Friday, 29 November 2013

COURTSIDE COLUMN-These Hollywood Nights

Hollywood Hits New York.

Snoop Dogg once rapped, "deez Hollywood nights, they drive me crazy" and as the Lakers debuted their new cult classic, eagerly anticipated and Christmas present shipped awaited black jerseys this week things really where nuts for the lions favorite team. As the knights of Hollywood made their 'all black everything' debut off-Broadway in Brooklyn, New York, there where more fiasco's in the borough of N.Y. than a Lupe record. In a week where a picture of Kobe Bryant's signed 'Laker for life' contract has made the top trending social media rounds, nothing looked better than the Lakers in Wiz Khalifa black and yellow on the new Brooklyn parquet, even if Jay-Z wasn't there to see, or Kobe wasn't activated available to be ready to wear and lead his new team and it's uniform. Even without the point of Steve Nash, these young guards helped keep the Lakers purple and gold burning bright on the Winters road against a team that was left so embarrassed in their own home that they may just have to pack their bags for the Meadowlands of New Jersey again. These former Jersey boys thought they'd hit a bigger Knick like stage in New York, but even with the Mecca of Madison Square Garden's premier team losing seven sins straight, its looking mighty rotten in the big apple right now.

Take a bite out of this however, the new Lakers core that everyone has wrote off, minus the backcourt of Nash and Bryant is still hot. Led by the strong posting up of underrated and still all-star Pau Gasol, the three-point spark-plug redemption of Steve Blake and former Laker/Net/back to Laker again Jordan Farmar these guys are the pips. The cast, in alphabetical order, Henry, Harris, Hill, Johnson, Kaman, Kelly, Meeks, Sacre, Williams and Young may not be household surnames but in Hollywood their making their titles and games known in a city that engraves stars in the streets. A mix of young raw talent, looked-over vets and experienced players with some prime-time left are still swinging and hitting like a 'moneyball' baseball like unit and last night the basketball looked so fresh and exciting they could have played it with a red and white ball. In the NBA team that Dr. J built-that recently returned to the city-this full-court operation was just what the Julius Erving ordered. Even those reading his new, incredible autobiography couldn't keep their eyes on anything but the game. From another dunk show from Wesley Johnson, who is rivaling his teammate Xavier Henry and the rest of the league in 'best dunk of the night' or week categories, he flushed over a sleeping Paul Pierce who looked like he was still in Boston and stole the show and broke away with the hammer for another perfect play that extended what he does on the lay-up line every single night in Hollywood. The Clippers may have most of the Lakers former players (just check the roster, I cant do this again) but this may be the new lob city. For the statistical purists, the Lakers made seven of their first nine threes on this voyage of star trek's and a one-time Net hits three, threes in a row, but while wearing a new jersey that reads Lakers. Jordan 'former Net' Farmar had a boulevard of a game, stealing and swaggering a three home to break the net and back of his former team.

A team that he was traded for in a multi-team deal that led the Lakers to the dreadlocks of another Jordan, this one called Hill who is one of this teams and leagues biggest x-factors and rising energetic talents. Just check the box-score or highlights, even the headband can't wold this wild-card back. Still if you wanted to see more growth and maturity just look at Young. From zero on his jersey to hero, the kid scored a season high 26 and crossed over between shooting threes and dunking his way to a video game worthy night. Sure speaking of these numbers the Lakers may have blew a 27 point league but these youngsters plugged the gap against a team that features Hall Of Famers like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, with great Joe Johnson, even with Jason Terry, Brook Lopez, Andrei Kirlienko and leader Deron Williams in a Timberlake/Jay-Z suit and tie sideline injured post. Sitting next to another point great, in head coach Jason Kidd. In other words against this struggling but surviving Lakers team that's now 7-7, B.K. should have netted this, especially with the clutch of wheelchair to championship winning Paul Pierce. Still, you know what they say Jason Kidd, If you can't beat them, tell your player to run into you so you can spill your drink as a distraction, still lose and get fined fiiiifty thoousand BIG ones. Damn! As Kidd tried to distract Jodie Meeks clutch free throws by asking one of his players to run into him so he could spill his drink on-court, all that was wrote was a cheque for a flame-grilled, whopping fine of $50,000 as the ruse didn't work or impress. Some tabs just 'aint worth it and as Blake and Henry invaded the Nets huddle by jokingly acting like they where part of the team looking at the drawn up plays these Nets where humiliated in their own house like that uncle coming round with the embarrassing stories this thanksgiving

Who knew the one-time best point guard in the Association was such a good actor this Hollywood evening? Shouting 'hit me' like he was the Joker in Gotham City. Jason Kidd really made the turkey this holiday, even if it was Wes Johnson that provided most of the stuffing. The NBA has some brilliant bloopers for it's next caddy-shack collection. Still, even with the gag-reel it was a historical scripted Hollywood night for the record. Gasol's 21 point made him the second-leading European scorer (he's a lot closer to Dirk than you think) in all-time NBA history and the Lakers became the leagues most productive bench. Are Chris Webber and the critics still talking? I can't hear. All I hear is good things about these men in Johnny Cash black who are neuralysing any previous thoughts. Bouncing back from Washington treating them like a conveyor bolt lay-up line in D.C, the Lakers did the same with a capital exclamation in the nation and worlds most famous city. Even the Brooklyn crowd was chanting 'Lets go Lakers' like Kobe was playing down the borough. This was this young teams M.S.G. moment and piece of clarity. Even without the doberman these young pups had bite against all that bark. In the first of a selected few Hollywood nights this year these new black Lakers fashioned a classic, entertaining night that will make more columns if repeated again. Forget Black Friday, this was the craziest day in the worlds busiest town. There's no use crying over spilt-drink or lost Kobe when the Lakers make a new magic out of some showtime basketball. 'Hollywood Nights' is the new showtime served up cooked and charred, burning the Nets in black like an over-done meal. On the week of Chick's birthday he saw the game leave the refrigerator and hit the table smoking and steaming. Put your drink down and put a fork in that one, because nights like this? Only in Hollywood. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Saturday, 23 November 2013



Just What The Doctor Recorded.

Now isn't this just what the doctor ordered? OK, for all you LeBron's and Kobe's out there in this storied NBA history of basketball, the big three of all-time best players has to be Larry, Magic and of course the greatest of all-time, Mike. If you want to look at the most dominant, then look no further than the four horseman of the center position in Shaq, Kareem, Wilt and of course Bill Russell. Now for greatest teams, after the Celtics and Lakers you might look for the New York Knicks or Philadelphia 76ers. Looking at this Sixer franchise when it comes to their greatest players there's the God Wilt again, or Moses, as well as modern day legends like Charles Barkley and the answer of Allen Iverson. Still, even A.I knew-wearing number 6 in the 2000, Philly All-Star game-that when it comes to the greatest Sixer you have to make an appointment. An appointment with a man who was a legend in two games like Pee Wee Kirkland. A man whose Afro stood high, but his converses leapt higher. A man who took off from the lay-up line and revolutionized the art of dunking (and out of bounds, baseline defying lay-ups) before the air of Michael Jordan, complete with the gold necklace. A man who is now soaring from the nets to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. A legend of the city who took the New York Nets from the ABA to the NBA, decades before Jay-Z took them from New Jersey and back to the city in Brooklyn. A man who changed the game and now after several Magic and Bird autobiographies and recent Jerry West, Shaquille O'Neal and Phil Jackson memoirs is ready to release his highly-anticipated, long-awaited book of Basketball. The doctor will see you now.

