Yes, Dennis Rodman.
The NBA bad-boy of the 90′s, tattoos, colored hair, bad style and all has “wormed” his way into quite possibly the strictest country of all: North Korea.
Yes, Dennis Rodman.
The NBA bad-boy of the 90′s, tattoos, colored hair, bad style and all has “wormed” his way into quite possibly the strictest country of all: North Korea.
Mark Titus and I have three things in common.
One, we both write about basketball much better than we play it.
Two, we both rely on sarcasm as the basis for our attempts at humor.
Three, we both are fascinatingly enthralled by “trillions.”
Titus is the author of Don’t Put Me in, Coach, a wonderful inside look at big-time college basketball through the cockeyed view of a benchwarmer. On the inside flap is a review from former Boston Globe columnist Leigh Montville that begins, “If Mark Titus had been able to play basketball the way he can write, he would have joined his Ohio State teammates in the NBA.”
While that may be true, it also would have significantly devalued the book, because there is no way Titus would have had the time, impetus or commitment to make Don’t Put Me In, Coach as enjoyable a read as it is.
During his AAU days and four years at Ohio State, Titus played with no less than seven current NBA players, a list that does not include Greg Oden, whom he affectionately refers to as “possibly the whitest black man to ever live.”
Titus tells the tale of Oden skipping his senior prom because it had, as Oden said, “too many black people” and for blowing off an Ashanti concert to attend a magic show with Titus and his father. He also regales us with the time Oden stalked him with a Nerf dart gun – which he carried almost everywhere he went – and moistened one of the darts with his mouth after it had been on Titus’ scrotum.
This is what Titus does – and does very well – throughout the book. He gives us considerable insight to the personality and character of a teammate through humorous anecdotes and occasionally puts the cherry on top of the cupcake in the form of a wiener joke. This was a chronicle of his college days, mind you.
While many of his teammates were using Ohio State as a mere weigh station until entering the NBA and consumed by playing basketball, Titus was doing just the opposite. His turned his days in Columbus into a personal four-year challenge to see how little he could be a part of the team while remaining a part of the team.
On various occasions, the former team manager and walk-on (a) left practices to play video games under the guise of using the bathroom; (b) left the bench during games to actually use the bathroom; (c) intentionally avoided the ball when inserted in garbage time in his quest for a “trillion”; and actually had the nerve to tell coach Thad Matta that he did not want to enter the final minutes of a blowout.
That moment ultimately became the book’s title and shed some light on Matta, whose sole reaction of bemusement proves that – unlike many of his peers – he has the temperament to coach at the next level.
It is hard to imagine any coach of a perennial powerhouse to dismiss a player’s refusal to enter a game without giving it a second thought. Most would make a mental note to prevent that kid from playing for the rest of the season, in a misguided, heavyhanded attempt to reinforce his authority. Some would even go as far to throw the player off the team, believing the kid should be eternally grateful for any scrap the coach’s almighty program throws him.
This doesn’t even factor in Titus starting a blog entitled Club Trillion that gave readers an inside look at OSU hoops during his junior and senior seasons. Could you imagine a control freak such as Mike Krzyzewski or a scream machine such as Frank Martin allowing that to exist?
But Matta’s understanding of how little things so often have no impact on the big picture makes him a player’s coach – a rarity in the college game. It also makes Titus’ book that much better, because he knows he can tell a story with impunity.
And Titus can write – certainly much better than former OSU teammate and current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Daequan Cook, who received a “big red 0%” on an English paper with this note from the instructor: “It’s obvious that you didn’t read the book and had no understanding of what was expected with this assignment. Your entire paper discusses things that are irrelevant for this assignment and this class.”
So much for the priorities of the student-athlete at The Ohio State University.
Titus has no such problems. His comparative humor – especially relating to pop culture – is outstanding. When he writes, “The key to success against VMI is to have a team full of good ballhandlers in excellent physical condition,” he quickly adds, “Coincidentally, that is also the key to running a successful brothel.”
