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What is Phi Slama Jama? Remembering Houston’s high-flying 1980s teams, legendary players

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What is Phi Slama Jama? Remembering Houston's high-flying 1980s teams, legendary players

The memory of Phi Slama Jama will be passed on to another generation when Houston takes on Baylor in a Final Four national semifinal Saturday in Indianapolis.  

The phrase was coined by Houston Post columnist Thomas Bonk during the Cougars’ run to three consecutive Final Four appearances from 1982-84. Those teams, coached by Guy Lewis, produced Hall of Fame players such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, not to mention some of the most memorable moments in NCAA Tournament history. 

Here is everything you need to know about Phi Slama Jama:  

MORE MARCH MADNESS: Live scores | Updated bracket | TV schedule

Who coached Phi Slama Jama?  

Guy Lewis coached the Cougars for 11 seasons from 1956-86, and he led the program to five Final Four appearances. The Cougars made back-to-back appearances in 1967-68 with two-time All-American Elvin Hayes. 

The program peaked, however, during the Phi Slama Years from 1981-84. Houston was 88-16 over that three-year stretch with a 42-16 record in Southwest Conference play. The Cougars reached the Final Four in three consecutive seasons. 

Phi Slama Jama players

In 2011, Bleacher Report ranked Houston’s 1982-83 team as the third-best starting five lineup of all time. That’s because it featured two members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.  

Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-0 center, was a member of all three teams. He averaged 13.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.5 blocks for his college career. “The Dream” went on to be a No. 1 overall pick and two-time NBA champion with the Rockets. 

Houston Athetlics

Clyde Drexler, a 6-7 forward, starred on the 1982 and 1983 Final Four teams. Drexler averaged 14.4 points per game. “The Glide” was an NBA champion with the Rockets in 1995 (Olajuwon was on that team, too) and a member of the 1992 Dream Team. He returned to coach Houston from 1998 to 2000.  

Other NBA players included Michael Young, a member of all three teams; Rob Williams, Larry Micheaux, Rickie Winslow and Greg Anderson.  

Reid Gettys, Alvin Franklin and Dave Rose were role players during the Phi Slama Jama era, and Benny Anders — a 6-5, 200-pound forward — was a fan favorite and a key figure in the ESPN 30-for-30 documentary “Phi Slama Jama.” 

Why were they called Phi Slama Jama?  

The Cougars played an up-tempo style that produced 78.8 points per game through that three-year stretch, and they did that with the slam dunk.  

Houston Post columnist Thomas Bonk coined the term “Phi Slama Jama” after the Cougars routed Pacific 112-58 on Jan. 2, 1983. Their popularity soared from there, and the team became a cult phenomenon through the 1983-84 season.  

Did Phi Slama Jama win a national title?  

No. Houston suffered three consecutive losses in the Final Four from 1982-84. A look at those games:  

No. 1 North Carolina 68, No. 6 Houston (March 27, 1982)  

The Tar Heels — who went on to win the national championship under coach Dean Smith — outlasted the Cougars in a Final Four national semifinal at the New Orleans Superdome. Sam Perkins scored 25 points, and James Worthy and Michael Jordan had 18 and 14 points, respectively. North Carolina limited Williams, Houston’s leading scorer, to two points on 0-of-8 shooting.   

No. 6 N.C. State 54, No. 1 Houston 52 (April 4, 1983) 

In one of the most memorable upsets of all time, Jim Valvano led the Wolfpack past the Cougars in a national championship thriller at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. Drexler ran into foul trouble in the first half, and N.C. State withstood a 20-point, 18-rebound performance from Olajuwon. The Wolfpack won on Lorenzo Charles’ last-second dunk.  

No. 1 Georgetown 84, No. 2 Houston 75 (April 2, 1984) 

Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing clashed in a dynamic matchup of centers in a national championship game at the Kingdome in Seattle. Olajuwon had 15 points and nine boards, while Ewing had 10 points and nine boards. Five Hoyas scored in double figures and Georgetown won the national championship under coach John Thompson.  

What is Phi Slama Jama’s legacy? 

Those Houston teams are among the best teams to never win a national championship, and the Cougars’ run ended the year before the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams.  

Houston is one of 10 schools to reach the Final Four in three consecutive seasons, but eight of those schools won national championships. UCLA (2006-08) is the only other school to pull off that feat without winning the national title.  

Now, Houston is in the Final Four for the first time since 1984, and that will bring those memories back. 

What do we remember most about Phi Slama Jama? It’s best to just watch 15 minutes of dunks:  

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ESPN’s Holly Rowe speaks French and English in WNBA Draft interview; Twitter reacts

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ESPN's Holly Rowe speaks French and English in WNBA Draft interview; Twitter reacts

ESPN reporter Holly Rowe received many a “tres bien” from her confrères in media for conducting a bilingual interview with WNBA Draft pick Iliana Rupert, a France international, on Thursday night.

Rupert was chosen 12th overall by the Las Vegas Aces. With the draft being a virtual event for the second year in a row because of COVID-19, Rowe conducted the post-selection interview in an ESPN studio while Rupert was on camera remotely.

MORE: Why Paige Bueckers was ineligible for ’21 WNBA Draft

Rowe began the interview with “Bonsoir,” or “Good evening,” and asked Rupert in French whether she spoke English. Rupert responded in the affirmative and the interview proceeded in English.

“It’s always been one of my dreams and it’s amazing being recognized,” Rupert said. “I’m really happy to [represent] my country and I’m just excited to finally start this journey.”

After two more questions and responses in English, Rowe switched back to French for the interview’s conclusion, telling Rupert “Bienvenue,” or “Welcome,” to the WNBA. She also gave her regards to Rupert’s family.

