SB Nation

Chris Mottram | December 30, 2013

Year in Longform 2013

The year in Longform13 of our favorite SB Nation features from ‘13
The last shot Michael Graff

Earl Badu hit one of the most famous shots in Maryland basketball history. Ten years later, he jumped off a bridge.

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The last shot Michael Graff

You know the wish can’t come true, but people say it all the time to hide their own fears, so you’ll open with it, too: You wish he could just be happy. It would be easier that way. You could just hang curtains around everything else—the past, the future, the end—and you could look down through a tunnel at him and say, Freeze. Stay right there. And he’d remain locked in this memory, the little guy with the big heart playing in the final minute of the final game of a storied arena.

Of course, it can’t stay this way. But let’s entertain the idea for a moment.

It’s March 3, 2002. The final night at Cole Field House. The building is loud tonight. The University of Maryland’s basketball team has played here for 47 years, but Cole means more than that. In the 1960s, this was where five black men from Texas Western beat five white men from Kentucky. In the 1970s, this was where a coach named Lefty came out of the tunnel before each game to “Hail to the Chief.” But this is also a place for the ordinary man. Your uncles have long told you stories of sneaking in late at night to play one-on-one in the dark.

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20 minutes at Rucker Park Flinder Boyd

A streetballer's cross-country journey from the Deepest Part of Hell to take his shot on New York's most storied basketball court.

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20 minutes at Rucker Park Flinder Boyd

Thomas "TJ" Webster Jr. waits impatiently for the ball to be tossed in the air. The only white player on the court, he can sense the eyes of the few dozen spectators lounging around the steel and plastic bleachers.

At half court, the sole referee delicately balances the ball on his fingertips while simultaneously judging the slight breeze coming off the Harlem River.

Across the street, rising out of the ground where the once famed Polo Grounds stood and Willie Mays tracked down fly balls, four, 30-story housing projects known as the Polo Ground Towers loom ominously over Holcombe Rucker Park.

TJ anxiously tugs at his long, black shorts once, then again. The tattoos that start at his wrist and crawl toward his slender biceps glisten under the sun. At 5'11 with a lithe upper body that more resembles that of a tennis player, he doesn't seem built for this game, or, perhaps, this place.

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The prospect Brandon Sneed

Montaous Walton made up a fake persona, fooled scouts, signed with agents and ended up in handcuffs

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The prospect Brandon Sneed

Montaous Walton, now 29 years old, says his story should be titled "The Dream Chaser" and in a sense, that would be right, but only almost. There are other titles one could choose, names given Montaous by others, like "The Fraud," or "The Con Artist"—but those wouldn’t be quite right, either.

Many of us have known boys like Montaous, or even have been a boy like Montaous, a boy with a dream to play baseball. On some days we may even still be that boy, because even when our dreams fall short of glory, every once in a while our minds go back, because dreams don’t always die when careers do. Sometimes, no matter how grown up we have become, that little boy inside takes over. We let ourselves believe in the fantasy, where we get everything that we wanted as children.

We don’t do this because we don’t like our lives now—we’re not even unhappy. We do this because, before we cared about sex or romance, before we had to get real jobs, before the world got complicated, we just loved sports, and someone told us, "Follow your dreams." Playing in the big leagues was something that promised to solve all problems, and satisfy every desire. The ultimate dream.

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Elegy of a race car driver Jeremy Markovich

The good times, hard life and shocking death of Dick Trickle

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Elegy of a race car driver Jeremy Markovich

Sometime after 10:30 on a Thursday morning in May, after he'd had his cup of coffee, Dick Trickle snuck out of the house. His wife didn't see him go. He eased his 20-year-old Ford pickup out on the road and headed toward Boger City, N.C., 10 minutes away. He drove down Highway 150, a two-lane road that cuts through farm fields and stands of trees and humble country homes that dot the Piedmont west of Charlotte, just outside the reach of its suburban sprawl. Trickle pulled into a graveyard across the street from a Citgo station. He drove around to the back. It was sunny. The wind blew gently from the west. Just after noon, he dialed 911. The dispatcher asked for his address.

"Uh, the Forest Lawn, uh, Cemetery on 150," he said, his voice calm. The dispatcher asked for his name. He didn't give it.

"On the backside of it, on the back by a ‘93 pickup, there's gonna be a dead body," he said.

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Requiem for a welterweight Brin-Jonathan Butler

Manny Pacquiao may be broke, but is he broken, too?

