LeBron James: the NBA’s most subversive player

To those who have seen him smiling with a bag of McDonalds fries or giving interviews with a library of Vitamin Water in the background, LeBron James seems like your everyday super-athlete corporate shill.

But last week’s “recruiting tweets” to Steve Nash and Jamal Crawford, communication that the NBA would construe as tampering were the lockout not persisting, should remind us that LeBron James is the most subversive force in American professional sports. In his curious, captivating play on the court and his aggressive maneuvers off the court, LeBron has come to challenge our notions of who our mythologized athletes are, and how we expect them to behave.

We may fail to see or acknowledge this because NBA Basketball is, as much as any other sport, a spectacle of the physical. What it lacks in brute collisions, it more than makes up for with the intimacy of the players’ on-court dress and exposed muscles and facial expressions.

NBA fans are obsessed with bodies. (Just listen to the way an unknown player is always described: first an account of size, weight, and strength or speed. Details then emerge about the type of speed [quick or fast?], leaping ability or the impossible length of the player’s reach.)

We are not just obsessed with bodies but the body as one unlike our own, as a discrete other. And when James plays basketball, it’s impossible to mistake the physical aspect of his dominance. This leads to lots of insipid statements like “well if I had LeBron James’s size and athleticism”… (you’d be a soft Kevin Willis). Even the way he plays, both crudely and cleverly, often without the pristine fundamentals of a Kobe Bryant, evokes the undeniably racist trope of the unpracticed savage.

Though each of his coaches rave about his intelligence and

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HoopSpeak Network

HoopSpeak Live 24: The Clips

Episode 24 of HoopSpeak Live marked the return of Handsome Tom Haberstroh and the HSL debut of Money Matt Steinmetz. It also featured Zach Harper occupying a hoodie. Here are all of the clips:

[Click here for a YouTube playlist.]

:00 – :04 – Intro [Ethan on Occupy Oakland.]

:04 – :12 – Take The Bacon + Rumors From Ethan’s Head [A debate on David Stern, then a depressing proclamation.]

:12 – :27 – Person of Interest: Tom Haberstroh [Part 1, Part 2 - Following up on payroll and competitive balance and more.]

:27 – :32 – League Average [NBA'ers overseas.]

:32 – :50 – Person of Interest: Matt Steinmetz [Part 1, Part 2 - Talking Warriors, the lockout, and more.]

:50 – :56 – Audience Rapid Fire [Stern and the HoF, O.J. Mayo and CHI, LeBron's tweets, more.]

:56 – 1:01 – Dagger/Smash/Noted [Gronkowski, 2K Servers, and LeBron.]

HoopSpeak Live airs every Thursday right here on HoopSpeak.com. You can follow the show with the #hoopspeaklive hashtag, and you can follow our guests at @tomhaberstroh and @MSteinmetzCSN.

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HoopSpeak Live Ep 24: Tom Haberstroh and Matt Steinmetz

Today’s guests:

Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com’s TrueHoop, Heat Index and Insider Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area.

To submit text questions: just sign in and ask away!

To video chat with us and our guests: Find a spot without too much background noise, sign in, fire up the web cam, and be sure to have your headphones (to eliminate echo)!

If you have trouble viewing the show on HoopSpeak, you can also try watching on Vokle.

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Street Gawking & Copters

This post is also up on WarriorsWorld. Spam in the guise of cross pollination.

I’m not sure how to connect this to basketball other than to say: Meant to write about Scott Rabb and Rajon Rondo…got a little bit sidetracked on account of the mass chaos outside my place.

When I left work, the plan was to bury myself in a laptop, knock out a post or two, perhaps the elliptical, then bed. Wake up the next morning, make Aeropress coffee, snatch the work photo ID from the abalone shell, grab the keys off the magnetic strip, can’t forget those…I’ve already found comforting routine in this incohate yuppiedom. I am a boring song on loop.

But when I left work in San Francisco, a disruptive force awaited in Oakland.

I got off at my 14th street Bart stop to the sound of low-flying helicopters. The station is next to Frank Ogawa Plaza, where Occupy Oakland tents had been multiplying. Had been. Police flushed that area the night before amid some uproar. But now, Hazmat bedecked aliens are simply cleaning this vacant square, behind a phalanx of Oakland PD officers.

