Vinsanity, Helicopter, Tree blaze NBA record book
From "The Unofficial Guide to Basketball's Nastiest and Most Unusual Records," © 2005, by Kerry Banks, published by Greystone Books. Reprinted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.
Most stupendous dunk in a game
Vince Carter, Team USA, Sept. 25, 2000
Stephon Marbury once said about Vince Carter: "You can write anything you want to write about him. Anything you got in your mind as far as what you can imagine, you can write. In a game, in a competition -- he's the greatest dunker I've ever seen."
The Carter legend grew with one giant leap at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In a game against France he stole a pass, then dribbled toward the basket where 7-foot-2 Frederic Weis stood in his path. Vinsanity didn't try to dribble around Weis. Instead he took off from a step or two inside the foul line, spread his legs in midair and went right over Weis, barely scraping the top of the Frenchman's buzz cut, before powering the ball home. The death dunk, they called it.
Most dramatic slam dunk contest
Michael Jordan vs. Dominique Wilkins, Feb. 6, 1988
The game's two greatest skywalkers faced off in the 1988 NBA slam dunk finals in front of a packed Chicago Stadium crowd. With a dazzling blend of power and finesse, Wilkins, the man they dubbed the "Human Highlight Film," took a comfortable lead heading into the fourth and final dunk after earning two straight perfect scores of 50 points. But Wilkins's two-handed windmill jam scored a modest 45, leaving the door open for Jordan, who needed a 49 to win.
MJ decided to attempt to dunk from the foul line, a feat that had been accomplished only once before -- by Julius Erving at the very first dunk competition at the 1976 ABA All-Star game. By coincidence, Erving happened to be in attendance in Chicago.
"I looked up into the box seats and came across the guy who started it all, Dr. J," Jordan said afterward. "He told me to go back all the way, go the length of the floor, then take off from the free-throw line. It was the best advice I got all night."
With the cheering crowd on its feet, Jordan started off running, dribbled four times, then elevated from the free-throw line, hanging in the air for what seemed like an eternity, before ramming the ball through the hoop. The judges awarded him a perfect 50 and the title.
Shortest player to win a slam dunk contest
Spud Webb, Atlanta, Feb. 3, 1986
At 5-foot-7 and 135 pounds, Webb was one of the smallest men to play in the NBA. Lightning fast and a slick shooter and passer, he defied the odds by playing 12 years in a world of giants.
But Webb's most lasting legacy was his improbable victory in the 1986 NBA dunk contest in Dallas. The pint-sized Texan stunned the crowd at Reunion Arena, defeating defending champion and Atlanta Hawks teammate Dominique Wilkins by scoring two perfect 50s in the final round.
First NBA player to break a backboard
Chuck Connors, Boston, Nov. 5, 1946
Connors, who would later go on to much greater fame as the star of TV's "The Rifleman," broke the backboard at Boston Arena before the Celtics' maiden home opener against the Chicago Stags. Contrary to popular belief, he did not do it with a dunk.
"During the warm-ups, I took a harmless 15- to 20-foot set shot, and, crash, the glass backboard shattered," Connors recalled in a 1986 interview. The backboard crumbled because a worker had not installed a piece of protective rubber between it and the rim. The game was delayed an hour while a truck picked up a spare backboard from Boston Garden, where a rodeo was taking place in front of a packed house.
In 53 career games with the Celtics, Connors averaged 4.5 points per game. After leaving basketball, he tried his hand at baseball, playing briefly for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, before finding his niche in Hollywood.
Most backboards broken, one game
2: Charlie "Helicopter" Hentz, Pittsburgh Condors (ABA), Nov. 6, 1970
Hentz played only one ABA season, with the Pittsburgh Condors, but that was enough for him to set this record. In a 1970 game against the Carolina Cougars, the monster leaper shattered the backboard on a dunk at Dorton Arena in Raleigh, N.C. The game was delayed while a wooden backboard was located in storage. With 67 seconds left, Hentz imploded the other backboard. The game was halted and Carolina was declared the 122-107 victor.
Most stab wounds suffered by a player
11: Paul Pierce, Boston, Sept. 25, 2000
Pierce was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. But he was also more than a little lucky.
Minutes after entering a Boston dance club in the early morning hours of Sept. 25, 2000, the 22-year-old Celtics player was ambushed after he stopped to chat with a gang member's sister. Jumped from behind by three men, he was sucker punched, had a bottle broken over his right eye, and had a knife plunged through the back of his leather jacket six inches into his body.
