It is hard to believe that 30 years have passed since that shocking day in June of 1986 when one of the brightest young basketball stars of the day was suddenly went from a sports icon to a national symbol for the drug epidemic that seemed to be plaguing the country at the time.
During his college basketball career as a member of the Maryland Terrapins, Len Bias was known as one of the most athletic and talented players in the game and was expected to be an impact player for the Boston Celtics, who chose him with the second pick in the 1986 NBA draft.
Instead, his shocking death on June 19, 1986 became the impact moment for America’s war on drugs and led to harsher laws that negatively impacted the lives of many low-level drug users, a disproportionate number of whom were young black men, who were suddenly faced with mandatory prison sentences.
Even though the Internet was still nearly a decade away, in the days following the death of Len Bias information, much of it proving to be inaccurate, was coming out fast and furious from a national media that was surprisingly captivated by the story.
Even today, it is not typical for a sports event other than the Super Bowl, Olympics or some other large event or a major tragedy to cross into the general national consciousness. However, because of the shocking and abrupt nature of Bias’ death and the fact that drugs were involved at a time when the national “war on drugs” campaign was at its apex, the death took on a larger than normal stature. Read the rest of this entry →
Given that they won game three by 28 points after rallying to win the first game 108-102 on the road to claim home court advantage, those odds may be underselling the Thunder a bit.
Since Russell Westbrook joined the Thunder in 2008, the strength of the team has been the two-headed monster of the 6-foot-3 inch Westbrook and the 6-foot-9 inch Kevin Durant.
In game three against the Warriors, Durant scored 33 points and Westbrook added 30 points. During their game one win, Westbrook had 27 points and Durant 26. In Golden State’s win in game two, Durant had 29 points and Westbrook 16. Westbrook has registered 12 assists in each of the three games of the series. Read the rest of this entry →
Despite being injured in game five of the NBA Finals, Willis Reed made a dramatic appearance in the decisive 7th game to help lead the Knicks to victory.
As the current NBA season heads towards what promises to be an exciting conclusion, we are starting a new Sports Then and Now series looking at vintage sports videos by remembering one of the most dramatic moments in NBA Playoff history.
Heading into the decisive seventh game of the 1970 NBA Finals, the big question was whether New York Knicks center Willis Reed would be able to play against Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers.
After averaging 32 points per game in the first four games of the series, Reed suffered a leg injury early in game 5. Fortunately for Knicks fans, Walt Frazier scored 21 points and Cazzie Russell 20 as New York rallied from a fourth quarter deficit to win the pivotal game 107-100.
With Reed out of the lineup in game six, Chamberlain scored 45 points to lead the Lakers to a dominating 135-113 win to force a decisive seventh game.
Entering the final game, there was great question as to whether Reed would be able available to play.
In a famous scene, announcers Chris Schenkel and Jack Twyman are talking about the availability of the 6-foot-11 center when he suddenly emerges through tunnel to roaring applause from the Madison Square Garden squad.
Reed then set the tone for the game by drilling two early baskets to give the Knicks a quick lead. Though he did not score again, Reed’s early presence lit the fire in the Knicks and Frazier took control of the game with 36 points, 19 assists and five steals.
New York went on to win 113-99 to claim their first NBA Championship.
Below is the YouTube video of the game broadcast. Enjoy!
Going from having millions of fans worldwide watching your every move and genuinely being one of the best – if not the best – at what you do on the planet, to the realms of being mere mortal is a difficult transition. And it isn’t one that every sportsman is able to navigate successfully. Largely due to a combination of a startling lack of business acumen, poor decisions, lavish lifestyles and divorce (reputedly around the 80% mark for top US athletes), it doesn’t take long for one time heroes to become zeros – sometimes literally when it comes to finances.
In 2009, Sports Illustrated published a report highlighting just how bad this problem is. It found that an astonishing 78% of NFL players find themselves in “financial distress” within just 2 years of retiring. Around 60% of NBA players, who with an average salary of $5million is higher than every other sport, are bankrupt within 5 years of calling it a day on the court.
This isn’t always the case however, here are some examples where top sportsmen have gone on to build a successful – and occasionally surprising – career after retiring from their former profession.
1. Magic Johnson
One of the finest basketball players of all time, the point guard achieved practically everything there was to achieve in the game. During his 14-year career which included 2 comebacks, Johnson won 5 NBA titles, 3 Final MVPs, and 3 regular season MVPs, and even found the time for an Olympic gold medal. He still has the highest average assists per game in history – 11.2, and playoff assists – 12.3.
