Thursday, September 25, 2014
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Look up there! They say its lonely at the top and for one of Hollywood's biggest stars, figuratively and literally it appeared that way behind the locker room scenes. You see that big house, atop the very peak of the Hollywood Hills beyond the rest of Los Angeles' California coast. Looking like Avenger Iron Man's Stark mansion and something 'Knight Rider' David Hasslehoff owned himself when he wasn't on a 'babe watch', patrolling Venice Beach as a lifeguard in a 90's hit T.V. show that now make those orange floats, Hollywood hoarder desired famous. Still the Hoff had nothing on the Big Dipper who rose higher than any mansion foundation. This was his lair for the ladies first and the man who used to pull down rebounds and points in what today could only be described as video game numbers, used to rack up the statistics when it came to after game dates, shall we say...and believe me that's putting it mildly. More surprising than the fact this giant, imposing talent-that some argue as more dominant than Shaq and even more greatest of all time than Michael Jordan (believe me this isn't as sacrilegious as it sounds)-never fouled out in his career (that's a lot of minutes), is that the crazy numbers of female partners he laid claim to didn't put him in an early grave in the pre-Magic Johnson warning era. Still an abhorrent and an uncalled for, unfair racist punch to the jaw that landed this mans teeth in the roof of his mouth and lead, as it does to circulatory problems probably did, as he died of a heart attack tragically decades later. Still before we call manslaughter on any player or dental awareness on your own brushing habits this is another way of saying this late great legends legacy was somewhat marred by loneliness and ignorance. Still, right now everyone is about to learn just how 100% this gentle giant was and how lucky the National Basketball Association was to have number 13.
This ladies, gentlemen and basketball purists is Wilt Chamberlain. This boys and girls is a man that scored 100 points...in a single game. That's right a century and that many years later-despite the high school and street claims-and a record of this mammoth magnitude will never be quite outdone like this. Not even the 81 of fellow purple and gold Kobe Bryant could match this on his best week and another pivotal Laker legend at the centre position, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar may have followed him and recorded the most points in NBA history, but the man that is 20 retired jerseys above the Stilt could never double up on the Dip. You all know that most teams of five men and even more substitutes sometimes don't make it to 100 and sometimes that's even a game winning box score, but one player? Well no one player was like Wilt and on this day the Phila wearing 76er, who took the Warriors from San Francisco to his home, gave the New York Knicks a real big three of digits. It's crazy to think that this man "only" made 36 of 63 from the field. Still his 28 for 32 from the line was truly something else instead for a man whose Achilles heel was free throws like fellow Laker superman Troy's, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard. The young man that held up a scrawled down '100' on an A4 piece of note paper was a record book engraver however. He was a regular 50 and 25 threat. That's right 50 points and 25 rebounds...on average. That makes todays 20 and 10 threats of the post big man age look like Luc Longley numbers. No wonder the Goliath Wilt, despite his claims that no one loved him, is arguably considered the greatest Los Angeles Laker centre of all-time. If not the National Basketball Associations best player. Michael Jordan may be the prototype, new millennium model of basketball silhouette like his Jumpman Nike logo, or Chamberlain's former famer teammate Jerry West, but in a big mans game, Wilt is the most dominant ever. Even more than the big fella Shaq or the hook of Kareem in a Laker legacy lineage of big centres of legend that began in Minneapolis with George Mikan and could have ended recentely with Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howards torch bearing. Shaq's diesel would run out against the dipper in a match-up and Stilt Chamberlain could even leave the goggles and glasses of Mikan and Kareem fogged for good.
No wonder this original Fresh Prince who ended up in Bel-Air, after being born and raised in Philadelphia (and yes the playground is where he spent most of his days), like Will Smith (your parents will understand...cant believe I'm saying that) was "WOW" inspiring amazing enough to tour with the Harlem Globetrotters. Trekking across his stardom like a supernova, stealing everyone's heart like a purse, without the ball needing to be on a string. Between all the buckets of glitter and purple and gold this man had as many ups and downs as the number of times he put the ball up and through the basket. It almost looked like an instant replay. But watch this! As soon as a real big three of Wilt, and the fire and ice of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor assembled and formed like Voltron along with Gail Goodrich in Los Angeles, a ring brought everything full circle. Chamberlain was finally champion in California, destroying New York basketball again and in the bright lights and big screen city of Los Angeles' Hollywood this player could finally play. Promiscuity and points rained when they said it never did in Southern California. It looked like nothing could stop Wilt in Lakerland. Even the Magic's and Kobe's of today are just Worthy Laker legends in big point making comparison. Still there was a David to this Goliath and his name was Bill. Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. A big man rivalry that was even more heated then his reluctant Laker torch passing one with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all-time and Wilt Chamberlain the most dominant ever, then Bill Russell is the most successful. Just check the old Boston Garden air vent units for the number of times Red Auerbach lit one of those iconic victory cigars. For awhile when finger jewellery-less Wilt played the lord of 11 rings Bill it was all smoke. So much so that Russell ran out of digits and just has all those rings scooped in the palms of hoops safest hands. Russell was everything Chamberlain was not. Popular, loved..the man! Some thought the underappreciated and misunderstood Wilt was offensive in more ways than one. Whereas Bill remains the greatest defensive player this game has ever seen.
