Cardboard Bullets: The Lore of Ledell Eackles
On a holiday weekend, where you will no doubt be eating in some sort of gluttonous manner, let’s take a quick look at just one of the rotund members of the Wizards/Bullets franchise’s past … Ledell Eackles.
I won’t be getting into too much of my own historical research and perspective on the player in this post … mostly because several great pieces on Eackles have already been written. Let’s take a look …
“A player so Ledell-icious”
As offense off the bench, the late ’80s/early ’90s Detroit Pistons had “The Microwave,” Vinnie Johnson. The Washington Bullets had a 240 lb., 6’5 shooting guard who was never in shape, frequently disinterested in defense, and missed more practice than Allen Iverson.
“It’s French for ‘the dell’”
Chapter Nine: The Contract Dispute
In the summer of 1990, Eackles was coming off his ball-hogging second season (having tallied the aforementioned 29.5 usage rate) and entering restricted free agency; meanwhile, the Bullets had traded Jeff Malone, a 24 ppg shooting guard who was a Rip Hamilton prototype. Though they didn’t know it at the time, the roster decisions made that summer would help decide the franchise’s future for the next half-decade. After two straight lottery seasons, the team was teetering on the brink of its early ’90s tailspin; however, the Bullets weren’t that removed from a five-year playoff run, albeit a run that ended five straight times in the first round, so had some legitimacy left and were looking for a bounce-back year.
Statistical analysis being what it was in 1990, the Bullets decided that to contend with the loss of Malone, they needed another “20-point scorer” (forget efficiency) to pair with the aging Bernard King, who had about one great season left in him. And as Eackles had been the team’s best bench gunner, he and his agent (a New Orleans judge named Eddie Sapir, who was a real character) thought they had leverage.
“Ledell Eackles and the Destruction of Innocence”
Ledell was different in that he finally removed the red and blue colored glasses from my eyes. For here was a Bullet who was truly unlovable; a fat guard that shot the ball at a rate that boggled the mind. Kevin Duckworth and John Williams may have been fat, but fat centers were not unheard of in the NBA. Muggsy Bogues was short, but he could be considered an evolutionary dead end as teams continued to move towards bigger “hybrid” guards. Ledell Eackles was rotund; at a position where svelteness was recommended.
BUT THERE’S MORE! … QUICK HITTING LEDELL LINKS:
>>Playing With Fireworks.
Eackles missed a practice in early 1992 because he had gunpowder burns on his shooting (right) hand. Evidently Ledell couldn’t quite operate a Roman candle when shooting fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
This incident piggy-backed on Pervis Ellison missing the same practice as well. He had to reclaim his Ford Bronco from a towing area. On his way to a December 30, 1991 game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Capital Centre, Ellison got in an accident and had to missed the game with a strained neck. Pervis was allegedly eating a meal of fried chicken on his way to Landover, Maryland and lost control of the steering wheel due to greasy fingers.
Yes, this is our team history.
- Source: The Baltimore Sun
Ledell spent two seasons (’84-86) at San Jacinto CC before transferring to the University of New Orleans for the ’86-87 and ’87-88 seasons. Part of the season Eackles had to go to a non-Division I school was because he dropped out of high school, Broadmoor High located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with two months to go because of academic difficulties. As a sophomore at San Jacinto, located in the Houston area, Eackles averaged 27.2 ppg on 58.3 FG%, leading the Ravens to a 37-0 record and an NJCAA national championship. He was also named JUCO player of the year that season. Other notable San Jacinto alums include Sam Cassell (’89-91) and Steve Francis (’96-97).
In his very first game as a UNO Privateer, Eackles scored 26 points against USC. In his last season, he scored in double figures 31 times (all consecutive), which is tied for a school record. As a senior, he had 17 free-throws in a game, twice. His average points per game that season, 23.4, stands as sixth best all-time in UNO team history. The 22.6 ppg he scored as a junior is tied for eighth. The 1,358 total points he scored in just two season is good enough for sixth most in school history. The last time a New Orleans player scored over 40 points in an away game is when Ledell dropped 45 in a 96-71 win against Florida International on January 30, 1988.
Eackles was an honorable mention AP All-American in ’86-87 and an honorable mention UPI All-American in ’87-88. He was the American South Conference player of the year in ’87-88. The 25 points Eackles scored against BYU in the 1987 NCAA Tournament is still a school record. In the New Orleans’ first NCAA DI tournament appearance in the school’s history, the 7-seed the Privateers beat the 10-seed Cougars 83-79 in the first round, but lost to Alabama 101-76 in the second round.
That ’87 team, with Eackles teaming up with Wendell Perkins to form a duo known as ‘The Dell Boys’, helped to capture the basketball spirit in New Orleans again. The Jazz had left the city for Utah after the ’78-79 season and Tulane disbanded its basketball program after a point shaving scandal in 1985; it was resurrected four years later.
- Suggested reading/source: “Best Krewe In The Bayou: Way down yonder in New Orleans, the Bucs are rolling,” by Hank Hersch – Sports Illustrated, March 9, 1987.
- Other source: UNO Basketball Media Guide
- In his first NBA start, 53 games into his rookie season against the Rockets in Houston (because Jeff Malone was out with a strained lower back), Ledell scored a then career-high 25 points to go along with Bernard King’s 34 points as the 22-31 Bullets took down Akeem Olajuwon and the 31-23 Rockets. [LA Times]
- Ledell’s youngest son, Ledrick, will be a sophomore for the Oakland Golden Grizzlies this upcoming season. Oakland, as a 14-seed, lost to 3-seed Pittsburgh 89-66 in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Ledrick had 17 points off the bench.
- Ledell’s older son, Ledell Jr., spent a couple seasons at Copiah-Lincoln CC in Mississippi before playing two seasons at Campbell University, finishing up in 2006-07.
- Eackles has at times represented the Wizards franchise in the community. In 2001 he collected donations for an education fund to benefit children who lost a parent or guardian in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. In 2007 Eackles presented a former Miss D.C., also known as K Street Kate, with the Verizon 2006-2007 Pollin Award for community service. In 2009 he answered phone donation calls for the Wizards Care foundation during a televised road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Eackles was previously an assistant coach for the Washington Mystics but was relieved of his duties prior to the 2005 season.
- Check out another old Eackles basketball card at Mr. Irrelevant. Ledell was like butter on a roll.
- There’s an ‘Official Ledell Eackles Fan Club’ on Facebook, join it.
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