From our “if you’re going to read one thing today” file…
There is a fascinating profile of newly-minted Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis over at Grantland. Another fine bit of work by Jonathan Abrams.
Sabonis is more of a mythical player here in the United States — we’ve heard of the legend of his greatness, but what we saw was just a shell of that. The Sabonis we saw had two major Achilles issues, a host of other ankle and foot problems, and was more than 30 years old. How bad were things?
(Former Portland GM Bob) Whitsitt asked Portland’s team physician, Dr. Robert Cook, to take a look at Sabonis’ X-rays before he arrived. Cook asked Whitsitt if he was sure his new player could play. “He said that Arvydas could qualify for a handicapped parking spot based on the X-ray alone,” Whitsitt said.
There are stories of Sabonis in Europe (George Karl raves about him). There are great stories of how Sabonis played through pain and battled with Shaquille O’Neal (when Shaq was in his prime).
Then there was the time Rasheed Wallace threw a towel in Sabonis’ face. Sabonis kept his cool, because if he had not it would have divided the team. But Bill Walton had the best quote about it.
Walton, who was broadcasting the game nationally, still feels remorse over the incident. “It was one of the lowest moments of my life,” he said. “If I was any kind of a man, I would have got up from that broadcast table and walked across the court and punched Rasheed Wallace in the nose. But I let Sabonis and the game of basketball and the human race down that day.”
Just go read the whole story, which comes complete with video highlights of Sabonis. You will not totally understand him afterwards, but you’ll have a much better picture.
In the summer in parts of Los Angeles, beach volleyball is a way of life. Very good athletes are out diving and leaping in the sand at 16th Place in Manhattan Beach (and a host of other spots from Pacific Palisades down to Newport).
Countless of basketball stars with Southern California ties have worked out playing beach volleyball — all the way back to Wilt Chamberlain (who was very good and played for many years after his NBA career ended, we used to see him up in Pali all the time) and Bill Walton through Sasha Vujacic and Chase Budinger (who was a top flight prep volleyball player).
Now add Kevin Love to the list.
The Timberwolves big man was in New York testing out his game on a makeshift beach court in Times Square Tuesday as part of the Pro Beach Volleyball Series. It is sponsored by Jose Cuervo and Love plans to play in the Manhattan Beach Open next month (the biggest beach volleyball tournament in the nation).
Laugh if you want, but if you can run and jump in the sand, you sky when you get back on the hardwood. It’s a great workout. And you’d like to think it would be easy on your body — Misty May won an Olympic gold just fine then blew out her Achilles on Dancing With The Stars. Although you might want to ask Robert Edwards about that.
I come into this with bias. For one, I love Guinness. I drink it (although only in specific places that pour it right, a couple trips to Ireland spoiled me). Secondly, I love Bill Walton. The greatest San Diego Clipper ever. Sure he’s over the top and a whole bunch of other things, but he’s fun and loves the game. I’m glad he’s back around.
Combine the two and you have a winner.
This ad does just that (thanks to Eric Freeman at Ball Don’t Lie for finding it). So before you go have your Friday night Guinness, enjoy.
Like many teams, the Sacramento Kings run a promotion where a fan gets a chance at a half-court shot to win a bunch of money (or a trip or whatever). Wednesday night a Kings’ fan nailed it.
Why? Because Bill Walton was courtside and summoned the spirit of Jerry Garcia on Grateful Dead night at the Kings game. Well, that’s what it sounds like if you listen to the announcers (including Walton himself).
Personally, not a Jerry Garcia fan. Cherry Garcia? That works.
Is there any more dreaded part All-Star weekend than the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game? No, not even close. I’d rather watch Kwame Brown doing the skills competition.
But this year — Bieber fever.
Tons of tween girls will tune into that station Daddy watches — ESPN — at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 to see Justin Bieber, Common and Rob Kardashian take on a bunch of old basketball players. What, you don’t think that’s exactly how the tweens see it?
The lineup of players for this year’s event include Magic Johnson (who now moves only slightly faster than his statue in front of Staples), Zach Levi (“Chuck”), Scottie Pippen, Bill Walton (will his ankles hold up for a short exhibition game?), AC Green. B.J. Armstrong, Chris Mullin, Jalen Rose, Jimmy Kimmel (“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”), Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”), Jason Alexander (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Bill Simmons (ESPN.com “Sports Guy” columnist). Other players, including WNBA stars, will be added later.
The only thing worth watching of Friday night of All-Star weekend is the rookie/sophomore game, and if you missed that to catch up on episodes of Merlin we’d understand. But as a service to you with tween daughters — or who are closet Bieber fans — we are passing this along.
All the All-Star events will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.