On Memorial Day, a day set aside for remembering the sacrifices people have made for our freedom and the chance to do things like watch NBA games, it seemed fitting to look back at NBA players who served in the military.
Because the NBA was formed after World War II, the NBA does not have the long list of players who left the game in wartime to serve. But there are some who have. (Many of the early NBA players in the 1949 season had been in college during the war, or in the case of some had simply been too tall to serve.)
But there are some who have served before and after. (What follows is an incomplete list.)
David Robinson. “The Admiral” is by far the best known of this group, a star at the Naval Academy who spent a couple years in the service as a civil engineering officer at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia before moving on to the NBA. For the record, “the Admiral” was really a Lieutenant, Junior Grade. After leaving the Navy he has continued as a reserve for years and still helps with recruiting. As a player, well, he’s in the Hall of Fame, that should tell you how his career went.
Tim James. Earlier this season the Miami Heat honored their former first-round draft pick. He was drafted in 1999 but after his NBA career fizzled (and after a couple seasons playing in Europe) he joined the army and has done a tour of duty in Iraq.
Mike Silliman. The only NBA player ever to graduate from the United States Military Academy (West Point). The small forward was a member of the 1968 United States Olympic Team that won the gold medal and played in several other international tournaments for the United States. He was selected in the eighth round of the NBA draft in 1966 draft by the Knicks (yes, there was an eighth round back then) but he played just one season, the 1970-71 season with the Buffalo Braves.
Connie Norman. He highlights a larger issue we face in our nation — homeless veterans. Norman was a former Arizona star in college who was drafted by Philadelphia in 1974. He played in part of three NBA seasons (the last in 1979 with the San Diego Clippers). After the Clippers cut him he joined the army, where he was stationed in Germany. After that he played several seasons professionally in Europe. Three decades later he was homeless, living on the streets in Los Angeles due to drug problems. He got clean and was living in a facility to help get homeless off the street in Detroit.
Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.
Where are they looking?
A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:
Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.
In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?
Almost certainly unavailable
Free agency or trade
- Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
- Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)
The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.
And apparently so are the Spurs.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.
San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:
- Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
- Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
- Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.
The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.
But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.
The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.
The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.
“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.
“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”
There is some truth to that.
There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.
The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.
Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.