Tag Archives: NBA

NBA Dunk Contest Revitalization: Zach LaVine

By Matt Stevenson

February 20, 2015

NBA All-Star Weekend has gained possibly the largest following of any sports regarding all-star games. The various competitions and games played by numerous players from across the league makes for a fun, high energy weekend. Of course, the event most pay attention to is the Dunk Contest. However in recent years the Dunk Contest has lost its vibe. The overuse of props and recycled dunks has many fans bored with the competition as it doesn’t even feature the best dunkers or big names in the contest as it once did.

The Dr. J free throw line dunk, Michael Jordan’s classic “Air Jordan”, and of course Vinsanity have all been created on the Saturday Night phenomenon. Yet as we see highlights from the Dunk Contest now, you don’t remember seeing recent years dunks as much as over a decade and further.

The ratings have been down and the media ridicules the competition for the lack of enthusiasm. This year though, a rookie from the Minnesota Timberwolves would have something to say about the lackluster contest.

Andrew Wiggins held up the MVP trophy at the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but his teammate Zach LaVine would steal the weekend with his almost heroic performance the following evening. Like a town in need of saving, the Dunk Contest needed a superhero-like figure and Zach LaVine delivered. Being a 90’s kid we all know of the classic movie featuring Michael Jordan, “Space Jam”. He was the hero Toontown needed to proceed happily.

Well Zach LaVine whipped out the Toontown jersey with the theme song playing in the background and put on a dunk performance for the ages. Flashy, original, and perfection are three words to describe what LaVine did at the contest. A self lob off of the court, LaVine rose up with the ball and put it between the legs and reversed it home for his first dunk. The second dunk he bounced off the court again, rising up with it and smoothly putting it behind his lower back and powering it in the hoop with a forceful jam. The crowd roared with energy, all-stars stared in amazement, the announcers were screaming with excitement,  and challenger Victor Oladipo along with Dr. J had a face that said it all.

Receiving the highest ratings in the events 26-year history, Zach LaVine had revitalized the once spectacular NBA Dunk Contest and made it spectacular once again.

NBA Stars Take a Stand With “I Can’t Breathe T-Shirts”

By Nick Muhl

In a show of support for Eric Garner and his family, NBA stars LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and several other players wore black “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts during the Cleveland Cavaliers game versus the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night.

The players wore the shirts during their pre-game warm ups, copying the move by Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. Rose was the first to wear the shirt during his pre-game warm up before the Bulls game on Saturday.

While LeBron had made many statements throughout the prior week, regarding his displeasure with several highlighted law enforcement related deaths including Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, the decision to wear the shirts came as a surprise to many.

James was interviewed following the game and attributed the symbolic act to “the power of social media.”

James was quoted Sunday requesting a shirt like Rose, through the social media app Twitter, Brooklyn Nets guard Jarrett Jack was able to supply and coordinate wearing the shirts in a sign of peaceful protest.

When the players for both teams came out for pre-game warm ups, the social media world erupted. While the twitter world was scattered with both positive and negative reactions, the #ICantBreathe trend rose back to the top trend on Twitter following the pre-game warm ups, and still remains in the top 5.

Just as LeBron attributed the success of the silent protest to social media, James, Rose, and the other NBA players knew their act of protest would draw attention to the major racial issues and tensions going on recently in the United States – especially on social media.

The NBA is not the only professional sports league to be the topic of headlines regarding players act of protests in the past several weeks. Most notably the NFL’s St. Louis Rams had several players including wide receivers Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt, who demonstrated the “hands up, don’t shoot” sign of protest during pre-game introductions for the team last Sunday.The NFL did not fine any of the Rams players.

According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, the NBA will not fine any of the players for wearing the t-shirts at this time. However, Amick will not provide the name of his source.

LeBron had this to say about the protest following the game,

“As a society we have to do better. We have to be better for one another no matter what race you are. But it’s more of a shoutout to the family more than anything because they’re the ones who should be getting the energy and effort.”

Coverage of the many protests have highlighted the news now for several weeks, and can be expected to for at least several more weeks. It remains to be seen if the NBA players act of protest will continue and how much media attention, as well as social media reaction, it will receive.

Cleveland Rocks Again

By Matt Rogers

It’s a Sunday in November, and the Cleveland Browns are relevant in the NFL playoff picture. At 5-3, this marks the best first half of the season the Browns have had since 2007, when the team finished with their last winning record: 10-6. Thus, making it almost impossible for the national media to ignore the feat. The Browns have earned plenty of mentions on the national networks, lately, What makes this appealing to Browns’ fans is that it’s not because of their futility or for purpose of being the butt of every joke.

