Category Archives: Basketball

Jim Calhoun’s Final Farewell

If Jim Calhoun taught his players anything in his 39 years of coaching it’s perseverance. Battling through two bouts of cancer (prostate and skin), spinal stenosis, broken ribs and a broken hip, Calhoun remained a steady presence on the UConn bench since 1986, and at Northeastern for a good 14 years before that.

Calhoun’s contributions to basketball and the community are worth applauding.

Now, after 39 years of coaching, Calhoun announced his retirement today, ending one of the most illustrious careers in NCAA history. His name will go down in the record books among the likes of Bobby Knight, John Wooden, Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp. Not bad company for a man whose playing experience consisted of just 4 years at American International College. Fittingly, Calhoun’s alma mater will face Connecticut in their season opener.

Calhoun finished his career with 873 wins, the sixth most wins in Division I history. Add three national championships to that and he’s certainly earned the spot he already holds in the Hall of Fame. But it’s the fact that Calhoun was even able to bring Connecticut to a championship level that is his true legacy.

It’s taken for granted today that UConn is one of the nation’s elite programs. Yet when Calhoun inherited the Huskies from Dom Perno in 1986, they were trapped in mediocrity, playing below .500 for the better part of a decade. And in Calhoun’s first season it was much of the same; the team went 9-19.

Calhoun bids farewell to the college basketball.

But since that time, UConn has not had a losing season and failed to make the NCAA Tournament just seven times in   25 years. Considering they made the tournament just six times in the 25 years before he took over, Calhoun’s impact on the program has been colossal. Not only has Connecticut churned out more wins with him at the helm, but they have also produced quite a few succesful pros. Cliff Robinson, Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Charlie Villanueva, Rudy Gay and Kemba Walker all have Calhoun to thank for much of their success.

Some of these players were involved with Calhoun in some of college basketball’s most memorable moments as well. Ray Allen helped UConn win the 1996 Big East Championship over Allen Iverson and Georgetown with a huge game winning shot. Rip Hamilton scored the game winning bucket at the buzzer in UConn’s 1998 win over Washington in the Sweet Sixteen. Kemba Walker contributed in the Huskies six overtime loss to Syracuse in 2009, the second longest game in NCAA history. These moments have all gone down in basketball lore as some of the sport’s greatest games and Calhoun played a big part in all of them.

After 39 years of coaching, Jim Calhoun impressed in many ways. But a more impressive feat than those long years spent coaching are his 45 years of marriage to his wife Pat. Now, at 70 years of age, Calhoun can spend time focusing on family and health, without having to worry about the success of the UConn basketball program. He made sure that program wouldn’t be worrying anyone for a long time.

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Must Be the Shoes

A young boy is down game point in a play-to-eleven pickup game in his neighborhood park.  On what might be his last defensive stand, he stretches with all his might to block a right-handed layup for the win.

Using every inch at his disposal, he just taps the ball with his fingertips, gathers it up and takes it out to the three-point line.

Knowing it’s going to take an astonishing comeback to earn bragging rights among his friends, the boy drops down to one knee, pulls back the tongue of his right sneaker and whispers, “Please let me be like Mike.”

The Los Angeles Knights haven’t been the same since Calvin tore his magical shoes open!

We’ve all either dreamed, laughed at or lived one of these Calvin Cambridge moments.  As crazy as it seems, we like to believe there is some fragment of our favorite athlete’s talent embedded within the rubber soles caressing  our feet.

With every pair of shoes comes a sense of confidence, a belief that springing past the competition (yes, a Nike Shox pun) is within the realm of possibility.

This spiritual shoe connection is something any athlete dreams for, but as the most important law of economics goes, “Nothing is free.”

On Tuesday that proved to be truer than ever, as the Wall Street Journal came out  with a report that the Nike LeBron X sneakers will cost $315 at full price, with a stripped down version still emptying the pockets at $180.

The shoes are indeed top-of-the-line, but at some point one has to wonder how much profit Nike and LeBron are taking away from this business venture.  An even bigger unknown is how much negative press the newly crowned champ will endure for overpriced shoes after just having been let out of America’s doghouse.

But the simple fact is that recently, shoe models of high profile athletes have been expensive, and unsurprisingly so.  Decades ago this was not the case, but we now live in a world in which giving in to consumer trends and materialism somehow defines social status.

