Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jordan’

NBA teams have fun with casino nights – fans meet players, teams give back to community

November 7, 2014
dwight howard casino night

Dwight Howard at Lakers Casino Night in 2013.

Be it for money or some crazy prop bet involving a cowboy hat and a can of whipped cream, gambling has always been a part of sports.

Famous athletes like Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan have even made names for themselves as casino high rollers, with the former once telling ESPN that he has won over $700,000 during a single weekend of playing blackjack.

Beyond the stars who take the occasional – and sometimes not-so-occasional – visit to the blackjack and poker tables, casinos have also grown to become a large part of the NBA. Although the league has stayed away from casinos for a large part of its existence, restrictions have loosened in recent years. In fact, NBA spokesman Michael Bass has told NJ.com that 28 of the league’s 30 teams have inked sponsorship deals with casinos.

The recent entry of online gaming to New Jersey has even led to the Philadelphia 76ers signing a deal with an online gaming entity. What’s next, the Orlando Magic partnering up with Alchemy Bet – a gaming company that operates the online casino site Pocket Fruity? Or would the Washington “Wizards” make for a better thematic fit?

The NBA and its teams have also embraced the concept of casino night. Before you get into a tizzy, casino nights aren’t all about playing craps and pouring money into slot machines. They’re more like fan parties and charity fundraising events wrapped in the allure and excitement of a casino atmosphere. A casino night is a chance for teams to give back to the community and let fans meet their hardcourt heroes at the same time.

The Los Angeles Lakers used their 2013 casino night event to raise money for the Lakers Youth Foundation. By all accounts the star-studded event was a success, raising a grand total of $200,000. The 2013 edition of the Atlanta Hawks’ annual casino night was also held to raise money for the Atlanta Hawks Foundation’s community programming and grant-giving initiatives. The Hawks have already started selling tickets for this year’s casino night. A pretty noble gesture, and a heck of a lot of fun, too.

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Wizards Games – The People You See

December 17, 2009

I got stood up last week.  I was supposed to meet a date at Clyde’s near the Verizon Center.  I left a message to say I’d be 15 minute late but when I got there she was gone.  Oh well, she was 40.  A little too young anyway.

So I decided to go to the Wizards-Celtics game.  That worked out better anyway.  It’s always interesting to see who you see at a Wizards game.  First I saw ESPN Legal Analyst Roger Cossack, who also used to work for CNN.

Then I saw the guy who is probably the greatest Bullets fan ever.  I told him I recognized him from games going back 30 years.  Back in the 80s, when the crowds were a little sparse and quiet, he could be seen jumping up and yelling his lungs out.  He’s a tall black guy, probably in his mid-50s.  I told him the Wizards should change their name back to Bullets and go back to the red, white and blue uniforms.  He said that’s what his father used to say.

Me with Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers

Then I thought about Robin Ficker, a controversial Bethesda lawyer who used to heckle the opposing team so badly that they would move their seats onto the court during timeouts.  I don’t know what Ficker does as a lawyer, but the heckling was great.

Then I saw Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers and got a picture with him using my phone.  I told him the Skins would have a good year next year.  He was cool.

Then I recognized Rod Davis, a guy who played basketball for Gaithersburg High School in the 80s.  I thought of how I tried out but didn’t make the team, and how nobody can understand that I didn’t play since I I’m 6-5, but I grew late.  Then I thought about how people must not respect basketball players, because they think the only thing a player needs is height.  There were 1000 boys in that school, so I would have had to be in the top 1.5% in order to make the team – the best or second best player out of every 100 boys.  But I was in the top five tennis players out of 1000 there.

Then I saw CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at his usual spot.  He’s a big Wizards fan.  Then I thought of a story I heard about CNN’s John King.  About five years ago he was playing for CNN in a softball game against AOL.  The word was, the game got kind of contentious.  So when King scored the winning run, he (reportedly) said, “You’ve got mail, bitch!”  I always thought that was kind of funny.

It also made me think of the late Tim Russert, who was a big Wizards fan.  I thought of how he was a really great reporter, but was very unfairly biased against Hillary Clinton and for Barack Obama.  Along with many other members of the media, he swayed the election from Hillary to Obama.  Anyway, then I thought of Russert’s son Luke, who got a job as a reporter for MSNBC and was pretty bad when he first started, but is actually an extremely knowledgeable reporter about Congressional issues now.

Then I wondered what was new with CNN’s Lisa Sylvester, my ex from 5 years ago, now that the Lou Dobbs show is gone. Hopefully it’s a move up, but I don’t know because I don’t watch CNN.

Then I snuck down to the expensive seats.  I thought of how during the two years Michael Jordan played for the Wizards, I successfully snuck down to the lower level 12 out of 13 attempts, and I almost always had another person with me.

I made it to the 9th row near the corner of the court.  I looked over about 10 seats to my left, and in the 10th row was Sportsradio 980’s Andy Pollin.  I thought of the time in the early 90s when I worked for the station and I did some live reports from Bullets games.

Then I thought of how Wizards owner Abe Pollin (a distant relative of Andy) died recently.  He did a lot of great things for the city including building the Verizon Center with his own money.  I thought about how the area around the Verizon Center is packed with restaurants and bars, and how people new to the city probably think it has always been that way, but that ten years ago many of the buildings around the arena were abandoned and there wasn’t much activity there.  I thought of how amazing it is that the Caps are now the toughest ticket in town, and that’s partly because of the Verizon Center.

As for the Wizards – Celtics game itself, the Wizards lost 104-102.  The Wizards don’t deserve much ink.  I thought about how I’ve been a huge Bullets/Wizards fan for 30 years, but I actually want them to lose this year.  Why?  They didn’t try their hardest last year.  The tone was set when Gilbert Arenas, out for the year with an injury, said it might be good if the Wiz had a bad record so they could get a top draft pick.  The Wizards also hired an interim head coach last year, Ed Tapscott, who had never been a head coach except for a stint at American University in the 1980s.  So by not going all out, by not trying 100% all the time, the Wizards didn’t try to win.  You can’t just turn it on and off like that, and the effort isn’t there this year.  95% isn’t good enough.  The Wizards need to make some moves and get some players who will give a better effort, especially on defense.

Then I thought about the blog I wrote last year about the Wizards not giving 100%: 2009/02/15/tell-it-like-it-is-stephen-a-smith/.  You should read it.  It’s pretty good.  This one too – it was about hiring Jeff Van Gundy to coach the Wizards so they could start playing some defense. 2008/12/03/hire-jeff-van-gundy-to-coach-the-washington-wizards/.

Using Disrespect for Motivation

December 2, 2009

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog called “Using Disrespect to Motivate Yourself and Prove People Wrong.”

I decided to reprint some of it now.  You see it in sports all the time.  When you’re disrespected it gives you extra incentive to not only prove your doubters wrong, but to beat them if it’s in the sports world, or if outside of the sports world then at least to show them that they made the wrong decision.

You see, you take a personal slight, get upset about it, make it bigger than it is, and then actually relish the fact that someone disrespected you.  It takes on a life of its own – you never, ever forget – and then you do some truly great – even transcendent – things afterwards, partly because of the extra motivation.  You may say that you shouldn’t need that extra motivation, but it is what it is, and you should do whatever works for you.

I was reminded of this lately because of the recent situations involving Michael Jordan and Brett Favre, not to mention countless games in which underdogs beat favorites, and I’ve even had a few situations myself for which the concept applies.

I’ll start with me and then get to the more interesting stuff.

Three years ago I wrote about why I like working with kids with autism under my first FAQ at http://www.coachmike.net/autism-faq.php:

“I’ve always loved sports, and I root for the underdog. Anybody who has played sports or been a sports fan knows that when someone says you can’t do something, you love to prove them wrong. I prefer working with the kids who have the most severe disabilities because I love the challenge. One of the things I like most about working with kids with autism is the amount of progress that they have the potential to make.”

