First reader of the season. Lots of good stuff to dig into.
The Woman Who Will Change Sports
Pablo S. Torre
Michele Roberts, the new executive director of the National Basketball Player’s Association (NBPA), made the media rounds last week. This interview conducted by ESPN’s Pablo Torre was the most illuminating work focused on Roberts. Torre does an excellent job running through an impressive gamut of issues facing the NBA’s players, including the last CBA negotiations (where the players were widely believed to have been ‘fleeced’ by ownership), the length of the season and biometric testing (an arena that Torre and Tom Haberstroh have already done excellent work reporting on). Roberts responses, at least rhetorically, are very impressive. Roberts presents herself as a hard-nosed, old-school union leader in this interview, questioning owner and NBA intent, and espousing values that labor leaders in far more impoverished sectors champion. Any left-leading ally of organized labor will appreciate Roberts’ words here — though without action, they are but words — and Torre did an excellent job with one of the more compelling figures in professional sports.
Ryan Anderson Tries to Move Forward after girlfriend Gia Allemand’s Death
As I’ve said before, most basketball longform falls into a safe-yet-tired motif; the story of the woebegone baller who had all the talent in the world, yet pissed it all away due to an unexpected, undesirable set of circumstances, and the story of their rebirth and redemption. And, in a few subtle ways, this piece falls into that story arc as well. But the story itself does not match the motif: this one is far too gut-wrenching. In this longform, Chris Ballard shares the story of Ryan Anderson, the talented Northern California forward whose girlfriend, Gia Allemand, committed suicide last year after a lifetime of dealing with depression and other mental health issues. From the onset, this story is quiet and sad; digging deep into the depths of several people who were drastically affected by the suicide, and asking hard questions about how one forgives and moves on. For me, the best part of this piece was the close examination of Monty Williams, who gathered Anderson in and took care of him until he could stand again on his own. Ballard does an excellent job providing details about all of the story’s characters, and allows the reader to feel the same vulnerabilities that Anderson, Allemand’s family, and others in the tale did, and still do. Ballard has long been a favorite, and this is one of his best pieces I’ve ever read.
Keep Moving: the Nomadic Life of an Assistant Basketball Coach
Though not technically NBA, I really enjoyed this longform by Michael Croley about Gus Hauser, who has been an assistant coach in the DI basketball since the mid 1990s. Croley, who spent time on both Rick Pitino and Reggie Theus’ staffs, has some very interesting insights into the internal and external politics of college basketball, where the focus for everyone is on what’s next, be that the NBA, another job, or the unemployment line. Many of the things we learn in this piece are things we’ve known for a long time — the job doesn’t have a lot of security, there are long hours, marriages frequently fail, and so on — but Gus Hauser as a character keeps the reader engaged and wanting to know more. In Hauser, Croley describes a patient, hard-driving man who is optimistic, almost to a harmful degree. There are many interesting tie-ins, for both college and professional basketball fans, as well as individuals on the back-end of their 30′s, trying to figure out whether they’re ahead, behind, or right on track with where they thought they should be at this time in their lives. If you have 20 minutes, give this piece a read; you’ll be glad you did.
Sixth Man still comes with Stigma among NBA Players
USA Today Sports
One of my favorite aspects about Sam Amick as a writer is that he can take a question that might make a player upset — “What are your feelings about not starting anymore? — and turn it into a larger piece that shows both the positives and negatives about such a taboo subject. This piece hones in on the feelings a player experiences once a coach lets them know that they’re not in the starting rotation, despite for many of them, they’d started nearly every game of their careers up until that point. The piece hones in on a few bench stalwarts, including Ginobili and Isiah Thomas, as well as a few newcomers to the job, like Andre Iguodala, and mines them for their experiences and impressions on coming off the bench, as well as the insecurities they might feel. The players clearly are struggling with the role, and they seem to be honest about it. Amick frequently provides pieces that are refreshing due to their honest nature, and this one is no different.