Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Why I like Bill Simmons

Because, if you can ignore the more or less constant flow of gleeful porn references, he (a) really knows NBA basketball and (b) has a lot of fun talking about it. The following is a prototypical Simmons paragraph taken from his retroactive Rockets/Lakers Game 1 diary: sound analysis, plus goofing off.
What's interesting about Artest at this point of his career: He's much better at guarding spot-up shooters (such as Rashard Lewis) and smaller post-up players (such as Paul Pierce or even David West) than he is at staying in front of someone like Kobe. In the old days, he could lock anyone down. Not anymore. On the bright side, he's single-handedly keeping alive Anthony Mason's "drawing logos and letters into my hair" gimmick from 16 years ago. So there's that.
Simmons very much enjoyed Yao's game. "I haven't been this excited by a Chinese person since General Tso." But, being Simmons, he's tuned in to the underlying fundamentals. I realize that the following isn't some super-intelligent piece of insight, because even I have noticed that Yao shoots free throws a lot better than Shaq or Wilt, but Bill's got the statistics to back it up:
Yao follows a Lakers hoop with a pretty spin move and gets fouled. He's 8-for-8 for the night, 87 percent for the regular season, 94 percent in the playoffs and 84 percent for his career. Shaq, Russell, Wilt, Ewing, Robinson, Hakeem, Mourning, Walton, Moses ... all of those guys shot in the 60s and 70s for their careers with Moses leading the way at 76 percent. It's the most interesting thing about Yao other than his obscenely gigantic height: He's the only elite center in NBA history who couldn't be fouled in crunch time.

In fact, if you look at the top 90 career free-throw shooters, only four centers make the cut: Jack Sikma (42nd), Mike Gminski (58th), Bill Laimbeer (73rd) and Yao (86th). Of course, that would be the funniest genetically blended center of all-time: Imagine a 7-foot-6 Chinese guy with Sikma's blonde permafro, G-Mo's beard and lack of a neck, and Laimbeer's doughy body. At the very least, it would have led to the greatest basketball cards ever captured. And yet I digress.
And last of all, it's always been a surreal experience for me to listen to Yao in post-game interviews, but I could never have hoped to capture that experience so precisely as Bill does here:
And is there anything more fun than hearing a happy Yao interviewed after a hard-fought victory, when he has that giddy Chinese accent crossed with a twinge of hip-hop, only if it was happening with Andre the Giant's voice?
So now you understand why, even at this time in my life when sports have (though I can hardly believe it myself) been almost completely crowded out by kids and divorce and work, I still carefully make time to go to every couple of days and check to see if the Sports Guy has posted anything new.


At 12:39 PM, Blogger Stephen said...

Just last night (or was it this morning? naw, last night) Geoff was telling me that he'd happily learn to be a sportwriter if he could just start out as Bill Simmons' gofer boy. He listed the various menial tasks he'd gladly take on, as long as he could learn from the man and move up the ladder when the opportunity presented itself.

Me? I'd never read the guy (knowingly).

Now you chime in on Simmons, and you've never steered me wrong, not once, so I go read the Game 1 diary. Not even done, and I have to come back and thank you for leaving the best one-liners for us to enjoy in context. Some are just beautiful - like "Rockets now lead 1-0 in games played at a neutral site" - ooouuuccchhh, I'd hate to be a Laker fan reading that.

In other news, we found out during the game that two laptops dialed into over wireless won't work too well. Between Geoff and I, one of us is going to have to get a larger screen. Or go to BW3's (eek).


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