Posts Tagged ‘NBRPA’

NBA ‘Legends’ Host Clinic For Hoops, Life

CALUMET PARK, Ill. – For the kids who participated in a clinic of basketball and life skills Saturday in south-suburban Chicago, the mere fact that they were in a gym and a classroom all day meant the event was successful at its most fundamental level.

“You take away the opportunity for the kids to be recruited by the gang members, who are out there recruiting every day. So now they’re in here with us,” said Marco Johnson, a 29-year veteran of the local police force and representative of the Police Athletic League.

More than 100 at-risk youngsters took part in the event, hosted by the National Basketball Retired Players Association in conjunction with the National PAL and the National Urban League. Former Chicago Bulls and NBA players such as Bob Love, Dave Corzine, Jeff Sanders, Kenny Battle, Emmette Bryant and Casey Shaw logged eight hours or more at the Calumet Park Recreation Center.

The clinic – one of 14 already staged or coming to cities across the country – rotated young players through various skill stations, with enough classroom time to address some of the more pressing issues in their daily lives, ones they might not talk about if not for all the fun and star power Saturday.

“The biggest part is, give the kids hope,” said Chris Hill, president of the NPAL. “We’re going into communities where there’s a lot of violence, a lot of drugs and alcohol and a lot of bad education. We’re trying to let them know there’s a way out. The way to get them here is to bring in athletes.

“Once they get here, we also let them know there’s more to life than what they see every day.”

Seven-foot giants such as Corzine, Roger Brown and LaRue Martin aren’t part of the kids’ everyday scenery. “The size automatically gets their attention,” said Johnson, a sturdy man with a wide smile and, though he kept them holstered for this event, a mean stare and a backup scowl. “But what’s amazing is, a lot of these kids know the history of the game. One of the little kids was like, ‘Is that Bob … Bob … Bob Love?’

“I said, ‘How’d you know that?’ ‘My dad told me about him.’ “

Some of the NBRPA “Legends” who volunteered were done playing before some kids’ parents were born. Still the name recognition was high, especially those who crossed paths with a Michael Jordan Bulls’ team. And with basketball’s prominence in many of the youngsters’ worlds, the former players’ stories resonated.

“I was talking to my son,” Johnson said, “because they showed on TV the other night that LaRue was ‘the worst [No. 1] pick ever.’ I said, ‘You tell me, would you rather be the worst draft pick in the NBA or no pick in the NBA?’ My son was like, yeah, I guess you’ve got a point.

“If these kids perservere, they will make it, whether it’s in sports or something else.”

Corzine, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, is back at his alma mater of DePaul as an assistant athletic director working in community outreach. He and Brown offered instructions on post play, while finding ways to stress ambitions beyond basketball.

“The earlier we can get the message to kids, the better,” he said. “Without being too much of a dream buster – everyone’s entitled to pursue their own dreams – so many people focus on the ones who make it and are successful. They’re a very small percentage  but they’re the ones everybody sees.

“The value, really, of athletics is physical fitness, healthy lifestyles – people take that for granted. Anything they can do to stay active is important. But also, you want them to be able to translate those skills they learn into what they can use academically and eventually in a career, as far as working hard and teamwork and being persistent, having integrity for the people you play with and work with. All those skills are transferable to their lives.”

Said Battle, who is supervising seven of the 14 clinics: “A kid knows, if he’s part of a sport or an organization, there are rules and regulations. I guarantee you, every one of those rules has educational value, where you have to maintain certain grades, you can’t be involved with a gang, you can’t be bringing trouble to the youth center or an organization.”

The NBRPA, NPAL and the National Urban League already has hosted events in San Diego, Charlotte, Detroit and, for tornado victims, in Oklahoma. Upcoming clinics are scheduled in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Orlando and Miami.

The messages from week to week largely remain the same. But the audience changes, so the impact stays fresh.

“We were in North Carolina this past week and Chris Washburn came in,” Hill said of the NBA’s third draft pick in 1986, a notorious bust undermined by drug addiction and behavioral issues. “We had no idea what he was going to say, and he got up and said, ‘Listen, I made $4 million a year. I didn’t do things right. I was homeless – eating out of garbage cans. I ended up using drugs. I went to jail. Then I went to prison. But I made my way out because I rebounded back to what I learn. Now I own my own business, but look at what I went through.’

“This was the message he said to kids. We’re trying to stop them from going through that.”

Particularly those who never get that far, yet learn to cope without ever bouncing a ball in college or the pros.

