Friday Fives

Friday Fives: 5 Questions Heading into Game 2

 

stevens

I think we can say we are officially back. For now.  Time for one of our favorite past-times: Friday Fives.  Here’s how this worked. I, Maneikis, posed 5 questions to our panel (Me, Will Weir aka “The Fedora’d One” and Taylor “I now prefer TJ” Simpson), and what you will read is our email exchange regarding each of these key questions heading into the critical Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Fun drinking game alert: every time we refer to Lebron by a name other than Lebron or anytime you feel we are being complete homers, you drink.  Prepare to get dnruk.

  1. How do we stop Tristan Thompson?

Will: Tristan has been bashing us over the head with a mallet like a kid playing Whack-A-Mole in an arcade for about 2 or 3 years now.  Feels like every game he gets about 20 rebounds vs. us and we are just powerless.  Having said that, they need to try something.  Rebounding has been a sore spot for C’s all year, not a secret.  Amir Johnson? Child Please. Tyler Zeller? I’ll pass.  Traditional big men are out.  Unfortunately, we can’t have Al guard both him and Kevin Love, so I think the answer has to fall to primarily Marcus Smart and maybe even a dash of Jae Crowder.  At this point, the best hope is that these 2 can be bulldogs and, at best, slow him down.  Marcus seems like he’ll get 1st billing, Jae doesn’t have the speed to stay with LBJ (Step up on up Jaylen!), but maybe he has the strength to battle with Tristan like he did with Morris last round.

Maneikis: Will, I totally agree per our conversation last night.  Marcus can bang with the big guys as long as it’s purely physical play.  The moment you add skill to the mix, Marcus tends to struggle, but he relishes the wrestling matches.  I’d also like to see us try to exploit him on the defensive end by going small and giving Marcus an opportunity to run PnR with Horford.  That might force the Cavs into some unnatural defensive rotations (have Thompson and Love ever had to defend a PnR together?), and we might even get some of their bigs in foul trouble.  I don’t see us stopping Thompson from getting rebounds, but I do expect us to make him work for those rebounds and to make him uncomfortable on the defensive end of the floor.

TJ:  Tristan is a player who has the specific skill set that exploits the biggest weakness on the Celtics’ roster – offensive rebounding.  It would be like if in The Illiad the Trojans hired a mercenary to a $60 million dollar contract whose lone skill was throwing arrows at soldiers’ heels.  In the first round against the Bulls the Celtics made Robin Lopez look like Wilt Chamberlain, so an honest goal would just not to end up like any of Wilt’s famed 20,000 women – you know, completely fucked.  However as many basketball coaches have repeated to me throughout the years, there is no secret to boxing out; it just takes placement, intention and a whole lot of effort. Dedicate a spot on the floor to one of the Lunks (Kelly, Zeller, Amir) who sole purpose is to stay between the basket and Tristan Thompson.  Barring a sudden fix for what has been a glaring flaw all year, sign his step-sister Kendall to a 10-day. She fixed institutionalized racism with a mere soft drink, so I’m sure she can grab a few rebounds.

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Friday Fives: Toughest Sports Performances

The Bruins lost in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals earlier this week, but not before turning in one of the grittiest performances in playoff history. In addition to Gregory Campbell’s instantly legendary refusal to leave the ice even with a broken leg in the conference finals, alternate captain Patrice Bergeron was so badly injured in Game 5 of the Finals that he was rushed to the hospital before the game was over…and returned to play in Game 6 with a broken rib, punctured lung, and cartilage damage. In other words, they’re some tough sons of bitches. Here are some of our other favorite hardasses.

(DISCLAIMER: For obvious reasons, we didn’t include hockey players – because they’d make up the entire list. Nobody’s questioning that they are far and away the toughest dudes on earth. I mean, they actually penalize the few guys who take dives for God’s sake! So assume that even the pansiest of hockey players – AKA Sid Crosby – is higher even than our Number 1’s on this list.)

TED

WILL

GREG

5. Byron Leftwich:  The Jaguars had high hopes for Leftwich when they drafted him seventh overall in 2003, and though he never materialized as a top-flight threat, he was a solid middle-tier quarterback for a few years. You know, 60% completion rate, more touchdowns than interceptions, didn’t make TOO many game-killing mistakes – not your first (or tenth) choice, but better than half the other teams’ starting QB’s. But one thing he was known for was toughness. As a big, lumbering quarterback behind a below-average line and with only Jimmy Smith and Fred Taylor to help him out, Leftwich was a big target and took a lot of hard hits, yet “only” missed nine games in his first three years… Fine, I’m definitely reaching here, but check this out: as a senior at Marshall, he broke his shin in the first quarter of a November game, but finished the game and even engineered a 17-point comeback that ultimately fell short in true Leftwich-ian fashion. But the shots of his linemen carrying him downfield on his frenzied drives were pretty badass, and if it was anybody other than Byron Leftwich I might even use the word “iconic.” This selection pales in comparison to the rest of this list, so let’s move on. 5. Matthew Stafford:  Yes, this guy looks like the typical frat bro who’s a little too into the frat scene and seems to have his face grow fatter with each semester, but damn is this dude tough. Forget the up-and-down stats we’ve seen from him over the past two seasons and let’s revisit a game against the Cleveland Browns from his rookie season. During this game, in which he throws five TD’s and becomes the youngest QB to ever achieve that feat, he leads an injury-riddled comeback to boot. After taking this bone-crunching hit from C.J. Mosley where he separates his shoulder, the man refuses to quit. After being brought to the sidelines and begged not to go back out there – remember, this guy was the #1 overall pick that year – he disregards the training staff and valiantly returns to the field. On the very next play he throws the game-winning touchdown and seals his fate on the BA Friday Fives. 5. Rajon Rondo:  Man, this sucks writing this right now because it’s 11:30 PM, which means I just learned that the Celtics will be unrecognizable next season, so talking about Rondo pains me – but probably not as much as this pained him. Say what you want about Rondo’s attitude, jumper, or style, but he is one of the toughest players in the league. I mean, shit, he played an entire fourth quarter and overtime with a torn ACL. Not only has he played through gruesome injuries, but he also takes more tumbles during a game than Gabby Douglas during a floor routine (don’t overthink it…okay). Seriously, this guy is always hitting the floor whether it’s diving for a loose ball or taking a hit from a guy 75 pounds heavier than he is. But no matter what the cause, Rondo always gets up and brushes the dust off of the enormous chip on his shoulder. That is why people in Boston love him, because he plays the game with grit and balls. KG taught him well. (Side note: WHY Danny Ainge????? WHY???? But I get it, I’m just too emotional.)
4. Evander Holyfield:  Maybe not the first boxer that comes to mind when you think of the greats, but Holyfield is history’s only four-time World Heavyweight Champion, a boast that guys like Ali, Frazier, Foreman, and Tyson can’t even make. Holyfield made his pro debut at 1983 and KO’d his way up the weight classes, winning his first heavyweight title in 1990 and his last in 2000 – a solid decade-long run that included memorable and grueling bouts with Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis, and Tyson himself. You’ve gotta be insanely tough to win four heavyweight titles across ten years, especially when they include going through Iron Mike twice, including the infamous Bite Fight that left pieces of Evander’s ear on the mat. 4. Allen Iverson:  Typically the smallest guy on the court but almost consistently had the most heart. Yes, he was a bit of a ballhog and is the definition of a volume scorer. But when he was on the court there was little denying that he was giving his all. He played with reckless abandon and probably cut a few years off his career with all the bone-jarring drops to the floor he took driving into a lane of giants. Iverson definitely ranks among the top former or current NBA players you don’t want to run into in a back alley. Now, all that I’ve said about Mr. Iverson does of course presume we aren’t talking ’bout practice. 4. Curt Schilling:  Such a homer pick, but the bloody sock game remains one of the coolest things I ever witnessed. Just the buildup to the game was intense: would Big Schill pitch or was he done for the season with a damaged ankle (you know, the ankle on the leg from which he derived all of his power)? Then we heard he would pitch but that he had to undergo experimental surgery to allow his tendon to remain out of place so as not to elicit unimaginable pain. Then he came out with a noticeable bloodstain pouring through his sock as he pitched one of the most memorable games in Red Sox history. (It was like something out of a movie, but then again so was the entire 2003-2004 journey. That could be a great documentary now that I think of it. ) No big deal. He just helped break the curse and exorcise the demon of Aaron Boone. Sure, Schilling is a douchebag and a little bit of an attention-whore, but Boston fans will never able to repay him for what he brought to this city.
