Cancel Culture: Abandon This NBA Season

Just cancel the season now.


I’m referring to the NBA but really you can apply this to just about every sport or at least all team sports out there. I’m even saying to cancel the season for the American Cornhole League, even though my appetite for the unnecessarily weird and stupidly irrelevant will not be sated.


More players are testing positive for COVID. More players are opting out of participating due to concerns about COVID. A major player (Damian Lillard) has been vocal with his concerns with regards to all players following the very rules meant to keep them safe and from spreading COVID while quarantined in the NBA bubble.


I get that the league and the teams will lose a ton of dollars. I get the direct and indirect economic impact that the NBA has. But the reverse of that is the league spending millions of dollars ($150M according to Brian Windhorst) to create an environment that will allow players to play and for the season to continue. Then there’s all the choreography behind the scenes to keep everyone distanced, fed, and entertained. I understand that as a result the league is more than likely going to have a greater return than any amount that they invested in by getting this season started back up. But at what human cost?


I may be in the minority, but to me there are some things that are just more important. Can the money being spent to restart the season be redirected to other worthy causes instead? There’s the cancer thing, the AIDS thing, the affordable healthcare thing…all sorts of worthy things would benefit.


Using this restart as a platform to call attention to the Black Lives Matter movement is an admirable one. But many of these athletes are of a high profile. They don’t need a court emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” to help keep the cause going. And as much as it would’ve been cool to see, they don’t need jerseys that allow them to have messages supporting these causes in order to actually advance said causes. These players have a platform. They have access to channels to keep the movement going and, if they so choose, even have the means to create a platform or channel to keep the movement going.


PS, order your Light Skinned Opinions BLM shirt, the proceeds of which go to the Know Your Rights Camp.


And by the way, this is being held in Orlando which is in a state that has shown one of if not the greatest increases in COVID cases in the last week. I guess in the standings and win/loss columns, we are winning. The NBA is driving towards and not away from the fire that Gov. DeSantis has stoked. This is a governor whose own stubbornness and ineptitude is rivaled only by the stubbornness and ineptitude of the governors whose own states are leading in infection rates.


But back to sports.


It’s an odd circumstance. Let’s face it, there will be a debate as to whether there should be an asterisk next to this championship if the season even continues. Hell, Phil Jackson might even wander in from the plains of Montana to find dial-up internet just to give his gravelly-voiced opinion. Does anyone remember his thoughts on the first of many San Antonio Spurs championships? It came during a shortened season. His Phil-ness felt it tainted because: 1. it was shortened and 2. Michael Jordan had retired and he wasn’t coaching. Probably he thinks it’s mostly because he wasn’t coaching.


Regardless, there will be endless debates simply because the circumstances are so unprecedented. Unlike the 1999 or 2012 shortened seasons that at least went from commencement to conclusion without pause, this stoppage can be argued that the interruption came at the benefit to some and a detriment to others. Some teams needed the break to rest up players and heal their Joel Embiids. Other teams were rolling and now have to get that momentum back as they incorporate their JR Smiths. Still, there is the terrible reality that players are testing positive while others are simply opting out. These aren’t end-of-bench guys either. DeAndre Jordan, Avery Bradley, Davis Bertans, Trevor Ariza and others. With a variety of teams affected, can it be argued that the best team actually won? Sure. Can the counter be that those players would’ve had a negligible impact on winning even if they participated? Sure. And so I offer you Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers to fill out your bench.


There will certainly be endless debates based on “What ifs” should a champion be crowned. But that’s much of what spirited debates are centered on, right? What if the Dolphins had a running game? What if Jamal Mashburn didn’t pass off to Clarence Weatherspoon? What if the ref didn’t make a ridiculous pass interference call against UM in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl? What if Hillary didn’t take Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania for granted?


I am not anti-sports, as if you need proof of this as you read this piece on a sports site. And truthfully I will watch if the games are played. I understand there could be a certain hypocrisy to this. But when stacked against other hypocrisies such as social injustice and economic inequality…I’ll comfortably ride or die with mine.


But, for a hot second, dismiss the aspect of needing sports as a distraction. Is this really a time when we need a diversion considering all that is going on? Can we not instead refocus on bettering ourselves as human beings or at least as valuable members advancing society? I’m of the science believing camp that takes this pandemic seriously. Personally, I have family who are elderly and who have underlying conditions. I’m all in no matter what any Karen screams about. Rightly or wrongly, I put a greater degree of emphasis and importance on human capital instead of capital capital. It’s why I feel the NBA should cancel the season.


It sucks. I know. My favorite teams have such unbelievable stories and actually matter. Jimmy. Tyler. Tua! I am rooting for them no matter what because I am a diehard fan. Want proof? I actually once said out loud, “Tyler Thigpen? Yeah I can root for this team if he’s the starter.”


Ultimately I believe that team sports will return. But folks we probably just don’t need it right now. Teams need to (and perhaps they have planned for this) see that the expected monetary gain could be nothing compared to the prospective integrity loss should the pandemic strike someone who is—let’s say—a very recognizable and significant piece to the overall NBA machine. It shouldn’t get to that point. In one of the rarest if not only appropriate uses of this, “All lives matter” when it comes to caring for the superstar to the end of bench fill-in.


Though it’s not likely, I hope the league does the right thing. I hope teams do the right thing. But at this moment, the only team I’m rooting for is Team Fauci.


