster rocket that sent it even higher… UCLA, unbeaten; Houston unbeaten. And then the thing that had to happen, and Coach (John) Wooden hated when I said this, but UCLA had to lose. That became a monumental event.”
Earlier this year, UCLA renamed its Media Center in Pauley Pavilion after Enberg. At intermission of a Bruins game in February, NBA Hall of Famers, and former UCLA greats Bill Walton, and Jamaal Wilkes presented Enberg with a No. 8 jersey, in honor of the amount of championships they won in his nine years as their play-by-play announcer. 
“That’s not going to happen again,” Enberg said before that contest. “Who was looking over me? To be able to come in, and ride the (John) Wooden Wave.” 

While he had the magical touch to call any collegiate or pro sporting event, his favorite sport was baseball, and his favorite moment in the broadcast booth was then Angels' pitcher, and Hal of Famer Nolan Ryan's second no-hitter of the 1917 season on July 15 that year. 
As for Enberg, his sports broadcasting career hit the stratosphere when in 1975 he joined NBC Sports, and for the next quarter century broadcast the gamut of sporting events from the National Football League (NFL), calling eight Super Bowls, with his last being Super Bowl XXXII, won by the Denver Broncos, 31-24 versus the Green Bay Packers. 
Enberg also served as the No. 1 commentator for NBC’s coverage Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the U.S. Open golf championship. 
He commentated “The Peacock’s” coverage of Notre Dame Football, college basketball, and then became the voice of Wimbledon, the Breeders’ Cup, and French Open tennis tournaments, with color commentary coming from Bud Collins, and later John McEnroe. 
Enberg also commentated heavyweight boxing, Breeders’ Cup, and several other horse racing events, and the Olympic Games, which also included the on-air host of the 1992 games in Barcelona. 
In 1979, Enberg replaced Curt Gowdy, who he would win Naismith Memorial Baseball Hall of Fame Award named after his longtime friend, and peer in broadcasting in 1995 as the lead play-by-play announcer for the NFL on NBC in 1979, and in 1980 picked up the network’s telecast of the 1980 Rose Bowl between the University of Southern California Trojans versus the Buckeyes.
The then No. 3 ranked Trojans (10-0-1) won that annual New Year’s Day Bowl game over the No. 1 ranked Buckeyes 17-16, thanks to a one-yard touchdown run by Heisman Trophy winner that season running back Charles White, who also capture Player of the Game for his 247-yard rushing performance. 
Enberg would be the voice in the booth of “The Rose Bowl” in Pasadena, CA for the next decade, until ABC took over the broadcast in 1989.  

Gowdy, and Enberg are the only two broadcasters honored in the basketball, baseball, and football Halls of Fame.  
In 2000, CBS hired Enberg, and he served as a play-by-play announcer for the network’s coverage of the NFL, college basketball, and the U.S. Open, which he called through 2011. 
He also contributed as an anchor of CBS’s coverage of The Masters, and PGA Championship golf conducting interviews, and as an essayist. 
The Enberg Essays became staples of CBS’s coverage of the network’s coverage of the NCAA Men’s Final Four. 
His Final call of a collegiate basketball game for CBS was the East Regional Final between the University of Kentucky Wildcats versus the West Virginia Mountaineers. He continued to call the U.S. Open for CBS through 2011, and while he hoped to continue commentating late-season NFL games for the network, they omitted his name from their announcing roster in 2010. Enberg did get to call one more match, and conduct one more broadcast essay during the 2014 U.S. Open, as a commemoration of CBS’s final year of covering the event, which was taken over by ESPN in 2015. 
Beginning in 2004, Enberg was the play-by-play commentator for ESPN 2’s coverage of Wimbledon, the French Open, and the Australian Open in 2005. 
Enberg stopped calling the French Open due to his commitment as the television play-by-play announcer for the San Diego Padres, signing a multi-year contract in December 2009, to call 110-120 games a season for channel 4SD, now YurView California. His co-pilot in the broadcast booth was Mark Grant. 
In his first season, Enberg took some criticism from Padres’ fans for his perceived lack of enthusiasm for the home team, and for getting “too excited” when the opposing team made great plays. Enberg’s response was “I find that a real compliment.” 
He did make an adjustment to his commentating style by limiting the use of his signature home run call of “Touch ‘em all!” when a Padres player hit a homer. 
In 2012, Enberg returned as the voice of the Padres as their telecasts moved to Fox Sports San Diego, as a new 20-year deal was signed between the team, and the new formed network. 
On Sept. 23, 2015, Enberg indicated that he would call Padres games for one more season, and then retire. 
He went into the broadcasters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY that same year as the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award. 
His last call of a Padres’ game came on Oct. 2, 2016, and in his last week on air, he made a guest appearance with Los Angeles Dodgers legendary announcer Vincent Edward “Vin” Scully, who also was concluding his career in the broadcast both after 67 seasons. 
“To me, Dick Enberg was the greatest all-around sportscaster who ever lived, and will never be emulated…,” Scully said in a statement on Friday. “He had my respect, admiration, and my friendship.”
Before the close of his career as a baseball commentator, on May 21, 2016, Enberg served as the special guest commentator for the Detroit Tigers in their home game with the Tampa Bay Rays on Fox Sports Detroit (FSD), with Kirk Gibson as the color analyst. 
It was a special moment for Enberg, as the Tigers were his team during his childhood as he as mentioned earlier grew up in the Detroit area. He also called a weekend interleague series for the Tigers post retirement, between them and the Dodgers from August 18-20 earlier this year for FSD, and one game nationally for Fox Sports 1. 
