I wrote this article years ago, just a few days after Kobe's final game.
I was looking for the ways to write something about his tragic passing, but words will never do his, or Gianna's life justice.
Maybe in due time. But for now, we'll let his life speak for itself.
RIP Kobe. RIP Gianna.
As a child growing up, Allen Iverson was my favorite player. So I hated Kobe Bryant. I challenged everything any of his fans ever said about him and his greatness.
I even gave credit to other players on his teams instead of him just to try to prove my point even further. But that was all hate, because I always knew how great he was. Kobe Bryant was great for basketball.
His play on the court was unmatched by many who challenged him for the bulk of his career.
I had so many Kobe memories. The first one I had of him was when he beat Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals, which started my hatred. I remember him hitting game winner after game winner.
It felt like every night he played he did something clutch. Dunking on Dwight Howard. The alley-oop to Shaq. Banking in a game winner against Wade. Scoring 81 points in a single game. Beating the Celtics in the Finals. Scoring 60 points in his final game.
And my favorite Kobe game in my memory might have to be when he beat the Suns in 2006 on two clutch plays.
But of all the memories, there are none that stand out bigger for many people then his alleged rape case. Being young, I didn't really understand fully what had happened, but all I knew was that the media was making Kobe out to be a bad person because of a mistake he had made in his personal life.
The allegations are obviously very serious, and in no way do I condone anything that he was accused of doing. But what I do know is that everybody makes mistakes, even you. Some of us just make bigger mistakes than others.
Kobe Bryant was a great basketball player on the court, regardless of the mistakes he made in his life. We can't judge people based on their mistakes, but we can help them learn from their mistakes and push them to be a better person.
When the world was against Kobe, he challenged himself to be better. We must remember that we are all human, and none of us will ever get this life thing perfect. Instead of tearing people down, we need to build them up to be better.
We are all the same race, and we all must share our earth and our time together in the most positive way possible in order to improve as one large community. So next time you see someone make a mistake, pick them up, don't tear them down.
The Eastern Conference is finally reaching parity when it comes to comparing them with the Western Conference.
They have 6 solid teams that all have a chance to make the NBA Finals, and it would be 7 if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were healthy.
Let's dive in.
Eastern Conference All-Stars
Points Per Game: 30 (Career High)
Rebounds Per Game: 12.9 (Career High)
Usage: 37.9% (Leads NBA)
For a second year in a row, Giannis will be the captain of the Eastern Conference. This guy is the best player in the world as of right now, and only continues to improve.
He has career highs in multiple categories, while playing the least minutes per game since his rookie season at 30.6. I don't really know what else to say, it's Giannis.
Points Per Game: 23.4
Rebounds Per Game: 12.3
Free Throw Percentage: 83.7% (Career High)
Similar to Paul George, Embiid has missed exactly 15 games this season. But when he's on the floor, he is still one of the top 10 players in the NBA. He has had trouble adjusting to the new roster that the Sixers have surrounded him with, but he has still been extremely efficient.
He is the leader on the Sixers in terms of Defensive Win Shares, and he's 8th across the whole league. Theres no question as to what this guy means to them on the defensive end of the court.
Points Per Game: 20.2
Assists Per Game: 6.4 (Career High)
Rebounds Per Game: 7 (Career High)
Jimmy said it best when he said "People act like I'm not a good basketball player." When he forced his way to Miami, the media wanted to slam him for going to a "worse" team while saying all he wanted to do was win.
Well guess what, that's exactly what he's done. He's taken on the role as leader of the Miami Heat franchise and has taught this young group what it means to share the ball and play defense at a high level. He's playing some of the best offensive basketball of his career, and his leadership is at an all-time high.
I'm not really sure why he's listed as a "Frontcourt" player, but it works because he made it to our starting rotation.
Points Per Game: 22.1
Free Throw Percentage: 86.6% (Career High)
Field Goal Percentage: 44.6% (Career High)
Kemba Walker has transitioned so smoothly into this Boston Celtics roster. His percentages are up, but all of his numbers are down. And that's only because for the first time in his career, he is being blessed by not having to do absolutely everything for his team.
He is the best guard in the Eastern Conference right now, especially because of the fact that Kyrie Irving can't find the floor to save his life. This kid is a no-brainer.
