16 Moments to Remember from the 2019 NBA Finals

How am I supposed to sleep after everything that just transpired? Just as I did after the last two instant classic NBA Finals in 2016 and 2013, I had to dust off the old blogging skills to write out my feelings on the complicated, exhilarating six-game war of attrition that just concluded.

Here are 16 moments I’ll never forget from the 2019 NBA Finals:

  1. Kawhi Leonard’s 2019 playoff run immediately enters the pantheon of postseason rampages with the likes 2016 LeBron, 2003 Duncan, 2000 Shaq, 1995 Hakeem, etc. But, the run it most reminded me of was Dirk in 2011. A singular star surrounded by a cadre of savvy vets (although the Raptors were deeper AND younger) willing his group to victory against a super team. Becoming the third player to win a Finals MVP with two teams is a huge deal. LeBron and Kareem – that’s rarefied air.

  2. This Toronto team is now a testament to not always blowing it up. Or are they? It’s a complicated question. Yes, Kyle Lowry was always there and several of the bench guys hung around, but DeMar DeRozan, Dwane Casey, and company are no longer around. By simultaneously staying good/not bottoming out AND stockpiling assets (a tough balance), the Raptors laid the foundation for a championship team, thanks in large part to Masai Ujiri’s GOAT-level team building skills. The trades for Kawhi and Gasol, the smart draft picks, the roster’s top-notch depth – those moves led to this moment. The group famously had no lottery picks. But most other championship-level teams have multiple high draft picks. Are the Raptors an outlier or could other teams copy this plan?

  3. KD coming back from injury, despite every incentive in the world not to, to try and help his team to a three-peat, and suffering a devastating achilles injury. He was playing out of his mind in the game up to the injury, just like he had been the best player in the playoffs prior to the calf injury against the Rockets. This is another one of the murky situations from this series – with people questioning the Warriors training staff for letting KD play and his teammates and the organization and the media for potentially pressuring him into coming back

    3b. Unfortunately his impending free agency also casted a shadow over all of this (and the entire Warriors season). It still feels weird to talk about, but several franchises were likely affected due to that injury. KD and AD were set to be the first two dominos to fall for what is expected to be a wild, league-altering summer. Who knows what this means for Golden State, Los Angeles (both of them), Boston, New Orleans, New York, Toronto, Brooklyn, and potentially more teams.

    3c. Kawhi’s impeding free agency also floated over the Raptors all season like the Ghost of Bargnani’s past. He would quite literally be making an unprecedented move if he were to leave this summer. 

  4. Klay, in full Game Six glory, conquering worlds right up until he tore his ACL. Another heartbreaking moment for Golden State. But watching him walk back out of the tunnel to take those free throws induced legit goosebumps.

  5. Steph, with the chance to finally earn his long sought-after Finals MVP (which, for some reason, people think he needs to cement his legacy), coming agonizingly close. He certainly had the numbers for it had the Warriors won. It was tough to watch him despondent off in the far corner as Klay lay writhing on the ground, knowing their chances of three-peating just dwindled rapidly.

  6. Has there ever been a more brutal ending to a dynasty (if this one is indeed over)? Usually dynastic teams go down fighting, break down because of wear and tear, or implode internally. The Warriors went down fighting while also losing two in-their-prime players, not rundown veterans. I will say, despite potential huge personnel losses for next year, I’m not ready to count these guys out just yet.

  7. Draymond with another low-key unbelievable elimination game that will be lost to history. Game 7 in 2016 and now this. Love him or hate him, he’s always war ready.

  8. Kyle Lowry, silencing his countless doubters by combining all star level scoring and playmaking with classic Kyle stuff that doesn’t show up in the box score. Lowry and Draymond (and Iggy) are some of the most notable “litmus test guys” which means someone’s opinion of their game says a lot about what they value in a player. KLOE.

  9. My son, Fred VanVleet, coming through in the most back-breaking, Manu-esque moments again and again and again. I’ve been a fan of VanVleet since his freshman year at Wichita State (Shockers got robbed!), so I was so proud of his post-baby performance. The inevitable Drake song is going to go so hard.

  10. While we’re on the subject of being proud of my basketball family: my father, Marc Gasol, won a title. And even if his numbers were never eye-popping, his defense and passing unlocked the most dangerous version of this Raptors team. Grind n Grind FOREVER. TEARS.

  11. Speaking of long-due vets, Serge Ibaka has been through some absolute battles and I’m so glad to see him earn a ring. He saved the Raptors in the Philly series.

