unguarded-lenny wilkens with terry pluto (conclusion)

“When you compare players from the fifties and sixties to today’s, you have to remember that we were the best athletes of our time, and we’d presumably benefit from the same advantages today’s players have if we somehow transported forward in time. I know that I would have been as good a player today as I was back in my era, and I believe that would be true of the best of our players from those years. It’s almost comical to think about how little we did to take care of ourselves back then.” (80)

“Players now can’t believe how little we made, or how we had to work in the summers. They’re surprised to hear that we had to worry about a pension plan at all. But that was all part of the almost blue-collar world of the NBA back then.” (105)

“I felt very comfortable with Monsanto. In fact, when the team moved from St.Louis to Atlanta, they offered me a full-time job. For a moment, I considered it, because my final season with the Hawks was probably my hardest in all of pro-basketball.” (109)

“I didn’t have an agent. This was 1960, and no one had an agent. The NBA of 1960 wasn’t considered the meal ticket for an entire family. It was the best basketball league in the world, but few people knew it. The Boston Celtics had one of the greatest teams the world had ever seen, yet they didn’t sell out Boston Garden. Few NBA teams sold out.” (63)

“So here is the situation: The best high-school players are constantly being recruited by summer league coaches, by high-school coaches, by college coaches, by summer camps, and by renegade adults who want to be their agents. None of this is healthy psychologically, nor does it lead to making the kids better players. Too often, they aren’t coached in the fundamentals of the game, because no one wants to get in their faces and tell them what they can’t do. They worship at the shrine of the dunk, which is a symbol of how the game has changed.” (56)

“Who gave him the contract in the first place? The Hawks did. Now they thought the contract was too expensive. The Hawks aren’t the only team to do this, you hear it a lot: A team gives a player a contract, then complains that the guy is being ‘overpaid’. Well, they’re the ones who decided to pay him that much.” (274)

“I wasn’t shocked that Shaq was unaware of my career. I hadn’t played since 1975. Why would players of Shaq’s generation know? It would be nice if they had that sense of history, but most don’t-and I’m not hung up about that.” (258)

“Next, I met with Donald Sterling, the real-estate tycoon who owns the team. He seemed a little distant, not locked in to our interview. I’d asked him if he planned to sign this player or trade that guy, and he’d just look at me and say, ‘Ooh, everybody on this team loves each other.’
The guy had no grasp of what was going on with his own team.” (248)

“I’ve always respected the great Buffalo Bills teams, those same Bills teams that never won a Super Bowl. To many fans and writers, that means they can never be great, never be special: Only champions are great, and everyone else is a loser, or at least falls short. I’ve never believed that. The true measure of a team is how it answers this question: Did they play as well as they possibly could?” (264)

“I could dribble equally well with either hand, and I have Father Mannion and those chairs to thank for that. I smile as I think about those chairs, and I think about all the formal ballhandling drills the kids are doing today. They work fine, but no better than those chairs set up by Father Mannion. When I coached the Cavs and Steve Kerr wanted to improve his ballhandling skills over the summer, that’s what we did-we set up chairs for him to dribble around. Michael Jordan said he did the same thing after his rookie year: He knew he needed work on his dribbling, so he set up chairs in a gym-and went through the drills alone.” (35)

again-i’ve pulled so many that the quotes can talk for themselves. i just want to stress that the people (players and owner) that he’s talked about are still relevant today, and that’s the measure of a true basketball treasure. bigup to all the former point guard coaches (jason kidd, i’m looking at you) and to the true proponents of team ball who not only believe in letting folks earn their props, but to giving them when they are indeed due.


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