Some intrepid videographers created a short film called "11 Guys You'll Always Find Playing Pickup Basketball." It's a great list, although not comprehensive -- they're missing The Old Guy, The Wanna Be Pro, Mr. Makes Up His Own Rules, The Mad Bomber, The All-Day Dribbler, Hot-Potato Passer Guy, and so on. Some of my favorites characters in this video are Rulebook Jones, Never Fouls Guy, Mr. Excuses, and the Hypothetical Dunker.

Labels: ,

For some people, pickup basketball is simply a casual hobby or a way to drop a few extra pounds. But for many others, it's a way of life. From weeknight pickup leagues to weekends at the local park, devoted ballers put their bodies and minds on the line night after night, week after week, and year after year. To immerse yourself in pickup is to become a part of something larger. Make no mistake: Pickup basketball is a subculture unto itself. Every league has a set of rules, every court a code of ethics, and every gym a cast of characters.

And while each pickup experience has its own unique flavor, there are still certain universal constants. You could share similar stories with other pickup ballers across the United States, even throughout Europe and Asia: Tales of hotly contested game points, amateur superstars, critical roleplayers, lockdown defenders, guys who can't (or won't) play defense, injuries, fights, fouls, and disputes.

Strangely enough, pickup hoops hasn't gotten a lot of coverage. However, that might be changing. Dugway Pictures is soon releasing a new documentary on pickup basketball called "Ballin' At The Graveyard: A story about life and pickup basketball at one American park" (go to the official site to watch some preview clips). The following is my interview with co-creator Basil Anastassiou.

Describe your history/experience as a pickup baller.

I've been playing pickup ball since I was six or seven. I started playing down the street from my house with a group of older guys, and I've been addicted ever since. Everywhere I've lived, I've looked for a game to play in. In Syracuse, where I grew up, to LA and Florida where I lived for several years, to Albany, my current home, I'm always out looking for a game. But the Graveyard in Washington Park in Albany is my pickup home. I've played there for the last 20 years. I'm 44, and it's still the most intense competition and workout I get.

Wow. 30+ years playing pickup ball...that's a lot of experience. How has your game changed over the years? I've noticed that the individual game evolves with age, 20s, 30s, 40s.

I've lost a step. Other than that, physically I do what I've always done. I shoot pretty well, play hard defense, scrap for everything. Right now I'm sporting a nasty scratch on my cheek from scrambling for a loose ball last weekend -- and two weeks ago, fighting for a rebound, I took a hard shot to the bridge of my nose that opened up a gusher. Ruined my best t-shirt. It's getting harder and harder to face my wife looking like that.

Mentally, I'm a much better player than I used to be. The impatience is gone. I see the court more. I don't try to make the impossible pass, I'm usually in a better position on D. I set screens, etc. I've also become a more skillful trash talker, which helps when I'm trying to cover lightning quick 19-year-olds.

I figure I have about 5, 6 years left before I'm done playing at the Graveyard; 50 appears to be the cutoff point. I hear the clock ticking (maybe that's my knee squeaking).

What is "Ballin' at the Graveyard"?

It's an inside look at the history, the game, the players and the unique culture of pickup ball at one American park. The summertime weekend game at the Graveyard in Albany has been going on for 40 years and it's a wild place full of great characters, hardcore ballers, entertainers, buffoons, pros, judges, convicts, old, young, fathers, sons, white, black etc. Back in the day, even former New York Governor Mario Cuomo played there. There's a court like the Graveyard in most cities across America. I'm sure you know some just like it -- the court with the history, the place where local legends are born and die, where getting next really matters. We take a look at the players lives on and off the court, as well as the unique unwritten rules that define pickup ball -- getting next, calling fouls, settling disputes, trash talk, etc.

What inspired you to film "Ballin' at the Graveyard"?

My partner Paul Kentoffio and I were just about to start another project when it occurred to me that the court where I had been playing ball for the last 20 years had a great story to tell -- about people, race, friendship, status, about the great leveling power of a pickup basketball, where it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, but only if you can hold your own on the court. There are not many places in society where people can come together like that. The passion and commitment people have to that court is like nothing I've ever seen. It took Paul all of 15 minutes to realize he was hooked, not only by the quality of the play, but also by the great characters. So we decided to scrap the other project and make a documentary about the Graveyard.

As unique a place as the Graveyard is, this is a universal story. There are thousands of courts like the Graveyard all across America, in every kind of community, each with their own history, culture, characters and pulse. Millions of pickup ballers will recognize aspects of the Graveyard on their own court. And there's a common bond between most pickup ballers: Most are addicted to the game. Its the most fun they have in their lives.

How did you go about getting it done?

We just showed up to the court one day and told the guys what our aim was -- to tell the story of the Graveyard and the players who play there. Since I've been playing there for 20 years, most of the guys took me at my word when I told them that we were doing it for the love of the game. After that, we settled in. For two summers, every weekend, we were there, shooting. I played while Paul shot the action. In the end, we took more than 100 hours of tape. We shot on the court, right in the action, closer than most people have ever seen. Interestingly, instead of focusing on the ball going in the basket, most times we focused on the emotion, intensity and energy of the player in the moment. Anybody can show a basketball game -- we wanted to show the pulse of pickup ball. So that's what we did. We also did in-depth offcourt interviews with a group of players, as well as following them at work, etc.

Describe the experience of actually shooting the documentary.

It was wild. The experience of making the film has been much like the experience of playing pickup ball -- you never know what you're going to get. Fights, great plays, intense moments, stellar trash talk, hilarious comments. The most important thing we did was to keep the camera rolling through everything. There were many times when I had to grab Paul as he wandered too far onto the court to get a shot and almost got bulldozed by someone driving to the hoop.The result is a unique, authentic look at the world of pickup ball with no filters. Logistically, for the most part, we used one camera and a single shotgun mic. It gave us quick mobility and stealthy opportunities to be in the mix and get the shots we needed. It's truly the definition of independent filmmaking.

Did your presence affect the people playing ball?

For the first few days of filming, some of the guys were a little uneasy about the camera being around. They would make comments, act silly, etc. But after a the second weekend, it was like we became part of the court. Everyone got so used to the camera being around, it was treated like another player, ie. if someone called a foul, sometimes the reply would be " Roll back the muthafu**ing tape! That's a clean block!" It was amazing to see how comfortable the guys got with the camera. In the end, it was like we weren't there. Obviously, the fact that I was one of the longtimers at the Graveyard helped make guys comfortable.

What did you learn about basketball in general, and pickup ballers in particular, by shooting the film?

First and foremost, we learned that pickup basketball matters. This is an addicted crew. There's no other way to describe them. I know because I'm one of them. This is not only the most intense workout they get each week, its the barbershop, the confessional, the place where they belong. The energy on that court, the intensity of feeling, is like an injection. They (I) feel lost without it.

For most of the guys at the Graveyard, a good portion of their lives have been spent on the court. Some have passed down the court to their kids -- who now play alongside them. It is a proving ground and a rite of passage.

As far as the game goes, its all-out, no holds barred. Skills matter, no question, but so does the mental aspect of the game. How confident are you? Can you hold your winners against a flood of others who claim they called it first? Can you take being heckled and laughed at by 50 guys after turning the ball over at point game or after shooting an airball? Can you stare down the thug with the 10 inch scar up his cheek who threatens to "hurt you" the next time you foul him? Pick up ball is intense, start to finish. The "game" starts when you arrive at the court.

Has what you learned changed your game at all?

No. I've been playing ball for 35 years, so I am what I am. Decent shooter. Scrappy defender. Won't back down. Susceptible to a decent crossover. Can be too mouthy for my own good. That's the way it is with most of the guys at the court. I could give you a 15 second rundown of each of their games. They are what they are.

How would you describe the competition at the Graveyard in comparison to "typical" pickup basketball?

The competition at the Graveyard is the best of anywhere I've ever played. Guys who come up from New York City tell us that the Graveyard is tougher than most courts down there. And again, I'm talking about both physical skill and mental attitude. Guys who have played on suburban courts or at the local gym may be able to hang physically, but negotiating the intricate world of of the Graveyard is about much, much more than that. As one of the Graveyard players, Mr. Tickles says, "Anybody who come up here from different cities thinking it's gonna be an easy trail, forget about it. It's not going to be easy. EVER."

Is there any "rookie hazing"? In my league, new guys get the rough treatment and have to earn respect. I'd imagine it's the same at the Graveyard.

Oh yeah.

First off, newcomers to the court better bring along a chair and a good book, because it's going to be a long wait. The guys at the Graveyard take great pride in putting new guys through the ringer the same way they were put through. It's hilarious to see unsuspecting newbies decked out with their baller outfits and "I'm the shit" attitudes, call next and wait on the sidelines for their game, only to be told at the last minute " Nah man, you ain't got next. I was at the store. I told Jamel to hold my spot." Some guys fight it, some understand that it's useless and move on. The bottom line is, unless you're a serious talent, if you're an outsider, you're going to wait -- and wait some more.

Second, if and when you finally persevere and get a run, get ready for some serious trash talk, some hard fouling and some overall initiation rites. The guys are going to push the limits, see how much you can take, whether you crumble under stress, where your weak points are. If you make it through that hazing and want to come back the next week, maybe you'll get a little respect. But respect is measured in years, not weeks at the Graveyard.

It took me about 5 years to be accepted. After 20 years, some days it feels like I'm a rookie again.

I noticed from the video clips that the players are predominantly African American. What are race relations like at the Graveyard?

