AIR054: Mario Elie – Three-time NBA Champion & Rockets’ 30-Year Team member | Podcast

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Mario Elie - moments before his 'Kiss of Death'Three-time NBA Champion and one of Houston’s Top 10 Players of all-time, Mario Elie.

We discuss Mario’s incredible journey from New York’s Power Memorial High School, through to becoming a three-time NBA Champion – a perfect example of hard work, determination and achievement. Many years before he joined the Golden State Warriors, Mario was teammates with future Hall of Famer, Chris Mullin. We reminisce about Mario’s HS career and decision to play for American International College. He had a stellar run and was named Conference Rookie of the Year (1982), three-time All-American and led his division II team to the Elite Eight in the 1985 NCAA Tournament. He was inducted into AIC’s Hall of Fame in 2005, and earlier this year, had his #41 jersey retired.


 

The Milwaukee Bucks selected Elie with pick 160 (7th round) in the 1985 NBA Draft. His first NBA game was more than five seasons later (Dec 28, 1990). In the interim, Mario played in numerous countries across Europe – Ireland, Argentina and Portugal, to name a few – further developing his game. He returned to home soil and played in developmental leagues across America, including the USBL, WBL & CBA (where he would become an All-Star).

In December, 1990, Mario’s NBA opportunity arrived, courtesy of then-76ers GM, Gene Shue. The countless miles of travel and perseverance paid off. After a brief stint with Philadelphia, Mario signed with Golden State, where he played alongside the famed ‘Run TMC’ (Hardaway, Richmond & Mullin). Two seasons later (1993), he was a Trail Blazer.

We chat about the moment Mario found out he was traded to the Rockets, and deep dive into his career with Houston, where he played five seasons and won two NBA Championships. In the do-or-die Game 7 of the 1995 Western Conference Semi-Finals, he made one of the biggest shots in NBA history – affectionately known as the ‘Kiss of Death’. He shares the details of how that famous show of emotion, came to be.


 

Prior to the (1999) lockout-shortened season, Mario signed as a free agent with San Antonio, where he won his third NBA title. He talks about his key role in Sean Elliott‘s Memorial Day Miracle and the leadership of Hall of Famer, David Robinson, and (future Hall of Famer) a young Tim Duncan. I even find a way to briefly talk about another teammate of Mario’s, Australian legend, Andrew Gaze.


 

Recently, the Houston Rockets celebrated the 20th anniversary of their back-to-back NBA Championships. Mario talks about that experience and the joy of re-connecting with many of his friends and former teammates, including Vernon Maxwell, Sam Cassell, Robert Horry, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, Otis Thorpe, Kenny Smith, Chucky Brown, Rudy Tomjanovich and more.


 

We round out the discussion, by chatting about Mario’s coaching background. He has worked as an NBA assistant coach for the best part of ten years. He discusses those experiences, his future ambitions at the highest level and the ultimate moment of his career, to date.

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Brush with Greatness – Michael Jordan

Contributor: Ross Franco | Learn about his encounters with Michael Jordan.

I grew up in a small coastal town in North Carolina, called Wilmington. I moved there when I was about 11 years old and absolutely fell in love with it. As any NBA fan knows, Wilmington, North Carolina, is also the home of Michael Jordan – the greatest basketball player to ever play the game.

I went to John T. Hoggard High School and graduated in 1982. Across town at E.A. Laney High School, a future legend was finishing up his high school career for the Buccaneers. Michael Jordan graduated from Laney HS in 1981. He went on to star at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We all know about MJ’s legacy in college, the Olympics and the NBA.

Ross' 1981 HS Yearbook | Laney Buccaneers vs. Hoggard Vikings

Ross’ 1981 HS Yearbook | Laney Buccaneers vs. Hoggard Vikings

Back in the early 1980s, we didn’t have the Internet, Twitter and Facebook, bombarding us with a constant flow of information; so, I had not even heard of Michael Jordan, until he was a senior in high school. MJ entered my consciousness about the same time as most other people – when he played at UNC as a freshman and hit this game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship, against Georgetown:

I have been fortunate to meet Michael Jordan, on four or five different occasions in Wilmington, NC.

