34 In Praise of cheating
Admit it. You love the fact that Jerry Tarkanian's an outlaw. You love that he has loaded his Fresno State roster with guys you wouldn't let in your door, even if the Broncos' offensive line were standing behind you wielding polo mallets. You love that there are more fast-talking snake-oil salesmen schmoozing recruits than there are peddling used cars.
You love it because cheating, or the specter of it, gives college hoops a delightfully nasty edge. Either you're convinced someone's cheating, or you're pretty sure they're cheating, or you know they would cheat if given the opportunity. Your guys? They play it straight.
You love the guessing game. Does North Carolina cheat and not get caught? Or are the Tar Heels paragons of rectitude? Has Bob Knight taken to stuffing hundred dollar bills down the sweat socks of his juco transfers? Or does he remain one of the game's last angry men, swimming against the tide of corruption? That kind of debate doesn't happen in the NBA, where a fan indicts individuals, not entire teams. So what kind of buzz do you get out of booing Dennis Rodman? You'll only start cheering again when Michael Jordan gets the ball.
You love the morality play that is college hoops. You love it when a school with a squeaky-clean image, like Duke, goes up against a team with a checkered past, like UNLV. Or you may root against the Blue Devils because you think they're sanctimonious prisses and you derive a perverse joy out of believing that the Rebels hand out Range Rovers to backup point guards. But here's the point: You root.
35 Parity/Airity When a team such as Vi Han ova, an eighth seed in 1985, wins a championship, it affirms the notion that any team can win. When did that last happen in the NBA?
36 Juwan Howard vs. Juwan Howard
Juwan Howard was the most endearing member of Michigan's Fab Five. Hours after he signed his letter of intent in 1990, he discovered that his grandmother, who raised him, had died of a heart attack. Playing with a tattoo dedicated to Grandma Jannie Mae over his heart, Howard became a star during his three seasons in Ann Arbor, helping the Wolverines reach two straight NCAA title games and later fulfilling a promise to her by graduating with his class. While he was at Michigan he befriended a young AIDS patient I named Randy Walkowe and later served as a pallbearer for him.
Then Howard joined the NBA as the fifth player taken in the 1994 draft, by Washington. He missed his first training camp because of a holdout but signed a 12-year, $37 million contract. Two years later he exercised an escape clause in that deal and became the focus of a bidding war between Washington and Miami that resulted in a seven-year, $105 million contract with the Wizards. That same year Howard was named in a paternity suit, which was settled out of court; then he was arrested for drunken driving. (He entered an alcohol education program in order to get the charges dropped.) On the court Howard has averaged 19.1 points a game as a pro, but the underachieving Wizards have won no more than 44 games in any of his four seasons and have never won a playoff game. Bottom line? Perhaps no one else better illustrates how the NBA' big money can change a player, or at least the public perception of him.
37 Good: Fathers take their daughters to Tennessee Lady Vols games. Bad: Fathers take their daughters to New York Knicks games.