Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sports-ophrenia: What is Bradley's Fate at Arch Madness?

In the last few months, my car's radiator has been on the fritz. At first, it was leaking coolant due to a loose hose clamp, then (supposedly) the thermostat was broken. Still, it continues to give me fits as I anxiously watch the engine temperature gauge jump frantically from the red to the black. This bit of automobile bipolarity reminded me of another stressful life situation: being able to see both sides of an argument.

Good debates, by nature, have arguments on both sides that are reasonable, but it's much easier to back one side or the other. However, there are those maddening times where you have one foot in both camps. It's usually relegated to today's pressing issues, like "Wendy's or McDonald's?"; "paper or plastic?"; and "Zoe Saldana or Emma Stone?"

With that mind, I thought up a monthly topic for Life in the Cheap Seats: Sports-o-phrenia. I'll take a topic and argue for both sides, while trying not to drive myself crazy in the process. After going to two Bradley games this week (Wednesday's loss to Illinois State and today's home win over Indiana State), I've got an easy question to start with...

How will the Bradley Braves fare at this year's MVC men's basketball tournament?

Why Bradley Will Make the MVC Tournament Finals

It's arguable that Bradley has the most dynamic starting guards in the Missouri Valley Conference - but it would be a fairly short argument. Jake Odum is a hard-nosed point guard, but he doesn't have a great outside shot, and Tyler Brown (who's potential even for next year is incredibly scary) isn't quite ready yet. So we have Walt Lemon, Jr. and Dyricus Simms-Edwards, whose names are almost as long as their all-around basketball ability. Walt and DSE have always been quick strikers who can finish at the rim while taking contact, pull up for the jump shot on the run and in traffic (Southern Illinois found that out firsthand this year), negate one-on-one and help defense, and average 35 minutes if necessary. Now they have both gained the ability that separates elite wing players from good ones: taking the ball away.

Entering today's game, the two combo guards combined for 131 steals, far and away best in the conference. They both average better than two steals per 40 minutes. Dyricus is especially adept at thefts: he is sixth in the country in terms of steals per game and the leader in steals/personal foul ratio. Only Virginia Commonwealth's Briante Weber (who was recently featured in ESPN: The Magazine) has a higher steal-to-turnover ratio.

Newcomer Tyshon Pickett has given the Braves a two-way frontcourt player, a phrase not uttered on the Hilltop since Lawrence Wright was on campus. The young man from New Jersey came into today's game against Indiana State averaging 11 points and almost six rebounds (just under three on the offensive glass), is shooting 72 percent from the free-throw line and has even hit five of the nine threes he's attempted this year; he has two treys in his last two games. If that weren't enough, Pickett played the gutsiest game of any Bradley player I've seen today against Indiana State, scoring 17 points and pulling down seven rebounds after sustaining a knee injury near the end of the first half. It was evident Pickett was in pain, as he paused and gritted his teeth on every break in the action, but he stayed in the scrum for rebounds on both ends and had two clutch jump shots, both times with a defender in his face.

These three players exemplify a quality of this Bradley team that has been lacking in the last five years: toughness. Dyricus and Walt aren't afraid to stare down defenders and attacking guards alike, and Tyshon has taken the pressure off of Will Egolf and Jordan Prosser to take rebounds away from the larger front lines of Valley opponents. Bradley doesn't score at a high rate or shoot very well from the outside, but with their ability to create turnovers, score in the paint, and close games at the free throw line (all starters except Will Egolf shoot better than 67 percent), Bradley can make any team scramble for answers. With Creighton's recent fall from grace, and the confidence of hanging with Wichita State and Michigan for 40 minutes, the Braves are primed to make a surprise run to the MVC finals in St. Louis--and perhaps a trip to the NIT.

Why Bradley Will Lose Early in the MVC Tournament

Every team fights the injury bug at some point during the season, it's just who gets bitten and for how long. Recently, the Braves have had to deal with the maladies every coach fears facing going into the final stretch of the regular season: injuries that severely limit your star players. Dyricus is suffering from back spasms and was doubtful for today's game against the Sycamores (though he did play and turned in a great performance), and Tyshon Pickett suffered the leg injury today; Coach Geno Ford said on the radio post game that it was a "bruise". Both injuries are normal for basketball players, but they tend to stick around for the remainder of the season and limit a player's output, and with both Simms-Edwards and Pickett playing high minutes for Bradley this season, they won't have too much time to rest.

