Friday, January 27, 2012
Hollywood’s Biggest Blockbuster.
By Tim David Harvey
Welcome to L.A., where there appears to be changing weather on the horizon in Southern California. It seems these days the stars are shining brighter and in this city of angels everyone is looking to fly. Los Angeles may not have a NFL team…yet (thanks Magic), but they boast two NBA franchises. Now that’s no new news…but what is, is that for the first time in what seems like ever the two basketball teams seem evenly matched. Now isn’t that interesting?
In the red (and blue corner) stand the young, hungry L.A. Clippers and their poster boy/dunking highlight/new star of the; NBA Blake Griffin, and in the purple and gold corner stand league legend, and the closest thing to ‘His Airness’; Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers. For the first time the STAPLES Centre can host two teams with pride. Sure this is the house Kobe helped build, with all those rings and Lakers banners but now the Clippers can claim residence too…and not just when the floor is changed in their favour.
A city with two top teams makes for a great divide. Like Everton and Liverpool in the English, Soccer Premier League, this is a ‘derby’ that’ll attract fans, competition, followers, buzz, hype and more revenue to a post-lockout hurt NBA. Somewhere David Stern is licking his wounds, rubbing his hands together and smiling. This rivalry could result in some epic battles, for years in the making.
Blake Griffin brought more than dunks and ‘Top Ten Plays of the Week’ to the Clippers Nation. You, see he’s much more than those Shawn Kemp and Shaq’s lovechild rim rockers. His great game have kept the Clips in it and helped attract a fresh, new team to the other side of Hollywood…along with some new A-List fans.
You could even call Blake a better recruiter than LeBron as him; DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe and the rest of the young bucks have been joined by some real veteran talent. The Lakers (minus the literal gutting loss of Lamar Odom) may still be intact thanks to Gasol, Fisher, some World Peace and a career and Dwight Howard bettering Andrew Bynum, but the Clippers are stacked…high. There’s ‘mo’ to this team than talent like Williams. Take former Lakers alumni Caron Butler and Brian Cook, former Laker killer Chauncey Billups and of course more importantly Chris Paul, (who almost was a Laker) to the other side of all those championship banners.
Hence, here lies the birth of this new competitiveness between the two L.A. squads and rivalry. Even if Derek Fisher insists there’s no bad blood, there’s certainly some boiling tension. It may be playful and fun (and that’s when rivalries are at their best and most enjoyable) but we all see the back and forth. Not only have both teams drawn each others blood in their two official meetings this year, the subplots are turning into individual script-selling stories of their own in a town full of tall tales.
Look at Chris Paul. Many angry Laker fans and even the player himself believe he should be standing next to Kobe in purple and gold, but instead now Kobe has been standing between him and the player that should have ended up in New Orleans in his place. You see even Pau Gasol is trash-talking. Now that’s the ‘soft-shedding’ style all of Lakers Nation wants to see. In the Lakers/Clippers matchup the other day after a play Pau tussled what little hair Paul has. What resulted was a frustrated, almost angry response from the usually cool and calm Chris which in reality was nothing, but in some other way looked like the Clippers Point making a stand against a player whose spot he could have taken. Things are clearly tense in this tight competition.
As we know, instead of being the biggest P.G. since Magic to lead the Lakers, David Stern sent Chris Paul back to New Orleans on a nixed trade that then left the Lakers out of commission as they lost Lamar Odom, the most versatile aspect of their squad, their open floor and almost much more. Also despite David’s stern, post lockout, lock down, iron-fist control, CP3 ended up in STAPLES and L.A. anyway but for what used to be the cities sister team.
Now with purple blood more than simmering, this changing of the guard has also altered the time and tide of this league and its balances of power and made for one hell of a war story for the intensity of these two titan teams clashes. The Lake Show still have an age and critic defying Kobe and all that championship experience behind them in terms of weight, but with Blake, the future and some of the leagues past best on their side the Clippers are more than tipping the scale.
All these backlashes and back-stories make for one hell of a matchup and with the season series spilt, only one more game or even an almost destined to happen amazing playoff series looks like the determining factor in finalising which team is better; the ageing contender or the young pretender. Even with all this journalistic talk and Chris Paul argument there really is a hell of a lot more to play for and this makes for a heaven sent matchup in this angelic city of star-making stories.
L.A. has always been its own city, and even in the limited city National Basketball Association this town with two teams raged against the basketball business machine. Now in this battle of Los Angeles the whole city is up for grabs as the Clippers and the Lakers look to take the house for their own. It’s all about to be left on the changing of the floor. Will it be show’s over in Clipperland? Or lights out for the Lake Show? May the best team win.
Friday, January 20, 2012
"Not bad for seventh best player in the league"
Why so serious? Why the hate? Why the doubt. Continually fans and critics alike write off Kobe Bryant but it's clear he still has the beans to make it to the final shuffle. Despite LeBron, the city of Dallas, the whole critical landscape and a recent loss standing in his way Kobe still fast breaks forward. Too old? He's 33 for basketball God's sake. That may be old in dog years, but the Dobermans still got plenty of seasons to come before he starts emulating 'Floor Jordan'. ESPN's seventh best player in the league? Pleeeease!
"Just making adjustments, you've got to figure out a way to get it done"
In the face of the twilight years of his career, Kobe remains in the zone, where lesser players would fold. He remains doubled and tripled, when other former stars are singled out and ignored in this game. A few years back the fabulous, inventive 'Freedarko' book 'The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac: Styles, Stats, and Stars in Today's Game' said that if Shaquille O'Neal was Superman with a 'S' on his chest, then that made Kobe Bryant 'The Dark Knight'.
We've known for years that he was far from a Robin-esque sidekick but the book described the Lakers Batman as being a "stormy mortal" and "vulnerable but all the stronger for it". Kobe may not be as "cute and cuddly" as Chris Rock and everyone else though, but his dark, killer instinct to the game help him make the chess moves that takes down the other NBA pawns. All the Jokers and the Riddler's of the league better watch out. This 'Dark Knight' is about to rise.
"Everybody cries for a change, cries for you know the fact I'm too old, it's just a bad game and a bad wrist"
Like the boy that cried wolf, we don't believe the lies. We've heard it all before. Sure Kobe is getting slower but that just means he's seeing the game even slower, like Magic, like 'The Matrix'. He's in control, breaking it down piece by piece like Sherlock Holmes, breaking it down play by play, detecting breaks and smoking the opposition. Age 'aint nothing but a number, legends like Aaliyah and Kobe know this. One bad game is just a box score. A lasting legacy is forever more. Imagine if Kobe's wrist wasn't hurt and strapped for all those 40 plud games, even the critics had to jokingly admit, he could of gone as cold as Toronto or Drake again and hit 81. That would have made headlines for sure. They know...they know.
Still, 'can he sustain it?' Of course they ask, and of course as short and sweet as ever Bryant responds.
"What do you think"
As the journalist laughs off a struggle for a reply.
"Go ahead say no...go ahead",
"Nobody cares what I think", the journalist replies.
Exactly, its all on Kobe...and Kobe knows this. Sure more critics and opponents are coming his way. Some work for magazines, some are called Durant, but Bryant answers them all, keeps it short, simple, elegant and executing. Bryant's murder game is killing fields. We know the man, but we don't know his methods. From the play to the compliments paid, Bryant's earning his way back into the top consideration. A mindset that should have never left him. Sure people can touch this basketball God these days but beware of the wrath of this Titan in each and every clash. The Black Mamba may let you get close enough, but that's only to trap you, bite you and sink his teeth and venom in you. Thinking you have one over a silent warrior and a Dark Knight is poisonous, it's deadly.
"It's a weapon"
Kobe scores big sure when his team needs him but he also knows when to deflect to the Lakers last second king when the clutch calls for it. They say Kobe can;t do it on his own and they are right. That's why the Lake Show reels off guys like Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and the ever Dwight Howard forgetting Andrew Bynum. Still when they are backed down, Kobe steps up. Some may blame him, but they forget he does this when they need him. People forget the MVP award Kobe won when he became more of a team player...oh and those championships too.
