Monday, December 24, 2012

J-Speaks: The Rising Los Angeles Clippers

When someone says the name of the other Los Angeles professional basketball team the Clippers, there are a lot of words that come to mind and they are not all that good. The words terrible, awful and bad come to mind. To put it in perspective, since coming to Los Angeles from San Diego back in 1984-85, they have only made the playoffs on only five occasions. Things have changed for them though a year ago thanks to some major acquisitions over the last two off seasons and this season they have taken major strides in becoming a serious contender in the Western Conference. On Friday, they set a franchise record versus their Pacific Division rival.

In their 97-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings, the Clippers (21-6) won their 12th consecutive game, setting a franchise record. The victory was also the Clippers second over the Kings (7-17) this season. They defeated them 116-81 in Los Angeles back on Dec. 1 and have won five in a row in the series, which includes all three meetings last season. Their last setback came on Nov. 26 when they lost at home to the New Orleans Hornets 105-98. They snapped a four-game losing streak and began this streak of 12 straight wins with a 101-95 win versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The team added to that winning streak bringing it to 13 wins in succession on Sunday with a 103-77 victory at the Phoenix Suns.

To put this streak in perspective, the Clippers have had a double-digit winning streak only one other time in franchise history. That came back in the 1974-75 when they were the Buffalo Braves and they won 11 games in a row. A major force on that team was Hall of Famer and current assistant coach with the defending World Champion Miami Bob McAdoo, who averaged 34.5 ppg and 14.1 rpg. Other teammates of his included longtime assistant coach Garfield Heard; Randy Smith, who set the NBA record for consecutive played in the regular season with 906 from 1972-1982; Jim McMillian, who was a part of the 1972 World Champion Los Angeles Laker team that won a then NBA record 69 win in the regular season; Jack Marin who is enshrined in the North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Duke Halls of Fame and former NBA head coach and longtime assistant coach to current head coach of the Denver Nuggets George Karl.

Current Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, who played 12 seasons in the NBA was just eight years old when that mark took place.

That team went 49-33 that season, which is still the franchise record for a team that has had talented draft picks like center Benoit Benjamin (11.4 ppg 7.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg) guard Terry Deere (8.0 ppg, 2.6 apg 41.1 FG%), center Michael Olowokandi (8.3 ppg 6.8 rpg, 43.5 FG%) who was the No. 1 overall pick back in 1998 and forward Darius Miles (10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg 47.2 FG%).

The Clippers in their history have had 20 double-digit losing streaks, which includes a dozen that were of 12-plus games. Back in the 1994-95 campaign, they lost the final 16 games of that season. They followed that up by losing the first 17 games of the lockout-shortened season of 1998-99 and the final 14 games in the 1986-87 season.

The franchise record for futility is 19, which the Clippers set back in 1981-82 and equaled in 1988-89.

Two other times that the Clippers had a long winning streaks was back in 1979 when they won eight straight games when they were led by Hall of Famer World B. Free.

Their second eight-game winning streak in team history came back in 1991. That team consisted of the likes of Danny Manning, Ron Harper, Ken Norman, former New York Knicks Charles Smith and Glenn “Doc” Rivers, who is the current head coach of the Boston Celtics.

“Most of the guys have been here through tougher times,” Clippers guard Chris Paul, who had 24 points, 13 assists and five steals on 7 for 13 shooting, including 5 for 7 from three point range said after the game on Friday.

“I know Ron Harper really well. He’s a good friend of mine, and he’s excited for us. We just played against Corey Maggette [Detroit Pistons], and he was excited to see how it is now.”

There are number of reason why the Clippers have gone from futility to being in the conversation as a contender in the Western Conference with the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzles to name a few.

One of the reasons is last seasons acquisition Paul (16.1 ppg in 2012-13) who had 17 points, 13 assists and five steals on Sunday. He has given the Clippers something that they have not had in quite a long time. Stability, leadership and confidence to compete and play well in games, but a willingness and a selflessness to do the little things to win.

“He’s so efficient. He’s making all the right passes. All the right plays, but also what I like is he’s being that veteran helping guys out,” NBA TV analyst Steve Smith said.

“I like what he’s doing on the bench talking to young [Eric] Bledsoe getting him ready. Helping Blake Griffin stay engaged. I think when you start to look at Chris Paul, a coach has to love having a point guard like this.”


That kind of leadership and presence has helped the development of Griffin (18.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg 53.7 FG%) who had 21 points, 13 boards and two blocks on Friday. That was followed up with 23 points, 11 boards and four steals on Sunday at the Suns.

“I remember the year I go drafted. The season before that, they had only 19 wins. So what we’ve accomplished so far is great,” Griffin said after the game. “But the best thing about it for me is being a part of something that’s much bigger than Chris or I. It takes everybody from top to bottom--the GM, the coaching staff, the players, everybody. And from day one since I’ve been here, everybody’s been serious about changing.”

While the stars for the Clippers have played to their All-Star greatness, the Clippers have won at this high clip because of contributions from other key players.

Those key players include center DeAndre Jordan who is averaging a career-best 9.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 1.6 bpg; off-season acquisition forward/guard Matt Barnes, who is averaging a career-best 10.3 ppg and 5.1 boards and he had 13 points, five boards and two blocks on Friday. In the contest on Sunday, Barnes scored 15 points and had eight boards off the bench going 5 for 7 from the floor, which included a 3 for 4 effort from three-point range. Guard Jamal Crawford, who also was signed this past off-season is averaging 16.3 points per game off the bench and on ten occasions this season has scored 20 points or more. The tenth came on Sunday when he scored 22 points going 8 for 12 from the floor, including 3 for 6 from three-point land in 25 minutes.

While these role players have made a difference so far, the Clippers as they continue through this season hope that they can get even more contributions from the aforementioned players as well as from two other very key veterans. Guard Chauncey Billups, who is coming back from an injury that cut his season short a year ago and has only allowed him to play in just three games so far this season and forward Lamar Odom, who despite having a solid game on Friday with eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks off the bench, has just averaged 3.3 ppg and 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 apg. Those numbers are a far fetch from the 13.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 3.8 apg that he has averaged in 13 seasons. On top of that forward Grant Hill, who Clippers also signed this off-season has yet to play this season because of a knee injury. Hill who as averaged 17.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 4.2 apg hopes to be back on the court in mid-January according to the Los Angeles Times report that came out four days ago.

The other key for the Clippers to be a serious contender when we get to April is can they play the kind of defense that gives you a chance to contend for a title?


If Friday’s victory was any indication, despite the fact that it was the Kings, than the Clippers are well on their way.

The Clippers outrebounded the Kings 53-32, which included 16 offensive rebounds. They held the Kings to 41.8 percent shooting from the field, had 13 blocks and had 13 steals.

On Sunday at the Suns the Clippers outrebounded their opponent 44-41. They had 12 steals, seven blocks and forced 16 turnovers.

For the season, the Clippers offensively are scoring 101.2 ppg (9th NBA) and allowing just 91.6 ppg (4th NBA). That point differential of +9.6 is the best in the NBA. They also rank 2nd in the league in assists at 23.3 per contest and Paul is second in the league at 9.6. The Clippers are No. 1 in the league in steals at 10.7 per contest and 7th in shot blocking at 6.5 per contest. Paul leads the league in steals at 2.7 per contest.

The one weakness in the Clippers game that could hold them back from maybe winning it all this season is their shooting at the free throw line.

While as a team, they are shooting 73.7 percent from the charity stripe, Griffin this season is shooting just 61.8 percent and for his career is just a 52.5 percent free throw shooter. Jordan this season is shooting just 42.2 percent from the foul line and for his career is shooting just 43.8 percent.

It has been a long hard road for the Clippers to gain traction in Los Angeles. They have had so much turnover from players and coaches and finally they have stability with coach Del Negro. Stars in Paul and Griffin who put in the work to be great on the court and they have one of the deepest benches in the league.

That has resulted in the quickest march to the 20-win mark and only the sixth time they have accomplished that feet, which includes last season when the team was 20-11.

This is a far cry from the 19-63 record that they had back in 2008-09 and nobody knows how far they have come better than coach Del Negro.

“You have to have players. You have to have talent. You have to have guys believing in what you’re doing, and find ways to win and be consistent,” Del Negro said on Friday.

“I think the guys are learning and understanding what it takes to play at a high level consistently. It’s a good thing to have a target on your back, but that also brings responsibility to play at a high level as often as possible.”

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 12/22/12 7 a.m. edition of NBA TV’s “Gametime” with Rick Kamla, Steve Smith and Sam Mitchell; Sporting News 2006-07 Official NBA Guide; article “Clippers Set Franchise Mark with 12th Straight Win” and “Blake Griffin, Chris Paul guide Clippers to 13th Straight Win;”;;;;;

J-Speaks: Detroit Lions’ Receiver Calvin Johnson Makes History

When you say the name Jerry Rice, what follows in how he can be described is the word G.O.A.T. Meaning he is one of the greatest of all-time. Were talking about the all-time leader in receptions with 1,549, touchdown receptions with 197 and a total of 208 and receiving yards with 22,895. He also had a work ethic that was second to none which allowed him to play at the Hall of Fame level that he did and allowed him to become the Hall of Famer that he is today. One of the main records that he has held for 17 years is the single-season mark for receiving yards which he set back in 1995. On Saturday night a Detroit Lion wideout out of Georgia Tech who has just about the same work ethic as Rice did placed his name in the National Football League history books.

Despite falling to the Atlanta Falcons(13-2) 31-18, who are the National Football Conference South Division champions of 2012 and clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on Saturday night, Lions (4-11) wide receiver Calvin Johnson’s 11 receptions for 225 yards gave him 1892 yards for the season and broke the record for receiving yards in a single season.

To understand the meaning of this great accomplishment, although it came in defeat, prior to Rice’s 1848 receiving yards 17 years ago, the previous record was by wideout Charley Hennigan of the Houston Oilers who had 1,746 receiving yards in 1961. Ten years prior former wideout Elroy Hirsch of the Los Angeles Rams and the then Chicago Rockets had the record of 1,495 yards.

Also on Saturday night, Johnson set the NFL record for consecutive 100-yard receiving games with eight and consecutive games with 10-plus receptions with four. He also tied Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys for most 100-yard games in a season with 11; entered into a tie for second all-time for the most 200-yard receiving games in NFL history with four and set the record for most receptions within a calendar month with 44 catches in the month of December. That ties Rice (1985-95), Hennigan (1961-62) and former Green Bay Packer Don Hutson (1942-44).

