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Ernie Davis, First African American Heissman Trophy Winner   Leave a comment


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ernest “Ernie” Davis (December 14, 1939 – May 18, 1963) was an American football running back and the first African-American athlete to win the Heisman Trophy. Wearing number 44, Davis competed collegiately for Syracuse University before being drafted by the Washington Redskins, then almost immediately traded to the Cleveland Browns in December 1961. However, he would never play a professional game, as he was diagnosed with leukemia in 1962. He is the subject of the 2008 Universal Pictures movie biography The Express, based on the non-fiction book Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express, by Robert C. Gallagher.

 College career

Davis played football for Syracuse University, and went on to gain national fame for three seasons (1959–1961), twice winning first-team All-American honors. As a sophomore in 1959, Davis led Syracuse to the NCAA Division I-A national football championship, capping an undefeated season with a 23-14 win over The University of Texas in the Cotton Bowl Classic. That same year, Elmira Star-Gazette sports writer Al Mallette coined the nickname for Davis, the “Elmira Express”. Davis was voted Most Valuable Player of the 1960 Cotton Bowl Classic and the 1961 Liberty Bowl. In his junior year, he set a record of 7.8 yards per carry and was the third leading rusher in the country with 877 yards, having rushed 100 yards in 6 of 9 games.

Davis found discrimination prevalent in the American South during his Cotton Bowl Classic visit. Author Jocelyn Selim writes that at the banquet following the 1960 game, Davis was told he could only accept his award and then would be required to leave the segregated facility. Davis refused and his teammates, nearly all of them white, voted to boycott the banquet.[1]

A different account of the banquet is given by John Brown. He was Davis’ teammate at Syracuse and on the Cleveland Browns, his roommate and a close friend. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, all the players from the game attended the banquet. Brown recalls that the teams sat on opposite sides of the room. After everyone ate and the trophies were handed out, the three black Syracuse players, including Brown and Davis were asked to leave and were taken to another party in Dallas by local NAACP representatives. One Syracuse player, Ger Schwedes, recommended that the whole Syracuse team leave the banquet to show solidarity with their black teammates, but the suggestion was overruled by Syracuse officials. When the Chronicle asked Brown whether the film is a truthful portrayal of his friend, Brown said ” … in short, no.”[2]

Davis became the first black athlete to be awarded the Heisman Trophy (the highest individual honor in collegiate football), following his 1961 senior-year season at Syracuse University. President John F. Kennedy had followed Davis’ career and requested to meet him while he was in New York to receive the trophy.[3] Later in 1963, when Elmira chose February 3 to celebrate Davis’ achievements, Kennedy sent a telegram, reading:

Seldom has an athlete been more deserving of such a tribute. Your high standards of performance on the field and off the field, reflect the finest qualities of competition, sportsmanship and citizenship. The nation has bestowed upon you its highest awards for your athletic achievements. It’s a privilege for me to address you tonight as an outstanding American, and as a worthy example of our youth. I salute you.[4]

During his time at Syracuse, Davis wore the same number, 44, as legendary Orangeman Jim Brown, helping to establish a tradition at the school that was acknowledged on November 12, 2005, when the school retired the number in an on-field ceremony. Davis also played basketball at Syracuse for one season 1960-1961. Syracuse University, as way to honor all of the athletes that have worn the number 44 and has always worn 44 was granted permission by the United States Postal Service to change its zip code to 13244.

While attending Syracuse, Davis was a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity, a nationally recognized Jewish fraternity. Davis was the first African-American to become part of the organization not only at the Syracuse chapter, but for the national fraternity as a whole.[5]

Davis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979.

Ernie Davis was a member of The Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C. National Intercollegiate All-American Football Players Honor Roll.

 Pro football career

Davis was the number-one pick in the 1962 NFL Draft, becoming the first African American football player to be taken first overall. Selected by the Washington Redskins,[6] his rights were then traded to the Cleveland Browns for Bobby Mitchell and a first-round draft choice.[7] He was also drafted by the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League.[8]

The decision of the Redskins to draft Davis was a reluctant one by Redskins’ owner George Preston Marshall. Marshall for years, had refused to sign any black players, and the Redskins were the last NFL team to do so. He was known to be notoriously racist, and backed his decision by stating that he wanted to appeal to the NFL’s southern market. The Redskins were for years the southernmost team in the NFL before the birth of the Dallas Cowboys in 1960. The signing only came when Interior Secretary Stewart Udall issued an ultimatum to Marshall – Sign a black player, or the Redskins’ 30-year lease on the D.C. Stadium (now the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium) would be revoked. The D.C. Stadium was property of the Washington city government and was funded just the same. Marshall’s response was then the selection of Davis. Davis himself refused to play for the Redskins, and demanded a trade. “I won’t play for that S.O.B.” He was quoted as saying. Thus the trade to Cleveland was engineered by Paul Brown shortly after Art Modell had purchased the team and without the knowledge or consent of Modell. This was standard operating procedure with the Browns from their inception in 1946.[9][10]

Davis signed a three-year, $200,000 contract with the Browns in late December 1961, again without the knowledge or consent of Modell, while he (Davis) was in San Francisco, California practicing for the East-West Shrine Game.[11] Originally reported at $80,000, the contract, according to Davis’ attorney, A. William (Tony) DeFilippo, consisted of $80,000 for playing football, including a $15,000 signing bonus; $60,000 for ancillary rights, such as image marketing; and $60,000 for off-season employment.[11] It was the most lucrative contract for an NFL rookie up to that time.[11] However, the Browns’ dream of pairing Davis with Jim Brown in the backfield took a tragic turn when Davis was diagnosed with leukemia during preparations for the 1962 College All-Star Game and also at Browns training camp. The rift between Brown and Modell worsened when Modell brought in doctors who said Davis could play pro ball but Brown refused to suit him up. This resulted in Modell firing Brown in a stealth maneuver, while all Cleveland newspapers were on strike.

Davis never played a game as a professional, with his only appearance at Cleveland Stadium coming during a 1962 pre-season game, in which he ran onto the field as a spotlight followed him. Following his death, the Browns retired his number 45 jersey.[12]

Death

In the summer of 1962, Davis was diagnosed with acute monocytic leukemia and began receiving medical treatment. The disease was incurable and he died in Cleveland Lakeside Hospital May 18, 1963, at the age of 23. Both the House and the Senate of the United States Congress eulogized Davis, and a wake was held at The Neighborhood House in Elmira, New York, where more than 10,000 mourners paid their respects. During the funeral, a message was received from President Kennedy, and was read aloud to all of the people attending the service. Davis is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Elmira, Chemung County, New York, in the same cemetery in which Mark Twain is buried. His commemorative statue stands in front of Ernie Davis Middle School, which Davis attended as Elmira Free Academy during his high school years. The building was named in his honor after its conversion to a middle school. Another statue of Davis stands on the campus of Syracuse University, near the steps of Hendricks Chapel and the Quad where pre-game pep rallies are held. He was elected in the Fall of 2008(to what?), coinciding with the premiere of The Express and the beginning of construction of Ernie Davis Hall, a dorm on the Syracuse campus. Syracuse later named The field at the Carrier Dome Ernie Davis Legends Field.

The Express

A motion picture biography, The Express, directed by Gary Fleder and based on the non-fiction book The Elmira Express: the Story of Ernie Davis by Robert C. Gallagher, began production in April 2007[13] and was released on October 10, 2008. Rob Brown plays Davis, with Dennis Quaid portraying Davis’ Syracuse University coach, Ben Schwartzwalder.

In 2011, the sports teams of rival schools Southside High School (Elmira, New York) and Elmira Free Academy combined and together formed the Elmira Express, named after Ernie Davis

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Posted February 28, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in First to Accomplish, Sports

Hakeem Abdul Olajuw, NBA Player   Leave a comment


Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon

Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon[1] (born January 21, 1963) is a retired Nigerian-American professional basketball player. From 1984 to 2002, he played the center position in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors. He led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. In 2008, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Listed at 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m) (but closer to 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) by his own admission),[2] Olajuwon is considered one of the greatest centers ever to play the game.[3][4]

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Olajuwon traveled from his home country to play for the University of Houston under Coach Guy Lewis. His college career for the Cougars included three trips to the Final Four. At the time, he spelled his first name Akeem. Olajuwon was drafted by the Houston Rockets with the first overall selection of the 1984 NBA Draft, a draft that included Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton. Olajuwon joined the Houston Rockets and was nicknamed “Akeem The Dream” for his grace on and off the court. He combined with the 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) Ralph Sampson to form a duo dubbed the “Twin Towers”. The two led the Rockets to the 1986 NBA Finals, where they lost in six games to the Boston Celtics. After Sampson was traded to the Warriors in 1988, Olajuwon became the Rockets’ undisputed leader. He led the league in rebounding twice (1989, 1990) and blocks three times (1990, 1991, 1993). Raised as a Muslim, Olajuwon became more devoted to the faith during this period and changed the spelling of his name from Akeem to Hakeem. Despite very nearly being traded during a bitter contract dispute before the 1992–93 season, he remained with the team. In 1993–94, he became the only player in NBA history to win the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP awards in the same season. His Rockets won back-to-back championships against the New York Knicks (avenging his college championship loss to Patrick Ewing), and Shaquille O’Neal’s Orlando Magic. In 1996, Olajuwon was a member of the Olympic gold-medal-winning United States national team, and was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. He ended his career as the league’s all-time leader in blocks, with 3,830.

Early lifeOlajuwon was born to Salim and Abike Olajuwon, middle-class Yoruba owners of a cement business in Lagos, Nigeria.[5][6] “Olajuwon” translates to “always being on top” in Yoruba.[5] He was the third of six children. He credits his parents with instilling virtues of hard work and discipline into him and his siblings; “They taught us to be honest, work hard, respect our elders, and believe in ourselves”.[5] Olajuwon has expressed displeasure at his childhood in Nigeria being characterized as backwards. “Lagos is a very cosmopolitan city…There are many ethnic groups. I grew up in an environment at schools where there were all different types of people.”[7]

During his youth, Olajuwon was a soccer goalkeeper, which helped give him the footwork and agility to balance his size and strength in basketball, and also contributed to his shot-blocking ability.[8] Olajuwon did not play basketball until the age of 15, when he entered a local tournament.[5] However, he quickly became taken with the game: “Basketball is something that is so unique. That immediately I pick up the game and, you know, realize that this is the sport for me. All the other sports just become secondary.”[9]

[edit] University of Houston and “Phi Slama Jama”
A billboard at the University of HoustonOlajuwon emigrated from Nigeria to play basketball at the University of Houston under Cougars coach Guy Lewis. Olajuwon was not highly recruited and was merely offered a visit to the university to work out for the coaching staff, based on a recommendation from a friend of Lewis who had seen Olajuwon play.[10] He later recalled that when he originally arrived at the airport in 1980 for the visit, no representative of the school was there to greet him. When he called the staff, they told him to take a taxi out to the university.[11] While there, he and his teammates (including Clyde Drexler) formed what was dubbed “Phi Slama Jama”, the first slam-dunking “fraternity”, so named because of its above-the-rim prowess.

One of only five numbers retired by the University of Houston men’s basketball team, Olajuwon’s #34 hangs in Hofheinz Pavilion.After redshirting his freshman year in 1980–81 because he could not yet get clearance from the NCAA to play,[7] Olajuwon played sparingly as a redshirt freshman in 1981–82, and the Cougars were eliminated in the Final Four by the eventual NCAA champion, North Carolina Tar Heels. Olajuwon sought advice from the coaching staff about how to increase his playing time, and they advised him to work out with local Houston resident and multiple NBA MVP winner, Moses Malone. Malone, who was then a center on the NBA’s Houston Rockets, played games every off season with several NBA players at the Fonde Recreation Center. Olajuwon joined the workouts and went head to head with Malone in several games throughout the summer. Olajuwon credited this experience with rapidly improving his game: “The way Moses helped me is by being out there playing and allowing me to go against that level of competition. He was the best center in the NBA at the time, so I was trying to improve my game against the best.”[7]

Olajuwon returned from that summer a different player, and in his sophomore and junior years he helped the Cougars advance to consecutive NCAA championship games, where they lost to North Carolina State on a last second tip-in in 1983 and a Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown team in 1984.[12] Olajuwon won the 1983 NCAA Tournament Player of the Year award,[13] even though he played for the losing team in the final game. He is, to date, the last player from a losing side to be granted this honor. Drexler departed for the NBA in 1983, leaving Olajuwon the lone star on the team.

After the 1983–84 season, Olajuwon debated whether to stay in college or declare early for the NBA draft. At that time (before the NBA Draft Lottery was introduced in 1985), the first pick was awarded by coin flip. Olajuwon recalled: “I really believed that Houston was going to win the coin flip and pick the number 1 draft choice, and I really wanted to play in Houston so I had to make that decision (to leave early).”[11] His intuition proved correct, and a lucky toss placed Houston ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers. Olajuwon was considered the top amateur prospect in the summer of 1984 over fellow collegians and future NBA stars Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton, and was selected first overall by the Rockets in the 1984 NBA Draft.

[edit] Houston RocketsThe Rockets had immediate success during Olajuwon’s rookie season, as their win-loss record improved from 29–53 in the 1983–84 to 48–34 in 1984–85.[14] He teamed with the 1984 Rookie of the Year, 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) Ralph Sampson to form the original NBA “Twin Towers” duo. Olajuwon averaged 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.68 blocks in his rookie season.[15] He finished as runner-up to Michael Jordan in the 1985 Rookie of the Year voting, and was the only other rookie to receive any votes.

Olajuwon averaged 23.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game during his second pro season (1985–86).[15] The Rockets finished 51–31,[14] and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals where they faced the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Rockets won the series fairly easily, four games to one, shocking the sports world and landing Olajuwon on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Olajuwon scored 75 points in victories in games three and four, and after the series Lakers coach Pat Riley remarked “We tried everything. We put four bodies on him. We helped from different angles. He’s just a great player.”[16] The Rockets advanced to the 1986 NBA Finals where they succumbed in six games to the Boston Celtics, whose 1986 team is often considered one of the best teams in NBA history.[17]

[edit] Mid-careerDuring the 1987–88 season, Sampson (who was struggling with knee injuries that would eventually end his career prematurely) was traded to the Golden State Warriors. The 1988–89 season was Olajuwon’s first full season as the Rockets’ undisputed leader. This change also coincided with the hiring of new coach Don Chaney. The Rockets ended the regular season with a record of 45–37,[14] and Olajuwon finished the season as the league leader in rebounds (13.5 per game) by a full rebound per game over Charles Barkley. This performance was consistent with his averages of 24.8 points and 3.4 blocks.[18] Olajuwon posted exceptional playoff numbers of 37.5 ppg and 16.8 rpg, plus a record for points in a four-game playoff series (150).[19] Nevertheless, the Rockets were eliminated in the first round by the Dallas Mavericks, 3 games to 1.

The 1989–90 season was a disappointment for the Rockets. They finished the season with a .500 record at 41–41,[14] and though they made the playoffs, were eliminated in four games by Los Angeles. Olajuwon put up one of the most productive defensive seasons by an interior player in the history of the NBA. He won the NBA rebounding crown (14.0 per game) again, this time by an even larger margin; a full two rebounds per game over David Robinson, and led the league in blocks by averaging 4.6 per game.[18] He is the only player since the NBA started recording blocked shots in 1973–74 to average 14+ rebounds and 4.5+ blocked shots per game in the same season. In doing so he joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton as the only players in NBA history (at that point) to lead the league in rebounding and shot-blocking in the same season.[19] Olajuwon also recorded a quadruple-double during the season,[20] becoming only the third player in NBA history to do so.

The Rockets finished the 1990–91 season with a record of 52–30[14] under NBA Coach of the Year Chaney. Olajuwon averaged 21.8 points per game in 1990–91, but due to an injury to his eyesocket caused by an elbow from Bill Cartwright,[5] did not play in enough games (56) to qualify for the rebounding title. Otherwise he would have won it for a third consecutive year, averaging 13.8 a game (league leader Robinson averaged 13.0 rpg). He also averaged a league-leading 3.95 blocks per game.[21][22] However, the Rockets were swept in the playoffs by the LA Lakers.

The following season was a low point for the Rockets during Olajuwon’s tenure. They finished 42–40,[14] and missed the playoffs for the first time in Olajuwon’s career. He missed two weeks early in the season due to an accelerated heart beat.[23] Despite his usual strong numbers, he could not lift his team out of mediocrity. Since making the Finals in 1986, the Rockets had made the playoffs five times, but their record in those playoff series was 1–5 and they were eliminated in the first round four times. Following the season, Olajuwon requested a trade in part because of his bad contract; his salary was considerably low for a top center, and his contract specifically forbade re-negotiation.[24] He also expressed displeasure with the organization’s efforts to surround him with quality players. He felt the Rockets had cut corners at every turn, and were more concerned with the bottom line than winning.[25] Management had also infuriated Olajuwon during the season when they accused of him of faking a hamstring injury because of his unhappiness over his contract situation.[26] His agent cited his differences with the organization as being “irreconcilable”,[27] and Olajuwon publicly insulted owner Charlie Thomas and the team’s front office.[24][28] With the 1992–93 season approaching, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle said that Olajuwon being dealt was “as close to a sure thing as there is.”[29]

Nonetheless he was not traded and the Rockets began the season with a new coach in Rudy Tomjanovich. Olajuwon improved his passing in 1992–93,[30] which had previously been considered subpar,[31] setting a new career high of 3.5 assists per game.[18] This willingness to pass the ball increased his scoring, making it more difficult for opposing teams to double and triple-team him. Olajuwon set a new career high with 26.1 points per game.[18] The Rockets set a new franchise record with 55 wins,[14] and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, pushing the Seattle SuperSonics to a seventh game before losing in overtime, 103–100. He finished second in the MVP race to Charles Barkley with 22 votes to Barkley’s 59.[32] The team rewarded him with a four-year contract extension toward the end of the regular season.[33] In stark contrast to the previous year, the Rockets entered the 1993–94 season as a team on the rise. They had a solid core of young players and veterans, with a leader in Olajuwon who was entering his prime.

