The Undertaker’s Last Bow?

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Could this be The Undertaker’s final salute?

 

There aren’t enough words to describe how surreal it is to watch the Undertaker perform in the ring. I remember watching the Undertaker when the Smackdown! brand led by Dave Batista and Booker T held a 2 day show here in the Philippines. I was there to watch two men, the late Chris Benoit (who battled with Chavo Guerrero that night) and of course the Undertaker, who at that time engaged in a bitter feud with Mr. Kennedy. Watching his entrance from the cheap seats was spine chilling. Undertaker won of course and that night he saved Batista from a beat down by Booker T, Fit Finlay and William Regal.

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The Undertaker through the years.

Fast forward to about 11 years later, he was still performing by this time he had been with the WWE for 26 years. In the world of theatrics and entertainment such as pro wrestling, lasting for 26 years in one company is amazing. Who would have thought that a gimmick that started out as an indestructible zombie or western mortician turned out to be one of the most captivating characters in wrestling history?

The Undertaker, real name Mark William Calaway made his professional wrestling debut in 1984 as Mean Mark Callous, he wrestled in World Class Championship Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling before ending up with the World Wrestling Federation (now known as the WWE). He made his WWE debut on the 1991 Survivor Series PPV, teaming up with the villainous Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team against Dusty Rhode’s The Dream Team. Little did we know that this silly gimmick would be a staple in Professional Wrestling.

From that point on, the Undertaker (or Taker) won several WWE Titles, Tag Titles and feuded with the likes of Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, Yokozuna, Kamala, King Kong Bundy, Giant Gonzales, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Mankind, CM Punk, Kurt Angle, Diamond Dallas Page, his storyline brother Kane, John Cena and Brock Lesnar to name a few. He also participated in a lot of gimmick matches such as the Biker Chain Match, the Hell in a Cell, Steel Cage Match, Hell in the Cell, Ladder Match, Casket Match and the Buried Alive Match.

Through the years, Taker kept the gimmick interesting by adding character depth and some weird ass powers such as conjuring fire, lightning, rising from the dead, teleportation and the power to manipulate or posses someone. Beyond all those silly powers, and different gimmick types or appearances of the Undertaker showed up, we can always count that his matches were very good or amazing. His ability to create drama in the ring, provided fans of this ‘scripted’ spectacle a breathtaking experience. Undertaker was simply amazing in the ring.

Then there was WrestleMania (or Mania), WWE’s premier event. Undertaker provided a lot of memories during Mania. His matches are often the highlight of the night. For most of us wrestling fans, we always look forward to Mania, even if the match card isn’t Mania worthy. The reason we tune in to Mania every year is because of ‘The Streak’. ‘The Streak’ is defined as the Undertaker’s 21 straight victories at WrestleMania if you’re interested then here are his WrestleMania victims.

1. ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka (Mania 7)
2. Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts (Mania 8)
3. Giant Gonzales (Mania 9)
4. King Kong Bundy (Mania 11)
5. Kevin Nash (Mania 12)
6. Psycho Sid (Mania 13, for the WWE Title)*
7. Kane (Mania 14 and Mania 20)
8. Big Boss Man (Mania 15, Hell in a Cell)
9. Triple H (Mania 17, Mania 27 and a Hell in a Cell match at Mania 28)
10. Ric Flair (Mania 18)
11. Big Show and A-Train (Mania 19, Handicap Match)
12. Randy Orton (Mania 21)
13. Mark Henry (Mania 22)
14. Dave Batista (Mania 23 for the World Heavyweight Title)
15. Edge (Mania 24 for the World Heavyweight Title)
16. Shawn Michaels (Mania 25 and Mania 26)
17. CM Punk (Mania 29)

* – The streak was first mentioned

The streak lasted for 21 straight victories which surprisingly ended at Mania 30 against Brock Lesnar. I remember that match, I was in shock, I always thought that Taker would retire undefeated at Mania and that will be his legacy. It was taken away by WWE matchmakers, suddenly Mania was never the same without the Streak.

