Kobe Bryant China

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant announced plans on Tuesday for China’s first NBA basketball school, a development the 18-time All-Star says will improve the game in the country. The NBA Basketball School-Mission Hills Haikou will be open to male and female players from junior up to professional level after its completion in 2019 and could… Continue reading “Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant unveils NBA China academy plans”

Michael Jordan angry
Michael Jordan gently discusses an issue with the ref

By Marcus Shockley

If you haven’t heard about Mike Rice, the head coach of Rutgers men’s basketball team and his abuse of his players during practice, you can catch up with the video below. Needless to say, Mike Rice should be fired – under no circumstances is this acceptable behavior for anyone, child or adult. I would go so far as to say that the fact that the Athletic Director didn’t fire Rice immediately should be concern about the AD as well.

But one issue that this raises is that many sports pundits have taken to the idea that in order to be great in sports, either as a player or a coach, you have to be a megalomaniac, completely absorbed in your own desires and focused only on yourself, to the point of complete disregard for anyone else in any capacity.

The popular icon of this is Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, who also became one of the biggest egos of all time; it has become commonplace to refer to any dysfunctional or abusive behavior as ‘what is required’ in order to be legendary. Several players are said to have this ‘winning’ attitude: Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and Serena Williams have all been described in such terms.

But it’s not true.

There is a common phrase used in the field of statistics whenever a theory is introduced based on only a few variables: “Correlation does not imply causation”. To put this in plain English, just because you have a couple of examples of something occurring does not make it true for all cases, or even true in general.

There are some things that hold true; fierce competitiveness, focus and a strong discipline are all factors of every legendary player. Many pro players are stunted emotionally because as they’ve worked like mad at their sport, outside of sports they are handed many things for most of their life.

But there are plenty of examples of players who won – a lot – and weren’t crushing people with their ego along the way.

Jackie Robinson, the focus of a new movie about how he broke the color barrier in baseball, was such an example. Think Robinson wasn’t as great as Kobe? Consider that Jackie Robinson was so good that he forced racist business owners to completely change their beliefs; forced their hand because they would rather go against hundreds of years of cultural and societal taboos rather than pass on his talent.

But even today there are tons of examples of superstar athletes who aren’t preening egomaniacs – Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Roger Federer and Kelly Slater all have lengthy careers – all would be HOF or the equivalent in their sport – and none have the supposed burning self-love that is claimed to be a prerequisite to greatness.

Let us not forget how many jerks we run into, in all walks of life, every single day. People cut each other off in traffic; push ahead of each other in line at grocery stores; steal office supplies; start rumors about each other; cheat on their spouses. The vast majority of those people behave like jackasses a lot, some of them to the point of ruining their marriages and careers. Their behavior certainly doesn’t make them legendary.

The simple truth is this: if someone is a legendary player and behaves like a jackass, they are just a jerk who is also good at their sport. They are not great because they are a jerk. If being a jackass made people great, our world would be teeming with amazingly talented people on every street corner.

Go ahead an nod along, you know I’m right. There are plenty of untalented knuckleheads in the world.

So, let’s call it what it is when people have dysfunctional, anti-social behavior instead of dressing it up and dismissing it as a quality. Kobe Bryant is a great player, but he’s also a jackass. Michael Jordan was the greatest player, and he is also a jackass. Let’s not confuse the two.

And Mike Rice? Yeah, well, there’s really no question what he is.

Marcus Shockley is the founder of BasketballElite.com and a member of the US Basketball Writers Association. You can follow Marcus on Twitter right this second.

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant talks at a news conference after the Lakers were knocked out of the NBA basketball playoffs in Los Angeles, California, May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


A look at some of the headlines in the world of basketball today…

In the Big East, easily one of the best college basketball conferences over the last ten years, remaining members are reeling from the departure of Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC. As a scramble to hold the Big East together takes shape, the first step is getting everyone in agreement, and that has started as the Big East CEOs give their okay for the commissioner to expand (or, perhaps, ‘re-expand’):

The presidents and chancellors of the 14 remaining Big East members and TCU have authorized Commissioner John Marinatto to “aggressively pursue discussions” with certain schools interested in joining the league.

In Italy, the most notable player negotiations are happening between Kobe Bryant and Virtus Bologna, who is attempting feverishly to get a deal done that will take one the world’s top players to their court. The move makes sense on a lot of levels, not the least of which being that Kobe Bryant already speaks fluid Italian, which will make him even more marketable during his stint there, should it come to fruition:

Bologna President Claudio Sabatini had told The Associated Press on Friday he had reached a tentative deal with agent Rob Pelinka for a 10-game contract worth more than $3 million.

This deal would be a no-brainer for both Bologna and Bryant, as Bryant’s 10 game stint would be a mere blip in his life, while the shortness of the contract would ensure heavy fan interest for those games, allowing Bologna to recoup their money quickly, not to mention the fact that Bologna would be able to sell Kobe Bryant jerseys from now on.

Kevin Durant has already participated in several charity basketball games on the East coast, and says that soon he will probably bring one to Oklahoma City:

Had a lot of fun with my NBA homes at @CP3’s basketball game in Winston Salem State…be on the lookout for a game in OKC in mid October!” Durant wrote after participating in New Orleans point guard Chris Paul’s event.

