In July 2010, LeBron James was the star of an hour-long ESPN production called “The Decision” where he revealed to the world which team would be blessed with his talents. As we all know, King James decided to take his talents to South Beach where he joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form the most dominant trio in the NBA. The backlash against this decision was tremendous, including a scathing letter from the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron instantly became the most hated sports figure in recent history. His transformation into a villain was akin to Hulk Hogan turning his back on the Hulkamaniacs and forming the n.W.o. in 1996.
Admittedly, some of the criticism towards LeBron for his decision to sign with Miami was hypocritical. The public vilifies athletes who just go for the money and have no desire to win. However, LeBron left millions of dollars on the table by signing with Miami because his incumbent team, the Cavaliers, could have given him more money. Instead, he signed with Miami bringing Chris Bosh with him to join Wade’s team. This decision would give James the best chance to win a championship, or so he thought. The consensus amongst NBA fans and the general public was that LeBron was taking a shortcut to win a title. At this point, the NBA Universe wanted nothing more than any other team to win the championship.
It took awhile for the Heat to click as a team, but once they got rolling they didn’ty stop. They entered the playoffs with some speculation that they could get picked off by Boston or Chicago, but that never came to fruition. In fact. LeBron was a monster in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bulls. It sure looked like nothing was going to stop him from fulfilling his destiny. The comparisons to Michael Jordan would be warranted as James would get his first of many rings to decorate his fingers.
But then the NBA Finals started pitting the Heat against the Dallas Mavericks in a rematch of the 2006 Finals. In that series, the Mavericks went up 2-0 and proceeded to collapse giving Dwyane Wade his championship that LeBron so badly wanted for himself. He had a national stage to showcase his talents and prove to the world that he belonged in the same realm as Michael Jordan. Unfortunately, all he did was prove that he should never be mentioned in the same sentence or paragraph as Jordan.
It was amazing to watch LeBron literally choke during the Finals. He froze up in crunch time and avoided getting the ball when it mattered most. Even on defense, he stood around watching his teammates and opponents play their hearts out. It was disturbing and inexplicable. Last year, he had a horrendous game against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals allegedly because he had found out his teammate, Delonte West, was sleeping with his mother. I guess one can understand why he wouldn’t be focused on that particular night. But there is no rational or logical explanation for his performance in these Finals outside of the fact that LeBron suffers from a crisis of confidence and fear of failure.
We as fans can only speculate about a professional athlete’s state of mind when playing in a game. It is easy to sit back and criticize when watching on TV or in the stands at the game. The truth is that these athletes are under a tremendous amount of pressure to perform at a high level all the time. But LeBron is a self-annointed King and so badly wants to be revered in the same manner as Jordan. He created the expectations when he signed with Miami and he had the sole burden of proving that he has the mettle, desire and passion to win under any circumstances. And he failed to meet that burden.
No matter what the circumstances of the game were, Michael Jordan never would have stood around and watch the game go by him. He never would have avoided the ball or passed up opportunities to take the game into his own hands. LeBron James ran away from every opportunity he had to become a champion. And he probably will win a championship someday given the talent the Heat have on their roster and the genius that is Pat Riley running the organization. But no matter how many rings LeBron ends up getting in his career, he can never be compared to Michael Jordan again. He can’t even be compared to Kobe Bryant. He will never be able to make up for the colossal failure that was the 2011 NBA Finals because it is firmly entrenched in the annals of NBA history that LeBron James choked big time and lacked the heart necessary to be a champion. If the Heat win a title going forward, it will more be a testament to Dwyane Wade’s greatness than LeBron’s “talents.”
Even more damaging to LeBron’s legacy and reputation was his reactions and responses after the game. We know he heard all of the criticism and we know he is aware of his own shortcomings, so in a way I can be mildly empathetic towards him for being the recipient of such profound and constant abuse. But his remarks about g-d not wanting this to be his time now, or that everyone else will wake up the next morning with their own lives and problems while he will wake up a millionairre, just make LeBron look like a spiteful and spoiled jackass.
