Posts Tagged ‘Sam Jones’

Happy 35-Year, 117-Day Birthday, Kobe

Kobe Bryant is trying to do something no other wing player his age ever has done (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Kobe Bryant is trying to do something no other wing player his age ever has done (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Kobe Bryant is facing a long road back, considering the destination that probably means the most to him: A sixth NBA championship ring.

Not that he necessarily needs this in chasing it, but we’ve got a teensy bit of extra motivation for him.

First, of course, Bryant has to get his game back, if not to its all-galaxy heights then at least to something reminiscent of who he was and what it was prior to tearing his left Achilles tendon in April. Then he has to fit and shape himself and his teammates on this year’s edition of the Lakers (or the next two) into the ranks of legit contenders.

And then  they have to actually play and win the games, 16 victories in at most 28 games, when the stakes are highest, the pressure is most intense, and fatigue – and in Bryant’s case, Father Time – are laughing hardest.

So just in case Bryant needs a little extra oomph in his quest, here it is: He would be doing something Michael Jordan never did.

As noted on Twitter by “GangstaMoogle” (a.k.a., Tommy), Dec. 18, 2013 is a special day for Bryant because, as of today, he is precisely the same age as Jordan was when His Airness clinched that 1998 NBA Finals with The Shot in Game 6 against the Utah Jazz:

That means, should Bryant win a ring from this point forward, he will accomplish something Jordan didn’t. Didn’t even come close to doing, in fact, given the Washington Wizards’ 74-90 record (no playoffs) from 2001-03 in the former Bulls star’s two late-career seasons with them.

Among Hall of Fame players, no wing player or big-time ballhandler considered the leader of the team — note that we’re not counting big men — ever has won a championship at the age Bryant will be by his next playoffs. Or even tomorrow, according to basketball-reference.com.

Boston’s Sam Jones was 50 days shy of his 36th birthday when the Celtics won again in 1969, but by that point, the five-time All-Star ranked third on his team in scoring (16.3 pgg) and sixth in minutes (26.0).

Gary Payton was 37 when he got his ring with the Miami Heat in 2006 but he was well past his “Glove” prime at both ends, with a PER (10.7) that ranked ninth, behind both Dorell Wright (13.2) and Wayne Simien (11.5).

If you broaden it to include players likely to be enshrined, the Heat’s Ray Allen was at a point similar to Jones, averaging 25.8 minutes as his team’s fourth option. Jason Kidd led the 2010 Dallas champs in assists (8.2) and averaged 33.8 minutes, but by PER (14.4) he ranked no higher than eighth among the Mavericks and 14th in usage (14.3).

Jordan got his sixth ring same as his first five, as his team’s best player and leading scorer. That’s something Bryant might have to, and probably would like to, do for one more.

The odds against him increase with each passing day. And knowing what we know of Bryant, he would have it no other way.

Griner Wouldn’t Be Longest Draft Reach

HANG TIME, Texas – Never underestimate Mark Cuban’s knack for attracting attention. And who could blame him if the idea was to draw it away from his underperforming team that is ironically keeping a team of barbers on hold at the same time they’re about to cut off their string of consecutive playoff appearances at 12 years?

Should the Mavericks draft Brittney Griner?

Let cranky Geno Auriemma be outraged and throw bricks. Let former greats of the women’s game Nancy Lieberman and Ann Meyers Drysdale offer their words encouragement to the Baylor star. Let Griner give even the most outrageous hope and dreams to any little girl who has ever dribbled a basketball.

Let’s face it. The Mavs selecting Griner wouldn’t be the first unusual pick in the history of the NBA draft. And before you snicker, remember that somebody took Pervis Ellison, Greg Oden, Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi No. 1. Here’s a reminder of a few others off-beat choices down through the years:

JIM BROWN (Syracuse Nationals, 1957 ) – The Nats didn’t have to reach outside the city limits to take a flyer on the guy who would become perhaps the greatest player in NFL history. Brown played four college sports — football, basketball, lacrosse and track — at Syracuse. He even averaged 15 points a game for the basketball team in his sophomore year. But even though there was little doubt that Brown was bound for a career on the gridiron, the Nats made him a ninth-round pick.

Other notables in draft: “Hot Rod” Hundley (No. 1 overall by Cincinnati, traded to Minneapolis); Sam Jones (No. 8 by Boston).

FRANK HOWARD (Philadelphia Warriors, 1958) – It wasn’t just his physical stature at 6-foot-8, 275 pounds that caught the attention of the Warriors in the third round. He could really play and was an All-American in basketball at Ohio State. But baseball was Howard’s first love and he signed with the Dodgers and had a 15-year career in the majors, hitting 382 home runs with 1,119 RBIs.

Other notables in the draft: Elgin Baylor (No. 1 overall by Minneapolis); Hal Greer (No. 13 by Syracuse).

BUBBA SMITH (Baltimore Bullets, 1967) — Long before he became known for playing the role of Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movies and starring in Miller Lite commercials, the 6-foot-7 Smith was an All-American defensive end at Michigan State. His height attracted the attention of the Bullets in the 11th round of the NBA draft, but Smith was the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL Colts and a champion in Super Bowl V.

