The Age Of The Fall: An End To Heroes

TIME+Magazine+front+cover+-+Oscar+Pistorius (1)

Today, this issue of Time is hitting news-stands across the nation (not that people read, anyway). Oscar Pistorius, the Blade Runner, is out on bail and expected to be on trial in June for the shooting and killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steemkamp.

I’m not writing to defend him or indict him. There’s a million factors to consider including an entire culture in South Africa that is hella interesting to read. I’m writing this because I’m kind of sad. I’m sad about how so many prominent sports icons are in the news for scandals and shame.

Oscar Pistorius
Pistorius has been an inspiration to abled and disabled athletes alike and has become a poster-child for overcoming adversity. He’s a national hero and he and Steemkamp were the David & Victoria Beckhams of South Africa. Or Tom and Gisele, or Lamar and Khloe or whatever.

Lance Armstrong
Lance, even more than Pistorius has transcended sports into the realm of an inspirational figure. For years, he has vehemently and violently denied accusations of doping. Finally, in a strange awkward confession to Oprah (of course), he reveals his use of performance enhancing drugs in his Tour De France titles.

Joe Paterno
JoePa has been the face of Penn State Football forever, and was one of the most prolific and iconic college football coaches in history. He’s been an educator and mentor for countless student-athletes. Now it’s been revealed that he’s implicated to some degree in covering up Jerry Sandusky’s heinous acts.

What makes me sad is an inherent distrust of authority that is pervasive in our culture and we’ve adopted suspicion as a vaccine for deception. We’ve learned not to trust the icons. There’s always a scandal looming; a cover-up hiding in shadows.

I don’t know if I have a point or a message to go with this article. Well.. except I do. I realize as I write this that my motive for writing this is clear. I want us to keep believing in heroes. I want us to believe in a person’s ability to inspire a people.

We hunt for scandals and can’t wait to expose hypocrisy, but I don’t want us to lose faith yet. I still I believe in the power that leadership can have, and I don’t want to give up on passing skills and knowledge down from generation to generation. I don’t want us to live alone in a world that is only comprised of corrupt systems and conspiring leaders. I want us to keep believing.

NY & LA: Two Great Sport Cultures…Pt.1 – The King

Since 2010, I’ve split my time between New York and Los Angeles. These years have also been my formative years in sports fan-dom, so my loyalties have grown recently—not in the time I grew up in NY. For all the people who get wonder why I don’t particularly care for the Knicks, that’s the explanation in a nutshell. I’m starting a series of comparisons between the cities. This is the first installment.

The King
Every great empire must have a king. These are the sports icons, the living gods amongst mere men. We know the cities. These are their kings.

New York City – Derek Jeter – “The Captain”
Derek Jeter IS New York sports. His easy charm embodies the blase attitude of the city while his fierce competitiveness captures New York’s determination and grit. Mr. November is the quintessential professional and New York’s most eligible bachelor. There are never stories about Jeter to distract the clubhouse, but everyone in the city has a friend with a story about Jeter in a club. A legendary career and an urban legend, Jeter wins the crown in Gotham.

Notable Stat: Jeter is 5 of 7 in World Series(es?). Judging by injuries to the Yank’s this season, it looks like that will be the number he’s retiring with
Crowning Moment:: The Flip. Jeter makes an unforgettable play that shows the instincts and ballsiness that has made him an immortal baseball icon.

Los Angeles – Kobe Bryant – “The Black Mamba”
Without a question, Kobe is King of LA. The Black Mamba is Undisputed Dictator of the city of angels and you know what? He wouldn’t have it any other way. He seized the throne for himself by way of coup (sorry, Shaq) and has no intention of giving it up any time soon (sorry, Dwight). He has the most indomitable will that I, personally, have ever witnessed in sports and he’s won the hearts of Los Angeles by being a classy, larger-than-life figure that blurs the line between athlete and Hollywood celeb. And it’s not Angelinos, either. I’ve never seen a player who gets MVP chants in opponent arenas and I don’t know if I ever will again.

