Blake Griffin Strikes Again

As the 2012 Summer Olympics rapidly approach, the U.S. men’s basketball final roster is being assembled. After the withdrawals of Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, and Chris Bosh, Clippers star Blake Griffin remains a likely candidate for the team. He hopes to bring the dominating athleticism that a gold medal push requires, and in a recent gym workout, he proved he can do just that.

Top 5 Tuesday: Sports History’s Most Patriotic Moments

Tomorrow will mark two-hundred thirty-six years of American independence. Two-hundred thirty-six years since Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and John Hancock signed his — well, “John Hancock.” The past centuries have provided many definitive moments, and sports history is no exception. Today, THE SPORTS DISPENCER has scoured the records to compile five of sports history’s most patriotic moments.

5. Reaction to the Death of Osama Bin Laden

On May 1, 2011, a covert operation captured and killed Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani compound. Courtesy of social media, news spread rapidly before an official announcement was made, eventually reaching the fans of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. There, a nationally broadcast matchup between the Mets and Phillies was briefly interrupted in the top of the ninth when jubilant spectators erupted into chanting U-S-A. Although in the midst of a tightly contested NL East matchup, rival fans put their team allegiances aside and reveled in a marquee American moment.

4. “Dream Team”

At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, the U.S. men’s basketball team — composed of college stars — stumbled to an unacceptable third place finish. Four years later, FIBA turned to the NBA to supply a lineup capable of returning American basketball to atop the podium. By enlisting the game’s best and brightest stars, the world could not compete, losing by an average of 43.8 points. From Bird to Magic to Barkley to Jordan, the U.S.’s elite squad dazzled audiences, seized the gold, and brought glory to the “Stars and Stripes.”

3. Super Bowl XXXVI Halftime Show

As the United States continued to recover, Super Bowl XXXVI served as a platform to pay tribute to victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. After U2 treated the sold out Superdome crowd to an upbeat rendition of “Beautiful Day”, the scene changed. Behind the band, two backdrops began to scroll, featuring the names of all the victims killed in the attacks. When U2 concluded the emotional performance, Bono tore open his jacket to reveal an American flag. The halftime show garnered rave reviews and in 2009 was named by SI.com as the greatest in history.

2. Rick Monday Saves the Flag

A two-time All-Star, ex-Cubs center fielder Rick Monday is perhaps best known for stopping two protesters from burning an American flag in a play dubbed “the greatest in baseball history.” In regards to the incident, Monday, a former marine, later remarked, “If you’re going to burn the flag, don’t do it around me. I’ve been to too many veterans’ hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it.”

1. Miracle on Ice

Entering the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Soviet Union was the odds-on favorite to top the podium, winning every ice hockey gold since 1964. Since the United States’ victory in 1960, the Soviets defeated America in every subsequent matchup with a cumulative score of 28-7. In the heart of the Cold War, the Americans and Soviets were natural rivals, but the United States never seemed to gain the upper hand. When the Olympics returned to Lake Placid, where the U.S. captured gold in 1960, momentum had finally shifted in America’s favor. In front of a raucous home crowd, Herb Brooks’ squad edged the Soviets 4-3 en route to Olympic gold.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of LA Public Library, ESPN

Sunday Sports Preview

Euro 2012 Final (ESPN 2:45 ET)

After weeks of competition, Euro 2012 is prepared to come to a climactic finish in Kiev. The final pits together Italy and Spain, the last two World Cup champions, in what is sure to be a competitive match. Ultimately, the game will likely be decided in the midfield, where Spain’s Xavi Hernandez and Italy’s Andrea Pirlo will fight to dictate the match’s pace and momentum. Prediction: Spain’s fierce defense keeps Balotelti quiet, beating Italy to notch a second straight Euro title.

AT&T National (CBS 3:00 ET)

Behind a four-under-par 67, Tiger Woods shot up the leaderboard to pull within one shot of 54-hole leader Brendan De Jonge. Joining Tiger at six-under are Seung-yul Noh and Bo Van Belt. With six golfers within three shots of the lead, Sunday’s clustered leaderboard will not disappoint. Prediction: With a third straight round in the sixties, Tiger Woods edges  Brendan De Jonge to gain his third win on the year.

