Chess doesn't have a long tradition in NBA circles, but you can't blame Daryl Morey. The Houston Rockets GM, already known for his cerebral approach to basketball, tweeted out some photos Monday of NBA stars playing chess against grandmasters and child prodigies alike.

Morey was tweeting to promote an event he sponsored at a Houston-area magnet school, where Morey and other professionals from across the Houston sports community came together to play chess with sixth and seventh-grade students.

Rockets players Trevor Ariza and Troy Daniels attended the event, as well as Susan Polgar, the world's first female chess grandmaster. Ariza teamed up with one of the middle-schoolers to take on Polgar, and the two sides traded pieces deep into the match:

Ariza's photo doesn't hold a candle to the black-and-white picture Morey had posted earlier, which shows a slender boy taking on three NBA stars at the same time. A little Internet research reveals that the photo is of 11-year-old Bob Seltzer taking on then-Celtics Bill Walton, Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale -- the latter of whom is the Rocket's current head coach -- in three separate matches at once.

The contest was organized as part of a multiple sclerosis fundraising event in 1986, and the photo was published by Chess Horizons Magazine in 1987.

Unassuming as he may appear, Seltzer was a chess prodigy. At the time he was ranked No. 1 nationally among 11- and 12-year-olds. And it's important to mentioned all three Celtics he faced had at least some chess acumen. Bill Walton remains an avid chess fan today, according to Polgar.

But Seltzer had no problem juggling the three stars: he forced McHale and Walton to resign early and put Ainge in checkmate after a respectable 35 moves.

As part of his chess event, Morey also gave the schoolkids a lesson on the similarities between chess and basketball. It's fun idea and a noble effort to educate on Morey's part, even if most NBA players couldn't tell their king-side castle from their en passant.

Fans in Buffalo should be thrilled to learn that the estate of late Bills owner Ralph Wilson has agreed to sell the franchise to Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula. That means the Bills will be staying in Western New York, a region whose identity is linked to the football team. In his new book Second To None author Joseph Valerio revisits how the Bills made an unprecedented four consecutive trips to the Super Bowl. But he also examines why this team means so much to its community, and it goes back to the formation of the franchise. Here is an excerpt:

When the American Football League announced in 1959 that Buffalo would to field one of its eight teams, it seemed to lift the spirit of upstate New York. Those truly were the good old days for this working-class American city. Big industries seem to stretch out in every direction: Bethlehem Steel, Republic Steel, Anaconda, General Motors, Ford, and Dunlop, companies that enriched the American dream and experience, thrived in and around Buffalo. With the advent of a professional football team, Buffalo had finally achieved major-league status. Everyone, it seemed, was enthusiastic and bursting with civic pride. It hardly mattered that the Bills would be playing in creaky old Buffalo War Memorial Stadium -- "the old rock pile," as it was dismissively known -- which was often used for stock car races.

"It was just a great time and it was a different time," Donn Bartz, one of the first season-ticket holders said. “We used to be able to bring in our lunches, cases of beer, and you'd sit there and eat and drink and enjoy the game."

Tailgate parties right on the 50-yard line. How much better can it get?

The city of Buffalo may have gained a professional football team, but it never lost its small-town aura. "We'd park right on the streets or in somebody’s front yard. Not like nowadays," Bartz said. Those really were the golden days before personal seat licenses, corporate suites, and preferred parking fees began to fleece fans.

By 1970, when the Bills and the rest of the AFL merged into the NFL, plans were already under way to build a new stadium in Buffalo, one befitting a team that had won two AFL championships. “The merger really gave pride to the city,” Bartz said. "We really felt the pride of saying 'we belong to the NFL.' It gave some credence to the city. We were a major-league town."

One developer even wanted to build an all-weather stadium -- a dome! -- in suburban Lancaster, but the local high school protested, and that proposal was eventually dropped. At that time the city was experiencing economic stress. Buffalo's aging steel industry and obsolete processes were no longer profitable, and Bethlehem Steel practically shuttered its entire operation. Other industries were departing for the Sun Belt. In the two decades from 1960 to 1980, nearly 40,000 factory jobs were lost. The fragmentation brought about by urban renewal exacted a terrible price: large pockets of neighborhoods were razed and citizens were moved into high-rise projects. The ethnic and diverse middle class was all but uprooted; communities -- built upon immigration and migration and supported by work in the steel and manufacturing industries with substantial union wages -- suffered.

Finally, after years of litigation, a new 80,000-seat stadium was erected on the outskirts of Buffalo, in Orchard Park, under the management of Frank Schoenle and his construction company. By the time the new venue opened for business in 1973, it had already been named Rich Stadium after a local corporation, Rich Products -- for a fee. Ralph Wilson had negotiated a 25-year, $1.5 million deal for the stadium’s naming rights, one of the earliest such marketing agreements in American sports. Wilson was even canny enough to work out a compromise with the company who wanted the stadium to be named Coffee Rich Stadium after its premier product. A quarter of a century later, when the agreement expired, the stadium was renamed Ralph Wilson Stadium -- but only after the Rich Corporation balked at paying a whopping new rights fee, which would have brought the price up to par with other naming rights at the time.

For all but a few months of the year, the Bills were the lifeblood of the town. From the time in midsummer when they reported to training camp until well after the last game of the season, in virtually every town in upstate New York fans devoured football tidbits and gossiped about their team. Long before sports talk radio, the Bills commanded 24/7 coverage throughout the region.