Other notables in the draft: Earl Monroe (No. 2 overall by Baltimore); Walt Frazier (No. 5 by New York).

BOB BEAMON (Phoenix Suns, 1969) – Who could blame the Suns for taking a flying leap? After all, they were coming off a 16-66 record in their expansion season in the league and Beamon had just shattered the world long jump record by more than a foot at the Mexico City Olympics. Beamon had grown up playing street ball in New York, but was strictly a track and field athlete in college at Texas-El Paso. The Suns picked him in the 15th round of the draft, but he went back to school and graduated with a sociology degree from Adelphi University.

DENISE LONG (San Francisco Warriors, 1969) — The 18 year old out of Union-Whitten High in Iowa was the first woman ever drafted in the NBA, taken in the 13th round. She had averaged 69.6 points and had a single game high of 111 points in her senior year. NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy voided the pick, calling it a publicity stunt by Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli and also noted that high school players weren’t eligible at the time. Mieuli brought Long and other female players in to play before Warriors home games.

Other notables in the draft: Lew Alcindor (No. 1 overall by Milwaukee); JoJo White (No. 9 by Boston); Mack Calvin (187th by L.A. Lakers).

DAVE WINFIELD (Atlanta Hawks, 1973) – It wasn’t just the Hawks who were trying to get their talons on one of the greatest all-around college athletes ever with their fifth-round pick. He was also drafted by the Utah Stars of the ABA and the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL, but went to baseball when the San Diego Padres chose him as a pitcher. In college at Minnesota, Bill Musselman once called him the best rebounder he ever coached. But Winfield did quite well in baseball, a 12-time All-Star with 465 career homers.

Other notables in the draft: Doug Collins (No. 1 overall by Philadelphia); Kermit Washington (No. 5 by L.A. Lakers).

BRUCE JENNER (Kansas City Kings, 1977) — Before face lifts and the Kardashians, there was a time when Jenner was known as the “world’s greatest athlete” after taking the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and the Kings made him a seventh-round draft pick. He never played in college and the closest Jenner ever got to basketball stardom was when he sank a shot during the singing of YMCA in the 1980 movie Can’t Stop the Music, which starred the Village People.

LUSIA HARRIS (New Orleans Jazz, 1977) – Here’s the real forerunner to Griner. A 6-foot-3 pioneer of the women’s game who led Delta State to three consecutive national titles, Harris was the second female ever drafted by an NBA team when the Jazz made her a seventh-round pick. Just imagine the show if she had been given a chance to team up with Pete Maravich in the backcourt. Harris showed little interest in her selection and declined a tryout invitation from the Jazz. It was later revealed that she was pregnant at the time.

Other notables in the draft: Bernard King (No. 7 overall by New York Nets); Jack Sikma (No. 8 by Seattle).

TONY GWYNN (San Diego Clippers, 1981) — After he set the San Diego State assist records for a game, season and career, he was hardly a reach for the Clippers in the 10th round of the draft. Gwynn said that dribbling strengthened his wrists and helped with bat speed and his on-court quickness made him a better base-runner. It all added up to a Hall of Fame baseball career with 3,141 hits and eight N.L. batting titles.

YASUTAKA OKAYAMA (Golden State Warriors, 1981) — Tallest player ever drafted by an NBA team? Not Yao Ming or Gheorge Muresan or Manute Bol. Try Okayama, who was 7-foot-8. He earned a second degree black belt in judo in his native Japan and began playing basketball at age 18 at Osaka University of Commerce. Okayama attended the University of Portland (Ore.), but did not play there. He was a member of the Japanese national team from 1979 to 1986. He never signed with the Warriors or attended a camp.

Other notables in the draft: Mark Aguirre (No. 1 overall by Dallas); Isiah Thomas (No. 2 by Detroit).

CARL LEWIS (Chicago Bulls, 1984) — It might have been the year when Michael Jordan earned his first gold medal, but Lewis was definitely the biggest star of the L.A. Olympics, tying Jesse Owens’ record of four track and field gold medals. Though he never played basketball in high school or college, a West Coast scout recommended drafting Lewis in the 10th round because he was “the best athlete available.” That same year the Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the 12th round as a wide receiver. Lewis stayed with sprinting and the long jump to become arguably the greatest track and field athlete ever.

Other notables in the draft: Hakeem Olajuwon (No. 1 overall by Houston); Michael Jordan (No. 3 by Chicago); Charles Barkley (No. 5 by Philadelphia); John Stockton (No. 16 by Utah).

Selling Collectibles Doesn’t Mean Down-And-Out For Thompson

Less memorabilia, more cash.

NBA legend David Thompson’s decision really was that simple. Fewer things to store or dust, more green, folding stuff to spend. And donate. And enjoy.

The cliché, of course, is that any former sports hero who looks to sell precious mementos from his playing days must be flat broke and down on his luck. Certainly, there have been examples of that among those who spent too freely, managed their athletic earnings poorly or got hit in the grill post-career by bad advice or worse luck.

