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.

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 ESPN.com’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…

In a series that oozed ’80s nostalgia, the Celtics ousted the Lakers in six games to win their 17th NBA championship and first since 1986. The Celts consistently proved themselves to be the superior team and took game six by a punishing 39-point margin. All this despite myriad adversity: Paul Pierce’s knee, Rajon Rondo’s ankle, Kendrick Perkins’ shoulder, Ray Allen’s son’s illness, Doc Rivers.

I personally can’t stand Kobe Bryant and the Lakers and therefore rooted whole-heartedly for the Celtics. I was thrilled to see first-class players like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen get their first rings and happy that Paul Pierce was able to redeem himself after a roller coaster career in Boston (a topic covered in detail in this week’s Sports Illustrated).

While I’m a bigger fan of the college game, I found myself particularly engaged in this year’s playoffs perhaps due to the intrigue of a Celtics-Lakers match up. The level of play was awe-inspiring at times, especially that of Finals MVP Paul Pierce who legitimately willed his team to victory. In Garnett and Allen, Boston also has two players that seem like respectable human beings, a rare find in professional sports these days. It’s frustrating when the marquee athletes in each major sport (Bryant, Bonds, TO) come off as complete assholes. Personalities such as these are hard to stomach and often deter me from enjoying the sport. When Boston was showered in confetti tonight, I could actually say that the good guys won.

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: