Sunday, December 26, 2010

My New Kicks and it's not quite what you think.....

A few days ago, I saw a mad rush of postings on Facebook with people mentioning the various new pairs of basketball shoes (or kicks for the new generation) that they had picked up, including the Nike Air Jordan 11 Retro shoes that had been released.

Feeling left out, I might as well announce what new pair of shoes arrived at my doorstep this past week. Please take a look at the image below.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am now the proud owner of a pair of "Li-Ning BD Doom" Basketball shoes.   For the uninitiated, Li-Ning is a China based sportswear company started by retired and Hall of Fame Chinese gymnast Li-Ning.  The "BD Doom" is the signature shoe of former Golden State Warrior and current Los Angeles Clipper guard Baron Davis.

People may ask why I decided to get a pair of Li-Ning shoes.  There are quite a few reasons why.  First of all, the price was right.  At retail, the price was $100 and I thought that was a little too high for my taste.  The most I had ever spent on a pair of basketball shoe was $95 back around 1994 (Nike CB-34 Air Max's I believe).

However, there was a sale and with a discount code, I was able to knock down the price of the BD Doom to a more reasonable level.  It still wasn't cheap but I thought it worth it to give the shoe a shot.

With the exception of Charles Barkley's shoes in 1994, I've never been a fan of high priced sneakers.  Through the years, I've decided to stay in the $50 to $60 range for basketball shoes. I also generally buy my shoes at discount stores or outlets.  It's a balance between price and performance.  I will also freely admit that I don't care how my shoes look as long as they are comfortable.

The last reason I decided to buy the Li-Ning BD Doom shoe was that I've had a fascination with the Li-Ning brand since I heard about them back around 2006.   I believe I had heard about Li-Ning because the company had signed NBA player (not in league anymore) Damon Jones to wear their shoes.    Yes, it was the same Damon Jones who played briefly with my hometown team, the Golden State Warriors.

What was even more interesting was that Shaquille O'Neal later signed on to Li-Ning as well.  O'Neal was past his prime and with the Heat at the time but the fact that a Chinese company made headway caught my attention.   Unfortunately, none of the shoes that Jones and O'Neal wore were available in the US.  I remember reading at the time that the signings were done to allow Li-Ning to dip their toes in US waters and get a little exposure.

While none of Li-Ning's products were available in the US, they were available in Asia.  I made two trips to China for vacation (Spring 2006 / Fall 2007) and made my searches for Li-Ning products.  In 2006, I ended up with a tank top and shorts.  Alas, I was on a tour and time to shop was somewhat limited.  That was a little disappointing.

However, in 2007, I was on a tour for the first half of my vacation and was out with others self exploring in the second half.  This was the year I got my share of Li-Ning gear.  I picked up a windbreaker jacket and a pair of low top shoes.  The shoes were supposedly were for basketball but to me they looked more like causal lifestyle shoes.   The shoes were marketed toward the Spanish market and the only shoe that had more size (Size 10).  I guess Chinese feet are a little smaller than American feet though I don't think my feet are all that big.  Also, the pricing of Li-Ning shoes were like Nike and Adidas in the US.  There were high end models and lower end models.  However, due to the sizing issues,  I could not pick up a true basketball shoe.

Fast forward to 2010.  Li-Ning has now established a US headquarters, store and web presence.  Baron Davis was signed as an endorser and his shoes are available through Li-Ning, Champs and East Bay.

I might not have been the first to pick up some BD Doom's, but I do certainly count myself as an early supporter of the Li-Ning brand.  I have nothing against Nike or other big brands as I have had plenty of their shoes over the years.  However, I've always been a fan of the underdog.  So now I am a proud owner of a pair of BD Doom's.  I won't be wearing them for a while as I have a couple of pairs of shoes I am wearing that are holding up though they have taken a beating.

