Thursday, August 25, 2011
Originally Published By Slamonline 09/16/10 http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2009/09/this-womans-work/)
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
It’s September 11, 2009. Magic Johnson touches down in LAX and a guy at the airport does a double take. “Its Magic! What’s he doing here?” This guy asks Magic why he’s not in Springfield welcoming in his new fellow Hall of Famers. Earvin looks at the guy and tells him he’s in L.A. honoring a future Hall of Famer… Lisa Leslie.
All eyes in the basketball world may have been focused on Massachusetts this weekend but another well-deserving basketball pioneer deserved her tribute too. The atmosphere in the Staples Center was buzzing with excitement like it was October 27 already. Lisa received her golden sneakers and a standing ovation in a fitting ceremony. After this finale year Leslie will have more ceremonies to look forward to. There’s the matter of her jersey being retired, and, in a couple years, she will be the one spending a mid-September weekend in Springfield. This time she won’t be joined by The Simpsons.
The WNBA is about to complete its 13th season, and Lisa’s been there since its conception, playing every season with the Los Angeles franchise. Lisa Leslie is the Los Angeles Sparks and she embodies the WNBA.
She’s done more for the WNBA than any other player. Lisa’s the consummate professional, dignified with respect for the game and respect for the right way of life. Lisa’s also a model both in fashion and citizenship. She’s a philanthropist, active in the community. Leslie has as much heart as she has hustle. Even when it was her turn in the spotlight at last weekend’s farewell ceremony, she reminded everybody that it’s all about passing the ball. The NBA could definitely use more players like her.
Let’s not get it twisted, in her day, Lisa could school a lot of NBA guys too. It’s a good thing the League didn’t let her play with the big boys like the PGA Tour let Michelle Wie do in golf, because a lot of guys would have been embarrassed… real embarrassed.
The WNBA may still be on the rise, but a lot of people simply turn their noses up at it. It’s a pity because women can ball too. The WNBA’s current slogan is ‘Expect Great’ and that’s what you get every time you watch a game. This league is no sideshow and these players aren’t pushovers. It’s rich with talent, and Lisa is still the cream of the crop after all these years. The Sparks No. 9 paved the way for so many female basketball players to come through. Fans shouldn’t look at the cheap tickets and sneer, they should look at the affordable tickets as an opportunity to see a basketball great before she calls it a career.
One playoff series, one more run at a championship, one last shot at a ring. Barring a comeback this is all Lisa’s got left. After all she’s achieved for the WNBA, it still comes down to now. Lisa Leslie’s great performances and efforts on and off the court have been so important for the sport for over a decade now. Lisa has been dominant on both ends of the floor, scoring points, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. She’s the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and she’s still a potent offensive threat.
Leslie devoted herself to honing her skills over the years. She even played in Russia in the ‘05-06 offseason just to continue working. Lisa is the perfect role model for young women and men alike. She’s a champion, an MVP and a mother too. A true superwoman like Alicia Keys sang about. Lisa’s an icon in female sports and the poster child for the WNBA. She may not have been only female to grace SLAM’s cover like Chamique Holdsclaw, but she was the first WNBA player to catch a dunk in July of 2002. This was one of the women’s Association’s defining moments, and Lisa owns it.
Lisa Leslie has done it all in the WNBA with career averages of 17.3 ppg and 9.1 rpg. She did it with the enthusiasm, determination, leadership and influence that can not be measured. Leslie’s career includes statistical highs such as 41 points and 29 rebounds and personal highs such as two rings, three MVPS and four Olympic gold medals. Some men remain ignorant to the achievements of women in sports. There’s a problem when the only time a woman graces the cover of Sports Illustrated regularly is when she’s in a swimsuit. Lisa’s 13 strong years at center going to battle in the paint, elbows first can not be passed over. There’s a reason she’s achieved global appeal, there’s a reason she guests on The Simpsons, and there’s a reason her autobiography was called Don’t Let the Lipstick Fool You. These reasons weren’t for gimmicks. Lisa Leslie was and is the real deal.
If it’s hard enough for a player to comeback and rediscover their form after injury, think how hard it is for a player to comeback and rediscover their form after childbirth. This is exactly what Lisa did after sitting out the 2007 season. This was done through hard work and persistence. A strong woman, giving her all to her work and personal life.
She leads all WNBA players in career points and rebounds; she’s been named the Player of the Week a record 14 times. She’s still as dominant and effective in the final weeks of her career then she was in her rookie season. The star of Los Angeles Sparks may as well follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles Laker legend Jerry West and have her silhouette integrated into the WNBA logo. Taking nothing away from WNBA greats like Diana Taurasi or Sue Bird, Lisa’s popularity and appeal makes it clear that in the WNBA, she is the man… so to speak.
She helped spearhead the global appeal of female basketball. Just like she dominated in the league, she dominated in the Olympics. Lisa is the first athlete as a member of a team to win four consecutive Olympic Gold medals. If Lisa is dismissed by narrow minded fans as someone who doesn’t deserve legendary status, then these same fans need to dust off her trophy cabinet.
Lisa has led the first 10 years of the WNBA and her legend will last throughout more decades. She is an influence to players in the league and players coming up. Her worldwide appeal and influence has helped more girls pick up a basketball when everyone else was telling them it was just a man’s game.
One young woman this eight-time All-Star influenced is fellow Spark’s teammate Candace Parker. What more can be said about this young sophomore? She (herself coming back after child birth) is dominating and getting better and better. This reigning MVP and Rookie of the Year is the future of the WNBA’s next decade, and she could bring the game even more popularity and worldwide appeal. The more her star rises the WNBA’s stock will rise. If Candace is the LeBron James of the woman’s game then Lisa Leslie is the Michael Jordan. Lisa influenced and inspired Candace while she was growing up and hoop dreaming. Today in her last years Lisa is mentoring Candace is her first years. They form the perfect partnership — the legend and the star. Their games compliment each other and they give the Sparks the talent to go far and the league the star power to attract more fans. If only they had more time together. Think of the excitement, think of the dominance, think of the rings.
But this is the last chance for this particular partnership to obtain that elusive ring for the L.A. Sparks. How fitting and deserving would it be for Lisa if Los Angeles won it all this year? This is Lisa’s last dance and she knows all the right steps. The Sparks take on the Seattle Storm this week. Before Lisa retires and passes the torch to Candace once and for all, she will have one more chance to show the world how good she really is.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Bigger than Basketball.
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
What measures a legend? In the sport of Basketball it’s a man’s skills, his talent, and his achievements. What measures a hero? In the sport world or outside a hero is someone who is there for others and stands up against all adversity. A hero looks out for others, not just himself. A legend is cemented through time; a hero is found in moments that define. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a legend in the 70’s and 80’s in the NBA winning championships and re-defining the game. In 2009 the quiet centre became another hero who used his spotlight to speak out and raise the awareness of cancer, so others wouldn’t have to go through the same things as he had.
“I think that someone like me, who has a public presence, because people pay attention to what’s going on in my life, can help save some lives,”
Nobody wants to hear the word cancer. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, if it occurs in your life it’s a tragic and desperate situation. In the long and hard battle, hope and fighting are two ways to combat this dreaded disease. In November 2009 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar revealed he has leukemia, he showed positivity and endurance in the face of this terrible news.
Everyone knows the player, the legend the champion. Everyone knows about the infamous goggles, the infamous hook and the most points scored in league history. The man however has and still remains somewhat of an enigma. A guy who’s personal life was kept exactly that, personal.
So when Kareem decided to make public his condition it spoke volumes not only for Cap himself but for his commitment to not only fighting but raising awareness of this disease. I’m sure everyone would have respected Kareem’s wishes if he wanted his personal space on this one but instead Kareem changed his normal demeanour to help others.
Yes, there are people everyday who raise awareness about detecting cancer professional or otherwise, famous or not. That being said however everyone who contributes to raising awareness helps. He may not have been the only one but Kareem has still helping, period. From being a spokesman for the cancer medication company 'Novartis' to continuing his work past his clear diagnosis this year.
Awareness is especially helpful when distinguishing between different types of cancer and paying attention to those that are rare as well as common. Kareem suffered from Chronic myelogenous leukemia. A rare form of cancer. It starts inside an individual’s bone marrow. The cancer then grows from the cells in the bone marrow that produce white blood cells. The cancerous white blood cells that are produced can take years to grow, so detection of this disease is usually discovered early. Early detection helps sufferers cope better, all whilst maintaining their lifestyles as best they can.