For 60 years, Richard Alan “Dick” Enberg was an institution that we all were lucky enough to hear his voice behind the microphone of some of the most memorable moments in college, and professional sports. He won Emmys for his work, and above all, he was the reason that many of the commentators you see today on ESPN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and in the California area. On top of being a Hall of Fame broadcaster, he was a Hall of Fame person. 
“Kindest, most proactive possible treatment of newcomers in this business, for the length of his career,” longtime sports, and political commentator Keith Olbermann said of Enberg Friday on Twitter. “What a terrible loss.”
He had the respect of not just the players he commentated or did essays on, but the respect of his peers, especially those who co-piloted many games with like Merlin Olsen, Al McGuire, Billy Packer, Don Drysdale, and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. 
“If there was a Mount Rushmore of L.A. Sports Announcers, Dick Enberg is on it with Chick Hearn, Vin Scully, and Bob Miller. Rams, Angels, UCLA, NBC, and so much more. Was the first famous announcer I ever met, and he couldn’t have been nicer. Definition of a gentleman.” 

On Thursday, the sports world said goodbye to a legendary play-by-play announcer, but the echoes of his voice will live in the minds of sports fans, and all commentators across the globe for the rest of time. 

"My dream has taken me to a great place," Enberg said at his induction speech at the National Baseball Hall of Fame two years ago. " 'Oh Doctor!' 'Oh My!' 'And How About That!'
Information, and quotations are courtesy of 12/22/17 ESPN Bottom Line news crawl at 3 p.m.; 12/22/17 article, “Longtime Sports Broadcaster Dick Enberg Dies at 82;” 12/22/17 “Famous Idaho Potatoes Bowl,” between Central Michigan Chippewas versus Wyoming Cowboys on ESPN with Roy Philpott, Tom Ramsey, and Alex Corddry; 12/23/17 7:30 p.m. edition of Los Angeles Clippers Live on Fox Sports Prime Ticket, presented by Carmax with Mike Hill, Bruce Bowen, and Jaime Maggio, with report from Mike Pomeranz;,_Northridge; and  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

J-Speaks: The Retirement of No. 8, and No. 24 by the Lakers

In the summer of 1996, the Los Angeles Lakes traded then center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets, for the No. 13 overall pick in that June’s draft for a 17-year-old basketball phenom out of Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, PA. That teen would go on to rewrite the record books of the storied “Purple and Gold.” Win championships; become a perennial All-Star, All-NBA selection, All-NBA Defensive Team selection, and led the Lakers to as many titles as Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson did. More than anything, he had a major influence on a generation of today’s NBA players; earn the highest of regards from previous hardwood greats; and made the energy, work ethic, and determination to be great legendary. On Monday night in front of a star-studded Staples Center crowd, and many other watching at home, the Lakers gave the ultimate thanks to the guy who spent his entire 20-year career in Southern California, two times over. 
At intermission of the Lakers tilt versus the Golden State Warriors, which they lost 117-113 in overtime on Monday, they retired the No. 8, and the No. 24 jerseys of future First- Ballot Hall of Famer Kobe Bean “Black Mamba” Bryant. 
“It’s hard to put into words,” Bryant said when asked by Spectrum Sportsnet’s Mike Trudell at the pregame press conference. “Growing up, and watching all of these great players play, and learning so much from them. To now be a part of that wall means everything to me.”
That Wall Bryant’s No. 8, and No. 24 joined consists of Hall of Famers of the late great Wilt Chamberlin (N. 13); Elgin Baylor (No. 22), who was in attendance for the ceremony; Gail Goodrich (No. 25); Earvin “Magic” Johnson (No. 32); Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (No. 33), who was also on hand, along with Shaquille O’Neal (No. 34), “Big Game” James Worthy (No. 42), who is now an in studio analyst for Spectrum Sportsnet, Jerry West (No. 44), former Lakers GM, and Jamaal Wilkes (No. 52).  
Bryant also talked about how Monday night, in terms of the importance of his legacy is that while what he did in his career is awesome, but does it have an impact on the next generation. 
Without question Bryant has had a major impact on not just the next generation of NBA players, but pro sports athletes across the board, past, and present, players, and coaches. 
“Congratulations Kobe Bryant! Hail Mamba, too. Two Jersey’s retired is one way to measure your impact on the Lakers,” is what former Knicks team president, and former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, @PhilJackson11 tweeted. 
“Congrats!!!” was what 2001 league MVP, and Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, who was also on hand tweeted @theofficialai3, with #Str8SerialKilla. 
“He was a killer. He was a beast out there,” were the words of Houston Rockets All-Star guard James Harden. 
“Thank you #Ko8e24 for 20 years. Wish it could’ve lasted 20 more,” was the tweet that came from legendary rapper, entertainer, actor, and California native Ice Cube, @icecube. 
“Kill or be killed. That was his moto,” is what Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony said of Bryant’s career. “If you were prey, he was coming for you.”
“You knew when you went against him, either 8 or 24 that you had to be ready,” were the words by LeBron James about Bryant. “You had to have your (shoe) laces tight.”
“Forever immortalized through the yelling of his name every time someone shoots a crumpled paper ball towards a garbage can. Truly Legendary,” Houston Texans star defensive lineman JJ Watt, @JJWat tweeted, with #Kobe. 
“Congrats @kobebryant I want to officially welcome you to the legend’s club! #Ko8324, they retired my jersey2x BUT 2 Jerseys @1x what an honor. @NBAHistory,” was the tweet from the 11-time NBA champion, and Celtics legend Bill Russell @RealBillRussell, with #MambaMentality #NBA #LakeShow #KobeWeek. 