In the past five years, I’ve worked with a lot of children and several adults with autism.  I have never had a situation that didn’t work out well.  But sometimes schedules change. I was working on sports skills with a five-year old child once.  When he started kindergarten he had less free time so I had to stop after about eight months.  Sports was the first thing to get cut because of the “schedule.”  I could have (perhaps should have?) – said that that made sense.  But I took it personally.

I use things like that for extra motivation and can honestly say that the kids who I work with make great progress in all areas.  I believe that with all my heart, and I will do anything to make it so.  I can assure you that any kids who I work with will end up being more successful in all areas (and I usually break the areas down into 1) academics, cognitive skills and communication skills; 2) social skills, playdates, and emotional awareness and management; and 3) sports, exercise, and motors skills).

Anyway, now onto Michael Jordan.  His speech at the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in September was considered controversial because he mentioned several times during which he felt slighted and he used those incidents for extra motivation.  Jordan was famous for that.

In 1993, LaBradford Smith of the Washington Bullets (yes, the Bullets – here’s hoping new owner Ted Leonsis will change the name back and change back to the old red white and blue uniforms too) scored 37 points against Jordan and the Bulls and supposedly said, “Nice game, Mike.”  Jordan vowed to score 37 points against the Bullets the next game by halftime and he scored 36 by the half, 47 in all in just 31 minutes.

Great story, but it never happened.  At least the part about Smith taunting Jordan.

The funny thing is that Jordan admitted later that Smith never taunted him, but he just made the story up to give him extra motivation.  Here are some highlights from the game in which Jordan got his revenge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdDb32m2EsM.

Jordan didn’t mention that incident during his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, but he did mention the following, and I borrow from Brian Mahoney’s article from the Associated Press:

  • The coach who cut him from the varsity as a North Carolina schoolboy.

“I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”

  • Isiah Thomas, who allegedly orchestrated a “freezeout” of Jordan in his first All-Star game.

“I wanted to prove to you, Magic (Johnson), Larry (Bird), George (Gervin), everybody that I deserved (to be there) just as much as anybody else, and I hope over the period of my career I’ve done that without a doubt.”

  • Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy – Jordan called him Pat Riley’s “little guy” – who accused Jordan of “conning” players by acting friendly toward them, then attacking them in games.

“I just so happen to be a friendly guy. I get along with everybody, but at the same time, when the light comes on, I’m as competitive as anybody you know.”

  • The media who said Jordan, though a great player, would never win like Bird or Johnson.

“I had to listen to all that, and that put so much wood on that fire that it kept me each and every day trying to get better as a basketball player.”

  • Lastly, Utah’s Bryon Russell. Jordan recalled meeting Russell while he was retired and playing minor league baseball in 1994 – and with Sloan looking on in horror – told of how Russell insisted he could have covered him if Jordan was still playing. Russell later got two cracks at Jordan in the NBA finals, and he was the defender when Jordan hit the clinching shot to win the 1998 title.

“From this day forward, if I ever see him in shorts, I’m coming at him.”

Brett Favre is another example of someone who tries to prove somebody wrong.  Now let me first say that I’m not a Brett Favre fan.  I think he’s been overrated throughout his career because his tendency to throw too many interceptions hurt his team almost as much as his abilities helped him.  Also, he was very wishy-washy the last several years about whether to retire or continue to play quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.

In fact, a couple of years ago he said his heart wasn’t in the game.  I still think the Packers made the right choice by keeping Aaron Rodgers instead of Favre.  By the time Favre wanted to come back, Green Bay had made other plans.  But having said all that, Favre is having an unbelievable season.  True, he has a great running back and an excellent defense, but Favre has 24 touchdown passes and just three inteceptions, and the Vikings are 11-1.

