#tbt: LeBron James and other bad NBA breakups

With the 2015-16 NBA season less than a week away from tipoff, here’s a fun look back at some of the most notable splits in league history.

My short post for ESPN.com went live on the five-year anniversary (July 8, 2015) of LeBron James’ “Decision” to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers via free agency and join the Miami Heat.

Among the other notable breakups: Dwight Howard leaving the Los Angeles Lakers in 2013, Pat Riley leaving the New York Knicks in 1995, and Shaquille O’Neal leaving the Orlando Magic in 1996. An excerpt on O’Neal:

Playing varying roles in his decision [to join the Lakers] were reported tension with then-coach Brian Hill and guard Penny Hardaway, a highly publicized Orlando Sentinel poll to which O’Neal took exception, and opportunities in the entertainment world. But the bottom line is this: O’Neal went on to win four titles (one with Miami), while Orlando has made just one Finals trip since.


#tbt: A life-saving gift

Another quick throwback post here, this time from a D3football.com column I wrote back in 2012.

John Stephens, a former linebacker for the Cortland State football team, helped save the life of then-two-year-old Clara Boyle with a bone marrow donation a few years ago. It’s a remarkable story, one of pain and suffering, but also incredible happiness and resilience.

All too often, sports stories are negative. I’ve edited and written countless articles about injuries, arrests, personal and professional scandals, and any other number of discouraging incidents. But stories like the life-long bond between Stephens and Boyle help restore my faith not only in athletes, but in people in general. There are good stories out there, sometimes you just have to look harder for them. And quotes like this one from Stephens help support that claim:

“It hasn’t really hit me yet, that what I did for her is allowing her to be there in that moment running around with my little brother. … I was able to do something so simple for me, the choice for me to make was so simple, and it changed this family’s life dramatically. It’s heartwarming for me and my family.”

#tbt: Not the “girl next door”

Samantha Prahalis is a wizard with a basketball. If you’ve never had a chance to see her play, watch this first. It’s not the definitive collection of her highlights, but it’s some of her better dishes from her days at Ohio State.

I had the chance to spend some time with Prahalis on April 16, 2012. That was the same day she was selected sixth overall in the WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury. She was remarkably unique and engaging. You can read my feature on her here.

“Honestly, I don’t think people ever accepted me for who I was. I’m just not that typical girl next door, and I think a lot of people saw me on the court and misunderstood me. I was emotional, I was fiery. At times a little too emotional, too fiery.

After a strong rookie season for Phoenix (11.6 points, 4.5 assists per game), she was surprisingly waived during the following season. Since then, she’s had stints with the New York Liberty, Atlanta Dream and Los Angeles Sparks, followed by a more recent deal to play in Romania.

Prahalis is still just 25 years old, so I hope she has plenty of basketball left in her. It’d be a shame for this kind of talent to go unseen and unappreciated.