Thursday, 14 March 2013
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
(The latest in 'The Jordan Series' and part three of our trilogy that started with 'Money'-Ball' and '45', also a prequel to our first Michael Jordan piece 'The (Real) Last Shot')
"I knew the magnitude of the game, but I didn't fully comprehend what it meant. It was 1982 and I was a Freshman at North Carolina".-Michael Jordan From 'For The Love Of The Game'.
Let's take it back. Back before the championships and the MVP's, the legend and the legacy. Let's take it back before Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time in the NBA. Let's take it back to the NCAA college days. Where a star was born when Kobe and LeBron where just pee-wee basketball tall kids. Before Michael donned a Chicago Bulls jersey (or even before he wore a Washington Wizards one or a baseball one) with the number 23 (or 45) he was gifted with a North Carolina baby blue and white one. Before Scottie Pippen and 'The Worm' Dennis Rodman where his teammates, Sam Perkins and 'Big Game' James Worthy where. Before Phil Jackson and Doug Collins (twice) where his coaches, Dean Smith was once. Before Patrick Ewing was a great rival in New York he was one in Georgetown. Before he made out of this air making deals with sneaker companies bearing his name this Converse baller had tar on his heels. Before Nike turned him into a symbol, this basketball king was a prince in his formerly known college years. It was all made with a made shot that sent North Carolina and it's young star to the Cinderella stories of basketball history.
Number 23-15 Footer-Left Wing-Right Time-Spare Change Seconds-MONEY.
My sweet Carolina that was a sweet shot that carried them home. The kid out of Brooklyn moved to Wilmington, North Carolina with his family to look to cut down nets in college. Daydreaming of hitting the winning shot and the first of many clutch, greatest hit numbers of his life, his dad James knew he would do it like he dreamed of his son playing baseball. Some things where just meant to be. Like Mike-now owner of the Charlotte Bobcats-moving back to North Carolina this week in a mansion where his money and basketball making dreams began. The now 50 year old and leader of the NBA's top 50 built a basketball house during his home dorm time in N.C.
From a toddler to taking giant sneaker steps this Brooklyn born boy was raised in Carolina and on the basketball playgrounds was where he spent most of his days. At Emsley A. Laney High, Mike played baseball, football and basketball at school. Still, by the time college called it was clear which of the Holy Trinity of American sports the God of hoop dreams would choose. Still, can you believe this 5 foot 11 kid was deemed to small to play with the big boys? Can you believe this greatest basketball player ever got cut? Then again this is a world where Sam Bowie is taken higher than you in the draft. It's a crazy world. One that in the 1990's Michael owned...but it all started it the late eighties.
A kid so competitive he would keep his dorm mate up all night until he won a game of Monopoly. If you thought he was a late night nightmare on the board game, wait until he got on the boards of the hardwood floor come prime-time, game-time. There was no playing around there, these are the beginning accounts of how Money would eventually become big business. It was more than dollars, it was a basketball sixth sense that invoked even higher spirits in those face-painted, brass band players. A chorus of North Carolina cheers, led by the pied piper of basketball and fellow later icon to Chicago like R. Kelly. Before 'Space Jam', Mike believed he could fly and take this game out of this world. You hadn't seen nothing yet folks.
The All-American put up McDonalds numbers in High School, (29.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.1 assists) making everyone else look elementary like my dear Watson. Before over a billion where served in the big leagues, M.J. majored in cultural geography before redefining another one all around the world. From a junior, to a sophomore and then the freshest prince of freshman Michael Jordan's three years in college made him a star in the making for a formidable future like the other M.J.'s, Magic Johnson or Michael Jackson and it was a trick shot out of the bag at the end of a fourth quarter thriller that made Air rise above them all.
More than the prestigious Naismith and Wooden awards. More than the prolific 17.7 points per on 54.0% shooting, and 5.0 rebounds per game came a night in history which the greatest describes as the major turning point of his basketball career. NOT his college career, BUT his basketball one. Before Chicago, before Nike, before Larry O'Brien and before the hall came the college corridors of young American dream making fame. Before all that came a pass he received on the right wing with 15 feet and even less seconds to go. A perfect fluid rise of a prototype shot for a perfect wet jumper from basketballs ultimate figure, kissing the trailing net as this young kid back pedaled-as Ewing's Georgetown (like his Knicks) backed-down-with the same confidence that would define his shrugging, smiling and sometimes finger-wagging career.
