The it factor …
As is often the case athletes and their agents will seek to maximize the individuals’ profiles and the effect they might have on a franchise or singular success. With the NFL Combine coming to a close, teams will now seek to prepare themselves for the upcoming NFL Draft in April. The front office executives and head coaches will be factoring in the best possible scenarios and the players they believe best suit their teams’ needs. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers holding the number one overall pick in this season’s draft, the conjecture and speculation seems to be a choice between the two most recent Heisman Trophy recipients from 2014 and 2013, with the names of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota being the top of the pile. Albeit, Brett Hundley of UCLA (Bruins) made an impression on the coaches, beyond the Buccaneers, who might be still looking for a quarterback to meet their needs, of which it could be said several teams that bill beyond the NFC South based franchise.
Jason Licht, general manager of the Tampa Bay Bay Buccaneers , along with Lovie Smith and the coaching staff will have an extremely tough decision to make. Do they take what appears to be a proven commodity in Marcus Mariota or a player such as Jameis Winston,who carries with him a great deal of baggage and a lack of maturity.
There can be no denying with a quarterback tending to be the normal focus of any NFL franchise, the coaches really need to have player not only skilled at the position but someone ready to play at the drop of hat, as and when needed. While a case is being made the Buccaneers will have the need of a quarterback ready to play, this is by no means a certainty, either Mariota or Winston has the prerequisite game that might well fit the team’s needs. With both Mike Glennon and Josh McCown having failed miserably for the team in 2014, it goes without saying the franchise’s needs are very acute indeed.
With Peyton Manning returning to the Denver Broncos and his career might now be deemed to be winding down. It has to be said, the last two seasons for the veteran quarterback and four-time League MVP has taken a remarkable decline in terms of his performances , specifically in the postseason. Superbowl 48 provided a glaring example of that fact without delving into this past postseason loss to the Indianapolis Colts . For the past seventeen years, Manning has had, that “it factor “, whether it’s on the field of play or off it, where he has become the darling of Madison Avenue, as the spokesperson for sevral major corporate entities where along the way the player has proven himself to be something of a versatile individual in-front of the camera , making several appearances on the NBC late staple and long-running comedic and satirical show Saturda Night Live(SNL). For those dealings Peyton Manning has been well-compensated , where he has become one of the most high-profiled and one of the highest paid athletes in the NFL by way of his off the field earnings.
Manning , Drew Brees and Tom Brady, all Superbowl winning quarterbacks and Superbowl MVP’s have been the face of the NFL over the past decade, with their unprecedented success. As to which of the current young crop of passers will now assume the mantel as the torch will undoubtedly be passed, it remains to be seen , but the common belief appears to be, with the growing stature of Andrew Luck, this league appears to be in great hands for the foreseeable future , with the number one overall draft pick from the 2012 NFL Draft having a great deal of success in his first three seasons within the NFL, albeit , third round draft pick Russell Wilson has been the first of the quarterbacks from the 2012 quarterbacks’ draft class to have won a Superbowl, while also appearing in a second successive NFL title game in his young career.
The era of Michael Jordan reigning supreme over the NBA ,while winning just about every singular and team award imaginable, during his career has cast a legacy, which is unlikely to be rivaled in the annals of NBA history. Granted, Bill Russell may well have won more championship rings as a player , but the era, competitiveness and style of play were so different. Jordan reenergrized the game at a time when it was needed, brought the brand out of the shadows of the NFL and unto a global audience of billions, where some of its most popular players are now among the most recognized athletes in the world. Never mind the fact the NBA has now cast its tentacles across the continents, far exceeding the reach of its NFL counterpart, while now having a presence of international players now plying their trade in the league, with several notable international players having achieved a great deal of success.
In a league, which yearns for singular success over team success, we witnessed an era of triumphs with the Chicago Bulls and their six titles within an eight-year span during which Phil Jackson showed his coaching brilliance and where in the latter part of his career he was able guide the Los Angeles Lakers to another five titles to round out his record-breaking coaching career. Jackson was blessed with the fact he had the privilege of coaching some the greatest players in the modern era of the NBA of which Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant can be considered among that grouping. Bryant for his part, modeled his game on his idol , Michael Jordan and was seen in some circles as the heir-apparent to the six-time Finals’ and five-time League MVP . The Los Angeles Lakers’ guard recently surpassed Jordan for third on the all-time career points’ total listing, with only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ahead of him in this specific category.
