Brooklyn vs. L.A.

The NBA Playoffs won’t commence until May 22 and the NBA Finals won’t be contested by the grappling of two squads until July 8 but, this early, we might as well erect a giant Times Square billboard and posterize the inevitable.

Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers. 

The NBA is composed of 30 teams and we can debate and wrangle over the merits and handicaps of each team. But given what transpired in the last 72 hours, the obvious has become unmistakable.

Kevin Durant. James Harden. Kyrie Irving. Blake Griffin. And, early this week, the disembarkation of LaMarcus Aldridge, a 7-time NBA All-Star. This “Brooklyn Five” combine for a mouth-watering 40 total NBA All-Star appearances. 

“Life is unfair; and it’s not fair that life is unfair,” someone once commented.

Steve Nash, the Nets’ coach, besieged with questions on the unfairness of his collection of superstars, replied: “It’s not like we did anything illegal so I don’t know what we’re supposed to do, not try to add to our roster and just sit pat? The idea of this league is try to put together the best team you can put together. And that doesn’t guarantee you anything in life.”  

Steve, it guarantees you a free pass to the NBA Finals where a Hollywood cast awaits..

LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The duo merge to establish the most formidable pairing in Lakers history since Kobe and Shaq. The Lakers are the defending champs and, with a line-up this 2021 that includes Schroder, Montrezl, Kuzma, Caruso, KCP, Gasol, Matthews and THT, they were pre-installed as the title favorites.

Until LBJ and AD got injured. Until the “Brooklyn Five” was formed.

So, what counter move did Rob Pelinka, the VP of the Lakers, perform? He convinced a 6-foot-10, 279-lb. giant with a 7-foot-5 wingspan named Andre Drummond to transfer — like LeBron did — from Cleveland to L.A. 

Drummond fills a gaping hole at, literally, the center of the Lakers’ formation. He is a rebounding specialist, pulling down rebounds like a farmer would pick apples from a tree. Drummond has led the league in rebounding four times and is the league’s all-time leader in seasons with at least 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 100 steals and 100 blocks. The big, who was born in New York but is moving West to help Los Angeles, has achieved that four times.

“So much of the playoffs are about the paint, you know, and he’s a physical force down there,” said Orlando coach Steve Clifford, of Drummond. “He’s a great rim protector and one of the great offensive rebounders in our game. He could win one or two playoff games for you just for this physicality and size alone.”

So, in this impending brawl between Brooklyn and L.A., who’s the winner? 

First, the losers: The 28 other teams who will be left salivating at the sight of the Nets-Lakers dispute. This will surely be one of the most anticipated NBA Finals in history. This is a war between the Justice League vs. the Avengers.

The winners? You and me and all of us, basketball fanatics.

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Netflix + Sports

Trivia: Did you know that the average Netflix subscriber — yes, that includes you, dear reader — spends as much as 3.2 hours everyday watching its movies and shows?

What started in 1997 as a DVD rental service has ballooned into the world’s largest streaming movie outfit. Netflix boasts of over 205 million subscribers; multiply that by four per household and you’ve got a billion people watching Netflix every 8:49 P.M.

During this pandemic — as we commemorate the lockdown’s one year anniversary in Cebu — Netflix has soared. Their subscriber base (worldwide) increased by 21.9%. Their 2020 gross revenue is huge: $25 billion. But look at how much they spent last year on new content: $17.3 billion. In pesos, that’s P848 billion! Talk about a boom in the film industry. 

In sports, Netflix has a deluge of sports documentaries.

“The Last Dance” is my favorite. Featuring Michael Jordan, it’s an 8-part docuseries that includes never-before-shown footages of MJ’s final season with the Chicago Bulls. The interviews on Scottie Pippen and revelations about Dennis Rodman are riveting.

“Icarus” is a must-see. The 121-minute-long film made in 2017 won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Yes, it’s that good. I immensely enjoyed this Bryan Fogel-directed story because it talks about cycling — and the prevalence of doping in this punishing sport.  

