When the astonishing news broke that Michael Jordan was quitting basketball at 31 to play baseball, few people gave him a chance to make the big leagues. They were proven right when he quit during the work stoppage after hitting .202 with little power in 1994, but plenty of baseball people think he would have made it if he had stuck with the game. He had natural ability, being named player of the year in North Carolina at age 12, but baseball is not forgiving to 13-year absences, and he needed more time. No one would ever outwork Michael Jordan. Thus, it’s a bit of a what-if that we’ll never know the answer to because Jordan got the basketball itch again and went back to dominate the NBA for years. Complex takes a look back at Air Jordan’s year riding the bus in the bush leagues.
The Oral History of Michael Jordan’s Minor League Baseball Career
Chipper Jones was a perfect fit for the Atlanta Braves. A Southern boy with the drawl and the way he slowly worked the tobacco in his cheek. Also, he could really play. When he broke out in 1995 the Braves dynasty was already well underway, they had lost World Series in 1991 and 1992, then lost the NLCS in 1993. 1994 was the strike year (sigh). Jones proved to be party of the solution as the dynasty recorded their only World Series win in ’95. The Chipper Jones legend was underway, and he would go on to be consistently great for almost two decades, winning the MVP in 1999. He’ll take the Cooperstown stage before this decade is over. Creative Loafing gathers an impressive list of Braves royalty to discuss Larry Wayne Jones Jr.
Chipper Jones: An oral history
Dustin Johnson has been thought of as one of the best young players in golf for years, but he hadn’t won a major heading into the 2016 U.S. Open. The previous year he three-putted 18 to allow Justin Spieth to win. In 2016 he was in striking distance on Sunday, but needed the leaders to falter a bit. They obliged but a potential rules infraction by Johnson at 5 hung over the round as the USGA refused to make a definitive ruling until after he finished. It ended up being irrelevant as Johnson pulled away but it certainly added some drama! Golf.com revisits the scene.
Inside the stunning rules controversy that rocked the 2016 U.S. Open
There are millions of 5’11” guys who think they can play in the NBA. There is one Allen Iverson, a “little” man who had an iconic career first with the Georgetown Hoyas, then with the Philadelphia 76ers. Known for playing with a street attitude, he backed it up by playing as hard as anyone on the court, despite nearly always being the smallest player. Iverson made news off the court as well, including with his groundbreaking 10-year, $60M Reebok shoe contract, the largest such guarantee to that point. Nice Kicks goes all out in an 11-chapter oral history that recaps Iverson’s career and successful partnership with Reebok.
The Rise Of Allen Iverson And Reebok Basketball // An Oral History
FIFA awarded the 1994 World Cup to the United States, one of the catalysts to growth in the support in this country. One problem: When this decision was made the USMNT had not made the World Cup since 1950. The host country gets an automatic bid, but for national pride the team wanted to make the 1990 Cup and end the drought. Coach Bob Gansler chose to go with college stars over indoor soccer veterans for fitness reasons, but it meant he would have a very young team. Their journey through qualifying was difficult and intense, resulting in a must-win game versus Trinidad and Tobago. They pulled out a dramatic 1-0 victory and started making plans for the World Cup in Italy. The team was handed a tough draw, facing three quality European teams, and lost all three. However, there was a moral victory in a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Italy in Rome, a game the Italians expected to win by double digits. The experience was truly the beginning of a new age in American soccer (they’ve been to every World Cup since) and The Guardian takes a multi-faceted look back at the scrappy group of college kids that made it happen.
An oral history of USA at Italia ’90: the World Cup that changed US soccer
Penny Hardaway’s career was cut drastically short by knee problems, but for a short run in the mid-90’s he was huge, starring with Shaq on some good Orlando Magic teams, playing on the Dream Team, and making some all-NBA teams. Nike capitalized on his notoriety with the Air Pennys and a corresponding ad campaign starring a sassy puppet alter-ego, Lil Penny. Chris Rock got the gig to voice the puppet and ran with it, bringing attitude and humor in improvised lines that made the campaign one of the most successful ever for Nike. Complex looks back at the 90’s classic.
The Oral History of Lil Penny
On December 8, 2008 O.J. Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison and America hoped they’d never hear about him again. Enough, right? However, in 2016 two massive reappraisals of the O.J. saga appeared and surprisingly found both critical and popular success. The first was Ryan Murphy’s dramatic adaptation American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson and the second was ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America. The latter used a unique contextual approach that covered all of O.J.’s life, but also told the story through the lens of L.A.’s history of race relations, as well as America’s. The eight-hour epic was released on a variety of platforms, including in theaters (!), and shocked an American audience who thought they knew everything there was to know about this story. Wired digs into the two-year production process behind the successful documentary.
The Epic Story of O.J.: Made in America’s Creation
The smoothest president in American history was also known as a baller. During his eight years in office, basketball was the official sport of the White House. A number of members of his staff were ex-collegiate or pro players, most famously his right-hand man, Reggie Love, who played with Shane Battier at Duke. The press was never allowed at the games, and it was a time for Obama to let loose a bit with competition and a bit of trash talking. GQ goes deep to uncover some great anecdotes about the games and the traditions behind them, including the poor staffer that bloodied Obama’s lip, or the time Obama left Chris Paul holding the laundry.
