Category Archives: LeBron James

Dirk Fever ices Miami’s heat

Dirk Nowitzki’s body temperature read 102 degrees Fahrenheit. In our usual Celsius reading, that’s 38.9. That’s a high fever. Well, he was high all right; scoring 21 points yesterday, including a game-winning lay-up with 14.4 seconds remaining.

Dallas wins Game 4, 86-83. From a best-of-seven NBA Finals series, it’s now two-out-of-three. The score is 2-2. The whiteboard is a clean slate. It’s back to Square, Game One. All the previous skirmishes — the 82-game regular season, the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, the Heat’s dramatic loss in Game 2 — all these no longer matter. What matters is, Philippine time, the mornings of Friday, Monday, and, possibly (and hopefully), Wednesday.

“He did everything that he could possibly do,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, of his 7-foot German center, Nowitzki. “The ball was moving to other people; he was creating when he could create. I love the way he played. Fighting through that was not easy.”

It was another come-from-behind Dallas win. Miami led by nine points early in the fourth quarter. And didn’t we previously think that the Heat, in the final 12 minutes, was unstoppable, right? Wrong. For the man who wronged the most yesterday — LeBron James – was the best player of the Finals. Was. Because LeBron scored only eight points — breaking a streak of 433 regular- and post-season games when he scored double-digits. It was his first lowly number in 90 playoff games. Worse, he took only one shot in the last quarter. (In his career, when LeBron scores 15 or fewer points, his team is 0-7.)

Pagkatoytoy, as Bobby Nalzaro would say it.

“The fact that it happened in a loss is the anger part about it,” LBJ said. “That’s all that matters to me. If I’d have had eight points and we won the game … I don’t really care about that. The fact that I could have done more offensively to help our team, that’s the anger part about it for myself. But I’ll come back in Game 5 and do things that need to be done to help our team win.”

Game 5, of course, will be the most crucial of the entire NBA season. If Miami wins, it’s Game Over. With the final two encounters scheduled in South Beach, Florida, they’ll have two chances to win for James and Bosh their first-ever NBA rings. But, if Dallas wins, this concert turns electrifying. A Game 7 can happen, like last year when the Lakers bested the Celtics in the NBA’s very last game.

I’m for Miami. But, for the sake of prolonged excitement, I’d like Dallas to claim victory tomorrow, with the extended hope that LeBron nails the championship-winning shot in Game 7 — much like Boom Boom’s knockout punch this Saturday. Go… Boom and ‘Bron.

Dallas vs. Miami: Let The Finals begin

With 3-1 leads in a Best of Seven series, the Mavericks and the Heat are 95.9 percent assured of victory. Yet, like the twin, shocking defeats of the M. Lhuillier squad last Friday and Saturday against the Cebu Landmasters/RDAK team, this we know: Basketball is unpredictable. The ball is neither flat nor perfect — it’s round. The bounce, odd. The loser can rebound and win.

But, as Roberto Duran once famously said, “No mas.” With Nowitzki and Bosh and Kidd and Wade and Mark Cuban as the Mavs owner and LeBron as the two-time MVP, I doubt that Chicago and Oklahoma can each win three of the next three games.

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

So, the stage is ready. The world awaits. The Heat is on. The Mavs? They move… to the Finals. You know my pick. Ever since LBJ announced in “The Decision” last July 8, 2010 that he’d combine forces — like Thor joining Spider-Man and Iron Man in a Marvel Comics triumvirate — the unanimous decision on the 2011 NBA champions is obvious.

I pick the Heat. Dwayne Wade having an off-night? Like he did yesterday? When he missed a dunk in the early minutes, did not score in the 3rd and 4th quarters, and shot only 5-of-16 with 14 points? No problemo. LeBron scores 35 points. Chris Bosh adds 22. They escape from near-defeat in Game 4 to force an OT and win, 101-93, leading the Eastern Conference Finals, 3 to 1.

Mr. Bosh? He’s Mr. Boss in Game 3. Attempting only 18 times, he made 34 points. The Heat have too many options, too many Pacquiaos in baggy shorts, two MVPs, they’re too damn good. They’re the Navy SEALS of the NBA. They’re the elite force – the best of the best. Like the SEALS who killed Osama Bin Laden carrying night vision apparatus, M16/M4, grenade launchers, pistols and other gadgetry that Karlon Rama can better explain, the Miami Heat has multiple weapons.

Free throws? They made 24 of their last 24 in Game 4. Plus, there’s The Big Two to add to The Big Three… Udonis Haslem (with nine rebounds yesterday) and Mike Miller (same nine rebounds plus 12 crucial points). “These are some of the things we anticipated coming into the season,” said Erik Spoelstra, the Fil-Am coach of the Heat. “Now when it counts, (Haslem and Miller) have both been able to contribute.”

Wade-Bosh-LeBron-Haslem-Miller. These five weaken and make the opponents helpless — like the Bulls, who owned the best regular season record of 62 wins and have the honor of calling their own, Derrick Rose, as the league Most Valuable Player. “That lineup that we talked about this summer is something we always envisioned,” said LeBron. “And it’s coming together at the right time.”

Dallas Mavericks? In the Finals, they won’t own home-court advantage. Both the Bulls and the Heat own better regular season records — thus, the 2-3-2 home-and-away format will not favor the Western Conference winners.

Still, wrote Matt Regaw in a gutsy piece entitled “Dallas Mavericks Should Be the Favorites To Win NBA Title,” he argues for this team that humiliated — not just “defeated” — the L.A. Lakers.

