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Vol. 50, No. 2 • January 2013 • .pdf version
Armstrong claims first, second in best writing contest
Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News finished first and second in the U.S. Basketball Writers Association's best writing contest, becoming the only double place-winner in this year's contest.
Armstrong took first place in moderate length features and second in magazine length stories.
Other first-place winners included Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com in game story/spot news; Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated in magazine length stories; Pablo S. Torre of Sports Illustrated in enterprise/investigative; and John Feinstein of the Washington Post in column writing.
Armstrong's winning entry, Remembering Gentle Lorenzo, an in-depth look at the life and death of former N.C. State player Lorenzo Charles, the hero of the 1983 NCAA championship game who caught an errant shot attempt by guard Dereck Whittenburg with two seconds left and re-directed it through the rim with a two-handed dunk.
Armstrong wrote: "Life led Charles down varying roads, some unpaved, some luxurious. By the time he left the Wolfpack, he scored 1,535 points, good enough for 15th place on the school's all-time list. He played one season in the NBA, averaging 3.4 points in 36 games with the Atlanta Hawks in 1985-86, then went international, bouncing from Italy to Argentina to Uruguay to Turkey to Sweden. He ended his professional career in the Continental Basketball Association in 2001.
"He never commercialized his name from the championship win," says former UNC forward Bill Chamberlain. "He never lived off the adulation, nor did he want to."
In the game story/spot news category, Brennan created a timeline leading up to the buzzer-beating shot by Duke's Austin Rivers over North Carolina.
Brennan wrote: "Three ... Two ...
"That's when Doc Rivers knew. He'd seen it before. His son had set things up this way: He had forced UNC center Tyler Zeller into an uncomfortable switch, and now he had the big man right where he wanted. Doc's son was hesitating on purpose, waiting for the 7-foot Zeller to back up – just enough to see the rim, just enough to give it a chance.
"It hung up in the air the way last-second shots do, floating through space at its own leisure, blissfully unaware of its brief journey's consequence. For half a second – no more – the arcing, dropping basketball was the only thing in the arena in motion. Twenty-two thousand froze in their seats. Some covered their eyes. The Dean Dome was underwater, muffled, a slow-motion scene from a cheesy action movie. Time played tricks.
"And then, just like that, it was over. Duke 85. Carolina 84. Austin Rivers had just played the most important – and the longest – six seconds of his life."
In the magazine length category, Layden recalled the craziness of March 14, 1981, when three buzzer-beaters – each of them aired live – captured the nation's attention and spawned these two famous words: March Madness.
Layden wrote: "The last shot fell at a little past three on a Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. Rolando Blackman, a willowy 6-foot-6 Kansas State senior from Panama by way of the Bronx, pounded three dribbles to the right baseline and rose quietly off the floor before stroking a jumper that gave the Wildcats a 50-48 lead over Oregon State with two seconds to play in their NCAA tournament game at Pauley Pavilion. ...
"It was the concluding act in a daylong drama that stands as one of the seminal moments in what has come to be known – and trademarked by the NCAA – as March Madness. By the time Blackman's floater dropped through the net, two other games had ended in upsets at the buzzer. Early in the afternoon in Dayton, Ohio, a DePaul junior point guard nicknamed "Money," because he was so clutch under pressure, had missed a free throw that he would never forget, even as he later spent more than six years in prison before turning 40. Less than a minute before the Blackman basket, in Austin, Texas, an Arkansas guard named Ulysses C. (U.S.) Reed had made what is likely the only half-court, game-winning shot (so close, Gordon Hayward) in NCAA tournament history, bringing down defending national champion Louisville and keeping the Cardinals from what might have been four Final Fours in four seasons.
"And in a small, refrigerated control room on the fourth (or maybe the fifth, nobody is quite sure) floor of 30 Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan, a crew of NBC executives and producers and one very familiar host had pushed the limits of broadcast technology to ensure that the entire country had seen all three finishes. When the day was done, they yelled as loudly as the crowd a continent away in Los Angeles, certain that they had helped change the way a sport would be consumed by its audience."
Torre, who now works for ESPN.com, won the enterprise/investigative category with "The Man With a Scam," about Houston AAU coach David Salinas, who befriended and defrauded coaches and players in a phony bond scheme before committing suicide.
Here's Torre's lede: "In the predawn darkness of July 15, less than a mile off shore, the missing man floated on a yellow Jet Ski on Galveston's West Bay. David Salinas, the celebrated operator of an elite AAU basketball team called Houston Select, had plenty of fuel to head landward – at 5:45 a.m., in fact, he'd gotten gas at a marina near his vacation home in Terramar Beach. Instead he bobbed in the waves, despondent in his ubiquitous baseball cap, boat traffic narrowly passing by. Salinas had been well-liked and trusted by a wide circle of friends that included Division I college basketball coaches, Texas oilmen and pro athletes. Now all of them wondered where the hell he'd gone. And how deep the trouble would go."
Feinstein won the column writing contest by addressing how Maryland's court-naming for Gary Williams went wrong: "For (Lefty) Driesell – or anyone – to argue that the court shouldn't be named for anyone at all is hollow, especially given that Driesell has a court named for him at Georgia State. Here, though, is the biggest problem and a big part of the reason why Maryland managed to turn a night that should have been a celebration into yet another controversy: The school has never properly honored Drie-sell."
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