The thing is, Favre wanted to play for the Vikings, one of the Packers’ most hated rivals last year but he had to go to the New York Jets instead.  This year he got his wish, and you have to give him credit – the Vikings beat the Packers twice this year.  Part of Favre’s motivation is to say, “I told you so,” to the Packers and to make the Packers regret their decision.  I don’t think it’s healthy to use revenge as a motivational tool, but maybe a little bit of “I told you so” or “I’ve proven you wrong” is healthy.

Now, this isn’t the stuff of MJ legend, but when I tried out for the junior high school tennis team in ninth grade, I was cut from the team.  I made the team the next year in high school, and during my junior and senior seasons I had a combined record of 23 wins and eight losses playing at number one doubles.  Then I lettered for four years at Division III Ohio Wesleyan University, albeit a small university.  I never forgot that the “coach” wrongly cut me in ninth grade and put other players on the team ahead of me whom I was much better than.

Then in 2000, after not playing competitively for a decade, I signed up to play in a 4.0-level tennis league.  They told me I would play the first match and then I showed up and they said I wasn’t going to play the first match – I would have to watch.  So I went home, cancelled the check, and looked for a 4.5-level (higher level) league.  I found one and won six of the eight matches I played in doubles.  The local tennis board had to rule on whether to let me play after cancelling the check and writing a new one.  Luckily, they let me play.

Anytime somebody tells you you can’t do something or doubts you, you hate it.  You hate it so much, but then you savor it.  Because it gives you extra motivation.  You never, ever forget it, and then you use it to achieve something great.

Using Disrespect to Motivate Yourself and Prove People Wrong

October 5, 2009

In sports, as in life, sometimes when you feel slighted and disrespected, it can give you extra motivation to do well to prove people wrong.

Michael Jordan was famous for it, Brett Favre is going through it now, and I’ve even used it myself for extra incentive.

“It” happens when people underestimate you.

A lot of people were put off by Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction speech last month, when he recounted many instances when people said he wasn’t good enough.  Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he never forgot it, so he became the greatest player of all time.  Writers said he’d never win a championship, so he won six.

In 1993, LaBradford Smith of the Washington Bullets scored 37 points against Jordan and the Bulls and supposedly said, “Nice game, Mike.”  Jordan vowed to score 37 points against the Bullets the next game by halftime and he scored 36 by halftime, 47 in all in just 31 minutes.  The funny thing is that Jordan admitted later that Smith never taunted him, but he just made the story up to give him extra motivation.

Now, just hours before Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings takes on his former team, the Green Bay Packers, there’s a lot of talk of revenge.  This is different than the Jordan situation, though.  While the Packers decided to let Favre go a couple of years ago in favor of Aaron Rodgers, it was partly because Favre kept going back and forth and wouldn’t give Green Bay a decision about whether he wanted to come back instead of retire.  When the deadline had passed with Favre deciding to remain retired, the Pack decided to go with Rogers.

Last summer before Favre signed with the New York Jets, it was clear his first choice was to go to Minnesota because they were one of Green Bay’s major rivals.  Favre wanted revenge.  He would like nothing better than to prove the Packers wrong.  But the Packers made the right decision.  Favre broke down at the end of last season, and though he’s having success this year, it’s mainly because he’s on a very good team.  And most football insiders know that Favre takes away as much as he gives, as he has more interceptions than any QB in NFL history (Click on “Quarterbacks” on the right side of the blog to see what I wrote about Favre a year ago).

Still, the idea of proving someone wrong can be very strong, and if you can use it as motivation, more power to you.

You see this most often in sports when an underdog uses disrespect as extra motivation to win.

Three years ago I wrote about why I like working with kids with autism under my first FAQ at http://www.coachmike.net/autism-faq.php:

I’ve always loved sports, and I root for the underdog. Anybody who has played sports or been a sports fan knows that when someone says you can’t do something, you love to prove them wrong. I prefer working with the kids who have the most severe disabilities because I love the challenge. One of the things I like most about working with kids with autism is the amount of progress that they have the potential to make.

