Archive for June, 2011

10 Best NBA Draft Bargains of All Time

Jun 23rd, 2011

Now that the NBA draft has concluded, the so-called experts will spend the next few days speculating about the possible busts and bargains, wrongly predicting who’ll be the next Adam Morrison or Carlos Boozer. The reality is that nobody will truly be able to evaluate this year’s draft until years down the road, when the players have actually had a chance to fail or succeed. For the sake of being positive, we’ve decided to review the best bargains in draft history — the players who slid down the draft board while other players with, as it turned out, inferior talent and weaker hearts, captured the fancy of general managers. Each of these guys made All-Star appearances, some were inducted into the Hall of Fame, some were key contributors to championship squads, and none were drafted higher than the 23rd pick.

  1. Cliff Hagan — 1953, Round 3, Pick 24

    Many basketball fans remember Hagan for his Kentucky basketball career in which he was part of the first college sports team to receive the death penalty, his part in the Bill Russell trade, and his stint as Kentucky’s athletic director prior to the basketball program’s near-death penalty in 1989. But his greatest accomplishments came when he played for the St. Louis Hawks. Utilizing the classic hook shot, the 6’4 forward was one of the league’s steadiest scorers during the late ’50s and early ’60s. Alongside Hall of Fame teammate Bob Pettit, he helped the team dominate the Western Conference. Resume: six-time NBA All-Star (1958-62, 1968), NBA champion (1958), Hall of Famer (1978).

  2. Alex English — 1976, Round 2, Pick 23

    Few players in NBA history have scored as proficiently as English, an underrated forward during an era in which the league was driven by high profile stars. His Nuggets scored at a legendarily frenetic pace, lighting up JumboTrons (or whatever predated them) from The Great Western Forum to the Boston Garden. Notably, he contributed 47 points in a 186-184 triple-overtime victory over the Pistons in 1983, the highest-scoring game in NBA history. He averaged 25 or more points per game for eight consecutive seasons (1981-1989), missing just four games during that span. Although he never reached the NBA Finals, he led the Nuggets to nine consecutive playoff appearances. English was a model of consistency. Resume: eight-time NBA All-Star, NBA scoring champion (1983).

  3. Dennis Johnson — 1976, Round 2, Pick 29

    It was a heck of a year for second-round picks. How often do players selected that low end up being the best player on a championship team? With his clutch scoring, stingy defense and advanced leadership skills, Johnson led the Sonics to the 1979 title, the year after he went 0-14 in Game 7 of the Finals against the Bullets. That resilience was again evident during the classic battles between his Celtics and the Lakers during the ’80s. He’s best remembered for his series-changing defense on Magic Johnson during the 1984 Finals, his buzzer-beater in Game 4 of the 1985 Finals, and his game-winning layup after Bird’s steal in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. Resume: five-time NBA All-Star (1979-82, 1985), All-NBA First Team (1981), six-time NBA All-Defensive First Team (1979-83, 1987), three-time NBA champion (1979, 1984, 1986), NBA Finals MVP (1979), Hall of Famer (2010).

  4. Maurice Cheeks — 1978, Round 2, Pick 36

    Hailing from small West Texas State University, now West Texas A&M University, Cheeks was understandably under the radar when he entered the 1978 draft. Because he was an unknown commodity, he fell into the grasp of the Sixers in the second round, who made him their starting point guard for the next 11 seasons. When he retired, he was the all-time steals leader (now fifth) and ranked fifth all-time in assists (now 10th). Like Johnson, Cheeks was valued for his defensive and leaderships skills, which were essential during the Sixers’ 1983 championship run. Resume: four-time NBA All-Star (1983, 1986-88), NBA All-Rookie First Team (1976), four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team (1983-1986), NBA champion (1983).

  5. Bill Laimbeer — 1979, Round 3, Pick 79

    Two years after the Cavs stole Laimbeer in the third round, they allowed the Pistons to snag him in a four-player, two-pick trade. During his best years with the Pistons, the only team with a winning record against Jordan’s Bulls, Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers, he was a double-double machine and an intimidating defensive force down low. He was reviled by opposing fans for what many deemed as on-court thuggery, as he constantly committed hard fouls beneath the basket and embellished light contact to induce calls in his favor. Perhaps most unique about Laimbeer’s game was his ability to hit the outside shot — he made more than 200 threes during his career. Resume: four-time NBA All-Star (1983-85, 1987), two-time NBA champion (1989, 1990).