The Oral History of President Barack Obama Playing Pickup Basketball
The battered Louisiana Superdome became one of the iconic images of Hurricane Katrina, and the dire stories of its time as a “last-ditch” shelter were harrowing. It would close for two years and some wondered whether the Saints would ever return to the decimated city. However, the Saints were part of the fabric of the city like few other institutions, and when they returned it was one of the great moments in American sports history. Sports Illustrated provides an engrossing oral history of a team helping heal its city.
Ten years since Katrina: Oral history of the Saints and their Superdome
Playground basketball is an meritocratic society: If you can play, you’re good. If you can’t play, God help you, because you’re going to hear all about it. Director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) was a lifelong hoopster who understood the inherent kinetic drama of streetball would make for a good movie. The result, White Men Can’t Jump, follows two scuzzy hustlers (Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrellson) as they try to pull off the big heist. Rosie Perez turns in a predictably engaging performance as Woody’s girlfriend. Grantland revisits the funniest basketball movie ever made.
You Either Smoke or You Get Smoked
AOL FanHouse was a well-funded sports blog with a stable of talented writers and editors, but its peak in the late 2000’s was brief because of the notorious dysfunction of AOL. The site launched in time for football season in 2006 as the former team-blog-oriented format transitioned to a single global blog format. Despite the awful name the site was an immediate success and within a couple years was a top-5 sports site in terms of traffic. Behind the scenes, however, the rot had begun to take hold. Along with setting ambitious traffic goals AOL management made the mistake of getting involved with content, resulting in “Fantasy Sports Girls,” a hilariously misguided attempt to draw male viewers via boobs. The in-house editorial staff rioted en masse, and a talent exodus that had already started grew into a flood. AOL’s usual mix of staff shakeups and rebrandings had the usual end result: The site was sold for scraps in early 2011 and disappeared shortly after. The Comeback provides an excellent seven-part oral history of the quick rise and fall of one of the first national-scope sports blogs.
The Oral History of AOL FanHouse
Chris Moneymaker was an amateur poker player who spent $39 to get into the 2003 WSOP and took home $2.5M. ESPN televised the event and was shocked at the ratings. It was the perfect underdog story at the perfect time for a culture getting back into cards. Practically within months poker was everywhere on TV and poker sites like PokerStars.com blew up. Grantland goes back in time to relive Moneymaker’s unbelievable story and the worldwide impact.
When We Held Kings
Stock car racing had its beginnings on the hard sand of Daytona Beach and it’s a tradition that remains in the area over a century later. The race eventually moved onto the pavement around Daytona Beach before NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr., founded Daytona International Speedway with its unheard-of 31-degree banking. In honor of the 50th Daytona 500 Maxim gathers racing’s luminaries to look back on one of country’s biggest sporting events.
Ring of Fire: An Oral History of the Daytona 500
Wrestlemania III was a watershed moment for professional wrestling in America. There was the industry before Wrestlemania III, and there was the industry after. Andre the Giant versus Hulk Hogan in his prime, an undercard that was nearly as good: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. A sold-out Pontiac Silverdome (somewhere between 78K-91K fans depending on who you ask), celebrities at ringside, the spectacle was complete. In honor of the 30 anniversary the Detroit News goes all out to celebrate a transformational event.
Larger than life: An oral history of WrestleMania III
The USL was founded in 2010 as a Division II American soccer league (MLS is a Division I). Many of its teams are in midsize markets like Richmond, Louisville, Reno, and Colorado Springs. Despite an ill-fated expansion in 2011 of four Caribbean teams (three folded during their inaugural season), the team has gained solid financial standing, especially after becoming an official MLS minor league in 2013. The Wilmington Star-News tracks the tumultuous early history of the league.
Rapidly rising: An oral history of the United Soccer League
In 1989 Mexican billionaire Emilio Azcárraga wanted to know why America did not have a national newspaper devoted to sports. Other countries did and America was as sports mad as any of them, he reasoned. In a remarkably short amount of time he decided to start such a paper, and he threw millions at the endeavor, hiring the best talent in the industry and building the necessary infrastructure to get papers in the bins across the country. It was a colossal failure, and a dearly lamented one. As national auto racing writer Ed Hinton put it: “I always tell people, I sailed on that Titanic and it was quite a luxury liner, too.” Grantland takes a look back at an enterprise that foreshadowed much to come in the internet age, but tried to do too much, too fast and for too much money.
The Greatest Paper That Ever Died
The Giants upset the heavily favored Cowboys to win the right to travel to Lambeau Field to face the Packers in what turned out to be Brett Favre’s last game with Green Bay. Anything else make the game special? How about -1 kickoff temperature (that kept dropping throughout the game) and wind chills in the -20s. The Giants pushed around the Pack on the frozen tundra and Lawrence Tynes avenged two earlier misses to win the game with a 47-yard field goal in overtime. Sports Illustrated relives a classic.
‘I was just numb’: An oral history of the epic 2007 NFC Championship Game