Former Whitehaven star Curtis Alexander recalls Super Bowl experience with Broncos

Arguably the easiest way to make the usual soft-spoken Curtis Alexander smile is to ask him about his Super Bowl experience.

“Man, you know what? It was unbelievable, really,” Alexander, a former Memphis Whitehaven High star running back, told MemphiSport Friday morning. “It’s something you dream about. But when it happens, it’s like you don’t even know you’re there.”

RESPECT DA BRONCO --- Former Memphis Whitehaven High star running back Curtis Alexander (right) was a member of the last Denver Broncos team that played in the Super Bowl. The Broncos will play in Sunday's big game against Seattle, ending after his a 15-year absence. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

RESPECT DA BRONCO — Former Memphis Whitehaven High star running back Curtis Alexander (right) was a member of the Denver Broncos team that played in Super Bowl 33. The Broncos will play in Sunday’s big game against Seattle, ending after his a 15-year absence. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

A former University of Alabama standout, Alexander was a member of the Denver Broncos practice squad during the 1998 season. That year, the Broncos advanced to Super Bowl 33, where they defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 34-19, to capture their second consecutive NFL championship.

On Sunday, the Broncos will make their seventh Super Bowl appearance when they square off against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. at 5:25 p.m. CST.

Although Alexander — who still holds the Shelby County high school record for most rushing yards in a season (2,379) — dressed out for the Super Bowl, but did not see any action while appearing on football’s grandest stage, he said nothing overshadowed the splendor and hoopla surrounding arguably the biggest event in all of professional sports.

“Just being around all the great players, like Terrell Davis, John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Bill Romanowski, Steve Atwater…I mean, it was great, man,” Alexander said. “You know, you go to a team and you think a lot of guys are stuck up. But those guys were like a true family. Everybody loved each other. We didn’t have anybody getting in trouble (the week leading to the Super Bowl).”

While watching the Super Bowl unfold from the sideline, Alexander said what he described as mostly intriguing was witnessing Elway, the first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback who was enshrined in August 2004, end his career with consecutive world championships.

Currently the executive vice president of football operations for the Broncos, Elway was named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl 33 after passing for 336 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for another. He announced his retirement three months later after having played 16 seasons in Denver.

“I mean, seeing him and the kind of work he put in was great,” Alexander said of Elway, who went 2-3 in Super Bowls. “You know, Elway studied the game and just being around him on the field said something. He was intelligent. If he saw something on the field, he’d come back and let (former Broncos coach) Mike Shanahan know. And Mike was the same way, an offensive-minded coach.”

Drafted by Denver in the fourth round (122nd overall pick) in 1998, Alexander, 39, played two seasons in the NFL before a rash of injuries reduced his effectiveness, thus resulting in him calling it a career from professional football following a one-year stint with the NFL Europe’s Frankford Galaxy in 2002. Arguably his most memorable highlight as a pro was when he set an NFL Europe single-game record with 279 rushing yards against Barcelona.

PEYTON'S PLACE --- Come Sunday, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, the NFL's Most Valuable Player, will try to avoid falling to 1-3 in Super Bowl appearances when Denver takes on Seattle. (Photo by Doug Pensinger)

PEYTON’S PLACE — Come Sunday, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, will try to avoid falling to 1-3 in Super Bowl appearances when Denver takes on Seattle. (Photo by Doug Pensinger)

Besides Denver, Alexander’s other NFL stint took place when he signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins in February 2000.

Among the reasons he didn’t play in Super Bowl 33 was due in large part to his inability to stay healthy. Weeks into the Broncos’ training camp in 1998, Alexander aggravated his right quadriceps, an injury that never fully healed throughout the season.

