Posts Tagged ‘Bob Pettit’

Hawks, NBA mourn Lou Hudson’s death

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Hawks legend Lou Hudson died at age 69

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Hawks great Lou Hudson passed away this morning at 69.

A six-time NBA All-Star, Hudson had been in a local Atlanta hospital on life support after a suffering severe stroke late last month. He was reportedly taken off of life support two weeks ago and remained in a coma until his death.

Lou Hudson

Lou Hudson was a six-time All-Star as a member of the Hawks.

Hudson is one of three Hawks with his number (23) retired, joining Bob Pettit (No. 9) and Dominique Wilkins (No. 21) on that elite list. Known as “Sweet Lou,” Hudson played 11 of his 13 NBA seasons for the Hawks and during his stellar career averaged 20.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

Hudson was a first round pick of the Hawks (No. 4 overall) in the 1966 NBA Draft after starring at the University of Minnesota in college, where he also had his No. 14 jersey retired. A native of Greensboro, N.C., Hudson was a three-sport star (football, track and basketball) in high school and was also drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1966 despite never having played a single down of college football.

But Hudson made his mark in a Hawks uniform. Beginning with the 1969-70 season, Hudson put together a stretch of five consecutive years where he averaged at least 24.0 ppg. He averaged 20 or more points in seven of his 11 seasons with the Hawks and still shares the franchise single-game scoring record, having put up 57 points against Chicago on November 10, 1969.

“Lou Hudson holds a special place in the Hawks family, in the hearts of our fans and in the history of our club,” Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon said in a statement released by the team. “As a fan growing up with this team, I’m fortunate to say I was able to see almost every game Sweet Lou played as a member of the Hawks. He was an integral part of successful Hawks teams for over a decade, and is deservedly recognized with the ultimate symbol of his significance to the franchise with the number 23 hanging inside Philips Arena. On behalf of the Hawks organization, I’d like to extend condolences to Lou’s family and friends.”

Russell’s 80th Highlights Legends Brunch

VIDEO: Bill Russell tribute at the Legends Brunch

NEW ORLEANS – With so much talk leading up to and through the NBA’s 2014 All-Star Weekend about “Mt. Rushmore” candidates of monumental greatness, it was L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul who gave the fun exercise a little spin. Speaking at the annual Legends Brunch on Sunday in the Great Hall of the city’s sprawling convention center, Paul set up his selection of all-timers as some sort of personal half-court playground game.

“If it’s a 2-on-2 game, it’s going to be me and Bill Russell,” said Paul, still wildly popular in the host city this weekend after spending his first six NBA seasons with the New Orleans franchise. “If it’s 3-on-3, it’s me, Bill Russell and another guy. If it’s 4-on-4…

“One thing for sure, Bill Russell is going to be on my team because all he did was win.”

Eleven NBA championships in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, to be exact, the most prolific winner in major U.S. team sports. Russell was honored with a special tribute at the Legends Brunch, pegged to his 80th birthday Wednesday. A big cake in the shape of “80″ (green icing, naturally) was wheeled out at the end and the crowd stood to sing “Happy Birthday,” accompanying a trumpet player on the tune.

The five-time NBA MVP and the man for whom the Finals MVP trophy is named was front and center Sunday, feted not just for his birthday but because – as a native of Monroe, La. – he also fit nicely with the Legends tradition of acknowledging great players with connections to the host market. Three others with ties to the Big Easy and Louisiana were celebrated, including future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, who burst on the scene as a freshman at Louisiana State. Three years later in 1992, O’Neal was the league’s No. 1 draft pick; he was named Legend of the Year Sunday.

O’Neal was introduced by new NBA commissioner Adam Silver, a lanky 6-foot-3 who nonetheless found himself scooped up and carried like a small child by the massive O’Neal. The 15-time All-Star, who played for six NBA franchises, stood 7-foot-1 and weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 325 pounds, reminded the audience that he was big even when he was little.

When he first met LSU coach Dale Brown, O’Neal was a 6-foot-9 teenager. The Tigers coach mistook him for a member of the military. “He asked, ‘How long have you been a soldier, son?’ ” O’Neal said. “I said, ‘I’m only 13.’ ” The big man pantomimed Brown in a state of shock: ” ‘What?! Huh?!’ He wanted to hide me from the other coaches.”

Hall of Famer Karl Malone, who grew up in Summerfield, La., and was something of a sleeper pick (No. 13) out of Louisiana Tech in 1985, was presented with the Community Service Award. In a nice touch to connect the NBA’s greats to its budding Legends of tomorrow, Philadelphia’s dynamic rookie Michael Carter-Williams introduced Malone.

“A long, long time from now, I hope to be sitting in the audience,” Carter-Williams said. “You guys have no idea how much this means to me.”

Malone, No. 2 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (36,928) behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), has been active with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has traveled to Afghanistan and elsewhere to visit U.S. troops. “This honor is great,” he said of the award. “But it’s not about me. We’re a taking society. I try to be a little more about giving back.”

The third honoree with local roots was a HOF power forward who set the league’s standard for Malone and so many others. Bob Pettit – of Baton Rouge, LSU and the Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks – was honored with the Hometown Hero Award.

“I don’t have a lot of sympathy for your 50th birthday,” Pettit told Malone after the former Utah forward introduced him (Malone hit that milestone last summer). “I’ve been retired for 50 years.”

Then, referencing a video clip of his old-school game from the 1950s and ’60s that was shown on multiple screens in the vast ballroom, Pettit poked a little fun at himself. “You saw that hook shot? The first time I shot my hook shot against Boston, Bill Russell caught it,” Pettit said. “I retired that shot after that.”