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Requiem for a welterweight Brin-Jonathan Butler

After eight frustrating years, four controversial fights, 42 contentiously scored rounds, with over 500 punches landed from more than 1,800 thrown, after two grueling hours of opportunity under the spotlight, on Dec. 8, 2012, Juan Manuel Marquez finally landed the punch of a lifetime against Manny Pacquiao. It happened with just one second left in the sixth round of their mythic saga. Pacquiao charged forward to land one final blow before the bell, and instead added his own momentum to Marquez's immaculately-timed, coup de grace right-hand, which landed flush against Pacquiao's jaw. On TV, when the punch landed, Pacquiao's back was to the camera. The reverberations of the impact were only detectable through the sudden jolt of Pacquiao's wet hair on the back of his head.

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The importance of being Francesa Joe DePaolo

The man behind the Mike.

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The importance of being Francesa Joe DePaolo

The clip, all of 1 minute 23 seconds in duration, spread across the Internet with the speed and precision of a missile strike. In the 10 weeks after it was first posted on YouTube, it received approximately 715,000 views. It was originally uploaded onto the popular video portal by someone with the username “sportspope.”

That username serves as an homage to the clip’s subject – veteran New York sportstalk radio broadcaster Mike Francesa. “Sports Pope” is the moniker by which Francesa is commonly addressed in the column of New York Daily News sports media critic Bob Raissman – who deems him to be all-knowing, and dismissive of his audience.

Mike Francesa doesn’t know who sportspope is, per se. But he has an image of sportspope, and his or her ilk, firmly planted in his head.

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Robot wars Rick Paulas

Oral history on the birth and death of BattleBots.

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Robot wars Rick Paulas

Marin County, Calif., 1992. The Internet has yet to take hold, Jay Leno is the fresh new face of "The Tonight Show," Bill Clinton has just shown off his saxophone bona fides on "Arsenio Hall," and Comedy Central is four years away from the premiere of "The Daily Show" starring Craig Kilborn.

Meanwhile, the best and brightest engineering minds that money can buy gather at Skywalker Ranch, the creative compound filmmaker George Lucas built with his "Star Wars" money, and the nearby headquarters of Industrial Light & Magic. The various departments of Lucas' empire are incestuous and without many barriers; employees cross from one department to the next as easily as Darth Vader crushes necks with his mind. Besides ILM and LucasFilms, a newly created LucasToys division is charged with creating toy replicas of your child's favorite on-screen heroes. Among the toy designers is 44-year-old Marc Thorpe, who prepares a new product pitch for a meeting with Mattel.

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Poster boys Amy K. Nelson

How the Costacos Brothers built a wall art empire.

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Poster boys Amy K. Nelson

SEATTLE, 1984 – It all began with Prince. Naturally. One morning in his grandparents' house that sat atop his home city, John Costacos – just 23 years old – awoke to hearing “Purple Rain” on the radio.

A University of Washington graduate whose football team had the best defense in the country at the time, Costacos came up with the idea of making a "Purple Reign" T-shirt to honor the team, featuring a lineman in a purple jersey falling from a cloud in the sky. Costacos printed up the shirts, traveled to a road game at Stanford one fall weekend and sold them in the parking lot. The idea was brilliant. By the end of the first week, he later estimated he had sold 20,000.

An idea was born. Along with his older brother, Tock, he parlayed those T-shirts into series of sports-themed posters that, like that first T-shirt, played on pop culture. Together, they created one of the most influential businesses in the history of sports marketing. Its lasting impact eventually would extend all the way to a New York City art gallery, where, 25 years later, those posters were viewed as art and sold for thousands. At one show Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White bought the entire gallery collection.

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The legend of Malacrianza Ashley Harrell and Lindsay Fendt

Costa Rica’s badass, killer toro.

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The legend of Malacrianza Ashley Harrell and Lindsay Fendt

The sun has not risen yet over Garza, a tiny fishing village on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, but already there is movement. On one side of the town’s dirt road, the tide folds itself over the shore, and a monkey howls from behind the pink blossoms of a roble beech tree. On the eastern side, where pastureland stretches into to the mountains, two men on horseback are gathering the bulls.

“Ya! Asi!” one man urges from his horse as he chases a ghost-white Brahman bull from the pasture into a round paddock, where he will be kept with the others until it is time for the show.

Tonight — a Sunday night in March — the townspeople will empty out of the local Catholic church and congregate in a nearby field for an affair held in equal regard. They call it a corrida, which literally means, “run.” What it actually means here is rodeo — and these events largely resemble a typical American rodeo — but some people would call it a bullfight. They would not be entirely wrong.

