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Vlade Divac, King Of The Hall

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Vlade Divac, King Of The Hall Of Fame
Hall Of Kings...

If you don’t think this year’s Naismith Hall of Fame was full of legends, then you don’t know Basketball?

Sidney Moncrief, Paul Westphal, Jack Sickma, Bobby Jones, Al Attles, Teresa Weatherspoon, Chuck Cooper, Carl Braun and Bill Fitch can all call themselves the class of 2019 when the H.O.F. has a reunion. And they were all lead down the corridors of the Hall by the biggest in the class, Vlade Divac.

Those made to measure orange jackets always come in big and tall plus sizes-its the game-but how about the jacket on Vlade? He was part of the legendary Yugoslavian side that won silver in the Olympics and was friends with the late, great Drazen Petrovic. He won another silver with Serbia when civil war tore apart his country and unfortunately friendship with Drazen. Altough if you watch the heartbreaking ESPN 30 For 30 documentary ‘Once Were Brothers’ you will see that it’s still all love for big Vlade like the theme of his beautiful speech this weekend.

“To me basketball was always about love.”

Younger fans you may remember Divac from being the guy that went up against Shaq and was big enough a body and just as good a passer during the King’s California clashes with the Lakers in their state rivalry that ran deep into the playoffs and game seven’s. Anyone that thought the Lakers three-peat was a cake walk need to think again. The San Antonio Spurs. The Portland Trailblazers. It was no milk run. And the Sacramento Kings were arguably just as competitive and tough to beat than any of those teams…if not more so. And arguably it was as much, if not mostly to do with Vlade as he formed a formidable frontline with Chris Webber. As one of the first Euro players to change the game before Dirk or Pau was flanked by Sacramento Kings foreign shooters like Peja and Hedo and whichever Bibby or J-Will Point Guard they were riding with at the time before Bobby Jackson came off the pine. And if it wasn’t for what Vlade called a “lucky shot” from Big Shot Robert Horry then the Kings could have gone all the way to the crown.

But did you forget that not only was Vlade Divac one of the Lakers biggest rivals, he was also one of their biggest players? You better check a newspaper or something. Divac not only began his career being drafted by the Lakers (the reason why Laker legend and executive decision maker Jerry West sat next to him to be the official one like the logo he is to welcome him into the Hall), he also ended his career with the Lakers playing alongside the guy he was traded for in another poetic move to his career like one of his precision perfect, pitched passes. Vlade Divac wasn’t just one of the best international players of all-time, but one of the greatest players in this worldwide game, NBA or internationally regardless. Also this young big played perfectly with Magic and backed up the sky hooks of Kareem before taking over cap’s mantle himself as Showtime faded, but still showed out during his time. All to become not only one of the most famous faces of Laker history, but one of their legacy making best big men in a legendary lineage. His name belongs right there with Mikan, Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, Pau, Anthony Davis and whatever Dwight Howard decides to do with his redemption reunion.

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Besides this number 21 like fellow big peer of that time legends Garnett and Duncan played six years with the King’s, but eight years with the Lakers. His first stint coming before being traded to the Charlotte Hornets for the draft rights of some high school kid.

Some kid called Kobe.

So remember Lakers fans…without Vlade, there’s no Kobe.

And the King of Sacramento right now does seem more cowbell than Hollywood. As the General Manager out in Sacramento has built quite the team of young King’s of the future. Kids like DeAaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III. So his Basketball legend continues off the court too. As this Serbian global ambassador who made his name in the state of California remains one of the most underrated and unique greats the game has ever seen.

The 6 foot 10, 26th pick in the 1989 draft had quite the career and he did it all for the love. So it’s only fitting like his speech that we let him and love have the last word, “I believe the love gives you the freedom and power to share your best self and to inspire others. Love liberates you and gives you the power to make the impossible possible. Just like in life, when you play basketball, you have to give in order to receive.”

Amen.

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Shaun Livingston Lived For His Career

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Shaun Livingston Lived For His Career
The Greatest Comeback Ever Told...

“I wasn’t supposed to be here”.

Shaun Livingston wasn’t even supposed to be still playing.

But boy did he.

He almost lost his leg.

But man he didn’t.

When Shaun Livingston entered the league as the fourth pick and a wide eyed kid with youthful exuberance above the rim in Hollywood. Him and the youngest Roc L.A. Familia (remember the classic SLAM cover?) crew of Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Darius Miles, Corey Maggette and Keyon Dooling even took some of the bright lights of downtown L.A. from Shaq and Kobe of all dynamic duos from the basements of STAPLES. Arguably the most exciting Clippers team this side of Buffalo…yeah I said it Blake, Jordan and CP3…you too Kawhi and PG-13. It was an Iverson age of cornrows and tattoos. It was the generations hood to the storied Lake Show’s Hollywood history.

