Insights & Art

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Tag: Air

The Legend of Korra: Change – Review & Analysis

[SPOILERS, PLEASE WATCH THE SEASON IF YOU HAVE YET TO COMPLETE IT]

It’s been over a month since the Venom of the Red Lotus aired, signalling the conclusion of Change and I have yet to give my input on a series that is very dear to my heart. In many ways, my attachment towards the Avatar universe has stopped me from writing up this review, since I feel like anything short of ‘perfection’ would be a great injustice to Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino and the audience. I will say I enjoyed Change, it was a ‘breath of fresh air’ after what I personally considered the weakest book in the Avatar franchise; Spirits. There is a clear distinction between the Korra seasons and the original seasons featuring Aang, Konietzko and DiMartino have matured and this is reflected within their increasingly sophisticated plots. Though this book isn’t perfect (what piece of art is?) hopefully I can explore the strengths and the flaws of Change whilst balancing my affection and rationality. Generally this review will explore themes and characters rather than give you an episode by episode summary since you can just watch the book by yourself.

It is important that the characters in a fictional world stand for themes which transcend them as individuals, personally I feel like this is especially true for the antagonist, thus giving deeper meaning to their conflict with the protagonist. When Luke Skywalker fights Darth Vader, it isn’t just a clash of lightsabers, Luke’s victory also symbolises Vader’s redemption and Luke overcoming the tempting powers of darkness. Likewise the Joker mirrors the Batman, both characters are lonely, misunderstood and margalinised by society and when Batman defeats the Joker he is also defeating his inner chaos. This is one strength of Change that I felt was lacking in Air and Spirits, Amon and Unalaq were decent antagonist in their own right. However Zaheer’s polarising set of justice and freedom meant he developed into one of the more entertaining villains in the Avatar universe, allowing the audience to empathise with him on a level that never happened with the villains of the previous books. Whilst one can argue that Amon was more intimidating since his whole identity was clouded in shadows, the ending of book one severely hurt his characterisation. It was revealed that Amon’s main objective was not equality amongst benders and non-benders but his revolutional campaign was a way to amass more power, immediately cheapening everything he stood for and thus relegating him to the role of the stereotypical power-hungry villain. This trend repeated in Unalaq’s characterisation, he hungers for power and is even willing to sacrifice the world to obtain it, once again cardboard cut outs of villains.

Enter Zaheer, slowly but surely Zaheer became my favourite character within book three, maybe it’s my natural affiliation towards air bending, but I think it was his intelligence and charisma that won me over. Zaheer represents the worst of the air nation, he took ideas like isolation and separation to the extreme and his characterisation clearly contrasts against that of Aang. In many ways, Zaheer is what Aang would have become if he passionately believed that the ends justify the means and he had failed to develop a strict moral compass. Aang’s biggest weakness arguably could be his inability to accept responsibility to his failure to fully deattach himself from ‘earthly links’ which ‘hindered’ his journey towards becoming a fully acquainted Avatar, master of the four elements and a force of stability in the world. Aang couldn’t elevate above his emotional bonds, his reluctance to let go of Katara nearly resulted in both their deaths and would have signaled the end of all resistance to the Fire Lord. However when compared to Zaheer, we can view Aang’s flaws in a new perspective, maybe his inability to shed his humanity isn’t a flaw and it was his emotional bond with his peers stopped him from becoming an emotionless robot without the ability to empathise. Through Zaheer’s characterisation this has been one of the few times the show has criticised the air nomad culture, as the original Avatar series offered a very black and white view of reality; fire nation is bad, air nations are good. I believe this shows the evolution of the creators, their texts blur the distinctions between good and bad, of justice and injustice and just like the real world, everything has positives and negatives.

It was sad that Zaheer managed to unlock weightlessness only when P’Li was killed, his last attachment to the world had been cut forever and now he was forever suspended in a state of indifference. In many ways P’Li was Zaheer’s ‘earthly tether’ their private discussion before her eventual demise showed a softer side to Zaheer which remained hidden to the audience and a few scene later that tenderness was ripped apart, Zaheer gained the world but lost his humanity in the process. Maybe that’s why it was so effective when Jinora and her fellow air benders defeated Zaheer, for me it symbolised how communal bonds of affection will always trump individualistic pursuits, that relationships are not burdens but something which gives colour to life.

This was a big reason why I was offended when Zaheer became insane at the book, it was an easy tactic on behalf to the producers to ensure that the audience sided with Korra. But in many aspects this character assassination was exactly what Konietzko and DiMartino inflicted upon Amon, it cheapened everything that Zaheer represented and this moment of insanity contradicts his calm and reversed persona. This was also seen in what I consider the most emotional moment of the book, when Tenzin refuses to submit and states he would rather die than endanger the air nation, the look on Zaheer’s face is blank and emotionless. Surely someone with that much respect for air bending values would cringe or display some sort of reluctancy before attacking someone who is willing to sacrifice everything for their beliefs.* These examples of character assassination were never found in the original three books, Azula and Ozai were both terrifying but in their final moments, they displayed a genuine sense of fear and humanity. I could only wish this was extended towards Zaheer, Ghazan and Ming-Hua.

“The question is not can they reason, nor can they talk, but can they suffer?”

