The Joy of the Warriors

Chris Paul is back from an injury just in time to give James Harden a rest from taking 30 shots a game for the Rockets. I tuned into a Rockets game and they have the most predictable offense in the NBA.

If Harden brings the ball down, he performs some fancy dribbling well out past the 3-point line. Sometimes he can beat his man to the basket, but he’s often looking for the foul. He’s an amazing talent, but he’s the biggest ball hog we’ve seen since Kobe retired.

Occasionally Chris Paul brings the ball up the court. He’s more likely to pass the ball, but he too will dribble around trying to get to his spots for an easy jumper. Both Paul and Harden are rare talents who can get their shots most of the time.

But I can’t imagine it’s very fun playing on the Rockets unless your name is Paul or Harden. Contrast the way the Rockets play to that of the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors have three of the best players in the game: Curry, Durrant, and Thompson. Curry and Durrant could get a shot every time down the court, Yet both are fantastic passers. Not only are they great passers, but they genuinely enjoy getting their teammates involved in the game.

The Warriors unselfish plays make for a much more entertaining game of basketball because you never know where the ball is going. When your star players are unselfish it becomes contagious with the rest of the team. While the Rockets are built to get Harden and Paul a shot each time down the court, the Warriors are built so that every player on the court can pass or score.

Other teams are trying to replicate what the Warriors have assembled, but it’s not easy to do. The Warriors have won 3 NBA Championships in the past 4 years so their approach to the game is working. But it still takes the right players buying into the coach’s philosophy of unselfish play.

It makes me wonder why any player would leave the Warriors to play for another team?


From Esquire article on Lance Armstrong:

Never the most expressive person, Armstrong was awkward with other cancer patients at first, but he developed a practical approach. He would tell them to fight for better treatment, to insist on the best doctors, and to be ready to go to war with insurance companies. He would tell them to forget God and focus on good science, which made some people uncomfortable, but in this as in everything he would not be restrained.

Link to full article. 

The Best Half Inning of Baseball

A year earlier I had moved from Utah to Seattle to enjoy the first full season of Major League Baseball. During the fifth and deciding game of the ALDS I found myself in a hotel room with my friend and his parents cheering on Griffey and the gang on a 20-inch TV.

That night I would lose my voice, but add a sports memory that hasn’t been surpassed in 20 years. The Seahawks winning the Super Bowl last year comes close. But this game and those leading up to it were magical.

Here’s the bottom half of the 9th inning. The Mariner’s are down a run, and facing Jack McDowell of the Yankees. Cora’s bunt and then avoiding the tag at first is one of the most athletic plays you’ll ever see.

”Griffey….is coming around….” still gives me chills.

Ray Allen on Preparation

From the Miami Herald:

"Believe it or not, I work on it quite often," said Allen, who finished Miami’s 103-100 Game 6 Houdini act victory against San Antonio with 9 points, including two critical free throws in overtime. "I try to put my body in precarious situations coming from different parts of the floor, different angles to try to get my momentum going forward.”

"When it went in, I was ecstatic," he added. "But at the same time I was expecting to make it."

The Big Fundamental

Mysterious, Wise and at Peace: Duncan is just Duncan from Joe Posnanski at NBC Sports:

Layup lines don’t end. They dissolve, like rock-and-roll bands. One guy decides to go solo and get his own basketball, another takes a long three-pointer instead of a layup, another refuses to chase the bouncing ball, and without any obvious transition the layup drill becomes a shoot-around with everyone doing their own thing.

Everyone, that is, except Tim Duncan.

He goes to the ball rack and gets three basketballs, which he promptly dishes out to three teammates. He then stands underneath the basket and rebounds his teammates’ shots. They are all shooting, all the Spurs, except Duncan. He grabs a rebound, looks for a teammate without a ball, and passes it to him. Again. Again. You keep waiting for him to take his own shot, but he doesn’t. Duncan is joined in the lane by a ballboy and a Spurs attendant of some sort. Basketballs ricochet and carom and bounce around them like popping kernels of popcorn, and they chase. Of the three, Duncan is the most enthusiastic. He acts like it is his life’s dream to retrieve balls for his teammates.

