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
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
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
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
For many years sports posters were just action shots. That was fine! However, the Costacos Brothers took it to the next level by marrying pop culture symbolism with superhero posturing to create dynamic imagery that soon became plastered all over bedrooms and dorm rooms all over America. Iconic early posters included “Mad Mac” (Jim McMahon), “Big Game Hunter” (Kirk Gibson), and “The Land of Boz” (Brian Bosworth). SBNation goes all out to tell the story of how some college kids selling t-shirts in parking lots turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise. The piece includes a 15-minute documentary and numerous images of the posters.
Poster boys How the Costacos Brothers built a wall art empire
Prior to 1990 the U.S. beat Mexico exactly once in international soccer. But with the hosting of the World Cup in 1994 and the launch of MLS in 1996 the Americans became competitive, much to the chagrin of their soccer-mad neighbors to the south. ESPNFC gathers some choice anecdotes about the games in which the tides turned (and tempers flared).
U.S.-Mexico oral history as told by the players who created it
On February 12, 2013 the IOC voted to drop wrestling, one of the oldest sports on the planet, from the Olympics. Seven months later, after an impressive all-out effort from wrestling organizations around the world, the IOC voted wrestling back into the Games. This is the story of that crazy year.
Grappling with the future: The story of how Olympic wrestling was saved
On Major League Soccer’s 20th anniversary Sports Illustrated provides a beautiful retrospective of the league’s beginnings, complete with their usual spectacular images and video features. MLS now has the third-highest average attendance in American pro sports and is the seventh-most attended soccer league in the world. The now-established league’s modest start is chronicled here.
The Birth of a League
When the NBA decided to expand for the 1988 season the Charlotte Hornets were one of 11 teams in the running for the new teams. The oddsmakers had them bringing up the rear, but an incredible sales job and the NBA’s love of being the only big league in town led to the Hornets being born. The little big city embraced the new team with enthusiasm unknown to a continually losing expansion team (354 consecutive sellouts to start the franchise). Charlotte Magazine details how Muggsy Bogues, Kurt Rambis, and Kelly Tripuka helped establish the NBA in college basketball country.
‘The Place Went Nuts’: An Oral History of the 1988 Charlotte Hornets
CharlotteMagazine.com, November, 2013
The 1987 championship bout between “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and “Sugar” Ray Leonard was a donnybrook and Leonard’s controversial win is still debated in the boxing community today.
Disputed: Hagler vs. Leonard
Most college basketball fans couldn’t tell you where Butler is located (Indianapolis) but they remember the greatest Cinderella run in recent memory, as Butler crashed the Dance and made it to the championship game against vaunted Duke. Butler stayed with Duke throughout the game and had a chance to win it on Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot. It wasn’t meant to be but the ride is certainly worth revisiting. The Indianapolis Star does a great job of recapping the run and the piece includes a full video feature as well.
3 inches from the greatest basketball story ever told