Tag Archives: Hall of Fame

Watching Haiti and the dunk contest…

Last night, Shaquille O’Neal commented in his post game interview that LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and others should all participate in a slam dunk competition to benefit the earthquake-ravaged country of Haiti (see HERE). 

Maybe the “Big Philanthropist” is onto something here.

Imagine the financial windfall a contest between LeBron, Kobe, Vinsanity, D-Wade, Dwight Howard and others could create.  Then factor in television contracts, corporate sponsor dollars and donations that could be solicited during the competition.  Heck, they should just go ahead and put it on pay-per-view and then bring in what you normally would for an MMA or boxing card.

In watching coverage of the disaster in the island nation of Haiti, one can’t help but have his or her heart broken over and over again when news of orphans, looting, riots, shootings and deaths that really shouldn’t be happening flash along the CNN ticker.

So many Americans have donated money and time, but we know that with devastation of this magnitude, there really is never too much that we can give.  Americans should be commended for what they have done and how much sacrifice has already been given.  We surely have led the charge of the world coming to the aid of the truly less fortunate.  The aftermath is not over, (I got a tweet that a 6.1-magnitude aftershock rattled the area this morning) and the dominos have not stopped falling.

Several celebrities like Brangelina and Sandra Bullock have donated millions to aid the recovery effort and I’m sure athletes have done their share of donating, as well.  No offense to telethons and other efforts to procure funds, but a slam dunk contest with that kind of star power would be something I would watch over a reunion of “We are the World”.

Holding a contest with the marquee stars from the marquee sport around the world could garner so much attention and raise a ridiculous amount of funds.  No offense to soccer and baseball, but the global impact of the NBA and basketball in general is amazing.  Besides, do you think people would really get excited about a soccer shootout with Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and David Beckham?  I know I wouldn’t. 

The homerun derby would be a little different because it would be an attraction and could be global, but most of the biggest stars in baseball already participate in that competition, so what we would be seeing wouldn’t be completely novel.  Which brings me to this…

What has happened to our beloved slam dunk contest?

The first slam dunk competition was held in Denver in 1976 at the ABA All-Star Game.  That thriller saw Julius Erving soar from the free throw line to defeat the likes of David Thompson, George Gervin and Artis Gilmore.  All four are hall of famers with the exception of Gilmore and his lack of induction into the hall is quite controversial.

Gilmore had an ABA career where averaged 23 points and 17 rebounds, an NBA career where he averaged 17 and 10, is in the top ten all-time in rebounds, blocks, games and minutes played and in the top 25 in points.  He is also first in league history in field goal percentage.  His lack of induction is a travesty.  I haven’t done a ton of research on this, but I don’t think that a single player with his statistical profile has been denied induction in the history of the game.  It is clear that he is being slighted because his best years were played in the ABA, but isn’t it the hall of fame for all of basketball?  But, I digress…

The point is that this dunk contest set a precedent that the highest fliers came, competed and gave one heck of a show.  The NBA brought the contest to their all-star weekend for the first time in 1984, also in Denver.  Who had boarding passes in that competition?  Just three hall of famers: Dr. J, Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler.  Larry Nance took the top honor that first year.

Dr. J came back to compete for the last time in ’85, a competition that added a fourth hall of famer to the lineup, some dude named Michael Jordan.  That year Jordan lost to ‘Nique in a phenomenal final.  Spud Webb topped Wilkins in ’86 (Jordan was injured), MJ won back-to-back titles in ’87 and ’88 and the rest is history.  The dunk contest was part of basketball culture and that culture dictated that the best came to play each all-star weekend. 

Jordan would compete in three contests (he sat out ’86 due to injury), Drexler and ‘Nique each threw down in five.  Down the road the competition would feature NBA stars like Scottie Pippen, Ralph Sampson, Shawn Kemp and other marquee attractions who soared above the rim.  They would enter themselves in multiple dunk showdowns unlike competitors like Carter (’00 champion), Bryant (’97 champion), Andre Iguodala (’06) and Tracy McGrady (’00) who have only entered one contest each.