“The Dawn Wall” is another visually stunning thriller that I watched last month. It tells the story of daredevils Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson and their 2015 attempt to free-climb Yosemite’s most dangerous rock face. How captivating is this El Capitan documentary? In Rotten Tomatoes, which solicits reviews, it scored 100%.

“The Playbook” is good. The show asks coaches to share with us their lessons in life and sports. My favorites include the interviews with Serena Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou; the NBA’s Doc Rivers; and football’s Jose Mourinho.

“Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” just last week, released Season 3. The 20 episodes in the first two seasons were captivating. Warning: If you watch this inside look at the planet’s speediest machines, you will get hooked. Perfect to watch this series because the F1 season is unfolding today in Bahrain.

Football fanatic or not, you’ve got to watch “Pele.” The 108-minute-long narrative chronicles the life of Brazil’s favorite son and the soccer world’s numero uno. The solo interview of the now-80-year-old Pele is fascinating; so was the recounting of his life: playing for Santos at 15 and the national team at 16, and winning three World Cups — a feat never equalled. That’s because Pele has no equal.  

I have yet to watch “Losers” but I read good reviews about the 8-episode docuseries. While most flicks showcase the Jordans and Peles, here’s a twist: the film depicts the lives of athletes who’ve experienced defeats — and how they’ve transformed these failures into positive outcomes.

Others that I have yet watch but are on my list: Senna, Last Chance U, The Carter Effect, and The Speed Cubers.

FeDjoDal

A week ago, I wrote about how lucky we are to be witnesses to the continuing greatness of the Three Kings: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Since their 18-year dominance started in 2003, we saw them winning 58 of the 70 Grand Slam singles trophies. Their triumvirate ranks as the best not only in tennis folklore but of any sports trio in history.

But who’s better? The Spaniard, the Serb or the Swiss?

My easy answer: The real-life tennis movie is not finished yet. Their careers are not over and I foresee Roger lifting that Wimbledon crown once more and Rafa collecting 27 more French Open trophies, and the Aussies changing their “Australian Open” to “Novak Djokovic Open.”

Roger and Rafa have amassed 20 majors apiece and Novak owns 18. My prediction: At their career’s end, I see the Serbian stockpiling the most major trophies. Djokovic is at his peak today and he’s a year younger than the often-injured Nadal and six years Federer’s junior.

If Djokovic overtakes R & R, can he sit atop the throne of tennis’ Mt. Everest? Maybe. He holds win-loss records of 29-27 vs. Nadal and 27-23 vs. Federer. But we know that the unofficial “The Greatest” title is not purely about numbers. If we speak of being revered and admired, sadly, Novak ranks way, way below the universally-loved Roger and Rafa.

So, the GOAT debate lingers. But here’s an award that I’m ready to bestow to these recipients. Since tennis has three main surfaces, it’s obvious that each owns a different type of real estate.

Grass, best ever: Federer.

Hard-court, best: Djokovic.

Clay, greatest: Nadal.

The above conclusions are unquestionable. 

On top of this, allow me to construct the perfect tennis player. Instead of three gentlemen, allow me to combine forces so that they form one creature. An individual whom, if we had an interplanetary contest, I’d ask to represent Planet Earth. He would possess…

Nadal’s left-handed forehand, especially that inside-out strike and hooking topspin that curls to an opponent’s weak backhand. I’d also include Nadal’s indefatigable fighting spirit. His overhead smash is another that I’d embrace in his arsenal.

Federer? I’ll inject his first and second serves. That 120-mph slice serve or second serve twist with pinpoint accuracies. This is why RF has eight Wimbledons. And, when he glides towards the net, I’d also incorporate RF’s volleys and half-volleys. They are compact, deadly, exact. That slice backhand (“ha-it,” we Bisaya players call it) is a Federer signature.

For the backhand, nothing compares to that two-fisted cannon of Djokovic. He can smack it cross-court or score a down-the-line bomb. Return of serve? Agassi’s was good but Djokovic’s is at a different cosmos. Finally, on defensive skills, when one is pushed to the limit on either side, with outstretched arms and legs splitting, no one plays defense better than Novak.

