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Court of Opinion

  • The Book of Basketball
  • By Bill Simmons, October 27, 2009
  1. 1.Sam Anderson:The wisdom, the blasphemy, the stripper anecdotes ...
  2. 2.Sam Anderson:The inconsistency drives me crazy.
  3. 3.Sherman Alexie:The genius of Simmons: He is an obsessive-compulsive basketball populist.
  4. 4.Bethlehem Shoals:Simmons mistakes going too far, and wallowing in excess, for taking risks.
  5. 5.Jonathan Lethem:I felt starved for something booklike in this book-resembling object.
  6. 6.Tommy Craggs:The Secret: A hopelessly banal point about chemistry and sacrifice.
  7. 7.Ben Mathis-Lilley:Some thoughts on the book's horrible sexism.
  8. 8.Sam Anderson:I think Bill Simmons is a very good writer.
  9. 9.Bethlehem Shoals:I'm reluctantly raising an issue that could swallow up this discussion whole.
  10. 10.Sherman Alexie:The Last Great White American Player Syndrome?
  11. 11.Jonathan Lethem:Let me try a small stunt here.
  12. 12.Tommy Craggs:Placing the NBA in the heart of a certain kind of white-bread Americana.
  13. 13.Ben Mathis-Lilley:We can’t knock Simmons as an overcompensating tourist in hip-hop culture.
  14. 14.Sam Anderson:Good-bye to the soul-searching, the Vonnegut references, the Iverson jokes.
Sherman Alexie
"The genius of Simmons: He is an obsessive-compulsive basketball populist."
12/09/09 at 09:30

Oh, man, as a Sonics griever, I had been thinking of beginning my post by discussing Simmons's crush on former Sonic Durant, but Oden's tragic and monumental injury makes it a mandatory starting point.

Oden's fall will certainly give Simmons cause to gloat (can one gloat with sympathy? Simmons will certainly make the attempt). And while I feel much empathy for Oden, the Blazers, and their fans, and tried to offer poetic consolations over at, I have to give Simmons credit for being one of the few public figures to express what many fans knew: Oden was not going to stay healthy. Over the last few years, my basketball friends and I have continually had the Oden-or-Durant debate. The Oden crew's position: Always draft the big man. The Durant crew's argument: Always draft the best player. Or perhaps more facetiously stated, always draft the best player who doesn't look 47 years old. It would seem the Durant crew wins this argument by default.

That's the genius of Simmons: He is an obsessive-compulsive basketball populist. In his work, and in this book, he cares and writes about the same stuff that basketball fans care about. And he writes with the same, if more poetically written, vocabulary. Simmons takes sides. That's great.

So, in basketball terms, the Oden-Durant debate is as contentious and fundamental as the creationism-evolution debate, or in more general terms, the religion-versus-science debate.

And I'm here to say that Simmons believes far more in basketball religion than he does in basketball science, at least when it comes to Kevin Durant.

I'm not the technical guy who can link readers to the many statistical sites that prove what some of us already know, but you Durant maniacs and Internet hounds can easily find them and learn this: At this point in his career, Kevin Durant is Glenn Robinson 2.0. Yes, Durant is an offensive marvel, but he doesn't yet rebound effectively, pass the ball well, or make his teammates better. In the brief time I watched him here in Seattle, I can't tell you how often the basketball fanatics around me would complain about Durant's habitual inability and/or unwillingness to rotate on defense. With his height, speed, and grace, he should be getting three help-side blocked shots a game. He's not. That is a serious problem. And it's a problem that Simmons—who is so great at pointing out the weaknesses of other players' games—fails to notice because he is kneeling with his head against the pew in the Church of Durant.

In the last few years of the Sonics, there was a fundamental sect that worshipped in the saddest church of all time: the Blessed Heart of Luke Ridnour.

Don't get me wrong. When it comes to my favorite players, I can also be a basketball fundamentalist. I was an altar boy in the Chapel of Larry Kenon, or more digitally stated, Julius Erving 0.5.

But, wait, I'm also a basketball scientist, or perhaps I should call myself a basketball agnostic. And, as a basketball agnostic, I most truly appreciate Simmons's examination of Kevin McHale's post moves. I think that is the highlight of the book, or perhaps it's just the most valuable in real-life-application terms. We all know that poor free-throw shooters should do it underhand, and that every big man should be shooting the Sky Hook, but I think we've forgotten that McHale should be the model for every post player in the world.

And so, in my own lame-ass way, since I first read Simmons's book, I have been practicing those McHale post moves. I think McHale's post moves are perfect for a broken-down old-man rec player like me. And they would be perfect for all of the broken-down old-men rec players who are reading this.