Notable Stat: Kobe has played enough playoff games to fill three full NBA seasons. He’s 5 of 6 in Finals and is showing that if you give him the chance, he’s going to make a run to tie Michael.
Crowning Moment: The Fourth – After years of hearing that Shaq won them the first three titles, Kobe gets the monkey off his back with his fourth title and first Finals MVP.

Iron Mike and the Asian Diaspora: A Heartfelt Piece on Mike Tyson That You Won’t Read

I watched Mike Tyson’s interview with Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons on the Grantland Network. The interview shows a softer, sensitive side of Iron Mike, revealing a thoughtful, humble and honest man. This is how it made me feel.

His story begins in a poor single parent home, not dissimilar to mine. His family was poor and disreputable in his neighborhood, the notoriously tough Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy, Do or Die). For a number of reasons, including his high-pitched voice, his lisp and his mother’s involvement in the “sex industry”, he and his family were despised and bullied.

All this to say that Mike grew up with a great deal of shame and self-loathing. I think for those of us whose cultural narratives are that of diaspora, this could resonate deeply. As a first-generation Asian-American (1st generation born in US) I’ve learned to love where I come from, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t hate where I come from too. I embrace my culture but it doesn’t mean I’m not also ashamed of it.

Mike hated this person that he was, so he wanted became someone else. It was Cus D’Amato that taught him how. D’Amato, a legendary trainer, saw the potential in a young shy kid and built a relationship with Mike that would shape the course of their lives. D’Amato plucked Mike from obscurity in his youth and instilled in him a confidence that helped him become “the baddest man on the planet.”

The tattoo on Mike’s face might remind you of his eccentricities, but I am reminded of a man who wears a mask. Mike is a guy who wants to be someone else. He didn’t like the weak, poor kid so he became Iron Mike. Then he got wrapped up in the persona, and the drugs and the women, so he changed it all again.

Mike is a man who has struggled for a long time with who and what he is. In this interview I see a man who is at peace and who has come to terms with the ups and downs of his life. It gives me hope that I can do the same.

3 Pearls of Wisdom From the Interview
1. Intimidation Is An Art Form
Mike Tyson has made a living on being the scariest heavyweight in the world. He talks about the Bad-Boy Pistons, Roberto Duran and the art of intimidation. Apparently, Tyson reads Machiavelli.
Pearl: Words can be more powerful than fists.

2. Don’t Ever Let A Coward Get Brave
Mike Tyson learned the art of putting the fear of God in a man, the way only Mike Tyson’s fists can do. The only concern, as explained by Tyson is that you can scare a man into kicking your ass.
Pearl: If you’re gonna corner a dog, make sure he isn’t the kind with big teeth

3. Champions Are The Smartest Guys In The Room
Bill Simmons calls Tyson one of the most underrated technical fighters in history. “Even to this day. even the experts, because there’s such an overwhelming belief that this is a tough man’s sport (boxing)… This is not a tough man’s sport. The tough man’s gonna be talking funny at the end of the day in this business.” – Mike Tyson 9:40
Pearl: Be Smart, Keep Your Teeth

7 Guys At The Park You Love To Play With

1. The Old Man

You gotta love the old man at the Y cliche. Here’s an older guy that makes up for a lack of athleticism with craftiness and a good knowledge of the game. He’s been there (see also: Normandy), so he plays patiently and makes good decisions with the ball. Not to mention that having an old guy on the floor also makes everyone behave better. Everyone wants his respect, and to shake hands with calloused fingers and that old man strength grip.

2. Thunder Buddies For Life

Streetball gives us all a means to connect with the kids grew up with. When I play at the court I grew up playing at, I see people I played with as a kid. I see how their bodies grew strange and awkward. The best part about this is that you can keep playing with old friends. Even after you’ve gone away for school or whereever, a pick up game has the power to be a homecoming party.

3. Baller & Sons

My dad wasn’t around when I was growing up so seeing a dad bring his son to the park makes me want to weep on the spot. It’s heartwarming. You get the feeling that you’re witnessing a special moment in these people’s lives. It’s good to see when parents can be patient and present and good mentors and coaches for their kids. You don’t always play with these duos but having them at the park is a beautiful thing.