  6. Mark Eaton — 1982, Round 4, Pick 72

    Finding an effective big man to serve as a defensive presence down low has always been a challenge for NBA teams, which is they the Pistons were lucky with Laimbeer. In 1982, Jazz coach Frank Layden took a chance on the 7’4 Eaton, a former auto service technician who was discovered by an assistant basketball coach at Cypress Junior College. As a rookie, he set the Jazz’s franchise record in blocked shots, which he would break in each of the next two seasons — his 456 blocks in 1984-85 still stands as the league’s single-season record. During the ’80s, he was generally regarded as the most impactful defensive player in the game. The Jazz had the NBA’s highest defensive rating in four seasons in which he started at center (1984-85, 1986-89). And, despite being so tall, he managed to remain healthy, missing more than three games only once (his final season) during his 11-year career. Resume: NBA All-Star (1989), three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team (1985, 1986, 1989), two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1985, 1989).

  7. Mark Price — 1986, Round 2, Pick 25

    Ten years after 1976, the second round produced two more memorable stars. A two-time All-American at Georgia Tech, Price had thrived against difficult competition in college, but it didn’t prevent general managers from doubting his ability to perform as a competent NBA point guard. In just his second season, however, he proved that he belonged as he became the starting point guard of the Cavs, who received him in an overlooked draft-day trade. Aside from being one of the best at his position during his career, Price forged a reputation as one of the league’s all-time greatest shooters. Price is just one of five players to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line in a single season (Bird, Miller, Nash and Nowitzki are the others). Currently, Price is tied with Steve Nash as the all-time career leader in free throw percentage (.9039). Resume: four-time NBA All-Star, All-NBA First Team (1993), Three-Point Contest champion (1993, 1994).

  8. Dennis Rodman — 1986, Round 2, Pick 27

    Laimbeer’s teammate was also an integral part of those Bad Boys squads, serving as the spark off the bench during most of their run. A ferocious rebounder and relentless hustler, he emerged as perhaps the league’s best defensive player as Chuck Daly steadily increased his minutes. For seven consecutive seasons during the ’90s, three of which came as a member of the Bulls’ second three-peat squad, he led the league in rebounding, twice averaging more than 18 per game. Regardless of his impressive accomplishments, many will remember him for the controversy he provoked on the court, the antics in which he partook off the court, and his general flamboyance (multi-colored hair). Resume: two-time NBA All-Star, seven-time NBA All-Defensive First Team (1989-1993, 1995, 1996), two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1991), five-time NBA champion (1990, 1991), Hall of Famer (2011).

  9. Manu Ginobili — 1999, Round 2, Pick 57

    Picked second to last in the 1999 draft between the faceless Tim Young and Eddie Lucas, Ginobili, then an emerging Euroleague standout, was a low-risk, high-reward investment for the Spurs. In his first season with the team in 2002-03, he became a key member of the playoff rotation en route to his first championship. From that point forward, he assumed a larger as one of the Spurs’ primary scorers, which enabled them to win two more championships. An excellent source of energy with few offensive weaknesses, basketball fans from all over the world (Argentina to the U.S. to Italy) have marveled at Manu’s game. Resume: two-time NBA All-Star (2005, 2011), NBA Sixth Man of the Year (2008), three-time NBA champion (2003, 2005, 2007).

  10. Tony Parker — 2001, Round 1, Pick 28

    The selections of Ginobili and Parker are a testament to the resourcefulness of the Spurs’ scouts and organization as a whole, one of the best in all of sports. As a 19-year-old rookie with two years under his belt in the French basketball league, Parker made an instant impact as the starting point guard on the 58-win team. As he evolved into one of the league’s best at his position, and Manu did the same, the Spurs featured one of the best backcourts in the league, and the team matured into a dynasty. After the Spurs’ fourth championship, Greg Popovich reflected on Parker’s underwhelming first workout with the team, bluntly saying "I didn’t like him" because he failed to show physical toughness. Fortunately for the Spurs, Pop soon had a change of heart. Resume: three-time NBA All-Star (2006, 2007, 2009), NBA All-Rookie First Team (2002), three-time NBA champion (2003, 2005, 2007), NBA Finals MVP (2007).

Honorable mention: Monta Ellis. Sure, he’s not the most efficient player around, and he benefits from playing in the Warriors’ up-tempo offense, but how many general managers select a player in the second-round (Ellis was the 40th player taken overall in 2005) expecting him to score 25 points on a nightly basis? Once he gains a little more recognition, he’ll be shoe-in for these lists.

11 Conspiracy Theories That Just Won’t Die

Jun 13th, 2011

The most unforgettable moments in history almost always come with a conspiracy theory that provides alternative, and often outlandish, explanations for past events. Although most conspiracy theories are rarely supported by conclusive evidence, they do have the ability to spark our interest and sometimes make us reconsider what we’ve been told. Here are 11 conspiracy theories that just won’t die:

  1. Barack Obama Birth Certificate Conspiracy

    Since the 2008 presidential primaries, a rumor and soon-turned conspiracy theory spread that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the U.S. and should not be eligible to be the President of the United States. These theorists, often called birthers, believe that Obama was either born in Kenya, was a citizen of Indonesia and lost his U.S. citizenship, or his birth certificate was forged. So, they wanted proof of Obama’s place of birth. The White House responded to birthers’ requests by releasing the President’s long-form birth certificate that once again proved his was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Despite the tangible evidence, birthers and conspiracy theorists continue to doubt Obama’s citizenship.

  2. Princess Diana Assassination Conspiracy

    Princess Diana died on Aug. 31, 1997, after the car she was riding in crashed in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris, France. The French investigation of the crash indicated that Diana died from injuries sustained during the accident, but conspiracy theories began to surface with another story. In 1998, Mohamed al-Fayed claimed that Prince Philip and Prince Charles had Diana and his son Dodi killed because they were romantically involved. Fayed’s assassination conspiracy theory also indicated that Diana had previously told him about her fears of being killed and how the two princes wanted her gone. However, the jury ruled that Diana and Dodi were unlawfully killed because of reckless driving by the chauffeur and the paparazzi.

  3. 9/11 Conspiracies

    After the tragic events of 9/11, conspiracy theorists began to scrutinize the details of the falling Twin Towers, the attack on the Pentagon and the United Flight 93 crash. Conspiracy theorists claim that al-Qaeda was not responsible for these attacks, but rather the U.S. government’s fault. The 9/11 conspiracy theories state that the U.S. federal officials carried out the attacks themselves in order to go to war in the Middle East and strengthen the Bush Administration. These calculated theories have been argued back and forth for years, but have gotten us nowhere.

  4. 1969 Moon Landings

    Ever since Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the Moon, conspiracy theorists have been arguing that the lunar landings were all fake. Theorists claim that NASA staged the 1969 Moon landings and the Apollo program was a hoax. They don’t believe Apollo astronauts ever walked on the Moon, and insist that the public was misled to believe this happened by NASA’s use of trick photography and tampered evidence. Theorists also cite that the technology in 1969 was not advanced enough to take a spacecraft all the way to the Moon.

  5. Michael Jackson Death Conspiracy

    After Michael Jackson suddenly died from propofol intoxication in June 2009, conspiracy theories began to circulate the Internet that the King of Pop had staged his own death to get out of his mountain of debt. An unprecedented surge in album sales, memorabilia and success of his film This is It has earned Jackson more than $310 million since his death. Despite countless sighting claims, including a video of a Jackson lookalike exiting the back of an ambulance, the Los Angeles coroner’s office conducted an autopsy and ruled his death a homicide.

  6. The Titanic Sinking Conspiracy

    After the famed Titanic ship sunk in April 1912, conspiracy theories began to swirl around that the unexpected disaster was actually part of one the largest acts of insurance fraud in history. Theorists believe that the Jesuits, a radical Catholic group, were responsible for the sinking of the Titanic. The Jesuits believed in a new world order and, according to conspiracy theorists, the Titanic disaster was the key to achieving a one-world government and establishing a new Federal Reserve Bank by eliminating the chance of opposition. The shipwreck was allegedly orchestrated by a loyal Jesuit member, Captain Edward Smith, who sailed directly into iceberg territory and ignored warnings from other ships.

  7. Hurricane Katrina Conspiracy

    After one of the deadliest hurricanes ripped through the Southeastern United States and hundreds of thousands of people were left stranded without aid in New Orleans, conspiracy theories began to surface that the government purposely ignored the residents to fulfill a bigger plan. Theorists claim that the government ignored New Orleans in order to let as many African-Americans die as possible. Others believe that the levee system did not fail because of its design, but was instead bombed by the government to let the city flood.

