Thursday, March 26, 2009

Canadian Icon: Bill Wennington

The move that defined a career. Fouling a player better then him . Bill with Dikembe Mutombo courtesy of JAMD

Our latest in our series of people, places and things that have defined Canadian history. Today we look at the career of one of the players who changed the course of NBA History. A born champion who was one of the 15 most important players in the Chicago Bulls second three peat. A valued member of the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame. His name .... Bill Wennington.

Bill was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1963. From an early age observers noted that this boy was destined for greatness on the basketball court. His skill...he was crazy tall and he knew how to foul. Bill dominated the playgrounds of Montreal as the other kids played while smoking DuMauriers and wearing skates.

As all Canadians destined for greatness, Bill moved to the United States to attend high school and later St John's University in New York City. As a member of the Redman, Bill made it to the NCAA Final Four. Alumni still recall the epic practices where his teammates could be heard to extol his skills. A day wouldn't go by without cries of "Pass me the ball you gangly fuck", "Why did you shoot that asshole?", or most famously “Get me a clean towel this time Beef”. His nickname Beef Wennington would stick to this day.

Bill was taken in the first round of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. From 1985 - 1990 his emerging talent could not be contained. His points per game went from 3.4 in the 85/86 season with Dallas to 5.7 in 89/90 with Sacramento. Criminally left off the All Star team during this period Bill traveled to Italy where he spent 2 years playing for Bologna and take revenge on even ganglier tall white guys. A 2 year period that inspired a generation of European children to pick up a basketball.

Bill returned to the NBA in 1993 with the Chicago Bulls. Wennington was the only player with the talent and name recognition to replace Michael Jordan on the team. Jordan had recently retired to avoid paying his gambling debts. The 1993/94 season would turn Bill from Star to Legend. His average of 7.1 points and 2.8 fouls a game made the Chicago faithful forget about Michael Jordan and the game of basketball. The Cubs and Bears set attendance records that year.

His gambling debts repayed, Jordan returned to the NBA in 1995. Bill a consummate teammate surrendered the leadership of the team to "Air" to avoid strife. Along with Luc Longley he watched Jordan score, Pippen score and Rodman rebound while he fouled a succession of the greatest centers in NBA History. Shaq, Hakeem and Ostertag were all fouled in his quest. His reward was 3 championships but a question mark remains eternally unanswered. How great could he have been?

Bill retired in 2000. His legacy lives on in the new generation of tall white guys who can foul. Not since James Naismith hung a peach basket in a Springfield Massachusetts YMCA has a Canadian had such an effect on the game of hoops.

William ("Bill") Percey Wennington, Canadian Icon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First off you do a Bill Wennington piece and while talking about the storied Bulls franchise you fail to mention in a passing breath "THE WAITER" Toni Kukoc who's contribution to that team still goes unnoticed. SHAMEFUL SHAMEFUL...