5 Strange Basketball Stories
This strange, awkard, and uncomfortable hour-long special was the first of its kind. Never in the history of sports has a simple decision been so celebrated, denounced, and everything in between. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was moved to write an open letter to the fans, calling James "heartless" and "callous" and calling The Decision "cowardly betrayal". In reality, Lebron James' "Decision" was a glimpse into the future of American sports and, according to "Decision" creator Ari Emanuel, "advertiser-content programming". Very few would argue that the show was over the top, but by taking his talents to South Beach on national television, Lebron James was able to raise over 2.5 million dollars for the Boys and Girls Club of America and another 3 million for various other charities; all by televising something not usually televised.
In today's day and age, we fawn over high-school athletes flip-flopping hats adorned with sports logos of the two or three local teams and we chuckle and move on. But something changes when that person reaches the professional ranks, and Lebron's decision did not sit well with anyone in Cleveland. He left a city hating him because of his choice to play basketball somewhere else. There were those who saw this as Lebron accepting a back-seat role to Dwayne Wade, but that isn't what makes this one of the strangest stories in basketball history. The fallout of Lebron James and the controversy surrounding "The Decision" was bigger than "The Decision" itself, which lands it a spot on this list.
2/5 Is Not Just a Fraction
In 1992, the North Jackson Chiefs high-school basketball team defeated Fort Payne in overtime after all but two of their players fouled out. These two Alabama high-schools combined to accure 75 fouls in regulation, an average of one foul every 25.6 seconds (the NBA record is one every 34.3 seconds). A last minute shooting foul gave North Jackson High the chance to sink three foul shots and win in regulation, but instead Travis Smith made 2 out of 3 and sent the game into overtime. In overtime, the Chiefs had six players before Smith fouled out early on, leaving them with a squad of 5 eligible players. The players began dropping even before the game, when the Chiefs' best player quit the team because he wasn't allowed to play every minute of every game as he wanted.
With Fort Payne leading 67-62 midway through the overtime period and owning a more important 5-players-to-3 advantage over North Jackson, coach Phillip Collie chose to run the clock. He would later take full blame for this coaching decision, stating that he should have increased the pressure and used that advantage. Still, it is hard to imagine a team being up by 5 in overtime with 5 players against 3 and coming out on the losing end. Coach Collie will later win a 5A state championship in Alabama.
After one of the only three North Jackson players remaining fouled out, Chad Cobb and Robert Collier would be the only two Chiefs remaining. Despite being penta-teamed (how's that for a coaching strategy?), they were able to inbound the ball with the score tied. The five defenders chose to continue penta-guarding Chad Cobb and left Robert Collier open for a putback layup as the buzzer expired. This 2-on-5 defeat is truly strange and exhilerating when you realize that this wasn't two players who held on to win the game. They faced deficits of up to 6 points in the last minutes of the game. Fort Payne gave the game away by committing silly defensive fouls, charging, and travelling. Sadly, there is no video tape of this game because one of the North Jackson parents chose not to film it for this particular game. Many years later, this story would take another strange twist when Travis Smith would shoot Chad Cobb and another teammate Thomas Hutchins accidentally runs over Smith with a motorcycle.
The Real Ringers
The Ringer is a movie starring Johnny Knoxville about a man who fakes mental illness in order to win at the Special Olympics. The only thing more insulting and appalling than that is...the 2000 Spanish Paralympic Team. While this may be humorous to some, it is an insult to all involved that the 2000 Spanish Paralympic basketball team bypassed the mental tests and faked intellectual disabilities in order to achieve gold medals and sponsors. The Spanish team was stripped of their gold medals after undercover reporter Carlos Ribagorda spoke out about what had occurred.
The Paralympics are referred to as "para" because they run alongside the Olympic games. There are ten total classifications for athletes, and the Spanish team took advantage of the Intellectual Impairment classification to gain access. This is defined as "a disability characterized by significant limitation both in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills" per the Paralympic.org homepage. The tests were not administered by Spanish Federation for Mentally Handicapped Sports, and ten of the twelve players were later exposed as having no mental difficiencies. To make matters worse, the fraudulent players were asked to wear dark sunglasses and fake beards upon returning home to hid their identities; this after rumors circulated throughout the country that these men were in fact cheaters. The first sign of this lie was during the very first game, when the Spanish team jumped out to a 30-point lead, causing the coach to tell them to "slow the game down" and "let the other team shoot".
