TEN-GALLON VAT

By Van Jensen, writer of Green Lantern Corps and Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer (and other comics), magazine editor and Nebraskan transplanted in the South.
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Posts tagged "basketball"
I wrote a piece about noon pickup basketball on Georgia Tech’s campus, a game that’s been going on for 60 years (and one that I play in as often as I can). Probably the most fun I’ve ever had writing a story. Read it here. (Art by the great Daniel Krall)

I wrote a piece about noon pickup basketball on Georgia Tech’s campus, a game that’s been going on for 60 years (and one that I play in as often as I can). Probably the most fun I’ve ever had writing a story. Read it here. (Art by the great Daniel Krall)

I’m a son of Atlanta. I was born here, raised here, lived my whole entire life here. I don’t know nothing but Atlanta. They know me out here. And I’m more appreciative. I have a want to win for the city, because I feel we deserve it.
Back in 2010, I interviewed Josh Smith for Atlanta magazine during the Hawks forward’s best season in the NBA. One of the most fascinating revelations was the team’s penchant for paint ball wars, and (a detail that wasn’t published) that Solomon Jones could disappear in the woods behind Joe Johnson’s house during said wars. It looks like today is J-Smoove’s last day with ATL. Bon voyage.

Ever since the Supersonics were stolen from Seattle, I’ve been without an NBA team to root for. (Despite living in Atlanta, I can’t manage more than a casual interest in the Hawks.) When I decided to cast about for a new team to follow this year, it seemed like the Timberwolves would be a good option: Weird roster full of players with unique skill sets, a fun style of play and a long history as underdogs. Then I saw the above video, which sealed the deal. Let’s go Wolves!

The voiceover guy forgot to say, “In the tradition of Like Mike, Eddie, Juwanna Mann, Space Jam and Air Bud comes… Thunderstruck!” Between this and his supposed plans to do a rap mixtape, should we be getting worried about Kevin Durant?

We had a photo scavenger hunt for work. One of them was of a basketball hoop. Then this happened.

We had a photo scavenger hunt for work. One of them was of a basketball hoop. Then this happened.

I’ve wanted to read The Breaks of the Game for a long while. It’s about the NBA (one of my few obsessions), written by the always good David Halberstam and is touted as the best sports book by Bill Simmons.

Now that it’s finally back in print, I got a chance to read it and found it to be both better and worse than I expected.

Breaks is one of the many pieces of sportswriting in the “season in the life” genre (think Friday Night Lights). It’s an angle that’s a fairly obvious grasp at making sports journalism more literary, and it’s been overused beyond the point of cliche.

Breaks follows the 1979-80 Portland Trailblazers, a team not long removed from an NBA championship, but more recently removed from an acrimonious split with Bill Walton, of great talent and frail feet.

The book isn’t really about the Blazers at all, though. Halberstam—perhaps realizing the squad was destined for mediocrity (which is not as interesting as greatness or failure)—spends most of the 300+ pages on digressions. Digressions into the league’s financial structure, into coach Jack Ramsey’s college days, into Walton’s childhood, into Kermit Washington’s childhood, into race.

Halberstam pings around wildly, bouncing from one idea to another, one anecdote to another, backward in time, forward in time, leaping from city to city. The “season in the life” books offer an obvious narrative backbone, but Halberstam mostly avoids it, only occasionally checking in with the Blazers as they suffer another injury and another defeat. It’s a chaotic, rambling book, and not an easy read.

That said, if you love the NBA, you absolutely should read it. Halberstam enjoyed a level of access that’s unimaginable today. Reading Breaks, you feel like you’re at the dinner table with coaches or players as they talk honestly about the league and life and whatever. And because the book ventures so broadly, it offers a substantial portrait of the league at that time and the personalities who shaped it. Players I’d never heard of—Billy Ray Bates!—become fascinating.

Halberstam also is just a hell of a good writer with a remarkable ability to encapsulate someone’s personality and career in only a small piece of text. His section on Kermit Washington (a good person and quality player sadly remembered mostly for nearly killing Rudy Tomjanovich on the court) is more insightful (and far better written) than The Punch, John Feinstein’s hugely disappointing book on the Kermit-Rudy brawl.

I wish a book like this had been written for every decade or so of the NBA’s existence. At the very least, I wish something like it would be written now. Sadly, the league is never again going to give a writer that type of access. And even more certainly, there never will be another David Halberstam.

Team USA highlights in the win over Argentina taken with the Phantom camera. I could watch that all day. Love the Andre Iguodala and Russell Westbrook blocks.

sed33:

James Harden to Mr. T

Oh, man, this is brilliant. Hoping Harden is OK after that cheap shot from Artest yesterday.

Great post from Beckley Mason at Truehoop on an iconic moment that was game-changing for reasons that almost nobody noticed.

Mentioned in that last post, but deserving of a post all its own: The Top 10 dunks of Shawn Kemp, Real Hero.