Fab Five, Mad Live, Blow Up the Spot

They still get the props

Last night I watched ESPN’s outstanding documentary The Fab Five.  Here’s some random observations on the breakthrough Wolverines who shaped everything after them while scaring the bejezzus out of everyone in their path:

-Chris Webber was a man child in college.  Absolutely vicious.  I remember how much hype he had his rookie year in the NBA and when you watch footage of him as an 18 and 19 year old ballplayer, he was downright terrifying.  It seemed like the first Modell’s we ever had in South Philly carried every jersey C Webb wore from 1992-1995: the blue and yellow #4 Michigan jerseys, the Golden State uni that only lasted for a year and a half, and finally the kinda meh #2 Washington Bullets jersey.  He was like Shawn Kemp and Blake Griffin in terms of ability, hype, and marketability to kids.  By the time he ended up on the Sixers in 2005, he was a $20mill jump shooter on bad knees who could post one 20/10 a week.  But good Lord…he was downright scary at Michigan.

-One of my buddies growing up in South Philly was the biggest Jalen Rose stan you’d ever meet.  He had a Fab 5 Jalen jersey and a #5 Denver Nuggets jersey immediately after he was drafted.  His fandom was so strong that I ended up gravitating towards Jalen during the Fab 5’s soph year and ended up rooting for Jalen in the pros.  I never thought about how mentally tough Jalen was in college; he points out in the documentary that in those days, if you had a tattoo people thought you were a thug or in a gang, if you had a baldhead you were insane, and anybody wearing black socks were 70 year old mail carriers.  Jalen wore all three, almost purposely putting himself and the guys under the crosshairs for ridicule by the stuffy pundits and whitebred Michigan alum.

-20 years later, when asked about their thoughts on Christian Laettner, four of the 5 guys said he was “soft”, “a bitch”, and a “pussy”.  I laughed out loud on my couch.  Laettner stays losing.

-Ghetto Boys, Compton’s Most Wanted, Ice Cube, EPMD, Public Enemy–that was contemporary rap music to college kids in the early 90’s.  Today, Dwight Howard smiles and does the Dougie. 

-Did you know Juwan Howard has made over $150mill in the NBA over 17 seasons?  Career achievements: 1 All-Star team (1996), All-Rookie 2nd team (1995), All-NBA Third Team (1996).  Now that he’s on the Heat, he should pour Pat Riley’s coffee everyday for overvaluing him by a good $50mill during the ’96 offseason when the Heat tried signing him to a $100mill deal which was rejected by the league since the deal would put them over the cap.  The Washington Bullets decided to throw in a pound and signed Juwan to a 7 year $105 mill deal instead.  It reminds me of the $1mill advances given to Shyne and Papoose —wait, you gave THAT guy that much bread? 

Among the top 50 eligible high school recruits in 1992 alongside the Fab Five were Lamond Murray, Donyell Marshall, and Calbert Chaney.  That same Modell’s in South Philly that was flush with Webber jerseys in 1993 also sold #42 UConn Donyell Marshall jerseys.  I don’t know why, but I owned one.

-It’s crazy that at 6’5” 210 lbs. Jimmy King never caught on as a good role player in the NBA, though he was traded once for Popeye Jones.

-What did the Fab Five call their rivals at Ohio State? THEE Ohio State Fuckeyes.

-When Heltah Skeltah and OGC toyed with the idea of forming a supergroup known as The Fab 5 around the time of each group’s debuts on Duck Down, their styles and personalities perfectly matched up with their ballin’ counterparts

 Rockness Monstah was Chris Webber at the 5, the most dominant skillset and charisma.  Ruck/Sean Price was Juwan Howard at the 4, less flashy but steady and the perfect #2 option.  Starang was Jalen Rose at the 1, brash, cocksure, trashtalker (Jalen terrorized any and all on the court while Starang took shots at Biggie), and never became the superstar he was pegged to be.  Louievilla Sluggah was Jimmy King at the 2, moments of pizzazz here and there, probably a bigger force elsewhere, an underwhelming career that no one felt too bad about.  And Top Dog was Ray Jackson at the 3.  Ray had a solid CBA career and was lucky to be a part of a bigger entity that has lasted the test of time.  Like Top Dog, he was the least talented in the squad but he thankfully never referred to himself as “The Big Kahuna”, an alias for Top Dog and Frankie Avalon. 

