Posts Tagged ‘basketball’

Maryland basketball star Len Bias: remembering ACC great who died 26 years ago

July 8, 2012

The poster is old and wrinkled, gathering dust. Len Bias is slamming home one of his ferocious dunks. The caption reads, “I’m Bias. Maryland is number one.”

It has been 26 years since Maryland basketball superstar Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose in a dorm room. Bias’ sudden death became the biggest story in the history of Washington, D.C. area sports, and one of the biggest news stories in the city’s history. How could such a seemingly invincible player be gone all of a sudden, just two days after being drafted second overall in the 1986 draft by the Boston Celtics?

To read the rest of my article on, click here.

25 years ago Maryland basketball player Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose

June 19, 2011

The grave of Len Bias. Photo by Mike Frandsen

Twenty-five years ago today something happened that was so shocking that it was hard to fathom that it really took place.

On June 19, 1986, University of Maryland basketball player Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose.

The scene that morning, as documented in news reports, was surreal and tragic as family members and teammates learned the news after gathering at Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale, Maryland.

Kirk Fraser recounted the story of Bias’ death in an ESPN documentary, 30 for 30: Without Bias.

It was like a nightmare that seems so real and then you wake up.  Only this was real.  It haunts Maryland fans to this day.

Bias was not only the best player ever at Maryland, he was the greatest player in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference. He was better than Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, David Thompson, and Ralph Sampson. Bias was a power forward with the strength of a center, the quickness of a small forward and the touch of a shooting guard. But that doesn’t come close to telling the story.

To read the rest of my article on, click here.

Mark Turgeon leaves Texas A&M to become the new Maryland Terrapins basketball coach

May 12, 2011

Mark Turgeon will leave Texas A&M to become the new coach of the Maryland Terrapins.  Turgeon will replace Gary Williams, who retired Thursday after 22 years as Maryland’s basketball coach.

Turgeon, 46, led the Aggies to the NCAA tournament all four of his seasons in College Station, getting Texas A&M to the second round of the tourney three times.  Turgeon also coached at Jacksonville State and Wichita State, where he led the Shockers to the Sweet 16 in 2006.

Turgeon played college basketball for Larry Brown at the University of Kansas. He was a backup guard on Kansas’ 1986 Final Four squad.

To read the rest of my article on, click here.

See article on sports for children with autism in new Autism Spectrum Quarterly magazine

August 29, 2010

Jason McElwain, who has autism, scored 20 points in four minutes in a high school basketball game in 2006. AP Photo/Eric Sucar.

One of my articles has been published in the new issue of Autism Spectrum Quarterly magazine.  It’s about sports and exercise for children with autism, and how sports can help kids improve their social and cognitive skills.

A high functioning child with autism may be able to play in a typical league with help from a “shadow,” or a child can participate in organizations like Special Olympics or Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN).  Even playing catch during play dates can be a start.

Sports can be a great way to help kids with autism make friends, improve communication, and above all, have fun.

Here’s a sample of the article:

Four years ago, Jason McElwain, a teenager with autism, became an overnight sensation by scoring 20 points in four minutes of action in a high school basketball game. . . . Regardless of whether children with autism are high functioning like McElwain, or are less advanced cognitively, playing sports can have profound effects on several aspects of their lives. For example, sports can help kids with autism gain confidence, improve social skills, and develop better coordination. Improvements in balance and motor planning skills often go hand in hand with progress in cognitive function, academic achievement, and organizational skills.

Do You Play Basketball?

January 10, 2010

I’m always puzzled at how to answer this question.  I don’t really play much though I like basketball, but I’m close to 40, and quite frankly, most people my age don’t play team sports anymore.  I mean, I played soccer and ultimate Frisbee a few years ago, and before that I played coed flag football, softball, and tennis.  The basketball question made more sense when I looked like I could still be in high school or college.  In fact I did play a few games of intramurals in college and in one game I had 16 points and about 8 rebounds.  But people always ask the question.  I am 6-5.

However, it’s startling to realize how many people think that height is the only attribute that matters in basketball.  That’s actually very insulting to basketball players — implying that the only reason for their success is their height.  Of course, all things being equal, the taller players will succeed more.  It’s just that there are so many other attributes that make a good basketball player.  Athleticism.  Agility. Coordination.  Endurance.  Jumping ability.  Basketball IQ.  I don’t have a lot of natural athletic skills, though I made myself into a Division III college tennis player and had a .750 record in a 4.5 rated tennis league at 31 a decade after I had stopped playing tennis in college.  But back to basketball – I tried out for the basketball team in high school and college, so I don’t have any regrets.

There were 1000 guys in my high school, so I would have had to be one of the top 15 out of 1000, (top 1.5%) and I wasn’t.  Then in college when I tried out, the coach said, “This is a very simple drill.  If you can’t run this (layup) drill right it either means you can’t do it or you don’t want to.  And either way it’s not too good.”

I didn’t run the drill right.

If someone says they would be great if they had my height, I usually say, ok, let’s play.  I have a hook shot that can’t be blocked.  (It may not go in, but it can’t be blocked).  But there are still people who occasionally say, “WHAT?? You didn’t play on your high school basketball team???”

Well, I did play on teams from the ages of 8-13 when I was average height.  After that, I was 5-6 in 9th grade, 5-10 in 10th, and 6-2 in 11th.  So it wasn’t until I was in 12th grade that I was particularly tall at 6-4 and 6-5, and by then it was a little late if you hadn’t been playing.  I spent all my time playing tennis because I thought it was my best chance to become a pro, and while I didn’t come close at that, I reached a much higher level than I ever would have in basketball.

