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Getting Defensive in the NBA Finals
-Posted by Ruth Riley - June 18, 2007, 9:55 p.m. ET
Ever since I can remember, my coaches have always said, "defense wins championships." Well, after this year's NBA Finals, I would beg to differ!!
I definitely have friends who live by the philosophy that their offense is their best defense. I am not prepared to go to that extreme, but I do think that the role of the offensive production should be re-evaluated in the defensive-oriented old school of thought.
This year's Finals lacked the excitement that last year's provided, for the sheer simple fact that the average person does not watch a basketball game for great defense. Unless someone is getting their shot sent to the third row, most fans want to see high-flying dunks, long range 3's and ankle-breaking cross-overs, NOT a great double team on the world's best power forward or tremendous individual defense on one of the league's top young players.
At the end of the day, it is the team with the most points on the board that wins. Defense might keep the number under your opponent's name on the scoreboard low, but offensive execution is what puts a larger number under yours.
This was definitely a rare NBA Finals series, where two defensively solid teams battled it out. Experience was a huge deciding factor for the San Antonio Spurs. No, their offense wasn't fluid or smooth, but in true championship fashion, they made plays when they needed to.
So what happens when defensive efforts even out? Dare I say it, coach???? I think "offense" just might have won its first championship!!
Sports and Religion Come Together in Israel
-Posted by Ruth Riley - April 16, 2007, 4:42 p.m. ET
The Art of the Deal
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Feb. 27, 2007 8:02 a.m.
TRADE: the voluntary exchange of goods, services, or both, originated
with the start of communication in prehistoric times (courtesy of en.wikipedia.org).
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
From exchanging snacks during lunch time in 2nd grade to buying and
selling stocks on the market, we have all grown accustomed to this act
of wheeling and dealing. For the most part, we don't think about how
integrated this word is in our lives. We simply "trade" our 4 bucks
for a vanilla non-fat, extra hot latte and move on our way. But when
it comes to sports, this word makes people stop and contemplate.
Detroit Shock trade Ruth Riley to the San Antonio Silver Stars for Katie Feenstra.
In basketball, trades are always breaking news. After a trade happens, fans, pundits and even fellow players usually evaluate the players involved, contemplate the significance to their teams and then come to a conclusion about who got the better end of the deal. There will always be speculation about why the trade went down, perhaps amid rumors of this or that just to make it more exciting.
After the evaluation, I always arrive at the same question: How does it affect me? As a fan, trades are evaluated on a more personal level. Did I like that player? Was she fun to watch? Was she a good person? Will I miss her? What do I know about the new addition to the team? Will that change the dynamic of my team?
But from an organization standpoint, I look at the transaction and try to determine the overall impact on the league. Does this deal change how I see my opponent? Will it now make this team more of a contender? Will it affect my standing in the conference? And does it help or hurt me in pending deals of my own?
But this time, I'm the player.
From a player's perspective, here's how I approached this deal: What is my current/future role with Detroit vs. my potential role with San Antonio? I compared how successful I thought each team would be, the organizations involved, coaching staff, players and respective cities.
I concluded that I am sad to leave, but excited to go. Detroit has been good to me, I love the organization, we have tremendous fans and I cherish the memories of winning two championships in four years!
With that being said, I am excited to take my knowledge and experiences to a new team. I am trading the challenge of trying to earn a repeat championship with the challenge of helping a team get there. I leave with no hard feelings or sense of regret, but only gratitude for the memories I have.
There is something exciting about change… the newness of a situation… it is almost as if you are given a fresh start. As I close a four-year chapter in my basketball career and life, I turn the page with anticipation of what the future may hold!
Right or Responsibility
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Feb. 2, 2007 3:02 a.m.
As I spend more time working with Nothing But Nets, I have surprisingly answered a lot of questions about why I am doing this on a personal level and also why the NBA is involved on a global level? The very first time I got this question, I was honestly shocked. I had prepared my talking points about the organization, and what we were trying to accomplish, but I never really spent time questioning my individual motives. My answer is quite simple: my Faith challenges me to love everyone in a non-discriminating manner. Although my personal reason is relatively straightforward, I couldn't help but think more about this "why" question, and therefore conducted an inner debate of Right vs. Responsibility.
Right: An entitlement, freedom, privilege.
Responsibility: the state, fact, or position of being accountable to somebody or for something.
Do I, as an individual professional athlete and the NBA as a premier sports league have the responsibility to do community service? Is it mandated by our "elite" roles in society? Is the old adage true, " to much whom given, much is required?"
Is it an individualistic or business decision, strictly based on personal choice of involvement, void of any obligation? Do I have a right to live my life completely and solely for myself with absolutely no interest in the welfare of my neighbor?
After much thought I have come to the conclusion that everyone has a right to answer this highly debated question according to their own beliefs, but in exercising my personal right I would say the responsibility lies on all of our backs!
Nothing But Nets is only one of the NBA's many NBA Cares Initiatives. In our last day in Angola, Sam Perkins and I took place in a Basketball without Borders clinic and the donation of four new basketball courts sponsored by Sprite. The picture I am enclosing isn't of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but rather of the children who will be tirelessly utilizing this new addition to their neighborhood.
The NBA takes on the responsibility of not only ensuring these children reach their teenage years (through Nothing But Nets) but also establishes global grassroots basketball programs to encourage them to be active and healthy. Think about a little kid standing outside the toy store window, hands pressed against the glass, everyday longing for that one special toy. Then, one day, someone invites that kid to actually go into the store and paid for that toy. These kids are not only hungry for basketball, but more importantly they are starving for someone to actually show that they care!
So in answering the question of "why" I would simply say: yes, the NBA and I could rightfully do nothing--but then I would ask you... is that really right.
Key Takeaways From Africa: Final Blog
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Jan. 31, 2007 7:59 a.m.
In our world, the first impression is a very significant occurrence in a future relationship. As an introduction begins, our mind brings up all the preconceived ideas and previously gathered information and matches it with the current sensory data that is being collected. For me, I took all the stats and facts that I have learned and walked into the Cajueiro Municipal Hospital's emergency children's ward and met Malaria face to face. It looked like Telina, a four-month old lying limply in her small hospital bed, with the only movement coming from the IV drip that is giving her some much-needed hydration. She was seemingly unconscious, completely unaware of the multitude of flies swarming her frail frame, and the only reprieve from the constant fever was the cool, wet cloth covering her chest.
Have you ever met someone whose presence completely dominated the introduction? Often times, as an athlete, people are slightly enamored at our initial meeting. This was definitely not the case, as I was completely overwhelmed by Malaria. The more we got acquainted throughout the day, the more I realized that Telina was only one of many different faces to this disease.
There was Paula Mercedes and her 14-year-old daughter, Felizbina, who was in critical condition because it took her too long to get to the clinic. Little 1-year-old Calcia,who suffered from cerebral malaria as well as AIDS. (Recent studies show there is a direct correlation between the two diseases: the susceptibility of getting them due to a vulnerable immune system and the acceleration of the diseases once contracted.)
My first encounter with Malaria evoked a two-fold, heart-wrenching experience. It was very difficult to actually witness the helpless condition of many of these children. My heart broke not only for the child in the bed before me, but also because I knew that this case was only one of millions across the continent of Africa.
The second challenge to my initial introduction of Malaria actually took place in the waiting room. A mass of mothers with their sick child in arm were huddled in a room hoping to have the chance to actually be seen by a doctor. This was especially hard not only because of the numbers of mothers, the fact that the facility was beyond capacity 24 hours a day, but it was the expression on their faces that really impacted me. They were emotionless, waiting patiently, as their child was often times dying in their arms. I tried to put myself in their shoes. Rather than just sitting there, I saw myself hysterically trying to push my way into the ER and rushing to the doctor, demanding that my child be seen. It was there, in that waiting room, that I truly understood the devastating effects of this disease beyond the statistical numbers. These women are stoical because over the years they have come to see the death of their children at the hands of malaria as a way of life, an occurrence so common that it no longer evokes a panic stricken response.