X Games Enduro X Men’s Final (ESPN 10:45 ET)

The 2012 Summer X Games come to a close in Los Angeles. In the event’s final competition, the Staples Center will be transformed into a dynamic and challenging Enduro X course. Poland’s Taddy Blazusiak will look to repeat but faces fierce competition from several world-class motorcyclists. Prediction: Mike Brown, last year’s runner-up, finds his away to the top of the podium.

* Photos Courtesy of Bleacher Report, Motorcycle USA

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Aldon Smith Stabbed

Sources confirm that San Francisco 49ers’ outside linebacker Aldon Smith was stabbed early Saturday at a house party in Santa Clara. The team has since confirmed the incident. Law enforcement reported to the scene after complaints of gunshot fire. After their arrival, officers found two individuals suffering from gun shot inflicted injuries and one suffering from stab wounds. All three were taken to the hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries.

This is not the first time Aldon Smith’s off-the-field actions have made headlines. In January, Smith received a DUI in Miami Beach. His blood-alcohol level charted .194 and .176 after he was arrested at 4:33 a.m, well over the legal limit. According to the police report, other vehicles were forced to break heavily to avoid collisions with Smith, who was swerving in and out of traffic.

A first-round pick out of Missouri, Aldon Smith shined as a rookie, charting 14 sacks and two forced fumbles. This fall, he will be entering his second year with the San Francisco 49ers.

* Photo Courtesy of San Francisco Examiner

What If Wednesday: College Football Playoff

The prayers of college football fans everywhere have now been answered. Beginning in 2014, an annual four-team playoff will determine college football’s national champion. The playoff is a drastic improvement over the controversial BCS system, but what if it had been agreed upon a decade earlier? THE SPORTS DISPENCER analyzes what could have been in this week’s edition of What If.

Playoff Picture

Using the final AP Poll of the regular season, we have predicted the playoff pictures of the past ten years:

2002 Semifinals: 1 Miami vs 4 Georgia     2 Ohio St. vs 3 Iowa

Final: 1 Miami vs 2 Ohio St.

Outcome: The playoff produces a similar result, but controversy is raised over the exclusion of the Pac-10 champion USC Trojans.

2003 Semifinals: 1 Oklahoma vs 4 Michigan     2 USC vs 3 LSU

Final: 1 Oklahoma vs 2 USC Trojans

Outcome: After a marquee semifinal matchup, USC’s potent offense emerges victorious, eliminating 2003’s split national title.

2004 Semifinals: 1 USC vs 4 California     2 Oklahoma vs 3 Auburn

Final: 1 USC  vs 3 Auburn

Outcome: The undefeated Auburn Tigers earn the postseason opportunity they rightfully deserved, but controversy is raised over the exclusion of undefeated Utah.

2005 Semifinals: 1 USC vs 4 Ohio St.     2 Texas vs 3 Penn St.

Final: 1 USC vs 2 Texas

Outcome: Fans are rewarded as the playoff still produces the decade’s most memorable title game.

2006 Semifinals: 1 Ohio St. vs 4 LSU     2 Florids vs 3 Michigan

Final: 1 Ohio St. vs 2 Florida

Outcome: The Chris Leak-led Gators dominate the Buckeyes to give Urban Meyer his first national title.

2007 Semifinals: 1 Ohio St. vs 4 Georgia     2 LSU vs 3 Oklahoma

Final: 1 Ohio St. vs 2 LSU

Outcome: With only one one-loss team, the committee faces difficult decisions to round out the top four, but LSU ultimately emerges victorious.

2008 Semifinals: 1 Oklahoma vs 4 Alabama     2 Florida vs 3 Texas

Final: 1 Oklahoma vs 2 Florida

Outcome: Tebow leads Florida over Oklahoma for his second national title, but undefeated Utah is snubbed yet again.

2009 Semifinals: 1 Alabama vs 4 Cincinnati     2 Texas vs 3 TCU 

Final: 1 Alabama vs 2 Texas

Outcome: Alabama emerges victorious, and TCU becomes the first mid-major to qualify, but the committee struggles to decide between five undefeated squads and one-loss Florida.