What a prescription too of humility and honestly from a man who details all his blessings and curses of a rags to millionaire riches in just under a fortune 500 of peeled pages that will keep you turning and turning with vivid colors attracting you like the blue, red and white ball he stuffed through the hoop over and over again. This writer eager for his waited for all year copy, but saving for his own Basketball tour around the U.S.A. found a great deal for an unabridged audiobook. Not normally one for the lazy, 'look ma no hands' feel of listening instead of actually reading, I felt like I was cheating on books. That was until I learnt that this autobiography was narrated by the good doctor himself. In two 6 hour parts, what better way to have his story told to you during a lazy 12 hour Sunday cleaning day, or weeks worth of morning jogging but from the man himself in your company? As quick as you would burnt through this reading, you'll listen and listen through this half a day trip through the game and also American and cultural history. A man who truly propelled this game forwards while putting up with the backwards decades gone time of ignorant racism this man has gone through a lot from the real-world to entertainment. From tragic lows to the most entertaining highs in both love and loss this is life. Set to the soundtrack of his friend Teddy Pendergrass, with some light relief from his idol Bill Cosby. They've always said Basketball was like jazz and the man who improvised an inspirational influence on court from above the air-changing rim knew everyone from Miles (Davis) to Bird (Larry). Still old June doesn't forget where he came from, he knows it's all about family and how what he's learnt, he can pass on to his sons. From being a part of a Sixer side that was the only team to battle both the storied 80's Celtics and Lakers to being in the trenches with his own personal demons and wars, for better to worse this man dribbles his way through the brightest of lights and the darkest of depths that make this read truly his most powerful slam-dunk.

From jumping up and down as a child to see over the window sill, to jumping so high he took his game from the ABA's Virginia Squires to the NBA's legendary Philadelphia 76ers each paragraph starts with a leap. The man certainly knows how to craft a story, just like a career...and this is all real talk. The man who could run the baseline and even rock the cradle, knows how to turn just another sentence into a statement. It's just the art of creation he compares to the artists of music like Marvin, even channeling Gaye's 'Trouble Man' lyrics to the injustice of another night of driving that sees him pulled over by the profiling police. The aid of the soul man's soundtrack hasn't been used this poignantly for the harsh realities of life since Mark Wahlberg's worn drive through the motor city ravaged industry of a fall Detroit in the 'Four Brothers' movie. This instrument of Philadelphia soul combs through any issue in his life, full-blown like his trademark playing days Afro. Asking for no sympathy as he apologies for the wrongs in his life he just wants to write and right, from infidelity to children out of wedlock. Still, when it comes to the finer points of this mans life and career he recognizes his talent but with a refreshing humbleness you wouldn't expect for a man that soared over his professional peers with two handed-flushes and a championship belt to keep his pants even higher. Maybe this is the sort of talk that comes from a man who lost his dear friend and teammate to a plane crash where they could only tragically identify him via his championship ring. A man that has given his all, but lost so much. A man through and through however...that is still here. With a couple of retired jerseys, a Hall Of Fame career, a family, a legend and a legacy. The man who lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and John F. Kennedy, just wants to teach those reading what his college coach instilled in him after a heated, rivaling game, that you don't respond to violence with violence. You respond by being the better, stronger man. A true professional.

The man who witnessed many of America's most defining and major cultural events in history is one himself. Still, behind all the hair and dunks are the statistics and undocumented unrecorded basketball highlights that are told here from the man who grew from being "skinnier than six o'clock". Behind all that is the man who made the incredible top 10 player who redefined the game like no one else before him and helped those Jordan's and Iverson's in his same field or franchise do so after. The Converse pioneer tied up his laces and left it all out on the court, making it look all too easy, but here just like with Jerry West's 'Charmed and Tortured Life' we see what lied beneath that calm soldier on, court demeanor. From the bitterness of divorce to the tragic hands of a fickle fate that even took his sons life at far too young an age. Through all this however Julius has remained strong and resolute, hoping here to both entertain and educate you on life's ups and downs. From short, lump in the mouth chapters to artistically created ones of true storytelling, writing this book is equal parts descriptive and introspective and this is neither good or bad. This is what makes this story, like it's subject truly great. A legendary read that will go down with the best sports scribes like this man goes down as the sports best stars. From the concrete path of the Rucker to the hard-hits to the floor of a real life this man is the genuine article. Recognizing the cruelty of death, but the courage in celebrating life, there's little wonder that this amazing talent rose above it all. As he starts this writing, his "is the American life" and after reading this book from the court to off it you'll see it as one truly "fully lived". If you need any more proof for this read why not read the back cover of this hard-life hardback? No synopsis, just a quote, "when greatness meets class, that's what God created in Dr. J", from who else, but Earvin Johnson, the man who personified Magic. Still, even with his illusions sometimes he and we all need a doctor. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Thursday, 21 November 2013


Salute To Magic.


"I'm going to go on. I'm going to beat this and I'm going to have fun"-Magic Johnson, November 7th, 1991 Press Conference.

Stop press, there's an announcement to be made. This is a league in a sports world that is built off press conferences and the entertainment that comes with all this media hype from everyone's television to the local newspaper before a ball has even been bounced. From Mike's retirements to LeBron's decision when it comes to the biggest stars on the planets the baited breath words coming out of these cultural icons mouths is as almost ironically as thrilling as the last couple of seconds in a game we love them for playing. All ears, mics, eyes and lenses are on them for another flashbulb moment. Still no matter how big a blockbuster deal, or what great hangs his sneakers up for what will be the last time, no press conference will ever resonate in all its emotion and influence than the announcement of Magic Johnson in 1991 that "because of the virus I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers". The virus; shockingly HIV, the retirement; caused grown mean from teammates to press and everyone in that room and around the world watching to shed tears that Magic wouldn't, for the strength of himself, us and more importantly other HIV sufferers. You see, this is because like his Magic pass first play Earvin Johnson knew this wasn't just about him. This moment in history from it's anniversary to it's best '30 For 30' ESPN documentary is more than a network exclusive like CNN Live, it's the most magic play Earvin Johnson ever did make and pass. Just like he was always there for his teammates, Magic held court for his fellow sufferers.

Basketball fans, we all know the player, Magic Johnson. We all saw those behind-the-back, over-the-head, through-the-leg passes as he looked one way. We all saw those championships as he looked another. We all saw Larry Bird and his Boston Celtics as he and they couldn't ignore the purple and gold glare of Showtime. We all saw the Larry/Magic, Lakers/Celtics revolution of the 80's that led to the golden era of the National Basketball Association in the 1990's. Still, after the fall of '91, everyone in the world knew the man behind the Magic; Earvin Johnson. Retiring immediately from the game that he ultimately dominated without even looking or touching the net, Johnson vowed solemnly but strongly to "battle this deadly disease". A disease that thankfully his wife Cookie and his then unborn child did not contract. With 'Cap, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar not long taking the rocking chair retirement tour around the league his goggles and sky-hook where replaced by the shaggy hair and raw beard of a young, next great big-man and foreign imports in the league Vlade Divac. On and off Laker lifer A.C. Green was still their for the new decade as was the 'Showtime' of veteran Byron Scott and ageing superstar James Worthy. Still, with new big, inside, outside talent like Elden Campbell and Sam Perkins it was a new era for the Lakers and struggles would happen without their inspirational and motivational leader and all the tricks of this trade, but after this day in November on the grander scale of things none of this mattered.

Magic needed to be there for the people. Basketball and otherwise. He needed to be there for not only a still, ignorantly misunderstood young African-American people, but also everyone in not only the United States but the world. A world that was still reeling from the tragedy of Boston Celtic superstar to be Len Bias and his cocaine overdose and just like their misunderstanding of that drug at the time, in this new decade they still needed to be educated about HIV. About how it wasn't AIDS for Magic. About how it didn't just have to be a "death sentence". About how it wasn't just a disease for homosexual people or those engaging in sexual activity (although those engaging in a regular and varied sexual lifestyle needed to learn how to practice it safely). People needed to learn the hard way, about just how easy it was to catch, but the hardest to live with. About how we needed to understand and help others who suffer without scorn or jokes, but understanding and sympathy that benefited but not belittled. Things that Magic helped teach just like he schooled everyone on court, so today we know and think about it differently. So we don't have to see ignorant and hateful times that would make a little girl suffering cry on national T.V. Or a cruel time that would force a child with HIV to leave his school and his education, while other parents still not satisfied with just him leaving would yell after him "go to hell", like some humiliatingly ignorant people, when there was no way that boy was "going to kill their child". Magic helped stop all that...simply that he helped. He answered the call, even when President Bush (sound familiar) didn't.

