LeBron James Wins Third NBA Most Valuable Player Award

Written by: Kidist Amanuel

The Miami Heat’s forward LeBron James was named the MVP of the 2011-2012 NBA season on Saturday, May 12, 2012, making this the third time James has won the award.

LeBron James became the first Miami Heat player to win the MVP award, and he graciously accepted the trophy in front of the media and his teammates. “I haven’t been nervous like this in a long time,” James said. “I don’t know why. I just think back to where I come from.” James, hailing from Akron, Ohio, is one of only eight players in NBA history to win the award three or more times. This short list of players includes legendary players like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson. A great list to be a part of, right? Unfortunately, he is also the only player out of this eight that has not won a championship, which he addressed during his acceptance speech. “We have a bigger goal,” James said. “I want that championship. That’s all that matters to me.” He even mentioned that he would give all his three MVP awards back for a championship.

LeBron James wins third MVP award

LeBron James Accepts Third MVP Award

James received a total of 1074 points, including 85 first-place votes, in this MVP race that was tallied from 120 sportswriters and broadcasters and one NBA.com MVP fan vote. Players were awarded 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for second-place, five for third, three for fourth, and one for each fifth place vote. Rounding out the top five in order in voting are Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, and San Antonio’s Tony Parker.

In this shortened season of NBA due to the lockout, James posted impressive numbers and led the Heat to a 46-20 record and the second seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. He averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. He shot career-best 53 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from three-point field as well. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month in January and February and Eastern Conference Player of the Week six times.

When his career comes to an end, LeBron James might match and even pass the record for most MVP awards, which currently stands at six. He is one of the most versatile and arguably the best player in the league right now. As Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers pointed out, “LeBron is an MVP candidate every year. It is just who he is. He only does everything. So I don’t know what more you can ask from him.”

Los Angeles Clippers Win Playoff Series

Written by: Kidist Amanuel

The Los Angeles Clippers advance to the Western Conference semifinals after beating the Memphis Grizzlies on May 13, 2012 in game 7 of their first round series.

Just for the third time in the 41 years history of the franchise, the Clippers have won a National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff series. In this best of seven series, the Clippers led the series 3-1, but the Grizzlies hold off elimination twice to tie the series 3-3. Game 7 was a tough, physical game, but the Clippers defeated the Grizzlies on their home court to advance to the second round of playoffs and to faceoff the San Antonio Spurs.

Los Angeles Clippers Advance To Western Conference Semifinals

Los Angeles Clippers Advance To Western Conference Semifinals

This series had it fair share of dramatic moments. It ended up being one of the more interesting first round series this year. The first game featured one of the greatest comeback victories in league history. Down by 27 in the second half and 24 points with eight minutes left in the game, the Clippers put together an incredible 26-1 run to steal game one and thus home court advantage from the Grizzlies. The Clipper lost game two and the series was tied 1-1 when the teams went to Los Angeles for game three and four.  Similar to game two, game three was a closely contested game and the Clippers won the game by one point. The Clippers then went on to win game four of the series and get a commanding 3-1 lead, pushing the Grizzlies to the brink of elimination. However, the Grizzlies bounced back and got right back in the series with wins in game five and six by playing their brand of bruising style of basketball. Game seven, which was played in front of the Grizzlies home crowd, was another closely contested game, but the Clippers held on to win the game and thus advance to the next round of the playoffs.

The strong game of point guard Chris Paul during the series is one of the reasons the Clippers are advancing right now. The addition of Chris Paul during the 2011 off-season revitalized and automatically made the Clippers a championship contender team for the next few years. The addition of Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams has also given the team one of the best backcourts in the league. With star power forward Blake Griffin already on the roster, it was no surprise that the Clippers made the playoffs this 2012 season, even if many did not expect them to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Defending Champs Dallas Mavericks Eliminated in First Round

Written by: Kidist Amanuel

The NBA defending champions, the Dallas Mavericks, have been eliminated from the first round of the 2012 playoffs after being swept by Oklahoma City Thunder in four games.

