Saturday, February 28, 2009

New York Knicks waiving Stephon Marbury

It was the soap opera that dominated the sports pages of the Tri-State area papers. It was the headline of all Tri-State area sportscast. Finally though the New York Knickerbockers earlier this week said good-bye to their disgruntled point guard that was supposed to bring them glory, but instead brought a lot of pain and suffering both on and off the court.

On Tuesday, the Knicks finally reached a deal with disgruntled point guard Stephon Marbury to waive him from the team recoup some of the money that he had left on his $20.8 million salary from this season. According to Newsday, Marbury walk away with $4.5 million of the $6.4 million that was left on his salary. The agreement also included $400,000 in fines that the team put against him for allegedly refusing to play on Nov. 26, 2008 at the Detroit Pistons.

Marbury had returned to Manhattan to attend arbitration in regards to the fine. Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni gave his testimony in the morning and when both sides broke for lunch, they returned and came to an agreement to table the arbitration towards the process of buying out Marbury’s contract.

When he left the law offices of Skadden Arps at about 2:25 in the afternoon, Marbury left with his fist held above his head saying, “I’m happy!”

With that, the man who grew up in Coney Island idolizing growing up was now yesterday’s news.

It was just about five years ago when the Knicks traded for Coney Island native Stephon Marbury from the Phoenix Suns that they felt they were on their way back to their glory days of making the playoffs and competing for an NBA title. Fast those five, years only one playoff appearance in 2004, where they were swept by their cross town rivals the New Jersey Nets 4-0. In the following years go come, the team has gone through five head coaches, had players that did not produce on the court despite having contracts that said otherwise. That resulted in the team winning only 113 out of 287 games that Marbury played in. That equals a .394 winning percentage.

Of the four players that Marbury is included in when it comes to those that average over 18 points, seven assists and three rebounds per game, he is the only one to not to turn his team that he plays for into a champion. The other three that have while putting up those same numbers or better over their career and have won championships are Oscar Robertson, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and his former head coach with the Knicks Isiah Thomas. On top of that, each of three former players was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

While he may not make the Hall of Fame, he can be a part of a championship puzzle as he signed with the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics two days ago. He will be Boston’s back up point guard to starter Rajon Rondo. His signing with Boston also reunites him with former teammate with the Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Garnett, who is currently missing in action because of an injury.

With a new opportunity, Marbury hopes to get back on track and help the Celtics in their quest to repeat as champions.

Unfortunately, the sigma of that every team that he leaves gets better may continue. When he was traded from Minnesota in the middle of the 1998-99 campaign to the New Jersey Nets, the Wolves won a franchise record at the time 50 games the next season and would make the playoffs for those next five years. Their most successful season in team history came in 2003-04 when the team won a franchise best 58 contests and were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. They won their first two playoff rounds in team history beating the Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings in four and seven games respectably, but lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Los Angles Lakers in six games.

When the Nets traded Marbury to the Phoenix Suns in 2001 for Jason Kidd, all they did was win back-to-back Atlantic Division titles and made back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals as the Eastern Conference representatives. They would lose in both seasons respectably to the Lakers in 2002 and the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.

While the first season in Phoenix was rough for Marbury as the team did not make the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, they would bounce back the next season winning 44 games making the playoffs, but lost to the eventual NBA champion Spurs in six games. In 2003-04, the Suns took a step backwards as they won only 29 games and missed the postseason. On Jan. 6, 2004, Marbury was traded by the Suns to the Knicks.

All the Phoenix Suns did in that period of time was win 62, 54, 61 and 55 games over the next four years. Win three consecutive Pacific Division titles from 2005 to 2007. They also had their new lead guard Steve Nash leading them and all he did in 2005 and 2006 was become the second point guard since “Magic” Johnson to win the Most Valuable Player Award on more than one occasion.

As for the New York Knicks of today, they have under new the guidance new head coach D’Antoni have been more exciting and competitive. They are currently 24-34 now and are on the outside of the playoffs looking only trailing the Milwaukee Bucks by a game and a half for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

If there is one that has been proven is that Marbury has great talent. He has yet to use that talent to make his team better in the long term. Now with the Celtics, he now has a chance to use his talent, although be it in a supporting role and give the Celtics something that can propel them to their goal of back-to-back titles. If he goes back to his me first ways, he will be gone.