[edit] Championship yearsOlajuwon gained a reputation as a clutch performer and also as one of the top centers in history based on his performances in the 1993–94 and 1994–95 seasons.[3] He outplayed centers such as Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dikembe Mutombo, and other defensive stalwarts such as Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, and Charles Barkley. Many of his battles were with his fellow Texas-based rival David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs.[34] In the 30 head–to–head match-ups during the seven seasons from the 1989 to 1996, when both Olajuwon and Robinson were in their prime, Olajuwon averaged 26.3 points per game, shooting 47.6% from the field, while Robinson averaged 22.1 and 46.8%.

The Rockets won the 1994 NBA Finals in a seven-game series against the New York Knicks, the team of one of Olajuwon’s perennial rivals since his collegiate days, Patrick Ewing. After being down 2–1, the Knicks took a 3–2 lead into Game 6. The Rockets were defending an 86–84 lead when in the last second, Knicks guard John Starks (who had already scored 27 points) went up for a finals-winning three. Olajuwon pulled off a clutch play by blocking the shot as time expired.[35] In Game 7, Olajuwon posted a game–high 25 points and 10 rebounds, which helping defeat the Knicks, bringing the first professional sports championships to Houston since the Houston Oilers won the American Football League championship in 1961. Olajuwon dominated Ewing in their head–to–head match-up, outscoring him in every game of the series and averaging 26.9 points per game on 50% shooting, compared to Ewing’s 18.9 and 36.3%.[36] For his efforts Olajuwon was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.

Olajuwon was at the pinnacle of his career. In 1994 he became the only player in NBA history to win the MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season.[37] He was also the first foreign-born player to win the league’s MVP award.[38]

Despite a slow start by the team, and Olajuwon missing eight games toward the end of the season with anemia,[39] the Rockets repeated as champions in 1995. They were bolstered in part by the acquisition of Clyde Drexler, Olajuwon’s former University of Houston Phi Slama Jama teammate, in a mid-season trade from the Portland Trail Blazers. Olajuwon averaged 27.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game during the regular season.[21] Olajuwon displayed perhaps the most impressive moments of his career during the playoffs. San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson, recently crowned league MVP, was outplayed by Olajuwon in the Conference Finals: Olajuwon averaged 35.3 points on .560 shooting (Robinson’s numbers were 23.8 and .449) and outscored Robinson 81-41 in the final two games.[40] When asked later what a team could do to “solve” Olajuwon, Robinson told LIFE magazine: “Hakeem? You don’t solve Hakeem.”[5] The Rockets won every road game that series. In the NBA Finals, the Rockets swept the Orlando Magic, who were led by a young Shaquille O’Neal. Olajuwon outscored O’Neal in every game,[36] scoring more than 30 points in each and raising his regular-season rate by five while O’Neal’s production dropped by one.[41] Olajuwon was again named Finals MVP. He averaged 33.0 points on .531 shooting, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.81 blocks in the 1995 Playoffs.[5] As in 1994, Olajuwon was the only Rockets All-Star.[42]

[edit] Post-championship periodThe Rockets’ two-year championship run ended when they were eliminated in the second round of the 1996 NBA Playoffs by the eventual Western Conference Champion Seattle SuperSonics. Michael Jordan had returned from a 21-month hiatus in late 1995, and his Chicago Bulls dominated the league for the next three years (1996–98). The Bulls and Rockets never met in the NBA Playoffs. The Rockets posted a 57–win season in 1996–97 season when they added Charles Barkley to their roster. They started the season 21–2,[43] but lost the Western Conference Finals in six games to the Utah Jazz. After averaging 26.9 and 23.2 points in 1995–96 and 1996–97 respectively, Olajuwon’s point production dipped to 16.4 in 1997–98.[18] After the Rockets lost in the first round in five games to the Jazz in 1998,[44] Drexler retired. In 1998–99 the Rockets acquired veteran All-Star Scottie Pippen and finished 31–19 in the lockout-shortened regular season. Olajuwon’s scoring production rose to 18.9 points per game,[18] and he made his twelfth and final All-NBA Team.[19] However, they lost in the first round again, this time to the Lakers.[45] After the season, Pippen was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.

[edit] Toronto RaptorsHouston began to rebuild, bringing in young guards Cuttino Mobley and 2000 NBA co-Rookie of the Year Steve Francis. On August 2, 2001,[46] after refusing a $13 million deal with the Rockets, Olajuwon was traded to the Toronto Raptors for draft picks (the highest of which was used by Houston to draft Bostjan Nachbar at #15 in the 2002 NBA Draft), with the player having a three-year contract that would give him $18 million. Olajuwon averaged career lows of 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in what would be his final season, as he decided to retire due to back injury.[46][47] Olajuwon retired as the all–time league leader in total blocked shots with 3,830, although shot blocking did not become an official statistic until the 1973-74 NBA season. Shortly after his retirement, his #34 jersey was retired by the Rockets.

[edit] International careerIn 1980, before arriving in the US, Olajuwon played for a Nigerian junior team in the All-Africa Games. This created some problems when he tried to play for the United States men’s national basketball team initially.[48] FIBA rules prohibit players from representing more than one country in international competition, and player must go through a three-year waiting period for any nationality change. Olajuwon was ineligible for selection to the “Dream Team” as he hadn’t became a US citizen.[48]

Olajuwon became a naturalized American citizen on April 2, 1993.[48] For the 1996 Olympics, he received a FIBA exemption and was eligible to play for Dream Team III. The team went on to win the gold medal in Atlanta. During the tournament, he shared his minutes with Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson. He played 7 out of the 8 games and started 2. He averaged 5 points and 3.1 rebounds and had 8 assists and 6 steals in eight games.

[edit] Player profileIf I had to pick a center [for an all-time best team], I would take Olajuwon. That leaves out Shaq, Patrick Ewing. It leaves out Wilt Chamberlain. It leaves out a lot of people. And the reason I would take Olajuwon is very simple: he is so versatile because of what he can give you from that position. It’s not just his scoring, not just his rebounding or not just his blocked shots. People don’t realize he was in the top seven in steals. He always made great decisions on the court. For all facets of the game, I have to give it to him.
—Michael Jordan[49]
Olajuwon was highly skilled as both an offensive and defensive player. On defense, his rare combination of quickness and strength allowed him to guard a wide range of players effectively. He was noted for both his outstanding shot-blocking ability and his unique talent (for a frontcourt player) for stealing the ball. Olajuwon is the only player in NBA history to record more than 200 blocks and 200 steals in the same season. He averaged 3.09 blocks and 1.75 steals per game for his career.[46] He is the only center to rank among the top ten all time in steals.[46] Olajuwon was also an outstanding rebounder, with a career average of 11.1 rebounds per game.[46] He led the NBA in rebounding twice, during the 1989 and 1990 seasons. He was twice named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and was a five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection.

On offense, Olajuwon was famous for his deft shooting touch around the basket and his nimble footwork in the low post. With the ball, Hakeem displayed a vast array of fakes and spin moves, highlighted in his signature “Dream Shake” (see below). He was a prolific scorer, averaging 21.8 points per game for his career,[5] and an above average offensive rebounder, averaging 3.3 offensive rebounds per game.[5] Additionally, Olajuwon became a skilled dribbler with an ability to score in “face-up” situations like a perimeter player.[50] He is 1 of only 4 players to have recorded a quadruple-double in the NBA. (It should be noted that quadruple-doubles were not possible before the 1973-74 season, when blocked shots and steals were first kept as statistics in the NBA.)

[edit] Dream Shake”The best footwork I’ve ever seen from a big man”
—Pete Newell[8]
Olajuwon established himself as an unusually skilled offensive player for a big man, perfecting a set of fakes and spin moves that became known as his trademark Dream Shake. Executed with uncanny speed and power, they are still regarded as the pinnacle of “big man” footwork.[8] Shaquille O’Neal stated: “Hakeem has five moves, then four countermoves – that gives him 20 moves.”[5] Olajuwon himself traced the move back to the soccer-playing days of his youth. “The Dream Shake was actually one of my soccer moves which I translated to basketball. It would accomplish one of three things: one, to misdirect the opponent and make him go the opposite way; two, to freeze the opponent and leave him devastated in his tracks; three, to shake off the opponent and giving him no chance to contest the shot.”[8] The Dream Shake was very difficult to defend, much like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky-hook.[8]

One notable Dream Shake happened in Game 2 of the 1995 Western Conference Finals against the Spurs. With David Robinson guarding him, Olajuwon performed a cross-over, drove to the basket and faked a layup. Robinson, an excellent defender, kept up with Olajuwon and remained planted. Olajuwon spun counterclockwise and faked a jump shot. Robinson, who was voted the 1995 NBA MVP, did fall for the fake that time and jumped to block the shot. With Robinson in the air, Olajuwon performed an up-and-under move and made an easy layup.[51]

Olajuwon has referred to basketball as a science, and described his signature move in vivid detail: “When the point guard throws me the ball, I jump to get the ball. But this jump is the set-up for the second move, the baseline move. I call it the ‘touch landing.’ The defender is waiting for me to come down because I jumped but I’m gone before I land. Defenders say ‘Wow, he’s quick,’ but they don’t know that where I’m going is predetermined. He’s basing it on quickness, but the jump is to set him up. Before I come down, I make my move. When you jump, you turn as you land. Boom! The defender can’t react because he’s waiting for you to come down to defend you. Now, the first time when you showed that quickness, he has to react to that quickness, so you can fake baseline and go the other way with your jump hook. All this is part of the Dream Shake. The Dream Shake is you dribble and then you jump; now you don’t have a pivot foot. When I dribble I move it so when I come here, I jump. By jumping, I don’t have a pivot foot now. I dribble so now I can use either foot. I can go this way or this way. So he’s frozen, he doesn’t know which way I’m going to go. That is the shake. You put him in the mix and you jump stop and now you have choice of pivot foot. He doesn’t know where you’re gonna turn and when.”[52]

[edit] Off the courtOlajuwon married his current wife Dalia Asafi on August 8, 1996 in Houston.[53] They have two daughters, Rahmah and Aisha Olajuwon. Abisola Olajuwon, his daughter with former wife Lita Spencer, whom he met in college, represented the West Girls in the McDonald’s All American Game and played for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.[54]

In addition to English, Olajuwon is fluent in French, Arabic, and the Nigerian languages of Yoruba and Ekiti.[38] He wrote his autobiography, Living the Dream, with co-author Peter Knobler in 1996. During his 18-year NBA career, Olajuwon earned more than $107,000,000 in salary.[55]

Olajuwon, who endorsed a sneaker made by Spalding which retailed for $35, is one of the very few well-known players in any professional sport to endorse a sneaker not from Nike, Reebok, Adidas, or other high-visibility retail brands. As Olajuwon declared: “How can a poor working mother with three boys buy Nikes or Reeboks that cost $120?…She can’t. So kids steal these shoes from stores and from other kids. Sometimes they kill for them.”[56]

[edit] Muslim faithIn Olajuwon’s college career and early years in the NBA, he was often undisciplined, talking back to officials, getting in minor fights with other players and amassing technical fouls. Later, Olajuwon took an active interest in spirituality,[57] becoming a more devout Muslim. On March 9, 1991, he altered his name from Akeem to the proper Arabic spelling Hakeem, saying, “I’m not changing the spelling of my name, I’m correcting it”.[58] He later recalled, “I studied the Qur’an every day. At home, at the mosque…I would read it in airplanes, before games and after them. I was soaking up the faith and learning new meanings each time I turned a page. I didn’t dabble in the faith, I gave myself over to it.”[58] “His religion dominates his life” Drexler said in 1995.[59] Olajuwon was still recognized as one of the league’s elite centers despite his strict observance of Ramadan (i.e., abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours for about a month), which occurred during virtually every season of his career. Olajuwon was noted as sometimes playing better during the month, and in 1995 he was named NBA Player of the Month in February, even though Ramadan began on February 1 of that year.[5][60]

[edit] Post-NBA lifeOlajuwon played for 20 consecutive seasons in the Houston area, first collegiately for the Cougars and then the Rockets.[5] He still maintains a home in the area,[8] and is considered a local icon and one of Houston’s most beloved athletes.[61] Olajuwon has had great success in the Houston real estate market, with his estimated profits exceeding $100 million. He buys in cash-only purchases, as it is against Islamic law to pay interest.[62] Since the end of his career Olajuwon has spent most of his time in Jordan, where he moved with his family to pursue Islamic studies.[8] He returns once or twice a year to visit his friends and former teammates such as Sam Cassell and Robert Horry, whose careers he followed.[8] He keeps in regular phone contact with former Cougars and Rockets teammate Clyde Drexler.[8]

In the 2006 NBA offseason, Olajuwon opened his first Big Man Camp, where he teaches young frontcourt players the finer points of playing in the post. While Olajuwon never expressed an interest in coaching a team, he wishes to give back to the game by helping younger players. When asked whether the league was becoming more guard-oriented and big men were being de-emphasized, Olajuwon responded, “For a big man who is just big, maybe. But not if you play with speed, with agility. It will always be a big man’s game if the big man plays the right way. On defense, the big man can rebound and block shots. On offense, he draws double-teams and creates opportunities. He can add so much, make it easier for the entire team.” He runs the camp for free.[63] Olajuwon has worked with several NBA players, including power forward Emeka Okafor,[64] and center Yao Ming.[65][66] In September 2009, he also worked with Kobe Bryant on the post moves and the Dream Shake.[67] More recently he has been working with Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, helping him diversify his post moves and encouraging more mental focus.[68]

Olajuwon was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2008.

Posted February 25, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Sports

Karl Malone, NBA   Leave a comment


Karl Malone

Karl Anthony Malone (born July 24, 1963), nicknamed “The Mailman,” is a retired American professional basketball power forward. In his basketball career, Malone spent his first 18 seasons (1985–2003) with the Utah Jazz and formed a formidable duo with his teammate John Stockton. He played his final season (2003–04) with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Malone grew up in rural Summerfield, Louisiana and played college basketball at Louisiana Tech University. In his three seasons with Louisiana Tech, he helped the Bulldogs basketball team to its first-ever NCAA tournament in 1984 and to first place in the Southland Conference in 1985. The Jazz drafted Malone in 1985 with the 13th overall pick in the first round.

Having scored 36,298 points in his career, the second most career points in NBA history, and holding the record for most free throws both attempted and made, Malone is generally considered one of the greatest NBA power forwards.[1] In 1997 and 1999, Malone won the NBA Most Valuable Player award. Malone appeared in the playoffs every season in his career, including three NBA Finals: in 1997 and 1998 with the Jazz and in 2004 with the Lakers. Internationally, Malone competed with the United States national team in the Summer Olympic games of 1992 and 1996; in both years he won gold medals. After retiring from the NBA, Malone joined the staff of the Louisiana Tech basketball team in 2007 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Born in Summerfield, Louisiana,[1] Malone was the youngest boy of nine children and during his childhood lived in a farm with his single mother Shirley. His father Shedrick Hay was raising a family with another woman he married and committed suicide when Karl Malone was 14; Malone first disclosed that suicide in 1994. As a child, Malone often worked at the farm and chopped trees, hunted, and fished. He attended the local Summerfield High School and led its basketball team to three consecutive Louisiana Class C titles from 1979 to his senior season in 1981. Although recruited by University of Arkansas basketball coach Eddie Sutton, Malone enrolled at Louisiana Tech University, which was closer to home. He joined the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs basketball team in his second year because his grades were too low for freshman eligibility; Malone played under coach Andy Russo.[2] In his second season with Louisiana Tech (1983-1984), Malone averaged 18.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.[2][3] Louisiana Tech would finish the 1984-1985 season 29-3, at the top of the Southland Conference, and advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history; the team finished at the Sweet 16 round.[4] In each of his three seasons with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Malone was an All-Southland selection.[2]

[edit] NBA career[edit] Early years (1985-1987)In the 1985 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz chose Karl Malone with the 13th overall pick. According to Malone’s official NBA biography: “If professional scouts had correctly predicted the impact Karl Malone would have on the NBA, Malone would have been picked much higher than 13th in the 1985 NBA Draft.”[5] Under head coach Frank Layden, Malone averaged 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds in his first season and made the 1986 NBA All-Rookie Team after coming in third for Rookie of the Year votes.[5] On January 14, 1986, the Jazz beat the Houston Rockets 105-102 to snap the Rockets’ 20-game winning streak. Malone scored 29 points that game, including four free throws followed by a three-pointer by Pace Mannion to rally from a 96-89 deficit with 5 minutes and 36 seconds remaining to a 96-96 tie.[6] For the third consecutive season, the Jazz made the postseason but lost the first round of the 1986 playoffs to the Dallas Mavericks. In the four playoff games, Malone improved in his scoring with a 20 points per game average but was still subpar in shooting (49.6% field goals) and rebounds (8.9). After his second season, Malone became the Jazz’ leader in average scoring (21.7 points) and rebounding (10.4 rebounds); in 24 of 29 games between February 1 and April 3, 1987, he was the leading scorer of the game.[5]

[edit] All-Star, a new coach, and team offense leader (1987-1996)By the 1987–88 season, Malone was the foundation of the offense and John Stockton was the floor general. Malone made his first All-Star Game in 1988 on the strength of 27.1 points per game, and made his first All-NBA team at the end of the season. This was the first of 14 consecutive All-Star appearances for Malone.[5] In the 1988 NBA All-Star Game, Malone led the Western Conference All-Star team with 22 points.[7] The Jazz finished 47–35, third place in the Midwest Division, and defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.[8] In the next round, the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers, led by perennial All-Stars Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, defeated the Jazz in seven games. In the seventh game of the series, Malone scored 31 points and made 15 rebounds, but the Lakers beat the Jazz 109-98 and would eventually win the 1988 NBA Finals. In 11 playoff games in 1988, Malone averaged 29.7 points and 11.8 rebounds.[5]

