Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now



Avoid Sports Withdrawals: Vintage Final Four Action on YouTube 0

Posted on April 04, 2020 by Dean Hybl

Given how much things have changed in just the last three weeks, it seems hard to believe that if it were not for the global pandemic we would be preparing this weekend to watch the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Final Four and Championship Games.

Though it has only been a few weeks, the 2019-2020 college basketball season seems like a distant memory. The excitement over which teams were on the bubble and who would be the top seeds seeming to be part of a long ago time.

It may seem hard to imagine right now, but I have great confidence that next year we will be back to enjoying March Madness and all the drama and excitement of college sports.

However, for right now in our time of social distancing and staying at home, we are fortunate that YouTube provides us with access to a plethora of vintage sporting events that can help pass the time before live sports return.

In part three of a multi-part series, Sports Then and Now has selected ten college basketball Final Four and Championship games that include some of the all-time moments and players in college basketball history. In the first two parts we shared great conference tournament games and early round NCAA Tournament action.

In this edition, we have chosen Final Four and Championship Games that include some of the iconic moments, teams and players in NCAA history. For each one we have included the records, rankings, coaches and notable players at the time of the game, but are not spoiling the game with a summary in case you don’t remember the outcome and want to enjoy the moment without spoilers.

Among the players you can check out during their college days are all-time greats Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bill Walton, David Thompson, Michael Jordan, Walter Davis, James Worthy, Grant Hill, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Christian Laettner, Larry Johnson, Patrick Ewing and many more.

There are certainly other great games to watch on YouTube, but we have chosen these party because the entire game is available on YouTube and the game epitomized the excitement of March Madness.

Enjoy!

1979 NCAA Championship Game – Indiana State vs. Michigan State

Records Entering Game: Indiana State: 33-0; Michigan State: 25-6

National Ranking: Indiana State #1; Michigan State: #3

Coaches: Indiana State: Bill Hodges; Michigan State: Jud Heathcote

Notable Players: Indiana State: Larry Bird, Carl Nicks, Alex Gilbert, Bob Heaton; Michigan State: Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser, Terry Donnelly

Read the rest of this entry →

Happy Birthday Jim Brown & Michael Jordan! 0

Posted on February 17, 2020 by Dean Hybl

It isn’t everyday that you can say that two athletes who arguably were the best ever to compete in their sport are celebrating birthdays. But you can say that about February 17th as that happens to be the birthday of Hall of Fame football star Jim Brown (born in 1936) and Hall of Fame basketball star Michael Jordan (born in 1963).

Happy 84th Birthday Jim Brown!

Though it has been 54 years since he last played in the NFL, just about anyone who was alive to watch him play still will insist that Brown is the best player ever to put on shoulder pads. His combination of power and speed were unlike anything that had previously been seen in the NFL and his domination of the league during his nine year career with the Cleveland Browns has never truly been matched. He won eight rushing titles in nine years and averaged 104 yards rushing per game for his entire career.  His 12, 312 career rushing yards was a record that stood for 19 years and still ranks 11th in NFL history.

As the NFL celebrated 100 years throughout the 2019 season, Brown was regularly touted as being one of the greatest players in NFL history. In fact, he was ranked by Sports Then and Now as the number one player in NFL history in our look at the NFL’s all-time top 100 players.

Read the rest of this entry →

Vintage Video: NBA All-Star Game – Let the Fun Begin 0

Posted on February 12, 2020 by Dean Hybl

While baseball and football have struggled with maintaining interest and excitement around their All-Star games, the NBA seems to have the right ingredients to make the All-Star Game and All-Star Weekend something anticipated each year by both players and fans.

The NBA All-Star Game has always included great matchups like Magic vs. Michael.

From Slam Dunk contests to high scoring games, there have been many exciting moments in All-Star Game history.

In this installment of Vintage Video, we remember some of the great games and highlights from All-Star Game history.

Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: Old Fuddy Duddy Watching the NBA Draft 10

Posted on June 23, 2017 by Dean Hybl

Markelle Fultz was selected with the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing only 25 games at the college level.

Markelle Fultz was selected with the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing only 25 games at the college level.

I have decided in this column to serve as the old “fuddy duddy”, which is defined as being old fashioned and fussy.

Last night was the NBA Draft and I must admit, my 11-year-old son had a much better grasp of the players being selected than I did. Not only because he is significantly closer in age to them, but also because in today’s electronic world, he is much more familiar with their exploits than I am. Though most of the top players played roughly 30 games at the college level, if you are interested and tech savvy, you can find all their highlights on YouTube.

Sorry to sound dated and bitter, but I fondly remember a day when players being drafted into the NBA were familiar to fans not because of a YouTube video, but because we had watched them play through usually three or four years of college. Even in a time when cable television was not yet prominent and not every game was available to watch, we still had ample chances to enjoy the top players for quite a while before they moved to the NBA.

When Michael Jordan entered the NBA in 1984 he had played 101 games as a college player, not to mention being on the 1984 Olympic team. While I don’t recall there necessarily being discussion then that he was going to be the greatest player of all-time (such labels weren’t really all that important in a time before sports talk shows), there was no question that he was a great player and would be a successful pro.

You can say similar things about all the other top draft picks from the 1970s and 1980s. In most cases, they were familiar to fans across the country because they had been showcased in college for multiple years.

Now not every great college player in the past panned out in the NBA. As is the case today, there were many players in past generations who were great college players, but just didn’t translate to the NBA. But even in those cases, you had four years to watch them play at college and the number of top picks who didn’t have at least some semblance of an NBA career was pretty minimal. Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: Back from the Abyss 2

Posted on June 09, 2017 by Dean Hybl

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant each have been in the conversation about the greatest player in NBA history.