I remember a time when an autism therapist asked why multiplication should be taught to a child who would never have a reason to use it.  About a year after that, the child mastered triple digit multiplication.

When I tried out for the junior high school tennis team in ninth grade, I was cut from the team.  I made the team the next year in high school, and during my junior and senior seasons I had a combined record of 23 wins and eight losses in doubles.  Then I lettered for four years at Division III Ohio Wesleyan University, albeit a small university.  I never forgot that the coach wrongly cut me in ninth grade and put other players on the team ahead of me whom I was better than.

Then in 2000, I signed up to play in a 4.0-level tennis league.  They told me I would play the first match and then I showed up and they said I wasn’t going to play the first match – I would have to watch.  So I went home, cancelled the check, and looked for a 4.5-level (higher level) league.  I found one and won six of the eight matches I played in doubles.  Some tennis board had to decide whether to let me play or not after cancelling the check and writing a new one.  Luckily, they did.

I’m not trying to compare Michael Jordan to me, I’m just saying that proving people wrong can be a powerful motivational tool.

How many times has the media counted someone out?  John Elway can’t win a Super Bowl (he won two).  Peyton Manning can’t win the big one (he won a Super Bowl).  Kobe Bryant can’t win an NBA title without Shaq (he did it last year).

Keep giving people motivation.  Keep saying they can’t do something.  But don’t put limitations on anyone.  I just searched on the word “limit” from the “Autism” category of my blog.  It came up three times:

I quoted from the book “Engaging Autism” by Stanley Greenspan:  “Schools tend to be very structured and to put a high priority on compliance and limit setting, rather than on engaging, interacting, problem-solving, and thinking creatively and logically.”

Then, from “Sports for Children with Autism,” which I wrote last summer:

“I never would have thought hockey would be a great sport for kids with autism because of the need to skate and handle a stick simultaneously, but it turns out that it can be great, and it just goes to show that we shouldn’t put limitations on anyone.”

And finally, this:  “A lot of people are familiar with the amazing story of Jason McElwain, an autistic teenager who scored 6 three-point baskets in a game for his high school team a few years ago. This type of success doesn’t happen a lot, but it would never happen if too many limitations are put on children who have autism and other disabilities who want to play sports.”

Old Sports Media Guides and Sports Illustrateds

May 24, 2009

I sell used books, magazines, and media guides on Amazon.com.  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  http://www.amazon.com/shops/mikefrandsen.

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

ESPN’s SportsCentury Documentaries: My 100 Favorites

May 22, 2009

Here is my list of my 100 favorite ESPN SportsCentury documentaries.  ESPN started the series in 1999 on ESPN Classic to commemorate some of the greatest athletes or sporting events of the 20th century.  The series continued for several more years. ESPN did such a great job with the interviews, the footage, the descriptions of the players’ lives from the beginning to the end, the music, and putting everything together.  I believe that SportsCentury is the best documentary series I’ve ever seen.  It is truly inspiring.  VH1’s Behind the Music comes in second.

ESPN did documentaries on the top 100 athletes of the 20th century.  They also featured top coaches, all-time great games, and other sports figures who were notable for other reasons besides their athletic success.  Altogether, there were 265 total episodes.

I started this list with the intention of listing my favorite 25 episodes but the project just kept growing and growing.  In order to get a high ranking on this list, there has to be an interesting story.  This is not a list of great players with the best at the top.  Many of the stories center around athletes who were involved in some kind of controversy or problem, recovered from or died from various illnesses, or beat some type of odds.

Note that there are great players whose episodes I rank much lower than they would have been had this list been solely based on their sports careers rather than their stories, such as Wayne Gretzky (49), Willie Mays (64), Lawrence Taylor (74), Barry Sanders (77), Mario Lemieux (81), Jerry Rice (99), and Pete Sampras (100).

At the same time, there are athletes whose stories are so compelling that their episodes ranked much higher than you would have thought, including Brian Piccolo (4), Moe Berg (13), and Jim Bouton (23).

So here’s my list, and like any list, it’s totally subjective.  I saw a lot of them back in 1999 and again this year when ESPN Classic replayed them.  To be honest, there are probably several I haven’t seen but I include anyway because of a combination of their sports careers and their life stories.

  1. Ernie Davis.  All-American Syracuse running back died of cancer his rookie year with the Cleveland Browns.
  2. Jackie Robinson.  First black player in major league baseball encountered unbelievable racism and handled it gracefully.
  3. Disciples of Jackie Robinson.  Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Willie Mays and others still had to endure racism years after Jackie Robinson’s career was over.
  4. 1972 Olympic Basketball Final.  The U.S. team got ripped off in a very controversial loss to the Russians.
  5. Brian Piccolo.  Piccolo, a Chicago Bear running back, died of cancer.  His life was made into a famous movie, “Brian’s Song.”
  6. Hank Greenberg.  One of the few Jewish players in the major leagues in the 1930s and 1940s had to endure discrimination and was a role model for Jewish people.
  7. Marvelous Marvin Hagler.  One of the greatest boxers of all-time was so devastated by the controversial loss to Sugar Ray Leonard that he moved to Italy.
  8. Jim Brown.  The greatest football player ever also was a spokesman for civil rights and did a lot to prevent gang violence.
  9. George Foreman.  One of the most feared boxers ever underwent a transition from Grizzly Bear to Teddy Bear.
  10. Winter Olympics at Lake Placid:  USA beats USSR in hockey (1980).  The Miracle on Ice – a bunch of U.S. amateurs upset the vaunted Russians.
  11. Mark Fidrych.  One-year wonder baseball pitcher became ultra famous his rookie year.
  12. Georgetown – Villanova.  One of the greatest upsets in college basketball history.
  13. Michael Jordan.  Greatest basketball player ever.
  14. Moe Berg.  Baseball catcher was a spy for the U.S.  Life reads like a movie.
  15. Pete Rose.  Hall of Fame career became Hall of Shame after betting on baseball.
  16. Connie Hawkins.  Playground basketball legend was banned college basketball and the NBA for alleged point shaving despite never being charged with anything.
  17. Roy Campanella.  All-star catcher suffered a car crash that paralyzed him from the waist down.
  18. Wilt Chamberlain.  Otherworldly center put up stats that couldn’t be touched today.
  19. Pele.  Greatest soccer player ever.  Sold out Giants stadium in New York regularly at the end of his career.
  20. Jesse Owens.  Olympic Sprinter won 4 gold medals in 1936 in Berlin and disproved Hitler’s theory of racial superiority.
  21. Magic Johnson.  Best point guard ever announced in 1991 he had contracted the HIV virus.
  22. Pete Maravich.  Magician with the basketball died young of a heart attack.
  23. Ball Four (Jim Bouton).  Wrote tell-all book about drugs and sex in baseball and was ostracized from the game because of it.
  24. Alonzo Mourning.  All-star center came back from a kidney transplant to win an NBA championship.
  25. Joe DiMaggio.  Famous for 56-game hitting streak, obsession with how he was perceived, and marriage to Marilyn Monroe.
  26. Bill Walton.  College player of the year won an NBA championship but career was nearly destroyed by devastating foot injuries.
  27. Dolphins – Chargers 1981.  One of the greatest NFL games ever with classic image of Kellen Winslow being carried off the field.
  28. Jim Thorpe.  Possibly the greatest all-around athlete ever overcame discrimination as a Native American.
  29. Maurice Stokes.  One of first black players in NBA, star’s career and life were cut short by an injury.
  30. Babe Ruth.  Greatest home run hitter ever led a colorful and mythic life.
  31. Arthur Ashe.  First black man to win Wimbledon was also involved in humanitarian causes.