FeDjoDal. In today’s virtual world, a three-in-one cyborg that’s molded from three tennis beings.

Roger, Rafa and Novak

Question: How many Grand Slam singles trophies have Federer, Nadal and Djokovic won from 2003 to 2021?

Answer: 58 of 70! Yes, no misprint there. Only three individuals out of the tens of millions of tennis players have collared 82.85 percent of all the major titles in the past 18 years. No trio in any sport at any time in our universe has this dominance transpired. 

Question # 2: Who is the greatest tennis player ever?

Answer: All of the above.

Yes, in deference to Don Budge, Rod Laver and Pete Sampras, the current Big 3 are history’s greatest ever to wield that Wilson, Babolat or Head stick.

Question # 3: Who among the triumvirate is the best; and thus, to be crowned the GOAT?

Answer: It’s complicated.

Is it the Swiss maestro whose 20 majors include eight Wimbledon titles? Federer has also amassed six ATP Tour Finals wins (Djokovic has five and, inexplicably, Nadal has none). The Swiss won an Olympic gold medal in doubles and the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year crown a record five times. 

Trophies aside, he has picked up the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award a whopping 13 times. This award is voted upon by the ATP players in recognition for one’s professionalism, integrity and utmost spirit of fairness. Nadal has won this four times and Djokovic has, ouch, none. Is the 6-foot-1, Rolex endorser the best-ever?

Vamos! How about Spain’s Raging Bull? Five years Federer’s junior, he has the same number of Grand Slam singles trophies (20). What’s remarkable with Nadal is his achievement in Roland Garros. He is 13 of 13 in finals in Paris and his win-loss record there is an incomprehensible 100-2.

Rafa is the King of Clay. At one point, he won 81 straight victories on that dusty surface. Another feat that only he has (among the Big 3): the career Golden Slam — a singles gold medal (in Beijing, which my wife Jasmin and I were lucky to have witnessed) plus the four major trophies.

This 2021, the next Grand Slam event is — tadang — the French Open. It’s a sure bet that Nadal win will his 21st major title there. Anticipating his lead in the Big 3, is the Spaniard the greatest?

Not so fast, says Novak. With his win in Melbourne three weeks ago — his ninth Australian Open crown — Djokovic has 18 majors. Only two major titles shy of matching R & R, he has a record that will be difficult for any man to beat: 312 weeks at the No. 1 spot. This is the all-time record as he just overtook Federer last week.

He has finished as the year-ending No. 1 a record six times (sharing Sampras’ record) and has won the Masters 1000 events a record 36 times.

At 33 years of age, Djokovic is the youngest among the trio (Nadal is a year older and Federer turns 40 this August). This means that he has more chances to win more majors.

What’s impressive with Djokovic is his head-to-head record against Federer and Nadal. He has a 29-27 win-loss record against Nadal and a 27-23 score against Federer. Because he has defeated the other two more times, does this mean he’s better and to be crowned the best?

All are Stars in this game

In the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, a total of 17,808 spectators filled the United Center to witness Team LeBron defeat Team Giannis in a thrilling 157-155 encounter.

This weekend, the All-Star Game continues. What’s the difference? Plenty. First, the people on the rafters will not exceed 1,500. Considering that the State Farm Arena has a capacity of 16,600, that’s less than 10 percent attendance.

Last year, the All-Star Weekend was held early — Feb. 16, 2020 — before the lockdown was enacted. Thus, a full capacity crowd was invited.

We’re even lucky the All-Star Game is pushing through this 2021. Originally, it was to be held in Indianapolis. Then, the league officials said that it would be cancelled. It reversed course and said that it would continue in Atlanta, Georgia. From the usual whole-weekend spectacle, it has also been reduced to one day.

The Three-Point Contest and Skills Challenge will be held before the game. Then, during halftime, instead of the sexy dancers entertaining the audience, it will be the Slam Dunk Contest. 