A Spectacular Move

Although I had homework to do it was the NBA finals and Tivo hadn’t been invented yet. So I ran home from University of Utah library just in time to catch Michael Jordan the Bulls take on Magic and the Lakers.

I did own a VCR in which I put a blank tape in and hit record before settling down on my couch. The game wasn’t all that interesting except the Lakers had shocked the Bulls taking game 1 in Chicago putting the pressure on the Bulls to win game 2 given the next three games would be played in Los Angeles.

But with about 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter and the Bulls up by 24,  AC Green missed a shot that ended up in Scottie Pippen’s hands who dropped it off for Jordan. Jordan dribbled up the court before flicking the ball to Cliff Levinston who takes a single dribble before passing the ball back to Jordan just outside the foul line.

And then spectacular happened.

I sprang off my couch to get a closer look at what I just saw. Are you kidding me? I fumbled for the remote to the VCR and watched it again. And then again and again and again.  I must have watched that 20 second stretch at least two dozen times.

I know what I saw: Jordan takes one dribble at the foul line, elevates as if he’s going to throw the ball down with his right hand. Then, at the last second, moves the ball to his left hand and gives the ball just enough English to bank it in off the square.

My eyes saw it but my mind could not comprehend it.

That was 20 years ago and it’s still the most spectacular shot I’ve ever seen.

The Joy of Baseball

“The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.”Bryant Gumbel

My son nudged me while I sat at my computer. I looked up to see him wearing the black baseball pants and socks I bought him last weekend. He also wore the hat his grandfather gave him;  the bill worked in just so.

Baseball brings back so many good memories. Like the time I smacked the ball over the outfielders head in t-ball for a certain home run but was called out when I failed to touch home plate. Or learning to spit sunflower seeds or spending hours playing catch with my dad until my hand hurt.

No other sport has planted itself in my memory like baseball. It’s the only sport where the equipment I used nearly 30 years ago, still means something, or the reason I’ve watched the Moneyball trailer at least 150 times.

Lincoln was heading off to his first baseball practice and he wanted my help tying his cleats. He pulled up a chair, and I slid his new black Nikes onto his feet and cinched up the laces. I showed him how to store his batting glove in his back pocket.

Of course, he was full of questions:

Why is being left-handed an advantage in baseball?

Why do baseball players chew sunflower seeds?

How do I throw a curve ball?

How long is one inning?

What position should I play?

I answered a few and left some for him to find the answers to. The strategy and unwritten rules of baseball are a major component of its enjoyment, and I want him to discover that on his own, just like my father allowed me to do.

I wasn’t able to attend his first practice, and honestly, wasn’t sure how much he’d enjoy a sport where there’s a fair amount of standing around waiting for the next pitch or batter. I explained to him that baseball isn’t like soccer or basketball where you’re always on the move and involved in dozens of plays each game.

Any worries I held disappeared shortly after he returned from practice with a smile on his face and a dozen more questions.

I didn’t tell him that the sunflower seeds were the only thing that kept me awake during games when I played center field and our best pitcher was on the mound.

Biking to Work

After months of saying I would ride my bike to work I finally did it today.

The five miles to work is quite easy as it’s mostly downhill. But getting back up the hill to our home wiped me out. I made it a third of the way before having to walk my bike up the remainder.

I was feeling good about myself until a family with young children passed me on the hill. When a friend pulled up next to me and offered a ride to my home I had sweat streaming down my face. I must have looked pathetic.

But I turned down the ride and continued walking my bike up the hill. Even that provided more exercise than I’ve done in a while. And tonight I don’t feel so bad about having to walk my bike while other bikers and cars passed me by.

It took me nearly 40 minutes to travel five miles. No wonder joggers were passing me.

I dropped nearly 60 lbs. five years ago by changing my diet. I have at least that much to lose today. I know it won’t be easy.

Although my muscles and my butt are sore, I feel energized and excited to do it again.

