BOSTON – Wouldn’t it be better if the United States of America would book Jeff Lynne (who is touring) to play The Mall and play this song, instead of positioning tanks?
Stay safe, all.
BOSTON – Wouldn’t it be better if the United States of America would book Jeff Lynne (who is touring) to play The Mall and play this song, instead of positioning tanks?
Stay safe, all.
BOSTON – The road maps are out, filed mostly via the arduous work done by the Bill Russell/Wilt Chamberlain/Kareem of NBA writers these days in ESPNs Adrian Wojnarowski who breaks stories like apostles break bread.
From published reports, a few of the gemstones of ESPN scoops are:
BOSTON – Kemba Walker to sign, replacing the departed Kyrie Irving. (Boston will need ample help in the front court as Al Horford, Aron Baynes are vanquished while Terry Rozier is presumably sent packing as well. Rozier and Daniel Theis were sent qualifying offers, but the C’s are likely to renounce Rozier to create some Salary Cap space for a much-needed rebounder.
GOLDEN STATE – The Warriors are re-upping the injured Klay Thompson as they pursue the best player in the league in Kevin Durant – who was injured badly (Achilles) in the NBA Finals. The Warriors are at a crossroads of their existence (moving to downtown San Fran from Oakland) and will be doing with a pair of crutches.
PHILADELPHIA – Free agent guard Jimmy Butler seems to be the “key” piece, but most reports have him departing from Broad Street while Tobias Harris stays put and Al Horford signs-up. Horford’s first order of business would be to teach Joel Embiid how to be a pro, something Sixers GM Elton Brand needs assistance with as he tries to mold a franchise around Ned Cohen’s smarts and vision. … The chemistry classes being taught in both Philly and Boston (see above) will make the East a four-horse race come 2019-2020. (Toronto, Milwaukee, Philly and Boston).
MIAMI – Some reports have Butler enamored with the Miami Heat franchise. It would make a lot of sense for Butler to forego the ring contender thing for life on the beach.
OTHER REPORTS: Other notable NBA FA reports have Nikola Vucevic re-signing with the Orlando Magic, Derrick Rose heading to Detroit, Paul Millsap re-upping with his Denver Nuggets via a $30M option, Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn (Good Luck) and Nerlens Noel declining yet another option.
TORONTO – It’s all about Kawhi Leonard.
LA LAKERS AND LA CLIPPERS – See Toronto comment, although the Lakers are very obviously positioned well with Lebron James and Anthony Davis but the supporting crew and the “have vs have nots” within the Lakers’ locker room does not bode well.
Whoever ends up with Leonard probably wins.
By TERRY LYONS
I can remember a little sarcasm or annoyance in his voice when I would hear the words, “Okay Oscar.” It was time and I knew enough about the tone of his voice to head northbound, up the stairs to straighten up my room, pitch-in and do some household chores and earn my keep on Stonecutter Rd. The Oscar Madison thing wasn’t working out!
Other vivid memories are of sports, watching the Mets – his favorite, I think – although he grew up in The Bronx in the shadows of The Stadium during the Yankees’ “Five o’clock lightening” hey-day and my older brother, the late Timothy Lyons III, was a die-hard Yanks fan born in the late ’40s. When the family moved to greener pastures to land that was once a Long Island potato farm, it was time to embrace the new National League team that played closer to the house that was 20-something minutes from Idlewild Airport where my Dad made a living.
He worked for Pan American World Airways at a time when Pan American wasn’t yet “Pan Am,” but instead was the “Cadillac” of air travel. In the very early ’60s that I’m referencing, only Pan American and its chief rival, Trans World Airways or “T.W.A. as they were known,” had the international routes. I can remember when they re-named Idlewild to “John F. Kennedy International Airport – J.F.K, we all called it,” and it was an interesting 20-30 minutes drive with “Mom” when we went to pick-up “Dad” from work, then ventured off to The Bronx or to New Haven to visit family or my dad’s Army buddy, Joe Conway, my older brother’s Godfather.
I knew my way around “Hanger 14,” as well as I knew my way around my grammar school’s hallways. Check in at the entrance, walk around the corner by the “P.X. – which was an Army or Air Force term for “Post Exchange” – or a place where you can buy stuff. Past the P.X. and down the hallway to the elevator, up through a maze of halls and desks to the place where the Clipper Ships — the Pan American Airliners and their engines (and parts) — were actually purchased by men in white shirts and ties – a page out of the fashion code of “Mad Men,” thin black ties and all.