These are the changes. What won’t change are the words “all stars.” The planet’s best ballplayers will converge in a high-scoring, plenty-of-dunks, minimal-defense, lots-of-laughing contest that will be played (Phil. time) tomorrow at 9 A.M.

LeBron, Giannis and Steph Curry in the same team? Wow, this hasn’t happened before. Add the Slovenian 22-year-old Luka Doncic and the 26-year-old Serb Nikola Jokic and that’s a mighty Avengers-type squadron. Team LeBron is the favorite against any other team in the universe — well, except this team being assembled in Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum lead the starting five of Team Durant. I’m excited with the first All-Star game of Zion Williamson. During the Draft Pick, as soon as Kevin Durant picked the 20-year-old Pelicans star to be part of his line-up, you could hear a sigh from LeBron. He, too, wanted to play alongside the 6-foot-7, 248-lb. monster-dunk specialist.

The NBA All-Star Game dates back to 1951 when the East defeated the West in Boston Garden. For 70 years, it has been one of the sporting world’s highlights. It also produces the most number of points of possibly any basketball game in the world. The record, back in 2017, was the 192-182 win by the West. That’s a whopping 374 points scored in 48 minutes.

Tomorrow, I’m also excited with the 3-point shootout. Steph Curry, the 2015 winner, is the perennial favorite. The interesting fact this 2021: Zach LaVine and Donovan Mitchell are joining. They are former Slam Dunk champs — and no one in history has gone on to win both the dunking and 3-point events. Will tomorrow be the first?

In the Slam Dunk contest, only three are joining: Anfernee Simons, Cassius Stanley and Obi Toppin. I’ll make an admission: as I typed their names, it was the first time I’ve heard of these three. They’re young (21, 21 and 23) and hungry for that prestigious high-flying title.

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Free Throws

Steph Curry is the all-time best at that uncontested basketball shot taken 15 feet away. This season, he’s made 176 of 187 foul shots and is shooting an incredible 94.1% clip. Last January, he was en route to breaking Michael Williams’ record of consecutive free throws (97) but, in the game against Portland when Curry scored 62 points, he ONLY made 18 of 19 free throws. His one missed free throw ended his streak of consecutive foul shots at 80. Not bad, Steph! 

There is no debate that GSW #30 is the greatest shooter of all time. In the 3-point-shot department, he ranks No. 2 in the all-time list of 3-pointers made. He has 2,657 three-pointers and lacks only 317 to break Ray Allen’s record of 2,973. But here’s the amazing statistic: It took Allen 1,300 games to reach that record. Curry has played only 732 games.

Back to the Free Throw Line..  While Curry is the best, did you know that the worst free throw shooter ever is Wilt Chamberlain? Yes, no misprint there. In his 1958 to 1973 NBA career, the 7-foot-1 former Harlem Globetrotters center went to the free throw line 11,862 times. He converted only 5,805 for an embarrassing 51.1% average. 

“Wilt the Stilt” holds multiple NBA records such as most points scored in a game (100), most rebounds in a game (55), and the highest per game average (50.36 PPG in 1961-62) but his record of free throw misses also ranks at the top.

Shaquille O’Neal joins Wilt as one of history’s worst foul shooters. His career average is 52.7%. He was so bad at shooting from the free throw line that teams devised the “Hack a Shaq.” It’s a defensive ploy with a simple tactic: Foul Shaq! This was a successful gambit that was first used by Mavs coach Don Nelson and employed by many teams.

Dennis Rodman was one target. “The Worm” stood only 6-foot-7 but was the league’s best rebounder, leading the NBA in this area in seven seasons. (I got the chance to see Rodman when he played at the Mandaue Sports Complex and he was both fun and funny.) As a free throw shooter? Rodman wasn’t as bad as Wilt or Shaq but he shot only 58.4% in his 14-year career. 

This 2021-22 season, the worst-performing is Clint Capella with a 54.6% average. But here’s a question that’s mind-boggling: Why is Russell Westbrook (the 2017 NBA MVP awardee) the fifth-worst free throw shooter this season (60% average)? 