Malone signed a 10-year contract during the 1988 offseason worth $18 million.[7] In December 1988, Jerry Sloan succeeded Layden as head coach as Layden became team president.[9] Malone averaged 29.1 points in 1988–89, good for second in the NBA behind Michael Jordan, and 10.7 rebounds, which was fifth in the league.[10] This scoring average was Malone’s highest so far in his career. At the 1989 NBA All-Star Game, Malone finished with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists en route to his first All-Star MVP. The Jazz finished 51–31, but were swept in three games in the first round by the Golden State Warriors. This season marked Malone’s first with the All-NBA First Team honor.[5]

Malone, in 1989–90, increased his scoring to 31 points and his rebounding to 11.1 a game and again was selected to the All-NBA First Team and would continue to be selected every year until 1999.[5] On January 27, 1990, Malone scored a career-high 61 points in a 144-96 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks.[11] He made 21 of 26 field goals and 19 of 23 free throws.[12] It was the most points scored by a Jazz player since the team moved to Utah from New Orleans. Although Malone was voted to the NBA All-Star Game for the third consecutive season, because of an ankle injury he sat out the game. He led the team in scoring in 24 of the last 26 games of the season; on March 29, 1990 against the Golden State Warriors, Malone scored 49 points, and on April 12 against the Lakers he scored 45. The Jazz, finishing the season 55-27, lost to the Phoenix Suns within five games in the first round of the playoffs, in which Malone averaged 25.2 points and 10.2 rebounds. For the second straight season, Malone finished second in the league in points per game behind Michael Jordan.[5]

From January 19 to March 4, 1991, Malone led the Jazz in scoring for 19 straight games; after starting the 1990–91 season 7-8 the team went 21-9 in January and February 1991. Malone scored 16 points and took 11 rebounds in the 1991 NBA All-Star Game, his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance for the West, and averaged 29.0 points and 11.8 rebounds each regular season game. He was among four Jazz players with double-figure scoring averages, the others being the newly acquired Jeff Malone (no relation) as well as John Stockton and Thurl Bailey. In four games, the Jazz eliminated the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 1991 playoffs but lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round. Malone made the All-NBA First Team for the third consecutive season.[5]

As he had done in 1989-90, Malone finished the 1991-92 season second in the league in scoring, averaging 28.0 points per game. He made the All-NBA First Team for the fourth straight year.[5] It was also a breakout season for the Jazz; during the 1992 NBA Playoffs, the team made the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.[13] Malone scored 40 or more points in five games this season.[5] Despite his continued success and achievements, Malone encountered trouble for committing a flagrant foul. On December 14, 1991, when the Jazz played against the Detroit Pistons, Malone elbowed the Pistons’ Isiah Thomas on the head. Thomas needed 40 stitches on his eye, and the NBA suspended Malone for the next game without pay and fined him $10,000.[14] In its first-ever franchise Western Conference Finals appearance, in six games the Jazz left the playoffs for the second straight season to the Portland Trail Blazers. Malone averaged 29.1 points on 52.1% shooting and 11.9 rebounds in the 1992 playoffs.[5]

Through the 1990s, Malone continued to put up stellar numbers: in 1992–93, he averaged 27.0 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, 25.2 points and 11.5 rebounds in 1993–94, 26.7 points and 10.6 rebounds in 1994–95, and 25.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in 1995–96.[15] Following the 1992 Summer Olympics in which Malone helped the American national team, dubbed the “Dream Team”, win a gold medal, Malone expressed opposition to Magic Johnson, who had recently tested positive for HIV and retired from the NBA in 1991, making a comeback to the league. Malone’s point of view digressed from the support for Johnson from his Olympic and Los Angeles Lakers teammates, and the NBA implemented AIDS-related precautions after Johnson’s revelation.[16] On February 4, 1993, in a game against the Lakers, Malone surpassed 16,000 points in his career. Malone and his Jazz teammate John Stockton shared the All-Star MVP award in 1993. In the West’s 135-132 overtime win, Malone scored 28 points and made 10 rebounds.[5]

Malone started all 82 games of 1993–94 and helped the Jazz make the Western Conference Finals for the second time in franchise history and his career. In his ninth season, Malone led the Jazz in scoring (25.2), rebounding (11.5), and blocked shots (126), made 49.7% of field goal attempts, and played 3,329 minutes, the second-most that season in the league behind Latrell Sprewell’s 3,533.[5] On March 29, 1994, Malone made a career-high 23 rebounds, but the Jazz lost to the Golden State Warriors 116-113. However, Malone made only 8 of 29 field goals that night and commented post-game: “My rebounds are not going to be tomorrow’s headline…Tomorrow’s headline is going to be all those easy shots I missed.”[17] The eventual NBA champion Houston Rockets eliminated the Jazz from the Western Conference Finals in five games.[5] Although Malone scored 32 points in the Jazz’ 104-99 Game 2 loss, along with Stockton’s 18, they and the Jazz were no match for the Rockets with high-scoring center Hakeem Olajuwon. Midway into the fourth quarter, Malone and Olajuwon scored in four consecutive possessions by their teams, leading up to a 93-93 tie.[18]

For the first time in team history, in 1994–95, the Utah Jazz won 60 games. In addition, the team won 15 consecutive away games (the best such streak by the team, then the second-best streak in the league). Malone’s 26.7 points per game ranked fourth in the NBA, and Malone became the 19th NBA player to reach 20,000 career points on January 20, 1995. In the 1995 playoffs, the Jazz lost to the Houston Rockets for the second consecutive year, this time in the first round.[5] The Rockets became NBA champions for the second straight season.

On January 13, 1996, Malone renewed his contract with the Jazz.[15] The Jazz only made it as far as the Western Conference Finals in this period, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers (1992), the Houston Rockets (1994) and the Seattle SuperSonics (1996).

[edit] Western Conference championship years (1996-1998)Malone returned from a gold medal winning-effort at the 1996 Summer Olympics leading the Jazz to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances. During the 1996-97 season, Malone put up a resurgent 27.4 points per game while leading the Jazz to a 64–18 record, the most regular season wins in team history. Malone won his first NBA Most Valuable Player award, and the Jazz were the top team in the Western Conference and the playoff champions in that conference.[2][19] After sweeping the Los Angeles Clippers and defeating the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz took on the Houston Rockets, led by the aging trio of Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and Clyde Drexler. The Jazz beat them in six games (the last victory coming on a last-second shot by Stockton). Malone finally got to the Finals in 1997, where they played the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. In a matchup of the two previous MVPs, the Bulls took the first two games at the United Center. Malone struggled from the field, going 6 of 20 for 20 points in Game Two. However the Jazz won the next two games at the Delta Center behind Malone’s 37 points in Game 3 and 23 in Game 4, including a game-winning fastbreak lay-up off a spectacular assist by Stockton in the last minute. The Bulls took the next two games and the series, with Malone struggling from the foul line in the pivotal Game 6.

The next season saw the Jazz once again dominate. Malone put up 27 points per game and just missed out on his second MVP award, losing to Jordan. Nevertheless, the Jazz posted a 62–20 record, which was the best in the NBA. The Jazz once again were seated at the top of the Western Conference, and in the 1998 playoffs they defeated the Rockets, Spurs, and Lakers (via a sweep) en route to their second consecutive Finals appearance. The rematch with the Chicago Bulls would start differently, as Malone put up 21 points and the Jazz won Game 1, 88–85. Malone found himself unable to put up consistently high numbers, due in large part to the swarming defense of defenders Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen. In Game 5 of the 1998 Finals, Malone led the Jazz in scoring with 39 points, and the Jazz beat the Bulls 83-81 in Chicago. Malone scored his 39 points on 17-for-27 shooting and also made nine rebounds, five assists, and one turnover. Many of his shots were “mid-range turnaround jumpers from the left side.”[20]

A sixth game of the Finals was held at the Jazz’ home court, the Delta Center at Salt Lake City, and by trailing the series 3-2 the team was one loss away from losing the series.[21] Malone scored 31 points and made 11 rebounds. Although the Jazz held leads of 49-45 by halftime and 66-61 after the third quarter, the team squandered their lead in the fourth and would lose after Malone lost a pass in the post.[22] With 18.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Jazz leading 86-85, Bulls guard/forward Michael Jordan stole the ball just passed to Malone and with 5.2 seconds left made a jump shot that gave the Bulls an 87-86 lead. John Stockton missed a potential game-winning jump shot. Jordan’s shot has been dubbed as the “greatest feat” in his career, and the Bulls’ 1998 title was their third consecutive championship and sixth since 1991.[23]

[edit] Later seasons with Jazz (1998-2003)In the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Malone won his second MVP award and the Jazz went 37–13. They lost in the second round to the Trail Blazers, and for the next several years the Jazz fell out of title contention. The Jazz won Game 5 of the second-round 1999 round against the Blazers 88-71 to force a sixth game, and Malone scored 23 points. In that game, Malone elbowed the Blazers’ Brian Grant, something he also did in Game 1 and for which he was fined $10,000.[24] Despite the decline of his team and his advancing age, Malone averaged 25.5, 23.2, 22.4, and 20.6 points per game in his last four seasons with Utah. In the 2002–2003 season, Malone passed Wilt Chamberlain for second on the all-time scoring list with 36,374 points. He became a free agent in 2003, after which Stockton had retired. For the time Malone and point guard John Stockton played together on the Jazz (1984-2003), the two formed one of the most productive guard–forward combinations in NBA history. Playing coach Jerry Sloan’s scrappy and tough style and perfecting the pick and roll to a maximum degree of efficiency, the Jazz regularly made the playoffs with a winning record. Malone led the Jazz to multiple 50-win seasons with the exception of 1992–93 (47–35).

[edit] Final season with Lakers (2003-2004)Malone played in the NBA for one more season, joining the Los Angeles Lakers in an attempt to win a championship, the only major achievement absent in his career. His bid failed as the Lakers were defeated in five games by the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals. Malone sprained his right knee and played injured for four games in the Finals before missing Game Five, with the Lakers down 3–1 and the series almost over. The Jazz retired his number 32 jersey in his honor.

[edit] Free agency and retirement (2004-2005)After his season with the Lakers, Malone became a free agent. He had knee surgery during the summer of 2004, and personal problems with Lakers guard Kobe Bryant prompted Malone not to return for another season with the team. The New York Knicks sought to sign Malone for 2004–05.[25] In early February 2005, prior to the 2005 NBA All-Star Game, Malone’s agent speculated that Malone would sign with the San Antonio Spurs.[26] At a press conference on February 13, 2005 at the Delta Center, the arena of the Utah Jazz, Malone officially announced his retirement from the NBA after 19 seasons.[27]

[edit] Olympic careerOlympic medal record
Men’s Basketball
Competitor for United States
Gold 1992 Barcelona National team
Gold 1996 Atlanta National team

In 1984, Malone and Stockton were both cut from the amateurs-only United States men’s national basketball team but joined the team in 1992, when national basketball teams welcomed professionals.[28]

The Oregon National Guard made Malone an honorary member after the U.S. national team beat the Venezuelan team 127-80 in the gold-medal game of the 1992 Olympic qualifier tournament.[29]

Malone played in the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics and won gold medals with the US team both years. In the 1996 Olympics, Malone averaged 8.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game and made 56.9% of two-point field goal attempts and 52.9% of free throw attempts.[30

Posted February 25, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Sports

Karl Malone, NBA Player   Leave a comment


Karl Malone

Karl Anthony Malone (born July 24, 1963), nicknamed “The Mailman,” is a retired American professional basketball power forward. In his basketball career, Malone spent his first 18 seasons (1985–2003) with the Utah Jazz and formed a formidable duo with his teammate John Stockton. He played his final season (2003–04) with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Malone grew up in rural Summerfield, Louisiana and played college basketball at Louisiana Tech University. In his three seasons with Louisiana Tech, he helped the Bulldogs basketball team to its first-ever NCAA tournament in 1984 and to first place in the Southland Conference in 1985. The Jazz drafted Malone in 1985 with the 13th overall pick in the first round.

Having scored 36,298 points in his career, the second most career points in NBA history, and holding the record for most free throws both attempted and made, Malone is generally considered one of the greatest NBA power forwards.[1] In 1997 and 1999, Malone won the NBA Most Valuable Player award. Malone appeared in the playoffs every season in his career, including three NBA Finals: in 1997 and 1998 with the Jazz and in 2004 with the Lakers. Internationally, Malone competed with the United States national team in the Summer Olympic games of 1992 and 1996; in both years he won gold medals. After retiring from the NBA, Malone joined the staff of the Louisiana Tech basketball team in 2007 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Born in Summerfield, Louisiana,[1] Malone was the youngest boy of nine children and during his childhood lived in a farm with his single mother Shirley. His father Shedrick Hay was raising a family with another woman he married and committed suicide when Karl Malone was 14; Malone first disclosed that suicide in 1994. As a child, Malone often worked at the farm and chopped trees, hunted, and fished. He attended the local Summerfield High School and led its basketball team to three consecutive Louisiana Class C titles from 1979 to his senior season in 1981. Although recruited by University of Arkansas basketball coach Eddie Sutton, Malone enrolled at Louisiana Tech University, which was closer to home. He joined the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs basketball team in his second year because his grades were too low for freshman eligibility; Malone played under coach Andy Russo.[2] In his second season with Louisiana Tech (1983-1984), Malone averaged 18.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.[2][3] Louisiana Tech would finish the 1984-1985 season 29-3, at the top of the Southland Conference, and advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history; the team finished at the Sweet 16 round.[4] In each of his three seasons with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Malone was an All-Southland selection.[2]

[edit] NBA career[edit] Early years (1985-1987)In the 1985 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz chose Karl Malone with the 13th overall pick. According to Malone’s official NBA biography: “If professional scouts had correctly predicted the impact Karl Malone would have on the NBA, Malone would have been picked much higher than 13th in the 1985 NBA Draft.”[5] Under head coach Frank Layden, Malone averaged 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds in his first season and made the 1986 NBA All-Rookie Team after coming in third for Rookie of the Year votes.[5] On January 14, 1986, the Jazz beat the Houston Rockets 105-102 to snap the Rockets’ 20-game winning streak. Malone scored 29 points that game, including four free throws followed by a three-pointer by Pace Mannion to rally from a 96-89 deficit with 5 minutes and 36 seconds remaining to a 96-96 tie.[6] For the third consecutive season, the Jazz made the postseason but lost the first round of the 1986 playoffs to the Dallas Mavericks. In the four playoff games, Malone improved in his scoring with a 20 points per game average but was still subpar in shooting (49.6% field goals) and rebounds (8.9). After his second season, Malone became the Jazz’ leader in average scoring (21.7 points) and rebounding (10.4 rebounds); in 24 of 29 games between February 1 and April 3, 1987, he was the leading scorer of the game.[5]

[edit] All-Star, a new coach, and team offense leader (1987-1996)By the 1987–88 season, Malone was the foundation of the offense and John Stockton was the floor general. Malone made his first All-Star Game in 1988 on the strength of 27.1 points per game, and made his first All-NBA team at the end of the season. This was the first of 14 consecutive All-Star appearances for Malone.[5] In the 1988 NBA All-Star Game, Malone led the Western Conference All-Star team with 22 points.[7] The Jazz finished 47–35, third place in the Midwest Division, and defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.[8] In the next round, the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers, led by perennial All-Stars Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, defeated the Jazz in seven games. In the seventh game of the series, Malone scored 31 points and made 15 rebounds, but the Lakers beat the Jazz 109-98 and would eventually win the 1988 NBA Finals. In 11 playoff games in 1988, Malone averaged 29.7 points and 11.8 rebounds.[5]

Malone signed a 10-year contract during the 1988 offseason worth $18 million.[7] In December 1988, Jerry Sloan succeeded Layden as head coach as Layden became team president.[9] Malone averaged 29.1 points in 1988–89, good for second in the NBA behind Michael Jordan, and 10.7 rebounds, which was fifth in the league.[10] This scoring average was Malone’s highest so far in his career. At the 1989 NBA All-Star Game, Malone finished with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists en route to his first All-Star MVP. The Jazz finished 51–31, but were swept in three games in the first round by the Golden State Warriors. This season marked Malone’s first with the All-NBA First Team honor.[5]

Malone, in 1989–90, increased his scoring to 31 points and his rebounding to 11.1 a game and again was selected to the All-NBA First Team and would continue to be selected every year until 1999.[5] On January 27, 1990, Malone scored a career-high 61 points in a 144-96 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks.[11] He made 21 of 26 field goals and 19 of 23 free throws.[12] It was the most points scored by a Jazz player since the team moved to Utah from New Orleans. Although Malone was voted to the NBA All-Star Game for the third consecutive season, because of an ankle injury he sat out the game. He led the team in scoring in 24 of the last 26 games of the season; on March 29, 1990 against the Golden State Warriors, Malone scored 49 points, and on April 12 against the Lakers he scored 45. The Jazz, finishing the season 55-27, lost to the Phoenix Suns within five games in the first round of the playoffs, in which Malone averaged 25.2 points and 10.2 rebounds. For the second straight season, Malone finished second in the league in points per game behind Michael Jordan.[5]

From January 19 to March 4, 1991, Malone led the Jazz in scoring for 19 straight games; after starting the 1990–91 season 7-8 the team went 21-9 in January and February 1991. Malone scored 16 points and took 11 rebounds in the 1991 NBA All-Star Game, his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance for the West, and averaged 29.0 points and 11.8 rebounds each regular season game. He was among four Jazz players with double-figure scoring averages, the others being the newly acquired Jeff Malone (no relation) as well as John Stockton and Thurl Bailey. In four games, the Jazz eliminated the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 1991 playoffs but lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round. Malone made the All-NBA First Team for the third consecutive season.[5]