As Kareem told people its important for sufferers to seek help from a specialist and make taking medication, receiving checkups and making monitoring a regular, scheduled thing. Jabbar may have been terrified upon hearing this news but in managing and enduring the problem of having leukemia he told himself and other sufferers one vital important thing,
“It does not have to be a death sentence”.
In speaking out about this disease Kareem has helped raise understanding but also offered hope to fellow sufferers. He has done this by showing confidence and a strong will and mindset in the face of severe adversity. Seeing someone in the public eye going through what they are with such resolve may ease sufferer’s fears. If people look up to a role model like Kareem at the very least it can help make things a little easier. That’s a duty that Kareem not only feels he wants to do but knows he need to do. This is a true leader back at work.
Yes we do live in a world where regular people who do great work are often unfortunately ignored whereas sportsmen and celebrities are placed on an often time undeserved, over the top pedestal. It is also evident that any cancer sufferers helping and aiding not only themselves but others are heroes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a regular person or your name is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You’re a help to other sufferers no matter who you are. That being said though with this world we live in being celebrity driven it is vitally important for those who aren’t overlooked to reach and speak out for those who need their help.
This is where Cap has been using his star power for good. A lesson a lot of celebrities could do with swatting up on. This isn’t another one of those cringe worthy moments where a celebrity presents a large cheque to a charity (which obviously is still a great help) on the eve of their album or film release. Kareem has made his battle with cancer public so people in his predicament can be aware of early detection and can also help feel a sense of optimism and faith.
This is where abusing your celebrity is actually beneficial and of great service. This big man’s step out the shadows and into the public eye is done for the help of others alone and not his own personal gain. Kareem is expecting nothing in return, just the hope that this big gesture could be even at the very least the smallest bit of aid for others.
Magic Johnson turned his devastating news of testing positive for HIV into a mission of raising awareness, prevention and coping with the disease. Magic did just as much good to this cause as he did on the basketball court. Jabbar has followed his old running mate’s suit. Kareem has achieved so many milestones on the hardwood that are worthy of all the articles that have come before this one. Just like his former teammate with his latest move however he sought to achieve as much good as he can here in the face of this disease.
Kareem has watched a close friend an uncle and a grandfather lose the battle to cancer. He has seen his father fight through it. With this tragically unfortunate history in mind to still show determination when diagnosed himself, coupled with his dedication to helping others afflicted shows a great strength. A strength that is attributed to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the man, not the basketball player.
This is what its all about. This situation Kareem had made public was not done in order to just make the news, instead it was done so Kareem could serve as a spokesman for a leukemia condition that is rare and can often be overlooked. Now almost two years later-with his cancer at a minimum and a clean bill of health-if Kareem has accomplished some good from his devastating situation. It was worth him coming out of his private world and sharing a little bit about himself, worth so much more than accolades, scoring titles or championships. Kareem understands that and therefore was and is prepared to sacrifice his long cultivated publicity shy life in order to do this. Even with his cancer at a minimum Kareem is still maximising the awareness and as we celebrate his good news, he looks out for others like he did his teammates on the court. He really has given us himself. That is something we can all tip our caps to.
"My cancer right now is at an absolute minimum."
(Originally Published By Slamonline (06/19/10) http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2010/06/the-beautiful-game/)
Taking it back to the last epic, Lakers/Celtic's finals clash.
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
Let's take a look back at this years NBA Finals. OK, so Game 7 was ugly — Sam Cassell ugly — but there was still some beauty in it. Kind of like the old flame who wasn’t the prettiest of them all, but, looking back, there was just something about her.
After all the hype and build-up for the final game of the Playoffs some fans felt let down like the infamous Forum balloons of 1969. Game 7 may have not kept itself classy like San Diego but the scrappy nature gave us a finale that suited these storied franchises down to the ground.
Game 6 was a different story. A good, old fashioned blowout. A great statement game in the sense that the Lakers reaffirmed their position in a series that for the last two games where Celtic-dominated. It was also one of those useful game finishes where fans could leave early to avoid the gridlock. This is all well and good for a mid-season game but who really wants to see that in a Game 7? In the end of this series, just like with Joaquin Phoenix, a close shave was the only thing that was going to look good.
So after both opponents had traded blows, decade after decade, game after game for almost 60 years and six games, it all came down to the last quarter of a real drawn-out game. The competitive nature had been nurtured through the times and moments these two teams had been through and shared over the course of their historic rivalry. This rivalry heated up and intensified so much over an evenly matched series that it all boiled down to player’s nerves spilling over from what looked like a classic case of over-enthusiasm. Someone needed to find where Larry David was sitting.
This over-eagerness in some superstar players revealed their more human side. Mistakes where made and Shawn Bradley shots where thrown up. Statically speaking this looked like a Clippers/Nets exhibition. Fans looking for a reputable spread across the offensive box score would be disappointed, but those looking for true grit, determination and a clinic in defense wouldn’t be. With so much riding on the defining game some of the more confident players looked vulnerable. A player’s skill was almost a non issue to be thrown out the window. The winner on this night would be the team with more resolve.
This made for compelling viewing; it was almost like watching a ‘next basket wins’ game on the streets or as one commentator said a wrestling match. The two teams where going at it minute after minute, quarter after quarter, round after round. The gloves where off and just like Ali’s ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ with Joe Frazier L.A. took everything the Celtics had on the chin until they wore Boston down and delivered the final knockout. The Lakers may not have been making the grades through the first three quarters but they finished strong like Mister Cee, and that’s what mattered. Sure the game wasn’t played extremely well but it was fought brilliantly.
There’s nothing glamorous about hustle but there is everything to be admired in the hard work that gets the job done. Maybe the Hollywood brethren in Staples weren’t excited by the basketball they were seeing, but it was necessary. Just like the Zen Master said, “it got the job done.” For the Lakers to finally overcome their nemesis they had to play like them. Another installment of ‘Showtime’ wouldn’t of worked, the Lakers had to put in more work than that and grind it out against Boston’s blue…excuse me, green collared approach. In doing this they finally got the monkey off their back. They finally beat the Celtics at their own game and even with all its bumps and bruises it was a beautiful game to.
Even amongst the grit and grime pretty plays could be found. For the Lakers, Fisher added some color to the game from his first open look to his last rainbow jumper. Whereas as far as the Celtics were concerned Garnett added his trademark ferocity from his opening ‘in control’ two hander (off a Rondo alley oop) to his ‘we’re still in this’ statement dunk late on.
When the ‘Big Three’ were tiring Rondo was throwing passes, scoring beautiful layups and draining threes in the clutch that breathed life in to the game. ‘The Truth’ and ‘Jesus’ still came up big, adding refreshingly wet jumpers in the middle of dry spells. Now that sounds like some good Basketball.
Pau Gasol’s 19 points and 18 boards came from hard work and determination. There were times where he made a mess around the cup but how he cleared the table more than wetted the fans appetite for more. The strength and the tenacity he displayed on the boards, the blocks and on second chance efforts showed that he’s come a long way since he last met the Celtics imposing frontcourt in the 2008 finals.
In the last Celtics/Lakers Finals, Pau may have appeared a little out his depth, but his passion this year for the Lakers was far from shallow. The Gasol glare, which after last year seems like a new, Laker tradition may be more scary than appealing but this is the type of love for the game that is sometimes lost on other players with that type of talent. That, however, is what separates good and great basketball players and winners and losers. In 2008 Gasol was weaker and it wasn’t so pretty to watch. Today, he’s much stronger and he’s never looked better.
The other difference maker for the Lakers brought immeasurable heart and charm to a so-called lackluster affair. Remember when Ron Artest was first signed by the Lakers, and he said the blame was on him if they didn’t win? Well, he was playing like a man of his word, responsible for his team’s success and how sweet it was to see and hear him go on about making that three off a Kobe pass? Now that’s entertainment.
Kobe himself may not have played in this game like a series MVP but he still went hard. Those 23 points may look like that of a second or third option player but those last 10 came through strong drives and his ability to stay with his game. Kobe’s 6-24 may have been numbers John Starks guys are made of but once ‘The Mamba’ composed himself and slithered in to a rhythm the fourth quarter became a classical piece.