Those single nights of after-game, after parties at the 'Fabulous' Forum with all the single ladies-where all the stars (hoops or not) would flock to Inglewood of all places-where gone, days of the past. Still Magic's celebrity friends of the highest order like Chris Rock or Arsenio Hall never left his side, like his teammates, closest friends and family. As for the rest of L.A. and what world that has its admiring gaze on the stars of Hollywood, after they dried their eyes they took a long look at themselves and a care-free life held-over from the sixties that should be settled down for the real joys of a safer, family orientated one. The age of Aquarius needed to be done. Some made jokes about Magic, but no one was smiling. No one would leave that inspiring smile of Magic, even if it did leave him sometimes at that press conference. Sure, strongly there was no tears, but there was obviously not many smiles either in the face of this adversity. All these years later, that truly says a lot, even though he did let out a big grin at times when he reaffirmed his favorite word and life's motto; "fun". Remember this too; "all those years". Where does all the time go? Jay-Z amazingly recorded his 'P.S.A.' 10 unbelievable years ago for his "retirement" 'Black Album', but over two decades ago, Magic made his retirement announcement which truly became a service to the public...and he's still here. Still with Cookie by his side. Still fighting this deadly disease with a smile on his face, making it-like his game-look easy, so much that people think the wrong thing. Appearances can be deceiving, but from Kanye West lyrics to other ignorant remarks Magic Johnson does not have a "cure for AIDS". Even if he isn't as thin or weak as people projected...or gone as some cruelly predicted. Just like the hardest work it took for him to make the game look easy, Magic is working and battling the impossible fight of keeping up with this disease. He.Is.Still.Here. Jogging around downtown and saying hello to everyone and not just for the ESPN cameras. He's still here fighting. Still smiling. Still having fun.

Still helping everyone else. You may see the business enterprises this man has made for his post-career cut to short, from taking Starbucks to the hood, to hopefully one day bringing an NFL team to L.A. alongside owning the Lakers and Dodgers. Still as much time and effort and dollars and sense he puts into his enterprises he does in to his foundations, supporting them with the money he makes and using his famous face and infectious smile to raise awareness and support for sufferers of HIV and AIDS. When some abuse their celebrity for the wrong reasons, writing huge cheques for foundations that everybody can see but nobody could possibly, literally cash, while making it known that their album comes out on Monday, Earvin does it the right, unselfish way, just like he played the game. Telling people that HIV is no joke and that "safe sex is the way to go". Showing in his calm but frank press conference that he identified and understood others living his life, but just like him they needed to open their eyes and see what we all misunderstand. "We sometimes think only gay people can get it, that it's not going to happen to me", Magic helped wake up the notions that tragedy or the fickle hands of fate don't think in prejudice. No matter how young, old, safe or unsafe you are. Black or white, boy or girl, poor or rich, anything can happen and you must live for the moment and think of the best but prepare for the worst as well as the future. And here he was saying "that it can happen to anyone, even me, Magic Johnson".

In 1991, at only 32 years of age, people thought that was it. From the close friends Larry, Michael, Isiah and Pat called first to a Forum of teammates and everyone who heard the news via every channel after the press conference, but it wasn't it. Not only for his life, but basketball. Those who thought he'd last years, even months or only weeks where wrong in that press conference, Magic did indeed come out "swinging" and "bugging" everyone as he joked. Proving he was Basketballs Ali in not only incredibly, different, physical domination of the game, but worldwide inspiration and influence against ignorance off it, albeit in different ways. Amazingly a nation inspired and no longer ignorant truly moved Magic's heart as he did there's, voting him into the following years 1992 NBA All-Star game. A return to the Lakers and a trip to Barcelona with the best team ever assembled for Olympic gold all seemed like a "dream" but it was woken up by this one game and return. A return that some like Karl Malone and even teammates Green and Scott where unsure of, but one that others reaffirmed with camaraderie and confidence not only to themselves and the world, but Magic too. Like legendary Laker trainer Gary Vitti attending to the Magic man medically with no gloves, Dennis Rodman made his own statement at All-Star. He threw Earv' down to the floor hard for the worst foul in a fun game that should be treated like an exhibition, yet Magic smiled. With everyone else afraid to touch him in the game at first, Dennis got all personal and treated him like the competitor and man he was. Now that's a show of solidarity like a pregame Isiah kiss. Something that changed the game itself and led to one-on-ones with everyone who answered Magic's becoming finger. Even Jordan's fade-away, fell-short against the Magic man, but it was all warm smiles from the fiery competitor as it didn't go down. He still had it. As number 32 with 29, 9 and 5, iced the game with a three-pointer, all players East or West rushed on the floor before the end of regulation to congratulate him. "Game called on the account of hugs", like Magic said in his autobiography.

Just like Magic embraced HIV suffers the NBA and the world did him. Especially a legion of players in a league that still to only these days of recent times had trouble adjusting with players coming out the closet and locker-room. Still, just like the bravery of Magic, the bravery of John Amaechi, Jason Collins and others should not be ignored insultingly. Just like an NBA team should pick up the talented free-agent and solid big-man Collins now in this new season, more should feel safe to open up. Open up like Magic did about something completely different but still a sexually related taboo subject and one that oftentimes leads to more pointed fingers than extended hands. Magic proved in that mid-February game in 1992 that it was all love. That people who thought only of the risk of contamination can see that the only thing that caught on was respect and understanding. The world was woken up to the misunderstood and pushed aside issue of HIV and AIDS from one man in one sport that wasn't even on a big national, yet alone global scale until he redefined it. Like he did it and the world once again with one revolutionary televised press conference and the redemption it made. Hollywood and the Academy Awards paid attention too a year later from movies to music, as all-American heroes and leading men of respective genres Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington and Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young helped lay-down the script and soundtrack for the classic film 'Philadelphia'. The city of brotherly love helped tie a pink-ribbon around the HIV and AIDS suffering community, but one man from Lansing, Michigan wearing purple and gold helped embrace the whole issue personally and join the helping hands of everyone around the world who looked at this issue with inspiration and not ignorance. Something that even inspired the inward Kareem to reveal his cancer suffering in order to also help others. With triumph over tragedy Earvin Johnson could have just retired without a word or just an excuse, but he changed the world with his humble and honest press conference. Now that's truly Magic.

"This is not like my life is over because it's not...I'm going to live on. Everything is still the same."

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

THE EFFECTS OF BIAS-In Memory Of Len & Jay Bias

What Should Have Been...


"It's the cruelest thing..."-Larry Bird.

'This Len Bias documentary broke my heart...stay away from drugs and violence in any form! I don't care how that sounds today. Stay away'. That was my tweet not two days ago after an ESPN '30 For 30' documentary marathon that saw me watch Magic Johnson's inspiring 'The Announcement' followed by the heartbreaking 'Without Bias'. So let me put the writers pen down for a second and speak to you honestly as a man. I didn't see this day coming. Really! I was just coincidentally watching this documentary, following the Magic one because it came to mind, but special day or not it still matters. At press time Len Bias would have been 50 this week and one of the NBA's greatest players (top 50 as well...if not more), but tragedy took all of that, the man and the sons (this is not a typo but tragedy) of loving parents James and Lonise. The justice of what this man could have been and the injustice of what happened can not be measured in words, not by this article, not even by Scoop Jackson's incredibly fitting 'God Blessed' tribute or even the powerful punch of the defining ESPN documentary. Still as life goes on we must continue to write and share his young legend and the legacy of what could have been and the lesson learned from his life. It's the least we could do for a man that was so much even before he got so near but so far to his and the leagues dream of him playing in the National Basketball Association. It's the least we could for players following in his footsteps for better or worse.