3. Cal Ripken, Jr.:  It’s admittedly tough for baseball players to make this list, given the relative lack of physical activity and bodily punishment they endure compared to their hockey, football, and basketball brethren. But then, Cal isn’t your average ballplayer. The Iron Man shattered Lou Gehrig’s legendary and seemingly unbreakable record when he played his 2,131st consecutive game in 1995…and then played another 500 straight games after that. For you laypeople, that’s 17 straight years of playing every single game of baseball’s grueling summer schedule, playing through six straight months of sweltering heat with maybe one day a week off, tops. And it’s not like he coasted through his career either: he was a two-time MVP, two-time Gold Glover, and 19-time All-Star at the most demanding position on the diamond. If you don’t think he played through a ton of pain and injuries to keep his streak intact and his team in contention then you’ve never watched a full season of Major League Baseball. In an era of regular rest days for baseball’s biggest stars and in which pros get injured for the dumbest shit imaginable (seriously, take a look through a few of those and double check that it’s not The Onion), Cal’s is a record that we can confidently say will never, ever be broken. 3. Kobe Bryant/Michael Jordan:  This quality may be the closest skill these two share among a myriad of other prolific on-court traits. Two of the fiercest competitors the sports world has ever seen. I literally think each of them would straight up Walder Frey one of their own family members if it meant winning and being called the greatest. These guys have a different type of motor. One of MJ’s most historic games is the Flu Game. Maybe he was hungover, maybe it was bad pizza, who knows? Either way he gets props for having one of his best Finals performances ever under those circumstances. Then there’s Kobe who averaged over 27 ppg this past season while dealing with several injuries before his knee finally gave out. Kobe knew an injured version of him was better than anything else the Lakers could put on the floor and gave it his all. That’s toughness. 3. Larry Bird:  Honestly, I’m not even trying to make this Boston-centric, but there is no way I can write a piece about toughness and not mention Larry “I had to have my spine readjusted everyday just so I could walk, never mind play an NBA game” Bird. Watching clips of Larry Legend diving headfirst onto the floor and into the stands, fighting Dr. J, and willing himself and his teammates to win after win despite the aforementioned back issues is my idea of a perfect first date. If she doesn’t appreciate my Birdboner then she won’t get…okay I’ll stop there. Inappropriate. Larry was from a blue collar family and took a blue collar approach to the game of basketball. Hearing him describe his father’s black and broken foot as inspiration for his attitude towards receiving his paycheck from Red Auerbach is something I want to play for my kids one day. If you get paid to do something you do it. Simple as that. And Larry kept it simple.
2. Bo Jackson:  The world had never seen a physical specimen like Vincent Edward Jackson, and it very well may never see another (apologies to LeBron, but it’s true). The list of tools that Bo possessed across multiple sports is utterly incomprehensible: blazing speed, a cannon for an arm, brute physical strength – whether it took the form of 500-foot homers or truck-sticked linebackers – and stamina and toughness that should make every other pro athlete ashamed. I mean, the guy played two completely different sports at the highest levels on earth, constantly, for three straight years! Every other athlete gets three to six months off each year for recovery, rest, and improvement, but not Bo: from 1987-1990 he played pro football and baseball all year long, displaying prowess that countless players would kill for. In one of the saddest stories in sports history, a freak hip injury ended his football career and sent his baseball career on a downward spiral, thereby derailing the monstrous force that was Bo. But even while writhing on the ground after the football hit that set off his injury, the legend of his toughness grew: he reportedly snapped his own hip back into place, something that former teammate George Brett noted that no human should be strong enough to do. And his tendency to snap his bat over his knee or head like it was a twig was awe-inspiring entertainment at its best. Damn, I wish I could have seen him play. 2. James Harrison:  Tough and physical is an understatement to describe this guy’s game. For a time he was the fiercest hitter in the league and no one wanted to cross the middle of the field when James Harrison was on it. Granted, a few of the hits may not have been the cleanest, but a lot of tough guys don’t always fight clean. Harrison is not only fierce but he knows he’s fierce. He’s openly said that he tries to injure people while he’s on the field. He did clarify that there is a difference between injuring and hurting someone, so he does have a heart. It may be black and cold, but it’s there. 2. Tiger Woods:  Whoa, whoa, whoa, a golfer on the list of toughest athletic feats? That sounds blasphemous right? Wrong. Remember the 2008 US Open? I know Rocco Mediate does because that was the tournament in which Tiger Woods beat him in a sudden death playoff on a torn ACL and a broken leg. For those of you who haven’t played too much golf, playing 18 holes is no walk in the park (even though it literally is, but you got that pun right?). It can be grueling especially considering the added pressure Tiger faced, this being a major championship and all that jazz about him being the only reason anyone watched golf in the first place. Imagine the intense focus Tiger had to display just to finish his rounds. Now multiply that by a hundred when you realize he had to beat all of the other best golfers in the world while grimacing with every step and crumbling with every swing. But we all know why he really did it right? Chicks dig a tough guy.
1. Logan Mankins:  A torn ACL is akin to the kiss of death for far too many professional athletes. As the most vital ligament in the most crucial joint on the athletic body, the ACL allows players to run, plant, turn, and generally do the things most important to their jobs. An ACL tear means a six-month recovery at the very least and has ended countless careers; many athletes are never the same, and only in the rarest of cases does a player finish a game after suffering the injury, let alone play again that year. Enter Logan Mankins and the Patriots. When Tom Brady tore his ACL in Week 1 of 2008, he missed the entire season, caused the Pats to miss the playoffs for only the second time in his career, and led to Matt Cassel becoming a starting NFL quarterback. So, an all-around disaster. When Mankins tore his ACL in Week 1 of 2011, not only did he finish the game…not only did he finish the season…but he anchored the impressive line that helped lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl. Oh, and then he tore the MCL in his other knee in their first playoff game, meaning he played the Super Bowl with torn ligaments in both knees. And he made the Pro Bowl!!! Imagine playing an entire NFL season while supporting a 300-pound frame on busted knees that hurt so bad that you can barely move – and you’re still one of the best at your position. That, my friends, is toughness. 1. Every hockey player ever:  This list is relatively obsolete because numbers 1-100 are probably all hockey players. These guys are insane. Just in the most recent Finals we saw Patty Bergeron have about four different serious injuries that he played through and was subsequently hospitalized for two days after the series. Then there’s Shaw from the Blackhawks who took a f—in’ puck to the face in Game 6 and was out playing again by the next period! Injuries that put other athletes on the shelf for weeks barely put these guys out for a line change (or switch, I don’t really know hockey). Despite not being a huge NHL fan, there’s nothing I can do but respect and admire these tough SOB’s for what they do on the ice. No one is tougher than a hockey player and these guys are a different breed of sickos and savages. Now if you’ll excuse me my fingers are getting a lil cramped from typing. See you guys in 15 days. 1. Ronnie Lott:  On some real shit, I love having full use of my fingers and toes. It just makes life easier and I hope I always get to have all of these things that are typing these very words, but Ronnie Lott apparently didn’t share the same affinity for his pinky. This guy had the choice of fixing his finger and missing games, or amputating his finger and playing games. For me the choice is simple. I want that finger. But no, Mr. Lott thought he’d cement his legacy as one of the craziest mofos to ever put on a uniform because really, ask yourself: would you really give up a finger to play a game? It’s not like Lott was playing in the Super Bowl either. He amputated his finger so that he’d be ready for the season opener. He has since admitted this was a horrible decision, but talk about dedication. I do get it though, as someone who literally played an entire year of football, basketball, and baseball with a shoulder that popped out every time I was tackled, dove on the floor, or swung a bat, you kind of just shrug it off. (Yeah, I got a bad rap as being injury-prone but you try playing quarterback behind a 160-pound center when you have torn labrums and rotator cuffs. Give me my tough guy award! This is also the biggest reason – aside from not wanting to destroy my beautiful face – I try not to fight. First punch I throw will be my last because those babies aren’t holding up.) But like this was something permanent. This was a pinky! That’s a vital part of who you are and Lott deserves to be recognized for the sacrifice he made for the sake of competition.
Categories: Friday Fives | 1 Comment

