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Dwight Howard, Lebron James, & The Millennial Generation

This is another random sports post, but one that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

In short, I think Dwight Howard and Lebron James were interesting examples of the Millennial Generation during their free agency.  Obviously it’s tough to characterize an entire generation, but I thought these guys in particular, largely because of their public platforms and stories, can be looked at as examples of Millennials.

First, I’ll give a brief synopsis of each player, and then I’ll talk about characteristics they’ve displayed as Millennials.

*FYI I root for both players.  I absolutely love Lebron and I love the Rockets (haven’t followed Dwight for as long). 

1.  Dwight Howard – Dwight’s journey is well-chronicled from his rise to dominance with the Orlando Magic to his acrimonious exit via trade to the LA Lakers, to his difficult year in Los Angeles, to his eventual landing in Houston as a free agent.  Through his journey, he’s been criticized harshly for waffling in his decision-making and his inability to play under the bright lights in LA.

I for one, am glad that he plays for the Houston Rockets now, because I think he’s a better fit for the team and they have a better shot at winning a championship.

The free agency of Dwight Howard and Lebron James Exemplify Most Millennials

The Free Agency of Dwight Howard and Lebron James Exemplify Most Millennials

2.  Lebron James – Lebron is the best basketball player in the world, and arguably one of the best players ever.  Lebron’s story is also well-chronicled, and he’s won the League MVP and NBA Championship two consecutive years.

Lebron has come a long way in rebuilding his image after he left Cleveland as a free agent in regrettable fashion.  No one argues with his decision at this point considering the outcomes – just the way it was handled.

Lebron is one of my favorite players, and I’m seriously rooting for him to become the best of all-time (sorry Chicagoans).

How Dwight & Lebron Exemplify Millennials:

1.  “I Deserve to Be Happy” – Dwight made this comment before his decision to leave the Lakers, and he’s continued saying this now that he’s with the Rockets, where he seems to be much happier.

Much of his wavering decision-making had to do with trying to make others happy – Orlando, Laker fans, etc.  When he chose the Rockets, he finally made up his mind to choose 1) winning, and 2) his own happiness.

It’s interesting that he stresses the happiness part because it was clear to most folks that Houston gave him the best chance to win titles over the next few years, signaling that it was winning that was the chief decision-making factor.

However, there’s something about the happiness statement that resonates with Millennials, and I think that’s why he uses it (he himself is a Millennial), I think.

There’s this epic post that describes the mindset of most Millennials, particularly the feelings of entitlement and the search for happiness.  It’s this idea that we deserve to be happy.

However, as the blog post skillfully points out, our entitled views of happiness often lead us toward becoming unhappy, unless we modify expectations.

I hope Dwight modifies expectations and then leads the Rockets to a championship, which would make me really happy.

2.  “I Want to Play With My Friends” – People ripped Lebron for “joining Wade’s team” and not being an alpha-dog in his free agency, but I thought it was ironic that for someone who was being ripped as being arrogant and selfish, Lebron was 1) taking a pay cut, and 2) virtually admitting that he can’t do it on his own.

If anything, Lebron should have been applauded for humbling himself by joining the Heat!

Okay, “humbling” might be too strong a word, because his decision was also based on 1) winning, and 2) playing with his friends.

Anyhow, what I love about Lebron is how his teammates love playing with him.  It’s clear that Lebron relishes being a teammate on a team.

I think Millennials are similar in this way – they would rather play with their friends to accomplish goals.

In church world, the rise of networks and city-wide movements have really resonated for Millennials because of this teamwork dynamic.  I think most Millennials really believe that we’re better together.

3.  Above All, We Want to Win – It’d be nice to be happy and it’d be nice to play with my friends, but I think Millennials are also committed to leaving a legacy that will remain.

Dwight and Lebron understand this, hence both of them approached free agency looking for the best chance to win.

For Dwight, people said he couldn’t handle the bright lights of LA, but realistically, the Lakers would have been a really tough roster for him to win with.  I don’t think it’s fair to pile on Dwight about leaving LA or spurning the Mavs or Warriors (although the W’s look real good right now) for choosing Houston.

For Lebron, it’s clear he made the right choice about where to play because the Heat have won the championship two out of the last three years.

I love the idealism of Millennials that want to make history, and I think Dwight and Lebron both have that.

They both realized the bottom line was winning, and whatever people want to say about either of them, they both chose the best path toward winning.

