December 06, 2012

By RACHEL COHEN Associated Press

 

Bo Jackson enjoys going to the supermarket much more these days.

Back when he was a two-sport pro athlete and pop culture star more than two decades ago, the family cook couldn’t do his grocery shopping without being mobbed by fans. Perhaps surprising for a guy who was once everywhere on TV in a classic ad campaign, not everyone knows Bo anymore.

“It really doesn’t bother me that people don’t know who I am,” said Jackson, who turned 50 on Friday. “It’s kind of nice in a way.”

An admittedly private person who long struggled with stuttering, Jackson has taken on a more public persona recently. In the spring, he biked across his native Alabama, recruiting other celebrities to raise money for victims of the 2011 tornados that ravaged the state. Jackson was part of the four-man search committee as his alma mater, Auburn, hired Gus Malzahn as its new football coach December 4.

And he agreed to participate in a documentary about the only man to be selected for both the NFL’s Pro Bowl and baseball's All-Star game.

“You Don't Know Bo,” about the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner, will premiere Saturday December 8 on ESPN after this year’s Heisman ceremony. The title, a play on Nike’s famous “Bo Knows” commercials, was partly inspired by a conversation director Mike Bonfiglio had with his two teenage cousins, both big sports fans. They didn’t know Bo.

“That was a very interesting thing to me, that this guy who was so incredibly famous for a brief period of time — he was one of the most recognizable names and faces in the country,” Bonfiglio said on a recent conference call with Jackson.

But even older fans who vividly remember Jackson’s outrageous athletic feats might not really feel as if they know Bo.

“I think he’s still an enigma,” Bonfiglio said.

Jackson thinks everyone makes his legacy more complicated that it was. Teammates called him a freak of nature, he recalled, but “I’m just being me.” As a kid, he played multiple sports and played them well; the way he sees it, he simply kept doing that as an adult.

“As far as doing the dual sports thing, that was just a way to keep me out of trouble,” he said. “Idle time with me is the devil’s workshop, and if my mother was still alive, she would tell you.”

He played running back for the Los Angeles Raiders and outfield for the Kansas City Royals until injuring his hip in a 1991 NFL playoff game. He briefly returned to baseball after hip replacement surgery.

“Back when I was playing, that was my job,” Jackson said. “I never saw it as, ‘Hey, I’m transcending an era here and I’m a pop icon or whatever or I’m this person.’ I’m not blowing smoke here: I saw what I was doing —it was my job. ... It was my source of employment. It was my way of keeping a roof over my family’s head, putting food on the table for my family.”

Bonfiglio said the film would have gone on even had Jackson declined to participate — and at first it wasn’t clear if he would. But Jackson said he was happy to help as long as it didn’t take too much time from his business commitments.

“What surprised me the most about Bo is what a good story teller he is,” Bonfiglio said. “He’s just really, really eloquent and just spins a good yarn, and he’s fun to listen to.”

Those Nike commercials celebrated Jackson’s versatility as other stars from Michael Jordan to Wayne Gretzky list all the sports Bo knows. As clever as the ads were, Jackson doesn’t consider his fame a marketer's creation.

“You have to perform to get that notoriety,” he said. “You just can’t go and put your name on a shoe and become an overnight sensation. You have to prove it.”

And as normal as Jackson’s feats felt to him, they were extraordinary to the fans following them.

“When people watched the things that he did on the field, it expanded their imaginations,” Bonfiglio said. “When you see something that you don’t think is humanly possible, it makes you dream differently, and that’s what Bo did. When people saw him, it completely captured their imaginations and expanded their consciousness in a way, and that I think is the main reason why he was such a phenomenon that transcended athletics.”

Jackson laughed and interjected: “You could say that.” 

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December 06, 2012

By BRETT MARTEL Associated Press

Kobe Bryant has become the youngest player in NBA history to eclipse 30,000 career points and only the fifth overall to hit that mark.

Bryant entered the elite scoring club during the first half of the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against the New Orleans Hornets. He arrived in New Orleans 13 points short, and scored his 13th and 14th points on a short jumper with 1:16 to go in the first half.

Because the basket came in the flow of play, there was hardly any reaction on the court as Bryant and his teammates ran back on defense.

Bryant is 34. Wilt Chamberlain was 35 when he hit the mark, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone were each 36 and Michael Jordan was 38. 

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December 06, 2012

By Kenneth Miller

LAWT Staff Writer

 

The finalists for the Heisman Trophy were released this week and one name, the one of a sure fire candidate since he decided to return for his senior year at Oregon, was suspiciously missing.

Just as recent as a month ago Riverside native Kenjon Barner was considered between the top two favorites and since the Ducks concluded their season with a victory over rival Oregon State, Barner had done nothing to dispute his candidacy.

