Kevin Fixler
    Sport Matters

25 June 2015

Devin Booker aims to do what his father Melvin couldn’t – star in the NBA

On the eve of the 2015 NBA Draft, where franchises each year attempt to choose the next sure-fire stars and unearth diamonds in the rough, the selection of one particular lottery pick is actually a generation in the making.

That’s because University of Kentucky guard Devin Booker, like his father Melvin before him, is a basketball prodigy and a product of tiny Moss Point, Miss. But come Thursday night in Brooklyn, Devin will undoubtedly do something his dad, a standout at Mizzou in the early-1990s, was never able to accomplish – being drafted into the world’s premier professional basketball league. The younger Booker, the SEC Sixth Man of the Year and an All-SEC Freshman Team selection, is in the discussion as the class’s best shooter and may even go in the top-10 picks. No matter the differences, father and son will both anxiously await the commissioner reading the surname they share.

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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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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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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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28 April 2014

The Age of the 40-Year-Old Sports Star

Most of us have seen it, not just the photo, but the image of Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Y.A. Tittle, bloodied and broken, hunched over on his knees in the end zone in the last appearance of his career. It is an indelible snapshot burned into our brains of mortality and sports at their highest level. He was 38.

Also freshly 38, and just off arguably the most successful season of his 15-year professional playing career, is quarterback Peyton Manning. The league’s first five-time MVP led the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl in a year that included breaking records in both regular-season passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns passes (55). Manning, of course, sat out the entire 2011 season after four procedures on his neck that included a fusion surgery and another to repair a bulging disk.

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21 March 2014

Bob Kurland, first player to dunk, a pioneer for big men

Long before the existence of bracketology, the First Four and even the field of 32, let alone one of 64 or 68, the NCAA tournament began in 1939 to minimal fanfare, and much, much less attention than it receives today. There was no “March Madness.”

The name Bob Kurland will mean little to most who are salivating at the prospect of the next 12 over 5-seed upset, or exhibiting actual anxiety that their office — or this year, billion-dollar — bracket might go bust. But even after his passing last September from long-standing health problems at age 88, Kurland was a living legend whose existence has been overlooked, largely because, unlike contemporaries such as George Mikan, he chose not to play professionally.

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17 June 2013

What in My Brain Makes Me So Loyal to My Hopeless Sports Team?

In the midst of highly entertaining championship finals in the NBA and NHL, the rules dictate that eventually one group of fans in each sport will end up severely disappointed. They’ll have ridden the highs and lows of the regular season, cheered on their team to the brink of the ultimate goal, only to wind up devastated. Then they will want to do it all over again next season.

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11 April 2013

The $5 million question: Should college athletes buy disability insurance?

Kevin Ware’s grisly leg fracture during Louisville’s run to the title was excruciating to watch for anyone—but especially so for NCAA athletes, who were reminded of how quickly and violently hopes of an eventual professional career can be put in jeopardy.

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31 January 2013

Hall of Famer Rick Barry explains technique of his signature underhanded free throw shot

The free throw. It’s either a basketball player’s best friend or worst enemy.

While shooting percentages of the uncontested 15-footer have steadily increased since the beginnings of the NBA—the league average is better than 75 percent in nine of the past 10 seasons—some of its best players still struggle with the shot.

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