  8. John F. Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy

    The assassination of President John F. Kennedy will always carry a great deal of mystery and speculation about what exactly happened in Dallas, TX, on Nov. 22, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with killing Kennedy on his own, but conspiracy theorists refuse to accept this conclusion. Many believe that Oswald did not carry out the assassination on his own, and had the help of a second gunman located on the grassy knoll of Dealey Plaza. Other theorists believe Kennedy was killed by CIA agents, or KGB operatives or possibly mobsters.

  9. AIDS Conspiracy

    The AIDS conspiracy theory that U.S. government scientists created the deadly disease to wipe out African-American communities and control the size of the racial group is backed by a large number of African Americans, but could not be more wrong. According to the theorists, AIDS was produced in a government laboratory or created and spread by the CIA, and a cure for AIDS has been developed but is being withheld from the poor. This ongoing belief has only hurt the prevention efforts and increased the spread of HIV/AIDS among African-Americans.

  10. Indian Ocean Tsunami Conspiracy

    The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami conspiracy theory is centered on the belief that the tsunami was not an act of Mother Nature, but was actually caused by an Indian nuclear experiment conducted by Israeli and American nuclear experts. Many theorists believe that the nuclear experiment was a calculated plot by Israeli and the U.S. government to kill as many Muslims in southeast Asia as possible. This alleged man-made nuclear bomb exploded in the ocean and triggered the 100-foot killer waves and aftershocks that killed more than 220,000 people in 11 different countries.

  11. The 2000 Presidential Election Conspiracy

    The 2000 presidential election conspiracy came about when Republican candidate George W. Bush beat Democratic candidate Al Gore in the presidential election by one of the narrowest margins in history, precisely 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266 votes. Even though Gore won the popular vote, the electoral votes put Bush ahead with Florida as the swing state. The conspiracy centered on the idea that Bush unfairly won the election because his brother, Jeb Bush, was the governor of Florida at the time, and the swing state’s notorious "hanging chads" made for inaccurate readouts. However, an independent study by The Miami Herald and USA Today discovered that Bush would have still won even without the Supreme Court decision.

10 Most Memorable Stanley Cup Finals

Jun 9th, 2011

There’s nothing quite like hockey drama on the game’s grandest stage. The Stanley Cup Finals have provided a multitude of memorable moments throughout history, as the NHL’s hardened, most resilient players have skated into their highest gears in pursuit of the most coveted trophy in sports. The following series offered the best competition and the most drama, and each required every last bit of energy from the competing players. If you love playoff intensity — you don’t need an anatomy degree to know only the strongest survive — and enjoy witnessing the thrill of victory and agony of defeat, then read on for some quality nostalgia.

  1. Montreal over Chicago, 1971

    Hockey’s most dominant franchise displayed its fortitude by overcoming a 0-2 series deficit to defeat the Blackhawks. The impressive play of Frank and Pete Mahovlich, who combined to score nine goals and 15 points, enabled the Canadiens to extend the series, and Henri Richard’s Game 7 heroics, in which he scored the game-tying and game-winning goals, secured Game 7 in hostile Chicago Stadium. It was just the second time ever that a road team won Game 7, an upset that wouldn’t occur again until the 2009 series. The Canadiens would proceed to win five more Stanley Cup titles during the decade.

  2. Philadelphia over Buffalo, 1975

    This matchup was intriguing merely because it was a change of pace, as it was the only series that didn’t involve the Bruins or Canadiens from 1965 to 1979. The Flyers, the defending champs known as the "Broad Street Bullies," faced a stiff challenge from the upstart Sabres, who were rebounding from a subpar 1974 season. After falling behind in the series 0-2, the underdogs responded in Game 3, the famous "Fog Game," in which unusually high temps in Buffalo caused heavy fog in Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. Despite not being able to see the puck at times, the Sabres won 5-4 in overtime on Rene Robert’s goal. The play of the game, however, was executed by Sabres center Jim Lorentz, who, using only his stick, killed a bat that had been continuously fluttering around the arena, a move that was considered by many to be a bad omen. The Sabres went on to lose the Series in six games.

  3. Edmonton over Philadelphia, 1987

    The Oilers and Flyers were hockey’s two goliaths of the late ’80s — in the Oilers’ case, they were the goliath of the ’80s — as each had finished with the league’s best record for three consecutive seasons. Their second meeting since 1985 was a classic 7-game series, with six tough games. The decisive final game featured goals from the Oilers’ usual suspects, Mark Messier and Jari Kurri, and late-game domination that was characteristic of the team’s dynasty. Even though his team lost, Ron Hextall won the Conn Smythe Trophy. His 40-save Game 7 performance alone ensured he was worthy of the award.

