Julius Erving Awarded Hennessy Privilege Award

Published by Marcus Vanderberg on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 3:13 pm.

LOS ANGELES – Basketball great and humanitarian Julius Erving was awarded the Hennessy Privilege Award Friday night at an intimate dinner inside the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. Mogul Russell Simmons presented Erving with the award and the two men led a conversation with roughly 100 athletes, agents and business executives on a variety of topics including mentorship, values and integrity, financial literacy and branding and brand alignment.

The Hennessy Privilege Award was created in 2003 to recognize outstanding individuals who give back to their communities through service, leadership or the arts. Past recipients include Julian Bond, Rev. Al Sharpton, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Spike Lee.

“It’s very flattering,” Erving said following the event. “I have received a lot of awards in my life. The award is a surprise but it’s a pleasant surprise. For Russell [Simmons] to participate in it makes it that much more special.”

Erving candidly discussed the five mentors in his life that helped shape him along the way ­including former Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell and comedian Bill Cosby. He’s returned the favor by serving as a mentor for other young people.

“I would say it’s a huge number,” Erving said of the number of people he’s mentored. “I had a policy when players came in the league, if they were on my team, [to] extend a hand of friendship to them. There would be multiple nights where I would invite them to my home or take them to lunch. When we would go on the road, just spending one-on-one time with them. If there were guys that came into the league with a lot of baggage, like a Quintin Dailey, I would try to spend some time with them.”

One of the greatest dunkers of all-time, Erving said he doesn’t think the NBA needs to entice players to enter the Slam Dunk contest, and says  sponsors have had a negative impact on the event.

“I don’t really like the props but I think since it’s such a heavily sponsored event that [sponsors] have made suggestions that have been taken into consideration and sometimes applied. So that’s changed the nature of it. If they are going to have the LeBron Jameses and Kobe Bryants in the Slam Dunk contest competing against each other, then that’s probably a decision those guys are going to have to make as opposed to sponsors making the decision.”

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Darius Rucker Teams Up With The PGA Tour

Published by Marcus Vanderberg on Friday, February 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm.

Don’t let the guitar fool you.

Singer Darius Rucker knows a thing or two when it comes to sports. And now the Grammy Award–winner has teamed up with the PGA Tour in order to benefit the lives of young people through the game of golf.

Rucker wrote and produced a custom song for the Tour titled “Together, Anything’s Possible.” All proceeds of the song downloads for one year will be donated to the PGA Tour Charities, Inc. Included in the list of charities is The First Tee, a program that aims to build character and instill life-enhancing vales in youth through the game of golf.

“[The PGA Tour] asked me to write a tune for the PGA Tour Charities and asked if I would write a song that had their motto, ‘Anything’s Possible,’ in it,” Rucker told BET.com on Wednesday.

Rucker was one of the celebrities on hand for the 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-AM, sharing the spotlight with the likes of Oscar de la Hoya, Drew Brees, and Tony Romo.

An avid golfer when he’s not out on tour, the 44-year-old Rucker grew up before the Tiger Woods era. “I did play golf as a kid,” Rucker said. “I played until I was about 14. I think I would have played better and more seriously if there was a Tiger Woods when I was growing up.” Rucker and Woods would eventually meet and become close friends. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Boi, Cee-Lo Perform At Madden Bowl XVII

Published by Marcus Vanderberg on Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 6:13 pm.

DALLAS – Is there a better combination in life than a game of Madden and music from Big Boi and Cee-Lo?

This was the case Thursday night at Madden Bowl XVII held at the Glass Cactus in Grapevine, Texas. Prior to the two Atlanta performers hitting the stage, current NFL players and celebrities battled it out in a four-team Madden tournament.

The trio of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, and Access Hollywood correspondent Maria Menounos outlasted the competition on the night.

“What an unbelievable experience,” said  Menounos, who became the first female player to win a Madden Bowl. “It was an honor to be here tonight and perhaps pave the way for other females to participate in the event in years to come.”

A New England Patriots fan in real life, Big Boi was still sensitive about his team failing to make the Super Bowl.

“I think it’s a bunch of go*damn horsesh*t,” Big Boi said. “It brought my spirits down. I wasn’t as excited about coming to the Super Bowl when they lost and the Falcons lost. I was kind of like ‘F**k it,’ but now, I can’t go for Green Bay, so Steelers all the way. Believe that.”

