Archive for the ‘Sports’ Tag

Christian “Late”-ner on a Loan…(See what I did there?)   2 comments


In 1992, Christian Laettner hit arguably the most famous shot in the history of the NCAA Tournament to win arguably the greatest game in the history of NCAA basketball.  He went on to represent his country, albeit from the bench, and walked away with a gold medal as a member of the 1992 Dream Team (THE greatest team ever assembled in any sport…ever…don’t question me on this in a bar argument as I will start yelling…the only argument is if Isiah Thomas should have been on the team).  He was drafted into the NBA in 1992 and after bouncing around to and from seven different teams during a relatively disappointing career, he cashed out of the NBA and retired.  According to a three sentence blurb in the Chicago Sun-Times last week, Laettner has now found himself in debt and has lost a $3.8 lawsuit to Shawne Merriman over defaulting on a business loan between the two (what a Maryland Terp and a Duke Blue Devil were doing in business together I will never know…).

To be clear, I have never been a Christian Laettner fan as I was drawn to the “Fab 5” with their baggy shorts, highlight-reel style of play, and swingman with whom I shared a last name.  Although he has never been one to me personally, Christian Laettner was and is a hero to many.  To those who played the race card in the early 90’s, his Duke teams were not players pulled from the inner city who wore shorts down to their ankles.  They were clean cut, smart, “well-spoken” (apparently speaking with non-regional/ethnic diction equals intelligence?), and wore shorts that showed everything Bobby Hurley had to offer.  To basketball purists, they played the game the “right” way, playing an unselfish style with a strong emphasis on defense and fundamentals.  Those Duke teams thrived off of and were fueled by hustle plays while teams like the great UNLV Runnin’ Rebels of 1990-91 and the Fab 5 came off as cocky and brash relying merely on pure athleticism and talent instead of hard work and heart.  The latter group might be onto something as Duke beat both teams during Laettner’s tenure.  Unfortunately for him, Christian Laettner, like so many athletes before and after, became a false representation of those basketball court ideals.

Laettner’s uber-intelligence on a basketball court did not transcend to fiscal knowledge and responsibility.  That undying heart of his could not stop his real estate business from flat-lining.  His four year Duke education, which he had to have received because every big time college athlete attends every single one of his or her classes, did not instill enough knowledge in him to master his eventual business field and maintain profits over loses and debts.

Who wouldn't want this guy developing their community?

Laettner has fallen victim (yes, I realize I am saying people who get paid millions of dollars to play sports are victims) to a fallacy that has plagued professional athletes for decades.  They are told by everyone around them, including fans like you and I, how great they are at their respective sports.  We watch and admire their on the court/field greatness and the fan in us assumes that greatness MUST lend itself to other aspects of life because these people are winners and winners always win.  With their already giant egos being fed more encouragement, the athletes end up believing they can accomplish anything.  I am sure Laettner sat down prior to all of this and had a Keith Hernandez Seinfeld moment, “This real estate thing can’t be that hard, I’m Christian Laettner!  I was a perfect ten of ten in the greatest NCAA basketball game ever played!  Let’s develop some property!”  Why do you think Kobe Bryant went on Tyra and rapped?  Why did Dick Butkus throw his hat into the acting ring and become the high school basketball coach on NBC’s Saturday morning show Hang Time?  Because WE let them think they could do it.  People cheered during Kobe’s terrible rap and even I tuned it to watch Butkus run a co-ed high school team that ran the same play every possession on Saturdays.

As sports fans we have to realize that the ability our favorite athletes show on the field or court does not necessarily translate to our world just like our random abilities do not translate to theirs.  My ability to know more Saved By the Bell trivia than Derrick Rose doesn’t mean that I can be anything like him on a basketball court and his ridiculous first step and quickness doesn’t mean he can sell things like I do (although I would buy just about anything D-Rose tried to sell me).  So tonight, if and when Cam Newton is responsible for 400 all purpose yards and 5 touchdowns, appreciate him for his athletic abilities and performance, but do not ask him to develop any communities in your area.

