June 30, 2008

Crammed-On Chronicles I: Shaq ON David Robinson (Forget the Alamo. Remember THIS...)

February 11, 1996

Long before Tim Duncan roamed the Texas plains, if you asked San Antonio hoop fans who was the greatest ever to play in their city, you’d get a couple of nostalgic George Gervin responses. More often, citizens would stand at attention to salute “The Admiral,” David Robinson.

But between the reigns of the Iceman and the Admiral, there was one baller who totally dominated the hardwood, losing just one game in two years, ripping down rims and leaving opponents dazed, coaches cold-sweating and fans in a state of shock and awe.

Then he left Cole High School. And conveniently, San Antonio forgot all about Shaquille O’Neal.

Shaq bailed the Lone Star State in 1989 to play with then-proud American Chris Jackson and the LSU Tigers. Although he wound up toiling in his initial NBA years with Orlando, he never lost his affection for the Mission City and the people there. Always donating back to Cole High with hoop gear, he even offered his high school math teacher his Orlando condo for her honeymoon. He would leave scores of tickets at the Alamodome for local friends anytime his team came to play.

But San Antonio’s fans and small-town media could care less. To them, basketball was all about Mr. David Robinson, the man who saved the Spurs from getting moved out of town, who led the team as a rookie to what was the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history, who made the Spurs and its city relevant again. The Admiral was a patriot, a gentleman, a statesman, a scholar. Ostensibly, to his core, he was a really swell guy. At least, that’s what they’d tell all of you. Not a thug, they’d say, like that Shaquille O’Neal.

Well before he became a brash rapper, B-movie headliner and can’t-miss future Hall of Famer in his years with the Magic, the young Shaquille was a gentle teenage giant who absolutely adored and emulated David Robinson’s game. In the summer of 1989, the city’s best high school player saddled up to the soon-to-be NBA rookie at a bible college’s basketball event, and pleaded for an autograph.

“He wrote his name real quick and was like, ‘Yeah, come on, hurry up’,” Shaq penned in his 2001 memoir Shaq Talks Back. Robinson didn’t engage in any constructive dialogue, and declined to make any eye contact. “He kind of dogged me out. He was my favorite player. That’s OK. I said to myself, ‘when I see you, I’m gonna get you.’”

Once in the League, Robinson gave O’Neal something more to stew about. In 1994, well behind O’Neal in scoring on the final day of the regular season, Robinson, his teammates and the hapless Clippers colluded to allow him to drop 71 points and wrest away the league scoring title. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, the adulating media wrote, and Shaq was miffed. The vilified Shaq knew that had he done this to Robinson, the columnists and talk show hosts would have strung him up.
Cut to February 1996, in San Antonio at the Alamodome, site of the 1996 All-Star Game. A total bore by most accounts, until the final minute. Spurs teammate Sean Elliott fumbled the ball trying to dribble it around his waist, and Robinson sauntered back on defense from halfcourt. Grant Hill brought the stolen ball up the court on a 4-on-3 break. Hill made eye contact with Shaq at halfcourt, leaving you to wonder if Grant knew of the grand plan to lay down some Shaq Fu.

You could read Robinson’s face as Shaq gathered the ball from Hill’s pass, just one foot in the paint. “He’s just gonna try to lay it up past me, I can deflect it,” he probably thought to himself. “Surely, he’s not gonna try to crown me, the All-Star Game’s host, not from way out there. For goodness sakes, this is just an exhibition game! Right?” Indeed it was an exhibition, only he didn’t know his hometown humiliation would be on display.

Robinson tried to keep altitude with the soaring Shaq, but the two shoes of Mr. Goody Two Shoes didn’t have the lift of his determined opponent. With no defenders to his left, Shaq could’ve easily slammed the ball through with his left hand. But Robinson was on his right, and Shaq would not miss this last-minute opportunity to upstage the reigning MVP on his home floor with the world watching. His right hand and the Spalding hovered well above and beyond the leaping 7-foot-1 center’s outstretched fingertips. Some would argue a 320-plus pound man had never gotten that high off the ground. Not without a forklift, anyway.