Same with the two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. He sits as the 7th worst free-throw shooter this season.

LeBron James’ numbers also puzzle me. He carries a dismal 69.8% average this 2021. That’s a dip from his 73.4% career average.

Which brings me to my Trivia Question: Who is the best free throw shooter so far this season, beating Steph Curry’s 94.1% and Chris Paul’s 96.2%?

The answer: His grandmother, Marcelina Tullao, hails from Bacolor, Pampanga. He played for Gilas Pilipinas and, with his stellar 2021 play, is the early favorite for the “Sixth Man of the Year” trophy. With a free throw percentage of 96.4%, his initials spell JC.

Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Dodong Gullas

Dodong Gullas (in red) with John P., Johnvic Gullas and Fritz Tabura

Our friendship started 26 years ago.

Jose Rivera Gullas, one late afternoon after playing doubles with his brother Eddie at the Cebu Country Club, called to have a chat.

“What can we do to help tennis?” he asked.  

Our afternoon chatter extended to multiple meetings at his UV office.

“Sir Dodong,” as we called him, wanted to uplift the youth. He longed to establish a tournament that would reach out to 8-year-olds and 18-year-olds; to beginners and multiple-champions. He wanted a small grassroots event that would transform into a major championship.

The 1st Gullas Tennis Cup was born in 1995.

Year after year, the tournament grew. First, the locals joined. Next, those from Bohol and Dumaguete hopped to our island. The Gullas Cup turned into a must-join sortie in the Visayas and Mindanao. It garnered the Philta Group 2 ranking and Manila netters would skip a week at the metropolis to join Cebu’s top game.

Fritz Tabura, our tournament director, and I would visit Mr. Gullas’ office at the UV Main Campus every year to discuss the event.

Each summer, when the Gullas Tennis Cup would normally be held, Mr. Gullas wanted to give more to the players. We were one of the first to give free T-shirts. The registration fee, usually P400, we offered at P150. 

We concocted a Fellowship Night where we had free food (lechon), dance and song numbers (by the players), and raffle prizes. Since players from all over the country trooped to the many venues that we had through the years — CCC, Casino Español, Citigreen, Alta Vista, Pardo TC, Naga, Lahug (Suson), Consolacion, Villa Aurora, Sancase — the party was a fun experience for the tennisters. 

It’s not all about tennis, he’d often say.

Dodong Gullas was known for his love of basketball as a player, coach and manager. Back in 1957, he led the UV Green Lancers to the national title, defeating the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

He loved tennis. Dodong Gullas played the sport as a form of exercise for many years. And in the Jose R. Gullas Tennis Cup, he would visit to watch the games or to attend the trophy ceremony. Many of those that he and his son Johnvic awarded became national champions: Niño Alcantara, Sally Mae Siso, Jacob Lagman, Niño Siso, Michael Quiñones, Oswaldo and James Dumoran, and Ilak Tabura.

Sir Dodong valued the word “values.” In the annual press conference that we’d conduct before the tournament’s start, he would stress the importance of sports among the youth. He despised the prevalence of drugs in society. He often said that sports was the cure

Our last Gullas Tennis Cup was the 23rd edition in June 2018. I remember visiting his brand-new office at the UV campus. He inquired about my dad Bunny and daughter Jana. We talked about his two major events that were unfolding the following year (2019): the 100th anniversary celebrations of UV and The Freeman.

Dodong Gullas left us for good last Thursday. It was game, set and match for our tennis mentor. 

I’ll never forget his humility and kindness.

JRG. He was Just, Respectful, and a Gentleman.

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40 is the new 20

A human being’s muscular strength peaks between the ages of 25 to 30. After that, no thanks to the word “aging,” our physical vigor and sinew naturally decline.

Then how, at the age of 43, do you explain a specimen named Tom Brady? For 21 years, he has accumulated an overabundance of trophies — culminating last week with his 7th Super Bowl ring.