Points Per Game: 16
Steals Per Game: 2.2 (Career High and Leads NBA)
Assists Per Game: 8.5 (Career High and Second in NBA)
Even with the glaring hole in Ben Simmons' game, he has still been one of the best guards in the NBA. Without Joel Embiid on the floor, Simmons has led the Sixers to the highest pace of play in the NBA. His ability to find his teammates in the perfect spots has helped them open up the floor for the transformed roster.
But it's not his offense that landed him this starting spot, it's his defensive ability. As a 6' 10" point guard, his length has made it extremely difficult for opposing guards to play against him. He leads the league in Steals, Steals Per Game, Loose Balls Recovered, and is second in Deflections.
Eastern Conference All-Star Reserves
Points Per Game: 16
Rebounds Per Game: 10.5
Blocks Per Game: 1.2
(All Career Highs)
Nobody has benefitted more from the Jimmy Butler trade than Bam Adebayo. He leads the team in points off of screens, and is third in the NBA with 520. But the thing that I love about this guy is his resiliency.
He was great at Kentucky, but still slid to 14th in the draft. And even as a lottery pick, he found himself in the G-League for most of his first season. He got cut from the USA Basketball this past summer. And yet, here he is.
Points Per Game: 17.8
Rebounds Per Game: 12.9
Assists Per Game: 4.3
(All Career Highs)
The Indiana Pacers have had trouble staying healthy this season, on top of already not having Victor Oladipo. But they still find themselves in the race for the 2 seed in the East. Much of it has to do with two guys, including Sabonis.
He has been one of those guys when the clock is winding down and they need a bucket, he has gotten it for them. He is one of the most technically sound players in the NBA, and will be rewarded by making his first ever All-Star appearance.
Points Per Game: 23.7
Rebounds Per Game: 7.4
Free Throw Percentage: 81.7%
(All Career Highs)
Each of these last three guys we've talked about could potentially find themselves in the starting spot over Embiid depending on how the media and players vote. Pascal has missed 11 games, but has been incredible when he's been on the floor.
In his first year as the leader of the Toronto Raptors, he has had them playing even better than most people had anticipated. And he may somehow be the Most Improved Player two years in a row.
Points Per Game: 17.4
Assists Per Game: 7.4
Free Throw Percentage: 93% (Leads NBA)
(All Career Highs)
You might be starting to notice a trend for all these first time All-Stars as they are all setting career highs for themselves. Brogdon has found a role as a leader on this Pacers team, and has been nothing short of amazing in Oladipo's absence.
Expect him to only get better when he gets to play alongside Victor.
Points Per Game: 19.5
Free Throw Percentage: 88.9%
Field Goal Percentage: 50%
(All Career Highs)
There was a couple guys I wanted to put in over Middleton. But the Bucks are the best team in the league so far, and only giving them one All-Star just doesn't seem right. His high efficiency should get him into his second All-Star game.
Points Per Game: 29.2
Assists Per Game: 8.6
Field Goal Percentage: 44.7%
This kid's stat lines has been off the charts this season. Even without John Collins and Kevin Huerter for most of the season, he has still found ways to put up great numbers on the offensive end of the floor. His size makes it difficult for him on the defensive end, but he makes up for it with his ability to score and share the ball.
Points Per Game: 27.2
Assists Per Game: 6.3
Free Throw Percentage: 83.7%
(All Career Highs)
This is the second guy on this list of reserves that wouldn't be making his All-Star game debut. It has been a difficult season for the Washington Wizards, but this guy has been their bright spot. His high level of offensive play has helped the Wizards to 5th in the NBA in Points Per Game with 114.
Maybe Next Year Kid
Points Per Game: 25
Rebounds Per Game: 4.7
Three Point Percentage: 38.8%
(All Career Highs)
Zach Lavine has done everything right this season when it comes to making a case for the All-Star game. He has improved his game all-around, he is top five in three pointers made, and he has come up in the clutch time and time again for the Chicago Bulls. There's just too many guys playing slightly better than him.
But the All-Star game is in Chicago, so don't be surprised if he makes it in.
Points Per Game: 18.6
Assists Per Game: 17.7
Three Point Percentage: 38.6%
Nobody expected this kind of jump in his sophomore season from this kid. His numbers are eerily similar to those of Kemba's in his second season in Charlotte. So here's to hoping he can bring relevance back to the Hornets soon enough.
Points Per Game: 20
Rebounds Per Game: 6.8
Field Goal Percentage: 49.1%
(All Career Highs)
This kid has not stopped improving since he came into the league. He got that brand new shiny contract from the Boston Celtics in the summer, and has earned every penny. If there's an incentive for making the All-Star game, let me hold a dollar.
