5 Reasons To Watch the UEFA Champions League Final

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Today I’ll try to sway you casual sports fans into watching soccer by giving 5 reasons why you all should watch the match on Saturday. I may even be able to sway those of you that’ll just be lounging around the house when the match kicks off. So first off some of you are probably wondering “what is the UEFA Champions League?” The “Champions League” is a soccer tournament that features clubs(teams) from Europe’s top flight professional soccer leagues. The tournament was originally known as the European Cup before the name was changed in 1992. This year’s final features two storied clubs in FC Barcelona and Juventus F.C. FC Barcelona hails from Spain. Barca as they are sometimes referred has won the Champions League 4 times in 7 finals appearances with the most recent being in 2010-2011. They’ve won the La Liga title – the top league in Spain – 23 times (most recent 2014-2015) and the Copa del Rey – the primary domestic tournament in Spain that professional clubs participate in – a record 27 times (most recent 2014-2015). Barcelona has had a long list of talented players that have entertained for both the club and internationally. Juventus F.C. is from Turin, Italy. Juve as they are referred to has won Serie A – the top league in Italy – 31 times (most recent 2014-2015) and the Coppa Italia – the primary domestic tournament in Italy that professional clubs participate in – 10 times (most recent 2014-2015). Juve has appeared in the Champions League Final 7 times winning it twice. They last won the tournament in 1996 and last appeared in the Final match in 2003. Now I’ll list the 5 reasons why you should watch the Champions League Final.

Reason #5 – Time & TV Station
This year’s Champions League is set to take place in Berlin, Germany, which is 7 hours ahead of the Central Standard Time (Time Zone). Normally matches in Europe would be on in the United States early in the morning. The Champions League Final doesn’t start until 1:45 PM on Saturday. That means if you need to run some errands or sleep off a long night of partying you’ll have plenty of time to do so. Another good thing is the match will be telecast on FOX in the U.S. This means you won’t have to do any crazy searching or try to pull up a feed on the internet. You can just flip over to FOX and you’ll be good to go.

Reason #4 – Gianluigi Buffon
“Gigi” Buffon is the goalkeeper for Juventus. Buffon has been with the club since 2001 and has appeared in 423 matches. He is also the goalkeeper for the Italian National Team, appearing 147 times for his country (first appearance was in 1997). Buffon is considered one of the best goalkeepers of his generation and one of the best of all time. He has personal honors and accolades for both his club and country. Buffon will have to be on his game on Saturday as he faces a Barcelona club with the trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar. One other glimmer for Gigi is that in 2006 he helped Italy win the World Cup in the same stadium where Saturday’s CL Final will be played.

Reason #3 – Trebles
As mentioned above, both clubs enter Saturday’s match having won their domestic league title and primary domestic tournament. By winning on Saturday, one of the clubs will complete what is known as a “Treble”. Just to draw a comparison, it would be equivalent to a team in college sports winning their conference regular season title, their conference tournament/championship game, and winning the National Championship. In soccer the Treble consists of winning three trophies of some type. Generally it is the domestic league title and two secondary tournaments. Barcelona was able to accomplish this feat in the 2008-2009 season (La Liga, Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League). FC Bayern Munich was the last club to win a Treble that included winning the Champions League (2012-2013 Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, UEFA Champions League).

Reason #2 – Star Power
As expected in any Championship Match, Saturday’s showdown features some big stars. Just to name a few there’s Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez, and Arturo Vidal for Juventus and there’s Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, and Xavi for Barcelona. Both Pirlo and Xavi will be playing their final match for their respective club. The two legendary midfielders will be moving on to other sides as they’ve come to the end of their careers in Europe’s top flight club fútbol.

Reason #1 – “The Beautiful Game”
For Club Soccer, this is the highest level. Honestly for all of soccer this is the highest level. Champions League allows us to see all of the top international soccer players from what are regarded as the best leagues. The talent that is brought together is astonishing. The World Cup draws a lot of attention but it doesn’t always mean that the best players will be present on the field (see Argentina during the 2014 World Cup without Carlos Tevez). While both clubs are very strong going forward I think the key will be the battle in the middle of the pitch. Juventus will have to find a way to pluck possession away from Barcelona and maintain it. And of course they’ll have to find a way to contain the 3 headed attacking monster “Messi-Suarez-Neymar”. Juve was dealt a blow when defender Giorgio Chiellini was ruled out because of a calf injury. If Barcelona is able to control possession then they will need to be cautious of the counter-attacking from Juventus. Juve will certainly look to get the ball forward to Tevez. Set pieces will also be important for the Italian club. Pirlo will definitely be looking for a moment of magic when a shot on goal via a free-kick presents itself. In the end, this match may come down to a magical moment by Messi. His run on goal in the Copa del Rey was beautiful. Juve will have to remain steady and weather any of his moments of brilliance. I expect it to be an exciting and well played match. I hope I’ve done enough to get you to carve out some time to watch.

