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Allen Iverson – Gridiron Rep

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Allen Iverson – Gridiron Rep

Any Other Sunday.

#TheIversonSeries

Ann Iverson: “You going to basketball practice today”
Allen Iverson: “I aint playing no basketball, its soft. I don’t want to play no basketball…”

“…I don’t like basketball!”

A young Allen Iverson is running like there’s no tomorrow. No end to this path, problem or playbook. The row’s and tattoo’s aren’t all there but the heart and soul is. Everyone’s chasing him. From his opponents on the floor to all the eyes in the crowd on him. Some fixing him with doubt, others piercing with hope. He drives, twists and turns like that slippery when wet, tenacious juggernaut he is rocking to the stadium like Bon Jovi…the music this hip to the hop kid doesn’t roll with. Weighing in at just shy of a buck 70, probably that mark when sweating, he tears through the open lane, a flight-path only cleared because of his crossover potential to weave a wonder and thread his small, sinewy frame through any needle point. Men are falling all over him like he was a supermodel…he’s for sure a superstar. He’s leaving them for dust in the heels of his cleats. He bobs and ducks, leaving defender after defender with no fruit. Now how do you like them apples? Twisting and turning, ducking and diving like Ali, this kid looks like the greatest as he floats through the wall of defense and finds the last few steps it’ll take to sting like a bee. No cream can soothe this. They said he was streaky like a bad window cleaner. Weak like all someone in that position has left and not built for this game. As he’s about to score one for his team and his own legend, scoring over the opposition and every critic that tried to write him wrong this is more than just another “point” to be made however. Here it is, ‘front row seat, radio in hand, snacks by feet’. Everyone’s finally waking up as A.I goes to town. Round his back, all the way down to the ground as everybody screams…TOUCHDOWN!?

“Serious I never wanted to play it” Allen Iverson tells SLAM magazine, with a scoop on a conversation with his mom like only the journalism names of Jackson could get from the answer. There’s no question here. You’re not ‘Illin’ like a Run-DMC classic playing around with the great Doctor J, Julius Erving. You may now Allen Iverson from the court conviction of hoops dreams made into the realest reality. A man who overcame all the racist hate, playground level jokes and talk about his appearance and cultural shift that truly changed the game more than the overused, saturated term to show his game did the walking. A player who not only crossed over the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan, but the whole league and world too. From the dress-code to the cross over dunk trend of idolisation. An icon was born into the hip-hop/hoops soulful partnership that flowed off key together like jazz and we aren’t talking about Utah or Stockton. A man that bridged the gap between Michael, Kobe and LeBron with a different player that will for sure never be duplicated no matter how many young pup players try to copy and paste the artificial intelligence of your dawg A.I. A man that doesn’t need a great SLAM special collectors edition issue in his name or a gracious jersey retirement ceremony for you to remember just who he is and all he’s done. It’s personified everywhere in todays culture on and beyond the court. It’s still so hard to believe that he’s “retired” and not coming back one more time, like LL said…he’s “been here for years”. Are we really that old? The heart still beats for the soul saviour and survivor of purist poetry hardwood hype made history. A heart that showed he could go sneaker to sneaker with ANYBODY. Driving into the lane time and time again to paint more points that his outside J could still afford…but that his body inside couldn’t. Taking shot after shot and beat down after beat down from anybody to make his way to the bucket and the rafters some championship banners really did belong next to his number 3 jersey. This David wasn’t afraid of anybody, not even the Goliath daddy of them all in Shaquille O’Neal as the answer almost took Larry O’Brien off the Lake Show dynasty of Shaq and Kobe. Forget Tyrone Lue…Allen Iverson almost stepped over the entire history of the storied Los Angeles Lakers franchise.