All of this has solidified LeBron’s status as the most hated man in sports. It is hard to imagine a way for him to rehabilitate his reputation and legacy without some major changes in his personality, demeanor, attitude and performance. The fact that the Governor of Ohio made the Dallas Mavericks honorary Ohioans for a day speaks volumes about how much this man is despised. I made the comparison earlier between LeBron’s villainy and Hulk Hogan’s heel turn to the n.W.o. However, the difference is that Hulk Hogan was able to regain his Hulkamaniacs by putting the yellow and red back on and training, saying his prayers, and eating his vitamins. Unfortunately for LeBron, he seems to be eternally entrenched as the bad guy. And he doesn’t even have a ring to show for it.
As a Knicks’ fan, I am very disappointed and frustrated that they have lost the first two games of their first round playoff series against the Celtics. These two losses have been excruciating and arguably should have been victories. There wasn’t much hope for the Knicks to realistically win the series anyway, but now being down 2-0 it is virtually impossible to think they have any chance at all. But, there is a better way to look at things…positively.
Before the season started, there was already a sense of disappointment and despair after the Knicks failed to sign LeBron James. The signing of Amar’e Stoudamire was a good start, but fans knew that he could not do this alone. The opening day roster was not one that elicited feelings of the playoffs. Then starting the year 3-8 certainly didn’t erase the horrible memories of the last decade marred by the likes of Scott Layden, Stephon Marbury, Isaiah Thomas, Larry Brown, and Eddy Curry. All of a sudden, the Knicks went on a huge winning streak and were over .500 later in a season than they had been in many years. The Knicks were relevant once again. Players like Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Landry Fields, and Toney Douglass were complementing Stoudamire well and the team was playing with passion and energy. Of course, being a Mike D’Antoni team, the Knicks didn’t play much defense, but their explosive offense earned them the highest scoring average in the league for most of the first half. So compared the entire decade of the 2000′s, the Knicks were being talked about on sports radio and featured on network games during the week. The week before Christmas, the Knicks played a classic game against the Celtics that they would end up losing on a game-winning shot by Paul Pierce. But the gutty effort by the Knicks proved to the world that they could compete with the best and were a force to be reckoned with.
Despite how well the Knicks had played and the drastic improvements they had made, no one in their right mind believed they were a championship team yet. Based on the talent in the East, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Knicks would qualify for the playoffs by the time December rolled around. Rumors of a trade for Carmelo Anthony really heated up around this time as well. Those who supported the trade also acknowledged that adding a second superstar to the team is yet another building block towards the ultimate goal of a championship. Those realists could not have been more correct because there were obvious and severe growing pains once the Knicks made the trade for Carmelo. By dealing away Felton, Chandler and Gallinari, they needed to replace 3/5 of their starting lineup which is no easy task to do for anyone at any time of year, let alone the Knicks as they competed for their first playoff appearance since 2004. Sure enough, the growing pains lasted quite awhile as the Knicks put themselves in a dangerous position down the stretch, almost losing enough to remove them from playoff contention. But the chemistry with Carmelo started to click in March and the Knicks went on a rampage into the playoffs where the Celtics would await them.
So in looking back at the 2010-2011 season, the Knicks have succeeded in selling out Madison Square Garden again, finished the regular season with a record better than .500 for the first time in ten years, made the playoffs for the first time in seven years, rid themselves of all their bad contracts and still have salary cap room for the offseason, and they have two superstars in place who will be on the team for many years to come. These are all great achievements and are indicative of the direction the franchise is heading into the future.
So now we come to the playoffs against Boston. Yes, these two losses are truly brutal and games that could have been won by the Knicks. Forget about phantom offensive fouls or any other excuses, the better team has won the first two games of this series. True, the Knicks have outplayed Boston for most of the two games. However, Boston had outplayed the Knicks when it counts the most – the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. That comes from their superior size, invaluable experience, intelligent coaching, and lack of discipline on behalf of the Knicks. The way I see this is that the Knicks, a #6 seed (and barely better than the #8 seed), are matched up with a championship-caliber team in the Celtic,s a #3 seed, and are standing their ground giving Boston a real run for its money. Upsets in the NBA playoffs are rare, so it should not come as a shock to anyone that Boston does have a 2-0 lead. Again, I know the Knicks could easily be up 2-0 if certain things either happened or didn’t happen, but that is not the case.
