One For The Land

The SEVEN
by Mack Williams
20 June 2016

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I. What’s My Name?

I don’t know the creator of this is, but humor notwithstanding – and it has cracked up everyone I know that has seen it – I wish no ill on Donald Trump. I’m not even going to refer to him as “Drumpf,” his family name before his dad changed it to Trump.

If Lew Alcindor says his name is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, I call him Kareem. If Cassius Clay says his name is Muhammad Ali, he’s Muhammad Ali. So I’m not going to call him Drumpf. He’s Donald Trump.

II. ID, Please

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That said, I would like to see his birth certificate…just to make sure he wasn’t born in Kenya, Indonesia, or the moon. And while he’s digging up documentation, he can go ahead and look for his transcript as well. He wanted to see Obama’s…so let’s see his.

III. April 15

And I would like to see those tax returns, like every other candidate ever releases. If you say you can’t release them until after the audit is complete – which many people dispute – perhaps this was not your ideal year to run after all.

IV. Orlando

On The View Whoopi Goldberg said that taking someone’s life because you disagree with them is not an American concept…but unfortunately, too often it has been.  How many more Orlandos/Columbines/Sandy Hooks, etc. do we need to have before we come to our senses?

V. King James Version

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Well, I guess we see LeBron James had gotten tired of so many people – and I was one – calling Steph Curry the best player in the game (MVP…okay, but “best” is where I think he drew the line).

Finally…after several blowouts, game 7 of the NBA Finals was a classic, and LeBron – arguably the best pure athlete in NBA history outside of Wilt Chamberlain – erased any doubts in anyone’s mind about whether he belongs in the discussion of greatest players ever. He also cost some moving van company a job, given that Kevin Love would likely have been out the door with a loss. (Meanwhile, somewhere Durant and Westbrook and Duncan and Pop may be kicking themselves.)

VI. One More Chance

Long suffering team’s front office watches as their best and most electric player walks away, as a free agent, from the only team he had ever played for. Five years later they have a chance to get him back. He helps lead them to title.

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Could this be the story of the New York Mets and Jose Reyes?

VII. Speaking of Long Suffering…

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If the city of Cleveland can claim a title after 52 years, can the Chicago Cubs be far behind?

The Greatest

The SEVEN
by Mack Williams
5 June 2016

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I recently sent some friends a column I found which listed the writer’s top 10 NBA players of all time. A good list, but one which would not be the same if compiled by many other people; one hundred fans might have one hundred different lists, all valid in their own right and by their own standards. The various eras in which people competed are weighed differently by each individual, which is why one person will call Babe Ruth the greatest baseball player of all time, while another will give that title to Willie Mays, and another to Ken Griffey, Jr. But with respect to the top athlete of all time, both inside and outside of their arena of competition, there is no debate and only one The Greatest.

My wife spent her birthday – yesterday – away with her sister, and as I wished her a Happy Birthday, I had to tell her she could not do trips with her sister anymore as my mind raced back seven Junes ago when, while she was away with her sister, we learned of the death of Michael Jackson. Then again, maybe she can…the icons of my childhood are just about all gone.

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But in the midst of sadness over the death of Muhammad Ali…and my young cousin Kisha as well as anyone else that you may have lost from within your personal circles…the great thing is that though their physical bodies may be gone, the memories that we have of them will live on forever. My only in-person memory of Ali was when I was crossing a street in Times Square some years back, and noticed a big commotion on the other side of the street. Being curious, I picked one guy at random to ask if he knew what was going on there, and he – by the sound of his voice, possibly a native of a middle eastern nation – said simply, “Muhammad Ali.” I raced across the street – in a manner reminiscent of when we as seventh graders flew across the street upon seeing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar down the block from our school – and joined the commotion. Soon after, a white guy among this group that had mobbed Ali said something to him, addressing him as “champ.”

“Did you say champ or chump,” Ali playfully asked.

“I said champ,” the man replied. “I would never call you chump. You’re bigger than I am.”

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“Did you say bigger, or nigg3r?”