Points Per Game: 21.5
Rebounds Per Game: 6.9
Field Goal Percentage: 43.4%
Either him or Jaylen Brown might make the All-Star game, but not both. So it's really just about who the media and fans value more. We could see him getting in over Brown simply due to popularity.
(Other notable names: Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Tobias Harris, Derrick Rose, Nikola Vucevic)
So that's it! Your 2020 All-Star rosters according to us. Make sure to hit us up and let us know where we went wrong.
And all you first time All-Stars, don't get too comfortable. Kevin Durant will be back next season.
As we enjoy an all day marathon of NBA games on Martin Luther King day, we remember how grateful we are for the life we're living. We live in the greatest country on Earth, and we get to watch the greatest basketball league on Earth.
The All-Star game is a popularity contest, but it is also an opportunity for everyone to appreciate the best basketball players in the world.
Just thinking about how incredibly difficult it is to get to this point for these young men is inspiring.
Hey now, you're an All-Star. According to us, at least.
Western Conference All-Stars
Points Per Game: 26.6
Blocks Per Game: 2.4
Free Throw Percentage: 86.1% (Career High)
The Los Angeles Lakers have gotten exactly what they've needed from Anthony Davis to be successful. His defensive presence has helped the Lakers become one of only two teams to hold opponents under 100 points at least 14 times this season (Philadelphia 76ers).
He's playing some of the best basketball of his career alongside Lebron James. He has proven that he is one of the best two-way players in the league.
Points Per Game: 25.2
Rebounds Per Game: 7.6
Assists Per Games: 11 (Career High and Leads NBA)
Lebron James has taken on a new style of play as he progresses into the next phase of his aging career. He is sharing the ball better than ever, and has taken a step back to allow Anthony Davis to take the reigns.
But that doesn't mean he's taking a step back in terms of dominance. Although he is averaging the least points per game since his rookie season, he is accounting for even more points because of his assist rate. The top vote getter gets to draft his team, and it looks like it will be between him and Luka Doncic for top in the Western Conference.
Points Per Game: 26.9
Rebounds Per Game: 7.3
Assists Per Game: 5.1 (Career High)
When Kawhi Leonard is playing, he is the best player in the NBA. He is the best two-way player in the game and could possibly go down as one of the greatest by the time his career is over.
It looks like we're going to have an all-LA front court in the West.
Points Per Game: 36.9 (Career High)
Assists Per Game: 7.4
Free Throw Attempts Per Game: 12.4
This guy is the easiest lock of them all. The way he's played the last three seasons has made it to where you can not just pencil him in, but you can use a Sharpie.
It looked like for a while that he could possibly average 40 points per game for a season, but he has slowed down a bit. And by "slowed down" I mean he's only averaging 33 points per game in his last ten games. Just a little perspective for you.
Points Per Game: 28.9
Assists Per Game: 9
Rebounds Per Game: 9.7
Even the biggest Doncic believers could never have thought the kid would have this much success this fast. He's doing what he did when he was a professional overseas, plus more. He makes the game look so easy.
His off nights look like 19-10-8 and his best nights look like 39-12-10. This guy could possibly be the top vote getter in just his second season in the league, and he's more than deserving of the honor.
Western Conference Reserves
Points Per Game: 19.4
Rebounds Per Game: 10
Assists Per Game: 6.3
He'd probably be a starter if the front court starters weren't so loaded with star talent. Regardless, he's in.
Points Per Game: 15.4
Blocks Per Game: 1.9
Rebounds Per Game: 14.5 (Career High)
We all saw Gobert cry last year when he didn't make the All-Star game. Don't cry this time bud, you finally made it.
Points Per Game: 25.6
Rebounds Per Game: 6.7
Three Point Percentage: 40%
This kid has career high's in just about every category you can think of. Not putting him into the All-Star game would be an all-time snub.
Points Per Game: 23.5
Free Throw Percentage: 90.9% (Career High)
Rebounds Per Game: 6
Even though Paul George has played just 26 games this season, there's really no reason for the media and players not to vote him in. When he's playing, he is one of the best two-way players in the league right now.
Points Per Game: 17
Assists Per Game: 6.4
Free Throw Percentage: 90%
What Chris Paul has done with the Oklahoma City Thunder has been phenomenal. Many people were writing him off once he got traded, but that hasn't stopped him from continuing to be one of the best ball handlers the game has ever seen.