His career is classic, his play cinematic. Sure LeBron and Voltron may have a hold over the once ESPN magazine heralded Iron Man of the league, but Kobe and his Avengers look to bring box-office success to Hollywood this year, no matter how many celebrities or detractors show up. It doesn't matter to bean, Bryant will still flash that Jordanesque smile and play. Kobe's having fun in the second half of his career and is really seeing the game for what it is...beautiful. It's about time those who hate really recognised the one that makes this game the thing we love. The one that makes it all look so good.
"That's what makes it fun, you know for me its always about the beauty of the game"
The trilogy isn't complete...yet.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
A.C. Green's days as a Laker.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
There is one type of 'Green' that those who bleed purple and gold can mix with. It's the former player that wore the 45 on his jersey like Jordan out of retirement. The current of A.C.'s career saw him become an icon on two legendary Los Angeles Laker teams. Many ex-Laker players have passed through Hollywood twice. From other Showtime greats like Byron Scott, to current favourites Derek Fisher. Even Magic pulled a secondary Laker career out of his bag of passing tricks. Still the recurring role A.C. Green played for the Lakers flipped the script. His storied career saw one take a young buck with plenty of show during the eighties time, while his L.A. times sequel saw him as a valuable veteran on the Lakers dynasty of the new millennium.
From the 'frop to the fade and the forum to STAPLES A.C Green made his space as a regular staple for two great Laker teams. From finishing the Showtime breaks to leading the 2000 Champion teams bench with his Pied Piper guidance A.C. was a current and former great. Alternating between style and substance, youth and experience and flash and fortitude Green even made the Celtics envious. Colouring his career with great plays and contributions this was one green lucky charm for the Lakers that was far removed from Boston.
Everyone in L.A. was looking and watching, from Diane Keaton to Dr. Dre, fans to rivals and star players to role guys. A.C. bridged the gap between everybody and on a team full of stars in the biggest stage in the NBA, he still shined. Some questioned his beliefs, but nobody could doubt his faith. Sure some made jokes about his virginity, but on his day no one could screw with A.C.
How does 1,192 straight games played suit ya? The true NBA's 'Iron Man' shows a stark contrast to some of today's players who can't display that kind of consistency and cohesiveness. This Laker hero really was something to marvel at helping the top Lakers brass become a true war machine. Forget D.C. or any other NBA city. It was L.A. and A.C. that lead the charge.
Phoenix, Dallas and Miami may have been home for a while when A.C. laid his hat and the Portland raised player may reside in the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame since 2003 but when it came to Los Angeles there was just something about that town. The whole city was behind him. The All-Star with some delightful dunks was more than glitz and glamour. A.C. also gleamed from three and could keep your best player at bay with his All-Team recognised D.
He led the Lakers in rebounding for six of his first eight years for his team. Taking his own possession and proving that he didn't have to have a lot of plays run for him in a team that was led by Kareem, Magic and Big Game James amongst others. Green was still worthy however on his way to two rings, before his third during his second tenure with the Lakers in a new decade and the twilight of his career. Even though A.C. burned more pine than time. He still stepped it up off the bench to varnish the Indiana Pacers and put the finishing touches on the Lakers 2000, Game 6 Finals clinching win with a big three that must have even looked good to Robert Horry and Derek Fisher on the bench. Green played his role to the tee like these two and Rick Fox, as valuable as veterans like Brian Shaw or the championship certified, Phil Jackson/Chicago Bulls endorsed Ron Harper.
Today A.C. Green is the ambassador of basketball for 3BA International a 3-on-3 basketball league that plays in the U.S. and China but his Laker years are what truly took his worldwide. As his character grew so did his reputation. The man that used to quote scriptures to keep females at bay, stuck to his morals and the Lakers Showtime story. What resulted was the best picture of his career playing his role in support of the Lakers. Sure he may not make the rafters with his jersey, but his Laker career is worthy of putting in a frame. Everyone should be able to take a look at it, because it belongs to one of the greatest shows of all time.
