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Chris Gay: While the James-Jordan debate lingers, Atlanta drafts quality pitcher

Posted: June 14, 2017 - 1:07am

In the 1970s, the great supporting actor, John Cazale, hit home run after home run with his movie roles.

He portrayed Fredo Corleone in The Godfather in 1972. Two years later, he was in the thriller, The Conversation, which starred Gene Hackman and lost the Academy Award for Best Picture that year to - are you ready for this? - The Godfather Part II.

Three years, three great roles. But wait, there's more. Cazale starred with Al Pacino in 1975 in Dog Day Afternoon, which was nominated for best picture. Three years later, Cazale appeared in The Deer Hunter, which won best picture.

In total, Cazale appeared in five movies in six years, all of them nominated for best picture - two of them winning the top prize. Cazale's career, sadly, came to a sudden halt. In 1978, after filming his scenes for The Deer Hunter, Cazale died from lung cancer. He was 42.

Cazale, who was nominated for best supporting actor for his role in Dog Day Afternoon, tucked more greatness into his brief career than many people do into a long lifetime. For some reason, I thought about Cazale as I watched Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night. The neurons are likely misfiring upstairs, but I thought about Cazale as my friends on social media argued (and are still arguing) about things like the greatest basketball player of all time and the matchup between the Cavs and Warriors.

There's a lot of whining about Golden State winning the championship. The Warriors, some people say, are "stacked." This is not the first time there's been a great NBA team loaded with top-notch talent. I wish one day in the future folks complained about the Atlanta Hawks being stacked. Instead, the Hawks either sign over-the-hill players or mediocre talents to bloated contracts.

While I could devote an entire column to the Hawks' ownership, I want to direct you back to the chatter between my friends. It goes like this: LeBron James is the greatest of all time (The GOAT!). Nope, Michael Jordan is the GOAT. (Not one person has mentioned Jon Koncak in this conversation - and for good reason.)

I'm not a LeBron fan, though I respect what he does on the court. Also, he seems to be a pretty solid person off the court. You don't see his name splattered about on websites like TMZ.

As for Jordan, I've never been a fan of his. Growing up a Hawks fan, I couldn't pull for anyone on any other team in the Eastern Conference. So, I hated Larry Bird and the Celtics. I hated Isaiah Thomas and the Pistons. And I certainly hated Jordan and the Bulls. (And if you think Jordan legitimately defeated Dominique Wilkins in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest, we can't be friends. I don't put up with that sort of idiocy.)

So, if the contest comes down to James vs. Jordan, what's the criteria for the GOAT? Do we go by their stats? Do we compare them to the players of their respective generations? Do we go by the old eyeball test?

Maybe this is why I thought about Cazale. He didn't win any Academy Awards for acting, but if movies were sports, he would've had two championship rings in six years. And as far as the eyeball test goes, Cazale's legacy is that he's one of the greatest actors ever.

As for GOATs, I think you need to have multiple championships. Jordan owns six rings, never losing in the NBA Finals. James, on the other hand, is now 3-5 in the Finals.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time debating this issue. I just want to ask you one question: Can the NBA GOAT have a losing record in the championship?

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ALL WRIGHT, ALL WRIGHT: Also on Monday night, the Atlanta Braves selected two players in the Major League Baseball Draft. Like manna from heaven, Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright fell to the Braves at No. 5. Wright was considered to be the top pick in a lot of pre-draft chatter. The Twins, Reds, Padres and Rays decided to go another route.

Yes, Atlanta has yet another pitcher. But Wright, according to Sporting News, is "about as sure of a thing as the MLB Draft ever offers." And as the old saying goes, a team can never have enough pitching.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Wright is a steal. He throws in the mid-90s, with his fastball reaching 97 mph earlier this year. For the Commodores this season, he struck out 121 batters and walked 31 in 103 innings, also posting a 3.40 ERA. Soon, he'll sign with Atlanta and take the fast-track lane to the major leagues. Hopefully, he'll soon become a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

With the 41st pick in the draft, Atlanta selected Etowah High School (Ga.) outfielder Drew Waters (6-2, 185). According to mlb.com, Waters has the potential to hit for average and power, and he has plus speed and plus arm strength. Sounds like another solid selection.

The Braves have done a superb job drafting players in recent years. While it's tough for all of us watching Atlanta play sub-.500 baseball, know that the future is very bright. It might take a few years (2019, 2020), but the Braves will soon be back in the playoffs with all this young talent soon making its way to the majors. Our only problem: trying to fight through that Atlanta traffic to get to SunTrust Park when the Braves do return to postseason play.

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SO LONG, STOP SIGN: Speaking of traffic, I read recently Columbia County officials are planning to add a traffic light by September at the heavily-congested intersection of Chamblin Road and William Few Parkway.

Hopefully, this will alleviate some of the Grovetown gridlock - not to be confused with the Evans gridlock and the Martinez gridlock.

I've thought for awhile that intersection would be perfect for a traffic circle (or roundabout, if you prefer) - like the one at Pumpkin Center, which is easy and quick to navigate. Oh well. Let's hope for the best with this traffic light.

 

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