Generally I feel like a major flaw of Change was the lack of back story for Ghazan and Ming-Hua, both Konietzko and DiMartino are more than capable of making the audience empathise with characters, just look at P’Li and Zaheer’s last words. Over all apart from their flashy skills, these two Red Lotus members remained fairly underdeveloped and many questions about their origins still remain. So Ghazan is tough, powerful and overly masculine but where did he develop his skills? Why does he so strongly believe in the Red Lotus? The same thing can be said for Ming-Hua who remains even more of an enigma for me. Thus when it came to their eventual deaths, I felt nothing, two unknown characters were whisked on and off the stage before the audience could properly become acquainted to them.

I have always believed that to build a believe cast of characters, their actions must have consequences otherwise the plot becomes unbelievable and redundant, characters must grow and learn from their mistakes. This was a major issue I had with the ending of Air, apart from the reveal of Amon’s hidden identity, Korra magically getting her bending powers back without struggling to recover them was a slap in the face to the fans. Like Zaheer, the creators of Korra developed her to be the complete opposite of Aang, she’s fiery, passionate and just itching to embrace her role as the avatar, whilst Aang was naive, timid and passive. A large portion of Korra’s identity is built upon her role as the avatar, from a young age she’s relished her ability to bend the elements and his ‘fight now, talk later’ mentality has gotten her in trouble many times. By removing Korra’s bending, Konietzko and DiMartino would have allowed Korra to embrace her spirituality and slowly overcome her rash and hasty personality to become a more balanced and well rounded individual. Instead Korra learns very little from her ordeal with Amon, she may of grown physically, but emotionally she’s the same and her lack of trust in her father and Tenzin at the start of Spirits reflects this. Now I don’t want to just attack Korra’s character, her passionate personality is a welcome change from Aang and it is clear that by the end of book two that she has become a more weary and careful Avatar after her legacy was literally torn away from her body. I just feel Korra would have been even more engaging if the consequences of having her bending removed would have manifested itself in previous books. A criticism of the Legend of Korra is that seasons are more ‘episodic’ with villains and events from the past seasons rarely getting any screen time in the following books. What happened to the Equalist movement? Why was there a distinct lack of spirits in Change? It would have been wise to show the consequences of these events in order to build a more realistic world where the future is intertwined with the present and the past.

Personally I loved seeing Korra in a wheel chair at the end of Change, because finally the audience can see how Korra maintains her identity when she has lost such a fundamental aspect of her personality. Already the changes to Korra were becoming more apparent, especially after book two, she was more cautious and less willing to rely upon force to solve her problems. A major strength within Legend of Korra is how the villains are reflections of a modernising world with concepts bending and the avatar being challenged. Amon’s character was a constant reminder of the inequality between the benders and non-benders, potentially pointing out the flaws behind an avatar who is basically an reincarnated deity with immense physical and spiritual power. As mentioned before Vatuu and Unalaq basically ripped out of Korra’s past, she’s arguably the most isolated avatar since Wan as she can no longer call on her past lives for guidance. Korra can still bend the four elements but her status has been weakened, her words and actions no longer hold the weight of 10,000 avatars before her. After the finale of book three, Tenzin announced that the new air benders would be filling in the role of the avatar as Korra heals, I think her single tear stems from the realisation that her worth and purpose in this world is slowly being diminished in an ever changing environment. This is one major strength that the Legend of Korra has over Aang, the villains are reflections of Korra’s flaws and society’s changing beliefs. Aang was always quite distant from Ozai and Azula and never viewed them more than enemies. Personally this is why I think Zuko is the strongest character in the series, his emotional bond with the villains makes his switch to team avatar so triumphant and rewarding.

In the second last episode Enter the Void, Korra is confronted with a hard dilemma, sacrifice herself to the protect the weak air nation or leave the novice air benders at the hands of the Red Lotus. In the first book, when Korra arrives at a similar situation, her arrogance clouds her judgement and she stupidly challenges Amon to a duel which could of potential resulted in her death. However a more mature Korra chooses to sacrifice herself, she understands that the future of an entire culture is more important than any single individual; even if they are the avatar. That’s why I can not wait to see how Korra rises from her situation, hopefully her physical impairment isn’t just brushed off in the first episode and instead we can explore other aspects of Korra’s personality apart from her overwhelming physicality and her brash personality.

Whilst I can clearly say I am in the small minority, a huge disappointment in book three was the fact that Tenzin did not die. One of my closest friend often jokes “if you want Stanley to care just kill off a few characters” and to some extent this is true. I’ve always believed that when an audience knows that characters can be removed from the plot then the audience feels a sense of urgency and attachment. One major strength of Change was the finale, I was completely absorbed in Zaheer’s plan to poison the avatar and permanently destroy it, I did not breathe for a good ten minutes because the possibility of Korra’s death seemed realistic. This perspective is partly due a fear of death which was very prominent when I was younger, I’ve experienced many sleepless nights as my mind explored my mortality. Thus I see sacrifice as one of the most noble characteristics, humans are fundamentally self fish, so when individuals are willing to perish to protect something they treasure, it’s endearing and extremely emotional.

