By: Michael Levell (@4HFAdvantage)

On March 28, 2014, the Detroit Pistons will celebrate the 25th anniversary of their franchise's first NBA championship.  Much like the city they resided in, the 1988 – 89 Detroit "Bad Boys" team was hard working and did the dirtiest work on the court that was allowed. That team was not flashy, but they outworked opposing teams in every fashion of the game.  Because of that "blue collar" style of play, the "Bad Boys" took 63 wins that season and left many teams battered and demoralized when the court cleared.  That type of play is not prevalent in today's NBA but there are a few players that embody that "Bad Boy" essence of physicality, attitude, and intimidation.  Here are some NBA personalities that could come together and recreate this legendary team:

Point Guard:

Chris Paul:  Chris Paul packs a lot of toughness in a smaller frame.  He is the unquestioned leader of giants whenever he is on the court and he has never backed down from any opponent. Like Isaiah Thomas, Paul has a public image that is surprisingly cleaner than his play on the court.

Shooting Guard:

Tony Allen: Strong perimeter defenders are an endangered species in the NBA and Tony Allen is one of the most dangerous.  Although only 6'4, Allen will guard the best perimeter play on every team and bully them the entire time.  Allen is known to not allow shooters to move freely without a forearm shove or two.

Small Forward:

Metta World Peace: He is a "bad boy" just because I'm scared to not put him on the list. If you are not afraid of Metta World Peace then please review the reconstructive surgery that he did on James Harden's head.

Power Forward:

DeMarcus Cousins:  DeMarcus Cousins is known as an immature player that seeks attention.  While that may be true, he is also known to seek his victims in the post only to push them around.  The worst thing that anybody can do to Cousins is show fear because he will sniff it out and exploit it.

Center:

Joakim Noah:  Joakim Noah is the classic "I don't care" type of player that will do all the dirty work on the court and relish in it.  Noah does not back down from anyone and he is known to seek fights with some of the NBA's elite.  The best thing about Noah is his pride.  He will not let you drive to the basket without knowing he is there and he will set bone crushing screens on nearby defenders.  Noah is just like Bill Laimbeer but with a nappy relaxer.

Sixth Man:

Matt Barnes: Barnes best quality is he is a goon for hire.  He is an irritant and a physical player.  He is the type of player that is only liked by fellow teammates.

By: Michael Levell (@4HFAdvantage)

Dear NFL,

I have been a fan of yours since I was 6 years old.  At that time, my father groomed me to be a Dallas Cowboys and a Miami Dolphins fan.  A lot has changed since then (considering I am an Atlanta Falcons fan now).  As I changed, the product that you have placed on the field has changed as well.  Your game has become more high scoring and more visible.  There is now more parody in who wins the Super Bowl than ever before because of salary cap rules and the focus on the NFL Draft.  Even with the increase in lower body injuries, you have evolved into a safer sport.  I may not have always agreed with the changes that you have made, but each one seemed to be addressed at the appropriate time – until now.

According to CBS Sports NFL Insider, Jason La Canfora, your product is on the verge of a big change in how you police the game:

John Wooten, head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that monitors diversity in the NFL, said he expects the league's competition committee to enact a rule at the owner's meeting next month making it an automatic 15-yard penalty if a player uses the N-word on the field, with a second infraction meriting an ejection. (2014)

As a black man, I applaud your efforts in becoming racially progressive as a sport.  However, I question if this is the appropriate time to embark on such a change?  Outside of the use of this racial slur, there are many public relation concerns and changes that need to be addressed at a higher priority.  This is especially true when you consider the recent revealing of some of your athlete's alleged darker lives while actively playing or working for you.  For instance, future Hall of Famer Darren Sharper has been accused of drugging and raping women during his stint as an NFL Network Analyst.  Is your firing of Sharper the only way that you plan on handling these serious allegations?  The same issue arises for former Pro Bowl tight end Aaron Hernandez since he has been indicted for murder.  Not only was Hernandez a part of the New England Patriots when the murder occurred, but he is also under investigation for other murders in Massachusetts – allowing us to speculate Hernandez was deeply involved in a criminal underworld while being celebrated as a rising star.  You have not addressed these players' actions or negative impact on your brand, nor have you scratched the surface on how to handle the locker room bullying situation from the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin fallout.  Maybe it is time for those situations to be handled before you try to put regulations on a slur that has not been "policed" by blacks in America.