On April 3rd (April 2nd in the States), Undertaker lost for only the 2nd time in Mania, his once immaculate record of 21-0 now stood at 23-2. After getting speared for the nth time, he jobbed to up and comer Roman Reigns. After the match he left his MMA gloves, his cowboy hat and trenchcoat in the middle of the ring. He broke character and kissed his wife at ringside (he still plays a zombie with dark powers), and perhaps waved his final goodbye to the fans.

At this moment, it was hard for me to write about a man who I grew up watching, whose career was part of my childhood much like those 6 NBA Championship won by the Bulls. Undertaker is like my guest every night when he wrestles or cuts a promo or something. He was WWE’s Icon, their poster boy and their heart and soul.  I always remember those matches, the feud, the silly angle, the time you (almost) married Stephanie McMahon because you’re playing a Satan Worshipper, the Higher Power storyline, your run as the Biker Undertaker, the streak and your whole career. Thank you Undertaker, if this was the last match then I’m glad it ended at WrestleMania.

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The Man They Call Kobe

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Kobe Bryant. Rides into the sunset. Photo by Adam Zaman of Hoops Talk.

 

 

The mere mention of Kobe Bryant to a casual basketball fan would get so many reactions and associations. I, for one, once regarded Kobe as one cocky son of a b*tch, a ballhog, selfish, a once-upon-a-time rapist, The Black Mamba, and a champion. But above all that, Kobe can be described as a great competitor and the closest thing to Michael Jordan this generation ever had.

Kobe’s climb to success and immortality began in high school when he led Lower Merion to championships. By that time his HS coach saw how hardworking he is, the classic “first one in and last one out.” Most of the time, he’s the first one in the gym and the last one to leave after practice was over.

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NBA Rookies Class of 1996: (L-R standing) Marcus Camby, Stephon Marbury, Kobe Bryant, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Jermaine O’neal, Steve Nash, John Wallace, and Antoine Walker (L-R sitting) Ray Allen, Kerry Kittles and Samaki Walker

By the end of his senior year in HS which included a date with then R & B singer Brandy, Kobe decided to join the NBA, obviously following his dad’s footsteps (Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant who once played for the Philadephia 76ers). Kobe would be joined by future all-stars and very good role players in that said draft. In my opinion, the ’96 Draft bridged the gap between the ’90’s kids and the old-time viewers, and made the NBA the global phenomenon that it is today.

Picked as the 13th pick of the draft by the Charlotte Hornets, Kobe never had a chance to take his (raw) talent to the Hornets because he was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for veteran center Vlade Divac. According to stories, Jerry West wanted Kobe so much after seeing Kobe destroy draft prospect Dontae Jones one-on-one during the Rookie Combine (tryouts). Kobe would then join the retooled Lakers who, at that time, just drafted Derek Fisher, and had players such as Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Elden Campbell, and free-agent signee Shaquille O’neal. The future seemed set.

By this time, some of my friends and classmates were going gaga over the Lakers. Plus, the fact that Kobe was voted as an All-Star a year later made me raise my eyebrows, at that time, I thought he was overrated. After all, he was lackluster in the 1997 Playoffs against the Jazz, throwing bricks and air balls in Game 5.

Kobe Bryant, Game 5 1997 NBA Playoffs

Seeing those air balls and missed shots made me smile, I mean, I was a Kobe hater. I laughed my ass off with every air ball he threw. (But to be fair, watching it right now, his shooting form seems awkward and his release is a piece of shit.) Those air balls perhaps were the turning point of Kobe’s career, a lightning rod, similar to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls getting KO’d by the Detroit Pistons in 1988, 1989 and 1990. The Lakers were once again humiliated by the Jazz this time in the Western Conference Finals, though.

During the lockout shortened season of 1998-1999, the Lakers traded Elden Campbell and Kobe’s mentor Eddie Jones for Glen Rice, BJ Armstrong, and JR Reid. The message was clear: the Lakers management was set to make Kobe Bryant as their franchise shooting guard. While the regulars produced wins, they found themselves eliminated by eventual NBA Champions The San Antonio Spurs.

By the 1999-2000 season, they were primed and ready to make a run for the title. Shaq and Kobe led the Lakers all the way to the Finals. Kobe was also instrumental in beating the Portland Trailblazers in Game 7, and this further fueled my absolute hatred and contempt for the guy. His showing in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers despite a busted ankle, especially in overtime when he literally dragged the Lakers, was Jordan-like. Kids compared him to Jordan, even worse, I hated that “fact”. The Lakers would go on to win the NBA Finals in 2000, 2001 and 2002, validating Shaq and Kobe as NBA superstars.

