The first-ever slam dunk competition was held this week during halftime of the ABA All-Star game at McNichols Arena in Denver. Julius Erving of the New York Nets wowed everybody with his running dunk from the foul line. Dr. J bested Denver’s David Thompson , Artis Gilmore of the Kentucky Colonels, and San Antonio’s George Gervin and Larry Kenon .
As for the game itself (after some pregame entertainment by top-of-the-chart recording artists Glen Campbell and Charlie Rich ), the league eschewed its former format of East vs. West, instead having the first place team at the break taking on a group of ABA All-Stars. The Denver Nuggets, coached by Larry Brown , scored 52 points in the fourth quarter to overtake the All-Star squad by a final score of 144-138. Thompson was named the game’s MVP, scoring 29 points, and Dr. J led the All-Stars with 23 points.
In the NBA All-Star game, Dave Bing was named MVP (16 points, four assists) after leading the East to a 123-109 victory at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Bob McAdoo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led all scorers with 22 points apiece.
Meanwhile, at the winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria, Austria’s own Franz Klammer won the downhill skiing gold medal. Dorothy Hamill took the gold in figure skating, and instantly replaced Schneider from One Day at a Time as America’s sweetheart and ushered in a new era in bad women’s haircuts along the way.And the mighty robotic machine of the U.S.S.R. won the gold medal in hockey.
The highlight of the opening ceremonies was the Olympic torch being lit by Henry Winkler . He didn’t need a flame to light it, though – he just banged it with his elbow, gave a thumbs-up, said “aaayyyy,” and the torch was aflame.
Of course, that all happened in the winter of 1976. I didn’t really watch much of the Olympics or the NBA’s All-Star weekend this week so I randomly went with highlights of the first year I could think of instead. Here are the biggest stories in the world of New York sports this week (yes, 2010):
The Knicks began their post-break slide to oblivion (or the summer of 2010, whichever way you look at it) with back-to-back losses to Chicago. Nate Robinson didn’t play either game because they didn’t want him to infect the team — it was unclear if it was his “flu-like symptoms” or “erratic, turnover-prone-like symptoms” they didn’t want the team infected with.
But at any rate, his Knick career is over, as he was shipped off to Boston. The team also unloaded Darko Milicic (was he even on the Knicks?) to Minnesota (not the Timberwolves, though, just the state of Minnesota).
But the big blockbuster was the three-team trade with Houston and Sacramento. The Knicks get the expiring contract of Tracy McGrady and Sergio Rodriguez , while shedding themselves of Jared Jeffries , Larry Hughes and Jordan Hill (some draft picks were mixed in there as well), which frees up mucho cap space for this summer’s free-agent bounty.
For his next trick, Donnie Walsh will make Wade Redden , Michal Rozsival and Chris Drury disappear.
The Eyes of Texas
David Lee made his All-Star game debut on Sunday night, playing 12 minutes, scoring four points and grabbing two rebounds. A record 108,000 people crowded into the Cowboys’ stadium to watch the East beat the West, 141-139, on a giant TV.
Does that mean the old Dallas Chaparrals (speaking of the ABA) never drew that much at Moody Coliseum? They probably never drew that much total in their whole existence. Nate Robinson won his third consecutive and last Slam Dunk contest — he’s going out on top, claiming he’s retiring from the dunk-fest.
He’s not sure what his next move will be to replace participating in that exhibition; he’s narrowed it down to entering baseball’s Home Run Derby, being a contestant on Project Runway or getting his own reality show up and running, Big Dunks, Little People . And Danilo Gallinari tied for last in the three-point shooting contest.
The Magic Number
Five more wins to go for the Nets, and they can breathe a little easier. That would give them 10 for the year, which would best the all-time worst record, held by the 1972-’73 76ers. The Nets won again this week, which is always big news in itself, beating the Bobcats, 103-94, and they came thisclose to winning on Wednesday against the Heat. The last time the Nets won back-to-back games came in 1972 against the Dallas Chaparrals (let’s keep up the ABA theme, even if I’m just making stuff up now).
Pitchers and Catchers
Sunshine, the smell of freshly cut grass, Oliver Perez not having any idea where his next pitch will end up — it must be time for spring training. Pitchers and catchers reported to Florida this week. For the Mets, their staff is filled with pitchers coming off injuries — Perez, Johan Santana , John Maine , Jon Niese , Fernando Nieve — and a batch of new faces — Ryota Igarashi , Hisanori Takahashi , Jay Marshall , Clint Everts and Kelvim Escobar , who’s already feeling discomfort in his shoulder (come to think of it, I’m already feeling discomfort thinking about the Mets season).
As for the Yankees, they’re bringing back most of the same cast of characters as last season’s staff, with Javier Vazquez being the one big addition. The battle for the number-five slot in the rotation between Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain is the one thing to watch for in Yankee camp. The big loss for the Bombers this spring, though, is Yankee trainer Gene Monahan . He’s taking a leave of absence for medical reasons, due to an undisclosed illness. The legend has been with the Yankees for almost 50 years. Get well soon, Gene.
Don’t Stop Now
The Rangers earned a hard-fought win over Pittsburgh last Friday night. Unfortunately, Michael Del Zotto ’s leg was carved up like a pound of ham being sliced at a deli in a freak incident. Fifty stitches were needed to patch him back up.The team picked up another brawler in Jody Shelley to replace the failed Donald Brashear experiment.
On Valentine’s Day, they whipped Tampa Bay, 5-2, with Henrik Lundqvist leading the way and Erik Christensen chipping in two goals — he must have been trying to impress some girl out there. Of course, the Rangers finally play two excellent games in a row (well, minus a period here or there) and then had to stop for the Olympics.
Ok, let’s Dwight Schrute this next part. Question: Should you ever propose to your girlfriend on a JumboTron at a sporting event? Answer: No — as we saw with some poor schmuck whose marriage proposal on the scoreboard was turned down between periods of the Rangers game on Valentine’s Day (though it may have just been a hoax). Having your girlfriend wrestle your cousin Mose to ensure she comes from hearty stock is ok, though. And proposing on a beet farm is also acceptable.
The Devils exploded for five goals against Nashville on Friday night, including Ilya Kovalchuk ’s first with the team, but then they turned around and let in five themselves the next night, losing to Carolina. All that hard work and winning the first few months of the season has made them tired and sleepy.The break will do them good (well, the players who aren’t competing in the Olympics will get a rest).
The Islanders won 5-4 on Saturday, and, like New Jersey, lost the next day to wrap up the pre-Olympic portion of their schedule. So all three offensively challenged local teams put up a five spot last weekend.