You thought we had gone and left you for good, didn’t you? But like that rash you got last spring break in Acapulco, we keep popping up when you think you’re finally rid of us. In this round we are cutting the number of entrants from 15 to 10 and each contestant will profile a member of the 1998 NCAA Title Team. Here with their takes on the former fatty Nazr Mohammed are K.L. Reed, Matthew Hayes, and Joe Stone. Check out each entry after the jump
Caution! Nazr Mohammed Info!
First off, let me get something off my chest — Nazr is pronounced NAW—zee for all of you who can’t get it right. Mispronouncing his name is more annoying than when people spell “ridiculous” with an “e” or how a British person says the word “schedule”. Why is it so hard? I swear I think Britney Griner would have an easier time deciding what box to check for “sex” on a job application than some people do when pronouncing his name.
Anyway, with an unusual name like that I thought it would be interesting to see its connotations. And after countless time (about 90 seconds) doing Google searches and perusing several very trusted websites I think I have found the one — five true meanings of “nazr”. Of Arabic origin, it means to warn. Or to caution.
A vow. A solemn pledge. Or even an offering.
It’s very fitting because we have seen Nazr take on each of these meanings at one point or another during his time at UK and also these last 12 years in the NBA.
“Coming in here, Nazr knew he had to do a lot to play in this program. He had to lose weight and become a lot quicker,” said Allen Edwards. “He did that. He made the sacrifices.” Those words pretty much sum up his three years at UK.
I think what jumpstarted his career the most was the DICK inside him (Desire and Inspiration to Cultivate Knowledge). Encumbered with all of the pressure, Nazr made a solemn pledge to do all the things he needed to do and learn all of the things he needed to learn in order to be successful during his time at Kentucky.
Coming to UK as a freshman out of Chicago’s Kenwood Academy he weighed in at about 143 kilograms. Oh, sorry. You don’t do kilograms? That’s 315 pounds. He was a very different project from what Pitino was used to. Even Mohammed’s high school coach wondered what drew Pitino to him in the first place. He was normally trying to bulk up the skinny big men he recruited, like Walter McCarty and Andre Riddick. Eventually, it would turn out just like Pitino expected and Nazr became an offering to Lexington.
(Speaking of Pitino, c’mon man, it’s supposed to be 15 minutes of fame, not 15 seconds!)
While seeing limited minutes during the ‘95-‘96 season, he dropped weight faster than the Olsen twins drop their dinner in the toilet after eating. He would run from their practice facility back to their hotel on road games, and also, what probably was the biggest sacrifice of all, he cut out the late night pizza and snacks.
In total he lost 30 pounds, got much stronger, and progressed into one of the most vital components to UK’s team. During the next two years they reached the NCAA finals again, and he was a huge part of their success. He was the leading rebounder and second leading scorer during the ‘97-‘98 Championship season after debowing the starting position from Magloire halfway through.
He decided two national championships was enough and would forego his senior season. He was selected in the first round as the 29th pick to the Utah Jazz.
Nazr has bounced around the league more than Karen Sypher has Jefferson County. His ubiquitous career has seen him play for six teams since turning pro 12 years ago while his numbers have fluctuated during this time. He has been everything from a bench warmer to a starter to an impact player in the playoffs. He is an NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs. He’s been on the I.R., been traded and even gave a warning to Kevin Garnett when he picked a fight with him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZe5VjAx_N4
His best regular season was arguably with the 2000-2001 Atlanta Hawks where he played in all 82 games and averaged right under 9 rebounds and about 12.3 points per game. He actually ranks pretty high for a few playoff records as well. Some more notable ones are that he ranks #8 in field goals per minute and #12 in offensive rebounds per game.
He is currently with the Michael Jordan Charlotte Bobcats, where he can say he is one of the Top Ten Bobcats of All Time, slipping in at number 10, at least according to one man’s opinion on a Bobcat website I came across. He is still in good shape and has some life left in his veteran body, again, ironically, just like Ms. Sypher.
Nazr even gets a look from time to time from the owner of his team. When Michael Jordan isn’t at the blackjack table or on the golf course betting on whether or not Barkley 4-putts he takes time to watch some of his players practice, like in this picture. What’s MJ staring at you ask? Maybe it’s disbelief at the non-Jordans he’s wearing. Maybe he just sharted. Or maybe he was spottin’ dimes like George Costanza to help pay back some of his gambling debt.
Did You Know?
Did you know Nazr had a game winning dunk in the NBA? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI5aI4ZZ06Q
Did you know Nazr took two 3-point attempts while at UK — and missed both?
Did you know he has taken 4 3-point attempts during the regular season of the NBA – and missed all 4 attempts? 0% of the time, he makes it every time.
I guess we can conclude that Nazr is about as successful at making threes as Gillispie is at walking a straight line. Actually, now that I think about it, BCG actually has a better percentage at .14! Oh sorry, wrong category. But wait!
Nazr Mohammed is a BEAST at playoff 3-pointers. He is shooting an unbelievable 100% (2 for 2) in playoff games behind the arc, but sadly falls short for # of minimum attempts to be treated as a record.
So this is where I leave you as my 1000 words have run out. If this information has sparked your interest in Nazr again it doesn’t have to stop there. You can still keep up with his personal life. Follow him on twitter @NazrMohammed.
Nazr Mohammed’s Top Five
It hit UK fans hard. They were leaving. The affable young men who had returned Kentucky to the top of the college basketball world were saying goodbye. Household names like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson were going to the NBA and leaving behind them a legacy that some fans wanted to see honored in a permanent fashion.
“They deserve it.”
“They’re the most talented players to ever don the blue and white!”
“Dammit they need to have their jerseys retired!”
And that was it. The idea was out there and it spread across the Bluegrass. Maybe your mother or wife broached the topic over dinner or that guy at the water cooler who read CatsPause the night before and comes into work the next day thinking he’s an encyclopedia of UK knowledge. Regardless, it was talked about. However, like every idea, it had its detractors.
“They never won anything.”
“They didn’t stay long enough!”
“There are so many more deserving players!”
It’s a debate that’s been going strong for the past few months and one that can’t be easily resolved. Of course the guys that were drafted last year were great but shouldn’t we look at Tayshaun or Tony Delk first? What about Chuck Hayes? Everybody liked him.
The more you think about it the more fun it is to try and justify the worthiness of the players we love. Since I’ve been assigned to write a post on Nazr Mohammed, I figure it’s only fair that I give the big guy his chance for Rupp Arena immortality.
Here are Nazr Mohammed’s top five arguments for having his jersey retired, let’s do it big:
5.) He beat Vanderbilt on that awesome last-second shot. Anytime we beat Vandy in Memorial is fun but when we beat them on a last second shot it’s especially fun. Nazr’s presence of mind to hoist up one of the most awkward-looking shots of all time to beat the buzzer is a feel good moment for all UK fans.
4.) He used to be really fat. As Americans we love to see fat people lose massive amounts of weight, that’s why I eat at Subway. When Nazr arrived on campus after waging an 18-year jihad on his blood pressure at 315 pounds he had a lot of doubters. Even his high school coach at Kenwood Academy in Chicago questioned why Rick Pitino would want such a BIG big man to play on his team of thoroughbreds. However, Nazr put in the work and was around 280 by the end of his freshman season before eventually slimming all the way down to his playing weight of 240. Nazr proved the chubby-haters wrong like it was his job.
3.) He beat Stanford by himself. When we faced a 10-point deficit in the second half of our Final Four game against Stanford in 1998 Nazr Mohammed wasn’t having a good game. He turned that around though. After finishing the first half with one point and two fouls, Nazr stormed out of the gates during the final 20 minutes of regulation and overtime to finish the game with 18 points including three of the first five UK points in the extra period. Stepping up and being the man in a huge game with championship implications definitely fits the rafter-jersey criteria.
2.) He has two NCAA championships and an NBA championship. I know he didn’t really play much on the 1996 team but he has a ring and he was a crucial contributor for the 1997 runner-ups and the 1998 championship team. That’s the main knock on the 2010 studs: no ring. Nazr has two. He actually has three because I’m going to include his NBA championship ring too. He was a starter on that San Antonio team that won the title in 2005 and a former player maintaining his winning ways in the big money league only makes UK look better. I take championships of all kinds — here’s to Ramel Bradley and Maccabi Ashdod, future Israeli National League champions!
1.) His name is Nazr Mohammed. So this final one is kind of a cop out but just think of the recruiting implications. Islam is an expanding religion and it’s only a matter of time until the next hot young recruit is one who owns a prayer mat and observes Ramadan. Heck we got Enes Kanter from Turkey, that’s close to a place where people do that stuff, right? What a recruiting boon it’d be for us to lead a Mesopotamian blue-chipper into Rupp Arena and let him look up to see the name “Mohammed” looking right back at him. He’d feel right at home. We would have a stranglehold on the title “Mecca of college basketball” and it would only be good for us.
So whatever the reason, there’s no denying Mohammed’s claim to be amongst the most hallowed names in our basketball lexicon. He has a championship pedigree and a name that would instantly provide a culture shock to the rafters at Rupp. They have to add a new jersey eventually. Seriously, why not Nazr?