What’s the point of all this?  I guess the point is that a lot of people don’t seem to realize that there is a lot more to basketball than height, though obviously all other things being equal, more height is better.  If it upsets you and surprises you that I don’t play basketball now or didn’t when I was younger, remember that I did try out in high school and college.  As for now, I don’t have the time.  However, if you still think that I should be playing, let me know, we’ll pick a time and place to play, and we’ll see how I’ll do against you or someone else.  I’ll play anybody, any place, any time (within reason).

Old Sports Media Guides and Sports Illustrateds

May 24, 2009

I sell used books, magazines, and media guides on  In this blog entry I’m listing many of the sports media guides and old Sports Illustrated magazines I have for sale.  The average price is $7.  The old media guides – football, basketball, baseball, and hockey – are gold mines for information you can’t get anywhere else.  I have a lot of them from the early 1990s before the advent of the internet.  It’s very nostalgic to look through these media guides, as well as the Sports Illustrateds to remember how the teams and players were viewed back then, and to find information that is hard to find today. For example, pick a player from before the age of the internet.  You may be able to find out his stats, but unless he was a Hall of Fame type player, you won’t get the detailed information you would get in these guides.   

Some of the highlights are a 1992 Boston Red Sox media guide featuring Roger Clemens on the cover, a 1991 Houston Oilers media guide with Warren Moon on the cover, a 1991 Chicago Bulls media guide with information about a young Michael Jordan inside, a 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates media guide with information about a young Barry Bonds inside, a 1992 Seattle Mariners media guide with information about a young Ken Griffey, Jr. inside, and Sports Illustrateds of Magic Johnson, Cal Ripken, and Sugar Ray Leonard. 

Please check out my amazon storefront at

I also have a lot of classic books and art books for sale.

In Favor of the Mid-Majors

March 15, 2009

I was watching ESPN’s college basketball analysts today talk about who belongs in the NCAA tournament.  (As I write this, it’s still a half an hour before the NCAA selection committee announces which teams get into the 64-team field). 

The three commentators, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, and Hubert Davis were really arguing in favor of the major conference teams and against the mid-majors.  All of them kept talking about how teams that finish .500 in major conferences are better than the best of the mid-major at large teams.  They claim that the schedules of the mid-majors are too easy.  Of course teams from major conferences are all going to have a few wins against big time programs because they play against those teams a lot more.  Bilas asked, “Who can you beat that is really good?”  He said of the mid-majors, “They’ve gotta go out of conference and find those teams.”  The fact is that the majors are afraid to play the mid-majors because they don’t want to lose to them, and it’s very hard for the mid-majors to schedule major teams because they won’t play them.  

When you have a panel debating something, you can’t have everybody on one side.  Bilas, Davis, and Phelps all either played for or coached teams from major conferences.  They obviously have a lot of friends who are coaches from the major conferences. 

Finally, at least ESPN had Joe Lunardi on who said that the record of double seeded mid-major teams (10 seeds, 11 seeds, 12 seeds, etc.) is better than the record of equivalent seeded major conference teams.  So even though the selection committee is probably biased against mid-major teams because of strength of schedule and gives the mid-majors worse seeds than they deserve, the mid-majors still outperform similarly seeded major conference teams.

It was shameless how Bilas, Davis, and Phelps kept politicking for Arizona and Penn State in favor of Creighton and St. Mary’s.  And Rece Davis failed to reign them in.  The arrogance with which they look down upon the mid-majors and the disdain they have for them is apparent.  

I’m sick of seeing boring teams that finish 8-8 or 9-9 in their conferences get into the tournament in favor of mid-majors who only have a few losses.  Does anyone really want to see Penn State in the tournament?  Phelps had to look at his paper to name the supposedly great players on Arizona’s team while saying that Creighton would have no chance to beat them.  Bilas scoffed at Creighton’s 2-2 record against the top 50 and said Penn State’s 6 wins against the top 50 was so much better.  But they also had 10 losses against the top 50.  Creighton was 9-5 against the top 100 while Penn State was 7-10.

I’m a Maryland fan and I hope they get in but quite frankly I don’t think a team that finishes below .500 in its conference deserves to get in.  Otherwise, why play the regular season?  

Contrast this with ESPN’s college football gameday crew who at least has the guts to bring up differing opinions. 

I think it’s time for ESPN to bring in a commentator from a mid-major school in place of Bilas or Phelps.

Michael, Magic, Larry…and Dr. J

December 4, 2008

It always bothers me when people talk about Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan as the three players who revitalized the NBA in the 1980s, and Dr. J doesn’t get as much respect.  Of course, Julius Erving played some of his best years in the ABA in the mid 70s and then in the NBA in the late 70s.  Erving had already peaked by the early 80s but was still a great player.  I believe that Dr. J was just as great a player as Bird overall. 


Both were great scorers – Dr. J created his own shot while Bird was more of a jump shooter.  Both were good rebounders.  Bird was a better passer, but Dr. J was a better defender.  But this idea that Magic, Bird and Jordan should be mentioned as a triumvirate without including Dr. J is not right.  Dr. J changed the way the game was played.  Bird did too, as a great passing forward, but Dr. J was Michael Jordan before MJ. 


Jordan was clearly the best of the four, Magic was second, also changing the way the game was played as a tall point guard who could make great no-look passes and run the floor.  While Bird won three NBA championships to Erving’s one, Erving’s teams made three other appearances in the NBA finals and won two ABA championships.  I maintain that Dr. J should be considered on the same level as Bird, and was even more influential than Bird in the acrobatic way he played the game above the rim.