O’Neal leaned into Robinson’s chest in mid-air and in a split-second… Kazaam! The Admiral’s ship was sunk by a tomahawk explosion. Quoth the Diesel:

“I got some revenge… dunking on Robinson as hard as I've ever dunked and knocking him to the ground. That was a message. I wanted to show him that he'll never be able to stop me, especially when I’m coming like that. I kind of showed the rock to him, then had to bring it back a little bit, and I just threw the thing down, right on him. Wha-pah! And when he fell, I just looked at him. ‘Stay down, don't get up.’ It was a knockout.”

Propelled by O’Neal’s sheer power, the ball came down faster than The Fu-Schnickens’ careers. Thundering through the net, it ricocheted off Shaq’s size-22 EE sneaker. While still clutching on the rim, he booted the ball Pele-style over Robinson into the press row, as if to say, “Write about THAT, punks.” Forced to bow down to Shaq’s prowess as he stumbled out of bounds, the faithful Robinson realizes this was a moment of almost Biblical proportions. For once, Goliath slew David.

O’Neal had dunked on D-Rob before, and would continue to for seven more seasons, even more so once he moved out west to ball with the Lakers…

…but never before had he put the punk-tuation on a posterizing dunk like this one. The Alamodome crowd went from “ooohs” to “aaahs,” then to “booos” when they suddenly remembered they were supposed to be mostly Spurs fans. Shaq glared at the crowd as if to ask, “Wow! Was that YOUR all-star?” The boos intensified as he saluted a howling Michael Jordan and teammates on the East bench. Despite Shaq’s East-leading 25 points and 10 boards, MJ would get the game’s MVP trophy. But that was okay, because Shaq got the play of the game, possibly the season.

In San Antonio you’re constantly reminded to “Remember the Alamo.” Almost exactly 160 years after the epic battle ending with a fallen hero, Shaq gave San Antonio one more thing to remember. San Antonio disowned Shaquille O’Neal, but he put the world on notice that from that day on, he owned San Antonio.

June 28, 2008

Nike Hyperdunk Posters & New TV Ad!!!

Ummm... ya think maybe Nike's marketing to us? lol

I guess the Swoosh Crew thought Kobe hurdling Aston Martins and a pool of black mambas on the way to the rim wasn't enough to get me to take off running over to Foot Locker... so maybe this'll do the trick. Well, I may do away with my Bobos yet!

Nike needs some eye-poppers to boost promotion of what they claim is their "lightest and strongest basketball shoe ever." It ain't exactly a coincidence that they're pushing this shorts-munching angle in time for the Olympics, where a particular dunk like these instantly turned Vince Carter's Nike Shox sneakers from a oddity ("Boing!") to a staple on the sneaker shelves.

Kobe's been an OK seller for NBA jerseys, particularly if he changes uni numbers every couple o' years, but his annual sneaker sales revenue is still just slightly above that of Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje's. These side spreads (it's not HIM in them, but Dwight Howard knows it darn well could be) together with the viral vids makes the Hyperdunk Kobe's best shot at MJ-level sneaker stardom.

The ad campaign is by Portland-based Wieden+Kennedy Studio, the folks that sat around back in the eighties and came up with the eloquent catchphrase "JUST DO IT." The new tagline for Nike Basketball oughta be, "JUST DO IT IN SOME FOOL'S MUG."

Got Dunked On? Like the somehow willing yet still unfortunate souls above? No problemo! Simply dial (877) DUNKD-ON and you'll reach Nike's "Hyperdunk Recovery Center" in New York City The "center" treats "The Emotional and Social Effects of Hyperdunks." You think I'm joking, huh? Call the number, it's a riot!

TV Commercials should be coming soon. Practice take for the TV ad on YouTube:

UPDATE: The Hyperdunk Recovery Center is now open for bizness, ready to attend to all your whack-game needs! Their new ad is wayyyy too funny! As is their new website! Way to go Nike!


