Friday, 14 November 2014
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Shake, shake, shake! From the nosebleeds to the foundations it seems like the whole arena is shaking. It's never been this loud and proud in Boston since the French Lick. The Gardens never bloomed this beautiful since a Bird flew through the trees. Now they do say things come in threes. That was Larry's legend, but this was a new day for O'Brien...and we're talking about Jim too. The new millenium was his generation. This was before Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and even Paul Pierce. Shaking more than the building or the foundation of fans bumper to bumper is the man who shook every defender to get his basket woven onto the Jumbotron. As the lips on everyone in attendance reads his name like the box-score, the man who has just seemingly raised the Holy Ghost, shakes wildly and uncontrollably like he is coming out of an exorcism. Waving his arms around rigidly and then wildly, with purpose, whilst making noise you would think this man was conducting the craziest orchestra. You've seen the Google image. 'Shimmy, Shimmy Ya' by the late, great Ol Dirty Bastard sounds like its playing. You've seen the Youtube video and ooh baby does he like it raw. Now why is he shaking that shimmy like that? It's just one play. One score...right? Wrong! Lets swiftly shake it off like Mariah's emancipation, because this is Antoine Walker we are talking about here!
Shake, shake, shake! Shimmy, shimmy, shimmy! Then as quickly as all the big numbers racked up, they did the same...but in the opposite direction. The ball started to fall the other way. It finally dropped. Everyone calling his name began calling it even more, but in a whole different way. Business partners, lawyers. Banks, debt collectors. Friends, hanger oners. Two cruel and evil robberies at gunpoint. More and more. $100 here. $1000 there. A few dollars more. Then a whole bunch of millions. All Antoine Walker's money began to shake and shimmy away like the remaining years of his career. All $110 of it. That's $110 million. Who wants to no longer be a millionaire? Its the reality show no celebrity wants to be a contestant of. But it happened to be a former NBA All-Stars troubled twist of fate. From balling to bankruptcy, it all shimmied away to zero like a game clock for 'Toine as his dollars and cents didn't beat the buzzer of the red. More misguided than brick missing the point and the payment, Walker now wants to make sure no other young athlete or man follows in the footsteps of his ledgers. With his new T.V. special 'Gone In An Instant', Antoine is set to document that in a tell-all tale that will go for 'Broke' more than a renowned and acclaimed ESPN special. Its time for the young blood to listen up to an O.G. veteran who is putting all the blame and responsibility on himself. So in this age of people finger pointing to feel better about themselves, from flicking through magazines to swiping through social media, its time to give a hand to a man that's holding up the mirror to himself. In reflection using his own problems of the past to give us a more fortunate future. In an instant replay, showing us how quickly everything can be gone, this is one recap that highlights something we all need to see again. As we look into the life of a man that could have retired into reclusion but instead decided to return to the spotlight to shed some real light. Because after anyone's time in the sun, the fall must come.
But boy is this guy getting back up! He's from Chicago. That's what people from this town do, no matter what winds of change come. Just ask Derrick Rose. Or Scoop Jackson for that matter who in a two-part, ESPN interview with Antoine helped coin his money troubles with the phrase, "loyal to a fault". Which describes a man who helped out friends, loaned them money and treated them to his All-Star lavish life. The kind of friends that sadly and all too truly are no longer around. But you can file those yes men in the same social media category as the finger pointers. Thumbs up to that. At least this humbled hero knows when to give back and a different way and promote a business education instead of one just for the entertainment industry. Climbing back up to the top, this is a man who made it from nothing before. The Big Blue Nation know that. They know a man that was drafted number 6 in 1996, the same year he led his team to a NCAA championship is made of stronger stuff. A Kentucky Wildcat alumni who can claw away at any problem in his prolific but perplexed path. A man that was even prepared to take the road less travelled, part time with the Idaho Stampede in the NBDL to continue his basketball journey. To those too that argue that this amazing All-Star should not just be defined by his classic Celtic, court crusade but his troubled stints in Memphis and Minnesota too, need to realize that his financial loss isn't the only content of his character. Not compared to the profits he made from the human nature of a lesson well learned and to others earned. Walker's money problems talk, but his inspiration sings. Kind of from the same song-sheet as his nice sounding career. An earful of swishes and shimmys. A man who is taking the owness on himself of owing everybody what he can afford in terms of an explanation of truth and wisdom. His life is far from just another cautionary tale but young stars in sports should certainly heed his warning.