As promised, I tried to paint a vivid picture for you of what I saw
and experienced. Now that my trip is over and I am untangling all the
various emotions, I am filled with an odd sense of encouragement. Yes,
the situation is devastating, and the need is greater than the supply
of provisions; but I have a sense of hope because something is being
done. I am optimistic because Malaria IS preventable and thousands of
people ARE making the $10 donation to save a life. It is my hope to
not only eliminate this disease completely, but also renew those mother's
sense of hope in their lives and the lives of their children!!
Guest Blogger: The Face of Malaria
-Posted by Elizabeth McKee - Jan. 29, 2007 11:18 a.m.
Staring malaria in the face is very new to me. The Nothing But Nets program works on malaria prevention through net distribution, not treatment. But we are currently in Angola to see the impact of malaria in an area where there is not a good supply of nets so we truly understand the need. The United Methodist Church has been our host for this portion of our observation trip. They do the most work around malaria prevention and treatment here in Angola.
In Luanda, Angola, floods have displaced thousands of people and caused
malaria, a deadly killer, to ravage young people and families. Malaria
was long present in Angola, but the standing water and basic sanitation
nightmare that has resulted from the floods has created a perfect breeding
ground for the worst strain of malaria, called Falsiparun.
The Nothing But Nets team visited the largest hospital in Luanda and the smallest clinic in a nearby village, both overrun with malaria to the point that people are lying on the sidewalks outside with IV' s in their arms. Walking through hospitals are feverish children who are so anemic from malaria that it is too late for ACT treatment to work. It makes me wonder how these children get so far gone before they get care.
The face of malaria looking back at me is a child with yellow eyes and so many flies on their face that I can't see the opening of their nostrils. Ruth Riley from the WNBA said yesterday, "This experience makes me want to buy nets with every cent I have in my bank account, so none of them have to go through this."
To the thousands of Nothing But Nets donors: all of your donations are making a difference. I cannot express how important these nets are to children and families in Africa. I wish I could show all of you what you are preventing with your 10 dollar donations. All I can say today from Luanda is Obrigada!
Elizabeth McKee is the Director of Marketing for the United Nations Foundation, and is responsible for the marketing and communications strategies for the Foundation's partnerships and programs.
Africa: Day Two
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Jan. 26, 2007 12:39 PM
In a day and age where there is question about the strength of the
US dollar, I can assure you that I have a new-found respect for a 10
dollar bill! As you may know by now, a donation of $10 to www.nothingbutnets.net
will provide a mosquito net for a family in Africa, but what I witnessed
today was the unbelievably organized and tireless efforts that make
this exchange possible.
Today is the first of a four day immunization-based net distribution process. The day began with us being led into a small clinic, where I was astonished by the massive mounds of nets that were piled up and ready to be distributed. As my gaze shifted from the nets, I saw two young mothers sitting on a nearby bench. It was as if I witnessed the transaction take place right before my very eyes. I saw you, the donor (represented by the masses of nets) standing there stretching your hand with a $10 bill eager to help and just as it reaches the outstretched hand of this young woman—it turns into a beautiful blue net that will protect her family for the next 4 years!
What impacted me the most today was not this initial impression, but
rather the behind-the-scenes process that seldom gets told. It is the
endless efforts of the local health workers, who devote their entire
lives to the welfare of their community. I watched as men and women
began rolling the bundles of nets to their respective vehicles. We were
at the Local Government Headquarters, but workers needed to transport
the nets to the 54 various rural and urban clinics where the distribution/immunization
process would be going on simultaneously.
The first thing I saw walking into one of these local clinics was the masses of mothers sitting on small wooden benches with their children intricately tied to their backs. The room was small, there was no reprieve from the hot, humid air, yet they waited patiently knowing that they would be leaving with more than they came with.
There were three steps to this immunization/distribution process. The mother would present her child’s immunization card to the health worker, where it would be checked to make sure it was up-to-date (measles, polio, and sometime hepatitis B, tuberculosis). If the child was missing any, it would be administered immediately in step 2. Then, with proof of a completed card, the mother would be presented with a brand new mosquito.
Now that the nets are in the hands of the people who need them the most, these diligent volunteers (I eluded to before), still have work to do. They go door to door in their neighbors hoods (each one covering at least 120 houses), making sure the nets are hung properly and more importantly that the children, not their fathers, are the ones resting safely under them at night!
Today I witnessed how a $10 donation is transformed into a life-saving mosquito net — but that is a simple economic transaction. What impacted me the most was the means by which this takes place: the selfless efforts of the local community workers. To fully understand what makes these health workers so spectacular, I want you to think of the most nurturing and selfless person you know — for me it is my mother. Then imagine that person exerting the same amount of love and affection on your entire community. Their efforts transcend all borders of race, gender, religious affiliation and economic class.
So as I close, allow me to repaint the picture I started with today. I see you standing there with your $10, reaching toward this remarkable health care worker, who in turn is reaching toward a young African mother with her brand new mosquito net in hand!!
Back In Africa
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Jan. 25, 2007 4:30 PM
Over the years, my travels abroad have become synonymous with unadulterated staring. It isn't the type where you catch a glimpse of someone and they are quick to turn away before being recognized. No, it is the outright, unblinking look of confusion and amazement. I am uncertain if it is my height, race or gender that is the attraction. I am guessing the combination of them all. Over the years, I have found that I have three options to this universal occurrence. I can either ignore the looks, respond with hostility/indifference, or (what i usually do) is mirror their looks with open-mindedness and similar curiousity.
After it was apparent that this process would be quite a long one, a fellow traveler to my left introduced himself and we engaged in some small talk. As a part-time worker in the oil industry, he spent half the year working in Nigeria. I told him that I was amazed not only at the multitude of people that were able to fit on our flight, but also the fact that after 30 minutes of waiting for our bags, the numbers have not reduced at all. He explained to me that when people leave the country, they are cultrually obligated to bring back gifts for all their family members (the bond of family is much more foundational in this culture), and therefore most travelers would have three bags with them.
Finally, I see my bags begin the long trek around the carousel. I bid my new friend good night and head off to the hotel with anticiption of what tomorrow will bring...
Final Thoughts From Kenya: Get Into
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Dec 3, 2006 6:08 AM
Have you ever sat next to someone at a game who knew absolutely NOTHING about basketball? Every play, they were like a 3 year-old asking, "but why...?"
That is what i felt like on this trip: cluelees, but very interested.
Every question I raised brought yet another one to be answered. I felt
empowered by the small amount of information I have gained, and with
this newly-found knowledge comes a privilege and a responsibility to
share that with you!! I want you to join with me in this very serous
competition that I have recently engaged as a player in: The Game of
Eliminating AIDS. Before we begin, I must warn you. This is not your
normal game. The setting is real and the stakes are life and death!!
Starting line up:
|Team 1 - Good Guys (GBC)||Team 2 - Bad Guys|
AIDS/HIV, Marlaria, TB
Cultural-based gender inequity
Lack of medical care/supplies
Your first question may be: why should you even be a participant in this game? If a moral conviction is not enough to get you signed up, then please note that the bad guys have an increasingly negative effect on the global economy and that this pandemic and other related global health issues are continuing to grow at an alarming rate. Every day, 8,500 people die from AIDS and there are 13,000 newly-infected people.
