Thursday, 27 March 2014


Up In Arms.

To sleeve or not to sleeve? That is the question. Sure in this league of purists, there's a lot more substance to be talking about over the hash-tag trends of this so-called style. Especially with the basketball glory days of the playoffs coming soon to follow this magnificent madness of March in the NCAA. Still from bandanas and compression sleeves the dress-code of this league has been debated and drawn-out ever since Allen Iverson brought what looked like trousers to the league and made the likes of John Stockton look like they where wearing y-fronts...and don't even get the legaue started on his tattoos. I mean we're talking about uniforms. Through all the silly talk of real trash and a competitive streak that should be saved for the court, the NBA still has become trend setters in this league from the hardwood classics of throwback Mitchell and Ness uniforms to new jerseys like the Brooklyn Nets that give traditional teams more options like the Lakers 'Sunday Whites' or 'Hollywood Nights'. Or how about from 'King James' to 'The Truth' those awesome nickname jerseys in this 'all day I dream about sport', Adidas revolution? From St Patrick Day Green's beyond the Celtics to 'Los' causes or 'Motor City' uniting ones, this is a sport that has a cool, colourful and classic look to go along with those crazy court designs that run through the league all the way to every town and alumni in the college game. Still, like a UCF blacktop, hardwood there will always be a half and half division between parties to this change. Still the addition of more material to this made league has recently given the NBA community of players more hate and hassle since that orange synthetic ball that was tougher than Run-DMC leather and actually cut players hands. Changed back due to furious demand in a far from peachy time to say the least, now years and mistakes later there's something that's affecting players hands and shooting skills even more.

Just call it 'Jerseygate' as these sleeved jerseys that the NBA have introduced are causing more shooting hassle than a bag of Bruce Bowen's, Ron Artest's and Michael Cooper's. Players are making a statement against this apparell fashion. Sure some of them look quite nice and give a strange but cool 1940's look like 'Freedarko' writing legend Bethlehem Shoals of GQ magazine noted. This style war though needs to know that it isn't just Beno Udrih rolling up his sleeves in three-point missing frustration however. Looking good doesn't matter though if your games lame. The only good look with the sleeve is the players number on the side, but because of that their actual real digits are falling like stock figures in the NBA store when it comes to this. Players would obviously look better in dinner suits and shoes but the league already made that a courtside compliance. There's a reason players are calling for a "mass burning" in the only male sport where tank-tops are actually prefered attire. There's a reason these guys have been playing in vests and shorts since before someone decided to hollow out the bottom of the basket because it was causing a constant, retrieval inconvenience. The accessories should be saved for the headbands and cornrows or however a player wants to rock it like Steve Nash noted. I mean Chris Anderson has no problem expressing himself, but in this instance it seems the NBA does. It was an experiment with the Golden State Warriors last year but even Stephen Curry will face some shooting struggles like he was at the three-point, All-Star contest sporting this look. Sure that jingle balls, basket classic commercial was a great look and the Christmas Day jerseys made a nice presence on Christmas Day. Just look how cool LeBron looked rocking the look and the cradle as he crucified the STAPLES centre crowd and Lakers team with some of his most legendary dunks, but you could even see his NFL like frame begging to break out of his strong-armed sleeves with Hulk like anger. Now in his bid for first impressions new NBA commissioner Adam Silver is set to meet the games greatest player to discuss whether they should cut the sleeves like college girls wearing concert tee's.

You can imagine what the answer will be. It'll be stern like the old commish. This is a trend that Bleacher Report have reported at being the most hated thing amongst NBA players alongside Toronto and Blake Griffin. Ok, so just like with Canada's great city and the most devesating dunker the L has seen since the reign of Kemp this may be a little unfair but still the association of players have spoken the sleeves must leave. I mean things are getting a little shirty if you forgive the pun as "wack" as the descriptions of this new 'garb. These poor-shooting shirts are set to be ripped off like the pre-game warm-ups for the hot shooters. They may look alright, but they play like the last guy you pick-up on a playground game...not very favourably. If this is causing this much complaint then it's time to swallow the pill like that nightmare ball and put these peculiar pajamas to sleep. Let's not cause another lockout, let's just lock up these jerseys and send them to the bargain basement and market them off as just a funny experiment or a one off. I mean are these things even selling anymore? They'll be collectors editions for your ebay bidding in a few years but with that idea you can just tell these things are already an antique ready to be buried in the wardrobe like that sweater your gran knitted you four Christmases ago. Remember as much as we appreciate it the gifts we find under the tree on December 25th aren't always what we want. So it's just time to nod and smile politely and say thank-you, like wearing it once for show and then pulling it out of it's Lion, Witch and Wardrobe like abysmal abyss of fashion only when those who brought it you is around for a visit like you should be wearing it every night. Now the guy that approved these NBA emperors new clothes is gone it's time to just pretend like they where something good and sleeve it be. I don't mean to mock but it's just that simple, let them go before it causes more serious problems. This writer personally think the look is quite cool, but when shoulders and shooting stakes are under constriction and clothing it's just not. It's no big issue, just one that needs to be left alone once and for all. Keep it simple like the team name and number, classic vests that have been the tradition and throwback big seller for over a century. I mean you wouldn't put company, sponsership names on these perfect, jerseys like the WNBA and spoil them would you? Would you?! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Saturday, 22 March 2014


It's A Bracket.


"It's the Cinderella stories, the teams that beat the odds and pull out the unbelievable upsets. I also still believe that most college kids play for one thing...the love of the game! And it's that love that we enjoy watching in March". Kristin Cole (UTA Mavs Girls Assistant Coach).

Beware the ides of March! It's a kind of madness. With everyone seemingly thinking that the sports world revolves around the spinning ball on the finger of LeBron James' decisions of the NBA, most forget the most storied season in the classic college calender. Most...that is! There are 30 teams in the National Basketball Association, but there are hundreds of more towns and alumnis in the United States of America all seeded and after the coveted crown of the NCAA. This is where legends are born and legacies are started, on these hollowed hardwood courts of different dynamics and patriotic floor to floor logos. From UCF's beautiful blacktop court design to all the creative, court canvas imagery you seen on ESPN's nightly tour through campuses. Still, it's more than the grand design or trumpet proud instrumentation of the dear and devoted, painted up fans at the side of this court. Although thats where it all starts singing. It's more than the pay to play debate or the bracketology of bragging rights and betting bluffs. This is the true, purity of the game in it's greatest essence. More than money...something that carries much more meaning in any currency. Before the big-leagues and the big checks this is the ticket. Before growing up to the quote, on quote "real life". These are the glory days of a community of education and the first group of friends that decide to come together as a team. They say that school days are the best days of your life and when it comes to these college years March is by far the best month for this sport. To get any realer or purer in this game, you'd have to take it back to the playgrounds of the streets...and UCF have already done that for you.

Who will take the court crown for their Ceaser and who will end up betrayed by the Baketball God's like Brutus? Like a Shakespeare story this worlds stage will have all the players gunning for the top position. Balls will roll and nets will be cut, but after all is said and done who will be holding the scissors? Anyone whose been through the triumph and tears of this great game know there as many upsets as celebrations to the tune of Freddie Mercury' singing 'We Are The Champions' with Queen. Who will be king in this terrific tournament? Man of the moment, Jabari Parker will have to wait for the draft for his biggest stage in basketball now the madness of this month have outted Duke after the went round for round with Mercer who showed them and the legendary Coach K no mercy. They "shocked the world" as the storied Kentucky Wildcats have vowed to do, clawing away at Kansas and making their NBA Rupp Arena alumni of Rajon Rondo, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Eric Beldsoe, John Wall, Derek Anderson, Walter McCarty, Tony Delk and many drafts more proud. Take a drive through the miles and miles of beautiful country in Kentucky and you can see the U.K. logos in every car, household or general store window...and as for the apparell it outfits everyone in a place thats powerful enough to have an NBA franchise but proud enought to know that Basketball begins, breathers and balls out with the 'cats of Big Blue Nation. Unless your in Muhammed Ali's home of Louisville, you can see what the mountain banners think of this.

