Posts Tagged ‘dunk’

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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.

ballup

Summer. That one lady who shows up for at least three months out of every year (4-5 depending on what part of the country you live in. Global warming, anyone?). For those of us who consider ourselves basketball heads, Ms. Summer’s arrival marks the official end of “The League“, and the beginning of cookouts, abundant sunshine, and…baseball.

Just from reading the paragraph above, one would be lead to believe that waiting until late October/early November to get their hoops fix will suffice. However, this is where we have been proven wrong, fortunately. There’s a hoops movement sweeping the nation during the summer months around the world. The name of the movement, you ask? BALLUP. Just ask Demetrius Spencer, the Founder & CEO of the world’s largest streetball circuit. “Our tour takes us all across the country, where we open the door for anybody with great basketball talent to have the opportunity to come and try out.”, he says in a recent interview with Omaha.com. Opened in 2009, this tour has seen players such as Grayson “The Professor” Boucher and Taurian “Mr. 720” Fontenette join the BALLUP tour as it hits cities all over the world.

This year, the tour features an opportunity that ballers (and non-ballers alike) would both jump at. Such contests as the Million Dollar Summer Champion are guaranteed to bring the best out of would-be members of the Ballup tour. The contest itself gives players the chance to battle it out to not only become hoops kings of their cities, but also to receive national recognition and the chance to play in Los Angeles on Thursday, July 30 to claim the crown as national champion of the challenge.

If you are like many in basketball land, and you are missing your hoops fix this summer, there’s no longer a need to wait until next year’s basketball season to start. BALLUP will be sure to not only fill that void, but it will also make you a fan…if you aren’t a fan already, that is.

michaeljordan

Since everyone’s enjoying the weekend break between Games 1 & 2 of the NBA Finals, I figured I’d share with you my personal story of an NBA champion who all of us are quite familiar with.

Michael Jordan once said that one of his motivating factors for consistently performing at a high level on the basketball court was his cognizance of that one fan (or fans) who were able to see him play live and in person that one particular time who may never have the opportunity to watch him play in person again. Well, I was one of those folks he referred to, and as a young kid at the time of attending my first Jordan game, I must say that he did indeed put on a show that night.

MJ pulled off this vintage under the layup Dr. J-like reverse in a way that only he could at that time....Oh yeah, and it was a three-point play as well.

MJ pulled off this vintage under the layup Dr. J-like reverse in a way that only he could at that time….Oh yeah, and it was a three-point play as well.

The time and date of the game, you ask? Friday, March 27, 1998 at 7:30pm in Atlanta, GA against the Dikembe Mutombo/Steve Smith/Mookie Blaylock-era Hawks. At the time, both teams had much in common, as they were both Central Division rivals (the re-shaping of the NBA’s landscape in 2004 saw the Hawks move to the newly formed Southeast Division) who had faced each other in the previous season’s playoffs. Both teams were in a transitional period. Jordan’s Bulls were uncertain about his playing status beyond that season because of the team’s decision to severe ties with Phil Jackson at the end of that season. The Hawks on the other hand, were literally without a permanent home, as they played their last game in The Omni the previous season, and they took temporary residence in the Georgia Dome and Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum until the Phillips Arena was completed in time for the 1999-00 season.

Upon my attending the game, I knew that this game would be big in terms of its significance. The Jordan Factor by itself was monumental, but the Bulls-who would go on to win their sixth and last NBA championship later that season–played through an entire season which was nicknamed “The Last Dance” by coach Phil Jackson, so it seemed as if EVERYONE wanted to be there. My gut feeling wouldn’t let me down, as the game itself set an NBA attendance record for a single game of 62,046. True to his reputation, Jordan wouldn’t disappoint, as he scored 34 points to lead his team to an 89-74 victory.

It was cool being a part of history, as I received this memoir which commemorated the NBA's single-game attendance record.

It was cool being a part of history, as I received this memoir which commemorated the NBA’s single-game attendance record.

The program directory for the Bulls/Hawks matchup that night.

The program directory for the Bulls/Hawks matchup that night.

My ticket stub for the game.

My ticket stub for the game.

Needless to say, I had a blast watching the greatest player of all time and his Chicago Bulls go toe-to-toe with a very respectable team in the Atlanta Hawks. I want to give a shout-out to a YouTube user by the name of 79maestro who actually put in the time to go into the archives and upload Jordan’s highlights from this game in the video below. If you appreciate classic NBA highlights, and you’d like to see rare Jordan highlights, subscribe to 79maestro’s channel.