Antoine Walker's basketball career can be one young ballers can look up to as well. A three time All-Star and NBA champion. A college one too. After earning his claws as a Wildcat in Kentucky when he could barely grew whiskers, this young man became a proud part of Big Blue Nation. Especially behind his streak of big threes and plays like fellow alumnus and future Boston Celtic teammate Walt McCarty. It was these big type of plays from a marquee player of sorts that got Red Auerbach's Celtics interested enough to hand young 'Toine a draft cap that six other teams hadn't in arguably the greatest class ever of '96. The Boston Celtics, the most storied team in National Basketball Association history where looking for their next legacy of legend, after the Bill Russell and then the Larry Bird one dominated the decades of the last century. Still defined and reeling from the Len Bias and Reggie Lewis tragedies finding this number 8, Walker was a wonder. Quickly becoming a 20 and 10 threat and hitting career highs of 49, this kid wasn't just smooth on the inside. He could also handle the rock from downtown Boston. Lethal from three when his shimmy was streaking and shaking. "Because there's no fours", he once classically responded when asked why he shot so many threes. The Celtics defined the best part of this mans career and this Boston green legend defined their own resurgence. Way before Paul Pierce became the truth and taught LeBron how to make a big three before taking the C's back to the rafters of banners where they belong. When Pierce joined Walker they where quite simply the best duo in the L not called Shaq and Kobe, but like the death of a dynasty it should have lasted longer. Even when Walker returned to the Garden, wearing the double eight, after stints in a loaded Dallas Maverick ballclub and the ATL Hawks. Still when he took a dynamic, off the bench, veteran duo with former Seattle Supersonic Gary Payton to South Beach, he helped another in Shaq and D-Wade give Miami a championship. An elusive ring he deserved with all his clutch shimmy contributions. The image of him shimmying, whilst lying on the floor after a big play and foul will forever be etched in Miami Heat fans and his fondest memories. It lasts longer than the valiant stints from Minnesota to Puerto Rico and Memphis to the D-League for a man who just wanted to keep playing the game he loved. It wasn't all about the money and that's not what people should remember him for now, although in order to help others in his debt he is not shying away from this accountable problem. Still in decades time, the name Antoine Walker will be remembered for being one of the best players of his generation. The shimmy will still shimmy. Shake, shake, shake!
Sunday, 2 November 2014
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Footsteps walk into earshot down a classic corridor of a whole different type of class. Down the line of legendary lockers and sneakers hung to the ceiling higher than old Nike's thrown over telephone lines in Brooklyn and some purple and gold balloons that look like they'll never come down, there is a trophy cabinet that gleams in all its champagne popping gold. There's a record book in there and a signature from a Mr. Larry O'Brien and some guy named Naismith. There's a basket without the bottom cut out and a couple of peaches. Some Buddy Holly glasses. A stilt. Some Magic. A Bird. A whole lot of 23's and a place reserved for another, maybe a 6 and one more 24, coming soon. Mostly though in this freshly cleaned cabinet is a lot of green...and a cigar. An elderly gentleman can be seen in the clear reflection looking at this and smiling. He pulls his own stogie out of his suit breast pocket, pulls out a classic lighter like the type you see in the films, flips it open and lights. The orange light is mixed with rising smoke that engulfs his reflection in the glass. But kids this is no cigarette commercial. Don't smoke! Matter of fact a young man that cant be older than a student who is buffing the floor like Matt Damon in 'Good Will Hunting' calls to the man. 'Excuse me sir! There's no smoking here'. The man turns with a knowing grin and points to a framed photo in the cabinet of a guy that looks just like him. He winks at the shocked boy as he looks at the bottom of the photo. It reads, 'Red Auerbach'.
This is the Hall Of Fame kid and if it isn't green then Red is the colour. The blue collar work that made his team the best guys with the orange for the red, white and blue. The boy from Brooklyn who made that infamous dollar and change, four hour Greyhound ride from New York City to Boston became the classic Celtic coach. A man so iconic to this game with less shorts in his locker than hair on his head won more games than Wilt Chamberlain and more championships than Michael Jordan. The most dominant ever. The only one to match him was his own lord of eleven rings Bill Russell who is the greatest defensive player this association has ever seen, telling all that came his way that they too shall not pass. Sized like a Hobbit in comparison, Red had a basketball name, but not the game. How else could a man who finished the game with a victory cigar keep up with all these amazing athletes? Like a matador to a Bull before Jordan it was all over when people saw Red. Auerbach from the sidelines was the green keys greatest producer. The greatest on court director, Basketball Hitchcock. Psycho good. Basketball's Winston Churchill with two fingers to the opposition, cradling a victory cigar as he blew away any team free with Celtic envy and left them like smoke. Forget about LeBron throwing dust, when Red flicked ash it was all over. From Wilt to West and all the rest. Some came close but Auerbach was THE cigar. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
Lets light one up! Before Arnold Jacob Auerbach reunited with Larry O'Brien 16 times in 29 years. The over 15 for almost 30, half a championship king began his life in the B.K. where he played ball with as much fire and passion as his ginger hair that he gained the obvious, infamous nickname. Brian Scalibraine be proud. A life from the blacktop to the hardwood, the asphalt to the parquet that would see him pioneer the fast break power play all whilst breaking through defences and breaking down barriers of colour and racism. He to fellow sport symbols of solidarity the Harlem Globetrotters and the 1966 Texas Western Miners in the entertainment industry was what J.F.K was to M.L.K. and Malcolm X in the political world. The Civil Rights Movement may have not begun on this type of court, but guys like Red helped keep it running in a support more unwavering then some die -hard Celtic fans. A fan based community that even back then would say and do a number of abhorrent awful, cruel and callous, unspeakable things to their superstar Bill Russell. THEIR superstar who was winning all those championships for them and the city. To them and done racists it wasn't enough because he was still black. But Red always had his back. Now just like the cigar, the defensive ring bearer Russell has his own statue in the centre of the beautiful city of Boston that now always greets him with open arms and ones around his bronze immortalized statue for a photo opportunity. Picture this back then. You couldn't and wouldn't now if it wasn't for his unconditional bravery and courage and Auerbach's unrelenting pride and solidarity.