As he had done in 1989-90, Malone finished the 1991-92 season second in the league in scoring, averaging 28.0 points per game. He made the All-NBA First Team for the fourth straight year.[5] It was also a breakout season for the Jazz; during the 1992 NBA Playoffs, the team made the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.[13] Malone scored 40 or more points in five games this season.[5] Despite his continued success and achievements, Malone encountered trouble for committing a flagrant foul. On December 14, 1991, when the Jazz played against the Detroit Pistons, Malone elbowed the Pistons’ Isiah Thomas on the head. Thomas needed 40 stitches on his eye, and the NBA suspended Malone for the next game without pay and fined him $10,000.[14] In its first-ever franchise Western Conference Finals appearance, in six games the Jazz left the playoffs for the second straight season to the Portland Trail Blazers. Malone averaged 29.1 points on 52.1% shooting and 11.9 rebounds in the 1992 playoffs.[5]

Through the 1990s, Malone continued to put up stellar numbers: in 1992–93, he averaged 27.0 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, 25.2 points and 11.5 rebounds in 1993–94, 26.7 points and 10.6 rebounds in 1994–95, and 25.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in 1995–96.[15] Following the 1992 Summer Olympics in which Malone helped the American national team, dubbed the “Dream Team”, win a gold medal, Malone expressed opposition to Magic Johnson, who had recently tested positive for HIV and retired from the NBA in 1991, making a comeback to the league. Malone’s point of view digressed from the support for Johnson from his Olympic and Los Angeles Lakers teammates, and the NBA implemented AIDS-related precautions after Johnson’s revelation.[16] On February 4, 1993, in a game against the Lakers, Malone surpassed 16,000 points in his career. Malone and his Jazz teammate John Stockton shared the All-Star MVP award in 1993. In the West’s 135-132 overtime win, Malone scored 28 points and made 10 rebounds.[5]

Malone started all 82 games of 1993–94 and helped the Jazz make the Western Conference Finals for the second time in franchise history and his career. In his ninth season, Malone led the Jazz in scoring (25.2), rebounding (11.5), and blocked shots (126), made 49.7% of field goal attempts, and played 3,329 minutes, the second-most that season in the league behind Latrell Sprewell’s 3,533.[5] On March 29, 1994, Malone made a career-high 23 rebounds, but the Jazz lost to the Golden State Warriors 116-113. However, Malone made only 8 of 29 field goals that night and commented post-game: “My rebounds are not going to be tomorrow’s headline…Tomorrow’s headline is going to be all those easy shots I missed.”[17] The eventual NBA champion Houston Rockets eliminated the Jazz from the Western Conference Finals in five games.[5] Although Malone scored 32 points in the Jazz’ 104-99 Game 2 loss, along with Stockton’s 18, they and the Jazz were no match for the Rockets with high-scoring center Hakeem Olajuwon. Midway into the fourth quarter, Malone and Olajuwon scored in four consecutive possessions by their teams, leading up to a 93-93 tie.[18]

For the first time in team history, in 1994–95, the Utah Jazz won 60 games. In addition, the team won 15 consecutive away games (the best such streak by the team, then the second-best streak in the league). Malone’s 26.7 points per game ranked fourth in the NBA, and Malone became the 19th NBA player to reach 20,000 career points on January 20, 1995. In the 1995 playoffs, the Jazz lost to the Houston Rockets for the second consecutive year, this time in the first round.[5] The Rockets became NBA champions for the second straight season.

On January 13, 1996, Malone renewed his contract with the Jazz.[15] The Jazz only made it as far as the Western Conference Finals in this period, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers (1992), the Houston Rockets (1994) and the Seattle SuperSonics (1996).

[edit] Western Conference championship years (1996-1998)Malone returned from a gold medal winning-effort at the 1996 Summer Olympics leading the Jazz to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances. During the 1996-97 season, Malone put up a resurgent 27.4 points per game while leading the Jazz to a 64–18 record, the most regular season wins in team history. Malone won his first NBA Most Valuable Player award, and the Jazz were the top team in the Western Conference and the playoff champions in that conference.[2][19] After sweeping the Los Angeles Clippers and defeating the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz took on the Houston Rockets, led by the aging trio of Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and Clyde Drexler. The Jazz beat them in six games (the last victory coming on a last-second shot by Stockton). Malone finally got to the Finals in 1997, where they played the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. In a matchup of the two previous MVPs, the Bulls took the first two games at the United Center. Malone struggled from the field, going 6 of 20 for 20 points in Game Two. However the Jazz won the next two games at the Delta Center behind Malone’s 37 points in Game 3 and 23 in Game 4, including a game-winning fastbreak lay-up off a spectacular assist by Stockton in the last minute. The Bulls took the next two games and the series, with Malone struggling from the foul line in the pivotal Game 6.

The next season saw the Jazz once again dominate. Malone put up 27 points per game and just missed out on his second MVP award, losing to Jordan. Nevertheless, the Jazz posted a 62–20 record, which was the best in the NBA. The Jazz once again were seated at the top of the Western Conference, and in the 1998 playoffs they defeated the Rockets, Spurs, and Lakers (via a sweep) en route to their second consecutive Finals appearance. The rematch with the Chicago Bulls would start differently, as Malone put up 21 points and the Jazz won Game 1, 88–85. Malone found himself unable to put up consistently high numbers, due in large part to the swarming defense of defenders Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen. In Game 5 of the 1998 Finals, Malone led the Jazz in scoring with 39 points, and the Jazz beat the Bulls 83-81 in Chicago. Malone scored his 39 points on 17-for-27 shooting and also made nine rebounds, five assists, and one turnover. Many of his shots were “mid-range turnaround jumpers from the left side.”[20]

A sixth game of the Finals was held at the Jazz’ home court, the Delta Center at Salt Lake City, and by trailing the series 3-2 the team was one loss away from losing the series.[21] Malone scored 31 points and made 11 rebounds. Although the Jazz held leads of 49-45 by halftime and 66-61 after the third quarter, the team squandered their lead in the fourth and would lose after Malone lost a pass in the post.[22] With 18.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Jazz leading 86-85, Bulls guard/forward Michael Jordan stole the ball just passed to Malone and with 5.2 seconds left made a jump shot that gave the Bulls an 87-86 lead. John Stockton missed a potential game-winning jump shot. Jordan’s shot has been dubbed as the “greatest feat” in his career, and the Bulls’ 1998 title was their third consecutive championship and sixth since 1991.[23]

[edit] Later seasons with Jazz (1998-2003)In the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Malone won his second MVP award and the Jazz went 37–13. They lost in the second round to the Trail Blazers, and for the next several years the Jazz fell out of title contention. The Jazz won Game 5 of the second-round 1999 round against the Blazers 88-71 to force a sixth game, and Malone scored 23 points. In that game, Malone elbowed the Blazers’ Brian Grant, something he also did in Game 1 and for which he was fined $10,000.[24] Despite the decline of his team and his advancing age, Malone averaged 25.5, 23.2, 22.4, and 20.6 points per game in his last four seasons with Utah. In the 2002–2003 season, Malone passed Wilt Chamberlain for second on the all-time scoring list with 36,374 points. He became a free agent in 2003, after which Stockton had retired. For the time Malone and point guard John Stockton played together on the Jazz (1984-2003), the two formed one of the most productive guard–forward combinations in NBA history. Playing coach Jerry Sloan’s scrappy and tough style and perfecting the pick and roll to a maximum degree of efficiency, the Jazz regularly made the playoffs with a winning record. Malone led the Jazz to multiple 50-win seasons with the exception of 1992–93 (47–35).

[edit] Final season with Lakers (2003-2004)Malone played in the NBA for one more season, joining the Los Angeles Lakers in an attempt to win a championship, the only major achievement absent in his career. His bid failed as the Lakers were defeated in five games by the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals. Malone sprained his right knee and played injured for four games in the Finals before missing Game Five, with the Lakers down 3–1 and the series almost over. The Jazz retired his number 32 jersey in his honor.

[edit] Free agency and retirement (2004-2005)After his season with the Lakers, Malone became a free agent. He had knee surgery during the summer of 2004, and personal problems with Lakers guard Kobe Bryant prompted Malone not to return for another season with the team. The New York Knicks sought to sign Malone for 2004–05.[25] In early February 2005, prior to the 2005 NBA All-Star Game, Malone’s agent speculated that Malone would sign with the San Antonio Spurs.[26] At a press conference on February 13, 2005 at the Delta Center, the arena of the Utah Jazz, Malone officially announced his retirement from the NBA after 19 seasons.[27]

[edit] Olympic careerOlympic medal record
Men’s Basketball
Competitor for United States
Gold 1992 Barcelona National team
Gold 1996 Atlanta National team

In 1984, Malone and Stockton were both cut from the amateurs-only United States men’s national basketball team but joined the team in 1992, when national basketball teams welcomed professionals.[28]

The Oregon National Guard made Malone an honorary member after the U.S. national team beat the Venezuelan team 127-80 in the gold-medal game of the 1992 Olympic qualifier tournament.[29]

Malone played in the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics and won gold medals with the US team both years. In the 1996 Olympics, Malone averaged 8.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game and made 56.9% of two-point field goal attempts and 52.9% of free throw attempts.[30

Posted February 24, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Sports

Magic Johnson, NBA Player   Leave a comment


magic

Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. (born August 14, 1959) is a retired American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). After winning championships in high school and college, Johnson was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Lakers. He won a championship and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season, and won four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s. Johnson retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had contracted HIV, but returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, winning the All-Star MVP Award. After protests from his fellow players, he retired again for four years, but returned in 1996, at age 37, to play 32 games for the Lakers before retiring for the third and final time.

Johnson’s career achievements include three NBA MVP Awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, twelve All-Star games, and ten All-NBA First and Second Team nominations. He led the league in regular-season assists four times, and is the NBA’s all-time leader in average assists per game, at 11.2.[3] Johnson was a member of the “Dream Team”, the U.S. basketball team that won the Olympic gold medal in 1992.

Johnson was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996, and enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.[4] He was rated the greatest NBA point guard of all time by ESPN in 2007.[5] His friendship and rivalry with Boston Celtics star Larry Bird, whom he faced in the 1979 NCAA finals and three NBA championship series, were well documented. Since his retirement, Johnson has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex,[4] as well as an entrepreneur,[6] philanthropist,[7] broadcaster and motivational speaker.[8]

Amateur careerEarly yearsEarvin Johnson Jr. was born to Earvin Sr., a General Motors assembly worker, and Christine, a school custodian.[9] Johnson grew up in Lansing, Michigan, and came to love basketball as a youngster, idolizing players such as Earl Monroe and Marques Haynes,[10] and practicing “all day”.[4]

Johnson was first dubbed “Magic” as a 15-year-old sophomore playing for Lansing’s Everett High School, when he recorded a triple-double of 36 points, 18 rebounds and 16 assists.[4] After the game, Fred Stabley Jr., a sports writer for the Lansing State Journal, gave him the moniker[11] despite the belief of Johnson’s mother, a Christian, that the name was sacrilegious.[4] In his final high school season, Johnson led Lansing Everett to a 27–1 win–loss record while averaging 28.8 points and 16.8 rebounds per game,[4] and took his team to an overtime victory in the state championship game.[12]

Michigan State UniversityAlthough Johnson was recruited by several top-ranked colleges such as Indiana and UCLA, he decided to play close to home.[13] His college decision came down to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University in East Lansing. He ultimately decided to attend Michigan State when their coach Jud Heathcote told him he could play the point guard position. The talent already on Michigan State’s roster also drew him to the program.[14]

Johnson did not initially aspire to play professionally, focusing instead on his communication studies major and on his desire to become a television commentator.[15] Playing with future NBA draftees Greg Kelser, Jay Vincent and Mike Brkovich, Johnson averaged 17.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game as a freshman, and led the Spartans to a 25–5 record, the Big Ten Conference title, and a berth in the 1978 NCAA Tournament.[4] The Spartans reached the Elite Eight, but lost narrowly to eventual national champion Kentucky.[16]

During the 1978–79 season, Michigan State again qualified for the NCAA Tournament, where they advanced to the championship game and faced Indiana State University, which was led by senior Larry Bird. In what was the most-watched college basketball game ever,[17] Michigan State defeated Indiana State 75–64, and Johnson was voted Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.[12] After two years in college, during which he averaged 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game, Johnson was drafted in the 1979 NBA Draft.[18]

Professional careerRookie season in the NBA (1979–80)Johnson was drafted first overall in 1979 by the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson said that what was “most amazing” about joining the Lakers was the chance to play alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,[19] the team’s 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) center who became the leading scorer in NBA history.[20] Despite Abdul-Jabbar’s dominance, he had failed to win a championship with the Lakers, and Johnson was expected to help them achieve that goal.[21] Johnson averaged 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game for the season, was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Team, and was named an NBA All-Star Game starter.[22]

The Lakers compiled a 60–22 record in the regular season and reached the 1980 NBA Finals,[23] in which they faced the Philadelphia 76ers, who were led by forward Julius Erving. The Lakers took a 3–2 lead in the series, but Abdul-Jabbar, who averaged 33 points a game in the series,[24] sprained his ankle in Game 5 and could not play in Game 6.[21] Paul Westhead decided to start Johnson at center in Game 6; Johnson recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in a 123–107 win, while playing guard, forward, and center at different times during the game.[21] Johnson became the only rookie to win the NBA Finals MVP award,[21] and his clutch performance is still regarded as one of the finest in NBA history.[5][25][26] He also became one of four players to win NCAA and NBA championships in consecutive years.[27]

Ups and downs (1980–83)Early in the 1980–81 season, Johnson was sidelined after he suffered torn cartilage in his left knee. He missed 45 games,[18] and said that his rehabilitation was the “most down” he had ever felt.[28] Johnson returned before the start of the 1981 playoffs, but the Lakers’ then-assistant and future head coach Pat Riley later said Johnson’s much-anticipated return made the Lakers a “divided team”.[29] The 54-win Lakers faced the 40–42 Houston Rockets in the first round of playoffs,[30][31] where Houston upset the Lakers 2–1 after Johnson airballed a last-second shot in Game 3.[32]

During the off-season, Johnson signed a 25-year, $25 million contract with the Lakers, which was the highest-paying contract in sports history up to that point.[33] At the beginning of the 1981–82 season, Johnson had a heated dispute with Westhead, who Johnson said made the Lakers “slow” and “predictable”.[34] After Johnson demanded to be traded, Lakers owner Jerry Buss fired Westhead and replaced him with Riley. Although Johnson denied responsibility for Westhead’s firing,[35] he was booed across the league, even by Lakers’ fans.[4] Despite his off-court troubles, Johnson averaged 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 9.5 assists, and a league-high 2.7 steals per game, and was voted a member of the All-NBA Second Team.[18] He also joined Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the only NBA players to tally at least 700 points, 700 rebounds, and 700 assists in the same season.[12] The Lakers advanced through the 1982 playoffs and faced Philadelphia for the second time in three years in the 1982 NBA Finals. After a triple-double from Johnson in Game 6, the Lakers defeated the Sixers 4–2, as Johnson won his second NBA Finals MVP award.[36] During the championship series against the Sixers, Johnson averaged 16.2 points on .533 shooting, 10.8 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 2.5 steals per game.[37] Johnson later said that his third season was when the Lakers first became a great team,[38] and he credited their success to Riley.[39]

During the 1982–83 NBA season, Johnson averaged 16.8 points, 10.5 assists, and 8.6 rebounds per game and earned his first All-NBA First Team nomination.[18] The Lakers again reached the Finals, and for a third time faced the Sixers, who featured center Moses Malone as well as Erving.[40] With Johnson’s teammates Norm Nixon, James Worthy and Bob McAdoo all hobbled by injuries, the Lakers were swept by the Sixers, and Malone was crowned the Finals MVP.[40] In a losing effort against Philadelphia, Johnson averaged 19.0 points on .403 shooting, 12.5 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per game.[41]

Battles against the Celtics (1983–87)
Johnson battling with Bird for rebounding position in Game 2 of the 1985 NBA Finals at Boston Garden.In Johnson’s fifth season, he averaged a double-double of 17.6 points and 13.1 assists, as well as 7.3 rebounds per game.[18] The Lakers reached the Finals for the third year in a row, where Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics met for the first time in the post-season.[42] The Lakers won the first game, and led by two points in Game 2 with 18 seconds to go, but after a layup by Gerald Henderson, Johnson failed to get a shot off before the final buzzer sounded, and the Lakers lost 124–121 in overtime.[42] In Game 3, Johnson responded with 21 assists in a 137–104 win, but in Game 4, he again made several crucial errors late in the contest. In the final minute of the game, Johnson had the ball stolen by Celtics center Robert Parish, and then missed two free throws that could have won the game. The Celtics won Game 4 in overtime, and the teams split the next two games. In the decisive Game 7 in Boston, as the Lakers trailed by three points in the final minute, opposing point guard Dennis Johnson stole the ball from Johnson, a play that effectively ended the series.[42] Friends Isiah Thomas and Mark Aguirre consoled him that night, talking until the morning in his Boston hotel room amidst fan celebrations on the street.[43][44] During the Finals, Johnson averaged 18.0 points on .560 shooting, 13.6 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per game.[45] Johnson later described the series as “the one championship we should have had but didn’t get”.[46]

In the regular season, Johnson averaged 18.3 points, 12.6 assists, and 6.2 rebounds per game and led the Lakers into the 1985 NBA Finals, where they faced the Celtics again. The series started poorly for the Lakers when they allowed an NBA Finals record 148 points to the Celtics in a 34-point loss in Game 1.[47] However, Abdul-Jabbar, who was now 38 years old, scored 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in Game 2, and his 36 points in a Game 5 win were instrumental in establishing a 3–2 lead for Los Angeles.[47] After the Lakers defeated the Celtics in six games, Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson, who averaged 18.3 points on .494 shooting, 14.0 assists, and 6.8 rebounds per game in the championship series,[48][49] said the Finals win was the highlight of their careers.[50]