——-

In sum, I’m not sure if I’m a Millennial, but I hope that I can be marked as someone who 1) Works Hard Without Feeling Entitled to Happiness, 2) Gets to Work with My Friends, and 3) Is Crazy Enough to Think that I Can Leave a Legacy that Lasts.

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Inter-Generational Sports Match-ups I’d Love to Watch

After watching some of the epic Nadal-Djokovic Australian Open Final last night, I came away with the following thoughts:

1) These guys are really good at tennis.

2) I’m getting tired just from watching.

3) Pete Sampras’ matches/rallies never went this long.

Could Federer, Nadal, or Djokovic have stopped Sampras?

So I started to wonder, man, what would it have been like for either of these guys to play Sampras?  These top players nowadays, along with Roger Federer, seem to be baseline geniuses.  But if memory serves me well, Sampras points used to be finished in like 3-4 strokes, and the guy was dominant (grass and hard court only).

This got me thinking about other match-ups I’d like to see.  Now, keep in mind that my childhood sports memories are safely in the 80s-90s, so these pairings will reflect these eras, most likely.

In other words, I’m not going to compare Shaq to George Mikan, because the still shots of Mikan I’ve seen don’t like that intimidating, quite frankly.

Moreover, these match-ups will likely be for sports that have more of a one-on-one edge to them, like tennis or basketball, and I’m talking about players in their primes.

Anyhow, here are the match-ups I’d love to see:

1)  Pete Sampras against Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal/Novak Djokovic – I’m really not sure who would win because there are so few serve-and-volley players nowadays, and I’ve never really seen Fed, Nadal, or Djokovic play a maestro like Sampras who plays the s-n-v style.  It’s quite stunning that the Fed-Nadal-Djokovic triumverate exists today – these guys are all incredibly talented and seemingly evenly matched, whereas Sampras was clearly a cut above all the players in his era.

But yeah, this would be great tennis because of the opposing styles and the tenacious play.  It is interesting to note that in Sampras’ autobiography, he mentions how Michael Chang used to dominate him on the youth circuit.  That changed circa 1990, I think.

Who do you think Phil Jackson would rather have?

2)  Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant – Yes, we saw some of this in the twilight of Jordan’s career, and I wish that MJ played just a little longer as Kobe was really coming on.

But can you imagine these two guys going at it in their prime?  Just for their sheer competitiveness, this would have been fun to watch.

Before you judge me, I’m not saying that Kobe is in MJ’s class, because I think MJ was in a class of his own. The only thing Kobe might have better is his 3-ball and possibly his handle.

But would this have been an interesting match-up?  Heck yeah.

3)  Houston Rockets vs. Chicago Bulls, 1993-1995 – The only other dominant basketball player I remember from MJ’s era was Hakeem Olajuwon, and I’m specifically referring to Olajuown’s run in 1993-1995.

Dream and MJ were 10-10 against each other when the Bulls played the Rockets, and Hakeem was the only player the Bulls used to double team.

Do you remember Dream viciously dominating David Robinson, Ewing, and Shaq those years?  Crazy.

I remember thinking, this guy can’t be stopped, and if they played the Bulls those years that MJ retired, I think they’d have a legitimate shot at beating them.

Let’s put it this way, I’d contend that the championship Rockets in those years were better than any of the other opponents the Bulls beat through their six championships (Sonics, Jazz, Lakers, Suns, Blazers).

I know, whenever I mention this to non-Houston people, they say, “who would have guarded MJ?!” to which I respond, “who would have guarded Otis Thorpe?”

Just kidding.

But seriously, do you think Luc Longley could have guarded Dream?

Call me crazy, but I think Clutch City could have taken the Bulls, or at least given them their toughest series (for sure a 7 gamer, something the Bulls never had in their title years).

4)  Michael Jordan vs. Lebron James – I know Lebron haters will talk about his lack of championships, but really, have we ever seen a player like him?

Lebron should be a Knick.

With Kobe, it’s easier to compare him to MJ because their size and positions are so similar.

But with Lebron, there are clearly attributes he possesses that are a tier above MJ (hence Pippen’s comments last year that Lebron might be a better all around player than MJ).

For instance, Lebron’s passing, rebounding, and size are a cut above MJ.

People might say, how would Lebron stop MJ?!  Well, LBJ guarded everyone from Paul Pierce to Derrick Rose in last year’s playoffs (let’s forget about JJ Barea for now), and he did an effective job against those guys.

But how would MJ handle Lebron’s combination of speed and strength?

