Cleveland: The Haven of Hope

Photo is courtesy of Curt Ashcraft

Written by: Jon Bozeka (@JonBozeka) & Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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In downtown Cleveland there is a sign that hangs alone along an old brick building that reads, “We Have Faith, in Cleveland.” If you would’ve asked Clevelanders about faith four years ago, they may’ve not been singing that tune. Sure, faith has always existed in Cleveland. But with a certain someone returning home to Northeast Ohio, hope has reestablished itself within those that call Cleveland home. There is no doubt that LeBron James has brought excitement back to this blue-collar part of the world.

 

Jon Bozeka and Curt Ashcraft spent a day walking in an everyday Clevelander’s shoes and they were able to experience what that faith and hope can do for a city and its people.

 

We set out to find out what makes up a true Clevelander. We didn’t know what we would hear or whom we would see, but we discovered that a Clevelander is an individual that has been through it all. From the steel worker and the bitter sports fan to the bartender on East 4th, they have all endured their own hardships and glory. Passion is not given, it is earned. After the roller coaster that Cleveland has experienced since 2010, it has many stories to tell.

 

Photo is courtesy of Jon Bozeka

Take the typical Cleveland family. A mother, a father and a son have all seen the city through different eyes. While out enjoying their day in the city, they come across a t-shirt truck that catches their eye. As the family ganders at shirts of forgiveness, Johnny Football, and the blessing that Cleveland isn’t Detroit, they have each found a different sign of hope.

 

As we discussed the latest decision with these folks, one thing was made clear; they all had a different opinion. While the wife is simply happy for the city, the husband still thinks there is work to be done. He goes on to tell us that while having LeBron is cool, nothing is for certain until the title comes home. The husband was of the mindset that even though he wasn’t happy after LeBron’s departure, he understood that business is business.

 

As we continued to talk to this Clevelander, we realized that he embodies what that spirit is all about. He believes that championships in Cleveland will lead to a domino effect and he’s even getting pumped for Cleveland Gladiators Arena Football. This man grabs on to any slice of potential he can find and it shows how Cleveland has excitement and frustration all in one package.

 

We then took a stroll down East 9th and found ourselves in Browns country. At the corner of Lakeside & East 9th, there stood a hotdog vendor, an ice cream vendor and an underground t-shirt salesman just waiting to give their next sales pitch. They approached us while we passed by, and we found topics of conversation with each individual.

 

Photo is courtesy of Jon Bozeka

The hotdog vendor, who proudly wore his Chicago Bulls hat, spoke loudly of his experiences with the public. The ice cream guy in his San Francisco Giants cap decided to tell us how it is. We now affectionately refer to them as Jekyll & Hyde because the ice cream vendor was high on his city and its future while the hot dog fella told us of customer displeasures with LeBron & Johnny Manziel. Then there were Jason and Dee of “Witness Forgiveness” Clothing that both sang the same tune. They both believed that LeBron brought hope back to the city and created their title t-shirt soon after the announcement. One of the founders, Jason, hopes James will bring a title back to Cleveland. It may be a lot to ask, but this common pattern is what has fueled this city for decades.

 

While we have talked a lot about hope, LeBron has done more than that. Above all else, he is providing a helping hand to his beloved city. We had the chance to speak with many different service professionals during our day, but it all started at Flannerys Pub while enjoying a cold brew.

 

Photo is courtesy of Jon Bozeka

Our bartender, Natalie, was exactly what we were expecting. She was a young, positive and outgoing person looking to help her customers. We simply asked her what her day was like when LBJ decided to come back. To which she replied, “We were f-ing slammed!” She then went on to explain that there has been a positive atmosphere in the air since that special day.
The resurgence of positive energy didn’t stop there.

 

Photo is courtesy of Jon Bozeka

At the other end of East 4th Street, in the Cleveland Clothing Company, a young college student was also experiencing the effects of the King’s return. A junior at Cleveland State University, Sam spoke of the hardships in her beloved hometown. From the high murder rate to soaring unemployment, she felt that Cleveland had lost its way. During her second week on the job, Sam experienced the turnaround. While folding t-shirts and stocking shelves, she heard of LeBron’s return and watched the streets fill with joy. With the added fans attending that night’s Tribe game, Cleveland Clothing Company couldn’t stock their shelves fast enough. Their latest product, welcoming home LeBron, sold out on pre-sale orders alone.

 

We have spoken much about the new found hope and excitement that has filled the city, but it isn’t all candy canes and rainbows filling the hearts of Cleveland’s own.

 

We continued along East 4th as we conversed with a guitarist playing for tips. Adam, a Cleveland-native, hasn’t forgiven LeBron for his first exit and probably never will. The musician is happy for his hometown, but for reasons that he kept to himself, his dislike is made clear for Northeast Ohio’s chosen one.

 

We ended the night at The Harry Buffalo. Known as a quality sports bar/restaurant, it’s not too far from the Q. We experienced great food, good times, and some interesting comments from the crew. Our waitress, Jillian, did a phenomenal job taking care of our order and putting up with our questions. Jillian shared the same beliefs as our bartender at Flannery’s. She spoke of the copious amounts of people flocking to the downtown district each and every weekend since the announcement. Jillian was working the lunch shift when LeBron announced his return and she was almost in disbelief. All of a sudden, the restaurant filled to capacity and celebration was underway.

 

Earlier, we spoke of LeBron’s helping hand in this community. This helping hand may have impacted Jillian the most. From an economical and financial side of things, Jillian can now pay her apartment’s rent in just a matter of two shifts. Take a moment and reflect on what you just read. Can you even imagine paying a month’s rent in two shifts as a waitress? It may seem like a dream, but in Cleveland that’s reality.