This, however is the kind of beautiful rivarly and competitive spirit that makes this tournament and incarnation of basketball that influential and inspirational. All played out in television and uniformed up to the nines it all looks as professional as the biggest stage...and as a matter of fact it is exactly that. The big budget of the NBA may be the blockbuster, but the NCAA is like the indie hit thats worthy of the real awards. Sure you don't see the names of players on the back of some jerseys but unlike some other job or extra-class there's more credit here. They are more than just a number and you best believe the family of fans gathered around the television set for the biggest night of the week know who they are and welcome them into their household like their second name belonged to them. Some of these guys will graduate to the star statuses of the NBA, some will not. Some may bust, others may break out in a different way. Some may stay true to their community, whilst others may look for greener pastures. Some may have to work graveyard shifts on the full-time and others may join the factory assembly line to make end meat. Still, in this moment they are all together as one for the one thing that will live forever in the memories of their lifes moment like their framed jersey, whether there's is raised to the rafters, or lowered to the bargain basement. Whether they meet Larry O'Brien or Larry the cable guy little seperates these one for all young men right now. They could be making a million or a dime in the next decade or dozen but what happens over the next few days will remain the best and most influential moments of their lives and careers.

It's just that legendary. It's beyond the hype or adverts. You don't even need to see them to feel just how important this era is in this game and what this time every year does for this beautiful game of basketball that exists all over the world in many forms but does not 'live' quite like this. This is Basketballs superbowl, the real playoffs show here that between class and campus is where amazing truly happens. Tourists could go to New York and Los Angeles for their big game NBA experience, but travel across any town in the right time and you'll see the history of hoops dribbled through the city from slapped on t-shirts to ingrained pride and love. The stadiums are just as epic, the formidable facilities have to be for the worlds greatest stage. Take a look from your hotel balcony in Nashville and you may see more than the city that Cash and the country of Dolly Parton built. Vanderbilt's facility shows the Commodores play here for more than just 9 to 5 too like Lionel Richie's roots. Across football, baseball and the rims that make the holy trinity of American sports complete universities unite around the games they play and the contests that make them champion. It's a pure social psychology down to a science that brings math and history students together. It's box-score making moments that keep families invested in colleges even years after their grandkids have graduated. You could say it's more than a game even if it is the roundball that brings them here. It's the hometown heros that wear the name of their place of basketball birth across their chest with bumping, and jersey tugging pride, without carrying their own on their back. That's where their teammates, town and legion of fans belong. This is why the legendary likes of Kobe Bryant have missed out on more than just the final years of their careers. This is why college logos are seen fashioned all around the world on peoples caps and sweats even if they don't attend or understand. It's more than just a look it's a stronger vision than the NBA of Vitale shouting proud vitality. From the Big Ten's to the Pac's and the All-Americans to the Wooden awards this is what its all about. This is their moment...and yours too. It's more than the Sweet 16 or the Big Dance, its who will be the one in the last of the two couples of the Final Four. It's purely crazy! You don't have to beware of the ides of March, you just have to see them. March Madness is the NCAA...and the NCAA is Basketball.

"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"-Tracy Murray (UCLA Grad, NBA great & Ball Up Coach)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

THE JOURNEYMAN-An Interview With 'Backspin' Author Pete Strobl

Spinning Back.



France, Austria, Germany, Iceland, Switzerland and Ireland. These aren't the destinations of your average basketball journeyman. Portland, Dallas, Atlanta, Minnesota, Memphis and Philadelphia are. Then again Pete Strobl isn't your average Basketball journeyman. After quite the college career at Niagara University that grabbed Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees as well as points and rebounds, the kid from Los Angeles took a crash course in a real educational experience of life and hoops. One year shy of a decade gave Strobl a lifetime of experience playing and living all across Europe for many different towns and teams. From the culture shock of Paris to the coaching gig in Ireland, Coach Strobl has grown in more ways than one, more than most seasoned veterans of the NBA would even dream of. Sound impressive? Well this isn't even the half of it as Pete is now settled in Pittsburgh with his young family and is now coaching youngsters who hope to follow in his sneaker steps. He's created an academy of talent in 'The Scoring Factory'. A clinics dream of breaking down language barriers and learning the true skills behind the game that Europe offers, Pete Strobl is the perfect life coach as well as Basketball one.

Want more? You got it, if this guy wasn't hardworking enough he's already penned his first book titled 'Backspin'. From it's text-book, academic look and feel to it's life and sport skill advice this is the perfect manual for anyone who wants to achieve their dreams, hoops related or not. It also doubles up as the perfect travel guide for people looking to truly explore the world. From increasing your vertical leap by dunking out of a swimming pool, to the reverse engineering of mastering foreign languages in all sorts of helpful ways you won't be lost in translation with this text-book perfect guide. More than your average NBA autobiography, or should we say 'biography', this is something else altogether. To reveal more of what you should read all about would be to spoil the nature and nurture of this funny and heartfelt cultural and sporting food for thought. If you love the purity of the game and the good things in life then this is poetry. Above all though spinning back and recognising the past that birthes the future of the present, 'Backspin' is Strobl's story and a brilliant life one at that. It's only just beginning too. So without further ado, who else to tell us about the new book of Basketball than the man himself? Let's go one-on-one...

Hey Coach! Thank you for your time! How's it going? Safe to say its been a pretty eventful year, let alone past decade?

It's absolutely been an eventful year, but I love it! I've found over the years that I'm the type of guy that thoroughly enjoys and thrives on being busy and engaged. I have a habit of finding ways to continually either be a part of, or create something that I'm passionate about and dive in head first!

Congratulations on 'Backspin'! Truly a great read for Basketball and travel fanatics alike. How has the reception for this book been and what inspired you to write it and put this life diary out there?

I appreciate that very much. The reception for Backspin has been phenomenal thus far and I'm honestly humbled. I had no idea that it would touch a chord with so many people, at least not this soon after it's release. It was initially written to better help some of the younger players I train get a better sense of the necessary determination required to achieve your goals. It's simple to merely state your goals, quite different to follow through and persevere through adversity. I wanted to inspire young and motivated athletes that needed some guidance and direction, but through the writing process I also recognized an opportunity to shed light on what it's actually like for a division 1 and European professional basketball player behind the scenes.

Starting from the beginning, before embarking on your biggest adventure how did it feel leaving home in Los Angeles for Niagara University? What did you learn about growing up as a person and a player on and off the court?

Leaving "home" is always an experience mixed with a bunch of different emotions. For me personally, it was both exhilarating and terrifying. I was excited to confront the great unknown and knew there would be hurdles to overcome. I knew that it was a necessary step for me individually to allow myself to grow as a person. I also knew that the challenges that awaited me against that caliber of competition would have a "make or break" effect on my potential ability to play beyond college. It was one of the many moments that I think we all come across in our lives that challenge you in ways you couldn't expect.

Having quite the face to face with Hubie Brown and holding court with Calvin Murphy's son how did being in the company of NBA legend show you that your basketball legacy had so much more to come?

At the time, I didn't even think in those terms. I was just happy to have an opportunity to work hard and do what I loved. Having had ample time to reflect, and viewing those situations through the eyes of an adult, "fortunate" doesn't even come close to describing how lucky I was to share a court with those guys. To this day, I'm an avid fan of the concept that we somehow become better by surrounding ourselves with better people. I personally love to be around positive and passionate people, and find it to be contagious and stimulating. There's no way to accurately measure how valuable those experiences were to me as a person, and as a player.