"When football came it gave a release to the people, so they had something besides work in their lives," Bartz said, "something else to occupy their time and make them feel good. It wasn’t just work, eat, and sleep. You have your coffee break at the water cooler and you're always talking about the team. A lot of people would talk until Wednesday or maybe even Thursday about how bad we were last Sunday. If it was a tough loss, you didn’t start looking ahead to the next game until Friday. Some people, it eats at them for quite a while. I have a few friends like that. But that’s the nature of the beast. We live and die football. We live and die Bills."

Bill Polian believes the bond between the team and the town is "unique, to use a euphemism." He said of that passion, "It only exists in Green Bay -- and Boston with baseball -- in professional sports. Yeah it’s regional, but it's 365 days of the year, 24 hours of the day. The thing that's unique about Buffalo is that in most other cities it will be the business leaders who tend to be transplants. That’s just the nature of business in America. Politicians and people who work in government, they may be casual fans they’re not real hard-core fans. But Buffalo's different.

"The congressman who represented the south towns where the stadium is located, and where the vast majority of us live, was Jack Kemp, a former Bills quarterback. The county executive was Ed Rutkowski, a former Bill. The mayor when I was there was Jimmy Griffin, a legendary guy who was loved for his down to earth, everyman qualities and was a brilliant politician and mayor as well."

Griffin is best remembered for his outspoken ways. During the blizzard of 1985, he suggested the people in Buffalo should "go home, buy a six-pack of beer, and watch a good football game." He was forever known as “Jimmy Six-Pack.”

These men, who ran the city, shared at least one thing in common with each and every one of their constituents: they cared passionately about their Bills. Several of them would gather at the Quarterback Club every Monday after a home game during the football season in a restaurant in Memorial Auditorium where the politicians would flank Polian on the dais. “You had up to 1,500 people there,” Polian said, “and lunch was being served and the mayor would say to me, ‘Hey Bill, what are we going to do about right corner? We got to get play out of right corner. We're getting picked on. What are we going to do about this?’” Polian laughs, as if he still has to answer for that a quarter of a century later. "But he was a dyed-in-the-wool fan. I mean he cared about the Bills as much as he cared about anything else. And that’s the way it was, 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day. Everything Bills, all the time. People really cared."

It was a birthright to be a Bills fan, as if your parents had signed some certificate at the hospital before they brought you home, a baptismal right. "Most importantly, every young child who comes into the world in western New York for the 10 years I was there was born a Bills fan," Polian said. "They were brought into a Bills family and he or she was a Bills fan from Day One."

Of course, the fans had not always reacted with such a religious fervor. When Polian arrived, attendance was at an all-time low, and there was talk of the Bills relocating to places such as Seattle or Jacksonville. Polian knew one of his foremost challenges was to build a strong and loyal fan base. If you build that, the players will come.

“We needed to try and create new ways to try and sell the team in the marketplace,” Polian said. "We felt we needed some corporate support, and some corporate leaders were great along those lines. And the biggest outfit to come out of that effort was Marine Midland Bank, and we hit the nail on the head. We made retail tickets available through the bank outlets. We created the Shout Zone, the signature for that campaign. We didn't discount tickets, but we kept pricing realistic for the marketplace. We played one preseason game at home instead of two, which effectively created a discount. We discounted season tickets as opposed to individual over-the-counter gameday sales. And that combination, coupled with extensive availability in the branches in western New York, made it really a good thing. We started to move tickets and started some esprit de corps, teamwork with bank employees, and got it going in the right direction."

As Polian began to construct a better team, attendance began to steadily increase. It wasn't as if the Bills were in the fight of their lives for the entertainment dollar in western New York. They were pretty much the only game in the region. Sure Buffalo had a philharmonic and a first-rate art museum, but football -- well, that was the big show. The Bills gave citizens a different sense of self-esteem. It gave them a national identity.

Dick Zolnowski, who was a police officer in Buffalo for 21 years, remembers the surge in pride he felt when the Bills advanced to the 1988 AFC Championship Game. "On every street corner they were selling Bills souvenirs and they had lines down the streets," he said. "You'd go to other cities, and when they heard I was from Buffalo, they were really excited, and all they wanted to hear was stories about Kelly and Thomas and Bennett. I was in Fort Lauderdale to see my brother, and it was around Christmastime. People wanted to know what were the players really like, what was going on in Buffalo. It made me feel really good. I was like the hit of the party. Buffalo, you would think it was New York City or London. You were from Buffalo. You were at the top."

-- Excerpted by permission from Second To None by Joseph Valerio. Copyright (c) 2014 by Joseph Valerio. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

On August 29, 1977, Indians second baseman Duane Kuiper hit a home run off Steve Stone of the White Sox. Nearly four decades later, that homer is still holds a special place in baseball history. It is the subject of this column by ESPN's Jayson Stark in a new collection of his work titled Wild Pitches.

You think it's hard to hit 755 home runs? Let's talk about a feat that’s just as hard:

Hitting one home run.

And only one.

In 3,379 at-bats.

Now, you may think we're only tossing a crazy statement like that out there as some cheap stunt to get your attention. But this is one cheap stunt we can back up with actual facts.

And the actual facts tell us there are more members in the 750 Homer Club (two) than there are in the One Homer in 3,000 At-Bats Club (one).

Feel free to look that up.

So at a time when we were interrupting pretty much all our regularly scheduled programming to commemorate a man who hit more home runs than anyone else who ever lived, shouldn’t we be fair? And just? And balanced?

Shouldn’t we devote at least one minor piece of literature to the man who has made history in the most diametrically opposite way possible?

Well, of course we should. So here's to the King of Not Hitting Homers.

Here’s to Duane Eugene Kuiper -- for 12 seasons a sure-handed, not-so-power-packed big-league second baseman, and now (irony of ironies) a terrific broadcaster for those San Francisco (Home of Barry) Giants.

