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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Joe Caldwell: Banned from Basketball

Joe Caldwell starred at Arizona State University and has been inducted in both the ASU Hall of Fame and the PAC-10 Hall of Fame. He won an Olympic gold medal in 1964 and became an All-Star in the NBA and the ABA before his pro career abruptly ended. Three decades later, he still seeks the money and respect that he believes he is owed. Here is a link to my HoopsHype.com article about the player whose amazing jumping ability earned him the nickname "Pogo Joe":

Joe Caldwell: Banned from Basketball

Joe Caldwell's story is fascinating on many levels; he had an excellent college career, he treasures his Olympic experiences above all of his basketball accomplishments, he starred in two leagues and, last but not least, he has been engaged in various legal battles with the ABA and the NBA for well over 30 years. He won some--unlike many players who jumped leagues, Caldwell did not have to sit out a season--and lost others. I touch on some of those legal battles in my article but it really would take a book to do them justice. For those who are interested to read Joe Caldwell’s entire story in his own words, his autobiography, titled Banned from Basketball, can be ordered here. Caldwell levels some pretty serious charges, both in conversations that I have had with him and in his book. I don't necessarily agree with everything that he says but other people have taken advantage of opportunities to express themselves about Caldwell over the years so he certainly has the right to give his version of events--and he deserves to be remembered as an outstanding player.

Returning to the more pleasant subject of Caldwell's on-court achievements, here are some "DVD extras" to accompany the HoopsHype.com article:

Caldwell has special memories of his matchups with Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. "Jerry West was an excellent player. He was right handed; everybody knew from jump street that he was going to the right," Caldwell says. "But Jerry West's ace in the hole, because he was an excellent offensive player, his shot was (taken) going back to the left. He would take two steps back to the left and shoot the jumper. That's why he was so awesome. Then if you guarded him wrong, he would go all the way (to the hoop) with the left hand. Oscar Robertson was a physical guy. I would pick Oscar up (in the backcourt) and make him throw it to someone else to bring it up. He and Wes Unseld had the wide body. I called them big butt guys back in those days. They could use those hips to knock you around. Oscar was round--had big hips, big thighs--but he could move. He'd throw those hips at you, you stumble, and that was all he needed--that one step you take backward. He'd step back and shoot that little one handed jumper. He was good at it."

Caldwell played against Roger Brown in the ABA but actually first met him when they were both in high school. "I met Roger Brown and Connie Hawkins back in the late 50s at a high school All-American game in New York," Caldwell says. "I always thought that Roger Brown could have been one of the greatest forwards of all-time if he had not been delayed from playing pro basketball. Roger was about 6-5, extremely fast and had a good jump shot. I kind of missed part of his career because I was in the NBA at that time. The ABA has fond memories of all the good guys who came through—Moses Malone, Dr. J, we had an entourage of great players who ended up in the NBA."

I've spoken to many ABA players and to a man they talk about the special bond that exists between them. Caldwell is no exception to that: "Back in those days, when I went over there people were saying that it was not a real basketball league. When you insult great players like Dr. J and George McGinnis that automatically brings the players closer together. When I got there I got involved with a lot of the guys and became head of the union and got to know them pretty well. We had an understanding amongst each other and we hung out together and we talked. We had some of that kind of stuff when I was in the NBA, but more so in the ABA. So it’s a good family unit."

The first time that I spoke with Caldwell we discussed the jump and switch defense that Coach Larry Brown has been using throughout his career. I used those quotes in my article titled The Art and Science of NBA Defense.

For more information about the evolution of defensive theory in pro basketball and the history of the jump and switch defense, check out my Hank Egan interview.

posted by David Friedman @ 3:47 AM

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