Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ranking the NBA Finals Losers Since 2003 (Version 3.0)

PARTY PEOPLE!!! That's the start to the 1993 Miami bass smash hit "Whoomp! (There It Is)" performed by Tag Team and it's also the start to this edition of Infinite Wisdom.  I'm you host El Guapo and today I update an old popular post of mine.  You guessed it!  I'm ranking the NBA Finals losers once more to take into account the results of this year's Finals.  Where will the 2014 NBA Finals runners up Miami Heat land on the list?  Continue reading to find out.

12. 2007- Cleveland Cavaliers (Lost in 4 Games)
This is the only team on this list that got swept in the Finals.  I remember this being a super boring match up.  I also remembering earlier in the playoffs my Warriors upsetting the Dallas Mavericks.  We Believe!  (God! Do you ever shut up about the Warriors?) Nope.  Now back in '07 everyone thought the Finals would be a rematch between the Pistons and Spurs.  Then, in the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James said "Not Today!" and single-handedly upset the Detroit Pistons to put the Cavs in the Finals.  And I really mean single-handedly.  Do you even want me to tell you the rest of the starting line-up?  Boobie Gibson, Drew Goodon, Sasha Pavlovic & Big Z.  Well, long story short LeBron couldn't defeat the Spurs on his own.

11. 2014- Miami Heat (Lost in 5 Games)
I have a lot to say about this team and this sad match up.  First of all, this was a great team that had taken a huge step backward due to age.  It was essentially the '07 Cavs but with older people with bad knees.  Dwayne Wade with his rickety knees was a hyped up Mo Williams.  Ray Allen was Delonte West with a nice resume and no experience with LeBron's mom.  Once again LeBron had to carry a sorry team to the Finals just to lose.  The difference this time was this team had a few rings under its belt.  The Heat were fortunate enough to be on the massively weak Eastern Conference or else they probably wouldn't have made it to the Finals.  What was supposed to be an epic rematch of last year's Finals turned into some of the most boring and sad basketball I have seen in my relatively short life.  The Heat got blown out in the four games they lost by the team that perfected the art of team basketball.  (The Spurs really love their fundamentals.)  The one game they won was arguably a game that the Spurs gave away.  The most memorable this about this series will the the Malfunctioning AC Game and LeBron heading to the bench with cramps.

10. 2009- Orlando Magic (Lost in 5 Games)
I bet a good number of people reading this blog are going, "Oh yeah, the Magic were in the Finals.  Forgot all about that."  And with good reason; this was a very unmemorable match-up.  Everyone and their mom wanted to see LeBron vs. Kobe and if not at least a Boston/Los Angeles rematch.  Sad to say we got neither.  This was back when Dwight Howard was still NBA's sweetheart.  "Dwight can do no wrong!" they said.  (Silly Orlando folk.)  It's not like this was a shitty team necessarily.  It just wasn't nearly as good as the Lakers.  Orlando's offense consisted of having Dwight in the middle with their three-point sharp shooters (Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson & good ol' Mickael Pietrus) waiting for the pass when Dwight couldn't get his in. 

9. 2012- Oklahoma City Thunder (Lost in 5 Games)
What a disappointing series!  What was supposed to be an epic match-up between LeBron and Kevin Durant turned out to be an ass-kick by the Heat.  It never really got be Lebron vs. Kevin Durant because Russell Westbrook kept fucking things up for Durant.  I'm not hating on Westbrook, I love seeing this motherfucker play, but he has to be one of the most inefficient players in the NBA behind Klay Thompson.  (See, I could talk shit about my own team.)  It was never King James vs. KD.  Instead the rivalry became Russell Westbrook vs. himself, with LeBron becoming the clear winner.  It was a pretty solid team though: Kevin Durant the superstar, Russ Westbrook the explosive guard, James Harden the perfect 6th man, Serge Ibaka Mr. Get-That-Shit-Out-Of-Here himself, Kendrick Perkins not smiling, and Grandpa Derek Fisher.

