Nearly all of these pieces were referred to me by good friends who are, at best, casual fans of the NBA (except Snyder, of course). It’s good to have friends, isn’t it?
Israel-League Basketball Legend Kenny “The Wizard” Williams is in a Sea of Trouble
This piece (written in mid July) was referred to me by my dear friend and former colleague Sarah Zaides a few weeks ago, and I just got to it today. I’m glad I did; it’s one of the better long-forms I’ve read this year. Tal Miller of Tablet Magazine (as well as Yediot Aharanot, one of Israel’s most widely read periodicals) does an exploration into the recent trials and tribulations of Kenny “The Wizard” Williams, a New York baller who experienced success as an NBA player and Israeli league All Star during the 1990s and 2000s. Williams was a major star in Israel; an NBA-tested power forward who played for Hapoel Jerusalem during their glory years, whose career was compromised by mishaps and controversies, and whose present problems included failure to pay child support in the United States while he raised another family (with an Israeli woman) in Tel Aviv. Miller weaves an engrossing tale, complete with a compelling character whose rise and fall keep you glued to the screen. Great piece. Mazel tov, Tal. Todah raba, Sarah.
The Stokes Game
Two of my friends referred this piece to me: Andrew Snyder, a long-time Diss-cussant, as well as Aaron Parker, a stalwart from the Montlake Baller Association and a mental health professional who specializes in traumatic brain injuries (and who recently returned to school to pursue his PhD in Neuropsychology). Aaron wrote that the “intersectionality of basketball and head injury” snagged him, and indeed, that is an interesting theme in this piece. But there’s so much more to Bryan Curtis’ masterpiece for Grantland, which provides, among other things, a detailed history of Maurice Stokes, the great prototypical power forward whose career (and life) was cut short by a catastrophic in-game brain injury, and the charity basketball game held for him in the Catskills. But it is much more than just that: the rise of organized labor, the affect of stardom and global fame on basketball players, the role race dictates lasting relationships (especially those from the 1950s and 1960s), and importance of care labor and care providers in the United States. This is one of the more touching pieces I’ve read about basketball, traumatic brain injuries, and really humanity in general. Thanks for writing, Bryan. Thanks for referring, Aaron and Andrew.
Jonny Flynn Wants Back In
Well, I found this one on my own, since my Abrams-radar (“Abramsdar”) went off. Unsurprisingly, the master of NBA long-form has delivered another tour de force about a player who has faded from our imaginations far too soon. This time, the subject of discussion is Jonny Flynn, the 24 year old guard who is looking to get back to the NBA after spending a season playing in Australia. Flynn, of course, is best remembered as The Guy Who David Kahn Drafted Instead of Steph Curry in the bizarre 2009 draft (where the former Wolves’ GM drafted three point guards), and now, is fighting to shed the “Damaged Goods” label that has blacklisted many young talents before their times. Abrams tells Flynn’s tale with his standard attention to detail; accessing former players, executives and coaches to provide the fullest picture of Flynn as possible. In the piece we learn about the seriousness of Flynn’s hip injury, the true ludicrousness of the Kahn administration, and the tribulations that a professional player faces as they try and convince others that they really are healthy, despite rumors suggesting otherwise. One should never miss Abrams whenever he writes, and this is another worthy addition to his compendium of NBA tall tales.
Tough All Over
Okay, I found this one too, and I’m really glad I did. Ian Levy offers his perspective on Michael Beasley, who was arrested (yet again) for marijuana possession. Given that this is Beasley’s third marijuana incident in his six-year career, it is (kinda) natural that people are starting to tie his pot usage to his on-court nonplussed-ness. Levy, thankfully, is here to debunk this myth, and necessarily separates Beasley’s disappointing on-court behavior with his disappointing off-court behavior. ”I don’t mean this as way of apology for his choices or behavior, but smoking pot is not the root of Beasley’s problems,” writes Levy. He adds: “Neither is his love affair with contested, off-the-dribble jump shots. Both are symptoms of some deeper issues. I don’t know the man well enough to make any responsible guesses about what those issues are, but I feel comfortable stating that they exist.” This is an extremely humanizing piece, and one that I am looking forward to responding to at greater length later on this week. Good work, Ian.