In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Chelsea LoCascio, asks our panel of experts three questions as they play for a championship spot in our Wednesday, May 4, issue: Is Kobe Bryant a first ballot hall of famer? Who will win the U.S. ProMiniGolf Association’s (USPMGA) U.S. Open and can an American to win the World Sport Stacking Association (WSSA) in 2017?
1. With his last game finished, do you believe Kobe Bryant is a first ballot hall of famer?
Matthew: Bryant is one of the greatest players of all time. Do I really need to spell it out for you? Eighteen All-Star game appearances, 11-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selections, an NBA MVP and five championships — what hasn’t The Black Mamba done? Let’s not forget that this is the NBA we’re talking about, not MLB — earning a first ballot hall of fame selection isn’t just for the best of the best. Yao Ming played eight injury-riddled seasons and never made it past the second round of the playoffs, yet he earned a first ballot selection this year. Bryant left it all out on the floor — all that’s left for him to do is get his face on a plaque.
George: While most people will assume Bryant is an automatic first ballot, history has shown us that if anything, he is a second ballot. For his entire career, he has been second-best — second-best player on the Los Angeles Lakers behind Shaquille O’Neal and then he was second to LeBron James in the league. According to his value over replacement player (VORP), which compares a player to the average of every stat, Bryant has never been No. 1. In fact, he never made it past fourth-highest VORP in 2002-03. He might have more points than Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, but he has also missed the most shots out of any player in history. The only reason he has so many points is because he’s never passed the damn ball, which is usually the first thing you learn. Bryant is a pauper in prince’s clothing. He’s probably going to get the first ballot, but he doesn’t deserve it.
Miguel: When you write a bad draft of your Signal article, there’s only one thing to do to it — smash it up into a ball, throw it to the nearest recycle bin and scream “KOBE!” There is no doubt Bryant will be a first ballot hall of famer. Twenty seasons dedicated to one team and third on the list of the NBA’s All-Time Career Points Leader list, only behind legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. Whether it be at The Forum or The Staples Center, Bryant had an unprecedented impact in the city of Los Angeles. He endured numerous mishaps during his illustrious career, including his feud with Shaq, his sexual assault case in 2003 and nearly leaving the Lakers in 2007. Regardless, Bryant capped off his incredible career in a gusty 60-point performance with an uncharacteristic assist to point guard Jordan Clarkson. Once he is enshrined at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame along with teammate Shaq, he will not be remembered for being like Jordan, Magic Johnson, Jerry West or Abdul-Jabbar — he will be remembered for being Kobe.
Miguel gets 3 points for an accurate depiction of me throwing out drafts. George gets 2 point for coming to terms with reality and Matthew gets 1 point for excessive sass.
2. Who do you think will be crowned the winner of the USPMGA U.S. Open in May?
Matthew: I’m a basketball, football and baseball guy, so mini golf isn’t exactly on my agenda. As far as I know, this U.S. Open knockoff is for a niche bunch of nobodies who don’t know an iron from an iPod. But I guess if it can be played by nerds, it can be won by nerds, right? I should enter this for myself. Back in the day, I was quite the menace on the mini golf greens. They didn’t call me “Two-Putt Charlie” for nothing. Then again, my name’s Matt… I might be misremembering just a bit.
George: In a sport dominated by middle-aged American men, very few stand out. However, 21-year-old Olivia “The Blank Czech*” Prokopova, from the Czech Republic does. She already won the Open in 2011 and 2013 and was absent from the competition last year, so it’ll be interesting to see how far she’ll go. Plus, she’s got something no other competitor has — youth. She is by far one of the youngest in the Open and that gives her an advantage over the old guard — Brad “King of Lebonon**” Lebo, the 2015 champion, and Matt “Blarney Castle***” McCaslin, the 2014 champion, might be entering their twilight years this Open. (*Nickname has to do with the blank stare she gets before every putt.) (**Lebo probably isn’t Lebanese.) (***All nicknames are made up).
Miguel: Known as the Putting Penn-Man in the Pro Miniature Golf world, Dr. Brad Lebo-Shippensburg will repeat as the USPMGA Open Champion. Being a local Pennsylvania resident, Lebo-Shippensburg will have home field advantage at Center Valley, Pa. According to the Daily Pennsylvanian, Lebo-Shippensburg has won 89 USPMGA tournaments while amassing $125,000 in rewards. Not bad for someone who plays mini-golf for a hobby. Lebo-Shippensburg is able to dominate the competition while working in a clinic as a full-time dentist. However, Lebo-Shippensburg does have hard competition, such as Kevin King from Illinois and Josephine Rainville from Canada. Hey, I can be Lebo-Shippensburg’s opponent by paying the $25 membership fee and registering for the USPMGA Open. Even though I’ve never played mini-golf before, I can definitely be on par with Lebo-Shippensburg and give him a run for his money.
George gets 3 points for the nicknames. Miguel gets 2 points for confidence and Matthew gets 1 point because they are somebodies.
3. The champions of the WSSA 2016 World Sport Stacking Championship in Germany were crowned in early April. Is it possible for an American to win the 2017 championship in Taiwan?
Matthew: Questioning Byrant’s first ballot hall of fame status? Mini golf? Cup stacking? I thought the April Fools edition of The Signal was weeks ago. Oh well. So, cup stacking, huh? I always thought of it more as a foreign thing. Let them stack their cups while we Americans stack, uh, I dunno, porcupines? Now that’d be a sport! It would be interesting to start seeing gardening gloves in the sporting apparel section.
George: We absolutely have a chance at winning. In fact, the current fastest stacker in the world, William Orrell, is from the United States — a North Carolina native. Stacking is part of our history. The forts that won the Revolutionary War were made by stacking pieces of wood on top of each other. Abraham Lincoln was born in a stack of wood that some say he built himself while in the womb. That led to the creation of Lincoln Logs, which Americans have been stacking since 1916. Enter any Wal-Mart, a shining example of American capitalism, and you will see goods stacked as high as the ceiling by young, hard-working Americans. Stacking is not just in our blood — it’s a part of who we are as a nation.
Miguel: It is a steep challenge for an American to win or even place in the top 10 performances. Formidable Asian stackers, such as Chan Keng Ian and Min Jae Jeong, are capable of stacking their cups in less than 10 seconds. Meanwhile, the majority of the American stackers, such as Josh Hainsel and Kellan Mitchell, can stack in 11 seconds. The Americans can further develop their speed stacking skills during the upcoming WSSA tournaments in the U.S., such as the Bayou City Championships and the St. Louis Open Summer Fun StackFest. Additionally, next year’s WSSA World Sport Stacking Championship will give home field advantage to Taiwanese stackers such as Shao-Yo Fu and Chia-Ying Chang. The U.S. can put forth more talented stackers, by popularizing speed stacking at elementary, middle and high schools. The sport is very accessible to children since the only equipment needed is a table and a Speed Stacking set that normally costs $25 to $30.
George gets 3 points because, ‘Murica! Miguel gets 2 points for wanting to train them young and Matthew gets 1 point for questioning the judge.
George wins Around the Dorm 8-7-3.