Now 81, the trim, 6-foot-9 Pettit – Malone called him a “spry young man” – still ranks eighth all-time at 26.4 points per game, third at 16.3 rebounds per game, ninth in minutes (38.8 mpg) and seventh in player efficiency rating (25.3). He was an All-Star in each of his 11 seasons and the game’s MVP three times.

Pettit – also on hand this weekend to remind current players of the 1964 All-Stars’ near-boycott of the showcase game, a tactic to earn their union clout with the owners – won the league MVP award in 1956 and 1959 and finished as low as sixth in the balloting only once. In 1957-58, he averaged 24.6 points and 17.4 rebounds – and scored 50 points in the Game 6 Finals clincher – to help St. Louis beat Boston and win the only NBA title the Celtics didn’t from 1957 through 1966.

And here’s a fascinating what-if: He was two years into his career when the Hawks drafted Russell with the No. 2 pick in the 1956 draft. They traded him that day to the Celtics for eventual Hall of Famers Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley, but still…

Russell sat, nodded and occasionally cackled that famous laugh of his through a steady stream of stories and tributes Sunday. Rev. Jesse Jackson talked about the Celtics star’s career in terms of “knocking down walls and building bridges,” less as a pro athlete than as a civil rights activist marching at the elbow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A panel of other NBA greats – Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson and Clyde Drexler – also shared impressions and tales about Russell. Abdul-Jabbar, for instance, said that through studying Russell’s style of play he realized how it was possible for someone to dominate from the defensive end of the court.

Johnson said he chased Russell in terms of championships won (he fell six short) and now chases him for impact away from the game. And Erving spoke of the friendship the two have had dating back to 1970 or so, when the man later known as Dr. J still was at the University of Massachusetts. At 19, Erving said, “I sat down and talked with him for three or four hours about everything but basketball.” The two eventually stayed at each other’s homes and became golf buddies.

Russell admitted that he never much enjoyed participating in All-Star Games because, in his heart, he only played basketball for the Celtics. But in 1963 in Los Angeles, he invited his father to the game and told him, “We’re going to win and I’m going to win MVP.” The next day, Russell did just that with 19 points and 24 rebounds in a 115-108 East victory.

His father’s reaction? “I didn’t know you were that good.”

“I never talked about basketball with my family,” Russell said. “But my father was my hero. He taught me to be a man by being one.”

And now, when Russell sits in the stands to watch the game’s current elite performers in the All-Star Game? “I hate to admit it,” he said, revving up for another cackle. “My thought is, I can kick his ass.’ “

The All-Star Game That Nearly Wasn’t

NEW ORLEANS – In the months, weeks and days leading up to the 1964 All-Star Game, the NBA players and their still-budding union had been blown off more than once by the franchise owners and the league’s hierarchy. Officers and player-reps of the National Basketball Players Association would travel to a Board of Governors meeting, encouraged that they would have an audience with the bosses, only to be left cooling their heels outside the room.

Until the evening of Jan. 14, 1964, when the owners of the NBA’s nine teams were the ones on the wrong side of the door, banging and pleading to get in.

“The owners kept putting us off and putting us off,” said Tom Heinsohn, the Boston Celtics’ Hall of Fame player, coach and broadcaster who was NBPA president at the time (owing mostly to his offseason job in the insurance field). “Finally, we decided, ‘We’re not going to play the All-Star Game.’ “

Boom!

Golden State Warriors vs. Boston Celtics

Tom Heinsohn was the NBPA President during the NBA’s 1964 labor negotiations at All-Star weekend. (Getty Images)

The NBA won’t exactly be celebrating the 50th anniversary of this pivotal moment in its history at All-Star Weekend in the Big Easy. But without it, the league might look nothing at all like it does now, with players and owners building it into one of the most popular sports options on the planet.

Like the union itself – founded in 1954 by Celtics guard Bob Cousy – the issues of 1964 had been on the table for most of a decade. The players were trying to institute a pension plan to cover their some portion of their retirement years. There were concerns about working conditions, such as meal money, full-time trainers (home and road) for each team and schedule considerations (for example, no Sunday matinees after Saturday night games). There also was the sheer recognition of the NBPA as the collective bargaining voice of NBA players, with Larry Fleisher as their executive director.

“They’d tell us they were going to do all these things,” Oscar Robertson said this week, “and then they’d change their minds.”

According to Heinsohn, it was the NBA’s first commissioner, Maurice Podoloff (for whom the MVP trophy is named), who was most resistant to a unionized labor force for the league. The otherwise genial Podoloff, on orders from the league’s nine owners, “did everything possible to thwart our efforts,” Heinsohn said. His successor, J. Walter Kennedy, was said to have fallen right in line with that tactic.

That offseason, one more attempt to pitch their demands to the Board of Governors got dashed. So in the months leading up to the All-Star Game – a Tuesday night affair, not the weekend it is now – Heinsohn and union VPs Lenny Wilkens and Bob Pettit had notified management of their last-ditch plan.

An unexpected opportunity to negotiate

No one took it seriously until that day. A major snowstorm over the nation’s Eastern half led to All-Stars players and NBA owners arriving through the afternoon. Heinsohn met his guys in the hotel as they did, getting them to literally sign onto the petition to boycott the game that evening.

Cincinnati’s Wayne Embry, who arrived with Royals teammates Robertson and Jerry Lucas after being diverted from Cincy to Minneapolis to Washington, with a train to Boston, said: “Tommy was in the lobby. He says, ‘Here’s what’s happening.’ “

Said Heinsohn: “[That list] was the ‘Magna Carta’ of the players association.”

Wayne Embry

Cincinnati Royals star Wayne Embry was a big player in the 1964 NBA labor talks. (Getty Images)

Interestingly, there was a wild card in play that worked in the union’s favor: For the first time, the All-Star Game was being televised live in prime time. The window of air time was finite.