(It’s all so…quiet.)

I walk down an eerily silent 14th, passing more cops than I’ve ever seen on one street. In their black plastic riot gear, they look like Made in China action figures come to life…or futuristic Buckingham Palace guards, sartorially darkened for King Harry’s funeral. The helicopters seem to track, and then, predict my path. The paradigm for rioting is certainly set.

Copters waft towards the library next to my apartment, and where protesters have congregated. Twitter speaks of a gathering outside the plaza, and suddenly, my feet are carrying me back from whence. Helicopters follow. Five of them.

Suddenly, the streets are swollen with humans,

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A shortened season doesn’t have to be a worse one

Irritation. Annoyance. Hostility. Forced apathy. Those are the major emotions the NBA fans, writers and bloggissists are feeling right now. An upcoming season that promised to be filled with intriguing storylines, high fan interest and brilliant levels of play is officially on hold. Assessing blame helps fans cope and gives writers something to, well, write about, but it doesn’t mask the reality; if there is to be a season at all, it will be a shortened, asterisk-marred one.

There has long been a push from some writers and even players for less games during an NBA season, but anyone who can recall the horrific play from twelve years ago knows that compressing the season isn’t the best way to go about it.

So to the players and, more specifically, the owners: here’s a call for you to do something right in this mess. If you return to the court this season, do it with the intent of making it the best strike-shortened season possible. Allow for full training camps so players can get back into shape. Let coaches teach and drill their systems. Give free agents some time to adjust to new surroundings.

If games do happen, avoid any back-to-back-to-back scheduling gauntlets. Don’t make fans continue to curse the lockout’s effect on the game they love. If that means cutting more games from an already condensed season, please do so.

The fans you couldn’t care less about would like to avoid having to spend the early part of the season wondering if Boris Diaw’s diet consisted purely of chocolate crepes. If that means playing just 50 games over a span you could squeeze in 60 or 65, please do that. Most fans would rather not spend the first three weeks of the season watching a once beloved veteran

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Van Gundy Unleashed

The NBA lockout has unleashed a beast whose high-pitched screams are spreading to legions of music fans. Stan Van Gundy, the Orlando Magic head coach known for his sideline antics, has rekindled a hidden romance: With death metal.

Renowned group Lamb of God was joined by the impromptu guest during an encore at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo, Norway. Emerging from the pit wearing leopard-skin converse and a skull-emblazoned sport coat, the outspoken basketball guru dashed past security using his impeccable footwork.

After verbally accosting guitarist Willie Adler, Van Gundy grabbed the mic as the crowd grew quiet.

“Everyone’s asking me how I’m gonna keep my mouth shut during the lockout.”, shouted the visibly disgruntled meatball. “Well, I can’t scream at Dwight anymore; he’s leaving anyway. BUT I can scream at all of you…”

The coach then reached behind his neck, unfurled a raging ponytail, and emitted the scream of an enraged howler monkey:

“The ‘Master of Panic’ is BAAAAAAACK!!!!”

Lead singer Randy Blythe promptly pointed to the sky as Stan Van shredded a solo on Adler’s battle axe.

His appearance a rousing success, Van Gundy is teaming up with Lamb of God for a world tour under the band name Lamb Van Stan God. Although there’s a lockout clause in his contract, even Stan’s not sure if the NBA can bring him back.

“You all know I love basketball”, said the coach in a post-show interview. “But the hardwood has rules, whereas here I can just scream. I’m accomplishing my goal in its purest form.”

Tour dates TBD.

"I'm doing this for one reason and one reason only: I want to yell at you." – Van Gundy

Follow @AnthonyBain

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It’s your fault, you powerless bastard

General sports fans seem to believe that a) Players are mostly to blame for this lockout and b) Owners will get the better end of a deal. I’ll table the racial dimension of this conversation for a different day–I have a rule about publishing on race after the 2 AM sleep deprivation threshold.

It is difficult to look at these numbers and conclude anything other than: “Fans think owners deserve more money than players do.” That would be an odd sentiment, considering owners already have more money, and “owning” is not an action–you only need to hold the deed.

An owner can forget about his team’s existence for ten years and still sell it for a profit. As a Warriors fan, I cite the non-experience that was Chris Cohan ownership. He may well have lived in a bunker that existed in a black hole’s vacuum. Petty lawsuits were the only evidence that Cohan kept breathing air, but for all I know, he filed those from Marianna’s Trench by the grace of gills and a waterproof typewriter. The Owning Thing eventually sold GSW for 450 million. When owners like Mark Cuban immerse themselves in team operations, it is an active choice and not an obligation.

So, how do fans come to favor passive deedholders whom they believe will get the “better end” of a lockout? To explain, I cite Dennis Rodman: “I think the players should bow down. It’s not the players’ fault, it’s the owners’ fault and I think (the players) should give a little bit, and that way, things will move on.”

Rodman did not “blame” the players, but he voiced how many want this to wrap up.

Give in. Things will move on. Bow down.

There is a fatalism to our view of these negotiations, an

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HoopSpeak Live 23: The Clips

This week, we had Larry Coon on the show for the first time and welcomed Bomani Jones back for his second appearance. There was lots of lockout talk and, of course, a lively discussion about Space Jam. Here are all of the clips:

[Click here for a YouTube playlist.]

:00 – :10 – Take The Bacon + Rumors From Ethan’s Head [On Rondo and HSL costing Ethan his job.]

:10 – :30 – Person of Interest: Larry Coon [Part 1, Part 2 - All things lockout, Dwight Howard, and Zach's Rapid Fire.]

:30 – :36 – League Average [On Space Jam.]

:36 – :54 – Person of Interest – Bomani Jones [Part 1, Part 2 - Lockout talk - KG, Bryant Gumbel's comments, more.]

:54 – :58 – Dagger/Smash/Noted [Hummus, Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, and Dirk Nowitzki.]

HoopSpeak Live airs every Thursday right here on HoopSpeak.com. You can follow the show with the #hoopspeaklive hashtag, and you can follow our guests at @LarryCoon and @bomani_jones.

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HoopSpeak Live Ep 23: Larry Coon and Bomani Jones

Today’s guests:

Larry Coon of ESPN.com and NBA Salary Cap FAQs Bomani Jones of BomaniJones.com and Around the Horn.

To submit text questions: just sign in and ask away!

To video chat with us and our guests: Find a spot without too much background noise, sign in, fire up the web cam, and be sure to have your headphones (to eliminate echo)!

If you have trouble viewing the show on HoopSpeak, you can also try watching on Vokle.

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Home away from home: balling in Bangladesh

FIVE LOCAL SOLDIERS surrounded our bench in camouflaged body armor, MP5 sub-machine guns slung over their shoulders and Glocks on their hips. Snipers paced the nearby rooflines.

Plush leather seats filled with well-dressed dignitaries and government officials extended along the sideline, a white canopy protecting them from the sweltering heat.

We loosened up, to the extent that was possible, by hoisting casual 15 footers and halfheartedly tussling for rebounds. We had done our best to coordinate white t-shirts for uniforms. One of my teammates was wearing thick cotton shorts, the kind that look like cut-off sweats.

At the other end of the plain concrete court, the Bangladeshi National Police team moved crisply through an obviously practiced series of lay up drills. Except they weren’t laying it up, they were dunking — one after the other, in mechanized perfection.

I tried to reconnect with lifelong muscle memory by working methodically through a series of one and two dribble pull ups. My legs didn’t feel right, but the worn Spalding ball felt familiar rolling off my fingertips.

Warm-ups ended and we went back to our bench. I sat down to tighten my Nikes and tug on the metal brace that steadied my twice-torn left ACL. A noisy twelve-piece band rattled away in the corner next to our bench, rocketing national hymns off the peculiarly modern buildings on the police campus. In a few minutes I would take the court for my lone appearance playing basketball as a representative of the United States.

Just before the game could begin, our starting center, U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty, now coated in sweat from the 95-degree heat, addressed — in perfect Bangla — the assembled media and spectators, many of whom were seeing basketball for the first time.

His easy confidence with the language struck

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