Apart from being slowed by injuries, Bradley has had a tough time getting out of their own way in the second halves of games this year, specifically with eight minutes left in the game. They were sticking close to Michigan both last year in Ann Arbor and this year in Peoria before the Wolverines pulled away (though a late flurry brought Bradley within five with about one minute to play this year), and it was the same script in road games at Creighton and Illinois State. There's no simple answer for what causes these second-half stumbles, but if the offense bogs down or a couple of calls don't go their way, the Braves tend to unravel on both ends of the floor for a stretch. With high-powered teams such as the Shockers, Bluejays and a resurgent Redbird squad, letting up for even 45 seconds of game time can put Bradley in an insurmountable hole. If they had an automatic three-point shooter in the rotation or a frontline to consistently feed the ball and slow the game down, they could fight back from these missteps, but it's been their curse this season. At this point in time, it's difficult to believe Coach Ford can find a cure for the eight-minute disease, and that will spell disaster on Friday afternoon--or even Thursday night--come tournament time.

Like any debate, this one cannot be won on words alone; Bradley will determine its own fate. The Braves have three games left to decide their seeding and, even with a 7-8 Valley record, find themselves 3.5 behind Wichita State. The Braves can win their final three contests (2-1 is a better bet) and finish as high as fourth or fifth, or drop them all and play the tough Thursday night game. The only thing for certain is that all questions will be answered come March.

Until then, I'll see you in the cheap seats.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

As the First Half Comes to a Close

Dark Wednesday is upon us once again. The day after the MLB All-Star Game.

No baseball. No basketball. No football. No hockey. Pro-am day for golf, qualifying day for NASCAR. All that's left is analysis of the All-Star Game, which will be pretty straightforward today: the American League got their butts thoroughly kicked by the National League.

Black Wednesday does hold a special place as the virtual halfway point in the calendar year, and as such, gives us a chance to look back at the first half of the year in sports. Especially since, you know, nothing else is going on.

The crowning of the king

Two years ago, we wanted to crown their asses, and we finally crowned them in June. The Miami Heat won their championship, and LeBron James finally got the ring that was preordained for him upon his entrance into the league nine years ago. For many NBA fans (this writer included), this was to be the apocalypse come early. LeBron's famous "Decision" went against all we held dear about the NBA: legendary gladiators entering the arena against other larger-than-life figures. Russell vs. Wilt, Kareem against Walton, Magic and Bird, Jordan and Shaq.

LeBron distorted that stained-glass memorial to the greatest NBA past when he decided to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Basketball is the sport of personal pride and achievement more than any other, where you work to be better than the man in front of you for 48 minutes. James couldn't beat the other guys, so he joined them, and unlike the playground, there was no reshooting for teams.

Ultimately, the super-stacked team won after a surprising loss, and at the final buzzer, the world did not tilt off its axis. Life has gone on. The moral of the story? The Heat may have won this year, but next year is not a given. Just like the Bulls of the '90s, the target is squarely on Miami's back. And make no mistake: the guns are loaded.

Thanks for nothing, Justin

The MLB All-Star Game was decided early, as Justin Verlander gave up five runs in the first inning en route to an 8-0 victory for the National League. After years of AL dominance, the senior circuit has won the last three Midsummer Classics. I can't say it's Ron Washington's fault even though he's managed the last two games; at some point, the AL hitters have live up to those lofty batting averages.

Who I can definitely fault is Verlander and Detroit. The Tigers were supposed to run away with the AL Central Division this year following the acquisitions of Prince Fielder and underrated pitcher Doug Fister, but have instead floundered to a 44-42 record at the break, 3.5 games behind the White Sox. No starter besides Verlander has an ERA under four, and the Tigers are in the bottom half of the league in team ERA and fielding percentage. You know the adage: pitching and defense win championships.

It'll be an exciting second-half in the Central. The White Sox still have to prove they are more than a first-half surprise and hold off the Tigers and Indians, both of whom are within striking distance of the top. Still, no matter which AL team makes it to the World Series, they can thank Justin Verlander for their disadvantage. Should have started Chris Sale, Wash!

