March 14, 2013

By Antonio R. Harvey

Special to the NNPA from the Sacramento Observer

 

Ending weeks of widespread speculation and rumors, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson told The OBSERVER that billionaire Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24-Hour Fitness, are the majority equity partners who will make a bid for the Sacramento Kings.

“Yes, they are,” Johnson told The OBSERVER when asked if Burkle and Mastrov are in fact the deep-pocket “whale” investors interested in purchasing the Kings. Mayor Johnson has helped to orchestrate the group’s counter-proposal to a reportedly $525 million agreement the Kings’ owners made with a group to move the team to Seattle.

Johnson will publicly announce Burkle’s and Mastrov’s involvement at the annual “State of the City” address at Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium Thursday evening. Johnson is also expected to reveal the details of a new sports and entertainment arena, another major factor in keeping the Kings in Sacramento — the place the NBA franchise has called home since 1985.

The Maloofs agreed to sell the Kings to an investment group that includes billionaire Chris Hansen. However, NBA commissioner David Stern agreed to let Mayor Johnson, a former NBA All-Star point guard, submit a purchase proposal that includes a new arena plan to the league by March 1. Stern also agreed to let Johnson state the city’s case in front of the NBA’s Board of Governors in April to prevent the Maloofs from selling the team to the Seattle-based investors.

The Board of Governors — the NBA team owners — will vote whether the sale to the Seattle investor-group is acceptable. Mayor Johnson said the city of Sacramento can make a convincing argument that it is a strong NBA market and the leadership is in place to make a major deal like this work.

Sacramento already cleared the way earlier this week for Burkle and Mastrove when the City Council voted 7-2 to push forward with an effort to keep the bidding process alive.

“I feel confident about our chances (to keep the Kings in Sacramento),” Mayor Johnson said. 

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

March 14, 2013

By Brandon I. Brooks

Managing Editor

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Isiah Lord Thomas III, popularly known as Isiah Thomas or “Zeke”, made a name for himself and honed his legend as a basketball player for the Detroit Pistons. 

However, before he launched his brilliant NBA career, Thomas burst onto the national scene winning the NCAA championship for Indiana University in 1981 while also earning the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. 

A member of NBA’s Hall of Fame, after starring for 13 years with the ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Pistons, Thomas led the team to back-to-back championships in 1989 and ’90. 

He was an All-Star player 12 times and captured two All-Star game Most Valuable Player awards and also added the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in 1990 to his lofty resume. 

Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and also served as part owner, executive and coach in the NBA, Thomas now serves as an analyst for NBA TV and works as a columnist for NBA.com. 

When I discovered I had the opportunity to interview Thomas, I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect.  I was excited because I have always wanted to meet the guy named “Zeke” being that I grew up watching him play, but still I was hesitant.  All I had to go off of was his career in the NBA and the chronicled “Bad Boy” image casted over him by White media as a member of the “Bad Boy” Pistons in the late 1980s early 90s. 

If not for the public projection of the established press, which detailed Thomas the basketball player, I didn’t know much about him. 

After meeting him I found him to be as humble a celebrity as there is in the world of sports, and that’s hard to come by.  

After researching Thomas’ life I was astounded to find out about his work as an activist over the years and his recent involvement with youth sports in America. Thomas recently received the Life Time Humanitarian Award from Children United Nations in Los Angeles during Oscar weekend.

“The award is for just doing good work in the community with at-risk kids and foster kids,” said Thomas. 

“It really is just about giving back and being present, showing-up. So many times you can write the check and you never know who that check is helping.  Well I was the beneficiary of one of those checks that a person never saw.  That person who wrote the check didn’t see me, I probably never met him or her but that contribution on that day stopped me from going to jail because what it probably did was help me get something to eat or the coach was able to buy a uniform or the coach was able to rent a van and drive us to the game.  Those little things mattered.  So what I’ve tried to do is continue to give, continue to be part of the community I am from and just try and shine the light on good people.  You can’t arrest poverty.   Just because we are living in poverty and just because we aren’t as fortunate as some doesn’t necessarily mean we are criminals and gangbangers or what have you. So the labeling theory that goes around poverty, I try to speak to that also.”

Thomas spends a great deal of time using his foundation, Mary’s Court founded in in his mother's name to educate our youth and speak out on the violence occurring in inner cities across the nation.  He specifically speaks to the need to educate our children.  He firmly believes, education is a way out of poverty. 

“I am only regurgitating what I was taught,” said Thomas.  “Again that generation before us, that’s what they stoutly believed and it has proved to be true an accurate.”