Speaking of Chris Paul’s charity basketball game, Winston-Salem State officials have begun the process of investigating and refunding “legitimate ticket holders” who were denied access to the game after counterfeiters apparently got involved:

“I think it was really shady. If the gym has capacity, why would you sell 4,500 tickets?” one fan said. “Sad part about it, there was at least 500 people out here. They told us two hours after we stood out here that seats were all filled and they were over capacity already.”

Finally, Texas landed 2012 PF Connor Lammert this weekend, a 6’9″ player from San Antonio. Conner is a good passer as a big man and will add depth inside the paint for the Longhorns.

By Marcus Shockley

Kobe Bryant
Flikr/Keith Allison

Most of the NBA teams are terrible at business. Wait, check that, most professional sports teams in all leagues are bad at business. Just as with corporations, sports teams are usually dysfunctional organizations that limp along from year to year barely surviving a plethora of bad decisions.

However, there are some sports teams that know what they are doing, and one of them is the Los Angeles Lakers. Over the years, the Lakers have been patient, drafted well and traded well. They’ve cut older vets loose at the right time and brought in young guys at the right time.

That’s why with the talk of a Carmelo trade to the Lakers, I find it interesting that the Lakers aren’t actually looking to shed someone else.

Kobe Bryant.

Kobe has now played more games in his career than Michael Jordan. Now, it’s true that Kobe entered the league younger than Jordan did, and Kobe does appear to have more in the tank at this point than Jordan did when he’d played this many games. But the reality is, even though Kobe has a lot of scoring left, it’s plain that the end is in sight within a few years.

That’s why now is the time for the Lakers to be looking to trade their superstar, while they can still get a maximum return. This isn’t the first time they would have done it; Shaq still had enough game left to bring a title to Miami before he became the Big Backup, but the Lakers cut him loose for the long term. It may be time for the Lakers to do the same with Kobe.

It won’t be a popular decision, but it would be a blockbuster trade that could set L.A. up for the next ten years. It might even involve multiple teams. I couldn’t tell you what the frenzy would result in or where Kobe would land. All I could say with relative certainty that he wouldn’t end up in Cleveland.

Consider this: four years from now, Kobe might not even be in the league. That’s how fast a player’s career can go from superstar to Allen Iverson. And for Kobe, that time is approaching. Each year…actually, each month…that the Lakers hold on to him, he gets closer to that reality. Sure, he might play another five, six years, but the truth is, that’s not likely. Next year, he’ll be worth less than this year. The year after that? Less.

So before the Lakers make a big trade between Carmelo and some other supporting player, I think they should be looking at a major shakeup.

Hey, if you like this kind of basketball coverage, do yourself a favor and sign up for the BasketballElite.com newsletter, which is free for basketball lovers.

By Marcus Shockley

Carlos Boozer

Since January is the time when every media outlet and newspaper spits out a ‘Best of’ list for the preceding year, I’ve decided that since I need to clear out as much time between now and the Super Bowl for the oncoming glut of sporting events, I will offer my awards right now. Of course, I’m not really interested in handing out a bunch of meaningless awards, and since I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, what I figured it was really time to do was do a long overdue ‘tallying up’.

I mean, there have been some hits and misses over the years in my sports rants or predictions, but I’m a big enough man to admit when I’m wrong. I’m also enough of a trash talker to mouth off when I was completely right. So while this list is by no means comprehensive, and I reserve the right to continue to formulate an opinion, here are the 2010 Right-Wrong Awards. This does not mean this is necessarily something that I just realized I was wrong or right about this year, but at some point I either decided it was time to gloat or I had to (gulp) admit defeat.

Wrong: Carlos Boozer

I was wrong about NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer. I thought, and stated, that Boozer was the least likely Duke player on a very talented Duke squad to end up with any type of NBA career. Now, there are two caveats to this; one, Jay Williams’ injury prevented him from being the best pro player from that team, and, two, I had watched UNC’s Kris Lang manhandle Boozer for several years. Lang was barely thought to be a pro prospect after several injuries, but he beat Boozer like a drum. I just couldn’t see the undersized Boozer making the jump to the pro game. But I was wrong. Mr. Boozer is not only still in the pros but one of the best power forwards in the league.

Right: DeMarcus Cousins

It’s a little early to gloat about a player who’s barely broken into his rookie season, but until Cousins proves me wrong, I’m going to point out that I said repeatedly during the NBA draft last summer that I wouldn’t draft Cousins under any circumstances. Now that Cousins is already wearing out his welcome in Sacramento before the team has even played 20 games, I’m going to continue to say it. There’s one thing that coaches, owners and GMs of bad teams do repeatedly, and that’s ignore a malcontent’s personality traits.

Wrong: Kobe Bryant

For years, I disliked Kobe Bryant, mostly because he thought the three championships that Shaq brought to the Lakers were because of him, not Shaquille. His immaturity was over the top, and I watched as he, and the Lakers, could not find success with him being their only star player and no legitimate big man. But, Kobe finally grew up a few years ago and realized that he could not do it on his own. I never thought Kobe would do it, but he asked the Lakers to make the move and bring in Pau Gasol, another star big man, and the Lakers returned to the championship.

Right: Andy Rautins

I think I was the only person who scouted Andy Rautins as a potential NBA player last season. I get it, Rautins was considered a marginal D1 player when he landed at Syracuse, so it was tough for people to see past that. But I wrote last year that Rautins’ passing, size, shooting and ballhandling had developed to the point that he was a legitimate NBA candidate. Now, he’s playing on the Knicks, albeit sparingly, but since everyone said I was clueless, it’s time to point out that everyone else had it wrong.

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