Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports


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Why Davidson Should Reexamine Its Policy on Retiring Numbers

Stephen Curry and Davidson College are close to synonymous in the minds of millions of sports fans. The NBA MVP wore the Davidson name on his chest for three years, but has carried the school’s name with him wherever he’s gone since. Nobody can mention Davidson without Curry.

Davidson men’s basketball coach Bob McKillop, four wins shy of 500 for his career, has become an unofficial spokesman for Curry. Appearing on nearly every national sports platform there is, McKillop has spent countless mornings talking about his former star. Even six years past Curry’s departure for the NBA, McKillop is spending large portions of his time and energy talking up Curry, because frankly, Curry’s success and profile in the NBA can only help the Davidson basketball program.

The college too has realized just how important Curry is to the school’s image and brand. A disproportionate amount of posts on official college social media accounts are Curry related. And while some of them reference Curry’s time at Davidson and his magical run to the Elite 8 in 2008, most are simply another article about how great a player he is. During freshman orientation, Curry’s signature is shown on the big screen, not on a basketball but on the Honor Code pledge. In the minds of many, he is Davidson.

When the college was creating its new tv ad for the start of Atlantic 10 play this past year, the school narrowed their choices to three final scripts. One of which was 30 seconds of Curry and how Davidson allowed him to excel. To the relief of many, somebody realized the school shouldn’t go that far, and they eventually settled on the “We Make It Better” ad, which still communicates before saying anything else about the school that Curry was a Wildcat.

At the union late at night, the Warriors games will always be on, for nearly everybody on campus is in some small way a Warriors fan. Because we all love Steph, both who he is and all he did for the school. Our bookstore still sells number 30 Davidson jerseys, which the NCAA would assure you are in no way related to the current NBA superstar who wore that number at Davidson of course.

Yet walk into Belk Arena, home of the basketball team, and there is no mention of Curry in sight. Wander downstairs to the cafe and you might find a small framed picture on the wall along with many other athletics photos, but inside the arena, there is nothing. Look up to the rafters and number 30 is conspicuously not up there with the greats of Davidson basketball. Bob McKillop’s signature is now on the court named after the legendary coach, but signs of his famous player are nowhere to be found.

All of this can be explained. Davidson College has a policy that only players who have graduated can have their numbers retired. And Curry knew this when he declared for the NBA Draft after his junior year. Graduating from Davidson is tough, but even tougher for a professional athlete, because the school doesn’t offer summer courses, and has a policy that a student’s final eight credits must be taken at the college unless special permission is granted.

Towards the bottom of this Associated Press article about his declaring for the draft back in 2009, it says, “Curry met with the school’s president to see if other arrangements could be made to get his degree, but was told he’d have to take most of his senior-year courses on campus.” And I think that stance is fair. It’s understandable that the college wouldn’t want to just hand him a degree.

But despite this, Curry has maintained that he intends to finish his degree. During the NBA lockout in 2011, he returned to school and took three classes, finishing them up during training camp on the school’s allowance when the lockout ended in early December, shortly before exams would have been. However the end of the lockout meant he’s not quite done. Ahead of him lies one more semester, one that would include a thesis, likely on NBA and tattoos. But without another lockout, the next time Curry would be free for a full semester would be after retirement, which hopefully won’t be for another 12+ years.

When somebody hears about Davidson, the first two things that are normally associated with the school are Curry and free laundry. Well, Lula Bell laundry is now gone, so for many who aren’t familiar with the school, Curry is what is keeping Davidson on the national radar. And he carries that banner with aplomb, representing the school better than anyone else can.

At graduation this year, President Carol Quillen talked about how traditions shouldn’t just be upheld for tradition’s sake. She spoke about how wonderful the dialogue is about such issues at Davidson and cited the closing of Lula Bell as a way for the school to look forward rather than back. As one of the most vocal supporters of Curry as there is, you’d think she might see the changing tides at Davidson as a chance to tweak the rule that necessitates graduation for a number to be retired in the basketball program.

While I don’t necessarily agree with the need to relinquish tradition, I do think this is a time when Davidson can give back to the man that is giving Davidson such a terrific name right now. With the way the school is embracing his success and using that to fundraise and get the school’s brand out there, it is time the basketball program itself embraced Curry on a formal level too. If McKillop isn’t comfortable with retiring his number, a banner for his career point total or for his NBA MVP somewhere in Belk Arena would still be better than nothing.

Davidson could also use such an occasion to retire the late Mike Maloy’s number. Maloy was the first African-American basketball player at the school in 1967 and he, like Curry excelled on the court, taking the team to not one, but two Elite 8’s. He covered Sports Illustrated while at Davidson and was named an All-American three times. He, too, never graduated due to his basketball career, but was vital to the college for breaking the color barrier for the basketball program.

I’m aware that McKillop is hyper protective of Curry right now. Any and all requests to bring him to campus for one reason or another are almost guaranteed to be denied by our coach, who is justifiably looking out for his star. And perhaps he’d be worried that Curry wouldn’t have as much of an incentive to finish his classes if his number were retired. But I don’t think that is enough of a reason to justify not honoring him in some capacity.

As we all watch Curry excel in the NBA Finals, I believe it is time the college reexamines its policy on retiring numbers. For all that Curry is doing for the school’s name and the way the school is embracing that, he deserves formal acknowledgment of some kind in the basketball arena, the place where he made his mark, and a retired number could make the most sense. My hope is that by the time I graduate in two years, Curry’s 30 and Maloy’s 15 will be up in the rafters of Belk Arena along with Hobby Cobb’s 21, Fred Hetzel’s 44, Dick Snyder’s 10, John Gerdy’s 33 and Derek Rucker’s 11. It’s time we said thank you for what these players have done not just for the program, but for the school.

