Can Lionel Hollins and the Memphis Grizzlies possibly kiss and make up?

AndreDALLAS — So the Memphis Grizzlies are seeking a new head coach after the toxic relationship between former head man Dave Joerger and the front office had become a public embarrassment, a ridiculously public shame in that it has become increasingly evident that Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera and his crew can’t seem to get along with guys whom they employ to coach the team.

As if Joerger’s unceremonious departure last weekend wasn’t enough to send shock waves throughout the basketball-crazed Bluff City, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace reportedly was seen meeting on Monday with Joerger’s former boss, ex-Grizz coach Lionel Hollins at Humdingers in East Memphis.

Well, what ta ya know?

WALKING IN MEMPHIS AGAIN? As if former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger's unceremonious departure last weekend wasn't enough to send shock waves throughout the basketball-crazed Bluff City, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace reportedly was seen meeting on Monday with Joerger's former boss, ex-Grizz coach Lionel Hollins at Humdingers in East Memphis.

WALKING IN MEMPHIS AGAIN? As if former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger’s unceremonious departure last weekend wasn’t enough to send shock waves throughout the basketball-crazed Bluff City, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace reportedly was seen meeting on Monday with Joerger’s former boss, ex-Grizz coach Lionel Hollins at Humdingers in East Memphis. (Getty Images Photo)

Either Wallace and Hollins were taking advantage of Humdingers’ happy hour or the restaurant’s every Monday after 4 p.m. $4.99 shrimp appetizers, or they were devising ways to appropriately rekindle a once unhealthy relationship that, like the one he had with Joerger, was an ongoing disgrace.

Hollins, to his credit, had a done a masterful job with a once downtrodden Grizz team that was in dire need of a strict, resourceful coach who could get the best out of his players, having led Memphis to a francise-record  56 wins in his final season with the team.

Joerger, to his credit, had done a rather favorable job with an upstart Grizz team that, unfortunately, has underachieved over the past two seasons.

HOLLINS AND GRIZZ GM MEET:  John Martin on Twitter: “Happening right now at Humdingers: Lionel Hollins and Chris Wallace. https://t.co/eLEv8qRUGV”

Still, truth be told, Hollins and Joerger were habitual, arrogant, smart aleck knuckleheads, both of whom also had become a source of frustration and constant turnoffs not just to the Grizzlies front office, but to many of us media members.

Which, in my estimation, makes what took place Monday night at Humdingers a huge head-scratcher, of sorts.

So could it really happen?

Could the Grizzlies and Hollins collectively place their massive egos by the wayside, refrain from the excessive verbal sparring and bad mouthing and finger pointing at each other and agree to Believe Memphis once again?

 

MIKE LOVES LIONEL --- Could the Grizzlies and Hollins collectively place their massive egos by the wayside, refrain from of the verbal sparring and bad mouthing at finger pointing at each other and agree to Believe Memphis once again? (Getty Images Photo)

MIKE LOVES LIONELCould the Grizzlies and Hollins collectively place their massive egos by the wayside, refrain from of the verbal sparring and bad mouthing at finger pointing at each other and agree to Believe Memphis once again? (Getty Images Photo)

Is the 62-year-old Hollins the right guy at this point to reassume the head coaching duties of a struggling Memphis franchise that looks virtually nothing like the one he guided to the Western Conference Finals three years ago?

Or should the Grizzlies simply go with the proven success that is former Indiana Pacers head man Frank Vogel and dismiss the compelling notion of bringing back Hollins and his customary wishy washy disposition?

Either way, countless Memphians sense the Grizzlies are about to inherit a slam dunk hire amid Joerger’s dismissal.

How ironic that I will soon return to Memphis because of my recent marriage.

Conversely, if the Grizzlies bring back Hollins, here’s hoping their marriage, too, becomes a loving, fruitful one this time around.

Better yet, here’s hoping they can kiss and make up.


Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Marion (Ark.) High senior Allen Latham, Jr. generating late interests from colleges

STOCK RISING --- To his credit, he certainly appears on track to possibly suiting up in a college uniform in the coming months, considering Allen Latham, Jr. was invited recently to put his mechanics on display before the coaching staff at Harding University, a Division 2 school in Searcy, Arkansas.

STOCK RISINGTo his credit, he certainly appears on track to possibly suiting up in a college uniform in the coming months, considering Allen Latham, Jr. was invited recently to put his mechanics on display before the coaching staff at Harding University, a Division 2 school in Searcy, Arkansas.

Allen Latham, Jr. was asked recently to assess his senior campaign for the Marion (Arkansas) High basketball team.

“I think it went really well,” Latham, Jr. told Sports Journalist Andre Johnson. Then after pausing momentarily, Latham Jr. recalled arguably his grandest memory of his final season of major prep basketball.

“I had a breakout game of 31 points and being the team captain, that led to me being a leader on and off the court,” Latham, Jr. said.

