Thursday, November 04, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
A reader of this blog recently asked me about Maurice Lucas and whether he and I are still in touch with each other.
I’m pleased to say that my friend Maurice and I have maintained a very good relationship since our playing careers ended.
Most of you with an interest in the answer to this question will know that Maurice and I were teammates for the Kentucky Colonels during the last year before the ABA and the NBA merged.
In addition to having been a great hard-nosed basketball player, Maurice also has an equally great heart and has hosted or supported numerous charitable events over the years. He has, as many of you know, struggled with health issues in recent years and if all of his fans across the country will keep Maurice in their prayers, my friend would really appreciate that, and likewise so would I.
Let me share two memories of my days on the court with Maurice.
During a game against the Spirits of St. Louis, tempers flared up for some reason I can’t even remember. The result was that Maurice, who was then a rookie, punched me good to the jaw. Maurice was a strong man who, unlike me, enjoyed a good brawl, and he landed a solid fist. Believe me --- I felt it from my head to the end of my sneakers. I think my knees may have gone in a few different directions. Over the years this story has grown to where I supposedly chased Maurice around the arena until, when cornered, he put my lights out. Well, that's a fair amount more dramatic than what really happened. As it was, some accounts claim that the incident made Maurice so confident in himself that it contributed to his career-long success as a player. If my chin gave an assist to Maurice, I'm happy. He's a great guy. I doubt, though, that this had much to do with his many great years as a player. Maurice was pretty damn good to begin with!
The other memory comes from when Maurice and I were teammates being coached by the famous Hubie Brown. Hubie, as all basketball fans know, was a truly great coach and I am honored to have played for him. He cared about me as a player and as a person and I will always appreciate everything he did for me. As a coach, Hubie was a stickler for being sure that even the smallest detail was done correctly. If something was being done wrong he had no problem getting up in a guy's face and yelling until he ran out of breath. A couple times he lit into me so bad, cussing at full volume, that other guys felt bad for me and tried to calm him down. Maurice Lucas actually got benched once during a game for telling Hubie to stop yelling at me!
Yes, Maurice was and is a friend of mine. I’m proud to have played with and against him!
“I love the pinching - did that really happen?”
ug2b is referring to my comment about administering a hip pinch now and again to keep an opponent mentally and physically off-balance.
Did it happen?
Here’s a little tip to all you Rec League ballplayers (although I’ll deny I said it) --- referees rarely see fouls that happen below the waistline! A sociable clamping of the thumb and pointer finger onto a guy’s hip will, at the very least, annoy him and take his mind off the game. Add a little extra pressure by using your body weight to press downwards and he might jump sideways but he won’t be jumping too high vertically! This is a nice little way to get to know your opponent when you are guarding a low post player who works with his back to the basket. It’s also an effective way to make friends with a guy who’s gained position on you for a rebound!
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
ARTIS GILMORE INDUCTED
The selection committee and the board of directors of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame have announced that Artis Gilmore has been selected to be inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame - 2011 class. An induction banquet will be held on June 8, 2011 at the Crowne Plaza, Louisville, Kentucky.
The mission of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame is twofold:
— To recognize those individuals and teams that have made significant contributions to sports and have achieved a high standard of athletic success representing the honored traditions of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
— To support, in a meaningful way, Kosair Charities, which supports world class medical care for thousands of children throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
In 2005 the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame inducted the 1975 Kentucky Colonels --- as an entire team --- on the 30th anniversary of their American Basketball Association championship. The 1974-75 Kentucky Colonels, led by Artis Gilmore, gave Louisville its only major-league sports championship.
Artis Gilmore began his professional career with the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association for the 1971-72 season, signing a record high-paying contract. He was so immediately dominant that he earned the rare distinction of being selected both the Rookie of the Year award and the league Most Valuable Player award for his first season.
Over his five-year ABA career, Artis led the ABA four times in rebounding average, twice in both field goal percentage and blocks per game, and once in personal fouls. He was named to the All-ABA First team five straight seasons, and the All-Defense team four times. He played in the ABA All-Star Game all five years he was in the league, earning the 1974 game's MVP.
The capstone of his time in the ABA was leading the 1974-75 Kentucky Colonels to the 1975 ABA championship and being named the ABA Playoffs Most Valuable Player.
During his days as an ABA dominator, Artis established league records for career field goal percentage (0.557), career blocked shots (750), blocked shots in a season (287 in the 1973-74 season), and rebounds in a game (40).