What is the case here is that the Knicks have been playing like a legitmate playoff team these first two games. Their overall defense has been drastically improved compared to just a couple weeks ago. Their intensity and intelligence have shown through (with some admittedly lapses of judgment and execution at times). The Knicks are pushing the Celtics to their extreme limits. This performance should give the Knicks players, management and fans the confidence that they can be competitive against any team and that they are headed in the right direction. Chauncey Billups is a nice player and has a lot to offer the team, but he is not the long-term answer at point guard. The Knicks also have a glaring hole at the center position. They need a big body to clog up lanes, box out, and secure rebounds. Assuming they address this need in the offseason, couple with the additional time and experience gained by Carmelo and company, the Knicks should be a 50-win team in 2011-2012. They are young and talented, and hopefully no matter who is the coaching them they will continue to make progress.
So, even if the Knicks do get swept or win a game or two before being inevitably eliminated, it would behoove you to look at the positives of this season as opposed to the missed opportunities here in the playoffs. Just the fact they are in the playoffs and playing competitive games should be enough to satiate your desire for change and improvement.
After ten long years, I have finally been able to openly admit that I am a fan of the New York Knicks. This past decade has been akin to the Dark Ages for this storied franchise. Once the Patrick Ewing era ended, it has been a continuous freefall for the Knickerbockers who became the biggest joke in the NBA. Felled by horrific ownership, poor management decisions, questionable personnel choices, salary cap mismanagement, and lack of quality basketball, the Knicks were constantly setting standards for what NOT to do when running a sports franchise. From Scott Layden to Larry Brown to Isaiah Thomas to Eddy Curry to Stephon Marbury, it has been an endless cycle of futility and incompetence. But after all of that, the Knicks are finally relevant again and heading to the playoffs where anything can happen.
I am not going to get ahead of myself and make any arguments as to why they can win a NBA championship this year. That is because they have absolutely no shot at winning it all in 2011. The acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, while necessary and great for long-term building, stripped the Knicks of their depth and forced them to learn on the fly how to play basketball with one another. Now they have their coveted “second” superstar along with Amar’e Stoudamire. The pieces are in place to become a legitimate championship contender in the next several years. However, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Under Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks, much like every other team he has coached, do not play any defense, let alone good defense. D’Antoni is an offensive-minded coach, and a good one at that. However, in order to win in the NBA, you have to be able to play good, consistent defense. One area where the Knicks have a glaring hole is at the center position. The Knicks lack size and strength in the middle to clog up the lanes and secure rebounds. Playing Stoudamire at the five spot is unfair to him as he cannot match up well with the big men in the league. The Knicks don’t necessarily have to have a player who can post up, but they need a body in the middle who can both defend the rim and also command some attention on offense to allow outlet passes to an open player behind the three-point line. Another necessity is to lock up the point guard position for the future. Chauncey Billups came over in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and he will provide the leadership and experience they so badly need at that position. But he is 34 years old and not a long-term solution. Billups, a former NBA Finals MVP, will be the key to any success the Knicks have this year in the playoffs. But when planning for years down the road, the Knicks will need someone like Chris Paul to round out the trifecta of superstars that seem to be necessary to reach the upper echalon of the league.
The mere fact that I am writing about the Knicks speaks volumes to the strides they have taken this year. It is true that they are still merely a .500 team with lots of gaping holes on their roster. But they have turned the corner and are relevant once again because the pieces are in place to build a winning team. Excitement has returned the Madison Square Garden, the mecca of sports. We know there will be at least one playoff game hosted at the World’s Most Famous Arena, and that is good for the Knicks, good for New York, and good for the NBA.