“You can imagine what was at stake for them,” said Embry, the burly center who became pro sports’ first black GM with Milwaukee in the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar era. “But there was a lot at stake for us, too. It got pretty tense, with owners threatening players.”

The clock was ticking. Kennedy was sweating. ABC made it known that it would pull the plug on the telecast if the impasse wasn’t broken.

Owners such as the Celtics’ Walter Brown came to the East locker room at Boston Garden, each imploring his players to reconsider. Brown, of course, represented the host team and felt more pressure than his peers for what was unfolding. “He wound up calling me the biggest heel in sports,” Heinsohn said, “and saying, if there’d been a team out in Hawaii, he’d have sent me there.”

Legend has it that Bob Short, the Lakers owner, tried to barge into the room but had to settle for barking some orders to the cop posted outside the door. Said Heinsohn: “He tells this old Irish police guy, ‘I’m Bob Short, the owner of the Lakers. You go tell Elgin Baylor that if he doesn’t get his ass out here fast, I’m done with him!’

“So Elgin gets the word and said back to him, ‘Tell Bob Short to go [expletive] himself.’ “

‘It was something we had to do’

As tempers flared, the players’ resolve intensified.

“We weren’t quite united at first but we soon got there,” was how Robertson recalled it. “It took a little conversation but we got it done. People came in the locker room making threats, telling us we were going to ‘kill basketball’ and ‘What are you doing?’ It was a TV game and we could understand that, but it was something we had to do. If you negotiate in good faith and you agree to do something, you should be true to your word.”

Oscar Robertson

Oscar Robertson, an NBPA exec in 1964, was one of the loudest voices calling for change in the NBA’s labor agreement. (Getty Images)

The “good faith” view of ownership rapidly vanished. Jerry West, Baylor’s L.A. teammate, told the Los Angeles Times in 2011: “The players were controlled by the owners. All of us felt like we were slaves in the sense we had no rights. No one made anything then. You had to work in the summer. It was the stone ages of basketball.”

With ABC executives in his ear and game time fast approaching, Kennedy conferred with his owners. Then he knocked on the locker room door, entered and told the players that, yes, their concerns would be addressed: a pension plan, the working conditions and the rest, giving the NBPA a real voice and solidified seat at the bargaining table.

Pettit and Embry recalled a vote taken by show of hands, with an 18-2 outcome in favor of playing the game.

“There was a lot of discussion, pros and cons among the players,” Pettit said, “and there were players who still thought we should not go out and play. I think it was Wilt Chamberlain who said, ‘We’ve got the commissioner’s guarantee that he’ll do everything in his power. We need to go out and play the game.’ I guess we went out three or four minutes before what was supposed to be tip-off, took one or two layups [as warm-ups] and started the game.”

Embry recalled a delay of about 15 minutes. Others have referred to the near-boycott as “the 22-minute strike.” That night, Robertson was named MVP after scoring 26 points with 14 rebounds and eight assists in the East’s 111-107 victory. Bill Russell had 13 points and 21 rebounds, Chamberlain went for 19 and 20 and Pettit had 19 and 17.

NBPA’s stance paves way for today’s players

The real winners, of course, were the NBA’s rank-and-file players and their union. In time, the pension plan initially designed for only active and future NBA labor was extended back to cover pre-1965 players. That and the other benefits laid a foundation for much of the players’ condition today, including (after subsequent lockouts and wranglings) a $5.7 million average player salary in a league generating $5 billion in annual revenue.

“You talk about money, there wasn’t a whole lot of money in that [locker] room in terms of salary,” Robertson reflected. “Today, I think it would be very, very difficult when guys are making millions and millions of dollars per year for playing basketball – I don’t know if [a threat to boycott the All-Star Game] would have happened today or not. I don’t think a lot of players today are even aware that this happened.”

The NBPA will try to educate them a bit this weekend. Ron Klempner, acting executive director of the NBPA while a search for Billy Hunter‘s replacement continues, told NBA.com this week that the 1964 All-Stars’ stance will be remembered in a video shown before the union’s annual players-rep meeting Saturday.

“Our players are being made very aware of the importance of that stand taken by the 1964 All-Stars,” Klempner said. “It was a watershed moment for labor relations in sports, in terms of the recognition of our union and really in terms of fairness.”

Klempner said the union hoped to have one or two of the participants attend the meeting and possibly other weekend events. Pettit, who lives in Baton Rouge and is a season-ticket holder for the New Orleans Pelicans, is a handy and natural choice. Robertson’s name was in play, though at midweek he said he still had a schedule conflict.

Said Pettit: “It’s important to let [current players] know. Hopefully I’ll have that opportunity to touch base with them on what happened.”

Sixteen of the 20 All-Stars from 1964 still are alive, 50 years later, and it remains a source of pride for those who interviewed. That year was a big one across America, with the Civil Rights Act out of Washington under President Lyndon Johnson. And the stand taken by the NBA players had a ripple effect across other pro sports.

“It was very much a defining moment, 50 years ago, in the history of the NBA and its players,” said Embry, who went onto serve in management roles with Milwaukee, Cleveland and currently Toronto, in addition to private business opportunities such as McDonald’s franchise ownership. “Having been on both sides of unionization in later life, as it turned out, it worked well for both. You’re always going to have labor negotiations, but think about what it would be if you didn’t.”

In the moment, though, that sort of clarity didn’t come easily. Back in 1964, Embry was a 26-year-old from Springfield, Ohio, manning the middle for the Royal, living pretty much paycheck to paycheck and letting others in that East locker room do most of the talking.

