Saturday, June 23, 2012

Where Sports Meets Porn: #TeamBJNBA

Sports and entertainment have blended for some time. Slowly however that blend has taken a stop once in a while towards the adult entertainment industry in recent years. There was the very public relationship between MMA fighter Tito Ortiz and former porn star Jenna Jameson (they have two children, twin boys.) More recently there was the incident where New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski spent his bye week last NFL season with porn star BiBi Jones (she also claims Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla among her sports conquests.) These events have been mainly found out through social media for the masses to enjoy and laugh about.

Then there are events like this.

On June 21 as Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder was less than an hour from starting Billy Corben, a well known Miami film director (his credits include ESPN's  'The U' and 'Cocaine Cowboys') tweeted a story from the website Busted Coverage. The story was about a promise made by two Miami porn stars (& noted Heat fans) Angelina Castro and Sara Jay.  The two porn stars promised that if the Heat won the NBA championship they would provide 'oral services' to their combined Twitter followers, whose count stands at 328,758 as of June 23. They made the promise into a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #TeamBJNBA along with making an announcement video on Sara Jay's YouTube page (the video along with Sara's page have now been terminated by YouTube.) It is safe to say that as soon as Game 5 was over with the Heat clinching the title, the Twitter mentions of the two ladies regarding #TeamBJNBA exploded. Sara at one did complain about the mentions.

Now, one can look at this story and assume that #TeamBJNBA was just a publicity stunt by the two ladies to boost their follower count on Twitter. Logic would dictate that with Twitter being a global social media network there would be no way that what the two ladies promised would be dared to be attempted.

Surprise, the two ladies will ACTUALLY attempt to do this!

Both Angelina and Sara tweeted that they will keep their word and will fulfill their promise to their followers. On Tuesday they will announce the time and location where their followers can cash in on #TeamBJNBA.

This event is most likely going to be 1.) a social media bonanza, and 2.) a possible logistical nightmare. Either way the fact that the two ladies are going to do this is astounding. Can't really knock their hustle.

Just hope that they call the Guinness Book of World Records first.

UPDATE: The ladies have set a date for #TeamBJNBA along with a website stating the initial ground rules for the event. The website is

UPDATE 2 (July 6): It looks like David Stern has caught up with #TeamBJNBA and is trying to stop it.

In a statement obtained by the website Black Sports Online the NBA has issued a cease-&-desist order claiming that  Sara and Angelina have used the intellectual property of the league and violated their rights. The league points to the website, the Twitter account @TeamBJNBA, and a photos shopped picture featuring the ladies donning Heat gear in front of the Heat Big 3 (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh) as some of their evidence. The NBA has demanded that the website and Twitter account for #TeamBJNBA be taken down from the Internet and for ownership of both entities to be transferred to the league.

As of 3 pm today both the website and the Twitter account are still up.

The NBA is within its rights in doing this. They, like other major sports leagues, will do whatever is necessary to protect their image. The NBA is especially sensitive to this due to events such as the infamous Malice in The Palace and the referee scandal set off by Tim Donaghy. This is also happening as Stern is polishing up his immediate and long term legacy. Stern has stated in various interviews that he won't be NBA commissioner when the time comes for a new collective bargaining agreement to be negotiated. The current CBA is a ten year deal with the option that the players and owners can opt out of it in six years.

More likely than not the event will go on as planned. It will just require more legal gymnastics than expected.

The Miami Heat: 2011-12 NBA Champions

It was almost surreal to see as the final seconds counted down in American Airlines Arena.

As soon as the clock read 0.00 an explosion of euphoria  was unleashed in the city of Miami and throughout the country as the Miami Heat won the NBA championship in a blowout fashion against the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 to clinch the NBA Finals series 4-1. This is the second title for the Heat franchise, but the first of the Miami Big 3 era.