Friday Fives: Sports Criminals

Sorry, ladies: your boytoy might be a murderer

A couple months ago we listed our favorite sports villains in our Friday Fives. This week, in response to Patriots star TE Aaron Hernandez apparently being involved in a really dumb murder and an only slightly smarter coverup, we talk about the biggest criminals in sports. The important distinction is that the villains are almost all deemed as such for misdemeanors in the realm of the sporting world alone, while the criminals are, well, actual criminals and bad people. Like, nobody is gonna get arrested for cheating or taunting or being annoying to fans. But the guys on this list…well, just read on and prepare yourself to be depressed.

 

TED

GREG

MARK/TAYLOR

5. Delonte West:  Let’s start with something tame since the rest of this list will get dark pretty quickly. The former Celtics and Cavs point guard is recognized as one of the more intimidating NBA players of the last decade, solely for his off-court exploits. First off he suffers from bipolar disorder, which is absolutely not a laughing matter nor makes him a criminal, but makes the following more understandable and scary. Pretend you’re a cop and picture this: you pull over a vehicle for a minor traffic violation, only to discover it’s a 6’3” guy with a guitar case strapped to his back riding one of these. He pulls off his helmet and – wait a second, isn’t this guy a pro athlete? Uh-oh…is that Delonte West? The guy with bipolar who’s had problems with every team he’s been on? Umm…I guess I should check the – holy shit!! Did he just pull three guns out of that case??? ……So yeah, West was riding his motortrike Desperado-style with three diesel pieces packed into a guitar case on his back – and not just any guns, but these bad boys. Such a terrifyingly badass image. Oh, and he banged LeBron’s mom when they were teammates too. Definitely not a crime (although some might disagree…) but awesome nonetheless. 5. Michael Vick:  I’m so unbelievably torn about present-day Mike Vick because everyone deserves a second chance and everyone is influenced by, and desensitized to, the environment in which they are raised. Vick grew up around dogfighting and I would imagine at some point he got over his childhood innocence (probably around the same time he realized he was the best athlete in his town) and figured dogfighting was pretty cool. So he did it and then just kept doing it, eventually using his incredible means to turn a lifelong hobby into another source of income. I can’t really blame Vick because I grew up in a family that revered its dog (RIP Wilbur) so I have no idea how to feel anything but love for those loyal creatures, but Vick didn’t see his dogs as pets. He viewed them as assets or employees that he could throw to the wolves. Nevertheless, Michael Vick was a transcendent talent at the quarterback position and was my idol growing up. I even tried out for the freshman football team throwing left-handed despite my clear right-handed dominance (still made the team as a QB!…I’m such a douchebag). So when I heard about Vick’s involvement in Bad Newz Kennels I felt confused, betrayed, and then utter hatred for the man. But he did his time and appears to feel genuine remorse for his transgressions so I am willing to give him a pass. Now Eagles fans just hope he remembers how to pass. 5. Plaxico Burress:  The Cheddar Bob of the NFL was arrested for shooting himself in the right thigh at a nightclub. Life sometimes imitates art, but unless you’re a young rapper on the comeup, no one wants that art to be the movie 8 Mile. This fashion choice had the biggest impact on NFL history this side of Von Miller deciding that dressing like Urkel was cool. For those of you who don’t know, it was a loose sweatpants band that caused his weapon to drop. This act resulted in an embarrassing amount of attention from ESPN and an exceptional amount of laughter for the rest of the world. Plax had a few forgettable seasons since then, and according to my sources (asking Jeeves to google “plaxico burress” for me) he signed for another year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. While this is perhaps the only crime on this list that is a laughable offense, Burress has also faced multiple domestic abuse and driving violations. There is a bigger problem to deal with, and unfortunately cases like Plaxico’s make a mockery of it.
4. Pacman Jones:  Pick any player who’s seen the field for the Cincinnati Bengals in this millennium and there’s a 70% chance he’s a convicted felon…and yet even among that Hall of Shame roster, Adam Jones stands out. The owner of the best nickname and longest rap sheet in recent NFL history, Pacman has been arrested like 20 times since being drafted sixth overall in 2005, for everything under the sun: fighting with bouncers, fighting with strangers, fighting with his bodyguards, weed and coke possession, public intoxication, vandalism, and being “associated with” more shootings than should be humanly possible. Pacman also seems to have a strange affinity for strip clubs – not strange because he frequents them (he is a red-blooded male, after all), but because he still frequents them despite the constant trouble he finds himself in while there. He’s been connected with at least FOUR DIFFERENT INCIDENTS at strip clubs (that we know about), from a couple shootings to assaults on women to general mayhem. The most insane and sociopathic instance came in 2007 in Vegas when, up big after leaving a casino, he made it rain on the strippers to the tune of $40,000 in singles. But perhaps misunderstanding how strip clubs work, he didn’t appreciate the working girls actually taking the money, so he quite reasonably punched a stripper and bounced her head off the stage. All hell broke loose, one of his boys pulled out a gun, a couple people got shot, one was paralyzed, yadda yadda yadda. In other words, the guy is a grade-A piece of shit. Yet he has enough talent that he bounces back every time he gets busted or suspended, and is currently with the Bengals where he probably feels right at home. There’s no justice in the world, I tell ya. 4. Mike Tyson:  We here at BA love to include Mike Tyson in our Friday Fives, so when Aaron Hernandez ended up on the wrong end of the Channel Five News, I was stoked to bring Iron Mike back into the fold. Tyson seems reformed, but there was a time when he was one of the most despicably depraved human beings in western society. Like Vick he was raised in a horrible environment that turned him into a borderline monster, but that does not excuse raping women. Rape is disgusting and so Tyson makes the list. BUT let’s not just call Tyson a rapist because he is also one of the most entertaining and fascinating individuals we have ever seen. (And really, human beings are perverse. Even though rape is unforgivable and disgusting we will sit through an entire afternoon of an SVU marathon like our lives depended on it. Therefore, Tyson is okay to talk about because we crave depravity.) Okay. Enjoy this. 4. Kobe Bryant:  I am very hesitant to finish this list. I tend to make my writing humorous, or at least attempt to, but I find it near impossible to do so with the current material. You can make jokes about the amount of times Kobe smacked his lips in the apology, the size of the ring he bought his wife, or his “thing” during sex, but all of that veils a very troubling night in Colorado. Many people believe that Kobe is only guilty of being unfaithful to his wife, and though I believe I would never do that, I am not an NBA superstar and I am not here to crucify him for that. What is terrifying, however, is how athletes feel as if they are entitled to everything, even women’s bodies. It is a real possibility that Kobe might have acted consensually with that young woman, but, of course, that means that the other possibility could also be true. We will never know for sure what happened in Eagle but what we do know is one person in that room was a millionaire only a few years removed from an astounding Los Angeles Lakers championship three-peat, and could afford the best lawyers in the world to make the female look promiscuous and untrustworthy. I know one of the people in that room was a world-traveled adult male and one was a 19 year old hotel employee. The case was dropped because she refused to testify in court. Sound familiar? It should because it happened a few years later with Ben Roethlisberger. The jump-to-conclusions reasoning would be that these girls won’t testify because they made it up. That is lazy on the part of everyone who thinks that. The reason these girls won’t testify is because their families’ names will be dragged through the mud, their entire sexual history will be displayed in front of the country as if it’s something they should be embarrassed by, and their lawyers will be outmatched. I know that Bryant said this: “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.” And that does not sound right in any way to me. It is time for us as a culture to change the way we view rape.
3. Oscar Pistorius:  This guy has been embroiled in controversy and negative press virtually since his career took off. Originally a feel-good success story as a double leg amputee who was fast enough to compete with able-bodied runners, Pistorius pissed off a lot of people when he qualified for the 2012 Olympics despite, you know, having springs for feet. (Although this can easily be turned on its head: The guy has no freakin’ legs!!! I’d call that something of a disadvantage.) Then when he finally lost his 200 meter title at the Paralympics later that year, he took the sore loser route of accusing his opponent, who had called the Blade Runner his “idol,” of cheating with longer prosthetics. Apparently, Pistorius’ inflated ego from the nonstop media coverage allowed this delicious irony to escape him. Anyway, we already knew he was a dick…but we didn’t know he was a murderer. And yet he shot his defenseless girlfriend to death last February, spurring multiple acquaintances to recount the fights they’d been having recently. Pistorius has claimed self-defense, saying that he thought an intruder had locked him/herself in the bathroom – though why they might do that, or why Pistorius’ immediate reaction would be to fire five rounds through the door, must also be clouded by his massive ego (though this all occurred in South Africa, which is part of Africa, where I assume they don’t have things like “laws” or “sanity”). We won’t know more until his trial starts later this summer, but it’s pretty obvious where this one is headed. 3. Ugueth Urbina:  Remember Ugie? This former Red Sox closer is serving a lengthy prison sentence for attempting to kill someone by cutting them with a machete and setting them on fire. That’s another level of crazy. That’s some truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stuff. But anyone who watched Ugie pitch kind of saw this coming, right? Kind of like if you woke up tomorrow and you heard that Jonathan Papelbon tortured iguanas…you’d be like “Oh. That makes sense.” Even though that just shouldn’t make sense. But Ugie was a nut on the mound and was clearly a nut in reality. Here’s to hoping he never sets foot on American soil again. 3. Ray Lewis:  Ray Lewis is undoubtedly one of the greatest football players to ever strap on a pair of cleats. His drive, intensity, and leadership of muscled-up millionaires on the gridiron are qualities every young athlete should aspire to attain. In recent years faithful NFL fans have been able to break down the facade a little bit and have realized his position is more of a glorified hype-man, but that still does not take away from his Hall of Fame-level accomplishments. Whether or not he took deer antler spray probably doesn’t matter, and if the guy who broke that story wanted to be taken seriously he probably should have called it something that wouldn’t provide fodder for Twitter hack comedians and PETA outrage. Ray Lewis will be remembered for everything I just said, but also for being involved in a homicide outside of a night club in Super Bowl week of 2000. Even if Ray wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger, athletes need to stop going to nightclubs with weapons! Nothing ever good happens to professional athletes at clubs. The combination of testosterone, alcohol, ego, haters, and scantily clad women is more dangerous than going into a house with eight other murderers. It’s the 21st century, no professional athlete needs to get all dressed up and go on the prowl for groupies – that’s what Twitter DM’s are for. Go to Applebee’s or something, man. Unless your waiter is wearing too much flair and your jalapeno poppers come out cold, you don’t need guns there. At least no other professional football player would make a mistake like this again.
2. Luis Resto and Panama Lewis:  AKA the guys who took padding out of boxing gloves and indirectly killed a fighter. In a 1983 bout with Billy Collins, Jr., Resto destroyed Collins’ face so gruesomely that he looked like something out of a horror movie. Apparently this wasn’t enough to get people wondering about foul play, but when Collins’ trainer shook Resto’s hand after, he realized how thin his gloves seemed. He justifiably flipped out, and an investigation revealed that not only had Resto’s trainer Lewis removed padding from each glove, but he had wrapped each hand in plaster of Paris – essentially turning each fist into a giant rock separated from Collins’ face by a thin layer of mesh. Collins’ vision was permanently affected, ending his career and driving him to (possible) suicide in a drunk driving accident a few months later. Resto and Lewis eventually went to jail, and subsequent interviews revealed that this wasn’t the first time the pair had pulled this stunt. It really doesn’t get much more assholish than that. 2. Lance Armstrong:  Once again, I’m torn on Lance. Sure, Livestrong has given hope to countless individuals struggling with cancer and those families affected by the illness, but he is also a duplicitous cheater and an asshole. Like Vick, he has owned up to his mistakes and exposed his degeneracy to the world “Yeezus” style, but that does not just excuse him for a decade of debauchery. Lance trampled on teammates, opponents, the sport of cycling, and the global population on his path to the top, acting in a manner most aptly described as “sociopathic.” Like many of the athletes on this list his legacy will either be as a criminal or as someone whom the American public allowed to have a second chance. I’m siding with the second chance because I know too many good people with cancer who would be disappointed in me otherwise. 2. Rae Carruth:  Oh man this is taking a lot out of me. Rae Carruth is the pinnacle of ruthless, violent athletes. He had his wife and unborn child slaughtered in a melee of bullets! Sin City and 300 are two of my favorite movies ever so I have what would be considered a tolerance for violence, but this is just deplorable. Ahh let’s lighten this up a little bit.
1. Marvin Harrison:  A curveball! I can hear the peanut gallery now: “Quit sniffing paint thinner you ding dong. Marvin Harrison was one of the most respected NFL players in history and is a saint.” True, he did put up astounding numbers while paired with Peyton over his 13-year career, and to call him quiet would be an understatement. Seriously, did anyone ever hear this guy speak? Did he ever celebrate a single touchdown? Harrison epitomized professionalism and set a lasting precedent for other superstar receivers in the burgeoning age of look-at-me divas. (How are Ochocinco and Desean Jackson doing these days? While Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald continue to dominate the league.) So why does he make this list? What if I told you that Marvin shot a drug dealer while bouncing at his bar (yes, he was the doorman at the bar he owned)…and that after the guy fingered Harrison as the shooter in an ESPN interview, he mysteriously wound up murdered? And somehow the police never really pursued him and nothing has ever come of it??? Yup, from this single piece of evidence we can conclude that Harrison is a ruthless underground warlord, using his nice-guy demeanor and low profile to lull his enemies into a false sense of security – the Keyser Soze of the NFL, if you will. Who knows how many bodies lie decomposing in the boarded-up units of the North Philadelphia projects? With his rough Philly background, innocent façade, and brutal brand of street justice, Harrison is essentially the opposite of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. 1. That coach from Penn State:  I refuse to write this guy’s name. In my opinion he is the single worst human being to have lived in the past 20 years. That is all I have to say. This man is the devil. 1. OJ Simpson:  Professional actor and football player OJ Simpson was involved in an incident in 1994, when sources say that he was having some marital issues with his then-wife Nicole Goldman. In what sounds like an episode of CSI or Law and Order, the ex-wife of a Hall of Fame football player and her lover were found dead in her Brentwood apartment. There, law enforcement found a glove with more Simpson DNA in it than an episode of Family Guy. What resulted was a media circus that made the Kobe trial look like the WNBA draft coverage. This was a cultural milestone referenced in Eminem songs, Seinfeld episodes, South Park episodes, and indirectly, an actual child being named “North West.” Later Orenthal showed what a terrible person he really was with a string of bad decisions, eventually getting convicted in a robbery case and currently serving time in one of the greatest makeup calls of all time. OJ was at the cutting edge when it comes to professional athletes on trial.
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Friday Fives: Sports Dynasties

In honor of the San Antonio Spurs’ improbable run to yet another NBA Finals we’re looking at the greatest runs in sports. These are not just dynasties – you know, teams who actually won –  but teams that gave their fans consistent greatness and something to cheer for year to year, so don’t be alarmed when you see a certain Utah team on one of our panelist’s list. Who did we leave out? Probably someone because we always do, but hey, we don’t get paid for this shit, so donations are welcome.