“Yeah, it really was,” said Alexander, when asked if there was a sense of disappointment in having not played in his lone Super Bowl appearance. “But when I look back on it, it was all on myself. You know, I’m a picky eater. I didn’t eat vegetable and stuff. All I ate was chicken and fries. You know, those strength coaches said, ‘You need to do this and that.’ But my mind was made up. And a lot of times when you do that, you need to drink a lot of water and Gatorade. But I would drink a lot of drinks and sweet tea. And plus, I wasn’t a flexible guy. I didn’t like stretching. Even though I had to do it, I didn’t like it.”

Still, although he never set foot on the field during the game at Miami’s Pro Player Stadium, he said being a member of a Super Bowl winning team is something he will cherish for the rest of his life.

Not to mention an awe-inspiring experience that brings him to smiles 15 years later.

“I gave some of my souvenirs away, but I’m never going to get rid of (my Super Bowl ring),” Alexander said. “My two boys fight about it, fight about who’s going to get my ring. But little Curtis (14-year-old oldest son) says he’s going to get his own ring.”

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

Amateur footballer survives on-field asthma incident, leads team to Super Bowl win

When it comes to recreational activities, Judah Anderson has tried virtually everything.

SUPER BOWL CHAMP --- Amateur football player Judah Anderson (No. 7) of the East Memphis Vikings overcame a recent on-field asthma attack and ultimately helped lead his team to Super Bowl win weeks later. (Photos by Barry Jones)

SUPER BOWL CHAMP — Amateur football player Judah Anderson of the East Memphis Vikings, pictured with his mother, Tonya Lyons, overcame a recent on-field asthma attack and ultimately helped lead his team to a Super Bowl win weeks later. (Photos by Barry Jones)

Nothing, he discovered, compares to the discipline and competitive drive football produces.

“You know, he was involved in karate, which that didn’t last long,” Anderson’s mother, Dr. Tonya Lyons said with a grin. “But nothing he liked more than football. I have tried everything. The other stuff wasn’t rough enough for him.”

Less than a year removed from having found his niche as a dual threat athlete for the East Memphis Vikings 5-and-6-year-old division football team, the six-year-old Anderson, it seems, doesn’t plan on hanging up his cleats anytime soon.

For starters, Anderson not only developed a fond astonishment for an organized sport in which he was a newcomer when he was invited to the Vikings’ spring practice early last year, but the Dogwood Elementary Kindergarten wasted little time making his presence felt after earning a roster spot.

As the team’s backup quarterback and safety, Anderson helped propel the Vikings to an impressive Super Bowl win last September, a feat that, according to his grandest cheerleader, only suggests that football tops everything else she tried to convince her son to take up.

“Every single day, I said, ‘Maybe I could try out for football,’ Anderson said. “And I told my mom, ‘Maybe I could try this.’ I’m really comfortable a lot. Like every time, coach (Terence) Conley put me in, I felt really tough, because on the field, you have to be tough.”

For Anderson, his defining moment in his first full season of playing organized sports unfolded during the midway point of the Vikings’ championship campaign.

During a recent practice, Anderson suffered an asthma attack and had to be tended by medical trainers on the sideline. Ironically, the incident occurred when Lyons had missed her son’s practice, news that prompted her to ponder whether her son should continue playing the sport he had come to embrace approximately six months earlier.

VICTORY FORMATION --- Anderson (No. 7) first began playing competitive football last spring. He has since found his niche as a dual threat athlete, having played quarterback and safety.

VICTORY FORMATION — Anderson (No. 7) first began playing competitive football last spring. He has since found his niche as a dual threat athlete, having played quarterback and safety.

“When I got there, I saw the condition he was in,” Lyons explained. “I was scared. He was having what they call global contractions. It was good because the team has a mother who lives near the field and she had all the machines. The East Memphis Vikings were prepared.”

Considering Anderson had been diagnosed with asthma when he was just 11 months ago, Lyons, owner and president of New Image Family Dentistry in East Memphis, said she has taken the necessary precautions to ensure her son handles his condition appropriately.

According to medical experts for the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, for instance, there were 243 recordd football-related deaths between July 1990 and June 2010. Of those figures, asthma accounted for seven deaths according to an April 2013 The Morning Call report at www.mcall.com.

“With me being in the medical field, I’ve asked the ER to give me everything he needs because he would have them (asthma attacks) occasionally. We have done inhalers, breathing machines, the steroids, and the decongestion medicine.”

Since his diagnosis, Lyons said her son customarily has about three asthma attacks a year. Conversely, among the things about which he deems intriguing is that Anderson can sense when it is time to undergo treatment.

“He usually knows and assesses when it’s time to have a breathing treatment,” Lyons said. “It’s been a way of life for him.”

Much like football is starting to become.

While there was much concern as to whether she would continue to allow her son to play football, Lyons said the decision was ultimately up to him.

“Of course, I did (wonder if he should quit football), but I didn’t want him to feel like he had to quit,” Lyons said. “My first thought was he’s not going to be able to do this. But after talking with his pediatrician, she says he was going to be fine with it. (The incident) happened on a Thursday. When I asked him if he wanted to go to practice the following Monday, it was a resounding yes. A lot of parents won’t let the child make the decision and keep going. I don’t want him to be a quitter. When he told me he wanted to keep going, that told me a lot about him as a leader.”

VICTORY SPEECH --- Terence Conley congratulates his players after their recent Super Bowl win. It was his second championship in as many seasons as coach of the Vikings 5-and-6-year-old division.

VICTORY SPEECH — Terence Conley congratulates his players after their recent Super Bowl win. It was his second championship in as many seasons as coach of the Vikings 5-and-6-year-old division.

 

Like several of Anderson’s extended family members who had been diagnosed with asthma at one point in time, Lyons expects him to make a fully recovery from having occasional attacks. In the meantime, however, among her chief priorities, she said, is to continue to be Anderson’s biggest cheerleader, in large part because he has learned the significance of demonstrating toughness off the field.

Come Sunday, she and her Super Bowl champion have plans to watch Super Bowl 48.

“Those guys had to start somewhere,” Lyons said of Sunday’s game that will pit the Seattle Seahawks taking on the Denver Broncos. “There’s a possibility my son could be there someday. I wonder if he’ll stick with it. If he does, that’s fine. If he doesn’t, that’s fine because the leadership quality will take him a long way in life. Organized sports will help him think of someone other than himself.”

His teammates found that out firsthand when he showed up for practice four days after his midseason incident.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

Throwback Thursday: Jerry Lawler vs Brian Christopher tonight at Minglewood Hall in Memphis

Southern Heavyweight ClassicTonight is the big night!  WWE Hall of Famer and Memphis’ own Jerry “The King” Lawler will go one on one with his son and former WWE Tag Team Champion “GrandMaster Sexay” Brian Christopher.  It’ll be father vs son in the opening round of Memphis Wildfire Wrestling’s Southern Heavyweight Classic.  Only one man can advance to the next round of the tournament, which was inspired by the historic Southern Heavyweight Title.  A Championship that both men have held previously.

Last week’s Throwback Thursday featured a match between these two from 1993.  Since there wasn’t a clear-cut winner from last week & we are a mere six hours away from belltime (7PM) at Minglewood Hall in Memphis, let’s rewind to another classic match between Jerry Lawler & Brian Christopher.

The year was 1998.  Jerry Lawler was having a bit of trouble with management and the owner of Memphis Power Pro Wrestling, Randy Hales.  If King could defeat Brian Christopher in this contest, he would finally get his hands on the dastardly boss.  As usual, there was a slight catch… to ensure the match was called without favoritism, WWE Hall of Famer “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant was appointed the special guest referee.

Take a look at this classic Memphis moment and what could very well be a preview of tonight’s big match.

Two classic matches between Lawler & Christopher in two weeks – still not a clear-cut winner.  The battles between these two men have always been special.  Not only were they always the top performers in the Memphis area, but the father vs son element always intrigues wrestling fans that much more.  Who will win the latest battle between the two?  There’s only one way to find out – be there live!