The Fab 5 “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka”

Flashback to 1991: ESPN Introduces the Fab Five

I Got Five On It: Trey Kerby

Originally titled "Half Baked 2: Shelved Because of Todd Bridges"

After the worldwide acclaim on guys named Guy (or “gees” named “Gee” for our Canadian friends) via the massiva NHL Sega Genesis opus spawned by Doc Zeus and I a few months ago, I wanted to work with more of the best writers on the internet today in a way that was loose and fun like an’ old jamband getting busy in the garage on a Sunday afternoon or like Superhead after a wine cooler.

Today I’m joined by Trey Kerby, professional Brad Miller impersonator (booking graduation parties now!), lively Chicagoan, and editor of Yahoo! Sports’ Ball Don’t Lie, an exceptional read for any NBA diehard.

Today’s kickoff is who should the Bulls/Knicks/Clippers/Heat/Nets/Knicks persue alongside LeBron James if they are serious about winning a championship?

1. Dirk Nowitzki

He has an opt-out clause and hasn’t made up his mind on returning to Dallas. He’s the perfect #2 guy — over 30 years old, made a douzedorf full of cash, hasn’t won it all yet. I don’t think Bosh wants to play Robin just yet–he wants to maximize his exposure and get paid first. Boozer has already proven to be a dick and just want that cream. And I don’t know how well Amare would do realistically without Nash (see Marion, Shawn). Dirk needs a title to cement his legacy. He ain’t going out like this.

Trey Kerby:

I wish Dirk would be a Bull, but there’s no way he leaves Dallas. Cuban’s like his best friend. I’d love it, but no way. Amar’e Stoudemire played without Nash his first two years and went 20 and 10. With Stephon Marbury as his point guard, and that’s before he had a jump shot. Get this man a Bulls jersey ASAP.

2. Ray Allen

It would behoove Boston to re-sign him, but he really could be Reggie Miller 2.0 and play at a decent rate until he’s 38 years old. He’s one of the few guys who every time he lets the ball go, I believe with full certainty that it will hit the bottom of the net. Plus his defense has been upgraded. Even on the Bucks and Sonics, he never quit or backed down in the moment like Joe Johnson did this postseason, someone who is going to be handsomely paid for being a shook one in the playoffs but d-boy in the regular season.

Trey Kerby:

Another guy I’d love that I don’t see leaving. Ray is a better version of Dell Curry. He’ll play forever. Howevs, if you can’t get Ray, get JJ Redick. He’s a player now, and a free agent. I don’t see the Magic staying over the tax for him unless they win the title.

3. Udonis Haslem

I think he’s the most underrated big man in the game. Miami under utilizes him and become successful somehow. Horace Grant without the busted peepers.

Trey Kerby:

Agree whole-heartedly. Love Haslem.  Miami would be stupid to not re-sign him.

4. Rasual Butler

‘Sul Went to my high school and I always got a kick out of my senior year english teach who always called his “Ras-you-al” like “casual”.  Outstanding outside shooter who has playoff experiencein Miami and New Orleans.  Will cost kibbles.

Trey Kerby:

Great bench piece, even if he does wear a shooting sleeve on both arms for some reason.

5. Larry Hughes

The good thing about Larry is that he’s played in almost every single city that is courting LeBron.  He’s the best tourguide in the NBA since Jim Jackson.  Plus you and I can Tweet jokes about him during all the national games when he’s shooting 2-14 but has great “athleticism” and “length” for a 6’6” back-up combo guard who has already made $84mill (!!!) playing professional basketball .

