The Rumble: They Wear Many Names, But The Most Important Is Champion

By James Anderson
January 30, 2003

At times I laugh whenever I hear a Rumble player speak because they enjoy talking some trash, but like to tell us how misunderstood and disrespected their players and team are. They’re talking some heavy trash, which seems to irk the other players in the league, but there was nothing the other teams could do about it. Look it up, every player that has been interviewed here at Allsports has said the Rumble were clearly the best and most dominant team this past season. Everyone gives them their props because they have the big target on their chest everyone is shooting for; so I’m sure I’m not the only person not buying the disrespected team the Rumble like to scream about. They’re the type of team you either love or hate, but never disrespect.

The Rumble easily had the best talent from number one to eight. The team was set up such that every player could play or do their part from the bench and contribute well to the team. It doesn’t hurt when your back-up Stopper was a member of the “original six” SlamBall players. This team is loaded and just need to keep focusing and not get lackadaisical in the coming season. They simply have the best blend of players in the league and they can sit for a breather because the subs can come in and hold it down. Holla back and let me know your opinion when I’m done.

Coach Ken Carter is the glue that held this team together. I heard about how this team was supposed to be so dysfunctional, but they held together better than any other team in the league. It would have been easy to fall apart after losing against the Steal early in the season, near the end of the season to the Diablos, almost to the Steal again when they brought the heat in the playoffs and then in the finals against the Diablos, but they didn’t.

I see Coach Carter holding down Dion Mays when he was hot at getting smacked going to the basket to keep him from getting thrown out. He should have been thrown out for his actions, but Carter kept it from getting to that point. It takes a special coach to be able to get a group of talented guys and make them a cohesive team. Carter did this and the results were a title. Talent doesn’t always equal a title and every time I watch a Super Bowl, I’m learning that coaching makes a big difference in a team’s success.

Jelani Janisse is an underrated Handler in this league because offense is what catches everyone’s attention. Janisse is the most physical Handler in the league and the other Handlers always keep an eye on him because he will knock them on their butts if they blink. He can attack the basket for the big finish, but has a tendency at times to settle for the jump shot. The object should be to attack the rim first and settle for jump shots later. It’s a give and take though because he seems to always pressure the ball after a shot. Janisse is a star in this league and will be recognized more if fans ever learn to appreciate what a physical Handler can do to influence a game. Janisse will get much more notice this season.

James “Champ” Willis is an underrated player and a member of the “original six”. Many people overlook his talent because the entire season wasn’t shown on TV and didn’t witness great performances by many players. Willis had several MVP performances, but no one saw him at his best. I call him the “Cerebral” SlamBaller. I like to look at the compliment Jeff Sheridan said about Willis. Sheridan told us he’d like to pattern part of his game after Willis in that he’s sneaky. Willis plays tough defense, can score and forces his opponent to play hard all game long. In other words, Willis is one of the most complete players in the league and takes great pride in doing everything to help his team win. It’s been proven that SlamBall requires a lot of stamina and guys like Willis know how to make guys work hard even if the crowd doesn’t notice it.

Whitney White is an explosive Gunner that’s always attacks the basket before a Stopper has a chance to prepare himself for the stop. He put the 35 foot shot up to ensure victory against the Steal in the playoffs to keep the freight train going forward and eventually to the championship. If he gets his mid-range game going off the tramps, White may legitimately be one of the top stars in the league. Shooting off the tramps is difficult because it’s not natural, so if this comes around look out.

Last but not least, you have Dion “Duke Nasty”, “LandLord” Mays. After having the other three guys hounding the ball, Mays always seems to be in position to eliminate every shot in his neighborhood and collecting rent. I think Sean “Inches” Jackson said it best in an upcoming interview, “I have to say that I’m very proud of him and I was surprised that he didn’t get the credit I thought he would for what he’s done. He got my vote for MVP. He’s the only person that was and will be the best defensive Stopper of SlamBall. They messed up on his stats though. He was averaging like 16 or 17 blocks a game because that’s coming out of the Mob and the Steal. The other teams wouldn’t really attack him as with myself and Sh8kes would. He got a lot of blocks on the Mob and Steal because we take it to him.”

Mays brings it hot and heavy in the trash talking department, but when you can back it up what can anyone say. He’s one of the few players in the league that can alter the way a team plans their attack. The problem is no matter how hard they try the question will always be what do we do to make him change? Unless something or someone comes into the league this year, the answer may still be nothing. The “Landlord” just may be back collecting rent for seasons to come.

I’ve given you my opinion on the Rumble this season, now I want to bring in James “Champ” Willis to let him give his assessment of where the team of headed in season two and what it will take to stay at the top. This guy is the straightest shooter in SlamBall because he epitomizes what the Rumble is about. Don’t ask him a question if you don’t want to know his opinion on how he feels about something. We got to talking afterwards and I’ll include his thoughts on things other than just where the Rumble stand.

“Champ it’s good to speak with you again and see how you’re doing and what you see for the future.

How does it feel to know season two is finally on its way?

Very exciting to know all the negotiating is basically all over and we can finally get back to work. I’m excited and can’t wait to start.

Have you spoken to your teammates yet to see how hyped up they are about playing again?

Yeah, I’ve spoken to pretty much the starting four. I haven’t really spoken to the substitutes yet, but I’ve heard through other people that everyone is ready to go though. We all keep some kind of pseudo contact, so we’re always keeping in touch with each other. Mason has spoken with everyone and he says they all said they’re ready to go and start playing again.

The Rumble are the defending champs; what does that mean to you coming into this season?

To me it means the past is the past and gives us a measuring stick for our success for us to know what we need to do to hit that formula. We need to get a little deeper and if we do pretty much the results will probably be the same. You said the Mob had the “Big Three” and no disrespect, but what did that make us then? We could have put any of our starting four and they would have been the man on any other team. It’s on us as to whether or not we win again.

You guys always seem so confident in your abilities on the court and off. Is there a chance you could be overconfident because you have the most talented team in the league from top to bottom?

No, no, no, we’re confident, but we probably have quadruple the hunger of any other team. Guys can sit around talking about how good we are and they are, but we are the hungriest team out there. We have eight people out there that act like they have a disease and it’s an infectious hunger. It’s only because as the Captain of the team I’m hungry to be the best and our General Coach Carter, he’s hungry to win and that’s a key to success. A lot of people of people sacrificed a lot of things for the good of the team. That’s what you have to do to be the best.

I could have easily gone out there and been the leading scorer and so could Dion. Dion was the MVP of the league, but was only our third or fourth leading scorer on the team. What does that tell you because Dion could score with the best of them? Whitney was our leading scorer and I was second, which tells you everyone sacrificed what they had to in order for us to be as successful as we were. Every team didn’t do that and the example might be the Mob and the Slashers. They didn’t sacrifice as individuals for the success of the team. This is a team sport, not an individual sport. Actually it’s the ultimate team sport because you have to pass the ball and set up your teammates in a short amount of time to get people open. We did these things to the best of our abilities better than any other team. Because we played so well as a team, if a guy had an off night, he could do what he did best and someone else could pick up the slack.

What was all that talk about the people thinking the Rumble wouldn’t be able to play together and you guys being dysfunctional early in the season? You guys seemed to play better than anyone else as a team. I heard stories of how other teams had less cohesiveness early in the process.

People thought we had too much talent and we were all winners. People came into SlamBall wearing rose color glasses when it came to SlamBall and everyone was going to have a great attitude coming into this game and they’d be great for the league and such. As far as us, we knew no one is perfect and many that came to SlamBall thought you could. This is a sport man and you’re going to have athletes with attitudes in any sport. Some people had too much control and picked people based on those attitudes. The best players have attitudes and the best player on earth Michael Jordan, has an attitude. Muhammad Ali had an attitude, so why would it be different for anyone else. Rasheed Wallace has an attitude and look what’s happening with him. He’s by far a great athlete and you’re not always going to make people laugh.

Coach Carter and myself were two leaders that I guess we had attitudes, but when it came to our team we only cared about the team and ourselves. We didn’t care about anyone else and whenever was said and done, I guess we weren’t that dysfunctional. We were all a team and got into it with each other like every other team did, but who didn’t get into it. Kobe and Shaq didn’t get along all the time last year, but they won in the end. To win, you have to be able to face a little adversity and be able to come through it and know you can. Some of the greatest people in sports had and have attitudes, but they might not be on your level, which is why people may not like them. People thought it was a popularity contest in the beginning and some got smart early and knew it was a talent contest and what could they do with that talent. We were lucky to have Coach Carter as our coach because he realized people make mistakes and have to move on to get better.

I take it personal not winning and didn’t have to taste it much and won’t accept having to taste it in the future. We had guys that realized what their job was. Wendell Robinson didn’t play much in the games, but even he had a job and if he didn’t do it then he got his butt ripped. He may have to watch the clock and yell it out, but that was his job and you’d better get it right. We were probably the most detail-oriented team in the league. It became second nature to do what your job was and that’s how we planned it.

Does it bother you that so many other players get noticed because they make the spectacular play and you keep it basic a lot?