Points Per Game: 27.9
Assists Per Game: 7.6
Threes Made: 154 (Third in NBA)
It has been a difficult season for the Portland Trail Blazers, but Damian has still done everything in his power to keep his team afloat amid an injury plagued season. His 61-point performance on MLK Day may have solidified his votes from the media.
Points Per Game: 25.3
Assists Per Game: 7.3
Rebounds Per Game: 7.9
With the last roster spot, we gave it to Russ. But it wasn't such an easy decision. His turnover rate made it hard for us to decide between him and one other guy. But it's ultimately his ability to affect the game in multiple ways that gave him the edge.
Maybe Next Time Kid
Points Per Game: 24.7
Assists Per Game: 4.3
Rebounds Per Game: 4.2
This was such a hard decision to keep this kid off of the All-Star game roster. He was the only guy on this list we could see getting in. But it is what it is when it comes to being invited to play with the best players in the world.
Points Per Game: 19.8
Rebounds Per Game: 5.4
Assists Per Game: 3.1
This kid has done nothing but continue to improve in every game he plays in. He recently became the youngest player ever to have a 20 rebound triple-double. And he's a guard. This kid has a bright future.
Points Per Game: 26.8 (Career High)
Assists per Game: 6.4
Field Goal Percentage: 51% (Career High)
The addition of Ricky Rubio has helped Booker grow into a smarter player who has become much more decisive with picking his spots on the floor. His 51% field goal percentage shows his maturity for his age. But his historically bad defense keeps him from taking the leap this season.
(Other notable names: Karl-Anthony Towns, Lamarcus Aldridge, Demar Derozan, D'Angelo Russel, Ja Morant)
The official All-Stars will be revealed on January 23rd, so we'll see if the fans, media, and players agree with us.
And all you young guys on this list, don't enjoy it for too long. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will be back next year.
Did you know that his real name is Temetrius Jamel Morant? Yeah, I didn't either until I went onto his Basketball-Reference page.
Whatever you want to call him, just make sure you call him a certified hooper.
Before the season started, everyone had big expectations for Ja Morant. Most of us expected him to be one of the top 3 for Rookie of the Year. With Zion Williamson being injured, and RJ Barrett's play not translating to wins, Ja has stood out against his competition.
We do have a couple of guys in Miami who can still make a run. Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro have both played great in their roles.
Nobody expected the Memphis Grizzlies to be good this season, let alone in the playoff race.
The Grizzlies are 13-5 in their last 18 games with Ja on the court, and are currently sitting alone in the 8 seed.
But can Ja sustain this level of play and lead his team to the playoffs in just his first year in the league? Let's look at his numbers.
So what do these numbers tell us? All of his numbers are up, except for points per game. But for a point guard, that's not such a bad thing.
His improvement on efficiency has already translated to victories. Shooting the ball at a high rate from the free throw line is always going to be a plus. Especially for a kid who plays so fast, and isn't afraid to drive to the basket.
The help he's gotten from guys like Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, and Dillon Brooks has helped boost his assist numbers. But it's his ability to share the ball that has boosted the confidence of his teammates.
But the thing that stands out the most is his confidence within himself. He's always been a kid who believes in his ability to make any play on the court. And we saw it shine in their most recent game against the Houston Rockets when he went toe to toe with James Harden.
Since we're talking about efficiency, this was one of his most efficient games yet. And one of his most highlight worthy as well.
He was 10/11 from the field, with his only miss coming on a three that was at the end of the shot clock. His 90% field goal percentage was the best he's shot all season, including going 3/3 from the free throw line.
The first clip you see in the video above shows exactly how confident he can be. Harden sags off of him and he drills a deep three in his face. And as he makes his way back to the defensive end he shouts "I'm here! Tell that mother fucker about me!"
And then we see in the final two minutes, Harden again sags off and allows Ja to hit a clutch stepback three to seal the victory. On another play, Harden tries to play up on him and go for the steal and Ja shakes him and sets up Clarke for an alley-oop.
This game encapsulates everything that this kid can be. An efficient scorer who shares the ball and can get the crowd going with his explosive playmaking ability.
The kid is incredible, and he's only going to get better. It'll be interesting to see how long they can ride this winning streak which is currently at six games.
