March 07, 2013
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.
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.''
Former WNBA player and Olympic gold medalist Chamique Holdsclaw is being indicted in a November 2012 shooting in Atlanta, prosecutors said Wednesday.
A six-count indictment charges Holdsclaw, 35, with aggravated assault, criminal damage and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Fulton County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Yvette Jones said Wednesday.
Holdsclaw was arrested after an argument with Tulsa Shock player Jennifer Lacy, 29, who told police she was Holdsclaw’s ex-girlfriend. The two were also Atlanta Dream teammates in 2009. Holdsclaw broke the windows to Lacy’s car and shot at it Nov. 13, 2012, police said. No one was injured.
After a late-November court appearance, one of Holdsclaw’s attorneys said he talked with Lacy and they were trying to resolve the case.
“They are still friends and we expect the alleged victim to support a proper resolution of this,” said Edward Garland, an attorney representing Holdsclaw. “In no way did she use the gun to threaten or assault the alleged victim, or do so with a baseball bat.”
He acknowledged that Holdsclaw caused damage to Lacy’s car, but said his client never intended to hurt her.
“Sometimes charges get made that exceed the scope of the actual events,” Garland said, adding that he and his client plan to resolve the case without it going to trial.
Holdsclaw is out on $100,000 bond and a court date has not been scheduled.
Holdsclaw led the University of Tennessee to three consecutive national championships from 1996-98 before beginning a pro career that included six WNBA All-Star selections.
She also played on the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in the 2000 Games. She had 3,025 career points at Tennessee and remains the Southeastern Conference’s career scoring leader.
In September, Holdsclaw returned to her alma mater to discuss her fight with clinical depression, which included a suicide attempt during her pro career.
Holdsclaw recounted how she attempted suicide in 2006 as a member of the Los Angeles Sparks by overdosing on the medication she was taking for clinical depression. She also wouldn't leave her Washington home for a few days in 2004, two years after the death of the grandmother who raised her.
By BRIAN MAHONEY Associated Press
The New York Knicks said Wednesday new X-rays of Rasheed Wallace's left foot showed a broken bone, and he is expected to miss another eight weeks, possibly ending his comeback season.
The forward will have surgery this week, damaging news for a team that has missed his play off the bench.
''It's somewhat a blow because I mean he's gone through so much work to get back out on the floor and now this happens. So the only thing we can do now is think positive in terms of how the surgery is going to turn out and he's got to rehab back,'' Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. ''That's all you can do at this point.''
The 38-year-old Wallace came out of a two-year retirement to join the Knicks this season and averaged 7.2 points while appearing in 20 of the first 22 games, helping the Knicks get off to a 17-5 start.
He hasn't played since, and the Knicks said his injury had progressed to a fractured bone at the outside of his left foot, otherwise known as a Jones fracture.
''When we were able to actually get him on the floor, he was pretty good for our ballclub. But hey, that's in the past. We've got to move forward,'' Woodson said. ''It's a blow I'm sure for him mentally because he wanted to play and so it's a setback. He's just got to have the surgery and we go from there.''
Perhaps aware Wallace might not be able to return, the Knicks signed forward Kenyon Martin to a 10-day contract last week. Woodson said there was a chance the 35-year-old Martin would make his debut Wednesday against Golden State.
He also said the Knicks didn't plan to waive Wallace to create a roster spot and hoped he would be ready to play in the postseason.
February 21, 2013
When ranking the sports team owners in American professional sports, it is not much of a contest, because Jerry Buss, who recently passed away, has every other owner beat by a mile, including New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away in 2010.
Many people say that the Yankees are the premiere team in American sports, mostly because their history of greatness dates back to the early 1900s, but in the modern era it is not even close. The Lakers, mostly because of the vision of Buss, has been the greatest franchise in any sport.
Since Buss purchased the Lakers in 1979, the Lakers have made it to the NBA Finals 16 times, which is nearly half of the years that Buss owned the team. They won the title 10 times, more than any other American professional sports team over that time period. Under Steinbrenner, who owned the Yankees from 1973 until his passing, the ball club won seven World Series titles in 11 appearances.
Buss took a team that was one of the better teams in the NBA and turned them into the greatest pro team in the nation. When he took over the Lakers were not even the best team in town. Los Angeles was a Dodgers town. USC football and UCLA basketball were a lot more popular, as the Lakers had lost seven times in the NBA Finals from the time that they moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960 until Buss bought the team. All of those losses came against the Celtics, and the Lakers had only won the NBA title once over that time period, in 1972.
When Buss took over the Celtics had 13 NBA titles compared to the Lakers six (five of those won in Minneapolis), and it did not seem like any team would ever come close to catching them. But since Buss took over the Lakers have defeated the Celtics three times in the NBA Finals, won 10 overall, and now they are only behind the Celtics by one championship (17-16).
Former Laker Tommy Hawkins remembers the Dodgers receiving a parade in Downtown when they moved to Los Angeles in 1958, but when the Lakers showed up two years later, they came in on a bus through San Bernadino and nobody knew who they were.
Before Buss bought the team the Lakers were always lost in the shuffle of the Los Angeles sporting scene. But he instantly changed that.
Buss' first move was to create Showtime, and that was not just on the court. He understood that in Los Angeles, just watching a game would not be enough to captivate people who are in the "Entertainment Capitol of the World." Buss created an environment that the Hollywood stars wanted to be at. Laker games were the place to be, not just for celebrities, but for the masses.
Buss created a show, but at the same time, that was not going to hold people's attention for long. Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pointed out that dancing girls were not going to win games. The show was not just during timeouts, or before and after the game. The main attraction was the players, and Buss stopped at nothing to get the best.
One thing that separated Buss from other owners who will stop at nothing to win was that Buss knew his role, and he let others do their jobs. Bill Sharman and Jerry West built the rosters that became Showtime. They surrounded Magic Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar with other star players. They took the risk on drafting James Worthy over Dominique Wilkins. They took the risk to trade Norm Nixon in order to draft Byron Scott. And to trade Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant, who was right out of high school. That was a major risk because Shaquille O'Neal had not signed with the team at that point, and there was no telling if he would come to Los Angeles.
Buss also allowed O'Neal to be traded, and he convinced Bryant that he should be a Laker forever, which resulted into two more championships.
Buss' efforts and his visions have given Los Angeles fans the best team in the modern era of sports. The only thing that it looks like Buss will miss out on is when the Lakers finally catch, and pass, the Celtics in total titles.
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