Cee-Lo, who isn’t a huge sports fan, got caught up in the NFL season because of the Atlanta Falcons regular season success.

“This has been an interesting season for me because I really did get emotionally involved because our squad from Atlanta, the home team, I thought they were going to go all the way this time,” Cee-Lo said. “I got involved, so it was a little disappointing to see them lose the way they did. There’s always next season.”

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Catching Up With Caron Butler

Published by Marcus Vanderberg on Friday, February 4, 2011 at 2:03 am.

DALLAS – Despite being out for the rest of the 2010-11 NBA regular season, Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler is in good spirits as he rehabs from a partial tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee.

While in town for the Super Bowl, I had a chance to catch up with Butler following the Mavericks 102-92 victory over his former team, the Washington Wizards. Butler, a Wisconsin native, is attending the Super Bowl on Sunday in order to cheer on his Green Bay Packers. Has Butler ruled out a return for the playoffs? Find out.

BET.com: How is the rehab coming along?

Caron Butler: It’s coming along good. Today is the first day I have been able to bend it. It’s been straight for a month now. Having an opportunity to get my walking pattern back is big. I’m glad to be able to do that finally.

And you’re out for the regular season and going to try to return for the playoffs?

Yeah, maybe the playoffs. That’s the big push. Four-to-six months so you’re looking at like the 2nd round of the Western Conference playoffs. That’s something I’m really pushing for.

Based on your tweets, you have been really upbeat despite the injury. What keeps you going?

Family and just knowing it could be worse. Obviously I keep my faith in God and I don’t question what happens. This is one of those situations where you just have to continue to go forward. Or you can soak in your misery and it can go totally the opposite way. Just rehabbing and trying to remain positive and move forward.

Your former team is in town, did you have a chance to catch up with anyone?

I saw Andray, JaVale, Nick. Ernie Grunfeld, the president and general manager. Saw a couple other people. I just talked to them and exchanged words, letting the guys know I miss them and it’s still all love. It was good.

How does American Airlines arena stand out from other arenas in the league?

Mark Cuban and everyone has done a great job of getting the fans so involved with this ball club. Before the game, season ticket holders line up in the hallway and they get a chance to interact with us in the tunnel as we prepare for our prayer and head out to the court. There are so many hands on activities. I think we do the most community appearances by double than any team in the NBA. We had a great interaction. They support us. We support them. It’s a great marriage.

You’re a Wisconsin native and the Green Bay Packers are in the Super Bowl. What’s your prediction?

I got Green Bay, all day. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the house tonight but it’s OK. They are second best, it’s cool.

Are you going to the Super Bowl?

Yeah, definitely going to the game. Our owner is a huge Pittsburgh guy but we will be sitting in his suite, rooting for the Packers.

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Catching Up With Don King

Published by Marcus Vanderberg on Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 12:42 am.

There’s only one Don King.

The legendary promoter is still going strong at the age of 79 with no signs of slowing down.

King chatted with BET.com prior to the Devon Alexander-Timothy Bradley fight on his relationship with fellow promoter Bob Arum and if retirement is in his future.

BET.com: What’s the key to maintaining a career in the boxing industry for as long as you have?

Don King: The key to me is faith in God and working with people. I’m a people promoter; a promoter of the people, for the people. Respect for my fellow American and whoever my partner might be. Aretha Franklin laid it out. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I take the two-by-four out of my eye before I take the splinter out of my brother’s eye.

What was the reasoning behind this fight being held at the Silverdome?

I didn’t select the Silverdome. My partner and co-promoter in this event, Gary Shaw, did. Unfortunately, my wife died at the time of the selection process and I was not really into it. He did it and I applaud him for doing it. He got a great city in Detroit and a city that’s in need. The big three (General Motors, Chrysler, Ford) are coming back. Motown USA, where the biggest thing going in there for us was Berry Gordy, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Supremes. They all had a part of this whole thing in an urban area. The Motown express is on the move and we are reenergizing the Motown express. It’s really picking up steam as we go down to the finish line, which will be on the 29th at the Silverdome.

What has it been like spending so much time with Bob Arum the past week?

It was wonderful. I would never know how good I was if I didn’t have Lonesome Bob on my tail all the time. Coming from two diverse backgrounds … he from Harvard and me from the streets. The ex-convict getting an unconditional pardon from Governor James A. Rhodes. To be back with him again, because he was highly competitive. You know how prosecutors think. They always think they can beat anything.  To have a guy like him snipping at my nose … you have to be able to deal with it. It’s a good experience to go back with Lonesome Bob and make things happen.