“It’s a huge accomplishment to take one of those records from the great Jerry. All the work that we put in this year is I guess you can say well deserved,” Johnson said after the game to ESPN’s Lisa Salters.

What makes this record setting performance, all be it in a loss, which was the Lions seventh consecutive, is the fact that he has been able to have the level of consistency and each defense that he is going against is geared to stop him.

It also has not helped that some of the other wide receiver on the Lions like Titus Young, Nate Burleson and rookie Ryan Broyles as well as tight end Brandon Pettigrew were missing in action on Saturday due to injury.

What has also helped Johnson become a great player is his work ethic.

One constant that is talked about around NFL circles is the fact that the man who goes by the nickname “Megatron,” which was given to him by former Lion wideout Roy Williams is that he takes great pride in his craft. What you see on Sundays is the result of preparation consistent work at his craft in the off-season and the work that is put in during the week of the regular season.

It is that kind of work that began at Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, GA, where in his sophomore and junior years he had 74 catches for4 1,382 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was rated in the top 10 of wideouts and one of the 1op 100 players by nearly every recruiting analyst. He was the No. 1 rated football player in the state of Georgia, the No. 12 rated player in the Southeast and the No. 37 rated player in the nation according to at that time.

At Georgia Institute of Technology where Johnson played for current Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey used the same great work ethic that made him into a great high school football player into and amazing football player in college.

In his three seasons as a Yellow Jacket (2004-2006), Johnson recorded 2,927 receiving yards. He became a two-time All-American (2005, 2006). He was named to the First-Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in all three years. Johnson was ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 and was named ACC Rookie of the Week four times. He saved his best for last in 2006 where he won the Biletnikoff and Paul Warfield Awards for the best wideout in college football. He also finished 10th in the Heisman voting last season for his 76 catches for 1,202 yards and 15 scores.

In the classroom Johnson also excelled. In the summer that same year, the management major with a background in building construction was given the option of working on either constructing environmentally friendly luxury condos or doing a project building solar latrines to improve sanitation in Bolivia. Johnson chose to latter as he wanted to help the less fortunate.

With a career in the NFL waiting in the wings, Johnson made his decision on Jan. 8, 2007 to enter the draft that year. He was hyped as one of the best athletes to come out of the draft and he was rated No. 1 on most draft boards.

He did not disappoint at his workout as he was clocked at an unbelievable 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his pro-day at Georgia Tech. He clocked in at 4.33 seconds at a mid-February workout with speed and conditioning coach Mark Pearsall.

When the NFL Draft came that April in 2007 the Detroit Lions selected Johnson with the second overall pick.

The next day, he was invited by the city’s professional baseball team the Tigers to throw the first pitch.

After holding out for eight days of mini-camp, Johnson signed a 6-year $64 million contract with $27.2 million guaranteed.

In his rookie season, Johnson finished with 48 receptions for 756 yards and five touchdowns. The next season, he really made a name for himself with 67 catches for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best season all across the board was last season when he posted 96 catches for 1,681 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns (Lions record for a season.

Like all great players, he saved his best for last at the end of that regular season where he recorded a career-best 244 receiving yards in a 45-41 loss to the NFC North Division arch rival Green Bay Packers.

Despite the loss, the Lions made the playoffs for the first time since 1999 going 10-6, finishing second in the NFC North. Their first playoff appearance would be a short one as they lost at the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card game 45-28. Johnson played well in the game catching 12 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns. In defeat he also broke the record of 150 receiving yards in a postseason game that was previously held by Brett Perriman and Leonard Thompson.

With all the production that Johnson has had, especially in the last two seasons, it is not possible with a prolific passer to get the ball to him and he has that in Matthew Stafford. Johnson knows better than anyone that all that he has accomplished is not possible without him.

“It’s half his too. He’s the one delivering me the ball every week,” Johnson said to the media after the game.

What has made Johnson a special player besides his production on the field and the work ethic he shows that allows him to excel on the field is the humility that he shows off of it.

There are a lot of great wide receivers in the NFL today and there have been a great many for as far back as we can remember. A lot of them though have a lot of flamboyance that they show that turns a lot of people off, especially when they score touchdowns. Those are things that Johnson rarely has shown in his NFL career and as mentioned before he is willing to put the work in at his craft. It is something that has earned him a great deal of respect from his team as well as his peers around the NFL.

“I’m a fan. I really am. He’s an unbelievable player. One of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met and couldn’t have happened to a better person,” Falcons signal caller Matt Ryan said of Johnson after the game to Salters.

“If somebody would’ve told me at the beginning of the season that the record of 18 something then I would’ve put my money on him to break it,” Stafford said after the game.

“He’s a pleasure to throw the ball to and obviously a pleasure to be a teammate with. Just the way he carries himself and the way he works.”

In a season where everything has gone wrong for the Lions both on and off the field, Calvin Johnson is the reason why a glimmer of hope remains in the Motor City. This great player is not only talented but he cares about his team, the city he plays for and the person he is. It would be very easy especially the way this season has gone after so much promise last season, but Johnson has shown what a true pros is supposed to do, prepare and produce.

That preparation has led to the production of the aforementioned single-season receiving record of 1892 yards this season. It is also how he became the first player in NFL history to have consecutive seasons of at least 1,600 receiving yards and have a franchise record of three seasons with 10-plus touchdowns. On top of that it is what allows the team to sign you to an eight-year $132 million contract extension, with $60 million guaranteed.

It is this type of work ethic and commitment to your craft that allows rewarding moments to have a chance to knock at your door and is something that earns you the respect and places you in the same conversations among the best that have played or play in the NFL It is something that Lions head coach Jim Schwartz has seen as an NFL fan as a kid and as a coach.

“I grew up in Baltimore [MD] with Hall of Famers like Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry and a lot of great players in the history of the National Football League. I’ve coached for 19 years in the NFL, I’ve never seen a better player than Calvin Johnson and I’ll say what I said when we signed him in the spring to that contract extension. As good players as you see on the field, he’s a better person. He’s a better teammate,” Schwartz said.

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 12/22/12 ESPN Special Edition of Monday Night Football with Mike Tirico, John Gruden and Lisa Salters; 12/22/12 11:30 p.m. edition of ESPN “Sportscenter” with Jay Harris and John Buccigross;;;;;;;;

J-Speaks: The Passing of Great on the Gridiron and The Silver and Small Screen

There are very few people who can say that they were great in two different jobs in their life. This gentleman from Gary, IN was one of them. He first came to notoriety on the gridiron where he was an amazing player at the University of Iowa and then played for 12 seasons in the NFL and he then followed it up with an amazing career on the big and small screen. Unfortunately in his later years of life, he suffered several health problems that came from playing the game that he loved and made him special. This past Wednesday this man who went from being one of the most feared defensive lineman on the gridiron, to an outlaw with a heart of gold on the big screen, to a touching father on the small screen and had his story come to a conclusion.

On the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 10, former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras, who also played George Papadapolis on the television sitcom “Webster” and Mongo in the Western comedy “Blazing Saddles,” passed away at his home in Los Angeles, CA from complications from kidney failure. The 77-year-old passed on surrounded by his family according to his attorney Craig Mitnick.

Karras is survived by his wife of 32 years Susan Clark, who also played his wife on “Webster.” They first met while filming the made-for-television biopic Babe for CBS. They had a daughter together. He was also married to Joan Jurgensen for 17 years and they had five children together. They divorced in 1975.

According to the Oct. 11 edition of Newsday, Clark had said that Karras began showing signs of dementia over 12 years ago. She also said that his quality of life deteriorated because of many injuries to his head that he sustained during his playing career. It had gotten so bad that he could no longer do everyday things like drive a car. Karras could not even remember some of his favorite Italian and Greek dishes that he would cook on a regular basis.

Back in April, Karras became the lead plaintiff in a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, PA. He was one of 3,500 retired NFL players that accused the league that gave them the chance of a lifetime not doing a better job of protecting them from head injuries.

“Alex Karras was an outstanding player during a time when the NFL emerged as America’s favorite sport,” the NFL said in a statement.

“He will always be remembered as one of the most colorful characters in NFL history.”

Karras was born on July 15, 1935. He is the son of Dr. George Karras, a Greek immigrant who graduated from the University of Chicago and got his medical degree in Canada. In Canada is where he met and married a Canadian woman Emmeline Wilson. George opened a medical practice in Gary, IN, but passed away when Alex was 13 years old.

At that time is when Alex began his football journey where he went from playing in the parking lot near his childhood home to becoming a four-time Indiana all-state selection at Gary Emerson High School.

His brothers Lou, who became a future member of the Washington Redskins and Ted who later played for the Chicago Bears and Lions had played at Purdue, but he transferred to Indiana.

When it came time to select where he wanted to go to college, several coaches from the Iowa to Karras to Spencer, IA away from rival recruits and convinced him to sign with the Hawkeyes.

While he struggled in the beginning of his college career in both the classroom and on the field, he hit his stride when he befriended a Greek theater owner as well as his teammates Cal Jones and Bob Cummings.

One signature moment of his college career came in his junior season of 1956 when he sealed a 6-0 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes when he sacked the quarterback on the final play of the game. The victory clinched the Big Ten title for Iowa and its first ever Rose Bowl berth, in which they went on to defeat the Oregon State Beavers 35-19.

In the team’s final game of that season was against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, which they defeated 48-8 and Karras called the game his biggest college win, saying, “The Karrases have always had a rivalry with Notre Dame. The school was just 60 miles down the road from our home and we wanted to beat ‘me at anything.”

In his senior season, Karras was the most dominant lineman in the nation, winning the 1957 Outland Trophy and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.

To put this in perspective, the only lineman ever to win the Heisman was Notre Dame defensive end Leon Hart, who accomplished that great feet in 1949.

After a great career at Iowa, he would enter the 1958 NFL Draft and was selected with the 10th overall pick by the Detroit Lions.

In his 12 seasons in the NFL, Karras made the Pro Bowl on four occasions and was a three-time All-Pro selection. He also received recognition from the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he was selected to the All-Decade Team of the 1960s. The Lions during that time period as a team were over .500 six times, but they made the playoffs only once. That was in 1970 when they went 10-4, which was Karras’ final season. Aside from 1970, the Lions two other great seasons were in 1962 when they went 11-3, allowing just 177 points that season, which is an average of 12.6 ppg. In the 1969 the Lions went 9-4-1, surrendering just 188 points that season, an average of 13.4 points per contest. In 1970, the Lions surrendered 202 points that season, a 14.4 per game average.