June 27, 2008

Where Are They Now? Part IV (2005, updated 2008)

Victim #4 – (September 2005)

Jaren Jackson

With Spalding tattoos courtesy of Kobe, Spree, and countless other high-flying guards (Ron Mercer at 1:44 on this video), dude made NBA fans repeatedly scream the age-old question, "Why Jump?" Now the former New Orleans high school standout and Georgetown wing has jumped into the coaching ranks, following the footsteps of fellow Victim Alston Lister (Series III).

Jaren has landed in Indiana with the Gary Steelheads (a team apparently named after the residents who still choose to live there -- just kidding!) This follows a stint with the now-defunct Philly Fusion (ABA).

(2008 Update: Jaren’s got an affinity for Hoosier State semi-pro squads with crazy names. The 2006 CBA Coach of the Year with the Steelheads, this time he’s moved over to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the D-League, returning to the town where he played in the CBA before joining the Spurs.)

Facializer #4 – (September 2005)

Robert Pack

Quick, who was Eurobasket's Lithuanian League Guard of the Year, leading perennial power Zalgiris to the national League title and the Baltic League Championship? Why, none other than the Pack-Man! Robert used to pack it on NBA frontcourt players (Shawn Kemp, Thurl Bailey, Shawn Bradley) with no fear back in his heyday.

(2008 Update: Robert has since hung up his shoelaces. He made a short-lived attempt at returning to the League with the Raps in the ’05 preseason, but didn’t make the roster. In Dallas, he ran into mortgage troubles and a legal dispute over a house with the oft-injured and oft-whining Cowboy receiver Terry Glenn, who I’d better refer to as a “He” or else I might get sued too! He also is parlaying his worldly travels into on online travel agent gig, along with a bunch of ex-athletes the likes of James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Mike Alstott, and Lou Brock – I dunno if a guy most famous for ‘steals’ with my money, but hey…)

His comment to a fan on the 1994 Slam Dunk Contest, where he was runner-up:
"I was more of a game dunker, hoping a big guy would challenge me at the rim. The 1994 dunk contest was hard for me without the 7-footers to go after."
YouTube: It’s Robert Pack, by a nose! Watch him stone an Estonian by throwing dem ‘bows in Baltic League ball.


June 24, 2008

Where Are They Now? Part III (2005, updated 2008)

Victim #3: Alton Lister

After getting ceremoniously crammed on by Shawn "The Original Daddy" Kemp in the playoffs, Alton took his knowledge to Mesa College in 'Zona, where he's been coaching since 2000. His top lesson? Don'tstand under the basket, or you will get blistered!

(2008 Update: The seven-foot tall Lister snuck back in the pros to coach, currently “blistering” the likes of Josh Smith and Al Horford with his sage guidance as an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks. Here’s an interview of Lister on NBA-TV. And here’s a shot of him with fellow perennial dunk-victim Patrick Ewing at the 2008 NBA Predraft Camp. When it comes to getting posterized, do ya think they’ve got a few stories to share?)

Facializer #3: Xavier McDaniel

Like Kemp, I think the rim must've said somethin’ mean about Xavier's mama when he was a kid, 'cause by the time he grew up he knew damn well how to punish the rim and anything (like Trent Tucker, his future teammate?) that got in his way. Although X reportedly got smashed on while at Wichita State when Spud Webb (who was in the League by then) came for a visit... now that had to be a Shocker! Like Lister, X did a lil coaching, too -- who better to be a SlamBall coach than the X-Man, leading the Riders to the championship! (SlamBall was a'ight, but everybody could tell the concept needed some work.) Anyways, post-SlamBall he's just been going around Carolina and NBA summer camps providing tutelage on the proper way to stare down your opponent on the inbounds right after tomahawking on his head.

(2008 Update: Let it not be said that the X-Man isn’t afraid to dabble. Over a decade removed from an underwhelming Korean sneaker contract, X has gotten a little cameo-acting bug (see YouTube below), took up house-flipping, and carried his “Grand Slam”-ming ways onto the tennis court (here he is in Wichita playing doubles with veteran Natasha Zvereva for charity).

“NBA Superstars Out of Their League, Take Two. Lights, Camera, ACTION!”


June 23, 2008

Oh, You Didn't Know? NBA Draft 2K8 Preview

After this week's draft, these high-flyers are soon to be hovering over an NBA rim near you!