Trey Kerby:

Can’t see New York or Chicago re-acquiring him after having to suffer through him once before.  Kill me now.

Doug Collins Sold Me

 
“One report says Collins already has plans to meet with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and forward Elton Brand, a Duke alum, to search for ways to make Brand more effective. Collins is very familiar with Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils program since Collins’ son, Chris, played there and is now an associate head coach.

The Future is Now

I stumbled across this old story in the Washington Post that was written back in 1998, when Spike Lee was gearing up to release the sorta-great, kinda cringeworthy film He Got Game.  It’s worth watching as a serious basketball fan, sure, especially for cameos from guys the league has forgotten: John Wallace, Walter McCarty, Travis Best, etc.  There’s a specific part of the article that fascinated me, and it tied into the philosophical aspects of Bill Simmons’ recent column written after the Celtics eliminated the Cavs and the Assassination of LeBron James by the Coward Antawn Jamison/ Mo Williams/ Mike Brown that soon followed.  Simmons logically deduced the motivation of NBA greats.  After LeBron’s gutless showing in games 5 & 6, primarily the fourth quarter of Game 6 at home, he determined that LBJ didn’t have Jordan or Magic’s killer win-at-all-costs DNA, but rather Doctor J’s penchant for simply wowing people instead.  Here’s his breakdown:

Russell, Magic, Bird, Duncan, Walton, West and Havlicek: Winning.

Wilt: Numbers.

Oscar and Barry: Perfection.

Shaq: Fame.

Kareem and Elgin: Pride.

Moses: Rebounds.

Malone and Garnett: Work.

Barkley: Fun.

Cousy, Stockton, Isiah, Pippen and Nash: Team.

For Doc[tor J] and LeBron, you probably need more than one word. By the rules of the game, we can use only one. So we’re forced to pick this one: Amaze. You are who you are.

You are who you are.  People change, take on responsibility, and  learn from experience, but at their core, there aren’t many new surprises coming down the pike.  Bill Parcells used to say you are what your record says you are, a definitive reflection of your previous actions that lead up to a current assesment. Old baseball players always say you are what the back of your basball card says — if you’re a liftime .275 hitter, you might hit .400 in April or .150 in September, but in the end it all evens out.  There’s no surprises.  The evidence is always there.

This brings me to the Spike Lee article written twelve years ago.  Apparently before Ray Allen was cast as Jesus Shuttlesworth, other young stars were considered for the role.  Look at the reasons for why these guys didn’t get the job, then think about where they are today in their careers.  Remember, all of this took place when these guys were 18-20 years old and straight up newborns in the league:

“Los Angeles Lakers sensation Kobe Bryant, 19, was on the list but had summer basketball commitments.”

As Simmons said in his piece, Kobe is about greatness.  He is consumed with basketball.  Even when he was young and succumbing to the bright lights, he turned down a chance to star in a Spike Lee movie in order to work on his game.  Shaq would’ve taken the lead and worked in some goofy nickname like “Big Jesus of Nazareth” Shuttlesworth for the character.

“Eighteen-year-old Toronto Raptor Tracy McGrady, who just left high school last year and is the NBA’s youngest player, tried out but was judged too reserved for the part.”

Any correlation between McGrady’s shy personality as a rookie and the underachieving talent who never made it past the first round of the playoffs and slimed his way out of Orlando and Houston?  Hmmm……

“The photogenic Philadelphia 76er Allen Iverson, last year’s top rookie, wasn’t prepared when he came for auditions and seemed distracted.”

Allen Iverson unprepared for a job?  Allen Iverson not caring about nuances and professionalism?  As Ralph from Simpsons would say about failing English, that’s unpossible.  I’d sum up Iverson’s motives in one word as this: self.  After watching LeBron shrivel in the playoffs, I realized Iverson’s selfishness actually benefited the Sixers; there’s no way he wouldn’t have dropped 35-50 points against the Celtics in that situation.  It would’ve taken him 25-30 shots to happen, but still.  Kudos to Larry Brown for exploiting Iverson’s greatest personal and professional weakness and making it an asset for those 3-4 years.