These great rivals and even better friends represented the Laker/Celtic storied rivalry like two big, opposing symbols and they practically started its rich NBA legend and history. Before Magic and Bird where bringing the golden era to basketball, making all other sports green with envy, Russell's Celtics where Wilt and his Lakers bogey team. The battle of Los Angeles between Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce was a million miles and years from this. Wilt dominated by making every point he could to anyone who would listen, whilst Bill ruled down his long career road without saying a word. Even though silence was truly golden even against Lakers yellow, Wilt deserved his purple heart and jersey against the traditional, green-collar work of Boston. Bill recognized him as his biggest and best competitor and besides Batman needs Superman, like Stallone needs Schwarzenegger and Springsteen needs Dylan. Like the sun needs the rain. Like the Celtics need the Lakers. Like the NBA needs them. Just like Magic and Bird. There was even an offer for this man to fight Muhammed Ali, but this man already had his Joe Frazier in Russell and no matter how many times he hit with a knockout dunk, the belt would usually end up around the Celtics trophy cabinet. Still Wilt got his, with two fingers to the league or any critic that just saw statistics without substance. Or saw him as second place like today some think compared to M.J., or Shaq. Like they did to Russell, or Kareem. Or Larry O'Brien. We already told you this man was more than the 20,000 claimed sexual partners (that would be on average, one a day for 54.8, exhaustingly straight years...or half that, if he...well you know). Or the even more unbelievable 30 and 20 averages over 9 seasons. Part and parcel to why number 13 was that many times an All-Star or up there in the rafters with all those banners he made Bill and Boston work so hard for. This Hollywood Conan star was truly a Barbarian, no O'Brien, even being big and bold enough to make it in business and volleyball of all things. Still when he spiked the peach it was something else. All other professionals looked like drunks next to the master. So all kneel to the man that had to dip through doorways. He took his bow at the Hall, but the only thing more tragic for the top of the top 50, who died all too young at 63 alone is that he's not today as readily remembered for who he truly was. Gentle, giant and above all...great!
Sunday, September 7, 2014
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
7.00am. A early morning, fall Winter mist outside your frosting window matches the steam whistling from your kettle on the inside. You pour two cups of coffee...you and your husband are going to need them today. He switches the half piece of buttered toast from his mouth to his hand not holding a suitcase as he kisses you on the cheek and tells you he loves you whilst putting on the other half of his suit jacket and heading towards the door for another day at the office. Before he leaves he gives you a knowing wink and directs your attention towards the 'Captain America' and 'Frozen' lunch-boxes. You smile warmly. He's got the school run tomorrow. Then after holding your warm cup of java and savouring the steam and wake up and smell the coffee feeling of morning, your peace is interrupted by what seems like a hurricane of horses galloping down the stairs. Your two kids hug your legs with an excitement that begs for another snow day. 'Not today' you think as you make sure their scarves are tied and their hats are on properly as they giggle. You hand them their lunch with a kiss as you all head for the door, only for you to come back and reach for the keys on the countertop. Leaving home you rush walk against the wind, cold, clock and what already seems like too tired legs for two young people. You're tired yourself but then as you reach the crossing right ahead of school a long wingspan and big palm signaling stop wakes you up. It's the tallest man you've seen all week. Wait a minute...
Wait just one minute. You recognise this crossing guard. The distracting reflectors or the biting cold balaclava don't fool you. That's former All-Star and one of the greatest NBA players and scorers of all-time Adrian Dantley. Directing the traffic he used to drive through down the lane as a basketball God. But why? Surely he doesn't need to?! Still the ever hard working A.D. wants to just do something and give back to his community. As nice as he was as a coach for Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets that direction didn't end up on the same path that everyone wanted. Besides the league doesn't pay its vets health insurance. Saving wayward kids from getting run over like he used to save loose balls from going out of bounds on a morning and afternoon shift for around 40 bucks an hour does. Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring, Md's intersection is now the daily domain of a man who used to own 94 by 50 feet of hardwood court nightly. Now this guy truly is something. A great man of both the local and NBA community. A Hall Of Famer, 30 point average scoring machine and two time leading champ the likes of Iverson, Kobe and Kevin Durant can only relate to. A purists, pure scoring favourite 'The Teacher' was taking people to school before directing people to it in a basketball education. Entering the L in the late 70's and playing during that next decades Magic/Bird, Lakers/Celtics golden era A.D. represents one of the last of truly the best. You know like when music sounded so Motown great before all that next generation R&B kind of watered it down somewhat. Like classic woodgrain and leather, American muscle cars before things in the automobile industry became a little too safe and plastic clunky. A.D. represents the good old days. An original like the Adidas he wore. No wonder the three stripes have made him part of their 'Top Ten' signature. Just don't ask for his autograph while he's trying to do his current job. Besides have you ever seen someone try and get in his way as he cut through traffic playing in the NBA?