 

As we wrapped up our night, a man from the back came up to us and introduced himself as Fig. Fig is another server at The Harry Buffalo and even more importantly, he is the guy we had been searching for all day. Fig was born in East Cleveland and then made his way to Bay Village where he became the man he is today. He has experienced struggle and witnessed all aspects of Cleveland’s society. He talked to us like old friends and told us that he was your typical sour LeBron fan, repeatedly comparing LBJ to a bad ex-girlfriend. When the idea of LeBron coming home became more and more of a reality, Fig began to look at it in a new light. As a tried and true Clevelander, Fig believes that there is now unity in Cleveland.

 

Photo is courtesy of Jon Bozeka

It is safe to say that we witnessed all kinds during our journey. From a middle-class family to a college student trying to find her way, one thing resonated above all else: hope has officially restored itself in the blocks of this rustbelt city. Four years ago, a writer referred to Cleveland as “Believeland” and while that may have been true back then, one can’t say the same today. Cleveland is no longer that city. There is still a lot to believe in, but now there is hope that it actually will happen.

Dream Team or Nightmare?

Photo by John Locher/Associated Press/http://www.nytimes.com/ Written by: Elijah Gonzalez (@abajo14)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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On Friday August 1st, basketball fans witnessed NBA star Paul George go down with one of the most gruesome injuries since Kevin Ware and Joe Theismann.

This injury occurred in a USA Blue vs. White Scrimmage to help prepare the team for the upcoming FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Spain. The winner of this tournament will get an automatic bid to the 2016 Olympic games. George’s severely fractured leg, however, will keep the Pacers’ All-Star not only out of the rest of international play this season, but it is expected that he will miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season.

Paul George’s injury sparks a debate that will continue for years to come. Who should USA Basketball send to international play, pros or college all-stars? While both sides have very valid points, I strongly believe that USA Basketball should send the NBA professionals to international play.

Professional athletes have played in international basketball tournaments for a while now. The 1992 Olympic Dream Team, one of the best teams to ever be assembled in any sport, was a group of NBA All-Stars who played for their country and dominated the rest of the world.

The American talent in the NBA includes the best basketball players in the world. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, James Harden, Stephen Curry and the list goes on and on. Most of these players will suit up in the 2016 Olympics, and they will put on a show that will more than likely lead the United States to yet another gold medal.

When the NBA players put on that USA Basketball uniform they feel it is an honor. They know how much our country takes pride in our basketball, and know that anything less than a gold medal is a disappointment.

Think about the 2004 Olympics in Greece. The USA team had Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and oh, just a guy named LeBron James. That team was a great basketball team. However, think about how disappointed our country was when we only won the bronze medal in those Olympics.

If we have the best, why not send the best? If we can prove that we are the best basketball country in the world by fielding a team of NBA All-Stars, why should they be denied the right to represent their country in international tournaments.

You don’t see soccer countries like Germany, Brazil, and Argentina not sending their best talent to the World Cup. Those players are also making millions of dollars playing for their clubs in elite leagues around the world.

Of course, we are only having this argument because of the injury to Paul George. This was a freak injury and I understand you can say it would not have happened if he was not playing in a meaningless exhibition game. However, that injury could have happened in a pickup game during the off-season, or even in an NBA game during this upcoming season. Teams can only protect these players to a certain extent. The Pacers, who may struggle to make the playoffs without George, said in their statement that they are in full support of USA Basketball and that they know that George’s injury could have happened anytime and anywhere.

Kevin Ware, a former player for the University of Louisville, had this same injury a few years back in the NCAA Tournament. After he recovered, Ware transferred to Georgia State and will most likely finish his basketball career at that university. Because Ware was not quite the same player he was before the injury, Louisville decided to move on and find new players to replace Ware while he was rehabbing.

While it is horrible to see Paul George down and out with this injury, the fact that he is a pro will help him because the Pacers will give him plenty of time to rehab, and because he is guaranteed a contract, he will still have a spot on an NBA team when he finishes his rehab.

Let’s look at the other side of this argument. Why should pros play? The college athletes that play at the major universities in America are some of the best amateur athletes that any country has to offer. These athletes are not paid professionals. They are still in school getting an education and playing the game they love without the worry of money.

Take a minute and think about one of the greatest upsets in American sports history, the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid. The USA Hockey team defeated the all mighty Soviet Union team, who was more talented and more experienced than that American team. The underdog USA team was full of college kids that created something special.

The pro athletes that are competing in these international competitions are risking injury by playing all these extra, highly competitive international games. This is a big risk for NBA teams who pay millions of dollars for these players. However, if you put amateur athletes in these competitions, these million dollar NBA All-Stars are not risking injury, and allow the pros to go through a regular and less rigorous offseason. Also, the college kids get a chance to show the world what they can do.

While I understand why some people want to see college athletes return to the international stage, I still believe that NBA players should continue to play in these international games.

As a basketball fan, I really enjoy seeing these pros come together and create teams that are so incredibly talented and a real sight to watch.

Not only am I proud for our county to look at that podium at the end of the Olympics and say that we are the best country in the world, but for these All-Stars, it is an honor to stand up there and put that gold medal around their neck.

These professionals are grown men. They have families they take care of, and it is my belief that these guys can decide on their own if it is right to compete in international competition. They know what is best for their careers.

What people also don’t realize is that these athletes who are not playing for team USA would be playing in pickup games and going through the same workout routines that they are during international season.

To be the best, you have to send the best, and for a country like the United States, who takes pride in the sport of basketball, why not show the world that we have the talent to prove that we are the best.

[polldaddy poll=8235395]

The Cleveland Column: July 2014

Photo is courtesy of http://216sportsblog.weebly.com/ Written by: JP Lococo (@jp_lococo)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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After a long hiatus, the Cleveland Column is back and better than ever. The last time I wrote solely about Cleveland sports, the Cavs were making a feeble attempt at making the playoffs, the Indians were just kicking off the season and the Browns were prepping for the unknowns to come in the draft (those unknowns became the phenomenon of Johnny Football). A lot has happened in the last couple of months and I think it is time I put some thoughts to paper. Enough of the intro talk, let's get down to meat of this month, shall we?