The Home Run Made Duane Kuiper Famous. So mark your calendars.

Who among us will ever forget it?

OK, so the answer to that is: just about everybody. But not Duane Kuiper himself, naturally. He has retold this tale a whole lot more than 755 times since then. That’s for darned sure.

He was playing second base for the Indians back then, in only his third full season in the big leagues. He stepped in to hit against White Sox pitcher Steve Stone in the first inning of a game at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Only 6,236 witnesses were on hand. We’re sure millions more wish they were.

"I remember I hit it, and I saw Wayne Nordhagen, the right fielder, running after it, and I saw his number,” Kuiper reminisced. “And I never saw a right fielder’s number. I saw him running back, and I said, “You know what? This is going to go out.’”

That’s a thought that didn’t exactly race through Kuiper’s brain every time he swung the bat, you understand. So pay attention -- because, in fact, this ball did go out. Way out. Deep into the third row. Or possibly the fourth.

But the precise location isn’t important now. What’s important is that the historic baseball clattered off (what else?) an empty seat and caromed back onto the field.

So Wayne Nordhagen, astutely recognizing that this was a guy who was capable of playing eight more seasons without ever hitting another home run, picked up the ball and fired it toward the Cleveland dugout. Which means Duane Kuiper got to save the baseball.

But that’s not all he saved.

As he was leaving the dugout to head for the plate a second time that night, his teammate, Bill Melton, said to him, "You’re not going to use that bat again, are you?"

“So I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’” Kuiper recalled. “He said, ‘You may not hit another one. You ought to put that one away.’ Well, I didn’t know he was telling the truth. But I tried to bunt for a hit my next time up, and then I did put my bat away. Never used it again."

Instead, he gave the bat and the ball to the equipment manager, who had them mounted together, with a plaque that read Duane Kuiper’s first major-league home run. A few years later, a clairvoyant teammate grabbed a marker and added the fateful words, “and only," on there. But that’s not important, either.

What's important is that Kuiper has the ball and the bat. You'd think he'd have sent them off to Cooperstown years ago. But mysteriously, Cooperstown has never asked. So Duane Kuiper knows just where to look any time he wants to savor his magic moment.

“Yeah, in the attic," he laughed. "It's mounted in the attic. It would probably take me 10 minutes to get to it, but I have a general idea where it's at."

Meanwhile, we still have the general idea that you, our loyal audience, don’t yet comprehend the cosmic significance of the home run that plaque has preserved. So let’s pause for a brief history lesson:

  • In the 62 seasons since World War II, no other members of the One Homer in Their Whole Darned Career Club have even come within 1,000 at-bats of Duane Kuiper’s lifetime total. And just two one-homer men even made it to 2,000 career at-bats: Woody Woodward (one in 2,187 at-bats) and Al Newman (one in 2,107).
  • In that same time span, every other player who batted as many times as Kuiper managed to hit at least five home runs -- with the exception of longtime pinger Frank Taveras (who hit two).
  • And even if we take in all of baseball's eras -- live-ball, dead-ball, gloves-without-fingers, mound-45-feet-from-home-plate, etc. -- you'd still have to go back to 1886 (to the retirement of the mysterious Davy Force) to find another player who hit just one homer and came within 450 at-bats of getting as many shots to hit one as Kuiper did.

So there. Impressed yet?

No wonder Kuiper hung onto the bat and the ball -- and the seat, too, for that matter. The Indians gave him the seat after they traded him to the Giants in 1982. And where can you find that historic seat now? In his garage, where it has been residing since he hauled it in from his yard because the paint started cracking.

"I like to say that I hit it so hard, the ball cracked the top of the seat," Kuiper quipped. “But it doesn’t look like that happened."

At the time that home run hit that seat, it was too early in Kuiper’s career for him, or anyone, to have the proper perspective on what that mighty blast represented. That home run left the yard in 1977. But Kuiper didn’t leave the playing field himself until 1985. So he racked up another 1,997 at-bats in his day, every one of them 100 percent trot-free.

In all that time, he said, there were barely even any close calls. But there was one near-miss he’ll never forget -- a triple off the top of the fence in 1981.

And the reason Kuiper will never forget it is because the pitcher who gave it up happened to be the same guy who had served up The Homer -- Steve Stone.

"I remember standing on third, looking at Stoney's face, and I realized that [having the second ball not go out] was a good thing,” Kuiper said, at his sympathetic best. "To have two in your whole life -- and have them both off the same guy -- that would have been rough. Plus Stoney was born in Cleveland. His parents lived there. He did not need to hear all that crap."

Nope, sure didn't. So instead, all the crap was reserved for Kuiper himself.

As the seasons and at-bats mounted -- but the homer total didn't -- he heard it all from America’s most compassionate fans, folks who obviously didn't sufficiently appreciate the art of not homering.

But Duane Kuiper appreciated it. And that’s what mattered. He knew exactly what he was and exactly what he wasn’t. And while Hank Aaron reincarnate was what he wasn't, he never did see any problem with that.

"You know, when I got to the big leagues, [manager] Frank Robinson pulled me aside,” Kuiper said. “And he said, ‘I’ll give you 10 at-bats. If you hit more than two balls in the air, I’ll send you back to Triple A.’ I kind of laughed. And he said, ‘This is not a joke. I will send your ass back to Triple A.' Because I could run, and his whole idea was: hit the ball in the hole and make the shortstop throw you out. And that was the stroke that kept me in the big leagues.

“Of course,” Duane Kuiper couldn’t help but add, “I kind of had that stroke anyway."

Did he think about what he might do or say if he ever hit another homer?

Sure he did. But does it bug him, even a little bit, that he never hit another homer? Not for one second.

