News » LAND OF THE LOST: Players from Oklahoma who played for bad franchises

LAND OF THE LOST: Players from Oklahoma who played for bad franchises

LAND OF THE LOST: Players from Oklahoma who played for bad franchises

There is anonymity. Then there is international anonymity.

Oklahoma folk hero Bryant Reeves played six years in the NBA . All of them for a team outside the United States.

Big Country went international in 1996, becoming the first draft pick in the history of the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies. The Oklahoma State legend was a solid NBA player; he averaged 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds for his career. Reeves averaged 16.2 and 16.3 points a game in his second and third Grizzly seasons.

But Big Country spent those six seasons in one of the quietest NBA environments. A team in the Pacific time zone, in Canada, that never won more than 23 games a year, a team that averaged just 13,737 fans in Reeves' final season.

A back injury caused Reeves to retire. His final year in Vancouver was 2000-01. So was the Grizzlies'. They moved to Memphis after that season.

By Berry Tramel


Lee Roy Selmon lost two football games in four seasons as an Oklahoma Sooner. Then he lost his first 26 games in the NFL.

The 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were widely debated as the worst pro football team of all time.

Which made the success of 1979 all that sweeter. The '79 Bucs reached the NFC Championship Game, and Selmon was named the league's defensive player of the year.

"Quite rewarding," Selmon said. "You go through a lot. When success finally came, it made it that much more gratifying."

Selmon said several things helped him adjust to the losing. First, his brother Dewey also was drafted by the Bucs, so they experienced the losing together. Plus, Selmon said he was buffered by the transition of moving to a new community in a different part of the country.

What some might view as a problem, Selmon embraced as a balm. The Bucs became competitive and Selmon found a new home. The native of Eufaula lives in Tampa to this day and is among its most respected citizens. He's been in banking and founded the football program at the University of South Florida and has a Tampa tollway named in his honor.

By Berry Tramel


Pete Incaviglia faced a future of playing America's national pastime not just in a baseball outpost, but in another nation.

The former Oklahoma State star altered his future, however, sidestepping the hapless Montreal Expos- the team that drafted him in the first round of the 1985 draft - and landing with the Texas Rangers instead.

It was a controversial move that led to Major League Baseball's official Rule 3(b)(7), or what is more commonly known as the "Pete Incaviglia Rule."

The story goes that Incaviglia balked at playing in Canada, although he calls such reports false.

"There's so many stories out there," Incaviglia said, "and I don't think any of them are right. When I went to Bucky Woy, who was my agent at that time. I told him, 'I want to go to Major League spring training, so I can go and see what I'm going to have to do to compete on the highest level.'

"That's all I wanted. I wanted to be in Major League spring training, competing against Major League pitchers, players, etc., so I could see what I was going to have to do to play there."

Then it was the Expos' turn to balk.

"And Montreal said, 'No way are we going to send you to Major League spring training,'" said Incaviglia. "I said, 'Why? If I'm not good enough, send me down. But give me the chance in spring training to see what I have to do. I want to compare myself. I want to see where I'm at.'

"They would not do it. That was the whole reason I didn't end up in Montreal. Not because I didn't want to go to Canada, not because of anything else. All I wanted was to go to Major League spring training and see how I stood up against the best in the world."

With negotiations at a standstill, the Expos convinced then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth to allow another club to work a contract with Incaviglia, then trade for him.

That led to the "Pete Incaviglia Rule," which prohibits teams from trading a player it drafts until he's been under contract to the club for at least one year.

Eventually, the Rangers agreed to Incaviglia's request to go to spring training with the big club, dealing two players to the Expos for him.

And Incaviglia never played a day in the minors, one of just four players in history to do so at the time, debuting on April 8, 1986 with Texas.

He played 13 seasons of professional baseball with seven teams, none in Canada.

But he did play one year, 1995, with the Chiba Lotte Marines - in Japan.

By John Helsley


When Alvan Adams was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1975 out of Oklahoma, Phoenix was a one-team town.

The NFL Cardinals didn't arrive until 1988, the hockey Coyotes until 1996, the baseball Diamondbacks until 1998.

The Suns made Phoenix a major league city in 1968. Phoenix repaid that debt by averaging 3,916 fans per game that first season at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The NBA was different then. The Celtics and Lakers were big, but it was a regional sport. And while the Suns had a couple of good teams in their early years, thanks to the ABA arrivals of Charlie Scott and Connie Hawkins, they still weren't a huge hit in their own Valley of the Sun. The 1974-75 team drew an average of 6,173 fans per game.

