Lebron James Dunks Microsoft

Lebron James and Microsoft have ended their two year partnership. I can only wonder why. Does his Zune no longer support the file format of his favorite Jay-Z songs? Perhaps Vista crashed on him one too many times. Or maybe a new partnership with the Free Software Foundation is in the works?

Perhaps a better question is why Lebron partnered with Microsoft in the first place. They really didn't do much for one another. To my knowledge, Lebron appeared in just one commercial announcing the release of Vista, and even then it seemed more of a cameo. You remember it, don't you? He just stood there and said "wow."

Microsoft then made a website for him, which won a Webby for design. In reality, however, the design was atrocious. Navigation was always a cumbersome adventure. Links were mapped onto animated images that often had no correspondence to the content of the pages they opened. In many cases, those pages turned out empty. Moreover, the blog was infrequently updated by someone other than Lebron.

At any rate, I can live with him no longer receiving millions from Microsoft for doing nothing. The only partnership that matters to me is the one he has with his fellow citizens of Northeast Ohio via his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Lebron James Dunks Microsoft by Nathan M. Blackerby is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Speculation and Anticipation Rule the Day

It was a spectacle to witness the collective euphoria that ensued last week after Barack Obama defeated John McCain in the presidential race. Moments after the polls closed on the west coast and, one by one, every major news network projected Obama the winner, I listened from my apartment in Milwaukee as each corner of the city simultaneously burst into jubilant celebration. I stayed up until early Wednesday morning and watched ABC News broadcast live feeds of parties as they took place in the streets of DC, Harlem, Los Angeles, and Times Square. The following day, it was as if the students on campus here at Marquette University were walking on air. Most of my friends and family members could barely contain themselves, whether in conversation, e-mail, or in the updates and comments posted to their social networking site(s) of choice. Barack Obama became the first minority ever to be elected US president, the first black person to occupy the highest office in the land. His campaign motivated young people and minorities to be politically active in ways the nation hasn't seen since the 1960's. His victory signaled an end to eight years of far-right rule under George W. Bush. There was and still is much to celebrate. However, the gravity of the difficulties our nation now faces demanded anything but prolonged celebration.

By Thursday, it was back to business as usual, and speculation about what an Obama administration would look like soon ran rampant throughout the media and the Internet. Obama announced Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, and planned a meeting with his economic advisers. Pro-Palestinians and those seeking a peaceful, two-state solution to the Arab-Israel conflict claimed that Emanuel would be a rabid dog in foreign policy matters, constantly whispering pro-Israeli sentiments in Obama's ear, which they claimed if acted on, would only serve to escalate the violence. By contrast, many Zionists were at least apprehensive that Obama might turn his back on Israel. On Sunday morning, I watched the local and national political television shows as many Republicans continued to label Obama The Most Liberal Member of the US Senate, a charge constantly leveled against him throughout the the presidential campaign. Yet, commentators on well known liberal news shows such as Democracy Now! claimed just the opposite; Obama is, and will remain, a conservative, they said. Now that's a headspinner! How can one man simultaneously occupy mutually exclusive positions in the political spectrum?

Obama won the election for a number of reasons, but mainly, I think, because of his message of change: reformation of health care, development of so-called green energy, a return to a more progressive taxation system, a definite plan to end our military operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan, more transparency in politics, a break from the divisive politics of the past 28 years, etc. Many now wait in anticipation, anxious to see an Obama administration implement those changes he claimed he would bring to America. Some are blinded by their optimism that he will unquestionably deliver on his promises. Others, as mentioned above, have defaulted to the same tired old divisions, seeing only compromise and failure in his future. I suppose its natural after such a grandiose historical event to whip out one's crystal ball and dream about what the future holds. Yet merely because such dreaming is natural, this doesn't count in favor of its accuracy. Right now, speculation and anticipation rule the day, when what we sorely need is some patience, keen observation, and a readiness to speak up when things begin to go awry.

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Speculation and Anticipation Rule the Day by Nathan M. Blackerby is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Iverson is now a Piston, but can he deliver a championship?

After the Piston's 2007-08 season ended with another defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals, Joe Dumars vowed that he was going to shake up the Pistons's roster. But after replacing Flip Saunders with first-year coach Michael Curry and signing the disappointment that is Kwame Brown, Dumars sat on the proverbial fence. I was surprised by this, since it was obvious to anyone who follows basketball that the team needed a face-lift if they were to make another run at an NBA championship. The 2005-2006, 2006-07, and 2007-08 teams, which had more or less the same line-up, were consistently a dominant team during the regular season. But winning almost 60+ games each season hasn't managed to help them avoid receiving anything more than a consolation prize in the Eastern Conference playoffs. In 2005-06, the Pistons ran out of gas against Dwayne Wade and the Heat after a grueling seven game series with the Cavaliers in the second round. In 2006-07, Lebron rolled over them like a MAC truck (game 5 at the Palace, anyone?). This year, the Big Three were just too much for the Pistons to handle.

All this leaves the impression that the Pistons no longer have what it takes to win in the playoffs. Simply put, they've been outmaneuvered by superstar power in the last three post-seasons. If the Pistons planned on winning the NBA championship anytime soon, they'd need to make some moves to match the star power of their rivals.

So as the summer rolled on and the Cavaliers (who traded scraps for Mo Williams), Bucks (who traded Yi Jianlian for Richard Jefferson), 76ers (who picked up Elton Brand in free agency), and others presumably got better, I couldn't help but think that the Pistons would become increasingly marginalized; not only would they be unable to win against these teams in the playoffs, they probably wouldn't beat them during the regular season either.

Of course, on Tuesday, Joe Dumars finally followed through with his promise to shake things up. The Pistons announced that they traded Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess to the Nuggets for Allen Iverson. This was a good move for the Nuggets. Iverson became stagnant in Denver, so they needed to get rid of him. Billups and McDyess are stable, reliable players with a nose for defense. They should bring some of that with them. Further, Billups is a Denver native, and has said that he is happy to play for his home-town team. His sentimentality towards the team shouldn't be underestimated. I expect that it will lead Billips to play more inspired basketball. Consequently, the Nuggets should play better in both the regular season and the post-season. But the million dollar question is: will The Answer be the answer to Detroit's playoff woes?

I'm not so sure he will. But before I give my reasons, allow me to explain why I may be wrong. Iverson, despite being somewhat on the decline (he's 33), is still a fantastic player. He can create his own shot, and is thus a constant scoring threat - something that the Pistons badly needed. Moreover, he is a weathered veteran, and claims he is hungry for a championship. Now that he's on a team that has, at least to all apperances, been in contention for a championship over the last three seasons, this might be enough to light a fuse in him. We could see a resurgence of the old AI. He could go on a tear in the post-season, leaving the competition in his wake.

Or not. When it comes to winning in the playoffs, Iverson has disappointed throughout his career. The 76ers made it to the Finals just once during his tenure in Philadelphia (2000-01), only to be embarrassed by a superior Lakers team. Every other year an Iverson-led 76ers team made the playoffs, they lost in the first or second round (see the summary of the 76ers seasons here. Iverson played on the 76ers from 1996-2005 and part of the 2006-07 season). And even after being traded to the Nuggets - a team that already had a superstar in Carmelo Anthony - Iverson couldn't manage to lead them past the first round (see Nuggets seasons here. Iverson was on the roster for 2006-07 and 2007-2008). If one's prior playoff record is any indication as to how one will perform in later playoff appearances, this is bad news for Detroit. It seems that no matter who surrounds him, Iverson has made it a habit to lose in the playoffs. So why should we expect anything more out of him now that he has changed uniforms? In all likelihood the Pistons will face either Cleveland or Boston if they make it to the Eastern Conference Finals this year, and I suspect that Iverson's presence on the court won't be enough to counteract Lebron or the Big Three.

Team chemistry is also an issue. Iverson is a big time player, now amidst a team that was built on playing selfless, defensive basketball. Such selflessness and defensive-mindedness has been the recipe for the Pistons's success. Iverson just doesn't fit this picture (remember, he was on the unruly, ball-hogging, all-eyes-on-me 2004 Olympic team roster). The only way I foresee Iverson fitting into the current Piston system is if he discovers a superstar switch that he can turn on only when the Pistons are in trouble. It should remain off most of the time, though, because in order to floriush within the Pistons's system you've got to be ready to play gritty defense and team-oriented offense.

So in the end, I think the Pistons didn't fare well in this trade. But perhaps I've underestimated Joe Dumars. Perhaps he's just temporarily looking to fill more seats at the Palace and sell more jerseys while he begins his pursuit of stealing Lebron away from Cleveland in 2010. All I have to say to that is: if you think he or any other general manager is going to pull that off, don't hold your breath.

*UPDATE (Monday, November 10, 2008): The Nuggets have waived McDyess after buying out his contract. He may resign with the Pistons after 30 days, as dictated by the Gary Payton rule. If that happens, the Pistons will have essentially swapped Billups for Iverson, which makes the trade more even. So far, Iverson hasn't made an impact, though. The Pistons lost to the Nets in Iverson's debut, and lost to the Celtics in his first game (as a Piston) at the Palace.

*UPDATE (Tuesday, November 11, 2008): According to this report, the Cavaliers are interested in signing McDyess with the mid-level exception they have left over from the off-season.

*UPDATE (Sunday, November 23, 2008): McDyess will be re-signing with Detroit. With this announcement and with early returns on both teams' performance, I believe the trade has worked out fairly evenly. Detroit now has a star that may be able to get them over the top during playoff series', as demonstrated with big wins over Cleveland and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Denver has acquired a team player that knows how to run an offense, as demonstrated by the fact that they have been playing better basketball and have racked up more wins than Detroit since the trade. However, I expect to see improved performance from the Pistons after McDyess's return on December 7, 2008. After all, he was and once again will be the key bench player for their team.

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Iverson is now a Piston, but can he deliver a championship? by Nathan M. Blackerby is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.