When it comes to white guys ballin' at the Graveyard, I'm it. The one other white guy who shows up to the Graveyard is Gil, who's in his 50's. He used to play, but now he just watches. Race is an issue, but it's never serious. Sure, there are a couple of guys who will never accept me because I'm white, but the vast majority of guys couldn't care less. Most days I get razzed: "The white guy did it," or, if I throw an errant pass "Oh? That's the way it is? All black guys look the same?" etc. It's all done in jest, funny and honest. I think if there was more of that racial honesty in general society, we'd be stronger for it.

Bottom line, the Graveyard gives me a small taste of what's its like to be the minority and to have to prove myself a little more because the color of my skin. Clearly, what I deal with on the court doesn't come close to the bias that black men face everyday, but it's an instructive experience.

We asked a bunch of the guys if race mattered on the court, and almost all of them said no. If you have skills, if you can play -- it doesn't matter what color you are. The point of pick up ball is to stay on the court. Period.

This is a tough topic to cover. But do you think pickup basketball cultures like the Graveyard are a dying breed? A lot of the courts I used to play at, especially the outdoor courts, are usually empty and deserted, even on the weekends. Have you noticed this, and has it effected the Graveyard?

I'm not sure. I can tell you that when I get back to my hometown of Syracuse on occasion, I drive by my old hoop haunts, and the courts that used to be hopping are empty. I don't know where Syracuse pickup ball has gone, but it's not nearly what it used to be.

On the other hand, Albany has a buffet of pickup ball. Along with the Graveyard, there are at least two other parks where you can set your clock to the games. There are also some serious pickup runs at a few of the Y's in the area. Each of these games has its own vibe. They're not the Graveyard, but they have their moments too.

The young guys are the ones who will keep the pickup ball traditions going in our communities. But lately I've noticed that there are fewer and fewer teenagers on the courts. We have a group of teenagers and guys in their early twenties at the Graveyard, but their numbers are much smaller than the guys in their 30's and 40's. When we asked these young guys why they come, they told us that they learn a lot about the game by playing against the old dudes -- fundamentals and the mental aspects of the game -- and they utilize these skills on their high school and college teams. Many of them try to entice their young friends to come down on the weekend, but they don't have many takers. I'm not sure why that is, but i t's a shame. Pickup ball is not only great entertainment and an unbelievable workout – it's a life lesson every time out. It would be great if more young people experienced that environment.

When will "Ballin' At The Graveyard" be released?

Three months, we hope. Editing is a bee-atch.

Labels: , ,

Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones? Well, Tiger Woods lives in a diamond-encrusted mansion, so he can do whatever he wants. Watch Tiger take a dig at Chuck's Chris Dudley-esque golf swing.

Labels: , ,

And one! (aend wun!) phrase. Used to signify those occasions in which an offensive player scores a basket while being fouled.

Usage example: Lebron goes up with the ball...YES! And one!

Word Misuse: The phrase "And one!" was probably created by television broadcasters who wanted a hip and exciting way to indicate that an additional freethrow would be awarded to a player who had been fouled on a successful shot attempt. However, the term is now used by both professional and amateur ballers as the universal way to declare that they've been fouled. During a typical NBA game, you'll hear at least one player scream "And one!" when he gets hit, regardless of whether the shot actually goes in (and often regardless of whether the foul was even called).

This occurs all the time in pickup basketball, particularly after an embarrassment call. If you play pickup hoops, you've probably seen this happen more times than you care to remember: A player will rise literally inches into the air, attempt a truly horrible shot/flip/scoop/reverse/whatever, and miss by a mile. But since it's psychologically impossible for pickup ballers to accept that they took a bad shot, the player will immediately yell out "And one!" and then strut away from the basket as if a great wrong has been committed against him (this is called "selling the foul"). I usually can't stop myself from reminding the guy that he needs to actually hit the basket to call an "And one!" This is often met with an angry glare and results in an "escalation of hostilities" (e.g., trash talk, hard fouls, etc.).

Look, it's very simple. You should'nt eat the macaroni without the cheese, you can't kill Superman without Kryptonite, and you don't get to scream "And one!" if you didn't hit the shot.

Update: Henry Abbott of TrueHoop wisely pointed out another ridiculous aspect of using this term in pickup games: "I'd even add that 'and one' is especially dumb in pickup basketball without referees and free throws. The 'one,' you know, being a free throw and all."

And one
Even though the shot hasn't been released
yet, it's never too early to scream "And one!"

Labels: , , ,

PUB Scoring

As I mentioned in Defensive Strategies, many pickup ballers live and die by the philosophy that "It's the first team to 11 points, not 11 steals." This means that scoring is king. And for that reason, knowing how to track the score is of vital importance.

Ones and twos: Pickup basketball typically employs a simplified scoring system so that it's easier for players to track the score. If you're an experienced pickup baller, you know that simple math becomes difficult, even impossible, when players are in the heat of battle and on the verge of total fatigue (which for some out-of-shape players is the first trip down the court). For that reason, conventional baskets are worth one point and three-pointers are usually worth two points.

Unfortunately, there are serious drawbacks to making the three-pointer worth double a normal basket. Players are much more likely to bomb away from downtown without regard to common sensibility. After all, hitting 25 percent of your twos is like hitting 50 percent of your ones, right? I promise you that if half-court shots were worth three or four points, people would start chucking from there, too.

This leads to many players shooting the three almost exclusively, and therefore not developing any other tangible on-court skill (like, say, passing the ball). It also creates circumstances under which a team can actually lose a game despite hitting almost twice as many field goals as the opposing team. Nothing is more frustrating than executing a precise and efficient offense and still losing to a bunch of selfish, one-trick gunners.

Time limits: Time limits are not imposed in pickup games. Instead, play ends when one team reaches a predefined total score. Common end-game scores are 7, 11, 15, and 21. The choice of score is usually dictated by how many courts are available and how many people are waiting to play. The more people waiting for next, the lower the winning score will be. Be warned: Some players will arbitrarily decide on their own end-game score, often without informing anyone. I was once involved in a heated contest in which a player yelled out "game" after he scored his team's sixth point. Everybody stood in silent astonishment as he strutted "victoriously" off the court. It's the one and only time in 15 years of playing pickup ball that I ever participated in a game that ended at six.

Win by two: Usually, the winning team must win by at least two points. This rule was probably created by losing teams who wanted an extra and undeserved chance to claim victory. Be careful how this rule is applied. While it's often assumed that a team must win by at least two points, some players will become enraged if you shout out "win by two" after they've seemingly scored the winning bucket (such as, for instance, after the game was tied 14-14). Unless you're playing in a pickup league where the rules are clearly established, you should summarize the scoring rules prior to starting any game. Otherwise, you may end up with an ugly fight on your hands.

Overtimes and dead ends: The "win by two" method inevitably leads to "overtime" games, where the final score for both teams goes several points ahead of the previously arranged end score. When two teams are evenly matched, or equally fatigued, games can go on seemingly forever. To avoid this, a "dead end" or maximum score is usually established. A sample scoring system might be first to 11, win by two, with a max score of 15.

Keeping track: Pickup games operate without the benefit of electronic scoreboards and official scorekeepers. Even if you play in a supervised pickup league, the designated coordinator is usually so poorly paid or disinterested that it's unlikely he or she will keep score for you. This means that the players are responsible for tracking the score. The best way to do this is for one or more players to yell out an updated score after each basket; otherwise, it's easy to lose track of the official score. In most cases, this will cause an argument and the players will grudgingly come to a group consensus as to what the score is. This inevitably leaves individual players and even entire teams feeling as if they've been screwed over.

Point shaving: Careless and unscrupulous players will regularly try to use the lack of an official scorekeeper to their advantage. Unless the score is called out after each hoop, these people will try to manipulate the score, taking a point or two away from the opposing team's total, or adding points to their own. I can't tell you how many times I've been on a team that I thought was comfortably in the lead, only to hear someone on the opposing team shout that the score was tied, or his team was ahead. There are also instances in which someone will claim you're jipping his team, no matter how diligent you've been at calling out the score.

Game point: There is no point as hotly contested as game point. Even the most defenseless players will put a body on you and start blocking out on game point, and even the cleanest games degenerate into hackfests. Some teams or players will even try to shame the opposing team into using the most difficult shot to win. I used to play with a group of guys that required the winning basket to be a driving layup. This, of course, provided them with the chance to maul people on their way to the hoop, thereby extending the game and giving them an "equal chance" at winning. To that end, it's difficult, sometimes completely impossible, to win on a layup. And heaven help the player brave enough to might as well stick your hand into a shark tank.

It's amazing to watch the psychological shift that occurs on game point. Good players become afraid to shoot, bad players become brave, everybody starts scrambling and diving for loose balls. Almost every call or non-call turns into an argument. Friends start screaming at each other, and sometimes won't speak for days if the final score is in dispute.

Labels: ,

If there was going to be an NBA player crazy enough to come out in support of Michael Vick, wouldn't you just figure it'd be Stephon Marbury? And Starbury did just that in an interview that was recently aired by Capital News 9 in Albany.

"We don't say anything about people shooting deers and shooting other animals, you know what I mean? From what I hear, dogfighting is a sport. It's just behind closed doors and I think it's tough that we build Michael Vick up and then we break him down. I think he's one of the superb athletes and he's a good human being. I think he fell into a bad situation."

