Xtreme Bad Taste

Ratings are plummeting, network execs are panicking, and critics keep laying it on, but the XFL and its ‘roid-raging honcho Vince McMahon aren’t backing down. No, sir! Not when there’s ass to be whupped and moneymakers to be shaken. Quit? Uh uh. He Hate Me and the gang are gonna see this thing through.

And assuming they do make it through (OK, so it’s a stretch, but stay with us here), the XFL will have to expand to survive. That’s the way it’s written in business—get bigger or get lost—and we all know that this league is following a business blueprint and not a sports one. So expansion will be a watchword for the Xtreme League sooner or later, and coming up with more catchy, rabid-sounding team names will be somebody’s duty. Given the recent controversy over the Memphis Maniax’s moniker (see last week’s Jockbeat), XFL lawyers will doubtlessly steer clear of certain sobriquets.

White Boy Shuffle

Jockbeat was at the Knicks-Kings game at the Garden on Sunday and couldn’t help but notice that Sacramento started four white players. And toward the end of the first quarter, when rookie Hidayet Turkoglu came in for Doug Christie, it was an all white squad. We knew that this was something of a fluke; with Chris Webber injured, the paler Scot Pollard was in the starting lineup. But still, our memory banks couldn’t pinpoint when the last time either of these things happened, and, well, the NBA doesn’t keep stats on such phenomena.

But it got us thinking: Does this demographic oddity have anything to do with the Kings landing on the cover of the February 19 Sports Illustrated? Underneath a shot of the regular starting five—Christie, Vlade Divac, Jason Williams, Peja Stojakovic, and Webber—appeared the (coded?) tag line: “Sacramento Kings: Basketball the way it oughta be.” The Kings are only one of two teams to field a majority-white starting lineup (Dallas being the other). And after the large-market Knicks (25) and Lakers (26), they have the most appearances on national television this season (20). Hmmm.

Our conspiracy theory fell apart, however, when we figured that while Sacramento is the whitest team in the league (six out of 14 on the roster), their game is anything but. Aesthetically, Utah still has the monopoly on “playing white.” The Kings, on the other hand, are what our friend Nelson George might call a New Jack white hoop team—with a European flava. Just look at the way White Choc . . . uh . . . J-Will runs the point, Divac puts on the moves down in the post, and Stojakovic shakes and bakes to create his own shot. The Sacramento subs call themselves “da Bench Mob.” And C-Webb is still the man.

So just what do we have in the Sacramento Kings? Hip hop basketball made palatable for a white audience? Allen Iverson light? Or a more mature version of Jewelz’s street game? Hoops connoisseurs want to know: Are they the Eminem of the hardwood? Or the Vanilla Ice?

Point Men

The term “New York City point guard” has gained permanent entry into basketball’s lexicon, and it was seasons like 1983 that helped make it so. It was then that the City churned out four studs, at least two of them thought to be headed for certain stardom at the college and NBA levels. The third- and fourth-ranked players were good, too, though the fourth wasn’t considered capable of much more than helping his hometown college, one of the few big-time schools that expressed serious interest in his services.

The cream of the crop was Archbishop Molloy‘s Kenny Smith, who had a nice four-year career at North Carolina, was a lottery pick of the Sacramento Kings, did some cool shit in the Slam Dunk Contest, and finally won a couple of rings with the Houston Rockets. “The Jet” is now a commentator for TNT and TBS.

Number two was Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, a thrilling 1-guard from Boys and Girls HS who went to Syracuse and then turned pro early. Pearl was an utter failure in the NBA (with the Nets, of course) and, based on recent sightings, has been eating basketballs instead of dribbling them for the last few years.

The third star point guard of that unprecedented 1982?83 winter was Kenny Hutchinson, a serious outside shooter who went to Benjamin Franklin High (since renamed Manhattan Center). Hutchinson attended the University of Arkansas and lettered for three years. He also ran into some problems—of the narcotic variety—and his current whereabouts are unknown.

The last point guard from that glorious season? That was Mark Jackson from Brooklyn’s Bishop Loughlin. We assume you know what happened to him.

Contributors: Bob Eckstein, Ramona Debs, Ben Osborne

Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman