Stefan Fatsis: The following podcast includes explicit language, including, Well, you’ll just have to wait and see. Hi, I’m Stefan Fatsis and this is Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen for the week of October 17th, 2022. On this week’s show, Slate senior writer and college football expert Ben Mathis-Lilley joins us to discuss the fall of Alabama, the sheer dominance of Michigan and other developments on one of the craziest weekends of college football in recent memory.
Stefan Fatsis: New Yorker staff writer Vinson Cunningham will be here to talk about a couple of new documentaries. First, the new HBO film of 38 at the Garden about Jeremy Lin, the point guard who defied stereotypes and for two months in 2012, took over New York and the NBA. We’re thrilled to have ESPN’s Pablo Torre come aboard for that conversation.
Stefan Fatsis: And then we’ll review the Redeem Team from Netflix about the 2008 U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team. I’m the author of A Few Seconds of Panic, Word, Freak and Wild and Outside. Josh Levine is off this week. But if you need your fix of Josh in your ears and you do and you haven’t listened to the latest season of one year about various happenings in 1986, you should do that. I’m in Washington, D.C.. Joining me from Palo Alto, California, it’s Joel Anderson, the host of Slow Burn’s Season three and six, and most recently, a fantastic episode of one year 1986 about Indianola, Mississippi. What’s up? Yo.
Joel Anderson: Yo, what’s up, Stefan? Good to see you. There’s also going to be if you if you got a hankering for some Josh and even me, there’s going to be another one year season coming up here. And I don’t know how much I’m allowed to talk about it, but it’ll, you know, you’ll, you’ll be satiated through the end of the year if you’re a fan of one year.
Stefan Fatsis: Awesome. And before we get started, I have a special announcement for everyone today. For a limited time, you can get six months of sleep. Plus for just $29. That’s 50% off. As a member. You get no ads on any of our podcasts, unlimited reading on the Slate site and member exclusive episodes and segments from Hang Up and Listen and other shows like One Year Slow Burn and the Political Gabfest.
Stefan Fatsis: Slate’s podcasts covered major news events from elections to social issues to historic court decisions. Our shows also discuss what makes a song a smash, analyze what’s going viral and decode cultural mysteries. If we’ve become a part of your listening routine, we ask that you support our work by joining Slate Plus. If you do that, you can listen to this week’s Slate Plus segment in which we will continue our conversation with ESPN’s Pablo Turay, who wrote back to back Sports Illustrated cover stories about Jeremy Lin back when Linsanity was going down. So sign up for Slate Plus now at Slate.com slash hang up. Plus, to access all of Slate’s content and support our work. Again, that’s just $29 for six months through October 28th. Sign up now at Slate.com slash hang up.
Speaker 3: The way a knuckleball. He got it. And here they come.
Joel Anderson: So what kind of weekend was it in college football? Here’s a tweet from the official University of Tennessee football Twitter account on Sunday morning, the day after its cathartic overtime victory over third ranked Alabama at vol underscore football. Y’all remember how we tore the goalpost down, hauled him out of Neyland and dumped him in the Tennessee River? Yeah, that was awesome. Any who turns out that in order to play next week’s game, we need goalposts on our field. Could you help us out? And they have a praise hands emoji at last Look, Tennessee’s new goalpost Fun had raised $81,627 from 2123 donors. And if any of our listeners are interested, God, I hope you’re not. You can donate $16 as in 16 years since Tennessee’s last win over Alabama to as much as $1,019.15, which represents the capacity of their sold out stadium, 101,915.
Joel Anderson: But there were at least four other field storms that I saw on TV Saturday from Fort Worth, where my 13th ranked TCU Horned Frogs defeated number eight Oklahoma State in overtime to later that night. And Salt Lake City, where Utah knocked off undefeated USC in a one point victory, one game where there was none of that post-game drama was in Ann Arbor, where Michigan dispensed with all of it in a 41 to 17 as kicking of previously undefeated Penn State.
Joel Anderson: Which brings us to our guest today, Ben Mathis-Lilley, a Slate senior staff writer and author of The Hot Seat A Year of Outrage, Pride and Occasional Games of College Football. Ben, thanks for joining us today.
Speaker 4: Thanks for having me, guys.
Joel Anderson: We’re going to talk a little bit about that Bama Tennessee game in a bit. But Ben, as many of you know, has the good fortune this fall of being a big Michigan football fan. And though you were denied a wild finish in Ann Arbor, Ben, how did you feel seeing your team thoroughly dominate a top ten team on Saturday?
Speaker 4: Well, you know what? You know you’re talking about Field Stallings And of course, Michigan fans didn’t storm the field against Penn State because we’re acting like we’ve been there before, because we’ve been there for about, what, nine months, you know, So, you know, we’re we’re used to it by now. This this top five status. No, I’m feeling good. I started the season thinking it was be possible to beat Ohio State. And I convinced myself that it would not be. And now I’m convincing myself again that it that it will be possible after this weekend. So I’m riding the roller coaster and I’m on the I’m on top right now.
Stefan Fatsis: I’m very excited for you, man. And for Michigan. You know, I’ve got relatives in Michigan. I grew up on Michigan fan, too. Not in the same way. But can we just back up for a second? Tennessee wants people to give money and put up new fucking goalposts. Yeah. How much do their boosters generate every year? I this is an SCC school like, seriously, they’re people up for 16 bucks. Come on. I that’s supposed to make you feel good like you’re part of the program if you contribute for the goal post fund.
Joel Anderson: This got to be a joke right I was somebody that’s a Tennessee fan. Let us know because I imagine Tennessee’s got to be top 20 in revenue among FBS programs in the country. Right. Like it’s like it’s one of the largest schools in the country. So surely they’re not passing around the collection plate for real.
Speaker 4: I think they should get them out of the river. I think that like makes I mean, imagine then, you know, the next for the next 40 years you’re good people going in the stadium and point at the campus. Those are you know, those were the ones you know.
Stefan Fatsis: The bottom of this Web page appears to be from the University of Tennessee’s Office of annual Giving. So this is like the Republican Party of the Democrats to like sending out fundraising announcements after. Yeah, yeah. Events.
Joel Anderson: Yeah. There’s no way that that money I I’m sorry like I mean maybe I don’t want to accuse them of any nefarious anything nefarious, but I can’t imagine that money is really going to those goalposts that I assume they’ll have it back up in time. But you never know. I mean, I don’t I don’t know. I don’t know. You know, maybe they maybe just hype will really cost that much money. Who knows? I don’t know how it goes. But, you know, Ben and I are friends. We go back a ways. I hang up at listeners. And and one thing that we’ve talked about over the years is, man, I believe that they should have never they should never get rid of Jim Harbaugh, that he is as good of a coach in football period as there’s going. And there was a lot of angst around Michigan over the years about, oh, man, they’re not as good as Ohio State and it’s never been able to get over that hump.
Joel Anderson: So where is the Michigan faithful now, after all of it? After like it seems like Michigan is shaping up into being something real great?
Speaker 4: Yeah, I think that there is a a significant contingent, myself included, who are are just get more and more embarrassed every week that we were ready to like move on from Harbaugh and the 2020 season. And as we get further and further away from that pandemic season, it just seems weird in a lot of ways. Josh Heupel, the head coach of Tennessee, You bring him up. He went six and four in 2020 pandemic year, actually. And so when Tennessee hired him, a lot of people, myself included. I think what let’s do that. That’s who you’re going to go with. You know, Jim Harbaugh went two and four that year. So it turns out that maybe that that, you know, playing under a completely bizarre set of disrupted circumstances did actually affect teams. And then that that wasn’t the season to draw conclusions from.
Speaker 4: But yeah harbor has been the right judge and I think that you know to to tie it back to what I said earlier like the thing that that is especially promising about about Michigan is that they ran the ball for 418 yards against Penn State. Ohio State does not seem to have a better defense than Penn State does. So, you know, you can actually go through the season and think to yourself, naval will be competitive in the last game. Maybe we have, you know, an outside shot of beating Ohio State, which they hadn’t for like 15, 20 years. It’s kind of a same situation as Tennessee was with in with Alabama. So more so than than the program, you know, occasionally being ranked in the top five or whatever. I think it’s really getting that the you know, back to where they’re like a real thorn in the side of Ohio State fans and Ohio State coaches. Like you can tell like that it bothers them again, you know, that Michigan is good. And I think that’s probably his greatest achievement.