"There's something special about one," Kuiper philosophized. "There's not a whole lot special about two. I mean, nobody ever keeps their second major league hit."

-- Excerpted by permission from Wild Pitches by Jayson Stark. Copyright (c) 2014 by Jayson Stark. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Jayson Stark on Twitter @jaysonst.

As anyone who has seen The Sandlot surely knows, Babe Ruth-signed balls are the Holy Grail of baseball memorabilia.

Baseball aficionados don't part with them easily, and when they do they can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in return.

So when John Lackey, who was traded to the Cardinals from the Red Sox at the MLB trade deadline, was willing to swap a Bambino-signed ball for a jersey number and nothing else, it was a big deal.

St. Louis reliever Pat Neshek, who owned the No. 41 at the time of Lackey's acquisition by the Cardinals, tweeted this photo Wednesday:

Lackey is one of the more superstitious players in baseball, so perhaps he feels tied to the No. 41. But compared to what other athletes have paid for a number, this is a substantial price. According to some reports, the price of a Ruth-signed ball varies wildly depending on the condition, and those in bad shape could go for as low as $3,000 or $4,000. The ones in good condition, however, have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the most expensive one going for $388,375.

In recent years players have paid $25,000, $50,000 and even forked over a year's supply of diapers for the right to a certain number.

From Art Modell's founding of the franchise in 1996 to the decision to draft Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden, to victories in two Super Bowls the past 15 years, the Baltimore Ravens' short history has been full of highlights. Jamison Hensley has covered much of that history, first as a Baltimore Sun reporter for 11 seasons before moving to ESPN. In this excerpt from his new book Flying High: Stories Of The Baltimore Ravens, Hensley describes how the team got quarterback Joe Flacco even though owner Steve Bisciotti had pushed hard to draft Boston College star Matt Ryan.

Long before winning the Super Bowl in February 2013, the Ravens realized the extent of Joe Cool's calm demeanor at a cold and windy pre-draft workout at the University of Delaware.

Joe Flacco showed up with a bag of footballs and a few of his Delaware receivers. To see how Flacco would react, Ravens officials arrived with brand new NFL balls along with three other collegiate receivers that the team wanted to work out.

Flacco didn't blink. He smiled and asked how they wanted him to start. The throwing conditions were poor. The footballs were slick. Flacco was unfamiliar with the receivers. And only five of 150 passes hit the ground.

The Ravens wanted to confuse Flacco, and instead, they came away with more clarity about the future of the quarterback position.

Team officials walked to their cars in silence. They didn't even look at each other. With just a month left before the draft, the Ravens didn't want to give anyone watching a hint that they were so impressed with Flacco.

"It was there that we all looked at each other and kind of said the same thing: ‘Do you believe what we just saw?'" said Cam Cameron, the Ravens' offensive coordinator at the time.

So, imagine the Ravens' surprise when owner Steve Bisciotti challenged them to draft a different franchise quarterback -- Matt Ryan.

"I told those guys that if they had Matt Ryan listed as the best quarterback in the draft, then I'm willing to give up the whole damn draft for him," Bisciotti said. "I told them there is nothing worse for an owner or for them to be managing a business without a franchise quarterback. I said, ‘I don't care what we have to pay for him to trade up. We're getting Matt Ryan.'"

The Ravens, who were drafting No. 8 in 2008, knew they would have to jump six spots to No. 2 (and ahead of the Atlanta Falcons) to get Ryan. Baltimore called the St. Louis Rams, who had the second overall pick, and they wanted two first-round picks (2008 and 2009) along with the Ravens' picks in the second and third rounds.

Team officials convinced Bisciotti the smarter play was to trade back, acquire more picks, and take Flacco. The Ravens had Ryan rated as the No. 3 player in the entire draft and Flacco at No. 15. There wasn't much separation between the quarterbacks in the Ravens' opinion.

The team's scouts thought Flacco had a lower floor than Ryan, but he had the higher ceiling.

The Ravens dropped from a top-10 pick to near the bottom of the first round, which proved too far down to Bisciotti's liking. He started getting antsy that Flacco wouldn't drop to the Ravens. He didn't want to get stuck with a quarterback like Chad Henne or Brian Brohm, who weren't rated anywhere close to Flacco on the Ravens' board.

Bisciotti wanted the Ravens to trade a third-round pick and move up, but Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel at the time, didn't think the team should do it. DeCosta told Bisciotti that Flacco would be there at No. 26. Bisciotti then looked across the table at DeCosta and told him, "And what if he isn't? What if somebody takes him? Is it going to be worth an extra third-round pick? We have three of them. So, stop being a pick whore. Let's give up a third, and go back and get him, and be done with this."

The Ravens gave up a pick in the third and sixth rounds to Houston in order to go to No. 18 and take Flacco. At the news conference, general manager Ozzie Newsome essentially delivered the coronation of Flacco, calling him "the guy to lead our football team into the future."

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. questioned the pick, saying Flacco was a second-round talent. The biggest criticism with Flacco was he played in Division I-AA against Towson and New Hampshire instead of national powers like Alabama and Texas.

"I had to go down to the minor leagues of college football to prove who I was," Flacco said. "I'm going to carry that with me for the rest of my life and use it for the best."

Flacco provided a glimpse of the future in his first practice with the Ravens, hitting wide receiver Mark Clayton on target with a pass that soared 50 yards in the air.

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who watched 15 quarterbacks start for the Ravens from 1996 to 2007, couldn't hide his excitement.

"We've got ourselves a quarterback," Lewis told a team official.

The Ravens, though, wanted to bring Flacco along slowly. The plan was to sit him for his entire rookie season. The hope was for Troy Smith to win the starting job.

