National Basketball Association
The NBA playoffs started nine days ago, and for basketball fans they have been a treat. Still, even those of us who prefer the professional game to thirty seconds of passing the ball around the perimeter before putting up a 19-foot jumper college ball must admit that this first week-and-two-days has been ever so slightly disappointing. After what was by far the best regular season in decades (at least five blockbuster trades, the re-emergence of the league's two most storied franchises, the best conference in NBA history, the second longest winning streak ever), there have been some letdowns.
It is perhaps bad form to have two sports-related posts in a row, but tonight the Houston Rockets accomplished something that has only happened twice before in NBA history: They won their 20th straight game. To win twenty games in today's NBA is no joke (there are a lot of very good teams, espcially in the Rockets' own Western Conference), but this streak is noteable for other reasons. About two weeks ago, the Rockets' second best player, Yao Ming, went down with a season-ending foot injury.
Well, the NBA season starts tonight (can you feel the excitement?) and much of the media coverage has focused on all of the problems facing professional basketball. While I enjoy referee bashing and Isaiah Thomas jokes as much as all true sports fans, this year should actually be an interesting one for the league. Aside from the (very real) possibility of Kobe Bryant going to Chicago or Dallas--and thus completely upending current playoff forecasts--themost compelling story is the Boston Celtics.
Via Truehoop, a few tidbits regarding the political contributions of NBA players.
So, the NBA has decided to suspend two players from the Phoenix Suns, Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw, for one game apiece, and one member of the San Antonio Spurs, Robert Horry, for two games for their roles in an almost-altercation during Monday night's playoff game.
Following up on Chris's obit for the NBA playoffs, let's take a closer look at the man who killed them: Stu Jackson, who makes Isiah Thomas look like an underachiever when it comes to failing upward. Jackson got his first job in the NBA due to a lucky break: he was working as an assistant coach to Rick Pitino at Providence College when Pitino was hired by the New York Knicks.
The Boston Celtics, a team I have followed obsessively since I was nine, didn't make the NBA finals last week, losing to the New Jersey Nets. But in defeat they achieved something even more important: They answered questions that have haunted the team, and the city, for decades. The Chicago Tribune posed them this way, in a 1992 article marking the retirement of Larry Bird: "Must the Celtics ... have a white star to placate the nearly all-white-ticket-holder base?
Robert L. Johnson came to the Bush administration's attention when it needed him most. The cause of the White House's duress was an annoyingly munificent collection of millionaires, headed by Bill Gates Sr., who had banded together to oppose President Bush's plan to abolish the estate tax. In newspaper ads and press conferences, they held forth on the obligation of the wealthy to give back to society. So effectively did they seize the moral high ground that even the most fervent opponents of the estate tax resigned themselves to it.