Aang’s influence on Tenzin is highly visible, Aang’s obligations to the world was often given prioritised over his obligations to his family. Tenzin’s reverence towards the air bending culture is a constant reminder of Aang’s failure as a father, his feelings of inadequacy and regret was transferred to his son, leaving Tenzin the burden of maintaing a lost culture. Tenzin’s sacrifice to preserve the air nation would have permanently removed Aang’s shadow over his character. Instead he would have been able to see to Aang as an equal as he achieved what Aang could never do; revive the air nomads. Personally this was by far the most emotional scene of the entire book, when Korra was dying in the arms of her father, I didn’t shed a tear, she battled Zaheer out of necessity. She had no other choice, as fleeing wasn’t an option with the metallic poison pulsing through her body. In the end Tenzin was faced with a decision, but his actions showed that he was willing to forfeit his life in pursuit of goals which transcended him as an individual.

Jinora’s shadow over her father has also began to increase as she has already surpassed Tenzin in spirituality. Tenzin’s death would have been my third favourite moment in the Avatar world behind Zuko and Iroh’s reunion and Raava’s destruction at the hands of Unalaq. (Q: Have you really made a list of your favourite Avatar moments, A: Most definitely.) His swan song would have helped him escape the constraints of his flaws, which are becoming more pronounced next to Jinora. It also would have been symbolic, the responsibility of air bending being passed down to the younger generation, allowing the air nation to embrace new ideals instead of clinging onto outdated belief systems. Whilst it seems this stance isn’t very popular, it would have immortalised Tenzin; strong, magnificent and proud, much like how Achilles’ legacy resonated strongest after his death.

One major difference between The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra is that the characters in the original series were a lot more engaging. Mako, Bolin and Asami whilst mildly fun and endearing (particularly Asami and the fortitude she showed after her father’s betrayal) are in desperate need of further characterisation. It seems that Mako’s character development has really taken a step back with his role diminishing rapidly within Changes. I hope he rekindles his relationship with Asami in Balance, that felt more natural and realistic then his feelings for Korra, plus I want Korra to balance herself internally before building her external relationships in book four. For me Mako really hasn’t changed or matured after book one, his physical skills have become stagnant and his relationships with the other members of team avatar have deteriorated. I think these flaws are mainly a product of the shorten seasons, The Legend of Korra will have 52 episodes compared to The Last Airbender’s 60. Whilst this has resulted in less ‘filler’ episodes with a more ‘frantic’ and an intense plot, it also means that characters are given less time to develop. Filler episodes like The Great Divide and The Runaway were redundant in terms of story and world building, but it offered insights into the mindsets of our characters. Whilst the conflict might not be connected with final objective of the series, these obstacles challenged our lovable protagonist and causing them to shift their perspective in order to overcome these hurdles.

On a more positive note the bending and animation in Changes was absolutely sublime. I have previously voiced my opinion that bending in The Legend of Korra lacked the authenticity that it had in The Last Airbender, mainly due to the fact that all elements fight like fire benders. There’s a distinct lack of sophistication behind Bolin’s attacks, which includes creating small boulders and throwing them at the opponent, a long shot from Toph’s destructive capabilities. However the bending in Changes was fantastic, I loved the additions of lava bending, octopus water bending** and flying as the sub genre of air bending. Zaheer’s fight with Kya and Tenzin’s fight with Zaheer stand out as some of the best fight scenes ever created for animation. Speaking of animation, Studio Mir really stepped up their animation during the last few episodes, particularly the scene when Zaheer is dogding an enraged Korra.*** I can only imagine the effort that the writers and animation team went through to create such memorable works of art.

I enjoyed book three; Change, in terms of plot and characterisation I felt it was a big improvement from Spirits which seemed confused and unfocused at times. For the first time in The Legend of Korra, there was a truly memorable villain, the Red Lotus were efficient, mysterious and politically active. Zaheer’s voice actor; Henry Rollins deserves recognition for his ability to embed authority and menace into his character. Zaheer also repeats one of the most memorable quotes in the Avatar franchise “Let go your earthly tether, enter the void, empty and become wind” which was responsible for my interest in meditation. Book three’s pace really picked up after the Earth Queen’s assassination (one of the most memorable moments of the Avatar franchise) and the season became noticeably darker. There were some fantastic moments in this book which were previously mentioned like Korra’s growth, the villains and the animation. On the other hand it seems like the writers of Avatar consistently struggle with maintaining the pacing and plot in the middle of the season and this was evident in Change. There’s always a drop off in quality before the finale completely stuns and enthralls the audience. Some of the flaws were more visible such as the lack of growth and development for team avatar and the Red Lotus but I don’t want to end this review on a negative note. Change built on the foundations paved in the previous two books, the plot was fluid and the ambiguity between good and evil was a satisfying change to The Last Airbender’s simplistic depictions of the world.

The Avatar world has brought a lot of emotions to my life and I can say without a doubt that it was partly responsible for fostering my love of literature. Zuko’s internal conflict, Katara’s motherly warmth and Korra’s single tear are all images and memories that carry weight and meaning to me. Whilst Change was far from perfection, similarly it had moments of ingenious and dignity founded within a beautiful Asian inspired world that The Last Airbender established. Despite all the flaws and weak points within the seasons, I can say without a doubt that Konietzko and DiMartino will continue treating their project with the love and integrity that the audience deserve.

Here’s a toast to the final season of The Legend of Korra, may it be wonderful, emotional, heartfelt and memorable.