“I thought, ‘Well, there goes my job.’ I was an All-Star but I wasn’t a superstar,” Embry said. “I was scared [sick].”

Recalling Zelmo Beaty (1939-2013)

 

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Let’s be honest. It was the name first and foremost.

Zelmo Beaty.

It wasn’t just unique, it was fun to say. So for a kid growing up in the Chicago suburbs in the late 1960s and ’70s – with the Bulls constantly seeking a star big man to plug into Tom Boerwinkle’s spot to help out against the likes of Chamberlain, Russell, Reed, Unseld, Lanier and others – the allure of this exotic-sounding center playing in an alternative league (ABA), in an unfamiliar place (Salt Lake City), was profound.

So I wrote Beaty a fan letter without ever seeing him play a game. And Beaty – who died Saturday at age 73 – wrote back. A couple of times, sending along his autograph each time.

By then Beaty was into the second half of a career split between the NBA and the ABA. He had joined the Utah Stars in 1970-71, sitting out the 1969-70 season in making his jump to the upstart league while the Stars jumped themselves from Los Angeles to the future home of the Jazz.

Beaty’s impact was immediate: The Stars improved from 43-41 to 57-27 and went from fourth place in the ABA’s Western Division in 1970 to beating Texas, Indiana and Kentucky for the ABA championship a year later.

The 6-foot-9 Beaty, at age 31 and despite his layoff, had his best season to that point: 22.9 ppg, 15.7 rpg and 55.5 percent shooting. He made the first of three ABA All-Star appearances, after being similarly honored twice in the NBA with the St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks, earned a second-team all-ABA berth and was considered the biggest and best star on a squad featuring Donnie Freeman, Willie Wise, Glen Combs and Ron Boone.

In a piece written 15 years ago for the RememberTheABA.com Web site, sportswriter Dan Pattison recalled highlights of Beaty’s career and talked with admirers:

“I want to make this clear. . . Zelmo could flat play!” says former rival coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard, ex-coach of the Indiana Pacers. “If you went to war against him, you better pack a lunch, because you knew your team was always going to be in a battle with him. And you knew you were going to be there awhile. He wasn’t going to hide.

“He was always up for the challenge. I know our guy (Mel Daniels), who was about four years younger, learned an awful lot from him. But leave those textbooks home! You had to learn on the job against him. When he jumped from the NBA to the ABA (1970-71), Zelmo brought a sense of toughness with him.

“He was a banger! He was not only physically tough, but mentally tough, too,” added Leonard. “But at the same time, he played the game with dignity and grace. His play demanded respect.”

In Beaty’s four ABA seasons, Utah went 223-113, won at least 51 games each year and made it back to the championship round I 1974. But he was no junior-league wonder. He spent his first seven seasons in the NBA from 1963-69, averaging 17.4 ppg and 11.2 rpg. Those are Kevin Love numbers these days, worthy of an eight- or nine-figure deal, but Beaty never made more than $30,000 in a season with the Hawks.

St. Louis had drafted Beaty third overall, a pick made by legendary NBA scout and then-GM Marty Blake, and reaped immediate dividends: the Hawks improved from 29-51 to 48-32 and Beaty was named to the first NBA All-Rookie team. After Hall of Fame forward Bob Pettit retired in 1965, Beaty’s contributions shot up from 13.4 ppg and 10.3 rpg to 20.5 and 11.9.

The native of Hillister, Texas, and product of Prairie View A&M played a final season in the NBA at age 35 and, on a 36-minute basis, still averaged 11.3 points and 9.7 rebounds for the 1974-75 Lakers. He rarely gets mentioned in regards to the Hall of Fame but on enshrinement weekend in Springfield, Mass., it’s worth noting that Beaty still ranks 41st in career rebounds (9,655, more than Larry Bird, Shawn Kemp, Terry Cummings and Willis Reed). His combined NBA/ABA player-efficiency rating of 18.7 is better than Reed’s, Scottie Pippen’s and Elvin Hayes‘.

And if there were a wing for Hall of Fame names, Zelmo Beaty would have been a first ballot shoo-in. R.I.P.

Iverson: The Uncomfortable Answer

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HANG TIME, Texas – He stood there at mid-court cradling the Most Valuable Player trophy and the transformation was complete.

Not quite a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, because Allen Iverson never would be described as something so light and delicate. But just as dramatic and, maybe, just as natural.

It was as jarring a sight that night at the 2001 NBA All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., perhaps, as seeing Mike Tyson in a set of tights with the Bolshoi Ballet or having the chiseled visage of Richard Nixon join the great ones high up on Mt. Rushmore.

Yet this was the way it had to be if his game, his league, his sport was to have continued hope to grow and flourish. For 14 seasons, people said Iverson was the changing face of the league — and that was not always meant in a good way.

But tattoos are only skin deep. Hairstyles change and grow, just like people.

The recent news that Iverson planned to announce his official retirement brought back a sudden rush of so many memories of the will-o’-the-wisp guard who broke ankles, broke protocol and broke the mold of what a little man could do.

He was Rookie of the Year (1997), MVP (2001), a four-time scoring champion, three-time steals leader, three-time All-NBA First Team member and twice was given the top prize at the All-Star Game. The first time, the award came for his performance in the nation’s capital when Iverson showed that behind the hip-hop persona of a modern player was an old-fashioned pro who simply lived and loved to compete.

The player whose reputation would a year later become eternally stamped by a rant about “Practice!?” was the ultimate gamer who brought the Eastern Conference from 21 points down in the fourth quarter of an exhibition game because, well, if you’re gonna play, you might as well try to win.