Sadly, the urge to be current isn’t going away any time soon.  In the meantime, I think it’s time to pull up a chair, keep the New Era sticker securely fastened to the bill of your hat and reminisce over some memorable shoes.

2008 Puma Cell Meio

Puma Cell Meio: Usain Bolt (2008)

Retail: ~$130

To say these shoes were popular after the Beijing Olympics is to say The Fonz was just sort of cool.  A version of the part Jamaican, part gold medal shoes was worn by Lighting himself during a 100 meter final in which he broke stride with 15 meters to go and still posted a world record time of 9.69 seconds.  To Nike founder Phil Knight, Bolt was “the one that got away.”

KD II Creamsicles

Nike KD II Creamsicle: Kevin Durant (2010)

Retail:

2010: $95

Now: $200+

After the release of Durant’s first shoe model, the basketball world was abuzz with excitement over what the newest version would look like.  The world was first graced with the presence of these loud kicks in a nationally televised game against the Dallas Mavericks (a game in which Durant did not play particularly well) during the 2009-2010 season and has since seen many KD models, both in mass and limited release.  Unused original Creamsicles are now considered few and far between and thus the market price for them has increased.

Air Jordan Derek Jeter Mid-Top

Air Jordan Derek Jeter Mid (2007)-

Retail: $90

Nobody aside from Derek Jeter could’ve had the kind of marketability to make baseball cleats stylish.  Think about it—cleats are meant to get dirty, whereas basketball shoes are often taken out then promptly wrapped in tissue paper and neurotically stowed away as collectors’ items.  This shoe and probably Alex Rodriguez’s first Nike Shox model revolutionized the way popular baseball cleats were consumed. Now baseball fans can tune in to Sunday Night Baseball and see Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia wearing size 15 Air Jordan XI Concord cleats.

Adidas Stan Smith II (just one of many)

Adidas Stan Smith II (1971)-

Retail (present, adjusted for inflation): $50 or less

If you’ve lived, chances are you’ve seen this shoe. Despite not being the world’s flashiest creation, the Adidas mainstay has gotten the job done on the tennis court and the training field for over 40 years .   The stripeless (an Adidas rarity) creation has sold over 30 million times since 1971 and is currently available in eight different colors and styles.  Not bad for an old piece of leather, huh?  Consider the Stan Smith II the “Godfather” of modern-day tennis shoes.

Adidas Crazy 8 (Formerly known as the KB8)

Adidas Crazy 8: Kobe Bryant (1998, 2005)-

Retail:

1998: $100+

Now: $225+

Making its debut with Kobe as the Adidas KB8 at the 1998 All-Star Game, this shoe has been a classic ever since.  It disappeared for a while in 2002 when Kobe left for promises of better marketing (see his Nike Black Mamba short film starring Bruce Willis and Kanye West) and pay with Nike, but was re-released by Adidas as the “Crazy 8” 2005 to rival Nike’s sales.  It worked.  Different color combinations using the Crazy 8 design are still worn by UCLA, Kansas and Baylor basketball players, among others.

Note: Retail prices are averaged where no singular price could be found.  Current prices  reflect eBay and other for-sale values, as many of these shoes are no longer produced.  At original release, more expensive, deluxe versions of each shoe were sold to consumers but not recorded here.  For the Stan Smith II’s, a market equivalent of $50-ish has been maintained since its original release.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars (1917)
  • Air Jordan 1 (1985)
  • Adidas AdiPower Predator TRX FG: Kaka (New: 2012)

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NBA Mock Draft

Just a few days removed from the conclusion of the NBA Finals and the draft is already just two days away. Gotta love the shortened season.

Just a week separates the biggest day for the leagues best teams and the biggest one for its worst. But one good pick could catapult some teams in the lottery into the playoffs. Here’s a look at how I think the first round of Thursday’s draft will play out.

1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky 

A pretty obvious pick for the Hornets. The recent trade of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza will allow New Orleans cap room to re-sign Eric Gordon and could also allow them to add another Free Agent to help with the rebuilding project. Davis will be the centerpiece of this team for years and the Hornets could be back in playoff contention in just a year or two.

2. Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas 

This pick is tough to project, as there is no clear cut second-best player in the draft. For this reason Charlotte has been looking to trade this pick for some young talent. Assuming they keep the pick, Robinson is a safe pick to make. While he’s super athletic and a great rebounder, a lot of scouts don’t seem too optimistic about his upside. Even if he doesn’t exhibit a lot of growth in the NBA, the Bobcats will still get an above-average starting big man with this pick.

3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, SG, Florida 

Beal would be the perfect backcourt complement to John Wall. While Wall is the slashing passer, Beal is a knockdown three-point shooter who could really help the Wizards space the floor. With the addition of Okafor at center and Ariza at small forward, and Nene playing power forward, Washington has a decent starting five to build around.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky 

Dan Gilbert failed in his promise to bring Cleveland a title before LeBron won, but drafting MKG could help boost the Cavs one step closer to the playoffs. Kidd-Gilchrist’s biggest skill is just what the Cavs need: he is a winner. His desire to win makes him one of the toughest competitors and a nightmare on defense.

5. Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina 

In many respects Barnes is the perfect player for the Kings and in many he’s the opposite. For a team that has struggled with immaturity, mainly from DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, Barnes could really provide the team an emotion stability that could be important to help Sacramento’s young talent make the most of that talent. However Barnes’ skill set duplicates some of the team’s problems. He loves to shoot. Unfortunately, so do Evans, Cousins, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Freddette, Donte Green, and John Salmons. Will there be enough shots left for Barnes to make his mark?

6. Portland Trailblazers: Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State 

The Blazers are in a tough spot here. Andre Drummond is still on the board and he has the athletic ability to be a terrific center. But the last time Portland drafted a center with potential and question marks, things didn’t turn out too well. Then again, passing on an elite talent that could provide production at the center spot that Greg Oden couldn’t stay healthy enough to do could be an even bigger mistake.

Ultimately I think the Blazers play it safe with Lillard. He has some question marks of his own, having not faced elite competition (his refusal to take part in group workouts hasn’t helped answer those questions), but he is a much more complete prospect at this point. And since Portland is in a “retooling” faze rather than full blown rebuilding, they can’t afford to wait a few years for Drummond to produce.

7. Golden State Warriors: Andre Drummond, C, UConn 

The Warriors are also in a tough spot here. They could draft Drummond and hope he develops behind two talented bigs in David Lee and Andrew Bogut. But given Golden State’s history of big men who become busts, that could scare them off.

The Dubs could also go with Dion Waiters, a slashing shooting guard compared to a middle class man’s (is that a phrase? It is now) Dwyane Wade, to replace the role Monta Ellis had. However, the Steph Curry/Ellis backcourt didn’t work. Plus, the Warriors drafted their 2 guard of the future – Klay Thompson – last year. GM Bob Myers has said the team is just hoping to stockpile “assets”  which would give them pieces to either develop or trade. Ultimately, Drummond’s potential will give him trade value even if he hasn’t developed, and he could yield the bigger return for Warriors – through trade or development.

8. Toronto Raptors: Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse 

Toronto has a bit of a bad reputation for being a “soft” team, stemming perhaps from their center, Andrea Bargnani, who prefers to launch threes than fight for rebounds. But last year’s pick, Jonas Valanciunas, is coming this year and he projects to be a solid center. Drafting Waiters could help that problem even further, adding toughness on the perimeter. He has been described as a “bulldog” and while his style of play – driver and not a great outside shooter – seems duplicative of Demar DeRozan, Waiters has the upside to be a contributor beyond just dunk contests.

9. Detroit Pistons: John Henson, PF, North Carolina 

Detroit’s main issue they hoped to address in the draft was shot blocking and rebounding, and given Drummond’s uncertainty, he could easily slip this far and provide a perfect solution for Detroit. In this case, the Pistons will have to settle for Henson, who provides both blocking and rebounding. However his rail thin frame won’t allow Detroit to slide Greg Monroe over to PF. Not the perfect fit, but Henson can hit a mid range shot, and help hide Monroe’s struggles on defense.