The Southern Heavyweight Classic will take place at Minglewood Hall in Memphis, TN tonight (January 30th) at 7PM and has been the talk of the town!  Jerry Lawler & Bill Dundee stopped by News Channel 3’s Live at 9 to discuss the event, Kevin Lawler has appeared on ABC 24 Local Memphis Live and Fox 13.

Scheduled for the event is Jerry “The King” Lawler“Grand Master Sexay” Brian Christopher, “Superstar” Bill DundeeWWE Hall of Famer KoKo B. Ware,Derrick KingDustin Starr & many more.  Advanced tickets are on sale at Minglewood Hall’s official website.  Tickets will also be available at the door on the day of the event for only $10.

Fun Facts:   Tonight will be the 4th Annual Southern Heavyweight Classic tournament.  Brian Christopher won the tournament in 2011 & 2012.  One would have to think, he might actually have the advantage going into his contest with The King.  Can Christopher win his 3rd Classic in 4 years?

 

“Throwback Thursday” is a weekly Memphis Wrestling post at MemphiSport.com.

Dustin Starr is an active sports entertainer and regular contributor to MemphiSport and MSL. Follow him @DustinStarr.

SEE ALSO:

Rockets star Dwight Howard on Richard Sherman: ‘I’m rooting for him’

 

NO BIG DEAL --- Houston Rockets superstar center Dwight Howard said he didn't see anything wrong with Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman's late-game actions in the NFC Championship against San Francisco when the All-Pro cornerback trashed-talked Niners receiver Michael Crabtree. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

NO BIG DEAL — Houston Rockets superstar center Dwight Howard said he didn’t see anything wrong with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s late-game actions in the NFC Championship against San Francisco when the All-Pro player trashed-talked Niners receiver Michael Crabtree. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets superstar Dwight Howard is among the slew of professional athletes to chime in about the controversy surrounding Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

“I didn’t see what happened,” Howard, an eight-time All-Star, told MemphiSport after last Saturday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies. “But when he’s on the field, he’s amped up.”

In the waning moments of Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers versus Seattle, Sherman deflected a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Michael Crabtree that was intercepted by linebacker Malcolm Smith and effectively punched the Seahawks’ ticket to Super Bowl 48 with a 23-17 victory.

What happened prior to the Seahawks’ victory formation quickly overshadowed what was a dramatic comeback by the NFC’s top-seeded team, which earned its second Super Bowl berth and will face the Denver Broncos Sunday at 5:25 p.m. CST at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N. J.

Sherman ran toward Crabtree and, after slapping him on the backside, extended his hand for a handshake only to be met by a Crabtree shove to the face. After displaying the choking gesture as if to say the 49ers blew it, Sherman went on a trash-talking rant during the postgame news conference, saying among other things that Crabtree is a “sorry” and “mediocre” receiver.

While the All-Pro cornerback was slapped with a $7,875 fine by the NFL for unsportsmanlike conduct and taunting, Howard said he felt Sherman’s actions have been blown out of proportion and that they aren’t indicative of the type of person he is off the field.

MOUTHING OFF --- All-Pro coverback Richard Sherman is no stranger to trash-talk. His latest rant subsequently forced the NFL to impose a $7,875 fine on him. (Photo by Steven Bisig/US Presswire)

MOUTHING OFF — All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman is no stranger to trash-talking opposing players. His latest rant subsequently forced the NFL to impose a $7,875 fine on him. (Photo by Steven Bisig/US Presswire)

Drafted by the Seahawks in the fifth round (154th overall) in 2011, Sherman, a Compton, Calif. native, starred at Stanford from 2008-2011, but earned his degree in communications in three years.

“He talks trash,” Howard said of Sherman. “I mean, that’s who he is. But that doesn’t mean he’s that type of person (off the field).”

