Category Archives: Michael Jordan

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.

Ice Bucket Challenge

It’s become a social media sensation. The question today isn’t “Who has taken the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge?’ it’s “Who still hasn’t?” Everybody from Oprah Winfrey to George W. Bush to Lea Salonga to Lady Gaga has been viewed in YouTube with the same act: They say a few words, “I’ve been nominated by so-and-so..,” they get dumped a pail-full of water and ice cubes, then, all drenched and freezing cold, they end the short video by nominating two others.

The world has not seen a phenomenon like this before. Only Barack Obama and P-Noy Aquino have yet to be doused with ice. The “Ice Bucket Challenge” started last year in what was then called the “Cold Water Challenge.” It was meant to raise funds for cancer: you either donate money or jump into cold water. This concept evolved.

Today, the focus is on ALS. I’m no doctor like Albert Santos or Ronnie Medalle but the term stands for “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis” and it’s an affliction that affects the brain and the spinal cord. According to Wikipedia, ALS is “a neurodegenerative disease with various causes… characterised by muscle spasticity, rapidly progressive weakness due to muscle atrophy, and difficulty in speaking (dysarthria), swallowing (dysphagia), and breathing (dyspnea).”

The “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” first became popular in June 30 — less than two months ago — when a TV program in the U.S. decided to do an on-air Ice Bucket Challenge on Golf Channel. Since that televised episode, celebrities have followed.

Have you watched LeBron James? He’s sitting on a moving speedboat in Greece and, shirtless and muscles all toned, gets smothered with a bucket of ice. He nominates his son LeBron, Jr. and Barack Obama.

Bill Gates? He’s not an athlete but his video is one of the funniest. David Beckham is on his knees. Shirtless and his chest and arms revealing a full canvas of artful tattoos, three men pull not a bucket but a barrel full of ice and water and pour it on the football star. He smiles in cold delight.

Kevin Durant’s is simple. Sitting on the porch of a high-rise building, he’s relaxed and ready as a friend pours cold water. I like Ronda Rousey. Instead of a beast-like-looking UFC attire, she’s sexy in a body-fitting dress complete with high heels. Michael Jordan is classic MJ, cool and classy; he challenges Phil Jackson and his 1992 “Dream Team” co-players to both “cash and ice bucket.”

A fun tandem that will give you all-smiles: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. You’ve got to watch their 39-second video. The best one? It’s got to be the NHL hockey player Paul Bissonnette. I’ve never heard of this athlete before but his act (I won’t spoil the crazy video but will tell you that it involves a helicopter and some colorful underwear) is the best I’ve seen.

So far, all these fun acts have also contributed a huge amount in a short span of time: over $42 million raised in less than a month — a huge figure considering that, for the whole of last year, the amount of $64 million was raised. That will surely be eclipsed in the coming weeks.

“This is something we could have never imagined,” said Barbara Newhouse, the president and CEO of the ALS Association. “This has taken us to a whole new level.”

She credits one sector as most helpful in raising awareness (and money) for the disease. “The sports community has played in key role in making this what it became,” said Newhouse. “We’re very thankful of everything athletes and teams have done.”

It’s fitting that the plight to help ALS is assisted by the athletes because ALS is also popularly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

Lou Gehrig was the first baseman of New York Yankees baseball team and he played for 17 seasons from 1923 to 1939. At the age of 36 and stricken with ALS, he retires from baseball and, shockingly, just two years later, at the young age of 38, he dies. That’s when ALS was named “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

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!

Mark Garcia reviews the NBA Playoffs

He putts on the Cebu Country Club golf course and swings a tennis forehand but ask Mark Garcia which game he loves most and his reply will echo as loudly as the slogan… I Love This Game!

The NBA. And, yes, after five months, we’ve reached the Final 16 (of the total 30) as the playoffs started last Saturday. “I think the Cavs and the Lakers will meet in the finals with Cleveland winning,” said Mark. “The Cavs have loaded up their team with Shaq and Jamison. They also have a deeper bench. The Lakers also have been banged up this year, which is a concern. The advantage of the Lakers is their experience being defending champs and that they have the best closer, Kobe. But I think that this is going to be Cleveland’s year.”

Mark Garcia has, like millions of us worldwide, followed the NBA for decades. But what few of us have experienced is watching an NBA game. Live. Mark’s done that five times. “The first one was Game 2 of the 1992 playoffs between Detroit and New York in Madison Square Garden. Detroit had Isiah, Dumars, Rodman, Laimbeer (The Bad Boys); Knicks had Ewing, Mark Jackson, Kenny Walker and were coached by Pat Riley.”

In 1996, Mark saw three games. On one occasion, together with his cousin Chris Aldeguer and best friend Quinito Moras, he saw Chicago vs. the Clippers in LA. “The Bulls lineup were composed of Jordan, Pippen, Rodman.. and MJ scored 40 points. That was the game when he closed his eyes for one free throw,” he said. “We were six rows from the court and Jack Nicholson was across us.”

Mark Garcia (right) with Chris Aldeguer

(All photos by Mark G.)

Last year, Mark watched the pre-season game in Las Vegas between the Lakers and Kings and saw top rookie, Tyreke Evans, plus, said Mark, “Kobe who played 30 minutes and put on a show with three dunks.”

KB24? Yes. “My favorite players are Kobe and Lebron. Kobe because of his work ethic and will to win attitude like Jordan. He’s also worked hard to make himself the best clutch shooter. He came into the league as a pure scorer but learned how to play the team game (like Jordan).

“LeBron came as the most hyped NBA player but he exceeded all expectations. Like Kobe, LeBron has gotten better every year. His jump shot and defense have improved every season. LeBron’s understanding of the game at a very young age is amazing. Plus, both have great charisma.”

But who, among the two, is No.1? “Last year, Kobe and LeBron were about the same level,” he said. “Both of them were dominant offensive players and made the all defensive first team. This year has been different. LeBron has been amazing in almost every category and will surely win his second straight MVP with the second place far behind. LeBron is the better player now and will be for many years.”

Cleveland will win, assures Mark. “I love the Lakers but I think the Cavs’ defeat last year against Orlando will be enough to motivate LeBron and Co. It’s like the Lakers when they lost to the Celtics during the ‘07-’08 finals.”

How about the Boston Celtics? “I think this is going to be their last run at a championship with the Big 3 (Garnett, Pierce and Allen). If healthy, they might be able to get to the conference finals because of their experience but I don’t see them going to the finals. They haven’t played consistently.”

For the best first round playoff match-ups, Mark lists three:  Celtics vs. Heat (“A good one since the Heat closed the season on a high note winning 12 of their last 13 games), Dallas vs. San antonio, and Denver vs. Utah.

As to which teams might surprise us, “I think Dallas has a chance since they have an experienced lineup with Kidd and Dirk. They also pulled off the best trade this season with Butler and Haywood. San Antonio, now healthy, can also do well. Orlando has also gained experience from last year’s finals plus they have Vince Carter.”

Mark’s final words: “This year’s Playoffs will be great since there’s no clear-cut favorite. Whichever team gets hot in the next month could win, like Miami in 2006. A lot of the playoff seedings were determined on the last day of the regular season which shows how close the teams were.”

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

As LeBron is crowned, a retrospect on No. 23

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Valentine’s Day three months ago at the sprawling and expansive Asturias farm of Frederic Chiongbian, seated around the dining table were Chris Aldeguer, Meyrick Jacalan, Frederic and myself. We debated. The topic? Who, among the billions of earthlings who have inhabited this planet, is the greatest athlete of all time.

“Lance Armstrong!” I said. As rapid as our Pambansang Kamao’s left punch, my trio of friends—all ardent bikers and devotees of Lance—quickly shot down my proposal and, in unanimous decision, echoed with one answer: No. 23.

I soon retreated. And concurred. It’s MJ. Think about it: In the 1990s decade and the 15 years that we’ve been blessed with his soaring presence dribbling that orange ball, weren’t those weeks and months the best in sports? Don’t those mental photos—of an identifiable black object flying inside the United Center skyline—bring back joyous memories?

Remember the tongue-wagging? The shiny scalp? Those baggy shorts? The Air Jordans? The diamond earring? Those dunks that slam. The red Chicago Bulls jersey with the most famous number in sports, 23? Remember those contests between Bird and Magic? The two Olympic gold rings? Space Jam? Best of all, remember the smile? Continue reading As LeBron is crowned, a retrospect on No. 23

The twin brother of Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant fans, sorry, it’s not him. With how KB24 has performed thus far—and how his team’s going to lose the NBA Finals this Wednesday morning—he’s far from being compared to MJ23.

There’s only one man who can be likened to the greatest-ever athlete who stepped foot on earth. He’s of the same color, slightly shorter, of the same muscular build. The only difference? While MJ dribbled and dunked, this superman putts and pars.

Know him? Of course, you do. Because while 96 percent of the populace—in my far-fetched estimate—can’t afford to play golf, 1,000 percent know him.

TW1. Isn’t he amazing? Isn’t he talented beyond anyone, possessing steely nerves unlike anyone, with the perfect swing and the handsome face and the bulky biceps and the Nike red shirt-every-Sunday and the screaming pump-fist unlike anyone?

Yes. There can only be one. Tiger Woods. Continue reading The twin brother of Michael Jordan