Posts Tagged ‘Dominique Wilkins’

Air Check: Honesty and emotion

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.

Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.

Air Check is where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.

This edition of Air Check features the unique styles of some former players at the broadcasting table.

Stealing a slam from ‘Nique

In a game last month against the Hawks, Paul George stole a pass and was all alone for a breakaway, right in front of the best windmill dunker in NBA history…


VIDEO: George Impresses ‘Nique

You don’t want beef with Dominique Wilkins, so George should probably just lay the ball up the next time he’s on the break against Atlanta.

On second thought…

The Sixers are pretty painful to watch these days, but you still have Marc Zumoff and Malik Rose to keep you entertained. This clip starts out with a pretty funny conversation about Eric Maynor‘s college stats (“I got no choice, man!”), and then gets hilarious when Rose describes Byron Mullens a little too generously…


VIDEO: Air Check: Zumoff and Rose

Mullens, who likes to shoot threes, is a 31-percent career 3-point shooter.

“Yeeeaaahhhhhh!”

Quinn Buckner kind of calls a Pacers game like he’s sitting next to you on the couch. Even though they can’t hear him, he’ll tell players what they’re supposed to do on certain plays and he’ll instinctively let out an “Ohhhh!” at a big moment.

No one got more excited about George’s in-game 360 when it happened, and Buckner had a similar reaction when George Hill hit a circus shot last week…


VIDEO: Hill Tosses in a Prayer

Fatherly pride

We couldn’t close this edition of Air Check without Sunday’s classic in-game interview with Joakim Noah‘s father, Yannick.


VIDEO: Classic Noah Interview

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 150) Featuring Bestselling Author Jeff Pearlman

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Transcendence for NBA players is an interesting concept. Does a player who starred in the 1950s or 1960s have any chance of being the same type of player today? What would the stars of this day and age look like if they plied their trade in the 1980s or 1990s?

Just because you ruled the basketball world in one era doesn’t guarantee you could do it again in every other era. Just how relevant a player is from one era to the other, however, is a debate that will rage on for generations. Where would the stars of yesteryear rank today?

Just because you score a career-high and franchise-record 61 points against the Charlotte Bobcats, as LeBron James did Monday night, doesn’t mean Hall of Famers like Dominique Wilkins are going to be impressed.

We gave it a good run this week on Episode 150 of the Hang Time Podcast featuring The New York Times bestselling author and fellow hoops head Jeff Pearlman, whose definitive work on the “Showtime Lakers” is available now and absolute must-read. The story of the origins, Hollywood roller coaster that Dr. Jerry Buss, Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the rest of the Showtime Lakers took us on was one of a kind. The back story on how the dynasty was built and maintained is one that you won’t want to miss.

We frame the discussion with some great stories about guys like Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper, Mike Tyson (yes, Mike Tyson) and so many others who played a role in the Lakers becoming arguably the most famous franchise in NBA history and one of the most storied in all of sports.

Our friends at NBAE also provide us with a fantastic look back at Allen Iverson’s top 10 career plays, fresh off of his jersey retirement ceremony in Philadelphia Saturday, in Sounds of the Game. And the leader of the pack remains on his throne in this week’s edition of Braggin’ Rights.

Check out all of that and more on Episode 150 of the Hang Time Podcast Featuring The New York Times bestselling author Jeff Pearlman …

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


VIDEO: The Starters talk LeBron’s big night and its place in history

‘Nique Not Impressed With LeBron’s 61




VIDEO: LeBron James talks about his 61-point night

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Complete honesty is a beautiful thing, even when it steps on the toes of the narrative of the day.

Hall of Famer and former Atlanta Hawks great Dominique Wilkins is a straight shooter. So when he went on a Twitter roll Tuesday night and mentioned that he was not impressed with the career-high 61-point night Miami Heat superstar LeBron James put up against the Charlotte Bobcats Monday night the basketball world responded.

Some agreed with ‘Nique, plenty more disagreed with his analysis … sampled here:

Revisionist historians will certainly see some merit in ‘Nique’s tweets and argue that LeBron performs on the regular against a diminished human product than what ‘Nique and his Hall of Fame contemporaries faced.

I would caution the Human Highlight Film, however, from suggesting that we all go back and watch the tape from start to finish. All we see these days are quick two and three-minute highlight clips of their exploits. The dunks, and fantastic shots and legendary plays and moments of their careers.

