Monthly Archives: May 2017

Sure NBA champion

Let’s talk business. Regardless of the Final Four outcome (my heart goes for the Cavs as repeat champs but my mind says it’s the Warriors), there’s one sure winner in the NBA.

Founded 53 years ago by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman, the company was originally named “Blue Ribbon Sports” until it was changed to “Nike” in 1971. It is the No. 1 most valuable sports brand on Earth and, last year, it grossed a colossal $32.4 billion. It’s logo — the swoosh, patterned after the wing of Nike, the goddess of victory — is the world’s most iconic, defeating Coca-Cola, Apple and McDonald’s. Chances are, when you look down at your feet or you open your closet or you attend a game of volleyball or football, a pair of shoes designed with a “check mark” is being worn.

With the NBA, the undisputed winner is Nike. Because while Steph Curry wears Under Armour, James Harden dons Adidas, Rajon Rondo and Klay Thompson wear the lesser-known brand Anta (from China), all the other superstars wear Nike.

KD, ‘Bron, Kyrie, Isiah “King of the Fourth” Thomas, Kevin Love, soon-to-be-announced MVP Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Blake Griffin, CP3 (Chris Paul), and Jimmy Butler all wear Nike or Nike/Jordan-branded footwear. Even three names (John Wall, Draymond Green, and J.R. Smith) who don’t have shoe endorsements wear the same Oregon-based brand.

In the Forbes article, “Nike Will Come Out On Top After The NBA Finals, Regardless Of Who Wins” by Daniel Kleinman published last May 17, the winning moves of Nike were explained.

Why, you ask, does Nike pay Durant an incredible $300 million for 10 years? It’s because of all those KD-labeled high-cuts that Nike will be selling in a decade. (Also, because of the fear of losing out to Under Armour, who was ready to $265M.) It’s also about the millions of eyeballs from Beijing to Bacolod to Berlin to Bangkok who’ll be watching the Warriors as Durant shoots a 3-pointer while wearing Nike.

The largest Nike deal of any kind appropriately belongs to LeBron James. In 2015, Nike awarded him with a sponsorship for life, the first time ever that they’ve agreed to such a lifelong deal. The cost: P25 billion. In dollars, that’s $500M that they’re paying LeBron, for him to never wear the Three Stripes or UA.

Expensive? Who says the best player is cheap? As the cliche goes, “You get what you play for.” And look at the dividends — I can imagine the thousands and thousands of $200 LeBron James 14 shoes that will sell this month.

So here’s the conclusion: Warriors or Cavs, Durant or James, the company named after the goodess of victory will claim victory.

Cavaliers and the King

Incredible. Stunning. Unimaginable. Are there better adjectives to describe yesterday’s colossal wipeout, when J.R. Smith spun for a reverse jumpshot to end the half, and when Isiah Thomas was 0-8 in field goal attempts and only scored two free throw points?

How about Murphy’s Law? If anything could go wrong for the Celtics, it did, including an injury to I.T. As for the Cavs, it was the reverse: if anything could go right, it did, increasing their lead by double digits per quarter and LeBron James playing possessed: 12 of 18 for an easy 30 while icing his knees as the City of Boston perspired.

I don’t recall watching a game that lopsided. Boston’s the top seed? It’s like Gilas trampling over Malaysia in SEABA last week. Like Game 1, once again we’ve seen the rise of Kevin Love. He’s pushing his 6-foot-10 body towards the hoop against smaller defenders; he’s detonating those long-range bombs, 4 of 9 yesterday and 6 of 9 in Game 1.

The Cavs defense. Outstanding. They’re sprinting side to side, front to back; scurrying with arms outstretched and legs dancing; LeBron’s flying for blocks; they’re tirelss and relentless — thanks to the restful days when their batteries have been 100 percent fully-charged.

How about that passing? Led by one of the all-time best passers (King James), they toss the ball three, four, six times, all in rapid succession before finding the open Three or an alley-hoop jam. There’s no buaya like a Kobe or Westbrook; they’re having fun, they’re like a serious Harlem Globetrotters.

10-0. This was the same position they had last year. In 2016, they swept past Detroit, 4-0, manhandled Atlanta, then won their first two games against Toronto before losing the next two. Those twin losses to the Raptors were caused by their playing in Canada. Not this year. Games 3 and 4 are in Ohio and we expect a clean 12-0 slate before they face the Warriors.

All these post-season sorties are tune-up games for Part 3. Some people are happy with this; others are not. The NBA has 30 teams and only two dominate. Good or bad?

Blame it on Kevin and Kevin. When Love joined Kyrie and LeBron, plenty cried foul: they’re too strong. When Durant joined Klay and Steph, many shouted unfair. Bad for the league? If you’re an OKC or San Antonio follower, you’re frowning. Otherwise, this is terrific. Like the era of the Celtics-Lakers in the ‘80s or La Salle-Ateneo in Manila or Borg/McEnroe or Nadal and Federer or Senna/Prost or the Yankees vs. the Red Sox, a strong rivalry is riveting. The only problem: our patience is required. We need to endure these lopsided Rounds 1, 2 and 3 before the championship bell rings on June 1.

