Years after he last took the court, Michael Jordan is still a major presence in sports culture. To celebrate the iconic superstar’s 50th birthday, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has placed Jordan on its February 18th cover for a record 50th time. In this week’s issue, Senior writer Phil Taylor (@SI_PhilTaylor) looks at Jordan’s lasting effect on basketball, and sports in general, and examines his recent stint as a basketball executive for the Charlotte Bobcats.
“Depending on your generation, realizing that His Airness is now eligible for senior discounts is like the first time you heard the Rolling Stones on an oldies station or saw Winona Ryder playing someone’s mom,” Taylor writes. (PAGE 36)
Jordan, who built his own brand and spoiled us with his heroic performances, now spends his days at his $12.4 million mansion in Jupiter, Fla., or his $3.2 million condo in downtown Charlotte. Taylor notes that Jordan still golfs and runs steakhouses, all while floundering as an executive for the Bobcats (Their .106 winning percentage last season was the worst in NBA History). However, players, and the general public, still want to be like Mike. Taylor says:
“How many times have we heard someone’s mastery by describing him as ‘the Michael Jordan’ of their field?” (PAGE 39)
As time goes on, should we look at Jordan in the same light as he appears more vulnerable? Taylor writes, “no one aspires to be the Michael Jordan of team owners.” (PAGE 40)
As with all media requests from Sports Illustrated since the beginning of his basketball hiatus, Jordan refused to be interviewed by the magazine. With the cloud of mystery, it’s almost impossible to know if the competitive fire is still within Jordan like it used to be. Taylor concludes:
“Happy birthday, Michael. As you blow out your candles, our wish for you is that something inside still burns. (PAGE 42)”
(In addition to Taylor’s feature essay, some of SI’s most esteemed writers wrote about their Jordan memories. S.L. Price, Alexander Wolff (@alexanderwolff) and Jack McCallum (@McCallum12) offer their experiences covering MJ, from his days at North Carolina until late into his career.)
Also in the issue: All 50 MJ covers; 50 reasons we’ll never forget him; and the perfect 50 dunk that sealed his legend.
The Dream Team’s Legendary Scrimmage: Michael Jordan vs. Magic Johnson
Royce White’s Fear of Flying Makes Him the NBA Draft’s Mystery Pick
Giancarlo Stanton Leaves His Imprint on Outfield Walls and Scoreboards
Drug-Free Cyclists Prepare for the Tour De France and Olympics
(NEW YORK – June 28, 2012) – Twenty-nine teams should be very afraid, because LeBron James has breached the championship levee, just as Michael Jordan did in 1991. Jordan was 28, and he won five more titles in the next seven years, even with a break for baseball. James is 27, and for the first time, he will get to play, as Heat president Pat Riley acknowledged, “with freedom.” LeBron making good on his promise to bring an NBA Championship to South Beach is the cover story for the July 2, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.
James punctuated one of the best regular seasons in the modern era with one of the best playoffs, leading the Heat with 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists, while shooting 50% and guarding everyone from Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. In the series clinching Game 5 versus the Thunder he scored 26 points with 11 rebounds and 13 assists, eight of which led to three-pointers by five different teammates, accounting for 60 points in a 121–106 throttling of the Thunder.
“It’s time to make a new challenge. I’ve got to figure out what that is. I know I can get better. And I know I’m not satisfied with one of these. That’s the next challenge to do it again.” said LeBron James.
Senior writer Lee Jenkins points out that the championship could not have been won without a change in philosophy from one of the team’s best players. LeBron couldn’t carry the Heat if Dwyane Wade was going to claim the load.
“He basically looked at me one day and told me, ‘I need you to lead this team now,’ ”James says. “And then he did it during games. He’d say, ‘I need you to lead us right here.’ ” By the time the playoffs began, roles were defined. James was the headliner. Wade, suffering from an injured left knee, was the sidekick. “It was hard for me to do it,” Wade admits, “but it was easy for me to do it for the team.”
THE GREATEST GAME NOBODY EVER SAW – JACK MCCALLUM (@JackMcCallum)
The Dream Team, arguably the most dominant squad ever assembled in any sport, played 14 games 20 years ago, and their smallest margin of victory was 32 points. The toughest competition faced by the best team in basketball history was at a closed scrimmage in Monaco between sides led by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. The details of the game remained a secret to the world for nearly 20 years, until now.
Most of the 12 names on the roster remain familiar to fans decades later, and all are members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The common matrices of statistical comparison are simply not relevant in the case of the Dream Team, whose members could be evaluated only when they played each other. The video of that scrimmage, therefore, is the holy grail of basketball.
“You have a tape? Of that game? Man, everybody asks me about that Game. It was the most fun I ever had on a basketball court,” said Michael Jordan.
THE MYSTERY PICK IS ROYCE WHITE – PABLO TORRE (@SIPabloTorre)
Iowa State’s Royce White was the only player in Division I to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. College coaches around the country praise his all-around game, but his spot in this Thursday’s NBA draft remains a mystery. He has been projected to be a lottery pick or end up in the second round. The main reason for this is that White has a generalized anxiety disorder and suffers from a severe fear of flying, which worries many NBA executives.
White was allowed to drive to a few games last season, but in sit-downs with White, NBA officials have warned him that the pros will be less accommodating. The Heat informed him that they won’t allow a player to drive from even Miami to Orlando. White said, “It’s understandable. But in my head, I’m going, you want me to drive. You’re paying me millions of dollars to perform … the point is, we’re not all alike.”
Royce’s talent is not lost on his contemporaries as none of the projected top 15 picks have agreed to work out against White for NBA teams. During the second round of the NCAA tournament against Kentucky, a game that was close into the second half, White had 23 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Projected No.1 pick Anthony Davis said after the game, “Royce was beating us by himself.”
NAME CHANGER, GAME CHANGER – ALBERT CHEN
Long before he became Giancarlo Stanton, the young Marlins slugger left an unmistakable imprint – on scouts, not to mention countless outfield walls and scoreboards. The outfielder was called up to the big leagues as a 20-year old along with the legend of having bludgeoned baseballs out of ballparks and into parking lots, golf courses and lakes. Before games opposing players and coaches linger to watch Stanton take batting practice. This past May, Stanton had historic month, hitting .343 with 12 home runs and 30 RBIs to become the youngest player since Joe DiMaggio to reach those totals in any month.
Stanton mashed 56 home runs after his first two seasons in the majors, only Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez had as many before age 22 in the last 45 years. His teammates call him by his nickname: Bigfoot.
“He does things no human should be able to do. The only guy I have ever heard players talk about like they talk about [Stanton] is Darryl Strawberry,” said teammate Randy Choate.
“People have said that homegrown power arms is the most important commodity in the game, but the middle-of-the-order, 30-home-run guy is becoming almost as valuable, given how few of them there are now,” said an American League G.M.
I SEE LONDON, I SEE FRANCE – AUSTIN MURPHY (@si_AustinMurphy)
Cycling has been plagued by doping scandals for years, but recent USADA regulations have made cheating much more difficult. Today’s top cyclists are minutes slower than athletes in EPO’s heyday. And with the 99thTour de France and 2012 London Olympics quickly approaching, spectators are bound to see a more authentic competition than in previous Games.
“Performances are less predictable, more human and, – as a result, more exciting,” write Austin Murphy.
In this article, Austin Murphy evaluates the top Olympic and Tour riders. Despite injuries and training challenges, Brad Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, two Brits on a British-based squad called Team Sky should dominate the field at both major events.
“Ten days after the Tour, Wiggins will roll down the ramp at Hampton Court Palace, hard by the Thames, as one of the favorites in the Olympic 44-km time trial around London,” writes Murphy.
SCORECARD: RINGING MOMENT ON CENTRE COURT – S.L. PRICE
It can be argued that tennis at the Olympics holds little weight in the game. Majors aside, there are 10 other tournaments this year that count more in the rankings than the London Games. This time however, the normal math can’t apply, because the Olympics will be held at Wimbledon and Wimbledon is where tennis gods are made. It’s no accident that Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Rafael Nadal of Spain will serve as their nations’ flag bearers in the opening ceremony—and that Roger Federer is an odds-on favorite to do likewise for Switzerland.
