Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Category: Hoops

Chris Bosh, -$28 Million Man; David Stern, Superstar

I guess Chris Bosh doesn’t need that $27 million summer house in Southampton. The now-former Raptors’ centerish dude has taken $28 million fewer dollars than he would have made playing (presumably) with LeBron James in Cleveland to play (presumably) with Dwyane Wade in Miami. And thus the free market system has told you something about the relative value of two American cities to one Christopher Wesson Bosh, of Dallas, Texas.

Of course, this wasn’t a perfect example of market forces working their magic. The Raptors could pay Bosh the most, and any other team looking to sign him could pay him $28 million less. The Raptors and Cavs had agreed for Bosh to sign the higher contract and then work out a trade. He didn’t, so they didn’t, and now he’s going to Miami.

All of this makes you wonder how much money would be flying around if there was no salary cap. The NBA system is designed to give superstars incentives to stay on their longtime teams, presumably because David Stern has found that it makes the league more marketable. He’s taken the Michael Jordan effect and spread it leaguewide: Have one recognizable great player on each team, and people will tune in even if they don’t know anyone else on the roster. Best of all, make the league such an enticing draw for advertisers that the best players—the ones whose pay is actually being capped by the limits on maximum contracts—don’t actively bark about their pay being limited, and instead work toward endorsement deals. The league’s increasingly squeaky-clean image—promoted by NBA Cares commercials and enforced by Stern & Co.’s zero-tolerance approach to physical nonsense, on or off the court—helps make these endorsements a reality. It’s the After Artest era, one in which Ron-Ron himself almost single-handedly wins Game 7 of the NBA finals and thanks his therapist on national television.

It’s almost impossible believe that with all the money that’s floating around now that the owners are threatening to lock out the players after next season, and it’s even worse when you know they’d be throwing out even more if they could. You don’t think LeBron would hold out for a contract bigger than Alex Rodriguez’s $300 million deal? LeBron has scheduled a prime-time hour on ESPN to announce his decision. Childhood vanity or innate vanity, it’s still vanity, and by the manner in which teams are falling all over LeBron to procure his services, there’s no reason to think someone wouldn’t nudged an offer at least into spitting distance of A-Rod’s deal. And yet the owners are going to tell you they’re losing money, which they may in fact be doing. There are rumors that they’ve spent so much this offseason because they know they won’t have to pay up, as they are expected to ask for an across-the-board salary cut, owing mostly to dwindling attendance. Knowing David Stern, they’re likely to get it. Mr. Stern doesn’t lose, even if the owners are making an embarrassingly poor case for themselves right now.

Their counterpoint could be that these are simply the costs of doing business, but they’re not. “Doing business” and building a championship team are not, unfortunately for sports fans, the same thing. Profitability has an easily identifiable blueprint: pay as little as possible for players, win as many games as possible and, whatever you do, make the playoffs. Exactly how far you make it in the playoffs doesn’t matter all that much to the bottom line. At some point you are going to run up against someone else’s vanity project, and to plan to beat that team (not the same as actually beating them), takes money out of your pocket at the height of your moneymaking powers. People don’t want to hear it, but if you follow that blueprint, you’ll make money.

Yet rich people continue to buy sports teams and pile money into them, and you don’t become rich enough to become an owner without being a shrewd moneysmith. At some point, owning a sports team could be classified as little more than a vanity project, which would explain owners’ inability to keep their public statements in line with the actions of their teams. They claim to not want to lose money, but most of them are already losing money when compared to how much they could be making if they were, for lack of a better term, “all business.” So what they’re really complaining about is a movement down a sliding scale on which they’ve willingly jumped. I’m not that sympathetic.

At the same time, the NBA’s system does, at least in theory, strike a nice balance between the rabidly free-market system of Major League Baseball and the proscribed, socialistic payout system of the NFL. Baseball embraced the “watch the money” ethos early on, content to sell as many Yankees hats as it can and crush the dreams of every Kansas City kid; the NFL has far too many players to pay to allow any one team or group to monopolize the talent pool. In the NBA, you can do it if you’re lucky, good and plan well. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh won’t be teaming up in Miami, but they could have. The resulting arrangement should leave title-contending teams in Miami, Cleveland, Chicago, Orlando and Boston… and that’s just in the East. Three of those teams are led by No. 1 overall draft picks, which shows how much you need the ball to bounce your way, but that’s no less capricious than, say, relying on Tom Brady to turn into a Hall of Famer. Sometimes it’s about money, sometimes it’s about skill, and sometimes it’s about luck.

