I'm Not a Toy
Your boy DLIC wrote the Freedarko joint for McSweeney's today. In true FD fashion, I curse sport consumers for attempting to moralize the NBA more than other sports leagues, and suggest that these singling out effort is due to the NBA game “feeling so right it must be wrong.” In the process, and also in very un-FD fashion, I completely gloss over the fact that a primary reason the NBA is so often the subject of this treatment is that it is a league of young black stars (aka “moral decay” to blue-haired season ticket holders and NBA bizness partners). I feel like maybe that is the more obvious point, and one that has already been made, probably better, by more credible people.
Also, on the topic of glossed over points, I delve into the argued ad nauseam college/pro debate, which, under heavy duress and sickness that I no doubt picked up on the 20-hour car ride back from Austin to Minneapolis, I would like to expand (briefly) upon here.
I'll start by addressing B-Shoals’ inquiry, which is how we/one/basketball gets from James Naismith (zero) to Michael Jordan (infinity). I’m no basketball historian, but I’m pretty sure it went like 1891 Naismith did the thing, 1940s Mikan goes buck-nutty, forces league to change the rules so that big men can’t dominate, 1960s/1970s Russell and Wilt continue to dominate despite the bigman-curtailing m.o. of the league, 1980s the rise of Bird, Magic, and Isiah demonstrates dominance from the backcourt, 1990s MJ reveals the limitlessness of man. Everything since (e.g. Shaq mocking Wilt, search for the next Jordan, resurrection of Riley) has been retread. In other words, we now know what is possible. Oscar Robertson fits somewhere in there too as the paradigm of versatility. But point being, MJ showed us the stratosphere.
Now what is frustrating about the college game is that, it’s like, we have seen the boundlessness of basketball ability; so why would we anyone want to have to endure the more restrained version of it. The players are terribly over-coached, which contributes--in addition to the mind-numbing bonus foul rules--to the end of the games taking for-fucking-ever (I believe this topic was at least tangentially discussed here as well). Coaches don't trust their players (and why should they), so they end up calling a million timeouts in tight situations, which squashes a lot of the drama as well as the clutchness from the moment (again see Shoals' previous post). The relative importance of coaching in college compared to the NBA leads to a game dominated by the principles of the institution rather than the individual (fancy way of saying I hate that players aren't allowed to freelance in a close game with a minute left in regulation)
Point two with regard to "the institution." There is this quasi-phony notion in college basketball (but oddly not in college football...getting there...) that because these teams are repping their schools that what we are watching is the education of young men. Sure to a certain extent this may be true, but overall, this point is bullshit as we have all heard the stories of how these guys get everyone to write their papers for them and enter the NBA barely able to read. Shoals (YES WE DID HAVE ANOTHER BASKETBALL CONVERSATION IN TEXAS) made the insightful point that in basketball, many of the best programs often belong to actual good schools (e.g. UCLA, UNC, Duke, Georgetown, Boston College) whereas this is NEVER the case with football. I think this is somehow related to the notion that basketball is more of an educational experience whereas football is education only insofar as it teaches these neanderthal concepts of basic survival/band of brothers/hunting sabertooth tigers with a spear/spoon your fellow man in a sleeping bag if it's cold enough outside, etc. In fact, as someone who played four years of high school basketball and sucked profusely at it, I know that basketball is the least cerebral sport of all. It is pure instinct and reaction, elements that college hoops does its best to extract/exclude from the game in favor of hand-holding and full-court trapping. One of my earliest coaches told me the reason why I was so crappy at basketball was because I was always thinking about the play rather than reacting. So without any better idea of how to wrap up this paragraph, I shout from the student union at Wichita St. to the stainglassed chapel at Boston College: FREE HOOPSO.
As a closing non-sequitur (and for those who claim that Freedarko no longer follows current events) I would like to acknowledge this recent tabloid spectacle, which I simply can’t avoid commenting on. (Also, I have decided that any time my old lady AND Chicago’s very own version of the devil-on-your-shoulder forward you the same hoops-related link, that probably means it's blog material.) Due to this recent news, as well as a quick run-through of the dossier, I have determined that Carlos Boozer truly has no soul:
1. Born in Juneau, Alaska (least soulful city in the U.S.)
2. Played college ball at Duke (apologies, too obvious)
3. Swindles a blind philanthropist and forgoes the opportunity to play his career alongside the human embodiment of Paid In Full (could be referring to the album, the crappy movie, or the soundtrack to the crappy movie—really doesn’t matter)
4. Swindles a blind philanthropist, etc…FOR THE PURPOSES OF GOING TO UTAH.
5. Somehow manages to cripple himself for 80 games after signing a billion-dollar contract
6. Sues Prince (for being Prince)
Oddly enough, I still love C-Booz’s game.