By Brian Taylor
Looking at the NBA Playoffs this year has reaffirmed my love for good, post-season basketball. Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave, or even worse, watching the NHL, you know that this year has been bonkers. The odds on, super destroyer Dallas Mavericks played Tyson to Golden State’s Buster Douglas, while Miami felt the 2006 edition Larry O’Brien trophy was just fine, thank you. It’s almost an NCAA tournament like atmosphere, where there really aren’t anymore overwhelming favorites left.
So, to honor a team that got salty and left the party early, I’m going to reach back at its infancy with a guy who was more playboy than ball player, Rony Seikaly.
To really get a grasp for this guy, we have to take it back to the early 80’s Big East, where St. John’s was repped by a Native-American mascot (the Redmen), Georgetown was a perennial lock for the title and the “Orange” were the “Orangemen”. Rony, who was born in Liberia, attended an American high school in Athens, Greece before landing in Syracuse with Jim Boeheim. Back then Rony was tall, and that was about it, but as his college career progressed, he played a larger role (remember the Keith Smart, Indiana title game?), and in 1988 he got called up to the big leagues. “The ‘Cuse” actually retired his jersey this past February.
The 1988 Draft had some minor star power to it (Strickland, Richmond, Smits, Rex Chapman) and Rony was no exception, being scooped up as the first ever pick of the Miami Heat. Back then, going to Heat games was treacherous, as the crime rate around Miami Arena was insane. What was bad on the outside was just as horrendous inside. Who can forget the 17 game losing streak they went through before finally whooping up on the L.A. Clippers? The team went through the usual doldrums, but Seikaly still proved to be a valuable asset to the squad, setting team records with 8 blocks and 34 rebounds in a game. With a team taking baby steps, the fans began to love their goofy center, until he got shipped out west (for the oft-traded Billy “The Texturizer” Owens).
In Oakland, Seikaly’s stock dropped like it was hot, and eventually, he found himself on the move again, this time to the Magic Kingdom to fill the void that was the result of the Shaq/Penny/Brian Hill divorce. With the Magic, he still kept stats close to his career averages (15pts and 9 boards per game). Orlando, looking to go in a new direction, then tried to send Rony to Utah, which ended badly. Rony refused to show up in Salt Lake City (no beach I guess) and he ended up forcing himself to be sent to Jersey, where he finally ended his NBA career.
The curious thing about Rony is that he had so many peculiar facts with him off the court. For starters, he didn’t have the typical “grew-up-in-the-hood” background that you see with a lot of NBA’ers, as his pops was worth billions overseas. Secondly, Rony was always in the top 10 of “Hottest Athlete Wives” lists, marrying supermodel/showstopper Elsa Benitez (click here to see what I’m talkin’ bout). He always said that basketball was more of a hobby to him than a career, preferring to sail in the Mediterranean than in South Beach.
Rony still holds his annual golf tournament for cystic fibrosis and recently, he made a comeback to the court, albeit a sandy, beach side volleyball court (his team lost in their debut, but Seikaly did alright, even if he did whiff on a few spike attempts).
Seikaly did most of his damage in South Beach, before the “White Hot” tees and the best dancers in pro sports came along, so if you don’t know, you betta get a clip!