Simply the best!

Simply the best!

*yesterday was potentially the best day of my life. Not only did I cover the game…I got to meet Kobe personally. I would like to thank SLAM so much for this access! These notes can also be viewed on their site, SLAMonline.com,  by clicking on the photo!

by Eric Woodyard

“It’s cool to love to win but it’s better to hate to lose…”
Nas, The N—-r Tape (2008)

If there’s one thing that can be said about Kobe Bryant, it is that he hates to lose. With such a burning desire to rise above the competition, why would he even think about a negative outcome?

Despite the Lakers success this season on the road, KB24 and the Lake Show have struggled recently in the Motor City. L.A. hadn’t tasted victory in the Palace of Auburn Hills since March ‘02, losing their last nine games against the Detroit Pistons. Although the days of dominance are long gone from the Pistons’ franchise, they still managed to defeat the Lakers, 106-95, on their home court earlier this season in the Iverson era.

With Kobe so close at last night’s game, I got a glimpse of how serious he takes the game of basketball. This inspired me to focus on his every move…

Pregame

After arriving only 30 minutes before the game because of car issues and finding my seat directly behind the Lakers bench, my eyes were fixed on Black Mamba. I didn’t even notice Aretha Franklin passing right by me. To be honest, I didn’t even care.

I watched my idol do his job. He was dressed in purple with yellow trimmings, showcasing a white No. 24 stitched on his fabric, a yellow wristband squeezing his left elbow, white tape on his ring finger, black and yellow, Nike Zoom Kobe IV’s tied to his feet, with tattoos on his arms billboarding his love for his family; inked in his time of turmoil.

His strength is documented, but his scrawniness baffled me. It doesn’t seem as if KB is so small until you see him in person.

As I watched him participate in the shoot around, the superstar took each shot seriously as he warmed up with teammate Trevor Ariza.

Catch. Pivot. Triple Threat. Dribble. Spin Move. Pull-up! Zoning out his atmosphere, Kobe did this over and over.

His approach to the game was more militant than any other player that I’ve watched. If you looked into his eyes, you could see that basketball to him is what Black Nationalism was to Malcolm X! (…yes, it’s that serious). His eyes lit up every time he touched the rock.

This is Kobe Bryant — the best to ever do it! (Yeah, I said it). Hated on so much, Passion of the Christ need a sequel.

Showtime

Kwame can't guard this.Kobe didn’t waste any time getting everything started as he manhandled the smaller Aaron Afflalo and any other defender that stepped in his path. With the absence of Allen Iverson, Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace, KB was like a kid in a candy store, displaying his “He-Cant-Guard-Me” swag all night while filling up the stat sheet. He dropped 30 points, grabbed 8 boards, dropped 7 dimes and accumulated 2 steals.

The fans in the arena didn’t know what to do. Some cheered while some booed the living legend. At one point early in the 3rd quarter when he stepped up to the free throw line, half of the arena chanted “M-V-P!” while half showed hasty dissatisfaction. The noise didn’t bother KB though as he sank them both down. Take that!

He may be the most loved/hated athlete to lace up a pair of sneaks and from his actions during the game, and he has become aware of this and feeds off it. Nothing could throw-off his focus, as I watched the determination in his eye during every second that he was on the court. The same determination that has his team back in tact for another championship run this season. The same determination that has propelled the Lakers to four straight victories. This game would be no different.

The Lakers would win 92-77 over the Detroit Pistons.

Postgame

While waiting to get a few sound bites from Kobe, I decided to chat with Derek Fisher. When he spotted my shoes, Nike Huarache 2k4 in Lakers colorway, we had plenty to talk about.

“Man them are some of the best shoes to ever come out,” Fisher says.

“I know man, I love them,” I respond.

“Yeah, they’re really comfortable.”

“I know, didn’t you used to wear them too?”

“Yeah, I wore them when I played for Golden State. I loved them too.”

After we wrapped up our convo, Kobe walked out from the back of the locker room. Still inspired from his performance, I waited for all of the other journalists to finish up with their questions before introducing myself to him, giving him a run-down of what I do. He responded with great attentiveness, and we shook hands before he left to get on the bus to catch to plane to inspire another person in another city.

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Video of the Week!

March 27, 2009

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*My video of the Week this week came from myself! I got footage of how it was behind-the-scenes at a Pistons Game when they hosted the Miami Heat. I shot, edited, and narrated the project. Click on the photo to check it out at Slamonline.com! (…leave comments)

83006871AE017PISTONS_HEAT* Pistonscast.com decided to run my notes as well…click on the pic and check them out!