Second-Half Hitmen

Speaking of the boys in black and white pinstripes, the White Sox might have finally figured it out. They rode a wave of momentum into the break, splitting four games with the red-hot Yankees in New York, sweeping the Rangers at home and finally winning a series against their personal kryptonite, the Toronto Blue Jays (and coming within a clutch hit of sweeping them). The Tigers have started to get it together a bit, but the Sox have maintained a good lead. Kevin Youkilis has become an instant hero, Jose Quintana is the latest underrated young hurler, and Robin Ventura has made everyone except me forget about Ozzie Guillen following in LeBron's footsteps. If it weren't for the Nationals and Pirates, the Sox would be the story of the year.

Now comes the difficult part of the year. 16 of their next 19 games are on the road, including three with Detroit. The Sox survived the nationwide heat wave, but the worst of July and August lie ahead. John Danks and Phil Humber need to come back and Paul Konerko must regain his early-season stroke for the Sox to win the division. The (Paper) Tigers won't stay down for too long.

Wilted Rose

The crushing reality of Derrick Rose's fourth-quarter injury in Game 1 of the NBA playoff season has become an itchy scab for most Chicagoans by now. Reports surfaced last week via TMZ that Rozay was spotted coming out of an LA club early in the morning. For any other high-flying 23-year-old, this is not news, but for an injured hometown superstar, it was akin to Marion Berry smoking crack. "HOW COULD DERRICK GO TO THE CLUB BUT NOT RUN UP AND DOWN THE FLOOR ON A TORN ACL????" was the crazed thought floating through the minds of Bulls fans.

Listen: Rose is injured and very doubtful for this coming season. At most, he'll play the last month of the year and the playoffs. Worst case scenario: he's held out for the entire year and Chicago will have to watch Miami defend their title without the chance to knock the South Be-aches off their pedestal. I know it hurts, but this is the way it has to be. We went through awful injuries on the Bears and Blackhawks last year that killed all our playoff dreams, but such is life. Rose will be back and with proper time to heal, he will be stronger. All we have to do is support the Bulls until the Legend of Murray Playground returns to the court.

Here we go...

Only six and a half hours of Dark Wednesday are left, sports fans. Tomorrow is a full slate of baseball and  more prep for the Summer Olympics. Go outside and make your own sports memories today; tomorrow, we're back to it.

See you in the cheap seats.


Friday, May 18, 2012

White Sox vs. Cubs: The Saga Continues

It's been a topic of nationwide concern for months. This weekend, leaders of the Western Hemisphere meet in President Obama's adopted hometown of Chicago for this year's NATO summit. Police and citizens are on high alert, storeowners fear unruly protesters and many Chicagoans just want NATO to go somewhere else.

Traffic is sure to be backed up on South Lake South Drive for miles (for once, I'm happy to be out of the city). Vocal opponents of the current so-called "New World Order" (as opposed to the former NWO) plan to protest the event and do their best to disrupt the summit.

These possible demonstrations pale in comparison to the fierce battle that will take place approximately 6.5 miles north of McCormick Place. The ongoing civil war, renewed each year about the time schoolchildren bid goodbye to the classroom for three months and the calendar officially turns over to summer.

The fight for bragging rights. The clash of the city. The war of Chicago.

Cubs vs. White Sox.

Even in a slow-starting year for both teams, the intercity series is bound to be hotly contested once again. Cubs and White Sox beats the stuffing out of Mets-Yankees, Dodgers-Angels, Athletics-Giants and the always marquee matchup of Twins-whoever they'll play.

No matter the year, this matchup of Chicago's finest promises to provide some great moments. Here's a few the Sox provided. (Ed. note: This is going to be biased in favor of the Sox, because the Cubs really suck.)

July 1, 2006: White Sox 8, Cubs 6

About 40 days earlier, the Sox whipped the lousy Cubs (no, really, they were bad that season) in front of a packed house at U.S. Cellular Field. However, then-Cubs catcher Michael Barrett gave Cubs fans a measure of vengeance when he punched fellow backstop A.J. Pierzynski square in the jaw following a play at the plate (more on that later).

