2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Did The Gazette portray Asher Clark as a ‘martyr’?

    Tue, May 29, 2012 by David Ramsey with 10 comments

    I enjoy letters to the editor (or content chief) in The Gazette. Stop by nearly every day to read them, either in print or on Gazette.com.

    Last week, a letter to the editor stated that The Gazette “portrayed Asher Clark as a martyr.” Let me first say I always appreciate those who take time to question what we do. The best readers are the most concerned – and often the most critical – readers. These readers care about what we’re doing. They write letters. So thanks for the letter.

    But let me also say I don’t agree with the letter. A martyr is one who suffers unjustly for a cause. That’s the definition. Clark, the former Air Force football star, is not suffering for a cause. He was removed from the academy for violating rules. He smoked Spice, a synthetic form of marijauna. I don’t see him as a martyr. I have not talked with anyone who considers Asher Clark a martyr.

    I think I know what the letter writer meant. When she said Clark was portrayed as martyr, I believe she meant he was being portrayed with too much sympathy.

    Let me explain the background of The Gazette’s coverage:

    Frank Schwab and I talked last week with Mark Clark, Asher’s father. Mark spoke at great length to both Frank and me. He was a father defending his son. He was trying to paint a sympathetic portrait of his son, who is, by all accounts, an exemplary teammate and a solid student.

    Frank sought out officials at Air Force Academy to comment for his article. Those officials have not responded with a meaningful comment. Trust me; we want to hear from Air Force officials. We want to hear their side of the story. Academy spokesperson David Cannon reminded  me late Tuesday afternoon that Air Force officials are unable, by law, to offer details about Clark’s removal.

    “Because the action that we took with Asher was administrative in nature vs. judicial, we are not allowed by the Privacy Act to say what the specific infraction was.  That’s law,” Cannon wrote in an e-mail.

    Thanks, Mr. Cannon.

    The academy’s virtual silence left us talking with one side of this story. And, yes, I know every story has two sides.

    The result of Frank’s story and my column was a look at Asher and his troubles through the eyes of his father. Frank and I were reporting on Mark Clark’s version of his son’s removal. That was the strength and the limitation of the story and the column.

    The letter ended with these words:

    “The academy should not be blamed for Clark’s poor decision making.”

    I agree with that statement. Nobody at The Gazette tried to place blame on the academy for Clark’s decision.

    Your thoughts? Did The Gazette portray Asher Clark as a “martyr”? Would love to hear your views on the letter and the story and column on Clark.

    Here’s Frank’s story on Mark and Asher Clark:


    And here’s my column on the Clarks:


  • Big surprise: Former Nuggets problem child J.R. Smith arrested

    Fri, May 25, 2012 by David Ramsey with 3 comments

    J.R. Smith once caused problems in Denver with his surly attitude and his brushes with the law. Now he’s causing the same mental anguish for leaders of the New York Knicks.

    Smith was arrested in South Beach, a posh section of Miami Beach, on Thursday for driving without a valid driver’s license.  This is no surprise. Smith was driving in 2007 when his friend, Andre Bell, was killed in an accident. At the time of the accident, Smith had 27 points on his license and had undergone five suspensions. He had two more speeding tickets in the 18 months following the accident.

    Smith brings an amazing array of skills to the basketball court. But he’s never been worth all the trouble he brings along with his talents. He’s a ball hog. He’s defiant of authority. And he carries an airliner full of bad baggage.

    The Nuggets have made plenty of mistakes in the franchise’s tarnished history. Letting Smith go was not one of those mistakes.


  • Tracy’s and O’Dowd’s jobs are safe; should they be safe?

    Wed, May 23, 2012 by David Ramsey with 5 comments

    The Rockies have lost 15 of their last 18. The Rockies are on pace to lose 100 games this season. The Rockies are, according to Denver Post writer Troy Renck, 41 games under .500 since a massive  slump at the end of the 2010 season. The Rockies have missed the playoffs 10 times in the past 12 seasons.