So is his use of simile, which are countless. He recalled one postgame celebration where Oden disregarded him “like I was a condom and he was Shawn Kemp.”
Titus fully understands humor, which is supposed to have no boundaries and the potential to offend everyone and their grandmothers. He constantly pokes fun at the racial lines of basketball, even spending an entire chapter on delightfully being given permission to use the dreaded N-word by a black teammate. In this era of political correctness, he gives readers fair warning to skip the chapter, which actually is one of the book’s more intellectual sections.
Titus had perhaps the most interesting career of any walk-on benchwarmer in college basketball history. After OSU lost to Florida in the national title game to end Titus’ freshman year, there was an on-campus rally at which students chanted, “One more year!” imploring Oden not to leave for the NBA. In an ensuing interview, Titus assured folks he would be back for his sophomore season.
After his junior season, Titus declared for the NBA draft entirely as a joke, then was urged by the NBA to withdraw his application, exposing the dearth of humor at the executive offices of the Olympic Tower. And after leaving OSU, he had a tryout with the Harlem Globetrotters – giving himself something in common with Wilt Chamberlain – and revealed the administrative side of the lovable hoopsters as disorganized and inconsiderate.
Titus wasn’t much more than an on-campus oddity until doing a podcast with ESPN writer Bill Simmons that drew attention to Club Trillion. He is not the only web scribe consumed by disappearing acts on the court; Basketbawful has been at it for a while, and my Sunday column has a Trillion Watch.
But Titus takes the “trillion” – a boxscore line of any amount of minutes followed by all zeros – to an art form, using an entire chapter to explain how, for lack of a better phrase, to become a trillionaire.
Here’s some of Titus’ tidbits on other current and former NBA players with whom he crossed paths while at OSU:
Greg Oden: The former Blazers center was a generally good guy, although after the title game loss to Florida told a teammate, “It’s only a game. Stop crying like a little bitch.”
Joey Dorsey: Prior to a Memphis-OSU tourney matchup, Dorsey made clear he had no understanding of the David and Goliath fable, likening himself to Goliath and Oden to David. Pretty much what you’d expect from someone who has thrown punches at players, fans and innocent bystanders during his journeyman career.
Joakim Noah: According to Titus, the Bulls center is “the greatest women’s basketball player of all time.”
Kosta Koufos: Recently called “Cous Cous” by TNT’s consistently underprepared Charles Barkley, the big man of the Denver Nuggets spent his lone season in Columbus alienating virtually all of his teammates by being a ballhog who was only concerned with his NBA career.
Evan Turner: Dubbed “The Villain” by Titus, who also described the current Sixers swingman as “insecure, socially feebleminded and possibly bipolar.” Turner often dribbled in front of a locker room mirror wearing nothing but his sneakers. He spent three years at OSU constantly at odds with Titus, who conspired with Matta to make Turner lose his marbles over throwing a bounce pass during a free-throw drill.
I’m among the few folks who find the college game remarkably boring. My scant free time doesn’t allow for much reading. And this is my first book review. But if you are a hoops fan, Don’t Put Me in, Coach is certainly worth the trip.
Now where’s the free Club Tril T-shirts, Mark?
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.
Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill on Wednesday was named one of the recipients of the Hall of Fame’s Human Spirit Award.
The award also is known as “The Mannie Jackson” and is named after the former corporate executive and current owner of the Harlem Globetrotters, a member of the Hall of Fame himself. The award was first given in 2007.
Hill was honored from the pro game. The winner for the amateur ranks was Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun and the winner for the grassroots ranks was Dr. Richard Lapchick.
Hill is the only three-time winner of the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award. He recently received a key to the city of his hometown of Reston, Virginia, with the proceeds from that reception going to the Medical Care for Children Partnership, which provides medical services for needy children.
“We are proud to honor three of the most deserving selections since the award was established,” said Jackson. “Having known all three personally, I admire their sustained work and contributions to both the game of basketball and their communities.”
Previous winners from the NBA ranks are Chauncey Billups (2011), Samuel Dalembert (2010), Bob Lanier (2009), Alonzo Mourning (2009), David Robinson (2008) and inaugural winner Dikembe Mutombo (2007).
It is quite obvious that anyone reading this column is a basketball fan, and likely a serious one. Basketball fans are our people. If you’re looking for analysis of political races, that is not the strength of this web site.
(And, by the way, some people who are sharp with political analysis should steer clear of sports to avoid embarrassing themselves.)
Whether you are a serious or casual basketball fan, there is a must-see program still running on Showtime. If you haven’t seen Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s On the Shoulders of Giants, put it on a to-do list because it is extraordinary.
The documentary was released a year ago, but I didn’t watch it until last week and, well, put it this way: I’ll be watching it several more times.
One of the joys of history is that it spurs you to comparisons, theories and ideas. While watching the history of the Hall of Fame New York Rens – a.k.a the New York Renaissance, Harlem Rens or Renaissance Big Five – I had some diverse thoughts:
1. Was the Boston Celtics’ dynasty as great as we make it out to be?
2. Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z really blew a chance to do something cool.
3. My favorite piece of John Wooden trivia.
Giants opens with a lively discussion between Bill Russell, Jerry West, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, Globetrotters legend Marques Haynes and Abdul-Jabbar. Each is arguing their team is the greatest of all-time – Russell’s Celtics, West’s 1980s Lakers teams, Reinsdorf’s Chicago teams led by Michael Jordan or the Globetrotters, who were a serious barnstorming team before they became theatrical.
Russell was at acutely boisterous and actually, he walked a fine line between a convincing argument and pure Celtics obnoxiousness. He let everyone know that it was his belief he was better than Jordan and Kareem, which is OK but usually you like to let others make that argument for you.
Abdul-Jabbar handled what could have been an uncomfortable situation very well – although we have no way of knowing how many takes that segment took. Ultimately, Abdul-Jabbar’s purpose was to make a case that the Rens were the greatest team of all-time. But rather than presenting those arguments here, I encourage you to watch the show. If you don’t have Showtime, buy the video.
On paper, no team approaches the Rens record. From 1923 to 1949, according to the Official NBA Encyclopedia, they had a record of 2,588-529. They were the first all-black team to win the world championship. They once had an 88-game winning streak. In 1939, their record was 112-7.
A case could be made, of course, that some of the competition wasn’t that great. But isn’t that true of all the great teams?
That leads me to the notion that the Celtics are the greatest NBA dynasty. On paper, again, they are. Eight consecutive championships and 11 in 13 years. No one has approached that.
But it is interesting breaking it down. In eight of those championship seasons, the Celtics had to play only two playoff series. A team now has to win 16 playoff games. Those Celtics had to win only eight.
And please don’t tell me that since there were fewer teams, the competition was better. In 1959, the Celtics beat Syracuse and the Lakers to win the title. During the regular season, Syracuse had a 35-37 record and the Lakers were 33-39.
Let’s just say there weren’t a lot of Reggie Millers or Julius Ervings who had to be overcome.
The Celtics also benefitted from Red Auerbach’s foresight. Auerbach believed in equal opportunity and embraced the black player. At a time when NBA teams were slow to integrate, Auerbach had no problem starting five black players. The result was the Celtics often faced inferior competition.
Boston won its first title in 1957. Before starting their streak of eight consecutive titles, the Celtics lost in 1958 to the St. Louis Hawks. Those Hawks were the last all-white team to win a title.
When you look at the records and add the numbers, there is ample room for argument among those who claim to be the best.
In the Celtics’ 11 championship seasons, they had a playoff record of 97-49 for a winning percentage of .644.
In the Lakers’ five title seasons in the 1980s, they had a playoff record of 66-22 for a winning percentage of .750.
When the Bulls won their six championships, they had a playoff record of 90-26 for a winning percentage of .776.
The Celtics had an amazing run, but let’s break it down even more. They had to win 25 playoff series to win 11 titles. The Bulls had to win 24 to win six championships.
