S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor and the author of The Queen, this is Hang Up and listen for the week of April 20th, 2020 and this week show we’ll discuss the first two episodes of The Last Dance. ESPN documentary series on the end of the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s. We’ll also talk about basketball prospect Jalen GREENE and what his decision to go straight to the G League means for the NBA and for college basketball. Finally, we’ll look at the state of sports media, which, like pretty much every industry, has been ravaged by the coronavirus like the rest of you. I’m at home with my home being in Washington, D.C..
S3: Joining me from his home in D.C. is the author of Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. Stefan FATSIS. Hello, Stefan. Hey, Josh, with us from Palo Alto. Slate staff writer and the host of Slow Burn Season 3, Joel Anderson. What’s up, Joel? I’m good. How are you guys doing? I’m doing okay. Before we get to the show, we have an announcement to make an important announcement. So listen up. Remember what I said a few seconds ago about getting ravaged by the Corona virus that applies to Slate as well. Over the last few months, we’ve gotten record traffic on the site. It’s a clear indication that the work we’re doing is needed and that it’s valued and appreciated by you, our listeners and our readers as well. At the same time, ad dollars have plummeted and that means we’re less and less able to get the revenue we need to finance the work we do. This is not a unique challenge by any stretch. Pretty much everyone is going through something right now. But for us at Slate, it is an acute challenge. Starting now on a temporary basis, every other episode of Hang-Up so every other week is going to be a first slate plus members only this week’s episode, the one you’re listening to now, it’ll be available for everyone just like usual with one bonus segment four plus members next week. Non-plussed members will see a preview of the episode in their podcast feeds, get the intro and the first segment and the rest will be reserved for Slate Plus. As I said, I want to emphasize this is temporary until we have enough ad dollars to sustain the show again. And this is not happening to every slate show if you have other favorites. The hosts of those shows will tell you if anything is changing.
S4: On June 13th, 1997, Michael Jordan scored thirty nine points to lead the balls to a 90 to 86 win over the Utah Jazz and clenches bethe NBA title in seven years. In the press conference immediately after the game, Jordan was asked about the difficult business decisions that needed to be made that offseason. The decision basically about whether Jordan has teammates and coach Phil Jackson would be back to compete for a sixth championship. This was his answer.
S5: We’re entitled to defend what we have. Until we lose it, we lose it. Then you look at it and you say, okay, let’s change. Just go through a rebuilding. Once guaranteed, rebuilding is gonna be two or three, four, five years. Cause when we build for 42, you. You want to look at this from a business thing, have a sense of respect for the people who have laid the groundwork so that you could be a profitable organization.
S3: Jordan and the Bulls did comeback in their quest for his sixth title as the subject of the 10-part ESPN documentary series The Last Dance. Joel. The premiere of Last Dance got pushed up by two months to help fill ESPN is massive programming hall and our collective need for something new to watch. There was a lot of hype about how the doc was called from 500 plus hours of never before seen footage that had been sitting in the NBA vaults in Secaucus. The first two episodes, though, mostly focused on BackStory. We got young Jordan, we got college Jordan, we got early career Jordan and just a sprinkling of material from the 97 98 season. So what did you think of how the series started and are you looking forward to the rest of it?
S6: I am a person whose childhood largely coincided with Michael Jordan’s most famous years. And even for me, there’s been there’s so much ground to cover that’s been lost over those years, even for those of us who were fans at the height of the Michael Jordan phenomenon. For instance, I’ve never seen footage of him playing basketball in high school before. I didn’t have a sense for the kind of college player he was, though presumably he was good because he was the number three overall pick in the 1984 draft. In those early years of the NBA, there’s hardly ever a time I would have seen Jordan or the Bulls on TV back then. It wasn’t even a given that you were going to be able to see your hometown NBA team on TV. Right. So I do think that this documentary film is a really important space. I mean, not just not just a huge programming hole in ESPN, but I do think that we sort of assume that we know a lot about Michael Jordan because he’s always been with us. But that’s just not true. There’s just so much stuff that we never got a chance to see. In the early 80s, early 90s, things that we’ve forgotten over the years. So this documentary, The Last Dance, it’s sort of a window into a time that’s mostly been forgotten, under-covered. And for instance, I had forgotten that the reason the bulls run eventually came to an end was because Jerry Crouse wanted to fire Phil Jackson and bring in Tim Floyd, which sounds ridiculous on its face. But that’s just something that you that’s kind of lost to the story. So I can’t wait to watch the rest of it. I got sucked in just like everybody else.
S7: I did not get sucked in quite as quickly, Joel. And maybe because this doesn’t feel like ancient history to me. And I just felt that the first two episodes felt like a really long lined up and did not leave me dying for more. And not just because I know how this story turns out. Look, it’s always fun to see this great old footage and see what dudes were wearing in the 1990s and see Jordan and the Bulls in some tiny locker room in Paris because the NBA forced them to go over there and play in some bullshit McDonald’s tournament. But I was not overwhelmed by the storytelling initially. I mean, for me, I wanted from the jump, I wanted to know that I’m going to be getting some sort of back story that has not been told yet. And the allure of those five hundred hours is great. And the road that all of that footage went through is a fascinating backstory into the way Michael Jordan and his agents controlled his image and all footage and all material that had to do anything with him and the way they have controlled it for more than 20 years. But I’m just not sure what the story is yet.
S4: After watching the first two episodes in Stefan, I think you need to reset your expectations, because I think it’s clear after the first two episodes that this documentary doesn’t have anything bigger to say about the world or even about the Bulls team. Like there’s no kind of sociology here. There’s no attempt, I think, really to capture anything bigger about our world or our culture or about sports.
S3: What this is, is I think exactly what Joel said was it is a collection of footage of these teams that have these players and of Michael Jordan that is really fun to watch and go back and revisit and look at. And it’s like kind of collectively as a nation, we chose to like go on YouTube and find the most interesting footage of a young Jordan or of these early bulls teams and and revel in it. And there is something really magical about seeing kind of the opening shot of the series, starting with the young Jordan in 84 with the script Chicago on his jersey. And he’s so young and skinny. And you see that footage of him hitting his head on the backboard when he was in North Carolina trying to block that shot. That was unbelievable. You see, like current Mavs coach Rick Carlisle trying to guard Jordan in the playoffs. This is all the. Fascinating stuff and really fun for those of us who saw it the first time to revisit for a generation of people who never saw it and don’t know Jordan or never saw him play and only know the crying Jordan meme. It’s going to play really differently. But if you look at this like it’s the O.J. documentary or something, if that’s the bar you’re setting, you’re going to be disappointed.
S8: Well, maybe that’s the problem, is that when I heard it’s 10 hours, as Jason Gay wrote in The Wall Street Journal, that’s one more, you know, 10 hours and 10 episodes. Jason Gaines said it’s one more episode than Ken Burns needed to sift through the civil war. And maybe I’m applying a sort of higher expectation for what documentary filmmaking needs to be. And in all fairness, we’ve only seen the first night of the show and we did not get advance screeners for the entire series. So I’m hoping that, yeah, there is more storytelling and more of Jordan in it. And, you know, the TS of Jordan, Joel, in that first episode is that maybe he was a little more open than we were accustom to him being. I mean, he’s not going to change who he is, but he told, you know, at least one really good story about the 1984 85 bulls. And he walks into a hotel room and the team is like half the guys are doing coke and the other half is smoking weed. And then in a very stereotypical Michael Jordan’s self-serving coda, he says, I got out of there immediately because that wasn’t who I was.