When Len Bias basketball play exploded on the scene with every emphatic dunk, block and rebound  he truly made his mark before drugs tainted his tragic life and what should have been. Leonard Kenneth Bias was a true All-American for the University Of Maryland. The nicknamed "frosty" was so cold on the court, with ice-water running through his veins. He became the ACC player of the year after leading the conference in scoring and his potent point play was matched by his all-round prototype play-making skills as a player that can influence as many box-scores as he does hearts of the brass-band led college crowds. Like the pied-piper he led those in attendance to follow too with punctuated play in a professional manner that had "league ready" wrote on every scouting report and "we're not" on every opponent coach's dry erase. He even showed some kid called Michael that he could match-up with his peer in both class and what could have been the graduation. After the redefining, redemptive NBA in the 80's searched for a new show to take them to the golden era of the 90's, Len and Mike could have been the next Larry and Magic. Sure Michael Jordan is the greatest of all-time, but even M.J. knows (like greatest scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who called late, streetball legend Earl 'The Goat' Manigult (who once responded to most dominant Wilt Chamberlain's "welcome to the big leagues schoolboy taunt" in a streetball game with his own "welcome to Harlem...mother#*%$#?" play) the greatest competitor he ever faced) that Bias was the truth. Bias even beat Mike's top ranked North Carolina to the tune of 35 points in an overtime thriller once.

Explosive and as exciting as Dominique Wilkins, but able to compete with Jordan on more than the slam-dunk. lay-up line, Bias could have been one of the 90's best. This dynamic 6 foot 8, 210 pound kid was ready for the NBA, so much that the most storied franchise in league history, the Boston Celtics would bet even Red Auerbach's last cigar on him. Drafting him second overall  in 1986 they where as happy as Bias big grin in that bright green draft cap. The future looked that illuminating, Larry Bird said he would have retired and handed the parquet floor to this man. That's how big he could have been. He could have carried on the historic Celtic legacy from the defining glory days of lord of the rings Bill Russell to Larry's legend. Still just as tragic as fellow cursed Celtic great Reggie Lewis, Bias would lose his life far too early and never get a chance to don a Celtic uniform and number 30. A jersey Bobby Brown rocked in tribute in Ja Rule's 'Thug Lovin'' video and that legendary hoops writer Bethlehem Shoals questioned the respect levels of this throwback. A jersey that Red passed to Len's mother like a folded flag of a fallen soldier during his Maryland memorial. The best ever NBA team never saw glory again until two decades later when Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce's talents where brought together for the first of a new 'big-three' generation. Still, even through all of this the take no prisoners Celtics weren't mad, just sad at the loss of their star son. A mans name that will always belong in the rafters in place of the championship banners he would have won.

There's too much tragedy today in the league and the entertainment world as a whole, people gone too soon, living only in legend. Like Malik Sealy, Bobby Phills, Bison Dele, Eddie Griffin, Drazen Petrovic and more. Or musics Static Major, Aaliyah, Left Eye, Jam Master Jay, Tupac, the Notorious B.I.G. and so many more we forget and other individuals that touch peoples lives not in the public eye that are just as important to their family and friends. Whether it be due to disease, war, accident or anything that can happen it's all tragedy. Still, when young people are taken too early by things like drugs and violence it's just far too of a tragic mistake and destructive road to go down. Especially in this desensitized 'GTA' age where we watch T.V. shows about cooking crystal meth, while our kids play first-person shooters like 'Call Of Duty' upstairs, while listening to guys like Eminem. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with these defining forms of entertainment...albeit if they are used and not abused the right way. We shouldn't preach too much about violence in entertainment when it's been around for generations, just like we shouldn't use someones personal tragedy as too much of a life lesson. Still, as per his parents charitable and foundation wishes if other people can see what's happened here and not give in to the peer and other pressures of drugs and also violence than Bias will save as many lives as Magic Johnson's HIV awareness in the wake of adversity mission can. That's what makes more than his '30 For 30' ESPN documentary just as potent and powerful. Apart from the lesson, in a day and age where more American fans prefer their college teams and exciting, passionate play rather than the professional level Len Bias will always go down as a legend even if he only logged time on the NBA rosters rather than minutes on court.

After a celebratory night of partying Len would never play in for the Boston Celtics or in the NBA, even though he still should always be remembered as making it. After taking cocaine with friends Len suffered seizures and died in hospital due to cardiac arrhythmia shortly after that. That's how quick and tragic that was. So let's not scapegoat here like everyone tried to back then during a same age where people made fun and hatred of Magic's major life event. Sure, too cocaine should have never been used by these future pro-athletes but this again was a time where people didn't know the real dangers of this drug like people do today with marijuana. This was just an event and time we'd like to forget, but shouldn't out of respect. Just like we don't need to see the press shots of Len's crying family and friends because it does not make for emotional or dramatic entertainment and it is just not anymore necessary in showing how deeply saddening and bad this end of this kids life was. Sure we must hear what the friends and family want, need and have to say via documentary, but it's just too disrespectful to do anything but just tell it like it is without invading too many peoples personal lives and privacy. Just like the honest and heartbreaking mistake of Bias' father referring to his son Jay as Len after his death and his unnecessary but felt embarrassment after, some things just don't need to be broadcast. Some things are just too sad. You see it's bad enough that it just happened to one kid, but this tragedy happened to another Bias brother and Basketball prodigy.

Remember when the Formula One world was rocked by the late legend Ayrton Senna's death? Well as horrific and tragic as this was many people forget another talented driver by the name of Rolan Ratzenberger was killed in a similar wall collision just days before. Yet, in articles and even documentary films only little is mentioned. In this day too, no matter how talented someone is tragedy is tragedy and what happens to others should not be ignored, just like nothing should be taken away from the greats who are honored after their loss too. Sure, Bias would have been one of the best and his death was as shocking to an American generation almost as much as President John F. Kennedy's assassination was to some-he was just that good and great a legend and cult icon-yet his brother was a talented ball player too, yet alone another great kid and son to the Bias family. You can see just how much this all meant from the haunting, harrowing tears-that again don't need to be show but still resonate-from Jay at his big brothers funeral. Or you can hear it in Jay's simple but subtlety moving tribute of how his brother would do anything for anybody, immediately and without delay at how great these kids where and should still be today as middle-aged men. Still, Jay had a lot to look forward to and make in his life, basketball and beyond just like Len. Still, after rightfully walking away from an argument in a shopping mall his awful aggressors did not do the same. They waited outside for James Bias and in this horrible age of conflict drew out weapons and shot this 20 year old boy to death in his car. Unfathomable to some and unquestionably horrible all it leave us asking ourselves and each other is that why does this type of thing still happen to millions of people, rich or poor, let alone this young family?

Now father James is an advocate of gun-control and mother Lonise is an anti-drug lecturer in honor of their two lost sons and against the drugs and violence that took young Len and Jay's lives so soon and so short. It's not only what they do to keep going, but to keep others away too. Today all we can do with all due respect is remember, not think of the great player he would (not could) have been but the great player he already was, because whether it's the NCAA or the NBA, basketball is basketball and great players are just that. More than this we should honor and respect the fact that beyond hoops Len Bias was a man too, someones brother, son and friend. Sure people will view this late, legend with the same tragic tribute as say musics Tupac or movies Heath Ledger but these men born into a 90's entertainment era and gone but not forgotten in the new millennium are much more than just cultural figures. What happened to Len is a mistake and a tragedy and it should not either be joked about or glorified. It's just too tragic. If all we can do is just learn from this experience and warn others off violence and drug, not only in his name but the forgotten lives of others than believe me this is THE very best we can do with all respect meant. The fickle fate of a cruel end of life here and everywhere is a subject we could go on about for even more paragraphs and articles, tweets and conversations...but frankly it's far too heartbreaking and not just selfishly for us. This is for them.

Thursday, 14 November 2013


To Honor Motown.

"When you say Motor City-no matter where you are in the world-everyone knows you are talking about Detroit"-Dennis Mannion, CEO Of Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons.

What a way to make a fashion statement. This is a winner on the 'Los' jerseys political scale. From the simple but slick design, to the depth of meaning behind there stitching, the new Detroit Pistons, alternative 'Motor City' jerseys are hotter than Stephen Curry's shooting. You've got to love new jerseys, like the Nets moving to Brooklyn for a redesign (with all due respect to the Meadowlands throwback) and this year the NBA is releasing so many you'd think they where ready to move back into their former, bigger Fifth Avenue store in New York. Still from the orange of the Knicks to the back in baby blue of the Clips it's all live in living color. With a name change in New Orleans and a Golden State skyline effort,-with classic Nuggets trimmings-coming up for the Dallas Mavericks, die-hard fans are going to have to remortgage their league passes. Still, there are some clear choice in this crop of clothing, especially with the new sleeve jerseys cutting the edge of popularity and the special Christmas Day, warm-up looking t-shirt jerseys being something some really wouldn't want to see under their tree. The best (and not biased) look has to go to the 'Hollywood Nights' Lakers black jerseys which is the new 'Sunday White' of trend and sale setting gorgeous garment, but for something deeper than that dark you have to look to the manufacturing capital of America.