This championship is the vindication of the grand experiment that Heat president Pat Riley set out in 2007 when he prepared the team's salary cap for the vaunted free agent class of 2010. When the Summer of 2010 came Riley was able to pull off arguably the biggest coup in NBA history when he retained guard Dwyane Wade and lured forward Chris Bosh along with forward LeBron James. James was the crown jewel of the free agent class and had teams like the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks along with the Heat clamoring for him to sign with them. On July 8 in an ESPN special titled 'The Decision' James let the world know that he picked the Heat. The next night the Big 3 were unveiled to their fans in a party-type atmosphere that immediately made them and the Heat the most hated team in the NBA. The fact that the Big 3 signed for less than their allowed maximum allowed the Heat to retain forward Udonis Haslem, center Joel Anthony, and sign guard Mike Miller to five-year contracts. Filling the rest of the roster with minimum salary players, the Heat were a top-heavy team. Immediately the question of chemistry rose up and they got louder once the Heat lost on the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat retooled after the NBA lockout was lifted by signing forward Shane Battier. Still the chemistry questions were there, but with this title Riley's gamble has paid off.

For James, this championship is a critic silencer. Ever since he was a Junior in high school an NBA title was not only expected, but demanded of James. Those expectations rose as he became the #1 pick of the 2003 NBA draft for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. James led the Cavs to the NBA Finals in 2007 where he was swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Since then every playoff loss and exit without a title fed a narrative that James didn't have the killer instinct needed to become a champion. That narrative only grew when he decided to go to the Heat. The narrative was was that because he had no killer instinct, he had to join someone who did in Wade. The Finals loss to the Mavs sent the narrative to astronomical levels. James showed this postseason that this would not stand anymore. When the Heat were down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers in the semifinals James pulled a stat line not seen since 1961 in Game 4 to even the series and eventually win it in six games. Facing elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals against his long time tormentor in the Boston Celtics, James pushed the Heat to victory in Game 6 to force a Game 7 which the Heat won at home. In the Finals after losing Game 1 James led the Heat to four straight wins culminating in this championship. The monkey is now off his back.

For Wade, this championship finds him in role reversal. When the Heat won the NBA title in 2006 it was him taking the mantle of leadership from center Shaquille O'Neal. He was the Finals MVP after leading the Heat back from a 0-2 hole against the Mavs. Since then Wade has been the Man in Miami even as the Heat had a 15 win season in 2008. When the Summer of 2010 came and he resigned with the Heat along with James and Bosh it was viewed as them joining his team. This season though Wade saw that this was no longer his team. Instead of stubbornly fighting to be top dog, Wade gracefully turned the leadership mantle to James. That was especially important as the playoffs arrived and Wade was clearly playing injured. That was most evident in Game 3 of the Pacers series where he only scored five points, the lowest playoff total in his career. Wade seemed to be almost at peace knowing that he was the #2 option and playing more to win the title for James than for himself.

For Bosh, this championship is also a critic silencer. When he joined James and Wade on the Heat he was often viewed as the forgotten member of the Big 3. His demeanor was also the fodder of jokes and nicknames such as Bosh Spice. Quietly though, Bosh became the Heat's most important player because his presence set up both the offense and player rotations. This was not seen by many though thanks to the alley-oop theatrics of James and Wade. When the Heat struggled Bosh was seen as the obvious choice to move vie trade. His true value was finally seen when he went down to an abdominal strain in Game 1 of the Pacers series. With Bosh out the lineup the Pacers took advantage until James and Wade took over. In the Eastern Conference Finals Bosh's absence allowed forward Kevin Garnett along with guard Rajon Rondo to almost push the Heat to elimination. Once he came back, initially from the bench, the Heat got back on track. When he came back to the starting lineup in Game 2 of the Finals his presence cancelled out the benefits the Thunder enjoyed with forward Serge Ibaka. Bosh has now proven that he is worthy of the label superstar and the contract he signed with the Heat.

For the role players the Finals were a coming out party.