His career is in his hands, it is up to him to make himself and the way former teammates and fans see him. He has to go back to being Stephon Marbury the basketball player, the team player and not the name of his sneaker ‘Starbury.’

Information and statistics are courtesy of, and Newsday (Editon of Feb. 25, 2009)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Iconic Type II Diabetes Claims Life of Iconic NBA Owner

Last Friday, the National Basketball Association lost a proud member of its family when Utah Jazz Owner Larry Miller H. passed away due to type 2 diabetes. He was 64 years old.

Miller passed away with his family around him at their home in Salt Lake City at 3:54 p.m.

Back in June of 2008, according to, Miller suffered a heart attack and he was in the hospital for two months because of complications from diabetes. He was in a wheelchair when he was released from the hospital, but his medical problems did continue which lead his legs being amputated six inches below the knee this past January.

“He did everything he could to stay here, but it wasn’t meant to be, but he went peacefully,” Gail Miller, Larry’s widow told the media on Friday. “We had a wonderful week together. He came home from the hospital to pass and was with him all week. We reminisced and I don’t think there are many widows that can go to an archive and be comforted by what they see like I will be able to do.”

The last memory that Gail gave to her husband was last Thursday night when she told him that his team defeated the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics 90-85.

“It is with great sadness that I offer condolences to Gail and the Miller family on behalf of the entire NBA family,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern in a statement on Friday. “Larry’s legacy extends beyond the NBA as he touched many lives in the Salt Lake City region through his business ventures and charitable endeavors. The NBA lost a great leader, colleague and friend today. We will miss him.”

As self-made business man and entrepreneur, Miller amassed more than 80 businesses and properties in Salt Lake City. Those businesses include Larry H. Miller Toyota, KJZZ-TV, Larry H. Miller Megaplex, Prestige Financial, Miller Motorsports Park and Jordan Commons cinema/restaurant complexes.

When Miller bought the Utah Jazz for $66 million in 1985 as a co-owner and becoming soul owner a year later, he helped mold the small town team that first began in New Orleans, LA with the very odd named and turned it into one of the most model franchises in professional sports.

Under his guidance, the Utah Jazz made 19 consecutive playoff appearances, won seven division titles (1989, 992, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2007, 2008) and made the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998 where they lost both times to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in six games.

What allowed Miller to consistently put together a team that was successful for so long is that he had three building blocks that would represent the foundation of the Jazz from that day to the present. In point guard John Stockton, he had a floor general that played all 19 of his seasons with the Jazz and finished as the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals. His running mate power forward Karl Malone, that he found quite a number of times,  finished his 19-year NBA career, 18 of those in Utah as the second leading scorer in NBA history, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He won two NBA Most Valuable Player Awards in 1997 and 1999.

Besides the incredible number Malone and Stockton put up, in 2,968 games played in that time span, they missed a combine total of 30 games in that span due to injury or in Malone’s case a few times because of suspension.

In Jerry Sloan, who was the only head coach of Utah under Miller’s watch, All he did was become one of five head coaches in NBA history to reach 1,000 career wins, which he achieved on Dec. 11, 2006 when the Jazz defeated the Dallas Mavericks 101-79. He also became the first head coach in NBA history to record 1,000 wins with one team when Utah won versus the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-97. It all adds up including the playoffs, 1,114 victories.

This past Saturday in tribute to their owner, each of the players wore a patch with the initials LHM on their jerseys in honor of Miller. The courtside seat that he always sat in at Energy Solutions Arena was empty with a rose upon it.

There was a sign in the arena that a fan held up during the game in reference to Miller that said, “We knew this guy. We loved this guy. We’ll miss this guy.”

After the Jazz defeated the New Orleans Hornets 102-88, point guard Deron Williams presented the game ball to Gail.

Miller leaves behind his wife of 43 years Gail. Their five children: Gregory Scott, Roger Lawrence, Stephen Frank, Bryan Joseph and Karen Rebecca as well as 20 grandchildren.

