Saturday, February 25, 2012

J-Speaks: The Silencing of A Local That No One Saw Coming

This woman had a voice unlike any other. Her singing captivated audiences around the globe. She first shared her talents with those that saw her in the choir of her church in Newark, NJ. Near the end of her teenage years she met a music producer that help brought her talent to the entire nation and the world to see. From that point to now, her talent took her places and she gave every bit of that talent to a legion of fans that to this day have a great deal of love for her. That journey crossed her along some major bumps that did knock her off course for a period of time and she became more known for those bumps than her amazing gift. Three years ago in NYC’s Battery Park on national television, she began her comeback with her daughter on stage with her and her mother with her fans watching her on stage. The comeback unfortunately came to an abrupt end two weeks ago.

Whitney Houston, one of the greatest musical artist and multiple award winner, passed away Saturday afternoon Feb 11. She was 48 years old.

Houston, who was born and raised in Newark, NJ is survived by her mother Cissy, cousin Dionne Warwick, 18-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina, whose father is ex-husband Bobby Brown.

Houston’s body was found under the water of the suite’s bathtub by a member of her staff that afternoon.

Paramedics raced to the 4th floor suite of The Beverly Hilton where Houston was staying and got to the bathtub where her body was lifeless. They tried to revive her, but their efforts were to no avail.

A report from the Los Angles Coroner’s office confirmed that bottles of prescription drugs like Valium and sleeping pills were found in the singer’s room. They did rule out in their report any signs of foul play or trauma.”

“It could take weeks for the toxicology reports to be completed,” Ed Winter, Assistant Chief of L.A. County Coroner’s Office told reporters Saturday.

On that Tuesday afternoon, Houston’s body was accompanied by an entourage of several vehicles to a Los Angles airport tar mach where it was flown on a private jet owned by movie director Tyler Perry back to Newark.

Her body arrived late into the night at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and was transported to Whigham Funeral Home in a Gold Hurst, the same funeral home where Houston’s father was laid to rest nine years ago.

News of Houston’s passing came on the eve of The 64th Annual Grammy Awards where she made her mark. Her death shocked the entire country.

At a New Edition reunion concert in South Haven, MS, Brown paid an emotional tribute to his ex-wife. He arrived in Los Angles late into the night to a throng of paparazzi to be at the side of his daughter.

In a statement he said, “I am deeply saddened at the passing of my ex-wife Whitney Houston. At this time, we ask for privacy, especially for my daughter Bobbi Kristina…”

At a Grammy pre-party hosted by Houston’s mentor Clive Davis, music producer and entrepreneur Sean “P.Diddy” Combs said, “Whitney Houston simply put had the greatest voice in the world. She was a gift from God.”

In a statement via Twitter Mariah Carey, who collaborated with Houston on the song “When You Believe,” said on Saturday “Heartbroken and in tears over the shocking death of my friend, the incomparable Ms. Whitney Houston… She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth.”

Barbra Streisand also said via Twitter, “She had everything, a magnificent voice. How sad her gifts could not bring her the same happiness they brought us.”

The thoughts about one of their own passing continued on the red carpet of the Grammy’s and during the show itself.

“There’s no way around this. We’ve had a death in our family,” Grammy host, artist, actor and Long Island, NY native LL Cool J told the audience at the beginning of the show.

“The only thing that feels right is to begin with a prayer for a woman who we loved. Heavenly father we pray for our fallen sister Whitney Houston. Heavenly father we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us.”

On the red carpet, country sensation Miranda Lambert said of Houston, who won six Grammy’s in her career, “What better place to celebrate her life than at the Grammy’s.

During the show, Bruno Mars during his performance said, “Tonight we celebrate the beautiful Ms. Whitney Houston.”

Alicia Keys during her performance said, “When truly great artist leave us, their legacy lives on. We love you Whitney Houston.”

Stevie Wonder told the audience at Staples Center and those watching at home, “I just want to say to Whitney Houston in heaven, ‘We all love you Whitney Houston.”

The one tribute that brought this celebration of one of the greatest artist and entertainers of all-time is when Jennifer Hudson sand one of Houston’s signature songs, “I Will Always Love You.”

From the beginning of the week to now all of Houston’s fans from Los Angles to the Metropolitan area of New York and New Jersey have been celebrating and remember Houston’s life.

On the Marquee of the famous Apollo where Houston made the music video to another of her signature songs, “The Greatest Love of All,” it read “In Memory of Whitney Houston: A True Music Icon (1963-2012).”

At The New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ, a make shift memorial of flowers balloons and cards from fans has been growing for the past two weeks in which over 200 people attended the church services on Feb. 12 to honor the woman who began her singing journey at age 11 when she sang in the choir directed by her mother Cissy.

“I haven’t processed this,” Civil Rights Activist Rev. Jesse Jackson said to reporters this past weekend.

“This was not some long vitiating sickness. This was saddened. So when this happens, there’s no rational explanation. You have to lean towards your faith and hold on until the morning comes.”

For the Houston family that morning seems like it needs to come sooner rather than later, especially for Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina.

According to reports the 18-year-old daughter of Houston and Brown was rushed to the hospital twice this past Sunday suffering from extreme anxiety and stress. She was released very quickly and she did try to get to her mother’s room at The Beverly Hilton shortly after her death but had a run in with police when they refused to let her in the room.

Just 48 hours prior Houston and her daughter crashed an E! interview with Davis.

To truly understand the true meaning of Whitney Houston and what she has meant to her home state of New Jersey, the history of music and her loyal fans you have to go back to the beginning.

