Written by: Spencer Haywood

Back In The Hall of Fame Running

February 19, 2015

Going into All-Star Weekend, I wasn’t thinking about the Hall of Fame. I kind of let it go because it’s something I have no control over. I can’t do anything other than what I’ve already done in terms of my stats, my records and my impact on changing the game. So my mentality is, whatever they do, they do.

When I arrived in New York, I was notified to attend the Hall of Fame press conference on Saturday. They inform you right before, so I didn’t know I was a finalist in advance. On Saturday, when I went downstairs to head over to the press conference, there was a group of heavy-hitting Hall of Famers down in the hotel lobby.

There was Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Rick Barry, Nancy Lieberman. I was like, well, there must be some good stuff happening! The Big O is here – what is this all about?! Bill Russell is sitting right here. And Willis Reed – what’s going on, ya’ll?!

Rick (Barry) has had a calming effect on me throughout this whole process. He’s been there, he knows what it’s all about. He and Nancy and I are on the Board of Directors for the Retired Players Association together, so we are in constant communication (not about the Hall, about business). Between the two, they slide in a few prayers for me here and there.

So we get to the Garden. And of course Charlie Rosenzweig (from the NBA, if you don’t know him) is running us around like crazy! He’s always got us moving real fast! He has taken care of so many retired players over the years, so we look at him as part our family, and that’s the way it is. We get to the Garden and they run us through these corridors. And then you pop out practically on stage. I look out and I see all of these guys – Dominique Wilkins, George Gervin, Earl Monroe. Willis Reed, Mr. New York, had big business to attend to so he wasn’t there.

Of course my African brother, Mutombo, was there. Since I was married to Iman (who’s from Somalia), the Africans, like Mutombo and Olajuwon, view me as an African. That’s how they view me, really! And then there’s Kevin Johnson, who I have much respect for. As the Mayor Of Sacramento, saving that franchise, building a new arena, getting new ownership in there…nothing but respect.

We were all sitting there and they honored a handful of guys for their contributions, including two of my favorites. First, George Raveling, who has done so much for the game. He was one of the first black coaches in NCAA history. And then there’s my old friend Rod Thorn, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Let me flash back for a second. Rod Thorn was with me when I signed with Seattle. He was the assistant player coach, along with Lenny, who was the player head coach. Rod was assigned to pick me up from the hotel, bring me to practice, talk to me while we were driving in his Ford Thunderbird. He would calm me down, tell me everything is going to be alright. He told me to go through the process and that they’d protect me. So it was really joyful to see Rod there getting honored.

After the press conference, they were interviewing us on stage and asking about the experience and importance of being a finalist. I talked a little bit about being a finalist, but more important pressing news was that I truly believe that the one-and-done rule is really desecrating my fight to the Supreme Court. I know I should have been up there talking about getting selected, but I’m up there talking about a cause (the one-and-done, that is). Truth is, I strongly feel that players coming into the NBA need to be at least 20 years old and have two years of college under their belts. But I’ll get more into this topic (which I’m very passionate about) in my next blog post.

So I’m back in the Hall of Fame race. I feel very positive because all of the players on that podium and all of the retired players I saw over the weekend gave me so much love and so much hope. I’m grateful…very, very grateful for them.

Why is this Hall thing so important to me? It’s important because of what I did as a player. I’m not talking about what I did to change the game. I’m talking about straight-up basketball, nothing more. I was a four-time NBA All-Star, an NBA Champion, two-time All-NBA First Team. Throughout my 13-year pro career, I averaged 20.3 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game. The Sonics retired my jersey in 2007. That’s why it’s important. It’s an acknowledgement of all of that. I like the acknowledgement of what I’ve done for the game as well, but first and foremost, it’s about my stats, what I did as a player. And that’s what you are judged on. You are also judged on your impact on the game, and my impact on the game has been tre-men-dous. I like my stats, and that’s what I’m standing on.

Deep down in my stomach, I really feel good about it. I really do. Magic Johnson and all of those people show me so much love. Sometimes it’s like, are you all talking about me?! Magic walks up to me and says, “If you make it in this year, I’m going to come to the Hall of Fame and bring you across the threshold.” I was like, oh boy! And then you have statements like this from guys like Charles Barkley:

These things are serious, especially because they are coming straight from the players themselves. But if I’m really being honest here, thinking about this topic too much is nerve-wracking. I put my nerves in a golf ball and hit it. A hit of joy! Straight down the fairway! I feel very positive about it. I prayed on it a lot, and I prayed for God to give me some serenity with this.

That’s where I am right now. It’s out of my control. I can’t think about it 100 percent of the time, although it’s a huge thing for me. I pray to let go.

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The Basketball Life

February 06, 2015

I had such a tremendous experience playing in the NBA, specifically for the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets. I loved playing with guys like Otis Birdsong, who was an unbelievable two-guard, Ray Williams, Buck Williams, and Darryl Dawkins. I played with some really great, great basketball players in my career.

Unfortunately, now the Knicks and Nets are on really tough roads. They’ve both had a lot of changes, new coaches, and front office movements. They’ve got some problems they need to figure out. They’re trying to run their triangle offenses, but there’s no Magic Johnson or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to facilitate them.

Recently, MSG Network released a documentary detailing my early life in Denver called “Beginnings,” and I really thought the entire process was great. I thought they did an unbelievable job.

I also had great experiences overseas as well. It was a great experience playing in those other countries. I spent a year in Israel, a year in Croatia. Afterwards, I had about a seven-year stay in Italy, and I finished up in the south of France. I played through the age of 46 but it was an overall great experience.

Forty-six is an uncommon age to be playing professional basketball, but I always say it’s not about how old you are—it’s about how you feel.

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Written by: Spencer Haywood

High Hopes For Hall

January 09, 2015

I think I’ve been left out of the NBA Hall of Fame because when you fight against the system, the system looks at you as a great enemy. It doesn’t mean if you win or lose. The NBA won because I won. The ABA was taking all those underclassmen, so it would have been the ABA and NOT the NBA that would be the premier professional basketball league. I understand the politics and the way it works. When you go all the way to the Supreme Court, there will obviously be anger and dislikes.

Again – I am NOT a fighter for the one-and-done. This was about two years of college and beyond. This does NOT have to do about high school players. The biggest problem to me is the great misunderstanding around all of it.

What’s my hope? I hope that I get into the Hall of Fame this year. I’d get to go in with Shaq. In the end, I hope that I can laugh about it all.

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Written by: Bobby Hunter

Ball shooting contest winner

August 19, 2014
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Written by: Jim McIlvaine

My First Ever Google Hangout

August 14, 2014

So I did my first-ever Google Hangout with some fellow bloggers from Sportsblog.com. It was quite the experience and aside from a few minor technical issues, I think it went very well. Google has a pretty cool thing going with the Hangout and while I don't know how it would work for large groups, it seemed to work pretty well for four or five folks. Check it out and see what you think and be sure to check out the blogs of the other guys on the Hangout, as they were very generous in spending their time to chat with me-


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Written by: Jim McIlvaine

Does Becky Hammon Deserve an NBA Coaching Job?

August 14, 2014


TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

A lot has been said and written about the hiring of Becky Hammon over the past few days and I've missed nearly all of it. I saw a headline in the corner of my Facebook newsfeed and click on the link to learn that Hammon was hired by the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach, after having worked with the team previously while rehabbing from a knee injury. I don't know what the court of public opinion has said about her hiring, but I figured if I named this blog "Does Becky Hammon Deserve an NBA Coaching Job," that might provoke you to read my thoughts on he subject. Did it work? Good. 

Now that I have lured you in, let's take a look at what qualifies her to be an NBA assistant coach...wait a minute, I just realized I don't necessarily know exactly what qualifies someone to be an NBA assistant coach. Obviously, the person must have some background in the sport and Hammon certainly does. According to her Wikipedia page , she is probably the best basketball talent South Dakota has ever produced (besides Eric Piatkowski). As good a player as Eric was, I realize the talent pool in that state may get very shallow very quickly, but she backed it up at Colorado State and again in the WNBA and again on international teams and even though the US didn't invite her to try out for our Olympic team, the Russians thought enough of her to sign her up to play for their squad that won the bronze.

