ESPN laziness evident in Maravich snub
Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 10:09 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 10:09 a.m.
Before long, the University of Florida basketball team will face the rival Kentucky Wildcats, not once but twice. For most of the past decade, the programs have been on a collision course en route to SEC supremacy, and each has enjoyed astounding streaks, one over the other.
No other basketball program has done more for pumping the blood of the Billy Donovan-era Gators than the Wildcats, and Kentucky and Florida are beginning to hit their strides when it counts.
Florida is making its move because of Donovan and his ability to assess and lead whether he has a stable of superstars or a group of hungry up-and-comers; and Kentucky mainly due to sharpshooting guard Jodie Meeks.
By now, you know Meeks, who gained instant celebrity last week when he torched Tennessee for a school-record 54 points.
ESPN, the network fortunate enough to televise his monumental effort, spent the better parts of two days riding Meeks' hot hand and listing his feat among the five best scoring performances in SEC history ... during "the last 35 years" anyway.
There were graphics showing how Meeks is wedged in with such luminaries as Chris Jackson and Gerald Glass, and a mention of how Meeks' 54 set the UK record by one point over Dan Issel, who didn't qualify for "the last 35 years" category.
Therein lies the travesty. For if Issel's 53-point outburst against Ole Miss on Feb. 7, 1970 is listed, ESPN would also have to acknowledge that, on that very day, LSU's Pete Maravich dropped a 69-point bomb on Alabama that still stands as the SEC single-game scoring record.
And ... if ESPN had included those couple nuggets ... certainly the network would've been expected to clue us in on the fact that Pistol Pete surpassed 50 points in a game a total of 28 times during his incredible career at LSU, rendering the Gerald Glass-Jodie Meeks graphic quite lame.
Maravich might be considered ancient history by now, a Beatles-styled triggerman who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame four months before Meeks was born and who died at 40 four months after Meeks' birth.
But he doesn't deserve to have his records haphazardly torched because his freakish scoring feats impede ESPN's ability to put together a presentation that seems almost interesting.
Just because ESPN's own birth coincided with the very end of Maravich's marvelous professional career -- and the network didn't get a chance to cover him and might be low on highlight tape -- doesn't somehow eliminate Maravich from the SEC and college basketball conscience.
We're not talking about Set-Shot Buford of the Pittsburgh Pisces, or some star of grainy footage taking aim on a peach basket. This was a living, breathing showman in the vein of Doctor J who just happened to be so far ahead of his time he got lost in the pre-Bird, pre-Magic, pre-Jordan NBA shuffle.
And the numbers sort him out, like a silver dollar winding up as the lone piece given back by a Coinstar machine.
Even before he had a career worthy of being named one of the "NBA's 50 Greatest Players" in history, Maravich cobbled his legend at LSU.
Like most young players, he started slowly, then improved his scoring average each season. Except, for this guy, he debuted with a 43.8-point average, then only got better.
Ineligible as all freshmen were at the time due to NCAA regulations, Maravich played only three seasons -- without a 3-point line -- and averaged more than 44 points a game over his career.
His three-season NCAA record of 3,667 points dwarfs everyone before or since, and is more than 400 points better than his nearest competitor, Freeman Williams, who piled up his numbers at Portland State over four seasons during the same era.
As if a 44-point average over three seasons in a major conference weren't enough, former LSU coach Dale Brown once spent a summer breaking down Maravich game film and concluded that the Pistol would've added between 10 and 13 points per game if the 19-foot, 9-inch line for 3-pointers that Jackson used had been painted on the floor of what is now the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the LSU campus.
It's pretty easy to do the math at that point.
I'm not going to stand here and take away anything from a gifted player like Jodie Meeks, a junior closing in on 1,000 career points. But I'm not going to stand for Pete Maravich being forgotten because it wasn't convenient to include him on a SportsCenter graphic.
Former Kentucky player Tony Delk once scored 53 points in an NBA game, but that didn't stop him from being a pro player whose eighth -- and most-recent -- stop in 12 years was with Panathinaikos in Greece.
Sometimes it's about explosive scoring ability. Sometimes it's about consistency. When you look for consistent, explosive scoring ability, you find Pistol Pete Maravich.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Can we please reflect on Al Gore's global warming forecast now for a change, instead of in July, when glaciers annually shed some pounds and leave that one photogenic polar bear floating away on an ice chunk with Sara McLaughlin singing in the background? Brrrrrr. ... Am I odd because I still like Billy Idol more than I will ever like "American Idol?" ... I guess Year 2 of the All American Football League is set to begin. Too bad I don't remember what happened in Year 1. A pro league which makes a college degree a requirement for participation has as much potential as a story that begins: "So, I started one of those colon cleanse programs and the weirdest thing happened ..."
Dwight Collins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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