That's right, motoring on the Detroit Pistons have beat my Lakers yet again, no wonder Chauncey Billups is back. To add to the excitement of the nostalgia of the champion MVP's return to the Palace of Auburn Hills, or the dangerous dunks of Josh Smith comes something that looks just as good as the potential of this new Brandon Jennings unit or the lack of ceilins of drafted big man Andre Drummond. The uniform of this blue collar team has always looked great with it's white and red trim, from the Bad Boy days to the 90's turquoise torque look and the recent re-branding of a classic look that teams like Houston, Philadelphia and Washington (with that back to Bullets, red, white and blue striped look for the best jersey in the United States right now) are following suit and returning too. Now we have something to add to the Hall Of Fame wardrobe of Grant Hill, Dennis Rodman, Isiah Thomas, John Salley and the Wallace boys throwbacks. Here's something for both the fans that like their street-wear or video game players to look as authentic as they do on court. Outfitted in the an Kansas City worth royal blue and lavish red lining with the new 'P' logo to punctuate it all looks great. Still beyond the style, is some substance where the meaning makes the clothes of the men. It's the words 'Motor City' across the chest that speak Detroit and Piston without so much as a reference to their basketball team but their honored home. It's the one jersey logo that should be worn and popped in celebration with all its horse powered pride. To hell with the fines, this jerseys going to sell. This is more than materialistic, this Adidas jersey is a revolution.

Recession ravaged, Detroit needs this like the return of it's wordsmith spokesman Eminem from 8 Mile road to the old Marshall Mathers home for a second lease of lyrical life. This is no Will Ferrell, Flint Tropics, but the real deal, all-pro. This navy blue is a militant dedication to the city of Detroit and the automobile manufacturing age and legacy that legend Henry Ford built from engine and elbow grease to axle. The city deserves this like more than a bail-out and it's a statement that one of the NBA's most storied and toughest, hard working franchises is telling to it's city and the world. That from the floor to off-court no matter how hard it gets, they aren't giving up. Driving like the Pistons they are with more in the tank then the government could ever help them with, this is socially conscious. Sure sports and politics are two different things and there's little a game can do for real-life in the grand scheme of things. Still, it's the small gestures that offer big encouragement and hands of hope. A big platform like the global exposure of the National Basketball Association could be a good way to raise awareness that shows even if some in higher powers don't, the NBA and one of its flagship franchises cares. From the years gone Phoenix Suns statement to what players write on their sneakers in dedication like the ink on their arms, this is what this sport is all about. It's more than a game, bigger than basketball but broadcast from it's platform for any major network that wants to zoom in for a closer look. Like Portland's 'Rip City', or the Warriors bridges and trams before them, this is pride personified to perfection for the city. It's truly a great look. It's all's hard not to get romantic about this sport, no matter how real it gets.

The players may carry their own individual names on their back, but they wear 'Motor City' across their confident, puffed out chest with pride. With one uniform and one love this team shows it's bigger than how they're playing right now, or the future desire to honor Motown across the jersey for the record. Like an 'S' across their chest, right now these men are heroes to a city full of unsung ones. Recognizing,-like we all should-the real people and cogs in the machine that have kept it going and now need their own lift to see them through the long road ahead. It's the least a bunch of millionaire owners and players can do for those who are out of work looking to avoid foreclosure. You don't have to watch the inspired opening Winters drive of Mark Wahlberg thorough the fall city in the 'Four Brothers' movie to the tune of Marvin Gaye's 'Trouble Man' to see how bad it's got in this town. It's time to rewrite the script. The "traditional and conservative" jersey will be rocked 10 times this season but will stand out much more than that. From the shops to the streets, a statement better than a t-shirt will be put on for the city. Motown may have faded out like disco even though it should still be heard, but even a broken down motoring industry will find its lane again and be the engine of this city and country once again to the dollars and sense of a better day. Especially with the Pistons behind them driving them, showing that sport can be a support as well as an entertainment escape. The team may have made their city proud this year with their dedication, but it's their pride in their own town that has made this all happen. The roots paid homage to here will help this city and its influential industry grow. This may all be for show, but it's time to tell. Re-branded, restocked and refueled like their team, Detroit are set to run again. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Monday, 11 November 2013


Rocket Relaunch.


The Boston Celtics? The Los Angeles Lakers? Who comes to your mind when you think of the National Basketball Associations most storied franchises in all of the leagues classic history? The New York Knicks? The Philadelphia 76ers or the Detroit Pistons maybe? Or how about the Chicago Bulls for you golden era babies? After the double threat of Beantown and L.A., there is argument that many of these teams and one day the chasing and celebrating San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat could lay claim to the top brass of Hall Of Fame franchises. Still, let's not forget about the rest who are aiming for best. You saw Hakeem, Yao, Clyde the Glyde, Elvin Hayes, John Lucas and Calvin Murphy at the Dwight Howard press conference. Yes, that's right more than the pair of chips or the idea that this team are as 90's as the Seattle Supersonics or those large logo jerseys the Houston Rockets have always been there and thereabouts and now with Howard's end of Disneyworld and Hollywood landing him in Texas alongside the Linsanity revolution and that beard, the future of these propelled Rockets feels like the other side of the pillow. With a new big three and some more steps to take this team could be more than just atop the Texas trifecta of the seasoned but stellar San Antonio Spurs and those Mavericks in Dallas. Looking better than those new 'Motor City' Detroit Piston or 'Hollywood Nights' Laker jerseys, with a nice new/classic red away themselves, this could be the team that brings it home and creates a legacy that makes their legends and history proud.

The story of this red, white and silvers quest for gold began in the green and white of San Diego like one Ron Burgundy. Robert Breitbard was the anchorman however buying this team for $1.75 mill and entering the league's expansion draft in 1967 with their fist pick being one slick, young Patrick Riley. A coin toss a year later against the Baltimore Bullets reversed their 67 record breaking loss debut season fortunes as it brought in the Rockets fist bolstering franchise star and legend in Elvin Hayes who came from the University of Houston. Then before the Rockets themselves made a reverse Hayes and moved to Houston, the San Diego Rockets drafted franchise lifers Calvin Murphy whose smooth game slid down the corridors of the Hall of Fame and the perfect player who turned into the champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich. In H-town the pair became All-Stars for the lone states first NBA franchise that really took off in the American home of space travel. The Rockets truly belonged in Houston and as they brought in the great triangle mind of Tex Winter the future looked bright for the fall season. Still, however after Hayes was traded and then Tex was replaced in Texas it was clear this team was in need of a classic change like their uniform. The city suited them just fine, but there needed to be a new linchpin to leave his legacy. The man to part the sea of problems came in the superfly seventies, looking like Curtis Mayfield in those goggles and his name was Moses.

The big-man Malone before Karl gave Houston a special delivery as he first great center for a franchise that is currently chasing the Lakers in more ways than one when it comes to being known for having a legendary legacy of 7 footers. One of the leagues best ever and most underrated ushered in a great era for basketball Gods as the team moved to 'The Summit'. Moses almost took the Rockets to the mountain-top behind a force of big boards and dominating dunks. The big-three of Malone, Murphy and Rudy T made the All-Star and playoff rounds, but when Houston sent star John Lucas II for one of the Barry brothers in Rick, they where delivered an almost perfect 94.7% from the line. The Sinatra of Houston was still the 'Chairman Of The Boards' as Moses and his boys went four for Texas, battling with a new franchise in Dallas and then 'The Iceman' George Gervin in the classic decade making 'Battle Of Texas' with the legendary San Antonio Spurs. Murphy's 42 points in a hostile Lakers vs Boston like Game 7 gave Houston arguably it's biggest moral and literal victory to date. After beating the Kansas City Kings the Rockets couldn't capitalize over the elite Celtics franchise in the finals however, despite everyone from Mike Dunleavy  to Major Jones stepping it up hugely. Moses may not have been able to lead the Rockets all the way but he started a soaring legacy that could be seen from any space in the hoops hemisphere.