“It was an HONOR!!! 8vs24,” were the words future Hall of Famer, and three-time champion Dwyane Wade tweeted @dwyanewade, with #welldeserved #Greatness @kobebryant. 
“Still have all my @kobebyrant cards because we all knew this day was coming! Congrats legend!,” were the words tweeted by former WNBA MVP, and forward for the Washington Mystics Elena Delle Donne, with #Ko8e24 #8vs#24. 
The jersey that hang in rafters of the Staples Center now had a major impact on Bryant, which led to him being in the moment he had on Monday night.  is really important in the sense of what we’ve done is awesome. But, I think what’s more important for a legacy is how that effects the next generation to come.” 
His resume alone is what made this great honor very easy, even if just one of his jerseys went into the rafters of Staples Center, which opened its doors in the 1999-00 season, where he, and Hall of Famer, and current TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal, and Hall of Fame head coach Phil Jackson led the Lakers to the first of three straight NBA titles. 
It was the first of five Larry O’Brien trophies that Bryant would lead the Lakers to. Along the way, Bryant would win two Finals MVPs, and one regular season MVP in 2008. He was an 18-time All-Star, capturing game MVP honors four times (2002, 2007, 2009, and 2011); 11-time All-NBA First-Team selection, and two-time All-NBA Second, and Third-Team choice respectably; nine of his 12 NBA All-Defensive Team selections were for the First-Team. He won back-to-back scoring titles in 2006, and 2007, and won the NBA Slam Dunk contest in 1997. 
The highest achievement that one can ever have bestowed upon them however did not happen over night for Bryant. This was all the result of relentless, undeniable, never stop hard work, which came to be known as “The Mamba Mentality.”
That mentality stems from a rookie season, where he was the youngest player to ever play in the NBA at the time had the likes of All-Star guards Eddie Jones, and Nick Van Exel in front of him. While he did play some he only averaged just 7.6 points per game, on just 41.7 percent from the field. 
Bryant’s rookie season would be remembered though for the four air balls he shot in the Game 5 loss, 98-93 at the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semifinals, where they lost the series 4-1. 
Three years later in the 2000 Finals versus the Indiana Pacers, a 21-year-old Bryant got those same opportunities in Game 4, and this time around made those clutch shots in overtime, and the Lakers won that game, and would capture the title in six games. 
It was one of those moment where Bryant got a taste of success, and he would not let that go. He was able to see the fruits of his labor come to fruition, and he wanted more, and he got more. It went from just being able to earn consistent minutes from then head coach Del Harris with the previously mentioned Jones in front of him. 
“He was not going to let anybody stand in his way of getting back to that every single year that he competed,” former adversary, and NBATV analyst Brent Barry said during the Monday night addition of “Gametime.” 
Barry added to that by saying that when Bryant wore the No. 8, where he scored 40-plus points 67 times, for the first decade of his career, he called himself the head hunter, where he tried to prove that he belonged on the same hardwood with the rest of his teammates, and opponents. 
That was a great blessing, but at times a curse for him, because he was teamed with the most dominant player in “The Association,” in O’Neal. That combination did lead the Lakers to three straight titles, but it was a partnership that had its ups, and downs. Bryant was a competitor who wanted to show that he was someone who had the tools to be great, and O’Neal was one who cared about taking care of the present. 
When the Lakers lost in the 2004 Finals to the Detroit Pistons in five games, the Lakers decided to eventually trade O’Neal to the Miami Heat, and the re-signed then unrestricted free agent Kobe Bryant to a new seven-year contract. 
The first three seasons with Bryant at the helm, the Lakers missed the playoffs the first season; and were bounced out of the opening round the other two times. 
This is also the time where Bryant changed his jersey number to 24, where he scored 40-plus points 55 times, and became more of a leader, mentor, and someone who had empathy with his teammates, and made an impact on them as well as the opposition. 
This was especially helpful to some of Bryant’s teammates then of Pau Gasol, who the Lakers acquired during the 2007-08 season; Lamar Odom, who was acquired in the O’Neal trade in the summer of 2004; Sasha Vuacic; Ron Artest, and the most trusted teammate that Bryant ever in Derek Fisher, who also won five titles on those Laker teams.
“No better day to return to Twitter than today. On my way to @STAPLESCenter to see @kobebryant get his jerseys retired,” were the words Odom, @RealLamarOdom tweeted, with #brother4life. 
After losing to the Boston Celtics, and their dynamic trio of future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett, ESPN NBA analyst and 2008 Finals MVP Paul Pierce; and Ray Allen in six games in the 2008 Finals, the Lakers led by Bryant won the next two titles back-to-back in five games over the Orlando Magic in 2009, and in a seven-game classic against those same Celtics in 2010. 
Those championships that Bryant led the Lakers to, especially his fifth against the legendary C’s gave him validation, that he could lead the Lakers to the top of the NBA mountain with him as the best player. 
When it comes down to it, whether he wore the No. 8, and the No. 24, Bryant was a relentless, tireless, worker at his craft, where he was brash, and unrelenting. He was to this generation, what the great Michael Jordan was to the previous one. A player, love him, or hate him, he raised the level of the NBA from the players, to at times the front offices of these organizations. 

The best example of this is the people who emceed the ceremony for Bryant’s jerseys being raised in Lakers President of Basketball Operations “Magic” Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, and Controlling Owner Jeanie Buss, the daughter of the late great Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss, and General Manager, and Bryant’s former agent Rob Pelinka. 
Johnson, started the ceremonies off by saying, “Were here to celebrate the greatest whose ever wore the ‘Purple and Gold.’” 