Family focused first and foremost how did it feel to pride your hard working parents with being the first member of your family to achieve a college degree and what advice would you give young student athletes who may be struggling with their studies?

It was an amazing feeling, and worth every single second of the many sacrifices made along the way to make it happen! All student athletes struggle with their studies at some point in time. I think there's a misconception sometimes that athletes don't care about their grades, when the reality couldn't be further from the truth. Once you take out the so-called "one and done" players from the equation, you'll find that the vast majority of student-athletes struggle most with finding enough time to be successful at both. People that haven't played college sports at a high level have no idea how demanding it can be, and the challenges associated and steming from effective time-management. I think mandatory study hall is a great step in the right direction and that those in need should ask for help when necessary, because at the end of the day colleges want their players to succeed...because they need them to be eligible!

Basketball has always been a growing game especially around the world. What specific parts of the European game helped improve yours as you took it back to the States?

Basketball is the most beautiful game on earth and I enjoyed seeing firsthand how quickly it's growing. The Dream Team deserves a lot of credit for spurring some of that growth and growing new markets and pockets of enthusiasm. Seeds are still being planted as we speak and I'm really curious to see how it evolves over the next decade with talks of possible NBA expansion into Europe. Due to the fact that soccer still dominates, it was inevitable that certain characteristics would carry over into the style with which many Europeans play. I personally learned a great deal from watching and observing their collective footwork, passing and teamwork. I tried to immerse myself in their culture both on and off the court, so found myself mimicking certain movements in an attempt to add more diversity to my own game.

'Backspin's' theme comes with some memories in italics throughout the chapters of your life. How important is it for us to acknowledge our past to prepare ourselves for the future?

The famous saying by George Santayana rings true to this day: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it". Acknowledging our past is vital for us to better understand and navigate our future. This applies to world events, daily interactions, relationships and of course basketball. Those of us willing to take a long look in the mirror to examine and accept our mistakes, have the potential to experience greater triumphs by learning through the process. Trial and error is an immensely powerful learning tool, as long as you don't try the same wrong thing over and over. One has to be willing to experiment, and remember what didn't work along the path.

Now settled in Pittsburgh what can you tell us about this city in regards to hoops and sports?

Pittsburgh is a phenomenal city! The sheer beauty of the landscape and topography is worth a trip alone, but the people and style of life here make it such a special place. It has a different feel here than any other city I've ever experienced and is in the midst of a revival and the stars are all alligning at the right time. Let's just say it isn't anything like what I thought it was going to be based on what I learned in the history books growing up in Los Angeles! The city has a rabid sports fan base and people get crazy to support their teams, it's energizing and a joy to be a part of.

What can you tell our readers about 'The Scoring Factory'?

The Scoring Factory is a basketball training academy that provides an opportunity for dedicated athletes to learn the necessary skills to reach their potential. We've had some enormous success stories through the years and that has obviously helped to fuel our growth. I'm extremely passionate about what we do and the work that our team of coaches has done to help countless players take huge strides toward reaching their dreams. We train pros all the way down to youth and there's a special culture and understanding of the value of smart work that has begun to consume the environment. Nothing makes me more proud than to share my knowledge with driven athletes as they continue to climb the ladder.

Pete we thank you so much for your time and consideration. We appreciate it and wish you all the best. 'Backspin' is a great coaching manual and life story for people growing up from the court to the real world. What's next for you and is there anything you'd like to share with your readers in closing?

I'm honestly enjoying the ride and touched that Backspin has been embraced by such a wide audience. I'm overjoyed to know that it's already helping players along their own journeys while simultaneously shedding light for those curious about the ride. There are a lot of things that are on my own personal horizon, and I'm excited to see where this is all headed. I'm involved in several exciting projects all geared toward promoting knoweldge, growth and development. Its extremely important to me to help others and share the knowledge that I've been fortunate enough to accumulate.....while continually learning and striving to be the best husband, father, teacher, coach, mentor and now author that I can possibly be!

France, Austria, Germany, Iceland, Switzerland and Ireland. These aren't the destinations of your average basketball journeyman. Then again Pete Strobl isn't your average basketball journeyman. More than just a great basketball coach too, Strobl takes you through the X's and O's of a whole other continent with a brilliant life story of a Basketball player on the longest road and greatest journey that will hold court in any arena. More than a game, this shows you just how far Basketball can take you.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


The Sixth Sense.


Listen like thieves! Before Kobe and after Jordan there was an in excess, laundry list of swinging Shooting Guard and Small Forwards who where running the new era show of golden time basketball to become the next heir apparent in wing waiting. Sure Michael Jordan is the greatest of all-time and Kobe Bryant has been the best since and before King LeBron James NBA reign, but a former Heat and Laker was a star in South Beach's Miami and California's Los Angeles. When Jordan was swinging between baseball bats and bunnies named Bugs you couldn't even find Space Jam on your NBA Live 96 video game (you could find a certain someone on 'Shootout '97' though) and a young Bean named Bryant was months away from being drafted by the Hollywood Lakers via a Charlotte Hornets trade that saw L.A. centre Vlade Divac make way for the kid, the Big Fella, Shaquille O'Neal and the next dynasty of domination in the post-Jordan league of epic eras. Between all of the strike outs and air balls however there was a guy stealing basketballs like Mike wanted to do bases. A Bball babe like Ruth, taking the rock and rolling with the attention so much that even this young English writer saw his number 6 purple and white trimmed gold jersey everywhere whilst travelling in Paris on a childhood Summer vacation...and this was before Tony Parker was even old enough to draft graduate. Hey...maybe it was him!?

There went those old Showtime Laker jerseys that E.J wore, but we're not talking about Earvin 'Magic' Johnson here but the tricks of the trade of Eddie Jones. A player that represents more than tradition of transition but can be found in the NBA vault and Lakers history books between the times the M.J's of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and then the 8 and 24's of Kobe Bryant's NBA rule. Whether wearing 25 (given up for great Gail Goodrich's rafter retirement) or 6 (after who else but in honour of the good dunk Doctor Julius Erving?) Eddie had the Basketball sixth sense to steal and dunk his way to a new Showtime on the sacred ground of the fabulous Forum before it was hollowed out to be a new arena STAPLE along with a new jersey look led by the 'fro of Kobe all the way to three-peating a dynasty over everyone including Brooklyn Jason Kidd's old Net team. Before role playing big-three Robert Horry, Rick Fox and Derek Fisher came into town and backed a crowed all star unit of Shaq, Kobe, Eddie and Nick Van Exel that all made the West team that year (congrats on the All-Star most valuable E), fastbreak Eddie and Nick 'The Quick' made a best and beautiful backcourt for the mid-nineties Lakers team that featured guys like Divac, Cedric Ceballos, Elden Campbell, George Lynch, Corie Blount and much more talent in the late, great Bill Sharman era (around the time this then 11 year old kid from the land of Football became a fan). The stealing and scoring star Jones could have been an even bigger name in the city of angels if he was handed the Kobe keys to the city.

Even die-hard Laker fans where looking at Kobe's drafted in scouting report and thinking 'hey he's 6 foot 6 like number 6 Eddie, similar weight too! Still, he's a rookie and a high schooler at that I guess he'll be backing up our man, but he sure looks talented'. Talented enough to make quite a twin wing tandem as dominant as those 'twin tower' duos, like Ryan Giggs and David Beckham in soccer for Basketball's Manchester United. Still in the Hollywoodland of rock and movie stars this town was only big enough for one big picture highlight reel and Kobe stole the show in his warm-ups like he did on the lay-up line of his rookie Slam Dunk Contest. Then and now Eddie Jones represents the first of a lay-up get in line of talent that left the Lakers too underrated and too soon. These days you can add the likes of Caron Butler, Trevor Ariza, Devin Ebanks, Earl Clark and the Lamar Odom we knew plus many more to the Mitch Richmond, Aaron McKie and Jimmy Jackson like playtime time cut. Sure it would have been great to have Jons back up Kobe...and even Divac back-up Shaq for the ultimate inside and out, starting and bench, all-court domination but this wasn't the big business age that we see before trade deadlines today. This was a time when the big contract of Shaq and the huge risk on a young rookie was big news for this big league about to go truly great and giant.

The Laker legend people forgot in a time where C.D.'s didn't know iPods and your DVD's stopped halfway through the film abruptly because you had to flip it over to the other side like a cassette. We're making you feel old right? Can you believe this kids now 42? Still, thanks for the memories but the Lakers fall out meant Eddie ended up in the same place as Vlade as he headed to Charlotte to become a Hornet and sting opponents with his Bobcat out of the bag ferocious fire on both ends of the floor. Make no mistake though, Kobe didn't kill Eddie's career, just like Shaq didn't Vlade's despite the Shaqramento dethroning. Soon Eddie left Charlotte like the New Orleans ballclub before they became the Pelicans. The Florida native from Pompano Beach took his talents South to join a Miami Heat team of Alonzo Mourning, Brian Grant, Caron Butler (these last two future Lakers) and Tim Hardaway team that looked as hot as his one in Los Angeles, circa California '95. Just like Kob', there was a pretty nice team in place before the 'Bron birth with Eddie's house. The Temple college star brought his defensive body of work and second-option scoring skill to his veteran years of elite experience to another hot town team that was going to burn even brighter in a half decade, half light before anyone even knew or thought about it. This 10th draft pick was a top ten, no nonsense, do it all guy in a time where the new NBA entertainment age was dominated by Magic personalities or the Jordan/Kobe alpha male characteristics.

Still the three-time All-Star led the league in steals in his first season with the Heat in his Laker/Miami matched years that make him just as much of a Heat and L.A. legend like Shaquille. After a roll in the rock city of Memphis which saw him trade off talents like James Posey and Jason Williams back to the Heat, Jones returned to Miami before closing out his classic career as a Maverick. All-time averages of around 15 points, 4 rebounds and a shade under 2 steals made this guy an all-round talent. The type that get unamiosuly underrated but are still unquestionably unique. Mr. Jerry West, Laker legend and then General Manager knew though as he clutched this "pure athlete" from the '94 draft to a log-jammed wing of backcourt players including names like Sedale Threatt, Anthony Peeler and Doug Christie before Kobe even came to town...and you thought he stole peoples jobs. Critics soon turned their ink to inspiration and even the dean of Los Angeles Times sportswriting Jim Murray got his hands on as many robbery references as the late, great legend could for this thick as thieves talent. Chick Hearn also took notice to a guy who could slam as well as he could steal, no contest. He flew high like his rap second-namesake Jim, a true dunking diplomat with defensive immunity. Power electric, spark-plug tandem tool guys like Josh Smith take note, like you Eddie Jones finished as many fast-breaks as he started, often doing it all himself. Those fleeting Forum days with Kobe are well worth a rarefied air out and dust off of the V.T.

Today Laker fans may be screaming "what have you done for me lately"?! In a raw and delirious frenzy of Mamba mentality, but they where shouting "EDDIE, EDDIE" like comedian Murphy's girlfriend at a Forum of home games for seasons later. Nothing was funny though, as even a starting Kobe missed his mentor before Jordan's Chicago Bulls running-mate Ron Harper took over that mantle a he came into LAX from United with the Zen of Coach Jackson. Even if Glen Rice's sharp three-point shooting was brought in from Charlotte, Lakers fans still miss Mr. Jones today like he's still playing. From Shaq's 'taco-neck' Bell commercials today you can still see this guys legacy is part of Laker lore like his versatile, various legendary Jordan XI endorsed sneakers (his career was iconic no matter the colourway or shade of brilliance) that may have heated up along with the hurt Californian feelings once he decided to play for Miami. You'll find no burnt Jones jerseys like James' wine and gold however as all the Lakers fan family wish for was more champagne during his purple tape. He deserved the celebration at least. All he did was steal our hearts. A Basketball Jones for you to get a hoop high on, soaring higher than his flyest, falcon dunk of marvel at a Barry White drawled slow motion of instant, inspired replay. Just wind it back like your old tape decks with the heartfelt wrote on'll never really fade, like his hair or shot. It's time to keep up with the Jones, a Laker legend amongst legends. You may not see it up in the rafters everyday, but you would have saw it on the Forum floor every game. That's what Eddie did for the Lakers lately.


Friday, 14 March 2014


Knickerbocker Glory.


Pounding the hardwood pavement like King Kong, scaling even higher than the twin towers of the Chrysler and Empire State Building in the NBA's golden era of the 90's, nothing was bigger in New York City than Patrick Ewing. Not even the Statue of Liberty. That was until Michael Jordan roared into town like Godzilla, battling the king of New York, dribbling around the skyscrapers and taking a bite out of the Big Apple, making Madison Square Garden truly his Mecca. That was just the tongue-out-cheek of the greatest of all-time in the leagues greatest age of post Magic and Bird revolution and a decade that would lead to more than just the Times Square lights of N.Y.C. attracting all the worlds eyes. Jordan and his stampeding six-peat Bulls of Chicago may have beaten everyone but this was a post-age of big men that is sorely, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum uncertainty lacking today. In the 90's Ewing was joined by the likes of the Goliath Shaquille O'Neal, the dream Hakeem Olaujawon, the admiral David Robinson and fellow Georgetown greats Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo who now pave the paint for fellow Hoya and Pacer great Roy Hibbert (possibly the only future of big-time big-men). This was more than just Luc Longley's league and Ewing was as great as them all and belongs in the elite company of the best bigs of all-time to the heights of Bill Russell, Moses Malone, the Laker likes of Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many more power pivots of the same game. He would be a winner amongst them all too if Michael Jordan didn't engage all his potential rings with the changing of the game.

Ok, New York fans let's calm down with some Zen like thinking. You see Mike and Shaq's legendary coach Phil Jackson is back in town, via the front office to take the old team he played for back in his sneaker championship years back to the Knickerbocker glory days of Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier without the nostalgia need of a great Michael Rapaport documentary. That's the style and substance the former Lakers and Bulls championship coach will hope to spread around the locker room like incense. An incensed town of die hard, John McClane like expletive throwing fans want more than just the Linsanity of the Jeremey Lin 15 minutes of souveneir store and tourist hotspot fame, or the craziness of J.R. Smith's untied demeanour, or power player Amar'e Stoudemire taking it out on a fire extinguisher instead of the net. 'Yippee Ki Yay' this is a team led by the great Carmelo Anthony, the best player in the league bar LeBron James or Kevin Durant and right now better than the post-Jordan Kobe Bryant. This is a team that wants to prove to the Pierce, Garnett, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd led Brooklyn Nets that even though they've moved from New Jersey the city of New York is there's, before the B.K. borough takes over like the Clippers over the Lakers in Los Angeles. This is a team that wants former Brooklyn bound Net owner Jay-Z to sit courtside at THEIR games, next to Spike Lee, whose Pacer hater dedication deserves more. This is more than the heartbreak of Reggie Miller killing them in less than 10 seconds from three. This is a team that wants to see 'Grandmama' Larry Johnson throwing the L in the same time again. Or Starks dunking before the clutch choke. This is a team that long for the toughness that they saw in Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason and see every day on the playgrounds of the Rucker.