But then with a death of a dynasty a bunch of young Roc’s with the rock ended up all over the place too like State Property. The future of these young guns looked bleak like Memphis. Miles went to LeBron’s Land before the King. Elton ended up setting up his Brand in Philly. Whilst Odom went cross-court and stadium with the Lakers after a brief stint of talent in Miami when he was traded back to the bright lights and Kardashian city for Shaq.

But what happened to Shaun Livingston was so much worse.

With Charlotte as a Bobcat Shaun suffered a gruesome injury so bad it almost made Gordon Hayward’s opening night one look like a sprain…almost. Lets not front for the funny that injury was so bad and his comeback story so good too ’till this playing day.

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But no comeback story in this league is greater than Livingston’s, living for his career.

He almost lost his leg. Instead doctors saved it and then through the hardest of work and the most powerful perseverance Shaun saved his career…and then made it even better. And he could even still catch a few above the rim.

Number 34 ended up back in California with the Golden State Warriors via a comeback in the B.K. with the Brooklyn Nets. Out in The City of Oak Town he ended up winning three championships and going to two more finals before calling it a career yesterday and feeling “sad, fortunate and grateful” in his retirement. He was microwave more than just a super sub alongside legendary Sixth Man Finals MVP Andre Igudola (also gone this off-season with some guy name Kevin). He was an integral player to the dynasty influence that showed the Dubs were more than just the Splash Brothers of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson or Draymond and Durant. His jersey belongs up there in the new state of the art arena in San Francisco across the Golden Gate although his legend and legacy will always tram remain in the Golden State of Oakland, as the Warriors look to maybe Six Man legend Jamal Crawford to replace in joining big signing D’Angelo Russell in backing up the backcourt.

Now that’s what I call a true Warrior King.

Don’t call it a comeback unless it’s like this.

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Charles Barkley’s Round Bronze Of Rebound

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Charles Barkley's Round Bronze Of Rebound
Legends Walk Of Fame...

“I don’t think I’ve ever been that skinny!”

Trust Chuck to have the best soundbite of the night.

But after all it was his day.

Yesterday the Philadelphia 76ers unveiled a statue of Sir Charles Barkley outside their Camden practice facility. Joining the bronze likes of his legendary teammates at the time Dr. J, Julius Erving and the late great Moses Malone for one of the most storied teams in NBA history from The Answer to The Process.

“There is not a lot I can say this is just a humbling experience but it really means a great deal because I think people know what the 76ers mean to the NBA,” Barkley said of the honour to those in attendance.

Your move Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns.

But after running a power statue on Chuck to join the Legends Walk of Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, Mo Cheeks et al at the Training Complex in Camden, New Jersey there are still spots left for the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as Bark also remarked that he believes the new Sixers with Tobias Harris and this Summer’s free agent Al Horford will win the NBA Championship next year.

Isn’t he a TNT analyst?

You can forgive him it was an emotional day.

But stranger things have happened this Summer, Philly didn’t run out of bronze for the Round Mound of Rebound and one of the greatest players, especially Power Forwards the game has ever seen is finally getting his due in-between joking around with Shaq, Kenny Smith and E.J.

“You come here as a 21-year-old kid and now 40 years later – it has been pretty amazing – and it all started here so I just want to thank the 76ers Organization and the city of Philadelphia,” the great added. As Philadelphia Sixers head coach Brett Brown agreed, “We are privileged to have you a part of our past. You are referenced often.”

We all have our favourite stories about one of Basketball’s beloved, Top 50 players of all-time who averaged 23.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.7 steals during his time in Pennsylvania. And here’s mine…I don’t even think he was playing with Philly at the times but who cares? I tell this to people often-even non Bball fans-when they need some inspiration and I reach to my grab bag of top three stories that make me smile when I’m down. The other is an exchange between Wilt Chamberlain and playground legend Earl Manigault that Don Cheadle and Kevin Garnett as the Stilt recaptured at the Rucker for the G.O.A.T. movie (look it up), and the third being the time U2’s Bono made that “everytime I clap my hands someone dies” gaff.

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Anyway if you’re sitting comfortably I’ll begin…

Back in the golden era 90’s day there was a Nike commercial in a barbershop featuring then Golden State Warriors Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell boasting about one of them dunking on Barkley (I think it was Spree…see how good I am at telling this story Philadelphia?). I don’t even think I saw a Basketball in the whole commercial…let alone so much of a sneaker. But anyway the next time Chuck came up against those two in Oakland be hit like 50 odd points or something completely dominating the duo and game. With C-Webb and Sprewell down and out, draped in towels on the bench, Barkley after being a silent assassin all game and saying nothing in reply, backpedaled back downcourt after his last shot, finally looked at the distraught two and said…

“Put that in a f###### commercial!”

BOOM!

I hope the Dubs athletic trainer had some Aloe Vera.

I like this Charles Barkley quote too from back in the ’92 Dream Team Olympics heyday were he defined the fun that what his life and career by saying, “we’re here for a good time. Not for a long time!”

Well now in bronze he’s going to be here forever.

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