Now that his prep hoops tenure has ended, the 6-foot-2, 187-pound swingman is now clinging to lofty aspirations of extending his athletic talents at the collegiate level.

To his credit, he certainly appears on track to possibly suiting up in a college uniform in the coming months, considering Latham, Jr. was invited recently to put his mechanics on display before the coaching staff at Harding University, a Division 2 school in Searcy, Arkansas.

Although the 18-year-old Latham, Jr. has yet to garner any official offers, he has acquired some interest and qualified academically, according to his father, Allen Latham, Sr.

DAD KNOWS BEST --- Although the 18-year-old Latham, Jr. has yet to garner any official offers, he has qualified academically, according to his father, Allen Latham, Sr. For the past couple of weeks, Latham, Sr. has been quite complimentary of his son, saying, among other things, that he has exceeded expectations on and off the court and that he is worthy of having a shot of fulfilling his dream of playing college basketball.

DAD KNOWS BESTAlthough the 18-year-old Latham, Jr. has yet to garner any official offers, he has qualified academically, according to his father, Allen Latham, Sr. For the past couple of weeks, Latham, Sr. has been quite complimentary of his son, saying, among other things, that he has exceeded expectations on and off the court and that he is worthy of having a shot of fulfilling his dream of playing college basketball.

For the past couple of weeks, Latham, Sr. has been quite complimentary of his son, saying, among other things, that he has exceeded expectations on and off the court and that he is worthy of having a shot of fulfilling his dream of playing college basketball.

“He began playing (basketball) at the age of six,” Latham, Sr. said of his son, whom he said also generated interest from Arkansas Tech and Ecclesia College in Springdale, Arkansas.

Ever since his child first dribbled and launched a basketball toward a goal, the elder Latham knew his son would ultimately find his niche in the sport.

This past season, unlike any other, it seemed he had done just that, something by which he hopes college scouts and recruiters will subsequently take into account in the foreseeable future.

“He has a lot of talent and potential to do well in this sport,” Latham, Sr. said. “He had (a number of) good games (this past season), he didn’t get hurt, and he played team ball.”

Indeed he did.

pat3In leading coach Irving Clay’s Patriots in scoring at better than 13 points per game, Latham appeared in 25 of Marion’s 26 outings and, by season’s end, the Patriots’ late-season surge gave way to a 14-12 finish and a No. 43 overall ranking in the state in a final poll released by Maxpreps.com.

A pretty impressive resume for a talented swingman who doesn’t shy away from the notion that he’s aiming to make a favorable impression upon scouts — much sooner than later.

“I’m a solid shooter who can handle the ball and who is willing to go 110 percent and continue to work hard,” Latham, Jr. said, when asked what he’d like to say to recruiters. “(Basketball) is the love of my life. My whole life has been created to school, serving God, and basketball. I won’t stop now.”

That was quite evident this past season at Marion.



AndreEDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like an in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Briarcrest basketball player Reginald Neely: ‘I believe I am one of the best players in Memphis in my age group’

Reginald Lee Neely isn’t playing around.

Simply put, as it pertains to his basketball mechanics, this Briarcrest Christian School basketball standout is forthright and to the point.

RobMainGo ahead.

Ask him to assess his skills and be prepared for Neely’s customary direct responses.

“I feel like I can blow past anybody,” Neely told Sports Journalist Andre Johnson during a recent interview. “I believe I am one of the best players in Memphis in my age group, I believe I can finish anything at the rim.”

Some pretty dauntless statements from 5-foot-11, 150-pound eighth grade swingman who, like his peers — most notably upperclassmen — boasts lofty aspirations of playing basketball at the collegiate level.

HE'S JUST SAYIN' --- Ask him to assess his skills and be prepared for Briarcrest eighth-grader Robert Neely’s customary direct responses. “I feel like I can blow past anybody,” Neely told Sports Journalist Andre Johnson during a recent interview. “I believe I am one of the best players in Memphis in my age group, I believe I can finish anything at the rim.”

HE’S JUST SAYIN’Ask him to assess his skills and be prepared for Briarcrest eighth-grader Reginald Neely’s customary direct responses.
“I feel like I can blow past anybody,” Neely told Sports Journalist Andre Johnson during a recent interview. “I believe I am one of the best players in Memphis in my age group, I believe I can finish anything at the rim.”

If nothing else, Neely is making a solid case that by the time his prep career ends, he could emerge as one of the finest basketball players ever to put on a Briarcrest tradition-rich uniform.

For starters, this athletically-talent kid, who was a catalyst on the Saints’ eighth grade team this past season, demonstrated time and again that he destined to hold his own once he suits up for the school’s varsity squad in the coming years.

Add to the fact that Neely has become an effective player for Memphis’ Team Thad AAU team, and it’s no wonder many who have followed his hoops prowess believe the sky’s undoubtedly is the limit for a thriving student athlete who, well, isn’t playing around.