Johnson again averaged a double-double in the 1985–86 NBA season, with 18.8 points, 12.6 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game.[18] The Lakers advanced to the Western Conference Finals, but were unable to defeat the Houston Rockets, who advanced to the Finals in five games.[51] In the next season, Johnson averaged a career-high of 23.9 points, as well as 12.2 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game,[18] and earned his first regular season MVP award.[4][52] The Lakers met the Celtics for the third time in the NBA Finals, and in Game 4 Johnson hit a last-second hook shot over Celtics big men Parish and Kevin McHale to win the game 107–106.[53] The game-winning shot, which Johnson dubbed his “junior, junior, junior sky-hook”,[53] helped Los Angeles defeat Boston in six games. Johnson was awarded his third Finals MVP title after averaging 26.2 points on .541 shooting, 13.0 assists, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.33 steals per game.[53][54]

Repeat and falling short (1987–91)Before the 1987–88 NBA season, Lakers coach Pat Riley publicly promised that they would defend the NBA title, even though no team had won consecutive titles since the Celtics did so in the 1969 NBA Finals.[55] Johnson had another productive season with averages of 19.6 points, 11.9 assists, and 6.2 rebounds per game.[18] In the 1988 playoffs, the Lakers survived two 4–3 series against the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks to reach the Finals and face Thomas and the Detroit Pistons,[56] known as the “Bad Boys” for their physical style of play.[57] Johnson and Thomas greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek before the opening tip of Game 1, which they called a display of brotherly love.[44][58][59] After the teams split the first six games, Lakers forward and Finals MVP James Worthy had his first career triple-double of 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists, and led his team to a 108–105 win.[60] Despite not being named MVP, Johnson had a strong championship series, averaging 21.1 points on .550 shooting, 13.0 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game.[61]

In the 1988–89 NBA season, Johnson’s 22.5 points, 12.8 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game[18] earned him his second MVP award,[62] and the Lakers reached the 1989 NBA Finals, in which they again faced the Pistons. However, after Johnson went down with a hamstring injury in Game 2, the Lakers were no match for the Pistons, who swept them 4–0.[63]

Playing without Abdul-Jabbar for the first time, Johnson won his third MVP award[64] after a strong 1989–90 NBA season in which he averaged 22.3 points, 11.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game.[18] However, the Lakers bowed out to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals, which was the Lakers’ earliest playoffs elimination in nine years.[65] Johnson performed well during the 1990–91 NBA season, with averages of 19.4 points, 12.5 assists, and 7.0 rebounds per game, and the Lakers reached the 1991 NBA Finals. There they faced the Chicago Bulls, led by shooting guard Michael Jordan, a five-time scoring champion regarded as the finest player of his era.[66][67] Although the series was portrayed as a matchup between Johnson and Jordan,[68] Bulls forward Scottie Pippen defended effectively against Johnson. Despite two triple-doubles from Johnson during the series, finals MVP Jordan led his team to a 4–1 win.[4] In the last championship series of his career, Johnson averaged 18.6 points on .431 shooting, 12.4 assists, and 8.0 rebounds per game.[69]

HIV announcement and Olympics (1991–92)After a physical before the 1991–92 NBA season, Johnson discovered that he had tested positive for HIV. In a press conference held on November 7, 1991, Johnson made a public announcement that he would retire immediately.[70] He stated that his wife Cookie and their unborn child did not have HIV, and that he would dedicate his life to “battle this deadly disease”.[70] Johnson initially said that he did not know how he contracted the disease,[70] but later acknowledged that it was through having multiple sexual partners during his playing career.[71] At the time, only a small percentage of HIV-positive people had contracted it from heterosexual sex,[72][59] and it was initially rumored that Johnson was gay or bisexual, although he denied both.[59] Johnson later accused Isiah Thomas of spreading the rumors, a claim Thomas denied.[44][73] Johnson’s HIV announcement became a major news story in the United States,[74] and in 2004 was named as ESPN’s seventh most memorable moment of the past 25 years.[75] Many articles praised Johnson as a hero, and former U.S. President George H. W. Bush said, “For me, Magic is a hero, a hero for anyone who loves sports.”[76]

Olympic medal record
Men’s basketball
Competitor for United States
Gold 1992 Barcelona National team

Despite his retirement, Johnson was voted by fans as a starter for the 1992 NBA All-Star Game at Orlando Arena, although his former teammates Byron Scott and A. C. Green said that Johnson should not play,[77] and several NBA players, including Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone, argued that they would be at risk of contamination if Johnson suffered an open wound while on court.[78] Johnson led the West to a 153–113 win and was crowned All-Star MVP after recording 25 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds.[79] The game ended after he made a last-minute three-pointer, and players from both teams ran onto the court to congratulate Johnson.[80]

Johnson was chosen to compete in the 1992 Summer Olympics for the US basketball team, dubbed the “Dream Team” because of the NBA stars on the roster.[81] During the tournament, which the USA won,[82] Johnson played infrequently because of knee problems, but he received standing ovations from the crowd, and used the opportunity to inspire HIV-positive people.[15]

Post-Olympics and later lifeBefore the 1992–93 NBA season, Johnson announced his intention to stage an NBA comeback. After practicing and playing in several pre-season games, he returned to retirement before the start of the regular season, citing controversy over his return sparked by opposition from several active players.[12] During his retirement, Johnson has written a book on safer sex, run several businesses, worked for NBC as a commentator, and toured Asia and Australia with a basketball team that comprised former college and NBA players.[4]

He returned to the NBA as coach of the Lakers near the end of the 1993–94 NBA season, replacing Randy Pfund. After losing five of six games, Johnson announced he would resign after the season, choosing instead to purchase a 5% share of the team in June 1994.[4] In the following season, at the age of 36, Johnson attempted another comeback as a player. Playing power forward, he averaged 14.6 points, 6.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game in the last 32 games of the season.[18] After the Lakers lost to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs,[83] Johnson retired permanently, saying, “I am going out on my terms, something I couldn’t say when I aborted a comeback in 1992.”[12]

Off the court
Magic Johnson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of FamePersonal lifeJohnson first fathered a son in 1981, when Andre Johnson was born to Melissa Mitchell. Although Andre was raised by his mother, he visited Johnson each summer, and as of October 2005 was working for Magic Johnson Enterprises as a marketing director.[6] In 1991, Johnson married Earlitha “Cookie” Kelly in a small wedding in Lansing which included guests Thomas, Aguirre, and Herb Williams.[84] Johnson and Cookie had one son, Earvin III;[6] the couple adopted a daughter, Elisa, in 1995.[85]

Media figure and business interestsIn 1998, Johnson hosted a late night talk show on the Fox network called The Magic Hour, but the show was canceled after two months because of low ratings.[86] He runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, a company that has a net worth of $700 million;[6] its subsidiaries include Magic Johnson Productions, a promotional company; Magic Johnson Theaters, a nationwide chain of movie theaters; and Magic Johnson Entertainment, a movie studio.[87] Johnson has also worked as a motivational speaker.[8] Johnson was an NBA commentator for Turner Network Television for seven years,[88] before becoming a studio analyst for ESPN’s NBA Countdown in 2008.[89] In 1994, Johnson became a minority owner of the Lakers, having reportedly paid more than $10 million for part ownership. He also held the title of team vice president.[90] Johnson sold his ownership stake in the Lakers in October 2010.[91] In 2006 Johnson created a contract food service with Sodexo USA called Sodexo-Magic.[92] In January 2012, Johnson joined with Guggenheim Partners and Stan Kasten in a bid for ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.[93]

PoliticsJohnson is a supporter of the Democratic Party—in 2006, he publicly endorsed Phil Angelides for governor of California,[94] and in 2007 he supported Hillary Clinton for president of the United States.[95] In 2010 Johnson endorsed Barbara Boxer in her race for re-election.[96]

HIV activism
In 2003, Johnson met with Nancy Pelosi to discuss federal assistance for those with AIDS.After announcing his infection in November 1991, Johnson created the Magic Johnson Foundation to help combat HIV,[97] although he later diversified the foundation to include other charitable goals.[98] In 1992, he joined the National Commission on AIDS, but left after eight months, saying that the commission was not doing enough to combat the disease.[97] He was also the main speaker for the United Nations (UN) World AIDS Day Conference in 1999,[98] and has served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.[99]

HIV had been associated with drug addicts and homosexuals,[97] but Johnson’s campaigns sought to show that the risk of infection was not limited to those groups. Johnson stated that his aim was to “help educate all people about what [HIV] is about” and teach others not to “discriminate against people who have HIV and AIDS”.[98] Johnson was later criticized by the AIDS community for his decreased involvement in publicizing the spread of the disease.[97][98]

To prevent his HIV infection from progressing to AIDS, Johnson takes a daily combination of drugs.[100] He has advertised GlaxoSmithKline’s drugs,[101] and partnered with Abbott Laboratories to publicize the fight against AIDS in African American communities.[100]

Career achievements
Johnson’s number 32 jersey was retired by the Lakers in 1992.In 905 NBA games, Johnson scored 17,707 points, 6,559 rebounds, and 10,141 assists, translating to career averages of 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game, the highest assists per game average in NBA history.[18] Johnson shares the single-game playoff record for assists (24),[102] holds the Finals record for assists in a game (21),[102] and has the most playoff assists (2,346).[103] He holds the All-Star Game single-game record for assists (22), and the All-Star Game record for career assists (127).[102] Johnson introduced a fast-paced style of basketball called “Showtime”, described as a mix of “no-look passes off the fastbreak, pin-point alley-oops from halfcourt, spinning feeds and overhand bullets under the basket through triple teams.”[4] Fellow Lakers guard Michael Cooper said, “There have been times when [Johnson] has thrown passes and I wasn’t sure where he was going. Then one of our guys catches the ball and scores, and I run back up the floor convinced that he must’ve thrown it through somebody.”[4][12] Johnson was exceptional because he played point guard despite being 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m), a size reserved normally for frontcourt players.[4] He combined the size of a power forward, the one-on-one skills of a swingman, and the ball handling talent of a guard, making him one of the most dangerous triple-double threats of all time; his 138 triple-double games are second only to Oscar Robertson’s 181.[104]

For his feats, Johnson was voted as one of the 50 Greatest Players of All Time by the NBA in 1996,[105] and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.[106] ESPN’s SportsCentury ranked Johnson #17 in their “50 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century”[107] In 2006, ESPN.com rated Johnson the greatest point guard of all time, stating, “It could be argued that he’s the one player in NBA history who was better than Michael Jordan.”[5] Several of his achievements in individual games have also been named among the top moments in the NBA.[26][108][109]

Rivalry with Larry BirdJohnson and Larry Bird were first linked as rivals after Johnson’s Michigan State squad defeated Bird’s Indiana State team in the 1979 NCAA finals. The rivalry continued in the NBA, and reached its climax when Boston and Los Angeles met in three out of four NBA Finals from 1984 to 1987. Johnson asserted that for him, the 82-game regular season was composed of 80 normal games, and two Lakers–Celtics games. Similarly, Bird admitted that Johnson’s daily box score was the first thing he checked in the morning.[80]

Several journalists hypothesized that the Johnson–Bird rivalry was so appealing because it represented many other contrasts, such as the clash between the Lakers and Celtics, between Hollywood flashiness (“Showtime”) and Boston/Indiana blue collar grit (“Celtic Pride”), and between blacks and whites.[110][111] The rivalry was also significant because it drew national attention to the faltering NBA. Prior to Johnson and Bird’s arrival, the NBA had gone through a decade of declining interest and low TV ratings.[112] With the two future Hall of Famers, the league won a whole generation of new fans,[113] drawing both traditionalist adherents of Bird’s dirt court Indiana game and those appreciative of Johnson’s public park flair. Sports journalist Larry Schwartz of ESPN asserted that Johnson and Bird saved the NBA from bankruptcy.[12]

Despite their on-court rivalry, Johnson and Bird became close friends during the filming of a 1984 Converse shoe advertisement that depicted them as enemies.[114][115] Johnson appeared at Bird’s retirement ceremony in 1992, and described Bird as a “friend forever”;[80] during Johnson’s Hall of Fame ceremony, Bird formally inducted his old rival

Posted February 24, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Sports

Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal   Leave a comment


Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal

Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal ( /ʃəˈkiːl/ shə-keel; born March 6, 1972), nicknamed “Shaq” ( /ˈʃæk/ shak), is a former American professional basketball player and current analyst on the television program Inside the NBA. Standing 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall and weighing 325 pounds (147 kg), he was one of the heaviest players ever to play in the NBA. Throughout his 19-year career, O’Neal used his size and strength to overpower opponents for points and rebounds.

Following his career at Louisiana State University, O’Neal was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. He quickly became one of the top centers in the league, winning Rookie of the Year in 1992–93 and later leading his team to the 1995 NBA Finals. After four years with the Magic, O’Neal signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won three consecutive championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Amid tension between O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, and his fourth NBA championship followed in 2006. Midway through the 2007–2008 season he was traded to the Phoenix Suns. After a season-and-a-half with the Suns, O’Neal was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009–10 season.[1] O’Neal played for the Boston Celtics in the 2010–11 season before retiring.[2]

O’Neal’s individual accolades include the 1999–2000 MVP award, the 1992–93 NBA Rookie of the Year award, 15 All-Star game selections, three All-Star Game MVP awards, three Finals MVP awards, two scoring titles, 14 All-NBA team selections, and three NBA All-Defensive Team selections. He is one of only three players to win NBA MVP, All-Star game MVP and Finals MVP awards in the same year (2000); the other players are Willis Reed in 1970 and Michael Jordan in 1996 and 1998. He ranks 6th all-time in points scored, 5th in field goals, 12th in rebounds, and 7th in blocks.[3]

In addition to his basketball career, O’Neal has released four rap albums, with his first, Shaq Diesel, going platinum. He has appeared in numerous films and has starred in his own reality shows, Shaq’s Big Challenge and Shaq Vs..

Early lifeO’Neal was born in Newark, New Jersey. He remains estranged from his biological father, Joseph Toney of Newark. Toney, who was once an All-State guard in high school who was offered a basketball scholarship to play at Seton Hall, struggled with drug addiction and was, by 1973, imprisoned for drug possession when O’Neal was an infant. Upon his release, Toney did not resume a place in O’Neal’s life and instead, agreed to relinquish his parental visitation rights to O’Neal’s stepfather, Phillip A. Harrison, a career Army Reserve sergeant, and his mother, Lucille (O’Neal).[4] O’Neal and Toney have never spoken, and O’Neal has expressed no interest in establishing a relationship.[5] On his 1994 rap album, Shaq Fu: The Return, O’Neal voiced his feelings of disdain for Toney in the song “Biological Didn’t Bother”, dismissing him with the line “Phil is my father.”

O’Neal credits the Boys and Girls Club of America in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, with giving him a safe place to play and keeping him off the streets. “It gave me something to do,” he said. “I’d just go there to shoot. I didn’t even play on a team.”[6] He led his Robert G. Cole High School team, from San Antonio, Texas, to a 68–1 record during his two years there and helped the team win the state championship during his senior year.[7] His 791 rebounds during the 1989 season remains a state record for a player in any classification.[8]

On January 31st, 2012, O’Neal was honored as one of the 35 Greatest McDonald’s All-Americans.[9]

College careerAfter graduating from high school, O’Neal studied business at Louisiana State University. He had first met Dale Brown, LSU’s men’s basketball coach, years earlier in Europe. O’Neal’s stepfather was stationed on a U.S. Army base at Wildflecken, West Germany. While playing for Brown at LSU, O’Neal was a two-time All-American, two-time SEC player of the year, and received the Adolph Rupp Trophy as NCAA men’s basketball player of the year in 1991. O’Neal left LSU early to pursue his NBA career, but continued his education even after becoming a professional player.[10] He was later inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame.[11]

NBA careerOrlando Magic (1992–1996)The Orlando Magic drafted O’Neal with the 1st overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. During that summer, prior to moving to Orlando, he spent a significant amount of time in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Magic Johnson[citation needed]. During his rookie season, O’Neal averaged 23.4 points on 56.2% shooting, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game for the season. He was named the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year and became the first rookie to be voted an All-Star starter since Michael Jordan in 1985.[12] The Magic finished 41–41, winning 20 more games than the previous season; however, the team ultimately missed the playoffs by virtue of a tie-breaker with the Indiana Pacers. On more than one occasion during the year, Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum overheard O’Neal saying, “We’ve got to get [head coach] Matty [Guokas] out of here and bring in [assistant] Brian [Hill].”[13]

In O’Neal’s second season, Hill was the coach and Guokas was reassigned to the front office.[14] O’Neal improved his scoring average to 29.4 points (second in the league to David Robinson) while leading the NBA in field goal percentage at 60%. On November 20, 1993, against the New Jersey Nets, O’Neal registered the first triple-double of his career, recording 24 points to go along with career highs of 28 rebounds and 15 blocks.[15] He was voted into the All-Star game and also made the All-NBA 3rd Team. Teamed with newly-drafted Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, the Magic finished with a record of 50–32 and made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. In his first playoff series, O’Neal averaged 20.7 points and 13.3 rebounds in a losing effort as the Magic lost every game to the Indiana Pacers.

In his third season, O’Neal’s 29.3 point average led the NBA in scoring. He finished second in MVP voting to David Robinson and was voted into his third straight All-Star Game along with Hardaway. They formed one of the league’s top duos and helped Orlando to a 57–25 record and the Atlantic Division crown. The Magic won their first ever playoff series against the Boston Celtics in the 1995 NBA Playoffs. They then defeated the Chicago Bulls in the conference semi-finals. After beating Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers, the Magic reached the NBA Finals, facing the defending NBA champion Houston Rockets. O’Neal played well in his first Finals appearance, averaging 28 points on 59.5% shooting, 12.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. Despite this, the Rockets, led by future Hall-of-Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, swept the series in four games.

