[Editor's Note: Today's post was penned by Vince Grzegorek, Web Editor at Cleveland Scene and "Intern Emeritus" at Uni Watch. Enjoy! -- Phil Hecken]
By Vince Grzegorek
Lance Allred isn’t the most memorable career D-Leaguer/Euro player, but he’s got a good case for being the most interesting. For one, he became the first legally deaf player in the NBA when the Cavs handed him a couple of ten-day contracts a couple of years ago. Oh, and there’s more.
Allred was raised in a fundamentalist polygamist sect (which he and his parents left many years ago), dealt with major-league asshole Rick Majerus at Utah (where Majerus would call him a cunt by spelling out the letters with his fingers, even though Allred is a dynamite lip-reader and could have done without the mock signing, and qualified himself for untold number of humanitarian awards when he told Allred, “You’re a disgrace to cripples. If I was a cripple in a wheelchair and saw you play basketball, I’d shoot myself.”), penned a critically acclaimed first book on his childhood upbringing and his journey to the NBA, and dabbles in Jane Austen-era fiction when he’s not writing memoirs.
Clearly, someone could use a hobby.
Last week Allred released his second memoir (Basketball Gods: The Transformation of the Enlightened Jock), self-published this time on his website, and downloadable to a host of convenient platforms (Kindle, PDF, etc.) for the low, low price of $0.99. Coverage this time picks up in 2008 when Allred is signed by the Cavs, focusing on the life of a ten-day contract guy in the NBA and all the fun waiting in the Euro leagues once that brief stint in the league is up, along with his personal and religious growth through the ordeal.
Don’t let the fact that the tome’s coming without the endorsement of a major publishing house scare you away — this one is as good as the first; Allred is consistently thoughtful, literate, and a damn fine writer. Turns out the market for deaf D-League authors isn’t quite what it used to be, especially once they’ve already broken the seal on their polygamist upbringing once already.
Are there uni-notable moments? Of course. Here’s one of the passages that caught my eye through the first read.
LeBron: “Look at this guy!”
Ben Wallace: “What?”
LeBron: “He’s wearin’ his D-League socks. Someone get this sumbitch a new pair of socks.”
Me: “Thanks, Bron, but I am okay. I wear these socks to remind me where I came from.”
LeBron: “Man, if I was doing that, my socks would have no toes.”
Ben Wallace: “I would be playing basketball in the dark. Don’t you dare turn on that light boy! Wasting the electric bill and all!”
Me: “All apologies, fellas. A comparison of socioeconomic backgrounds was not my intent. Your shot, Mr. James.”
For the people and everyday workers behind the scenes of the Cavaliers organization, I had grown into somewhat of a fan favorite. I was approachable and I talked to them. I was also the basketball player who had requested that my car be downsized from an SUV to a more environmentally sound Ford Fusion. What? No stereotypical Escalade?
I didn’t realize for sometime just how many supporters and friends I was making from within the Cavs organization: from the security guards, to the chefs, to the interns, to the secretaries and the ball boys. I suppose speaking and being kind to people who don’t immediately benefit us is a foreign concept for most of us athletes. To me it is not hard to do, as I never saw my parents treat and behave different from one person to another, regardless of social standing. As well for me, having toiled in the slums of professional ball, meandering in those dark corners of the earth, to forget those experiences and where I came from would have been the greatest travesty of all.
Hence the D-League socks.
Well that deserves a follow-up, no? So, I called Allred for a chat about the socks, the varying degrees of equipment-related plushness between the D-League, where I assume players are made to sew up holes in their socks, and the NBA, where I assume metric tons of free socks are shipped to facilities on a weekly basis, the extras of which are used as tinder at Fourth of July parties, and other stuff.
Uni Watch: You really liked those D-League socks.
Lance Allred: [Laughs] I wore those things until they got too ratty to wear, sometime around the playoffs. I wore them every game in the D-League that year. We are superstitious creatures. So when I got the call from the Cavs, I said, “I need my lucky socks.” I think they lasted me two months in Cleveland, ’til there were holes in them.
UW: Were you ever worried about getting fined? I’m sure D-League socks aren’t approved NBA gear.
LA: They were probably illegal, but I was just a lowly D-League call-up. I’m not making that much money.
UW: Your fine might have been more than your paycheck at that point.
LA: I’m not sure what they would have fined me. Maybe if I had been playing more and under more scrutiny, they might have noticed. But usually I was just sitting there on the bench in my warmups. As I wrote in the book, though, I was worried about my shorts being too long.
UW: The difference between equipment supply and quality between the NBA and D-League is probably pretty self-evident, but tell me what the differences were.
LA: It’s just insane, all the stuff they have in the NBA. In the D-League, each team gets, like, a box of stuff — a box of socks, a box of compression shorts, etc. — and they’re supposed to last the whole season. The team trainer appropriates them appropriately, so you have to use it sparingly. You have to be careful what you take. If you get to the NBA, you don’t have enough bags to take all the stuff they’ve given you. Sadly, at the time, I just gave most of it away. Now, three years later, I realize I should have given away so much stuff.
UW: And the D-League is like the NBA compared to the Euro leagues?
LA: It’s bad over there. You have to buy your own stuff — buy your own shorts, buy your own ankle braces, your shoes. Nothing is provided for you. Sometimes a team does have a contract with an equipment provider for shoes, but not often. One team I was on had a deal with AndOne, and they just make the worst shoes ever. So, I got a doctor to give me a note saying I needed better shoes with better arch support or something. The only things they provide are practice uniforms and game uniforms.