“And then there was an unusual request by the agent for two of the league’s brightest young stars, Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury of the Minnesota Timberwolves: Guarantee one of them the lead role or neither will audition.   “I was like, ‘Look man, this ain’t the NBA,’ ” recalls Lee. “There ain’t no guaranteed contracts, buddy. This is a film.”

Marbury and Garnett weren’t invited in.”

I think Garnett would’ve been a very interesting choice for the lead in He Got Game.  He faced the same pressures and glare as Jesus Shuttlesworth being a high school juggernaut, first in South Carolina and finally at Farraguat Academy in Chicago.  Simmons summed up Garnett as “work”, but when he was 19 years old, he was “The Kid”, a lanky stringbean who was both exuberant and humble.  He excited Minnesota and all basketball fans upon arrival.  His teammate back then Stephon Marbury is and was a punk.  An entitled brat.  Classless.  Petulant.  No team nor contract nor coach was ever good enough for his destructive standards.  I think Garnett knew this about Steph but held him down anyway.  That was Garnett’s Achilles Heel all those years in Minnesota — he was too loyal. 

We finally caught an honest glimpse of this after Game 6 when KG spoke to the media about the exchange of words between he and LeBron at center court:

Loyalty is something that hurts you at times because you can’t get youth back. I can honestly say that if I can go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I’d of done it (changed teams) a little sooner.”

I can’t fathom Kevin Garnett giving Spike Lee an ultimatum.  I can imagine the Vaseline chompin’, Isaih Thomas conspirator Marbury giving Spike the bird. 

“[Ray] Allen, who had never even appeared in a school play, worked with an acting coach for eight weeks prior to shooting and is convincing.”

Watching Ray’s career unfold, this doesn’t surprise me.  His work ethic is legendary; on the Sonics he got to the gym every night hours before the first player and inspired all the young guys to do the same.  He is classy, respectful, low key, clinical.  Being a lock for the Hall of Fame and one of the top 5 shooters of all time isn’t enough; he is a free agent after this year and will certainly get a multi-year deal after he busted up the Cavs and now the Magic.  He is “professionalism”.  Or as Jackie MacCullan said beautifully in the Boston Globe, “routine excellence” is the key to his success.  And he has been nothing but routine before and after He Got Game.

Spike Lee remembers all of these things.  I bet the first time each of these guys played in the Garden in 1999, he talked trash about them not walking with Jesus or whatever, and then moved on to other projects and lousy Knicks teams over the years.  As a disciple of the NBA, he’s been awed by Kobe, disappointed by T-Mac, conflicted with Iverson, enlighted by Garnett, disturbed (but not shocked) by Marbury, and appreciative of Ray Allen, because Ray has been the same guy since he went one-on-one with Denzel as a baby faced millionaire athlete.  The results of his choices and motives are evident.

I wonder what Spike thinks of LeBron.

Sipping Rum Outta Stanley Cups

After Team USA’s inspired Silver Medal placing in the winter Olympics, I blew the dust off my Closeted NHL Hockey Fandom.  I found myself watching the San Jose Sharks play the Jersey Devils on the Vs. Network and listening closely to sports talk radio for any Flyers chitchat.  Never a diehard, I followed hockey as a kid best I could (being as though I rarely played it on the street and never in the rink): Sportscenter highlights, insight from diehard hockey buddies, and  EA Sports’ yearly NHL Hockey games for Genesis. 

Unlike Ice Hockey or Blades of Steel for Nintendo, NHL for Genesis allowed you to create custom teams.  The gameplay was fastpaced, realistic (for 16 bit), and amazing.  Fighting was vicious.  NHL ’96 had a glitch were all you had to do was swoop behind the goalie and you were guaranteed to score.  I routinely would drop 15 goals on the Mighty Ducks–there was no Adam Banks or Fulton Reed to save them. 