So when looking at Chris Bosh’s decision to leave $28 million on the table and go to Cleveland, I wouldn’t sweat about the money. He’s not a good or bad person for doing what he did, he’s just a guy in search of something at the nexus of comfort, vanity, and fulfillment. Or to put it another way: “There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.” That’s Moby-Dick; I’m still on that. LeBron’s the white whale, sure, but the only thing that comes up more in Moby-Dick than Moby Dick himself is God, created the system that led to the noble pursuit in which Ishmael was engaged and over which virtually everyone onboard obsessed.

I think Melville would have liked David Stern.

•••

Apropos of nothing, I was going to post a clip from last night’s Louie, featuring Ricky Gervais, that is in no way, shape or form safe for work. However, the still shot for the YouTube video is of Louis C.K.’s butt, so I’ll just post the link. If you want to watch it, go here. Do this.

Looking into the void

I rode to Massachusetts this weekend in a car without a working radio that was three-quarters full of basketball fans, so we passed the time on the way up by thinking out every conceivable scenario for the NBA’s free agent class. We did the same thing on the way back, using the most up-to-date information (Dirk! Pierce! Joe Johnson! Amar’e!). Here’s what we believe:

1) The Knicks actually did something right. After two years of “planning,” the Knicks looked like a rudderless ship as recently as Thursday, but at a poker table where everyone was afraid to make the first move, the Knicks pushed a sizable portion of their chips to the center of the table. Amar’e Stoudemire is a good player on a slow, predictable decline, but Chris the Knicks Fan insists Amar’e is one of the smartest players he’s ever seen. This means the end of David Lee in New York, which messes up your fantasy keeper league team but not much else. (Slight UPDATE: The uninsured part deserves some scrutiny. Okay, a lot. But still.)

2) Going to Chicago is the brave move… for Dwyane Wade. Even my mom knows Wu-Tang is for the children, and it appears Dwyane Wade is too. The convention line of thought at the moment is that D-Wade is likely to go to Chicago because he’s locked in a custody battle with his ex-wife and his children are there. You’d have to be the coldest-hearted Heat fan to hate him for leaving because of his kids, and it’s a good reason to leave, but there’s a potentially better one. LeBron’s decision is magnified because he’s quasi-understood to be “chasing history,” whatever that means: More than Michael, more than Kobe, or bringing a title to Cleveland. Wade, a young champion, seems immune from all this and, family drama aside, perfectly willing to stay in Miami and play on 50-win teams. That’s why I think the bold move for him is to go to Chicago, and wedge himself into the Kobe/LeBron discussion. Could he beat them both if he went to the Bulls? I absolutely think so.

3) LeBron isn’t an afterthought, but no one’s going to wait for him if they find something better. I think the whole “LeBron signs and the dominoes fall” narrative is coming to its end, as a prime result of the two factors discussed above. The Knicks took a “F***-it” approach to wait-and-see, and if Wade thinks he can win a title in Chicago, why would he wait for the word from LeBron?

4) Joe Johnson is or is not overpaid. We hashed out this discussion and ended up agreeing to disagree. Person A said that Johnson is the rare truly effective, occasionally game-changing guard; Person B said that he’d be willing to grant all that, but that the maximum contract rule makes it absurd that he’ll be making as much or more than players who are better than him (like Wade and James). I’m person B.

5. Paul Pierce. In light of Pierce’s greatness/goodness over the last three years, it’s worth revisiting the Celtics team that made it within two victories of the NBA Finals with Pierce and Antoine Walker as 1 and 1A’s. That’s what we told ourselves, at least. Now think about how Antoine Walker played basketball. So yes, he’s getting old and doesn’t bring it every day, but Paul Pierce has been good at basketball for a very long time. For whatever reason, I’m just sayin’.

Tuesday, July 6th. Back in the saddle again.

If I was LeBron James

If I was LeBron James. If I was Dwyane Wade. If I was Chris Bosh. If I was Amar’e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer. If I was Joe Johnson. If I was Rudy Gay. If I was Ray Allen. If I was J.J. Redick.

