Posts Tagged ‘Jack Haley’

Haley’s passing has McIlvaine shaken, recommitted


VIDEO: Remembering Jack Haley

Jim McIlvaine never much worried about his body or the toll his NBA career was taking on it. When the 7-foot-1 center from Racine, Wis., walked away from the league in 2001 after seven seasons with Washington, Seattle and New Jersey, it was a decision driven by his heart, not for his heart.

But Jack Haley‘s unexpected death Tuesday at age 51, reportedly from heart disease, as the latest in a series of recent NBA alums who have passed away, had McIlvaine feeling unusually mortal. And blogging about it, one way he spends his time when not working as a broadcast analyst for Marquette University basketball or with Optima Batteries in Milwaukee.

It wasn’t long ago that McIlvaine ran into Haley, the journeyman who played nine seasons with the Bulls, Nets, Lakers and Spurs, on the Las Vegas Strip:

What I do remember is that Jack looked great. He looked fit, he looked happy and during our conversation, it sounded like everything was going well for him. That was just a few months ago. Fast forward to this evening and I noticed a tweet from Detlef Schrempf in my feed, mentioning Jack’s passing. It seems like just the other day I was blogging about the passing of Jerome Kersey and now I find myself asking the same questions- How could it happen? Why Jack? Why now?

McIlvaine turned his distress over Haley’s passing — along with others such as Kersey, Anthony Mason, Dwayne Schintzius, Yinka Dare and a few more —  into a mirror to assess his own post-NBA retirement days. His verdict? Not horrible but not great either.

I know people die young all over the world for a multitude of reasons, but I guess I don’t expect it to happen so often among guys who were some of the world’s elite athletes. I’ve put on some weight since retiring, but 20 pounds is easy to hide on a seven-foot frame. The greater concern for me is my heart. While I had what I would consider an “active” lifestyle for most of my life, in recent years, I’ve become more sedentary. That, combined with some advice from my doctor several years ago, has heightened my awareness for my physical well-being.

I was actually working out with Marquette, when I went in for a physical and was told my cholesterol level was higher than my doctor would’ve liked. She encouraged me to exercise more and I thought to myself, “How much more can I exercise, than chasing around a bunch of college kids?!”

McIlvaine took up triathlons and got so heavy into biking that he required hemorrhoid surgery. It hit him how difficult it is, with a body battered by years of pounding and general basketball demands, to maintain a level of activity like typical 30- and 40-somethings.

With Jack’s passing, it got me thinking about the first time the retired NBA players held their annual summer meeting in conjunction with the current NBA players. It was an eye-opening experience for me and one that I felt gave me an opportunity to look into my own future as a retired player, at least from a physical standpoint. There were guys at that meeting in their 50s (and maybe even 40s), who were hobbling around like they were in their 70s or 80s. I didn’t want that for myself and decided I wouldn’t continue playing until my body would no longer allow it. I know I’m not alone in that regard and when I see guys like [NFL 49ers linebacker] Chris Borland walk away from professional sports, I’m only surprised that it doesn’t [occur] more often.

Adding Jack’s passing to the growing list has made me re-evaluate how I’ve dealt with moderately-high cholesterol in much the same way I did when I first met the retired NBA players. Up until now, I’ve preferred to make dietary adjustments, pop red yeast rice tablets and try to exercise more. The first two efforts have gone well and made a significant difference, but I never seem to find enough time to exercise consistently. I’ll be making a renewed commitment to exercise more, but perhaps more importantly, I’ll be calling my doctor tomorrow for the Lipitor perscription she’d previously-suggested.

McIlvaine, 42, is nine years younger than Haley. He left the NBA at a much younger age (28) than Haley (34), as much for how poorly it fit him psychologically as for any physical toll. At 7-foot-1, he just happened to stand eyeball-to-eyeball with Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and the league’s other big boppers; that didn’t mean he enjoyed it.

Between the rigors of the league and the hypercriticism he faced over a then-staggering seven-year, $33 million contract he got from the Sonics in 1996, McIlvaine lost his taste for the NBA.

But he hasn’t lost his zest for life in general and Haley’s passing, along with the others, has prompted him to do something about it.

Former NBA big man Haley dies at 51

Jack Haley, a backup power forward and center with four teams over nine seasons in the 1980s and ’90s, died Monday at a hospital in Los Alamitos, Calif. He was 51.

“It is with great sadness that the Haley family announces the passing of our beloved father, son, and brother,” said the family in a statement released through the Lakers. “Our hearts are broken by this sudden, unexpected loss. Jack was honored and grateful for the opportunity to play in the NBA for nine years, alongside world-class athletes with the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, and New Jersey Nets. He cherished every moment and gave 100% whether on or off the court. And more than anything, Jack dearly loved his family. We are humbled and grateful for the outpouring of love, support, and prayers form around the country. An autopsy revealed cause of death as a result of heart disease.”

Haley played 170 of his 341 games in two different stints with the Nets that covered two seasons each. He also spent part of all of three seasons with the Bulls, also over two stops, two with the Spurs and one with the Lakers, near his hometown of Huntington Beach, Calif.