The legacy became two bigs better in the eighties that wasn't just all about Magic and Bird's teams and the pre-M.J. revolution they brought to the increasingly televised league. Before San Antonio had the dynasty making twins of Tim Duncan and the admiral David Robinson, Houston had their own 'two towers' that posed under the World Trade Center and had the ability to become the Lord Of The Rings with the most all-encompassing frontcourt game since Bill Russell. The only man that could replace Moses was well, two in the form of 83/83 Rookie Of The Year Ralph Sampson and his Delilah in Hakeem Olajuwon. Hakeem may have been drafted over the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan but he was never considered a Sam Bowie, as Houston blazed Portland and everybody that tried to burn the paintwork made by their two ladder climbers. It almost looked like 'Showtime' with the alley-oops and spinning reverse jams but Chick Hearn knew that if the NBA in the eighties belonged to the Celtics, when it came to west it belonged to the Magic best Lakers coached by the first player the Rockets ever drafted. It almost seemed not meant to be. Besides even with the young Sampson and Olajuwon the Lakers still had the veteran cap and greatest scorer of all-time Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with that unguarded, unstoppable sky-hook shot that sunk everyone down the line. Still, the Rockets managed to steal the show from L.A., but yet again in the finals they couldn't leave the town of Boston without anything but their wounded pride in a valiant Finals effort and the certification from champion Celtic coach K.C. Jones who called the Rocks the new "monsters on the block".

The Rocket monster really came alive outside the pacific rim of Laker machine like domination in the 90's where Hakeem and Houston really came into their evolved own. In a decade that was dominated by the Michael Jordan and his six time winning Chicago Bulls, Houston still managed to get two of the other four behind the man that was drafted two spots above Mike. It was all a dream, that you could read in SLAM or Dime magazine as Olajuwon's Sega Genesis video game like play and soccer skills gave him the fancy footwork in the paint that could dream shake anybody out of their groove. Even with Ewing and Mourning against him he was the leagues notorious B.I.G in the key. You remember that picture of 'Keem holding the young, smiling Shaquille O'Neal in his arms like a new born 7 foot, 300 pound baby? Well that move by the dubbed 'most dominant ever' was as wrong as the time he slapped Michael Jordan on the behind after dominating him for a half (Mike saw that as vulnerability and turned the tables and dominant tides in the second half) as Olajuwon owned the rising rookie and his commercially successful first guard partner in everybody's Chris Rock favorite Penny Hardaway as they swept their way to the Finals and 1995 championship, (the first ever for a sixth seed). They first met Larry O'Brien a year before in their golden era led by new coach and former player Rudy T who has been the ultimate Rocket man for a quarter century. A cult 90's era that saw an NBA nucleus of notoriety. A core that featured the dribbled walk behind the talk of Kenny Smith, the ever dependable and underrated role legends Vernon Maxwell, Mario Elie, Tracy Murray and Otis Thorpe, the point guards point guard in Sam Cassell and the original clutch of Robert Horry before L.A. or San Antonio. Horry shot and dunked the light s out while Cassell sold everybody on his point making play, but yet again it was the prime-time of Hakeem that made this team as fresh as their pinstripe, planet logo jerseys as the Rockets rocked everyone, with their snarling, shark, cartoon eyes on the prize shooting Rocket graphic.

Another son of Houston arrived via a few gap years away from the university as Clyde Drexler glided away from Portland and gave the Rockets it's next dynamic double dose of anti-Jordan. The guy that lived in Mike's Nike Jumpman, silhouette shadow like all the swingmen for his whole, classic career may have been born in the wrong time, but not the right season as he finally earned the ring that was always a Jordan shrug away from him as a Trailblazer. This veteran double-act had an expiration on it like those very 90's feeling fashion jerseys however. Still, before the duet was sung out, they where joined by one more collaborator for another and one of the best big-threes of all-time as the mound of Charles Barkley rounded out his career in H-town after taking his rebounds away from the Phoenix Suns. Joining his future analyst partner in Kenny 'The Jet' Smith, Bark helped his team bite away at the West, with explosive TNT combos's across the floor and bench. It took Cassell, Horry, Mark Bryant and Chucky Brown to get him but Sir Charles arose with the thrust-powered Rockets and made a holy trinity sent from the basketball Gods that only needed more time to be as elite as their player resumes. After Drexler's dunks retired with the hanging up, called time on his spring loaded sneakers, M.J's partner in champagne crime Scottie Pippen was brought in after the Jordan retired Chicago fallout. It was certainly a different time in the golden era dawning 90's as the elite, ageing stars showed signs of their last paychecks. Barkley and Pippen didn't always see eye to eye or name to name as Bark once as number 34 once refereed to Pip only as 'number 33' and after Pippen made his trade for Portland, time was called on Chuck's career due to injury.

It almost looked insulting for the legacy of a team that was so close to dynasty status, but after Steve Francis spurned the Canadian cold Vancouver Grizzlies, the winds of draft change brought in the next great player for this formidably strong through anything franchise. Especially after Hakeem Olajuwon made his way up North to Toronto for an exciting Raptor season for the country it was truly the forced beginning of a new era as change had come. An ice shivering 28-54 season marked the first year after the 20 years of Hakeem and his two decade dream. Those about to sleep on Houston however need to look further East. Even though the dunking dynamo of the dubbed Steve 'Franchise' (and his underrated cat and backcourt partner Cuttino Mobley) brought enough energy, excitement and entertainment to give this baller a 'Cribs' worthy home including a deluxe everything and the kitchen sink, the foundations of this franchises true future laid past the great wall of China. With the next great draft and a LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony color and uniform changing re-brand to suit the red and white and typography of the next big things homeland, the Rockets drafted the 7, 6 Yao Ming. The only man who could truly hope to stand taller than Shaquille O'Neal, this man looked tall enough to be launched into space. He propelled the Rockets as far as his brief but brilliant career could take him. Despite critics writing him off his strong but slight, injury-prone frame rounded into a body of work that saw a soft touch to go with a strong will that gave the giant Shaquille one of his only real threats and the Rockets team it's next great franchise star and the one of a two punch.

As Francis court tricks where offered to Magic, Tracy McGrady made his way from Orlando and what could have been with Grant Hill for an on paper, perfect partnership with Yao in the Shaq and Kobe, big, small dominated new millennium. Yao and Mac really gave Houston new hope and their threat came with promising play, but injuries and time yet again drained the sand out of an unlucky franchise who in another life would be the best. Despite Yao's next generation of center in a dying age of big men and Tracy's Mac play and his epic 13 points in 35 seconds in another battle for Texas with the Spurs, the Rockets couldn't click as well as their taking off predictions. Houston had a problem...a postseason one and when it came to the playoffs they where Apollo 13, unlucky and lost. McGrady's first-round curse continued as his slumped head and no words tears in an infamous press conference showed both his immeasurable hurt and his heart all in one lack of a soundbite. The somewhat curiously nicknamed 'Rush Hour' duo, looked and sounded as thrilling as Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker but wouldn't have their own three-peat trilogy. The kicks this unlucky as underrated team took weren't funny.  Even in their brand new Toyota Center arena, behind new coach Jeff van Gundy, the team couldn't motor on behind the legendary New York teachings of JVG. Even with a Rick Adelman coaching change and the defensive specialist help of another giant great Dikembe Mutombo (whose career resurgence in Houston, earns his place in Rocket big-man legend lore) and the Metta World Peace formerly known as Ron Artest, Houston couldn't top another Kobe led Lakes dominated decade. Even with Yao's heart and dedication trying to walk back on-court after a career ending ankle break. The years after the Ming dynasty and the latest era elusive time saw rebuilding and the talented likes of Kevin Martin, Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry, Luther Head, Aaron Brooks and today's Chandler Parsons take competitive shape in the problem solving Houston that's always been consistent and dependable like their own one-time veteran leader Shane Battier.