He added to that by saying for those 20 years, Bryant thrilled us. He made us ask the questions, “What did we just see? What did we just witness? And, he gave us five NBA championships.” 
“We are so blessed to have had this man where the ‘Purple and Gold’ for 20 years, and he was all about excellence. He was driven. His will to win was very, very high. And tonight, were able to put not just one of his jerseys, but both of his jerseys up high.” 
Those kind, and proud words were matched by Mrs. Buss, who called the ceremony a celebration of the journey that Bryant took Laker fans, and NBA fans on during his 20 seasons. 
Fighting back tears, Mrs. Buss quoted the gratitude, and the appreciation of some of the Lakers fans for all that Bryant had done. 
“Thank you Kobe for your incredible work ethic. Never giving up, and somehow figuring out how to impose your will on a game, and single handedly changing the outcome,” was one quote.” 
Another quote thanked Bryant for teaching us what happens when you, “outwork fear with a relentless ‘Mamba Mentality.’ Teaching us that failure is a non-existent concept.” 
The one quote that Mrs. Buss read that received the loudest ovation from those in attendance was when Mrs. Buss quoted, while fighting back tears a fan thanked Bryant, “For staying loyal to the ‘Purple and Gold,’ and remaining a Laker for life when it might have been easier for you to leave.” 
“We asked you for your hustle, and you gave us your heart, which was so much more. You showed us how to win by sheer will, hard work, and perseverance. You have forever made your mark on this franchise.” 
Besides giving his heart to the NBA, and the Lakers, he also gave that same heart to his wife, the former Vanessa Laine for 16 years. They have three daughters together in 14-year-old Natalia Diamante; 11-year-old Gianna Maria-Onore; and Bianka, who is one. 
Bryant in addressing the audience talked about that he had doubts if he could get himself to play to the level that he did in the final game of his career on Apr. 13, 2016 versus the Utah Jazz. 
Before that historic night, Vanessa presented her husband a row of retired Laker jerseys from Baylor, “Magic” Johnson, Shaq (O’Neal), Abdul-Jabbar, West, and the rest with personal messages signed to him. There was also a personal message from Jordan, Russell, Celtics’ Hall of Famer Larry Bird. 
“When I saw that, I knew then I had to turn it up. Had to turn it up,” Bryant said of that night when he scored 60 points to lead the Lakers to a 101-96 win in the season finale versus the Jazz, and the final game of his career. “Thank you baby for being an inspiration to me.”
That gesture was unthinkable at one time when in the summer of 2003, Bryant was arrested by the sheriff’s office in Eagle, CO in connection with a sexual assault investigation that was filed by a 19-year-old employee at The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, where he was undergoing knee surgery at a nearby hospital. 
The accuser had stated that Bryant raped her in his hotel room just 24 hours prior to him having his knee procedure. He admitted to committing adultery, but denied the act of sexual assault. 
While the case was dropped a little over a year later by the prosecutors when the plaintiff refused to testify, the damage to Bryant’s reputation had already been done with his endorsement deals with McDonald’s, and Nutella being terminated, and the sales of his jersey falling dramatically. 
Someway, somehow Bryant was able to regain his image; piece back together his marriage, which is stronger than ever as evidenced on Monday night, and is an incredible father to his three daughters, who he hopes has shown them that through hard work, you can make whatever dream you have a reality. 
How when you get up early, and put in the work when others are still asleep; when you are up late at night putting in the work when others are sleeping; or when you are exhausted, and you want to give up, you push yourself even more to get that work done.  
“That is the actually the dream. That’s the dream,” Bryant said about what he wants to extend to his three daughters. “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey, and if you guys can understand that, then what you’ll see happen is that you won’t accomplish your dreams. You’re dreams won’t come true. Something greater will, and if you guys understand that, then I’m doing my job as a father.” 
That father after scoring 60 points on the final night of his NBA career, walked out of Staples Center in warmup Adidas Los Angeles Lakers hooded pull over shirt, and sweat pants holding the left hand of his wife alongside his two oldest daughters. 
“Amazing how fast time goes man. Extremely blessed, and extremely appreciative. Dream come true,” Bryant said as he walked out of the arena with security, and cameras following. 
The other thing that Bryant can also say about his final game is that he scored in double figures, and hit a solid percentage of his shots, going 22 for 50 from the floor. 
In their final games respectably, Chamberlin had 23 points going 9 for 16 shooting. Abdul-Jabbar had just seven, on 2 for 8. “Magic” Johnson was 2 for 8 from the field, scoring eight points. Worthy had just seven points, on 3 for 7. 
For me, there are three specific ways that I will remember the latest Laker to have his jerseys retired. 
I will remember his performance on Jan. 22, 2006 versus the Toronto Raptors, where he scored the second most points in NBA history where had 81 points, going 28 for 46 from the floor, including 7 for 13 from three-point range, 18 for 20 from the free throw line, with six rebounds, and three steals in leading the Lakers to a 122-104 win in a game that they trailed by 18 points at one time.
I will remember how in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals versus the Celtics on June 17 how Bryant struggled mightily from the field on that night 6 for 24, but found a way to score 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter to go along with 15 rebounds in helping the Lakers to an 83-79 win versus the Celtics to win the series 4-3, and their second straight title. 
He struggled from the floor, but after the buzzer grabbed the ball, jumped up on the scorer table, and was like he had gone to heaven the way he, and his teammates were celebrating on that night. 
It also helped on that night that Gasol had a brilliant performance with 19 points, and 18 boards. Artest, now Metta World Peace had 20 points, five boards, and five steals, and Fisher had 10 points. 
