I never shot jumpers on the tiny plastic Playskool goal that most kids had when we were growing up. My parents opted for the full treatment and expanded our driveway to set up a 10-foot regulation basket, and the butterfly effect took hold.
From that point on, if the sun was up or my garage-hung floodlight was working (and my homework was finished), I was outside drumming a beat with a cheap, pavement-scarred basketball. I knew the subtle changes in elevation of the driveway. I knew shots from the right wing had to come in flat to avoid the tree branches, so it was better to use the backboard. I knew tight spin didn’t help a layup as much on a graphite backboard as it did on glass.
I didn’t know I was developing an incredibly effective mind-clearing activity that would serve me well for the rest of my life: hoop therapy.
It’s a weak pun (group therapy?), but a strong notion – the hour or two of hoisting jumpers that used to be my after-school routine is now my after-work routine, and it’s still effective, but I’m expanding to a new regimen.
I’m a statistical programmer, and although I occasionally stop coding to write emails in English, I don’t write anything lasting at work. But I wanted to get back to publishing, which made me start thinking about the things I could write knowledgeably about. Statistics? Dry, and too close to work. Programming? Same. Sports? Too general. Basketball? Closer. Basketball with wild allusions added? Maybe. Equal parts basketball, basketball stats, and obscure allusions? Done, and here we are.
Hopefully the basketball commentariat hasn’t gone hipster, and won’t reject us from the start as imitators. We’re not the first to try quirky basketball synthesis – it’s been done, and extremely well, for that matter. However, Free Darko is no longer producing, though many of its contributors continue on their separate paths, and if there was ever a market void, now is the time.
This isn’t the place for daily news. I’m not going to write about last night’s games, and banal debates like Kobe versus LeBron are a better fit for mercenaries like Skip Bayless. The goal is to illustrate a macroscopic picture of the qualitative NBA, even if I do salt that with quantitative gems, like the fact that in 2001-2002, Antoine Walker was missing 5.3 three-point shots per game.
I’m not always crazy about the NBA. I’ve been obsessed with the playoffs, but I’ve also been through stretches of dismal apathy towards the regular season. I’m still repulsed by a Nets-Raptors game in early December, but like I just said, those games aren’t the focus here. Even if gameplay becomes less compelling at times, due to my own disinterest or a flaw in the league itself, the NBA develops characters unmatched by any other sport. Think about Iverson, Rodman, Artest, Kobe, Muggsy, Sprewell, Shaq, and Sheed. Think about referee gambling scandals, Phil Jackson, Commissioner Stern, and Mark Cuban.
Maybe it’s because we see and hear more of basketball players. They don’t wear helmets like football players, so their expressions are always visible. They aren’t behind glass like hockey players, so a good seat makes us privy to in-game conversations. A basketball court is small enough to fit entirely within a baseball infield, and teams sell seats literally next to the benches.
Whatever it is that creates the personalities, it’s compelling to some of us. If you don’t see it, maybe following along will convince you. Hoop therapy. I swear by it.