This is a team that want the days when the Garden was Ewing's back. When the classic and traditional M.S.G. floor shined not because the buckets of Chris Rock joked sweat he left on it but because of the heart and dedication that truly gleamed in the era of gold. The garden of Madison Square was Ewing's Eden all the way to the temptation of the big red apple. The Jamaican-American is a Hall Of Famer for a reason and a champion in the hearts of the New York faithful. As famous as Jay Leno or David Letterman for his timeless late night show. As familiar in the entertainment age of the 90's like his neighbour 'Seinfeld', the actors who made penthouse homes here, or the king of rap the late, great Notorious one himself. Another true B.I.G., being down with Pat like his coach Riley saw a sneaker kick in the door of legendary legacy for the Garden greats. Before those 'Space Jam' aliens took his power with a leg, shaking, hip dancing surge, this guy caught every pass and made every free-through. P-Ew never stunk it up, even if the perspiration he poured out on the floor wasn't enough for his in need of an early shower Knickerbocker team that was a Serendipity short of a full dessert. You have to give it up for the cherry on top of the blue and orange who needs his just deserves paid like the million dollar man he became in the worlds most famous arena in the worlds most famous city. There may not be a lot of banners up their in that famous spirralled Garden roof, but you can for sure circle around and see the 33 jersey there like Abdul-Jabbar's big-man forum in STAPLES. All together Ewing with fellow Hoya's Mourning and Mutombo gave Washington D.C.'s capital college Georgetown greatness on a NBA presidential Mount Rushmore scale. If only it wasnt for those other wall-of-meat monsters in the key, because in todays Roy Hibbert day and age Patrick, the legend of Zo and Mount Mutombo would devastatingly dominate like if Georgetown put them on court all at the same time like some triple tower tall threat.

The Final Four's 'Most Outstanding Player', the 2 time 'Big East Player of the Year' and 3 time consensus first-team All American's '84 NCAA champs classic college career is why ESPN named Ewing it's 16th best college player of all-time and unless your Kobe Bryant you know these guys are on point with these polls. This is why the Knicks took the Kingston king with the 1st pick in the 1985 draft as the 7 foot 240 pound giant went on to be a Rookie Of The Year, 11 time All-Star, member of the 50th anniversary team along with the Knicks all-time leading scorer amongst many amazing accolades to the tune of a 21 point, 9.8 rebound and 2.4 block career avergae. A career that saw him scoop two Olympic golds in Los Angeles' 1984 and the dominant, original, outstanding Dream Team of 1992 in Barcelona. Winning with Jordan instead of losing with him and now with both hoping to do the same, the current assistant coach of the greatest of all-times Charlotte Bobcats's career saw achievements wider than his wingspan or the grounds of Central Park. Now just miles from Jordan's old North Carolina alumni (Ewing knows the heartbreak of the 'Big Game' Laker legend James Worthy days) together with his friend and former foe, Ewing will want to bring the glory days of the 90's back to Charlotte with more than just the teal and Hornets name. The former coach and player of the Orlando Magic (and coach of the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets) also logged time with the former franchise of the Seattle Supersonics (you can see from his press photo expression how much he loved that). Still through all the Yao Ming and Dwight Howard mentoring it's clear that the former Rocket rival of Hakeem is still New York and the Knicks through and through. The orange and blue trim of his white number 33 will always say and sell that fact. Fade back with his 'Fresh Prince' hair as far as you want but that's where his career definition lies more than the 'like or hate Mike' association, the losing, or the t-shirt short-sleeve under jersey, traditional, trademark, Hoya hollering and wooping winning of Georgetown.

Once a city like New York grabs you it never lets go and if your tough and tested enough to make it here, (like you then will anywhere) you become part of this Big Apple's core. From the early dunking days where Ewing showed with one hand he could run and jam like a guard this guy was more epicly exciting and entertaining than those stung by the losses care to remember. Taller and stronger than Shawn Kemp, this man had his own reignman power, puncutating towards his own shower of success that was looking for a kingdom in New York like Christopher Walken's weirdly wonderful movie moment or LeBron's other decisions when in Cleveland wine and gold. The New York Times of this man's life was a broadsheet success even if it wasn't a billboard one off Broadway. He watched over this city like Spider-Man's web and Peter Parker camera and was a true superhero to marvel at in Gotham between the landmarks of a town that was known by everybody. Anyone wanted to be and see here and Ewing did more than just that he made his own and everyones else new, New York memories. This is a man that's overcome so much to become an outstanding force. From racist chants in college to his own fans calling for Jordan's name in New York, Pat has never given up on his city, team or sport with Bill Russell like courageous character. He had his own era and it was bigger and bolder than his seriously silly but super slamming sneakers. Injuries, insults, critics or clinics couldn't stop this man from playing his heart out until he sweated through his last NBA jersey. A premier player and not just in the post we remember the one jersey more 34 points, 16 rebounds, and 6 block line against Jordan Bulls and the Willis Reed like overcoming of an ankle sprain that showed his heart and soul. Imagine if the sole of this legend was healthy who knows how that seven game 1992 Eastern Conference Final and the ensuing run to Larry O'Brien would have turned out.

I guess the basketball God's wouldnt have it for one of their own and a gentle giant with Goliath like greatness. Just like the twin towers of contemporary David Robinson and Tim Duncan shutting his veteran Finals run down in the Sprewell and Allan Houston contract age following his injury, like Olaujawon's Rockets did in the year Jordan took up baseball and left the league wide open. This isn't as embarrassing as you think of 5 foot 3, Tyrone Bogues mugging him with a blocked shot...and neither is that. Besides Bogues is one of the greatest little men ever and Pat blocked down as many shots on defence as he dunked or grabbed off the rebounding glass. His career-high of 9 is as inspiringly impressive and influential as his points one of 51 (and the 11 assists for that box-score matter). Through all the injustice of injury and heated rivals with Miami (remember the incredible game-winning dunk over fellow Hoya Alonzo Mourning for the New York memories?), Ewing was more than just a player that could have had so much more if it wasnt for the age of Jordan in the 90's golden era. A true professional and competitior who was more than just the stat sheet or record books he still made without the ring of the phrase 'champion'. Now in this 'Space Jam 2' age of King James he gets the pleasure of watching his son Patrick Ewing Jnr do his thing in the NBA (as well as coaching him in the Orlando Summer league of 2010). Ewing athletics in the family and house Pat built couldn't be prouder of the like father and son Basketball pedigree. It's a pride that scales taller than any building in middle Manhattan. It's bigger than what most people think or the game itself. He may have dunked over his Heat rival Alonzo Mourning in said game-winner, but when the fellow number 33 was diagnosed with a kidney ailment, his fellow Hoya vowed to donate one of his if needed like a true life-changer. This organ of the leagues jazz like new wave may have not had to offer his up but you have to give it up for a man who devoted his heart on to the court every single night. That's the soul of this man and as the Notorious B.I.G. once said "and if you don't know, now you know".


Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Kamikaze Kemp.


Rain, rain, go away! Don't you just hate the rain? I mean it looks all sunny and then when you least expect it...BOOM! A downpour. It rains chronically in some places more than others. If you've ever been to the United Kingdom you'll know that feeling of frustration and in the Unites States if you're from a place like Seattle you'll be used to more than just the odd shower. Still, in the city of the state of Washington it used to rain a hell of a lot more in the 90's. 'Reign' to put it more than mildly in this forecast of weather that struck the Sky-Needle like a Darryl Dawkins 'Chocolate Thunder' bolt of God before Oklahoma stole the team and Kevin Durant's hammer of Thor strikes. You see not more than a few blocks away from the Key Arena in Seattle-that still hosts the WNBA's great Storm team but is deserted during NBA season-you can take shelter from the storm in a restaurant part owned by Shawn Kemp. The former Reignman of Seattle and a Supersonic team that used to draw in crowds like a big table reservation on a nightly basis. It doesn't seem like 20 years ago that all this went down through the dunk plagued hoops, but it sure has been a long time since this cities stadium and the man a few blocks downtown has seen basketball glory in all it's 90's golden era.

