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Oakland Soldiers Get Gooden Love

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By Risse AKA ‘Town Biz

Hot Prospects 2008

Young Soldiers run drills at Hot Prospects 2007 Drew Gooden grew up playing for the Oakland Soldiers/Slam N Jam youth basketball program.

Now it will bear his name.

The 26-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers forward has made a commitment of money and time to a program that will be known as the Drew Gooden Soldiers. The organization recently hosted the Hot Prospects Invitational camp for select 7th-11th graders in September. This weekend they will host the annual Super 100 Camp at St. Maryʼs College in Moraga, CA. The event is designed for 9th-12th graders who are rated as the best high school players in their respective classes throughout Northern California. (For more information, visit www.slamnjam.org)

Hot Prospects Body Up

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Players body up as Slam N Jamʼs Carl Foster plays Drill Sergeant

“When I started playing with the Soldiers, I did not know much about basketball. I knew I just loved playing,” Gooden said in a statement to the Bay Area News Group. “The Soldiers showed me a whole new world of basketball and life skills. They exposed me to the opportunities that basketball had to offer.

“You could say that the Slam N Jam/Soldiers program provided me with a map and tour guides to the road of success.” Meanwhile, Goodenʼs teammate, superstar LeBron James, has named his Nike LeBron Air Zoom Soldier in honor of the program for which he played during two summers in high school.

“Well, the soldier is kinda what I am on the court,” James told the Bay Area News Group through his publicist. “And then playing for them as a youngster really made it easy to make it that name.” The Soldiers will get sponsorship help from Nike, and its players will receive Jamesʼ Air Zoom Soldier shoes along with other gear.

The Slam N Jam program, in its 18th year, has served more than 1,000 youngsters throughout the Bay Area, helping to prepare dozens of them for college. Seven current NBA players — including Leon Powe, Chauncey Billups and Eddie House — played on the summer league circuit for the Soldiers.

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The ʻTown reps worldwide with Gametime Gear.

A funny thing happened to me when I walked in the Northern California Super 100 Boys Basketball Camp last week, a gathering of the top NorCal high school ballers sponsored by the Slam N Jam Organization in the Bay Area. (www.slamnjam.org)

So I stroll in the gym with loads of Bounce magazines wearing an old pair of EBC shorts. Itʼs no big deal until two feet inside, this man suddenly says, “Those are my shorts.” Huh? At first, I donʼt even trip off ole boy. Then he points to the logo on my baby blue Lady Mustang joints (what up Tone & Rocky!!) and says, “I made those. Those are my shorts.” It is very likely that if this stranger had said that to me back Uptown, I would have thought nothing of it really. But this is over 2,000 miles away and the Bay Area. I decide to investigate.

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Gametime samples

So I surprisingly found another reason to give the hometown some love. Many people donʼt know this, but most of the ill uniform designs out in the past few years have come from the mind of Mark Olivier. His company, Gametime Gear, has done all the heavyweight designs for major players including Entertainerʼs Basketball Classic, adidas, Nike and Reebok. He has designed exclusive joints for tournaments and teams sponsored Jay-Z, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Antoine Walker, and Baron Davis. The company has serviced everyone from high schools to the Harlem Globetrotters. BXʼs Fat Joe even wore a Gametime design on a cover of Dime this year.

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55th knows that Oakland keeps the game so icy

If nothing else, we should give Olivier dap for this alone: Lebron James. It is Olivier & crew who really should get credit for introducing the world to King James. Mark can tell endless stories of basically breaking elite players in the AAU ranks nationwide through the reputed Oakland Soldiers program. If you know AAU basketball, you are familiar with the Soldiers. They are the ones with camouflage on their uniforms!

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A look at the Soldiers Wall of Fame

LeBron James–who played with the Soldiers while in high school–is by far the most highly recognized talent from their roster to date, while Oakland native and Cavs eammate Drew Gooden is the local Soldiers product turned big-minute big man in the League. In fact, they recently named the team the Drew Gooden Soldiers. Check the butters at: www.gametimegear.net

Boycott the BCS! (Reason #1 of Why Iʼm a Fan of Sports)

Posted by: P.O.E.

January 2009

Stats have always been just that for me, stats. They are there, and like physics, whether I study and really understand them or not, they exist. I was always pretty good in math and like fantasy sports because of the numbers, but for me, some guys just are too steeped in the numbers.