S6: Yeah. No, I mean, I think that that was like really endearing in a way. Right. You know, think about Michael Jordan being this innocent twenty two year old kid, theoretically. I mean, this we’d had we only have his version of it to take over. Right. You know, Orlando Woolridge is in here. I think Michael Jordan had his vices.
S8: Yes. I mean, I’m not sure we had him when he was 22, but he certainly developed them.
S6: And he did say, you know, I didn’t drink at the time at a certain point. Within the documentary, is he subtly holding on to like a glass of scotch or something?
S3: So I learned to track how much scotch is in the glass. Whenever you have that right, it’s like, okay, the glass on this fall, is it almost empty? And just try to like predict what Jordan is going to say based on the volume of liquid.
S6: Right. You sure it’s on ginger ale? That could be. I mean, it is a time of, you know, at a time of Corona. It’s something, you know, panacea in a way. But no, I mean, Michael Jordan, I thought was really daring is that we get to see him laugh. I don’t you know, I’ve. Michael Jordan’s been famous my entire life. I’ve never seen him laugh. I’ve never seen him talk about his life in quite this way. That’s what makes the documentary useful for me. I don’t know that I needed this documentary to say anything larger about the world or the context in which Michael Jordan is. And I do think that that’s going to come up and there’s some of that a little bit. Right. But I don’t know that I needed all of that. I just wanted to see behind the scenes and Michael Jordan and see him as a human and not a to, you know, not a two dimensional figure for once. And so to that end, if the documentary can just give us some of that behind the scenes footage, see Michael Jordan laughing, talking about asking his mom for stamps, talking about I had to get the hell out of that room. I think there’s something to it. But you know what? Really, the thing that I thought about and I don’t know how much of a hand Michael Jordan had in the editing and the cut of this documentary, but he certainly seemed to be settling some scores with a dead man. Jerry Krauss and the first these first couple of episodes, it to the extent that there is a villain so far they have identified Jerry Krauss, the former Bulls general manager, and really gone in on him at this point. And maybe he deserves that, right? Maybe, you know, maybe there’s something to that. But I’ll be interested to see how they look, sort of sort his character out at some point.
S9: Let me just jump in there and say that you were wondering how much control Jordan might have had over this. My hunch is that Jordan and his people had a lot of control. I mean, all the stories about the making of this documentary are pretty clear that Jordan had editorial oversight of the documentary. Whether that means I mean, the director, Jason, I think it’s here is on the record publicly saying that Jordan’s people did not tell me to take anything out of the out of the movie. I’m a little dubious of that, knowing the history of the kind of control that Michael Jordan and his lawyers, agents, creative people have exerted over his image since he got into the NBA in the mid-1980s.
S4: Nick Green wrote about this in a piece for Slate that ran on Sunday about Jordan, saying that one reason he was hesitant to allow this footage to be released and of this stuff was filmed in 1997, 98 with the understanding and agreement. I think contractually that it would never be released unless Jordan agreed to it.
S9: And there were cuts made, Josh? There were there was like an hour long NBA entertainment documentary made. The Jordan’s people reviewed. Adam Silver, the commissioner of. Now was in charge of an NBA entertainment back then, so he was intimately involved in the original efforts to craft a documentary about the season.
S4: But Jordan told the director that he was worried that he would come off as a bully and a villain. If the footage was released just because of how much of an asshole he is. And, you know, I guess it shows some self-awareness that Jordan understands that he is an asshole and that if the footage showed how he treated his teammates in practice, then people might think less of him. But as Nick wrote, and as you just said, Joel, it’s clear that Jordan is not going to be the villain of this documentary, that it’s Jerry Krass and Krauss did not draft Jordan. And based on what we’ve read over the years and what we hear from people in the dock, Krauss always wanted to prove that he was, if not solely responsible, then largely responsible for these bulls championships. And he did trade for Scottie Pippen. He acquired Dennis Rodman. He elevated Phil Jackson to head coach. Krauss was the architect of a lot of this, but he does not deserve as much credit as Michael Jordan would be. A nice little team with that, Jordan. But the thing that’s hard to understand and isn’t really explicated, maybe because it’s just an explicable is why would owner Jerry Reinsdorf allow Krauss to alienate all of the key figures in this team, would allow him to say to Phil Jackson, this is your last year would not have any interest in ripping up Scottie pippin’s contract to make Pippen something more than the one hundred twenty second highest paid player in the NBA.
S3: It’s just bizarre that, you know, was it. It was understood at the time. Right. That this was a team that was winning championships. That wasn’t a secret. Like, why would you side with the GM? Not, not not like Jordan and Pippen and Phil Jackson. It just never made sense then. It doesn’t make sense now.
S6: Yeah, no, I mean, absolutely. And as we heard in the clip earlier in the segment, Michael Jordan says they earned the right to lose their championship, which makes a lot of sense. I mean, even if even if they were going to lose sight, let’s just say that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in that iteration of the Bulls lost fine. Not only that, because you have a team that is guaranteed to pack in your your arena, they’re still gonna be stars. They’re still going to be competitive. It just didn’t make any sense why they just essentially forfeited for Tim Floyd. Of all people.
S10: And we don’t really get a good answer. He does interview Reinsdorf, the owner and to the filmmakers, credit to Jordan’s credit. But maybe it just sort of buttresses Jordan storyline. Phil Jackson is pretty candid about that. You know, I walked in to see Reinsdorf and he just says, this is gonna be your last year. Here’s the contract. And what is Jackson saying? Nothing. He says okay and leaves and establishes the framework for his final season by creating his annual playbook that he dubs the last dance. So I don’t think we got we didn’t get really a good answer from Jerry Reinsdorf as to what it was about Jerry Crouse that kind of had that sway over his decision making.
S4: We do hear Jordan and and we hear about Kippen being very cruel to craft making down of his weight and his height.
S10: And that’s certainly in there, too. Right.
S4: And there is this dynamic of the extremely unathletic never played the game white guy lording it over this roster full of black players and acting like they’re just kind of pawns in his game. And this was even before kind of the cult of the general manager.
S3: This was before, you know, the NBA kind of Sam Hinkie and Daryl Morey. This was before Michael Lewis had made Billy Beane a hero. And again, I think even at the time you heard it during the ring ceremony, the fans are booing Jerry Krauss. There’s no contemporaneous appreciation of krauss’s genius. He’s not somebody who is charismatic. He doesn’t have a magnetic personality. And that just deepens the mystery. Bowls kind of brought on this era, you know, Magic and Bird started it. But of the NBA player as Megahed celebrity, this team as a travelling circus of an as an entertainment act, this idea that Jordan says that they earned the right like they’re minting money, know they’re winning championships. The notion that you’re doing them a favor by allowing them to come back and try to do it again and again, this is inexplicable. I don’t get it after watching these episodes. And it will it will never make sense.
S6: If you’re a Chicago Bulls fan, then you should be really upset about how this ended. You know, having this brought up again, because like you said, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Why would you antagonize Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen? I mean, you know, one of the most winning winningest trios in the history of NBA basketball to antagonize them and make their run in before it had to. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. And hopefully that will come up a little bit later because they are digging into this final season. This is theoretically a documentary about that last season. So there’s still a lot of time to get into that. But even if they’re able to sort of explicate that over the next few episodes, it still doesn’t make any damn sense.