Sharing in my delight for NHL Hockey is Doc Zeus of Not a Blogger.  Had we known each other as kids, I’d kill him over steep philosophical differences.  I carefully constructed my team  like Larry Brown’s illegitimate son: role players, dedicated team-first superstars, rugged enforcers who should’ve been in jail.  Zeus indulged in NHL’s freedom blatantly stacking his team with All-Stars.  I hated guys who did this.  Where’s the strategy, the carefully constructed Powerplay Line, the overlooked young scorer who develops right before your 14 year old non-girlfriend having eyes?  Keith Primeau on the third line?  Are you kidding me?  Why not just put MJ at center and Bo Jackson at goalie to complete the “ProStars” fantasy. I’ll let him explain.

Zeus’  Take:

As a life-long Cleveland sports fan, the essence of video game sports is simple. You construct a team that will win your city that elusive sports championship that has escaped it for forty-six years and counting, by any means necessary. That means you cheat.  You make ridiculous one-sided trades. You switch teams to sabotage your computer opponent when John Madden wantonly decides your team is not going 82-0. You create monstrous avatars of yourself as a 7’7” quarterback with evolutionary Mike Vick speed, Brett Favre arm strength and Peyton Manning field generalry. You turn the fucking off-sides off. This is war and you don’t have time to obey the rules of fairness and common sense when it comes to bringing home the hardware for your hometown team.

At the time, EA’s NHL Hockey series was a truly revolutionary video game because it was one of the first video games to allow you to make trades, sign and release free agents, and create fantasy players for your teams. Since there was no team based in Cleveland, I adopted the Detroit Red Wings as my team of choice on a combination of the fact that they were already good and because their uniforms were profoundly cool. I then would set the task of constructing a team that was primarily built on NHL All-Stars and create-a-players based on myself and people in my life. Best friends, family members, teenage girls that I had a hopeless crush on were all created to the fill spots on the team that I thought needed it the most. My philosophy was simple. Why would you want to play with the DJ Mbenga’s of professional hockey when you could play with an avatar based on yourself, but an avatar that is a 6’10, 350 pound behemoth with perfect shooting, perfect passing, perfect speed and perfect physicality. Needless to say, I dominated the ranks of the computer hockey and the B.J. Steiner-led Red Wings won multiple Stanley Cups under my supreme leadership.

Cameron Frye: still the world's most recognized Red Wings fan

Here’s a list of the players and teams that my teams was often constructed with:

 First Line:

C – Mario Lemieux  – NHL ’94 Mario Lemieux simply was one of the great video game athletes of all-time and was the centerpiece of all my created NHL teams. He was bigger, faster and stronger than nearly everyone on the ice and was the only non-human generated player that was the perfect score of 99 in the game.

RW – Jaromir Jagr – If you were playing with Lemieux in the game then you most assuredly needed his Penguin running mate on your team. Jagr was a beast in the game and he was simply faster than nearly every one of your opponents.

LW – B.J. Steiner – The player based on myself was the perfect specimen of hockey talent. Because I was a narcissistic ten year old (and mostly still am…), I would set my avatar to be perfect in nearly every category you could create.

D – Paul Coffey – Coffey was the only ACTUAL Detroit Red Wing on my first line. He was the defensive anchor of my team and my de-facto team captain. Plus, I was endlessly amused as a kid due to the fact that his name was based on a caffeinated beverage. Obviously, I was borderline retarded.

D – Ray Bourque – Bourque fascinated me for two reasons. The first reason is that he was the best defensemen in the game therefore he obviously needed to be on my time. Secondly, his name was French for “dork.” (I’m only assuming…)

If you didn't get a lil' misty eyed with Borque finally won a title, you my friend are MADE OF STONE!

Second Line:

C – Steve Yzerman  – Since the Red Wings were actually pretty dominant in the game I kept my second line to consist entirely of actual Detroit Red Wings. You really can’t go wrong with a line that consists of Yzerman, Fedorov and Dino Ciccarelli. They were pretty much all beasts in the game, anyway.

