By Brian Taylor
What’s goin on hoops fam? Coming up with a “Hey” these days is getting more challenging by the week, but what fun would the game be without a lil writer’s block every now and then? So from here on out, yours truly, B Teezy, will welcome all suggestions for the upcoming “Hey” articles. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, spammers will be shot on sight. If you have a good suggestion, my panel of judges (read: “me at the office”) will decide who gets profiled for the upcoming week, with props given to those who hook me up with the assist.
Sounds good? Cool. Let’s go!
I heard earlier today that Kevin Durant was gonna come out this year into the NBA draft. The ever elusive “talented big man” is always a rare commodity in the League, and Kevin’s gonna be a gem. They’re so rare that good teams are reaching further and further behind the shelf for quality post play (see: Dallas/Kevin Willis). Until Duncan, KG and ‘Sheed came along, big men usually came with a headache attached, and Vin Baker was no exception.
Coming out of teeny-tiny Hartford U in 1993, Baker provided a spark for the post-80’s Milwaukee Bucks. The biggest knock on him was the whole “small school/quality of competition thing,” but he was one of the guys to start dispelling that myth and Ben Wallace followed his lead. It was a new era in Mil-town, as the forest green/lime green jerseys were out (best NBA unis EVER) and the purple/hunter green abominations were in (wackest jerseys ever) and Vin played a huge part. In the new era mind you, not the jerseys.
What made Baker so dominating back in his heyday, was his Olajuwon-like footwork on the blocks and his mid-range jumper. He wasn’t flashy, but got the job done, sort of like a Jermaine O’Neal type. He had a knack for rebounding, but was shy defensively. From 1995 to 1998, he made the All-Star squad, despite being traded to the West Coast (Seattle). Numbers-wise, Vin hovered around the 18ppg, 10 rebound mark, and was a solid pro.
In 2000, Baker’s work ethic and on-court skills lead him to the Olympics in Sydney, where he joined the big names like Garnett, Zo and J-Kidd. As a side note, can you believe Shareef Abdur-Rahim was on that squad? Baker was on his way to that “superstar” tag that few elite NBA’ers get, but alas the “downward spiral” came calling, and Vin’s was epic.
In his last year in the Emerald City, Baker started having problems with weight (almost hitting the 300lb mark) and alcohol. It took its toll on Vin, making him lose confidence, and turning to the bottle for comfort after repeated bad performances on the court. After being traded to Boston, (for Kenny Anderson), Baker hoped for a new start in Beantown. If you ask any Celtics’ fan however, they’ll tell you what disappointment feels like, when they think of Vin Baker. At a Celtics’ practice session, coach Jim O’Brien sniffed some Smirnoff on Baker’s breath and suspended him from the team (violating his alcohol treatment program). Boston brass really wanted to help the guy out, because he was a local cat that had a nice NBA resume, but they couldn’t take it anymore.
In the process of Vin battling his demons, his contract put financial clamps on the Celtics and Sonics respectively, with Seattle coming out of their cloud just last year (when Potapenko’s deal finally died). He filed a grievance against the Celtics, who voided his $36 million dollar pricetag, and got at least $16.5 mil in the settlement, and at this point, he was in New York.
Vin did a little better with New York, but had the same pattern as always: get picked up somewhere with promises of getting better, only to disappoint fans later either with his play or his off court issues. He made his rounds with the Clippers and Rockets wit the same issues, and when he reached Minnesota, he was only a shell of his former self, being released and calling it quits.
Aside from the alcohol issues, Vin was an ok guy off the court. I remember him being able to sing, being a DJ briefly in Houston and finally opening a seafood restaurant in New England.
Baker was kinda nasty in his glory days though, so if you want to take a look you know what to do.