“I am a good athlete, a good listener, and a good communicator on the floor,” said Neely, steadily being rather straight forward as it critiqued his skills. “I take my education and spiritual growth very serious. (I train) as often as I can, which lately has only allowed for two times weekly”

In assessing his progress, coupled with his strengths and weaknesses this past season for Briarcrest coach John Harrington and Zac Davis’ eighth grade squad, Neely was as good as advertised.

Next year, though, he will be expected to pick up where we left off as a member of the Saints junior varsity team.

According to his coaches, Neely is deemed a versatile scorer, a sharp communication on the floor, and an efficient player who displayed solid ball-handling skills and is aggressive on defense.

As for his offseason plans, Neely’s primary focus is to improve his overall game.

STOCK RISING? Add to the fact that Neely has become an effective player for Memphis’ Team Thad AAU team, and it’s no wonder many who have followed his hoops prowess believe the sky’s undoubtedly is the limit for a thriving student athlete who, well, isn’t playing around.

STOCK RISING? Add to the fact that Neely has become an effective player for Memphis’ Team Thad AAU team, and it’s no wonder many who have followed his hoops prowess believe the sky’s undoubtedly is the limit for a thriving student athlete who, well, isn’t playing around.

“Getting stronger, getting time in at the gym, getting in shape, working on my fundamentals, and actively playing competitive ball with my competitive team,” Neely said.

With some much basketball to play in what figures to be a promising career, Neely’s mother, Felicia Collins-Neely, is thoroughly impressed with the strides her son has made in recent years.

“I love to watch him play…and to think he could go a long way with his love for the game is scary,” Collins-Neely explained. “The sport is so competitive and everyone is always fighting to be in the spotlight…it’s scary. I have always told him there are no limits to what he is able to achieve.  Through commitment, practice, and time, he can earn anything he sets his mind to.  But, he knows his education is first and foremost.”

Simply put, all her son needs to do is keep his focus on the larger picture. In other words, education first, athletics second.

The rest, Collins-Neely said, will take care of itself.

“I don’t believe anyone has a limit,” Collins-Neely said. “You set your own limits. With that being said, it’s all about your determination, how you handle setbacks, how you pick yourself up from a fall, and how you continue to stride full force toward you goal.  The sky is the limit for my son because I make sure he knows that he will not make every shot, he will not pass every test, and everyone will not like him.”

Like her son, mom isn’t playing around either.

Rather, she’s only being forthright and to the point regarding her son, who’s clinging to lofty aspirations of playing basketball at the collegiate level.



AndreEDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like an in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Rising author Erika Sodie recalls life’s gruesome lessons in ‘game-changing’ book

Book1DALLAS — Just recently, Erika Sodie is going on and on about her educational background.

Those who know her realize there are no filters with her.

“I had too much fame and so much pain,” Sodie explained during a recent interview with longtime journalist Andre Johnson.

So stagnant and dysfunctional Sodie had become with regards to academics that she ultimately sensed that bolting school unceremoniously was a popular trend.

Little did she know, however, her life would eventually seem as if it was on a downward spiral.

Consequently, the life of this then-teenager seemed on a constant tailspin, considering she endured what seemingly was endless chaos and turmoil.

GAME CHANGER --- Erika Sodie knew all along --- even before the untimely demise of her mother --- that God had a divine purpose for her life. As the 41-year-old Sodie tells it, the last thing she wanted to do was disappoint her Creator, especially with her mother looking down, high from above. Today, Sodie is still a flourishing entertainer, mind you --- one who also has evolved as a rising author.

GAME CHANGERErika Sodie knew all along — even before the untimely demise of her mother — that God had a divine purpose for her life. As the 41-year-old Sodie tells it, the last thing she wanted to do was disappoint her Creator, especially with her mother looking down, high from above. Today, Sodie is still a flourishing entertainer, mind you — one who also has evolved as a rising author.

At the youthful age of 18, her mother and stepfather were on the brink of divorce.

The home in which they lived was being foreclosed.

Her oldest — but young — sister had given birth to a fifth child, all while her youngest sister was trapped in the middle of it all, unsure how what apparently was a divided family would come to grips amid arguably its darkest, yet roughest times.

If that wasn’t enough to shake up what was a Christian-oriented family, Sodie had ultimately turned to the rugged, tumultuous streets, where she put her young life in harm’s way time and time again.

How could things have possibly come to this?

STAY TUNED WORLD --- Fortunately for Sodie, her upcoming book is expected to sale in record numbers, considering she’s still deemed a household name in the secular industry. Among the reasons is that she has been afforded the opportunities to share the same universal platform with such artists as Project Crew, MC Overlord, Simply Mackin, FloMob, Papa Chuck and Quince 1, Smackola, among others --- all at the tender age of 16.

STAY TUNED WORLDFortunately for Sodie, her upcoming book is expected to sale in record numbers, considering she’s still deemed a household name in the secular industry.
Among the reasons is that she has been afforded the opportunities to share the same universal platform with such artists as Project Crew, MC Overlord, Simply Mackin, FloMob, Papa Chuck and Quince 1, Smackola, among others — all at the tender age of 16.

