Links, commentary, strange connections, and silly photos of Gilbert Arenas, randomness…
Bryon Russell will be forever cemented into Michael Jordan lore. You know exactly why. And evidently, Russell holds a solid spot in Washington Wizards/Gilbert Arenas lore as well.
Because of Jordan’s last shot as a Chicago Bull, a game six and championship winner that took place in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 14, 1998, which came courtesy of a Jordan push-off of Russell and subsequent burial of the Utah Jazz, Russell and Jordan will always be connected. The moment has been in/on video games, video game commercials, posters, artwork, t-shirts, books, and captured via wide-ranging multimedia design. No one has been, and perhaps no one will ever be, more remembered for having a basketball shot hit on them. The rest of it travels down an unexpected road.
After the shot marinated in basketball history for over four years Russell teamed up with Jordan on the 2002-03 Washington Wizards, a team surrounded with strife and disaster that failed to even make the playoffs in Jordan’s final NBA season. Russell averaged 4.5 points and 3.0 rebounds over 19.8 minutes per game and appeared in 70 contests. Russell then joined the 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers, a team that epically failed to be a team in the NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons. No championship for Bryon. Russell played 16 total minutes during that playoff run, the swan songs for the careers of Karl Malone and Horace Grant, and the end of the Kobe/Shaq era; Gary Payton was also involved.
Russell next appeared in 70 games with the 2004-05 Denver Nuggets and in just one game for Denver the following season before retiring from the league. Then came September 2009. Jordan, in his Hall of Fame induction speech that was ‘so’ Jordan, made mention of Russell.
I was in Chicago in 1994 … and at this time I had no thoughts of coming back and playing the game of basketball. Bryon Russell came over to me and said, “Why’d you quit? You know I could guard you. If I ever see you in a pair of shorts …”
When I did come back in 1995 and we played Utah in ‘96, I’m at the center circle and Bryon Russell is standing next to me. I said, “You remember the [comments] you made in 1994 about, ‘I think I can guard you, I can shut you down, I would love to play against you? Well, you’re about to get your chance.’”
Russell responded in numerous outlets, challenging Jordan to a game of one-on-one (for charity). Russell claimed that a rematch could be “bigger than the O.J. trial,” showing more than a willingness to bask in the anti-glory, undoubtedly in a good-natured manner, but also seemingly desperate to prove himself against Jordan nonetheless.
By December ’09 NBDL team Utah Flash, spawned by owner Brandt Anderson’s willingness to front the 100K in charity money, claimed to have set up such an exhibition match during halftime of their season home opener against the Dakota Wizards, of all teams. That turned out to be a fan-angering hoax. The Flash attracted their largest crowd ever and denizens of Utah were giddy to see Jordan. When a fake Michael Jordan, amidst hype-building hoopla and surrounded by “bodyguards,” made his way to the court, fans became mad, showered the court with the free t-shirts they had received, and a majority abruptly left the premises. A game between the two never took place.
That represented the end of the odd aftermath of Russell-Jordan, which leads us to the part where that “weirdo” Gilbert Arenas is involved. Russell is responsible for Arenas’ existence as a Washington Wizard (indirectly, of course, and thanks to Twitter user @MPConsults for reminding me of this).
From a Washington Postarticle by Steve Wyche in June 2003 (text via here):
Washington Wizards forward Bryon Russell elected not to exercise his option on the final year of his two-year contract, leaving the team with unexpected savings of $1.54 million and an open roster spot.
“He has decided to become a free agent,” said Dwight Manley, who represents Russell.
Though Russell could land with another team, he likely would not garner the money he would have received from the Wizards this season. With Russell opting not to come back, the Wizards could be as much as $13.5 million under the salary cap this summer should guard Jerry Stackhouse opt out of the final two years and $15 million of his contract.
That surplus would be enough for Washington to try to lure some of the more prominent free agents on the market, such as point guard Jason Kidd, who has a strong relationship with new Wizards coach and former New Jersey Nets assistant Eddie Jordan, Andre Miller, Gilbert Arenas or P.J. Brown.
Stackhouse did not end up opting out of his contract. No, for some reason the genius Wizards decided to ink him to a 2-year, $18 million extension on June 26, 2003. But they still had enough money, thanks to Russell, to sign Arenas away from the Golden State Warriors in August. Fittingly (with team mis-history), Stackhouse was having his right knee scoped by October and didn’t make his first appearance that season until February 2004; he also missed the first half of March due to tendinitis in his ankle. Before the 2004 draft in June, Stackhouse, Christian Laettner and Devin Harris were traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Antawn Jamison.
In many senses Wizards fans can be thankful that it wasn’t Jason Kidd or Andre Miller or P.J. Brown (FCOL!) targeted instead of Gilbert Arenas, I think — finally the Washington pro basketball team decided to go after a young free-agent instead of an older one.
So you see, Bryon Russell was responsible for Arenas, kind of, but I won’t hold him responsible for the recent photos of Arenas below (via the Twitter account of Laura Govan, @L4Govan).
Also remember: Russell ain’t the only Russell — there’s also Bill Russell, Russell Westbrook and Cazzie Russell, and via Kanye West, there’s Russell Brand and Russell Crowe, along with Naomi Russell, whom you are free to look up at your own NSFW discretion.
Congrats goes to former Wizards PR man Brian Sereno on his new position as head of athletic communications and PR at George Washington University. Sereno was a good guy who really went to bat for credentialing alternative forms of media with access to cover Wizards games.
[The GW Hatchet]
Also best of luck to Holly MacKenzie, moving on to work with Nike Basketball and departing from The Basketball Jones/The Score.
John Wall is ranked No. 25 in SLAM’s Top 50; the write-up on his arrival to D.C. is told only like a Wizards fan can tell it.
Here’s a toast to Andray Blatche for all the positive things he’s been doing this summer in hopes that his maturity will show on the basketball court.
Locked-out Wizards Fan’s Guide to the Washington Capitals.
Wizards television play-by-play man Steve Buckhantz used to be a television secret in 1997, appeared on the cover of cigar-themed magazines.
[DC Sports Bog]
Gheorghe Muresan caught a fish ‘thiiiiiiiiiiiis’ big.
[The Basketball Jones]
Kelly Dwyer goes harsh on NBA superstars.
[Ball Don't Lie]
A fun story by a writer for ESPN TrueHoop blog KnickerBlogger about trying out for the NBDL.
Who wants to sex Arvydas Sabonis? Because that’s all he’s really supposed to do.
Remember Walt Williams of the Cleveland Indians? Of course you don’t.
Finally, a picture of David Stern at the 1985 NBA All-Star game, within 12 months of him being named commissioner, with a beard photobomb in the background. Sweet.