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Friday, August 13, 2010

The Famous and the Not So Famous on the Road to Springfield

Here are two good stories by two different journalists in two very different parts of the country.  The columns celebrate the 1960 and 1992 US Olympic Teams, both being enshrined at teh Basketball Hall of Fame tonight (7pm ET - NBA TV).


The first is from the Colorado Springs Gazette, the hometown paper fore the United States Olympic Committee and USA Basketball while the second is from The New York Times.  As you might expect, the Gazette addresses the "Not So Famous" as the Times writes on the very "Famous."


Haldorson won 2 gold medals, and today he's heading into the Basketball Hall of Fame
By MATT WILEY
THE GAZETTE

Arguably the greatest men’s Olympic basketball team of all time will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.

No, not the 1992 “Dream Team” that featured Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird – the 1960 squad that featured college stars Walt Bellamy, Jerry Lucas, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, and Colorado Springs resident and two-time gold medalist, Burdette Haldorson.
“I was fortunate enough to play in two Olympics,” Haldorson, 76, said from his Widefield home Saturday. “On the ’56 team with Bill Russell we just basically routed everybody. In ’60 it was a little tougher because the European teams were getting better.”

The ’60 team compiled an 8-0 record at the Rome Games and won by an average of 42.4 points. Similar numbers to the “Dream Team” that won by 43.8 in Barcelona and was also 8-0.

The biggest difference between the teams is that the ’92 team was the first to feature players who were in the NBA.
“I’m kind of sad about it at times but I think that is what had to happen,” Haldorson said of using professionals. “The European teams were playing their pros, so I think that is what we had to do also.”

Haldorson didn’t like seeing Team USA struggle and he is equally adverse to seeing the University of Colorado stuck in mediocrity.

As a senior at CU in 1954-55, the 6-foot-9 first-team All-American led the Buffs to the Final Four. He averaged 23.9 points. CU lost to eventual champion San Francisco, which was led by Russell.

“I think (Jeff) Bzdelik did a very good job while he was there,” Haldorson said of the Buffaloes. “I think he got them turned around. They were really in a funk for a number of years and just couldn’t get anything going. Unfortunately he decided to leave, but I can’t blame him; he went to a good program. They really brought in a good young coach (Tad Boyle). I think they are on the right track.”

Haldorson never played in the NBA, but played AAU ball with a team owned by Phillips Petroleum. After his playing days were over, he began working for Phillips.

“We came down here (to Colorado Springs) in ’72 because I went into the gasoline distributing business,” he said. “Everybody went their separate ways. I’ve seen a few of them over the years.”

This week will mark the first time Haldorson will see some of his former teammates. In total, 17 members of the Haldorson family will be on hand in Springfield, Mass.

“It’s a real honor and I am really looking forward to going back there and seeing some of the guys I haven’t seen since 1960,” he said. “I’ve never been back to the Hall of Fame either. It will be fun.”

Although he hasn’t kept in touch with his ’60 teammates, Haldorson appreciates that the group is being honored together.

“I am going in as a member of a team and I think that is great because basketball is still a team game,” he said. “(The NBA) gets pretty individualized at times, but it is still a team game.”

As for the “Dream Team”, Haldorson wouldn’t say if the 1960 team was better than the 1992 team.

“By ’92, that’s 32 years later, the game had changed an awful lot,” Haldorson said. “Basketball is played today with better athletes and much easier rules. Back when I played you had to dribble the ball. You couldn’t carry it and move it all around. If you took one step you better be passing or getting rid of the ball. Now you can take two or 2½ (steps). It would be kind of fun playing with these rules they play with today.”


Read more: Here



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Stepping Out of Jordan’s Shadow, Pippen to Enter Hall
 

By HARVEY ARATON

On the eve of Scottie Pippen’s induction into basketball’s highest society, Phil Jackson recalled him as “the ultimate team player.” Quite the homage from Jackson, the former Chicago Bulls coach who once watched incredulously as Pippen sat down with 1.8 seconds left in a deadlocked playoff game against the Knicks and refused to get up.

It was 1994 — Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals — and Pippen wanted the ball for the last shot because Michael Jordan, on a baseball sabbatical, was not around to take it. Jackson instead nominated Toni Kukoc, a European legend but an N.B.A. rookie, who made the winning jumper.

“A lot of people thought the 1.8-second ‘denial’ would define Scottie’s career,” Jackson wrote in an e-mail. Instead, Pippen’s entry into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Friday night for his 17-year, six-championship career will be the final answer to those who argued he never, ever, would live down the episode of Sitting Bull.

“It was a learning moment in his life,” Jackson wrote. “He came back as a leader of teams for another decade.”

In the Bulls’ locker room that night, Bill Cartwright, the veteran center, stood up and said, “Scottie, how could you?” In a telephone interview, Cartwright said: “My thing for Pip was that with Michael gone, it was his team, his time to lead. And when things are at their worst, you’ve got to be at your best.”

