Nine slam-dunk sports opinions

It's impossible to consume the thousands of items posted to ESPN.com each week. Here are nine lively, opinionated pieces you might have missed because you were too busy ordering wings for NFL playoff parties.

Dunk contest: Must-see no more
by Marc Silverman, ESPN Chicago
LeBron James promised to turn this year's dunk contest back into can't-miss TV, but he recently backed out.

Instead, we get more Nate Robinson. (Wasn't he recently benched for shooting at his own hoop?) There's also DeMar DeRozan, Eric Gordon (isn't he a 3-point shooter?), Gerald Wallace and Shannon Brown. In 1988 I was witnessing Hall of Famers. Now, not only are these guys not NBA stars -- a couple don't even start for their team.

I'm with Shaq. We deserve to see James take on Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant, and other stars. Read full post »

The best rivalry in sports
by John Buccigross, SportsCenter
The best rivalry in sports?

Easy, Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin.

... these two athletes are opposites. Ovechkin the extrovert, Crosby the introvert. Ovechkin the shooter, Crosby the playmaker. Ovechkin the Russian, Crosby the Canadian. The two have sniped at each other in the media adding fuel to the matchup. Crosby is not a fan of some of Ovechkin's goal-scoring antics and Ovechkin doesn't care what Crosby thinks. An added bit of intrigue is Ovechkin's fellow countryman, Evgeni Malkin, is on the Crosby's team.

There are over 1,000 NHL regular season games. None approach the emotion and electricity of a Penguin-Capital, Ovechkin-Crosby matchup. It's the best rivalry in sports. The most intense. The one with the most genuine acrimony. Read full post »

Maybe Duquette was on to something
by Gordon Edes, ESPN Boston
It's not an original thought -- my colleague Mark Feinsand from the New York Daily News raised the same issue long before it creased this brainpan -- but after reading Carlton Fisk diss Roger Clemens, it occurred to me that the next time I run into Dan Duquette, I may owe him an apology. ...

"The Red Sox and our fans were fortunate," Duquette said, "to see Roger Clemens play in his prime and we had hoped to keep him in Boston during the twilight of his career."

... Clemens missed no opportunity to rip Duquette after he left Boston. And neither did the media, present company included. Turns out the darkness might have been kinder to Clemens if he had allowed it to come in its own good time. Read full post »

Court-storming takes a turn for the dumb
by Eamonn Brennan, College Basketball Nation Blog
On Saturday, Michigan beat No. 15 UConn at the Crisler Arena. Despite this being an unusually down UConn team (11-6 with four other road losses), and despite the Wolverines having been ranked in the top 25 before the season started only to fall flat once everyone started, you know, playing basketball ... Michigan's fans stormed the court. This was egregious.

Then, Indiana fans decided to up the ante. Not satisfied with letting Michigan's students steal their thunder, Indiana's fans stormed the court after -- get this -- a home win over Minnesota. A home win over Minnesota! Minnesota! Who is not ranked! Who is not a particularly impressive opponent, presently or historically! Minnesota! MINNESOTA!

This might be the single worst court-storm in the history of storming the court. There has never been anything quite so bad. Read full post »

Not buying what Floyd's selling

by Arash Markazi, ESPN Los Angeles
Excuse me if I have a hard time digesting Tim Floyd's complaints about the lack of support he got from the USC athletic department at the end of his investigation-filled four-year stint as the USC men's basketball coach.

While the USC men's basketball team serves a one-year postseason ban along with other self-imposed sanctions, Floyd and O.J. Mayo, who are at the center of an ongoing NCAA investigation, embraced each other Wednesday night in New Orleans before playing each other. Floyd is now an assistant coach for the New Orleans Hornets and Mayo is the starting shooting guard for the Memphis Grizzlies.

The mess they left behind at USC is about 2,000 miles away and a seemingly forgotten memory at this point. How else to explain both of their contentions that they did absolutely nothing wrong during their time at USC?

Apparently all the evidence of wrongdoing that USC found in its internal investigation was meaningless. The self-imposed sanctions on the men's basketball team after those findings were unnecessary. And there's nothing to worry about with the ongoing NCAA investigation into the matter. Read full column »

Should Jim Calhoun retire?
by Eamonn Brennan, College Basketball Nation Blog
With the caveat that it doesn't matter what any of us think, and that this isn't advice so much as a musing on the status of a legendary college hoops coach ... yes. Yes. Jim Calhoun needs to retire. There has never been a better time. ...

Logic, apparently, had nothing to do with it. Calhoun wants to compete. Lest we forget, this is the same man who crashed his bike in a charity race, broke five of his ribs, and pedaled the remaining 38 miles to the finish. I don't have to spell out the metaphorical relevance here. This is not a man who walks away.

But [Seth] Davis is right: He should. Sure, it's his life, and he can do what he wants. He's earned that right. And it's not like he cares what anybody else, let alone a blogger sitting in his basement (literally, right now, I'm sitting in my basement, har har), thinks. But rarely have so many factors pointed toward a coach's retirement. For once, Calhoun should say the dreaded "q" word. He should quit. It's a shame geeks like me would even have to write it. Read full post »

Billick baffled by Bills' lack of interest
by Tim Graham, AFC East Blog
One prominent agent who represents coaches told me the Bills front office, and owner Ralph Wilson in particular, simply didn't have an appetite for some hopefuls. We're learning who a few those wallflowers are.

Sources close to Marty Schottenheimer told me Tuesday he wanted to the job.

Now Brian Billick is speaking up. ...

[Chan] Gailey isn't an awful choice. He has fine credentials.

But why the Bills wouldn't at least interview Schottenheimer or Billick is beyond me. Read full post »

NHL needs JR's sharp tongue
by Jesse Rogers, ESPN Chicago
Jeremy Roenick should become the Charles Barkley of hockey. Hockey could use him.

After his stint on NBC during the Hawks-Wings game Sunday, he's officially passed over to the "other" side. So why not take that outspoken charm he had for 20 years on the ice and use it to energize the sport from the broadcast booth?

Nothing against the Versus crew, but the next time they're confused with the guys on TNT, who cover the NBA, it will be the first time. The TNT crew have chemistry, are entertaining, and Barkley will call out players and teams like a couch potato who just lost a bet. Yes, this is what hockey needs. Canada has Don Cherry. The U.S.? Brian Engbloom? Please. Read full post »

Vikings should have let up
by Josh Elliott, SportsCenter
[Merrill Hoge] said he liked that the Vikings finished as they started, embracing the axiom offered up by Brad Childress afterward...that it's his offense's job to try to score, and the other team's defense's job to stop it. Which is, in a vacuum, true.

But it's a coach's job to realize when the other team is beaten...when it's perhaps not wise to put your 40-year-old quarterback in harm's (re: Demarcus Ware's) way by asking him to throw a meaningless pass in a game already decided...when it's best to embrace another axiom, that discretion (re: a handoff into the line) is the better part of valor. Read full post »