First it was Battier, who struggled offensively the whole season. In the Finals he suddenly found his shooting touch. In Games 1 and 2 he made nine out of 13 3-point shots. He also took some key charges that put Thunder forward Kevin Durant in foul trouble. Then came rookie guard Norris Cole who was ready for the moment even as he seldom played in the playoffs. Cole helped lead the Heat back from a 17 point Thunder lead in the first quarter of Game 4 with eight points, scoring twice from downtown. Then in the same game it was guard Mario Chalmers's turn. Known as the 'Little Brother' of the Heat Big 3, Chalmers was often the target of criticism from hi teammates when he would make a mistake. That didn't happen in Game 4 as Chalmers stepped up scoring 25 points, including the Heat's last five as James was on the bench battling cramps. Chalmesr's performance showed why he is a two-time high school state champion in Alaska and a national champion with the University of Kansas. The Heat needed every point considering Thunder guard Russell Westbrook had a historic game of his own. Then in Game 5 with the chance to clinch the title on home court it was Miller's turn. For the past two seasons Miller looked like he was being held together by bubble gum and duct tape, yet he gave it all he could on the court. In Game 5 Miller got into a shooting zone rarely seen as he scored 23 points including seven of eight from downtown, almost tying Celtics guard Ray Allen's record of made 3-pointers in a Finals game. It was the perceived common thinking that the Heat were not a deep team past the Big 3 coming into the Finals and the Thunder had the better bench. That was proven wrong.

Finally, for Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra, this championship was vindication for him as well. Spoelstra started out working in the video room for the Heat and gradually climbed up the ladder. He was an assistant coach when the Heat won their first title in 2006 and was tapped by Riley to take the reigns in 2008. Since then Spoelsta has not missed the playoffs. When the Big 3 were assembled Spoelstra's ability to coach three superstars who have been #1 options was immediately questioned. The rough 9-8 start of last season was blamed on Spoelstra and most thought it was a matter of time before Riley would come back down and take over. Spoelstra weathered the storm but questions rose again when the Heat lost in the 2011 Finals. In the playoffs those questions were slowly being put to rest. In the Indiana series Spoelstra made the adjustment of putting Battier on Pacer forward David West, allowing James to focus offensively. In the Boston series he made the adjustment of putting Chalmers on Allen so the more athletic Wade could focus on Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. In the Finals the adjustment was to put Bosh in the starting lineup and putting Haslem on the bench instead of Battier. This title as a head coach proves that Spoelstra, like his players, learned from last season and has become better for it.

The first championship the Heat won in 2006 was sweet as they were the underdogs. This championship is even sweeter in the sense that not only were the Heat the underdogs, but that very few outside of Miami (and Seattle) wanted them to win. They learned from the anguish of losing the Finals on their home court & now have won on that court.

As Mike Miller would say...LET IT FLY!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Heat-Thunder: NBA Finals Preview

This is the matchup the NBA universe wanted to see since the season was saved. Luckily, we got it.
Tonight the much anticipated NBA Finals series between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder will start at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in OKC at 9 PM Eastern. This has been the dream matchup for both NBA analysts and fans alike. The storylines in this series are very compelling. You have the battle between Heat forward and 2011-12 MVP LeBron James and the runner up in Thunder forward Kevin Durant. You have two differing philosophies on how to build an NBA champion going head to head. It's mainly though a matchup of the Heat's Big 3 of James, guard Dwyane Wade and forward Chris Bosh against the Thunder's Big 3 of Durant, guard Russell Westbrook, and guard James Harden.

Both teams had interesting paths to the Finals. Let's look back at how each team got here.

Miami Heat

The Heat went into the playoffs with the most pressure to win. The lackluster effort of last season's Finals was still fresh in the minds of many. The pressure was especially large for James as his toughness during big moments was still doubted.

In the first round the Heat faced the New York Knicks in what many saw as the sexiest matchup of the first round. It was also the first time both teams faced each other in the playoffs since 2000 in one of the most bitter rivalries of the 1990s. The Knicks were coming into a playoffs riding a stellar April by forward and franchise player Carmelo Anthony. That run was quickly ended by the Heat in a Game 1 beating. The Heat were also the unfortunate beneficiaries of a season-ending knee injury suffered by Knicks rookie guard Iman Shumpert in Game 1. Shumpert's absence took away the best defender the Knicks had against Wade. The injury bug kept hitting the Knicks as they lost guard Baron Davis to a knee injury and forward Amar'e Stoudemire to him punching a fire extinguisher.  The Heat quickly took care of the Knicks in five games thanks to an outstanding performance by Anthony that prevented a sweep.