“I hope my death goes as smoothly and beautifully as his did,” Greg, CEO of the Jazz. “He died at home in his bed, overlooking the city that he loved, surrounded by the people that he loved and he gave it his all before he gave up the ghost.”

Information and quotations are courtesy of NBA TV, GMC NBA Countdown on ABC, and  

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Two of the NBA’s Finest Deliver Performances For The Ages At MSG

In the just a 48 hour span, two of the National Basketball Association’s finest delivered out of this world performances at Madison Square Garden. These two great stars showed why the debate of who is the best in recent years is always a hot topic in newspapers and sports shows across the country. What they also showed what the value of the NBA means to them and why fans despite the Knicks are not of any relevance in NBA playoff circle, still come and see them when they are in action.

On Monday night, Los Angles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant had the 4th highest scoring game of his career with 61 points on 19-of-31 shooting from the field, connecting on  3-for-6 from three point range and going 20-for-20 from the free throw line in the Lakers 126-117 win over the New York Knicks. His 61 points were the most points scored at MSG. That beat out the 60-point output former Knick great Bernard King had on Christmas Day in 1984 in a 120-114 loss to the New Jersey Nets. It also beat out famed “double nickels” performance Michael Jordan on Mar. 28, 1995, wearing No. 45 and his famous Air Jordan sneakers in his first game back at MSG when he came back to the NBA.

Two nights later, LeBron James recorded the third best scoring night for an opponent at MSG, while garnered his fourth triple-double of the season with 52 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 107-102 over the Knicks. He went 17 for 33 from the field and 16 for 19 from the free throw line. His performance also marked the first time Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 where a player notched a triple-double while scoring 50 points in an NBA game. This is also the second time in less than a year that James has scored 50-plus at “The World Most Famous Arena.” On Mar. 5, 2008 James scored 50 points going 16 of 30 from the floor, which included 7-13 from the three-point line and 11 for 16 from the free throw line and handed out 10 assists, grabbed eight rebounds and had four steals. The Cavs won that game as well over the Knicks 119-105.

Two both James and Bryant, having a performance like this is not unusual, but doing it in the fashion that they did and in front of the most passionate basketball fans in one of the most special sports venues is something that took them back. It especially got to Bryant when he heard the shouts of “MVP!” from the 19,763 members in the stands.

“This place is special because the fans they’ll boo you the whole game, but they appreciate the game,” Bryant said after the game. “I think tonight it felt great to get that reaction from these fans because it’s them saying we love what you do and it was a great performance and for them to celebrate that a that moment felt great.”

“One thing they are going to do, they are going to cheer when they see greatness and you can’t  take that away from them because they are fans, they are fans of the game, they love the game of basketball,” James said on Wednesday.

To both players, performing on stages like this is what they live for. These are moments they dreamed about growing up. With that being said, there is one thing that drives them both to give performances like this. That is winning, particularly this season.

When Monday night had reached its conclusion, Bryant’s performance was great, but on this night he had a lot of help. Center Pau Gasol had 31 points and 14 rebounds and reserve swingman and former Knick Trevor Ariza had 13 points and eight boards to give L.A. their 38 victory of the season to nine defeats. That is the top record in the NBA’s Western Conference.

While James was spectacular, he also had help from his friends as center Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 15 points and eight rebounds and reserve forward Wally Szczerbiak had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Cleveland’s victory over the Knicks on Wednesday brought their record to 39-9, the second best record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

For both players, it is one thing to be great when it matters most, but performing well individually means nothing without getting the victory when the dust settles at the end of the contest. If you do not believe that, just look at the Olympics from this past summer. If you saw it, then you know what winning that gold medal meant to both these Olympians and their teammates.

Along with winning, these two guys who we will see in the 2008 All-Starr Game next Sunday night, respect the history of the game and those that paved the way for them to be who they are on the hardwood.

“This building is special because it’s the last one left,” Bryant says. “You have the Boston Garden, which I never played in. The [Great Western] Forum and then there’s this building. This is the last one that holds all the memories and all the great players and coming up the elevator shaft and thinking about Willis Reed and thinking about Jerry West and all the great rivalries that they had in this building and it makes it very special.”

