The Name Game

July 27, 2011

It’s quite clear that more than any profession, athletes have the most enviable names. Do you think they exit the womb with such power and finesse that their mothers have no choice but to bestow totally kickass names upon them like Cadillac and Tank? I think a study should be done about this. I mean, let’s be honest, I’ve never once been in an office setting where someone introduced themselves as LeGarrette, Shaquille or BenJarvus. I’d like you to meet my accountant, Takeo Spikes. Shit just doesn’t happen. Thus, in honor of fantastic athlete nomenclature, I’ve decided to highlight some of my favorite names in sports over the past few decades.

Honorable Mention – All Product Placement Team:

Milton Bradley and Coco Crisp. I hope that both of these baseball players get lifetime supplies of board games and cereal, respectively. It’s the least their namesakes can do for all of the free advertising they’re given every time these guys play on national television. Also funny that board games and cereal seem to go hand in hand. You know what else goes hand in hand with board games and cereal? Weed.

Honorable Mention – The NFL:

Peerless Price, Quentin Jammer, Takeo Spikes, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Plaxico Burress, Ebenezer Ekuban, A.J. Hawk, Lawyer Malloy, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Madison Hedgecock…the list goes on.

10. Hope Solo: I know, this was an easy one since the Women’s World Cup was recently top of mind. But let’s be serious. Hope Solo could not have been anything besides a soccer goalie. C’mon. Our hope rests upon the goalie as she keeps solo watch over the net. Yea,  yea, I know. Shut the hell up. The main reason I put her at the top of this list is because she’s hot.

9. Slick Watts: Check out the dude at the top of this post. What a pimp. Slick Watts played for the  Sonics in the mid-seventies and apparently earned the name because he was the first player in the NBA to shave his head. I don’t care if the story is true or not. Anyone who rocks a headband at a 30 degree angle is slick as shit in my book.

8. Kaka: Sorry.

7. Fred: While we’re on the subject of one-name soccer players, there’s a Brazilian dude who goes simply by…Fred. Seriously. But, given the fact that he plays in the MLS for the DC United, I’m not sure he’s quite deserving of the one-name name. Cher is awesome.

6. Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje: The Georgetown Hoyas basketball squad has been home to a slew of players that could easily qualify for this list (Dikembe Mutombo, Boubacar Aw, Othella Harrington, to name a few). But Ruben takes the cake. I was lucky enough to be a ballboy for the Providence Friars when I was a little kid and at one point during a game, Mr. Boumtje-Boumtje asked me (aggressively) for a towel during a stop in the action. Apparently dude is crazy smart and speaks three languages. But at that moment, he was yelling at me, a scrawny ten-year-old, in a tongue that was not my own. I was terrified.

5. Fat Lever: Talk about motivation. If Fat Lever didn’t excel at hoops (he was a two-time NBA All-Star in the late-80s), he would have been…well he probably would have walked off a cliff.

4. Dick Trickle: I hate to put anyone whose name resembles a STD symptom on the list, but there he is. I’m sure Dick is a nice guy, and he had quite an illustrious racing career (including NASCAR Rookie of the Year in ’89), but…yikes.

3. World B. Free: Forget Ron Artest’s recent reincarnation as Metta World Peace. World B. Free was there first. Like Ron Ron, World is a Brooklynite, but unlike Ron, it didn’t take a stadium clearing brawl for him to embrace a name that inspires a similarly vague hope in humanity. World earned the name for the 360 degree dunks he used to throw down in the schoolyard…he could ball. He averaged over 20 points in 13 years in the NBA and from 1978-80, he was second in the league in scoring to George freaking Gervin.

2. Duany Duany: The parents of this former University of Wisonsin guard thought his name was so awesome, they gave it to him twice.

1. God Shammgod: Quite possibly my favorite name of all time. Sports or not. Plus Shammgod had one of the best crossovers that basketball has ever seen. If that’s not enough, his name is God. And God wins any contest he enters. Period.

