Friday, November 19, 2010

The (Main) Reason Why I Love The Sports Guy

I love Bill Simmons. I love that he is so passionate about sports and his teams, I love his random pop culture references, and I love the hilarious stories and quotes from his wife. He is by far my favorite columnist and my day is always better when I find a brand new Sports Guy article on espn. Most people find this funny because he is a Bostonian through and through and hates the Lakers with a passion... BUT the reason I love him is that he loves good basketball and respects the sanctity of sports more than he loves his Boston teams (if that makes sense). Yes, he hates the Lakers but he respects what they bring to the NBA, what Magic and Kobe bring to the history of basketball. Every once in awhile, he'll even write a whole paragraph about LA with nary a negative comment in sight. Rare, but it happens- like in today's retro-preview rankings of the Western Conference

1. L.A. LAKERS

Preseason Prediction: 56 wins (2nd)
Revised Prediction: 65 wins

I thought for sure the Lakers would have one of those "We already have a couple of rings, our guys are a little banged up, let's just get through the regular season and turn it on in April" seasons, just like the 2008 Spurs (57 wins), 2003 Lakers (50 wins), 1991 Pistons (50 wins) and 1989 Lakers (57 wins) did before them. Wrong. Both the Celtics and Lakers seem to be playing with a similar chip on their shoulders: We're tired of hearing about Miami. You're pissing us off. The road through the title still goes through us. If you could tell how much the Celtics relished beating Dwyane Wade's Miami Heat that second time -- with Paul Pierce's "just got finished taking my talents to South Beach" postgame tweet symbolizing everything -- just wait until the Lakers get their hands on Wade's team Christmas Day.

Upon further review, the Summer of South Beach gave the Lakers an edge that's atypical for most two-time defending champs. Three Lakers are playing their best basketball ever: Pau Gasol (doing an '86 McHale impersonation), Lamar Odom (a top-20 player this season) and Shannon Brown (outstanding off the bench). Kobe seems more invested than ever. Their bench is better thanks to Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. They're 10-2 without Andrew Bynum, and like Boston, both their losses came in the final minute. When you watch Miami, it's like watching a White Stripes concert -- tons of talent, great music, but still just a little bit gimmicky because it's only two people. The Celtics and Lakers are trotting out full bands. You might hear a lead guitar one song, a sax player the next, an acoustic song, a hard rock song, a blues song … you just don't know. They can go big, they can go small, they can play fast, they can play slow. They have an answer for everything. Miami does not.

Wade and his sidekick LeBron were right about one thing: By joining forces, they did affect the Finals. They just won't be playing in it. Not this year, anyway.

Reason No. 14,736 I love the NBA: The rubber match. June 2011. It's coming.


*side note: I'm super excited to buy the paperback edition of Simmons' "The Book of Basketball"! He's added chapters on The Decision, "what if" featuring Kevin Durant and Greg Oden, and bumped Kobe a couple spots up his Best Players Ever Pyramid :) It is a fantastic book if you're a basketball fan; really intriguing look at the history of the league and the players with great anecdotes thrown in as well. I plowed through it and found myself immersed in stories about players I had never heard of, or games I didn't know I cared about. Really fantastic, and classic Simmons (tons of pop culture references and footnotes). Naturally, I got a severe case of strep throat the day before his book signing at my local Borders in Mission Valley... I was soooo bummed! I had really been looking forward to it, but hopefully I'll catch him some time in the future. I have signed books or letters from all of my other favorite authors, which is something I'm quite proud of :)

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