I can remember venturing over to Teterboro Airport in NJ and looking at the brochures for the early days of customized corporate travel jets – The Fan Jet Falcons – and oh, how cool was that?” I can remember when Pan American made the major decision to build their own terminal, undoubtedly to compete with TWA which built a modern marvel in the far south-eastern corner of JFK, a jewel and modern-day architectural statement in the swamps of The Rockaways. TWA was the “enemy” but it looked pretty cool to me.
But, the WorldPort was something special with the rooftop parking and views of the runways and all of those Pan Am 747s lined up on Sunday nights to take travelers to places far, far away. They flew non-stops to Baghdad and Tel Aviv, Bucharest and Berlin, Vienna and Oslo and to Frankfurt Am Main – a place my Dad often had to travel to to help them set-up their European inventory control with Mr. Ulrich von der Osten – another lifelong family friend – who would visit and, when not staying at a Manhattan hotel, would stay at our home. My brother and I even flew over to Frankfurt am Main, then train rides to Meinz and Koblenz and to the East German border – How cool was that?
I made up my mind, then and there, I wanted to visit all those cities.
Dad’s heath took a nasty turn when I was in Grammar School and a lot of the memories from that time on were not of trips to the Island Garden to see the Nets or Commack Arena to see the Ducks or the Harlem Globetrotters or to Shea Stadium to see the Mets, but instead, of trekking to hospital waiting rooms and sitting or playing or reading for hours on end. The perfectly manicured green grass and the bright lights of Shea were replaced by dimly lit waiting rooms at Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre or Montefiore Hospital in The Bronx where they worked on my Dad as though he was the Tin Man seeking a “heart” and the doctors performed miracles for years and years on end.
But, like the Mets pitching staff in 1964, the heart always needed some more work. And, it gave us hope, just like the loyal Mets fans we became, but reality set-in, and the opposition was tough – whether it was Bob Veale and the Pirates of Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals or Juan Marichal and the San Francisco Giants, the Mets were over-matched and that dreaded disease surrounding his damned heart kept giving way, until they placed a pace-maker in there – the thing was the size of a pocket watch – but it worked and it bought some serious time and allowed my folks to make a few wonderful international trips.
The centerfield ads at Shea blinked – “FLY – DELTA – ATLANTA” or “FLY -DELTA – St. LOUIS” and I wondered if I’d ever get to visit a city as close as those, instead of exotic places in West Germany or The Caribbean? It was A-OK with me, because I was oblivious to the fact Pan Am’s empire would one-day collapse but was more concerned, then, to see if the Mets could upset Gibson and Julian Javier of the Cards or Veale and Willie Stargell of the Pirates or Marichal and the Willies – Mays and McCovey – of the Giants.
Like the Mets in ’69 or ’73 – Amazin’ – Amazin’ – Amazin’ – we kept on keepin’ on as a family, chugging through the volatile ’60s and early ’70s all trying to do our best.
Man, I can tell you one thing, for sure, I learned a lot.
Communion breakfasts with the Nets and games at the Island Garden when Louie Carnesseca and John Kresse left St. John’s for the lure of pro basketball and the gig of coaching the great Rick Barry. My Dad took me to many a game and I loved it so much.
Whether he taught me the rules of the ABA vs the NBA, the limits on NHLers with making a two-line pass (which he taught to me on index cards with Red and blue felt tip pens) or how to pack a suitcase or make my own dinner or to do my own studying or make my own bed, it was “on the job training” and I wouldn’t trade it for a second or another heartbeat – because – while it was tough love – it helped prepare me for days ahead and that’s what parents are supposed to do, right?
Prep the kids for life.
And, man, I can travel with the best of ’em – whether it was Madrid, Roma, Tokyo, Beijing or Sydney, I could get there and get back without so much as a second of hesitation. Communist Moscow? Let’s Go! I was ready with a multi-stamped passport (how many of you had to send for extra pages to be stapled into your passports?) and a visa and an Amex card, and a keen knowledge of the layout at JFK and a few dozen other airports along with an even keener knowledge of how to get “an upgrade.”
Oh yeah, I knew the ropes.
