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Vlade Divac & Peja Stojakovic: A pair of Kings

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Vlade Divac & Peja Stojakovic: A Pair Of Kings

A Great Deal.

All around the world, this game is global. Just take this last October gone for example. In the NBA’s exhibition across Europe and the rest of the world to preview their season with some preseason games, they travel everywhere from London to the towers and bridges of many other popular cities. Last year however as Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder faced down the Dr. J/A.I. legendary, storied Philadelphia 76ers franchise in the North West of England, the city of Manchester-famous for their Giants named team and their NBA export John Amaechi-saw it’s first National Basketball Association game with an oasis of talent. More than a year after the male and female Team USA practiced for the 2012 London Olympics against Teaam G.B. in an epic double-header and precursor to the big stage, Manchester showed it had the court vision to host a real game. Now there are even rumours that a state-of-the-art stadium is being built in this city for even more excitement than the Manchester Arena, that was once voted best in the world, higher than the mecca of Madison Square Garden. For Manchester’s first game the legendary likes of Amaechi and the finger-wagging of Dikembe Mutombo where on hand, as where a pair of Kings for this great deal. The Arco Arena of Sacramento’s finest cow-bell ringers Vlade Divac and Predrag Stojaković where there for more. Suited and booted like European actors with their huge heights giving away their true profession. Divac looking like a Jean Reno villain. The same villain he flopped his way to in the league, whilst having the strong, standstill to be a hero in Sacto. The same villain to the Los Angeles Lakers from the King dethroning playoff day attempts in the game of thrones days to the two times he made a great Laker addition but one in the wake of both ends in the death of the big Magic and Shaq dynasty respectively. Next to him slicked back and bearded up to look like a Hollywood star or model that could take your girlfriends gaze (trust me I know), Peja has the same good look that made him such a great one from behind the arc. The same great look that made him as pure a three-point shooter as the Bird’s, Miller’s and Allen’s that shot before him and the Curry’s that heated up after.

In the best West days of the new millennium that saw Shaquille O’Neal or Tim Duncan dominate everyone from the four corners of the league and America, the Sacramento Kings where closer to the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs dynasties than even the great pretenders like the Portland Trail Blazers. How these Kings didn’t actually take the throne like LeBron James is beyond the reason, referees and the Basketball God’s…and this is a Laker fan saying this. Still, it wasn’t a lucky Robert Horry shot that killed the Kings, because luck had nothing to do with it. It was the epic, enormous era of Shaq and Duncan, who where even so-good and close they where co-MVP’s one time. Their battles where so legendary and somewhat underrated they deserved their own NBA Finals moment like Wilt and Russell or Bird and Magic. Still, the new blue-collar Celtics in the Spurs and their Laker rivals would always play for Larry in the Western Conference Finals, because whoever won that contest may as well have been crowned NBA champions there and then in those Finals, because they eventually where. Only Detroit’s dynasty destroying Piston team took a chip in this Lake Show/Spurs clicking championship campaign of time. Still, Sacramento could have got one and they almost did. They where just that great. With a fab-five and a scorching, scoring ‘Sixth Man Of The Year’ in Bobby Jackson they where led by the post, Power Forward revolution of Chris Webber and the clutch of Mike Bibby’s game-winning buckets to offset the dogged defence of another former Laker/King Doug Christie. Still, throughout the deep roster that shouted out ‘Sacramento’ like 2Pac asking “where you at” on ‘California Love’, it was the pair of “foreign shooters” that punchline king Lloyd Banks referred to on G-Unit’s ‘Follow Me Gangster’, off the ‘Cradle 2 The Grave’ soundtrack that where truly something else. They almost won it all but they where too busy battling for California with the Lakers like the Clippers of today. It got too hot in that state and it was clear to see through the smog of STAPLES success that only one band of brothers would make it out there alive.

