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The Kobe Series – Vino

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Better With Age.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY

Somewhere in past times in the heart of Italy a young mix of European flair and the things American dreams are made of is growing and fermenting between good food and soccer skills. Decades later after ageing for 16 years, through championships and father time, a death of a dynasty and a whirlwind of Hall Of Fame personnel, the one thing that stands the test of time in all its potency and purity is Vino. Vino being Kobe Bryant’s new nickname, lapped up by him pouring through his new Twitter feeds to find a fan who understands the final chapter of his career just as well as he does.

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Getting even better with age, the former eight wonder of the world, wearing the number 24 still has venom in those Black Mamba fangs. It’s venom tinted with vino for a deadly but tempting taste. Cold blood red seeping out of the Celtic green bottle to purple and gold coronation. Sure these days it’s LeBron’s bubbly stung tear winning league and Jordan comparisons, but the only one who could ever even come close to the ‘money’-ball ballpark of the greatest is Kobe ‘Vino’ Bryant. Still crushing opponents like grapes, still always going down smoothly like Burgundy scotch. Even if his Hall Of Fame, dream team turned nightmare teammates are playing like champagne pretenders instead of contenders.

Shaq and Kobe part two but with just the arguments. World Peace in a world war. Gasol on the bench and Steve Nash on the last quarters of his career. No Phil Jackson. No Derek Fisher. No hope against Oklahoma. No playoffs even? We’d love to say no problem but Laker family Kobe has 99 problems right now, but at least a bitch of a downside of a career ‘aint one for the Jay-Z of the league. Even if this hero is watching the throne from a Hawkeye Avenger distance. The dark knight will rise again. Age won’t water this guys talent down. He’s playing like he’s been kept in a cellar for years now just waiting to be uncorked to get it popping. Now left to breathe through the bad times he’s ready to take his team from the cellars and the basements of the Western conference to the royal box and high-rises his franchise is used to.

To Kobe. Until Vino is drinking champagne from a glass again. There’s a quart of diesel and some Zen blessed in this wine, passed down through the ages. Like the Magic/Mike hybrid way he’s played of late, able to switch it up like he’s able to fill any statistical category when needed. Making new moments, memories like classic moments of spirited NBA’s past. There’s memories of 81, that was a good year, like the trifecta of championships, when Kobe, Shaquille and Coach Phil really where the holy trinity of professional basketball. These days the ‘afro may be gone, but the hops aren’t. Rising like yeast through all the sobering problems Kobe’s passion is still a dark red. No rose here, or mild white wine. The Black Mamba will still drink from the reservoir of his talents until his career see’s the toast or the roses.

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You don’t need to hear it from the grapevine that the Lakers are in deep trouble. Elimination trouble. This could be the worst ‘best’ team ever of things don’t change. This isn’t like Shaq, Kobe, Payton and Malone. They played through all their troubles…and brilliantly too. Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace must have the bottle to follow their aged and experienced leader through the vines. Times are hard, this is no secret…but Kobe is the truth. 100 proof like vodka, but just a little more classy. Red wine certified. The stuff of prestige. Prestige belongs with NBA royalty not lottery balls.

The American dreams, cultivated in Italy didn’t come this far to lose. So as Laker fans are drowning their sorrows at night to all sorts of intoxicants, Kobe remains alive and well through it all, playing some of the best ways in his career during the hardest times. Raising a glass to the memory of the recent dearly departed Dr. Jim Buss (rest peacefully), giving his legacy, the voice of Chick Hearn and the words of Jim Murray hope as they look down with pride. Kobe won’t rest until the critics labels wear off and the blood red passion he’s given this game results in glasses clicking with celebration. It’s not about the past, it’s not about the future. It’s about right now and right now Vino is still tried and tested, pouring and scoring. Time to let it breathe.

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NBA

Welcome to the Toronto Raptors’ Jurassic Park

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Welcome To The Toronto Raptors' Jurassic Park
They The North...