One last thing: Wear a mask.


Five X-Factors for the Miami Heat’s Playoff Run

Merriam-Webster defines an X-Factor as a circumstance, quality, or person that has a strong but unpredictable influence.

You can also tack this definition on to the Miami Heat because they epitomize the essence of the X-Factor.

Their presence in the Eastern Conference is strong and unpredictable. Before the NBA suspended play in March, Miami held the fourth-best record in the conference at 41-24. Currently, they are within striking distance of the Boston Celtics for the third seed.

Given the circumstances and conditions of the reboot, there is no reason why the Heat can’t come out of nowhere and shock the league. If the Heat goes on a run during the reboot and carry that same momentum in the playoffs, look for these five X-Factors.




The Heat didn’t acquire SF Andre Iguodala for the regular season. They acquired him for the playoffs, and betting on him being a huge X-Factor in their success.  His value on defense is priceless. He is a versatile wing that can guard multiple positions. Don’t be surprised to see him paired with Bam Adebayo in certain lineups and situations. A duo of Iguodala and Adebayo switching on opposing offenses, locking down the perimeter and protecting the paint would be scary for the opposition.

Iguodala will also fit seamlessly with what coach Spo wants to do . The six years in the Bay setting the table for  Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will serve him well in the second X-Factor to watch.




Miami leads the NBA in dribble handoff efficiency (1.06 points per possession) and frequency (8.8 percent over 9.6 possessions).  The Heat’s MO for the DHO can be found in transition and in the early stages of their offensive sets. In this situation, they look for the high percentage shot. Preferably, whoever shooting and knocking down efficient threes.

Pay attention when the Heat snags a rebound, and throw an outlet pass up court. Passing it up court creates space therefore making the DHO tougher to defend. Why? because a quickened pace makes it tough for the defense to set.

Watch Adebayo specifically in these situations. Let’s say Jimmy Butler comes up with the rebound and Adebayo sprints up the court to receive the pass. Adebayo catches it and go right into the DHO with a well-timed pass and a backscreen. Opposing defenses will struggle here because the defense has to decide what to give up. A three or the paint.  The third X-Factor should be feasting out there with the different ways the Heat will use the DHO.




Robinson is shooting 44 percent from three, ranking fourth in the league in three-point percentage.  He takes 89 percent of his shots from behind the arch and have been assisted on 94 percent of his baskets. Robison is a classic spot up shooter that will be very effective in the offence. Remember the Heat’s proclivity to constantly DHO? Well, Robinson and his shooting is a big reason why.

Robinson leads the league with 3.2 points per game scored off of the DHO.  Obviously, the Heat taking advantage of that will be a given.




Granted, Adebayo is one of the Heat’s main guys and in his first full season as a starter, he averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds per game.  He was in the midst of a breakout season until the COVID pandemic hit. What’s worth noticing about Adebayo and his development is whether or not he added something in his repertoire over the hiatus.  Imagine him returning with an improved mid range jumper and better handles?  Defenses will have to respect that jump shot and pick and rolls will be a lot more interesting.




Coming off of a surgically repaired right knee this season, Goran Dragic was productive averaging 16 points and shooting a respectable 44 percent from the field, and 38 percent from the arc. In the reboot, Dragic will be a solid scoring option off the bench. What’s worth watching is how would his knee respond to the pressure and stress of playing eight games plus the playoffs in the bubble.  The shutdown may have allowed Dragic’s knees  to get some much needed rest, but the concern of re-aggravation  is valid.


The Miami Heat Town Hall on Race: Observations

June 19, 2020 wasn’t just another commemorative celebration of the emancipation of the last Confederate slaves in the United States.

This particular Juneteenth hits a little bit differently than the ones in previous years. Jubilant remembrance and observance gave way to passionate and in-depth conversations about systemic racism in this country.  Helping lead the way in such discussions was the Miami Heat , as they hosted a virtual town  hall meeting.

“In many ways, this town hall is like our virtual team peaceful protest and we are protesting against systemic racism. Against the social injustices and inequalities , and the cases of police brutality against the Black community that we see far too often,”  says Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “ We’re fed up with it, just like everyone else and we want to see change.”



 Here are some takeaways for the hour-long candid event……




When asked to share his most memorable brush with racism, All-Star guard Jimmy Butler recalled a moment when he was 16 years old. Butler and his brother was walking out of a Walmart  when a man and a boy who appeared to be no older than six saw the two and the boy said to his father ‘those are the n-words’ you were talking about.

Butler’s moment was another example of racism being taught.

“The kid didn’t know any better,” Butler said, “The first thing that popped into my head is that you (the father) taught him that. There are things that you teach kids, and you choose to teach your kid how to hate.”






    Meyers Leonard admitted that sometimes he feels uneasy as a non-Black player in the current climate of this country and how he sees his teammates treated. Leonard says that while he was raised to love all people and to differientate between right and wrong, he admits that he can’t fully relate to what his teammates are going through because of his race.

“It’s hard to understand because I’m white. I have white privilege. That is a fact. It doesn’t matter if  I grew up with nothing. I still have white privilege,” he said.

Leonard recalled an incident where despite being aware of his privilege as a White man, he didn’t use it in a way that he should have to defend and support a teammate.