TED

GREG

MARK/TAYLOR

DISHONORABLE MENTION: The 1990’s Bills.  It might seem ridiculous now but the Buffalo Bills used to be kinda sorta good. After the NFL merger they were pretty miserable, with only three postseason appearances despite the presence of pre-murder OJ Simpson, but with the arrival of legends like Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, and Andre Reed in the late 80’s, fortunes began to turn for the residents of Canada’s Butthole. The team took off and before they knew it, the Bills had made four Super Bowl appearances. Can you say dynasty!!! Wait a second…they lost every single one? Four years in a row? To three different teams??? The run of shame began in the 1990-91 season, when the hugely favored Bills lost Super Bowl XXV on Scott Norwood’s infamous “wide right” kick (laces out Marino!). The next year Buffalo cruised through the regular season again, only to get smoked by the Redskins in the Super Bowl after reigning MVP Thomas lost his helmet and had to sit out a couple plays (that sums up the city of Buffalo pretty nicely). Year Three saw a change in the winds, as the Bills completed the biggest comeback in NFL history to win their wild card game, steamrolled their next two opponents…then watched the emerging Cowboys dynasty drop 52 points on their heads in the third-biggest blowout in SB history. By the time their rematch with America’s Team rolled around in Year Four, Bills fans figured, statistically speaking, there was no way they could lose again…but weren’t surprised when, of course, they did. Buffalo deserves some credit for reaching four straight title games, something no other team has done and very well may never do again. But losing all four – I mean, c’mon man. UConn women’s basketball.  Women’s ball gets a bad rap because of the relative lack of athleticism these athletes possess compared to their male counterparts. Men’s basketball is just more fun to watch. Just last week ESPN ran a “highlight” of a Brittney Griner dunk that occurred after the whistle…c’mon now. However, the dearth of excitement in the women’s game should not detract from the accomplishments of Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies. These ladies were literally unbeatable for over two seasons and have won eight national titles under Coach Geno. Since the turn of the century the Huskies have won seven titles, including this past season, and win their conference nearly every year. Not only is this a special program, but some of the greatest players ever have graduated from this university, including personal favorites Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. (I’d actually really like to play these women in games of 1-on-1 to see how good they really are. I would not be surprised one bit if I got shut out.) I won’t watch much women’s basketball, but if UConn is playing, the chances increase exponentially. Jerry Sloan’s Jazz.  To kick off this list, I’m going to start with the best franchise run that includes a very hard-to-miss blemish: no championship. A team that consisted of Karl Malone and John Stockton unfortunately was never able to secure a title, primarily because of a guy named Michael Jeffrey Jordan. I can’t say I blame them, but I still can’t put them on that high of a pedestal. I have, however, made it my mission in life to tell people that John Stockton is not only the all-time leader in assists, but steals as well. People like to discredit the former by announcing that he had Malone to pass to, but then explain the latter to me: was Malone picking Stockton up and using his body to take the ball away from other people? The guy could play, folks, and if it wasn’t for his Dad-like fashion sense I think he’d be widely considered the greatest point guard of all time not named Magic. Malone’s numbers (and cowboy hats) speak for themselves – it’s just a shame he has empty fingers. The Jazz make this list due to Stockton and Malone, but also to the man behind the curtains (okay, on the sidelines), Jerry Sloan. The John Kerry lookalike led the Jazz to the postseason for 20 straight years, which is probably a record but my work’s firewall blocks out too many sites for me to fact-check that.
The early 1980’s Islanders.  Similar to the Bills, the current Islanders are a disgrace to their predecessors (a longtime fan recently told me, “I know more about those 80’s teams than I do about this year’s) – but their earlier incarnations actually have the success to back up that statement. In 1980 the Islanders began an incredible run that netted them four straight Stanley Cups, with their hopes for a fifth only ending in that year’s Finals by the emergence of Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers dynasty (are you sensing a trend here?). With massive contributions from Mike Bossy, two-way phenomenon Butch Goring, and the brothers Sutter, the Islanders reeled off a North American pro sports-record 19 straight playoff series victories, a mark unlikely to ever be broken. The run had it all, from an overtime Cup clincher in Year One, to the Isles losing only three games over four series in Year Two, to a first-round series-winning comeback followed by sweeps of their final two opponents in Year Three, to holding Gretzky scoreless (after his mindblowing breakout season) in a Finals sweep in Year Four. The Great One would have his revenge in the following year’s Finals, starting an immensely dominant era of his own, but not before the Islanders had cemented their legacy in the NHL. The PTI Guys.  Can you believe Pardon the Interruption has been on the air for over 12 years? Mike and Tony are what is great about America: they are two rather ugly human beings, one black, one white, who have made a living talking about shit that really doesn’t matter, and we as a consumer audience cannot get enough. Everyone aspires to PTI status but few have the staying power to pull it off. ESPN offers First Take (formerly known as Cold Pizza), Around the Horn, and Numbers Never Lie (which I guarantee doesn’t last), and countless other programs on various stations have attempted shows that do not measure up to PTI (Around the Valley excluded). Remember when Stephen A. Smith was given his own show called Quite Frankly? He was ESPN’s hot new personality with outlandish opinions and comical catchphrases. If anyone could have carried a show by himself it was Stephen A. Well, it sucked. I’m not even going to bother looking up how long it lasted because it probably lasted a shorter period than the time it would take me to do that research. So after a strange hiatus from mainstream ESPN where he was replaced by Chris Broussard – until Broussard proved himself to be nothing more than a rumor-whore – Smith had to team up with Skip Bayless to go at PTI with its adjusted PTI format (a female host and way more nonsensical yellow journalism) because America likes seeing a white guy and a black guy argue about things in a nonthreatening manner. It appeals to everyone and satisfies lingering racial tensions. But no one is going to touch PTI and I hope we get another decade of Mike and Tony. Now go drink some booze you knuckleheads. The 1990’s Braves.  To put it articulately, the 90’s Braves were freakin’ dope mang. Their pitching rotation was one of the lesser acclaimed but still devastating Big Three’s in sports, and they won the NL East every year for an entire decade. They were also one of the whitest teams of all time. The one thing also holding them down is their lack of rings. Legendary franchise runs should have more than just one. The Braves had the burden that so many teams in the 90’s had – existing when there was  another ballclub playing on Dynasty mode. If it was not for the New York Yankees, the Braves would likely have had one of the winningest decades in MLB history.
John Wooden’s UCLA basketball.  The godfather of college basketball, John Wooden led his Bruins on a stunning display of dominance in the 60’s and 70’s. In 12 seasons from 1963 to Wooden’s retirement in 1975, UCLA amassed some of the most impressive numbers in NCAA history: 11 tourney appearances, 11 #1 rankings, 10 national titles (including seven straight), four undefeated seasons, and a record 88 straight victories at one point. And he did all this without the stalwart superstars of the pro leagues, given the yearly turnover of college rosters due to graduations, transfers, and the like. The man was a basketball genius, plain and simple, and there’s little wonder the NCAA player of the year award is named in his honor. Duncan’s Spurs.  Since Tim Duncan joined the San Antonio Spurs they have been one of the best teams in the league by any measure or stretch of the imagination. Since Jordan retired for the second time, no team has been as consistently great (save for Brady’s Pats – in fact the similarities are remarkable). Not only have the Spurs made the playoffs every season with Timmy, but they have never had a regular season winning percentage under 61%, have never finished below second place in their division, have only lost in the first round three times (call them the anti-Karl’s), and have a very good chance of bringing home banner number five this year. They are underappreciated because they don’t have any celebrity superstars or sexy personalities, they play the game the right way without searching for SportsCenter highlights, and they’re seemingly never in the news – though Tony Parker might have something to say about that. Wow, I think Tony has a little bit of a lollipop fetish.  I think my first video is going to look a little different. The 2000’s Lakers.  “What?” you exclaim loudly, outraged while staring at your computer in disbelief. “How can you possibly choose the turn-of-the-millennium Lakers team over its 80’s counterpart OR their rivals, the Bird-led Celtics?” The answer is this: efficiency. While the 80’s teams were battling each other from coast to coast for the “Team of the 80’s” title (a still-ongoing debate), the Phil Jackson-led squad was dominating the league and was the unarguable team of the turn of the century. Mark Madsen was of course the centerpiece of this team that had a decent supporting cast in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. They were certainly outstanding, and another skeleton will unfortunately have to pop out of my closet – I loved them. Though my animosity for Kobe Bryant has always existed (even if it has waned in recent years), Shaq was both dominant and charismatic enough for me not to care. How could you not love the man who made Steel and Kazaam? I had about 34 Shaq posters on my wall as a youngster, including his original incarnation on the Orlando Magic and his appearance on the ‘96 gold medal Olympic team. One time my dad bought me an NBA magazine and it had a Lakers cheerleader in it and I kissed the picture when I was alone in my room. Okay, now I’ve revealed too much.
Mike Tyson.  What more is there to say about Iron Mike? Books can be, and have been, written about the dominance of The Baddest Man on the Planet, the last of the great and legendary heavyweights of the boxing world. He burst onto the scene as a 20-year-old when he won his first 19 fights by KO – 12 in the first round! – and was undefeated through his first 37 bouts before losing his belt to Buster Douglas in a shocking upset. Nevertheless, he was one of the most feared boxers of all time, thanks to a combination of ferocious punching power, eye-blurringly quick defense, and utter insanity. He went 50-6 in his career, which unfortunately is often overshadowed by his bizarre personal life and the fact that he’s a complete lunatic. Don’t let the pigeons and Hangover cameos fool you, kids – Iron Mike is one of the scariest men who’s ever lived. Tiger Woods.  Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger Woods y’all! It seems like a lifetime ago, but there was a time when other PGA Tour members would have rather been face-to-face with an actual tiger than see good ole Eldrick lurking behind them. You know, before the gratuitous sex narrative mechanically poked its head into the ever-verdant tee-box (umm…yeah, I like that metaphor). This man spent over 500 weeks as the World’s Number One Golfer while capturing more majors than anyone not named The Golden Bear. He is a ten-time Player of the Year, nine-time leading money earner, and has the second most tour wins all-time. And no one can attract an audience quite like Mr. Woods, so even the most casual fan will tune in when Tiger is in the mix. And this weekend Tiger hits the links at the U.S. Open looking to recapture some of his feral virility. Women beware. The late 1990’s Yankees.  Shame on me I suppose but I loved the New York Yankees before I turned 10 years old. I suppose as adults we realize all the intricacies that go into liking or not liking a team, but as a preadolescent it’s hard not to like things that are awesome on a surface level. The Yankees won all the time and for that I thought they were cool. It would be hard explaining this to almost anyone outside of the Tri-State area, but Paul O’Neill was one of my top three favorite baseball players. Add to him names like Bernie Williams and Tito Martinez and that team elicits positive emotions in my brain. It wouldn’t be until years later that I realized people usually dislike the Yankees for their players, but for the fans and general attitude they have as an organization. Talk to a New York fan of any sport for five minutes and you’ll find yourself developing a sudden allegiance to whatever team is their rival.
Red and Bill’s Celtics.  Come on, what else could I finish with? At least I can justify my homerism with the fact that this was legitimately one of the most dominant teams of all time, reeling off 11 titles over 13 years in the late 50’s and 60’s, including a pro sports-record eight straight that will absolutely never, ever be touched. Yeah, yeah, the NBA was a different animal back then, with much fewer teams and nobody to compete with freak of nature Bill Russell, but the fact that Red Auerbach built this team, and essentially the league, from scratch and dominated for so long is astounding. Plus, Russell coached himself to his last two titles, giving him 11 rings. He says he hangs the last around his neck, but I think we all know where he really puts it. MJ’s Bulls.  This might be the best team ever assembled so there really is not much I can tell you that you don’t already know. They won six titles, including two three-peats, have the most wins ever in a season (72), never had a season with a winning percentage lower than 57%, and loaned their best player to the Looney Tunes in order to save America’s favorite cartoons, costing them two more rings. They made a mockery of the league and the supposed parity within the game and cakewalked their way into the annals of the NBA. Jordan and Pippen were the most fearsome wing combination ever, combining ballhawking defense (ask Toni Kukoc) and efficient, awe-inspiring offense on the road to success. They singlehandedly ruined the legacies of Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and John Stockton, none of whom will ever be able to lay claim to a top ten legacy despite a Gollum-like pursuit of that coveted ring. Thanks for the memories, fellas. The 2000’s Patriots.  Ahhhh finally a team I can fully praise with no remorse. Tom Brady has won three Super Bowls and appeared in five. To realize just how good he is, take into consideration that he appeared in his fifth Super Bowl a full decade after his first one. Belichick might be known for his crop-arm hoodies, having a really hard to spell name, Spygate, and for just generally being a curmudgeon, but he is unavoidably on the short list of greatest coaches of all time. The Pats might be known for their offense now, but the defense in the early years was flat out terrifying. To sum it all up, watch this and think about what your life is like compared to his.
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Friday Fives: The NBA Finals