How often in the NBA Finals does the outcome come down to a Game 7? Well this is only the third time since 1990 and to those ‘80s babies who are edging that little bit closer to 30, you may not like to admit it but that was a long, long time ago. Even if some fans found the game hard to watch there was no denying this was a more definite ending to a normal NBA Finals. Now that’s the type of ending everyone wants to see. Years from now which Lakers series will be talked about more? This one, or their 4-0 sweep of the Nets?
A Game 7 was exactly what this chapter of the Celtics, Lakers needed especially after all the statement games that came beforehand, whether on a Christmas Day or mid-season Western Conference road trip. Would anyone really be satisfied if this clash didn’t come down to the last minutes of the last game? That was real drama that no build up commercial could truly evoke. This was where amazing was happening for real. Lil’ Wayne can attest to that, ‘Sorry LeBron. Get ‘em next year.’
It was clear toward the end of the third quarter that whoever won this game would really, truly deserve the title. After all the blood, sweat, tears (we see you Ron, Ron) and years the true victor was the team who stuck it out to the end and prevailed. Game 7 gave everyone a real competition and a true final game. The play on the court may have needed as much dolling up as Christina Aguilera received before she delivered the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ but the way the passion of the game was played out was more than just a good look.
The game that changed it all.
NBA FINALS 2000-GAME 6: INDIANA PACERS 111-L.A. LAKERS 116
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Let's take it back, way back. Before Dallas ended Phil Jackson's reign this year and before a Pau Gasol trade brought some gold back to the sunshine of California's favourite team. Way, way back, even before after taking three, the departure of Shaquille O'Neal led to the death of a dynasty. Let's take it back to when the dynasty began, back in the new millennium, where the Lakers where given new players, new uniforms and a new arena. It all looked so good with this forum of talent and purple and gold promise. All that stood in the new Los Angeles Lakers and their new beginning was Larry Bird (again), fellow hot-shooter Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers. After five hard-fought, back and forth tempo games in STAPLES and the Conseico Fieldhouse in Indiana, the series came back to L.A. for a crucial Game 6. What could be more fitting? The entertainment capital of the world was about to make an exclamation in sports and who else to do it?
This is Larry Bird's last game as a head coach and just like when he was a player, tonight in California he's about to witness some magic that's going to leave him with nothing left to pull out the bag. The STAPLES Centre is electric (it looks like everyone's got those inflatable free-throw batons) and LOUD! I guess Shaq provided them lozenges he promised, the usual cool and calm Hollywood crowd is on it sensing their first championship since the eighties, as Shaq et al look to taste the champagne of the stars. Even Salma Hayek and Edward Norton are flexing courtside. IT'S SHOWTIME BABY!
Kobe (or Fro'be as he was back then) Bryant is showing some vintage young-man/Jordanesque moves as he wildly goes to the basket with that youthful passion and exuberance although the rim tames his shot, Shaq's put-back punishes it in return. GAME ON! Dale Davis is scrapping and hustling, Reggie's acting like he's in the Garden and as Kobe plants a nice fadeaway like Mike, Mark Jackson responds with a turn around heave from half-court (complete with Larry Johnson 'L') to give Indy the lead at the buzzer. This is still a series.
Like the commentator said, do you believe in omens? As that Jackson bit of action led to a three-point onslaught by Indiana in the second led by former Laker player and underrated outside/big-man revolutionary Sam Perkins. The big smooth is making his old side look sleepy, but then Robert Horry gets big on the other end of the court with a block that sends a Fisher break and delivery for O'Neal which is collected, collated and stuffed in the Pacers mailbox, complete with his trademark, all business no 'funny' stare.
O'Neal is right there and here ready to win that ring that had eluded him for so long. You can see it more in his eyes tonight, he wants it more than anybody in the arena. He cleans up Kobe's mess with another emphatic statement dunk after Mark Jackson hounded Kobe like he wanted to end the half like he did the first quarter. This is the Lakers time however as Ron Harper steals and passes to Kobe, taking the ball off his mentor, Kobe hits a three over Jackson with 2.5 to go in the half. This looks like lights out, even though the STAPLES Centre haven't employed that technique yet and we've still got 24 minutes to go in the ballgame.
Number 31 is getting his villain on and shooting the lights out trying to come out strong against these Hollywood heroes, but this is L.A.'s house. Veteran Harper knows how to win and pass as the former Chicago Bull makes his two-team coach Phil Jackson proud with a great play to Shaquille O'Neal. Meanwhile Kobe is trying to match Miller's outside shooting inside, while hot shooters like Glen Rice help the Lakers scoring arc. A young Deaven George dances on the bench, he'll have to wait for his opportunity, but it's his time tonight just as it is others.
The Pacers Jackson continues his Johnson impression but he can't stop Bryant as the young Kobe forces a fadeaway that looks like he is fouled but is nothing but net. Swaggering past Jack Nicholson (complete with moustache, what film was that for?) and rubbing his fingers together, it's clear this former big-game air-ball kid is all man and star now. Heeeeere's Kobe! As Bryant than finds Shaq for the basket and one (Shaq's making them free-throws tonight) L.A. are still down by one, but as Kobe points to Shaq with a 'you know what I'm thinking' stare, the two clearly are on the same page. The writings about to be inscribed on a trophy too.
To start the final chapter, Derek Fisher hits a big three and poses for his own L.J. 'L', with a sign of things to come. Kobe saves the ball from going out of bounds with some athletics, which lead to Shaq dropping a baby hook to keep up the pace with Indiana. On the bench A.C. Green loves it and this eighties darling knows that just like Kareem, Shaq's smaller hook is still unstoppable, line and sinker. Kobe drives into the paint and in some mid-air traffic, swoops the ball round to Shaq for the beautiful lay-in, followed by a hug. Now don't you just miss the days when the corvette and the brick wall stood side by side? These plays are what should be the thing of history and tonight they are.
Austin Croshere hits another three to take his tally to 14 and who can answer him? Robert Horry puts and end to that question like he did time-after-time, year after year to come with too many clutch three's for Indiana to deal with. Big shot Bob's in his favourite spot, on the right side of the basket. It's vintage Laker basketball and Shaq dives in for the lay-up off a Kobe miss, sacrificing his body and almost injuring himself as his big frame hits the deck. He only needs a minute though before he put back another missed shot and this time it's by our favourite assistant Brian Shaw, but it looks more like a ricochet pass. In this theatre of dreams the 'Shaw, Shaq Redemption' is playing tonight. All night.
Now how's this for some Hollywood from one of the Laker's biggest stage actors? Rick Fox is found in range and Reggie Miller steps back taunting and begging him to take the three, Fox obliges and puts it and Reggie in the hole. Magic Johnson hearts it and so does three-point man Rice who hugs and picks up Fox with adoration. You gotta love it. Indiana need to talk it over with a timeout, everyone in L.A. can't stop screaming. Dale Davis is still working the paint, spinning and dunking with passion and pride, him and his team are still in it until Kobe finds Shaq for a massive dunk (even for a guy like him) that almost rivals the iconic one against Davis' future team Portland from the Lakers series before this.
At this point Shaq has 36 and the Lakers are up by 7. Then a few minutes later Harper misses a dunk and Indy's Jalen Rose ties the game up with a three for their last crusade. A turn around jumper by Shaq takes it to 40 and the max as the Lakers just keep getting better. They have the power and Kobe crosses everything over as he hits how own Reggie dagger three, smoothly holding his hands up and sliding back to the bench, tapping his heart and the logo on the jersey. You know who it is.
The Indiana Pacers are still in it however to the end hacking at Shaq and bringing it to a matter of buckets with just minutes to go. Still from the exuberance of the crowd to the emphatic play of the Lakers it's always looked like L.A.'s game and championship tonight. As Miller throws up a desperation shot and the Lakers make their three throws it is. Kobe smiles with people on the bench while Larry Bird rubs his temple. Brian Shaw and Ron Harper embrace while Reggie Miller keeps his head down, the tempo has changed. Kool & The Gang are already celebrating and as the victory music plays it's time for everyone else to come on. The Lakers can feel it now as Kobe engages with the crowd and points to his ring finger. All that's left is fot the final buzzer to sound and for Kobe to run and leap into a tearful Shaq's arms for one of the most iconic images of the two players and this franchises history. GAME OVER!