But, by the third game of the preseason, Flacco went from third string to starter after Smith came down with a serious tonsil infection and Kyle Boller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

"I didn't want to sit," Flacco said. "If you're going to say I'm your guy, then you should play me. I don't see any benefit of sitting and watching."

Flacco won over fans as quickly as he did the Ravens' organization. In his first career start, he surprisingly scored with his feet instead of his arm, running for a 38-yard touchdown in a 17-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.

In the first half, fans waved purple placards that read, "Wacko 4 Flacco." In the second half, the crowd chanted, "Let's go Flacco," something no other Ravens starting quarterback before him -- from Vinny Testaverde to Troy Smith -- had ever inspired.

"I kind of thought I heard it, but I wasn't really sure. I thought, ‘Why would they be doing that?'" Flacco said with a laugh. "Hey, if I can keep them on my side like that, it will be a good time."

-- Excerpted by permission from Flying High: Stories Of The Baltimore Ravens by Jamison Hensley. Copyright (c) 2014 by Jamison Hensley. Published by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Jamison Hensley on Twitter @jamisonhensley.

Hawks guard Kyle Korver was 12 when his family moved from Iowa to California, which forced him to change his fashion.

"I had never worn a pair of jeans before, until I moved to Iowa," Korver said. "Then on my first of school in Iowa, I had to wear jeans because it was so cold. Actually the first day of school got canceled because there was too much snow on the ground. And I was like, 'This happens? This is amazing.' And we got to go sledding all day."

Korver's frigid but fun welcome to Iowa was one of many amusing recollections that USA Basketball players, who are preparing for the FIBA World Cup, had about the first day back in class after summer vacation.

Rudy Gay: "Ninth grade. I actually had a job. I went out and bought my whole first-day outfit. I actually spent my whole savings on it. I saw P. Diddy wear an outfit, and I tried to buy the same thing."

Stephen Curry: "Thinking back to high school, what I used to wear ... Like jean shorts and a striped polo that was probably two sizes too big. I thought I was fly, for sure, but looking back, not at all."

Check out this video for more memories, not all of which center around clothes, from them and others including Kyrie Irving, Kenneth Faried, Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan:

As it turns out, Curry wasn't exaggerating about his outfit.

If the USA Basketball players were forced to write one of those "how I spent my summer vacation" essays, they would have plenty of material this year. The team had training camp in Las Vegas. Then it went to Chicago for an exhibition against Brazil as well as various appearances as part of the World Basketball Festival presented by Nike and Jordan Brand. And now it will head to Spain for the World Cup.

As NBA executives, players and fans await the decision of free agent LeBron James, one name has been appearing quite often in connection with the four-time MVP.

James' agent, Rich Paul, has been working feverishly behind the scenes for years in preparation for this summer. Paul, a Cleveland native, is reportedly the one who is leading the Cavaliers to believe they have a chance to sign James, and according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, "everyone's at the mercy of Paul's agenda now."

So, just who is Rich Paul?

A friend of James since his high school days, Paul's role in Team LeBron has evolved from helping to plan parties to running James' free agency. He is part of James' famously close inner circle and he has been working with James since he was drafted.

Perhaps the most amazing part of their relationship is that James and Paul met by chance some 12 years ago at the Akron-Canton Airport. James, then 17 years old and on his way to the 2002 Final Four in Atlanta, sported a Michael Vick jersey for the trip. At the airport he noticed a man wearing an authentic Warren Moon throwback jersey along with white Air Force 1's. James was impressed.

James asked the man where he got the jersey and Paul, then 21, replied that he sold throwback jerseys out of the trunk of his car. The two exchanged contact information, and soon Paul hooked James up with a Magic Johnson Lakers jersey and a Joe Namath Rams uniform.

"If I don't have on that jersey, we don't have a conversation," Paul told Chris Broussard for a 2012 feature in ESPN The Magazine.

James and Paul grew close and bonded over their many similarities. Broussard describes the relationship in his article:

Both had mothers who struggled with the perils of urban life while raising their sons. Both grew up in the 'hood but attended mostly white Catholic high schools to play basketball. Both recognized the importance of doing well in school. "We used to say, There's nothing cool about being a dummy," Paul recalls.

Over the years Paul's role has evolved from planning parties and events to helping guide James' marketing strategy to taking over as his agent. Paul has even acted alongside James in a State Farm commercial. Here he is pretending he doesn't like Kid 'n Play:

Paul, who never graduated from college, started Klutch Sports Group in 2012 and represents Eric Bledsoe, Jabari Parker and Tristan Thompson in addition to James.

Now, as James prepares to make a decision that will define the NBA for decades to come, Paul is right beside him. He's met with five teams already and will sit down with James and Pat Riley this week.

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1989 was a season of both triumph and tragedy for the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics, still marking baseball’s only cross-Bay series. But 1989 is remembered as much for the devastating earthquake that struck moments before Game 3 of the World Series as it is for the exploits of Mark McGwire, Will Clark, and other stars. In this history, Gary Peterson combines his firsthand observations with meticulous research and new interviews with players, coaches, and broadcasters to offer a fresh perspective of that unforgettable year. Here is an excerpt from Battle of the Bay.

It began as a subtle vibration -- not unlike those caused by commercial airliners as they would pass over Candlestick Park on their ascent from nearby San Francisco International Airport. And briefly -- for less time than it takes to articulate that thought -- that's what I figured it was: an airplane. My second thought was one I’d had on many occasions over the years: This would be a really crummy time for an earthquake.