There may be some who question why I am getting a pair of shoes from a Chinese company due to quality and/or design issues.  To that I will say that there are more NBA players sponsoring Chinese brands that you might realize.  Baron Davis and Even Turner are with Li-Ning.  Kevin Garnett signed on with Anta and Jason Kidd (among others) are with Peak.

Just with everything in life, keep an open mind.  Try the shoes out and see if they are comfortable.  If you don't like them, that's fine.  But don't believe things people say until you see it for yourself.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What You Want Isn't Always What You Need

It's year end and many folks do a self assessment and review how things went in the current year while prepping for their resolutions for the new year.  I tend to self assess regularly anyway but this is a good time to review a lesson I learned in 2010.

The lesson was: What You Want Isn't Always What You Need

This lesson was taught to me in abundance at my job this year.  After being laid off in April of 2009, I returned to the same job in September of 2009.  Despite having worked at the job previously, there were some underlying issues I knew I had to address (won't talk too much about it here).  I wanted to just do my job and be left alone.  I went about addressing my issues in the way I personally thought best.

Alas, my attempts to address the issues did not prove to be successful and I got a major reality check about eight months ago.   I don't know about anyone else, but when someone tells you that you're not doing your job, it's not exactly an easy thing to swallow.  I went through a few weeks of self pity and wondered what I was going to do.   Fortunately, I had help and a self improvement plan was put into place.

Eight months later, as we close 2010, I can say that I definitely did not WANT to go through my situation at work.  However, it was exactly what I needed.  I learned some valuable lessons both personally and professionally.  I won't say I am perfect at my job now but things have improved dramatically.

The same could be said for many things in our lives.  As I blogged about this previously, I think that having my team winning the league championship was the right time.  All my previous times, I was somewhat selfish in wanting to win the championship.  I think I needed a lesson in humility.  This season, I wanted my team to win the championship because I thought we were one of the best "teams" on court.  I learned that being part of a team AND winning is much more enjoyable.

Keep this mind as we go into 2011!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

52 Games?!?!

Thursday night, I played in my last league basketball game for the 2010 calendar year as my team lost 41-30 in a hard fought game.   Though this was my last game for 2010, this particular league isn't finished as it will restart in a few weeks in January of 2011.

After the game, I got home and decided to do a count of just how many league basketball games I had played in 2010.  My unofficial count?  I played in FIFTY-TWO (52) games in 2010!  That's at least 52 hours spent in gyms around San Francisco, South San Francisco and Oakland just participating in my team's games.  That's not including the many hours I spent watching other teams play before and after my team's games.  This is not including the weekly pick up games I usually play on Saturdays and other occasional days I played basketball.

While the 52 games is a bit of surprise, I have to say I enjoyed every moment of it.  I had a lot to be thankful this year and it's not just because my team won the championship recently.  I had a wide range of experiences.  I had the high of a championship win.  I had another team lose in the championship.  I played on several teams that were average.  I played on a team that lost every game by double digits and went winless.

While losing is never the best experience, I am thankful to be able to get onto the court and play as much as I did in 2010.  I remember back from the years of 1999 to 2001 where I had some tough injuries and didn't play at all for over a year.  I remember wondering if I would ever be able to play basketball again.  Of course I did eventually play again but it took me a while to get back to normal.

In 2010, I can firmly say I am playing like my old self.  I am not as fast or as quick as I used to be.  However, my body can still move and I can play at a reasonable level.  As 2011 rolls around, I hope to enjoy my basketball playing days as much as I did in 2010.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Reflections on a Championship Season

It's been a couple of days since my Monday night basketball team won the league championship.  I've gotten a chance to reflect on a couple of things which is noted in the two quotes below:

"The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination."

If you asked San Francisco Giants fans what they remembered most from the 2010 season, most fans would probably say that winning the championship was their most vivid memory.   However, there will be fans will remember each moment on the journey that got the Giants to the 2010 World Series Championship:
  1. Winning the NL West on the last day of the regular season. 
  2. Brooks Conrad's three errors helping the Giants to win Game 3 of the NLDS and eventually the series
  3. Juan Uribe's home run in Game 6 of the NLCS that gave the Giants the win. 
  4. Edgar Renteria's home run that proved to the game winner in Game 5 of the World Series. 
For my Monday night basketball team, here are some of my favorite moments from the Fall 2010 basketball season:
  1. Game #1 vs. Orange (09/20/10) - Our team's captain was out sick.  I took over the reins and promptly watched our team fall behind 18-2 early to the Orange team.   We were forced to switch up defenses and rallied our way back to an impressive victory. 
  2. Game #6 vs. Black (11/01/10) -  This was our second game against the Black team.  In our first meeting on 09/27/10, Black had taken advantage of the fact that our team hadn't quite jelled yet and beat us.  This time around, we were better prepared and hung tough against Black in the first half.  In the second half, our team went on a shooting spree that completely put the game out of reach.   It was a performance that had to be seen to be believed. 
  3. Playoff Game #1 vs. White (11/29/10) - Our team had beaten White twice previously.  The first time White had four players.  The second time White had five players.  In the playoff game, White actually had seven players so there would be no more excuses.   Both teams played hard but White held a small lead at halftime.  Our team came out a little slow in the second half and White promptly took a 10 point lead.  However, our team responded to the challenge.  Our defense picked up and the offense followed suit as we rallied to win by 11.  
The final destination of winning the championship was great.  But for me personally, the journey was much more fun that just winning the championship.  The chemistry, relationships and memories we built during the season mean more and will last longer than the actual win in the years to come.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven"

This particular quote from the Bible has been one of my favorites for many years.  One of my old high school friends had suggested the quote might fit my personality.  In many ways, I think she was right.

There are many times in our lives that we "want" certain things.  It might be a girlfriend, house, car, job or even a basketball championship.   I have admittedly wanted to win a championship in this particular basketball league for years.   I have to say that I wanted to win for the actual experience itself and not for pride or competitive reasons.  As I mentioned before, I'm the type of guy who likes to get the most out of everything I do.

In a funny way, the timing for my team to win this year was perfect.   In my previous three championship appearances for this league, I was very focused on "winning" but not enjoying the experience.  This past Monday, I played hard but also enjoyed the experience of "just being in the game".  I enjoyed being on the court, on the bench and the camaraderie our team had.

This is not to say that winning the championship wasn't enjoyable.  However, the destination of winning the championship would not have been possible with the journey my teammates and I all took for the past few months.

The final destination was good, the journey was even better and I think the timing for everything was about as perfect as it could have gotten.  For all of this, I give thanks.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Champions! / The Circle Is Complete

My team (Purple) played in our Monday Night Open Basketball League Championship game tonight and defeated Green 52-38 to clinch the title.   Green was missing two of their key offensive players and that definitely gave us an advantage during the game.

Overall, I found the win hugely satisfying on a couple of levels.  On a team level, I couldn't have asked for a better team to play with this season.  Our team is diverse is so many ways.  We range in age from 23 to 52.  We had black, white and Asian players who lived all over the Bay Area (West and East Bay).  Despite all these supposed "differences", the one thing that united us was the game of basketball.  We didn't really have a super star so we had to play as a team and I felt we did that for nearly the entire season.

On a personal level, I feel this win has completed a circle for me.   Back in late 1999 to early 2001, I had a lot of injuries that prevented me from playing basketball for a while.   When I came back from injuries, I wasn't really myself and it took me a long time to mentally get back to playing basketball like I used to.

I remember during the time I was injured and early on when I came back from injury, I was a little envious of guys who were playing and winning the various championships.   I remember wishing that I would get a chance to play for a team that won the championship.

In many ways, my wish was granted as I have now played on five different championship teams and each experience was unique and progressively better:

Spring 2001 -  I was a role player on a team that featured a former professional player from Taiwan.  I played a lot during the regular season but played minimal minutes in the playoffs and did not play at all in the championship.

Summer 2002 - I was injured the whole summer season and did not play while my team went 6-1 during the regular season.   During the playoff and championship games, I was suddenly pressed into duty because of foul trouble.

Summer 2005 - I played the entire season on a dominant team that went 10-0.  I wasn't one of the key guys though I scored 6 out of my team's first 10 points in the playoff game.

Spring 2008 Tournament - My friend and I got asked to play for a team that was formed at the last minute.  The tournament was a mash of young (high school) and adult teams.  Our team beat a couple of high school aged team and an adult team to win the championship.   This was one second ever tournament that I played in and it was an interesting experience to win the title.

Fall 2010 - All the pieces of the past came together tonight.  My team was good but not dominant (5-3 during the regular season).  We didn't have any superstars.  We weren't playing high school kids.  The competition that we played had great players.  Except for small ankle injury that slowed me for a week, I played the entire season and felt like I was contributing heavily.  In addition, this was my first ever championship for this particular league and that is special.

I believe tonight's championship win completes a circle for me in terms of playing basketball.   I'm the type of person that likes to experience different things.  Tonight's experience was one of the best that I've ever had.  If I never win another "championship" in the future, I am content that I have been blessed to have played with my team this season.

What's the future hold for me?  I'm going to keep playing basketball for the near future but with a full eye on just enjoying the game.  Winning is always fun and enjoyable but I'm looking toward what's next in my life.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Reflections on Championship Games Past

It is Saturday evening and it's about 48 hours before my team (Purple) plays in the championship game of our Monday night open basketball league at 7:15 PM.  I figured this is a perfect time to reflect on a previous experience in a basketball championship game.   This would be my first ever basketball championship game during the summer of 1994.

By my count,  Monday night's championship game appearance will be my fourth (Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2010) in the particular league I am playing in.  Unfortunately, my teams have not won any of their previous appearances though I am obviously hoping that will change in two days.  In another league I play in, I have played in six championship games (Summer 1994,  Spring 2001, Summer 2002, Summer 2005, Easter 2008 Tournament, Summer 2008) and have won four of them.

In looking back at my first championship game appearance back in 1994, I almost cringe at what I remembered from the experience.  First of all, just making the championship was a surprise.  My team that year was a major underdog in our playoff game but we somehow pulled off the upset to get to the championship game.

The time leading up to the championship game was nerve wracking.  I was 20 years old and hadn't played much organized basketball except for the two seasons (Summer of 1992 and 1993) and some basketball back in 8th grade.

When the day of the championship game arrived, I was a nervous wreck.   If you asked me why, I couldn't give you an exact answer.  However, I would say that perhaps it was similar to a job interview or a first date.  This was definitely something I wanted to go well.

In short, the game did not go well.  The opposing team in the championship game was quite good and gave us a hard time throughout.   My team hung in there but ultimately lost 46-44.  I had a horrid game as I didn't score a point and went 0-5 on the free throw line.  Unlike these days where I play year round, I had to carry the experience of a miserable championship game until the following summer.

Looking back at that 1994 experience today, I see that I put too much stake into the meaning of the championship game.  Winning a championship indeed is a point of pride but not the be all and end all of things.  Unlike professional athletes, the leagues I've played in don't give our trophies or rings.

So even though I have played on 10 championship teams and won four, the only thing I've "won" from the championships is ONE t-shirt.  The rest of the things I've gained is friendships, photos and great memories.   Not to discount the other seasons where I didn't get to the championship, I have great memories of those seasons as well.

As the clock ticks down toward my Monday night championship game, I'm going to do what I regularly do the next few days.  On the day of the game, our team is going to give it their best shot.   Yet at the same time, I am going to fully enjoy the experience.  As I get older, I realize that my days of playing competitive basketball is winding down and it's a great time to appreciate what you have been blessed with.