For two nights, Bryant and the Lakers, James and the Cavs took over the MSG hardwood. They showed us what greatness as the star and leaders of their teams are and why the debate on who the best is at this point of their respective careers continues.

Statistical information and quotations is courtesy of, the Tuesday edition of ESPN’s Sportscenter,; and the Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009 and Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 editions of Newsday.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Meaning of the 2009 Inauguration and the Challenges It Represents

Tomorrow will be a day that will live in lore forever. It will open a door that Americans, particularly African Americans have waited for a long time. This will begin a journey that will change our society forever. It will officially announce to America and the world a change has taken place. However, tomorrow will also bring into full focus the great challenges the incoming President will be facing.

On January 20, 2009, millions will be gathered in Washington, DC, as well as those that like myself that will be watching on television to see the swearing in of the 44th President of the United States, and it’s first African American - Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, the country will see the swearing in of a person we will entrust to end two wars abroad, to fix a crippled economy, homeowners are losing their homes in record numbers. Those that still own their homes are having trouble heating them and keeping food on the table. Families cannot send their children to higher education because they don’t know if they will have a job. People are resorting to working two part-time jobs to keep their heads above water.

Besides the loss of jobs, the crippling economy, the confidence of the American people must be restored.

What the last eight years has taught us more than anything is how disgruntled, angry and disgusted Americans feel about how their government. For many, government was supposed to be a place where we could look to for hope, opportunity and chance. What the election as a whole has shown us; is that we cannot look to government alone for confidence and hope. They can be a guiding force, but we as a people we have to do what it takes to improve our lives.

It is going to be up to the American people to bring our country back, we did not get into this situation over night and we will not get out of it overnight. But by rolling up our sleeves and backing our new President we will bring America back. By becoming better parents, neighbors, students -we can do it.

On Nov. 4, 2008. When I went to vote on that morning, In my nine years of voting, I actually had to wait in line to cast my vote. This time, I had to line up at 5 a.m. and the poll was packed. This signaled to me the importance of this day.

I saw 15 of my former classmates and peers I went to school with cast their vote. As we stood in line, we both reminisced about back when we were in school together and how life has changed. Back when we were in school, we were always taught that we could be anything we wanted to be, if we were dedicated to the task. If we took pride in being great everyday. This was a day that really brought what we learned in school full circle.

That day also brought something even more important into focus that I learned about later that day. While many I know did vote for our soon to be 44th President, many did not vote for the State and local candidates who were running that day. What this highlighted for me was the disconnect that many have with government. Yes we have an African American that will be sitting in the White House. Yes we will have someone who is ready to lead us to better days, but in order for things to be taken care of at the national level, we must also take care of home by electing good people on the local level.

I remember something that the Director of Human Resources of Town of Hempstead and co-chairman of the Hempstead Republican Committee told me about former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. (D-MA) preaches a line that O’Neill said he learned as a senior at Boston College, when he ran for a seat on the Cambridge City Council and suffered his first and only electoral loss. The line he said and the one Mr. Salmon always said, was “All politics is local.”

Let us remember, it was not that long ago that Obama was a community organizer in the toughest of neighborhoods in Chicago and it is because of his commitment to make that community better and those that he worked with came together and worked their tails off to make the community better.
This work ethic allowed him to become a United States Senator and in less than 24 hours the leader of a world that is need of a steady hand.

It is true that tomorrow will bring a tremendous amount of joy, invigoration, love, pride and appreciation. What America has to understand is that this is not the end, it is only the beginning. We have an economy that must be repaired. Americans who need to be put back to work. An education system that must be revised. Above all , we as a nation must come together. It is time for us to become a nation that will take the steps to end racism.

After all the confetti has been dropped, all the champagne has been drank at the parties, the music concludes and the parades have stopped, the real works begins.

Obama knew this coming in. That is why he gave the keys to the security of our nation to his rival former New York Senator Hillary Clinton as our new Secretary of State. He also will host a luncheon honoring Sen. John McCain, his political rival.