10. New Orleans Hornets: Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina 

Marshall certainly isn’t the flashiest of players, given his lack of speed, athleticism, or shooting touch. But the kid can pass the ball, and that’s exactly what the Hornets need. He can help with Anthony Davis’ development by giving him the ball in positions to succeed and the Hornets could run some alley oop plays much as Kentucky was so successful doing. Marshall’s defensive struggles could easily be masked by Davis’ stifling help defense and shot blocking.

11. Portland Trailblazers: Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina 

Three Tarheels in a row! Again, Portland is looking for some immediate help in the draft to take full advantage of LaMarcus Aldridge while he’s still in his prime. Zeller has limited upside, after four years of college, but he did improve significantly in his final two years, so he might still have room to grow. Regardless, Zeller will be able to contribute immediately and could help the Blazers make a playoff push next year. He’ll bring added size and rebounding to Portland’s frontcourt, as well as a solid mid range shot and excellent speed for his size.

12. Milwaukee Bucks: Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois 

Having dealt Andrew Bogut, the Bucks now have a glaring hole in the middle. Leonard is incredibly athletic and would bring a different look at that position than Bogut did. However he is still raw offensively, so Milwaukee shouldn’t expect him to contribute immediately. But adding an athletic center to a young athletic team that also features Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis could bring the Bucks a lot of highlights, if not wins.

13. Phoenix Suns: Austin Rivers, PG/SG, Duke

With Nash’s contract having expired, the Suns could likely need a new playmaker in the backcourt. Rivers is certainly no Steve Nash. While Nash looked to get his teammates involved, Rivers does the opposite, looking to create for himself and score. But he certainly does it well. Rivers is a bit of a concern in that he lacks the size and athleticism of a shooting guard, but does not possess the pass first mentality of a point guard. Either way, he has star potential thanks to his killer crossover and could be the face of the franchise as the Steve Nash era comes to a close in Phoenix.

14. Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn 

The Rockets have been at a crossroads for several years. They can never quite get good enough to be a legitimate contender, but can never be bad enough to get a high enough draft pick to lift them to the next level. So while they already have a talented shooting guard in Kevin Martin, the Rockets at this point just need to take the best player available and stock pile assets. Lamb has a similar game to Martin and could make him expendable in a trade.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: Terrence Ross, SG, Washington 

Three-point shooting has been the Achilles Heel of the Sixers for a while now, but drafting Ross could change that. Although he was dumb enough to compare himself to the ever-enigmatic JR Smith, Ross could still help Philly improve. He has deep range on his jumper and fits in well with the 76ers athletic style of play, being quite the leaper himself. Like Smith, though, his shot selection can be atrocious at times and his ball handling needs work. Ross is still a terrific offensive player and could contribute early on for Philadelphia.

16. Houston Rockets: Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky 

Jones is an intriguing talent, possessing the skills to play both inside and out. The question is, however, is he good enough at either to be able to take advantage of it in the NBA. He has a decent three-point shot, but it’s inconsistent. He’s a good ball handler and passer, but is he quick enough to get past people? And his strength could make him dominant in the post, but he seems to prefer to drift by the perimeter. Despite the questions, Jones is talented, and given that the Rockets have the 14th and 18th picks as well, they can afford to reach a bit.

17. Dallas Mavericks: Perry Jones III, SF/PF, Baylor 

Jones might just be the biggest enigma of the draft. He stuns scouts with his athleticism and versatility one minute, then scares them off with inconsistent outside shot, guard’s mentality, and lack of toughness the next. Giving him a chance to sit behind one of the league’s greatest inside-out forwards in Dirk Nowitzki could be great for Jones. Jones is no where near the same shooter Dirk is, but can still be given time to develop by being on a playoff team where the pressure for him to contribute isn’t on him from the start.

18. Houston Rockets: Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State 

The Rockets traded Chase Budinger to Minnesota for this pick, and it appears the Rockets are stock piling first round picks in the hopes of trying to package them in a trade, perhaps for Dwight Howard. Josh Smith is said to be a fall back option for the Rockets.

If they keep all three picks, however, Moultrie coud be their guy here. He could easily be this year’s Kenneth Faried, given his high rebound numbers in college and his athleticism. But while Moultrie is more skilled than Faried, he lacks the “Manimal’s” energy and motor. Still, Moultrie could be a solid rotation big for a playoff team.