“Member of Bulls 95-96 team of ages,” Phil Jackson, Haley’s coach in Chicago, said on Twitter. “RIP.”

The UCLA product later spent time around the NBA as a Lakers TV analyst.

“Jack was a hard worker and always very professional,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “He was proud to wear the Lakers uniform, and he was always a credit to our organization and the Lakers family.  Our condolences go out to his family and friends at this time.”

 

The First 50 Years With Sir Charles

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When you walked into Charles Barkley’s little slice of the locker room, you might as well have stepped into a whole different world. It was a world where heads were shaved, complimentary tickets distributed, insults hurled, jokes told, social commentary delivered, reporters sent away sated and one of the best basketball players on the planet had to prepare himself for the next game. All of it seemed to occur in the space of five minutes.

“There will never be another player like me,” Barkley once said. “I’m the Ninth Wonder of the World.”

You know? He was right.

Here is Barkley, 13 years after lacing up his sneakers in an NBA game for the final time, more popular than ever as a television personality, opinionator and, well, just plain liver of life.

If Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday on Sunday felt like a royal occasion with seemingly everyone in the basketball world taking time to genuflect in the throne room, then Barkley’s, coming just three days later, has all the trappings of the morning after a keg party. In other words, a lot more fun.

The Chuckster’s persona — and at times, even his person — has almost grown large enough to be one of those floats in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and that’s actually the perfect image, full of hot air, constantly changing course with the wind and barely tethered to earthbound reality.

He says so many things, and it is our job to figure out which ones he really means. For in these ongoing best days of his life, it seems that everybody still wants to know the real Charles Barkley. Trouble is, the answer has always been a lot more complicated than the question.

During his playing days, was Barkley the obnoxious, overbearing sort who once charged toward the stands to spit on a boorish fan and wound up hitting an 8-year-old by accident? Or the sincerely apologetic type who responded by buying season tickets for the little girl and her family?

Was he the nit-picking critic that found fault in every single thing done wrong by his teammates? Or the selfless, ideal team players who charmed the socks off everybody in the locker room and at the same time lifted them to heights?

Is Barkley the fun-loving fellow who likes to joke and cajole his way through encounters with the media? Or the guy who would always tackle the tough issues of race and child-rearing with his whip of a tongue?

Remember the stir he created with a simple phrase: “I’m not a role model.”

How out of touch is that view today in an era of Tiger Woods, Marion Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius?

His was the first voice you normally heard upon entering the locker room and usually the last you heard on the way out. And truth be told, for all the the times his teammates would roll their eyes at some of the things he said, that role of spokesman/court jester was one they needed him to fill almost as much as the slot as one of the greatest power forwards of all time.

“I know a lot of people say a lot of things about Charles Barkley,” his former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich once said. “But I’ve never seen a guy who loves this league more than he does. He follows the game. He loves the game so much.”

Who else but Barkley could sit there on the TNT set week after week on Thursday nights and be so outrageous? And who else but Barkley would constantly take the wildly popular show to new heights by allowing himself to be the constant butt of jokes.

There was the time Kenny Smith played the role of a bouncer controlling the velvet rope outside the “Champions Club” and kept taunting the ringless Barkley about the partiers inside.

“Hey Chuck, Zan Tabak’s in here,” Smith said laughing. “Look it’s Jack Haley, Chuck. Jack Haley!”

And, of course, there was Barkley paying his “I’ll kiss your ass” bet to Smith when the rookie Yao Ming hit the 20-point mark in a game.

Smith showed up the next week with a donkey in the studio, but only Barkley would have unthinkingly believed he had to actually pucker up to the back end of the four-legged ass.

He could have an MVP season and carry the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals, grab a career-best 33 boards in single game (more than the entire opposing team) and, at an honest 6-foot-4 1/2, toil away to be the shortest player ever to lead the league in rebounding.

Mostly, Barkley could be himself.

Once, when pondering such a milestone birthday, he said: “I just want to be living the day after I turn 50.”

In that case, check in tomorrow when The Chuckster will still be living turribly large.

Greatness: Is a ring the thing?

Admittedly it’s a fun topic, if for no reason than to poke a stick at our big cuddly bear of a buddy Charles Barkley and listen to him growl.

In fact, of all the great comedy routines ever done on TNT over the years, my favorite has always been Kenny Smith manning the velvet rope outside the “Champions Club” and laughingly taunting the well-known partier Sir Charles about his lack of credentials to get inside the door.

Occasionally, Smith would push open the door to let the sounds of dance music come and poke his head inside.

“Hey, Charles!” he would call out. “Look, it’s Mark Madsen! And Zan Tabak! Oh, Charles, look! It’s Jack Haley! Can you believe it? Jack Haley!”

It was a fantastic skit and all Barkley could do was shake his head and laugh, because, of course, after 16 often-mind-blowing seasons, he left the NBA ringless.

So here we are just hours from the start of the 2011 NBA Finals that feature LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki as unfulfilled stars, pondering again the question for the ages: Does greatness require a ring?

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