First off, there are plenty of people who regularly speak out against the hunting of deer and other animals. Just ask PETA, Furries Against Hunting, the European Federation Against Hunting, the League Against Cruel Sports, the Humane Society, et al. But beyond that, at least hunting serves a practical purpose. Hunting is used to control populations of some species that might otherwise exceed the carrying capacity of their habitat and threaten the well-being of other wildlife species, and in some instances, that of human health and safety. Hunting also reduces the annual crop of new animals and birds to allow the remaining animals sufficient food and shelter to survive. Personally, I'm against it, but I still have to concede that there are tangible, proven benefits to federally regulated and sanctioned hunting.

And let's get away from what's "legal" and "illegal." Our American society has decided that certain animals are acceptable to kill for food, sport, etc. If 'lo those many years ago -- as we were forming our societal opinions about what is palatable -- we had put dogs on that short list, we'd be killing them too. This isn't about killing anything. Fight dogs are regularly tortured to make them more vicious. Dog fights are brutal displays of bloody combat between animals that have no free will and could just as easily, with proper treatment, be docile. Anyone who can watch even a short video clip of a dog fight without wincing is a sociopath, and anyone who can actually enjoy one of the these "contests" is a psychopath.

There is no excuse for Michael Vick. Even if he did not directly participate in this so-called sport, he allowed it, and that is no less heinous. Vick has pleaded guilty. As a result, the details of his behavior will likely remain a secret. We can assume, however, these details to be grisly and abhorrent. Sorry, Michael. You have lost the "benefit of the doubt."

What benefits are there to pitting animals against each other in savage gladiatorial combat? None that I can see. Of course, the big justification that's getting bandied about now is that there's a "dogfighting subculture." This group, comprised mostly of family members and close friends, supposedly derives personal and even spiritual satisfaction from breeding dogs against their will, training them to fight and kill each other, and then watching them go out and do it. This process includes beating, electrocuting, drowning, hanging, and shooting said dogs. Well, that's just great.

Guess what? I don't care if Michael Vick grew up around dogfighting. I don't care how many of his buddies are dogfighting enthusiasts. Hell, I don't care if his dad used to take him on father/son dogfighting trips when he was a teeny tot. He's an adult now. It's a cliche, but he knows the difference between right and wrong. Hey, I grew up in a rough neighborhood where fighting and substance abuse was the norm. By the time I was 11, many of my friends were already experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and some of them became hard core users. So now what, I have an excuse to become an alcoholic? To abuse drugs?

Look, Vick didn't "fall into a bad situation." Establishing and financing an organized dogfighting ring is not a situation you "fall into." Conscious decisions, and many of them, were made. And he's not a "good human being" either. He might give money to charity, read to underprivileged kids, and help little old ladies across the street, but good human beings don't do the kinds of things he's now admitted to doing. You always hear stories about how some murderers and serial killers seemed like nice, normal guys. They attended PTA meetings, took care of their elderly relatives, and supported their local youth organizations. They also tortured people and wore human flesh in their spare time. I don't hear anybody claiming those guys were good guys despite their choice of "behind closed doors" sports.

I understand that life isn't black and white. There are plenty of shades of grey in plenty of different circumstances. But there are also lines that, once they're crossed, you don't get to just hop back over without consequences. And I'm not just talking about lost salary and jail time. I'm talking about the staining of one's character. Which is not to say that Vick can't turn things around and become a decent human being again. He can experience genuine remorse and take responsibility for what he's done. He can atone for his misdeeds. Nothing is static, and he has the rest of his life to improve the quality of his character. But right now, are his actions in any way justified? Is he a good person? No.

Labels: , , ,

springbakWhat it is: A 1/16" rubber insole that fits "any shoe in the world."

What it's supposed to do: According to the official site, Springbak insoles have been scientifically proven and validated to make basketball players "jump higher, run faster, move quicker to the ball, play with more energy, set stronger picks, grab more contested rebounds, have greater endurance, avoid shin splints and other pesky leg problems, and a whole lot more."

What it actually does: Provides yet another cruel reminder that increased speed, endurance, and jumping ability is accomplished through focused dedication to specialized physical training, not pseudoscientific gimmickry.

Who it's for: Anyone who wants a placebo-like shortcut to running "faster" and jumping "higher."

What it says about you: You're regrettably lazy, hopelessly naive, or (most likely) both.

Harsh realities: The Springbak people make a lot of amazing claims. They use exciting terms like "Space Age materials," "vibration frequency," and "recoil process" to create the thrilling perception that Mighty Science has created the ultimate jump booster. They then support their assertions with quotes from doctors, coaches, and real athletes. They even hint that Kobe Bryant might have been wearing Springbak insoles when he went on his famous 81-point scoring rampage (they can't prove it, though, because they can't afford Kobe's endorsement fee).

Well, I bought a pair of Springbak insoles. I figured that even if they didn't improve my speed or vertical leap, they'd at least be a good substitute for the shoe inserts I usually wear. I couldn't have been more wrong. The insoles, which go under your shoe's existing foam insoles, are far too thin to provide added cushioning. They're also flimsy and archless, so they don't provide additional support or stability either. If you need to use athletic insoles or custom orthotics, switching to Springbak insoles will not only disappiont you, they might hurt you, too. I also tried using them in conjunction with my existing orthotics. The only difference was that I was jumping more often, simply to see if I could jump any higher. I couldn't.

According to Springback, "[The] bottom line is that you will see a dramatic increase in your overall performance, not only in the off-season but also next fall when you line up against your biggest opponent." That would be wonderful it was true. It's not. The Springbak insoles are a failure at best, a fraud at worst.

Cost and availability: $24.95 (plus S&H) on If you order 10 pairs or more, you can get them for $22 per pair and get free shipping (for US residents only).

Labels: ,

Pickup basketball and defense: It's like a peanut butter and roadkill sandwich. Most people do their best to avoid the combination, and the ones who don't get some seriously funny looks.

In most cases, the defensive strategies used by the average pickup baller can be best explained by the following axiom: "Defense is just waiting to get back on offense." The intense focus and concentration that a player exerts while trying to create space for his "patented fallaway jumper" are almost completely absent on the defensive end. Pickup defenders usually display the droopy-eyed, slack-jawed, stiff-armed posture of a Romero-style movie zombie, except that at least a zombie is motivated to eat human brains. There is no "human brain equivalent" for a pickup defender. They're just killing time.

Another truism is that pickup ballers don't just avoid defense themselves, they want others to avoid it as well. Nothing annoys a pickup baller more than being tightly defended, denied the ball, or blocked out. I've received the kind of disgusted looks for playing sound, fundamental defense that are usually reserved for lawyers and child molesters. It's always important to remember that, in pickup basketball, offense is everything. I am often reminded that, "Hey, it's the first team to 11 points, not 11 steals."

The following list describes the various defensive strategies you're likely to encounter while playing pickup basketball. Remember: These strategies are not mutually exclusive, and many are actually used interchangeably depending on the dynamic circumstances of the game.

All-Star Defense: This style of defense focuses on gambling for cheap steals, leaping wildly into the air to deliver a spectacular blocked shot, and violently slapping the ball on an uncontested rebound. The flashy things, the showy things, the things that look really impressive until the player gives up several easy layups. This is what Red Auerbach liked to call "false hustle." However, it's a pretty sure bet that the all-star defender won't stay in front of his man, keep a hand in his face, or block out.

[Update!!] Anything Goes Defense: This is the pickup equivalent of the "Bad Boys" brand of basketball played by the Detroit Pistons in the late 80s. In other words: No blood, no foul. There are variations on this theme, of course. A high school buddy used to insist on playing by "bardyard rules," and as a result lost a chunk of ear cartilage during one of our after school one-on-one games. Anything Goes Defense works only if there is an agreement, be it spoken or unspoken, to abide by the "no rules" rule prior to the game. If you're the only player playing Anything Goes D, chances are you're going to become Pickup Enemy Number 1, and fast.

Dirty Bastard Defense: This is the style employed by the Bruce Bowens of your pickup league. They take defense very seriously, and even abide by some of the fundamental principles, but they also cheat. They cheat at every opportunity. They grab, they hold, they shove. Thanks to Bowen, they've even added the infamous "foot defense" to their repertoire. And it doesn't matter who they're guarding, because they do it to anybody and everybody. I used to be pretty good friends with a dirty bastard defender. We'd hang out before the game, do a little jogging, shoot around, laughing and joking the whole time. Then, right before the ball was inbounded, he'd step on my foot and grab my jersey.

Ego Defense: Some guys just automatically think they're better than everybody else. They're so good that they can play half speed on offense and zero speed on defense. In fact, they play with the kind of aloof disinterest that makes you wonder why they're playing at all. They will often make allusions to how they are accustomed to "better competition" to cover up their defensive inadequacies and general lack of effort. The ego defender will always let you shoot the jumper, then yell something like "off" or "short" to explain to his teammates why he didn't get a hand up (this will continue regardless of how many shots go in). When an offensive player drives, the ego defender will eschew moving his feet and choose instead to deliver a solid body bump or hack. Foul calls are usually met with a sarcastic look, loud complaint, or yelling.

Good Defense: It's true. Some pickup ballers actually play good defense. Many times, these players are a coach's son or someone who sat on the end of the bench for their high school basketball team. They always get into a proper defensive stance, move their feet, don't buy head fakes, and block out at every opportunity. They are tireless and never lose focus, which means they pursue you aggressively, limiting your touches and shot attempts. You know it's going to be a long, frustrating night when you get matched up against a good defender.

