You can’t stop the players take over the NBA

Before the recent NBA trade deadline passed relatively quietly, the New Orleans Pelicans’ superstar Anthony Davis had kept the whole league buzzing. Boy, it was chaotic; the only thing we were sure about was the fact that the power forward wanted to be out of New Orleans as soon as possible and his dream scenario would have been to join LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Other than that, there were weeks when maybe no one, including the protagonists, knew what the heck was going to happen next. Almost all teams were eager to make a deal, and the word on the street was that they didn’t care about the consequences; they put everything on the Red 7 on one roulette spin and shut their eyes. During the process, some dumb and unreliable trade demands and offers were leaked to the public, keeping fans in doubt. Eventually, the trade never happened, and some might say all remained the same. Well, that could not be further from the truth.

Anthony Davis is the latest player who showed us how powerful he is and how weak the league is under pressure. They say the true artist from the backstage is – who else? – LeBron James, who, according to some unconfirmed speculations, almost had Magic Johnson trade the whole team to get what he wanted. Again, whether it is true or not, this is just the next step for the players to take over the NBA once and for all.

The game top of game has been changed; the employees are more valuable than ever. The young, unstoppable basketball players are rising, and their ruthless agents are up to bat for the best deal possible for their clients and themselves. In the end, no matter what, someone will have to pay.

The funny thing is, while Anthony Davis was keeping the fans all around the world engaged, Netflix added Steven Soderbergh’s low-budget ‘High Flying Bird’ movie which focused on how smart, talented, and valuable players can dictate their fate.

HFB is predicting the future wherein players, the goods, become too important for the market, so the owners and the league must let them eat at the table. The recent NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which grants 49-50% of the revenues for the players, run through 2023–24 with a mutual opt-out after 2022–23. As the league is headed the same direction, becoming more popular than ever, money is pouring in like never before. In three years, the players might seek to get a larger slice of the pie. Business is business.

We are living in an era where at least two types of athletes exist: some people are chasing money, some are building a legacy. Yes, you can do both at the same time, but at some point you ought to choose a path. Kevin Durant made his decision back in 2016 when he let Oklahoma City and Russel Westbrook down, and now he is a two-time champion. The most iconic move, of course, was when LeBron James took his talent to the South Beach and joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010. LeBron won two of his three rings in Miami, so ultimately, he chose wisely. On the other hand, after five championships and a couple of injuries, Kobe Bryant signed a two-year contract extension with the Lakers at an estimated value of $48.5 million and let his beloved team collapse under its own weight. Clearly, Kobe’s case was a bit different, but he chose money and rode into the sunset with pockets full of cash while the Lakers have since had one of the worst decades in their history.

We, mere mortals, cannot imagine what earning tens and hundreds of millions of dollars feels like. These guys had already been rich as heck when they were signed for less, so they still had plenty to feed their family. The real power is not to give up on money but to have the guts to make decisions like Durant and James did back then.

Now it is Anthony Davis’ turn. After hearing what he had to say a couple of months ago, we can be pretty convinced that he is up for making history.

“I would take legacy over money. I want to have a legacy. All my people that look up to me, the younger kids, I want them to know about AD’s legacy. Don’t get me wrong, money is amazing. But I think in that sense, money or legacy, I think my legacy will win that battle every time,” Davis told Yahoo Sports.

Although the league would never say it out loud, they do love Big Threes – when two or three superstars align to win championships – because super teams bring more money, more supporters, and better ratings. Fining teams for tampering is a joke; with this move, the league wants to prove that they have the control.

The thing is, you cannot do anything to avoid players building super teams on whichever terms they want. At the end of the day, guess what, the players dictate the rhythm. If Anthony Davis is keen on joining LeBron James, trust me, he will find a way to do so.

Cover photo by Netflix Media

The New England Patriots fooled us – again

Let’s start with the facts here: the New England Patriots are the best NFL team ever, Bill Belichick is the best head coach, and Tom Brady is the greatest player of all Time. With this win over the then-mighty Los Angeles Rams at Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta, the open questions were finally answered. You can be a fresh, electrified, innovative mind, but to beat Bill Belichick you have to be prepared; and as Sean McVay admitted after the game, he was not.

It is not a big deal, McVay was simply outcoached by Belichick in each and every aspect of the game. McVay is not the first, and definitely will not be the last, person to falter against Belichick’s genius.

“You know, coach Belichick did an outstanding job. There really is no other way to put it – I’m pretty numb right now. But definitely, I got outreached. I didn’t do enough for our football team,” said the 33-year-old head coach.

In order to overcome the Rams and the mastermind behind them, the key was Bill Belichick’s ability to renew his game. I haven’t watched the majority of Belichick’s 425 games as the head coach of the New England Patriots, but this grumpy old man proved himself on the biggest stage possible once again. He focused on defense – not that you can do anything against the Rams, or so we thought – and held the so-called ‘Future’s Team’ at three points.

The other thing is, as long as even an average Tom Brady is standing at the other side – and in Atlanta that was the case, as Brady moved like any other 41-year-old mortal would have – and you only have a shaking, first-time Super Bowl quarterback in place, the odds are against you.