RW – Dino Ciccarrelli

LW – Sergei Fedorov

D – Al Iafrate – Back when I actually payed attention to lame things like the NHL Skills contest, it was once noted that Al Iafrate’s slap shot was clocked at “ludicrous speed” levels of 134 mph. Therefore, I NEEDED to have that ridiculous weapon at my disposal since I was an expert one-time specialist at the game.

D – Zarley Zalapski –  I am a sucker for hilarious incongruent, international alliteration.

Only in hockey could a man named "Zalapski" be a god

Third Line:

C – Jeremy Roenick – Anybody knows who has ever watched the 1996 masterpiece of American cinema known as “Swingers” knows that Wayne Gretzky is a bitch and Jeremy Roenick knows how to make that little bitch’s head bleed. Roenick was dominant in the game with the rare combination of speed, skill and bitch slapping ability. You don’t need to turn the offsides off to take Roenick to the Cup.

LW – Gary “Guy” Roberts – I became obsessed with Calgary Flames winger, Gary Roberts, because I mistakenly believed his name was “Guy” for years. Why? Because his name was listed as G. Roberts in the game and I assumed that there couldn’t possibly be a name that started with G other than “Guy.” By the way, it’s pronounced “Guuuuuy” like man not “Geeeee” like I’m French and a douchebag.

RW – Keith Primeau – Primeau, Chiasson, Lidstrom were the only three other Detroit players I kept on the team. Why? Because they were generically good.

D – Steve Chiasson

D – Nicklas Lidstrom

 G – Ed Belfour – Belfour was one of the two most dominant goalies in the game. I chose Belfour because he didn’t unnecessarily frenchify his name like Patrick Roy. I have standards.

Jeremy Roenick in NHL TRON, coming in 2250

Zilla’s Take:

Philly fans loving using the words “heart” and “passion” when they talk about their athletes.  I wouldn’t say Allen Iverson “passionately” crossed over Michael Jordan nor did Chase Utley destroy my Dodgers with postseason homers full of “gritty heart”.  Ryan Howard, owner of home run records only shared by Babe Ruth and Jimmy Foxx?  He looks like he doesn’t care.  Screw him.  Philly fans want to relate to their guys on the field.  They don’t want to marvel at them for too long. 

Mike Schmidt.  Randall Cunningham.  Charles Barkley.  Eric Lindros.  Scott Rolen.  Donovan McNabb.  The problem with these guys is that their greatness largely looked effortless.  Philly folks love them some Chase Utley and Allen Iverson, two of the most dominant figures in their respective leagues the past 10 years, yes because they are Hall of Famers, but mainly because “they get dirty”.  They slide recklessly or fight for loose balls.  They get sweat and blood on their jerseys.  It’s illusionist dominance like Superman purposely dressing up as Clark Kent.  

The Philadelphia mindset played a big part in my obsession with NHL.  I NEVER wanted some pretty boy Euro speed sissy like Sergei Federov on my team.  His name already had “gay” in it.  Jaromir Jagr had puffier hair than Elaine Benes.  Gretzky wore a little kid’s Jofa helmet.  The Philadelphia Flyers also thought this way—former GM Bob Clarke resisted speed and finesse for a loooong time.  Consequently, the Flyers have not won a Stanley Cup in over 30 years.  Like Flyer fans, I wanted guys like Rod Brind’Amour on my team, mixin’ it up, leavin’ all they had out there.  Eric Lindros sold tickets and put South Philly mothers and daughters in a tizzy, but John LeClair jerseys flooded the streets. I built my NHL Hockey teams as the walking embodiment of every sports reporters’ romantic Sunday feature: role players finally landing in the right system, superstars sacrificing themselves for the greater good, former big name busts putting all the pieces together and just happy to be part of a winning team.  On a sidenote, I really looked forward to watching ESPN’s “Sports Reporters” every Sunday morning at 12-15 years old. 