Hands-free Defense: There is a myth that all "Old Guy" players employ an aggressive, overly physical style of defense. This is not strictly true. While there are many old guys that cover their lost step(s) with well-timed pushing and shoving, some old guys harken back to a more civilized age, when even the most basic physical contact wasn't allowed. True, these old-schoolers probably call a lot of ticky-tack fouls, but they also tend to give up a lot of ground on defense. Most of the time, this goes unnoticed because some pickup ballers choose to go easy on the old guys. But pay close attention. If you end up matching up against a hands-free defender, you should post up or take it to the hole every time.

Helpless Defense: No matter how good or bad you are at defense, there are going to be times you lose your man and need a little help. Maybe you got picked, maybe you had to pick up somebody else's man on the fast break. Whatever the scenario, it is up to your teammates to make the proper rotations. However, you're more likely to see the Pope show up in short pants than to get proper defensive help. Pickup ballers usually have tunnel vision on defense; they see their own man and no one elses. Yelling "switch" sometimes improves the possibility of getting help, but not always. That's why it's always best to just fight through a pick. And don't bother trying to criticize a helpless defender. He'll just remind you that "He's not my man."

Matador Defense: This has been covered previously. This strategy is typically employed by players who don't pay attention. Then, when their man is about to score, they do a quick reach or wave their hand in the air to give the appearance of consistent defensive effort. This, of course, fools no one.

[UPDATE!!] Moviegoer Defense: These guys might as well show up with a box of popcorn and some contraband candy stuffed in their shorts, because all they do is stand around and watch. They watch as their teammates get posted up or beaten off the dribble, they watch as rebounds carom off the backboard, and they watch as their man streaks to the basket and/or hoists up shot after uncontested shot. These players provoke rage and even hatred in their teammates. Conversely, opposing players can almost always look forward to a "career night" (within the context of pickup league play) against them.

'Roid Defense: If you play pickup basketball at your local gym, you will sometimes encounter hugely muscular guys attempting to play basketball. These guys always point out that they're "just here to get in a little cardio." Translation: They are high on strength and low on skill. So, as you would expect, they try to use that Hulk-like strength to their advantage whenever possible, even if they must bend, break, or shatter the rules to do so. This is most apparent on rebounds, when they will use their giant arms to shove you, like a hapless rag doll, out from under the basket. When encountering a 'roid defender, be prepared for a high degree of physical contact, as they try to show off the fact that they can bench press your car.

Shame Defense: The shame defender uses various psychological tactics to convince you to either play light defense or, better yet, no defense at all. "Hey there big guy," they'll say, "take it easy on me, would ya? I'm old/injured/tired/hungover/depressed/etc." They might share a "private" story about a fight they just had with their wife, or explain how they just blew out their knee last week. The same person, when playing offense, might try to butter you up. "Uh oh," they'll tell you with a wink, "I have to play against the best defender in the league." Ultimately, they will say whatever it takes to make you feel a deep sense of shame for guarding them. You might ignore them at first and play your usual, hard-nosed defense. Then, they'll try to frown and pout until you back off. Sometimes, they'll stand far outside the three-point line and grouch that, "I might as well not even try, since you aren't gonna let me score." Don't be fooled, though. If you turn your back on them for a single second, they won't hesitate to streak in for an uncontested layup.

Labels: ,


What it is: Afghanistan's National Sport, which may or may not be all you need to know.

The competitors: A large group of savage, horse-mounted warriors.

The equipment: In Buzkashi, the game ball is a dead goat. I know the term "dead goat" may sound both inhumane and disgusting, but it's not as bad as all that. At least the corpse is beheaded, disemboweled, has its legs cut off at the knees, and is soaked in cold water for 24 hours to toughen it up. Okay, maybe it really is as bad as all that.

The rules: Rules? Rules are for godless American swine. The only hard and fast rule in Buzkashi is that you can't attack the opposing players' horses. Pretty much anything else goes, including attacking your opponents with fists, whips, and even knives.

Who wins: Considering the level of violence and danger involved, anyone who survives a round of Buzkashi could reasonably be considered a "winner." But technically speaking, the true winner is that brave and reckless man who manages to capture the game ball, get clear of the other players, and heave it into a scoring circle called "The Circle of Justice." I don't know how much justice there is in willfully attacking other people for the right to chuck a lifeless goat body into a circle, but that probably just shows my willful ignorance of foreign culture.

The basketball connection: NBA players consider themselves pretty bad to the bone. Many of them travel with posses, carry guns, and are quick to lash out when "disrespected." But professional basketball players are pretty wussy compared to Buzkashi players. After all, NBA players will miss 10 to 15 games with a sore toe, whereas a Buzkashi player will continue to play through head trauma and multiple stab wounds. NBA players will pout and cry if they don't have a reasonable chance to win, whereas Buzkashi players are just happy to live through a single game. And let's not forget how, last season, the NBA players threw a ginormous hissy fit when the traditional leather basketball was replaced with a microfiber composite ball that "bounced funny" and caused "paper cuts" on their fingers...which sounds pretty mundane next to "headless goat corpse." I'm guessing professional Buzkashists would love to play with a microfiber goat.


matador defense (mat'-uh-dor' de'-fens) noun. A lackluster, low-effort form of defense in which the defender simply reaches for the ball and then quickly pulls his hand away -- similar to how a matador pulls his cape out of the way of a charging bull -- as the offensive player drives by him for an easy shot at the hoop.

Usage example: Last season, the Lakers lead the league in matador defense.

Word History: The term "matador defense" was coined by Chick Hearn, the Lakers' legendary play-by-play man. Hearn revolutionized color commentary with his rapid fire, staccato broadcasting style and is credited with creating many of basketball's most well-known and enduring phrases. Some of the most famous Chick-isms include "slam dunk," and "air ball."

Word Examples: The Lakers pretty much sucked last season. A lot of people think it's because Kobe didn't have enough scoring support. That couldn't be further from the truth. The Lakers were actually the fifth best scoring team in the league last season, and the sixth best shooting team. Their real problem was defense, where they were sixth worst. Naturally, there are multiple examples of their matador defensive style on YouTube. Here are three:

Great Matadors in History: Tito Santana. 'Nuff said. And hey, you can book Tito for autograph sessions, wrestling clinics, or pumping your gas at the local BP. Seriously. Go here.

matador defense
You didn't think I'd miss the chance to
include a picture of Tito Santana did you?

Labels: , ,

Baby-cry sumo

What it is: A contest in which two human beanbags clad in giant diapers "compete" by picking up a babies, facing each other, and then shaking the little bastards until they start start crying.

Who wins: The first baby to start crying. In the case of a tie -- i.e., they start mouth-blasting at the same time -- the loudest brat is recognized as the "shourisha" (which is Japanese for "flying Elephant trumpet"). The losing baby is then presented with a tiny ceremonial sword and forced to commit seppuku. Personally, I prefer the "frisbee method" of committing seppuku.

How it began: Japan is a land of mystery and ancient wisdom. For this reason, most of their daily activities are based on the fathomless principles of elder generations. This is also true of their sports. According to one Japanese proverb, "When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn." It was impossible to build a sport around that adage, however, since nobody knows what the hell it means. Another Japanese axiom is that "crying babies grow fast." For this reason, many people in Japan believe that the louder an infant screams, the more gods have blessed it. So in essence, Baby-cry Sumo was created to pray for a baby's health.

When it began: The art of terrorizing crying babies was first developed in Japan over 400 years ago. However, the first official Baby-cry Sumo event took place in 1993.

When and where it takes place: Baby-cry Sumo takes place at the Sensoji temple, Tokyo, in April (this year's tournament pitted 84 squealing babies against each other). There are also contests at Ikiko shrine in Kanuma-ski, Tochigi, in September; Yamajioji temple in Shimotsu-cho, Wakayama, in October; and at Saikyoji temple, Hirado, in February. In America, Baby-cry Sumo takes place almost every day, but it is often referred to as "parenting."

Special encouragement: Since Baby-cry Sumo takes place in Japanese temples, the priests act as ad hoc referees. They even assist in the contest by shouting and waving at the babies.

What it means to basketball: In the NBA, the defining characteristic of champions is known as "killer instinct." Many great players (Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan) have it, while others (David Robinson, Karl Malone, and Dirk Nowitzki) do not. Very little is known about killer instinct or how to obtain it. However, I propose that anybody who is forced to duel another man armed with nothing but a screaming baby would either develop a killer instinct or be destroyed. So Dirk, wherever you are, I suggest a strict regimine of Baby-cry Sumo before the next season begins. After all, your legacy is at stake.

Labels: ,

It wasn't long ago that Shaq was rather dismissive of Yao Ming, both as a player and as a person. This general lack of respect began in Yao's rookie season when Shaq said "I look forward to breaking down that mother [expletive]'s body" and culminated with The Diesel's now-infamous "Tell Yao Ming, 'ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh'" quote*. Harsh and unwarranted? Sure. But that kind of Alpha Dog behavior is typical of someone who's on top of the mountain and can see the competition climbing up after him**.

I guess things have changed, though, because The Big Gifty has a present picked out for Yao's third wedding ceremony (to be held soon in Houston, Texas). "If you let me choose a wedding gift for him, I would give Yao four 24-inch customized rims." And if you're wondering why that quote is so crisp and clean, it's probably because it came through an interpreter. Shaq's currently rocking through China on a promotional tour for Li-Ning, China's leading sportswear manufacturer***.

Apparently, Yao isn't a fan of blinging out his cars. That's great, but when Shaq offers to pimp your ride, you say "yes" and "thank you." Otherwise, you can expect an extra-large elbow in the chops next time you play the Heat. Assuming Shaq isn't injured, of course.

Yao Shaq
Those rims I'm giving you are gonna
be wang wah ching cha, big guy.

