The Oklahoma City Thunder: A Young Team on the Rise

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Oklahoma City Thunder logo

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A few years back hurricane Katrina barreled through New Orleans leaving buildings crushed and families without homes. The NBA franchise, the New Orleans Hornets, were left without a home court as well, when the stadium suffered major damage and was used as a makeshift shelter for residents after the storm hit. The Hornets moved to Oklahoma for two seasons and were embraced by the locals and had success, but the move was only temporary.

A new beginning:

After the Hornets returned to New Orleans the Oklahoma sports scene took a hit. In 2008, Oklahoma was awarded a franchise of their own when the Seattle Super Sonics moved to Oklahoma City. The team changed its name to the Oklahoma City Thunder and drafted some great young talent that is preparing to take the entire league by storm.

There are four young players that make up the core of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The hope is that this talented group will lead the franchise to a number of rings in the near future as they grow and gain experience on and off the court.

The leaders of the pack:

Kevin Durant is the face of the franchise and one of the best scorers in the NBA. He’s one of those players you watch and expect to see at least three or four plays a game that will completely amaze you. He is a smooth player who glides across the court, has a pure jump shot, and can handle the ball like a shooting guard. The fact that he is 6’10” with long arms isn’t even fair for anybody who has the unenviable assignment of trying to guard him.

If Kevin Durant is Batman then Russell Westbrook would be Robin. The athletic point guard is feared by opponents for his ability to get to the basket and finish over bigger opponents with rim shaking dunks. He is the second option for the Thunder and is given the green light by head coach Scott Brooks to make plays for the team. James Harden and Serge Ibaka are two other young players who continue to improve every year and will see their roles with the team continue to expand.

The Thunder went from not making the playoffs to winning their division title. Last season they were bounced from the playoffs by the eventual champions. The next step for them is to win the NBA championship.

Goals put on hold:

If you follow the NBA you surely know that the league is currently facing a lockout that keeps players from working out at their teams facilities or playing in games. It’s a depressing time for fans of the NBA and people who work at the arenas and own businesses in the surrounding areas. It is a difficult and anxious time for many as the players and franchise owners continue to meet and try to work out a new deal that both sides agree on.

During this lockout period the players have adopted the mantra, “basketball never stops,” and have set up a number of All-Star charity games across the country. A new tournament is being put together now that will have players on a world tour playing exhibition games in Australia, Macau, and London among other stops. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden have all been playing in these games and improving their skills. When the NBA season resumes the Thunder look like they will be ready to take the next step.

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  • Published: Oct 12th, 2011
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Famous Tennis Players: Profile of Andy Roddick

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Andy Roddick at the 2009 US Open

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When it comes to American tennis, Andy Roddick has been the lone hope for men’s tennis success on the ATP tour.  American tennis fans have been spoiled over the years with incredible amounts of talent.  After Sampras, Agassi, Connors, and other greats, we’ve become greedy for more quality tennis players.  Roddick has proved a solid player, but he hasn’t been able to live up to these great expectations.  Aside from his single US Open title, Roddick has been unable to capture any other major tournament trophies.  His modus operandi has been consistency over the years, rather than big victories.  Roddick nears the end of a great career where he has been a permanent fixture in the top ten, but his inability to win big titles has been frustrating for both him and the American fans.

The Andy Roddick Tennis Game and Serve

Roddick is among the greatest tennis players famous for their serves.  The Roddick serve was consistently the biggest of his day, often nearing 140 mph.  His serve at 155 mph held the record for fastest until Ivo Karlovic one upped him with a 156 mph one.  Serving has always been a staple of the Roddick game, but it has made him terribly one dimensional.  The American was once regarded as a heavy hitter–though his weapons no longer pack the punch they once did.  The forehand is less effective and powerful, while players in the men’s game have grown used to heavy hitting and Roddick’s power isn’t quite as special as it once was.  His serve is still a weapon, but it is a rarity for him to be able to back up powerful serving with consistent returns.

It was only a few years ago that Roddick’s game was a fierce proposition on the grass at Wimbledon.  He exhibited incredible performances reaching back to back finals, only to be dismissed by an unbeatable Roger Federer.  In an era without such a dominant grass player it’s almost certain that Roddick would have secured at least one Wimbledon title.

No longer is Roddick able to push opponents around the baseline with his ground strokes.  He has transitioned from different coaches over the years (Gilbert and Connors recently) finally settling on Larry Stefanki.  Stefanki’s resume is nothing short of spectacular, having coached players like McEnroe, Rios, and Kafelnikov.  The adjustment for Roddick has been to mix up his game more.  He realizes that he cannot compete in long and drawn out baseline rallies.  Smart and aggressive tennis is the only option left for success.  Well timed tactical ventures to the net are now a common part of the Roddick game.  Stefanki, and others, have brought Roddick’s game to a strategic level that really eclipses his former self.  The problem is that the power of the men’s game has passed Roddick by.  While he can no longer hang in rallies with big hitters, he must find solutions in difficult shot combinations and consistent execution.