“There’s been times when I was in Portland (as a member of the Blazers) , let’s just say a teammate came in and says I  got pulled over for no reason.  So I ask him about it like ‘what happened’ (He says) So I got pulled over for doing 36 mph in a 35 mph zone basically because he was a black man in a black neighborhood driving a nice car. They asked him where he was going and what he was doing. I didn’t say anything that day. ”  Leonard recalled.

During the next practice, Leonard apologized to the teammate. Whishing what he knew what to say but didn’t.  The lesson that Leonard took from that experience was to listen more to his teammates when they talk about incidents with police and other microaggressions.




One huge example of systemic racism can be found in the education. The moderator mentioned how Blacks have to work twice a hard to get as much as other culture, and asked what could be done as a society to give equality in the education system. Solomon Hill believes that it starts by making the request known.

“I think the start is demanding opportunities at the local levels,” Hill says, “When you’re in sports, there are certain high schools that you go to. You go to that high schools because they give you the best possibility  to get a scholarship and to go up against the best talent. Everyone with a little money in their pocket want to send their kids to the best school”

Hill continues to say that sometimes those schools aren’t local. He cites underfunding as an obstacle, and how they create restrictions.

“If you can’t give them a great education, then what possibilities do they have to be lawyers and doctors?”  Hill asked.



    In Leonard’s first segment, he stressed holding officers, teachers, and people in power accountable for their actions. As the forum closed, Leonard also stressed holding White peers accountable.

“It starts with holding  your friend or your peer that maybe is white or whatever, accountable. If they do something wrong or don’t see it the way it really is. The reality is that you need to tell them. “

Leonard says that not even loved ones should be immune.

“Even if it’s a family member, put their asses in check.”


Jannelle (TJ) Moore has written for SB Nation, Complex Sports and several other outlets. 

Miami Heat one of teams that could surprise

If 2020 taught us anything at all within the first six months, it would be:

  • Nothing is surprising and…
  • Not much is certain.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended play, the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks were on a collision course to the Finals. Teams such as the Clippers and Raptors were solid contenders, while the Rockets and Celtics had a ‘puncher’s chance’. Now, a Lakers/Bucks match up isn’t necessarily a given and those other contenders aren’t a sure thing either.

As the NBA season resumes in Orlando, the conditions are right for an upset. A three-month layoff with no access to gyms and courts and re-energized bodies are idea conditions for a dark horse team to come out of nowhere and out of Disney holding the Larry in October (that sounds weird, right?)

There are four teams that have the potential to catch fire, build good habits and tendencies, and build a ton of momentum en-route to the title.




    Luka Doncic’s emergence this season was not only fun to watch, it spearheaded the Mavs to a 40-27 record after missing the playoffs the year before. Currently they are within striking distance of the fifth seed-trailing Houston and Oklahoma City by 1 ½ games. They are also third in the NBA in scoring (116.4 points per game) and lead the league in offensive rating (115.8). Most of it is due to Doncic. However, Kristaps Porzingis becoming more acclimated in the Mavs’ system plays a part as well. When Dwight Powell ruptured his Achilles in January, it was Porzingis that stepped his game up-stringing together a 17 game stretch where he scored 20 points or more with 10 plus rebounds.


What to watch 

Having a prolific offense is great but when it comes to the playoffs, you have to be able to defend consistently. At season’s intermission, Dallas had a 106 defensive rating. Their biggest issue of concern? Defending the paint. Powell was ineffective in the lineup at protecting the paint. Since Powell is injured, it would be interesting to see if Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle will move Porzingis to center for the playoffs. Before his injury, Porzingis’ defensive rating was 106.7 this year, it’s 109.4. Powell does the right things defensively as it pertains to form, but he just can’t defend the paint as well. There are good defenders on the team, and maybe the source of their problems on that end of the floor has everything to do with how these players are used.

Also, watch how they manage their depth. Two years ago, Dallas had a solid lineup off the bench, and what made it work was recognizing which combination of players played the best and capitalizing off of it. For example, Seth Curry played well off of JJ Barea. Maxi Kleber and Barea were solid defensively-and it worked. In fact, the Mavs’ ‘MOB’ squad, with the role players off the bench was their best line.  They will have to find a way to maximize these players. Curry is back. Barea and Kleber are still there. So it will be worth noticing what kind of combinations Carlisle will put on the floor.




It’s crazy how the Heat has been slept on this season. At 41-24, Miami owns the fourth best record in the East. Currently, they trail the third place Celtics by 2.5 games and two games ahead of Indiana. After playing the eight regular season games, the Heat is likely to finish no higher than the third seed since the Raptors are 5.5 games ahead in second.

When play stopped, the Heat featured a near immaculate 27-5 home record, the third best mark in the league. They were also forth in the East in terms of point differential (112.2 points per game on offence, 108.9 defense).  The duo of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo has paid off nicely. Not to mention the emergence of Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson also made the Heat an intriguing wild card team.


What to watch


    The Heat has the mettle to pull off an upset. That was very evident when the Heat beat Milwaukee at home a month before league suspension. In that game, the Heat was hell defensively. They held the Bucks to 40.7  percent from the field and 20.6 percent from three. Not only did they  trapped Giannis Antetokounmpo on the blocks, they put Adebayo on him as well. That’s significant because Adebayo is one of the few guys in the NBA that could effectively match up with Antetokounmpo in terms of speed and size. He also has the length to contest.