I remember passing my driver’s test – early in the spring, after taking Driver’s Ed, then having to await my birthday that November to receive my licence. On that November day, it was cold, snowing and time to pitch-in – drive my Mom up to The Bronx, past Gun Hill Rd – so appropriately named – and up to see Dad in Montefiore – which meant, things weren’t very good. We made the travel work, Christmas and New Year’s gone by again, and we persevered and made ends meet right on to my graduation at Trinity and onto St. John’s.
Dad made it until my sophomore year and that heart finally gave out.
And, boy, do I wonder what he would’ve thought of my days at the NBA? Or meeting my two kids? Field of Dreams stuff.
And, yes, I feel a little robbed by the whole thing. I wish my Dad had his health and my Mom could’ve enjoyed some time with him – my folks could’ve had a nice retirement, enjoying travel privileges and time to go to places they loved – like Paris and Brussels and London and all.
But, I can’t complain. Just can’t, as I feel all too lucky, in general.
Tell you why?
In the early ’90s, my buddy Shelby fell sick and passed – clobbered by cancer which was probably caused by unhealthy doses of “Agent Orange” in Viet Nam where he fought and studied enemy intel.
His child didn’t fare as well as I did with that feeling of being robbed, of jousting with God over the question, Why?
So, while many of us reminisce about wonderful, fond visions of our Dads, there are kids out there who struggle mightily – a few might be the eight kids I know of who lost their Dads on Father’s Day 2001 in a terrible Hardware store fire in Queens – the dreaded Father’s Day fire.
And, at the risk of being a little too serious on this glorious day, I feel quite compelled to pass along this AP award winning column on one, Kenny Strother, the late son of the late Shelby Strother, a dear friend.
After you read it, call your Dad and then say a prayer for the Dads who served and taught and persevered in tough times and who celebrated with their sons and daughters in good times, always preparing them for the future in a much tougher period in history.
By PETER KERASOTIS
The first newspaper article written about Kenny Strother appeared in the St. Petersburg Times in the summer of 1982, celebrating his first year of life. “Year One Was a Year Won,” the headline read. Kenny had been born prematurely at Cape Canaveral Hospital, and his first weeks of life were a breath-by-breath drama.
The last newspaper article written about Kenny Strother appeared in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Friday, chronicling his death. “Burglary Suspect Killed by Police,” the headline read.
The line from Point A to Point B is not a straight one. It never is.
Kenny’s hairpin turn came 11 years ago, in a dank Detroit hospital where cancer ate away at his father, Shelby Strother, the man who penned that first newspaper article. It was March 3, 1991 now, and Kenny and his older brother Tommy were in the hospital lobby on a cold day that arrived with a slate gray sky. Family and friends held a vigil outside Shelby’s room, and the boys arrived that morning knowing their father was sick, but unaware that their world was about to change forever.
The cancer had been detected only a week earlier, already advanced, raging with hatred. During the several days Shelby was hospitalized, he didn’t want his two young sons to see him this way. That morning, he and his wife Kim talked about the boys, how Kenny and Tommy wanted to see him, how they were downstairs. Shelby thought about it, took three breaths, and died.
I was dispatched to get the boys. When Kenny saw me, his face brightened. I had known him his whole life, had held him in my arms one summer at Pikes Peak, when Shelby and Kim lived in Colorado. Kenny was just an infant, and Kim snapped photos as we did the tourist thing. Even then, he was such a sweet child, expressive, open, ingratiating.
“How’s my dad?” Kenny said now, bounding toward me with all the innocence of a 9-year old. Then he stuck out his hand. “I got some new baseball cards. See? I’m gonna show ’em to my dad. How is he?”
I drew a breath, forced a smile. “You need to go see your mom first,” I said. “She’s waiting for you upstairs.”
They say Kenny never got over his dad’s death, never found his footing in this life, his way.
“He always felt cheated,” Kim said Friday, her voice numb with an anguish only a mother can know. “He would always tell his older brother and me that it wasn’t fair, that we had his father longer than he did, that he only had him for nine years.”
Kenny received grief counseling, and it stretched from weeks to months to years.
“He needed his dad growing up,” Kim said. “The longer he was without his dad, the more pronounced his grief. In counseling, it would always come back to his father. It was the main issue. Kenny wore his grief on his sleeve. As he got older, it became like a cloak, getting heavier and heavier.”