4. The Old Pro

Every now and then you get to play with a real baller. I’ve never played with any ex-NBA but the times I’ve had the chance to play with good college players were awesome. Old pro’s know the game I love like I know… nevermind. Their basketball IQ is streets ahead of us puny humans and their well-rounded game make them a threat from everywhere. It’s a pleasure to play with them and take notes secretly in your head while you pretend like you’re not staring.

5. The Garbage Man

Everyone wants the glory. No one wants to do the dirty work necessary to win. Every team could use a guy who plays tough defense and cleans up the boards (rebound like a boss). Occasionally, you weed out the egos and you find a gem who’s not looking to look good. He’s just looking to play hard. They make you look good by turning your bricks into put-backs. For this, I salute the Garbage Men.

6. Steve Nash

We should all be so lucky to know this kind of player. He’s got eyes everywhere on the floor and will find you open before you realize you were open. The power of this person is that he gives you the confidence to cut and run around screens to get open looks. When you take off the constraints of a point guard with no court vision, you’d be surprised how you improve too.

7. Big Man
The Big isn’t always big in stature, he’s just confused and plays big. He plays strong in the post, enabling you to space the floor the way it was meant to. Pick and rolls, drawing double teams and kicking it out to a happy you can make a true classic Biq worth his weight in gold. A fight in the post is something special

7 Guys At The Park You Hate To Play With

Streetball is the purest form of the game I love. No refs. No flopping. Just grit. Unlike league play, there are no set teams, no predesigned plays, no substitutions or timeouts. You walk onto the court and it’s chaos. Cracked floors, busted rims, and perfect strangers. Some of those strangers become your friends. This article isn’t about those people. This article is about the people we hate.

1. The Blackhole
The Blackhole is the guy on your team who skipped gym class the day you learned the chest pass. When you play with him there’s a weight that grows in your chest as the game goes on. There’s a mass there that grows larger and larger. It’s the slow, then acute realization that you if you pass to him, you’ll never get it back. You might as well sit back and relax because even though the play might not have started with him, it will sure as hell end with him.

2. The “I’m Not Really Trying”

The beauty and the horror of streetball is that it’s a microcosm of the real world. And the real world is full of people who are too cool for school. They watched Good Will Hunting and now they’re convinced that they could do it if they feel like it; they just never feel like it. And by it, I mean play defense and get rebounds.

3. The Kid
Every time you’re playing at the park, there’s always a kid who wants to play. You admire the spirit but the fact of the matter is that he’s just too young and small. You bleeding hearts say give the kid a chance but you never think about the guy who guards him feels. Not only is he a jerk if he actually plays defense, he now has to live with the fact that in his teammates’ eyes, he’s the worst player on the team.

4. The Coach
Everybody wants to be a coach. Everyone has their own idea about how you should play. Where you should stand. When you should shoot. Everyone has an opinion about how far to pull up your shorts. Not everyone will tell you; this guy will. He will micromanage your game and judge all your shots until you go Sprewell on him and choke him out.

5. The Body-Odor
He’s that guy no one wants to guard because his smell reminds you of human mortality. He could be the nicest player in the world but something inside of you tells you to hate him. The worst part is that it never stops at the park. The smell haunts you for the whole walk home and it’s there that you realize… you’re infected now too.

6. The Ugly Shot
Nothing makes you madder than an ugly shot that goes in. I can live with an ugly shot that misses. An ugly shot is supposed to miss. You find yourself rooting against your teammate if he shoots weird because, damnit, all those hours refining the J can’t have been for nothing.

7. The Perspirer
Damnit, every time you head to the park with a fresh new shirt on you play against the guy who’s been there for the past hours working up a sweat and making his shirt feel like he just finished losing a middle school water fight. You want to defend him but you can’t do it without feeling like you’re slapping up against a bag of wet laundry.

10 Players Who Are Changing the Culture of the NBA

by: sunroot liu

10. Russell Westbrook – The Fashionisto

Russell Westbrook plays balls-to-the-wall basketball. You may question his shot selection, but he plays with an intensity that makes it impossible to criticize his desire to win. He leads OKC in ways that KD can’t with his raw emotion and sheer will. But he’s making headlines a lot for his fashion choices at post-game press conferences. He even drew attention from All-Star Celebrity Game MVP Kevin Hart for his pant selection. He’s an icon in the NBA, a league that increasingly makes it’s on fashion and pop culture.