She was born on Aug. 9, 1963 in East Orange, NJ to gospel singer Cissy and Army serviceman and entertainment executive John Russell Houston, Jr., who passed away on Feb. 2, 2003.

She began singing at 11 years old in The New Hope Baptist Church, where her private funeral took place last Saturday afternoon where 1,500 of Houston closets family and friends came to say goodbye.

Eight years later, she was discovered by Davis who three years ago said in an interview about hearing Houston sing for the first time, “It was such a stunning impact. To hear this young girl breathe such fire, such life into this song it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine.”

At the funeral last Saturday Davis said to those in attendance that Houston told him that she was getting back into shape through swimming one to two hours a day and that she is fully committed to getting the amazing high notes back through plenty of vocal exercises and that she quit smoking.

“I’ll be ready by August,” Houston told Davis.

He responded by saying, “Well Whitney. I’m going to hold you to it.”

Her self-titled debut album “Whitney Houston” released in February 1985 sold millions and launched instant hits like “Greatest Love of All” and “Saving All My Love For You,” which are still played on a regular basis on the radio.

In the beginning part of the 1990s is when Houston really hit her stride. It began with her now famous singing of The Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV on Jan. 27, 1991 between the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants. This was beyond special not just because of her great performance, but it came in the back drop of the first Gulf War.

One year later, she brought her talents to the silver screen in what became a ground breaking film “The Bodyguard.” It starred Houston and Kevin Costner, who will be speaking at Whitney’s funeral on Saturday.

It was a movie about a former secret service agent turned bodyguard Frank Farmer, played by Costner hired to protect music star Rachel Marron, played by Houston from an unknown stalker. As far as how things pan out, I will leave that for those who want to see it again and those that have yet to see the movie to check out for themselves.

“The Bodyguard” opened on Nov. 25, 1992 grossing $16.6 million its opening weekend taking third and the total gross for its thirteen non-consecutive weeks in theaters$121.9 million domestically and $410.9 million worldwide. The film was the seventh highest-grossing film of 1992 in the country and second highest-grossing film in the world in 1992.

The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album at that time became the best-selling soundtrack of all-time. Across the globe, the sales are over 42 million copies. One of the song of the soundtrack “I Will Always Love You,” sung by Houston has sold 12 million units worldwide.

“A lot of leading men could have played my part. A lot of guys could have filled that role, but you Whitney I truly believed that you were the only that could have played Rachael Marron at that time,” Costner said at the funeral.

In the years that followed, Houston hit a number of sour notes. The reported use of drugs; the three stints in rehab; many public breakdowns, which include several that happened in the days leading to her passing and the turbulent 15 years of marriage to Brown. She filed for divorce in 2006 and it was finalized on Apr. 24, 2007.

The years of drug abuse diminished her voice, which resulted in the decline of her album sales and lead to many speculations of her nearing death on several occasions.

In an ABC News “Primetime” interview with Diane Sawyer on Dec. 4, 2002 Houston wanted to set the record straight in terms of her drug use.

She said to Sawyer, “Crack is cheap. I made too much money to ever smoke crack…We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is whack.”

Houston also said to Sawyer that it was her who made the decision to go down this road. It was something she wanted to do and that no one made her do anything.

She said that “I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy and that’s how I have to deal with it.”

She also said though in terms of how she sees herself, she replied, “I can tell you that I’m not self-destructive. I’m not a person who wants to die. I’m a person who has life and wants to live and I always have and don’t ever mistake it for anything else other than that. I’m not the strongest person everyday, but I’m not the weakest either and I won’t break.”

Houston showed signs of that three years ago when she released her seventh studio album I Look To You and went platinum.

On Sept. 1, 2009 Houston performed in Central Park on ABC’s “Good Morning America” as a part of their concert series. There were a slue of fans cheering her on and she had her mother in the audience and her daughter at one point was on stage with her singing, giving the audience and those watching at home a reminder of why we feel in love with her and her great talent. The one moment which really brought the true meaning of the concert was when she was embrace by Sawyer and her co-anchor partner Robin Roberts.

Many thought at that time that this comeback could go the distance and that Houston could regain the type of greatness that made her a sensation from the late 1980s into the early 1990s.

Back on Feb. 6 Houston was working on songs for her upcoming film “Sparkle” set to release this summer.

“She seemed great, upbeat and very optimistic. Very excited about the project,” said producer Harvey Mason, Jr.

When she arrived in Los Angles a couple of weeks ago Houston went from one party to another non-stop. Two Thursdays ago it was reported that Houston was in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton doing hand stands at the pool, but was escorted out by her daughter Bobbi Kristina.

Two nights later she gave what later turned out to be her final performance at a Hollywood club singing on stage with Grammy nominated singer Kelly Price.

When she left, photographers took photos of Houston with blood on her leg, scrapes on her wrist and being described by witnesses as incoherent and unable to walk on her own.

“When I saw Whitney Thursday night, she was happy. She was celebrating. She looked fine,” Price told ABC’s entertainment correspondent Chris Connelly.

At 3:15 p.m., according to TMZ, Houston spoke on the phone to her mother Cissy and nothing seemed wrong. Forty minutes later, Houston was dead in the bathtub of her hotel room.

Last Saturday, her funeral service took place at the aforementioned New Hope Baptist Church. She was laid to rest last Sunday afternoon at the Fairview Cemetery right next to her father in Westfield, NJ.

Keys, who performed; Brandy and her brother Ray J, Davis; Carey; Sawyer; music producer L.A. Reid; singer Kim Burrell, who performed “Change Is Gonna Come;” Stevie Wonder, who sang “Love I Need;” Perry; Hudson; Rev. Al Sharpton; Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King were among the 1,500 people saying goodbye to Houston, who was in a gold casket surrounded by white flowers.

