Monday, May 19, 2008

Rodney Rogers: Mountain of a Man

6' 7", 270 pounds. That's what his NBA page says. The NBA must have some bad information though because my eyes have seen Rodney Rogers up close and in person, and I assure you he was ten stories high if he was a foot.

For a number of years, I worked at The Home Depot. One summer afternoon in 2001 I happened to run into the one and only Rodney Rogers as he shopped for tree stakes in the garden department. At the time, Rodney was my favorite Suns player, as Cliff Robinson had been unceremoniously exiled in the offseason for being too awesome.

It's not every day you get to see one of your favorite athletes up close and in person. As fans we're usually lucky if our seats are in the lower bowl. Yet here before me was the '99 Sixth Man of the Year, a guy who possessed a silky-smooth lefty shooting stroke and who was affectionately known (especially in college) as Monster Mash.

Rodney needed help with tree stakes, as it was monsoon season in Arizona. As he grabbed one I noticed what looked huge in a mere mortal's hands was nothing more than a toothpick in his. Rodney was a big, big dude.

Sadly, that was it. I answered a question or two for the big man, he thanked me and went on his way. Rather boring now that I've typed it out.

However, my point stands. Rodney Rogers was the man, yet another extremely likable player with a stop in Phoenix. I'd put him ahead of Sleepy Sam and Chris Bosh on the list of left-handed power forwards from the ACC (criteria are mine.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Used to Hate Mark Jackson's Guts

It's a good thing I changed my ways, because there's a chance he'll be the next coach of the Suns (I'll stick with the guy who used to wear taped glasses as my prediction.) Enough of this coach talk though, take a seat on the carpet, grab your favorite pillow and blanket and get comfortable. It's story time.

I'm sitting on a friend's couch, getting ready for the start of a Finals game between the Lakers and Pacers in the year 2000. Before the game NBC has a feature on Mark Jackson (the Pacers point guard at the time) and his dad. There's a quick promotion for it and they cut to commercial.

My friends and I use this time to complain about Mark Jackson and his game, especially his need to back down his man on what seemed like every possession. This made me insane at the time and looking back, it still does.

The commercials stop, the fantastic NBA on NBC music kicks on and we're all ready for this story to begin so we can rip on Jackson even more. What happened next wasn't exactly what we planned for.

I don't recall the specifics, but Jackson's dad had recently passed away and he and his father had an incredibly strong relationship. Within 30 seconds of the piece starting, we all had our mouths shut and were listening intently to Jackson speak about his father and how much he meant to him.

This wasn't your standard ESPN Sunday Conversation nonsense, this was a very, very moving story, with a man pouring his heart out on national TV. When NBC cut to commercial as the segment reached its conclusion, I looked around the room at my half dozen friends and they were all doing the same thing I was...gulping hard and fighting back tears.

The moral of the story? While it's easy to hate the guts of a player (Kobe, Manu, Parker, Duncan...), it's also easy to respect them. Sometimes it just takes a sappy but moving background story to help us in the right direction. I don't know if the Suns will hire Mark Jackson but if they do so, his character will never be questioned at any point in his tenure.

if anyone can find the video, let me know. I'd love to see it again, especially to find out if it's as good as I remember