8. 2011- Miami Heat (Lost in 6 Games)
At this time everybody was either in love with LeBron or secretly planning his assassination.  The latter was most likely because of "The Decision" made in the off-season.  There were a lot of people wishing him the worst during these Finals, including me.  And for anybody hating on LeBron, the results were priceless: LeBron averaging less than 18 points, the Heat losing in 6, Chris Bosh crying on the way to the locker room.  It's not like it was all Lebron's fault though; the Heat probably had one of the worst benches in the league.  It wasn't '07 Cavs bad, but still, it just wasn't a deep team.  Also a lot of sportscasters were trying to spin these Finals as some big rematch between the Mavericks and the Heat.  The only remaining players from the '06 Mavs team was Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki.  And unless I'm mistaken the only remaining players from the Heat were Udonis Haslem and Dwayne Wade.  (I'm not even going to bother looking that up.  You could do that as an extra curricular activity if you want.)

7. 2003- New Jersey Nets (Lost in 6 Games)
For all you youngsters out there who are watching their first season of NBA basketball it's time for me to drop some knowledge.  A long time ago the Brooklyn Nets used to be the New Jersey Nets.  And by "A long time ago" I mean just last year.  You can thank Jay-Z for that.  Anyway, the Finals prior to the ones in 2003 also featured the New Jersey Nets.  In 2002 they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers which featured the famous Kobe/Shaq duo.  Well, 2003 came around and the Nets were back for more and this time they were facing the Spurs.  The Nets were hungry for the title but my boy Stephen Jackson said, "Not today!" and put the dagger in them in game 6.  Even with a roster like Jason Kidd, an SJND alumni, Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin and Brian Scalabrine (yes, even the god couldn't help them) the Nets were no match for the Spurs.

6. 2004- Los Angeles Lakers (Lost in 5 Games)
On paper this sounds like a pretty good roster: Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Karl Malone, Shaquille O' Neal, Gary Payton.  Too bad you don't play basketball on paper.  The thing was Karl Malone wasn't the Mailman anymore.  The Glove was out of his prime.  Shaq and Kobe had problems.  The result was a loss to the Detroit Pistons in 5 games.  And thus ended the Shaq & Kobe Lakers era.  Shaq would leave for the Miami Heat and it would be another five years before Kobe and the Lakers would win another title.  Five years doesn't sound like a long time but for the Lakers that's a lifetime.  (Those greedy bastards!)  The thing about this loss was the Pistons didn't really have any superstars.  They had a lot of good players, just no household names.  I remember thinking, "Who the hell are these guys?"

5. 2006- Dallas Mavericks (Lost in 6 Games)
They were up two games to none.  The Mavs had the Heat with their backs up against the wall.  Then Dwayne Wade said, "Not Today!" (it's such a great phrase to say) and led a Miami Heat comeback.  Mark Cuban's Mavs wouldn't get their "revenge" for another six years but the Mavs were surly a force to be reckoned with, right?  (The Mavs would lose in the first round to the Golden State Warriors the following year marking the greatest upset in NBA history.)  Still, they had a great roster.  Dirk Nowitzki was the unguardable big man who could light it up from three.  He was surrounded by solid players Josh Howard, Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse and Jason Terry.  They probably had a better roster than the Heat but Dwayne Wade was by far the best player in that series.  And no one on that team could stop Shaq, even if he was starting to decline.

4. 2008- Los Angeles Lakers (Lost in 6 Games)
The Lakers had gone through some mediocre years up until that point.  Then they decided to turn things around and bring in Pau Gasol in a trade with Memphis.  Now all of a sudden the Lakers were back in the Finals "reigniting" a rivalry with the Boston Celtics that had been dead since 1987.  But the Boston Celtics had the Big 3: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen & Kevin Garnett.  As skilled as Pau Gasol is, he was just too soft to handle KG.  The Lakers had a great roster though that would eventually win two titles.  Kobe had a chip on his shoulder and was trying to win a title without Shaq.  Pau Gasol was as skilled as you got in a big man.  Derek Fisher, a "Ranking the NBA Finals Losers Since 2003" veteren (see #9 and #6), just being there when needed.  Lamar Odom doing solid work at the three or four.  Andrew Bynum not playing because his body hates him.  All in all a good team. 

3. 2010- Boston Celtics (Lost in 7 Games)
A rematch from the Finals two years earlier.  The Celtics were sure to do it again, right?  Wrong!  Kobe & Gang knew what they were doing this time around.  This series went the full seven games, one of only two teams to do that on this list.  This year the Celtics weren't the "Big 3"; they were the "Big 4".  Ray Allen, Paul Pierce & KG had a group meeting and decided Rondo could sit at the cool kids table.  The only problem was that the Lakers acquired Ron Artest, now known as Metta World Peace (take notes kids), and his psychiatrist seemed to be the secret to their success.  Not even a repeat of the Paul Pierce's fake (?) knee injury from their previous Finals encounter could have saved the Celtics from the inevitable.  Kobe wasn't messing around.

