Hello everyone and welcome to our third-annual Note to Self awards. For those not familiar, this is our way of highlighting the newsworthy in the world of professional sports. So without further adieu, let’s hand out some Selfies.
The “What, Ed McMahon wasn’t available?” award goes to the Cleveland Cavaliers for repeatedly pairing forward LeBron James with over-the-hill veterans during his six-year career.
For those who haven’t heard, the Cavs have acquired Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal in exchange for the corps of Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, the 46th pick in tonight’s NBA draft and half a million dollars.
Pairing Shaq with King James is a great idea … if this is 2004. But bringing in a 37-year-old Shaq to try and help a good Cleveland team reach championship level is nothing more than a pipe dream. James is 24. If you want him to be happy and feel like Cleveland is the only city he ever wants to play for, then maybe – just maybe – the plan should have been to surround him with other young, talented players who can grow into a true team together.
After 17 seasons, the Shaq we see now is a shell of his former self. Sure, he was an all-star last season for the Phoenix Suns and the Eastern Conference isn’t as good as the West, but O’Neal isn’t a guy who can’t bring his “A game” every night anymore. He has to pick and choose which games he’s going to go all out for and on other nights … he’s a waste of a roster spot.
The Cavs are gambling that this desperation move pays off and that O’Neal is the missing piece to bring James his first NBA title. Sadly, the more likely scenario is that after this move fails miserably LeBron will fully realize that Cavs management is never going to figure out the right way to build a championship-caliber team and start house hunting in other cities.
While we’re on the subject of the NBA, let’s hand out the “Kramer from Seinfeld“ award to Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.
Okay, let me see if I get this straight. Pretty much since day one Bryant has been a moody diva/terrible teammate. He won a few NBA titles with Shaq Fu early on, but once the big man was traded out of L.A., Kobe had been unable to recapture basketball’s holy grail.
Bryant reaches his low point after a 2003 trip to Eagle, Colorado, and words like “rape” and “sexual assault” are suddenly attached to the supposedly happily married superstar. Endorsements are terminated, public opinion is at an all-time low and there are even rumors that maybe everyone involved would be better off if Kobe was traded by the Lakers and given a fresh start elsewhere.
Fast forward to this year and the Lakers, led by Bryant and a solid supporting cast, are able to win another championship. Kobe finally wins a title without O’Neal and suddenly the world loses its damn mind. Stories about Bryant suddenly being a great person and even better teammate make the rounds in what can only be considered revisionist history and even more absurd – some folks begin comparing Bryant to the great Michael Jordan.
Look, Kobe was great when paired with Shaq. Just like Michael Richards was great playing “Kramer” on Seinfeld. Bryant faced adversity when he (allegedly) did things to a 19-year-old hotel employee that she wasn’t “comfortable” with. Richards’ life became more difficult when he decided racial slurs were the answer to combat hecklers. Bryant leading the Lakers past an in-over-their-head Orlando Magic team doesn’t suddenly make him the second coming of M.J. or even a good teammate. It simply means that during that series, he was on the hotter and better team.
Using this logic, am I to believe that if Terrell Owens led the Buffalo Bills to a Super Bowl victory this year he’s suddenly a changed man? Nevermind his extensive resume and history of ridiculousness, if T.O. gets a ring he’s suddenly a classy, and driven winner? Nonsense. Assholes can be winners too.
The “Hey Madonna, no one cares about you anymore. Please just go away” award goes to the soon-to-be Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. She can adopt/steal 500 kids from third-world countries and no one will like her. Favre can toss the football around with every high school kid in America and no one will be happy to read another story about him. In a perfect world these two could run off together (with the paparazzi and Peter King) to anywhere far, far away from here.
The “Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing” award goes to baseball commissioner Bud Selig in hopes that he follows Donald Fehr’s lead and heads off to enjoy retirement. Fehr, who for more than 20 years served as the executive director of baseball’s players association, represents a black eye for our national pastime – with steroids, skyrocketing salaries and a canceled World Series on his resume.
Well, the guy sitting on the other side of the table during all of those travesties was Selig. And if baseball is ever truly going to get past the Steroid Era, then Bud needs to move on to the next chapter of his life as well. Baseball needs their Roger Goodell, someone who can change the culture overnight and whip that league back into shape.
And finally, the “Stick to your day job” award goes to baseball/football announcer Joe Buck, for thinking it was a good idea to have his own talk show on HBO. It wasn’t.
Brian Murphy is an award-winning sportswriter who also goes by the name Homer McFanboy. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.