He Lived Long and Definitely Prospered

Leonard Nimoy populary known in pop culture as Spock

Leonard Nimoy populary known in pop culture as Spock (picture from @ANOVO twitter)

Leonard Nimoy, popularly known as Spock, passed away at age 83 because of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nimoy’s exploits are not limited to the far reaches of space and the Starship Enterprise. His chops in music, photography and poetry are only dwarfed by his skills in acting. Nimoy’s greatest contribution to the world was when he played Spock, a half-human, half-Vulcan Science Officer and Second Officer (even Executive Officer) in Star Trek both in movies (including the alternate reality version) and in the classic TV series.

Nimoy also lent his voice to numerous animations: Star Trek Animated Series,  as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Pagemaster, Transformers Animated Movie where he played Galvatron, and the live action Michael Bay’s Transformers Dark of the Moon as Sentinel Prime. He also appeared in The Twilight Zone, as a relevant character in the old Mission Impossible series, and numerous movies under his belt.

I’m no Trekkie but I enjoyed Star Trek movies (especially The Wrath of Kahn), I enjoyed watching him as Spock and I enjoyed his songs. As I end this short tribute to a great man, I leave you with his last tweet. Mr. Nimoy, thank you, we will live long and prosper.

Thank you for stating the obvious. The league kinda needs it

Pacquiao, the professional basketball player

Pacquiao, the professional basketball player

How do you become a professional basketball player?

That question is one of a thousand that will forever be embedded in the hearts and minds of us, the Filipino people. After all, our country’s number 1 sport is basketball and it is also our national sport. Every year majority of our countrymen tune in to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Collegiate Champions League (CCL), Fil-Oil Pre-Season Collegiate Basketball, the Philippine Basketball Association Development League (PBA D-League), the now defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL), Liga Pilipinas, National Basketball Conference (NBC), Mindanao-Visayas Basketball Association (MVBA), for a time the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) and of course the 40 year old league that is the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Indeed we love basketball, other than the fact that the likes of Carlos Loyzaga, Kurt Bachman, Carlos Badion, Ed Ocampo to name a few represented and won various tournaments here and abroad. During the professional era, Robert Jaworski, Ramon Fernandez, Alvin Patrimonio, Benjie Paras, Allan Caidic, Nelson Asaytono, and even modern stars like Mark Caguioa, James Yap, Marc Pingris, Jason Castro, Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood etc. captured our hearts and imagination. In addition, our national team, Gilas Pilipinas brought Philippine Basketball back to the basketball map, so did the emergence of the Filipino Phenom Kobe Paras who is tearin’ it up in the United States high school basketball league and will most likely be part of the University of California Los Angeles Bruins (a top basketball program in the US NCAA).

Now we go back to the question above. How do you become a professional basketball player?

In a perfect world, a player would work on their game, they would spend hours in the gym lifting weights, run the treadmill, do a lot of training, join camps such as the Milo Best, the Skywalker Camp to name a few. High school players would also have to endure the rigors of competition, as hundreds if not thousands of those kids vie for a spot in an elite collegiate basketball program, not to mention the pressure of winning a championship or two for their alma mater.

The same can be said when a kid plays for a collegiate basketball team, they are expected to win a championship or two, deliver a once crappy collegiate team to respectability or elite level, among other things. There is also the pressure of making a good first impression, not only on both professional and semi-professional team scouts and the fans. The kid also has to worry about his grades because collegiate (even high school) athletes can be cut from a team if they don’t perform well in their academics. And we have to talk about pressure from other sides. Pressure can also come from the (insert name of the university or college here) community, the pressure of winning a championship or at least making it in the Final 4 after God knows how long. Then there’s also the PBA-D League, a stepping stone of sorts, a league where the kid can either play against, or be team mates with, his rivals in college. The D-League is where most of our promising collegiate players improve their craft and learn from former pros and coaches.

Then there’s the PBA Draft. According to a PBADraft.net article, an average PBA player stays in the league for a maximum of 5 years, so the promise of professional glory is not within reach just yet. Promising amateur/collegiate players such as Alex Araneta, Brixter Encarnacion, Ervin Sotto, Tony Boy Espinosa, Ruben Dela Rosa, and Marcy Arellano to name a few, are proof of this. Some of them had decent college careers, others even had great ones, but they ended up being either busts or scrubs that sadly became expendable as younger and hungrier players are ready to beat them over a PBA slot, and there is another factor called injuries.