Before we go any farther, I must ask you to do one thing: you must eliminate all minsconstrued ideas you might have about our opposition. AIDS is not a disease that only targets promiscuous women, a specific sexual orientation or drug users. It is the #1 killer in the USA for young African American Women. Also, testing HIV-positive is not a death sentence! Through Anti Retroviral drugs (ARVs), HIV positive people are able to live normal lives. There are 40 million people now infected with HIV around the world, but what you may have failed to realize is how many people are affected by this disease. By 2010, more than 20 million children will be orphaned by AIDS worldwide!!
Just like any winning team, we must all work together. Yes, there are some players that are more talented. We cannot all be the "Micheal Jordans" of battling this complex opponent, but that doesn't make our individual contributions any less significant.
As you are debating whether to join our team, you may be wondering
what your role is going to be. If you are approachng this competition
from a corporate perspective, I strongly encourage you to check out
the GBC. It is a coalition that skillfully joins public and private
partnerships to produce the maximum influence possible. If you are wondering
how one person can make a difference, there are numerous ways you can
get involved. You can support the Red Campaign, where a percentage of
profits from companies like Motorola, GAP, MAC, American Express and
others will be donated toward the Global Fund. You can participate in
local AIDS walks to raise support. If you are passionate about one specific
area (ex: orphaned children), then find a local or global non-profit
organization that focuses its efforts in that category.
Just like in the game of basketball, we all must be educated and aware of the rules by which we are playing. I strongly encourage everyone to know their HIV status. When it comes to this game, ignorance and disinterest are deadly risks to take. Knowledge is not only an empowering resource that allows us to unify in our strategic approach to this fatal opponent, but it also allows us to recruit more people to strengthen our team.
With all this being said, the ball is now in your court... please don't stand on the sidelines anymore. We need you in the game!!!
|The Detroit Shock's Ruth Riley traveled to Kenya as a part of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GBC). Founded in 2001, the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GBC) has spent the past five years developing a rapidly expanding alliance of over 200 international companies dedicated to combating the AIDS epidemic through the business sector’s unique skills and expertise. Headquartered in New York, GBC maintains regional offices in Beijing, Geneva, Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Paris; it harnesses the individual and collective power of the world’s top corporations to fight AIDS at the local, national, and international levels. GBC Web site|
Day 2 From Kenya: Spot of Tea?
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Nov 30, 2006 6:46 PM
Today's journey took us to the Unilever Plantation, which is the second largest tea exporter in the world. I know, you are probably wondering where the connection is between HIV and tea. This company provides a unique working environment for its Kenya laborers. The families are provided with housing, schooling for their children, medical care for the family and distilled water. Not only do they encourage their workers to get tested for HIV and provide treatment where needed, they have also established support groups for those HIV positive and peer groups who try to educate their fellow workers about the risks and ways of prevention.
After trying our hand at plucking tea leaves and touring the factory and medical facilities, we held a roundtable discussion about efforts that this company is doing to eliminate AIDS. What I came away with is:
- One man/woman in a position of power CAN make a difference.
- Getting people to realize the importance of getting tested and knowing their status is extremely difficult.
- A business who does place an emphasis on HIV awareness and treatment will increase their overall efficiency.
- Caring = healthier workers = more productivity.
The second part of my blog I want to focus on the children. But I cannot possibly put into words what they experience on a daily basis, so I am simply going to send along a few more photos and let you see for yourself. Although I am simply giving you a daily report, after my trip is over, I will write about my final thoughts. Signing off from afar...
Day 1 From Kenya: November 29, 2006
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Nov 29 2006 10:27 PM
Once upon a time, far, far away, there lived a brave little orphan girl... both her parents died from a terrible disease, and upon realizing that she will face the rest of her life without the people she came to know as “mom” and “dad,” she courageously faces the fact that she, too, has this disease.
Unfortunately this is not a script out of a work of fiction. If that were the case, then I could easily write a “happily ever after” at the end and all would be well. But no, this story is true. The time is now, the place is Kenya, and the girl... well, she represents one of an estimated 2.2 million Kenyans who are currently living with the HIV infection.
I am currently participating in the GBC (Global Business Coalition) initiative called "Healthy Women, Healthy Economies" in Nairobi, Kenya. We spent the morning walking through the Kiambiyu Slum. We visited the Kenya Network of Women with AIDS (KENWA) and listened to moving testimonies of women who were HIV positive. Often times they are deserted by their husbands, forsaken by their families and shunned by the community.
The next stop was the Nairobi Women's Hospital, which specialized in Gender Violence. It is said that 50% of women will be raped. There is an old wives' tale that states that if a man who is HIV positive sleeps with a virgin, he will be cured. Believe it or not, this contributes to the high number of rape victims. This hospital is truly unique in that it provides health care as well as counseling for these victims.
This leads to my last stop of the day, where I was given a public HIV test. It was a quick blood test from a finger prick. I was okay with the test, and was confidently proclaiming my status as HIV negative. Then the counselor asked me if I was certain that I was reading the test results correctly. For a second, my heart stopped and my mind started playing the “what if” game. Different scenarios were racing through my head as my mind replayed the images of the men, women and children I had seen throughout the day. The counselor ended up telling me that I was correct, that I was negative. But after an internal sigh of relief, I could not help pondering how my life would change.
What I found is that a lot of people refuse to get tested, even though the procedure is free to the public. To them, it is like the “beginning of the end.” But as I talked with various HIV positive patients, I would argue that this “end” is also the “beginning”. It definitely ends life how you knew it to some degree, but if you speak to those who got tested and are now living healthier lives through the medicines they were given, it is a new beginning.
It has been an extraordinary day, one that I will never forget. And I have much more to tell. But I must sign off for now. Tomorrow is going to be another emotional day!!
Enough is Enough
The Official Word
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Oct 27 2006 12:45PM
So the officials have finally gotten tired of taking so much heat from
the players. This season, they are cracking down on the complaining
and gestures by players in reaction to their calls. Technical fouls
will be assessed more often this year. In light of this new point of
emphasis, I have decided to compose a list of ways we (players) tend
to react to officials. Before I do this, I must state that as players,
we NEVER foul, and are always getting fouled! If we miss a shot, then
we must have been fouled. If we turn the ball over, then obviously we
got fouled and it is ALWAYS our possession! Therefore, when we are called
for a foul, it is ALWAYS the wrong call, we tend to act as follows:
-throw our hands up in the air with an instant look of disbelief and claim our innocence... we might even get our teammates or fans to back us up on our claim.
-if we got called for a foul, when obviously it was a charge, we might just sit on the ground for a few extra minutes to ensure that everyone knows that it should have been a charge and smile, or laugh at the idea that we actually got called for that foul!
-if you mistake me for my teammate and give me HER foul, well then I might just have to jump up and down and point at her and plead my case.
-if I got fouled while shooting the ball, of course I am going to have to show you where I got fouled. Generally I will hit my elbow/arm a couple times and say "foul ref" as I shake my head and run back down the court.
-if I block a shot or get a steal, and you call a foul on me, well then I might have to keep the ball in my hand and start running down the court... demonstrating that our possession is being taken away by this "bad call"
We have some of the best athletes in the world in the NBA and WNBA, and some of the players are actually multi-sport athletes:
FOOTBALL: punt the ball in the stands
BASEBALL: throw a fast pitch to the goalposts
BOWLING: roll the ball down the court (away from the official)
I think that every team should come to Detroit. Our coach, Bill Laimbeer, will personally conduct a clinic on the proper way to address the officials and this problem would be solved very easily!!
All joking aside, I realize that, as a player, I am guilty of a few of the above actions. The officials have a difficult job. Almost every call they make will be challenged by a player, coach or fan. In an effort to "clean up" some of the excessive reactions by the players, look for officials to start giving a few more technical fouls this year than normal. They realize that as athletes, we may react in the "heat of the moment." No, it won't be like Billy Crystal in the movie Forget Paris where he kicked out half the team, but you will notice a slight difference in the official's tolerance this season! Be ready for it.