Pierce also received 10 other stab wounds in the neck and chest, the worst of which penetrated his abdomen and diaphragm and punctured his lung, coming within an inch of his heart. Friends rushed him to hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to repair the damage. Amazingly, Pierce was back on the court in less than a month and went on to have a stellar season, leading the Celtics in scoring.
Highest draft pick to die of a drug overdose
Len Bias, No. 2 overall, June 19, 1986
Bias was considered a can't-miss star. Not only was the 22-year-old a terrific talent, he also had a sterling reputation. As his college coach Lefty Driesell stated, "Leonard's only vice is ice cream." Unfortunately, the Maryland Terrapins forward never got a chance to strut his stuff in the pros.
Less than 48 hours after being selected second overall by the Boston Celtics, Bias collapsed in his dorm and died of a cardiac arrest. Doctors found cocaine in Bias's system and concluded that he died of a cocaine-induced seizure.
A subsequent investigation into his death led to charges being laid against three other people who admitted using the drug with Bias on the day of his death. The fallout eventually resulted in Driesell's resignation.
Most serious injury suffered in a game
Brain damage: Maurice Stokes, Cincinnati, March 12, 1958
Stokes' life took a tragic turn in Minneapolis on March 12, 1958, when he drove to the basket, drew contact, and fell awkwardly to the floor, hitting his head. Knocked out for several minutes, he was revived with smelling salts and returned to the game.
Three days later, the Royals lost their playoff opener at Detroit, and after a 12 point, 15 rebound performance, Stokes became ill on the flight back to Cincinnati. "I feel like I'm going to die," he told a teammate.
When the plane landed, he was taken to a hospital in Covington, Kentucky, where it was determined that the 24-year-old had suffered a brain injury that had damaged his motor control.
His life, however, wasn't over, thanks to teammate Jack Twyman, who helped to raise money for his medical expenses and became his legal guardian. Though his body suffered spasms and his fingers didn't always function, Stokes learned how to type again and how to paint. He died at age 36 in 1970.
First player to sue a rival team for inflicting an injury
Rudy Tomjanovich, Houston, 1977
During a game on Dec. 9, 1977, Kermit Washington of the Lakers and Kevin Kunnert of the Rockets got into a fight.
Rudy Tomjanovich left the Houston bench and rushed to help his teammate, but as he arrived on the scene, Washington wheeled and delivered a crushing blow. The punch shattered most of the bones in Tomjanovich's face and actually knocked the top half of his skull out of alignment with the bottom half. He suffered a concussion and lacerations and was leaking spinal fluid into his nose.
Tomjanovich was hospitalized for weeks and missed the rest of the season. He returned the next year after five facial surgeries, but was never the same player. Tomjanovich sued the Lakers and won a $3.2 million award. Washington, who was fined $10,000 and suspended for 60 days, was never the same player after the incident either.
First player sued because of a dog bite
Tracy McGrady, Houston, January 2005
When McGrady returned to play in Orlando for the first time since an off-season trade to Houston, reporters wanted to ask him about his dog, Max. The Rockets guard had just been sued by a man who claimed that he lost the tip of his nose when McGrady's Rottweiler attacked him on Aug. 25, 2004, at the player's Florida mansion.
Fred Chamberlin, who was employed by McGrady at the time as a home maintenance engineer, said he was attacked on the second floor of the house after climbing a flight of stairs. When Max jumped him, the 57-year-old Chamberlin fell backward down the stairs, leaving him with a ringing in his ears. McGrady admitted that Max is a "very vicious dog," but said that he is usually nice. "I feel terrible," McGrady said. "I didn't think he had it in him."
First player suspended for biting another player
Wayne "Tree" Rollins, Atlanta, April 24, 1983
Boston was leading the deciding game of its 1983 playoff series with Atlanta when Tree Rollins elbowed Danny Ainge. The feisty Celtics guard responded by tackling the 7-foot-1 Hawks center.
As the two struggled on the floor, Rollins sank his teeth into one of Ainge's fingers, opening a gash that required five stitches. The NBA handed Rollins a five-game suspension, one game for each stitch. The next day's headline in Boston read: "Tree Bites Man."