Honorable Mention: Dwayne Wade, Walt Frazier
Dishonorable Mention: Craig Sager

9. Kobe Bryant – The Renaissance Man
Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is putting up some serious numbers at age 34 in his 17th season in the NBA. He’s proven to the world that he will never age and that shark-juice-cartilage is great medicine for aging knees. It’s impressive alone that he’s scoring at a clip that we haven’t seen in years, but it’s flat-out astonishing to see how he has the ability to completely alter his game to fit his team. Kobe Bryant saw the NBA Memes, flipped a switch and ironically notched Steve Nash-like assist totals for a stretch of games that left everyone in the NBA uncomfortable with the realization that their excuses for stylistic flaws were now invalid.

Honorable Mention: Tim Duncan
Dishonorable Mention: Jason Kidd

8. Jeremy Lin – The Underdog
Jeremy Lin makes the list for more than being the first Taiwanese-American in the NBA. He changes a paradigm of how scouts look at smaller college conferences (Ivy League) and the D-league (I told you that John Wall match-up wasn’t a fluke!). He’s also a sign of how the NBA is growing as a global product into Asia and the power that market, and social media can have in creating phenomena like Linsanity.

Honorable Mention: Wataru Misaka, Yao Ming
Dishonorable Mention: Yi Jianlian

7. Manu Ginobili – The Sixth Man
Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 12.33.06 AM
Manu Ginobili’s career has had a number of twists and turns. Injuries have made this explosive euro-stepping lefty inconsistent in recent years, but who can forget Manu coming off the bench in 06-07 and helping the Spurs win it all? Manu’s role as a superstar coming off the bench has set the tone and given validation to other big stars who don’t start. Who says you have to start to be part of the big three? Manu comes off the bench to provide energy and destroy opposing teams’ secondary squads. Starters too.

Honorable Mention: Jamal Crawford, Jarrett Jack
Dishonorable Mention: J.R. Smith, Amare Stoudemire

6. Derrick Rose – The Freak Athlete
Derrick Rose brings an athleticism and out-of-control explosiveness that makes you question the laws of physics. I’m surprised that his knee gave way last year instead of the floor exploding beneath his feet. His speed and slashing ability made it possible to forgive his lack on an outside shot in earlier years (which, thankfully, he has remedied). We continue to love freak athletes with potential holes in their games (see: below).

Honorable Mention: Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook
Dishonorable Mention: Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Paul Pierce

5. Kevin Durant – The Efficient One
Kevin Durant
I kind of hate KD, but I kind of love him. I hate him for things that aren’t his fault, like his length and his shooting ability. I love him for what his level of play means for the future of basketball. The Durantula plays with ruthless efficiency that makes his stat sheets look like Aaron Rodgers’. His rise to the top of the NBA marks the end of the go-ahead volume shooter and ushers in the age of the efficient scorer.

Honorable Mention: Lebron James
Dishonorable Mention: Monta Ellis

4. Ray Allen – The Specialist
Now that Jesus Shuttlesworth has gone to the Dark Side, I boo him regularly, shouting unreasonably at my TV screen for him to put up bricks. Unfortunately for me and the rest of NBA, he hits that jumper in our faces. Ray has been so good at shooting the three, he’s created jobs for great college shooters to be role players on contending teams. His presence on the floor and how it demands a defender changes the way teams can space a floor. The only caveat is that Ray is more well-rounded than he gets credit for.

Honorable Mention: J.J. Redick, Steve Kerr
Dishonorable Mention: Steve Novak, Jimmer Freddette

3. Dirk Nowitzki – The Stretch Forward
I blame Dirk for it all. I blame him for bringing a European style of basketball that has bigs playing on the perimeter. I blame him for the end of the post-up center and I blame him for making kids like me think that a slow falling fade-away is an acceptable shot. That being said, Dirk is an example of how bigs with shooting ability can pick apart defenses and change how size and positions are traditionally associated.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, any other Kevin you can think of.
Dishonorable Mention: Rashard Lewis

2. Kobe Bryant – The Closer
Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 12.26.46 AM
While Michael Jordan gave the world the first taste of what it means to have your best player be the one who takes the shots at the end, Kobe’s 4th quarter performances put Closer into the NBA’s vernacular and made it a requirement for all aspiring superstars (see: Lebron 2011 Playoffs). Kobe may not have invented hero ball, but he made the Clutch Gene a talking point for pundits and a criteria with which to measure all stars. And yes, this is the second time Kobe’s on this list.