Like many males currently in their mid-late twenties, NBA Jam was a staple of my media/entertainment intake from roughly 1993 – 1998. Let’s face it, there were few things that could so effectively nurture mutual respect and comeraderie amongt middle school males than a gentleman’s game of NBA Jam (admittedly, an illicitly gotten copy of Playboy was probably high on that list, if not the frontrunner). All smut aside, for the brief twelve minutes of cartoon basketball action crammed into each NBA Jam match up, you’d be willing to put aside all hatred of even the biggest weenie in your parochial school social circle. When it was time to Jam, you jammed. The feeling I had when I won a game by the skin of my 16-bit teeth is one that I cherish forever and fear that my future children will never get to experience, what with their iPads and Angry Birds and such. Palms sweating, heart racing, vision bleary, I often felt like I had just piloted a F-16. But when you lost, God-forbid if you lost, the lows were just as severe. You didn’t want to talk to anyone. You swore the game was fixed, all bullshit. Controllers were liable to be chucked across the room. But then you hit the reset button, cranked up the digitized funkiness of the soundtrack, entered your initials and off you went, shoving and blocking and dunking from the foul line.

My life has been pretty banal since those epic battles in my basement. Sure, college was fun and I live in New York City and yadda yadda, but I yearned for the days of Larry Johnson and Zo and hitting threes from the bottom corner (how this became universal knowledge still astounds me). So whereupon I returned home last Thanksgiving and dusted off my Sega to find, lo-and-behold, the system actually worked, I nearly lost my shit. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night. Now the system remains parked in my apartment living room. NBA Jam might as well be glued to the console, because we rarely play anything else (of course there’s the occasional trip down memory lane with Lion King, NHL 94/95/96/97, Mortal Kombat and the like, but let’s be honest, they’re like comparing Kristen Wiig to Gisele – one would be fun, but one would be really fun). So yea, you heard that right: me and my roommates, just a handful of 27 year-olds hunkering down with some Miller High Life’s, some Wheat Thins and some monster video game dunks.

All of this got me to thinking – now that we have some life experience under our belts wouldn’t it be fun to reappropriate the NBA Jam lingo that so furiously invaded our lexicon some fifteen years ago to describe situations that we, as supposed adults, now face? Of course it would. If you had to use phrases like “Tag Mode,” “Computer Assistance,” “On Fire” and “Turbo” to describe life as you now know it, to what situations would those phrases apply? For better or worse, these are my thoughts (most of them involve drinking because, as they say, you write what you know, right?):

Tag Mode: Tag Mode was a feature whereby you were able to control both players in your lineup, not just the one with possession of the basketball. Theoretically, the feature was put in place to make teams more well rounded. Rather than being forced to choose between the munchkin-sized Tim Hardaway and the hangtime-challenged Chris Mullin, Tag Mode allowed you to have the best of both worlds. It might ruffle the feathers of some purists out there, but in the end, I think it made the game more interesting. How would this apply to real life? I think the most obvious and natural application would be the “Wingman.” Sure, some Casanovas are able to roll into bars by themselves and charm the Uggs off of unsuspecting women, but in most situations, it helps to have a wingman. The wingman proves that a) you have friends and b) you’re not a one-dimensional player (by that I mean the fact that you came out with a buddy shows you have agendas other than getting laid…of course in reality this may very well not be the case, but you get my point). To put it simply, the wingman, like Tag Mode, makes you a well-rounded threat. Where you might lack in knowledge of Mad Men, your buddy can pick up the slack. What he lacks in effortless good looks, you can more than carry your weight. With the wingman, statistical categories like points, rebounds, assists, turnovers and time outs take on a whole new meaning.

Computer Assistance: With Computer Assistance turned on, every game came down to the wire. You’re up eight with 90 seconds to go? Doesn’t matter. You’ll brick a dunk or two and your opponent will start nailing threes. It’s inevitable. With Computer Assistance off, you find out who’s superior and who’s out of their league. Similarly, when you find yourself in a social situation talking, somehow, with a beautiful girl that makes you babble like an idiot, you better hope Computer Assistance is on. This means, of course, that she’s had one too many drinks. Enough to make her tipsy to the point where she’s more willing to put up with your inanity. With Computer Assistance on, you start to think you might have a shot. You build some confidence, and who knows, you might just pull off the upset. With Computer Assistance off, be careful. It could be a massacre.