If the Olympics are indeed the showcase for the planet’s best athletes, it’s only right that the three who’ve pushed the men’s game to unprecedented heights will be out front.
POINT AFTER: LIGHT FROM THE DARKNESS – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)
Last week, Jerry Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse, the two-week trial reminded us all of over again of the revolting nature of his crimes. But from that darkness came some light. A groundswell at the legislative level, university level and the grassroots level has emerged to fight back against pedophiles. Victims have been emboldened to come forward.
Dan Rost, a sophomore from Franklin County, Pa., along with three other students founded the One Heart Campaign to raise money and awareness to help fight child abuse. Rost said, “I had no clue how prevalent an issue this was until then. Then I did some research and realized this was not just a Sandusky issue, not just a Penn State issue, but a national issue. I decided I didn’t want to live in a culture in which this was such a widespread problem, so I decided to see what could be done about it.”
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- NHL (page 31): Value Added – NHL free agency begins this Sunday and some big names could be changing teams. But the player most likely to reap the richest rewards is a defenseman many hockey fans have never heard of. (@MichaelFarber3)
- MLB (page 30) East or Famine – With interleague play done for the year, the game’s balance of power tilts decidedly to the right side of the map. (@joe_sheenhan)
- Soccer (page 32) The Case for Cristiano – Lionel Messi may be more beloved, but the Euros confirm the claim of his rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, to the title of 2012 world player of the year. (@GrantWahl)
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 22)
- Matt Nesmith (North Augusta, S.C./North Augusta High) – Golf
- Danielle Aragon (Billings, Mont./Billings High) –Track and Field
- Bakawsu Kinteh (Suwanee, Ga./Lambert High) – Soccer
- Gina Medina Van Arsdall (Glendale, Ariz./Phoenix College) – Softball
- Dayton Silva (Manhattan Beach, Calif./MiraCosta College) – Surfing
- Gabrielle Clark (Chicago, Ill./Emory University) – Tennis
- Dillon Pottish (East Quogue, N.Y./Emory University) – Tennis
An Exclusive Look at Tim Duncan, the Most Successful Star of His Generation
Eric Hosmer Is Front and Center in the World of Baseball’s New Economics
The Irritable John Tortorella Has Led the Rangers to Their First Conference Finals in 15 Years
The Success or Failure of the London Olympics Falls on One Man
(NEW YORK – May 16, 2012) – Jabari Parker, a junior at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, is the best high school basketball player since LeBron James, but there’s something more important to him than hoops stardom: his faith. Parker—who was the 2011 USA Basketball athlete of the year and is being recruited by all the top college programs including Kentucky, Kansas and Duke—is a devout Mormon. After his freshman year in college, when top players will head to the NBA draft, Jabari will have to decide whether he will declare for the draft or—like thousands of other Mormon men who turn 19—embark on a two-year mission to spread the faith in the U.S. or a foreign country.
Parker appears on the cover of the May 21, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now. Parker is the first high school athlete on the cover since Bryce Harper appeared on the June 8, 2009 cover.
Jabari wakes up each morning at five and says a prayer, and three days a week, he is at Bible study by 5:30. Parker also accompanies a Bishop of his church on visits to the sick, the poor and the elderly—an assignment designed to teach young men the importance of service and self-sacrifice. Parker tells contributing writer Jeff Benedict, “I realize why I’m in the position I’m in right now. It’s not because of me. It’s because of God.”
He knows his decision will be difficult. His brother Christian, who has already served a mission, has told Jabari that it was the best thing he’s ever done. Jabari says, “When he came home from his mission, we talked a lot about it. I want to go. But I have doubts. The NBA is the biggest dream of basketball players, and I’m not different.”
On the Tablet: Podcast with Richard Deitsch and Jeff Benedict and a video montage of Jabari Parker.
21 SHADES OF GRAY – CHRIS BALLARD (@SI_ChrisBallard)
Tim Duncan is the most successful player of his generation, maybe even its best. In the 15 years since Duncan was drafted, no other team in the four major pro sports has had a better winning percentage than the Spurs. Now Duncan is the foundation of yet another Spurs team that could win it all. So why haven’t the masses fallen for him? Senior writer Chris Ballard breaks down the 21 reasons why Duncan, compared with his peers, remains practically anonymous (page 36).
