By John Y. Brown III, on Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
We’ve all heard some version of the story of a great basketball player who in some big game misses the clutch shot that could have won the game.
After that the player is forever haunted by that “moment” and asked over and over again by fans who recognize him, “Aren’t you the guy who ……?”
Over time the wound dissipates but never quite fully goes away.
My father wasn’t a basketball player (at least after high school). But as a former professional basketball team owner, he has had to live with a similar kind haunting basketball “moment.”
Call it the “Salina Bros Shakedown.” Call it the “Greatest sports negotiation of all time.” Call it the convergence of tenacity and blind, dumb luck. Whatever it was, it now has a final-seeming price tag of $800M.
And it’s $800M that, theoretically, my father—had my father been a different kind of person and a more ruthless kind of negotiator- may have gotten a piece of.
Yesterday I was with my dad when we ran into Joe Arnold who stopped him to do this interview. Joe does a masterful job of explaining succinctly what happened and capturing my father’s unbothered and good-humored attitude about it all.
I believe in negotiating hard and negotiating smart. Always. And my father has taught me that well. But he has also taught me to negotiate honorably with an eye toward your reputation and future business opportunities. At the end of each negotiation you have a “bottom line” business deal and a “bottom line” reflection on your character. And both are of equal importance.
In this particular negotiation there was a fluke in which had my father been focused merely on squeezing every last penny out of this deal at the expense of his reputation, he may have gotten a piece of this improbable windfall. But that would have meant sacrificing who he is and his reputation as a fair dealer with people who had trusted him and were relying on him to close the biggest deal of their lives. The entire ABA/NBA merger was being held up by the Salina brothers final demand for TV rights in perpetuity and they knew they had the NBA and ABA over a barrel and merely had to wait them out until they capitulated. And they did.
Is a person’s reputation worth $100M, $200M or even $400M dollars?
I guess the takeaway for me is that I believe that question is the wrong question. Because one’s reputation should never be for sale. Period.
And as so-called “missed opportunities” go–they should never be the cause for time-consuming and soul-draining bitterness but rather something you laugh off magnanimously and then keep moving ahead, from, lest you miss the next opportunity.
And that’s a pretty good lesson for a son to learn from his pop.
Is any of this just some sort of happy rationalization trying to pretend a missed opportunity wasn’t really wanted anyway? Probably a little. But only a little.
Because, at the end of the day, sometimes a missed shot in a basketball game, literal or figurative, is just that. And nothing more. And leaves behind an interesting story but not something to haunt or define you. After all, it’s just a game.
By John Y. Brown III, on Thu Dec 26, 2013 at 12:00 PM ET
“When greatness meets class, that’s what God created in Dr J” — Magic Johnson
When I was 12 years old I had the great honor of being a ball boy for the 1975 ABA All-Star game in San Antonio, Texas.
It was a heady time for a young boy like me. I idolized these men; these near mythic figures whose moves, style, attitude and basketball statistics filled my young head and heart.
There’s really not much for a ball boy to do. Sweep the floor during timeouts, retrieve errant balls, and mostly just enjoy sitting and watching the game of the league’s greatest players from just a few feet a way. And admire and absorb the sounds, the physicality, the grunts, yells, sweat, trash talk, speed, force and gracefulness… and ultimately the comraderie of an All-Star ABA basketball team.
My “moment” –my time when the pressure was on me as a ball boy occurred late in the game, in fact it was in the 4th quarter.
It was during one of the last timeouts and it was my turn to serve the water. My job was to hand each of the players, most importantly the 5 players who had been playing on the court, a small cup of water in a white cooler cup. I don’t remember how many cups I was given to hand out. I just remember that one of the last ones was the one I handed to Dr J and for my “moment” I was so nervous and excited I spilled nearly the entire cup of water on the left side of the Dr’s All-Star jersey as I tried to hand it to him.
I was embarrassed –mortified for a few moments–but Dr J, as Magic Johnson later noted, was that rare combination of greatness and class. The Dr just chuckled at my gaffe and made light of it by saying, “I don’t want water. When are we going to get champagne?”
He artfully covered for me by pretending he didn’t even want the water and was holding out for something better. I was relieved and laughed awkwardly.
Dr. J did drink what little water was left in his small cooler cup and then got up as the timeout ended and returned to the floor and finished with 21 points and help carry his team to yet another victory. He was –and is–a class act. Even to a clumsy little ball boy who idolized him but couldn’t competently hand him a cup of water during a timeout break.
That was my “moment” –and as I grew older I realized that my “moment” wasn’t a failure about me spilling the water. It was positive moment about me being witness to the gentleman and class act that Dr J was and is–even in the most smallest of his interactions. Julius Erving was the greatest basketball player I ever saw play.
