Posted on: June 25, 2009 4:43 pm

Shaq Will Taint LeBron James' Legacy

He’s been known as “the Big Diesel.”

He’s been called “Superman,” “Shaq-Daddy,” and most recently “the Big Shaqtus.”

Now that former Suns center Shaquille O’Neal has been officially traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, fans can add another nickname to his growing list of many:

"The Big Crutch."

Whether he chooses to acknowledges this or not, Shaquille O’Neal will be forever remembered as a great big man who can only win with the help of a bona-fides superstar.

Dating back to his early years with the Orlando Magic, Shaq has never won anything by himself. He won three rings with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and another with Dwayne Wade in Miami.

Of course in today’s self-serving world of professional sports, Shaq won’t be remembered as the man who needed a superstar help him win a ring.

Shaq will be remembered as the man who helps superstars win rings.

Which brings us to an all-world superstar in LeBron James.

Yes LeBron James – the man who desperately needs a championship to solidify himself among the games’ greats. The man who has single-handedly carried a franchise on his shoulders in pursuit of NBA glory.

The man, who has never played with a comparable NBA star.

All that has seemingly changed with the arrival of the Big Aristotle.

Now LeBron is paired with Shaq, he will be expected to win an NBA title. There will be no more excuses, complaints, or long stories. James finally has that elusive big man that helped Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant win championships, so James should have no problem winning a ring of his own.

There’s just one problem: this isn’t the same Shaq.

“LA Shaq” is different from “Miami Shaq” who was slightly better than “Pheonix Shaq” who looks nothing like “LeBron’s Shaq.”

Shaquille O’Neal, who will turn 38 before next years’ playoff series, is exactly what he is – a 38-year-old NBA center. As great as he has been over the years, neither Cleveland or LeBron James should realistically expect a 38-year-old center to take them where they could not go before,

For James and the Cavaliers, Shaq’s arrival creates a two-sided dilemma.

If by some change a healthy and motivated Shaq does help LeBron James win a championship, he will immediately receive the Kobe Bryant treatment. Shaq will be forever associated with LeBron as the crutch James used to attain the greatness he could not achieve on his own.

There will be talk of LeBron “never winning the big one” by himself, which will tarnish his image and further talks of his inferiority to one Kobe Bryant.

If LeBron is not able to win a ring with Shaq, he will be viewed as the lone superstar who couldn’t get the job done with a hall of fame center in Shaquille O’Neal.

There will be talk of LeBron’s failing where others have succeeded, which will tarnish his image and further talks of his inferiority to one Kobe Bryant.

Regardless of how next season turns out, LeBron James will face criticism. Win or lose, James will forever be associated with Shaquille O’Neal, and his legacy will be forever tainted because of it.

By asking management to go after Shaq, LeBron has sealed his fate for the next few years.

An that in and of itself is a “Big Mistake”.

Posted on: January 12, 2009 12:20 am
Edited on: January 12, 2009 12:35 am

Top 10 Favorite Cleveland Browns of All-Time

In the context of casual conversation, I am frequently asked, "who is your favorite Cleveland Browns' player?" My immediate response to that question is usually along the lines of, 

"I love the team and enjoy the players."

Cliche, I know - but it's true. Even for a team that has caused nothing but heartbreak and disappointment, I can't help but love them all. Any football player who willingly sacrifices his body and plays with passion for my city has a place in my heart regardless. With that said, there have been players over time that have stepped up to the plate and defined what it means to be a Cleveland Brown. Today I recognize those players that make me so proud to support this organization.

Before I get to this list, I must say it was extremely difficult coming up with only 10. When names like Eric Metcalf, Clay Matthews, Brady Quinn, and Otto Graham don't even crack the list, you know it must have been a tough cut.

Without further ado, Sircheeks presents: My Top 10 Favorite Cleveland Browns of All-Time.

10. Ozzie Newsome (1978-1990)

There's no disputing Ozzie Newsome as the greatest tight end in Cleveland Browns' history. Ozzie spent his entire career with the Browns and highlighted some of those high scoring teams in the early 80s. Newsome has virtually seen it all with the team as he was one of the few players around for "Red-Right 88," "The Drive," and "The Fumble." He was an intrical piece of the Cardiac Kids and was a huge reason Cleveland football was respected so greatly during his day. Ozzie would have been significantly lower had that whole Ravens' GM thing never occurred. Through no fault of his own, I harbor a minor grudge against Newsome, but his exploits as a player were great enough to land him at the number 10 spot.

