THIS WEEK’S SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
SI Highlights Anthony Davis the Pelicans’ Do-It-All Big Man & Wisconsin’s Record-Breaking Running Back Melvin Gordon
NEW YORK, NY (December 3, 2014) – This week’s issue of Sports Illustrated highlights New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis rise from overlooked high school junior to NBA phenom – mirroring his teenage growth spurt. Following his undeniably lofty goals, the 21-year-old is off to an historic start. In the NFL, greater emphasis is always placed on big skill-position players: taller QBs, taller receivers, taller tight ends. With humor and analytic incisiveness, Austin Murphy dives into the strategic value of the NFL little guys. He may be one of the shortest players in the majors, but Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve’s numbers aren’t small at all producing historic stats for a player of his height. Also in this issue, Alan Shipnuck profiles Ed O’Bannon, former college basketball standout who laid the groundwork for an overhaul of the revenue-distribution practices of the NCAA and has singlehandedly done more to change a sport than any other individual.
On the regional cover, a look into Wisconsin’s running back Melvin Gordon, who despite his late start, is making a spectacular run at the Heisman Trophy after breaking the NCAA single-game rushing record.
Below is a link to the high res cover:
Lee Jenkins: Year Three A.D.
Jenkins takes us from the Davis schoolboy days where his basketball ambitions were to one day coach the game to today where he is in the conversation as one on the most dominant players in the game. Interestingly after his first practice for the MeanStreets AAU program in Indiana, an intimated Davis wanted to quit. Cajoled to continue by his coaches he continued. Then a 19-year old scout changed everything. Writes Jenkins:
In April 2010, Davis played his first game for MeanStreets, in Merrillville, Ind. Daniel Poneman, a 19-year old Chicago-based scout who lived with his parents in Evanstown, showed up at halftime. He recorded the action on a Flip video camera. “I can be prone to hyperbole,” Poneman acknowledges, “but I was seeing things I’d never seen before: block a three, lead the break, dunk it, block another shot, lead another break, lay it in.” Poneman conducted a postgame interview- in which Davis said he intended to be a high school coach someday- then hurried home to upload the footage to his Facebook account. He didn’t have enough material, so he included clips of Jamari Traylor (now at Kansas), under the heading MEANSTREETS MONSTERS. Poneman tagged about a dozen college coaches, most of whom called or texted by morning, with some variation of the same question: Oh, my God, is this real?
When talking about that AAU game, the scout responsible for the uploaded video Daniel Poneman recounts Davis’s performance: “I can be prone to hyperbole, but I was seeing things I’d never seen before: block a three, lead the break, dunk it, block another shot, lead another break, lay it in.”
Fast Forward four years and Davis is now in the conversation when debating the best player in the NBA. Of that talk Davis says: “It makes you smile to see yourself becoming the player you want to be. When people talk about the greatest ever, I want to be in that conversation, [but] I’m nowhere close to it. No…where…close.”
While some would suggest that Davis’ average of 14.2 points per game as a freshman wasn’t eye-popping. There were always glimpses of the greatness to come. Said his college coach John Calipari: “There were things he did that made me sit down, a touch pass, a lefty hook, a Ginobili layup.”
Brian Hamilton: The Biggest Cheese
Melvin Gordon arrived in Madison wanting to be remembered forever. After two years of waiting his turn, working while others slept and a 408-yard game that disintegrated all anonymity, the Wisconsin back is on the verge of being one of college football’s best.
“I told you if you stick to it, you’re going to be an amazing player” – former teammate and Denver Bronco’s running back Monte Ball
“When he sees other people doing well, it pushes him to try to be better than them” – Wisconsin sophomore tailback Dare Ogunbowale
“It’s just a pride thing man. Every running back who has started here had a great career and helped lead the team to great success. They took the team to greater heights. I wanted to keep the bar high. That’s just how it is”- Gordon
Emma Span: Little Slugger
The NFL is not the only place where big hits come in small packages. Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is among the majors’ shortest players, but with his lightning reflexes and refined mechanics, the AL batting champ doesn’t produce like it. His 2014 performance was superb by any measure – but it was historic for a player of his height.
“A player like him, who just doesn’t strike out and can make contact, has tremendous value. He was in the best shape of his life and he paid attention. He looked for keys on the pitcher, he started to study those things. And he had no fear.” – Jeff Luhnow, Houston’s GM
Alan Shipnuck: Closing The Deal
In championing the rights of amateur athletes to control – and profit from – their names and images, former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon has become the face of the most important legal case in the history of collegiate sports. Now a car dealer in Las Vegas, O’Bannon keeps a low profile. He has little to gain from the lawsuit, and that has made him an ideal plaintiff.
“I loved playing basketball – I got all I wanted out of it, all I could. But it’s not forever. At some point you have to move on.” – O’Bannon
“It’s a nice life. A quiet life.” – O’Bannon