What I will remember the most of all about Kobe Bean Bryant is how he fought back from a torn Achilles tendon at the end of the 2012-13 season; a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee in December 2013; and torn rotator cuff on Jan. 21, 2015 at the New Orleans Pelicans to end his career on his own terms. 
That end consisted of every opposing arena he played in that season love, admiration, and respect was shown to him by the fans, with some wearing his No. 8 for No. 24 jersey, to others displaying created signing saying thanks for the memories.  
It is these moments of greatness, and true grit to comeback why I call Kobe Bean Bryant my favorite NBA player of all-time. I like Michael Jordan. I am a huge fan of LeBron James; Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who I met in person once as a student at Howard University; Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, but the NBA player I identify with the most is Bryant. 
Twenty-one years ago, then Lakers owner Jerry West called “Magic” Johnson the day Bryant worked out. West said to Johnson that he witnessed the greatest workout he ever seen in his entire life. That workout was a prelude to 20-years of excellence.
In those 20 years, Bryant became the Lakers all-time leader in games played at 1,346, 253 more than Abdul-Jabbar. The franchise leader, and No. 3 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list at 33,364 points, 8,172 more than West, and 9,188 more than Abdul-Jabbar. He is also the Lakers’ all-time leader in steals (1,944), and free throws made (8,378).
On the front end of those 20 seasons wearing No. 8, Bryant scored 16,866 points, being selected as an All-Star eight times, and winning three titles. On the back end of those 20 seasons wearing No. 24, Bryant scored 16,777 points, won his own regular season league MVP award, was named an All-Star 10 times, winning two NBA championships, and being named Finals MVP both times. 
Kobe Bean Bryant said hello to the public across the globe when he was just 18 years, and 72 days old. In between, he thrilled us, tossed in a few wows, and a some “Oh my Gods!” Then he finished with a flat out drop the mic with the previously mentioned 60 points two seasons back. On Monday night Lakers fans at Staples Center, the front office brass of the organization, and those watching across the world on television or an electronic device saw the immortalization of the No. 8, and No. 24 that will never be dawn by another Laker ever again.    
Information, statistics, and quotations are courtesy of 12/18/17 12 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime,” with Chris Miles, and Sam Mitchell; 12/18/17 6:30 p.m. edition of NBATV’s “10 Before Tip,” with Jared Greenberg; 12/18/17 9:30 p.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime,” with Chris Miles, Sam Mitchell, and Brent Barry; 12/18/17 10:30 p.m. contest Golden State Warriors versus Los Angeles Lakers on NBATV, courtesy of Spectrum Sportsnet with Bill Macdonald, Stu Lantz, and Mike Trudell;;; and

Sunday, December 17, 2017

J-Speaks: Melo's Return to MSG

For six-and-a-half seasons in the “Big Apple,” Carmelo Anthony had some good times, and some rough times as the face of the New York Knicks. With a fourth straight season with no playoffs a season ago, the question was will “Melo” stay in New York, or would they grant his demand for a trade, that he would okay because of the no-trade clause in the contract he signed back in the summer of 2013. He was eventually traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 Second-Round Draft pick. He would make his long-awaited return to Madison Square Garden, and the contest would go just like his time in NYC. 
A video tribute was played on the overhead scoreboard as part of the welcome back to Anthony from the fans, and the organization. It consisted of his stellar moments on the court, like his Garden setting 62-point, 13 rebound performance in a 125-96 win versus the then Charlotte Bobcats, to his charitable work in the community. The video finished with a simple conclusion, “Thank you Melo,” with his former jersey number, No. 7, and his last name in the middle. 
When he was introduced during the introduction of the starting lineups, he received a warm ovation from the 19,763 in attendance. 
When the game got underway, the Thunder, and Anthony got off to a strong start, where they led after the first quarter, the Knicks (16-13) found their footing, and defeated the Thunder (14-15) 111-96 on Saturday night, to win their fourth game in a row. They also stopped the Thunder’s three-game road winning streak, who won in triple-overtime 119-117 at the Philadelphia 76ers (14-14) the night before on ESPN. 
Anthony, who received boos from the Garden once the contest began, and every time he touched the basketball scored all 12 of his points on the night in the first half, but was just 5 for 18 from the field, going 0 for 5 from the floor after intermission. It was just the fourth time in Anthony’s career that he has gone scoreless after halftime in game where he played 30-plus minutes. 
“I’m glad that people basically understood what he put into this team,” NBATV analyst Brendan Haywood said of the ovation Anthony on the early Sunday morning edition of NBATV’s “Gametime,” presented by Kia Motors. “How much he sacrificed, and how many long hours he put in trying to be there leader, and he had a lot of great games, and great times here as well.”
Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook led had a team-high 25 points, to go along with seven rebounds, seven assists, and two steals on 9 for 18 from the field. Paul George had 18 points, nine boards, four assists, and two steals, going 4 for 7 from three-point range. Patrick Patterson had 12 points off the bench, going 4 for 6 from three-point range. Backup guard Raymond Felton had 10 points. 
The Knicks, who were without star Kristaps Porzingis because of knee injury sustained in their 111-104 win at the Brooklyn Nets (11-18) on Thursday night were led by the game-high, and season-high of 30 points from Michael Beasley, on 11 for 18 shooting, with five rebounds, four assists, and two block shots. They were also without Tim Hardaway, Jr., who is no the shelf because of a leg injury. 
“We always want to give guys like that a good homecoming, but it’s better for the upset in my book,” Beasley, who registered the 14th 30-point game of his career in 38 minutes on the night said to Madison Square Garden Networks’ Rebecca Haarlow after the win. 