S4: I do think there’s a larger lesson here about being penny wise and pound foolish. The ball signing Pippen to seven year eighteen million dollar deal in nineteen ninety one. It was under market at the time. Pippen said in the documentary you couldn’t gamble on getting hurt and not being able to provide for his family. His father had had a stroke. Has he had a brother who was paralyzed and then the bulls don’t renegotiate that deal. When it turns out that the bulls are winning championships and printing money and like for and for what you know, you’re just creating a really horrible situation that eventually leads to the dissolution of the team.
S11: Before we get to our next segment, I wanted to declare that the hang up and listen, Quarantine Magazine Club will be back next week. The article we’re reading is from May 1998. Sports Illustrated story with the cover line. Where’s Daddy?
S1: That piece on athletes and out of wedlock children was hugely controversial at the time. We’re going to revisit the article and the controversy on next week’s show. If you want to read the piece in advance of our conversation, we will link to it in our show notes at Slate.com. Slash Hang-Up.
S9: The NCAA, like all sports organizations, is, at least in the short term, screwed. Unlike other sports organizations, though, it has to worry about more than just when games will return. It has to worry about whether its best employees will return to last week, the number one men’s high school basketball prospect in the nation. Jalen Green of California announced that he was done being recruited by Auburn, Memphis and other schools and would instead join the NBA developmental arm, the G League. Not only is Green the first top ranked prospect to skip college in more than a decade. He’s the first to take a souped up offer from the G League, designed to keep the best high school players from going overseas specifically to Australia, as a bunch have done in recent years. Green will get half a million dollars a full college scholarship when he wants it. A holistic, athletic and personal NBA training plan and basically his own team stocked with NBA veterans in Los Angeles that won’t play the regular Geely Grind in Fort Wayne and De Moyne. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.
S8: Josh, who should be more concerned here, the Australian Basketball League or the NCAA?
S4: Yet Australia references because the Melo Ball, the presumptive number one pick in this year’s NBA draft, and another high schooler, RJ Hampton, went to Australia instead of playing college basketball or going the G League route last year because Australia was the best option they had at the time.
S12: Australia had the league there had put it in place a plan that sounds pretty similar to what the G League is doing now, designing teams and programs and training around attracting young talent and helping them develop, which led one to wonder what the NBA was waiting for to do it themselves. And that’s the question that I have now is what took so long? This obviously is a good deal for Jalen Green. He’s getting salary endorsements, he’s getting professional training. He doesn’t have to worry about the inability to market himself. And he already has a lot of young stars do he has, I think, a million followers on Instagram and he’s somebody who’s marketable now. He doesn’t need college to become marketable. And so, yeah, I guess the question is, why was the NBA so willing to outsource all of this kind of development and marketing to college basketball? Why was I willing to let Australia take the lead? You know, Joel, do you think that it’s just kind of coming to Jesus CERD, you know, and understanding that this is something they should have been doing a long time ago?
S6: Yeah, I mean, I think I think well, obviously, a startup league costs a lot of money. Right. And development costs money.
S13: And maybe the NBA wasn’t willing to spend that until they realize, well, we can’t necessarily guarantee that these guys are going to go to Duke, Kentucky anymore, you know, and we’re not going to send our scouts over to New Zealand. They don’t have any control over, you know, what happens in that league or how often, because I think La Melo Ball maybe played like 20 games and shut it down over there. They don’t have any means to shape or mold that guy’s development. And so they’re like, well, hey, why can’t we do that ourselves? What I would think, though, is what does this tell you what they think about the G League? Because, I mean, they there’s already a league there. There are teams there that are theoretically meant for the development of these prospects and there’s this path into the league. But Jalen Green comes in and they’re like, oh, wait a minute, you don’t need to play on any of those other teams. Let’s create this other team with some other prospects and we’ll just fill it out with a few other guys. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Like what was wrong with, you know, this Sioux Falls Sky Force?
S11: Yeah, the selling point to Jaylen Green as you don’t have to plan for when a guy like you. What about us, man? Right. We’re here. We exist right there.
S8: Just creating a silo for the very best players. And I think to attract the very best high school players, you got to make them feel like they are different from the run of the mill NBA 10 day contract guy that’s been bouncing around foreign leagues and has been brought on to the Fort Wayne racers or wherever the team is called in order to to fill out a roster. I mean, it’s not going to be so attractive to them if you’re competing with Calipari and Sharf Ski. You’re not gonna offering a high school kid the chance to go to Sacramento. Wait, that’s wrong. Bakersfield, thank you. This is not going to be as appealing as as the chance to have your own tailored environment. The NBA has to approach this as a as a recruiting tool in competition with college. What the NBA I mean, the question of why they haven’t been willing to do this, Josh, I think is that simply that they’ve effectively been in cahoots for decades, the NBA. The NCAA, the NBA has allowed the NCAA with its approval to be its de facto minor league. And that’s worked great. And the NBA and its players are going to renegotiate at some point, though, it sounds like it’s hit some snags. The one and done rule that will allow high schoolers to go straight to the league. Now, if you have this supplemental option, you know, instead of going into the draft, you go to the G League for one year and you’re better positioned to move up the draft ladder after a year of intensive training and oversight by NBA hired professionals.
S14: Do you guys think that the NCAA really cares about this, though? Because even still, this only is involving like a handful of players. They did pass, you know, a generation ago. They weren’t getting any way because they were going straight to the NBA. So do you think that the NCAA really cares about any of this?
S11: I think that that’s a good point, that if you just look at it in isolation as, OK, Jalen Green, and then there’s another player who’s doing this as well. Isaiah Todd. And maybe there will be more or maybe next year it will be five or eight or something. If you take the top five or eight incoming freshmen out of college basketball, people are still going to watch. March Madness is still going to be nine figure cash cow and non pandemic years. And people are going to have loyalties to their schools and college basketball is going to still be popular. But I think the story here, you need to take a longer view and understand that it’s not just about these two or five or eight players. What I think you can read this as is one of college basketball’s biggest customers, its biggest customer perhaps has lost faith in the NCAA as a concern. And I think, Stefan, what you said is right is that college basketball worked as a farm system for the NBA so long as college basketball worked full stop. And so I think this is the NBA saying we need to hedge our bets here because college basketball, as it’s currently constructed, may not be around in two years or five years. And I think if you’re looking for a kind of bigger picture storyline about the NCAA, it’s not about, oh, we’re not going to get Jalen Green. It’s about what does this say about the faith that the NBA or that other kind of savvy onlookers feel about this whole model of what it is that we do?
S8: Yeah, I mean, look, the NCAA model is getting exposed for what it is day after day and case after case. And yes, I think the idea of hedging your bets is exactly right. The you know, the argument that, oh, we’re going to lose some high school players, college basketball is dead. But we went through that with Kevin Garnett and Bryan and all the high school players that went straight to the NBA before the league enacted the rule, forcing them to go to college for one year or to do something else for one year. I mean, there are even people like Sonny Vaccaro arguing that the former shoe impresario arguing that that the high school players shouldn’t go to college at all. If they’re good enough to play in the league, they shouldn’t be giving their services to these universities for one season to allow them to make billions of dollars. He’s been pushin players to go overseas for a decade. So, yeah, the hedging bets is huge. And I think that the NBA is being very, very smart here, whether it’s five or eight or 10 players.
