Posts Tagged ‘center’

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More than any other professional team sport in America, the NBA has maintained a symbiotic relationship with its stars. The NBA–or “The League”, as it’s known by many–has been widely recognized as a star-driven league.

Whether you’re a fan of the NBA, or just a casual observer, you can’t help but to identify the National Basketball Association with some of the greatest and entertaining players to ever have earned an NBA paycheck.  Just in case you’re wondering about how long this star-driven system has been in place, we have to re-visit the early days of the pro basketball league.

I’m sure you’ve heard of an NBA franchise by the name of the Los Angeles Lakersright? Well, they haven’t always resided in Southern California, nor was their first championship won there either. Before the Lakers relocated to L.A. in 1960, they won an impressive five championships in their former home, Minneapolis. As expected, most great sports teams have that “anchor” on their team; that one person who is the heart and soul of their campaign to become champions in their respective league/sport. The then-Minneapolis Lakers had that type of player, and his name was George Mikan.

Mikan made a brief comback as a Minneapolis Laker in this 1995 ESPN Sportscenter commercial.

After an illustrious college career at DePaul University in Chicago, the 6’10” Mikan was known for his dominance as a Laker, yet he first signed with the Chicago American Gears of the NBL (National Basketball League), which eventually became the NBA. It was two years after his signing with the Gears in 1946, that he would join the Lakers for the 1947-48 season. When it came to dominant players at that time, no one in the league was on Mikan’s level of play. Like players such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in latter years, it was Mikan’s dominance that forced the NBA to change some of its rules to even the playing field for other players to have the opportunity to compete.

Long before the regularity of the NBA’s marketing of a celebrated few players handpicked every year to be the faces of the league, George Mikan was that guy to do so by himself.  If Mikan’s star power were ever in question, then any doubts would be refuted in the following story: On December 14, 1949, his teammates arrived at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and were met with a surprise.

On the marquee (sign outside of the building) they had ‘George Mikan vs. the Knicks,” recalled the NBA legend, whose teammates ribbed him by refusing to dress for the game. “They were all just sitting around. They said, ‘Alright big guy, if you’re going to play them, go play them.

With the NBA still crawling through its years of infancy at the time, such a sight was unheard of, yet it appeared that the marketing team of Madison Square Garden understood what a larger-than-life figure George Mikan had become back then. Needless to say, Mikan went on to play until 1956, ending a career that saw him become a hall-of-famer, one of the NBA’s “50 Greatest” players (as of 1996), and the reputation of being the “that dude” on his team. If Mikan were a star today, let’s just say that his jersey would be on sale, and he’d possibly even have his own sneaker.

Now that’s star power.

High school basketball in my hometown was very competitive and extremely fun to watch as a kid growing up in Dalton, GA. The school logos are mentioned in a clockwise rotation: the Indians of Murray County High School, the Bruins of Northwest Whitfield High School, the alma mater of yours truly, the Raiders of Southeast Whitfield High School, and the Catamounts of Dalton High School.

As a high school student growing up in Northwest Georgia, high school basketball in my hometown was very competitive and extremely fun to watch as a kid. The school logos are mentioned in a clockwise rotation: the Indians of Murray County High School, the Bruins of Northwest Whitfield High School, the alma mater of yours truly–the Raiders of Southeast Whitfield High School, and the Catamounts of Dalton High School.

Back in the days when I was young/I’m not a kid anymore/but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again

~Ahmad

Most–if not all–basketball fans hold a special place in their hoop-filled hearts for high school basketball. In spite of the increasing loss of innocence of the bastion that is high school hoops due to the voracious appetite for college hoops’s need for the “next best thing”, high school basketball invokes feelings of nostalgia, community, and a sense of “connectedness” (Excuse my wordplay), because when we watch high school basketball, we watch our friends, relatives, and students lace up the sneakers to do battle on the hardwood for 32 minutes to give their schools bragging rights, but they also play to represent for the communities that they live in.

In my neck of the woods, high school basketball was played at an extremely competitive, yet entertaining level from the early ’90s until the early ’00s. In my local community, there were four high schools that would (and still) battle for bragging rights every basketball season. These four schools were Dalton High School, Southeast Whitfield High School, Northwest Whitfield High School, and Murray County High School. From Murray County, I had a chance to witness the likes of Chris Bishop and his brother Eric, who could jump over the moon, and eventually tried out as a Track and Field athlete for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Next up on the list of one of the most memorable high school basketball programs in my hometown/area was Northwest Whitfield High School, home of the Bruins. Northwest had a colorful collection of hoopers. For example, you combine the blend of athleticism and power of a guy named “Pokey”, the playmaking abilities and defensive prowess of a cat named “Redd” (who evolved from being primarily a defensive stopper in high school to becoming a deadly  scoring machine years after his h.s. graduation), and a sharp shooter named Tommy (Thompson). You were guaranteed to get your money’s worth if you decided to buy a ticket to see the orange and blue-clad bruins get busy during the golden era of basketball in North Georgia.