Iverson’s style was always far less an artistic display and much more a competitive exercise, as if there was something to prove. And there was. The guy who had been called “Me-Myself-and-Iverson” spent much of his career, as he’s spent most of his troubled life, listening to people doubt not only his motives, but what’s inside his heart.

He came into the league wearing tattoos and cornrows and bandanas and traveling with his posse. He put himself into the center of a storm with his caught-on-national-TV microphones slur about sexual preference to a heckling fan in Indiana.

Iverson was as far removed image-wise as one could get and still live on the same planet as two of the three players who preceded him in winning his first All-Star MVP trophy — the quietly purposeful Tim Duncan and the regal Michael Jordan.

He was the foam on the front of the new wave.

“I’m one of them,” Iverson said, “but I’m also me.”

For just over a decade that’s who the demanding, discriminating Philadelphia fans got to see: the fearless competitor, the tough nut that wouldn’t crack, the lump of coal that used the intense pressure to transform himself into a diamond.

A few months later, Iverson would willfully, sometimes it seemed singlehandedly, drag the Sixers to the NBA Finals and earn his due respect from the public at large. However, it was that game amid other All-Stars when he demonstrated to the masses what, behind the perception, was his reality.

In those flashing, brilliant final minutes when Iverson was everywhere on the floor, making steals, setting up fast breaks, scoring on twisting, jack-knifing drives, he could have been a player from any era, no different from Bob Cousy, Bob Pettit, Julius Erving, Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and the other greats who had been introduced to the crowd at halftime.

He looked and acted different, this new kid, like new kids always have. They make us uncomfortable, force us to look at things from a different perspective. But what it was about that day was showing that many things never change on the inside, no matter how they’re packaged. Competitors compete.

Sometimes the torch is passed and sometimes it is a wild spark that burns down the forest to make room for new growth.

He was never going to be Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell. You were asking too much to replace that. They laid the foundation, established the game in the consciousness of a worldwide audience. They made it possible for the next generation to follow in their footsteps even if it meant never wearing their shoes.

The question, of course, is always: What comes next?

Allen Iverson was always The Answer, even when we didn’t know it yet.

Dirk Passes Wilt In Free Throws Made

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Dirk Nowitzki moved past Wilt Chamberlain Saturday night and into 15th place on the NBA’s all-time free throws made list.

In his 1,076th career game, Dirk collected eight more free throws to total 6,059 on 6,910 attempts. That’s 87.7 percent, currently good for a tie for 13th all-time with Jeff Hornacek. Only four active players have better career free-throw percentages — No. 1 Steve Nash (90.4), No. 5 Chauncey Billups (89.4), No. 6 Ray Allen (89.3) and No. 12 Kevin Durant (88.2).

But back to Wilt’s free throws and a little comparison to Dirk because these numbers are really mind-blowing:

* In 1,045 games — 31 fewer than Dirk has played to this point — Wilt made two fewer free throws (6,057) on 4,952 more attempts.

* Dirk has averaged 6.4 free throws a game; Wilt averaged 11.4.

* Dirk, 18th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (24,442 career points), has missed 851 free-throw attempts.

* Wilt, fourth on the all-time scoring list (31,419), missed 5,805 free- throw attempts.

Dirk’s percentage has dipped a bit this season. After going 8-for-11 from the free-throw line in Saturday’s blowout win over the Golden State Warriors, Dirk is shooting just 78.5 percent from the free- throw line, his low-water mark by far since finishing his rookie season at 77.3 percent.

The slippage is rather stunning considering Dirk finished six of the last seven seasons at 89.0 percent or better (the other season was 87.9 percent).

The only conclusion is that the Oct. 19 athroscopic surgery on his right knee that sidelined him for the first 27 games of the season has taken a toll on a player who has always featured a pronounced knee bend in his shooting form (his 40.7 field-goal percentage is also the lowest since his rookie season).

That aside, Dirk remains one of the game’s all-time great free-throw shooters and he needs to average just under 4.0 made free throws in the final 32 games of the regular season to pass Bob Pettit (6,182) and move into 14th place.

In any other season, that would seem automatic, but this season Dirk is averaging just 2.9 made free throws a game. Prior to this season, he averaged 5.7 made free throws a game. 

Whether it happens this season or next, it will happen. In fact, by the second half of next season Dirk should take his place in the top 10 all-time for most free throws made.

He’s just 317 away from overtaking No. 10 Allen Iverson (6,375), who despite his preference, doesn’t appear headed to an NBA free throw line ever again.

Another Classic: Lakers, Celts Dominate Starting Lineups For 2013 All-Star Game

Classic literature, classic rock, classic cars.

Classic NBA. That means L.A. and Boston.

allstar-13-200Despite the fact that the two winningest franchises in the history of the league are currently struggling in the standings, the stars of the Lakers and Celtics are still must-see attractions for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game. The Celtics are currently No. 7 in the East and the Lakers No. 11 and out of the playoffs in the West.

Yet the results of fan voting will have classic rivals Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Lakers and Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo of the Celtics squaring off in the starting lineups at Houston’s Toyota Center on Feb. 17 on TNT.

Bryant (1,591,437) edged out Miami’s LeBron James (1,583,646) to become the leading vote-getter for the third time. It will be his 15th consecutive All-Star Game appearance, breaking a tie with Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal. While you can argue that the whole NBA is Bryant’s oyster, the All-Star Game has become a personal kingdom that practically fits into the palm of his hand. He’s the all-time leading scorer (271) and tied with Bob Pettit for most MVPs (four).

Heat teammates James and Dwyane Wade and the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony will join Garnett and Rondo as starters for the Eastern Conference.

In addition to Bryant and Howard, the Western Conference starters will be Clippers Chris Paul and Blake Griffin along with Kevin Durant of the Thunder.

