Posts Tagged ‘America’

Drew Brees’ Memoir Makes Best-Seller List

July 17th, 2010

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Fresh off the 18th annual ESPYs, where New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees won four awards, including Best Male Athlete, it was announced that the football stud’s new book will debut at No. 3 on the New York Times Best-Sellers List.

The book, titled, ”Coming Back Stronger,” was released on July 6. Brees will go on a three-day book tour that will include appearances in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Brees has certainly done his fair share in promoting the book, appearing on Good Morning America, Fox’s Hannity, ESPN, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

The book also contains a foreword from Mark Brunell, a former quarterback of the Saints.

Thierry Henry Unveiled in New York

July 17th, 2010

Major League Soccer’s retirement home just got a little more crowded this week, as France and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry signed a four-year deal with the New York Red Bulls. Or is it Red Bull New York? Never quite understood what was going on there. I digress…

First there was Brand Beckham going to Hollywood.  Now we have King Henry coming to the Big Apple.

While MLS is getting that knack as a semi-retirement league for the world’s greatest stars (Frank Lampard has mentioned as well), Henry’s signing is still a major deal for the young league.

Put simply, on footballing credentials alone, this is the best signing in MLS history.  At the peak of his powers in the early 2000s, Thierry Henry was the best forward in the world.  He was the most feared striker in England by a healthy margin.  Twice runner-up  FIFA World Player of the Year to countryman Zinedine Zidane (2003) and Ronaldinho (2004), Henry was voted player of the year in England twice by the PFA and three times by the Football Writers’ Association.

He was on the French national team that won the World Cup in 1998, and played a pivotal role in their Euro 2000 championship and 2006 World Cup final appearance.  With Arsenal, he won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups, and was the centerpiece for the unprecedented 2003-04 title-winning Arsenal side that went undefeated in their domestic campaign.  After moving to Barcelona in 2007, Henry claimed the treble in 2009, often utilized as a left-winger/forward alongside Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi.

But it is more than just the accolades that define Henry.  He is arguably the most electrifying player to grace the Premier League.  His technique, movement, acceleration, speed, strength, and goal-scoring abilities were second to none in England.

Starting out as a left-sided midfielder, Arsene Wenger converted the Frenchman to the center-forward, but Henry always drifted out wide left to collect the ball, and then proceeded to torch fullbacks and central defenders regularly.  A 360 spin here, blinding pace there, Henry was a pleasure to watch every weekend.  One wonders, if Abramovich and Mourinho hadn’t arrived in England, how many more titles could Henry have won with the Gunners?

At 32 and turning 33 in August, does Henry have much left in the tank?  He should light this league on fire and be the outstanding player.  He has endured a rocky couple of years with both Barcelona, where he fell out of favor and was a regular on the bench last season, and France, after his infamous “Hand of Gaul” debacle and finding himself on the bench for the national team in their laughable World Cup campaign.

Still, there is no one remotely in the class of Thierry Henry in MLS when it comes to talent and skill, including Beckham.  The dream scenario for MLS is a New York – Los Angeles final with Henry and Becks both fit.  The two teams are both at or near the top of their respective conferences , so that dream final looks to be on once both superstars return to action.

These signings are critical for MLS’ growth, despite the negative “retirement” moniker they may receive from critics. Why? Take me for example. I went to see Beckham play here in New York (actually New Jersey), and now I will 100 percent be attending a Red Bulls game to see Henry play. These stars galvanize interest for nascent American soccer fans, MLS fans, and hardcore soccer fans like myself who largely ignore MLS and follow the European leagues. All in all, Henry’s signing is a big positive for the league.

Now, let’s watch a master of his craft in action. Sit back and enjoy.

What are your thoughts on Henry’s move to America? Good for MLS, bad for MLS? Good for Henry, bad for Henry?


From the FanTake blog: Pitchmen

Follow on Twitter: @PitchmenGoal

Calipari Point Guard Project: Brandon Knight

July 17th, 2010

Every year, there's a team who comes away with the top recruiting class and all of their fans become over excited about what players from high school are coming to play for their team.

It's just something else to look forward to in the offseason or to get excited about after a disappointing performance.

However, sometimes top recruits don't always back up their hype out on the court (see North Carolina last season).

With that said, there is one team that always does, and with five players leaving for the draft after last season, they have to.

John Calipari may be known for leaving programs with probation and recruiting violations and everything like that, but while he's at a school, they will be successful. Maybe this has something to do with him always having a top point guard.

