A Really Disjointed Post Which May or May Not Be About Basketball (I'm Still Not Sure What The Subject Is)

There has been a lot of angst around the great state of Illinois concerning the recent craptitude of U of I’s basketball team. A 13-5 record in what is essentially a rebuilding year? Not good enough for some people, apparently. Myself? I’ll take it (plus, we do have Rights!) and I will throw this in as well: If Ron Guenther listens to any of the blowhards and lets Bruce Weber walk within the next three years, much like the New York Jets letting go of Kevin Ward, it will be the biggest mistake of their life.

Most of the worrying around the state of the Illini’s program is focusing on Weber’s inability to recruit so-called “athletes” (this worrying makes no sense to me, for if Kelvin Sampson had a soul, Weber would have just landed the top senior “athlete” in the country for next year) and instead focuses on guys like Jamar Smith. You know… guys that fit into a motion offense. Like the one Weber runs. What a dumb idea.

Anyway, all of this talk about “athletes” got me thinking about the most athletic basketball player I ever saw (that is to say, seen) in my life (not hyperbole): Ronnie Fields.

I remember on a lazy Tuesday last November, I was lying on my couch, watching Fox Sport's "Behind the Glory" on Kevin Garnett. "That's really random, Al," you may be saying to yourself right now. "Why were you watching that?" Easy. To get to the part where Garnett moves from South Carolina to Chicago and enrolls at Farragut Academy, where he teamed up with Ronnie Fields to form the core of a ridiculously talented Farragut squad. Basically, I watched an entire FSN product (hard to do) just to see some of Fields’ unbelievably amazing dunks.

Ronnie fucking Fields.

He was 6'3" and possessed a 48 inch vertical. Just freakishly athletic – If he didn't make the grades to get into DePaul, he would have gone the Garnett route and head straight into the NBA. He would have won every Dunk contest he entered, on any level of competitive ball.

In what continues to be the most spectacular dunk I have ever seen in person, during the 1996 Peoria River City Shootout, he drove the lane, took off from about two feet inside of the free throw line and jumped over Sergio McClain (who was a good 6'3" at the time himself) before slamming the ball home (he literally jumped over him – Sergio's head was just south of Fields' nuts).

He averaged 32.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 4.5 blocked shots, four steals and 4.5 dunks a game his senior year at Farragut and dropped at least 40 in nine games, topping out at 51. He left high school as the third all time leading scorer in Chicago Public League history with 2,619 points.

Then, on Febuary 26, 1996, in a late night car accident, Fields suffered three broken vertebrae. Doctors weren’t sure if he'd be able to walk again, let alone play ball.

Eventually, he made it back on the court, but he has never the explosive player which he once was. He rehabbed, played a little overseas and around the country in the many minor leagues of basketball. Right now, he's 28 years old and plays for the Rockford Lightening in the CBA (he played alongside the Rev. Roger Powell for a bit), hoping someday to finally make the jump to the NBA.

Around Illinois, among the tens of thousands of residents who treat high school basketball as a bit of a religion, Ronnie Fields' name is still almost sacred. But nobody else really seems to know of him. In probably the only apt comparison I have heard, my buddy Nate likes to say that Ronnie Fields is the Earl "The Goat" Manigault of our generation, even going so far as to hope that "in 10 years a Don Cheadle look alike will play him in a movie."

So I was more then a little excited to get to Garnett's senior year to see just a couple clips of Ronnie. And what happens? They show him a handful of times throwing alleyoops to KG. That was it.

Now, I'm not saying Fields ever would have been even half the pro that KG is now, but I think that Fox Sports should have at least mentioned the fact that Garnett wasn't even the best player on his team.

Really, though, I just wanted to see some of his old dunks. Luckily for me (and, of course, for all of us) there is YouTube. So sit back, relax, enjoy some dunks, and enjoy your Thursday (and don't forget to watch "The Office" tonight) (and I apologize for the music in the second one. I think the song is by "MC Generic Late 90's Rapper"):


Ronnie Fields fathered my twins...not Elvin!
Al, saw Ronnie play in p-town once. It was Michael Jr. Incredible is all I got to say.
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