S9: The NBA needs to be prepared for it to be 20 or 30 or 40 of the best players that are dissatisfied with the model of going to college and not getting paid. And that’s where this is heading. And the NBA is smart to be creating a system that would allow the most gifted high school players to have a viable option.
S14: I mean, if you think about it, though, the NCAA will basically beg the NBA to come up with this, because it was about two years ago on this almost exact date where the NCAA convened the Rice Commission, which, you know, Condoleezza Rice essentially agreed, you know, that, hey, I’m our model is fine. What we’re doing is great. Not playing to kids, not paying the kids. You know, the amateur model is exactly what it is. We need to get rid of the one and done rule or we need to deal with that. And basically, I mean, from that moment, it was only a matter of time before the NBA had to come up with some other model or something else to accommodate that. And this is what that is. So, you know, I think the NCAA has a lot more confidence in its model than maybe we do or that other people do. And that’s that’s the other thing. Like a a kid like Jalen GREENE, NCAA basketball means something totally different to them than it meant 20 years ago. You know, these sepia-toned memories of playing, you know, a big ten schedule and, you know, go at, you know, the bra rah campus atmosphere and all that sort of stuff. There are a lot of these kids that don’t they don’t even give a shit about that anymore, that they don’t that’s not something that appeals to them. They’ve built up their own brands on social media and they’re used to travelling all around the. Playing in gyms. So like college holds no appeal to them. Yeah, I guess it just sort of depends on if the NCAA is right about its own model, if it holds the appeal that they think it does, because there’s a lot of hints from the players to the NBA and all in between. The NCAA is model is not exactly, you know, hold the same appeal that it did even 10 years ago.
S7: And I think that what happens in the next year is going to be really important here. If there is no college basketball season in 2020, 21 next year, high school seniors have to be wondering, is it going to be worth it for me to commit to going to school when that model is an even more distant memory for 16 or 15 or 14 year old? If the NBA bulks up this program and does a more aggressive job of recruiting the best players to come join it.
S6: I didn’t even know and I don’t know anything about Jalen Green or Isaiah Todd’s situation. But also something that occurred to me is that we’re in a time where a lot of people have lost their jobs. They don’t have a lot of money. It could be that a lot of these kids don’t have the time to go to college anymore because their families need to be taken care of or whatever. You know, we don’t know anything. I’m not saying anything about these kids, individual, you know, financial situations. But taking a year to taking the risk and going to college and not cashing in to some degree is a risk to now. And so getting five hundred thousand dollars plus whatever endorsement money upfront is also like the safest, most reasonable deal to take for a lot of kids at this point. So that’s something that also I’ve thought of. That was shit. Who knows if Jalen Green’s parents lost their jobs or got laid off or got furloughed or something, you know?
S15: Yeah, I think this is a particular situation for this year where it’s kind of a no brainer to, you know, take the money, start developing as a pro because who knows of college basketball as it’s happening and for some guys who are in college. It might actually make sense to make the opposite decision because, you know, a certain number of guys go pro with the expectation that they might not make the NBA, but there’s always opportunity to go play in Europe. But, you know, maybe European basketball isn’t happening this year. And those pro contracts like, oh, I could always play internationally. Well, maybe not. So maybe it actually makes sense to go back to college for some guy. So there’s just this year is just sort of weird and will affect decision making in a way that you can’t really you can’t see it as predicting what’s gonna happen next year or the year after. But I will say you have to hold two ideas in your head at once. Zane Williams and he is the most obvious example, was exploited by the NCAA. But college basketball, it made sense for his iron to go to Duke. He became so much more famous and popular and marketable, he would have been the number one. You know, maybe he wouldn’t have been the number one pick because RJ Barrett was supposedly the guy like it. So he solidified himself as the number one pick, I think. I don’t know how important that was, but he also just made himself zylon by going to Duke. And so Jalen Green is losing out on using college basketball as a marketing vehicle for himself and whatever. This isn’t really the G League, as you guys noted. It’s like some weird, like Remora like entity that’s attached itself to the G League and is just like some kind of adjunct training program slash team. It’s you know, he’s not going to be in the public eye in the same way he would be at Duke or Kentucky. And so this is kind of a compromised position. The best choice for green and maybe for then NBA would be for college basketball to be a logit above board farm system where you’re trading on the fame and popularity and infrastructure of these kind of old timey blueblood programs. And the players are able to exploit their names and likenesses enabled. They got money. But since that’s not happening, this seems like, you know, the choice that makes sense for the Jalen Greens of the world right now.
S11: Last month, James Heckman, the CEO of MAVEN, the corporate something or other that is presently running Sports Illustrated into the ground, told The Washington Post’s Ben Strauss, We are a $150 billion business, continue to forecast a profitable year and our traffic continues to scale up. As Bryan Curtis writes in the ringer, Maven laid off 9 percent of its employees a week later. Among the folks that are now gone from Essi are Chris Ballard and Grant. While writers of long standing at the magazine who had survived previous purges, Essi is now even more than it already was a dead magazine walking. But the coronavirus pandemic isn’t just decimating poorly run entities. SB Nation, which is owned by VOX Media, has furloughed a bunch of its staffers. Among them, beloved hang up guest Spencer Hall. And as Bryan Curtis wrote in The Ringer last month, smaller independent outlets like the baseball site Fangraphs are pretty dire straits with no games to write about and traffic down 60 to 70 percent. Stefan, we were pretty transparent at the top of this episode about what’s going on at Slate and what we are doing to try to make it through this pandemic. What are you seeing in sports media and what are your bigger picture thoughts about what’s happening in our industry right now?
S7: Well, I guess the terror, the fear is that the companies that owns sports media outlets will say we don’t need to go back. I mean, all of this obviously is hinges on how quickly and to what degree the advertising market rebounds. I mean, you could certainly argue from a news perspective, there may not be any games, but there is plenty to write about right now. And you said that more people are reading Slate than had been before. Even in sports, the ramifications of the effects of the coronavirus spread across every game, every league, every industry and every country. There is a ton of news and profiles and features to write about related to that. The sad reality, though, is that even if traffic is up as advertisers don’t want to capitalize on that traffic online, I mean, forgetting about print, it’s going to be grim.
S11: Yeah. That’s Stefan like ratings that ESPN are way down. It’ll be interesting to see what the ratings are for the last dance. And if the desperation for new programming manifests and monster ratings, we’ll see. But apparently, you know, per the Kansas City Star ratings that ESPN are 70 percent lower in the first week of April than they had been before.
S15: I mentioned Fangraphs in my intro and there is no fantasy leagues happening. There are no games happening. And so you don’t need your kind of niche analytics baseball site now. And so there are some cases where, yes, people are reading and there are certainly, you know, we haven’t lacked for things to talk about. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on, you know. But all we have to acknowledge the reality that there is not the audience for sports, that there would be if like, you know, the masters that just happen in the NBA playoffs have just started.