As Howard tells it, a number of players, like Sherman, are judged unjustifiably because of the way they go about demonstrating their competitive drive and passion for their respective sport.

“I think people view how we act on the court and on the field and think we’re that way all the time,” Howard said. “A lot of times, we are totally different. When we get on the court, that’s our time to let loose, to be free. But off the court, we’re human beings. I don’t know what he said, really. I just know he got in trouble for saying it. If you feel a certain way and you feel you’re the best at what you do, then there’s nothing wrong with it. You’ve got to have that confidence in who you are and he’s that confident that he’s the best at his position and, you know, I’m rooting for him.”

Having signed as a free agent with the Rockets in the offseason after one tumultuous campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers, Howard hinted that a majority of the discussions surrounding Sherman’s actions during the NFC Championship game is media-driven, largely because the NFL’s featured game is about to take place.

“I just think it’s because it’s the Super Bowl,” Howard said. “You’ve got to have stories going into the Super Bowl, so that’s something to talk about.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Memphian Tyronza Crawford savoring her dream as a rising fitness trainer

WONDER WOMAN --- Memphian Tyronza Crawford is a former college basketball player who always had lofty aspirations of becoming a fitness trainer. Today, she fulfilling her dream after years of battling to get her weight down. (Photos by Tevin Lucus)

WONDER WOMAN — Memphian Tyronza Crawford is a former college basketball player who always had lofty aspirations of becoming a certified fitness trainer. Today, she fulfilling her dream after years of battling to get her weight down. (Photos by Tevin Lucus)

Children have a unique way of getting their parents’ attention.

No doubt, Tyronza Crawford can attest to this notion.

As Crawford recalls, she was taking her baby daughter, Kristen, a bath a year ago. Suddenly, a funny thing happened before Crawford removed her child from the tub.

“I bent over in my daughter’s tub and she was like, ‘Mama, you’re fat,’” Crawford said with a grin. And my defense was, ‘I’m not fat. I’m trying to lose weight.’ That hurt my feelings. And, at that point, I knew it was time to do something different.”

Ever since what seemingly was a bizarre, gut-checking occurrence that prompted Crawford to take a thorough assessment of her health, she developed a strong commitment to reconnect with that about which she has been passionate.

“I’ve always had a passion and liking for fitness,” said Crawford, a former college basketball player who starred two seasons at Walter State Community College in Morristown, Tenn. before being re-recruited and finishing her college eligibility at Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tenn. “And I’ve always been very competitive.”

To her credit, Crawford, 30, not only has managed to overcome the disheartening struggles generated through being overweight, but the native Memphian is starting to reap the benefits of the “competitive” drive she embraced years ago when she first began playing pickup basketball games in Germany.

Today, Crawford is a fledging certified fitness trainer, an occupation she assumed just late last year, let alone a dream that, given her rapid success in such a brief timeframe, is starting to come full circle.

“I just recently started back working out,” Crawford said. “It definitely builds (my confidence), knowing I overcame obstacles and I can help others overcome the very things I was battling with as far as confidence and self-esteem.”

Long before Crawford realized the significance of staying in shape, she endured what she described as arguably the most tumultuous encounter of her life.

Months after graduating from Tusculum, Crawford and her family were met by some disturbing news when they learned her oldest brother, Zweldon Watkins, was diagnosed with heart disease, an illness that is the No. 1 killer for Americans according to an April 2013 report by the American Heart Association at www.heart.org. Consequently, doctors had discovered that Watkins who, for years, had struggled immensely with his weight, was also battling congestive heart failure, an ailment that ultimately cut his life short five years later.

On Dec. 12, 2008, Watkins died at the age of 30.

HUGE IMPACT---Roughly one month removed from having started regular personal workout sessions, a number of individuals have reached out to Crawford about her services as a personal trainer.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT—Roughly one month removed from having started regular personal workout sessions, a number of individuals have reached out to Crawford to inquire about her services as a personal trainer.