O’Neal was injured for a great deal of the 1995–96 season, missing 28 games. He averaged 26.6 points and 11 rebounds per game, made the All-NBA 3rd Team, and played in his 4th All-Star Game. Despite O’Neal’s injuries, the Magic finished with a regular season record of 60–22, second in the Eastern conference to the Chicago Bulls, who finished with an NBA record 72 wins. Orlando easily defeated the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the 1996 NBA Playoffs; however, they were no match for Jordan’s Bulls, who swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Los Angeles Lakers (1996–2004)
In 8 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2004), O’Neal won three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002 and appeared in the 2004 NBA Finals.O’Neal became a free agent after the 95–96 NBA season. In the summer of 1996, O’Neal was named to the United States Olympic basketball team, and was later part of the gold medal-winning team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. While the Olympic basketball team was training in Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel published a poll that asked whether the Magic should fire Hill if that were one of O’Neal’s conditions for returning.[16][17] 82% answered “no”.[16] O’Neal had a power struggle while playing under Hill.[18][19] He said the team “just didn’t respect [Hill].”[20] Another question in the poll asked, “Is Shaq worth $115 million?” in reference to the amount of the Magic’s offer. 91.3% of the response was “no”.[17][18] O’Neal’s Olympic teammates rode him hard over the poll.[17][19] He was also upset that the Orlando media implied O’Neal was not a good role model for having a child with his longtime girlfriend with no immediate plans to marry.[16] O’Neal compared his lack of privacy in Orlando to “feeling like a big fish in a dried-up pond.”[21] O’Neal also learned that Hardaway considered himself the leader of the Magic and did not want O’Neal making more money than him.[22] On the team’s first full day at the Olympics in Atlanta, it was announced that O’Neal would join the Los Angeles Lakers on a seven-year, $121 million contract.[23][24] He insisted he did not choose Los Angeles for the money. “I’m tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money,” O’Neal said after the signing. “I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok,” he added, referring to a couple of his product endorsements.[25][26] The Lakers won 56 games during the 1996–97 season. O’Neal averaged 26.2 points and 12.5 rebounds in his first season with Los Angeles; however, he again missed over 30 games due to injury. The Lakers made the playoffs, but were eliminated in the second round by the Utah Jazz in five games.[27] On December 17, 1996, O’Neal shoved Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls; Rodman’s teammates Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan restrained Rodman and prevented further conflict. The Los Angeles Daily News reported that O’Neal was willing to be suspended for fighting Rodman, and O’Neal said: “It’s one thing to talk tough and one thing to be tough.”[28]

The following season, O’Neal averaged 28.3 points and 11.4 rebounds. He also led the league with a 58.4 field goal percentage, the first of five consecutive seasons in which he did so. The Lakers finished the season 61–21, first in the Pacific Division, and were the second seed in the western conference during the 1998 NBA Playoffs. After defeating the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics in the first two rounds, the Lakers again fell to the Jazz, this time in a 4–0 sweep.[citation needed]

With the tandem of O’Neal and teenage superstar Kobe Bryant, expectations for the Lakers increased. However, personnel changes were a source of instability during the 1998–99 season. Long-time Laker point guard Nick Van Exel was traded to the Denver Nuggets; his former backcourt partner Eddie Jones was packaged with back-up center Elden Campbell for Glen Rice to satisfy a demand by O’Neal for a shooter. Coach Del Harris was fired, and former Lakers forward Kurt Rambis finished the season as head coach. The Lakers finished with a 31–19 record during the lockout-shortened season. Although they made the playoffs, they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs, led by Tim Duncan and David Robinson in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Spurs would go on to win their first NBA title that year.[citation needed]

Championship seasonsIn 1999, the Lakers hired Phil Jackson as head coach, and the team’s fortunes soon changed. Jackson immediately challenged O’Neal, telling him “the [NBA’s] MVP trophy should be named after him when he retired.”[29] Using Jackson’s triangle offense, O’Neal and Bryant enjoyed tremendous success, leading the Lakers to three consecutive titles (2000, 2001, and 2002). O’Neal was named MVP of the NBA Finals all three times and had the highest scoring average for a center in NBA Finals history.[citation needed] In the November 10, 1999, game against the Houston Rockets, O’Neal and Charles Barkley were ejected. After O’Neal blocked a layup by Barkley, O’Neal shoved Barkley, who then threw the ball at O’Neal.[30]

O’Neal was also voted the 1999–2000 regular season Most Valuable Player, one vote short of becoming the first unanimous MVP in NBA history. Fred Hickman, then of CNN, instead chose Allen Iverson, then of the Philadelphia 76ers who would go on to win MVP the next season. O’Neal also won the scoring title while finishing second in rebounds and third in blocked shots. Jackson’s influence resulted in a newfound commitment by O’Neal to defense, resulting in his first All-Defensive Team selection (second-team) in 2000.[citation needed]

In the 2001 NBA Finals against the 76ers, O’Neal fouled out in Game 3 backing over Dikembe Mutombo, the 2000–2001 Defensive Player of the Year. “I didn’t think the best defensive player in the game would be flopping like that. It’s a shame that the referees buy into that,” O’Neal said. “I wish he’d stand up and play me like a man instead of flopping and crying every time I back him down.[31]

In the summer of 2001, holding a basketball camp on the campus of Louisiana State University, O’Neal was challenged to a friendly wrestling match by future LSU and NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis, then 15 years of age and attending high school. O’Neal, weighing 350 lb (160 kg; 25 st), was impressed by the youngster, who lifted and body-slammed him to the ground.[32] A month before the 2001–02 season’s training camp, O’Neal had corrective surgery for a claw toe deformity in the smallest toe of his left foot.[33] He opted against a more involved surgery to return quicker.[34] He was ready for the start of the regular season, but the toe frequently bothered him.[33] In January 2002 he was involved in a spectacular on-court brawl in a game against the Chicago Bulls. He punched center Brad Miller after an intentional foul to prevent a basket, resulting in a melee with Miller, forward Charles Oakley, and several other players.[35] O’Neal was suspended for three games without pay and fined $15,000.[36] For the season, O’Neal averaged 27.2 points and 10.7 rebounds, excellent statistics but below his career average; he was less of a defensive force during the season.[33]

O’Neal at the White House greeting President Bush with his fellow LakersMatched up against the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference finals, O’Neal said, “There is only one way to beat us. It starts with c and ends with t.” O’Neal meant “cheat” in reference to the alleged flopping of Kings’ center Vlade Divac. O’Neal referred to Divac as “she”, and said he would never exaggerate contact to draw a foul. “I’m a guy with no talent who has gotten this way with hard work.”[37] After the season, O’Neal told friends that he did not want another season of limping and being in virtually constant pain from his big right toe. His trademark mobility and explosion had been often absent. The corrective options ranged from reconstructive surgery on the toe to rehabilitation exercises with more shoe inserts and anti-inflammation medication. O’Neal was already wary of the long-term damage his frequent consumption of these medications might have. He did not want to rush a decision with his career potentially at risk.[33]

Toe surgery to departureO’Neal missed the first 12 games of the 2002–2003 season recovering from toe surgery.[38] He was sidelined with hallux rigidus, a degenerative arthritis in his toe.[39] He waited the whole summer until just before training camp for the surgery and explained, “I got hurt on company time, so I’ll heal on company time.”[40] O’Neal debated whether to have a more invasive surgery that would have kept him out an additional three months, but he opted against the more involved procedure.[39] The Lakers started the season with a record of 11–19.[41] After the Lakers fell to the fifth seed and failed to reach the Finals in 2003, the team made a concerted off-season effort to improve its roster. They sought the free-agent services of forward Karl Malone and aging guard Gary Payton, but due to salary cap restrictions, could not offer either one nearly as much money as they could have made with some other teams. O’Neal assisted in the recruitment efforts and personally persuaded both men to join the squad. Ultimately, both signed, each forgoing larger salaries in favor of a chance to win an NBA championship, which neither had accomplished in his career (and which neither would achieve with the Lakers). At the beginning of the 2003–04 season, O’Neal wanted a contract extension with a pay raise on his remaining three years for $30 million. The Lakers had hoped O’Neal would take less money due to his age, physical conditioning, and games missed due to injuries. During a preseason game, O’Neal had yelled at Lakers owner Jerry Buss, “Pay me.”[42] There had been increasing tension between O’Neal and Bryant, the feud climaxing on the eve of training camp in 2003 when Kobe, in an interview with ESPN journalist Jim Gray, criticized Shaq for being out of shape, a poor leader, and putting his salary demands over the best interest of the Lakers.[43]

The Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals. Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter said, “Shaq defeated himself against Detroit. He played way too passively. He had one big game … He’s always interested in being a scorer, but he hasn’t had nearly enough concentration on defense and rebounding.”[44] After the series, O’Neal was angered by comments made by Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak regarding O’Neal’s future with the club, as well as by the departure of Lakers coach Phil Jackson at the request of Buss. O’Neal made comments indicating that he felt the team’s decisions were centered on a desire to appease Bryant to the exclusion of all other concerns, and O’Neal promptly demanded a trade. Kupchak wanted the Dallas Mavericks’s Dirk Nowitzki in return but Cuban refused to let his 7-footer go. However, Miami showed interest and eventually the two clubs agreed.[45] Winter said, “[O’Neal] left because he couldn’t get what he wanted—a huge pay raise. There was no way ownership could give him what he wanted. Shaq’s demands held the franchise hostage, and the way he went about it didn’t please the owner too much.”[46]

Miami Heat (2004–2008)
O’Neal during warm-ups with the HeatOn July 14, 2004, O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a future first-round draft choice. O’Neal reverted from (his Lakers jersey) number 34 to number 32, which he had worn while playing for the Magic. Upon signing with the Heat, O’Neal promised the fans that he would bring a championship to Miami. He claimed that one of the main reasons for wanting to be traded to Miami was because of their up-and-coming star, Dwyane Wade. With O’Neal on board, the new-look Heat surpassed expectations, claiming the best record in the Eastern Conference. He averaged 22.9 ppg and 10.4 rpg, made his 12th consecutive All-Star Team, and made the All-NBA 1st Team. Despite being hobbled by a deep thigh bruise, O’Neal led the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals and a Game 7 against the defending champion Detroit Pistons, losing by a narrow margin. Afterwards, O’Neal and others criticized Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy for not calling enough plays for O’Neal.[47] O’Neal also narrowly lost the 2004–05 MVP Award to Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash in one of the closest votes in NBA history.[48]

In August 2005, O’Neal signed a 5-year-extension with the Heat for $100 million. Supporters applauded O’Neal’s willingness to take what amounted to a pay cut and the Heat’s decision to secure O’Neal’s services for the long term. They contended that O’Neal was worth more than $20 million per year, particularly given that lesser players earned almost the same amount.[citation needed]

In the second game of the 2005–06 season, O’Neal injured his right ankle and subsequently missed the following 18 games. Upon O’Neal’s return, Van Gundy resigned, citing family reasons, and Pat Riley assumed head coach responsibilities.[40] Many critics stated that Heat coach Riley correctly managed O’Neal during the rest of the season, limiting his minutes to a career low. Riley felt doing so would allow O’Neal to be healthier and fresher come playoff time. Although O’Neal averaged career lows (or near-lows) in points, rebounds, and blocks, he said in an interview “Stats don’t matter. I care about winning, not stats. If I score 0 points and we win I’m happy. If I score 50, 60 points, break the records, and we lose, I’m pissed off. ‘Cause I knew I did something wrong. I’ll have a hell of a season if I win the championship and average 20 points a game.” During the 2005–06 season, the Heat recorded only a .500 record without O’Neal in the line-up.[citation needed]

On April 11, 2006, O’Neal recorded his second career triple-double against the Toronto Raptors with 15 points, 11 rebounds and a career high 10 assists. O’Neal finished the season as the league leader in field goal percentage.

O’Neal holding the championship ball when the NBA Champion Heat visited the White HouseFourth championshipIn the 2006 NBA Playoffs, the Miami Heat won their first NBA Championship. Led by both O’Neal and eventual Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, the 2nd seeded Heat defeated the defending Eastern Conference Champion and top-seeded Detroit Pistons in a rematch of the 2005 Conference Finals. They then defeated the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals.

O’Neal put up considerably lower numbers compared to those he recorded during the 2005–06 regular season, but he twice delivered dominant games in order to close out a playoff series: a 30 point, 20 rebound effort in Game 6 against the Chicago Bulls in the first round, and a 28 point, 16 rebound, 5 block effort in Game 6 against the Pistons. It was O’Neal’s fourth title in seven seasons, and fulfilled his promise of delivering an NBA championship to Miami.

Surgery and Wade’s injuryIn the 2006–07 season, O’Neal missed the next 35 games after an injury to his left knee in November required surgery.[49][50] After one of those missed games, a Christmas Day match-up against the Lakers, he ripped Jackson, who O’Neal had once called a second father, referring to his former coach as Benedict Arnold. Jackson had previously said, “The only person I’ve ever [coached] that hasn’t been a worker … is probably Shaq.”[51] The Heat struggled during O’Neal’s absence, but with his return won seven of their next eight games. Bad luck still haunted the squad, however, as Wade dislocated his left shoulder, leaving O’Neal as the focus of the team. Critics doubted that O’Neal, now in his mid-thirties, could carry the team into the playoffs. The Heat went on a winning streak that kept them in the race for a playoff spot, which they finally secured against the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 5.[citation needed]

In a rematch of the year before, the Heat faced the Bulls in the first round. The Heat struggled against the Bulls and although O’Neal put up reasonable numbers, he was not able to dominate the series. The Bulls swept the Heat, the first time in 50 years a defending NBA champion was swept in the opening round.[52] It was the first time in 13 years that O’Neal did not advance into the second round. In the 2006–07 season O’Neal reached 25,000 career points, becoming the 14th player in NBA history to accomplish that milestone. However, it was the first season in O’Neal’s career that his scoring average dropped below 20 points per game.[3]

O’Neal experienced a rough start for the 2007–08 season, averaging career lows in points, rebounds and blocks. His role in the offense diminished, as he attempted only 10 field goals per game, versus his career average of 17. In addition, O’Neal was plagued by fouls, and during one stretch fouled out of five consecutive games. O’Neal’s streak of 14 straight All-Star appearances ended that season.[3] O’Neal again missed games due to injuries, and the Heat had a 15–game losing streak.[53] According to O’Neal, Riley thought he was faking the injury.[54] During a practice in February 2008, O’Neal got into an altercation with Riley over the coach ordering a tardy Jason Williams to leave practice. The two argued face-to-face, with O’Neal poking Riley in the chest and Riley slapping his finger away. Riley soon after decided to trade O’Neal.[55] O’Neal said his relationship with Wade was not “all that good” by the time he left Miami, but he did not express disappointment at Wade for failing to stand up for him.[56]

Phoenix Suns (2008–2009)
O’Neal as a member of the Suns against the New Orleans Hornets, February 27, 2008The Phoenix Suns acquired O’Neal from the league-worst, 9–37 Heat, in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.[57] O’Neal made his Suns debut on February 20, 2008 against his former Lakers team, scoring 15 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in the process. The Lakers won, 130–124. O’Neal was upbeat in a post-game press conference, stating: “I will take the blame for this loss because I wasn’t in tune with the guys […] But give me four or five days to really get in tune and I’ll get it.”[58]

In 28 regular-season games, O’Neal averaged 12.9 points and 10.6 rebounds,[59] good enough to make the playoffs. One of the reasons for the trade was to limit Tim Duncan in the event of a postseason matchup between the Suns and the San Antonio Spurs, especially after the Suns’ six-game elimination by the Spurs in the 2007 NBA Playoffs.[60] O’Neal and the Phoenix Suns did face the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, but they were once again eliminated, in five games. O’Neal averaged 15.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game.[59]

O’Neal preferred his new situation with the Suns over the Heat. “I love playing for this coach and I love playing with these guys,” O’Neal said. “We have professionals who know what to do. No one is asking me to play with [his former Heat teammates] Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis. I’m actually on a team again.” Riley felt O’Neal was wrong for maligning his former teammates. O’Neal responded with an expletive toward Riley, who he often referred to as the “great Pat Riley” while playing for the Heat.[61] O’Neal credited the Suns training staff with prolonging his career.[62] They connected his arthritic toe, which would not bend, to the alteration of his jump that consequently was straining his leg. The trainers had him concentrate on building his core strength, flexibility, and balance.[63]

The 2008–09 season improved for O’Neal, who averaged 18 pts, 9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks through the first half (41 games) of the season, leading the Suns to a 23–18 record and 2nd place in their division.[64] He returned to the All-Star Game in 2009 and emerged as co-MVP along with ex-teammate Kobe Bryant.

On February 27, 2009, O’Neal scored 45 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, his 49th career 40-point game, beating the Toronto Raptors 133–113.

