It was the 2003 NBA Draft and Carl English had invited his family to a downtown Toronto restaurant. After an amazing career at the University of Hawaii, the sharpshooter was supposed to be a late first-round pick. Everyone was waiting for David Stern to walk up to the podium and announce that an NBA team had selected English. Then, the celebration could begin. That moment never happened. The entire NBA took a pass. Twice. No team picked Carl English in the first or second round.
Two years have passed and he has just finished his season with the Florida Flame of the NBDL. There were no Sunday games on ABC, just long bus rides, half-empty stadiums, and meager paychecks. But things have never been easy for Carl English. When he was five, English lost his parents in a house fire. He went to live with his Uncle Junior and Aunt Betty in tiny Patrick’s Cove, Newfoundland. Basketball became an outlet and English would spend hours shooting on an outdoor hoop that backed onto a remote highway. “There wasn’t much else around,” laughs English. “Basketball has been my way out. My peaceful place and my life revolved around it.”
Nothing could stop basketball practice. Snow would be removed from the court with a shovel; the rain wasn’t an issue either. During the summer, he would ignore the heat and stay out on the road perfecting his moves.
His dedication and talent went mostly unnoticed until 1999. That summer, English toured the United States with a Canadian All-Star team and caught the eye of a few NCAA Division 1 schools. Baylor, Notre Dame, and Hawaii were all impressed by what they saw: a six-foot-five-inch athlete with crazy range on his jump shot. Hawaii won the bidding war and English traded the island community of Patrick’s Cove for the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean.
With his bags packed for Hawaii, English had to overcome another family tragedy. Uncle Junior passed away on a fishing trip. A few months later, English injured his left ankle and was given a medical redshirt for his first year at the University of Hawaii. For once, basketball couldn’t be his outlet. Over the next three years, Carl English put in work and became a college basketball star. Dick Vitale loved the Canadian’s game and his Hawaii Rainmakers got their shine on in the 2001 and 2002 NCAA tournament. ESPN Magazine and USA Today both ran feature stories on English. After his junior year, the kid from rural Newfoundland declared himself eligible for the 2003 NBA Draft. English finished his collegiate career as the University of Hawaii’s seventh all-time leading scorer.
The next few months in Carl English’s basketball life make very little sense. Combo guards who can shoot usually end up being selected somewhere in the first round. Throw in his leadership skills and most thought he could have a solid NBA career. So what went wrong? How did guards like Marcus Banks, Reece Gaines, and Troy Bell get picked in the first round instead of English? How could NBA teams take European and American teenagers over a mature player such as English? Why would the Toronto Raptors pass on a Canadian with the fifty-second pick to take prospect Remon Van de Hare?
The problems started at the Chicago pre-draft workouts. English slipped out of the first round because NBA GMs thought he was too slow to play the “1” spot and too small to line up at off-guard. Without a true position, his accomplishments at Hawaii were quickly forgotten. Banks, Gaines and Bell passed English in the draft rankings and were all selected in the mid-to-late first round. These guards have all collected NBA paychecks to sit on their club’s bench.
Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Dirk Nowitzki have changed the way NBA teams draft players. These three players entered the league as teenagers and quickly became superstars. Teams now had to take high school kids and international players based on their potential over established NCAA stars. In English’s 2003 draft year, five high school players and 15 Europeans were selected. With the exception of first overall pick LeBron James, none of them have made any impact in the NBA.
In June of 2003, the Toronto Raptors had bigger issues than Carl English. They had just missed the playoffs for the first time in three years. The front office was taking heat for giving Michael “Yogi” Stewart millions of dollars and funding the first few years of Hakeem Olajuwon’s retirement. Coach Lenny Wilkens had just been fired. Vince Carter was struggling with injuries. Former Raptors’ GM Glen Grunwald was trying to keep the dinosaurs from going extinct and missed what a talented Canadian could bring to the club.