It’s okay to have superstar wideouts and running backs, but at the end of the day, the better system and scheme win championships. The reality is, the New England Patriots still have it all.

Ok, but what happened then?

There is nothing secret about it: Bill Belichick, the defensive coordinator, and a team of assistants sat down and watched tapes. I mean, they watched a lot of tapes. I had this feeling during the game that the Patriots were always one step ahead of the Rams, like they knew or anticipated the next play before the Rams players decided on it. Sure, it’s not possible, but still, the Patriots were all over it.

We don’t know anything for sure, but Belichick’s plan might have been to let Jared Goff, the aforementioned shaky QB, shoot himself in the foot. The Patriots’ defense closed the routes, covering anything and anybody who moved. The onus to progress was all on Goff and, as Belichick suspected, the quarterback wasn’t able to handle the pressure.

The tricky thing the Patriots’ defensive staff invented was this double-call prior to the snaps. The first one was a pre-snap call, the call they had shown before Goff got the ball; the second one was a post-snap call when Goff dropped back and had only a couple of second to make a decision. In the latter case, the defensive players shifted positions and made Goff think about the play again – remember, a quarterback only has hundredths of seconds. The Patriots’ defense was unstoppable. They put pressure on Goff continuously and gave one hundred percent or more.

The plan worked and it had a huge effect on Goff’s horrendous night: he only had 19 completions out of 38 attempts, for a devastating 229 passing yards, while his running backs  struggled too at only 62 yards.

All in all, nothing special happened, though we all have been fooled by the Pats once again. They looked a bit rusty throughout the season, as though they were showing the first sign of aging. We now know it was a trap, and we should have known better. Sure, the Rams may have been considered the most complete team of the modern NFL, but they failed spectacularly at the most important moment.

Until the 2018 season, experts said the defense wins championships; this past year, they said it’s up to the offense, and only the offense. Now, they have nothing to tell. These experts underestimate Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, regularly. This historic duo had them eating their words.

Cover photo by WEBN-TV on Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

Is Derrick Rose Hall of Fame worthy?

If you had asked me on October 30, I’d have said that Derrick Rose is the first ever MVP who would not get into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Then, on October 31, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 30-year-old point guard dropped 50 points on the Utah Jazz.

He had played some good basketball at the beginning of the season, and he had been silencing his haters day in and day out, but the so-called Redemption Tour kicked off that night at the Target Center.

If he stays healthy, he can rewrite his story and maybe get a call from the HoF committee after his retirement. Luckily for us, Rose is playing at a high level and it appears he isn’t planning to call it quits anytime in the foreseeable future.

Anyone who remembers the 2011 Derrick Rose knows what he is capable of with a basketball in his hands. That athleticism, that speed, that sense of urgency was something else; when he played his best, maybe only LeBrun James was at his level.

Rose’s story, his nosedive – one which those back-to-back season-ending injuries played a huge part of – moved in some way or another each and every fan, player, and executive. It didn’t matter if you were a hater. This guy, who was then thought to be the prototype of the ultimate 21st-century point guard, a living highlight-reel, could not blossom into the player he was predicted to become.

Does it mean that he is not Hall of Fame worthy? You only have to watch his videos from the past, then some recaps during his comeback attempts, and some highlights from this NBA season, and you can judge for yourself.

What do you see on those tapes? Let me help you out: first, here is a guy – trademarked by Cris Collinsworth – who was meant to be an all-time great. Next, you can see a shattered man, who worked his ass off and desperately wanted to come back, but whose body was failing him over and over again. On the last video, you recognize a tired, wrinkled athlete who is playing calmly and freely again, enjoying every minute, every second, on the floor.

He does what he is known for: he attacks the rim with no hesitations, no regrets, no fear.

He hasn’t changed a bit. You still cannot read his face during a game. Rose doesn’t show any sign of happiness or anger. Not that he needs to, but in an environment where you usually have to be as much  a great showman as a great athlete, it’s not easy.

Still, the fans are fond of him, and the Redemption Tour has been a success.

“I don’t sell myself to people. It’s not me. That’s not my character. I don’t have an Instagram. I don’t have any of that. It comes from me being in people’s minds for some reason and people really caring,” said Rose back in January about his possible selection.

He is real, no matter what. The hype, of course, is getting bigger and bigger as we are closing on in April and on the end of the regular season. But hey, it’s fine that everyone’s excited.

Rose has made quite a journey from fighting for a roster spot in New York and Cleveland to becoming one of the most intriguing characters of the universal sports world.

Cover photo by USA Today

There is no such thing as a change of guard

Before the 2019 Australian Open, the seven-time Grand Slam-winning John McEnroe said he believed there would be a changing of the guard this year. Following the victory of 20-year-old Björn Borg-esque Stefanos Tsitsipas over Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, McEnroe was pumped up and said it again. On paper, these statements look exciting; we have been waiting for some competitive newcomers for a long time. Looking back to the first major of the year, the reality is that the juggernauts are still way ahead of the others.

In the semis, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal showed what I’m talking about: Nadal lost only six games to Tsisipas, and then the next day Lucas Pouille got demolished by Djokovic – he only won four games. Djokovic and Nadal proved once again that to claim that next generation is here and ready to command would surely be a bridge too far.

