After they took their team through the big dance, a lot of star ballers quit the game cold turkey. Well, sorta. Let us explain.
(Photo by Bob Stowell/Getty)
There is, perhaps, nothing more heartbreaking than witnessing someone achieving their dream, only to see it dashed in an instant. There are examples aplenty of this, such as the short tenure of the third lead singer of Van Halen, or, say, the hack comedy writer who could have been a dancer! A BIG, BEAUTIFUL DANCER! But his dad wouldn't pay for JUILLIARD!
Well folks, get ready to see TONS of heartbreak in the coming weeks. Every year, the NCAA Tournament makes national superstars out of unknown players, frequently from lesser-known schools. These temporary demigods go on an epic run, only to fade into obscurity just days after the tournament ends, much like a basketball Icarus who flew too close to the sun of NBA fame, only to crash to the floor of common obscurity, amidst the shattered backboards of their hopes and dreams, if you’ll indulge all the metaphors ever written. And one day, when they film a commercial telling you how many NCAA athletes Enterprise Rent-a-Car employs, they will wipe a somber tear from their cheek, and wonder what might have been...
But until then, the class of 2013 can look forward to turning out like these formerly fine specimens.
You might recognize Pops Mensah-Bonsu as the final boss from Super Mario Brothers 2, but you’d be wrong. That was Wart. No, Pops Mensah-Bonsu was an explosive force of slam dunk power that led lowly George Washington University to two NCAA Tournaments in 2005 and 2006, while posting a 26-1 regular season record in 2006. However, injuries ravaged his draft status, and these days he’s bouncing from country to country like a regular Carmen Sandiego-Mensah-Bonsu, playing for teams like CSKA Moscow, CB Seville, and Beşiktaş Milangaz - that last one being a Turkish team whose name translates to “Light Appetizer.”
Typically, the most successful basketball players tend to be built like Sagat from Street Fighter 2 - tall, muscular, sinewy, sporting eyepatches, and able to shoot fire from their knuckles. Then you have Khalid El-Amin, a man who looks like Pikachu after a big lunch. Many remember El-Amin as being the star of UConn’s 1999 championship team. Fewer people will remember his 1 or 2 year stints with the Dakota Wizards, Gary Steelheads, Strasbourg IG, Ironi Ramat Gan, Beşiktaş Cola Turka, Azovmash Mariupol, Türk Telekom, Azovmash Mariupol, Budivelnyk Kyiv, Lietuvos Rytas, Cibona Zagreb, and Le Mans. Look at all those words. Those are things that exist! Who knew? Currently he plays for Trabzonspor which is...also in Turkey.
Dee Brown holds the unfortunate distinction of being the Dr. Dre of basketball. No, no, not the important one. The other one. In other words, we’re talking about the lesser Dee Brown. Not this Dee Brown. The Illinois Dee Brown - despite being less famous - was still responsible for the best 4-year run in the history of the University of Illinois. Although they never clipped a net, they still racked up accolade after accolade. After a short stint in the NBA, Brown headed east, where he played for a number of teams, most recently with Türk Telekom in Ankara, Turkey. Jesus, again, Turkey? Really?
Miles Simon dominated the 1997 NCAA Tournament, helping Arizona defeat three #1 ranked teams en route to the national championship. On the way, he also notched himself a “Most Outstanding Player” distinction. These days, he works as a real estate agent and an assistant coach at Arizona. That’s a gig he picked up after his most recent playing stint with the Tuborg Pilsener, which sounds like a delicious beer! Surprise! It’s not. It’s a Turkish team. He played in Turkey. When did Turkey become the NCAA’s retirement community?
All right. Let’s finish up here, and hope that George isn’t currently playing for the Bursa Wolverines or the Izmir Breakfast Sandwiches or whatever. Most know Tate George as being responsible for one of the greatest buzzer beaters in NCAA history, when he lifted Uconn over Clemson with just one second left. These days, Tate George is trying to beat the buzzer once again. And by “buzzer” we mean “fraud charges stemming from a Ponzi scheme that could land him in prison for 20 years.” Well, at least he’s not stuck in Turkey, amirite gang?
So tune in and enjoy this year’s tourney! For all you know, you’ll be seeing the next great superstar come out of Iona or Creighton just weeks before they expatriate to Istanbul. Or prison. Either way. Enjoy the tournament!