Stefan Fatsis: And what’s really changed there, Ben? I mean, they were obviously really good last year, made the playoff, got embarrassed in the semifinals, but that didn’t matter because they made the playoff. And more important, they beat Ohio State. But this team looks better is what you’re saying. And other people are saying, I mean, is the reason that they’ve sort of resolved the sort of fake quarterback controversy, is it that the some parts of this team are better than they were last year? Has it been the opposition? I mean, do you think this is a I mean, not to put any put you under any any pressure here, but, you know, is this a back to back over Ohio State? And this time they will do better in the in the playoff.
Speaker 4: I think that they’re more equipped to do better in the playoff. I’m not sure they’ll say I mean the thing about Ohio State, for those who don’t follow college football in and out week to week, according to the advance numbers right now, Ohio State has the best college offense in the history of civilization. It’s like the best offense in any sport that’s ever been played by people. So as confident as I am and as pleased as I am with the progress, like it’s certainly far from, I think Michigan the touchdown you know underdog and you know at Ohio State no matter what happens. So I’m not even going to I’m not going to make that what I would I tie my entire opinion of the season on because they’re they’re pretty good, too.
Speaker 4: But, I mean, I think that’s the kind of the funny thing about what Jim Harbaugh did is that he came into the program saying like, we’re just going to be tough, you know, like the classic football coach thing, like we’re going to have tough lines. We have a tough offensive line, a tough defensive line. And that’s how we’re going to get, you know, ahead of these five star athletes, wide receivers, you know, all world quarterbacks that Ohio State has. And that kind of doesn’t even sound like that. Great an idea when you’re saying it out loud.
Speaker 4: And, you know, by 2020, it really didn’t sound like a good idea. You know, five straight losses to OSU, but you just got to keep doing it and, you know, continue to, you know, have a build, try to build a team that can run the ball against anybody. And and as you allude to, like, they do have like a pretty good you know, if maybe still a little green but a quarterback who can run himself and has like kind of a rocket arm they can finally have like a central casting quarterback. So yeah, maybe that is the do what would takes them over the next level. But yeah that’s kind of I mean he you know they added some stuff on offense like they’ll they’ll do kind of the newfangled screen game and RPOs and stuff like that. So there’s some sense of stuff around the edges. But it really did come back to like just a guy saying we’re going to be tougher than the other guys. And after a while, like it actually turned out.
Joel Anderson: To be true. It’s hard to have a weekend in college football where three top eight teams lose by one score and conversation, not turn to the end of the season right where there’s playoffs. And I thought one of the funny things that happened as I was looking after Bama lost to Tennessee is that people were like, Wow, man, maybe this needs to go ahead and get three teams in the playoff. And I’m just kind of wondering, like from Big Ten Land where Ohio State seems pretty good, you know, maybe number one good, Michigan seems pretty good. You know, it should be up there and they will get to play each other. So one of those teams will take a loss. But like that must seem absurd to hear, you know, Bama loses a game not look good in about three or four games this year. And then people be looking for some sort of way for them to backdoor their way into the playoff. Is that sort of the sentiment among the Michigan and Ohio and Big Ten fans going on right now?
Speaker 4: Oh, yeah, I’m certainly offended by that personally, although as Stefan said, Michigan lost to Georgia last year means that they probably don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt until they go out there and play on an equal footing with that team. But that’s kind of what I was thinking when I you know, when when Bama went down and as you said, they looked kind of, you know, vulnerable against Texas. And in a couple of other games, Georgia almost lost to Missouri. This may be the kind of thing we see every year, but it seems like in the middle of the season, like we might have a fourth. Team playoff between four teams who everyone kind of thinks could win. And that’s exciting. Rather than, you know, one or one or two or two at most, you know, as it is in some years.
Speaker 4: So yeah, I think that’s I think that’s cool. And I don’t know, I don’t have a larger structural explanation for it. Besides that, like, you know, it’s hard to do what Nick Saban does forever, you know, and it’s hard for Ohio State to dominate Michigan forever. But it does it is kind of exciting to see like, hey, we might have Tennessee in there. We might have, you know, Michigan in there, Ohio State. You know, it could be the first non SCC team, non Southern team excuse me to win in a long time. So yeah, I think it’s shaping up you know kind of to everyone’s surprise as a really wide open season after after we kind of all went in the year thinking that it’s going to be Georgia Bama again.
Stefan Fatsis: Oh maybe they’ll expand the playoff So that’s pretty nice. What do you think? Maybe they’ll do that. Yeah, they are doing it. The other thing I noticed about this weekend, I was not watching these games like you guys were on Saturday because I was losing six games in a row at a Scrabble tournament. I recovered a little bit, but yeah, it was pretty bad.
Joel Anderson: Stefan Still top ranked, though. Still, you know, one of the best in the country.
Stefan Fatsis: So, you know, with a very, very generous definition of top.
Joel Anderson: I’m still Bama lost. You can lose. You know what I mean? It’s it doesn’t really do much to hurt your.
Speaker 4: Predicted Nick Saban and Stefan’s downfall too many times too.
Stefan Fatsis: So back to the football because I could talk all day about like playing I played Cupid Club. Yeah I did. I made some nice plays, had some good games, beat the number one seed in the tourney. Wow, I noticed that. I mean, the other thing about this weekend that made it super crazy was that these games were all ridiculously high scoring. I’m 5149. The Utah USC, Utah USC upset was also super high scoring. I mean, Michigan put up 40 plus Tennessee, Alabama. What was the third one? That was outrageous.
Speaker 4: Oh, yeah. TKO Oklahoma State.
Stefan Fatsis: Oklahoma State was 45. 42 was. Yeah. I mean, do you guys have any sense of of of reasoning for this? Is it just, you know, random fluky season where these offenses are throwing up a lot of points, defenses are weak, or are we seeing some sort of strategic reckoning in college football?
Speaker 4: I think it’s strategic reckoning and also just the quality of the quarterbacks, which is tied in with the strategic reckoning. So like one thing that people have noticed, people who follow the sport even more closely than me is like, you know, ten, 15 years ago you had quarterbacks like Tim Tebow, Denard Robinson, who are really exciting to watch in college, but they were limited as as quarterbacks, as passers, and you could get away with that. You could win national championships as a as a Florida did as as Urban Meyer did with a quarterback who was not, you know, going to be throwing the ball in the NFL and defenses figured out what to do about that. They start like they figured out how to put more people in the box and you stop the you stop the run first. I mean, you know, it’s probably more complicated than that, but maybe not really. And so, you know, quarterbacks adapted, you know, that evolution continues.
Speaker 4: And so now you have this generation of quarterbacks, which is guys like like I was just watching the Utah USC highlights myself. You know, Caleb Williams and Cam Rising are both just they’re running the ball they’re throwing it And Hooker is not like as you know as run first as some other people but he is able to like move when he has to you know same with Bryce Young same with D.J McCarthy of Michigan. So you have all these quarterbacks who just cannot really can’t be stopped. I mean you felt sorry for second I felt sorry for all the defensive secondaries this weekend because it’s like if you go back too far like the quarterback is just going to run it for 11 yards and if you stay up, he’s going to bomb it 25 yards to 35 yards down the middle and find a guy in the middle of the zone. And it just seemed like no one had an answer and no one anywhere in the sport had an answer. And I think that that goes back to just the quality of the quarterbacking.
Joel Anderson: I even think about it like this, you know, and I did not expect to bring this game up today, but I’m just going to go heard that Oklahoma, for instance, scored 52 points in its win over Kansas right in the week before they lost 49 to nothing to Texas. And look, I mean, I mean, they were playing a third string.
Stefan Fatsis: Are you going to walk back anything Joel, on on on your Oklahoma hate over the last six weeks?
Speaker 4: Oh, they beat Kansas.
Joel Anderson: I mean, like Kansas at home in Kansas. I mean, it’d be Kansas. However, very Switzer would be embarrassed that this is like a meaningful victory for them. But I mean, Dillon Gabriel was out for that game against Texas, and he comes back in and all of a sudden that offense looks competent. And so, yeah, I mean, I think it’s definitely quarterbacks, but also scheming like, for instance, TCU. Max Dugan has been the starting quarterback at TCU for four years now. The first three I wanted him replaced. I mean, like every every week I was praying that somebody would just show up and displace him, including Chad Morris’s son, Chandler Morris, who played pretty well last year in an upset of Baylor. But this year, Sonny Dykes is there.