So she knows how to play the game. That probably can't be disputed. Does she know how to coach the game? While it sounds like this might be her first actual coaching job, casual observers often overlook the fact that point guards have often been coaching their teams while they are playing the game. Anyone who has spent time around coaches knows the successful ones are multi-taskers, so anyone who can coach and play at the same time seems like a natural fit to be a coach when they get done playing. However, that doesn't guarantee success.

There are plenty of former players who simply don't make a good transition to coaching at any level (and many others who do). How does one even evaluate whether a coach is "good" or not at the NBA level? The Lakers just hired Byron Scott, even though he has only won 44% of the games he has coached in the NBA. That's one way to spin it. Another is that he was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2008 and has won 57% of the games he has coached in the playoffs (which is what really matters, right?).

At least Scott and Hammon have played professionally at the highest levels, because unless you've done that, you're not qualified to be an NBA coach, right? True, unless you're someone like Erik Spoelstra or Lawrence Frank. So how did those guys manage to get hired as NBA coaches and should we even be turning our attention away from whether or not Becky Hammon should be an NBA coach?

The bottom line is that all of these people know the game of basketball inside and out and probably have a fair amount of knowledge about the industry of basketball and how people come into having coaching jobs. It really isn't a secret formula. You have to know what you're doing, you have to work hard and you have to know the right people. There are a lot of very talented coaches out there, who can check off those first two requirements, but stumble when they get to the third. 

Becky didn't stumble with the third requirement and didn't "luck" into it either. She was in the position to network with Gregg Popovich and his staff, because she knew the game well and her hard work carried her to a level that put her in the same circles as a three-time NBA Coach of the Year and five-time NBA NBA Champion coach. 

Questions may still linger about whether NBA players will listen to and respond to coaching from a woman, but those will only be asked by people on the outside looking in and they have their own agendas. They may need to have a talking point for a sports column (or blog) or they may need to debate the subject on a sports talk show or they could just be jealous or sexist. Popovich and his staff have already given Hammon a trial run and seemed confident enough in her ability to hire her as a full-fledged assistant. I'm certainly in no position to question his decisions as a coach, so while I understand why other talking heads may (it's their job), I won't pay attention to any of them, unless their resume as a coach is better than Pop's.

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Written by: Jim McIlvaine

Michele Roberts is Running the National Basketball Players' Association. Why is this man smiling?

August 06, 2014


Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images
I tried finding a photo of Michele Roberts in the vast Sportsblog.com media archives, but couldn't locate any. In lieu of that, I figured this photo of David Stern would be appropriate, even though he has retired from his position in the NBA. This is the smiling face many NBA players have sat across from in heated collective bargaining negotiations over the years. The smile only seemed to disappear briefly, when Stern and Russ Granik would slide into their "good cop/bad cop" routine and Stern seemed concerned by Granik's pessimism on the potential outcome of the negotiations.

In every other instance, the smile seemed omnipresent and why shouldn't he smile? David Stern represented NBA owners, many of whom are multi-billionaires, many of whom view their NBA franchises as a pleasant distraction from their regular businesses. When negotiations roll around, the owners tend to move to hardball tactics sooner rather than later, while the NBA players always seem to struggle for unification, for a variety of reasons. These are some of the many challenges Michele Roberts faces as the new head of the Players' Union.

Why are the owners so much more unified than the players? To start, there's only 30 owners, versus more than 400 players. That makes reaching a consensus a little bit easier for the owners. Owners also have far more resources at their disposal than the players. After all, they're mega-rich- the wealthiest 1% of the wealthiest 1%. As much as the media talks about player contracts all the time and keeps dollar amounts attached to player names in the court of public opinion, the average NBA fan would have a really hard time picking nearly any NBA owner (except for a few, like Mark Cuban & Michael Jordan) out of a lineup of 60 something white guys, let alone knowing how many billions these guys (and they are pretty much all guys) are worth. Can Michele Roberts effectively shine the media spotlight on the vast riches NBA owners have reaped from their franchises?