2010 Semifinals: 1 Auburn vs 4 Wisconsin     2 Oregon vs 3 TCU

Final: 1 Auburn vs 3 TCU

Outcome: With one year’s experience behind them, TCU makes a run to the finals before falling to Cam Newton’s Auburn Tigers.

2011 Semifinals: 1 Alabama vs 4 Oregon     2 LSU vs 3 Oklahoma St.

Final: 1 Alabama  vs 2 LSU

Outcome: In their third encounter this season, Alabama knocks off LSU to become the SEC’s sixth straight national champ.

* Photos Courtesy of The Smoking Section, CBS Sports, Zimbio, Arizona Foothills Magazine

What do you think? Anything we missed? Any other What If Wednesday suggestions? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Top 5 Tuesday: All-Time NBA Players

After an impressive 4-1 series win, LeBron James finally has the championship ring he has long coveted. The win is crucial to ultimately cementing James’ legacy as one of the NBA’s all-time greats, but for now, LeBron is on the outside looking in. As the debate rages on, THE SPORTS DISPENCER has scoured the records to compile five of sports history’s finest.

Honorable Mentions: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Bill Russell, Tim Duncan

5. Larry Bird

A 12-time All-Star and three-time MVP, Boston Celtics star Larry Bird begins our countdown. Throughout his storied career, Bird found success with the help of his well-rounded playing style and high basketball IQ. With career averages of 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game, Bird helped lead Boston to three NBA titles, including a seven-game series win over the “Showtime” era Los Angeles Lakers. The series was one link in the legendary saga of the Bird-Magic rivalry. Largely cited as the cause for professional basketball’s 1980s boom, the pair’s heated encounters fueled both careers. Since his retirement, Larry has remained involved in the game he loves. Bird is the first and only person to garner MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year honors.

4. Wilt Chamberlain

Perhaps history’s greatest scorer, Wilt Chamberlain posted mind-boggling numbers throughout his career. While sporting career averages of over 30 points and 20 assists per game, Chamberlain peaked in 1961-62 with a record-breaking average of 50.4 points. A quick jaunt throughout any NBA record book proves the extent of Wilt’s domination. Of the more than sixty 60-point outbursts in league history, Wilt accounted for 32, most notably a 100-point performance in March 1962. Chamberlain may lack Bill Russell’s 11 championships, but in 1960 against Russell’s Celtics, Wilt dominated the Boston big man on the boards en route to an NBA-record 55 rebounds, proving his place as early basketball’s premier player.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Behind his signature sky hook, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar soared to success throughout his illustrious 20-year career. At 7’2,” Abdul-Jabbar towered over opponents, but his finesse and footwork helped the Lakers great total an NBA record 38,387 points. On defense, Abdul-Jabbar was a fearsome shot blocker. Had the NBA tracked the stat in his early career, Kareem would likely be the statistical all-time leader, but even without it, he ranks third in history. Kareem’s size and skill translated to success on both ends of the court and ultimately earned Abdul-Jabbar an NBA-record six MVPs.

2. Magic Johnson

As the undisputed greatest point guard in basketball history, Magic found success at every level. He totaled 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game. Under his leadership, the “Showtime” Lakers took the ’80s by storm, winning five NBA titles over the course of the decade. The well-documented rivalry with Boston Celtics star Larry Bird ended in Magic’s favor. In four championship matchups between the two, Johnson won three of four, resulting in two NBA titles and a 1979 NCAA Tournament championship. A 12-time All-Star and three-time MVP, Magic career spanned three decades before it was tragically cut short by HIV in the early ’90s, but had Johnson continued to play, the NBA’s all-time list may have a different king.

1. Michael Jordan

Whether you call him “M.J.,” “Air Jordan,” or “His Airness” — Michael Jordan’s name is synonymous with greatness and the obvious choice to top this list. The Bulls star accumulated six championships, six Finals MVPs, five regular season MVPs, and 14 All-Star nods. Jordan totaled an NBA-record career average a 30.12 points per game en route to an NBA-record record ten scoring titles. With his signature drive, MJ proved unstoppable around the basket, and his success continued to spread on and off the court. From Space Jam to the “Flu Game,” from “The Dream Team” to “The Final Shot,” Michael Jordan idealized the NBA and earned a spot as history’s all-time great.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of The Hoops Journal, WikipediaSport in Law