S6: No, absolutely. And, you know, I mean, obviously, the pandemic, you know, receives a lot of the blame for what’s going on here. But in a lot of ways, this is a continuation of a trend that we had already seen. I mean, you know, just in the last year, ESPN the magazine stopped publishing. You know, the audience already wasn’t there for Sports Illustrated. We lost the sporting news within the last three to four years. So it’s not like there was this grand era of sports, media or sports, you know, writing that was going on and that the pandemic took that all away from us. It just accelerated a trend that we were already sort of seeing. So that’s that’s actually sort of my bigger fear is that we already saw that there wasn’t quite the value that people didn’t put the same sort of value in sports journalism that there once had been. And we’re at a point now where I just wonder, will it ever come back? Well, ESPN be able to bring back, you know, and staff up at the same way. Will somebody, you know, step into the void and take take over where Sports Illustrated left off? Even the athletic is having to make some cuts amongst its executives or whatever, which is, you know, the athletic was like the one shiny example of this growth potential in sports writing and sports media. And it’s hurting right now. I wonder, do people actually care about reading sports in that way? Do they care? Do they care about what people have to say about sports and media outlets and entities? They care about any of the coverage? I don’t I don’t know. It doesn’t you know, if you look at the last few years, you’d have to say that the trend says, no, they don’t care as much as they used to at least.
S9: And I think it’s going to vary from organization to organization, places like Sports Illustrated that have been acquired by these vulture capital. We’re already cutting and finding ways to get rid of high paid talent and replace it with lower, virtually unpaid writers. So the pandemic is at, if nothing else. It’s cover for places like Maven to exploit and enact the kinds of reductions that they might have been planning all along.
S11: Well, and Joel, I don’t think that the sports media deaths that you’ve been. Are, you know, shuttering that you mentioned. Not necessarily in response to audience or or interest.
S15: No. Deadspin didn’t shut down because people didn’t want to read Deadspin and shut down because of poor management and a whole litany of crises that we can’t get into here. But that had nothing to do with a lack of interest from readers and what they were writing. I think that there are a lot of good people in Sports Illustrated doing good work that people wanted to read. And the decline and fall of that magazine, I don’t think indicates a lack of interest in writing about sports that indicates a larger trend in the way that media entities are run and that writing is as monetized.
S6: I mean, why is that, though? I mean, if if like if sports media was so was sufficient in that way, like if it was enough, you know, to to own its own, why wouldn’t they be able to sustain themselves then? I mean, I know that obviously that there is bad there are people that are bad actors within media and are trying to, you know, strip it for parts, essentially make themselves rich and then sell it off. Right. That’s what, you know, companies like Maven are doing. The company that bought Deadspin and Gizmodo and all those different Web sites. But it’s dead. To me, though, this problem is still there’s some. No, there have not been enough people. On the other side of it is that, oh, I see some worth here. They do have an audience. We can pay people, you know, sports writers a fair wage. You know, why hasn’t somebody stepped in then to do that if it were enough?
S11: Well, I think that what you’re seeing here is that a lot of sports writing talent was dispersed very widely around the country among local newspapers. And that’s where you started your career. Joel and I think the decline of the newspaper industry, again, it’s like beyond the scope of what we can cover in this segment, but it’s not something that more interest in sports writing could have propped up. It’s a much bigger story about the state of print media in this country. And then you saw that sports page that its demise be kind of hastened by the rise of the athletic. And there’s a lot of consolidation there.
S12: There’s been consolidation at ESPN and you get the sort of emerging, you know, strata of haves and have nots. And I think with the athletic, it’ll be interesting to see how they come out of this, because, you know, we made our appeal at the top of the show for members and subscriptions, and that’s what they’re basing their business model on. And when you have recurring payments from people coming in and you’re not as reliant or not reliant at all on advertising and you just have people paying you directly. That’s a pretty good place to be. Then again, you know, Stefan, the athletics being ventured by a huge chunk of venture money. Sure. And you know, you’re cutting executive pay, I think, to try to preserve as much of that venture cash as you can. But at some point, the wild expansion that they’re undergoing is going to have to stop and they’re going to have to rise and fall on their own. And I think we just don’t know and we don’t know how the pandemic is going to affect the ultimate outcome for them or for anybody else. But, you know, it’s this consolidation that I think is concerning that like ESPN and the athletic. You know, we used to talk on this podcast about Sports Illustrated versus Deadspin is to kind of like polls of, you know, in sports writing. And, you know, now they’re just both in the same position of basically not existing. They ended up in the same place.
S8: I mean, it really is stunning to me that 20 years into the Internet age, there still really isn’t. You know, no one’s figured out the right model. We started the magazine club a couple weeks ago. And the thing I love about going back and reading those old Essi stories is paging through those magazines and, you know, those full pay that those full page ads for Scotch and Dow and cigars and shit are astounding to look at.
S9: Now, you can’t believe that that’s the model that was used to support these glossy magazines that paid tons of money or good money to people to write for them. It seems so anachronistic and everything does seem more diffuse now. And obviously, you know, that’s no. Great insight into how the Internet has functioned in sports and other parts of the journalism world, but there’s still this this uncertainty and now has only been magnified by the pandemic is troubling. Yeah, there you know, I said at the beginning that, yeah, there’s plenty to write about. Doesn’t mean that anybody is gonna be able to.
S11: I. I’m sure that when all of this is over, there will be games and people will be writing about them and the stories will be published and they will be read and there will be some good writing and some bad writing and some writing that people get paid for and some that people can’t get paid for. And that stuff is going to shake out in a way that we can’t predict now. But I think what’s clear, doll, is that what you said is extremely true, which is that this has exacerbated trends that were already happening. And even if this the Corona virus hadn’t happened, that everything that I just said would be the same. But maybe just on a different timetable. I mean, maybe it’s just kind of pie eyed optimism that I think, you know, if we revisit this than a couple of years, we’ll be like, oh, here’s this interesting entity that didn’t exist that’s doing good work. And maybe, you know, people seem to be collecting salaries from and hopefully that will continue or maybe some new entity will arise out of the muck.
S8: And yeah, but you’re out a different I mean the athletic didn’t exist a few years ago, right?
S11: I just it just feels overly pessimistic to me to be like, oh well maybe people won’t read about sports anymore like that. Just I think something something will emerge. That is my optimistic take on April 28. Something will emerge.
S16: Yeah. We’re right now we’re largely talking about the hollowed out remains of older institutions that people look at now. Like, I mean, I guess, you know, Yahoo! Sports is, you know, another, you know, entity that people look at. But yeah, the only new one that really has emerged within the last 10 to 15 years, it was Deadspin, it was the athletic. And I guess, you know, Grantland lasted for a few years, but a lot of these, you know, in SB Nation. But again, all these places are going through their own trouble. So, yeah, hopefully something will will come up and people will be able to make, you know, a good wage writing about sports, because, I mean. Yeah, I mean, so much of what we enjoy about sports, at least for me as a kid was reading about it like I just would get the front page and, you know, the sports section of the newspaper and I’d just pore through it as a kid. And then I read Sports Illustrated and read all these books. And like reading about sports is so much a part of the experience, you have to think that something else is gonna come up. I just don’t know what it is or what people have the money to put that together.
S9: And it’s also really tempting to overstate, even though we are in the middle of a pandemic. It’s tempting to overstate that this is the end of anything as we know it. I mean, look, this is the biggest disruption to sports and to journalism that the industry has faced. And who knows how long. It is easy to say that it’s disruption to American sports ever.
S11: Like even in World War 2, they were still playing games.
S8: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even during the Spanish Flu, they were still playing games. So it is definitely easy to be completely apocalyptic about the future of sports and the entities that cover sports. And we do have to remember that this will end and there will be demand and someone is going to figure out a way to make it profitable and desirable.
S16: Well, you say that, but I just our behavior is going to change as a result of this. Don’t you think like it’s going to be altered in some ways forever? And I don’t know in what ways that what that’s gonna look like or what’s going to happen? Will people just get used to the idea of not watching ESPN and getting this sports in other ways? I don’t know. But I do. This is the pessimist in me thinking that we’re gonna be irrevocably changed in some ways. And it’s really hard to know what’s going to come out of this. But for me, the big thing is advertisers would. Advertisers are going to be able to come back and spend money and support media institutions in the way that they did before. Like because there’s gonna be a lot of, you know, businesses and corporations that are going to go away and never come back. Who’s going to fill in and take the place and help fund a lot of the journalism and sports coverage that we liked before? I don’t know.
S8: Well, these are billion these are billion dollar issues. I mean, what is ESPN? AD revenue from the NBA playoffs? It’s like 600 million bucks. March Madness is close to a billion dollars. I mean, the trickle down effects are unknown at this point. And they are they could be incredibly severe. Is ESPN going to want to bid, you know, multi-billion dollars for for four sports league games? We don’t know yet. And that’s going to have effects, too. But in our more narrow world of journalism, the games are going to continue. We just don’t know in what capacity.
S11: Lutsen there. And I think that as we transition to. After balls, we really have not stopped for a second and taken note of a monumental change among monumental changes in the sports world and one that has affected Joel very personally, and that is the end of the XFL.
S13: I mean, I predicted it. I didn’t. I did know that it was going to end like this.
S8: That doesn’t account.
S16: I said I didn’t think they were going to finish the season that he knows would happen like this.
S13: Just take the window. Take them up.
S11: All right. After ball. Stefan, you were looking through. I’m guessing you’re looking at basketball reference for. I was the least important. Every player on the 97 98 balls deserves equal credit. Michael Jordan, Dickey, Simpkins, they all they all got rings. But who did you decide we should honor? Because perhaps the last dance will not honor them sufficiently.
S8: I’m looking at the roster. I mean, David Vaughan played in three games. I don’t know if he got Arena so early. Did you know he scored 1.3 points per game in those games? But for me, it’s really like remembering some guy’s choice. And I think Dickey Simpkins was a good option. But what about Rusty LaRue cannot overlook Rusty lareau. He played 14 games for those balls, 3.5 points per game. Great name, too.
S11: He averaged nine point three points for the Bulls and ninety nine two thousand. You know, granted, he only played four games. But there’s a big year for s-t. He’s now a high school basketball coach. He’s the coach at West Foresighted School where Chris Paul went. So I’m going to give him retroactive credit for Chris Paul. That’s how much I revere Rusty. Lára. Stefan, what does your Rusty LaRue are?
S9: This is gonna be a scrabble after ball. So indulge me. The North American School Scrabble Championship was supposed to be this past weekend in Baltimore. It would’ve been my daughter, Chloe’s ninth and final youth championship. She’s been playing since fourth grade and is now in 12th, not just for her, but for all the players and for me, because I love this stuff. It really is my favorite weekend of the year. I decided to organize an online replacement and I gave it a name. The Quarantined High School Championship online Costco.
S8: I recruited some Scrabble buddies, my guy Vince, to run the tech side. Former North American champ and hang up guest Wil Anderson to do a livestream with other top experts will design a really cool platform, including what I believed to be the first Scrabble telestrator. I spread the word. Forty to high school kids signed out. They played 12 games over two days, plus a championship final on an unofficial site called the Internet Scrabble Club. Or I ask C that is housed on servers and I kid you, not Romania. From a purely spiritual sense, it was awesome. The players and parents were grateful for a couple of days of normalcy. If it was via web sites and texts and emails and Xoom on Saturday night after the first day of play, a parent wrote to thank me and I wrote back lobar. But best day in a while, she replied. Actually, the bar’s high now, hard to pull off something truly communal. She was right, and my heart is pretty full when I wasn’t expecting was for the weekend to produce any live sports content that we also need, and that it would be courtesy of my daughter. All right, here’s the situation. Game for Khloe is playing the defending champ. Her good friend, Jamm, an 11th grader from California. Jam is crushing her. He’s just used both of the blanks to play explore. He’s up by 160 points, 378 to 18. The tiles are dwindling in Scrabble. You try never to give up, but sometimes it’s totally hopeless. Chloe, though, doesn’t quit. She throws down a nine letter Hail Mary through disconnected letters and E and a C. The word is read discern. Are you D-I RCR N for seventy eight points? I was watching on another floor and couldn’t scream because she would have heard me finding nine-letter words, let alone through disconnected letters is incredibly hard. Most players don’t even try to look for them. Chloe did. I love my daughter. Now the pressure shifts to jam. He has to decide whether to challenge Reid discern. But if he does, and it happens to be an actual word, he loses a turn and Chloe has a chance to get back in the game. The announcers, Wil Anderson, and two other top players, Mac Miller and Jackson Smiley, are loving it.
S17: That’s genius. That is 8 8. It’s actually amazing. That’s so good. That was definitely the play here. Unless you are 100 percent sure that I this is not good. It is a almost impossible challenge for him to make. It really is just a technicality that this word is not in the dictionary because it could easily be.
S8: The other critical factor here is that the end and read Discern slots right above a triple word score square in the bottom right hand corner of the board with a clear lane up to another triple word score a square gem decides not to challenge. And he scored 30 points elsewhere on the board. Chloe draws the letters E G H I L and a W. And when they pop up on the screen, the commentators immediately see the possibility. And two seconds later, Chloe makes the play, Oh, my God.
S17: Oh, my God. Oh, my all. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. That’s absolutely absurd. I am speechless. I’m speechless.
S18: I can’t be leave wheeling covers two triple word score squares, that’s a triple triple 9 times the value of the word plus the fifty point bonus one hundred and ninety four points. Kluwe’s suddenly, as I had for 90 to 4 0 8 and she wins the game 5 eleven to 4:59. It is one of the craziest sequences anyone’s ever seen before read. The CERN computer analysis showed that Chloe’s win probability was like one in a thousand. Then on Sunday, she’s on another desperate situation, trailing by about 70 late in the game. She’s got a blank and tries a couple of bingo’s that are challenged off. She’s guessing. Apparently she doesn’t see the last actual word nearly or any a-r ally are nearly, nearly or nearly as. Those are words from an add on a triple lane. She’s got just five seconds on her timer. Will Mack and Jackson are debating what her opponent Evan, a 10th grader from Massachusetts, might do to secure the win in case Chloe happens to find or gas nearly or which, of course, she’s shown no signs of doing.
S17: Either way, it’s really close for comfort. See, now. Now it clearly. Oh! Oh, my God. This is insane.
S8: But this time her play of ne earlier and in the game. She screamed. I screamed. I ran downstairs. Do you believe in miracles? Twice in one tournament. April Madness. Way better than March Madness in our house.
S13: There was very much a Lake Placid moment. I kept waiting for you to to to go ahead and make that connection there, Stephanie. So congratulations. That was. You must be very proud.
S9: Oh, my God, that was awesome. Chloe wound up fourth with a 9 and 3 record. She drew some bad virtual tiles in the final game that would have center into the best of three championship playoff. So congrats to Thomas, a ninth grader from North Carolina who beat 11th grader Leo from L.A. to take the Cosco crown. And thanks to some parents and coaches, we were able to pay the top finishers some cash. And thanks to a couple of really big, generous donations. The top three finishers in the tournament are each going to pick a Cauvin related charity to which five hundred dollars will be donated.
S15: How is that going to affect their NCAA eligibility?
S6: I was just about to say, I mean, at this point.
