June 14, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
The finals get interesting.
And just like that, Monday evening blossomed into something both the rabid and the casual basketball fan will remember. The Cavaliers, down three games to one and facing elimination on the road—in the fortress that is the Oracle Arena, no less—rode their two superstars, who were both pulsing their brightest, to a dramatic 112–97 victory, dragging the resuscitated corpse of this NBA Finals back to the waiting arms of their fans in Cleveland.
Now a win at home—something they already managed in emphatic fashion in the third game of the series—would force a do-or-die game 7; the Cavs would have all of the momentum and every right to believe that the two best players in the building are dressed in Cavs colors. Just like that, this series has gone from the Coasters’ “Yakety Yak” to Donald Byrd’s “Emperor.” Read More »
June 7, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
I made a decision once the playoffs began to take a little break from this column. I know what you’re thinking: Who writes on basketball for an entire regular season and then takes a break when the playoffs start? Well … I do. It wasn’t a dramatic decision. I just wanted to step back, observe, and avoid—as strange as it may sound—the pitfalls of the playoffs. By “pitfalls” I mean the playoffs’ compulsion to repeat themselves and the accompanying impulse of the writer to search for particular significance in these repetitions. In other words, you’ve seen the Raptors–Cavs Eastern Conference Final before, countless times. The favorite wins the first two home games with relative ease; the underdog returns home to a raucous crowd and wins the next two games to even the series, stirring thoughts that the contest is evenly matched; and then, almost as if on cue, the underdog capitulates and vanishes. Read More »
April 22, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Dearly beloved, this is what it sounds
Like when you become a symbol through sound
That roreth of the crying and the soun:
You give up all your shit, down to the sou,
Wade through raspberry death to find him so
You can remind yourself he once was
Rowan Ricardo Phillips’s second book of poems, Heaven, was published last year. He is the recipient of the 2013 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, a 2013 Whiting Writers’ Award, a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2016 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and is shortlisted for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize.
April 5, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Reflections on the end of the regular season.
The last two weeks of the NBA regular season, things get turned on their heads. It’s like someone switches off the gravity, or even the gravitas, and concerns that were once at the bottom float up to the top. At this point, the best teams are what they are. They know they’ll start the playoffs at home against an overwhelmed opponent. They know that the potential for injury or complacency—the secondhand smoke of an excessively long season—is their most dangerous rival. They play these last games competing more against the limits of themselves than anything else.
The Warriors and the Spurs, still by far the two best teams in the league, are chasing records: the Warriors, 69–8 as I write this, have a better-than-even chance of topping the 1995–1996 Chicago Bulls’s record of 72–10; the Spurs are three home victories from having gone the entire season undefeated in their own arena, a feat no NBA team has ever accomplished. Read More »
March 1, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious,” Einstein wrote in The World As I See It. “It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
Thus far, the NBA has been far from that cradle this season. There’s not a lot of mystery when you have two superior teams—when the best players in the game are playing like the best players in the game. The results have, for the most part, certified reasonable assumptions as truths. Read More »
February 18, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
This past weekend, Toronto became the center of the NBA universe as the NBA All-Star Weekend, with its various constellate events—the celebrity game, the skills competition, the three-point contest, slam-dunk contest, and other haute nouveauté—once again went down with its familiar mix of gauche, sizzle, and panache. I was asked more times than I can remember if I’d be in Toronto for the festivities but I maintained my proud record of never having attended an All-Star game. That won’t change anytime soon.
I get All-Star Weekend, really I do. I understand where it’s coming from and how it can be considered exciting. The best basketball talent in the world all gathered in one place for one weekend and something with something that seems somewhat like a game of basketball eventually happening in the end. I get it. Give me Westbrook, Curry, Thompson, Leonard and Green on the court at the same time. Give me Wall, Wade, George, Anthony, and James on the court at the same time. I get it. I want to anoint my soul with it. But it’s simply not my thing. I watch out of habit far more than out of awe. And at some point I realized that to be the objective of it anyway: to be accounted for more than having a profound feeling. It is what it is. And I can live with that. Read More »