His career since retirement has been no less successful. Despite a less than auspicious start (his TV show was pulled after 2 months) Johnson found a taste for business and never looked back. He was one of those who invested in Starbucks before anyone had even heard of the now omnipresent coffee shop brand. His company – Magic Johnson Enterprises – has its fingers in many industries from banking to entertainment and has helped the former Laker star earn a reputed $500 million.
2. George Foreman
Foreman’s recent career has become so successful and high profile that anyone who can’t remember back to a time when everyone didn’t have a cell phone could be forgiven for thinking that this is what he has always done. The rest of us of course know that he was one of the most formidable and talented heavyweight boxers of all time. He will always have a place in boxing folklore due to his part in the Rumble in the Jungle – one the most famous and entertaining fights of all time, but his record stands up for itself: 81 fights, 76 wins, 68 of those by way of KO, and just 5 defeats. And don’t forget that most of those were during the golden era of heavyweight boxing.
When he came out of retirement at age 45 to knock Michael Moorer (then 27) out, he became the oldest heavyweight world champion in history. When he finally retired for good, he teamed up with Russell Hobbs Inc, and launched the George Foreman Fat Reducing Grill, which he had helped design. It was an instant success and has sold over 100 million units in less than 15 years. Though he has never disclosed how much he has made from the grill, it is believed at its peak the preacher was earning $4.5 million a month. In total, it is estimated he has earned in excess of $200 million from the endorsement. A lot more than he than he ever made in the ring, actually. Read the rest of this entry →
Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors are shouting out their claim for the best record in NBA history.
With just 19 games left in the 2015-2016 season, the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors are on pace to break a record many thought was unbreakable, the 72 regular season victories of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
If the Warriors are to hit jackpot city and break the record, they will need to win 16 of their final 19 games. Considering that they have gone 17-2 in their most recent 19 games, it is certainly within reach.
After winning their first 24 games to start the season, the Warriors have endured an occasional lapse, but for the most part have been the most dominant team in the league. Though they were surprisingly stuffed last Sunday by the Los Angeles Lakers 112-95, they have rebounded with consecutive wins to get back on track.
Having raised his game to MVP level a year ago, Steph Curry has been even better this year raising his scoring average from 23.8 points per game to a league best 30.4 per contest. Considering that he has sat out the fourth quarter of many blowout wins, his average might have been even higher.
Providing a great second offensive punch is fifth-year forward Klay Thompson. Like Curry (son of Dell Curry), Thompson is the son of a former NBA star as his father, Mychal Thompson won two rings with the Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s.
During the recent NBA All-Star Weekend, Thompson showed he could hold his own as he defeated Curry in the three-point shooting contest. He is averaging 21.8 points per game and would probably be considered the top three-point shooter in the league were it not for Curry.
Much was made of a recent outburst by power forward Draymond Green. However, it is Green’s feisty competitiveness that gives the Warriors a dynamic edge. Green is averaging 13.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game while anchoring the Golden State defense. Read the rest of this entry →
The Philadelphia 76ers will need to get moving if they hope to not finish with one of the worst records in NBA history.
The Philadelphia 76ers have started the 2015-2016 season with 17 straight losses, but they have a long way to go to be considered even the worst team in franchise history.
That honor currently rests with the 1972-73 76ers squad that remains the only team in NBA history to finish a complete (82 game) season with fewer than 10 victories.
With a roster that included future Hall of Famer Hal Greer in his final season and leading scorer Fred Carter, the 76ers had won 30 games the previous season, but started with 15 straight losses and were 3-35 before the calendar turned to 1973.
Head coach Roy Rubin was fired after a 4-47 start and replaced by guard Kevin Loughery, who was nearing the end of his 11-year playing career. Loughery was listed as a player-coach having played in 32 games earlier in the season, but after not scoring in the second game he served as coach, Loughery did not see action again and focused on his coaching role.
The 76ers were marginally better playing for Loughery with a 5-26 record, but all five of those wins came during a seven game stretch in mid-February. The team lost the first 11 games coached by Loughery and the last 13 to complete their miserable campaign with a 9-73 mark.
Given that the current 76ers have not won a game since March 25th, a string that includes their final 10 games of last season and first 17 so far this campaign, they certainly have a chance to match the futility of 1972-73.
However, given that the 76ers also started last season by losing their first 17 games, but finished with 18 wins on the year, there certainly could be time for the team to achieve respectability.
In comparing the 1972-73 76ers with the current team, the most striking difference is in the experience level of the team members. In addition to Greer, who was in his 14th season, the squad included three other players with 10 years of professional experience and only one rookie. Read the rest of this entry →