The assembled crowd roared. Ali was bigger than he was, bigger than boxing, bigger than everything. I knew that when I took my 12-year-old son to see the R-rated Ali film starring Will Smith, saying that it was history. Somehow I knew that back on the night of March 8th, 1971, the night of the Fight of the Century, as I lay in bed hours after my too-early bedtime while pretending to be asleep, under the covers with my radio to my ear waiting for each round’s analysis to be given, and ultimately hoping against hope for a favorable decision when the 15th round report said Joe Frazier had knocked Ali down.

I knew that when I sat at Madison Square Garden watching the closed circuit telecast of the “Rumble In The Jungle,” and half of our section was shouting at Ali to get off the ropes – as if he could hear us all the way in Zaire – until we began to get a sense that this was his strategy. After the sixth round a guy seated two rows behind me said Ali would knock the mighty George Foreman out within two rounds. “I hope you’re right,” I said, and then as the eighth round was almost over I was about to turn to him when it happened, and the pandemonium happened, and he and I and a whole bunch of people who had never seen each other in life were embracing like long lost family. Ali Bomaye.

And I knew he was bigger, and badder, and brasher when his fights would be on TV and some of the real old folks would be rooting for his opponents. “He talks too much. I want Clay to get knocked on his behind to shut him up.” That’s precisely why we loved him, and why I had to see him – with little money and no ticket – in one of his last fights, taking advantage of the ingenuity of some hustlers I encountered outside the closed circuit location to sneak in…only to see Ali lose badly to Larry Holmes.

During the discussions on television since Ali passed people spoke of how things might have been had Ali not lost the three and a half years to his unjust suspension, but that only touches on his in-ring record. As a result of the theft of his bike at age twelve, he learned to box and an Olympic gold medalist and world champion emerged, but as a result of his suspension, the real champion emerged. Oh, he might have had a long run with the title or might not have lost three of his last four fights, but I suspect that if you could ask him – outside of Parkinson’s – he would not change a thing.

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RIP, champ. I would never call you chump. You’re bigger than I am. You’re The Greatest.

Seven Finals Things

The SEVEN
by Mack Williams
2 June 2016

I. King James

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Any team with LeBron James is a threat to win a series, as shown last year when Cleveland took Golden State to six games despite the absence of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Now, with Love and Irving there, the Cavs are that much tougher. The “addition” of these guys could make the difference.

II. Andre The Giant

Then again, G. State still has elite defender Andre Iguodala, who forced LeBron into a very pedestrian shooting performance in last year’s finals, despite the number of points he scored. A true student of the game, what will Andre have in his bag for this series?

III. Silicon Valley

Northern California is known for being home to possibly the preeminent tech corridor in the country…but if Draymond Green gets one more tech of a flagrant nature, he will sit out a game. In a tight series, that could be the deciding factor. His lack of a seat in the Western Conference Finals may very well have been a factor.

IV. On Broadway

Carmelo Anthony may be watching from home, but four ex-Knicks (including two that he was traded for) suit up for the Cavaliers, which is no surprise to Knicks fans that think ex-Knicks excel elsewhere. J.R. Smith, former sixth man of the year, starts now, and Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert are key subs in the rotation. I might find some minutes for former starter Timofey Mosgov, who has gotten buried on the bench.

V. The Spy Who Loved Me

Anderson Varejao and the city of Cleveland have a mutual love affair, and he never wanted to leave. But now that he has become the first player ever to play for both Finals teams in the same year…but one not likely to see much action since the Warriors’ best lineup is the ultra-small one…his best role may be on the intelligence end.

VI. Trayce Thompson’s Brother

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When you see a professional athlete make a great play – as I saw made by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ outfielder Trayce Thompson – you would generally think that person is the most accomplished athlete in his or her family. But in Trayce’s case, his brother is the en fuego shooting Klay Thompson. Memo to Tyronn Lue: don’t let this guy get hot.

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VII. MVP

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Speaking of getting hot, MVP Curry has no limits to his range, has no qualms about shooting from anywhere, and gets the home crowd at “Roar-acle” into a frenzy. The Warriors are never out of a game, because Steph and Klay can three-point shoot the Warriors from down to up in the shortest period of time. There’s a reason why they went 39-2 at home in the regular season, and set the record of 73-9.

Cleveland has just faced Eastern Conference competition, and may meet up with a Dorothy “think we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment, maybe even tonight.  LeBron bringing a title back to “the Land” after all these years is a great story, but it’s probably not going to happen this year.  My pick is the Warriors to repeat as champs.