A reference to the definitive reading list.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
'Read To Achieve' feature takes you through the library of some classic reads with Laker themes. Take what you please, just make sure you return for more.
FREEDARKO PRESENTS THE MACROPHENOMENAL PRO BASKETBALL ALMANAC, STYLES, STATS & STARS IN TODAY'S GAME: This is the ultimate guide to today's game...if a few years out of date, sorry T-Mac and Gilbert. This is one awesome almanac. A different look at today's game with stats of greater significance, wonderful writing styles that could run on the same dunking line as 'SLAM' magazine and incredible, fitting illustrations that illuminate this read. With classic chapters about cult players and a forward by guard Agent Zero, Gilbert Arenas himself as a prologue this is bound to be one of the most entertaining basketball reads...ever.
FREEDARKO PRESENTS THE UNDISPUTED GUIDE TO PRO BASKETBALL HISTORY: A different but delightful look at the history of roundball, written with passion and compassion and illustrated with style and substance. Pure poetry and art comes out of every page. This book is full of tidbits and great tales that you may have not heard. Such as the time after a Latrell Sprewell and Chris Webber Nike advert mocked C-Webb's dunk on Charles Barkley, Sir Chuck dropped 57 in a game on both players and backpedaled past their bench and yelled; "put that in a commercial". Need any more advertising for this book?
HOOPS: A big, beautiful photo album that takes you through the history of the National Basketball Association with perfect portraits of everyone from Wilt Chamberlain to Kevin Garnett. This book says a thousand words.
NBA COACHES PLAYBOOK: For coaching candidates and promising purists alike this textbook is the perfect study and revision of all basketball plays from Tex Winter's infamous triangle to Kareem's notorious sky hook. Why? Because they and every other legend of the NBA dry-erase writes these chapters you should constantly go back to for inspiration like Bible verses.
50 AMAZING YEARS IN THE CITY OF ANGELS: Young writers looking for inspiration need this book like those who bleed purple and gold. From the style of legendary Pulitzer prize winner and basketball story-teller Jim Murray to all the definitive articles and portraits of Laker success. This truly is the words of the Los Angeles Times.
WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS: Who better to speak on the rivalry, friendship, force and revolution that was Magic and Bird in the eighties then the men themselves? This dual autobiography really keeps Larry and Johnson together with stories better than what Grandmama could tell you. A slam dunk hit as the two come-together converse like their sneaker deal.
SHAQ UNCUT: MacMullan also hits recently retired Shaquille O'Neal with a dime for a book that is almost as big and legendary as the mans career. Detailing his higher than the sky highs and his oft-publicised lows from the Magic to Celtics this is THE real account of one of the most unique careers in NBA history. Of course this read wouldn't be the same without some music or cinematic moments or of course the biggest attractions in Miami and Hollywood with the Lakers...and yes Kobe's mentioned. Want more? Then read to achieve.
SHAQ TALKS BACK: This isn't the only time the Big daddy's put big pen to paper. Shaq's first autobiography-written during his L.A. days is funny, frank, insightful and inspirational. The man who can make you laugh and see his point too really has something to say and if that isn't enough his Hollywood nights have some telling tales of everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Robert Downey Jnr.
WEST BY WEST: MY CHARMED, TORMENTED LIFE: Still if you like your legends a little quieter than how about Jerry West? He is one of the greatest Lakers of all time and the logo of the NBA after all. Breaking years of silence and coming off Roland Lazenby's classic 'Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon' West details his best of times and worst of times too. Mr. Clutch talks about winning on the floor and in the boardroom with the Lakers but also talks honestly and humbly about his battles with the devastation of depression and in doing so gives help and hope to those readers that may suffer from the same affliction. What a true professional.
MY LIFE: We picked this book up on from a side street seller in New York for two dollars but in reality it's worth it's weight in millions shipped. Earvin Johnson shows he's got the Magic for writing too with the tales of the tricks of his trade. A book as entertaining, enigmatic, magnificent, moving, inspiring, insightful, influential, and as real as the man himself.