If anyone has any questions about Obama’s readiness to take on these tremendous challenges that our nation and world will face. Just look at his cabinet, this tells the story about how ready he is.

So if you are not going to work tomorrow, while watching the Inauguration, think about how you can do your part to full fill President Obama agenda of getting America back on track.

“Tip O’Neill” quote is courtesy of

Friday, January 16, 2009

Baseball Hall of Fame Announces Induction Henderson and Rice

This past week, the doors to Cooperstown, the Baseball Hall of Fame opened for what many considered the greatest lead-off hitter of all-time and for a Boston Red Sox who got in on his final chance of eligibility.

On July 26, 2009, Rickey Henderson, who received 511 votes out of 539 (94.8 percent) in his first year on the ballot and Jim Rice, who in is final year of eligibility received 412 votes (76.4 percent) will be inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

In both players cases, each individually put up mind blowing numbers that gave them the opportunity to be the first left fielders in more than 20 years to be immortalized forever in the profession that they gave everything that they had.

In his 25-year playing career where he played for the Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels (now the Los Angles Angels of Anaheim), New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, the 50-year old became MLB’s all-time leader in runs scored with 2, 295, stolen bases with 1,406 and lead-off home runs with 81. He finished his career second in walks with 2,190 and is 21st in hits with 3,055.

“I think as a kid, as a ball player, you look at some of the greatest players that played the game and what they went through and then when they was finished with their career, how well they was honored,” says Henderson, who retired from baseball at age 44.

“So the Hall of Fame means a great deal to me. I’m just happy that I got chosen the first round in the Hall of Fame.”

While he did put up strong numbers, Henderson also did it with great efficiency by averaging per season as a hitter, with a .401 on base percentage and hit 297 career home runs.

More than anything he had a knack of making big plays in the biggest of moments. In 1993, he was part of a 3-run walk-off home run that was hit by Joe Carter in the bottom of the ninth inning that helped the Toronto Blue Jays to a 8-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies and gave Blue Jays back-to-back World Series titles.

On Aug. 27, 1982, he broke the single-season steals record, finishing that season with 130, which surpassed Lou Brock’s 118 in 1974. On May 1, 1991, Henderson set the all-time record in MLB for career steals with 939 stolen base as an Athletic against of all teams the Bronx Bombers, better known as the Yankees. He embraced that mild stone by pulling the base out of the ground and held it in the air.

In 2001, Henderson recorded two milestones when he was with the Padres. On Oct. 4, he surpassed Ty Cobb as the league’s all-time leader in runs scored and on Oct. 7, recorded the 3, 000 hit of his career.

Along with his great numbers and milestone moments, he managed to garner some individual recognition. He was an all-star 10 times, won three Silver Slugger Awards (1981, 1982 and 1985); was the 1990 American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP), the 1989 American League Championship Series MVP and in the late stages of his career was the 1999 National League (NL) Comeback Player of the Year.

When we think of Jim Rice, the name that comes to mind of someone who waited a long time to be immortalized as a Hall of Famer in the sport where the number say he should have been in a lot sooner is former Washington Redskins’ wide receiver Art Monk.

In his career as a Red Sox, Rice had a .298 batting average, hit 382 homers, had 1, 451 runs batted in (RBIs) and a .502 slugging percentage. In the time period from 1975-86, what many considered the greatest time of baseball, Rice lead all AL players with 350 home runs, 1, 276 RBI’s  and 2,145 hits. He led the AL in homers on three occasions (1977, 1978 and 1983), RBIs in 1978 and 1983 and in total bases four times (1977-79 and 1983).

He was selected to eight AL all-star teams, was Silver Slugger Award recipient back-to-back years in 1983 and 1984 and was AL MVP in 1978.

“It is a crime and I blame my colleagues who are baseball writers as a group for letting this guy go this long,” Michael Wilbon, Washington Post Sports Columnist and co-host of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption.

His real crowning moment came in 1986 when he hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 4th inning in Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS that gave the Red Sox a 7-1 lead over the California Angels that they would never recover from and Boston went on to win the pennant 4-3. The Red Sox though lost to the New York Mets in seven games in the World Series.