If I was 6’8″. If I grew up in Akron, Ohio. If I had been assigned for greatness by the age of 12. If my high school basketball games had been on ESPN, my tattoos covered by bandages because tattoos were a no-no. If I had watched the results of the lottery, knowing that Cleveland had the best chances at pulling the number one overall pick, and knowing that should they obtain it, even I might begin to believe that the fairy tale. If I had seen, in the aftermath of the lottery, the owner of the Cavaliers hold up a jersey with my name on it.

If I was forever known as the player picked one spot before Darko Milicic (just kidding). If I inspired hundreds of thousands to watch my first pro game, against the Kings, where I gamely tossed a pass to Ricky Davis on a fast break, showing the world that I knew what it meant to be deferential. If I had followed that up with a thunderous dunk of my own, a small peak behind the curtain of the breadth of my abilities.

If I had heard the criticism of my shooting at age 19. If I had been told that I could learn. If I spent much of the next seven years practicing a shooting motion with which I could live, reliant on the slightest flick of the wrist from the top of my elevated Sears Tower-like frame, brambles on brambles of muscle like the skyscraper’s buildings resting upon buildings. If I learned to do it with with my arms bent as awkwardly as frog legs, an imperfection related solely to my massive stature, a nagging imperfection like a fly bounding against an elephant.

If I had watched my team improve to the point it was the best in the league, at least during the regular season, over the last two years. If I had heard the whispers about how it meant nothing about a title. If I had fallen short in the playoffs, only after submitting a handful of the few greatest games in the playoffs. If I had heard the whispers about how I was distracted by the thought of July 1st, 2010. If I had only wanted to get to July 1st, 2010, without hurting anybody, including myself. If I had heard the whispers about how I had failed my hometown, already, by not committing to them already.

If I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan, and had a chance to take his place. If I dreamed of having the chance to live in Chicago since far before the moment I saw him swat Bryon Russell aside. If I wanted to outshine Kanye West. If the President of the United States had, in a moment of honesty, told the world what I already knew: that I would look great in a Bulls uniform.

If I loved Jay-Z and vice versa, and listened to his pitch: Brooklyn, a new team, new name, new tradition… B, why don’t you tell him? If I was suddenly staring down the eyes of Beyoncé. If I was watching them, daring me to be the first person to tell them no.

If I had—at some point in my life—a dream of resurrecting the Knicks, bringing them to the front of the New York sports scene for the first time in almost 40 years. If I had watched the Willis Reed tape dozens of times, imagining that it was me, only I went for 40 points and sent Kobe packing. If I could replace Derek Jeter as the chairman of the Canyon of Heroes. If I wanted to feel tickertape in my skull.

If I had heard the shouting that I wouldn’t be anything unless I won more often than Kobe. If my life was defined, to some degree, by someone else’s, despite everything I had done. If I hadn’t made Kobe realize that the missing element of his game was teamwork, just as he made me realize that real work was the missing element of mine. If I we had corrected our results at the same rate, but he got a better rate of return. If I thought about why that was…

If I had a chance to change everything, to write my own story. If I had a chance to start it all over again someplace else, or bring a title to the only hometown I’ve ever known in a way of my choosing. If I heard the pleas from my friends, neighbors, the mayor, that it was the only right thing to do. If I thought: They don’t need to tell me what’s special about this place; I already know. If I thought: This is what will happen if I leave, and saw the images of crying children, adults, grandparents, a deserted Quicken Loans Arena. If I was prepared to be hated for making a choice that is ostensibly mine. If anyone is prepared for something like that, ever.

If I had to make a choice anyway, and I was LeBron James, what would I choose?

I don’t know. But if I was advising LeBron James, here’s what I’d do: I’d put the contract offers in front of him, in a row, and give him a pen. I’d wait for him to sign one of them, and when he did, I would look him in the eye and tell him that if I was LeBron James, I would never look back.

•••

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Food Court Lunch’s excellent imagined conversation between LeBron and Chris “Happy to be here” Bosh. An excerpt:

Bosh: (annoyed) How do you figure? Last I checked, you and me had the same number of rings.

LeBron: (incredulous) Same number of…Look, man, let me put this another way. Look over your shoulder. What do you see?

Bosh: (looks) There’s nothing there.

LeBron: Right. Now look over mine.

