- Created on 15 April 2013
The Santos Football Club of Brazil entered the city of Atlanta along with 'The King of Football,' Pelé on Aug. 28, 1968. In front of 26,713 spectators at the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the largest crowd ever at a soccer game in Atlanta, Pelé dazzled the crowd, scoring three goals and barely missing a fourth en route to a 6-2 victory of the city's professional team, the Atlanta Chiefs.
Pelé, who was the world's highest-paid athlete at the time, had become an integral role player to the growth of soccer in Atlanta. Atlanta's progression as a soccer powerhouse would eventually deteriorate just as fast as it began to flourish.
Today, the Atlanta Silverbacks, a revitalized minor league team of the North American Soccer League (NASL), are the last remaining fragments of a city that used to be a soccer Mecca. Atlanta is the largest television market without a Major League Soccer (MLS) team and the southeast is the only part of the country without a single MLS franchise.
"I believe that there is now a lot of potential here, Atlanta is a massive hub for everything," said Joe Nasco, goalkeeper for the Silverbacks. "Why wouldn't a MLS team look to come here to possibly start a team?"
Soccer has now become one of the top extracurricular activities amongst youth programs in the city's suburbs, and Atlanta has a long and storied history of the game that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century.
Atlanta can trace its soccer roots as far back as 1912 when amateur players gathered at Piedmont Park to play. Soon leagues began to develop during the 1920s and 1930s and Emory University became the first school in the state to form a collegiate soccer program in 1958.
The dynamics of soccer in Atlanta would soon change drastically after the 1966 World Cup in England. The success of the popular event spurred international interest in the sport, causing the launch of the NASL in 1967.
Dick Cecil, who had acquired a baseball team for Atlanta the year before from Milwaukee (the Atlanta Braves) also invested in the country's new venture and purchased professional soccer for the city.
The Atlanta Chiefs would play their first season in 1967 under head coach Phil Woosnam, who established a core roster of recruits from overseas. The Chiefs won the NASL's inaugural league title and Atlanta's first professional sports championship in 1968, catapulting the game of soccer citywide.
The Chiefs were able to finish as runners up to the NASL title in 1971 before being sold to the owners of the Atlanta Hawks in 1973. The franchise would change its name to the Atlanta Apollos and played at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The NASL was starting to struggle in the early 1970s, as 10 teams in the league folded. The Atlanta was one such victim, dismantling a growing soccer empire in 1972.
Atlanta entrepreneur Ted Turner tried to revitalize soccer in Atlanta in 1979 when he obtained ownership of the Colorado Caribous, another NASL franchise, and moved them to Atlanta, renaming the team the Chiefs. The franchise's second stint only lasted from 1979-1981 when it folded completely.
Soccer was at a standstill in Atlanta until the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. More than 1.8 million people were in attendance for the men's and women's soccer events during the summer games. Even though the preliminary matches before the medal rounds took place throughout the Southeast, all eyes of the soccer world were glued to Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia. It was there that Nigeria won the men's gold medal and the U.S. women's team defeated China for the gold.
The 1996 Olympics was the first year women's soccer was played as an Olympic medal sport. The U.S. gold medal game against China drew 76,481 spectators, a record number for people in attendance for a women-only sports event in the United States, re-announcing Atlanta's presence in the soccer world.
The American excitement over women's soccer eventually led to the formation of the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) in 2001. The city would receive its first professional soccer team in 20 years, the Atlanta Beat. The Beat were fairly successful, making it to the finals of the league championship twice. Atlanta was also home to the WUSA's headquarters.
Unfortunately after financial restructuring in three seasons, the league would suffer a collapse in 2003.
The Atlanta Beat would return in 2009 as members of a newly formed Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) league. The Beat played their games at Kennesaw State University Soccer Stadium until another league suspension in 2012.
Jahbari Willis, a native of Stone Mountain and forward for the Atlanta Silverbacks, grew up playing in what he called a 'melting pot' of players who became close knit due to the small nucleus of soccer in the area.
"It was extremely competitive growing up and there were fewer leagues," said Willis. "Now you're seeing a bunch of teams coming from different places and they're all filled with kids hungry to play, so I think the game has definitely grown during my time period."
The MLS is currently comprised of 19 teams, 16 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada. The growth of youth soccer in and around the city could lead to Atlanta becoming team number 20.