THE ART OF A BEAUTIFUL GAME: Chris Ballard's book of this brilliant game of basketball is a beautiful ballad of sports writing. Every chapter is like a separate sonnet of praise to all the in's and out's and idiosyncrasies of different facets of the workings of legendary players minds and games. From Kobe Bryant's killer instinct to Steve Kerr's shot it's all here and it's never been told or explained better.
THE LAST SEASON-A TEAM IN SEARCH OF A SOUL: Coach Phil Jackson's classic and controversial book about basically the season of Shaq and Kobe's break-up drew rave-reviews and ravenous readers. It's revealing and honest, thorough and forthright as everything is taken to task with a gentleman's class. Sure as Phil and Kobe got back together in the name of two Larry O'Brien's some now render this book insignificant, but this story serves as more than a footnote to the careers of both Bryant and Jackson, plus many more too.
CHARACTER DRIVEN-LIFE, LESSONS & BASKETBALL: Derek Fisher's story extends further then the range of one if the Lakers and the leagues most legendary clutch playing, role-players. His life and times feature more hardship and positive looks towards inspiration than a Jay-Z song sampling 'Annie'. OK, boys and girls this man may have spent his career in the shadow of today's best Kobe, but even the greatest wouldn't have had half the hits without his perfect producer in his corner. Derek Fisher's tale is one that needs to be told. Are you sitting comfortably?
KAREEM: They say he's too closed off, but Cap really opens here. They say he's boring, but Kareem will make you laugh. They say he's dull, but this big-book has colour. They even dared to say he doesn't have a lot of love, but this book has as much heart as it does soul. Arguably the greatest basketball player turned writer gets shows so much personality in his most personal piece of published prose.
THE WINNER FROM WITHIN: From the cover to the preface this book looks like a self-help guide and in a lot of ways it is. Still, Pat Riley's autobiography is as slick, serious and sincere as the legendary coach and man himself. This book will inspire and influence you like no other but it will also tell you all about this one in a million, genuine guy. To hear the story of his whole life within and beyond basketball is to help take you further with yours and learn a little something extra about the game too.
WILT, 1962: One of the most important stories in basketball history told with truth by Gary M. Pomerantz. Different peoples takes and stories help document a moment taking us back to that infamous night in '62 when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single, legendary basketball game and iconic moment in sports history. This game may have never been televised or taped but this biography brings this subject alive for the record. This is fact not fiction. There you have it. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
The Big Autobiography.
By Tim David Harvey
'Shaq Uncut', this writer has to admit. It took a long time for him to get round to this book, but not a long time to read and that wasn't because of the 'Large Print' edition I was accidentally ordered for Christmas. Then again a larger than life character like Shaquille O'Neal could only do it B.I.G. like this. The only reason it took me so long to get round to this tell-all autobiography penned only months after his retirement announcement was because I was still finding it hard to accept that the most entertaining figure in basketball who got an 11 year old English kid from a small seaside town in the U.K. into this great sport of Basketball was done.
The same kid, now 26 who purposely shaped his American holiday last April around trying to catch a glimpse of the big fella in action before he retired while in Boston, Chicago and Miami, even if it was for the Celtics and even if it was in the twilight of his career. I still had dreams of Jeanie, that the Buss family would bring Shaq back to L.A. for an All-Star redeeming, reunion with Kobe for one more go at Larry O'Brien. Still literally the biggest star of the NBA called it a one of a kind career.
It seems whether on or off the court, Shaq was always going at full-speed and never running on fumes. Whether it be his jam and rim dropping power plays, or his generous charity work, or extra-curricula entertaining activities. It's little wonder he crafted the follow up to his funny first autobiography ('Shaq Talks Back') so quickly, of course with the help of another Hall Of Famer in the form of Jackie MacMullan, the co-writer of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird's New York Times Bestselling 'When The Game Was Ours' dual autobiography. Jackie really brings everything together with her descriptive, nostalgic chapter openings and stories.