When a big and difficult defender like Adebayo is out of the paint, it is tempting to shoot threes and long jumpers because you can’t attack the paint. Remember, Antetokounmpo’s most glaring weakness is his outside shot.

If the Heat and Bucks meet up in the playoffs, notice how Erick Spoeletra will throw different schemes featuring Adebayo at Antetokoumpo.   Miami also has an X-Factor for the run in Andre Iguodala. Added at the trade deadline, Iguodala brings playoff-savvy and experience to a relatively young team. He’s also another solid defender and a playmaker that will help stabilize a second unit.





    Portland has had an interesting year to say the least.  Coming off of a Western Conference finals appearance a season ago, it seemed as if the Blazers were projected to remain a contender this season. However, injuries to key players happened and the Blazers spent this season languishing and hustling to make the playoffs.

At 29-37, the Blazers are ninth in the West and are among the teams invited to Orlando in hopes of a play-in for the eighth seed. Damian Lilliard has done all he could do to keep the Blazers’ playoff hopes alive in the midst of injuries. Don’t bet against him and CJ McCollum carrying the team in to the playoffs and even beyond.

What to watch


Before the season was suspended, the Blazers were on the verge of getting Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back from injury.  A year ago, Nurkic injured his left leg, and was out for most of the season. In Nurkic, the Blazers lost a third scoring option and a solid interior defender. He was very close to a return before the shutdown-going to Santa Cruz to rehab. Now, with an additional three months of rest and rehab on his own, watch how the Blazers bring him back.  Since he hasn’t played all season, it is possible that Nurkic will be on minutes restriction for the final eight games. If he makes strides, look for coach Terry Stotts to gradually increase minutes.

In addition to how they will use Nurkic post injury, look for how the younger players such as Nassir Little, Anfernee Simons respond to games where the stakes are considerably higher. Those guys were thrust into playing more minutes in the season due to injuries to not only Nurkic and Collins but also Rodney Hood.  They will need to contribute to take the pressure off of Lillard and McCollum, in order to make a run.




    Remember, this is the team that pushed the Raptors to the brink of elimination in last year’s playoffs. So, it’s not surprising that the Sixers have 8-1 odds of winning the East and a 25-1 overall odds to win the championship.

Philadelphia, at 39-26 is sixth in the East, and was 13 games above .500 before suspension. They posted a league’s best 29-2 at home, but on the road, they were 10-24. In Orlando, there are no home court advantages and road records don’t matter. What matters is whether or not the Sixers have enough of talent to not to dwell on the laurels of home success and the agony of failures on the road.

Luckily for the Sixers, Ben Simmons is expected to be healthy after a back injury he sustained in February. Judging from his latest pictures floating around social media, it appears that he added some bulk as well. They also have a playoff battle tested vet in Al Hortford, to compliment the team. They have the potential to put it together for a deep run.


What to watch


Last month, Sixers coach Brett Brown said that he wants Joel Embiid to play about 38 minutes per game in the playoffs. His usage rate, post ups per game and three attempts have been similar to last season. Embiid’s production will need to increase during those minutes.

Simmons is already a tough defending point guard. In the playoffs, the question is if he can be effective offensively against a set half court defense. Is facilitating from the elbow, setting picks and rolling to the basket enough?  That depends of whether Simmons is comfortable and confident in his shot. If he isn’t he should be able to drive, create contact and hit free throws down the stretch.



Jannelle Moore (@Jannelle12)  is a new contributor to Five Reasons Sports Network. She has written for USA Today and SB Nation, among other outlets.

Hoop History: Ralph Sampson, 1982, & The NBA Draft

You’re probably wondering who that random dude in the crowd is. That’s normal. I’ll spare you the detective work—his name is Ralph Sampson. Who is Ralph Sampson? I’ll spare you the reading time:

Here’s a terrifying prospect—in 1982, Ralph Sampson, who was in attendance for Game 1 of that year’s NBA Finals between the Sixers and Lakers, had the option of declaring for the NBA Draft through what was known at the time as the Hardship Exception.

After winning the NBA title over Philly in six games, the Lakers—shockingly—had the #1 pick that summer. They took James Worthy. Imagine a league today where the recently-crowned champion has a Top 2 pick in the NBA Draft.

The closest we’ve come to that has been the 2002-03 Détroit Pistons, who had the #2 pick in the ’03 Draft—as we already know, they went on to win the 2004 NBA Finals. Darko Miličić does. Suppose the Lakers take Ralph Sampson #1 overall?

Dominique Wilkins’ career numbers.

Or even Dominique Wilkins, as I mentioned earlier? Could you imagine Magic running the floor with Byron Scott and Nique for the next decade, especially considering the latter’s scoring output didn’t dip under 17 PPG until he turned 38 years old?

As a reference, James Worthy’s career would last only 11 years, forcing him into retirement in 1994 after a series of knee injuries ended his career at only 32 years of age. Injuries don’t care who you are, and we’ve seen how they’ve changed NBA History.

As we would eventually find out, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had already turned 34 years old prior to the 1982 NBA Finals, would go on to play another seven full seasons in the NBA before retiring at the ripe old age of 42 at the end of the 1989 NBA Finals.