This type of heart doesn’t come with ‘practice’ (sorry…like Christophe Waltz we couldn’t resist). It’s something your born with but broods and breeds all throughout your life from what you hold inside to what you show to the outside world. It’s heart that transcends sport so much it can translate to any game…but make no mistake the talent has to be there too. Boy did this kid have some talent too. Before he owned the streets of Philadelphia like Springsteen as a Sixer. Even before he showed John Thompson and the legendary Georgetown Hoya alumni that their biggest players weren’t just the tower trio of Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. Not to get defensive, but when the latter mount joined Iverson in Philly for a championship run that showed them as the hard working, high-guarded, anti Shaq and Kobe dynamic duo, he could see that this guy was tougher than basketball leather for another run at a DMC homage reference. Pigskin maybe?! The Philadelphia basketball legend Dr. Julius Erving knew the order, even if Charles Barkley at first didn’t. We all came around. We didn’t need to see an awesome Jadakiss Reebox commercial to see that his “heart was huge”. All you had to do was watch some football. Some high-school highlights from Bethel high school that shine brighter than what you see in the trophy cabinet down their hall of fame for this Naismith lock. A hidden genius talent like Matt Damon’s janitor ‘Good Will Hunting’ you have to see it to believe it. He made it in hoops despite his size and even with all that weight and height (or lack of) you better believe it. Allen Iverson was an incredible American football player. Thank God for padding right? Let’s be serious for a second and change this statement up. Allen Iverson could have played in the NFL. Yeah, I said it!

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You better believe it. This kid had two fields as the ‘Associated Press High School Player Of The Year’-in BOTH sports-led both squads to Virginia State Championships. Iverson was just this good when he was traveling with the ball when it was legal to do so. The Basketball God’s are glad he followed their path to hoops heaven on earth and not the adjustment bureau of the Madden world, but still whether you’re passion lies on the field or on the pine it’s certainly more than a curious notion to think what it would have been like if young Allen entered the NFL draft instead of the NBA one. All the history he wrote in his Basketball dominance wouldn’t have happened and that’s a cruel shame to even imagine but who knows what could have happened on the gridiron?! We may have been missing out on something just as special and/or stellar. Those people (residing in Minnesota of course) who wanted to clone Kevin Garnett as he could play all five positions on the basketball floor may have wanted to save some room in the machine for the fly off court talents of Iverson. He could have been one of the best…he of course still is but we’re talking about a different vision at commercial success like LeBron choosing the Cleveland Browns (“baaaby”) for his televised decision. Iverson’s playoffs may have not paid off with a championship but he could have had his Sherman superbowl moment from the braids to the front page…you can guarantee he would have dunked over the goal in celebration with every touchdown too. What could have been instead is what should have been in this superstars life, but looking through the glass of the alternate reality sliding doors certainly is as inspiring as it is intriguing.

They called him “electrifying”. An “entertainer”. Said he made the big plays on both ends of the floor…and boy could he ‘run Forrest run’ when given the ball. Sound familiar? They say that Iverson wasn’t built for Basketball despite him proving everyone wrong. Perhaps he was built for this game? Need more proof for your doubt? He was all state his junior year. The schools Q.B’s finest who could kick-off, punt, play running back, kick returner and defensive back as well as the quarterback position. This Point Guard of the first and down just knew how to lead teams with his driven desire the epic example. He did everything on the field, drawing capacity crowds of 200 off it. “Before there was Michael Vick, there was an Allen Iverson” they said. Now what does that tell you? The influential interceptions, stellar sacks and raw runs that followed through to the tenacious and triumphant touchdowns, this was an end to end genius that just knew how to play the game like the steal to smash lay-up line he made his on the hardwood. His seven interceptions at safety made a state record that still stands. This defence almost rests. Now THAT, like the player he was, was difficult to tackle. They compared him to Dion Sanders. Had him set for a different draft, until a Stern wind blew in. Still, even when it came to football, Allen Ezail Iverson was his own man with his own plan. Or maybe his mothers one. When that bowling incident derailed the football lane he was about to strike through with an undeserved prison term the future of his helmet and pads play was brought to the ground with a wake-up crunch, but this isn’t the reason Iverson went a different route. After following his mothers orders to go play basketball (boy, don’t you wish we all had parents like this?) he learned to love the “other” game he played as he hooped it up with his football friends. The rest of course-as you know-is history at it’s finest. Like the ‘Mr. Football’ he was named in the Virginia Newport News and the 1,423 yards with 14 touchdowns and 781 yards gained with 15 touchdowns that made him one of footballs top recruits and a Heisman hallmark if he had made history in a different game. We’re glad by the grace of the basketball lord that Iverson was called by the one true game that would become his. A same call that even without a ring The Answer will reply to Naismith one day. Still, throughout it all and especially in the early days this basketball superstar would always wonder what it would have been like if he followed football. Thankfully though this is all a notorious dream, instead of his B.I.G. reality. Still it’s a play that even Madden couldn’t draw up. One we’ll always touch back on even if the blind side can’t see.