* Yao's response? "Chinese is a difficult language." Good one.

** In 1986-87, Larry Bird was coming off his third straight regular season MVP, his second Finals MVP, and his third NBA championship. What's more, many people were proclaiming him to be the greatest player of all time. If anybody should have felt secure with their status in the league at that time, it should have been Larry Legend. However, that didn't prevent him from dropping the following bomb on Jordan, who was suddenly the league's leading scorer and headline-grabber: "When [Jordan] came into the league, I thought he would be a great all-around player, but...right now, the only thing he does is shoot 30 times a game. I'd never want to play like that."

*** Shaq signed an exclusive sponsorship agreement with Li-Ning last year. Supposedly, he's worn their shoes ever since.

Labels: , ,

Allan Houston. Charles Oakley. Penny Hardaway. Reggie Miller. These and other former All-Stars are either making a comeback or are thinking about making a comeback. Even Greg "Dancing Queen" Ostertag is contemplating a return to the NBA, and he wasn't any good to begin with.

Nostalgia is fun. It's why we hang on to old toys and watch ESPN Classic. Spiderman #300 is a collector's item, but that's not why I keep it sealed in a plastic bag and stored inside a moisture-protected box. I do all that so I can see Spiderman punch Green Goblin* in the face any time I want. Reliving our happiest memories is one of the highlights of human existence, so it's totally natural to get excited when a living legend crawls out of the mothballs. Although he retired in 1973, Wilt Chamberlain made an annual "I just might come back someday" announcement up through the late 80s...and people would wet themselves every single time. Seriously, stock prices for adult diapers would skyrocket whenever Wilt did a television interview.

We all want to see the great ones play again, but once the initial nostalgic blitz fades, we're left with one incontrovertible fact: Comebacks never end well. Not for George Mikan (who averaged 10 PPG and lasted half a season), or Bob Cousy (who scored 0.7 PPG and lasted only seven games), or Dave Cowens (who averaged 8 PPG in 40 games), or even Michael Jordan** (who compiled a 74-90 record and zero playoff appearances in two seasons with the Wizards).

I guess Magic Johnson did "okay" in '96 -- 14 PPG, 7 APG, 6 RPG, 32 games, and a first round playoff exit -- but he came back fat and sassy; his once-slender body was covered in 40 pounds of excess blubber, he feuded with his younger teammates, and he even got suspended for chest-bumping an official. Watching the greatest point guard of all time play power forward and waddle up and down the court -- leading my college roommate to quip "Hey, the Lakers are running the FAT BREAK!!" -- ruined about 50 percent of my childhood memories. (The other half were ruined when I accidentally walked in on my grandparents playing "Queen of Pain." Don't ask).

Which brings me to my next point. I don't know what's more depressing: Watching formerly great players come back and fail, or watching them transmogrify into disgusting fatties. What exactly happens when NBA players retire? Do they invest their entire pension on Twinkies and Moon Pies? According to sports-nutrition and weight-loss experts, the answer is obvious: Active athletes need more calories than they get, while retired athletes gobble up more calories than they need. Ex-pros transform into lumbering ham monsters the same way the rest of us do: Too much food, not enough exercise.

Magic and Charles Barkley are prime examples of this. If you ever watch the TNT Pregame Show and Halftime Report, you'll notice those guys are always on opposite ends of the broadcasting table. That's to keep the studio from tipping over. Even Michael Jordan's getting into the fat act; last season he was spotted in a skybox at a nationally televised Bulls game sporting a tragic yellow turtleneck and a jiggly paunch. And let's not forget Larry Legend. This picture was taken at a Celtics/Pacers game last November.

Bird Fat
Why, Larry? Oh god, why?

Brett over at The Association thought it was a fat guy in a Larry Bird costume. I can only wish that was true. It's all there: The turtleneck (which people apparently think is some sort of "fat camouflage"), the double-chin, the 12-pack abs. Holy god, his head is so bulbous his hair doesn't even fit on it anymore. I didn't know that was even possible. WTF??

There's a simple answer. Larry's a junk food junkie. This is obvious from the products he endorses. Take this old commercial for Lay's brand Potato Chips. The premise is that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar bets Larry that he can't eat only one lard-soaked grease chip. And of course he can't. This commercial also introduces us to the nameless horror of Larry Bird's bald head.

There are others, but my personal favorite is a McDonald's clip for the "Big 33" burger. The commercial opens with Bird citing his height and what we must assume was his playing weight, and explaining that he's a "big guy" and an "awful big eater." Next, Larry confides that he loves "hambuggers," which is why he typically eats six regular burgers and/or three Quarter Pounders in a single sitting. He then introduces us to his personalized burger: A Quarter Pounder with Cheese that's wrapped in bacon and soaked in barbeque sauce. Finally, we're treated to a montage of Larry stuffing his face full of Big 33 burgers, followed by glowing praise delivered in his trademark Midwestern drawl: "Purty tastee."

The burger, or bugger, actually doesn't look half bad. I'm sure that it is, as Bird helpfully pointed out, pretty tasty. But that doesn't mean you have to eat a plateful of them. I don't know. The greats ones are always described as having a burning hunger for winning. Maybe it's just a burning hunger, period. I can only hope that Larry, Magic, and the others hook up with the NutriSystem Diet. Hey, it worked for Dan Marino.

* Spiderman actually punched Venom in the face in issue 300. I just wanted to say Green Goblin.

** Let's get something straight: I don't count Jordan's first comeback as a true "comeback." Mike took a year off in his prime and came back in his prime. That's not a comeback, it's a vacation.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

superstar move (soo'-pur-star' moov) noun. A basketball move that, while technically illegal and/or morally questionable, is regularly executed by superstars and allowed by the officials.

Usage example: Michael Jordan's pushoff of Bryon Russell is the most famous use of a superstar move in NBA history.

The Top 11 Superstar Moves

We all know that superstars are allowed to travel and receive the benefit of every iffy call, but certain players developed a signature move that takes full advantage of the fact that the refs turn a blind eye to their tactics. Here is a list of the "best" all-time superstar moves.

1. The Off-arm Pushoff: In his youth, Michael Jordan had the speed and explosiveness to get to the hoop at will. But he lost a step going into his 30s, and taking it to the cup wasn't nearly as easy. No matter. Jordan developed a go-to strategy that negated his loss of quickness; he would simply drive with his right hand and use his left arm to wipe away his defender. Just go back and watch some old Bulls games from the 90s. Jordan's off-arm was like a powerful, slithering snake, squeezing in between defenders and pushing them out of his way. He was a master at doing this without drawing attention to it...although there was at least one occasion where he wasn't so subtle (see Game 6 of the 1998 Finals). Notable victim: Bryon Russell. Update: Watch it.

2. The Drop, Flop, and Roll: Dwyane Wade and freethrows are a winning combination, better even than chocolate and peanut butter, though not quite as good as boobs and, well, more boobs. Wade learned this early and used it often -- the freethrow thing, not the boob thing -- so that by his third year in the NBA he was a league champion and Finals MVP. His signature move is driving headlong into a crowd, drawing some form of contact, and then dropping to the floor like a stone. Knock him down seven times, and he'll get up eight. Then shoot some more freethrows. Notable victim: The Dallas Mavericks. Update: Watch it.

3. The Elbow-out Jumper: Kobe Bryant is an amazing physical specimen. His combination of speed, strength, and athleticism enable him to create a shooting pocket in almost any situation. And when he can't, well, he just uses his elbow to fire a warning shot across his defenders face...and that gives him all the room he needs. Of course, Kobe's errant elbows caught the attention of the league office last season, and he was suspended not for his clearouts but for bashing faces while trying to draw end-of-game fouls. Notable victim: Raja Bell.

4. The Three-Step-And-A-Hop Jumper: Patrick Ewing loved to drive across the lane and shoot the 12 to 15-foot jumper; he scored about 87 percent of his baskets that way. Too bad it was almost always a travel. Ewing would dribble once, take three massive steps, then do a little hop before elevating for his shot. There was nothing subtle about this particular move, but he got away with it again and again during his career (and it led to one of Marv Albert's most famous quotes: "Ewing gets the step...YES!"). In fact, I bet that EA Sports has been paying Ewing royalties ever since they added the "pro hop" to the list of special moves in the NBA Live series. Notable victim: The Chicago Bulls.

5. The 23-second Postup: As Charles Barkley got older, his post moves got slower. And...I...mean...slooooooooower. Most of the time, Chuck would run more than 20 seconds off the clock while using his giant ass to back his man deep into the paint. Here's a general rule of thumb: If your post-up moves are better tracked with a calendar than a stopwatch, you're probably doing something wrong. The NBA responded to Barkley (and guys like Mark Jackson) by establishing a five-second post-up rule prior to the 1999-2000 season. But although it wasn't technically illegal until his final season, it was always painful to watch. Notable victim: Robert Horry.

6. The Kickout Jumper: During his 18-year career, Reggie Miller was best known for tirelessly running off screens to get open for a jump shot. But he also liked to kick out his legs at the tail-end of each shot. The point and purpose of the kickout was not to aid his deft jumper, but to draw a little extra contact from his defender and hopefully get a whistle. More often than not, the tactic worked, partly because his defenders were usually scrambling madly to catch up with him, and partly because Miller was great at selling the foul by flailing his scrawny arms and letting out a well-timed "Whuuaaaargh!" Notable victim: Spike Lee.