The reserves, seven for each team, will be selected by a vote of the league’s coaches and announced Jan. 24 on TNT.

For complete vote totals, click here:

AS13-East_Starters_Blog

Frontcourt

LeBron James, Heat – The no-brainiest of no-brainers. The youngest player ever to score 20,000 career points. He’ll play his ninth All-Star Game in the arena where he outdueled Tracy McGrady to be named the MVP in 2006. Highlights.

Carmelo Anthony, Knicks – Perhaps the most talented and effective scorer in the game, he’s putting the ball in the hoop at the highest rate (29.3 ppg) of his career. This is his sixth All-Star team and second in the Eastern Conference. Highlights.

Kevin Garnett, Celtics — It’s a lifetime achievement honor for Old Man River at a time when he’s playing fewer minutes than he’s ever played. It’s his 15th All-Star Game and the big question is whether he’ll trash-talk teammate Melo. Highlights.

Backcourt

Dwyane Wade, Heat — The MVP before the biggest crowd (108,713) in All-Star history at Cowboys Stadium in 2010, he’ll be playing for the ninth time for the East. May have ceded the lead dog role on Heat to LeBron, but still a fan favorite. Highlights.

Rajon Rondo, Celtics – The league leader in assists and the sparkplug that turns over the engine of the Boston offense. You can talk all you want about Boston’s Big Three, but these days he’s the big one who can lift them up. Highlights.

The lowdown: There’s no question that Tyson Chandler was the first victim of the new voting system that chooses frontcourt and backcourt players and does not break out centers separately. That’s a shame, because the Knicks’ big man is statistically having the best season of his career and anchoring the middle of the New York defense. But he loses out in the popular vote to Garnett, because fans want to see the stars, especially when one of the all-time greats nears the end of his career. Despite being the league’s top assist man and having moved into the upper echelon, the four-time All-Star Rondo would probably be on the East bench if Chicago’s injured Derrick Rose wasn’t on the shelf.

AS13-West_Starters_Blog

Frontcourt

Kevin Durant, Thunder — The three-time defending scoring champ is chasing Kobe and Carmelo in this year’s race, but has his eye on a bigger prize next June. He’s scoring less and playing better. Last year’s MVP in Orlando. Highlights.

Dwight Howard, Lakers – It certainly hasn’t been a smooth ride in his first season with the Lakers, but it says something about his talent that even in a down year, following back surgery, he’s the best center in the West. Highlights.

Blake Griffin, Clippers – His scoring, rebounding and shooting are all down from a year ago. But when you can jump over a car to dunk and show up with CP3 on the highlight reels every night, people tend to notice and vote for you. Highlights.

Backcourt

Kobe Bryant, Lakers – While his team may be down, it’s not because Kobe isn’t trying. He leads the league in scoring, is shooting at a career-best clip, rebounding, passing, doing it all. It’s his best season in years. Highlights.

Chris Paul, Clippers — Nobody in the league has a better handle. No point guard can run an offense, set up teammates and scorer better. Add in that he’s the heart at the center of the Clipper miracle and it’s a cinch . Highlights.

The lowdown: The flip-side of the coin that claimed Chandler happened here where the new voting system — unofficially known as the “Tim Duncan Rule” — did not help the veteran Spurs big man reclaim what used to be a regular spot in the West starting lineup. Neither did a personal campaign by San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, who talked up Duncan’s amazing stats and his significant contributions in leading this team to one of the top three records in the league. The low-profile Spurs will have to count on the coaches to do the right thing by Duncan and teammate Tony Parker. The other hard-to-digest numbers in the West had the Rockets’ inconsistent point guard Jeremy Lin almost doubling up the votes of teammate James Harden, who ranks fourth in the league in scoring and has established himself as a big time scorer and first rate closer. Somebody also has to explain how the No. 4 team in the West, the Grizzlies, did not get a starter within shouting distance in the voting.

The Q&A: At 80, Pettit Reflects On Wilt, Russell, Cousy And Life Outside The NBA

Bob Pettit wasn’t sure what to call this date: Dec. 12, 2012. Take the short version – 12/12/12 – and it looks like a triple-double. Or a triple-dozen anyway. But for the NBA’s legendary power forward and Naismith Hall of Famer, it mostly is known as his 80th birthday.

Born in Baton Rouge, La., on this day in 1932, the lanky, 6-foot-9 big man became the prototype at his position, a precursor to fellows such as Karl Malone, Kevin McHale, Charles Barkley and eventually Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love. A three-time All-America pick at LSU, Pettit was the No. 2 pick in the 1954 Draft behind Frank Selvy. He went to the lowly Milwaukee Hawks, was named Rookie of the Year in 1954-55, then moved with the club to St. Louis. He helped the Hawks reach the playoffs in nine of the next 10 seasons, in 1958 winning the only championship the Boston Celtics didn’t from 1957-1966.

After making the all-NBA first team in each of his first 10 seasons, Pettit “slipped” to second-team status in 1965 – and that was that. He made good on his plan to retire, stepping into a banking career at age 32 and never looking back. He was inducted into basketball’s Hall in 1971, then named one of the NBA’s Top 50 players in 1996. Over the weekend, Pettit – whose wife Carol died in 2010 — gathered a few days early with his three children, 10 grandchildren and friends to celebrate another big round number. He spoke Tuesday with NBA.com about a life well-lived:

NBA.com: You went home to Baton Rouge when you retired in 1965 and moved to New Orleans in 1970. How much attention have you paid through the years to the city’s two NBA franchises, the Jazz and the Hornets?

Bob Pettit: When I first moved to New Orleans, the Jazz was here. When they left, I actually didn’t give it any thought. The franchises moved around, even when I was playing. They’d pick up and leave a city and go to another one. I left Milwaukee and went to St. Louis [with the Hawks] after my rookie year.