Still, today is a new day led by the hair of James Harden's chinny, chin, chin. With a game and beard that nobody saw coming the Oklahoma City Thunder's big-three loss is truly the Houston Rockets franchise game. Even with the biggest thing to hit New York since Godzilla and the monster free-agent signing of the past two years, this is Harden's team. Fear the beard and the scoring prowess of one of the leagues best that is taking fans, opponents, coaches, All-Star votes, scouts and cheerleaders by storm but still is somewhat underrated. Who knows how high this mans ceiling or how long this mans beard can possibly grow. After taking over New York and the world like the Avengers, the Linsanity of Jeremy Lin is still something to marvel at as the point guard gives Houston it's next great major player in the Asian market since the heartbreaking continent boundary breaking loss of Yao. Now with the dunks and blocks (even if-albeit outstretched-they cant clutch at Steve Blake winning shots in a nightmare L.A. reunion which this Lakers fan has to boast about for a second) of Dwight Howard coming into play, Houston hopes this Rocket big-three will be the third bowl of porridge and orbit around the world longer than previous expeditions for their time in the sun. Who knows how great Harden could be in this LeBron/Kobe/Durant power scoring, dominating league, who knows if Jeremy Lin can bring more basketball buzz to his game than the mecca New York hype and who knows if Howard will recover from the style over substance years in Orlando and Los Angeles or have another 'Dwightmare'? One things for sure this is a Houston Rocket team of stars worthy of its underrated, storied history, from big-men to guards and all-round all-stars and role players over the decades chapters. As Howard looks to lead the big-man legend and legacy of his new team to the potential of the franchise and NBA's promised land who knows what could happen for this out of the world franchise that has recovered from it's gravity induced, grounding, spaced out years to a new altitude and atmosphere looking for new trajectory and latitude. Who knows the next time Olajuwon, Ming, Drexler, Hayes, Lucas and Murphy and more surround a smiling Dwight Howard, he might just be holding a Larry O'Brien championship trophy as well as a number 12 jersey. Right now the supports have come off, the ice has fallen to the launch pad as the future of this franchises past promise is in his hands. The Houston Rocket is cleared for lift off.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

BALLER UP-An Interview With Tracy Murray

Murray's Mind.


When it comes to Basketball, Tracy Murray has quite the resume. The talented shooting and scoring small forward played with six NBA teams, (the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors, Washington Bullets/Wizards, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers) and three clubs in Europe (including stints in Greece and France) during his career. The potent scoring threat, who graduated from three incredible years at UCLA college, has led the league in 3 Point shooting, recorded a 50 point game to join that exclusive club and won an NBA championship ring . Yet, still this man with Hall Of Fame talent was criminally left off All-Star selections. Still, in retirement Murray is showing that he's quite the all-round professional and versatile threat that he was while on court. Providing color analysis for the UCLA network isn't his only gig. The all-round box-score genius is adding coaching to his career statistics and after stints in the D-League and WNBA is the big NBA league next? Add another and one and you can see that this man has been part of the exciting streetball to court exposure, coaching in the new, exciting 'Ball Up' league that is taking the nation and world by dunking storms, ripping down nets and critical notions of the somewhat lost art of the game. It's clear just like streetball, this coach is making himself known once again. We caught up with our friend Tracy to discuss his NBA career, his coaching one and the finer points of life and basketball.

24/48/82. Hey Tracy, thank you for your time. How are you? 

Tracy Murray. No Problem! everything is good. Good to chat with you again.

24/48/82. You've recently been involved with coaching in the 'Ball Up' league how has that been?

T.M. Ball Up is cool. I coach that team every Summer for their US Tour and TV Show tapings.

24/48/82. How important is it for scouts and leagues to keep their ears and eyes to the talents of the streets?

T.M. It's important, but it's even more important for the player to have a resume' (High School and College careers) to be discovered or they won't be taken seriously. That shows pro teams that you're disciplined enough to go to school and play.

24/48/82. How satisfying is it to see the talent level and the opportunities of exposure that 'Ball Up' is offering?

T.M. It's offering the same thing that And1 did in the past, an alternative option to earn a living with no resume'.

24/48/82. I feel like streetball is one of the most expressive forms of the game. What's the most impressive thing you've seen displayed on court?

T.M. I think its the athleticism of guys like Air Up There (6'2), Springs (6'2), and Special Efx (6'5). These guys have made some incredible dunks within the flow of the games that NBA guys can't do.

24/48/82. How much is coaching something you want to get into more in the future?

T.M. I LOVE coaching but its one of those businesses where it has to be the perfect fit with the staff as well as location. I've Coached in the NBA D-League (Bakersfield Jam, 3 years) as well as the WNBA (Tulsa Shock, 1 year) so I have pro coaching experience.

24/48/82. Can you share with us some of your core coaching philosophies and principles?

T.M. Basically, keep it simple and fundamental. The game has changed so much that you can't be too detailed. Basketball IQ is lacking nowadays so pretty much simplify things and stay consistent with it. Occasionally make changes when needed.

24/48/82. You've also recently worked for television and analysis how has that been in keeping you connected on-court?

T.M. Right now being a color analyst on TV or for the most part for me radio, has be GREAT!!! I enjoy breaking down plays and games and feeling the energy of the fans in College or High School Basketball. It's truly a job that I enjoy.

24/48/82. How has the recent trend of ex-players getting into television analysis been good for the game and entertainment level of NBA T.V.?

T.M. I think its good because the guys are very entertaining and have colorful personalities that most fans didn't get to see until the recent flurry of former players hitting the TV as Analyst. It's good for business.

24/48/82. You where in attendance for Mitch Richmond's 'M Rock Life' anti-bullying charity all-star basketball game. How great an experience was that?

T.M. That was GREAT! I was able to support a cause that's a serious problem amongst children nowadays. Especially on social media. This has to stop! There's enough problems in the world today, we shouldn't be putting up with bullies. It's not cool. Plus, Mitch is a former teammate and good friend, if he needs me for a good cause like anti-bullying, then I'm in.

24/48/82. You and Mitch are some of the greatest and most underrated players of the golden 90's era. How special is it to be a part of that?

T.M. It was a GREAT time to play. I played with and against Hall of Famers and Future Hall of Famers and held my own as a player. You were constantly challenged night in and night out.

24/48/82. With your versatile stat-filling and team playing role what do you feel you brought to the game with your play?

T.M. Definitely my outside shooting. I was able to space the floor with my shooting range. I feel I played my role to the best of my ability.

24/48/82. Do you feel your star power was underrated in this game? Or was it a blessing in disguise giving you an overlooked advantage in match-ups?

T.M. I think I flew under the radar for my 12 years. But, that's what kept me motivated. I was in a constant quest for respect. As long as guys were paying attention to me on the floor from the other team, then I was satisfied. That's the respect that I was looking for from my peers.

24/48/82. From stars to role players, who where among your toughest competitions and team-mates?

T.M. My teammate Rod Strickland was the GREATEST guard I played with. His size was a mismatch and he was hard to keep out of the paint. James Worthy, Bernard King, and Dominique Wilkens were at the end of their careers but they were still outstanding. MJ, Scottie and Dennis was the best trio I played against. Shaq was the most dominant!

24/48/82. From the Californian college of UCLA to your NBA days including the L.A. Lakers can you share with us some of your favorite basketball memories?

T.M. Wearing the UCLA uniform and playing 3 wonderful years there with GREAT players and fun experiences of the NCAA tournament was unmatched by anything else. That was the best 3 years of my life. In the NBA, leading the league in 3pt. percentage was cool. The NBA Championship with the Houston Rockets with Olajuwon, Drexler, Horry, Elie, Smith, and Cassell was special. The 50 point night was definitely a special night to remember. My best year as a pro was with the Toronto Raptors in the very first year. I will forever cherish that experience. That was a reintroduction of Tracy Murray. That was the year that I knew I belonged in the league.

24/48/82. What memories do you take from your first, establishing years at Portland and Houston?

T.M. My patience and maturity was being tested at that time. I learned a lot from GREAT players. That experience with those 2 teams prepared me for the rest of my career.

