I'm going to try to write this mother fucking article one more time.
Firstly, one big happy birthday to Axl Rose, who is the king of kings of heavy metal. Though there is no real reason he is of note to basketball, he did once knock down Stephon Marbury while he was running out of a nightclub after being "spit on by an unidentified club-goer".
Before continuing my ABA article, I'd like to discuss a player that I think will be important during the second half of the NBA season. I'm speaking of course, of Maybynar Hilario, better known as Nene. I like Nene because he is a foul machine. I like Nene because he is probably the strongest guy in the NBA (see picture). I like Nene because he can scrap.
It seems that he's back from his injury troubles, as he's had two poster-worthy dunks in the last couple of weeks. I think that he, Camby and Carmelo make up the best front court in the Western Conference. Furthermore, if he's playing well, he makes Denver and almost-perfect team, at least in terms of personnel. He and Camby will be effective at getting offensive rebounds when Carmelo and Iverson miss shots, and they are both excellent defenders. Nene is tough as nails and so is Eduardo Najera, who will have to see some action when Nene gets five fouls in a quarter, which I fully expect him to do.
(Note: Let the record show that my pick to win it all remains the Houston Rockets, who I had at the onset of the season. I am still confident.)
But let me get back to business. I've written this column twice already and I really am seething to know that it is gone again. I want to give up and go home and cry. But I'm not going to. You see, there was once a much greater man than myself who happened to share my moniker. His name was Jimmy V, and I do not feel that under any circumstances would he ever be proud of me if I gave up. So I won't give up. I won't ever give up.
Please, for the third and final time, let me present to you:
The Unintentional Third Coming of Titans of the ABA
Let me start out with a thriller and a killer, Mr. David Thompson. He saw the highest of the high, but he became the lowest of the low when he decided to try to become the highest of the high [on coke, that is].
David Thompson won a championship at NC State almost by himself. He is the only man to have his jersey retired at what was once an ACC powerhouse. He was drafted number one by both the NBA and the ABA, electing to go the ABA after the Atlanta Hawks insultingly took him to McDonald's to court him.
"It's largely forgotten now, but David Thompson was perhaps the greatest player in the game during his first two seasons, rivaling even Dr. J,before drugs destroyed his career. His first step could beat any player in either league, and his vertical leap was incredible. Although listed at 6'4", Thompson was more like 6'1" or 6'2", making his leaps and dunking all the more incredible." -Remember the ABA.com
A good video of Thompson doing some dunking in the contest where he, in my eyes, looks much better than the winner, Dr. J, is available here.
Thompson was a cokehead through most of his career, but that didn't stop him from scoring 73 points in a game and proving his merits as one of the greatest scorers ever. He scored it against a decent Pistons team (38-44) that was a lot better than that Toronto Raptors team that let themselves be embarrassed like a bunch of schoolgirls [by Kobe, that is].
David's career ended when he fell down the stairs at famed drug'n'fuck club Studio 54. He hurt his knee and was never the same. After his retirement, he hit rock bottom, and ended up in the slammer. Thankfully, Mr. Jesus spoke to him and set him free, set him free, and David now helps young athletes avoid the kind of trouble he got himself into as a young playa. He recently went back to NC State and graduated one semester before his daughter wore the hat. Not bad, Mr. T, not bad at all.
One guy who was bad is Moses Malone. He was the original bad motherfuckin big man. He just got up, played ball, shot some free throws, played more ball, ate a shit load of food, played a ton, lifted weights, put his game on some fine honeys, played a lot of ball, lifted weights, made the rooks do his laundry, played ball, went bald, wore thick glasses, beat up some kid who called him "jesus" and played a shit load of basketball. He kept going like that for more than twenty years.
Moses was the first guy to be drafted out of high school. This is interesting, considering he didn't really have any directly appreciable talent. What he did have was a monstrous body, a good work ethic, and an above-average all-around game. He was so strong, no one could stop his power moves in the post. He led the league in free-throws attempted year after year after year because people couldn't do anything but foul him.
I can't imagine what it was like when Moses was eighteen, mean, and beating on ABA lackeys, all while wearing afro sheen. His high school team won fifty games in a row. He came in as a rookie and had an immediate impact, and didn't stop until he was putting up 30 a game in the NBA. The last shot of his career was an 80-foot buzzer beater, the eighth three-point field goal he had ever made.
A nice little video montage of Moses can be found here.
Ricky Barry is the final titan. He was a pure scorer who could drive to the hoop, shoot from mid-range and deep, and set up his teammates. He might qualify as the Best Non-Birdian Jump Shooter of All Time. (Jerry West may share this honor [the BNBJSAT].