I wonder if now is the best time to address what players say offensively on the field when the name of one of your storied franchises' is considered a slur by Native Americans.  We, as fans, rarely hear what the athletes say on the field but EVERYONE is exposed to the NFL logo and team of our nation's capital.  Isn't it just as divisive if you continue to support the Washington Redskins fight to keep their name?  Above all other public relation issues that exist currently, none are more divisive than the concussion lawsuit that is still in limbo after the previous $765 million settlement was rejected by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody.  The same legends that helped build the NFL to its current status are now suing over their lingering post-football injuries.  This lawsuit has divided those without health issues and those living with them.  It has even divided the fans that love violent collisions from the fans that want a heavily officiated but safer game.  With your status as America's game, shouldn't your focus be on repairing the legacy, respect, and future of the game?

I can accept that something has to be done about the frequent use of this racial slur.  However, this is not your issue to police and regulate.  We, as black people, would need to come to a resolution on the use of the slur before we accept help from anybody else.  I hope that you would focus your attention on more pressing matters than something that will have a minimum positive impact on the game that I love.

We are now approaching a time where "steroid era" players are eligible for the Hall of Fame.  Simultaneously, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA) is now faced with handling the fate of these players.  Over the past two years, the BWAA have made it a point to shun such players from a date with immortality despite them giving awards and accolades to players such as, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens – all formally accused of steroid use.

Bonds alleged steroid use began in 1999 when he showed up to spring training packing thirty extra pounds of muscle and a head that started to match his ego.  However, Bonds also won four MVPs after the '99 season. A lot of writers have been on record saying that they had some type of idea that Bonds was ''juicing'' but turned a blind eye to it; and voted for Bonds to become a 7-time MVP.

Hmmmm, I wonder why? Could it be that writers profited from writing stories on Bonds and the mythical performance he was putting on?  Sosa and McGwire saved baseball with an exciting game of "anything you can do, I can do better". Every night, even the most novice baseball fan would tune in to CNN, FOX, or ESPN just to see what these guys were doing. I'm sure all the previous mentioned networks, along with the writers, made a TON of money off those two guys.

Roger Clemons has fought for his innocence and had to go against former personal trainer, Brian McNamee. McNamee accused Clemons of steroid use and claims that he personally injected him with HGH and Testosterone.

McNamee may have been right or wrong with his allegations, but it's really odd that a powerful entity such as MLB would lie in bed with a man shadier than a $3 bill.

 

By: Marlon Copeland (@MarlonC4hfa)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (also known as Little E) is NASCAR. Women love him, guys want to be like him, and little kids pee in their pants when he walks by.  For 11 straight years, Earnhardt Jr. has won NASCAR's Most Popular Diver Award surpassing "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville"  Bill Elliot for the most consecutive years won (Elliot holds the overall record with 16 total wins).  Earnhardt Jr. has been an ambassador to the sport by aiding it in bringing it out of its regional, rural, and humble beginnings to being the mainstream moneymaker it is today. When I go to buy jeans, I see Dale. If I want to build my 

own web page, then I see Dale.  If I go buy a Mountain Dew, you guessed it, I see Dale! I wonder, however, does winning really count anymore? Does winning affect your likeability or does nice looks with a legendary name help?

In 15 years, Earnhardt Jr. has only posted 19 total wins, 204 top ten finishes, and 13 poles but 

then again he has raced in a total of 505 Sprint Cup races! The sport of racing possesses some of the most loyal fans that hold on to their favorite driver's every word.  If Earnhardt Jr. says to jump, then most of his fans will definitely say how high! Wrestling, like NASCAR, have similar loyal fans, but in wrestling you have to win more than you lose to obtain popularity. In view of the foregoing, with a lack of wins, why does Earnhardt Jr. continue to win over fans? I'm sure NASCAR would love for the most popular driver to also be their best driver, Jimmy Johnson. Johnson is well liked by fans but there is a big difference between LIKE and LOVE.  Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, and even his legendary farther, Dale Earnhardt SR was liked. However, Earnhardt Jr. was beloved. Earnhardt Jr. is style without substance but he is beloved.  He is the face of NASCAR but not the man of NASCAR. How does NASCAR fix that issue or do they even want to fix it?  