I was pretty excited when we got the assignment for this round’s posts and saw that we would be writing about the 1998 NCAA Championship team. I consider that team to be pretty much right in my wheelhouse since I also graduated from college in ’98. Obviously, my college years were a great time to be a Kentucky fan (kind of like I imagine it would be right now, only with more flannel). I saw the height of the back-to-back finals appearances followed by the blow of Pitino’s understandable (even at the time) cash grab by bolting to the Boston Celtics. 1998 was supposed to be something of a rebuilding year. We had a new, mostly unproven coach and all the “elite” talent (Delk, Walker, McCarty, Mercer, Anderson) was gone. That championship run was a fun, welcome surprise – highlighted of course by the comeback win over Duke.
Then I scrolled down a bit and saw my name listed under Nazr Mohammed and for a second thought “Wait a minute, Nazr was on that team?” Sure enough. I’m not saying I forgot he played at Kentucky or anything but, gun to my head, I probably would’ve guessed he left in ’97 rather than ’98.
I just don’t immediately think of Nazr Mohammed when that team comes up now – and I doubt I’m alone. For whatever reason, Mohammed just doesn’t seem to resonate with UK fans like the rest of that 1998 championship team. Maybe he just never had a defined role on that team, though I would argue he was probably the most talented. For example, Wayne Turner was the point guard with the terrible looking jump shot who always seemed to find a way to win games. Jeff Sheppard was the freakishly-athletic-for-a-white-guy who could shoot from anywhere on the floor. Cameron Mills was the kid from Lexington who turned down scholarships from other schools to pursue his (and every other kid from Kentucky) dream of playing for and winning a title at UK – and he did it. Scott Padgett was mowing lawns when he could/should have been on the floor for the ’96 championship, but more than made up for it with his play in the ’98 run. Jamaal Magloire is Canadian, which for some reason cracks me up. On a memorable team that made a memorable tournament run full of players with memorable personalities… Nazr was a mostly unmemorable personality. I even checked out his Twitter account and 98% of his posts are either retweets or replies. Nothing particularly interesting at all – even by “professional athletes’ Twitter feed” standards.
In fact, despite being the leading rebounder for the ’97 and ’98 teams and the second-leading scorer in ’98, Nazr’s UK career was pretty nondescript. The first (and maybe only) thing that comes to mind when I think of him is this crazy game-winner at Vandy. I even solicited my legion of Twitter followers (okay, 27) for their remembrances of Nazr and got only one answer back: “Teeth.” But the more I think about it, there were plenty of Nazr Mohammed storylines that should have made him more memorable. He was the son of a Ghanaian (I nailed that spelling on the first attempt. Just sayin’) immigrant and was raised in Chicago – which I guess automatically makes him Michael Wilbon’s like most favoritest person ever. He was considered to be a huge project for Pitino. And I mean huge. He came to Kentucky a 6’10’, 315 lbs freshman who was expected to run the floor with likes of Turner, Mercer, and Anderson. You might remember (if you weren’t still in kindergarten) that he split time that first year between the varsity squad and the short-lived Junior Varsity program (which was basically just set up to be a “fat camp” for Nazr and then dismantled).
He worked his butt off – you know, literally – and was a major factor in two Final Four appearances and a championship. The guy went from a ‘project’ and a ‘gamble’ to a champion and a first round draft pick in under three years. You certainly wouldn’t have thought that out of all the pro talent that passed through Kentucky from 1996-1998, Mohammed and Magloire would be the last ones still in the league a dozen years later.
Even with all my newfound Nazr Mohammed knowledge, I still have questions. How could he let his brother play for Pitino at Louisville? How exactly do you get NAH’zee out of N-A-Z-R? (Though given the most obvious alternate spelling, it’s probably for the best.) If UK wins it all this year, will I forget all about Stacey Poole Jr. in a decade? Who knows. I just know it was fun revisiting that great year through a player I had forgotten I had forgotten about.
Like a ripping off a band aid, it’s best to make this quick. So here are my short impressions of each piece.
Reed – Your piece was an enjoyable read, but like a joke that is just added in for jokes sake, you felt like you added some jokes in just for the jokes sake. Still, your writing style is readable, and even if you had taken all the humor out of the piece, I still would have enjoyed it. Which is saying something. Also, you did a terrible job at making a Rick Pitino 15 seconds joke. You did a great job at making a Karen Sypher abortion joke. See if you can’t give yourself some tips on crafting a joke.
Hayes – Great set up for the jersey discussion. It provided a frame of reference as well as some relevancy. I don’t know if I agree with your argument, but I like that you took a position and went with it, even if it was just for the sake of the assignment. You had some good points, didn’t stay on them for too long, and while your piece wasn’t full of humor, it was still entertaining. That takes talent.
Stone – Your piece felt a little too cluttered for me. It lacked direction that the other two had, shown by the first two thirds of your writing centering around why you didn’t really remember your subject. Which in and of itself isn’t a crime, but combined with the jumpiness of your piece and the lack of any outstanding creativity (and bolding,) it just didn’t do it for me.
So the order is:
See ya Joe.