It is true that the passing of Whitney Houston lives a big hole in the lives of her family to her loyal legion of fans in this country and across the globe. The question now is what will be her lasting legacy be?

In terms of her musical talent, her awards speak for itself. Six Grammy Awards; 30 Billboard Music Awards and 22 American Music Awards more than any other woman artist in history. She sold more than 170 million albums worldwide.

On the silver screen, she starred in not just “The Bodyguard,” but “Waiting to Exhale;” “The Preacher’s Wife,” alongside Denzel Washington, where she won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture in 1997; “Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” playing the fairy godmother of Brandy’s character Cinderella and she will be in the new movie “Sparkle” which will be in theaters later this year.

Houston will also be remembered as someone who succumbed to the pressures of her greatness by using drugs and by her tumultuous marriage to the aforementioned Bobbi Brown, who did attend his ex-wife’s funeral but left quickly after the ceremony was over and was kept away from his daughter.

More than anything though, Whitney Houston’s legacy should be remembered as someone who had an extraordinary gift and made the most of it for a period of time and gave inspiration to show others that if given the chance they can be extraordinary themselves. No one understands that better than those that attend the school that is named in her honor in 1997 The Whitney E. Houston Academy of Creative and Performing Arts.

How many people can say that I’m principal of Whitney Houston,” Henry Hamilton, the school’s principal said.   

I thought it was summed up best by “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts about Houston’s passing when she said on the Sunday morning after her passing, “We have to remember a daughter lost a mother and a mother lost a daughter last night.”

Newark Mayor Corey Booker (D-NJ) also made a powerful statement about Houston after her funeral when he said, “Newarkers feel not just a sense of pride, but really like she’s one of our sisters; our daughters; one of our nieces; one of our aunts and so this has been a beautiful day and were very grateful this global figure remembered from once she came.”

Information and quotations are courtesy of; 2/12/12 6 p.m. edition of (WPIX) PIX 11 News at 6 with Kaity Tong, report from Mario Diaz; 2/12/12 8 a.m. edition of ABC’s “Good Morning America” with Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Dan Harris, Bianna Golodryga; 2/13/12 6 a.m. edition of WABC 7 “Eyewitness News This Morning” with Lori Stokes and Ken Rosato, reports form Jim Dolan, Lisa Colagrossi, Anthony Johnson and Sandy, Kenyon; 2/13/12 7 a.m. edition of “ABC’s “Good Morning America” with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos, reports form Jim Avila, Lara Spencer and Chris Connelly 2/13/12 6:30 p.m. edition of “NBC Nightly News” with Brian Williams, report from Kristen Dahlgren; 2/13/12 11:35 p.m. edition of ABC News “Nightline” with Cynthia McFadden; 2/14/12 7 a.m. edition of ABC’s “Good Morning America” with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos, report from Linsey Davis; 2/15/12 6 a.m. edition of WCBS 2 News This Morning with Rob Morrison and Mary Calvi, report from Jessica Schneider; 2/15/12 6 a.m. edition of WCBS 2 News “This Morning” with Rob Morrison and Mary Calvi, report from Kathryn Brown; 2/16/12 7 a.m. edition of “CBS This Morning” with Charlie Rose, Erica Hill and Gayle King; 2/16/12 5 p.m. edition of CBS 2 News with Maurice DuBois and Kristine Johnson, reports from Dave Carlin, Katie McGee and “The Insider’s” Kevin Frazier; 2/18/12 6 p.m. edition of WABC’s Eyewitness News at 6 with Phil Lipof and Sandra Bookman, reports from Jamie Roth, Marcus Solis, Toni Yates and Lauren Glassburg; 2/20/12 4:30 a.m. edition of WNBC’s “Today in New York” with Michael Gargiulo and Darlene Rodriguez; 2/20/12 7 p.m. edition of “The Insider” on WCBS with Kevin Frazier and Brooke Anderson.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

J-Speaks: Knicks Rise Behind A Lintastic Performer

Two weekends ago, the New York Knicks looked or played anything like a team that had championship aspirations this 2011-12 NBA campaign. Things did not get any better when the team’s two linchpins Carmelo Anthony (groin) and Amar’e Stoudemire (death in family) were lost to the team. They were able to get back on the right track two Saturdays ago against their Division and metropolitan rivals behind a second-year player from the Ivy League.

Undrafted second-year guard Jeremy Lin has been the major reason why the New York Knicks (13-15) have come back from the depths of despair this season. In the team’s five straight victories, he has averaged 26.8 ppg, eight assists on 52 percent from the floor.

He began this five-game run of what has been called “Linsanity” with 25 points and seven assists and five boards off the bench in the Knicks 99-92 victory versus the Metropolitan rival New Jersey Nets. He more than held his own against Nets lead guard Deron Williams who had 21 points, 11 assists and six rebounds.

Two nights later, in his first start of this season, Lin rose to the occasion with a then career best 28 points to go along with eight assists in the team’s 99-88 win versus the Utah Jazz. Lin scored 13 of those 28 points in the fourth quarter. He completely outplayed Jazz starting guard Devin Harris who had just nine points and four assists.

Last Wednesday, the Knicks kept the momentum going in Washington, D.C. as they rang up another victory at the Wizards 107-93. Lin was true to form again with 23 points and 10 assists. He played former No. 1 overall pick John Wall to a standstill as he had 29 points and six assists.

His greatest performance of this stretch came on national television last Friday as he lit up Madison Square Garden with a career-high of 38 points, seven assists on 13 for 23 from the field and 10 for 13 from the free throw line in the 92-85 victory over the Los Angles Lakers.

