Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When will Mike Smrek be given his due?

I saw a post on Lakers Nation regarding Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's comments about the statues at Staples Center. I figured that Lakers Nation wasn't engaging in original reporting, so I sought the original source of the comments. This led me to ESPN, who noted that the comments originally appeared in the Sporting News.

Now the Sporting News chose not to republish the entire piece online, but they did publish a teaser. And the teaser included something that ESPN and Lakers Nation chose to ignore. To wit:

But for all of Abdul-Jabbar's influence, for all of his accomplishments, the man feels "slighted" by the Lakers organization, as he explains in a six-page interview in the magazine.

Why? There are multiple reasons---and we're not going to spoil all the goods here---but one of them has to do with the statues that have been erected outside Staples Center.

There are five of them: of Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya.

Notice who's not on that list?

Yes, the great Lakers center Mike Smrek. And also Abdul-Jabbar....

Now if Kareem feels slighted, then how does Smrek feel? After all, several news organizations, including one devoted to the Lakers, didn't even bother to mention his chances to have a statue at Staples.

For the record, Smrek played for several teams in addition to the Lakers. Drafted by Portland, he ended up playing for Chicago for a year. He then spent two seasons (1986-88) with the Lakers (receiving $200,000 in his second year) before moving on to a number of teams, including the Clippers. Out of the NBA by 1992, he played in Europe and is (as of May 2011) on the faculty of St. Paul Catholic High School in Niagara Falls, Ontario. And the school is definitely Catholic (PDF):

Mike Smrek teacher at St. Paul Catholic High School, Niagara Falls, together with students Mark Giancola and Kyle Wegelin, designed and constructed this 12-foot boat. At the 2007 secondary graduation ceremonies and at the Faith Day for teachers, it was brought forward in sections throughout the prayer service, in conjunction with special petitions for each of the seven ribs and a ceremonial unfurling of the sails upon which were the names of the present and past Catholic schools in the Niagara region.

Then again, I just finished reading the final chapters of Acts, and perhaps if THAT boat had been blessed beforehand, it wouldn't have run into so many problems.

Back to Mr. Smrek. His students like him. Oddly enough, he is NOT one of the coaches for the basketball team.

And Kareem thought that HE had problems getting respect...
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