During her first ever baseball game, in 2009, there were three things that made 7-year-old pitcher Mo’ne Davis stick out: her pink glove, her raw talent, and her resolve. Sure, she was the only girl on Philadelphia’s Anderson Monarchs team — the glove was a dead giveaway — but the power of her arm drew a lot of attention, too.
So there she was, facing one of Philly’s top power hitters, an 8-year-old boy from a nearby Parkwood neighborhood youth team. The righthander delivered a fastball to the plate and watched the batter slam a rocket to the outfield in the fenceless ballpark. It was a home run.
“Mo’ne put her head down,” Monarchs coach Steve Bandura remembers. “I went out to check on her. I thought she was crying.”
“She was mad,” Bandura continues. “After that, she struck him out every time he was up to bat. She had good command and a competitive fire, even back then."
Five years later, Mo’ne is no longer sporting the pink glove, but she’s still striking out the boys and drawing attention.
Mo’ne, now a 13-year-old with a wicked 70-mph fastball, became the most talked about pitcher this summer (move over, Clayton Kershaw) when she threw two shutouts in August. The first one advanced the Philadelphia Taney Dragons all-star team to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The second one propelled her into the history books, as Mo’ne became the first girl in the 75-year history of the LLWS to pitch a shutout in the tournament. The 5' 4" flamethrower did more than just play a boy’s game. She dominated it, showing the nation that a girl can throw heat, too. She also inspired countless kids to dream big. That is why Mo’ne Davis is the 2014 Sports Illustrated Kids SportsKid of the Year.
One second and one shot. That's all it took for Damian Lillard. With the Portland Trail Blazers down by two points in the final second of a decisive Game 6 against the Houston Rockets last May, the sophomore guard nailed a series-clinching three. The Moda Center erupted in jubilation, and streamers fell from the rafters. The pivotal shot advanced the Blazers – a squad that missed the postseason in the previous two seasons – to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time since 2000. It also solidified Lillard's reputation as one of the most clutch shooters in the NBA.
But that wasn't Lillard's only game-winner during the 2013–14 season. The 6′ 3″ All-Star, who averaged 20.7 points per game last year, also put away the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Phoenix Suns with last-minute buckets. Lillard gets it done with a variety of shots: a scoop layup after a sharp drive to the hole, a spinning fadeaway jumper in the lane, and a 26-foot, in-your-face trey if you give him a enough room [as former Cavs forward Alonzo Gee did last December]. Recently, Lillard spoke to SI KIDS about those game-winners and how he performs under pressure.
It’s been a tough start of the season for Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook. He fractured his hand late last month, which required surgery. He’ll be sidelined for a few more weeks at least. But there’s a bright spot in the all-star’s fall. On Saturday, Westbrook stops by Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger in a memorable role as a… 14-year-old basketball player?
You’ll have to watch the show to find out what that’s all about. But earlier this week, SI Kids learned a little more when we talked with Westbrook about his role, what it was like filming the episode, and the Nick Shows he watched as a kid.
Check out the Q&A below, but first, watch this exclusive clip from the episode:
During Chris Bosh's senior year at Lincoln High School in Dallas, Texas, it was normal to find him shooting hoops in the gym. After all, he was a McDonald's All-American who had led the basketball team to an undefeated season and a state title. But Bosh raised some eyebrows when he camped out in the computer lab before practice to play around with Adobe Illustrator, learn HTML, and lead classmates in robot design.
"The kids would ask, 'What are you doing here?' " recalls the 6′ 11″ Miami Heat center-forward, who participated in computer graphics and engineering clubs. "They saw my height, and I guess they thought the only place I belong is on the court."
Bosh didn't mind the question. He understood the stereotype that comes with his size and talent. He just wasn't going to live up to it. "I had some free time before practice. I filled that time learning about computer graphics," Bosh says. "I like trying different things that challenge me."
Things like advocating for computer science education, establishing a men's tie line, and his insatiable appetite for reading make him an unconventional athlete. And when he's on the hardwood, his versatility makes him a nontraditional big man. While most NBA pros his height live in the low post, you can catch Bosh beyond the arc, comfortably spotting up to take a three-pointer.
Today, the 30-year-old continues to challenge himself. When Miami's Big Three disbanded this summer, Bosh, the third option behind LeBron James (now with the Cleveland Cavaliers) and Dwyane Wade for the past four years, became the team's go-to guy after he re-signed with the Heat. "It's what I wanted. Just like with all of the other stuff I do, I want to push myself and see what I can do," Bosh says. "I'm ready to be the leader of this team."
Basketball's Black Fives Era is one of its greatest — and least remembered.
This history lesson begins with a gold, navy, and white Nike shoe from 2006. It's a cool, retro-style sneaker with a word written in stylized script on the heel: Rens. It was a long-overdue nod to a basketball era that had begun a century before.
The New York Renaissance — Rens for short — was the first all-African-American pro basketball team and won the first world professional basketball tournament, in 1939. The Rens played during a time now called the Black Fives Era, which began in 1904 with amateur teams and lasted until the 1950s, when the first black players entered the NBA.
As with baseball's Negro leagues teams, Black Fives played against each other and in exhibitions against all-white squads. There were also all-women's teams associated with the men's clubs. The Philadelphia Tribune Girls, led by Ora Washington, won 11 straight national titles.
All of this was closely covered by black newspapers — and mostly ignored by the white press. Once the NBA found its footing, in the early 1950s, the Black Fives were largely forgotten. But when Claude Johnson, then an NBA executive, first learned about the era in 1996, he became dedicated to educating people about this crucial period of history.
His efforts are paying off. The New-York Historical Society recently hosted an exhibit of artifacts from the era. The Black Fives Foundation (Johnson is founder and executive director) has also partnered with the Brooklyn Nets on an educational program launching this season. And 47 Brand is planning to launch a Black Fives apparel line. Says Johnson, "We've always tried to use this part of history as a way of finding common ground, and I think that's important right now."
Johnson gave us a lot of great information about the Black Fives era that we couldn't squeeze into the story published in our November issue. So here's a brief Q&A (edited and condensed from two separate conversations) with him about the teams, players, and time period that he's bringing back to life:
The new documentary Little Ballers follows a New York team as it competes at the AAU National Championships. Along the way we meet the talented fifth graders on the squad and hear pros like the Thunder's Russell Westbrook, Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler of the Mavericks talk about their days playing AAU ball.
Little Ballers will premiere on the NickSports Block on Nicktoons during the All-Star Break. But for our November NBA Preview issue, SI KIDS spoke with Chandler about the movie and his AAU experience.
Following a tumultuous offseason, the entertaining group of studio analysts from TNT’s Inside the NBA gathered in New York City on Monday for their annual media lunch. They discussed the best teams, players, and all of the excitement of the coming NBA season.
Shaquille O’ Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson share a combined 49 seasons of playing experience. So they know a thing or two about basketball. They unanimously agreed that LeBron James and the story of his hometown return that dominated summer headlines would remain prominent throughout the year. Where they couldn’t agree, though was on which team would actually bring home a championship trophy.