But Bill James is the “Numbers Guy”. THE Numbers Guy, really. He was the first to really implement statistical data to gain an edge or advantage in sport.

So, when I talk about his article, I understand that it has some weight. The basics of his argument can be summarized here:

It is,” wrote Stern, “generally a bad idea for quantitative analysts to remove themselves from the decision-making process,” but there are also times that, to preserve your self-respect, you pick up the briefcase and walk out of the room. This, in my view, is one of those times. The problems with the BCS are:

1. That there is a profound lack of conceptual clarity about the goals of the method;

2. That there is no genuine interest here in using statistical analysis to figure out how the teams compare with one another. The real purpose is to create some gobbledygook math to endorse the coachesʼ and sportswritersʼ vote;

3. That the ground rules of the calculations are irrational and prevent the statisticians from making any meaningful contribution; and

4. That the existence of this system has the purpose of justifying a few rich conferences in hijacking the search for a national title, avoiding a postseason tournament that would be preferred by the overwhelming majority of fans. The argument about whether there should be a NCAA College playoff system has been debated for the past two decades… or perhaps longer. How long ago was it that University of Washington and Georgia Tech shared the championship? How can either or one of those teams claim to be national champions? What is the point of playing the games, including the bowl games, if there is not a clear eventual number 1 team?

Of course James has a statistical argument, which is his hallmark. He backs up his arguments with the numbers.

Fine.

Often when in arguments about sports, or who is better than who, or, better, whom is better than whom, I have to rely on numbers to bolster my argument. But I think it gets away from the essence of the game.

I watch competitive sports for a few reasons:

Reason #1 of why I’m a fan:

Because it shows the triumph of the human spirit. A noted Supreme Court Judge said it better than I could, and to paraphrase: “If you want to look at the problems in the world, you look to the front page of the newspaper [this was back when newspapers were relevant]. But, if you want to look at the triumph of the human spirit, you look to the sports pages.” I think it was Byron ʻWhizzerʼ White, a former collegiate athlete who said this, but Iʼm not completely certain.

And, I chose to believe it. There are, of course, those cases of supreme sadness in sports; Rae Carruthʼs plotted double murder of his wife and unborn child, the tragic details surrounding pro wrestler Chris Benoit (which is surrounded by seemingly tertiary elements of drugs, madness and money from the central fact that he killed his son and wife), and humourous and sad stories like Plaxico Burress who shot himself in the leg with a gun he carried into a club in the waistband of his sweatsuit.

But there are many, many more stories about the triumph of the human spirit. One of my favorites, and on that strikes me every time I watch it is this one:

Autisitc High Schooler Jason McElwain Scores 20

Or this one:

Derek Redmond and Father. Olympics 1992 Barcelona.

It doesnʼt matter that the later video is in Spanish. The imagery says enough.

Why Iʼm a fan – Reason #2

Well, when I started writing about Bill James and his statistic analysis of why the BCS should be boycotted, I did not imagine that it would lead to the diatribe that Iʼm now on. To be honest though, I have been thinking about writing this for some time, and this was just the impetus to get it done.

The point of what I want to get at, is Why Be A Fan?

Really. Why be a fan of sports? Especially one particular, or many particular teams. To the point of buying season tickets and jerseys and whatever other chatzkies are out there.

In fact, letʼs play the antithesis here and dig deeper. The first law of sport marketing is that sports is a business. You hear it all the time. From athletes who get traded and say, “Its just a business.” To agents who defend the amounts being paid to their clients, “Its what the market will bear”. To the owners who are ʻforcedʼ to raise ticket prices, “we have to keep up with the economy.” Everyone in the business knows it is a business, and if they donʼt, they quickly learn.

So where are the revenues for the machine. Ads. Right. Marketing of companies. They pay a ton to get their names on Super Bowl ads and that revenue comes back to the teams and to the league. And their ads are targeted. Yup. Targeted. To the sports fan.

The sports industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and it makes its money on the sweat of people who love sports like you and I. Knowing this, why are we fans?

One more step here. On a personal note, I have an Elton Brand jersey. I am an admitted Clippers fan. I was there for their magical playoff run. I had season tickets that year and bought playoff tickets. I was there for the Reggie Evans nut grab incident with Chris Caveman. I was there. I bought in with tickets and jerseys and food and parking and time and… whatever. What did that year cost me in terms of dollars and opportunity cost? Many, many thousands of dollars.