“In Jurassic Park, Raptor fans wait until after dark. Even if the cold might eat them!”

Fans find a way.

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An ace serve or two away from being as legendary as Wimbledon’s ‘Murray Mound’ or ‘Henman Hill’ outside the Scotiabank Arena, the Toronto Raptors Maple Leaf Square’s “Jurassic Park” may just be the ticket for this sold out crowd.

Raptor Klaw, Kawhi Leonard ruled the earth last night. He and the T-Dot at the final tick beat the Sixers in The Six, as his shot bobbled like a beach ball on the surface of a swimming pool before making the biggest splash of these postseason playoffs. Taking longer to fall than Leonardo DiCaprio’s spinning top in ‘Inception’. But this was no dream.

And if you thought the Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto erupted last night, then outside in Maple Leaf Square it was like the volcanoes that killed the dinosaurs after that big ball dropped. An Armageddon even Bruce Willis couldn’t save like he wish he could his career.

Welcome to Jurassic World.

With all due respect to the Linsanity of Jeremy Lin, or pick your poison whoever is your flash card pick of the bench mob pack, but the Jurassic Park crowd fenced in outside of Scotia is the teams spiritual sixth man, spark plug. As electric as the paddock like perimeter fence surrounding them feels with this buzz over basketball (and national sport hockey come Leaf picking season), this crowd can’t be contained.

Forget rain or shine. You see the slickers. These faithful fans will pitch a spot waiting for game time like the ball to drop in Times Square for New Year in New York, sleeping bag lining up all day in their hordes huddled for warmth. These beautiful fans will brave the harshest, most frigid temperatures to be the coldest fans in the game in more ways than one. Part of the ‘We The North’ community in the 6 that the Basketball God’s look down on with pride, whilst other armchair fans watch this game for the throne from home. Or leave early like those suit and tie corporate seats trying to catch that last red eye Matt Bonner home.

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Can you imagine of they called game early before Kawhi last night?

I could imagine Drake taking in the CN Tower looking up views of the Jurassic though, like it was all the basketball God’s plan.

Well those in the park for recreation stayed until the beautiful end to a game Butler almost delivered bitter. And you could could phantom cam see every emotion in slow motion last night as Leonard’s buzzer beating ball toyed with the rim like three dots on messenger, or Damien Lillard even further downtown in Oklahoma City.

This is the spirit of the stadium and the soul of the squad, expanding the capacity arena and the Canadian ballclubs worldwide fanbase watching on their own Jumbotrons.

And the Toronto Raptors are going to need all the north they can get if they’re going to stop the Bucks in Milwaukee.

But this club has the claws to do it. And if you don’t think they can win in Wisconsin on their own road to being the first franchise outside of the United States to be NBA finalists and who knows what next against the Warriors(?), then just watch this Canadian cornerstone from the Jurassic era.

Extinct in six? Nah! Get ready to hear the North roar.

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NBA

A tale of two magnificent game sevens

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A Tale Of Two Magnificent Game Sevens
The Seventh Seal...

As the Klaw was falling out of bounds as the buzzer blared and blazed red, the Spalding hit the rim and bounced back up. Kawhi Leonard, crouched at the baseline like Tiger Woods mastering Augusta, with his M.J. clutch tongue out and that thousand yard stare for a picture that was about to say that many words just watched. The ball hit the rim again as super sub Jordan Lloyd in street clothes with his arm around Kawhi excitedly watched in anticipation at all this air time that seemed to last longer than Winters in The Six. It looked like Summer in this city would drop before this simmering ball. It hit the rim again. To Leonard’s left Philly Sixer, Joel Embiid, almost smiling watched all this process with Game 7 and the Eastern Conference semi-finalists and who will play the Bucks in the final on the line like this ball in the seconds after time expired. It hit the rim again.

And again and again…

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…and then it dropped.