And, in my opinion, one of the greatest all around human beings to ever play professional sports.
Here is a tribute to the Doc that I planned on watching only a few minutes of but 1 hour and 9 minutes later realized I’d watched the entire documentary. And I’m glad I did!
By John Y. Brown III, on Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 12:00 PM ET
The American Basketball Association was in some ways more about what it means to be an American than it was about basketball. It had nothing to do with Associations. That was just an unfortunate name borrowed by copying the NBA’s final initial. But it had everything to do with thinking the unthinkable. And then trying the impossible. Just because we can. And not caring what others said or did.
Thanks to David Vance and my mother for forwarding this video clip to me just now.
Put it this way. This is an HBO special for “dreamers.” Make that “Dreamers” with a capital “D.”
Not for the keepers of the status quo ante….or defenders of the way things have always been done. And certainly not for those threatened by those who dare to ask, “Is there a better way?” –and greet such impudence with sneers and nervous laughter.
It’s not for any of them. (Watch Red Auerbach late in the show try to dismiss the ABA as a curious asterisk in basketball history and failed misadventure propped up briefly due only to the presence of Dr J….As another well-quoted dreamer would say, “The lady doth protest too much.”)
And yet….and yet….
No professional sports experiment I can think of is a greater reflection of the entrepreneurial mind and (more important) entrepreneurial spirit than the creation of the American Basketball Association. It is –was–a uniquely American experiment. If there had been a movie about the ABA it would have been a mirror image of Tucker: The Man and His Dream. But there wasn’t. But there is this archived HBO special.
And because history is written by the victors, in the lofty chambers of those who retell basketball history from on high, the ABA was merely something of a curious asterisk to the NBA.
But for those of us who lived closer to it and had no vested interest in rewriting basketball history and, yes, were ourselves cast under the spell of the ABA dreamers, well….we know better. We not only dreamed but saw and believed and eventually knew. We learned as a matter of course as an ABA fan that the impossible was possible. And even for a few moments could be sublime. And that has never left us.
And although we still have no vested interest in rewriting basketball history, we know that no other basketball innovation changed the game more (and for the better) than did a little dream that germinated in a few small cities like Louisville, KY nearly 50 years ago.
We won’t ever get the respect we deserve. History doesn’t work like that. But we have something even better. The memories of some of the greatest basketball ever played on our planet–and played with creative abandon because, as Bob Costas said, “We had nothing to lose.” And today we can take quiet pride in seeing the stodgy long shadow of tradition of the NBA has been replaced by the sunlight of what we know was someone else’s impossible dream. And we saw it first. And proudly cheered it along.
By Jonathan Miller, on Thu Sep 26, 2013 at 7:00 PM ET
Call me a glutton for Los Pollos Hermanos and the blue crystal, but I believe that Breaking Bad is not only the best television show in the medium’s history — it eaked by The Sopranos in its extraordinary, explosive, Gus “Face Off“ Season 4 finale — but that it is simply the best thing that has ever appeared on any video medium, be it the telly, film, Web streaming or even RPTV.
And I mean it.
So like many of you, I’m counting down the minutes until the Series Finale this Sunday night at 9:00 PM.
The suspense is eating at me like acid in a bathtub. Will Walt live? Will Jesse escape the Neo-Nazis and then call them “bitches”? Will Lydia and Todd consummate their uber-bizarre flirtation? Will Hank rise from the dead? Will “Better Call” Saul open a vaccum cleaning store in Nebraska? Will Walt Jr. legally change his name to Flynn? Will Holly reveal herself as a dwarf imposter? Will Huell EVER LEAVE THAT HOTEL ROOM?
Best yet — will Walt turn himself in, enter witness protection, and start a new family — with a Final Big Reveal: Breaking Bad was merely the prequel to Malcolm in the Middle?
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Let us know what you think in the comments section below — and for those of you who subscribe to The RP’s Kentucky Political Brief (KPB) – be prepared to win big prizes in the KPB’s “Breaking Bad” contest:
The KPB subscriber whose predictions most closely track the actual series finale will win my awesome two lower-level Rupp Arena tickets to the University of Kentucky’s home basketball game against UNC Asheville on Friday, November 8.
Click on the flag to sign up for The RP’s Kentucky Political Brief
1. Only subscribers to The RP’s Kentucky Political Brief (KPB) can enter. If you haven’t subscribed, it’s easy and it’s FREE: Click here, fill out the form, and you will receive a FREE email in your inbox every weekday morning with all of the latest Kentucky political news — on Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Alison Lundergan Grimes, Steve Beshear — every link to every important story in this exciting election season.
2. To win, you must make your entry in the comments section of this post, below.
3. Only one serious entry and one funny entry per person.
4. All entries must be submitted below on this post by 8:30 PM EDT, Sunday, September 29.
5. The winning entry for the UK tickets will be determined solely at the discretion of Jonathan Miller, using his subjective review. Hint: A critical determination in the accuracy of your entry will be in predicting who dies in the episode, and at whose hands they perish. In particular, a detailed description of Walt’s fate will be essential.
Read the rest of… Win 2 UK Basketball Tickets in The RP’s Kentucky Political Brief “Breaking Bad” Contest
By Jonathan Miller, on Sat Jul 6, 2013 at 12:30 PM ET
Before I headed home from a wild week in Las Vegas at the World Series of Poker (read all about it here), I wanted to see what the wise guys think about next year’s NCAA basketball season. Check out the odds for the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball championship:
By John Y. Brown III, on Mon Jun 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM ET
It’s never too early—or too late—for vindication: The ABA.
The old American Basketball Association (ABA), with all its quirkiness. eccentric characters and hilarious stories, was also home to the greatest basketball players and basketball prowess on the planet during the league’s hey day in the mid 1970s.
The NBA nervously sneered at the league that played with a “beach ball.” But as the stuffy NBA tried to marginalize it’s competitor league struggling with ticket sales and fiscal viability, the inevitable was happening. A merger. The nimble, dynamic but financially strapped ABA would merge 4 of its teams into the vaunted NBA in 1976.
Many in the NBA privately believed none of the 4 teams would be around 4 years hence.
What was the result? The first year after the merger almost half the NBA’s leading scorers were former ABA players from the merger. As well as the player who led the league in assists and steals. Nearly half the All-Stars were from the much ridiculed ABA. Even in that year’s championship series between two traditional NBA teams, 5 of the 10 starters were former ABAers.
Most notably, however, was as the old NBA league adopted the playing style of the former upstart ABA league —shorter shot clocks, run-and-gun scorning, high-flying slam dunks a la Dr J, pressing defense, and the ABA signature 3 point shot—something remarkable happened. The NBA which seemed always to be playing in black and white, began playing basketball in technicolor. The league that looked like it learned the game of basketball from an Army training video, integrated the spirit and heart of the game of basketball that was so flamboyantly nurtured in the ABA. Thanks to what the NBA borrowed and learned from the ABA. TV revenue soared and professional basketball in the US became as beloved as pro baseball and football, perhaps ever more so. And pro basketball emulating this playing style exploded on to the international scene.
And how about those 4 teams that merged with the NBA 37 years ago but weren’t expected to make it into the 1980s? All four of them are now staple NBA franchises. And two of them, the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers, could be battling it out for the NBA championship this year!
And our hometown team in Kentucky, the Kentucky Colonels, was the ABA’s all-time winningest team.
Many of us, of course, wish the Colonels had stayed put. I certainly did and wish a better business case could have been made for the Colonels to merge with the NBA. We have debated for years and can continue to debate the merits of that decision, but one thing that is beyond debate anymore is that the American Basketball Association was truly as great as many of us secretly imagined.
And each passing year further vindicates that belief. Even 37 years later!
I’m pulling for the Spurs and the Pacers to have a brilliant NBA championship series, ABA -style!! The way great basketball was played back in the 70′s in our little bush league—the bush league that transformed how the rest of the world plays basketball.
37 years later I believe that vindication for the ABA can’t come too early or last too long. And the world of sports is better for it.
By Jonathan Miller, on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 2:29 PM ET
First the Washington Wizards drafted my all-time favorite Wildcat, John Wall. (See this article I wrote abut him.)
And now, one of Wall’s teammates — Jason Collins — bravely made history today by becoming the first active professional athlete to come out as a gay America.
Bravo Jason! I am confident his courage will literally save the lives of dozens of American teenagers (particularly African-Americans) who live in fear of bullying about their sexuality.
Here’s an excerpt from Collins’ statement, in Sports Illustrated:
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.
My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.
I’ve played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you’re in the league, and I haven’t been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates’ teammates. Or one of your teammates’ teammates’ teammates.
Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.
By John Y. Brown III, on Thu Apr 4, 2013 at 12:00 PM ET
Basketball and bigger things
Our state’s greatest challenge –and why the UL Cards don’t get the same statewide love the Hilltoppers do?
There are 418 cities in Kentucky.
Citizens in 417 of them —when asked where they live–say Kentucky
Citizens from the 418th city–when asked where they live– say Louisville
… One day, it’s my hope, we’ll be one Kentucky. We have a lot more in common than we believe. A lot more.
It requires attitudes to change inside Louisville (no city is an island) and across the state (no state today can afford to marginalize its largest economic engine–or not feel connected to its only remaining team in the NCAA basketball tournament.
From whatever city we hail, each has the same last name. Even my city’s full name, after all, is “Louisville, Kentucky”