Vlade Divac began and ended his NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers and no matter what you say about him being a true King you can put him in the George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal list of legenday giant great centres who have held post on Lakerland…even with Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard for better or worse. Divac also belongs to the magnificent six, elite company of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett and Hakeem Olajuwon in players to post significant statistics of 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots. If you don’t think that’s big than how could you possibly scale taller? One of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors and member of both the FIBA and World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame deserves his Naismith moment too. After time with Sloga and Partizan, Vlade took his grizzled beard and game to the final curtain of showtime with the Lakers. With Kareem taking to the rocking chair and Magic retiring after that announcement there was only a small amount of Worthy talent left on the aging Lakers. Still, the young Vlade was definitely one of them, pivoting through all the critical mess to both his own team and his status as one of the first, new breed of foreign imports to a great post presence that scored over those who wrote him off. Mentored by ‘Cap and Earv before they took their final bow, Divac learnt from the best and showed the rest. Even though at first he spoke no English, his game or charm winning personality was not lost in translation. More than making flopping famous, some consider Vlade’s best move for the Lakers being when they traded him for this young high-school kid named Kobe Bryant who would team up with some other big fella for history and drama that Divac would be more than a courtside witness too. He saw it all out there on the floor after he left the Charlotte Hornets for the Sacramento Kings before he returned to the Lakers after all those years to team up with the man he was traded for as a valuable veteran on a rebuilding but real Laker team. He was back but back problems troubled him and backed down his career.

While Divac was getting used to America’s phrasebook and the NBA’s playbook, Peja Stojaković was showing Crvena Zvezda of FR Yugoslavia and PAOK of Greece that this Serbian had skills enough to gain Greek citizenship and the ball every time down the floor. No wonder the Sacramento Kings gave the draft crown to this gunner who would eventually shoot down the competition to be the sixth all time league leader in three-point field goals to go along with two All-Star ‘Three-Point Shootout’ contest wins just for fun. As well as the Kings, Stojaković took his legendary three-balls to the Fieldhouses of Indiana that Reggie Miller made clutch famous, before he kept up pace with a career high 42 points in New Orleans, stinging people from downtown as a Hornet. Still, his own back problems took him to the injury table and Canada for the Toronto Raptors, but this man who at 36 could probably still play-and at least definitely shoot-today was far from extinct. Showing Dallas in his last shot like J.R. that he was a true Maverick, whilst showing the great Dirk Nowitzki that there was more than one pure shooter in this town ready to take him from three like the epic battles of the Texas triangle with the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets. Through the pain in the neck injuries that would prematurely end his career the playoff power player showed those old 20 point games his hot-hand was accustomed to feeling in his last preseason with the Mavs. A hand that was so scorching it helped seal the deal with O’Brien as the Dallas Mavericks went on to be NBA champions, giving Dirk and also Peja the ring on their fingers they so richly deserved in all its glitter and gold. Still throughout all the Euro-ball and National Basketball Association teams that Stojaković called home nothing quite defined his time off the pine then his tennure with the Kings just like his international partner Vlade. Even though the two won together in Yugoslavia, doing something Vlade wished he could unite with, alongside his friend, the late, great Dražen Petrović. The two stars who brought countries together showed one that Basketball didn’t just belong to one country or league during their time in the NBA.

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Whilst Webber took ‘best in the league’ consideration and Mike Bibby inked more made shots then he made tattoo appointments, Rick Adelman’s Kings where worthy of the throne all the way down to the award of Bobby Jackson and all the peasant playoff dirty work Doug Christie did in the trenches and moats around the castle walls of Larry O’Briens NBA Finals home. Still Vlade held it down in the middle like an impaler, showing and proving that he was more than a flopper or punching bag for Shaquille O’Neal. He didn’t just stand like a sand-bag in the centre. Instead he soaked up the offence of the greatest post-talents from David Robinson to Arvydas Sabonis. That’s what happens when you take years of punishment off 90’s golden era players like the Georgetwon Hoya’s, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo along with Hakeem Olaujawon and the aformentioned for your on the job training, once the captian hangs up his goggles and helping hand and court vision like Magic. Still, Vlade was a 20 and 10 threat himself and not only one of the best big-men in league history but greatest players too. Robery Horry should even check a paper or something. His six seasons where more significant than the prime time of his six-player points, rebounds, assists and blocks historical milestone company. Especially with his six-shooter beside him as his fellow countrymen Peja Stojaković helped make this Sacramento team anything but queens as this would-be Kings and best team in the league during their controversial period should have been crowned as such. Peja’s purity from behind the arc wasn’t his only scoring prowess, as this 20 point threat himself and bearded brother could shave down the middle and showed the grit and grind, behind the foreign flair of these incredibly inspired imports, before that guy named Ginobili stood alongside the tear-drop, Eva Longoria scooping of Tony Parker and had everyone screaming ‘MANU’ like Charles Barkley with the San Antonio Spurs. It may have all clicked for the Alamo but the Arco was still legendary thanks to their own European influence from two men who not only helped, showed and proved to their town and league, but the whole world that this game was truly global thanks to their definition. Sure in Sacramento they may have not been winners but what they’ve done for Yugoslavia and the world when it comes to beyond the floor and court shows they are still true champions. This will always make them, forever kings.