Me And My Coach
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Aug 25 2006 4:41PM
Since I was drafted to Detroit, I have heard from numerous people that I am a replica (but nicer version) of my coach, Bill Laimbeer. As my back to the basket days of college seem a distant memory, I contemplate the question at hand... "am I the 'Bill Laimbeer' of the current Bad Girls of Detroit?"
|Went to the best university in the world:
|Plays professionally in Detroit||
|Sets hard, but legal screens||
|Is more likely to face up than post up||
|Looks good in a skirt||
|Good team defender||
|Has had a broken nose (knock on wood)||
|Thinks they have ever committed a foul||
|Ball distributor from the high post||
|Has been known to start a fight||
|Thinks they know more than their coach||
Well, you be the judge on this one. I would argue that I am a little too nice to be that BAD:) We are both stubborn, strong-willed people who will do just about anything the teams needs in order to win. I could probably use some of his toughness, just like he could probably use some of my compassion. Coach has allowed me to expand my game to a role I never even considered myself in. If there is any way I truly want to be like coach, it would be to have that second championship in Detroit!!!
Finally, the Finals!
A look at the NBA Finals
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Jun 7 2006 7:10AM
The last leg of this race to an NBA championship is about to be a collision
like one we haven't seen in awhile. Imagine a big diesel-powered truck
matched up against a quick German sports car.
There are two scenarios that could happen here: the BMW takes off and just blows the truck away because the big rig can't keep up OR the truck simply runs over that poor little sports car and eliminates it from contention.
So the big question of the Finals is: What happens with SHAQ?????
It can be said that the team that executes its game plan the best will win. Well this year, we aren't just talking about offensive and defensive philosophies, but more importantly, the tempo of the game. Both teams are confident, both teams are hungry and both teams believe that if they control the game to their style of play, they will win.
The beautiful thing about this NBA Finals is that anything can happen. If you criticized the last few championships, because you didn't like equally-matched teams battling it out with similar offensive and defensive philosophies, well then you are going to love this series!!
Dwayne Wade and Dirk Nowitzki have proven they can do almost anything on the court. And Shaq? Well he is Shaq, not only the most dominating force in the game, but his entertaining personality gives the fans something that no other player can provide.
Championship games are always a battle of will. When two teams with different styles of play match up, it is hard to tell who is going to inflict their will on the other. Pat Riley definitely has the edge when it comes to winning championships and may have a few old tricks up his sleeve. But what about Mavericks coach Avery Johnson? He's been there as a player, but does he have what it takes right now to get there as a coach?
Also, who is going to be the unexpected hero? Who is going to make the play that turns the game/series? What will this series be remembered for?
With so many questions looming that I can't wait to see answered, let the games begin! As you watch the NBA Finals, anticipate the unpredictable and expect the unbelievable!!!
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Why I love March Madness
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Mar 23 2006 2:39PM
This is definitely my favorite time of year in sports. There truly
is nothing like March Madness!! The beauty of sports is revealed in
this 64 team, winner-take-all tournament. It doesn't matter what school
is on the front of your jersey or what your record was before you got
there, everyone has the same chance to win.
What makes it so special?
-Amateurism- these kids don't get paid, there are no bonuses for making the Tournament. The simplistic beauty of competition is demonstrated by the unity and passion that they play with.
-Equality- once you make the Tournament, every team has the same dream?to win... and every team has a shot at that dream.
-Story lines? Each team has a compelling story of just what got them there, and every story is uniquely scripted by the different characters (players/coaches). We love the tales of players overcoming insurmountable obstacles to achieve greatness because these stories give us hope in our own lives.
-Involvement- the NCAA tournament is a time in sports where fans feel like they are truly involved in the action. Part of it is because they get to fill out brackets with their favorite teams and follow the action with the friends. Everyone has their favorite team and the team that they love to hate!! So when filling out your bracket, do you put that team that you absolutely despise in the winner's bracket, knowing you have a better shot at getting the pick right, or do you credit that unheard of 13 seed team with the upset?just so you can cheer even harder against your arch rival? It's that classic head vs. heart dilemma.
So whether you are a diehard fan or simply looking for a dramatic tale to unfold, I hope you enjoy this year's tournament as much as I do!!
Why I Love NBA All-Star
Recapping my busy weekend of fun
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Mar 3 2006 9:53AM
Why do I love All-Star weekend? This is the only weekend that I can
walk through the hotel lobby (in heels) and be considered short!! It
is also the only time that I don't have to answer the question, "do
you play basketball?" I thought Houston did a great job with the all-star
game this year. Although my schedule was a little on the busy side,
I really enjoyed myself.
From hospital visits to running a clinic for special Olympic athletes, I love the fact that this weekend is more than just basketball and that I have the opportunity to make a difference in these kid's lives!! Every year the NBA host city opens a reading and learning center from scratch, which is exciting to be a part of. It is great knowing that not only will your simple interaction with these kids means a lot, but also that you are leaving something behind to make their lives better!!
Moving on to the events:
-On the way to the Celebrity game, Nelly tried to recruit me for his team, stating that they needed some height. Although I did not participate, I did have the opportunity to cheer for two my teammates: Becky Hammon (nwbl) and Swin Cash (wnba). At one point I felt like I was watching a bad game of noon-ball (when the old-timers get together and play pick-up at lunch). When you get to the point in the game where you are 0-for-everything, that's when it's time to get the ball to the shooter. In case you didn't know, SHE is the teammate standing next to you that actually plays the sport for a living!!
-The Skills challenge was a great time, but the highlight was definitely the dunk contest. Creativity matched with ridiculous athletic ability left the crowd stunned and amazed! Props to both of the finalists. Your originality definitely made this one of the best dunk contests in a long, long time.
-Goooooooooooooo East!! Ok, I had to give a little shout out to my boys in the east, especially the four Pistons who competed in the game. As always, the game starts a little loose, with guys show-boating their skills. Then there comes a point when the competitive side kicks in, and the game starts to heat up a little bit. Braggin' rights for the next year are on the line, and just like you would expect when the best of the NBA competes, it came down to the wire!!
I had a great time and can't wait until next year.
Why Is It That...
The first installment in a series that asks WHY??
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Dec 19 2005 9:22AM
As a player, there are so many things about this sport that just make
you go "ummmmmm." I would like to devote this article to the things
that coaches do during the course of a game that we, as players, think
are a little odd. In my international travels, I have found that coaches
are universally similar in their habits. Of course I laugh at these
things now, though I'm sure I will do the same things when I find myself
on the sideline.
Until then, why is it that...
...in the middle of a game, the coach never yells at the player who really made the mistake? Sometimes it is actually better to be the person who messes up than the person sitting on the bench just observing. It never fails. As soon as something happens on the court, the coach always feels obligated to comment on that action. If a post player happens to bring the ball down (which we know is a cardinal sin in post play) and the opposing guard steals it, the coach will inevitably go down the bench, find the nearest post player and correct them as if they had made the turnover from the sideline!
...coaches only use the last two seconds of a time out? It's the end of the half and we need a play to score with three seconds left. Naturally the coach signals for a time out. As a player, we grab some water, catch our breath and we wait. And we wait. And we wait some more. Then the buzzer goes off that signals the time out is coming to an end. It is at this very late point that the coach enters the huddle, scribbles something on the clipboard and sends us on our way.
...when coaches are debating about a substitution, they look at you at least five times before they are certain that they want to put you in the game? Most teams have a normal substitution pattern, but it is those moments that are outside the norm that strike us as a little funny. You see, a coach knows that he/she needs to make a sub, they even know that they want to put you in the game, yet maybe they forget what you look like? What else could it be? They will look down the bench at you, then back at the game, then back to you, then back to the game, they might even get up and walk by you, stand right beside you before that exact moment passes and you are called to go into the game.