After 13 years Reggie Miller can't get it done in the NBA Finals, but he deserves an award for his valiant play and playoff heroics as does brief but brilliant coach Larry Bird who is congratulated courtside by Nicholson. This is the Los Angeles Lakers time however and Magic Johnson and the city couldn't be more proud. A.C. Green, John Salley and Ron Harper have reached the promised land again, and it's only the beginning for Rick Fox, Robert Horry and Derek Fisher. L.A.'s two biggest stars shine the brightest however as Kobe humbly smiles and acknowledges everone's hard work while Shaq rips the monkey off his back, throws him out the building and cements his status as 'The Big Legendary' to a chorus of 'MVP's'. Shaq then closes things perfectly, infamously proclaiming and predicting, "we're gonna get one next year too" in a cast-iron Pat Riley declaration. Despite some riots outside this was the perfect evening as the Lakers lit up the city of angels. This inspirational, influential night goes down as one of the best days in NBA history.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Through a wormhole to the hall.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
If you ever make it to Springfield and walk down the infamous hall of NBA fame your senses will become overloaded as you hear a young man full of charisma tell you, "never fear, E.J.'s here", taste the victory champagne of champions, smell the scent of Red's cigar and feel the 'Heat' of things to come. Then however as you hear the footsteps of smart shoes and pan up the debonair but dynamic suit you see something unusual. Is that man's hair green with dots of orange?
It sure is ladies and gentleman as this year we welcome Dennis Rodman to the NBA Hall of Fame's class of 2012 and to boot this chameleon coloured, dyed eccentric may not sport the strangest haircut of the class either...step forward Chris Mullin! No wait, he's next (stay tuned) right now let's take a look at one of the most enigmatic, entertaining and best players to ever grace the National Basketball Association, a man that made Shaq's personality and Allen Iverson's appearance seem merely, normal.
Dennis Rodman is no stranger to causing a scene on the mainstream, catching headlines, superstar girlfriends, movie roles and everything short of a rap album all whilst grabbing every rebound in site. The man could even reduce Charles Barkley's mound to dirt and again even make that personality just seem ordinary. Throughout his career almost everything Dennis did was in some way classic. From humbled, no tattoo beginnings in Detroit before he was a 'bad boy', to striking gold in San Antonio before the championship years in Chicago where next to Scottie Pippen and the greatest of all time he still stood out (in a good way) like the (then named) Sears Tower (what you talking about Willis?), all the way to trying to choose between the number '69' (if you want that jersey you may have to ask Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder) or '007' in the Laker days before they refused him a new jersey like his hometown of Trenton (you can bet they love him though) and he left the association as a true Maverick. Trust that even with all the strange occurrences and 'what the hell' goings on Rod's playing career spoke louder than any outfit, make up or spray can he wore.
Forget talking about the tattoo's and earrings, speak on how he inked and pierced his legend and legacy of being the greatest rebounder in league history. The shyest kid in school graduated to the big-leagues and became one of the most extroverted men in the world as he truly lived this life. Thank God for what he gave us and even with all this charisma 'the worm' is still as humble and down to earth as thy come. Thanking all his teams on Twitter for the opportunity, now that's a hell of a lot of character.
Sure Rodman may have starred in the questionable, but box office smash 'Double Impact' (say what you say it sure is a fun movie) with Jean Claude Van Damme but his impact on the league was much more powerful and potent. His double, double, explosive play drew the top crowds in as Chicago, championship basketball became cinematic. With no special effects or stunt doubles, Dennis was the real action hero saving the day for the Bulls, scene after scene, team after team. He may have spent some time in a WWF ring with Hulk Hogan, but when he entered any NBA court he wrestled with anyone, no matter how tough as he even took the NBA's strongest man, Karl Malone from the canvas to the hardwood.
Sure he may have dated Madonna and claimed she "broke his (close your ears)" but this man still broke down his opposition night after night with his skills that changed the tone of the game more than his hair. Sure he may have been married to Carmen Elektra for only as long as most reality shows last and he may have wore a wedding dress to promote his autobiography (how else? Well how about promoting his second 'I Should Be Dead By Now' in a coffin?) but he enjoyed a matrimony with Larry O'Brien in the chapters of his career, never being engaged with his outside world when in the game like EA. Playing as consistently as a video game Rodman left it all on the floor as he left all the crazy things that happened in his life away from basketball exactly that, off the court. Now that's the measure of a true professional. So what if he came to work looking different. Normal people don't become winners, they just stay the same. Dennis changed the game. While wearing black and red the only thing he was a menace to was those without 'Bulls' embroided across their chests.
Now Michael Jordan may have led the Bull's charge with his second to none game and competitiveness, while Scottie Pippen may have been next in line as the leagues best second string and fiddle legend, but Rodman kept the heart of Chicago beating with his spark, enthusiasm and passion as this big three where united in the centre and the core of Windy City basketball. These characteristics, coupled with his completely horizontal loose ball dives and his glass polishing window cleaning where examples of true selfless sacrifice and the most truest types of hard-work and honest hustle. These elements where as criminally underrated and as equally important as Steve Kerr's threes, Horace Grant's googled eyed 'D' and Toni Kukoc's revolution of the sixth man position. All these moods resulted in a championship mindset. No wonder the zen of Phil Jackson recognised when no one else did. No wonder Dennis wants no one else but him to present him with his induction into the NBA's most elite and prestigious class.
It's easy to forget that the man that grabbed so many boards was only 6 foot 6 and also played the more natural position of small forward, but his emphatic, power driven play helped him stand next to the big boys on his way to five gold rings, two defensive player of the year awards and seven rebound titles. It's easy to forget this guy spent the last decade mixing it up in the ABA like his name was Julius Erving and spelling time in Britain like his name was Ron Artest (yet another man he makes look tame, now that's crazy), but this is how much this man loves the game that at times unfairly showed him hate. Sure he starred on England's popular but overdone 'Celebrity Big Brother' and America's 'Celebrity Apprentice', but the reality is what he's done on screens and youtube highlights with his basketball legacy trumps one-week, throwaway television. It's also easy to forget that despite his iconic, irreplaceable time for the Bulls he also had a massive impact on the eighties era, 'bad boy' Detroit basketball. A crucial cog in the otor of the Pistons just like Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Adrian Dantleym, Vinnie Johnson or John Salley. An influence so huge that the team retired his number 10 jersey, maybe its time the Bulls followed suit with his number 91 vest.
Still with this years Hall of Fame honor the NBA finally honor all he's done, giving him his just deserves. It's about time we all really saw what this man is about. Surreal not strange, enigmatic not eccentric, iconic not idiotic. Besides in a current lockout starved and uninspired NBA, what more could entertain us then Dennis, one of the leagues most inspirational figures in a sport designed for expressive characters. Believe beyond the walls of the hall we'll never forget this man. In Rod we trust.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Tex book basketball.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
This Summer we will finally hear the Winter's tale Naismith and the NBA have been waiting so long to be told. As legendary coach Tex Winter has his picture added to the Hall of Fame. The frame of his profile may as well be shaped like a triangle as this man birthed and helped orchestrate one of the leagues most innovative, iconic, enigmatic and successful basketball offences ever conducted
Along with dear friend and head coach partner Phil Jackson (who has the honour of presenting Winter with his induction to the hall) Tex worked the legendary triangle offence to the tune of 11 championship rings in Chicago and Los Angeles, how's that sound for tried and tested? These two old men ran rings round the young men of the NBA with their triangle which rendered their opposition out of shape and lost to this mysterious allure like Bermuda. The offence helped legends become true winners, whether their names where Mike or Kobe, or Shaq or Scottie. It also denied some of the leagues legendary best the ultimate title, from failed deliveries from Karl Malone to no time for Miller or answers for Iverson.
Good ol' Tex will finally get his due this year as the sports most hard to get to grips with strategy finally comes to terms with the association. The triangle enters the hall with it's inventor. A professor of coaching and master of the dry-erase board and the X's and O's. It really is a good job the Zen master is presenting the honour, as good luck to anyone else trying to explain the triangle, it's even harder than soccer fans trying to explain the offside rule in a bar. Winter has passed all tests though, knowing the game like no other, inside and out with all it's trimmings and hidden gems. Plus with a resume and report card that reads like the most likely to succeed, he's aced every test given as he's swotted away all the competition. Some fly in and out of this league with the seasons but Tex has been in this sport for over a half century with decades of dominance.