Browns

Photo is courtesy of http://standingosports.com/

If there is one thing we have learned in the past month and a half from the Browns, it's that Johnny Manziel will not be be kept out of the news. Since he was drafted, "Money Manziel" has been a constant in the off the field headlines. From the bathroom picture of Manziel rolling up money, to his hanging out with Justin Bieber on the weekends, he has managed to stay in the spotlight.

The big question everyone wants answered, including the Browns, is will it effect his on-the-field play? Only time will tell but there are signs of acknowledgement of some prior "rookie mistakes" Manziel has made.

"I made some rookie mistakes," Manziel said last Friday. "There were some things I wish I could have gone back and done a little differently, but I'm continuing to move forward and try and represent this organization and this team in a positive manner and a positive light."

As for Manziel's competitor, Brian Hoyer, he on the other hand was receiving some high praises from All-Pro Guard Joe Thomas, whom had some statements that rung through the league this week.

Thomas went on to state, "I think it's that (Hoyer's) attitude and that swagger that demands respect. And, he also goes and backs it up out on the field. He throws the ball to the right person. He's doing things and getting everybody on the same page. That's just as much the role of a quarterback as throwing touchdown passes."

Again, time will tell with this competition but it seems as if it's Hoyer's job to lose this year.

As for Josh Gordon, he's still screwed. Gordon is currently in ongoing hearings on his case

Indians

The Indians currently stand 3 games out of the last wildcard spot in the AL with their  56-55 record. The race is going to be tight these last couple of weeks with the top 6 teams separated by less than 5 games.

Sounds okay right? Win 3-4 in a row and you are right there with 4 weeks remaining in the season. Unfortunately, that is proving hard for the Indians at the moment. They are 3-7 in their last ten and sit over 6 games out of the division. Let's be honest, you can write that title off as Detroit simply has too much this year.

So, what direction does the Tribe take now? Well the first of perhaps a couple dominoes fell this week when the Indians dealt Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals. In return, the club received 24-year-old outfielder James Ramsey, a former first-round draft choice who will report to Triple-A Columbus.

"I was surprised it took place," Masterson said, "but I understand and see it. It's bittersweet."

The big right hander has been a consistent go-to over the past four seasons for the Tribe but after a 4-6 record and 5.51 ERA in 19 starts this year, the Indians front office decided to move him now rather than wait. In all reality, it was unlikely that Masterson was going to re-sign with the Tribe at seasons end so for the front office to turn him into a young, up and coming prospect in Ramsey, perhaps only a year away from the bigs, is a good deal.

Unfortunately, this goes back to the same ole story with the Indians. Lot's of young talent to develop and then never able to hold onto them long-term. Sure, maybe Masterson doesn't get back to where he was last season. But what about Scott Kazmir? This season he is 12-4 with a 2.53 ERA for Oakland. This is someone who the Tribe desperately needs in times and situations like the one they are in now. The time to engage into deep conversation about the Dolan Family and their commitment is for another time, but this situation was worth noting.

Cavaliers

Photo by Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports/http://www.rantsports.com/

Is there a better story in sports right now other than the Cavs? You'd be hard pressed to find one. Since I have last written on Cleveland sports, the Cavs missed the playoffs, somehow landed the number one pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, picked Andrew Wiggins with that pick and then received news of LeBron James returning home. There truly must be a sports God looking over the city because to have all of that happen in the matter of a couple months is down right unrealistic. But it happened and now the City and Cavaliers are back.

So, what's next? Finalizing a trade to bring in Kevin Love to Cleveland seems to be priority number one. Unfortunately, sources have cited that the Cavs must include Andrew Wiggins in the trade to make it happen. It has been known for a while that Love was looking to take his talents elsewhere but not until this weekend have we heard anything from inside the Timberwolve's organization.

"I'm saying it's most likely because Kevin has made it pretty clear that that's what he wants to do," Wolves owner Glen Taylor told the Pioneer Press over the weekend.

I find it almost comical that some people still don't want to trade Wiggins. I get asked a lot what I think about the options Cleveland has in front of them and in my eyes, there is only one thing to do; trade what you must to bring in Kevin Love.

Let's cover the facts quickly. Last season Love averaged over 26 PPG and 12.5 rebounds while also shooting almost 46% from the field. He is a 3-time All-Star and twice named to the All NBA Second Team. If you can make a trade happen to land him, then you simply do it.

In saying all that, I am also not suggesting to get Love at all cost; at least not right now. It's important to remember that Cleveland has the leverage and they should act as so. Love making public comments about his wishes definitely doesn't hurt either. Cleveland is familiar with this position as they were in similar shoes as Minnesota just 4 summers ago when LeBron was leaving town. They opted to wait things out. This is something Minnesota will not be willing to do because they must maximize the situation by obtaining as many assets as possible. Bottom line, Love will be traded and it's only a matter of when.

It's fair to keep hope that the Cavs and Wolves may be able to work out a deal without Wiggins, but it also still may be foolish. You'd like to a see a young talent like Wiggins develop under the watchful eyes of LBJ instead of the situation in Minnesota but at the end of the day this is a business and Cleveland will do what they can to provide LBJ with an All-Star supporting cast.

The next month of Cleveland sports should prove even more interesting than the last. When will Kevin Love be dealt and what will the deal look like? Can the Indians make a late surge and climb into the playoffs again? Will the Johnny Manziel buzz die? I look forward to watching it all unfold.

Want to add some additional thoughts or predictions for next month? Feel free to comment below!

Is the Loss of Wiggins Worth the Price of Love?

Photo is courtesy of http://www.ballerstatus.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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It has been just over a week since LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers and to no one’s surprise; his control is already taking shape. According to multiple rumors from the basketball world, the Cavs have been looking to make Cleveland a better home for the King by dealing for Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. The combination of James, Love and Kyrie Irving has “The New Big 3” written all over it and even though Minnesota has made it clear that the deal will only be considered if Cleveland’s #1 pick, Andrew Wiggins, is included in the trade, the Cavs have been reluctant to make him available, or have they?