One day prior to the contest, Lakers’ all-star guard Kobe Bryant, who lead team with 34 points while also grabbing 10 boards, said that he did not pay much attention to the latest “Miracle on 34th Street.”

He certainly got his attention as well as backcourt mate Derek Fisher who nearly got outscored by Lin by himself.

After the game, the Knicks newest sensation told ESPN’s Lisa Salters, “This is my dream and I’m just thankful to God. God is faithful and he put us on this unbelievable journey and were trying to enjoy everything right now.”

Lin followed up his out of this world performance with 20 points, six boards and eight assists in the Knicks 100-98 victory at the Minnesota Timberwolves. He did show some effects of playing a lot of minutes as he went just 1 for 13 from the field in the second half and went overall shot just 8 for 24 for the game. He still managed to play rookie sensation guard Ricky Rubio to a draw who scored 12 points and dished out eight assists.

To truly understand the kind of phenomenon Lin has become, just a year ago as a rookie he played in just 29 games as an aforementioned undrafted rookie with the Golden State Warriors where he averaged just 2.6 ppg. On Dec. 9, 2011 the Warriors waived Lin. Three days later he was picked up by the Houston Rockets. On Christmas Eve and before the start of this season, the Rockets waived Lin. Three days later, the Knicks picked him up to be the team’s third string point guard. His first action as a Knick came at the Warriors where he was well received.

Back on Jan. 17 Lin was assigned to the Erie BayHawks of the National Basketball Association’s Developmental League. In his first action on Jan. 20 he recorded a triple-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in the BayHawks 122-113 victory over the Maine Red Claws. Lin was recalled back to the Knicks three days later.

Most players in the position would have thrown in the towel and moved on, especially someone who had his college degree and had major connection to the business world considering that he graduated from Harvard. Lin though decided to stick with it and when his number was called he answered the bell.

This is something that Lin has done for all his life. Growing up in California, the 6’3’’ Lin’s father, who is 5’7’’ along with his mother, told him as a kid to do his homework after dinner and if he did that he would take him to the YMCA.

“I just love basketball ever since I was young,” Lin told reporters last week.

“That’s all I really wanted to do. I just want to play as hard as I can.”

His hard work has paid of not just for himself, but for the team as well. Lin’s 109 total points in the first four starts of his young career is a new NBA record. The previous record holder is former NBA guard Allen Iverson who scored 101 points in his first four starts. Three other notables who had major impacts in the scoring department in their first four starts are Shaquille O’Neal (100 points), Michael Jordan (99 points) and Bill Ray Bates (99 points).

Lin’s performance has also gotten the respect of head coach Mike D’Antoni who seemed to finally found that lead guard that had been missing for most of this season.

“What he is doing is amazing,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you.”

It has also garnered the attention of the Chinese community particularly in New York’s Chinatown.

“It maybe the typical story of a minority American. You got to be that much better than everyone else like Jackie Robinson,” Vice Chair of APEX Eddie Shiomi said.

“He had to be perfect in order to even get a shot.”

Lin’s greatness on the court has more than anything shown that when someone who is from a conference that typically is not seen as one where you can find the cream of the crop in terms of dynamic basketball players.

He has also become just the fourth player from Harvard to play in the NBA. The other three are Saul Mariaschin who played for the Boston Celtics (1947-48); Ed Smith who was the No. 6 pick of the 1951 Draft by the New York Knicks playing just one season (1953-54) averaging 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 11 games; Wyndol Gray who played on the first Boston Celtics team in 1946-47 when the NBA was called the Basketball Association of America. The Akron, OH product averaged 6.4 ppg in 55 games played for coach Honey Russell. The next season, Gray was traded to the St. Louis Bombers. After just 11 games he was traded again to the Providence Steamrollers where he played just one game.

On last Sunday’s edition of NBATV’s “Gametime” they compiled a Top 10 list of NBA players from Ivy League schools.

At No. 10 was Penn University guard Matt Maloney, who played for seven seasons (1996-2003) with the Rockets, Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks. His most notable season was his rookie year where he was the starting point guard along side Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. Lin was in the following position at No. 9.

At No. 8 was John Hummer who was the No. 15 pick in the 1970 NBA Draft by the Buffalo Braves out of Princeton. He played for six seasons for the Braves, Chicago Bulls and Seattle Supersonics. He averaged 6.3 ppg and 5.9 rpg. He currently is a venture capitalist for a firm called Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, a firm that he and Ann Winblad founded in 1989 that focuses on software companies.

Coming in at No. 7 was former Yale player Chris Dudley. He was drafted in the then fourth round by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played 16 seasons for the Cavs, Nets, Portland Trail Blazers (twice), Knicks and Phoenix Suns averaging 3.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 1.2 bpg.

Back in 1998, Dudley began the Chris Dudley Foundation, which is an Oregon based group that is focused on improving the lives of diabetic children.
In 2006, Dudley became vice president of M Financial Wealth Management and October 2008, he has been a wealth management partner with Filigree Advisors.
Two years ago, Dudley tried his hand at politics running for a Congressional seat in the House of Representatives. Though he ran a close race, the Lake Oswego resident lost to former Gov. John Kitzhaber (D-OR) 49 percent to 48 percent.

At the No. 6 spot was Armond Hill of Princeton. The ninth overall pick in the 1976 Draft by the Atlanta Hawks played eight seasons. The three other teams he played for were the Supersonics, the then San Diego Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks. He averaged 6.2 ppg and 4.7 apg. He is currently an assistant head coach on the Boston Celtics.

Brian Taylor was ranked at No. 5. The 23rd overall pick in the 1972 draft began his career with the New York Nets in the ABA. After four seasons with the Nets, he played his last six seasons in the NBA with the then Kansas City Kings, Denver Nuggets and San Diego Clippers. He averaged 13.1 ppg. Overall he scored 7,000 points in the ABA/NBA.

In the No. 4 spot is Jim McMillan out of Columbia. The 13th overall pick in the 1970 draft nine of his 11 years of professional basketball with the Lakers, Braves, Knicks and Trail Blazers. He was a member of the 1972 Los Angles Lakers championship team. He played the last two years of his career in Italy for Virtus Bologna.

At No. 3 is Rudolph “Rudy” Larusso. The 2nd Round pick in the 1959 Draft out of Darmouth by the Minneapolis Lakers played for 10 years. He averaged 16.0 ppg and 10.2 rpg for the Lakers and San Francisco Warriors. He was a 5-time all-star selection. Larusso also appeared in a cameo role in the third episode of “Gilligan’s Island playing the role of ‘Agent Michaels.’ He passed away in 2004 from Parkinson’s disease.

Geoffrey Petrie is No. 2 on this list. The No. 8 overall selection in the 1970 draft by the Blazers played for the team for six years averaging 21.8 ppg and 4.6 apg. He was the 1971 Rookie of the Year as well as making the All-Rookie First Team. He played in two All-Star games in 1971 and 1974. After working for several seasons in the private sector, Petrie came back to the NBA in 1985 working for the Blazers as a commentator for their radio broadcast and several other positions before taking the role as senior vice president of operations.

After nine seasons in the front office, Petrie was hired by the Sacramento Kings as their president of basketball operations. He has won the NBA Executive of the Year twice in 1999 and 2001. For a stretch, the Sacramento Kings were a top notch team in the NBA making the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons. Their best season came in 2001-02 where they won a franchise record 61 games and captured the Western Conference Pacific Division. The team won in a five-year stretch 55, 61, 59, 55 and 50 games respectably. Two major parts in that season and the others in that stretch were current NBATV and TNT analyst Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, whose jersey were retired by the organization. While the team has fallen on tough times in recent years and the uncertainty about the team staying in Sacramento, they know that they have the right man in Petrie along with the Maloof brothers Joe and Gavin to get things back on track.

At No. 1 is former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ). The territorial selection by the Knicks in the 1965 Draft out of Princeton played for the team for 10 seasons averaging 12.4 ppg. The 1965 NCAA Player of the Year and Rhode Scholar of Oxford helped the Knicks win the championship in 1970 and 1973. He is one of nine Knicks to have their jersey numbers hanging in Madison Square Garden. At the time Bradley was the fourth Knick to have his jersey to be immortalized forever alongside Walt “Clyde” Frazier’s No. 10, Willis Reed’s No. 19 and Dave DeBusschere’s No. 22. Bradley received the highest honor for any athlete in 1982 when he was selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.   

After his playing career, Bradley entered politics in the summer of 1977 running for the United States Senate seat for the Democratic Party of New Jersey. He won that seat in the general election by garnering 56 percent of the vote from liberal Republican and four-term incumbent Clifford B. Case (R-NJ). Bradley held that Senate seat for 18 years and among some of the domestic legislation that he led or was associated with was reform of child support enforcement; lead-related children’s health problems; the Earned Income Tax Credit; campaign finance reform; a re-apportioning of California water rights; and federal budget reform to reduce the deficit, which included, in 1981, supporting Reagan's spending cuts but opposing his parallel tax cut package, one of only three senators to take that position.

Twelve years ago, Bradley ran for President of the U.S. in opposition to incumbent Vice President Al Gore for the Democratic Party’s nomination. He failed to win any of the first 20 primaries and caucuses withdrawing his campaign and supporting Gore.

The NBA has had its share of Ivy League players come in. Some were just a blip on the radar. Others etched their names in stone. Jeremy Lin to this point has in a short period of time established himself as a force to be reckoned with and has saved the Knicks season at least for now. How far he can take this and can he play with Anthony and Stoudemire. Answers to those questions start tonight versus the Toronto Raptors.

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of; 2/10/12 6:30 p.m. edition of ABC’s “World News” with Diane Sawyer (substitute was David Muir); 2/10/12 8 p.m. contest of the Los Angles Lakers vs. New York Knicks on ESPN (commentators Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy; reporter Lisa Salters); 2/10/12 6:30 p.m. edition of “NBC Nightly News” with Lester Holt  2/11/12 2 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime” with Rick Kamla, Steve Smith and Ron Thompson; 2/11/12 6:30 p.m. edition of “CBS Evening News” with Elaine Quijano, report from Tony Guida; 2/12/12 6 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime” with Vince Cellini, Sam Mitchell and Ron Thompson; 2/12/12 edition of ESPN’s Sportscenter with Adnan Virk and Bram Weinstein.

Friday, February 10, 2012

J-Speaks: History is made in Pin Stripes

When it comes to making their mark in the history books of sports, one team that seems to always make their imprint are the New York Yankees. They have won more championship 27 than any professional team. They have players that have made into the Baseball Hall of Fame for their play, particularly in clutch moments on the field. On this date of Feb. 10, 1979 the “Bronx Bombers” made history by the addition they made in the broadcast both.

This was the day when a gentleman by the name of Bill White became the first African American to become a play-by-play baseball announcer. He joined the New York Yankee broadcast tandem of Phil Rizzuto and Frank Messer.

The former major leaguer who played 13 seasons in the pros with the New York/San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies batted .286 with 202 home runs. He made eight all-star appearances, was a 7-time Gold Glover and helped the Cardinals win the World Series in 1964.

