Let’s talk Olympics.
Despite no fans in the incredibly costly venues, the COVID situation (whatever it is on a particular day), the threat of cyclones, low ratings etc. etc. etc., the games are underway and they are meaningful.
Once the decision was made to hold the Olympics after the one year postponement, the competition ensues, whatever the obstacles.
The first thing we have to consider, are all the athletes who have dedicated their dreams to competing, sacrificing a great deal, and dedicating themselves to representing the United States in the greatest international arena.
Imagine the immense letdown and disappointment when then-President Jimmy Carter declared that the U.S. would not compete in the 1980 summer games in the SovietUnion.
So, for those athletes who know what it means to represent America, and are proud to wear the Red, White, and Blue, my hats off to them.
I am proud of them as well, and wish them nothing but success.
At the same time, for any athlete or team that are using these Olympics to show their disdain for what it means to be performing for our country, I have little respect and cannot root for them.
At this point, we’re talking about the Women’s Soccer team which has already taken a knee when the national anthem was played prior to their first match.
Why are they at the Olympics?
I would have had more respect had they not gone to Tokyo in the first place.
If they had decided to express their dissatisfaction with the USA by sacrificing their appearance in the Games, they would have, in effect said, “we’re not pleased with our country and we are giving something up to emphasize it”.
Of course, I would always recommend those who feel that way to try living elsewhere and see how that works out.
I suspect they would crawl back on their hands and knees.
Yes, in this country you have the luxury and right to protest.
Do it properly, and not in the midst of personal gain.
US Women’s Soccer Team kneel
Thus far, there have been rocky moments for the U.S. Olympic Team in various sports.
There have been struggles, not only in soccer, but in gymnastics, swimming and the men’s basketball team in the early going.
There’s plenty of time remaining for the picture to brighten, and the U.S. has, so far, won a good share of medals.
But it’s no slam dunk, (no pun intended), that American athletes will dominate most sports.
The rest of the world has great athletes too, and they try hard as well.
Speaking of slam dunks, the NBA ended in a blaze of glory.
The Milwaukee Bucks won the world championship beating the Phoenix Suns four consecutive times after trailing 2-0.
In a sport that has been all about the three-point basket for too many years, there was a throwback feel to these Finals.
The deciding sixth game could have been one of those Finals played between the Lakers and Celtics when I covered them, or the Bulls, in the Michael Jordan era.
The undisputed hero was a superstar from Greece named Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo, who will be referred here on in as Giannis for space sake, is a hero on a couple of counts.
First, he defied the fashionable practice these days of stars moving to big-market cities and sometimes bringing their big-time buddies along to win a championship.
Here are some of the game-changers who switched:
Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis.
There are more, for sure, and some of them forced trades as a way to get the job done, but the Golden Greek (he’s Greek-Nigerian) was a mighty exception.
Giannis stayed with the small-market Milwaukee Bucks instead of heading for the flash and dash of the big city.
As a result he spear-headed the Bucks to their first NBA title since 1970-71, when the duo of Lew Alcindor (before he changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and Oscar Robertson led the Bucks to their only other crown.
On the court, Giannis had as memorable a title-winning contest as anyone has ever had.
He finished with 50 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots.
When it was over, instead of prancing around as if it was all about him, Giannis was all about family, embracing his teammates, and his one-year old son, Liam, before weeping into a towel he pulled over his face.
Reviving the memory of the great 7’ 1” center Wilt Chamberlain, who was one of the greatest players in NBA history, Giannis turned foul shooting, his biggest weakness at 55 percent into a monumental asset, at one time hitting 13 free throws in a row.
Chamberlain, unfortunately never did accomplish a dramatic turnaround to what Giannis did in the biggest game, averaging only 51 percent from the line during his career.
In looking back on the NBA season,
I realize there are so many more brilliant long-range shooters playing today than ever before. And if you can score three instead of two, why not fire away?
But the game was created, in my view, as a kind of ballet on the hardwood, where passing, and working the ball for open shots or maneuvering inside for high percentage baskets was the name of the game.
Where defending the opposition to disrupt them for accomplishing their goal was a key to success.
The coaching philosophy of John Wooden at UCLA comes to mind.
His teams were beautiful to watch.
Even his big men, like Kareem, and Bill Walton had style and grace.
Maybe, just maybe, we will somewhat evolve back to that.
In any event, this year’s NBA Finals were a throwback to a different and refreshing time.