My second “Like Mike” experience took place over three and-a-half years later, on Thursday, November 1, 2001…Same time, new arena (Phillips).

After emerging from retirement for a second time, Jordan decided to take on his biggest on-court opponent yet, Father Time. At 38 years of age, despite mixed feelings from fans about his last go-round in the NBA, Jordan laced up the Nikes yet again to test his basketball might against the young whippersnappers at the time, such as Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Tracy McGrady.

Although he aligned himself with new cohorts (the Washington Wizards), Jordan’s game against the Hawks resulted in the same way that it did during the last time he faced the Hawks: another ‘W’. The 38-year-old scored 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in only his second regular season game back. Not bad for an “old man”, huh? Another YouTube uploader, by the name of Swove2204.

Oh yeah, I’ve included a couple of artifacts from this game as well.

My ticket to witness Jordan's first game back against the Hawks, this time as a Washington Wizard.

My ticket to witness Jordan’s first game back against the Hawks, this time as a Washington Wizard.

Program Directory to the Hawks vs, Wizards matchup of November 1, 2001.

Program Directory to the Hawks vs, Wizards matchup of November 1, 2001.

After reading this, you’re probably wondering, “How in the world was B.C. ‘Just Like Mike’? The answer is, we were both in the same building on 3/27/98 & 11/1/01! You didn’t think I was gonna tell you that I could take off from the free throw line, did ya?

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).

 

 

 

Dunking is arguably one of the biggest--and entertaining--ways to send a message to an opposing player.

Dunking is arguably one of the biggest–and entertaining–ways to send a message to an opposing player.

Anyone remember playing NBA Jam back in the early 90’s? If you do, then you’ll remember the players flying through the air to attempt one of their humanly impossible, yet entertaining monster dunks. The video game’s announcer would punctuate the players’ dunks by yelling that one catch phrase that seemed to be an oft-used in pop culture jargon during that time period:

“BOOMSHAKALAKA!!”

When you heard that catch phrase, then you knew that you had pulled off one of the highlights of the game, if not the highlight of the game. It was almost as if the announcer had to verbalize the non-verbal statement that the players in the game made after their superhuman dunks that could only be done in a virtual world. To no one’s surprise, however, those non-verbal b-ball statements are made in the world of flesh, blood, leather, and rubber as well as the pixelated world of those classic 16-Bit video games. By now, everyone’s quite sure of the basketball statements that I’m referring to, and there are a few, in my humble opinion.

1. The Dunk

Perhaps the most beloved–and the most feared method–to make a statement on the basketball court, this high wire act ALWAYS brings the fans to their feet immediately. Dunks have been known to not only humiliate the poor defender on the receiving end of a demoralizing crushing dunk, but it has also been known to change the momentum of ball games. When it comes to dunks, think about Vince Carter’s video game-like dunk over Team France’s Frederic Weis. Take that, basketball purists!

2. The Crossover Dribble/Shake & Bake

Another way to make a basketball-related statement during a game would be to leave your defender dancing and looking like their auditioning for the sequel of Roll Bounce on a greasy floor…that’s right, make ’em look THAT silly. While Tim Hardaway was the Godfather of the wicked Crossover Dribble, Allen Iverson took it to an entirely different level in terms of how destructive the Crossover Dribble could be to defenders if the right person does it.

3. The Blocked Shot

I’m fully aware that defense is the name of the game, but it’s a shame that it’s not too fan-friendly for the most part when it comes to selling out areas and gyms. There is hope. Spice up your team’s defense-first philosophy by knocking the opposing player’s shot (Just try not to pick up a foul in the process of doing so) into the 10th row! Basketball purists cringe at the thought of a defender swatting a player’s shot out of bounds, because it automatically gives the other team possession of the ball, but sometimes you gotta strike the fear of God into the other team by doing this. Outside of Bill Russell’s heyday as an elite shot blocker, Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace were two of the most beloved shot blockers of the past two decades.

I had to write this post in response to a question that came to my mind this weekend. The question was, “Outside of the obvious politically correct answer(s) of ‘Win the game’ and ‘Play defense’, what are some of the most effective ways to make a statement in a basketball game as a player? If you have other opinions on how to make a statement in a game, please feel free to answer in the poll below.

allthingshoops.jpg_1331366393

“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.