Dunks and goal tending
SPORTS EYE - Raffy Uytiepo (The Freeman) - September 29, 2020 - 12:00am

The first seven-foot player in basketball is hardly known by today’s fans but Bob Kurland, nicknamed “Foothills”, shocked fans in the early mid 1940s with his stature and ability.  Kurland is credited as being the first player to dunk the ball.  But Kurland was unhappy, he said coaches didn’t want to take the time to develop tall boys like him as the six footers were faster.  When he was 13 years old, Kurland stood 6’6” but was uncoordinated, he didn’t even play basketball until he was in high school.  By his college days however, he would stand near the basket, jump slightly and swat the ball away from offensive players.  As a matter of fact, he was permitted to block the ball as it flew downward, heading right for the hoops, giving him a huge advantage over smaller players.  Kurland didn’t really make an impact as a college freshman in 1942-43, but people took notice of his goal tending style.  The following season, NCAA officials studied his defensive strategy and mulled over its legality. After Kurland’s sophomore season, a rule was drown to making it illegal to touch the ball on its downward path.  The penalty for violating the rule was goaltending and the basket would automatically count.  Fans predicted that would be the end of Kurland’s career but he went on to become a three-time All-American.

Dunkin Masters

When Lew Alcindor (also known as Kareem Abdul Jabbar) entered college basketball at UCLA, he dominated the game.  Soon the NCAA banned the dunk shot but the 7’2” Alcindor adopted easily.  Typically, he’d go up for an easy dunk and would merely drop the ball, while keeping his hands outside the circumference of the rim, into the hoop.  Instead of becoming a one-dimensional dunking machine, he developed a nice touch around the hoop,that included his awesome skyhook, a shot requiring much more finesse than a dunk.  It became a deadly and dependable weapon that nobody could defense.  The no-dunk ban lasted nine years, being lifted for the 1976-1977 season.

Backboard Breakers

Chuck Connors was perhaps the first man to destroy the backboard.  In 1946, he dunked a ball so hard during warm-ups the glass backboard shattered.  Back then the best they could come up with as a substitute was an old wooden backboard.  Connors played both professional baseball and basketball, he spent one game of the 1949 season with the Dodgers and was back to the majors for 66 more contests in 1951 with the Cubs.  In basketball, the 6’6” Connors played only 67 games. Probably the most famous dunker in the NBA was Darryl Dawkins of the Sixers nicknamed “Chocolate Thunder” and “Double D”.  Dawkins most famous dunk was in a game in Kansas City in 1981 where he shattered the backboard with defender Bill Robinzine standing by helplessly while glass showered down on the court.  When the 6’11”, 252-pound Dawkins destroyed another backboard three months later, the NBA devised breakaway rims in order to save money and protect players.  Dawkins teammates at Philadelphia were Julius Erving and Joe Bryant, Kobe’s father.

“We don’t need another Hero”

Don’t look now but former Boston Celtics 6’6” Jae Crowder and seven- footer Kelly Olynyk (now with Miami) helped the Heat frustrate the Celtics in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.  The duo provided playoff experience to a bunch of young but talented Heat players especially, Tyler Herro and three points artist Duncan Robinson.  The 20-year-old rookie fired 37 points in Game Four to nip Boston.  On the other hand, Robinson shoots the ball like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson of Golden State.  After Dwayne Wade retired, the Heat was looking at Jimmy Butler to propel the team to greater heights but veteran Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo are likewise responsible for the rise of Miami.  This season, the Heat was never considered to reach this far.  For the Celtics, they continue to suffer in the paint.  Boston needs a good center like Carl Anthony Towns.  The Celtics must be singing “We Don’t Need Another Hero” by Tina Turner from the film Thunderdome, starring Mel Gibson.  Another former Celtics has provided good backcourt duties for the Los Angeles Lakers.  Yes, Rajon Rondo, who was part of the 2008 Boston champion together with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

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