THE BIG ARISTOTLE
Coming out around the same time as Jerry West's highly anticipated book 'West By West, My Charmed, Tormented Life', this is another great gift that many Laker fans would have loved to have found under their trees this Christmas gone. Another purple and gold Laker legend colours his career over his scribes. Of course with Shaq, your bound to get more than a few smiles and belly laughs. Just check out what he bench pressed during one Celtic team talk last year in one of the last chapters. Still Shaquille knows how to move us with his words. The 'Little Warrior' details his upbringing and troubles that he didn't over-indulge in complaining about during his career. There is also a fitting and moving tribute to his late, great friend the legendary, rapper The Notorious B.I.G.
The NBA's biggie shows focus throughout these pages as he talks about his approach to the game and how the league works. Telling stories of how he developed his Magic passing skills in Germany when he couldn't dunk and the sealed with the blow of a kiss moment the light hit him that is was time to enrol in LSU University Shaq's nostalgia paints a picture of him we've never seen before. He also gives us a deep, through inside-knowledge analysis of his teammates, peers and the players that rule the league now and how far they can and should go. Shaq may be an NBA analyst on T.V. now but if that gig ever falls by the wayside (yeah right) he could seriously make it as a sportswriter.
Still it was on court where Shaq made his bread and butter, as he spread his talents into platinum, decent rap albums and some big Hollywood pictures. Shaq truly was the man and from his Orlando rookie days, to being the biggest Laker since Magic it really is interesting and inspiring to read about one of the biggest influences on the modern-day game. Any Laker fan looking to take a trip down memory lane, are drawn right into the greatest moments of the Lakers three-peat. With insight to how it all went down...and then how things fell down soon after, these are the words from the horse mouth that the media have been galloping after for years.
THE BIG SHAQTUS
Still Laker fans needn't stop reading or put the book in the fridge like Joey from 'Friends' once Shaq takes his talents away from Chick Hearn and the Lakers and to South Beach. What follows is some hot pages about O'Neal's time with the Heat and his relationship with former coach Pat Riley. Like the great coach, this take is slick but thoughtful, concentrated but at times humorous...and in the end it all seems in good nature. After all the two men that where known to keep guaranteeing championships at parade probably have more in common than they think. As Shaq takes his talents from South beach to LeBron and Cleveland via Phoenix we are in for even more terrific tales from the tall man.
Shaquille O'Neal also gives it up to the legends before him. Speaking candidly about the giant greats that came before him and paved the way. Although his relationship with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton doesn't seem the best, he gives uppermost praise and respect to the 'Lord Of The Rings' forefather Bill Russell. He also respects Wilt Chamberlain's privacy with a testifying, tribute to the late, great, big Basketball God. From Penny, to Wade and LeBron Shaq also shares his insight and time with his sidekick guard greats with all due respect and consideration...and then of course there is the talk on Kobe. Which is humbly and honestly written with love, respect and consideration over the pages. The highs and the lows are reached here and it's all done without the usual B.S. that comes with other peoples biographies.
THE REAL DEAL
This is because Shaq really is the genuine article and over these chapters it's clear to read the reason this players career was so classic. It was more than just the power, problems and perfect game (minus the free-throws)...it was about the personality. In the character stakes even if Shaq was as tall as Muggsy Bogues he still would have towered above the rest. That contagious smile and enthusiasm keeps the pages of this book turning and although the man that has done so much details every distinct aspect it's often downplayed. Even though the character's ego is big, his humility is notorious too. The kid from Newark that always honors his parents and upbringing is still here.
THE BIG SHAMROCK
Even 'The Big Fellas' last season as a Celtic are worthy of praise as you read more into it. From his contributions to his battles and his funny frolics around Harvard. The A* basketball student also shares with us his studied in the entertainment and social-networking industry and his graduation through the ranks of law enforcement. Often times it seems like O'Neal's career has been 'Shaq vs The World' but as you finish this book all those who are against him will even start to realise there is no one quite like Shaquille O'Neal on this earth. A legendary personality, player and generous, genuine man. Whether you know him as a Laker or a Cavalier, a platinum rapper or a genie from a boom box, a charitable force or a cop, after this real, revealing read, you'll know the everyone man simply known as...