Finals MVP???

The NBA Finals we all knew was coming is finally here. For the whole season they were the best teams in their respective conferences (OKC never really stood a chance without Harden), and now here they are, representing very different systems and ideas. On one hand there’s the Miami Heat, featuring the inhuman THING that is LeBron James; on the other, the San Antonio Spurs and their incredibly consistent and prolific trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. This series promises to be hard-fought and intelligently coached, probably with a monster individual game or two from James and Parker and some old school tricks from The Big Fundamental himself. In case that’s not enough, here are our top reasons to watch the 2013 NBA Finals.

TED

WILL

GREG

5. The Heat fans:  What is it with Florida sports teams and their lame ass fans? The Rays still have the worst fans in baseball despite their perennial contender of a team, the Marlins could never draw crowds even after winning two World Series in seven years, nobody even knows there’s a basketball team in Orlando, the Dolphins and Buccaneers had the lowest attendance in the NFL last year, and the Jaguars’ turnout is so pathetic that they might ship the team to London. So to say the Heat have the most pathetic fans in the state is a serious accusation. But do any of the aforementioned teams’ fans show up late to every single game? Do they sneak out of games in which their team is down one possession with seconds remaining – a very winnable situation – like Heat fans have done continuously throughout this postseason? Do they need emails from the organizations begging them to show up and cheer? Well, probably, but that’s beside the point. I used to despise these rich idiots, but as the years drag on and we realize that LeBron is essentially playing for nobody, I’ve come to find them entertaining as hell. And when this pitiful excuse for a human is your most public current supporter, you can only watch in amazement at the train wreck your fanbase has become. 5. The legacy of Tim Duncan:  The man is already set to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as one of the top ten players to ever play the game, and will go down as the best to ever play his position. This Finals, however, could be his most challenging, as he faces another team that features not only a fellow member of the top ten club but also a top 25 member as a sidekick. If Duncan can best Father Time once again he will have gone five for five in his NBA Finals appearances. Perfection. LeBron has already lost two, Kobe’s lost two, Shaq lost two. Winning this championship would solidify him as the best player of our generation, no questions asked. 5. T-Mac:  Tracy McGrady was one of the top ten, borderline top five players in the NBA for a five-year stretch during which he averaged over 25 points per game and was selected to two All-NBA First Teams. T-Mac was arguably a better player than Kobe during his (T-Mac’s) prime, but was never on the right team to help him get out of the first round of the playoffs. He has a reputation for not getting it done in big games, but the guy averaged over 30 points per game in four straight playoffs, and has career averages of 23-6-5 in the postseason.  T-Mac joined the Spurs right before the end of the season and hasn’t played much during this run, but it will be an underrated, underappreciated moment in the career of one of the most talented players to ever wear a jersey if he gets a ring with the Spurs.  And wouldn’t it be something special if T-Mac left his fingerprints all over one game in this series? I’m thinking something like this.
4. What’s left for the Big Threes? Miami:  First, let’s get the Heat out of the way. After this atrocity tried to convince us that the NBA crown would reside in Miami for the next decade, the Heat’s Big Three era looks like it could come to an end prematurely. Throughout this season and playoffs, Wade has clearly lost several steps and has become a merely above-average player; Bosh has proven unable to handle the national attention away from the Great White North, and has been a shell of his former self since his arrival in South Beach. Trade rumors have surrounded both players this year, and their performances in the Finals could very well determine their futures with the franchise, though it’s hard to imagine Wade ever leaving. LeBron will never be traded, but it seems all but certain that he’s bolting Miami when his contract is up next year. For those of you scoring at home, that would give the Heat three or four years, with probably two, maaaaaybe three titles – a far cry from the “not five, not six, not seven…” that LeBron predicted upon his arrival. Of course, Wade could find his stroke, Bosh could come up with a few huge shots that he always seems to randomly stumble into, and/or LeBron could put them on his superhuman back and drag them to stability, securing the Big Three for the next several years. But with the aforementioned fans, an aging squad, and much more enticing options on LeBron’s horizon (have you seen Kyrie Irving play?), this Fab Three looks like it’s going the way of the Beatles – and Bosh is definitely Ringo. 4. The legacy of Tony Parker:   As my esteemed colleague wrote  last week, Tony Parker has been severely underrated throughout his career and he potentially could be considered a top five point guard of all time, yet rarely gets mentioned as the best point guard currently playing. He’s already been a part of three championship squads and even has a Finals MVP from one of them. However, this will be the first time that he is undoubtedly the best player on his team. Duncan has still managed to be great and is by all means performing at a high level, but Tony’s game is off the charts. Without question he is a top ten player in the league and is primed for a big series with point guard being an area in which the Spurs hold a strong edge over the Heat. If Tony is the catalyst to deny The King and his Heatles sidekicks a second straight crown, how can we not view him as one of the best ever? 4. D-Wade’s knee:  I won’t spend too much time harping on Wade’s horrid postseason to this point, but he just hasn’t been very good. He has clearly lost a step and most of his explosiveness, but he can still affect the game with his will. Say what you want about Wade, but up until these playoffs he has always been one of the fiercest competitors on the floor. If he decides to sacrifice his body for the betterment of the team then the Heat should win this series, but I could also see Danny Green completely shutting him down. Green is an elite wing defender and could bother Wade, but he doesn’t pose the same physical threat that Wade saw in Lance Stephenson. D-Wade must take Green into the post and exploit his strength advantage because he is no longer quick enough to take any great defender off of the dribble. If Wade is the same player we saw in Game 7, then the Spurs will be in trouble.
3. What’s left for the Big Threes? San Antonio:  Okay, onto the good stuff. Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili have been together for 11 freakin’ years and three championships. Duncan, at age 37, hasn’t lost a step and actually seems to have improved on his past few years: if you round up (9.9 rebounds), he averaged a double-double for the first time in three seasons, and he averaged the most blocks since 2004. Parker, despite turning 31 last month, has improved so much over the last few seasons that he was a dark horse MVP candidate in 2013 and is making my colleague Greg look like a genius. Ginobili, that soon-to-be 36-year-old Argentine, may have seen his raw numbers dip slightly, but his impact on the game and his longtime teammates – particularly in tight spots, where he thrives – is as strong as ever. And they still have Coach Popovich, the man who keeps them sane and healthy and at the top of the pile year in and year out, the best coach in the league and one of the best all time. Duncan and Parker are signed through 2016, Ginobili will certainly re-up this summer (and you can bet whatever’s in the basement of The Alamo that they’re not going anywhere), they’re going to give the defending champs a serious run for their money, and they’re not slowing down. The Heat may have possibly the most talented player to ever pass through the league…but whose future is really brighter? 3. Will Chris Bosh find his balls?:  How soft has Bosh become?  He was averaging a mere 3 rebounds per game for most of the Eastern Conference Finals. His game has been demoted to nothing more than a stretch four who now shoots more threes than has points in the paint, it seems. Part of this is obviously due to the structure of the Miami offense which is predicated on having spacing and room for LeBron and Wade to operate. But the dominance slapped on him by David West and Roy Hibbert last round is completely unacceptable for a max-level player. I get that Chris Bosh isn’t a typical center, but he’s 6’11” for Christ sakes, enough with the damn excuses. When you’re that big it’s more about putting on your big boy pants and showing up when the spotlights are on. A lot of this series hinges on what Bosh can do to try and slow down the tandem of Splitter and Duncan. On a side note, how many infants do you think this Velociraptor can eat in one bite? 3. Threes:  Clever huh? Both of these teams are terrific from long range, but the Heat’s trifecta completely abandoned them in the ECF. Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, and Mike Miller must make their open three-point shots because the Spurs always seem to hit theirs. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard have turned themselves into good shooters and Manu Ginobili is always dangerous when the game is on the line. Both teams rely on this unreliable shot so this will be a fun storyline to follow game-to-game. Whichever team wins the battle from downtown will have the fast-track to hoisting the O’Brien Trophy.
2. The subtext, the narratives, the drama:  Every good Finals has a ton of storylines, and this year’s seem juicier than usual. The upstart dominance of the Heat versus one of the league’s longest-standing institutions in Duncan’s Spurs. The old versus the new. The flashy/fast/athletic versus the fundamentally sound. The style versus the substance. The groundbreaking Miami “small ball,” for lack of a better term, versus the classic tradition of the Spurs. Whether Miami can finish off its historic season or whether they’ll go the way of the 2007 Patriots. Who can flop more in a series, Manu or LeBron. Whether Duncan is ready for LeBron to take over the league, like he said in their 2007 Finals matchup. Whether LeBron will atone for that disheartening sweep with his vastly improved skills, clutch performance, and supporting cast. Whether Wade, Bosh, Ray, and the rest will show up or whether LeBron will have to do it himself. How the series will affect the legacies of about ten different players and coaches and their positions on the current and all-time lists. Anything to do with Birdman. How this will affect the futures of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, and consequently, the entire league. Yeah, this is gonna be a good series. 2. LeBron James:  This guy is good. And I mean really good. I don’t think that there is a scenario in which I could bet against LeBron. He does everything you could ever ask a player to do on both ends of the court. He’s almost becoming superhuman and it’s scary. The move to South Beach and his whining towards the end of his Cavs days has soured me on LeBron as a fan, but I can’t help but admire the greatness that I am watching. LeBron is potentially in the midst of what could be a long run of MVP’s and championships and it doesn’t look like much can stop him. This Spurs team could be one of the few teams built to do just that. However, when you factor in revenge after LeBron and his helpless Cavs were swept by the Spurs in ’07, I can only imagine the displays The King is going to put up in this series. Stay tuned. 2. MVP:  Who will win this year’s Finals MVP? We have four former MVPs in this series (Duncan, James, Parker, and Wade) and all four would love to add another to their resumes.  As I wrote last week, another MVP for Parker would mean that he would join Magic Johnson as the only point guards to have ever won multiple Russell’s. An MVP for Duncan would pretty much cement him as the best player since Jordan and put him in the discussion for best big man ever. LeBron James would join Jordan, Hakeem, Shaq, and Kobe as the only players to win the award in consecutive years in addition to capping off this ridiculous two-year run. And the least likely scenario would be a second MVP for the shell of Dwyane Wade. That’s just not happening. The MVP will be a player on the winning team so by picking a player I am picking a team so without further ado…