9. Pepper Johnson (1993-1995)

Johnson makes this list because of not only who he was, but what he represented. Pepper Johnson was an all-American linebacker who graduated from Ohio State University. After learning the game from Bill Parcells in New York, he followed Bill Belichick to Cleveland where he played for the Browns. According to a fantastic book written by David Halberstam, Belichick described Pepper Johnson as a quick, smart, well rounded linebacker who was good in pass coverage and got along well with his teammates. If you asked me what kind of player best represents the prototypical Browns linebacker - that would be it. Johnson makes this list not only because of his collegiate connection to the hometown team, but because he played the game the right way...and for the right people.

8. Courtney Brown (2000-2004)

Ahh yes, Courtney Brown. You never forget your first love, and Courtney Brown was certainly mine. Back when he was drafted with the number one overall selection in the 2000 NFL draft, I fell in love. Brown had the size, reputation, speed, and draft status to transform the Browns' defense into something fierce. In addition to that, he carried that surname which lead me to believe it was a match made in heaven. I was wrong. Courtney Browns was the first real disappointment I experienced on a first-hand basis. For years I pulled for this guy - hoping he would live up to his full potential. Courtney teased me in return - showing flashes of dominance at times while remaining injured on the sidelines at others. Courtney represents my first personal encounter with frustration, and for that he finds his way on this list.

7. Lawrence Vickers (2006-present)

From one man-crush, we go to another. Man, I love me some Vickers! The thing about Lawrence is he plays a position synonymous with Cleveland Browns football, and boy does he play it well. In a league where fullbacks should be monitored and bred on reservations, Vickers plays that hard-nosed position with that old school determination rare in today's game. Though he was never a graceful runner like his Brownie ancestors, Vickers is one of the most punishing blockers the NFL has seen in quite some time. The Cleveland Browns' tradition is built on excellent fullback play, and nothing comforts me more than knowing we still have one of the games' best. Vickers' selflessness and immense talent land him at the number 7 spot, but he very well could be lower if properly utilized.

6. Bernie Kosar (1985-1993)

I prefer to remember Bernie Kosar as the clumsy young quarterback who sent Cleveland to the brink of several championships instead of the man he is today. Kosar does commentary for preseason games, and seems pale and lifeless at times. The man I see on NFL Films and read about was nothing of the sort. Bernie and the Browns gave Cleveland their last taste of excellent football, and for that I could not be more appreciative. The teams he quarterbacked were the most memorable ones in recent history, and he gave youngsters like myself something to refer to for those unaware of his predecessors. My only regret was not being able to see Bernie work his magic with my own eyes. I'm a bit jealous for that reason, which is why Kosar ends up where he is on this list.

5. D'Qwell Jackson (2006-present)

D'Qwell Jackson is a budding star. On a roster where physicality and toughness come at a premium, Jackson brings both on every play. There are very few things or even players to cheer about on today's incarnation of the Browns. We have superstar athletes who lack focus, linebackers who don't tackle, and safeties who shy away from contact. This is precisely why I hold D'Qwell is such high regard: he plays the game properly. His game is still slightly raw and he does make the occasional mistake, but he hustles on every single play. D'Qwell ends up at the 5 spot because he gives me hope for a brighter future. I sincerely hope the attitude and character Jackson exibits on a daily basis permeates every inch of this roster. The Browns have a great football player in D'Qwell Jackson, and I couldn't be happier he wears brown and orange.

4. Bill Willis (1946-1953)

What more could you ask for out of a football player? Willis not only excelled as a defensive lineman at Ohio State, but played his entire Hall of Fame career with the Cleveland Browns. Willis was born and raised in the blue collar town of Columbus and played football for Paul Brown at both the collegiate and professional levels. Bill Willis played today's eqivilant of nose tackle in the Browns' formidable seasons. Under his coach, Willis was named all-pro in each of his 8 seasons in the league. He was instrumental in making Ohio football what it is, and his brand of football left a lasting legacy on countless people after him. In addition to his sensational credentials, Willis makes this list for what he went through as one of the first two African Americans to play in the National Football League. His courage and perseverance revolutionized the NFL and opened the door for thousands of minority athletes to enjoy the privilages they do today.