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
HOW I WOULD DEFEND MYSELF.
A few weeks back one of the readers of this blog, ug2b, asked a very interesting question:
".. It would be great to have Mr. Gilmore do a scouting report on himself, how to defend him when he was at his peak, describe his tendencies, his strengths and weaknesses, etc.”
I’ve been thinking about this and it’s been enjoyable to put my mind back to my playing days and think about how men like Kareem and Bill Walton, to name but just two great players, defended against me. It also got me recalling how I went to battle against them.
There are many basics of defense but many of them can be boiled down to a single statement:
“Know the man you are playing against.”
So --- what do I know about me as a player? Obviously, many things, but I’ll focus on three to explain how I would defend against myself.
1.) I’m left-handed.
You’d be amazed at how many players don’t pay attention to a key fact like that --- until they get burned! As a left-hander I’m obviously going to position myself to maximum advantage given how I’d prefer to move to shoot a hook or to drop step toward the basket or to block out for rebounding. Being a lefty is not a strength in-and-of itself, but it sure becomes a big one if the guy defending doesn’t realize it!
2.) Because of my height but also because of being blessed with physical strength, I have a very high shooting average when in close to the basket.
This at face value is a strength. However, even a smaller, weaker man can do a good job defending against a larger, stronger one. Part of this is positioning. If I were defending against myself one of my main concerns would be to keep me out of position. A good defender always studies where his man WANTS to be on the floor, then works to DENY him that position. This is especially important in fighting a guy who, like me, plays the low post with his back to the bucket. Such a player depends on picking his spot, then moving based on his awareness of exactly where he is on the court. Get a knee against a guy’s butt and move him just a few inches from where he is most comfortable and you’ve made real progress toward defending him successfully.
3.) My footwork also enables me to position for high percentage buckets and rebounds.
When a big man gets in down deep it’s tough to handle him. If I were defending me I’d do what I always tried to do to other large centers --- I would not be shy about using a couple hard fouls. Following that I would not hesitate to use more subtle moves that technically may not be legal but sure work. A hip pinch here and there. A nudge at hip level. A small shove in the small of the back. Why are those moves so important? Because many guys who lived in the low post paint like I did have a tendency to catch the ball in a shooting rhythm. Anything a defender can do to disrupt that rhythm --- either physically or mentally --- pays off over the course of a game.
Thanks for the very interesting question!
Friday, September 17, 2010
JACKSONVILLE UNIVERSITY VERSUS IOWA, NCAA TOURNAMENT, MARCH 12, 1970
As promised let me begin chipping away at the many great questions you’ve asked. Again --- thank you in advance for being patient as I do this.
I’ll start with a question from Kevin who asks:
“As an Iowa fan you and Pembrook Burrows broke my heart. Do you have any recollections about that game that won't make a middle-aged man cry?”
Well, Kevin --- I was almost the one crying during that game. I’ll tell you why in a minute.
The March 12, 1970 NCAA tournament game between my school, Jacksonville University, and Iowa, was sandwiched in between two other great games. On March 7 our JU Dolphins played its first-ever nationally televised game in Dayton, Ohio against Western Kentucky. We won 109-96 and I was fortunate enough to have a 30-point, 19-rebound game. My team mate Rex Morgan added 24 more points. On March 9 we faced Kentucky in what is one of the single most memorable wins of my career. Kentucky: number one in the nation. Kentucky: a legendary basketball powerhouse. Kentucky: coached by Adolph Rupp. But that’s a story for another day.
In between those games we went up against Iowa in Columbus, Ohio, and our NCAA bid almost ended right then and there.
First: my team mate Vaughn Wedeking was sick as a dog with the flu.
Second: Rex Morgan had an ear infection.
Third: I got a bit too aggressive on defense and fouled out with a full eight minutes left in the game.
A tip-in by Pembrook Burrows off a missed shot by Vaughn gave us a squeaker over Iowa by 104-103 in the last second. Pembrook also made 11 or 12 field goal attempts in that game for a total of 23 points.
Rex Morgan takes every opportunity, even now, to remind me that I almost cost the team the game by fouling out at a crucial moment. He's fond of recalling how I sat on the bench trying to coach Pembrook. According to Rex I said: “Pembrook, listen man, you really have to make this thing happen.” To which Pembrook turned and replied, “I guess so, man, you're sitting on the bench!”
I've posted on this blog entry a couple photos of Pembrook and me from back in the day.