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NBA

In Loving Memory Of Kobe And GiGi

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in loving memory of kobe and gigi

Numb.

I can barely find the words.

I couldn’t even move this morning. 5AM in Japan, phone constant with concern.

I shouldn’t be writing this.

But it’s all I know. All I can do to pay tribute to this man and his daughter like street artists throughout L.A. taking spray paint to concrete canvas in mural memorial as we speak. Or like Cuban, numbers 8 and 24 being retired throughout the NBA like a Jackie Robinson 42. Or those pair of digits up in the rafters of STAPLES with the rest of the banners raised by the man who was about to walk into the Hall like the ‘Dear Basketball’ he walked away from with an Oscar in his left hand. Right palm holding the shoulder of his daughter he raised, who was carrying his legendary load.

All until this truly tragic day.

It doesn’t feel real. Like waking up from a nightmare or some sick hoax.

Anything but this.

We all know the news now. The helicopter crash that took not only the life of Kobe Bryant, but his daughter Gianna too and Orange County baseball coach John Altobelli and his family and the poor pilot. We remember them all. We send real thoughts and real prayers to them and their loved ones.

The statistics couldn’t measure up to the man. But they say a great deal. The five-time champ. The Olympic Gold medalist in this year of Tokyo, 2020. The multiple All-Star, MVP and scoring champ, fourth all-time. There are some numbers that don’t need an introduction.

81.

24.

8.

The one.

The G.O.A.T. The best ever that we still couldn’t believe couldn’t be back one season like M.J. for one more game. The gifted storyteller penning the wind of his second career to a whole new Academy of glory after rewriting NBA history again and again. All until the cruel and callous fickle hands of fate. Now we can’t believe we can’t ever see him courtside again with GiGi. Breaking the game down to the real love of his life like Vanessa and the rest of his four daughters we are sending all our love to in this devastating morning of heartbreak.

It hurts to write this. But we have to. After the mourning, we have to remember the good times. We have to tell the story of the man and the Mamba Mentality. The man who tore his shoulder and shot through it like a torn jersey. The man who played through a dislocated finger popped back into place like his same shot fading away but never in our memories. The man who tore his achillies, pushed it back in, hit a couple of free throws and walked off the court like the strongest who survived it all. A Mamba a Matt Barnes Spalding to the face fake couldn’t phase. Unmoved. Untouchable. And then he turned him into a teammate and friend like World Peace. This man went to war for the love of the game. Hustle and heart. The Fresh Prince with the ‘fro from Philly who next to the Most Dominant Ever, Shaquille ONeal became a L.A. King like Magic or LeBron. And now they want to make him the logo like Jerry West for the top gun of the wild one and defensive doberman.

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Raise a glass of vino for Vino.

He was our M.J. Our LeBron. Kobe’s game made me want to pick up the pen and put it in words it was so wonderful. He was my first article, so I owe my writing career to him. Without him there is no this. Without him there is no us. No Kevin Durant, Kyle Kuzma, Trae Young. You name them. Your favourite players, favourite player.

YOUR favourite player.

This hurts to much to type. My hand is shaking as I write these lines. I can’t go on. But his memory will in the joy former teammate and alley-oop pitch passer Brian Shaw through raw tears told you to focus on. Just as teams in tribute drilled out 8 half-court and 24 shot clock violations in standing ovation chants. As his Mecca of Madison Square Garden turned purple and gold like many arenas and cities bathed in tribute tonight. Just like Gianna Bryant would have continued his legacy as we know she would of been as an WNBA legend until this heartbreaking day.

Two incredible basketball players lost their lives today. But it’s not about that. Its bigger than basketball. Two incredible people lost their lives today. God look after and watch over the Bryant family.

There were so many beautiful tributes today for Kobe Bryant, but also so many poor practices in reporting. Like TMZ breaking the news before it was confirmed and the family found out. Or the BBC using footage of LeBron instead of Kobe. Forget the distasteful need to be first and do better.

I shouldn’t be writing this. Today is not the day for it. But there’s nothing else I can do. It’s all I’ve got. I’m so sorry.