Flash forward to the first of July. The scene has shifted to Wrigley Field, and the Cubs and Sox have gone punch-for-punch all day. Aramis Ramirez is a single shy of the cycle and has driven in five runs, and after a pinch-hit Paul Konerko tied the game in the top of the seventh, Jacque Jones knocked one out to give the Cubs the advantage in the bottom half.

The Sox are down to their last out in the top of the ninth, and Ryan Dempster is poised to lock down the save. The Cub fans, in the midst of a disappointing season, will have something to cheer about, on national television, no less.

It's not clear if A.J. had revenge for the punch on his mind, but he certainly made sure the Cubs didn't forget. On a 1-1 pitch from Dempster, Pierzynski ripped a deep fly onto Sheffield Avenue and arrogantly flipped his bat toward the Cub dugout. Boos and trash rained onto the field and when the final pitch was thrown, the White Sox had come from behind to win, 8-6.

The Sun-Times sports headline the next day? It simply read, "Take That." Take that, indeed.

June 28, 2008: White Sox 6, Cubs 5

Ah, 2008. The most famous summer of dreams in Chicago history. The unfathomable was unfolding: the Cubs and White Sox had a stranglehold on first place in their respective divisions. For the first time in 102 years, it was possible that the North Siders and South Siders could meet in the World Series.

That's right. Eat your heart out, NATO summit.

True to their 2008 form, the Cubs and Sox dominated at their home parks, and the city series was no different. The Cubs swept the Sox at Wrigley, with Aramis Ramirez late inning heroics taking the Friday game and a scintillating performance from Ryan Dempster sealing the sweep. White Sox fans burned while the Cubs celebrated. It would be a tough task to return the favor at the Cell.

Well, maybe not that tough.

The White Sox murked Ryan Dempster and the Cubs on Friday afternoon and shut down the North Siders on Sunday night behind homers from Brian Anderson (remember him?) and Jim Thome. The Saturday game, however, provided all the drama of the series. Derrek Lee went off, driving in three runs in the first four innings, while rookie shortstop Alexei Ramirez continued his hot hitting, tying the game in the bottom of the fourth with a home run. The bullpens on either side dug in, not allowing a run until the eighth inning. Then fortune shone on the Sox.

It was Carlos Marmol time.

Young slugger Carlos Quentin led off the eighth against Marmol and on what looked like an emergency swing, lifted a deep fly ball to right field. Instead of dropping into Kosuke Fukudome's glove, the ball landed in the seats, giving the Sox the lead. After a Derrek Lee double put a scare into the home fans, Bobby Jenks nailed down the save.

It wasn't the first time the season series ended in a tie, but it was the first time two heavyweight Chicago clubs had fought to a draw. The playoff future looked bright, and even though it ended rather suddenly for both teams, 2008 remains my favorite season of baseball.

May 20, 2006: White Sox 12, Cubs 2

It remains the indelible moment of the Chicago baseball rivalry: Michael Barrett tumbling head-over-heels as AJ Pierzynski slams his hand onto home plate. It's true that the series had wacky characters before the arrival of AJ and Carlos Zambrano (who gets honorable mention for cursing out Derrek Lee and destroying a Gatorade cooler), but Pierzynski, who is the only Major Leaguer who is booed at every single road game, has added the necessary spice to the annual series.

The preceding play is simple: Brian Anderson hits a medium fly ball to left field. Matt Murton (wow, this whole post is a trip down memory lane) fires home as AJ races in from third. Barrett blocks the plate before receiving the ball, and Pierzynski runs through him, and emphatically pounds home plate. Barrett grabs Pierzynski and yells, "I didn't have the ball" into his face before clocking him with a short right hand. Benches clear, Scott Podsednik tackles Barrett, and Anderson gets into it with John Mabry. A few minutes later, Tadahito Iguchi sends a grand slam into the left field bleachers and the rout is on.

The aftermath? Pierzynski dyes his hair and beard blond before going back to his natural brown, all while being one of the few starting catchers in the AL who doesn't make the transition to DH or first base. Meanwhile, Michael Barrett is waived in free agency and ends up in San Diego before making the transition to the Oaxaca League in southern Mexico.

The present day

The White Sox won yesterday in Anaheim, pushing their record to a stellar 18-21, four and a half games behind the division-leading Indians. The Cubs are even deeper in the muck at 15-23, dead last in the NL Central.