As Bryant now struggles on a Los Angeles Lakers’ team seeking to find some semblance of consistency to their season in the NBA. It remains to be seen whether or not Kobe Bryant can now lead the Lakers out of the doldrums, from within the depths of the Pacific Dvision and Western Conference. Head coach Byron Scott and his coaching staff have not been able to countenance any sort of determination out of a roster simply lacking depth and a proven scorer, beyond Kobe Bryant.
Bryant who entered the NBA as the the thirteenth overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft was considered one of the best players in the league. He firmly established himself as a player to be watched having won the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest during the All Star Game Break of that season with his aerial assaults upon the rim and for the next seven plus years established a reputation as an all-round player, whose skill-set on both ends of the floor were unparalleled . For the first eight years of his career it could be said that the dye had been cast as Bryant began to rule the roost. Granted, Michael Jordan was still firmly entrenched within the NBA, but his famed career was nearing its close and then commissioner, David Stern was looking for someone to assume the mantel of the league’s best player and to be face of the NBA. Bryant would be that person until the unsavory episode that somehow showed that the image, so calculatedly created, came crashing down around his ears, because of a web of deceit and the allegations of sexual assault, in the aftermath of an incident which took place in Eagle, Colorado,, That cloud cast a giant shadow over Kobe Bryant, laid the foundations for the breakup of what said to have been a close relationship with former Lakers’ teammates Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal.
Bryant’s career would not come to an abrupt close , but with three NBA titles coming during the latter part of the nineties and early part of the next decade,all with the Los Angeles Lakers. It could be said that a Hall of Fame career was well on the road to being established. A case could quite possibly be made, Kobe Bryant may well rank among the top-ten players in Lakers’ history, no small accolade , when one considers the greats to have donned the uniform of one of the NBA’s truly great franchises. Two more additional titles would follow and with it Bryant’s two Finals’ MVP Awards won in 2009 and 2010 , in the last of the Los Angeles Lakers’ most recent NBA triumphs.
With all of the fanfare and undoubted coverage of his high-school career in Akron , Ohio, there was no denying that LeBron James was an exceptional talent. ESPN would go to unprecedented lengths to make sure, not a moment of James’ prodigious career during high school, went uncovered. It should come as no surprise, the Akron, Ohio native, would forgo a collegiate career to make the jump straight to the NBA. All but assuring, fame and wealth would almost immediately follow , but in reality, a case could have been made, had James entered the collegiate ranks, his eligibility would have immediately come into question. His entering the 2003 NBA Draft was a foregone conclusion, as was his being picked number one overall, befitting his status as a prodigious high-school phenom . In the ensuing decade , James has become the best player of his generation, while accomplishing several feats , many felt might have been beyond him this early in his career. The two titles won with the Miami Heat added legitimacy to his status, along with his four League MVP Awards and two Finals’ MVP statues. Now back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with a hand-picked band of cohorts , James will now seek to bring a title to this particular franchise, while pursuing several NBA records which lie ahead on the list of accomplishments yet to be achieved . Think of it, as James’ own personal ” Bucket List” .
One of the things, I personally believe to be missing in today’s NBA, are that of great team rivalries and the individual player rivalries ! Perhaps, at last, we might be seeing that once again, with LeBron James and the player now thought to be closest to him in stature, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Already a League scoring champion as well as a League MVP recipient and NBA Rookie of The Year . The only award missing from Durant’s trophy cabinet, are an NBA title ring and the Larry O’Brien Trophy, itself. Oklahoma’s 2012 appearance in the NBA Finals was believed to have the makings of an instantaneous classic , only for it to all fall short of expectations with the team being swept aside , with such ease , that the fifth and deciding game of the series was already a foregone conclusion and set in the annals of NBA history.What should have constituted a classic Finals’ series rivalry became a non-starter and an afterthought, as LeBron James’ commanding presence on the grandest of stages set the tempo of the series. It has been the regular season meetings between these two great players , that now sets the stage for the fans to witness how good both Durant and James can be, when at their very best.