On Fire: Everyone knows what it means to be “On Fire.” You hit three shots in a row and the golden basketball is bestowed upon you. Until the alotted time runs out, or the opposing team hits a bucket, you can’t miss. Hell, you’re even allowed to goaltend. It’s how you make runs that really put the game out of reach. When you’re twenty seven, being on fire means going out hard three or more nights during the workweek. It’s tough to do, but every so often, you pull a string of three epic nights in a row. The stories that result from such nights are better, because they’re unexpected. These are the nights that Christmas trees are stolen; that you bowl a 240 at 2am; that you run into Owen Wilson at Little Branch and tell him he’s got everything to live for. Of course, your streak can end in any number of ways. Time runs out (you spend your paycheck), the opposing team scores (your boss says you smell like a foot), etc.

Turbo: Turbo was the juice. By hitting Turbo, you put your player into another gear. The shoes lit up and man, could you scoot. But Turbo had to be used judiciously. If you rode the Turbo button, the juice would run out and your momentum would come to a screeching halt, leaving you susceptible to a violent shove, a turnover, a dunk at the other end and a barrage of obnoxious shit-talking from your opponent. In real life, or in our case, nightlife, Turbo is akin to pacing yourself. At the beginning of the night, you hit Turbo: you have a few drinks to get the mojo going. You’re ready to have some fun. But be careful. If you ride that Turbo and overdo it too early, you crash. You become the grumpy drunk on the couch that’s in no shape to go out. You become susceptible to violent shoves, spilled drinks, missed jokes and a barrage of obnoxious shit-talking from your friends. Should have used Turbo wisely.

The Nail in the Coffin: The Nail in the Coffin is the dagger that puts the game out of reach. Put a fork in you, you’re done. In social situations, the Nail in the Coffin is the shot that you clearly did not need. It ends your night and throws all hopes of frisky behavior with the opposite sex out the window. The Nail in the Coffin is the cab shot: the shot that makes you take a cab home, where under different circumstances you would be lucid enough to figure out cheaper, alternate modes of transportation. Is it the Shoes?: Is it the Shoes is the NBA Jam equivalent of Michael Jordan’s famed ‘shrug.’ MJ was in the zone to such a degree that even he couldn’t explain it. It’s as if he were saying, “Dude, I know I’m good, but I didn’t know I was that good.” For me, Is it the Shoes could mean one of two things in real life. The first is when you or one of your buddies pulls a girl that’s way out of his league, but he also makes the rest of your group better. He’s dressed slovenly: hooded sweatshirt and pants that haven’t been washed in weeks, or maybe ever. Hasn’t showered, hasn’t shaved. But for some reason, he can’t miss at the bar. He’s buying drinks, making girls laugh; he’s got that twinkle in his eye that comes maybe once or twice a year. He’s feeling it. I know what you’re thinking…this sounds an awful lot like being on fire. But being on fire is a purely offensive-minded phrase. But your buddy is buying rounds, he’s making assists, he’s boxing out guys that are trying to steal your thunder. He’s being a team player in every sense of the word. All you can ask is, “Dude, is it the shoes?” The other application of Is it the Shoes is strictly literal. You’re sitting around the living room with your friends when all of a sudden a noxious odor begins to circulate. As far as you can tell, no one farted and you just took out the trash. You look around, puzzled, and ask your grungiest buddy, “Is it the Shoes?”

Boomshakalaka: Boomshakalaka was perhaps the most ubiquitous phrase to emerge from NBA Jam. It meant, to put it bluntly, that you’re kicking ass. As such, it can apply to a whole host of real life scenarios. You get a raise? Boomshakalaka. You win at Blackjack? Boomshakalaka. You sign off a conference call? Boomshakalaka. There are however, a few situations where you definitely should not use the phrase. Vomit at the bar? Bad idea. Fall asleep on the subway and wind up in East New York? Bad idea. In bed with your girlfriend and about to make the “O” face? Bad idea.

So there you have it. Use these terms as you wish. And if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to play.

One Shining Moment

April 11, 2009

“One Shining Moment” has got to be the corniest, most melodramatic song on the planet. You can basically smell the cheese coming off of it. But you know what? I’ll be damned if I’m not staying up until 12:30AM after the NCAA Championship to watch the montage of highlights and emotional moments of March Madness that accompanies Luther Vandross’ serenade. It’s magical. If there’s a better sport than college basketball, someone please let me know.