Before Mike downed Byron Russell and the Utah Jazz for his last Chicago championship winning shot of NBA history, Jordan drained a defining final one of NCAA legacy in college. More than a game ending winning shot. More than a Georgetown goodbye. This was the start of something. Something that at the time only Michael and his proud father James Jordan watching could see before all eyes where on him. It all started here. The first shot.
"Your life will never be the same after that shot. Your life is going to change son".-James Jordan.
Thursday, 7 March 2013
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Somewhere in past times in the heart of Italy a young mix of European flair and the things American dreams are made of is growing and fermenting between good food and soccer skills. Decades later after ageing for 16 years, through championships and father time, a death of a dynasty and a whirlwind of Hall Of Fame personnel, the one thing that stands the test of time in all its potency and purity is Vino. Vino being Kobe Bryant's new nickname, lapped up by him pouring through his new Twitter feeds to find a fan who understands the final chapter of his career just as well as he does.
Getting even better with age, the former eight wonder of the world, wearing the number 24 still has venom in those Black Mamba fangs. It's venom tinted with vino for a deadly but tempting taste. Cold blood red seeping out of the Celtic green bottle to purple and gold coronation. Sure these days it's LeBron's bubbly stung tear winning league and Jordan comparisons, but the only one who could ever even come close to the 'money'-ball ballpark of the greatest is Kobe 'Vino' Bryant. Still crushing opponents like grapes, still always going down smoothly like Burgundy scotch. Even if his Hall Of Fame, dream team turned nightmare teammates are playing like champagne pretenders instead of contenders.
Shaq and Kobe part two but with just the arguments. World Peace in a world war. Gasol on the bench and Steve Nash on the last quarters of his career. No Phil Jackson. No Derek Fisher. No hope against Oklahoma. No playoffs even? We'd love to say no problem but Laker family Kobe has 99 problems right now, but at least a bitch of a downside of a career 'aint one for the Jay-Z of the league. Even if this hero is watching the throne from a Hawkeye Avenger distance. The dark knight will rise again. Age won't water this guys talent down. He's playing like he's been kept in a cellar for years now just waiting to be uncorked to get it popping. Now left to breathe through the bad times he's ready to take his team from the cellars and the basements of the Western conference to the royal box and high-rises his franchise is used to.
To Kobe. Until Vino is drinking champagne from a glass again. There's a quart of diesel and some Zen blessed in this wine, passed down through the ages. Like the Magic/Mike hybrid way he's played of late, able to switch it up like he's able to fill any statistical category when needed. Making new moments, memories like classic moments of spirited NBA's past. There's memories of 81, that was a good year, like the trifecta of championships, when Kobe, Shaquille and Coach Phil really where the holy trinity of professional basketball. These days the 'afro may be gone, but the hops aren't. Rising like yeast through all the sobering problems Kobe's passion is still a dark red. No rose here, or mild white wine. The Black Mamba will still drink from the reservoir of his talents until his career see's the toast or the roses.
You don't need to hear it from the grapevine that the Lakers are in deep trouble. Elimination trouble. This could be the worst 'best' team ever of things don't change. This isn't like Shaq, Kobe, Payton and Malone. They played through all their troubles...and brilliantly too. Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace must have the bottle to follow their aged and experienced leader through the vines. Times are hard, this is no secret...but Kobe is the truth. 100 proof like vodka, but just a little more classy. Red wine certified. The stuff of prestige. Prestige belongs with NBA royalty not lottery balls.
The American dreams, cultivated in Italy didn't come this far to lose. So as Laker fans are drowning their sorrows at night to all sorts of intoxicants, Kobe remains alive and well through it all, playing some of the best ways in his career during the hardest times. Raising a glass to the memory of the recent dearly departed Dr. Jim Buss (rest peacefully), giving his legacy, the voice of Chick Hearn and the words of Jim Murray hope as they look down with pride. Kobe won't rest until the critics labels wear off and the blood red passion he's given this game results in glasses clicking with celebration. It's not about the past, it's not about the future. It's about right now and right now Vino is still tried and tested, pouring and scoring. Time to let it breathe.