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NBA Won’t Be The Same Without Shaquille O’Neal 10

Posted on June 02, 2011 by Dean Hybl

At his peak Shaquille O'Neal was the most dominant player in the NBA.

There is little debate  that Shaquille O’Neal, who finally announced yesterday that he was retiring from the NBA, stuck around a couple years too long, but even the memories of him laboring up and down the floor for the Boston Celtics cannot taint his career as one of the best players of his generation.

We are quick today to throw out the names of Lebron, Kobe and Derrick Rose when discussing the best player in the NBA, but when Michael Jordan retired from the NBA for the second time in 1998, his position as the best player in the game didn’t go to a forward or guard, but instead to a 7-foot-1 center who was as athletic as any big man in league history.

From the time he entered the NBA with his fresh personality and illuminating smile, Shaquille O’Neal was more than a great player, he was a dominant presence both on and off the court.

During his four seasons in Orlando, he captivated the city and the league. Teaming with Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott, he led Orlando to the NBA Finals in 1995 and could have likely spent a decade making Orlando a basketball power.

But Shaq always had his eye on more than just basketball and after just four seasons in Orlando left for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles.

When Shaq was selected in 1996 as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history after just four years in the league he wasn’t chosen as much on the merits of his accomplishments as the promise of what he could become. Read the rest of this entry →

Cleveland Cavaliers Turn the Page Following Lottery Win 6

Posted on May 18, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Nick Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers took a big step forward with their NBA Draft Lottery win.

Yes, it was just a year ago that the Cavaliers had the best record in the NBA and just about everyone in the city was on their collective knees begging their homegrown superstar LeBron James to stay in town.

The fallout from his decision to leave for “South Beach” and the Miami Heat was devastating and was a major reason the Cavaliers had the second worst record in the league and endured the longest losing streak in league history.

But all of that “old history” can be swept back under the rug following the improbable victory by the Cavaliers last night in the NBA Draft Lottery.

Though the 2011 NBA Lottery doesn’t seem to possess a player of the same caliber as James, just the fact that Cleveland can get a new “face” for the franchise and actually has two picks in the top four provides fans with some optimism and the feeling that they can turn the page.

Some sports franchises have taken decades to recover from losing a player of the magnitude of James (and some never recover). So for Cleveland to be given this chance to start fresh just a year later could be a huge help as they look to return to the NBA elite.

Team owner Dan Gilbert has taken a lot of heat over the last year following his remarks in the aftermath of the James decision. However, the best move he has made in a while was staying in the shadows and allowing his 14-year-old son Nick to represent the team in the lottery. Read the rest of this entry →

Grading the LeBron James Experience 5

Posted on July 14, 2010 by Dean Hybl

LeBron James is starting to get used to his new uniform and surroundings.

Now that the dust has settled on the LeBron James sweepstakes, let’s take a look at some of the key participants in his announcement and how they fared during a strange week that seemed to captivate the interest of the sports media as much as any game or event in recent memory.

LeBron James the Basketball Player:  A

You could say that the decision to take his talents from a Cleveland squad where he was the primary factor in whether they won or lost to a Miami squad where he will share the load with Dwyane Wade was a great move for LeBron James the player. I believe that had he stayed in Cleveland, James would have eventually led the Cavaliers to an NBA Championship. However, it would have been excruciatingly difficult and it is unlikely that he would have been able to lead them to multiple titles. He now joins a team that has a championship pedigree and three very talented players capable of building a dynasty. I’m not necessarily saying that the Miami Heat will create a monopoly on championships, but once Pat Riley has time to surround his three stars with some solid complimentary players they will certainly be in the mix every season. James knows that he must win at least one NBA title to be considered an all-time great and with at least 10 years left in his career, this should guarantee that he will get at least one ring.

LeBron James the Global Brand: D

Team LeBron has been force-feeding LeBron James commercials and his greatness to the American public since before he even graduated from high school. He has definitely become a powerful marketing machine – big enough to commandeer the largest sports television network for more than an hour in prime time. However, part of what has helped make James a national icon is the assumption that he is the heir to the throne as basketball’s next great superstar.

By leaving Cleveland, where he was undisputedly “The King”, for South Beach, James has in some respects abdicated his throne of greatness. His decision to go to a team with another nearly equal superstar has signaled that he doesn’t want/need to be “the man” on his team. That may help him win championships, but it is not going to help him build his global brand.