Gary Payton was a legend of this town and era, first and foremost. Leading this team and doing more than just talking his way to a Hall Of Fame induction last year. He almost won a championship with Shaq's Lakers too but even Daddy knows best that Payton didn't do it alone. Get your hair cut in the Reebok Classic 'Retro Shop' (so long as your not wearing a baseball cap like Iverson) and you can see for yourself about what the Reignman could do. There he is telling you how much of a cut above the rest he was. "Oh that boy made it rain now, he made it rain, he did his thing. He could run, he could jump, a lot of things he could do". So don't hate, remember what Kanye West said "people talk so much s### in barbershops, they forget to get their haircut". Don't disrespect him, Shaquille O'Neal won't have it. One should know better". He and The Notorious B.I.G. knew 'You Can't Stop The Reign' and Shaq was one of the most powerful and dominant dunkers of said decade. We say "one of"! Shaq's Reebok's may have hypnotised you like Biggie with their crazy, circular design, but Kemp had the kamikaze's..and their back in all good shoe stores to that need to carry his size. For Basketball his power would destroy you even at the risk of destroying him. Just youtube the dunks. Shawn Kemp was his own windmilling, tomahawking, jack-hammering top contest. Before the new age, sport entertainment revolutionised Clippers alley-oop duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin there was a 'Lob City' in the town that misses its entertainment like Nirvana in music and 'Frasier' in television. A heaven sent dunking duo, Gary Payton tossed the salad and Shawn Kemp scrambled the eggs for the Basketball God's. Goodnight Seattle, we love you! We just wish for a good morning.

This is for you Kemp. Go ahead Shawn, I'm listening. Bringing the word 'Power' to that Forward position like no other, no amazing or awesome adjective could quite capture his classic career choreography. The 44 year old who wore the numbers 40 and 4 for his career was a Mr. Indiana before Reggie Miller truly kept up pace with the Pacers. A storm in a teacup in the coffee town he woke up an invigorated Seattle with a new double shot. He was the energy and enthusiasm of above the rim, down the dunking drain hustle and flow. At 6, 10 and 230 lbs he was a pound for height monster who crushed his opponents in a green Seattle jersey, dunking, Incredible Hulk rage. He dunked on everybody, even Leonardo DiCaprio in an MTV game with a 'Titanic' traumatic sinker over 'The Wolf Of Wall Street's stock. His NBA Jams could extinguish anybody's fire. They almost make the great Blake Griffin look like Jordan in the 2002 Philadelphia All-Star game...and as for Mike...even he at times wanted to be like the Payton/Kemp dynamic duo, even if he did have Scottie. Pippen couldn't put it down quite like this. As the Glove handed the man the ball and the chance to let it reign you could see the frustration in the face of the greatest of all-time as the finally won in a six game series for Larry of the O'Brien legend. Even Denver's Dikembe Mutombo's 'Lion King' ball raised in the air, huge smile, Seattle playoff upset couldn't block out the effects of Kamikaze. Kemp could brutally block as good as he could devastate dunk too. His defensive plays where as good as his offensive ones that even forced formidable opponent Chris Gatling 'gun' to give it up with a high five.

SLAP! What did the five fingers say to the net? Like some Dave Chappelle Rick James disrespect this freak force of the paints sneakers never really touched beyond the lay-up line, because that's where he flew. After taking flight at supersonic speed at Concord High-School his college career at Trinity Valley saw him drafted with the too low 17th pick of the 1989 draft by Seattle. That's when the new era of this Sonic Basketball, golden era of the 90's was capped off like a starter. With this lay-up line leader it made for some instant hardwood classics like Mitchell and Ness. Now a terrific throwback from the old, redesigned ribbon Sonics jerseys to the circle hoop classic 90's ones (like the Houston Rockets planet and snarling caricature Rocket ones) remodelled in his teams dunking, revolutionised honour this was the makings of a legendary legacy. The six time All-Star rose higher than the Space-Needle like the fireworks or blimps at the beginning of 'Frasier'. 15,347 points, 8,834 rebounds and 1,279 blocks at 14.6, 8.4 and 1.2 respective averages a game marked the career of a man who had seven incredible years in Seattle before the sins took personal problems to trouble times for the legends legacy. Still through all the criticism and hate, the Reignman shielded all the shower with an umbrella when he played and dunked over it all.

The amazing athlete who was mentored by the muscle of Xavier McDaniel may have proved to be the true X-Men to marvel at in the end for Seattle but after his Springsteen American dream glory days this gold medallist hit bronze with a podium of problems. From alcohol addiction to child claims this headline talent was soon scooped in the papers for the wrong reasons, but these private matters which should have been left as such had nothing to do with how he power played basketball. Until-that is-when he arrived at a Cleveland Cavaliers training camp out of shape, but that due to the lockout and risk of injury, not cheeseburgers as some critics joked at the former McDonalds classic 1989 All-American teammate of the likes of Alonzo Mourning, Anthony Peeler, Chris Mills and another troubled star of substance, Stanley Roberts. It all hurt too much for fans and the man. Here's a guy that after struggling to make the grade was then unable to play for the legendary classic college program of the University Of Kentucky after being accused of pawing a teammates stolen chain. Another link to unfortunate circumstances you have to read between the press lines to see more of this story. Some people just see this, the weight, the hate and the critics addiction as tarnishes to this mans game. Now with his desires to be involved in bringing the Sonics back to Seattle and the dream that tops his coaching one of serving as a mentor to young players in how they look after themselves and their money, this...THIS speaks the volumes of this mans NAME, that others refused to broadcast.

Redemption is now the game for the man that revolutionised the roundball one. What could have been in the storied Sonics career and even a Kentucky one is an aside to what the man is doing right now that shows that even if the NBA doesn't care, it's ex-star is showing its still a place where amazing happens. This is the turnaround of a man who many turned their backs to when they didn't face it all. After the blockbuster Tyrone Hill, three-team trade of Power Forwards that broke up a beautiful Kemp, Payton, Detlef Schrempf, Seattle championship chasing Supersonic team and saw another amazing, but addiction troubled P.F Vin Baker join Seattle, Shawn became a Cavalier in Cleveland. Those who saw the fat over muscle and below the rim instead of dunking above it game truly ignored the groundwork he put in and the developing all-round game that he was evolving as more of a serious veteran take than a youthful spectacle. Excellence over exuberance, it all ended too soon and those hungover from the Seattle reign just showed umbrellas instead of more light. The exciting and entertaining explosivness may have gone but this guy was a new, 20 and 10 threat before it all blew up in the darker Trailblazing days in Portland before some new tricks as a trade member of an Orlando Tracy McGrady/Grant Hill team that could have had more Magic.

Injury robbed them as a critical knee one robbed an in-shape Kemp his classic, LL Cool J like comeback. Mama almost knocked them out like Larry Johnson's grand one but some knee injuries are just too much to take even for the most dynamite dynamic forwards of power. Just ask the great Antonio McDyess. His career deserved more too but in this box of chocolates NBA life you never know which way the dice is going to roll. Kemp wouldn't become a Maverick in Dallas or take off with the Rockets in Houston. The Texas triangle looked more like a Bermuda one for the star but at least in the face of critics, injury and retirement he never gave up until his final horn sounded. Whereas most other in the face of lesser odds wouldn't even take the gamble. This Basketball gambit kept playing whatever cards he was dealt. Slimmed down to his All-Star years, praying for reign, Denver and Chicago came calling for the man who wanted to end his career "the right way". Still, even if this didn't work out the way he wanted the man who got the biggest ovation in Seattle's 40th anniversary Sonics team is still doing the right thing now in his life. The legacy of his junior Basketball playing sons and the message he wants to give other young stars and studs will echo this for generations to come like his youtube highlights. Sure it may be Sonicless in Seattle now and his number 40 jersey may not hang in the Key Arena yet like it does in this writers room, but from Oskar's kitchen Kemp doesn't have to look far to see the great legend and the legacy he's left on this great city. Now let it reign.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014


Google The Goggles.