    And yet …

    Despite this gruesome mess growing in downtown Denver,  general manager Dan O’Dowd and manager Jim Tracy are not in danger of losing their jobs, according to owner Dick Monfort. And, in turn, Tracy said pitching coach Bob Apodaca and hitting instructor Carney Lansford have no reason to worry about their jobs.

    The favored word for the leaders of the Rockies is patience. That’s always the favored word of those who lead losing teams. Tomorrow will be better, these leaders promise, so, please, let’s not get too caught up in today. During recent years spent covering Air Force’s basketball and baseball teams, the word patience is constantly mentioned, even as the losses continue to pile higher and higher.

    How much patience do you have left with the powers that be of the Rockies? Should O’Dowd and Tracy be dismissed? Should only O’Dowd be dismissed? Should only Tracy?

    Let me know. I’d love to hear your views.

    Here’s Troy Renck’s interview with Tracy:


  • Nuggets point guard Andre Miller and his place in NBA history

    Fri, May 18, 2012 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Nuggets coach George Karl is a fan of grizzled point guard Andre Miller. Big George says Andre is one of the NBA’s all-time top 10 point guards.

    I say Andre is one of the NBA’s all-time top 25 point guards. I say George is getting a little – no, make that extremely – carried away.

    Your thoughts?

    We’ll talk later about the point guards who belong above Miller on the all-time list.




  • The price of vice: A tale of sports betting gone terribly wrong

    Mon, May 14, 2012 by David Ramsey with no comments

    I hope this is the saddest story I read today.

    I’ve been a sports writer for most of the past 30 years, which means I’ve been around sports betting for most of the past 30 years. Please, don’t misunderstand me. This is not a confessional. I haven’t been betting money that should be used for my mortgage on games. I didn’t lose grocery money.

    I don’t bet on sports.

    But many of my friends – outside the journalism business – do bet on sports. There’s a thrill to this, I’m sure.

    There’s also a danger. You can lose a lot of money. And if you’re dealing with shadowy betting types, you can lose even more than money.

    Here’s the story of Denver sports betting guru Daniel Dinner.

    The story does not feature a happy ending.


  • Kobe’s sick. Will he play against Nuggets?

    Thu, May 10, 2012 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    Will Kobe Bryant play Thursday against the Nuggets in Game 6 of Western Conference Playoffs? He’s suffering from stomach issues serious enough he missed pregame shootaround this morning.

    Let me answer that question with a question:

    Are you kidding me?

    Bryant would play tonight if he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery two hours before tipoff. The Toughest Man in NBA History is not going to let stomach trouble prevent him from a playoff game. He’s not going to allow anything to prevent him from launching 30 shots – about a dozen of which will be ill-advised – against the Nuggets.

    Sure, I could be wrong. Maybe Bryant is so sick he will fail to compete tonight. And maybe the sun will rise in the west tomorrow morning.

    I’ll be reporting from the Nuggets-Lakers game at Pepsi Center tonight. Look for a column tomorrow on gazette.com and in Saturday’s Gazette print edition.


  • JaVale McGee offers tantalizing glimpse in Nuggets future

    Wed, May 9, 2012 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    JaVale McGee was spectacular Wednesday night against the Lakers. He scored 21 points, seized 14 rebounds while making Lakers big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol look old and silly and helpless.

    McGee is only 24. He’s stumbled through much of his NBA career. He once looked on his way to a classic knucklehead, underachieving career.

    That was yesterday. I see McGee as the anchor of a Nuggets franchise that could – finally – make a journey to the NBA Finals.  The possibility for a bright future is in place for the Nuggets. There’s the point guard (Ty Lawson) and the versatile forward (Danilo Gallinari) and the manic rebounder (Kenneth Faried.) Best of all, there’s the man in the middle (McGee) who could become a dominating force. He certainly dominated on Wednesday.

    If I’m one of the leaders of the Nuggets, I’m keeping this quartet together. Everyone is young. Everyone is gifted. Everyone seems content in Colorado.

    McGee has it all. Great hands. Superlative leaping ability. A soft touch in the paint. He could be the big man Nuggets fans have long awaited.



  • Here are the top 22 players in NBA history. Did LeBron make the list?