First player to return to action after undergoing a kidney transplant
Sean Elliott, San Antonio, March 2000
Elliott was diagnosed in 1993 with a progressive kidney disorder. He began treatment with medication, but his condition gradually deteriorated. By March 1999 doctors told him to prepare for the inevitable -- transplant or dialysis. Then in August, Elliott's brother Noel came up with a critical assist, donating one of his kidneys to the star forward. Miraculously, Elliott returned to action on March 14, 2000, and went on to play 71 games over two seasons after his transplant.
First player sidelined for playing too many video games
Lionel Simmons, Sacramento, 1990-91
Shortly after being named Player of the Week in 1990-91,"L-Train" missed two games due to tendonitis in his wrists from overexposure to his Game Boy. Simmons may have been the first Nintendo casualty, but he wasn't the last. The next season, Seattle's Derrick McKey went down for seven games with the same affliction.
Most bizarre excuse for missing a season opener
Burned corneas: Charles Barkley, Phoenix, November 1994
Barkley missed the opening game of the 1994-95 season with one of the most unbelievable ailments of all time. Apparently the stage lights at an Eric Clapton concert he attended were too bright, causing him to rub his eyes. A nasty chemical reaction occurred due to the hand lotion Barkley had been using, and he burned the first layer of his corneas.
Most unusual reason for being placed on the injured list
Insomnia: Moochie Norris, Seattle, March 4, 1999
This was the real Sleepless in Seattle. Many people laughed when Norris was placed on the injured list because of insomnia by the Sonics in 1999, but it wasn't funny to Norris.
The NBA guard, who got the nickname "Moochie" from his grandfather, a fan of the Cab Calloway classic "Minnie the Moocher," had suffered from insomnia since his mother died of cancer in 1989. Unable to get more than two hours of shut-eye a night, Norris had tried various cures.
In 1998, while toiling for the Fort Wayne Fury in the CBA, he went to bed wearing glasses that flashed lights and emitted a thumping sound when he closed his eyes. (The thinking was that he'd focus on the noise and lights and clear his mind.) Seattle decided Norris was a head case. The team waived him a couple of days after he went on the injured list.
First player sidelined by a luggage cart
Jeff Ruland, Philadelphia, 1991-92
Ruland had been retired for four seasons with nagging knee injuries when he tried to make a comeback with Philadelphia in 1991-92. His comeback ended after 13 games when a luggage cart rammed into him as he waited for a team bus outside Boston Garden. The collision left him with a partially torn Achilles tendon. An exasperated Ruland exclaimed, "It can't be accidental, they were moving too fast. Whoever could foresee anything like this happening?"
Most preposterous use of a basketball card
For personal identification: Qyntel Woods, Portland, 2002
In March 2002, Woods was stopped by police for speeding. As he rolled down the window of his Cadillac Escalade, marijuana fumes poured out.
The police searched the vehicle and found a small amount of grass. When the Trail Blazers rookie was asked for his driver's license and proof of insurance, he had neither. Instead, he handed the officers his basketball card as identification. He was charged with marijuana possession and driving without a license and no proof of insurance.
Woods provided proof of insurance in July to lift the suspension, but his license was suspended again on July 28 when he failed to appear at his court hearing.
Seven months later, Woods was stopped again by the same police officer for failing to use his turn signals. In a bad case of déjà vu, he was booked for driving with a suspended license and no proof of insurance. Fortunately, this time Woods wasn't enveloped in a cloud of ganja.
Most exaggerated example of personal hardship
Buying a house: Kevin Garnett, Minnesota, October 2002
Are NBA stars out of touch with reality? Garnett, for one, would appear to be. In an 2002 GQ interview, the Timberwolves forward, who signed a six-year, $126-million contract in 1997, remarked: "The things I have been through since I came into the NBA, you would not believe how hard it has been." Asked to cite an example, Garnett replied, "Buying my first house. That was a hardship."
Most pregame vomiting episodes, career
1,128: Bill Russell, 1956-57 to 1968-69
The Boston Celtics great would get so psyched -- and nauseated -- before virtually every game that he would have to puke. It didn't hurt his play though. In fact, if Russell didn't vomit before a game, his teammates knew they were in for a long night.
Once, before a Game 7 playoff clash against Philadelphia in the 1960s, Celtics coach Red Auerbach actually pulled his team off the court during warm-ups because Russell hadn't performed his usual pregame ritual. Auerbach told the players they weren't going back out until Russell tossed his cookies. Russell came through and Boston went on to victory.