Two years after the 2003 draft, English can’t explain what happened. However, he insists that it’s behind him.
“I try not to think about it. I mean it was the draft. I thought I was going to go and didn’t. But there’s no use looking back on decisions I’ve made. I’ve got to go forward and try to get into the NBA. I mean, I can’t look back and say things I should have done. What if? What if this? What if that? So, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I did when it happened. I’m over it now.”
The Indiana Pacers had scouted English and invited the guard to their 2003-2004 training camp. At his first pro camp, the kid from tiny Patrick’s Cove showed that he could ball with the best players in the world. Superstar Reggie Miller even took English under his wing. Unfortunately, his NBA dream came down to numbers. The Pacers already had 16 guaranteed contracts and stuck with second-round pick James Jones instead of English.
Last September, Seattle asked English to attend their training camp. The club was loaded with perimeter players and he got cut. However, game can always recognize game and English remembers a conversation he had with Sonics’ star Ray Allen.
“I remember Ray saying this to me before I left there. He said to me that he wasn’t sure what this situation could give me. He also said, no matter what I was good enough to play at this level. No one can take that away. A lot of it is getting in the right situation at the right time.”
That right situation hasn’t come. There have only been rumors. During the 2004 season, the Raptors were apparently looking to sign English but went with Jannero Pargo and veteran Rod Strickland. He’s also been linked to New York, where former Pacers’ coach Isiah Thomas is working as the Knicks’ GM. Frustration has started to set in for English and he recently fired his agent for not returning phone calls.
Right now, there’s no Air Canada Centre or Madison Square Garden for Carl English. Last season, the NBA dream took him through Roanoke, Virginia. Other nights, his Florida Flame played in rural Alabama. Hopefully, an NBA scout or GM will notice the 14 points per game scoring average and 46% shooting from beyond the arc. It may never happen. Then again, things have never been easy for Carl English.
Knicks RJ Barrett: Basketball + Business
Canadian RJ Barrett sits down for a very candid interview with agent Bill Duffy and “The Boardroom” host — former no. 1 overall pick Jay Williams to discuss basketball and his business ambitions and aspirations.
Barrett is expected to be amongst the highest global sponsorship earners of his generation and is represented by agent Duffy — who has done over 3.5 billion dollars in contract negotiations and also represented Canada’s greatest basketball player to date and RJ’s very own Godfather Steve Nash.
Under Duffy’s direction, Barrett is expected to capitalize on the immediate rise of Canadian Basketball and the national corporate entities looking for an immediate association with the rapidly growing sport.
Barrett has already inked deals with financial powerhouse Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and global leader in made to measure apparel company INDOCHINO — Which costumed designed his Draft night suit.
Globally, with Barrett’s ability to speak French, Duffy also sees a market in China but as well as untapped African market. After all, Duffy is somewhat responsible for Yao Ming’s massive success in the Asian-Pacific markets.
When it’s all said and done, Barrett stands a chance at being Canada’s top-earning athlete, both in salary earnings and corporate dollars.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Is The Real MVP
Santa Monica, California was on an award tour like A Tribe Called Quest for the NBA’s end of season grand prize spectacle last night. Hanging out in the coolest performing arts theatre in all of Los Angeles (my apologies to the Hollywood Bowl), the converted airplane Barker Hangar played host to the 2019 NBA Awards. The Emmy’s, Oscar’s and Grammy’s of hoops Tony.
The best of the Basketball best and the cream of the future hops crop descended on this hangar, suited and booted like they were flossing injured court-side.
Shaq sized in the perfect setting in a place that houses feats of brilliance that take flight like Mike, this event could only be hosted by the one and only, Big Aristotle of the Diesel, Shaquille O’Neal (sorry Drake. Although you troll NBA players better than Kevin Hart telling Kenny Smith he’s so ashy if he smiles his lips will bleed as he goes to take a sip of his water). And the most entertaining NBA player ever (give him his award) laughed, joked, sang, rapped and danced his way to an enjoyable evening in the place he racked up three rings on repeat.