Earnhardt Jr. has undeniably been on an emotional career journey.  He spent his first two professional years on the nationwide series fulltime.  Then he busted onto the Sprint Cup scene in 1999 where he would start his epic journey to stardom. Despite this, Earnhardt Jr. has suffered bumps along the road.  The lack of wins, 0 Sprint cup titles, a bitter breakup from his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt (the owner of Dale Earnhardt Inc.), making an unpopular choice to join Hendricks motorsports, and the painful loss of his father. Yet, through it all, he has stood tall and remained the face of NASCAR.  If there is a person that I want to root for, it is Earnhardt Jr.; but at some point he has to start giving the fans a return on the emotional investment. Otherwise, just like in any other sport, someone will come along and snatch his fan base away with a combination of wins and charisma. 

By: Michael Levell (@4HFAdvantage)

With the Atlanta Falcons (4-12) eliminated from acceptably salvaging the 2013-14 season, many people will write off this year as a return to Atlanta's losing ways.  After coming a mere ten yards from the Super Bowl in last year's playoffs, the Falcons are now searching for answers to questions they didn't think existed.  Atlanta could not have envisioned losing Mike Johnson, Julio Jones, Bradie Ewing, Kroy Biermann, Steven Jackson, Sean Weatherspoon, and Roddy White for significant time due to injuries.  One year removed from a Pro Bowl season, nobody believed that Thomas Decoud would have regressed to a liability.  Considering, also, that Atlanta had to rely heavily on four rookies on defense and you can see how a team can implode in one year.  However, all hope is not lost for these Dirty Birds.  Possessing the sixth worst record will all but guarantee a top collegiate player being available to them in the draft.  Let's look at some athletes and possible game-changers that the Falcons could consider.

Jadeveon Clowney (6-6 / 274lbs):  Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most intriguing and anticipated defensive prospects in years.  He has the strength to be stout in the run game and the explosiveness to disrupt the best passing attacks.  Both qualities are needed for the Falcons who rank in the bottom five in rushing defense (31st) and sacks (29th).  With a need for impact plays that can shift the momentum of games, the Falcons and Clowney seem to be a perfect match.  

Jake Matthews (6-5 / 305lbs): Jake Matthews, son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, is considered the top draft prospect at offensive tackle.  When you watch him play for the Aggies, you can definitely see why.  Matthews has amazing awareness and is always cognizant of where his quarterback is.  He also understands blitz schemes and the quality of good leverage.  Even with all of those attributes, what should impress Atlanta the most is Matthews' passion for run blocking.  Matthews is a mauler and explodes off of the line in search of someone to hit.  Atlanta's offensive line has lacked attitude and aggression since the departure of Harvey Dahl in 2010.  If the Falcons can improve their rushing attack, then they would also improve Matt Ryan's ability to get the ball downfield with play-action passes.

Anthony Barr (6-4 / 248lbs): When Kroy Biermann was lost for the season; much of the versatility of Atlanta's defense was lost.  While Biermann isn't the playmaker Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan needs, he is athletic enough to play the hybrid (DE / LB) role.  Anthony Barr can fill that role and do it in an explosive manner.  For the last two seasons, the former running back has terrorized opposing offenses in the backfield.  Barr is not a polished product; but if used correctly, he can produce sacks and tackles for loss at a high rate.  Barr would only have to prove his worth when dropping into coverage to catch the eye of GM Thomas Dimitroff.

Khalil Mack (6-3 / 248lbs): Khalil Mack is another hybrid player that can rush the passer and make plays in the backfield.  The difference between Barr and Mack is Mack's natural ability to drop into coverage.  For the past two seasons, Atlanta has struggled against tight ends in coverage and they need to address the issue now with Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen in the same division.  Mack fits the need for a playmaker with two of his three interceptions being returned for touchdowns.  One of those touchdowns came against the vaunted Ohio State Buckeyes.

Cyrus Kouandjio (6-6 / 310): Cyrus Kouandjio is a massive tackle that possesses an immense amount of athletic ability.  When you see him, you can tell that he was sculpted to be an NFL left tackle.  Kouandjio has a quick first step and a wide bass that frustrates opposing defensive ends.  Even with a quick first step, Kouandjio dominates, mostly, with his upper body strength.  Defenders are often stunned by his initial punch and he has been known to swat players away with brute force.  Kouandjio is still raw but his talent and measurables could make him the perfect protector for Matt Ryan's blind side.  