During the Laker Dynasty years, an on-and-off-again relationship between Kobe and Shaq started. I mean, they argued like a married couple, they argued who should be the Alpha male for the Lakers. This feud also marked the end of the Laker dominance for the first half of the last decade and was punctuated by their upset loss to the Pistons back in 2004, at which time the whole team feuded, with Kobe allegedly hitting on Karl Malone’s wife. Shaq packed his bags and signed with Miami, and the once reloaded Lakers were now left with bread crumbs of a roster, with only Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher as recognizable names (wait, there’s Kwame Brown hahahaha) in the lineup. I laughed at Kobe’s failure, karma for “raping” a girl back in 2003 (which actually he didn’t do, according to the girl now), karma for all the hearts he broke during the dynasty years.

The span of 2004-2007, I’ve seen a lot of improvement from Kobe, yes, I still see him as a ball hog, but as a scorer, he was getting better, impossible shot after impossible shot. His game-winner against the Phoenix Suns in 2006 was one for the ages.

Kobe’s game tying and game winning shot vs Phoenix Game 4

By 2007, I started admiring Kobe, watching him every time the Lakers were on TV was something, it was like watching Michael Jordan if he was a ball hog (oops). Kobe was like a 50-point game waiting to happen–after all, he had an 81-point performance years back against the Raptors. By 2008, Kobe, Phil Jackson, and the Lakers found the right formula. After a timely trade that gave them Pau Gasol, the Lakers were once again serious contenders. Kobe and Gasol conspired to lead the Lakers all the way to the NBA Finals, only to go down in 6 games against the Celtics. Kobe also won his only MVP award at the end of the season. By 2009, he once again led his Lakers to the Finals, this time against the Orlando Magic. After watching Shaq get his championship with Miami in 2006, Kobe finally got one. I remember that I was in Bohol at the time he won his championship. To this day, I haven’t seen Game 5, but I was happy for him.

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The Black Mamba getting his 4th NBA Title and his first NBA Finals MVP.

Bryant’s successful 2009 campaign led to another memorable 2010. With Pau Gasol, the Lakers ran through the West and met the Boston Celtics for the 2nd time in 3 years in the NBA Finals and boy, what a series it was. In a gritty Game 7, the Lakers erased a 13-point deficit to beat Boston. Kobe won another one. I don’t know if I should be happy since I wanted the Celtics to win one again, but then again, even with bad shooting, Kobe found ways to contribute, scoring 23, getting 15 boards and 13 dimes.

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Kobe celebrating his 5th championship

I actually remember 2 days before Game 7, someone was asking for an off swap, my Friday off in exchange for her Sunday off. Game 7 happened on a Friday morning in the Philippines. She was asking if she can have my Friday, I told her no, I wanted to watch Game 7. She then replied I can watch the replay, I told her NOOOOOOOOO and left.

 

 

For the Laker franchise, 2010 was their last appearance in the NBA Finals with Kobe. Burnout for playing in 3 consecutive Finals set in or maybe perhaps they met the much hungrier Dallas Mavericks (who won in 2011) in the 2nd round. In 2011, the Laker Nation bid goodbye to the Kobe-Phil Jackson partnership.

In the waning years of his career, we still saw Kobe being competitive, we still saw Kobe making impossible shots after impossible shots. By this time, I was a Kobe fan (not a Laker fan, a Kobe fan). But his injuries late in his career robbed us of the chance of seeing him in full strength and Dwight Howard’s laziness robbed the Lakers organization and its fans of a trip to the NBA Finals, and yes, I have to add Mike D’Antoni’s dimwit coaching also robbed the Lakers of a chance of winning every game.

Come November of 2015, Kobe announced his retirement. He said he would retire by season’s end. The basketball world was in a somber moment, as one of the best players, if not the greatest, of this generation bids goodbye. Kobe even wrote a poem entitled Dear Basketball. Read it here.

