2006_Summer/Fall AL (NYC)
I Love the 80âs: Basketball Edition, Part Deux
|S-Mo says thanks!|
Before I get into Part Deux of I Love the 80’s: Basketball Edition, I have to thank my man Seoul Shibuya for stepping up and stepping in for me last week. Who knew he was such a hockey fan? He might have to add Saskatchewan to his name now. I also want to thank those for wishing me a happy birthday. Now that you guys know that I’m an old man, please take it easy on me on the court. Back to the 80’s now….
I Love the 80’s: Basketball Edition, Part Deux
Continued from 2 weeks ago.
Bird was just not a pretty man.
The Celtics were just not likable. Bird was a great player, but he had a personality of a freshly painted white fence that you’re forced to watch dry. He was the antithesis of showtime. Every time he spoke in an interview, he had absolutely no enthusiasm and he always looked like his dog died. Bird was also an ugly man. He had this wispy blonde mustache and a curly mullet. I know that mullets were the thing back then, and for hockey players and baseball players its okay, even now, as it could look okay when it’s flowing out of the helmet or hat, but it just doesn’t look right on basketball players (By the way, if you still have a mullet you’re a) probably from the south or New Jersey, b) a Bush supporter c) a gun owner d) a hockey player e) stuck in the 80’s f) all of the above.) He probably listened to country music as well. Bird and the Celtics represented everything that was uncool in the 80’s.
I Hate Danny Ainge
As much as I didn’t like Larry Bird, he wasn’t the main reason why I hated the Celtics. The one player I absolutely despised in all of the NBA was Danny Ainge. He always had this crybaby expression on his face and constantly whined throughout the whole game. I wish I had some of my old Sports Illustrateds that covered the Celtics. Anytime you’d see a picture of Danny Ainge, there would be something added drawn on his images. There was of course the customary drawn in curly mustache, pointed goatee and horns on the head, there was the occasional black eye drawn, Danny Ainge as the hairy Sasquatch on the court or the tears running over his face that make their way onto a puddle in front of him on the parquet floor. I really should have been an art major with these masterpieces.
Ainge has mellowed with age.
I personally think that Danny Ainge partly ruined the game of basketball because he was the first player to frequently use flopping as a way to draw fouls. Reggie Miller perfected it, but Ainge started it. The trifecta of floppers is Ainge, Miller and Kevin Johnson. It’s no coincidence that KJ, or the desert princess, was a teammate of Ainge’s in Phoenix. It’s also no coincidence that flopping has been cleaned up and lessened since the three of them retired. If those three ever wanted to play soccer, they could always play for the Italian national team. In fact, I think soccer clubs in Europe have hired these three to teach them how to flop effectively in games. That’s right, since you guys have already ruined basketball, go ruin the biggest sport in the world.
If Danny Ainge got under my skin and I was just watching him on television, I couldn’t imagine how much worse it would have been as an opposing player. It wasn’t only his whiny crybaby face and his constant flopping, but he could also rip your team’s heart out with a clutch shot. This just made it worse. He’s the guy you want to punch out so badly, but can’t because he’ll tear you apart. As much as I hated him, I would have loved to have a guy like that as a teammate. Actually, I had this teammate on one of my many DL teams that I played for that had the crybaby face and constant whining. He did all the Danny Ainge things that made him annoying, except have any semblance of a decent game. Without a decent game, even his own teammates wanted to punch him out.
White vs. Black
It's his fault.
The rivalry between the Lakers and the Celtics were many things. It was East vs. West, Showtime vs. the Celtics winning traditions, but it also reflected the social attitudes of race during that time. There was no denying that there was an overture of white vs. black that was part of the rivalry. The Boston Celtics were perceived as predominately white, although they had Dennis Johnson and Robert Parish in the starting lineup and K.C. Jones as their coach, who are African American. The Los Angeles Lakers were mostly of African American descent with the exception of Kurt Rambis, Mike Smrek and head coach Pat Riley. The 80’s were also a time when Rocky Balboa went up against the big bad and black Clubber Lang or when the small Milan High School, made up of white farm kids in small town Indiana, went up against the big, bad black kids in the finals of Hoosiers and of course Hulk Hogan, in the biggest challenge of his life, went up against the big, bad and black Zeus in “No Holds Barred.” In the 80’s, if we weren’t fighting the Soviets in the movies, it was the big, bad, black people.
Whatever images Hollywood portrayed for black people, rap music did the same for white people. There were definitely very extreme examples on both sides, but for the most part, rap made us aware of the oppression that black people lived with. The cliché, or better yet truism, is that the two things that took the black youth out of the ghetto were rap and basketball. It was also a way of sticking it to The Man and in essence the Lakers were the oppressed ones who were finally sticking it to the establishment known as the Celtics. The notion of black vs. white on the basketball court, however, were concoctions the public made. Bird grew up on a farm in near poverty and saw his father commit suicide at an early age. His best friend on the Celtics was not Kevin McHale; it was Quinn Buckner and Cedric Maxwell, both of African-American descent. In fact, Bird hated McHale. If you read his autobiography, he has one full chapter of plunging daggers repeatedly into Kevin’s back. Bird and Magic Johnson pushed each other because they were competitors and wanted to win, not because they wanted to represent their race or heritage. I completely blame the black and white perception on the Reagan administration, but that’s a whole other thesis or dissertation that I would be more than happy to discuss with anyone.
