(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
For the second straight year, the NBA and Santa Stern gave fans a double header of premium basketball on Christmas day.
The first game was a rematch of last year’s Finals between the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, pitting the two best teams in the league against one another.
It should have been a game for the ages, but it turned out to be another snooze fest that resulted in yet another Pistons win.
The second game featured Shaq vs. Kobe, Phil vs. Riley, and a host of intriguing subplots that overshadowed the Pistons/Spurs contest. Last year’s game between Miami and Los Angeles went into overtime, and this one wasn’t decided until the final minutes.
The game proved that Kobe and Shaq still can’t get along, Riley is in the process of making the Heat tougher (evidenced by Dwayne Wade uncharacteristically getting rough with Kobe and Gary Payton provoking Lamar Odom with some of the verbal skills that made him an All-Pro Jerk), Kobe is in the process of reshaping himself and the Lakers, Jackson is on cruise this year (I don’t think he got up from the bench once), and the Heat are a long way from making the Finals.
My NBA Christmas wish for next year is that Kobe and Shaq finally kiss and make up, and the Grizzlies get to play on the 25th.
I think I’ll have to be extremely good for those things to happen.
Speaking of extremely good, the rest of the nation got a late Christmas gift courtesy of DeAngelo Williams and the Memphis Tigers.
Williams showed why he is the best back in the nation by leading the Tigers past MAC champ Akron in the Motor City Bowl Monday.
The Wynne native finished his career with more 100-yard games in history than anyone else by running for 233 yards and 3 TDs. He also became the nation’s leading rusher and ended his spectacular career with the second highest yards per carry average in history.
But he is still underrated.
The talking heads on ESPN questioned his durability and speed while saying he would be no lower than the third running back taken in the draft.
Lou Holtz even teased the halftime studio show by saying he would reveal how Akron had successfully stopped Williams in the first half. DeAngelo had 64 yards at that point and finished the half with 88.
After the Zips had cut the Memphis lead to six late in the fourth quarter, the play-by-play man was raving about Akron’s will and resolve and said that Tiger QB Maurice Avery would have to show what he was made of on Memphis’ next series.
Williams promptly took the ensuing handoff and raced 68 yards to the two-yard line. He capped off his two-play drive by carrying two 300-pound linemen with him across the goal line.
It was a fitting end to a career that has catapulted the Tigers back to respectability and a young man from Wynne, Arkansas into the first round of the NFL Draft. Even if you are not a Tiger fan, you should be a DeAngelo Williams fan.
Athletes with his combination of size, speed, strength, agility, vision, work ethic, loyalty, humility, intelligence, compassion, character, and heart are hard to find.
In case you missed him play in that beautiful blue and gray, look for him on Sunday’s next fall.