  12. The “Is Andre Iguodala a Hall of Famer” debate reached peak volume after his ice cold dagger in game two. I don’t know if he’ll get in or not, but it’s a fascinating case. All I know for sure is that he has been indispensable to this Warriors run.

  13. The Box-and-One and the Two-Three Zone being broken out in the NBA FINALS. Truly wild.

  14. Every teams needs an over-involved hometown celeb running amok on the sidelines. I thought Drake was a fun aside in the playoffs, sue me.

  15. Danny Green, after the slump of all postseason slumps, turning into a supernova during the beginning of the Finals. Green will go down in NBA lore thanks to a number of killer performances on the biggest stage throughout his career.

  16. Even with the devastating injuries, impending free agencies, and an obnoxious part-owner’s court-side behavior, the high-level basketball in this series kept forcing its way to the forefront of discussion. As it should be. Is it October yet?
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Two Miles of Hatred

On and off over the past year, I have been working on a thesis project for grad school chronicling the history of the Battle of the Boulevard titled “Two Miles of Hatred.”

The project consists of a multimedia series of stories focused on the men’s college basketball rivalry between two Division I private schools, Belmont University and Lipscomb University, that sit just two miles apart on the same street in Nashville, Tennessee.

A lot of time and effort went into the reporting, writing, and editing of the project, which is now live at the following website: https://battleoftheboulevard.com/

Check it out if you are interested in basketball, Nashville, or historical chronicles of sports teams.

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41 Thoughts From My Trip to the 2016 Olympic Games

My grandmother was a die-hard fan of the Olympics. I know everyone becomes obsessed with the Olympics every four years when they came back around, but she always went the extra mile. She had a schedule of when all the events happened so she could watch all her favorites. She knew the backstory of seemingly every athlete. She even always had the official Olympic pins sent to her in the mail. She really loved the Olympics. Her passion for the Games spilled over onto me at an early age. It helped spark my love of sports and, eventually, my love of sports journalism.

For someone in this field, covering the Olympics is the ultimate dream. Over the past month, I was able to fulfill that dream. Here are 41 tidbits from that experience, one for every hour spent trekking back to Nashville from Rio.

1. I embarked on this journey with 14 other students and one professor from the University of Memphis journalism department. I’ll go ahead and give them a quick intro since without them I would probably still be stuck in Rio somewhere:

  • Nathan (America’s foremost canoe slalom expert)
  • Jon (Don’t ask him about his name, but do ask him about his hat)
  • Chip (If Miroslav Raduljica and Yo Gotti had a son)
  • Omer (He’s always got four aces up his sleeve)
  • Rebecca (Zhang Jike’s number one fan)
  • Avery (The Queen of 4 a.m. bus rides)
  • Jonathan (Captured Rio one difficult angle at a time)
  • Janika (“I can’t see them up there”)
  • Sydney (Far too nice to be hanging around us)
  • Shauna (Has a weakness for Irish rowers)
  • Anna Joy (Like the journalist version of Aly Raisman’s parents)
  • Catrell (Usain Bolt’s personal assistant)
  • Cody (King of Tinder)
  • Dr. C (French sports ambassador, we couldn’t have had this trip without her)

2. No, I did not get Zika. I saw maybe six or seven mosquitoes the entire time I was there.

3. No, I did not get robbed. And we even travelled through a favela, if briefly. I guess declining that invite to hang out with Ryan Lochte paid off.

4. Rio is a breathtakingly beautiful city. Mountains and oceans side by side. Christ the Redeemer. The view from Sugarloaf. Copacabana/Impanema/Leblon Beaches. Lagoa. It’s hard to beat the scenery.

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5. Speaking of Christ the Redeemer, if you find yourself in Rio attempting to go see the statue, don’t take a cab. If you do take a cab, don’t be surprised if it takes you to the top of the wrong mountain or circles around Copacabana beach for hours.

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6. The dissonance between the rich and poor areas of Rio is striking. It has to be one of the most notably massive wealth gaps in the world for a single city.

7. It was surreal to see military police posted up on every other street corner with assault rifles. It felt like being in a dystopian sci-fi movie.

8. Brazilians love cheering. They cheered at every sporting event, even ones where the athletes were not used to wild cheering like table tennis, like it was the World Series. And if a Brazilian was competing, everyone lost their minds.

9. For someone traveling internationally for the first time, living in an Olympic host city was jarring. I need to make another overseas trip to somewhere else, or even back to Rio at a calmer time.