“Tom Brady is an inspiration to me,” said Sen. Manny Pacquiao. “We are both in our forties, competing in sports that are dangerous and physically and mentally demanding.”

Pacquiao credits Brady’s lifelong dedication and conditioning.

“Tom Brady does that every day,” said Pacquiao. “He has no offseason. That takes superhuman dedication and discipline. Tom Brady is always in the back of my mind during training camp and between fights. Because Tom Brady is the gold standard.”

Manny Pacquiao is our Tom Brady. He’s 42 years old. And considering the physicality and brutality of boxing, that’s a very, very old age to be wearing boxing gloves. Back in 2019, the GenSan native became the oldest boxer to win a welterweight world crown. And Pacman’s not finished yet. He plans to engage in two more mega-fights. This 2021 against either Ryan Garcia, a fighter 20 years his junior, or the undefeated Terence Crawford. And in 2022, Pacquaio will climb the stage once more and aim to become our next Philippine president.

On tennis, two of the greatest ever to wield Wilson rackets will turn 40 this 2021. Roger Federer turns 40 this Aug. 8 and Serena Williams turns 40 on Sept. 26. 

That’s “40-love” in tennis-speak.

Both are still active and will, possibly at Wimbledon this year, win another major.

Tiger Woods is 45. His back is 85 years old but that did not deprive the injury-plagued American from winning, back in 2019, The Masters. 

Golf is nowhere near as physical as American football or boxing — and so Tiger is still competing. He’s three majors shy of equaling Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

LeBron James is NBA’s representative in this “Age doesn’t matter” contest. He’s 36 and has signed a contract near Hollywood that will extend until 2023. By then, his son Bronny will be eligible to play. When the father-and-son play alley-oops together, this means that King James will reign past the age of 40.

LBJ is a lover of fine wine. 

LeBron, like wine, gets better with time.

Donnie Nietes turns 39 this May 12. The world titlist at the 105, 108, 112 and 115-lb. divisions is still fighting. The longest-reigning Filipino boxing world champion has an event scheduled in Dubai this April. 

What’s the secret of these all-time greats?

Tom Brady Sr., the father-in-law of Gisele Bundchen, explains it best: 

“If what you’re doing is something that you really love, then why stop? …  That’s kind of what his (Tom’s) secret is. It’s not the Super Bowl, it’s the process. He loves every day working out, he loves every day eating right, he loves every day doing the TB12 method. He’s never put in minimums. He puts in maximums. He lives football.”

LBJ, MVP

(Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Will the above letters spell LeBron James, Most Valuable Player?

After 29 games played out of this season’s 72 outings, the answer is a resounding Yes. 

The NBA’s MVP award is one of the sporting world’s most coveted. Given that the league’s 30 teams have a roster of 15 players each, that’s a total of 450 of the best ballplayers among the planet’s 7.7 billion inhabitants. And of that elite group, one will emerge brightest.

This 2021-2022 season, LBJ is the oddsmakers pick to win his 5th MVP crown. Thus far — including yesterday’s 30-point, 13-rebound win — he has averaged 25.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game. He doesn’t lead the NBA with those stats. But the MVP award was never purely about numbers. At times, it’s the intangibles that matter. Why LBJ for MVP?

First, LeBron is 36 years old. This matters. Longevity and consistency matter. Given that he was snubbed for the MVP plum last year (losing to Giannis), he might be the sentimental choice this season.

Second, LeBron leads the NBA with the Real Plus-Minus statistic. He’s No.1 followed by Steph Curry, CJ McCollum, Paul George and Joel Embiid. What’s “Real Plus-Minus (RPM)?” It’s the “+/-” number in the box score and it’s the net change in score (plus or minus) while the player is on the court. To me, this figure is very, very important.

Third reason: LeBron is shooting amazing three-pointers. As of today, he’s shooting 38.1% from beyond the arc. Only his 2012-13 season with Miami, when he averaged 40.6%, was higher. His career average is 34.5%. He does the “Logo Three by LeBron,” shooting near the half court line. His most famous shot was when he unleashed a no-look 3-pointer from the corner, winning a bet against Dennis Schroder.

