Three Surprising People Who Altered NBA History

How Lenny Kravitz, Slobodan Milosevic, and Henry Ford changed the NBA forever

Lenny Kravitz

All that Lenny wanted was Stillness of Heart, and that’s because he got around. One of the women he dated, Victoria’s Secret Supermodel Adriana Lima, would eventually change NBA history. Lima met NBA player Marko Jaric in 2007. The two began dating and Jaric saw a surge in his statistics for the T-Wolves. Unfortunately for the T-Wolves, that surge came two seasons too late (because Lima was busy dating Kravitz and some prince), and Jaric, who must have been lonely and depressed in the Minnesota winters prior to meeting Lima, struggled mightily after being traded for Sam Cassell. It was a poor decision by T-Wolves management that, along with Sprewell’s sudden retirement, sent the franchise into a tailspin and eventually led to the trading of legend Kevin Garnett. With Garnett, the Boston Celtics immediately established themselves as a force, winning the championship in 2008 and establishing the “Big 3” model that would spur LeBron James and Chris Bosh to shun the small-market franchises of Cleveland and Toronto and hook up in Miami. But none of that would have happened if Jaric had played to his potential.

Basketball came back to Boston, a hated team was formed in Miami, and Minnesota, Cleveland and Toronto got hosed. Why?

A Brazilian supermodel waited too long to meet Marko Jaric. It’s Lenny’s fault.

Slobodan Milosevic

The controversial leader changed history in Eastern Europe and in the NBA. The incredibly high number of smokers in Serbia (in 2008- 5.8 cigarrettes per person per day) can partly be attributed to the constant tumult in the region, which in the modern shaping of the region can most closely be identified with Milosevic. The importance of Serbian smoking came into play in the 1989 NBA Draft, where Vlade Divac slid to the bottom of the round while smoking in the green room. Sources have said that Jerry West told Divac to continue smoking as he waited to be picked, and 25 teams, each worried about Divac’s lung health, took a pass. Divac was an above-average center for the Lakers, which then allowed them to  use that asset and trade Divac for the draft rights of a 17-year-old named Kobe Bryant, who would eventually win 5 championships with the team and become the face of the NBA in the 2000s, for better or worse.

Kobe to the Lakers? You can thank Slobodan.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford revolutionized the automobile industry and eventually turned the NBA on it’s head, via the highly unstable Ford Explorer. Known for flipping over, there was never a more important roll-over than the Explorer driven by Robert “Tractor” Traylor in 1996, in an accident that left Traylor with a broken arm and recruit Mateen Cleeves, who had been partying with the Wolverine players to the tune of strippers and booze all night, in a wake of suspicion. The accident caught the eye of NCAA investigators, who in turn would turn that program upside down. After Steve Fisher was fired in 1997, Traylor left school one season early and put his name in the 1998 NBA draft. History was forever altered when Traylor was traded on draft day for Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki turned out to be one of the greatest power forwards of all-time, culminating in leading the Mavs to a championship in 2011, while the Milwaukee Bucks were mired in mediocrity, partly due to Traylor’s career fizzling out, though they would have never had the chance to make such a poor trade if Traylor had stayed out of controversy and stayed in school.

The Bucks suck. The Mavs won a championship. And Chris Webber got in a lot of trouble. Why? Henry Ford and his Explorer, that’s why.

*****
James Littlejohn is writer. You can follow him on twitter or read his blog: jameslittlejohn.blogspot.com
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