Yankees Rodriguez BaseballLook. I get it. A lot of baseball players take steroids. It’s cheating and it sucks for those that have been true to themselves and the game and resisted the temptation of the juice. But can we please stop talking about A-Rod everyday? I seriously don’t give a fuck anymore. I’m tired of his lame ass excuses and backtracking. I wouldn’t be surprised if word got out that he used after 2003 as well. I won’t care then either. Let’s have regular random testing for every player, and if someone fails, suspend them for a year. Case closed, end of story. Anyone that used is banned from the Hall of Fame. That’s it, sorry. That way we can move on and concentrate on great stories like the one I read on today (and ESPN is probably more guilty than any outlet for putting A-Rod under the microscope).

A high school player in Wisconsin lost his mother to cancer, and after initially indicating that he would sit out his next game, decided on game day that he wanted to play. Since he wasn’t listed on the roster for the game, his team was issued a techincal and the opponent was awarded two free throws, despite attempting to decline the foul. In a moment of pure class, the opposing coach instructed the player who volunteered to take the shots to miss the free throws on purpose–to no resistance from the player. It’s a great story and an example of the type of sportsmanship wholly absent from athletics today. Class begins at the youngest levels and is shortly thereafter abandoned, unfortunately. Check out the story HERE.

Jimmy V

December 9, 2008

Speaking of Jimmy V, check out his speech from the 1993 Espy’s, shortly before he died of cancer. Funny, touching and inspirational. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up:

Stephen Curry

December 9, 2008

Any person that considers himself a college basketball fan is aware of Stephen Curry, the man singlehandedly driving Davidson. Last year, Curry propelled the squad to the Elite 8 and this season has them positioned as the No. 22 team in the nation, an impressive slot for a small program like Davidson.

When I noticed that Davidson was playing West Virginia tonight on ESPN for the Jimmy V Classic, I was eager to watch Curry play as I hadn’t seen him in action since the tournament last year. I tuned in for the second half and although Davidson was ahead by a couple of buckets, Curry was struggling from the field. Despite the fact that he had dropped 44 on NC State in his last time out, or perhaps because of it, Curry was forcing outside jumpers and taking bad shots early in the possession. Curry displayed a marked ability to create his own shot and has a rapid-fire release, but he seemed to want to win the game on his own.

Come to find out, that’s exactly what he did. As Davidson found themselves down by a few due to atrocious rebounding, all it took was a jumper to go down for Curry to find his stroke. He wound up scoring Davidson’s last 11 points, including the step-back three that ultimately put Davidson ahead for good. Some might argue that Curry is too small to play in the Association, but his ability to create his own shot and marksmanship from outside will make him a threat. As my dad used to say, a great shooter makes up for a multitude of sins.

Watch the PTI guys argue about Loyola MD’s strategy to double team curry the ENTIRE GAME despite losing by 30:

I posted a few days ago about the summer leagues in NYC and tonight a friend and I went to check out a Nike Pro City Game at Hunter College. To our pleasant surprise none other than Michael “The Beast” Beasley was playing. Also on the court were Smush Parker, Marko Jaric and former St. John’s phenom Omar Cook. The crowd was hyped and it was a great atmosphere for a summer league game. Not to mention admission is free.

I was excited to see what Beasley could do, just to see if he’s worth all the fuss. To be honest, he didn’t show much in the first half and almost looked like he was playing timid, or afraid to get hurt. Not surprisingly, his team fell to a twenty point deficit. Someone must have talked some shit, or maybe he was embarrassed, because he came alive in the second half, displaying a versatile array of moves on the baseline and low post and even draining a few threes. He easily scored 25 in the second half alone and brought his team back for an eventual win.

If nothing else, Hunter College is a great place to see hoops during the summer and you get a chance to watch some real talent for free. Take the 6 to 68th after work and say you were there before Beasley became the next Barkley.

