Allan Houston on our All-Space Team
Space: The final frontier. Today, we boldly go where no All-Name Team has gone before.
Ours is a group of eight. Just like the planets. (Sorry, Pluto. Take up your case with the International Astronomical Union, which, come to think of it, sounds very much like an association describing the salary structure of the Yankees and Red Sox.)
Neill Armstrong: For the first 43 years of life, Neill Armstrong wasn't confused with anybody else. He was a football coach, and nobody thought anything of it when they saw or heard his name. That all changed in July of 1969. Neill Armstrong was entering his sixth season as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL when Neil Armstrong had the audacity to walk on the moon. Silly one-liners abounded when the coach became the head man of the Chicago Bears in 1978. More than 30 years later, a dozen people have done the moonwalk, but Neill Armstrong is one of only two who have been head coaches in the NFL and CFL. (Bud Grant is the other.) So there.
Mars Blackmon: Character portrayed by Spike Lee in the 1986 film "She's Gotta Have It" and subsequent Nike commercials that shot Lee into the cultural mainstream and enhanced Michael Jordan's status as the leading pitchman in American sports. Lee recently said he chose the name for the persona after his mother told him that a paternal ancestor from several generations back was named Mars.
Allan Houston: The former Pistons and Knicks guard wasn't a high flyer, but opponents often had a problem guarding him over a 12-year career that featured 14,551 points. In case you're wondering, that's one point for every 16.4 miles between Mission Control and the moon.
Mercury Morris: Eugene Morris averaged 5.14 yards a carry in an eight-year career. If that doesn't sound other-worldly, take a closer look. Morris is one of only five running backs in NFL history to average five yards on 800 or more career attempts. The others are all Hall of Famers: Marion Motley (5.70); Jim Brown (5.22); Joe Perry (5.04) and Gale Sayers (5.00).
Joe Neptune: The shortstop apparently liked acceleration. He played one season for the Woonsocket Speeders and six for the Frederick Hustlers in the minors. He might have been attracted to space travel if he had come along at the right time. Sadly, people born in 1891 weren't in high demand at NASA.
Apolo Anton Ohno: He's short an "L" in the first name by "god" standards, but the speed skater from Federal Way, Wash., is the most decorated winter Olympic athlete in American history (eight medals). He also qualifies for the list because of his reality TV career, headlined by a stint on "Dancing With The Stars."
Kelvin Sampson: The man who made excessive phone calls an art form is on this list because his first name is often the unit of measurement in space. Zero degrees Kelvin is 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit, which pretty much corresponds to how hot Sampson is as a college coaching prospect these days.
Venus Williams: Just as Venus is considered Earth's sister planet because of relative proximity and atmospheric conditions, Venus Williams can seldom be mentioned exclusive of younger sister Serena. After all, the two have combined for 12 Grand Slam titles in doubles, and they're part of the Miami Dolphins' ownership group. Venus, winner of seven Grand Slam singles crowns, thinks inside the stratosphere if she plays outside it. She is an accomplished interior designer.
Rob Daniels is a freelance writer for Sports Media Exchange, a national freelance writing network.