7. The Bowl-Your-Man-Down: For most of the last decade or so, trying to stop Shaq in the paint was like trying to stop fat people from eating gravy. The Diesel was (and still is) bigger and stronger than just about anybody else. And if that wasn't advantage enough, the refs usually just stoood by and let him smash through his hapless defenders on his lumbering trips to Dunkville. The only way opposing players were able to counter Shaq was to take some contact and then keel over like they'd been shot. In fact, Shaq's unstoppableness is almost wholly responsible for the Age of Flop we are currently living through. Notable victims: Vlade Divac. Update: Watch it.

8. The Amazing Changing Pivot Feet: Kevin McHale had the best collection of low-post moves of all time: the worm move, the slippery eel, the white salamander, and so on. A large part of his back-to-the-basket repertoire was dependent on precise and well-timed footwork. But every once in a while, McHale would squirm his way into an impossible situation. Since he was a reluctant passer (teammate Danny Ainge nicknamed him The Black Hole), McHale was often forced to -- as the announcers put it -- "invent a move." This was usually a clever euphemism for "switch the pivot foot." That's the only way to explain how McHale could migrate 10 feet across the paint on a single move. Notable victims: John Salley (who referred to guarding McHale in the post as "being in the torture chamber."). Update: McHale is too old-school for a YouTube clip, but watch Dwyane Wade do it.

9. The Killer Palmover: I'm not saying Allen Iverson isn't a great basketball player, but sometimes I think he'd be more at home on the And 1 Tour than the NBA. That dude loves to handle the rock, and everything from his standard dribble to his crossover was imported straight from the street circuit...because he palms the ball almost every time. As if his crazy speed didn't give him enough of an advantage. Notable victims: The Michael Jordan. Update: Watch it.

10. The Five-Step Dunk: I won't attribute this to any one player (although Michael Jordan perfected it in the 90s) because every superstar (and quite a few non-superstars) is allowed to do it: Take three, four, even five steps en route to a thrilling dunk. Let's face it, the NBA is a spectator sport -- FAN-tastic, you might even say -- and the officials give players a little extra leeway when it comes to exciting the crowd. If somebody is swooping in for an uncontested dunk on the fast break, what's the harm in letting him take a few extra steps? Notable victims: Integrity.

11. The Skyhook Brushoff: How could I forget Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whose unstoppable skyhook was made unstoppable partly because his off-arm was thrown up like a defensive wall between him and his defender. And when opposing players bumped that arm, they were more often than not called for a foul. Here are several examples.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Well, the deal is done. The Celtics have given away 34 players, a waterboy, a trainer, an assistant coach, a gross of Cuban cigars and an amber-coated sample of Red Auerbach's DNA to get one Kevin Garnett. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Without a huge shakeup, there was no way the Celtics were going to be in the playoff hunt next year, or the year after that. Suddenly, they are a part of the discussion, and all Celtics fans should be thrilled about that.

But one must wonder how the Celtics will fare with three superstars surrounded by a practically non-existent bench. Oh, sure, there will be people on the bench wearing Celtics uniforms, but nobody quite knows who they will be or from whence they will come. In an act screaming of desperation, Danny Ainge has reportedly asked 42-year-old Reggie Miller to play 15 minutes a game for the Celtics (for free, I would have to assume, given what the Celtics have left to offer). Interesting plan: compliment the talents of three aging superstars with an even older retired superstar...I'll give this much to Ainge - he's certainly thinking outside the box. Well, at this point he appears to be thinking miles and miles away from the box. OK, time to admit it, Danny doesn't even own a box to think outside of.

Some might make the argument that a "superstars-surrounded-by-placeholders" strategy has been done, and has worked before - the Riley/Shaq/Wade Miami Heat? A couple of the Celtics' 80's teams? That notion doesn't hold here. Never has a team mortgaged itself quite like the Celtics have to get a player. Yes, they managed to keep Pierce and Allen... but that's it. Make no mistake about it - Celtics games will be 3 against 12 out there all year long (assuming - God willing - the Celtics remain injury free). But for all I know, it will work. The Celtics are the Iraq War of the NBA - nobody has a clue how it will turn out in the end, because nobody's ever tried anything quite like it before. Ever try to get a Sunni and Kurd to execute a tight pick and roll? I can only imagine it's not pretty.

In a related story, Danny Ainge has called Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley to see if they want to give it "one more college try." All four have flatly refused, but after hearing of the Celtics' inquiries through the grapevine, Isiah Thomas has asked to be considered for the point guard spot.

And according to the Celtics Website home page, Thomas will have some competition...


Labels: , , ,

Custom socks
Check out the bottom row. Who would order
custom-made basketball socks in pink??

What it is: Some cloth dye and needlework on socks that are a blend of 80 percent acrylic, 20 percent stretch yarn, and 100 percent awesome*.

What it's supposed to do: Establish pride, unity, and a sense of identity (for teams); provide a medium of open and honest expression (for individuals).

What it actually does: Holds sweat, chafes your feet, looks exceptionally ugly, and wastes you and/or your team's hard-earned money.

Who it's for: Anybody who wants to play basketball in a pair of hideous, calf-length socks that look like they were imported directly from a bad 80s movie**.

What it says about you: That you're willing to sacrifice comfort and performance to wear socks that kinda-sorta look like "official" team socks, assuming that team is comprised entirely of prison inmates, homeless people, or refugees from some Third World country.

Cost and availability: You can buy them for $6.75 (plus S&H) a pair at Awesome Sports. Of course, they require that you buy at least 12 pairs per color and design. And the fact that there are no refunds on custom orders is obviously the company's subtle way of saying "Satisfaction not guaranteed."

* And by "awesome" I of course mean "godless monstrosity."

** It would, of course, be about a group of lovable, ragtag misfits from Camp Tittywacka who learn important lessons about life and themselves as they train for a tournament in which they defeat a team of vastly superior athletes from rival Camp Kickassawassi.

Labels: ,

bargument (bar'-gyoo-muhnt) noun. A heated debate about any basketball-related subject* that erupts under the influence of alcohol. These discussions usually take place in a sports bar or tavern, but they can also occur at a restaraunt, private residence, or even online. The only prerequisites are 1) alcohol and 2) at least two passionate basketball fans.

Usage Example: I recently participated in one such bargument over who was the greatest basketball player over the last 10 years. [From Introducing Liston.]

Word Trivia: My most memorable bargument happened a few years ago when me and Statbuster were visiting one of my old college hangouts. The debate centered around who we'd choose first -- out of anyone in NBA history -- if we were building a team from scratch. He chose Shaq, and I chose Larry Bird. I fully admit there was a certain amount of sentiment involved; given the opportunity, I'd probably amend my choice to either Magic Johnson or Tim Duncan. But I digress. Statbuster's argument, and it was a valid one, was that it's always easier to build a team around a dominant big man. My argument was less about Bird's relative talents and more about Shaq's flaws as a player; he uses the entire season to get into shape, always misses at least 20 games, has a miserable freethrow touch, and can't be counted on in the clutch. The argument got pretty ugly, and we were both pissed when we finally went to bed (i.e., passed out) at our buddy Dave's house. Once I had a clear head, I had to concede that he's probably right. And anyway, there's more evidence to support his point, since Shaq has made it to the Finals as the centerpiece of three entirely different teams...and won titles with two of them.

Sample Barguments: Here are some sample subjects for you to use next time you want to have a bargument. Who's more valuable, Steve Nash or Kobe Bryant? Did Karl Malone really steal the 1997 MVP from Michael Jordan? Could the 1995-96 Bulls beat the 1985-86 Boston Celtics or 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers? Was Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals the biggest hose job of all time? Who was more dominant, Shaq or Wilt? Is Kobe more like Michael Jordan or Pete Maravich? Who's the best point guard of all time? Would Bird have won without McHale, Magic without Kareem, or Michael without Scottie? Who was the greatest scorer of all time? Did Larry Bird have a better mustache than Adam Morrison? Etc.

* Okay, barguments can be about any subject, basketball or otherwise.

"I'm telling you, Jerome James is the best player from
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University..."


nose guard
Broken nose? No problem. Unless looking like the
Phantom of the Retarded Opera is a "problem."

What it is: A vaguely face-shaped sheet of plastic, a few strips of vinyl foam padding, and a couple elastic straps.

What it's supposed to do: Support and protect a broken nose so that the wearer can continue to engage in nose-cracking activities.

What it actually does: Oh, it protects the nose all right, but it also makes you look like Hannibal Lecter's mildly retarded younger brother. Either that or an escaped mental patient from some dark, post-apocalyptic future where the only that there are no rules.

Who it's for: Anybody who's had their nose shattered but isn't willing to take four to six weeks off from basketball so it can heal properly.

What it says about you: Playing basketball is more important to you than the shame and embarrassment associated with wearing a Dork Vader mask to protect your minor facial injuries.

Celebrity endorsement: After suffering three major nose demolitions during the 2003-04 season, Rip Hamilton began wearing his protective mask full time in the 2004 NBA Playoffs. And he continues to wear the mask to this very day, reportedly because three reconstructive surgeries have left him decidedly Michael Jacksonesque: That is, without nose cartilage and vulnerable to a career-ending injury. He also claims the mask brings him good luck. Anyway, here's an amusing video about Rip and his unstoppable Mask of Doom.