Despite this not being the first case of cheating during the Paralympics, this is the first time a team or individual has completely faked an illness. Athletes in the past have been stripped due to testing positive for steroids or other substances, but no one has succumbed to these lows. Despite claiming his innocence, head of the International Paralympic Committee Fernando Martin Vicente would quickly resign from his position. The most unfortunate part of this is that, in 2004, the Intellectual Impairment classification was suspended, leaving over a hundred athletes without the chance to compete in the Paralympics, leaving them questioning themselves, and us questioning the integrity of the fraudulent players.
Technical Foul - DUI
Here's a Google search you don't complete often - "basketball coach private investigator dui". Yet those five terms say it all. In 2009, John Lekas was unhappy with his son's playing time on the Lincoln Highschool basketball team, coached by Coach David Adelman (son of NBA coach Rick Adelman). Lekas did what most parents would do - yelled at the coach, tried to get the coach fired by claiming Adelman was a drunk, and hiring a private investigator. Wait, what? That's right, claiming that the school faculty was ignoring his reports of Adelman's drinking, the Portland financier hired a private investigator to tail Adelman at night in hopes of catching him drinking and driving.
Debra Hennessee had been tailing the coach on February 21st, 2009 when Adelman went to the Bullpen for a couple hours to drink "about five beers", as he reported to the cop who pulled him over. Hennessee would claim that he had at least ten beers, and called the cops as Adelman was leaving at Taco Bell drivethrough around 2 in the morning. The case would go to trail and Adelman's lawyer would try to have it thrown out for lack of probably cause, almost insinuating that it is illegal to report a drunk driver to the cops. At the time coaching the Houston Rockets, David Adelman's father Rick would miss practice to show up for his trial and claim that John Lekas is the most difficult parent he has ever seen through his many years of coaching.
In the end, John Adelman was sentenced to five days in jail and 3 years of probation for the charge. The schoolboard at the time elected to keep him as the coach. The moral of the story is, don't drink and coach.
Recently spotlighted in the Kyle Keiderling book "Shooting Star", Bevo Francis was one of the most prolific scorers in basketball history, owning unofficial records for points scored in a season and points scored in a game (116). His story is a tragedy - a player with a silky smooth touch who could score as easily and quickly as "Pistol" Pete Maravich himself. Unfortunately, he was taken advantage of and overworked to the point where he lost any interest in the game. What should have become a great NBA legend instead lives in a modest house with not even a faint remembrance to the average (and even more loyal) fans of the game.
Bevo Francis played at Rio Grande College in Ohio after failing to finish high-school in time. His career in high-school was marred by his transfer to another school, which caused the school board to ban him for a year. After serving his suspension, he would player for less than a year before turning 18 and, again, leaving him ineligible to play due to age restrictions. He then enrolled at Rio Grande College in a package deal that saw his high-school coach Newt Oliver follow him to the college as head basketball coach. After finishing high-school during the summer, he was cleared to play.
Newt Oliver was just as much a basketball coach as he was an advertiser. In the later years, Oliver would later use Clarence "Bevo" Francis to land a coaching job with the Boston Whirlwinds, a travelling team that played against the Harlem Globetrotters in their prime. Oliver was under the belief that fans would pay to see one person score a lot of points, and he was correct. Francis would go on to score 116 points in one game against two-year college Ashland. Coach Oliver used many tricks, including fouling every time the opponent had the ball in order to get Francis more touches and ultimately more points. He was a self-promoter who was racking up over $4,000 per appearance in the 1950's. He was brash and loud, but he is solely responsible for keeping Rio Grande College in operation, as they were poised to shut down the summer before Bevo Francis arrived in the package deal with his coach.
The sad part of this tale is that Bevo Francis was a quiet young man at the time who was pushed into the public spotlight. He was featured on the "Ed Sullivan" and "Today" shows, along with features in countless magazines. He even played against the George Steinbrenner-coached Lockbourne Air Force Base basketball team in a scrimmage. He was not elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame and none of his records are in the record books because the NCAA claims that he was an ineligible player due never really qualifying for college and never completing his schoolwork while he was there. Bevo Francis marks a sad beginning to the world where celebrity and money is more important than the game itself.