PREDICTIONS

Heat in 7, Rashard Lewis for MVP:  It’s pretty obvious from the rest of my reasons to watch that I’d love to go with San Antonio, but LeBron is an unstoppable force of nature. The man is just plain better at basketball than anyone else on the planet, and a good deal better, too. This season he’s done things that nobody has seen before – there’s a reason his team reeled off 27 straight wins at one point. Sure, they looked vulnerable against the Pacers, and sure, the Spurs would absolutely be the team that can solve LeBron, and sure, Tim Duncan doesn’t lose in the Finals. But with the teammates LeBron has – and let’s face it, at the very least Wade and Co. will do enough to help LeBron win – and with Spoelstra surprisingly entering Coach of the Year discussions with his adaptations to his superstar’s strengths, the Heat are just too damn good. Miami in an intense seven games. Oh, and I obviously don’t think Lewis will win MVP but I just can’t bring myself to give LeBron any more credit. Heat in 7, LeBron for MVP:  My heart is pulling for the Spurs, but as I said, I can’t bet against LeBron. As exciting as the growth of Hibbert and Paul George was last series, not very many truly expected the Heat to ever lose that series for one reason and one reason only: LeBron. The man is at the apex of his game and at this point is just building up his resume so that when he retires he can throw it down next to the Kobes, Jordans, Birds, and Magics of the world. However, this Spurs team is deep, talented, and above all else, well-coached. Pops is hands down the best coach in the league and much like his point guard, probably an underrated all-time great as well. The Spurs have the edge on the Heat in all the right places: point guard, bigs who defend the rim, and coaching. Neither of these teams is just happy to be here and this is not a business casual affair. There is only one objective for each team and if they don’t reach that goal, their season will be considered a failure. The Heat have home court and the best player in the world. Heat in seven, get ready for a great series. Spurs in 7, Parker for MVP:  I really, really, really, really like how the Spurs are playing basketball and I don’t like how the Heat have become a one-man show. Unless Norris Cole proves to be Parker’s kryptonite, Tony should have his way with the Heat’s suddenly vulnerable defense. There is a reason the Spurs traded George Hill a few years back: Tony Parker is a much better player. Parker won’t be flustered by the helter-skelter, trapping scheme that the Heat employ and he should be able to find his open teammates for high-percentage shots. I know LeBron is the best player in the world, but he can’t do it by himself. If the Heat want to win he must get consistent greatness from Bosh or Wade, but neither player has looked capable of that in recent weeks. I like the Heat to take games one, three, and six, but unfortunately that leaves them one win short of a trophy.  Spurs take it in a riveting Game 7.
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Friday Fives: Game 7’s

ARod had two at-bats in that playoffs by the way

Game Seven is the best thing that we as fans can hope for in sports. A Game Seven is the closest thing a baseball, basketball, or hockey team has to a single-elimination. To reach Game Seven, several exciting conditions must be met: both teams were good enough to reach the playoffs, both teams were good enough to beat their opponent three times in this series already. Many times the series has already been edge-of-your-seat close, chippy, and fierce, with bad blood possibly brewing over the first six games and put on the pot to boil over in a game in which you win, or your season is over. This year’s NBA playoffs haven’t been kind to us fans so far, with only one series reaching Game 7, but the Stanley Cup playoffs have seen half of their 10 completed series reach the do-or-die contest, including two earlier this week, one which reached overtime. In hopes of seeing some more of these fantastic games, we present our favorite Game Sevens of all time.

TED

WILL

GREG

5. 2001 Stanley Cup Finals, Avalanche vs. Devils:  After an exciting series featuring a few nail-biters and a few Patrick Roy-led blowouts, the Colorado Avalanche hoisted their second Stanley Cup in six years in a fairly drama-free Game 7, thanks to 21-year-old Alex Tanguay’s two goals and an assist. What made this Game 7 memorable wasn’t the game itself, however, but the context: after 21 record-setting years on the Bruins in which he did the unthinkable – gave Bobby Orr a run for his money in Boston – Ray Bourque had won his first Stanley Cup in his last NHL game. Bourque had led the Bruins to the playoffs in all but one of his 20 full seasons but only even reached the Finals twice. When the Bruins fell apart in 2000, their GM traded Bourque midseason to Colorado in the hopes that he could win a Cup before the end of his career. That first year featured another dramatic Game 7, when in the Conference Finals Bourque’s potential tying goal, which would have completed a comeback from a 3-0 third period deficit, clanged off the post in the waning minutes. But the following year saw the 40-year-old Bourque finally reach the promised land, and in one of the more bizarre moments in sports – outside of New England at least – Bruins fans acted like they themselves had won the title, with Bourque even bringing the Cup to Boston for a victory parade. Yes, you read that right: an opposing player brought the Cup to his former home and everyone celebrated like it was theirs. Man, this sport is great. 5. 1991 World Series, Twins vs. Braves:  A boner waiting to happen for baseball historians and fanatics. A pitcher’s duel in the most important game of the season that had two aces going blow-for-blow. Jack Morris of the Twins and John Smoltz of the Braves put on a show during this particular Game 7. To be fair, I obviously didn’t watch this game live and it’s only through highlights and hearsay that this game registers with me. But when a man pitches 10 freaking innings to get a win in Game 7! That’s pretty damn cool. Throughout the game Jack Morris refused Tom Kelly’s plea to come out of the game. Badass move right there. It’s a game like this that I dream of seeing in the modern era when someone like a Verlander or Kershaw can go head-to-head in their prime and put the game completely on their shoulders. 5. 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Bruins vs. Capitals:  I’m talking hockey people! Let me preface this by saying I know next to nothing about hockey and I’m a worse skater than Happy Gilmore. My hockey experience amounts to playing knee hockey in my cousin’s basement every sleepover or Thanksgiving.  I stopped watching hockey before Y2K. But then the Bruins won the Stanley Cup and were on a quest to defend the Cup. So I decided to tune in and I was treated to a great opening round as every game was decided by one goal and four games went into overtime! That’s pretty freaking exciting (too bad they locked them out and completely turned me off again. I’m going to watch the ECF though)! I was all in on hockey! Ahh but a repeat was not in the cards for the hometown team as Washington dominated throughout the game and ended things quickly in the overtime that the Bruins were lucky to be in in the first place. I know these playoffs have been really exciting by all accounts, so let’s hope I can get past the lockout because playoff hockey really is something special.