White spent the next 17 seasons broadcasting Yankees games for both television and radio, working 13 of those seasons with Rizutto and Messer.

White entered into broadcasting during his playing days in St. Louis with his own sports program on KMOX radio and when he was traded to Philadelphia.

He became a sportscaster for WFIL-TV (now WPVI-TV) in the city of “Brotherly Love” after his playing career ended. He broke a major color barrier in Philadelphia when he became the first African American to broadcast National Hockey League (NHL) when he called a number of Philadelphia Flyer games.

White joined the Yankee broadcast team in the aforementioned date of Feb. 10, 1971 where he broadcast. He also by landed this opportunity with the Yankees became the first African American to do play-by-play announcing for a professional sports team on a regular basis.

From 1971-77, White was featured on the New York City radio station WMCA, but the Yankees soon switched over to 1010 WINS. Four years later, the “Bronx Bombers” broadcast trio moved over to WABC. When the team played on television, the broadcast were carried on WPIX with White, Rizzuto and Messer.

Along with doing broadcast for the Yankees, White did sports reports for the CBS Radio Network and help to call several World Series games with for CBS Radio alongside Los Angles Dodgers announcer Ross Porter and later Jack Buck, the father of FOX Sports baseball and National Football League (NFL) play-by-play announcer Joe Buck.

The dynamic trio also carried the broadcast of the American League Championship Series in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1981. In the 1977 World Series, White did the pre-game reports for ABC along with Porter and handled the post game trophy presentation for ABC after the Yanks clinched the World Series in Game 6.

On Oct. 2, 1978, White made one of baseball history’s famous calls when he announced the go ahead run of Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent in the seventh inning against the rival Boston Red Sox that went, “Deep to left! Yastrzemski will not get it–it's a home run! A three-run home run for Bucky Dent and the Yankees now lead it by a score of three to two!”

One year after leaving the broadcast both, White served as the president of MLB’s National League (NL). He became the first African American to hold such a high executive position in sports.

Last year, White released his autobiography entitled Uppity: My Untold Story About The Games People Play.

To fully understand the kind of legacy that Bill White has left. All you have to do is look at the broadcasting landscape in pro sports. Most teams like in the NBA have African American doing pre-game, in-game and post game broadcast. You have color announcers in the NBA like Stu Lantz (Los Angles Lakers: Fox Sports West), Walt “Clyde” Frazier (New York Knicks: Madison Square Garden Network (MSG)), Clyde Drexler (Houston Rockets: Fox Sports Southwest), Greg Kelser (Detroit Pistons: Fox Sports Detroit) to name a few. For NBA on TNT you have for their pre-game alongside Ernie Johnson you have the likes of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Chris Webber and Shaquille O’Neal.

All of this is possible because of Bill White did. He was a great player and he worked at the craft of being an announcer. When he got his chance he made the most of it and made a place for others to follow.  

Information and quotations are courtesy of and Newsday’s New York Moment: This Day in NY Sports History.

Monday, February 6, 2012

J-Speaks: Big Blue Wins It All Again Versus Pats

Back in 2007, many experts felt the Giants were a long shot to win it all, particularly after their 4-4 finish to the season after getting off to a 6-2 beginning. They proved all their doubters wrong by winning at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at the National Football Conference (NFC) East Division rivals the Dallas Cowboys and then beating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in overtime to win the NFC. In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants were not even expected to be the American Football Conference (AFC) Champion Patriots who were seeking to become the first team to finish undefeated since the 1972 Dolphins. When it was all said and done the underdog Giants beat the Pats 17-14. In 2011 the circumstances were very similar. They got off to another 6-2 start, but five losses in their next six outings brought them to a 7-7 mark. Wins in their last two games over the New York Jets and the rival Cowboys gave them a 9-7 record and the NFC East crown. In the postseason the beat the Atlanta Falcons 24-2; won at the Packers 37-20 and gutted out a 20-17 overtime win at San Francisco 49ers. They then proceeded to Indianapolis to take on the Patriots again and against all odds produced.

Similar to the Super Bowl back in 2008, the G-Men but together a final drive that went nine plays covering 88 yards in 2:49 that gave the Giants a 21-17 lead and eventually the victory when Pats quarterback Tom Brady’s hail marry pass in the closing seconds was knocked down in the end zone.

The victory gave “Big Blue” their second Super Bowl title in four years and they became the first team in NFL history to win it all after winning just nine games in the regular season. They also became the first team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl and have the worst rushing attack in the NFL.

The two main reasons that the Giants were able to capture their fourth Vince Lombardi Trophy in team history is their signal caller Eli Manning, who was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLVI and their stay the course head coach Tom Coughlin, who at one point this season many fans wanted gone.

“You share this with all the players. All the coaches, all the people that did a tremendous job to get us here,” said Coughlin, who at 65 years old became the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl

“To play against a great team like the Patriots and to have a finish like that that goes down in history. That’s a marvelous feeling.”

For Eli Manning, this Super Bowl win gave him his second title of his career, but once and for all proved that his no longer just the father of Archie Manning and the younger brother of Indianapolis Colts signal caller Peyton Manning, who sat out this season because of neck surgery and it is up in the air of weather he will play again as well as play for the Colts. However listening to Eli after the game, it was not about the fact he won his second title in the house that his brother built.

“It just feels good to win a Super Bowl. “It doesn’t matter where you are or what stadium,” said Manning, who went 30 for 40 for 296, a touchdown and no interceptions.

“Indianapolis been a great host of the Super Bowl, but I feel great for my teammates, my coaches and the Giants organization for all the dedication they put in this year to make this happen.”