While we're on SI.
The Len Bias Tragedy
One of the most tragic events in basketball history involved the Boston Celtics. The Celtics drafted Len Bias, an absolute phenom with the second overall pick. Bias’ game was way ahead of its time. He was Chris Webber in his prime coming out of college before there even was a Chris Webber. Bias, however, would never step foot on the legendary parquet floor as he tragically passed away two days after he was drafted due to cocaine overdose. There have been numerous articles on the anniversary of the death of how it affected a whole culture. Nancy Reagan had a big “Say No to Drugs” campaign throughout the 80’s, but that fell on deaf ears. It really wasn’t until the Len Bias tragedy that people really started taking the drug problem seriously. I never was immersed in the drug culture, but did grow up in an area that had its fair share of drug related incidents. There is no question that anybody who thought about doing coke wouldn’t think about the deadly implications or the possibility of because of Bias’ death. The best comparison to how relevant his death was to that time in history is how we perceive AIDS and HIV after Magic Johnson announced his infection.
Cinderella is from Kansas
He was D-Man.
The most memorable college run for me was in 1988, the 50th Anniversary of the NCAA tournament. Ironically, the score at half-time was 50 all. The Kansas Jayhawks led by center Danny Manning and coach Larry Brown were the unlikeliest of champions. They were one of the lowest ranked teams to even make it to the finals let alone win it all. I still have this game on VHS and pop it in whenever I need to bring back the love or just to be inspired by an all around, all-world display of basketball by Manning. Manning dominated the tournament getting past a Mitch Richmond led Kansas State team and Danny Ferry led Duke team to play Stacey King and Mookie Blaylock of the Oklahoma Sooners in the finals. Oklahoma was supposed to be in the finals with three would-be NBA players, the aforementioned King and Blaylock and also Harvey Grant. Kansas had only one player make it to the NBA and that was the first overall pick D-Man. But that’s all they needed because he dominated the finals, scoring 31 points, grabbing 18 rebounds, collecting 5 steals and blocking 2 shots.
Danny Manning was, at the time, a rare brand of basketball player. He was one of the earlier predecessors to who Scottie Pippen and Anthony Mason made to light, as the point forward. He was the quintessential tweener positioned player, meaning he could play multiple positions, who could run an offense as opposed to having a traditional point guard run it. In the NBA, Manning was an above average small forward, who’s greatness might have been hampered by multiple knee surgeries.
Will the US ever win again?
The Prequel to the Dream Team
During the summer of the same year Danny Manning and the Kansas Jayhawks won the NCAA crown was the summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea. USA basketball would never be the same after 1988. Team USA’s shocking defeat at the hands of their arch nemesis, the Soviet Union, changed the whole landscape of the basketball world. The US had been dominating Olympic basketball for decades with only collegians, but in 1988, they looked like the boys they actually were when they faced the well seasoned Soviets led by former Portland Trailblazer Arvydas Sabonis. When Sabonis was in the NBA, he was in his mid 30’s and well past his prime. He, however, still had some very good years and was a stable force in the middle. In his younger years, the reports all point to that he was like a bigger Bill Walton, if Walton was healthy. Against the US, he absolutely squashed David Robinson.
The devastating Olympic loss called for new measures for USA basketball and thus the original and only Dream Team was formed to compete 4 years later to put USA basketball back to dominating the world, or so we thought. Instead, the Dream Team called out the world to improve their games and as a result, basketball is now a truly international sport and the US can't buy a gold medal.
Man, Nique was nice.
Many argue that the 80’s were a better time for basketball. It might have been because of all the great players who played in that era, but there are a lot of great players right now. For me, the 80’s were special because it was the beginning of the future. Dunks were prevalent in the league back then, but they were nowhere near as creative until Dominique and Jordan had their showdowns. Now we see crazy dunks all over the place. Dominique and Jordan and Dr. J made dunking into an art form and now ballers are just developing the form. It was the same thing with passing. Passing came into vogue because of Magic and Bird. Assists and highlight assists are just as important and spectacular, as a big dunk. There again never may be the likes of Jordan, Magic, Bird, Barkley or the kind of rivalries that the 80's produced, but there are now more players who are close to emulating their styles.
I'm 32 now and I'm just old. The 80's seem so far away and the future is a big question mark. Guess I'll just have to wait 10 years from now to see what the Dream League writer (who may be a zygote now) says about the 90’s and the 2000’s.
Has there been a guy more on fire than Mark Yiin? This guy is on a tear. This is what Will Balton wrote to me in an email:
i'm sitting here and i'm absolutely befuddled with Mark Yiin's
explosion. if you look at his last 3 games, the incremental outbursts
have been astounding. if you look at his 1st 3 games, not all that
impressive. what has the man eaten? he went from averaging 5.3 ppg
over first 3 games to leading the team and being 4th in the AL in
scoring with 15.8 ppg. 26 ppg over last 3 games. freakin crazy.
This absolutely deserves special mention in this week's in review.
This is my theory on Yiin. It’s all in the glasses. His glasses help with his accuracy on his shot, plus when he’s driving the lane nobody wants to be “that guy” that knocks down the guy wearing glasses. What is indeed fact is that he is “on fire” and 6 Ft Under won against Got Skillz and Big Red in one week. I’m thinking Yiin and Yen is a good name, but it leaves out Leighton Kuet, who is always having a dynamite season. Maybe they are the AL’s version of Lethal Weapon 3?
Moe’s Tavern is on a tear. I’m beginning to wonder if they invite their opponents into the tavern for a few cold ones before the game so that they can play them when they’re inhibited. It’s actually their team chemistry that is like a perfect combination of barley and hops, fermented and brewed, chilled to have that smooth, balanced and refreshing richness that goes down through your system. They used that perfect chemistry to give the Matrix their first loss. The Matrix fought hard, as they caught up from a formidable deficit to make it a close affair. James Tai is looking like the MVP candidate that I projected him to be after a rocky start.
Another man on a tear is Joe Bimmerle of And None. This chairman of the boards is setting the standard when it comes to being a perennial all-star and now a front runner for this season’s vaunted MVP label. 24 rebounds? Are you kidding me? That’s an AL record. That's just sick. The impressive thing is that it was against Sky Hook, who boasts one of the biggest frontlines in the league.
What a week of record breaking performances! What will next week bring?
Sung Mo's Nuggets
Does the guest picker predicting a game correctly count for me as well? Anything helps!
Wed Oct 4
Sky Hook vs Stealers: Apologies this pick is only getting printed less than 2 hours before tip-off. It's a good thing none of you actually gamble on these games. You'd be going nuts otherwise. Both these teams need a win. Badly. Both are on 3 game losing streaks and both have no sense of an identity. For Sky Hook, their tumultuous season seems to only be getting worse. Out is Nick Gao who is the team's leading scorer as he's somewhere in Shanghai. Same with Steve Tam. And the rest of them? Outside of Mike Choi and Chris Sung it is always a crapshoot as to who's going to turn up. Not only does this make it supremely hard for them to gain any consistency and traction as a team, it makes it damn near impossible for me to get a read on them and who will be there to do what. I give up. I'm just going with the Stealers even though they themselves are in turmoil after losing twice by a lot and last week by a nidgin. (What's a nidgin?) Their two-point loss last week to Team Matrix may seem like it was encouraging given it was so close, but take a closer look and realize that the Matrix were without their top two players - the Brothers Nakamura. Chi-town without MJ and Pip and they still beat you? Hmm...well, if not anything else, the Stealers do have consistent attendance from players, so with that, they out to have enough to even up their record. That's key, cause remember, above .500 gets you double E for the playoffs.
Thu Oct 5
Got Skillz vs. And None
This is a match of two teams that entered the DL together. Got Skillz holds the overall record between the two, but And None won the whole thing last season and is looking good to repeat again. Skillz is heading the other direction without any wins this season. They’ll have to get things together fast to salvage the season. Can anybody stop Joe Bimmerle - he of the monstrous 24 rebound game in his last outing? Judging from the previous games, this one looks like its going to And None.
Sun Oct 8
A Ball vs Big Red
A Ball looked impressive against Sky Hook last Sunday and Big Red doesn’t match up well against the A Ballers. It's reported that A Ball will only have 6 players available for the game as some will likely either be fishing, studying, or sleeping. Whatever it is, Big Red hasn't shown me a whole heckuva lot yet. A Ball by 10.
Big Red vs. Stealers
Because of scheduling, Big Red plays a double header. They should be all warmed up against the Stealers, who are struggling as of late. The Stealers live and die on the perimeter and lately they’ve been dying. Peter Mei is coming off an 0/15 performance against Sky Hook. Ouch. Big Red in a close game by 7.
Okay! Well, that came and went real fast. A short while after the questions were released, we got 3 winners - one from each division - who got the gimmees and picked up their free Starbury shirts. Don't worry folks, we got more where that came from. Stay tuned for future quizzes. They'll be a little harder. And more DL focused. Start studying.
Congrats to Warren Cheung of the NL Homecrest Cruisers, Felix Shen of the AL Sky Hook (XL, Felix?), and Seth Lee of the AAA LYSE Shot.