Nike Pro City

July 23, 2008

I recently read an article by’s Scoop Jackson about the deified New York City point guard. Scoop’s piece noted the decline of worshiped guards coming out of the Big Apple, citing the meteoric rise and subsequent fizzle of Sebastian Telfair as a turning point. NYC guards never changed the game, but gone are the days when players like Mark Jackson, Kenny Anderson, Rod Strickland and Stephon Marbury dominated the playground then went on to have notable NBA careers. Scoop’s point was that…who cares? NYC point guards are adapting their game to the pro level less and less frequently because–so what if the world doesn’t know their name…NYC basketball heads do, and that’s all that matters to them.

All summer I’ve been meaning to catch a few Nike summer league games at the city’s hallowed grounds for summer ball: Hunter College, West 4th, Dyckman and Conrad McRae, among others. These courts host games featuring rising college stars, current and former NBA players and playground dudes. Pro City at Hunter College (68th and Lex) has runs each Tuesday and Thursday nights, Dyckman (204th and Nagle) each weekend for the most part, West 4th every damn day and Conrad McRae (Park Slope) on Saturdays and Sundays. For comprehensive info on each court and full schedules, check out Nike Basketball’s NYC page HERE. If you go on the right day, you might just witness the next God Shammgod. While we’re on the topic of Shamm, check out a highlight reel from the ’95 McDonald’s game…

Tonight, the basketball gods have shined on the Chicago Bulls. With less than a 2% chance to win the 2008 Draft Lottery, the Bulls pulled the largest upset of the season by beating out the rec-league teams of Miami, Seattle, and Minnesota. Now the Bulls are faced with the tough decision between Memphis phenom Derrick Rose or Kansas State man-beast Michael Beasley.

Both players are leaving after prolific freshman seasons. Derrick Rose carried his team to the NCAA Championship game, while averaging 14.9 pts 4.5 rebs 4.7 asts 1.2 stls. Michael Beasley wasn’t a slouch either. He led his less-talented Kansas State team to the second round of the tournament, while averaging a panty-dropping 26.2 pts 12.4 rebs 1.3 stls 1.6 blks. Both these players are 19 year old future millionaires with the skills to become perennial allstars.

As an avid Bulls fan, I am ecstatic about this opportunity. They already boast a solid team with a core of Luol Deng, Ben Gordan, and Kirk Hinrich along with talented youngsters in Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah. Based on need, I would say that Beasley would be a perfect fit. He’s the front court presence they need, and he has attitude. His low post moves are mature, and he’ll rip another guy’s (friend or foe) head off for a rebound. The problem is: Rose seems like a potential superstar in the mold of Dwayne Wade. If Rose blows teams away in workouts, I would push for a trade of Kirk or Ben and Tyrus for a low post player. Rose will be the closer the Bulls need.

Anyways, I think either player will help the team. Next season is going to be great, and I’m definitely buying tickets to watch the Bulls rip the Knicks. I can’t wait to hear the Boos of Knicks fans rain down from MSG on that overpaid pu pu plater of players as Rose/Beasley drop 30.

I was watching the Celtics-Cavs playoff game tonight and thinking about how the mystique of the slam dunk seems to have evaporated from the NBA game. Players have evolved in both strength and athleticism to such a degree that dunking is no longer particularly special. This led me to seek out some vintage slam dunk clips, when players with nicknames like “Spud,” “Air,” and “Human Highlight Film” ruled the skies. Theirs was an era when dunks weren’t just about power, but about grace. Jordan’s foul line jam and Dominique’s trademark windmill were works of art. Plus dudes back then were killin’ it with the high-top fade. And another thing, what is it with the lack of creativity in athletes’ nicknames these days??? Have we regressed to the point where the best we can do is put a spin on the player’s real name? “‘melo,” “AI” and “KG” are all we’ve got? Give me “The Rainman,” “The Glyde,” and “The Mailman” any day.

In any event, below are some vintage dunk contest clips. The first is footage from Spud Webb’s victory in 1986…you can’t help but smile while watching. The second is a montage from Jordan and ‘Nique’s contests in 1985, 1987 and 1988 (I love that the voice over sounds like narration of an epic battle). The third witnesses Dee Brown and Shawn Kemp duke it out in 1991.

Spud Webb – 1986:

Jordan & Dominique – 1985, 1987, 1988:

Dee Brown & Shawn Kemp – 1991: