Kevin Fixler
    Sport Matters

5 June 2015

Is Australia basketball’s next powerhouse?

If you turned on the TV Thursday night for the first game of the NBA finals, you witnessed an event happening for the very first time: two Australians competing against each other in the championship series. Specifically, that’s guard Matthew Dellavedova of the Cleveland Cavaliers and center Andrew Bogut of the Golden State Warriors.

There are seven Aussies in the National Basketball Association—a record number of Boomers, as members of Australia’s men’s national team are called. With the San Antonio Spurs’ consecutive title appearances in 2013 and 2014, which included guard Patty Mills and forward Aron Baynes, Australians are fast becoming a staple of the NBA postseason. While Australia’s rise may look like a recent phenomenon to the more casual basketball enthusiast, it’s actually the result of a steady growth model three decades in the making.

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19 May 2015

Draymond Green adds toughness to Golden State Warriors finesse

The Golden State Warriors’ dream season speeds forward into the Western Conference Finals, and Draymond Green continues to be the team’s driving force – no matter if he’s out on the floor or on the bench.

Averaging a hair over 37 minutes per game throughout this postseason, the versatile forward is rarely out of the game. Even with big numbers – 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals per contest – his impact on the outcome is at least as forceful in his role as head cheerleader. Just watch a game. While teammates sit and rest, the 25-year-old is often the only player standing at the edge of the baseline, towel draped over the shoulders of his bench tee, incessantly rooting and rumbling over the on-court action. And he’s at least as animated and energetic after the game’s final seconds have ticked off the clock as well.

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2 May 2015

Jockey Bill Hartack’s Gritty Legacy Survives at Kentucky Derby

Jockey great Willie Shoemaker “has victory in his grasp,” the commentator declared as the thoroughbreds charged the finish line at the 83rd running of the Kentucky Derby, in 1957. As Shoemaker rose in his stirrups to embrace his win, the crowd of 90,000 no doubt agreed. But a photo finish would reveal that the famed Texan had lost by the slimmest of margins — to a relative unknown named Bill Hartack.

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1 May 2015

The Atlanta Hawks’ Understated Superstar

Filed under: The Sports Fix — Tags: , , , , , , , , — kevinfixler @ 8:00 am

For Al Horford, the moment could have played out so differently. During what would become a double-overtime victory for his NBA team, the Atlanta Hawks, Horford stretched out his right arm to block a pass — then grabbed near his shoulder in obvious pain. With his pectoral muscle completely torn, he missed the rest of that game, two-thirds of last season and his team’s run in the playoffs. Worse yet: That wasn’t the first time he ripped a pec. “It’s only happened in pro basketball three times,” Horford tells OZY, “and it’s happened to me twice.”

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25 March 2015

Adidas Ultra Boost Shoe Campaign

Lent some assistance on an Adidas branded campaign about three dual-sport football players.

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10 March 2015

Scoring high with the Skyhook

There he stands — all 16 feet and 1,500 pounds of, well, not him, but a bronze replica of him, anyway: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His likeness is a permanent fixture outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles where the Lakers play, depicting what he’s best remembered for: his storied skyhook.

Abdul-Jabbar — who entered the NBA in 1969 as Lew Alcindor, the much-heralded first overall pick out of UCLA — was a spindly, 7-foot-2 force at the center position who had led the Bruins to three straight national titles, as well as 88 victories in 90 games. And yet, for all his talent and natural gifts on the court, he also possessed a single tool — his trademark hook shot — so dominant that rivals simply prayed that he would miss.

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21 February 2015

The Man with Olympic Doodads

Filed under: The Sports Fix — Tags: , , , , , , , , — kevinfixler @ 8:00 am

Much like the setting of Mounir Zok’s office, located in the newly renovated U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, his field of specialty remains largely a work in progress. But that isn’t stopping him in his quest to get more Americans on podiums, holding more medals, preferably gold.

His secret weapon? Well, we can’t say exactly what it is (that’s secret), but it’s about a host of cool little monitoring gadgets, some of which athletes are tucking in their shoes, wearing as bracelets or slipping into their shorts. It seemed like only a few Olympics ago that specialized training and nutrition were all the rage in gaining a competitive edge. But today, it’s all about these doodads that have become the magical third eye of coaching, little trackers on steroids for when, as Zok puts it, “the naked vision is not enough anymore.”

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18 February 2015

When Perfection Happened

It’s one of those classic moments in sports that is universal for those of a certain age. Actually, it was more than a classic moment. It was a perfect moment.

It was 1976, at the Olympic Games in Montreal, and Cold War politics were being played out through sport every four years on the grandest of stages. There, vaulting onto the uneven bars was a tiny Romanian, Nadia Comaneci, with a ponytail in ribbons, dressed in a mostly white leotard with the number 73 pinned on the back. Flip after spin, she seemed to effortlessly fly through the air for 17 breathless seconds before dismounting in a swan dive. She landed expertly on her feet, and the crowd erupted.

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16 January 2015

Croatia’s Borna Coric is tennis’ next great star

Borna Coric has been at the helm of some of pro tennis’s biggest upsets over the past year. But ask him who his favorite athletes were growing up, and you won’t hear only the names of your typical tennis legends. You’ll hear the name Mike Tyson.

Does it make sense? Not particularly until you hear that his early hope in life — assuming he was not a tennis player — was to be inside a ring trading punches. He’s even seen nearly all of Iron Mike’s fights on YouTube and says he likes the former heavyweight champ’s professional persona. “I just like his character when he’s in the ring,” the 18-year-old tells OZY.

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9 December 2014

Could Asia and the Middle East produce the world’s next great tennis stars?

U.S. Tennis

It’s been quite the ride for tennis player David Goffin of late. The 23-year-old, who started the year coming off a wrist injury and ranked No. 110 in the world, has since won first ATP World Tour title, ended the season with a career-high ranking of No. 22 and was dubbed the ATP Comeback Player of the Year. But like many of today’s most promising players, Goffin isn’t from the United States—he’s from a country that’s smaller than the population of Pennsylvania: Belgium.

In the world of pro tennis, it’s no secret that the days of American supremacy appear numbered—and, some say, may already be gone forever. But there’s perhaps another shift going on that’s even more groundbreaking, and that may set a new course for the direction of the sport—and where the tournaments are heading may provide some insight. A handful of top pros, for instance, are making stops in Singapore (also currently the home of the WTA Finals), Delhi (the first host for the ATP’s Chennai Open) and Dubai, as well as the Philippines (all quite a ways from either the U.S. Open in Queens or Wimbledon in London) as part of the new offseason International Premier Tennis League. At this rate, many observers say, it may only be a matter of time before such events help inspire a kid from the region to become the next Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. “The Middle East, the Far East and Asia are experiencing tremendous growth as far as tennis is concerned,” says Mahesh Bhupathi, the IPTL’s founder and managing director.

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