Ground Control to Major Lebron, Take your protein pills and put your headband on. Commence countdown, engines on. Check ignition and may God's love be with you.
This is Major Lebron to Ground Control, I'm stepping through the door and I'm floating in a most peculiar way.
Enough Bowie, right? And that's especially so, since he's dropping a new album in March, entitled "Where Are We Now?"
The fact of the matter is that this post is actually a "post-script" to the NBA All-Star Game, as I wanted to take a quick look back at a few things that might have slipped under the radar at NASA and with the general sports world during a busy 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend which was so thoroughly enjoyable. I might as well just list the ways in which I thought it excelled. Here we go:
1. Most importantly, in a game that is truly about a school-yard game and just having fun in the biggest spotlight of the NBA season, the players "brought it." And, that's from the viewpoint of East coach Eric Spoelstra, the man usually at the controls of the Miami Heat, but last weekend was burdened with the honor, privilege and pleasure of being at the helm of an NBA Eastern conference team of 12 thoroughbred ball players who each can run with the likes of Affirmed or Alydar while leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
2. The 2013 NBA Legends brunch was a celebration of all things Houstonian with regard to the history of the NBA game. The NBA Legends foundation, the NBA Retired Players Association and a legion of retired players from eras long and not-so-long ago, all convened at the headquarters hotel ballroom for a trek through Houston Rockets history. From a special "Pioneer" recognition for Hall-of-Famer Calvin Murphy to fitting tributes to Rudy Tomjanovich, the all-time greatest and true cornerstone of the (San Diego and Houston) Rockets franchise. From a lifetime achievement award bestowed upon Houston native Clyde "The Glide" Drexler to fitting mentions of the greatness of center Moses Malone, and heartfelt messages of thanks to Houston team owners Charlie Thomas and Les Alexander.
The highlight of the entire weekend of off-court festivities were passionate, emotional and inspirational speeches from Dikembe Mutombo, the NBA's most philanthropic player of all-time, along with Rockets champions Hakeem 'Dream" Olajuwon and Robert "Big Shot" Horry, both allowing everyone in a jam-packed ballroom to count their blessings along with their riches of fond memories from times gone by, championship banners hung, but more importantly lives changed, hospitals built, and dreams fulfilled.
3. The weekend began with the announcement of the inductees and finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2013. Five "direct elect" Hall of Fame inductees include ABA great Roger Brown, little-known basketball pioneer Edward Henderson, NBA Veterans committee electee Richie Guerin and International great Oscar Schmidt. In addition, the news of the Hall of Fame recognition of former NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik was a breeze of fresh air, make it a gust, for the many behind-the-scenes contributors to the game of basketball.
Granik was a quiet, powerful workhorse behind the meteoric rise of the NBA to global prominence in the 1990s, but most importantly, he was a champion for every level of the game of basketball. While his accolades and biography list major NBA contributions such as record-setting TV deals, resolved labor stalemates which resulted in trend-setting, progressive and Collective Bargaining and Anti-Drug Agreements with players, Granik's most significant contributions resulted from his work with the NCAAs, FIBA, the international governing body of basketball, global leagues, federations, Euroleague Basketball, and, most importantly, USA Basketball.
Under Granik's watch, seemingly unresolvable problems with regard to mending fences, unraveling "red-tape," and creating consensus for the betterment of the overall game of basketball became everyday by-products of a career built on creating goodwill, strong relationships and dealing with people as one would just dream to be dealt with as a professional, respected and just thoroughly decent human being. Granik walked softly but carried a resume that could literally part a Sea of Red Tape and, unlike many who only barked of problems while surfacing and creating more problems, Granik would grab a No. 2 pencil, a phone and call upon years of goodwill to resolve most problems before anyone else knew they even existed.
His work in building the NBA-FIBA player pacts, his early recognition of powerful allies with the likes of FIBA Secretary General Borislav Stankovic, the late Coach Alexander Gomelski of Russia and Big East Commissioner/NCAA VP/USA Basketball power-broker (the late) Dave Gavitt, might've earned him induction on its own. Certainly, without Granik's hard work, negotiating skills and willingness to give and take just the right amount, allowed for (former) Eastern Bloc European players such as Drazen Petrovic of Croatia (then Yugoslavia), Sarunas Marciulionis of Lithuania (then of the USSR) and Aleksander "Sascha" Volkov of the Ukraine (then of the USSR) to be the first true NBA global ambassadors, coming to America complete with a bevy of gold and silver Olympic medals but with "game" and a "take it to the hoop" approach never seen before on the international basketball scene.
At the time, the NBA had its Georgi Gluchkov of Bulgaria and long had Henry "Hank" Biasetti, a Canadian player of Italian descent who actually suited up in the NBA's very first game ever, an epic bout between the New York Knickerbockers and the Toronto Huskies, way back in 1946. But, the league - much because of Granik - was quickly thrust into a modern-day model for immigration and exportation for talented ballplayers who wanted to travel to find a good game of hoops.
While some may call it a theoretical jump, without Granik's work, the Petrovic/Marciulionis/Volkov era internationals would've been sitting in their rocking chairs wondering if they could've ever driven the lane to challenge the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird. The confidence instilled upon a legion of countrymen and Euro-Latin-Australian-Asian counterparts might never have gathered the confidence to say, "Yes, I can do that."
The result might've put Dirk Nowitzki in goal for the German Bundesleague F.C., it might've made Manu Ginobili a striker, Tim Duncan a swimmer or Yao Ming rocket scientist, instead of a Houston Rocket all-star center. And, that, would've been a shame.
(This is the second of a two-part blog by Terry Lyons, the Editor-in-Chief of DigitalSportsDesk.com)
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