The full tape might show something else. Not every team played top-flight defense in the past. And you didn’t have to battle Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird every single night.

No one is more wistful about the past than I am. I grew up on the NBA ‘Nique is comparing and contrasting to the league LeBron is currently working in and dominating. So I understand exactly where he’s coming from. I just don’t agree completely with his thoughts.

LeBron and some of his contemporaries are doing things that haven’t been done in decades, since before Nique’s era …

Live From New Orleans … It’s State Farm All-Star Saturday Night!




VIDEO: Distance is never a problem for Stephen Curry and won’t be during All-Star Saturday night

NEW ORLEANS — Showdown Saturday night is here, finally.

We’ve been waiting for days down here in New Orleans for things to get officially started and for years All-Star Saturday served that purpose for the NBA’s showcase weekend. This year is no different, as we come to you live from the Smoothie King Center and State Farm Saturday night well into the wee hours.

This has long been the domain of the league’s best and brightest, from Dr. J, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter and so many other of the league’s greatest dunkers, not to mention the most prolific 3-point shooters and skilled technicians.

Is there someone in tonight’s field for the Sprite Slam Dunk contest … say someone like this Paul George fella below?



VIDEO: Paul George has all of the tools to become one of the league’s all-time great dunkers

Your All-Star Saturday night schedule can be found here. And we are going to provide you with a non-stop in-arena feel for what’s going on down here in the Big Easy.

First up is the Sears Shooting Stars competition, followed by the Taco Bell Skills Challenge , followed by the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and, we saved the best for last, the Sprite Slam Dunk contest.

I’m going to go ahead and get my predictions out of the way now. Here are my winners …

– Sears Shooting Stars: Team Curry looks lean and mean. They win this one for the Western Conference.

– Taco Bell Skills Challenge: The West has two wicked teams in this one (Trey Burke and Damian Lillard on Team 1 and Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson on Team 2). I have to roll with Team 1! Another win for the West.

– Foot Locker Three-Point Contest: The Currys need to adopt me, because in Steph Curry I trust when it comes to a shooting contest. (East coast bias … where?)

– Sprite Slam Dunk: The defending champ, Terrence Ross, and the East will be tough to beat. I’ve been hearing rumblings around town that Ben McLemore has some crazy stuff planned. We shall see. In the meantime, I’m rocking with my man “Ross” and George and John Wall.

Get your popcorn ready …

Sears Shooting Stars

— Team Bosh vs Team Durant in the championship for the Sears Shoot Stars.

— Team Bosh with the repeat thansk to Chris Bosh … ain’t nothing but a winner! Durant finishes second again … unreal.

Swin Cash going all Seattle Seahawks and Doug Baldwin on the TNT crew after Team Bosh was handed the trophy was a most appropriate way to finish off the opening event of the night. Straight Cash homie!

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

— East rookies MCW and Victor Oladipo representing for their side with a 43-second run in their run through the course. Too easy for two youngbucks like that.

— It’s still not the Year of the Dragon. Burke and Lillard come through with a 40.6 second-run on the course and keep my prediction alive.

— 45.3 second run for the rookie team in the finals. Always believe in Burke baby! West delivers a 45.2 to take the title. My dude Burke has mad quicks (not that NBA.com’s John Schuhmann has noticed. He’s too busy hating on the best rookie in the league.)

— A little controversy on All- Star Saturday never hurts! We’ve got to get the replay.

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest

— Redemption time for Steph Curry. This is your night sir. This is your event. Do what you do!

— Chuck picks an upset and goes with Bradley Beal (his mom calls him Bradley, so I’m going with Bradley).

— Great field in this competition. All-Stars in Lillard, Curry, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

— Who jinxed me and the Curry clan tonight? Steph is watching the finals like me. Ugh!

— RapCam turns up shots of Ludacris and Nelly sitting courtside. These young rappers clearly need to step their game up if the vets are getting all of the major Jumbotron play tonight. #whereyouatDrakeand2Chains?

— Nice theme music for Arron Afflalo, Robin Thicke‘s Magic Touch playing as he hits the stage and his 15 is the new score to beat.

Bradley Beal has the high-mark with 21. Kid has wicked range and an absolutely pure shooting stroke.

