What Steph Curry Taught Me About Manhood and Stability

Steph Curry Warriors Manhood kids NBA

It took Steph Curry’s domination of the NBA for me to fully realize the power and masculinity of stability.

As an athlete – at the high school, college and professional level – I bought the locker-room myth that chaos and struggle molded the most indestructible on-field warrior.

The narrative pervasive throughout black-jock culture goes something like this: “The toughest and most hungry players come from the struggle, the bottom. If you match up a kid from the suburbs and one from the ‘hood, the suburban kid can’t win because he’s not tough enough and doesn’t have the fight and desire as the other guy. You can’t be the toughest or the strongest without the struggle of a broken home and socioeconomic disadvantage. Street cred and the fear it provokes are important weapons. Good guys finish last in sports, too.”

As a man and professional athlete, you are always trying to be the alpha dog. Every man wants to be the biggest and baddest dude around. We want respect, credibility, clout, and money. In my life, the recipe for being alpha dog could be summed up in one quote: “Men do what they want. Boys do what they can.”

It’s a selfish mentality that can lead to sexual promiscuity and baby-mama drama, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and irresponsible personal and financial decisions. The alpha-dog mentality certainly enhances your athletic-performance swagger. It makes you think you can accomplish all things through arrogance.

Derek Jeter is the exception, not the rule. His playing career seemed to be enhanced by remaining America’s top bachelor throughout his legendary baseball career. He managed to remain a bachelor and a gentleman.

But maybe the better path for athletes is choosing stability and a traditional home life? That’s what I believe I’m learning from Steph Curry. My favorite quote and life mantra – “Men do what they want” – is a path to hell? If not, it’s at least a path to not reaching your full potential personally or athletically.

I lived the dream of a professional athlete, but the mentality that got me there led me down a dangerous path.

How else do you explain a 6-foot-3 beanpole who couldn’t land a major scholarship being one of the best basketball players on the planet?

I believe Steph does what he wants on the court because off the court he’s remarkably grounded and stable.

Curry met his wife at a church function and married at just age 24. The absolute last thing I wanted to be at 24 was tied down to one woman and some sort of daily routine. I actually thought it would get in the way of achieving the respect I desired and that stability had no effect on my career. I now look at Curry’s life with his wife and his daughter’s famous press-conference appearances and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Steph has defined himself as a man of faith, a loving husband, a devoted father, as well as an MVP basketball player and champion. Notice the order? Notice the priority? Curry focused on organizing his life properly, realizing this would help him organize his career properly. His life is consistent, his priorities are in order, and he realizes his purpose inside and outside of the NBA.

Deep down, I knew better.

I grew up in church and a two-parent home and the person I looked up to the most was a man of stability and integrity: My dad. I always admired the Tony Dungy’s and Kurt Warner’s of the world, but couldn’t reconcile the life I wanted with the life I created. When I was in the NFL, I chased alpha dog status and unwittingly created chaos. It was my drug. I juggled women and juggled all the drama that goes with that lifestyle. I had to be in the clubs with my boys. I thought those things would bring me happiness and I actually believed you reaffirmed your alpha dog status by being able to deal with drama. Stability was boring. I was a fool.

Steph Curry Warriors Man NBA

Steph Curry doesn’t fit the stereotypes of a superstar athlete, and that’s precisely what makes him so great.

Stability and consistency only help your life and make your life better. I have learned that in my own life. Even after I was done playing in the NFL, my life was unstable and chaotic. I didn’t even realize it. I had normalized chaos. I existed in a reality where lack of consistency was the routine.

I was failing in life personally. I was in and out of relationships and creating instability for my children. I was depressed. I reached a crossroads because of injuries and moving away from football. My mother always told me: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got.” This made me return to my faith, and focus on rebuilding myself into the man I wanted to be.

I began to remove the chaos from my life and stopped trying to be the alpha dog and prove to everyone I was the man. I had to prioritize what I wanted in life and anything that wasn’t helping me achieve my goals had to go. When I changed, everything around me changed. My second career started to blossom. I got married. I embraced routine. Knowing what’s going to happen on a day-to-day basis and having that anchor of character and faith have been paramount to transforming my life. I am in no way perfect and still make mistakes. However, I can say with certainty that when I veer away from character and faith guiding my life, bad things happen. And when things start going left personally, I can attest that it impacts every area of your life.

Choosing the path of high integrity and character is difficult. It’s a struggle that builds toughness. That’s what I see in Steph Curry. He is one of the toughest guys I have ever seen on and off the court. He’s a hero. He’s a superhero. He’s a role model for kids, and grown men, too. He faces every temptation from complacency, hubris, sex, and drugs on a daily basis but he still stays focused and keeps his priorities in order. If you regularly fall into the traps of life, are you strong and tough? Or is the guy who stares them in the face daily and does the right thing the alpha dog?

It appears Curry doesn’t believe the lie. I bought the lie. Every now and then I catch myself making a comment that shows I am still a work in progress. I’m still battling a mentality that haunted me from childhood. I was a private school kid for most of my life, and guys I played with thought I was soft because of how I spoke and because I was “too nice.” I made poor decisions trying to disprove the thinking of small-minded individuals. Let me be clear. I loved my teammates. They were good guys. They were simply caught in the same culture and mindset I was.