In all three seasons, the Lions ranked second in the NFL thanks a great deal to the stellar defensive line of Karras and his sidekick Roger Brown.

That great defensive in the divisional playoff game in 1970 against the Dallas Cowboys, the Lions did not allow a touchdown they lost 5-0. It was Karras’ only appearance in the playoffs and it was the final game of his NFL career He retired at age 35.

His time in the NFL was not smooth sailing though as he had a number of run-ins. One of them included being suspended for the entire 1963 season by then Commissioner Pete Rozelle because of his involvement in a gambling probe. Karras insisted that he only put wages on cigarettes or cigars for friends.

While he made a name for himself on the gridiron in both college and the pros, Karras gained the hearts of Americans as an actor on the silver and small screen.

In 1968, he played himself in the film adaptation of George Plimpton’s nonfiction sports book “Paper Lion.”

He really made a name for himself to the world at large in Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles (1974),” where he Mongo, a night the brightest bowl in the China shop, but physically strong outlaw who slugged a horse.

He is best known in the movie for the very classic line, “Mongo only pawn in game of life.”

In that same year, American Broadcasting Company (ABC) brought him in to replace Fred Williamson as a commentator for “Monday Night Football.”

He worked his role in the booth for three years before leaving after the 1976 season. He is best remembered for his comment in his first game when he joked that bald Oakland Raiders’ lineman Otis Sistrunk, who never went to college was from “the University of Mars.”

When Karras returned to acting he was able to secure roles that include playing Sheriff Wallace in “Porky’s” and as western settler Hans Brumbaugh in ‘Centennial.”

In 1982 he played James Gardner’s closeted gay bodyguard in the Blake Edwards’ movie “Victor Victoria.”

In 1984 he played Hank Sully, the right-hand-man of villain of James Woods character Jake Wise in the film “Against All Odds.”

Karras also appeared on “M*A*S*H” in the episode ‘Springtime,” “The Odd Couple” and he had a brief run on “Match Game 75.”

Karras rose to greatness in the 1980s on the hit show “Webster,” where he played the adoptive father George Papadapolis to Emmanuel Lewis character “Webster.”

He and his wife Susan Clark not only starred on the show, they were also producers of the show through their Georgian Bay Entertainment production company.

“I have a very heavy heart this morning and I did not know why. I understand now,” Clark said back in October. “Rest in peace, my friend.”

There are very few people in this world that can say that they made a great name for themselves in sports and as an actor. Alex Karras can say he was able to do both. He was tough on the gridiron and he was sensational in front of the camera. He is also one of many examples of how the game that brought him to greatness ended up leading to the end of his life years later. It is because of his passing why the NFL and football in general is under a serious microscope and why the game that has become the best in the nation has made changes to protect players better.

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of and Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 Newsday article in the Obituaries section “Detroit football great and sitcom dad Alex Karras, 77” by Larry Lage of The Associated Press.

Monday, December 17, 2012

J-Speaks: Kobe Bryant Reaches A Historic Milestone

From the moment he came into the NBA back in 1997 Kobe Bryant has had a flair for greatness. A will to get better everyday and a relentless determination to get the job done. As a result he has made multiple all-star teams and has won multiple championships. He has also been able to score a incredible amount of points and back on Wednesday Dec. 5 he joined some very special company.

In the Los Angeles Lakers’ 103-87 victory at the New Orleans Hornets, Bryant scored on a runner in the lane with 1:16 left in the second quarter surpassed 30,000 points making him the fifth player in the history of the National Basketball Association to reach that mark. He also became the youngest player at 34 years 104 days at the time to reach that milestone.

He joins Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points), Karl Malone (36,928 points) Michael Jordan (32,292 points) and Wilt Chamberlin (31,419 points).

To really understand the true value of this great accomplishment, Bryant became the youngest player at 34 years and 104 days old to reach the 30,000 point plateau. He was also the youngest player to reach the 20,000 point plateau. Chamberlin though reached this milestone in the shortest amount of time needing just 941 games. Jordan did it in 960 games; Abdul-Jabbar in 1,101; Malone in 1,152 and Bryant in 1,179.

In the month of December alone, Bryant who scored 34 points on 12 for 21 from the field in a 111-98 at the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday is averaging 34.2 ppg on 45.8 percent from the floor in the month of December. He is the first player in NBA history to have six consecutive 30 point performances at age 34 or older. He currently leads the NBA in scoring at 29.5 points per contest and has scored 30 points 398 times in his career.

“It’s just a tremendous honor,” Bryant told reporters after the game where he scored 29 points in the victory and is the only time in the last nine Laker contest that he did not score 30 points or more.

“Whenever your hearing those kind of names, you think about the amount of players that have played this game and to be in that kind of company is always extremely special,” Bryant told reporters earlier this month.

NBA Commissioner David Stern, who witness 30,000-point milestone of Abdul-Jabbar was on hand at New Orleans Arena to witness Bryant’s accomplishment.

“Kobe has such an extraordinary run playing at the highest level for so long with the championships to prove it in a league that is extremely competitive,” Stern said to reporters before that game.

Bryant was very complementary of Stern as well when he said, “He’s done a lot for the game and obviously this kind of being his last in office and so forth. It really means a lot.”

One other very fascinating fact about this exclusive quintet is that four of the five players play or played for the Lakers at one point in their amazing careers. It is something that is not lost on Kobe Bryant or his backcourt mate who came into the league with as rookies back in 1996.

“Its amazing to think back in 1996 when we were both rookies and what Kobe has accomplished in his career. What he’s been to the city of L.A. To the Lakers fans. Its amazing,” said former Laker guard and current member of the Dallas Mavericks Derek Fisher, who played for the Lakers from 1996-2004 and 2007-2012.

While Bryant has had a great season individually up to this point, the team as a whole has underachieved. Despite a big win at the aforementioned Sixers on Sunday, the team is currently 11-14 on the outside of the playoffs looking in.

On top of that their victory over the Sixers was just the second time this season the Lakers have won back-to-back games. Prior to the last two victories when Bryant scored 30 points or more, the Lakers were lost 10 of those 11 opportunities.

They have played almost all of this season without their prized acquisition in the off-season, point guard Steve Nash because of an injured fibula. The team’s second best frontcourt player Pau Gasol has missed the last eight games with tendonitis in both knees. The other prized acquisition in Lakers received in the off-season center Dwight Howard, while has put up solid numbers of 18.2 ppg, 11.9 rpg and 2.6 bpg has yet to be the difference maker many hoped he would be.

They hope that their last performance at the Sixers is a sign of things to come as Bryant played well scoring an aforementioned 34 and Metta World Peace had 19 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Howard had 17 points 11 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Rookie guard Darius Morris had 15 points going 5 for 8 from the floor, including 3 for 5 from three-point range. Starting lead guard Chris Duhon had 14 points hitting 4 for 10 from three-point land and Jodie Meeks added 12 points off the bench.

The Lakers shot 48.8 percent from the floor and went 14 from 34 from three-point land. This on the heels of shooting 45 percent and hitting just eight threes on 29 attempts in their 102-96 victory at the Washington Wizards.

“The thing I’m most happy about is the energy that were playing with. Even though we’ve beat Washington and its Philadelphia and its not a Oklahoma [City Thunder]. Its not a San Antonio [Spurs], were playing with a better spirit. Were playing with more energy. That’s what I like,” Bryant said after the game on Sunday.

Kobe Bryant came into this league with a splash. He started at the 1997 NBA All-Star Game in 1997 when he won the Slam Dunk contest. He finished his rookie season making the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Since then he has made 14 all-star teams, starting each one since his second year in the league and has won the Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) in the game four times (2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011). He ranks third and fifth on the NBA’s all-time post-season scoring and all-time regular season scoring list respectably. He has been named to the All-NBA first team 10 times; All-NBA Second Team twice and the All-NBA Third Team twice. He has been selected nine times to the NBA All-Defensive First Team and to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team three times. He was named MVP of the NBA in 2008. He is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers.

While all of those individual accomplishments are great, the two which are without question the most important to him are the five titles he has helped the Lakers win and the two Olympic Gold medals he garnered with Team USA.

Lakers broadcaster Joel Meyers said it best when Bryant scored his 30,001-point, “Kobe Bryant, the greatest player in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers has just joined some very elite company.”

He would like to make some more history this June as if Lakers do win it all, Bryant would garner his sixth ring, which would tie him with the player that he is most compared to, Michael Jordan. He understands for that top happen though, Nash and Gasol must get back on the court and the team must grow into the cohesive unit that many expect to be.

Information, quotations and statistics are courtesy of 12/16/12 5:30 a.m. edition of NBA Action on NBA TV; 12/17/12 1:30 a.m. edition of NBA TV’s Gametime with Rick Kamla, Brent Barry and Steve Smith; Dec. 7, 2012 article “Kobe Bryant Youngest to 30,000” by Dave McMenamin;;

Monday, December 3, 2012

J-Speaks: The Loss of A Legend of the Collegiate Hardwood

There are very few coaches that can say they put a product on the hardwood that produced year in and year out. This man did it and he did it for 25 years. In that period of time, he only had one season where his team did not finish with a winning record. While he was making sure his teams were ready to compete on the hardwood in 23 of those 25 seasons this great coach battled heart issues. Two weeks ago, the health of his heart became so serious that he was forced to resign his head coaching position with the Saint Louis Billikens. Two night ago, this great coach and former college basketball analyst for ESPN lost that battle.

On Saturday night in Los Angeles, former college basketball coach Rick Majerus passed away from heart failure in an L.A. hospital. He was 64 years old. He is survived by his sisters Jodi and Tracy Majerus.

In his 25-year as a college coach at Marquette University Warriors, now Golden Eagles, Ball State University Cardinals, Utah Utes and Billikens, Majerus compiled a 517-216 record. He had only one losing season in those 25 years, which was a 12-19 in St. Louis in 2010-11 season.

Along the way, he claimed so individual honors. He was the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Coach of the Year five times (1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 (media), 1999. District Coach of the Year four times (1991, 1993, 1995, 1996); United Press International (UPI) Coach of the Year and Basketball Times National Coach of the Year in 1991; Utah Sports Person of the Year in 1992 and 1997.

“He was a unique guy. He’s one of the great teachers of the game of all-time. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I saw how emotional he was last year at the press conference at the NCAA tournament,” ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Faschilla said on Saturday.

