June 19, 2014
By TIM REYNOLDS
LeBron James is leaving.
For a family vacation, that is.
The Miami Heat star said that’s his first order of business, and during the time away from basketball he’ll start the process of moving past this season and looking toward the future.
“I just want to win. That’s all that matters to me,” James said June 17 after emerging from the final team meeting, one where coach Erik Spoelstra urged his team take plenty of pride from the season, even though the end result was an NBA Finals loss to San Antonio. "I haven’t even begun to even think about what my future holds or what I have in store. I will sit down with my team at some point, my family as well. Today definitely wasn't the day.
“If my family is happy, then I’m happy and able to perform at a high level.”
If so, then they’ve been happy during his first four years in Miami: James has been to the NBA Finals all four seasons in which he’s played for the Heat, capturing two championships, and no one in the league over that span has logged more minutes, made more field goals or won more games than the four-time MVP.
James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all become free agents, though none have made decisions on whether they’ll opt out. They came together amid much fanfare in 2010, and this summer might be similar in many ways for that trio, the Heat and the NBA as a whole — with all eyes on what they’ll do.
“I feel more at ease this time,” James said, adding that “2010, it was out of control. It was the craziest summer I’ve ever been a part of. ... I’m definitely in a better place right now even though in 2010 I got put out in the postseason earlier than I expected or didn’t accomplish what I wanted to, and I have kind of the same feeling now.”
James said that at some point, he, Wade and Bosh will gather to talk about their plans. They have until June 29 to inform the Heat whether they will exercise their rights to become free agents — moves that in all three cases would not prohibit them from returning to Miami. Bosh revealed Tuesday that the group will meet with Heat president Pat Riley as well, to get the team’s vision for what next season's roster would look like.
“I’m sure Riley has a finite plan moving forward,” Bosh said. “I guess it kinds of really starts with him, just listening to him, kind of get his feel for the situation. He’ll plug ’em wherever something is needed.”
The basketball court was still in place inside Miami’s arena on Tuesday, but there will be no game there until next season. Game 6 of the NBA Finals would have been Tuesday night and for the first time since 2011, the Heat were saying goodbyes to one another without the backdrop of a championship parade.
“There’s not a whole lot you can say that's going to alleviate some of the pain and frustration that we’re all feeling right now,” Spoelstra said. “We understand why our team was built. There’s high expectations. And with that when you don’t get to where you want to go, there’s sometimes that pain that’s deep.”
Spoelstra said he’s concentrating more on the draft right now than mourning the end of the season, or getting ready for free agency.
“We have a couple weeks to figure it out,” Spoelstra said. “We have a great track record. And we have a championship, first-class organization. That is our best selling pitch.”
James said he didn’t need to hear what Miami has to offer. He already knows.
“I understand what this team and this franchise brings to the table,” James said.
In the coming weeks, he’ll have a better sense on whether if he’ll need to go grab a seat somewhere else to win more championships.
“That’s what Riles is so great at and obviously Spo’s going to get into it and see guys who can help us get better,” James said. “Every team in the NBA continues to get better every year and we need to get better as well. We have some holes that need to be filled.”
June 12, 2014
By TIM DAHLBERG
The battle to give top football and basketball players a cut of the billions of dollars flowing into college athletics began in earnest with former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon taking the stand in federal court to describe how he spent long hours working on his game and as few as possible on his grades.
The lead plaintiff in a landmark antitrust suit against the NCAA said his goal at UCLA wasn’t to get a degree, but to get two years of college experience before being drafted into the NBA.
“I was an athlete masquerading as a student,” O’Bannon said Monday June 9. “I was there strictly to play basketball. I did basically the minimum to make sure I kept my eligibility academically so I could continue to play.”
O'Bannon portrayed himself as a dedicated athlete who would stay after games to work on his shot if he played poorly, but an indifferent student at best. His job at UCLA, he said, was to play basketball and took up so much time that just making it to class a few hours a day was difficult.
O’Bannon, who led UCLA to a national championship in 1995, said he spent 40 to 45 hours a week either preparing for games or playing them, and only about 12 hours a week on his studies. He changed his major from communications to U.S. history after an academic adviser suggested it would be the easiest fit for his basketball schedule.
“There were classes I took that were not easy classes but they fit my basketball schedule so I could make it to basketball practice,” O’Bannon said.
