Sunday, January 12, 2014

World Series of Fictional Basketball Teams

Sports is a funny thing sometimes. We spend so much time and effort debating who is the best team, which player should go to the hall of fame (and whether giving your vote away to Deadspin is ethical), and yet, when it all comes down to it, none of our prognosticating ever really matters. The best teams will win, and the best players will rise to the occasion. No amount of debate over who's elite, who's "next," or who's a real contender ever matters once the whistle blows.

So let's put those arguments to use in something where our predictions actually matter: teams that don't really exist.

It's time once again for the World Series of Fictional Sports Teams: Basketball Edition!

The great thing about debating TV and movies is that there is never a set winner. You either like the product, or you don't. There's no real statistic saying that one thing is better than the other.

That's where you come in: we've taken 16 of the top basketball teams from TV and movies and pitted them against each other in a tournament, and YOU decide the winner.

The bracket is below, but first, a few rules:

1. This is not a debate over the best movie or best actors, it's about the best TEAM, who would win if the two teams went head to head. Don't judge a team by the quality of it's movie. Remember, there are a lot of lousy shows and films about basketball (*cough, Thunderstruck, cough*)
2. The arguments can come from anywhere, but they should also be based within what can be seen in the movie itself. So no pulling characters from other movies into the game (example, Gene Hackman plays Norman Dale in Hoosiers, not Lex Luthor.)
3. Don't base your arguments over what a player did in real life. Shaquille O'Neal played a character in "Blue Chips," he didn't play himself. Form your arguments over what the character would do.
4. The most compelling/entertaining/highest number or reader arguments one way or another will help the team advance to the next round. It isn't enough to just vote one way or another, you have to say why.

Make sure to vote in the comments, or email me at Please vote for the FIRST ROUND ONLY.

(Click on the team name for more information, if you are not familiar with the team)

#1 Monstars (Space Jam)
#16 Utah Jazz (Celtic Pride)

The Monstars are heavily favored, but can have only played one total game in their careers. The Jazz have Lewis Scott and a bunch of short white guys.

#9 Air Bud
#8 New York Knicks (Eddie)

That dog can shoot, but can he play defense? And do the aging Knicks have enough energy and discipline to keep up?

#4 Beavers (Teen Wolf)
# 13 Washington Huskies (6th Man)

A werewolf versus a Ghost in our supernatural first found matchup.

#12 Wildcats (H.S. Musical)
#5 Lincoln High School (He Got Game)

Intriguing matchup between two high school teams with very different styles of play. Jesus Shuttlesworth is maybe the most talented player in the tournament, but the Wildcats have plenty of rhythm and coordination (I had to say something!)

#2 Tune Squad (Space Jam)
#15 Flint Tropics (Semi-Pro)

Michael Jordan and the Looney Toons are at the top of their game. The Tropics have strange hair. 'Nuff said.

#10 White Men Can't Jump
#7 L.A. Knights (Like Mike)

This is slightly unfair to have a two-man team go up against an NBA team (with magical shoes, no less), but we had to have Harrelson and Snipes in here somewhere.

#3 Hickory Huskers (Hoosiers)
#14 Richmond High School (Coach Carter)

A great coaching matchup in the first round. Huskers have the best shooter in this entire tournament (Jimmy Chitwood), but Richmond has size and is looking for the upset.

#11 Atomic Supermen (Futurama)
#6 Western University Dolphins (Blue Chips)

How do you counter one of the best college recruiting classes in movie history? With a team that has a player with a cannon in his chest. But don't forget that Fry is on the bench for the Supermen.

Make sure to cast your vote for the first round. Leave a comment or email!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What Friends are For

My greatest Gonzaga Basketball memory didn't take place at the McCarthey Athletic Center. It wasn't from a game in the Martin Centre. It didn't even happen on a basketball court.

With time winding down on a late night in the Catherine/Monica dorm room, Gonzaga freshman John Brian Condon attempted a last-second, desperation dunk on a Nerf hoop hooked to a plate glass window. Refusing to dish off to teammates Jacob Andrew or David Ramirez, Brian jumped the length of the carpet, and threw down a vicious slam that threw the house down.


I don't know if the scoresheet officially says whether the dunk was good, but as Brian brought the hammer down, he crashed through the window, shattering the glass into large chunks. How he escaped unscathed was a Jesuit miracle: The thick vinyl shades protected him from being sliced into ribbons.

I didn't even see it. I walked in after it all went down.

"Man guys, it's cold in here ... WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED??"

But Brian was OK, David, Jacob and I were doubled over in shock and laughter, and it was one of the best moments of our friendship.

The Zags have had their memorable moments, from buzzer-beaters to Sweet 16s to mop-topped superstars, and a #1 ranking. I’ve sat courtside to see them play memorable postseason games in Las Vegas, Portland and Memphis. They’ve also had their share of heartbreakers, from disappointing losses to questionable decisions to screaming, heartbreaking calls by Gus Johnson. To me, though, what’s been more important has been experiencing them all with my friends.