“I was motivated to hustle every day,” Sodie, an Austin, Texas native, explained. “Just to keep a roof over our heads was the focus. I couldn’t look at it any worse than it was. Seeing my family struggle and the uncertainty of what could happen next was heart-wrenching and debilitating. I was the one brave enough, bold enough, and strong enough to do whatever needed to be done to keep us going.”

To her credit, she had become quite resilient, extremely aggressive, of sorts, in that she had fought tirelessly to help keep her family afloat, even if it meant living in life’s dreaded fast lane.

Book55That’s exactly what she did.

Then just like that, arguably her life’s grandest turning point had transpired in 1995, hitting her smack dab in the face like a Mack truck.

An up-and-coming rapper at the time who were just hours removed from having opened up for the renowned Master P and the No Limit Crew, Sodie had awaken only to discover that her mother, Doris Rogers, had passed away — a shocking occurrence that essentially brought even more heartache to a divided family that was already in dire need of a figurative heart transplant.
“Once again, everything changed,” she recalled.

Luckily for her, though, she sensed it was time to get her act together, sensed it was time to put life in its proper perspective, sensed the time had come that she steadfastly begin applying all of the life lessons about which her mother had taught her since her childhood days of growing on these dangerous Texas inner city streets.

Mama had transitioned to the other side of heaven, meaning it was time that her beloved daughter and the rest of family to carry on collectively but, most of all make her proud.

“Of course, death was always so close to home,” Sodie said. “I began engaging in things that I knew were wrong and contrary to my upbringing and the word of God. For the wages of sin is death and, once upon a time, I found myself living a very dangerous lifestyle. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when (I would die). The truth is, I can give you a million reasons or excuses why I did this or that, but the reality is it was all by choice, never by force. I owned up to it. It is so lonely at the top that you can think you’re at the bottom. Some people that are there, struggle with being there, and others are willing to lie, cheat, kill, and steal to get there.”

Still, Sodie knew all along — even before the untimely demise of her mother — that God had a divine purpose for her life.

As the 41-year-old Sodie tells it, the last thing she wanted to do was disappoint her Creator, especially with her mother looking down, high from above.

Today, Sodie is still a flourishing entertainer, mind you — one who also has evolved as a rising author.

A damn good one, too.

Bokk2With a book entitled Game Changer that is currently in the works and scheduled to be released in the coming months, Sodie acknowledges that her primary objective moving forward is to fulfill and savor God’s plan and purpose for her life through ministry, music, public speaking, and sharing her life-changing testimony with the world.

By and large, Game Changer, as Sodie explained, is the journey of her life, one that is mired by an assortment of hard lessons, trials and tribulations, highs and lows and, as Sodie points out, “a host of characters known and well known — from the church to the streets, back to the church, but always gracing the stage of life.”

Fortunately for Sodie, her upcoming book is expected to sale in record numbers, considering she’s still deemed a household name in the secular industry.

Among the reasons is that she has been afforded the opportunities to share the same universal platform with such artists as Project Crew, MC Overlord, Simply Mackin, FloMob, Papa Chuck and Quince 1, Smackola, among others — all at the tender age of 16,

“I was 16 and in New York and Melly Mel passed me the mic,” Sodie said with a grin. “That was a moment, being in the presence of greatness had become a normal thing.”

That’s not all.

She also met and opened shows for such artists as Big Daddy Kane, KRS 1, Public Enemy, D.J. Quik, SPC, the 5th Ward Boys, Zro and, as she tells it, “everybody before, between, and a few after.”

Book7“When you’re 16 and Bushwhick Bill (of the Geto Boys) comes to your show then takes your whole entourage for a night on the town in (Houston), you can’t complain to have had such encounters with great artists,” Sodie said. “Rappers like KRino and the entire South Park Coalition of H-Town showed the same love and became our H-Town family.”

This after weathering and journeying through life’s rocky, yet stormy last lane.

This after conquering life’s hard knocks.

That she managed to persevere and exemplify such resiliency in going back to school, earning her GED, advancing her education (Houston Community College, Walden University, and Allied Real Estate School) are amongst the grandest reasons Sodie is destined to keep chasing greatness.

Say what you want about her now.

But this game changer has changed the hard knocks game.

Once again.

 

AndreEDITOR’S NOTE: If you are an entrepreneur, business owner, producer, author, musician, barber, life coach, motivational speaker, cosmetologist, tax preparer, model, athlete, or pastor/minister who is seeking exposure and would like to share your story with an in-depth news feature, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him under “Andre T. Johnson” for details.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Here’s 41 sporting moments as sports journalist Andre Johnson turns 41

AndreDALLAS — For the past three-plus decades, sports have played a majestic role in my life.

In fact, sports, for me, have become a way of life.

