Admit it, there are more players than you can count who were something back in the day, possibly even THE something, yet have faded into obscurity without even a peep from the under-observant, general sports fan public. If you’re like me, you forget you’ve forgotten them until something makes you remember that you forgot. Follow?
For example, my friend Adam and I were texting about the young college basketball season the other day, more specifically making fun of LSU’s tendency to produce shooting-star caliber NBA players of late (you know its bad when the exception to the rule is Brandon Bass). The conversation inexplicably evolved, as conversations are known to do (the conversation did EXACTLY WHAT I THOUGHT IT WOULD! AND I LET IT OFF THE HOOK), from LSU’s never-quite-made it players to all never-quite-made-it players (mainly Chris Porter). And that made me think about possibly the biggest shooting-star player of all. “Adam, tell me you remember Felipe Lopez (I know, my texting grammar is exquisite).”
All the memories came flooding back to me, remembering someone who was once great, who once hogged the limelight like Rashad McCants hogs shots and Eddy Curry hogs anything he can chew, who once was the antithesis of fading into obscurity.
Yet times change, all that glitters is not gold, shooting stars… shoot. Which brings us back to the point: Milk Carton Cases. There are hundreds of players and coaches that leave me wondering, on a nearly daily basis, “What ever happened to them?” SLAM took up the case with Harold Miner for many years, and continue to have feed us “breaking news” from the ABA, but there are so many more players who demand to be unearthed. I aim to find them and find out what they do (or at least passively pay attention until a name I recognize falls into my proverbial lap), and when I do stumble upon them, you need look no further than here to be re-introduced to the has-beens and the once-weres.
So, for my inaugural Milk Carton Case, allow me to spit twice the hot fire upon you. Unearthed, exhumed, FOUND—I present to you Felipe Lopez and Brad Daugherty:
G/F- St. John’s
If you don’t know who Felipe Lopez is, you should do some research. Because Lopez was a prodigy back in the days when prodigies were less common than iPhones like they are now. As the top high school player in the country, Lopez led his Rice squad to the New York City Championship in 1994. He was then recruited by the hometown power St. John’s (the SI cover was shot before he ever played a game for them—take that Bassy), and freshman year, he sezied the nation’s attention, averaging 18 points, 6 boards, and 3 assists per. That he was NBA bound was more obvious than your average John Maddenism: Lopez was projected as a top-10 pick, a lottery lock. And then, as he will forever be remembered for, he pulled a Felipe Lopez.
Looking at his career average (16.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists), you wouldn’t think it was a bad choice. Lopez even led the Johnnies to the Dance his senior year. But the hype had faded. Think Julius Hodge’s career with freshman year hype like Greg Oden or Kevin Durant (Hodge should have learned his lesson—he was basically the second coming of Lopez). Just like Hodge, Lopez never really got better. He made many of the same mistakes his senior year that he made freshman year. Scouts overlook them when you’re a freshman. Not so much as a senior.
In ’98, the Spurs drafted Lopez with the 24th pick and immediately traded him to the Grizz (Vancouver style). Despite decent rookie numbers, Lopez never panned out in Canada: the Grizzlies had no market and no talent, and as a result, Lopez had no future. He bounced around the league for a few years—Washington, Minnesota, Dallas—and then disappeared, leaving only one thing in his wake: the knowledge that, if given the chance as a college player, you take the money. YOU TAKE THE MONEY!
And then I found him. Perhaps I should have been more active in my search for Felipe (Wikipedia is a wonderful site), but, as I said earlier, I forgot that I had forgotten… until Adam made me remember… and until Lang Whitaker gave me my answer (taken from Monday’s “Links: Heat at Knicks Game Notes.” Click here for full post):
“I ate dinner at a table with my main man Paul Forrester from SI.com and Felipe Lopez, who now does the Knicks radio broadcasts en espanol. I asked Felipe if he could pretty say whatever he wants about the team, since none of the Knicks players speak Spanish. He said no.”
And it’s as simple as that. He now speaks in Spanish instead of making millions playing a game (he did play for this squad in ’06-’07 though). Is he worse off for it? Who knows. If I were him in ’95 and had the gift of foresight, I would have declared for the Draft. I think he probably would have too. But maybe the world has its own way of sorting things out. Maybe it was all meant to be. Maybe, just maybe, Felipe Lopez was meant to go through his trials and tribulations so that one day a lone blogger would be inspired to start a column dedicated to finding those who need finding.
Or maybe Brad Daugherty would have had the same effect on me if Lopez had pulled a 50 Cent and laughed his way to the bank, NBA check in hand.
C- Cleveland Cavaliers
True hoop-heads know this: Brad Daugherty was a bad man. And if he hadn’t been riddled with injuries, who knows. There isn’t a biased history lesson or (a)moral story to go along with Daugherty like with Lopez–Daugherty did just fine for himself. His career was fruitful (save for MJ’s late-game, season-ending daggers against the Cavs) and he earned the respect of his peers. His low-key household name status retired when he did, and I just simply forgot about him unless I happened to catch an old North Carolina highlight or popped in Superstars 2 to watch clips of Mark Price embarrassing the league while sporting a preacher’s son haircut.
So it was a joyous surprise when yesterday, trying to find more football on TV, I accidentally stumbled onto a channel showing NASCAR (damn you ESPN, damn you).
To clarify, I think about NASCAR like school children think about cooties: it is a deadly plague that has no cure and no one knows how you contract it or what the extent of its wrath is. It’s true, I’m absolutely frightened that one day, out of nowhere, the NASCAR bug will strike me, and I will suddenly enjoy watching cars go in circles and start yelling things like “Shake’n’Bake” while inexplicably growing a Dale Earnhardt moustache.
Anyway, I intended to quickly change the channel so the evil race-car demons couldn’t jump through my television screen when I noticed a tall, black man in a suit. It took me a moment to recognize the figure…
A bout of uncontrollable laughter followed, and this is all you need to know about what Brad Daugherty now does to bide his time:
Tags: Brad Daugherty, Brandon Bass, Chris Porter, Dale Earnhardt, Eddy Curry, Felipe Lopez, Greg Oden, Harold Miner, John Madden, Julius Hodge, Kevin Durant, Lang Whitaker, Mark Price, Michael Jordan, Rashad McCants, Sebastian Telfair