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant each have been in the conversation about the greatest player in NBA history.

When I started Sports Then and Now in 2009, one of the regular features of the site was a weekly Friday column in which I took a more in-depth look at a couple hot button topics in the world of sports. You may remember that in 2009 the country was struggling with unemployment at a level unseen for many years and I, like many others, was facing a time of being under-employed and had a bit more time to share my perspective about the world of sports.

Fortunately, my battle with under-employment was short lived and now as a country our unemployment levels are at all-time lows. While I have managed to find the time to continue Sports Then and Now as a web site, I have not had the same level of time to focus on the site as I did in 2009. Though I have been fortunate to have some quality articles written either by myself or in many cases other talented writers to keep the site going, things like my weekly Friday column became a victim of my busy life that not only includes a full-time job, but two kids and right now multiple youth sports coaching gigs.

However, I recently decided that I miss having a weekly platform to share some of my musings about sports. While I admit I may have a greater affinity for my work than deserved, I hope that my nearly 50 years as a sports fan as well as my training as a journalist makes my efforts at least somewhat entertaining.

Regardless, I have decided that beginning with this week, it is time to bring “Waiting for the Weekend” back after a seven year “sabbatical.” I promise to weekly give some thoughts and ideas about the current happenings in the world of sports, tie them to sports history when I can, and make them as entertaining as my talents allow.

So, without further delay, here we go:

Is LeBron the Greatest Ever? Does it Matter?: Even though it appears that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to fall short of a second consecutive NBA Title, the fact that LeBron is appearing in the NBA Finals for the seventh straight season has necessitated the obligatory discussions about whether he is the greatest player in NBA history.

While I have my own opinions regarding LeBron’s historical status as well as the current talent level of the NBA, the question I have for anyone who fuels the discussion is why does it matter? When I was a kid we heard stories about the greatest from the early generations of NBA history including George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson. In the 1970s, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving ruled the day. In the 1980s it was Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The 1990s were dominated by Michael Jordan with Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Karl Malone among those earning honorable mention. In the 2000s it was Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal ruling the land before LeBron took over.

The point is that regardless of what generation you connect with, there were NBA players who stood out above the crowd and were the best of that era.

Just given the physical evolution of the game and the methods of physical fitness, there is no question that LeBron James has a level of physical ability and skill that is unmatched in basketball history. However, that doesn’t necessarily make him the greatest player ever or conversely ensure that he isn’t the greatest of all-time.

Though by the time I was old enough to follow the NBA Wilt Chamberlain was better known for making car commercials with jockey Willie Shoemaker than he was for his basketball dominance, during his peak, Chamberlain was as dominant in terms of physical ability and skills as Jordan in the 1990s or LeBron today.

However, some would argue that because Bill Russell and a Boston Celtics roster filled with stars routinely kept Chamberlain from winning a title, Russell was better and Chamberlain was flawed. Read the rest of this entry →

Vintage Video: Michael Jordan Becomes MICHAEL JORDAN 1

Posted on May 07, 2017 by Dean Hybl

Lifting the Bulls over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 NBA Playoffs helped propel Michael Jordan to NBA Super stardom.

Lifting the Bulls over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 NBA Playoffs helped propel Michael Jordan to NBA Super stardom.

Prior to the 1989 NBA playoffs, Michael Jordan was already known as one of the best players in the NBA.  He was a three-time NBA scoring champion and had already earned his first NBA MVP Award. However, Jordan didn’t yet have a signature playoff moment. That all changed 28 years ago on May 7, 1989.

After first round playoff exits in each of Jordan’s first three playoff appearances, the Bulls had finally advanced to the second round in 1988. However, they lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Detroit Pistons.

Facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round of the 1989 playoffs, the Bulls were on the brink of being eliminated in the first round for the fourth time in five years. The best-of-five series was tied at two games each and the Cavaliers led by a single point (100-99) when Jordan and the Bulls broke the huddle with three seconds remaining.

It was in those three seconds that Jordan started his rise from NBA star to all-time legend.

Taking the inbounds pass, Jordan drove to the foul line and then took a jump shot over the outraced arm of Cleveland guard Craig Ehlo. As the ball fell through the next, Jordan jumped in joy and pumped his fist as the Bulls celebrated.

Though they eventually lost in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan was now established as a clutch player and the legend continued to grow.

Two years later the Bulls won their first NBA title and Jordan was on his way to being known as the greatest of all-time.

Conversely, the shot by Jordan proved to be a dagger for the Cavaliers. The struggled the next two seasons before reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 1992 (losing to Jordan and the Bulls). While the Bulls went on to win six NBA Championships, the Cavaliers never advanced out of the Eastern Conference while losing in the opening round six times between 1989 and 1998.

Check out video from the first defining playoff shot of Jordan’s career.
Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rocky Colavito: Super Slugger
      March 30, 2020 | 7:24 pm
      Rocky Colavito

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was just the fifth player in Major League Baseball history to have 11 straight seasons with 20 or more home runs, yet could not sustain that greatness long enough to earn a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      In some sense, the legend of Rocco “Rocky” Colavito Jr. began long before he ever started pounding home runs at the major league level.

      Born and raised as a New York Yankees fan in The Bronx, Colavito was playing semipro baseball before he was a teenager and dropped out of high school at 16 after his sophomore year to pursue a professional career. The major league rule at the time said a player could not sign with a pro team until his high school class graduated, but after sitting out for one year, Colavito was allowed to sign at age 17.

      Read more »

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