While NBA players do make a lot, as Patrick Ewing once famously (and honestly) said, they spend a lot too. While Ewing has been criticized over the years for that quote, I think it's meaning has largely been mis-interpreted over the years. When he said it, Patrick was the President of the NBA Players' Association, a position many other superstar players in the league selfishly avoided like the plague. Why? Because it might hurt their personal image (and potential endorsement revenue), even if their participation and involvement might help the players negotiate a better contract. 

As President, Ewing saw the reality of the NBPA's negotiating position, one that likely still remains today. While he was personally financially secure, he knew a large percentage of his fellow players could not sit out on an owner-imposed lockout indefinitely. Even with a year or more of advanced warning to save money during previous negotiations, more than a few NBA players still lived paycheck to paycheck, saving virtually nothing and in some cases, spending more than they earned. That financial pressure soon begins to crack at the foundation of the Players' negotiating position and everyone knows it, including the owners. 

The media could've used Ewing's quote to shame some NBA players into some semblance of fiscal responsibility during the lockout, asking them, "Are you one of the guys who spends a lot?" but they mostly used it to attack Ewing for what they perceived to be his lack of eloquence on the subject. I knew his frustration with his fellow players, because I sat next to him as we heard the stories of woe from guys coming off million dollar contracts. Another superstar NBA player might've been able to deliver the message of the need for fiscal discipline amongst players better than Patrick, but none of them were willing to do it. 

NBA owners basically told the union to pound sand during the 1999 lockout, until Michael Jordan showed up across the table. When they thought Jordan might consider coming back to play again, their entire tone changed. It's easy to blow off NBA role players who are willing to serve on the negotiating committee. It's much harder to look LeBron James, Blake Griffin & Kevin Durant in the eyes and tell them they're not worth the money they're being paid and the need to give some back. Will Michele Roberts be able to convince those superstar players to step up and lead their union in negotiations?

It's also tough, if not impossible, to keep secrets in a room of 400 NBA players. I recall one general meeting, where it was noticed that a recently-retired player was in attendance, while discussions were going on about the Union's negotiating position on various issues. That player was removed from the room and when the lockout ended and the season started up, he was cashing paychecks as an employee of an NBA franchise. I think he felt bad about spying for the owners, which may be why he later admitted to me that the owners had "people" in every one of our strategy meetings and on every one of our phone calls when all players were involved. Personally, I think some NBA players had cut side deals with their owners outside of the salary cap. Those players could care less about labor negotiations because they were playing by their own rules and were more than happy to share any inside information they had with their sugar daddy owner.

We knew this as a Union and the Executive Committee and Negotiating Committee made a decision to circle the wagons and limit the amount of information that was shared with every player in the league. This was later turned into a negative against Billy Hunter, but had we not done that, NBA players would've lost what little advantage they might've had on any number of positions. Will Michele Roberts be able to make NBA players feel involved and unified in the process, without compromising the Union's negotiating position?

NBA labor negotiations also allow some agents a rare opportunity to emerge from the shadows of AAU tournaments and try to grab some ego-stroking attention from the media. Their personal agendas often do not match up with the Union's positions, which leads to more conflict, as they bash the union leadership on sports talk shows and try to persuade the players they represent, to demand changes in union negotiating strategy. While these agents are trying to position themselves as the voice of reason that came up with a solution to the NBA lockout, the players they are supposed to be representing, not only in contract negotiations, but in many instances, personal financial management, are burning through their savings, like there's no tomorrow. Will Michele Roberts be able to effectively manage relationships with these and other agents?

Perhaps the biggest challenge the union will always face is turnover. When Abe Pollin bought the Bullets, Barack Obama was just three years old (if you believe birth records). By the time he sold the franchise, Obama was Commander-in-Chief. Conversely, most NBA players who were in the league when Obama was elected will be long gone before he leaves the White House. That means a nearly-entirely new group of NBA players will have to get up to speed on something that last happened when they were in high school or college and that's only after someone convinces them it's worth their attention in the first place. Up until they reached the NBA, these types of issues were always handled by other adults- coaches, AAU handlers, tutors, athletic directors, etc... Will Michele Roberts be able to convince incoming NBA players these issues are too important for them to hand off to someone else?