After all, Barner led the Oregon Ducks to a top four BCS ranking; his team averaged more points than any other team in college football with 50 and fourth in total offense with 6,601 yards from scrimmage.

Barner is the best player on that team and among the best to ever lace up a pair of cleats for Oregon.

His statistics are staggering. He is 7th in the nation in rushing with 1,624 yards, 6th in the nation in scoring with 22 touchdowns and 132 points, all the while leading the Ducks to an 11-1 record and arguably to being one of the top two teams in America.

When Barner leaves Eugene after this, his senior and final season he will do so as the first player in school history since 1965 to have scored a rushing, receiving, punt return and kick-off return touchdown.

So, regardless if the kid who was born in Lynwood is not invited to New York for the Heisman and even if he doesn’t win the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back, he is off to a future that is much brighter than the one he had.

It was a future that began as a point guard in basketball as a youth.

“When I was in the 6th or 7th grade, my dad woke me up for practice and I told him that I didn’t want to play basketball anymore that I was going to the NFL,” Barner explained in an exclusive interview with LAWT.

That was after the family had relocated to the Inland Empire city of Riverside.

Thus a love affair began with one of America’s most violent sports, but through his youth as a Pop Warner sensation and in high school at Notre Dame ---Kejon Barner was as graceful a runner on the gridiron as he’s been a person in life.

He finished second in the nation in 2007, scoring 22.8 points per game, fourth in rushing with 3,124 and finished his career scoring 46 touchdowns at Notre Dame. Barner is only one of three Riverside players to rush for over 3,000 yards in a season.

However after his prep career was over there never was a thought of attending one of the local schools such as USC or UCLA.

“For some reason I told my dad that I wanted to go to school back east. I wasn’t recruited by USC, but UCLA was interested after I signed with Oregon,” said Barner.

He made USC pay dearly for not recruiting him, setting a school-record with 321 rushing yards on a career-high 38 attempts, tied for a career-high five touchdowns and also caught two passes for 26 yards in the win over the Trojans. It was the most any rusher had ever gained against a USC defense.

“The entire week felt like a great week before the USC game. It meant a lot to me to be playing in front of my family and friends,” he explained.

As soon as he arrived at Oregon his position was changed from running back to defensive back, but that was the least of his concerns since adjusting to being away from home proved difficult at first.

At 5’11, 195 he fit the mold of a lock down defensive back, but running back coach Gary Campbell saw that his blazing speed could become a greater asset on the team as a running back.

It was Campbell who was instrumental in helping Barner adjust to being away from home during that redshirt freshman year.

“He provided me with the stability that I needed. He was more like a father away from home and was always there for me when I need someone to talk to,” Barner added.

It helped pave the way for Barner to grow up not just as a football player, but more importantly as a man who will be the first of his family to graduate from college.

Ultimately, he gives all of his credit to God and his two doting parents Gary and Wilhelmenia Barner who raised him along with his six other siblings.

“Having two parents has been a major plus for me. They have always made a way and sacrificed to help me become the person that I am today. My dad has been to every game I’ve played and while my mother doesn’t fly she has been to many of my games in support of me as well,” continued Barner.

Wilhelmenia will not have to take a plane to see her son when his Ducks take on the Kansas State Wildcats (11-1) in Tempe, AZ at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3rd.

If the Ducks had not lost to Stanford in overtime they could be playing for the BCS National Championship.

“I would like to have that game back,” Barner stated. “I feel in my mind that we are the best team in the country.”

Barner has managed to keep his focus on what’s ahead and not look back.

“It was rough at first. First time being away from my family,” he reflected on that freshman year. “I thought maybe I needed to go home, but just knowing I was going home to nothing was enough for me to stay.”

He speaks regularly to his best friend LaMichael James, whose role he inherited when James left for the NFL after his junior season. James was drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers, Barner’s favorite team.

He is also looking forward to being drafted into the NFL, but he has prepared for his life beyond football.

Barner suffered a career threatening concussion while at Oregon, but survived to become a star.

In March 2011 he rededicated his life to Jesus Christ, explaining that he now knows just how much faith and religion means to him.

“When I decided to come back for my senior year, I did so to improve my draft status, but also to finished school and graduate,” Barner said.

Now, he says he can match wits with his sister Maisha who inspired him to become a better student.

Having already achieved prestigious All America status as a collegian, Barner regained his relationship with God, is on course to graduate on time with his college class, and now all that is left for him is one big Fiesta. The NFL is next…

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December 06, 2012

By BRETT MARTEL Associated Press

 

NBA Commissioner David Stern said his $250,000 fine of the San Antonio Spurs was justified because the club went beyond what league owners agreed was a reasonable approach to resting healthy players.

Stern said coaches should have the authority to rest players at the end of the season, but that teams should not rest four starters little more than a month into it, and the team made matters worse by not notifying the league beforehand.