See you space avatar.




* It is very hard if not impossible to have an ‘original thought’ since our context will always play a part in shaping our thoughts but my comments about Zaheer’s emotionless glare when he’s beating up Tenzin was stolen directly from Marshall Turner’s WordPress on Avatar. Whilst I certain disagree with some of his thoughts and generally I believe that he focuses on the minor details over than the overall picture or plot, I would recommend it for any fans who want to look at this franchise through an analytically microscope. http://avatarreviews.wordpress.com/

** I have no idea if it is really called octopus water but let’s pretend it is.

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Skip to 2:15 if you want to watch the exact scene I was referring to, it also ends at 2:50.

14 Questions for 2014, Part Two.

There’s a common misconception that God almighty took a  rest on the seventh day of creation, that’s false, instead he sat down and wrote 14 QUESTIONS FOR 2014 PART TWO. Get some while it’s hot!

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“Is Dwight Howard’s legacy tainted forever because he’s a bitch.”
Dear Lord, I almost sound like a bitter Laker fan, I’m going to take one of those long depressive baths you saw in the Hurt Locker and cleanse myself from the Laker infection. Let’s get some facts straight, from 2009-2011, (2009) in particular, Dwight Howard was an absolute beast on defense, his worth and value were much more than just numbers, he made every player scared to attack the paint, he made them hesitate because a 6’10 locomotive was waiting in the lane. Give me 2009 Dwight Howard’s defense along with 10 points over 18 points and 2013 Howard any day. Give him another 3/4 uninjured years and he would of solidified himself as one of the greatest defenders of all time. Shame shame shame. Then two things happened, Dwight Howard decided to star in his very own reality television show!!! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself) and Dwight Howard hurt his back injuring a herniated disk in his spine.

He’s never been the same.

I had Howard ranked 15 in 2013’s top 30 list and as the second best center after Marc Gasol, does he really deserve to be around the 15 position? Not really the Lakers failed miserably in the playoffs and his goofy, fun loving attitude wasn’t exactly productive to team chemistry especially since Kobe is trying to equal Jordan in rings. My biggest surprised was the fact Kobe didn’t start an all out brawl at the Staples after Howard goes 4/14 from the free throw line for the third time in consecutive nights.

So how does D12 blend in with Houston Rockets, firstly I don’t think Howard is built for the big cities, he just doesn’t give the impression that he lives or dies for basketball the way a DRose, KB24 or even a Carmelo Anthony gives off. That 3/15 from the free throw line with that big smile even after a 30 point spanking just doesn’t fly in Los Angeles. Unacceptable. Now he’s teaming up with James Harden, a HUGE step down from Kobe Bryant in terms of competitive fire also Harden isn’t as alpha as Kobe so they should gel decently well, better than Howard and Kobe bonded anyway. The quick pace the Rockets love to play is also going to highlight Howard’s strength and downplay his weakness. Firstly no center can keep up with Dwight Howard, his physical gifts should really shine in Kevin McHale’s system. Secondly Dwight Howard still has yet to get more than two post moves (Running hook with both hands and shifting to a face up position and blitzing past the defenders.) in such a guard dominant system, Howard wouldn’t have to occupy the post as much, he just needs to grab rebounds, defend and score easy buckets. Shouldn’t be too hard right? After all he led a mediocre Orlando Magic team to the finals based on the same philosophy.

So is Howard’s legacy tainted forever? No, not really, he still has a chance to be one of the greatest defenders of all time with 7 All Star appearances and 3 DPOY awards. Will he surpass David Robinson and Patrick Ewing in the second or third tier of great big men? Probably not. His legacy has been dented but not broken.

“Should we the most attractive cheerleader in every NBA organisation perform a one minute solo during the half time break and then the world can answer the critically important question of which team has the hottest cheerleader bro? Dude are they wearing underwear or shorts? Allowing male audiences to systemically rank each organisation not on wins but on boobs.”
MAKE THIS HAPPEN DAVID STERN 2.0 (Adam Silver)

“Will the New York Knicks be better than the Brooklyn Nets?”
One important aspect of basketball that the 2013 Lakers highlighted, you just can’t throw a bunch of big names together and expect them to gel you have to factor their age (Steve Nash, I’m looking at you) and their personality (Dwight Howard) and you need a coach that knows what a post move is. (D’Antino) On paper Nets have a better team, the starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez looks ferocious on paper, it includes 3 players which are in my top 30 and 2 other players in my top 50 players for the 2013 season. Throw in Jason Terry (Sparkplug), Reggie Evans (Homeless version of LeBron James with better rebounding skills) and Kirilenko and that’s some serious fire power. Jason Kidd remains to be a mystery but he was one of the five smartest players of the 2000s along with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Chris Paul and Tyrus Thomas in an alternate reality. There’s no way he becomes a horrible coach? Right? Maybe especially with a lot of talent around him…. But then again my mind flashes with Bill Russell (Coached a poor team to a poor record), Willis Reed (Meh) and Wes Unseld made everyone in Washington suicidal and don’t tell me Bill Russell wasn’t a basketball genius. Just don’t.

