Welcome to The Final Ball Blog! This is where we’ll have weekly a weekly detailed insight into the last week of sport for those of you who just couldn’t live by only listening to us for an hour a week!
This week, there’s only one place to start. The inevitable victory of the LA Lakers. Now there’s two elements to this that have made this so beautiful to watch. Firstly, to see LeBron James sit on his well deserved thrown as the MVP at the age of 35, dismissing the labels of moving to LA to become a celebrity. Throwing recency bias in the bin from the 3-point line. Add to that how vocal LeBron has been about Police Brutality (rumours are he spent lockdown reading up on Malcom X), there is a feeling that this adds to his victory. He’s answered the critics that told him to “shut up and dribble” in the most empathetic fashion. 4 championships in 8 years? 3 different teams? He can say whatever he wants. There’s also a bit of redemption for Danny Green. His feeble 3-point attempt at the end of game 5 is up there with the most embarrassing moments of the play-offs but he’s picked up his third championship, and also won back-to-back championships following the “Drake inspired” Toronto Raptors victory last year. Throw in Rajon Rondo & Dwight Howard picking up what championships towards the end of their career and the performances of Anthony Davis, there’s nothing but joy throughout Los Angeles, which has even spread to the Baseball team. But the most important factor of all is who they did it for, Kobe. His unfortunate death (feels like a world away) was always going to lead the cringy narrative “doing it for Kobe”, where the media focus would have always led to comparisons and expectations that would distract from any performances. It’s possible that the year that we’ve had since Kobe’s death gave us so much else to talk about, but it’s allowed the Lakers to focus what they set out to do. Rather than letting the narrative be “doing it for Kobe”, they performed to a level so that they could say “Did it for Kobe”. The theme of “letting your actions speak” is never too far away from the NBA/WNBA.
Following on from that, let’s speak about the bubble that was setup in Orlando. ZERO CASES. Along with that, catering businesses got the opportunity to be involved in what is surely going to be a massive part of history (and also boost their market). Once again, standards have been set. There are no stories of players breaking protocol, nothing. Everything went without a hitch, no dramas. Something that football could learn from. We’re in a situation where it’s impossible to please everyone. So, the fact that the international fixtures are still being encouraged (especially friendlies) when most of the public can barely leave their houses, just doesn’t seem to make sense. And the fact that it’s led to multiple positive cases to some teams is not surprising. Covid doesn’t come with terms & conditions, so why do football associations think that things will work different for them? Let’s face it, everything comes down to money. The Euros need to happen next year to satisfy the sponsors. The Champions League needs to happen to bring revenue to the big teams. And the leagues need to continue for all teams to gain some sort of TV revenue (and so that we can have something to talk about). So, if the money has become such a sticking point, how did Premier League teams managed to spend £1.25 BILLION this summer (as it stands, Benrahma just failed his medical)? Why are Premier League teams struggling to give the lower leagues financial aid? For every Nelson Semedo (£37.5 million), this country might lose up to 20 teams within the next 12 months. And where we can sit here and be so easily detached from the situation, there are communities whose livelihood depend on what their local club does every Saturday. With all this happening, what do the “big teams” see as a solution? A trade of money to the lower leagues in exchange for more power. Even though I agree with some aspects of “The Big Picture Initiative” (we don’t need the league cup, wage caps should be applied at the lower league level), there is an extremely bad taste in the approach that has been taken here.
Finishing off on a more positive(-ish) note, another GOAT display from Lewis Hamilton, leading to him matching the record of the most wins, with the great Michael Schumacher. So why isn’t he being acknowledged as a great by the previous generation? He has the most podium finishes, pole positions and career points. It’s seems fairly obvious that his activism desire to speak out on important issues is working against him in the same way that the media tried with LeBron. At this point, it can’t be anything else (I mean, there is one other thing). What is so wrong about sportspeople speaking out? There seems to be this belief that you should do what you’re paid for and take your money home. Are sportspeople no longer human once they sign million pound/dollar contracts? Are they selling their right to speak in exchange for a life of luxury and success? Or is it simply that what they say strengthens those affected and questions those in power? Is there a jealousy that the words of Marcus Rashford & Raheem Sterling relate to us more than the leaders that refuse to understand? I think one thing needs to be made clear to all of our leaders, from Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, all the way to Buhari & Ilukamba. Racism, child poverty, police brutality & sexual abuse are not just political issues. They aren’t things that you can brush under the carpet because you & your rich friends have never experienced it. The reason people speak out is because they can relate. They know someone that has experienced it, or they’ve even experienced some form of it themselves. They also have the seemingly uncommon human decency to see that the things that are happening to people are not right. So maybe, when it comes to “being human” or “selling your soul”, the wrong people are being judged.