Last week, the Spurs sent home Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green before a game in Miami. Stern points out that Green is 26 and Parker 30, and that he doubted any of the players needed rest this early in the season in what was also their only visit to Miami.

''In the case of San Antonio, they didn't just come into town and rest healthy players, they sent a 26-year-old and a 30-year-old, plus Manu and Tim home virtually under cover of darkness ... and without notifying as our rules require for injury and illness,'' Stern said before watching the Hornets play the Los Angeles Lakers.

Stern said owners discussed resting healthy players at a meeting in April 2010, and that the Spurs would have remembered it.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich often rested healthy players last season after the lockout and there was no punishment, but Stern decided to act after this game, which was televised nationally by TNT.

''Maybe it's my mistake not to think that injury and illness when you're secreting someone away should also include deciding to move them out,'' Stern said. ''So in all of the circumstances, I thought that if we didn't do something this time, there would never be a reason to do it.

''(It was the Spurs') only visit to Miami, practically the first month of the season. Notifying nobody and sending home young and healthy players merited a rebuke and I did it.''

Stern said the punishment had nothing to do with his feelings about Popovich but solely the actions of the Spurs, who ignored NBA rules that teams must notify the league, opposing team and media when players won't travel because of injury.

They have not appealed the fine.

''This was a team decision,'' Stern said. ''This was not me and Pop. Pop is a great coach, Hall of Fame coach, and this decision was made by the entire senior management of the San Antonio Spurs. And I felt that they were doing what they perceived as their job and I was doing what I presume as my job and that's what happens.

''I would suggest to you if we had been notified it wouldn't have happened, so maybe from their perspective they did the right thing.''

Stern was making a regularly scheduled visit with first-year Hornets owner Tom Benson, who is also the owner of the NFL's Saints, to see how Benson's plans for the NBA franchise were taking shape. Stern visited Saints headquarters, where new construction has begun on additions that will also accommodate Hornets offices and practice courts.

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November 29, 2012

By Kenneth Miller

LAWT Staff Writer

 

The fists full of mud began slinging in the direction of the high school basketball phenom and UCLA star recruit before the ink could dry on his National Letter of Intent.

Shabazz Muhammad, a 6'6 wunderkind had just concluded one of the most celebrated high school careers since LeBron James, but the NBA imposed age limit prevented him from taking his talents straight from high school to the NBA.

He had just polished off a prep career where he averaged more than 25 points per game, was 2011 Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year, 2012 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year, 2012 McDonald's All-American MVP, 2012 Jordan Brand High School All-American co-MVP, 2012 Naismith prep Player of the Year, 2012 Mr. Basketball USA, was the ESPN ranked number 2 high school senior and participated in the prestigious 2012 Nike Hoop Summit.

Muhammad had narrowed his final college choices to three of the most powerful programs in the nation; Kentucky, Duke and UCLA.

Muhammad decided to attend UCLA, lifting the Bruins' already elite recruiting class to No. 1 in the nation and thus increasing the already lofty expectations of the most storied college basketball program America even higher.

A newly renovated Pauley Pavilion awaited his arrival and coach Ben Howland and Bruins fans breathed a collected sigh of relief because in Muhammad UCLA was getting its most promising recruit since Baron Davis.

Similar to Davis more than a decade ago, Muhammad's flight to UCLA was grounded before it took off by the NCAA.

The governing body that rules collegiate sports had open an investigation into a possible amateur rules violation alleging that Muhammad had received improper benefits because a close friend of the family supported him in making an unofficial visit to Duke and North Carolina.

Muhammad's father is former USC star Ron Holmes and his mother Faye Muhammad was a track standout for Long Beach State University.

One would think that with two educated parents who are quite familiar with the NCAA that they would not do anything that would jeopardize their son's collegiate future.

After all we're not just talking about some future college kid, we're talking about a projected lottery pick, a basketball player who could have easily took millions to play overseas before landing in the NBA.

To Muhammad's credit, both he and his family did not take the money and run, but instead played by the rules for their son to achieve college eligibility.

Instead of allowing Muhammad to play after he enrolled at UCLA and then rendering a decision, the NCAA decided that he was guilty before allowing him to prove his innocence.

Kyle Anderson, his high school friend was also subjected to the NCAA's rush to judgment but was allowed to travel to China for an exhibition tour with the team before he was subsequently cleared.

Meanwhile, Muhammad was left in limbo while the legal bills continued to mount.

As the season approached, the NCAA ruled that he was ineligible on Nov. 9. To their credit the administration at UCLA immediately appealed.

Three games were gone and seemingly the whole season of Muhammad's freshman season before it was revealed that the NCAA was intending to keep Muhammad from playing the entire season.

Memphis, Tenn. attorney, Florence Johnson Raines, said she heard a man who said he was dating "an NCAA attorney" loudly telling people around him that his girlfriend had said Muhammad would never play college basketball this season because he broke rules.

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