Texan Tex is a titan amongst legends a man who ruled the Western world and rounded up the beasts of the East in a lasso like a true maverick without even spending any time with Dallas. This years champions may have ended his and Jackson's victory streak but as Tex leaves the saloon of contenders people will share their Winter stories over a glass long after the doors stop swinging. We really need to raise our glasses and toast this man as there is no one quite like him.
From a playing career at USC college to coaching spells at Marquette, Kansas State, Washington, Northwestern, Long Beach State and the Houston Rockets in the NBA before his two most successful and sensational stints as an assistant, Winter has been everywhere and done it all with a 486-235 head coaching record. That's .674 that most of the NBA's best coaches don't or won't ever see. The man is already in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and now he is set to walk the walk down of legends down Naismith's hall.
Also a recipient this year of the 'Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award', this mans life's work has been a deep dedication to his work and sport. Thanks to his legacy of the triangle offence Tex takes his innovation and influence to even more inspiring places this August. In a rush of talent in this class Tex is the most dynamic (and Dennis Rodman's here this year too) at the head as basketball's true teacher. As legendary as Red, Tex has coloured the league with his imagination and ideas. He literally wrote the book on this sport, back in '62 on the then termed 'Triple-Post Offence' and his writings, teachings and coachings have lasted through the decades and reissues. Winter started a basketball revolution and in the fall of his career we can only hope the next in line starts a basketball renaissance.
You see the plays Tex Winter designed where the blueprints of incredible ball playing. Basketball in it's purist, most fundamental form. If this art is lost with his career then it will be a real tragedy and injustice because even though Tex played and worked behind the scenes he's done as much good for this sport as anyone named Michael, Magic and Bird. He helped define the nighties with Jordan and Jackson and in the new millennium when everyone was 'crossing over' and looking for new ways to change and rule the game Tex and Jax still ruled the science of the game with their tried and tested formula that broke down the elements of the opposition, via pure basketball physics and team chemistry based on classic coaching.
Tex Winter's health problems have overshadowed his last few years in the league but he still stood by and consulted Phil Jackson after suffering a stroke. Now as he's set to receive his induction he will not be in his best health or state but that won't dampen his unconquerable spirit or the night of overdue celebration. His health may be failing him but his heart, soul, legend and legacy never will. So let's all stand up and give a round of applause as he proudly takes to the podium. Arguably the most underrated, under appreciated (by some), important and influential figures of the last century of basketball and for all time is finally getting his appreciation and just deserves. Let's hear it for him. Thanks Tex.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
By way of Bynum
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
Against the Memphis Grizzlies, Andrew Bynum collides with teammate Lamar Odom and injures his left kneecap, forcing him out for the remainder of the season.
Against the Memphis Grizzlies once again, Andrew Bynum injures his right knee after team-mate Kobe Bryant landed on it, forcing him out for many vital months of the season.
During the playoffs Andrew Bynum plays every single game even with a torn meniscus, teammate Pau Gasol recognises Bynum's great sacrifice. The Los Angeles Lakers and their centre win their second NBA Championship in as many a season.
'Starting at Centre for the Los Angeles lakers, number 17, Andreeeeeeeeeeew Bynuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum'.
Picture the scene, imagine the game. The details? They don't matter, because he's here and back for good. Andrew Bynum is more then the Lakers centre, he's their centre of attention. The man in the post who delivers game after game like he was Karl Malone. Dobermans don't bark at this mailman however, they just bring him the ball, night after night as this 21st century, second generation Laker team guard their house like the champions they have been and will be again.
Over the past few years the Lakers haven't lived or died by Andrew Bynum and his injuries, but their development and their stronghold on the the association of National Basketball has rested on those awkward knees of their number 17. With Pau in the post and tall enough to go centre, plus 'Sixth Man of the Year' Lamar Odom being a true starter the Lakers can cope without 'Drew. Still however, with him their just a much stronger team. Take the last couple of games for example. The Lakers won without Bynum up front, but they can't go the long haul without him. That's why the Lakers are always worried en route to the postseason that without Bynum wearing a purple and gold jersey, the Lakers will end up missing out on wearing rings, just like when their number 17 ripped off his jersey after his team where knocked out by Dallas this season gone.
At least it was refreshing that when Andrew missed the last two games of last season it was due to suspension and not injury. After taking down Michael Beasley with a tough, flagrant foul, Bynum earned himself two games in a suit and tie but at least his jersey wasn't clothes lined this time. Still just like against Minnesota or that fatal Dallas game, Bynum needs to get formidable, not flagrant. Now take away the seriously bad Dallas series and despite the time he missed last year from his World Cup hangover Bynum was his healthy and best ever. Even if he has worse knees then Brandon Roy, the tough, more-than-just-dependable centre is a trailblazer ready to help take down Portland, Dallas, Oklahoma, San Antonio and whatever city from the Eastern part of the United States dares to stand in him and his teams way.
As long as Bynum doesn't go down on one knee, his reigning champion Lakers look engaged with Larry O'Brien, resulting in a matrimony of contention despite the fact they forget their three year anniversary of championship marriage last season. The Lakers obviously have more fire power then the 7 feet, 285 Bynum, but this former number 10 draft pick looks like the number one reason the Lakers could run towards another championship in a breeze. In around half a decade Bynum has turned potential into promise and promise into prominence. Plus at 23, this kid still has a decade-plus left to realise his prime...so long as his knees don't cap his time on the pine.
Right now the Lakers have a complete team of top-tier talent. From Kobe, to Pau, to Lamar, to Ron, to Derek, to the bench and of course Andrew. Inside and out, offence to defence the Lakers can keep up with anybody. They have all the elements and of course they need them with the fire of 'Bron and all his superfriends and the ice of 'Melo and his new pals. Not to mention rivals Dallas, San Antonio and Boston, and former final foes Orlando. The NBA title is wide open this year as the top teams narrow themselves from the rest of the league by getting greater in talent. The Lakers may rest on Bryant, but just like they need Gasol's versatility, Odom's substitution, Ron's defence, Fisher's clutch and the benches spark they need Andrew Bynum's inside knowledge to boot.
With his ability to dish, dunk, post up and hook, 'Drew's got all the offence skills to draw more then a double-team and open up the floor. With his handles too, Andrew crashes the boards, helping the Lakers dominate possessions. This really is why the centre is the biggest player on the floor. Sure this team is still Kobe's and then Pau's, but a lot of the Lakers plays-on both ends of the floor-go through 'Drew. Bynum's averaged of 11.5 points and 9 rebounds don't do what he does on the floor justice. He can drop plenty of 20 and 10's on any given Sunday, Monday or Tuesday like his name was Kevin Love, making his games a double, like fans ordering beers in the stands. His career highs of 42 points and twice-over 18 rebounds more then make up the type of player he could become. Also with an average of 5.8 defensive rebounds if he improves that 3.2 offensive line who knows what else he can draw out. While his box-score, statistical averages of 1 assist and 2 blocks really show the potential he has on affecting other areas of the game. Especially as his health improves and his 27.2 minute a game average is boosted to that of the numbers of a franchise player. A franchise player that he's about to become.
Right now Bynum and his tall-tandem with Gasol helps the Lakers keep up with the Nowitzki's, Duncan's, Griffin's and Perkins out West and the Bosh's, Stoudemire's and Garnett's of the rest of the contenders, but who knows just how much Andrew could dominate players like this in years time, on his own. Lakers fans will have to admit-that even though it won't be for awhile yet-Kobe will, one day retire and other stars production and prime will decline. Still, through all this Andrew Bynum won't get much older, but he will get significantly better. Sure he's not ready to put up Wilt numbers but even with the way he's playing right now Bynum could go down in history as one of the greatest Laker big men of all-time and there's been a lot of them. Kareem has even brought the Magic out this young centre tutoring 'Drew, helping this young mans potential scrape the sky like the rest of the bigs. Jabbar even gave 'Drew a nice baby-hook with Cap's playing mindset to match.
