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Dragon’s Fire: Marc Gasol won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award but did he deserve it? (Podcast)
Los Angeles- Lights, camera, action, show time. It’s a city with majestic beaches, swaying palm trees, and glorious sunshine almost year around. Those are some of the descriptors of LA. The city is also known for its mega sports scene. The Lakers and USC football help make up the fabric of the championship DNA laced throughout the LA sports scene.
Slowly but surely the dominance of the Lakers and the USC football program have been deteriorating. The end of the reign of dominance couldn’t be more apparent this year. UCLA won the football PAC 12 South championship over cross town rival USC. The schools are less than 10 miles apart. However throughout history their well respected football programs have been much further apart in proximity. Quite frankly, UCLA athletics are known for everything except football. UCLA has won a total of 108 NCAA national championships and counting; although none in the sport of football. On the other hand USC has 96 total NCAA national championships. Eleven of those titles are in football.
The gap between the two programs has closed drastically recently. Since former USC coach Pete Carroll left for the NFL, in 2010, USC has seen a decline in its football program. They are a variety of reasons for the decline including coaching, NCAA sanctions, and players leaving. However the biggest reason is California high school football stars don’t flock to USC as they once had. More and more California footballers are choosing to go to other PAC 12 and even Mountain West schools. Players are simply signing with other schools. USC no longer wins all the recruiting battles against UCLA or other collegiate programs. Thus UCLA has leveled the playing field with their cross town rival, and in the case of this past year they surpassed USC.
The same has happened between the Lakers and the Clippers. Historically the two franchises couldn’t be more different. The Lakers have 16 championships while the Clippers have none. The Lakers had show time, the Clippers had no shows. The Clippers were “the little brothers” of the Lakers. Slowly but surely the landscape between the two has changed.
The Lakers won their last NBA championship in 2010. Since then their reign as Los Angeles best basketball team has been on a steady decline. The aging roster, the retirement of Phil Jackson, and the vetoed Chris Paul trade all served as devastating blows to the franchise’s dominance. To make matters worse Chris Paul (successfully traded to the Clippers) has made the Clippers worthy contenders. Since Paul’s arrival to the “little brothers of LA” the Clippers are 5-2 against the Lakers. Including a 4-0 sweep this season. The Clippers are faster, more athletic, younger, and quite frankly have a more talented roster from top to bottom.
The Lakers have a veteran aging roster, headed by Kobe Bryant. The team has been decimated by injuries to its star players, which is all a common cause of age. The most blowing injury came to its most critical superstar, Bryant, who tore his left Achilles tendon. He’s out of commission for 6-9 months which is quite disturbing news to a franchise already going through its demise. When Bryant returns to the court, he will be 35, which is equivalent to grandpa age by NBA standards. Other members of the team’s aging roster are Pau Gasol at 32, Steve Nash aged 39, and Metta World Peace is 33. The Lakers are not just old they are ancient by NBA standards. The NBA has transformed its style to a more athletic, faster, and quicker game. Aging rosters will always have a tough time competing with the evolving NBA game.
The one glaring question for the Lakers is Dwight Howard. Howard, 27, is young and skilled enough to take over the reins as the superstar of the Lakers. He could easily be the face of the franchise once Bryant decides to leave. The question is will Howard want that? Does he want to stay in LA and be the face of arguably the most successful NBA franchise ever?
Even if Howard does stay he’ll need younger pieces around him. Will he want to compete with a Clippers team loaded with young stars in their prime? Paul is 27, Blake Griffin 24, and Deandre Jordan 24. These are significant unanswered questions for a franchise accustomed to winning.
In what once seemed highly unlikely is now upon us. The Los Angeles sports landscape has changed right before our very eyes. UCLA has leveled the football playing field, and as of last year is taking over the number 1 spot. Meanwhile at the same time; the Clippers are now LA’s best basketball team. Once upon a time UCLA football, and Clippers basketball were mediocre compared to their LA peers. They’re now on top and the unfathomable is here. The LA football and basketball powers have switched alliances. Seems like a Hollywood movie script. LA wouldn’t have it any other way.
The ESPN NBA 1-500 player rankings were finalized today. Here are my top 20!
1. LeBron James
2. Kevin Durant
3. Dwyane Wade
4. Dwight Howard
5. Chris Paul
6. Kobe Bryant
7. Derrick Rose
8. Carmelo Anthony
9. Dirk Nowitzki
10. Deron Williams
11. Russell Westbrook
12. Chris Bosh
13. Rajon Rondo
14. Tony Parker
15. Blake Griffin
16. Kevin Love
17. Andrew Bynum
18. LaMarcus Aldridge
19. Zach Randolph
20 . Pau Gasol
The 2012 games of the XXX Olympiad began with the Queen of England parachuting into the Olympic stadium James Bond style. The event concluded with London featuring a farewell ceremony that has us all eagerly anticipating the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
For two weeks every four years the Olympics capture the eyes of the world. More than a billion viewers from every continent are riveted to the competitions featuring the world’s best athletes in thirty sports, combined in a single event. No other athletic competition can boast the fact that viewers can watch four of the world’s most gifted and accomplished athletes; Usain Bolt, Lebron James, Serena Williams, and Michael Phelps all compete at the same time. These four athletes all won gold medals in their respective sports, but are among thousands of athletes who competed from 204 countries. There is simply no other athletic spectacle as remarkable as the Olympic Games.
Without a doubt, the Olympics are the most renowned worldwide event in sports. One might contend that American sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the NBA finals are more appealing to the American viewer. As Americans, we tend to be drawn to sports that Americans invented and specialize in. We also gravitate towards team sports as such sports demonstrate a level of brother or sisterhood where the team players are united for a common goal. The American way is that fans find it easier to root for teams and their logos. Thus America’s top three most popular sports are football, basketball, and baseball. Team sports are represented in the Olympics, but three of the most popular Olympic sports are the individual sports of track and field, gymnastics, and swimming that focus on individual athletes’ achievements. It is much more difficult to achieve success in an individual sport than it is in a team sport. Olympic athletes are about more than winning a Lombardi or Larry O’Brien trophy. Olympians are representing their respective countries and competing to win the only award that truly means The Best in the World: the gold medal.
An Olympic gold medal is the crown jewel of athletic achievement. Being The Best in the World is an unprecedented achievement as there may only be one with this distinction. Winning an Olympic silver or bronze medal is also considered a win as these athletes also are recognized on the awards podium. This podium recognition brings enormous pride to all countries. This is especially true of those countries where political unrest and poverty are so prominent.
The XXX Olympic Games were also a win for Title IX. For the first time in Olympic history every single participating nation had at least one female athlete competing. Most athletes are not so lucky to win a medal, but just being there representing their country is an achievement and an honor. For the countries of Brunei, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia sending female athletes for the first time was a milestone.
Sure the Olympics are about sport and competing, but the games are also about the world’s countries showcasing themselves. Sportsmanship and representation combined with national pride, history, and achievement all occur at once during a multitude of athletic events during the two weeks set aside for the Olympic Games.
The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. One hundred and sixteen years later, the Olympics are as good as ever; evolving to keep pace with a rapidly evolving world. They are a showcase of the world’s finest athletes with their national identity displayed by name across their chests. The Olympic spirit represents friendship, fair play, peace, glory, and honor. Every four years the Olympic Games captivate the world as over a billion pair of eyes watches the competitions and its related events. We can say farewell and thank you to London for a great XXX Olympiad and turn to Brazil as we anticipate the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
Summertime addition: Tim Parker and Tyler Dragon talking NBA and Track & Field as the world prepares for the Olympics.