(Bosh looks. A single-file line of fifteen women, anxiously straightening their dresses and fixing their make-up, has suddenly appeared behind James)

Bosh: What the…

LeBron: You see? I just thought about them, and they appeared.

I also have thought power. I think about work, and it appears. I guess I’m Batman too. So many Batmans.

LeBron, the Knicks, the Nets, and the Red Pill

The only thing Chris needs more than a glass of water is a working Internet connection. He doesn’t even need a minute to think this over. Say the word, chart the King’s path for New Jersey, and he’s ready to make the switch. After years of frustration in the best of times and something beyond despair in the worst of them, he’s looking at the Knicks and he feels nothing at all. The Church of Anthony Mason has been destroyed. For the first time, he sees this:

Starting tomorrow, Chris will be clicking between two websites: Twitter, which is sure to break news of LeBron James’ eventual destination faster than any other site, and the New Jersey Nets’ official website. The season tickets page, to be exact. If LeBron jumps, so will he, and that will be the end of it.

It’s hard for me to say how much Chris loved the Knicks growing up; I didn’t know him until eight years ago, when the team was already corkscrewing to the bottom of a terrible conference. The Nets were ascendant then, but that made no difference to him. The Knicks were bad, but to him and many others, still: StarksMasonEwingEwingEwing, and FUCK Charles Smith, but not as much as Michael Jordan, no player as much as Michael Jordan, not then or not ever, but Jimmy Dolan on the other hand…

He watched and waited and watched and waited, and good God, he watched. He watched the Knicks on television, compulsively. He was an addict in search of that first, glorious high, creepingly aware that it was never coming back but digging in his heels—and his butt into his couch—anyway. The definition of addiction, and the definition of insanity. Still, they were his Knicks, and nothing could change that…

Until 2004, Chris was a Yankees fan. The A-Rod trade turned him off to the team altogether, and he swiftly made the switch to the Mets. To this day, I’ve never heard any echoes of his joy at 1996 or subsequent titles. Maybe he keeps them to himself, but his love for the Yankees seems dead, a small fire snuffed out by a Category 5 hurricane.

For the Knicks, Hurricane Isiah finally started pushing people to the brink. Not Chris. He kept watching. StarksMasonEwingEwingEwing. FUCK Charles… eh, I guess he’s no Isiah. And FUCK Michael… eh, why bother? Chris didn’t let go of his grip completely, he just loosened it, but the storm kept coming.

Now the Nets are definitely coming to Brooklyn, where Chris grew up, and the Knicks, having ostensibly planned for this offseason for three years, look as clueless as they did when they started. Not only that, Chris is convinced that LeBron is signing with the Nets. He is convinced that LeBron’s mind has long been made up to come to New York, but that he, like Chris, sees a team that died 10 years ago. The fire still burned for Chris, surviving every Category 5 hurricane James Dolan threw at him, but why would it for LeBron?

There is, technically, no Category 6 hurricane. That’s what James would be. He’s already a prototype of something we haven’t seen before. Category 6. Category number 6. For Chris, he’s the hope to extinguish the smoldering wreckage of what was and will always be his favorite era in any sport, ever. Starks, the little engine that did. Mason, the man on whom he has modeled a not-insignificant part of his life (Chris’ love for Mase is pathological, admirable, scary). Ewing, the original spark of hope. Ewing, the key to it all. Ewing, the symbol of all that could have been, a monument to the past.

If the storm comes, it’ll fill thousands of glasses of water. The blue pills keep fans looking backward. The red pill pushes them forward—”the only direction”—and that’s why Chris has chosen it. But he’s no longer looking to the sky for his water to wash it down. He’s already taken it and, that’s why for the first time in a decade, he’s ready to enjoy whatever comes next.

•••

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James

It’s good to be Dwyane Wade.

Ten years ago, in the Major League Baseball offseason to end all offseasons, there was a bumper crop of free agents which included three huge names—Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Mike Mussina—and a bunch of smaller ones who followed them like fish follow whales, gobbling up the extra money of the boom days. If the 1998 home run chase “saved” baseball, the 2000 free agent grab was the MLB Network precursor to baseball as a reality show.