2. 2013- San Antonio Spurs (Lost in 7 Games)
And we have arrived.  Six years after The Spurs swept LeBron and just LeBron living in Cleveland, the Spurs and King James met again.  (This time it was the Spurs vs LeBron living in Miami.)  This wasn't really the same Spurs team from years past.  They had the same core of Duncan, Parker, Ginoblili and Coach Pop, but other than that the supporting cast was completely different.  The Spurs landed a no. 2 seed in the playoffs and swept the Kobe-less Lakers.  (Basically the equivalent of the Sacramento Kings.)  Then they faced my Golden State Warriors and moved on after 6 games.  (Ah yes, the Warriors.)  The Spurs then swept the Grizzlies and saw themselves face to face with the league's best team and best player.  How was Grandpa Duncan going to pull this off?  Here's the thing: Grandpa went through some Benjamin Button shit and was balling like it was still '05.  The other former Finals MVP Tony Parker was putting in work.  Danny Green came out of nowhere and broke the NBA Finals record for 3-pointers passing Ray Fucking Allen.  (Ray got the last laugh.)  Gregg Popovich was delivering awesome sideline interviews like it was his job.  Then you got Leonard, Neal and Splitter.  It was a real solid team.  They were almost NBA champs.  They were 30 seconds away from sending the Heat to my infamous list, and who knows where I would have put them.  But then they choked in game 6.  It was a choke so bad I could have sworn they were deepthroating.  (Whoa, nasty reference.)  Long story short Miami won game 6 and 7 and LeBron got his second ring.  So why are the Spurs number 2?  Because Manu didn't show up.  Well, he showed up one game but the 8 turnovers game cancels his good game out.

1. 2005- Detroit Pistons (Lost in 7 Games)
Like I said earlier, the Pistons weren't a team of superstars.  They were just a team of really good players who could get it done.  They had one of the best starting five players I could think of:  Chauncey Billups, Mr. Big Shot, Rip Hamilton with his face mask, Tayshaun Prince, gets shit done and probably has a good personality, Rasheed Wallace, big man with a jumper that can talk shit, and Big Ben Wallace, who wasn't going to score a lot, but he was going to get them boards and stop you from scoring.  Coming off their championship run, the Pistons were ready to face the Tim Duncan and the Spurs.  It took 7 games and a big short from Robert Horry somewhere in that series to put the Pistons away.  Out of all these losers I've talked about on this list, the Pistons are definitely the best.

And still no one can master the art of coming up short quite like the Pistons, though last year's Spurs were pretty damn close.  Instead of 3-peating and being synonymous with Miami (like Tag Team), the Heat wound up on the bottom of my list.  (Or top?)  Either way stay tuned for more posts.  Follow me @ELGUAPO3 for Twitter.  On Instagram I can be followed @CAPTAINCRUNCHTIME.  Have a wonderful off-season and stay Guapo out there! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

What It's Like To Play Pick-Up Ball With My Dad

Hello to everyone reading this blog and especially fathers out there, whether it was on purpose or accidental.  I am El Guapo and welcome to Infinite Wisdom, a blog filled with so much knowledge you might be able to get a degree by reading it.  Today I want to take the time to wish everyone a Happy Father's Day, especially my dad, Ruben Briones, or as I affectionately have called him since I was little, Papi.  The relationship between myself and my dad has been complicated and a little difficult at times (mostly my fault) but I can say without a doubt that he's the best dad I could have asked for.  My dad has been one of my biggest supporters and biggest influences in my life.  The times where I feel things might be getting to tough I know that I can call him and that he can give me a pep talk that breathes new life in me.  I look at my dad when I think about what kind of person I want to be and try to model my work ethic and behavior after him.  There's a lot of shit that my dad used to do growing up that I found mildly annoying.  (He's a terrible singer but he still sings.  With the wrong lyrics I might add.)  Now I find myself subconsciously doing those same things like I'm a younger version of him.  I really do love my dad and everything he has ever done for me.