“He could be demanding. He can be at times crude, but ultimately the vast majority of his players loved Rick because he got the most out of them.”

The Rick Majerus journey began Sheboygan Falls, WI on Feb. 17, 1948. After graduating from Marquette University High School in 1966, he attended Marquette University, where he tried out for the basketball team as a walk-on in the 1967 season. While he did not make the team, he stayed on as a student assistant.

Three years after he graduated with his degree in history, Majerus began coaching eighth-graders at St. Sebastian Grade School in Milwaukee, WI. He then moved on to coach the freshmen boys basketball team at his high school alma mater.

From 1971-83 he was an assistant coach at the his alma mater Marquette under mentor Al McGuire. He would get his first chance as the head man of Marquette in 1983 taking over for Hank Raymonds. In three seasons Majerus went 56-35.

At Marquette one of the players that played there back then was a man who would go on to play 13 seasons in the NBA for the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs and followed it up by being an excellent head coach in the NBA. That player was Glenn “Doc” Rivers, the current head coach of the Boston Celtics, who he helped guide to an NBA title back in 2008.

“It’s a tough one for me. He’s the one who gave me my name,” Rivers said after the Celtics lost 91-88 at the Bucks on Saturday night.

“I knew before he wasn’t going to make it through tonight…”

He then moved on to be an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) under the leadership of Hall of Famer Don Nelson. The Bucks went 50-32 that season and lost to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics in the Conference Semifinals in seven games.

Majerus then moved on to coach at Ball State where he helped lead the Cardinals to a 43-17 record in his two seasons. He led them to a first place finish in the 1988-89 and they lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The next year he moved on to Utah where he would make his name as a basketball coach.

It did not start well in the beginning because after just six games in his first season on the bench, Majerus took a leave of absence to undergo heart surgery. The team went 4-2 in those first six outings and they were coached by assistant Joe Cravens the remainder of that season.

Majerus came back the next year in good health and the Utes went 30-4, going 15-1 in WAC play and finishing first in the conference. They lost however in the Sweet Sixteen. In six of the next eight season, the Utes under Majerus finished first in the WAC and made it to the NCAA tournament.

His best season at Utah came in 1998 where his third-seeded Utah Utes defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks, Arizona Wildcats and North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA tournament to reach the national championship game. While they held a 10-point lead at intermission, they lost to Kentucky 78-69 in that national final.

The loss greatly affected Majerus to the point that he claimed to be able to recall the final six minutes of play in that title contest from the first second right down to the last.

Majerus would never reach another title game and after 15 seasons on the Utes sideline and 323 victories, he departed because he wanted to get control of his health. Back in 1989 he underwent seven vessel bypass surgery to his heart.

On Dec. 15, 2004, Majerus was hired as the head coach of the University of Southern California Trojans basketball team.

At the introductory press conference, he said, “I hope I die here. I hope I coach here the rest of my life.”

In order to take the position though, he needed to buy himself out of his contract to be a college basketball color analyst for ESPN.

Majerus out of the blue resigned just five days later sighting during a very somber press conference that his health and fitness were not up to the stage that would allow him to perform his head coaching duties noting, “ I wanted this job so bad I was in denial where my health actually is… I realized [USC] wasn’t getting the guy they hired. I came to the conclusion myself. I’m not fit for this job by my standards.”

Years later Majerus said the true reason he changed his mind was that his mother, who passed away on Aug. 6, 2011, requested that he not take the job because he would have to relocate to L.A., which is very far from her home in Wisconsin.

Majerus took the gig with ESPN where he worked as an college basketball game color analyst as well as a studio analyst.

On Apr. 27, 2007 Majerus left ESPN to become the head coach at St. Louis University accepting a six-year contract.

Unfortunately Majerus’ Billikens did not have the kind of success that he had in his first three stops. The team while they did finish above .500 in four of those five seasons, they only made the NCAA tournament once, which occurred last season and they lost in the third round. The team went 95-69 in those five seasons.

On Aug. 24, 2012, Majerus announced that he would be taking medical leave and would not coach this upcoming season.

Back on Nov. 16, it was announced that Majerus would not return at all to the coach at St. Louis.

When we look back on the memory of coach Rick Majerus, it is clear to say that he was different. He was funny, emotional, caring and he loved coaching the game. He had a way of being the kind of person who could laugh at himself and had no problem wearing his emotions on his sleeve.

With all of that said, he was a very competitive person who wanted to put a team on the hardwood that would compete and win when the time came.

“He could be very demanding. He can be at times crude, but ultimately the vast majority of his players loved Rick because he got the most out of them,” Fraschilla said on Saturday.

Three players who benefited from coach Majerus’s coaching were Andre Miller, Michael Doleac and Keith Van Horn who played for him at Utah and became first round picks in the NBA Draft. Van Horn was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1997 playing nine seasons for the New Jersey Nets, 76ers, New York Knicks, Bucks and Dallas Mavericks. Doleac was drafted 12th overall and played 10 seasons for the Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Knicks, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves. Miller was drafted 8th overall in the 1999 draft and is currently in his second tour of duty with the Nuggets. He previously played for the Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers, 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers.

“Majerus is by far the best coach I ever played for,” Doleac told Sports Illustrated, according to a Dec. 3 New York Times article.

“He’s got an unbelievable ability to see the game. If you coach kids for a week, after a while you get tired of correcting them. But he never lets go.”

It is sad that one of the best of the college hardwood Rick Majerus is gone, but his influence is still alive thanks in part to the coaches who worked alongside him in his career are still coaching.

Porter Moser is the head basketball coach at Loyola (Illinois); Dick Hunsaker is now at Utah Valley; Alex Jensen is coaching the Canton Charge of the NBA Developmental League, who also played for Majerus at Utah and was his assistant at St. Louis; Jeff Judkins is coaching the BYU Lady Cougars and Kerry Rupp is the interim head coach at Utah.

Information, quotations and statistics are courtesy of 12/2/12 5 a.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter” with Cindy Brunson and Adnan Virk;;;;;SportingNews Official 2006-07 NBA Guide. Dec. 3, 2012 The New York Times article by Richard Goldstein entitled “Rick Majerus, College Basketball Coach, Dies at 64.”

Saturday, September 22, 2012

J-Speaks: Team USA Wins Gold at Beijing Olympics

In 2004 in Athens, the United States Men’s Basketball for the first time since NBA players started competing in Olympics in 1992 they did not win a gold medal. They finished in third place claiming a bronze medal, while Spain captured gold. From that point on they completely changed their approach to how they put a team together to compete on the world stage. It first started by naming Duke University Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The also said to each player that wanted to try out for the 2008 team that they needed a three-year commitment to the process. It all worked in 2008 as Team USA reclaimed gold as they beat the Spanish National Team. Back on Sunday, Aug. 12, Team USA was in the same position and produced the same result.

In a thrilling contest, Team USA defeated Spain 107-100 to win their second consecutive gold medal and capture their 14 overall gold medal in Olympic play.

They won their 50 consecutive game in international play dating back to 2005 and their 17 straight victory in the Olympics.

They won all eight of their contest in the Olympics and they won by an average of 32.1 points per contest. In this run they averaged 115.5 points per contest; shot over 53 percent from the floor; averaged 44.6 rebounds and averaged 25 assists per contest.

The team was led by the three top scorers in the NBA this past season. Oklahoma City Thunder forward and top scorer in the NBA in 2011-12 Kevin Durant (27.9 ppg) led the way with 30 points and nine rebounds on 8 for 18 shooting, including going 5 for 13 from three-point range. Miami Heat forward LeBron James (27.1 ppg) had 19 points, seven boards and two steals going 8 for 13 from the field. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (27.9 ppg), who said after the game that this was going to be his last Olympic appearance had 17 points. Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul finished with 11 points.

Spain was paced by Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who scored 15 of his team high 24 points in the third quarter to keep Spain close. He also had eight boards. Juan-Carlos Navarro had 21 points, hitting 4 for 9 from three-point range. Memphis Grizzles center Marc Gasol had 17 points. Rudy Fernandez had 14 points and six boards and Thunder forward Serge Ibaka also scored in double figures with 12 points hitting 8 for 10 from the free throw line and grabbing nine rebounds.

“When the horn goes off, that’s the time you kind of let it go. It’s been a long journey for us all, but this game was fun,” Bryant, who won his second gold medal and scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to help Team USA beat Spain back in 2008 said to NBC’s Craig Sager after the game.

“It was a challenge and we stepped up to it.”

To fully understand what Team USA accomplished in these Olympics, here are some of the records that fell in this 38-day run.

Durant who averaged 19.5 points per game and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony who averaged 16.3 points per game in the Olympics became the first duo to average over 17 points per Olympic contests since hall of famers Jerry West and Spencer Haywood. In fact Durant broke Haywood’s record for most points scored in one Olympics with 156 points. Haywood scored 145 points in 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Former “Dream Team” player Charles Barkley in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona scored 144 points and former teammate and fellow hall of famer Michael Jordan scored 137 points in the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

On 16 occasions in this Olympics has a member of Team USA scored double-digits in a quarter. In the Semifinals versus Argentina, Bryant scored 11 points in the first quarter; Anthony scored 12 in the third quarter and Durant had 12 points in the fourth quarter.

In the Aug. 2 preliminary game against Nigeria they scored a U.S.A. Olympic record 156 points in an Olympic record 83-point win. They made an Olympic record 59 field goals, which included 29 three’s on 46 attempts. Anthony scored a US Olympic record 37 points going 13 for 16 from the field, including making 10 three’s in 12 tries in just 14 minutes and 29 seconds. The previous mark was held by former NBA player Stephon Marbury who scored 31 points in an Olympic game back in 2004.

One player who really made this Olympics his coming out party and showed the world that he is one of the very best is James.

In the last four games alone, he showed why he was named Most Valuable Player in the NBA in three of the last four seasons.

