ASSEMBLY REQUIRED; DAVIDSON THE RAIDER

July 26, 2010

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe looked at how the Miami Heat is made up
“The Miami Heat. How do you like ’em so far?
We are now 17 days into the new Overthetop Era of Miami basketball, and there actually is a team for us to evaluate, at
least as well as we can judge an aggregation that is more than two months away from hitting the practice floor.
I know I learned my lesson three years ago. Having a formidable trio as your calling card really is a nice foundation
for success. If a Big Three really is a Big Three, it can guarantee a pretty impressive record. Boston’s Big Three
lived up to every bit of their hype, serving as the focal point of a team that won 66 games and the championship,
although not without difficulty. They didn’t win a road game in the playoffs until the third series, remember.
But the Celtics proved that a very successful team can be put together on the fly. Five members of the eight-man
rotation flashing the big smiles at the conclusion of that 131-92 Game 6 rout of the Lakers were wearing another
uniform the previous year.
The precedent has been set. The Heat know it’s possible. OK, so what, beyond LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh
do they have to offer?
1. CENTER First of all, the idea that a team needs a classic All-World center in order to win big in the modern NBA is
passé. Yes, of course, if you have an old-fashioned low post butt-kicker who likes to punish people inside, rebound,
pass out of the post, and defend, you embrace him. That will always be the way to go.
Those guys are harder than ever to find, so you take what you get. You settle for what is euphemistically known
nowadays as a “big,’’ that being a guy approximately 6 feet 9 inches or taller who has one or two of the appropriate
skills and who is as much a power forward as he is a center.
Joel Anthony is a big. He’s 6-9, 245 pounds, and not much of a scorer. They won’t be throwing him the ball too often,
asking him to score. He doesn’t have gaudy rebounding stats, either. What he does is take up space and block shots.
Sound familiar? We’ve got a guy like that right here. In fact, were I him, I’d ring up Kendrick Perkins and ask for
pointers.
They’ve also got Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who may be one of the oddest players in NBA history. Big Z is appropriately
nicknamed. He is a very large human being, every bit of 7-3, weighing in at 260 pounds. Yet he spends most of his time
lurking on the perimeter, where he has been one of the best shooters from the 15-18-foot range in the league. He never
seems to go anywhere near the paint, yet he once led the league in offensive rebounds. How is this possible? Big Z is
35 now, but they won’t ask too much of him, I’m sure. Oh, and did I mention that LeBron loves him?
Jamaal Magloire is another big. He brings experience and provides a safety-in-numbers adjunct to the equation.
They also have a wide-body rookie from Texas named Dexter Pittman. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: big guy,
huge slimmed-down body (once weighed well into the 300s), soft hands, good post skills, and let’s just hope he doesn’t
revert and eat himself out of the league. Anyone seen Oliver Miller lately?
2. FORWARD Bosh starts at power forward. I’m pretty sure of that. James starts at small forward, but not just any small
forward. I think we can all agree on that.
Udonis Haslem re-upped as the backup power forward. He has lost something, but he remains industrious, intelligent,
dedicated, unselfish, and totally reliable. With these new teammates he has just had two years added to his basketball
life.
Mike Miller is the big pickup. He is a legit combo small forward/big guard and he will seize this opportunity of a
lifetime to make the most of a superior shooting touch that has established him as one of the league’s better 3-point
specialists. But that’s not all he does. He’s a serious all-around basketball player who has just been elevated into
one of the league’s most dangerous sixth-man types.
James Jones shoots the ball. Put him down for two or three game-changing nights.
Juwan Howard is on board, 14 years after Pat Riley broke the rules by trying to sign him to a seven-year, $100 million
contract that was ruled to have circumvented the salary cap. There’s still something left. He actually played more
minutes last season (22.4 per game) than he has since 2006-07 (26.5). He’s their Yoda.
3. GUARD Wade starts at the off-guard. I’m pretty sure of that.
The incumbent point guard is Mario Chalmers, who won’t be asked to do very much offensively, at least not while James
and Wade are on the floor. His numbers declined last year following a pretty solid rookie season, but all bets are off
from everyone in this new Heat scheme of things. Let’s just say that some lucky guy has to start at this position, and
he happens to be the one.
Carlos Arroyo re-signed as additional point guard insurance. If he’s interested in a ring, he’ll take whatever they
offer.
Right now, that’s it. Once you get beyond the star trio, you get to Miller, who should have a great year in this
company. Chalmers will be asked not to embarrass himself at point guard. Assuming Anthony starts, he does the dirty
work and never ever thinks about asking for the ball.
Then you get to Haslem, who should thrive in this company; Big Z, who will like spotting up all night long; Magloire, a
so-so player; Jones (see Big Z); and Arroyo, who could easily dislodge Chalmers. Oh, and Howard, who starts the season
at 37, but whose value may transcend actual playing performance.
Does this conglomeration of subs equal or surpass the James Posey-Eddie House-P.J. Brown group that so ably backed up
the Boston stars three years ago? In a word, no. I say that even though I really like Miller. There’s just no getting
around how valuable Posey was, at both ends of the floor.
Balanced against that is the fact that Riley’s Big Three is far younger than Boston’s was. So, I’ll give him an A-minus
in roster assembly and I’ll put their over/under at 62 Ws. The title? The Lakers are still the champs, last I heard.”

Jerry Crowe looked out of the “Crowe’s Nest” of the LA Times and gave us a profile of, “the quintessential Raider,” Ben
Davidson.
“From the backyard of his hillside home outside San Diego, Ben Davidson can look out and enjoy nearly two dozen
fireworks displays on the Fourth of July.

“I’m kind of ruined now for gyms,” notes the former Oakland Raiders defensive end, motioning toward a stack of weights
nearby, “because I can stand here and, while I’m doing my curls, make sure everything’s all right in Tijuana and San
Diego.”

Football, in short, has accorded Davidson a pleasant, comfortable lifestyle, not to mention a breathtaking view.

“It’s been very, very good to me,” he says, a smile creasing his bearded face.

So good, in fact, it’s surprising to learn that Davidson, whose later fame as a Miller Lite pitchman outstripped his
football notoriety, had virtually no use for the sport in the 1950s while growing up in Boyle Heights.

At L.A. Wilson High, the 6-foot-8 Davidson played basketball and was a hurdler, high jumper and shotputter.

Son of an LAPD officer and a librarian — his mother, he jokes, used to tell him, “Read, or I’ll have you arrested” —
Davidson says he wasn’t much of a basketball player either.

“I was just kind of a big guy who got a rebound and put it in every once in a while,” he says. “I think I averaged
eight points in my senior year, which was pretty sad.”

So Davidson, who turned 70 last month, wasn’t exactly shunning a potential NBA career when finally, as a freshman at
East Los Angeles College, he went out for football.

“I think I just decided that I’d try it,” he says during a midday interview in his living room. “I didn’t know the
positions. I knew the center was probably in the middle, but I’d only been to one or two games . . . and I never really
paid much attention to it. . . .

“I have no idea what kind of stance I got into, but that was a major project. The coach had me so fixated on getting a
good stance that I’d be looking down at my legs, trying to make sure everything was right, and they’d snap the ball.”

Undeterred, Davidson kept showing up every day, his tremendous size eventually drawing interest from recruiters.

“I think there was a lot of word of mouth back then,” Davidson says, “and I think the coach would say, ‘This guy’s
really stupid, but he works hard and he’ll do what you tell him.’ ”

At Washington, where he played on teams that won the 1960 and ’61 Rose Bowls, Davidson started only two games but was
taken before any of his teammates in the 1961 NFL draft.

As a rookie, the fourth-round pick played on a Green Bay Packers team that won the NFL championship.

But, Davidson says, he was still learning how to play.

Finally, after two forgettable seasons with the Washington Redskins, Davidson landed in the AFL with the Raiders, a
symbiotic melding of extrovert and iconoclasts.

“We had fun,” Davidson says of the dawn of the Raiders’ heyday.

Al Davis, who as a USC assistant years earlier had tried to land Davidson for the Trojans, made him a starter. A
three-time AFL All-Star, Davidson played in Super Bowl II, three AFL championship games and the first AFC championship
game.

All the while, he helped establish the Raiders’ swashbuckling, renegade identity, growing a distinctive mustache.

Years later, blogger Matthew J. Darnell would deem it the greatest in NFL history, noting with envious gusto, “It’s a
well-rounded and versatile mustache that can intimidate on the field and say, ‘Yes, I’d love a martini’ off it.”

Davidson’s intimidating physical presence and equally outsized personality made him a natural for Hollywood bit parts,
starting with Robert Altman’s “M*A*S*H” in 1970.

In his most famous role, he played himself in more than two dozen commercials for Miller Lite, part of the popular,
long-running “Tastes great, less filling” push that Advertising Age deemed the eighth-best advertising campaign of the
20th century.

“I’m not Catholic,” Davidson says, “but sometimes when I say, ‘Lite beer,’ I make the sign of a cross. If I could have
designed a job for myself post-football, it would have been exactly what I did.”

A tireless pitchman, he curtailed his acting career to travel the world making promotional appearances for Miller Lite.
Married 49 years to wife Kathy and father of three grown daughters, he has invested successfully in real estate,
building on what he started when he bought a three-unit Seattle apartment with his $5,194.78 winner’s share from the
Packers’ 1961 title.

Former teammate Tom Flores, in his book “Tales from the Oakland Raiders,” called Davidson a “hard-nosed defensive
lineman whom people would not have figured for a good businessman,” but, “Indeed, he has great business acumen.”

Davidson, about 40 pounds lighter than when he played, still enjoys traveling and making appearances. With former
teammate Tom Keating, he once rode a motorcycle to the Panama Canal and later, during a four-month, 14,000-mile trip,
they rode throughout the United States. More recently, Davidson has made more than a dozen multiday, long-distance
bicycle trips in the U.S., Mexico and Europe.

During his travels he gathered some 3,000 beer cans and bottles, a collection his wife recently talked him into
donating to the Blind Lady Ale House in San Diego.

“I hate to say this for print,” Davidson says, laughing again, “but I’m 70 years old and I’ve never had a real job.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: