|Top 10 suspensions of all-time|
By Jeff Merron
Page 2 columnist
LeBron James got a couple of free shirts and won't play any more high school games. Big deal? The kid misses a few high school games and heads right to the NBA, as planned. It's a blip, a speed bump, a minor incident compared to the biggest sports bans and suspensions ever.
Ali refused to go into the Army in 1967, famously declaring he had no quarrel with the Viet Cong. The New York State Athletic Commission declared it had a quarrel with Ali, and took away his license. Ali, convicted of draft evasion, was stripped of his heavyweight title. His draft evasion case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and on June 28, 1971, Ali was cleared, with the Supreme Court ruling he was improperly drafted and that Ali was indeed sincere in his religious beliefs.
So began the first of The Greatest's many comebacks, with Ali eventually regaining his title on October 30, 1974, more than seven years after he'd had it taken away.
2. Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte and the Black Sox
The players weren't banned until just before the 1921 season. Jackson's 1920 season: .382 batting average, 12 homers, 121 RBI. Cicotte's 1920 stats: 21 wins, 10 losses, 3.26 ERA.
Jackson testified before the Cook County grand jury in Sept. 1920, and the Chicago Herald and Examiner reported the following: "As Jackson departed from the Grand Jury room, a small boy clutched at his sleeve and tagged along after him. 'Say it ain't so, Joe,' he pleaded, 'Say it ain't so.' 'Yes, kid, I'm afraid it is,' Jackson replied. 'Well, I never would've thought it,' the boy said."
He bet on baseball. He bet on Reds games. He put his autograph on a document that declared him permanently ineligible for baseball. Rose had been the Reds skipper from 1984 until he was banned, at the age of 48, in 1989. The ban cost him dearly -- besides being denied a sure place in the Hall of Fame, he also forfeited would likely have been a long managing career.
"The matter of Mr. Rose is now closed," said Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti after the ban was made public on Aug. 24. "Let no one think it did not hurt baseball. That hurt will pass, however, as the great glory of the game asserts itself and a resilient institution goes forward. Let it also be clear that no individual is superior to the game."
4. Paul Hornung and Alex Karras
Hornung apologized. "I made a terrible mistake," he said. "I am truly sorry." Karras also said he was sorry, in his own way. Upon returning to action in 1964, he refused when an official asked him to call the pregame coin toss: "I'm sorry, sir," he said. "I'm not permitted to gamble."
By the time the Seoul Olympics rolled around in 1988, Johnson had clearly earned the title of the World's Fastest Man. He defeated rival and 1984 100-meter gold medalist Carl Lewis time after time and blasted through the old 100 meter world record by a full tenth of a second, running a 9.83 at the 1987 world championships in Rome.
In 1988, Johnson fought off injury after injury and was soundly beaten by Lewis in their only meeting before the Olympics. In Seoul, though, the Canadian sprinter broke his own world record, running 9.79 and beating Lewis by an astounding .13 seconds. But Johnson tested positive for steroids, his world record was wiped from the books, he was stripped of his gold medal, and banned from competition for two years in the prime of his career. A few months later, the IAAF declared his 1987 world record invalid, too.
Johnson's career was pretty much over. He competed in the 1992 Olympics but didn't make it past the 100 meter semifinals. In March 1993, Johnson was banned for life after failing another drug test.
6. Latrell Sprewell
7. Tommie Smith and John Carlos
The USOC suspended the sprinters and told them to leave the Olympic Village. But other athletes didn't shy away from their own protests and explicit support for the two sprinters. Ralph Boston, who finished third in the long jump, went barefoot during his medal ceremony and said, "They are going to have to send me home, too, because I protested on the victory stand." (They didn't.) Bob Beamon, the long-jump gold medalist who had smashed the world record, went to the victory platform with his sweatpants rolled up to display black socks.
Carlos and Smith faced tough times when they returned to the U.S. "Brent Musburger spoke for the Establishment when he called them 'black-skinned storm troopers,' " wrote Olympic historian David Wallechinsky. "The two Olympic medalists found it difficult to make a living."
8. Micheal Ray Richardson
Harding and her husband, Jeff Gillooly, paid a bunch of thugs $6,500 to whack rival skater Nancy Kerrigan in the knee two days before the 1994 U.S. Nationals. Harding won the Nationals and a spot on the Olympic team, and Kerrigan, unable to compete, was also named to the team. Harding, Gillooly, and Co. were so incompetent that it soon became clear that Harding and Gillooly had plotted. But the USOC, fearing a lawsuit, allowed Harding to compete in Lillehammer.
She bombed in a spectacular fashion, broken shoelace and tears and all. She returned home, pled guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution of a case, was stripped of her national title, and banned by the USGA for life. The rest is celebrity boxing history.
10. Connie Hawkins
Hawkins went pro in 1962 and was named the ABL's MVP. He then played for the Globetrotters from 1963-67 and in the ABA for two seasons, including one in which he was named MVP. Hawkins had been eligible for the 1964 NBA draft, but Commissioner Walter Kennedy made it clear he wasn't welcome in the league. He went undrafted in 1964, 1965 and 1966, and was finally officially banned after the 1966 draft. Hawkins filed a $6 million antitrust lawsuit against the NBA. In 1969, the suit was settled out of court, so to speak -- the NBA lifted the ban and gave Hawkins nearly a million dollars and a five-year, $410,000 contract with the Suns.
Also receiving votes:
Bruin Marty McSorley slashed Vancouver's Donald Brashear from behind, sending Brashear, skull down, crashing to the ice and knocking him unconscious. The NHL suspended McSorley for the last 23 games of the 1999-200 season, effectively ending his NHL career. McSorley stood trial in Canada and was found guilty of assault with a weapon, but didn't serve any time in prison.
Sherman White, Ralph Beard and Alex Groza
White, a 6-foot-8 LIU forward who was the Michael Jordan of his day, might have been an NBA superstar. He would have been drafted by the Knicks, but was barred from the NBA, and later served nine months in prison for fixing games.
Merle Hapes and Frank Filchock