Those of us who watched Kenny grow up would talk among ourselves, and the consensus was consistent, that Kenny reminded us most of Shelby. He had that same mischievous glint in his eye, that same magnetic personality. Even at 7 or 8, he could hold his own with adults, and then turn around and play Nintendo with his friends.
Had Shelby lived … we wondered. We would always wonder.
Shelby and Kim both graduated from Satellite High School. Shelby worked at this newspaper on a couple of occasions, as a sports editor and a writer, but his star burned too brightly. He went on to work in St. Petersburg, Denver and eventually Detroit. By then, in the early ’90s, he had become one of the country’s preeminent sports writers. He wrote a book for the NFL. Had he lived, he would’ve been in New Orleans this week, covering the Super Bowl.
Instead, now, in the shadow of that bloated testament to American excess arrives a footnote story in the local newspaper, the shooting death of the son of our colleague, our friend. It arrives clinically delivered, not unlike hundreds of others stories that scurry across our consciousness every day. A name, an age, the facts.
But there is so much more.
The night before Shelby died, several of us took Kenny and Tommy and four of their friends to a Detroit Pistons basketball game. Isiah Thomas, the Pistons’ star guard, had insisted we do so. Isiah had heard about this unfolding tragedy, this sports writer he had grown to admire and like who was dying, and he wanted Shelby’s sons and their friends to enjoy six courtside seats that were his.
One of Kenny’s friends was a neighborhood boy named Ryan who was born without arms or legs. They wheeled him into the arena that night in a little red wagon. People stared, and Kenny couldn’t understand why. He’d ask his mom why people could never see beyond Ryan’s deformity and into his personality. But that was Kenny.
He loved bear hugs and giving back rubs. When he got older, and his peers deemed it uncool, he would still hold his mom’s hand in public. He didn’t care. Kenny always loved love.
When he was in Boy Scouts, his favorite activity was when they got to visit the old folk’s home. The other kids hated it, but not Kenny. He gravitated to the disenfranchised, those cast aside by society.
As he got older, he became one of them.
Kenny was terribly dyslexic, a learning disability that never seemed to get proper attention. In recent years, when the family moved to New Orleans, he dropped out of high school and felt like a failure, like he had let his father down. His life became a series of starts and stops, a step forward, two steps back.
In recent years, he talked about death, about wanting to be with his father. He told his family that when he died he wanted to be cremated, just like his dad, his ashes spread in Key West, off Canaveral Pier and in New Orleans, also just like his dad.
By now, he was battling drug use, gravitating toward the runaway kids who proliferate along the Bohemian backstreets of the French Quarter and other downtrodden areas of New Orleans.
He tried to kill himself last May with a Ketamine, a powerful animal anesthetic that has become a popular hallucinogen in rave clubs. Thursday morning, in New Orleans’ predawn hours, Kenny broke into a veterinary clinic, triggering silent alarms and drawing the attention of police. He was shot, killed by an officer no older than he was, the details still sketchy. In his pocket was a small amber vile of Ketamine and syringes.
It wasn’t a shock, but that still doesn’t diminish the sadness.
“Looking back, it was almost like Kenny was living his life as fast as he could, gobbling up as much love as he could get,” Kim said. “But he was suffering at the same time. Suffering terribly. But now he’s not suffering anymore. My baby isn’t suffering. I have to accept that. We all have to accept that.”
Editor’s Note: Shelby taught me a lot, too.
Special to Digital Sports Desk
Guest Column by KEN ADELSON
TORONTO – The NBA took a gamble in mid 90’s, placing two teams north of the border. One of them which was born in the great city of Vancouver now resides in Memphis, Tennessee. The other has been a second-tier player for much of its existence. However, that’s not the case in 2019, the Toronto Raptors have made it to the NBA’s premier event, which takes me back to the day it all began.
It was 1995, the Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies were the first teams from Canada to join basketball’s elite organization, making the NBA a truly international league. It was unclear how long it would last or how basketball would be received in hockey country. It didn’t stick in Vancouver, we know how that story ended, leaving only one NBA team in Canada.
That special day was June 28th, 1995, not the opening day of the season but the day of the NBA Draft, which had become a traveling road show beginning in 1992. The ’95 Draft was to be held at the Skydome in Toronto, officially signifying the arrival of the NBA in Canada and the birth of a franchise.