The testimony came as a trial that could upend the way college sports are regulated opened, five years after the suit was filed. O’Bannon and 19 other plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken for an injunction that would allow athletes to sell the rights to their own images in television broadcasts and rebroadcasts.
If successful, the plaintiffs in the class-action case — who are not asking for individual damages — could pave the way for a system that uses some of the huge money flowing into television contracts to pay athletes for their play once they are done with their college careers.
Also on the stand Monday June 9, was a Stanford economics and antitrust expert, who testified the NCAA acts as a cartel by fixing the price of scholarships for athletes and not allowing them to make any more money by prohibiting them from selling their names, images or likenesses (NILs) either as individuals or groups. Roger Noll said every expert opinion he’s seen over the last 30 years agrees the NCAA violates antitrust laws by paying nothing for the rights and imposing rules that would punish athletes for trying to profit from their NILs.
“Every single one of them reaches the same conclusion,” Noll said. “The source of its market power is rules and restrictions regarding benefits that can be provided to student-athletes combined with rewards and punishments it can offer for being able to participate in NCAA sports. It’s called a cartel.”
Noll also said that football and basketball athletes in the class-action suit were harmed by not being able to sell their NILs and that the harm was equal to the amount the NCAA received for them in videogames and television broadcasts and what they actually received — which was nothing.
Even as the trial began, the NCAA announced it had reached a $20 million settlement in a related case involving videogames that used the likeness and images of players without getting their permission. NCAA attorney Donald Remy acknowledged that the settlement in a suit brought by former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller will result in some current players getting money but doesn’t change the NCAA’s strong belief that the collegiate athletic model is lawful.
“Consistent with the terms of a court-approved settlement, the NCAA will allow a blanket eligibility waiver for any currently enrolled student-athletes who receive funds connected with the settlement,” Remy said. “In no event do we consider this settlement pay for athletics performance.”
O’Bannon, who joined the lawsuit that carries his name after seeing his image used in a NCAA-branded videogame, said he signed a letter of intent that he never read as a 17-year-old eager to display his skills at UCLA. He ended up spending five years at the school, but was seven courses short of graduating when he was drafted into the NBA.
He spent two years in the NBA and another seven playing professionally in Europe. He now lives in a Las Vegas suburb, where he makes his living selling cars.
O’Bannon acknowledged getting benefits from his time at UCLA, including a free education and room and board. He ended up staying five years instead of two, met his wife at school, and enjoyed his relationship with coach Jim Harrick.
He’s proud that his No. 31 was retired and is hanging in the rafters at Pauley Pavilion and of being the MVP in the national title game in 1995. He also cherished his time around the late John Wooden, the legendary longtime UCLA coach.
“Everyone who came in contact with (Wooden) loved him,” O'Bannon said. “I was envious personally that I was born a little bit too late. I wished I could have played for him, he’s that kind of man.”
But under cross examination, O'Bannon said he believed athletes should share in some of the money that schools are making off their efforts on the court and field.
“If they are generating revenue for their school, I believe they should be compensated at some point,” said O’Bannon, who also agreed with the suggestion that Little Leaguers should be paid because their games are sold on national television and they’re generating revenue.
May 29, 2014
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
This summer will mark the 30-year anniversary of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and while there is no timetable for the games to return to Southern California in the foreseeable future, it has been an Olympic Games that keeps giving to our community.
The Olympic Committee led then by Peter Ueberroth used profits from the games to endow the LA84 Foundation to promote youth sports in Southern California, educate coaches and maintain a sports library.
Today, LA84 President Anita DeFrantz leads the caretaker of The LA84 Foundation, formerly called the Amateur Athletic Foundation until changing its name in 2007.
DeFrantz, the 2010 inductee of the National Rowing Hall of Fame, earning
Bronze (eight oars with coxswain) as team captain at the Games of the XXI Olympiad in Montreal in 1976. She four times a finalist and silver medalist at the World Rowing Championships (1978), a member of the United States team (1975-1980) and winner of six national championships in a sport that few Blacks competed in then and now.
Additionally she is the highest-ranking African American as a member of the powerful International Olympic Committee (IOC), a position, which wields weight, power, and influence that is unrivaled.