Players have to work their way into their team’s rotation. A rookie at times would have a hard time cracking the main rotation, except of course if you’re Paul Lee, James Yap, Benjie Paras, Alvin Patrimonio et al.

Then we have the Filipino-Foreigners (Fil-For). A Fil-For has to prove his Filipino lineage in order to play for Asia’s pay for play league. They also have to serve a year or two playing in the PBA D-League before applying for the PBA draft. The Fil-For, like the homegrown athlete has to work their way up to the main rotation.

Making it to the PBA is hard, staying is even harder. Our professional players have to work, sweat, and bleed for every minute they get, every award, accolade and achievement. The crowning glory for every player is of course a championship. Every player would trade their Most Valuable Player award, Rookie of the Year award just to get that elusive trophy.

So again. How do you become a professional basketball player?

For Manny Pacquiao, just be a boxer, an eight division world champion, a singer, a movie and tv celebrity. Manny Pacquiao’s entrance to the PBA is perhaps the darkest day in professional basketball, even worse than the disappointing 2014 Asian Games campaign, more insulting than Robert Jaworski Jr. making it to the PBA. Manny Pacquiao in the PBA (and Chito Salud allowing it to happen) is a spit in the face of every youngster and veteran who worked their way to the PBA.

Months before and after his PBA debut, social media is flooded by people who raise their voice against Pacquiao playing and coaching for KIA, yet some of his fans who are probably blinded by his fame were riding his cock. I know it’s a marketing ploy from the PBA, but it’s still a mockery. Players in the PBA worked and fought for their way to the league (except for him and Dodot) and Pacquiao got an instant entrance to the PBA.

Daniel_Orton

Then we had Daniel Orton, former NBA player and draftee, the same Daniel Orton who you would probably use if your team is bugged by injuries in NBA 2K games, said something that everybody is afraid to say.

“That’s (Pacquiao playing) a joke, part of the joke I’m talking about. Professional boxer? Yeah. Congressman? Alright. But professional basketball player? Seriously? It’s a joke,” he said.

Orton uttered those immortal words after taking a humiliating loss against Pacquiao’s team KIA Carnival. Ignore the fact that Orton played horribly, ignore his 6 points and 3 rebounds, that is a different issue. Pacquiao is not only making a mockery out of the game that I love, the league that I grew up watching, he is also turning it into a damn circus with him as lead clown.

I know Pacquiao is following his dreams, but at what cost? He may have given about 15 slots to other players who want to relive their PBA glory, but he still stole one player’s dream. The slot could have been given to a kid who worked, sweat and bled, won championships, experienced heartaches and disappointments all throughout his amateur career. A player who really deserves it and even a coach who is primed and ready to steer a PBA team. I bet every one of us can name 10 players not playing in the PBA that are better than Pacquiao.

Here’s a thought, would you be proud if a foreigner who likes basketball asked you to watch the game live with him at the Araneta and sees Manny Pacquiao making a complete fool out of himself? Would you tell him how he got there?

THE 2015 NBA ALL STARS: A Post-Mortem Report

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The NBA All Star Weekend. It’s that time of the year when the best and the brightest NBA young guns, up-and-comers and even superstars gather for one weekend and exhibit their exceptional talent in front of the basketball world. The All Star Weekend is also the time when players from different teams bond, create new relationships and yes it’s also a time when superstars use the event to recruit incoming superstar free agents to join their team after the current NBA season. It’s also when the NBA and its players give time to their fans as they show their love and respect to them and the local community (in this year’s case Manhattan and Brooklyn).

The All Star Weekend is also when I remember the legendary moments of All Star Weekends past. Memories such as Larry Bird’s 3 championships at the 3 point Shootout, the jaw dropping and highlight reel rolling dunks of Dominique Wilkins, Larry Nance, David Thompson, Spud Webb and Michael Jordan, the hot shooting of Craig Hodges during the 1991 edition of the 3 point Shootout, Jordan’s performance in the 1997, 1998 and 2003 All Star Games and the hotly contested 1987 All Star Game featuring the pressure packed freethrows of Rolando Blackman (Dallas Mavericks, West All Stars) and his infamous reaction “CONFIDENCE BABY”.