On the night of June 27th that year, a group of us from the team producing the in-arena Draft show were in a restaurant not far from the Skydome. We had just wrapped up rehearsals, putting the final touches in place for the event we had been preparing for over the past few months. It was the night before what was to be a very special edition of the “NBA Draft,” it was the night before the Toronto would make their first draft pick and the Raptor would become the symbol of NBA basketball in Toronto.
Our discussion that night had very little to do with the players themselves, that quickly changed as Kevin Garnett and his family came into the restaurant and sat a few tables away. The draft of 1995 was not shaping up as a particularly strong one by NBA standards. Joe Smith, a power forward from the University of Maryland would be the likely first pick by the Golden State Warriors, but he was not viewed as a superstar or franchise changer. He was not even the top storyline in terms of the on-the-court talent in the draft. That distinction belonged to Kevin Garnett, a gangly 6’11” power forward from Maudlin, South Carolina who played his high school ball outside of Chicago.
Garnett was to become the first player since Moses Malone, some 20 years earlier, to come straight out of high school to test his skills in the NBA. He was a baby-faced kid in a big man’s body, thin, but tenacious and strong. He was friendly that night, but visibly nervous and who could blame him, he was 19 years old.
Garnett was one of many storylines that would play out the next night at Skydome, the cavernous home of MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays.
The NBA had taken the Draft on the road for the first time in Portland Oregon in 1992, as part of the Tournament of the America’s which launched the Dream Team toward the Olympics. The United States had to qualify for the Olympics that year after their crushing defeat at the hands of the Russians in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and a bronze at the 1990 Worlds in Argentina. In Portland that June ’92 evening, the in-arena Draft show was so well received by the 11,000 fans attending, rabid Blazers’ fans that even cheered the fact Shaquille O’Neal was tapped as the first pick, that the league decided to keep the event on the road moving forward. It was my fourth year at the NBA and I co-produced that first traveling Draft show with my colleague Michael McCullough, now a senior executive with the Miami Heat. The following year, the Draft was held at the Palace of Auburn Hills to a very large, sold-out and Chris Webber-loving enthusiastic Michigan-based crowd. A year after that, in 1994, the NBA Draft played to almost 20,000 people at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.
That June, we had enlisted veteran TNT play-by-play announcer Ron Thulin to be our in-arena host and he became the mainstay throughout the 90’s. It was our first event in a stadium, the Hoosier Dome, we brought in former Indiana Pacers star Clark Kellogg as our analyst. The fans in Indianapolis loved Clark and the success of the duo helped create a strategy to bring in a local player/personality as the event analyst in each city we visited.
In 1994, I was heading up the production of the event, and it was a show right out of the David Stern, NBA game presentation handbook. It wasn’t only talking heads filling time between picks, it was wall to wall entertainment, NBA style. It included the entertainment that fans had come to expect as part of the NBA experience. It featured NBA dance teams, a variety of entertainers that regularly provided half-time entertainment at NBA regular season and playoff games, wall to wall music selected to keep the crowd pumped up, a wide variety of videos, trivia contests, merchandise and ticket giveaways, interviews with NBA officials and with every player that was drafted.
We used a full-size NBA court, (hoops and all) to serve as the stage for the games and entertainment. We had cameras in the war room and we built a set for the announcers. The set stood as a virtual mirror to the TNT broadcast set on the opposite side of the stadium. It was all a pre-cursor of how other sports would one day showcase their games and events, it was pure entertainment, it was a show, it helped establish the league as a sports AND entertainment property.
The 1994 Draft was stacked with players who would be stars for many years to come. Glenn Robinson from Purdue went first to the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas grabbed Jason Kidd, Detroit took Grant Hill. Jalen Rose taken with the 13th pick by the Denver Nuggets wore one of the all-time outrageous Draft outfits, a rose-colored suit with a rose on his lapel that was unforgettable on the 6’8” former Michigan star. Yinka Dare, a 7-footer from Nigeria went at number 14 to the NJ Nets, he was a bust as a player, but a fascinating personality, and one of the earlier International NBA players.
