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Who’s the Man? Is LeBron James the Real MVP?

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Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (left) and Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry (right)

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (left) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (right)

By Perry Green and Stephen Riley
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

It is hard to argue with the 2015 MVP Award selection of Golden State’s Stephen Curry. An incredible regular season backed by a stellar postseason performance has officially landed Curry into the household name category. His Warriors team is only one game away from their first Finals appearance since the 1974-75 season, and it’s no secret why. Equipped with a lethal jump shot, elite vision, crafty ball-handling skills and a magnetic personality, Curry’s regular season award is fitting and well deserved.

Golden State finished with the Association’s top record with 67 wins, a franchise best, and made believers along the way. The Warriors appear destined to meet up with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team who just finished last season with the No. 1 overall selection in the NBA Draft and now sits just two games away from the Finals. What’s changed so much for the Cavs? Perhaps a focused and mature LeBron James? Curry is this year’s MVP but was his play as vital to his team as James? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.

Green: There isn’t a more skilled player in basketball than Curry. Sure, the MVP award is based upon a player’s importance, but Curry aced every single field you can have when it comes to an MVP race. He was the best player on the league’s best team and he put on nightly routines throughout the year that were as entertaining as a sitcom. James’ acquisition no doubt helped boost Cleveland to the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, and they’re set to finish the postseason as the conference’s best team. A Finals matchup would virtually decide the real MVP and I’m all in favor of Curry showing us he fully deserves his title.

Riley: When you take a team that finished with last summer’s top overall selection then subsequently traded away that selection and still finished as one of the top teams in the conference, how can you not be impressed by that? James could realistically have been the MVP for the last 10-plus seasons that he’s been in the Association, but we continue to downplay his greatness. You’d be hard-pressed to research history and find a team who finished with the top pick in the draft and moved the player they selected and still had a remarkable turnaround. James has impacted the Cavs from top to bottom, from the worst player on the team to the best player. Players who couldn’t win with other superstars are now vital pieces; and coaches who never coached in the league are now big-time coaches. Golden State is only one season removed from winning 51 games, but it hasn’t been the turnaround that the Warriors experienced. If we were recounting you have to give it to James.

Green: James wasn’t alone in his return to Cleveland. Yes, his play was vital, but let’s not act like the roster is bare without talent. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and a host of others have proven so far that they belong in this league, and sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes to revitalize a player’s career. I’m not yet willing to grant the improved play by guys like J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the “almighty” influence of LeBron James. I think those guys are playing better on their own, and now James is benefiting from it. Let’s remember, the Cavs were a .500 team before the team traded for Smith, Shumpert and effective big man, Timofey Mozgov. Those three players made this team complete, so let’s not give a LeBron all the credit. On the other hand, Curry’s been flat out fantastic this season. And, the fact remains that he’s been the most influential player on the Association’s top team and that’s the key ingredient to becoming the MVP. He also won the three-point shooting contest and dazzled in the All-Star game. It’s been a record year for both Curry and the Warriors and while James has been his usual rock solid self, he hasn’t captured basketball enthusiasts’ hearts the way Curry has this year.

Riley: When I’m searching for a MVP I’m just looking for the facts. And the main fact is Cleveland was a bottom-of-the-barrel team just a season ago, and now they’re set to finish as one of the top two teams in the NBA. Curry’s offense sells tickets and puts fans into seats but no matter what he does in his NBA tenure, he’ll never be the transcendent player that is James. The Warriors and Cavs appear headed on a collision course right into each other, and I would even give the nod to Golden State since they’re the healthier team at the moment. However, no one expected this Cleveland team to be this deep into the postseason, especially after last year’s finish. What James’ presence has done to elevate that coaching staff and his teammates is something that not all players can do. Sure, Curry can go out and lead by performance, but he just doesn’t have James’ intangibles. The Most Valuable Player Award could really go to James every year, we know that, but for what he’s done this season with that team it should’ve been a no-brainer to select him this season. He’s been a beast on the court, but has also been the MVP for the franchise as well. It was his presence that made Cleveland a more attractive place to guys like Love, Smith and Shumpert. And it’s been his influence on Irving that has turned the young point guard into a prime time player. It’s too late to hand James the award, but it’s clear who the trophy really belongs to.

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Black History

IN MEMORIAM: Referee Jim Burch Got the Final Whistle in The Game

Jim Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019). To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

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jim burch
Jim Burch

By Tamara Shiloh

Created in 1953, the Atlantic Coast Conference, an athletic conference headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., quickly rose to prominence. Within 13 years, the university and college teams in its membership had a number of victories to its credit. North Carolina State University won the first three championships, and the conference was getting heavy exposure outside of the region. Several ACC teams went to the Final Four of the NCAA’s basketball championships. In North Carolina, Duke University took four titles, Wake Forest University took two and University of North Carolina had one victory as did the University of Maryland.

Life inside the ACC could not have been better, except for one minor but not overlooked detail: there were no Black players or officials.

But Jim Burch (1926–2019), who began his officiating career with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1959, would become the first, signing on with the ACC in 1969. His debut, however, was delayed for a season because “he reportedly refused to cut his hair and sideburns.”

A Raleigh, N.C., native raised in Larchmont, N.Y., Burch was a 1949 graduate of North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University. There he was a two-sport athlete – football and baseball – having large dreams.

Burch “talked about sitting in the ‘colored’ section of Reynolds Coliseum watching games, telling his friends that he was going to be on that court someday,” ACC referee Jamie Luckie told ESPN in 2019 referring to the sports complex in Raleigh, N.C. “They said he was crazy, and sure enough, he was on that court one day.”

