An icon is lost; and a long process continues to unfold
We’ll journey from the sublime to the ridiculous this morning. It is quite a trek.
I never had the pleasure of meeting John Wooden, the iconic coach who passed away Friday; it is one of the true regrets of my professional basketball writing life.
But I know enough people who have shared time with him and know enough about him anecdotally to say that the game and the world has lost a man who was a treasure, a man whose impact on the athletes went far beyond the edges of the court and a man like whom we may never, ever see again.
His three tenets – no vulgarity, be on time, respect and never publicly criticize a teammate – are brilliant in their simplicity and the standards that they set.
His on-court accomplishments are too many to list; the 10 NCAA championships, the 88-game winning streak (I absolutely remember sitting in my house, stunned, when Notre Dame ended it, one of the basketball moments that sticks with me to this day), more great players graduated than can almost be counted.
But is was the manner in which he conducted himself, and the manner in which he demanded his athletes conduct themselves on and off the court – humbly, with class, no boasting, no showboating, grow to be good men more than good athletes – that will be his ever-lasting legacy.
Of course, times have changed since the Wooden era, people have changed, the demands of society of have changed and I cannot imagine another like him coming down the pike for the rest of time.
The sports world could use more dignity, it could use more attention to detail, it could use more men who are concerned about people rather than results, people who conduct themselves not as if they are above the game but as if they want to improve it.
The sports world could use more John Woodens.
Sadly, it doesn’t have enough.
I don’t think I can quite capture the impact Wooden had on the game and the people here. As I said, I have no first-hand recollections of the man but I do know what his impact was.
Which, in a lot of ways, is good for guys like me.
Calm before the storm and all that.
There seems to be a lot of mail hanging around the remains unanswered (it’ll give me something to do when it rains all afternoon, you get one more kick at the submission can by clicking here) but here’s a snippet of what’s to come, having to do with the finals and The Heroes Of The Hardcourt.
Q: I wondered whether you would care to discuss the mistake the Lakers made in signing Ron Artest. I recall you had some strong opinions about how his character problems would be a distraction for any team that was stupid enough to hire him. I also wondered if you had any thoughts about how the Raptors might deal with their manifold problems in the defensive end and what Toronto should do now that Hedo wants out.
Peter I, London
A: You’re right, I didn’t think Artest could go a whole season without being some kind of major disruption. Shockingly, for what I believe was the first time ever, I was wrong. Oh, wait, I thought I was wrong once before, but I was wrong. Does that count?
Manifold problems? Try harder, play better, devise a more simple system that plays to their strengths and get some more effective defenders on the court.
What should they do now that Hedo wants out? I’d suggest comply with his wishes and trade him for a good defender. Or Ron Artest, Model Citizen.
Q: Hi Doug. Do you have any further insight on the rumours that Raptors are trying to pick up another 1st round draft pick? (Due to the recent prospect workouts of players beyond that of the 13th pick range)
Or is that just the way the Raptors go about drafting normally?
Jasper C, Toronto
A: Just due diligence, as about 29 other teams are doing.
I’ll let Jim Kelly, the senior director of player personnel, explain it in recycled quote from earlier this week.
“There is always the possibility of picking up another pick. Especially as we get into the workouts here, when you get attracted to one player who came in and personality-wise and basketball-wise, you said, ‘man, this is a guy we should try to get on our team’ but maybe he’s not a 13th pick, maybe he’s a bit deeper than that.”
It is the norm around the league.
So, we did the sublime up top; let’s get to the ridiculous before I go off to clean the house, cut the grass and answer the mail (yes, a truly fun day awaits).
I am getting entirely bored with LeBron James, aren’t you?
I watched a bit of that stultifying interview with Larry King on Friday night (I actually dozed off a couple of times near its end) and if there was ever more anticipation over something that fell short, I can’t imagine what it was.
The New Coke maybe? Y2K?
Seriously, a snorefest from start to finish (at least from start to when I finished).
(As an aside: How does Larry King have this rep as some giant of the industry? That was an almost fawning interview, no followup questions, not anything you’d consider remotely “hard.”)
Anyway, two more points on King James.
First, if this story is true, about Nike making shoes specific to the cities he’s going to “visit” during the summer, I truly hope not a single pair gets sold. That’s ghastly.
Second, while there is no doubt that LeBron James is a singular talent, he has more basketball ability that almost anyone on the planet but I honestly feel he’s somehow diminishing himself in this whole process.
Yes, his future is a hugely significant thing for a few NBA franchises and for the game itself. But the way it’s being played out in public, as if it’s some kind of auction for the right to cheer for an athlete, kind of sickens me in some way. It’s a public tease meant to elevate Q ratings and line pockets; it is just too much.
And it can’t end soon enough for me.
Anyway, there are a couple of rants and a couple of questions and if I ever thought there’d be a truly slow day with little to talk or write about, I’m finding that to be absolutely false.
Wonder what’s on Turkish TV today?