 

Over the last few days, reports have come out that Cleveland is now willing to include Wiggins in a trade for Love. Some say this is fact while others say this is fiction, but seriously, does anyone really know? Cleveland’s General Manager, David Griffin, has coveted Andrew Wiggins while LeBron has spoke personally to K-Love about the idea of playing together. Reporters and “experts” can debunk or back up this rumor all they want, but to me, the only thing that matters is if the trade makes sense.

 

To be honest, I have gone back and forth on this topic. At first, I was 100% against trading a potential future NBA super-star like Andrew Wiggins. At the young age of 19, the Kansas Jayhawk product turned heads in college with his incredible athleticism and has already put the NBA on watch during his summer league performances. I love the idea of Wiggins growing into his own around proven stars like Irving and James, but since he is so young and unproven, none of us truly know what he will be.

 

My mind takes me back to a couple of months ago. As soon as the Cavaliers won the Draft Lottery, my first thought was to trade the pick and get Kevin Love. The Cavs had been trying to acquire Love for some time now and since the #1 pick was going to be either Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, it seemed like a can’t miss offer. Now, I understand that a pre-draft trade never happened and the whole point of getting Love was to entice LeBron to come home, but if we fast forward to today, LeBron is already back and now Cleveland has Wiggins.

 

Since Cleveland was willing to trade the #1 pick for Kevin Love, knowing that it would probably be Wiggins, what makes the difference now? The Cavs would’ve technically been trading a young and raw Wiggins for a 25 year-old super-star in Kevin Love anyways if the trade had been done before the draft! Don’t get me wrong, Wiggins’ potential is through the roof and he very well could be the next face of the NBA, but when there is an opportunity to add a guy that posted over 26 points and 12 rebounds per game last season and he wants to sign a contract extension, you look at your team as a whole and realize that your time is now.

 

It took me some time, but I am now all for including Andrew Wiggins in the trade for Kevin Love. Since the offer has reportedly been made, this trade could take place at any time, so, what do you think? Would you trade Wiggins for Love or would you keep Wiggins and build for the distant future? Let us know in the poll below and regardless of what happens, I think this off-season has already been a tremendous win for the wine & gold.

[polldaddy poll=8195633]

Scott Hamilton: Local Hero – Sports Legend

Photo is courtesy of http://www.jimmyv.org/ Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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For those of you that don’t already know, and I’m guessing that’s not very many of you, LeBron James has officially returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers. As a result, it is my duty to pay up on a bet with fellow Our Sports Report writer, Curt Ashcraft.

You see, since we here at Our Sports Report make up an elite group of sports bloggers who actually DON’T live in their parents’ basements, we don’t have the cash to throw at betting on sports. However, we do have humiliation and discomfort to use as currency. As is such, I have the distinct honor of writing about a sport that I know virtually nothing about…figure skating. And since I’ve watched almost no figure skating in the last fifteen years (it’s been a long time since I didn’t have control of the remote), I must write about the only name I can really remember…Scott Hamilton.

Scott Hamilton is one of those lesser known sports legends that are rarely brought up in conversations of athletic greatness. He is similar to Lance Armstrong in that he beat testicular cancer. However, unlike Lance Armstrong, Hamilton is actually a good person and not a worthless pile of human waste.

At any rate, Hamilton grew up in lowly Bowling Green, OH and rose to become an Olympic and World Champion figure skater. Could he have picked a manlier sport? Sure. But when you come in at just around five feet tall and barely tip the scales at one hundred pounds, hockey isn’t a realistic option.

Now before you think I’m picking on Hamilton, I’m not. Hamilton overcame a serious childhood illness that stunted his growth. That’s right, Hamilton overcame two things that could’ve killed him, not just one. Eat that Lance Armstrong.

Now, there is one signature move that Hamilton made famous. This move was so deadly that it was banned from competitions (perhaps the liability insurance was too high for the International Olympic Committee to justify the premiums). This epic move was the back-flip. Before Hamilton came along and flipped this sport upside down, nobody was brave enough to even try it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRPzdTyBufo

I don’t care what sort of competition you are in, be it football, lumber-jacking, whatever…how many of you can say that you revolutionized a sport? Very few people can legitimately say that.

Not only did Hamilton greatly change the sport of figure skating, but he has also been a great supporter of the Special Olympics, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Now the peak of Hamilton’s career occurred mostly before I was born, but I must say that if I’d have known more about this guy, I might have paid a little more attention to the sport while I was growing up. It’s nice to look at an athlete and see a quality person instead of the egotistical jerks we have grown so accustomed to these days.

So, Scott Hamilton, all of us here at Our Sports Report salute you. You are truly one of a kind!

In other news, we will no longer be plugging a wiffle ball tournament at the bottom of our posts. So for those of you that were growing a little tired of such things, this is your day.

Finally, LeBron Takes his Talents Back to Cleveland

Photo is courtesy of http://thebarking.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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Four years ago when LeBron James decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, the city of Cleveland was in absolute disarray. Cleveland had been so close so many times to bringing home a championship, but it never happened. Their greatest shot at winning a title just took his talents to South Beach and even though Dan Gilbert’s letter felt good for a little while, the chances of Cleveland getting that close to a NBA title ever again were pretty slim to none.

 

Then, within the last three weeks, the dominoes were beginning to come up wine & gold. James opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat and then the speculation started to kick up in a hurry. Teams like Houston, Phoenix, New York and Los Angeles were thrown into the ring as potential suitors, but we all knew in our heart of hearts that the “decision” was coming down to Miami or Cleveland. The “Big 3” wanted to stay together in Miami, but the pull of coming home was too much for LeBron as he decided to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers just a few short hours ago.

 

He released his decision in an essay to SI.com and of everything he said, it was the drive of winning a title back home that brought him to his latest choice. "Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It's where I walked. It's where I ran. It's where I cried. It's where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I'm their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can," said James in his essay.