What does that mean for this series? Absolutely nothing. Throw records, streaks and odds out the window when this series start. Sabremetricians are not invited to the Crosstown Classic.

Phil Humber, he of the third perfect game in White Sox history and resultant 9.45 ERA, takes the mound against former Notre Dame football star Jeff Samardzija.

My prediction? Humber and Samardzija throw gems over seven innings, the Cubs take the lead on a sac fly in the eighth, only for Dayan Viciedo to come off the bench in the ninth and blast a two-run homer onto Waveland Avenue. Of course, it could just be an unruly slugfest.

See you in the cheap seats, Chicago. 1:20 pm, at the corner of Clark and Addison.

Oh, and if you were wondering who D-Rose will be cheering for on his couch this weekend...

South Side, all day.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Barack Obama, Tim Hardaway, and Homosexuality

Eds. note: The subject and language following may not be suitable for all children or families.

"Now I can freak, flock, flow, f*** up a f****t/but understand the ways and I ain't down with gays..." - Brand Nubian, "Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down"

I loved Carl Lewis as a kid. I always watched the track and field events at the Summer Olympics, and Carl Lewis seemed to be able to fly through the air when he did the long jump and high jump. Michael Johnson was the man with the golden shoes in '96, but Carl Lewis was, as corny as it sounds, my hero.

When my mom came home one day and told me Carl Lewis had announced he was gay, I was devastated. I clearly remember disbelieving her and thinking she was trying to hurt me for some reason. He couldn't possibly be gay. There was something inherently wrong with my hero enjoying the intimate company of another man.

Even as a young man, I had been influenced to find homosexuality repulsive.

Today, Barack Obama became the first American president to publicly support same-sex marriage. The move was heralded by liberals and gay rights activists around the globe, but presumably one group of the voting public silently decried Obama's declaration.

Male professional athletes.

"I hate gay people"

In 2007, former NBA player John Amaechi announced that he was gay. The story made headlines across the sports world, but it seemed to be a "tinder story" that would flame brightly for a few days and then quietly disappear. After all, Amaechi had been a below-average baller, a forgettable face in his time with the League.

Then Tim Hardaway spoke up.

Even with Twitter in its infancy and YouTube still owned by...YouTube, Hardaway's comments spread quickly and led to a backlash of criticism and thousands of ironic jokes about his nickname "Mr. Crossover". Hardaway later apologized for his words, but the damage had been done. Hardaway had exemplified the thoughts and ideas of many pro athletes: I don't want a gay man on my team.

Many other pro athletes, owners and coaches offered their opinions on the subject, from Shaquille O'Neal to LeBron James and many of them showed support for Amaechi (make sure you read Tracy McGrady's comments). But many of them also said it would be tough for a player to be openly gay while playing.

"Who do you love?"

It was the hot subject of the week after Joe Biden appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday and said he was fully in support of gay marriage. The Obama Administration did a dance akin to standing barefoot on hot coals for three days before Barack himself definitively agreed with the views of his VP.

With the election five months away and Mitt Romney finally clearing himself as the Republican nominee, it is important for Obama to gather firm support from a group very likely to make itself heard at the polls. It should be considered, however, how exactly another group that strongly supported Barack in 2008 will turn now that he has fully championed gays and lesbians in their quest for full marriage rights.

Just as Ludacris, Young Jeezy, Kanye West strongly supported the Man from Hyde Park in his quest for the White House, so did many pro athletes, especially black basketball players. Derrick Rose has been a very vocal supporter of Obama, and the president sends the love back to him on many occasions.

However, in both the black community and the pro basketball fraternity, there is an unspoken mandate that homosexuality is a detriment on the court. The proximity of bodies and the nature of the game that hearkens back to its playground roots makes many men uneasy about sharing the court with a gay teammate.

With the leader of the free world throwing his support behind the gay marriage movement five months before the election, the question must be asked: will those same hardwood heroes and those who adore them think twice before casting their ballots in November?

As Joe Biden said Sunday, it's a question of "who do you love?"

See you in the cheap seats.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"Even When I Was Close to Defeat..."

I know you've seen it, but it's important to remember the moment.

