• Former Longhorn great Kevin Durant concedes scoring title, but becomes youngest to join 50-40-90 club

    Someone wins the NBA scoring title every year. Each of the last three seasons, that someone was Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. 

    But former Longhorn Kevin Durant did something this year accomplished by only six other players in NBA history -- shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line in a season. Durant was unable to win the scoring title for the fourth straight year, getting pased up by the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony this month. 

    Anthony averaged a whopping 36.9 points per game in nine April games, sitting out the Knicks’ final two regular season games. Durant, who did not play in the Thunder’s regular season finale against Milwaukee, finished the year with 28.1 points per game, second only to Anthony’s 28.7 points per game. Had he led the league in scoring this year, Durant would have joined Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan as the only players to ever win four straight NBA scoring titles.

    But Durant, who averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 points per game while winning multiple national player of the year honors during his only season at Texas six seasons ago, shot a career-high 51 percent from the floor, 41.6 percent from the floor and an NBA-best 90.5 percent from the free throw line for Oklahoma City this year. In doing so, Durant, 35, became the youngest player to ever join the 50-40-90 club.

    “It shows my progession as a player,” Durant told The Oklahoman last week. “It shows how far I’ve come as a player, from shooting 42 percent as a rookie to now shooting 50 [percent] for a whole season.”

    Price was 25 when he joined the 50-40-90 club in 1989 while Nash became the oldest player in NBA history to go 50-40-90 when he did it for the fourth time at age 36 in 2010. Nash, 39, nearly pulled off another 50-40-90 season this year, shooting 43.8 percent from three-point range, 92.2 percent from the free throw line but just 49.7 percent from the floor in his first year with the Lakers this season, although he didn’t play enough to qualify for his fifth 50-40-90 season.

    The 28.1 points per game Durant scored this season was the second-most by a player to go 50-40-90 in a season, less than only the 29.9 points per game Bird averaged when he did it in 1988. 

    If the Thunder win the NBA title this year, Durant would become the first in league history to ever go 50-40-90 and win a championship in the same season. Bird came the closest to pulling it off, leading the Celtics to the 1987 Finals, where they fell to the Lakers in six games.

  • Legendary broadcaster Pat Summerall remembered

    “Seven seconds. They’ve got Vinatieri in range.”

    A hushed New England sideline watched in silent tension as Adam Vinatieri lined up for the 48-yard field goal that would give the Patriots their first Super Bowl win in franchise history.

    Few of the 86 million that were tuned in for football’s biggest game understood the pressure that walked onto the New England kicker as he walked onto the field. But the voice that was delivering the game knew all too well. This wasn’t just any kick.

    “Here comes one of greater importance,” the composed baritone said. “And it’s right down the pipe. Adam Vinatieri. No time on the clock and the Patriots have won Super Bowl XXXVI. Unbelievable.”

    As Vinatieri leaped with outstretched arms to meet his teammates rushing onto the field, up in the broadcast booth, Pat Summerall, who had delivered the game-winning call, remained silent for a time. One could not help but think that perhaps he was connecting with Vinatieri’s emotions, remembering a kick of his own that sent the New York Giants to the NFL Championship in 1958. How he had rushed off the field, meeting his teammates in ecstasy and embracing coach Vince Lombardi, who smiled, saying, “You know you can’t kick that far, don’t you?”

    But both Vinatieri and Summerall had kicked that far. It was that simple. And that was how Summerall conveyed the scene at New Orleans in 2001.  

    That was the style of the legendary play-by-play announcer, Pat Summerall, who died Tuesday at the age of 82. Concise. Succinct. To the point.

    In his 42 years as a broadcaster for CBS Sports and Fox, Summerall covered the NFL, the Masters, college football and the U.S. Open. John Madden, who partnered with Summerall for 22 seasons, called him the “voice of football.” The description fits.

