Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lebron James, Kevin Durant head to the finals and Derrick Rose waits

“Don’t you forget about me. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t…don’t you forget about me. As you walk on by, will you call my name?”

Lyric from: Don’t You (Forget About Me) from the album The Breakfast Club Soundtrack
Written By: Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff
Performed by: Simple Minds

Derrick Rose Photo Courtesy of Gary Dineen/Getty Images

The 2012 NBA Finals begin tonight and the matchup is guaranteed to thrill us silly. Two young, athletic teams pitting the reigning, three-time MVP against the reigning, three-time scoring champion and we can’t wait. Nearly all sports talk has turned to Heat vs. Thunder, James vs. Durant-which team has the edge and which star is the better closer.
I wonder if Derrick Rose will be watching.
Remember him?
If I had talked to you at the beginning of this season about one of the NBA’s young stars, motivated to get to the Finals with a void that only a championship could fill, yes, I could have been talking about Bron Bron or KD. But I just as likely may have been talking about Derrick Rose.
Rose was named MVP last season becoming the youngest player to do so and the second Chicago Bulls player to earn the honor along with Michael Jordan. His jersey in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals vs. Miami, however, may as well have been updated to read Bulls-eye after he became the defensive assignment of Miami's number 6, which effectively shut down Chicago’s best scoring option and masterfully disrupted the flow of their offense.

The Bulls then exited playoff stage right.
Rip Hamilton was added in the offseason to solve for that and spread the floor but we hardly got a glimpse of what good that did since he and Rose were injured most of the season and rarely seen on the floor at the same time. The Bulls still finished the season with the best record in the east.

But what happened next is almost too painful to type.

Rose tore his ACL in garbage time in Game 1 of the playoffs, not to be seen in action again until the 2012-2013 season.
I have always been intrigued by the hierarchy of playoff heartbreak.

In the absence of a championship, is there a sweet spot for a loss?

If no one thought your team would make it to the playoffs in the first place, how well do you stomach a first round exit?

If your team makes it to the Finals and loses does that hurt more or less than if your team would have just lost in the 2nd round?

And when an injury ends your team’s run does it compound the gloomy look back at what could have been?
This year’s NBA playoffs held some high stakes for some high profile stars. Dirk could have repeated. Kobe could have tied Jordan. Duncan could have tied Kobe. Melo could have gotten his first and, Pierce, Allen, Rondo and Garnett might have enjoyed a championship swan song. That said, all of these guys are done now as is Rose but in the playoffs, as in life, my guess is that it is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.
And watching your top-seeded team, from a seat in the owner’s box, labor through a first round matchup without you, ultimately losing to an eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers squad is definitely a no love situation.
It’s also a not so subtle reminder about the fragility of a championship run.
Much has been made of the Thunder and their potential to become the NBA’s next great dynasty. If that is to be the case, the journey starts tonight. They are young and have two of their “big four”, Durant and Westbrook, already signed to extensions.

James and Bosh joined Wade in South Beach two years ago and promised the city more championships than they could count on one hand. They had a chance to get the first one, the one for the index finger, last year and fell short.
That’s the thing about chances, they come and they go. They look good and then they don’t. Dynasty talk is talk of the future. Winning a championship is best served with laser focus in the present.
I’m sure Derrick Rose would agree since sometimes it happens that guys are healthy and then they’re not.
When this season began, Rose’s Bulls were a good pick to win the east. When these playoffs began, Rose was a star to watch. When Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs ended, Rose was off of our radars, sent home with our well wishes and prayers for a speedy recovery.
He knows all too well of how quickly things change. With two stable, healthy knees, Derrick Rose might have been part of our NBA Finals conversation. Cut that number in half and his season is again remembered in one familiar footnote…maybe next year.
And when these Finals end either James or Durant’s season will be summarized with that exact same footnote.
So...let the Finals begin.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jamal Lewis latest athlete to go bankrupt, problem more complex than frivolous spending

“Did you ever think that you would be this rich? Did you ever think that you would have these hits? Did you ever think that you would be the don? Have a crib with a 50 acre lawn?”

Lyric from: Did you Ever Think from the album R.
Written By: Curtis Mayfield, Robert Kelly, Jean Claude Olivier and Samuel Barnes
Performed by: R. Kelly

Jamal Lewis, Photo Courtesy of Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

Jamal Lewis, the former University of Knoxville, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns running back filed for bankruptcy in April listing $14.5 million in assets and $10.6 million in debts. Yesterday his pending bankruptcy hearing was postponed.

Today, this article in the Baltimore Sun gives us some insight into the lifestyle that landed Lewis in this predicament.
With that filing, Lewis becomes the latest in a long line of former athletes who have fallen into the money pit and can’t get up. The pit drives the illusion that millions of dollars will always be millions of dollars, no financial planning or reasonable decision making necessary.  
This year alone we’ve read court documents that say Allen Iverson owes a jeweler more than $850,000 and listened as Terrell Owens told Dr. Phil that he can no longer make his child support payments. Next year, the names will be different but the headline will be the same- star athlete spends frivolously, loses millions; now bankrupt.
But here’s the thing about being the latest in a long line…the line is long and it’s full of lessons. Why not choose to learn from those who have gone before you. Why not learn from Travis Henry that multiple mouths to feed in multiple households can get very expensive. And talk to Scottie Pippen about how buying an unnecessary status symbol such as a jet can quickly turn into the worst investment, and worst idea, ever.
Each new chapter 7 filed by a well known athlete revives the discussion around why this happens at all. We look at the number of houses, cars and children in each instance and think we have it figured out. We want agents, business managers and management across the leagues to take a more active role in counseling young athletes on the dangers of new money. We understand that some guys simply get swindled out of their money and we are sympathetic to that.

My guess is, though, that most of the cases of broke athletes likely have to do with the fact that poverty is a mentality and that mentality makes a lasting impression even with millions in the bank.
This isn’t Jamal’s first cry for help. In 2004 news surfaced that he had been caught in a drug trafficking sting and had been charged with conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine. He ultimately reached a plea agreement and served just four months in federal prison.  When the news broke I remember thinking why would a guy making millions of dollars try to broker a deal to start a cocaine ring.
Poverty mentality.
There are varying factors that may trigger the poverty mentality in an individual but the results are always the same-a perceived sense of lack drives your decision making. And because you are making decisions from a place of lack, you ultimately reinforce an impoverished existence. Guys go pro, get paid and promptly buy as much as they can to relieve the shame of their poverty and end up broke. And in the biggest illogical twist possible to this scenario, even though they hate being broke, they’re comfortable with it. 
It’s the same type of confusing psychology of comfort that drives a person who grew up with a parent who abused drugs to use drugs, a person who was physically abused as a child to physically abuse their own children and a person who hated their alcoholic ex-spouse to get remarried to an alcoholic. Familiarity at its worst.
Reread my last two paragraphs over and over again and this theory still might not make sense and that’s why solving the riddle of the athlete who goes broke is far more complicated than simply sending him to a few financial management courses right after he signs his contract. In fact, their motivation to make it to the pros is usually rooted in the desire to escape poverty, to rise above the ashes of ghetto turmoil. And so asking a guy to believe that he no longer has to carry that chip of destitution on his shoulder is like asking him to become a new person.
Ask Jamal what happened and he will likely say he went bankrupt because he bought a lot of stuff that he can no longer afford now that his days in the NFL are done. Most people will say he’s right. And with that delusion, the next athlete in line for bankruptcy will not have learned from Jamal’s mistakes because he will never have been taught the real lesson.