Honorable Mention: Kobe Bryant, Black Mamba, #countonkobe
Dishonorable Mention: Everybody else in this video

1. Lebron James – The Chosen One
I hate Lebron. I hate him for what he did to Cleveland. I hate him for not being in the Dunk Contest. I hate him for eclipsing how great a season D-Wade is having and for taking Ray from my C’s. But I have to admit that he does it all. On and off the court he’s showing a versatility that’s breath-taking and infuriating. He’s expanding his reach off the court while he amazes us on the court. He’s the James Franco of basketball. He’s invented the position of point-forward or power-guard or whatever they’re calling it. Not since Magic Johnson have we seen such skill and passing vision from a guy this size. He can defend all five positions. He can score from anywhere and both his post-game and his perimeter shooting are improving constantly. Not to mention that he’s scoring at an unprecedented efficiency. He’s removing all doubt that he is the second coming. Bastard.

Honorable Mention: Shaquille O’Neal, James Franco, Magic Johnson
Dishonorable Mention: Lebron James, Pat Riley, Miami Heat

Bonus: The Future

Rudy Gay – The Sign of the Times

Unfortunately, Rudy Gay makes his way into this post because of his trade into the NBA’s version of a black hole, Toronto. His departure from a legitimate contender while being the leading scorer is a sign that Super-Teams like Miami have just about run their course in this new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It’s the beginning of the end as teams will need to move big-ticket players to avoid getting hit with brutal penalties for going over the salary cap.

Royce White – The Soapbox

Royce White hasn’t played a single game in the regular season, but he’s determined to change the NBA for good. His anxiety disorder affects a variety of player responsibilities (most notably flying) and his refusal to play challenges how the league approaches mental health. White has started to play with Houston’s D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and time will tell how the NBA will respond to his demand for a mental health protocol.

Why the Jets Will Trade Revis

Why The Jets Will Trade Revis
by: sunroot liu

Rumors have begun to swirl about the Jets trading star CB Darrelle Revis. Revis’ contract is set to expire at the end of this coming season and Revis has all but put the Jets on Holdout Watch 2013. This is why I think Jets management should and will trade him this offseason.

1. The Jets Suck
The Jets have way too many holes in their offense. They need a QB that’s not Mark Sanchez. They need a real RB if they’re ever going to successfully run a Ground-and-Pound offense. They need help in their line since they’ve let go of Bart Scott and they could use some real receivers. A better pass rush wouldn’t hurt either. If the Jets could get some pieces or draft picks for arguably the best shutdown corner in the NFL, they should pull the trigger.


2. Revis is an Ass
Revis has proven that he’s prepared to put himself above the team by holding out in 2010 and threatening to hold out again. Keeping a team on edge and having management worry about him is no way to endear the Jets to him. People often say that the best player on a team sets the tone for it, and while Revis is undoubtedly the Jets’ best player, his me-first attitude isn’t something you would want in the locker-room

3. Revis is an Ass…Part 2
Richard Sherman, CB for the Seahawks, is a young stud gunning for the title of the NFL’s best cornerback. In a recent TV interview, Sherman left Revis out of a list of the top corners in the league, on account of Revis being out this season with a torn ACL. The following Twitter feud ensued.


Sherman pads his argument with stats. Really good stats. Revis argues that he has more Twitter followers. Maybe Bieber can start next year. He has more followers than the population of his home country.

4. yahoo_revisinjury
Revis’ knee blew up. ACL/MCL injuries are a big deal. Despite what Adrian Peterson’s MVP season has shown us, players don’t always bounce back quickly and quite often never bounce back at all. On top of that, the demands on a cornerback’s knees can be more demanding than a running back’s in their need to backpedal and rotate. There’s no guarantee that Revis comes back to be the defensive force that he once was.