"The amount of people that are involved in soccer in Georgia alone is unbelievable and I know that the people would come out and support a professional soccer team," assistant coach Franklin McIntosh told the Daily World. "The stadium we have here, we're selling it out basically every week and a great indicator will be this summer with the Gold Cup because the quarterfinals are here in Georgia.
"I think if we have a good showing as far as attendance for those games, which will go a long way into maybe influencing some people's decisions into bringing a team here."
The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup is a tournament held every two years to determine the regional soccer champion of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The quarterfinals will be held in Atlanta in the Georgia Dome July 20.
"I think to Atlanta, the Silverbacks are a sign of professional soccer growing and the popularity of soccer in Atlanta not only, but the U.S.," said Willis. "It's a homing beacon, every year there is growth and expansion and with this group we have now, this is basically our year to say that Atlanta soccer is ready to be a part of the big sports world."
The Silverbacks, who won their season opener last Saturday, will host their second home game of the season against the Minnesota United Saturday, Apr 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park in Chamblee.
- Created on 15 April 2013
There is no question that Brittney Griner is a spectacular women’s basketball player. She’s a 6’8”, 208-pound beast who is the all-time NCAA leader in blocks – for men and women – and is probably player in women’s college basketball today. She’s the best player in the history of Baylor basketball, the best defensive player in women’s NCAA history and her impact on every game she plays in is undeniable.
She’s the three-time Big 12 Player of the Year, four-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a three-time AP All-American (twice first team, once second team), she’s an NCAA champion and 2012’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player and Player of the Year. In 2012, she blocked more shots by herself than any other Division I women’s team. She did that while averaging 23 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks per game.
She is a phenom who can bring two-way dominance to the next level in the WNBA and immediately change the fortunes of whatever team she joins.
Any other year it would be positively foolish not to take her with the number one overall pick, but this is not any other year. In 1984, the Portland Trailblazers had the second pick in the draft and used it on Sam Bowie, a 7'1" star center with a great college career who everyone thought was the smart pick. With the next pick the Chicago Bulls drafted Michael Jordan.
The WNBA Draft will be televised in primetime for the first time in the league’s history, Monday night at ESPN’s headquarters at 8 p.m.
The Phoenix Mercury have the top pick and in this year’s draft there is a transformative figure who is going to change the face of women’s sports and the face of basketball. She will be not just the next big thing, but the biggest thing we’ve ever seen in women’s athletics at any level.
Skylar Diggins, if she so chooses, is going to be the Michael Jordan of women’s basketball. She will take the WNBA to a new level, in terms of exposure, popularity and revenue.
Great players with the size and skill of Griner and Elena Delle Done (6’5” with deep range and a serious handle) don’t come around often, but transformative figures like Diggins come around once in a generation, maybe once in a lifetime.
The WNBA has been looking for its Michael Jordan since it was launched and this is one pick that absolutely has to be made with the understanding that it is bigger than next season.
First, and let’s just get this out of the way now, Skylar Diggins is gorgeous. There have been attractive female basketball players before, but Diggins is something else. Celebrities like Lil Wayne have taken a shine to Diggins and even made trips to see her play. This will only increase as her exposure at the pro level grows. It’s hard to look good running up and down a basketball court for two hours, but she pulls it off very, very well.
But she’s not just a pretty face with a little bit of game. Diggins’ up-tempo, high-risk, high-energy style is going to be a huge fan draw. She’s not afraid to dive for a loose ball, throw a pass behind her back, argue with referees or chest bump a teammate after a big play. Her heady mix of exuberance, intelligence and enthusiasm on the court make her fun to watch and a fun teammate with whom other stars want to be on the court. Her presence makes her teammates better, the game faster and gets the fans excited. Fans may come to stare at her beauty, but they’ll stay to watch her game.
Most importantly, Skylar Diggins has “it,” that unexplainable star quality that just makes people want to be around her. She’s a smart and savvy young woman off the court and she’s not afraid to cry, as she did after a big win over UConn in 2012; or make a wise crack, as she did when being interviewed during halftime of Notre Dame’s final home game this season; or shut a reporter down, as she did when she didn’t like a question following the team’s 2012 tournament loss to the Huskies.
She lives for the big shot and the big moment and she’s not afraid to come up short. She plays with emotion and heart and, quite frankly, her swag is off the charts.
If she makes the right calls and surrounds herself with the right people, she’ll be a household name with more endorsement offers than she has time to say no to and an adoring public eager to eat from the palm of her hand.