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week, what does it mean to have two young, black undefeated fighters headlining on HBO?

That’s fantastic. I think HBO outdone themselves and I think this is the first time they really have a real show because they have been falling short of the mark because they are not matchmakers. What it is here is you have a great show that nobody can condemn because it stands tall.

Is retirement a word in your vocabulary?

Retirement? What is that? Is it a plane? Is it a bird? People are my retirement. I take great comfort in my relationship with people. The good, the bad and the ugly.

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Catching Up With Timothy Bradley

Published by Marcus Vanderberg on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 10:19 pm.

Earlier today, you heard from St. Louis native Devon Alexander.

The man he’s stepping in the ring against is the undefeated Timothy Bradley.

After his victory over Luis Abregu last July, Bradley called out Alexander. Six months later, the two undefeated fighters are set to unify the junior welterweight championships.

Bradley chatted with BET.com on why he wouldn’t fight Alexander in St. Louis and who he will call out next if he wins.

BET.com: How is training camp coming along?

Timothy Bradley: Training is going well. I’m just tapering off now. I’m polishing up with light sparring and just working on a game plan.

Did you have a problem fighting Devon Alexander in St. Louis?

I would have a problem fighting in St. Louis. I would. Due to the fact that that’s where Devon’s from. Would he have a problem fighting me here in California? I’m sure he would. I absolutely would have a problem. We need to fight on neutral territory. Atlanta would have been great. New Orleans would have been great. That’s the promoters job. It’s not my job. If I could choose where the fight could have been held, I would have chose California.

Is there any concern about fighting in front of a small crowd at the Silverdome?

As a fighter, I don’t worry about that. I have to worry about a young lion that I’m getting in the ring with. I’m not worried about the ticket sales. All I know is that on January 29th, I have to get it on with Devon Alexander and I’m ready to go.

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week, what does it mean to have two young black fighters headlining on HBO?

It’s amazing. You rarely get these opportunities, especially when you have two guys in their prime. It means a lot. It says a lot. We have come a long way since the Martin Luther King days. This guy has a dream and it still lives on today. It’s amazing.

What challenges will Devon Alexander present in the ring?

He’s young. He’s determined. He’s a good fighter, man. It’s going to be a helluva challenge for myself but I will prevail in the end.

As a fighter, do you get tired of hearing about Mayweather-Pacquiao when Bradley-Alexander could be the fight of the year?

Nah, I don’t get tired of hearing about Floyd and Manny. I want to see them go at it. I really like the position I’m in right now. I’m not too busy worrying about those guys right now. I have a lot of unfinished business at 140 pounds that I need to care of first. And then we will see what happens later on in a year or two.

If you defeat Alexander, who can we expect you to call out following the fight?

Mayweather. Pac-Man. Amir Khan.

You can defeat Devon Alexander if …

If he stands in and trades with me.

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Catching Up With Devon Alexander

Published by Marcus Vanderberg on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 3:02 pm.

The names Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley might not ring a bell for the average sports fan.

But boxing fans have circled January 29 on their calendars in anticipation of one of the biggest fights in 2011.

The undefeated Alexander and Bradley will step in the ring Saturday night on HBO to unify their junior welterweight titles.

Just like he did last August, Alexander spoke with BET.com before his fight to discuss what challenges Bradley will present in the ring and why this fight is happening at the Silverdome in Detroit.

BET.com: How is training camp coming along?

Devon Alexander: Training is good. We are preparing to go 15 rounds. We are ready to rock and roll. We are just putting the finishing touches on camp.

What’s this about you staying in one of Don King’s houses in Las Vegas?

We are stationed here in Las Vegas in one of Don King’s houses. The one that Mike Tyson would stay at. I’m sleeping in the bed that Mike Tyson slept in. The bed is huge, so I only take up half of the bed.

What challenges will Timothy Bradley present in the ring?

He’s going to come in there and try to muscle me around. He’s just going to think that I’m not suppose to be in the ring with him. He’s bigger than me, so I’m just preparing for him to be a bully.

I asked Bradley if he had a problem fighting in St. Louis and he said yes. Would you have a problem fighting in his homestate of California?