In the semifinals matchup the Heat faced the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers made some noise before the series by complaining of the Heat taking charges. In Game 1 the Heat won the game but lost Bosh in the first half to an abdominal strain injury. The Pacers front line of forward Davis West and center Roy Hibbert took advantage of Bosh's absence and had outstanding Games 2 and 3 to go up 2-1 in the series. With the prospect of going down 3-1 in the series and facing elimination James and Wade took matters into their own hands in Game 4 and began a tear not seen since the Kennedy administration. That tear continued into Games 5 and 6 as the Pacers simply didn't have an answer to James and Wade along with the supporting cast of forward Shane Battier and guard Mario Chalmers.

In the Eastern Conference Finals the Heat faced their modern nemesis in the Boston Celtics. The series looked like it was going to end quick due to the Celtics coming off a seven game series with the Philadelphia 76ers in which they lost rookie guard Avery Bradley to a shoulder injury. In Game 1 it looked like the Heat were just too much for the Celtics. In Game 2 the Celtics showed grit led by a historic performance from guard Rajon Rondo. It was not enough though as the Heat pulled out the victory in overtime. In Games 3 and 4 the Celtics showed veteran poise in their house thanks is part to the pick-&-roll between Rondo and center Kevin Garnett. These games were also where the absence of Bosh from the lineup showed most for the Heat. The Celtics won both games. In Game 5 the Heat had a chance to shift momentum their way but fell short as Celtics forward Paul Pierce made a late 3-point shot putting the game out of reach. Down in the series 3-2 with the possibility of being eliminated on the Celtics home court and the national media waiting for the Heat to fail, James responded with a historic performance in Game 6 to tie the series. In Game 7 at American Airlines Arena the Heat seized the moment after being down by as much as nine points to close out the Celtics. In the fourth quarter the Heat pulled away by scoring 28 points, all by their Big 3.

With that the Heat will make their second straight NBA Finals appearance.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder were coming into the playoffs with something to prove. They wanted to show that their appearance in last season's Western Conference Finals was no fluke and that were ready to take the next step towards being elite team.

In the first round the Thunder faced the Dallas Mavericks in a rematch of last season's Western Conference Finals. This wasn't the same Mavericks team that beat the Thunder though as key pieces like center Tyson Chandler, guard DeShawn Stevenson, and guard JJ Berea all left via free agency. The Mavericks also were missing what they hoped to be key pickup in forward Lamar Odom. Those changes were all the Thunder needed to overtake the Mavericks. Durant, Westbrook, and Harden proved to be too young, too quick, and too hungry for the Mavericks as they swept the series.

In the semifinals the Thunder faced the Los Angeles Lakers. The Thunder had the fresher legs as the Lakers were coming off a tough series against the Denver Nuggets. It was evident also that the Lakers, because of the age of franchise player Kobe Bryant and forward Pau Gasol, were ill-suited to face this Thunder team. It also didn't help that Lakers center Andrew Bynum wasn't completely in the series mentally. The Thunder took quick care of the Lakers in five games and almost swept save for a great performance by Bryant.

In the Western Conference Finals the Thunder faced the San Antonio Spurs, the team that surpassed them in the last month of the regular season for the top seed in the West. In Games 1 and 2 the Spurs looked like the faster team. the Spurs Big 3 of forward Tim Duncan, guard Tony Parker, and guard Manu Ginobili showed their championship mettle and looked to have the Thunder overmatched. That quickly changed once the series shifted to Oklahoma City. In Games 3 and 4 the Thunder showed that they could take a punch and give one right back. The adjustment of putting guard Thabo Sefalosia on Parker freed up Westbrook and that allowed the Thunder offense to get going. While the Spurs showed their mettle again in Games 5 and 6, the Thunder proved that their athleticism was just too much to overcome.

With that the Thunder make their first NBA Finals appearance since 1997 when they were the Seattle Supersonics.

There are many storylines in this Finals series and interesting matchups, but one will be the key to victory.

Chris Bosh vs Serge Ibaka:

Thunder forward Serge Ibaka has emerged this season as an elite shot blocker and was second in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year. That being said he is also known to get in foul trouble for being over aggressive. Bosh will have the task of pulling Ibaka away from the rim to free up the paint for James and Wade. Bosh has the offensive arsenal to do just that, especially if the 3-point shot becomes a steady part of that.