Duncan said, “Winning should be the only thing that matters. I can’t manipulate how people see me. I could be more accessible and be the darling of everybody. I could open up my life and get more endorsements and be out there and be a fan favorite. But why would that help?”
WHEN WILL ERIC HOSMER GET HIS? – ALBERT CHEN
George Brett is the greatest baseball player to play for the Kansas City and he thinks the world of the Royals young first baseman Eric Hosmer. Brett said, “These kids in our farm system, most of them weren’t born when I was playing…. But if they make a big splash, then suddenly they are getting compared to me. Hos is getting the comparisons now, but let me tell you, he’s the real deal. And hopefully he’ll be in Kansas City for the next 20 years.”
If the Royals are going to keep Hosmer in their organization, they will have to persuade him to sign a contract extension. Many teams have begun to sign their young talent to long-term deals before they hit the free-agent market. It’s a strategy that has worked for a number of mid-market teams including Tampa and Cincinnati (page 44).
Hosmer’s agent, Scott Boras, doesn’t love this new world. He said, “Evaluating and understanding the value of that kind of player and talent, that’s a process that takes years. Whether it’s a Madison Bumgarner or a Matt Moore or any of those other deals, I find those contracts to be unconscionable.”
A POSTSEASON ON THE BRINK – MICHAEL FARBER
The postgame press conferences for New York Rangers coach John Tortorella are so quick that they have become one of the most popular topics of conversation during the 2012 NHL playoffs. Hockey networks in the U.S. and Canada have super imposed a stopwatch on the screen to see how long they will last. This shouldn’t diminish the fact that Tortorella has led his team to its first conference finals in 15 years. He has molded them to fit his image; the Rangers are relentless, driven and confrontational (page 52).
On the Tablet: A look at John Tortorella’s best press conference moments.
LONDON’S MAIN MAN – ALEXANDER WOLFF
Sebastian Coe won gold medals in the 1,500 meters at the 1980 and ’84 Olympics, but his biggest challenge is about to take place. As the driving force behind the London Games, Coe has assured everyone that this summer’s Games will be a complete hit. Coe became chairman of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) in early 2004, just 18 months before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made its decision on a host city for 2012. Coe’s efforts in that short time are what led to London’s receiving the bid and many believe he is the perfect fit for this tough task (page 56).
Jonathan Edwards, who heads LOCOG athletes’ committee, said, “He believes that if you have the right attitude, you’ll succeed. If the Games go well, it’s Seb. It the Games don’t go well, it’s Seb. No on will point the finger at the prime minister or Boris Johnson [London Mayor]. Seb himself wouldn’t say he set the world on fire as a politician, but as a sports politician he’s been a real leader.”
On the Tablet: A photo of the 1979 Sports Illustrated cover that featured Sebastian Coe.
NBA PLAYERS POLL
Which athlete from another sport could play in the NBA today?
Calvin Johnson, Lions WR 16%
Jimmy Graham, Saints TE 10%
Terrell Owens, Free-Agent WR 7%
Antonio Gates, Chargers TE 7%
Cam Newtwon, Panthers QB 6%
[Based on 146 NBA players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: Graham, Gates and Tony Gonzalez (who was sixth, with 5%) played D-I basketball. Graham averaged 4.2 points at Miami, Gates 16.5 at Eastern Michigan and Kent State (where he was an honorable mention All-America in 2003), and Gonzalez 6.4 at Cal. . . . Of the 39 athletes named, 29 play pro football—19 as receivers or tight ends. . . . Usain Bolt (3%) received the most votes for a nonfootball player. . . . In a similar poll on Facebook, 56% of SI readers named Johnson.
SCORECARD: VOICES FROM HEAVEN – STEVE RUSHIN (@SteveRushin)
When Red Sox public-address announcer Carl Beane died last week, at 59, the team honored him not with a moment of silence but with three hours of it. For one game there were no introductions. Every hitter strode to home plate, bat in hand, in silent eloquence (page 15).
The baseball P.A. announcer is a voice from the heavens, but we seldom know the names and almost never know the faces of these disembodied voices. These voices eventually became a piece of a team’s persona. Bob Sheppard’s run at Yankee Stadium echoed almost the entire history of the profession. At Wrigley Field, Pat Piper was as familiar as the ivy. In Philadelphia, Dan Baker has manned the microphone for 40 years. Carl Beane’s passing reminds us of the soothing sounds of subtlety.
POINT AFTER: THIS ACT IS A FLOP– PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)
The NBA is at the height of the playoffs, but senior writer Phil Taylor says that flopping during games could undermine the terrific athleticism. He would like players to stop taking dives and he isn’t alone. ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy said during the Heat-Knicks series, “It just ruins the game. I can’t believe with all the brilliance we have in the NBA office that we can’t find a way to eliminate this part of the game.” (page 68).
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- NBA (page 28): The Case for the Truth – Paul Pierce’s name rarely comes up when talking about the best players in the game, but no opposing coach wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line. Jack McCallum
- MLB (page 33): Texas-sized Dilemma – Josh Hamilton is set to hit free agency this off-season. What will determine how much he is worth, his immense talent or his age and cautionary past? (@Joe_Sheehan)
- Soccer (page 34): Homes Sweet Homes – Major League Soccer continues to mature as more teams begin to play in venues designed with soccer as a top priority. (@GrantWahl)
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 24)
- Kayden Porter (Spanish Fork, Utah/Spanish Fork High) – Baseball
- Shayla Sanders (Pompano Beach, Fla./Boyd Anderson High) – Track and Field
- David Heron (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo High) – Swimming
- Gabrielle Jennings (Slidell, La./First Baptist Christian School) – Track and Field
- Michael Pelletier (Burnt Hills, N.Y./Springfield College) – Volleyball
- Stephanie Ricketts (San Jose/Hawaii) – Softball
Junior Seau’s Death Has Left Many Unanswered Questions
Floyd Mayweather Turns in His Best Performance
The NHL Playoffs Have Russian Players Front and Center
I’ll Have Another Wins the Kentucky Derby in Stunning Fashion
Kobe Bryant’s Excellence Derives from Both of His Parents
(NEW YORK – May 9, 2012) – Junior Seau was a beloved figure in San Diego and one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history. His suicide last Thursday left those who knew him best stunned, confused and searching for answers. Seau appears on the cover of the May 14, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.
Senior writer Jim Trotter (@SI_JimTrotter), who covered Seau and the Chargers as a beat reporter in the 1900s, spoke with close friends and former teammates about who Seau was on and off the field. Seau grew up in the Oceanside section of San Diego, played professionally for the Chargers for 13 seasons and lived in San Diego until his death. His loyalty for the community was evident in his foundation, which since 1992 has dispersed nearly $4 million to aid disadvantaged kids and young adults in San Diego County, through programs such as Gangbusters (page 38).
Said former Rams and Bears lineback Pisa Tinoisamoa, “That saved my life. It had people around me and help set me straight…. June [Seau] was behind that. I saw him on my birthday last July, and he came in playing his ukulele and singing Happy Birthday. I didn’t get to tell him personally what he meant to me, but he knew. He saw the success I had, and he was proud of me. Whenever I saw him, he would talk about how good I was. He was always positive. That’s why everyone loved him. They felt they were friends with June. He had that status about him, but to us he was just a man of the people.”
Seau led by example. He was the first to the practice facility in the morning and provided helpful advice for his teammates. Seau ignored pain and insisted that if you could walk, you could play.
Former teammate LaDainian Tomlinson said, “I feel awful that Junior didn’t feel he was close enough to anybody that he could say, ‘Look, something isn’t right.’ He didn’t feel there was anybody, and we all need someone we can go to and say, ‘There’s something going on with me.’ That’s the sad thing, but that’s who Junior was. He didn’t want us to know he was hurting on the field, so off the field he certainly wasn’t going to say anything.”
Senior writer Peter King reflects on a time when he watched Seau play a game in 2000 with a severely pulled hamstring. Because Seau’s pain threshold was high, King held Seau to a higher standard, something King would think twice about doing again.