The graduate of Connecticut College in 1974 earning a BA with Honors, Juris Doctor, and University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1977, DeFrantz first job out of law school was working at Juvenile Law Centre of Philadelphia practicing children’s rights, and also as an administrator at prestigious Princeton University.
“I have always been interested in how we treat children,” she explained. DeFrantz fought successfully against an organization that was profiting by placing kids in youth detention centers in Philadelphia.
She has been instrumental in uplifting minorities, including Blacks, women and children through implementing a variety of programs that has inspired them to become self sufficient.
In 1981 Ueberroth offer her a job to work the Los Angeles Olympic Committee.
“They asked me what I wanted to do and I said there are two areas I am interested and one of the two was the Olympic Villages, and ultimately, I operated the one at USC,” she told the Sentinel during an exclusive interview.
DeFrantz selected the Olympic Village because that’s where her life changed during the time she spent at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
“I was in law school and I remember that we had financial support and suddenly when we get to the Olympic games there is food available 24-hours a day, and people are accumulating from all around the world and made me understand that the world could live in peace.”
So, her understanding of how important the village was to the athlete it was that experience that she brought to Los Angeles for the athletes.
“I knew what was important and also what made it fun,” she stated. “We had two villages, at UCLA and at USC and to make sure that an athlete could eat at either village and that it was seamless was important.”
There has not been an Olympic games since that has been as economically successful as the Los Angeles Games.
“In 1932 there was a $1.5 million dollar surplus and the state grabbed that up saying that would be the cost of building the Coliseum,” she noted.
The Los Angeles Games generated a record of in excess of $200 million in surplus, of which 40 percent became the endowment to the then Los Angeles Amateur Athletic Foundation that was changed to LA84 Foundation.
That percentage was $92 million that stayed in Los Angeles and since the foundation was formed has been instrumental in making contributions of more than $200 million back to the community, according to DeFrantz.
“We’ve done a lot of work at Expo Park, and LA84 was responsible for getting the swimming pool there and getting it renovated,” she said. The pool was scheduled for closure.
The organization continues to fund a number of football leagues in the Black community and Challengers Boys and Girls Club in South Los Angeles, little leagues throughout city, gymnasiums for disabled kids and many others.
LA84 Foundation, which was established to manage Southern California’s share of the budget surplus from the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The private nonprofit invests in sports programs serving more than three million youth in eight Southern California counties.
DeFrantz is a member of multiple boards and organizations, including Member of the Board of Directors of the Vesper Boating Club; member of the Board of Directors, United States Rowing Association; member of the U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors; steward of the Women’s Sports Foundation; President of the Southern California Olympian Society; Vice-President (1981-1985) of the Organizing Committee of the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1984; Vice-President of the International Rowing Federation (FISA) (1993-); President, Kids in Sports (1994-); member of the board of directors of the Los Angeles Sports Council; member of the NCAA Leadership Advisory board (2005-)
She has numerous accolades such as the Abby J. Leibman Pursuit of Justice Award by the California Women's Law Center (2008); inducted into the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS) Hall of Fame in Orlando, USA (2009)
A member of the IOC Executive Board (1992-2001, 2013-); IOC Vice-President (1997-2001); Chairperson of the Women and Sport Commission (1995-); member of the following Commissions: Athletes’ (1988-1991), Olympic Programme (summer) (1989-1994), Eligibility (1992), Olympic Movement (1992-1999), Juridical (1994-), Study of the Centennial Olympic Congress – Congress of Unity (1994-1996), Sport and Law (1994-), Coordination for the Games of the XXVII Olympiad in Sydney in 2000 (1995-2000), Finances (1999, 2002-), IOC 2000 Reform Commission and the IOC 2000 Reform Follow-up (2002), Coordination for the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London in 2012 (2005-); Coordinator of the Working Group Designation of Olympic Games Host Cities and member of the Executive Committee of the IOC 2000 Commission (1999); Chairperson of the IOC Athletes’ Commission Election Committee (1996-)
She has met with world leaders and United States Presidents from Reagan, to Bush and Obama, but her primary focus of youth and particularly Blacks.
On July 18, 2014, will be 30th anniversary celebration of the Los Angeles Olympics, and while the games are history now, the presence of LA84 Foundation and their steadfast and diligent leader Anita DeFrantz are still making an enormous impact beyond its glory.
June 05, 2014
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
Among the most prominent alumni of Crenshaw High School’s illustrious athletic history is one track and field star Johnny Gray who was an Olympic champion in 1987 and 1999.
However, after the Cougars football team captured the 2013 City Division I title last fall, momentum was established for another sport to do something special, and low and behold it turned out to be the almost forgotten track and field program.
Operating on a shoestring budget of a measly $200, newly hired track coach Damon Hicklin, 39, knew from the beginning that he had his work cut out for him.
The Downey High School and Fresno State graduate was once a standout performer in the 100,200 and 400 meters, but went to college on a football scholarship.
After tearing his ACL his football future was a wrap, so he return back to region as an assistant varsity football coach at South Gate.
Five years later he became the receivers coach at Azusa Pacific and in 2007 produced All American Johnny Davis.
Another half decade past and he became the receivers’ coach at Whittier College where he developed Damon Fooks into an All American in 2012.
Last fall, Hicklin was hired at Crenshaw as a special education teacher, but it wasn’t long after he was summoned by the administration to take over the hapless track and field program.
It was a daunting assignment, but Hicklin embraced the challenge and the results in his first year at the helm have been stunning.
The Cougars will have eight members of their team representing Crenshaw in the State Championships beginning on Friday June 6 and concluding on Saturday June 7 at Fresno.
Led by City Champions Kayla Williams who captured the 100 title clocking 12.22 and 300 meter hurdle queen Unique Dickens, the Cougars will compete in the girls and boys 4x100 meter relays and will have two performers in the 300 meter hurdles.
Dickens also carries a 3.67 grade point average despite losing both of her parents.
She represents the Cougars bright future, a junior who along with other juniors such as Williams, Brianna Butler and Brianna Walker will be returning to build on the winning foundation next year.
Senior Kalina McKaney on the girls 4x100 relay team at the state meet will join the aforementioned trio.
The boy’s 4x100 meter relay team is composed of seniors Nolan Grigbsy who was also a football champion, Christian Williams, Anthony Madumbe and Kristopher Pollard who stars in soccer and has drawn interest from USC and Texas.
Justin Alexander who ran a personal best of 39.6 in the 300-meter hurdles and finished second at the City finals will qualify for that event.
Hicklin and his assistant coaches took the extra effort to transport team members to and from practice, raise $5000 to compete in meets throughout the season and also washed the team’s uniforms.
He has reached out to the community and alumni by implementing a program of adopting an athlete, assisting the student athletes with track shoes and other equipment.
An estimated 10 percent of the students are foster students, and Williams who lives in Compton rides the bus to and from school each and every day.
“I believe that we have built a foundation to do some special things down the road,” Hicklin told the Sentinel.
“It’s hasn’t been easy, and the students that I have on the team have worked hard to get to where they are.”
It has created a new spirit on the campus that revolves around the track team. Other students now want to come out for the team next year and the champion football players are among the team’s biggest supporters.
Hicklin doesn’t expect to win a state title this year, but he didn’t anticipate that the Cougars would even be at the state finals.
No matter how things turn out during this most unique season, it had been a rewarding one that has cemented a foundation for better things to come.
May 22, 2014
Police had to intervene after Mario Balotelli was subjected to racist chants at Italy’s World Cup training base on Wednesday May 21.
Kids outside the Coverciano complex were responsible for the chants, and Balotelli appeared visibly disturbed.
The training session was open to media, and Balotelli could be heard saying as he ran by reporters, “Only in Rome and Florence are they that stupid.”
While most of the fans cheered for Balotelli, police approached the area where the chants came from and they quickly ended.
Balotelli was born in Sicily to Ghanaian immigrants and brought up by an Italian foster family. He has faced racist chants throughout his professional career.
“It’s unbelievable that in 2014 we still have this form of racism,” Balotelli’s fellow forward, Ciro Immobile, said. “It’s not great for the nation. We represent Italy.”
Immobile, from the Naples area, noted how insulting anti-Naples chants have pervaded Serie A stadiums recently.
“When I hear that it saddens me, because I have a lot of pride in my city,” Immobile said.
Balotelli was also the focus of much speculation on racist abuse before the 2012 European Championship, and UEFA placed spotters inside stadiums, resulting in fan behavior by Spain and Croatia being sanctioned.
FIFA claims it will have zero tolerance for racism at the World Cup but has not announced plans yet on how it will control behavior inside stadiums.