    Wed, May 2, 2012 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    Yes. LeBron makes the cut.

    LeBron is one of NBA history’s all-time top 15 players, if you’re talking about the regular season. He’s not in the top 50 when it comes to playoff performance. He’s an underachiever. What I mean is, he doesn’t play to the level of his talent when it matters most.

    But he is, when he’s on a roll, a powerful, overwhelming presence on the court. And he’s been consistently magnificent, in the regular season, ever since he arrived in the NBA in 2003-2004.

    Do I place him on this list with more than a few reservations?

    Sure. But he belongs with the greats. And he still has time to climb.

    But let’s forget LeBron for a moment.

    Basketball is the best sport for the best-ever discussion. The game has only been on the national stage since the early 1950s, which simplifies arguments.

    In baseball, you can make a strong case for Babe Ruth as the best-ever, and he began his career in 1914.

    That was a long time ago. That leads to all kinds of comparing of eras, which can get messy.

    In basketball, the first greatest-ever candidate is George Mikan, who led the Lakers (then based in Minneapolis) to seven titles in nine seasons. He retired in 1955.

    That makes picking a top 21 more simple. And more fun.

    Here’s my top 22, and I’d love to hear from you about your top five or 10 or 21 or 50. And, of course, I’d love to hear from LeBron lovers.

    1. Michael Jordan You can argue this one, but it’s silly. He played in six NBA Finals. And won six NBA Finals. He never quit growing as a player. He started his career as the ultimate skywalker. He ended his Bulls career – please, let’s just forget about those days with the Wizards – as the game’s ultimate midrange jump shooter. I will be shocked – happily shocked, but shocked – if I ever see a better player than Michael Jordan.

    2. Magic A revolutionary. A point guard in a center’s body. If Magic had not contracted HIV, he might have tangled with Jordan for the top spot. He’s the greatest team player ever. What I mean is, if you stepped on the court with Magic as a teammate, you instantly became a better basketball player.

    3. Bill Russell Eleven titles in 13 seasons. No one will ever top that. No one will ever come close. He’s the greatest winner in the history of team sports. So why doesn’t he rank at the top? That’s easy. He was always surrounded by overwhelming talent. He was the lead actor in a dynasty jammed with superior chemistry and talent.

    4. Wilt Chamberlain Saw him play in downtown Seattle when I was in grade school. An amazing talent who could have been even better. Many basketball historians, including one of my favorites Terry Pluto, make a strong case Chamberlain was better than Russell. Wilt did compile mind-boggling numbers, and when he was surrounded by talent he won NBA titles. Though he’s remembered as a loser, he won two NBA titles, which is two more than LeBron.

    5.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar His hook shot was – and remains – the most effective offensive weapon in basketball history. My list is focused on NBA accomplishments. If you include college accomplishments, Abdul-Jabbar might climb even higher. He won three NCAA titles. (Although, come to think of it, Russell won two NCAA titles.)

    6. Kobe Bryant I didn’t appreciate Kobe as much as I should have during his long prime, which is now over. Didn’t appreciate him primarily because I always despised him. He’s an astounding talent. He’s not the most charming character, but he’s one of sports history’s most relentless competitors. He’s the rare ball hog who is also a winner.

    7. Oscar Robertson Until Jordan came around, he was the most complete player ever. I’ve talked with a couple dozen players who competed against Robertson. When they talk about The Big O, they are filled with immense respect.

    8. Jerry West Interviewed him about the NBA draft a couple times when I was covering Syracuse University basketball. The most down-to-earth superstar ever.

    9. Larry Bird Often overrated by overzealous fans, but a fantastic competitor and offensive player. Not such a great defender, though. I’d place him lower, but a multitude of basketball people I respect place him extremely high on their lists. Talked recently with Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich, who made a strong case for Bird belonging in the top 5. Don’t agree, but understand Pilipovich’s – and others’ – devotion to Bird. He is one of basketball history’s most charismatic players.

