Here's a look back at notable sports news on June 28 through the years:
1971: The United States was falling deeper into the unwinnable Vietnam War. The military lowered its qualification standards in 1965 to cast a wider net of draft-eligible young men, which included the heavyweight champion of the world, Muhammad Ali. Just a year before, Ali failed the test for the Armed Forces in 1964, as his dyslexia made for poor writing and spelling skills.
When he was told of his newfound eligibility, Ali said he would not serve, calling himself a conscientious objector due to his Muslim faith. In a powerful public statement, the champion claimed that "war is against the teachings of the Holy Qur'an.” Although he didn’t say it right away, over time he also used a famously succinct reason for not joining the Army: “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong!”
Ali applied for the conscientious-objector classification, only to have multiple appeals rejected. At the scheduled induction, Ali refused to answer all three times his name was called. Ali was immediately stripped of his boxing license and championship, and in 1967, he was indicted and convicted by the Justice Department of violating the Selective Service laws.
Ali would endure a four-year exile from boxing. However, he built legal and financial support in his battle to overturn the conviction and return to the sport. A series of interviews and speeches in colleges he made across the country played a huge role in changing the minds of millions about the seemingly eternal conflict.
On this day in 1971, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction, on a technicality, with an 8-0 decision. Although the decision process was complex, and Thurgood Marshall recused himself, the remaining justices said that neither the appeals board nor DOJ provided a reasonable basis for denying Ali’s application.
While he gave himself the nickname as “The Greatest,” a significant reason why Ali reached near-deity status in the eyes of millions was that he took on the United States government…and won.
BLAZERS PUT ODEN, NOT DURANT, ON OREGON TRAIL
2007: The buzz surrounding the 2007 event was reminiscent of the lead-up to the 1984 draft, when there was significant debate over whether the Portland Trail Blazers should take center Sam Bowie or guard Michael Jordan as the No. 1 overall pick. There was a can’t-miss offensive dynamo in Texas’ Kevin Durant, whose unlimited range and smooth form would have made him the top pick any other year. However, scouts were enamored by Ohio State’s Greg Oden, who many believed to be the second coming of the iconic Bill Russell. A strong defender with some offensive touch, evaluators thought that Oden could be molded into the next great NBA center.
In ‘83, the Blazers were bestowed with the top pick and had the great Clyde Frazier on the team. In ’07, Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge were already on the roster as foundational pieces. So, the Blazers went for the seemingly sure thing and selected Oden, while the Seattle SuperSonics nabbed Durant with second pick. “I was on the phone with the radio station back in Portland,” the new franchise player quipped. “They said they stomped the floor like they won the NBA championship when they called my name.”
Sadly for Portland, Oden, just like Bowie, was snake-bitten by injuries as he missed his rookie season and played only 105 NBA games over parts of three seasons in Portland and Miami. Durant would go on to become one of the greatest small forwards of all time, and the world awaits his return in the NBA’s full season when he finally suits up for the Brooklyn Nets.
OTHER NOTABLE TOP PICKS
Several other NBA drafts took place on this day:
1907: The original Washington Senators (today’s Minnesota Twins) stole a then-AL-record 13 bases off New York Highlanders (now Yankees) catcher Branch Rickey in a 16-5 win. The future Hall of Fame baseball executive also struck out three times and committed an error.
1987: In the top of the sixth inning of a 6-2 Boston win, the Yankees’ Rick Rhoden plunked Red Sox designated hitter Don Baylor. It was the 244th time the power-hitting Baylor would be hit by a pitch, then a major league record in the modern era. The 1969 AL MVP and former manager was known for crowding the plate, and he got beaned 267 times. (The record now belongs to Hall of Famer Craig Biggio with 285.)
1992: Arguably the greatest sports team ever assembled, the Dream Team — the U.S. men’s national basketball team that featured 11 Basketball Hall of Fame players — demolished the Cuban national team, 136-57, in an exhibition game that served as one of several warm-ups to the Summer Olympics. Jordan, who scored just six points, was asked about some sort of turning point in the game. “The turning point? When they threw the ball up.”
1995: At the New Jersey Devils’ Stanley Cup victory parade, backup goaltender Chris Terreri held up a sign that said “Nashville? NO WAY!” Rumors of a move to the Music City were rampant even as the team marched to its first of three titles. The Devils remained in New Jersey, though they moved from the Meadowlands to Newark. Nashville would get an expansion team, the Predators, three years later.
1975: In one of the most bizarre, but miraculous moments in the history of golf, five players — reigning PGA champion Lee Trevino, Bobby Nichols, Jerry Heard, Tony Jacklin and Jim Ahern — were struck by lightning on the 13th hole in the third round of the Western Open in the Chicago suburbs. Or rather, they were jolted by the lightning, which actually struck a scoreboard held by 14-year-old Bobby Mortimore of nearby Hinsdale.
When lightning strikes reached the course, sirens wailed to tell everyone to get off the course, but it appeared that neither Trevino nor Heard heeded the warnings. They got under an umbrella while still on the 13th green. Not long after, a bolt struck a nearby lake, went through the grass and ended up electrifying Trevino’s putter as he was leaning on his bag.
By the grace of the sports gods, all of the golfers were treated for minor burns, though Trevino dealt with spine issues that affected his play. In a TV interview with Jacklin, the late Arnold Palmer joked that “I called over to the hospital and heard the doctor told Lee: ‘Your condition is like being a little bit pregnant.’” Thankfully, Trevino is still with us. Otherwise, how else would we have known that Grizzly Adams had a beard?
2016: Colorful NFL coach Buddy Ryan, who manned the sideline for the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. Ryan also served as a defensive coach for the Jets, Vikings, Bears and Oilers over his 35-year career. He is credited with the "46 defense" of the Super Bowl-winning Bears in 1985. Ryan’s twin sons, Rex and Rob, also have been NFL coaches. Ryan died of cancer at 82.
2016: Pat Summitt, who is second all-time in men’s and women’s college basketball Division 1 victories. Summitt successfully coached the Tennessee Lady Vols for 38 years, leading them to eight national championships. She also coached the Olympic gold-winning U.S. Women’s National Team in 1984. Summitt retired at age 59 following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. She was 64 when she died.
1981: Distance runner Terry Fox, who after having a leg amputated due to cancer, went on a cross-Canada run to raise awareness and money for cancer research. His efforts led to the creation of the annual Terry Fox Run, a fundraiser held around the world for cancer research. Fox died of cancer at age 22.
1962: Mickey Cochrane, Hall of Fame catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics and Detroit Tigers. Cochrane was a two-time AL MVP and three-time World Series Champ and held the highest batting average for catchers until 2009. Cochrane was forced to leave baseball after a head injury from a pitched ball. He died of cancer at age 59.