3. Lou Groza (1946-1959, 1961-1967)

Football analysts and broadcasters joke that kickers are not athletes and have no place on the football field. Such a statement is ironic because Lou "The Toe" Groza was one of the greatest athletes in the NFL who happened to be a kicker. Groza, like Bill Willis, was an Ohio product who played at Ohio State and helped establish the tradition of Ohio football. Groza is one of my favorite football players because he was hands down the most versatile player of his era. Groza spent his entire career playing both kicker and offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns. Think about that for a second - kicker and tackle! Could you imagine Joe Thomas or D'Brickashaw Ferguson blocking for an entire game only to kick a game winning field goal as time expires? Absurd. Groza's kicks were a huge part of Cleveland's championship run in the 1950's, and I admire him because of it.

2. Marion Motley (1946-1953)

I laugh when I hear Steelers fans argue Jerome Bettis or Franco Harris invented the power running game. Far from it. If Jerome Bettis is the modern day bus, Marion Motley is the British 1916 Mark-I Tank developed for usage in WWI. To call Marion Motley a bruiser is an understatement. Motley simply abused would-be tacklers, pounding away as the opposition until they quivered with fear. The offense behind Cleveland's dynasty had to come somewhere, and that place was on the back of Motley. To put it in contemporary terms, Marion Motley had the strength of Brandon Jacobs, the vision of LaDainian Tomlinson, the moves of Adrian Peterson, and the determination of Marion Barber. He was that good. In addition to shouldering the load for the Browns, Motley carried another burden with him - bigotry. Motley was the one who broke the color barrier in football along with Bill Willis. My appreciation of his efforts stems far deeper than what he did for the Cleveland Browns.

1. Jim Brown (1957-1965)

The Packers, Rams, 49ers, the Packers again, and the Steelers all passed on Jim Brown in the 1957 NFL Draft. Such fools. I can say with 100% certainty that Jim Brown is the greatest football player to ever play the game...ever. There's no reason for me to describe Jim Brown as a runner. I could talk about his 3 NFL MVP awards, his 5.2 yards per carry career average, or how he made the Pro Bowl in each of his 9 seasons in the league, but it would never do justice to the enigma that is Jim Brown. What's more frightening is he retired at age 29 - clearly in the prime of his career. Jim Brown is the ultimate Cleveland Brown. A living legend, there is no player that did more for this organization than Brown, and he is far and away my favorite Cleveland Brown to ever play the game. 

So there you have it.

The Cleveland Browns have a history rich in tradition and filled with some of the greatest players to ever play the game. The tradition established by the likes of Brown, Groza, Willis and others is simply remarkable. Although the Browns have fallen on hard times of late, the rich history provided by these marquee athletes makes me proud to be a Browns fan.
Posted on: October 6, 2008 3:00 am
Edited on: October 6, 2008 4:02 am

LeBron James: King or Traitor?

We Are All Witnesses

Or at least during the NBA season. Throughout every other time in the year, Cleveland sports fans are nothing more than sources of admiration and revenue for a man who is widely regarded as the face of the city.

That's right folks, I'm talking about LeBron James - the self-proclaimed King of Cleveland.

Now let me start off by saying I have nothing against LeBron James personally or even as an athlete. He is easily the most talented superstar ever to don a Cleveland uniform in the past 20 or maybe even 30 years. When it's all said and done, James may very well be the best basketball player of all time. LeBron has contributed so much to the city of Cleveland - both in reputation and financial gain that it's hard to hate the guy. For everything we owe him, I have only one small problem:

LeBron James hates Cleveland.

I say this with a great deal of caution. James does not hate Cleveland in the Braylon Edwards joking sense, but rather an I don't give a crap how you feel sense.

For the few who do not know, LeBron James is not only a die-hard Yankees fan, but a Dallas Cowboys fan as well. Those two facts, while painful in their own right, are not enough to draw this particular writer's ire. Athletes are imported from across the country, so obviously pre-determined allegiances to foreign sports franchises are a given. The issue with James is he does such a good job of rubbing that in our faces.

LeBron James supports both the Cowboys and Yankees.

Flashback to the year 2003. James was selected as the first overall pick in the NBA draft and Cleveland was ecstatic. A phenomenal talent who grew up two hours from city limits was drafted with the hopes of turning our most lowly franchise around. James was a young, charismatic, and charming star who we all embraced as our own. It was a match made in heaven.