24/48/82. You had some of your best statistical time and career highs for the Toronto Raptors. What was it like playing up north and how good do you think the future of Canadian basketball is from the all-star game to all these new talented players?

T.M. It was a blessing to play in Toronto on two occasions. I'm an Original Raptor and then I came back during the Vince Carter Era and Playoff years. I was happy to see how much the organization have grown. They've had a dip in the last couple of years but with the young talent they have up there now,they should make a good run again. As for Canadian basketball, you can see where our influences on the youngsters in Canada is paying off. Canada is a new hot bed for talent. Corey Joseph, Kris Joseph, Robert Sacre, Andrew Nicholson, Tristen Thompson, Myck Kobongo, Anthony Bennett, Joel Anthony, Samuel Dalembert, Kelly Olynyk, Kevin Pangos and Andrew Wiggins do I need to say more?? You have to credit Steve Nash for a lot of the influences as well.

24/48/82. From a name change in Washington to Denver and Europe you've logged a lot of miles but are more than just an average NBA journeyman. Can you share with us some of your favorite experiences from all of this and what that helps bring to coaching?

T.M. Every stop was an experience. Playing in Europe was like being in college again. We had roommates on the road and I actually got to know my teammates better that way. I learn different strategies over there as well. When you have the experience of seeing different looks basketball wise it brings out the versatility in your coaching ability.

24/48/82. How does it truly feel to be an NBA champion?

T.M. It feels GREAT!!! It's the ultimate goal in a team sport. There are many of great players who worked their behinds of to get one and it never happened for them. It was a blessing. It was the right place at the right time.

24/48/82. How proud of your cousins Lamond Murray and Allan Houston are you?

T.M. I don't know, all of us have had successful NBA careers. I'm sure we're all happy and proud of each others accomplishments.

24/48/82. From LeBron to 'Melo these days it seems to be the Small Forwards, not Point Guards or Centers that dominate these days. How much has your position of the three evolved over these last three defining decades?

T.M. I think my position have always been a position that had tremendous athletes and explosive scorers. I think the 3 spot dominates the ball a lot more than when I played.

24/48/82. What advice would you give to young players and coaches of your type in establishing themselves in this sport?

T.M. Build a resume', work extremely hard, build relationships, and whatever role you are given maximize that role to the fullest.

24/48/82. How great is it now in retirement to have more time for family?

T.M. I made the decision as a player not to get married until I was done playing. You have no time to nurture a relationship or marriage with the stresses of trying to maintain your spot in the league. The lifestyle isn't for a family man. It's difficult. That's why you see so many divorces when guys retire. So, yes I'm very happy to have family time that's not distracted by the NBA.

24/48/82. What's next for Trace? With 'Ball Up' and the UCLA network gig would you one day like to return to your college or even the NBA as a coach?

T.M. If its the right situation, I would explore the possibility of coaching. College or NBA it doesn't matter. Ball Up is just entertainment and I enjoy that for right now as far as coaching. Broadcasting is my main job and I'm really enjoying that right now.

24/48/82. We thank you for your time Tracy and wish you all the best for the future. Good luck Coach.

T.M. Thanks for having me once again, Take care!

Previous: Tracy Murray Feature 'Murray's Court'

Monday, 4 November 2013



Laker Nation is looking a little more populated than people first thought hey? And to think they tried to cover up those banners like it was just what the Doc Rivers ordered. OK, sure so the Lakers chances of raising another piece of made material to the rafters to cover those Clipper "selfies" are looking as vulnerable as Kobe Bryant's Achilles but that doesn't mean the rest of the Lakers are going to heel to the rest of the league, like they think Kobe is going to heed ESPN's latest quote on quote "ranking". Kobe Bryant is still one of the best players in the league, despite the greats of LeBron James and Kevin Durant and his team is still a great one despite the losses of the likes of Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace. When Kobe returns it's going to look so much better for the Californian forecasts, but this winter won't see his L.A. stars go cold into the Hollywood night. There's more options in this locker-room, then there is in the Sunday white and new black addition to the purple and gold tradition kit room with sleeves. Time to roll them up and get to work. The NBA may not be rolling out the red carpet for these guys, but they are ready to prove that the floor in downtown L.A. is furnished with purple and gold. Now who's doing the heavy lifting?

Of course there's still the core. One that's a hot-bed of some of the best physical and mental talent of the NBA. Sure Steve Nash may be getting old, but the man born into the Canadian cold is still hot, running through the veins like maple syrup on sizzling but crisp bacon. He can still shoot and scoop a lay-up, but it's his pass first, 20/20 court vision is second only to the man behind the goggles, Magic of Earvin Johnson in the all-time ranks of not only Laker, but NBA history...and yes he's still got it too. The only man able to lead and keep the play by plays of Mike D'Antoni in dry erase order before that thing is snapped over legs in frustration. In the post Nash may not find Bynum or Howard...or even a test failed Odom, but the reignited gasoline of Pau Gasol is proving he can do it all...on his own. And to think they called him soft. Gasol is showing he's tougher than the rest, dunking and duking it out on the boards to point and rebound numbers that hark back to his championship trade certified ones or the youthful exuberance of his Rookie Of The Year debut in Memphis. Just like his Grizzlie brother Marc (who he was traded for, Marc was once part of the Lakers, albeit just being on their books), Pau is proving that there isn't much between the Gasol name when you talk about best big men in the league and all time legendary Spaniards. It's going to be a bull fight in the West this year, but Pau is taking it all by the horns.

The Lakers can't just rely on ageing and injured stars however. This is the year where they prove they are more of a team and contender than people first thought. Like their fellow storied and Garnett, Pierce and Terry, Brooklyn depleted Boston Celtic team, they are going to surprise a lot of people this year. Sure we probably won't see another classic purple and gold, versus Celtic green final but this will all make for some interesting match-ups that's for sure. This is how much the underrated Lakers can spread the floor. From the size and strength of one of the last, true centers Chris Kaman (hey, after the Clippers took most of our players and floor and ceiling space it was only right we picked up one of our foes former) to the returning championship point proven certification of Los Angeles' son Jordan Farmar. This team is Steve Blake to Jordan Hill deep and from streaking threes to energy plays on the right night this team has the right ingredients off the bench for a microwave ready meal of second unit sustenance. The second-year option of Jodie Meeks helps this team run and shoot it's way to a new youthful look of raw speed and flair...and people just thought he looked like a smaller Kobe or taller Gary Payton on the floor. Take a closer look with those nose bleed binoculars.  He's much more than those appearances. Just check his coast-to-coast bump and finish against the rival, derby Clippers to open the season, to see how well he lays it down and lays it in.

Run a play for the rest of the tribe called bench (oh, I'm sorry Clips, can we not take things too?), to see how much this team are igniting the showtime of Lob City (oops) back to the "other" (cough, yeah right, cough) side of STAPLES. The Clippers may be great, but good news for the Lakers comes in the threes of Wesley Johnson or the promising potential of preseason perfecter Elias Harris. Also glue guys like Robert Sacre follow in the bench to court enthusiasm dunk steps of a Madsen or Turiaf, while Shawne Willaims can fill out the starting frontcourt quite nicely. Evan Ryan Kelly looks and feels like a Radmonovic clone (just don't go skiing this fall). Still, among all this talent, it's two guys that are standing out from the rest and we aren't talking about the white hype of Gasol and Nash. From nothing, number zero Nick Young has got a point to prove behind Nash and Jordan too, showing has great looking game is more than his amazing sneakers. It's what he does in them, quickly and efficiently that counts. A favorite of the mentoring Bryant, this may be Kobe's city but right now it's Young's town like a Springsteen song. If that wasn't boss enough for you than how about professor X? The X-man of Xavier Henry really is something to marvel at in this Avenger season, with Meeks, Johnson and Young he really forms a fantastic four off the bench for this Laker family with his breaking dunks, play and stat-sheet numbers by the scores. Sure this team is a lot of pieces away from a championship jigsaw picture, but when the biggest piece fits back into the mix the game may well and truly be over. This is a young team for the ages, only a seasoned veteran of Kobe's caliber could possibly piece this all together for right now...albeit whenever it will be that he returns. TIM DAVID HARVEY.