Sunday was such a fun day for sports fans. In the same 24 hours where the Premiership came down to the last game as the valiant reds of Liverpool lost the race to the champion Manchester City by two points (sound familiar?) in the afternoon, the NBA had one hell of a double header to close out God’s day which is usually a lazy one with a blessed gift from the hoop heavens.

Two game sevens in one night? This must be fantasy Basketball.

But it all came down to this.

First up the Pepsi Center in Nevada cracked open the last game between the two wild cards come good of the host Denver Nuggets looking to stone-cut their way to success and the visiting Portland looking to blaze a trail out of Rip City, following their first round downpour from way downtown against the OKC Thunder. But in the first half it looked like the Dame Time watch of Lillard had stopped as this team down by as many as 17 looked as cold as that teenage age. It looked like The Joker Jokic with 29 and 13 and his golden Nuggets held all the cards.

That was until the second half turned into C.J. time.

That’s when the other half of the best backcourt in the league (sorry Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards. Get well soon John Wall. Show us what you still got next season) came alive in the crunch time like snap, crackle and pop. CJ McCollum definitely finished his breakfast on Sunday morning as he had an extra bowl this afternoon and finished with 37 points. Stopping on a dime and turning into a mid-range killer as his previously burnt our Blazers got that fire back and a 100-96 close victory in a to the wire and free throw line conclusion like chess tense. All checked for their first trip to the Wild West finals since the year 2000. The time Bonzi and the boys met Shaq and Kobe and that infamous, iconic alley-oop with arms up and mouths open.

But this time they will meet another dynasty champion…the Golden State Warriors.

Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green and Steph Curry with the shot. One more before the Silicon Valley of San Francisco.

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“Kick them off he court again boy”!

But that wasn’t the only thriller this night as we in the north were treated to more hardwood history making playoff views just north of six. If you were a betting man you couldn’t call it between these two games and teams. That’s why we have seven games. Or as the Nuggets coach Michael Malone screaming and staring in the eyes of elimination and his players said it best during his last timeout, “there’s no Game 8”! Whatever the outcome of this one was going to take all the Oxygen out the ScotiaBank former Air Canada Center.

In the end after two tales of epic four quarters there was no time for overtimes. As this 92-90 game came down to the closing clutch and two free agents to be who didn’t know whether they would be playing on Wednesday in Milwaukee, or fishing back home. Let alone what jerseys they’d be wearing next season, come Summer. Jimmy Butler thought he had it with a hard fought lay-up as did a jumping and clapping Embiid in premature celebration. But then the usual calm and composed assassin of Kawhi Leonard with 41 looked to claw away at all that, as he emphatically ran to the corner of downtown like your first night out of youth and launched what would have been a Hail Mary prayer if you didn’t believe just how brilliant this guy is. Craning the gooseneck and then watched as another Toronto Star took that renaissance painting iconic photo.

And judging from the usual calm and composed Kawhi’s screaming reaction as what looked like the whole of Toronto hug mobbed him you can guess the outcome with an electric Jurassic Park as wild as real raptors alive outside that no perimeter fence could contain. Forget the next few months and whether he will trade this cold front and touch of frost for a sunny day in L.A., right now Leonard has a real chance of making hoops history as Canada could well become the first franchise outside of the United States to become National Basketball Association champions. And those ready for that laughing GIF in response that was a lifetime ago. Look at his face last night. Whose laughing now? They said he’d never leave San Antonio and looked what happened there. The opposite could here.

But with both games done and dusted, taking it to the brackets the most impressive thing on both fronts yesterday was the professionalism. Whether it be the respect and heart emoji exchange between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers on Twitter. Or Marc Gasol consoling and embracing an emotional and tearful Joel Embiid (absolutely heartbreaking and healing to watch) postgame in Toronto and undoubtedly telling him how much of a warrior he is. In a time where fans troll, reduce and erase superstars and teams into memes as soon as they are eliminated (James Harden? The MVP? Really? Like we could do better against the Dubs…or anyone) it’s real and refreshing.

And that is why we play…and watch.

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