Pippen apologized, Cartwright said, and played brilliantly as the Bulls evened the series and took a one-point lead into the final seconds of Game 5 in New York. With the jump-shooter Hubert Davis squaring up in the area of the key, the 6-foot-8 Pippen emerged from the lane, extending the long arm of an eight-time all-league defender, who took on the toughest assignments, position be damned.

Davis rushed the shot and missed it, but Pippen grazed his fingertips well after the release. A referee named Hue Hollins awarded Davis free throws that would live in infamy almost everywhere outside New York. The Knicks survived and took the series in seven games, leaving the Air-less Bulls, a surprise 55-victory team that season, crestfallen but certain they were much more than their reputation as a subordinate band of Jordanaires.

“If we had won that game and then the series and gone on to win the title that year, the whole legacy of Michael would have been different,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, the Bulls’ owner, who recently hired Pippen as an organizational ambassador. “But because Michael had left and came back and then we won again, he was given all the credit, and sometimes it was unfair, especially to Scottie.”

As the years passed, Pippen was acknowledged as a valued member of the so-called supporting cast but was, in a larger sense, undervalued as merely the largest moon in orbit of the planet Michael. But to judge Pippen’s legacy against the league’s most lethal weapon and its first corporately supported powerhouse was always beside the point or missing it entirely, said Don Dyer, who coached Pippen at the University of Central Arkansas.

Nobody recruited Pippen when he graduated from high school, Dyer said, not even the junior colleges. “His high school coach had played for me in college,” he said. “He called me and said, ‘I have no idea if he can play at your level, but I’d appreciate it if you gave him a look.’ Scottie’s brother brought him over; he was maybe 6-2, 145 pounds, an athlete but not really what you’d call a basketball player.”

Pippen was the youngest of 12 children and grew up in a two-room house in rural Hamburg, Ark. His father, Preston, a mill worker, was disabled by a stroke and became unable to work when Pippen was a teenager. Dyer got him into school on a Pell grant and put him to work as the team manager until a position on the team opened during the season.

He cleaned lockers, handed out towels. “And now he’s going into the Hall of Fame — and that’s amazing,” said Dyer, who will attend the ceremony in Springfield, Mass., at the invitation of Pippen.

Preps to pros, rarely has an N.B.A. great emerged from such humble beginnings. Far from the clich├ęd Jordan comparisons, there lies the essence of the Scottie Pippen story.

According to Jerry Krause, the former general manager who traded for Pippen in a prearranged draft-day deal with Seattle, it was a sight to behold, watching Jordan punish the rail-thin and raw Pippen in practice.

“One of the smartest things Doug Collins did was match them up,” Krause said, referring to the Bulls’ coach before Jackson. “And I mean Michael just killed Scottie, beat the hell out of him. But it was the best thing that could have happened to Scottie, winding up with Michael in Chicago. He had to get stronger. He had to learn to compete.”

Jordan prepped him for bully opponents like the Pistons and later the Knicks, who focused on Pippen as a player who could be physically and verbally whipped. They were only encouraged to push harder, taunt louder, when he begged off a 1990 conference finals game against the Pistons with a migraine.

“He had that label put on him; he definitely was a target of ours,” said John Starks, the former Knick who introduced himself to Pippen during the conference semifinals in 1992 by clotheslining him, knocking him silly — accidentally, of course, Starks said — on a fast break at Madison Square Garden.

“I think part of it was because he didn’t show his emotions and he’d get that frown on his face,” Starks added. “But to his credit, he stood up. He showed in ’94 he could step up on his own. He’ll always live in Michael’s shadow, but, hey, they were a great Batman and Robin duo.”

Robin fought some battles independent of Batman, feuding with Bulls management over money, dealing with a gun possession charge and conducting messy and litigious business affairs well after his playing days.

Was an involvement in the purchase of a Gulfstream II jet in 2002 that bled Pippen of several million dollars a symbolic statement that he, like Jordan, believed he could fly?

Maybe he couldn’t, not like Jordan, but Jackson said Jordan would now admit that without Pippen he might have been the LeBron James of his day, searching for a championship fit in some other city.

“When Michael came back from the Barcelona Olympics, he came into our coach’s office and said that Scottie was the best player on the team,” Jackson said.

A debatable statement, but suffice to say that Pippen is the most credentialed player of an estimable 2010 Hall of Fame individual class that includes Karl Malone, Dennis and Gus Johnson (no relation) posthumously, the women’s star Cynthia Cooper, and Bob Hurley Sr., a New Jersey high school coaching legend.

Just Pippen’s luck, the Hall will also induct two gold-medal winning Olympic teams from 1960 and 1992, meaning that he will get in twice but that Jordan is also expected back after his own individual induction last year.

No worries. Jordan is also Pippen’s planned presenter. Viewed in its proper context, it could be no other way.




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