Brittney Griner and Elena Della Donne are great, impact players who will likely have long, storied careers in the WNBA, but Skylar Diggins is more than a player, she is the future. The franchise(s) that passes on her will regret it for years and years to come.
- Created on 12 April 2013
'3 To See' Headline List Of Top College Prospects of WNBA Draft - ESPN2 to Telecast First Round Live in Primetime
The "3 to See" – Elena Delle Donne of Delaware, Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame, and Baylor's Brittney Griner – headline a list of 12 prospects invited to attend the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, which will be held on Monday, April 15 at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
Rounding out the list are guards Alex Bentley (Penn State), Layshia Clarendon (California), Kelly Faris (Connecticut), Tayler Hill (Ohio State), Lindsey Moore (Nebraska) and Sugar Rodgers (Georgetown); forwards Tianna Hawkins (Maryland) and Toni Young (Oklahoma State); and center Kelsey Bone (Texas A&M).
A 6-8 native of Houston, Griner finished her collegiate career ranked first all-time in Women's NCAA Division I history in blocks (748) and dunks (18), and second in points (3,283) and double-figure scoring games (146-of-148). Her blocks total actually paces both women and men – topping the 564 of Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado – while her 18 dunks account for 54.5 percent of the 33 total dunks by college women.
Diggins, a four-time All-America and two-time Big East "Player of the Year," led the Fighting Irish to three consecutive Final Four berths, and finished her career as Notre Dame's career leader in points and steals, and also ranks second in assists. The 5-9 guard also became one of the most popular players in collegiate sports and a social media celebrity; her Twitter account (@SkyDigg4) has grown to over 300,000 followers.
A 6-5 guard/forward, Donne led the nation in scoring as a junior and finished second as a senior. The Wilmington, Del., native's 33 points in the school's first Sweet 16 game ever (vs. Kentucky) moved her past Cheryl Miller, Chamique Holdsclaw, and Maya Moore into fifth place in NCAA history in career points (3,039).
Bentley earned All-Big Ten First Team honors three times and was twice a member of the conference's All-Defensive Team. Clarendon led the 2012-13 Golden Bears to their first 30-win season and first NCAA Final Four berth. Faris helped UConn reach the Final Four in each of her four seasons, and led the Huskies to their eighth national championship earlier this week.
Hill, the No. 5 scorer in Ohio State annals, capped her career as the Big Ten's scoring leader this past season. Moore was a two-time finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the nation's top point guard in women's Division I basketball. Rodgers, the most decorated player in Georgetown women's basketball history and the program's all-time leading scorer, earned a spot on the All-Big East First Team in each of her four campaigns.
Hawkins, the ACC's third-leading scorer and No. 2 rebounder this season, is only the third Terrapins player with 1,000 career boards. As a senior, Bone ranked first, second, and third in the SEC, respectively, in field goal percentage, rebounding, and scoring en route to All-America Third Team honors. Young, who didn't begin playing basketball or high-jumping until her second year of high school, has vaulted to prominence both as a top WNBA prospect and as a participant in last year's U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track & field.
Where the Teams Stand
And Where To Tune In
The Phoenix Mercury holds the top pick in the WNBA Draft for the third time in franchise history. In 2004, the Mercury used the No. 1 pick to select Diana Taurasi from the University of Connecticut and in the 2007 Draft they chose Duke's Lindsey Harding. Rounding out this year's top five picks are the Chicago Sky (second), Tulsa Shock (third), Washington Mystics (fourth), and the New York Liberty (fifth).
The 2013 WNBA Draft will make history as it will be televised on Prime Time television for the first time in the league's 17-year history. ESPN2 will provide coverage and analysis of the first round beginning at 8 p.m. ET from ESPN in Bristol, Conn. ESPNU will air the second and third rounds beginning at 9 p.m. ET. The telecast will also be available online at WatchESPN.com and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app. Host Kevin Negandhi, analysts Rebecca Lobo and Carolyn Peck, along with reporters Holly Rowe and LaChina Robinson, will handle draft coverage duties throughout the night.
WNBA.com, in addition to providing comprehensive draft-day coverage, will serve as the web destination for fans who want to track top prospects throughout the Draft.