Those teammates like they did in Super Bowl XLII came through in a big way. Four years ago, the last drive that was capped by a game-winning touchdown by for Giant wide receiver Plaxico Burress that gave the Giants a 17-14 would not had happened if former Giant wide receiver David Tyree made a spectacular catch with former safety and current NBC football analyst Rodney Harrison draped all over him as he made the catch. A similar situation took place last night when wide receiver Mario Manningham made a great catch keeping his feet in bounds that kept the game-winning drive going. It was capped by Ahmad Bradshaw with a 6-yard touchdown run that essentially gave the Giants the victory.

“We knew big plays were going to come. We just had to take advantage of them,” said Manningham, who had three receptions for 56 yards on that final drive.

Big plays were a plenty for another Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks who had 10 catches for 109 yards. One of the biggest plays though came from linebacker Chase Blackburn who killed a New England drive with an interception near the end zone late in the third quarter with the Pats leading 17-15. Not bad for a guy who was not even on the roster at the start of the season. In fact he was a substitute school teacher. He was a big reason why the Giants after putting a touchdown drive at the end of the first half and at the start of the third quarter held them scoreless the rest of the way.

“God works in mysterious ways. To get back here and be a part of this I can’t thank him enough” Blackburn, who won his second ring told WABC sports anchor Rob Powers after the game.

“I can’t imagine a better place to be…Being a part of the New York Giants again and obviously being here a world champion.”

When you win a Super Bowl, it is players and the coaches that make it happen, but it is the organization itself that sets the tone to allow the coaches to coach and the players to have the opportunity to go and perform. More than anything, especially in these last two Super Bowl triumphs, it takes gentleman like President and Chief Executive Office John K. Mara and Chairman and Executive Vice President Steve Tisch to stay the course in the best of times when the team was 6-2 to start both of these seasons and the worst of times particularly the three prior seasons when the Giants did not make the playoffs the last two or when they lost in the NFC Divisional Playoffs 23-11 to their East Division rivals the Philadelphia Eagles after going 12-4 in 2008.

“That’s just part of this business, but there’s not one coach in the league I would trade Tom Coughlin for. Were blessed him and he’s a two-time world champion now” Mara told NBC’s Dan Patrick after the game.

While having a strong ownership is important, it takes a strong fan base to build a team and that gives them the confidence and courage to perform to their potential. While fans can be tough at times, it takes that kind of high expectation to reach the mountaintop. As a result you get the kind of love that is unlike any other.

“We got the greatest fans in the world. The greatest players in the world; an unbelievable coach in Tom Coughlin and I want everybody in New York, New Jersey around the world this is for you guys. This team played its hearts out for you,” Tisch said after the game.

With another Super Bowl to their credit, there are now going to be the questions of how does the quarterback coach tandem of Manning and Coughlin stack up to those other QB/coach duos that have won Super Bowls. How many more can they win? Coughlin, who was part of Bill Parcels staff when the Giants won Super Bowl XXV feels that kind of talk is irrelevant.

“I’m not about comparisons or anything of that nature,” Coughlin said to Patrick after the game.

“I’m very thankful. Very grateful for the opportunity I’ve had as head coach of the New York Giants. The wonderful players I’ve had to work with; the coaches that have surrounded us and the support from the ownership. That’s what this is all about.”

It is also about players realizing being a part of something that is bigger than them. No one understands this better than rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich.

Three years ago the former Boston College star who was destined for the NFL was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that was in his leg. He was told by many that he may never walk again and he may even have his leg where the cancer infected taken off.

On Sept. 29, 2009 Herzlich announced that he was cancer free, which was confirmed by doctors. He returned to action for Boston College in 2010.

Despite his comeback season, he was not drafted by any NFL team. He did get a chance with the Giants and he made the roster and now can call himself a Super Bowl champion.

“This is the thing miracles are made of and this team has fought through a lot and I’m proud to be part of it,” Herzlich said.

Powers said it best about Herzlich and the Giants as a whole when he said, “This is the fighting spirit of the New York Giants. Super Bowl champion New York Giants.”

Tomorrow, the Giants will be celebrated by the New York faithful when they will have a victory parade that will go down the Parade of Heroes in New York City. It will end at City Hall where the team will receive the key to the city by Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I).

It will be a celebration for a team that showed the value of sticking with it in the worst of times and celebrating the greatest of times.

Information and quotations are courtesy of 2/5/12 6 p.m. Super Bowl XLVI on NBC with Al Michaels, Chris Collinsworth, Dan Patrick, Michelle Tafoya, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison; 2/5/12 11 p.m. edition of WABC Eyewitness News with Joe Torres and Sandra Bookman, reports from sports anchors Rob Powers and Laura Behnke; York Giants;

Thursday, February 2, 2012

J-Speaks: The Icon of College Football Passes Away

On Dec. 21, 1926, a young man came into this world and little did anyone know what he would accomplish. This man put a university in State College, PA on the map for their play on the grid iron on Saturdays, but they were also known for taking care of their business in the classroom Monday through Friday. He went on to win more games than anyone else and inspired all those that were around him and knew him. His legacy was eradicated by a scandal to end all scandals and it not only cost him his job, but eventually his life.

On Sunday morning of Jan. 22, legendary Penn State football coach and Brooklyn, NY native Joe Paterno passed away from lung cancer. He was 85.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years Susan, his five children Diana, Joseph, Jr. “Jay,” Mary Kay, David and Scott and 17 grandchildren. All five of his kids are Penn State graduates.

In a statement by the Paterno family, “He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life has been…”

Back on Wednesday, Jan. 25 about 1,000 people filled the streets to watch the funeral procession of Joe Paterno pass Beaver Stadium.

