The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
Pablo Torre deserves to be counted alongside Jonathan Abrams and Lee Jenkins as one of the best profile writers in sports. He consistently chooses fascinating subjects, and has mastered the subtle detail and engaging storytelling that make a profile great. His profile of Derrick Gordon, the openly gay DI basketball player who made headlines when he came out last April, explores the ways Gordon’s life changed when he came out, and what it means to him to be an openly gay athlete. However, it also dwells on his quest to boost his flagging stock as an NBA prospect and decision to transfer to Seton Hall, which is where the story gets interesting. Torre seems to hint that there’s more to the story he was unable to tell, but no matter. The arc of the piece and the picture it paints is still stunningly compelling.
It’s hard to tell what to make of this piece, but it’s still…pretty great? It appears at first glance to be fashioned after Andrew Sharp’s “Hot Sports Takes” columns from Grantland, but Rowell’s work feels a bit more earnest. He brings up real concerns – the Clippers’ bench shooting, Orlando’s playoff chances, how incredibly dope John Wall is – but also says things like “…Would a championship from this $110 million roster, a mortgage lending casino owner under federal suit and a bandwagon-diluted-fanbase, feel like Cleveland?” Regardless of what he’s trying to achieve, it’s an enjoyable read, elevated by some nice line drawings of NBA players. Actually, here’s my hot take: original art is an excellent addition to almost all sports writing, and it should be used more often. Book it.
Both Flannery and Ziller are great basketball writers, and it’s always a pleasure to read them in conversation. Whether or not you followed along with all their NBA previews, there’s a lot to enjoy in their final comments before the season. Their comments on small ball are particularly interesting; the league’s overcorrection towards small ball creates a whole new set of wrinkles for smart teams to exploit in coming seasons.
Do you know about Hoops Critic? It is a pretty great site that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves, and having stocked up on writers this offseason, it is exciting to see what they are going to do now that the season has started. Eberley’s piece definitely whets the appetite for what’s to come, offering a pretty unusual take on the upcoming Blazers season. Everyone is projecting big things from Damian Lilard with so few quality players beside him, but not everyone has the naked admiration Eberley shows. His anticipation of Dame unleashed and taking 20+ shots a night has a deep nostalgia for the thrilling gunners of years past, a thrill mostly lost in the age of analytics.
The NBA is without question the best American professional sports league, more diverse and dynamic than the NHL, more entertaining to watch than the MLB and less horrifically morally objectionable than the NFL. Perhaps its biggest strength is its intimacy; it’s easy to feel like you know players when they take the court without protective gear that would hide their personalities and are heavily featured in almost every play on both ends of the floor. The quality of its characters means the NBA has far and away the best storylines in any league as well, 10 of which are laid out in Osborne’s piece. He adeptly covers the main points, outlining playoff odds, title contenders and the universal hope for sustained health among the league’s best.