Arc Of History
If you watched an NBA game in 1990, not only did you see many more free throws than you'd see now, but you also didn't see anything like as many 3s. Here's how the game improved. Henry Abbott »Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports
It was suppertime, and his father, Grady Rivers, a longtime Chicago police officer, was there. The father, who was scheduled to be on duty, who patrolled the night shift, never missed a day of work. Yet there he was, slumped in a chair in full uniform, huddled around the small black-and-white television set with Glenn's aunts and uncles.
As Rivers inched closer, he saw his father was sobbing.
"I had never seen my dad cry before," Rivers says. "My grandfather, who was tougher than my dad, was crying too."
The bewildered first-grader tried to piece together what had left his family so broken. Someone, he was told, had been killed. Panicked, he began counting heads in his grandmother's den. Was it a member of the family? A friend up the street?
Grady took his young son by the hand and drove him home in his patrol car.
"And that's when he told me all about this Dr. King guy they were all talking about," Rivers says. "It was the first time I had ever heard of Martin Luther King."
On that day, April 4, 1968, Grady Rivers tried to articulate to his son what Martin Luther King had done to advance civil rights, to fight for racial equality, to use words, not violence, to bring about change.
And now he was dead in a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 39.
From that day forward, Dr. King became a Rivers family companion, his words echoing the teachable moments Glenn's father imparted to him. Grady Rivers played King's speeches on the family record player over and over again, his booming voice literally weaving itself into the family narrative.
"Naturally, as a young kid you are curious," Rivers says. "Dr. King became an extremely important part of my life. He became our Gandhi, in many ways."
Amin Elhassan and BIG Wos welcome in Clinton Yates to talk about Obama's best moments, Rip Hamilton's Rose comments, Whiteside vs. Embiid. Black Tray and Mariano join the show.
The Timberwolves young superstar speaks to Marc Stein about the growing pains of losing, playoff expectations, shooting threes, Tom Thibodeau, baseball dreams and more.
David Locke, the voice of the Utah Jazz, drops by to chat about the Jazz, Warriors, NBA trends, and why broadcasters are such homers.
Tom Haberstroh, Ethan Strauss, BIG Wos and Zach Harper welcome USA Today's Sam Amick to talk DeMarcus Cousins, Kings Trivia, the Warriors issues and Derrick Rose.
The Grizzlies point guard speaks with Ramona Shelburne about being the highest paid player in the league, new coach David Fizdale, getting snubbed, the tribulations of injury and recruiting Chandler Parsons.
Brian Windhorst, Tim MacMahon, Michael Wright and Tim Bontemps on Derrick Rose, the Spurs, Paul Millsap and the Hawks, breaking up backcourts and trade hypotheticals.
(with reporting by Zach Lowe, Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Marc Spears, Marc Stein and Royce Young)
Steve Kerr's answer, of course, was "yes." There was no pause to consider how adding Kevin Durant to a 73-win team would affect chemistry. No worry that the four-time NBA scoring champion might disrupt the delicate ecosystem he'd created. Kerr needed no convincing. He had been a member of two NBA dynasties -- one in Chicago with Michael Jordan's Bulls, the other in San Antonio with Tim Duncan's Spurs -- and knew what it takes to sustain them.
The only question was whether Durant had the stomach to break hearts in Oklahoma City.
"I knew he was close," says Bruce Fraser, Warriors assistant coach and Kerr's best friend. "But I thought having to say no to people he loved was going to be harder for him and more painful than saying yes to the Warriors." KD, after all, was a man who'd walked the streets of Moore, Oklahoma, after it was destroyed by a tornado in 2013 -- then donated $1 million to the town. He was the man who, when named the NBA's 2014 MVP, told the people of Oklahoma City that, "You get knocked down, but you keep getting back up, keep fighting; it's the perfect place for me."
OKC was banking on that loyalty. It was only through a historic quirk that teams such as the Warriors, Clippers and Spurs had enough room under the salary cap to make a play for Durant. In the past, a franchise would have had to gut its roster to bid on a superstar of KD's proportions. But when the cap spiked by almost $25 million with the infusion of new TV revenue, that created an unprecedented opportunity. In the end, it would come down to Durant -- and what he wanted. And either way, the NBA would never be the same.
THERE ARE THOSE who like dogs. There are those who love dogs. And then there is Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell. His dad, Antonio Russell, remembers that from Russell's earliest years through his teens, if anything happened to a dog in a movie or TV show, Russell would break down crying. Antonio would try to comfort him. "You know it's just TV," he'd remind his son. But Russell said he didn't care. It felt real enough to him.
"He really is crazy about dogs," Antonio says now.
So when D'Angelo, as a middle-schooler, came by a blue-eyed pit bull named Diamond, she became everything to him. He spent countless hours walking with her around the neighborhood, trying to teach her new tricks, playing in the backyard, where there was a small opening in the fence that she could squeeze through. She escaped a few times, but he always found her. Then one day, after keeping her in the backyard like always, Diamond was gone. D'Angelo was beside himself, dragging his friend Jacob Mills with him to search on foot. They never found her.
"I just remember him being heartbroken," Mills says.
D'Angelo had her maybe a year, and she was about that old. A full year later, when Mills and D'Angelo were playing on the playground, Mills remembers D'Angelo suddenly blurting out: "Hey, do you want to go look for Diamond?"
Mills was shocked, but quickly realized his friend was "dead serious."
"D, it's been a year," Mills told him. "I'm pretty sure she's gone."
Diamond was tough to replace -- for emotional reasons, and for practical ones. Russell's childhood was all moves: to the suburbs of Louisville, to prep school in Florida for most of high school, to Ohio State.
Throughout, Russell kept his focus. And his focus has been squarely on man's best friends. "D-Russ loves them and he takes them and he treats them like they're people," says Kelsey Mitchell, a star forward for the Buckeyes' women's basketball team. "He talks to them. I used to be like, 'D-Russ, this is not a person.'"
In July 2004, Pat Riley made what was at the time unquestionably the biggest trade in the history of the Miami Heat, for Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal arrived saying "I'm going to bring a championship to Miami. I promise." Thus began one of the most maddening, egotistical, fun and victorious periods in team history.
For the first half of this three-and-a-half years in Miami it seemed the Shaq experiment might have been a failure, until the team kept O'Neal's promise by winning the 2005-06 title over the Mavericks. Even after that, things were never smooth, and eventually in February 2008 O'Neal was traded away to Phoenix after an argument with Riley.
In the words of those who were there, this is the behind-the-scenes story of O'Neal's time in Miami.