Over the next five years, James did little to disappoint. His stellar play on the field and his impeccable reputation off lifted the Cavaliers from the depths of obscurity into the national spotlight.

And we supported him.

According to Neil Schwartz of Sports Scan Info, LeBron James' rookie jersey sales were far and away the most popular of any basketball player, grossing 1.5 million sales in his first year. To put that in perspective, James' 1.5 million jerseys sold in 2004 amounts to 5,542 sales...per day. Carmello Anthony, second in sales, recorded 630,000 sales that year - not even half of LeBron's figure.

So season after season passed, and Cleveland was still enamored with the local hero. LeBron remained the affable young man who brought this city to the brink of championship gold. No one questioned King James or his loyalty until a little over one year ago.

On October 3rd, 2008 the Cleveland Indians hosted the hated New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS, and our beloved basketball King made an appearance at the game. Prior to the game, James was quoted on Saturday Night Live as saying that he would openly spurn the Indians by cheering for the New York Yankees.

And true to form, James did not disappoint.

LeBron showed up at the game in a fresh Yankee fitted - much to the chagrin of Cleveland fans. James flaunted his hat - at one point taking it off and holding it above his head for all the crowd to see. The controversial incident was discussed at length on local television, radio, and newspaper shows - with opinions varying on the alleged offense. No general consensus was reached, and the incident died down as soon as it arose.

Three weeks ago we all had the privilege of seeing LeBron James once again outside of Quicken Loans Arena. This time, it was James schmoozing it up with members of the Dallas Cowboys on the visiting sidelines at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

I understand everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that is taking it too far. Why should LeBron spurn the fans who have shown him nothing but loyalty and support since his arrival to the NBA? We are the ones who spend hard earned dollars to support his team, yet he openly snubs ours.

We wear his apparel and he doesn't wear ours.
We root for him and he roots for our opponents.

Question: Which two things here do not belong?

There is absolutely no reason why LeBron James needs to cause such a stir. How does it make us look as fans when we are so loyal to a man who seemingly only cares about himself? Pretty bad, I'll say.

Even if you love the Yankees and Cowboys, why not downplay that fact?  Whether James realizes it or not, image and loyalty mean something to sports fans. 30 years from now when we're discussing LeBron's legacy in Cleveland sports history, it may be tainted due to this stupid show of arrogance.

And it gets worse.

LeBron's latest shoe, the AirZoom V, is covered in navy and white pinstripes: clearly an homage to his love for the Yankees.

You know what? If LeBron really wants to take a bite out of the Big Apple and chooses to leave Cleveland, so be it. The last thing I want to see is James pull a Brett Favre and hold the city hostage for whatever dollar figure he sees fit. A departure from C-Town would immediately destroy the surreal nature of his career and personality, as well as annihilate any legendary status he may garner. James would go from beloved icon to another athlete in search of fame and fortune.

Since LeBron wants to be "Like Mike," why not follow in Jordan's footsteps and at least try to get along with a city clearly in love with you? Never once can I recall seeing Michael Jordan attend a Chicago Bears' game while fully clad in a Packers' gear...

Only time will tell, but these recent backlashes at Cleveland sports teams sure look like the start of a tumultuous relationship. Hopefully LeBron wises up and protects his image from further damage. I would hate for something so simple to put a black mark on a storybook career and legacy.

LeBron James hates Cleveland, and if this continues Cleveland just may hate LeBron too.

  1. "LeBron spurns Tribe, sports Yankee Cap" Official Major League Baseball Website, Accessed October 6, 2008 http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp
  2. "A Yankee fan from head to toe" Cleveland Plain Dealer, Accessed October 6, 2008 http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index
  3. "New school rookies top NBA jersey sales" ESPN.com, ESPN Internet Ventures, Accessed on October 6, 2008 http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/spor
Posted on: September 2, 2008 5:07 pm

Cleveland versus Detroit - A Rivalry?

This one has been in the makings since 1952.

Cleveland and Detroit are two cities intertwined in a brutal sports grudge match that has been in the works for over 60 years. The past and present of these two cities only leads me to believe that we as sports fans are on the cusp of a fierce rivalry - the likes of which no one has ever seen.

In order to break down a potentially competitive rivalry, it is necessary to understand the two things that make any rivalry truly bitter: history and similarity.

I'll start with the latter.