The day was capped by a private funeral service where the grandchildren shared stories of how Paterno, who we came to know as “Joe Pa,” would give them candy even when their grandmother said no.

One story that was shared that really showed what Paterno and his family were all about is when son Scott said that the kitchen table was always round to make froom for one more person.

The next day, thousands of Penn State fans gathered at the Bryce Jordan Center for public had a chance to pay their last respects to Paterno.

Paterno built one of the rare football programs in which players worked hard and succeeded on the football field as well as in the classroom. It was called, “Success with Honor.”

Under that mantra, Paterno won a Division I record 409 victories compiling a record of 409-136-3. He led the Nittany Lions to 37 Bowl appearances winning a Division I record 24 of them, which includes two National title victories in 1982 and 1986. More than

While Paterno was able to win a consistent number of games thanks in part to the greatness of his players each and every Saturday, many of whom went on to the National Football League, he also was successful in what he called “A Grand Experiment.” This was his way of saying that he wanted to be able to build a winning football teams that consisted of players that when their college careers were over graduated with their degrees.

The “Grand Experiment” worked as under Paterno his teams ranked among the best in the Big Ten Conference for graduates.

In 2008, Penn State had a 78 percent rate of success for graduating its students, which not only succeeded the 67 percent average among all other Division I institutions, but it was second in the Big Ten to Northwestern University.

Paterno believed in the education of Penn State students so much, particularly for the players that he coached in his 62 total years there, he and his wife Sue have contributed over $ million dollars to a number of departments and colleges on campus.

Back in 1997, after helping to raise $13.5 million in funds for the expansion of Pattee Library on campus, the University named the expansion Paterno Hall in honor of Joe and Sue.

It seemed like everything Joe Paterno did at Penn State on and off the football field put Penn State in a positive light.

So much so that he was immortalized with a larger than life statue outside of Beaver Stadium. On one of the walls it reads, “Joseph Vincent Paterno Educator, Coach, Humanitarian.” Also inscribed on the wall, “They asked me what I liked written about me when I’m gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place not just that I was a good football coach.”

While he will be remembered for that, he will also be remembered for that ended his coach career not on his own terms and bring unwanted publicity to Nittany Lion Country.

In late Nov. 5, 2011 when former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested on 40 of child sex abuse. The most notable of those counts was one that stems back to 2002 when then graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary told Paterno that he saw Sandusky abusing a 10-year-old boy in a Penn State shower.

While Paterno did notify Athletic Director Tim Curley about the incident and then director of business and finance Gary Schultz, who oversaw the University Police, no one went to the authorities themselves.

Three days later, hundreds of students gathered in front of home of the Paterno family in support of the coach.

The following day, Paterno announced that he would retire at the end of the season. That was not satisfying to the hierarchy of the University Board of Trustees who voted that night to relieve Paterno of his coaching duties effective immediately.

The abrupt firing of Paterno, as well as the resignation of school president Graham Spanier triggered an outcry on campus where angry students protested, congregating outside the university’s administrative building chanting “Joe Pa’s” name and overturning a television news van.

With his legacy tarnished and his good name damaged, Paterno in the midst of it all appealed to the students to calm down and hit the books.

Two months after his disgraceful exit, Paterno took on another battle, lung cancer. At the same time he finally broke his silence about the scandal that ended his career to the Washington Post.

“I called my superiors and I said, ‘Hey we got a problem I think. Can you guys look into it? Cause I didn’t know you know…,” said Paterno.

Paterno also said, “I don’t think I deviated from what I’m all about and what I thought was important.”

As far as what he thought of his legacy or what was left of it in the eyes of Penn State faithful, current and former, Paterno said, “ I had a wonderful experience here at Penn State. I don’t want to walk away from this thing bitter.”

The question now is after all that Paterno did and what transpired in late 2011 that tarnished his good name, how should we remember Paterno.

Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated said, “Joe Paterno made a huge mistake that a lot of people will never ever forgive him for, but he did a lot of things that a lot of people will remember him very fondly for and a lot of people feel like they should remember him for.”

“Honestly he should have done more in that situation, but I don’t think this should be the way he is remembered,” says Michael Boyer, who is one of 23,000 people living in New York City that graduated from Penn State.

“I honestly think we lost one of the greatest role models for children and students, especially because not only did he coach football and that’s a very important job, but he also made sure all his students graduated.”

The Joseph Vincent Paterno story began in Brooklyn, NY. It then went on to Brown University where he played quarterback and cornerback. After graduating in 1950 he followed his college coach Rip Engle to Penn State where he would spend 16 years as his assistant. He was named the successor to Engle in February 1966 and put the institution on the map both on the football field and in academics. He fell from grace after one of his trusted lieutenants brought the scandals to end all scandals to the door steps of Penn State and it ended a legendary career in the blink of an eye. Fast forward two months later, lung cancer ended his life.

While his career ended abruptly, it was a remarkable career. One in which he coached more than just kids that did more than win games on the field, but excelled in the classroom. He gave back to his institution in both dollars and time. Above all he was loving husband, father and grandfather that all of North America came to know.

Information and quotations are courtesy of:; 1/22/12 6 p.m. edition of PIX 11 (WPIX) News at 6 with Kaity Tong, report from Magee Hickey; 1/22/12 6:30 p.m. edition of “NBC Nightly News” with Lester Holt, reports from Michelle Franzen and Ron Allen; 1/22/12 6:30 p.m. edition of “ABC World News” with David Muir; 1/26/12 6 a.m. edition of Headline News “Morning Express” with Robin Meade, report from Carlos Diaz.