Olajuwon Honored At Legends Brunch

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HOUSTON
– It was Michael Jordan‘s birthday Sunday – in case you’re the one who hadn’t heard that by now – but it is Hakeem Olajuwon‘s “year.”

Olajuwon, the Hall of Fame center who spent nearly his entire career in the host city for the 2013 All-Star Weekend and led the Rockets to two NBA championships, was honored at the National Basketball Retired Players Association Legends Brunch as its “Legend of the Year.” He didn’t blow out any candles, but he did hear the applause and feel the appreciation of more than 1,000 attendees of the burgeoning event, sponsored by the retired players association now for 14 years.

Oh, and Olajuwon not only was selected No. 1, two spots ahead of Jordan, in the 1984 Draft. He beat him to 50 as well, hitting that milestone on Jan. 21.

The 6-foot-10 native of Lagos, Nigeria, who set standards for grace and footwork among the NBA’s great big men, Olajuwon famously transferred some soccer skills to hardwood when he picked up a basketball at age 15. In an acceptance speech that lasted more than 17 minutes – so much for “The Dream’s” image as a man of few words – he talked of his development under respected coaches such as Guy Lewis at the University of Houston and Bill Fitch and Rudy Tomjanovich with the Rockets.

But he also paid tribute to Ganiyu Otenigbagbe, who essentially discovered and molded his game in secondary skill. “I did not know the rules of basketball,” Olajuwon said Sunday, “but he gave me his job description: ‘Stay in the paint!’ “

The Legends Brunch traditionally honors former NBA players and coaches who worked in, hail from or shared some other connection with the All-Star city each year. The others honored for 2013:

Ambassador of the Year: Yao Ming. Yao’s foundation and his partnership with NBA China has enabled him to “build a bridge” between his homeland and the U.S. The 7-6 native of Shanghai, whose eight-season career was interrupted and cut short by foot and leg injuries, was introduced by current Rockets guard Jeremy Lin.

Humanitarian of the Year: Dikembe Mutombo. The shot intimidator and blocker who spent the last five of his 18 NBA seasons in Houston is renowned for his charitable works, particularly in his native Republic of the Congo. Mutombo credited Olajuwon, who preceded him to the NBA by eight years, with being the “key of our continent.” “You’ve become The Dream for winning championships,” Mutombo said, addressing his friend from the stage, “but you’re a dream for so many African players.”

Hometown Hero Award: Robert Horry. Horry, known as “Big Shot Bob,” was part of the Rockets’ title-winning teams in 1994 and 1995, then won five more rings with the Lakers and the Spurs. In an ironic twist, the former teammate who was supposed to introduce Horry – Sam Cassell, known for his motormouth tendencies on and off the court – needed an assist from TNT announcer and emcee Ernie Johnson because Cassell lost his voice somewhere during All-Star festivities.

Houston Rockets Lifetime Achievement Award: Tomjanovich. A five-time All-Star as a rockets player and coach of the two championship teams, Rudy T joked that when he was drafted in 1971, the NBA ranked fourth in popularity in Houston behind football, baseball and “bull-riding.” “Now the city is hosting its third All-Star Game,” he said.

Pioneer Award: Calvin Murphy. The flamboyant 5-foot-9 Hall of Famer took the stage after a video montage of career highlights was shown on screens in the ballroom, then said, “Boy, I was good.” The point guard from Niagara turned longtime Rockets broadcaster noted the difference in prestige that came with former NBA players no longer being referred to as “Old Timers” but rather “Legends.”

Lifetime Achievement Award: Clyde Drexler. Drexler, a 2004 Hall of Fame enshrinee and member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic “Dream Team,” grew up in Houston and gained initial fame teamed with Olajuwon in college on the “Phi Slamma Jamma” University of Houston team in the early 1980s. He returned to the city and to Olajuwon via trade in for the 1995 title run.

Drexler was the guy whose rookie season of 1983-84 in Portland was so promising – he had 10 All-Star appearances in his future – that the Trail Blazers opted to draft Kentucky center Sam Bowie at No. 2 behind Olajuwon, passing on you know who. That means Drexler, for the record, turned 50 last June 22.

A large number of familiar NBA names – from other Hall of Famers to role players – attended the brunch, including 2000 Sixth Man award winner Rodney Rogers. Rogers, 41, required the use of a wheelchair and ventilator after being paralyzed in an all-terrain vehicle accident in December 2012.

LaRue Martin, Antoine Walker Show Value Of, Need For NBRPA

CHICAGO – The tall man in a business suit peered intently through his reading glasses as he read aloud the proclamation from the Illinois governor, celebrating the National Basketball Retired Players Association for its relocation from New York to the Windy City.

In a swank restaurant at Navy Pier, in front of many former NBA and ABA players and well-connected members of the Chicago business community, LaRue Martin got to the part in the formal document about the NBRPA’s mission to help players “transitioning to life after basketball.” Very briefly, he looked up and broke that fourth wall.

“I’m a good example,” the 62-year-old Martin smiled, before quickly resuming his task on Gov. Pat Quinn’s behalf.

Fact is, LaRue Martin is a great example. Most basketball fans who know of him at all think of Martin as some sort of failure, based on his status as one of the NBA’s most notorious draft “busts.”

Back in 1972, fearful that they wouldn’t be able to cut a deal that would keep Bob McAdoo out of the ABA, the Portland Trail Blazers used the No. 1 pick on Martin. He was a skinny 6-foot-11 center out of Loyola in Chicago, underdeveloped both physically and in his skills, in what was a spotty draft class.

Martin lasted just four seasons, averaging 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in a sketchy 14.0 minutes over 271 games. He became the punchline to some unfunny draft jokes and was the precursor in Portland to other big-man disappointments (Bill Walton ultimately, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden).

Now, though, Martin is a successful, prosperous businessman, a community services manager for United Parcel Service and, as a UPS public-affairs executive, a man who has rubbed elbows with governors, senators and even the President.

“Being a No. 1 draft choice, getting that big zero on your back, you are a marked man,” Martin said cheerfully Thursday after the luncheon. “My career was up and down. They called me the worst draft choice in the nation, and that bothered me. But I had the opportunity to move on and get into the corporate world, and I’ve moved on ever since.”

A few minutes earlier in the program, before Martin spoke, another tall man in jeans and a sport coat moved through the room. At 6-foot-9 and probably 50 pounds beyond his playing weight of 225 pounds, there was no sneaking to his spot near the front for Antoine Walker. He scooted along, shook a few hands on the way, then took his seat, a new face open finally to what the retired players association is all about.

Walker, 36, is best known as another sort of bust: he blew through more than $110 million in NBA career earnings through bad decisions and investments, abused generosity, lavish spending and gambling. He was only 31 when he played in the NBA for the last time, coming off the bench for Minnesota in 2007-08. By May 2010, amid flirtations with a comeback that led to a humbling stay with the D League Idaho Stampede, Walker filed for bankruptcy, citing $12.7 million in debts and just $4.3 million in assets.

He was a man-child out of Kentucky, another Chicago native drafted high, No. 6 overall in 1996. Walker averaged 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds across 12 seasons. He won a championship ring with Miami in 2006, played in three NBA All-Star games and still ranks among the top 25 in NBA history in 3-pointers made and top 100 in minutes, field-goal attempts and offensive and defensive rebounds.

Fact is, Antoine Walker is a great example of why the NBRPA has value for both current and soon-to-be retired players. He was, by most standards, a terrific success in the NBA. He is very much a work in progress now, though.

“That probably hit me six, seven months ago, when I was trying to figure things out,” Walker said after the dining room cleared. “Because even if I do go back and play basketball, my window is going to be very short. It’s not going to be playing four, five, 10 more years. So it’s very important I get started with the next phase of my life. I’m just starting now.”

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Barry, Haywood, Bailey To Speak At NBRPA Event in Chicago

CHICAGO – At 68, 63 and 51 years old, respectively, Rick Barry, Spencer Haywood and Thurl Bailey would seem to be a little old for a “coming-out” party. But that’s what it will be Thursday at Navy Pier, when the National Basketball Retired Players Association holds its first public event since relocating to the Windy City in February.

Barry, Haywood and Bailey will be featured speakers at a “Lunch with Champions” event designed to introduce the NBRPA to Chicago’s media and business community. After 20 years in New York, the NBRPA — which bills itself as the only pro basketball association supported by both the NBA and NBPA and includes alumni from the NBA, ABA and the Harlem Globetrotters — shifted operations to Chicago. The lure? Its central location, in terms of US travel, and its proximity to CEO Arnie Fielkow’s home base. The city’s business community also is consistent with the NBRPA’s mission to help former players in their transitions to post-playing lives.

More than a dozen former NBA and ABA players are expected to be available for autographs. Barry, Haywood and Bailey — all members of the association’s Board of Directors — will speak about the merits of champions. Individual tickets for the event at Riva Crabhouse are $50 for the general public and $40 for Chicago Sports Commission members, with tables of eight priced at $300 and $250.