Today in Sports History: October 29th

10/29/1996 - NBA announces 50 greatest

In commemoration of the league's 50th anniversary, the National Basketball Association announces a list of the 50 greatest players of all time. Also announced were the 10 greatest teams of all time -- one of which was the '95-96 Bulls team that had just won 72 games -- and the 10 greatest coaches of all time.

11 of the 50 members on the anniversary team were still active and playing: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, Robert Parish -- who had just signed onto the Bulls for his final season -- David Robinson, Charles Barkley, and, most notably, Shaquille O'Neal. None of the 50 players had put in as little work as the 24 year-old O'Neal, who had only been in the league for four years.

O'Neal's numbers were so phenomenal (at least 23 points and 11 rebounds in his first four years) that the voting committee had no problem putting him in. Many former players were upset that O'Neal had been selected in place of someone more venerable. However, the induction proved to be well-deserved. Shaq went on to win multiple championships and was undeniably one of the greatest centers of all time.

However, Shaq added further controversy when the 50 greatest players were introduced at the 1997 All-Star Game. Of the 49 living members (Pete Maravich had passed away), only Jerry West and Shaquille O'Neal were not present at the ceremony. West was having a nasal surgery that prevented him from flying, while O'Neal was recovering from a sprained knee and had been told by the Lakers physician that he shouldn't fly either. However, Barkley, Ewing, and Drexler were all injured, and the three of them were at the game. When O'Neal's name was announced to the Cleveland crowd, O'Neal was roundly booed -- a first for someone receiving such an honor.

10/29/2005 - Weis given big money

Just seven games into the college football season, the University of Notre Dame hands first-year coach Charlie Weis a 10-year extension worth $30-40 million. The unprecedented deal made Weis the richest man in college athletics and upset many people who felt it was unfair. Ty Willingham, the Fighting Irish's previous coach and the only black coach in school history, went 8-0 to begin his coaching career but was not rewarded with an extension. In contrast, Weis was only 5-2 at the time.

Nonetheless, the school was more than happy to give the vote of confidence to Weis, who had made a name for himself as the offensive coordinator of the back-to-back-champion New England Patriots. At the time, Notre Dame was ranked No. 9 in the nation and was just a few weeks past their last-second loss to USC in the "Bush Push" game. After eight years of disappointing results from Bob Davie and Willingham, Notre Dame was confident that Weis had restored the program to greatness.

At first the contract seemed merited. Despite losses in the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls, Notre Dame went 9-3 and 10-3 in 2005 and 2006. It was in 2007 however, after starting quarterback Brady Quinn left for the NFL, the team fell apart. They posted a horrible 3-9 record in 2007, setting school records for total futility and most losses to begin a season (five). The Irish did little better in 2008 and 2009 with 7-6 and 6-6 marks. By the end of the 2009 campaign, even Charlie Weis knew where his fate lied, saying, "If they decide to make a change, I'd have to say I'd have a tough time arguing with that."

Shortly thereafter, Weis was fired from Notre Dame with six years still left on his contract. Brian Kelly, who had led undefeated Cincinnati to No. 3 in the nation, was named his replacement.

10/29/2008 - Phillies end drought, win World Series

The Philadelphia Phillies defeat the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the World Series, giving them their first championship in 28 years and ending a half-century of local futility. The Phillies' win should have come two days earlier, when the first six innings of Game 5 took place. But a lengthy rainstorm ultimately forced the game to be suspended, the first time that had ever happened in the World Series. It was still raining the following day so the final three innings took place on the 29th. Cole Hamels was named the series MVP.

Prior to the Phillies' victory, the city of Philadelphia had gone 25 years without winning a championship, the longest streak of any American city with four major sports teams. Many people attributed this to the curse of William Penn, of whom the state of Pennsylvania was named after -- for years, there had been a gentlemen's agreement in Philadelphia not to construct anything taller than the city hall building, which featured a statue of William Penn on the top of it. But in 1987, the One Liberty Place skyscraper became the tallest building in Philadelphia -- exceeding the bust of Mr. Penn.

From there, it was nothing but heartbreak and disappointment for Philly sports fans, as the Eagles, Flyers, Sixers, and Phillies continued to disappoint on an annual basis. As they years grew, their last championship had still occurred in 1983, when the 76ers swept the L.A. Lakers.

24 years after their last title, the Comcast Center was opened to the public for the first time. Recognizing that the city hadn't won anything since One Liberty Place broke ground, a small William Penn statue was hoisted to the top of the building, which had become the tallest-constructed skyscraper in the city. Just one year later, the Phillies won it all.

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