This NBA season it could be said that both Steph Curry and James Harden are doing all of the right things to have their names mentioned as not only legitimate candidates for this season’s League MVP , but also quite possibly mentioned, as elite players, rivaling the stature of Kevin Durant and Lebron James. Curry has the Golden State Warriors (43-10) atop of the Western Conference standings and percentage-wise , with a better record than the Atlanta Hawks’ mark of 44-12 , as of 22nd February , 2015, which leads the NBA in overall wins . Not too far behind are Harden and the Houston Rockets (38-18).
The race for League MVP this season, will likely come down to which player can lead their team to best record in the league at season’s end, while remaining consistent over the remainder of the season ? For Kevin Durant, that may well prove to be too tall an order to surmount, with the Thunder playing catch-up to the Portland Trailblazers within the Northwest Division , but leaving themselves lying as the eighth seed in the West, with a potential first round match-up against the Warriors in the NBA Playoffs. The second half of the season should prove to be an interesting spectacle in more ways than one, with the expectations being high among certain players and their teams.
Every great athlete is said to be born with natural talent and ability , add into that, an engaging personality and you have the ” it factor” . In the world of boxing , Floyd Mayweather has it, but his conceit, wantoned excess and opulent lifestyle, has alienated some boxing and sports’ fans, alike. The boxer brandishes wealth and success, like a badge of courage, but it also has become somewhat demeaning and lacking respect of his craft. He may well be the “pound for for pound “ best fighter on the planet , having yet to be truly challenged in the ring. His proposed bout with Manny Pacquiao is happening five-years too late, with the Filipino fighter, past his prime and Mayweather, simply adding to his statistics with meaningless fights against opponents, who in many respects took the fights against the multi-titlist, merely for the money, rather than the competition. Boxing has now become a comedic farce, with lack of real depth in talent and not really any great prospects on the horizon.
Major League Baseball has not gotten out of the way of its ongoing stupidity under a leadership hierarchy bereft of actual intelligence. Bud Selig may well be on the same developmental and evolutionary scale . he shares with Roger Goodell, as being the first of their kind to have walked on two feet. Having departed from his role as MLB Commissioner , the reins have been handed over to Rob Manfred,who will continue to be at the beck and call of the team owners, rather than seeking to act dependently of the clowns (owners), who sat idly by, said and did absolutely nothing, while the players and MLBPA (union) made a mockery of the game, all under Selig’s and Manfred’s none too watchful eye. The blind leading the blind all the way down into the depths ineptitude.
The saving grace for baseball, perhaps over the past four years, has been the emergence of such young stars as Bryce Harper , Manny Machado , Madison Bumgarner, Yasiel Puig , Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen and the Cinderella Stories of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals over the last three seasons. Though I have to admit, I believe that the Royals will not repeat the success achieved in 2014. Instead of seeking to build upon their gains, it would appear that David Glass and GM Dayton Moore would rather revert to ways of old, with penny-pinching and continued excuse of their farm system being where their future lies. Granted, the core of last season’s team was through the development with their Minor League affiliates, but the Royals’ failure failure in the World Series, came about,not only because of their postseason play, but also, there was no veteran leadership on-field experience to be found on the roster.
As good as the managerial acumen of Ned Yost and his managerial staff was said to be, he was of not a match for his counterpart, Bruce Bochy and the coaching staff the now three-time World Series champions over the past six seasons, the San Francisco Giants.
The impact which Mike Trout has had on the game of baseball cannot be understated and I do not believe has been seen, since the heydays of a young Ken Griffey Jr roamed the outfield making spectacular defensive plays , while also showing his offensive prowess with the bat, first for the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds ,Chicago White Sox and closing out his career with the Mariners.
I truly believe, had Ken Griffey Jr’s not been cut short by recurring injuries then his mark would be the one fans of baseball would be a legitimate target and record as the career home runs’ tally. At the time of his all too abrupt retiremement Griffey ranked fifth on the all-time career home runs’ tally with 630 home runs hit during a twenty-two year Major League career. Sadly, were not for his career being cut short at that stage , I do believe he would have have surpassed Hank Aaron’s career mark of seven hundred and fifty-five (755) home runs, still seen in many people’s eyes as the true record, rather than the mark setby Barry Bonds and now recognized by Elias Stats’ Bureau and MLB as the legitimate record.
Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen having won respectively the AL and NL MVP but have yet to lead their respective teams to deep postseason runs in during baseball’s end of year showcase events. Both are now being seen as the respective leaders on rosters which each have a number of seasoned veterans on each team. It remains to be seen whether not Mike Trout can lead the Los Angeles Angels to not only an AL Pennant but also their first World Series’ title since 2002. For Angels’ manager Mike Sciocsia this will be a make or break year for the manager and his managerial staff , after the immense letdown of last season’s showing in the postseason. With players such as Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton , Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson on the roster , one would have thought with that sort of veteran presence on the team their failures were self-evident during their postseason sojourn. Should the Angels fail this season, then there is the likelihood GM Jerry Dipoto will come to the decision to relieve the manager of his duties.
For the better part of two decades the Pittsburgh Pirates have been an eyesore within baseball , until their recent resurgence of 2013 their making a return to postseason play after a two-decade absence. Andrew McCutchen has been a large part of the Pirates’ reemergence and back into contention within the NL. However , once again, they would come up short in the 2014 MLB Postseason , falling to the San Francisco Giants in the wildcard round of the playoffs. If the Pirates are to have any chance of winning the NL Central this upcoming season and securing themselves the guarantee of a postseason berth then their regular season record against their divisional rivals will have to be a great deal better than they were last season. It will also have to be collective team effort on the part of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ players and their newly revamped roster engineered by GM Neal Huntington.
The Angels and Pirates will open their regular season schedules with games against the Cincinnati Reds within the NL as part of a three-game series at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the Los Angeles Angels taking on the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington,.
Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees have had their fair share of drama during this off-season with the Yankees’ third baseman being the focus of just about everyone’s attention , as he seeks to resurface from his year-long mandated. It could be said , that for the first six years of his career, Rodriguez might well, have been the best player in baseball with his first year of playing in the Majors, coming in 1996.
Rodriguez has been able to do what no other player baseball history has been able to achieve , having signed two multi-million dollar contracts which will net the player in excess of $500 million in guaranteed income . During his tenure in baseball, Alex Rodriguez has been lucky enough to have signed two deals, each worth in excess of $250 million with incentives , for achieving certain career marks. The incentives are now the center of the latest controversy between the player and the Yankees’ organization, with the ball-club contending his contract is no longer valid, in terms of his reaching those marks, with his suspension and violation of the league’s steroid policy, negating any career mark set with the franchise. Rodriguez and his lawyers contend his contract remains valid , wherein, no clauses were instigated to counter any type of action concerning the player’s misdeeds.
GM Brian Cashman and Yankees SVP & Legal Counsel Lonn A Trost made a gross error in judgment when Rodriguez was signed to his most recent deal with the franchise. It has been their stupidity, along with the ongoing gullibility of Hal and Hank Steinbrenner , that continues to set this franchise apart , as to the continuing ineptitude which can be seen within the game. Yet for all of this, there are some fans, still trying to point to positives within the game , whatever, they are said to be . Baseball , still cannot get out of the way of its own ongoing stupidity, while the union (MLBPA) continues to run rings around baseball’s hierarchy now led by newly installed commissioner, Rob Manfred.
As for Alex Rodriguez, it will be interesting to see how he seeks to ingratiate himself back into the good graces of not only the fans, but also the Yankees’ organization , as the ball-club pursues a twenty-eighth World Series’ title. I certainly believe Rodriguez is now on the downside of a controversial career, one steeped in a great deal of deceit and sheer deception by not only the players but also by his closest confidantes as well the media who simply looked the other way repeatedly, when questions arose as to the legitimacy of his accomplishments.
What do you believe now constitutes an athlete who can be viewed as someone above reproach within their game ? Chime in with your thoughts on this and anything else you believe to be of merit with regard to this topic.
Picture and slideshow gallery details below.