Personal anecdote: During my sophomore year in college, I was getting a booty call engaged in a mutually fulfilling session of physical and emotional intimacy when my girlfriend accidentally knocked a 50-pound stereo speaker onto my face. You read that correctly: She dropped a 50-pound stereo speaker on my face. I might have been able to catch it, but she was going through that adorable "neurotically insecure with her body" phase that all college girls seem to go through, and she had demanded I keep my eyes closed during The Sex. And since I was simultaneously going through that "I'd do anything for the booty" stage that most college guys go through, I happily capitulated. So I was just lying there -- probably with a big, goofy smile on my face -- when the world exploded into a dazzling array of multi-colored wonder. I opened my eyes and saw three things: Stars, a geyser of my own blood, and my shrieking girlfriend. Since she was too distraught to do anything but scream and run around the room in circles, I was forced to staunch the blood flow with a pair of my own jeans and call a friend for help. He showed up with this little first aid kit and said, "I read somewhere that 80 percent of head wounds look worse than they really are." I showed him mine, and then he said, "Yeah, let's go to the hospital."

It was a big party weekend at my school, so it took 20 minutes to convince the nurses that having a 50-pound piece of stero equipment dropped on my face had nothing whatsoever to do with binge drinking. When they finally let me into the emergency room, the doctor sagely informed me that the rogue speaker had "obliterated" my nose. It was a compound fracture, which in medical terms means "the broken ends of bone have pierced the skin." Yeah, it was ugly. I was then introduced to the transcendent joys of local anesthetic and emergency reconstructive surgery.

I left the hospital with two black eyes, 28 stitches, and a freaky mask to wear in case, as the doctor put it, I was "stupid enough to want to play sports before the nose heals." Which of course is exactly what I did. Me and some buddies went to the co-recreational gym a few nights later, "just to shoot around," and ended up in a five-on-five game against four brutish dudes and a girl. Since I was injured, my friends agreed that I should guard the girl, because all things being equal she should have been the least physical of the five. Two plays into the game, however, she whacked me hard across the face while going for the ball. Fortunately I had my mask on, right? Wrong. I was too embarrassed to wear it. The next day, I had to go back to the nose doctor and explain why my nose was now sitting sideways on my face. He responded by ramming a couple wooden sticks up my nose holes and cracking the bone back into place. Good times.

My point? If you break your nose and choose to play hoops, just wear the damn mask.

Cost and availability: has a limited variety of decent nose guards. The Bangerz Nose Guard is $29.95, and the Mueller Nose Guard is $39.00. There's also a generic nose guard for $39.90.

Labels: ,

Bird Stern
In 1984, Bird and the Celtics were the first
victims of Stern's dark machinations.

As I noted in The Stern Button post, officiating controversies and conspiracy theories have dogged David Stern for the last several years. Looking back, I couldn't help but wonder when it all began. Was it the Dwyane Wade Freethrow-A-Thon in the 2006 NBA Finals? Was it when the Kings got jobbed in Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals? Was it when the Jazz got hosed in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals? Was it when the Suns got 64 freethrows in Game 7 of the 1993 Western Conference Finals? Or was it the entire second half of Michael Jordan's career? Surprisingly enough, it was none of those. Turns out, the conspiracy theories started in Year 1 of the Stern Regime.

Stern was named Commissioner of the NBA on February 1, 1984. He took the helm of a league beset by fan disinterest, financial problems, and drug scandals, yet he righted the ship almost instantly. Of course, Stern had a little help from fate and circumstance. First, the 1984 NBA Finals featured a classic seven-game showdown between Larry Bird's Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers. Then, over the next couple seasons, a new crop of soon-to-be superstars entered the league: Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Patrick Ewing to name a few. Further sweetening the pot was the fact that the Celtics and Lakers met in the Finals again in '85 and '87. By the time Jordan's popularity took off in the late '80s, the league was suddenly speeding headlong toward globalization.

It sure seems like Stern was the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time. Or was he? In retrospect, the good times clearly started with the '84 Finals, which was the ignition point of the Bird/Magic Era. I was recently rewatching Game 7 of that series -- one of the best championship matchups of all time, by the way -- and I was surprised to hear Tommy Heinsohn say, "By challenging the commissioner, I think [Bird] was trying to get the refs on his side." Dick Stockton followed that cryptic statement with the following explanation: "You heard Commissioner Stern...hearsay that someone heard David Stern say that the league wanted a seven-game series, and of course Larry Bird went to town with it." [You can listen to it here; the comments start around the 2:35 mark.]

Eh? I was intrigued. Unfortunately, a simple Google search failed me, so I started poking around The Boston Globe's online archives*. On June 11, 1984, the Globe ran an article written by Dan Shaughnessy called Bird: NBA Wanted 7. After the Celtics lost Game 6, Larry Legend was pissed, but not at the Lakers or his teammates. He was steamed at the Commish.

"Stern told a fan that the NBA needed a seven-game series, that the league needed the money. When the commissioner makes a statement like that to a fan, you know it's going to be tough. When Stern makes a statement like that, things are going to happen. You just don't make statements like that and not expect anything out of it. He's the commissioner and he shouldn't be saying anything like that. The NBA wanted a seventh game because they wanted to make more money and they got their wish. There is no reason for me to lie. He said it. He's a man and he'll live up to it. He may say he said it in jest. But I'm out there trying to make a living and win a championship."

Those were some pretty strong words from Bird**. Was there any validity to the claim? It's hard to say, since Game 6 is the only game of that series I haven't seen. But I can tell you this: The Celtics were in control for most of the game, leading by four after one quarter, by six at halftime, and by 11 with 3:59 left in the third quarter. But then things turned around in a hurry, as the Lakers outscored the Celtics 46-24 the rest of the way, enjoying a 35-17 advantage*** at the line and winning 119-108 despite Bird's 28/14/8. [This information comes from the Boston Celtics 1984 Championship Official Souvenir Book.]

On June 12, 1984, the Globe ran another Shaughnessy article called Riley: Script Is Written For Lakers' Victory. It's mostly a bunch of hippe talk**** from Pat Riley, but it does give a brief follow-up to Bird's anti-Stern comments.

According to Shaughnessy: "NBA commissioner David Stern chose not to issue any statement in response to Larry Bird's charge Sunday that Stern wanted a seventh game because the league needed the money. Stern's office said the commissioner was 'unreachable,' and no one there knew his exact whereabouts. However, NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre spoke with Stern. 'David said Bird's comment is ridiculous. Like every fan in America, he has been looking forward to a seventh game. It's a dream matchup, and everybody has wanted to see a seven-game series since Day 1.'"

It's interesting that Stern chose not to confront Bird's comments head on (and what's up with the "no one knows his exact whereabouts" stuff...what, was he on Air Force 1?). It's even more interesting that he didn't fine Bird or the Celtics; these days, those comments would be worth 100K or more in fines. It wasn't at all surprising, however, that Stern dismissed Bird's claims as "ridiculous," since that's his buzz word of choice whenever any kind of criticism is leveled against him.

Was there a conspiracy? Did Stern have a little chat with the refs before Game 6 about the league's need for a seventh game? We'll never know for sure. But it is, nonetheless, a fascinating piece of historical trivia that Stern never had even a single year as NBA Commissioner without at least one officiating controversy.

* The Boston Globe charges $2.95 per archived article. That seems a little steep to me.

** Of course, this is the same guy who called his own teammates "a bunch of sissies" after the Celtics got blown out in Game 3. Then, when asked if his team had played any better in their Game 4 comeback victory, Bird said, "Yeah, we just played like a bunch of women tonight." Yikes.

*** Did the C's get a few makeup calls in Game 7? Maybe, maybe not. But they had a 51-28 freethrow advantage in that final game.

**** Going into Game 7, Riley guaranteed the Lakers would win. "It's destiny. I believe in the Fates, and I think it's our time. I think the script is written for us to win." This is the kind of motivational crap that Riley's famous (and infamous) for. It sounds brilliant when he's right, and idiotic when he's wrong. In this case, it was the latter for Riley, since the Lakers lost the game 111-102.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

fifth quarter (fifth kwort'-ur) noun. The hours immediately following the conclusion of a late-night basketball game, during which players hit the town or go to private parties in order to engage in various illicit activities. These activities can include, but are not limited to, the following: drinking, womanizing, gambling, drug use, and vehicular masturbation (see below).

Usage example: Many NBA players have ended up on the wrong side of the law during the fifth quarter.

Word Trivia: The fifth quarter is a dangerous and potentially embarrassing time, not only for the players themselves, but also for their coaches, teammates, and team owners. Take last February, when the Pacers' Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels followed up a 113-98 loss to the Golden State Warriors by going to the 8 Seconds Saloon, getting liquored up, yelling obscenities at staff members, and then getting into a fight with and threatening to kill the bar owner. And these were the same two guys who, during training camp, accompanied Stephen Jackson to his ill-fated strip club shooting escapade.

Speaking of strip clubs, let's not forget about the The Gold Club Trial, in which it came out that several NBA players -- including Dennis Rodman, Dikembe Mutombo, Jerry Stackhouse, John Starks, Patrick Ewing, and Reggie Miller -- had not only frequented the posh Atlanta strip club, but they'd received a variety of sexual favors there. As Ewing put it in his testimony, "The girls danced and started fondling me. I got aroused. They performed oral sex."

But not every sex scandal has the sleazy allure of prostitution. On March 30, 2006, hours after scoring two points in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 103-91 win over the Orlando Magic, Eddie Griffin crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a Chevy Suburban that was parked outside a convenience store. Not only was Griffin drunk out of his mind, but he was also watching porn and masturbating at the time of the accident. According to the lawsuit, the DVD jackets for "Anal Action" and "Privates" were found in the passenger seat of his car. Remember kids, friends don't let friends whack it and drive.

fifth quarter
I think the dangers of the fifth quarter
are the least of this guy's problems...