That winter, my colleagues at the college newspaper and I refreshed ESPN.com’s free agent tracker once every, oh, three minutes—and only that long because it took about two and a half minutes to load. Every player on the market was listed, and the logos of the interested teams would be applied or removed next to their names based on the news of the day. Rodriguez’s page was the most volatile, reflecting his position as the most singularly heralded free agent of all time: a player with the skills of no other, in the prime of his career, offering his services to the highest bidder. Ramirez’s free agency period was not without its fanfare, but it was a fraction of that of Rodriguez, who, with agent Scott Boras, milked A-Rod’s numbers for everything they were worth, most famously creating a 73-page booklet (link at bottom of page) stating his earning potential based on his already legendary position in the history of the game. The opening page blares: “Alex Rodriguez is the best shortstop in Major League Baseball history at age 24.”

This year’s NBA free agent class has a remarkably similar constitution. For Mike Mussina we have Chris Bosh, the reliably very, very good-but-not-great star whose star gets brighter by association with the others; for Ramirez, already a Hall of Fame-caliber player, we have the legend-in-the-making Dwyane Wade; and for Rodriguez we have LeBron James, the once-in-a-generation supernova of a player, peddling his wares at the peak of their power.

To the degree the Rodriguez and James situations are different, there are two practical considerations that would suggest James has a better chance of choosing to stay in Cleveland than A-Rod had of staying in Seattle; one, he is from the area, and two, the Cavaliers can offer him more money than any other team. That we don’t know, on the eve of the official free agency period, if James is staying or going indicates that this isn’t simply a financial decision. I don’t know what’s in the man’s heart, and I won’t guess, but I’ve tended to agree with the excellent writing of Cleveland Frowns on the subject. Frowns says that all things being equal, it’s in LeBron’s best interests to stay—while acknowledging that none of us know if all things are equal in LeBron’s world. Only LeBron knows that.

All we know is that LeBron courts attention the same way Rodriguez did, which is to say, insatiably… and we know that Wade hasn’t. I’m sure he’s courted suitors in some way, but his exposure is considerably less than LeBron’s, and he has merely been, at worst, the league’s third best player over the last five years. He’s won a title, and nearly won a college title on a team full of players whose greatest skill was standing around and watching him, mouth agape, like everyone else.

I’m not saying Dwyane Wade is showing us how to be the best free agent; to each his own. I’m saying that, compared to LeBron, Wade has handled his business like just that: business. It might be different if he was deciding to leave the Chicago Bulls, his hometown team, rather than join it. but we only have the situation we have. The whole world is watching LeBron’s every move, looking for clues. I’m watching D-Wade.

Two Silly Basketball Columns for the Weekend

It’s Memorial Day weekend, which means it’s time to read Losing the War and fire up the grill (in that order). Before that, here are two silly basketball columns I wrote this week. One is tongue-in-cheek; the other isn’t. I’ll leave it up to you to determine which is which.

Stupid Time

Over at Cleveland Frowns, it’s Stupid Time. Stupid Time has a 1:1 relationship with the LeBron James free agency period. If Stupid Time gets an ice cream, the LeBron James free agency period gets one too. They’re identical twins, or whatever it is you see in the mirror.

There’s nothing inherent in the LeBron James free agency period that renders it Stupid Time. No one makes New York Magazine throw together a slapdash sales pitch as an excuse to remind its readers that basketball is a thing that in fact exists; they did it anyway. No one forces Jeff Pearlman and Buzz Bissinger and other New Yorkers to throw meaningless platitudes about a city toward a basketball prodigy: They do it for themselves. They might be right about everything they say. Does that mean they should say it?

The sports cliché is: Act like you’ve been there before. Barry Sanders in the end zone. The more you have to do to get attention, the less sure you are of yourself. Endzone dances: fun as shit. Handing the ball back to the ref like that shit was nothing? Badass. Also, it’s the way I try to live my life. Being the best and knowing it and leading by example. It’s hard, and it doesn’t work most of the time. But when it does, like when I look at her and know, immediately, yes I actually did say the right thing, it’s when I feel alive.

And yet in New York, we have a little contest going with who can be the city’s biggest suck-up, a throwback to the Bush era-ethos that bigger is not only better, it’s bigger and louder and bigger and louder. I don’t think New Yorkers have a clue about how unbecoming it is to talk about themselves in such lofty terms. Would it be great if LeBron came here? I don’t know, would it be good for Cleveland?