“There are so many great offensive players. And to be a great defensive player that’s special because you’re stopping a great offensive player. That’s like a linebacker-if you a great linebacker, that’s serious, man to be able to get Barry Sanders every-time you want to. That’s crazy, that’s talent.”-Allen Iverson.

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NBA

Great British Basketball Legend Luol Deng Retires Full Circle With Chicago

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Great British Basketball Legend Luol Deng Retires Full Circle With Chicago
The Chicago Way...

10 years ago this writer holding a microphone as nervous as if he was about to get his Bill Murray on in ‘Lost In Translation’ and perform karaoke for the first time in Tokyo, but with no Scarlett Johansson, palm sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy…moms spaghetti (and on the surface he does NOT look calm and ready) is taking part in his first press conference…let alone his first NBA one. All for a major magazine for his first writing job, just a mere month after he wrote his first ever article for what we the British call, “a laugh”. No Buzz, no blog. And who was my first question too?

No other but the commissioner…Mr. David Stern.

But as Stern as you could call him, the pre-Silver commish was the most warm and gregarious you could imagine. That’s when I got a little wind under my wings like I was wearing Air Jordan’s for this NBA London postgame Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz presser. I had a few questions for then Chi-town coach Vinny Del Negro. I don’t think I had the balls to ask Coach Sloan anything. But apparently I had enough confidence to tell the then Jazz leader Deron Williams that his team could test my Lakers…he didn’t agree (there’s the spirit D-Will). And then in walked the man of the hour. The whole reason this game was here and at the very least taking off on these shores. Sudan born but British raised Luol Deng. He too was kind enough to give me a quote worthy answer to my question. Then as he left past the cameras and tape recorders I reached out my hand and he shook it back.

Star…STRUCK!

Thank you for that Luol, and for everything you’ve done for British basketball…and also for being part of my beloved purple and gold Lakers for a season or two (or more as fate would have it). Although most fans who can’t look past that massive contract fail to see that the most underrated superstar of this era was worth every penny when healthy…no Lake Show aficionado talks smack about the Steve Nash cash. 

Now as this writer a decade later pens this in a Japanese residence aiming to have his own contract to remain here throughout the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, a week after taking in the cities NBA Japan Games featuring the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors, I look back to that Chicago Bulls London game of 2009 and the 2012 Olympics that came in London a few years later and everything you’ve done for the sport in my homeland and host nation. Knowing that from Brixton to Sudan you truly are a global ambassador like Dikembe Mutombo and like that mountain of a man will be at many a London exhibition for the National Basketball Association post career, no finger wag. No one-apart from former Orlando Magic big John Amaechi who truly changed the game from an equality perspective in the locker room-has done more for this game in the British Isles.

But this article isn’t about the U.K. Or even NBA Africa. Although that, just like your incredible and inspired charity work is worthy of its own book…let alone article. This is about the untouchable city of Chicago, from De Niro to Capone. The Windy City and the changing season you brought in with a gust and the Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson team of the new millennium and hope…that in the legendary United Centre seems as lost as the elevated train town that surrounds it, albeit still so classic. As American as apple pie…or Michael Jordan.

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As you walk past his Statue of Liberty to this city iconic statue outside in the unmistakable windy granite look of this area, cemented in the nostalgia of the golden era 90’s like a Pippen bronze bust once you and your pulled tight coat get inside out the cold, you know what it’s about. Post Jordan and Baby Bulls era you were the team to compete, bring it all back. And although Rose was the next 23 in line star to grow from concrete you were the dependable all-star from the start and a ten years of your own. You’ll go down as one of the best Bulls ever. Like the 1 and only Rose, your number nine will be shot up there in the rafters with all the twenty and thirty-three’s and all the banners bar injuries you could have put up there.

Why?

Two All-Star selections an All Defensive Second Team selection and the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for starters that’s why. But the Duke grad who also logged some time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat (after Pat Riley called him one of the most important acquisitions after he came in for the post King era in South Beach)  was much more than a number, even if his will end up with the air up there when it is all said and done…which it is. Because after playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves last year after his Hollywood divorce, Deng is calling it a career. But he isn’t retiring Minny with the Wolves oh no. And there won’t be one last dance of a season sadly for those practicing their steps.

But still he is galloping out this association as a Bull. After signing a one-day contract with the team he entered the league with as an all rookie, seventh draft pick, Luol will retire and leave the league with the same team. It’s a grand gesture and nice move from the Bulls (even though it leaves talented player Perrion Callandret cut (bring him back)), as Deng’s 15 year career-with the lion share being with these cubs-comes full circle in Chicago like this town’s Loop subway system.

As Chicago as Common, Deng is back where he belongs if only for a night as the seasons of change and cities weather brings him back to where it all began for a fitting end blowing in the wind.

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NBA

Lakers Licking Warriors All Preseason

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Lakers Licking Warriors All Preseason
Name a more iconic Laker duo...we'll wait...

Number 23, James jerseys being burnt in fiery flames of anger and anguish. Just like a Cavalier when he left the land for a new flame with the South Beach talents of the Miami Heat.

Political commentators almost telling him to “shut up and dribble” like they were Trump.

It’s been a rough week for LeBron James.

But it has been an even rougher year for the people of Hong Kong…and that’s the point LeBron.

For all the controversy in China-from billboards coming down like it was a decade ago. To think before you tweet, hypocritical tweets being sent like the Donald (you could have waited ‘Bron…period)-James had to rebound on his return to Hollywood after the reality of the last seven days. And boy did he like Barkley. Running a power move on them like Chuck. Just days after being made a Public Enemy for failing to fight the power for a nation of millions, refusing to be held back.

And saying no more about the situation, whilst admitting wrong. Taking blame and hoping for an accepted apology, Business LeBron let his game do the talking.

And it SANG!

Answering back on the hardwood court at least…if not the one of public and social media trending opinion.

After failing to close out the China Games for the West and find the nets against Brooklyn in the Far East, James and his Laker gang returned to their regular preseason schedule for their California clash series with the former champion Golden State Warriors.

And right now it’s all Lakers like A.D., A.C., A.B., J-McGee, D-Howard, Danny Green, Quinn cookin’ against his old firm and K.C.P.

First the Lakers were too hot for the Warriors Chase Centre house warming in San Francisco. Then across the Golden Gate and state the Lake Show’s new young core manned up with the beard and the brow sitting. As rook Zach Norvell Jr. had 22 in his number 21 (hey Lakers maybe don’t trade this one), leading a youth in revolt featuring NBA family legacy members Kostas Antetokounmpo and David Stockton against the splash brotherhood and their newly adopted sibling, former Laker D’Angelo Russell, wetting everything on the Pacific Coast right now. Even Dwight Howard proved again against all the odds and odd looks just how big a back-up he’s going to be with 12 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals for the finest of lines.

And then there was the 126-93 candle blowing of last night for two teams who will meet tomorrow too. But right now with the Lakers licking the Warriors so much like a lizards tongue, Golden State are in the soft state of being the ice cream right now.

Let it melt!

But for all the cones like a kid holding two perhaps we’ve just SLAM cover jinked it all right now.

Still, tomorrow is another day.

As for yesterday all the Dubs troubles weren’t so far away as James’ La La Land company went full ‘Space Jam’ Monstar’s on the K.O’d champs. Playing some of the most beautiful basketball you’ll ever see…let alone in mere preseason play. Which rust dust off is taken so much more serious these days with the advent of social media allowing for instant replays in high-rises and hamlets across the world in the blink of a tweeting second. The drama is almost at a Shakespearian level…especially after last week. And to tweet or not to tweet (that is no longer the question) LeBron knows how to fine tune, orchestrate it all. Quarterback running it like the point position he was meant to take up like the number 6 and the chalk tossing headband days he’s strapping back on.