Roddick’s Future Goals

At 30 Roddick has a few good years left if he stays in top condition.  From this point in his career it is unlikely he can still vie for grand slam titles against the likes of Djokovic, but that doesn’t mean he can’t continue to compete at a high level.  It’s unfortunate for Roddick that he has recently fallen out of the top eight.  This drop will exclude him from the end of the year ATP World Tour Finals held in London.   The next few years will see Roddick take down a handful of smaller titles on hard court tennis surfaces to add to an already impressive resume.  Unfortunately for Roddick, American tennis fans will continue to be unsatisfied with such results.

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  • Published: Sep 27th, 2011
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How Many Different Competitions Are Part of An Olympic Pentathlon?

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Olympic schedule (Competitions) Modern pentathlon

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The Olympic Pentathlon consists of five different sporting events. The modern pentathlon is composite event which tests the endurance, strength, timing, precision and skill of an athlete. The events are performed consecutively in a predetermined order. The modern Olympic events include swimming, shooting, equestrian, fencing and running. Women did not participate in pentathlon until the 1970’s and the first world championship was not held until 1980. The Olympic Pentathlon excluded women from the event until the year 2000 when women took part in Sydney, Australia. However, this is only one feature where modern pentathlon differs from the Ancient Olympiad version first held in the year 708 B.C.

Besides the fact that the ancient competitors competed without any clothing, the events were the discus throw, long jump, javelin throw, foot race and wrestling. Wrestling and running were considered individual events as well, while javelin, discus, and long jump were considered only as part as the pentathlon series. Although a few events are ancient versions of contests held today, the rules and methods were quite different.

Wrestling was held in a sand pit out side of the stadium. The opponents covered themselves in oil and dust, and grappled each other to the ground without striking each other. As an individual event, there were three different categories of competitors: boys, youth, and adult men.

The rest of the events were held inside of the stadium. There were four different foot races. One foot race was raced wearing armor while the other races varied in length. The javelin, which was as thin as a forefinger, had a leather grip for the athlete to grasp in the middle of a wooden stick with a metal point. The discus area much much smaller than today. Each athlete was allowed five throws for each the javelin and discus. The long jump was made more complicated as weights of stone or metal were to the person with the idea that the weight would propel him further.

Fortunately, the modern Olympic Pentathlon has progressed in the sporting events themselves, the inclusion of female competition, and the dress code. Today’s Olympic Pentathlon is based on the modern pentathlon concept developed in the 19th century based on the strength and endurance training of the military. Modern pentathlon was introduced to the Olympics in 1912.

Today’s Olympic Pentathlon, the next which will be occurring in London, England during the 100th Year Celebration of the Modern Olympic Pentathlon, the five events will take place within a single day. Until the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the events were held over a four to five day schedule. For the first time, the running and shooting elements will be held in combination. This will be held in Greenwich Park, while fencing will be held in the handball arena and the swimming events take place at the aquatic center. With only one medal event at stake, 36 men and 36 women will compete to determine the winner of day in courage, self-discipline and physical fitness.

It is widely stated that Aristotle remarked that the body of a pentathlon athlete was the most beautiful as it combined both elements of strength and endurance.

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The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals 2011

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Juan Martín del Potro at the 2009 US Open

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As the tennis season comes to a close, the last big tournament of the year is the special qualification event in London.  The ATP Barclays is unique because the draw is limited to the top eight players in the ATP tour rankings for the year.  This means that we get to witness an event that exhibits the best players who have been performing well all year long.  The draw isn’t like a normal tournament, instead it begins with round robin play that eliminates half the field.  The semi finals and finals are played in a more standard fashion, but the quality of tennis always promises to be incredible.  Players have direct incentive for each match because the  point and prize distribution for the Barclays tennis tournament depends on each individual victory.

Looking Back at the ATP Finals 2010

The tournament last year ended up in a heated final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.  Federer had something to prove after having a less than stellar year, and prove it he did.  He took down Nadal, who was ranked number one at the time, in three fantastic sets.  The Barclays world tour finals is one event that Nadal has never managed to win.  One problem is that the indoor hard court surface does not suit his defensive game.  Players are able to take advantage by being aggressive and stepping into the Spaniard’s high and looping shots.  Federer on the other hand added another tally to his resume, making the ATP Barclays 2010 his 5th year end championship title.

The ATP Barclays 2011 Preview

This years ATP final will have a lot of familiar faces.  The “big four” as they’ve been nicknamed consist of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Murray.  All of these players were in the event last year, but the dynamic has changed significantly.  Djokovic should be a huge favorite for this ATP final crown considering the incredible season he has had–if he plays.  The aggressive plays and shot making produced by the Novak Djokovic racquet this year has made the season a competition for second place.  The Serbian, however, was sidelined recently by a back injury he suffered in Davis Cup play against the Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro.  It’s questionable whether he will make a full recovery in time to see competition at London in November.  If he does play at full speed it isn’t likely anyone will be able to touch him.  The fast hard courts are so well suited to his game that his main competitor, Nadal, will be at a monstrous disadvantage against him.