Well, there go my memories of Kobe. In ending this piece, I want to tell all my readers, all 10 of you, that Kobe is perhaps the next best thing to Michael Jordan. No, that doesn’t make Kobe better than Jordan. Jordan will always be Jordan, he will never be touched, ever or at least for now. But aside from the moves Kobe copied from His Airness, those fadeaways, dunks, even free throws, Kobe’s qualities that make him the closest thing to MJ in this generation are his competitiveness, his attitude, his abominable will and never- give-up attitude. Hey, he could have left the Lakers and gone to another team after his team sucked balls from 2004-2007 but he didn’t. I guess that’s what separates him from a guy I’d rather not mention. Kobe is truly like MJ, Bird, Magic, Bill Russell, and other legends of the game. One of a kind. Thank you, Kobe.

Kobe’s last game highlights

A Tribute to the Big Difference

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Carlos Loyzaga dives for the lose ball against the Americans, this endearing image was supposedly taken during the 1954 FIBA World Championship. Credit to Spin.Ph

 

 

Carlos “The Big Difference” Loyzaga will always be the country’s Mr. Basketball. His contributions both to the NCAA and MICAA, coaching both the amateur and professional ranks will always be a footnote compared to his contributions while wearing the three stars and sun during his prime back in the 50’s and 60’s. His heroics on the court while leading the “Philippine Islanders” (the monicker of our National Team back in the day) solidified the country as a basketball powerhouse not only in Asia but also in the entire planet, as evident in the country’s 3rd place finish at the 1954 FIBA World Championship (to date the highest finish by an Asian country in the quadrennial event). He also had numerous championships in both the Asian qualifiers and Far East Games and helped the San Beda Red Lions win 3 titles in the 1950’s and perpetually own the Zamora Trophy.

The following is an article written by my college friend Jonas Terrado. Like me, he shares my love for basketball. Here is his tribute to the man who, in my opinion, without a shadow of a doubt, is, was, and forever will be The Greatest Ballplayer in Philippine Basketball. One of the best in the world. Carlos Loyzaga.

Basketball great Loyzaga dies at 85

Read more at http://www.mb.com.ph/basketball-great-loyzaga-dies-at-85/#yJTFEgz6GuOIhxoy.99

Carlos Loyzaga, the man considered as the greatest Filipino to play basketball and whose moniker “The Great Difference” epitomized his role and impact as the player who can do it all, died yesterday. He was 85.

His son, former PBA player Chito Loyzaga, said the elder Loyzaga died of cardiac arrest after being hospitalized for almost two weeks at the Cardinal Santos Hospital due to pneumonia.

The family was expecting him to be discharged when he passed away unexpectedly.

The iconic basketball player who lifted the Philippines to unprecedented heights in international basketball, including a third place finish in the 1954 FIBA World Championship, had been in failing health for years.

“His basketball accomplishments were well-known, but most people don’t know that he was a lovely husband, a good father and a good friend. He lived a good life and played for flag and country with a passion,” Chito said, adding that the public viewing of Caloy’s wake will start this morning at the Arlington Memorial Chapel.

Besides being “The Great Difference,” he was also nicknamed “King Caloy,” a tribute to his lording it over Philippine basketball which ever uniform he wore.

“For a star player, I don’t remember that he figured in any controversy,” said Philippine Olympic Committee President Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. yesterday after learning of Caloy’s death.

Former International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Frank Elizalde, whose company in the 1950s was where Loyzaga played, echoed Cojuangco’s sentiments about the 6-foot-3 legend.

“At that time he was really the big difference because he stood head and shoulders over most of his teammates,” said Elizalde, whose family owned YCO Paints in the MICAA.

“He was a very good person and he will never be forgotten,” said Elizalde.

After being discovered in a basketball lot in Sta. Mesa, Manila, Loyzaga went on to become the toast of the basketball-crazy Filipinos. He first made his mark while playing for San Beda where he led the Red Lions to two straight NCAA championships in 1951 and 1952, and a third one came in 1955.

Such was Loyzaga’s incredible skill as a player that while in college, he led the Philippines in the 1952 Olympics.

But it was in the 1952 NCAA title game that Loyzaga cemented his legend.

He was hailed as the hero of the Red Lions’ 50-39 win over the Green Archers at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum when he scored most of his 18 points in the final half to seal the crown.