  32. Bo Jackson.  One of the greatest athletes ever was a two-sport star.
  33. 1997 NBA Finals, Game 5.  Michael Jordan had a great performance in a win over the Utah Jazz despite having a terrible episode of the flu.
  34. Bobby Hull.  One of the greatest scorers in hockey history wasn’t so great off the ice.
  35. Bob Knight.  Great coach with a very bad attitude.
  36. Dennis Eckersley.  Talented starting pitcher remade himself into Hall of Fame reliever after recovering from alcoholism.
  37. Mickey Mantle.  Hall of Fame slugger could have been even better if he hadn’t been an alcoholic.
  38. Lance Armstrong.  Recovered from cancer to win 6 Tour De France titles.
  39. Ali vs. Frazier “Thrilla in Manila” (1980).  Spectacular fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
  40. Denny McClain.  Baseball’s last 30-game winner was disgraced after being imprisoned for racketeering and other charges.
  41. Muhammad Ali.  One of the greatest fighters of the 1960s and 70s changed his name, gave up his career to protest the Vietnam War, and became the most famous athlete in the world.
  42. Larry Bird.  The hick from French Lick was one of the greatest NBA players ever.  His father committed suicide, and Bird didn’t talk to his daughter for many years.
  43. Borg-McEnroe Wimbledon thriller (1980).  Two of tennis’ all-time greats with contrasting styles and personalities play a match for the ages.
  44. Bill Russell.  One of NBA’s best ever centers won 11 championships and fought racism in Boston.
  45. Jerry Lucas.  One of NBA’s top 50 all-time players was also an intellectual genius.
  46. Johnny Unitas.  Helped put pro football on the map as one of games greatest quarterbacks.
  47. Walter Payton.  NFL’s all-time leading rusher died of a liver ailment.
  48. John McEnroe.  7-time Grand Slam winner was the bad boy of tennis.
  49. Rick Pitino.  Successful college basketball coach struggled after best friend/brother in-law died in 9-11 attacks.
  50. Wayne Gretzky.  The Great One.
  51. Jack Johnson.  Became the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world in 1908.  Needless to say, encountered a great deal of racism.
  52. Hank Aaron.  All-time home run king overcame terrible racism during history-making run.
  53. Roger Maris.  Broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record but was not loved by fans or media and later died of cancer, possibly due to the stress of the home run race.
  54. Stan Musial.  One of the greatest baseball players ever, Stan the Man didn’t get the credit he deserved, probably because he played in St. Louis instead of New York.
  55. Ty Cobb.  All-time hit king was a nasty racist.
  56. Reggie White.  Possibly more important to Green Bay’s 1996 Super Bowl championship than Brett Favre, White died of a heart attack due to sleep apnea at 43.
  57. Steve Carlton.  Stellar pitcher became a recluse who would not talk to the media.
  58. Vince Lombardi.  Legendary NFL coach led Packer dynasty of 1960s.
  59. Albert Belle.  Cantankerous slugger made Barry Bonds look like Will Rogers.
  60. Bobby Orr.  One of hockey’s all-time greats.
  61. Cal Ripken, Jr.  Baseball’s record holder for most consecutive games played.  Controversy surrounded whether Cal should have sat down toward the end of the streak to rest.
  62. Julius Erving.  Before Michael Jordan, there was Dr. J.
  63. Billie Jean King.  Made women’s tennis big and participated in famous match vs. Bobby Riggs to help the cause of women’s sports.
  64. Sandy Koufax.  No one was more of a dominant pitcher for a short period of time.
  65. Willie Mays.  Some call him the greatest baseball player ever.
  66. NFL Championship:  Baltimore Colts vs. New York Giants (1958).
  67. Charlie Finley.  Colorful owner of Oakland A’s in 1970s created unique promotions for the championship team which had a rebel style.
  68. Pat Tillman.  Arizona Cardinals safety gave up millions of dollars and an NFL career to join the military but was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.