Dear Kobe and GiGi. Playing in the hoop heavens together.

Forever.

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CEBL

Ottawa BlackJacks select Osvaldo Jeanty as first-ever Head Coach

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ottawa blackjacks select osvaldo jeanty as first ever head coach
Ottawa BlackJacks introduce Head Coach Osvaldo Jeanty

The pieces of the puzzle are coming together for the Ottawa BlackJacks basketball team.

The start-up Ottawa basketball professional club named former five-time Canadian University champion Osvaldo Jeanty as the franchise first-ever head coach. General Manager Dave Smart made the announcement on Friday morning following a brief search that always included Jeanty’s name at the top of the list.

“Obviously, Osvaldo and I have had a long history together since he was probably 15 or 14, playing club basketball on the Ottawa Guardsmen to his time at Carleton (as player) and then he was my assistant coach at Carleton”, discussed Smart during the press conference.

“Os and I have worked together from a coach, assistant coach perspective, so I know what he’s about in terms of what his exceptions are, and we’re very much inline in terms of what our expectations are, and he knows how I operate and is comfortable working with me. So I think it’s an obvious fit, it’s and easy fit and we are really excited to start working together and put a team on the floor”, further elaborated the former Carleton Ravens on his selection process.

ottawa blackjacks hire osvaldo jeanty as first ever head coach
Ottawa BlackJacks hire Osvaldo Jeanty as first-ever Head Coach

“It’s the first time he’s called me Osvaldo so many times since I was 15, I’m not really used to it.” a smiling Jeanty opened-up about his longtime head coach and mentor during his introductory speech.

Jeanty + Smart winning combination since the late 1990’s

The duo go back to late 1990’s with Jeanty playing for Smart at the Midget and Ontario Basketball U-19 Provincial teams. Under Smart’s guidance, Jeanty flourished as player helping turn the Carleton Ravens’ basketball program into the powerhouse that it is today.

The Ravens’ won five (2002-2007) straight U Sports men’s basketball championships during their time together as a coach-player combo — with Jeanty earning the Final 8 Jack Donohue championship MVP trophy twice, during his freshman and junior campaigns. A proven winner at all levels, Jeanty turned an outstanding collegiate career into a six year pro career, earning a championship with the Giants Nördlingen of Germany’s ProA league.

Inducted into Carleton Ravens Hall of Fame in 2015 — Jeanty earned an additional two titles as a coaching duo during their three-year (2016-19) stretch.

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Both Jeanty and Smart were featured on the cover of the first-ever Canadian Basketball Magazine on March of 2005.

“I just wanted to say how thankful I am to Dave to Mike (Morreale) to the league for giving me this opportunity, also just for the Ottawa community. I’ve been here since I was six-years old and I appreciate what the community has given to me and the opportunity to be able give back to the community that has been so good to me is something that I’m very thankful for. So thank you and I look forward to really bringing a good product out there for the city, for the team and really representing the league the right way.”

osvaldo jeanty carleton ravens win first ever u sports mens basketball championship in 2003
Mike Smart, Jafeth Maseruka, Josh Porier, Osvaldo Jeanty, Rob Smart and Carleton Ravens win first-ever CIS/U Sports Men’s Basketball Championship In 2003

As for the type of style and brand of the basketball the BlackJacks expect to play — Jeanty offered a glimpse of the same championship formula that has led to many successful moments between the now general manager and head coach tandem.

“He’s put into my head since I was 15, in terms of the keys to winning championships and I tend to follow the same of idea. You defend, you rebound, you don’t turnover the ball over — but at the same time you have 24 seconds on the shot clock so you want to play as fast a possible while not turning over the basketball.”

The attention now turns to rounding out the remaining coaching staff positions and the complex process of putting together a championship calibre team — that will undoubtedly have it’s sights on establishing an early grip on the proudly Canadian made Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) championship trophy.

With the addition of Jeanty to the head coaching ranks the CEBL now features two former Carleton Ravens’ players turned bench bosses. Niagara River Lions head coach Victor Raso also won two national championships as a member of the Ravens.

Coincidentally, Jeanty’s head coaching debut will be against Raso as the Ottawa BlackJacks will kick-off the inaugural 2020 season on the road on May 7th against the Niagara River Lions. The BlackJacks home opener is scheduled for May 14th against the Hamilton Honey Badgers.

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