Barclays Tennis Comes to London

The final tour event of the year is held in London, home court advantage Murray.  Andy Murray still hasn’t broken through to win a grand slam title yet, but he has persevered as the solid number four player the entire year.  His main problem though is that he can’t crack any of those top three players.  Not a good weakness to have in a tournament where those players make up  37.5% of the field.  To win here would be a big boost for Murray and he could really use it.  The surface isn’t bad for his game, so there isn’t any reason this can’t be his tournament to make a big move.

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Djokovic Wakes up from 2011 Dream Season

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Novak Djokovic training in Roland Garros durin...

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Coming off his incredible win over Nadal in the US Open tennis final, Djokovic was unable to complete his Davis Cup match due to a lingering back injury.  The injury first made an appearance during the final with Nadal.  With only a short rest period between the final and his Davis Cup match, Djokovic was unable to recover properly and retired after losing the the first set.

Novak Djokovic’s 2011 Season

Looking back it has been quite a year for the young Serbian player.  To start off 2011 he notched 41 consecutive wins that led him to hoist his second major Australian Open title, along with a slew of victories at other prestigious events.  He was indeed the man to beat, and for 41 matches no one was able to.

An on form Federer stopped the streak in the semi-final of the French Open at Roland Garros.  Federer played inspired tennis, dismissing the circulating rumors of his demise from the top of men’s tennis.  This was a temporary lull however, as Djokovic returned to form and snatched the Wimbledon championship to add to his list of major titles.

Fast forward to the present.  We have a new US Open champion in Djokovic, who has continued to impress the whole year.  His only other loss during the regular season was to Andy Murray, in a match where he had to retire due to injury.  The absolute dominance he displayed throughout the season has truly been something incredible to watch.

Discussions are still ongoing about whether or not this is the best season ever put together by a tennis player.  While the record alone may fall short of the best ever, the competition and depth of the men’s tennis field has drastically increased since earlier days of the tour.  Even guys knocking around outside the top 100 in ATP Tour ranking points can produce thrilling and inspired tennis.

How Will Djokovic Handle 2012

It will be interesting to see how the Serbian’s new found success carries him into the next season.  After producing such a high level of tennis consistently for an entire year, can he keep up the pace?  The back injury that has all but put an end to the rest of 2011 will be a big factor.  If Djokovic can get healthy again in time for the new year of competition he will be a fearsome opponent.

The confidence and experience he has gained makes the perfect combination with his youth and dedication.  He seems to have everyone’s number at this point, though Federer has continued to pose real problems for him.  If anyone is able to stem the flow of victories going into next year it will have to be the Swiss maestro.

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Who Holds the NFL Single Season Rushing Record?

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Jim Brown at autograph show in Los Angeles, CA...

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While sports are full of clichés it is important to remember that they have become a cliché because they are almost always based on fact. The NFL in 2011 seems to be becoming more and more about passing the ball yet it remains as true as ever that teams that can run the ball will win. A great running back that defenses must game plan for week after week and still can’t be stopped is as formidable in 2011 as they have been throughout NFL history.

The NFL single season rushing record is the ultimate standard of great running backs. Reading the list of players that have held this record is like taking a trip to the NFL Hall of Fame. The first player to gain more than a 1,000 years in single season was Beattie Feathers playing for the Chicago Bears in 1934. He needed only 119 carries to gain those yards as he averaged 8.4 yards per carry that season. Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren broke was the next to breath the record in the 1947 season while playing for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Van Buren rushed for 1008 yards in 1947 and then raised the bar again in 1949 as he rolled to 1,146 yards. This record lasted until 1958 until it was shattered by a player who many feel is the greatest in NFL history, Jim Brown. While playing for the Cleveland Browns Jim Brown had one of the greatest seasons ever for a running back in 1958. He rushed for 1,527 yards, scored 17 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

The number of games played per season in the early years of the NFL fluctuated. When Feathers played in 1934 his team only played 11 games. The season was standardized at 12 games in 1947 and stayed at that number until 1960. From 1961 until 1977 the NFL season was 14 games. Given those extra games Jim Brown increased the record once again in 1963 during another awesome season. He ran for 1,863 years, scored 11 touchdowns and averaged 6.4 yards per carry.

It is easy to forget that O.J. Simpson was such a great football player after the horrible incidents that occurred after his career ended, but in 1973 Simpson became the first running back to rush for over 2000 yards in a season. He finished that year with 2,003 yard, 6.0 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns playing for the Buffalo Bills. O.J’s record lasted until 1984 when it was broken by Eric Dickerson. Playing in the now standard 16 game schedule Dickerson ran for 2,105 yard for the Los Angeles Rams while averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scoring 14 touchdowns.

Dickerson’s total has lasted the longest of all the single season rushing records, though it has been approached. Jamaal Lewis had 2,066 yards for the Ravens in 2003 and Barry Sanders had 2,053 yard for the Lions in 1997.

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