Tag Archives: NBA

Amaechi’s alternative route after NBA retirement

“I have no interest in actually teaching kids how to put a ball in a hole, I’m interested in what we can do with and through sport”

Former NBA star John Amaechi, has taken an alternative route since retiring from basketball in 2003.

Even while playing college hoops at Penn State, the Briton became a motivational speaker, aiming to inspire young people from tough backgrounds to achieve their potential.

It set him on the path he was to follow after a career which included stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz, as well as leading clubs in France, Greece and Italy.

Amaechi told me: “It was always the plan, I never intended to play basketball forever. I’d always intended to be a psychologist since the age of about nine.

“I have no interest in basketball or sport at all, I’m interested in what we can do for society but that’s still sociology and the psychology around sport.”

Performance

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Amaechi in action for the Orlando Magic

Amaechi, who was born in Boston but grew up in Stockport until the age of 17, could have taken the more tried-and-tested route into coaching, punditry or maybe a managerial or executive role in basketball.

“I’m more interested in what we can do in terms of developing community and teaching lessons through sport,” said the 46-year-old who was received an OBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, for services to sport and the voluntary sector.

“I have no interest in actually teaching kids how to put a ball in a hole, I’m interested in what we can do with and through sport.”

To that end, he set up Amaechi Performance Systems (APS) in 2008 and now leads a team that combines psychological, corporate and educational training for businesses, education and sports professionals, teams and individuals.

‘The job I love’

Amaechi, who entered the NBA’s Hall of Fame after scoring the first points of the new millennium, said: “I’m working with varied organisations such as schools all the way through to big corporates and the intelligent services.

“My work as a psychologist is now organisational, coaching individuals, small groups, organisations to help them deal with transformation, change, retention, recruitment, engagement, motivation you name it.

“I don’t think I could have imagined the job as it stands now, but it’s certainly the job I love; I’ve never loved anything more than this.”

The 6ft 10in former power forward/centre says he first realised the power that sport has to influence people and change their lives during his NBA days.

Improve

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Amaechi was honoured by the Prince of Wales in 2011

He recalled: “I was playing for Cleveland in my first year in the NBA, I wasn’t great as a player, and my team was not great. The city was very under-enthused about basketball.

“I met a mother who wanted me to sign an autograph for her child, of course I did and then I shook his hand, as I walked away, I saw the way he looked at his hand, he was frozen, staring at the hand I just shook.

“I realised then the power that even a terrible basketball player, from a terrible basketball team could have.

“It was very informative for the way I would conduct myself from then on, realising I was not just literally but metaphorically a giant and in my society I could improve things and change things.”

Donation

Part of his mission to ‘improve and change things’ happened on a personal level when, in February 2007, he became the first former NBA player to come out publicly as gay.

He recently appeared before the Commons Culture, Media And Sport Committee to urge that more progress be made in tackling homophobia in sport and society in general.

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The Amaechi Basketball Centre

In truth, however, his interests and concerns are far wider than campaigning on a single issue, and he continues to use his influence to make a difference to people’s lives in all sorts of ways.

A perfect example of this is another of Amaechi’s successful projects – the Amaechi Basketball Centre which opened in July 2002.

Helped by a £250,000 donation from Amaechi, Greater Manchester Community Basketball was able to move to a £2.1m purpose-built centre.

It features three basketball courts, 10 outdoor five-aside football pitches, a health and fitness suite, dance studio, conference room, café-bar area and appropriate changing facilities.

A not-for-profit organisation with charitable status, it is “dedicated to providing basketball opportunities for all sections of the community, to achieve their own potential, regardless of ability, ethnic background, socio-economic background, gender or age”.

Participation

The centre perfectly aligns with Amaechi’s goals and his mission to explore the potential in people that can be unlocked through sport.

It has certainly fulfilled his aim of  ‘improve and change things’ in the community where he grew up.

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Amaechi speaks to pupils at Stockport Grammar School

Greater Manchester Community Basketball now has the highest number of participants involved in programmes nationally, and also achieved the Five-Star Standard Award from England Basketball.

Not only does the club have a successful men’s team in Manchester Magic, who compete in the UK’s National Basketball League (not the British Basketball League) they also have a variety of youth teams and a women’s club, Manchester Mystics.

Amaechi says he is “interested in what sport can do in terms of developing community,” and the Amaechi Basketball Centre does exactly that.

It’s refreshing to see what high-profile athletes can do with the power and influence they have, especially when retirement presents them with fresh challenges and opportunities.

You can find out more about Amaechi Performance Systems here.

Top five worst officiating decisions in NBA history

In light of the recent drama between the Toronto Raptors and the Sacramento Kings, Elephant Sport decided to take a look at some of the worst decisions of all time in the NBA.