The first time I met him, I was at Independence Mall in Wilmington, with a friend of mine. We were talking, looked up and saw a familiar figure, bobbing his head and walking toward us with another guy, who would become one of my best friends. It was Michael Jordan and David Bridgers – one of MJ’s lifelong friends. It was kind of surreal, because MJ was a sophomore at Carolina and was already becoming a little bit famous. Can you imagine him walking in a shopping mall now? We exchanged pleasantries and the guy I was with said, “Let’s go play some ball.” I was actually a really good player for a 5′ 10″ white guy, but I knew immediately that there was no way in hell, MJ was going to lace them up and play basketball with us. He kind of laughed and gave the smile that we all know so well. That was the end of that meeting.

Jordan was in Wilmington, another time, which I think was the summer between his rookie year and second NBA season (broken foot and 63-point game against the Celtics). At that point, he was VERY famous. I had also become good friends with David Bridgers during the two or three years since I first met MJ. I was invited to meet them at a local dance club, which was actually in the local Holiday Inn (that’s how small the town was back then). When I arrived, MJ, David and a couple of other guys – Buzz Peterson and Adolph Shiver – were already there. I walked up to MJ and introduced myself to him. He was sitting down at the bar and I was standing beside him. I tried to play it cool like I was ‘one of the guys’ and never once mentioned basketball to him. However, on the inside I was thinking, ‘Holy f#$k, I can’t believe I’m talking to Michael Jordan!’ That was a very long time ago; I don’t specifically recall the conversation. I know he was in town for a golf tournament, so, I wished him good luck. What was most impressive to me was that before I left, he said, “You taking off?” and called me by name. He knew, even at that young age, that it was important to remember people’s names – knowing it would make a lasting impression; it certainly did. I left with David and had to drive him back to MJ’s house to pick up his car, as he had ridden with MJ. I’ve had my car parked in MJ’s driveway, more than once – but that’s another story.

In 1987, MJ ran a basketball camp at UNC-Wilmington. I was neither one of the campers (mostly young, local kids – I was 22 or 23, attending college there), nor, one of the coaches, mentors or guides. I was a student, hanging around that camp a lot, just to see MJ play. Every evening after the campers were sent to their dorm rooms, I’d go and watch pick-up games at Trask Coliseum. Sadly, for me, that was my one opportunity to play in a pick-up game with MJ and some other local talent that I knew well; however, I’d just had surgery on my shoulder, a week prior to the camp – my arm was in a sling and I couldn’t play. I’ve played several times with Larry Jordan, MJ’s older brother, but, it’s not quite the same.

I remember Cozell McQueen, of NCSU, played in some of those pick-up games, as did a then-unknown, Sean Elliott. I think MJ flew him in, just to upgrade the level of competition for him to abuse. I remember MJ doing a drive to the basket that was the most athletic, spectacular MISSED shot, I have ever seen. The closest move I can compare it to, is this one that MJ made against the New Jersey Nets, in 1991 – except, even more spectacular!

Wondering if footage exists from these pick-up games? In the documentary to Michael Jordan’s, ‘Come Fly with Me’, the narrator alludes that the (following) video is from a pick-up game in Chapel Hill. However, it is in fact, from the 1987 UNC-Wilmington camp. Watch from the 19m 21s mark – what you see, is actually Trask Coliseum:

[Adam: I always questioned the date of this. Thanks for the definitive clarification, Ross!]

UNC-Wilmington’s colors are green and gold – you can clearly see those colors painted on the court. Also, see the photo below – MJ is wearing the exact same clothes in the video. I was probably standing beside the guy filming the game when I took the photo, as I was equally close to the court. Possibly, I was at the opposite end. I’m not sure.

Michael Jordan - 1987

I do recall one funny moment from the 1987 camp. I’m now 49 years old – most people think I’m in my late 30s, as I still look relatively young. Well, when I was 22 or 23, I looked like I was 17 or 18. I was at Trask Coliseum, right before the pick up games started one night and I walked past MJ. He said, “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” He thought I was one of the campers…probably because he had seen me hanging around so much.