Rappers absorbed Timberlands, sports reporters understood Dockers

First Line:

 C—Alexei Yashin: And then I went right ahead and grabbed a Euro sissy boy finesse player.  He was the exception to my Philly mindset:  Yashin was a terror for the Ottawa Senators and became a big money bust in New York like so many others.  Bob Clarke would Crypt walk in front of Suge Knight before he EVER tried acquiring a guy like Alexei Yashin.   

LW—Keith Tkachuk: Now we’re talking—a big bruising badass physical scorer.  If he were a football player, John Madden would fellate Keith Tkachuk.  I loved looking at his last name and reveling in the silent “T”—it sounded like an action verb.

RW—Owen Nolan:  When you name your son Owen Nolan and he becomes a successful NHL player, as a father you have to feel like you hit the friggin’ jackpot.  Owen Nolan was always one of my guys, someone much more sensational in Sega hockey than he ever was in real life.

D—Sandis Ozolinch: Glancing at his name now, I want to call him “Sandwich Ozomatli”.  He was the Shannon Sharpe of NHL defensemen: glossy and offensively minded with no real regards to playing physical hockey. 

D—Eric Desjardins: My favorite Flyer ever.  His last name sparks a George Costanza exchange: “His last name is spelled ‘Des-jar-dins’ but it’s pronounced ‘Day-shar-dan’.  Say it with me—‘Day-shar-dan’.”  He was the Brian Dawkins of the Flyers—tough as nails, perennialAll-Star, adored by the fans, played through injuries, and never won a title. 

I hope no ironic indie bands discover the name "Owen Nolan"

Second Line:

 C—Doug Gilmour:  I felt he was the perfect Buffalo Saber based on my made-up ideas of what people in Buffalo looked for in a hockey god.  Speaking of brolic, his nicknames were the “Archduke of Agony” and “Sultan of Silent Suffering”.  Chris Berman’s penis just exploded. 

LW—Jere Lehtinen: Lethinen won the Frank J. Selke trophy three times, the award for the best defensive forward.  This technically made him a two-way forward.  Thankfully, Dipset never heard of him.

RW—Dino Ciccarrelli: How could you not root for a guy named Dino?  “I can’t believe I shook that guy’s friggin’ hand,”said Dino  after Claude Lemeuix turned Kris Draper’s face into Hamburger Helper during the playoffs.  Gotta love a guy who tells it like it is.

D—Ulf Samuelsson: I imagined Ulf Samuelsson having dirty blonde hair with a hug biker beard like a damn crazed Norse god. Ulfie was one of those guys you dream of murdering when your team played against him.   His nickname was “Robocop”.  He ended careers.  I’m sure he beats his wife.

D—Roman Hamrlik: Would you ever fuck with a guy named Roman Hamrlik? 

Jere say: "In my country, two-way forward are king!"

Third Line

C—Valeri Kamensky: Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Chris Drury got all the headlines for the Avalanche, but I always preferred Kamensky.  The quintessential second banana who mastered his role and always wound up on winning teams.  He won 9 Gold Medals for Russia. 

LW—Radek Bonk: The NHL should promote itself with guys like Radek Bonk.  Seriously, aren’t you just fascinated about a guy with a name like Radek Bonk?  BONK!  RZA should befriend him for sheer hilarity.  I always pictured him as a guy who spoke in subtitles and just grinned like an idiot when he had to play in America. 

RW—Ryan Smyth:  One of the guys from Boyz II Men wore an Edmonton Oilers jersey in the “Hey Lover” video.  It blew my mind that someone from Philly would do that, especially Boyz II Men, who penned “Motown Philly” and went to CAPPA on Broad Street for high school.  Ryan Smyth became my favorite Oiler by osmosis.

D–Janne Niinimaa:  For years, I challenged myself by trying to correctly spell his name without looking it up.  I still fail.

D—Paul Laus:  I needed a goon in NHL and went skimming through players via Penalty Minutes.  And that’s where I met Paul Laus AKA Freddie Foxxx on skates.  He played for the Florida Panthers, owners of the gayest hockey uniforms in the late 90’s and general thorns in the side of the Philadelphia Flyers.  Still, if anyone outside of Tie Domi could go Happy Gilmore and chase a guy with a skate, it would be Laus.