5) Raptors’ Ross Robbed

On November 21 2016, Terrence Ross silenced the Sacramento crowd with a clutch three-pointer on the buzzer to take the game to overtime. Or so he thought.

Amidst ruckus and exuberant celebrations, the home sector started to cheer. The referee had spotted a tip from Demarcus Cousins in real time.

The officials proceeded to confer in the replay centre and, in the end, decided that Cousins had tipped the ball. This, effectively, meant that the clock should have started when Sacramento’s centre touched the ball, not when Ross collected it. In essence, the buzzer should have sounded before Ross shot.

But a recent Twitter investigation saw a user splice the clock when Cousins touched the ball, which dramatically revealed that Ross had released the ball before the buzzer even with Cousins’ interference added to the timer.

This controversy has led to the Raptors making a formal complaint, hoping that overtime will be replayed in a one-off encounter vs the Kings at a later point this season to decide a victor.

But there have been worse decisions in the NBA, surprisingly (or unsurprisingly for the unabashedly critical fans of the sport…)

4) Joey Crawford Calls ‘The Worst Foul Ever’

Perhaps the most comical and least serious of all the other moments on this list, Joey Crawford whistling for a foul on Steve Nash is still one of the most ridiculous bits of officiating in sporting history.

Halfway through the third quarter of a play-off game between the Portland Trailblazers and the Phoenix Suns in 2010, Nash releases a pass inside the D and draws a foul… according to Crawford.

In the midst of it all, Marcus Camby was awarded his fourth foul of the game. The issue with this? Camby was nowhere near Nash. If he were to have jumped at Nash, fully outstretched and possessing the superhuman abilities of Mister Fantastic, Camby still would have failed to touch the point guard.

Nash made both of the subsequent free-throws, effectively knocking Portland out of the series in the first-round.

3) The First Phantom Foul

Picture this: there are 27 seconds left on the clock, the Detroit Pistons lead by one point against the Los Angeles Lakers. The latter have the final possession of the game and decide to storm into the paint.

This is Detroit’s chance to win their first ever NBA Championship, leading the 1988 series 3-2. In 24 seconds, providing they can defend a Lakers play, the Pistons win the title.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar receives a pass in the post and challenges Pistons centre Bill Laimbeer. The towering giant jumps to contest Jabbar’s post-hook and forces the superstar to miss. At that point, the Pistons were champions.

That is, until, the officials decide to call an illegal foul on Laimbeer for his jump on Jabbar. The replays still to this day show no such illegal play whatsoever.

Jabbar stepped up, knocked down both free-throws and the Lakers went on to tie the series, force a final game and win the championship.

A fight broke out at the end of the game between both teams due to the absurdity of the decision.

2) Hue Hollins Prevents The Bulls From Making History 

The second phantom foul on the list but, undoubtedly, the worst.

This was a Chicago Bulls team without Michael Jordan, who had spent the entire year on a hiatus playing baseball; this was a Bulls team with only Scottie Pippen remaining.

Pippen was the supporting star to Jordan’s excellence. But he became the leader in the 1994 NBA Finals. By the end of it, referee Hue Hollins had reduced Pippen to a loser.

With three seconds left on the buzzer, the Bulls were close to clinching a spot in the NBA Finals. The New York Knicks had to draw up a three-pointer to win the game and force a final match for the series.

Hubert Davis chucked a three from improbable range which Pippen attempted to contest. “Attempt” being the operative word; the small-forward jumped but failed to touch Davis, who ended up missing.

Hollins blew the whistle and awarded Davis three free-throws which, essentially, knocked the Bulls out of a potential historic NBA Championship and prevented ‘Pip’ from becoming a bona fide superstar.

1) The Biggest Fix in NBA History?

In game six of the 2002 NBA finals, Sacramento were one win away from being crowned champions for the first time in their history.

Playing to a level of quality never before seen in the city, the Kings side led by all-star power forward Chris Webber received a level of officiating that, to this day, stands as the biggest travesty ever witnessed in an NBA game.

Playing on the road at the LA Lakers, the Kings had four legitimate blocks called as illegal fouls. From these fouls, the Lakers collected eight points.

Sacramento then suffered three offensive fouls, wrongly called as both were clear blocking interferences from the Lakers (two by Kobe Bryant, one from Shaquille O’Neal). In the following possession of each foul, the Lakers drew up a three-pointer and two mid-range jumpers for a seven-point play.

Perhaps the worst and most frustrating refereeing decision made on the night was when Kobe attempted a mid-range jumper and elbowed Mike Bibby in the face.