“Carlos Loyzaga was terrific, and that was the big advantage San Beda had over La Salle in last night’s NCAA cage finals,” then Bulletin Sports Editor Jimmie Lacsamana said in his column. “The ‘golden boy’ of local courts was calm, calculating and devastating. He’s some basketball power. That’s it – Loyzaga’s cage power routed La Salle’s quintet of six-footers.”

After winning his final NCAA championship for the Red Lions in 1955, Loyzaga shifted his focus on the commercial league.

But before doing so, Loyzaga had one of his greatest performances when he carried the Philippines to third place in the World Championship held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Loyzaga averaged 16.4 points per game in the tournament, capping off his great campaign with a 20-point performance in a 66-60 victory over France and a 33-point explosion in a 67-63 triumph over Uruguay to seal third place honors.

“Loyzaga, the tallest man on the Philippine squad, repeatedly provided the spark which enabled the Islanders to tie or pass Uruguay,” the Associated Press said in its game story.

He also played in the 1956 Olympic Games, won four Asian Games gold medals (1951, ‘54, ‘58, ‘62) and two Asian Basketball Confederation Championships (1960 and ‘63) even as a playing coach steered YCO to multiple MICAA and national seniors championships, mostly at the expense of bitter rival Ysmael Steel.

He ended his playing career in 1964 to concentrate on coaching full-time. He guided University of Santo Tomas to the UAAP championship over Far Eastern University that same year.

His best coaching accomplishment came in 1967 when he steered the Philippines to its third Asian Championship with a hard-fought 83-80 win over host South Korea in the finals in Seoul.

“All our players are good and I could use all of them whenever I wanted,” he said in a United Press International article. “There’s little difference in quality among our players.”

His dirty dozen included team captain Alberto Reynoso, Orlando Bauzon, Narciso Bernardo, Danny Florencio, whose late basket gave the Filipinos a timely cushion, Jimmy Mariano, Tembong Melencio, Ed Ocampo, Adriano Papa Jr., Renato Reyes, Joaquin Rojas Jr., Edgardo Roque and Robert Jaworski.

The Philippine cagers received a warm welcome upon their arrival. One well-wisher flashed a sign saying “Loyzaga. Pogi Na, Goli Pa” as the coach was mobbed by the adoring crowd at the airport.

He was also an assistant coach to the late Tito Eduque when the Nationals repeated over the Koreans in the finals, 90-78, in the 1973 ABC finals held at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, the country’s fourth ABC crown.

Loyzaga eventually had two spells as PBA coach with U-Tex and Tanduay, before watching his sons Chito and Joey play in the pro ranks. His daughters, Bing and Teresa, found their own niches in the showbiz industry. (With report from Nick Giongco)

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.

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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.

KAGILA-GILALAS ANG GILAS PILIPINAS

(from left to right) Japeth Aguilar, Gabe Norwood and Team Captain Jimmy Alapag celebrates as Gilas beats Senegal to close their campaign at the FIBA World Championship

(from left to right) Japeth Aguilar, Gabe Norwood and Team Captain Jimmy Alapag celebrates as Gilas beats Senegal to close their campaign at the FIBA World Championship

That’s it, after five games, five exciting games we close our campaign with a roar, a loud one at that. After giving powerhouse teams such as Croatia, Greece, Argentina and Puerto Rico the scare of their lives, we finally found the much needed win together with the admiration of the international press covering the FIBA World Cup or FIBA World Championship. Amidst the disappointment of coming up short against the powerhouse teams losing by 3 to Croatia, 12 to Greece, 4 to Argentina, and 4 to Puerto Rico, Gilas Pilipinas found enough confidence, found enough heart to pull off a shocker against Senegal (who last appeared in the FIBA World in 2006).

The journey has been long and hard for the team and the supporters, like me. We have to endure painful defeat and disappointments in Asia and BAP sending crappy teams to FIBA Asia Championship in the past. Last year though was redemption, though we failed to win the gold in FIBA Asia Championship falling to the Asian powerhouse Hamed Haddadi and Iran, we somehow captured the “Golden Silver” and booked a ticket to this year’s World Cup of Basketball. It’s been 36 long years since we last made it and we have to wait 40 years to book our first win in the said tournament, heck being in the World Cup itself is already a feat or better yet a big achievement to our national team or the basketball program in general.