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5 Reasons To Watch the UEFA Champions League Final

2015 NBA Finals Preview

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This year’s NBA Finals should be very interesting when the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers meet up. Both teams have a first year head coach, both teams have lead players that have won an MVP award, both teams have solid #2 players that enter the Finals banged up, and both teams are making their second appearance in the NBA Finals. If we’re being technical this is the Warriors “franchise” 7th time reaching the Championship Series. They made it 3 times (2-1) as the Philadelphia Warriors and twice as the San Francisco Warriors (0-2). The “Golden State” Warriors are making their first appearance since 1975 when they won (4-0 over the Washington Bullets). While Cleveland is back in the NBA Finals after last reaching this destination in 2007 and losing (4-0) to the San Antonio Spurs.

The 2 teams met twice during the regular season with the home team winning in both instances. On January 9th, the Warriors won 112-94. All five starters for the Warriors reached double figures with Steph Curry leading the way with 23 points and 10 assists, Klay Thompson had 24 points, and Draymond Green was 2 assists (10, 11, 8) shy of a triple-double. The Cavaliers scrapped but they didn’t have enough firepower as they were without LeBron James (this was during his 2 week getaway to Miami and the BCS National Championship Game) and Iman Shumpert who didn’t play because of an injured left shoulder. Kyrie Irving dropped 23 and J.R. Smith put in 27 but both needed 23 shots to do so. Kevin Love gave a solid effort with 17 points and 14 rebounds but as mentioned the Cavs needed much more. In the return match on February 26th, the Cavaliers won 110-99 behind a monster night from LeBron James. James shot 15-25 from the field and went for 42 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. Irving scored 24 points but had another bad shooting performance. Draymond Green and David Lee were the only bright spots for the Warriors. The trio of Curry, Thompson, and Harrison Barnes combined to shoot a dismal 14-40 from the field.

Both teams have been very good this NBA Post Season combining to only lose 5 games. It may be fair to say that Cleveland has had the easier road coming out of the Eastern Conference. They swept Boston in the First Round, were pushed to 6 games by the Chicago Bulls in the 2nd Round, and then swept a frail Atlanta Hawk team in the Conference Finals. Despite the injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving the Cavs have found a way to manage. LeBron James hasn’t shot the ball well at 43% from the field and 18% from 3-point range but he’s still averaging 27.8 points per game and willing his team to victories. James is also averaging 8.3 assists per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. He ranks in the top 10 of all 3 categories for the Playoffs. Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) has looked his TV age while battling injuries but has managed to average 18.7, 3.3, and 3.7 while shooting 48% from beyond the arc. The role players like Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mozgov, and Matthew Dellavedova have all had crucial moments in the Playoffs when needed. But the biggest two have been J.R. “Swish” and Shumpert. J.R. has consistently provided the outside threat that the Cavs have needed to spread the floor while Shumpert has slashed to the basket, knocked down timely jumpers, and played solid defense on the opposing team’s top scoring threat. On the flip side, Golden State swept the New Orleans Pelicans in their first series, battled back from a 2-1 deficit to beat Memphis in 6 games, and then in the Western Conference Finals they beat Houston 4-1. Steph Curry’s play this post season has solidified the voters choosing him as the MVP. Curry is averaging 29.2 points/game, 6.4 assists/game, and 4.9 rebounds/game. Curry has scored 30 or more points (he’s reached the 40-point plateau twice) in 8 of the Warriors 15 postseason games. Draymond Green’s play has been exceptional during the Warriors run to the Finals. Green is averaging a double-double at 14.0 points/game and 10.8 rebounds/game. He has also chipped in with 5.3 assists/game and very solid defense. The First Team NBA All-Defense forward has guarded every position. He’s seen the likes of Anthony Davis, Zach Randolph, and James Harden. Klay Thompson is averaging right under 20 points/game but hasn’t shown consistent play. He and Harrison Barnes will need to bring it each game if the Warriors plan on being World Champs. They’ll also need their other role players like Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Andre Igoudala, and Shaun Livingston to play as they have all season.

These teams don’t mirror each other in style of play but the end results are the same. So far in the Playoffs both teams are holding opponents to field goal percentages below 44% (below 32% from 3 point range) and they both enter with +8.0 or more scoring differentials. Neither team is shy about jacking up 3 pointers.   Both ball clubs are shooting at least 35% from 3 point range with GSW attempting 30.3 3 point FG/game and Cleveland attempting 29.1 3 point FG/game. I mean they’re even neck to neck in the team rebounding statistics. The Cavs are grabbing 46.9 reb/game (12.1 offensive) as a team and Golden State is grabbing 46.2 reb/game (12.0 offensive). The difference shows up in team assists. GSW with it’s free flowing offense leads the Playoffs averaging 25.1 assists/game while Cleveland is next to last at 18.9 assists/game in their more iso-dominant style. The one downside for Golden State is that they’re next to last in turnovers/game.