Labels: , , ,

TrueHoop ran a post yesterday called Handicapping the New East in which "a bunch of bloggers, journalists, insiders, and lovers of the game" predicted how this year's Eastern Conference playoff race is going to turn out. You can go there for the full story, but here's the Basketbawful contribution:

"The playoff teams are Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, New Jersey, Toronto, and Washington. You'll notice that, for the most part, these are the teams whose core players have been together the longest. After all, consistency usually = winning. These picks are, of course, contingent on key players remaining healthy, Dwyane Wade and Gilbert Arenas each making a full recovery, Shaq choosing to play more than half the season, and Vince Carter not wimping out now that he's got a new big-money contract. The Celtics, thanks to the additions of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, will improve the most. The Bucks and Magic will fight a losing battle for the final playoff spot. The Bobcats, Hawks, and Sixers will surprise some people. The Knicks will continue to disappoint, much to chagrin of their fans and the delight of everybody else. There's going to be very little separating the top eight teams. Any of them could advance, although my heart says Chicago and my brain says Detroit for the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Pistons moving on. Of course, Cleveland, Miami, and yes, even Boston all have a legitimate shot at reaching the promised land. Wait, Boston's still coached by Doc Rivers, right? Okay, scratch them."

I also predicted that Lebron James would be the MVP of the East. This isn't to say he's necessarily going to be the best player or have the greatest impact, but I think he'll do the most of everything (points, rebounds, assists) and look really spectacular doing it. The media seems to love him, even though they grudingly admit he can't play defense and doesn't have a jumpshot. The clunky jumper is my biggest gripe, though, considering how much he likes to bomb away from the outside.

Anyway, we'll see in, oh, about eight months how close to the mark I was.

Labels: ,

KG Walton
Garnett celebrates his bastardization of number 5
while an irate Walton looks on from the past.

I was absolutely stunned to find out that Kevin Garnett will be wearing number 5* for the Celtics. I know things have been bad in Beantown for the last several years, but I didn't realize the problems with the Boston franchise extended to the equipment managers! Giving away Bill Walton's jersey number...what were they thinking?! That's like removing the Pope's hat and dress and giving them to some begger on the street: It's a travesty of Biblical proportions.

*Apparently, KG's first choices were numbers 21, 1, and 2. However, those numbers are already retired: Bill Sharman wore 21 and numbers 1 and 2 were retired to honor Walter Brown (the team's first and greatest owner) and Red Auerbach (the team's third and greatest coach).

Some people are claiming that Garnett feels Celtic Pride. KG himself said, "The Celtics have had a proud tradition and now I hope that we can add to the legacy." Shame on you, Kevin Garnett! That may be the most heinous lie in the history of man's wickedness. If Garnett really understood the deep and complex mythos of the Celtics, he wouldn't tarnish Walton's accomplishments by sullying the big man's number. Why stop there, Kevin? Why not pull down a few of those championship banners and wipe your ass with them?

By making this decision, Garnett lost money, he lost some self-respect, and he lost legitimacy in the eyes of future hall of fame coach Doc Rivers. Okay, Rivers probably won't get into the NBA Hall of Fame, but he's in the Hall of Fame of Life. Sadly, I doubt Doc has the authority to redress this numeric injustice, and with Red Auerbach dead and buried, the Celtics have no one left who can restore order to the universe.

The raping of Bill Walton's Celtic number is one of the worst defilements, not just in basketball, or in America, but in the history of Western Civilization. What a pathetic move by a pathetic human being. Boston fans everywhere are throwing up their hands in exasperated dismay. All I can do is shake my head and ask what has happened to that once beautiful team.

Bill Walton's Top 13 Celtic Moments

Did Walton deserve to have his jersey retired, and thus keep it out of the clutches of glory-hogging sneak-thieves like Kevin Garnett? You're damned right he did! Here's a brief list of Walton's greatest Celtic moments as he led them to banner number 16.

1. October 25, 1985: Bill played 19 minutes, scored four points, committed five fouls, and turned the ball over seven times. The Celtics, not surprisingly, lost 113-109 in overtime. While his performance was appalling, his post-game quote was comedy gold: "I was a total disgrace to the game of basketball." Thanks largely to Walton's humble admission, the Celtics would go on to win their next nine games.

2. Date unknown: In his autobiography Nothing But Net, Walton recounts the bullying and verbal abuse he suffered at the hands of teammate Kevin McHale. Eventually, Big Bill decided enough was enough, and in Karate Kid-like fashion, Walton challenged McHale to a game of one-on-one in front of the entire team and coaching staff. Despite the fact that McHale was younger, healthier, and -- at that stage of his career -- better than Walton, Big Bill kicked his tormentor's butt, then limped out of practice with his head held high.

3. December 30, 1985: Walton faced his former team, the Los Angeles Clippers, and showed them what they were missing en route to leading the Celtics to a 125-103 win. The redhead contributed nine points, 13 rebounds, and a blocked shot in just 17 minutes of action.

4. January 10, 1986: The Celtics were facing the Hawks on the road, and Atlanta bolted out to a 70-47 halftime lead. Infuriated by the trashtalking of Eddie Johnson and some other Hawks players, Walton came out of halftime on a personal mission. He would go on to play a season-high 28 minutes and finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, and four blocked shots. Moreover, he was instrumental after the Celtics managed for force overtime, breaking the game's final tie with a tip-in and then blocking Eddie Johnson's shot on the Hawk's next possession. Bill's leadership was responsible for the Celtics' 115-108 overtime win...and the team's biggest comeback of the season.

5. January 22, 1986: Before wisely agreeing to help form what Bob Costas once described as "the best single-season team ever," Walton briefly considered joining the hated Lakers. But Jerry West, mindful of Walton's history of foot and ankle injuries, spurned him. Said West: "Thanks for the interest, Bill, but I've seen the X-rays of your foot." Walton correctly believed the Lakers had made a mistake, and he was determined to make them regret it. He did just that when the teams faced off at the Boston Garden. Walton racked up 11 points (on 5-of-6 shooting), eight rebounds, four assists, and seven blocked shots in only 16 minuts of playing time. Thanks to his inspired effort, the Celtics crushed the Lakers 110-95.

6. January 26, 1986: The rival 76ers were in town, and Larry Bird (9-of-25) wasn't up to the challenge. Fortunately, Bill Walton was. Walton scored 19 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and blocked two shots in a mere 25 minutes, leading his team to a very satisfying 105-103 victory.

7. February 5, 1986: Going into this game against the Washington Bullets, the Celtics were missing McHale, who was the team's third best player (behind Walton and Bird). It didn't matter, though, because Big Bill once again stepped up his game, notching 13 points and a season-high 17 rebounds while tying his season-high of 28 minutes. Thanks to him, the Celtics destroyed the Bullets 103-88.

8. February 16, 1986: On the road and facing the Lakers, the team that wouldn't give him a chance, Walton once again showed his legendary promise, earning 10 points, seven rebounds, and one blocked shot in 26 pulse-pounding minutes. But it was more than just the numbers; Walton shut down James Worthy in key stretches and held Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- the NBA's all-time leading scorer -- to a mere two points in the fourth quarter. Another great Walton game, another big win for the Celtics.

9. March 24, 1986: During a March 14 game against the Atlanta Hawks, Big Bill broke his nose, and then he fractured the navicular bone in his right wrist while blocking a Tree Rollins shot. But Walton had come too far to let a few broken bones stop him. He continued to play through pain, and then, when Robert Parish missed a game against the Houston Rockets, Walton got his first start of the season. During warmups, Bird walked up to Walton and said, "I know what you're thinking. Forget about it. Those [Parish's] shots are my shots. You just get on the weak side and rebound." The two men shared a laugh, because they knew who the real leader of the team was. And true to form, Walton delivered: 20 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and 12 rebounds in a comfy-cozy 116-97 victory.

10. April 8, 1986: At this point, Walton's dominance was pretty obvious. He made his second start of the season against Milwaukee and again keyed a Celtics win by scoring a season-high 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in just 28 minutes.

11. May 29, 1986: Prior to Game 2 of the Finals, Walton was awarded the NBA's Sixth Man Award. Although he probably deserved the MVP, Walton was both humble and grateful. Buoyed by this joyous event, the Celtics hammered the Rockets 117-95.

12. June 3, 1986: Celtics coach K.C. Jones, trying to turn back a Rockets surge, turned to Bill Walton in crunch time, and Walton again came through for his team. With the game tied at 101 with just over two minutes to go, Walton worked a brilliant inside-out feed to Bird, who hit a three-pointer off of Walton's clever assist to give the Celtics a 104-101 lead. The Rockets scored on their next possession to pull within 104-103, and when a Dennis Johnson miss clanked off the rim, Walton swooped in from the right, evaded Hakeem Olajuwon, grabbed the rebound, and put up a backhanded layup that gave the Celtics a 106-103 win and a 3-1 series lead.

13. Date unknown: Walton, along with teammates Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, posed for the following picture. More work of art than mere photograph, the aptly titled "Big Men, Little Court" has gone on to win several international awards and inspired an entire generation of photo journalists. This is the kind of world-changing accomplishment that won't show up in any record books, but nonetheless is an integral component of the Bill Walton Legacy.

Walton 2

Greatest Miscarriage of Justice...Ever?

Number thieves

Not only did KG bogart Walton's number, but Paul Pierce continues to wear Kevin Gamble's number, and it looks like Ray Allen has filched Sherman Douglas' old cipher. I'm too disgusted for words.

Labels: , , , , ,