The Knicks have a forever injured Stoudamire, Andrea Bargnani whose excelled so much as the Three-Pointer-Shooter-No-Defense role I’m surprised Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t popped the question, Tyson Chandler who did not look like himself in the playoffs (Neither did KG but KG’s passion is infectious, how many times has Carmelo Anthony thought “Hey I should rebound because that’s what Chandler wants me to do?” Not many times) and the second best scorer in today’s game; Carmelo Anthony. I’ve always been a believer in a great scores will always win you one game in a playoff series’ll throw up 42 points (Think Harden against the Thunder) and only a few guys in the league can do this; Kobe, Carmelo, LeBron, Durant, Westbrook, Chris Paul, Curry, Harden and MAYBE Parker that’s it. Sorry Wade, Nowitzki and Paul Pierce.

So who’s going to be better? Probably Brooklyn… Am I going to discount the Laker’s crash and burn failure of 2013? Some what, Brooklyn just has so much talent on paper, their disgraceful collapse at the hand of a Bull team without Rose, Deng and an injured Noah whilst allowing Nate Robinson to look like a midget version of Durant was unacceptable. But that should probably be fixed with Garnett’s addition to the team, he’ll install a competitive fire under Deron William and Lopez’s ass because he’s a maniac, a psycho that lives and breathes basketball and then eats little children after games. Speaking of which can we get Kevin Garnett to play in international beach volley after he retires, the image of a 7 foot Zulu tribe leader playing on white sand is too funny.

14 Questions for 2014.

It’s the first installment of Chingy’s 14Qs to start off the 2014 season where we ask the real questions, so gather your little children around the campfire, roast your mash mellows and proceed to share all your hair in ecstatic delight this is 14 Questions for 2014!

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“Will Miami Heat 3-peat?”
Yes. I hate this and I’m probably going to be become an alcoholic in 2014. The Miami Heat are still the best team in the east despite the addition of Derrick Rose back to the Bulls (HELL YEAH!), despite the Nets acquiring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and despite Indianna Pacers trying to desperately rip off a Bad Boys impersonation. The Heat have the biggest advantage in the whole league right now, LeBron James, who is experiencing his greatest stretch of basketball since Michael Jordan’s peak years of 1988-1993. There are two reasons and only two I have to doubt the Heat.

1. Dwyane Wade’s knees which have a ridiculously large amount of mileage and he can no longer consistently  perform like he did in 2009 where he was just an athletic freak of nature that was guardable on the fast break, and an unguardable slasher, someone who could will himself to get 10 free throws a game just by charging into the paint recklessly. Apart from losing the Zydrunas Ilgauskas award (Hardest name to spell in the NBA) to Nikoloz Tskitishvili of the Phoenix Suns, Wade has also lost a lot of the explosion in his knees. It seemed the sports world had a little bit of an orgasm after Wade produced one or two good games in the Eastern Conference Finals and one or two good games in the 2013 finals. Should we really be surprised that the fourth greatest shooting guard all of time is able to perform under pressure? Should we be surprised when 7 years ago he had one of the greatest finals performances of all time with O’Neal as his second in charge and the referees as his sixth man? (Sorry, too soon) A performance where he averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds (WHAT), 3.8 assists and had a crazy 33.8 PER? Probably not… Yet Wade’s game hasn’t evolved he has yet to get a consistent jumpshot and let’s not even start about his three point shooting. Wade also had a Gary Payton/Jason Kidd kind of post game he would switch too if he had little munchkins like Nate Robinson or Chris Paul guarding him, he definitely didn’t have that in the finals.

2. Mental fatigue. It’s my biggest issue, Wade’s a warrior he’ll come back he may no longer be the high flying death machine he was from 2006-2011 but he’s still a good player. Mental fatigue is the biggest killer on this team, it’s hard to still motivated after so much basketball, after the world criticises every action and word you say, after you go to 3 finals in a row and LeBron James played at the 2012 Olympics, that’s seriously a lot of ball. Will Norris Cole and Haslem be able to stay motivated? Especially since they’re already wearing two rings? Will LeBron James be able to consistently enter Boston game 6 where he ripped out the throats of his defenders? Do the Heat still care enough after winning 27 in a row and cementing themselves in the history books? Hmm…

“Which team is most likely going to have an all out brawl in practice.”
See I’m telling you, I’m asking the questions that really matter! Well I’m definitely going to throw the Sacramento Kings in at one number, they’ve been an absolute disgrace as a basketball team, why did I still have to ask the following questions in 2013, how come Tyreke Evans IS STILL shooting anything from 20 feet and beyond, why is Boogie still death stares the referees without running back to play defence, why does Michael Malone (coach) look like he wants to kill himself on most days. Legitimately any team that features Boogie, Isiash Thomas or Travis Outlaw deserves to make it to Chingys-All-NBA-Brawl-Team of 2014.

I have the Clippers finishing at second, there’s already beef between Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (Runner up for most ghetto first name with Marshon Brooks coming first) and it’s documented. Griffin dislikes how much sway Paul has, he dislikes he isn’t relied upon more to close and he dislikes how everyone thinks he’s a bitch around the league. Paul doesn’t trust Griffin to close, he doesn’t like it how Griffin and Jordan seem like they love dunking more than winning and Jordan is pissed off for some reason. Can’t you totally see CP3 flipping out at Jordan after he rubs him on the head like Pau Gasol? I can, sign me up for the Clippers-WWE-Match! Make it happen David Stern/ Adam Silver!