I’d be too modest if I failed to mentioned my alma mater, Southeast Whitfield High School. When I first graced the halls of Southeast as a freshman in the fall of 1998, the big men on campus at the time were Lance “Chief” Minor, Brandon Bonds, Tracy, “Tre Boy” Harris, Marcus “Coop” Cooper, and Rashad “Shad” Curtis, to name a few. Over the course of my high school years, my school’s fan section–affectionately known as the “Dog Pound” by us Southeast Raiders–would hoot, holler, and cheer on the Raiders boys team all of the way to the coveted spot of #1 in the state of Georgia during the 2000-01 basketball season. Back in the 90s/Early 00s, the maroon and silver were NO JOKE.

The last local school that  I’d like to mention is none other than the Evil Empir–I mean the Dalton High School Catamounts. While some of you who read this may want to discount my writing ability because of my omission of some of the great players over the years who donned the white, black, and red of DHS, I’ll just state that there were simply TOO MANY GREAT PLAYERS TO NAME who came out of the Dalton High School basketball program, and this includes the boys and girls b-ball teams. I will give honorable mention to players like Brendan Plavich, Mike Banks, the Westmoreland brothers, T.J. Blackwell, Brandon “Feezy” Fields, Derrick Tinson, Eddie Jackson, & Frank Pinson, while Sabrina Beavers held it down for the ladies. I had to jokingly refer to Dalton High’s team as the “Evil Empire”, because they were like the New York Yankees of North Georgia. You either loved them, or you hated them. You rooted for them, or you booed them whenever they stepped foot on your school’s basketball court. Not only were they the biggest school in my hometown in both sheer size and student population, but they always boasted a DEEP roster of incredible athletes…in ALL sports.

While I have no intention of belittling the numerous accomplishments of the younger generations of basketball talent in my area that came along later–like 2004 or later–the players and teams that I mentioned were a memorable part of my youth, so of course I’m going to be slightly more partial to them! No matter how much basketball that I write about, discuss, or play for that matter, I’ll never forget that golden era of hoops during my high school years. I apologize if I forgot to mention any more of you from my hometown who read this, and was a part of a great time period for basketball in Whitfield and Murray County. However, I’m optimistic that we’ll have the opportunity to see another great generation of basketball spring forward from my home town of Dalton, GA, and the neighboring Chatsworth (Murray County).

 

 

 

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“Oh, the irony!!!” you may think to yourself in response to my decision to create a page that’s dedicated to all things basketball….on the tail end of basketball season as we know it, of all times too. Just three days ago, the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth franchise NBA title, which all but guarantees their spot on the Mt. Rushmore of legendary NBA franchises, such as the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and L.A. Lakers.

Now that basketball season is over, and most of us probably won’t be treated to any semblance of basketball on television until next week’s NBA Draft, for most die hard fans–particularly those who follow the NBA–indulge themselves in the seemingly endless rumors of free agency talk that oftentimes turns out not to be true for the most part. Does anyone remember the rumors that had Kevin Garnett going to the Lakers in the summer of 2007? What about the rumor of Scottie Pippen becoming a Supersonic back in the summer of ’94? Sure, the talk is provocative, and it makes for excellent conversation material around the water cooler with your buddies at the office, but at the end of the day, they’re….just….rumors.

That being stated, I would like to take the time to give major props to the San Antonio Spurs for winning their fifth in 15 years. I’ve said this many times, but I truly feel that the Spurs are the most disrespected NBA team in NBA history. Notice that I didn’t say that the Spurs were the most despised. That honor would probably have to go to the “Bad Boy” era Detroit Pistons, who won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. I say that the Spurs are the most disrespected team because they lack a key ingredient that many legendary teams possess: CHARISMA. They lack the box-office appeal that moves the fans to buy tickets and pack out the other 28 (There are 30 teams total, but the Lakers and Clippers both share the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Math class is over!) arenas outside of San Antonio to watch them play on the road. Think about it. There were the “Showtime Lakers”, who were led by Magic Johnson. You had the 90’s Chicago Bulls teams led by “Air Jordan”, “Pip”, and Dennis “The Worm” Rodman, who was a charismatic dude all to himself. This lack of “excitement” as it deals with the Spurs is a testament to the personality of the General Manager and coach of that team, Gregg Popovich, and the team’s heart and soul for many years, Tim Duncan.

To me, Duncan has that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-like aura about him, where he just goes about his business and puts in the work. He’s a big man, like Kareem. He has longevity, like Kareem. Also like Kareem, Duncan has amassed Hall-Of-Fame caliber numbers, and will be sorely missed by his team when he finally decides to hang up his Adidas. Growing up as a teenager during the Shaq-Kobe threepeat Lakers teams, and the one-on-one dominance of other players like Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter, I was understandably caught up in the showmanship of the aforementioned players, while almost ignoring the legend in the making that Tim Duncan was becoming in San Antonio during that time period. Does anyone realize that Duncan has been the ONLY player in NBA history to win championships in THREE DIFFERENT DECADES (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007,and 2014)?? Talk about staying power!

If you’re a “Hoops Head” such as myself, then you won’t limit yourself to waiting for late October/early November to come down with the case of the “Basketball Jones”, you’ve got the fever all year long.