I predict that with the exception of fans in Cleveland, James will eventually overcome much of the negative hits he has received for leaving his hometown city at the altar. However, unless he does something quickly to distinguish himself from Wade and Chris Bosh, I also predict that many fans will lose interest in LeBron the individual talent. He will now become part of the “The Trio” and his individual prominence will diminish accordingly. Read the rest of this entry →

Playing to Win Now Cost The Cleveland Cavaliers 2

Posted on July 09, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Reaction to LeBron James' decision was swift in Cleveland where some fans chose to burn his jersey.

Finally, the sideshow that has been the LeBron James free agency sweepstakes is over with the Miami Heat potentially as the big winner and the Cleveland Cavaliers (and potentially the rest of the NBA) as the big losers.

Even though the Heat currently don’t have enough players under contract to field a full roster,  on paper they quickly become one of the elite teams in the NBA with the addition of James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade in forming one of the best trios in NBA history.

James clearly has made this decision based on a desire to win multiple championships that will help solidify his place as one of the best players in NBA history.

However, as one of the “faces” of the NBA, James has taken a major risk that his previously pristine image will be able to withstand his first taste of being seen as a villain.

As could be expected, the reaction in Cleveland was immediate anger and a sense of betrayal. After seven seasons in which he lifted the franchise to NBA relevance for the first time in more than a decade, their hometown hero has left without producing that elusive championship.

For a city that has withstood many sports heartbreaks since last winning a title (NFL) in 1964, this is just the latest and perhaps most devastating blow.

That was illustrated immediately after James’ announcement with footage of a burning number 23 Cavaliers jersey and some bitter words from the owner of the Cavaliers. Read the rest of this entry →

It’s Official, LeBron James Has Ruined The NBA 14

Posted on July 08, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will bring smiles to Miami, but frowns around the rest of the NBA.

LeBron James has gone over to the dark side.

In hindsight, those who said he had already left Cleveland in his heart by the last game of the semis against Boston were probably right. It seems he had already left. Perhaps he hadn’t chosen his new destination– hence the hyped courtship process he created– but it appears that he’s known where he wouldn’t be playing for several weeks.

Don’t believe what he said on ESPN, how hard it was to leave, how loyal he is. Those are the words of spin doctors. Spoon fed to him, no doubt, to try and soften the blow back in the Mistake by the Lake. To keep him from having to send for his things because it’s too dangerous to set foot back in Northeast Ohio.

I don’t care what anyone says. There are some things that are worth more than money and there are some things that are even worth more than championships. There are certainly things that are worth more than championships won by a team full of ringers. Read the rest of this entry →

NBA Playoff Preview: Are Kobe and LeBron on a Collision Course? 3

Posted on April 16, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Los Angeles Lakers vs Cleveland Caviliers in Los Angeles

Will this be the year when LeBron James and Kobe Bryant meet in the NBA Finals?

After a season in which several new faces and teams made some noise, most still anticipate the NBA Playoffs to be a showcase for the top stars in the league.

With LeBron James now only weeks away from decision day regarding his future, the Cleveland Cavaliers will enter the 2010 playoffs as the favorites in the Eastern Conference. However, there are a number of tough challengers ready to follow the lead of the Orlando magic from a year ago and crash the playoff party.

Kobe Bryant and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are the favorites in the Western Conference, but with every team in the Western Playoffs having at least 50 victories, it could be a tough road back to the championship for the Lakers.

Eastern Conference:

With a 61-21 record, the Cavaliers enter the playoff with the best record in the NBA. The key for the Cavs will not necessarily be the play of superstar LeBron James, but whether his supporting cast can play at a high level throughout the playoffs. Center Shaquille O’Neal was brought to Cleveland to help James win a title, but he played in only 53 games and his availability for the playoffs is in question.

The defending conference champion Orlando magic went 59-23 and appear to be as strong, if not stronger, than a year ago. They won’t surprise anyone this time around, but with Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and a quality supporting cast, the Magic are a formidable opponent. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Bill Freehan: Michigan Man
      May 12, 2018 | 6:21 pm

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was an 11-time American League All-Star at one of the most demanding positions in baseball, yet outside of Detroit his exploits have been largely forgotten.

      For more than a decade, Bill Freehan was the rock behind home plate for the Detroit Tigers. In addition to earning All-Star honors 10 straight years and 11 times overall, Freehan was a five-time Gold Glove winner and in 1968 finished second in the American League in the MVP voting.

      A true “Michigan Man”, Freehan played his entire sports career representing teams from Michigan.

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