MOM AND MJ --- In November 2002, I passed up the chance to watch Hall of Famer Michael Jordan play in his next-to-last NBA season when the Washington Wizards played at the Memphis Grizzlies. I felt compelled to pass the pair of tickets to my mother, who said to me after that game, “I can always say I had a chance to watch (Jordan) play.” (Getty Images Photo)

MOM AND MJ — In November 2002, I passed up the chance to watch Hall of Famer Michael Jordan play in his next-to-last NBA season when the Washington Wizards played at the Memphis Grizzlies. I felt compelled to pass the pair of tickets to my mother, who said to me after that game, “I can always say I had a chance to watch (Jordan) play.” (Getty Images Photo)

A lifestyle, of sorts.

A trend that, in assessing the overall landscape of my life, practically personifies the person I’ve become.

Sports, this inspiriting, galvanizing movement that customarily inspire athletes to become empowered through dedication, accountability, and leadership, are what immeasurably fueled my desire to engage in a rather competitive industry whereby I would be afforded the opportunity to meet and interact with athletes from various walks of life.

Fortunately for me, my dream, thanks in large part to sports, has come full circle, a fantasy that has given way to an assortment of memories, most notably personal ones during which I’ve savored throughout the course of professional sportswriting career.

That said, as I commemorate my 41st birthday on Saturday, I share with you 41 memorable sports moments, according to yours truly.

 

  1. Passing up the chance to watch Hall of Famer Michael Jordan play in his next-to-last NBA season when the Washington Wizards played at the Memphis Grizzlies. I felt compelled to relinquish the pair of tickets to my mother, who said to me after that game, “I can always say I had a chance to watch (Jordan) play.”
  2. Wrapping each wall in my bedroom with magazine photos of NBA players as a junior high schooler in the late 1980s. I knew at the time that someday I’d interview those same players.
  3. Witnessing the San Francisco 49ers thoroughly dispatch the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl 19, 38-16.
  4. Owning my very first authentic NFL football as my mom handed it off to me like a quarterback to running back on my 10th birthday.
  5. Fielding arguably the worst whipping of my life when, on my 15th birthday, I caught the wrath of my mom for throwing a temper tantrum and ripping apart my nightstand. Surely, this isn’t a sports moment in any shape or form. But in a way, it certainly seemed like it, considering I ran around our three-bedroom apartment like an Olympic gold medal sprinter while trying to elude mom’s extension cord.
  6. Watching Michigan edge Seton Hall in overtime in the 1989 NCAA Men’s Basketball championship game as Glen Rice embraced the ball at game’s end and unleashed tears of joy.
  7. Watching Joe Montana’s game-winning touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining in Super Bowl 23.
  8. Watching the 49ers race to a 27-3 halftime lead and completely dismantle the Denver Broncos, 55-10, in Super Bowl 24.
  9. Witnessing sentimental favorite and the No. 11 seed Loyola Marymount basketball team pulverize Michigan, 149-115, in the second round of the NCAA tournament following the death of Hank Gathers.
  10. The Buffalo Bills losing four consecutive Super Bowls.
  11. The 1984-85 Memphis State men’s basketball team advancing to the school’s second Final Four.
  12. “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison and Louisville upsetting Duke in the 1988 NCAA championship game.
  13. Anfernee “Penny” Hardway and Treadwell High versus Anthony Douglas and cross-town rival East.
  14. The 1986 New York Mets.
  15. Watching the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series with my paw paw, Edward Johnson, Sr.
  16. Watching Dallas’ World Class Championship Wrestling at the break of sunrise every Saturday with grandpa.
  17. Watching Memphis’ Championship Wresting every Saturday morning with my paw paw and uncles.
  18. Witnessing the Memphis State basketball team win the Metro Conference basketball championship in 1987 against Louisville in the always hostile Freedom Hall.
  19. Witnessing pro wrestler Jerry Lawler become world champion for first time in his illustrious career on May 9, 1988 over Kurt Henning.
  20. The Kansas City Royals’ 11-0 shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.
  21. Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers losing four times to the Cincinnati Bearcats during the 1991-92 season.
  22. Penny Hardaway losing his final college game where his NBA career began (in Orlando).
  23. Steve Young engineering the 49ers to a 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl 29.
  24. The scene of Michael Jordan crying on the locker room floor while blanketing the game ball after winning his first NBA title following the death of his father.
  25. Len Bias’ shocking death two days after the 1986 NBA Draft.
  26. Magic Johnson announcing his retirement from the NBA on November 7, 1991 after learning he had acquired the AIDS virus.
  27. Attending Monday night wrestling virtually every week with my uncle, Darryl Crawford.

    H-TOWN --- How can I forget when I covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in what was my third full season of covering the league?

    How can I forget when I covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in what was my third full season of covering the league?