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‘The Greatest Basketball Story Ever Told’ about the Milan miracle Hickory Hoosiers by Greg Guffey features many a classic line of inspired journalism. One being about how a big-man dunked the ball as gently as dropping an egg in a basket. This plagiarism aside perfectly describes one of McGee’s slam’s. But the rest he and the Ghidorah big-man three-headed monster put down was like the dunk contests they all used to partake. And this table of full courses was set perfectly by the King like a moat surrounding a castle, thanks to the arrow in the ground perfect picks hammered down and planted with the deepest roots by these seven feet high and rising pivots off the roll.

And that was when the King wasn’t American Football running his way through the paint to pastel his own touchdowns with easel ease. One touch pass from the palette to Dwight Howard had exquisite wrote all over it, alley to oop.

But that wasn’t even the best one.

That belonged to the contouring down court of LeBron’s falling out of bounds, M.J. against the Lakers switch hands pass to Danny Green, waiting at the corner shop to bag the three, paper or plastic and make the King look even better like the previous week didn’t even happen. After all the social media white noise to what was more a misjudgement and the mistake of a man that is still school opening and philanthropic more than an athlete, this master move, worthy of the greatest of all-time highlight package-let alone the regular season itself-inspired Instagram flame emojis from everyone from former meme teammate Lance Stephenson back in China to the merc with a mouth, Deadpool himself actor Ryan Reynolds here in Hollywood.

LeBron’s 18 to go along with four rebounds, 11 assists and one steal, next to Davis’ 8 points and assists, 10 rebounds, one steal and two blocks. Not to mention Cook’s broth of 16 points and 3 assists against his old Chef Curry boys, Howard’s end of 13 points and 7 rebounds, McGee’s 12, 6 rebounds, a steal and a block and Avery Bradley’s 18 was the most balanced of attacks and too much for friend to foe D’Angelo Russell’s Jordanesque 23, off some of the fresh pail of water purest buckets.

Sure this game the Warriors were without soldier Stephen Curry to match his soaked on the side-line Splash Brother and the departed Durant. But they still had Green on this day like the Lakers. And the purple and gold themselves are still without former Golden State big DeMarcus Cousins and the young Prince of the King’s men Kyle Kuzma whose just had the option on his contract exercised like ghosts.

Just wait until they get at least one of those guys back.

It’s going to be real scary in Hollywood this Halloween.

And we’re on the eve of seeing it all over again back across the Bay, to close it all out a week after this teams horror show.

Time to suit up in the league’s most famous costume.

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NBA

Big Trouble For Lakers Against Nets In China

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Big Trouble For Lakers Against Nets In China
The China Syndrome...

Making ’em move and shake like the guitar he strums, former Laker meme team reserve Lance Stephenson is making his name and game proud in China. Lifting trophies just weeks after taking off for the Far East. But as for his former team, they had nothing to dance about when they left China after their Shanghai/Shenzhen double-header with the Brooklyn Nets.

There was no Kevin Durant. In the end with a facial fracture no Kyrie Irving and no Anthony Davis for most of Game 2 with a sore thumb. It sucked. But there was almost no game for all the King’s men and the Brooklyn boys as China went dark on the NBA following the events of last week.

Billboards of LeBron and co came down like witnessing the first time he left Cleveland for the talents of South Beach following some comments from the Rockets G.M., James Harden and Russell Westbrook in support of the Hong Kong protesters. And they weren’t even in China. Playing big in Japan with the champion Toronto Raptors. Splitting their two game series in Tokyo a year before the 2020 Olympics, one game apiece. Commissioner Adam Silver back them up saying they, the protestors and everyone has a “right to free speech”…and then everything came down.

First China cut ties with the NBA like your exes friends on Facebook. Then all posters, media and the like were removed like any chance of these games being televised. It looked like they wouldn’t even tip off as the Lakers and Net teams were stuck in their hotel rooms wondering if they could even go outside to Instagram those iconic skyline sights. The Lakers-getting there first-didn’t even have WIFi to check what was going on or scroll through their Twitter timelines and take on the trolls. But in the end from Shanghai to Shenzhen there was LeBron bringing back the iconic chalk-toss pregame like he has the headband Heat days.