...during the game coach tells me to "go warm up." For those of you who haven't been introduced to overseas basketball, let me explain. Before the game even begins, I run in circles around the gym for about 10 minutes, stretch, do five minutes of plyometric exercises (high knees, etc.), do a game warm-up that is constant running and then we start the game. Basically, I have had a workout before the game has even begun. Then I play for the first quarter or so, take a breather for a minute or two, and before coach puts me back in the game, he wants me to go to the end of the bench and "warm-up again." So, what ends up happening is that he/she forgets that they have sent me to the "warming-up phase" before entering the game and I end up watching the rest of the quarter from the end of the bench as I am running in place trying to get "warmed up"!!!
Hopefully I can get some of these questions answered, but until I do, I'm just going to keep playing basketball.
Traveling Amongst My Travels
Adjusting to Life and Basketball Overseas
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Nov 17 2005 7:43PM
Many people ask what it's like to play overseas. I've been here in
Spain for over a month now so I feel like I can properly fill you. While
I am having a great time and really enjoying myself, I want to share
one of the frustrations many of your favorite players are experiencing
once they head over yonder ? TRAVELING.
First, let me clarify. No, I'm not talking about the 15-hour bus trips in an oversized mini-van through the mountains of Spain or the flights from one airport I've never heard of to another (although this can be a bit taxing). What I'm talking about is what they refer to over here in España as "pasos" -- "traveling" or "walking," you know, moving with the ball without dribbling.
If you take little kids who have never played basketball before and put them on a court, usually the first thing they will do is take the ball and start running towards the basket. From day one we were taught that you must dribble the ball if you are going to progress towards the rim. But the baffling thing to me and anyone else over here is how the rules got lost in translation across the Atlantic.
Still not following? Let me explain this a little better for you. Let's say you catch the ball facing the basket and your left foot is the pivot foot. Of course, you have a few options: maybe you want to dribble to your left. You would cross over with your right foot, dribble and you are off. Now here comes the tricky part: let's say you want to dribble to your right (with the same left pivot foot). In the States you would simply step with your right foot, dribble and head to the basket. But if you try that over here, you will see your friendly local official rolling arms like a dance from the 1960's and giving you the international sign that you have taken one too many steps. So you quickly replay the move in your head. But no matter how you slice it, dribble and step at the same time equals travel. To an American, it's like saying 2+2=5. It just doesn't add up.
Traveling isn't limited to just an on-side dribble. Let's see:
- spin move = "pasos"
- reverse pivot + dribble = "pasos"
- 1 cross dibble + a hop + 2 steps = "no pasos" (what? how is that so?)
Then there's that thing we call an "international step." This is that extra hop or step beyond the 1.5 that we are allowed in the States. You see, as an American defender, they will get you on that every time. You head down the other end of the court because you think your player has traveled, but as you get to half court, you realize that extra step for a lay-up actually counted!!
Please don't get me wrong. It's great that basketball is a global sport and I respect the fact that different countries have their own style of play. In fact, I think I can learn a lot from the international style of the game. With all that said, this could be the most baffling thing to me in all my international travels: How the rules of traveling are simply not international!!
Just a little something from my travels, and my traveling... For more, you can also check out my web site at www.ruthriley.com.
Until next time, God Bless.
A Frustrating Season
Taking the bad with the good
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Nov 3 2005 6:45AM
With sports you have to take the wins with the losses, the good with
the bad. So I figured I would do the same as I write for my Blog. After
all, it's only fair. One of the most frustrating things for an athlete
is to underachieve, and that pretty much sums up our season in Detroit
as a team and especially for me on a personal level. Although I don't
believe it was from a lack of effort ? I do think that I worked hard
last season ? my work was somehow not efficient or effective. I just
know that I didn't get the results that I am capable of. Hence, the
The life of an athlete is full of ups and downs, the highs of winning big games and career best performances and the lows of buzzer beating losses and shooting slumps. As frustrating as the season was last year, I can say that I learned a lot about myself: areas I need to work on and strengths that I didn't know existed. To the fans in Detroit, I simply want to say "thank you" for your support. Your encouragement was a constant that helped us make our way into Playoffs at the end of the season despite the challenges.
To current players on all levels, I want to pass on a few words of encouragement. I often get questions asking for advice about how to handle different situations that we all experience as a player. For those of you who might have recently gone through a frustrating season in your respective sport, or even for anyone out there who has been in a bit of a slump, I want to start of by saying that you must believe in yourself. When times are tough, the people who were there exclaiming your "greatness" are going to be hard to find. Therefore, you must gain confidence from yourself regardless of how you are playing. Just keep working on your game, go back to the basics and make the game as simple as possible.
Disappointments inevitably lead us to question ourselves. But it is in the process of seeking these answers that we come to realizations about ourselves ? realizations that highlight the avenues of change and allow us to get better and eventually find the good out of a disappointing season.
Meeting challenges of all kinds... Bring It.
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Oct 12 2005 7:43AM
Coming to you from across the Atlantic Ocean in Espana...
Athletes love other sports. It's a fact, but of course, there is a mutual respect among professional athletes. We understand what it takes to reach the ultimate level in a particular sport or concentration. So if I am flipping through the TV stations and see Andy Roddick in a tennis match, I can totally appreciate the fact that he is one of the best at what he does. The same goes for Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor with beach volleyball, or any other athlete who is dominant in their respective sport. But the irony comes in when professional athletes think that they can compete with athletes beyond their own area of expertise and challenge the best in their other respective sports.
My favorite example is when a football player comes up to me and says, "Oh, I could post you up." OK, now granted most athletes played other sports in high school (but come on, that was high school) and yes, they must have a decent amount of athleticism in order to be playing on the highest level. But boys, seriously, you are going to beat me or my teammates one-on-one? I don't think so.
The first thing you notice when you try to cross over into another sport is that your body has been trained specifically for your particular sport. For example, when I play against football players, I notice that their stamina is built for quick sprints, but then they need to rest. I've never had so many ":20 second timeouts" in a one-on-one game as when I play with a football player!!
Then the skill comes into play. Most athletes embrace the challenge of playing professional sports. Therefore, they are intrigued and motivated to learn a new sport. Because they are so dominant in their respective sport and challenge themselves on the highest level, they think the cross over is going to be very simple. But they forget just how hard they worked to be the best in their own sport. So not so fast. But I will admit it is quite entertaining.
Now don't get me wrong. There are definitely multi-sport athletes who excel in more than one area. I am NOT referring to them. I am simply talking about the average baller who is constantly talking trash to me or my teammates about his game when he steps on the court, and then, before he knows it. he just lost to a girl. Oops, better luck next time, but keep talking, because it is amusing to listen to.
My WNBA All-Star Experience
Recapping the 2005 WNBA All-Star Game in Connecticut
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Jul 22 2005 12:43PM
It was definitely an honor to be voted in by the fans to my first All-Star
Game. Usually, my All-Star break consists of a couple days at home getting
rested and ready for the second half of the season. This year I had
the opportunity to represent myself, my family, Detroit and, last but
not least, all of the fans that voted for me to have the opportunity
to play with and against the best players in the world.
The All-Star Weekend is definitely a chaotic experience. Your first day consists of practice, appearances, photo shoots and, finally, dinner with sponsors. Although there isn't much time for r & r, it is a rare opportunity to hang out with and get to know some of the players that you spend the rest of your months competing against.
One of the things I love about our league, is how passionate our fans are!! The All-Star Game is interesting because the fans go from cheering for their favorite players or team to cheering for the whole Eastern or Western Conference team. They may be Connecticut Sun or New York Liberty fans, but for one afternoon, they were cheering for the whole Eastern Conference. I guarantee that will be the only time that fans cheer for me at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
This year, the All-Star Game provided quite a few "firsts" for the fans.