— The Kendrick Lamar concert/interlude is coming up soon. Just FYI

— Belinelli didn’t smile at all during the final round tale of the tape interview with Nick Cannon and Beal. Not sure how to take that. I know you want to win and everything but have a little fun with this thing fella. His method worked, though. Dropped a 19.

— Beal struggles on his money ball rack but rallies down the stretch for a 19 to tie it and now we get these guys in a 60-second tiebreaker.

Belinelli wins it with a monster effort in the OT. Fantastic showing by both guys.

— Kendrick Lamar’s tearing it up. perfect intro for what I hope will be a spectacular Sprite Slam Dunk contest.

Sprite Slam Dunk

— So I’m 0-for-everything going into this final contest of the night. Somebody on this East team needs to get greasy from the start so I can get back on track. Judges are Dr. J, Dominique and Magic. No worries with those judges.

Kevin Hart and Cannon doing their two-man routine before we get started. Mr. Box Office himself is picking Lillard. And Hart goes with McLemore (who got roasted by Barkley and Hart for his ‘fro … cold blooded).

— East had one day of practice for that routine they turned in for the freestyle portion of their program. Impressive!

— West had a couple of decent dunks but the choreography was way off.

— East wins that freestyle round easy!

— Someone pulled Vanilla Ice out of uh, moth balls … I’ve seen it all now. Bring on the battle round!

— Ross comes out with Drake as an assistant. Battle Round brings out the human props and a cape … and a between-the-legs jam that looks way better on replay after he missed it the first time.

— Lillard’s nights end mercifully without any hardware. The effort was outstanding, though.

Harrison Barnes has some explaining to do after this NBA2k14 dunk …

— McLemore dunking over Shaq and getting crowned had the crowd on its feet. Dunk looked much better on replay, of course. But no one has nailed that all-important first attempt …

— Until now. Thank you JohnWall, the reverse over the mascot and the Nay Nay with George after the dunk. Energy back up just like that. Even the judges agreed on that one. The East wins it. The new format is still being digested as we await the word on the individual champ … well, the dunker of the evening. Wall!

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 147) The All-Star Debate Featuring Reggie Miller And Stu Jackson

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Another NBA All-Star Saturday night will come and go without LeBron James, the marquee player of his generation and a future member of the league’s Mount Rushmore (according to his own calculation), taking part in the signature event.

LeBron has never and perhaps will never participate in the Sprite Slam Dunk contest. And it’s a shame that we have not and might not ever get to see him on that stage.

Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Reggie Miller thinks James owes it to his own legacy and those of dunk legends like Dr. J, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter and others to do it at least once, particularly in his physical prime.

Reggie makes his case to Stu Jackson and the world in “Are You Kidding Me?” on Episode 147 of the Hang Time Podcast: The All-Star Debate.

We also sneak a peek at the looming NBA trade deadline and discuss who needs to do what to push themselves to the next level after All-Star Weekend, the Suns and Pacers being high on our list of teams that could change the game with the right move at the deadline.

Check out that and more on Episode 147 of the Hang Time Podcast: The All-Star Debate Featuring Reggie Miller and Stu Jackson …

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


VIDEO: LeBron James shows off his dunking skills after practice

Blogtable: It’s The Name On The Back

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Making Training Camp Count | Shaq, The Owner | It’s The Name On The Back


 

Pistol Pete Maravich jersey

Nicknames on jerseys? It wouldn’t be a first. This one was from 1973. (Dick Raphael/NBAE)

The NBA reportedly is considering letting teams put players’ nicknames — in a limited manner, we’d guess — on jerseys. Good idea or not? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comBad idea. Blatant pandering for replica jersey sales. Beyond that, though, nicknames are meant to be said, not spelled out and written down. They shouldn’t be crafted into jewelry, monogrammed onto fine linens or tattooed onto body parts, either. Nicknames are what other people call you, not what you call yourself – that almost veers into weenie, third-person-reference territory. Putting them on the backs of jerseys? That’s best left to beer softball leagues and frat-boy reunions. Even the old “Pistol” nickname on the back of Maravich’s jersey was back-in-the-day dumb.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comSounds like a publicity gimmick for a league that doesn’t need publicity gimmicks. If they want to put “King James” on the back of LeBron‘s jersey for a night, have at it. It’s doubtful it will one day make the rotation on NBA TV’s Hardwood Classics. Always remember, ladies and gentlemen, you don’t play for the name on the back of the jersey! You play for the name on the front of the jersey!