As far as memorabilia goes, I have a couple of MJ photos that I took at the camp – also, an autographed poster, from around the same time. I can’t recall if it was at the camp or somewhere else that I got the poster signed but, I do still have it. It’s in terrible condition, but I would never part with it.

I have been really good friends with David Bridgers, for about 30 years. He is known as “MJ’s childhood friend.” I have read about David, in Sports Illustrated and he appears on ESPN’s 30 for 30, Jordan Rides the Bus. He is one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever known. You can hear and see David, at around 2m 8s and 5m 16s, here:

I called David at home, the night that Mr. Jordan’s body was discovered. He probably thought it was MJ calling, because the phone didn’t even ring a whole ring, before he answered. I told him I was sorry to hear about Mr. Jordan and he just started sobbing uncontrollably. He was really close to “Mr. J”, as he calls him.

Everyone wants to hang out with MJ and get to know him (myself included). David has to be really protective of his relationship with Michael – and, who he ‘lets in.’ He keeps a really tight lid on it because as you can imagine, everyone wants a pair of shoes or an autographed jersey or something else from MJ.

Me (left) and David Bridgers - circa 1995

Me (left) and David Bridgers – circa 1995

I want to make it clear that I don’t know Michael Jordan; I just know lots of other people who do. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to meet him and I hope I have a chance to talk with him again one day.

Those are my few encounters with the Greatest of All Time.

 

AIR019: 1990-1994 NBA All-Star Games – complete recap | Podcast

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Michael v Magic

Adam and Aaron recap the 1990 through 1994 NBA All-Star Games. We discuss rosters, coaches, leading vote getters, memorable moments and Most Valuable Players. Controversy reigns supreme, when true feelings about a Hall of Famer bubble to the surface. The chat is filled with plenty of insight, mixed with a healthy dose of good humor.

 

NEW! Blooper reel: (audio) [click below]

 

Links to topics discussed:

All-Star Games: 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 [links courtesy of Basketball Reference]

Top 10 plays: ’90 | ’91 | ’92 | ’93 | ’94

1990: Karl Malone | 1992: Magic Johnson | 1994: Scottie Pippen

 

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AIR017: Terry Cummings – NBA All-Star, Rookie of the Year and basketball legend | Podcast

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NBA All-Star, Rookie of the Year and basketball legend, Terry Cummings.

We discuss Terry’s teenage years and how he recruited himself to DePaul University. He talks about his college experiences and playing with fellow great, Mark Aguirre. We hear Terry’s thoughts on the 1982 NBA Draft and his two seasons at the (San Diego) Clippers. We cover his trade request to Milwaukee and what it was like to play against Michael Jordan, Julius Erving and other greats of the game. We talk about the leadership he offered team mates throughout his whole career, his thoughts on the NBA of today and his post-basketball life.

 

Links to topics discussed:

Jordan’s second NBA game | Bulls v Bucks – 1985 NBA Playoffs (Game 2 / Game 3)

Julius Erving’s final NBA game | Spurs v Blazers – 1990 NBA Playoffs (part 1 / part 2)

Terry Cummings online: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

 

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AIR014: Bob Hill – NBA coaching great | Podcast

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Bob HillCoaching great, Bob Hill.

This wide-ranging conversation covers all aspects of Bob’s wonderful career to date. He discusses his teams’ battles against Michael Jordan and the Bulls and offers amazing insight into Hall of Famer, David Robinson. We break down his time with the Knicks, Pacers, Spurs and Sonics and cover his great contributions to the game internationally. Further, Bob describes being in Japan when the disastrous 2011 earthquake hit. Any basketball fan will relish this in-depth discussion.

 

Links to topics discussed:

Bulls v Knicks (1986) | MJ v Reggie Miller

Pacers v Celtics (1991) | David Robinson MVP (1995, with Bob Hill)

 

I appreciate all feedback, FB Page ‘Likes’ and iTunes ratings / reviews.

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