Joel Anderson: And yes, I’m going to give Sonny Dykes some props, but Sonny Dykes showed up and all of a sudden, Max Dugan looks like. Much more than a competent quarterback. And it seems like TCU has an offense that can play like that. And it’s just it’s really hard to defense your way to a championship anymore. With the exception of Georgia’s team last year, which was like generationally great, like that defense was generationally great in the way that Joe Burrow’s LSU offense was generationally great.
Joel Anderson: So yeah, I mean you’ve got to have some competence and be able to scheme it up and like that’s what it’s just, you know, I don’t know if you had this sensation of watching football with like older people or people that don’t watch football and they’re like, Wait a minute, tackling is really bad in football now. Okay? So they don’t teach tackling anymore because it’s, you know, they’re still hit practice, but like, man, they put people in space now and it’s really hard to to to to round up a six foot, £200 wide receiver who runs a four or five if they’re in space. Like that’s just football. It’s just play differently now. And so that’s what I think the result is that we get all of these games in the forties and fifties, which is I think good for college football, right? Like it’s exciting. I mean, maybe, maybe some of us fetishize the 10 to 7 days of yore, but not me. I’m not one of those guys.
Stefan Fatsis: Oh, there’s the overtime factor.
Joel Anderson: 2.4. that jacks.
Stefan Fatsis: Up the scores. But score check. By the way, TCU is 4340 over Oklahoma State and USC over I’m sorry, Utah over USC. It was 4342 to make sure we had those right.
Joel Anderson: I mean, give us that, give us some props. But yeah, man, TCU looks I mean, we don’t look Michigan great, But, you know, I have I have a lot more, you know, speaking of people who were again, we’re sort of torn on their like coaching higher and I was like, oh, no, but Sonny Dykes then, you know, but at least so far, he seems pretty good. But nothing, nothing on the level of Michigan. Like, I just, you know, I’m so I’m so glad it actually, you know, I was thinking that because, you know, this weekend, as B.M. knows, Michigan celebrated the 25th anniversary of that 1997 championship team at Michigan. And I’m just like, man, it’s so good to have Michigan and Tennessee be good again. Like, I don’t know what it is about those programs being good, but like, it just feels like college football’s different and better when those two schools are really good, right?
Speaker 4: That’s kind of the thought I had when I was I watched, you know, I kind of kept track of the Alabama Tennessee game and I really actually watched the end, like when it was close and like, I have to give props to Tennessee for their for their production design for like their art direction like this. That looked incredible when the fireworks went, Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Orange is a great color. You know the orange and white looks great like the the Vols sign on the top of the stadium like it’s cool.
Speaker 4: Yeah. And that’s kind of what I mean when I’m talking about like, anyone could win this year. It’s not just that like, you know, for the abstract sake of parity, you know, you know, it would be nice not to have Bama win again, but like, these are just fun. Like, like as everyone had said, as Alex Kirshner wrote in, Slate was a great piece. Like why college football is fun. Like, look at like the 100,000 people in orange. Like, I love seeing TCU Stadium fall. The Utah crowd was crazy. You know, there were four and two team they still like. It was a crazy atmosphere out there on on on Saturday night and it’s just like it just it’s not just that like the sport needs it for its business, you know, for it to keep its business afloat or to keep people interested in the TV ratings up. But like, it’s just it’s just fun to have these, these teams be relevant.
Stefan Fatsis: Chuck Culpepper had a, I thought, a really nice wrap up of this in The Washington Post about the weekend. And the point he makes is that from one great thing in college football is that when an outlier event or the end of a long stretch of misery happens, it is not just cathartic, it is inspirational, it’s fun. And the image of the Tennessee Stadium with the field also covered in Orange after the game, after everyone stormed is really cool. And, you know, being a northerner who is not experienced SEC football or felt that way about college football, go my Penn Quakers, by the way, undefeated five.
Joel Anderson: And I really look back at it. Okay.
Stefan Fatsis: You know, seeing those images makes you realize that yeah at its best, you know, leaving aside all of the the things we hate about football at its best, college football is just so cool to watch, to see that, you know, to see the sort of collective joy in these college towns.
Joel Anderson: Yeah. I mean, it’s just people often ask like why we, you know, particularly Josh and I like why we love college football. And I think then, know, you’re kind of in the same thing. There’s nothing there’s just nothing like a fall Saturday when a game ends like that or just that just being in the stadium of a big game, even if it doesn’t turn out to be an epic like the game, as we saw this weekend, there’s just nothing like being at a college football stadium and the enthusiasm that no matter how good your NFL.
Stefan Fatsis: Team and more to the point of what happened to in Tennessee, Alabama and that ending those streaks now Chuck in his piece in the post. Mentions Michigan beating Ohio State last year after going to in 17 in this century. Kansas in 2005, ending a 36 game losing streak to Nebraska. Kentucky in 2018, ending a 31 straight game losing streak to Florida. Even Temple in 2015, ending a 31 straight game losing streak to Penn State.
Joel Anderson: It’s kind of cool.
Speaker 4: Yeah, I think it’s great. I mean, the thing I loved about seeing the stadiums full at Tennessee and at NBC who just had, you know, like a couple of off years is just like it’s it’s just like you. It’s a reminder that, like, you cannot quit this this sport, even if you even if you wish you could. Like that’s it Like Tennessee has been like went one one in 29 against Florida and Bama over over like there are two biggest rivals and there’s still 100,000 people who are ready to get back in it the second it looks like they might have a chance. You know, And that’s that’s really the fantastic part. And it can be the excruciating part, of course, too. But like, that’s the thing that, you know, that other sports may never be able to replicate.
Joel Anderson: None of us will be able to get Saturday out of our blood, including. But maybe Stefan will. I hope he can, because it seems like he’s still reeling from his. Scrabble tournament.
Stefan Fatsis: But non amateur.
Joel Anderson: I’m okay. Well, look, we’ll have been back I’m probably certain around that Ohio State Michigan week at a minimum. So. Ben, thank you so much for joining us and sharing in your momentary Michigan elation.
Speaker 4: All right. Thanks, guys.
Joel Anderson: In the next segment, we’re going to have ESPN’s Pablo Tori on to talk about the latest documentary about Jeremy Lin.
Stefan Fatsis: When Jeremy Lin was claimed off waivers by the New York Knicks in late December of 2011, his new teammates and Madison Square Garden security guards literally didn’t believe the skinny baby faced six foot three Asian-American guy was a player in his first 22 games. Lin didn’t do much to prove that he was totaling just 42, mostly garbage time, minutes and 32 points. But New York was so banged up that before a home game against the Nets in early February, head coach Mike D’Antoni told Lin he’d be getting minutes. Lin’s agent told him that after he’d already been cut by the Warriors and Rockets, this was probably his last chance in the NBA. Here’s Lin’s former teammate, Iman Shumpert, in the new HBO original documentary 38 at the Garden.
Speaker 5: When they served Jalen here, he was looking at people dead. INMATE Are you talking about somebody that’s coming from. I don’t know if I’ll be on the team tomorrow, but for tonight, fuck you.
Stefan Fatsis: Shumpert is one of a cast of smart and delightful talking heads in this alternately uplifting, entertaining and profoundly serious short doc directed by Frank. Another is ESPN’s Pablo Torre, the host of the morning podcast ESPN Daily and a regular on many other programs on the network Pablo. It’s great to have you on the show.
Speaker 4: Thank you. Jump is a high bar for me to clear. Now that you’ve introduced me with him, I was jealous of his sound bites for the record.
Stefan Fatsis: Oh, my God. It was awesome. And we’ll get to that. Also with us for this and our next segment is New Yorker staff writer and theater critic. Hang up and listen. Super sub and Knicks superfan Vinson Cunningham. Hey, Vinson.
Speaker 6: So glad to be with you on this. The day of a really day of celebration. Jeremy Lin. Is this like, forever? The birthday boy? So happy.