Remember? The Bulls were cruising toward an easy victory in Game 1 against Philly. The stage was set for another five-game first round series (maybe even four if Rose played this well), a few contrite comments from Doug Collins, and the determined march to the rematch with Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Bulls fans were dreaming of it. This was the year we had the pieces in place. A strong team without Rose would be unstoppable with him, even at 90 percent.

Then, the weight of a city's expectations became too much to bear for Derrick Rose's left knee, and it bucked under the pressure. The air went out of the United Center with a discernible gasp. Expressions of exuberance turned somber in an instant. The future that had been so bright only seconds before was inexplicably cloudy.

What had just happened?

As it turns out, the Bulls had been struck by the worst sports luck of the year. Two games later, Joakim Noah went down with a sprained left ankle, and the Sixers put their foot on the Bulls' throat. 

Only ten days ago, the Chicago-Miami matchup was a hot topic of discussion even for the most hardened of sportswriter. Now, it's Game 5 with the Bulls on the brink of elimination.

History repeats

The Bulls are not unique in this respect. There have been many teams who had their superstar go down with a bad injury and subsequently saw their season go down the drain. The 1973-74 Milwaukee Bucks lost Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to a broken hand in the preseason; the Patriots had Tom Brady tear his ACL in their first game of the 2008; Michael Jordan broke his foot early in the 1985-86 season and didn't return until right before the playoffs (although he did score 112 points in his first two playoff games against what Bill Simmons calls the greatest NBA team of all time).

For me, Derrick Rose's injury harshly reminds me of 2008. The Chicago White Sox were 77-59 and firmly in control of the AL Central with one month to go in the regular season. The ChiSox had the surprising Gavin Floyd and the steady Mark Buerhle leading the way, but the real motor for the Sox' success was MVP candidate Carlos Quentin. The super-intense Quentin had been crushing baseballs all season alongside stalwart Jim Thome and was leading the way in the American League.

Then, on September 1, Quentin smacked his bat after missing a pitch against Cleveland's Cliff Lee (who was on fire that season). The next day, reports surfaced that Quentin had broken a bone in his wrist and would be out for the remainder of the season. 

The Sox nearly collapsed down the stretch, surviving to make one of the most remarkable playoff entrances in league history as they won three straight elimination games at the end of the season. That would be all for the "Fighting Sox", as they lost in the first round to the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was left for the entire South Side fan base to wonder what if CQ had been healthy and available to play, especially since he never came close to his 2008 production again.

A wounded bull is more dangerous

Bulls fans weren't too worried about Rose's injury; after all, he had been out for almost half the season with various maladies and the Bulls had compiled a .667 winning percentage without him. The first half of Game 2 seemed to prove that, as Kyle Korver and John Lucas III led the Bulls to a 55-47 margin. Then, the Sixers took over and stunned the Bulls in a blowout win.

The series returns to Chicago tonight, and everyone has counted the Bulls out after two efforts in Philly fell short. The Sixers are poised to be the fourth eighth-seeded team to defeat a top seed in the NBA playoffs, albeit the first to do it after two significant injuries to the top-seeded team. Joakim Noah is day-to-day, Luol Deng has been unable to get going, and with Noah out, Spencer Hawes has come up big.

The outcome is bleak and the long offseason looms with stomach-turning nightmares of what might have been. So the question must be raised: is this really it?

The Bulls have a chance to win Game 5. They are at home and backed into a corner. The Sixers have not been in this position to close out a team on the road in the playoffs since the Iverson days, and they still don't have a finisher. The Bulls know the situation and have the crowd behind them.

The mood of Bulls fans has been despondent after the lost weekend, and they've come face-to-face with the realization that it may be Miami's championship season. That doesn't mean they should lose hope.

The Bulls beat Miami without Rose. They beat Boston without Rose. They beat the Pacers without Rose. They have the tools, they have the will. It's time to make one final pull on the rope.

To paraphrase Dr. Dre, we're close to defeat, so we must rise to our feet. If all else fails, the White Mamba is waiting.

See you in the cheap seats.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The 10 Best NBA Celebrations, Part 2

Click the link for Part 1.

It's tough to pick ten celebrations in the NBA these days. It may not have a ready-made initialization like the "No Fun League", but with refs able to call technical fouls almost at whim and the best coaches being as crazy as a group of mathletes (Poppovich, Thibodeau, Carlisle), there's just not a lot of whimsy left in the Association. Never mind that all the crazy in the league is now solely in the form of Metta World Artest, there just aren't a lot of dramatic ballplayers.