NBA Finals: Mr. Dependable vs. Mr.
A fan's eyewitness appreciation
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Jun 27 2005 9:42PM
With the NBA Finals once again close to home in Detroit, I had the
opportunity to watch my favorite player in person.
If you ask a little kid to pick any player in the NBA they wanted to be, odds are that Tim Duncan isn't going to be the first name on their list. They love the charisma of players like Wade, Iverson, and Nash. High-flying dunks and ankle-breaking crossovers are what keep their attention. You would be pressed to find a gym where kids are practicing a reverse pivot off-the-glass jumper, or a baby hook shot going either direction. Although Duncan isn't going to blow by his defender or finish a play with a windmill slam, what he is going to do is give you the consistency that wins games and eventually championships.
As a post player, I might be paying a little more attention to Mr. Dependable's performance than the average fan. But here is why I am so impressed with Tim Duncan as a player. His career double-double average of 22 points and 12 rebounds is not only a great feat in itself, but it also demands attention from the opponents' defenses. The inevitable double team does not faze him, as he is deft at scoring over or passing out of multiple defenders.
His consistency is not isolated to the offensive end, either. His shot-blocking and rebounding provide a solid defensive foundation. Granted, he is a bit "stoic" in appearance and does not always show the emotions he is feeling inside, but his contributions to the game are quite "dynamic."
In the quest to win a championship, I will take "consistency" over "flashy" any day. As we saw, titles are won through defense and execution. Both the Pistons and the Spurs are similar teams when it comes to these areas because their coaches have comparable philosophies on this subject. Now don't get me wrong, I was definitely cheering for the Pistons to win. But as a fan of the game, I respect the skills that Duncan brings to the floor.
So, in the light of sportsmanship and respectful admiration, I want to congratulate the San Antonio Spurs on a hard-fought championship and commend Tim Duncan on a Finals Most Valuable Player Award that is, in some cases, less appreciated, but definitely well-deserved.
Mile High at All-Star
The week that was in Denver
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Mar 1 2005 10:25PM
The city of Denver proved to be a gracious host for the 2005 NBA All-Star
Game, an entire week of events and activities that was as entertaining
as ever. Now if you have ever wondered exactly what it is that your
NBA players, NBA legends and WNBA players do at the NBA All-star Game,
allow me to give you a some insight.
The NBA completely takes over the community in which the game is being played. All of the players race around the city, running clinics, opening reading and learning centers and visiting hospitals. When we aren't doing that, we might be over at Jam Session helping with the Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA games, conducting a fitness challenge, or even hosting a Read to Achieve event. Rounding out the evenings, we find ourselves chatting with current or potential sponsors at that particular night's event. We get to meet many of the league's business partners, all of whom are so important to the NBA and WNBA.
For those of you who are not familiar with All-Star week, you should really look into getting to Houston in 2006. You will find that there is something for everyone. The Technology Summit is the "place to be" for all the businessmen and women who are fortunate enough to chalk up going to the All-Star Game as a business trip. This is where entertainers, sports figures and CEOs share a panel and blend their professional views with the topic at hand.
If you are looking for family entertainment, you will not have to go any farther than the NBA Jam Session. It is simply a convention center filled to capacity with different games and interactive competitions for the whole family. You could easily spend days there and not get to everything.
Of course, there are the obvious events during the weekend as well, the ones that you at home get to see on TV... the Celebrity Game, the Rookie Challenge, the Slam Dunk and 3-Point contests and the All-Star Game itself. And to round out the weekend, you have your choice of some of the hottest parties around sponsored by your favorite athletes and entertainers! Not a bad time.
Ok, well that's all for now. I'm currently in Korea, playing in their playoffs and a little out of touch. I'll write more about my experiences next time. Until then...
Honors For a Shooting Guard
My offseason with Liberty guard Becky Hammon
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Jan 31 2005 9:39AM
Rapid City, South Dakota is the hometown of what WNBA player? I'll give you a few more clues: she is 5-6 (on a good day), one of the best shooters in the league and the "darling" point guard for the New York Liberty.
Yes, I am talking about Becky Hammon. For those of you who have to
go back to high school geography to get a mental picture of South
Dakota, I will help you out. As a current teammate with Becky, with
the NWBL's Colorado Chill, I had the pleasure of visiting her hometown
in person with her when we played an exhibition game earlier this
A quick drive from the Hammon household lands us in the woods, and so, naturally, we find ourselves in a great place to do a little clay pigeon target practice. You know, the thing on ESPN Outdoors where they yell "pull" and you have to try to shoot the clay object out of the air? Well let's just say that "3's" aren't the only thing that Becky is good at shooting. We also left a little time to take the four-wheelers for a spin through the hills. I must admit, it is quite a different atmosphere than the Big Apple.
athletes have fond memories of their alma maters. So for those of
you who have followed women's college basketball for a while, you
remember Becky leading Colorado State University to the Sweet 16 as
the "Cinderella" story in the NCAA Tournament her senior year. As
a sign of appreciation to Becky for all that she has accomplished
and continues to achieve, CSU has recently retired her college jersey.
The No. "25" banner hangs from the rafters at Moby Arena as a visual
reminder of a unique success story.
Many kids today are told that there are limits to their success. For Becky, it was her height. She was constantly told that she was too short to play basketball. But after silencing the critics a long time ago, Becky has demonstrated to young fans that lil' girls can accomplish big dreams! Congrats on this great honor!
My Alma Mater: The Good, The Bad,
and The Ugly
A look at the University of Notre Dame
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Dec 24 2004 2:14PM
As a 2001 graduate from the University of Notre Dame, I will admit
that I am usually one of those obnoxious alumni that you meet who
thinks that the only primary colors are blue and gold and the best
song in the world starts with "cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame..."
With that said, my current relationship with the school is similar
to that of parents who, undoubtedly, love their children, but don't
necessarily love everything they do.
I'm starting with the ugly, and to me this is a definitely the right way to describe the way Football Head Coach Willingham was fired. As a university, Notre Dame knew exactly what they were getting when they hired Coach Willingham. They knew his record as a coach and they knew his philosophy on and off the field. Not only was this firing unprecedented, but more importantly, it was contradictory to what the University stands for. The lack of integrity in handling this situation is what bothers me the most, because this is one of the values that sets Notre Dame apart from other institutions and was one of the reasons I wanted to go there.
* The complete lack of recognition for the academic accomplishments of the football team this past year.
* The fact that Monk Malloy considers this to be the worse thing to happen during his tenure as president of the university.
* The interest shown by some of the top high school recruits in attending Notre Dame.
* The number of top draft picks that have come out of Notre Dame in the last 10 years.
* The example Coach Willingham gave all of us about how to handle adverse situations with class.
* The positive impact Coach Willingham had on the young men's lives that were on the football team.
* The new facilities that are being built for the football program.
* The optimism that surrounds the hiring of Coach Weis.
* The academic standards: lowering the requirements isn't the solution--proving that Notre Dame is a stepping block to the NFL is!
* The tough schedule being played by the football team every year.
* NBC contract
"Are the glory days over?" This seems to be a frequent question. The answer: Of course not. The mere fact that so many people are continually talking about it proves to me that the wonder of this program is still alive. Tradition is tradition because it stands the test of time. Although we haven't won a national championship in awhile, that doesn't take away from what Notre Dame is, what it stands for, and where it is going. To me, the glory days will only be over if Notre Dame ever loses the integrity of which its foundation was built. As the tradition continues, I hope that we stay true to the principles of the past, where national championships were won, and won with decisions based on honor!