With the 15th selection, the Indiana Pacers grabbed Eric Piatkowski, a small forward from the University of Nebraska. After that pick was made by the home town team, almost two hours after the event started we figured the crowd would hit the exits like the Pacers were down 20 with two minutes left in a game, but no one left, not one. The event rolled on and it quickly became clear why there were still almost 20,000 people in the house.
The Pacers had two picks in the second round and still on the board was a local star that not only played his high school ball in Indiana but also played for Bobby Knight at the University of Indiana. This was not just any home town hero, his name was Damon Bailey. Bailey had become legendary, an iconic figure in Indiana basketball. The former Hoosiers coach went to watch him play twice as an 8th grader, before eventually signing him. At Bedford North High School, Bailey, a guard, became Indiana’s all-time leading high school scorer. Sports Illustrated tapped him as the nation’s top 9th grade player. In his senior year at Bedford North, in the finals of the Indiana State High School Tournament in front of 41,000 people at the Hoosier dome, the most people ever to attend a HS basketball game, Bailey’s legend was sealed. He led his team to a comeback upset victory over an undefeated and favored team from Concord High School. Bailey scored 30, including his team’s final 11 points. He was named Mr. Basketball in Indiana, it was “Hoosiers” in real life. He went on to become an All-American at the University of Indiana, leading the Hoosiers to a pair Big Ten championships and an appearance in the Final Four.
After the Pacers pick in the first round the chant of “Damon” “Damon,” “Damon,” gushed from the fans before every selection was made. It was a sub plot we couldn’t have scripted, but it made for a spectacular event. When Bailey was chosen by the Indiana Pacers with the 44th pick in the second round, the place erupted like the team had just won the NBA Championship. Bailey never did make it, he didn’t end up playing in a regular season game in the NBA, but if the league had any doubt about keeping the Draft on the road, it didn’t after Indianapolis and the legend of Damon Bailey.
When the NBA announced it would be expanding into Canada with teams headed for Toronto and Vancouver, they also scheduled the 1995 NBA Draft for the Skydome in Toronto to help launch the new franchises.
The Draft would serve to introduce the team, the sport and the new Mascot to a new audience and in this case a new country. As part of our production, we decided to stage a signature moment, right before David Stern would take the stage to start the evening, we would introduce the Mascot to the fans in the building and having him descend from the rafters on a system of pulley wires. The plan was to have the new mascot break through a Raptors banner when he hit the ground. This stunt was not a slam dunk, not a sure thing to execute successfully. In rehearsals it had mixed results, it would be a “game time” call, at dinner we decided to give it the green light.
It was an aggressive set of show elements which was the main topic of our conversation at the dinner the night before the draft. As we headed for the stadium on the morning of June 28th, 1995, we knew it would be a historic night for the NBA and their newest franchises. For our part, it would be the biggest Draft show to date, more acts, dance teams, almost double the videos, more “live” interviews, more contests, and an additional announcer.
A former 1st round draft pick and future Raptors TV analyst, Leo Rautins, a Canadian, would join Ron Thulin as the co-host. Jack Givens, a former Kentucky star and first round NBA Draft pick would handle reporting duty from the Raptors War Room. We also had a guest appearance from the late John Saunders, who was the original Raptors play-by-play announcer before moving on to his stellar career at ESPN.
One of the basketball storylines was who would be the first pick in Raptors history. Isiah Thomas was the team’s General Manager and had the 7th pick in a draft that was not billed as stellar. The common wisdom had Ed O’ Bannon, a forward from UCLA going to Toronto.
There was nervous tension as the rigging was checked and we went over one final time the physical execution for the mascot “repel,” and how we were going to cover it on screen. We began our Draft show around ½ hour before the first pick, giving the fans a pre-game show to get them up to speed with what was about to unfold and to create the atmosphere. In this case, it was not hard to do, the stadium with electric with anticipation and the fans were ready for the birth of a franchise.
When the moment came for the descent from the rafters, the nerves were gone, and it was all business. The fans were on their feet as the Raptor hit the mark and broke through the banner to a thunderous ovation. The only catch was it took a few extra seconds to get him unhooked from the rigging, but it was a success, TNT also used a clip from the repel in the open to their broadcast.
The Draft started as expected with Joe Smith going as the first pick. It was a little surprising that Kevin Garnett didn’t get the nod until the 5th selection made by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The anticipation was growing as pick # 7 drew closer. Jack Givens did a pre-selection interview with Isiah Thomas. Jack and Isiah played to the crowd, the interaction between fans and stakeholders was going well.