But how about the prize giving? Well your real Most Valuable Player this year is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Say what you will about last year’s MVP and this year’s runner up in the closest of recent races as tight as the Rookie of the Year voting, James Harden racking up triple-doubles like Charles Barkley says Lonzo Ball does triple-singles, but it’s the Alphabet’s time now after slaughtering this season gone. Sure he didn’t come away with the ‘chip like worthy candidate Kawhi Leonard and his (we still hope) Toronto Raptors, but that is his next challenge for the Mamba Mentality tweeted in congratulation by Kobe Bryant who predicted this MVP years back. And in a beautiful and emotional speech, Giannis dedicated all this to his dearly departed dad and his brothers and mom in attendance as every eye not dry in the house got out their seats in unanimous ovation.
And in a truly global game flying the flag outside the United States for each category winner, Antetokounmpo almost doubled up, finishing in second place for Defensive Player Of The Year, under the stifling Eiffel of French fly swatter, Rudy Gobert. As Paul George after an incredible season-no lucky shot-came in third place like he did for the MVP voting. Toronto not only got the ‘chip in the Six however as their X-factor Pascal Siakam came up with the Most Improved Player award ahead of Sacramento sophomore De’Aaron Fox and Brooklyn’s own (if they play their free agent cards right), D’Angelo Russell.
Coach of the Year was bucked by Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer dry-erasing for the MVP. And Bradley Beal was passed the Community Assist Award for all the good this All Star has done. Give him a hand for all the ones he has. Whilst the Sportsmanship award went to new Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley Jr., who also racked up the Teammate Of The Year award for his grit n grind time with the Memphis Grizzlies. But who else for the Sixth Man of the Year award then the ‘6 Man’ of all-time, Lou Williams? Joining Clippers teammate Jamal Crawford as the only player to win the Sixth award three times over.
And the House Of Highlights Moment of the Year of course went to Derrick Rose. Can you guess for what game?
We have a ball rattling around the rim forever in Toronto that shoots for even more stars though.
But how about that Rookie of the Year award? Who you got? Because in narrowly beating out Atlanta Hawk Trae Young it’s clear the award belongs to superstar right now Luka Dončić after a Maverick season in Dallas. Where the Texan gunslinger from Slovenia is about to draw on them all next season. Look out for the kid like Pat Garrett, Billy.
Sager Strong, broadcaster Robin Roberts took home that award named in honor after the suited court-side with a microphone presenter. And her “make your mess your message” speech was the most inspiring of the night after her fight against breast cancer and bone marrow disease, raising awareness.
Executive of the Year went to Jon Horst of the Milwaukee Bucks (sorry Rob Pelinka…jokes) but the Lifetime Achievement? Well that went to a former President who has just left office. No not Obama (although POTUS does have game…WAP!). But the Magic man, Earvin Johnson. The Laker legend honored in California for all he’s done since starting the fast-break of Showtime, to changing the game behind the back without taking a single shot. All the way to walking away from it bravely when he was diagnosed with HIV and then making a comeback so beautifully for the man who will always be purple and gold with all this entrepreneur pulls out the empire of his top hat. Say what you will about his presidency residency but as we look to free agency this crazy off-season, remember who started all this off by bringing the King to Hollywood last Summer, waiting outside his house in his car at one in the morning.
Now that can’t be tampered with.
Apart from with this. How about one better? In a courtship of rivals and a year of what could have well just been shared MVP and ROY honours, Magic Johnson shared this award of a lifetime with his former, rival and friend Larry Bird. The college to big league opponent who was a Celtic classic legend from downtown Boston. All the way to the parquet green pride of more smoked Red cigars. Two lifetimes for the price of one. Now who cares whose coming in second place?
Because all in all last nights NBA Awards show of All-Stars showed us one thing like the NBA Finals. No matter who took home the gold, we all came away winners.