Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The King, And The King And Queen Of Ivy Hoops

If TigerBlog could turn the clock back a year, he'd find himself in a world where the two most beloved professional team sport athletes in this country were Peyton Manning and LeBron James.

How could you not like these two?

Manning and James came across as incredibly hard working, team-oriented players who gave everything they had every game and almost never disappointed, even when their team lost. Away from the game, they both seemed so likeable, and together they churned out one funny commercial after another that played to those images.

About the only difference was that Manning won a Super Bowl, while James had yet to win an NBA title. Still, who thought James wouldn't get one, two, three with the Cavaliers, and what a feel-good story would that have been, a local kid from Akron who injected life into a great sports city that hasn't celebrated a championship since Jim Brown and the 1964 Browns.

Yes, the Cavs didn't have much of a supporting case. Still, they'd get James his "Scottie Pippen" one day, and the result would be ring after ring.

After all, who would stop a team with LeBron James, a freak of nature who could physically dominate a game like no other non-center ever. This includes Michael Jordan, whose dominance was half mental and half physical and who, by the way, is the greatest athlete TigerBlog has ever seen.

James, though wasn't that far behind. And when he won his championships in Cleveland, TB would be rooting hard for him, because who could possibly root against someone like James?

Fast forward a year, and this is what was written by Mike Vaccaro - who used to cover some Princeton basketball for the Star-Ledger - in the New York Post after the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals:

"America hadn’t rejoiced with this united a voice since Mike Eruzione beat Vladimir Myshkin with a wrist shot 31 1/2 years ago."

Or, as Adrian Wojnarowski wrote on Yahoo sports:

"The Mavericks bus was packed with players and coaches and family, and the door opened up wide for Nowitzki. The noise and laughter and love came tumbling out for him. He climbed on, the bus peeled out of the parking lot and toward the Venetian Causeway across the green waters of Biscayne Bay, toward a long night of partying, and a longer life as a champion. And here’s how the Year of LeBron James finally ended in a balmy night in June: Dirk Nowitzki was taking his team, his trophy, his talents to South Beach."

It's unlikely that LeBron James could have done more to destroy his image, reputation and legacy in less than a year if he had actually sat down and planned to do so, short of committing a massive felony or getting caught up in a Tiger Woods situation.

James did all of the following since the end of last NBA season:
* had a narcissistic free-agency celebration of himself
* announced his decision to take his talents to South Beach, as he said, on an even more narcissistic one-hour television special
* took part in a welcoming ceremony that raised the bar of narcissism, if that was possible
* reached the NBA Finals
* shockingly disappeared when it counted
* mocked Dirk Nowitski
* ripped the fans after his team lost

Today, there's not one casual fan who will ever root for LeBron again. TigerBlog has a friend in Ohio who sent a text message after the game Tuesday that had two letters for LBJ, the first being an F and the second being somewhat obvious.

About the only way James will be able to salvage his reputation is to have Dwyane Wade get hurt and miss the playoffs and have Miami win the NBA title as James averages 30+ points.

Hey, James had a triple-double in Game 5 and 21 points in Game 6 and still came out looking worse than any athlete ever has in a championship setting that TB can remember.

And with the meltdown of James and the Heat, basketball season ended for 2011. And with a lockout looming, who knows if there'll be a 2011-12 season.

The NBA Finals ended three months to the day when Douglas Davis hit his shot against Harvard at the buzzer of the Ivy League playoff game, moving Princeton into the NCAA tournament. Five days later, Princeton came within a basket of knocking off Kentucky in the first round.

As an aside, Harvard doesn't exactly appear to be over how the playoff game ended.

The NBA runs forever compared to college, which runs long enough, considering it starts earlier and earlier in November.

The 2011 basketball season was the first in Princeton history where the men and women both advanced to the NCAA tournament, as the women did so for the second time in program history (and second straight time, of course) and the men did so for the first time since 2004.

The women won their championship minus the great Niveen Rasheed, who missed most of the season with a torn ACL. Despite that loss, Princeton went 13-1 in the league, making the Tigers 27-1 in the last two years. Addie Micir, a senior, won the Ivy League's Player of the Year Award unanimously.

The men won their championship as the culmination of a great turnaround for the program, a turnaround led by seniors Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox.

Princeton went 7-23 Micir's freshman year; the men were 6-23 that same year.

And despite that, it was a happy, feel-good ending for Princeton basketball in 2011.

And not as much of one for LeBron James.

Please don't let Peyton Manning be next.


CAZ said...

"All-American" Dirk & company knock off LeBron and the evil Miami empire and the world's a better place for it (despite the fact that Mark Cuban's a clown).

BTW, Peyton Manning's mock United Way commercial on SNL is still one of the funniest things I've ever seen!

Anonymous said...

The CBS Sports article to which you linked reports that Harvard players, while lifting weights this off-season, "will just yell out '2.8'" because the Crimson led with 2.8 seconds remaining in the playoff game against Princeton.

More accurately, the last play *began* with 2.8 seconds on the clock. Douglas Davis' shot left his hand with 0.2 seconds remaining and didn't drop through the net until the scoreboard already read 0.0.

To be precise, Harvard actually led at the end of regulation. Princeton didn't take the lead until afterwards.

When the Crimson players are lifting weights, they should yell out "negative 0.1."