S8: Yeah. Chloe is totally analogy ball. She’s won more money playing Scrabble than I have.
S11: That’s great. Stefan Slash. I can’t believe you’ve ruined her eligibility.
S8: Josh, what’s your Rusty Lara?
S11: According to the Web site box rec as Charles as history’s greatest pound for pound boxer. I don’t know how these ratings work and I don’t really care to figure it out. It seems complicated. I’ve been able to learn that there’s some kind of computer reading that they’re based on which Boxer has the highest career peak. For the purposes of this after ball and less interested in Ezard Charles sorry as a Charles than the guy at the bottom of the list box. Reck has twelve thousand eight hundred sixty nine pages worth of boxers. There are fifty on each page. When I checked a few weeks ago, the guy at the very bottom of the 60000 plus individuals was Kayode Pete McBride, who has one listed fight in July 1924. All right. Just being fully honest, I looked again as I was writing this up on Monday and I couldn’t find kopb McBride at the bottom of the list of boxers. So if you go and look yourself, just take my word for it. A couple weeks ago, the guy at the bottom of the list was kopb McBride. And just just roll with it. So who was this kopb McBryde, the worst boxer in the history of the world. On June 28, 1924, according to the Courier Post of Camden, New Jersey, he was a young man full of promise. Every time a Pete McBride swings his cloth on a pair of dogs at the YMCA, bootblack stand. His whole being conditioned himself for his bout with Eddie Chaney at Mount Holly. That story said the more than 200 local fans were expected to attend the fight and the McBride was training with Tommy Wilson, who is to meet Babe Ruth in the windup of the Mount Holly show. After reading another article, I learned that Tommy Wilson wasn’t going to have a meet and greet with the baseball player Babe Ruth, but that he was going to have a boxing match with a guy who happened to also be named Babe Ruth, but had no connection to the baseball player Babe Ruth. Multiple people were named Babe Ruth backing. Anyway, back to our hero. The Courier Post of Camden, New Jersey, reported on July 12th, 1924 that Cheney and McBride came together at the sound of the ball in the first round and after a short exchange, emphasis on short. Cheney sent McBride to the mat with a stinging left, Polk to the boot blacks left jaw, apparently where he had issues that grandstand does not in fact prepare you for a career in professional boxing. And that was about it for kopb McBride until October 14, 1926, when he appeared on page one of the Camden, New Jersey Career Post headline K0. King is sought as family deserter subhead Sister in law disappears on same day, Pete McBride vanishes. The police of Burlington County are searching for Peter Le Grassi of Camden and mapleshade Pete in scare quotes, who is known in pugilistic circles in Camden as Pete McBride. The quote, knockout king is wanted on the charge of deserting his wife and four small children. The police are also searching for Mrs. Theresa Le Grassi, on 19 years old of mapleshade, wife of Pete’s brother Charles, who disappeared at the same time. The dual disappearance has led police to believe that the couple may have gone together. No warrant has been issued for the woman, however, huh?
S8: What was their first clue?
S11: The story continues. Pete, again in scare quotes, formerly conducted the bootblack stand in the YMCA in Camden. He sold out on September 1st to another bootblack for $2. Then he disappeared, leaving behind his wife and four children, Lena, 9 years old, Millie, 7 years old, Charles, 4, and Ralph, 20 months. The missing husband and father, who is 32 years old, was a much better shoe shining artist, and he was a pugilist. Pete had two memorable battles, which earned him the title of the knockout king. In the first battle, Pete advanced to the center of the ring, and 28 seconds later he was carried back to his corner, unconscious in his second bout. Pete was counted out in 14 seconds. Then Pete hung up his boxing gloves and went back to his shoe brushes. So what have we learned? We have learned that the name kopb McBride was not intended as a compliment. But the big news here is the box rack is selling our man short. He got the crap beaten out of it twice. Not just that one fight. So what became of Pete? A week after that first story, the trusty Courier Post of Camden followed up ex Pug’s wandering forgiven by wife Pete McBride returns home and desertion charges are dropped. The Courier Post reported that our man was back in the bosom of his family. Pete denied that he’d run off with the sister in law and said, My wife and I and the kids are going to live happy now. He said he left his jersey home for a DC and then to, quote, motored around the country before coming back home. There’s also some more backstory about his boxing career. Apparently it was a customer at his shoeshine stand who told Pete he’d make a good fighter, and Pete took the customer at his word and secured a fight. That fight was an epic of pugilism in Camden, 28 seconds after the opening gong sounded. Well, now we know what happened there. After that, the trail of Pete McBride runs called and the career burst. I think we’re all a little bit dubious about the, you know, the claim that he wasn’t with the sister in law. If you know what became of Pete and his family. Please write us at hang up at Slate.com. I’m sure maybe Pete’s heirs would also be interested to know what happened during that mysterious weeklong period in which he ran away from home. Also, if you’re one of the powers that be a box rack, please credit kopb McBride with the two losses that he earned.
S2: Thank you. That is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan Filson a pashas and subscribe or just reach out to Slate.com, slash Hang-Up. You can e-mail us at Hang-Up at Slate dot com if you’re still here. I’m guessing you might want even more. Hang up and listen in our bonus segment this week. We continue our conversation about the Chicago Bulls documentary, The Last Dance.
S13: It’s rare to see a late bloomer like a job. Moran, like most of these guys are people we’ve heard of for years. But Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, guys who like have these late growth spurt seem to emerge out of poverty. You hardly see that anymore. It’s just sort of a throwback. It’s sort of fascinating to watch.
S2: Thank you so, so much to everyone who is already a slate plus member for Jill Anderson and Stefan FATSIS. I’m Josh Levine remembers. I’m Obeidy. And thanks for listening.
S11: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members, members. Thank you for being members. We appreciate it. And we are happy to bring you a conversation about the last dance. We talked about it in the first segment. We’re going to continue now. And Joel, we were finishing up by talking about Scottie Pippen. You have a long and storied history with pep in yourself.
S13: Oh, with Scottie Pippen. Yeah. I don’t know if people know about this. It’s one of my lesser known stories compared to the fastest funeral in the country. But yes, in nineteen ninety two, my father drove me up to Conway, Arkansas, the University of Central Arkansas, as a campus for the Scottie Pippen basketball camp where I got to play against Scottie pippin’s Cousins from Hamburg, Arkansas. I don’t remember all their names, but I do remember Keith Pippin. But at any rate, my team won the Camp Championship against Keith pippin’s team, which is, you know, another athletic accomplishment that I try not to talk about too much because I’m humble. But but yeah, man, you know, the thing I think about, man is that, you know, Hamburg, Arkansas, I met my family on both sides is from Arkansas. My father’s from Hot Springs, mother from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Hamburg, Arkansas, man. I mean, the idea that Scottie Pippen came out of that to become what he is today is just unbelievable. It sort of reminds me that we’re talking about an era of basketball that doesn’t necessarily sort of exist anymore in that you have guys who are so poor, so malnourished that they they don’t get to see them stars, high schools, high school players. And then they get to college, they finally get food, they finally get training and they take off in a way that they’re late bloomers in a way that you barely see anymore, because usually with NBA players now or top basketball players, so much of the development, so much of the scouting is done early now. And, you know, you don’t it’s rare to see a late bloomer like a John Moran. Like most of these guys are people we’ve heard of for years. But Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, guys who like had these late growth spurt, soon emerged out of poverty. You hardly see that anymore. It’s just sort of a throwback. It’s it’s sort of fascinating to watch.