Ah yes, the Cavaliers. The only team LeBron has ever played for. Frowns argues that LeBron’s ties to the area make the player/team bond something heretofore unseen in sports—the amusing part is that the most obvious corollary is playing for the Minnesota Twins right now and is named Joe Mauer and just signed an obscenely lucrative extension to play at home for the next decade. He made the choice right away. LeBron waited on the offers. No matter what happens after this, that won’t change. I think he’s staying with Cleveland. But still.

If I was trying to woo LeBron to New York… wait, why would I do that? I’m not that selfish yet. Maybe I’m too young to understand that part of the equity of living in New York is never having to say you’re sorry for chirping about it. I’ve always found it to be the exact opposite. I’m constantly apologizing: on the subway, on the street, in restaurants, people on top of people, trying to assure them I mean no harm. It takes up no more than five seconds of each day, but it’s worth the investment. You never know when you’ll run up against the crazy ones.

So to the people of Cleveland: I’m sorry. New York has its ups and downs. It has a lot of both. What it doesn’t have is anyone who’s really being fair. LeBron might come here, but as far as I’m concerned, New York can speak for itself.

Eddy Curry’s America

Think about the sheer amount of money that’s in sports for one second. For instance: think of what you bought today for lunch, or what you bought the last time you bought lunch. You were thinking about the price, right? Eddy Curry made $273,000 per minute the last two seasons. Per minute! Just imagine it. Yeah.

Here’s the thing about Mr. Curry: he’s decided to pump all of his money back into the economy. Like, he’s literally broke. He pays $1,075 per month for cable television service, and he’s broke.

So this money went somewhere. It’s not like Tiger Woods’ money, which is getting its running shoes on behind closed gates. Tiger Woods is rich, and what do rich people do? They make more money. That’s their defining feature. If they spend money, it’s to protect the establishment that will allow them, in the long term, to continue being rich, which, again, is only about making money. And if you like being rich—if you like making money—that’s fine! But if you have money, spend it—or—just don’t be a dick. Doing one of these two things shouldn’t be hard. Mike Bloomberg has said he wants to die without a dollar to his name. We can dig that. PAY ME, MOTHERFUCKER!

Seriously, Bloomie making it rain on America, and I’m opening the window with my net on a stick.

It would appear Eddy Curry was, and is, the typhoon of making it rain; free, by his choice, to be a dick, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not he has been one. But make no mistake: the man is generous. $6,000 per month for a personal chef. Six thousand more dollars pumped to the working man every 30 days, and that’s just for eatin’.

The truth is that Eddy Curry is by some means an American hero of the recession. People, even rich people, are cutting back. (Making money can wait.) Bailouts polarized the nation. We don’t like the idea of just giving money to people who have wasted it. You might say Eddy Curry is overpaid. I say he’s not wasting the money. I say that, in general, he should be celebrated. That he’s taken it too far is merely a character flaw. You think your heroes are perfect? You think you are?

Eddy Curry didn’t make more than $1 million while you read this. His beekeeper did. With even bees disappearing, who else is going to support the beekeepers? Eddy Curry: Eddy for America. Eddy Curry’s America. America America.

Pain, and the Basketball Hall of Fame

Some serious—and I mean serious—back pain this morning. I think I pulled a muscle.

I just joined a gym and started lifting again, only I only lift extremely light weights because I don’t want to be lifting at all. I want to be doing yoga, but I don’t know the first clue about how to choose one kind or find a teacher. I am being a baby about it, I know, but I thought doing the light lifting would help in the meantime. Holy sh*t, I was wrong. I can barely sit up. Feels like someone is corkscrewing into the lower-right of my back.

Ryan said I need to have more posts with Barack Obama in the tags, so his tag gets bigger than A-Rod’s. Fair enough. I’m not sure how what I’m about to say fits with Obama, but I’ll see if I can connect them.

Today’s [insert series of intellectually disparaging adjectives] column to the contrary, I like Bill Simmons. I even bought his book, The Book of Basketball, and I’m enjoying it. It’s less a history of basketball than one man’s history of basketball, designed to start and sustain arguments between two people or the reader and the writer (Basically, it’s a 600-page blog post). It’s pretty good, and I just got to the part where he wants to move the Basketball Hall of Fame and change its induction policy. I agree with both parts. It’s in Springfield, MA, now, and I’ve driven by it plenty of times but never had the desire to go. Not a good sign.