Stefan Fatsis: I Pablo Lynn’s fuck you. That night against the nets was 25 points in 36 minutes and the start of seven extraordinary weeks that became known as Linnsanity. But let’s roll it back a few years. You were a senior at Harvard when Lin was a freshman. Were you an instant fan of the Asian-American kid at the end of the Crimson Bench?
Speaker 4: I was. I was sight unseen, of course, because that is my ancestral mandate is to support Asian athletes wherever they may emerge, however randomly. And so this kid, Jeremy Lin, who is a freshman, I mean, he was not really getting playing time, but he was significant enough that I wrote a quick sidebar for the school paper. The title was Asians in the Outfield, in which he was the last name mentioned among Asian athletes at Harvard that needed to be publicized for the world to know. So yes. Stefan Absolutely.
Joel Anderson: So, Pablo, at what point did you realize this guy’s just not on the team like he’s somebody that we know, that this is somebody that is good and could be like a program making sort of player?
Speaker 4: Yeah. So senior year, his senior year, he was like the only D1 a player to lead. I think his team in every major statistical category. He was really good and he was like dunking with two hands on UConn. He was like hitting a game winner against, you know, I’ll I’ll trail off a little bit. William and Mary. I guess the point is the point is like I was watching these games and the dude was fucking incredible.
Stefan Fatsis: I beat the Quakers at the Palestra.
Speaker 4: That’s right, Penn. Still the Quakers still still quaking after that? No, but. Well, listen, man, the fact is, he was legitimately good as an Ivy League player. He was somebody who was clearly special, given Ivy League standards. And you look back in his history and this is why I pitched the story to S.I. his senior year about just like why he was suddenly this thing. I mean, he was getting it’s word remember this? He was getting fans from China, from Taiwan, visiting for like games against Dartmouth, because this was, again, the level of scarcity for a guy who played and looked and sounded like him back then.
Speaker 6: Obviously there’s like a visibility issue. But were there already signs of the stuff that we would later see in the NBA of people sort of heckling him with racially inflected words and throwing those from the stands? What was the what was the status of his specialness even back then in college?
Speaker 4: Yeah, I mean, he was getting it all. I mean, he was called a chink by someone in the Ivy League. He told me, like on the floor, he was somebody who was getting chance, sweet and sour pork and all of that genre of just taunts on the road. He was somebody who, even when he was like, applying to colleges, like he wasn’t getting recruited. He got mistaken for other people all of the time. He would send day. He would send a mix tape out to like coaches assistants, and no one gave a shit. I mean, this was very much the story of his rise since he was a little kid through absolutely D-1 basketball.
Stefan Fatsis: You know, you talk in the in the documentary, which I think is terrific. And everybody should watch this and we’ll talk about why some more. But in the doc, we learned that, you know and I knew this stuff, but. We learned that he and his dad at the cut there on the highlight reel, he was completely on recruited, even though he was the California D2 State player of the year and led his team to the state championship. Yes, we learned that the only reason that the Warriors signed him out of Harvard is because the new owner of the team, his kid, played against Lin in high school. And we also learned that this would have been unusual under any circumstances. He’s even getting that far right, because he came from a traditional Asian family. His mother had him taking piano lessons. It was all about success. It was only because his father, it turns out, like basketball and said, Yeah, you can keep going with this thing. When he was probably Wat in middle school or something.
Speaker 4: Yeah. Giving his dad giving Lin is is this guy who would like, go and shoot hook shots and like, was just an NBA fan and he was. I related to Jeremy immediately just because that’s kind of like what my dad was, except my dad and my mom did not birth a six foot three athletic specimen who was routinely infantilized, even though he’s like legitimately six foot three and really fast and hitting like game winners on tape. But you’re right. I mean, he came and this is why this story is so deeply relatable to, like all of Asian-Americans still ten years later, it’s because he did come in a very real sense from exactly the template that has been stereotyped and that has become familiar to many of us, because guess what? We also happened to live that template very often.
Joel Anderson: I was going to ask you something totally different, but I live in Palo Alto. I’m right down the street from Jeremy Lin, just like the park he played at and right across the street from the high school that he went to. And I always tell, you know, my wife, we lived out here for seven years and I was like, you know, the Bay Area is kind of like Atlanta for Asian-Americans. You know, it’ll be like, are you going to go like, you want to coach out here? You don’t.
Speaker 4: That’s an incredible scouting report. And I fully agree.
Joel Anderson: Well, yeah. And so I was just like, do you think his story would have been possible anywhere else if he had grown up somewhere else? And, you know, it seems like you I can speak as a black president later. Like you feel like you feel you feel like part of the crowd. You can blend in and you can be whatever you want to be. Do you think that some of that helped with his story out here?
Speaker 4: You know, it’s a really it’s a really good question. I think that the milieu in which he grew up in, I mean, it’s important to remember that because he’s Asian-American playing basketball, he very much still felt like the minority. That’s that’s the kind of trick when it comes to like the demographics, which is a larger, like, tangled web that we can begin to untangle here. But the idea is even in Palo Alto, he would show up on the court and he would be he would be requested as anyone’s sort of like preferred target, you know, like I want that guy or are you going to laugh at that guy? And so it’s just telling to me, Joel like even in POW, even in the Atlanta and I now want to I want to series that’s just Atlanta, but Asian in Palo Alto, even there, he felt like, okay, I am very much still an underdog.
Speaker 6: You know, it’s really interesting. You you talk about that tangled web of sort of race and sports. And I kept on thinking about this during the the movie, which I really enjoyed, too. But I often thought that it like it sometimes it didn’t specify who was saying these things, like what direction. Whatever tensions he felt were coming from. I think part of that is the discomfort of like it’s basketball. Therefore, the majority you’re talking about is black. You know this like in America, we’re very able to talk about racism when we can like identify a sort of like racist looking like boss white man who’s like. But when it’s like two groups that are not at the top of the sort of socio economic ladder, it gets really hard. And I just wonder whether you think we’re ever going to be able to actually have that conversation.
Speaker 4: I’m ready for it. I mean, it it was conspicuous to me to look, I, I really enjoy the film. I did not produce the film. I like the guys who did. I was so glad to be a voice in the film that provided some guidance. But you know, like the names, let’s be honest, the names that I wanted to hear from or I would have interviewed to get to that deeply uncomfortable topic that’s. Yeah, like Carmelo Anthony, right?
Speaker 4: Yeah. J.R. Smith And I would also throw in LeBron James. Dwyane Wade, these guys who who. Speaking of like that tradition that I just talked about with Joel of like I want that guy the Heat game against the Knicks like the reckoning of Linsanity. There’s a reason and there are a number of reasons again in this tangled web why LeBron and Dwayne Wade argued over whether they would be the one to guard Jeremy Lin like full court. And I think part of it is because there’s recognition he has been hyped to a degree that none of us would have benefited from if we had exactly the same stats and exactly the same moments.
Speaker 4: And I’ve talked to Jeremy about this. He has said that he feels self-conscious and insecure at times about the degree of heights on that level. But it’s also true at the same time that when Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith are kind of breaking locker room code by laughing and insulting the contract he ended up getting from the rockets that took him away from New York, they’re saying he got too much money. It’s sort of like, okay, take it from the perspective of Jeremy. And it’s like feeling again, like this outsider who doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere.
Stefan Fatsis: And that manifests, I think, in why we only hear from Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler as players teammates of Jeremy Lin on that team. You know, we’re not hearing from Melo, We’re not hearing from J.R. Smith. And the reason was and this has been written about that they were resentful of the attention, as you alluded to, Vinson.
Stefan Fatsis: And it’s not like Jeremy Lin wasn’t conscious of this. He gave, I thought, a good interview to Sopan Deb of The New York Times last week in which he talks about how it was troubling for him. Like brother, He says by the time that Linsanity came around and I got worldwide recognition, the only thing people really wanted to talk about was my ethnicity and my race. And oftentimes in very demeaning and condescending and just racist ways. It was like the thing where I was like, I just don’t want you guys to talk about me being Asian. I just want you to appreciate what I’m doing on the court. I’m an artist and you’re missing out on the art. And the question I would have is did other players, did the LeBron’s and Wade’s and Melo’s miss out on what he was doing because they were minimizing it because of what he looked like.