Only player to credit LSD with improving his play
Phil Jackson, New York, 1973-74
Jackson was an unconventional dude long before he became one of the NBA's most celebrated coaches. In his 1975 book "Maverick: More Than a Game," Jackson claimed that some LSD he gobbled for breakfast in Malibu in May 1973 lent his game a boost. The shaggy-haired Knicks forward said the "spiritual flash" he experienced that day on the beach gave him a new love for the sport and a deeper appreciation of team play. He credited it with making 1973-74 the most productive season of his career, as he averaged 11.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
First player to order takeout during a game
Quintin Dailey, Chicago, March 20, 1985
During the second half of a game against the Spurs in San Antonio, Dailey instructed the ball boy to borrow five dollars from a reporter and run to the concession stand for a slice of pizza. When the ball boy returned, Dailey took the pizza and ate it at the end of the bench, much to the amusement of his teammates and the astonishment of coach Kevin Loughery.
Only NBA player to kill a lion with a spear
Manute Bol, 1985-86 to 1994-95
One thing is beyond dispute: Manute Bol is the greatest 7-foot-7 center from Sudan to play in the NBA. At 15, the Dinka herdsman killed a marauding lion with his spear while it lay sleeping -- a feat his agent noted during his contract negotiations.
Bol was first handed a basketball at age 19 and told to try to dunk it. On his initial attempt he smashed several of his teeth on the rim. But he persevered and soon became much sought after by American colleges despite being, like everyone in his tribe, illiterate. In his first NBA season, Bol blocked 397 shots, the second-highest total of all time.
Only NBA player raised in a Japanese concentration camp
Tom Meschery, 1961-62 to 1970-71
A fierce competitor who earned the nickname "the Mad Russian" during a 10-year NBA career, Meschery was the first Golden State Warrior to have his number retired. No other player had such an unusual childhood. His Russian parents fled the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, eventually settling in Harbin, China, where Tom was born in 1938.
Meschery's father later immigrated to the United States, where he found work in a San Francisco shipyard. The family planned to join him there, but before they could depart, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and all ships were prevented from leaving China. The Japanese placed Tom, his mother, and his sister in a concentration camp where they stayed for five years until the end of the war.
Only team to trade a player for a consultant's advice
Indiana Pacers, Jan. 7, 1983
Jon Spoelstra earned a reputation as a marketing guru during 11 years as the Senior Vice President/General Manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. During his tenure with the team, there wasn' a game that wasn't sold out.
In 1983, his expertise helped Portland make the strangest trade in NBA history. Needing a point guard to fill a hole created by injury, Portland acquired veteran Don Buse from the Indiana Pacers. The compensation to the Pacers wasn't a player, but one week of Spoelstra's time as a management consultant.
Most dramatic reversal of fortune in a trade
Leroy Ellis and John Trapp, Los Angeles to Philadelphia, 1972
"Coach, say it ain't so." Players on good teams sometimes do get traded to bad teams, but in the case of Ellis and Trapp, the transfer had the impact of falling off a 10-story building.
Early in the 1972-73 season, they were both dealt from the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers -- who had compiled a 69-13 record in 1971-72, the best in NBA history -- to the Philadelphia 76ers, who would win nine games and lose 73, the worst record in NBA history.
Worst display of gratitude after a trade
Scottie Pippen, Houston, 1999
Charles Barkley wanted to win badly, so badly that in January 1999 he deferred part of his salary so the Rockets could acquire veteran Scottie Pippen from the Chicago Bulls.
Unfortunately, the Rockets didn't prosper with Pippen, exiting in the first round of the playoffs. After the season, Pippen said Barkley didn't show him the desire to win and made disparaging remarks about his "sorry fat butt." Three days later, Houston put Pippen on a plane to Portland.
First Iron Curtain player to join the NBA
Georgi Glouchkov, Phoenix, 1985
In Phoenix it is remembered, but not fondly, as the "Glouchkov Experiment." The Suns went deep behind the Iron Curtain into that well-known basketball hotbed of Bulgaria to land Glouchkov. The 6-foot-8, 235-pound rebound specialist had trouble adjusting to life in North America. He spoke no English and Suns coach John MacLeod complained that Bo Taklev, Glouchkov's translator, "was hard of hearing, so by the time I'd repeat what I needed him to interpret for Georgi during a timeout, we'd have to go back on the floor."