In the Aug. 4 preliminary game he scored nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter in Team USA’s 99-94 win versus Lithuania. Two days later versus Argentina he authored the first seven points of the third quarter finishing with 18 points in all in Team USA’s 126-97 win. In the Aug. 8, quarterfinals against Australia, James recorded the first triple-double in US Olympic history with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in the 119-86 win. In the Semifinals versus Argentina, James had 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

He did as he did during the regular season and in the Heat’s run to the title played a all around brand of ball that made his team better and silenced all the critics that made their voices very clear when he “took his talents to South Beach” and went down in defeat in the Finals in 2011 to the Dallas Mavericks. One year later he became just the second player in Olympic history to be named MVP of the regular season, the Finals, to win a championship and a gold medal. The other is Michael Jordan who accomplished all of that in 1992. He also joined Anthony and David Robinson to be the only American players to win three medals in the Olympic. He also in these Olympic passed hall of famer Scottie Pippen into first all-time in US Olympic in assists and passed Barkley into third place all-time in US Olympic scoring with 266 points. James and Anthony were on the 2004 team that came in third in the Olympics garnering the bronze medal.

“I just wanted to try to make an imprint on the game. I had four fouls, but when I got back into the game, I wasn’t going to leave home with those four fouls. I just wanted to try to come in, be aggressive and blessed enough that I was able to make a couple of shots to help out team win,” James said to Sager after the game.

No one understands how much James meant to this team and how great of a player than he is than Coach K who said, “He’s the best player in the game right now… He understands the game and there’s not a part of the game that he cannot do well. He can play every position and he’s a great student of the game.”

Speaking of the Duke University Blue Devils head coach, he along with USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo together helped to remake a team that prior to the last two Olympics that resulted in gold medal finishes, saw their standing in the world fall after their third place finish in Athens in 2004.

When Colangelo became the Managing Director in 2005, he set out to change the culture of USA basketball and put together a team that would put the US back on top of the mountain. In the selection process this time around he wanted the players that were selected to try out for the team to make a three-year commitment to Team USA. The other part is that it was not just about picking the 12 best players for the team, it was about pick the 12 best that were going to work together. In Coach K, Colangelo selected a head coach that embodies that way of thinking.

It is no wonder why the 2008 team had players like Tayshaun Prince, Carlos Boozer, Michael Redd, Chris Bosh, Deron Williams and Jason Kidd to go alongside the likes of Anthony, Bryant, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade. The 2012 team had Tyson Chandler, James Harden, Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis that went alongside Durant, James, Bryant, Anthony and Paul.

You had superstar players mixed in with role players who did the little things that do not show up in the box score and who believe in team first.

These are things Coach K stresses and believes in. Teamwork, commitment, respect, courage and a willingness to prepare for the moment to be great.

That is how you go 62-1, with the only loss coming in the 2006 FIBA World Championships to Greece, help lead your team to four gold medals (2007 FIBA, 2008 and 2012 Olympics and the 2010 World Championships).

It also allows this 65-year old proud graduate of West Point Academy that has four NCAA National titles to his credit to express true joy and exuberance like Coach when he Paul scored a lay-up at end of the 24-second shot clock to put Team USA up 104-93 and Coach K jumped in the air to show how he felt after a great play was made.

“They cooperated Craig fully. Basically they said to me we’ll do anything you want me to,” Krzyzewski, who said that this was his last game as Team USA head coach, said to Sager after the game.

“We’ll not play, come off the bench. What ever you say coach will do and they’ve done that every second that I’ve coach this program for the last seven years. That level of cooperation I don’t think people can truly appreciate it. I never have a problem with them in how you sub or whatever your doing. Their attitudes are amazing.”

The question now is, who will replace Coach K and coach in the 2016 Olympics in Rio?

Two guys off the cuff that come to mind would be San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich or maybe Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. The one name though that would be a wild card is Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins.

Whoever it is, they will have a great opportunity in front of them as well as a major challenge to continue the run of greatness that Team USA has had. The one thing that will be in the favor of that new head coach is that they will have players who will bring an amazing attitude about winning and hard work.

The amazing attitudes of the 2012 team began with James, Bryant and Durant, three guys who are not just the three best scorers in the NBA, but three guys who understand the standard that they have to live up to and what playing for your country means.

“This is all about U.S.A. It’s not about me. Its about these three letters on our chest and we’re happy that we were able to represent our country the right way and bring home the gold,” James said to Sager after the game.

“We all appreciate each other and we all know there’s one common goal is to win for our country so we put everything else aside and came out here and played as a group and we got a great gold medal coming back home,” Durant said to Sager after the game.


For most of 2012 USA Men’s Basketball team, they have made great names for themselves as they have both had amazing careers both individually and have had success on the teams that they play or have played on in the pros. To win a gold medal though is very special. It shows that you are the best in the world. Those that are in attendance in the arena get to hear your country’s national anthem, which in the case of the USA The Star Spangles Banner. More than anything else though you get the chance to see grown men, millionaires show joy, excitement and a sense of accomplishment that is unlike any other.

It’s what makes all your prior accomplishments more valuable and the sweat and tears it took to get to those points that much more special.

For Chandler, he won Defensive Player of the Year this past season and was on the 2010 FIBA World Championship team and has a Olympic Gold medal to match. Durant, who won the last three scoring titles in the NBA, was the Most Outstanding Player in the 2010 FIBA Championships won his first Olympic Gold medal. Westbrook won his first Gold medal. Iguodala, who will being playing for the Denver Nuggets this upcoming season after eight years with the Philadelphia 76ers and helping to lead them to the second round of the playoffs this past season won his first Olympic Gold medal. Love, who for the first time in his young NBA career got a chance to be a part of a winning team and can hopefully take what he learned in his time with Team USA and make the Minnesota Timberwolves into a winner this upcoming season and beyond. Harden, who won Sixth Man of the Year this past season and was mentored by Collins who helped him go from a player with who did bring his A game to the table while at Arizona State to one of the best in the NBA. Paul who helped the Clippers become winners again this past season and now has two gold medals. Davis who went from being part of a National Championship team at the University of Kentucky (30-2 in 2011-12), the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft this past June by the New Orleans Hornets to the youngest American basketball player to win a gold medal.

If there is one thing that can also be said about these Olympic is that there is no comparison between this team and the 1992 Dream Team.

For starters that team of Michael Jordan, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Chris Mullin and Christian Laettner and what they did in Barcelona is why NBA players have continued to represented in the Olympics.

In the 1992 Olympics, The “Dream Team” in their 8-0 run to gold averaged 117.3 ppg; shot 58 percent from the floor; averaged 29.9 assists per contest and their average margin of victory was 43.8 ppg.

Two other big differences is that the front line of that team in 1992 of Robinson, Barkley, Ewing, Malone, Pippen is no where in the same class as the front line of the 2012 team. The other factor is that the 92 team had that cache about them. The opposition was overwhelmed that they were on the same court as the players they idolized.

One example of this is the fact that in one game, a player went to tears when Jordan fouled him.

Fast forward 20 years later, there are 80 international players in the NBA and the world as shown in 2004 when Argentina won the gold medal in Athens, the world had caught up to us. Players walked on the court with confidence that they can stand toe to toe with Team USA.

The other thing is that the Dream Team was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010. Eleven of the twelve members of that team individually are in the Hall of Fame, Barkley, Johnson, Jordan, Bird, Ewing, Malone, Stockton, Mullin, Robinson, Drexler and Pippen. All 11 of these players played in the NBA Finals at least once and have a combined 22 rings and all 11 played in at least one all-star game. They also have won a combined 14 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards.

The 2012 team came into these Olympics with an impressive team resume themselves with this group of 12 players having a combined 43 All-Star appearances, 22 All-Defensive Team Selections, seven NBA title rings, six scoring titles and four MVP Awards.

What separates the 1992 team from the 2012 team is that the 1992 had some guys that were accomplished and many who as their careers went on were able to get to that top of the mountain and win rings, particularly late in their careers like Jordan, Pippen, Robinson and Drexler or have a chance like Mullin, Stockton and Malone.

The 2012 team, five of the seven rings are from the hands of Bryant, with James and Chandler holding the other two. While James’s and Bryant’s chances of winning another title before their careers are over, the rest of the players their opportunity to win it all will rely on luck and how their teams are constructed this year and beyond.

With all of that being said both the original “Dream Team” and the 2012 team do have a lot in common. They were both lead by Hall of Fame coaches, the late Chuck Daly, who helped lead the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 and Coach K, who has aforementioned four NCAA titles and was an assistant on the 1992 team. They both had a collection of superstars who played well together and were all about the team. Above all they both as Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said in the postgame after Team USA won the gold that it did not matter the money these have made in their careers, how cool they are to the public or the kind of brand that they represent. At the end of the day both the 1992 team and the 2012 team can say that they brought the gold medal back to the US and proved that when it came to basketball, that we have the best team in the world.

“Nothing beats winning. It’s not about the money or being cool or your brand. Winning is winning and watching the celebration you can see they put as Doug Collins said sweat equity into this team and they got a gold medal out of it,” Rivers, whose son Austin Rivers who was drafted No. 10 overall by the Hornets in last June’s draft said.

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of Aug. 2, 2012 10 a.m. Gold Medal game between Spain vs. United States on WNBC commentated by Bob Fitzgerald, Doug Collins and sideline reporter Craig Sager;;

Hall_of_Fame#Teams;’s_Olympic_basketball_team#Roster XXX Summer Olympics coverage on NBC family of networks;;Sporting News Official 2006-07 NBA Guide.

J-Speaks: The U.S.A. Women’s Olympic Team Captures Gold Again

Ever since they added women’s basketball to the Olympic games in 1976, the United States women’s national team has been the class of the world. In their first two attempts at the Olympics the U.S.A. After capturing the silver in 1976, they captured gold in 1984 in Los Angeles and in 1988 in Seoul. They had a disappointing showing in the 1992 games in Barcelona going just 4-1 and finishing in third garnering just a bronze medal. In the following four Olympics, the US Women’s National team was head and shoulders above the rest win four straight gold medals and their average margin of victory in those four Olympics was by 28.6 in Atlanta; 21.7 in Sydney; 23.7 in Athens and 37.6 in Beijing. They finished the drive for five in style on Aug. 11.

In the gold medal game versus France the United States won 86-50 to capture their fifth consecutive gold medal.

With the victory, Team USA captured their seventh overall gold medal in nine tries in the Olympics and it was their fifth consecutive gold medal and their 41 consecutive win in the Olympics. They improved their overall record in the Olympics to 57-3.

They moved themselves into third place all-time in terms of consecutive gold medals in Olympic competition.

In first is the USA Men’s Basketball team who won seven straight gold medals from 1963-1968. In second is India Men’s Field Hockey team who finished at the top six times from 1928-1956. After the US Women’s Basketball team, the Soviet Union Men’s Ice Hockey team garnered four straight gold medals from 1964-1976 and tied with them is Canada’s Men’s Ice Hockey team who also won four gold medals from 1920-1932.

