It’s Friday. That’s Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We are loaded today with College World Series and Creighton recruiting, The Longhorn Network and Husker baseball greats, Terrell Owens, Anthony Tolliver and Ryan Lochte. But first, LeBron woke up this morning a champion.
LBJ dominated the Finals in a way rarely seen before. He averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, all while guarding the second-best player in the world, Kevin Durant.
I have rooted against LeBron James the past two years, because I thought he took the easy way out leaving Cleveland. And I badly wanted Oklahoma City to win this series. But you have to hand it to James. He left no doubt about his abilities.
Now, free of the burden to win a championship, it will be fascinating to see where LeBron’s game goes. Where will he be in five years? How many rings will he own? I started a mini-firestorm on Twitter last night suggesting that James has a chance to be the best player ever.
Jordan romantics insist that any challenger to the throne do exactly what Michael did, including matching Michael’s six championships. I think that’s hogwash.
While winning championships is clearly part of the criteria for judging all-time greats, LeBron doesn’t need six, just as Michael didn’t need five to pass Magic Johnson’s greatness. (Is Bill Russell better than Jordan because he has more championships? Of course not.)
At some point, we may be engaging in a riveting debate, LeBron or Michael?
>> That said, the Heat’s championship still felt cheap to me. Like the Bachelor proposing to the winner of a six-week dating show and saying, “We’ve been through a lot together!” Or like a senator’s son graduating from college and saying, “I never thought I’d make it!” Miami was the best team. I’m happy for LeBron. But the redemption narrative bothers me. They didn’t pay their dues the way Jordan or Isiah or even Durant did. They took a shortcut. That makes victory a little less sweet.
>> Something tells me the best game of the College World Series may come tonight. We’ve been waiting for a great one and I don’t see Arkansas or South Carolina going down easy.
>> I participated in a discussion the other day about Nebraska’s best CWS team. Was it 2001 or 2005? I gave the edge to Mike Anderson’s ’05 team; my friend preferred the grit of Dave Van Horn’s ’01 team.
A quick review:
2001: 50-16 overall. Led by Shane Komine, Dan Johnson, Jeff Leise, Matt Hopper and John Cole. Won the first regular season conference title in 51 years. Won the Big 12 tournament. Beat Rice at Buck Beltzer to make the CWS.
2005: 57-15 overall (including 33-4 at home). Stars included Alex Gordon, Joba Chamberlain, Johnny Dorn, Tony Watson and Curtis Ledbetter. Won the Big 12 regular season and tournament. Beat Miami at Haymarket Park to make the CWS.
Numbers point to ’05 — and remember that Husker team won a game in Omaha. But I will concede that the ’01 team had a certain intangible quality. What do you think?
>> Got an email request this week for my story from last June about Jim Delany’s fight to reform the CWS. It’s good timing for a re-post with two northern schools breaking through in 2012.
>> Speaking of Delany, is there something wrong with Big Ten basketball? This study found the Big Ten severely lacking when it comes to NBA Draft prospects. (Nebraska belonged in the Big Ten all along!)
>> In Thursday’s World-Herald, I wrote a column about SEC fans at the College World Series. There’s one theme I omitted — the SEC’s puzzling one-for-all, all-for-one mentality. They seem to celebrate a conference rival’s championship as if it’s their own. If Michigan is playing Miami, you can bet your life Ohio State fans will be rooting for Miami. Not so in the SEC.
“I think we’re all innate power freaks,” Arkansas fan Alan Crook said. “All the other conferences seem to hate us for being good, so we just band together. I don’t have a problem (rooting for LSU or Alabama against other schools around the country). I like the dominance.”
>> In five years, we may look back and say this week changed Creighton basketball, for better or worse. I don’t remember a basketball program ever locking up four verbal commitments in four days. I’ve briefly looked at each player on the Internet. Hardly enough to evaluate them, but enough to get a sense of what Greg McDermott likes.
All four fit the Creighton identity — offensive skill. They can shoot, pass, dribble — all the fundamental strengths the 2011-12 CU team possessed. (I’m particularly intrigued by Darian Harris, a 6-foot-6 point forward from Arkansas who has wonderful court vision.) If there’s a concern, it’s the overall physical strength and athleticism of the foursome. Again, it’s hard to tell on YouTube.
>> A profile of Ryan Lochte from ESPN’s Wayne Drehs. You’ll be reading a ton about Lochte in the World-Herald the next week.
>> The Kansas City Royals are red-hot, only 4 1/2 back of 1st place. Yet this morning, news hit that starting pitcher Felipe Paulino needs Tommy John. He’s the fourth Royals pitcher — Soria, Duffy and Wood — out for the year. Unreal.
>> Texas Tech was considering canceling its football game with Texas State because ESPN wanted to put it on the Longhorn Network. Ha. ESPN has since backed off, according to Chip Brown. Clay Travis explores the Longhorn Network disaster in his mailbag.
>>Liz Merrill (former World-Herald star) wrote a beautiful, heartbreaking story about the crash that killed Broken Bow’s basketball coaches.
>> One more NBA Finals thought: I expected Miami to win the series in six games. I did NOT expect them to win because of their supporting cast. Credit LeBron and Dywane Wade for drawing double teams, but you don’t expect Miami to shoot the ball like that. James Harden, Thabo Sefelosha and Derek Fisher aren’t supposed to get outplayed by Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller.
That’s why the Thunder has a great shot to beat Miami as soon as next year. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are good enough. OKC just needs to replace — or get improvement — from a few supporting actors.
>> It’s not too late to sign up for Anthony Tolliver’s basketball camp. It’s at Millard North, July 9-12. It’s open to kids entering kindergarten through ninth grade. To register, go to AT44.com or saveprogram.org.
>> Brandon Jacobs did a very cool thing for a kid in New Jersey.
>> Grantland explores Terrell Owens’ sad state.
>> I like Jeff Van Gundy’s idea to change charge calls. Just make it a turnover, not an offensive foul. If officials won’t raise the standard for taking a charge, then basketball lawmakers (at all levels) need to do something. You don’t want guys like Kevin Durant afraid to go the basket.
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.