'It's All About The Benjamins', screamed P. Diddy with an added 'baby' when Sean John Combs went by the government rap name of Puff Daddy with his 'Now Way Out' family of Mase, Lil' Kim and The Lox for their monster 90's hit of the same name. In that day and golden era age he may as well have been talking about Money Mike Jordan, even though he and his team where outfielded in baseball uniforms in the video...besides it wouldn't be long before Michael would be donning the same sort of sporting, swinging attire himself. You see when Puff Daddy was ruling the charts, Michael Jordan was ruling the rim in this generations decade of gold in the entertainment world. Before today's Money Mayweather, it was the pound, for pound, knockout greatest sportsmen of all-time Michael Jordan who had dollar signs before and after his name. Still between the sidekick of Scottie Pippen and the sideshow of Dennis Rodman it wasn't just about him for the legendary Phil Jackson, Zen led Chicago Bulls six-peating dynasty. There was the flair of European import Toni Kukoc and the three-point purity of Steve Kerr in a team Method Man referenced, abyss deep. Even so-called role players made the entertainment rap sheets, as Diddy (or whoever ghost wrote it) cleverly coined the classic hip-hop line "trying to get my hands on Grants, like Horace".

"Spaghetti, fettucini, and veal" and all those three course meals it was clearly more than just money or the ballers who where "dippin in the Benz wit the spoilers". "Everything was real in the field "when it came to the Bulls and the classic beginning of hip-hop and hoops connected lyrics before Diddy's Lox bandmate Jadakiss 'Kissed The Game Goodbye' and said he could sell like Milwaukee Point Guard Sam Cassell. So 'Put Your Hands Up' like Horace Grant did on every defensive move. Check the majority of Jordan posters on your wall, or those ones of the power players of his peers, and you'll probably see the number 54 and the name Grant, whether on a Chicago Bulls jersey or Orlando Magic one, whether on the defensive or offensive end. Not to be offensive mind, it wasn't an insult that you can find Horace on most of these pictures, its a classic compliment. Sure it's every players nightmare to be famous on the wrong receiving end of a poster (see; Mutombo; Dikembe, 'finger-wag') but the image of Horace's 54 back turned on the defensive end showed he was always there. Do not block out the fact that one of the greatest defensive players of all-time had more offensive gestures to his game and actually was an All-Star. Don't forget-even if the Hall of Fame always does-he helped a lot of guys get there. His number 54 may not be in the rafters (maybe it should be, besides who else do you think of when it comes to that rare pair of digits?) but the banners he helped raise will never come down, like the shots of his weaker opponents.

Google the goggles and you'll see more than 20/20 80's 33/42 Los Angeles Laker legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. You'll see the specs of the twin Grant brothers, Harvey and most notably Horace. Like the Outlaw brothers, tough, dominant and resilient in the power prominence of the punctuated paint. From the swimming goggles all the way to the science teacher, new age specs, Grant looked cool on court for more than his headband and sleeve rivalling attire. He was fitted with a monster frame and formidable game of real, rebounding, Dikemebe dominating like defence and a soft touch and sweet spot of an offensive field goal percentage that would make Shaquille O'Neal proud. A role playing legend able to do it all so well in the frontcourt that even Daddy took notice of Junior. From the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan to the most dominant ever in Shaquille O'Neal, Horace's superstar teammates knew how much Grant shouldn't be taken for granted. Even Marv Albert adds his trademark "yes" to this dedication. "Collapses on O'Neal, who finds Grant". A simple commentating from one of the greatest in just a regular season game in an epic three-peat dynasty, but somehow now remembered like all purist plays from the games elite team players showing their roles. Shaq double teamed, finds Grant who with ageing legs hops with a nice bit of air for the sweet one handed jam, running back down court trademark arm raised showing appreciation to his teammate. Remember that highlight? No?! Well all the scouting reports will tell you it happened all the time, that's why you probably can't pinpoint one. This was clockwork all the way down to the last minutes of his career. A reunion in the post that finally saw golden championship glory in the 2001 NBA Finals, where he helped make sure Jason Kidd's playing day Nets in New Jersey put their ties back on. Time to smarten up.

Shaq found his Power Forward to centre himself with back in L.A., like his sunny early days in Florida between all the Samaki Walker's and Mark Madsen's and after the retiring of two golden era age championship timing A.C. Green (who would have thought it? A.C., two timing?). Shaq needed someone to start before Robert Horry's clutch threes would finish games and playoff series' and Grant was ready to go in for not only his Shaq reunion and Jordan-like one with Kobe, but his one with legendary coach Phil Jackson. Following in the Bulls/Lakers sneaker steps of the likes of Ron Harper and almost Dickie Simpkins, Grant was a true workhorse for the Zen master even though he was so injury prone Jax joked that he needed to be put down during his second Lakers stint backing up a knee crocked Karl Malone in the Detroit death of a dynasty. There was no turning this guy to glue, however only champagne as he was the defensive teammate bond that sealed championships, a strong steed on this 'Animal Farm'. Between the Chicago Bulls second three-peat and the middle of the Lakers first, those four ringers on his fingers point to that proof. Still if those defensive digits spiralled around a phone dial back in the day,a new dynasty age may have emerged. Dwight Howard isn't the only superman Laker, headed down south who escaped from Disneyworld first. "You know, he (Shaq) called me and I didn’t return his call before he signed with the Lakers. And to this day I wish I had just answered that call, and maybe he would’ve still been in Orlando", Horace Grant told Bill Simmons in an interview just recently about the time between Shaq and his Orlando Magic's 1995 Finals appearance and his blockbuster Lakers signing in 1996.

Who knows what would have happened if Horace answered the call, maybe Shaquille O'Neal would have returned the favour. Maybe O'Neal and Grant would have forged a more formidable Duncan/Robinson, 'twin towers' like paint partnership in Orlando and along with the first sidekick before Kobe or Wade, in Penny Hardaway give the Magic a Disney dynasty. Then again there wouldn't be all those championships in L.A. for Shaquille and then Horace and more players and teams from Kobe Bryant to the Miami Heat would have been directly and indirectly effected. Still, who knows Shaquille may have just been calling to tell his old friend goodbye and besides what's done is done by the Basketball God's of hoop heaven and both players for their career won separately with two of Phil Jackson's biggest teams and then together again for one last swan song with Larry O'Brien. Nothing changes the fact that between Orlando, Chicago and Los Angeles the terrific teammate of Horace Grant was more than just another name, he was a part of the game that saw all the best attributes in a post player in the post generation of a now bygone big-man age. Not only are centres almost dead and gone in the NBA today but Power Forward Grant's like Horace (and his Small Forward brother) would be welcome today in the flash and flair league that could use a little more grit and grind of the huge, big man age of inside stuff domination. Sure Roy Hibbert leads the new age but back in the day these type of players where a dime a a good way. There was more than just Georgetown Hoyas like the great Ewing, Mourning and Mutombo back then. Today any of them would dominate.

