Do you root for players in the NBA but teams in the other Big 4 sports? Does your favorite basketball player not play for the NBA team geographically closest to you? Prior to 1980, your answers likely would have been different. However, something “magical” happened since then. In this post, I discuss the early days of the NBA Modern Era when television stations aired playoff games on tape-delay. Starting with superstars like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the league made a conscious decision to promote its stars more than its teams. Fortunately, players like Jordan, Kobe, and LeBron have been able to take the game to the next level. In fact, they helped drive the game’s tremendous international popularity. The NFL is set, but perhaps MLB and the NHL could learn something from their younger (and smarter) brother.
Many of us were inspired by the success of Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West at the 2014 Little League World Series. Unfortunately, our inspiration turned to disappointment upon hearing that the team cheated. I had originally written and posted this article back in 2015, but pulled it down upon hearing that Stephen A. Smith had been sued for speaking on the topic. Now that ESPN’s most loquacious blowhard has been dropped from the case, I’ll take advantage of the same Constitutional protection to free speech. America, what a country!
While researching potential Top 10 Busts Keith Edmonson and Russell Cross, I learned an interesting sports trivia fact. Specifically, only three college basketball coaches have taken two different schools to the Final Four within four years. First, Gene Barlow took Memphis in 1973 and UCLA in 1976. Second, Lee Rose took UNC-Charlotte in 1977 and Purdue in 1980. Third, Roy Williams took Kansas in 2003 and North Carolina in 2005. Of note, North Carolina (18), UCLA (17) and Kansas (14) have been to 49 Final Fours between them. In contrast, UNC-Charlotte and Purdue have combined to reach only three (i.e. one without Rose). As such, Rose’s achievement should be viewed as the most impressive. Overlooked on every elite coaching list, Lee Rose may deserve special recognition.