I'm constantly thinking about some of the ways I can repay the people who have helped me over the years, but like my mom, my dad is one of those people who have done so much for me that no matter what I do I'll never be able to repay him.  It's especially true because I feel like he really didn't have to do the things he's done and continues to do.  I grew up not knowing my biological dad, something that internally affected me.  My dad stepped up and became the dad that I might not have been good enough to deserve.  And although I've been able to reconnect with my biological dad, it's no question in my heart and and to anyone who's been around me who my dad is.  Papi taught me so much growing up.  He taught me about responsibility and work ethic.  He taught me how to love my family.  He taught me patience and compassion.  He taught me corny dad jokes.  (We used to play this game when I was little where I'd ask "Who's You?" with my dad responding "Me."  Then I'd ask "Who's Me?" with his response being "You".)  He taught how to do man stuff like shave and put on a tie.  He introduced me to rap music by showing me his old Public Enemy cassette tapes.  (Damn, he's old.)  He also introduced me to my favorite sport basketball.

My dad taught me a lot of the sports I like growing up.  We used to play catch in the grass field outside of my house with a baseball and his old gloves, something I took for granted.  We used to throw the football around as well.  My dad got me into swimming and took the time in the pull to work on my technique.  My dad is the reason why I ran cross country.  But what I really remember now that I'm reminiscing the times I spent with my dad is playing basketball.  It's no secret that I love basketball and the man to thank for that is Papi.  At a very early age we would go shoot hoops and a local playground and my dad would explain the game to me.  All the ins and outs about basketball, strategies, plays and those sorts of things were what my dad talked about.  I was like a student of the game, my dad a Harvard professor in my eyes.  When we would catch Warrior games he would point things out about the game and like a sponge I absorbed everything.  My dad wanted me to have great fundamentals; I never liked fundamentals.  (You can read my thoughts on fundamentals here.)  That's why I never really developed good handles, but you can't say my dad didn't try.  What I did take from him is my shot.  (Sort of.)  Like with swimming and other sports my dad worked on my technique.  He wanted my jump shot to look smooth and be effective and though I would change my jump shot periodically to what I felt was more comfortable, my dad would help me correct my bad habits.  (High arching shots, no-arching shots, thrusting the ball, etc.)  After our little drills is when the fun would start though.

Over the years I would gauge how well my game was by my 1 on 1 games with my dad.  Obviously when I was a tyke my dad would let me win.  When I got to a certain age my dad stopped going easy on me and I went on a pretty long losing streak.  I don't remember how old I was when I beat my dad for the first time for real at a game of 21, but it was one of the proudest moments of my life at the time.  Every boy dreams of beating his dad at his favorite sport and I was no exception.  I haven't played my dad in a while but the last few times I did my dad has put up a fight and might has even beaten me a few times despite his older age and rickety knees.  (Yeah, I said it!)  He's lost a few pounds so that's helped him a bit.  But my dad is still one of the funnest and toughest opponents I'll ever play against.  For one, he pump fakes... a lot.  Most people will get to the rim and pump fake to get his man in the air.  (Fell for this all my life until I finally mastered it.)  Sometimes they'll pump fake twice for good measure.  My dad will pump fake 26 times before he shoots.  (If this were the NBA he would have been called for 3 in the key.)  I after jumping four or five times I'm a little tired and I'll admit I give up on the play.  I'll let me dad pump fake 20 more times and let him shoot that shot.  Because of my dad when I play 21 I always add a "3 and back" rule, meaning after a make on a basket, you can make up to three free throws before you have to check out the ball.  My dad would make one basket and then make 19 straight free throws and end up winning 21 to 7.  That's bullshit and I had to come up with counter-measures.

He has a nice 3-point shot but he thinks he's a better shooter than he really is.  (Hurts, don't it?)  He'll make shots he shouldn't make and miss shots he should.  My dad has a good handle but he'll only do two things with the ball: pop it from 3 or go to the whole, no in between.  It makes it a little easier but my dad can finish at the rim with both hands which makes up for it.  He's an OK defender.  The only reason he would be able to stop me growing up was because I would be using his moves.  I would do a move on him that would work and a couple plays later try it again and like some kind of Terminator have the move completely figured out.  (That's why I don't practice in front of him no more.)  His biggest weapon was his sweat.  My dad sweats when he balls... a lot.  His whole shirt would be soaked so I hated guarding him.  To avoid touching his sweat I'd let him do his move and try to block it at the top.  (Kudos, Papi.)