“Will the LeBron James win MVP”
Yes. LeBron James is a monster right now and he knows it, you know the scene in Terminator 2 where Arnold Schwarzenegger enters the bar, destroys everyone, steals the biker’s clothes, impresses every female with his long penis and rock the sunglasses like an absolute boss with Bad to the Bone playing in the background? That’s LeBron James, he’s Scarface after a mountain of Cocaine, he’s Michael Jackson after Thriller, he’s king of the world right now. Who else in HISTORY can defend the 1,2,3,4 and 5 like James? Pippen? Not strong or athletic enough (Read that statement again, Pippen not athletic enough? Dear Lord is James a cyborg?), Magic Johnson? He isn’t close to the on ball defender that James is…. Who else? No one. LeBron James is the first person in history to create the Power-Guard-Defend-Every-Player position. He’s the second greatest passing Small Forward behind Larry Legend, his on ball defence deserves mention in the league with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Michael Cooper. Athletically he’s up there with Chamberlain, MJ23 and prime O’Neal, he’s a gust of wind and we’re the leaves. He’s the best player in the world and only Jordan from 1991-1993, O’Neal (2000-2002), Larry Bird (1985-1987) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-1995) have submitted a matching three year crescendo of basketball dominance. Wilt’s statistics meant every little in the playoffs as he’s performance dipped and he often shrunk underneath the pressure, Elgin Baylor’s and Oscar Robertson’s greatness likewise produced nothing when it came to rings, Kobe Bryant’s 2006-2008 stretch had one finals appearance. Fun fact, if I had the second pick in the Greatest Basketball Draft of all time, I would pick LeBron James (2013) second. Who else can be your point guard, your defensive anchor, your lock down perimeter defender, can guard every position, can destroy you on fastbreaks and overpower you in the post and to top it off be athletically invincible? No one, that’s who. I respect greatness when I see it and LeBron James is great.

Chingy out.

PART ONE OF 14 QUESTIONS.

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My love-hate relationship with Kobe Bryant.

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Kobe Bryant is the most polarising basketball player of all time no other player has some many fans or haters, no other player is considered the second greatest player of all time whilst left out on half the population’s top five. Behind him stands two battle hardened legions, the Kobetards, who defend Kobe like he was their mother or the Kobe haters who attack him as if he was responsible for world hunger. My perception of Bryant has really evolved and changed through out the last year in particular, it was a journey from being a bias, dismissive Bryant hater who saw number 24 as an embodiment everything wrong with basketball today, from being a shoot first, second and third player to being the golden child. But Kobe Bryant’s strength, resilience and hunger for the game has started to grow on me, his hunger for victory shines even more distinctly today in a league filled with huge egos, fame hungry players who view money as the most vital element of being a basketball player. Kobe Bryant is a great players whose strengths are also responsible for his flaws.

Being a Point Guard and someone with a natural pass first mentality and approach to the game of basketball and life in general, I found Bryant’s style of play very hard to swallow, Kobe is a scorer at heart. Apart from Bryant’s turn around fadeaway or his numerous game winners, Kobe’s most iconic play is the isolation followed with a few jab steps. I viewed his constant reliance upon his one on one skills as detrimental to the team chemistry, insert former players like Smush Parker, Shaquille O’Neal and Andrew Bynum. His signature isolations near the top of the key allowed defenses to recover, stops the momentum of the Lakers and when over used hurts the development of younger players. As someone who worships Larry Bird and John Stockton it was just impossible to stomach the amount of poor shots Bryant has taken in his career, sure no one in the league apart from Carmelo makes more difficult, off balance, out of control shots but he’s not young anymore, surely there is a better use of his energy? The most frustating thing about all this was Kobe could be a great passer, his basketball IQ is off the charts, his understanding of the game is what has allowed him to remain a top 5 player and scorer even at 34. Many defenders of Kobe point to his career average of 6 (Check) assist, but that’s not the point, to Kobe it seems getting his team mates involved is a secondary priority and it doesn’t seem like he has an issue with taking 8 dribbles before throwing up a heinous fadeaway. I rarely see Kobe screening for the ball handler and then working off the his penetration, or feeding the big man in the post and working off Gasol or Bynum’s dominance in the post. Bryant has always been a volume player, he never had Jordan’s accuracy as a scorer, someone who hit 50% of his shots on the field, the only reason Bryant is in the discussion with Jordan is because he’s played a few more years and taken a lot more shots, volume over consistent excellency. This is most obvious through the differences in their scoring mentality, Kobe relentlessly fires away attemptings to launch enough shots until he finally finds the spark and catches fire, Jordan however was able to work more within a designed offense and could still be aggressive without holding the ball, someone who could change games through defense alone.