I’m not saying the Celtics weren’t the greatest. Perhaps they were. But it is a lot closer than 11-6 or 11-5.
The Rens movie also reminded me of an e-mail I sent to one of Mr. Prokhorov’s assistants after he bought the Nets. With the franchise moving to Brooklyn in an area being revitalized – a renaissance if you will – I thought adopting the Rens name would be perfect.
Besides getting a cool name with all sorts of logo possibilities, Prokhorov would also be getting the Rens history. Not official, of course. But it would be a way to honor the African-American pioneers of the sport and tributes could be set up throughout the arena. And think of how interesting it would be to have the fusion between the jazz of the Rens era and the rap of the Jay-Z era.
At the time, I suggested New York Rens, but I understand positive provincialism and the Brooklyn Renaissance, Rens for short, would have been great. Chances are the name is copyrighted, so Prokhorov would have had to write a check from his empire of $13 billion to acquire it.
Besides, what’s so romantic about the Brooklyn Nets? You get a history of Julius Erving, Jason Kidd and Exit 16W.
An opportunity lost.
The Rens story is at the very core of what makes basketball great, and what makes those of us who contribute to and reach this site have so much passion for the game. Wooden played professionally for the Indianapolis Kautskys, a barnstorming team that played against the Rens, and Wooden was effusive in his praise for the Rens’ teamwork, passing ability and commitment to playing basketball the correct way.
And what better judge than Wooden, who coached UCLA to 10 NCAA championships.
The trivia, by the way, is that while playing pro ball, Wooden once had a streak of making 138 consecutive free throws, according to the official encyclopedia. That’s 41 more than the NBA record held by Michael Williams.
It seems obvious that Wooden has the most impressive free throw streak, but as Giants shows us again, arguments in sports never end. And that’s great.
Jan Hubbard has written about basketball since 1976 and worked in the NBA league office for eight years in between media stints. Follow him on Twitter at @whyhub.
NEW YORK -- After Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin fouled out of Game 6 against the Indiana Pacers, a a [...]
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Now, after the winter of the Lakers' discontent... a summer that doesn't look like [...]
This summer, when your favorite team's owner or GM tells you a certain player is financially out of how [...]
The sight of Tim Duncan sitting on the bench during deciding moments of the Spurs-Warriors game sent me [...]
As we entered the 2013 playoffs, the Miami Heat were poised to repeat as NBA champions. Or so it would [...]
NEW YORK — Like ants in a nest, the media scurried around the New York Knicks locker room. Some a [...]
MIAMI – I’m through doubting Dwyane Wade. I’ve done it a few times over the years for various [...]
There is an alternate universe somewhere in which the Lakers stayed healthy, and people still speak of [...]
At long last, the NBA playoff matchups are set in stone, and as always, the Western Conference figures [...]
Between the NBA Combine and the upcoming lottery, this is the time of year where there is a lot of in a [...]
Go ahead and grab a lead in a Euroleague final against Olympiacos. Go on. I dare you. How many a [...]
On a dull Friday night without any playoff games, Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green introduced us a [...]
Warning to the rest of the NBA, especially the Miami Heat: If history can be used as a guide, Derrick a [...]
The conference finals should be set. If not for Indiana's horrid Thursday night performance against the [...]
After falling 106-99 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semis to the Indiana Pacers, the New York has [...]
Hello and welcome to the Evening News. As the playoffs continue, we’ll keep you updated every the [...]
In case you missed it, the NBA released the list of early-entry candidates for the 2013 Draft last have [...]
NEW YORK -- Eleven years after they played in the Jordan Brand Classic at the MCI Center in Washington, [...]
It seems like every couple years or so, there's a dilemma about who to select first overall in the NBA [...]
(Yesterday, Chris Bernucca tried to influence my official NBA ballot with his choices for postseason we [...]
While Sunday played host to Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA, the world of music was [...]
PHILADELPHIA - The hard truth of life in the NBA is that once you’re down, it’s nearly impossible a [...]