“That was definitely heartbreaking and devastating, considering he was the only male figure in my life at the time,” Crawford explained. “After his death, I struggled with my weight. That was a consistent struggle. I wasn’t really conscious of what I was eating. And you know, it wasn’t so much of I didn’t know what to do to get (my weight) down. It was just a matter of me making the time.”

Years later, following the demise of her brother, Crawford sensed it was time she make some immediate changes in her life. Among the essential modifications was to concentrate on eliminating her excess body weight.

“I have a son who wants to play football and he conscious of his weight,” Crawford said. “He has to be under a certain weight to play. So how can I enforce and encourage him to work out if I’m not doing it.”

Though Crawford recently devised a regular schedule for partaking in personal workout sessions, her admiration for health and fitness hasn’t gone unnoticed. Besides being assigned to oversee the weekly “Wonder Women” fitness class for Rock Church Memphis in Southeast Memphis, Crawford was chosen by longtime Memphis-area fitness specialist Juanita Barber to serve as the trainer for the “Faith And Fitness For Life Women’s Challenge,” an assortment of informative sessions aimed toward promoting health and fitness to women who are over 200 pounds and battling obesity.

The sessions are scheduled to run from Feb. 1 through Aug. 2.

As an up-and-coming fitness trainer, it appears Crawford has tackled her newfound craft head on. While she is only weeks removed from having obtained her certification, a number of individuals have already contacted her to inquire about her services as a personal trainer. Fortunately for Crawford, such a trend essentially has made what was an embarrassing moment while bathing her baby daughter one year ago a distant memory today.

“My confidence is definitely at an all-time high,” a much slimmer Crawford said with a smile. Even when I was going through the battles of getting my weight down, there were negative thoughts about getting my weight down. So it certainly shows you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Which is, after all, the message about which her daughter was trying to send a year ago.

For more information about obtaining a personal trainer, call Tyronza Crawford at 901-340-3898 or send email to: robustfitness.ronnie@gmail.com . Also, follow her on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/tyronza.watkins.92

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

Grizzlies star Zach Randolph holding his own in season mired by injuries, trade talks

The general consensus about Zach Randolph is that he is among the most admired and well-respected public figures in Memphis.

No one seemingly knows that better than Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.

 

GAME CHANGER --- In what has been a challenging season mired by injuries and constant trade talks, Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph tied  franchise record for double-doubles with 189 in Saturday's 91-88 win against the Houston Rockets. The two-time All-Star finished with 15 points and 17 rebounds. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

GAME CHANGER — In what has been a challenging season mired by injuries and constant trade talks, Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph tied franchise record for double-doubles with 189 in Saturday’s 91-88 win against the Houston Rockets. The two-time All-Star finished with 15 points and 17 rebounds. (Photos by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

“We get along very well on and off the court,” Gasol said. “We talk all the time. I mean, the man came all the way to Barcelona (Spain) to my wedding (over the summer). We’re really good friends.”

Gasol was among the first players to congratulate Randolph after the 12-year veteran reached yet another milestone in his All-Star career. Randolph tied the franchise record for career double-double (15 points and 17 rebounds) in Memphis’ decisive 99-81 win Saturday night against the Houston Rockets in FedExForum.

“Who was the other guy?” Gasol jokingly asked after the game.

The “other guy” is Gasol’s older brother, Pau Gasol, who now shares the Memphis’ double-double record with Randolph at 189 apiece. Randolph, to his credit, wasted little time demonstrating that he was primed to carve out history in front of the same fans who have come to embrace the contributions he’s made to the Grizzlies organization since he was traded to by the Los Angeles Clippers following the 2008-2009 season.

Less than five minutes into Saturday’s contest, for instance, Randolph had already accounted for seven rebounds. Then, with 7:04 remaining in the third quarter, he solidified the mark when he scored on a fastbreak layup as Houston’s Patrick Beverly was whistled for a foul.