Cold Blooded!!

Cold Blooded!!

*I got to see D-Wade in arguably his best NBA season live last night. Click on the pic to view my notes at SLAMonline.com! (A video will be posted later this week)

By Eric Woodyard

The act of getting a pregame interview with Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade is like seeing Bishop Magic Don Juan sporting anything but green and gold (…it just doesn’t happen much!). I found this out when Wade and the Heat made their visit to the Palace of Auburn Hills to take on the struggling Detroit Pistons yesterday.

I came into the arena with high hopes! For what it’s worth, it was an ESPN/ABC nationally televised game, a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and Wade’s a humble dude so I knew that I could be lucky enough to pull of this feat. Wrong! Not only was I unable to get an interview with him, I was unable to even see the MVP candidate until about 10 minutes before the tip off. Despite my failed attempt with the Flash, I was successful in my other efforts. The actual game was action-packed but most of the real action took place before and after the exhibition. Here’s what happened…

Pregame

Upon entering the arena, ESPN cameramen were everywhere and I spotted a few familiar faces even before visiting the team’s locker rooms. The first person that I encountered was NBA legend turned analyst, Mark Jackson, who was friendlier than most. The New Yorker was engaged in casual conversation with another person from the media when I briefly interrupted him for a short interview. After quizzing me about my background info and asking me if I knew SLAM Editor-In-Chief, Ben Osborne, he agreed to answer a few questions.

SLAM: How do you feel about being here today watching DWade take on the Detroit Pistons here in Motown?
Mark Jackson: Well it’s gonna be a lot of fun. You’re talking about getting the opportunity to watch arguably the best player in the game and a guy that has a legit chance to win MVP so it should be a very entertaining ball game.

SLAM: Your (analyst) style is pretty creative, you’ve got your own punch lines like “Mama there goes that man,” and things like that. How do you come up with those types of things?
MJ: Well it’s really New York talk. It’s something I grew up with playing basketball on the playgrounds of New York City, playing with family and friends, [and] no matter what I’m doing all day everyday, I’m a trash talker and I’m having fun. So it’s just an extension of me calling the game almost like I’m sitting on the couch with my family just having fun with it. So I’m trying to put my own spin on it.

SLAM: We have a guy here in Michigan by the name of Rodney Stuckey. A lot of people like to compare him to Dwyane Wade, what’s your take on that?
MJ: It’s really not fair to compare him to a guy that has ultimately won a championship and is a guy that is one of the top-three players in the world today. But Rodney Stuckey is a phenomenal young basketball player and you can see the similarities in both players and you can see how bright his future’s gonna be. Outstanding scorer, tremendous strength and a bright head on his shoulders.

SLAM: Who’s your MVP? Do you feel DWade should be considered for it despite his team’s record?
MJ: Well his team is in the Playoffs so he certainly should be considered but when you’re talking about the MVP, I think it’s a toss up between Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It’s awfully tough to pick one of those guys. I think the rest of the season is going to tell who separates themselves.

From there it was off to the locker rooms. The Heat’s side was pretty dead as most of the players took part in shoot around. Mario Chalmers listened to music while Luther Head and Udonis Haslem had their eyes fixed on film of the opposition.

On the Pistons’ side, Rodney Stuckey munched on a pre-game meal after taking a few pre-game shots and signing autographs to the rowdy fans. Stuckey was cool, calm and collected as he too was watching film of his basketball idol Dwyane Wade while sitting at his locker. There was also an Allen Iverson sighting as he stretched in the training room looking as if he would take part in action.

After peeping the scene for a little while longer, I decided to step into the media room where breakfast food was being served. Without trying to be too much of a pest, I decided to approach former Bad Boy Rick Mahorn who was stern but fair.

“What’s up Mr. Mahorn?” I asked as he ate.

“If you mess with me while I’m trying to eat I’ll kill you,” Mahorn said smirking.

“Oh OK,” I said not knowing whether to take him serious or not.

“I’m for real! Naw but what can I help you with?” he said grinning looking up from his plate of pancakes, hash browns, and bacon.

“I work with SLAM, and I was wondering if I could get an interview?”

“Yeah, I’ll get you when I’m done eating.”

Instead of waiting around because he wasn’t nearly finished, I decided to camp out in the hallway to watch as the Pistons stormed their home court. Mahorn ran into me out there and said he’d get me after the game but I didn’t see him again. He wasn’t dodging me, but we were both very busy after the game and we didn’t cross paths.

