Around the League

Copyright 1999 NBAE - Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Rookie Challenge will sport a new look at All-Star 2012. And Shaq and Sir Charles will have to settle their next wrangle outside of the studio.

Since 1994, the annual exhibition game has showcased up-and-coming hoops stars like Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Paul Pierce, Pao Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki. Traditionally, the league’s top first- and second-year players competed against each other for newbie supremacy.

However, this year the Rookie Challenge will be reborn as the Rising Stars Challenge. The young talent pool will be shaken and stirred by general managers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, who will each draft a nine-man squad from a mixed bag of rookies and sophomores previously chosen by NBA assistant coaches.

I’ll be joining my fellow TNT crew member Chuck on the sidelines and will do my best to help coach our team to victory and follow up my 2003 win with the Sophomores with a second Challenge title. I have total confidence in my GM and trust that Barkley will assemble a dynamic crew of competitors.

Ernie Johnson will host the 2012 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft, scheduled to air live on NBA TV next Thursday, February 16th at 7:00 PM ET, with Kenny Smith serving as honorary commissioner.

On the Road with Mike

I attended our annual TNT/NBA TV tip-off seminar at Turner’s headquarters in Atlanta on Thursday. After the extended offseason, it provided a great opportunity for all of us to get together before the hectic NBA basketball season gets underway and scatters us on assignments around the country. As always the meeting was very informative. The league sent people in from the NBA office to bring us up to speed on changes we need to be aware of such as expanded use of video replay and amended interpretations of the official rules. TNT introduced us to the latest technologies that will be utilized during our broadcasts as well as the TNT family’s newest member Shaquille O’Neal, who will be a magnificent addition to the team.

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I’m Ready!

Looks like Shaq still has some impressive moves. Great video! Can’t wait for Christmas Day!

[nba-video vid=channels/tnt_overtime/2011/12/02/shaq_tnt_get_ready.nba]

Mike’s Memorabilia

When 7’1” rookie Shaquille O’Neal entered the league during the 1992-93 season, the NBA hoops weren’t quite sturdy enough to withstand a 300-pound Shaq attack.

On February 7, 1993 Marv Albert and I were broadcasting the Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns game live on NBC. Less than three minutes into the first quarter, Shaq followed up an offensive rebound with a thunderous dunk and managed to take down the entire basketball hoop with him on his way down.

Marv eloquently summed up the sentiments of the roaring crowd, “That’s one we haven’t seen!” It was like watching a heavyweight boxer deliver a knockout punch to an opponent who teeters for a couple seconds before losing consciousness and hitting the deck. The steel mechanism was no match for Shaq. The pole behind the backboard buckled and collapsed in slow motion upon impact.

Luckily, the arena had a spare. They wound up having to replace the entire apparatus with a brand new one before the game could continue. The spectacle the rookie phenom unwittingly created with his display of colossal strength was indicative of the huge mark the big guy would make during his 19-year pro career.

After the game I asked Shaq if I could have his Reebok high tops. He autographed his size 23’s on the toes and gave them to me. It was one of those nights you never forget. Later that month Shaq was voted into the All-Star starting lineup, and at the end of the season he was named the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year.

Fratello’s Fun Stats

The 10 oldest players in the NBA this season are:

1. Shaquille O’Neal, 38

2. Kurt Thomas, 37

3. Grant Hill, 37

4. Juwan Howard, 37

5. Jason Kidd, 37

6. Theo Ratliff, 37

7. Steve Nash, 36

8. Marcus Camby, 36

9. Derek Fisher, 36

10. Antonio McDyess, 36