Speaker 4: It was almost like their desire to minimize. And Kobe Bryant did this the most famously right. I don’t know who this kid is as he was on every sort of screen and newspaper and magazine. I don’t know who this kid is. It almost felt in the way that sports is maybe uniquely sort of set up to do. It almost felt like that minimizing was the compliment, though. You know, it’s the idea that he’s actually a threat. He’s actually taking food in some metaphorical sense off of our table. He’s actually getting what we want. And again, we ran an experiment for the first time ever in professional sports, really in general, like what happens when this sort of a person is dropped into this ecosystem and everybody has to reckon with. I don’t really know what to do here.
Joel Anderson: Paul, I want to put the spotlight on you for a second because you were in the documentary and you said something that I thought was really interesting and I can sort of relate to it different. Fields You said as an Asian kid you spent your life identifying with people who look nothing like you. So I’m just sort of curious about, like your journey into sports as you talk about the things that you had to face, getting into the sports media business with, like what would have drawn you in given that sort of experience? Right.
Speaker 4: Yeah, it was it was not something where there was like a welcome mat or a path or a roadmap or a structure that I could see myself fit into. And in the documentary and at numerous times I’ve sort of talked about like how people even still who don’t watch ESPN just assume I’m like the tech guy when I’m like, I work for ESPN and I’m trying to be like, you know, I’m not trying to say I’m a TV gasbag. They’re like, Oh, you probably work on like the website, like in the in the tech idea and things.
Speaker 4: And, and for me, you know. When I say that people still see themselves in Jeremy Lin, I mean that both in this poetic but also very literal sense we just don’t have. And especially like because sports is is again, this cauldron, this test for manhood, we just never see this character play this role. He never got cast in this way, right? I mean, CW, now a marvel superhero, is now the answer to who would you cast if you were casting an Asian-American superhero?
Speaker 4: But I remember asking Jeremy that question, and the very depressing answer was that the answer? The closest answer was probably Jeremy Lin, who is not an actor but is the only one who was ever seemed anything like an alpha in culture, which is which is sad and responsible for a lot of just the more obvious, elemental hormonal responses to why this thing still sort of excites people.
Stefan Fatsis: Let’s talk about the two big games. After the Nets game. He goes out and scores 28 against Utah, 23 against Washington, and in that game he crosses up John Wall and Tomahawk dunks. Hasan Minhaj, the comedian who’s great in the doc, says that at the time he made a video and the video includes the line You should not get dunked on someone who took calculus B.C. And at that point, Lin jerseys are selling out. Teammates are trying to figure out who this guy is. The whole league is trying to figure out who this guy is.
Stefan Fatsis: And then and then on February 10th, this is when Kobe and the Lakers come to the garden. And you describe it in the doc Pablo. It’s like being at a big fight in Vegas, the hottest ticket in a dozen years. The Lakers had Kobe POW, Metta World Peace. Kobe before the game said he has no idea who Jeremy Lin is. When he asked if he would have to guard him, he mutters Jesus Christ under his breath and kind of turns away from the camera. You were at this game. What was the phenomenon like that night? And tell us for those who don’t remember or, you know, weren’t old enough or weren’t there what it felt like to be part of this extravaganza?
Speaker 4: Yeah, I feel like every time I begin to answer this question, like I have to apologize to my wife because I’m tempted to say this was the best night of my life, which is, again, just like a generally sad statement, but also very, very deeply felt. Because I have never seen or felt anything like that. I remember being on the court with a friend from the New York Daily News at the time, and I was asking him like, everybody’s here. Like everyone’s showing up. Like, it’s a fight, it’s a big mega fight. And he was like, Yeah, I’m just here in case. Jeremy Schwartz 50 And so even still pre game, there’s just like there’s a wink and a nod like this is probably going to end here. And if you go back and look at like what was happening that season, I’m not saying that that version of Kobe in that version of the Lakers was the top. They were not the top of the NBA ladder at that point.
Speaker 4: But if you were to again cast the movie, who would you want to be playing them in the garden again, this is in the garden. He had just been in Washington. Now he’s home for the first time during this run. That’s the important part here. He had not been in the garden doing this until then. And so, you know, what was it? That is the only good quote, I repeat from Curt Schilling about mystique and aura being dancers at a nightclub, him talking about about Yankee Stadium, like you felt some sense of like mystique and aura at Madison Square Garden, awakened by this kid who just revealed that he had a giant set of testicles.
Speaker 6: Yeah. And it’s so it’s so interesting. And what Spike Lee said was he did this this series of tweets that were like, Jeremy Enter the Dragon Lin or something like that. Right? And it’s like, but it was funny because it’s like he’s comparing him to Bruce Lee, right? So at once he’s rationalizing him, but also like being like, this guy’s a badass, right? And I think that’s what’s interesting, that like, who like them and who didn’t like him either way, he was totally racialized, right?
Speaker 4: And there is like a blaxploitation kind of like, by the way, shared Asian African-American kind of crossover there, which on some level I do kind of want that imaginary movie poster, by the way. Yeah, well, admission.
Speaker 6: But do you think, though, that that has made him even now? Right. He definitely understands what he has meant to people and what he continues to be in the people. Do you think that that will continue to be a burden for him to be like the great Asian hope or whatever?
Speaker 4: I think he realizes that this is like his station in life. Like this is kind of actually his calling. I mean, getting sort of shut out of the NBA in the way that he has been. And I feel like he has deserved another shot somewhere and has not gotten it just by going to the G League despite putting up numbers overseas. I think he has realized that this is actually where he makes the most impact, where he means the most still.
Speaker 4: And and for him, I want to remind everybody about this, too, like going back to that Laker game, going back to that run, he was one of the worst quotes that I think I ever just like encounter he was. He was nervous. He was kind of paranoid and actually not kind of outright paranoid. He was protected by the Knicks in a way that did not do him, I think didn’t do any favors. But now he’s this guy who sounds like he has been through therapy and he sort of like gained the zoomed out perspective on like why it is that his goal at one point coming up through basketball had been to UN Asian himself such that he would be regarded just on the level of like the art. And now he realizes that the thing that makes him special because of how much everybody else identifies with who is Asian-American. He’s realizing that I got to do the opposite right, because that’s kind of what the universe has asked me to do.
Stefan Fatsis: Pablo Torre, a host of ESPN Daily Morning podcast all over the ESPN airwaves as well. We’re going to continue the conversation with him in our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. We’ll talk about Jeremy Lin, the Toronto game, which featured the wave off and what happened to Lin at the end of that season and more. So stick around for that. Pablo, thank you for coming on the show.
Speaker 4: Thank you so much, guys. I really appreciate it.
Joel Anderson: The first scene of the Redeem Team, Netflix’s new documentary on the 28 U.S. Olympics men’s basketball team opens with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James talking about the buildup to the Beijing Games. Here’s a clip. You see a guy.
Speaker 6: With a Celtics jersey at Disneyland. I’m ready to kill just because he’s wearing a garden jersey and I’m pissed. And he comes up to me. I’m thinking, don’t say something smart about the finals, Right. Bring back the gold for us.
Joel Anderson: No say no said being ready to go. It’s a real redemption story, you know, for Kobe Bryant and the US men’s team. The story of both is inextricably linked as the U.S. Olympic teams of pros enter the 2008 games, having been dethroned as the world’s best collection of basketball players. Kobe is in many ways the missing piece, and the other players, coaches and USOC officials regard him as such. There’s a lot of footage of Kobe in this documentary released only two and a half years after his death. These are the years after the rape allegations, but before his final two NBA championships. When he fully reclaimed, if not exceeded his previous standing in the game.
Joel Anderson: The Redeem Team, directed by John Weinbach, isn’t all about Kobe. It’s about Coach K and LeBron and Dwayne Wade and the Greek national team that started this cycle of American Redemption, which I know probably put a big smile on Stefan’s face. But the star of this show and the team is clearly Kobe. So Vinson. What did you think of the documentary and the filmmaker’s choice to center so much of it on Kobe?
Speaker 6: It definitely did double as a sort of Kobe Bryant hagiography. And I think part of it is, I would imagine, a result of the talk between the remaining players, the players who are still alive because they did on some level venerate him. And it’s easy to tell stories about someone you venerate who isn’t there. Right. So you get all these moments of LeBron and D-Wade and Carlos Boozer, who really good in this, and Chris Bosh, who also is good talking about Kobe. He lent to these kinds of, you know, sure, they’re true, but they’re also kind of like mythic. They’re tall tales about like, I’m going to run through power. That’s all I’m going to do.