  28. Covering my very first sporting event as a sports intern for the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper in May 1996.
  29. Partaking in my second sports internship for The Commercial Appeal in May 2000.
  30. Assuming a full-time job a sports reporter for The Commercial Appeal in August 2000.
  31. Interviewing Laila Ali during her fight in the Mid-South in June 2002.
  32. At the request of Jerry Lawler, meeting the Hall of Fame wrestler over lunch in March 2010 for an exclusive interview that lasted more than two hours.
  33. Covering Kobe Bryant on the night he became the Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time leading scorer in March 2010.
  34. Covering the 2013 NBA All-Star Game.
  35. The 2007-08 Memphis Tiger basketball team.
  36. John Calipari vacating Memphis for Kentucky or, as he said, “the Notre Dame of college basketball.”
  37. Mario Chalmers breaking the hearts of Tiger fans with a game-tying 3-pointer that forced overtime in the 2008 NCAA final.
  38. The Los Angeles Clipper’s historic comeback from 27 points down to shock the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA playoffs.
  39. The Grizzlies reaching the Western Conference Finals the following year.
  40. Relocating to Dallas in April 2014 to cover Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
  41. Thanking God in advance for allowing me to stick around to witness and savor more sporting moments.

 

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Will the Tigers recover from drowning in Stillwater?

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

Last night’s effort by the University of Memphis basketball team was atrocious. There really is no other way to put it. Nobody on the team, save for freshman Nick King, seemed to care that they were being absolutely manhandled. The heralded “best backcourt in the nation” went 8 for 34 from the field good for 24%, the bigs looked completely lost, and everyone seemed to be making mistakes like they had never played together before.

This morning radio shows and message boards will be inundated with cries to fire Coach Josh Pastner with shouts of gloom and doom, NIT berths and longing for  Conference USA.  Are those pleas and complaints justified? Probably.

The effort shown by the players and the lack of coaching to even make last night’s debacle look closer than it was is not a good sign for the season going forward, a season where the Tigers will likely face Oklahoma State again and will see Florida, Louisville, Connecticut, Cincinnati, and other teams that would run circles around the UABs and Marshalls of C-USA.

But is it out of the question that the ship can be righted, that the University of Memphis can still be a quality team in a quality conference that makes a Sweet 16 run? Of course not.

The beautiful thing about basketball, unlike college football, is that teams are allowed to lose. Yes, it hurts NCAA tournament hopes when they do and getting blown out by a Top 25 team for what seems like the millionth time will drive a city to clean off its torches and pitchforks, but there are still games left to be played.

It’s disheartening to see a team that is finally mature, that finally has senior leadership shrug its shoulders and look completely defeated long before a game ends, but that’s what happened last night. Joe Jackson reverted to pouting. Geron Johnson made stupid decisions. But that was yesterday. Today is a new day.

I am trying to avoid being too positive, but despite getting beat last night, in a game the team was supposed to lose no less, there is still plenty of reason for hope. If the Tigers can go out and reel off a few wins in a row and pull out a win against Florida or OSU, should they face the Cowboys again, then all will be forgotten about last night. The team has talent to get it done and a coach that, despite not being all the way there as an Xs and Os guy, is fully capable of getting a team full of talent to compete.

The season is still very young. The team lost one game. Yes it was a bad loss, but most people would take a 20+ point loss on the road to a Top 10 team over a 5 point loss to Rice.

Keep this in mind: John Calipari made one NCAA Tournament in his first five years at the U of M. He had talent on talent on talent and still couldn’t get to the next level because he was “just a recruiter.” The next four years after those first five? Well we all remember how they went. Elite 8, Elite 8, Finals, Sweet 16. It took Cal a while to win when it mattered. It will take Pastner a while. This is the year that it needs to happen. Hopefully the team and the coach can put last night’s embarrassment behind them and turn this season into something special. If they can’t, if it turns into another one and done NCAA tournament season or worse, then there needs to be some reevaluation. But for now, the team has plenty of time to get the proverbial “it” together. Will they do it? I guess we will see.

Warner Russell  covers Tiger Basektball
for MemphiSport. Read his non-sports stuff here. Follow him @uncle_warny.

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Full List Of All The Memphis Tigers’ Conference Games On ESPN Next Season

Tigers-CrowdESPN Networks announced their 2013-14 American Athletic Conference men’s basketball schedule today. The University of Memphis Tigers will play in a total of twelve conference games on the ESPN family of stations.

Here are all Memphis’ American Athletic Conference basketball games airing on ESPN channels this upcoming season (all times Central):

Tue, Dec 31 at 6 pm: Memphis at USF (ESPN2)
Sat, Jan 4 at 11 am: Cincinnati at Memphis (ESPN2)
Thu, Jan 9 at 6 pm: Memphis at Louisville (ESPN or ESPN2)
Sat, Jan 11 at 2 pm: Memphis at Temple (ESPN2)
Thu, Jan 16 at 6 pm: UConn at Memphis (ESPN or ESPN2)
Thu, Jan 23 at  7 pm: Houston at Memphis (ESPNEWS)
Wed, Jan 29 at 7 pm: Memphis at UCF (ESPNU)
Wed, Feb 12 at 8 pm: UCF at Memphis (ESPNU)
Sat, Feb 15 at 11 am: Memphis at UConn (ESPN or ESPN2)
Sat, Feb 22 at 8:30 pm: Temple at Memphis (ESPNU)
Thu, Mar 6 at 6 pm: Memphis at Cincinnati (ESPN or ESPN2)
Sat, Mar 8 at 11 am: SMU at Memphis (ESPN or ESPN2)

Keep up with the channel and time of all Memphis games by following @MemphisOnTV on Twitter.

