Up until last week, Tilman Fertitta had made a mildly bad impression as owner of the Rockets. He gets the “mildly” modifier because plenty of other owners have done the same. He loves to talk to the media, whether it be to publicly doubt Daryl Morey, perhaps the most innovative and successful GM in the league, or complain about his players.
I’ve been thinking lately that I gotta go see a Warriors playoff game. Oracle Arena may be old by NBA standards, but it’s a booming, beautiful house of basketball. Plus, after this year when KD finds a new team, the Warriors dynasty will hopefully reach a merciful conclusion (Merciful to the rest of the league, that is; I hope they crash and burn and all hate each other and Draymond has to be held back from strangling someone). It’s my last chance to watch what will go down as one of the iconic teams in basketball history in one of the sport’s historic landmarks.
I got to listen to Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel talk with Julie Foudy last week for the recording of Foudy’s Laughter Permitted podcast. All three of them (if you don’t know who Foudy is shame on you, but also shame on me because I didn’t know either — she’s a Stanford alum and former US national team soccer standout) shared funny and endearing stories from their athletic careers. The one who stood out to me most, though, was Simone Manuel. She got a little overshadowed by Katie’s star power, which is understandable. But I think she made the most important point of the whole conversation.
Congratulations to Tiger Woods on winning the Masters. While I’ve barely followed golf, I have to admit I was excited he won. I felt happy for him.
The existence of college sports is confusing. Despite holding the student-athlete moniker, college athletes are often treated like professionals. This past weekend, you maybe watched the Final Four for men’s basketball. It was a professional-level spectacle complete with NBA commentators and played at US Bank Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The NFL, by the way, happens to be the highest grossing sports league in the United States. The second highest? College football. This statistic speaks to our country’s disregard for players’ health in the face of gigantic profits, sure, but it also shows how commodified college sports is.
A team finally took the plunge: the Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a thirteen-year, $330 million contract, the richest in the history of American sports. With any contract of that gigantic value, a player will struggle to live up to the deal. The Phillies, then, are prioritizing dramatic change over spending efficiency.
The NFL made two big splashes in the news in the past week. The first: settling with Colin Kaepernick over his collusion case. Kaepernick, after a career-derailing struggle, triumphed victoriously over the corporate monolith. Or, alternatively, Kap capitulated and let the rich owners buy him out. One such owner made the second splash: Pats owner…
The Anthony Davis saga has me confused. On the one hand, I’m mad that he requested a trade. I don’t want him to go to the Lakers, I don’t want LeBron to manipulate the whole league, I don’t want the Pelicans to have to give up their best player in franchise history, and I don’t want AD to give up on the Pelicans. On the other, it’s about damn time. Since the year after they drafted him, the Pels have consistently made short-sighted, risky moves that lowered the ceiling and didn’t even make them that good in the present. They have given no indication to anyone that they will build a championship-caliber team around Davis and Jrue Holiday (who, by the way, is the biggest victim here). Should Davis waste his prime hoping that they get lucky and stumble into a Western Conference Finals appearance? No. He shouldn’t. Davis is the product of a new era of player control and player movement, an era that is changing how teams build their rosters and how fans think about their teams. This new age of player movement is killing league parity and – here’s the fun part – can also explain the political polarization of our country. Let’s begin.
I honestly don't get it. My life as a Knicks fan has been a tumult of shattered-hope sadness. There is a special kind of despair that results from getting the same misguided dream ripped to shreds every year. The Dolan Era of Knicks basketball is an arsenic-poisoned abyss. Stay away, for your own safety. This trade makes me irate — I hate it with a fury I don’t like to give to sports teams I’m not a part of. It just doesn’t make sense.
A hallmark of the Trump presidency is its fear-based approach to governing. Dangerous Muslim terrorists; corrupt, colluding fake news media; caravans of violent migrants coming to eat our children and curse our livestock, or something -- evidently, Trump has no qualms with fomenting fear to advance his agenda. (To debate another time: does he have an agenda?) As harmful as this Trump presidency may be, his strategy leans upon tried and true methods of political manipulation. One such example: McCarthyism.
Enes Kanter couldn’t go to London because he feared for his life. Dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, via his evil henchman and former NBA player Hedo Turkoglu, has consistently threatened, mocked, and insulted Kanter for Kanter’s opposition to ruthless totalitarian xenophobia and political suppression. Ironically, Hedo was a heady player known for his ability to handle and facilitate. Turkoglu claimed Kanter lied about fearing for his life. He called Kanter a fraud for hiding the fact that he couldn’t get a visa to enter the UK.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made waves recently when he dropped the “bombshell” news that former player Kawhi Leonard, the star who sat out a whole season with a suspect injury and refused to communicate with his team, was not a leader. In response, Kawhi got angry and claimed he was a leader. That makes sense. He’s a star player looking to get a supermax salary; he’s not gonna say he isn’t a leader. I don’t know what Kawhi thinks or how he conducts himself in his team’s locker room. His relatively quiet demeanor gives us a cool case study into what it takes to be a good leader.