“The Mavericks have been road warriors in the playoffs,” said Regaw in his May 24 story from the website Bleacher Report. “They are not intimidated by the opposing fans and that was never more evident, than in the last game against the Thunder. The Thunder have one of the rowdiest crowds in the league, and when faced with a 15-point deficit with less than five minutes to play, the Mavericks showed unnerving composure.”

The Mavs, he argues, have won at least once on the road in each series — plus, twice in L.A. and Oklahoma. So this negates the “home-court advantage” philosophy.

Point # 3: “The entire Mavericks team is covered with skilled veterans that are groomed to handle pressure situations. Nowitzki is a point-producing scoring machine… Jason Kidd leads the team at the point and distributes the ball with ease… Jason Terry is a spark plug…”

Good points, Matt. But, sorry. In three weeks, we’ll be applauding the first time ring-bearers, James and Bosh.

Dr. Yayoy’s prognosis? It’s Miami vs. L.A.

Every year, I consult a doctor. His specialization isn’t centered on Internal Medicine, osteoporosis or Dentistry. It’s centered on Centers. On point guards, 3-point shots and the NBA Play-offs. Each year, I consult Dr. Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba. He’s a Cebu City Councilor, now on his third term. He’s the M. Lhuillier coach. He’s the most famous and successful guru on dribbling and rebounding outside Manila. To me, he’s the best — including the PBA.

He’s a doctor. He screens patients (players), analyses their defects, he corrects, supplies medicine (more weight-training?) and ensures that they’re robust. Like a true physician. Plus, he owns a degree that none of is will ever achieve: Doctorate on Basketology. (Shouldn’t UC or UV confer such a title on Dr. Alcoseba?)

The Coach with Freddie Roach

“Between the NBA’s Eastern and Western conferences, I prefer the East,” the coaching wizard explained by phone from his City Hall office yesterday morning. “The Lakers lost in Game One. Same with the Spurs. These are upset victories by the New Orleans Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies. Los Angeles and San Antonio no longer have the home-court advantage. At this level of game, in the playoffs, you cannot afford to take any seed for-granted. You have to concentrate all the time. Everybody has to be 100 percent.”

The Lakers were dismal in their 109-100 defeat. “I watched that game,” said Yayoy. “They had no defense. No intensity.” Aiming for their third straight NBA crown, the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers, said Alcoseba, will have difficulty winning No. 3 in a row. “The hardest thing is a three-peat,” he said. “It’s mental. I’ve been in such situations with many teams before. It’s so difficult to maintain the intensity, that level, after winning two straight titles. Sometimes, the edge is gone. It’s mental. At times, a team becomes complacent. Or overconfident, mo-kompyansa. With Game 2 against the Hornets, that’s a must-win for L.A. One more loss and they’re down 0-2.”

If that happens and the Lakers proceed to lose to New Orleans, it will be one of the biggest upsets in playoff history. “The Hornets is the No. 8 seed,” said Yayoy. “They were not even expected to be in the playoffs. They had, what, a 1-7 start to the regular season? Still, I expect Kobe and his team to defeat the Hornets.”

San Antonio Spurs? They’re the No.1 seed in the West, right? “Yes, they are,” he said. “But they lost (101-98 loss to Memphis) because Manu Ginobili, who averages nearly 20 a game, did not play Game One. I’m sure when he returns, the Spurs, who are the top-seeds, will bounce back.”

For the Western Division, the doctor predicts the two first-game losers, L.A. and San Antonio, to make it to the second round. But his prediction on the finalists? “I think the Lakers and the Oklahoma Thunder will be in the Western finals.”

In the East, Yayoy prefers Youth versus Experience. “I don’t see Boston, with their three older players — Garnett, Pierce and Allen — making it to the conference finals.” In fact, it was only minutes before we spoke that I checked the results via the internet: Boston escaped with an 87-85 victory against the New York Knicks when Ray Allen made a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.

“It’s Miami vs. Chicago in the East,” predicted Yayoy. As for Chicago, one player stands out: Derrick Rose. “He will be the MVP. He has everything. He owns double-double numbers. He scores (averaging 25 points per game) and assists (7.7 APG). He hits big shots in crucial moments. He’s a clutch player. Hands-down, he’s the NBA’s MVP.”

The Bulls or the Heat? “I’d choose Miami. The three — LeBron, Wade and Bosh — will be too strong. In the end, the Finals, it will go down to the contest that everybody wants to see: Heat vs. Lakers.”

A self-confessed Lakers fan who correctly predicted the wins of L.A. the past two seasons, does Dr. Alcoseba anticipate the same result in 2011? “The Lakers will have a hard time. As I said, a three-peat is extremely difficult. I think LeBron will prevail over Kobe.”

Kobe, cold in the Heat, shoots for more

Mr. Bryant faced Mr. James last Thursday. It was a meeting of two MVPs: Kobe had won the award in 2008 while LeBron snatched the Most Valuable Player trophy the past two seasons. On an eight-game winning streak in the city where the Wild Card Gym resides, the Lakers team was on a roll. Miami? They had lost steam. They lost five games in a row. But, when the two squads played three nights ago, it was LBJ who beat KB. The score: Miami, 94; L.A., 88.

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“By snapping a five-game losing streak and completing a two-game sweep of the defending champions,” wrote one of my favorite NBA analysts, Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports, “the Heat reminded everyone — and most importantly themselves —they can compete with the elite when the Big Three get a little help from their soldiers.”

Miami did not win the NBA title. Not yet. Or, in the eyes of cynics, they won’t. Not in 2011. And, one victory doesn’t epitomize the whole season. They’re still in third place in the Eastern Conference. Against the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls (the top two), they’re a combined 0-6. Still, a win is a triumph–especially against the two-time defending champions.

“Had Miami lost Thursday night,” said Whitlock, “the Big Three were toast. There would be no reason to take them seriously the rest of the year.”

True. Last week was a Crisis Scenario. They had lost five straight. Calls for coach Erik Spoelstra to resign—again; in an echo we’ve heard many times before–resurfaced. Miami felt the heat. They were pressured. “A loss Thursday night would’ve destroyed the Heat mentally and emotionally,” added Whitlock. “It would’ve been a repeat of the Chicago game, complete with postgame tears.”

But, against LA, they responded positively. The game was close. With five minutes left to play, the score was 80-all. Then, after Kobe sank two three-pointers, it was 88-88. Two minutes were left. Then, Kobe–the NBA’s best closer–closed the door on himself. He failed miserably. Kobe attempted another 3-point shot. Wade blocked it. Down four points with 20 seconds remaining, he made another attempt. This time, 29-feet away. Again, he missed. In all, he was 8-for-21 and, in the crucial second half, was 2-for-11.

Kobe failed. But do you know how he responded? Over an hour after the Miami-L.A. game had finished, he came back on court and shot hundreds of jumpers.

“Bryant wanted the workout, wanted the chance to cleanse himself of missed shots and missed opportunities in the final minutes,” wrote Adrian Wojnarowski for Yahoo! Sports. “Mostly, he wanted James and Wade to understand the lengths they’ll need to go to take his title away. ‘This is my job,’ Bryant would say 2½ hours after the game, slumped in a chair courtside. ‘This is what you’re supposed to do …’”

Here’s the Wojnarowski narration: “All those Heat stars breathed a sigh, packed up and left American Airlines Arena. Bryant marched back onto the floor at 10:45 p.m. and started sweating again. Three Heat ball boys fed him passes, and Bryant marched to every corner of the floor and lofted his shots. Security staff and other Heat officials stood befuddled, unsure what to do. One security worker insisted he had never witnessed this in his eight years on the job. The Lakers were gone and Bryant was still dripping sweat on the Heat logo.

“Sometimes, players will do this in their own arena, but never on the road. This was a spectacle and no accident. Bryant’s still the player they’re chasing because he’s the MVP of the back-to-back NBA champions. Bryant knows these Heat will get it together and become a problem for everyone in the Eastern Conference. Wherever James and Wade had gone late Thursday, Bryant clearly wanted word to reach them: He won’t accept losing to the Heat. Not on Christmas, not on Thursday night and not in June.

“Hours later, when asked about his motivation in a text message, Bryant responded with the words of Achilles: ‘I want what all men want. I just want it more.’”

The Heat is hot while Miami is cold

They have lost four straight. That’s sad. Bad? Good? That’s unexpected. After a disturbing 9-8 start, the Miami Heat went on a rampage. They won 21 of 22. Dwayne Wade would score 40+ points. Twice. LeBron James scored 38. Chris Bosh twisted the “h” to become Chris Boss. On our recent Feast of the Three Kings, they transformed into modern-day kings — Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior.

The Heat was blazing and fiery. Now? It’s winter in the States. They’re frozen. They lost to the Clippers, Nuggets, Bulls and, yesterday, to the Hawks. What happened? Why the erratic behavior? Why the relapse? The backslide? Here’s why:

One, the NBA is ultra-competitive. You can’t win every ballgame. Yesterday is different from tonight is different from this Saturday. Your past means nothing tomorrow. “Teams are always trying to get better,” said LeBron.

Two, injuries. Chris Bosh is out. We don’t know when he’ll come back. LeBron, prior to the Atlanta game, was unsure to play hours before tip-off. He played. He scored 34 and pulled down 10 rebounds plus contributed seven assists.

Three, timing. In sports, it’s all about “the right timing.” Once you’re off by a few centimeters, you miss. Perfection is compulsory. Said LeBron: “I had a week off and that is what happens sometimes. We had everything going and when you have a few injuries it takes the chemistry out, it takes the rhythm out of a team.”

Four, its called “birth pains.” This team is new. “So far this season,” said Heat coach Erick Spoelstra, “when we have tweaked things and gone a bit unconventional, it has thrown us. Unfortunately, we have to go through some pain right now.” Pain is inevitable. To win that NBA crown, pain is a must. Pain — passing through extreme heat and pressure for the Heat — is mandatory. Losing, too, is a must. As long as–and this is what’s most important—they lose today and not during the playoffs.

Defending his team and his city, Greg Cote, in “Don’t read too much into Miami Heat’s losing streak,” published this article in The Miami Herald… “What a ride, though, and every minute of it subjected to insane scrutiny, everything magnified, animated like The LeBrons.

“Remember that 9-8 start? Oh the calamity! The Big Three couldn’t play together! Pat Riley must swoop in and replace coach Erik Spoelstra! ESPN hadn’t been this sated in years.

“Then came the unreal winning, the 21-1 run. Which never gets the same attention, of course. I guess because when LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh win … is that even news?

“Now, calamity again? Four losses in a row, for God’s sake! And injuries to LeBron (back in the lineup Tuesday) and Bosh (sitting out) assuring those in doubt that these guys might perform like superhumans but in fact are mortal.”