Going along with the theme of building a championship team down the road, I do not think that will be possible with D’Antoni as the coach. He is a genius when it comes to designing offensive plays and schemes. But like I said, you need to play defense to win a championship. The Knicks do have explosive offensive weapons on their team, but they need to focus on defense just as much, if not more. If they play Miami in the first round of the playoffs, they will have a chance to win but they likely will fall to the much more defensive-oriented Heat. LeBron, Wade and Bosh are all prolific offensive threats, but they also play good, hard defense. The Knicks are anything but assured of being able to stop the Big Three down the stretch in the 4th quarter. This is why I would argue that the Knicks need to also start thinking about who the next coach will be and whether he can instill some defensive priorities into the mix. While he has no prior coaching experience, I would give former Knick guard Mark Jackson the opportunity to coach. This arguably should have been done years ago, but Jackson clearly is in intelligent basketball man and can command the respect of his players. Jackson undoubtedly would instill fundamental principles of defense into the Knicks’ repertoire, as well as better ball movement and distribution. The run and gun schemes that D’Antoni loves are great for energizing the crowd and putting up crooked numbers. But those crooked numbers won’t mean much if the opposition’s numbers are even more crooked.
At the end of the day, I am just going to enjoy the Knicks’ return to relevance and an exciting playoff matchup with either Boston, Orlando or Miami most likely. Even if they get swept out of the first round, there is at least hope for the future. That is more than can be said any other year since 2001.
It’s been almost ten years, but I think it is safe enough to openly admit that I am a New York Knicks fan. I grew up in the midst of the Patrick Ewing-led teams that were perennial contenders in the 1990′s. Along with Ewing were players like John Starks, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, Derek Harper, Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell, and Larry Johnson. While the Knicks never won a championship despite making two Finals appearances in that era, they were at leasr competitive, fun to watch, and filled with hustle. Then the Dark Ages set in as Scott Layden dismantled the team and tried to turn the Knicks into the Jazz. Then came the disastrous Larry Brown and Isaiah Thomas tenures which sent the Knicks into even deeper doldrums.
But after Donnie Walsh was hired to rebuild the Knicks, there was hope once again. The long-term plan was to accumulate as much salary cap room as possible and make a run at the big free agents in 2010. While the Knicks were successful in obtaining cap space, they were unable to land LeBron James. However, the Knicks did sign Amar’e Stoudamire who has been nothing short of amazing through the first half of this season. Now they find themselves in a situation where they are in desperate need of Carmelo Anthony to complement Stoudamire and take the Knicks to the next level. However, as of right now, the asking price by the Denver Nuggets is too high to pull the trigger.
Let’s keep this in perspective. As relevant as the Knicks have been this year, they are still just a .500 team and worthy of the #6 or #7 seed in the East. While this marks an improvement, it is not tolerable to be excited about mediocrity. There is no doubt that the Knicks need Anthony, and there is no doubt that Anthony wants to play for the Knicks. But with Denver facing the possibility of losing Anthony at the end of the season and walk away as a free agent, they are desperate to unload him and get something back. However, Denver also is playing the Knicks and Nets against each other because a deal is more likely compatible with New Jersey. The only hold up is Anthony himself who has said he wouldn’t sign a contract extension anywhere besides with the Knicks.
In an ideal world, Anthony doesn’t get traded anywhere this season and the Knicks end up signing him as a free agent. That way, they don’t have to give up key pieces of their roster such as Landry Fields or Danilo Gallanari. If Anthony is somehow traded to the Nets and he accepts a contract extension to stay with the team as they move to Brooklyn, then this would be a colossal failure for the Knicks. Denver knows this, which is why they are asking for four starters, Eddy Curry’s expiring contract, and a 1st round draft pick from the Knicks. This is an insane package that should be rejected. But now that Knicks’ owner James Dolan is involved, he will likely start pressuring Donnie Walsh to get the deal done. This does not bode well for the Knicks because they will end up paying well over what Anthony’s value is.