This youngest player ever in the NBA has overcame Jermaine and is the next big thing to O'Neal...Shaquille that is. He even withstood a Shaq attack, by coming back with his own elbow in his 'fro riding rookie season. You know the only man that eased the Lakers pains and worries of losing O'Neal was Andrew. Bynum isn't just a welcome relief for the Lakers from the years of Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm (no offence to their talents and services) he's one of the few, true centres left in a league where this position has become a dying breed since the late 90's. Still, even with the development of more centrally minded guys Bynum has freshened up his raw talent. Even if all of the 30 teams in the league had centre's who more resembled Greg Oden's (talking about knees) then Luc Longley's, Bynum would still be among the best, making more centres gravitate towards the power forward position then they do now. Bottom line this top big man could be one of the best in the league-if not all-time-when his career is done...period.
Forget Dwight Howard for a second, right now the Lakers future rests on Bynum's knees and just like him they are getting better. You can't trade potential, or future. Besides Bynum's this good right now, he should be an All-Star, he should be so much more, like he really is as a player. Still, it's easy for a quiet, well-mannered guy like Bynum to be lost in the galaxy of stars out in L.A. See it goes beyond the Kobe's, Spanish, reality and hip-hop stars and the players wives sitting courtside. There's also a throng of music, movie and other sports stars that lace the STAPLES Centre night after night, from Jack Nicholson to Justin Bieber. Still they all see Bynum and what they look at is more then just a star in the making. They look at the man that's going to take this Lake Shows legacy to new heights even when number 8 or number 24 is raised to the rafters with the greats.
Right now too Bynum is the difference maker between contention and condolence. Just think years ago the Lakers almost 'shipped him out' for a point guard. Trade him these days? You must be kidding! Despite his Dallas team ringing the championship changes, there will be no Jason for this Argonaut. Argonaut in the sense that he touches everything-from rebounds to points-like had had the arms of an Octopus, inking championships and tattooing his legend. As the Lakers clash with the titans they need their front-court God, their saviour. The man who will help engrave the latest and next chapter of Laker legacy in stone with yet another 'chip now he's back on the block.
The ballot of Los Angeles.
By Tim David Harvey
Let's talk about All-Star's. Now Kobe's always a given, that's why he's nearly always the top vote getter. Pau Gasol? Sure he's a regular. Ron Artest? Yep there's no one like him, defensively or mentally, put him in. Andrew Bynum? Sure he's been injured, but off the bench yes and who else is there for the centre position out West? Derek Fisher even? Hey, there was a Twitter campaign going last season, now wouldn't that have been nice? He deserves it (but that's for a separate piece). Next year when it's time to tick the ballots and punch the holes out of the paper in the NBA mid-terms one man shouldn't be forgotten for his all-team, all-time, all-star play. Just like he has been unjustly throughout his career and criminally was again last season in his best one yet.
With so much talent on view for the Lake Show next years All-Star game could be like '96 all over again. Just like when Shaq, Kobe and mid-nighties, purple and gold legends Eddie Jones and Nick 'The Quick' Van Exel suited up in those gaudy, instantly dated All-Star uni's. Face it like face time the Lakers could easily field their starting lineup at next years game. They may as well have done it last season as the game was played at STAPLES after all. Still-especially with all the inconsistencies-it's not the starting lineup that's most deserving of the honor, it's the Lakers most consistent player of last season and their and the NBA's 'Sixth Man of the Year'; Lamar Odom.
Forget 'Khloe and Lamar' for a second, the only thing you need to keep up with is what Lamar Odom showcases on the court. The only reality you need to tune into is that this guy is the most diverse, versatile player in the league. He is the difference maker, the do it all guy everybody wants on their team. Part what Kevin Garnett is, part what Anthony Randolph is going to be. Just like what Pat Riley said back in the Miami days, just like Magic.
Odom's got his own tricks two. From a great inside and out game, on both ends of the floor, to passing first and shooting from anywhere when needed. He's a triple, double machine and his 16 and 10 double, double average is two buckets away from being the 20 and 10 sought after figures that are generally considered, Dwight, Amare or legendary numbers...and they said Lamar was soft. No he's tough, like his New York upbringing. Q.B.'s finest like Nas, Ron Artest, (we see you Devin Ebanks) now that's two games legendary, so let's give him one more.
Most of these points come off the bench as well. OK, so with the injuries the Lakers suffered last season, from Bynum to everyone, L.O. has started more than he's had pine time. Still, he willingly and ably went back in his reserve role when no longer needed for the prime-time. Last seasons NBA's 'Sixth Man Of The Year' and one of the best ever in this position (but that's for another article) really epitomised the sporting definition of the word 'backup'. Besides Lamar saved the short-handed Lakers from falling even shorter during last season, it was just a shame about the playoffs. Now aren't these the hallmarks of a top sixth man? Coming in hot when his cold team needs him? Still as said, that's for a different article.
This unique player deserves the exclusive honor of playing mid-February and not just looking flash and Hollywood on the sidelines watching. What does he gave to do? Shave a star into his head again? The voters may put him out of their minds for the Durant's etc, that's fair enough but the coaches shouldn't snub him yet again. Seriously after his last campaign last year he looked more then a lock or the fan campaigns and petitions, he should have been a certainty like his dependable and consistent play. The majority of these coaches would love him on their team, so does everybody else... word to Nelly Furtado (whether that's a cool reference or not both his game and her are as hot as each other). He was good enough for America and the rest of the world in 2010 as he and the U.S. took home gold. So why isn't everyone else now sold?
Sure-for the Lakers-this guy probably shouldn't start, but what's more perfect than this sixth man coming off the bench? He plays like an All-Star so he should be given that declaration. Gone are the days where bench players and sixth men weren't good enough to play with the big boys. Bobby Jackson changed all that and no one knows that more than the Lakers. Good second units and bench mobs are what take ordinary teams to champions and if you where to start a second team today Lamar Odom would be your franchise guy for sure. He'll be a Laker legend when it's all said and done, Worthy like James. So why is he getting less action in February then 'Call Of Duty' all nighters?
Lamar's entertaining and a genuine star. He deserves the vote, people should return the favour. We've had too many years of this now. Why are the ones who work the hardest all the time continually disregarded and taken for granted. Next year when the lockout is over and the ballots are passed, pen should meet paper halfway like Odom's success meets what he shares. This do it all, versatile forward is cool but not laid back. Don't let that smooth demeanour fool you. That equally Jaamal Wilkes silky game is worked and honed to perfection. This is the product of nothing lazy, so why sleep, appreciate. He's everything you could ever want and need on your team.
If Kobe's having a 9 for 21 night, Lamar will come in and make the extra shot after shots. Jumper or critics, Odom rebounds from being written off to sign in for his team and take them out of situation critical. Others would simply clock out, call the game on an account of pain. L.O. takes no L though, he's no loser, mind over matter. If Pau needs help in that hardened frontcourt, Lamar will come in and clean the glass and polish off missed shots, en route to as many double, doubles as Pau or anybody in this league gets. Do you have to be told twice? Lamar's overcome it all, personal and/or what we can write about, year after year, cycle after cycle. He's been through the storm and survived to reign. Championship ring. Back to back ring any bells? Don't confuse selflessness for weakness. He's all team, he's all-star. The everything man. Give him something.
He would be one of your best picks to start a first team, believe it or not, fantasy or reality, youth and experience, offence and defence, inside and out. This versatility is why he would start on any other team in the league, (even his old Miami team and all their hot 'superfriends') and this fact is why he is an All-Star, vote or die, change or George Bush. Forget 'yes we can', next year lets make it happen! Tick the box, punch his name, write 'Lamar Odom' down as that special extra name you'd usually reserve for another fan favourite (unless it's Fisher). Then repeat and do it all again. Like clockwork. It's time.
He won't rest, until he's back with the best.
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
It aint hard to tell when the shine from a star player in the NBA starts to tarnish. Their jerseys go from filling everyone’s wardrobes to lining discount rails. Their names go out from rappers mouths to the keystrokes of a negative blog. Tracy McGrady is an example of a guy who's gone from being talked about in households and barbershops to becoming a mere afterthought. Jay-Z's no longer talking about "banging like T-Mac" instead he's "paying Dwyane Wade". T-Mac’s end of season trade from Houston to New York in 2010 saw him playing in the Mecca of basketball. In his contract year in the Big Apple however he found it difficult breaking through to the team’s core? Following that last season saw a brief pit stop in the motor city of Detroit. Still now despite, tweets with him in a super-imposed Laker jersey Mac is an agent looking for a team. Tracy’s free, but for how long?
Tracy's career to this point has been a mix of defining moment highlights and great expectations turned into some disappointments, playoff or otherwise. This however isn't something that is his fault. He has suffered the type of niggling injuries that can be career ending or devastating to a star player’s legacy. There are players that stay strong and consistent through their careers like Reggie Miller and then there are the guys like Penny Hardaway, which (to no fault of their own) could have been so much more if they lasted longer. Still like Iverson before him and (believe you me) many more after him McGrady is still a top man able to fit into the fabric of any team. So why aren't people spending their money and picking him up like he's gone out of fashion. He's so synonymous with big-time basketball that it's almost like he's a brand name.
Tracy was right there with guys like Kobe and Vince Carter as an heir apparent to Jordan’s throne. Nowadays however the baton of star status has been passed to the likes of Lebron, Wade and Melo. It doesn't seem long at all since Tracy’s was shining in the limelight but it’s been many years since he's been a perennial player in this league. Tracy’s 'commercial' success had him on many billboards and television screens. His swagger was Mick Jagger when he was featured in an 'Adidas' advert showing how dominant he was and asking us "How do you want it", like 2Pac, all eyes where on him. A vast array of offensive firepower was on display to the soundtrack of Baby and The Clipse. Fast forward to today and fans are left thinking 'What happened to that boy'? T-Mac isn't as high profile as he was or featuring in as many commercials as he once did.
We've gotten out of our seats when we've seen Tracy dish the ball off the glass to himself for a dunk but we've also looked in disbelief as he blocked his own lay up against Milwaukee some years back. We've been amazed as he dropped 13 points in 33 seconds against San Antonio, but we've also felt the pain of yet another first round playoff loss, as we witnessed the speechless 2007 press conference where McGrady's choked up tears said it all. Although these tears may have garnered more laughter then sympathy was this really the emotions of a cry-baby or a player truly driven to do more? Remember true players don't give up.
Tracy's journey to the top began up north with his cousin Vince Carter in Toronto. If people couldn't see the rise of these two guys in Canada then they certainly saw what they were both capable of in the electrifying year 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. The future stars of basketball never looked more exciting. This partnership (although rooted in kin) wasn't destined to last however and Tracy was off to much hotter climates in Florida. Sure Vince and Tracy could have been the next big thing like Kobe but they still formed one of the best, more exciting duo's of the decades, even if it wasn't for the ages. Just like Vince as well Tracy is still top-flight even if those who hate and critic continually try to ground him. These boys aren't lost, they've just found a more worthwhile second career.
At Orlando the initial hype of McGrady teaming up with Grant Hill was immense. People were talking dominance and rings. Unfortunately though Hill was another elite player who's career would be dominated by more time on the chilling list then the court. Still this Tracy/Vince mark two did show some promise from it's hyped potential and now just like Hill, T-Mac has the opportunity to form an incredible second career as a former star turned big contributor. This veteran has bags of tricks, skills and experiences of the highs and lows of NBA life plus he's still only 32, he's got plenty of time to left to pull something else out his hat.
Tracy's one-two punch with Yao Ming in Houston lasted a bit longer. McGrady was an upgrade from Steve Francis and Yao and Mac's styles looked to compliment each other similar to the way Shaq and Kobe's did in the Lakers three peat years. This Houston team set out to dominate for the first time since 'the dream' shook and left the building. Then injuries yet again seriously reduced the amount of time this partnership had to develop.
Following this, younger players began to develop, rounding out Houston into a better team. Then with the addition of guys like Trevor Ariza it seemed these Rockets didn't need as much Mac as before to propel them further. This league is fast paced, slow down and you'll be taken over. This is just the harsh business of modern sports today plain and simple and if players are not always around then they can quickly be forgotten. This is what happens when you only play an injury-ravaged 35 games last season, despite averaging a more than solid 15.6 points, 5.0 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. Even if all Tracy wanted to do was get down to business last season his year ended up being all suit and tie.
Tracy Houston problems continued this season with his knee, disputes over when he'd return and lower averages across the board (3.2 points, 0.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists per contest). The last time Mac suited up in red and white was December 23rd 2009 and the last time he went up against big competition was when he was torched for 11 points in 7 and a half minutes by Carmelo Anthony. That baton wasn't about to be passed back anytime soon. Tracy had to look somewhere else to get a run and with Yao sitting next to him on the pine, time had been called on their potential dynasty. Still even if the time of death was somewhere in the fall of '09, the partnership really clicked when the pair actually logged minutes together. Even though what resulted in mass popularity in basketball revolution in China didn't translate and find championship gold, this one-two punch was like no other and has created a lasting legacy that stretches from Texas to Asia.
So the only thing that then changed hands was McGrady. At the trade deadline Tracy was part of a three team, nine player blockbuster that sent him to New York. Once again- just like old times- everyone was watching. The Knicks needed a star of McGrady's stature to liberate themselves and McGrady needed some redemption himself. The problem though with Tracy’s history of injuries is whether that ‘star power’ was still in the tank or in the rear-view. Questions are being asked of what he could still do. There was no doubt in those sleepy eyes of McGrady during his Knick debut against Oklahoma however. He was all Kanye West, 'Graduation', track 3. Despite his injuries he took the ball to the rack hard, several times over. He also swooped in for a classic, sweet reverse layup that never gets old, aint that right George Gervin? His jumper looked good and so did his confidence as he flexed his muscles and rubbed his fingers in celebration. He even hit a crunch time shot with 1:34 to go in the 4th. It didn't ice the game because the Knicks got froze out, but Tracy still looked good in the clutch. So despite playing on the losing team Tracy won over a couple of naysayers on his way to 23 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists in 32 minutes of burn.
Since then he averaged respectable numbers for the Knicks, but as the season played out so did Tracy making way for Stoudemire and the soon-to-be Carmelo Anthony revolution. McGrady then went to Michigan to play for the Pistons and in a season mixed with boo's and cheers he has some real highlights, like showing flashes of his old self while putting 22 on his former Raptor dinosaurs up in Toronto. His year end averages of 8.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds where nice across the board, but just like in New York his season with Detroit would be a one and done.
Now the future remains uncertain for Tracy McGrady but what shouldn't is his talent, skill-level and drive. We may not see Tracy in the NBA next year, but that will only be the lockouts fault. T-Mac could take his talents abroad and even if the NBA does come to terms with another season surely this free agent will remain unrestricted from playing in the L. Any team should really think about putting on this off guard. That picture of him in a Lakers jersey could result in him being one of the best backups in the league, to the best in the association. Just imagine Kobe and Tracy running the backcourt together. It would be like the Shaq, Kobe, Payton and Malone year again en-route to a championship. Just exciting, video-game basketball.
Like EA however Tracy has to remain in the game. This number one player is worthy of a Jerry West sewn jersey, because plain and simple, injury or playoff disappointment he's one of the best swingmen we've seen lace them up. Let's hope his sneakers squeak on the hard-wood again because like any versatile player of his nature, there's more to him then meets the eye or critics reply. This man loves the game no matter what anybody says and that's stronger than any hate or judgement that comes his way. It's time everyone woke up. it aint over and he aint done.
The Lakers right now could get by with a little help from their old friends.
By Tim David Harvey
It's no new news that the Lakers are in a spot of trouble right now. The notion of sending legendary coach Phil Jackson off to Montana with a championship three-peat was a write off, as the Mavericks took Larry O'Brien back to Dallas this season gone. Sure the Lakers still don't have a whole lot to worry about. There are always trials and tribulations and things will get better in this new Mike Brown era, but the Lakers could use a little help. Perhaps they could of got it from some old friends they should have never lost touch with. Here's the definitive list of the best squad of Lakers alumni lost after the post-Shaq era. The players missed the most and who could really be used right now. They sure do make a good team.
MARC GASOL (CENTRE)
If it wasn't for Marc, there would be no Pau. Sure Marc's the younger brother but his draft rights held by the Lakers where part of the trade that brought Pau and all those championships to Laker land. Sure Kwame Brown was part of the trade where Pau Gasol was 'given' to the Lakers but in reality the way Pau's young brother has grown up, it has been a fair trade in hindsight. Sure Marc's the only guy on this list that has never donned a Laker jersey or logged a minute of showtime action but still he would of been more then most valuable as a player here. This post power is the centre of attention in Memphis and a solid, strong, big, 20, 10 guy. Sure with Bynum, Marc's absence is by the by, but it sure would of been nice to see two great brothers on the same team, you'll have to wait until Spain to see that now.