He is working closely with clergy, educators, community and elected leaders in Chicago, Miami and other cities around the country to help address the urgent need to stop the violence.  He is creatively using sports and entertainment as a way to redirect our kids into more positive activities.  In fact, he is the founder of the first ever Basketball PEACE TOURAMENT that was held in Chicago. 

As a former youth growing up on the west side of Chicago, Thomas has partnered with the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel to expand his well-received "Windy City Hoops" basketball league, which would extend weekend tournaments to 10 more Chicago parks and recreation centers.

“It’s a program basically to attract kids and youth in the community from ages 13 – 17 bring them into the park district and introduce them to the game of basketball and team sports,” said Thomas.

“What we found is that in introducing kids or youth into sport and play they really get to know each other, they get to bond they get to connect.  But so many times when we think about basketball we only think about the score of the game, but the things that come around basketball, the coaches you get to meet the mentors that you have, the educational resources that come along with that, the tutoring aspect that comes around that basketball game and just the wisdom that comes from people who come to the game watching you play.  So that whole type of interaction when we talk about it takes a village to raise a child, well that type of communication that comes from being around the sport is what we were attracted to.

“By taking sports and play out of our communities, by closing the park districts, by taking sport and play out of school, only athletes now get a chance and the opportunity to have that type of dialogue with those coaches, with those mentors.  What we want to do is open it up and give it back to everybody so we want the community to come back, we want the neighborhoods to come back and by putting sports and play back in the community putting it back into the neighborhood kids will get to know each other and once they get to know each other we think it will be hard to kill each other.”

Read Part II of Isiah Thomas’ story, his relationship with his mother, how he met his wife of 32 years and how he views his legacy in next week’s L.A. Watts Times.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

March 07, 2013

Associated Press

 

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman brought his basketball skills and flamboyant style — tattoos, nose studs and all — to the country with possibly the world's strictest dress code: North Korea.

Arriving in Pyongyang, the American athlete and showman known as "The Worm" became an unlikely ambassador for sports diplomacy at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. Or maybe not so unlikely: Young leader Kim Jong Un is said to have been a fan of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, when Rodman won three championships with the club.

Rodman is joining three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and a VICE correspondent for a news show on North Korea that will air on HBO later this year, VICE producers told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview before they landed.

“It’s my first time, I think it’s most of these guys’ first time here, so hopefully everything’s going to be OK , and hoping the kids have a good time for the game,” Rodman told reporters after arriving in North Korea on Tuesday.

Rodman and VICE’s producers said the Americans hope to engage in a little “basketball diplomacy” by running a basketball camp for children and playing with North Korea's top basketball stars.

“Is sending the Harlem Globe­trotters and Dennis Rodman to the DPRK strange? In a word, yes,” said Shane Smith, the VICE founder who is host of the upcoming series, referring to North Korea by the initials of its formal name, the Democratic People’s Repub­lic of Korea. “But finding common ground on the basketball court is a beautiful thing.”

The notoriously unpredictable and irrepressible Rodman might seem an odd fit for regimented North Korea, where men’s fashion rarely ventures beyond military khaki and where growing facial hair is forbidden.

Shown a photo of a snarling Rodman, piercings dangling from his lower lip and two massive tattoos emblazoned on his chest, one North Korean in Pyongyang recoiled and said: “He looks like a monster!”

But Rodman is also a Hall of Fame basketball player and one of the best defenders and rebounders to ever play the game. During a storied, often controversial career, he won five NBA championships — a feat appreciated even in North Korea.

Rodman, now 51, was low-key and soft-spoken in cobalt blue sweatpants and a Polo Ralph Lauren cap. There was a bit of flash: white-rimmed sunglasses and studs in his nose and lower lip. But he told AP he was there to teach basketball and talk to people, not to stir up trouble.

Showier were three Harlem Globetrotters dressed in fire-engine red. Rookie Moose Weekes flashed the crowd a huge smile as he made his way off the Air Koryo plane.

“We use the basketball as a tool to build cultural ties, build bridges among countries,” said Buckets Blakes, a Globetrotters veteran. “We’re all about happiness and joy and making people smile.”

Rodman’s trip is the second high-profile American visit this year to North Korea, a country that remains in a state of war with the U.S. It also comes two weeks after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test in defiance of U.N. bans against atomic and missile activity.

Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, made a surprise four-day trip in January to Pyongyang, where he met with officials and toured computer labs, just weeks after North Korea launched a satellite into space on the back of a long-range rocket.

