Kobe Bryant’s Class Gives Kevin Durant Scoring Title

In 1941, Boston Red Sox’ Ted Williams went into the final day of baseball’s regular season batting exactly .400. While he could’ve sat out – Boston was 17 games back of the first place Yankees, Williams understood batting .400 wouldn’t mean as much if put himself before the team. Williams went a combined 6-8 in the doubleheader (Game 1 Game 2) – on his way to the .406 batting average we haven’t seen since.

According to this story on ESPN.com, Bryant will sit out in the final game of the season against the Sacramento Kings tonight, forfeiting a chance to take home his third career scoring title. He needed 38 points to beat out Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who played their final game of the regular season last night.

Kobe had the chance to smack ESPN in the face tonight. By scoring 38, he makes an argument he’s the best player in the NBA, not the seventh best according to a preseason rank on NBA on ESPN. Remember, this comes in the same season he had to adjust to a coach not named Phil Jackson and a Scottie Pippen not named Derek Fisher. He has not let his basketball stardom fog his vision of another NBA title – basketball’s ultimate measuring stick.

In today’s story with ESPNLosAngeles, Kobe said, “It’s not a challenge for me to score 38 points, you know? … We know I can go out and score 38 points. The most important thing is sending the right message to the group which is putting a championship above all else. That means rest. That means letting other guys play. That means us getting ready for Sunday (for the playoff opener).”

Yeah…Kobe is exactly right. We do know he can go out and score 38 at whim. He’s the only player in the league that can say that without a backlash of pseudo-news and debate on Twitter. Let me know in the comments if you disagree. LeBron could say it and be truthful, but we love hating LeBron too much to let a comment like that slide.

While Kobe could use father time to school the younger Durant, he didn’t. He showed class. He conveyed he’s not bigger than the game. It was refreshing, and I think it reminded basketball fans how special Kobe is.

When we look back on Kobe’s career, there will be an unofficial asterisk next to Kobe’s amount of scoring titles. In a sports era where asterisks are associated with negativity, this asterisk will reiterate how special Kobe was.

“Yes son, Kobe only won three scoring titles way back when, but he could have had a fourth if he decided to play in the final game of that 2012 season.”

Remember when Jose Reyes voluntarily sat out of last season’s finale to ensure his batting title? Yes he won, but sports fans partner his batting title with, “Yes, but he sat out the last day of the season to ensure he would win,” communicating he put himself before the team.

Rest up Kobe. A third scoring title doesn’t look as impressive as a sixth championship.

Calling all poker fans

Right now I’m watching this great heads up battle between Martin Staszko and Pius Heinz. Chip leads have flip flopped back and forth multiple times. I believe both players have had a 2:1 chip count during this heads up battle (not official but it has been close).

A misconception about poker is it’s all about luck. I forgot where, but I once heard poker is 10% luck and 90% knowing how to play it.

I would consider myself an average poker player. I have a moderate knowledge of the game. If you want to compete with the professionals of the game, you need to analyze every player’s bodily movement, the timing of every bet, betting patters, mannerisms.

The best poker players share the minds of the best chess players. Both games measure your ability to foresee one step ahead of your opponent. As you get more skilled at seeing into the future you move up in the worldwide rankings.

What I’m watching right now is a match between two very good poker minds. You don’t beat over 6,000 people by accident, although with all the amateurs in the field I wouldn’t be as surprised.

I’ve seen stone cold bluff five-bet, I’ve seen great value bets paid off, I’ve seen pocket aces, pocket kings, and suited Big Slick.

All in an effort to win the $8+ million dollars grilling them no more than a yard away.

On a separate note, I give a lot of credit to Lon McHeren and Norman Chad. Live, Chad doesn’t sound like a side-show clown. It’s nice to see his personality. McHeren really knows a lot about the game. He’s been dead-on most of the time. I’d expect Antonio Esfandiari to be a little more than just another voice. His reads have been way off today. I believe it was a board of 5-5-J-A or something similar. Esfandiari said something like, “With this bet he’s representing either a five or a jack….he also may have the Ace….He could have a smaller pocket pair or he could simply be on a stone cold bluff.” He literally had listed every possibility.

I digress. Announcing poker for hours on end is not an easy job. I announce the Rowan football games, and you have to have a lot of information prepared because there’s a lot of down time in between plays. Announcing poker is as slow paced at announcing your Grandma Rose knit a sweater.

“Ooh… what color will she go with here Rich?”

“I don’t know Donnie, I’m thinking green or a teal complement. It would contrast brilliantly against the maroon.”

But the poker broadcast booth is good! It’s also nice that you see the whole cards. Personally, I would not like that if I was heads-up. In poker you never get to see most of your opponent’s hands. In this set up you can see all of them. On the highest scale in poker, I think it should remain as pure as the game always is.

But then again seeing whole cards brings ratings – and that’s what it’s all about.

PS…this battle is still going on! Turn on ESPN because this has been a great match-up.