PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. -- Accept our mea culpas for leaving off Ichiro on Monday (although, we'll say that comparing Ichiro's 11 years in the majors to the first 11 years of any other player is hardly comparing apples-to-apples since Ichiro entered the majors in his mid-to-late 20s after a strong career in Japan and anyone else's first 11 years would start as a green youngster). We're on vacation so here's the structure - we're going to have one or two comments and then a top three or four list and call it a day. From our satellite studios here along the Gulf, here we go.
Who wants to win some Braves' tickets. With the U.S. Open this week - and no Tiger Woods - let's do our Mastering the Masters' Masterful Challenge (remember the Masters Challenge was won by SportTalk's Cowboy Joe, he's a cowboy after all). You remember the game (with a small scoring tweak): Submit five golfers, and we'll give points for each place finish. (If you send in Steve Stricker and he wins that's 1 point. Whoever finishes 15th will be worth 15 points, etc. If your guy misses the cut, it's 100 points. The winner will have the lowest score.)
Questions? Interested? Winner gets four Braves tickets.
LeBron, archenemy No. 1
Wow, the hand-wringing over the Heatles' implosion in the NBA Finals has been shocking. Shocking, we say. Let it go folks, let it go. The amount of emotion and passion and fever that the Heat have created is stunning. (And somewhere, David Stern is smiling and he would be doing the cartoon evil guy laugh and pulling on the ends of his long, black and twisty mustache if he were a cartoon character and had a long, black and twisty mustache.)
Our man Chuck Barkley blamed the media (of course he did, the media is actually to blame for everything this side of polio) and said, "You guys told him, 'You're great because you're like Michael Jordan.'" ... [LeBron's] not a natural born killer. He's great because he's so physically gifted." Ouch, we'll take back-handed compliments for $1,000, Alex.
LeBron asked for this, wanted this, signed on for this and made a huge mistake in his initial approach to this. (The Decision was the brightest, self-created spotlight ever and it still casts shadows. A year ago, Pre-Decision, LeBron was the most popular athlete on the planet; today he may be the most unpopular.)
OK, everyone take a step back and breath. Now remember that LeBron's numbers in his first 10 NBA Finals games are comparable to Kobe's (look them up), and he has already made two more NBA Finals than Jordan at his age. This is not saying LeBron's better than Kobe or Jordan or anyone else. LeBron has a lot of growing and maturing to do, but wow, LeBron-bashing has gone to DefCon1. ("Do you want to play a game of chess?")
His biggest sins of the NBA Finals were not missing shots or making turnovers as much as being invisible and fading into a supporting role. Stars are called stars because they shine in the darkest moments - vanishing is not the act of a star.
How this shapes him - as a player and as a person - will be the definition of his career.
You can't handle the truth
The 5-at-10 does not like the word choke (unless EC is describing an MMA event and said someone was choked, then it actually applies).
That said, it has been a crazy run of big-moment meltdowns (remember it was only a couple of weeks ago that JR Hildebrand crashed on the final turn of the Indy 500). Here are the 5-at-10's top 5 all-time crunch-time implosions:
- Yankees in 2004: No other baseball team has lost a 3-0 series lead, and to do it against the Red Sox was overwhelming.
- Red Sox in 1986: Sorry, BIspy, but that was a big-time meltdown. (And it was the year EC was born.)
- Scott Norwood in Super Bowl XXV: Think how the Bills' legacy would have been different if Norwood, who missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt on the final of that Super Bowl loss to the Giants, would have been right on rather than "Wide Right."
- Jean Van de Velde in the 1999 British Open: The Frenchman's 72nd hole meltdown was must-see; like how everyone slows down and looks at a fender-bender. Because it all happened on one hole (Van de Velde needed a double-bogey on the final hole to win the tournament but made triple and lost in a playoff) it was just a touch worse than Greg Norman's Masters meltdown.
- The mighty Bears of South Bend Central: Yes, Jimmy Chitwood (who actually delivered after a much-ballyhooed "Decision" of his own) was awesome down the stretch and the crowd was definitely pro-Hickory, but the Bears had a six-point lead in the final minute and could not hold on for the Indiana state title. It's a good thing that was pre-Twitter, huh?