UW: With some NBA guys considering signing with Euro teams during the lockout, your book has a lot to offer as far as warnings and first-hand knowledge of just how badly things can go.
LA: You head in there with eyes wide open. Eventually, you just don’t get upset about things anymore. But these NBA guys don’t know what they’re getting in to. In Europe, they play one game a week, and they think, “Hey, one game a week is great.” What they don’t realize is you’re doing two-a-days the other six days of the week.
UW: Any other Euro-related warnings?
LA: They should be concerned. There’s nothing guaranteed about playing over there. Josh Childress and other guys in the NBA who went overseas, they last maybe one season, if that. There are two things: 1) Euro owners expect NBA guys to come in and dunk on people. But there’s no spacing and no illegal defense, everyone’s just standing in front of the hoop, so you can’t go through the lane. The owners get impatient then. And, 2) They NBA players at home, they’re used to a posh lifestyle — living in 4-star hotels, nice restaurants, chartered jets, all the towels they want. In the Euro locker rooms, well, those a pretty sketchy. Plus the pay isn’t coming. Most of the guys who’ve played there only get about 50% of what they were supposed to be paid.
UW: And the lockout…?
LA: It’s the worst time in the NBA to have a lockout. The fans are struggling, struggling to hold a job or keep a paycheck. To have both sides arguing over ridiculous amounts of money is ridiculous, and a lot of players are aware of this, a lot of people on both sides are aware of this. They know the timing isn’t right. But there’s the people who don’t care, too.
As you could guess, Lance has plenty of knowledge to share about the lesser lives of minor and foreign league basketball players, and another load or two about the actual game of basketball. Check out Sports Illustrated‘s interview with Allred for more conversation on those topics. Also, go buy his book.
Membership update: Paul here, surfacing just long enough to mention that membership cardback designer Scott M.X. Turner has returned from his assorted summer-break activities, which means that the Uni Watch Membership Program — which had been on a short hiatus — is once again open for business. Although I’m still technically on summer break myself, I’ll still process any orders that come in and will get your membership cards shipped out super-timely-like.
Benchies from the Beginning
By Rick Pearson
For nearly three years, “Benchies” has been appearing most weekends at Uni Watch. While Bench Coach Phil fills in for Paul Monday through Friday during August, we present a retrospective. New strips will continue to appear on weekends. For further background, here’s the “Benchies” backstory and bios on the regular Boys of “Benchies.” Enjoy.
And as always, here’s the full-size version.
Tim E. O’B’s IU Review
A few weeks back, I had hopes that this would be IU’s uniform next year. Aside from that silly collar, that’s almost exactly what I wanted out of the Hoosiers’ unis.
And actually, except for the numbers on the compression sleeves, and the candy-striped pants, the new IU unis look a lot like my over-the-top IU concept – down to the overly fat uni numbers.
I like the white facemask but the jerseys are too boring. Maybe add some stripes to the bottom of the sleeves, or maybe go with sleeve numbers rather than pad numbers, or go for what IU fans really want, the double stripe theme all over.
The Hoosiers were just shoulder stripes away from that design two years ago and they were a pair of pants (and that stoopid side blotch on the jersey) from having it last season. Keep it simple but don’t make us an Oklahoma knockoff again.
And please, for Christ’s sake, remove the “For the Glory Of Old IU” from the inside of the collar.
* The Helmet – Love the facemask, hate (like, loathe) the lack of stripes. Grade: D | Uni-Watch.com Scale: Seriously Stupid
* The Jersey – No side blotches, but no stripes whatsoever. Grade: B- | Uni-Watch.com Scale: Good but could be great
* The Pants – Back to the ol’ double stripe. Grade A+ (so long as they wear red pants on the road) | Uni-Watch.com Scale: Great
Overall, two steps forward, one step back: B (which is a vast improvement from the D- that was last year.)
Tim E. O’Brien
Uni Watch News Ticker (compiled by John Ekdahl): A French impostor dressed himself in a team’s full kit and made it out to the field at kickoff, but was promptly escorted off (Andrew Kendall). … Here’s a shot of Ryan Madson on Phillies photo day with his shirt on backwards (Edward Lafayette). … Stephane Bergeron of La Griffe Originale has just released the latest mask for Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (Ryan Rearick). … Check out these great football photos from U.S. Army Camp Darby in Italy during the 1940’s (Jeff Wilk). … Ian T.L. Henderson noticed on a recent trip that a certain liquor store in upstate Pennsylvania is using a familiar MLB logo. Maybe it’s been around since they played in Philly. … Southern Illinois will be wearing “special one-time only black Under Armour jerseys” for the Black Out Cancer game on November 12th (Paxton Guy). … “I think you’d have to admit this shirt is pretty brilliant. Even if it does bear the mark.” – Tim McNulty. … Monday night was “Until There’s a Cure Night” at AT&T Park. San Francisco Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was the only player not wearing the red AIDS ribbon on his jersey, which offended some fans who noticed. San Francisco Chronicle reporter Henry Schulman tried to put the controversy to rest in this article (Laren Richardson). … Well, it looks like someone has decided to blatantly rip off our buddies at No Mas (Brian Geiger).
“How on earth did the design team at Adidas find a way around all that state of the art technology to place some simple pants striping? Is there nothing they can’t do?” — Patrick Woody