The players invited to attend the 2013 WNBA Draft telecast from ESPN are:
Name College/University Position Height
Alex Bentley Penn State Guard 5'7"
Kelsey Bone Texas A&M Center 6'4"
Layshia Clarendon California Guard 5'9"
Elena Delle Donne Delaware Guard/Forward 6'5"
Skylar Diggins Notre Dame Guard 5'9"
Kelly Faris Connecticut Guard 5'11"
Brittney Griner Baylor Center 6'8"
Tianna Hawkins Maryland Forward 6'3"
Tayler Hill Ohio State Guard 6'0"
Lindsey Moore Nebraska Guard 5'9"
Sugar Rodgers Georgetown Guard 5'11"
Toni Young Oklahoma State Forward 6'2"
- Created on 12 April 2013
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday he was organizing a 17-member diversity task force that will investigate and discuss the issues concerning the on-field participation by African Americans in the majors.
"I don't want to miss any opportunity here," Selig said. "We want to find out if we're not doing well, why not, and what we need to do better. We'll meet as many times as we need to to come to meaningful decisions.
The numbers show that on opening day only 8.5 percent of players on the 25-man MLB rosters were African American, while the World Series champion San Francisco Giants and several other teams had no African Americans on their roster.
According to new research conducted by Mark Armour, from the Society of American Baseball Research, the highest percentage of African Americans playing in the majors was in 1986.
"I really think our history is so brilliant when it comes to African-Americans," Selig said. "You think about the late 1940s, the 1950s — wow. And you look at that and you say to yourself, 'Why did it not continue, and what could we do to make sure it does continue?' "
The diversity task force will have its first meeting in Milwaukee with Dave Dombrowski who is the president of the Detroit Tigers and also serves as the chairman of the committee.
Other committee include: Bernard Muir, the athletic director at Stanford, Frank Marcos, the director of baseball's scouting bureau, former Mets manager Jerry Manuel and other front office executives.
- Created on 12 April 2013
After playing two completely different games against one team in six days, the Hawks game tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks could easily set the tone for how the team will play through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.
Wednesday night's 23 point victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly showed the team the Hawks can be, but so did the team's 101-90 loss to those same Sixers a week ago.
"Somewhere along the line we've forgotten who we need to be," said Hawks coach Larry Drew after the loss at home. "Within these last couple weeks we've lost that. We're not grinding, we're not starting the game with energy. This is familiar."
It's very familiar. The inconsistency has been there all season and as the playoffs loom the Hawks will need to play more like the team they were Wednesday night and less like the team that lost three straight games just before.
Josh Smith led the team against the 76ers Wednesday with 28 points and 12 rebounds, dishing out four assists as well. It was the ninth time in his career he had put up those numbers. Smith is third in Hawks history when it comes to getting those stats in multiple games. Dominique Wilkins did it 15 times and Walt Bellamy had 10 such performances.
The good Josh Smith seems to go along with the good Hawks team. In the embarrassing home loss to the 76ers, Smith had a deceptive 19 points and only six rebounds. The moment that typified the night came with 7:26 remaining in the first quarter when the forward couldn't be bothered to pick a loose ball up from the ground and it rolled out of bounds for a turnover.
But it's not just Smith whose play has been hard to comprehend from game to game. The team hasn't put together more than two wins in a row since mid March and those three victories came on the heels of three straight losses.
Just as the team has had some memorable wins, the Hawks have found new and interesting ways to lose this season. After previously struggling to finish games in the fourth quarter and then giving away halftime leads in the third early in the season, Atlanta ceded 40 points to the 76ers in the first quarter of the April 5 game and never recovered.
"I'm very concerned we're not coming out with urgency," Drew said. "The intensity and urgency is not where it should be. My concern is the mentality of our team."
The players seemed less worried about their identity crisis than their coach, though.
"It's too late in the season to still try and find our identity," Smith said. "We've got to know and play it to the 'T'."
Point guard Jeff Teague echoed that sentiment.
"We know who we are," said Teague. "We're an up-tempo, tough defensive team. When we're playing like that we're tough to beat."
Tough defense and quick pace are two things that have helped the Hawks win all season, but on certain nights both are conspicuously absent without explanation.
The playoff-bound Bucks are in need of a win after dropping two in a row, four of their last five and nine of their last 12 games. They're a team the good Hawks should beat, but guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, along with big man Larry Sanders, will take advantage if the bad Hawks take the floor.
With just three games remaining in the regular season and a chance to move up in the playoff standings still a real possibility, the Hawks need the blue collar, tough defensive, up-tempo team to show up at Philips Arena tonight and for the remainder of the season. Whether or not they do will likely determine how long that season is.