4. 1995 ALDS, Mariners vs. Yankees:  Okay, okay, so this was actually a Game 5, but there’s no way in hell I could leave this off my list – and this time, for the game itself AND the context. That season, the Mariners had notched only their second winning season in their 18 years, were hearing rumors of relocation, had lost Ken Griffey, Jr. for several months from that infamous catch at the wall, and by the beginning of August were 13 games out of first place. But when Junior returned and led the M’s on a furious comeback that ended in a division title and their first playoff berth, Seattle fans finally had something to cheer about. It didn’t last long, however, when the Mariners dropped the first two games of the best-of-five series to the Yankees, and spirits plummeted. But on the backs of Cy Young winner Randy Johnson and the fearsome offense spearheaded by Junior, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez, Seattle put up 18 runs over the next two games to force a Game 5. In the eighth inning of the rubber match, the Mariners trailed by two before a Griffey homer and a bases-loaded walk sent the game to extra innings. When Johnson, in his third inning of relief, allowed an RBI single in the 11th, the pressure was on…so who better to be coming up than Griffey and Martinez? In the bottom of the frame, three outs from elimination, two singles put runners at the corners with Junior at first. Enter Martinez, DH extraordinaire, who roped a double into left. Griffey turned on that blazing speed and raced home from first, and the Seattle dugout emptied and pigpiled on top of the coolest guy in baseball. Although Seattle lost the next round, their postseason run – particularly this game and what came to be known as The Double – is credited with keeping baseball in Seattle and getting the team a new stadium.

4. 2000 Western Conference Finals, Lakers vs. Trail Blazers:  I don’t care what team you’re a fan of, who didn’t think this game was cool? I guess Portland fans may still be a little sour. Even though this was the beginning of the Lakers dynasty of the early 2000’s, this game may have produced some of the most lasting images from that run. To start, Lakers trailed 3-1 in the series and were then down by 15 at the end of the third. That’s when Kobe and Shaq did what Kobe and Shaq were supposed to do. Domination. I can still remember sitting in front of my TV watching this game and feeding off the momentum of the Lakers and going nuts along with every basket they made. Nothing was cooler than the most iconic moment in all of Kobe and Shaq’s relationship. This alley from star to star effectively sealed the deal for the Lakers on their way to another NBA title.

 

4. 1997 World Series, Indians vs. Marlins:  This is one of the first baseball games I remember from my childhood, and I was actually on the side of the Indians from the town that never wins. The Indians had an amazing team this year, which was part of a run that saw two World Series trips in three years. They were actually not as good as the previous two seasons in which they had the best record in the bigs, but they still had a fearsome lineup and great pitching with Bartolo Colon, Jaret Wright, and Charles Nagy. Unfortunately for the Indians, they ran into the franchise that somehow wins the World Series and a young shortstop named Edgar Renteria. The Indians blew a ninth inning lead after failing to bring home an insurance run in the top half of the inning and eventually lost in extra innings on a Renteria single off of Indians great Nagy. Best thing about this Marlins team? It inspired a group of Cedar Grove Little Leaguers to win two championships in three years in a sort of weird jinx on the real Cleveland Indians.
3. 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Bruins vs. Maple Leafs:  I think this will officially constitute me writing about this game ad nauseam, so I’ll try to keep it short. After letting their Original Six rivals work their way back from a 3-1 series deficit, the Bruins continued their miserable play in Game 7 in Boston, finding themselves down 4-1 halfway through the third period. When Nathan Horton potted one with nine minutes left, it was clearly too little too late, and with a minute and a half on the clock, depression had fallen over the Garden and Boston. But then Milan Lucic snuck one by Reimer and the crowd showed life, and when Paddy Bergeron found the back of the net only 30 seconds later, the place erupted. Bergeron also scored the winner in overtime, sending the Bruins to the second round. This was only a first round series but it was still one of the best Game 7 comebacks in NHL history, and will move farther up on the list depending on the Bruins’ playoff fate.

3. 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Hawks vs. Celtics:  In a game that would later be compared to another battle in the Garden (see my colleague Maneikis, Greg take on that one) 20 years later, this Game 7 featured two future Hall of Famers going toe-to-toe with it all on the line. Supposedly when the fourth quarter rolled around this game featured your standard 5-on-5 lineups, but for all intents and purposes it was really just ‘Nique vs. Bird. ‘Nique had been firing on all cylinders right from the tip; he entered the fourth having already scored 31 points and would go on to add 16 more in the fourth. On the flip side, Larry Legend had been struggling but pulled together in crunch time to steal ‘Nique’s thunder as he scored 20 of his 34 in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Celtics.

 

3. 2002 Western Conference Finals, Lakers vs. Kings:  Ahhh, the early 2000’s Lakers. This team was one of my favorites just because I loved Shaq. I was too young to really understand why I shouldn’t root for the Lakers, but I’m not going to lie because I did. Anytime Shaq threw down a monstrous dunk that elicited some crazy celebration I went as wild as Antoine Walker after making a semi-meaningless three. I had a Shaq jersey, a Shaq basketball, and I thought Kazaam was better than Space Jam. The Lakers were looking for a three-peat and it seemed like the one team that had a shot to dethrone them was the Sacramento Kings led by Chris Webber and Mike Bibby. The Kings fought all regular season for homecourt advantage and got their wish when Game 7 came back to Arco Arena (though one could argue they never should have had to play Game 7). The game was close throughout as Mike Bibby and Robert Horry traded big shots down the stretch, but this game was destined for an extra frame. The Kings were hitting shots, but the Lakers had an answer for every problem the Kings proposed. The Lakers went on to win the game and finished off their three-peat.

2. 1970 NBA Finals, Knicks vs. Lakers:  One of the more intense series in a long history of storied Finals, the 1970 edition featured the juggernaut Lakers led by Hall of Famers Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, and Elgin Baylor, while the Knicks boasted fellow Hall members Walt Frazier and Willis Reed, their center and captain. As so often goes with these things, the series itself was insane: close games and blowouts alike, two overtime games – including one that was tied on a desperation 63-footer from The Logo himself – with West, Baylor, and Reed taking turns having monster games. In Game 5, New York lost Reed in the first quarter with a torn thigh muscle. The Knicks rallied to win for their captain, but without their defensive stalwart in Game 6, Chamberlain ran wild to the tune of 45 points and 27 rebounds, forcing a Game 7 at the hallowed grounds of MSG. Without Reed, New Yorkers weren’t sure if they could compete with LA’s size, and Reed knew this as well. So he jammed some painkillers into his leg, limped out from the locker room just before introductions…and the Garden crowd went ballistic. All fears disappeared as their captain hobbled his way to the tip-off, and when he scored the Knicks’ first two baskets, the game was all but over. Those would be his only points of the game, but his defensive presence energized the crowd into such a frenzy that his teammates couldn’t help but be affected. Frazier poured in 36 points and 19 assists in an epic performance, and the Knicks romped their way to their first NBA title. 2. 1993 World Series, Phillies vs. Blue Jays:  The Joe Carter walkoff home run is a Little Leaguer’s dream. Any type of walkoff in a championship is cool, but being able to send a ball flying over the wall to crown your team champions is the coolest. What makes this game even better is the pure uninhibited joy that Joe Carter shows as he runs (or skips) the bases and can’t control himself from going nuts. I can only imagine what the scene was like after the game at Hooters as all of the fans were dousing off Molson 2.0’s and chasing down booby tassles.If you’re not following what movie I’m referring to, I already don’t like you.

 

2. 2003 American League Championship Series, Red Sox vs. Yankees:  Aaron Effing Boone. I already harped on this game back during our piece on the Worst Losses in Boston Sports. I can’t do it to myself again. Click on that if you want my thoughts.
1. 2001 World Series, Diamondbacks vs. Yankees:  One of the most exciting Series of all time ended in the only way possible: on a ninth-inning walkoff comeback off the greatest closer ever. If you followed the textbook recipe for a dramatic game, you’d get this one. A pitchers’ duel between two legendary starters (Clemens and Schilling) that left the game tied 1-1 after seven innings; a pitcher staying in too long and giving up a potential game-winning eighth-inning homer (Schilling, to Alfonso Soriano); the previous night’s starter – remember, this was only a decade ago – coming on in relief and hurling a perfect ninth for the win, even if that pitcher was Randy Johnson (again!); Mariano Rivera coming on for a two-inning save – a rarity for modern closers but something Rivera is known for in the playoffs – and striking out the side in the eighth to seemingly put the game out of reach; a perfectly executed takeout slide that turned a double play into a no-out, two-men-on situation; an RBI double from light-hitting Tony Womack that tied the game; and finally, a bloop single from Luis Gonzalez over a drawn-in infield that gave the D-backs an insane walkoff win. Add all the David vs. Goliath subtext, with Arizona winning a Series in their fourth year of existence and preventing the Yankees from winning a fourth straight title, and you have, objectively, one of the best Game 7’s in history.

1. 1999 ALDS, Red Sox vs. Indians: HOMER ALERT! HOMER ALERT! I know what you’re thinking: “How the hell can a division series, that is technically a Game 5 not 7, be number one on your list?” Well, I’ll tell you how. Because it involved Pedro F—ing Martinez, that’s how! Since I’ve had more of a chance to view and appreciate Jordan since his playing days ended, this was the closest to watching a God I’ve ever seen. Pedro left Game 1 of the series with a back injury and wouldn’t return until this game OUT OF THE BULLPEN. It’s the greatest pitching performance I’ve seen with my own eyes ‘till this day. Six innings, no runs, 8 K’s. For a guy who was injured and isn’t used to coming out of the pen, that’s a damn good stat line. So maybe this achievement shouldn’t be number one on the list, but it’s definitely the most memorable in my book.

 

 

1. 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Celtics vs. Cavaliers:  I was at this game. With whom, I choose not to say because I have been ridiculed more than enough by literally every one of my friends, and I get it. I don’t need all of my readers losing whatever respect they may have for me. I broke mancode and I have spent the past five years trying to make amends. Anytime Will wants a free beer out of me, all he has to do is mention this game and I will feel guilty enough to buy him one. It really was that bad.   Anyways, the irony of the situation is that this was one of those games where it really didn’t matter with whom you went to the game because the entire crowd felt like family. It was the first year of the KG era, but this game was about Paul Pierce and LeBron James. LeBron was at the height of his powers in this series and it really felt like he was going to beat us all by himself, but no. The Truth was in his ultimate prime and outdueled Bron Bron in one of the best duels in NBA history and the best in Celtics lore since the indelible Bird/Dominique showdown. The crowd was unbelievable, cheering and jeering frantically as we knew our energy was the extra element our boys needed to vanquish The King. I could spend thousands of words trying to capture the essence of the crowd-player dynamic, but you really had to be there. Once again – sorry guys.
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Friday Fives: Sports Nicknames

As is often the case in the NBA, we’ve got a plethora of awesome nicknames in this season’s Conference Finals. In the East there’s King James, Birdman, Velociraptor*, Flash, Juwanna Man*, Psycho T, Boy George*; in the West, Z-Bo, The Big Fundamental, Baldy*, T-Mac, Red Rocket/Mamba. Even the TV talking heads are in on the action, with Inside the NBA hosts Shaq, Barkley, and Kenny Smith combining for about 25 aliases. And over on the ice, we have Sid the Kid, Magic Man, Mule, Little Ball of Hate, King Henrik, Captain Serious, and Car Bomb still vying for Lord Stanley’s Cup. What I’m trying to say is pro athletes often have really cool nicknames, so here’s a list of our personal favorites.