The thinking is a bunch of garbage. Character trumps everything. I’ve seen rich kids who are the hardest workers and the most competitive. I have also seen people with special talents who didn’t have two nickels to rub together be extremely lazy. Your character and intestinal fortitude determine your toughness, competitiveness, and level of achievement as well as your ability to maintain it.

I’m glad Steph Curry is redefining for me and others how a real alpha dog handles his business. He puts a different spin on men doing what they want. Steph is doing EXACTLY what he wants, and he is the man.

The more men we have in this world, the better our future will be.

NBA: Durant and Thompson Injuries Have Impacted the Entire NBA

NBA Free Agency goes crazy after Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson injuries

Aside from the NBA-ABA merger, there has not been a more significant seismic shift in the landscape of the league than the fallout from the 2019 NBA Finals. The pending free agency destinations of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have been discussed all season. Now, both are heading into free agency injured. Both will miss either all or most of next season with an Achilles and ACL respectively. Over half the league has to tear up their offseason plans for the NBA Draft and free agency and formulate new ones. Not even the breakup of the Michael Jordan led 1998 Bulls created this much drama.

2019 NBA Free Agency Questions Center Around Durant and Thompson Injuries

The Knicks, Nets, Lakers, Clippers, Celtics, 76ers, and Pelicans. all planned on at least making a pitch to Durant and Thompson. Now, Any team attempts to sign them knows it cost close to $40M in salary for a guy who won’t play (much) in 2019-20. All superstar free agents want to be paired with another superstar. How many teams and other superstars will be willing to put any championship aspirations or salary cap space on hold for another year?

Every decision by every front office from the Knicks to the Lakers, and on up to Warriors will be based upon where Durant and Thompson sign. And, every decision by all the top free agents not named Kawhi Leonard will be contingent upon the KD and Klay.

  • What do the Houston Rockets and GM Daryl Morey do? Do they keep the team together now that the Warriors are seemingly out of the way?
  • The Lakers seemingly can no longer be in the market for Thompson and Durant. LeBron is getting old and they must capitalize on the window this season with the Warriors crippled.
  • Can the Knicks or Nets land Kyrie Irving with KD despite his injury?
  • Did the Raptors convince Kawhi Leonard to stay?
  • Have Kyrie Irving’s viable options decreased because Durant is not healthy?
  • Can the Warriors convince KD and Klay to stay?

Delayed, Not Dead: How The Warriors Dynasty Can Return To Prominence

Golden State Warriors dynasty

Injuries and the free agency status of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson put the future of the Golden State Warriors up in the air. However, with healthy recoveries and a solid core, the dynasty may not be over just yet.

The worst case scenario happened again for the Golden State Warriors. With a little over two minutes left in the third quarter, Klay Thompson went up for a dunk and landed awkwardly on his left knee. At this moment, Klay was the best player on the floor with 28 points. It was typical “Game 6 Klay.” However, once Thompson slammed the floor and agonized in pain, something was terribly wrong. The dynasty was in trouble.

Despite stretching, jumping around, and making two emotional free throws, all hope was lost when Thompson went to the back and could not return to the game. 72 hours after Durant’s season ended due to a ruptured Achilles, Thompson was done for the year as well with a torn ACL. Despite leading the game when Klay exited, the ending was inevitable. Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors prevailed in Game 6, 114-110, to win the NBA Championship.

What seemed like an inevitability at the beginning of the season became an impossibility once KD and Klay suffered horrific injuries. Injuries happen so credit the Raptors for taking advantage of the depleted Warriors. They flexed their dominance and earned this title. Now, the future remains uncertain for Golden State. Durant can opt out and become a free agent and will most likely miss the entirety of next season. Thompson is a free agent and won’t be able to return until next winter or spring. Without those two stars, can Steph Curry and Draymond Green handle the scoring load? Although it was a small sample size, Curry and Green both struggled at times especially late in games when both KD and Klay were out. The question on everyone’s mind revolves around the Warriors’ dynasty. Is it dead?

Dynasties tend to end abruptly. After winning two straight championships, the “Bad Boys” Pistons lost to Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals and did not win a playoff series until 2002. Speaking of Jordan, the 90s Bulls won six titles. After defeating the Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan retired, Phil Jackson resigned, Scottie Pippen was traded, and the Bulls didn’t win a playoff series for almost a decade. Does this loss to the Raptors signify the end of the Warriors’ dynasty?

Let’s state the obvious. Steph Curry is a three-time NBA Champion and two-time MVP. Draymond Green is a three-time NBA Champion and a former Defensive Player of the Year. They are not falling off a cliff. Despite long recoveries in their future, Brian Windhorst said that the Warriors plan to offer both Klay and KD max contracts this offseason.

Bob Myers cried his eyes out while announcing Durant’s Achilles injury. I appreciate the passion and love for a player, but let’s not act as though Durant died. KD is going to come back in two seasons. Whether or not he’ll be the best player in the world again is up in the air, but I’m confident that Durant will become a prolific scorer again when he returns. The same goes for Klay. Thompson showed that he’s a freak athlete and competitor when he returned to shoot the free throws on a torn ACL. Expect Thompson to undergo a full recovery and return sometime next March.

The elephant in the room revolves around their free agency. Will Klay or KD leave the Warriors this offseason? I’m inclined to believe that Klay will resign with the Warriors for a max contract. It’s hard to believe that Klay won’t want to continue playing with his fellow Splash Brother. Durant’s status is up-in-the-air. Durant has been rumored to sign with the Knicks for months now. The Knicks and a few other teams will most likely still offer Durant a max contract, but the injury makes a return to the Warriors more possible than ever. Durant can either sign a max contract with the Warriors or opt into the final year of his current deal and become a free agent after next season.

The long-term dynasty might still have a chance, but next season is going to be a struggle. The Warriors glaring weakness this year was their lack of depth on the bench. However, when you have most of your money tied up in four players, creating a bench full of depth can be tough. Even if both Klay and DK both resign with the Warriors, they are not going to play for most of, if not all of next season. For as great as Steph Curry is, without any offensive help, it will be difficult to win games if he’s the singular piece for opposing defenses to guard. For as versatile as Draymond is, 7.4 points per game average is not a viable number two option. Who can the Warriors sign to make up the difference? Steph, Draymond, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston are all under contract next season. Demarcus Cousins is open to returning, but without a lot of cap flexibility, it may be difficult especially if Cousins has a high asking price.

The Warriors dynasty may also be in trouble due to the potential shift in the competitive balance. If Kawhi Leonard signs with the Clippers, he automatically elevates them to a playoff contender. A healthy LeBron James will return to the Lakers and if they trade for Anthony Davis, the Lakers will be the favorite to come out of the West. The Rockets are still a force. Plus, the Thunder, Nuggets, Blazers, Jazz, and Spurs should all be in the mix for the playoffs. Simply put, the Western Conference is a juggernaut. Unlike the previous five seasons, Golden State will have to fight hard for a playoff spot next year.

The five straight appearances in the finals might come to an end next season, but don’t be so quick to declare the dynasty, “dead.” The Warriors will need to develop a stronger bench, but thankfully, they still have one of the best President of Basketball Operations in the league, Bob Myers, to build a roster. The Warriors still have Steve Kerr, who is in the upper echelon of NBA coaches. If Golden State can at least resign Klay, the core of Steph, Draymond, and Klay will continue to be one of the best combinations in the game. Plus, you never know if Durant will change his mind about leaving and come back to the Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors will take their lumps next season, but don’t expect them to die. Push the pause button and wait a season. The dynasty is delayed, not dead.

NBA Finals 2019: Warriors Vs. Raptors Preview And Prediction

After the dust has settled, two teams remain in the Warriors and Raptors. The Warriors were expected to be here while the Raptors were not necessarily the top choice out of the East. The Warriors are going for four titles in five years, but the narrative is not around their play on the court, but rather, the player that they’re missing in Kevin Durant. The Raptors one year gamble on Kawhi Leonard paid off as they reached their first NBA Finals ever. Can the Warriors win a championship without Durant? Can Kawhi slay the defending champs? Here are my preview and prediction for the NBA Finals 2019: Warriors vs. Raptors.

Biggest Storyline

Where Will Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard end up in the offseason?: Not to take anything away from this series, but the biggest storyline is the impending free agency decisions for Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. I compare it to going to the beach and seeing a dark cloud on the horizon. You should enjoy the beach, but all you can think about is the storm that’s on its way. Both Durant and Leonard have been rumored to be leaving Golden State and Toronto respectively for almost a year. If Durant doesn’t play at all, does that signify he’s leaving the Warriors? If Kawhi wins the title, does that make him more inclined to stay? Both questions will be asked after every game this series no matter what happens.

X-Factors

Kevin Durant’s Calf: It’s not every day that the best player in the game is an x-factor, but that’s exactly the case here. Kevin Durant has been sidelined the past five games with a strained right calf and will miss Game 1. Most teams would falter without their best player. The Warriors aren’t like most teams as they have gone 5-0 since Durant exited the lineup. That being said, the Warriors are a better team when Kevin Durant is on the floor. I don’t care how many games or titles the Warriors won without Durant. KD was averaging 34 points per game before his injury. Without KD, more pressure is on Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to deliver. From a psychological standpoint, Toronto has to feel like they have a better chance of winning the series without Durant in the lineup. Can you blame them? Also, don’t forget about the health of Demarcus Cousins and Andre Iguodala. Both should play in this series at some point, but I doubt they will be 100%.

Drake: When a fan becomes a storyline in championship series>>>

Pascal Siakam: The real X-factor for the Raptors is Pascal Siakam. The future Most Improved Player of the Year took a monumental leap this past season. Siakam improved in almost every statistical category with the most notable advancement coming in the form of his points per game average, which increased from 7.3 to 16.9. With all of the focus going towards Kawhi, Siakam needs to be a viable scoring threat as the Raptors’ second option. More importantly, Siakam will have to contain the pick and roll between Steph Curry and Draymond Green. If Siakam can hold his own on switches against Steph, the Raptors will keep games close.