 G—Arturs Irbe:  Nicknamed “Michelin Man” for his dogged ass padding and “The Wall” by the 1,400 hockey fans in San Jose for his net prowess, Irbe was like Kurt Warner.  He had phases of getting shit on by one team, then hanging around and leading another team deep into the playoffs a few years later.  Plus, his name sounded like a Latin shortstop or middle reliever.

The least stylish goalie in hockey history

Big thanks to Doc Zeus for chiming in.  This was a blast to write.  Obviously, his team would destroy mine, though I would hospitalize at least 30% of his roster or at least start an illegal gambling ring with their wives.  Make sure in the comments you hit us with your favorite players and lineups for NHL on Genesis!

76ers Lament

Whoops!

Forgive me for not mentioning the ’09-’10 Sixers at all this year.  Really, there’s nothing to say — they are a horribly coached collection of swingmen with no specialities, overpaid non-difference makers, athletic youngsters who can’t shoot, and a team stricken by amnesia — they literally forgot how to defend in one season.

But all that could’ve changed yesterday, either by unloading Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert for Tracy McGrady’s production “One Way Ticket Outta Cap Hell” or Amar’e Stoudemire’s Platinum Plus Rental Service.  Hell, they could’ve improved the team biggest weaknesses, shooting and defense, by going after lesser names like John Salmons or Jared Jeffries and fight for another playoff spot. 

Instead, GM Ed Stefanksi and Team President Ed Snyder would rather give us The Usual for another year: 38-42 wins, a possible seventh or eighth seed playoff berth, a swift execution by Cleveland or Orlando in the first round, and a first round pick somewhere between 15 and 22.

I know Ed Snyder’s plan is to make as much consistent cash as possible by putting out a winning team.  A winning team, not a championship team.  He’s done it with the Flyers since the mid-90’s.  But what the hell exactly is Ed Stefanski’s philosophy?  To quote Don Draper, he hasn’t made one move I couldn’t live without.  He walked into a situation where a team was young, fast, athletic, exciting, and on the rise after making the playoffs back-to-back years.  He brought his New Jersey Nets pedigree which was what exactly—ride out Jason Kidd in his prime when the East was an absolute toilet? 

Quick: name one other stud on those Nets teams that made the Finals. 

….

….

Kerry Kittles?

I look at Atlanta who botched draft picks (not taking Chris Paul) but signed Joe Johnson, drafted and developed Josh Smith & Al Horford, traded for Mike Bibby, and within 2-3 years became an elite team in the East that can seriously push the Celtics, Cavs and Magic.  And their coach Mike Woodson was rejected by the Sixers so they could hire Jim O’Brien.

I look at the Clippers, arguably the worst franchise in pro sports.  They have young studs (Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin) next to All-Stars (Baron Davis, Chris Kaman) and are clearing cap space to make a splash in the offseason.

 I look at the Bulls, who not unlike the Sixers, kept making the playoffs and getting bounced in the first round.  They have minimal bad contracts remaining (Luol Deng) and have freed up cap space to bring in D-Wade/Bosh/LeBron/Amare to join forces with Derrick Rose and dominate for the next decade.

The Rockets use advanced stats and scouting to find overlooked gems for cheap to patch in next to Yao and McGrady before he got traded.  They won like 27 games in a row last year and casual fans can’t name five guys on that team outside of Battier and Yao. 

 The Celtics tanked the ’06 season on purpose to get a high pick, and when they didn’t get a shot at Oden or Durant, they flipped everything and won a title the very next year.  Even though they’ve cooled off since their title run, they’re still a lock to win 50 games. 

All the teams I listed had a PLAN.  And they stuck to it.  It was grueling and rough.  But it didn’t last forever.

We’re stuck in a Purgatory of Mediocrity the likes of which not even William Blake would dream up.