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: It’s not a good idea or a bad idea. It’s just silly. Someone’s job is actually going to be to rule in what defines “a limited manner”? That nickname works, the other guy’s doesn’t make the cut.” It works just fine now.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI like it as something that each team does once or twice per season. It’s a way for fans to more closely identify with guys that are already the most visible athletes in the four major sports (smaller rosters, no masks, hats or long sleeves). Is it another marketing strategy to sell more jerseys? Sure. But nobody is being forced to buy a Chris AndersenBirdman” jersey. It just happens to be much cooler than one that says “Andersen.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As a one-game gimmick, this is fine. It won’t hurt my basketball sensibilities to see nicknames on the back of jerseys as a promotion for one game. But seeing guys with “Pookie” and “Shawty Red” (or other foolishness like that) on the backs of jerseys over the course of an entire NBA season is a premise that I simply refuse to embrace. Call me crusty, ol’ school or whatever you’d like. But I’ve always been a believer in the theory that the name on the front of the chest is far more important than the name on the back of the jersey. That said, if you’re going with a name on the back, it needs to be the name your momma or daddy (or both) gave you and not your Twitter handle.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I LOVE THIS. I want to be on the right side of history here, so I’m all-in on the nickname thing, early and often. The Fun Police will certainly be against this idea — “How can we replace last names with nicknames? Are personalities bigger than the team concept? Blah blah blah …” — but as a kid who would have given all the money I had to get an Atlanta Hawks number 21 jersey that said HUMAN HIGHLIGHT FILM on the back, I totally get the appeal. (And I still want that HUMAN HIGHLIGHT FILM jersey, NBA league office.) Perhaps replacing a name could undermine the team concept in a vacuum, but I don’t think LeBron having KING JAMES on his jersey instead of just JAMES is going to make him any lesser of a player.

Hanson Guan, NBA ChinaIt’s a brilliant idea. Bravo! Printing the player’s nickname on back of jerseys would be interesting and entertaining to fans. Also, it should boost the sale of NBA products. In my opinion, for some occasions — such as a particular celebration or player’s birthday — it is more meaningful for him to play with the special uniform. Of course, I will buy one, if they are available.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: Bad idea. I can’t see the point of this at all. I’m all for promoting ways to get the fans involved, but not this way. Shane Battier and Steve Kerr have already spoken out against this, among others. And I totally agree. Dear NBA, please don’t do this.

Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: I’ve heard about it before but it was not from the NBA, I think the plan is a brilliant idea if for only a limited manner. Marketing and sales-wise it will help bring more attention to the NBA. It would also be fun for the fans and players alike to see their nicknames while playing on the court.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 116) Featuring Hall Of Famer Dominique Wilkins

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Dominique Wilkins is living life young hoop dreamers fantasize about. High school and college star, NBA superstar and eventually a Hall of Famer.

The Atlanta Hawks’ vice president of basketball joined us on Episode 116 of the Hang Time Podcast to talk about his journey as well as the path his Hawks are walking now as they embark upon a huge summer rebuilding project.

Does ‘Nique, 25 years removed from his famous Game 7 battle with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, see the Hawks making their way to another six straight years of playoff appearances with a new regime in charge? He sees that and more.

And he takes our advice and makes sure that Hawks GM Danny Ferry places a call to Phil Jackson (why not? Everyone else is calling the Zen Master these days), the Hawks could be on the cusp of the greatest stretch in franchise history. They’d have to pull off the stunner first, however, and actually get Jackson to take the call and even entertain the possibility of joining the Hawks in some capacity (which is longtime Hawks fan Lang Whitaker‘s hoops fantasy). And that would require some serious lobbying on the part of Rick Fox, who played on championship teams coached by Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the meantime, we’ll continue  to keep an eye on the playoffs and awards season and continue to debate which is more unpredictable. The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers both won Game 1 on the road in their respective Eastern Conference semifinal series, while the Memphis Grizzlies won Game 2 and the Golden State Warriors will attempt to match that feat tonight in San Antonio (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT). We discuss how big a deal the shakeup has been on LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony (the top three vote-getters in the KIA NBA Most Valuable Player race).