We watched our first live Zags game together. Saw buzzer beaters and dominant performances. We sat in shock in a dorm room and saw Adam Morrison break down in tears, our first of many times experiencing Bulldog heartbreak. We got posters, debated the players, and criticized the coaching. We  drove around the block twice to get a picture of 7-foot-5-inch Will Foster riding on a skateboard with a small child. And some of us broke windows trying to dunk.

No matter how exhilarating, how sad, how stupid, it always felt like we were a part of something. Bigger schools have football teams and larger populations. At Gonzaga, it felt like all we had was our little quartet and our Bulldog Basketball.

It always hurts to see the Zags come up short. This year is probably more frustrating than most. There’s not a lot to say to cover up the disappointment of watching a number 1 team go down early, in a year that looked like they would finally break through. You can scream, curse, and rant online, but that won’t take it away.

In 2006, it seemed like nothing would ever drown out Gus Johnson’s call of “heartbreak city.” Fast forward seven years, and the first thing that comes to mind about that year is John Brian nearly killing himself dunking through the window

So find your friends today and debate last night’s game. Go grab a beer and discuss next year’s recruiting class. Or just turn off ESPN and play a few games of Super Smash Bros. together. Believe me, years from now you’re going to care less about the outcome of some tournament game, and more about what you and your friends did after it. And hopefully, it will help you forget about it altogether.

Disappointment hurts. But it hurts a little less when you’ve got a good group to share it with.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stay Classy, Clyde

Clyde Drexler was always "classy."

That's what set him apart from all the other superstars of the late 1980s and early 90s. The way he carried himself both on and off the court, was as a class-act. He never made wild statements to the media, like Charles Barkley. He was never an aggressive pit bull like Karl Malone. He never walked with a swagger or had a personality that controlled a room like Michael Jordan.

He was the player who went about his business, night in and night out. Played hard, was gracious in victory and defeat, and always said the right thing to the media. He was one of the league's most incredible scorers and an athletic dunker, but never threw those facts in anyone's face. He was the basketball equivalent of Barry Sanders flipping the football to the referee after a touchdown.

Trail Blazer and Rocket fans admired him for it. Portland radio announcer Bill Schonely called him "one of the game's true gentleman."

That's why it was so great to see the success Drexler achieved. He was an all-star. Took two teams to the NBA finals. Named to the 1992 Dream Team. Inducted into the Hall of Fame. Clyde showed that it could all be done by being the nice guy.

Which is also why it hurts to hear what he has to say today.

As the 20th anniversary of the Dream Team approaches, writers have been catching up with members of the team to reflect on that monumental roster. In Jack McCallum's new book soon to the published, Clyde shared his thoughts on the selection of Magic Johnson, who had recently been diagnosed with HIV in 1991.

"He couldn't play much by that time. He couldn't guard his shadow...but you have to have to understand what was going on then. Everybody kept waiting for Magic to die. Every time he'd run up the court everybody would feel sorry for the guy, and he'd get all that benefit of the doubt."

Clyde goes on to say that if they had known in 1992 that Magic would live for so long, then Drexler would have been named the MVP of the 1992 all-star game, in which they shared similar stat lines.

It was a shock to read those words coming from Clyde. It was as if decades of being so politically correct caught up to him in one unfortunate interview.

Over the years, Drexler always said the right thing, to a fault. He never criticized anyone. Always wanted to get along. And for as much success as he achieved, he never got to the heights of other NBA superstars of his day, both professionally or in public perception.

He was the league's second best shooting guard behind Michael Jordan, but was perpetually stuck in his shadow. He carried two Trail Blazer teams to the NBA finals (on bad knees), but was never lauded for his enormous efforts.

He was a top scorer on the Dream Team and was responsible for a lion's share of highlights, but the attention went to Magic, Michael, and Larry. Even in the Dream Team's brilliant new documentary, Clyde's major contribution was mentioning how he wanted everyone to get along, and the story of wearing two left shoes at a practice.

Was his classiness to blame? If he had spoken out more, would history remember him as being more than the nice guy?

As Blazer fans, we always wanted a little more for Drexler, but we were still happy with what he achieved. Now it sounds like Clyde always wanted a little more for himself, too.

But I think the most shocking part of that statement - "Everybody kept waiting for Magic to die." - was that it came from Clyde. He had always been so supportive of Magic through the years. Always so willing to put his ego aside for the sake of the team. He may be repeating a thought that was shared by the other members of the Olympic team. But because it was Mr. Nice Guy Clyde Drexler who said it, it becomes magnified. If Barkley had said it, no one would have batted an eyelash.

Fans always admired how The Glide stayed above the fray, but maybe the pressure of staying so classy finally got the best of Clyde Drexler.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Yeah it's great, but...