But it isn’t the case for Oscar Robertson and Sam Jones, two other Hall of Fame legends, and it isn’t the case for Thompson either. All of them have made items available through SCP Auctions – as part of individual “collections” offered for bidding that ends Saturday – willfully, happily and driven by pragmatism rather than dire need.

“I’ve still got a lot of stuff from my N.C. State days,” said Thompson, the high-flier who played for the ABA and NBA Denver Nuggets and the Seattle SuperSonics in a pro career ended prematurely by injuries and drub abuse. “I’ve got a piece of the wood floor that was given to me when they retired my jersey. Also, I’m the only one to be MVP in the NBA and ABA All-Star games, so I’m keeping those trophies. As well as my Hall of Fame ring.

“I’ve still got enough around that I could do a couple more auctions if I wanted to.”

Thompson, 58, only dipped his toe in auction waters this time because some friends from his playing days had done so and were happy with the results.

“A lot of the other guys – like [George] Gervin and Bobby Jones and Julius [Erving], guys who played in my era – have been real successful and they thought the time would be right for me to put some of my stuff out.”

The stuff he has out there is fascinating: Forty-nine pieces in all, from an autographed scoresheet-plaque from his 73-point scoring outburst on April 9, 1978 (minimum bid: $100) to his 1974 NCAA championship ring (minimum: $5,000). As of Thursday evening, after 13 bids, the ring was up to $15,700.

Added together, it figures to be a nice payday for Thompson. But nothing to melodramatically save him and his loved ones from a steady diet of ramen noodles or anything.

“It’s been a long time since I got an NBA check,” he said. “But like most of the guys, I’m doing OK. I’m not making anywhere near what I did when I played. But I’m living within my means. We all can use money. We all have bills and whatever. Hopefully this will give me a little relief, and some can go to charity.”

Thompson works as a motivational speaker and makes appearances at sports camps. He receives an NBA pension, and he also does some youth ministry work “to help kids make the right choices, unlike some of the choices I made.”

He and his wife Cathy live in Charlotte, and they plan to make donations to the National Diabetes Association (Cathy lives with the disease) and to the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Thompson, by the way, remains a relevant player to today’s NBA stars. Though he too often gets skipped over when experts trace the game’s above-the-rim history from Elgin Baylor through Erving and Michael Jordan to the current generation, Thompson played into the 1980s. He’s younger than Erving and he actually met some of these millennials.

“I’ve had an opportunity to speak with a lot of guys on their high school teams,” Thompson said. “Jerry Stackhouse, Chris Paul, different guys, Carmelo [Anthony], I talked to all those guys. LeBron James‘ team, when they came through North Carolina, he said he used to wear my throwback jersey. So hopefully, he might want to get the real high school jersey.”

Could be. Thompson’s autographed No. 33 jersey from 1969-71 at Crest High School in Shelby, N.C., was fetching $3,993 as of Thursday evening.

NBA History From ‘Big O,’ Thompson, S. Jones Hits Auction Block

Sometimes a replica jersey and a flat-screen HDTV tuned to League Pass doesn’t quite scratch the itch – or fill up the available space on the mantel or wall – of a heavily NBA-themed “man cave.”

Here is a chance to dial up the street cred with some serious, museum-quality NBA history.

Basketball Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson, David Thompson and Sam Jones all have major mementoes of their marvelous careers on the block at SCP Auctions for an online offering that begins Nov. 14. Among the highlights from the Robertson, Thompson and Jones collection:

All items are from the players’ personal collections and are accompanied by signed letters of authenticity. Bidding (with minimum prices reflecting the exclusivity) opens to registered bidders on Nov. 14 and concludes Dec. 1. The auction will be conducted at SCPAuctions.com and also feature items from famed boxing trainer Angelo Dundee’s estate and MLB Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. The NBA players’ collectibles can be previewed here.

Pierce Redefines Legacy In Boston





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Take a good look at Paul Pierce right now, the day after he etched his name in Celtics’ lore forever by surpassing Larry Bird for the No. 2 spot on the storied franchise’s all-time scoring list.

He’s a rarity in this day and age, a player that has toiled for the same franchise since the day he was drafted and endured all the ups and down anyone’s career could stand and is still thriving 14 years deep into what could very well end up being a Hall of Fame career.

There’s no question Pierce will see his No. 34 hanging from the rafters alongside the numbers of Bird, the game’s greatest winner ever Bill Russell, the franchise’s No. 1 all-time scorer John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones and so many others. How he got there, however, will be even more compelling than the final destination.

Pierce is a case study for any player wondering how to redefine a legacy.

I remember his early days in Boston, when he and Antoine Walker formed a potent 1-2 punch for a feisty Celtics team that made plenty of noise in the Eastern Conference and even made the conference finals in 2002. But at the time neither Pierce nor Walker was viewed by the masses as the sort of player capable of leading a team to championship glory.

He endured all of the criticism that came when the franchise fell on hard times, when they dropped from the playoff scene to the lottery, when Walker departed and it was Pierce and locker room full of youngsters who couldn’t find their way out of the bottom of the standings with GPS.

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