*Nicknames may not be officially sanctioned 

TED

WILL

GREG

5. Every early-1900’s MLB nickname.  From the unimaginatively descriptive (Three Finger Brown, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Home Run Baker) to the hallowed classics (The Splendid Splinter, The Iron Horse), baseball monikers were at their most badass in the first few decades of the twentieth century. Many players were so strongly identified with their nicknames that their birth names kind of ceased to exist. Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, Yogi Berra, Hack Wilson, Lefty Grove, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell – does anybody know their real names? Do they even have real names? These are the guys enshrined in the highest halls of baseball history, and their names are as much a part of their legacies as their talent and effects on the game. 5. Mo “The Hit Dog” Vaughn.  Big fat dude who can rake? Yup, sounds like my cup of tea, and one of my childhood idols. As a kid I used to go around the city as much as possible participating in every Hit, Run, and Throw competition I could find to increase my odds of meeting Mo. Disclaimer: I met him three times during my childhood (brushing my shoulders off as I type this). I used to try and imitate Mo’s hunched over batting stance and would always attempt to use wooden bats in Little League just to be like him. As for the nickname? It wasn’t without warrant by any means. He won an MVP in ’95 and finished in the top five in voting two other times. “The Hit Dog” was king of Boston and his reign will always have a special place with me. Alright, I think I just got a little chub thinking about the glory days of Mo so I better move on before I linger much longer on the topic. 5. Glen “Big Baby” Davis.  My criteria for a good nickname: it has to fit the person’s personality or style of play. That’s it. Big Baby is the epitome of this. He literally looks like an overgrown baby and he even has the sentimental emotional outbursts to go with the name. This is a guy who actually shed tears on an NBA bench because someone scolded him. It was as if Kevin Garnett told Big Baby that he wasn’t going to take him out for ice cream after the game because he missed a defensive rotation. Furthermore, Big Baby tried to change his nickname. Not his actual name, but his nickname. In possibly the most unoriginal idea of all time, Baby asked to be referred to as “Uno Uno.” Dude, you have one of the best nicknames ever and Chad Johnson has a monopoly on the Spanish number alter ego. It didn’t stick, but all of that food sure did. I miss this guy.
4. Doug “Muscle Hamster” Martin.  This nickname is pretty straightforward: generously listed at 5’9” on the official sheet while packing a solid 215 pounds, Martin is built like a yoked-up rodent. The Buccaneers phenom running back managed to make it through about half of his spectacular rookie year before his Boise State nickname surfaced, which was probably bestowed on him by some 300-pound corn-fed Idahoan boys. The absurdity of the imagery, the perfect fit of the name, and Martin’s staunch resistance to it – seriously, ‘Dougernaut?’ ‘Muscle and Hustle?’ Just embrace it, Muscle Hamster – make this one of my favorite current nicknames. 4. Jevon “The Freak” Kearse.  “The Freak” burst onto the scene in ’99 and took the NFL by storm. He dominated while he was with the Titans and used his freakish athletic skill to wreak havoc on QB’s and running backs alike. Unfortunately for Jevon, his career steadily declined following his rookie campaign, in which he had 14.5 sacks with 8 forced fumbles, and his career numbers were never the same. Following his first three years with the Titans when he recorded 10+ sacks in each, he would never reach double digits again. Regardless of the decline, his nickname remains Hall of Fame-worthy. 4. Earvin “Magic” Johnson.  Another interesting aspect of the nickname is the chicken-or-the-egg argument: did said athlete gain the nickname because of his play or did he adjust his style of play to fit this fabricated persona. Magic exemplifies this to a T. He was given the nickname by a local reporter while he was tearing up the high school circuit and then morphed into this megastar celebrity who also happened to be one of the top five basketball players of all time. He often says, “There was Magic, and there was Earvin.” Watching highlights of Magic running the Showtime Lakers is like stepping into a time machine and seeing basketball the way it was meant to be experienced before advanced scouting and better defensive schemes grounded what could have been the most entertaining sport ever created. It still gets my rocks off, but I mean, does today’s NBA look anything like this?
3. The three greatest forwards in NHL history.  “Super Mario” Lemieux – the one guy who looked like he might touch Wayne Gretzky’s unbreakable records were it not for injuries gets the name of the most iconic video game character of all time. “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe – the consensus best player ever before Gretzky came along, he of the 1,767 games and 32-year career, earns the name that shows he defined the sport for decades (a name that he trademarked). And finally The Great One himself – when you’re so much better than anybody else at your profession, what more is there to say? Lemieux and Gretzky collectively own the 13 highest season point totals ever; Howe played until he was 52 years old. And in my favorite stat ever, if Gretzky had never scored a goal in his entire career, he’d STILL be the career leader in points. Three simple, awesome nicknames for the most dominant hockey players in history. 3. Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant.  I don’t care that this is a self-appointed nickname because, well, it’s f—ing awesome! The black mamba is the largest venomous snake in Africa. I’m not going to go through all of Kobe’s accolades because they are well-known from the championships to the All-Star Games and beyond. What makes this nickname so cool is that it’s an extremely badass nickname and Kobe knows it. He owns it with his swagger and his approach to the game. He always wants to attack and be that venomous snake that swallows you whole and destroys your life but then slithers away like that was the only way it was supposed to go down. He even ends most of his tweets with #mambaout. And I love that, baby. 3. Roger “Rocket” Clemens.  Clemens is undeniably one of the greatest pitchers of all time, but he also makes this list of greatest nicknames. Clemens still holds the record for most strikeouts in a game largely in part to the overpowering fastball that earned him the “Rocket” moniker. Not only does the nickname fit him perfectly, but there was a Beanie Baby named “Rocket” created in his honor when he signed with the Blue Jays. That is pretty damn cool. No other athlete garnered this distinction and I respect the hell out of him for it. Yeah, I collected Beanie Babies. I also collected Pokemon and pretended my pillow was the Pink Ranger while I feverishly made out with it. I think I’m in the majority on that one.
2. “The Mailman” Karl Malone.  For 19 years, Malone was one of the most lethal and durable players the NBA had ever seen, and he retired as one of the best power forwards in league history. In doing so, he earned his nickname from his consistent delivery in the face of huge obstacles (in his case, the MJ Bulls and the Hakeem Rockets) and his…uhh…hatred of dogs? Ability to walk the same several miles every single day? Whatever the case, Malone made the most mundane of occupations seem hardcore, and blue-shirted government employees all over the nation idolized him (citation needed). 2. Julius “Dr. J” Erving.  The Doctor is in. If you’re like me and have been OD’ing on basketball for the past couple of months, the commercial for Dr. J’s upcoming documentary looks pretty damn awesome and I can’t wait to watch it. Dr. J was the epitome of swag and couldn’t be touched in that regard. The man brought the slam dunk to the mainstream for Christ sake. His move on the baseline up and under is immortalized in basketball lore and is almost as famous as the logo itself. Much like number three on my list his nickname is self-appointed after he vetoed ‘Black Moses’ and ‘Houdini.’ That’s swagger my friends. Doesn’t hurt that he’s the greatest legend UMass has ever seen.  #DoctorOut. 2. Ken Griffey “Junior”.  Ken Griffey Jr. is my favorite athlete of all time. I was a diehard baseball fan growing up and Griffey was the Jordan of baseball, especially in the 90’s. “Junior” got his nickname due to one of the most improbable situations ever to occur in professional sports: he played on the same team as his father! Call me crazy, but I’m going to say this will never happen again in any professional sport. There may be some players who play at the same time as their fathers (although with the way today’s athletes are just giving out babies maybe I’m dead wrong), but on the same team? That seems preposterous. I also think it’s cool that Griffey’s other nickname, “The Kid,” is just as organic as “Junior.” It’s like Jordan being known as MJ or Terrell Owens as TO. Sometimes organic nicknames are human nature at its best.
1. Butterbean.  Don’t know his real name, don’t care. When you’re a hairless boxer/MMA fighter/whatever who was tragically born without a neck and with man tits that put Fat Bastard’s to shame, you’re gonna get called Butterbean, and you’re gonna like it. I have no idea how good or bad of a fighter he is/was, but with his chodelike body and hilariously spot-on nickname, he can play for my team any day. 1. Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas.  An absolute hitting machine and a monster in the batter’s box. A .301 career hitter who stands at a menacing 6’5” and mashed 521 career home runs. Thomas spent the majority of his career on the north side of Chicago with the White Sox and left lasting impressions that include his newest endeavor, Big Hurt Beer. Yes, Big Hurt Beer! Move over Natty Daddy, there’s a new king of the 24-oz game and he’s not messing around. If naming your own beer after your nickname isn’t cool, then consider me Miles Davis. Also, someone get me one of these ASAP! 1. “Shaq Diesel” Shaquille O’Neal.  Shaq has to be number one on anyone’s list for top nicknames in sports. Not only does he have a slew of nicknames rivaling Babe Ruth, but Shaq is the king of appointing nicknames to other stars. Paul Pierce was never “The Truth” before Shaq declared him to be, and Dwyane Wade would have been “WoW” if not for Shaq correctly naming him “Flash.” But back to “The Diesel.” He was the most dominating force of his generation and possibly of all time simply because he was bigger and badder than every other center in the league. He trucked his way to thousands of dunks, drop-stepping poor guys like Gregg Ostertag and Luc Longley until they wanted to curl up in the fetal position. Shaq tops my list, but there are hundreds of other great nicknames out there…which are your favorites?
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