Washington, Tokyo, Seoul and others consider both the rocket launch and the nuclear test provocative acts that threaten regional security.

North Korea characterizes the satellite launch as a peaceful bid to explore space, but says the nuclear test was meant as a deliberate warning to Washington. Pyongyang says it needs to build nuclear weapons to defend itself against the U.S., and is believed to be trying to build an atomic bomb small enough to mount on a missile capable of reaching the mainland U.S.

VICE, known for its sometimes irreverent journalism, has made two previous visits to North Korea, coming out with the “VICE Guide to North Korea.” The HBO series, which will air weekly starting April 5, features documentary-style news reports from around the world.

The Americans also will visit North Korea’s national monuments, the SEK animation studio and a new skate park in Pyongyang.

The U.S. State Department hasn't been contacted about travel to North Korea by this group, a senior administration official said, requesting anonymity to comment before any trip had been made public. The official said the department does not vet U.S. citizens' private travel to North Korea and urges U.S. citizens contemplating travel there to review a travel warning on its website.

In a now-defunct U.S.-North Korean agreement in which Washing­ton had planned last year to give food aid to Pyongyang in exchange for nuclear concessions, Washington had said it was prepared to increase people-to-people exchanges with the North, including in the areas of culture, education and sports.

Promoting technology and sports are two major policy priorities of Kim Jong Un, who took power in December 2011 following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

Along with soccer, basketball is enormously popular in North Korea, where it’s not uncommon to see basketball hoops set up in hotel parking lots or in schoolyards. It’s a game that doesn’t require much equipment or upkeep.

The U.S. remains Enemy No. 1 in North Korea, and North Koreans have limited exposure to American pop culture. But they know Michael Jordan, a former teammate of Rodman’s when they both played for the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.

During a historic visit to North Korea in 2000, then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright presented Kim Jong Il, famously an NBA fan, with a basketball signed by Jordan that later went on display in the huge cave at Mount Myohyang that holds gifts to the leaders.

North Korea even had its own Jordan wannabe: Ri Myong Hun, a 7-foot-9 star player who is said to have renamed himself “Michael” after his favorite player and moved to Canada for a few years in the 1990s in hopes of making it into the NBA.

Even today, Jordan remains well-loved here. At the Mansudae Art Studio, which produces the country's top art, a portrait of Jordan spotted last week, complete with a replica of his signature and “NBA” painted in one corner, seemed an odd inclusion among the propaganda posters and celadon vases on display.

An informal poll of North Koreans revealed that “The Worm” isn’t quite as much a household name in Pyongyang.

But Kim Jong Un was a basketball-crazy adolescent when Rodman was with the Bulls, and when the Harlem Globetrotters kept up a frenetic travel schedule worldwide.

In a memoir about his decade serving as Kim Jong Il’s personal sushi chef, a man who goes by the pen name Kenji Fujimoto recalled that basketball was the young Kim Jong Un's biggest passion, and that the Chicago Bulls were his favorite.

 

 

 

 

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

March 07, 2013

By ANDREW MIGA Associated Press

 

WASHINGTON (AP) —Lawmakers seeking a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, the world’s first Black heavyweight boxing champion imprisoned a century ago for his romantic relationships with white women, renewed their efforts on Tuesday.

Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and John McCain, R-Ariz., joined Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and William “Mo” Cowan, D-Mass., to reintroduce a resolution urging President Barack Obama to pardon Johnson because he was wronged by a racially motivated conviction.

“Jack Johnson was a legendary competitor who defined an era of American boxing and raised the bar for all American athletics,” said Reid. “Johnson’s memory was unjustly tarnished by a racially motivated criminal conviction, and it is now time to recast his legacy.”

A similar resolution passed both houses of Congress in 2009, but Obama did not act on it. The Justice Department has told the bill’s backers its general policy is not to process posthumous pardon requests. The White House declined to comment Tuesday on the measure.

Johnson, a native of Galveston, Texas, was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes.

He was hated by many White Americans, especially after retaining his title by defeating White boxer Jim Jeffries in the 1910 “Fight of the Century.” Johnson’s victory infuriated Whites, sparking deadly race riots across the country.

Three years later, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act.

Authorities first targeted his relationship with Lucille Cameron, who later became his wife. She refused to cooperate. They then turned to Johnson’s former mistress, a prostitute named Belle Schreiber, to testify that Johnson had paid her train fare from Pittsburgh to Chicago, for immoral purposes. An all-white jury convicted Johnson in 1913, and he skipped bail and fled the country. But in 1920 Johnson agreed to return and serve his sentence.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

February 28, 2013

By AARON BEARD Associated Press

 

There are some familiar NBA names lighting up college basketball courts this season.

