Sports legends, celebrities and philanthropic giants descended upon The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City on Tuesday, in support of NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti and his son, Marc, for the 30th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner.
Since its inception, the Great Sports Legends Dinner has honored more than 300 sports titans and other honorees and has raised over $100 million for the Miami Project and The Buonicoti Fund to fight spinal cord paralysis.
Past “Legend Alumni” have included: Muhammad Ali, Willie Mays, Andre Agassi, tony Hawk, Cal Ripken, Jr. Mia Hamm, Wayne Gretzky, Dan Marino, George Foreman, Joe Namath, Julio Iglesias, Dana Torres, and Joe Torre, just to name a few.
TSL chatted it up with Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who is 40 years old and established himself as one of the greatest linebackers of all time during his 17 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.
After beginning the season as a popular choice to go far in the playoffs, Baltimore is 1-3 in the AFC North. Flacco has been OK, but his 80.5 QB rating and 5 TDs and 5 picks are average at best and doesn't help a team ranked 19th in rushing. Losing leading receiver Steve Smith Jr. for Week 5 is also a blow for a team that still has tough games ahead against Seattle, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Lewis says it's too early to panic.
Ray Lewis: When you’ve played for as long as I’ve played, what you do recognize is nothing matters until the playoffs. Everything else is fun. Whoever you like, whoever your team is, cheer for them. But the bottom line is come playoffs I tell you who I like. That’s when you really see; injuries are out the way, what teams battled back into the race after overcoming adversity early. Which team will face adversity late? those are the thing to me that matter once you get to the playoffs. Anybody can be beat on Any given Sunday, but the crème always rises to the top.
Gambler: Who are your favorite players?
Ray Lewis: Baltimore is my home and favorite team forever. I played there for 17 years, but as far as the players who are balling with the same old school, unfiltered, uninhibited, mentality I also like the Seahawks. Players like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and a few other guys. We paved the way for them and they play with an intensity and relentless nature that carries on tradition.
Gambler: How do you feel about the Patriots overcoming Deflategate and getting off to another sensational start?
Ray Lewis: Some people deal with and speak about a lot of issues and then some things you just don’t pay any attention too. Honestly I haven’t really paid any attention to all of that (outside of a media capacity). I think they are a darn good football team. I think they find ways to beat you and just know how to win. But still, when you look around the league I don’t think there is one dominant team. I think that’s what makes it so unique. Everybody has a chance and people are paying attention and wondering who the next Super Bowl champion will be because it changes each year. That’s why I love the game, because nobody can really predict or dictate the outcome except the guys on the field.
Gambler: In 2000 your impenetrable defense carried an average QB in Trent Dilfer to a Super Bowl win. Although Joe Flacco was QB for your 2013 c’hip and getting props for being a future stud, you were the undisputed leader of that squad.
With the last remnants of that old school Ravens D gone, can Flacco be the first option on a Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl Championship squad?
Ray Lewis: That’s a question Joe Flacco must answer. I’ve said this for many years that players need to run into the right situation to be most successful and I think he ran into the right situation in 2013. He acquired a defense that is arguably one of the best defenses to ever play the game and when you run up on a gift like that, you don’t really have to do much. He has the skill to throw the football and he has the build of the prototype quarterback, as far as the WILL to go do what it takes to be that guy and win a championship as the main dude, you’d have to ask him that.