Welcome to Miami
Riley Welcomes a New Superstar to Town
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Nov 29 2004 10:18AM
The one beautiful thing about the long WNBA offseason is that I get
to spend some of it in a place that I am now fortunate to call home
? Miami, Florida. And as everybody is well aware, there is one big story
in Miami that everyone is talking about this fall. I echo the words
of Will Smith and everyone else in South Florida when I say the words
"Welcome to Miami" ("Bienvenido a Miami") to Shaq Diesel.
The NBA's Miami Heat had an amazing run to finish the 2003-04 season last year, with the rookie phenom Dwayne Wade leading the way. But with the newly-arrived Shaq, sans any of the controversy over the spotlight that seemed to shadow him in L.A., everyone knows that this is SHAQ's team and is embracing their new roles in superb fashion.
I don't know if it's true that opposites attract, but having now seen then up close and personal, I would argue that Wade and O'Neal definitely complement each other well. The first obvious difference is in stature: Shaq's 7-1, 325-pound frame towers over Wade, who stands at 6-4 and 212. If I had to describe Shaq in two words, it would be "entertaining" and "dominant." The most amazing quality about The Diesel is that he has the ability to make you laugh and smile as he demonstrates why you should respect the way he controls a game. Wade, on the other hand, is a "silent explosion." He rarely shows emotion and simply lets his game do all the talking. And believe me, there is a lot being said.
When looking back at the Heat team in Miami that was here after I was drafted by the Miami Sol in 2001, only two common dominators remain today: guard Eddie Jones and forward Malik Allen. So far this year, Jones has done a good job of transitioning from franchise player to veteran leader. But then take those two players and add in a few talented young players, Wade, Rasual Bulter and Udonis Haslem, and then throw in some key veteran free-agents, Shaq and Michael Doleac? and you get a completely different team than that from the 'Days of Zo' (Alonzo Mourning).
And who can forget the head coach (Stan Van Gundy) entering his second year at the helm, doing a tremendous job leading the way? Meanwhile, former coach and current Heat President Pat Riley is somewhere smiling down from high above in a luxury box.
So if you are heading down south this winter, looking for a hotspot in Miami, the American Airlines Arena is definitely one of the places to be!! Stop by and say hello!
I hope you and your family all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!
Loving It Live in China
Recapping my Trip to the NBA's China Games
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Oct 19 2004 11:25AM
So this was much more than an exhibition game in a foreign country.
This was truly the entire NBA experience brought over to China. The
teams, the court, the cheerleaders, the in-game entertainment, the mascots...
everything you would expect to see at your local NBA game was present.
Basketball has always been an international game, a highly competitive sport played worldwide. Now I'm not talking about the game itself, but rather the league ? the NBA product that has transcended borders and spread globally.
There are currently 73 international players from 34 different countries and territories in the league. The regular season games are seen in 212 countries and in more than 42 different languages. Although the international players can be seen via television in their respective home countries, the games are always played in the United States.
But here, Yao Ming had the unique opportunity of playing what would be considered a true NBA-style game on his home court, the very court where his pre-NBA team, Shanghai Sharks, reside.
The Chinese people had a chance to really "love it live," as their anticipation for these games grew until they were finally played out. It definitely proved to be the hottest ticket in town, with many people waiting outside the arena to simply see a glimpse of their new-found hero, the 7'6" superstar named Yao. His peaceful days at home are now over, if he was ever really able to slip down the street unbothered.
But those days are now only a dream for him. Every movement is documented and every turn is met by a flash from a camera. Through all the chaos, Yao proved why he is such a great ambassador for his country. He found time to do a Read-to-Achieve event at his old elementary school and stopped by his former high school to do a youth basketball clinic.
Between China and the NBA, Yao Ming proved to be the critical piece that connected the dots. Not only is the NBA the best basketball in the world and played by the best players in the world, but it is now being played across the world. Quite impressive!!
Win, Or Go Home
Sunday's Game for all the Marbles
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Sep 18 2004 12:38AM
Well, the season is coming to an end, and this historical race for
the Eastern Conference playoffs is going to be played out on Sunday.
Ironically, every game is a conference game. We will face a team that
we are very familiar with, a team that we have played three times so
far this season. But the only game that really matters is the one yet
to be played.
This may be one of those rare occasions when even the most loyal fans will be cheering for other teams to lose or win so that their favorite squad will get one of the coveted playoff spots.
Sunday is going to be an exciting day in Detroit. Not only will there be winner-take-all game played, but the WNBA is also honoring other athletes in their Salute to Female Olympians. There will be various athletes from different sports being recognized and celebrated during the game. This past Olympics truly showed how far women's sports have come in the United States. As an athlete who is part of the current success of women's sports, it is exciting to reflect back upon where we were, and to look forward to what our potential might be. I just want to encourage the millions of little girls who are playing basketball, soccer, softball, gymnastics or whatever your sport might be to enjoy it. Your future holds endless possibilities!!!
I am going to close by saying that our game in Phoenix last week was one of the hardest games I've had to prepare for. It was so hard to focus when Notre Dame was beating up on the University of Michigan football team--- way to go boys!!!
God bless & Go IRISH!!
Winning Gold on My 25th
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Aug 30 2004 9:26AM
There are times in life when you will experience something so amazing
that it will be hard for you to ever surpass that event. For me, it
will be hard to outshine getting a gold medal on my 25th birthday. It
was surely one of the most memorable presents I've ever received. As
we stood there listening to our national anthem, watching our flag being
raised and feeling the weight of the gold medal as it hung from our
neck, it was a dream come true for me.
Chemistry is a key ingredient for any team, and it definitely was a contributing factor to our success in Athens. Our veteran leadership is irreplaceable. The trio of three time Olympians (Dawn, Sheryl and Lisa) not only had the experience of playing in two previous Olympics, but, more importantly, had the experience of winning two Olympics. I have a lot of respect for these players who have devoted more than a decade of their lives to USA basketball and have represented us in an extraordinary fashion.
Our one-time (now two-time) Olympians were Katie Smith and Yolanda Griffith. It was unfortunate not to have a healthy Katie with us, because she is such an offensive weapon. Yolanda demonstrated what it meant to be unselfish for the sake of the team. As one of the veteran players on the team, she adjusted to coming off the bench and made the three-player rotation of herself, Lisa and Tina a frontcourt that no other country could match.
Tina Thompson and Shannon Johnson are great examples of players who were close to making the last Olympic team, but continued to improve their game over the last four years and proved invaluable to us. Both of these players were able to take over during spurts of games and carry us to victory.
And last, but not least, there were us young'uns. Talent is not directly proportional with age, as the young Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi proved to everyone. Out of the five of us, (Swin, Diana, Sue, Catch, and myself), these two were called upon to play significant roles on the court, and did so beautifully.
So, are we the Dream Team of Women's basketball? The verdict is still out on that one - you can decide for yourself. I do know that we had a lot of very talented women who put aside individual ambitions, stepped up when their number was called and beat the toughest competition in the world. I am so blessed to have been a part of it.
So to everyone who was diligently watching us on television or catching up with us on the internet, thank you so much for your support!! We are now on our way a back to our respective cities as the WNBA games resume. Swin and I are excited about returning back to Detroit, where we have a tough seven games ahead of us. We are looking forward to finishing out the season strong.
God bless ya'all,
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
A Recap of Our First Week in Athens
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Aug 30 2004 9:15AM
Greetings from Athens, to all of you stateside. I realize I have a
little catching up to do and I am sorry about being delinquent in writing,
but we are a little busy... we train and play every other day. I'm going
to give ya'all a quick day-by-day update about how things have gone
since we've touched down.