These days we get scrubs like Hakim Warrick, Stromile Swift, Jonathan Bender, Ricky Davis and Gerald Green.  Nate Robinson is an interesting novelty like Spud was, but will he go to the hall of fame?  Will he ever be the best player on his team?  It is nice that Dwight Howard has made multiple appearances (’07-’09) and he may very well be on his way to the hall, but where are his backboard-rattling contemporaries?

So, let’s bring it back and let’s do it for the right reasons.  Let Shaq be the promoter, he did implore us to spread the word:

“I’m saying it now, so tweet it. Facebook it. E-mail it and hopefully it gets out. Vince, we’re calling you out. Kobe, we’re calling you out. We’re calling everybody out. If those guys step up in the dunk contest, then I will allow my client [LeBron] to step up.”

What would the impact be on our Haitian neighbors if this happened?  How many millions will it raise? 

Furthermore, what will the impact have on our dunk contest?  Maybe the precedent will be reestablished that it features legit, high-flying all-stars headed to the hall of fame. 

More recent contestants have seen the need to feature a stupid gimmick like a blindfold (thank you Cedric Ceballos and Dee Brown) or a Superman cape (props to you Dwight Howard), but when did we ever stop liking the visual of 6’6″ monster throwing down a dunk from the free throw line or a sick alley-oop delivered spot-on for a rim-rattling jam? 

Bring the stars back and the dunk contest is what it was meant to be again.  Let Shaq do it for Haiti and the world will see how powerful 180s, 360s and tomahawks really are.

Are you there Kobe, LeBron, Vince and D-Wade?  We’re waiting…

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Filed under Basketball, Haiti, NBA

Watching the ins and outs of baseball’s HOF

So the best looking neck in sports came out of his injection-free bathroom this week when Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids.  Now we get to talk about this until the NFL conference championships at the turn of the week.  That is unless McGwire decides to have an extra-marital affair with Tiger Woods between now and then.

But what does the McGwire admission mean

We are so anesthetized by the admission of a different Major League Baseball player every few months that we are not surprised by the newest tear-filled confession of sins to the television cameras.  Fans, critics and baseball people alike now suspect everyone who played in this generation and had prolonged health or immense success may have done steroids.  Nothing has really changed.

However, one issue will live on no matter how many sluggers come out: hall of fame balloting.

Who’s in?  Who’s out?  Who did steroids?  Who didn’t?

These questions will be asked each year, and after each ballot, sports networks and radio personalities will break down the credentials of each player.  Sooner rather than later, those credentials and stats won’t just include ERA, home run totals and career batting averages, but steroid allegations, confession dates, positive drug tests and whether or not the players on the ballot were connected to steroids.

So how do we treat this?  It’s easy and I’ll lay it down for you like this: either they all get in or they all stay out.  It’s as simple as that.

Every player, alleged user or not, who played in the “Steroids Era” should be considered with equal treatment.  They should all be tainted or none of them should. 

If the abuses of these performance enhancers are as widespread as we are to believe, then we should treat everyone as being guilty. 

And if many of the accusations are allegations without proof, how do we sort out those who have legitimate complaints against their accusers from those who are guilty?  There is no test to determine this.  For every McGwire there are ten other players who deny using despite having been implicated.  And for every one of those players, there may be ten more that used but have not been caught nor implicated.

Hypothetically, the steroid epidemic of the nineties should be considered league-wide.  Despite the fact that many claim the likes of Ken Griffey, Jr. or Jim Thome never touched the stuff and should be first ballot HOFers, they too should be treated as tainted candidates for Cooperstown.  Griffey and Thome are widely considered to be the golden children of the era as they have not been implicated in the use of PEDs, but wasn’t that Alex Rodriguez guy a former holder of that title?