19. Orlando Magic: Moe Harkless, SF, St. John’s 

Orlando has to know that Dwight Howard is not going to stick around, so they might as well draft for potential since the Magic most likely won’t be contending in the next few years. Harkless can jump, and at this point in the draft if there is someone who is 6′-9″ and has athleticism he tends to get drafted, even if the rest of his game is lacking. That’s basically the case with Harkless. He can dunk, rebound, and block shots thanks to his athleticism, but needs to develop basically everything else. But if he does round his game out, that skill combined with his athleticism could make him a good player.

20. Denver Nuggets: Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State 

Sullinger, once considered a top-10 talent, is expecte to drop on draft night after having his back red-flagged medically. He is also undersized and not a great athlete for the PF position. The last person with those 3 criteria to fall in a draft was DaJuan Blair and he’s proven to be a steal for the Spurs. Sullinger knows how to rebound, can hit a mid-range shot, and can score in the post (as long as his defender isn’t too tall or athletic). I think, worst case scenario, Sullinger could be a Glen Davis type player for the Nuggets.

21. Boston Celtics: Royce White, SF, Iowa State 

The Celtics have reportedly promised this pick to White and he has pulled out his remaining workouts and interviews. And for a player with White’s question marks, not having the opportunity to talk with him could scare teams from drafting him. While being one of the draft’s most intriguing players, given his combination of size and passing skills, White suffers from Anxiety Disorder. This results in him having difficulty flying, which is kind of a big deal in the NBA. But Boston could be the perfect place for White to thrive if he overcomes his mental obstacles. Paul Pierce’s career is heading towards its last stages and he could be a great model for White to develop his scoring game around.

22. Boston Celtics: Fab Melo, C, Syracuse 

Boston is at a tough place. They just came within 1 win of the NBA Finals, but might already need to shift to rebuilding mode. Kevin Garnett has been mulling retirement, Ray Allen has expressed interest in taking his talents to South Beach and playing for the Miam Heat, and it seems the Big 3 will be going their separate ways. So do the Celtics draft for potential or NBA readiness for one final title push?

Drafting Melo could be a compromise. He’s a bit of a project offensively, but he has a lot of upside. However he is already a great interior defender and could bring Boston the same qualities they had in Kendrick Perkins.

23. Atlanta Hawks: Tony Wroten Jr., PG, Washington 

Atlanta has been cursed at PG ever since skipping over both Deron Williams and Chris Paul to instead draft Marvin Williams. Jeff Teague has been decent for them, but could use an upgrade. Wroten has a chance to be a really special given his height (6′-6″), athleticism, and passing ability. However he cannot hit an outside shot to save his life and has a reputation of being a terrible teammate. But given Wroten’s potential to be a taller version of Rajon Rondo, the Hawks need to roll the dice on this pick.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure 

Nicholson is a big who can really shoot from the outside. He draws a lot of comparisons to David West, but also has some similarities to the Cavs’ Antawn Jamison. Nicholson has been pegged as a better defender than Jamison, though, and given Jamison’s age, Nicholson could be his replacement. With Tristan Thompson looking to be Cleveland’s starting PF for the future, Nicholson could provide a different style of play off the bench.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Miles Plumlee, PF, Duke 

The Grizzlies need to add more athleticism in their front court. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are great players, but both play below the rim. Plumlee in 7 feet tall and posted some ridiculous vertical leap numbers and the draft combine. He’s a raw player, but he can be a great energy guy for Memphis.

26. Indiana Pacers: Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky 

Drafting Teague, an Indiana native, would give the Pacers flexibility to try to deal Darren Collison. Collison hasn’t produced for the Pacers like he did his one year in New Orleans, but still has trade value. Teague could share the PG spot with George Hill and has the quickness to be a decent player in the league.

27. Miami Heat: Draymond Green, SF/PF, Michigan State 

Miami won the title, but still needs to majorly upgrade their bench, particularly in the front court. Green could contribute immediately for Miami with his post scoring, passing, outside shot, and rebounding.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kyle O’Quinn, C, Norfolk St. 

Kendrick Perkins hasn’t been a huge difference maker for OKC and at the very least, the Thunder could upgrade their front court depth with this pick. O’Quinn is a solid rebounder and shot blocker and can also contribute offensively (which can’t be said for Perkins), hitting some mid-range shots.