Still, there are guys who can rock out with the best of them after a good play. Here's the top five of them in the NBA.

5. The Three Goggles/"German Three" (Dirk Nowitzki, Rudy Fernandez, Wesley Matthews, Patrick Mills)

I'd have put Brad Miller in this, but the recently retired former Bulls big man is now going to focus on hunting shows. So it's down to the men who make sharpshooting look that much cooler. 

(Note: Remember the scene from "Inglourious Basterds", when the Nazi officer makes the British spy because of the way he signals "three"? I wasn't sold on that...until I saw Dirk do the German three. The NBA: where learning happens.)

4. The "Where's the And-One?" (Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose)

This is somewhat sarcastic, considering Wade is kind of a crybaby when it comes to fouls. But he makes some incredible shots, and D-Rose's fadeaway two on the Lakers gained legendary status during his MVP season, thanks in no small part to Stacey King ("He didn't pull a Jordan, did he? He didn't pull an MJ?")

3. The "You Can't See Me" (DeShawn Stevenson)

Come on, don't get upset. DeShawn Stevenson had to be in the top 10 of something.

2. The "Be Quiet, This is a Library"/Crowd Shush (Kris Humphries)

I'm giving this one solely to Kris Humphries because he deserves it. This is a move reserved for away games when you're in a hostile crowd, and every arena's been hostile to K-Hump after his divorce from Ms. Kardashian. America, get over it. You be happy that Kimmy's back on the market. As for Kris, he's playing good ball for the Nets and should be extra happy at the four-spot next year, after Jay-Z gets Dwight to Brooklyn. Oops, spoiler!

1. The Gunslinger (Joakim Noah)

You thought I wasn't going to be a homer? You thought I wasn't going to pick this after the lead photo in part 1? You thought Joakim Noah wasn't going to make the list? To quote Barney Frank, "On what planet do you spend most of your time?"

Joakim said it best: "No one is going to out-celebrate me. Roy Hibbert is not going to out-celebrate me."

A quick lesson before I go, cheap seaters: life is meant to be enjoyed. Whatever you do in life, make sure you have fun. So if you beat your uncle at a game of checkers, get the last parking space in front of the post office, or receive a bigger tax refund than you expected, make sure you drop off a little celebration, no matter who's around.

That reminds me, I've got to do my taxes. See you in the cheap seats.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"It's a Celebration": The 10 Best NBA Celebration Dances, Part 1

As soon as our Caterpillar recreational basketball league started, our team discussed our most important strategy: what dance we would do after we hit a shot. Most guys went with the Discount Double-Check (dick riders). Being a Bears fan, I chose not to ride the Aaron Rodgers wave and settled on the Clark Kent (check the jump).

Two months later, our record is a dismal 3-10, our team is fracturing faster than Greg Oden, and we're looking ahead to softball season. But the celebrations haven't quit. There's been no sign of the DD-C, but me and my boy Thomas have taken to doing the Carlos Boozer yell (see below) after a big play. So that got me to thinking: what are the best NBA celebrations in the game right now? Don't worry, that's what we're here for at LitCS.
I want to yell "Grab that shit", but I think I'd get ejected.

10. The Blank Look (Blake Griffin)

What really needs to be said after you dunk on Kendrick Perkins' entire family tree?

9. The....What Is He Doing? (Russell Westbrook)

I'm never really sure what Russell Westbrook is on when he's dunking, but I need some of it. I'd get so much more work done. Or I'd just destroy things.

8. The Chest Pound/Sneer (Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant)

The face that says, "Get off my court, I'm king of this jungle." Or maybe he means "George of the Jungle".

7. The "Kobe Face" (Kobe Bryant)

If Kobe weren't so damn clutch in the late stages, I'd say he has a toothache.

6. The Step Over (Dwyane Wade via Allen Iverson)

There is nothing more disrespectful than stepping over the body of a fallen opponent. Where have you gone, Tyronn Lue?

What could be in the top 5? Look for the remainder of the list tomorrow night. Feel free to post videos of your favorite moves at the Life in the Cheap Seats group on Facebook.