(1) December 27, 2014) Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (left) and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (right), the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners , pose with Mickey Mouse in front of Mickey’s Fun Wheel in Disney California Adventure park in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday during their teams first official Rose Bowl Game week appearance. No truth to the rumor the Buccaneers’ front office might be seriously considering the drafting of the Disney character over the two more noted quarterbacks . Scott Brinegar/Disneyland
(2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach Lovie Smith left is seen here with the team’s general manager Jason Licht . The pair seem to be keep their cards close to their chest , unwilling to disclose who their pick will be in the upcoming NFL Draft . AP Photo/ Mark Baldwin
(3) Andrew Luck (12) of the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning (12) of the Denver Broncos are seen here after a game between the two NFL teams. Luck succeeded Manning as the Colts quarterback in 2012 . The two quarterbacks were both selected as number one draft picks by the franchise in 1998 and 2012 respectively and each had distinguished careers with the franchise during their respective tenures. Andrew Luck has yet to win a Superbowl , but has guided the Colts to the postseason, in each of his first three seasons in the league. Getty Images North America / Tina Thomas
(4) Russell Wilson (3) , left and Andrew Luck (12) are seen here after a game between the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks. These two young quarterbacks may well be seen as the future of the NFL in terms of their ability at the position and the degree of success already attained . With the careers of Tom Brady , Drew Brees , Peyton Manning , Philip Rivers now winding down and Aaron Rodgers now seemingly at the top of his game , the mantel of the best quarterback in the NFL to take the game of football into the next decade may well now be in motion . Rodgers was named this season’s League MVP . A sign of his already significant stature in the NFL as a player and leader of the Green Bay Packers . AP Photo / Mark Wilson
(5) Bill Russell , left , is seen here with fellow Hall of Fame inductee Michael Jordan . These two great players were considered to be the best of their generation and among the fifty greatest players in NBA history. Russell outside the game was a staunch activist and civil rights’ advocate . Jordan has become the consummate businessman and owner of NBA franchise the Charlotte Bobcats . Getty Images North America / Andrew Holcomb
(6) The changing face of the NBA . Here we have Kobe Bryant and LeBron James right , representing the league and the best the game has had offer over the past decade and a half. Both players have slowly moved up the NBA’s all-time career points’ total list , with each having achieved a number of career feats during this NBA season. Kobe Bryant has played his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers. James’ career has encompassed stints with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers . AP Photo / Paul Drake
(7) Considered the two best pound-for-pound boxers in the world , Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao right, will finally meet in a title fight this year at the MGM Grand Casino Hotel & Resort Complex , in Las Vegas , Nevada . The fight is likely to be the highest grossing boxing match in history, with both fighters guaranteed a minimum fight purse of no less than $30 million apiece , with Mayweather likely to make in excess of $100 million alone , from this one bout as a participant and co-promoter of the contest. . It is a boxing match many believed should have taken place at least five years ago when both boxers were thought to be at the peak of their respective careers. Ring Magazine
(8) Rob Manfred who began his tenure this year as baseball’s tenth commissioner in the league’s history , looking to oversee the changes, he believes needed to attract more fans to the game domestically, as well as internationally. Manfred succeeded outgoing MLB Commissioner Bud Selig whose tenure spanned almost two decades as the highest ranking executive in the game . AP Photo
(9) Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Mike Trout are considered to be the two best players in baseball and most certainly within the NL and AL respectively. McCutchen and Trout will be hoping to lead their teams to at least a divisional title this season with the ultimate goal, being to win the World Series . Both the Angels and Pirates made the postseason in 2014, but failed to make significant leeway during the playoffs, falling at the same stage in the wildcard round of the postseason.
(10) Baseball legend and Hall of Fame inductee Hank Aaron is seen here speaking to fans at Turner Field in Atlanta , Georgia ,. Aaron has come out in support of Alex Rodriguez and his reinstatement to the game of baseball, but has said very little about the pursuit of the home run record which he once held and where the Yankees’ third baseman is the active home runs’ career leader in the game. Aaron retired from baseball with the career home runs’ lead of seven hundred and fifty-five home runs , which was since been passed by Barry Bonds. Hank Aaron now serves as a special consultant and goodwill ambassador within the Atlanta Braves’ organization . Getty Images North America / Chris Caruso
(11) Hank Aaron,left, still greatly admired throughout the game and Alex Rodriguez , perhaps the most despised player currently in the game of baseball. After sitting out a league-mandated year-long suspension in 2014 , Rodriguez makes his return to baseball in 2015 , hoping to resurrect his career and the fortunes of the New York Yankees who missed the postseason in 2014, for the first time in three years with their last appearance coming in 2011 . Baseball Almanac/ Walt Baker
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