The point of all of this is that enough is enough. We have been reading about this, hearing about this, speculating about this, and growing so sick and tired of this for months already. The trading deadline is February 24 which is only a few days away. Thanksfully we can stop hearing about the rumors and speculation after that date. Where ‘Melo plays next year is anyone’s guess right now. But the Knicks should just worry about what they are doing with the roster they currently employ. If Anthony becomes part of the mix, then they are instantly better. But if not, the Knicks do have some nice pieces in place to compete for a higher playoff seed. They should focus on that for now and worry about ‘Melo possibly joining them next year. Because as of now, Knicks’ fans, players and management are concentrating too much time, effort and energy on a player who is not even on the team. The verdict is that fans are tired of hearing about all the rumors and speculation. Enough of the ‘Melo-drama…just go out and win basketball games with the players you do have on your roster.
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THE SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT
Shawn Kemp is My Daddy v. Fantasy Basketball League Commissioner
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE DEGENERATE BALLERS FANTASY BASKETBALL LEAGUE
Decided October 14, 2010
Cite as 2 F.J. 24 (October 2010)
A fantasy basketball league called the Degenerate Ballers Fantasy Basketball League (hereinafter referred to as “DBFBL”) is comprised of twelve (12) teams who compete against each other on a weekly basis during the National Basketball Association (“NBA”) season using the statistics of professional players as a basis for accumulating points in head-to-head competition with opponents to determine which fantasy team won or lost. The DBFBL is hosted on the ESPN fantasy basketball platform and has been in existence since 2008. Since the league’s inception, the Commissioner of the DBFBL has created rules and guidelines regarding the draft, roster limits, point scoring system, trading process, and other general regulations to govern the league.
There is no formal league Constitution which delineates the rules, requirements and guidelines of the league. Rather, the league Commissioner inputs this information through ESPN and it is made available to all teams upon successfully registering their teams on the league’s website after the Commissioner sends out invitations. This information is available at all times. The league Commissioner arbitrarily sets up the parameters of the league, including the limitations and restrictions on trading. There is no process for challenging such decisions, and there is no available method of voting to approve any such decisions. By registering for the league and participating in the draft, the other league owners tacitly assent to the rules created by the league Commissioner.
Before participating in the league draft, all league members were made aware of the league’s rules regarding trading. Included in these rules is the following language:
(1) There shall not be any trading of draft picks before or during the league’s draft.
(2) Trades may be made between teams at the conclusion of the draft.
(3) All trades must be processed through the league’s ESPN website and will be subject to the Commissioner’s approval.
(4) Any trade that the Commissioner makes shall be subject to the approval of the league’s Co-Commissioner.
(5) Any trade made between the Commissioner and the Co-Commissioner shall be subject to approval by a league vote where six votes of approval will put the trade through.
(6) Teams that are eliminated from playoff contention will not be eligible to make trades.
(7) There shall not be any attempts to collude between teams when negotiating and exchanging players in trades.
The DBFBL draft took place on Sunday, October 10, 2010 in an online draft room hosted by ESPN. Prior to the draft beginning, two teams posted on the league message board that they had agreed to swap draft picks. This trade included swapping first round picks and fourth round picks. The league Commissioner allowed the trade to go through and manually changed the draft order to accommodate the new draft positions for these two teams. Despite protests from other league members, the Commissioner justified allowing the trade because he “wanted to try something new this year” and felt that “there was no harm done to any of the other teams.” The plaintiff, Shawn Kemp Is My Daddy, posted on the league message board a citation to the league’s rules which explicitly prohibited the trading of draft picks before and during the league’s draft. This Commissioner did not respond to the message and simply proceeded with the draft allowing this trade.
At the conclusion of the draft, the plaintiff again voiced his concern and protest over this decision and asked the Commissioner to consider doing the draft over again without the trade of draft picks between those two teams. The Commissioner denied this request and told the plaintiff to “stop whining” and “deal with it.”
The plaintiff has filed this complaint with the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment seeking an annulment of the October 10, 2010 draft and ordering a do-over with the original draft positions left in place.
(1) Should the DBFBL’s draft be annulled due to the Commissioner’s own violation of the league rules and a second draft be conducted?