Three years ago, Derrick Rose went to Memphis to play for Calipari and took the Tigers all the way to the National Championship games where they lost a heartbreaker thanks to Mario Chalmers' clutch shooting towards the end of the second half.

However, the point was proven. Calipari started bringing in top recruiting classes to play for him and his dribble drive system.

After Rose was Tyreke Evans. Evans played small forward in high school, but Calipari moved him over to guard when he arrived in Memphis.

And after struggling for 11 games, he decided to move Evans over to point guard and the Tigers didn't lose another game until they were defeated by Missouri in the NCAA Tournament.

Finally, last season's guard was probably the most famous to play for Calipari. That probably had something to do with the move from Memphis to Kentucky, but don't tell John Wall that.

Wall was always the fastest player on the court and was one of the most explosive guards the NCAA had seen in a while.

In his first collegiate debut against Miami, Wall scored 19 points including the game winning shot with only .5 seconds left on the clock to give the Wildcats the win.

And, against Hartford in December, Wall set the Kentucky single game assist record with 16 as opposed to just one turnover.

However, Kentucky's season fell just short of a Final Four run when they lost to West Virginia in the Elite Eight.

With all of that said, though, Kentucky fans don't care about the past, Calipari could still be on the chopping block if he fails to keep bringing in this kind of talent and success.

So, let me introduce you to a name that will be known by every basketball fan in America by next December, and the new "John Calipari Point Guard Project."

Brandon Knight.

As the fourth-generation Calipari guard, Knight may not be the most athletic player on the court next season, but his physical strength and great ball handling is second to none in this year's recruiting class.

On the other side of the ball, Knight is a great defender who has a nose for the ball, and isn't afraid to grab every rebound he can.

In high school, Knight led his team to four state title appearances, including back-to-back wins in 2008 and 2009.

He averaged 31.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game throughout his high school career.

This past year, he was a McDonald's All-American and Jordan Classic All-American. He also finished his high school career second on Florida's all time scoring list.

He is obviously the best player in the 2010 class.

However, that only means that Kentucky is counting on him to come in and back up all of this hype with success as an individual and as a team.

And, with the three guards before him, he has some pretty big shoes to fill.



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Jake Shields Now in UFC Welterweight Picture

July 17th, 2010

About a month ago, I shared a Southwest flight back from Las Vegas to San Francisco with then-Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields.

By shared, I mean we were both on the plane, but in different rows. Nevertheless, we were seated close enough that I had a chance to talk to him about his win over Dan Henderson and what it meant for his future.

The Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu team member said back then that he was coming to the Ultimate Fighting Championship and I assumed it meant he'd join the middleweight division.

Several commenters pointed out Shields' natural weight was 170 pounds so he'd enlist in the welterweight ranks.

Score it: Readers 1, Idiot 0.

The UFC has officially announced the move that everyone expected and the former title-holder at 185 will, indeed, be vying for Georges St-Pierre's welterweight belt. At least for the time being.

The acquisition does two things.

First, it marks another one-step-forward-one-step-back moment for Scott Coker's brainchild.

Strikeforce was building some sincere momentum with the metamorphosis of Alistair Overeem, Shields' blossoming star, Muhammed Lawal's soaring stock, the impressive return of Cung Le, and the appeal of Shields' colorful Cesar Gracie teammates—welterweight champ Nick Diaz and lightweight king Gilbert Melendez.

There's also the tiny little matter of Fabricio Werdum's vocabulary-defying victory over Fedor Emelianenko.

The loss of its top dog at 185 pounds isn't crippling because Shields is only beginning to build a national profile amongst the casual mixed martial art fan. In other words, his drawing power probably didn't land him amongst Coker's most prized ponies.


But it will sting because the departure is still a double-whammy—it further thins out a comparably shallow talent pool and it makes the sports' 800-lb gorilla stronger.

Shields, who once trained with Chuck Liddell, might not be the most exciting fighter. His style of forever playing to his wrestling and grappling strengths doesn't get your average aficionado's pulse racing, but it's proven to be massively effective.

Nor will he provide the media with a bunch of nonsense to feed the hype machine.

However, once you graduate to the big leagues, you can do very well simply by winning and that's all Jake has done recently. So, despite the inevitability of the individual exodus, his absence will be felt.

Oh well, such is life as the underdog.

Second, as alluded to, the addition of the 31-year-old introduces another big fish to a well-stocked pond that's already in a feeding frenzy.

Top contenders are butting heads left and right in the welterweight division.

