Wimbledon thoughts: At breakfast the other day with former UCLA All-American guards on two national championship teams, Mike Warren and Lucius Allen, I opined that if John Wooden had been Marin Cilic’s coach in the championship match against Roger Federer he would not have had the disaster that befell him when he developed blisters on his foot which greatly impeded his play and resulted in an easy straight set victory for Federer.
They both laughed and recalled how the first thing Coach Wooden did on the first day of each year’s practice was to lecture his players on how to apply their socks. Both said that, as a result of that annual lecture, nobody on their teams ever had a problem with blisters. They aren’t alone. Most of Wooden’s players recall that season-introductory lecture with fond humor.
I am regularly stunned when I hear ESPN announcers refer to Bjorn Borg winning Wimbledon by playing from the baseline, as they do constantly on their Wimbledon telecasts. But what is even more incomprehensible is when John McEnroe joins the conversation and agrees with the commentary.
It helps to explain why Borg beat McEnroe in that classic 1980 five-set match. How could McEnroe not know that Bjorn served and volleyed on every first serve in that match when he was on the other side of the net?
Borg served and volleyed on every first serve against McEnroe that year, as he did the following year, and as he did in the last few years of every match he played at Wimbledon. In fact, in the fifth set of the classic 1980 match, McEnroe only got two points on Borg’s serve in the entire set! Except for the first game, Borg won every service game at love. Apparently the reason Borg won was that Bjorn followed every first serve into the net and McEnroe didn’t know it.
Disgusting Divas: There are few professions extant that have more prima donnas than NBA basketball. It probably started with Kobe Bryant. This pampered Lakers baby didn’t find it rewarding enough to win three consecutive championships playing with Shaquille O’Neal and made life so miserable for the team because he wasn’t the sole recognized star (Shaq was the MVP of all three Championship series), that the Lakers were forced to choose between them. The Lakers chose not the better player, O’Neill, but the younger player, Bryant. Bryant also made life hell for coach Phil Jackson because Jackson was apparently getting too much of the credit for the Lakers’ success.
Can you imagine Bill Russell saying that he did not want to play with Bob Cousy because Cousy was getting too much publicity? What Russell and Cousy wanted the most was to win, and together they made the Celtics champions. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig reportedly were not the best of friends, but they got along well enough to win four pennants and three world championships in the 10 years they played together, and neither ever demanded a trade.
Now we’ve got Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving who doesn’t want to play with the best player in the world, Lebron James. Why? Before James joined Cleveland the Cavaliers were woeful losers but Irving was the star. Since James joined the team they’ve been in the NBA finals each year but Irving has to take a backseat to James’ luminescence. Irving wants to be the first option on offense, which is apparently more important to him than winning.
Good Guy: What kind of person is New York Yankees sensational rookie Aaron Judge? According to Buster Olney of ESPN, when TV and Buster were ready to make the award presentation for winning the Home Run Derby at this year’s All-Star game to Judge, everybody was ready. However, Judge said he wanted to wait for the batting practice pitcher. Olney told him that everybody was ready and they wanted to go forward with the presentation. Judge refused, and insisted that they wait for the batting practice pitcher because Judge wanted the pitcher to share in the glory.
Tony Medley is the author of three books including “UCLA Basketball: The Real Story,” the first book written on UCLA basketball. Visit TonyMedley.com.