Furthermore, in the final, just to deepen this crisis, Djokovic gave a taste of what the next couple of years may look like under his reign. That 17-time Grand Slam winning guy on the other side of the net didn’t have a clue where on earth he was. He seemed lost and devastated from the first rally, while Djokovic was living his best life; he was in his zone, as The Ringer’s journalist wrote in this magnificent article. Djokovic was simply faultless. This kind of tennis is something we may have never seen before.

The thing is when Novak Djokovic is playing his best, perhaps only one human being could beat him, and that is Stan Wawrinka – but the problem is, Wawrinka reached his peak quite late, and now after recovering from various injuries he is trying to find his rhythm (a couple of weeks prior to his 34th birthday). It’s safe to say that we will never have the chance to have another legendary Wawrinka-Djokovic thriller in a Grand Slam final.

While Djokovic had been closing on his 15th Grand Slam trophy, the Eurosport commentators were making enthusiastic conversation on the differences of the winners hit by both players. The main point was when Nadal hit a winner, it was the result of effort, but when Djokovic did the same, it looked more like routine.

It seems that winning three consecutive Grand Slams is now a routine for Djokovic, too. This was his third triple; the last time he went to Paris and won the fourth, so keep that in your mind until May. Everybody knows that Nadal is nearly untouchable at the Chatrier, but maybe it would be a bold move to underestimate the desire of the number one player in the world.

Djokovic wants to be the best who has ever played this game, and he is definitely getting there. A win over Nadal in the Roland Garros would answer some open question for good. In the meantime, these NextGen stars have to wait a little bit longer; the room is still full of some old sports who don’t intend to go anywhere until the other two are standing straight.

Cover photo by REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Sir Andy Murray: The Fourth Musketeer who changed the tone for good

Before the 2019 Australian Open, the three-time Grand Slam winning, two-time Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray announced his retirement from professional sports due to his lingering hip injury.

The 31-year-old Scottish tennis superstar said in tears that he had done everything he could to feel better, though it didn’t help enough, and eventually he was playing with no clue as to when the pain was going to stop. Murray added that he plans to play this season, but he is not certain if he will be able to make it to Wimbledon.

After the 1st round loss at the Australian Open, watching him play as hungrily as ever, let’s hope he comes back to wave goodbye to the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

During his last game at the Rod Laver Arena, he proved himself once again: love him or hate him, you have to admit that this guy is a pure warrior. He tried to not care about his hips, even though he was visibly in pain. He did everything, played hard, fought until the very end, but eventually fell short to Bautista Agut.

Amazingly, no one was sad or disappointed. On the contrary: this amazing audience cheered for Murray like it was a Grand Slam final in Wimbledon. They breathed with him, they lived and died with him. If you are a true tennis fan, trust me, you did not want to miss this glamorous evening in Melbourne.

In a sport where Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic have played at the same time for ages, it has been relatively hard to stand out. Those three have won 52 single Grand Slams altogether, and they have been the World number 1 for 742 weeks – and their reign seems far from over.

Murray did stand out, on and off the court.

First things first: Murray was the outlaw among the bests, the eternal fourth Musketeer, the annoying little brother. The one who had to work twice as hard as anyone to get a seat in a club where there was only room for three. (Of course, Novak Djokovic was the pioneer, who entered the party first where only two invitations had been sent out.)

To win a major, or to win a Masters when Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic are peaking is quite an accomplishment. Sure, maybe they are more talented but speaking in terms of work ethic and dedication, Murray must be your man. Make no mistake, it’s not that those three superstars haven’t worked enough throughout their career; the point is that Murray was the one who had to put in the most during practice.

It’s like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo: Messi is a natural, Ronaldo is a machine. In the end, we all will remember those two as the best football players of all time; there is no doubt it.

Murray’s biggest on-court achievement is his three wins at Wimbledon. Who could forget about the 2012 Olympics final against the magnificent Roger Federer?

Off the court, Murray’s feminist actions and interviews opened many eyes. He is one of the first male tennis players to play an enormous role in changing the attitude towards female and minority players and coaches.. He has always supported players who needed help and counseling. He has used his social media platforms to speak up against hatred, sexism, and racism, among other issues. Andy Murray is a game-changer when you talk about fighting for a better future.

On top of all those challenges, Murray has fought his own battle with the media. You all know the famous saying, “Andy Murray is British when he wins and Scottish when he loses.”

He had his moments; shouting, screaming, and swearing sometimes made him look like a douche. He looked like one of us, and that seemed strange indeed. Yes, I am usually cursing in front of the telly, but how dare a professional tennis player act like that, right? Nick Kyrgios, are you listening?

What happens if he is a douche, huh? You have to be egoistic, confident, and ruthless to reach your true potential. Murray did great in a business where you are all alone against the world.

I tell you what: at the end of the day, Sir Andy Murray paid his toll. Everybody loves this well-known Scottish douche, who brought joy to an ever-more divided country, and made the people unite under one flag.

Cover photo by Marianne Bevis on VisualHunt / CC BY-ND/CBS