Also worthy of mention regarding sports teams in Cleveland is the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers had what most will agree to be the best offseason of any NBA team this past summer, when LeBron James released an essay in Sports Illustrated telling Cleveland he was “Coming Home”, after spurning the city and team just four years earlier in gut-wrenching fashion with “The Decision”. It also did not hurt that Kevin Love, who some believe is the NBA’s best Power forward, was added via a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves for rookie number one pick, Andrew Wiggins, and former number one pick, Anthony Bennett.

After losing their first game, in what was a highly covered game because it was the first game of LeBron James’ homecoming season, the Cavaliers won their second game. Both of these games were televised on national networks, after only having a handful of nationally televised games over the last four years without LeBron.

It is sure to be a year to remember in Cleveland because of the buzz that these two teams are creating. The buzz will only get louder, and louder, and louder as the season goes on because of the excitement that being relevant within the NFL and NBA brings. Cleveland fans are usually regarded as some of the most passionate fans in the NFL, NBA, and MLB. There may be times that the Cleveland fans are not the most loyal, but every city has fans that are guilty of the same. Anyone would be hard pressed to find a city more deserving of a winner, after waiting 50 years, and counting, between championships. This includes losing two World Series in 1995 and 1997, and suffering through what was LeBron’s first ‘Decision’. It is about time that Cleveland teams give their fans something to consistently cheer about rather than showing glimpses of a breakthrough only to have any hope ripped away with another losing season.

Derrick Rose: The Comeback Kid?

By Ellen Chlumecky

On Wednesday, October 29th, Derrick Rose was finally cleared to play again. The long-awaited return of Chicago Bull Derrick Rose to the United Center has finally been answered. However, Derrick Rose’s return to the court so far has not been met with entirely positive opinions. While there will always be haters of Derrick Rose, some media has doubts about whether or not Derrick Rose can make a comeback.

For the most part, Chicago fans are ecstatic to have their prince of basketball return to center stage. While there are some disbelievers, the city of Chicago cannot wait to see Rose prove himself on the court once again. Chicago Bulls fans are a long-suffering community since the Michael Jordan era. Don’t get me wrong, they have had glimmers of hope since their last 1998 Championship but Derrick Rose was truly their new beacon of light and with his teammates Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson, they seemed unstoppable. On April 28, 2012 Derrick Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee and all of Chicago’s glimmer of hope was shut down once again. Now that he has once again returned, Chicago is wary of his return just because of the injury and worried how long the prince’s reign will last this time.

His teammates and coaches have shown nothing but positive praise for Rose as he worked in the past few months during the preseason. He is working tirelessly to perform at his best. Rose wants to play at his best level for his teammates and coaches. His teammates and coaches know that his main priority is always to improve the whole of the team. His teammates comment on how he is a team player and have complete faith that he will be at 100% this season. Very few players lead the team with such passion such as Rose. His teammates look up to him and wish for nothing but a successful return.

However, several different media sources like the New York Times, have some doubt about whether or not Derrick Rose still has what it takes to remain a legacy. While they had some high praise to say about Rose, they still have some doubts about his progress and if he can be the same player that he was before his injury. They have been calling Derrick Rose a question mark, not in his talent, but in his health.

It seems that the people who have the most faith in his ability to come back are competitors. LeBron James has stated several times how he believes the Chicago Bulls have a shot at a playoff run this year. He stated, “The Bulls are a team that’s much better than us right now.” He has stated that with Rose back in top health and the team he has behind, there is no doubt it’ll be a successful season for them. Even Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks had only positive things to say about Rose. He commented, “He’s a franchise player and the reason he needs more time to recover than me is because his main goal for him when he comes back is to be M.V.P. right away.” Players in the NBA know what he’s capable of and seem to have no doubt in their minds that he’ll be back in action this season.

As a Chicago Bulls and a Derrick Rose fan myself, I am more than excited to see what he has up his sleeve this year. He has worked his tail off during the preseason to be stronger, faster, and a better teammate. I have no doubt in my mind that Rose will make the doubters eat their words this season.

TNT’s Analyst-Only Experiment

BY ANTHONY ALFORD

For TNT’s broadcast of the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors, TNT used three analysts and no play-by-play announcer. This marked the first time in NBA history a broadcast team did not include a play-by-play announcer. Steve Kerr, Reggie Miller, and Chris Webber were on the call.

It could have been a train-wreck, but proved to be an effective line-up.

There were quite a few positives about this broadcast. First, more people watched an otherwise meaningless regular season game and TNT became “trending” topic on Twitter. Fans showed interest in this style of broadcasting because nobody has ever done it. The broadcasting team also had great chemistry from having worked together on NBA TV’s “Open Court.” Despite the game becoming a blowout in the second half, the broadcast team kept it conversational, like three friends at a bar talking about the game.