During a 20-second timeout, the 32-year-old Randolph was mobbed by teammates, who praised him in tying Pau Gasol’s double-double mark as the crowd chanted in unison, “Z-Bo.”

While Randolph appeared blissful to have accomplished such a feat with an organization from which he has publicly said he’d liked to retire, what he deems mostly intriguing is that it transpired during a time in which the Grizzlies are starting to mirror last year’s a team that advanced to the postseason for a third consecutive year.

“We’re getting there,” Randolph told reporters, when asked have the Grizzlies have recovered from their early-season struggles. “I ain’t going to say that right now. We’ve got the big fella (Marc Gasol) back and Mike (Conley) is playing All-Star basketball. But we’re getting there.”

For more proof, look no further than the current standings in the West.

Before Marc Gasol, who missed 23 games after an MCL sprain he suffered Nov. 22, the Grizzlies were four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. After Saturday’s win against Houston that culminated a rare back-to-back versus the Rockets, Memphis, which opens a three-game road trip Tuesday starting at the Portland, is currently two games back of Dallas for the pivotal eighth spot.

That the Grizzlies, winners of nine of their last 12, had managed to hover around the .500 mark before Marc Gasol returned to the lineup was due in large part to the poise and assertiveness Randolph has exhibited in recent weeks, Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.

“He’s been terrific,” Joerger said. “He’s really carried us through a tough stretch with Marc being out and he’s really helped us find our identity without Quincy (Pondexter) and Tony (Allen). He’s been pretty steady and has helped us to compete. He’s a guy who’s always double-teamed, but creates shots for other people.

Randolph said among the reasons for the Grizzlies' surge is that center Marc Gasol (left) is back in the lineup after missing 23 games due to an MCL sprain in late November.

PEAK SEASON — Randolph said among the reasons for the Grizzlies’ surge is that center Marc Gasol (left) is back in the lineup after missing 23 games due to an MCL sprain in late November. Memphis is 6-1 since Gasol’s return.

“I’m just really proud of him because he didn’t quit and say, ‘I’ve got a bigger guy on me, somebody else needs to go get it (rebounds).’ He goes and gets it off the glass and he’s good at calling stuff out for our guards.”

Besides being a vocal presence on the court, Randolph has proven to be just as expressive and resilient, particularly pertaining to business-related matters off the court.

As early as mid-December, for instance, Randolph reportedly was being rumored to be traded by the Grizzlies, news that prompted the two-time All-Star to say that there is “no loyalty” in NBA front offices. Though Randolph admittedly was “hurt” after emerging as the subject of constant trade talks, the Marion, Ind. native assumed what he described as the “businesslike approach” until team officials ultimately announced weeks later that they had no plans of dealing Randolph, who has a $16 million player option for next year.

Given how fans and his teammates responded amid his latest achievement Saturday night, Randolph not only seemed enraptured, but he sounded like a man who has lofty aspirations of adding to what has been a memorable five-year stint with the Grizzlies.

“It feels good,” Randolph said of the double-double record. It’ll be better when I hold the record. I mean, you’ve to go out and put your all into being a part of the community and this organization. You know, this is my town, my fans. And I appreciate the fans. They’ve been great this season and we need them.”

Especially now that the surging Grizzlies are starting to exhibit the same swagger that enabled them to stage a deep playoff run last year.

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

MSL: 1.25.14 ‘Houston or Houston or Houston’

CJ Hurt Rugrats shirt MSL

HOUR 1:

(Segment 1)  Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter recap of the week’s big stories during the Starting 5.
(Segment 2 & 3)  Debut of Houston or Houston or Houston Trivia in honor of all the Memphis basketball games against Houston teams this week.

 

MemphiSport Live

HOUR 2:
(Segment 1) Hang Up & Listen.
(Segment 2) Memphis Flyer’s Film/TV editor Greg Akers joins Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter to talk about the Oscar nominations and to tell us why Nashville Sucks this month.
(Segment 3) Woohoos and Boos.


