Sports

Some second acts in sports are better than the original

Josh Hamilton is happy to be back in Texas after spending the past two seasons with the rival Anaheim Angels.
Josh Hamilton is happy to be back in Texas after spending the past two seasons with the rival Anaheim Angels. AP

They say you can never go home again. But that’s not exactly true.

You can go home again. It’s recapturing a moment in time, the magic of before, the glory you once bathed in that’s tough.

Just ask Josh Hamilton, another in a long line of sports figures trying to pull that off.

“I’m back here, I’m back home,” Hamilton said after returning to Arlington last month after two disappointing seasons with the rival Anaheim Angels. “I’m going to give you everything I’ve got.”

Most guys, obviously, say the same. While the results are varied when it comes to second acts, there are rare occasions when the sequel outdoes the original.

Here’s a look at second acts with a local flair and national appeal:

Jason Kidd, Mavericks (NBA)

Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd returned to the Mavericks and helped them win a title in 2011. Ron Jenkins Star-Telegram

First Act (1994-96): The second pick of the 1994 draft burst on the scene as a triple-double machine, winning co-rookie of the year honors (with Grant Hill). The future was supposed to be bright along with fellow J’s — Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn. Jealousies and poor management torpedoed it all, and Kidd was traded to Phoenix in this third season.

Second Act (2008-12): As controversial as the first J-Kidd trade was in the mid-90s, the second was even more hotly debated. The Mavericks were an established contender when Mark Cuban and Co. dealt Devin Harris, two first-round picks and change for a soon-to-be 35-year-old point guard with bad knees. The experiment didn’t work with then-coach Avery Johnson, who was out at the end of the season. After some early speed bumps with Rick Carlisle, Kidd’s steady hand helped quarterback the Mavericks to their lone NBA title in 2011.

Tyson Chandler, Mavericks (NBA)

Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler had better stats during his second stint with the Mavericks. Andy Jacobsohn TNS

First Act (2010-11): It doesn’t get better than Chandler’s first year in Big D, even if the initial reaction to the trade for Chandler was, “Really?” The 7-footer immediately stepped in as the most complete center in franchise history and gave Dirk Nowitzki the defensive sidekick that he never had before. The June championship payoff was quickly followed by a New York payoff that ended Tyson’s stay at one splendid campaign.

Second Act (2014-??): The Knicks were more than willing to move Chandler after three years of a four-year deal. The Mavericks were ready for a reunion, especially after running a collection of centers for three seasons. Stats wise, Chandler was actually better the second time around by averaging a double-double and finishing fifth in the league in rebounds. Now he’s a free agent again. Stay tuned.

Juan Gonzalez, Rangers (MLB)

Juan Gonzalez
Juan Gonzalez played in only 152 games in two injury-plagued seasons when he came back for the 2002-03 seasons for $24 million. Sharon M. Steinman Star-Telegram

First Act (1991-99): Juan Gone was one of the most-feared power hitters of the decade and helped lead the Rangers to their first three postseason trips, winning two MVPs along the way. Gonzalez once racked up more than 100 RBIs by the All-Star break. The numbers he put up suggested “franchise player,” but the Rangers traded the two-time home run champ to Detroit with a year left on his contract.

Second Act (2002-03): General manager John Hart brought him back on a two-year deal for a cool $24 million. Gonzalez managed only 152 games during those two injury-plagued seasons, though he did hit 24 homers in ’03. Gonzalez went quietly into free agency as the Rangers underwent a youth movement.

Pudge Rodriguez, Rangers (MLB)

Pudge Rodriguez
Pudge Rodriguez returned to the Rangers in a 2009 trade with the Houston Astros but the team declined arbitration that off-season and he finished his final two seasons with the Washington Nationals. Ben Noey Jr. Star-Telegram

First Act (1991-2002): The greatest catcher in Arlington history, Pudge’s first 12 years here were highlighted by All-Star Games, Gold Gloves and the 1999 MVP. Beloved by fans, respected by teammates and feared by base runners, Pudge was the ultimate Ranger. But with the club losing and the payroll bloated, Texas decided it could no longer afford the “best catcher in baseball,” as Kenny Lofton once said. Rodriguez signed with the upstart Marlins for 2003 and won a World Series that year.

Second Act (2009): Pudge was traded back from Houston to his first big-league home in August as the Rangers were trying to make a playoff push. He was solid as the regular backstop down the stretch, but Texas faded and Rodriguez declined arbitration that off-season. Pudge spent his final two years with Washington.

J.J. Barea, Mavericks (NBA)

JJ Barea
J.J. Barea joined the Mavericks after the Timberwolves waived him before the start of the season. He put together a solid season mostly coming off the bench. Tony Gutierrez AP

First Act (2006-11): Barea made the Mavericks as an undersized, undrafted free agent from Northeastern. He stuck because of grit, and because he could play. He improved every season, becoming a valuable member of the rotation and the perfect backcourt change of pace in the 2011 Finals upset of Miami. By coming up big when it mattered most, Barea essentially priced himself out of a new contract when owner Mark Cuban decided to rebuild and not defend.

Second Act (2014-??): The Timberwolves waived Barea before the start of the season, paving his return to Dallas. Carlisle knew exactly what he had in the Puerto Rican playmaker, inserting Barea in the mix from the start. He put together a solid season mostly coming off the bench. A free agent once again, Barea promises a return won’t break the bank this time.

Steve Nash, Suns (NBA)

Steve Nash Suns
Steve Nash won back-to-back MVPs with the Phoenix Suns. Ben Margot AP

First Act (1996-98): The first-round choice was stuck behind Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson in the Suns’ pecking order. While there couldn’t be a better point guard learning lab, minutes were scarce. Donnie Nelson convinced dad Don Nelson to trade for Nash, and soon after the Mavericks were off and running.

Second Act (2004-12): Oh, what an encore. Even though Nash established himself as an All-Star in Dallas, Cuban felt the 30-year-old Canadian’s body wouldn’t hold up and the contract offer in the summer of ’04 turned out to be a slap in the face. Steve returned to the desert, won back-to-back MVPs and took the Suns to the brink of greatness. Sadly, injuries, bad luck and Robert Horry derailed their championship hopes.

Bill Snyder, Kansas State (College Football)

Kansas State Bill Snyder
Bill Snyder returned from retirement to lead the Kansas State Wildcats back to national prominence. Justin Hayworth AP

First Act (1989-2005): The first college head coaching gig of Snyder’s career might have been the worst job in college football. In three years, the Wildcats posted a winning record. By 1998, they won 11 games. Kansas State played in 11 consecutive bowls through 2003. The stadium was named after him following his 2005 retirement.

Second Act (2009-present): Three years later, K-State was stuck in a rut again. Rather than find the next Bill Snyder, they called on the original. The Wildcats found their footing again after a couple of years and would take home a co-Big 12 championship in 2012. (One true champ?) Snyder, 75, is signed through 2017.

LeBron James, Cavaliers (NBA)

LeBron James
LeBron James has the Cleveland Cavilers on the verge of a trip to the NBA Finals. Tony Dejak AP

First Act (2003-10): The manchild from Akron took the franchise reins the minute he was taken No. 1 overall. The Cavaliers went from joke to title contender, with the Chosen One snagging his first MVP in 2009. The burden proved too much, as years of inferior supporting talent forced James to take his talents to South Beach in the most over-hyped “Decision” of all time.

Second Act (2014-present): No decision this time, just an essay. During his four-year exile, LeBron went to the Finals four times, won two championships and a pair of MVPs. Just going back to Cleveland was a title in itself for the championship-starved city. As for a real trophy, we’ll see …

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