AIR067: Mitchell Butler – High School All-American & eight-year NBA veteran | Podcast

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Mitchell Butler - Washington BulletsHigh School All-American and eight-year NBA veteran, Mitchell Butler.

 

High School: Oakwood, California

Mitchell reflects on his outstanding high school career. From 1987 to 1989, he was named the Southern Section Small Schools Division, Player of the Year. In 1988, he led Oakwood to the (Liberty League) Division Championship, notching an astonishing 47 points, 19 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks, in his team’s 61-60 victory. We talk about his 1988 quarterfinal game, where he tallied a staggering 50, of his team’s 55 points, in an eight-point win (55-47).

In November of 1988 – in the early-signing period ahead of his senior year at high school – Mitchell signed a letter of intent with the UCLA Bruins. He discusses how heavily he was recruited and what led him to ultimately choose the Bruins.

Mitchell also talks about his 1989 (Third Team) All-American selection.

 

College: University of California Los Angeles

Years: 1989-90 – 1992-93 | Coach: Jim Harrick

At the time of recording our conversation, Mitchell ranked sixth all-time, in total games played (130) for the UCLA Bruins. Whilst researching for our chat, I discovered that in the last warm-up game (November, 1989) prior to his freshman season, Butler’s Bruins played against my fellow countrymen, the Australian Boomers. UCLA defeated the Aussies, 80-68, at Pauley Pavilion.

Mitchell played in the NCAA Tournament, in each of his four seasons. We chat about his freshman campaign, where he made it to the Sweet Sixteen, against Duke – the eventual National Finalists (who lost to UNLV). As a sophomore, Butler started almost every game, before the Bruins were upset by Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. We discuss how close Mitchell came to transferring from UCLA after that second season. UCLA made it to the Elite Eight, in 1992, before losing out to Calbert Cheaney and his Indiana Hoosiers. Though it was a disappointing end to the season, Mitchell won his team’s Player Improvement Award, due to his all-around play and positive mental attitude. As a senior, he was named team captain and also enjoyed (arguably) his best season as a Bruin, with 9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. We cover UCLA’s near-upset of Michigan’s Fab Five, in a classic, second-round overtime game, in the 1993 NCAA Tournament.

 

1993 NBA Draft

Date: June 30 | Location: Auburn Hills | Pick: Undrafted

We talk about the circumstances behind Mitchell being overlooked on draft day, and how he made his way into the league, in the months that followed.

 

NBA / Euro / ABA / CBA career | Years: 1993-94 – 2003-04

Seasons: 1993-94 – 1995-96 | Team: Washington Bullets

Coaches: Wes Unseld & Jim Lynam

Individually, Mitchell’s best NBA seasons were his first two in the league, averaging almost eight points and three rebounds, in just 19 minutes per game. We cover his first stint with Washington and links to Australian legend – and former podcast guest – Andrew Gaze. Butler twice scored an NBA-career high of 26 points. Mitchell describes the feeling of being ‘on fire’.

 

Thanks to a tip-off from great friend of the podcast, Jim McIlvaine, I ask Mitchell about his acting career. We briefly discuss his roles in Blue Chips (1994) & Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault (1996). Mitchell talks about his involvement with Space Jam (1996), however, his scenes were ultimately cut from the movie.

 

Season: 1996-97 | Team: Portland Trail Blazers

Coach: P.J. Carlesimo

Prior to the 1997 season, Washington traded Mitchell (along with Rasheed Wallace) to Portland, in return for Harvey Grant and Rod Strickland. We talk about Mitchell’s thoughts on the deal. Butler made it to the playoffs for the first time in his NBA career – playing limited minutes in a four-game series loss to the L.A. Lakers. He talks about how it felt to be part of a playoff team.

 

Seasons: 1997-98 – 1998-99 | Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

Coach: Mike Fratello

Mitchell signed as a free agent with Cleveland. Barely a month into the season, he suffered significant neck and shoulder problems, leading to surgery. He talks about the impact the injury had on his career, and how he dealt with news that he’d miss the rest of the season.

Following the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Butler wouldn’t return to the NBA until the 2001-02 campaign. During that gap in his NBA résumé, he headed overseas and played in Lithuania, before returning home and playing in the American Basketball Association (not related to the original ABA, I should add).

 

Season: 2001-02 | Team: Portland Trail Blazers

Coach: Maurice Cheeks

Mitchell returned to the Trail Blazers franchise, signing as a free agent. He discusses what it was like to be back in the NBA and how his second time with the team, differed so much to his 1997 season.

Prior to his final season in the NBA, Mitchell was a key member of the Continental Basketball Association’s (CBA) Yakima Sun Kings. His team won the 2003 Championship. He reflects fondly on his time in the league.

 

Season: 2003-04 | Team: Washington Wizards

Coach: Eddie Jordan

Butler closed out his NBA-playing career, returning to suit up for the Washington Wizards. We chat about his final season, what opportunities presented themselves and whether he could have played on, beyond 2004.

 

Mitchell featured in a number of Top 10 Plays on NBA Action. I asked him to choose his favorite move and he certainly didn’t disappoint.