Even more fun that the 1 on 1's were the 5 on 5's we would run together.  Growing up they were usually at my practices at St. Elizabeth Elementary doing CYO basketball.  Later on they would be at 24 Hour Gym and St. Joachim with my cousins and this guy named Patrick.  (Hey Papi, if you're reading this you should call Patrick up and see what the deal is.)  I liked guarding my dad in those situations even though he was bigger than me and hard to defend because I always just liked beating him.  I don't know if this was my dad being lazy or some strategy but I caught my dad cherry picking a few times.  (That's right!  Calling you out!)  And on defense, if he ever really played it, he mostly dared me or whoever was his defender to shoot.  My dad also had this problem with injuring himself.  I did too but that's because I would play reckless.  My dad has to have some record for number of times he's jammed his fingers.  Also when I was younger my dad tore his Achilles Heal playing ball.  (I might blog about that some other time.)  But one thing my dad did a lot was pass the ball, which is why I liked, and sometimes hated, playing on his team.

My dad is a creative passer.  And he's pretty chunky.  Think Boris Diaw of the San Antonio Spurs.  He was so good and finding the cutting man, which was why it was fun being on his team.  When my dad had the ball everyone knew that you just had to cut and he'd get you the ball.  What got annoying about his passing was that he would pass when he had and open look just to show off his passing skills.  He could be by himself underneath the basket and for some reason pass it to me as I'm being heavily guarded by my man a couple feet away from him.  Granted it was probably one of the nicest passes I would see all night, including the SportsCenter highlight real, but it was pointless.

Me and my dad did have good chemistry on the court though.  We understood each other from playing against each other for years.  He knew where I would be on the court without seeing me and vice versa.  I remember once I got the ball at the top of the key and I decided to drive to the basket.  I beat my man and headed straight down the lane.  A defender came up to meet me at the rim and my defender was a little behind me to my left.  I had a bad habit of jumping with the ball without having a plan after leaving the ground.  As I jumped that play I also did a 180 realizing this guy would probably block my shot.  As I faced away from the basket I saw my other teammates, one in the right corner, one by the free throw line and one where I was just seconds earlier at the top of the key.  Something told me that my dad saw my stupid play unfold before it even transpired and had cut to the basket to get a rebound or something.  He had to be there, I thought in the split second.  So I just blindly threw the ball behind me.  As I landed I quickly turned around to see my dad finish at the rim with a lay-up.  Everyone at the gym admired the play between me and my dad, thinking it was pre-meditated.  I don't know if in his old man status he even remembers this, but I do.  I remember it vividly.  I also remember after this play the other guys would try to make sure me and my dad were never on the same team to ensure we didn't have that connection running.

Basketball was, and still is, important to me because it's what brought me and my dad together.  During my high school years and maybe earlier I was going through some problems and unfortunately it really affected my relationship with my dad.  I think those pick-up games always pulled us back together when it seemed we were oceans apart.  No matter what was going on between me and my dad at the time, none of it mattered once we were on the court.  We were father and son, friends, teammates and competitors on the hardwood.  Our relationship is a lot better now and I'm really grateful for that.  I love my dad, I always have and always will.  I'm thankful for all the gifts he's given me, but in particular, basketball.  Nowadays my dad wakes up at some ridiculous time in the morning to shoot hoops and play some pick-up ball at the local 24 Hours.  I still hoop from time to time, though I wish it was more frequent.  But I do it just enough so when that rematch with my dad comes, I have no excuses.

Thank you for reading my blog.  I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  This Father's Day if you are fortunate enough to do so, tell you're dad "Thank You" or "I Love You" or even both.  To my own dad I just want to say that you are the real life superhero that I'm fortunate enough to know.  I hope you have a wonderful day and I'm sorry I won't be able to spend it with you.  To everyone else, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @ELGUAPO3 and @CAPTAINCRUNCHTIME respectively.  Stay tuned for more Guapo posts.  Have a great Father's Day and stay Guapo out there!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ranking the X-Men Movies

What up people!  I am El Guapo and welcome to another edition of Infinite Wisdom.  It's about that time of year where I have a lot of time on my hands but I know it's not gonna last forever so I feverishly start doling out blog posts like it's going out of style, hoping and praying that at least one of which hits the mark.  During these times is when I hit my creative stride anyway.  My mind produces ideas like a Nokia factory produces robust phones.  They're not always good but I can still filter them.  Sometimes I might go back at my old posts and try to revisit a concept in hopes that my post will catch similar success and that I save time and brain energy.  Where does that leave us?  Back to another ranking post.  This time in light of the recent (three week old) movie release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, I'm going to rank all the X-Men movies from worst to best.  Enjoy.