NBA.com: Were you surprised when New Orleans got the NBA again?

 BP: I’m not surprised at much of anything, let me start with that. I was delighted that they were coming here. And I think New Orleans has supported the team pretty well. The fans have taken to it, they’re interested. It’s been a big addition to New Orleans. [New owner Tom] Benson has purchased the team and he’s committed to keeping it here, so I think that’s worked out extremely well. They have the nucleus, a very young nucleus – their No. 1 draft pick [Anthony Davis] has not been able to play much, but the papers said he’s supposed to come back this week. So they’ve got a bright future.

NBA.com: So what do you think of their proposed new nickname, “Pelicans?’

BP: There was a minor league baseball team here for years and years, the Pelicans. This was going back to probably the ’50s, but a lot of major league baseball players played here. And they had spring training here. It was the New Orleans Pelicans. So that is a name that is familiar to people here.

NBA.com:After leaving LSU, you were the No. 2 pick in a draft class that included a high number of NBA “lifers,” men who spent their entire careers in or around the league as coaches, front-office executives or broadcasters after their playing days ended. Guys such as Richie Guerin, Slick Leonard, Larry Costello, Al Bianchi, Red Kerr and Gene Shue. But when you left at age 32, you were done. How come?

Bob Pettit (right) averaged 16.2 rebounds a game, third in NBA history behind only Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell (left).

Bob Pettit (right) averaged 16.2 rebounds a game, third in NBA history behind only Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell (left) – Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images.

BP: I never was interested in doing that. I had something else I wanted to do. I had a job waiting for me when I retired [at American Bank], something that was exciting. I did the television game of the week in the SEC for a couple or three years, games on Saturday as a color analyst. And I just said, “I don’t want to do that anymore.” I’d had enough.

I think the unusual part is, I’ve enjoyed my life after basketball as much as I enjoyed playing. I don’t know how many former professional athletes can make a statement like that. I’m very fortunate.

NBA.com: Well, maybe that’s because it’s hard to replace that lifestyle, that paycheck, that attention.

 BP: It is for a lot of players. Fortunately in my case, it wasn’t hard to replace. I was in banking, I stayed in banking for 20 years-plus. Then I went into partnership with two or three other guys and formed an investment consulting business, and I did that for 20 years, and I loved that. I worked in the offseason my last three years in the NBA. I told [Hawks owner] Ben Kerner two years in advance. I said, “Ben, make your plans. I ‘m leaving in two years. I’m retiring and going to work in the banking business in Baton Rouge.”

 NBA.com: Didn’t you face a big drop in pay?

BP: Oh sure. A drop, why certainly. But I figured in the long run, it would be to my benefit, that a couple of extra years working might have been worth a lot more at the end than staying and playing basketball. And I could feel that my skills were starting to deteriorate. I’d told the owner before that that I was leaving, but it just so happened I had two or three injuries – I broke four bones in my back. My last year, I hurt my left knee pretty badly. So I had started to get injured some. But I just felt it was time to get out. I didn’t want to hang around. I was happy with my skills when they were at their peak and I thought I was playing very well, and I didn’t want to play at less than that.

NBA.com: Yet you averaged 22.5 points and 12.4 rebounds your final season. You were your team’s leading scorer and the Hawks went 45-35. That’s “deteriorating?”

BP: [Laughs] If I’m making $20 million, I might have a different attitude.

NBA.com: You were quoted in a 1967 issue of Sports Illustrated, two years after you left the NBA, about the shock some retiring players face when they have to get “a real job.” Now, many don’t have to do that.

BP: No, and I think they miss a lot. I don’t know that, at age 34, if you retire and you have all this money in the bank, how happy you are over the next 40 years. I was very happy – I was building something. And I was involved. Would I have rather made $20 million than $20,000? Certainly. But I’m not the least bit unhappy that the salaries were not as much as they are today. I went on and loved what I was doing. It was exciting and interesting, and that’s why I say the rest of my life was as exciting as my life in basketball.

NBA.com: What was your top salary with the Hawks?

BP: About $60,000. I started at $11,000 my first year.

NBA.com: It wasn’t as if you and other players had much leverage.

BP: Actually I was very interested in AAU basketball. The Phillips [66ers] and the other teams in the AAU league. The salaries weren’t quite what they were in the NBA, but they offered you a career. If you looked at a company like Phillips 66, the chairman of the board and the president were all former basketball players. They offered you a great opportunity, and I came every close to doing that and not playing in the NBA.

You look at Clyde Lovellette, he went to the Phillips Oil Company and played there before he played for the Minneapolis Lakers. Bob Kurland [a 6-foot-10 two-time Olympian and Naismith Hall of Famer] was a great player – he played at Phillips. There were the Peoria Caterpillars, there were teams in Cleveland, in Houston, in Denver. It offered you a very substantial career, which we were all interested in because we all had to work.

NBA.com: You played 11 years and played in 11 NBA All-Star Games. What was the key to that?

BP: I don’t have any idea. I was fortunate no life-threatening injuries. I had broken arms and a broken nose, busted teeth and all that. But I played as hard as I could play every night.

NBA.com: In fact, Bill Russell said you were the reason the term “second effort” got introduced to the NBA.

BP: I played hard. That’s the one thing I look back on, I played as hard as I could play every single night. I had bad nights but it was never from lack of effort.

NBA.com: If not for that famous Boston-St. Louis trade in 1956, you could have played with Russell on the Hawks. Do you ever think “What if …?”

BP: No, I never do. But I will say this: I think he’s the greatest player who ever walked on the court. There are a lot of guys you could say that about, but in my mind, I would start my team with Bill. In his prime, he was the best I’ve ever seen. He had a great desire to win and to destroy you. And his defense and his rebounding – his defense was incredible. They say [with 11 championship rings] he’s the great winner of all time. Why don’t they just say he’s the greatest player of all time? That’s what the game is about.

NBA.com: Ever think you just had the bad luck to be born in the same era?

BP: No, it was great. It was challenging. I loved playing against him. They had an incredible team and you’d better be at the top of your game to be able to play them.

NBA.com: You played on some terrific St. Louis teams, winning the NBA title in 1958 and reaching The Finals three other times between 1957 and 1961. Do you feel as if you or your teams weren’t given their due?

BP: I don’t feel overlooked at all. It doesn’t bother me if I read about my name or I don’t. I had 11 great years, a wonderful part of my life, and I’m very happy with the way things have turned out. I have no negative feelings at all about the money or the publicity or the television going on today. I think it’s a great evolution that’s happened in all sports.

I don’t think about it.

NBA.com: OK, then how about some of the players you played with or against?

BP: I don’t read much about Elgin Baylor. Elgin Baylor was an incredible basketball player. Anytime, anywhere. Does that make me sad? No. You’re asking me. I don’t read much about [Bob] Cousy. I guess that’s a natural thing, because we’re a part of the history of the NBA. But the emphasis has to be on the players of today and the teams today. Most of your readers weren’t even born when we played. You read about Wilt [Chamberlain] and his 100 points. I played against Wilt when he averaged 50 points – we’d sit in the locker room and say, ‘OK, we’re gonna let Wilt have his 50. Then we’re going to try to stop [Paul] Arizin or [Tom] Gola.’ The guy was going to score 50 whatever you did.

NBA.com: You put up amazing numbers too. You never ranked lower than seventh in scoring, you were the first player to reach 20,000 points, and you still rank seventh in scoring average and third in rebounding average. In fact, according to what’s known now as “player efficiency rating,” you rank eighth in NBA history (25.3). Any thoughts on the ways basketball is using numbers now, the advanced stats movement?

BP: I’m technologically insufficient. I can’t turn my computer on hardly. I know in my case, the thing I’m proudest of was my rebounding. I was fortunate to average a little over 26 points a game, but what I’m proudest of is that I averaged 16 rebounds a game for 11 years.

NBA.com: Behind only Chamberlain and Russell.

BP: They were in a league by themselves. But I’m proudest of that. That’s just a lot of hard work, to rebound, and a lot of second effort. I thought I did a good job of rebounding – offensively as well. I’ll bet I scored five or six points a game off the offensive boards. And I’m pleased that I went with a last-place team that let me play every minute of every game, no matter how bad I was or how much it was a learning experience. I learned in one year what a lot of these players who would go to the Celtics or the Minneapolis Lakers and sit the bench would need two or three. Fortunately I was able to fairly well keep up and continue to improve. I went to the worst team and it worked out well.

Slater Martin Was A Texas Original




HOUSTON — Here’s what to know about Slater Martin.

When star point guard T.J. Ford led the University of Texas to the 2003 Final Four for the first time since 1947, the surviving members of the old team sent coach Rick Barnes a letter of congratulations. At the end of the letter, Dr. Vilbry White, a retired dentist and a Longhorn teammate of Martin’s added a line at the end:

“Slater still doesn’t think T.J. could drive around him today.”

When told about the postscript, then 77-year-old Martin laughed loudly and said, “Well, I’d like to see him try without palming the way they let these guys do today.”

It goes without saying that Martin, who passed away at 86 on Thursday, came from a much different time, a different era of basketball. But every one of today’s stars from Kobe Bryant to LeBron James to Kevin Durant would have loved to have had him at their back on the court.

Martin was tough and rugged and feisty and, quite fittingly as a Texan, was a particular burr under the saddle of Celtics star Bob Cousy.

“Cousy never liked to see me coming,” Martin once told me, “because he knew I wasn’t going anywhere. And I told him he wasn’t pulling out any of that fancy hotdog stuff out on the court with me unless he wanted to wind up down on the court.”

Martin won five NBA championships, four with the Minneapolis Lakers and one with the St. Louis Hawks. He was a seven-time All-Star and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.

But in Houston, where he led Jefferson Davis High School to state titles in 1942 and 1943 and eventually settled down, Martin was an outgoing restauranteur, a gregarious host and a man who never met anyone who couldn’t become an instant friend.

The first time I met Martin in 1982 — he’d been retired from the game for more than two decades — I was immediately pulled into his world of NBA tales, observations, camaraderie and blunt opinions. He still loved the game, but especially not the liberal interpretation of the palming rule. He marveled and admired the wondrous athleticism of today’s NBA players, but cautioned that too many of the early stars — George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Bob Pettit — were under-appreciated. And still he liked to get in his jabs at his favorite nemesis.

“If you ever see Cousy around at a game these, tell him that I’m in the building,” Martin said, “and watch him flinch.”

That was Slater.

Kobe Bryant Passes Michael Jordan For All-Time All-Star Game Scoring Mark





ORLANDOKobe Bryant is still chasing Michael Jordan‘s record of six championships, but he’s already snagged another of Jordan’s hallowed records.

Bryant passed Jordan for the All-Star scoring record on a fast break dunk with 4:57 to play in the third quarter here Sunday night, with 264 points. He tied Jordan minutes earlier with two free throws and finished the night with 27 points and total of 271 points

LeBron James is next on the active list with 207 points.

Most career points, All-Star history

Player GP PTS AVG
Kobe Bryant 13 271 20.8
Michael Jordan 13 262 20.2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 18 251 13.9
Oscar Robertson 12 246 20.5
Bob Pettit 11 224 20.4