29. Chicago Bulls: Will Barton, SG, Memphis 

With Rose on the shelf for much of next year, Chicago will need someone to fill the perimeter scoring vacancy. They might address that need in free agency, but Barton could also alleviate the pain. He is a tremendous scorer who has been flying under the radar in the draft process. While he could certainly put on a few pounds (he weighs just 174 lbs. and is 6′-6″), Barton can shoot and is great at driving to the basket. Once Rose returns, he could provide scoring from the SG spot that has been missing since Ben Gordon left.

30. Golden State Warriors: Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor 

If Miller falls this far, Golden State would be really excited. SF is the position they need the most help at, and Miller was considered to be a top-10 pick had he returned to Baylor for another year. Miller is still recovering from an ACL injury and didn’t impress scouts with his diminished athleticism. But he is big and can score from anywhere on the court. He could be great value for this pick.

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The Power of Facial Hair

A good beard can get you a long way in life. Just ask James Harden. Harden’s play this season (and his beard of course) have propelled the Thunder all the way to the NBA Finals.

If you look closely, you can see a small bird living inside Harden’s beard.

While Harden has had his beard for several years now, many others grow theirs specifically for the playoffs, most famously in the NHL. That tradition dates back to the 1980’s when the New York Islanders had four games in five nights and didn’t have time to shave. Since then, come playoff time, players in nearly every sport will follow the tradition and hope the superstition proves useful.

But the effects of impressive facial hair have been well documented throughout sports history. Let’s take a look.

Even Davis can’t believe how nice his beard was.

Baron Davis: Just as Baron’s beard reached its maximum volume, miracles began happening for the 2007 Golden State Warriors. Finishing the season 16-5 to earn the 8th seed with a 42-40 record, the Warriors faced the NBA’s best team in the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki coming off of an MVP season. The rest, obviously, is history.

Davis and the Warriors dismantled Dallas  and nearly snuck by the Utah Jazz in round 2 in a series that featured arguably the best play of Davis’ career. Davis and his beard gained notoriety after that season, as Boom Dizzle himself details in this video.

Brian Wilson: Moving across the Bay, Wilson followed in the path of his fellow Giant Barry Bonds in achieving greatness through frowned upon measures. Pledging at the beginning of the season to not shave until his team won a World Series, the eccentric Wilson took that a step further by dying his beard black. He pushed aside the accusations by claiming the beard was “just really tan.”

Just slap some mascara on Wilson and Captain Jack Sparrow would have some competition.

Despite the tainted beard, the Giants also had some playoff miracles, particularly in their NLCS matchup against the Phillies. In Game 1, Cody Ross hit two home runs off Roy Halladay, who had yet to give up a hit in the playoffs, and the Giants went on to win the series 4-2 behind Wilson’s 3 saves and 1 win.

San Francisco moved on to face the Texas Rangers in the World Series and won the title with relative ease in 5 games. After that, Wilson’s beard became a legend, prompting obligatory “fear the beard” chants every ninth inning and his own t-shirt.

Johnny Damon:The 2004 playoffs was another big win for beards. Damon, sporting a massive beard rivaling many a vagrant, helped propel the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series title since 1918.

Damon added the long hair to his beard to go for the cave man effect.

After falling behind 3 games to none in the ALCS matchups versus the Yankees, Boston rallied back to win the series, bolstered by Damon’s game-winning run in the 14th inning of Game 5 and his 2 home run, 6 RBI game 7. Having reached the World Series, Damon’s home run to lead of Game 4 propelled the Red Sox to victory, sweeping the Cardinals and winning its first title in 86 years.

Brett Keisel: With a beard that could earn him a role in The Hangover 3, Keisel may have the most profound facial hair on this list.

Keisel must have a very warm face.

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ failure to make the playoffs in 2009, Keisel began growing what he dubbed “Da Beard,” hoping to improve his team’s fortunes. It clearly worked, as the Steelers made it all the way to the Super Bowl the next season, eventually losing to the Packers.

Keisel’s beard has its own website and raised over $40,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC when it was cut off at the “Shear The Beard” ceremony, making it the most philanthropic sporting beard of all time.