 

As a Cavs fan and a fan of basketball, I will admit that I was devastated when LeBron bolted for Miami four years ago. As he collected a couple of titles down in South Beach, it was obvious that LeBron had made the right decision and I wasn’t upset with him for leaving anymore, just how he left. That is all in the past now and I am happy that he is back in Cleveland, but I wasn’t the only one that felt that way.

 

In his extremely well written first-person letter, LeBron stated that, "My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now." Looking back on it now, how could we expect him to realize that? James was only 25 years old back in 2010 and not only did he have the city of Cleveland in the palm of his hand, but he also had the weight of it on his shoulders.

 

The city, the team, the economy and the society were all-in on this kid from Akron. For his entire life, LeBron has been about nothing but basketball. To him, that is all there was and after growing as a person, player, businessman and family man during his time in Miami, LeBron finally realizes that Northeast Ohio is where he needs to be and I think LeBron is finally the man that Northeast Ohio wanted him to be four years ago.

 

Whether Cavalier fans want to admit it or not, we all wanted LeBron back. We missed the days of expecting a trip to the NBA Finals and were tired of hoping for a .500 season. It has definitely been a rough last four years and even though the last few weeks haven’t been good to my blood pressure, the fact of the matter is that LeBron James is no longer a kid from Akron, but more like a man on a mission as he heads back to Cleveland in pursuit of a hometown title.

NBA On Hold Until LeBron Makes Decision

Photo is courtesy of http://thesportscrave.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Neil Brown (@downtowneil)

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It truly amazes me how one person can control the future landscape of their sport based on one decision. Football or baseball doesn’t really have that one person, but basketball does and his name is LeBron James. When LeBron opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat just a couple of weeks ago, the speculation started to grow and is now shear madness. From the “Big 3” returning to Miami to LeBron joining Melo in New York and even the King coming home to Cleveland, this latest decision for LeBron is putting the NBA on hold and has ever free agent out there sitting on the edge of their seat.

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers made a significant salary-cap move today as they unloaded Jarrett Jack & Sergey Karasev on the Brooklyn Nets while Tyler Zeller and a protected first round pick for 2016 headed to the Boston Celtics. Wiggins, Irving, Waiters, Bennett and Thompson (all Top-5 Picks in the last four years) still call Cleveland home and they now have enough cap space to bring James back to Cleveland. There are other big time free agents available like Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza, but they are all waiting to see what LeBron ends up doing.

 

Bosh may go to Houston, Anthony could be headed to L.A., Gasol might take his talents to Oklahoma City and for goodness sake, there is a chance that Wade becomes a Milwaukee Buck. All of these rumors are nice to think about, but none of us really know. No one will truly know what happens with these players until LeBron makes his decision, and just like their future, nobody really knows where LeBron is headed either.

 

A few months back, I stated that the only person in control of LeBron is LeBron. Besides having the NBA in the palm of his hand, LeBron has made it clear that he will do what is best for his career, his future and most importantly, his family. Something tells me that LeBron actually made his decision a few weeks ago, but if teams were trying to court you to their team again, wouldn’t you want to listen?

 

If the “experts” are correct, LeBron’s decision will come by the end of the week and his top choices are down to Miami and Cleveland. I personally don’t know LeBron or anybody close to him for that matter, but with what Miami and Cleveland pull off today, I have a feeling that it will make LeBron’s decision that much easier. The Cavaliers made the first move as they cleared the cap space to bring LeBron home and now it is Pat Riley’s turn. At around 3 PM PST tonight, LeBron will meet with Pat Riley in Las Vegas to hear what he has to say. Riley is one of the best salesmen the NBA has ever seen, but will his words be enough to bring LeBron back to Miami? The best and worst part of it all is that nobody really knows.

 

LeBron James could probably announce his decision today, but he won’t. LeBron is a businessman and he is willing to take all the time he needs to make the right choice. It may seem a bit much to say LeBron has complete power over the NBA, but since LeBron’s choice is effecting the future destinations of Bosh, Wade and Melo, wouldn’t you call that complete power and control as well?

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Why the Champion Spurs Are the Last of Their Kind

Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo/http://www.pressdemocrat.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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Over the last couple of weeks, we were able to witness one of the sweetest redemptions between “good” and “evil”. No, I am not talking about Batman finally getting the best of the Joker or even Spiderman defeating the Green Goblin, I am talking about the San Antonio Spurs taking down the Miami Heat in fives games to become the 2014 NBA Champions. I know, the “evil” tag placed on the Heat may be a little harsh, but ever since LeBron took his talents to South Beach, there has been nothing but scrutiny for the King. As sweet as it was for most of the country to see the Heat go down, the dominance by the Spurs to win this year’s title meant a lot more in today’s NBA than it has in years past.

 

I know I may be a little late to the party when it comes to the Spurs, but let me explain. We currently live in a world where AAU Basketball has transcended the NBA. The best of the best middle school to high school prospects grow up having a chance to play with each other on these “super” teams and become best pals. Even if they don’t play with one another, LeBron James playing against Carmelo Anthony still cemented a friendship that holds true to this day. The NBA has become a league where everybody loves everybody and the superstars want to play with their buddies. The Spurs could’ve taken that route, but luckily for San Antonio, smart management didn’t buy their big three and NBA titles, it produced it.

 

For a good portion of the season and the play-offs, four of the starting five for the Spurs were all draft picks and originals. The Spurs drafted Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter, while Cleveland considered Danny Green a bust until he showed up in San Antonio. Even during the finals when Popovich changed up the starting line-up, it was to play Boris Diaw who was seen as a cancer throughout the league until Pop gave him a shot. Other key role players such as Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Matt Bonner and Marco Belinelli were either drafted by San Antonio or scooped up from the NBA’s bargain bin. No disrespect to the Spurs, but this championship team was built through the draft along with a bunch of rejects and I truly believe that you will never see that again.

 

Throughout the 80’s & early 90’s, the NBA was pretty much ruled by the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls. Each team drafted around their superstar in Magic, Bird and Jordan and added some key pieces along the way. They never thought about playing with each other because they enjoyed beating the crap out of one another so much. When LeBron left Cleveland, Michael Jordan was one of the first people to criticize him for heading to Miami to play with his superstar best friends. There is nothing wrong with that, but that just shows how the NBA is changing. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili may have not been besties when they were drafted, but San Antonio brought in the right guys to make it all work. In today’s NBA, it is all about winning rings, while 20 to 30 years ago, it was all about who you beat to win those rings.

 

With AAU & friendships wanting to share the court, you will begin to see many more Miami Heats and far fewer San Antonio Spurs teams. People say that change is a good thing, and I would have to agree, but that doesn’t mean we can’t respect the past and what it did for the future. The Spurs brought the past back to the present for a brief taste of victory. Hold onto it folks, because we may never see it again.

 

Also, a friendly reminder to join us on July 5th for the 2014 ‘Our Sports Report’ Wiffle Ball Summer Classic in lovely Fredericktown, Ohio. For more information on playing in or sponsoring the tournament, PLEASE CLICK HERE! Hope to see you on July 5th!

LeBron’s Leading Liability

Photo by GREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES/http://www.orlandosentinel.com/ Written by: Jon Bozeka (@JonBozeka)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740) & Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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People often ask me where I was the night LeBron left Cleveland. Did you watch “The Decision” live on TV? I didn’t watch “The Decision” because I was at a Firestone High School theater production and had just finished the performance. I had a great performance that night too. I was thrilled after that night and then I was told that LBJ left town.

 

Amidst all of the riots in Cleveland and Akron, all of the jersey burnings and the malice shown towards a man that was once beloved, the one thing that stood out to me was his quote during “The Decision”. “In this fall, this is very tough, in this fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” (Courtesy of ESPN)

 

LeBron took his talents to South Beach and said he might win ten championships in his coming out party with Wade and Bosh, which seemed perfect. Even with all of that, for me it was still about the quote. LeBron taking his talents stuck with me. Why was I to believe that he would do any better in Miami? He had failed in Cleveland. He said he would bring a championship to the city by the lake and didn’t. He said he wouldn’t stop until he had brought that franchise a championship. It seemed as though he was meant to win in Cleveland and we were all witnesses to his greatness. Then he left….

 

In his first season with Miami, he lost to Dallas in the finals and was non-existent in that series. Cleveland felt joy in watching him lose. At the end of the strike shortened season, LeBron defeated the weaker Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals with a convincing 4-1 series victory. Then in 2013, he squeaked by the Spurs in seven games. Those three seasons in Miami resulted in two championships for LeBron, after which he was heralded the best player in the world.

 

Then we come to this summer. The 2014 NBA Finals brought a rematch of the Heat vs. the Spurs. The table was set for another great final and almost everyone was predicting another 7 game thriller. A thriller it was not, as the Spurs won 4-1. The Spurs dominated the Heat while LeBron was left to play one on five for most of the series. LeBron has played in a total of five NBA finals and has gone 2-3 in those appearances.

 

After his two championship victories, people were calling the Heat a dynasty. LeBron is still being compared to Jordan, and I still disagree with it all. Let me get something straight, I don’t hate LeBron. Being from Akron and loving the city more than just about anyone who lives there, it’s great to watch someone from the city succeed. He is still a sign of hope for the rubber city and shows that even a kid from Akron can make it big and live out their dreams. I suppose you are reading this now and saying, “Jon, make your point”.

Ok, well here it is. LeBron achieved two championships in Miami, but now four years later he is still the same player he was in 2010 with the Cavs when he ‘quit’ against Boston. Sure, he has two championships, but only once has he ever defeated a great team to earn a ring.

Was defeating Oklahoma City in 2012 really that big of an accomplishment? Did LeBron really do anything to contribute to that defeat? No. Here is the thing, when Jordan was at his best, EVERYONE knew he was going to win and no matter who was in his way, he was going to simply beat them. That was Jordan and that’s why he was the best player in the world.

LeBron won his titles and people call him the greatest in the world, but he still can’t finish or lead a charge when the going gets tough. I once heard it said that, “[LeBron is] a truly great talent, but can’t lead you out of a restaurant.” This individual had seen just about every game LeBron played in Cleveland. He was enamored by his talent, but said he lacked leadership. He could score and make plays like no one else could, but he didn’t have the ability to lead his team.

LeBron has ultimately gotten exactly what he wanted. He left Cleveland to win titles with Miami. Cleveland didn’t give him the pieces he needed to survive and he couldn’t lead a group of good NBA players to win. He needed a group of great players that were bought by Miami to win. He was always looked to for leadership in Cleveland and he couldn’t produce. Cleveland gave him all of the pieces he needed, bringing in experience and scorers, but he did nothing with it.

This year was more of the same and while LeBron scored the most points for the Heat in each game, leadership isn’t about points. It’s about what you do to keep your guys focused while keeping them motivated when the going gets tough. In those moments LeBron would simply become disgusted and did nothing to excite his teammates to make a comeback.

Miami has gone from the championship city where help was always there for LeBron, to now looking just like Cleveland. Talent has repeatedly surrounded LeBron and when things get tough, he can’t win. His situation has gone full circle and karma has come back to bite him in the butt.

He continues to be tested with situations where he has to lead all by himself and he can’t do so. I want to see LeBron lead his team through a tough win in the finals, where he is verbal and doesn’t have the help of anyone else. Last time he was influenced by money and playing with Wade and Bosh, but this summer LeBron has to make a decision again.

LeBron didn’t make the decision to play down in Florida. It was made for him by what he had to look forward to. He would go play with people he didn’t have to lead and now he has to make a decision to lead himself somewhere for the good of his future.

LeBron took his talents to South Beach in the summer of 2010 and it still sticks with me to this day, because in reality, what else was he going to take?

 

Also, a friendly reminder to join us on July 5th for the 2014 ‘Our Sports Report’ Wiffle Ball Summer Classic in lovely Fredericktown, Ohio. For more information on playing in or sponsoring the tournament, PLEASE CLICK HERE! Hope to see you on July 5th!

NBA’s Harrison Barnes Gives Back to Fans in Big Way

Photo by Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports/http://the3rdsister.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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In the money and power driven bloodthirsty sports world that we live in today, a humble attitude and appreciation for the fans is sometimes lost. Having attended countless sporting events as a young pup in my attempt to receive an autograph just to watch the athlete ignore me and walk on by makes this story a feel good one to say the least.

 

In an attempt to thank his fans for all of their support, Harrison Barnes, a forward for the Golden State Warriors, announced on his Facebook page that he has purchased a P.O. Box out in Oakland, California specifically for autograph requests from his fans. All you have to do is write a handwritten letter stating why you want the autograph, enclose a picture of yourself with the item you want signed and a return envelope with postage and send it to: Harrison Barnes, P.O. Box 72530, Oakland, CA 94612.

 

By no means is Harrison Barnes a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant type player just yet, but the fact that he went out of his way to show his appreciation for everything his fans have done for him has revealed this young man’s true character. Let’s not forget, this is still a guy that was a star at North Carolina and has so far excelled during his first two years in the NBA. An autograph from Harrison Barnes is nothing to sneeze at.

 

As a young kid I can remember sending trading cards to the likes of Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley, Kobe Bryant and many others. During their time, each of those players were some of the best in the game, but only two of them ever replied.

 

Not many people know this, but the main reason that I have always supported the Dallas Mavericks is because one day I received an envelope back from the Mavericks with my basketball cards autographed by Nowitzki and Finley. As a kid I was so excited, but as I grew up, I realized that they didn’t have to do that. These are guys that were NBA superstars and they took the time to send me an autograph. I will always be grateful for that kind gesture and so will these kids and fans be grateful of Harrison Barnes.

 

Acts of kindness like these get lost in the age of egos and endorsements that professional athletics has become. So many athletes forget the fact that they play a game that millions of people pay to come watch each and every night. Many athletes even lose sight of the true meaning of the game, so when Harrison Barnes buys a P.O. Box for autographs that he can take time to sign out of his busy off-season schedule, it just goes to show that Barnes represents a small glimmer of hope in this selfish world of ours.

 

As a sports blog for the fans, from the fans, it is nice to know that there are still athletes out there that appreciate their fans. Whether it is Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley or even Harrison Barnes, just remember that one simple signature can change someone’s life and garner you a fan for many years to come.

 

Also, a friendly reminder to join us on July 5th for the 2014 ‘Our Sports Report’ Wiffle Ball Summer Classic in lovely Fredericktown, Ohio. For more information on playing in or sponsoring the tournament, PLEASE CLICK HERE! Hope to see you on July 5th!

Why Did LeBron Really Leave Cleveland?

Photo by Tim Shaffer/REUTERS/http://www.nydailynews.com/ Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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You may be thinking that I’m a little late to the party when it comes to writing about this topic, but in light of the recent re-firing of Mike Brown, I feel the topic deserves to be revisited.

For those of you that don’t remember (and I’m really not sure who that could be) LeBron James played for the Cleveland Cavaliers once upon a time. After a decent string of not quite getting over the hump to win a title, James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in what has infamously been dubbed as “The Decision”. Since that time, speculation has abounded as to why James left, what team owner Dan Gilbert could’ve done differently to keep him in town, and even what can be done to bring him back in the future.

So why did LeBron James ultimately take his talents to South Beach? The answer doesn’t lie with Mike Brown, Byron Scott, or even the complete lack of talent that the Cavs put around LeBron (yes, I’m talking about you Mo Williams). To me, the thing that most contributed to LeBron’s departure was a lack of consistency within the front office.

A consistent front office will produce a team that may not win a title every year, but is constantly in the conversation. This happens because the people in charge develop a vision and tirelessly work toward achieving that vision (see the New England Patriots as exhibit A…and yes, it makes me sick to give them credit). Contrast that concept with what you see in Cleveland and it becomes easy to see why this team is a dumpster fire waiting to happen. Cleveland has no direction at all. It seemed like they had direction while James was in town, but when you have the best player in the game on your roster, the proper direction is kind of obvious – bring in a supporting cast and get it done. As I mentioned, the Cavs couldn’t even get that accomplished in a coherent fashion.

You see, Dan Gilbert is a flip-flopper. First he wanted to please his star player by firing Mike Brown and bringing in Byron Scott. Then he wanted to…you know…I don’t really know what he was thinking when he brought Mike Brown back a second time...and then now he has fired Brown again! Gilbert has gone from wanting to please his star player to seemingly having no desire to please anybody and having absolutely zero direction for his team. He has a pretty decent crop of talent in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters that he seems to be setting up for failure.

LeBron had to have seen this coming. Any owner who is willing to kiss the rear-end of one player as much as Dan Gilbert did while James was in Cleveland is going to be swayed by whatever whims may come in the future. Right now, the Cavs are like a ship with no rudder. LeBron James saw the roller coaster coming and decided to get off the train before things got bumpy.

Can anyone blame him? Would any of us really want to stay in Cleveland and watch our team fall apart around us? Or would we want to spend our time in Miami and watch it implode from a distance? I’ve been to Cleveland, and I’m sorry, but I’ll take Miami.

Was hiring Mike Brown stupid in the first place? Absolutely! But both of the Mike Brown firings have exposed the glaring holes within the organization…including the biggest hole of them all…Dan Gilbert. If I were Kyrie Irving, I would be the next big talent to leave Cleveland…no question about it.

Also, a friendly reminder to join us on July 5th for the 2014 ‘Our Sports Report’ Wiffle Ball Summer Classic in lovely Fredericktown, Ohio. For more information on playing in or sponsoring the tournament, PLEASE CLICK HERE! Hope to see you on July 5th!