In-Game

Logo, anyone?– Without A.I., Rip, and Sheed, Wade dominated as usual! 39 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks… including the game-winning swat on Stuckey that made me feel like a proud father as he did wonders for my fantasy league team.

– Stuckey held his own, though, as he chipped in 24 points, grabbed a board, and threw 3 dimes. The Pistons lead for most of the game but fell in the end, 96-101, moving three games behind Miami in the Eastern Conference standings.

– Rip was the only player from the injured trio to sit on the bench and support his team. A.I. and Sheed teased the fans as they came out during warm-ups and signed a few autographs before heading back into the locker room to watch the game.

– In the second quarter Rip even seemed amused as he and Kwame Brown watched himself on the scoreboard’s large screen in the “24 seconds with Rip” feature during a time out. When asked who his favorite actresses were he responded with “I have two, Halle Berry and Pam Grier. Only people from the old school know about Pam Grier… I have an old soul.”

Postgame

Following the game near the tunnel of the visitor’s locker room, I ran into another distinguished African-American actress who unfortunately didn’t top Rip’s list…Gabrielle Union. Caramel skin glowing, dimples glaring and looking as beautiful as ever, I wanted to spit a few words in her ear but I decided not to (…just kidding). I couldn’t say the same for the fans who bombarded hip-hop star, Flo Rida, before I reached Gabrielle Union. He seemed to enjoy the attention as he posed for pics and gave out his signature to just about anyone who asked.

This, minus the autographs and photos, was a lot like the media frenzy around Dwyane Wade in the visitor’s locker room as he sat at an unnamed locker and answered each question fired from reporters with grace and humility. Although I was unable to get a direct interview with the Flash, I can take credit as being the first person to show him a copy of his third appearance on the cover of the SLAM Magazine.

A video of this occurrence will be posted later this week on SLAMTV… Stay tuned!!

The New Mateen Cleaves?

March 19, 2009

MSU's Kalin Lucas

MSU's Kalin Lucas

During his tenure as a Spartan for Michigan State, Flint native Mateen Cleaves was the face of the university! 

Not only was Cleaves the captain of the Spartans, he led the team to a national championship in 2000 (…where he was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four), he was a three-time All-American, as well as a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year. Cleaves was everything that you could possibly want in a point guard. He was also drafted with the fourteenth pick by the Detroit Pistons in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons, but that’s another story.

moIt seems as though MSU head coach Tom Izzo has been blessed with another player of that caliber this season….Kalin Lucas! Standing at 6′0″, the sophomore guard from Sterling Heights, Mich. has blossomed into the type player that Izzo prided his national championship team around. 

In his freshman season as a Spartan, Lucas didn’t really show a strong indication of greatness but he did earn an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection. This season with not only did Lucas earn an All-Big Ten team selection, but he was also the 2009 Big-Ten Player of the Year award, just like Cleaves who was also an All-American in his sophomore year.

As the Spartans look to make their run in the tourny just like they did in 2000, look for Lucas to lead the way, much like the Flintstone did in his Spartan days. MSU will open up against Robert Morris as the 2-seed in the Midwest tomorrow at 9:50 p.m.

*click on the pic to view this post at InGameNow!

stephen-a-smith1

When Chauncey Billups made his return back to the Palace of Auburn Hills, many celebrities were in attendance. I caught up with Stephen A. Smith to get his take on the situation in Motown since Billups’ departure.

Eric Woodyard: Are you surprised by the recent success that the Pistons have had without A.I. in the lineup?
Stephen A. Smith: No. Because as great of a scorer as Allen Iverson is, when you bring in somebody that’s basically a foreign element to a system that’s been running pretty much like a machine for the last six or seven years, there’s going to be some kinks in their army. You’re going to see them struggle a little bit, but when he goes out than you can revert back to form because you can start doing things that you normally were accustomed to doing in the previous six years. That’s all that happened with Iverson. Of course he’s a great scorer, he’s a great talent, we all know that, but he was the only foreign entity to this system and because he’s such a great talent, you have to adjust when he’s out on the floor. You can’t ignore him, if you’re his teammates whereas once he leaves, you can get back to old form.

EW: I’ve been hearing a lot of opinions, but what is your official opinion about the Iverson/Billups trade after having some time to see it play out?
SAS: I feel like it was the right move and I feel like it was the right move for both teams. Chauncey’s a great PG, a Champion! But in the case of Iverson you shade Billups’ $39 million off the cap; you shade Rasheed Wallace numbers coming off at the end of the year. That’s about the future, that’s why you make a deal like that.

