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Raiders out for a bowl
Jul 30, 2001; Napa, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders players huddle at training camp at the Napa Valley Marriott. Photo via Newscom

An offbeat story arose out a basketball bet between Raiders Head Coach Tom Cable and All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha took his favorite NBA team, the Los Angeles Lakers, to win the NBA Championship and Coach Cable chose his favorite team, the Boston Celtics. If one of their teams won, the guy who picked the losing team would have to buy a bowling trip for the entire team, players coaches and all. One of the interesting things about the bet was that it was made at the beginning of the NBA playoffs, before either individual knew if their team would even be in the finals.

“That’s right. And then they met in the finals,” said Asomugha. “It was crazy. And then in the third quarter of Game 7, I think we were down 13. So I’m like, oh boy. I’m getting text messages.”

Of course, the Lakers took the crown, so the bill was on Tom Cable…this time.

What the two guys making the bet did not know at that time was that they had two recreational bowlers on the team with them, running back Michael Bush and offensive tackle Mario Henderson. Henderson took the top single score for the day after bowling a 204. He also turned in scores of 194 and 175.

“Mario’s a monster. He and Bush,” said Asomugha.

“My high was about 185,” said Michael Bush. “But I was like on the first lane. First lane is the worst lane to be on because of how the oil is set up. When they put the machine on it’s like the first lane that’s going on so there’s oil.”

Excuses, excuses; Bush claims his highest score ever is a 289. “I got two balls, shoes, bags, I got all of it,” said the third year running back.

“I mean I heard he was a good bowler,” said Mario Henderson. “But it didn’t show up yesterday. Bowling on lane one in a bowling alley is technically a bad lane, but still. Me and Bush are going to settle this on another day where we can have even lanes. As of now I think I’m still a better bowler.”

So out of one bet sprung another. Now Bush and Henderson have a private wager between themselves about who is the better bowler. “Bush is good,” said teammate Chris Johnson. “But he didn’t have his ball last night. There’s a little debate now. He and Mario are going tohave a bowl-off. We’ll see how that goes. Mario’s pretty good. It was a little shocking”

“I used to bowl in leagues when I was little,” Henderson bragged. “I was too big to play in Pop Warner football so I bowled. So that’s what I dominated at while other guys played Pop Warner.

“It was actually pretty much below my standards. First of all, we had practice earlier that day. I had a house ball, I didn’t have my balls, didn’t have my bowling shoes. So I was fighting all odds yesterday but still managed to squeeze out a pretty good game.”

“I picked it up in college in like a month,” countered Bush.

“We ended up winning,” said Asomugha of his team. “We did the bowling yesterday. It was a great team event, in all honesty. It was perfect because we were in teams and we were with people that we never see. I was with like an offensive lineman, a tight end and the receivers coach, and everybody had a different team. Four-man teams, 25 lanes and highest (combined) score is considered the winner, and we won. They hate us.”

At the alley, each team put a small amount of money in to a pot. The winning team received the riches. Jay Richardson said, “Somehow Nnamdi just keeps on getting money. The rich just get richer, huh?”

It was not just Chris Johnson who was caught off guard by Henderson’s performance, “A lot of them didn’t know it,” Henderson said. “I surprised a lot of them. I just came in cool, calm and casual. It’s kind of like you feel like putting up 50 points in basketball. Yeah, I’ll just do it.”

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