Whatever the problem -- some believed it was an insatiable craving for American fast food -- Glouchkov did not shine in the Valley of the Sun. When asked about his play, the Bulgarian admitted it was sub-par, but said, "I have done nothing for which I should be beaten or hanged." When Glouchkov arrived at the next year's training camp 25 pounds lighter than expected, the Suns cut him.
First woman to "play" in a men's pro league
Penny Ann Early, Kentucky Colonels (ABA), Nov. 28, 1968
Early created news in Louisville in 1968 by becoming the nation's first licensed woman horse jockey. In a show of "male solidarity," the jockeys at Churchill Downs boycotted the first three races she entered.
The ABA's Kentucky Colonels responded by signing the 5-foot-3, 110- pound Early to a basketball contract, even though she had never played the game in her life. Coach Gene Rhodes was not amused and protested to management. However, the Colonels owners not only kept Early on the roster, but ordered Rhodes to play her in a real game.
The moment came on Nov. 28, 1968, against the Los Angeles Stars. Early wore a miniskirt and a turtleneck sweater with No. 3 on the back (to represent the three boycotted races at Churchill Downs), and warmed up with the players and sat on the bench with the team.
Early in the game, during a timeout, Rhodes reluctantly sent Early to the scorer's table, where she checked into the game. In the Kentucky backcourt she took the ball out of bounds and inbounded it to teammate Bobby Rascoe. He quickly called a timeout and the Colonels removed Early from the game to a standing ovation. Afterward, she signed hundreds of autographs.
First player suspended for refusing to stand for the national anthem
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Denver, March 12, 1996
Abdul-Rauf hadn't stood for the national anthem for most of the 1995-96 season, but with a month left in the schedule, the NBA took a stand of its own. It suspended the Nuggets' leading scorer without pay until he complied with a league rule that requires players, coaches, and trainers to line up and stand in a dignified posture during the playing of the anthem.
Abdul-Rauf, who was known as Chris Jackson before adopting the Islamic faith in 1991, said that his religious creed prevented him from recognizing the American flag and the national anthem as symbols of freedom. Instead, he claimed the anthem represented tyranny and a type of "nationalist ritualism" forbidden by his religion. Two days after being suspended, Abdul-Rauf changed his tune and agreed to stand. He said he would pray while the anthem was being played. "I'll offer a prayer, my own prayer, for those who are suffering. Muslim, Caucasian, African-American, Asian. That is what I cry out for."
Most Grateful Dead concerts attended by a Hall of Famer
More than 650: Bill Walton
Walton is a die-hard Deadhead. "They've been my life since I first saw them in the late sixties, when I was in high school," he admitted in one interview. "I attended lots of rock concerts when I was in high school and college, but after my first Dead show I realized that I had found a home."
Walton numbers the Dead among the great teachers in his life and believes that lessons learned from the band served him well in the pursuit of his goals as a basketball player: "Their inspiration drove me. They taught me the importance of delivering peak performances on demand, and to always play with a sense of joy and creativity."
Longest piece of biblical scripture tattooed on a player's body
16 words: Larry Hughes
Hughes already had an impressive collection of 15 tats, including Silky Smooth, Boogie Down, Quiet Storm, Magician, and Grim Reaper, when he decided to expand his skin decor in the summer of 2000. At his favorite St. Louis tattoo parlor, Hughes asked his friend Nate to engrave all six verses of Psalm 23 across his torso from neck to navel. To save time and considerable pain, Nate suggested they simply highlight the most pertinent passage. Therefore, on his left upper arm Hughes now exhibits the words: "Though I Walk Through The Valley of The Shadow of Death, I Shall Fear No Man."
Largest height difference between two teammates
28 inches: Manute Bol and Muggsy Bogues, Washington, 1987-88
In 1985, the Bullets signed Manute Bol, a 7-foot-7 Dinka tribesman from Sudan, the tallest player to ever take the court in the NBA. Two years later the Bullets drafted 5-foot-3 Muggsy Bogues out of Wake Forest, the smallest player to play in the NBA. The Bol and Bogues carnival act lasted one season before both were shipped out in trades.
From "The Unofficial Guide to Basketball's Nastiest and Most Unusual Records," © 2005, by Kerry Banks, published by Greystone Books. Reprinted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved. To purchase the book, click here.