EW: Do you think the Pistons will make a good run in the Playoffs this season?
SAS: No, No!

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“I’m never ever gonna quit, cause quittin just ain’t my stick!”   

                                      -Barry White, Never, Never Gonna Give You Up, 1973

By any means necessary, the Detroit Pistons will compete! This was no different last night when they bombarded the court in Houston to take on the Rockets for their second straight game in Texas.

Despite falling 106-101, it took two overtimes for the Rockets to defeat the Pistons even with their injured roster.

From a physical standpoint, with the absence of Allen Iverson (back), Rip Hamilton (groin) and Rasheed Wallace (calf), the Pistons seemed full of inanition. As the game progressed, they showed the Rockets that they were as saguine as ever even without these missing links.

Rodney Stuckey picked apart the defense from every angle with his incisive moves, Will Bynum continued his stellar play since the absence of the Answer, Kwame Brown and Antonio McDyess cleaned the glass, and Aaron Arron Afflalo had it stuck on automatic. Even with everything clicking on all cylinders, they were just too undermanned.

In the end it was just too much Yao! In an attempt(!) to play him with single coverage he destroyed the Pistons as he finished with 31 points and 15 boards.

The loss pushed the Pistons’ overall record to 33-34 (…below .500).

*click on the pic to view this post at Pistonpost.com

Who Hotter Than Me??!!

March 18, 2009

The best in the state!

He may not have the awards to show it, but the University of Michigan’s Manny Harris is the best player in the state of Michigan! (…maybe the Midwest).

 With a jumper as wet as libation, handles as crisp as a Nas haircut, and a cormorant’s spirit when it comes to scoring, Harris is unstoppable. Averaging 16.8 points, 4.4 assists and  6.9 rebounds per game, he will lead Michigan far into the tourny, as long as they can stay far away from the Michigan State Spartans.

He even has the swag to complement his skill. He doesn’t just wear his jersey, he rocks a t-shirt under the jersey; His shorts are baggier than most, and he has that aura of being the best. He is the truth!

Why wouldn’t he be? The 6’5″, 185 pound sophomore from the “D” has been getting it in all season. He stellar play even helped him garner an All-Big Ten selection.

When Michigan faces Clemson tomorrow for the first round of the tourny, it will be no different. Manny will bring it!  

He picked up his “dog” mentality back at Detroit Redford High School where he took home the Michigan Mr. Basketball trophy back in 2007. The reason I give him the upper hand over players like MSU’s Kalin Lucas, is because of that characteristic alone.

2009 will be the year that Manny Harris blesses the nation with his prowess!

*click on the pic to view this at It’s Just Sports!

 

 

Video of the Week!

March 17, 2009

My main man Charlie Bell, repping Flint Southwestern Academy (…my alma mater), sits down with Mo Williams to give him some of that Flint Town flavor to his show.

National Champs?
National Champs?

 As the Michigan State Spartans get ready to make their run in the NCAA Tournament, I can’t help but reminisce of the 2000 team that was esoteric towards success. This year’s Spartans bring a smile to my face  every time that I watch them because it seems as if they also possess this same knowledge that made those Spartans, who won the National Championship, led by the  “The Flintstones” so successful.Sophomore guard Kalin Lucas, 2009 Big Ten Player of the Year and team MVP, runs the show much like Mateen Cleaves did. Senior Travis Walton, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, voluntarily locks down the opposing team’s best player much like Charlie Bell did. Junior Raymar Morgan picks up the scoring slack in the clutch much like Morris Peterson did.It doesn’t matter that the only two “true” Flintstones on this year’s roster, Tom Herzog and Marquise Gray, dont make much of an impact. They continue to make the original’s efforts interminable. 

 Not only does MSU have the knowledge, they also have the hunger and “dog” to get gritty when games get tough. Just look at what they did to the University of Michigan’s Manny Harris (7 points, 2-10 shooting)…let’s just say he agrees.

The stage is set for this team to win the National Championship this season! They have what it takes…the “it” factor.

On Friday, March 20, tune in to the revival of the 2000 Michigan State Spartans and the “Flintstones.” With the Final Four in Motown this year, The Spartans have no choice but to represent the state of Michigan proudly. Starting at 9:50 p.m., Robert Morris University will become the first victim on the road to redemption for the Spartans of MSU!

*Click on the pic to view this post at It’s Just Sports!