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Takeaways from the 2012-13 Memphis Grizzlies’ Season

Photo by Michael Cardwell

Photo by Michael Cardwell

The Memphis Grizzlies’ season is over. That is unfortunate. But man it was some kind of a ride. New owners, a a dismantling of the Miami Heat, being the talk of the NBA for the entire first month of the season,a blockbuster trade, Marc Gasol cursing in a postgame interview, uncharted playoff territory, a physical assault of Baby Blake Griffin, and “Whooping That Trick” are a just a few examples of what made this season, the best in the franchise’s young history, so magical.

Now that everything is said in done for the 2012-13 Memphis Grizzlies, here are a few main takeaways from the past season.

5) The Security of the New Ownership:

Robert Pera and Co. certainly made their presence known this year. Jason Levien, Pera’s man in charge, came in and immediately started shaking up the franchise. His hiring of ESPN’s John Hollinger, the foremost expert on basketball analytics and advanced statistics, told the NBA that the way the team was handled was going to change. His trade of Rudy Gay showed the world that he wasn’t afraid to take risks and make unpopular decisions if he genuinely thought it was the best thing for the franchise. His handling of Lionel Hollins’ contract situation has made it clear that the front office isn’t going to make hasty decisions when they aren’t 100% behind them.pera presser

Michael Heisley was a fine owner, but so often he made choices that were either short term decisions that could cause long term problems or he made decisions because he was the owner and it was his right. Pera, Levien, Hollinger, and the rest of the new regime have made it abundantly clear that the decisions they make are going to be well thought out, deeply researched, and ultimately ones that they think are going to make us a championship contender. The city and the fans may not always agree with the new owners, but I believe we should rest easy knowing that they are trying to make the Grizzlies the best team that they can possibly be.

Side note: I hope the Grizzlies can keep Chris Wallace as he has been invaluable to the team’s recent success, but I fear that he may indeed leave to go to a place where he can have the same amount of say he had here before the new ownership came in.

4) The National Attention:

In the midst of our first run to the Western Conference Finals it was commonplace to have multiple internet/magazine/newspaper articles, TV segments, and pregame promos dedicated to the Memphis Grizzlies. It was exciting to know that every day you could read 100s of pieces on the internet discussing how great the Grizz were playing or how they were the new favorites of the West. It was such a nice change to see folks on Sportscenter, ESPN deskPTI, and Around the Horn talking about ZBO and Marc and Mike for more than 30 seconds at a time. It was like a dream knowing that Magic Johnson, Bill Simmons, Mike Wilbon, and Jalen Rose were eating in local restaurants and walking down Beale Street and telling the world how great Memphis is. For once, the Memphis Grizzlies were media darlings and not the laughingstock of the NBA. This was our time in the sun and the team, the city, and the fans absolutely relished in it. Memphis has never looked better or shone brighter. We deserved this.

The hope, of course, is that the extended coverage the Bluff City and the Grizzlies got over the past six weeks will translate into more national broadcasts next season, more fans being made from outside of the Memphis area, and more people looking at Memphis as a great destination city instead of simply the place where Elvis lived.

3) The All-Around Emergence of Quincy Pondexter:

Shane Battier’s crown as Memphis’ favorite adopted son is in danger of being taken by Quincy Pondexter. After an

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

up and down season and a semi-serious injury, he solidified himself in the playoffs as a primary scoring option and athletic defender off the bench. His ability to hit a corner three is something the Grizz need badly, but aside from his playing ability, he offers so much to this city. Q-Pon is constantly involved in community events, spent some of his time off as the result of his injury as part of the SportSouth broadcast team for local games, and even recently scored a date with Miss Tennessee. He is quickly proving to be a real asset to the community and a great role player for a playoff team. If you ask me, I think he breaks into the starting rotation next season. Expect to see an uptick in Pondexter jerseys represented at FedExForum in the very near future.

2) The Love Shared and Commonality between City and Team:

It’s no secret that Memphis loves the Grizzlies. All you had to do was walk around downtown during the playoffs to see how much support our hometown team was getting. Even the national media devoted plenty of pieces to how much Memphis and the Grizzlies fed off of one another. Memphis might not be flashy or ritzy. The Grizzlies might not love acrobatic dunks or beautiful shooting strokes. But both the team and the city sure know how to play the hand they’ve been dealt. The city embraces its roots and its history. It’s not afraid to address its checkered past and point to how that is shaped what it has become now. The Grizzlies aren’t going to try to be something they aren’t. They’re going to play tough, hardnosed basketball. They’re going to beat you up and wear you out. The team knows their identity. The city knows its identity too. That is why the union of Memphis and the Grizzlies is a perfect one.