Courtney Lee had 20 points. McDermott had 11 of his 13 points off the bench in the second half, with eight points in the fourth quarter, and made 3 for 5 from three-point range on the evening. Jarrett Jack had 12 points, eight boards, seven assists, and three steals. His understudy Ron Baker had 11 points off the bench, hitting three triples himself. Kanter had 10 points, and five boards.
The Knicks avenged their defeat at the Thunder 105-84, on Oct. 19. Anthony had 22 points, despite going 8 for 20 from the floor, including 3 for 10 from three-point range. George led the way with 28 points, and six boards, hitting 6 for 13 from distance. Russell Westbrook had the first of his 10 triple-doubles on the season, and 89 in his career with 21 points, 16 assists, and 10 rebounds. Starting center Steven Adams, who did not play on Saturday night due to a concussion had 12 points, and five boards in that victory.
Following the Thunder’s triple-overtime win at the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night, Anthony addressed the media at his locker about what he expects when he takes the Garden floor. 
“I think it will be an appreciation,” he said about how he expects to be greeted by the fans. “It’s not like I was there for a year, or a season, or two seasons. I spent a lot of time there, almost seven years there. It was great times, it was bad times, and regardless, I always stuck with it. I always remained professional. I always came in, and did my job, whether people liked it or not. So, hopefully the recognized that.” 
The fans did recognize the great contributions from Anthony, who scored 27 points in his Knicks debut at the Garden on Feb. 23, 2011, a 114-108 win versus the Milwaukee Bucks. 
Two straight First-Round exits in the postseason by the Celtics, and the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat 4-0, and 4-1 respectably, the Knicks defeated the C’s in the opening round of the 2013 postseason in six games. The would go down in the Semifinals in six games to the Eastern Conference runner-up that season the Indiana Pacers. 
The Knicks thought that the 2012-13 season, where they won their first Atlantic Division title since the 1993-894 NBA campaign, and Anthony led the NBA in scoring with an average of 28.7 per contest was a sign that being an elite team in the East, and a serious title contender was a real possibility. 
Unfortunately, what followed was four straight seasons of not making the playoffs, and the isolation offensive style that made Anthony, a perennial All-Star, and the third highest scoring average in Knicks’ history at 24.7 suddenly became a lightning rod for criticism from the local New York media, and the national media. 
Things really came to fruition about Anthony’s eventual departure a season ago when former Knicks president Phil Jackson criticized Anthony seemingly daily in the press. 
While all of this took place, all Anthony did was show the kind of professionalism, respect, and focus that should have been shown by the front office. Anthony especially showed that to the press, win or lose, and it was mostly after losses.  
“I think somebody who wanted to be here,” Anthony, who in seven of the Thunder’s last nine games has scored under 15 points said after game on how he wanted people to remember him about his six-plus seasons as a Knick. “Came here. Did what he had to do night in, and night out, whether people liked it or not. Remained positive through all the negative situations. All the negative times. Stuck with it, through good times. Through bad times. Never wavered. Somebody who stayed professional throughout my seven years here. And somebody who had hopes, and dreams of winning a championship here in New York, and fell short at that.” 
That ability to handle a difficult situation, which would have broken even the toughest, and greatest of pro athletes made Anthony a hero in the eyes of Knicks fans, and earned him a lot of respect from his now former teammates, and a NBA champion from the 2004 Detroit Pistons. 
“Melo represent so much of what New York is all about. He really conducted himself like a real New York guy,” center Joakim Noah said. “I love being around Melo.” 
“From one side, I was sad that he wasn’t going to be here with us anymore this year. But I was also happy for him that he found a team where he can be close to what he wants to achieve, and take on a new challenge,” Porzingis said. 
“I’m going to miss ‘Melo,’” Lance Thomas said. “’Melo’ my best friend on this team. He knows that I wish him the best, and I want him to be as successful as he wants to be.” 
“I thought he handled himself really well. Very professional,” former Pistons guard Richard “Rip” Hamilton said. “Guy like myself, I don’t know if I would have handled myself just as great as he’d done. He always answered every question in the media. Always came to play each, and every night. Performed at the highest level. Never got down on his teammates. I thought that it was the year that he had all the veterans, Jason Kidd, and Rasheed (Wallace). A lot of veteran guys around him. Then the team kind of went young, he never put his head down. Always played with the team that he had. Never got down on coaches, and things like that. So, thought he handled his time in New York, very, very professionally.” 
When the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony nearly seven seasons back, they thought that they would build themselves into a team that would be in position to win their first championship since 1973. 
While Anthony worked his way into becoming the No. 7 leading scorer in franchise history with 10,186 points; No. 3 in three-pointers made at 762; and 10th in field goals made at 3,627, the record of the team in those 6.5 seasons was an abysmal 221-283. 
He had 84 total teammates in that span, and a total of five head coaches, Mike D’Antoni, who is now the head man of the Houston Rockets; Mike Woodson, who is now an assistant coach on the Los Angeles Clippers coaching staff; Derek Fisher; Kurt Rambis; and current Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek. 
“The ‘Melo,’ I would characterize it as a lot of great stats. A lot of great individual performances. Fell short in the wins department, but you can’t have everything,” Haywood said. “‘Melo’ is definitely going to be a Hall of Famer, and a lot of that is going to be because of some of these big time, and performances he had in a New York Knick uniform.” 