While it might have taken a long time, Rice is very thankful for the opportunity to be enshrined forever the greatest of his professional sport.

“It’s a big relief. It just seems like. I did not have any weight on my shoulders per say before that, but when I got the call, it just seem like everything just fell back and so that was a relief there,” Rice said to reporters earlier this week. “I’ m not going to bad mouth the writers on why they waited so long because the numbers are still the same.”

In a sport today that does not have many African Americans in it, these two when they played were one of the best. They achieved greatness individually and made their team great in the biggest of moments. They put up the numbers and made the headlines at the same time. They still have one more headline to make and that is in July when they will be inducted with the greatest to ever play in Major League Baseball.

Statistical Information and quotations are courtesy of ESPN’s Sportscenter, and

Friday, January 9, 2009

What happened in 2008 and what is ahead in 2009

The year of 2008 was one that made us take of notice about where we are in today’s world. This was a year where the unthinkable took place. It was a year when we thought things that would never happened in our lifetime became reality. 2008 showed us that when we only take interest in ourselves and not the great good of people, dreams can be shattered, lives can be turned upside down and the future can be bleak. This was also a year where we said goodbye to people who impacted our lives through the big and small screen, to those who entertained us in person and one who made us better through lectures More than anything 2008 was a year of the reemergence of what it takes to be successful and that in order for things to happen it takes more than just the individual themselves.

The biggest story of what took place in 2008 happened on Nov. 4 when this nation stood as one and voted our first African American president in Barack Obama. What this showed us more than anything is what the true meaning of individual power really is. For as long as we can remember we were always told that people have sacrificed their lives for us to have the right to vote. There was a time when African Americans were shunned away from the poles. There was a time when women did not have the right to vote. That was something for a long time we took for granted, until this year.

Why this year? Well because of what has occurred. In just the past 12 months, were have an economy system that is in shambles. We have banks like Merrill Lynch that needed to be bought to be prevented from going under. We have three of the top automakers GM, Chrysler and Ford, all of whom are based in Michigan by the way, needed a government bailout to stay afloat. On top of that, people have lost their jobs and have been unable to afford to pay their mortgage on their house, which has resulted in the highest rate of foreclosures that this country has ever witnessed. On top of that, we are at war in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

If there is anything that these events has shown is the importance of having a steady hand in the highest office in the land is very important. That we have an individual who we can have faith in that understands that America is only as good as the governing body that resides over it. More importantly, we are a nation of people who are willing to work together and be equal in standards and not petty things like money, power and greed. That is what it will take to get our nation back on track. 

While there were times that were bleak in 2008, it did have some high points besides our nation electing the first African American President. We witnessed one of the greatest performances at the Olympics when Michael Phelps in Beijing won eight gold medals in his swimming events. He surpassed Mark Spitz, also an American swimmer, who garnered seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

His performance showed us that you can make a name for yourself and the sport that you represent. This is someone who opened up our eyes to something that we did not pay much attention to. He showed us how ones competitive spirit and dedication can make you go from unknown to well known. On top of that, it also showed us that when you have family behind you, you are a winner regardless of what happens in the heat of battle. During the Olympic coverage you saw Phelp’s Mother Deborah Sue Davisson Phelps and his two older sisters Whitney and Hilary routing him on in every event. When you have that kind of support, you can do special things.

We learned one other very important lesson from the Olympics and that is the value of team. This was taught to us by the 2008 USA Men’s Basketball team, who took Olympic Gold over the Spanish National team 118-107 on Aug. 24, 2008 to capture Olympic Gold for the first time since 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. In the past, the United States has been criticized for putting together a team of a bunch of NBA All-Stars practicing for couple of months or less and going to the Olympic sight and winning gold. In the past, that formula did succeed, but in 2000, things started to change. While the 2000 edition captured gold, it was not easy. The rest of the world caught up and before you knew it, the United States was defeated in the 2004 Olympics.