10. Brazilians also love selfies. Middle school girls have nothing on fully-grown Brazilian men.

11. Every Portuguese conversation I had:

*Native Brazilian speaks fluent Portuguese.*

Logan: Obrigado.

Brazilian: De Nada.

12. No matter the significance, or lack thereof, of the event that has just been won, watching the American flag being raised with the American national anthem playing in the background is always a goosebumps-inducing moment.

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13. There are no left turns in Rio. There are only U-Turns. There are also no direct routes anywhere. I’m not sure if this applies to the rest of the country.

14. Chinese table tennis journalists do not mess around.

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(This guy is the LeBron James of China. His name is Ma Long, and he plays table tennis.

15. Brazilian bus drivers are constantly auditioning for a Fast and Furious stunt driver role.

16. Quick Olympic athlete power rankings detour:

1. Michael Phelps/Usain Bolt/Simone Biles/Kohei Uchimura/Katie Ledecky

6. Everyone Else

17. Usain Bolt is not human. Watching him accelerate away from the other fastest men in the world will never not be confounding.

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18. In a similar vein, the gap between Simone Biles and her competition, as well as the USA women’s gymnastics team as whole, is unbelievable.

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19. Michael Phelps coming back to dominate his fifth Olympics is even too much for a Disney movie.

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20. “You come at the king, you best not miss.” I hope Kohei comes back for one more Olympics in home country.

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21. Katie Ledecky’s name got turned into a verb among our group. As in “you just got Ledecky’d” if you were dominating or embarrassed. That’s real queen stuff right there.

22. There is no reason team handball shouldn’t be huge in America. It combines aspects of all the sports we obsess over.

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23. This is stolen straight from my Twitter, but Fiji’s rugby sevens team could be a top-25 college football team. Easy.

24. Seeing NBA stars become screaming fanboys for semi-obscure sports will always make me smile.

25. The USA women are absolute superheroes across all sports.

26. Sabre is the only interesting version of fencing.

27. There is no interesting version of equestrian.

28. Hot take: any sport where the Olympics are not the main international competition should be banned. (Looking at you men’s soccer)

29. Welsh and Scottish accents are almost an entirely different language than English.

30. Brazil winning the men’s football tournament was a joy to see, and Neymar being the one to score the title-clinching penalty made for quite a moment, but this doesn’t even marginally make up for the last time Brazil played Germany at the Maracanã.

31. By the way, the Maracanã lived up to every expectation I had going in. It was stunning.

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32. Olympic pins are like currency inside of the venues. There are even black markets dedicated to trading and selling them. I had to trade in the rights to my first-born son to get pins for all of my friends.

33. Shoutout to translators. You saved me and all the other reporters countless times. Anyone who can speak multiple languages is extremely impressive.

34. As for some actual journalism tidbits, conducting an interview in another language, through a translator of course, was a definite learning experience.

35. The ONS (Olympic News Service) style guide took some getting used to between the preference to British English and the careful consideration of sensitive political situations (ex: referring to North Korea as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)

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(This is a Japanese photographer at the end of a four hour team table tennis match)

36. Foreign journalists are not afraid to cheer in the press area. I quickly learned that is mostly an American thing. I saw two German reporters give a standing ovation during the middle of a table tennis match.

37. Even if it seems like an antiquated process with the advent of social media, handing business cards actually works.

38. While on the subject of getting in touch with people, Brazilians don’t ask for your phone number, or if you have Facebook, or if you’re on Snapchat. They ask if you have WhatsApp. That is the main form of communication there.

39. And while Futebol is the national sport, beach volleyball (at least in Rio), is pretty close in popularity.

40. I would briefly like to think my family, friends, co-workers, and mentors who are the only reason this was even possible. Special shoutout to my parents and sister, y’all put up with a lot to make this happen.

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(Pretend this is me blowing you all a kiss instead of my main Olympic crush, Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina)

41. Overall, it was an exhausting, stressful, and endlessly rewarding experience. I’m already learning Japanese for Tokyo 2020.

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Welcome to the online portfolio for Logan Butts

My name is Logan Butts. I am currently working at Lipscomb University as an assistant sports information director. I graduated from Lipscomb in December 2014 with a degree in Journalism and New Media. I am currently working on a graduate degree in journalism from the University of Memphis.

I have compiled examples of my journalistic work from both my college and professional tenures.

If you have any questions you can contact me through:

Phone: 931-580-6636

Email: loganbutts0@gmail.com

Social media: My LinkedIn and Twitter profiles are linked on the sidebar of the site.

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