VLADAMIR RADMONOVIC (POWER FORWARD)
Vladamir was always one of those talents that could have had more of an output. From floppy hair and bandannas to buzz cuts and from skiing trips to slides out the rotation, Radmonovic has had his ups and downs. Still with that all said and done this tall, versatile forward is one hell of a talent. It seemed liked the Lakers gave him away to Charlotte for the talented Adam Morrison, but that was until Shannon Brown (he'll make this list if he actually does sign elsewhere) developed. That doesn't mean Vlad isn't missed however. With a bargain, Nowitzki like inside/outside game Rad is tall enough to go inside and has had one of the sweetest strokes from outside by any Laker present and past over the last decade. Right now Radmonovic would be the perfect guy off the bench, supplementing Gasol, bringing both shared and different talents off the bench. The Lakers already have a decent B-team but with Vladamir it would be the best in the league.
CARON BUTLER (SMALL FORWARD)
The Dallas Mavericks have a lot of fire-power-you don't win championships without big guns-but one of their best all round guys is Caron Butler. Even though a knee injury ushered Butler out of most of the victorious Maverick season. As this news broke out last season it hit former team-mate Kobe hard who is a close friend of Caron. Kobe still reiterates his disappointment of how the Lakers traded Butler. The Lakers practically let him disappear to the Wizards for Kwame Brown, but then again Kwame did bring the Lake Show Gasol. It was another trade disappointment for L.A. when they lost Shaq to the Heat for Odom and Butler himself. Still despite the losses, Bryant, Odom and Butler made for a wonderful three that could have lasted and won together. The Lakers liked Caron so much at one point they where even rumoured to be shipping Odom to get their Butler back in the past. If Caron was to ever come back (trade or free-agency) he'd be the most welcome return to the Laker family since the Lakers fished for Derek. A heralded defender in all aspects with an even more underrated, diverse offensive set. This strong player is built for all aspects of basketball and when he returns this Butler is going to be at it, for whoever he serves.
TREVOR ARIZA (SHOOTING GUARD)
Of all the people on this list, Trevor Ariza is one of the most missed Lakers by fans. Even with the much loved Ron Artest and the Ariza look-a-like, play-a-like Devin Ebanks the Lake Show loved the rising talent of Ariza. The swingman, who does it on both ends of the floor is still one of the most underrated players in the L and he practically gave L.A. their first ring post new millennium, three-peat. With great defence on and off the ball, gazelle like speed and thieving steals, this tenacious, versatile talent was a fast-break starter. He was also a fast-break finisher, with rim rocking dunks and twine, tweaking threes for days. There's no one quite like this guy, expect one man. The Lakers had a problem when Ariza signed with Houston, so it was a good job they inked Ron Artest, because it takes an enigmatic man to replace an enigmatic talent.
JORDAN FARMER (POINT GUARD)
It still seems strange that this UCLA grad is now in the Garden State, sporting a New Jersey with other former L.A. story, Sasha Vujacic (by the of some international duty). See, Farmar was always the man meant to take over Fishers crop at point guard once the clutch retired, but still, then again not everything works out. The Lakers are doing more than alright with the tough, sharp-shooting Steve Blake but still Jordan's missed here like legends in Chicago. A starter for the future this man has speed, finesse, and savvy in reserve. With his complete Point Guard skills Jordan could become a franchise guy. It's just a shame it won't be for the Lakers.
MAURICE EVANS (SIXTH MAN)
Basketball teams these years are nothing without their sixth men and reserves these days don't come much better or more underrated then Maurice Evans. With Mo Evans, you have no problems because this swingman covers more spots then Clearasil. With speed, finesse and athleticism. This guy doesn't just look like a prototype ball player, he is one. The slasher cuts through to the basket like Wes Craven cuts through college kids. As for his finishing talent, where do we start, his dunks are amazing and his lay-ups and finger-rolls are amazing grace, whether straight-forward or off-balance. This guys put down so many circus-shots like they where nothing, it's a shame he couldn't be a ringmaster here in Laker land. Now wouldn't that be something.
So there you have it, five guys and one in reserve that the Lakers may have replaced but still wouldn't mind a reunion with. Players that not only make up a team but helped make up the Lakers squad and now make the most of their contributions to their current sides. At the end of the day, no matter the colour, there's nothing like the Laker family.
Where inspiration happens.
By Tim David Harvey
This is the story of a player who deserves ink not just because of the tragic circumstances that he has endured, but because of his heroic contributions to the game of basketball also.
Those famous dreadlocks are whipping emphatically as he enters the paint, and just like his game his style can't be tamed. He bounces the ball at the baseline with authority, but also with grace, (the kind of grace that only comes from those 6,9, 254 pound power forwards who can also play center) he spins around Shaquille O'Neal and forces his way inside for 2 points. Just a pair of points on the box score for the Portland Trail Blazers, but an energy boost and a statement to Shaq's Lakers that Richard Pryor would be proud of, 'We aint dead yet'! Back in 2000 the Lakers may have had Shaq and Kobe and an almost clear run to the championship but the Trailblazers had enthusiasm, hustle and heart and nobody epitomized those characteristics on the Blazers roster more than Brian Grant did.
That's why you know that even in his current tragic situation he will fight through, just like Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali and countless other strong willed Parkinson disease fighters. He's spent his whole life being a strong, courageous guy and although are thoughts have been with him in this terribly testing time we know that there aren't many out there as heroic as he is.
Giving his all to every team he played for from the Sacramento Kings to the Los Angeles Lakers. Doing the little things on the court in a big way, with a soul almighty like his inspiration the late Bob Marley, pardon me the great Bob Marley. Like his inspiration Brian Grant will not be put down, he will 'light up the darkness' and with support from another musical icon, his best friend Raphael Saadiq, B. Grant has all the best people behind him, but it's his own depression beating, head high inner strength that will drive him forward. This is why the same man who has had to deal with the shock of having young-onset Parkinson's since the young age of 37 is not just solely focused on himself but has started all sorts of campaigns to raise the awareness of Parkinson's disease like his 'Shake It Till We Make It' foundation. This is a man who-without fear-stands face to face with any opponent whether they are more skilled like Chris Webber, much bigger like Shaquille O'Neal, or a disease as crippling as this.
He never backed down from an almost impossible challenge and he will face down this opponent. He is not the type of man that lies down and takes it. This is why the aptly nicknamed 'General' is taking charge of this disease, changing his diet and even his daily routines including the toothpaste he uses to try and reduce these tremors. He wants to master this disease and control his body that he has conditioned over his career to deal with the trees of the Western Conference forest. With the advice of Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox and the support of his loved ones he's making sure this disease wont beat him.
A few years back when Grant was interviewed about his announcement of the disorder, (despite the clear emotion that comes with an ordeal like this) he possessed the spirit of a warrior and still looked like the same man who wowed the Rose Garden with his hustle plays and thunderous dunks many seasons past. In his home, next to a portrait of Bob Marley proudly hangs a jersey from each of the teams Grant has suited up and gone to battle for. As proud as Brian is to have played for these teams, these teams are all proud that Brian was once a vital part of their unit. A real promising start in Sacramento, a warrior at his peak and a major contributor in Portland, a career year in Miami, a big, emotionally charged contributor on a Los Angeles Lakers roster that back then so desperately needed one and a continuing of that irreplaceable, invaluable blue collar work in Phoenix. One of the West's best in recent decades, Brian went from being one of the Laker's worst opponents to face to one of their best role-players to place.
Whether it be making the All-Rookie first team in 94-95, or his great rebounding and field goal percentages, Brian Grant had the facts and figures to back up the great things that are said about him. Still, however it's the immeasurable amount of energy that he brought to the teams he played for and the amount of heart that could never be quantified that made him the player, pardon me the man he was in the league. It's the attitude that still carries today, in his darkest hour he's still that same man. As he puts it best, his way of dealing with this disease is simple, "Just me believing in a positive spirit will take me farther in the long run". You know these words are as strong and true as his contributions to the game of basketball. We wish you all the best Brian.