Dominate like Hakeem Olaujawon did Horace and Shaquille as he dream shook them both to the championship, holding Shaquille O'Neal like a man-child in more than just his press, promotional photo. As the Houston Rockets took off to the championship, Shaq took off to the real 'Steel' of Hollywood, but Horace truly hit the blockbuster stage before all this in Jordan's Chicagoland. The former Georgian Spartan of Hancock Central and the 10th pick out of Clemson College was a top ten player on this untouchable Chicago team as the Bulls stampeded over everyone. The former ACC Player Of The Year and four time All-Defensive Second Team NBA player spanned a career over three decades and battled many an injury as well as post player. Although the Magic and more of the Bulls personified his career, he was Supersonic in Seattle and a born again winner and valuable veteran for his retirement parade in Los Angeles. A third scoring option behind Mike and his forward tandem with Pippen, the man who learnt the toughs of his trade under the Bull horn tutoring of tough steer Charles Oakley was an NBA great. The further you go back the more you wipe off the fog of the goggles and see the legacy, like his brother Harvey, or his nephew Jerai at Clemson and Jerami at Syracuse. Juniors grown up game was known for more than just his wraparound serious safety spectacles. His defensive, security ones handed a lot over too. You couldn't get your hands on this Grant when he wrapped his around the peach and decided he wanted the ball, which paid off for his multi-millionaire team mates and ballclubs. He may not make it on to peoples NBA Mount Rushmore, but he's been close to the carvings of Presidential Basketball best like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Here's to it being about more than just the dead president money. To be Franklin Frank, I guess it's not all about the Benjamins after all.


Saturday, 1 March 2014

COURTSIDE COLUMN-Take Without Forgetting.

We Love Waltah!

Bleeding purple and gold a Laker-for-life like me shouldn't even like Boston, let alone be friends with a Celtic. Still, it seemed to work for Larry and Magic after awhile so let me take off my Lakers warm-ups and reveal a Celtics t-shirt underneath...or maybe a Boston Strong one for this incredible city that continues to rise up showing its tougher than the rest and strong enough to endure any test. I've now been lucky enough to go to this incredible city three times in my life, but add all those trips up together and you probably wouldn't get more than a week. Still, I could stay here forever. From it's New England, old Irish feel its so timeless. The beautiful parks, hallmark bars. Residential streets of vintage and new age shops, the marvellous market and of course the magnificent mile. It's home to some of my favourite movies like 'Good Will Hunting' and 'The Town' (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck being among my favourite actors too) and a favourite band I really want to see live in Aerosmith (oh and for the record Steven Tyler in his autobiography pictures the feeling of coming into Boston from the highway to the skyline in a prose perfect way ("And just then, the highway opened up-right at the junction, right at that spot on the highway where you see the skyline of Boston, and you go, "What!?" Because it suddenly goes from trees, woods, and crickets to cars flashing by and skyscrapers and apartment buildings...Just at that moment, I went "Oh, s***, the city")). Then of course there's the great people, genuine and friendly and always welcoming to me...I guess they don't know I'm a Laker...until now, but hey this Basketball aficionado turned writer because he lives in England will catch a game no matter where he is. Even if he has missed the Garnett, Allen, Pierce, big-three days. It's still all good.

One resident in particular has been especially kind to me and it all starts with a disappointing game in Los Angeles like any story of Celtic pride. Back in 2006, fresh out of university I decided to take a year out and try my hand living in Toronto, Canada (I'm still connected to that country via Basketball Buzz but can't wait to make a trip back). During this excursion I decided to take a jaunt to Los Angeles to see as many Laker games as I could while I still could, being so far away from home in a once in a lifetime experience. With the Lakers set to host their neighbour Clippers on the first night I got in the perfect stage was set. Or was it? Losing my luggage on my connection the airline grounded my plans and as a first time solo traveller there was no way I was leaving that airport until me and my few prized possessions where reunited. Hours of stressful and dreams dashed waiting later (I'll give you some perspective then at 21, I'd been a Laker and Kobe Bryant fan since around the age of 11 (bet that makes Vino feel old) and never even got to see much in the way of late night/early morning games on T.V.), I see a tall man walk through baggage claim. "Perhaps my night of Basketball isn't over" I thought. "He looks like Walter McCarty, but he's carrying a keyboard almost as tall as him under his arm. is Waltah!" After he graciously signed autographs I nervously went over said hello and shared some hoops memories, most notably the time he Antonie Walker, Paul Pierce and Mark Bryant of all people shot down Allen Iverson's Philadelphia 76ers with a barrage of blowout threes (one game I did get to see on T.V.). I also asked him about the instrument and he told me about his budding music career. He told me to take care, we went our separate ways, I got my baggage, saw many Laker games to make up in the week and that was that.

Years later inspired by this unforgettable trip and staying close to the game I began a pitch at a writing career with help from the likes of SLAM magazine and Bleacher Report, who I'll be forever grateful too. Still, starting my own blog and seeing how easily you could connect with fans and even players themselves on Twitter I wanted to take it further, interviewing guys like former Celtic Rodney Rodgers and getting some encouragement from another Laker/Celtic Rick Fox. Then one night after talking with my girlfriends friend in America (who recently was gracious enough to host us over there) who is a hardcore hoops head and a devout Kentucky Basketball fan we got talking about the former Wildcat Walt and she told me where to find him on Twitter (so all of this is thanks to him, her and the constant inspiration of my girlfriend who encourages me to go for my dreams (insert Oscar speech here)). Thinking it as a long shot I reached out to see of Walt remembered me and he said he did, then I asked if he wanted to do an interview about his Basketball/music career and he was so generous enough to grant me this. 'Soul & Basketball' followed, then did his unquestionable 'Unbreakable' R&B album that showed he could hit the high notes as well as the big shot, his Robert Horry clutch like/Derek Fisher hustle and guts, dirty work (more Laker references hey? You have to call it like you see it) role player classic career showed. These days Walt's big time when it comes to rhythm and Basketball working with Tank of Tyrese and Ginuwine supergroup TGT and if that wasn't enough the fan favourite, Tommy Heinsohn announcing 'I Love Waltah' t-shirt star is back with his beloved Boston as a Celtics assistant coach. Giving his seasoned advice and experienced guidance to some young talent in a new, best Point Guard in the league Rajon Rondo led era.

So anyway a couple of years after the interview brings us to just a couple of months back. My girlfriend takes a three month trip to America to meet her Kentucky friend and more and I meet her in New York in this New Year for the last month, taking in Kentucky, Nashville and the Lakers old home Minneapolis with her for the best trip of my life with the love of mine. Heading from New York to Boston via Greyhound for just one day we arrive at the city and see what Steven Tyler was talking about as the skyscrapers appear through the trees after our relatively short, but remarkably scenic ride from the Big Apple. On an unseasonably Spring like January day, staying in the new-to-both-of-us beautiful Back Bay near the sea it was a great day like no other that we'll always remember and not just because we got to see the 'Cheers' bar as the Norm. With my girlfriend Holly absolutely loving this town from the start and me loving it like I never thought I could top we also had one more sweet surprise coming our way. After talking about possibly meeting during our rushed and short schedules I e-mailed Walt while in Dunkin' Donuts (wink, wink, we run on it too) and asked if he still wanted to meet. He replied that we could after the game. Completely forgetting the Houston Rockets and my Lakers beloved Dwight Howard where in town I said "cool, forgot there was a game on, we may try and go", just like that, to which he replied saying he'd leave tickets and passes at will call for us! Now how great and generous is that?! Seeing one of the best games I've seen after the best day in recent memory I finally got to share a real NBA game with my girlfriend for the first time (and exhibition in Manchester with her doesn't really count and compare to the Garden). We got to see the banners, the jerseys and even meet former electric, spark-plug great Dana Barros (now how about an interview buddy...remember me I'm the guy whose camera wouldn't work...sorry). Then of course Walt himself recognising us after the game and fetching us some refreshing, cold water with plenty for us all to talk about from the game, to music, this city and of course Kentucky. In what was a great day for Basketball and one epic entry for the travel journal this really was one of lifes best memories thanks to Holly and Walter McCarty. There's no awesome adjective that could truly do justice to his unprovoked kindness and generosity. So instead its more fitting to leave you with his motto that he signs his e-mails and lives his life by, "Give without remembering, take without forgetting". Thank you Walt...we won't! TIM DAVID HARVEY.