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Sports Then and Now



30 Years Ago: Shocking Death of Len Bias 5

Posted on June 19, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Len Bias was an All-American at Maryland.

Len Bias was an All-American at Maryland.

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 →

Ex-Celtics Coach Doc Rivers Made His Mark On Boston Sports History 0

Posted on June 27, 2013 by Dan Flaherty
The Doc Rivers ends and the coach can take his place in the Boston sports pantheon.

The Doc Rivers ends and the coach can take his place in the Boston sports pantheon.

The city of Boston seems to developing a pattern of these coach-for-player trades. Prior to baseball season, it was the Red Sox dealing Mike Aviles to Toronto in exchange for the rights to current manager John Farrell. Now it’s the Celtics on the other end of such a transaction, acquiring a 2015 first-round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for head coach Doc Rivers.

The long-rumored trade marks the end of another era of the Celtics and the end of a great ride for Doc in Boston. Now that Rivers’ Celtic tenure is in the books, we can start asking questions about where his place is in the pantheon of Boston sports.

Doc Rivers had coached the Orlando Magic for three full seasons prior to arriving in Boston, and his first year in the Hub more or less mirrored what he’d done in Orlando. Boston had a nice year, going 45-37, but lost in the first round of the playoffs. Doc was in a rut where he’d consistently win 40-plus games, but couldn’t get four more in the postseason and move into the second round.

Over the next two seasons, everyone would have gladly taken Rivers’ previous track record. Though it wasn’t his fault, as the Celtic roster was basically reduced to Paul Pierce and four guys from the local gym league and plummeted first to 33-49 and then bottomed out at 24-58.

Actually the gym league crack isn’t fair, because the organization did have Al Jefferson, who would become the key piece to acquire Kevin Garnett, whom the Minnesota Timberwolves were ready to unload. And though players like Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins weren’t yet ready to be contributors, they were at least under development. But as far as legitimate help for Pierce, there was none until the team added Garnett, and then Ray Allen in the summer of 2007.

Now there were big expectations for Celtics basketball, and Rivers began to come into his own as an NBA coach. The Detroit Pistons were still the most respected team in the Eastern Conference, with a championship in 2004, a Finals trip in 2005 and then successive conference finals’ visits. Cleveland had LeBron James and was on the move. And could these new Celtics’ stars all mesh together?

No one succeeds in the NBA without star players taking the lead, but Rivers excelled at creating the atmosphere where Garnett, Allen and Pierce could first come together themselves and then get everyone else to fall in line. While dramatic improvement could have been achieved by a lot of coaches, not every coach could have racked up 66 wins and immediately made the team look championship-worthy.

Read the rest of this entry →

Miami Heat Are Great, But Not GREAT 2

Posted on May 26, 2013 by Dean Hybl
1973-Knicks

The 1973 New York Knicks featured six future Hall of Fame players as well as one player (can you recognize him in this photo?) who would go on to become a HOF coach.

There has been quite a bit of discussion in recent weeks regarding how the current Miami Heat compare to some of the great teams in NBA history.

A pair of Hall of Famers and former New York Knicks stars Walt Frazier and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe have especially been criticized for daring to suggest that while the Heat are an excellent team, they have no business being considered among the great teams in NBA history.

It seems popular in our current society to think that whatever is happening now is “bigger”, “better” and “greater” than anything that could have ever happened in the “old days”. To today’s 20-somethings, NBA history means acknowledging that there was indeed a league before LeBron James and past stars like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are better known as television pitch-men than for anything they ever did on the court.

To the current generation, the standard for a “great” team has been a squad with two or three legitimate All-Stars and then a collection of solid role players.  That model actually dates all the way back to the Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s when Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant (for the first three)/Dennis Rodman (for the last three) and a bunch of guys who made occasional contributions and filled specific roles won six titles.

Of course the “big three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are the latest and greatest example of this strategy for building a team. Since their celebrated move to Miami in 2010 this group has led the Heat to a pair of appearances in the NBA Finals and the 2012 title. This season the Heat won 37 of their final 39 games, including 27 straight, and appear poised for another title run. Read the rest of this entry →

Kevin Garnett Staying in Boston 5

Posted on June 30, 2012 by Brendan Tyman

Kevin Garnett's return gives the Boston Celtics a chance to upend LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

The Boston Celtics took a major step in continuing the quest for their 18th championship with the return of Kevin Garnett. Garnett agreed to a three-year contract worth $34 million according to Marc Spears of Yahoo.

Garnett’s five-year extension expired after the 2011-’12 season when the Celtics were eliminated by the eventual champion, Miami Heat, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. In the final minute when the Heat held an insurmountable lead, Garnett came off the court and embraced head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers nodded his head after Garnett said something to him.

It was unclear whether Garnett would come back to Boston when he became a free agent on July 1st. There were several reports that he would either sign with the Celtics or retire.

Read the rest of this entry →

Is It The End of An Era in Boston Celtics Basketball? 9

Posted on June 11, 2012 by Brendan Tyman

The Boston Celtics could be without Kevin Garnett (left), Paul Pierce (center), and Ray Allen (right) next season.

All great things come to an end.

The Big Three revival ended on Saturday night when the Boston Celtics were ousted by LeBron James and the Miami Heat, 101-88, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Now, the uncertainty of the offseason arrives.

Saturday night’s game was reminiscent of the last five years with the Celtics having the opportunity to win multiple championships, but they missed chances and suffered debilitating injuries. In the 2009 postseason, they lost Kevin Garnett to a season-ending knee injury in February. Ultimately, the team fell to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They fought all the way to Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers where they played without center Kendrick Perkins, who tore his ACL in Game 6 of that series. In an ending eerily similar to the 2010 Finals, the Celtics could not hang with the Heat in the final six minutes of the game on Saturday. Like in 2010, the Celtics head into the offseason with the possibility of the Big Three breaking up with Ray Allen and Garnett as free agents. Paul Pierce has two years left on his contract, but only one season is fully guaranteed. The Celtics could either trade Pierce, amnesty him, or keep him while they rebuild.

There is still a chance that the Celtics could bring the core of the last five years back together for a final run for 2012-’13. After last night’s press conferences from an emotional Doc Rivers and teary-eyed Allen, it appears that the team has long-term goals in mind to build the team around point guard Rajon Rondo. Read the rest of this entry →

Earvin Johnson Still Has the Magic 15

Posted on February 24, 2012 by Joe Gill

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were one of sports greatest rivalries of the 1980s.

When I was invited to a conference call with NBA and Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson, I was awe struck. I grew up in Boston with the Celtics-Lakers rivalry dominating the sports world in the 80′s. I can still recall my early teens watching CBS on Sundays witnessing the epic battles between Magic and Larry Bird.  As a Boston sports fan, this was my first taste of winning prior to the new millennium.

It always seemed to come down to the Celtics and Lakers and Magic and Larry. They met three times in the NBA finals in ’84, ’85  & ’87. Larry and my hometown Celtics taking the first series but dropping the next two. I still recall being in my eighth grade field trip in 1987 in Hershey, PA watching Larry Bird’s shot clank off the rim as the Lakers were headed to another championship.

Did I hate the Lakers? Yes. Did I hate Magic Johnson? No.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson was an opponent that you had to respect. He played the game the right way. Along with Larry Bird, he helped save the NBA which was poisoned by rampant drug use. He had and still has a smile a mile long. Magic was someone that you could talk to about anything. These are all the same qualities that Larry Bird saw in him and that’s why they are great friends until this day.

So to say I was excited to hear one of these legends speak is a vast understatement. Read the rest of this entry →

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