Arguably the top two will square off at UFC 117 when Thiago Alves and Jon Fitch finally touch gloves for their thrice-rescheduled rematch. A second set of dangerous 170-lb men will engage in hostilities at UFC 120 when Carlos Condit and Dan Hardy meet.

The London card will also see two undefeated welterweights battle when Dong Hyun Kim faces John Hathaway.

There's also Josh Koscheck (who will get another shot at St-Pierre), Martin Kampmann, Anthony Johnson, the underrated Chris Lytle (who is fighting Matt Serra in a rematch at UFC 119 for some reason), John Howard, Dustin Hazelett, Paulo Thiago, and several other developing threats.

And, of course, "Rush" St-Pierre rules them all.

The Canadian icon has utterly dominated or clearly defeated "The Outlaw" Hardy, "The Pitbull" Alves, Fitch, and "Kos." GSP also has two thrashings of Hall-of-Famer Matt Hughes in three contests and is a perfect two-fer-two against future Hall-of-Famer B.J. Penn.

Now, Jake Shields gets plunked into all that foaming, pink water.

As a reward for 14 straight wins over opponents in two weight classes, including defeats of Hendo, Robbie Lawler, the exiled Paul Daley, Condit, and Yushin Okami.

This is the pot of gold at the end of rainbow that's included a black belt in BJJ, an EliteXC welterweight belt, the aforementioned Strikeforce middleweight one, and a Shooto title in the same division.

Oh well, such is life as a fighter.

All things being equal, I'd rather be an underdog.

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2010 NBA Free Agency: Are the LA Clippers Tracy McGrady’s Best Choice?

July 17th, 2010

With the NBA free-agency period waning, so many of the big names have already been taken off the board.

You know what that means, right?

No, not new suits. It’s a 2002 Flashback!

Yes, 2002 was a great time as America had the Olympics in Salt Lake City, Emmitt Smith became the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, and Brazil won its fifth World Cup.

But the best sports story of that year? T-Mac was actually good!

Okay, maybe that was a bit of an overstatement.

All of Tracy McGrady's injuries make him more fragile than a Faberge egg, but eight years ago was his golden year, going for 32.1 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, and 5.5 assists per game.

Those are MVP-like numbers, even if he couldn’t win a playoff series. Although he thought he did.

McGrady is now 31 years old (younger than Kobe) and a free agent who people say is past his prime.

He played in only 24 games for the New York Knicks last season, but showed some promise coming off a bad injury that put him out for quite some time.

Injuries. Limited minutes. Past his prime. Sounds like the Los Angeles Clippers to me.

All kidding aside, McGrady is a perfect fit for the Clippers on multiple levels.

He may not be on top of his game, but with Blake Griffin joining Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, and Chris Kaman, he doesn’t need to be the scoring threat he was in the past.

One of his key roles would be to help groom rookie Al-Farouq Aminu. Back in T-Mac’s heyday, he had more jukes than a '60s diner and a jumper sweeter than a milkshake.

If he imparts any of that wisdom on Aminu, the chief really will have arrived.

McGrady also creates a time-sharing role with Aminu, which is excellent for development.

Mcgrady played 26 solid minutes per game for New York last season, and that would help ease the Wake Forest stud into the NBA.

It would be similar to how McGrady got eased in, and that worked to the tune of a 21.5 points per game career average. I think Clippers fans would kill for that.

But that’s not the only way the Mount Zion Christian Academy alum can help the Clips step slightly out of the Lakers shadow.

The Clippers shot 33.2 percent from downtown last year, and were in the bottom half of the NBA from the field as well. Yes, McGrady’s stroke has faded a little, but he shoots 44 percent for his career.

That number includes years when he had more guys surrounding him than Barack Obama.

Now, throw that into the Clippers lineup.

With Griffin and Kaman down low, the interior is going to be packed tight. With T-Mac’s shooting, he can help spread the floor, stop double teams on the post, and draw defenders out of the lane.

Plus, if he’s the most injury-prone guy on the floor, odds say Griffin is safe!

Lastly, in this offseason, the Clippers had enough money to sign a front-line free agent, but were unable to.

If they can get McGrady to sign cheap and short, they will be a front-runner in the summer of 2011.

I think the only things that are a tighter fit than Tracy Mcgrady with the Clips are Paramore’s jeans.

So all that remains is to get his people to the dotted line.

McGrady has already scheduled to work out with the Clippers, and if that goes well, there might be some reason to celebrate on the non-NBA Champion side of Staples Center.

Now, if Donald Sterling sold the team, not even Lil’ Wayne could pop that much champagne.

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