The team was lead by Los Angeles Sparks forward/center Candace Parker who had 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Team USA in the victory allowed no more than 15 points in a quarter to France, which they got in the first. In the final three quarters, the French National team scored just 10 points in quarter No. 3, 12 points in the 3rd period and an unlucky 13 in the fourth and final quarter.

“This is the ultimate goal. To win a gold medal for your country and it means a lot to all of us and to everyone involved in USA basketball. Everyone back at home. it’s a special feeling,” Phoenix Mercury forward/guard Diana Taurasi said to NBC’s Craig Sager after the victory in the gold medal game.

In going 8-0 in the tournament the Women led the Olympics scoring on average 90.6 ppg, averaging 50.5 rebounds per contest and dishing out 23.1 assist per contest. The average margin of victory in the Olympics for the women’s national team in 2012 was about 34 points per contest.

This was the third gold medal for Taurasi, Indiana Fever swing woman Tamika Catchings and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.

“Just want to keep that legacy going. The three of us were kind of like the next generation,” Catchings said to Sager after the game.

“The torch was passed down to us and I think we have a big responsibility on our shoulders, but we took care of business.”

It was the second gold medal for Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles and forward Swin Cash, Parker and Minnesota Lynx forward/guard Simone Augustus.

Winning their first gold medals were Lynx swing woman Maya Moore and her teammate guard Lindsey Whalen, Atlanta Dream forward/guard Angel McCoughtry and Connecticut forward Aisha Jones and center Tina Charles.

“Winning is fun. It feels good. There’s no better feeling really because we’ve all experienced losing. We did it in 2006,” Bird, who was part of the FIBA team that finished in third in 2006, told NBC’s Craig Sager after the game.

“We didn’t like it. I know I didn’t want to feel like that again and off course the tradition. There’s been many players in the Olympics and kind of set the standard. We did it for them just as much for ourselves.”

To truly understand the standard the kind of team that this edition of Team USA brought to the table here are some jaw dropping numbers of the careers of the 12 players and their careers coming into these Olympics.

Combined the players had won 10 gold medals. Including the team’s head coach Geno Auriemma, who coaches the women’s team at the University of Connecticut, have 22 NCAA championships; 10 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) titles; 11 Euro League titles; 22 WNBA All-Star selections and three WNBA Most Valuable Player Awards (Catchings, Parker and Taurasi).

On top of that, this team really did not have a whole lot of time to together to prepare for these Olympic games. There biggest advantage that they had was the fact that six of the players on the team Cash, Bird, Moore, Jones, Taurasi and Charles played for Auriemma at UConn and knew what his system was and that wisdom and knowledge came in handy in Team USA’s race for gold.

That helped in the games because they were able to use their individual greatness along with teamwork on both the offensive end as well as the defensive end to win all eight games in the Olympics.


The greatest example of that came in the Semifinals versus the Australian National team.

Team USA trailed Australia 47-43 at intermission. They allowed Australia to shoot 61 percent from the floor and Storm center Lauren Jackson and Tulsa Shock center Liz Cambage combined for 25 of those points on 11 for 16 from the floor. In the second half the United States outscored Australia 43-26 holding them to just 9 for 34 shooting from the field, shooting just 26 percent. Cambage and Jackson went just 2 for 8 from the floor combined in the second half, scoring just eight points. All eight of those came from Jackson alone, who finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Charles and Taurasi each led the way with 14 points. Charles also added 10 boards and four assists.

In going 8-0 in the tournament, Team USA made some history in the process.

In the July 30th Preliminary game versus Angola, Parker led the way with 14 points, 12 rebounds and a USA Olympic record four blocks in the 90-38 win.

Aug. 1 Preliminary game versus the Turkish National Team McCoughtry led the way with 18 points, 10 of those points came from the free throw line in as many attempts in the 89-58 win.

In the Aug. 3rd Preliminary game versus the Czech Republic, Team USA had 62 rebounds and blocked eight shots in their 88-61 win. Taurasi led the way with 18 points and Charles had 15 rebounds, which the second most a USA player in Olympic play.

In the Aug. 5th Preliminary game versus China, Team USA tied an Olympic record for them scoring 114 points in their 48-point win. Taurasi led the way with 22 points.

In her first Olympics, Moore joined three of her teammates and some other great women to wear the Red, White and Blue of Team USA.

Moore became the 8th player to win a NCAA title, which she won twice at UConn; a WNBA title, which she won with the Lynx as they captured the title a year ago, trying to repeat this season and a Olympic gold medal. She joins fellow Lady Huskies Taurasi, Bird and Cash along with Kara Walters, hall of famer Cynthia Copper, Cheryl Swoopes and Sky center Ruth Riley.

One of the biggest advantages that Team USA has had over its competition is the fact that a number of the players participate in basketball overseas once the WNBA season is over.

This allows them to get used to the physical play, how the game is referred and the overall play of basketball on the international level.

“So once you have the stage of playing for the Olympics, I think the Women’s team (Team USA) actually does a much better job of adjusting to the rules,” four-time gold medal winner and WNBA legend with the Sparks Lisa Leslie told NBC’s Dan Patrick during halftime of the gold medal contest.

The question now is how much longer can Team USA hold the mantle as the best team in the world? On top of that, will Auriemma coach Team USA in 2016 in Rio.

To answer the first question, it all depends when the world catches up and decides to stand up and beat Team USA.

As far as if Auriemma will coach the team in 2016, history say maybe not.

The first team in 1976 was coached by Cal State-Fulerton head coach Billie Jean Moore and one of the players on the team was Pat Head, who we now know as Pat Summitt. The 1980 team was coached by Stephen F. Austin State head coach Sue Gunter and the assistant coach was Summitt and one of the players on that team was Anne Donovan, who also played on the team in 1984 and 1988. Summitt was the next head coach in 1984. North Carolina State head coach Kay Yow took the reigns in 1988 and one of the players on the team was former WNBA player and an assistant coach on this past summers gold medal team Jennifer Gillom. The 1992 team was coached by Rutgers Lady Scarlet Knights head coach Theresa Grentz and one of the assistant was current Fever head coach Lin Dunn. In 1996 Team USA was led on the sidelines by Stanford Lady Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer. In 2000, the team was led on the sideline by Nell Fortner, former women’s basketball head coach at Auburn. The 2004 team was coach by former WNBA head coach of the four-time champion Houston Comets and now the head man for the Louisiana State University Lady Tigers Van Chancellor. Two of his assistant coaches were Donovan and current Lady Scarlet Knights head coach C. Vivian Stringer. Donovan took to the sidelines for the 2008 Olympics and two of her assistants were former WNBA player and coach of the University of South Carolina Lady Gamecocks Dawn Staley.

There are a number of candidates that can take the job if the USA committee decides to not bring Auriemma back. They could go with Gillom or Staley. Whoever gets the chance they will have a task at hand to maintain the standard that Team USA has set and they know what is expected.

“We get along really well. We’ve known each other for a long and its not easy to be put together and expect to win a gold medal, but we find a way to really work together,” Taurasi said to Sager after the game.

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of’s_national_basketball_team;;; 8/11/12 coverage of the Women’s Gold Medal Basketball Game vs. France on WNBC 4 New York commentated by Bob Fitzgerald and Ann Meyers-Drysdale.

J-Speaks: National Basketball Association Hall of Fame Welcomes A Pacer Great

It was 25 years ago this past summer when the Indiana Pacers had the No. 11 pick in the first round of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft and they had two people on their radar. A local person who just led the University of Indiana Hoosiers to a National Championship and a UCLA guard who was from Riverside, CA that was really unknown to most of the country. Current Pacers President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh decided to select at No. 11 that unknown person from UCLA. The result he helped the Pacers become one of the best teams in the NBA and he had one of the best careers one could dream of. Individually he was incredible, the team he played his entire career for became incredible and on Friday, Sept. 7 he became the second person in his family to be enshrined forever in Springfield, OH along with some of the greatest basketball players, coaches, media people and innovators of all-time.

Reggie Miller who played all 18 of his seasons with the Pacers and currently is an analyst with the NBA on TNT/NBA TV was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the 2012 class.

The current color analyst for the NBA on TNT joined Mel Daniels, Phil Knight, Katrina McClain, Don Nelson, Hank Nichols, Ralph Sampson, Chet Walker, Lidia Alexeeva, the All American Red Heads and Jamaal Wilkes.

He became the second person in his family to receiver that honor. His older sister Cheryl Miller who also works for the NBA on TNT as a sideline analyst was inducted into the Hall of Fame 17 years ago. She along with fellow hall of famers Los Angeles Lakers great and NBA on ESPN studio analyst Earvin “Magic” Johnson (Class of 2002) and Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns great and fellow analyst for NBA on TNT Charles Barkley (Class of 2006) welcomed Reggie into the Hall of Fame.

When you hear all the statistics that this proud player put up in his career, you can understand why his selection to the Hall of Fame is no surprise.

In his 18 seasons with the Pacers, Miller scored 25,279 points, averaging 18.2 points per contest in those 18 seasons. He is second all-time in three-point field goals made with 2,560 and he was the first player who hit 2,000 three-pointers in his career. The only other player to do that is current Miami Heat guard Ray Allen. He played 1,389 career regular season games for the Pacers. Only the Hall of Fame tandem of the Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone and guard John Stockton played more games for one team in NBA history.

He was a five time all-star selection (1990, 1995-96, 1998 and 2000); three-time All-NBA Third-Team selection (1995-96 and 1998) was part of the 1994 FIBA World Championship team that won the gold medal and was part of Dream Team II in Atlanta, GA that also won Gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics. More than anything else though in his 18 seasons with the Pacers, Miller helped lead his team to the playoffs in 15 of those 18 seasons.

“I don’t take moments like this for granted. I am so honored to be part of this great evening with all these great players,” Miller said in his acceptance speech.

He also in his acceptance speech into the Hall of Fame paid homage to his older sister Cheryl.

“A lot of people wish they could be in a house with the greatest of anything. I just so happened to live across the hall from absolutely, positively the greatest woman’s basketball player ever,” Miller said.

“I’m proud to say I am not on this stage if it wasn’t for you Cheryl Dean. We as a Miller family are not held at a high level if it wasn’t for you. We road your shoulders all the way here. So thank you very much.”

For every story, particularly this of an amazing player on the hardwood like Reggie Miller’s has been and continues to be as an analyst for TNT, there is always a beginning to it.

