SI Vault
Edited by Jack McCallum and Richard O'Brien
February 26, 1996
Shannon: A Point Guard
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February 26, 1996


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The news that molecular biologists have found the amino acids in crocodile blood that allow crocs to store enough oxygen to stay underwater for more than an hour might cause a few ripples in the athletic community. Biologists in Cambridge, England, say they can replicate the effect in human blood, which, at least theoretically, would increase aerobic capacity. Sound a little fishy? Well, potions, elixirs and odd diets have long been a staple in sports.





Golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez (current)

Injections of lamb embryo cells

Make him look younger

Chi Chi falls to hands and knees and chews up the fairway

Trainer Ma Junren's record-smashing Chinese runners (1990s)

Brew of turtle blood and caterpillar fungus

Reinvigorate runners after brutal workouts

Shell-shocked runners start slowly then turn into butterflies

Pither Jose Rijo (1990s)

Snake oil rubbed on injured elbow

Ease the pain

Arm uncoils, hisses and sheds its skin

Boxer Rocky Balboa (1976)

Five raw eggs drunk from a water glass

Give protein boost to boxer and gross out the audience

Balboa burps; Apollo Creed ends up with egg on his face

Olympic distance legend LasseViren (1970s)

Reindeer milk

Provide energy boost

All of the other runners start to laugh and call him names

Golfer Billy Casper (1960s)

Buffalo meat

Make him lean

Casper's mane grows shaggy, and his face is put on the nickel

Shannon: A Point Guard

Few headlines followed the death of 20-year-old Shannon Rene McPherson, a point guard at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), who was killed in an accident near Columbus, Ind., on Jan. 30 while returning in a school van from a game. But on the campuses of both IUPUI, a Division II school, and Nebraska and, for that matter, in the locker room of the Indiana Pacers, she won't soon be forgotten.

Shannon and her twin, Sheila, learned the game by playing against boys on the playgrounds of Indianapolis. "Even if we were the only two girls in the game," says Sheila, a shooting guard at Nebraska, "Shannon would never let us be separated." They starred together at North Central High in Indianapolis, with Shannon, a 5'2", 100-pound whippet with no jumper but a knack for finding the open shooter, always directing traffic. The McPhersons used to sneak into Market Square Arena for Pacers games, Shannon dishing the rap to ushers and guards, taking the reins the same way she did on the court. The twins developed a friendship with Pacers star Reggie Miller, who had them over to his house and who once presented them with co-MVP awards at his summer camp. When he heard of Shannon's death, a saddened Miller told the Indianapolis Star, "I really respected their love for the game, plus I really liked how they bonded with one another."

The McPhersons went to IUPUI together in 1993, but their dream of going on to become NCAA Division I teammates was derailed when Shannon became pregnant following her freshman year. After Sheila transferred to Wabash Valley Junior College in Mount Carmel, Ill., for one season, she got a scholarship to Nebraska. Shannon took a year off and gave birth to a son, Kendall, and then returned to IUPUI. Shannon and Kendall lived with her parents in the house where she was raised. Most days she took a city bus to and from campus, a 40-minute trip each way. She napped in the student lounge and often left practice early to catch a bus home. "Shannon was an inspiration because of the sacrifices she made every day to stay in school, raise a son and play basketball," says IUPUI coach Kris Emerson-Simpson.

The twins talked by phone daily, and the conversation on the morning of Jan. 30 touched on a familiar topic. "We always talked about those vans," says Sheila. "When we were in school together, we always took the backseat of the van, and we'd lie down together and go to sleep. The last thing I told her was, 'Buckle up. And call mc when you get back.' "

The call never came. About two hours after IUPUI's 71-63 win at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Shannon was lying alone in the backseat of a van driven by assistant coach Kimra Schleicher. The van hit a patch of ice, struck the concrete median and flipped over, throwing Shannon onto the highway. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The IUPUI players have adopted Shannon's habit of wearing a sweatband just below the knee, inscribed with 31, Miller's number. Sheila also wears one of her sister's sweatbands as a tribute. "I miss her every minute of every day," says Sheila. "She was my best friend and the best teammate I ever had."

We thought hockey players were losing some of their rough-and-ready edge when NHLers started modeling for women's fashion magazines (SI, Jan. 22). Now comes this note from the collegiate ranks: Hobart and Hamilton's Feb. 13 game at an outdoor rink in Geneva, N.Y., was postponed...because of cold.

Bad Decisions

In moves tasteless by even the standards of the sport they cover, both Boxing Illustrated and KO have selected as their 1995 Fight of the Year the bout that put former middleweight champion Gerald McClellan into a coma and left him handicapped. While the latter publication at least admitted to "ambivalence drifting toward guilt" for its choice, BI cited, without irony, the "continually explosive action" involving McClellan and Nigel Benn in "the Britisher's 11th-round [sic] knockout" (the bout went only 10).

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