5. The Age of The Tight End
As football continues to evolve, we see the rise of complex offenses and teams with a diverse range of weapons. If you take the Pats for example (an AFC East rival), maybe Revis can stop Welker or Lloyd but it doesn’t do a thing about Hernandez and Gronk. It’s great that Revis can shut a guy down, but you wonder if it’s even a good thing that you force QB’s to throw to other players. While I’m not going to make the argument that having a worse cornerback is a better, I think the price tag on Revis, an A+ corner,  versus a B/B+ corner isn’t worth it. Is that marginal cost? I forget


How Tom Brady Made Me Cry

How Tom Brady Made Me Cry
by: sunroot liu

“Here’s Brady with a dog.”

Yesterday, Brady went all-in, flashed his big-giant-balls, and demonstrated what it means to be a franchise player and a leader on and off the field.

This Monday, SI announced that Brady signed a contract extension that will likely be his last, one that has him wrapping up his Hall of Fame career with the Patriots. The contract is worth $27 million over three years. This significant pay cut opens up space for other big ticket players for the Patriots to sign.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence with Brady. On one hand, I hate him for being a little too perfect: the All-American quarterback with good looks and a supermodel wife. On the other hand, I love his story and how even after 3 rings, he still plays with a chip on his shoulder. But on Monday, this announcement made me a bigger Brady fan than I’ve ever been. Let me tell you why.

1. Early Signing
Before Monday, he had two years left on his contract, For the bulk of professional athletes, this means, “hey, we’ll talk in about 23 months.” Sports headlines are inundated with contract disputes and divas athletes holding their teams ransom for big contracts and preferred trade destinations (see: The Dwightmare on Figueroa St.).

Before any destructive rumors or unrest in the locker-room, Tom Brady made a deal. The Patriots could easily have become a team of guys who have to wonder about Brady’s future with the team and answer questions everyday with the media. Instead, they see that their leader is fully invested with their team and hopefully, they follow suit.
“Shhh. Don’t remind them.”

2. Pay Cut
The most striking aspect of this contract is the money. Despite loads of guarantees and bonuses, Tom Brady takes an unprecedented pay cut. For a Top-5 quarterback and arguably one of the best QB’s of all time, Brady takes a salary that may be worth half of what he could be earning. That’s right, half.

If you were to take his future $9M/yr base salary and compare it to what QB’s earned this year, it would put him 18th on the list (yes, below Mark Sanchez). The argument is that he’ll be 38, 39, and 40 years-old for these years (2015-2017) of his contract — to which, I’d say Brett Favre got $12M his last year with the Vikings.

p.s. This pay cut likely gives New England the money needed to re-sign Wes Welker. How many friends do you know who would give up millions of dollars so you can them?

3. Trust
I didn’t grow up watching football. Football and I weren’t childhood friends. I met Football late in life, too late to have the blood allegiances that are born as a child fan. My loyalties were with players and stories. When I began to watch football, my first love was the Patriots. Besides having arguably the most exciting offense in the NFL, there was one stat said in passing during a game that tied me to this team forever.

The Pat’s are number one in the NFL for going for it on fourth down. Despite notoriously terrible failures (see: Pats @ Indy 11.15.09), Belichick continues to play a balls-to-the-wall, high-octane offense that I can only imagine hasdefensive coordinators around the league crapping their pants.

Then occasionally, when their scoring drives get stopped at 3rd down, Belichick says “screw it,” then turns to Tom Brady and says, “go get it.”

Belichick shows a trust in Brady that makes you wonder if Bill doesn’t remember the Ponytail or the Beiber or Uggs. He makes a statement to the world about Brady. This is my guy. (without a creepy tattoo, at that). It’s a level of trust that brings a tear to my eye.Brady returned that trust. He said to Belichick and Patriots management, I trust you to surround me with the right players.

4. “Just Win.”
Tom Brady’s answer to the critics? “Just Win.” Tom Brady posted these two words on his Facebook Monday night. A lot of players say they’d do anything to win, but when the money comes, they feel entitled to the big bucks that come with their talent. Tom Brady turned down money he had every right to claim and said “Just win.”