To download a high res image of the cover click here
On the Tablet: Video piece from senior writer Jim Trotter on Junior Seau and a slideshow of Seau through the years.
ALMOST PERFECT – CHRIS MANNIX (@ChrisMannixSI)
There is genius in Floyd Mayweather, a Picasso at work inside a sculpted 5’8’’, 147-pound frame. Last Saturday night Mayweather delivered possibly the finest performance of his career, overcoming a bloody nose and comfortably outpointing Miguel Cotto with his precision punching and impenetrable defense (page 52).
Mayweather’s genius extends beyond the ring. He promotes his own fights as the head of Mayweather Promotions. He assumes all the upfront risk, and thus controls every revenue stream. His previous eight fights generated more than $446 million in revenue, a tribute to his brilliant marketing. Mayweather understands that his empire depends on more than just hype. He understands that the “0” on his record means everything. Mayweather said, “I am carrying the promotion and it’s putting asses in the seats. I know I got to back up what I say.”
ANOTHER WAY TO WIN – TIM LAYDEN (@SITimLayden)
The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby had a thrilling finish and made for a wonderful story. An undervalued horse, ridden by an unknown jockey, roared to unexpected victory and now I’ll Have Another and his team have their sights set on the elusive Triple Crown. I’ll Have Another was purchased for $35,000 in April 2011 by Doug and Dennis O’Neill and J. Paul Reddam. After an up and down year, which included a convincing loss at the Saratoga Hopeful Stakes, he was a long shot to win the Derby (page 48).
But his trainer had a plan, and I’ll Have Another closed out the race in dramatic fashion, defeating Bodemeister. Dennis O’Neill, who beat cancer five years ago, said “A day like this makes it all worthwhile”.
On the Tablet: Video slideshow of the jockey room.
THE RUSSIAN QUESTION – MICHAEL FARBER
The 2012 NHL playoffs have been filled with intensity and excitement, but many of the biggest story lines have been about the missteps of players from the former Soviet bloc. The Predators’ Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn missed a team curfew and were suspended for Game 3 and scratched for Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. Alexander Ovechkin, a two-time Hart Trophy winner, has seen significantly less ice time in the playoffs. Ilya Bryzgalov, who signed a nine-year, $51 million contract with Philadelphia in the off-season, has been inconsistent for the Flyers (page 56).
There have been a few bright spots, but mainly, it’s been an uneasy postseason for Russian players. Some believe it could have an impact on the Edmonton Oilers, who have the first pick in this year’s NHL draft, and will likely choose Nail Yakupov. Terry Jones, a columnist for the Edmonton Star, tweeted last week, “The way the Russians are going in Stanley Cup playoffs, Oilers better give a real, real, real, real good hard think about Nail Yakupov, huh?”
On the Tablet: Slideshow of all-time great Russian NHL players.
WHERE DOES GREATNESS COME FROM? – CHRIS BALLARD (@SI_ChrisBallard)
You might assume that Kobe Bryant inherited his talent for basketball and his burning need for success from his father, former NBA and Italian league player Joe (Jellybean) Bryant. But Joe and Kobe are strikingly different, and while the son got some gifts from his father, he got his fire from an unexpected source, his mom. When Kobe was 14 years old he tried to dunk on his mom in a backyard game, and she leveled him with a forearm. Kobe said, “She would drop you. Oh, yeah, she was rough. My mom’s the feisty one. She has that killer in her.”
Joe Bryant has been married to the same woman for 38 years, and has close relationships with his children and grandchildren. He travels around the world, immersing himself in new experiences, and is generally loved by the players he coaches. After playing for 10 pro teams in three countries over 18 years, he has coached in the WNBA, the ABA, Japan, Mexico, Italy and now in Bangkok. Joe may never be great, but he is happy. Kobe Bryant may never be happy, and perhaps that’s what makes him great (page 60).
On the Tablet: Podcast with Richard Deitsch and Chris Ballard.
NBA PLAYERS POLL
Who is the league’s best pure shooter?