Fourth, it’s this comment by coach Frank Vogel: “LeBron does it on both sides of the ball. That why he’s probably going to be this year’s MVP, carrying the load offensively and quarterbacking the defense. No. 1 defense in the league and taking these tough assignments and making these plays down the stretch.”

Fifth, the Lakers are en route to another title run. I know, I know, we’re not even halfway through the season. But with Montrezl, Caruso, Kuzma, THT, KCP and Gasol, it’s hard to see anyone stopping the Lakers, even with AD’s recent calf strain injury.

Which brings me to the question: On his 18th year, what motivates King James? 

LeBron wants to play with his son LeBron Raymone. Now 16 years old (and standing 6-foot-2), Bronny will graduate from high school in 2023. This means that the son can do what his dad did, move straight from HS to the NBA. It’s no secret that LeBron wants to play alongside Bronny. This father-and-son combo has never happened in the NBA. The closest was baseball when Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. played MLB in 1990 and 1991.

Reason # 2: Be the GOAT. Michael Jordan is the undisputed Greatest Of All Time. But if LBJ matches MJ’s six NBA crowns and he overtakes Kareem to become the all-time scorer, then I’d pick King James over Air Jordan.

Scoring at Love

Happy heart’s day! Allow me to reprint an article I wrote a few years ago. It’s a true story…

There once was a dream girl named Jasmin. Intelligent, funny and the president of our college student council, she was a cross between Alice Dixon and Sharon Cuneta. To top all that, she bagged the Intrams MVP award when she smothered that softball for a last inning home run that captured her senior team’s gold medal.

She was all you could ask for. And like any warm-blooded reptile, what’s a man supposed to do? Just drool and stare at her like some lizard with clipped mouth? Naah. Chase her, of course. And so I planted the moves. She said yes to my first date request, lunch at Shakey’s Mango (across Fooda). We climbed Tops. Laughed in “Something About Mary.”

I was close. Or so my imagination thought. I was making inroads, yes; felt her feeling reciprocal, true; but up until then, four weeks past our first date, I never “scored.” And isn’t it all about the score?

We play games for what? The score. We put our money in the bank for what? To keep score. We teach our kids to study hard and do well in the exams to get a high score.

But I was scoreless. Zilch. Nil. Nada. Not even HH. (You know, holding hands.) Then, lo and behold, tadang! Like the genie that popped out in Aladdin, an idea sprung to mind. Take her out on a tennis date! 

One afternoon, surrounded by yellow flowers that danced and the swirling wind that sung when one’s in love, we climbed Cebu Plaza Hotel and had our first tennis date.

A beginner she was, thank you, Lord! That meant one thing. I can smell her perfume. And so I went up close, close, closer. You can’t go screaming the Tennis ABCs from 40 feet across the net, right?

One point. Then I held her hand. You can’t teach a semi-Western grip unless you gently take her hand, look her in the eyes and guide her step by step, right?

Two points. Then we relaxed, sitting side by side with legs almost touching, sweat flowing through our faces while I pulled out a towel then moved closer. She pulled back slightly, hesitated a moment then took the towel to wipe her face — all with a smile. Romantic, intimate — whatever you call it.. I’m scoring! 

Three points. A couple more dates ensued before I convinced her to play a real game of doubles. This time, it was at the Cebu Tennis Club in Banilad and, with two friends, we rallied for half an hour then got ready to play our first set of tennis.

I served first and we lost, 0-1. Then 0-2. Then 0-3. Jasmin was frustrated, I noticed. Finally, when the score was 0-4 against us, I blurted out the four most meaningful words in my life, “We’re still in love.”

Her eyes enlarged bigger than an owls and she stood akimbo with arms locked at the hips as if to say, “What did you say?”

Zero points.

“I mean.. uhh.. our score is still zero. You know.. Love means zero in tennis.”

Good thing, Jasmin’s now my wife. Or else, my score in love would have been.. love.

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