Just like McGwire said he was unfortunate to play in the steroids era, Griffey and Thome can literally make that claim if they are kept out of the hall because they were supposedly clean players who competed in a period of time when steroids were rampant.  Their case is much more convincing than Big Mac’s, especially when considering Mac made it sound like being in the steroids era forced him to partake. 

That’s like someone growing up in the sixties claiming that the “era” forced him or her to smoke marijuana.  Or someone from my era saying that the culture of the time forced him to get Z. Cavaricci knock-off pants and pass them off as the real thing.  Picture it:

 

Associated Press Reporter: So, Josh is it…we have this photo here of your pants from 1988.  We have enhanced them so that you can see the 2-inch long white tag on the fly.  Are these your pants?

 Me: Yes, sir.  I believe they are.

 Reporter: Now, it clearly shows that this white strip is a simple piece of fabric that you have cut and sewn to a pair of replica Z. Cavaricci pan—wait no…is that a staple holding it on?

 Me: I can see that one might see it that way.

 Reporter: And on this white strip, it clearly has lettering on it that someone has written “Z. Cavaricci” and spelled it wrong, with just one “C”.

 Me: Yes.

 Reporter:  You are aware that Z. Cavariccis were very popular at this time.  It should also be noted that only originals made one “cool”.  Replicas were just a way of saying, “Hey!  Look at me and how lame I am.”  What do you have to say for yourself?

 Me (through tears): I just wish I hadn’t lived in that era…Z. Cavaricci usage was so prevalent and I just wanted to be like everyone else.

 

I looked dang good in those pants, too.  Anyway…

Baseball has gone through many “eras” that have forced hall of fame voters to cast ballots along the lines of those periods of time.  The Dead Ball Era of the early 1900s saw low scoring, defensive contests with dominant pitchers like Cy Young, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson.  However, hall of fame hitters like Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie and many others are in Cooperstown without prodigious home run numbers.  

Other factors that have defined eras of baseball include expansion, the length of seasons in terms of games and time, the distance required to hit a home run and several more that only baseball historians could hash out.  Even in the 1960s, rules were changed to inject (no pun intended…okay maybe it was) more offense into the game as pitching had gained a dominant foothold on even the best of lineups. 

In 1968, Carl Yastremski led the American League in batting with a .301 average, the lowest in history.  In that same year, Bob Gibson finished his season with an ERA of 1.12.  The following season, the strike zone was changed and the pitching mound was lowered.  However, the pitching dominated era still produced its fair share of hall of famers at the plate and on the mound.

Baseball players should be judged with their contemporaries, and if you judge the generation of players from the nineties and into the next century, they should be held to the industry standard from that time period like they always have when comes to the Baseball Writers of America and their HOF voting.

Unfortunately for baseball fans, this industry standard includes the pervasive use of steroids, human growth hormone and other performance enhancing drugs.  We need to face that and either let them all in or keep them all out.  There cannot be qualifications that address whether someone came clean or how many times their name was leaked from a report or a lab. 

The truth of it is that baseball did not test for these substances and they were the ones in many cases who turned their backs on what was going on.  BUT…that was the culture of baseball and the era in which those players competed. 

Every statistic, every record and every player needs to be looked upon with their contemporaries and then the decision should be clear.  That’s why Babe Ruth’s tenure was so impressive and why a starting pitcher with an ERA under 2.00 in a season of today’s game is equally extraordinary.  Everything is relative to what is going on around these high-priced athletes in terms of how the game is played and trends of the era.

I loathe what has happened to our game just as much as the next Barry Bonds-hating baseball fan does.  But we cannot invalidate some while exalting others especially when we still know so little about what was going on during the time of bathroom injections.

Let them all in or keep them all out, but the worst thing we can do is pick and choose based on who came clean and who is suspected.  The standard needs to be the same for everyone from the era because they were all affected by it…for better or for worse.

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Filed under Baseball, Hall of Fame, Mark McGwire, Steroids