PS – This video is a wonderful tribute to Laettner’s shot…enjoy:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPMo14XTTvE

Here Comes D-Rose…   4 comments


In Chicago, the collective sports fan base desires and demands greatness each and every season.  Greatness alone isn’t good enough for us, though.  We need greatness with some flare, some pizzazz.  The ’85 Bears wasn’t just the greatest football team ever assembled, those guys were monsters (monsters who could awkwardly dance and pretend to play instruments better than anyone else…ever) led by a coach with a fictional hurricane named after him.  The Bulls of the 90’s?  It wasn’t enough that we had the best player to ever play the game, the best “Robin” to set foot on a basketball court, and the best pro basketball coach of all time, we also needed Horace “Fo-Man” Grant with his crazy goggles and Dennis “The Worm” Rodman with his hair follicle antics.  The 2005 Sox won with the most hated catcher outside Chicago and most beloved instigator in the Windy City behind the plate.  Last year’s Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup thanks to an overtime goal by a kid we embraced for beating up a cabbie in Buffalo.

When we as fans finally witness such greatness, we cherish it and hold onto the memories for the rest of our lives.  We carry it around with us ready to throw it in an out of towner’s face anytime he or she tries to tell us that Tom Brady’s near perfect Patriots team could have beaten the Bears Shufflin’ Crew.  When Bill Simmons in his Book of Basketball told the world his hometown 1986 Celtics were the greatest NBA team of all time, we scoffed and (seriously, I might add) asked, “Who would cover Tony Kukoc on that team?”  There is a reason the Chicago Bulls 1990’s Dynasty DVDs are selling on Amazon.com for almost $300 right now while the Lakers Dynasty DVDs are going for a mere $15.  The demand for those memories is just that much greater in the Chicago sports fan population.  I can guarantee that if you are a true Chicago sports fan, either you or someone you know owns the Super Bowl Shuffle VHS or you have downloaded it onto your MP3 player and you can probably still recite at least some part of the song.

I am here to let you know that we are on the cusp of greatness yet again.  There is a hometown kid, born and raised right here in the Second City, who is in the process of making the leap to being not only a solid MVP candidate this year (give Tim Legler two weeks before he’s saying the same thing), but one of the NBA’s greatest players.  He has rejuvenated a franchise that has been in the dumps for over ten years and is doing so with speed we haven’t seen before and new-found gusto (have you seen the commercials with “Slim Chin”?).  Through 20% of this season, Derrick Rose has led a team without its major free agent signing power forward to a 9-6 record atop the Midwest Division, including the first winning record on the dreaded “circus trip” since The Statue won his last ring.   Through fifteen games he is averaging 27 points, 8 assists, and nearly 5 rebounds per game.  Of course you can say the scoring numbers will drop when Carlos Boozer returns to the line up, but with a solid and consistent (sorry Taj Gibson) post scorer, his assist numbers will only increase.  Just for argument’s sake, if Rose conservatively averages 24 points and 9 assists per game for the rest of the season, he will finish the season in a group occupied only by Oscar Robertson, Nate Archibald, and Jerry West.  Of these players all achieved First Team All-NBA Honors and all but Archibald won the MVP (Archibald had a bit of an attitude problem that led him to be traded twice in the prime of his career…D-Rose has no such attitude problem.  In fact, players around the league like Kobe Bryant and even the spurned child of Chicago Kevin Garnett go out of their way to compliment him and his dedication to the game).  In addition, all were honored as members of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996 and are enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

If you aren’t already one of the bandwagon jumpers who have joined in the Chicago Bulls herd, you should look into doing so and fast (at the very least for the United Center Nachos…).  I have noticed people who couldn’t tell me the difference between a small forward and a hole in the ground posting Facebook status updates about the resurgence of the franchise and it is only going to get better from here.  In the words of the immortal Stacey King (see, my argument exactly, in no other town would a former bench player turned color commentator like Stacey King be so loved and revered as in Chicago), “this kid is special”.  Stacey’s right and I hope ALL of Chicago and the rest of the NBA start to take notice.