I don’t know. I wouldn’t mind. It just depends on what my promoter and manager think. I don’t get into that. I wouldn’t mind. If you’re a real champion and say you’re a real champion, I’m the bigger draw. I can draw over 10,000 people in my hometown. Come on to my hometown if you’re a real champion.

It seems like the decision to fight at the Silverdome  and poor ticket sales is overshadowing what should be a great fight. Is that the case?

Yeah, that’s crazy. That’s poor judgment on Gary Shaw’s part. The fight could be in Alaska. This fight is more important than the Silverdome. I’m just going to come in there … two people could be in the arena. I’m just coming to get the victory.

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week, what does it mean to have two young black fighters headlining on HBO?

It means a lot. We didn’t have the right to use the same water fountains and same bathrooms, so for us to get an opportunity like this to be treated equally, it means a lot.

Do you have a relationship with Bradley outside the ring?

No, not outside the ring. I knew him as an amateur. He was a cool dude. We spoke and everything like that. Right now, it’s not hot until after the 12th round.

As a fighter, do you get tired of hearing about Mayweather-Pacquiao when Bradley-Alexander could be the fight of the year?

Yeah, but this is boxing and they are looking at the top of the sport and the cash cows. They are going to continue to bring it up. Bradley-Alexander is going to be an excellent fight. I think it’s on the caliber of Mayweather-Pacquiao. It’s not the same money or anything like that but I think two undefeated fighters fighting is a big deal.

If you defeat Bradley, who is next?

The sky is the limit. I’m going to be the number one in the division. We are just going to have to see what happens and what my promoter and manager says.

You can beat Timothy Bradley if …

I can beat Timothy Bradley if I come in myself and follow the gameplan.

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25 Things You Don’t Know About Lamar Odom

Published by Marcus Vanderberg on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom is featured in this week’s issue of Us Weekly, sharing ’25 Things You Don’t Know About Me.’

Hoops fans will know a few of the items on this list (#24 in particular), but it’s an interesting look at what Odom’s like off the court.

1. I am afraid of heights.

2. I get very cranky when I’m hungry.

3. I won a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics.

4. I love seafood.

5. I have six tattoos. None of them are on my arms

6. With I was 10 years old I was already 6 feet tall. I’m now 6-foot-10.

7. My wife bought me a white Rolls-Royce Phantom for Father’s Day.

8. I love to drive fast!

9. I’m an only child.

10. I love all sports teams from NYC.

11. I’m from Queens, and I love to represent.

12. I played baseball and football when I was younger.

13. I knew I was going into the NBA when I was 7 years old.

14. I’ve been shaving my head bald since I was 19.

15. I love a warm peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk!

16. I am an amazing dancer. I could enter a dance contest and win if I had to!

17. I get a haircut every two days.

18. I wear two pairs of socks in every game that I play.

19. I love to shop on Jamaica Avenue in Queens.

20. I collect baseball hats.

21. I started a charity called Cathy’s Kids in honor of my mother. It gives back to underprivileged youth.

22. I love to travel! Spain is one of my favorite places.

23. I’m afraid to ski.

24. I played in the World Championships in 2010 and won a gold medal.

25. Autumn is my favorite season.

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Super Bowl Teams Set: Who Ya Got?

Published by Marcus Vanderberg on Monday, January 24, 2011 at 2:20 pm.

Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh

Let the Super Bowl XLV hype begin.

We are 13 days away from crowning a new Super Bowl champion, (BET.com will be on site in Dallas next week for Super Bowl coverage) which means nearly two weeks of unbearable coverage and hype (and that damn “Black and Yellow” song) assuming folks leave Jay Cutler and his torn MCL alone.

With that said, who ya got?

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MLB Pitcher Faces Involuntary Manslaughter Charges

Published by Marcus Vanderberg on Monday, January 3, 2011 at 2:41 pm.

A few professional athletes occasionally get in trouble with the law during their offseasons.

Not all of them face involuntary manslaughter charge though.

That’s the case for Baltimore Orioles closer Alfredo Simon, who surrendered to police in the Dominican Republic after a fatal shooting on New Year’s Eve.

According to Simon’s attorney, his client was firing celebratory shots in the air and is suspected of killing his 25-year-old cousin Michel Castillo Almonte and wounding his 17-year-old brother in the northeast coastal town of Luperon.

Simon faces up to two years in prison if found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Let this be a lesson to you, boys and girls.

Don’t play with guns. Especially on New Year’s Eve.

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