With the first pick in the draft, Nasteedunx selects…
Derrick Rose, Guard, Memphis

With the second pick in the draft, Nasteedunx selects…
Russell Westbrook, Guard, UCLA

With the third pick in the draft, Nasteedunx selects…
Bill Walker, Forward, Kansas State

Non-guaranteed contracts go out to:
4. O.J. Mayo

5. Jerryd Bayless

6. Eric Gordon

7. Danilo Gallinari

8. J.R. Giddens

9. Chris Douglas-Roberts

10. Joe Alexander

11. Michael Beasley

12. Kevin Love

13. DeVon Hardin


June 19, 2008

Where Are They Now? Part II (2005, updated 2008)

Victim #2: (June 2005) Sergio McClain

The recipient of the Original Lipton (courtesy of one Mr. RonnieFields), Peoria's Finest has reared his head again, this time withthe Mahoning Valley Wildcats (IBL). That's in Youngstown, Ohio, although I'm sure you knew that. "I became a dad and got fat," he said of his fate.

(2008 Update: That’s Coach Sergio to you, now. In April he took on his first head coaching gig at Parkland College in Champaign. His dad is right down the road an assistant coach for the Fighting Illini.)

Facializer #2: (June 2005) Ronnie Fields

Excerpts from an interview with the once-high-flyer, before he got cut by the CBA's Rockford Lightning in March. A bigger crash than the one he had over Sergie Mac was the car accident that derailed his NBA hoop dreams. Rockford's all-time leading scorer, forwhatever that's worth. Prior stint with the USBL's PennsylvaniaValleyDawgs (was he coached by Darryl Dawkins?) Now he's with the Globetrotters -- no, not those, the Trotamundos del Carabobo, in Venezuela!

(2008 Update: A YouTube fan is assembling an unofficial Ronnie “Air” Fields documentary. Here’s Part1 and Part 2. Plus some extra tube of his 4-foot vertical, and him going over and beyond his opponent -- I guess that’s Sergio, but I’ll bet he’s got a few highlights just like this one. A mural of his famous soaring slam graces the wall of Farragut High School, where he ran for a year with future NBA champion Kevin Garnett. He’s still ballin’, though. His most recent sighting was in North Dakota, lifting off with the Minot SkyRockets of the CBA.)


Where Are They Now? Part I (2005, updated 2008)

{I'll get back to creating new WATN profiles soon, but meanwhile I'll be updating the ones I've put together over the past few years. The profiles got more detailed and more fun to write-up as the years went on.}

Victim #1 – (June 2005) Kornel David.

Since T-Mac rode his azz back to Hungary, KD's been lightin' it up in Lithuania and in Euroleague for Tau Ceramica.

(2008 Update: Right now he’s still in Spain, with Gran Canaria, rolling with the likes of former Rainbow-Warrior Carl English and ex-Terp Nik Caner-Medley)

Facializer #1 – (June 2005) Damon Thornton.

He's used to defenders being down under him, but now he's just Down Under. Hoopin it up for the 3-Peat Sydney Kings... in the Philippines!

(2008 Update: After a spell in Austraila with the Taipans, then to Argentina and Israel, Damon’s globe-trotting over the past year has landed him in Switzerland with Benetton Fribourg Olympic. He was injured before having a chance to compete with his mates for the league championship)


Facials in the Finals?

What's the filthiest facial ever thrown down in an NBA Finals game? Here's my fave 5:

Shawn “Reign Man” Kemp ON Dennis “Rainbow Head” Rodman: Add a Streak of Brown (1996)

Julius “Dr. J” Erving OVER Michael “Hung One on Mr.” Cooper: Rock Da Baby 2 Sleep (1983)

Richard “Great Gazoo” Jefferson OVER Kevin “Whatchootalkinbout” Willis: Fright Night (2003)

Shaquille “Kazaam” O’Neal OVER Dikembe “All in Dzee House Of” Mutombo: Totally Mounted (2001)

Robert “Mr. Clutch” Horry ON Richard “Rip” Hamilton: You’ve Been Unmasked (2005)


What? What?