I didn’t watch much college basketball this year, but that doesn’t mean I won’t fill out a bracket that gets busted in within five minutes. There’s a Chorus group over on ESPN if you’d like to join.
Now that the NBA Playoffs have begun, Elevated: The Global Rise of the NBA arrives at the perfect time. The book takes a look at the history of the league through the lens of the New York Times writers who have covered the sports over the decades, as edited and annotated by Harvey Araton. Due to the nature of the book, you won’t find one specific writing style throughout. Although, there’s a high level of quality to the writing and you get a look at how the writers have changed their approach to covering the sport as new things like social media came into play.
Since I’m someone who doesn’t have a subscription to the New York Times, I otherwise would not have been able to read many of these articles. It’s an excellent chance for NBA fans to get a look into how devoted one publication was to covering a variety of teams, not just the ones in the New York area. You’ll find articles from the 1970s, to ones as recent as 2018, and everything in between. However, don’t expect the story to unfold in chronological order.
Jackie MacMullan is doing a five part series on mental health in the NBA for ESPN:
Yet there remain many obstacles to confront, chief among them the stigma attached to mental health that prompts many players to suffer in silence. There’s another critical sticking point: The union insists that mental health treatment be confidential, but some NBA owners, who in some cases are paying their players hundreds of millions of dollars, want access to the files of their “investments.”
Craig Fehrman, writing at Slate:
The NBA has been bad for two years, and it’s Kevin Durant’s fault.
If the Warriors beat the Cavaliers on Friday night, they’ll clinch a second straight title, compiling a playoff record of 32–6 along the way. This team has erased two seasons of potentially exciting basketball as thoroughly as Ted Williams’ military service erased several years of his prime.
The Warriors aren’t the ’96 Bulls. The Warriors were the ’96 Bulls—a 70-plus-win team with a superstar and a championship-level supporting cast. Then they added the second-best player in the league. It’s as if David Robinson decided to join Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago and coast his way to some mid-’90s titles.
I love the NBA and have hated this year’s playoffs and finals. It’s not fun to watch. This article really gets to the why and how an un-competitive league is bad for basketball.
Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, talked with Strategy Business:
We promote the posting of our highlights. The highlights are identified through YouTube’s software, and when ads are sold against them, we share in the revenue. We analogize our strategy to snacks versus meals. If we provide those snacks to our fans on a free basis, they’re still going to want to eat meals — which are our games. There is no substitute for the live game experience. We believe that greater fan engagement through social media helps drive television ratings.
This is a really good interview that dives into how the NBA is using data and the internet to grow their product. Very forward thinking.
Thanks to Jokic, Bell learned earlier than most this important lesson about NBA life: In a sport in which games can last nearly three hours and seasons almost nine months, it becomes essential to save strength for the more important moments. After all, 100 percent effort on 100 percent of plays would sap even the greatest of deities of their godly gifts and transform contests into stumbling slogs.
And so to avoid this descent into the mud, many players strike unofficial pacts with their opponents. Possessions are punted, secrets are traded, game plans are passed along. It’s not that these players don’t care about the outcomes of games. Think of it, instead, as a sort of gentleman’s pact between players, one governing action across the NBA.
I found this article fascinating.
Baxter Holmes, writing at ESPN:
At the Cavs’ morning shootaround before their loss in Sacramento, Wade, sitting along the sideline, about six weeks before being traded back to Miami, is asked who on the Cavs knows the most about wine. Without hesitation, he points at James, who stands across the court. “He knows a lot. It’s just something he don’t want to share,” Wade says. “But when we go out, it’s, Bron, what wine we getting? You ask most of the guys on the team who orders the wine, we leave it to him to order.”
Indeed, among the Cavs, the legend of LeBron’s oenophilia is large.
As Love says, when it comes to wine, “Bron has a supercomputer in his brain.”
This is a really great article.
Mark Titus, writing at The Ringer:
The most absurd week ever of regular-season college basketball came to a close Sunday night/early Monday morning when no. 4 Michigan State held no. 9 North Carolina to 45 points, no. 16 Texas A&M blew out no. 10 USC in Los Angeles, and no. 1 Duke erased a 17-point second-half deficit to beat no. 7 Florida. There’s no way of fact-checking whether this was actually the most absurd regular-season week in college basketball history, of course, but I don’t think we need to bother. Shoot, these past seven days have been so wild that the “regular season” qualifier might not even be necessary. Wichita State’s comeback to beat Cal in the first round of the Maui Invitational happened last Monday, yet I could easily be convinced that it took place a decade ago because of all that’s transpired since.
The NBA All-Star game is getting an overhaul. Paolo Uggetti, writing at The Ringer, describes the changes:
Instead of an East vs. West matchup, teams will be picked based on playground rules, with two captains selecting from the remaining pool of players, according to an announcement by the NBA on Tuesday.
The initial All-Star voting process will remain the same as last season: five players (two guards and three frontcourt players) from each conference will be selected by votes from fans, players, and media, and the remaining 14 players will be chosen by NBA head coaches. But now the top fan-vote-getters in each conference will be enlisted to choose, fantasy-draft style, who among the remaining 22 gets to play for which team.
Seems like a needed fix when most of the All-Stars are now in the western conference. Hopefully it makes the games a little more fun as well.
Mark Schlabach, writing for ESPN:
The FBI announced Tuesday that 10 people, including four college basketball assistant coaches, were arrested as part of a two-year investigation into bribes and other corruption in the sport.
Assistant coaches from Arizona, Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Oklahoma State and USC were implicated in the investigation, and on Wednesday, Louisville announced that athletic director Tom Jurich and longtime basketball coach Rick Pitino have been placed on administrative leave.
And Jay Bilas:
The NCAA states that it protects players from being exploited commercially. Does that ring true to anyone? The NCAA uses the players as billboards for apparel deals and uses their names and likenesses to sell the product, and to sell media-rights deals. The NCAA continues benefiting from this multibillion-dollar business, while the players get only a scholarship, and the only ones exploiting the athletes are the NCAA and the member institutions. When you use a person to make money while at the same time limiting that person from making money, you exploit. Players are certainly not mistreated, but they are exploited.
Isaiah Thomas, writing at The Players’ Tribune:
But that’s what I think my trade can show people. I want them to see how my getting traded — just like that, without any warning — by the franchise that I scratched and clawed for, and bled for, and put my everything on the line for? That’s why people need to fix their perspective. It’s like, man — with a few exceptions, unless we’re free agents, 99 times out of 100, it’s the owners with the power. So when players are getting moved left and right, and having their lives changed without any say-so, and it’s no big deal … but then the handful of times it flips, and the player has control … then it’s some scandal? Just being honest, but — to me, that says a lot about where we are as a league, and even as a society. And it says a lot about how far we still have to go.
This whole thing is fantastic and worth reading.
The International Olympic Committee announced that both men’s and women’s 3-on-3 basketball will be contested at the 2020 Tokyo Games in addition to the traditional 5-on-5 game.
OK, I’m sold. This sounds like fun.
Michael Rosenberg, writing for Sports Illustrated:
The problem with your Warriors experience is that there was no struggle. You showed up, killed everybody and won. It was not surprising or interesting. It feels like a bunch of parents conspired to put the best players on the same Little League team. Sure, you’re going to win, but we all expected that as long as you stayed healthy. (And no, Kerr’s back injury does not count. Please.)
You have the two best pure scorers in the league (you and Curry) and two of the five best defensive players (Klay Thompson and Draymond Green). That’s it. That’s the whole screenplay. The rest is just special effects.
The playoffs this year have sucked. When one team is so clearly better than any other team (and probably any other team ever assembled), that’s what happens. I’m disappointed.