7) X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Right off the bat this might be one of my least favorite films of all time.  This and Batman & Robin must be in a contest to see which is the worst movie in a successful superhero movie franchise.  I don't know what's worst thing about this movie.  I could be the dialogue.  It could be the lame superheroes.  It could be Logan's brother.  It could be Ryan Reynolds (who should never be in any superhero movie, ever) or it could be Logan walking away from an exploding helicopter.  The point is, if you're going to make a bad movie you want to make it forgettable.  The problem is I can never get this movie out of my memory banks and that's a crime.

6) The Wolverine
Maybe I'm just getting tired of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine but I didn't even bother watching this movie in theaters.  I was almost going to skip it entirely and still write this blog.  I probably would have put it in this same spot because I know no one was capable of making a worse movie than X-Men Origins.  (I was right.)  I didn't hate this movie.  Maybe because I rented it for $1 at RedBox.  Kind of forgettable.  Story was OK.  Didn't have any other interesting mutants so I guess it's not really an X-Men movie.  The fight scene on top of the moving train was pretty cool.

5) X-Men: The Last Stand
I didn't hate this movie as much as other people did.  For me it was, eh.  Not very memorable.  I thought Angel would have a bigger role.  Mystique only got a few minutes of airtime which was a waste.  Cyclopes dies early on.  I guess seeing the Phoenix was kinda cool.  Beast was a nice takeaway.  Story could have been better.  I just thought the movie was bland.  It was like eating cardboard.  I'm sure it doesn't hurt to eat but nobody wants to eat cardboard more than once.  I won't voluntarily watch this movie again but if I turn on the TV on a random afternoon and nothing else is on except this movie I'm not gonna turn the TV off and read a book or something.  

 4) X-Men
I liked X-Men.  It was fresh.  I liked the mutants in this movie.  There's not much negative to be said about it.   (Maybe that frog guy was lame.)  It set the standard for other Marvel movies to come. I might even go rent it after I finish this blog.  The success of this movie set the groundwork for the rest of this series.  And to top everything off we were introduced to Rebecca Romijn as Mystique.

3) X-Men: First Class
The franchise needed this movie after that dud of a movie Origins.  This was an origin movie done right.  Who knew Kevin Bacon could play a supervillain?  (One day he's making us dance, the next day he's a malicious mutant.)  Anyone who knows me knows that Michael Fassbender is one of my favorite actors.  His portrayal of Magneto gave (Sir) Ian McKellen a run for his money.  (Thank you God for the Fass.)  Jennifer Lawrence is no Rebecca Romijn but she did a pretty good job with Mystique.  (I'll come out and say it: I think Jennifer Lawrence is overrated.)  Some of the mutants were a little cheesy but I liked this group.  What I really liked about this movie is that it's the only movie that does not have any Hugh Jack- oh wait.  Nevermind.  He appears for like 4 seconds.  Still, it's one of my favorite entries.

 2) X-Men: Days of Future Past
Confusing title aside, this was one of the best X-Men crafted by Bryan Singer.  This movie had all the elements.  First of all, it had a pretty solid story that was dark when it needed to be.  The film was action packed from the start.  The best part of this franchise has always been the characters though.  There was a little bit of Storm, old Magneto, old Professor X and other favorite mutants from the previous movies.  Wolverine was obviously in it because Hugh Jackman put a "don't leave me out" clause when he signed his first contract with X-Men.  They brought back young Professor X, young Magneto and young Mystique.  They even introduced some new fun characters.  The Sentinels weren't technically characters, being machines in all, but they were pretty cool.  They might even crack my Top 10 Movie Robots list if I ever update it. This and the Captain America movie were prime examples of how to do a superhero movie right.  Between those two I'd give Winter Soldier the nod for better movie, simply because it was fresher and I'm seriously getting a little tired of Hugh Jackman.  To the official ranking of this movie.  For a superhero movie it had all the right elements.  Great cast of characters.  Could have used less Wolverine, more young Magneto.  Strong plot that holds up through the hole film.  Ending was OK.  (Don't worry, I won't spoil.)  I give this movie a Guapo.  