The Mamba’s defence these past few seasons has been poor, his off ball defence in particular during the 2013 season was horrendous and lazy, it was clear he reserved most of him energy for scoring. This lack of defensive hustle from Kobe along with Dwight Howard’s injured shoulder and back clearly had a negative impact upon the defensive intensity of the purple and gold. Do I necessary blame Kobe for his defensive flaws? Not really? He’s 34, trying to pull a disorganised Lakers team under D’Antoni to the 8th seed, he’s going crazy on the offensive side scoring well into the high 20s with increased efficiency. Nor do I blame him for the slew of injuries that have crippled any signs of momentum building amongst the Lakers, however that doesn’t mean the media show give their golden child a pass, defence is 50% of the game. 50%. Another issue that has really divided me is Bryant’s leadership, I see him as a flame; a flame that burns brightly and can be the leading torch on any team towards a championship, however get too close or misjudge yourself and that flame is just as likely to burn an ally. Clearly Bryant is an alpha male, he quickly dismissed any notion on the 2013 Lakers being Howard’s team on and off the court with the air of a army general. Bryant’s constant obsession and drive to become the greatest player of all time combined with his inhuman work ethic installs respect and almost fear amongst his team mates. Would Pau Gasol of responded with a monster game 7 in the 2010 finals (19/18/4) if Kobe didn’t tell him to metaphorically put on his big boy pants in the post game conference? Probably not. Kobe’s personality blended well with Derick Fisher’s, which was Fish’s biggest contribution of the purple and gold, he was able to play good cop whilst Kobe played the ruthless field marshall that accepted nothing short of perfection, almost in a Michael sort of way.

Whilst Bryant’s attitude can be an inspirational flame, consequences such as breaking the most dominant team in the 2000s are by products of Kobe’s personality, often isolated, introverted and someone who early on didn’t aim to build connections with his team mates. That’s why even now we hear back handed comments from Smush Parker, Andrew Bynum and the freestyle of “Tell me how my ass taste” from the Big Aristotle. That’s also the biggest reason why I see Tim Duncan as the greatest player of his era, he’s one of the greatest most loved team mates to ever grace the court. Someone who will never rock the Spurs boat, who will never challenge the authority of the coach and a player that can successfully channel the energies of the team into one thing; victory. We’ve never heard of Duncan calling out a team mate, calling out the staff or requesting a trade. In fact the only signs Duncan gets frustrated is how his eyes bulge after the referee makes a poor call. Duncan plays the role of the loving big brother as well as anyone and has allowed the Spurs to remain relevant since the conception of the twin towers featuring Duncan and David Robinson. So whilst a team mates may gravitate towards Kobe for his firey passion, they may also shun away due to his obsessive, dominant and demanding personality. In fact a few years ago I had become so fed up with watching Bryant I ranked him 13th or 14th behind Karl Malone on my greatest of all time ladder. (It has enjoyed massive renovations since then.)

But that’s really where my beef with Kobe Bryant ends and I have grown to appreciate and respect one of the greatest of all time. Kobe Bryant rightfully so is a top 10 player, he’s the second greatest Shooting Guard behind Jordan,(Yes he’s better than Jerry West.), he stands as one of the most creative scorers of all time, with even more scoring options and moves than Michael himself. He has a menu of ball fakes, clockwise and anti-clockwise spins, fadeaways, hop steps and jab steps which he can constantly reach into to string together the most ridiculous combinations for better or worse. When Bryant catches fire there is literally no way to prevent the ball ending in his hands or the barrage of money fadeaways and penetrations that follows. He has also entered the pantheon of “Don’t-Talk-Trash-To-Them-Or-He’ll-Murder-You” along with Jordan, Bird, O’Neal, Olajuwon and Iverson. Likewise Bryant has also entered the greatest all around players a
group of players that can affect the game in every way on the highest level, including LeBron James with Oscar Robertson as the captain and co captain, with Bird, Jordan, Elgin Baylor, Kobe, the Logo and some Magic Johnson (He couldn’t shoot.) In some ways Bryant is this generation’s Pearl Monroe or Pistol Pete, someone with an unlimited and dazzling offensive arsenal and a natural knack at drawing a foul or creating space. Not to mention Bryant is fearless in the closing moments of the game and I genuinely mean that, Kobe’s hand does not shake in the final possession of the game, instead he relishes in his ability to put the final stamp upon the game (He had basically four game winners in the win against the Raptors this year) For better or worse, this has led to Kobe having the second most game winners in NBA history despite his mediocre field goal percentage (Volume, volume, volume.) Also Kobe HAS to take the last shot, he won’t accept anything else. So even if Metta World Peace has a wide open jumper or Gasol has a hopeless victim defending him around the post, expect the Black Mamba to throw up a 20 footer. Bryant’s shoot first mentality really solidified during the 2005-2007 stretch when he was saddled with game changing allies such as Kwame Brown, a young Bynum, Chris Mihm and featured the deadly pick and roll of Luke Walton and Smush Parker. And even if Kobe has a much better approach to the game now, someone who is more willing to share the ball and rely upon the strengths of his team mates, but I can still see the moments when he’s unhappy about the ball game and something clicks turning KB24 into a one man army.