Rowe’s media colleagues were quick with the compliments.

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‘It shows how exciting we can be!’ – Saka says Arsenal have real chance of winning Europa League after Slavia rout

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'It shows how exciting we can be!' - Saka says Arsenal have real chance of winning Europa League after Slavia rout

Bukayo Saka says Arsenal have a real chance of winning the Europa League after their rout of Slavia Prague, and claims their latest performance “shows everyone how exciting we can be”.

Arsenal bounced back from a disappointing 1-1 draw against Slavia in the first leg of their quarter-final tie at Emirates Stadium by picking up a comprehensive 4-0 victory in the Czech Republic on Thursday night.

Saka was among the scorers as the Gunners booked a last-four clash with Villarreal, and he is confident they can now go all the way in the competition after flexing their attacking muscles at the Sinobo Stadium.

What’s been said?

“It was fantastic from start to finish. We did it for all the fans, they all deserve it for all the support they give us. We are really happy to progress,” the Arsenal winger told BT Sport.

“We showed real character. The first one was disallowed, Emile deserved a goal, we kept going and got the first one again. We pretty much killed the game in the first half.

“In the first leg we played well but weren’t clinical, credit to the manager and coaching staff, the way we set up, pressed, they couldn’t get out.

“It shows everyone how exciting we can be, when we play like this it is so amazing to be involved in. We have a chance of going to the final and winning this competition, it is up to us. We look forward to the next opponent.”

Arsenal put Slavia to the sword

The Gunners went at their Czech opponents right from the first whistle in the second leg clash, and found themselves in front after just 18 minutes when Nicolas Pepe dinked the ball into the net after being teed up by Emile Smith Rowe.

Alexandre Lacazette then doubled the visitors’ account from the penalty spot after Saka was fouled in the box, and the teenager got his goal moments later when he cut in from the right-wing before firing the ball low past the goalkeeper at his near post.

Lacazette added extra gloss to the final scoreline with a trademark finish 13 minutes from time as Arsenal progressed to the semi-finals 5-1 on aggregate.

What’s next?

Arsenal will now turn their attention back to the Premier League, with a home fixture against Fulham scheduled to take place on Sunday.

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What pressure? Arsenal sweeps Slavia Prague aside to set up a reunion with Emery

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What pressure? Arsenal sweeps Slavia Prague aside to set up a reunion with Emery

Slavia Prague 0-4 Arsenal: Match statistics

What was all the fuss about?

It was billed as the game that would define Arsenal’s season, a night that could even shape Mikel Arteta’s future at the club.

The pressure was supposed to be on against Slavia Prague but within 25 superb minutes, the Gunners were in cruise control.

Last week’s 1-1 draw at Emirates Stadium had left the Gunners with a very simple equation going into the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal in the Czech capital: score a goal.

Arteta’s side knew failure to find a way through a Slavia side that was unbeaten at home in all competitions this season would send it crashing out of the tournament and leave an already disappointing season in tatters.

Serious questions were being asked of the players after the way in which they threw away a lead in the closing stages of the first leg to hand Prague the advantage going into Thursday night’s return fixture.

But in the space of six scintillating first-half minutes, those questions were answered in emphatic style.

The brilliant Emile Smith Rowe had already had a goal ruled out for the tightest of offside calls before Nicolas Pepe gave the visitors the lead on 18 minutes, thus canceling out Slavia’s away goal.

Alexandre Lacazette then struck from the penalty spot three minutes later to make it 2-0 on the night before Bukayo Saka added a classy third goal – all within 24 minutes of the game getting underway.

It was game, set and match Arsenal before we had even reached the half-hour mark.

Even in his wildest dreams, Arteta would never have imagined such an impressive start from his side, especially with his captain and talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missing due to contracting malaria while away with Gabon on international duty.

This was a major statement from his side and another example of why there is genuine belief within the club that things are heading in the right direction under the Spaniard.

Getty/Goal

The abject performances throughout November and the majority of December may have led to a hugely disappointing Premier League campaign, but the improvement since Christmas has been undeniable.

Since beating Chelsea 3-1 on Boxing Day, Arteta’s side sits fourth in the form table, with only Manchester City, Manchester United and West Ham picking up more points.

And now the Gunners have booked their spot in the Europa League semifinals, where they will meet Unai Emery’s Villarreal.

Clearly, there is still much for Arsenal to improve on and failure to go on and win the Europa League will more than likely leave it facing up to a season without European competition for the first time in 25 years.

For a club of Arsenal’s stature, that is not good enough, but there are still plenty of reasons for optimism and they were all on show as Prague was blown away in its backyard.

Arsenal’s homegrown youngsters have been the catalyst for the improvement since Boxing Day and one again they led the charge – with academy graduates Smith Rowe and Saka proving far too good for the Czech champions.

Immediately after seeing a goal ruled out for offside, Smith Rowe waltzed through the Slavia defense before working the ball to Pepe, who showed wonderful composure to score his fifth Europa League goal of the season.

Saka then took center stage, winning a penalty, which was converted by Lacazette, before scoring the third himself with a fine finish from the edge of the box.

At that point, the game was done and dusted. Arsenal had done its job and it cruised through the remainder of the quarterfinal, with Lacazette putting the gloss on a fabulous night’s work with a fourth goal on 77 minutes.

All eyes now turn to the semifinal against Villarreal and the return of Emery, the man Arteta replaced just over 16 months ago.

Emery led Arsenal to the Europa League final in 2019 and now he is the man standing in their way of repeating the trick two years later.

A return to the Champions League is now within touching distance for Arsenal. Just three games stand between the Gunners and a seat back at Europe’s top table.

They went to Prague with their season on the line and they return to London with the dream still alive.

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