He says move it to Indiana, the home of basketball. At first, I thought it was ridiculous, and thought it should be in Manhattan. I don’t think that’s an inherently NY-centric view. Put it here, in the city with the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” make it a tourist attraction, and people will come.

Then I thought about it some more, and came up with a better idea. If we’re going to blow it up and move it, why not make it its own tourist attraction?

That’s what the Baseball Hall of Fame is, but that’s its own thing. No one’s going to go to Indiana just to see the basketball Hall of Fame. Basketball simply doesn’t draw on its past the way baseball does, so there’s no reason to think that people will go to Indiana just to be in Indiana, the way people flock to upstate New York just to go there. No: there needs to be another draw.

So here’s what I was thinking. Put it in Indiana if you want. Or Chicago. Or Vegas, ideally, but that ain’t going to happen. But make it a destination by making the HOF only part of the draw. Put it next to a golf course. Better yet, have dozens of open basketball courts, like the US Tennis Center has tennis courts. Have open play available for visitors who otherwise have put their balling days behind them. Use the courts to play High School championships and for summer camps. Put restaurants, bars, and hotels on campus. Make it a both a bachelor party and family destination where the groups can split up. “What are you doing today?” “Oh, I’m going to hit the pool and play in the 3 p.m. pickup game.” “Nice. I’m going to check out the Celtics exhibit.” “I saw it yesterday, and it’s awesome.” Etc.

I’d put $500 on it for a weekend, wherever that was. You know who else would? President Obama.

There you go.

Stephen Curry

I like Stephen Curry as much as I’ve like any basketball player in years. His near-run to the Final Four two years ago was the single greatest virtuoso performance I’ve seen in college hoops since Dwyane Wade put it in Kentucky’s *** (phrase trademark M.A.) a while back, the difference being that even then Dwyane looked like a baller, whereas Steph looks like a 12-year-old who wandered onto the court at recess.

Curry’s on the Golden State Warriors now, a team that would be perfect for him if it wasn’t falling apart at the seams. They play a high-tempo, defense-lite style, which is good for the guy who’s automatically got one of the top five prettiest shots in the League. (Seriously, Google this man-child.) The good part is that the Warriors just traded Stephen Jackson, a malcontent who had no real value other than to sabotage the career of one of the NBA’s most marketable future stars before it even got going. Now Curry’s starting, and he can learn his NBA point guard role on the fly. The bad part is that he plays on the West Coast, and I’m here. He came one pick away from going to the Knicks, which would have eventually had bittersweet results for this old-minted Celtics fan. Then again, everything the Knicks touch goes to shit these days, so maybe everyone wins.

The question is, do I shell out for NBA League Pass online? I would go for the $100 “Follow 7 teams” version. I’d go with some combination of Warriors, OKC, and Celtics (definite) and Lakers, Spurs, Rockets, Suns, Blazers, Cavs and Bucks (possible). The Bucks only get on there because of Brandon Jennings, but they do get on there. Ben gets this in Seattle and chose the Blazers and, in the most dickish move imaginable, the Blazers are blacked out in the former Sonics town because it’s now their “home market.” Wrap your head around that one.

Still, might not be a political liability big enough to keep me from my Steph. Thoughts?

SHOCKINGLY QUICK UPDATE: My cousin gave me his account of the same problem, leaving out no information, and how it would pass. I’ll get over it. Word.

Note to LeBron: Be Interesting

LeBron James is stealing again. First, he borrowed Michael Jordan’s number. Then he borrowed Kevin Garnett’s playing-with-the-talcum-powder, rotating it a touch so that he tossed into the air and prostrated like Jesus Christ instead of clapping it into the scorer’s table a la Garnett. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, they just show a distinct lack of imagination. That’s understandable for a kid that’s been in the national spotlight since he was 15 years old. He has developed a stable “Superstar” identity, only playing to the masses in controversy-bleached Nike commercials. When would we have expected him to learn about the world, and create some sort of real identity in it? Never, that’s when.

But now LeBron has gone too far. I love him, but if you take him at his word he’s about to make a huge mistake. He’s about to emulate Kobe. Now you might be thinking, “Bryanjoiner.com, what’s wrong with emulating Kobe? Isn’t he the World Champion?” He is the World Champion, but that’s not the point. The point is that I hate Kobe, and I like LeBron, and I don’t want LeBron taking cues from Kobe. Especially not this one.