Why Kevin Ollie is the Right Fit for the Lakers

Photo is courtesy of Robert Deutsch/USATSI/http://www.cbssports.com/ Written by; Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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Life has been pretty good to Kevin Ollie. He enjoyed a long NBA career, has a loving family, was an assistant under his mentor Jim Calhoun and now after two seasons at the helm of UConn, Ollie has a National Championship. With Ollie arguably working his dream job at his alma mater, what would it take for him to leave the University of Connecticut? A prominent NBA franchise that is in dire need of a coach like Ollie who possesses leadership and guidance.

 

If you haven’t already heard, Mike D’Antoni has resigned as the Los Angeles Lakers head coach after not receiving a contract for the 2015-2016 season. Since D’Antoni actually thinks that he is a championship caliber coach, the one-year deal just wasn’t good enough. In all honesty, I think that this is the best thing for the Lakers because it allows them a fresh start. They can finally put the D’Antoni over Phil Jackson decision behind them and choose the right coach this time around, and if you ask me, that coach is Kevin Ollie.

 

Ollie grew up in South Los Angeles during the 1980’s when Magic Johnson and “Showtime” were on center stage. The L.A. native is also only 41-years old which fits the latest mold of young coaches trying their hand at the NBA game. While all of those ideas make sense and they could be contributing factors, the most important thing to Ollie is team chemistry and culture. Since the Lakers have lost theirs, the right guy for the job may be the best at it in the college game today.

 

When an iconic coach like Jim Calhoun leaves a premier program, you never really know how the new coach is going to fit in. Luckily for the Huskies, they hired a guy that had bought into the program and the philosophy that Calhoun had built over his time at UConn. Since taking over the reigns at Connecticut, Ollie is 52-18 with, of course, a National Championship under his belt. You can say that it was Calhoun’s recruits that did all the work, but they could’ve just as easily rebelled against Ollie if they didn’t believe in him. The way they believed in each other and Ollie’s philosophy during March Madness just goes to show that if you believe, anything is possible.

 

Ollie believed in the culture that Calhoun brought to UConn, but he also understands the culture that is the NBA. While egos and shoe endorsements fill a locker room, Ollie played for 12 different NBA organizations during his 13-year career and was able to understand the role as a teammate and a role model. From the likes of Kevin Durant to LeBron James, Ollie is widely respected for his leadership and ability to mentor younger players. Since the Lakers are full of them with Nick Young, Robert Sacre, Xavier Henry, Ryan Kelly and MarShon Brooks, Ollie seems like the perfect fit. We all know that the Lakers will always be Kobe Bryant’s team for as long as he is there and it takes a special coach to get the most out of him. As a former competitor, Ollie knows what makes Kobe tick and once all facets of the Lakers organization buy in together, the hiring of Kevin Ollie just makes too much sense.

 

This move may never happen and Ollie could continue to build the UConn dynasty, but for a man who seems to enjoy a challenge, the opportunity to come home and mentor the Los Angeles Lakers back to NBA dominance seems like a deal too sweet to pass up.

 

Also, a friendly reminder to join us on July 5th for the 2014 ‘Our Sports Report’ Wiffle Ball Summer Classic in lovely Fredericktown, Ohio. For more information on playing in or sponsoring the tournament, PLEASE CLICK HERE! Hope to see you on July 5th!

Cleveland Superstars Lash Out in Twitter War

Photo is courtesy of http://espn.go.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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In this day & age of superstar athletes being best friends with one another, it kind of shocks you when some of them don’t get along. LeBron went to play with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami and Aaron Rodgers bet a year’s salary that Ryan Braun wasn’t juicing, but not all athletes share the big city spotlight all the same.

 

On March 27th, the Cleveland Brown’s own Josh Gordon spent the day on the ESPN campus doing interviews and even joined Skip Bayless on the show, “First Take.” Being a Cleveland athlete, Gordon was asked about the dislike between Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gordon then proceeded to talk about his buddy Dion Waiters and that he is aware of the rift and they “are just two alpha males…trying to share the spotlight.” He then says that trading one of them away in the future may work out better for the Cavaliers. I give props to that weasel Skip Bayless and the team at “First Take” for good journalism, but it is obvious that Gordon did not meet with his PR guy before the interview and his comments did not sit well with Mr. Irving.

 

Irving, who has been dealing with rumors and reports from the media that he wants out of Cleveland, sounded off on Mr. Gordon. Irving told the Akron Beacon Journal that, "guys like Josh Gordon need to stay in his sport and mind his own business" and “what goes on in this locker room, he needs to stay out of it.” Those quotes then turned into a few jabs on Twitter between the two, and even though they have apologized to each other now, this battle is not over yet.

 

The dislike between Gordon and Irving will probably linger on for some time, but at the end of the day, they both acted out in the wrong way. First of all, when you are a professional athlete doing interviews with professional reporters and journalists, you better have done your homework and are prepared for anything that comes at you. If Gordon were smart and listened to his people, he would’ve known to stay away from the question and play dumb. Don’t give that dirty, rotten weasel, Skip Bayless, any more ammunition than he already has. This is the guy that almost single-handedly brought down the SMU football program back in the 1980’s. So yeah, he is good.

 

As for Irving, don’t give the media any more of a reason to bring you down. Irving has already been catching hell for months that he wants out of Cleveland when he has never said that. Listen Kyrie; you are the face of a bad franchise right now buddy, the media is going to say whatever they want to honk you off. As the bigger man, keep your mouth shut, give the “Dan Gilbert-Approved” response and for the love of God, don’t let Josh Gordon’s opinion bother you. He is a buddy with your cohort on the court so he is obviously going to side with Waiters. Once again, it is just another opinion that really means nothing when it is all said and done. If Irving is going to get back at his haters in any way, do it on the damn hardwood and not in the papers!

 

I think that Kyrie Irving and Josh Gordon are both tremendous athletes and I wish them nothing but the best. This spat will come to an end over time, but if both of these rising superstars are going to share the city of Cleveland, not only do they have to play like professionals, but they have to act like professionals as well.

 

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