1) X2: X-Men United
A lot of people were saying Days of Future Past was the best X-Men film.  I beg to differ.  While I did think it was a great entry, it doesn't beat X2.  X2 is one of the best superhero movies to date.  While it's no Dark Knight, it's definitely in the upper echelon of this genre.  This movie had the best cast of mutants compared to the other films.  We had Storm, Cyclopse, Mystique, Magneto, Rogue, and Porfessor X.  Wolverine was looking for his origins which was a fun story to follow.  (Seriously, why did they even make Origins?)  Jean actually did something interesting.  The most interesting new mutant was Night Crawler, a teleporter with a French (?) accent.  Plus the fight scene between Wolverine and that one chick was pretty cool.  

Well that's it for this list.  Thank you for tuning in to Infinite Wisdom.  I'm gonna take a small hiatus but I'll be back for a special Father's Day post.  Stay tuned for more Guapo stuff.  Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @ELGUAPO3 and @CAPTAINCRUNCHTIME respectively.  I love you all for your support.  Stay Guapo out there.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The History of Hating LeBron

Both Conference Finals are over and we are left with a rematch of last year's Finals (Heat vs Spurs).  In all honesty I wanted to see a 2012 Finals rematch of Thunder vs Heat or as it's more articulately named, LeBron vs KD.  It would be great to see those two duke it out as they fight to build their respective legacies, but San Antonio and Miami isn't a bad series either.  In one corner we have the Spurs who play perfect team basketball, beautifully I might add, masterminded Coach Pop and led by Grandpa Duncan.  Together Pop and Duncan have won titles together.  In the other corner we have LeBron and friends who are trying to three-peat and be the first to do so since the '02 Lakers.  Some people are going to root for LeBron (dickriders) while most are going to root against him (haters).  I have formed an impression of LeBron that has evolved over the years that has led me to my current decision on who I'm going to root for these finals.  A hard decision considering Mallory Edens isn't an option here.  (Bonus points for Milwaukee Buck's owner's daughter reference!)  Let's take a walk down memory lane and look at the history of hating LeBron.

(2003-'04) That's the Guy They're Talking About?
Even in high school people at ESPN and other sportswriters were saying LeBron was gonna be THAT dude.  They were calling him the "Next Michael Jordan".  Up until this point in my life the only Michael Jordan I knew and had seen played for the Wizards.  But I knew about Air Jordan by the way my dad and my uncle talked about him.  Old heads said MJ was the greatest of all time.  The only vintage MJ I saw were in those NBA Entertainment cassettes my dad kept.  But this LeBron guy was the next Michael so I had to pay attention.  If you ever read my Greatest Draft Classes blog post you know the draft LeBron came out of was stacked with talent.  Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Melo came out of the same draft and LeBron James was the best of the bunch.

('04-'06) He's Coming to Town!
We were all witnesses.  I looked forward to these games.  My Warriors weren't that good at this time (never stopped me from coming to the games anyway) so it was almost a forgone conclusion what the outcome would be, but everyone wanted to see LeBron.  He was amazing.  He could jump out the gym, no Migos.  He could attack the basket and slam it home with authority.  He could chase you on a fast break and swat your lay-up from behind.  He could get triple-doubles and do it in an exciting way.  He was the big show during Christmas games and All-Star games.  It was fun to watch him in the playoffs because there was no pressure...yet.  Just witnesses.

('06-'07) Coming Soon
This season shouldn't have happened in hindsight and I'll tell you why.  The Cavs (just LeBron) finally beat the Pistons and faced the Pistons and faced the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals in 2007.  The Cavs basically had LeBron and a couple of role players and were swept in the Finals.  What this really did was set the bar high for King James.  He made the Finals and it was now time for him to win a ring.  It didn't matter if he didn't have the supporting cast necessary cast for the job, it was time for him to earn his MJ comparison.  We were no longer witnesses; we were judges.

('07-2010) Kobe or LeBron?
That was the question.  Before LeBron could tackle the greatest basketball player of all time he had to dethrone the current king of the NBA, Kobe Bryant.  If you asked people who was better between the two you'd get mixed responses.  Laker fans said Kobe no matter what.  (And they foolishly still do.)  But for everyone else it was kind of a toss up, but the hardware went to Kobe.  I would make the case for King James, 70% because I hated Kobe and the Lakers and 30% because I sincerely felt LeBron had a more complete game.  During this period Kobe went for 61 points in Madison Square Garden which LeBron followed up with a 50 point triple double in the same building.  In '08 Kobe was MVP and returned to the Finals where the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics.  The following two years LeBron was MVP but failed to make the Finals.  Kobe on the other hand won two more rings.  We never got the Kobe/LeBron matchup we wanted, but the bigger issue was LeBron still had no rings, no real supporting cast (fat/old Shaq doesn't count), no respectable coach and to top it all off his teammate Delonte West was fucking his mother.  (Maybe?)  We all had our eyes on him.  He was at a crossroads.