Ray Allen, Celtics SG 68%
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks PF 7%
Kyle Korver, Bulls SF 6%
Anthony Morrow, Nets SG 4%
Steve Nash, Suns PG 2%
[Based on 146 NBA players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: Warriors PG Stephen Curry also received 2% of the votes. He leads all active players in three-point percentage (.441), which puts him behind only Steve Kerr (.454) all time. . . . Allen is the NBA’s alltime leader in three-pointers attempted (6,788) and made (2,718) . . . . Knicks SF Steve Novak, who led the NBA in three-point shooting in 2011–12 (.472), tied for seventh in voting. . . . In a similar poll on Facebook, SI readers also had Allen (66%) and Nowitzki (16%) finishing 1–2.
SCORECARD: GLORY DAYS – CHRIS BALLARD (@SI_ChrisBallard)
Senior writer Chris Ballard’s book One Shot at Forever tells the story of the 1971 Macon High Ironmen varsity baseball team. The Ironmen represented the smallest school in Illinois history to play in the state finals before they lost to powerhouse Lane Tech. Many members of the team are excited about the book release, but a few still haven’t gotten over the loss (page 19).
For many athletes, high school is the only time they have an opportunity to achieve greatness, but often players remember the losses more than the wins. Ballard writes, “I’m 38 and I still dream about basketball games that I lost in high school (though never, strangely enough, about the ones I won). Likewise, when I get together with certain friends over beers, I know the conversation will eventually lead us back to some field or gym on some fateful afternoon.”
POINT AFTER: FOR PARENTS, A JUNIOR MOMENT – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)
Senior writer Phil Taylor recalls the night six years ago when his then 14-year-old son, Ben, asked Taylor and his wife if he could play football. It was a question they had hoped wouldn’t come. Before deciding, they had to think long and hard about the positives and the negatives of the sport, including the delayed brain damage controlled violence can cause (page 68).
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- MLB (page 30): Out of Whack – Mired in a monthlong slump after signing a huge contract with the Angels, Albert Pujols looks to make adjustments and get back to being a star. Tom Verducci
- MLB (page 32): No More Mo? – Mariano Rivera’s storied career could come to end after he injured his knee in Kansas City last Thursday. (@Joe_Sheehan)
- NHL (page 33): Word to the Doctor – With NBC and its sister stations televising every NHL playoff game; the viewing audience is enjoying the eccentric vocabulary of announcer Mike (Doc) Emrick. Michael Farber
- NBA (page 34): Changing Fortunes – After a tough year filled with criticism, all the right pieces seem to be falling into place for the Miami Heat as the team looks toward an NBA title. (@SI_IanThomsen)
- NASCAR (page 36): – Danica Patrick is experiencing frustration during her first full-time season in stock car racing. (@LarsAndersonSI)
On the Tablet: Truth and Rumors
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page)
- Ariana Washington (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) – Track and Field
- Donn Cabral (Glastonbury, Conn./Princeton) – Track and Field
- Rebekah Chenelle (Hebron, Conn./Cornerstone Christian School) – Equestrian
- Collin Olson (Apple Valley, Minn./Pioneer High) – Hockey
- Heather Stearns (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron High) – Softball
- Peter Williamson (Portsmouth, N.H./Dartmouth) – Golf
The Power of Play isthe headline for Sports Illustrated’s examination of Title IX’s legacy as we sit on the cusp of the 40 year anniversary of this historic law. This analysis is played out through the prism of nine stories that reflect the spirit of Title IX. Senior editor Trisha Blackmar oversaw the project which includes contributions from more than a dozen writers and photographers and lands on the cover of the May 7, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.
The stories featured throughout the anniversary package include:
OLYMPIC MOVEMENT – KELLI ANDERSON
After disappointing finishes at the 1992 and ’96 Olympics, the success of the United States women’s basketball team at the ‘96 Atlanta Olympic Games led to increased visibility in other women’s sports. It helped spawn notoriety around the WNBA.
Former WNBA president Val Ackerman said, “The 1996 Olympic team was foundational. If it had been a flop, it probably would have deterred us. Instead it was reinforcing. That team attracted strong crowds and became a huge story.”