How much more could the Lakers have won with a dynamic duo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Ralph Sampson up front? This means that Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon never form the Twin Towers in Houston. This means that there’s no Rockets upset of the Lakers in the 1986 Western Conference Semifinals.

Could this mean that a younger Sampson, not burdened with the fortunes of a franchise desperately in need of a new center with Moses Malone traded to Philadelphia, has a healthier career? Maybe. Do the Lakers, now equipped with Kareem and Sampson inside, still struggle with a dominant Malone inside the following season?

This is the fun part about these what-if scenarios. We might never truly know. Who knows, maybe the draft order, due to shifting talent in Houston and elsewhere, changes in the summer of 1984, meaning someone other than the Chicago Bulls is awarded the #3 pick. You know where this is going.

This means that Michael Jordan takes flight elsewhere—like Portland [they had the #2 pick here on Earth-1], Dallas [#4], or even—amazingly enough—in Philadelphia [5th] alongside his idol Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Mo Cheeks, and Bobby Jones (instead of Charles Barkley).

As a reference, the Sixers went 58-24 in 1984-85, and that was with Charles Barkley not starting for 22 games. Replace him with a young and superior Michael Jordan in that lineup, just two years removed from a dominant 1982-83 campaign. How do you count them out, even against a dominant Lakers team that season? With Sir Charles, they split the season series with L.A. (122-116, W on 12/07/1984; 104-109, L on 01/25/1985). Don’t they win with MJ instead?

And what does that mean for the rest of the decade? Imagine that if you must.

And it all starts with Ralph Sampson coming early out of college.

This is fun.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Boca Raton, Ricky J. Marc, J.D., M.S. is an alumnus of the Obama White House and Cornell Paris Institute, a former Legislative Aide with both the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, and a graduate of St. Thomas University with a Juris Doctor and Master of Science in Sports Administration.

Ricky currently resides in Paris, France, is the host of the The RJM Experience (available everywhere podcasts are found), and is the host of the upcoming STICK TO SPORTS: A Sports Podcast (That Isn’t) series.

Follow him on Twitter @RickyJMarc. His life matters.

Jaillet’s Journal: In Boston, LeBron’s 2012 masterclass will always resonate

Let me set the scene for you here a little bit from my perspective. Game Six, 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics had defeated the Miami Heat in three straight games. Things did not look good for Boston early on, as LeBron and Miami had won the first two games of the series.

Heading into the sixth game, I felt pretty confident about the Celtics chances that night. I knew LeBron James was going to be a problem. He always seemed to show out against the Celtics in the playoffs. My Dad was also feeling pretty confident that night as well. He was a huge Celtics fan, and had grown up in the days of the Larry Bird era.

He would always tell me “Pierce, Allen, and Garnett are good, but not like the original Big Three. “ I always took that comment as an old man “Get off my lawn!” type of statement. Looking back now, he was right.

I had enjoyed this particular Celtics group. I knew that the days of the KG, Pierce and Allen era were numbered. Nevertheless hope seemed very much alive. This was their chance to close out the series instead of having to go back to Miami.

Lebron begins his “lesson”

Ray Allen begin the game with a layup, and from there it was a see-saw battle. Lebron’s first basket came at the 9:01 mark in the first quarter. He soared in for a dunk to extend the Miami lead to 8-4 at the time.  That one basket was part of a 14-point quarter for James. Right away, it was clear that Boston needed to stop Lebron right away. They never were able to.

The second quarter was more of the same. Lebron had his entire bag of tricks empty for this one. He drove in the lane, he shot the three-pointer, he got to the line. By halftime, Lebron had 30. Miami lead at this point by a 55-42 margin. The Celtics had some catching up to do.

Dwayne Wade free throws at the end of the second quarter were the last points for both teams as they hit the showers.

The third and fourth quarters were more of the same. Lebron got every single shot that he wanted. James shot the three, he stopped on a dime and shot fadeaways. He single-handedly controlled the pace of the game and kept the Celtics off-balance. He was a man on a mission that night, and played in a way I haven’t really seen before or since. It was like he was part of the old NBA Jam games of the early 2000s. Once he caught fire, he was impossible to stop.

This was Lebron’s finest hour

Lebron has had many great games over the years. This game out of all of them stands out to me. James undoubtedly wanted to win this one, and help Miami get another shot at the title. At the time, the TD Garden had not been kind to the King, especially during the Cleveland days.

The efficiency at which he scored, combined with his attributes and ability to control  both teams were unlike anything I had seen in quite a while. He kept the Celtics guessing, and on their toes. He put Miami on his back and said “I’ve got you guys.”

It was mesmerizing to watch, and thankfully, it worked in Miami’s favor.

Each player has a signature game that fans remember. For me, it was this one.

Dad, who was usually very vocal during the course of Celtics games was quiet for most of the night. It was almost weird to see. He knew as well as I knew that there was no stopping Lebron on this night. He knew as well as I knew that going back to Miami for a seventh game would not be easy.

Indeed, James could not be stopped. He would finish the game going 19-of-26 from the field and two-of-four from beyond the arc. With 45 points in total, he carried Miami on this night.

As a Celtics fan, I was sad to see Boston lose this one. As a basketball fan, I had to appreciate greatness.

Even my dad, a huge Celtics fan, appreciated what Lebron brought to the table that night. It was Lebron at his finest, and perhaps the best performance of his career. That’s certainly saying something.