Ha-ha-ha. Good point, Greg. The conclusion to this roller-coaster ride? This. Is. Good. This win-yesterday, lose-today, don’t-know-about-tomorrow scenario is good. For the fans. For those who hate LeBron. For those who love him. For those who abhor the Cleveland Cavaliers backstabber, they’re clapping and jumping and screaming, “Good for you, traitor!” For those who glorify LBJ, they’d say, “Relax…..” This team, they argue, is undergoing puberty. It won’t mature for months.

All this can be summed up by this observation from FOXSportsFlorida.com writer Chris Perkins who, in “Hard to tell if Heat are elite,” wrote… “You watch the Miami Heat and you wonder: ‘Do they have enough to beat Boston, San Antonio or the Lakers in a best-of-seven series?’

“At best, the answer comes back as: ‘Maybe.’ That was the answer during the 12-game winning streak in December, and that’s the answer during the four-game losing streak the Heat carry after Tuesday’s 93-89 overtime loss against Atlanta.”

Maybe. That word is perfect for Miami.

Will this losing episode continue? Maybe. Will it stop? Maybe. Will the Heat win the crown? Maybe. Maybe not.

King James still lords over Cleveland

LeBron James feels at home in Cleveland. That’s because he was born in Akron, Ohio—just 35 miles from where the Cavaliers play ball. And so it wasn’t a surprise when, last Thursday, the Miami Heat landed in the Quicken Loans Arena and LBJ scorched with plenty of heat his former team.

“It was impressive,” said Erik Spoelstra, the Fil-Am head coach of the Heat, of his team’s 118-90 win. “It takes a special player and a person to be able to respond to all of this scrutiny.”

Scrutiny? That’s a mellow term to use. How about saying LeBron was castigated, booed, jeered, condemned. Consider three placards held by Cavs fans that night. One said: “LBJ… LIAR BABY JERK.” Another, “YOU’RE ONLY A PRINCE IN WADE’S COUNTRY.” And finally, “11-8? LOOKS LIKE YOU LEFT YOUR TALENTS IN CLEVELAND.”

Yet, Mr. James rose above those protests. In the most-awaited game this NBA season, he played supreme; scoring 38 points, including a third quarter assault when he made 10 of 12 shots and 24 points. “It was seven great years here,” James said. “A lot of memories here.”

I’d say it was an “in-your-face, take that!” performance that reminded Cleveland—including owner Dan Gilbert and his former Cavs teammates—what they had lost. Ouch. As for Miami, one night doesn’t fix their woes but this game might be the spark they needed to fire the heat. They’ve now won three straight and stand at 12-8. Maybe Pat Riley won’t coach, after all.

With Miami feeling the heat, where’s Pat Riley?

(Reuters/Hans Deryk)

When the NBA season began last Oct. 26, people crowned the Miami Heat the sure-ball champions. I was one of them. With the 1-2-3 combination dubbed the “Super Friends,” the trio of LeBron-Dwayne-Bosh was unbeatable. They’d surely trample and win gold over Kobe’s golden Lakers, make Boston green with Celtics envy, they’d clobber the 72-wins record of Michael Jordan and his Bulls.

We were dreaming. For this Dream Team, thus far, has become an Ordinary Team. Not extraordinary. The Miami Heat’s record this early December? It’s 10-8. That’s 10 wins with eight losses. Bad. And the worst part: out of those eight failures, seven were against teams with winning records. This means that, against “strong” teams, this Miami has a vice: it can’t win.

The problem? “Basketball is a team sport; Chemistry is key,” wrote Dennis ‘D Source’ Guillermo, a favorite of mine, in the Filipino Sports Examiner two days ago. “No matter how talented your players are in the court, there’s only one rock, and people need to play their roles to help the team achieve victory.”

Put simply, the question is this: How do you combine these individual talents to form one unbeatable super squadron? The solution: Pat Riley. He is one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. He led the LA Lakers to four NBA titles. This was during the 1980s era of Magic, Kareem and J. Worthy. Then, in 2005, here’s what happened… Pat Riley was the president of the Miami Heat. Exactly five years ago this month, his team—under the coaching of Stan Van Gundy—was a disappointment. Their win-loss record: 11-10. Van Gundy resigned as head coach and in stepped Riley. Then, armed with Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal, the well-dressed coach turned Miami into the handsomest of men: they were the 2006 NBA champs.

The same scenario is happening today. In fact, the question in the minds of NBA experts today is not “if” Riley will become coach, but “when.” For diehard Filipinos like you and me, our sympathies go to Erik Spoelstra—whose mother hails from San Pablo, Laguna. But this Miami franchise doesn’t have a choice.

Pat Riley not only was the “Bob Arum of the NBA” who orchestrated the entry of The Three Kings, he’s the only one who can reenergize the Heat to victory. He’s the only coach—mano-a-mano—who has the intellect and experience to fight Phil Jackson when Miami meets L.A. in The Finals.

So… the sooner, the better. What’s great about Americans is how quickly they act. When a problem is faced, regardless of the hurts or short-term consequences, they “change a losing game.” They act. Fast. Let’s expect the same conclusion with Miami. Prolonging this agony will result in a disaster—especially for LeBron. Because while the NBA’s slogan is “Where Amazing Happens” and the Heat were supposed to amaze us, they did not. Mr. Riley will.

CLEVELAND. The game NBA fans have long-anticipated has arrived: The Heat versus the Cavaliers—tomorrow in Cleveland.

“I’m ready for whatever response I’m going to get,” said LeBron. “It’s going to be very emotional. I give a lot of thanks to that city, a lot of thanks to those fans for giving me the opportunity to not only showcase my talent, but to grow from a young boy to a man during my seven years. So it’s going to be very emotionally draining. I can tell already.”

Will Ohio fans boo, jeer, mock and scorn LBJ? If we look back, hundreds of his Cleveland jerseys have been burned. The Cavs previous owner labeled him a traitor. He’s Public Enemy No.1 in the state where he grew up. Will all this castigating and lambasting continue tomorrow? Or, when fans see their former son, will they show comfort and compassion? We’ll see both. But more on the former. Placards with LEBACLE and GO HOME will be plenty. The wounds are still fresh; the betrayal, severe.

“It’s going to be tough,” said LeBron. “But I’m there to win a basketball game. I understand. I understand how passionate fans are about sports. I’m ready for whatever response that I’m going to get. It’s going to be very emotional.”

The fall from the rise of LeBron James

Two Sundays ago, I made a mistake. I declared LeBron’s joining forces with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade as the right move. Now I’m having a change of mind. Sure, LBJ wants to win that NBA ring. Sure, it was legal. But here’s another sure thing: LeBron made millions of enemies.

His blunder wasn’t joining the Miami Heat—again, he’s a free agent and that’s his prerogative. His mistake was his decision to have “The Decision.” If you recall, LeBron announced to the world his Miami transfer not via a no-nonsense, 12-minute press conference. Instead, the self-proclaimed King promoted himself like a God—to the full hilt, holding six NBA teams as hostage and starting a fiery hype that engulfed the sports world.

Really?

On July 8 in the ESPN show “The Decision,” 13 million TV viewers locked-in for 60 minutes to watch his lips say the seven words that will be embedded in NBA history: “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”

Why was this TV show dubbed a LeBacle? Simple: Knowing that he was going to hurt the 11.5 million residents of Ohio—fans who’ve embraced him as their native son the past seven years; knowing that he was going to disappoint the citizens of New York, Chicago, New Jersey and LA—couldn’t LeBron have focused the attention less on himself? Couldn’t he have done a plain announcement? Been more sympathetic? To his Cleveland family?

Yes, yes, yes. Yes to all of the above. And, I’m sure if you give me LeBron’s number now and I ask him if he can redo how he packaged his decision, he’ll say Yes. I wish I could have given it less hoopla, he’d declare. For, as the saying goes, “Hindsight explains the injury that foresight would have prevented.”

Today, in Fox Sports, ESPN and dozens of other NBA commentaries, they sadly pronounce the same thing: Bad move, LeBron. Sad, isn’t it? From the most revered of athletes comes this worldwide repudiation and scorn. (Can you imagine the jeering and booing he’ll hear when Miami visits Cleveland?)

Commented Michael Jordan: “There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team.’” Ouch. Does this mean LeBron did not have enough courage to stand up on his own and win? Yes, says MJ.

Charles Barkley added: “Mike and I are in 100 percent agreement on this. If you’re the two-time defending NBA MVP, you don’t leave anywhere. They come to you. That’s ridiculous. I like LeBron. He’s a great player. But I don’t think in the history of sports you can find a two-time defending MVP leaving to go play with other people.” (True. Instead, shouldn’t LeBron have enticed Chris Bosh to move to Cleveland?)

Now. What’s LeBron got to do? Well, simple: Win the championship. Now. This season. Anything short will mean more ridicule and damage to his already-damaged persona.

Not everybody’s a loser in this controversy, though. The big winner is Fil-Am Erik Spoelstra, the Miami Heat head coach. His mother, Elisa Celino, hails from San Pablo, Laguna. “I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve visited the Philippines only when I was three years old,” he said in the Phil. Daily Inquirer. “I’m definitely planning to go again.” Bringing with you the Three Kings?

The jackpot winner of this whole story? Of course, Miami. Quoting an AP story entitled “Heat business takes over on and off the court,” there’s now a dish in Miami called LeBron Burger. Served at the diner OneBurger, “It starts with Kobe beef (a nod to Bryant), with Swiss cheese, an onion ring (think championship ring) and jalapenos (for heat, er, the Heat).”

Hotels in Miami? One room, the “Heat Suite” for $2,500/night, includes a “Ferrari F430 rental, James’ favorite snacks, an iPod with his favorite tunes.” Mandarin Oriental has “Live Like LeBron” weekends—with basketball-shaped cookies.

Spa? There’s “LeBroyal Treatment” with “a massage, manicure, personal training session, jet-ski rental, gift package and a six-pack of beer.” For $149, it’s expensive—and better than lingam!

The heat is on! Welcome the Three Kings of Miami

LEBRON JAMES IS A CRIMINAL! Accused as a quitter by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, lambasted by Orlando’s Otis Smith as not much of a competitor, the five cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, New Jersey and Cleveland who lost out to Miami are furious. They’re bitter. They’re hateful for being spurned. They’re pissed at ESPN. To the millions from Cleveland, while before LeBron was basketball’s Almighty, now he’s the devil. He’s a Miami vice.

But LeBron did the right thing. If you and I were in his size-15 shoes, we’d do the same act: Sign up with best friends Chris and Dwyane to win next year’s NBA title. He had no choice. Despite winning the last two MVP awards, reaching The Finals in 2007, his Cavs owning the league’s best season record for the past 24 months—despite those winnings—LBJ was a loser.

Kobe wears five NBA rings. LeBron, staring at his giant-sized fingers that can grip the ball like a magnet, has none. LeBron’s jealous of KB. His seven years of expeditions have netted zero fish. What’s he going to do? Stay on the same boat? Not harvest any goldfish?

No more, no way. Not when you’re as impatient as LeBron who, at age 18, bypassed college and joined the NBA straight from high school. When you’re as gifted as him, you’re expected to deliver gifts codenamed NBA TROPHIES. “Change a losing game,” my dad loves to say it. And LeBron has done that: Change.

Miami? No city is hotter today than this South Florida center of 5.4 million residents. And what a coup by Pat Riley. The man called “Mr. GQ” for his gelled-back hair and stylish suits, he’s assembled this triumvirate of LeBron plus the 6-foot-10, five-time NBA All Star named Chris Bosh, plus the 2006 Sportsman of the Year, Dwyane Wade, aka “Flash”—beating the likes of Pres. Barack Obama (who lobbied for Chicago) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (New York). As to the Miami head coach, it looks to be Erik Spoelstra but can you imagine if Pat Riley makes a comeback to coach these three who, as D-Wade himself said, form “arguably the best trio to ever play basketball?”

The question everyone’s asking is: Can this threesome work as one? “James, Wade and Bosh got along splendidly when they played for the U.S. team in the 2008 Olympics, but that was easy, because that is an environment in which selfishness is considered unpatriotic,” wrote Michael Ventre in “There has to be no ‘I’ in super team” for NBCSports.com. “Throughout his entire life, LeBron has been accustomed to getting the basketball when he wants it. Throughout HIS entire life, Wade has been used to the same thing. Ditto for Bosh. Now you have three players with enormous egos suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar dynamic.”

The best comparison is Boston’s Big Three. But Ventre adds they’re different: “The model of the Boston Celtics, with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, doesn’t translate here. Allen was 32 and Garnett 31 when they joined the Celtics in 2007, and each had toiled for 12 unsatisfying NBA seasons. When they moved to Boston to join the then-30-year-old Paul Pierce, who also had suffered through nine lean seasons, they were all finished with their respective individualistic phases. They were ready to work together and win.”

With The Three Kings of Miami, they are individual superstars at their prime who now have to share the same locker room. It can work. It may not. My gut feel? It’s hard for this not to work. I believe it will. First, my brother Charlie correctly points out that D-Wade is unselfish—which means that, even though he’s Miami’s VIP, he’s willing to relinquish—or at least share—this title with LBJ. The even better reason for this triad to work: they’re best friends. In Beijing, these triplets bonded. En route to netting the Olympic goldfish, they glued and gelled, and informally promised to join forces sometime in the future.

That future is now. And like you, I can’t wait for the NBA season to start. With this troika, it’s hard for anyone not to feel hot with triple the heat.

Can New York move James to LeBronx?

Will he or will he not? Mr. James is, by a slam dunk, the NBA’s best player. In the recent MVP celebration, he was adjudged the undisputed champ of the basketball world. Thus far in his career, his credentials are Michael Jordan-like: 2004 Rookie of the Year, an Olympic gold medal in Beijing, two MVPs, Defensive First Team, Scoring Champion. Name it, he’s got it. Yet, all these accolades don’t matter as much as the one he lost two days ago: the chance to win an NBA ring.

Be like Mike? Not so fast. For with His Airness, it took him just six seasons before he won an NBA Championship. Then he won two more straight. Then, three more for a total of six NBA rings. LeBron has zero. After seven years and thousands of lay-ups and offensive rebounds, LBJ is still scoreless.

Will he or will he not transfer? KG says he should. “Loyalty is something that hurts you at times because you can’t get your youth back,” said Kevin Garnett, who stayed with the Minnesota Timberwolves for 12 years and never won there (compared to Boston’s 2008 victory). “I can say that if I can go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I’d have done it a little earlier.”

KG has a point. Change a losing game is one of my favorite quotes. And LBJ is losing. Added Garnett: “The world is his. Whatever he wants it to be. He’’s the face of basketball.”

Without doubt, every state in America wants The Chosen One. But maybe none more than the most famous address in the world: NYC. “If asked, if he calls me and says ‘What’s it like to live in New York,’” said NYC’s billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, “I’ll give him a big sales pitch for New York. I think LeBron James would love living in New York. It’s the world’s greatest stage.”

True. With Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, the U.N. headquarters, Times Square, and the Bronx all found in the largest city in the U.S. (pop: 19.1m), NYC is the capital city of Planet Earth. Will LeBron soon call The Knicks his home team?

Not a good idea, wrote Ian Thomsen in his CNNSI article, “Countdown: LeBron’s future,” if LBJ’s main criteria is to win that NBA crown: “They can add James and another not-quite-max talent, which is not to say James couldn’t work out some way to recruit Bosh or Joe Johnson… They would be joined by Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, a couple of bench players, the woebegone Eddy Curry and then a bunch of veteran-minimum fill-ins. That means New York will need at least two years to develop a roster with the depth and heart to get by an Eastern contender like Orlando… The Knicks have an excellent coach and the world’s largest market, but they face practical hurdles in their ability to build a winner around James.”

The Knicks isn’t the only option for LeBron. There’s the Nets, Miami, Chicago or Dallas. How about Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats? And, of course, let’s not forget his current home in Cleveland. LeBron grew up in Akron, Ohio—which is less than an hour away from Cleveland. The city is not giving up their favorite son. Led by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, his fans remade “We Are The World” to “We Are LeBron.” (Check it out in www.break.com). The lyrics include… “Please stay, LeBron. We really need you. No bigger market’s gonna love you half as much as we do…. New York’s overcrowded. Those people are unbearable. And don’t forget, the Knicks and Nets are terrible.”