But if the King thought that was the end of his troubles in China then he was thumb sorely mistaken as the Nets bucketed the Lakers on the four frames of both trips. And if you want to talk about trolling Brooklyn also had the best bite back GIF reply to the Lakers “consider this a warning” tweet last week after beating the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco for their preseason opener.

Spencer Dinwiddie’s expression said it all.

Watch what you tweet.

Despite dropping two like Alka Seltzer tablets the Lake’s put on a show as ‘Bron bulldozed the lane like John Deere and the Ghidora three-headed big-man monster of the Lakers showed they could even take on Godzilla if they were ever to cross the continent to the city of Tokyo. A.D. again coming up big before injuries got in his way, even from downtown Shanghai on that night, showed how much he’s been working on his three-ball. But wolf McGee huffing, puffing and blowing the Nets painted post house down (before swatting the ball away from him like it was the hand of a significant other that had just pissed him off) and Howard finishing off alley-oops with that old Orlando magic (mosquito swatting all other shots. Looking more and more like a solid pick-up to round out the bolstered bench on his reunion redemption move as he blocks out any doubt) turned the lay-up line into a dunk contest. With both former participants liking it from their alternate takes on the bench and vice versa. Getting up and off it like it was their time to play.

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McGee is one of this writers fan favourite Laker players…of any era. But if you bleed purple and gold you have to love the Bruce Bowen like Avery Bradley right now and all he’s doing for the team not only the defence end he dominates like the people’s court, but the shots he selects and creates for himself on the business end. From reigning champ Danny Green, to little Greek brother Kostas Antetokounmpo who also showed out (making it another NBA family affair for the Lakers after signing legendary Point Guard John Stockton’s son David from South Bay. A year after picking up Gary Payton II), A.B. in the offseason of A.D. may be one of LeBron’s Lakers best pick-ups. Especially in this pick-up game like preseason exhibition. Hopes for this purple season are higher than Meth and Red right now.

But in the end in China it was nothing but the Nets.

Spreading love the BKLYN way with some crazy, rich wins, the Nets tore down the Lakers 114-111 in Shanghai, thanks to a former Laker of all people. As former (former) D-League to big league sensation David Nwaba iced the game off the turnover with a huge, signature slam with 13.9 to go before KCP (he’s still here… that’s how abyss deep the Lakers are this year) couldn’t convert a clutch three. This after both Irving and Caris LaVert went down (the latter joining Kyrie’s facial fractures with being poked in the eye). Spencer ‘The GIF’ Dinwiddie with 20 et al picked up the slack however to show the Nets are just as deep. Especially upfront, even rivalling the Lakers big, big-three as Jarrett Allen and new free agent pick-up DeAndre Jordan combined for seven big blocks.

Not treading shallow water either the following game on the H.K. border of Shenzhen closed it all out for an eventful and stressful half week. With many fans wearing hearts on their jerseys and other on their sleeves as the former New Jersey Nets took on the former Minneapolis Lakers in the second Chinese city. LeVert returned and scored 22 in that many minutes of play to lead his team to a 3-zip postseason record ensuring the Lakers would get no sleep on their return flight ’till Los Angeles. And this was without Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. Even the locked down dreads of rookie Nicolas Claxton got in on the action with 8 points in nine minutes. If the Nets can beat the Lakers now just imagine what it will be like when their one, two punch hits. It looks like they have a dynamic duo to best not only ‘Bron and the ‘Brow, but the Shaq and Kobe greatest of all time too.

But if you thought that was how you send a message then just look at the Chinese fans who came to the game in their teams jerseys, but with a Chinese flag covering the Jerry West silhouette of the NBA logo.

Now that’s how you make a statement. Although let’s make one ourselves and continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong, but also look for peace and resolution in this critical time. Support the Lakers and Nets all you want but this was just a game…and a mere exhibition one at that. The support Hong Kong needs right now is so much more.

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