Right now, Anthony’s main concern is helping the Thunder, who had high expectations this season, have really struggled, and so as Anthony, who came in averaging career-lows of 18.0 points, on 41.0 percent from the field, the third lowest in “The Association” for the 34 qualified players who average 15-plus shot attempts per game this season. George at 40.8 percent coming into the game on Saturday night was the second lowest, and Westbrook at 38.4 is the lowest.
If there is anything that we learned about Carmelo Anthony from his time in the “Big Apple,” is besides being a great basketball player, he was a leader on, and off the court. The previously third best scorer per game in Knicks’ history behind Hall of Famers Bob McAdoo (26.7), and Bernard King (26.5) had a respect for the position he was in. He took the challenge of being the face of the New York Knicks. He cultivated friendships with his teammates that continue even though is with a new team. Above all, he was, and is the truest definition of a professional athlete, and the only thing left for him to achieve is to win a championship. Whether that will happen remains to be scene, but the four-time Olympic Gold Medal winner will surely put his best foot forward to make that happen. 
“I became entrenched into not just the Knicks, but the city as a whole,” he said on Thursday night. “Those are my roots. The people there, I became one of them. I’ve embraced New York City. I embraced the culture. I embraced everything about that city. I’m definitely motivated.”
He elaborated on that by saying after the loss, “I will always be kind of a part of this culture here, and for me it’s different than any other basketball player that comes through here that play with the Knicks because it’s deeper than basketball when it comes to me, and this city.”
Information, statistics, and quotations are courtesy of 2/23/17 article “Anthony Makes Knicks Debut with 27 Points,” by Jonathan Abrams; 12/16/17 7:30 p.m. contest Oklahoma City Thunder versus New York Knicks on the Madison Square Garden Network, presented by Chase with Mike Breen, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Al Trautwig, and Rebecca Haarlow; 12/17/17 2 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime,” presented by Kia Motors with Matt Winer, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, and Brendan Haywood;;;;; and

Saturday, December 16, 2017

J-Speaks: The Present, and The Future in Cleveland, OH

Before he was a four-time NBA MVP, a three-time NBA champion, and three-time Finals MVP, perennial All-Star of the Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James was a young 18-year-old rookie trying to find his way in the MVP. He was also someone who had players he idolized like Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Michael Jordan. Fifteen years later, James became all the things that they became, and he is the person that a lot of today’s young players, and rookies idolize, pattern their game after, and look to for guidance. A few of those players faced off against the James, future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, and the Cavs when the talented, and Young Los Angeles Lakers came to town. While the Cavs won the game, and James was remarkable, it was a conversation he had with a player that was in the same position as he was a decade-and-a-half ago that made headlines. 
In the Cavs (21-8) 121-112 victory versus the Los Angeles Lakers (10-17) on TNT on Thursday night, their 16th victory in their last 17 games, James had his fourth triple-double of the season with 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. It was also the 59th triple-double of his career, which tied him with Bird for No. 6 all-time. 
The late great Wilt Chamberlin (78); Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City Thunder (88, and counting); Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd (107); “Magic” Johnson (138); and Oscar Robertson (181) have garnered more triple-doubles in their careers. 
Love led the way with 28 points, and 11 rebounds. Jose Calderon had 17 points, and six assists. Jae Crowder had 11 points, while Wade, and Kyle Korver contributed 10 points each off the bench.  
However, it was a conversation that he had with the most scrutinized rookie this season in “The Association,” Lakers starting lead guard Lonzo Ball, who had 13 points, 11 assists, and eight boards on the night. 
“I didn’t tell him anything. I didn’t tell him anything,” James, who had that conversation with Ball, the No. 2 overall pick in June’s draft with his mouth being covered by his jersey said to NBA on TNT sideline reporter Kristen Ledlow after the win. “It’s not for everybody. There’s enough noise out there already with ‘Zo,’ and it’s not for me to discuss, but he has a bright future like I said the other day in my quotes.” 
There are a select few rookies that have entered the NBA in its existence, at the close of their adolescences, and have seemingly the whole world suddenly comes to know you by your first name, and the vessel of so many people’s opinions from the media to the likes of people conversing in a barbershop. When people see you, in anyway they want to see you, ignoring what is actually right in front of them. 
None of us know what it is like to be where the 20-year-old Ball is as he’s trying to navigate his way through his rookie season. There is someone though who knows exactly what Ball is experiencing this season, and that is James. 
Thursday nights game was the first time the two met on the hardwood quickly became a parlor game of what did James say to the Southern California product? 
Through the help of an enterprising ready user posted the hot microphone of the language feed, which allowed the NBA on TNT to release the sound of that conversation on last night’s edition of “Inside the NBA,” presented by Kia Motors. 
James said to Ball after game, “Find your zone, and just stay (expletive) locked in. The media is going to ask you what I told you right now. Tell them nothing. Just be aggressive every single day. It’s (expletive) white noise to you. That’s all it is. Alright? Let’s go.” 
What is ironic about that postgame chat between a man who will go down as one of the best to ever play the game in James, and the other hoping to reach those heights in Ball is this is the same night James tied Bird as mentioned earlier for the sixth most triple-doubles in NBA history. 
When speaking with reporters at his locker, James said that being in the same company as Bird is humbling. 
“He’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” he said. “Kid from French Lick (Indiana). Boston. He just played until he literally couldn’t play the game no more. He gave everything he had. And for you young guys that don’t know him, they think of Larry Bird as a jump shooter. But, he was so much more than that. He was a passer. He averaged double-digit rebounds. He defended. He took charges. And its just straight up complete basketball player, and me as a small forward, Scottie (Pippen), Bird, Doc (Julius “Dr. J.” Erving), George Gervin, the guys I kind of looked up to being a small forward.” 