    Starting in 1962, Summerall began broadcasting NFL games for CBS Sports just as professional football was starting to get full coverage on television. Throughout his career, Summerall broadcast 16 Super Bowls and co-hosted the NFL Films series This Week in Pro Football.

    A pioneer in the first generation of football television broadcasters, Summerall became synonymous with the game itself, leading the way for the Mike Tiricos and Joe Bucks of today.

    An award in his honor has been presented every Super Bowl weekend since 2006 "to a deserving recipient who through their career has demonstrated the character, integrity and leadership both on and off the job that the name Pat Summerall represents."

    He is eternally remembered for the example he set.

    To that first generation of televised-game watchers, he was the voice of football. To many in my generation, he called the games of our earliest memory. And to the next generation, he will be a legendary figure, influential in the history of sports.

  • West Virginia's travel troubles as member of Big 12

    Throughout the 2012 football season, new addition West Virginia had no problem traveling more than 1,000 miles on numerous occasions to take part in Big 12 play.

    Now that football season is over and other seasons that require more travel are now in full swing, the school is faced with travel problems. Twice already the Mountaineers have had a Saturday game, Sunday flight back home, Monday practice, just to have to hop on a plane Tuesday to make another game on Wednesday. West Virginia is asking the Big 12 Conference for accommodations so that they could play a Saturday game and then stay the night Sunday to play a game on Monday.

    This would make sense because it would reduce travel costs along with the amount of time and energy that student-athletes would spend away from their academic obligations, which many athletic programs across the nation seem to neglect. It seems as though this issue is miniscule, which, in my opinion, it may well be. But it does raise the question of whether the Big 12 should be obligated to make accommodations for a school that knew what it was getting into upon coming into the conference.

    The situation at hand is a true testament to the fact that the days of playing an in-state rival or a rival from the same geographical region are long gone. Maybe with the departure of West Virginia from the Big 12 Conference, other teams closer to or within Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas may find a move to the Big 12 more appealing.

  • Longhorn legend Cat Osterman announces retirement

    Former Longhorns pitcher Cat Osterman announced her retirement from competitive softball Tuesday. 

    The four-time All-American is the only player in college softball history to win National College Player of the Year three times. After setting Texas school records in career ERA (0.51), wins (136), shutouts (85) and no-hitters (20), Osterman moved on to professional softball, winning a pair of National Pro Fastpitch championships and an Olympic gold medal at the 2004 Athens games.

    “As I turn 30 … I’m announcing I will hang up my cleats after this 2013 NPF season,” Osterman tweeted Tuesday, her 30th birthday. “Thank you again everyone for the love and support. I’m blessed. Looking forward to making my last season a good one!”

    The only player to ever have the country’s best ERA in three different seasons, Osterman struck out 14.4 hitters per seven innings during her Longhorns career, an NCAA record. She fanned 554 hitters as a freshman in 2002, an NCAA record at the time, before she broke it as a junior and senior. Osterman held opposing hitters to a .095 batting average during her career and recorded
    2,265 strikeouts.

    When Osterman focused on playing for the U.S. Olympic softball team in 2004, Texas went 24-25, the program’s only losing season in the last decade. Osterman tossed 14 and two-thirds scoreless innings in the 2004 Olympics en route to helping the U.S. win gold.

    Osterman, who led the NPF with a 0.72 ERA last season, is currently an assistant coach at St. Edward’s University under former Texas teammate Lindsay Gardner. Osterman and former Longhorns running back Ricky Williams were each inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame
    in February. 

    Texas had only played five seasons of varsity softball before Osterman arrived. The Longhorns lost both of their games of the only trip to the Women’s College World Series before Osterman led them to the WCWS three times — where they were knocked out by UCLA before the national title round each time — and have not been back to Oklahoma City since.

    “She has been the most iconic softball athlete at the University of Texas as well as in the state of Texas,” Longhorns head softball coach Connie Clark said. “We are extremely proud of her and her representation of
    our program.”