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

I heard a radio broadcast this week that pointed out how great it was for the Grizz fans to stay until the final buzzer sounded in our last game against the Spurs, one they knew was lost with about a minute and a half left, just to let the Grizzlies know how proud they were of them. The person on the radio said that something like that would never happen in Boston or New York or Chicago or Miami; that those fans would have bolted for the exits. He said those cities try to act like they have everything in common with their teams, but in fact have very little. He went on to say that Memphis is one of the few pro towns where the team and the city mirror each other almost identically. And that is something Memphians should be extremely proud of.

Zach Randolph addressed the relationship between city and himself after wearing out the Spurs in Game 6 of the 2011 playoffs. It can easily translate into describing the city and the entire team as well. You’ve probably heard it, but it can’t be stressed how true it really is. He said:

I love this city, man, they love me back, you know what I’m saying? So it’s good — it’s a blue-collar town and I’m a blue-collar player, I’m a hard worker and this is a hard-workin’ town, ain’t nothin’ been given easy to me, ain’t nothin’ easy been given to this town, so it’s a fit!

1) It’s Mike and Marc’s Team Now:

Over the past three seasons, the Memphis Grizzlies have been Zach Randolph’s and Tony Allen’s team (Never Rudy

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

Gay’s), and that worked well for us as the regular season and post season success can attest to. But after the Rudy Gay trade this year, two players were forced to step up in ways that had not been asked of them before. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol had to show the rest of the team and the NBA that the Grizzlies was their team now. Marc continued blossoming into the best big man in the NBA and Mike, especially during the first two series of the playoffs, showed he was a premier NBA point guard. They became the leaders. Going forward it’s clear that this is their team now.

Zach and Tony brought us relevance. They carried us out of the mud, or really, other teams into the mud. They were the primary reasons we morphed into an NBA contender. But Zach is getting older and Tony is a free agent. The new ownership could very well trade Zach and let Tony walk away. That would be a shame, but the fans have to realize that it’s a viable option that could make us better in the long run. I’m not advocating either move, but the reality is that either or both could happen. If we let Lionel Hollins leave as well, then the entire style of the franchise could change in a big way. I don’t think the Grizz will leave the grit ‘n’ grind style behind, but I do think that you see them try to step up and be a more offensive oriented team. It’s a known fact that the NBA Champions over the past decade have been great defensively AND offensively, and unfortunately, the Grizzlies can only claim to be great in one of those ways. Luckily Marc and Mike are great defensively and offensively. They are perfectly capable of changing games on both ends of the court, and that should be very encouraging to Grizzlies’ fans as we head into the next chapter of the team’s history.

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

I’m not implying that the Grizzlies are going to change coaches and try to completely alter who they are as they move forward. I’m not saying that Zach and Tony, if they stay, won’t help form the team’s identity in the future. I’m simply saying that Mike and Marc are the new faces of this team. They are the ones that will determine our level of success. It’s scary to think that the team is moving in a new direction, but having seen how capable Mike and Marc are of leading the team, I think that the Memphis Grizzlies are in a wonderful position to continue being successful and will be contending for NBA Championships for the next several seasons.

Warner Russell is a regular contributor for MemphiSport and The Wise Guise. Read his non-sports stuff here. Follow him @uncle_warny.

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All the nice stuff ESPN’s Bill Simmons said about Memphis in his podcast

ESPN desk

Memphis is a city that will dislike you for saying one thing they disagree with and love you for saying a few things they do agree with.

Bill Simmons said some misinformed stuff about Memphis and MLK in his podcast this week.

The ESPN analyst, who recently visited Memphis for the first time during the Western Conference Finals, also said some really nice stuff about the Bluff City. But you won’t see any of those favorable quotes making national headlines.

Here are some of the positive things Bill Simmons  said about Memphis in his BS Report podcast (5.29.13):

“We really loved Memphis. That is a fun city to hang out in for four days.”

“Nice compacted downtown…Good food.”

“We rode the trolley, that was kind of fun.”

“Very unassuming city. They are just nice people.”

“The best part about Memphis is we went to this place, Gus’s Fired Chicken. One of the 10 best restaurants in America probably.”

“The Memphis people were nice.”

Even before any of the hoopla started about Simmons’ MLK comments, he tweeted this thank you note to Memphis:Simmons Memphis tweet

Plus at the end of the ‘controversial’ podcast, Simmons’ partner Jalen Rose declared Memphis as the No. 1 NBA city for African American players to visit.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter:   @cerrito

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Photos: Famous faces at Grizz-Spurs WCF Game 4

Here are the best social media pictures featuring some of the famous people in attendance at The Grindhouse to see the Memphis Grizzlies’ historic season come to an end at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals:

(For photos of celebrities at Game 4 of Thunder vs. Grizzlies, click here)

(For photos of celebrities at Game 3 of Spurs vs. Grizzlies, click here)


Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @cerrito

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