Michele Roberts will have her hands full and she knows it...and so does the NBA. While past CBA negotiations have seemed to focus pretty squarely on protecting the owners from themselves (we're just foolish businessmen, who would spend ourselves into bankruptcy on our NBA franchises, if you don't agree to these spending caps), future CBA negotiations should have a strong element of protecting the players from themselves. It may not make a difference in the 2017 negotiations, but making sure NBA player contracts provide long-term financial security going forward will help strengthen the Union's negotiating position in future showdowns. Good luck Michele, I'm pulling for you!

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Written by: Dale Ellis

The Big Five O

August 06, 2014


I would like to share my birthday gift with everyone. Producer: Ashley Ellis (my daughter). List of chararcters; starring Dale, the birthday boy along with Ashley,Dale Jr., Daffney and Richard III. How old is Dale? He's 50 until he's 60. Thank you all for your birthday wishes.

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Written by: Talia Bargil Bloom

JALEN ROSE Q&A: WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE NBRPA'S NEW AMBASSADOR

August 05, 2014


SportsBlog is excited to share the news of its partner, the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA), the only alumni association comprised of former NBA, ABA, Harlem Globetrotters and WNBA players. Today, the NBRPA announced the appointment of former NBA and collegiate basketball standout and current ESPN/ABC analyst Jalen Rose as the organization's official ambassador. In his new role, Rose will assist the NBRPA in shaping its programming to assist former players in life after basketball and serve communities. Rose will also serve as an official spokesperson for the organization and help introduce the organization and its benefits to other former players.

In the spirit of Jalen's jersey No. 5 and his emergence onto the national landscape as a member of the University of Michigan's storied Fab Five, we sat down with Jalen for five questions about his new role. And make sure to check out your favorite NBA Legends' blogs here: http://legendscorner.sportsblog.com/.

1) How did this relationship come about and why did you choose to give back to the NBRPA as the organization's new official Ambassador?

"I'm a member of the NBRPA and was truly humbled when they reached out to me about being an Ambassador. This organization was founded by NBA greats Oscar Robertson Dave Cowens, Dave DeBusschere, Archie Clark and my godfather, former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, more than two decades ago and I am excited to help carry out their goal of assisting former players in life after basketball. I look forward to serving as a spokesperson and advocate for an organization I truly believe can have a positive effect on the basketball community. Thank you to NBRPA President & CEO Arnie Fielkow, as well as Chairman Otis Birdsong and the entire NBRPA Board of Directors for this great honor and opportunity."

2) The NBRPA carries a mission to assist former players in their transition from the playing court into life after the game. What is the toughest challenge players face when they leave basketball?

"In my opinion, the toughest challenge is waiting to prepare for retirement when you walk off the court. Basketball needs to be treated like the amazing sprint it is, but you need to prepare for the marathon of life. Build a support system early on and have a plan. Players need to find a way to stay current and relevant to parlay their experience into other opportunities. Finding time to be accomplished off the court is also important so that you can carry on your legacy.

"It's important to note that the NBRPA isn't just open to former players – current players are also eligible to join and take advantage of all the programs offered to help players in transition. The NBRPA partners directly with the NBA and National Basketball Players Association on many projects that are designed to make transition form the court into the so-called real world as seamless as possible."

3) What kind of programs and services would you like to see the NBRPA offer former players to assist in transition?

"First and foremost, players shouldn't wait until they retire to join the NBRPA ... they should start paying membership dues now so they can take advantage of the various programs and networks. Anything can happen, don't wait until after your last season, this will make the transition that much smoother.

"NBRPA Members are offered comprehensive resources to assist with career development, continuing education, business & financial literacy, legal research and health & wellness. Best of all, these programs are all free as part of membership.

"The NBRPA already offers tremendous resources such as transitional training seminars and 1-on-1, customized support for those who are interested in going back to school to earn their degree. I would like to work with the NBRPA to create additional programming that would provide assistance for players looking to establish fiscally responsible foundations so they can give back and explore group insurance plans for those who need them. It is also crucial to help the players stay current and active so that they can continue to benefit off the NBA brand that they helped build."

4) The NBRPA's second mission is to serve communities and youth through basketball. How well do the Association's community initiatives line up with your own philanthropic projects?