That’s kind of a problem I have, but I’m going to have to live with that because I’m not going to change my game. If you ask around the league, many people will tell you I see things that people don’t see and I see things that guys still haven’t seen yet from last season. I see things way ahead of others. It’s like I’m in the Matrix and I’ve always been like that. SlamBall is a rush kind of sport, but in the end, it’s a game. People are yelling and screaming, so they miss the little things, but people will learn soon what it’s about. They’ll learn that many guys have some serious game and it’s like a chess match. I compare it to hockey in that you may be like a Dominik Hasek in that it’s one of the sports that you can dominate without ever having the ball and scoring a point.

Dion is the perfect example of dominating without the ball. He’s like our third or fourth option, so it’s surprising that people are so surprised that he dominates like he did. He would beat up everything that got to the basket and they couldn’t do anything about it. I could probably take care of business back there too, but I can’t sit here and say I’d want to take that constant beating a Stopper takes, so I give him credit for that. It’s hard to talk to people about the little things guys do, but eventually that will change, as people get more educated on what’s going on.

What would you say is the Rumble’s greatest strength and weakness if you actually think you have any.

Our greatest strength is that everyone is content in doing their job and satisfied that in the end, we get the victories and won the title. We don’t have to out there and throw the ball between our legs and doing this and that. At the end of the day, as long as we get that victory, you can have all the highlight plays you want and do your things. The ring and recognition is all we can ask for when it’s all over. Our weakness is our depth even though everyone played their roles well and that’s about all I can say for now.

What do you think the addition of two new teams will do for the league? Is that just two more teams for the Rumble to beat up on?

I wouldn’t say that because people are starting to recognize the game and some new players are going to come in hungry. I’m not saying we’re not licking our chops, but we’re hungry. You have fluke champs sometimes, but ours was less one than any other sport. We’re probably the hungriest champs of anyone out there. We might blow all up in one game and we’re probably the hungriest and pissed champs out there and want to go and do it all over again.

Everyone is saying they’ll make a run at the title because of the experience gained from last year. What do you see as the key factor in the Rumble keeping the title and establishing a legitimate dynasty?

Just do what we do. Some guys are saying I need to do this and tweak that, but all we need to do is what we do best. It’s like people talking about Tiger Woods; everyone else can get better, but we already are better and will continue to get better ourselves, so what are you going to about that. Our learning curve was already high and the games you didn’t see we whooped teams. If the refereeing gets better then we’re going to wear people out. It’s like the Jordan or Shaq rules, where they let things go that should be a call. If the game gets cleaned up in calling things as they happen, I guarantee you James Anderson that we will roll up another ring.

I asked Willis some other questions, so consider this a solo version of “The Panel” as he speaks on the issue of Shaq and Yao Ming. What did you think of the Shaq and Yao Ming match up?

Shaq totally dominated that match up. Yao did all he could to stay with him, but he let his emotions get the best of him. Yao blocked Shaq’s first three shots, but had help on two of them. Shaq is the most dominating player out there and the league has done everything they can to stop him. I wouldn’t blame Shaq if he quit the league. They put the zone in and let people beat him up. He can barely walk and he’s jumping with 800 pounds on his back. That’s his weight, the ball and another man. They go and get another player from China that they give all the publicity to when he barely can outplay Kelvin Cato.

What about the comments he made?

That’s a bunch of bull. All those comments were made months ago and now Bill Walton wants to say something with his punk a**. Why didn’t he say anything then? Two weeks before the game after they started advertising it, now the comments come up so it would be viewed. They should have said something back when it was said.

It’s kind of like black folk, hip-hop and kung fu kind of go together. When Shaq first came out he was down with the Wu-Tang Clan and was referred to as Shaq-Fu. On Shaq’s first album what was he wearing? He was wearing a Ninja suit because he enjoys that and on NBA Jam Session he still does a little Bruce Lee thing. Shaq’s like me, he loves the Asian culture, so why should he have to defend himself. He’s done a lot for the culture and that’s why he said it like he said because he loves the culture. He didn’t say that with any bad intentions. He told you he’s an ignorant comedian.

I could have easily said the same thing myself. I have many dragons, ninja swords and Japanese animes in my house. In Yao’s Apple commercial, Mini-Me was watching the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, while Yao was watching something else. Now how prideful was Yao then? If Shaq were in the commercial what would Mini-Me have been watching Foxy Brown or Shaft? It’s just ridiculous to even try to make him look like a racist.

Now I see Yao is doing the credit card commercial now where he goes back and forth with the clerks saying Yo!, no Yao. Could that be viewed as mocking “street talk”? It’s just a thought. Of course, he’s getting paid for it so no one says anything.

Thanks “Champ” for the assessment of the team and where the Rumble is headed this season. He’s always a great interview and he didn’t fail this time either with his extra comments on Yao and Shaq. I’ll definitely get back with James Willis in the future because you’ll never worry about image influencing what he or any other Rumble player has to say. They say what’s on their mind and won’t back away from it.

Rumble young man Rumble!!

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