Monday Superlatives

LeBron staying in Cleveland would be boring

March 5, 2018

If you're an NBA fan, or you live in Cleveland, you probably saw the Instagram post where LeBron James anointed Ben Simmons as the next capital-K King of basketball. It was a cool moment, but it also led to an instantaneous panic: Is LeBron going to Philadelphia next year? Is he? IS HE?

The answer is "probably not," and also "definitely not because of this meaningless Instagram post." But it got me thinking...LeBron becomes a free agent on July 1, nobody seems to have a clue where he's going, and, predictably, the entire NBA world is freaking out. Personally, I enjoy this freak-out. I hope he does another "The Decision"-type special, and I hope Cleveland sets itself on fire in rage. But mostly, on a fundamental level, I just hope he leaves. There are a bunch of possible outcomes, and almost all of them are intriguing. Knicks? Sure, throw your career away! I'll watch! Sixers? Amazing, that team is already a top-5 exciting squad. Warriors? Hilarious troll of the very concept of parity. Boston? Kill me.

The only outcome that isn't loads of fun? Cleveland. Staying in Cleveland would be extremely boring, and would probably doom him to a bunch of conference final playoff exits until he became too old to lead a team by himself. Lebron is 33, he's put a lot of miles on his body, and even though he's physically indestructible, he is not timeless. He has every right to chase rings, and more importantly, it will be better for the league to see him in another uniform. Go anywhere, LeBron, but don't stay in Cleveland. You already brought them a title even though they burned your jersey a few years before. Get out of there, and go have some fun.

Linebacker I Would Not Enjoy Chasing Me Down: Shaquem Griffin

Griffin, a linebacker out of UCF, just ran the fastest NFL combine 40 time since 2006. Watch this man fly, and then imagine you have a football and he is about to physically annihilate you. I think I would actually combust into dust particles...probably before he even hit me:

Most Beautiful Return of a Swaggering Human: Phil Mickelson

I won't spend many words on this, because I know my colleagues here at GD are all over it, but I do want to highlight this excellent display of bravado by Mickelson after his win in Mexico—his first since 2013. Notice the instant response when he's asked whether he'll reach 50 wins. It's like he was expecting it:

Confident, brash, cojones gigantes Phil is the best Phil, and golf is poorer when he's not in the mix. I very much look forward to him being in contention on Sunday at Augusta, hitting roughly six balls into the woods, hitting six insane recovery shots from a bird's nest inside a pine tree, holing out an absurdly difficult bunker shot late on the back nine, setting the Guinness world record for bulging eyes, and coming up three strokes short.

Worst Basketball on Display in March: College Basketball

OK, I'm going to make the argument that college basketball is terrible basketball by showing you a play that was actually pretty cool, insofar as it had a buzzer beater. The only video that has the entire play also has Titanic music at the end, but that's OK because frankly, it's a hilarious concept:

Putting aside the music choice and the fact that buzzer beaters are always cool, let's look more closely at the play itself. Radford has the ball in a tie game, 13 seconds left. The ball is inbounded, and the guard dribbles to the right while his teammates space out. So far, so good.

Then...then...then...he does nothing. He does absolutely nothing until there are 4.5 seconds on the clock. This is maddening, but also maddeningly typical in college basketball. Why do the coaches have 17 timeouts each if this is the play they draw up every single time? You 100% cannot get a good shot when you're miles from the basket with 4.5 seconds left. It plays out as you'd expect—a halfhearted attempt at a pick extremely far from the basket, a second, even worse pick attempt, and then the guard is forced to chuck a terrible shot from about 24 feet.

Mind you, the game was tied—attack the rim, and he'd likely get a better attempt or get fouled. Drive and kick, and he'd likely set up a better outside shot. Do anything, really, except dribble around and throw up a prayer. It worked this time, but it usually doesn't, and it's part of why college basketball has become possibly the worst major American sports product. It's not the only reason, of course, or even the main one. A cluttered, brutish style of play, too many timeouts, a too-long shot clock, and endless reviews all contribute to the disaster. But the phenomenon of hold-and-chuck final plays is just another log of excrement to throw atop the heap.

The lesson, same as it's been for the last decade: Watch the NBA.

Most aggravating potential Oscar winner of the year: The Shape of Water

I know this is a sports column, but I'm going rogue for a paragraph. It's 8 p.m. on Sunday night as I write this, and although I've told myself year in and year out not to care about the Oscars, I can't help but be pre-emptively annoyed about a potential Best Picture winner. If The Shape of Water takes home the top prize in approximately three hours, I will be quietly furious. And then I will be loudly furious, because that movie was godawful. It was the second-worst of the Best Picture nominees after The Post, which was also staggeringly bad. Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, or Call Me By Your Name should win, and I could accept Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, or Three Billboards. But if it's The Shape of Water—and judging by how the Oscars routinely infuriate me, it probably will be—we should chain the entire academy up and throw them in a watery tank like that stupid sexy fish.

Most Devastating Way to Lose a Game of Basketball: This High School Team

With 2.4 seconds left, holding the lead and the ball, Tappan Zee High School decided to just hurl the ball down the floor and take their chances. It's not a terrible idea, especially when the other team doesn't have any timeouts left—at the very worst, they intercept the ball way too far from their basket to do anything but heave up a total prayer. And then...and then this:

God. So heartbreaking. This is The-Shape-of-Water-gets-an-Oscar of losing at sports.