Speaker 6: So interestingly, though, the movie talks about as the redemption thing. The text of the movie says, oh, he’s being redeemed from his conflict with Shaq or, you know, the last two years or his request of being traded out of Los Angeles or, you know, the last two years of their record and stuff like that, it doesn’t really make reference to Colorado. So there’s a really interesting sort of play of presence and absence, things that are talked about, not talked about. That I think carries through the rest of the movie, too, by the way.
Stefan Fatsis: Yeah. And you’re referring, of course, to the sexual assault case against Bryant. Yes. And that was in 2003. So it was and it didn’t conclude until 2005 when he reached a settlement with the woman at the at the resort that accused him of sexual assault. So he was left off of the 2004 Olympic team for obvious reasons.
Speaker 6: For these reasons.
Stefan Fatsis: But at the same time, most of the other huge stars on the NBA didn’t play on that team either. Jason Kidd, Shaq, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, they all said no. They all had played on the Olympic team before and had their gold medals. And the 2004 team is the one that that sucked. The one that lost in the semifinals that was portrayed as petulant and selfish and disconnected and unmotivated. And so Kobe wasn’t on the original cast of the original roster for the qualifiers for 2008. He was added the year before by Chayefsky.
Stefan Fatsis: So there’s also, in addition to the redemption narrative of Kobe, both in the NBA and his personal life, there is the savior narrative that, hey, we were still good. They had you know, they had LeBron and they had Dwyane Wade and they had Chris Bosh and they had everybody that they needed now. And Chayefsky gets the buy in from everybody, which we see a lot of in the documentary. But Kobe is sort of defined as the piece.
Joel Anderson: Yeah. And I mean, you know, Bill Plaschke, I think, says it really well. He said this is the start of the second chapter of Kobe Bryant. And I never really thought about it because I thought maybe it was the championships that had sort of redeemed him in the eyes of so many people in the narrative around him, you know, could change. But I mean, in truth, a lot of that had started because he pivoted to the black Mamba persona.
Joel Anderson: Right. Right. Well, it is sort of a cynical play to be like, all right, with all you guys going to hate me, I’m going to get tattoos and, you know, curse a lot more in my interviews. You know, you know, if I if I can’t be if I can’t be Will Smith, I’m going to be something else totally different. And so, yeah, I think that was actually, though, one of the failures of the documentary to not talk about why bringing Kobe onto the US team was a problem, like why he had baggage like it wasn’t.
Joel Anderson: He told on Shaq at the end of the trade, You know what I mean? Like, that’s kind of skirting the obvious here. But I did think that they did a really good job of showing how much of a loner he was. And like, so if you if you can separate those allegations, separate it out and like the other reasons that Kobe was. Sort of a strange character and sort of a lone wolf in a way. They were really good at that, like talking about, hey, we all went out and party. Kobe’s drenched in sweat in the hotel lobby at 430 in the morning. We knew he didn’t have any friends, you know, all that sort of stuff. All those guys, you know, sort of reacting to him not being, you know, not much of a talker.
Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, It’s like it’s like a buddy picture in a way. Yeah. You know, they bring the Kobe and then we get and they turn him into funny, happy joke in Kobe, as opposed to the the loner that we that he is.
Joel Anderson: Right. Right. Yeah. He becomes more of. I mean, you guys tell me if you think this is wrong, but I think through this process, he becomes more of a statesman, like the persona able, redeemed version that everyone became more familiar with before and after his death.
Stefan Fatsis: Which humanizes him, right, Vincent?
Joel Anderson: Right.
Speaker 6: Yeah, It humanizes him in a way. And, you know, in some ways we can think of both this and the 38 at the guard in the Jeremy Lin documentary we just talked about as like key examples of the new like player produced media that has become such a big conversation over the past, I don’t know, five years, maybe the sort of new media, as Draymond Green calls it, like the Redeem Team documentary is produced by LeBron Wade, Carmelo and Maverick.
Stefan Fatsis: Carter.
Speaker 6: Was never Carter, right? So it’s a sort of product of the player empowerment era, right? And in a similar way that we kind of have these lacuna about Kobe and things that are not said similarly like Tom Ziller in his newsletter that I get in my inbox every morning, talks about how they also don’t talk about the real controversy that it was in-depth to hire Mike Krzyzewski. You know, this person who was a college coach. And in some ways, it’s a it’s an insult to NBA coaches that it’s not Gregg Popovich. It’s not someone else who from the NBA ranks. And it also becomes, as was talked about more and more in the years after 2008, a way for Shizuka to burnish his reputation as a recruiter.
Speaker 6: I’ve coached LeBron James. I coached Kobe Bryant. Right. And there are some uncomfortable moments that don’t necessarily get digested in the way some other things do, like the fact that just asking is like bringing the military in and doing this whole like hero narrative and also like using the word classy a lot to be like, let’s be classy. Let’s there’s a lot of unspoken things about how he’s coaching this team. So really interesting.
Stefan Fatsis: But those are frame job. But aren’t those framed, Joel, as the reasons that this team succeeded and bonded and, you know, were patriotic and did it for the country?
Joel Anderson: I’m so glad you guys brought that up because I was really uncomfortable with the positioning of Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski as sort of the saviors of the Dream Team project, like the subtext, as you mentioned, which is that the American players too selfish, too unskilled, too lacking in competitive spirit, come winner.
Stefan Fatsis: Particularly to the Argentineans and the Greeks and the French and the Italians and the Lithuanians.
Joel Anderson: And stuff. And you mentioned look at all the players that are not playing in the 2014. Like it can just be as simple as that. We sent a not particularly talented team to go play against all these other teams that had an increasing number of NBA players and the cohesion that the American team did not have. I mean.
Stefan Fatsis: With a coach that kind of didn’t get it.
Joel Anderson: Larry Brown on that 2014, there was only one all NBA selection. Tim Duncan There were only two All-Stars, Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson. I kind of look at like post 2001, Allen Iverson, like Eddie George, like after he cared about 400 carries one season, you know, he like the lot not quite it was a lot of mouths on on a little guy right And so that was not a particularly talented team. Emeka Okafor was on that Olympic team, man. You know what I mean? And I’m like, No, no, I’m not hating on a man.
Speaker 6: But no, it’s true.
Stefan Fatsis: But this is the question waiting out of that team, though.
Joel Anderson: Well, right, right. Fair point. Fair point. Iverson, Marbury, young Wade, Young Bryan, who.
Stefan Fatsis: Barely played, right?
Joel Anderson: Yeah. Yeah. And I’m just like, it can’t be that the 2018 redeemed America’s position in basketball in the world but also cannot just be the that 2014 was just not really good thrown together and they got what they got but it didn’t have to be that Mike Sheskey and and Jerry Colangelo had to be the ones to come in and save these guys from themselves.
Stefan Fatsis: The shifting narrative in 2004 is that the rest of the world is caught up and we just sent a bunch of guys out there and threw our jerseys on the court and expected to win. The reality was that they still probably should have won in 2004. You know, any collection of great NBA players should still probably win.
Joel Anderson: It ten times as great as they said he is. They should have won. But anyway, that’s another conversation. But oh.
Speaker 6: Yeah, it’s interesting. But I mean, I think the Larry Brown factor does loom large. I have I interviewed Stephon Marbury a couple of years ago and he. He was still mad about Larry Brown and the sort of what he construed as sort of total paternalism and disrespect that Brown was dispensing that year. So there’s there are a lot of factors that go under explored in that way.
Speaker 6: One thing that’s interesting to me is I kind of got an alternate sort of genealogy of something else, which is the change of play in the NBA, right? Because in oh eight, we’re still in the sort of like low scoring. It’s really not the NBA that we know today. And interestingly, we see, you know, they’re learning the FIBA rules, but also like if you watch the game play Kobe, Melo, these guys are all taking a bunch of three as part of that as the, you know, the difference in the fever line and everything. But you see them adapting to a new style of play that back then was dubbed European and and now is sort of attributed to analytics. For some reason, those those two heuristics have sort of merged into one thing. But it’s interesting to see something. You know, we we talk about it as like Olympic mellow, right. Like take a lot of corner threes, all those kind of things. Interesting to see the development of basketball through this documentary as well as stylistically, strategically, etc..