B.C. Before the God M.J. there was A.D. A 6, 5, S.F./S.G. out of D.C. with a A plus bball I.Q. Forget about a basketball jones when Delano Dantley was in the zone. He was smoking as he put out the opposition like a cigarette butt in an afterthought ashtray. Those legendary Buffalo Braves selected the Notre Dame college star with the 6th pick '76 draft, who became a Rookie Of The Year and Montreal Olympics Gold medal winner on his way to a 6 time All-Star career. One that would garner him the Oscar Robertson trophy to his cabinet and those career book line averages of around 24 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists are like the mighty O too. The consensus All-American in college is second all time in fighting Irish scoring and first in charity stripe buckets earned and paid off. Him and his Dame also upset and ended John Wooden and UCLA's legendary and storied 88 game winning streak. Bruising the Bruins and big man Bill Walton whilst showing future fellow 80's Laker Jaamal Wilkes who was really as smooth as silk. The leading scorer of Notre Dame also paced the gold winning Team U.S.A. in Canada,leading all scorers when he wasn't even a rookie of the National Basketball Association. When the NBA did start signing his cheques he braved out some time with Buffalo where the future Los Angeles Clippers had a big three herd of R.O.Y.'s in a half decade. So much so that the team probably thought they where justified in shipping him to Indianapolis where he kept up the scoring pace in the city of fast cars and now fast buckets clutched before Reggie Miller had his time in town. Still after a Michael Jordan number of games, A.D. was on the road again like Willie Nelson and we aren't talking about a 7 day trip across country. Forget what would be the Clippers, Adrian Dantley was in California playing for the Los Angeles Lakers with THE Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, pouring and scoring when they said it never rained in Southern California.
In the pre-Magic kingdom, showtime era that featured wing wonders like Wilkes and current Head Coach Byron Scott, many forget like Bob McAdoo that another prolific power playing great suited up for the storied purple and gold in his and the Lakers rich and vibrant history. Perhaps it was because it wouldn't be long before he was soon off again for the then purple of the Utah Jazz. An All-Star journeyman being shipped around as trade bait for his fourth team in as many years? Maybe that's why he dropped one of the numbers on his 44 jersey. But like Jordan wearing the 45 he wasn't there to play games with you, but take aims at you. As the Jazz associated game of NBA basketball before the hip-hop of Jay-Z had an instrumental Utah leader playing and singing from the baseline. Like a saxophone ringing through the Salt Lake City night (doesn't sound the same like New Orleans does it?) the league really heard from Dantley as he led the NBA in scoring twice as he spent the lions share of his career proudly playing with the Jazz. At his professional peak, Adrian was a scoring mole and all six of his All-Star spots where during his seven years in Nevada. Not even torn ligaments in his wrist could stop the net snapping of A.D. Still a change of motor saw him join the 'Bad Boy' assembly line for the Detroit Pistons where he became more than just another cog in the Isiah Thomas machine. His former teammate and NBA role playing, champion great John Salley told us last month, "teach' really helped me in the way I dealt with people and being the best professional I could possibly be". Salley now known as an active vegan promoter also had a seed planted by his 'teacher' mentor after the professionaly and physically in shape Dantley once told him straight after a hard practice, "hows that cheeseburger treating you"? After the former Jazz player made music playing points in Motown be became a Maverick donning Dallas green like city and colour. Becoming a Texas quick draw with his high percentage shot for his last two career years before a 10 day stint with the green of Milwaukee for a quick buck and stint. Blowing a whistle on his playing career this guy now moonlights as a referee, stopping players in their tracks once again. The mid-range game of this legend scored him a place in the hall and a retirement in the rafters but the man who earned his living from the free throw line (sharing an attempts record with another scoring icon Wilt Chamberlain) now maintains one from the crossing line. From courtside to roadside, this changing of the guard will always keep this legend the same thing, hard-working, professional and a valued member of the community. Don't you know by now? Everything runs through A.D. Stop, look, listen!