Prediction: Heat win series 4-3

The Thunder has the younger team along with almost the entire country pulling for them. However, championships are won by those who not only want it, but need it. The Heat, particularly James, meet those two criteria. The Heat have won playoff games this time around that they wouldn't have last year. That shows they have learned the lessons needed to claim the first title of the Heat Big 3 era.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pacquiao-Bradley: How The Sport of Boxing is Being Killed by The Business of Boxing

The spectre of controversy seems to be always be around in Sin City on fight night. Last night that spectre made its' presence known loud and clear.

Last night at the MGM Grand Manny Pacquiao, one of the two best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, lost his WBO Welterweight title to Timothy Bradley in a very controversial split decision. The words 'very controversial' are the kindest that can be used to describe the decision.

Judge Jerry Roth had the fight 115-113 for Pacquiao. Judges C.J. Ross and Duane Ford had the fight 115-113 for Bradley. Personally I had the fight 117-111 for Pacquiao.

It was evident from the beginning of the bout that Pacquiao was the superior fighter. He was faster, landed more punches, and timed his punches beautifully. It was also evident that Pacquiao's punches had more power to them compared to Bradley. Give credit to Bradley though, he was hurt both by Pacquiao's punches and by injuries to both his feet during the fight, but he was never knocked down and fought to win the whole time. Bradley didn't try to boast either after the fight. He even told HBO analyst Max Kellerman that he was going to watch the fight on film to see if he actually won it.

The questions that have arisen from this mess are what's disturbing. First there are the betting odds shifting as the fight date got closer. Then there was the revelation that ESPN's Teddy Atlas stated about Pacquiao's business relationship with his promoter Bob Arum. Atlas stated that Pacquiao's contract with Arum's Top Rank Promotions is almost up and that there are rumblings of Pacquiao not resigning with Arum. In Atlas's own words when situations like this arise in boxing "funny things happen."

Funny things seem to be happening a lot lately when it comes to Bob Arum.

This decision is the second major robbery that I can think of at the top of my head this year involving an Arum promoted fighter.

The first one involved 'undefeated' lightweight fighter Brandon Rios April 14. Rios fought Richard Abril that night for the vacated WBA Lightweight title. Rios held the belt until he was stripped of it due to not making weight before his fight with John Murray. Rios again failed to make weight for this fight so the title could only be won by Abril. Throughout the fight it was evident that Abril was dominating Rios with his defense and his reach advantage. By the end of the fight nearly every boxing analyst including the broadcasters had the fight easily for Abril.

Rios was instead awarded the split decision.

Almost immediately after the initial disgust left everyone it was suspected that decision was part of a plan to keep a potential fight between Rios and Juan Manuel Marquez alive. That fight would bring Top Rank and by extension Arum a lot of money.

Now that spectre has risen again with this fight. This fight made Top Rank a lot of money and Arum wins either way since he promotes both Pacquiao and Bradley. Despite the LOUD outcry about a possible boycott of a rematch, that fight will make a lot of money too.

The most disturbing part of the aftermath is that there is a rematch clause with a locked in date of November 10 in the contract. Judging from what both fighters said, they would take that rematch.Even as Arum has feigned outrage at the decision and 'demanded' an investigation into the scoring of the fight from the Nevada Attorney General, the rematch will happen. That would mean that the dream fight boxing fans want between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather would not happen this year.

The dream Mayweather-Pacquiao fight has been in negotiations for years with little progress. Many view Arum as the main roadblock to that fight. It is believed that Arum's bitterness towards Mayweather after he left Top Rank (along with Mayweather's insistence that he have the lion's share of the potential purse) are the only issues stopping one of the biggest paydays in boxing history from happening.

Arum has been viewed for a long time by boxing fans the same way they view promoter Don King. King has long been accused of killing the heavyweight division along with ripping off boxers like the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez. To boxing fans, Arum is only concerned with making money from fights and last night's fight did nothing to change that perception.

This is what is truly killing boxing. It isn't the quality of the fights, but the money interests and the politics of the sports that is pushing fair weather fans away and is causing die hard fans to grow even more cynical.

There is time to fix this. Many are now looking at Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions to become the saviors of the sport.

I hope they can be.