Wednesday August 11th
After winning two preparation games in Salamanca, Spain, we finally arrived at the birthplace of the Olympics Games. As soon as we walked off the plane, we were greeted by the decorative Olympic rings everywhere. They proved to be an exciting reminder of why we were there. After all, it isn't every day that you step off the plane and get ready to compete for a gold medal!! Most of this day was about filling out paperwork, sitting in on informative meetings and getting organized for the next two weeks ahead.
Checking into the athlete's village was an exciting and unique experience. Food seems to be the universal bond that ties us together, as all the countries meet in the large dinning hall in search of anything that resembles what they would eat in their respective countries. My first impression was simply to be overwhelmed by it all. As you eat, you can't help but watch the different athletes in awe, wonderng what country they are from and try to guess what sport they might play.
This was simply a day to get acclimated. We had our first practice, a press conference and then a little time to try and unpack.
This proved to be a long, but eventful day. We practiced, bussed back to the village and got ready for opening ceremonies. As a first time Olympian, I must admit I was looking forward to this event. Of course, the women's team was extremely excited and proud to have our three-time Olympian, Dawn Staley, carry the flag for the entire United States delegation. There was a lot of down time as they organized the countries to march in, which allowed us a chance to walk around and meet athletes from the United States and a number of other countries.
Let the Games begin!!! USA defeated New Zealand in our first Olympic competition. This proved to be a very physical game for us. It was exciting to finally get the games underway. There has been so much talk, planning and preparation that it's good to finally be in action.
Our schedule is set in a way that we play every other day, and the men play on the alternating off days. So today was a practice day, and then we were off to watch the men's opening game. There has been a lot of talk about how both the U.S. Men's and Women's teams are favored to win the gold. This is great because they respect the talent and experience on our teams, but at the same time, a game/match/race isn't won by a pre-determined ranking. The most talented team doesn't always win, the fastest runner doesn't always come in first, and the number one ranked player doesn't win every match. Puerto Rico came in and played with everything they had, and on this night, appeared to be the better team. Every night is a battle because the stakes are high and the room for error is slim.
August 16th- 20th
I realize my entry is getting long, so I'm going to consolidate a few days. With each passing day, practice and game, our team has improved. After our victory over a very good Spanish team today, we are now 4-0 in our pool play with a remaining game vs. China on Sunday. Then the all-important single elimination quarterfinals begin in mid nxt-week.
I have to tell ya one quick story before I go. After arriving in the lockeroom, as we were putting on our shoes, Diana, our superstar rookie, pulls a true rookie move. She doesn't have one right sneaker, but actually has two!! Although I would probably still put my money on her jumper playing in two right shoes, it was good that someone was able to help her out before tip off! With the Olympics already almost half over, we are continuing to work towards our ultimate goal ---to bring home the Gold!!!
God bless you all,
What it Means to be an Olympian
Live from Athens
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Aug 10 2004 2:47PM
As a little girl, I grew up watching just about every sport in the
Olympics. Every four years, I was awe-struck by these amazing athletes
wearing a uniform that had the letters "U.S.A." emblazoned somewhere,
competing against different athletes from around the world. I would
smile when they smiled, I would cry when they cried and I would feel
their nervousness as they waited for their scores or times to be posted.
Although I never personally knew one of those athletes, I felt some
sort of bond with them. They wore my colors: red, white, and blue. When
they won, it was my flag that was raised and my anthem that was being
played. Of course, I am extremely proud to be an American, but I have
to believe that these are emotions that every person feels as they watch
their respective county being represented.
No event in the world can parallel the Olympic games. It transcends everything else. Throughout the history of the Olympics, there have been conflicts and disputes around the world, political and social differences and even rebellions and wars. Yet, countries that don't see eye-to-eye at the bargaining table somehow all manage to put aside their differences for the simplistic beauty of sport. The athletes become ambassadors for their respective countries. Not only are they driven to succeed by their own ambitions, but they also carry the expectations of a nation.
Through all the patriotism and competition of the Olympics, humanity is never lost. Every athlete competing in the Games has a story. And while we will always roof for and encourage our fellow countrymen and women, we still find ourselves secretly hoping that the one long-distance runner from a country that we never heard of, who is the only representative of his/her nation at the Games, does well. We love the stories of how they got there. We love the beauty, the passion, the committment and the competitiveness that is being displayed. We take so much pride in those athletes who wear the colors of our nation. We love the fact that in every event, they show us that dreams do come true.
So to me, being named to the United States Olympic Team is the highest honor that I have ever received as an athlete. I take so much pride in that fact that the letters of the country I so proudly represent are written across my jersey.
God bless you all, for whether you are a basketball fan or not, we know you will be supporting us. And we will do our best to make you proud!!
The Game at Radio City
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Aug 9 2004 9:37AM
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Title: WNBA All-Stars vs. USA Olympic Team
Where: Radio City Music Hall
Unlike most award-winning shows, this one was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. In case you missed all the action, I'm going to give you the post-performance critique. In theater, you come to a show to be entertained and to see your favorite performers or favorite production displayed on stage. This event was no different. Fans from around the WNBA came to see their favorite players exhibit a great game of basketball in an atmosphere unlike any other in sports.
-Witnessing a historic event in not only the history of WNBA, but the history of sports in general
-Seeing some of the most talented basketball players in the world play on the stage of Radio City Music Hall
-Watching the only game the 2004 Olympic Team played in the United States
-Comfortable theater seats vs. arena seating
-Great family atmosphere with lots of entertainment during the breaks
-High-energy game, with lots of highlights
-It might have taken fans awhile to get accustomed to the theater seating
-The game did have quite a few turnovers, but that is to be expected in All-Star type games where players have little practice together prior to the event
-This was the one and only time the show was being put on
-The game was played with a men's size ball (what they will use in the Olympics), therefore some of the shots were a little off.
-There were limited tickets available (Radio City holds a little under 6,000)
Personally, I thought that playing in Radio City was a lot of fun. The atmosphere surrounding the game was different than any other sporting event I have ever been a part of. Once the game began, I didn't notice that I was playing on a stage because we were all so focused on the game at hand. For me, it was weird seeing Coach Bill, Laurie and Korie on the opposite sideline, and guarding Cheryl and Deanna as they were wearing Detroit Shock jerseys. Overall, it was a great send-off for the Olympic Team to play at home, in front of our fans, who we are so proud to go represent!!
Down, but far from out...
-Posted by Ruth Riley - Jul 19 2004 10:01AM
As defending champs, we have been asked numerous times why we find
ourselves near the bottom of the teams in a very tight race for the
playoffs. Believe me, if I had the answer to that question, we wouldn't
be 10-11 right now. Before the season began, it was said that this would
be the most competitve year for the WNBA, and that has proven to be
true. The Disperal Draft and the deep college draft added a few key
players to every team. The race for the East couldn't be any tighter
and everyone seems to be taking a turn up at the top of the standings.
Things are very different when you are coming off of a championship season and this season has been a learning experience for us. Every team that we have played has given us their best shot. I think what we were able to accomplish last year, going from worst to first and having the best record in the league, showed teams what is possible when you have talent, put in the effort and hard work, and play team basketball. Each team came into the 2004 season believing that they could achieve what we were able to do last year, and they are playing with that confidence.
Confidence is an amazing thing in sports and should never be underestimated. Every great player has it and every great team has it. Every player in the WNBA has a tremendous talent, and that talent varies on different levels. Another key ingredient with successful teams is chemistry. Chemistry means having players that believe in themselves, but also believe in their system and play unselfishly for the good of the team.
As fans, you might see your favorite team lose more games than last year. You will likely see the race for the playoffs even tighter than it has ever been. Does that mean that your team isn't as good as last year? On the contrary, it means that everyone is better. There are a lot of teams playing together with the confidence that it takes to win. Each game is important, and every night is a playoff game right now. Although the task at hand is not an easy one, I do have confidence that we will start turning things around.