NAKED POWER – MICHAEL BAMBERGER
Senior writer Michael Bamberger revisits the spring of 1976 when Chris Ernst, the captain of Yale women’s rowing team, and 18 of her teammates marched into the office of Joni Barnett, the school’s director of women’s sports, stripped naked to expose large Title IX emblazoned across their chests and backs—all in protest of un equal treatment between the men’s and women’s teams.
That summer, Ernst and a Yale teammate, were on the first U.S. team at the first Olympics that including women’s rowing. Today, Yale’s rowing center is called Gilder Boathouse, named after Richard Gilder, who contributed $4 million for its construction. His daughter, Ginny, had marched into Barnett’s office with Ernst in ’76 and currently owns the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.
LET’S JUST PLAY BALL – MELISSA SEGURA (@MelissaSeguraSI)
Maria Pepe was just an 11-year-old girl from Hoboken who loved to play baseball with her friends in 1972. After playing three games for her little league team, Pepe was banned because the rules stated no girls could play. The National Organization for Women did not agree and they filed a mountain of lawsuits against Little League in New Jersey’s division on Maria’s behalf.
Their support of Maria and all girls who loved the game ultimately changed Little League bylaws forever, permitting your girls participation. This lawsuit has helped lead to the participation of about 10 million female Little Leaguers.
SPIRITS OF ’72 – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)
Olympic gold medalists Lisa Leslie (basketball), Mia Hamm (soccer) and Summer Sanders (swimming) turn 40 this year as well. Three of women’s sports biggest stars were born the same year that Title IX came into this world. They were each born at the perfect time to take advantage of opportunities the law helped create.
Said Leslie, “I’d like to think I’ve made a difference, been a role model for other women athletes. But Title IX has made the biggest difference of all.”
WINNING AT POLITICAL FOOTBALL – ALEXANDER WOLFF
In its early going, Title IX had plenty of powerful people looking to dismantle it, fearing Title IX would have a negative impact on revenue-producing sports such as football and basketball. Senior writer Alex Wolff spotlights some of the challenges mounted against Title IX beginning with the “Tower Amendment” spearheaded by Texas Republican Senator John Tower and University of Texas AD Darryl Royal.
WHEN BILLY BEAT BOBBY – JON WERTHEIM (@Jon_Wertheim)
When Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the fall of 1973, in front of an estimated TV audience of nearly 50 million, it was about much more than tennis. This victory proved to be a chance for all women to be inspired and know that they could do anything.
Said King, “For me, it was life and death. Losing wasn’t an option.”
A CHANCE TO BE A CHAMPION – GEORGE DOHRMANN (@georgedohrmann)
Excluded from the NCAA until 1980, senior writer George Dohrmann looks at the impact of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) had on forwarding competition among female athletes. Approximately 1,000 schools joined the alternative model to the NCAA, which administered title games in 19 sports.
Cathy Rush, who won three AIAW titles and appeared in six straight final fours as basketball coach at Immaculata, said, “It changed the perspective of the players and the coaches. You had a reason to have a good team, to have good players.”
FATHER FIGURES – ALEXANDER WOLFF
A girl’s best friend in the fight for playing time was often her dad and no one exemplified this like Herb Dempsey. He recalls Bethel High’s 1982 3-6 football team getting a massive homecoming gala while his daughter’s start ranked volleyball team was barely even recognized by the school. He decided in that moment that he would spend his golden years advocating for gender equity in sports.
As Donna Lopiano, former CEO of Women’s Sports Foundation and an expert on Title says, the fathers really led the revolution on the ground. She said, “They understood how much sport gave children. Dad was the one who took his daughter into the backyard to play catch. Mom would have, but because she’d never had the chance to play, she didn’t understand how much it meant.”
TESTING THE WATERS – NANCY RAMSEY
Nancy Ramsey talks to Sharon Berg, a member of the first group of female athletes from a major program (University of Miami) to receive an athletic scholarship. She made the most of her opportunity by winning AIAW swimming titles in the 200 and 400 freestyle, as well as team national titles in her sophomore and junior years.
Said Berg, “I felt a responsibility to do real well because this was something new. It was the feeling of being a pioneer. You do it right.”
On the Tablet: Photo gallery of SI.com’s top 40 female athletes of the Title IX era and a podcast with Alexander Wolff on Title IX dad’s.