When LBJ starts winning championships I think he’s going to go down as one of the top two players in the game, especially if he wins “not six, not seven, not eight.”

I’m guessing he wins at least two.

Man, he should have come to the Knicks.  That would have been unreal.

5)  Joe Montana vs. Tom Brady – Brady’s lost a bit of his aura since he lost to the Giants (and I REALLY hope he loses again), but these guys are two of the most clutch qbs of all time.

I loathed that my teams got dominated by these QBs.

Significant Sidenote: the Giants put a hurt on both of them at various points in their careers. End of Sidenote.

These guys are just winners, and the thing about sports is that someone has to lose, and I’m not sure who would lose if it were to come down to Montana vs. Brady.

I despised both of these guys growing up because they both haunted the Rams, and I hated the feeling of them having the ball at any point in the game.  I’m not sure if this resonates with anyone – it’s not that I didn’t like that they had the ball at the end of the game – I hated that they would get the ball at all.

Why am I so obsessed with these things?  I don’t know.

We can talk about supporting casts, but yeah, even if we switched their teammates, I’m not sure who I’d take to win a game if the two were pitted against each other.

I hope Aaron Rodgers reaches this level after a few more years.  Discount double check!

This is a match-up I'd love to see. I'm not sure who I'd root for!

6)  Tim Tebow vs. Kurt Warner – Who would the Christian community root for?  How about the media?  The players?

What would happen in the heavenlies if these two played against each other?

My brain (and heart) are hurting just thinking about it.

I need to pray.

Which sporting match-ups would you like to see? 

Lebron, Cleveland, and the Biggest Winner in Free Agency

I, along with the rest of NYC, have been riveted by the LBJ free agent saga.  I can’t remember a time the sports world was this captivated by free agency, not even a game or an event.  I’m curious to hear what the ratings were for The Decision.

Like the rest of NYC, I was disappointed with the outcome.  I should say, I was especially disappointed with the outcome, and I’m not even a Knicks fan.

I highly recommend Bill Simmons’ article written earlier today…. I think he accurately captures the cruelty of Lebron’s choice being announced on TV.  Simmons is really good at empathizing with sports fans, and this piece is so on the money when it comes to how Cavs fans must feel.

Anyhow, here’s a rundown of my thoughts (not that anyone cares).

– I’m a huge Lebron fan, but I must say, I’m not so sure I’ll be rooting for him anymore. It would just feel weird rooting for the Heat (like rooting for the Yankees).

– I’m pretty sure most people who were non-Clevelandite Lebron fans will have a harder time rooting for him. There was a certain charm to him being on such a mediocre team and making them great.  Now, it just feels sorta like A-Rod going to the Yanks to chase a title.  A-Rod will never be Jeter.

– With that said, Cavs fans should probably blame Carlos Boozer for leaving back in 2004. If he had stayed on the Cavs, I’m fairly certain Lebron and co. would have won a title and LBJ would still be a happy Cav.

– To some degree, we’ll see how valuable LBJ really was for the Cavs. I think the Cavs are easily the worst team in the NBA now.  This makes LBJ’s decision understandable, but still, it woulda been cool to see LBJ lift a really mediocre bunch to the championship.

– This letter from Dan Gilbert is really unfair and regrettable. Come on, the Cavs have a horrible team – how can you pile on Lebron for leaving?

– A lot of people are knocking Bron for being an egomaniac, but I’m not so sure how accurate that is. He’s clearly not going to a team where he’s THE man.  He’s going to D-Wade’s team and hoping to be part of a triumverate.  If he was a selfish superstar, he wouldn’t have chosen the Heat – he would have chosen the Bulls or the Knicks.

As for the choice to make his decision a national spectacle, as much as I think it was the wrong move that he’ll later regret (he’s still only 25), he’s the only player in the NBA who could command such a large audience to watch in eager anticipation for its outcome.

People were praising Durant for his extension via a twitter announcement, but one reason KD probably didn’t have a special announcement is because not as many people cared as much as Lebron’s decision.

Even Kobe couldn’t have captivated the nation the way that Lebron did.

Part of the ridiculousness of the past two weeks is because multiple teams cleared cap space angling to get Lebron.  People were talking about Lebron’s free agency four years ago.  Who else has demanded such attention for so long?

I’m sad for Cleveland, but man, why didn’t they trade for better players when they had the chance?!?!?

– The Biggest Winner in Free Agency? Joe Johnson who signed early and got $124 million.  Joe Johnson is a higher paid player than Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, and Kevin Durant.  Wow.