Matchups To Watch

Pick and Roll Offense versus Switching Defense

The Curry-Draymond pick and roll combo can be a nightmare for opposing defenses. If you hedge out too quickly, Steph can hit Draymond on a roll to the basket. If you sag off, Steph will have a field day from 3. Just ask the Blazers how sagging off worked. On the flip side, Kawhi Leonard has been very good in the playoffs when he runs pick and roll and has a 47.9% scoring frequency in those situations. How will both the Warriors and Raptors defend pick and rolls? I’m expecting both teams to switch on most, if not all, pick and rolls because of their versatility. Leonard, Siakam, Danny Green, and Serge Ibaka for Toronto and Thompson, Green, Durant (if he plays), and Andre Iguodala for Golden State can switch all matchups and guard all of the positions (to an extent). Whichever team is more successful with pick and roll defense will have the edge in the series.

Steph Curry vs. Kyle Lowry: Before the playoffs started, if you saw this matchup on paper, it’s a huge mismatch in favor of Curry. The “Lowry disappears in the playoffs” narrative has somewhat disappeared this postseason thanks to an improvement in Lowry’s defense and clutch shooting. That being said, Curry has been on an unreal tear since Durant’s injury. In the past five games (all Warriors wins), Curry has averaged 35.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, and 6.6 apg. Lowry cannot stop Steph, but he needs to contain him. In crunch time, do no be surprised if Kawhi is guarding Steph especially if Durant isn’t playing. If Steph dominates this matchup, the Warriors will win in 4 games.

Kawhi Leonard vs. *Insert Golden State Player*: As important as Steph Curry’s defender will be, the Warrior to guard Kawhi Leonard is just as crucial. Leonard has been unstoppable these entire playoffs with averages of 31.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, and 1.6 spg. Good luck stopping Leonard. Luckily for Golden State, they have a few capable defenders that can guard multiple positions. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, and Andre Igudola will all be on Leonard at some point. The plan is simple: Force Leonard to pass the ball. Expect a lot of traps to force the ball out of Leonard’s hand. As I said earlier, good luck stopping Leonard because so far, no team has slowed Kawhi down.

Gambling

The Plays: Odds via Oddshark

Steph is obviously the play to win Finals MVP since he has not won this award in any of the Warriors’ previous finals appearances during this run. However, if you’re getting Kawhi at +225, I would sprinkle some money there. The Warriors outside of Steph to watch is Klay Thompson. +800 for Klay is a steal.

For a series bet, I’m not sure how you could bet against Golden State. I firmly in the camp that the Warriors win the series, but if I’m looking for a game that the Raptors can win, it’s either Game 1 or Game 2. Since the Warriors are 18-1 SU in Game 1s of playoff series since 2015, the game to bet on the Raptors is Game 2. Plus, the current line for Game 1 is Warriors +1.5. I’m not betting against the Warriors as underdogs.

Warriors vs. Raptors Prediction

Warriors in 5: On paper, the Raptors match up well with the Warriors even with Durant on the floor. Toronto has the better bench and Leonard has been the best player in the playoffs. However, when it’s winning time in the fourth quarter, are you going to trust the team who has won three out of four titles or the team making their first finals appearance in franchise history? Look for Kawhi to go off this series, but in turn, the Warriors to neutralize the Raptors’ supporting cast. The Warriors win in five games and Steph Curry destroys the false narrative that he’s not good in the NBA Finals by winning MVP.

What are your predictions? Comment with your thoughts below or join in the conversation on Twitter@UnAfraidShow.

HTH: James Harden Fan Shame, Durant Won’t Leave Golden State, Transfer Portal

Hot Takes house James Harden fans Kevin Durant GSW NCAA Transfer Portal

The Hot Takes House is on the open for business. It is a compilation of scorching hot opinions that won’t turn into Freezing Cold Takes material. In this edition: James Harden fans are shameless people with character flaws, Kevin Durant would be crazy to leave the Warriors, and the NCAA transfer portal is getting ridiculous. Do not read any further if you are easily triggered. Read. Share. Leave a Comment.

James Harden Fans Have No Shame

I’m not sure how James Harden fans are not embarrassed to call him their favorite basketball player. His ridiculous amount of flopping and his refusal to consistently give defensive effort are shameful. In general, fans like their athletes tough, rugged, and mentally tough. So, I do not understand why so many James Harden apologist exist.

It is so frustrating to try and watch an NBA Playoffs game, but have to suffer through Harden flailing around and faking hurt. By no means is Harden the only NBA player that flops. His serial abuse of flopping is just the most absurd in the league. Harden is strong and built like a tank compared to most players, but he flops whenever players get close to him. Could you imagine Jordan, Kobe, Bird, LeBron, Durant or any other champion doing this?

And then there is Harden’s negligence on defense. The Rockets will NEVER win an NBA championship until he changes his style of play. No team has ever won a championship when their best player gives poor effort on one side of the ball. The producers of ‘Shaqtin A Fool’ could make an entire show about Harden every season.

As a fan, how can you be proud of this? Maybe his fans are just the segment of the population that wants credit and praise for a job performed half right.

Two Reasons Kevin Durant Won’t Leave The Warriors

Assuming the money is right, Kevin Durant would be foolish to leave the Golden State Warriors. So many media and NBA analyst from Ric Bucher, to Chris Broussard have all but guaranteed Durant’s exit from Golden State. I believe that Kevin Durant is too smart to leave GSW.