James continued by saying, “I’ve always been a fan of Larry Bird, and if I’m linked with any of the greats, especially like him, it’s pretty cool.” 
One of the biggest differences between those greats of the professional hardwood, and todays star players is the 24-hour news cycle. 
When Bird came into the NBA in 1979 with the Boston Celtics, who he led to three NBA titles, he dealt with crazy expectations. He was called in the early part of his career, “The Great White Hope.” There was a major circus that followed him, and “Magic” Johnson into the NBA out of their meeting when Indiana State took on Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament. Then the fact that people did not have faith that Bird could deliver an entire league that struggled to maintain its popularity. There was a time that NBA games were on tape delay. 
When James entered the NBA as the No. 1 overall pick back in June 2003, had to take on those same expectations, and having to do so during the rise of the internet, and then eventually social media. 
James has often said that he is the most scrutinized athlete in American history, and while he might be right, that will not be true for very long. 
Ball before he even played a single minute in “The Association,” had his own reality show, and his own shoe, “Big Baller Brand.” On top of that, he has 3.6 million Instagram followers. 
“NBA: The Jump,” host Rachel Nichols said jokingly on her show on Friday afternoon that in five years from now Ball will have a chip in his brain which will direct broadcast across the globe. 
“If it exists, you know LaVar Ball (Lonzo’s father) will find it,” Nichols said. 
In the present though, Ball is just another trying to find his way with a very sparkling spotlight magnifying his every move, both on, and off the court. It can be a tough, and sometimes lonely place. The good thing for him is that he has a prime example one of the rare pro athletes like James who have been there, and come out on the other side. 
For those that may not remember, James in the summer of 2010 announced on ESPN to then sideline reporter for “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” Jim Gray that he was leaving the Cavs in free agency to sign with the Miami Heat. 
He received massive criticism from everyone from the sports media, to the fans. Some of those fans in Cleveland even burned his jersey in expression of their anger. 
All James did was lead the Heat, along with Wade, and Chris Bosh in the face of all that to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Dallas Mavericks, and future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki in six games.
The Heat, and James would battle their way back to The Finals over the next two years, winning back-to-back titles over the Thunder in five games in 2012, and the San Antonio Spurs in seven games in 2013. 
The Heat got back to The Finals in the 2013-14 NBA campaign, but lost to the Spurs 4-1, and in the summer James opted out of the final year of his contract, and returned to the Cavs. 
Since his return, James has led the Cavs to three straight appearances in The Finals, where they defeated the then defending champions the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 Finals in seven games, delivering the city their first pro sports title since 1964, when the Cleveland Browns led by Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown won the NFL championship. 
For James, who has appeared in The Finals the last seven seasons in succession, and is looking to make it eight this season, he has had a lot of personal growth in his game on the court as well as his leadership both on, and off it. 
During his MVP seasons in 2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12, and 2012-13, James has average 28.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.4 assists, on 52 percent from the field, and 26 percent from three-point range. 
This season, James is averaging 28.2 points, his most since 2009-10. Career-highs of nine assists, 58 percent from the floor, and 42 percent from three-point range. His 8.2 boards per game is the second most of his career. 
James’ improvement in making perimeter jump shots has basically made him flat out unguardable now. Teams before in their attempt to slow James down was to give him space, and make him shoot from the perimeter, that is not the case now, and should give any critic of Ball, and his 33.2 percent from the floor, 26.5 percent from three-point range, and 48.6 percent from the free throw line pause. 
James is someone who put the time during the off-season to improve the areas that needed to be worked on, and we have seen from his rookie season to today that improvement. 
If Ball is willing to put work in, he can be as good a player as James, if not better. We have seen in flashes that he can put the ball in the whole, as well as his ability to make an impact on the game in other areas. 
On Oct. 20 in the Lakers’ 132-120 win at the Phoenix Suns (9-21), Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists on 12 for 27 from the field, including 4 for 9 from three-point range. 
In the Lakers’ 98-90 loss at the Milwaukee Bucks (15-11) on Nov. 11, Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double with 17 points, 13 assists, and 12 boards, making 7 of 12 from the floor, including 3 for 5 from three-point range. 
His second triple-double of 11 points, 11 assists, and a career-high of 16 rebounds in the Lakers 127-109 versus the Denver Nuggets (15-13), Ball at 20 years, and 23 days old equaled James as the youngest player to record his second triple-double of his career 12 seasons back. He also equaled his boss in “Magic” Johnson as the only Lakers to have multiple triple-doubles in their rookie seasons. Johnson had seven triple-doubles back in the 1979-80 NBA campaign, where he led the Lakers to their first of five titles in the 1980s. 
The shooting, and lapses of aggressiveness at the offensive end, Lonzo Ball has been solid. Does he have room for improvement? Yes. Does he need to become a better all-around shooter, Yes? Will that happen, only if he puts in the work, and he will get better in time. 
It takes time, and commitment to become great, and Lonzo Ball has the greatest example of that the player he, and the Lakers faced on Thursday night, LeBron James. He put in the work. Look adversity from every angle in the eye, and beat it. If Ball can do that, he has a chance of being that transcendent player, and living up, and cashing the checks his father LaVar seems to write every time he opens his mouth in front of a microphone. 
Information, statistics, and quotations are courtesy of 12/14/17 8 p.m. contest Los Angeles Lakers versus Cleveland Cavaliers on TNT, presented by State Farm with Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, and Kristen Ledlow; 12/15/17 3 p.m. edition of “NBA: The Jump,” on ESPN with Rachel Nichols, Ramona Shelburne, and Tracy McGrady;; and