Two the Gull Way
Sometimes, you get an email so pure in its intentions, so rippling with information and connections, that you can basically steal it and make a post from it. So thank you, longtime reader Ian Ross, for bringing the following facts to my attention.
-Apologies if I'm late on this -- I kind of got sick of reading every single thing every single person in every single city touched wrote about LeBron -- but David Hyde column from the Sun-Sentinel, dated 7/11, has some real stunners in it. At least for someone who recently finished working on a book about NBA history. It's about not the evil players fooling the fire department, but Riley's persuasive powers. Central to all of this is his use of the Russell/Auerbach Celtics as a rhetorical device, even point of inspiration. The key passage:
"The Celtics won 11 titles in 13 years,'' he said. "That's the one dynasty."
Riley began throwing out names centering around Bill Russell on those Celtics teams like Bob Cousy and Jungle Jim Loscutoff. Sam Jones. K.C. Jones. Tom Heinsohn.
But the one name he left off, the one that began as coach and ended as team architect, is the one Riley's team and personal legacy chase now. So among the questions percolating around the Heat now, add this one: Will Riley go down as the Red Auerbach of the YouTube generation?
I left that last part on just because it sucks and isn't accurate, and shows how much this column buries its own quirky, if not brilliant, lede. Or, to be more exact, Riley's. I've written much about de-Jordan-ing Bron, which as Ian Thomsen has said, might be for the best for the league and its paradigm factory; many folks have pointed out that great teams all were deep as fuck. But no player has been as single-mindedly deconstructed in the name of winning as Russell, and no pox of talent more sublimated than the Celtics dynasty. Also, the Jungle Jim reference is so weird we should remember it forever. Paul Flannery told me this morning that his name -- just his name -- is retired, because someone more important (don't have time to cross-check, sorry) wore the same number.
No one's ever accused Bron of being a Kobe-like history buff, which is why it's so funny that Riley would mention Loscutoff, an enforcer who clearly didn't give up greener individual pastures by playing for team in Boston. But the genius of Auerbach's teams was that they were stacked to the point of congestion. And yet everyone put ego aside. It's the most extreme case of this ever, and from a bygone era. I want to know, though, why it would be totally invalid here -- and if we would mock James for wanting to be Russell to Wade's Sam Jones and Bosh's Heinsohn (that one needs work).
Okay, from same dude:
In the More Than a Game documentary, exactly 18 minutes in, Sian Cotton is talking about the decision to go to St Vincent's over Buchtel, and goes, "The African-American community had wanted us to bring our talents to Buchtel, and felt like we were traitors."
Also unnoticed (as far as I've seen) is the fact that the chapter in Shooting Stars where he and his friends decided to go to St. Vincent's is called "The Decision."
This really leaves you puzzled, doesn't it? The much-maligned "take my talents to" could be either a local, or hyper-local, or among-friends, idiom ... yet it's been picked apart like a political speech (whether or not LeBron should have been more careful, anticipating that reception, is another question). At the same time, that move and the title of the chapter suggest that hey, James has done this before. What was it about then? Camaraderie? Opportunism? I don't know. I'll go with "some of each", and make it the subtitle to my forthcoming LeBron James stop-time claymation epic.