Easy Basketball: 2019-20 Will be Durant’s 13th season

Players want to play fewer minutes and win more as they get older in the NBA. Durant has never had gotten easier shot attempts or had to carry less of the weight than he does with Curry, Thompson, and Green on the team. In his first nine seasons in Oklahoma City (Seattle), KD faced double teams, played a ton of minutes, worked extremely hard for shots, and only had one chance for a championship. In three seasons with the Warriors, he has a Finals MVP, two NBA Championships, and is making a run at a third. He plays fewer playoff minutes, averages more points, and shoots a higher % from 3, 2-pt, and free throws than OKC.

Durant’s Silicon Valley Investments

Durant has maximized his time in the Bay Area financially. He has started his own venture capital company which has partnered with some Silicon Valley heavyweights. His company reportedly has equity stakes in Rubrick, Acorn, Pieology, and Lime Scooters. Money does travel across state lines, but proximity and relationships matter in business. Warriors majority owner Joseph Lacob made his money in venture capital and mentors Durant in business.

I’m supposed to believe that Kevin Durant, who wants to score, win, and make money will let a couple beefs with Draymond make his life harder? Nah. I don’t buy it.

NCAA Transfer Portal is Getting Out of Control

We have covered the NCAA and its hypocritical and unfair practices extensively on Unafraid Show. I believe the players should have the right to transfer more freely and unencumbered like coaches. However, a lot of these kids are getting bad advice from their inner circles. These kids are transferring at the first sign of adversity. Right now there are nearly 1,000 players who have entered their names in the college football transfer portal. If a player enters his name in the portal, it doesn’t mean a player will transfer, schools can pull the players’ scholarship.

It is nice to say “I played as a true freshman”, but sometimes that adversity that you face by redshirting is the best thing for your growth. These young players need to understand that the push you need to achieve your dreams is often found in the struggle to get there.

Download the Podcast:

NBA: Are You Buying the Golden State Warriors “In the Building Pass” ?

What would an avid Golden State Warriors fan pay to be “In the Building” to experience the excitement of their games? Would a fan be willing to pay upwards of $2,000 for VIP seats? How about paying around $500.00 for a “decent” seat? Or would a fan be willing to pay $100.00 just to be in Oracle Area during home games (without being able to see any live action)?  This is what the Warriors are banking on with the introduction of their new “In the Building Pass.”

The “In the Building Pass” is a new subscription-based service that gives its subscribers access to Oracle Arena on home games. Subscribers can enter Oracle arena to watch the games on T.V. screens while enjoying the restaurants inside. However, subscribers will not have access to any live action.  No food or drinks is included. Fans may purchase this subscription for the low-low price of $100.00 per month. Best of the all the subscription does not include any arena access to postseason games. It is essentially paying $100 per month to say, “I was there” or so fans can get good Instagram pictures at the stadium. Is the “In the Building Pass” really worth it? 

The Worth of the “In the Building Pass” Depends on the Fan

The Warriors is arguably the NBA’s greatest team since Michael Jordan dominated with the Chicago Bulls (Bulls) in the 1990s. In fact, the Warriors beat the record held by Jordan’s Bulls for the most wins in a season in 2016. However, the 1995-1996 Bulls still reign supreme because they finished their amazing winning season with a Championship, which the Warriors were unable to do.  The Warriors fell to the Cleveland Cavilers in the 2016 NBA Finals where King James and friends pulled off the seemingly impossible. In spite of not polishing off their almost perfect season, the Warriors have remained an extremely entertaining team to watch.

Watching the Warriors is truly a unique treat.  Fans are sure to be dazzled with a myriad of unbelievable three-pointers by the Splash Brothers. Fans are sure to be entertained with spectacular dunks by Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. Is the magic of this team enough to warrant spending $100.00 per month just to be in Oracle Arena on gameday and not have the slightest glimpse of the live action? It does not seem so.  The “In the Building Pass” essentially amounts to watching the game at a bar.  Only, the bar is inside of Oracle Arena. However, this may be of value to some because this is the Warriors last season in Oracle Arena. Outside of being in the arena, there is nothing to make the subscription worth $100.00 per month. A fan could go watch the game at an Applebees and not spend anywhere near $100.00.

What Would Make the Subscription Worth It?

First, the subscription would be a better value if there was at least standing room access to view the live action. Several baseball teams offer passes that grant standing room access to view the games. Also, the subscription would be a better value if it included a drink and an appetizer for each game. Similarly, the New York Yankees offer the Pinstripes Pass that starts at $15.00. The pass includes a drink and standing room access to watch the games. However, each pass is only good for one game. If the Warriors included a drink or food and game viewing access the subscription would be a better value to view one of the most historic teams in NBA history.

NBA: Is the Warriors “In the Building Pass” Really Worth It

What would an avid Golden State Warriors fan pay to be “In the Building” to experience the excitement of their games? Would a fan be willing to pay upwards of $2,000 for VIP seats? How about paying around $500.00 for a “decent” seat? Or would a fan be willing to pay $100.00 just to be in Oracle Area during home games (without being able to see any live action)?  This is what the Warriors are banking on with the introduction of their new “In the Building Pass.”