Yes our dream of possibly advancing to the other stage of the tournament may have ended but the admiration from all over the worldwide basketball community will always be there. Our boys captivated the hearts and minds of the basketball loving world, even to the point that an ESPN analyst even said that “we’re the most fun team to watch in the tournament”. Tweets all over the world came in droves praising or maybe giving respect to Gilas especially in that heartbreaking loss to Argentina. The International Commentators (who I forgot the names, one of them is a coach) share their admiration to our boys. If the foreign basketball community were proud of our showing in the World Stage it saddens me that some of our countrymen don’t share the same admiration and respect.  I know you can’t please all of them but the realization that our boys fought hard, sacrificed and bled for pride and country should be enough to garner respect.

Finally, I just want to say, with this showing, scaring the crap out powerhouse nations Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico. Putting up one hell of a fight against the mighty Hellas from Greece and of course finally winning one against veteran team in Senegal, basketball has a bright future in our country. Gutsy performances from Gabe Norwood (those highlight reel moments dunking in front of Scola and Mata), our Naturalized player in Andrey Blatche, Jeff Chan (almost our hero in the Croatia game), Junemar Fajardo (who came up with the game of his life against Senegal), LA Tenorio, Jayson Castro, Marc Pingris, Japeth Aguilar, Gary David, Ranidel De Ocampo, Paul Lee and of course our Captain (Philippines) Jimmy Alapag will be looked at by our future basketball stars in Arnold Van Opstal, Jeron Teng, Kiefer Ravena, Bobby Ray Parks Jr., Kevin Alas, Greg Slaughter, Gelo Alolino, Baser Amer, Garvo Lanete, Chris Banchero, Ian Sanggalang, Calvin Abueva, Raymond Almazan, Mike Reyes to mention a few. To Coach Chot Reyes, please stay as coach, having you replaced will delay the program two more years (at least). To Marcus Douhtit, Larry Fonacier  and the Gilas pool/cadets, batang Gilas, and staff and of course to the PBF and MVP our big thanks! #LabanPilipinas #puso

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Shout out to Azkals fans out there #SugodAzkals win the Friendship Cup!

Pictures: From the FIBA website

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier; A Review and A Tribute to the Ultimate Warrior

 

 

 

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Hello! Sorry I should have posted something about Joakim Noah but for some reason I wasn’t in the mood to post it, instead we get a back to back to back movie review from yours truly.

On the side note WrestleMania XXX just concluded last Monday morning and we saw Daniel Bryan FINALLY won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Corporate poster boys Randy Orton and Batista, we also saw Undertaker’s 21-0 streak ended at the hands of Brock Lesnar, Antonio Cesaro launched as perhaps WWE’s next star and Triple H’s shovel not in full effect. WrestleMania XXX also features the Hall of Fame induction ceremony or should I say “presentation” in front of the raucous pro wrestling crowd, the class included Amy Dumas (Lita), Mr. T, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Carlos Colon, Scott Hall, manager Paul Bearer and the recently departed Ultimate Warrior. Later in this writing I will post my homage to the Warrior.

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier is part of the so called phase 2 of Marvel’s build up to the Avengers 2 (and you still won’t see Spiderman in it so enough with the memes), while Iron Man 3 sucked, Thor 2: The Dark World was good (which I reviewed as well), this one will blow you away, how? Remember watching the Dark Knight in 2008? Well at some degree it kinda blew me away like that depending if you like the Dark Knight or just simply don’t get Batman. Anyway that’s another topic I guess. The story was straight forward, simple yet elegantly written (not as elegant as Hugo but it’s still good), the premise was great, the action scenes of course are over the top and typical of what you get from Marvel films whether produced by Marvel Studios or Fox/Sony. Robert Redford is still epic as he played the two-faced antagonist known as Sec. Alexander Pierce, after not seeing Redford in what seems like forever, he brought enough to the screen that even those who knew his character in the source material would probably have thought that he was part of S.H.I.E.L.D. that would like to take H.Y.D.R.A. from within, until his subsequent turn in the control room of SHIELD. Then we have Frank Grillo who played Brck Rumlow or Crossbow, I always thought he was a fine actor after seeing him in 2011’s Warrior where he played Joel Edgerton’s friend and MMA trainer. and last certainly not the least Sebastian Stan reprises his role as James Buchanan (Bucky) Barnes or the bad ass that is The Winter Soldier, what actually worked for the Winter Soldier is that he rarely talks, except for the last few minutes of the movie, but the guy doesn’t talk, which add to the mystique of the character (especially to those who don’t know who the Winter Soldier is). Though I knew the fact that Bucky would eventually become the super spy and assassin Winter Soldier, the big reveal was still good enough to make me say, oooh that was good. Oh on the sidenote, I was cheering for GSP to beat up Cap.