Curry, Hardaway, Hawkins, Howard, Mason and Robinson.

Below are the sons of six former NBA players who are having strong seasons this year. And there are often shades of their fathers' games in their play, whether it's their knack for scoring in bunches, knocking down 3-pointers, playing with a tough-nosed style or wearing the same jersey number.

Seth Curry, Duke - This family is known for the ability to shoot the 3, starting with Dell Curry during 16 NBA seasons starting during the late 1980s. Next came son Stephen's rise from Davidson to the Golden State Warriors. Now there's Stephen's younger brother Seth, a 6-foot-2 senior for the Blue Devils. He has been the top outside threat to complement Mason Plumlee inside. Curry has rarely practiced this year due to persistent pain in his right shin, but he's averaging about 17 points and shooting nearly 44 percent from 3-point range entering the week. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon put it simply after Curry scored 25 against his Terrapins earlier this month: ''Seth Curry is a winner and he makes big shots.''

 

Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan - The 6-6 junior guard and son of the former NBA all-star has been part of the Wolverines' 1-2 punch playing alongside sophomore guard Trey Burke. Hardaway is second on the team in scoring (15 points) and shooting about 40 percent from 3-point range. He's also been one of Michigan's top defenders and scored his 1,000th career point this season. He's reached double figures in 20 of 26 games this year, highlighted by a 23-point performance with six 3-pointers against Ohio State.

 

 

 

Corey Hawkins, UC Davis - The son of former NBA guard Hersey Hawkins entered the week averaging 20.5 points and 5.7 rebounds. Hawkins was also shooting about 47 percent from the field and 40 percent from behind the arc. The 6-3 sophomore is an Arizona State transfer and had a school-record 40 points at Hawaii in January to follow in his high-scoring father's footsteps at Bradley, where Hersey Hawkins is the school's all-time leading scorer and ranks seventh in Division I history with 3,008 career points. In Hersey's senior year, he averaged 36.3 points and scored 63 in a game. ''One thing he always told me is be able to get into the lane and finish around the bigs,'' Corey Hawkins said. ''... Not being that tall, you have to find ways to finish in the paint. He helped me a lot with that.''

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juwan Howard Jr., Detroit - The 6-6 sophomore is the son of the former Michigan ''Fab Five'' member who played in the NBA nearly two decades. Juwan Jr. transferred from Western Michigan and sat out the Titans' NCAA tournament appearance last year, but he's started nearly every game and averaged about 9 points and 3.6 rebounds this season heading into Tuesday's game against Loyola of Chicago. He's also shooting 39 percent from 3-point range and 82 percent from the foul line in a supporting role behind high-scoring guard Ray McCallum Jr. as Detroit tries to return to the NCAAs.

 

 

 

 

Antoine Mason, Niagara - The son of former NBA all-star Anthony Mason has been the top threat for the Purple Eagles, averaging a team-high 18.9 points while playing 36 minutes per game entering the week. The 6-3 redshirt sophomore recently returned from a four-game absence due to an ankle injury, but has scored in double figures in 31 straight games. Mason wears the same number (14) and carries the same nickname (''Mase'') as his father. Coach Joe Mihalich said Mason has a ''fearlessness'' and is ''an incredible competitor.'' Sound familiar? ''I was sensitive to the pressures that a kid would feel when your dad's an NBA player,'' Mihalich said. ''I said to his dad, 'Listen, I'm trying hard not to compare him to you. I don't want him to feel that pressure.' His dad was cool. He was like, 'Nah, go ahead, you can do that.' And it was a good thing to do because it does help young Mase respond. It motivates him.''

 

 

 

Glenn Robinson III, Michigan - Hardaway isn't the only Wolverine on the list. This 6-6 freshman forward is the son of the Purdue All-American and former NBA all-star known as ''Big Dog.'' Robinson is fourth on the team, averaging about 11 points on 57 percent shooting to go along with 5.5 rebounds as an every-game starter. Robinson matched his season-high with 21 points on 6-for-6 shooting while pulling down 10 rebounds in a win against Penn State on Feb. 17. He had managed just six points in the previous two games, but said his confidence never wavered. ''A lot of people know I like to cut to the basket,'' Robinson said. ''They kind of sag off me and those open shots weren't there, but I've got to keep adjusting to that and keep working on it at practice.''

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