New development in the bizarre O'Neal-Howard Superman feud

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For a long time, Shaquille O’Neal was the NBA’s version of superman. He was really big, all but invincible, and generally overpowering. He even had a crippling weakness. Shaq also really likes being called Superman. He has a Superman tattoo. He once had a giant bed with the Superman logo on it. He has Superman logos all over his car. He once delayed a championship parade so he could attend the premiere of Superman Returns. As I said, Shaq really likes Superman.
Then Dwight Howard won the dunk contest by putting on a Superman cape and pulling of a crazy dunk/throw from the free-throw line. He explained after the contest that he came up with the idea while listening to that Soulja Boy song, but he was inevitably compared to the superhero. Howard has the same hulking frame that Shaq does, and is faster and jumps much higher at this stage of their respective careers. A new NBA Superman was born, and Howard ran with it. 
This season, after Shaq was traded into Howard’s conference, he began to voice his displeasure about how Howard had taken his beloved nickname. While Dwight seemed more bewildered by the feud that anything, Shaq got pretty mad about it. Words were spoken. Fans were confused. 
What is undoubtedly one of the five most intriguing arguments over a nickname this season took a new turn on Monday. According to Michael K. McIntyre of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Shaq has gotten his nickname officially endorsed by the society that represents the creators of Superman:
The Siegel & Shuster Society, keepers of the Superman flame in Cleveland, say Cleveland’s Shaquille O’Neal is the true “Superman” of the NBA, ending any debate – if there ever was one – that Orlando’s Dwight Howard legitimately wears the cape.
The society, named after the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Glenville kids who created Superman, wrote to tell the Cavs that its members “applaud Shaquille O’Neal’s history promoting the Man of Steel, from proudly wearing the character’s emblem tattoo to starring as John Henry Irons in the 1997 film Steel. But most of all, we thank him for being part of the excitement the Cavaliers have brought to Cleveland sports. It’s a whole team of supermen!”

Sounds like area politics may have had something to do with this, but Shaq’s beloved nickname has finally been officially recognized. This may all be a moot point, however, as Shaq gave himself the nickname “The Shaqken” shortly before the playoffs started. We’ll update you on this story as it develops. 

WNBA team rehearses ring ceremony at practice of team it beat in Finals

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The NBA does petty very, very, very, very, very, very, very well.

The WNBA is trying to give the NBA a run for its money.

The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have met in the last two WNBA Finals, the Lynx winning last year and the Sparks winning the year before. Minnesota hosted Los Angeles in the season opener Sunday, and the Lynx unveiled their banner and presented players with rings.

Before that, while the Sparks were practicing in Minnesota, the Lynx played their video for the event.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

The Sparks beat the Lynx on Sunday, but I don’t think that’s enough to override Minnesota’s power move.

Kobe Bryant on Kanye West’s comments: “What the hell are you talking about?”

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Kanye West, the President Trump backing hip-hop star, drew a lot of backlash for his comments on TMZ:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.” 

Mentally, maybe in some cases. But more so physically, with guns and whips and attack dogs and a whole lot more weapons that were all on one side. Nobody chooses slavery.

Tuesday, Kobe Bryant surprised a group of about 300 high school students at WE RISE — a 10-day pop-up festival dedicated to sparking a movement for change in the mental health system — in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the students asked him about Kanye’s comments. Kobe is not down.

“I’m sure (I feel) the same way everybody else here in this room feels. What the hell are you talking about? I think that was my reaction as is everybody else’s reaction….

“The thing about our country is that you have the right to say whatever it is that you want to say…that’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy. I think, for him, he’s one of these entertainers that’s always in a constant state of growth, he’s always challenging … himself, doing a lot of questioning internally himself…so I just take it for what it is and completely disagree.”

If I need to explain to you why Kobe is in the right here, you need to take a basic American history course again.

Good on Kobe for his comments. More importantly, good on Kobe for taking the time to promote mental health awareness.

“It’s easy for us as people to kind of ignore the emotional side of it,  especially when it comes to things that deal with negativity, things that deal with insecurity, things that deal with fear,” Kobe said. “It’s very easy to take the fear and just push it down, try to act like it doesn’t exist. The reason why it starts with imagination is because you first must imagine the life that you want to have. You must first imagine what it is you dream of becoming.”

Kobe did that, and now he’s got an Oscar. Oh, and a few basketball awards, too.

PBT Extra: LeBron, Cavaliers even series but Celtics far from dead

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If you want to make the case that the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the driver’s seat of the Eastern Conference Finals after sweeping two games at home, you’re in a good space. It’s a best-of-three and Cleveland has the best player on the planet on their side.

However, I still like the Celtics to hold on and win in seven.

I get into it in this PBT Extra, but the Celtics looked like a team that figured things out in the final three quarters of Game 4 (they just couldn’t make up for a disastrous first quarter), and they still have two games at home.

Either way, this feels like a series going the distance.

Did the Warriors deal Rockets a knockout blow in Western Conference finals?

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The Warriors beat the Rockets by 41 (!) in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Sunday.

Biggest playoff win in Golden State franchise history.

Biggest playoff loss in Houston franchise history.

Biggest playoff loss ever handed to any team as good as the 65-17 Rockets.

“At the end of the day, it’s one win,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “It doesn’t matter if you win by 40 or if you win by one.”

Maybe it matters more than Green is letting on.

Golden State was the 17th team to -win a playoff game by more than 40 points. Of the previous 16, 15 – including the last 14 – won the series:

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The only exception came in my favorite playoff series of all-time, the best-of-three 1956 Western Division semifinals:

  • Game 1: St. Louis Hawks 116, Minneapolis Lakers 115
  • Game 2: Minneapolis Lakers 133, St. Louis Hawks 75
  • Game 3: St. Louis Hawks 116, Minneapolis Lakers 115

So, teams to win a playoff game by more than 40 are 15-0 in best-of-seven or best-of-five series. Will the Rockets buck the trend?

They can make adjustments. Maybe Houston’s strong regular season – better than any above blown-out team’s – indicates a rare capability to recover from this. Andre Iguodala‘s injury hurts Golden State. Teams sometimes make historic comebacks from blowouts, including against the Warriors.

But that Golden State ran toppled the Rockets so decisively in Game 3 suggests the Warriors are hitting a gear Houston won’t keep up with.