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Isiah Explains “If He Was Black” Comment – June 4, 1987

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Actually, Dennis Rodman started the whole thing by saying that “Larry Bird was overrated because he was white. Then Isiah Thomas jumped on Rodman’s behalf with his famous line “Bird would be just another good guy” if he were black.”

In this video with Bird and Thomas, Isiah more or less walks it back, and says he was just joking.

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Kobe Leads Lower Merion to State Championship – March 23, 1996

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OHver-RATED, OHver-RATED, OHver-RATED

OHver-RATED, OHver-RATED, OHver-RATED; throughout the whole game, the 16 year-old junior from Lower Merion High School heard the taunts. When his team’s 77-50 drubbing by the Chester Clippers mercifully ended, many in the standing-room crowd at the Villanova Pavilion might have been convinced that the Chester kids were right. Maybe the young son of former LaSalle and Sixes star Joe Bryant, didn’t quite live up to the hype.

Redemption

A little more than a year later, on March 23, 1996, Kobe Bryant had the last laugh (the first of many). He led his team to the Pennsylvania AAAA championship with a 48-43 win over Erie Cathedral Prep. A sellout crowd of 8,242 at the old Hersheypark Arena (Where Wilt Chamberlain had scored 100 points in a game 34 years earlier) watched the Lower Merion Aces hold off the stubborn Ramblers from Erie Prep.


Three nights before their championship win, in the semifinal, Lower Merion faced a steep challenge. Bryant and the Aces took on their nemesis, Chester, at the Palestra. The most successful team in the history of Pennsylvania high school basketball, the Clippers had won state titles in 1983, 1989 and 1994; and had gone to the finals on seven other occasions.

For the first three quarters, most of the fans in the Palestra crowd grimaced, as Bryant shot a woeful 8-24 from the field, and committed five turnovers. Keep in mind though, the game is played at both ends of the court, and Kobe has been named as an NBA first team all-defensive player, 12 times. So even though he stunk the joint out on offence, when Chester had the ball, their kids, and everybody else in the building, knew that Mr. Bryant was in the house. And, he was solid at the foul line (15-17). Going into the second half, Lower Merion only trailed by two points.

It went back in forth until the Aces built a five point lead with fewer than two minutes to play. But then Chester came back and forced the game into overtime. For the Clippers it was all for naught. In the extra period, the real Kobe showed up, and Lower Merion cruised to the finals.

Bryant also had a slow start against Erie Prep. They held him scoreless in the first period. But in the second quarter he broke out and put up eight points. Still, Lower Merion trailed 21-15 at the half. Then the Aces took a 26-21 lead after scoring the first 11 points of the second half. The Ramblers made another run and led 41-39, but Lower Merion sealed the deal, outscoring Erie Prep 9-2 in the final minutes.

College or the NBA?

The big story then, was not being played out on the hardwood floor. What sportswriters and talk show hosts were buzzing about, was whether or not Bryant was going to skip college and jump to the NBA. ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon was working for the Washington Post at the time. In a column that he might want to retract, or at least modify, Wilbon quoted Lower Merion’s coach Gregg Downer, who said about Kobe, “I’m confident he could become the next Penny Hardaway, the next Grant Hill, the next Michael Jordan.” Wilbon didn’t like that. He wrote, “I wonder if this guy was selling used cars before he became a coach. Comparing a high school kid to Michael Jordan? Can you be any more irresponsible than that? ”

19 seasons (with 17 All Star Game appearances), 32,617 points (as of November 17, 2015), and five NBA Championship rings later; someone should ask Wilbon if would prefer his crow to be sautéed, baked or grilled on a skewer.

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Peggy Fleming Skates to Gold – February 10, 1968

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Peggy Fleming won the gold medal in Women’s Figure Skating on February 10, 1968. She was the only American to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.

The New York Times described Fleming’s win as “a victory of the ballet over the Ice Follies approach to figure skating.”

Women’s figure skating became an Olympic sport in 1908, but no American woman was able to take a gold medal in the event until Tenley Albright did it at Cortina, Italy in 1956. The U.S. followed up its win in Cortina when Carol Heiss, who had been the silver medalist in 1956, stepped up and took the gold medal at Squaw Valley, California, in 1960.

Disaster struck a year later when all 18 members of the U.S. team were killed in a plane crash in Belgium. They were on their way to the World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Still in the throes of its rebuilding phase, Peggy Fleming at the age of 15, led the U.S. women skaters by placing 6th at the 1964 Winter Olympics at Insbruck, Austria.

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Lebron James High School – Ruled Ineligible Over Free Jerseys – January 31, 2003

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Ohio High School Athletic Association has no problem with Lebron’s $50,000 Hummer

The nation’s top high school basketball player was cleared Monday after a two-week investigation by state officials determined he did not violate amateur bylaws by accepting a Hummer H2 vehicle as a gift. Read more Cincinnatti.com

But taking some jerseys worth $850 gets him ruled ineligible.

High school basketball star LeBron James was ruled ineligible to play for the rest of the season because he accepted free clothes.
The decision today by the Ohio High School Athletic Association comes four days after James, a senior at St. Vincent-St. Mary, was cleared for accepting a $50,000 sport utility vehicle as a gift from his mother.

Last Saturday, James was given two retro sports jerseys from a clothing store. The jerseys, honoring former Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers and former Washington Bullets center Wes Unseld, cost a combined $845. Read more Seattle Times

And that ruling gets reversed.

LeBron James can put his high school jersey back on for at least a few more games.