After Vancouver made their first selection, grabbing “Big Country,” center Bryant Reeves from Oklahoma State with the 6th pick, the time had come.
In the arena, we had brought the over 21,000 fans, the largest crowd to see any NBA Draft to their feet with what we call a fan prompt, in this case the “We Will Rock You” scene from the then popular sitcom Cheers.
When David Stern stepped to the podium, he made reference to the historic first pick, when he announced point guard Damon Stoudamier, the floor general from the University of Arizona as the selection, it was greeted with mixed reviews.
As it turns out, with no stars left in the Draft sky on this night, history tells us it was a rock solid choice. When you think about it, what position player would Isiah Thomas choose to start a franchise.
Fast forward 24 years, that’s how long it took for the Toronto Raptors to climb the NBA mountain and reach the NBA Finals. It might take a few more years for the Raptors to win an NBA championship, but it’s time, time to write the next chapter in Raptors history and another first for the NBA, an International NBA Finals., right here in Toronto.
By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief
BALTIMORE – The District of Columbia is about an hour from this city of charm but the trip to be made today could set the Boston Red Sox back more than an hour, maybe more than a year. The Red Sox organization walked its team and manager, Alex Cora, right into the center of controversy by accepting an invitation to visit the White House. Both Cora and the club rightfully state it’s all a matter of choice.
In fact, they’re both right.
The tradition of championship teams being invited to the White House has taken on extraordinary political meaning for this particular trip because of the Trump administration’s poor handling of hurricane relief in response to Hurricane Maria which devastated the island in 2017. An estimated 3,000 died as a result of the storm.
In polarizing manner, President Donald Trump trivialized the hurricane relief efforts and later mocked Puerto Rico’s Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan. On an official visit, Trump stooped so low as to toss paper towels to hurricane victims gathering for relief, food, water and supplies.
Cora declined the WH invitation noting, “Unfortunately, we are still struggling, still fighting,” Cora said in a statement. “Some people still lack basic necessities, others remain without electricity and many homes and schools are in pretty bad shape almost a year and a half after Hurricane Maria struck. I’ve used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten, and my absence is no different. As such, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating in the White House.”
A reported eight other Red Sox, all Latino and African-American, joined Cora and will not make the visit today. Red Sox legend David Ortiz also supported Cora’s decision and went on record via Boston’s WEEI Radio to voice his viewpoint.
“I’m an immigrant,” said Ortiz. “When it comes down to the political side of it, I don’t know much about politics and things like that, but when it comes down [to] the way immigrants have been treated, it’s something that goes a long way,” Ortiz, who was born in the Dominican Republic, told WEEI earlier this week. “You don’t want to go and shake hands with a guy who is treating immigrants like [expletive] because I’m an immigrant.
“Alex is in a tough spot right now, going there and acting like nothing is happening. It’s like you are going to shake hands with the enemy. Think about it, all the stuff that has been going on since he took office. People are angry. People are mad. He has divided people, that’s how it feels like,” added Ortiz, the most influential and outspoken of Boston sports legends.
Team chemistry and the perceived racial divide of the team is also in question as no Latino or Black team members plan to attend but a listing of white players making the visit brought about perceived political and racial divides within the Sox’ locker room.
Players and team execs deny any locker room issues are arising not at the root of the controversy, but basic support of Cora’s and Puerto Rico’s plight can not go hand-in-hand without questioning the motives of those attending and notattending the tainted ceremony planned today at the WH Rose Garden.
“I’m excited to just go visit the White House,” said Red Sox utility man Brock Holt to WBZ-TV. “It’s not something a lot of people get to do.
“Everyone has a right to an opinion,” added Holt. “We support the guys who are not going and they support us.”
While no commentary can criticize the right of Red Sox players to make their own decision on attending the ceremony today nor fault the organization for accepting the invitation in the first place. Simply ignoring the invitation or declining it outright might not’ve been the answer, either.
With the fact the Red Sox have an off-day tonight but play at Fenway tomorrow, there simply isn’t enough time for the Sox to send Cora and club officials on another relief trip to the island. However, the club could’ve organized a Puerto Rico relief rally today in Boston to raise money for additional humanitarian efforts and show support to their manager.