Where does Kobe Bryant stand on my greatest players of all time? He’s not better than Michael Jordan who has basically every advantage over Kobe excluding the three point jumpshot, but that’s more a difference in context than Jordan’s flaw. Today’s league stresses the importance of three pointers more and more to stretch the floor against improved and more sophisticated defences. Defensively it’s not close, Jordan was the Bill Russell of Shooting Guards, whose athletic ability allowed him to shut down constantly opponents from the 1,2 and 3. Here’s a few more numbers to buffer my argument, 5 MVP (Should of won the 1993 and 1997) against Bryant’s single MVP award in 2008. (Chris Paul should of won that year and Bryant should of won in 2006), Jordan averaged 31.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assist shooting 50.5% from the field, Kobe for a career averaged 27.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.2 assist and 45.5% (I’ll ignore his first three years because he was too young and his statistics were not that great.) So basically Jordan still retains his position of greatest in my opinion. Is he better than Kareem Abdul Jabbar? I don’t think so, Kareem was a rock defensively and offensively, someone who could successfully anchor a team’s defence and the scorer of the most points in NBA history. Throw in his longevity, his ability to create his shot at ANY time because of that magnificent skyhook and it’s hard to argue for Bryant, maybe the fact Kobe is more clutch? Meh, not strong enough. Nor is Bryant better than Bill Russell (3) or Magic Johnson (4), two individuals who forever transformed the game of basketball. Russell throw being the first revolutionary defender, the first big man who put fear into the hearts of scorers and the anchor of the first great basketball first break featuring Cousy, Heinsohn, Sanders and Sam Jones and winner of ELEVEN rings within a thirteen year time span.

Magic and Larry were able to break through the belief that MVPs could only be awarded to big men, (Chamberlain, Russell, Wes Unseld, Jabbar) pionering an era where players like Derrick Rose, Iverson and Michael Jordan could win MVP. Their tremendous passing abilities injected new life into a sport which was plagued by image problems, (Coacine and more coacine.) However defensively Bryant was clearly superior, he also has the longeivity element on the previous two players. Now it’s getting closer and closer, I have Duncan at 6 who in my opinion is the greatest player of his generation, for reasons explained before. O’Neal is thrown in at 7 for being absolutely unstoppable in his prime, Jordan, Pippen or LeBron James could of defended a 2006 Kobe, but not even 1967 prime Chamberlain could of stopped 7’2, 315 pound monster from unleashing the “black tornado.” At eight falls Wilt the Stilt, for being the second most unstoppable force unleashed but he gets marks deducted for being a horrible team mate until hepaired with West, for being the main reason he played for 9 coaches in 14 years (Dwight Howard anyone?) for prioritising statistics over victories (The SELFISH season when he turned into Bob Cousy, maintaining the never foul out rule which costed his teams many games.) So why would Chamberlain rank at 8 despite his obvious flaws? His individual dominance was unparallel, even Bill Russell couldn’t defend him in a one on one matchup, he dropped a 50-28 season which ranks in the top 5 most dominanting events ever in NBA history along with O’Neal averaging around 40 points against the Pacers in the finals and Kareem Abdul Jabbar going for 38-17 in the 1977 postseason. Chamberlain gets extra points for creating the mold of a physical overpowering centre which O’Neal so blatantly ripped off he should be paying royalties (He even stole hisfreethrow numbers.) a mold which Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum are trying to implement all these years later. Kobe Bryant had a lot of people to shape his game after (A lot of Jordan, some Drexler and a touch of Pistol.) thus he loses points in the “originality” category. So there Kobe Bryant sits at number 9, though he’s a few seasons or events away from swinging infront of Tim Duncan, the gap between them is shrinking and shrinking as Bryant still manages to exlude father time for now…

I guess that’s what I will remember Kobe Bryant for when he finally hangs up his sneakers and decides to play in an Italian league routinely draining 6 threes, taking every game over after once the fourth quarter starts and giving scared shitless Italian players the “Mamba Face.” Kobe was a shooting guard that gave everything to the game, a man who like his idol could not, would not settle on anything other than victory and perfection. A player who could of been a fantastic passer but instead settled for the more appealing and glamorising role of a scorer, A team leader that could inspire with his irrational confidence and his work ethic yet destroy team chemistry in a swoop with one misplaced comment. An individual that trusted in his own supreme abilities and would do anything to secure a win from shooting 30 times in one game to being the Lakers’ playmaker for three quarters, yet in doing some wouldn’t understand that he had isolated other some
players who became frustrated when Kobe wasn’t “on.” Yet despite all this criticism, hatred, love, passion and milage, everyone knows Bryant will go out there every night as long as his heart still beats and he will give everything to the sport. It’s funny that the Archilles tear happened to Kobe Bryant so late in his career, but I feel like if any players can recover from that at age 34 their last names would have to end it either Jordan or Bryant. As a 35 year old veteran, Kobe Bryant’s resume speaks for itself and the scary thing is…. It’s still continuing to grow.

1 X MVP (2008)
5 X Championship Ring (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010)
2 X NBA Finals MVP (2009, 2010)
15 X NBA All Star (1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
4 X NBA All Star MVP (2002, 2007, 2009, 2011)
2 X Scoring Champion (2006, 2007)
15 Season Averaging 19.9 or over
1459 Games (Regular and Playoffs)
11 X All NBA First Team (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
2 X All NBA Second Team (2000, 2001)
2 X All NBA Third Team (1995, 2005)
25.5 Points, 5.3 Rebounds, 4.8 Assist, 45.4% Field Goal, 33.6% Three Point Percentage
9 X NBA Defensive First Team (2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
3 X NBA Defensive Second Team (2001, 2002, 2012)
NBA All Rookie Second Team (1997)
NBA Slam Dunk Contest Winner (1997)
Los Angeles Lakers All Time Leading Scorer
28 Game Winners
Being the face of the Lakers from 2005 to 2013