For now, let’s wait. And not forget that the Final Four is starting: Magic-Celtics, Lakers-Suns. My prediction? LBJ soon gets envious of Kobe’s fifth NBA ring.

Boston, Binay spoil the wins of LBJ, Mar

The LA Lakers are 4 and 0. Same with Phoenix. Against San Antonio, the Suns scorched the Spurs. The reigning Eastern Conference champions, the Orlando Magic? With their magic wand, they metamorphosed the Atlanta Hawks to fly into oblivion. The score? Four, zero. This means, as expected, Los Angeles is in, Phoenix is in, and Dwight Howard and his Magicians are in. This was forecasted.

Like our elections of 72 hours ago. Noynoy Aquino was expected to win. He did. Bong Revilla was prophesied to top the senatorial slate. He did. Manny Pacquiao? Well, whenever he fights, he wins. And so finally, on the political arena, he won. But the win we never saw coming was the “loss” of the seemingly-unbeatable Manuel Araneta Roxas II, who led by as much as 33 survey points just months before last Monday.

Mar beaten by Robin Hood? That’s an epic upset by Jojo Binay. Much like what we saw yesterday morning: LeBron James, all but crowned by Mark Garcia and Charlie Pages as the 2010 NBA champions—they lost. But wait, this isn’t all-too-surprising. This is sports. And, like politics where surprises are common, it’s the same with basketball: the ball is round, thus it bounces one way, spins another, ricochets left, sways right, often tilting in favor of the underdog.

Not that the Boston Celtics, the winningest franchise in NBA history (yes, more than the Lakers) with 17 NBA trophies, are weaklings. Boston won the NBA crown as recently as two years ago. And, of course, they still have the Big Three: KG, Ray Allen and PP. Plus a point guard named Rajon Rondo who, in Game 4, was phenomenal with 18 rebounds, 13 assists and 29 points. Boston is Boston. They’re NBA legends.

Still, with Shaq and LBJ, everybody crowned the Cavaliers as this year’s winners. Like we all did with Roxas. Well, yesterday’s 120-88 trashing by Boston in LeBron’s home court was embarrassing. It also put Cavaliers in a 2-3 win-loss quicksand. With the coming Game 6 in Boston, if Cleveland wins, they live for one more game. If they lose those 48 minutes of ball-playing, they’re out. As in Roxas-out. Ouch.

Which makes me ask: Where was the two-time MVP? LeBron missed his first seven shots and ended with 3-out-14 shooting for 15 points—the fourth lowest-scoring total of his playoff career. When he finally left the game with 3:58 remaining, he was booed. Imagine… the MVP booed. (Contrast this to the “M.V.P.” serenade Rajon Rondo received in Boston after Game 4.) It’s obvious that if LeBron performs the same dismal way tomorrow (Game 6 is 8 a.m. RP time), it’s an early summer vacation for the 25-year-old.

Upset of upsets, right? Right. Which makes tomorrow the most important game of LeBron’s seven-year-long NBA career. Three years ago, his Cavs reached the NBA Finals. They were humiliated, 4-0, by the San Antonio Spurs. Last year, they reached the Eastern Conference Finals, beaten by Orlando. Then they hired the 7-foot-1 Shaquille O’Neal. With the stronger big man, they finished the year with the NBA regular season-best of 61 wins, 21 losses. This 2010 is Cleveland’s number. It’s LeBron’s time.

Here’s my analysis: If LBJ steals the Boston game tomorrow, they’ll fly back to the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland with momentum pushing their giant-sized bodies and they’ll win Game 7. Having escaped that Boston scare, they’ll ride to avenge their Easter Conference Finals loss to Orlando last year and, once in the NBA Championships, they’ll trample the Lakers in a LeBron vs. Kobe face-to-face.

All these…. if they win tomorrow. If they don’t, well, yesterday might have been the last time LeBron wore the Cavaliers jersey in Cleveland. For the internet is abuzz with rumors that LBJ wants out of Ohio. When he becomes a free agent on July 1, the city that never sleeps, New York, will beg for his superstardom to shine there. He’ll probably wear the uniform marked “KNICKS.” But that’s speculation. For now, let’s wait and watch. It’s one fight tomorrow. Like Jojo vs. Mar. Abangan.

Kobe vs. LeBron: Who’s better?

My brother Charlie, his wife Mitzi Tan, and her entire family, are now in Los Angeles. They’re spending Christmas there. While that may be a terrific experience (earlier, they spent “White Christmas” for a few days in Winnipeg, Canada with it’s -14 degree weather), my younger brother isn’t all-too-happy. The reason: He could not get tickets to watch the most-awaited game of the entire NBA regular season.

LA vs. Cleveland. West against East. The Lakers opposite The Cavs. The 7-foot-1 Shaq standing tall versus the 7-foot-tall Pau Gasol. And, of course, LeBron James face-to-face with Kobe Bryant.

Sure, there are plenty of rivalries. Manny vs. Money (sayang!). Rafa vs. Roger. In Manila, there’s Ateneo vs. La Salle. In the past, there were these mano-a-mano fights: Ali-Frazier, Magic-Bird, Nicklaus-Palmer, Chamberlain-Russell, Yankees-Red Sox.

Today, if there’s one rivalry I’d like to see evolve it’s the one I saw yesterday morning in Sky Cable’s Channel 12 (RPN). One wore a white jersey with gold trimmings; the other had a Superman-like vest that was dark blue in color. The arena? Staples Center. The movie? “NBA Christmas Special.”