 

I ask Mitchell to recall “The Game I’ll Never Forget”. In a first for the podcast, he shares three-memorable games – one each from high school, college and the NBA.

We discuss Mitchell’s career in basketball since he retired as a player. He’s been involved in various roles, most recently, accepting a position as a sports agent at Jackson Management Group (owned by Phil Jackson‘s son, Charles).

Our conversation rounds out with a quick chat about the significance of Mitchell’s jersey numbers.

People mentioned in this episode, include: Michael Adams, Tyus Edney, Darrick Martin, Chris Webber, Jim McIlvaine, Vernon MaxwellAllan Houston, Kenny Anderson, Tracy Murray, James Robinson & Ed O’Bannon.

 

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AIR064: Bill Hazen – Broadcast veteran / play-by-play man during Michael Jordan’s rookie NBA season (1984-85) | Podcast

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Bill Hazen

Veteran broadcaster of more than 50 Michael Jordan rookie games (1984-85), Bill Hazen.

Hazen previously appeared on the finale of our #NB85 series. However, that was an edited-down version, relating solely to the 1985 Chicago Bulls. This is the entire conversation, covering Bill’s whole career, to date.

Hazen was born and raised in Chicago. We briefly discuss the city’s history of professional basketball; leading to the expansion Bulls’ entry, in the NBA’s 1966-67 season.

Bill discusses his broadcasting career. His journey began in Columbus, Indiana – working as a disc-jockey and producing commercials – before he landed “the break of a lifetime” and moved to Milwaukee, becoming Sports Director for WISN Radio. This also gave Bill the opportunity to call play-by-play for the Marquette Golden Eagles, surrounded by luminaries Al McGuire, Hank Raymonds and Rick Majerus.

Later, Bill took a job as a sports broadcaster and talk-show host, at Houston’s KTRH. As circumstance would have it, when the talk show was not on the air, the station broadcast Houston Rockets games. Bill then worked play-by-play on TV games, for the Rockets’ late-1970s teams, calling names like Moses Malone, John Lucas and Rudy Tomjanovich, to name a few.

You’ll hear some amazing accounts of Michael Jordan’s first season in the NBA. Hazen was in attendance at Angel Guardian Gym – the Bulls’ practice facility for Jordan’s rookie season – he watched Michael shake hands with new coach, Kevin Loughery, before training camp had even commenced.

We reminisce about some of the great moments during Jordan’s first season as a pro, including this remarkable piece of commentary that Bill exclaimed, in November, 1984.


 

Another stellar piece of Bill’s commentary, was later used in the iconic advertising campaign, ‘America’s Game / NBA Action: It’s FANtastic’.


 

We also discuss Bill’s early use of computer technology to prepare for games and the dismantling of numerous personnel – coaches, executives and broadcasters – following the Bulls’ 1985 season.

In the mid-1990s, Bill worked for ESPN International, recording live audio to accompany ‘Game of the Week’ packages, distributed overseas. Also at this time, Bill called games for the NFL and produced live audio for the 1995 MLB World Series.

We conclude our wide-ranging conversation, chatting about Bill‘s production company.

The most prominent people mentioned in this episode, include: Michael Jordan, Kevin Loughery, Johnny Red Kerr, Paul Westhead, Orlando Woolridge, Jerry Sloan, Sidney MoncriefJawann OldhamDave Corzine, Rod Thorn & Vernon Maxwell.

 

Editor’s note: sign-up for the monthly newsletter – receive exclusive details on upcoming podcast episodes and future, high-profile guests to appear on the show.

 

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NB85-30: Michael Jordan’s rookie NBA season – Special guest, Bill Hazen (broadcaster) – 1985 series finale | Podcast

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Bill Hazen and Michael Jordan

Adam & Aaron celebrate the 30th anniversary of Michael Jordan‘s (1984) arrival in the National Basketball Association. This episode covers:

 

* Bill Hazen‘s broadcasting career with the Chicago Bulls (1983-85)

* Never-before-told accounts of Michael Jordan’s rookie NBA season

* Insightful minutiae, all but lost to the annals of basketball history

 

The ultimate episode of #NB85. We finish our series with an in-depth interview, inviting Bill Hazen on the show, to talk about his experiences covering the Chicago Bulls (1983-85). Bill was the play-by-play man for more than 50 of Michael Jordan’s rookie games.

Hazen was born and raised in Chicago. We briefly discuss the city’s history of professional basketball; leading to the expansion Bulls’ entry, in the NBA’s 1966-67 season.

You’ll hear some amazing accounts of Michael Jordan’s first season in the NBA. Hazen was in attendance at Angel Guardian Gym – the Bulls’ practice facility for Jordan’s rookie season – he watched Michael shake hands with new coach, Kevin Loughery, before training camp had even commenced.

We reminisce about some of the great moments during Jordan’s first season as a pro, including this remarkable piece of commentary that Bill exclaimed, in November, 1984.


 

Another stellar piece of Bill’s commentary, was later used in the iconic advertising campaign, ‘America’s Game / NBA Action: It’s FANtastic’.


 

We also discuss Bill’s early use of computer technology to prepare for games, the dismantling of numerous personnel – coaches, executives and broadcasters – following the 1985 season, Bill‘s production company and much more.

This episode concludes our coverage of the 1984-85 NBA season. Thanks for taking the time to listen to the series. If you enjoyed the content, please share it with your friends!

Make sure you keep an eye on my website. Research is already under way for #NB86. A new series, devoted to 1985-86 – Michael Jordan’s tumultuous second year in the NBA – also, a season highlighted by a stunning Boston Celtics championship team.

The most prominent people mentioned in this episode, include: Michael Jordan, Kevin Loughery, Johnny Red Kerr, Paul Westhead, Orlando Woolridge, Jerry Sloan, Sidney MoncriefJawann OldhamDave Corzine, Rod Thorn, Fred Carter, Dick Motta, Bill BlairVernon Maxwell & Phil Johnson.

 

Editor’s note: sign-up for the monthly newsletter – receive exclusive details on upcoming podcast episodes and future, high-profile guests to appear on the show.

 

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

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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.

Editor’s note: sign-up for the monthly newsletter – receive exclusive details on upcoming podcast episodes and future, high-profile guests to appear on the show.

 

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

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Top 5: Favorite Jordan-era NBA guards

Mitch Richmond

It’s important to distinguish, these are my favorite players – clearly, subjective. A host of past players resonate with me for many reasons; a select moment in time, a well-played, yet under-appreciated career, or merely happenstance.

In no particular order, here are my favorite guards of the Jordan-era [obviously MJ-excluded; must have played at least 4 seasons against MJ’s Bulls]:

Lafayette Lever (1983-1994) | Player profile

Notable: 2-time All-Star (1988, 1990) | 6th all-time, steals per game

Opinion: criminally underrated player, deserving of much higher recognition. He had a stunning six season span (1985-1990) averaging 17.0 pts, 7.6 rbs, 7.5 ast and 2.5 stl per game. Oh, and he’s only 6’3″.

Kevin Johnson (1988-2000) | Player profile

Notable: 3-time All-Star (1990-1991, 1994) | 6th all-time, assists per game

Opinion: an outstanding player, mere percentage points from averaging 20 pts / 10 ast for nine consecutive seasons (1989-1997). I loved his exuberant celebrations on court, plus his fearless penetration in the lane. This resulted in assists to open team mates, or an attack on the rim.

Here, KJ gives The Dream, his own night-Mayor (see what I did there?):

Rex Chapman (1989-2000) | Player profile

Notable: UK (Wildcats) standout, turned pro as a sophomore | Flair for the dramatic

Opinion: an acrobatic and entertaining player, confident in his ability. He has career averages of almost 15 pts / 3 rbs / 3 ast / 1 stl, in under 30 minutes per game. Rex could light up a scoreboard, had a sweet shooting stroke and was a maestro of dunk. I even had his photo on my high school diary (too much information?)

John Starks (1989-2002) | Player profile

Notable: All-Defensive (2nd) Team (1993) | All-Star (1994) | Sixth Man of the Year (1997)

Opinion: whilst never beating Jordan in the Playoffs, Starks is a first-ballot nominee, for the role of MJ’s nemesis. I admired his tenacity, in-your-face style of play and all out hustle. Plus, John’s road to the NBA is a fascinating tale in itself.

Mitch Richmond (1989-2002) | Player profile

Notable: Rookie of the Year (1989) | 6-time All-Star (1993-1998) | NBA Champion (2002)

Opinion: part of the famed ‘Run TMC’ [part 1 / part 2] at Golden State. He was All-Star MVP in 1995 and Sacramento’s franchise player for seven seasons (1992-1998), averaging 23.3 pts, 3.7 rbs, 4.1 ast and 1.3 stl per game. A consummate professional, lauded as MJ’s toughest defender, by none other than Jordan himself.

Honorable mentions:

Daron Blaylock (Hawks), Kevin Gamble (Celtics) Tyrone Bogues (Hornets), B.J. Armstrong (Bulls), Craig Ehlo | Mark Price (Cavaliers), Jay Humphries | Ricky PierceAlvin Robertson (Bucks), Mark Jackson | Trent Tucker (Knicks), Anfernee Hardaway (Magic), Hersey Hawkins (76ers), Rod Strickland (Bullets).

Tim Hardaway (Warriors), Vernon Maxwell (Rockets), Ron Harper (Clippers) Sedale Threatt | Nick Van Exel (Lakers), Jerome Richardson | Tony Campbell (Timberwolves), Terry Porter (Trail Blazers), Gary Payton (SuperSonics).

Obvious omissions: clearly, the following players are all-time greats at their position. They didn’t make the cut as they’re not my favorites of the era – due to team/s played for or rivalries against MJ’s Bulls – imagined or otherwise…

Isiah Thomas (Pistons), Reggie Miller (Pacers).

Earvin Johnson (Lakers), Jason Kidd (Suns), Clyde Drexler (Trail Blazers), John Stockton (Jazz).

Did I miss anyone? Comments welcome. Who are your favorite Jordan-era guards?