Every year both hardcore and casual fans wait for memories that will be added to basketball lore. Whether it’s the Rising Stars Challenge: World vs USA, where The World Team won 121-112 behind game MVP Andrew Wiggins’ 22 points, the Skills Challenge that was won by Patrick Beverly,  the Shooting Stars Challenge where Chris Bosh (Miami Heat), Swin Cash (Chicago Sky) and the legendary Dominique Wilkins (Atlanta Hawks) won the championship for the third straight year, the duel between “the Splash Brothers” Steph Curry (eventual Champion) and Klay Thompson at the 3 Point Shootout, and who will ever forget the Space Jam dunk by Zach LaVine? And of course the annual battle of NBA stars, big guns vs big guns, East vs West in the All Star Game, in which the West won 163-158.

Like always, the NBA superstars wowed the crowd with dazzling moves both in the All Star side events (Rising Stars, Skills, Shooting, Dunk or my personal favorite the 3 Point Shootout) and the main event, the All Star Game. While I didn’t get to catch all the happenings, I got to enjoy most of it, like the thrilling Skills Challenge where Patrick Beverely shocked the competition and won this year’s title. The fiery 27-point performance by Steph Curry during the 3-point shootout gave me the much needed boost on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I’m happy that they reverted the Dunk Contest back to its original format (because last year’s rules sucks balls). The Dunk Contest featured the duel between rising stars Victor Oladipo and Zach LaVine–well it WAS a duel until Oladipo got tired and started missing dunks while LaVine went on auto pilot when he felt he got the title in the bag. In addition the final round between Oladipo and LaVine kinda went downhill as both youngsters failed to give the crowd a mind blowing moment. Anyway, I’m happy that the original format and scoring is back, I wish they keep it for years to come.

Finally, the main event, the All Star Game. Boy, where do I begin? Well ever since it went on to become like a pop version of Woodstock with basketball players rubbing elbows with Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez being head cheerleader, and Puff Daddy (yes I still want to call him Puff Daddy) or whatever his n’s is singing a gazillion songs (or artists that are similar to him) and just recently Ariana Grande belting out incoherent lyrics of her hit song. Then the game itself can be described as a glorified intra-squad practice. I can understand players standing around for 3 quarters or 2 1/2 quarters before ball movement and actual defense is played but in this year’s addition, wow, it’s like watching a train going head to head with a poodle.

I’m not saying it was a complete disaster but as a fan who grew up in the 90’s, I had the pleasure of watching old game tapes of All Star Games past, the glorious 80’s Bird, Magic, a young MJ, Isaiah Thomas, Tom Chambers, Blackman, Dantley, Moses Malone, Julius Irving et al. The  90’s with Jordan, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Reggie Miller, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Shawn Kemp to name few. The early 2000s with Kobe Bryant, a 40 year old Jordan (yeah I’m a fan), Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Stephon Marbury and others. The names I mentioned played how an All Star game should be played, they gave us a show and they gave effort. Games from 1987, 1988, 1991, 1993, and I could go on and on, are still better (despite the ridiculous high scores) and had intensity and players showed effort on both ends. While I admit that I was still entertained, I still long for both players from the East and the West playing “intense D” when the game is on the line, not just stand around wait for someone to miss, run the break and maybe score.

If I can give this game a rating I would like to give it an average rating (last year I can give a rating of very good because they actually played D down the stretch, and not just allow the other team WIDE OPEN THREES, the East actually defended last year).

I know that this is one of the few times when players can actually enjoy, blow off some steam and go nuts but there are still fans who want to see effort. I’m confident that I’m not the only one who craves an All Star Game that is won by grit and determination (like the 2001 All Star Game, see I told you I can go on and on) or with the drama that is the 2003 Game. I feel that no matter how small or big we are we deserve that kind of action as well.

Overall both the sideshows and the main event delivered enough to give one good weekend, especially to those who stayed at home and forced their girlfriends (or boyfriends) to watch the event. Fans of the Three Point Shootout were thrilled with the Curry outburst, LaVine’s memorable dunks will be shown over and over again in future dunk contest montages. Young players such as Andrew Wiggins, Nikola Mirotic, Trey Burke, Giannis Ante.. err Ante… (googles the name) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mason Plumlee, Victor Oladipo to name a few, showed the world that the future of the NBA is in good (or should I say best) hands.

Is this one of my favorite All Star Weekends? No, but it’s still fun and if you have extra space in your hard drive download it or if you’re subscribed to NBA TV or NBA Premium (or you only have Basketball TV) watch it, it’s still basketball and it’s still entertaining.

So folks that’s it for now and by the way, LeBron chickened out on yet another Dunk Contest to attend a fashion show, what a douche.