The Daily

On Sports

Liftoff Is Like a Fingerprint

February 18, 2016 | by

Aaron Gordon’s best slam dunk in the whole world, ever.

Aaron Gordon’s best slam dunk in the whole world, ever. Via Twitter.

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 »

Northern Powerhouse

February 11, 2016 | by

David Storey’s classic rugby novel, This Sporting Life, speaks to an enduring schism in English culture.

From a Penguin paperback edition of This Sporting Life.

“I went straight for the full-back,” the up-and-coming rugby star of David Storey’s 1960 novel, This Sporting Life, tells us: “and when he came in I gave him the base of my wrist on his nose. The crack, the groan, the release of his arms, all coincided with a soaring of my guts.” Crucially, the sport here is Rugby League, the fast and furious sister of Rugby Union—the latter being what most people would recognize simply as “rugby.” Save for a few rule differences, the two are similar, yet in a thousand intangible ways, many of them to do with the inescapable pall of class that covered English life throughout the twentieth century, they’re worlds apart. Much of the unique power of This Sporting Life, crafted straight from Storey’s personal experience, is in how it shows us these ways. Read More »

Kings

February 5, 2016 | by

LeBron James. Image via Flickr

If you’re among those who believe we’re witnessing a basketball revolution, you should be very interested in the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re not shooting threes like their lives depend on it, and they’re not using lineups that minimize size in favor of speed and skill. They’re not part of the new orthodoxy of the unorthodox. They’re a stay against the revolution. Read More »

Among School Children

January 27, 2016 | by

Living and dying by the NBA schedule; watching two New York teams face off.

Ethan Hawke reveals his new allegiance to the Nets at a January game against the Knicks.

In late summer, after the draft and free agency, as fans begin to foster new dreams or cold, hardening hopelessness about their team’s prospects, the NBA releases its schedule for the upcoming season. Few things can shape one’s future the way a new schedule shapes the future of a fan. Without even realizing it, you begin to move things around. That romantic getaway you’d planned to the Bay Area? Suddenly it promises a little more Curry, a little less Sausalito. You may consider forsaking your traditional Christmas dinner for a Chinese buffet. Maybe you tack on a day to that long business trip because you know your two favorite teams will be on their way there, too. Read More »

The Hustle Is Real

January 22, 2016 | by

How the Knicks learned to trust.

Derrick Williams, via Twitter.

Hustle and trust—the meaning of abstractions like these comes from the actions and decisions that form around them, and its these I’ve always preferred to focus on. The context gives meaning to the concept. You hustle by hurrying, running, rushing, conning, seducing, overextending. You trust by impeaching your intuition, surrendering control. When someone says “I trusted you,” the phrase is loaded with all the actions that came from that trust: the person comes almost to embody trust, just as anyone who’s always hustling can only be called a hustler. I think of Malbecco, the perennially jealous husband in Book III of The Faerie Queene, so consumed by his suspicions that he becomes jealousy itself: Read More »

In a Dark Wood

January 12, 2016 | by

Assessing the season at the halfway point; what’s going on with the 76ers?

Ishmael Smith, newly acquired by the 76ers. Photo via Twitter

The midpoint of the NBA season comes a little after the turn of the calendar year. As we settle into the new promises we’ve made to ourselves, basketball teams are busy evaluating how the promises they made to themselves over the summer are going. “Promises” isn’t always the right word: some teams, as we’ll see, make something more like wagers, hoping to cash in on a shot in the dark. But the best teams traffic in promises not unlike New Year’s resolutions: promises to maximize talents, to take better care of themselves, to take advantage of the small window of success they’ve been granted.

Are these teams keeping their promises? Well, there’s little surprise at the top of the league, where the answer is mostly yes. The Warriors and the Cavs, the two teams that played in last year’s finals, are at the top of their respective conferences. The Spurs, eternal contenders, are only three games behind the Warriors for the best record in the league, and they have the largest average margin of victory. The Oklahoma Thunder have Kevin Durant back and two of the five best players in the game on their roster, and some appealing supplementary pieces. The Los Angeles Clippers are playing as well as they have all season, even with their star Blake Griffin on the mend—that said, they’re in a bit of a rut. They’ll win fifty-plus games again this season, yes, and they’ll be a relatively tough out in the playoffs, but there’s too much not quite there in their game to see them going much further than that. Read More »