 

Overall the film was memorable, story wise it was better than the Avengers, Winter Soldier will give you enough thrills, enough brain cells to use, enough plotholes and stupid circumstances (like the SHIELD transport van having bulletproof windows while the fighter planes or transports doesn’t have one or Falcon’s jump from the 41st to the 21st floor (dumb but awesome), in my opinion what actually worked in this adaptation of Jack Kirby’s character is the writers kept the story simple, there not enough sci fi or nerdy mumbo jumbo to complicate things, just have something being compromised, a harbinger of death after you, and save the day type, what Captain America 2 did unlike 2 previous Marvel Phase 2 films is what I call “less is more”. With that I give this film a 9.25/10, and moves 3rd in my Superhero movie list behind Superman 1 10/10 and The Dark Knight 9.5/10.

Oh useless trivia, the costume that cap wore in the first few hours of the movie is taken from his “Head of SHIELD” days when he was going to the field even if he was the chief of SHIELD. Proof? Here it goes.

Heroir Age Captain America with the gun and no shield.. Just leave a comment or PM me at facebook who's the Captain America in the background.

Heroic Age Captain America with the gun and no shield.. Just leave a comment or PM me at facebook who’s the Captain America in the background.

That was a horrible costume and thank God the studio did fan service by going back to the old WW2 movie costume of his. The Winter Soldier on the other hand, wow almost as similar as the comics.

James Buchanan Barnes a.k.a. the Winter Soldier, thought to be dead after WWII after falling off a plane became Russia's assassin and spy. He had many battles with Captain America before turning into a good guy years later.

James Buchanan Barnes a.k.a. the Winter Soldier, thought to be dead after WWII after falling off a plane became Russia’s assassin and spy. He had many battles with Captain America before turning into a good guy years later.

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THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR, Wrestler, Champion, Hall of Fame, Legend

Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI

Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI

Ultimate Warrior or James Brian Hellwig in real life (then legally changed his name to Warrior in real life) died 8th of April a few days after his appearance on WWE’s flagship show Monay Night Raw, his induction to the WWE Hall of Fame on Saturday (Sunday morning in the Philippines) and his final WrestleMania appearance (actually his first since WrestleMania 12), he was 54. I fondly remember watching him to television on Wednesday nights on IBC 13, him running through the ring, shaking the ropes, “absorbing” the power of his Warriors, in tune with a generic heavy metal musicand eventually having a short match. His impact in the sport (regardless of the wrong he has done to the WWE, WCW and his colleagues) were good enough to have a lasting impact in the Pro Wrestling business. His matches with Hulk Hogan (whom he had a falling out), Randy Savage, and Ravashing Rick Rude where legendary and to this day, I always believe that is match with Hogan at WrestleMania 6 is the greatest main event not only in WrestleMania history but also in WWE History. Eventhough there are memories that I’d rather forget like his return bout with Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1998 or him being a douche to others I will always remember Warrior for being on of the most electrifying man to enter the squared circle, his record time watch with the Honky Tonk Man in the 88 SummerSlam, the match that made me cry when I was a kid which is WrestleMania VI wherein Warrior beat Hogan for the WWF/WWE Championship, his matches with Randy “Macho Man” Savage and of course those incoherent ramblings that is called a promo or interview in wrestling. Thank you Jim, Warrior or the Ultimate Warrior.

It seems Hogan and Warrior buried the hatchet

It seems Hogan and Warrior buried the hatchet

pictures taken from Marvel Database, No DQ, IMDB, NY Post