The number two ranked Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the best teams in the league throughout the season, were the clear favorites against the number seven ranked Dallas Mavericks when the series started. The veteran Mavs started the best of seven series by playing the first two games on the road. The Mavs lost these two games by a total of four points. They lost the first game on a heartbreaking game-winning shot at the buzzer by Kevin Durant, NBA’s leading scorer. Similar to the first game, the Mavs led in the final minutes of the second game, but once again could not close it out with a win. While the two games in Oklahoma City could have gone either way, game three of the series was a different story. Back in their home turf, the Mavs were expected to bounce back and win the two games at home. Unfortunately, game was not a close game. The Thunder led throughout the game and it was a rout from start to finish. The Mavs put on a valiant effort in game four, but behind the great game of James Harden, 2012 sixth man of the year, the Thunder won the game and clinched the series, effectively sweeping the Mavs.

Dallas Mavs Eliminated in First Round

Dallas Mavericks lose to OKC Thunder in first round of 2012 NBA playoffs

Just a little less than a year ago, the Dallas Mavericks hoisted the first championship trophy in the club’s history. So what happened? How did the Mavericks become just the second team in NBA history to be swept out of the playoffs the year after they win the championship? The roster changes that took place during the off season played a major role.  The Mavericks lost important role players that helped them during the championship run. Defensive and emotional anchor, center Tyson Chandler, was traded to the New York Knicks. Back-up point guard Jose Barea, who played a major role in numerous games, was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Mavericks traded these two players and a few others to open up cap space and prepare for 2012 free agency, showing that their main priority for the season was acquiring top free agents and build for the future rather than defend their championship. Will this pay off? We will have to wait and see in the 2012 off season.

2012 Olympic Swim Trials Set to Be Held in Omaha, NE

Written By: Jessica Mangiameli

For the second time in a row, extraordinary swimmers from all over the country will come to compete in the Olympic Swim Trials which will be held in Omaha, Nebraska.  The trials will be held at the CenturyLink Center from June 25th-July 2nd.

The winners of these specific trials will earn the right to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics games in London. Omaha earned the right to hold the swim trials for the second time in a row after they hosted the swim trials in 2008 and had record setting attendance. The 2008 record setting meet drew 160,003 attendees over the time span of eight days. When the swim trials were held in Long Beach in 2004, it drew a crowd of 50,000 less than in Omaha, Nebraska in 2008.  In 2008, sixty percent of the tickets were sold to out of town guests. The capacity of the CenturyLink Center is just over 14,000 for each meet, making it a very special opportunity to participate in.

Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Nebraska

Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Nebraska

The CenturyLink Center is transformed when a portable pool is brought in.  The stage for the Olympic trials contains a green waterfall which is the backdrop for the medal ceremonies. There is also fire that shoots up from the deck when a new world record is set. To accommodate the swimmers, an adjacent convention center has a warm up pool and most swimmers stay in hotels within walking distance of the arena.  It is basically set up like an Olympic village which makes it easier for the coaches and athletes to train.

Some of the major swimmers that will be on hand for the trials include Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte for the men’s division.  The women’s division will include competitors Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni and Natalie Coughlin. Phelps, Lochte, Soni and Coughlin are all returning medalists from the 2008 Olympic games which were held in Beijing.  Missy Franklin is an up-coming 16-year-old super star expected to perform very well.

The first couple days of the 2012 Olympic Swim Trials will overlap with the ending of the College World Series Baseball Tournament.  This could cause a few problems for attendees of each event.  The city assures the public that they have everything under control and there should be very few problems.

The Swim trials can also be seen on television.  It is still to early to predict where the 2016 Olympic Swim Trials will be held but it is certain that Omaha will be considered.  Other competing cities will be on hand in Omaha to gather ideas on what their city can do to compete for the right to hold the trials.

Lack of Sports Game Market Competition Hurts Quality for Consumers

MVP Baseball 2005 was arguably the most deep, detailed and realistic baseball simulation on the market before the series was discontinued as a result of an MLB license exclusivity deal between Take Two Interactive and Major League Baseball.

Consumers of popular sports video game franchises such as EA Sports’ Madden NFL series or Take Two Interactive’s Major League Baseball 2K series years may have taken notice of troubling trends involving a lack of market competition and what some argue to be a corresponding decrease in product quality within the past five years.  EA’s MVP Baseball 2005 was arguably the most deep and realistic baseball simulation made to date as of the year of its release, but like Take Two’s NFL 2K Series, production of new installments of the franchise ceased the following year.

The reason as to why production ceased for both sports video game series—and for all other third party NFL football and Major League Baseball simulation franchises—was not a result of a lack of financial support, but the result of a legal licensing loophole which was exploited by the publishers of each series in order to eliminate their competition with the stroke of a pen.  In 2004, Electronic Arts reached an agreement with the National Football League which granted the publisher exclusive third-party rights to the NFL license; effectively eliminating Take Two’s NFL 2K series in doing so.  In what many saw as a retaliatory move, Take Two Interactive struck up an agreement with Major League Baseball which granted them exclusive third party rights for the use of the MLB license for their baseball franchise, which effectively eliminated EA’s MVP series.

While the Madden series remained relatively strong in terms of consistency of quality from one year’s product to the next despite its lack of competition, the same could not be said for MLB 2K series with the release of the notoriously flawed game, Major League Baseball 2K9.  Although there remained competition for Major League Baseball 2K9 in the form of the far more refined product of MLB 09: The Show—an installment of a PlayStation 3 exclusive series which Sony Computer Entertainment America reserves the right to publish with the MLB license solely due to the fact that they are an exclusive first-party publisher for a single affiliated platform rather than a third-party publisher for multiple non-affiliated platforms—Xbox 360 owners and PC gamers had no alternative option in for a Major League Baseball simulation in 2009.

While MLB 2K10 has received a vastly improved critical reception than the series installment of the previous year—and continues to improve with downloadable post-release patches from the game developer in order to correct technical flaws for the satisfaction of consumers—the lack of competition any quality alternative on the market made available to owners of platforms whose first-party company does not publish their own competing product is quite troubling, and it is even more troubling when the lack of competition comes about as a result of what would seem to the observer to be the abuse of licensing laws for the purpose of gaining a monopoly of the market share at the expense of consumers.

Super Bowl Champs Win Title, Glory and Diamonds

The New Orleans Saints charged towards victory Sunday in Super Bowl 44. They also charged their way to a piece of coveted, diamond-encrusted jewelry: the Super Bowl championship ring.

The Super Bowl ring, created specifically for each winning team, can be quite extravagant in its design. It usually includes a diamond in the shape of a football, or the Vince Lombardi trophy (a statuette topped with a football); but that’s just the beginning. Made of white or yellow gold, the ring also includes the Super Bowl and NFL logos, and is personalized with the player’s name, jersey number and team name.

Steelers Super Bowl Ring

The Steelers Superbowl ring

The NFL has certain design guidelines, but each team creates a ring that is unique. The team contributes their own design  ideas on top of the usual features, and this is where the ring becomes gaudy, ostentatious and just plain over-the-top. For instance, 2009 Super Bowl victors, the Pittsburgh Steelers, created a ring with a whopping 63 diamonds. The Super Bowl 24 ring awarded to the San Francisco 49ers tops the charts with three .35-carat marquis-cut diamonds and one 0.75-carat diamond set in a football-shaped white gold insert, surrounded by diamonds.

The NFL foots the bill for the Super Bowl ring which is usually priced around $5,000 each, depending on the current cost of diamonds and gold, up to a quantity of 150. In case you’re confused by the math, the quantity of rings covers not only the players, but coaches, trainers, executives  and anyone else the team decides to honor with a ring.

The Super Bowl rings are usually made by Balfour or Jostens, with the latter having created the diamond-rich ring for the 2009 winners.

So here’s to the Saints who will be adding quite a bit of sparkle to their victory march.