It wasn't an idle thought. My senior project for U.S. history, my final assignment as a high school student, was a term paper on earthquakes. I learned about P waves and S waves. I learned about the Richter scale, on which every point represents a magnitude order of 10. In other words a 2.0 earthquake isn't twice as powerful as a 1.0 earthquake; it’s 10 times as strong. I learned that the next devastating earthquake to ravage the Bay Area was a question of when -- not if. And most frighteningly, I learned that no matter what the building code or what we had learned about engineering over the years, there was nothing man could construct that a sufficiently powerful earthquake couldn't wreck.

My fondest dream was realized when after high school and four years of college, I was hired as a sportswriter by the Valley Times of Pleasanton, California, a part of the Contra Costa Times group. Soon, much sooner than I deserved, I was given a column that gave me an entrée to the full menu of Bay Area sports -- the Giants, A's, 49ers, Raiders, Warriors, Cal, Stanford. I spent a lot of time crossing the Bay Bridge, where traffic sometimes would come to a grinding halt and I would think to myself, This would be a really crummy time for an earthquake.

The same thought occasionally crossed my mind as I sat in a sold-out stadium or traveled an elevated freeway. Now, just minutes before the scheduled start of Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the A's and Giants, as the subtle vibration began to morph into a gentle bouncing motion, I realized my greatest fear was coming true. There was no plane passing overhead. And even if there was, it wouldn't cause the arrhythmic jostling that was beginning to pitch me back and forth, side to side. This was an earthquake, alright. I had experienced earthquakes before. But this one seemed more insistent and more intense. I was seated in the dreaded auxiliary press box, where they put overflow media at big sporting events (in this case Section 1 in the upper deck at Candlestick Park). I began to bounce up and down.

No, seriously: This would be a really crummy time for an earthquake.

The bouncing intensified. We were beginning to rock and roll. I looked at the football press box, tucked under the canopy of the upper deck on the third-base side of the stadium. I had watched dozens of 49ers games from inside those Spartan quarters. Now its plate glass windows flexed in and out, reflecting funhouse mirror images as they moved. Beginning to panic just a little, I looked out at the second deck beyond center field. We were bouncing to such an extent that it seemed inconceivable that Candlestick Park, the most maligned stadium in sports, could stand the strain. Which part of the inelegant cement bowl would fail first? The light towers swayed like tall stalks of corn. Something had to give. But what? And when? The shaking and jolting went on for what seemed like minutes. And then it stopped.

A half beat later, the crowd let loose with a hearty cheer. Candlestick Park had taken Mother Nature's kick to the gut and was still standing. But I was consumed with dread. With earthquakes you can never be sure. Was what you felt a relatively small quake that seemed bigger than it was because it was epicentered just below your feet? Or was it a powerful event that traveled miles to reach you? I wasn't sure. But I was unsettled.

Within minutes, power was out at the stadium. I was armed with a Sony Watchman, a hand-held TV with a screen about half the size of today's smart phones. I had fresh batteries. I turned it on. It took what seemed like forever to locate a signal from one of the local TV stations. When I finally found one, the magnitude of the devastation was beyond what I had imagined. There were no cars in the water beneath the Bay Bridge as had been rumored almost instantly after the shaking stopped. But the bridge was impassable.

It would be long, slow minutes before we found out about the fires in San Francisco's Marina District and the collapse of the Cypress Structure Freeway in Oakland. But even before the official announcement, I was certain of one thing: there would be no baseball that day. It didn’t take a genius to figure that out. There was no power at the stadium and a collapsed double-deck freeway just a few miles from where a World Series game was supposed to have been contested. Death. Destruction. The need for police and firefighting resources elsewhere around San Francisco. Clearly, the stadium would need to be inspected.

I began packing my briefcase.

"What are you doing?” asked a colleague.

“They aren’t going to play this game,” I told him. I made for the nearest ramp to the lower deck. I needed to get out of the stadium and circle around to the players’ parking lot where my press credential would allow me access. I knew I would be expected to file a story -- game or no game. The line leading out of the stadium moved slowly. As we shuffled down the ramps, some opportunists were already offering to buy ticket stubs for souvenirs. Occasionally you could feel the slight jostle of another quake.

This would be a really crummy time for a serious aftershock.

I finally made my way to the players' parking lot and began conducting interviews. I'd be lying if I said my heart was in it. The sun was beginning to set. The parking lot looked like an oil painting with thousands of cars sitting motionless with their taillights glowing.

I hooked up with two other colleagues. We needed a place to write. But where? We weren't keen on reentering the stadium and climbing back up to a blacked-out Section 1. We would learn later that some out-of-town reporters wrote their stories in the parking lot by the light of a rental car’s headlights -- a semicircle of scribes in a race to finish their stories before the car battery went dead.

I had a better idea. For years Major League Baseball has provided media and assorted VIPs a pregame brunch and postgame buffet at playoff games. They're nicely done. But the postgame buffets don’t account for the hour or two newspaper reporters need to finish and file their stories. This was the third consecutive year I had covered the postseason. I had become accustomed to arriving at the postgame buffet just in time to see the last food table being wheeled out of the room. I didn't even bother bringing my postgame buffet tickets to Candlestick Park for Game 3 of the World Series. I surely would never use them, and my briefcase was cluttered enough as it was.

There would be no Game 3. But the huge tent erected in the Candlestick Park parking lot to host the brunch and buffet might be open, with its generator, tables, and chairs, maybe even food and drink. I suggested to my two colleagues that we head in that direction. I was right. The tent blazed, an oasis of light. Peering inside, we saw plenty of available tables and chairs. We approached the entrance. "Can I see your tickets?” a security guard asked us. My colleagues produced theirs. I informed the guard that I didn’t have my ticket.

"Then you can't come in," he said. I was dumbfounded. "We’re not here for a party," I said, not altogether pleasantly. “We’re here to work."

"Sorry," he said.

At that moment, one of my colleagues recognized Connie Lurie, wife of Giants owner Bob Lurie, inside the tent. He called to her. She came over, and we explained our situation. “You let these gentlemen inside," she told the security guy. He did. Mrs. Lurie showed us to a table as if seating us at one of San Francisco's finest restaurants. She brought us something to drink. She brought us food and apologized because it was cold. "We have no way to warm it,” she said. "We were planning a postgame party, but now we’ll have a post-earthquake party." I knew there were horrific scenes playing out all over the Bay Area. At that moment I felt comforted by her simple act of kindness.

We wrote our stories and then had to solve another problem. The tent had no telephones. This was before air cards and wireless Internet access. The Internet itself was in its embryonic stage. We had Radio Shack TRS-80 word processors -- covered wagons compared to the powerful laptops we use today. We needed an actual phone to transmit. And we knew there was only one place to find one: inside Candlestick Park.

It was dark by then. We left the safety of the tent and walked halfway around the outside of the stadium and up an incline so treacherously steep that it was known as Heartbreak Hill in memory of the Candlestick Park patrons who had succumbed to cardiac arrest trying to climb it. Finally, we reached the same open gate I had exited a few hours earlier. There was no one to stop us, so we reluctantly crept back into the murky darkness.

The pay phone banks in that part of the lower-deck concourse -- essentially behind where home plate would be -- were inside big cutouts in the stadium's cement wall. It was pitch black inside those alcoves. This wasn't going to be easy. Here’s what transmitting a story entailed: I had to dial a prefix, then the 10-digit number of the computer at our Walnut Creek office. At the tone I had to dial a 16-digit calling card number to pay for the long-distance call. When I heard the familiar squealing tone, I had to place the phone's handpieces into my word processor's acoustical couplers (they looked like rubber suction cups), making sure the earpiece went into the coupler specific to the earpiece and the mouthpiece into the coupler specific to the mouthpiece.

The TRS-80 (we called them “Trash 80s”) had a row of function buttons below the display screen. I had to find and push F4, then F3. Then I had to type the name of the document I wished to transmit and hit enter. It didn't transmit at the speed of light. Not being able to see the screen, I had no idea when the transmission was complete. I gave it plenty of time just to be on the safe side. Then I had to call the office -- prefix, 10-digit number, tone, 16-digit number—to make sure the story had arrived intact. I don't recall how many tries it took me to successfully transmit and verify. More than one would be a safe guess. I do recall that every second inside that black hole was agony.

Eventually, we all filed our stories. Then there was the small matter of how to get home. With the Bay Bridge closed, the quickest way was over the San Mateo Bridge to the south of Candlestick Park. Before reaching the bridge, we heard a radio report that it had been inspected and cleared for traffic. To get on the bridge required driving on a long flyover, a high, elevated connector. I almost couldn't bring myself to do it.

It's difficult to explain to anyone who hasn't been through an earthquake. For a time afterward, sometimes days, you simply don't trust the ground. You can't be sure if it's done shaking or if the worst is over. You just don't know. It seemed as if we were on the flyover for hours. It was a relief to get on the bridge and an even bigger relief to get to the other side. Not long after getting off the bridge, we heard a radio report that it had been closed again for further inspection. Eventually, we made it back to the office. There wasn't much visible damage in the East Bay. I found a few items toppled over at my house when I got home. That was comforting. But anxiety continued to plague me. I simply couldn't settle down. I turned on the news and watched as much of the nonstop earthquake coverage as I could stand. The images conveyed a sense of hell on Earth. It seemed as if things would never be the same again.

I tried to sleep but couldn't. I got up and turned on the TV again for as long as I could stand it. I tried to sleep, again unsuccessfully. The next day on very little sleep, I went into the office. I knew I would be expected to write a column. And I knew just what to write: "As far as I'm concerned, the World Series is over."

-- Excerpted by permission from Battle of the Bay by Gary Peterson. Copyright (c) 2014 by Gary Peterson. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Gary Peterson on Twitter @garyscribe.

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In a powerful indication of just how impactful the World Cup can be, new data show that the number of boys named "Diego" skyrocketed during Argentina's run to the 1986 World Cup crown.

The Albiceleste were, of course, led by the eccentric superstar Diego Maradona during the tournament in Mexico. Maradona willed his side to the trophy with a selection of performances that drove his soccer-mad country into hysterics. Perhaps the two most memorable -- the "Hand of God" goal and the "Goal of the Century" -- helped push Argentina past England and into the semifinals.

Adrien Friggeri of Facebook dove into some data and discovered that during the World Cup the number of baby boys born in Argentina named "Diego" rose tremendously.

In the 18 months before and after the World Cup, the odds of a boy being named "Diego" were around 1 or 1.5 percent. During the week of the final, about 5.5 percent of boys born were named "Diego."

Check out the crazy jump in this graph (via Facebook):

Pretty exceptional data here. It attests not only to the passion with which people in Argentina watch soccer but also to the weight of the World Cup. Perhaps studies in 28 years will show that this year's tournament prompted a new generation of parents in Argentina to name their boys "Lionel."

In case you don't remember Maradona's two goals against England, you can relive them here:

(H/T to For The Win)

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Nearly 20 years after holding the most famous sign in sports history, Steve Zaretsky is watching another Rangers playoff game. He is at Rutt's Hut in Clifton, a classic New Jersey joint whose deep-fried hot dogs have been featured on The Food Network. The Rangers are en route to the Stanley Cup Final, which begins Wednesday in Los Angeles, and that has local fans feeling the Spirit of '94 again. That means reliving the magic moment when the Rangers beat the Canucks 3-2 in Game 7 and silenced the echoes of "1940!" And Steve Zaretsky celebrated with the words that will live in franchise lore forever:


The sign was cited in Sports Illustrated, the New York Times and many more newspapers and magazines. Six words perfectly captured 54 years of championship frustration. So when Steve spots a fellow Rangers fan at Rutt's, it is only natural that the sign will come up in the conversation.

"He was wearing a Ranger hat, and we went over to give him a high five," Steve says. "We start talking about '94 and everything, and the sign. And then he says, 'The guy who held up the sign? That was my dad.'"

This came as news to Zaretsky. It was a family affair, as Steve held the sign with his dad, Dave, while twin brother Michael and his cousin Gary Morris were next to them.

Sure, all Rangers fans want to feel like they hold a piece of the 1994 Cup in their hearts, but the fan at Rutt's was really stretching. Or really enjoying his beer. Steve pulled out his phone for evidence to set the record straight.

"I showed him the picture and he says, 'Well, maybe it wasn't my dad,'" Steve says.

Steve's dad, Dave, has been a season-ticket holder since 1972. He started with two seats, then added two more in Section 72 to accommodate his boys. Over the years, they made some connections at the Garden, and when the Rangers finally won the Cup, the Zaretsky family was invited to the locker room. They got to see Mike Richter and Alexei Kovalev before the scene got too chaotic and too sweaty.

But in the process, they lost the sign.


The sign was actually a sequel. When the Rangers went down in the 1992 playoffs against the Penguins, Mike Zaretsky held a sign that earned some press coverage:

Just once before we die … PLEASE!"

After the Rangers beat the Devils in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final, Steve was kicking around ideas for a new sign. He was working at Wizard Press, a comic book publishing company, at the time, and his friend and coworker, Dan Riley, helped him out.

"There's only one thing that could fit and tell everybody how long we've been waiting: Now I can die in peace,'" Steve says.

He brought the sign to the Garden for Game 5, but Pavel Bure scored twice to help the Canucks stay alive with a 6-3 win. The series shifted back to Vancouver for Game 6. Steve brought the sign to a viewing party at the Garden where fans watched the Rangers lose 4-1 on the JumboTron.

Then it was June 14, 1994. Game 7. Craig MacTavish took one final defensive-zone faceoff against Bure, and the party was on. Steve, wearing a Rangers sweater, held one end of the sign. Dave, in a yellow shirt, held the other end. Mike is bent over in front of the sign. Cousin Gary is behind Steve, ready to unfold another sign that said, "No more 1940" with a circle and an X through it, which, Steve says, was shown on ESPN.

"You'll notice we're the only ones in the stands with the Stanley Cup champion hats," Steve said. "They weren't on sale yet, but my brother paid one of the vendors with a minute to go in the game. The lady said, 'We don't even know if they won the game yet.'"

Nick Kypreos carried the Cup in front of them, as immortalized in the photo. Steve also remembers Adam Graves and Glenn Healy skating past their section and acknowledging them. Shortly after that, the Zaretsky crew headed to the ice, and then came the invite to the locker room.

"You know the removable seats they use for the Knick games?" Steve says. "There was a whole stack of them outside the locker room. The stack was pretty high, probably seven or eight feet, so I stashed the sign on top of the them, because we wanted to go in the locker room and my brother said, 'Leave it.' When I came out, it was gone. I don't think anybody took it. I think they were just cleaning up and threw it away."

Steve ended up with a nice consolation prize. Richter had left his water bottle on top of the net, and Steve grabbed it. But he says he remembers making a special point after he left the locker room to look for the sign.

"I felt like something was going to come of it," he says.

He was right. The Hockey Hall of Fame called a few weeks later. But the sign was gone, perhaps adding to the mystique of the moment.


In the aftermath, a T-shirt company decided to use the phrase in the sign. Steve wanted to sue, but the laws made it tough to copyright a common phrase. Steve decided to cut his losses by requesting compensation in the form of the shirts. After that, his lawyer discovered a loophole that might give them a chance to win in court, but the response from the T-shirt company's legal department was, "Sorry, your client settled for six dozen shirts."

"When the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, some guy wrote a book called 'Now I Can Die In Peace,'" Steve says, alluding to Bill Simmons. "Now if you Google it, his book shows up first."

Madison Square Garden created an homage outside the arena to its greatest moments, and the sign earned a nice mention.

Steve and Mike, who grew up in Tappan, New York, and now live in Jersey, are 46. Dave is 72. They all work together in the folding carton manufacturing business (cereal boxes and the like). They are still fixtures at the Garden.

"Our seats are pretty much the same," Steve says. "We were more toward the goal line in the corner in '94. Now we're closer to the blue line. Fifth row. We were in the third row in those seats. Now I have two kids, and my brother has two kids, and we have to think of something for a sign. You know everybody is going to copy 'Now I Can Die In Peace.' Like 'Now I Can Die In Peace Again.'"

The story of the sign was included in a recent documentary about the 1994 Rangers. Because of that, more Rangers fans are starting to recognize the Zaretskys.

Steve has set up a website,, which simply displays the photo. It comes in handy when he encounters anyone who might doubt or challenge his claim to fame.

"When I mention we were the ones with the sign, a lot of people go, 'yeah, right,'" Steve says.

If his sons, Ethan, 12, and Adam, 10, are with him when that happens, they are eager to jump in. They are the ones who can actually say what the fan at Rutt's said and have it be true.

"That's when my kids are like, 'Show him picture, dad," Steve says.

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