Rollie Fingers: The most famous moustache in sporting history has proved itself as lucky as its lower lip counterparts on this list. Fingers is a 7-time All-Star, 3-time World Series Champion, winner of the 1981 AL MVP and AL Cy Young Award, the 1974 World Series MVP, and only the second relief pitcher to make the Hall of Fame.

Just look at the curl on that thing!

The other end of the spectrum holds true as well. Players with pathetic fuzz have received some poor luck in the playoffs.

Adam Morrison: Sporting perhaps the worst moustache in the history of mankind, Morrison has felt the consequences of his poor life decision to grow it.

Cute

Gonzaga’s memorable late game collapse at the end of the 2006 Sweet Sixteen led to Morrison crying on national television and a virtually nonexistent NBA career for the NCAA’s leading scorer.

Joe Flacco: I have no idea how Flacco decided a handlebar moustache would be a good choice, but the experiment did not end well for the Ravens’ quarterback.

Flacco realized the error in his ways after his loss to the Patriots.

Thought by many to be frontrunners for the Superbowl, Baltimore missed a field goal at the end of their AFC Championship Game against the Patriots that would have sent the game to overtime. Flacco quickly shaved the stache off after the game, but its damage was done. After the season, Flacco further hurt his karma by calling himself the NFL’s best quarterback. “I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’m top-five, I think I’m the best,” Flacco said. Clearly he hasn’t learned his lesson.

With the long history of outstanding facial hair being accompanied by outstanding success, it will be interesting to see if James Harden and the Thunder can continue the trend.

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Should College Athletes Be Paid?

Several days ago, University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier spoke about compensating college athletes for their play, reigniting the fire behind what has been a hot topic in the NCAA of late.

“We’re trying to get extra money for living expense, academic expense, game-related expense to our players because of the tremendous amount of money — billions — they’re bringing (in),” Spurrier said.

He makes a valid point. The NCAA and universities are making a huge profit off of a product they don’t have to pay. Sure, many of the players receive athletic scholarships, but that money is a drop in the bucket compared to what the schools are bringing.

Steve Spurrier is advocating a $4,000 paycheck for college athletes in revenue-producing sports.

The NCAA reports that college athletics generate $6.1 billion each year for member conferences and institutions, with ticket sales and TV contracts making up the most of that  figure. Meanwhile the NCAA itself is projected to bring in a measly $777 million for 2011-2012.

This makes it tough to take the NCAA’s side when players trade memorabilia for tattoos, as they did at Ohio State, when the Buckeyes are made $115,737,022 off those players in 2009 (the most recent numbers available; the whole list is available here) without compensating them. That scandal tore long-time coach Jim Tressel and star quarterback Terrelle Pryor from the team.

The examples go on. Former Georgia Wide Receiver AJ Green sold a game-worn jersey for $1000 and was suspended four games for it. At that time, six version of his jersey were on sale through Georgia’s website.The NCAA creates rules to prevent players from creating a brand for themselves for the sole purpose of not losing any of its own profits.

AJ Green is one of many victims of the NCAA’s strict rules against player benefits.

If the NCAA paid its players, they would have far less incentive to violate these policies and the NCAA and its member colleges would receive significantly less bad press.

While the NCAA rakes in billions, players cannot sign endorsement deals or receive any money from their athletic ability. That ability can only generate profit for the NCAA until the student-athlete graduates or enters a professional league and gives up his NCAA eligibility.

But of all the players and revenue-generating NCAA sports, the large majority of them “go pro in something other than sports.” These players still contribute to their teams’ success and their sports’ popularity. So while the lack of compensation of athletes can be justified for top players, as they get free publicity and will likely make millions as professional athletes after several years of “indentured servitude” to their college, the players who aren’t pro athlete material generate money for the NCAA any never receive payment for it.

While some argue college athletics have become a form of modern day slavery, that analogy is a bit of a stretch, but some of the similarities are there.

The NCAA and its universities are profiting solely because of the talent of their athletes, while providing no compensation in return.

Spurrier’s suggestion wouldn’t make a huge dent in total NCAA profits either. He is suggesting just a $3,500 to $4,000 stipend to each player, which in reality, is far less than they are worth.

Sure, paying college athletes takes away from the integrity of the sports, but based on the way the NCAA exploits these players and the scandals that come from players trying to find away around that exploitation, I’d say that integrity has long since gone.

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