  69. Eric Lindros.  Star-crossed uber talented hockey player was controversial for his father’s involvement as his agent.  Multiple concussions compromised his career.
  70. Terrell Owens.  Supremely talented wide receiver who is followed by controversy everywhere he goes.
  71. Darrell Strawberry.  Great baseball career could have been much better had he not been addicted to drugs and alcohol.
  72. Dick Butkus.  One of the fiercest NFL players ever.
  73. Don King.  Successful boxing promoter was accused of shady deals.
  74. John Daly.  Golfer had troubles with alcohol, gambling, and women.
  75. Lawrence Taylor.  Best defensive player in NFL history struggled with drug addiction.
  76. Billy Martin.  Colorful and alcoholic manager for the New York Yankees was fired three times by George Steinbrenner.
  77. Doug Flutie.  Famous for a Hail Mary Pass that defeated Miami, the Boston College quarterback went on to win 6 MVPs in the Canadian League and would have been a great NFL quarterback had he been given the chance.
  78. Barry Sanders.  One of the greatest running backs ever, like Jim Brown, retired in his prime.
  79. Bob Gibson.  Mean, legendary fastball pitcher.
  80. Willie Jeffries.  First black coach of a Division I-A college football team.
  81. Larry Brown.  Restless coach improved almost every team he coached but usually moved on before he unpacked his bags.
  82. Mario Lemieux.  One of the greatest hockey players ever recovered from cancer.
  83. Ted Williams.  One of the best hitters in major league history homered in his final at bat.
  84. Satchel Paige.  Negro League legend finally made it to the majors at 42.
  85. Jennifer Capriati.  Tennis Wunderkind overcame personal problems to make a successful comeback.
  86. O.J. Simpson.  Great NFL running back is now mostly known for being acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife and her friend.
  87. Joe Namath.  Quarterback helped popularize pro football when his AFL  Jets beat the NFL’s Baltimore Colts, leading to the merger of the two leagues.
  88. Woody Hayes.  Great coach’s career ended badly soon after he punched an opposing player during the Gator Bowl.
  89. Greg Norman.  Supremely talented golfer was most known for collapses in big events including the Masters.
  90. Sonny Liston.  Former heavyweight boxing champion was a feared fighter whose career was controversial at the end, as was his death.
  91. Jayson Williams.  Former NBA All-Star was charged with manslaughter after he allegedly covered up an accidental shooting.
  92. Andre Agassi.  Image was everything for this tennis player early on but he grew into a champion.
  93. Chris Evert.  Icon for her competitiveness and beauty, the ice queen was one of the greatest tennis players ever.
  94. Steffi Graf.  Possibly the greatest female tennis player ever, Graf’s father was imprisoned for tax evasion for his role in handling her money.
  95. Maurice Richard.  The Rocket was one of hockey’s all-time greats.
  96. Charles Barkley.  Outspoken and entertaining basketball player was one of the all-time greats.
  97. Eric Heiden.  Won five gold medals in the 1980 Winter Olympics in speed skating and later became a doctor.
  98. Sam Huff.  Former N.Y. Giants linebacker changed the way the game was perceived by fans with a Time Magazine cover story and TV special.
  99. Jerry Rice.  Best wide receiver ever.
  100. Pete Sampras.  Possibly the greatest men’s tennis player in history.

There are a lot of transcendent players who weren’t featured in ESPN’s SportsCentury.  Maybe it’s because players wouldn’t agree to have documentaries done on them, but a couple that come to mind are Joe Montana and Monica Seles.  A feature on Seles would have been great.  Meanwhile, a couple of inclusions that make you go “hmmm” were Andy Roddick and Latrell Sprewell.  They were good players but did they deserve their own SportsCentury episodes?  I don’t think so.

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.