CHICAGO – The old “Madhouse on Madison” – aka the Chicago Stadium – was the site of the 1988 NBA All-Star Weekend, held a mere 32 years before this weekend’s 69th NBA All-Star Game.
By quick count, there were no fewer than 16 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers that took the court for the ’88 NBA All-Star Game, and a few others, like Chicago native Mark Aguirre are honored in the likes of the college basketball Hall.
Aside from the obvious 1992 NBA All-Star Game which goes down as the greatest of all-time because of Earvin “Magic” Johnson‘s historic MVP performance, and the 1983 ASG at the Fabulous Forum in LA (think Marvin Gaye national anthem) the ’88 game might just rank as the third greatest mid-winter classic that I witnessed with my own eyes (not on TV).
While a few cases of Old Style and a roomful of basketball and blues aficionados might argue for days over which all-star game and which era of stars is the best-ever, there is one thing the 38th annual NBA All-Star Game will have forever – and that is the fact it was the LAST time the entire NBA “family” was together under one hotel roof (really two) as the Hyatt Regency at 151 East Wacker Drive was the last NBA All-Star event where pretty much everyone fit into one hotel, as it holds a whopping 2,032 sleeping rooms in two towers.
Aside from the logistics, the ’88 NBA All-Star Weekend is long remembered as the greatest Slam-Dunk Contest duel of all-time, featuring Hall of Famers Dominique Wilkins and the great (and hometown favorite) Michael Jordan.
Many of those in attendance (or watching on television) believe ‘Nique as jobbed by the homecourt advantage but this reporter – then the Director of Media Relations of the NBA – thinks the scores went down correctly that night.
While Turner’s great producer Kim Belton pointed the cameras and the capacity crowd at the Chicago Stadium all stood for the final round, I can vividly remember Wilkins just CRUSHING his final dunk, one of the quickest and most powerful slams of the night. The problem – and the reason MJ ended up with the Trophy and the $100,000 prize – was that the Human Highlight Film powered his last dunk too FAST. The second he dunked it, I knew he was in trouble, because the judges didn’t have any other option than to score it a “9” and thus the entire five-person panel registered the dunk as a “45.” Every person on the panel scored it the same way. It was too quick, it was NOT as good as the previous ‘Nique slams and it was, indeed, a “45.”
The second MJ started pacing off the floor and heading to the other baseline, I instinctively knew the Slam Dunk contest was over and – as long as Jordan MADE the DUNK – he was going to get all “10s” and a “50.”
Dominique had left the door wide open at the ole’ barn and Jordan seized the opportunity with a dunk he was saving, a ‘milk the crowd’ memory of Julius “Dr. J” Erving‘s circa Slam-Dunk ’76 (ABA) and ’84 (NBA) full-court, take off from the free throw line or there-about slams.
How do I know? I was standing right there by the baseline and the bench as the judges’ scores were being calculated, and I just knew the score was coming down. I also believe ‘Nique knew the score was coming down, and ever since the day he was drafted, I understood his incredibly competitive spirit and tried my best that cold February night to console him somewhat, as the agency of defeat sunk in. Although it’s 32 long years ago, I can remember it like yesterday, recalling the moment before we led him up to a small, make-shift postgame media interview area in the basement of the Chicago Stadium. “Take the high road, ‘Nique… take the high road.”
He did because he knew exactly why he lost.
Here Now, The Notes: Longtime Madison Square Garden Network and current lead of the NBA on ABC Sports/ESPN sportscaster Mike Breen and sportswriter/commentator Michael Wilbon were named recipients of the 2020 Curt Gowdy Media Award, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced. … Named after the legendary baseball and basketball commentator, the Curt Gowdy Media Award is presented annually to print and electronic media members whose efforts have made a significant contribution to basketball. … Breen, a graduate of Fordham University, has broadcast NBA games for 28 seasons. He began with the New York Knicks on radio in 1992 and has become the team’s lead announcer on MSG Network with Hall of Famer Walt Frazier. Breen also has been the lead play-by-play announcer on ESPN and ABC. … Wilbon, a Northwestern University product, has covered both college and professional sports through various platforms since 1980. As a Washington Post columnist, he has covered every NBA Finals since 1987 and virtually every Final Four since 1982. He also has co-hosted ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption” show with Tony Kornheiser since 2001. … The Hall of Fame also announced two new Curt Gowdy media awards — the Transformative Media Award and the Media Insight Award. … In a surprise move, the TNT Inside the NBA crew with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith will receive the first Transformative Media Award, which honors an individual or organization that has dramatically changed the format, presentation or enjoyment of the coverage of basketball through the use of traditional and emerging media. … In yet another move, sportscaster Jim Gray was named the inaugural winner of the Insight Media Award, which honors an individual or organization that is courageous in the pursuit of challenging, but imperative, content and offers distinctive viewpoints. … The late Timothy Nugent, founder of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association in 1949, is the winner of the 2020 John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. … The Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award was instituted by the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees in 1973 and the Hall of Fame calls the award its most prestigious outside of enshrinement. .. All award winners will be honored during the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend to be held Aug. 28-30, 2020, in a combination of Uncasville, Connecticut (Mohegan Sun) and Springfield, Massachusetts, the home of the Basketball Hall and the birthplace of the sport.
Diamond Dust: Expectations are sky-high for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020 after acquiring outfielder Mookie Betts and left-hander David Price from the Boston Red Sox. … Not only are the Dodgers World Series favorites at many sportsbooks, but Betts has already been established as the National League MVP frontrunner by one. … Most books have yet to offer MVP odds, but DraftKings installed Betts as the +550 favorite the day after he was introduced by the Dodgers. … Betts won the AL MVP honor in 2018 with the Red Sox — along with the batting title, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award — and he will attempt to join Frank Robinson as the only players to win MVP honors in both leagues. … PointsBet isn’t offering full MVP odds yet, but is offering a prop on Betts at +550 to win the NL honor. … Betts’ teammate Cody Bellinger (+700) is the co-second favorite at DraftKings along with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich. Washington Nationals slugger Juan Soto is fourth at +1000, followed by Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. at +1200.
Think a little tension exists with Trevor Bauer and the Houston Astros? … Bauer, former Cleveland Indians pitcher now with the Cincinnati Reds did not hold back, delivering one of the more scathing rebukes on the Houston Astros cheating scandal yet. … Speaking to reporters at the Reds’ spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz., Bauer called the Astros cheaters and hypocrites for their role in a sign-stealing scandal by using live video to decode what pitch was coming next and relaying that information to their own batters. … Astros manager A.J. Hinch was fired after an MLB investigation as was general manager Jeff Luhnow. No current Astros players were punished after the findings. … “It pisses me off because all we want to do – everyone comes here to win, but we agree to play by a set of rules and we want to play fairly and compete and see are we better than you or not?” Bauer said. “So we all assume that’s what’s going on. … “When it’s not, it’s, ‘Hold on a second, why is it that I have to abide by the rules? That guy has to abide by the rules. That team has to abide by the rules but you guys think you are better than everyone and you don’t have to abide by the rules?'” … Adding an extra layer to Bauer’s dismay is that he had been outspoken about the Astros as potential cheaters before the sign-stealing scandal broke. In 2018, Bauer questioned increased spin rate from Astros pitchers in a Twitter post that touched off a feud with Houston’s Alex Bregman. … “I’m not going to let them forget the fact that they are hypocrites, they are cheaters, they’ve stolen from a lot of other people and the game itself was completely unfair,” Bauer said. “They’ve negatively affected the fans, they’ve negatively affected players, they’ve negatively affected kids and the future of baseball – which is what I’m most upset about.” … Bauer, who is 70-60 in his career with a 4.04 ERA, was traded from the Indians to the Reds last season. He was an All-Star in 2018 when he had a 2.21 ERA with Cleveland. … But he is also well known for speaking his mind and the backlash that sometimes ensues. He figures that will be coming again. … “A lot of other players don’t have the standing in the league, don’t have that sense about themselves or just don’t want to rock the boat or whatever, but we all feel this way,” he said. “We’re all pissed. If no one ever comes out and says anything then nothing gets done.”
Speaking of TENSION? … The Colorado Rockies had no comment this week on tension surrounding All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, as the team’s pitchers and catchers reported to spring training at Scottsdale, Ariz. … It is a far cry from one year ago when the Rockies signed Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million contract extension during spring training and the seven-time Gold Glove winner was brought to tears of joy in his subsequent press conference. … Now, Arenado is saying he would prefer to be elsewhere. At issue is that Arenado believed he would be the centerpiece of a team that would fortify its roster, but the Rockies were largely inactive in that department during the offseason. … “There’s a lot of disrespect from people there that I don’t want to be a part of it,” Arenado said last month, according to mlb.com, after general manager Jeff Bridich admitted to listening to trade offers for the face of the franchise. … Asked about it Tuesday, Bridich preferred to change the subject. … “Nothing. There is no comment,” Bridich told reporters Tuesday. “I haven’t had any comment to this point, so we’ll move past that. Next question.” … Arenado, 28, is a five-time All-Star, who is a career .295 hitter with 227 home runs and 734 RBIs. He led the NL in home runs in 2018 with 38 and tied for the lead two other times — 42 in 2015 and 41 in 2016.
The NY Post writes: “According to multiple sources, the newest name to emerge as a potential suitor to buy the Mets is none other than Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez. Baseball and Wall Street insiders told The Post that the controversial former Yankees superstar is “kicking the tires” on the idea of getting into an upcoming auction for the team.” … Not for nothing, but isn’t anyone who asks for the investment prospectus a “potential suitor?”
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