In a couple of months, the Gonzaga University men's basketball media guide will be released. Inside, there will undoubtedly be a section about "Zags in the NBA," which will feature the words " alumni have included two NBA champions and a Hall-of-Famer."

66 percent of that sentence is strange for me.

Don't get me wrong. I am estatic that Ronny Turiaf has now won a championship ring with the Miami Heat. It was wonderful to see a Zag reach the mountaintop and take the floor for an NBA championship team, especially considering everying Ronny has gone through in his career. I was even happy to see Adam Morrison in street clothes - but on the roster! - for two NBA-champion Los Angeles Laker teams. But there's something ... off, about those accomplishments. Something doesn't seem right. As good as it is to see alumni accomplish success, the way it was done leaves me feeling strange.

It keeps taking me back to the same question: why has it been so hard for Gonzaga Bulldogs to become star players in the NBA?

To date, John Stockton remains the only successful Zag to play in the association. He's a Hall-of-Fame point guard. Member of the 1992 Dream Team. All-time leader is assists and steals. Two Finals appearances. No ring.

In the 30 years since Stockton graduated from GU, and number of other star players have stepped foot in the Martin Center and McCarthey Center. Some have been serviceable role-players. Some helped put Gonzaga in the national spotlight. And a few were considered the best players in the country.

But none have achieved greatness at the next level. Adam Morrison's fall from grace is well-known. Dan Dickau had flashes of promise but ended up with a journeyman career. Ronny Turiaf was felled by his heart condition early in his career and never developed into a star.

As fans, all we want is to see them successful as pros. We want them to win. We want them to show the world how their skills helped put a tiny Jesuit college in the middle of nowhere on the national radar.

It's great to see them win, but we'd always hoped for something ... more.

There isn't really an answer. It is the system they played in at Gonzaga? It it the lack of experience with a power conference? Or it is all just the dumb luck of the draw? Do conferences like the WCC just have the once-in-a-generation player come along (Stockton, Steve Nash)? There's been plenty of examples of NBA players succeeding and failing in all of these circumstances.

Either way, it's something Zag fans are still getting used to.

Congratulations to Ronny. Here's hoping he paves the way for a Zag to someday lead a team to an NBA title.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The JoePacolypse: Takes and Tweets

What a night that was. Fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I couldn't pull myself away from the TV as they showed video of the riots. If this is what happens when a football coach gets fired, what's next?

  •  Bryan Navarro lays out the evolving story in real time, glued to TV and his Twitter feed.
  • Former GUTV colleague Nate Coombs, on Facebook: "This PSU thing is like a horrible game of telephone. Everybody played it in first grade, the teacher would whisper, "I have twenty cookies to bake today" and after a dozen odd seven year old's whisper it to each other, it comes out, "I hate reading books let us play". Except this time, the teacher said "There are boys being raped in your locker room" and all the high level state administrators sitting in a circle turned that message into "there might have been some horseplay".
  • Coaches at Oregon and SOU react to the news of Paterno's firing. Coach Craig Howard has a very candid take.
  • When video emerged showing a news van being tipped by protesters, my friends in the media were shocked. It was a scary moment to see something like that actually happen for something like this.
Immediately after that link appeared, a Web editor in New York took to Twitter and tried to play Journalism Ethics Police, tweeting: "Fellow journalists, it's not our job to judge these Penn State students. Their discontent & gatherings are just another layer to this story."
I'm sorry, but I can't be objective about this. Those students crossed the line by flipping that news van and putting reporters and photogs in danger.
Here's another angle, as students chant "flip it!"

It makes me sick, not to mention scared for the well being of my colleagues. I hope everyone involved gets thrown in jail. They attacked the media and put lives at risk. Don't tell me to be impartial about it.
  • Chris Breece, on Facebook: "...PSU students...unbelievable disgusting ridiculous inexcusable mind boggling etc etc etc.

  • Ken Tremendous of Fire Joe Morgan - 10:59 p.m.: "You know why these PSU students are protesting Paterno's firing? None of them have kids. If they had kids, they'd have run him out of town."
  • Chris Leone - 9:56 p.m: "Has Mike McQueary been fired too? No one's said anything about it."
  • Bryan Navarro - 9:44 p.m.: "You say, "We are Penn State." Who is Penn State?"
  • Lindsay Joy, reporter for KTWO in Casper, WY -  9:17 p.m. (moments after seeing picture of flipped news van): "This hits home."
  • Jim Rome - 9:15 p.m.: "Students reportedly standing on top of an overturned news van yelling "We want Joe." They're more out of touch than Joe is."
  • Geoff Ziemer of The Sports Trap - 8:28 p.m.: "OMG, this might get outta control."
  • I credit Julian Olivas for coming up with the hashtag #JoePacolypse
  • And Ashton Kutcher goes completely bonkers, gets skewered on Twitter.