Ever since James L. Dolan — scion of the Cablevision Dolans of Oyster Bay, Long Island — became chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company in 1999, the New York Knicks have been living in interesting times. Unfortunately, that interest has very rarely been generated by the quality of the basketball. The Knicks and their reclusive bluesman of a chairman are known for enforcing one of the most repressive media policies seen outside Pyongyang, and very little on-the-record information ever makes its way out of the mecca’s secretive halls. But that’s why journalism was invented, my friends. Hard-hitting, investigative sports journalism, like that of the award-winning ESPN documentary series 30 for 30. Here are my pitches for Knicks-centric 30 for 30s concentrating on the Dolan era.
There’s not much to say here. Almost two weeks ago, Super Typhoon Haiyan — called Yolanda in the Philippines — made landfall, laying waste to coastal areas in Eastern Samar and Leyte provinces and leveling much of Tacloban City, a regional hub where more than 200,000 people lived before the storm. It was one of the most powerful — possibly the strongest — storms to make landfall since weather satellites became capable of measuring hurricane-force winds. Thousands are confirmed dead; thousands more are missing. The images and stories of the storm’s aftermath stretched our imagination — it was the kind of devastation the CGI masters behind science-fiction films strive to imagine, only it was harrowing and gut-wrenching and real.
On a bright and cold afternoon almost exactly three years ago, I climbed onto a school bus with my camera and tripod. Staring back at me were 15 sullen high school boys.
This was my first day filming a documentary, Medora, about a tiny, dwindling town in Indiana and its high school basketball team, the Medora Hornets. My codirector, Andrew Cohn, and I had read about the town and the team in a poignant New York Times article by Pulitzer Prize winner John Branch. The article reveals a mostly shuttered town, knocked to its knees by the closing of factories, and a team composed of players so poor that some play games in work boots. They’d gone 0-22 the previous year. Gripped by their story, Andrew and I decided to move to Medora to film the Hornets’ next season and document the lives of its players. It sounded like an awesome plan, but it felt significantly less awesome the first time I found myself facing a bus full of glaring, reluctant subjects.
Off and on for more than 40 years, the best basketball players from Portland and Seattle have battled each other in small, packed gyms with little media fanfare. Find out what got the rivalry restarted as the two cities play a home-and-home series for pride and the right to call themselves the best in the Northwest.
Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose are confused by the 2013-14 Lakers. Are they trying to win a championship with this roster? Is Kobe going to give up on a championship and gun for the scoring record? Will Pau get traded? Will Kobe attempt to kill Nick Young? One thing is clear — it will be an interesting year in L.A.
Antawn Jamison has never been to the conference finals. He’s been open about his desire to get there. In the last two offseasons, Jamison has signed a pair of relatively cheap contracts in hopes of advancing deep into the NBA playoffs. Last season he went to the Lakers, and that didn’t work out. This season he moves across the hall to the Clippers. If it’s true that Jamison just wants to end his career playing for a competitor, this move could easily be read as the latest sign of an ongoing power shift within Staples Center.
The bogeymen of Philippine basketball are mostly South Korean.
It started with Shin Dong Pa, a shooter for the South Korean national team in the 1960s and early '70s. The Filipino old-timers who competed against him utter Shin's name with the same mixture of terror and regard as characters in The Usual Suspects say "Keyser Söze." To hear them tell it, Shin was a 6-foot-3 marksman with range out to 30 feet who could catch and shoot with ruthless, mechanical efficiency. It wouldn't matter if he had Shane Battier palming his face and tickling his armpits, Shin would drain shots as if nobody were guarding him. There's surely a hint of exaggeration here, but for hard evidence of Shin's greatness, look at his stats from the 1970 World Championships — he averaged 32.6 points per game and was the tournament's leading scorer.
When you watch some outrageous Andrew Wiggins YouTube mixtape, you could be forgiven for not wanting to know how the sausage is made. There's all that promise, and all that eye-popping athleticism, all at such a young age. By now, we all know that there is an underbelly to the worlds of high school and college basketball. We know that institutions and money-hungry street agents take advantage of gifted kids who often find themselves in vulnerable situations, financial or otherwise. Maybe you think college kids should get paid. Maybe you think they should consider the scholarship they receive to play sports payment enough. Either way, you know, even when you watch something as glorious as this, that there's a dark side to the dunk montages, heralded AAU teams, and signing days.
It is on this dark side that New York–based filmmaker Ryan Koo trains his camera. With Amateur, a short film about an encounter between a high school basketball star and a street agent, Koo introduces us to a world of incentives and favors being doled out in whispered locker room confabs. Koo is in the process of making a feature film about this world with his next project, the Kickstarter-funded Manchild. That feature, which counts Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss among its backers, is a look at the recruiting of a 13-year-old basketball phenom.
I talked to Koo, whom I met while working at MTV several years ago, about making Amateur; crowd-sourcing his films with Kickstarter; how his subject matter seems especially prescient in light of the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit; and the hysteria surrounding young players like Wiggins and Jabari Parker. You can check out Amateur below, and you can check out the Manchild site here, and see how you can help the production.
Over the weekend, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban took to his blog — normally an outpost for stock investing advice, third-way political observations, and Shark Tank updates — to explain not just the Mavs' current offseason but the entire series of decisions he'd made since they won the championship in 2011. The complaint from a noisy section of the fan base is that he let most of the team's talent leave so Dallas could pursue the white whale of future cap space — or, if you believe the more conspiratorial arguments, to coast off the championship win and save money.
Cuban's post didn't have a lot to say that he hadn't already said in the press. But its format (sort of like a misguided apology e-mail you'd send your ex-girlfriend late at night to explain why you'd been such a dick) and its timing (Mavs season tickets, on sale now!) require some sort of notice.
New York, L.A., D.C., and Chicago are regarded as the end-all, be-all when it comes to summer basketball locales. But don't sleep on the Northwest! Brewing in the region that now shares a name with Kimye's offspring is a rivalry between two cities that matches any other in intensity. Fueled by local NBA stars like Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson, Portland and Seattle have annually traded jump shots and trash talk with equal ferocity. This weekend Grantland sent a crew to catch the Jamal Crawford Pro-Am All-Star game to capture the highlights of the heat in the Northwest. Tyreke Evans and Crawford put on an absolute show in a game that featured rim-rocking dunks (above) and a buzzer-beater from Crawford …
While most sane Americans are busy trying to, you know, avoid sundeath, pickup basketball continues apace in steam boxes and on sun-scorched pitches the nation over. They come looking for simple glory, a good workout, and a little bit of community. They do things with their bodies unwise for people without health insurance, and constantly leave their empty Gatorade bottles on the ground. Whether you’re a daily regular, weekend warrior, or an “I haven’t exercised in three months and this seems like the fastest way to puke myself back into shape,” streetball etiquette is a fairly easy code to grasp. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its more hidden tenets. Here are 10. Here are 10 tenets I made up.
1. Don't Wear Jerseys
This is a sensitive subject. Certainly there are occasions where mesh tops of the classic (see: Erving, Dr. Julius), hip-obscure (Barnes, Marvin), or nondescript rec league varieties come off as benign. This is rare, however. For the most part, wearing a jersey is a sign of either extreme ability or terrified feebleness. In your case, it’s probably the latter. Specifically, I would sincerely advise against sporting any of the following jersey vintages: Jack Sikma c. 1986, Clyde Drexler c. 1992, Kenny Anderson c. 1991, Allen Iverson c. 1996, Danny Fortson c. 1996, Keith Van Horn c. 1997 (reversible; practice), and your middle school game jersey. I have firsthand experience with the last four. My nipples were chafed almost as bad as my feelings. Hearing “Andre Miller was the key to that team!” will do that to a man.
While the NBA Slam Dunk Contest has disappointed of late, Little Worm, Sir Isaac, and Purdy of the Venice Basketball League do not as they bring all the windmilling, 360 spinning, and car jumping to Venice Beach.
Drew League? Drew League! Don't say the Grantland Channel never gave you anything. WE GIVE YOU DREW LEAGUE. Don't know what we're talking about? Read Andrew Sharp's piece here. Want to watch other vids from L.A.'s most storied summer basketball competition? Ch-ch-check ’em out here. Below you can watch Darren Collison going nuts against the Money Team (featuring James Harden and L.A. rapper The Game) and JaVale McGee doing JaVale McGee things. Drew League!
You know what Grantland's been doing with its summer vacation? Hanging out at the Drew League! Yep, we can't stay away from L.A.'s best basketball summer league. You can read about the whole experience in Andrew Sharp's piece. And you can get caught up with some of our older videos from the league here.
But today we've got some heat for you, so check out the videos below. There's a longer video of James Harden testing his range with some 3s, plus shorter clips of Jordan Richardson, Kwame Alexander, and L.A. hip-hop legend The Game.
At the famous Los Angeles summer basketball Drew League (which you can read all about here), the stars come out to play. Mixed in with D-League upstarts and playground legends, you get some highly recognizable NBA names and faces of the recent past and present. Below, check out some videos of high-wattage stars like James Harden, Nick Young, and Gilbert Arenas. Yes, Gilbert Arenas. If you missed the previous Grantland Channel Drew League Extravaganza, you can check out DeMar DeRozan and the gang here. Peep the videos below.