Air Jordans

In 1992, I was a student at the University of Utah. I happened to run through Nordstrom on my way to catching a bus to campus when I saw these shoes. I stopped, held the shoe in my hand for a minute before flipping it over to see the $125 price tag attached to the sole.


My part-time job delivering vacuum cleaners and chemicals to LDS churches around the area paid for my books and not much more. But I was able to save five bucks here and there by bringing my lunch to school instead of eating at the cafeteria. I filled in at work a few times that month when others were sick.

Eventually I was able to save up enough money to purchase the Air Jordans. When I stopped by Nordstrom, all they had in stock was the white model. I had to have the black so I waited another week.

They were well worth the wait. They are still the favorite basketball shoe I’ve ever owned. They were comfortable and very lightweight. Unfortunately, that comfort came at a price as the leather was soft but thin and not very durable.

I love the red accents, the extended rubber tongue and loop near the back which made pulling them onto my feet a cinch. I still believe they are the best looking basketball shoe ever made. I wore them out in less than a year playing basketball at the Deseret Gym.

I’d pay $125 on the spot to find a pair today.

Do you have a favorite shoe?

The Finish Line

As my children go through life I keep my fingers crossed they are learning lessons that will anchor them as adults. Such lessons range from, if the burner is red, don’t touch it, to asking permission before borrowing any item that belongs to someone else.

Kids learn many of these lessons at home. But, as I learned this week, lessons aren’t always predictable and sometimes they teach more than the intended target.

My oldest son, Lincoln, signed up for a track and field camp this summer. He enjoys the practices where he can participate in each event without the pressure of competition. Although he’s enjoyed learning the long jump and taking part in the shorter races, he prefer the distance events.

That’s Lincoln in the blue shirt, taking his time down the final stretch.

Every other week, a meet is held where children around the greater Seattle area are invited to participate in a number of events. Although the atmosphere is geared towards having fun, the children earn ribbons and the events are timed. The kids also race in front of an audience which enhances their desire to perform well.

One lesson I want my children to learn is to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.

Two months ago, Lincoln’s pinewood derby won 9 of 9 races, and he took home the first place trophy. I was proud at how he carried himself that evening. At the time, I didn’t realize this was his first taste of competition, and he came away without experiencing a loss.

Fast forward to the last two track meets where he finished dead last or second to the last in each race he entered. By the time the third meet arrived, he said his muscles were sore. Or he was tired. Or whatever might get him out of competing. We told him, if he was tired, he could enter one race instead of three most children do. He’d run hard the day before at practice, and we explained to him that some soreness was to be expected.

When we arrived at the track he broke down in tears. We’d packed up the family and travelled about 50 minutes to the high school where the meet took place. Kim and I considered heading back to the car and calling it a night. But we discussed it and decided that Lincoln should compete in one event. He’d committed to the program, and I didn’t matter if he crossed the line last as long as he gave his best effort. Also, his team from Auburn was counting on him.

Lincoln sulked his way over to his coach and entered the 100 meters. Although he got off to a good start, he came in last place. He probably didn’t enjoy running past all those parents only to cross the finish line after everyone else. After the race, he came over to us. He didn’t complain or make excuses. We hugged him, told him we loved him and were proud of his effort.

As I stood next to Kim, just off the track, the girls racing the 100 meters ran in front of us towards the finish line. As they crossed, a man handed each of them a ribbon. Parents were there to greet them and more hugs were exchanged.

That’s when I noticed one girl. She was still running down the track nearing the half way mark. Well, she wasn’t running, she was hobbling. But even that’s not a good description of what I saw. This little girl with long black hair, was rocking back and forth from one leg to the next, angling her body down the track. As she got closer to me, I noticed she was wearing a brace on both legs. Her legs didn’t bend at the knee like the other girls who were off preparing for their next event.

As she neared the stands, the parents erupted in applause and encouragement.

I turned to Kim and said, “I wish Lincoln were still here to see this.” He was off playing with his friends under the stands.

There will be more opportunities for Lincoln to learn that winning isn’t everything. I know that after witnessing this brave little girl, I focus less on the winning and more on enjoying whatever sport he decides to take up.