Joel Anderson: Yeah. Can it also be then to the and I guess I hate to hammer on the coaches and the officials piece of this, but when they lost in 88, a lot of the complaint was that John Thompson was like not overly focused on defense, but he had extremely offensively limited team and a young team as well, obviously, but a limited team. And they were playing that style of basketball. You know, that kind of became more common in basketball throughout the late eighties, early 90, you know, through the nineties into early 2000. So that the defense first, you know, got to hammer people and goon it up.
Joel Anderson: And Larry Brown comes out of that tradition as well. And that’s like not I mean defense. Yes you do need to play really good defense to play to win a basketball but against a really good offense. Sometimes that shit doesn’t matter. At this point. He’s doing what he had to do to win. And like that 76, this team that he’s coming off of, like that’s not an extremely offensively talented team. And in fact, if you look at the DNA of the Olympic basketball project, Gregg Popovich was most recently the coach. They won the gold most recently, but like they didn’t dominate in the way that some of the other teams do it.
Speaker 6: One of my favorite things about this documentary was, you know, it’s kind of like the sort of we are getting together, We’re becoming a team montage. But the way they do that is to show the team going to watch other people play at the Olympics, right? Because the oh four team was famously sort of almost stranded on this Greek Ocean liner because of the ongoing geopolitics at the time, the Iraq war, all these other things. These guys are like in the Olympic Village and going to the cafeteria and going to see Michael Phelps and sort of.
Stefan Fatsis: Going to see gymnastics. They’re going it’s going to be things like the gifts are great.
Speaker 6: Yes, it’s really cool. And it makes me I mean, it makes me think that even since then, the idea of basketball as a as a stage for international statesmanship, with all the all of the problems inherent in that framing, but also all of the genuine sort of heartening aspects of that like have only grown since then that we think of our athletes like that much more now than we did even that as well.
Joel Anderson: Don’t you? Then you find it sort of just touching to see like young Wade and young Brian and Melo, you know, making corny young boy jokes and stuff and, you know, like I just like you can see they’re in their youth and this like, friendship is blossoming. And we know I mean, it’s funny because the documentary didn’t talk about sort of the consequence of bringing together a lot of those guys and obviously enjoyed playing with each other. Right. Right.
Stefan Fatsis: That’s exactly right. This is before the banana boat, Wade, Bosh, LeBron and probably influence that they did genuinely in all of this stuff and in the contemporaneous interviews seem really genuine about how they how much they enjoyed this experience. Right. Not in a sort of ham handed or putting it on for the cameras kind of way.
Joel Anderson: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I mean, did you what kind of was struck by what Brian said a month before they get ready to go to Beijing and he’s talking, he’s addressing the team and he says, you know, I’ve often thought if I had Carlos Boozer a Chris Paul on my team, I’d be a champion. But I don’t have that excuse now. And I’m like, I exactly commit that to memory about what it would be like to have some of those guys on your team, right?
Speaker 6: Yeah, it was this very good foreshadowing. And I mean, there have been reports, I mean, they’ve never been totally substantiated, but there have been reports that, look, that’s when LeBron and Wade and Bosh got together and like saw that they all were going to be free agents the same year. And they actually talked about it this summer. I am mostly convinced by that. You know, it’s very funny that, like, you know, the odd man out was Melo, who was at the time on the Denver Nuggets and ends up being the sort of tragic hero of the sort of mid Knicks.
Stefan Fatsis: I mean, let’s why don’t we. When we when we finish up by talking about the gold medal game against Spain in those Olympics, because that game really embodied a lot. The Kobe at one point says in the doc that there’s beauty in the fact that the previous team lost because it meant that so many countries were playing at a high level. And I think he was talking about losing to Greece in the semifinals of the world Championship in 2006. And Coach K tells the story that at one point he told someone, you don’t want to be having your grandkids sitting on your lap and you’re saying, yeah, we lost to that fucking Greek team, which I did not appreciate. But that fame game didn’t really reflect like where basketball had come. I mean, that game was played in such a high level. You know, a lot of Olympic Games.
Joel Anderson: Struck about how good it looked like. It looked like a really good game. I’d forgotten how that game was until we watched it in documentary.
Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, most Olympic Games, you know, the games aren’t as long the rules are fucked up. You know, you usually in the eighties, right? Or if if the US is playing, it’s like 110 to 69. This final there’s 118 to 107 and it was just quality after quality. Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez I mean, the Spanish players were really good.
Speaker 6: Yeah, all of my reservations and like we’ve discussed all my sort of moments of like doubts about the documentary I was tearing up at the end, the game game footage and watching them and then and then moving from the game footage into the the getting of the, the medal, the medals like it it just works okay at this kind of thing. It’s undefeatable. You cannot defeat Dwyane Wade hitting a big shot and meanwhile going down the court and music behind it like forget about it. I was just like, it works.
Stefan Fatsis: Well, it just was. I think it’s legit. Joel. I think like the drama of that run was not, you know, not unreasonable to turn into a sort of dramatic sequence. I mean, them I’m talking about and Coach K playing up how great Ginobili is and you’re like.
Speaker 6: Oh boy, the last time I was on this podcast, we did a Ginobili thing and as I’m watching this.
Stefan Fatsis: I thought that the reason I’m going to put the quotes on each player’s chair about how someone said that Manu is the second best shooter in the NBA and someone said that Manu is the second best point guard in the world.
Joel Anderson: How many Hall of Famers do you think Dwayne Wade would say about I lost it, I’ll give you Kobe, but I’m not giving you Manute. There’s not a lot of Hall of Famers get talked about in that way.
Speaker 6: Rank, rank, xenophobia.
Stefan Fatsis: And now it is time for After Balls, sponsored by Bennett’s prune juice, endorsed by Kenny Sailors, who says it was okay for our after brawl. Name Joel. I was going to look for a college teammate of Jeremy wins at Harvard, but Josh covered that back in July when he mentioned Brian Cosworth witnessed from the Warriors G League team bench, Anthony Morrow’s single game G league scoring record of 47 points. Cosworth was a classmate of Pablo Torres at Harvard, which means he was a senior when Jeremy Lin was a freshman.
Stefan Fatsis: The circle of life is small, but instead, let’s honor the first Asian-American and first nonwhite player in the NBA. What Misaka. He joined the Knicks in 1947, three years before Earl Lloyd became the first black player in the league. Misaka was a 57. guard defensive stalwart out of Utah who in the night final in 1947 at the Garden, held Kentucky’s star guard Ralph Beard to just one point in a 4540 upset win. Then, just three months after Jackie Robinson debuted in Brooklyn, Misaka was signed by the Knicks. He was released after scoring just seven points in three games, went home to Utah and had a career as an engineer.
Stefan Fatsis: Misaka wasn’t recognized as an NBA pioneer for decades. He died in 2019, and his obit in The New York Times said that when Jeremy Lin was struggling with the Warriors before he was picked up by the Knicks, Misaka reached out to the rookie quote, Jeremy Lin seemed like a good kid in a dark and gloomy time, Misaka told Sports Illustrated. I wrote him a note of encouragement and just told him to hang in there.
Joel Anderson: Oh, that’s really sweet of him.
Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, I know the connections. The connections, man. I Joel What’s your what?
Joel Anderson: Misaka Yeah. So my what Misaka You know, I was thinking about last week when we were talking about Victor Wembanyama the seven foot four French phenom who will likely be the top pick in the next NBA draft. And I couldn’t help but take note of all the great players who came up in comparison. You know, there was Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Kristaps Porzingis, maybe not great, but you know, productive NBA player Ralph Sampson and so on and so on. And having seen Wembanyama play, it’s hard not to indulge in that kind of hype. He certainly seems to be the real deal.
Joel Anderson: So then I wondered how often do we crank up the hype machine and spit out the most daunting pro comparisons when talking about these teen stars? So as a guideline here, I use USA Today’s list of the greatest high school basketball players of all time, which unfortunately excludes players overseas from consideration. So there’s not going to be any Dirk or even Andrew Wiggins, who was called Maple Jordan once upon a time, believe it or not, or Darko on this list, it’s all homegrown products going back more than a half a century.