The “In the Building Pass” is a new subscription-based service that gives its subscribers access to Oracle Arena on home games. Subscribers are able to enter Oracle arena to watch the games on T.V. screens while enjoying the restaurants inside. However, subscribers will not have access to any live action.  No food or drinks is included. Fans may purchase this subscription for the low-low price of $100.00 per month.  Best of the all the subscription does not include any arena access to postseason games.  Is the “In the Building Pass” really worth it?  

The Worth of the “In the Building Pass” Depends on the Fan

The Warriors is arguably the NBA’s greatest team since Michael Jordan dominated with the Chicago Bulls (Bulls) in the 1990s. In fact, the Warriors beat the record held by Jordan’s Bulls for the most wins in a season in 2016. However, the 1995-1996 Bulls still reign supreme because they finished their amazing winning season with a Championship, which the Warriors were unable to do.  The Warriors fell to the Cleveland Cavilers in the 2016 NBA Finals where King James and friends pulled off the seemingly impossible. In spite of not polishing off their almost perfect season, the Warriors have remained an extremely entertaining team to watch.

Watching the Warriors is truly a unique treat.  Fans are sure to be dazzled with a myriad of unbelievable three-pointers by the Splash Brothers. Fans are sure to be entertained with spectacular dunks by Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. Is the magic of this team enough to warrant spending $100.00 per month just to be in Oracle Arena on gameday and not have the slightest glimpse of the live action? It does not seem so.  The “In the Building Pass” essentially amounts to watching the game at a bar.  Only, the bar is inside of Oracle Arena. However, this may be of value to some because this is the Warriors last season in Oracle Arena. Outside of being in the arena, there is nothing to make the subscription worth $100.00 per month. A fan could go watch the game at an Applebees and not spend anywhere near $100.00.

What Would Make the Subscription Worth It?

First, the subscription would be a better value if there was at least standing room access to view the live action. Several baseball teams offer passes that grant standing room access to view the games. Also, the subscription would be a better value if it included a drink and an appetizer for each game. Similarly, the New York Yankees offer the Pinstripes Pass that starts at $15.00. The pass includes a drink and standing room access to watch the games. However, each pass is only good for one game. If the Warriors included a drink or food and game viewing access the subscription would be a better value to view one of the most historic teams in NBA history.

Interview w/Ricky Volante: Historical Basketball League Plans to Disrupt NCAA

Historical Basketball League

Educate and Compensate

Should college athletes be paid? The Historical Basketball League says yes. The HBL is a start-up basketball league that plans to disrupt the NCAA’s current economic model. It was co-founded by sports and entertainment attorney Ricky Volante and economist Andy Schwarz. The HBL plans to totally disrupt the NCAA’s system. Their aim is to give “basketball athletes a unique US-based opportunity without economic and academic exploitation.” With its inaugural season set for 2020, the HBL plans to pay their players their market value while ensuring they receive a quality education.

There are college sports fans on both sides of the debate about compensating college athletes. Opponents contend that an athletic scholarship is a sufficient compensation for the hard work that college athletes put in. They also contend that college athletes who wish to be paid should simply play where they can receive payment. Whereas, supporters contend that an athletic scholarship is not enough compensation for the billion dollar industry that the labor of college athletes propels. Until recently the only such option was to play in a professional league in another country.

In November, the HBL announced that former two-time NBA Champion David West would be joining the league as its first Chief Operating Officer (COO).  In light of this announcement, I interviewed Ricky Volante to get more insight into the HBL and exactly how it plans to take over the college basketball market by educating and compensating the players.

Kassandra: First, before we dive into the Historical Basketball League could you tell me a little about yourself?

Ricky:  I started off as an attorney based in Cleveland, Ohio working with individuals and issues related to sports, film, and music. I got the opportunity to work with a number of athletes during their professional careers. While in law school, I worked with one of the mid-major five conferences. There, I got the opportunity to see how things worked within the enforcement side of the NCAA’s amateurism rules. Those two experiences were a driving factor for me getting more involved with college sports and led to Andy and me connecting.

Kassandra:  Could you briefly explain what the Historical Basketball League is?  What Prompted you and Andy Schwarz to create the league?

Ricky:  Essentially we are building the Historical Basketball League to become the primary opportunity starting with men’s college basketball players. Initially, Andy and I came together to write an article analyzing the O’Bannon decision. During that time, we both realized a similar passion related to bringing about change within college sports. He then shared with me the original iteration of the HBL. He thought it was a way to bring about change by putting it into economist terminology.

The way he presented it was that you break up an economic cartel in four ways.  Number one is legislation. It simply is not going to happen legislatively given the current political climate. Furthermore, legislation is not going to be drafted to benefit predominately black college athletes.  Number two is litigation.  He [Andy] has been involved in White v NCAA, Obannon v NCAA, and now Alston v NCAA. In various ways, those litigations have chipped away at little pieces of the amateurism mold. However, there have not been wholesale changes to the very foundation.