Miller’s journey to the hardwood and eventually to the Hall of Fame began in Riverside, CA. Growing up his first love was baseball. He was a huge fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. When he first started playing he was a pitcher in little league.

Miller brought all of his focus to basketball entering middle school and high school when he wanted to play in the outfield and no longer be a pitcher.

“Basketball had that non-stop action. Every play, the fans and the crowd and teammates were into it,” Miller told his TNT colleague Kevin Harlan in an interview last week on Tuesday.

“Plus I was such a fan of watching because Cheryl was all world since she was in the fifth grade.”

Here was the kind of greatness that was in the Miller family. Reggie’s brother Darrell is a former Major League Baseball catcher. His other sister Tammy played volleyball at California State University, Fullerton

As he got older, he got a chance to play with his older sister and the rest of his siblings and it was from playing against them that he had to develop his game to the point where he could compete with them. It is from these games that Miller developed his famed high arcing and high release point on his shot.

Miller took those amazing skills and rose to prominence at Riverside Polytechnic High School.

When it came time to take his talents to the collegiate level, the only schools that were interested in him were Arizona State, which former TNT analyst and current coach of the Sixers Doug Collins was an assistant, Cal. State where his sister Tammy attended and Colorado State.

Reggie’s father, who is about 90 years old and a former member of the United States Navy serving 26 years, did not want his son playing out of state because he wanted to see his son play. He also did not want Reggie to attend University of Southern California (USC) because he wanted his son to make his own identity on the hardwood and not always be known as the little brother of Cheryl.

He decided to go to UCLA and went on to become the second leading scorer in the school’s history. The first being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was at the time Lew Alcindor.

What allowed Miller to rise to the success he did as a collegian, being a two-time All Pac-10, now Pac-12, First-Team selection (1986-87) was that each day some of the former greats in the history of the school like hall of famer Bill Walton, Abdul-Jabbar and fellow member of the 2012 class Wilkes would come by everyday to the campus and even practice and interact with Miller and his teammates.

“Everyday when one of these great UCLA players would come through, getting a chance to talk to them and find out how basketball has evolved from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, you soak all that up and that’s what I tried to do. I just tried to be a sponge and soak all the information I could to try to become a better basketball player.”

All great players, particularly in college have that breakthrough moment where they get the attention of the nation.

For Miller, that moment came on Feb. 28, 1987 when he scored 33 points in the second half against the defending NCAA national champion Louisville Cardinals and their star player “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison.

When Miller graduated from UCLA with his degree in history, he finished aforementioned second in all-time scoring to Abdul-Jabbar and as of three years ago, still holds the highest scoring average for Pac-12, holds the UCLA single-season records for most points scored in Pac-12 and most free throws and holds several individual game records.



When it came time for the NBA Draft in 1987, the Pacers had the No. 11 overall pick and were deciding on Miller and New Castle, IN native and Hoosier product who just led IU to the national title Steve Alford.

Walsh and the Pacers selected Miller at No. 11, which made the fan base of the Pacers unhappy.

“When we made the pick there were a lot of boos, but what I noticed pretty quickly was there were a lot of cheers so it wasn’t as boo lateen as I think its reported to be,” Walsh said to Matt Winer of NBA on TNT/NBA TV on Tuesday of last week.

In his first four seasons with the Pacers, Miller made major improvements going from a 10.0 ppg (1987-88); 16.0 ppg (1988-89); 24.6 ppg (1989-90) to 22.6 ppg (1990-91). The team however did not do as well only making he playoffs in only two of those four seasons and they were swept by Detroit Pistons 3-0, who won their second straight title that season and they lost in in five games to Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.

In the off season, the Pacers traded away leading scorer and the face of their franchise forward Chuck Person along with guard Michael Williams to the Minnesota Timber wolves for forward Sam Mitchell and Jerome “Pooh” Richardson. This meant that the team was Miller’s to lead.

He would show that he could shoulder the load and all that came with it on the date of on Nov. 28, 1992 when he scored a franchise record 57 points at the then Charlotte Hornets going 16 for 29 from the field, 4 for 11 from 3-point range and 21 for 23 from the free throw line in a 134-122 win. The team finished the 1992-93 season with a 41-41 record. They lost in the first round to the New York Knocks 3-1.

After another exit in the quarterfinals Pacers felt they had to make some kind of change to get them to the next level and stop being one and done in the postseason.

They hired Mr. Fix It among head coaches in Larry Brown and the result the Pacers finished the season with a franchise record as an NBA team with 47 wins. Miller was the team in scoring at 19.9 peg.

In the playoffs as the No. 4 seed, they swept the Orlando Magic 3-0 in the first round. In the East Semifinals they defeated the Eastern Conferences No. 1 seeded Atlanta Hawks in 4-2.

In the Eastern Conference Finals they drew the Knocks and it was as epic as a series could get.

After splitting the first four games with both teams winning on their respective home courts, someone had to take control of the series in the pivotal Game 5 and after being pretty quiet for the first three quarters, Miller stepped onto center stage at Madison Square Garden and took control.

In that June 4, 1994 contest Miller scored an unbelievable 25 points in the four quarter hitting big-time shot after big-time shot, including several from the three-point line it was he described an, “out of body experience,” which is something he said he might have had just three or four times on the court in his great career.

What made it even more special was during this out of this world scoring explosion is that Miller was going back and fourth in an animated way with noted Knocks fans and film director, actor, writer and producer Spike Lee. One memorable exchange that took place is after Miller made a shot he looked at Spike Lee while he had both of his hands on his throat expressing that the Knocks are going to choke at the hands of the Pacers.

When it was all said and done, the Pacers escaped New York with a 93-86 win and a 3-2 lead. They would lose Game 6 back at Market Square Arena 98-91 and in Game 7 despite leading at one point by 15 points lost to the Knocks 94-90 and lost the series 4-3 as the Knocks advanced to the NBA Finals, only to lose to the Houston Rockets in seven games.

While he did not get a chance to achieve the ultimate goal, he had a chance to represent his country in the 1994 FIBA World Championships.

Miller teamed up with Derrick Coleman (New Jersey Nets), Joe Dumars (Detroit Pistons), Tim Hard away (Golden State Warriors-injured), Kevin Johnson (Phoenix Suns), Larry Johnson (then Charlotte Hornets), Shawn Kemp (then Seattle Supersonics), Dan Majerle (Suns), Alonzo Mourning (then Hornets), Shaquille O’Neal (then Orlando Magic), Mark Price (then Cleveland Cavaliers), Steve Smith (then Miami Heat-current analyst for NBA TV), Isiah Thomas (Pistons-injured) and Dominique Wilkins (then Hawks).

The team went 8-0 that summer winning by an average of 23.7 points per game en route to a gold medal and a spot in the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, GA

The next year, the Pacers had a five-game improvement in the win column winning 52 and capturing the franchises first Central Division crown in the NBA.

After sweeping the Atlanta Hawks in Round 1 of the 1995 playoffs, the met the Knicks again in an epic seven-game series.

The drama in Game 1 where the Knicks led the Pacers 105-99 with 18.7 seconds remaining in the game on their end of the court. Miller caught an inbounds pass from guard Mark Jackson and made a three to cut the deficit to 105-102. He then stole an inbounds pass from Knicks forward Anthony Mason, retreated to the three-point line and hit another three to tie the score at 105.

The ensuing play Mitchell fouled Knicks guard John Starks sending him to the line for two free throws. Unfortunately the 73.7 percent foul shooter missed both and after a follow attempt by center Patrick Ewing fell short Miller got the rebound and was fouled. He went to the line and made both free throws that eventually gave the Pacers a 107 -105 win and a 1-0 series lead. They would go on to defeat the Knicks 4-3 advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight season. They would lose in seven games to the Magic who went on to the Finals but got swept by the Rockets 4-0.

The next year, the Pacers won 52 games again, but lost in Round 1 of the playoffs in five games to the Hawks.

That summer Miller got the opportunity of a lifetime to play with Dream Team II in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA.

Playing along with Miller were five players from the original Dream Team from the 1992 Olympic Gold Medal team of Barkley, Malone, Stockton, David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs and Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls). The other teammates Anfernee “Penny” Hard away (Magic), O’Neal (Magic) Hakeem Olajuwon (Rockets), Gary Payton (then Supersonics) Grant Hill (then Pistons) and Mitch Richmond (Sacramento Kings). The coach was Lenny Wilkens, who at the time was coaching the Hawks.

Dream Team II rolled to victory going 8-0 in the Olympics and in capturing the gold medal won by an average of 31.8 ppg. In their 133-70 victory over China in the fourth game of the eight-game run to the gold, Miller who hit then an Olympic record 5 for 8 from three-point land in scoring 17 points. The 133 points were a then a U.S. Olympic record. The 34,417 in attendance to witness this feet was an Olympic record for an audience.

“After seeing in Barcelona and the original Dream Team, I knew in 1996 I had to be a part of that. Especially being in Atlanta,” Miller said to Harlan.

“That’s the highlight of my career because your playing with the same guys your trying to trip, hold, elbow to win a championship. Now there on your side. Now let’s go take on the world.”

Looking back after seeing what the 2012 edition did in making a lasting memory of their own, it allowed Miller to look back to 1996 and have a great appreciation for what happened in Atlanta back then, particularly when they played the national anthem after the United States captured gold.

“People don’t understand. You hear it before every ball game and all that and you take it for granted, but when you are representing your country and especially in a team setting and you guys all step up at the same time and its only your anthem there’s no better feeling,” Miller, who wore his gold medal during the 2012 team’s gold medal game versus Spain, said to Harlan.

The next season, they won just 39 games and missed the playoffs and in the off season relieved Brown of his head coaching position.

In his place they hired a home legend from French Lick, Larry Bird to lead them to the promise land.

In his first season on the bench, the Pacers won a franchise record 58 games. They would defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers and Knicks en route to returning to the Conference Finals where they would face the back-to-back defending champion Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.

After losing the first two games in Chicago, Indiana won Game 3 back at Market Square Arena 107-105 to cut the series lead 2-1. In Game 4 on May 25, 1998 the Pacers trailed 94-93 and staring at a 3-1 deficit Miller went from the middle of the court right under the rim came around the top going to the right. He pushed Jordan away from him caught the inbounds pass from forward Derrick McKey turned and made a three-pointer that gave the Pacers a 96-94 lead. Jordan banker attempt at the buzzer did not connect and the Pacers won 96-94 and tied the series 2-2.