In a matchup against Orlando on March 3, 2009, O’Neal was outscored by Magic center Dwight Howard, 21–19. “I’m really too old to be trying to outscore 18-year-olds,” O’Neal said, referring to the then 23-year-old Howard. “It’s not really my role anymore.” O’Neal was double-teamed most of the night. “I like to play people one-on-one. My whole career I had to play people one-on-one. Never once had to double or ask for a double. But it’s cool,” said O’Neal. During the game, O’Neal flopped against Howard. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who had coached O’Neal with the Heat, was “very disappointed cause [O’Neal] knows what it’s like. Let’s stand up and play like men, and I think our guy did that tonight.”[65] O’Neal responded, “Flopping is playing like that your whole career. I was trying to take the charge, trying to get a call. It probably was a flop, but flopping is the wrong use of words. Flopping would describe his coaching.”[66] Mark Madsen, a Lakers teammate of O’Neal’s for three years, found it amusing since “everyone in the league tries to flop on Shaq and Shaq never flops back.”[67] In a 2006 interview in TIME, O’Neal said if he were NBA commissioner, he would “Make a guy have to beat a guy—not flop and get calls and be nice to the referees and kiss ass.”[68]

On March 6, O’Neal talked about the upcoming game against the Rockets and Yao Ming. “It’s not going to be man-on-man, so don’t even try that,” says O’Neal with an incredulous laugh. “They’re going to double and triple me like everybody else … I rarely get to play [Yao] one-on-one … But when I play him (on defense), it’s just going to be me down there. So don’t try to make it a Yao versus Shaq thing, when it’s Shaq versus four other guys.”[69]

The 2009 NBA Playoffs was also the first time since O’Neal’s rookie season in 1992–93 that he did not participate in the playoffs. He was named as a member of the All-NBA Third Team. The Sun notified O’Neal he might be traded to cut costs.[70]

Cleveland Cavaliers (2009–2010)On June 25, 2009, O’Neal was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, $500,000 and a 2010 second round draft pick.[71] Upon arriving in Cleveland, O’Neal said, “My motto is very simple: Win a Ring for the King,” referring to LeBron James.[72] James was the leader of the team, and O’Neal deferred to him.[73]

On Friday, February 25, 2010 O’Neal suffered a severe right thumb injury while attempting to go up for a shot against Glen Davis of the Boston Celtics.[74] He had surgery on the thumb on March 1 and returned to play on April 17 in the first round playoff game against the Chicago Bulls.[75]

O’Neal averaged career lows in almost every major statistical category, taking on a much less significant role than in previous years. His presence in the post was not as significant as in years past. After the retirement of Lindsey Hunter on March 5, O’Neal became the NBA’s oldest active player. He returned to the starting line-up in time for the 2010 NBA Playoffs. The Cavaliers swiftly defeated the Chicago Bulls in the first round, yet Cleveland became the first team in NBA history to miss the NBA Finals after laying claim to the NBA’s top playoff seed for two consecutive seasons. On May 13, the Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs, losing to the Boston Celtics 4–2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Boston Celtics (2010–2011)Upon hearing Bryant comment that he had more rings than O’Neal, Wyc Grousbeck, principal owner of the Celtics, saw an opportunity to acquire O’Neal.[76] Celtics coach Doc Rivers agreed to the signing on the condition that O’Neal would not receive preferential treatment nor could he cause any locker room problems like in Los Angeles or Miami.[77] On August 4, 2010, the Celtics announced that they had signed O’Neal.[78] The contract was for two years at the veteran minimum salary for a total contract value of $2.8 million.[79] O’Neal wanted the larger mid-level exception contract, but the Celtics chose instead to give it to Jermaine O’Neal.[80] The Atlanta Hawks and the Dallas Mavericks also expressed interest but had stalled on O’Neal’s salary demands.[81][82] He was introduced by the Celtics on August 10, 2010, and chose the number 36.[83]

O’Neal said he didn’t “compete with little guys who run around dominating the ball, throwing up 30 shots a night—like D–Wade, Kobe.” O’Neal added that he was only competing against Duncan: “If Tim Duncan gets five rings, then that gives some writer the chance to say ‘Duncan is the best,’ and I can’t have that.”[84] Publicly, he insisted he did not care whether he started or substituted for the Celtics, but expected to be part of the second unit.[84] Privately, he wanted to start, but kept it to himself.[85] O’Neal missed games throughout the season due to an assortment of ailments to his right leg[86] including knee,[87] calf,[88] hip,[89] and Achilles injuries.[90] The Celtics traded away center Kendrick Perkins in February partially due to the expectation that O’Neal would return to fill Perkins’ role. The Celtics were 33–10 in games Perkins had missed during the year due to injury,[86] and they were 19–3 in games that O’Neal played over 20 minutes.[91] After requesting a cortisone shot, O’Neal returned April 3 after missing 27 games due to his Achilles; he played only five minutes due to a strained right calf.[86][92] It was the last regular season game he would play that year.[93] O’Neal missed the first round of the 2011 playoffs. He insisted on more cortisone shots and returned in the second round, but he was limited to 12 minutes in two games as the Heat eliminated the Celtics from the playoffs.[94][95]

On June 1, 2011, O’Neal announced his retirement via social media.[96][97] On a short tape on Twitter, O’Neal tweeted, “We did it. Nineteen years, baby. I want to thank you very much. That’s why I’m telling you first. I’m about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon.” On June 3, 2011, O’Neal held a press conference at his home in Orlando to officially announce his retirement.[98]

International careerWhile at LSU, O’Neal was considered for the Dream Team to fill the college spot, but it eventually went to future teammate Christian Laettner.[99] His international career began in the 1994 FIBA World Championship in which he was named MVP of the Tournament. While he led Dream Team II to the gold medal with an 8–0 record, O’Neal averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds and recorded two double-doubles. In four games, he scored more than 20 points. Before 2010, he was the last active American player to have a gold from the FIBA World Championships.

He was one of two players (the other being Reggie Miller) from the 1994 roster to be also named to the Dream Team III. Due to more star-power, he rotated with Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson and started 3 games. He averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 points with 8 total blocks. Again, a perfect 8–0 record landed him another gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. O’Neal was upset that coach Lenny Wilkens played Robinson more minutes in the final game; Wilkins previously explained to O’Neal that it would probably be Robinson last Olympics.[100]

After his 1996 experience, he declined to play in international competition. He was angered by being overlooked for the FIBA Americas Championship 1999 squad, saying it was a “lack of respect”.[101] He forgo an opportunity to participate in the 2000 Olympics, explaining that two gold medals were enough.[102] Shaq also chose not to play in the 2002 FIBA World Championship.[103] He rejected an offer to play in the 2004 Olympics,[104] and although he was initially interested in being named for 2006–2008 US preliminary roster,[105] he eventually declined the invitation.[106]

Player profile
O’Neal’s free throw shooting is regarded as one of his major weaknesses.O’Neal established himself as an overpowering low post presence, putting up career averages of 23.7 points on .582 field goal accuracy, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game (as of April 2011).

At 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m), 325 lb (147 kg; 23.2 st)[107] and U.S. shoe size 23,[38] he became famous for his physical stature. His physical frame gave him a power advantage over most opponents.

O’Neal’s “drop step”, (called the “Black Tornado” by O’Neal) in which he posted up a defender, turned around and, using his elbows for leverage, powered past him for a very high-percentage slam dunk, proved an effective offensive weapon. In addition, O’Neal frequently used a right-handed jump hook shot to score near the basket. The ability to dunk contributed to his career field goal accuracy of .582, the second highest field goal percentage of all time.[108] He led the NBA in field goal percentage 10 times, breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s record of nine.[38]

Opposing teams often used up many fouls on O’Neal, reducing the playing time of their own big men. O’Neal’s imposing physical presence inside the paint caused dramatic changes in many teams’ offensive and defensive strategies.[109]

O’Neal’s primary weakness was his free-throw shooting, with a career average of 52.7%. He once missed all 11 free throws in a game against the Seattle SuperSonics on December 8, 2000, a record.[110] O’Neal believes his free throw woes were a mental issue, as he often shot 80 percent in practice.[111] In hope of exploiting O’Neal’s poor foul shooting, opponents often committed intentional fouls against him, a tactic known as “Hack-a-Shaq”. O’Neal was the third-ranked player all-time in free throws taken,[112] having attempted 11,252 free-throws in 1,207 games up to and including the 2010–11 season. On December 25, 2008, O’Neal missed his 5,000th free throw, becoming the second player in NBA history to do so, along with Chamberlain.[113]

On his own half of the hardwood, O’Neal was a capable defender, named three times to the All-NBA Second Defensive Team. His presence intimidated opposing players shooting near the basket, and he averaged 2.3 blocked shots per game over the course of his career.[citation needed]

Phil Jackson believed O’Neal underachieved in his career, saying he “could and should have been the MVP player for 10 consecutive seasons.”[114] In early June 2011, the Los Angeles Lakers announced plans to retire Shaq’s number, 34, possibly before his first NBA Hall of Fame ballot.[115]

Media personality Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Shaquille O’Neal

O’Neal called himself “The Big Aristotle and Hobo Master” for his composure and insights during interviews. Journalists and others gave O’Neal several nicknames including “Shaq”, “The Diesel”, “Shaq Fu”, “The Big Daddy”, “Superman”, “The Big Agave”, “The Big Cactus”, “The Big Shaqtus”, “The Big Galactus”, “Wilt Chamberneezy”, “The Big Baryshnikov”, “The Real Deal”, “Dr. Shaq” (after earning his MBA), “The Big Shamrock”, “The Big Leprechaun”, “Shaqovic”,[116][117] and “The Big Conductor”.[118] Although he was a favorite interview of the press, O’Neal was sensitive and often went weeks without speaking.[119] When he did not want to speak with the press, he employed an interview technique where, sitting in front of his cubicle, he would murmur in his low pitched voice.[119][120]

During the 2000 Screen Actors Guild strike, O’Neal performed in a commercial for Disney. O’Neal was fined by the union for crossing the picket line.[121][122]

O’Neal’s humorous and sometimes incendiary comments fueled the Los Angeles Lakers’ long standing rivalry with the Sacramento Kings; O’Neal frequently referred to the Sacramento team as the “Queens.”[123][124][125] During the 2002 victory parade, O’Neal declared that Sacramento would never be the capital of California,[126] after the Lakers beat the Kings in a tough seven game series enroute to its third championship with O’Neal.

He also received media flak for mocking Chinese people when interviewed about newcomer center Yao Ming. O’Neal told a reporter, “you tell Yao Ming, ching chong yang, wah, ah so.”[127] O’Neal later said it was locker-room humor and he meant no offense. Yao believed that O’Neal was joking, but he said a lot of Asians wouldn’t see the humor.[128] Yao joked, “Chinese is hard to learn. I had trouble with it when I was little.”[129]

During the 2005 NBA playoffs, O’Neal compared his poor play to Erick Dampier,[130] a Dallas Mavericks center who had failed to score a single point in one of their recent games. The quip inspired countless citations and references by announcers during those playoffs, though Dampier himself offered little response to the insult. The two would meet in the 2006 NBA Finals.[131]

O’Neal was very vocal with the media, often jabs at former Laker teammate Kobe Bryant. In the summer of 2005, when asked about Kobe, he responded, “I’m sorry, who?” and continued to pretend that he did not know who Kobe was until well into the 2005–2006 season.[citation needed]

O’Neal also appeared on television on Saturday Night Live and in 2007 hosted Shaq’s Big Challenge, a reality show on ABC where he challenged Florida kids to lose weight and stay in shape.[citation needed]

When the Lakers faced the Heat on January 16, 2006, O’Neal and Kobe Bryant made headlines by engaging in handshakes and hugs before the game, an event that was believed to signify the end of the so-called “Bryant–O’Neal feud” that had festered since the center left Los Angeles. O’Neal was quoted as saying that he accepted the advice of NBA legend Bill Russell to make peace with Bryant.[132] However, on June 22, 2008, O’Neal freestyled a diss rap about Bryant in a New York club. While rapping, O’Neal blamed Kobe for his divorce from his wife Shaunie and claims to have received a vasectomy, as part of a rhyme. He also taunted Bryant for not being able to win a championship without him. O’Neal led the audience to mockingly chant several times “Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes.”[133] O’Neal justified his act by saying “I was freestyling. That’s all. It was all done in fun. Nothing serious whatsoever. That is what MCs do. They freestyle when called upon. I’m totally cool with Kobe. No issue at all.”[134] Although even other exponents of hip hop, such as Snoop Dogg, Nas and Cory Gunz, agreed with O’Neal,[135] Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio expressed his intention to relieve O’Neal of his Maricopa County sheriff posse badge, due to “use of a racially derogatory word and other foul language”. The quote from his song was “it’s like a white boy trying to be more nigga than me.”[136]

Off courtEducationO’Neal left LSU for the NBA after three years. However, he promised his mother he would eventually return to his studies and complete his bachelor’s degree. He fulfilled that promise in 2000, earning his bachelor of arts in general studies.[137] Coach Phil Jackson let O’Neal miss a home game so he could attend graduation. At the ceremony, he told the crowd “now I can go and get a real job”. Subsequently, O’Neal earned an MBA online through the University of Phoenix in 2005. In reference to his completion of his MBA degree, he stated: “It’s just something to have on my resume for when I go back into reality. Someday I might have to put down a basketball and have a regular 9-to-5 like everybody else.”[138]

In 2010 he undertook a Ed.D. in Human Resource Development at Barry University.[139][140] His dissertation topic was “The Duality of Humor and Aggression in Leadership Styles”.[139][141]

Law enforcementO’Neal maintained a high level of interest in the workings of police departments and became personally involved in law enforcement. O’Neal went through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Reserve Academy and became a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Port Police. He appeared in a commercial for ESPN in Miami Police garb climbing a tree to rescue LSU’s costumed mascot Mike the Tiger.[citation needed]

On March 2, 2005, O’Neal was given an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshal title and named the spokesman for the Safe Surfin’ Foundation; he served an honorary role on the task force of the same name, which tracks down sexual predators who target children on the Internet.[142]

Upon his trade to Miami, O’Neal began training to become a Miami Beach reserve officer. On December 8, 2005, he was sworn in, but elected for a private ceremony to avoid distracting attention from the other officers. He assumed a $1 per year salary in this capacity.[143] Shortly thereafter, in Miami, O’Neal witnessed a hate crime (assaulting a man while calling out homophobic slurs) and called Miami-Dade police, describing the suspect and helping police, over his cell phone, track the offender.[143] O’Neal’s actions resulted in the arrest of two suspects on charges of aggravated battery, assault, and a hate crime

Posted February 24, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Sports

Charles Barkley   Leave a comment


Charles Barkley

Charles Wade Barkley (born February 20, 1963) is a former American professional basketball player and current analyst on the television program Inside the NBA. Nicknamed “Sir Charles” and “The Round Mound of Rebound”, Barkley established himself as one of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA’s) most dominating power forwards. He was selected to the All-NBA First Team five times, the All-NBA Second Team five times, and once to the All-NBA Third Team. He earned eleven NBA All-Star Game appearances and was named the All-Star MVP in 1991. In 1993, he was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player and during the NBA’s 50th anniversary, named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. He competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic games and won two gold medals as a member of the United States’ Dream Team. In 2006, Barkley was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.[1]

Barkley was popular with the fans and media and made the NBA’s All-Interview Team for his last 13 seasons in the league.[2] He was frequently involved in on- and off-court fights and sometimes stirred national controversy, as in March 1991 when he mistakenly spat on a young girl, and as in 1993 when he declared that sports figures should not be considered role models. Short for a power forward, Barkley used his strength and aggressiveness to become one of the NBA’s most dominant rebounders. He was a versatile player who had the ability to score, create plays, and defend. In 2000, he retired as the fourth player in NBA history to achieve 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists.[3]

Since retiring as a player, Barkley has had a successful career as a television NBA analyst. He works with Turner Network Television (TNT) as a studio pundit for its coverage of NBA games.[4] In addition, Barkley has written several books and has shown an interest in politics; in October 2008, he announced that he would run for Governor of Alabama in 2014,[5] but he changed his mind in 2010 [edit] Early lifeBarkley was born and raised in suburban Leeds, Alabama, ten miles (16 km) outside of Birmingham, and attended Leeds High School. As a junior, Barkley stood 5’10” (1.78 m) and weighed 220 pounds (99.8 kg). He failed to make the varsity team and was named as a reserve. However, during the summer Barkley grew to 6’4″ and earned a starting position on the varsity team in his senior year. He averaged 19.1 points and 17.9 rebounds per game and led his team to a 26–3 record en route to the state semifinals.[7] Despite his improvement, Barkley garnered no attention from college scouts until the state high school semifinals, where he scored 26 points against Alabama’s most highly recruited player, Bobby Lee Hurt.[7] An assistant to Auburn University’s head coach, Sonny Smith, was at the game and reported seeing, “a fat guy… who can play like the wind”.[8] Barkley was soon recruited by Smith and majored in business management while attending Auburn University.[7]

[edit] CollegeBarkley played collegiate basketball at Auburn University for three years. Although he struggled to control his weight, he excelled as a player and led the SEC in rebounding each year.[2] He became a popular crowd-pleaser, exciting the fans with dunks and blocked shots that belied his lack of height and overweight frame. It was not uncommon to see the hefty Barkley grab a defensive rebound and, instead of passing, dribble the entire length of the court and finish at the opposite end with a two-handed dunk. His physical size and skills ultimately earned him the nickname “The Round Mound of Rebound.”[4]

During his college career, Barkley played the center position, despite being shorter than the average center. His height, officially listed as 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m), is stated as 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) in his book, I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It. He became a member of Auburn’s All-Century team and still holds the Auburn record for career field goal percentage with 62.6%.[9] He received numerous awards, including Southeastern Conference (SEC) Player of the Year (1984), three All-SEC selections and one Second Team All-American selection.[10] Later, Barkley was named the SEC Player of the Decade for the 1980s by the Birmingham Post-Herald.[9]

In Barkley’s three-year college career, he averaged 14.8 points on 68.2% field goal shooting, 9.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.7 blocks per game.[9] In 1984, he made his only appearance in the NCAA Tournament and finished with 23 points on 80% field goal shooting, 17 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.[11] Auburn retired Barkley’s No. 34 jersey on March 3, 2001.[9]

Barkley later admitted to receiving money from an agent during his years at Auburn.[12]

[edit] NBA career[edit] Philadelphia 76ersBarkley left before his final year at Auburn and made himself eligible for the 1984 NBA Draft. He was selected with the fifth pick in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers, two slots after the Chicago Bulls drafted Michael Jordan. He joined a veteran team that included Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks, players who took Philadelphia to the 1983 NBA championship. Under the tutelage of Malone, Barkley was able to manage his weight and learned to prepare and condition himself properly for a game. He averaged 14.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game during the regular season and earned a berth on the All-Rookie Team.[3] In the postseason, the Sixers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals but were defeated in five games by the Boston Celtics.[13] As a rookie in the postseason, Barkley averaged 14.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.[2]

During his second year, Barkley became the team’s leading rebounder and number two scorer, averaging 20.0 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.[3] He became the Sixers’ starting power forward and helped lead his team into the playoffs, averaging 25.0 points on .578 shooting from the field and 15.8 rebounds per game.[3] Despite his efforts, Philadelphia was defeated 4–3 by the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. He was named to the All-NBA Second Team.[2]