Let Tyler Cook: Why The Rookie’s Braids Are Much Ado About Nothing

With the 13th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Miami HEAT selected… Tyler Herro. Remember this moment, HEAT fans? I sure did. It was unexpected, as I had only known about this kid in passing while combing YouTube for potential draftees. I won’t lie.

No one I knew expected him to be drafted by the HEAT in the Lottery, and even less people expected to see him walk up to shake NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s hand in the outfit that he had on that night.

Drip. That’s the word that came flowing out when we saw him in that outfit. That’s what #NBATwitter suddenly added to its vocabulary. From the moment he was drafted, Herro turned heads, and this would extend to his play on the court.

A quick YouTube search will find that Herro always seemed to be a confident, outsized personality on the basketball court. We remember his silencing of a Wisconsin high school crowd shortly after committing to Kentucky.

And then the regular season started. Rookies are prone to inconsistent play from time to time, but Herro let the world know who he was on multiple occasions, with impressive scoring outputs, clutch play, and a refusal to back down from anyone.

We remember this well, HEAT Nation.

Now that play has been suspended due to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, we are all looking for some means of entertainment while staying inside and practicing social distancing like smart, prudent citizens.

It wouldn’t be long before Miami’s rookie would turn up again, and so he did, first with some impressive social media shot-shooting (shooters will continue to shoot, right?) and then a certain hairstyle that would apparently set #NBATwitter ablaze.

That’s right, Wisconsin’s very own Tyler Herro now has braids. Is this really an issue? It would seem as such to some, believing that Herro is pretending to be something he’s not, acting “Black” when he’s really white, and so on.

Let’s slow down. It’s very easy to throw around terms like culture vulture, cultural misappropriation, and so on. We see it happen all the time with Black people. We wear something and are crucified for it, and some white celebrity goes on vacation for a week and comes back with a new fashion style that’s amazing. Yes, it’s maddening.

But here’s the truth: Tyler Herro is doing nothing wrong. Braided hair is a hairstyle. Black (and other) men have worn it for years, and while reactions have been mixed depending on who you ask, we are no longer in the late-90s when Allen Iverson was deemed controversial for cornrows.

There’s no safer place than sports to wear differing hairstyles. This isn’t like a white woman in Hollywood wearing braided hair and being celebrated for innovation while Black women have been wearing it (and being disrespected) for millennia. We know the history. If not, read something.

Tyler Herro isn’t pretending to be someone he isn’t. It’s easy for those to dismiss or attack the HEAT rookie for his behavior, especially when they don’t actually know who he is. Isn’t that what social media is famous for, after all?

How someone behaves isn’t so much of an issues as whether or not they’re putting on a cultural mask that never belong to them in the first place. Remember Jason “White Chocolate” Williams?

He was who he was, the same way Herro is who he is. We’re not talking about a white person attempting to pass as Black in a world like this. We already have real examples of that in this world. Rachel Dolezal, anyone?

Another note: did we suddenly forget that Herro happens to be on a roster that is predominantly Black? Did we forget that he happens to share a locker room with two players that are well known for their toughness and unapologetic Blackness in Jimmy Butler and Mr. 305 himself, Udonis Haslem?

If Udonis Haslem considers him certified, what’s the issue? In fact, here’s what Butler had to say about Herro just the other day during a SLAM Magazine photoshoot.

Bottom Line: Tyler Herro is who he is. It’s clear that he’s being himself and not worrying about what other people think about him. If Jimmy and UD are fine with him, who are we, spectators who view him from afar, to act like we know? Rest assured, if Herro ever steps out of line, this team will let him know.

In the meantime, let Tyler cook, people. We’ve got other things to worry about.

Stay safe and INSIDE, people.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Boca Raton, Ricky J. Marc, J.D., M.S. is an alumnus of the Obama White House and Cornell Paris Institute, a former Legislative Aide with both the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, and a graduate of St. Thomas University with a Juris Doctor and Master of Science in Sports Administration.

Ricky currently resides in Paris, France, is the host of the The RJM Experience (available everywhere podcasts are found), and is the co-host of the upcoming STICK TO SPORTS: A Sports Podcast (That Isn’t) series.

Follow him on Twitter @RickyJMarc.

Hoop History: Reimagining The Magic Kingdom

Here’s a frightening scenario for the 1990s-era Orlando Magic.

As we know, the Magic maneuvered a draft-night deal to acquire Penny Hardaway for Chris Webber and three future first-round draft picks. As a result, Shaq and Penny would become a formidable duo in the Eastern Conference, making it to the 1995 NBA Finals before Shaq would eventually leave for greener pastures (and three championships) in Los Angeles.

But what if the Magic didn’t do that deal? I know, this sounds like every other what-if involving a Shaq/C-Webb frontcourt. But how much further do theorists tend to go with this scenario? Usually they go on to say that the Magic boast a dominant frontcourt for the remainder of the decade, which is fine.

But there’s something beyond this that is overlooked.

With hindsight being what it is, which option would you have chosen?

Option A: Trade for Penny Hardaway and repeat history?


Option B: Draft Chris Webber and let the chips fall where they might?

Here’s why, for the sake of hindsight, I would consider Option B. Proponents of the original timeline are justified in their thinking that a balanced team, where you have All-Star talent on the wings and in the post (especially in the 1990s). I personally believe in that need for balance as well. But what if I told you that you could still have that while securing arguably the most dynamic frontcourt since Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson?