The 2013 regular season is complete and we can now open the discussion on who can win the Most Valuable Player award.  Many people will consider LeSean McCoy (1,607 Rush Yards) or Josh Gordon (1,646 Rec. Yards) for leading the league in yardage at their respective positions.  However, becoming the MVP means less about statistical supremacy and more about a players venerable importance to the team they play for.  Here are our top five choices for 2013-2014 MVP:  

Peyton Manning: Peyton Manning, at the age of 37, is playing better than he did in his Indianapolis days.  This season, Manning is rewriting legendary record books while leading a Broncos team that was without their head coach for part of the season.

5,477 Passing Yards, 55 TDs, 10 INT, 68.3 CMP%, 115.1 Passer Rating


Russell Wilson: With a season filled with lemons (injuries and player suspensions), Russell Wilson has created lemonade for the league to drink. Wilson has powered his team through a rough schedule to end the season holding the best record in the NFL.  With home field advantage in the playoffs, Wilson is just getting started.

3,357 Passing Yards, 539 Rushing Yards, 27 Total TDs, 63.1 CMP%, 101.2 Passer Rating

Jamaal Charles: The Chiefs offensive scheme is to avoid turnovers and get Jamaal Charles the ball.  Charles, with his dual threat abilities, has rewarded the team with nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns. The end result: The Chiefs will go from the number one overall pick to the fifth seed in the playoffs.

1,287 Rushing Yards, 5.0 AVG, 12 RuTDs, 70 Catches, 693 Passing Yards, 7 RecTDs

Tom Brady: Before the start of the season, Tom Brady lost Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to injury and prison. Without his elite receivers, Brady was able to use late round draft picks and inexpensive free agents to win a division title.

4,343 Passing Yards, 25 TDs, 60.5 CMP%


Luke Kuechly:  Many people will credit the Panthers recent success to Cam Newton's maturation as a quarterback.  Carolina actually owes much of it winning prowess to its defensive front seven and its leader, Luke Kuechly.  A rare find, Kuechly can dominate all areas of the game as a linebacker and he is only in his second year.

156 Tackles, 2.0 Sacks, 4 INT, 7 Pass Deflections

Ricky Rubio is starting to accumilate some nifty assists in his young career.  If you are not careful, he can put you on ESPN very quickly like he did Nicolas Batum.

I

t has been nearly a decade since Outkast has released a group album.  After that album, many fans were unsure if they would receive another album from the multiplatinum group.  

Fans rejoiced on Wednesday when they heard the news of a possible reunion. While it has not been confirmed, Billboard stated this in an article:

The Atlanta hip-hop duo is indeed in talks to reunite next year for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, multiple sources have confirmed to Billboard. Under the current plan, Coachella, which kicks off on Apr. 11, 2014 in Indio, Calif., would be the start of the reunion run and would be followed by additional festival dates in 2014.

In view of the foregoing, members of Four Home Field Advantage collaborated on our most desired sports reunions from past or present.

Tracy McGrady & Vince Carter

Michael Levell (@4HFAdvantage): Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter arrived to the Toronto Raptors' organization within 1 year of each other.  With athleticism beyond majority of the NBA, the two cousins would eventually bring some respect (and excitement) to the lowly Raptors. McGrady and Carter were staples on sports networks and would deliver highlight after highlight on a nightly basis.  Even with a playoff appearance together, McGrady and Carter never realized their full potential together because they're skills flourished outside of the Raptors organization.  At the prime of their careers, the two players would have been completely unstoppable together.

Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce

 Antwon Smith (FatBoiSlim_21): As part of the 1999 World Champion St. Louis Rams, Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, and Isaac Bruce were key teammates for the team dubbed the "The Greatest Show on Turf". This legendary offense set records for the most 500 point seasons in a row (3) and the most 30 point games in a season (12). During their championship season, Kurt Warner won the Regular Season MVP and the Super Bowl MVP, Marshall Faulk had 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yard receiving, and Isaac Bruce caught 77 passes for 1,165 yards and 12 touchdowns. Headed by Coach of the Year Dick Vermeil, the Rams were definitely one of the true champions of recent memory.

 

Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant

 

Marlon Copeland (MarlonC4hfa): Together, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had one of the most impressive runs in NBA history! During their time in the league together, O'Neal was the most dominate force on the court and Bryant was the most electrifying player.  This duo powered the Lakers though the league and won three consecutive NBA championships.  Despite their success, ego, scandal, and O'Neal's lack of physical fitness derailed this dynasty duo. It would be an amazing sight to see O'Neal and Bryant, in their primes, drop "Bombs over Bagdad" against "The Big Three" of Miami, the young horses in Oklahoma, and showing CP3 and Blake Griffin who the real kings of LA are!  

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