  4. Calgary over Montreal, 1989

    Fewer than 10 years after relocating from Atlanta, the Flames were poised to bring the Cup to Calgary. After surviving a first-round 7-game series against the Canucks, they cruised to the Stanley Cup Finals, where the always-formidable Canadiens awaited. A Game 3 double-overtime thriller gave the Canadiens a 2-1 lead, but the Flames won the next three games, including two in the Montreal Forum. With the 4-2 clincher in Game 6, they became the only team to win the Cup on the Canadiens’ home ice. Al MacInnis, the first defenseman to lead the league in playoff scoring, claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy.

  5. Pittsburgh over Minnesota, 1991

    For the first time in franchise history, the Penguins reached the Stanley Cup Finals. On the other end, it was the last time in Minnesota history (for now) that its franchise reached the Finals. Mario Lemieux, the series’ best performer, made it count for the Penguins. Playing in just five of the six games, he scored five goals and 12 points, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy. His most memorable moment occurred in Game 2, when he made a spectacular goal after splitting two defensemen and then faking out goaltender Jon Casey. With his leadership, the Penguins beat the Cinderella North Stars in six games.

  6. NY Rangers over Vancouver, 1994

    It was a summer to remember in New York City. The Rangers and Knicks, for the first time since the ’70s, had reached the championship round in their respective leagues. The Rangers, though, were the team that made the city proud. Their eventful journey included Mark Messier’s Eastern Conference Finals guarantee, a heartbreaking Stanley Cup Finals Game 1 overtime defeat after allowing a last-minute game-tying goal to Martin Gelinas, and their failure to close out the series in Games 5 and 6. The Rangers ended their 54-year Cup drought with a dramatic Game 7 victory before an emotional crowd at Madison Square Garden.

  7. Dallas over Buffalo, 1999

    Eight years after their second-ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance, the Stars would return — but this time representing Dallas — and provide an even more exciting series. Four of the six games between the Stars and Sabres were decided by one goal, including the legendary triple-overtime Game 6. Deadlocked at one goal apiece early in the final overtime, Brett Hull returned a rebound by Dominik Hasek, ending the longest Cup-winning game and longest Finals game in history. Controversy ensued as Sabres fans questioned the legality of the goal because his left skate was in the crease. Soon after, the NHL attempted to clarify the rule, asserting that the goal was in fact good.

  8. Colorado over New Jersey, 2001

    Although a matchup between the Avalanche and Devils was somewhat anticipated given their performances during the regular season, it was a bit unlikely because rarely do the top seeds in each conference survive to reach the Finals. Led by Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk, Adam Foote, Patrick Roy and former long-time Boston Bruin Ray Bourque, the Avalanche roster was equipped with enough firepower to rally from a 2-3 series deficit, most notably winning Game 6 on the road. Roy won the Conn Smythe Trophy, his third, but Bourque was the center of attention as he ended his accomplished 21-season career by finally capturing the Cup.

  9. Tampa Bay over Calgary, 2004

    The Lightning, just twelve years old, were hoping to not only win their first Cup, but claim the first Cup for the Southeast division. Favored to win the series, they fell behind 1-2 after an uneventful first three games that were each decided by three goals. The momentum of the series shifted in Game 4 due to a masterful performance by Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who tallied his fifth shutout of the postseason. The Flames’ Oleg Saprykin won Game 5 with an overtime goal, and Game 6, the potential series-clincher in Calgary, featured a controversial no-goal from the Flames’ Martin Gelinas and a series-saving overtime goal from Martin St. Louis. The Lightning outlasted the Flames in a nerve-racking Game 7.

  10. Pittsburgh over Detroit, 2009

    With a brand new coach who took over the reins during the regular season, the Penguins entered the playoffs with a new attitude. Playing their best hockey, Sidney Crosby and his teammates had the confidence to avenge their previous year’s loss to the Red Wings, and show Marian Hossa that he made the wrong decision in free agency. In a grueling seven games, the Penguins battled from behind — they were down 0-2 and 2-3 — winning Games 6 and 7 by a goal apiece with the excellent goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury. Evgeni Malkin became the first Russian player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, and Crosby became the youngest captain to win the Cup.