('10-'11) The Decision
In case you don't know how this infamous event played out here's a quick recap.  LeBron was an unrestricted free agent.  He could stay in Cleveland and be a hero.  He could go to a big city like New York or Miami.  Wherever he went he was going to be with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.  Instead of just signing with a team and being done with it, LeBron decided to hold a one hour special called "The Decision" where he told the world he was, and I quote, "Taking my talents to South Beach."  That just rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, especially Cavs fans.  People in Cleveland burned his jerseys.  Suddenly the player who could do anything had lots of holes in his game.  He had no reliable shot.  He didn't have the killer instinct to win him a title.  In crunch time he went cold.  I found myself making a case for Kobe over James out of spite.  (That's when you know you've fucked up.)  I referred to the Heat as D-Wade's team.  So when the Heat made the finals against the Dallas Maverick I relished in the fact that King James floundered and Miami lost.  We were no longer judging him; we were scrutinizing him.  Some were just hating him.

('11-'12) About Damn Time
I'm about 80% 70% 60% sure this is the year we all started to make fun of this guy's hairline.  What I do know for sure is this is the year LeBron James won his first NBA title.  It was during the short NBA lockout season that King James recaptured his MVP.  He caught a few lucky breaks with Derrick Rose going down.  He faced Boston the last season the Big 4 would ever play together.  He competed in the Finals against a young Thunder team and won in 5 games.  LeBron finally shook off the perception that he had no killer instinct.  He was finally able to say he performed when it mattered most.  He could finally say he was a champion.  Even those who were rooting against him, including myself, couldn't help but feel relived.  But none more relieved than the man himself.  This also marks the beginning of a LeBron/KD rivalry, but what really mattered is LeBron James could finally breathe.

('12- Present) KD or LeBron?
Kevin Durant is now what LeBron was years ago.  Kevin Durant is chasing the rings LeBron has.  LeBron is trying to build on his dynasty.  Since they met in the Finals here's what's happened: LeBron unanimously won the MVP race in 2013 and led the Heat back to the Finals.  Kevin Durant looked poised to meet him there but and injury to Russell Westbrook sent the Thunder home early in the Conference Semi-Finals.  Meanwhile King James faced the San Antonio Spurs and thanks to LeBron's headband falling off and a timely clutch three pointer from Ray Allen the Heat won in 7.  This year Kevin Durant played the best basketball of his career and won the MVP award and wrote a tear jerking speech.  The Heat breezed by a really weak Eastern Conference and made it to the finals for a fourth straight time.  The Thunder faced a really tough Western Conference and eventually lost to the Spurs.  Hopefully we will one day get to see James and Durant in the Finals again but for now Durant will keep chasing him.  LeBron on the other hand doesn't really have anyone to chase that's still in the league.  The man he's chasing retired over a decade ago.  I love KD, even if Lil B doesn't, but I know James is the best player in the league and will be for a while.

So as we prepare for Game 1 of the NBA Finals tomorrow here's what I have to say:  I don't hate LeBron.  Whatever ill feeling I had towards him died a while back.  On a basketball level I really do respect him.  So when it comes to this series I want the Heat to win and this is why.  I'm jealous of my dad and uncle.  I'm jealous of the way they talk about the basketball they saw.  I missed out on Magic, Larry and Michael.  I caught the end of Shaq.  I saw the better half of Kobe.  But LeBron is a player I grew up watching whether I liked him or not.  I want to tell my kids of the basketball I saw.  I want to tell the youngsters in my neighborhood that I saw one of basketball's greats three-peat.  I don't think it will happen though.  The Spurs are seeking revenge after last year's Finals and they are better a year later with younger players improving and the addition of Marco Belinelli.  The Heat are worse than last year with the exception of LeBron James and (I hate to say this) Chris Bosh.  My prediction is the Spurs will win in 6, but I hope that's not the case.  But it doesn't matter to me who wins.  I just want to watch some damn good basketball.

Follow El Guapo on Twitter @ELGUAPO3 and Instagram @CAPTAINCRUNCHTIME.  Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  I'm coming up with more shit over the next few weeks so keep your eyes glued to the computer.  Let's enjoy these Finals and stay Guapo out there!