Before the 1986–87 season, Moses Malone was traded to the Washington Bullets and Barkley began to assume control as the team leader. He earned his first rebounding title, averaging 14.6 rebounds per game and also led the league in offensive rebounds with 5.7 per game.[3] He averaged 23.0 points on .594 shooting,[3] earning his first trip to an NBA All-Star game and All-NBA Second Team honors for the second straight season. In the playoffs, Barkley averaged 24.6 points and 12.6 rebounds in a losing effort,[14] for the second straight year, to the Bucks in a five-game first round playoff series.[15]

The following season, Julius Erving announced his retirement and Barkley became the Sixers’ franchise player.[2] Playing in 80 games and getting 300 more minutes than his nearest teammate, Barkley had his most productive season, averaging 28.3 points on .587 shooting and 11.9 rebounds per game.[3] He appeared in his second All-Star Game and was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career. His celebrity status as the Sixers’ franchise player led to his first appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated.[2] For the first time since the 1974–75 season, however, the 76ers failed to make the playoffs.[2] In the 1988–89 season, Barkley continued to play well, averaging 25.8 points on .579 shooting and 12.5 rebounds per game.[3] He earned his third straight All-Star Game appearance and was named to the All-NBA First team for the second straight season.[4] Despite Barkley contributing 27.0 points on .644 shooting, 11.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game,[14] the 76ers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the New York Knicks.[16]

During the 1989–90 season, despite receiving more first-place votes,[17] Barkley finished second in MVP voting behind the Los Angeles Lakers’ Magic Johnson.[18] He was named Player of the Year by The Sporting News and Basketball Weekly.[2] He averaged 25.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and a career high .600 shooting.[3] He was named to the All-NBA First Team for the third consecutive year and earned his fourth All-Star selection.[4] He helped Philadelphia win 53 regular season games, only to lose to the Chicago Bulls in a five-game Eastern Conference Semifinals series.[19] Barkley averaged 24.7 points and 15.5 rebounds in another postseason loss.[14] His exceptional play continued into his seventh season, where he averaged 27.6 points on .570 shooting and 10.1 rebounds per game.[3] His fifth straight All-Star Game appearance proved to be his best yet. He led the East to a 116–114 win over the West with 17 points and 22 rebounds, the most rebounds in an All-Star Game since Wilt Chamberlain recorded 22 in 1967.[2] Barkley was presented with Most Valuable Player honors at the All-Star Game and, at the end of the season, named to the All-NBA First Team for the fourth straight year.[2] In the postseason, Philadelphia lost again to Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, with Barkley contributing 24.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.[14]

The 1991–92 season was Barkley’s final year in Philadelphia. In his last season, he wore number 32 instead of his 34 to honor Magic Johnson,[20] who had announced prior to the start of the season that he was HIV-positive. Although the 76ers initially retired the number 32 in honor of Billy Cunningham, it was unretired for Barkley to wear. Following Johnson’s announcement, Barkley also apologized for having made light of his condition. Responding to concerns that players may contract HIV by contact with Johnson, Barkley stated, “We’re just playing basketball. It’s not like we’re going out to have unprotected sex with Magic.”[21]

In his final season with the Sixers, averaging 23.1 points on .552 shooting and 11.1 rebounds per game,[3] Barkley earned his sixth straight All-Star appearance and was named to the All-NBA Second Team, his seventh straight appearance on either the first or second team. He ended his 76ers career ranked fourth in team history in total points (14,184), third in scoring average (23.3 ppg), third in rebounds (7,079), eighth in assists (2,276) and second in field-goal percentage (.576).[2] He led Philadelphia in rebounding and field-goal percentage for seven consecutive seasons and in scoring for six straight years.[3] However, Barkley demanded a trade out of Philadelphia after the Sixers failed to make the postseason with a 35–47 record.[4][22] On July 17, 1992, he was traded to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang.[4]

During Barkley’s eight seasons in Philadelphia, he became a household name and was one of the few NBA players to have a figure published by Kenner’s Starting Lineup toy line. He also had his own signature shoe line with Nike. His outspoken and aggressive play, however, also caused a few scandals; notoriously a fight with Detroit Pistons center Bill Laimbeer in 1990, an event which drew a record total $162,500 fine,[23] and the infamous spitting incident.

[edit] Spitting incidentIn March 1991, during an overtime game in New Jersey, a courtside heckler had been yelling racial epithets throughout the game at Barkley.[24] Upset by the heckler’s remarks, Barkley turned to spit at him, but, as he later described, did not “get enough foam”, missed and mistakenly spat on a young girl.[24] Rod Thorn, the NBA’s president of operations at the time, suspended Barkley without pay and fined him $10,000 for spitting and using abusive language at the fan.[25] It became a national story and Barkley was vilified for it.[24] Barkley, however, eventually developed a friendship with the girl and her family.[4] He apologized and, among other things, provided tickets to future games.[26]

Upon retirement, Barkley was later quoted as stating, “I was fairly controversial, I guess, but I regret only one thing—the spitting incident. But you know what? It taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me that I was getting way too intense during the game. It let me know I wanted to win way too bad. I had to calm down. I wanted to win at all costs. Instead of playing the game the right way and respecting the game, I only thought about winning.”[27]

[edit] Phoenix SunsThe trade to Phoenix in the 1992–93 season went well for both Barkley and the Suns. He averaged 25.6 points on .520 shooting, 12.2 rebounds and a career high 5.1 assists per game,[3] leading the Suns to an NBA best 62–20 record.[28] For his efforts, Barkley won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award,[29] and was selected to play in his seventh straight All-Star Game. He became the third player ever to win league MVP honors in the season immediately after being traded, established multiple career highs and led Phoenix to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1976.[2] Despite Barkley’s proclamation to Jordan, that it was “destiny” for the Suns to win the title, they were defeated in six games by the Bulls.[30] He averaged 26.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game during the whole postseason,[14] including 27.3 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game throughout the championship series.[31] In the fourth game of the Finals, Barkley recorded a triple-double after collecting 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.[32]

As a result of severe back pains, Barkley began to speculate his last year in Phoenix during the 1993–94 season.[2] Playing through the worst injury problems of his career, Barkley managed 21.6 points on .495 shooting and 11.2 rebounds per game.[3] He was selected to his eighth consecutive All-Star Game, but did not play because of a torn right quadriceps tendon,[2] and was named to the All-NBA Second Team. With Barkley fighting injuries, the Suns still managed a 56–26 record and made it to the Western Conference Semifinals. Despite holding a 2–0 lead in the series,[33] however, the Suns lost in seven games to the eventual champion Houston Rockets.[33] Despite his injuries, in Game 3 of a first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, Barkley hit 23 of 31 field-goal attempts and finished with 56 points, the then-third-highest total ever in a playoff game.[2][14] After contemplating retirement in the offseason,[2] Barkley returned for his eleventh season and continued to battle injuries.[4] He struggled during the first half of the season,[2] but managed to gradually improve, earning his ninth consecutive appearance in the All-Star Game. He averaged 23 points on .486 shooting and 11.1 rebounds per game,[3] while leading the Suns to a 59–23 record.[34] In the postseason, despite having a 3–1 lead in the series,[34] the Suns once again lost to the defending champion Rockets in seven games.[34] Barkley averaged 25.7 points on .500 shooting and 13.4 rebounds per game in the postseason,[14] but was limited in Game 7 of the semifinals by a leg injury.[2]

The 1995–96 season was Barkley’s last on the Phoenix Suns. He led the team in scoring, rebounds and steals, averaging 23.3 points on .500 shooting, 11.6 rebounds and a career high .777 free throw shooting.[3] He earned his tenth appearance in an All-Star Game as the top vote-getter among Western Conference players and posted his 18th career triple-double on November 22.[14] He also became just the tenth player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds in their career.[2][3] In the postseason, Barkley averaged 25.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game in a four-game first round playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs.[14][35] After the Suns closed out the season with a 41–41 record and a first-round playoff loss, Barkley was traded to Houston in exchange for Sam Cassell, Robert Horry, Mark Bryant and Chucky Brown.[36]

During his career with the Suns, Barkley excelled as a player, earning All-NBA and All-Star honors in each of his four seasons. The always outspoken Barkley, however, continued to stir up controversy during the 1993 season, when he claimed that sports figures should not be role models.[37]

[edit] Role model controversyThroughout his career, Barkley had been arguing that athletes should not be considered role models.[4] He stated, “A million guys can dunk a basketball in jail; should they be role models?” In 1993, his argument prompted national news when he wrote the text for his “I am not a role model” Nike commercial. Dan Quayle, the former Vice President of the United States, called it a “family-values message” for Barkley’s oft-ignored call for parents and teachers to quit looking to him to “raise your kids” and instead be role models themselves.[37]

Barkley’s message sparked a great public debate about the nature of role models. He argued,

I think the media demands that athletes be role models because there’s some jealousy involved. It’s as if they say, this is a young black kid playing a game for a living and making all this money, so we’re going to make it tough on him. And what they’re really doing is telling kids to look up to someone they can’t become, because not many people can be like we are. Kids can’t be like Michael Jordan.[36]

[edit] Houston RocketsThe trade to the Houston Rockets in the 1996–97 season was Barkley’s last chance at capturing an NBA championship title. He joined a veteran team that included two of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. To begin the season, Barkley was suspended for the season opener and fined $5,000 for fighting Charles Oakley during an October 25, 1996 preseason game. After Oakley committed a flagrant foul on Barkley, Barkley responded by shoving Oakley.[38] In his first game with the Houston Rockets, Charles Barkley had a career-high thirty-three rebounds.[39] He continued to battle injuries throughout the season and played only 53 games, missing fourteen because of a laceration and bruise on his left pelvis, eleven because of a sprained right ankle and four due to suspensions.[2] He became the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 19.2 points on .484 shooting;[3] the first time since his rookie year that he averaged below 20 points per game. With Olajuwon taking most of the shots, Barkley focused primarily on rebounding, averaging 13.5 per game, the second best in his career.[3] The Rockets ended the regular season with a 57–25 record and advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where they were defeated in six games by the Utah Jazz.[2] Barkley averaged 17.9 points and 12.0 rebounds per game in another postseason loss.[40]

The 1997–98 season was another injury-plagued year for Barkley. He averaged 15.2 points on .485 shooting and 11.7 rebounds per game.[3] The Rockets ended the season with a 41–41 record and were eliminated in five games by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. Limited by injuries, Barkley played four games and averaged career lows of 9.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game.[14] During the league-lockout-shortened season, Barkley played 42 regular-season games and managed 16.1 points on .478 shooting and 12.3 rebounds per game.[3] He became the second player in NBA history, following Wilt Chamberlain, to accumulate 23,000 points, 12,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists in his career.[2] The Rockets concluded the shortened season with a 31–19 record and advanced to the playoffs.[41] In his last postseason appearance, Barkley averaged 23.5 points on .529 shooting and 13.8 rebounds per game in a first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.[14] He concluded his postseason career averaging 23 points on .513 shooting, 12.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in 123 games.[42]

The 1999–2000 season would be Barkley’s final year in the NBA. Initially, Barkley averaged 14.5 points on .477 shooting and 10.5 rebounds per game.[3] Along with Shaquille O’Neal, Barkley was ejected from the November 10, 1999 game against the Los Angeles Lakers. After O’Neal blocked a layup by Barkley, O’Neal shoved Barkley, who then threw the ball at O’Neal.[43] Barkley’s season and career seemingly ended prematurely at the age of 36 after rupturing his left quadriceps tendon on December 8, 1999 in Philadelphia, where his career began.[44] Refusing to allow his injury to be the last image of his career, Barkley returned after four months for one final game. On April 19, 2000, in a home game against the Vancouver Grizzlies, Barkley scored a memorable basket on an offensive rebound and putback, a common trademark during his career. He accomplished what he set out to do after being activated from the injured list, and walked off the court to a standing ovation.[45] He stated, “I can’t explain what tonight meant. I did it for me. I’ve won and lost a lot of games, but the last memory I had was being carried off the court. I couldn’t get over the mental block of being carried off the court. It was important psychologically to walk off the court on my own.”[45] After the basket, Barkley immediately retired and concluded his sixteen-year NBA Hall of Fame career.

[edit] OlympicsOlympic medal record
Men’s basketball
Competitor for the United States
Gold 1992 Barcelona Team competition
Gold 1996 Atlanta Team competition

Barkley competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic games and won two gold medals as a member of the United States men’s basketball team. International rules which had previously prevented NBA players from playing in the Olympics were changed in 1992, allowing Barkley and fellow NBA players to compete in the Olympics for the first time. The result was the legendary Dream Team, which went 6–0 in the Olympic qualifying tournament and 8–0 against Olympic opponents. The team averaged an Olympic record 117.3 points a game and won games by an average of 43.8 points.[46] Barkley led the team with 18.0 points on 71.1% field goal shooting and set a then-Olympic single game scoring record with 30 points in a 127–83 victory over Brazil.[46] He also set a U.S. Men’s Olympic record for highest three point field goal percentage with 87.5% and added 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game.[47] Barkley was also part of an ugly moment in the 1992 Olympics when he intentionally elbowed Angola player Herlander Coimbra in the chest during a 116–48 rout of that team.[48]

At the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games, Barkley led the team in scoring, rebounds, and field goal percentage. He averaged 12.4 points on 81.6% field goal shooting, setting a U.S. Men’s Olympic record.[47] In addition, he also contributed 6.6 rebounds per game. Under Barkley’s leadership, the team once again compiled a perfect 8–0 record and captured gold medal honors.[49]

[edit] Player profileBarkley played the power forward position but on some occasions he would play the small forward and center positions. He was known for his unusual build as a basketball player, stockier than most small forwards, yet shorter than most power forwards he faced. However, Barkley was still capable of outplaying both taller and quicker opponents because of his strength and agility.[2]

Barkley was a prolific scorer who averaged 22.1 points-per-game for his season career and 23.0 points-per-game for his playoff career.[14] He was one of the NBA’s most versatile players and accurate scorers capable of scoring from anywhere on the court and established himself as one of the NBA’s premier clutch players.[2] During his NBA career, Barkley was a constant mismatch because he possessed a set of very uncommon skills and could play in a variety of positions. He would use all facets of his game in a single play; as a scorer, he had the ability to score from the perimeter and the post, using an array of spin moves and fadeaways, or finishing a fast break with a powerful dunk. He was one of the most efficient scorers of all-time, scoring at 54.13% total field goal percentage for his season career and 51.34% total field goal shooting for his playoff career (including a career-high season average of 60% during the 1989–90 NBA season).[14]

Frequently listed as 6 feet 6 inches, but measuring slightly under 6 feet 5 inches (1.95 mt),[50][51] Barkley is the shortest player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding when he averaged a career high 14.6 rebounds per game during the 1986–87 season.[52] His tenacious and aggressive form of play built into an undersized frame that fluctuated between 284 pounds (129 kg) and 252 pounds (114 kg) helped cement his legacy as one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history, averaging 11.7 rebounds per game in the regular season for his career and 12.9 rebounds per game in his playoff career and totaling 12,546 rebounds for his season career.[14] Barkley topped the NBA in offensive rebounding for three straight years[4] and was most famous among very few power forwards who could control a defensive rebound, dribble the length of the court and finish at the rim with a powerful dunk.[52]

Barkley also possessed considerable defensive talents led by an aggressive demeanor, foot speed and his capacity to read the floor to anticipate for steals, a reason why he established his career as the second All-Time leader in steals for the power forward position[53] and leader of the highest all-time steal per game average for the power forward position.[53] Despite being undersized for both the small forward and power forward positions, he also finished among the all-time leaders in blocked shots.[54] His speed and leaping ability made him one of the few power forwards capable of running down court to block a faster player with a chase-down block.[52]

In a SLAM magazine issue ranking NBA greats, Barkley was ranked among the top 20 players of All-Time. In the magazine, NBA Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton commented on Barkley’s ability. Walton stated, “Barkley is like Magic [Johnson] and Larry [Bird] in that they don’t really play a position. He plays everything; he plays basketball. There is nobody who does what Barkley does. He’s a dominant rebounder, a dominant defensive player, a three-point shooter, a dribbler, a playmaker.”[4]

[edit] LegacyDuring his 16-year NBA career, Barkley was regarded as one of the most controversial, outspoken and dominating players in the history of basketball. His impact on the sport went beyond his rebounding titles, assists, scoring and physical play.[26] His larger than life persona and confrontational mannerisms often led to technical fouls and fines and sometimes gave rise to national controversy, such as when he was featured in ads that rejected pro athletes as role models and declared, “I am not a role model.”[55] Although his words often led to controversy, according to Barkley his mouth was never the cause because it always spoke the truth.[26] He stated, “I don’t create controversies. They’re there long before I open my mouth. I just bring them to your attention.”[4]

Besides his on-court fights with other players, he has exhibited confrontational behavior off-court. He was arrested for breaking a man’s nose during a fight after a game with the Milwaukee Bucks[56] and also for throwing a man through a plate-glass window after being struck with a glass of ice.[57] Notwithstanding these occurrences, Barkley continued to remain popular with the fans and media because of his sense of humor and honesty.

As a player, Barkley was a perennial All-Star who earned league MVP honors in 1993.[4] He employed a physical style of play that earned him the nicknames “Sir Charles” and “The Round Mound of Rebound”.[58] He was named to the All-NBA team eleven times and earned two gold medals as a member of the United States Olympic Basketball team. He led both teams in scoring and was instrumental in helping the 1992 “Dream Team” and 1996 Men’s Basketball team compile a perfect 16–0 record.[46][49] He retired as one of only four players in NBA history to record at least 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists in their career,[4] although a fifth player, Kevin Garnett, has since accomplished that feat.

In recognition of his collegiate and NBA achievements, Barkley’s number 34 jersey was officially retired by Auburn University on March 3, 2001. In the same month, the Philadelphia 76ers also officially retired Barkley’s jersey.[50] On 20 March 2004, the Phoenix Suns honored Barkley as well by retiring his jersey and including him in the “Suns Ring of Honor”.[59] In recognition of his achievements as a player, Barkley was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006

Posted February 24, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Sports