The Pacers in Game 5 were a no show as they were blown out in in Chicago 106-87 and trailing 3-2. In Game 6, the Pacers did show up back in Indiana making all the big plays down the stretch and winning 92-89 to force a decisive Game 7.

In that Game 7, the Pacers battled and lead for much of the game. Chicago however came back and in the fourth quarter took control of the game and eventually finished off the Pacers in Game 7 88-83 to win the series 4-3 and denying Miller his chance at a title. The Bulls went on to win their third straight title defeating the West champion Utah Jazz for a second straight season in six games.

Coming into the next season, the Bulls were not the same. Jordan retired and the Bulls were dismantled. The Pacers saw an opportunity to win it all, especially in a shortened season because of the lock out. They went on to achieve a 33-17 record, winning the Central Division and the No. 2 seed in the East.

They swept the Milwaukee Bucks in Round 1 3-0 and Sixers in the Conference Semis 4-0, but lost to the No. 8 seeded Knicks in the Conference Finals 4-2 to be denied another chance at the title.

In that Game 6 loss Miller had one of those night you would like to forget as he went just 3 for 18 from the field, including 1 for 7 from three-point land scoring just eight points.

In 2000 the Pacers again had a strong season winning 56 games, capturing their second straight Central Division crown and got the No. 1 seed in the East.

They had a devil of time in the first round versus the No. 8 seeded Bucks who took the Pacers to the brink. Indiana did squeak out a victory in the decisive Game 5 96-95 to win the series 3-2.

They went on to the East Semis and defeated the Sixers in six games. They set the tone in Game 1 when Miller and his teammates Jalen Rose became the first set of teammates to each score 40 points in a playoff game as they each scored 40 on the nose. Miller hit seven threes that game and Rose went 16 for 24 from the floor.

“Sometimes when a player gets going, it’s something special when a teammate gets going also,” Rose, who is now a basketball analyst for ESPN, told Winer on Tuesday of last week.

For the fifth time in the last seven seasons, the Pacers advanced to the Conference Finals to face the rival Knicks again. After they split the first two games of the series, the Pacers as they did back in 1994 they won Game 5 back 88-79 to take a 3-2 lead.

Unlike years past, the Pacers finally broke through the wall and Miller lead the way scoring 17 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter as the Pacers won Game 6 93-80 to win the series 4-2 and represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals for the first time in team history.

The Pacers unfortunately would not capture that elusive NBA crown as they lost to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in the Finals 4-2 to capture their first of back-to-back-to-back crowns. Miller in the Finals averaged 24.3 points per contest.

At the end of the season, Bird retired from coaching, longtime center Rik Smits retired and in the years that followed Miller’s role as the team’s top scorer shifted as well as his leadership to the likes of Jermaine O’Neal who came to the team the next season and in the season’s that followed players like Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley Fred Jones, Jeff Foster who came on board with the Pacers in the years that followed 1999-00. Miller was still a major cog in the Pacers offense in those seasons averaging 18.9 ppg, 16.5 ppg and 12.6 ppg in those three seasons that followed

In the first three years under new head coach Isiah Thomas, the Pacers made the playoffs but had early exits losing to the Sixers, the then New Jersey Nets and Celtics.

The team went in a new direction when they hired former Detroit Pistons’ head coach Rick Carlisle to be their new man on the sidelines with the Pacers.

They won a franchise record 61 games capturing the Central Division crown again as well as the No. seed in the East. Miller that season averaged 10.0 ppg.

They swept the Celtics in Round 1 4-0 and defeated the Miami Heat in six games. The team’s return to the Finals would be derailed by the eventual champion Pistons in the Conference Finals in six games.

Indiana hoped that the next season they would finish what they could not in 2004-05, but that all changed in the seventh game of the season.

It was the scene of one of the ugliest moments for not just the history of the Pistons and Pacers but in the history of the NBA. It was on this night in 2004 at the Palace of Auburn Hills where late in the fourth quarter flares tempered with the likes of Pistons center Ben Wallace and Artest of the Pacers where it escalated to the point that a fan threw something onto Ron Artest and he and Stephen Jackson went into the stands.

The result, Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, O’Neal and Jackson received lengthy suspension from the NBA, Miller had to take the reigns of the offense again and for a period of the seasons averaged nearly 20 points per contest.

“In hindsight, I would have gone to coach Rick Carlisle and told him to pull the starters. Something was in the air,” Miller, who did not play in that game because of a hand injury, said to Harlan.

The team did end up winning 44 games that season and defeated the Celtics again in Round 1 of the playoffs 4-3, but lost to the Pistons in the Semis 4-2.

In that 88-79 loss in Game 6 on May 18, 2005 Miller had 27 points going 11 for 16 from the field, including going hit 4 for 8 from three-point land at age 39.

“As the time is ticking off the clock and you know that your not going to force that Game (7) back to Detroit, that’s when you start to replay everything in your head when it comes to basketball,” Miller said to Harlan.

“To getting your shot blocked by Cheryl. To getting up early and running “The Hill in Riverside, CA with your dad, to playing your first high school game to signing your letter of intent to UCLA. You start to replay all of that because this is it. At a competitive level this is it.”

What made this moment even more gratifying is that the end came against the team whose coach was the reason the Pacers came to prominence in the 1990s Larry Brown, who called a time out as Miller exited to give him the kind of respect that he earned in his 18-year career with just one team. That moment at ESPN’s annual ESPY Awards won the 2005 ESPY for Best Moment of the year.

“He was amazing. Even when he retired, I think he could of played another five years,” Brown said.

“People use to say he was thin and weak, not tough. He was strong, tough and competitive.”

It is that toughness and strength both internally and externally that allowed Miller on Mar. 18, 2001 vs. Sacramento Kings to surpassed the 21,000-point mark and make his 2,000th three-point field goal made.

It also allowed him on Mar. 30, 2006 he had his jersey raised to the rafters of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

It is that same strength and toughness that gains the respect of your teammates and opponents.

A true sign of that respect came on Jan. 4, 2005 versus the Bucks, O’Neal a career-high 55 points. With 1:43 left in the game, O’Neal agreed to be taken out of the game to preserve Miller’s scoring record of 57 points that has stood for nearly two decades.

Over the course of the last week some fellow Hall of Famers, teammates, opponents took the time to share what they felt about Miller’s and his great accomplishment being elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hall of Famer and former Pacers teammate from 1997-2000 Chris Mullin called Miller, “one of the greatest shooters of all-time. When we were in a close game and the ball was in his hands, the Pacers were in good shape”

“Reggie Miller. I love him and I’m very happy that he’s being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He deserves it. Great competitor and he killed the Knicks. Bottom line he killed us,” Spike Lee said.

Fellow Hall of Famer and teammate at the 1994 FIBA World Championships Hawks great Dominique Wilkins said Miller is a “hall of famer. It’s simple as that. I thought he’d would be on the ballot last year. Should have been. Never the less he’s a hall of famer now and its well deserved and I’m really happy for him.

“A little kid from Detroit getting a chance to play with a great hall of famer. Congratulations Reggie. I love you like a brother. You really deserve it.”

“Playing against and coaching Reggie and knowing his personality, Reggie his more shots in crucial times than about anyone I’ve ever seen. Being elected to the Hall of Fame is the ultimate. The icing on the cake for anyone. It’s a great honor,” Bird said.

“I still don’t like the Pacers. Still don’t like Reggie. We get along now, but every now and then when I see him, I still want to smack him,” Ewing, who Knicks went 3-3 versus the Pacers in the postseason in his career.

The ultimate complement about Miller’s induction into the Hall of Fame came from the one other guy he trusted and respected as a teammate was former teammate for five seasons and current head coach of the Golden State Warriors Mark Jackson.

They were so close that they stood up late when the team was on the road, they talked game plans and other players in the league. They laughed together and cried together after wins and losses.

“He’s the one guy that probably along with maybe Dale Davis that I know for 100 percent they have my back,” Miller said to Harlan.

Jackson said of Miller that in being around Mille that they are very similar as people. That they are competitive at everything. They cannot stand losing. That they are experts at everything that they talk about, including basketball.

“Fortunately for the both of us in developing our relationship we disagree with everything and it only added fuel to the fire, but he’s a great guy and a brother to me,” Jackson, who along with Miller helped the Pacers reach three straight Conference Finals, said to Winer.

One story that Jackson said in describing the kind of person Miller is was one Halloween, Reggie dressed up like Michael Jackson and came to his teammates home in full effect from the jacket, white glove and hair. Miller was dressed as the “King of Pop” from head to toe.

“He’s not to big to make himself look foolish or to have fun with life,” Jackson said to Matt Winer about that moment.

If there is one thing that this moment represents more than anything, besides the value of hard work, but what having an example of greatness to follow in terms of the siblings that Reggie Miller had in his family and the kind of parents like his dad who served in the Navy for 29 years and what he said to his son when he called him after finding out the news.

“I’ve been waiting for this day. For him to say, ‘I’ve been waiting for this day. I’m so happy for you son. This is great.’ It’s surreal to have a brother and sister in the Hall of Fame,” Miller said to Harlan.

It was 25 years ago that the Indiana Pacers selected the ‘6’7’’ 180lbs shooting guard out of UCLA and he found a way as he said to Harlan to “put the Pacers on the map.” He did individually becoming the 2nd best three-point shot maker in NBA history. He’s scored over 25,000 points. Played in the third most games for one team in NBA history. Winning a gold medal and it culminates in being enshrined in the Hall of Fame alongside your older sister.

“At the end of the day, ultimately people judge you on winning championships, but it’s the ride in between that’s so great,” Miller said.

“The journey of the ups and downs. The teammates along the way from Riverside Poly Bears to UCLA Bruins to 18 years with the Pacers through six to eight different head coaches along the way. You learn a lot about yourself and you grow up. At times you can be so immature when your in high school and college and a little bit in the NBA, but I always felt if I surrounded myself with positive people, which I did good things are going to happen. I didn’t win the ultimate prize which is a championship but it was so fun trying. I loved it.”

Information, quotations and statistics are courtesy of 9/4/12 7 p.m. show of Looking Back with Reggie on NBA TV hosted by Matt Winer, interview conducted by NBA on TNT play-by-play analyst Kevin Harlan; 9/7/12 7:30 p.m. 2012 Hall of Fame Ceremony on NBA TV;; Sporting News Official 2006-07 NBA Guide;