People remember Rick Barry because he hit a crazy half-court shot and because he shot free throws underhanded, which is a shame. Yes, he did once hit 95.4% of his free throws and yes, that shot was huge, but people tend to forget that the man was a lethal scorer of the highest order.
Rick would beat you three ways, just like Jordan. If you could stop him from driving to the hole, he would post up, and he had a fadeaway that was like a layup for him. His set shot was perfect and accurate. When he had a man in his face, he shot a high-jump shot that was technically perfect and just as lethal as his other weapons. (See video here) He lost a finals in 7 games in which he averaged 40.6, and then won a championship with a team of complete bums, sweeping the favorites. When he was a senior in college he put up more than 37 a game.
Barry was also a tenacious competitor. He had a biographer who knew him quite well whose wife remarked "I'd hate to play Scrabble or Hearts with Rick Barry. If you beat him he'd probably overturn the board or shove the cards down your throat."
Rick Barry just happens to be cool as shit on top of it all. He is a politically incorrect announcer who speaks his mind, and a great golfer. When he called the 1987 Slam Dunk Contest, he named one of Michael Jordan's dunks a "Chinese Superman". When asked what he meant, he replied "It's because it had a slant to it."
In 2005, Rick Barry whipped out a golf club, probably an old wooden piece of shit, and finished second in his division at the World Long Drive Championship.
There are a couple of ABA players who were not quite titans but whom I like just the same:
Maurice Lucas was a little stick of a 6'9 forward, but he was a bad motherfucker. He fought anybody who wouldn't respect him, even the biggest man in the league, Artis Gilmore. I'll let George Rorrer, who covered Gilmore's team, tell the story: "I covered the Kentucky Colonels for the Louisville Times and they're as much a part of my happiest days as my family. One memory that stands out: One night at Freedom Hall, Maurice Lucas of the Spirits got under Artis Gilmore's skin. Artis, normally the most gentle of giants, started trying to punch Lucas. Artis had superhuman strength, but he wasn't much of a boxer. His blows were almost slaps. Lucas, one of the league's most feared fighters, backpedaled the length of the court. When he got to the baseline, he planted his feet and hit Artis with a straight right to the jaw. Artis went down in sections. First his knees crumpled, then his waist folded, then his arms flailed and then his trunk and head found the floor."
I gotta love the guy who fights to win. (I should note that Lucas was a valuable contributor to the Spirits of St. Louis, one of the best teams. He was not just a hired boxer.)
"Wondrous" Willie Wise was the best defensive player in ABA history. He was also a talented scorer, and known to be the hardest working man in the league. Julius Erving said of him: "Willie Wise was one of the toughest competitors I ever played against. He came to play every night. I really respected him. Willie was one of those players that the NBA fans never had a chance to see the best he had. That's because Willie was injured a lot when he played in the NBA. That was a shame. Willie Wise had game. A great game."
You might be able to tell Wondrous Willie was a born contrarian from the fact that he was a defensive guy in an offensive league, but it went further than that. Wise was a serious Jehovah's witness, to the point where he refused to wear the star of the Utah Stars on his shorts when he was traded there. Eventually, he became disenchanted with the business aspects of professional basketball and just sort of stopped playing. The man was a worker and had principle. I can respect that.
Finally, there's Billy "The Whopper" Paultz. Billy wasn't real pretty, and he wasn't real talented, but he got the job done. "I didn't believe he could possibly make it" was what Rick Barry had to say about his thoughts on seeing young Billy arrive at camp. Fortunately, The Whopper had learned the game at the toughest of the tough basketball college in America, St. Johns University. (This is primarily why he's included...) He used his pasty white arm-flab to slap defenders away, enabling him space inside, but he was renowned for his top-of-the-key, no-arc bullshit shot that helped open the lane for his teammates. He was the original jump shooting big fat white boy, but he played hard and had a great nickname.
Frankly, Dan Issel was similar to Billy Paultz, played in the ABA, and was better in almost every way. However, he did not attend St. Johns, I don't really like him, and don't feel he should be included. Also excluded notable ABA players include Charlie Scott, George McGinnis, Spencer Haywood, Connie Hawkins, Billy Cunningham, Larry Brown, and Marvin Barnes. There are probably more, too, but I just don't have the time, and doubt anyone does. If these things do pique your interest, though, there is a website entirely devoting to remembering the ABA called, uh, remembering the ABA. To check it out, click here.
That's all I've got for today. I stayed an extra hour and a half after work (which, to be fair, was punctuated by a trip to jail) to write this, so I hope it isn't too messy. As always, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org