Then Adams arrived via the draft and Paul Westphal by trade from Boston, and the Suns caught fire. They won the Western Conference, lost an epic six-game series to the Celtics and Phoenix suddenly was a Basketball town. They were the Siberian Suns no more.

The 1976-77 Suns drew 10,031 fans per game, Adams became a fixture in the franchise, playing 13 seasons, then joined the organization. He remains in Phoenix today, as the Suns' vice president of facility management, overseeing America West Arena.

By Berry Tramel


The Cleveland Cadavers.

That's the franchise Mark Price joined in 1986, after a draft-day trade sent the pride of Enid to Cleveland. A rookie point guard from Georgia Tech, Price joined a Cavalier franchise still reeling from horrible management.

Before the Clippers' Donald Sterling, Ted Stepien was the worst NBA owner.

Stepien owned the Cavs just three years. During that time, 1980-83, they went 66-180, went through five coaches, tumbled to the bottom of the league in attendance and gutted their future by trading away so many draft picks that the league instituted a Stepien Rule. No team still can trade away its No. 1 pick in consecutive seasons.

Three years later, the Cavs still were reeling, having gone 28-54, 36-46 and 29-53 under new ownership.

But Price and two other 1986 draft picks, Brad Daugherty and Ron Harper, helped turn around the franchise. Cleveland was in the playoffs in Price's second year, and the Cavs made the postseason seven of Price's nine years in Cleveland, including a 1992 Eastern Conference finals showdown against the Jordan Bulls.

"There's a lot of satisfaction in helping build something up," Price said.

"To help take something that was a joke and turn it into a contender, I still have quite about of pride in what we were able to accomplish. Year in and year out, we were a team that had to be reckoned with."

The new ownership was critical. The Gund brothers brought in Wayne Embry as general manager and Lenny Wilkens as coach. Few men have been more respected in NBA history.

"Starting with the Gunds, that obviously got Cleveland going in the right direction," Price said.



In Wayman Tisdale's second NBA season, his Indiana Pacers went 41-41 and made the Eastern Conference playoffs. They quickly were ushered out by the Atlanta Hawks.

The next time Tisdale saw the playoffs, he was a role player playing less than 20 minutes a game with Phoenix. Tisdale, as big of an Oklahoma Basketball hero as the state ever had, played the bulk of his career in two cities far off the radar: Indianapolis in the late 1980s and Sacramento in the early 1990s.

When Tisdale flourished as an NBA scorer, he did so in the shadows. Sacramento was an outpost in the league until the last 10 years or so. Tisdale averaged 18.4 points a game in six years with the Kings, but Oklahomans - or anyone else - rarely saw him.

The Kings seldom were on television and never were in the playoffs, and Tisdale played in virtual anonymity.



Three Heisman Trophy winners from OU or OSU spent their entire careers with the Detroit Lions. But that's not as bad as it sounds.

It's easy today to think of Detroit as an NFL wasteland, but that's mostly the product of general manager Matt Millen's failed administration.

When Steve Owens was a Lion in the '70s, and Billy Sims a Lion in the '80s, and Barry Sanders a Lion in the '90s, Detroit was a competitive and proud franchise with a decent profile:

? Owens went to the Lions in the 1970 draft. Detroit had been 9-4-1 in 1969, and the Lions were solid all five years Owens played: 10-4, 7-6-1, 8-5-1, 6-7-1 and 7-7. Detroit made the playoffs in Owens' rookie year.

? Sims went to the Lions as the first pick in the 1980 draft. Detroit had been 2-14 in 1979. But the Lions twice went to the playoffs in Sims' five seasons and had an overall record of 32-38-1. Mediocre but not Millen-like.

? Sanders went to the Lions as the third pick in the 1989 draft and arrived on the heels of 4-12, 4-11 and 5-11 finishes, Detroit's worst three-year stretch since the 1940s. But in Sanders' 10 years as the NFL's best running back, the Lions went 78-82 and five times made the playoffs.

If Sam Bradford had declared for the draft and been taken by these Lions, then we would have yet another nickname. Siberian Sam.

But the Lions of yesteryear were different.

BY Berry Tramel

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: June 9, 2009


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