Follow me on this one. Based on the record books, the Orlando Magic had two first-round draft picks in the summer of 1993: the #1 pick for the second season in a row and the #26 pick, which they received from the New York Knicks in a 1992 trade. For the record, the Magic would draft Dutch center Geert Hammink, who would play a total of 8 NBA games and score a total of 14 points in 27 total career NBA minutes. Legend.

Draft Picks Acquired by Magic | Orlando Magic

Let’s change history. One of the criticisms Shaq raised against Penny was that he wasn’t ready for the big stage, despite gaudy numbers in the 1995 NBA Finals. This would often be used by the big man in a trilogy of star guard comparisons involving Hardaway, the late Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade:

The difference between those three is in ‘The Godfather’ trilogy … one is Alfredo, who’s never ready for me to hand it over to him. One is Sonny, who will do whatever it takes to be the man. And one is Michael, who, if you watch the trilogy, the Godfather hands it over to Michael. So I have no problem handing it to Dwyane.

So we need someone that is not afraid to take big shots late in games.

Note: This is needed for two reasons—the first being that Shaq himself has admitted to not being a clutch player and the second being that Chris Webber, as great a power forward as he was in his prime, was not known for clutch plays (his career at Michigan notwithstanding).

So with both Magic picks in hand, let’s look at the 1993 NBA Draft. Assuming we’re smart and take Webber (and not Shawn Bradley) with the first overall pick, we’ll need to find someone that can make up for Penny Hardaway’s absence while also making sense.

Here is how the 1993-94 Magic’s lineup looked in our timeline.

PG: Penny Hardaway/Scott Skiles
SG: Nick Anderson
SF: Dennis Scott
PF: Jeff Turner
C: Shaquille O’Neal

Seems normal, right? Good. All is right with the world…until we look at Earth-2.

PG: Nick Van Exel/Scott Skiles
SG: Nick Anderson
SF: Dennis Scott
PF: Chris Webber
C: Shaquille O’Neal

That’s right. Nick the Quick is now a member of the Orlando Magic to kick off the 1993-94 NBA Regular Season! Congratulations! How did this happen? Van Exel, who had a solid 13-year NBA career, made the All-Rookie Second Team after his first season, and averaged 14.9 points and 7.3 assists a game in five seasons as a member of the Lakers, was drafted 37th overall that summer!

It’s safe to say that, after a variety of big shots and flashy play, the one-time All-Star certainly outplayed his draft position. So let’s say the Magic take him out of Jerry West’s hands at #26. Just like that, the Orlando Magic enter the regular season with a dynamic wing rotation and one of the most dominant power rotations in NBA history.

Would it have worked? I’d like to think so. With this lineup, you still have two excellent passers on the floor in Van Exel and Webber, as well as a capable passer in SHAQ. Anderson and Scott would continue to stretch the floor as they did on this Earth. In the 1990s, this lineup would remain lethal.

You could even argue that the Magic would become even more talented, allowing them to use the money they would have used on Horace Grant to deepen their bench even more and ensure that both SHAQ and Webber stick around after 1996 and 1997.

Beyond that, with the Eastern Conference aging and teams like the Knicks, Pacers, and HEAT with their own flaws, the Magic would be, like on our Earth, primed to dominate not just the conference, but the leagues until at least 2004. Perhaps longer, if the two behemoths down low are able to lessen one another’s load and the guards remain effective.

Note: This is, by no means, a deliberate shot at Penny Hardaway, one of my favorite players of all time. But it is interesting to wonder how things would have changed with different players.

Which now begs the question(s): with the Magic now boasting a lineup of Van Exel, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott, Chris Webber, and Shaquille O’Neal, how does NBA history (as we know it) change? Does SHAQ still leave in 1996? Do they still reach the 1995 NBA Finals with Webber in the paint instead of Horace Grant? Where does Grant go?

Does he stick around with Chicago? Does he head to Los Angeles to play for the Clippers instead? Or Phoenix? Does this mean Danny Manning remains a Clipper? Could the Bulls (still without Michael Jordan) remain relatively intact? What does this mean for Dennis Rodman’s career? Do the San Antonio Spurs run it back with the legendary rebounder?

Could Grant Hill eventually join them in 2000 as Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott’s effectiveness begin to wane? The possibilities are endless! All these (and so much more) are questions that arise from just one major trade—a trade which would shape the history of the league for years to come.

Instead, we’ll have to watch them on TNT some nights (once this virus is gone). It could be worse.

Now both Shaq and Penny have since admitted that championships were likely had they stayed together. I don’t disagree with that in the slightest, but could the Magic have reached even great heights by keeping Chris Webber instead?

It’s something to think about.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Boca Raton, Ricky J. Marc, J.D., M.S. is an alumnus of the Obama White House and Cornell Paris Institute, a former Legislative Aide with both the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, and a graduate of St. Thomas University with a Juris Doctor and Master of Science in Sports Administration.

Ricky currently resides in Paris, France, is the host of the The RJM Experience (available everywhere podcasts are found), and is the co-host of the upcoming STICK TO SPORTS: A Sports Podcast (That Isn’t) podcast series.

Follow him on Twitter @RickyJMarc.

Why We Should Care About Sports


Given we are in the midst of a global pandemic, you make ask yourself – why should I care about sports?

A simple trip to the grocery store can induce crippling anxiety.

The news is a constant cycle of hopelessness.

Leadership stateside, is let’s just say questionable.

We’ll debate politics when (if) this is all over during 2020, already one of the worst years in recent memory.

For now it come down to waiting desperately in seclusion.



“Adapt or die” has never held more significance.

That is why a wholesome distraction such as sports is therapeutic.

With the global news consumed by COVID-19 the world turns to outlets such as ESPN, the “Worldwide Leader” for some normalcy.

We should be enjoying a different kind of March Madness right now.

Opening Day in Major League Baseball.

Meaningful NBA and NHL games as the Heat and Panthers fight for postseason position.

The Miami Hurricanes baseball team was real good.

All now an illusion, a mirage when seems as distant as when you could say hello to your neighbor.

And shake their hand.

The NFL Draft is moving ahead as planned, sort of.


It will happen in a way we have never seen before.

We can’t wait!

Fill out your mock drafts until your hearts are content.

Even if they are unconventional, or irrational.

Enjoy a newfound camaraderie with fellow sports fans.

Maybe even reach out to your favorite athletes and say hi.


The Five Reasons network is committed to bring sports fans even more content during this time.

Subscribe to the 5 on the Floor Miami Heat podcast here.

For the latest Miami Dolphins the 3 Yards Per Carry podcast has you covered, subscribe here.

Five Rings Canes is rolling out new content regularly, you can find them here.

We also have a YouTube channel where we discuss all things in the world of sports and beyond.

Guts Check: Heat Draft Notes, Summer Strategy, Goran Good Graces

Hope still exists that the 2019-20 NBA season resumes and the Miami Heat can make a playoff run. Heat Nation is looking forward to finding out who this team is, as is the organization. Unfortunately, that day may not come any time soon, if at all.

If the season does not resume, the reality is the Heat may currently be equipped with all the data they are going to get heading into the off-season.

So while playoff runs and real basketball are still the hope, this down time inevitably provides valuable moments to evaluate options related to the NBA draft and free agency.

When games are not being played and practices are at a halt, it gives top level executives and coaches a unique opportunity to work cross functionally with the scouting department more than usual.

2020 NBA Draft Notes

Should the Heat elect to keep its 2020 1st Round Pick, which is probably 50/50 if I had to put odds on it at this way too early of a moment, here are some names I think Heat fans should be keeping close tabs on for now:.

  • Kentucky Wildcat Guards Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans are both on the Heat’s radar if either were to be available when Miami selects (in the first round or elsewhere) according to a league source. Riley loves his Kentucky players.
  • The POA defensive chops of Duke’s Tre Jones appeal as a back-court player to supplement the already potent offensive young core in Miami.
  • The Heat are especially enamored with the potential of Florida State’s wing Devin Vassell according to a league source. However, Vassell is currently projected to likely go before Miami picks in the first round.
  • Duke freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. and Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu are among the frontcourt players the Heat have registered interest in as prospects according to a source.
  • The Heat may shift more focus to the front-court in this draft it they plan to move on from Kelly Olynyk and unrestricted free agent Meyers Leonard. In that case the list of viable big man prospects will expand in the next few weeks/months.

This all operates under the assumption that the Heat even keeps this 2020 first round pick.

Summer Strategy

League circles suggest the Heat may attempt to package the 2020 1st round pick with a useful player/expiring contract such as Kelly Olynyk to consolidate for multiple purposes.

Those purposes include:

  • Trading up or down in this draft to acquire a player they like (Vassell or Oturo are speculative examples of players they could target in pre-arranged trades to be executed after new league year)
  • Shed the $13.6 million left on the contract of Olynyk along with the salary associated with the 2020 1st Round Pick. In efforts to clear over $40M in cap space for this summer.
  • This could help the Heat get extra creative and retain all the current core FAs it desires – on 1-year contracts – and remain out of the luxury tax. (Core FA for 1 year deals = Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder & Leonard)
  • Derrick Jones Jr. projects as the only potential multi-year contract player considered viable. But only if the per year salary number is in line with 2021 spending. Dragic, Leonard and Crowder are all candidates to receive 1 year maybe-just-maybe-slightly-above-market-value offers. All in efforts to not sacrifice flexibility for Summer 2021 and remain out of the luxury tax next season.
  • Create additional flexibility to pounce if Joel Embiid, Victor Oladipo, CJ McCollum or Bradley Beal become available via trade. Those are the names to watch closest from the star trade market by my view. A lopsided salary swap, where the Heat absorbed additional salary along with any of those noted All Stars is one path the Heat will explore. Some folks around the league think these targets appear far more realistic than Giannis Antetokounmpo for Miami. Not sure I’m buying that personally.

Goran Good Graces

Recently reports surfaced that Goran Dragic may be gearing up for a lucrative, short term contract to remain in Miami next season.

After almost trading Dragic last summer, only to have him come back to Miami and embrace his bench role in 6th man of the year fashion, the Heat are looking to find a way to make it work with its former All Star. The Dragon & Jimmy Buckets bromance has only reinforced the sentiment to find a way to retain Gogi. However, don’t rule out the possibility of Dragic being open minded to working with the organization from a salary perspective if it were to allow for a significant upgrade to the roster. Goran wants to win.