I’ve stuffed you all with stats so let me get this pick out of the way. The two teams are eye to eye in just about everything you look at statistically. So that means the games will come down to coaching and execution. On the surface the advantage appears to be in Steve Kerr’s favor but I think Blatt (with the help of LeBron) will make things tough. LeBron hasn’t shot the ball well from the perimeter but data from NBA.com Player Tracking shows that he leads four statistical categories related to Drives (to the basket) on offense. I fully expect the Warriors to pack the paint and mirror the defense the Spurs have thrown at LeBron. Look for Draymond, Iguodala, Livingston, Barnes and Thompson to guard LBJ at times during this series. The Cavs will need Shumpert, Smith, and company to knock down 3s. And which Uncle Drew will we get? The spry free moving one or the aching injured one? GSW will also need to keep Tristan Thompson and Mozgov off of the offensive glass. Cleveland has thrived off 2nd chance opportunities throughout the Playoffs. Defensively Cleveland will have to defend the 3 point shot. We’ve seen what happens when the Warriors go on one of their patent runs. According to NBA.com Player Tracking Stats, Curry is Top 6 this postseason in offensive stats related to Catch & Shoot, Drives (to the basket), Passing (that leads to points scored), and Pullup Shooting. I’ve already mentioned Draymond’s defensive needs but he’ll also need to keep up his all-around offensive threat. Klay Thompson needs to show that he’s fully healthy from the concussion he suffered in Game 5 against Houston and play with more consistency. The Warriors raucous home crowd will definitely play its part to help. I’m not making the same mistake twice so when it’s all said and done I expect Cleveland to be victorious. LeBron says he is “playing his best basketball” right now. He’ll need to show it at least 4 more times if he plans on beating a tough Golden State Warrior team and bring Cleveland it’s long awaited championship.

2015 NBA Finals Preview

An Apology, A Wedding, A Messi

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I’ll start first with the apology. I’d like to apologize to LeBron for picking the Chicago Bulls to defeat him and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2nd Round of this season’s NBA Playoffs. I can’t think of too many times where I went against a team that LBJ was on other than when he’s recently played the New Orleans Pelicans. Surprisingly the Cavs outlasted the Bulls and then swept the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now Cleveland is set to face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Warriors were the best team during the NBA’s regular season and have kept up their form during the 2015 NBA Playoffs. I look for Steph Curry to lead the way offensively as he’s done but it’ll be key to see the health of Klay Thompson. He’ll likely see some minutes defending LeBron along with Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and a host of others. I hope we get a good series but I think it’ll be over in 5 or 6 games.

Included in all of the sports drama in May was a very important event in my life. On May 24, I officially entered #washedlife but I must say my Wedding Day was anything but. We had plenty of ordeals to overcome on that glorious day. As expected it started with none of the Wedding Party showing up on time (well Raven was on time lol), from there it was tuxedo malfunctions for a few fellows, and finally there was the threat of rain! With all of this you’d have thought the day was doomed but we made our way through. The Wedding Party started trickling in and the laughs began. We all had a few beverages to ease the tension and long wait, thanks to a few heads up gentlemen. A few safety pins and good fortune helped fix a few britches. The rain was also generous. The ceremony was set to take place outside but with a little over an hour and a half to spare the skies parted. The rain didn’t last long but was very heavy and amazingly the decorations held up quite well. After the downpour my lovely wife to be arrived and some more pre-ceremony pictures were taken while I was kept out of view. The ceremony included many goofballs and goof ups but it was still great. After the ceremony we took more pictures right before the impending monsoon. The rain poured outside but inside kids and adults (young and old) danced all over the place. With my dad stealing the show while “Wipe Me Down” played. It was a great day and night, one that I won’t forget. Keeping with the sports theme I’ve decided to give out a few accolades. My wife of course was MVP (I’m not dumb). Rookies of the Year went to the kids.  They did great during the ceremony and danced all night during the reception.  Coach of the Day honors went to my dad. He was smart enough to pop the trunk and whip out some steak, chicken, and hamburger buns from that he had saved from the night before. I heard almost everybody got them a sandwich. 6th Man honors went to Nic. He’s my wife’s cousin and was pretty much called on for whatever errand she needed taken care of. I’m about to mix sports but if you know her and saw pics of my “Best Wo(Man)” Karmen Charmain you’d understand why she was the clear cut Heisman Trophy winner. Nic was discouraged by the fact that she was “for everybody” but even he said “Kodi, you ain’t gone believe it when you see Karmen.” Karmen got the most votes and looked great. Not sure when I’ll see her with makeup and “brows on fleek” again but I enjoyed it.

My Dad held it down for you @greedy_gekko lol. #ChamblissWedding2015 #wipemedown @officialboosieig

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I end this entry by paying homage to “Messi”. Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest player to ever touch a soccer field. The things that he does while on the field are just majestic. It’s hard to explain and I can only suggest that you watch and be amazed. I’m just thankful I was able to spend the month of May watching the 2 sports that I love most, spend time with the people that I love most, and tie the knot with the woman that I love most. Folks that’s the best hat trick of all.

An Apology, A Wedding, A Messi