However, there were some major drawbacks. Because there was no traditional play-by-play person, there was hardly any mention of stats or relevant context to how the game was progressing.

This is not the first time a network tried a non-traditional sportscast. In December 1980, NBC aired an NFL telecast with no announcers. While this was different and interesting, it was insulting to the sports broadcasting profession because, as Dick Enberg said, “We’re paid to talk.” In my opinion, NBC’s experiment was meant to kill an entire profession unlike the TNT experiment.I believe it is OK to do something different for telecasts as long as the experiments are not at the expense of the profession. TNT could do this again in the future, but America will be fine with Marv Albert and Kevin Harlan calling NBA games.

Commentator mocks athlete’s injury with knuckle pushup

BY MATTHEW OSTROW

The pregame show for the NBA TV game on Sunday night was poor.  The crew, Brent Barry and Steve Smith, did the show from the studio. The commentators lacked focus and were subpar in their game analysis.

The pregame coverage of the two teams started about a half an hour before tip-off. The first story about the game was a 10-minute piece where Ahmad Rashad sat down with Brandon Roy.  The story was very well done covering new issues with Roy’s comeback to the NBA.  It featured highlights from his last game as well as highlights from this year’s preseason.

After that story, the guys in the studio talked about the Toronto Raptors and what they did offensively in their first game.  Barry and Smith used a large touch screen to show what the team was trying to do on offense.

After talking of the Raptors and their first game, they focused on the injuries to Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Barry even did a knuckle push-up in studio to mock Kevin Love’s injury (Love reportedly broke his hand while doing knuckle push-ups).  It was inappropriate and over-the-top for Barry to do. 

The pregame show also did a very poor job introducing the game.  There were no graphics of the starting line-ups or team statistics.  The crews just sent you directly to the game where the players were lining up for tip-off.  The viewer did not know who the starters were or any pre-game statistics.

NBA announcers focus on ‘same faces, new places’

BY LOREN BRANCH

Championship caliber teams, rookies, injuries, Kobe, and LeBron … These are all popular subjects during the beginning of every NBA season.

However, this year the various moves and trades seem to be the topic of discussion around the league. From the pre and post-game shows of the opening night games to the daily ESPN shows, anywhere the NBA is being talked about, all the offseason moves are leading the discussions.

The nationally televised opening night games were: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Lakers. All four of these teams made some big personnel changes prior to the beginning of the season so both broadcasts were full of conversations and comments on that topic.

During both pre-game shows, analysts spent a lot of time discussing how the new players were going to fit in with their new teams and how they got there. Specifically before the Celtics vs. Heat game, they commented on how strange it was to see former Celtic Ray Allen playing in a Heat jersey against the team he just left in free agency.

Because the games were back-to-back on TNT, they shared a post-game show centered on analyzing how the teams looked in their first game together. A good portion of the discussion about the Mavericks vs. Lakers game focused on how the Lakers didn’t seem to be gelling together with their new team and offensive scheme. This conversation overshadowed how well the Mavericks played without their best player in Dirk Nowitzki, which was only mentioned very briefly.

In the two days since those opening games, NBA conversations continue to revolve around “same faces, new places.” Whether it’s discussing the playoff hopes James Harden has brought to the Houston Rockets or how well Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will play together in Brooklyn, every single one of the non sport-specific ESPN shows have been discussing NBA roster changes.  Pardon the Interruption, SportsCenter, and First Take all discussed the Lakers disappointing 0-2 start and made suggestions as to what they need to do to get their new all-star cast to work together.

‘Dream Team’ documentary a ‘must see’

BY ANTHONY ALFORD

The new documentary about the 1992 U.S. Men’s Basketball Olympic Team is a must see for any sports fan.

Produced by NBA TV, the film focuses on how superstars with huge competitive egos like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson can co-exist on the same team. More importantly, this film shows what it took for this Olympic team to be the best team in the history of team sports.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this documentary was how they focused on the internal competitive battles within the team.  It was Jordan versus Johnson or Barkley versus Malone to find out who was the best. The practice footage that was used to show these battles was brilliant. Viewers were able to really see how intense every practice was.

The documentary also went in-depth as to how the team’s head coach, Chuck Daly, then the Piston’s head coach, managed all the different personalities on this team. More interviews with assistant coaches, some of them Hall of Famers, would have strengthened the documentary.

The production of this film was excellent.  It gave the audience an in-depth look at the “Dream Team” through many interviews with a lot of perspective.

NBA TV is known for quality NBA programming because that network is operated by Turner Sports, which is the home to the best studio show in sports “Inside the NBA.”