1:59:59 marathon time

Among running aficionados here in Cebu, when you say “Sub-2,” you’re referring to running a 21K race in under two hours. It’s nowhere near the world record time of 58 minutes and 23 seconds but it’s not an easy feat. You’ve got to own speedy feet and run at a pace of 5:43 for 21 kms.

There’s another meaning of “sub-2” and it’s a crazy proposition: Running a FULL marathon (42.195 kms.) in under two hours. This means that for those who are happy to record a sub-2 half-marathon, you’ve got finish the same time — at twice the distance!

For decades now, millions of runners around the globe have thought that this achievement would be nearly impossible. But as each year passed, the marathon WR time got faster and faster. The current record, set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya in 2014 at the Berlin Marathon, stands at 2:02:57. (The last six maraton WR records were recorded in Berlin.. so here’s a tip for those who want to PR: run in the capital city of Germany.)

You might say: shaving off two minutes and 57 seconds isn’t that long. Doesn’t it take us a longer time to shower or do our morning grooming? Yes. But in running, 177 seconds is a lenthy time. Running a sub-2 marathon means that you’ll have to run at a pace of over 21-kph nonstop for two hours. Try stepping on a treadmill and pressing 13-kph speed for several minutes. Only the fastest among us — including Dr. Yong Larrazabal, who did a speedy 3:14 at the Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon — can maintain that speed for 42 kms.

So, the sub-2 marathon will take decades of incremental improvements to achieve, right?

Enter Adidas and Nike. The two sporting giants are attempting to break this target this 2017. For Adidas, they have a shoe named “Adizero Sub2” and later this year, they plan to break this barrier. (There’s a “sub2hrs.com” website that reads: Countdown to the first subhr marathon: No longer a matter of IF but rather WHEN.)

For Nike, you must have read the news. In an event in Italy the other Saturday, the Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge has ran the fastest ever 42K: two hours and 25 seconds. Yup, that’s 2:33 faster than the world record and a mere 26 seconds from recording that most incredible of numbers: 1:59:59.

Eliud Kipchoge is a human being unlike any other. Quite possibly, he will end his career as the greatest long-distance runner in history. He is not only the Olympic (Brazil) gold medalist, he is also the London and Berlin marathon champion and has won seven of his eight marathon races. Nike made the perfect decision in tapping the 32-year-old Kenyan to break the record. But was his record legitimate? More inputs in a future article.

Women rule

I’m no sexist but when it comes to sports, the men dominate. Take the PBA or NBA; the Azkals or Lionel Messi. There’s F1 racing, Cesafi basketball, Michael Phelps, ALA Boxing, LeBron and Steph, Gilas Pilipinas and Donnie Nietes.

The one sport where the women prevail? Volleyball. Last Saturday, Jasmin, Jana and I were witnesses to this phenomenon.

It started with the UAAP men’s volleyball championships between NU and Ateneo. I entered the ticket booth and there was no line. The Patron tickets sold for only P200 and it was near-ringside. We entered the gates of Araneta Coliseum at 12:45 p.m. and saw no spectators at the Lower and Upper Boxes and General Admission — and this was the men’s final! 

Women’s volleyball? As early as 12 noon, or four hours prior to game start, a long line snaked outside. When the game started past 4:30, over 20,000 jampacked the Big Dome. People screamed D-L-S-U while pounding on balloon cheering sticks. One half was all-green while the other was blue. Drum-beaters smashed their drum sets with the booming sound reverberating throughout the circular arena.

In my many decades of watching sports — from the Knicks in MSG to Agassi at the U.S. Open to Pacman in Macau — few compare to the hair-raising and ear-defeaning Ateneo vs. La Salle atmosphere.

But this wasn’t men’s basketball; it was something more — and even louder and more thrilling. It was women’s volleyball.

It’s amazing to think that the most popular female athletes are collegiate volleyball players. It started with Alyssa Valdez. I cannot think of a lady athlete who’s more photograhed. When she visits SM, she’s swamped with fans like she’s Anne Curtis. Last Saturday, despite her collegiate retirement, plenty still wore her blue-and-white jersey. Same with the names DE LEON, MORADO and MADAYAG. Their shirts are worn by hardcore fans.

While watching the DLSU-ADMU game, what struck me was this: majority of spectators were female. This is terrific. I cannot think of any other sport where the men are outnumbered in the audience.

Game 2, as many of you saw on TV, was a seesaw battle. You can see it from the faces of the spectators. In one set, you’d stand and clap and scream. In the next, you’d sit downtrodden, quieted by the cheers of the other color. In the end, while Blue won among the men, it was Green who claimed the ladies crown.

My daughter Jana, a resident of Eliazo Dorm, was sad especially because most of the Lady Eagles are her dormmates. It was heartbreaking for team captain Jia Morado, who will be graduating from the Ateneo this month and won’t join next season. Had Ateneo won last Saturday, Game 3 would have been tomorrow — Jia’s birthday.

But this is sport. At game’s end, there is ecstacy and agony. Four years ago, Ateneo won back-to-back; now, they’ve lost the same. But if there’s any consolation, it’s this: the women have triumphed. As the saying goes, “Men rule the world but women rule the men.”