Number three is an organization or unionization. This failed at Northwestern. The NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) punted on the decision and did not allow the Northwestern players to unionize. Accordingly, there are additional restrictions for students at a public university to try to unionize. Therefore, for now, that door seems closed. The only option left [to break up an economic cartel] was competition. We decided to form a league that would compete with the NCAA. Initially, we were focused on that competitive element maybe bringing about change to the NCAA. However, we have now shifted into a focal point of replacing them as the primary option for college basketball players.

Kassandra:  What is the structure of the league and how will it operate?

Ricky:  We will be structured as a single entity.  Therefore, all of the players will be employed by the HBL.  The teams will be owned by the HBL. There will be a centralized leadership group as opposed to the traditional ownership model that is employed by the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL.  For those who may not be aware, there are other single entity leagues. The NBA G-League, Major League Soccer, and Major League Lacross are single entity leagues. We are by no means inventing the wheel, we are just utilizing what is already in existence to our benefit.

There are a few reasons for doing that. One is that we want to have controlled sustained growth as opposed to the rocketship mentality of let’s see how high and how far we go and how fast we can get there.  That [mentatilty] has been the main reason for start-up leagues to ultimately crumble and fail when they try to compete with a long-standing incumbent such as the NCAA.

For both legal reasons and from a business standpoint, we wanted to have that single entity structure in place. Our league is going to be comprised of teams operating out of various cities across the country that will be closely located to a number of universities that will ultimately be providing the educational piece of our player’s compensation package.

Kassandra:  The HBL has chosen 20 potential cities to host HBL teams. How were the potential Cities Chosen?

Ricky:  We looked at a range of factors.  First and foremost we wanted cities that would be beneficial and attractive to players to live in.  Second, we wanted the teams to be in close proximity to a number of universities. With the model we are using there is no one to one match. For example, our Cleveland, Ohio team could have players [attending] Cleveland State, Case Western, Akron, and a number of other universities.  We wanted to create as many options for the players as possible. The available schools would likely play a factor in the player deciding what city to play in. Therefore, if a player always wanted to attend a certain school that player would pick the city that is closest to that school.

Also, we wanted to pick cities that we felt would be attractive to team operators, potential sponsors, and that would create an opportunity for us to grow the revenue of the league as we continue to develop.

Kassandra:  How will the final cities be selected?

Ricky:  The cities will be narrowed down from 20 to 12 on a first come first serve basis.  We are reaching out to potential team operators. Potential team operators are reaching out to us.  A team operator will be a shareholder of the HBL. The team operator will control certain elements of the team, but will not own the team.  The team operator will have access to certain other rights.  Team operators will have input on venue selection, jersey design, team name, and other things depending on how early they get involved.

Kassandra: Being that we are both from Virginia, I have to say I am pulling for Richmond, Virginia.

Ricky:  I am too. We also considered the saturation of the sports market in particular cities when we selected the potential cities.  Richmond only has a minor league baseball team and a number of universities. These facts made it sort of a perfect option for us. The city has gone through a lot of renovations in terms of infrastructure, transportation, and investment in certain developments in the area. It is a much more attractive city to live in now. However, it does not have a major sports team to latch on to as a city. This is why Richmond is one of our primary choices even though people may not think of it as a first thought city when it comes to sports.

Kassandra:  Originally the HBL wanted to get schools, specifically Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to participate in the league. Is that still a goal?

Ricky:  We wanted to keep the HBCU element alive as best we could.  Selecting cities that were near HBCUs was another factor we considered. Our southeastern cities are areas where HBCUs are clustered together. However, this is a pretty drastic shift from what the original plan was where the teams would be the universities’. That plan is long since gone.  We ultimately decided that as the new entrant into the market we needed be agile and able to move very quickly. For good reason, institutions of higher education do not have that ability because there is a lot of bureaucracy and red-tape. We decided that to create the best atmosphere and product for our players, we did not want to have the direct involvement of higher education in our leadership team.

However, we do still view institutions as a huge resource and opportunity for our players from an educational standpoint. It is essentially divided up. Universities are going to handle the educational side. We will handle the commercialized sports side. Everybody gets to stick to their strengths. In short, is there a direct link to HBCUs in our current model? No. However, we picked cities with that [HBCUs] in mind. Hopefully, a number of our players will be attending HBCUs while playing for the HBL.

Kassandra:  Since you moved away from the schools to the city model, what are the Title IX ramifications? Are there any?

Ricky:  I suppose we will not have the answer until we are truly up and running. As of today, we are very comfortable with the idea that the money we put into scholarships for our players is unlikely to be subject to Title IX. However, if it is we are not shying away from the possibility of doing a matching donation to an institution. However, I do not think it will be a problem.

Kassandra:  What has been some of the challenges in creating the HBL?

Ricky:  Undercapitalization is the biggest challenge for any startup, and we are no different.  However, with the addition of David [West], we are very quickly getting over that hurdle. Our biggest hurdle to date was the question of  – who is your basketball person? Andy, myself, the advisory board, and others who have been involved have great minds within sports business. However, no one played in the NBA or played college basketball as far as I am aware.  This was a continuous criticism. We were faced with the question of how could we look a family in the eye and say we know what is best for you in your basketball career? Therefore, it became my primary focus to answer that question.  David was at the top of my short list from day one.

