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Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End
This year Allen Iverson’s dressing up as a Turkish basketball player for Halloween. He’s expected to finalize a 2-year, $4 million deal,
with Beşiktaş Cola Turka of the Turkish Basketball Association. It marks the likely end of the NBA career for the oft-villainized Iverson, who once took his Philadelphia 76ers, basically single-handedly, all the way to the ’01 NBA Finals. That season Philly went 56-26, and Iverson averaged 31.1 a game, winning every award but the Heisman. But let me ask you, Obscure Athletes reader, how many more players on that roster can you name? The truth is, I could have come off the bench for that ’01 team. Let’s have a look at who else is an Eastern Conference Champ in that glorious 2001 season.
There were three players not named Iverson who averaged ten points a game for the Sixers that season: Theo Ratliff who dropped 12.4/game–he only appeared in 50 games that year, before being traded, however. A 34-year-old Dikembe Mutombo (For whom the aforementioned Ratliff was traded) chipped in 11.7 a game, in 26 appearances. And Aaron McKie who managed to stay healthy basically the whole season, contributed 11.6 in time split between the starting lineup and a bench role. Also appearing on that team? Eric Snow, brought in during the 97-98 season, no doubt for his offensive prowess from the point, kicked in 9.8 a game on his way to the finals, also courtesy of Iverson’s coattails. Snow would eventually go on to to serve as Lebron James’ prison bitch in Cleveland, a similar role to that which he occupied in Philly under the Iverson administration.
Tyrone Hill also appeared on the 76er roster that season. Look him up in the “How the fuck was that guy an Allstar?” file during the 94-95 season. It would be Hill’s last full season in the NBA. A few more laughable names that appeared in a Sixers uniform that year? Nazr Muhammed and Toni Kucoc, as well as the great Pepe Sanchez, who were all also involved in the Mutombo deal, and didn’t end up playing the whole season. Was there any reason for Allen Iverson not to be the unhappiest man in the NBA in Philadelphia? He gave his team 31 points a game and his organization gave him Eric Snow and Pepe Sanchez. Rodney Buford? Like, what the fuck? He might just have more help in Turkey.
Talk to a Florida State football fan and he or she will no doubt recount the greatness of the late 90s, an era led by St. Paul native Chris Weinke. Weinke was first an obscure baseball player, spending six seasons in the Blue Jays’ system, and it’s why he was already 28 when he led the ‘Noles to their second national championship as a junior in 1999. He followed up his ’99 campaign with a Heisman-winning season in 2000, and was drafted in April, 2001, by the Carolina Panthers.
Conversely, talk to a Carolina Panthers fan, and he or she will no doubt recount the stunning wretchedness of the Chris Weinke days of Panther football. Weinke started fifteen games as a 29-year old rookie during the ’01 season, going 1-14, with all fourteen losses coming in a row.
Weinke stuck around in Carolina until the end of the ’06 season, making spot starts in relief of Jake Delhomme, and would get his last hurrah on December 10, 2006, breaking the Panthers’ record for passing yards in a game with 423 in a losing effort against the Giants.
Weinke was let go by the Panthers that offseason, and would only start one more game in his career, in 2007 as part of a brief stint for the 49ers. Chris Weinke’s final numbers as an NFL quarterback include 15 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, and a dismal 62.2 passer rating to go with a 2-18 career record as a starter. The .100 winning percentage is among the worst ever among QB’s with at least 20 career starts.. Given how his NFL career panned out, it’s a good thing he stuck around at Florida State for a good while. Needless to say he’s yet to get the call from the fine folks at Hair Club for Men looking for his endorsement. Not yet, that is.
Few non-power hitting, low-average hitting players lasted long during the steroid era. Even fewer than do now. One hilariously obscure exception to this bit of seemingly common knowledge, however, is the fourteen year career of a Mr. John Vander Wal. He played for eight teams in that span, including an impressive seven out of the sixteen teams in the National League.
Vander Wal made his debut with the team that drafted him—the Expos, on September 6, 1991, and would spend two more full seasons in Montreal before moving onto the team with which he would spend the most time—five seasons, the Rockies. In 641 total plate appearances in Colorado, many of which came from his uncanny ability to pinch-hit, he batted .262 with an OPS of .794. The single season pinch hit appearance record belongs to Vander Wal, with 28.
John Vander Wal hit 97 home runs in his career, highlighted by a 24 homer, 94 RBI campaign in 2000 with the Pirates. He played his last game for the Reds in 2004, and is currently a scout for the Padres—no doubt working every day, trying to find the next career National Leaguer who’s good enough to pinch hit but not good enough to DH in the AL. Trying to find the next, John Vander Wal.
Bonus points if you comment answering the following question:
Which AL team did Vander Wal make an appearance for in his 14-year tenure?
Bring yourself back to a time when the New England Patriots were a dynasty in progress– a time when guys like Bruschi, Vrabel, Law, and Harrison were the stallworts of an intimidating defense that helped bring three Super Bowls to Foxboro, MA, in four seasons. The truth is, just as important as those guys, were the role players on those defenses– Randall Gay, Earthwind Moreland, and of course, the oft-forgotten Hank Poteat.
Hank Poteat played his college football at Pitt, and was drafted by his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round in 2000, and for two seasons returned punts and kicks for the Steelers. He experienced limited success in that role with Pittsburg, scoring his only NFL touchdown, but didn’t make his first NFL start until he landed in New England before game 15 of the 04-05 season. In his debut for the Pats, against the Brooks Bollinger-led Jets, he recorded a sack and a forced fumble, stripping the aforementioned Bollinger on the same play. He would get a ring as a Patriot that season, and would go on to split time between the Patriots and Jets the following year.
Poteat’s career ended in Cleveland, playing for then-head coach Eric Mangini, for whom he’d played in New England and New York when Mangini was an assistant. Hank Poteat started 20 games total in his NFL career, recording a total of 197 tackles, 3 sacks, and 4 picks. He also has a bitchin Website which looks even more in need of updating than Obscure Athletes. Love it.