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Two carries, six yards Jeff Pearlman

When the Chargers acquired former No. 1 pick Ricky Bell in 1982, they thought they were adding a valuable piece to the backfield. Two years later, he was dead.

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Two carries, six yards Jeff Pearlman

When the trade was consummated, Ricky Bell smiled.

He smiled. And smiled. And smiled. And smiled. And smiled. He smiled toward friends. He smiled toward relatives. He smiled toward old teammates and new teammates and strangers who wished him well. He smiled toward business partners; toward his barber; toward waiters and repairmen and bellhops.

Ricky Bell -- brand new member of the 1982 San Diego Chargers -- could not stop smiling.

Over the past few years, Bell had resided within a sort of tropical football hell. The front office of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- the team that selected him first overall in the 1977 NFL Draft, then decimated his body by having him run behind one subpar offensive line after another -- had repeatedly questioned his heart and dedication.

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I am Royce White Scott Neumyer

Living and working with anxiety disorder.

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I am Royce White Scott Neumyer

I am Royce White.

I am not 6’ 8. I can barely grow a beard, much less one of the epic varieties that White often sports. I’ve never been named “Mr. Basketball” in Minnesota, or anywhere else for that matter. In fact, my basketball career ended before I finished high school.

I’m also not a former top-five NCAA basketball player, nor was I the 16th overall selection of the 2012 NBA Draft. Royce White plays basketball better than most people on the planet. I’ve merely worked typical 9-to-5 office jobs, worked in publicity, and I’m a journalist with credits for ESPN, Wired, Esquire, Details, and many other outlets.

So it’s clear that I’m not, in fact, Royce White. Physically and financially, White and I are worlds apart. Despite these differences, however, in the one way that might matter the most, I am Royce White.

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The saga of Dan Kendra Mark Winegardner

The rise, fall and happy landing of the nation’s top recruit.

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The saga of Dan Kendra Mark Winegardner

Twenty years ago, every wise man in college football cast his regal gaze upon a star rising over in the little town of Bethlehem (Pa.).

For it had come to pass that, nestled in this holy land of quarterbacks—Unitas and Namath, Montana and Marino—there was a humble, free-spirited, golden-haired boy, born in the year of his country’s bicentennial, whose daring feats of wonder seemed like nothing of this cold and wretched earth.

The boy’s name was Dan Kendra. And he was the stuff of legend.

He could run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds. He could bench press almost 400 pounds. He could leap so high he’d been penalized for stepping on the helmet of an upright defender. His right arm was so mighty that all who beheld it sought comparisons to implements of war (gun; pistol; rifle; rocket; Howitzer) and so accurate that he’d begun to erase the schoolboy records of the Pennsylvania legends who had come before. He once scored eight touchdowns in a game, four running and four passing. He wasn’t perfect; like any QB, he threw the occasional interception. But the first one he ever threw in a high school game (Kendra was actually an eighth-grader, playing up a level) was swiftly followed by him making a clean tackle so hard it broke the other kid’s arm in three places.

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No sleep til Fairbanks Eva Holland

The 1000 mile dogsled race across the Yukon.

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No sleep til Fairbanks Eva Holland

Brent Sass was ready. His sled bag was loaded, and his dogs were screaming to run, flinging themselves forward against their harnesses, rearing into the air, barking and crying for the trail ahead.

Sass, a veteran 33-year-old dog musher, tall and lean with a dark ponytail and scruffy beard, moved up and down the line, leaning in close and murmuring a few final words to each animal. On either side of him, a handful of photographers and videographers in snow pants and heavy winter coveralls sprawled in the snow to get their shots; fans with tiny point-and-shoots were scattered around the mouth of the steep, narrow chute that would lead Sass’ team down onto the frozen Yukon River, and a checkpoint volunteer in a reflective safety vest stood nearby, pen poised over a clipboard. The noise of the dogs increased as Sass returned to his sled, stood on the runners, and waited as the final seconds ticked down. Then he pulled up his snow hook and was gone.

He was the fourth musher to depart Dawson City, the halfway point of the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race, after a mandatory 40-hour layover. Ahead of him, his rivals were already racing downriver towards the Alaska-Yukon border; their dogs had played out the same frantic scene at their appointed hours earlier that day.

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Designers Josh Laincz, Georgia CowleyDeveloper Josh LainczProducer Chris MottramSpecial Thanks Glenn Stout

About the Author

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Executive Producer, SBNation.com. Fan of D.C.-area sporting teams and craft beer. Living in Charlotte, N.C.

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