    10. Elgin Baylor The first skywalker. Another revolutionary and another basketball gentlemen. He should have a much higher profile. I used to live in Syracuse, New York, once home to an NBA franchise. Fans there still talk about Baylor’s first visit in 1958. He soared a foot-and-a-half above the rim for a slam, but had a little trouble with his air traffic control. While trying to avoid one of his opponent’s arms, Baylor miscalculated his dunk and the ball slammed off the back rim. The Syracuse fans swore the ball bounced all the way past the halfcourt line. This Baylor air show ranks among the best missed dunks of all time.

    11. Rick Barry I used to instigate heated basketball arguments by telling friends and enemies that Barry (who lives in the Springs) was better than Larry Bird. These friends and enemies dismissed all points and acted as if I had just said the moon landing was staged. So I promised to never again state my case. (By the way, I do believe we landed astronauts on the moon.) Still, please, at least consider that the Bird-Barry discussion has merit. Look at Barry’s numbers – he averaged 24 points in his career, same as Bird. Look at the way Barry carried – as no player has ever carried – the Golden State Warriors to the 1975 title. Bird and Barry were remarkably similar players and belong right next to each other on the all-time list. One quick Barry story: I was talking a few years ago with former Sonics superstar Spencer Haywood about Barry. (Haywood and Barry often did battle on the court.) Spencer spent a few minutes raving about Barry’s accomplishments before announcing, “Rick Barry is the greatest white player of all time.” Spencer then took a long pause, all the better for comic effect, before completing his announcement. “And Rick was about the 75th best player of all time.” Thanks, Spencer.

    12. John Havlicek He played in eight NBA finals. And won them all. He also scored nearly 5,000 more points than Bird.

    13. Tim Duncan Mr. Boring is also Mr. Winner.

    14. Hakeem Olajuwon Sure, the Dream Shake was a walk, but who cares.

    15. Bob Pettit One of the great power forwards in NBA history. He retired in 1965. Don’t know anything about him? Do some research. His bio is available at the bottom of this post.

    16. John Stockton The best pure point guard ever. Did I place him too high? Maybe, but he’s one of my all-time favorites. And, like Magic, he made everybody around him better every game.

    17. Karl Malone Not a big fan, but former Bucks coach and 76ers star Larry Costello was an extremely big fan of The Mailman. Costello, who became a good friend during my days in Syracuse, picked Malone as his No. 1 power forward of all time. Costello, a great man, is no longer with us. This one’s for you, Larry.

    18. Moses Malone If Moses had been blessed with bigger hands, he would have been illegal. His little hands limited his shooting. He handled himself like a boxer in the lane. A dangerous, dangerous man.

    19. LeBron James  Was talking with my friend Matt Wiley, a certified NBA freak, a few days ago, and he spoke this truth about James. If Charlotte had been blessed with LeBron’s presence on its roster this season, the Bobcats would have made the playoffs. That’s a huge statement, but it’s not an overstatement. James is an absolutely huge force in the regular season. Will he ever make the same impact in the playoffs? We’ll see, my friend. We’ll see.

    20. Dirk Nowitzki I’d seen Dirk play in person a dozen times and seen him play on TV dozens of times, but never truly appreciated him until this season’s NBA Finals. He has – through dogged, exhaustive effort – constructed one of the greatest offensive machines in basketball history. He’s one of the greatest jump shooters ever, but he’s not soft. He dropped his biggest baskets against the Heat on courageous drives to the basket.

    21. Shaq Another dangerous man; the least-skilled player on this list. And the least-skilled great player in basketball history.

    22. George Mikan I’ve talked to a dozen players – NBA pioneers – who battled against Mikan. Many of these players later battled against Russell and Chamberlain. These players speak with respect for Mikan, one of the game’s all-time winners. If you’re doubtful about this selection, please consider a few facts: Mikan finished his career with seven – seven! – straight titles, and in his best three seasons averaged 28 points, 14 rebounds and three assists.

    Again, I’d love to read your list.

    Here’s Bill Simmons top 96 (you don’t have to get this ambitious.)


    Here’s a brief bio of George Mikan:


    Here’s footage of Mikan:


    Here’s a brief bio of Pettit:


    Here’s footage of Pettit:


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