That's how a great coach should be with players. From first to worst. And from the Bob Cousy original era to the Larry Bird golden one he was exactly that. No matter what. It's a legacy of legend that speaks more volumes than his almost 1000 coached wins (938) in the record books. No matter if Lenny Wilkens in wins and Phil Jackson in titles have passed him, no one at last is truly like him. This is the man who in giving a cap and contract to Chuck Cooper drafted the first African-American NBA player in as amazingly recently in terms of how racism was still alive in 1950. We should note too in Red's first year as a Celtic. A man that put on court the first ever all African-American starting five. Two years before Miners coach Don Haskins made 'Glory Road' history in the 1966 NCAA Final against Rupp's Kentucky. To begin with, although he was a promising player at George Washington university, Auerbach got into the dry-erase game early. Before the NBA was a penciled in idea, Red penned some time with the Washington Capitals of the Basketball Association Of America. 17 game win streaks ran columns on his coaching worth, but losses to the Chicago Stags and then Clark Kent original Laker Superman George Mikan and his Minneapolis original Laker team prevented a championship parade, complete with a box of Cubans. How sweet a dish revenge would eventually be, served with a side of tobacco. Spat out with 'Moneyball' stats over stars swagger.
As the NBA merged, Auerbach surged and split the opposition like Moses, like the defences making waves. Coming off a dismal 29 win season the lowly reputation Celtics needed a new identity and resurgence. Halfway through the 1900's it would come in the shape of a man who would mould them into the greatest team and franchise that defined the last century of basketball. One that would in fact become the National Basketball Associations most storied, successful and recognisable franchise and thing no matter how hard the Los Angeles Lakers have tried this side of Michael Jordan. Bill Sharman, players like Frank Ramsey and John Havlicek and of course Bill Russell, Red Auerbach brought them all in like Basketball's Nick Fury for an amazing Avenger assembling that won 9 out of 10 titles from 1957 to 1966 to pass the test with top marks. Only Stan Lee came up with better creations to marvel at back then when he was a young man. Bleeding green and smoking old Irish no wonder everyone was jealous and envious of the leprechaun and shamrock. This is the reason that the most dominant, big man of all time, Wilt Chamberlain, the man that recorded 100 points in a single game couldn't better Jordan. Red is the reason. Shaquille O'Neal didn't have to go through the Celtics for his dynasty. Kobe Bryant only had a few Rivers to deal with this side of the beautiful Back Bay. Jerry West may have been the logo, but the Celtics where the icon. No wonder Red Auerbach us now literally and figuratively the 'Coach Of The Year' trophy. He is the master of the sidelines. 'Bach conducted some of the best, classic compositions on court.
A number 2 belongs in the great Garden rafters in Boston, because all those retired numbers and big banners are there thanks to that one man. A man who saw the sixth man and role player as more to this game. A man that knew that champions weren't just stars...they where teams. A man that knew hard work and not big names were the cornerstone of real success. Even when this coaches coach moved upstairs like Pat Riley from General Manager to president he was still smoking. Smoking hot. Smoking victory cigars and sipping championship champagne. When Russell retired and the Celtics needed a new age and green lantern that was still Boston strong, blue collar work, Auerbach drafted some kid from French Lick that was sick from downtown all the way to the scheduled parade. The rest is Larry legend and Earvin Johnson, storied, golden era, Laker and Celtic matrimony history. You can even see Red's influence in Bird's coach to front office play for the Indiana Pacers. After that latest legacy, Red also gave a green cap to a future star in Len Bias. But Bias tragically died of a cocaine overdose on draft night before he ever played a game and became the star he was destined to be. Heartbroken Auerbach presented a Bias jersey to Len's mother like a folded flag. After another tragedy fell on Reggie Lewis, another future great who died prematurely it seemed like the Celtics where now cursed. Red would never see another championship for his remaining years. He died of a heart attack in 2006 at aged 89. One year off 90 and a couple more off watching his new favourite Paul Pierce bring in a big three with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen that would result in another championship finally and a Boston team that played Auerbach and the cities way, reminiscent of Red's roundball. Continuing the legacy of the most successful individual in hoops history who never himself but a ball in an NBA basket, but boy did he light them up. Thanks Red! This ones for you. We don't usually do this but for you even this Laker will smoke one. Your light will never burn out.