Burch never made a big deal out of the historic mark, although many would benefit from his humility. He would train and mentor hundreds of officials over the years. In fact, it was Burch who gave Luckie his start in refereeing.

Throughout his 60-year career, Burch officiated in the CIAA, ACC, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and Southern Conference. He also worked 14 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and was an educator and administrator within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.

Working as an educator made Burch “an unbelievable teacher of the game in terms of what he wanted us to do on the floor, how he wanted us to deal with coaches, how he wanted us to communicate, and just his delivery and style was one where he could get it across to you, but he was a teacher. That never stopped,” Luckie said.

Burch continued to make monumental achievements as well as give back.

Many of those he trained moved into CIAA, ACC, Southern Conference, and NCAA championship careers. He was twice featured in the NCAA Champions Magazine, served on numerous civic boards, and was the first African American to serve on the Charlotte Housing Authority board.

Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019).

To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

Before retiring in 2018, he served as the head coordinator of officials for the South Atlantic Conference and the CIAA.

Burch died at his home in North Carolina in 2019 at the age of 91.

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Bay Area

Skyline High Girls Volleyball Team Makes History

The team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match.

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The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team
The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team.

As the season comes to a close for the Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team, the members are celebrating that they went farther than any Skyline or OUSD/OAL volleyball team ever has. On the final day, November 19, the team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match. Skyline fell short 3 games to 1, coming in as runner-up. The photo above shows the team posing with their trophy after the match.

 

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Commentary

OPINION: Would You Pressure Your Kid’s Coach to Apologize for Winning by 106-0?

“Regarding Inglewood H.S. vs. Morningside H.S. Friday night 10/29 game, we at the Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) are saddened beyond words by the events that transpired at the football game Friday between Inglewood and Morningside high schools,” the IUSD stamen read. “We will conduct a full investigation and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that a similar outcome never happens again under an IUSD athletic program.”

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Inglewood Football Coach Mil’Von James (Nick Koza/Photo)
Inglewood Football Coach Mil’Von James (Nick Koza/Photo)

By Kenneth Miller | Inglewood Today

Coaches push the athletes they train to put their all into mastering the mental and physical aspects of their sport, preparing them to edge out competitors and perform at the height of their abilities.

But there are real-life situations, it seems, when attaining excellence proves to be too much – or maybe just not good enough.

This seems to have been the case October 29 when an impressive shut-out victory for Inglewood High School in Los Angeles County ended up turning into a bitter crosstown game of guilt, blame and grievances. That day, Inglewood High football coach and former Cleveland Browns defensive back Mil’Von James led his team to a 106-0 victory over rivals Morningside High School.

Since that shellacking, education authorities have blasted James and Inglewood High for being too focused on winning that they failed to exhibit a spirit of compassion and sportsmanship.

The California Interscholastic Federation -Southern Section (CIFSS), the governing body of high school athletics in the state, released a scathing statement regarding the wide margin of the game’s final score.

“The CIF Southern Section expects that all athletic contests are to be conducted under the strictest code of good sportsmanship. “We expect coaches, players, officials, administrators and students to adhere to the Six Pillars of Character – Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship,” CIF-SS fired off in a statement.

“A score of 106-0 does not represent these ideals,” the statement continued. “The CIF-SS condemns, in the strongest terms, results such as these. It is our expectation that the Inglewood administration will work towards putting in place an action plan so that an event such as this does not repeat itself.”

James, 38, said it was not his intention to degrade or demoralize the Morningside High team.

“I apologized for the way things turned out,” James said even though, during the game, he benched his defensive starters after the second quarter and most of his other frontline players in the second half.

But Inglewood continued to run up the score on its hapless opponent.

Anyone who knows James personally would know – and can attest to the fact — that his intent was never to bring shame to the game that he loves.

Coaches like James who have played college and pro football understand the fierce competitiveness it requires for young people to succeed when pursuing careers as professional athletes. They train their students to be warriors, to dominate their opponents. Varsity sports is the highest level of competition in high school.

Today, the advancement of training techniques and year-round coaching and development increases the likelihood that schools with the resources will outperform schools with sports programs that are underfunded or under-supported.

Since he became coach at Inglewood High three seasons ago, James has taken the team from a losing streak to being nearly undefeated. During that time, the team has moved from CIF-SS Division 13 to Division 2.

Inglewood student athletes have advantages in coaching and preparation that Morningside and many other schools do not.

James was a star on the football squad at Fremont High School in Los Angeles where he graduated in 2003. In college, he first played for the UNLV Rebels where he led the nation in passes; before transferring to UCLA and playing for the Bruins from 2003-2005.

After brief stints in the NFL and the Canadian Football League on the roster for the Cleveland Browns and the Vancouver Lions respectively, James began coaching high school football.

He is the founder and director of one of most successful ‘7 on 7’ leagues in the nation, responsible for scores of future and current high school, collegiate and professional players.

Chances are, if you have observed any top football program in California, you have you witnessed his impact on young players, their development and their unmatched leadership skills – on the field and off it.

The Inglewood Unified School District also blasted James and Inglewood High.

“Regarding Inglewood H.S. vs. Morningside H.S. Friday night 10/29 game, we at the Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) are saddened beyond words by the events that transpired at the football game Friday between Inglewood and Morningside high schools,” the IUSD stamen read. “We will conduct a full investigation and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that a similar outcome never happens again under an IUSD athletic program.”

High school sports, in many schools, is a training ground for college and pro athletes. Schools that have better resources will always have an edge.

It is unfortunate that this incident has placed a dark cloud over a high school sports program. Inglewood High’s football program should be celebrated for its league championship and undefeated record in a school district that is still in state receivership.

Kenneth Miller is the publisher of Inglewood Today.

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