If we take LeBron at his word, LeBron’s going to change his number after the season. He said as much after last night’s game. He said “no one” should wear 23 any more, in honor of Jordan, and he’s wants to make a switch.

Don’t. Do. It.

I know a sportswriter writing in a dark corner of the Internet is unlikely to make him change his mind, but I’m going to try anyway. First, he never would have considered doing this if Kobe hadn’t done it first. That’s just a given. The idea that superstars should change their number for a reason other than it being forced (Ray Bourque, Michael Jordan) simply never existed before Kobe’s self-imposed rebranding. Kobe probably thinks changing his number was part of a growing-up process, but I see it as childish. The point of keeping a number so long is to frame the player behind it, and watch them grow up inside of that frame. It gives every moment context, and gives you a game to play every time you see a highlight. When is that? Oh, that’s when his hair was short, it must be during 2005—before he learned to trust his teammates. Oh wait, he just passed. That’s 2009! He won the title that year? And so on.

Second, it screws over previous jersey owners. Of course, if LeBron changes teams, he’s welcome to change his number to whatever he wants. Once change is in the air, might as well embrace it. Is this a double-standard? Hell yes. But it’s one I like, and this is my blog, so there you go.

The biggest problem, though, is that LeBron’s whole rationale for ths switch is wrong. Michael Jordan isn’t Jackie Robinson, and even in Robinson’s case I think players should be allowed to apply to Major League Baseball to wear number 42, which is currently retired league-wide (Mariano Rivera is grandfathered in. Cue grandfather jokes). Look at soccer. Pele wore number 10, and now anyone who wears that number is associated with his greatness. It’s an honor, and one that doesn’t get bestowed lightly. We can do the same thing with number 23. Hell, LeBron, you already did.

I get it: you want your own identity now. You want to transcend Jordan. Here’s what you do then: instead of paying lip service to how great Jordan is, come out at say it. Say “I want to be better than him.” Throw down the gauntlet. Say you don’t want to wear number 23 because you don’t want to overshadow him, not because you want to honor him. Say something interesting. For once.

We know it’s what you’re thinking.

Fantasy Basketball: A Love Story

I play fantasy basketball. I love it. I like it far more than fantasy baseball and fantasy football. Fantasy baseball, because I play in a league that’s too cutthroat to thoroughly enjoy. Fantasy football, because fantasy football is the worst one out there.

(This is the sound of you screaming at your computer monitor.)

Allow me to explain.

I like playing fantasy sports because it allows me a direct engagement to the games without having to watch them all the time. Fantasy stats have, in effect, replaced the League Leaders section in the daily paper and the Team Statistics page from the Sunday Globe with which I grew up. Then and now, if you ask me about a player, I’ll have a pretty good idea as to how he’s playing.

Baseball is the most quantifiable sport: that’s what makes fantasy baseball, or at least the league I’m in, such a grind. There are no secrets to unearth in the day to day—everyone knows exactly how good every player is, and everyone’s just hoping to get lucky. Of course, the way to get lucky is to learn before the auction, and make your own luck, which is the inverse of how I like my fantasy sports. To that end, in the five-year history of my league only two people have won it. They’re the best at preparing, and God bless’em.

Fantasy football is the exact opposite of fantasy baseball. You can prepare all you want, and it doesn’t mean diddly poo. Randomness is the name of the game, not leastwise because the scoring system rewards things all out of whack with how they are actually valued in football. Running backs are routinely the most valuable players in fantasy football; if you were starting a franchise from scratch, you’d never pick a running back first. I stopped playing after I invented a “better” scoring system (and it is better), but still realized that I learned far more from just watching the games and obsessing over the actual stats than I did from fantasy. Football doesn’t need to be any better.

Basketball falls into a happy medium of stats and scouting. Unlike baseball, team factors play into how a player will perform. Unlike football, you can make educated guesses as to how players will progress indepedent of their team. Unlike both sports, the “standard” scoring system does a remarkably good job of capturing a player’s actual. accepted value. In baseball, the numbers determine the best players. In football, the masses do. In basketball, fantasy stats might as well be the arbiter.

To that end, every season I learn more about basketball from fantasy that I do by watching. In baseball I have the numbers, and in football I have the games. Fantasy basketball opens me up to the NBA, and that’s why I love it.