Cleveland and Detroit are eerily similar to one another. Both are lakefront cities, both have all three major sports team (NFL, NBA, and MLB), and both cities claim a strong tie to Rock & Roll, music, and fatty foods. In addition to their passion for the respective collegiate programs, these two cities share in social problems such as poverty, education, schooling, and obesity.

For a closer look at the two contenders, I present the tale of the tape:

Cleveland, Ohio

  • Age: 212 years old
  • Weight: State Ranked 17th in TheCalorieLab's most obese state poll in 2008
  • Famous Food: Cleveland Roast Beef Sandwich
  • Rulership: Monarchy (King LeBron James I )
  • MLB: Cleveland Indians
  • NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers
  • NFL: Cleveland Browns
  • NHL: (none)
  • Total Championships: 10 (8 Browns, Cavs 0, 2 Indians)
Detroit, Michigan
  • Age: 307 years old
  • Weight: State Ranked 10th in TheCalorieLab's most obese state poll in 2008
  • Famous Food: Cooney Island Dogs, Detroit Square Pizza
  • Rulership: Democracy (?) (President George Bush)
  • MLB: Detroit Tigers
  • NBA: Detroit Pistons
  • NFL: Detroit Lions
  • NHL: Detroit Red Wings
  • Total Championships: 29 (9 Lions, Red Wings 11, Pistons 5, Tigers 4)

As you can see, both cities have significant achievements over each other - with Cleveland holding the edge in rulership and Detroit countering with total number of championships. The battle is close enough that we need to look to the second category to find out who holds the edge in this most heated rivalry - history.

Cleveland Browns versus Detroit Lions

The Browns and Lions might actually have the most bitter historical feud of the contrasting teams. Buried away a long time ago in the history books is arguably one of the most intense competitions in pro-sports.

During the early 1950s, when soul patches and top hats were the order of the day, the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns stood atop the football universe. The Cleveland Browns from the AAFC (All-American Football Conference) were the juggernauts of their league and finally merged into the NFL. Awaiting the Browns were none other than the heavyweights of NFL at the time, you guessed it, the Detroit Lions.

These two franchises met for the first time in the 1952 title game, which resulted in a 17-7 Detroit victory for the 1952 NFL Championship. A year later, the two teams clashed once again - the outcome closer with a similar result, a 17-16 Lions victory.

Cleveland won NFL championships in 1954 and 1955 - to go along with the one they achieved in their inaugural season in 1950. Had the Browns defeated the Lions in '52 and '53, it would have marked the single greatest championship run in sports - with the Browns capturing the league title 5 times in a 6 year span.

Currently, this particular rivalry has lost steam due to confrontations limited to at least one preseason game per year and the general poor play of the two teams. The Browns and Lions have clashed this off-season with the Browns sending a 3rd round draft choice and Leigh Bodden to the Motor City in exchange for former Lions first round pick Shaun Rogers.

Also, Cleveland superstar Braylon Edwards is a Michigan native and attended the University of Michigan where he excelled as one of the best players in school history.

Cleveland Indians versus Detroit Tigers

Indians/Tigers is intense. The rivalry here stems from the fact that both teams normally contend for the AL Central Division Crown. Each series draws a significant amount of passion, as something normally is at stake for the winner. With baseball's American League being what it is with the big-market powerhouses to the east, the best chance either team has of winning is through the divisional title.

The past few years have seen the Indians and the Tigers flip flop for divisional superiority. Since each city has a passionate baseball fanbase, it can be argued that the brewing resentment is just waiting to erupt into full-blown hatred.

Cleveland Cavaliers versus Detroit Pistons

To my knowledge, this one is by far the most physical. Previous seasons are marred with hard fouls, clutch performances, and embarrassing dunks. With the Cavs still searching for their first NBA title, the Pistons' success in 2004 over the Cavs in route to their 5th NBA Championship only adds fuel to an already ferocious fire.

Cavaliers' management took the Detroit rivalry a step further by printing and advertising Crimson "Beat Detroit" shirts that were used in '06 in support of the Cavs and the Indians who were locked in a fierce race for the Central Crown.

Michigan versus Ohio State

Two main cities with a football hatred dating back to 1897. I think this one speaks for itself.

So there you have it.

Two cities, multiple teams spanning all along the sports and history universe. While few make anything of it now, don't be surprised if the Cleveland-Detroit feud escalates into one of the most heated rivalries in all of professional sports.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com