Kassandra:  How did you get David West involved? What do you hope to gain from his involvement?

Ricky: I believe I waited all of seven minutes after he announced his retirement to begin the reach out process. We were very lucky to get him on board. Now we are able to say don’t take it from us, take it from this gentleman who played four years at Xavier, who had a successful 15-year career in the NBA, and who is a two-time NBA Champion with a college degree. 

Furthermore, David and his brother run one of the top AAU programs in the country. Therefore, he is intimately tied to the grassroots basketball community at the high school level. He is a “pros pro.”  You can ask anybody in the league whether, in the front office or players who played with or against him, everyone has a great deal of respect for David.  David thinks holistically about the development of players, bringing together both the basketball and educational side. David checks a lot of boxes that we did not have checked before getting him on board.

Kassandra:  Are there any other big names to fill any other positions in the works?

Ricky:  I do not know about filling positions per se within our leadership team.  However, as far as the next big names go, we are primarily focused on the first team operator, first team coach, and the first player.  We want to make big splashes with each of those firsts.

Kassandra:  Do you foresee issues with getting athletes interested in the HBL with the NBA G-League’s new program?

Background: This fall the NBA announced an alternative to college basketball for elite men’s basketball players. Elite players will have the option of receiving a “select-contract” valued at $125,000 to play in the NBA G-League.

Ricky: I do not see it as an issue for us. Most people have portrayed this as a potential negative for us, but I view it as a positive.  First and foremost, it proved that our compensation range is right on the mark. We were publicly saying that $50,000-$100,000 would be our salary range.  We had internally discussed exceeding $100,00 in the right situation.   Shortly after the G-League announced the $125,000 “select-contract” we announced our maximum salary range would increase to $150,000. In a way, it set the market for us and validated what we were thinking from an economic and business standpoint.

I appreciate the G-League providing another option for players, but it is still playing into the false choice of education or compensation. We are focused on education and compensation. Being that we are offering education and a higher maximum salary than the G-Leauge, we will be an attractive option to players. When you compare the cities that we are going to be in with the cities that the G-League is in, our cities will likely be more attractive to players looking to build a brand.

Kassandra:  The players will be able to be represented by agents. Is the HBL going to have its own certification process for agents?

Ricky:  We are going to have a certification program for HBL agents. Agents often get a bad reputation. There are some bad apples out there. However, not all agents are bad. Since the players are at a very vulnerable time in the life, we are going to have protections in place. We are going to do our best to protect the players.  Also, we are going to have a certification process for financial advisors as well. The NFLPA has a registration system for financial advisors, and we will have a similar program to ensure that we know who is helping with the financial management of our players.

Kassandra:  Where do you see the HBL in five years?

Ricky: I would like to see us up to between 24 and 30 teams.  I would like to see us crossing into at least the $500 million and potentially 1 billion dollar threshold in terms of revenue generated by the league. Hopefully, by year five, we will be the primary destination of 50 or more percent of the top 25 players every year from every recruiting class.

Also, five years down the road our first recruiting class will have graduated. Hopefully, every one of our players whether in the NBA, in an international league, or doing something outside of basketball will be having a successful career. An outcome for us is not limited to success in the NBA. If we have a player who plays for us for five years and graduates with a four-year degree and a master degree who starts his own business with the salary received from the HBL, that would be a wonderful outcome as well.

Kassandra: What is the HBL Foundation?

Ricky:  The HBL foundation website launched on Tuesday, November 27th. The foundation is primarily focused on providing educational opportunities, resources, and support for students in need that are often overlooked.  The foundation will have both an athlete scholarship fund and a business of sports scholarship fund for non-athletes looking to enter sectors that service the sports world. Sectors such as athletic training, journalism, or sports management.

Unfortunately, in the current system, if you accept a traditional college athletic scholarship, it comes with a lot of ties that are often detrimental to the player. The player has to maintain both academic and athletic eligibility. This often means that the player cannot get a job to cover any cost the player or the player’s family may have while in college.  It also means that the player is pretty much at the mercy of their coach. We want to create an alternative option where our scholarship fund (both the one for athletes and for non-athletes) can cover that cost of attendance.

The foundation will also create original content. The content will be for middle and high school students who are preparing for athletic careers in college and those who wish to pursue a sports-related major.   We are excited about being able to create that content and make it easily accessible and free to people that would otherwise be overlooked.

Kassandra:  Do you have a funny story that you experienced while creating the HBL that you would like to share?

Ricky:  I have a few. While David [West] was making his final decision as to whether he was going to join the HBL he presented at a conference. Afterward, a woman came up to him and told him a story about unlikely allies. It is now a rather amusing thing between David and me for the following reasons. David finished his career in Oakland playing for the Golden State Warriors. Andy lives in the bay area and is a Warriors fan. I live in Cleveland and am a Cavaliers fan.

During the entire development of the HBL, it has been the Warriors and the Cavs in every NBA finals. Andy and I have had a running rivalry. The very thought that it would be somebody on the Golden State Warriors who beat my Cavs the last two years who would end up working with the HBL and helping us move to the next level is funny. Furthermore, it makes David’s story about unlikely allies rather fitting.  I found it to be very amusing for what ultimately happened.