Sunday, August 4, 2013


Dear John.


"Spins a defensive web any size,  catches defenders just like flies"

Along came a Spider...his name...John. There are some role players in NBA history that have a legend all to themselves even if they weren't amongst the elite players of their generation. Whether backing up or backing down the leagues best at the time they made their mark and the name sewn on the back of their jerseys known. John Salley was such a household name. From being the Spider man to backing up the man of steel, Shaquille O'Neal and from the Detroit Bad Boys to the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence ones. From the movie cameos to the 'Best Damn Sports Show...Period', ever. This man was as hard-working as he was entertaining. One of the funniest men the league has ever seen was also one of the best.

John Salley was nicknamed the spider and on D, he was like a sticky web, trapping defenders with his network of flailing arms and legs. Frustrating and beating opponents he found his home and mentor (in legend, "the teacher", Adrian Dantley) in the big Bad Boy frontline of the Detroit Pistons. Part of a well-oiled, muscle car, mean machine with the tough likes of Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman this guy was a key cog in Detroits piston fuelled defence. The meat and potatoes of this mans game was hard-nosed and worked. This vegan awareness spreading retired player took down the leagues biggest carnivores and made them look like dinosaurs. Let's extinct the notion that the golden era of the 80's and 90's National Basketball Association was all about the glitz and glamour stars...because it would have been nothing without guys like Salley too. No wonder the Georgia Tech (who also played in Miami, Toronto and Greece) blocked shots recorder holder has his jersey up in the rafters with the cobwebs.

People often forget about the defensive side...but it wins championships and when you sleep, the best defensive teams will kill you. That's what Detroit basketball has told people for decades and decades, motoring on to becoming one of the associations most storied franchise. Just like Salley may be one of its players. More than a glue guy like Robert Horry who has won rings with many franchises because of his clutch plays...John's being dear to the defensive side. He may not have been able to hit the big three, but blocking one, stealing the game away or boxing out and muscling opponents off the ball was the unnoticed, intangible pain and gain play that made this man as worthy as a champion as any other player to meet Larry O'Brien. He brought the changes that brought the rings.

His early days game kept Motown playing like Marvin, and his championship pedigree and dog-fight play earned him a spot on Phil Jackson's 90's classic, Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls dream of the best damn sports team...period. His backup, back down play made him a real how bench warmer who gave opponents splinters and split the side of his teammates laughing. A post and locker-room presence that unified his teammates while dividing his opponents. A veteran of the amazing eighties like teammates Robert Parish or A.C. Green, one who was so dependable, Jackson picked him up again for his second three-peat Jordanesque best damn team in L.A. As the amazing Salley man backed up Superman this new heroic team of the next age was really something to marvel at and yet again Salley's O'Brien engaged fingers proved it. The Spider Man did whatever he could, rising just in time for the block. There was no escape from Salley's web.

Hollywood must have made it's mark on John Salley because in his retirement he arguably became even more of a famous household name. Broadcasting live to peoples homes and evenings, John made the 'Best Damn Sports Show...Period' true to it's name. More of a comfortable, sat down talk show, Salley brought insight and laughs, proving to be even funnier than TNT's explosive combo of Charles Barkley and Kenny 'The Jet' Smith combined. From former teammates to stars gracing the show Salley brought it all together with presenter Charlie Rose. Just like in his playing days, his deep knowledge of the game and his comedian skills gave this show it's balance between analysis and relief. Now like some teams wish they could have a guy like John today we just wish they brought that show back...period.

John Salley's 'Bad Boys' (along with his 'Confessions Of A Shopaholic' one and an appearance in the late legend Luther Vandross' 'Take You Out' and much more) cameos where legendary...and we aren't just talking about his time in Auburn Hills. His appearances alongside Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Michael Bay's classic series where hilarious. From being a prisoner to working for the police department his chemistry and bantering scenes with comedian Lawrence where something straight off the playground. No wonder this guy got some raw comedy gig with Eddie Murphy back in the day. Whether it was mocking the 7 footers height or his Horace Grant like glasses, Salley still had the last laugh like he did on defence. If they do make a third part of this promised trilogy then let's hope they bring back Salley...besides he knows a thing or two (or three) about three-peats.

The wellness advocate who has adopted a vegan lifestyle has had quite the healthy career on the NBA and television screens. From having the backs and helping guard the most dominant ever from Jordan to Shaq and being a hot feature or the main presentation to some of the funniest and best entertainment around. This is one spider we do want in the house. From weaving an incredible defensive career to spinning a hilarious jokes on you post career that's anything but offensive, this man has always been fundamentally right whether it be in regards to the purity of sport or the essence of good natured fun. This is one John who isn't just like everyone else. The man who won "four championship rings, with three different teams, in three different decades and two different millenniums". From basketball spidey sense to a Peter Parker mouth, Salley was and still is the man.

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