kareem abdul jabbar

i watched game 6 from the 1985 nba finals yesterday. it had running commentary from kareem abdul jabbar. what a joy it was for me!!

in earlier internet days, i used to post on the website insidehoops as rainierbeachpoet. we would kibbitz about all things nba such as greatest teams, greatest dunks, controversial calls and comparisons between players. i enjoyed it for a number of years but it ran its course…

these days a running question is about the greatest of all time. the two players that every hears about is michael jordan vs lebron james. it depends on the factors that one considers and the weight each factor has in one’s decision making. for my own blog here, a comparison between these two players will be a different post for a different time.

what i can say today is: kareem abdul jabbar could ALSO be argued to be the nba’s GOAT! (wilt chamberlain as well… different post too)

one advantage that i have, that many hardcore nba fans do not have is: the eye test. i have seen all three of these players in their prime. most nba fans have to rely on youtube videos for their “eye test”. but as we all know: videos cannot replace personal experience– videos can even lie to the eye. in his prime, kareem was simply dominant in ways MJ and LBJ were not but very few can comment from the eye test perspective.

admittedly, it is impossible to really evaluate objectively this question of who is the GOAT. two factors are that players were from different eras with different rules and historical contexts. popularity in the media is just one factor and MJ dominated there. LBJ is fresh in our minds because he is still playing– and at a mvp level! wilt changed the game. i do not trust my eye test for wilt because i was just a little kid when i saw him on tv and he was at the end of his career.

but with the following factors for kareem, i can argue that he was the GOAT: context (he was a champion and dominant as a high school, college and nba player); rule changes (the ncaa outlawed dunking because of lew alcindor (kareem); total points scored (kareem is #1) among other stats; championships (kareem has six); longevity (kareem played 20 seasons); societal effects (kareem was and still is a social justice advocate; stood with MLK jr!); integrity/intelligence (kareem has stayed true to who he is; is a notable writer); intangibles (many)

ahhh, the days of being the rainierbeachpoet on insidehoops…

who the GOAT in your opinion? why?

hints and guesses

 i had a poetry class my senior year at kennedy high. one of the projects was to put together a collection new poems that we loved. it was a wonderful class taught by sister carol ann. it gave me a good foundation a the time for the beauty of the spoken word. but i do not remember reading any of t.s. eliot’s works. but here is a taste from this amazing poet.

i love the following passage and the imagery and truth behind the powerful words in his four quartets; dry salvages: “…YOU ARE THE MUSIC while the music lasts. these are only hints and guesses. hints followed by guesses and the rest is prayer, observance, discipline, thought, and action. the hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is incarnation”

here is the larger context:

“Men’s curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend

The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.
Here the impossible union
Of spheres of existence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled…”

BE the music today and continue to look for the hints and guess as best you can!

how do we use this locked-down time at home?

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

—Kitty O’Meara

this is a beautiful aspirational quote! over idealistic perhaps? our biggest dreams always are…

what kept going through my mind was: could this happen if our wifi went down?

let’s continue to celebrate!

in our catholic faith, we celebrate “octaves” for the most important feasts– christmas and easter. for eight days, we celebrate easter sunday! i like this liturgical highlight. i just wish pentecost would be celebrated as an octave too. she is one of the persons of the holy trinity and ought to get props…

i’d like to extend this concept to other celebrations too. what would you like to celebrate for eight days straight? your son’s birthday? your anniversary? the sonics 1979 championship? getting fired from your worst job?

life is too short to NOT celebrate… let’s extend the special events and celebrate for eight days!

glimpses of hope

to those who read this reflection: a graced easter day and season! we all need the message of joy and hope in this time of fear and uncertainty. these are all part of God’s love; today we give thanks for these gifts. the gospel for today’s mass is from john 20: 1-19. i have certainly prepared easter homilies before and have certainly mentioned joy and hope in these past reflections. but nowhere in today’s biblical text is joy or hope explicitly mentioned! can we really celebrate easter without joyful hope? does hopeful joy come from a different place? misunderstanding is common in the book of john so it is no surprise that we see it in today’s reading. mary of magdala assumed that someone had taken jesus’ body and placed it somewhere other than the tomb. jesus is no longer where she thought him to be. she wants to be where he was but his body is no longer there. mary shares this news to peter and the disciple that jesus loved. to believe is another common theme that we see today. it comes after three steps for the two disciples: running to the tomb to see for themselves; peering inside; then, entering to see the burial cloths in an empty tomb. (these three steps can be a whole retreat!). after they do these steps, the beloved “sees and believes”. believing in the biblical sense is not primarily about what we know in our heads but how we give our hearts. their hearts were changed from seeing burial cloths and they did not understand that jesus had to rise from the dead. to me, this is comforting: through partial glimpses, our faith is strengthened. an empty tomb and burial cloths were what helped mary magdalene, peter and the beloved. perhaps this is what t.s. eliot refers to as “hints and guesses” toward really knowing christ’s being in the flesh among us. jesus is not dead– jesus is risen. where are our partial glimpses today? in this time of coronavirus, covid-19, fear, uncertainty, lost jobs, lockdown-stress and death, we long for graces that come from our faith– even through the misunderstandings and partial glimpses. this past days have offered us all a very different way to celebrate holy week and easter. the Spirit stirs our hearts in new ways in these heavy crosses that we bear. but good friday did not last forever. this is a new day where glimpses can give us a new faith. joy and hope still break through our obscured vision. we can dare to love even with an imperfect faith. i pray that we all receive grace that strengthens our hearts in love. i ask st mary magdelene and st peter’s intercession that we all continue to believe that we are beloved disciples in beloved community.