The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment is a strong advocate for having written Constitutions that govern fantasy sports leagues. There are a myriad of reasons why the Court believes having a Constitution in place is the best way to run and maintain a fantasy league. One of the primary reasons behind this rationale is that all league members are aware of the rules and guidelines in place that govern the administration and function of the fantasy league. When a league Commissioner writes out the rules and distributes them to the league, it shifts the burden onto the league members to read, understand, and adhere to the rules that are delineated. If a league member has an issue, question or challenge to one of the rules in the Constitution, they are welcome to raise this with the Commissioner before signing it or agreeing to its codification.
Despite not having a formal document that codifies all of the league’s rules and guidelines, the DBFBL league Commissioner did set the rules up well before the draft and posted them on the league’s website for everyone to see. This process does constitute notice for the league members that they are aware of the rules. It also demonstrates that league members have knowledge that the Commissioner is the ultimate authority for decision-making and that there is no formal appellate process within the league. However, it also demonstrates that the Commissioner is the one who authored the rules and presumably is aware that the league members will have an expectation that these rules will be in place for the upcoming season.
As the Commissioner of a fantasy sports league, there is an expectation that he/she will govern and administer the league’s rules and guidelines strictly in accordance to what is explicitly stated in a Constitution or posted on the league’s website. There is also a presumption that the Commissioner will run the league with the league’s best interests in mind so as to maintain his/her own integrity, as well as the integrity of the league. The Commissioner appropriately expects that the league members will adhere to the rules set forth, and in the event the rules are not followed, the Commissioner would take appropriate action.
Here, the Court is presented with a unique case where the Commissioner is violating his own rules despite the protests of his fellow league members. This is not a case where there is an ambiguous circumstance not accounted for within the written rules of the league. Some leeway could be given if the Commissioner had to decide on an issue of first impression that was not foreseeable when the rules were created. That is not the case here. The very first rule regarding trades that the Commissioner distributed specifically prohibited the trading of draft picks either before or during the draft. Since the trade of draft picks was posted to the league’s message board before the draft started, the Commissioner had ample time and opportunity to reject such a trade and rightfully cite the league’s rules. However, the Commissioner arbitrarily decided to approve the trade and rationalized that he wanted to try something new.
The Court is also an advocate of changing things up from year to year in a fantasy sports league so as to keep things interesting and maintain consistent participation and enjoyment. However, the time for changing rules is quite clearly during the offseason. Whether the Commissioner autonomously decides to make changes or presents suggestions for a league vote, the point is that this process should not be done once the rules have been put in place and the draft is about to commence.
The harm and detriment to the league and its members is two-fold. First, it sends a terrible message to the league that the Commissioner is going to do whatever he arbitrarily wants to do regardless of the rules he has created. Second, the other league members were prejudiced by this decision because they were not given an opportunity to negotiate trades of draft picks. Had the Commissioner provided notice before the draft that this would be allowed, then all teams would have had the opportunity to make such deals knowing that they were allowed.
Under normal circumstances when issues arise during a fantasy sports draft, the Court would not recommend undoing what was done and conducting another draft. But in this case, there does not seem to be any other alternative that would make this situation right. Knowing that draft picks can be traded would certainly affect and alter teams’ strategies for the draft. Given that, the Court recommends that the October 10, 2010 draft be erased. If the Commissioner is now going to allow the trading of draft picks, he should make such a proclamation to the league and allow a period of time for teams to negotiate. The Commissioner should then set a new date for the draft and conduct it in an environment where all teams are on a level playing field and have the same opportunities to maximize their drafting.
The Court also recommends that the Commissioner issue a public apology for creating this predicament and assure the league that he will abide by the rules he set forth. Any discussions to amend or modify the rules should be reserved for the conclusion of the 2010-2011 fantasy basketball season.
The rules of the league were clear and the Commissioner explicitly violated them. The only recourse to regain the integrity of the league and pacify everyone’s best interests is to annul the first draft and do it over again with all teams able to trade draft picks.
IT IS SO ORDERED.