But even if they don't make the playoffs, the Grizzlies still have plenty to be excited about with Ja. The only question they should be asking themselves is, What can't this guy do?
When the Philadelphia 76ers made the splashy moves in the offseason, everyone knew that shooting was not going to be their strength. They do have guys who can shoot such as Josh Richardson, Mike Scott, Mathisse Thybulle, James Ennis, Furkan Korkmaz, and Al Horford at times.
Their strength was going to be in their size. Richardson is their smallest starter and he's 6' 6". So we assumed they would be able to be great on the defensive end and juggernauts in the paint offensively.
But as this season is reaching it's halfway point, we have seen little to no effort from the Sixers to impose their size on their opponents. We have seen flashes of what this team could be, but only against the Celtics, Raptors and Bucks. They have seemingly been sleep walking through this season.
So with a report coming out that the Sixers are looking to make a trade to add shooting, it brings up many questions.
Everyone's favorite thing to talk about with the Sixers is whether or not Ben Simmons will finally begin to shoot jump shots. Here's a little news flash, He's not. So until he does, don't hold your breath.
This has not only caused questions from the media, but from one particular guy in the locker room as well. All season, Joel Embiid has been harping on the fact that he wants his teammates to shoot more. That them shooting will make his job easier.
But people are blindly agreeing with him because he has the potential to be one of the most dominant forces in the league. And I use the word "potential" because he hasn't reached that status yet, regardless of what he has accomplished thus far into his career.
Obviously, he's talking about Ben when he's talking about shooting. But that isn't Ben's strong suit. If Joel doesn't like it, then he is going to be the one who is going to have to figure out to play alongside Ben, and not the other way around.
Simmons has already made an All-Star team and signed a max contract playing the way he does, so good luck getting him to change his ways.
Instead of breaking down Ben's game and talking about his weaknesses, let's take a look at Joel and how his play has negatively affected his teammates this season.
Just take a look at those numbers. He is on pace to shoot 800 jump shots this season. How does a guy who leads the league in post-ups, have that much of a discrepancy in jump shots to shots near the rim?
Now it is possible that this is all Brett Brown's fault. Maybe he's telling Joel to shoot more jump shots. But that just doesn't make any sense. Joel is a force in the paint and should be living there, similar to the way Shaq did. Forcing guys to either double team him in the post or foul him.
The difference here is that Joel is an exceptional free throw shooter, so shooting jump shots all day is helping nobody.
Now I understand his frustration with not having a great team of shooters. It does make his job harder because he will receive double teams. But that's what happens when you're this talented, you will get double teamed. It's on him to figure out how he can be better in those situations.
You don't blame your teammates for their lack of shooting, you find a way to make it work. You don't cry every time you go on a losing streak, you work more with your teammates in practice and in the film room.
There's no reason to come out to the media and feed into everything that will be talked about on that trash network ESPN. All you're doing is adding fuel to the fire.
But if that's what he wants to do, then maybe it's time to make a decision on Joel.
All the talk has been about adding a shooter. But until the Sixers prove they can play with the roster currently constructed, adding another piece just makes it all the more difficult.
I personally don't think they should make any moves at all. This may sound crazy, but the only trade that should be considered should be with Joel.
Let's speak hypothetically for a second about a team built around Ben Simmons. He is one of the best dribble and drive players this league has ever seen. He can get to the basket at will against many guards in the league, or he can drive and kick it out to anyone on a dime.
So the ideal team to build around Ben would be a team full of shooters. Joel has not stopped talking about his buddy Jimmy Butler since his departure, so let's send him there in this scenario.
A trade for Joel would demand a lot, but the Heat have the pieces to do it. They could send Joel and a couple of draft picks (Heat have virtually none) for Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, and Derrick Jones Jr. It sounds like a haul, and it is, but that's what it would have to take for both teams to make an even trade financially.
Joel would be in the spotlight of Miami, and he would be playing alongside his best friend in the league. Their city would love his big personality, and Joel would give them a show.
The Ben and Joel duo has worked so far when you look at how much success they've had so quickly. But it's the internal disfunction that may be what tears them apart.
Elton Brand has made some good trades in his young tenure, but making a trade for a shooter this season doesn't seem like the right answer. Let this team that you've constructed play itself out this season. If they lose to the Bucks or Lakers or Clippers then so be it. Sometimes you just aren't good enough to win a championship.
But if it comes down to a trade in the offseason, I'd look to build around Ben Simmons and not Joel Embiid.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.