I didn’t grow in New York, so I didn’t get to listen to Mike and the Mad Dog. My most vivid memories of Chris “Mad Dog” Russo are working lunch shifts at a restaurant and watching his lips flap open and closed at 3X speed on a muted bar television playing MLB Network’s High Heat with no sound. At that time in the afternoon, I was likely more concerned about whether or not it would be worth it to work through my break on a double, or go take a nap upstairs in one of the party rooms.
Then Russo started appearing on First Take this year, and New York, I must admit, if this is your sports talk radio you folks do it better than everyone. Russo now sits across from Stephen A. Smith every Wednesday, at 10 a.m. EST, spewing hot takes with such fury that it once almost knocked him out of his seat and he still kept going. The man is a champion.
Watching him and Stephen A. go back and forth is like a flyweight boxing title match. They just exchange blows for 12 rounds straight. There’s no pain felt, no reason to retreat, they throw punches until the bell rings, spit some coffee in the bucket during the commercial break and get right back it.
However, a new challenger entered the fray this Wednesday. Former NBA veteran, and former punchable face of Duke champion, J.J. Redick (it’s now clearly Gayson Allen) was on set. He lets it fly himself when on the program, and he’s not swinging wildly like these two legends of the hot-take game. Redick is patient. He bobs and weaves and actually tries to set up the big shots.
He stung Russo early when they were talking about Chris Paul. They were discussing his poor performance in the semi-final series the Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2014. Russo kept harping about some missed free throws, when Redick clocked him with an “I was on the team,” and informed him that the mistakes were two turnovers and a foul. Russo would press again about the free throws, and was denied.
Did he waver, hell no. He transitioned like a jump cut into a bad Paul game in last year’s NBA Finals. Was it the correct game, no it was Game 3 not Game 5. Did Paul score five points, no he scored 10, and shot 38.5 percent from the field. Still, Redick couldn’t get to that on the fly, because Russo has a point and he’s not letting go.
Redick said if the Suns win the title this year Paul is in the conversation for best point guard of all time. Russo scoffed at such a ridiculous statement, but that wasn’t the best part. He stopped Redick right in his tracks with a “he’s not Bob Cousy.”
Young Redick was stunned I tell you. He actually turned his head in disgust, slammed his hand on the desk and blurted out, “Bob Cousy couldn’t dribble with his left hand.” Now the fight was on. “Bob Cousy changed the game.” “There were only eight teams in the NBA and two rounds when Cousy played.”
The back-and-forth continued when Russo got in a good one that startled Redick a bit when he mentioned that Cousy was first team All-NBA when Oscar Robertson and Jerry West were playing. Redick had to gather himself and couldn’t even shoot down Russo’s ridiculous question about if Paul had ever made first-team All-NBA. Once Redick did pull himself together he tried to come back with the hammer that Cousy never shot 40 percent from the field for a season. It’s very true, Russo had to acknowledge it’s so, but then he slipped in a “he also had 29 assists in an NBA game.” All the dazed Redick had in retort was, “Oh, back when he was being guarded by plumbers and firemen.”
Round Russo even though he was off by one — 28 assists.
In a discussion about the greatest point guards of all time he didn’t go Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, or even Jason Kidd. He went with the man who was drafted fourth overall by the Tri City Blackhawks in 1950. God Bless the legend, he is one of the original NBA superstars, but best point guard of all time? I think Jamal Crawford would’ve reigned buckets on him.
Still, Mad Dog turned back the clock to the Fort Wayne Pistons era of the NBA and got the burgeoning sports media star on Wednesday as Stephen A. looked on. I’ll never say I wish I had grown up in New York, but I kind of wish I had a cousin to spend summers there with if this was their sports-talk radio in the 1990s.