The 18-year-old basketball superstar was cleared by a judge Wednesday to continue playing after losing his eligibility for accepting two free sports jerseys, valued at $845, from a clothing store.

“It confirms our belief that the he never should have been suspended,” said James’ attorney, Fred Nance.

James still must sit out at least one more game and his eligibility remains in question pending another court hearing Feb. 19. Read more Cleveland.com

So what did we learn from this? Who is to blame? His coach? His School? The Ohio High School Athletic Association? ESPN? The sponsors? Lebron himself?

Who’s to blame? Everyone on this list and a culture that inspires facile rationalizations for athletes. Read more HerbLondon.org

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John Riggins Leads Washington to Super Bowl Win – January 30, 1983

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At the Orange Bowl on January 30, 1983, John Riggins rushed for a Super Bowl record 166 yards (on 36 attempts, also a Super Bowl Record). He scored a touchdown (a 43 yard rush) and caught a pass for 15 yards. His 181 yards for the game were five more than the whole Miami Dolphins team was able to muster that day.

Super Bowl XVII was the culmination of a strike-shortened season that saw the Red Skins successfully working their way to the NFL championship by surviving a four-round 16-team tournament.

For Washington, it was their first Super Bowl championship and only their third title in the history of the franchise. The Boston Redskins lost the NFL championship game to the Green Bay Packers (21-6) in 1936. The following year, the Red Skins, having moved to Washington, delighted their new host city with championship win against the Chicago Bears (28-21).

In 1940, the Bears mercilessly avenged that loss when they defeated Washington 73-0. The Red Skins got over though. They faced the Bears again for the championship in 1942 and won the game 14-6. Washington and Chicago were back at it again the following year and this time it was the Bears turn to be champions (41-21). Prior to their 1983 Super Bowl win, the Red Skins made one last appearance in a championship game, a 15-14 loss to the Cleveland Rams.

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Steve Young 6 TD’s Super Bowl Record – January 29, 1995

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Want to start an argument or at least spirited discussion in San Franisco? Just say Steve Young or Joe Montana. That’s all you have to say. Then prepare yourself to hear “the talking points.” Montana won more games. Young had a higher quarterback rating. Montana was better in the post season. Young was a better runner. It goes on and on.

Before Super Bowl XXIX on January 29, 1995, there was no argument. Even though Young had just won his second MVP award, he was considered to be a good quarterback, maybe a great one, but he was not Joe Montana.

Then, against an over matched San Diego Chargers team, Steve Young completed 24 out of 36 passes (no interceptions) for 325 yards. And, he completed six touchdown passes, breaking Montana’s Super record.(The 49ers won the game 49-26.)

With Young at the helm, the 49ers ripped through the postseason, totaling 131 points in three games. He finally can enjoy the silence of the naysayers who said he would never measure up to Montana. In the one game that counted, Young was as good as Montana ever was. Read more Washington Post

Even the naysayers can’t deny that in Super Bowl XXIX, for a fleeting moment, Young was no longer the guy who replaced Joe Montana. He was Steve Young: Super Bowl MVP. Read more NYDailynews.com

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Roy Campanella Crash Leaves Him Paralyzed – January 28, 1958

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Before dawn, or the morning of January 28, 1958, Roy Campanella was driving home from the liquor store he owned in Harlem. Campanella (or Campy as was known) skidded off the road and hit a telephone poll. Campanella was a three-time National League MVP, and not surprisingly, the news of his accident was covered by every major newspaper in the U.S.

Most of the stories acknowledged that the great catcher had been seriously injured, but focused not so much on whether he would live or be permanently paralyzed, but rather on whether or not he could resume playing baseball. The Washington Post on the other was more blunt and more accurate than the others. Their headline read,”Campanella’s Career at End After Suffering Broken Neck in Crash.”

On January 31 a tracheotomy was performed on Campanella to relieve congestion that had formed in his lung. By the following day, his breathing had improved, but there was no change in his paralysis.

On February 20 the New York Times reported a “pessimistic bulletin” from the community hospital in Glen Cove, NY, where Campanella was being cared for. It said “No improvement in the muscle strength of the 36-year old catcher has been apparent since his neck was broken in an automobile accident on January 28. Moreover, the sensation that had returned to the left side as low as the knee, has now receded to the groin.

In January 1958, just before he was due to report for spring training, Campanella was permanently disabled in a traffic accident. He had successfully invested in a liquor store in central Harlem, Roy Campanella Choice Wines and Liquors, earlier in his career and worked there in the offseason…The Chevy station wagon Campy normally drove was in the shop for repairs, and he was driving a much lighter rental car when he lost control of the vehicle on an icy street. He hit a telephone pole and the car flipped over, pinning him under the steering wheel. Roy’s neck was broken and his spinal cord was severely damaged, paralyzing him from the chest down. Read more SABR.org

“To play this game good, a lot of you has to be a little boy.” – Roy Campanella

It was a career started late due to the color of his skin, and ended early after a tragic auto accident.

In between, Roy Campanella blazed across the baseball landscape with 10 years of catching perfection. Read more Baseballhall.org

Here’s an ethnic baseball trivia question: Name the eight Italian Americans who have hit 40 or more home runs in a major league season? A couple of names come readily to mind; Joe DiMaggio and Rocky Colavito from the distant past, and more recently Mike Piazza and Jason Giambi. Rounding out the list are Jim Gentile, Rico Petrocelli, Ken Caminitti and perhaps the trick part of the question Roy Campanella. Read more Spitballmag.com

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