So that, Kevin --- is my Iowa story. I’ll add, just as a matter of trivia --- I almost went to school in Iowa. After my second year at Gardner-Webb junior college I was honored by interest from many schools. I visited Iowa, and I had a chance to spend some time out there it was pretty good program. However, in 1969 JU became my ultimate choice because it was closer to home. My parents were getting older, so it gave me an opportunity to be near them, as well as my younger brothers and sisters.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
TO ALL THE PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZER FANS WHO WROTE TO ME:
Friends ---- thank you all for your very kind words and for having taken time to write to me after I posted the blog below with observations about Greg Oden. I appreciate your interest in what I have to say and I am also grateful for the many suggestions for future blogs. Be patient with me and check back every now and then because I do intend to respond to the great questions and suggestions you made.
In the meanwhile I have attached an old --- VERY OLD --- photo of me during a game with Jacksonville University. This image has special importance to me --- not only because it proves that once upon a time I could actually jump --- but because my father always kept a copy of this newspaper photo on his refrigerator at his home in Chipley, Florida.
Once again --- you all made me feel great. Thanks for sharing your time and your thoughts with me.
Best regards to all ---
Friday, September 10, 2010
RESPONSE TO A READER'S QUESTION ABOUT GREG ODEN
A reader of this blog recently left a message asking if I would comment on what Greg Oden of the Trailblazers needs to do to become what fans had hoped he would be in the NBA --- a true force at center. The reader also inquired if I would work with Greg if asked by the Trailblazers to do so.
Second issue first. I’m always open to helping any ballplayer. However, I suspect that in the “young eyes” of most basketball organizations, I’m rapidly becoming part of sports history. Low post players of my era are not too far removed from dinosaurs! Still, if the phone rings I’d sure answer it!
As to Greg. It’s very difficult to comment in that a true evaluation of his potential can only be made if and when he is healthy enough to play sustained minutes over the course of a season. I believe he has put in less that a hundred games and, although his performance showed promise (especially in rebounding and shot blocking), it’s tough to draw hard conclusions from what we’ve seen so far.
What can be said is that, injuries aside, he possesses natural athleticism and power. That is both a plus and a potential minus. Many young players grow to rely overly-much on their sheer strength. I believe I was a physically strong players, as were legends such as Wilt Chamberlain. That only gets you so far. A strong young ballplayer like Greg Oden will also need to pay a lot of attention to learning proper footwork and low post moves to truly take advantage of his physical gifts. I’m not saying he needs to be an offensive superstar but he does need to develop the finer skills necessary to always be a threat to the defenses. In short, he needs to focus on out-thinking his opponents in addition to over-powering them.
The other advice that I would give has nothing to do with physical attributes. It has to do with the fact that, having had to endure so many injuries, Greg Oden’s real challenge in the near-term will be mentally readjusting to the professional game at the highest level. To do this he needs to work closely with the coaching staff and his team mates to understand how and where he fits into the scheme of things. He should not feel that he needs to carry the entire burden of the team on his shoulders but, rather, look for the best ways to work within the system to contribute at optimum levels while his body and his mind get back into the flow of the game.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
CHICAGO BULLS GOLF CHARITY
August 31, 2010 -- The annual Chicago Bulls/Verizon Wireless Charity Golf Outing was held on Monday at the White Pines Golf Club in Bensenville, IL.
Bulls’ personalities including Scottie Pippen, Joakim Noah, James Johnson, Artis Gilmore, Toni Kukoc, Jay Williams, Will Perdue, Tom Boerwinkle, Dave Corzine, Bob Love, John Paxson, Gar Forman, Tom Thibodeau, Bill Wennington, Neil Funk, Chuck Swirsky, John Mengelt, Benny the Bull, the Luvabulls and many more including former Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee were all on hand for a day of golf.
Guests attending the event had the opportunity to play golf, have lunch and mingle with their favorite Bulls’ celebrities while bidding on a wide selection of sports memorabilia. The silent auction, raffles and contests included Bulls’ autographed jerseys, shoes and basketballs as well as items from other Chicago sports teams.
All proceeds from the Chicago Bulls/Verizon Wireless Charity Golf Outing benefitted CharitaBulls, the Bulls charity and Prevent Child Abuse America. CharitaBulls is dedicated to enhancing the lives of Chicago’s youth by actively supporting educational, recreational and social programs to help make Chicagoland a better place to live. Prevent Child Abuse America engages communities through the important work of strengthening families and valuing children. For more than 30 years, Prevent Child Abuse America has been the leading national organization focused on preventing child maltreatment before it occurs.