We also got off into a heated debate about the merits of each candidate in the Coach of the Year race and whether George Karl’s runaway win makes sense with his team already gone fishing and other worthy candidates such as Tom Thibodeau, Mike Woodson, Mark Jackson, Lionel Hollins and others still working this season. (Trust me, it gets plenty messy … especially when we try to rationalize Vinny Del Negro getting a first-place vote and finishing ahead of both Doc Rivers and Scott Brooks).

You get all of that and much more, right here on Episode 116 of the Hang Time Podcast …

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


One Injury That Kobe Can’t Instantly Slay

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST –
Kobe Bryant will have surgery this afternoon, but even he knows it’s a formality. The immediate procedure for a ruptured Achilles tendon is an obvious one. The sensation it creates is unmistakable and Kobe knew the reality before he courageously limped in front of reporters Friday night, slumped on crutches and with bloodshot eyes.

The Los Angeles Lakers medical staff surely told him the news that must have struck him like a basketball in his throat: The typical recovery period is nine to 12 months, even for a Black Mamba, seemingly more a 6-foot-6, 205-pound piece of precision machinery than a mere fragile human throughout his incredible 17-year career.

“We have to question to ourselves, how special are these athletes?” noted sports injury expert and author Will Carroll Saturday morning. “Is there something mental that goes into the physicalness? Have we granted Kobe magical powers that he might not have? If he’s back in six months, then yeah, give it to him. If it’s 12 months like Derrick Rose (ACL injury), then he’s human.”

Even as the severity and consequence of the injury to his left foot was still soaking in, Bryant, 34, was telling reporters it was already fueling his desire to return better than ever. We can only expect him to pursue the accelerated Terrell Suggs model. The Baltimore Ravens linebacker played seven months after his Achilles injury, but Suggs is the clear exception in these cases.

Bryant’s path will include surgery likely as soon as the swelling recedes. Then begins the grueling comeback trail of rehabilitation.

“He might not be back until December,” Carroll said. “If we’re talking a 12-month recovery, and that’s the long end, we’re talking a full season. He does have some great factors going for him. He’s in great shape, he’s not that old and he’s very athletic.”

Bryant, of course, has one more season left on his contract and he recently indicated to NBA.com that he planned to make a decision this summer on how much longer he wanted to play. He made several suggestions going back to training camp that he would retire sooner rather than later.

It’s impossible to determine how long it will take a particular individual to recover from a catastrophic injury. Carroll said Bryant’s chronic knee issues could complicate his recovery due to overcompensation as he works to strengthen his heel. Carroll said it can also be difficult to locate a donor tendon large enough to replace the highly developed one of a 6-6 elite athlete.

Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas retired at age 32 after rupturing his Achilles in April 1994. Dominique Wilkins has said the favorite portion of his Hall of Fame career was rupturing his right Achilles at 32, hearing that his windmill tomahawk days were done only to return with a vengeance. He increased his scoring average the next two seasons and made three more All-Star teams.

Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, 36, hasn’t been the same since his return 10 months after rupturing his Achilles tendon in Feb. 2012.

“Jumping is the toughest part,” Carroll said of basketball player’s return from a torn Achilles tendon. “That’s what’s going to test Kobe the most.”

Response to Bryant’s injury immediately focused on the heavy minutes he’s logged all season and primarily over the last seven games as the disappointing Lakers have made a desperate charge to secure the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Bryant had again played every second of Friday night’s 118-116 win at Golden State up to the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter when Bryant made his fateful move to drive by Harrison Barnes. Bryant stepped down on his right foot and fell to the ground.

Headed toward a third 48-minute effort, it was his eighth consecutive game of playing at least 41 minutes. He averaged 45.7 minutes in the six games before Friday night.

Some have pointed a finger at coach Mike D’Antoni for allowing Bryant to carry on that way, but it was the prideful Bryant who forced that issue during this mad playoff push.

Achilles injuries do seem to attack athletes in their 30s with more regularity, and certainly age and fatigue play a role in being vulnerable to such an injury. Those two factors can’t be overlooked in this case. But it’s impossible to declare it definitively. An injury can occur to any player, young or old, at any time, and Bryant has routinely played through injuries, such as his recent severely sprained ankle, that would sideline others for weeks.