Bibby fell to the floor with an assistant referee staring directly at the play. He called for a foul… against Bibby. Bryant knocked down another two points from the subsequent free-throw which wrapped up the game late on for the Lakers.

Ex-referee Tim Donaghy later alleged that Dick Bavetta and Bob Delaney – officials in this particular game – had fixed the outcome of the tie.  Both they and the NBA denied the claims.

An investigation ensued, but no wrongdoing was ever proved, however that hasn’t stopped conspiracy theories abounding even to this day.

The Kings went on to lose 106-102 on the night and in the final game, too.

How Curry played cupid for me and basketball

Growing up in England, football has always been at the forefront in terms of sports I loved and played on a frequent basis.

At the tender age of four, I kicked my first football in a park in Croydon with my older brother and his school friends.

At the time I spoke very little English, but I knew what it meant when the ball trickled in the net and my brothers friend yelled “GOALLLL!”

Some 18 years on, football continues plays a major part in my life as an Arsenal and Barcelona fan, dictating my moods in any given week.

However in 2014, basketball began to capture my imagination thanks to Stephen Curry – an NBA star constantly likened to the great Lionel Messi and this year surpassing him as the most watched athlete on YouTube.

Record-breaking

Known as Steph, Curry was chosen seventh overall in 2009 NBA Draft of college players and such has been his impact with the Golden State Warriors that he’s being viewed as the greatest shooter in NBA history.

Against the Orlando Magic, Curry managed to shoot a three-pointer in his 128th consecutive match, a new NBA record. I was stayed up late to watch that game live on TV and witness history.

Social media rarely paints a vivid enough picture; I needed to see if the 30-second clips were a true reflection of his game throughout an entire match. I grew more and more confused each time every crazy scoring attempt smoothly entered the hoop. How can he be so accurate, is what I kept asking myself.

Curry dropped an amazing 51 points that night and capped it off with a 44ft shot after some neat handling right on the buzzer. The moment went viral all over social media, and it felt similar to Messi’s moment of genius that saw Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng sprawled in a tangled heap on the floor.

Converted

My only previous interest in basketball was a fleeting one in Philadelphia 76ers legendary point guard Allen Iverson, who himself was a very good three-point shooter.

But this is different. Before Curry’s phenomenal performances, I cared less about the rules of the game. In school I often double dribbled and never understood what I did wrong.

The reigning MVP has more to his game than his superhuman shooting ability. His elegant hand-eye coordination and vision on the court is a sight to behold and many non-basketball fans I know are now also staying up late to watch the genius in action.

Curry has already been named by pundits and other key figures of the sport, past and present as the all-time greatest shooter, the levels of excellence he has reached in the past three seasons have never been seen before and he consistently shocks fans with his talent.

No one-man show

Last season, he led the Warriors to their first-ever NBA championship. Curry and team-mate Klay Thompson are known as the ‘Splash Brothers’ and, along with powerhouse Draymond Green, have become the face of the Warriors franchise.

Some have compared them to the legendary Chicago Bulls trio of Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen and Denis Rodman.

Although the aforementioned trio get all the headlines, the supporting cast at the Warriors is full of players who are skilful and possess their own clutch-worthy moments.

In last year’s finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was none other than Andre Iguadalo who was voted MVP. Shaun Livingstone who’s a league veteran also comes up with moments of magic whilst the stars of the team are on the bench.

Excitement

There’s something about Curry and his fellow Warriors that exudes excellence. Every time I watch them, I feel like they are going to win, and based on current form they could end up beating the Bulls’ 72-10 regular season win-loss record from the 95-96 season. The Warriors are currently 61-6.

Curry has given me the same excitement I felt at six years old when I first managed to do 20 keepie-uppies, the same excitement I felt when I was given my first Arsenal top. He has created a bond with basketball for me that I didn’t imagine I would have with any other sport besides football.

I feel if the Warriors are able to retain their title, Curry will go down as one of the best all-round players the sport has seen. I now not only root for Golden State but actually watch other basketball games too.

This summer I will find the nearest court and definitely be trying out my best impressions of the Warriors point guard – and hopefully not double dribbling.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr Creative Commons

Across The Pondcast 1: The NBA in London

For the first edition of Elephant Sport’s Across The Pondcast, Stephen Kilbey and Chris Monti discuss the state of the NBA games being played in the UK each year, and what the league needs to do to improve upon its investment overseas.

Since 2007 the NBA has been bringing teams to the O2 Arena to play both pre-season and regular season games in front of a portion of the league’s international fanbase. But whether or not much progress has been made in the nine years is up for debate.

Download the first episode of the Across the Pondcast below to find out Elephant Sport’s verdict on the matter, after attending the latest game in the Global Games in London featuring the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic:

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