For outside the NBA Play-offs, there is no bigger game—make that “games,” because there were a total of five—than the ones held every Dec. 25th. With the LA-Cleveland hoopla that I saw on TV, what I found most interesting was Shaq against his “best friend,” Kobe. In one instance in the third quarter, KB drove down the lane and rammed straight into the leviathan. But no foul was called! And Kobe was mad. What a sight to see them both.

LeBron vs. Kobe? Mr. Bryant scored more points (35 versus James’ 26) but one man’s output is less significant than the team’s score. At the final buzzer, the Cavs upset the Lakers, 102-87. But even more upset were the LA fans (the audience included Hollywood stars like Sylvester Stallone, Danny DeVito, Snoop Dogg, Anna Kournikova) who threw yellow foam hands to the court—including one water bottle (reminds us of the Old Cebu Coliseum days, right?).

Back to the one-one-one debate: Do I favor LeBron over Kobe? Yes I do. Because while I don’t dislike both jersey numbers 23 and 24, I favor LeBron more. Maybe because he’s less “hambog.” Maybe because LBJ’s quieter and less expressive than the “It’s me! Me! Me!” Kobe.

What do the experts think? Who’s better?

Kurt Helin, in his blog Forum Blue & Gold, says, “If you love basketball, you can (and should) love them both. Kobe and LeBron are different players with different styles. LeBron is just a freak of nature, blessed like no other and he is just tapping into that. Kobe is more polished, someone who loves the work of perfecting his game… I love to watch them both for those reasons, for LeBron’s bull-like drives to the basket, for Kobe’s amazing balance on the pull-up jumper.”

Josh Tucker of the Silver Screen and Roll blog writes: “LeBron James is the MVP; Kobe Bryant is the better player. Both are lockdown defenders, fantastic passers, capable of scoring or facilitating and excellent leaders of their teams. The primary differences lie in each player’s individual offensive repertoires, and the key here is the versatility, polish, and completeness of each player’s game.

“LeBron James is a player with one primary, ultra-developed offensive skill: his ability to get to the hoop for layups and dunks… Kobe Bryant doesn’t have a single dominant skill that far outweighs all others, like LeBron does. Instead, he has the most complete, versatile, and polished skill set in the NBA… Simply put, the difference between the two boils down to unprecedented raw athleticism versus unequaled, finely honed skill.”

Henry Abbott, in TrueHoop, comments, “LeBron James’ biggest advantage over Kobe Bryant is his size. That height and weight—with that agility, speed, leadership, and skill—is a combination we have really never seen before. It is why he blows away just about every statistical analysis.”

To me, this White Christmas, I’m dreaming of an NBA final: Cavs vs Lakers.

Sunday Was A Buffet Treat Of Surprises

What do Rafael Nadal, Susan Boyle and LeBron James have in common? Plenty. They’re world-wide stars known all across the planet. They hail from different countries, namely, Spain, Scotland and the U.S.A. But more than that, these three share a common bond: Forty eight hours ago, they lost.

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They weren’t supposed to. Nadal had not been clobbered in Roland Garros ever since he swung his Babolat there. Susan Boyle, whose YouTube videos have been accessed 100 million times, was sure to win Britain’s Got Talent and meet the Queen. And Mr. James, the one who led his Cleveland Cavaliers to an 8-0 playoff start—was not supposed to be trounced.

Yet, all within 24 hours, first, Susan Boyle when I watched CNN early last Sunday morning, then LBJ as we all saw Dwight Howard pump 40 points in the Orlando Magic win before Sunday noon, and, last Sunday night from 8:30 p.m. until midnight, we all witnessed the dirtying of Nadal’s socks. Continue reading Sunday Was A Buffet Treat Of Surprises

Alone, LeBron’s magic vanishes against Magic

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Would you believe that, had LeBron James not made “LeShot” in Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, the series today would have been 4-0? Yes, Four… Zero. A clean sweep by the Orlando Magic against the team who owns the regular season record, who embarrassed Detroit and Atlanta in the earlier playoffs, 8-0, and boasts of Player No. 23 who’s proclaimed as “Today’s Michael Jordan.”

Confounding? Hard-to-believe? Perplexing? Yes, yes, yes. For how did a team that was destined to reach The Finals (while Kobe and L.A. would struggle) almost got obliterated, 4-0? How? Continue reading Alone, LeBron’s magic vanishes against Magic

NBA’s No.1, with 0:01 left, bangs ‘The Shot’

Call it any adjective you prefer—“Amazing,” “Incredible,” “Breathtaking”—what transpired 24 hours ago at the Quicken Loans Arena in Ohio will forever be etched in NBA history. Down 0-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, down 93-95 with the same length of time it takes to say “goodbye,” LeBron James does the unthinkable: He grabs the inbounds pass, spins around and, barely looking at the goal and with roughly 0.4 seconds left, unleashes a missile that dribbles against the rim of the basket and slides down the net.

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Swoosh! Wasn’t that stunning? It wasn’t a Steven Spielberg movie—it was better; a real-life script with turns and twists that no one could have plotted and whose ending, wow, was spectacular and unknown until after the buzzer sounded.

Best of all, wasn’t that a Michael Moment? For while LBJ had accumulated a multitude of accolades—Rookie of the Year, MVP, scoring champion, Olympic gold medalist—he’s never had that one moment like MJ.

Now, this. The LeBron Moment. “The biggest shot I’ve made in my career,” he said. Hey, it may have been the biggest shot in all of the National Basketball Association. Continue reading NBA’s No.1, with 0:01 left, bangs ‘The Shot’