I donʼt bring this up to boast. Quite the contrary, I bring it up because Elton brand is no longer a Clipper.

I think Elton is a great individual. He is a complete professional on, and off the court. Gentleman by all accounts. Accomplished filmmaker (he has producers credit for the Christian Bale movie, Rescue Dawn). I love the way Elton plays the game. He plays it hard. I like to say that he brings his hard hat to the game- every game! He doesnʼt take plays off. He hustles. Does the little things. Does the big things. Has a post game. Hits the 15 footer with regularity. Hits his free throws. Blocks shots.

And he DUNKS.

One of my favorite photos is this one of him dunking over KG toward the beginning of the 2005 playoff run. Elton is a generous 6′ 9″ (if that) but he has long arms and a great understanding of the game. KG is closer to 7 feet and was in his prime at this moment. This dunk signaled the beginning of the run. Set a statement for the team. I remember seeing this photo the day after the game, clipping it out, posting it on my office cube wall and dialing my ticket representative to up my order.

I knew we were on to something special. Especially when I saw the connection that Elton and Sam ʻBall Danceʼ Cassell had on the court. I thought, if they can stay healthy. We have something here.

And now, Elton is a Clipper no more. I mean, what do I do with my Clipper Brand jersey now?

I went through months of on again, off again, love of the Clippers. But the truth is, it is too hard to shake. I am compelled like a Vampire for blood to follow this team, for better or worse.

It does mean though, that I donʼt spend a portion of the money that I once did on a team, and I would certainly not purchase another jersey, unless it was of a player who had retired with the team and was one of the team or league all time greats. But, to be honest, I did just plunk down $200 on UCLA gear. The long and the short of this part of my diatribe, is that I watch and participate in sports because it is in my blood. That is the best I can describe it, but it is the result of a lifetime of experiences in both playing and watching the games. Reason number 1 that I am a fan is that it shows the triumph of the human soul. Reason 2; its in my blood. Reason 3… coming up.

Why Iʼm a fan… reason 3

On my previous two posts/pages I had been going on a discourse of why Iʼm a fan of sports. In face of it all- the money it costs to go to the game, the obvious exploitation of the fan by companies and sport franchises alike, and the disturbing actions taken by many of the players- why are we fans?

My thoughts on this had been ʻbubblingʼ beneath the surface for some time, but the Bill James article really spurred me to put my thoughts down on the page. His rationalism against the BCS system backed by stats was jarring because it seemed to me to come down to a simple question; why watch the games if a true champion is not going to be crowned? Indeed, why watch the BCS games if it ultimately is rather meaningless?

Here is reason number 3 of why I am a fan, why I watch sports. Because I want to share it with my future family, the way I shared in the sports experience growing up with my family.

I have four brothers and with each of them I have a memorable sports experience that I can remember which binds us together. For my brother Matt, it would be the late nights at our first home on Lombardy in Pasadena, CA practicing basketball plays. He the point guard, diminutive and smart. Me, the power forward setting some screens on the pick-and-pop. Not sure that we knew what we were doing at the time, but I remember playing and practicing until the lights turned on outside… and then continuing into playing in the dark.

My father was also instrumental with my love of sports. Growing up he would throw pitches to me against the garage as we competed mano-a-mano. I still remember him hitting a moon shot against me that went into the neighborsʼ yard- across the street neighbors, with a tennis ball and a wood bat. Crushed it.

Or, that my father used PVC to set up goal posts in the front yard. His motto regarding football was, “kick the ball and get out”. I guess that way you donʼt get hurt, right pop? Even to this day, and my dad is pushing 80 now, we can still talk about these memories. Even to talk about The Natural- probably my favorite sports movie ever- as he always thought that I had the kind of potential that Roy Hobbs (Robert Redfordʼs character) had. He believed in me and we had a special connection through sports.

I consider myself fortunate to have been an above average athlete growing up. Competing in sports was fun for me. And I was rather good at it. And, should my offspring (God willing) want to explore sports (God willing) then I will be there to support them. Honestly, it would not have to be sports, but as I have it in my blood I would hope to pass on some of the love to them.

Reason number 3 that Iʼm a fan- it is generational.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 6:55 pm and is filed under ARTICLES. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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