"As part of its charitable mission, the NBRPA works to enhance communities and promote basketball through grassroots youth events in the United States and abroad. The organization has worked to fulfill this goodwill mission in the Middle East, Haiti and urban America – rebuilding public courts to provide a safe place to play, visiting schools, hospitals and rec centers and conducting dozens of free youth clinics annually – inspiring kids with stories of wins, losses, sweat and strength.

"These initiatives sync perfectly with the Jalen Rose Charitable Fund, which focuses on grants to develop education and sports programs in my hometown of Detroit and other communities in need. In addition, my personal focus on educating young people is well-aligned with the NBRPA. The NBRPA's Dave DeBusschere Scholarship Fund provides opportunities for former players and their families to access higher education, while my greatest philanthropic undertaking to date – the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy – is an open enrollment, public charter high school on the Northwest side of Detroit that provides a leadership-focused education that engages and inspires youth to achieve at the rigorous level necessary to ultimately graduate with a college degree."

5) What are your long-term goals as it pertains to serving the NBRPA?

"Just as it's the NBRPA's long-term goal, in conjunction with the NBA and NBPA, I want to help make transition for former players as seamless as possible. I want to help equip my peers with the tools for success in life after the game.

"I hope to be an asset to the NBRPA by helping them build up their membership (targeting current and retired players), increasing brand awareness as well as developing new initiatives that members can benefit from as the organization continues to grow. I'd also like to see more retired players engaged in their community by giving back in a capacity that they are passionate about."

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Written by: Talia Bargil Bloom

Welcome to the Top of the Top: July's Pro Leaderboard Champions

August 05, 2014


It's that time again! With July coming to a close last week, the moment arrived for us to tally the pageviews, analyze the results and find out who dominated in our SportsBlog Pro leaderboard competition. For our SportsBlog professional athletes, the competition remains fierce each month to see who will have the top blog – and score the sweet prize money that comes along with it. We're stoked to announce July's top three Pro blogging champions. Here's who topped the charts:

#1:  Charlie Villanueva's Crossroads Webisodes Made Us All #BelieveinCharlie

In July, NBA free agent Charlie Villanueva made SportsBlog history by launching his groundbreaking "Crossroads" Webisode series on his blog. Most recently with the Detroit Pistons, Villanueva faces an uncertain future as a free agent, where anything can happen. Without a doubt, he's at a crossroads in his career, and -- four episodes into his series -- he's been brutally honest about the challenges he faces.

"This is a critical period in my career that can make or break me," Villanueva wrote.  He hasn't broken yet -- not by a long shot.  Find out why Villanueva's the talk of the town -- and maybe get inspired while you're at it -- by watching his full Webisode series on his blog here.

#2: Jeff Nixon Spoke Up About NFL and NCAA Controversies – and We Listened

NFL legend Jeff Nixon continues to find himself in the top spots of our Pro leaderboard with his bold and insightful analysis of NFL players' issues on his NFL Retired Players United blog. In July, readers turned up in droves to hear what he had to say about the current concussion class action suits against the NFL and the NCAA.

For example, most recently, the NCAA settled its lawsuit, but, as Nixon pointed out, the settlement could have gone a lot better for both former and current players. "Unfortunately, the Settlement not only abandons compensation for former athletes, it also fails to provide treatment for anyone who gets screened and is found to have brain injuries," Nixon wrote. Read all of his recent analyses on his blog here.

#3: WNBA All-Star Shoni Schimmel Kept Winning More Fans

By now you shouldn't be surprised to see WNBA rookie and first-time All-Star Shoni Schimmel as a Pro leaderboard champion, because this is her fourth month in a row running in the top spots. In July, Schimmel blogged live from her first WNBA All-Star weekend, and her enthusiasm and upbeat outlook was infectious.

"To be able to play against the best of the best and against people you grew up watching and idolizing throughout the years was mind blowing!" she wrote. It's easy to see why she keeps winning more fans each month (not to mention games! This one's got talent). Make sure you read all her recent posts on her blog here.

A big congratulations to our three Pro leaderboard champs! We can't wait to see who'll end up on the top chart next month.

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