S8: Well, even even Jordan in the first episode of the documentary, you know, I don’t think the Jordans were dirt poor. They were more of a working class, middle class African-American family. But that letter that Jordan’s mom reads from Michael at North Carolina, home to her is so sweet. You know, you think she realized like, well, that minimal contact when you’re at college, you’re not face time in with your parents every day. He’s asking her to buy stamps and to send a bank account number and send his bank account number so that she can deposit 20 bucks in it. There’s a sweetness to it and an innocence. And you realize like someone like Michael Jordan, who was also a late bloomer, obviously was not a high school basketball star, let alone like a scout, a 13 year old, you know, by some service around the country. That part was really endearing to me that that his roots or or, you know, we know the story. But still be here to see his mom on on camera telling it the way she tells it was was a sort of candid and touching moment.
S4: I do think we need to appreciate the fact that.
S11: And I said this an earlier segment, that this is going to play very differently for a generation of folks who grew up with Kobe Bryant as the basketball legend and hero and then grew up with the kind of LeBron versus Jordan debate being a debate between a guy that people have watched all their lives versus a guy who like just kind of exists out in the ether as this ideal of basketball, but who maybe people aren’t familiar with from day to day, year to year perspective. And so this is just a massive national Michael Jordan educational program. And you’re seeing who he was watching these games from his rookie year, seeing that playoff game against that Celltex. Well, we’ll see the battles against the Pistons coming up, I think, in the next sequence of episodes. And if if we don’t get to see Jordan, the real person, and I think the jury is out on that, we are going to get to see the arc of Jordan, the basketball player, from childhood to high school to college to early pros, to playoff battles to championships. And at least in the realm of stupid sports talk. Maybe I will make the debates and arguments a little bit more educated. But, you know. I do think that with PIP and I had never seen that footage from central Arkansas. And I think, you know, I do hope that there’s gonna be more stuff like that where even for those of us who did grow up watching these guys and for us like these are the heroes of of our childhood or are the you know, the teams that taught us kind of what basketball was, that they’re still gonna be more than we haven’t seen, you know.
S8: Joel, and a question for you. Because to me, what’s interesting and when I hear Josh saying that the younger people may not fully appreciate how good Jordan is, was that the idea that that Larry Magic and then Mike all sort of redefined and recreated the NBA and Dr. Jay sort of re-created the idea of what an athletic basketball player could be, someone taking off from the foul line and dunking? Is it? Is it possible that if you are somewhere between the ages of 15 and 30, you really don’t understand just how good Michael Jordan was? And you assume that the truly sort of gravity defying basketball that has played today is a product of the last 20 years and not the product of something that started in the 70s and reached its apotheosis with Michael in the late 80s and early 90s?
S13: Yeah, I absolutely think that because I mean, just even, you know, within the span of my lifetime, I I probably don’t have enough context or background knowledge or like even experience, you know, seeing their careers unfold to have a proper appreciation for guys like Will Bill Russell. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Like that was sort of the generation of great players before Michael Jordan. Right. And Into the Bird in Magic and Jordan era of basketball. So I don’t have any context for that. I would eat up anything on that. If they if that somehow came out the light. So I think about the kids that are behind us or like a generation behind us, like how would they know? I mean, because it just wasn’t there just wasn’t the means, you know, to see basketball.
S8: The same seems shitty. Irrelevant to what we’re used to watching today. Yeah, right.
S13: I mean, again, and I know I can remember just within my own lifetime during the Rockets championship runs, they head home games, blacked out on TV. Like you just might not see a playoff home game because a game might not sell out or something like that. So, I mean, it would be impossible for them to have the proper context for how Michael Jordan how good Michael Jordan was. I mean, I was alive for that game, too. Ed, Boston, you know, when Michael Jordan put up sixty three points. I never I don’t remember seeing anything other than a few clips of that. You know, and I remember the Larry Bird quote, you know, that was God disguised as Michael Jordan.
S6: But I didn’t know that it was like that. And in fact, I gained a whole new appreciation for Jordan because I think, oh, wow. Michael Jordan did that against one of the very best teams in the history of the NBA. You know, and they had nothing for them. So even even I gained a whole new appreciation for it. So why wouldn’t you know somebody that, you know, only grew up on Kobe and Bron? Why wouldn’t they feel the same way? I would think.
S11: You know, as far as our colleague Ben Mathis, lulay said on Twitter, that game did, though, occur before the Detroit Pistons invented defense. So I think it’s easier now for the kind of generation that came after me and all because there is YouTube and all of this stuff is available to watch. But you made a really good point, Stefan. Is that because the footage looks shittier, you think that the players are saying, oh, Jordan wasn’t even playing in HD? How good could he have been? You’ve referenced this a bunch of times. Like when we’re kids. The way we’re learning about Bill Russell and even for me, I think Dr. J. Because Dr. James is not really an ongoing concern. Once I was really watching sports. You’re learning about them in books like Amazing Sports Feats and Sports Almanac of Whatever. And so it’s like really just imagining somebody like Russell or Weld’s even inhabiting the world that we’re familiar with. It just requires a great leaps of fantasy because we’re not even seeing them yet.
S8: There’s a tremendous recency bias in sports appreciation and analysis. We all want to think we’re living in the golden era for everything, you know, and there’s obviously some truth to the fact that, you know, Wilt and Russell were not playing against a level of competition that today’s NBA offers. But at the same time, they were transcendent athletes that are the guys that would. Be fine in today’s NBA with nutrition and weight training and coaching.
S6: Right. Right. Yeah, I think that’s that’s the thing is that we just you know, every generation is missing some context for the generation that preceded it. And this is sort of a corrective for that.
S13: I would think which is why I’m unless concerned about like the societal context and everything else. Like, I know that, you know, we may fall short on some of that, even though I would love to hear more about, you know, Scotty coming out of poverty and like the reasons that he signed the contract contract that his agents didn’t want him to. And the reasons why I like that would be fascinating. But another piece of it is that it’s enough for me to get these this basketball knowledge, these gaps that I have filled in through this documentary like that. If he can do some of that, then it is serve a useful purpose.
S8: Yeah. I mean, to me, like 1996 doesn’t feel like that long ago. But if this documentary does nothing more than make people say Michael Jordan really was the most amazing fucking basketball player ever, then it’s probably achieve not only what Michael Jordan wants to achieve, because I’m sure that’s exactly what Michael Jordan wants the documentary to achieve. Then it’s achieved something worthwhile for for people that weren’t around to watch him in his prime.
S11: We’ve also got to be a little easy on ourselves as far as understanding why we’re watching, because there’s a clip in there. I can remember it was episode one or two of while Clyde Frazier saying, like, uh, Jordan, you know, he’s not a big man. So what what can he really do it? Turn around it there in so many ways. You know, Stefan, you’re right. It doesn’t feel that long ago. But just the complete transformation that the game of basketball has taken and how Jordan didn’t make a three pointer and that sixty three point game against that Celltex, how you could talk yourself into taking Sam Boogie because you already had a wing player and you need a big man. It’s just a world that is unrecognizable to the world we live in now. And it’s it’s it’s fun and interesting to be reminded of that.
S8: Yeah, you don’t have to Goodwin play. You don’t have two good six six guys that can play any position on your team.
S11: Thank you. Slate plus members for your membership. It allows us to continue doing this podcast. And so for that, we have much gratitude. And we’ll be back with another show for you next week.