Melo was destined to be one of the greats. Armed with a knife of a jab step, a buttery jumpshot, and two first names (think: Michael and Jordan, Kobe and Bryant, LeBron and James) Melo could score like few other players in the history of the game. In what was probably his most successful year individually, 2012-2013, he hung a cool 50 on LeBron James’ Heat, nearly exclusively scoring on jumpshots. That game finds me as his crowning achievement. He shot the shots he wanted, and he was so good it didn’t matter that they were all well-defended. He was a master artist who came of age a little too late, like a ragtime drummer born just at the tail-end of jazz’s heyday. I can’t say I’m an unabashed Melo fan. I’ve long criticized him, including getting into a fight with my high school point guard about how Paul George was better because he played defense. I eventually conceded my point out of deference to the Knicks, but deep down I still thought I’d rather have PG. Blemishes will stain Melo’s career when it’s all said and done, which is increasingly appearing to be closer to fruition than I expected. And that’s okay. It’s what he deserves.
Despite a LeBron-less path to the top of the Eastern Conference, the Charlotte Hornets continue to buzz unnoticed. They sit firmly in the playoff race at 5-5, having lost a few close games and having stomped some unworthy opponents. Cardi B’s favorite baller, Kemba Walker, has picked up where he left off last season. He currently averages a cool 28.0 points per game on 46% shooting, to go with nearly six assists per game. However, for all his accomplishments, Kemba has never gotten his due. Part of the reason might be his inability to beat the best. Heading into this season, Kemba’s team faced LeBron’s team twenty-two times. Twenty-two times, Kemba lost. Why? Kemba has the chip on his shoulder and flashy handles of a Hornet, but LeBron, poised and composed, is more like a wasp.
“Let’s make a Black baseball team.” William C. Rhoden, author of Forty Million Dollar Slaves, shared that idea, speaking on behalf of former MLB manager Jerry Manuel. It would reinvigorate interest in the game from Black players, he said. It would make baseball more exciting. Most importantly, it would connect the game to Black culture and bring along more all-time greats like Hank Aaron, like Willie Mays. It’s a fun idea.
Jimmy Butler, the workhouse, the self-made star, doesn’t wanna be in Minnesota. It’s hard to blame him. Appearing to have all the ingredients for sustained success, this iteration of the Timberwolves has failed to come close to reaching its potential. Despite the production of all-star unicorn Karl-Anthony Towns, the unmatched natural talent of “Maple Jordan” Andrew Wiggins, and the defensive tenacity of coach Tom Thibodeau, along with Jimmy Buckets, the T-Wolves only managed to snag the eighth seed last year. When Butler was injured for the last quarter of the season, the team had a losing record. They can’t seem to put all the promise together. There’s constant bickering, passive-aggressive shots, and unproductiveness on the court. This team whines with potential.
Today is Christopher Columbus Day, a symbolic celebration of our country’s lifelong commitment to the erasure of Native Americans without their consent. Two days ago was Stanford football’s Set The Expectation game, a symbolic celebration of football’s commitment to present itself as an upstanding, positive institution while it exploits players’ bodies and in many cases…
“You must really like the Suns,” my friend suggested, pointing to my purple T-shirt emblazoned with “PHOENIX BASKETBALL” across the chest. It was an innocent mistake; one people make all the time when I wear my Diana Taurasi Phoenix Mercury shirt. The orange spherical logo is placed aside, so that the big letters are all you see unless you look closely. I cherish that shirt. Later in the day I hooped on the Wilbur courts, doing my best to warmly welcome frosh with an L. The shirt feels like it belongs in a pickup game.
Trump’s groundbreaking meeting with North Korea was canceled because “hostile” behavior on their part. Trump explained that this missed opportunity “is a tremendous setback for North Korea.” In related news, the NFL announced their new national anthem policy which, believe it or not, they claim to have thought about carefully. They have decided that players are not allowed to express themselves or their views in any way that does not include standing for the entire national anthem. (They do get the choice to wait in the tunnel off the field.) This new policy is a disgrace to the NFL for a number of reasons, some of which I’ll discuss here.
Who are the best coaches in the league? The typical fan might rattle off a list like: Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Rick Carlisle, Brad Stevens, maybe Erik Spoelstra. It’s not often that you hear of a black coach celebrated for his success. Raptors coach Dwane Casey had a great season this past year, and likely will win coach of the year. But, his team got bounced from the playoffs early on. Already, critics are calling for him to be fired while uplifting white coaches like Brad Stevens.
Not like this. Not like this. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Sure, I thought they might not win the Finals. I knew, deep down, that this team was fatally flawed in a way Golden State would be able to exploit. But I was so sure it would take the Warriors. I was so determined that they’d at least make the conference finals. Instead, they lost to the Jazz. Not like this.
Overall, the NBA has a reputation of being relatively open-minded when it comes to sexuality and gender differences. Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete in major pro American sports when the Brooklyn Nets signed up midseason a few years ago. Since then, though, the NBA hasn’t done much.
I have more to say about Russell Westbrook. If you missed my column last week, do me a favor and check it out. Today, I want to talk about Russ’ far-reaching impact beyond his explosive on-court performances.
I prefer to save this space for discussing issues vital to society. I seek to illuminate intersections of sports and race and politics to demonstrate larger themes present in our country and our world. For these reasons, I am going to use all of my remaining words to highlight one of the greatest scandals perpetrated by the media, ever. Yes, I am talking about the utter lack of coverage of Russell Westbrook's 2017-2018 season. In case you haven’t noticed, Russ has just averaged a triple-double for an entire season. The only thing more remarkable than this fact is that it is he has done it for the second year in a row. Here is the list of all NBA players, besides Russell Westbrook, who have ever averaged a triple-double for a full season: Oscar Robertson. Here is the list of all NBA players, besides Russell Westbrook, who have averaged a triple-double for multiple seasons, either consecutively or not: