The Times is hosting a fun debate on college athletes’ amateur status. Check it out.
A good companion to Bill Kauffman’s excellent piece on Hoosiers is this article on Larry Bird, who comes off sounding like the original crunchy con:
With no team to play for and no school to go to, Larry decided to take a job with the French Lick streets department. He would ask his good buddy and crewmate Beezer Carnes to pick him up at the crack of dawn so they could get there early. When Beezer would inevitably be late, Larry walked to work instead of waiting for him. “That’s just the kind of work ethic he has,” Carnes says. “Larry would get on a tractor and mow the grass. We’d collect garbage, dig ditches, clean out the trucks, paint curbs. He loved it. If he hadn’t done what he did as a basketball player, I’d say he’d be the French Lick street commissioner right now.”
In future years, as Larry Bird’s celebrity burgeoned, his experience on the garbage truck would draw considerable interest, as well as a smattering of elitist derision. Larry, however, never saw it as beneath him. “I loved that job,” he said in 1988. “It was outdoors, you were around your friends. Picking up brush, cleaning up. I felt like I was really accomplishing something. How many times are you riding around your town and you say to yourself, Why don’t they fix that? Why don’t they clean the streets up? And here I had the chance to do that. I had the chance to make my community look better.”
Two cheers for cosmopolitanism, though, because Hoosiers wouldn’t have gotten funded had it not been for some rootless Brit (from Kauffman’s article):
For two years, seeking financing for the film, Pizzo and Anspaugh were turned down by every Midwesterner and basketball fan they approached. Their savior was a foreign rogue who “had never seen a basketball game, never heard of Indiana.” He was “an educated Cockney whose dad used to show up drunk and embarass him when he was playing soccer.” The relationship between Shooter and his son “made him cry. He said how much do you need? We got $6 million.”
The D-League dunk contest is evidently where it’s at:
Anyone who loves basketball, has read Moneyball, or has any interest whatsoever in great sports writing should read this article on Shane Battier, one of the most underrated players in the game:
The Rockets’ offense had broken down, and there was no usual place for Alston, still back near the half-court line, to go with the ball. The Lakers’ defense had also broken down; no player was where he was meant to be. The only person exactly where he should have been — wide open, standing at the most efficient spot on the floor from which to shoot — was Shane Battier. When Daryl Morey spoke of basketball intelligence, a phrase slipped out: “the I.Q. of where to be.” Fitting in on a basketball court, in the way Battier fits in, requires the I.Q. of where to be. Bang: Alston hit Battier with a long pass. Bang: Battier shot the 3, guiltlessly. Nothing but net.
Rockets 100, Lakers 99.
Kellogg drops Phelps; Radley Balko drops Kellogg.
A fun article on Bird and Erving from 1982 (via).
The lesser-known version of my all-time favorite song about romantic anticipation.
SI discovers the libertarian social theory behind Obama’s affection for pickup basketball:
Organized basketball, particularly in high school, is an exercise in submission to social control. Pickup ball, by contrast, involves collective governance and constant conflict resolution. It is, to borrow Sarah Palin’s phrase, community organizing in which everyone has “actual responsibilities.” For all its associations with inner-city pathologies, pickup ball harks back to a traditional time, when kids weren’t squired to playdates or stashed with third parties but made their way to the park on their own, picked teams and — as Obama did — grew up along the way.
On a related note, here’s a pretty great YouTube video:
Speaking of uninformed sports commentary, this deal sounds like a very savvy move on the part of the Celtics. For all his faults, Marbury is a solid athlete and a proficient scorer. He’s a pretty awful teammate, but given the fact that the Celtics have already established a solid on-court hierarchy, I doubt he’ll have much chance to poison the entire organization. I admit that the thought of Marbury winning a championship while other, more deserving players languish is incredibly irksome, but it’s a smart move nonetheless.