What do you think about this issue? Please comment below.


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You Deserve This, Duncan

This will be brief. But I would be remiss not to congratulate the San Antonio Spurs on their NBA Championship. After Game 7 last year, I did not expect this team to have another playoff run in them. But as I should have learned long ago, never underestimate Greg Popovich or Tim Duncan. Those two are beyond incredible. If everyone else in the NBA developed players like the Spurs, the quality of basketball in the NBA would go up tenfold. This championship by the Spurs has proved that the old style of developing talent still works in the NBA. You don’t have to bring superstars together in free agency. It gives hope to teams around the league that even if your city isn’t a destination city, you still can win a championship.

I hope discussion in the coming days on ESPN focuses more on the Spurs than on the Heat, but it will be inevitable that LeBron will still draw the headlines. LeBron was good this series, but not good enough to beat this Spurs team alone. And unfortunately for the Heat, that was what it felt like at times. When the Spurs were bringing in endless energy and scoring off their bench, LeBron was left looking at Michael Beasley as his savior off the bench in the fourth quarter of Game 5. He simply didn’t have the supporting cast this year that he’s had in years past.

I’d like to see LeBron opt out of his contract for his own sake. Wasting another year of his prime in Miami would be a shame. Wouldn’t it be exciting if we could go back three years and see LeBron play with a dynamic, athletic supporting cast again? I want to see LeBron get another shot with a younger team. As his career goes on, he will rue not playing with younger talent if he stays in Miami. If he does stay, the Heat will need to find a way to sign younger players instead of veterans to fill their remaining roster spots. At some point, the Big 3 become the veterans with championship pedigree, and they won’t need anyone else in the locker room to show the rookies what the playoffs are about.

Lastly, I want to say how happy I am for Tim Duncan to win another championship. That man is the consummate professional. He is the player that high schoolers need to emulate rather than the LeBron’s or the Carmelo’s. I hope Duncan gets the credit he deserves over the next few years as he moves closer to retirement for being an all-time great. For he is one of the game’s true superstars. As he gradually passes the torch, he has turned the Spurs organization into one of the best in all of sport. That the Spurs gave hugs to the Heat before celebrating shows how classy this organization and this group of players are. They deserve this championship. Congratulations.

What were your thoughts on the Finals? Are you happy with the outcome?

 

 


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A Great Day for the Sports Fan

I don’t know if I’ve stopped smiling since I woke up. I swear I even heard Ian Darke’s melodious voice in my sleep last night. It’s finally here. In just a few short hours, all that will matter will be soccer. For a few hours each day, we can all sit back and watch the best theater there is.

My plan as far as content goes for the World Cup will be as follows. In the morning, I will post my predictions and preview and for that day’s games (see yesterday’s post for the Brazil-Croatia preview) hopefully by 9 or 10 a.m. eastern time. If I have time, I will write a second article in the evening after the games, offering my analysis on what has occurred. If I don’t have time, the analysis will accompany the next day’s morning predictions. I might add other content to these posts, but that is what you can expect going forward.

However, today is not only about soccer in the sports world. One of America’s best events, the U.S. Open, also begins today. I don’t claim to be the world’s biggest golf fan. Nor am I the best golfer for that matter. But there is something about the U.S. Open that gets me every year. It’s not that it makes for great television necessarily, or that it’s incredibly impressive athletically, but rather it’s the tradition involved and the grace with which the event is held that make it stand alone.

Golf won’t be my highest priority for the next few days, but I will make sure I don’t miss it. Especially if Phil Mickelson is in contention, the U.S. Open deserves attention for being such a classy event.

And that’s not all today. After you’ve had your fill of golf and soccer, we head to Miami for game 4 of the NBA Finals. Tonight could potentially mark the beginning of the end of the big 3 era in Miami should San Antonio pull out the win. For a 3-1 lead would be nearly insurmountable for the fragile Heat. If things don’t go their way early, LeBron might very well have to win tonight’s game on his own. His teammates have not been holding their weight lately, and it makes me wonder whether LeBron will look elsewhere sooner rather than later.

Tonight’s key for Miami has to be Chris Bosh. That he only touched the ball 12 times on the offensive end in Game 3 is an embarrassment for both the Heat organization and Bosh himself. Chris Bosh is a great player. There’s no doubt about that. But his legacy is on the line as this series winds down. He needs to show that he rightfully deserves to be mentioned alongside Lebron and Dwyane Wade as a lead in their story. Should he disappear again tonight, people might forever think of him as merely a sidekick. His contributions to the previous championships will be written out of the story and replaced with tales of the disappearing acts when his team needed him.

It is in the best interest for LeBron to get Bosh going early tonight. Because LeBron can’t win three games on his own. He can take over one or two more, sure. But not three. He needs his teammates to start playing like champions. And Chris Bosh is the key.

I’ll be at Fenway Park tonight to see the Red Sox take on Terry Francona and the Indians – if I’m lucky the Red Sox might score a run tonight – so I won’t have time to do analysis of the Brazil game until tomorrow. Have a great day watching sports, everyone. If ESPN doesn’t get turned off all day I won’t blame you. Enjoy it. I know I will.

Thanks for reading, and please offer your comments on NBA Finals, golf, or whatever else you find interesting.