good Friday part 2

the cross on which jesus died was an instrument of the death penalty in biblical times. jesus died from capital punishment. obviously, he was jailed before meeting this fate of crucification.

in Chicago, IL, the cook county jail has over 300 inmates with the coronavirus. many more will contract it because they cannot be six feet apart. is this their death sentence? how will those authorities respond? is there an outcry for their human lives?

I can easily imagine people thinking, “they are just criminals, let them die”. if we say that we follow jesus, this thought ought to give us pause. the crowd in the biblical account of Jesus’ passion shouted “crucify him” when asked what should happen to jesus. how different are we really? or how indifferent…

in matthew 25, jesus taught us that “when I was in prison, you visited me”. you dared to care. indeed the body of Christ suffers and dies today. do we care?

good friday part 1

to me, today– good friday– has always felt like a funeral day. fasting and self denial are appropriate. solemn silence and mourning are needed today. jesus this day sheds light on the power of death and suffering in our world and in our own lives.

with so many people dying from this covid-19 pandemic, this good friday offers us an opportunity to see death with the eyes of faith. and we will continue to see real suffering and death because of it. we may not readily see it in our own backyards but there are still so many areas where the coronavirus has yet surfaced or peaked.

where will these “hotbeds” be? los angeles? sao paulo? lagos?

will we cease to care about others when our own stay-at-home order is lifted and we are not personally affected? must suffering and death affect us personally for our compassion to show?

how will i spend today differently than others– knowing that the funeral is here?

maybe the Spirit invites us to go deeper into these scripture readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041020.cfm

maybe to walk with jesus on the various stations of the cross:

more to come…

respond generously to our loved ones “last words”

if you had dinner your best friends and know that it was the last time you would gather with them, what would you say at that meal?

on this holy thursday, the scriptures note what jesus told his disciples at the last supper: “do this in memory of me”– which is the basis of the sacrament of the eucharist. the heart of what love is.

jesus also told them: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (Jn 13:1-15). the heart of what love is.

real presence leads to selfless service. remaining with jesus helps us love one another. the two actions, together, ought to be the marks of Jesus’ followers: love.

but how often do we forget jesus and these actions all together? how often can we go to the Lord’s table to remember– and give thanks to– jesus but choose not to go? how often do we choose selfish behavior instead of really looking to others and what they need? how often do I volunteer in service and do good but do it with the intention of others recognizing my good acts?

in this continued time of covid-19 uncertainty, how can I be present to jesus– spiritual unity– given the needed constraints? how do we truly serve (in the example of the washing of feet) those in need? how do we especially serve those on the margins of this crisis: people who are undocumented, who live on the streets, who are in jails and prisons?

may the Spirit give us wisdom and courage to live our Jesus’ last words to us. I pray that we are generous in our responses.

this week is STILL holy

this is holy week but it does not feel like it because of the extraordinary situation we are in.

the passion/suffering of Christ is indeed experienced uniquely now. the crosses are different.

tomorrow night, the feast of the last supper will feel different online. we will wash our own feet in the shower.

good friday we will bow down to the cross in a virtual way

holy saturday vigil, we will wait as we have been, light our own candles and pray for the catecumens’ patience to be received in the communities

but this week is still HOLY. the Spirit will continue to hover and grace us in unexpected ways. i pray that we have the awareness and desire to see and respond well to these gifts.

gary payton vs. michael jordan in 1996

i watched game 5 from the 1996 nba finals again: the seattle supersonics against the 72-10 chicago bulls. the sonics won 64 games that season and were not slouch team; they split their two head to head games that year. in fact, i think they were the best seattle has ever had– even better than the championship team of 1979.

game five was the first game that coach george karl assigned gary payton to guard jordan. in 1996, GP was the defensive player of the year for the league. jordan was the best offensive player that year. it was a matchup that hardcore nba fans wanted to see.

what was the result? GP frustrated jordan, the sonics win games 5 and 6 to make the series 3-2 for the bulls. games 6 (and 7) in chicago. the sonics found their confidence anew. shawn kemp had a great series too!

i have seen this game 5 a number of times over the years. i can’t help but think “what if”

what if Karl put GP on MJ from the start? i doubt that we would have gone down 3-0. it would have been a totally different series.


why do i do this to myself? i LOVE the sonics that’s why! and the jordan worship by madison avenue and the nation irked me.

it killed me when they were stolen from us to move to oklahoma city. but that is a different post for a different time

“what if” scenarios are always a trap in sports and in life. but i will always wonder about the greatest sonic ever– GP– at his peak in 1996 against prime jordan. nba history would have been very different…

let me go back to watching nba reruns as we get through this coronavirus crisis…