The 2008 Men’s National Team was put together very differently. They appointed Jerry Colangelo, the national director of USA Basketball. He also made it clear to those players he asked to be on the team that they make a three-year commitment, which included participation in the 2006 FIBA World Championship Games and the 2008 Olympics itself. In selecting the coaching staff, Colangelo chose Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski, to be assisted by Jim Boeheim of Syracuse University, New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan of the Portland Trail Blazers. While the team consisted NBA prominent All-Stars like Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), Kobe Bryant (Los Angles Lakers), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), the team also had balance of great role players like Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks), Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons), Michael Redd (Milwaukee Bucks), Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors), Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz), Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) and Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets).

Together, that group not only represented well on the court, but it made our country proud of the court. They were seen at all the events, which included seeing Phelps make history winning his eight gold medals. They took in the sights like going to the Great Wall of China. On the court, they played well on both ends. They made the extra pass on offense and were like a connected string on defense.  They defeated China, Angola, Greece, Spain and Germany by an average of 32.2 points per contest.  The gold medal contest though was not an easy one. The United States lead by as many as 14, but Spain did not concede and came back cut the margin to 2 points with 9 minutes to go. The USA held Spain off thanks to Wade who scored 27 points, 21 of those authored in the first half and to Bryant who scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and the USA won.

What was so special about this team was the joy they had of the process. To each of the players, bring gold back to America was important and you saw that jubilation at the end of the game when they all hugged one another at center court. They treasured that moment right before our very eyes and made their country very proud.

At the end of each year is a time to look back at those we lost. People who we celebrate their lives because they impacted so many. As CBS News’s “The Early Show” Anchor Maggie Rodriguez said at the close of the CBS Evening News this past Wednesday, “Some of these lives were long. Some were too short, but they were lives lived well and well worth remembering.”

The list of those who left us in 2008 include actor Heath Ledger, who seemed to be on the verge of greatness, particularly with his role as The Joker in the latest installment of the Batman series “The Dark Knight.” He unfortunately left us earlier this year when he passed from an alleged drug overdose. He was 29 years old.

In the late stages of 2008 we lost one of the first true symbols of beauty, grace and elegance to African Americans in Eartha Kitt. She left us on Christmas night at age 81 after a long battle with colon cancer. She left behind a career that span six decades as an actress, singer and dancer. She is best known for her role as Catwoman on the television series “Batman.”

That is not bad for someone who life was very rough in the beginning. She was sent away from her home in South Carolina to live with relatives after her mother remarried and her new husband wanted nothing to do with a child that was mixed.

She got her first big break when she moved to Harlem and joined the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. From there she went on to win two Emmys; got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960; was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Negro Musicians in 1968 and was a Nightlife Legend award recipient in 2006.

What she is probably most famous for more than anything is her speaking out against the Vietnam War at a luncheon at the White House by First Lady Bird Johnson. Within two hours, Kitt was unable to find work performing in the United States would spend the next several years touring in Europe before coming back.

Among other giants in world that left us in 2008 was NBC Chief Washington Correspondent and moderator of “Meet The Press” Tim Russert (May 7, 1950-Jun. 13, 2008);  Actress Estelle Getty (Jul. 25, 1923-Jul. 22, 2008); Sen. Jesse Helm (R-N.C.) (Oct. 18, 1921-Jul. 4, 2008); Actor, director, entrepreneur and humanitarian Paul Newman (Jan. 26, 1925-Sept. 26, 2008); Writer and Director Michael Chrichton (Oct. 23, 1942-Nov. 4, 2008). Best known for the Jurassic Park movies and one of the longest running primetime drama on NBC “ER;” Actor and comedian Bernie Mac (Oct. 5, 1957-Aug. 9, 2009). Musician Issac Hayes (Aug. 20, 1942-Aug. 10, 2008) and ABC’s Wide World of Sports host James Kenneth McManus, better known as Jim McKay. He is most remembered for his introduction which went like, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is “ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”

The year of 2008 had a lot of highs and a lot of reality checking lows. It showed us how teamwork can bring greatness and it also showed us how greed can destroy or alter the lives of many. It showed how we can get passed our differences and put someone in a position where they can guide in bringing a nation and hopefully a world back to prominence. What happens in 2009 is unknown, but 2008 hopefully shows us that we need to follow a blueprint that will allow our country and our world to re gain a balance where all can prosper.