“Every time you run you’re doing some damage. Age and fatigue are a factor, but not the only factor,” Carroll said. “Usually in a traumatic injury, you take a wrong step and it happens.”

The next step for Bryant is surgery followed by rehab. Then the countdown for his return from the first major injury of his career will begin in earnest. Bryant has never played fewer than 65 games in any season and he’s missed only a handful of games in each of the last eight seasons.

Right now, nobody can be certain when, or even if, he’ll be back for an 18th NBA season.

“Is it six months, eight months or is it 12 months?” Carroll said. “Is he the next Terrell Suggs or Derrick Rose?”
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Magic’s $1 Million Dunk Offer For LeBron





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Finally, someone put their money where there mouth was instead of just whining about LeBron James making an appearance in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst and Magic Johnson made his plea for James to take his pregame dunk exploits (above) to New Orleans for All-Star Weekend next year, and sweetened the deal by offering to put up $1 million for James to end the suspense and help revive the contest that Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins made a must-see event 30 years ago.

“Please LeBron, get in the dunk contest,” Johnson said earlier tonight on ESPN’s Kia NBA Countdown pregame show. “I’m going to put up a million dollars. A million dollars to LeBron. Please get in the dunk contest. I go every year. I want to see you out there. A million to the winner.”

If Magic is offering up a that kind of cash for the winner, surely there might be a few other superstars willing to join the fray. Perhaps 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk champion  and Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin would be willing to consider accepting the challenge? Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook has yet to showcase his stuff on All-Star Saturday night. And there has to be a standing invite for the reigning champ, Toronto’s Terrence Ross.

Presumably, any other superstars willing to get in the mix are welcome, too (hey, it’s not our money. It’s Magic’s cash, and he’s got plenty). It’s not just about the money, though. It’s about the competition. A star-studded field in New Orleans could help revive the contest and finally end the speculation about what LeBron might do on that stage.

After coming under fire for his spectacular pre-game dunkfests earlier this week, LeBron said he was considering not participating in the Heat’s unofficial contests anymore. But he decided against it a day later and was up to his old tricks before the Heat took on the Memphis Grizzlies.

Now comes this offer from Magic and a chance for LeBron to not only win a cool $1 million but to donate it to the charity of his choice (you know he won’t keep the cash if Magic’s stunt works and he actually accepts and wins the contest).

All we need now is to hear from LeBron …

It’s Finally Time For Trailblazing Haywood

HOUSTON — Spencer Haywood was an MVP in the old ABA. He was a two-time All-NBA first teamer, four-time NBA All-Star and a member of the champion Lakers in 1980.

But nothing ever did had the impact of Haywood v. National Basketball Association, 401 U.S. 1204 (1971), a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled, 7–2, against the NBA’s old requirement that a player may not be drafted by a NBA team unless he waited four years (which meant playing at the college level in most cases) following his graduation from high school.

Haywood is the reason that the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard were able to jump straight from the prep ranks into the NBA.

“They don’t know that, not most of the players today,” said the 63-year-old Haywood on the day that he was named a finalist for the Hall of Fame Class of 2013. “I was kind of thinking they were a little remiss here. I thought it would be talked about as that case.

“That was horrible, hard time. I went from the lower courts to the state court all the way to the Supreme Court and that was some pretty serious stuff there. Two of us were in the courts at that time and (baseball player) Curt Flood lost his case and I won my case. It was powerful.

When you see all these players today, even the older ones on this stage with me — Bob McAdoo, Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins — they all fell under my rule. But those older guys all know.”

What perhaps the younger generation doesn’t know is that Haywood led the U.S. to the gold medal in the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 and then played a spectacular sophomore season at the University of Detroit, averaging 32.1 points and 21.5 rebounds per game. That’s when he decided to turn pro, was first turned away by the NBA and signed on with the ABA Denver Rockets.

“This feels tremendous,” Haywood said. “It’s hard to put in words in terms of how I feel. I’m this poor kid from the cotton fields of Silver City Mississippi, population of 100 people. To be on this stage and possibly on my way to the Hall, just being a finalist, it is tremendous, just something very, very special, beyond anything I could ever imagine.”

There an argument to be made that the honor should have come much sooner.

“No,” Haywood said. “I let everything happen on God’s time and not on my time, because, of course, I would have said years ago. But this is a good time, this is the right time and this is on time.”