MemphiSport Live

Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter host MemphiSport Live (MSL) on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll.

Follow the MSL hosts on Twitter @cerrito  @MHunter_GAMME

Throwback Thursday: Jerry Lawler defends his Unified Title against Brian Christopher

Brian Christopher & Jerry Lawler

Growing up as a wrestling fan in Memphis, there weren’t many matches bigger than Jerry Lawler versus Brian Christopher.  Both men were fan favorites for the majority of their careers and they always seemed to be holding a Championship title belt.  But this feud was deeper than good versus evil.  It was bigger than any Championship you could put on the line.  This match-up was always special for a different and unique reason…

It was father versus son.

This week’s Throwback Thursday takes us back more than 20 years ago inside WMC-TV5 studios in Memphis, TN.  The brash, young Brian Christopher was looking to take the next step in his career.  He was ready for his shot at the USWA Unified Heavyweight Championship.  There was only one problem – Jerry “The King” Lawler held that title.

Listen to the audience as Jerry Lawler makes his way to the ring.  Hear the excitement in the broadcast team’s voices.  This was going to be something very special.  But when you’re the top performers in the hotbed of wrestling, you must have eyes in the back of your head.  Let’s take a look:

With the interference from Harlem Knights, Brain Christopher was disqualified from the contest.  Fortunately for wrestling fans, this wasn’t the first battle between Brian & Jerry.  It certainly will not be the last, either.

Last week, Memphis Wildfire Wrestling made the announcement that Jerry “The King” Lawler would face off against “Grand Master Sexay” Brian Christopher in the 1st Round of the Southern Heavyweight Classic on January 30th.  The Southern Heavyweight Classic is a tournament that crowns a new Southern Heavyweight Classic Champion, much like the Southern Heavyweight Championship of old.  After watching their unfinished match from 1993, who wouldn’t want to see these two face off in 2014?

The Southern Heavyweight Classic will take place at Minglewood Hall in Memphis, TN on January 30th – one week from today.  Already schedule for the event is Jerry “The King” Lawler“Grand Master Sexay” Brian Christopher, “Superstar” Bill DundeeWWE Hall of Famer KoKo B. Ware,Derrick KingDustin Starr & many more.  Advanced tickets are already on sale at Minglewood Hall’s official website.  Tickets will also be available at the door on the day of the event for only $10.

Fun Facts:   Shortly after their vicious attack on “The King”, Harlmen Knights debuted in WWE under the alias of Men on a Mission.  Also, Brian Christopher eventually defeated Jerry Lawler for the Southern Heavyweight Championship on June 1st, 1996.

 

“Throwback Thursday” is a weekly Memphis Wrestling post at MemphiSport.com.

Dustin Starr is an active sports entertainer and regular contributor to MemphiSport and MSL. Follow him @DustinStarr.

SEE ALSO:

PHOTOS: Famous faces at Grizzlies’ 12th Annual MLK Day Celebration

Here are the best social media pictures featuring some of the famous people in attendance at FedExForum for the 12th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration featuring the Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans:

(For pictures from last year’s MLK Day game, click here.)

Twitter: @cerrito
Email: kevin@memphisport.net

MSL: MLK Weekend 2014

msl_on_air

HOUR 1:

(Segment 1)  Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter recap of the week’s big stories during the Starting 5.
(Segment 2 & 3)   Dustin Starr talks Jerry Lawler, Ultimate Warrior, WWE Network and more during his monthly pro wrestling report.

MemphiSport Live

HOUR 2:
(Segment 1) Hang Up & Listen.
(Segment 2) Cerrito and the guys talk about magicians.
(Segment 3) Woohoos and Boos.

 

MemphiSport Live

Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter host MemphiSport Live (MSL) on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll.

Follow the MSL hosts on Twitter @cerrito  @MHunter_GAMME