Joel Anderson: So let’s start in Philadelphia in 1958, where the Enquirer wrote a profile about an especially promising nearly seven foot sophomore with this headline Chamberlain 611 a junior grade bevo scourge of public league at Overbrook. Though there was an unfortunate line in the story that read £202 Chamberlain, who bears a strong facial resemblance to movieland Stepin Fetchit. But of course, steps much livelier. This isn’t a daily newspaper, okay.
Stefan Fatsis: Oh, my God. Right.
Joel Anderson: Yeah. They called him the, quote, biggest bundle to ever play in the public conference and quote, The best we’ve ever developed in the city there is is a muted enthusiasm, if only because it’s 1958, probably not much in the way of precedent for Wilt or what’s possible. I couldn’t find a good comparison, just stories about his athletic exploits and dominating the local competition. But that changed inside of a few years.
Joel Anderson: In February 15th, 1963, edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the newspaper profiled a sophomore named Lew Alcindor. Here’s what they wrote. Even Bill Russell, Bob Pettit, George Mikan and Wilt Chamberlain were never as big as Alcindor is kids. Every NBA coach is already aware of, quote, Leaping Louis, who arrived as a celebrity that day. Teammates affectionately nicknamed him the Big A, the Democrat in Chronicle of Rochester said in April of that year that Alcindor was, quote, another Wilt Chamberlain only better not not wrong, turned out to be right Now, Lou went to UCLA and put together one of, if not the most dominant college careers before moving on to the NBA.
Joel Anderson: He was succeeded in Westwood by Bill Walton, a redheaded six foot ten and a half center from just outside of San Diego. In a March 1970 profile in the L.A. Times, the San Diego State’s men coach said of Walton that he was the best high school player I’ve ever seen and quote, like Alcindor. And he’s. Probably a better shot blocker at this stage than Alcindor was. Again, very high praise, not necessarily wrong, but a few years later across the country in Virginia.
Joel Anderson: Sports Illustrated wrote a short profile on senior almost seven footer, Moses Malone, skipping right over Bill Walton. I called Malone the most sought after high school basketball prospect since Lew Alcindor. Malone later caused a stir by starting with the Utah stars of the American Basketball Association, becoming the first player in modern history to enter professional basketball right out of high school. The next guy up is going to be somebody that you’re probably going to be a little bit surprised to hear.
Joel Anderson: There was a guy named Billy James Cartwright letter and much better known as Bill Cartwright. He started Elk Grove High School just outside of Sacramento. And a writer for the Berkeley Gazette wrote in January 1975 that a well-known Midwest scout who watched the development of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and later Moses Malone, flatly rates Cartwright better than the three at a comparable age. He has better moves than Malone right now, someone told the writer. Another said, I can’t remember any prospect who is as talented as he is. And of course, that’s Bill Cartwright, who later was a center of some renown with the Chicago Bulls.
Joel Anderson: But four years later, back in Virginia, it was Ralph Sampson who had emerged as the latest best big schoolboy prospect ever at seven foot three and a little more than £200. Hardly anyone had seen a basketball player like Sampson, but the Associated Press guess that Sampson would have been a top ten NBA draft pick out of high school, the AP wrote. Sampson has been called one of the greatest high school players ever developed in Virginia, possibly as good as Moses Malone. So there’s a little bit of, you know, reticence there. And no comparison to the former Lew Alcindor.
Joel Anderson: Patrick Ewing was up next, a seven foot Jamaican native who moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in junior high school. By 1981, the Akron Beacon Journal was predicting big things for him. Every now and then, there is one of them in high school basketball, a large athlete whose talent seems to be singular. In years gone by, there were Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton and Ralph Sampson. Now there is Patrick Ewing that took office pretty good, right? Yeah. All right. And what is it about Virginia? Because by the mid eighties, another superstar center emerged from the commonwealth, Alonzo Mourning. Sports Illustrated called the six foot ten, mourning the best player in his class. And the Richmond Times-Dispatch reached back into history and over a handful of former Virginia greats for what it considered the most apt comparison they wrote. Some are boldly calling him the best big man since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was Lew Alcindor.
Joel Anderson: All right. A year later came perhaps the biggest of the big boys, Shaquille O’Neal out of San Antonio. By the time he was set to enroll at LSU for his freshman year in 1989, observers had finally found a novel comparison. A writer for The Tennessean and putting together his SEC preview wrote this Shaq was seven foot one in £286 of Warrior, a remarkable athlete whose size and mobility are reminiscent of Akeem Olajuwon.
Joel Anderson: More than a decade later, near the end of Shaq’s prime emerged an unusually buff high school post player out of Atlanta by the name of Dwight Howard. In 2000, four days before the NBA draft, The Hartford Courant quoted him as saying, Teams want the next K.G., as in Kevin Garnett. You’re looking at him. The current followed up. The comparison to Kevin Garnett isn’t his fault. As Scouts became enamored with the winner of the 2004 Naismith Award as the nation’s top high school player, they called him the next K.G. or the next Tim Duncan. Again, Dwight Howard probably will end his career at the Hall of Fame. No Lew Alcindor comparison, but that’s fine.
Joel Anderson: And the final center to make USA Today’s list is a player who today is probably better known as the one chosen ahead of Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA draft, Greg Oden at an even seven feet ten with point guard Mike Conley to win three state championships at their Indianapolis area high school. One coach, a man who seems to know his history, reached all the way back into the past when trying to find the right comparison for Oden. I compared Oden to what we faced when I was at Purdue and when we played UCLA when they had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. All right, so no Luke, no. Lew Alcindor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. An updated enough comparison.
Joel Anderson: But before we wrap things up, I just want to let me add my own contribution to the hype machine from 20 years ago when I was a cub reporter at the Associated Press. I drove down to Beaumont, Texas, in late winter to profile a six foot 11, £260.17 year old who was making easy work of the competition. His name was Kendrick Perkins. And look, I have to admit, I was either echoing hype I’d already heard. It was just sort of take. In a back, but how big he was.
Joel Anderson: But yes, I quoted somewhat in the story as saying this. I think he’s the best player to come out of Texas in Shaq. In fact, one recruiting analyst told me he’s fundamentally better than Shaq was entering his senior year. But I profiled Perkins again a year later, months before the NBA draft, when he was trying to decide between going pro or going to the University of Memphis and Shaq came up again. The same recruiting analyst told me he’s got a better shooting touch than Shaquille O’Neal had when he was in high school. Shaq was strictly a power player. Well, Kendrick has got a pretty nice touch. Maybe he didn’t think to come up with Lew Alcindor, who had, you know, really good touch. But there you have it, Kendrick Perkins and Shaq, proof that, hey, we can all take things a little too far.
Stefan Fatsis: I don’t know. I mean, if you’re looking at Perk versus St George Michael, maybe that was a better comparison.
Joel Anderson: That could have gone right? Yeah. Bob Pettit I didn’t see Bob Pettit play, but that seems like that could have been done after what could be.
Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, in my contribution to this field, I can’t give the story because it’s under lock and I don’t subscribe to the Wall Street Journal these days. I’m sorry. Well, I did a piece. I did a front page story about how the NBA was looking overseas and recruiting more foreigners, more Europeans. I did a profile of a guy named Magic Lump, a seven footer out of Poland who ended up getting picked 30th by the Knicks and did not compare it to Patrick Ewing in any way. Alas, though, his agent later would find and sign Giannis.
Joel Anderson: Okay, well, look, they came along finally with it. But you didn’t you didn’t look at Lumpy and say it looks like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Nothing like that.
Stefan Fatsis: I hope I didn’t say that in the piece. I’m pretty certain that I didn’t. I did hang out with Lombardi when he was picking suits for the draft. He ended up getting taken 30th by the Knicks.
Joel Anderson: No, it’s not bad. I mean, I mean, it sounds very Frederic Weiss of him, by the way. Just guy. The tall guy didn’t work out. But hey, look, he got his moment in the sun. Thanks for contributing to his hype.
Stefan Fatsis: That is our show for today. Our producer is Kevin Bendis. To listen to past shows and subscribe, go to Slate.com slash hang up.
Stefan Fatsis: And you can email us at Hang Up at Slate.com. And please subscribe to the show and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and join Slate Plus for Joel Anderson and Vinson Cunningham.
Stefan Fatsis: I’m Stefan Fatsis Remembers Elmo Baby. And thanks for listening.
Stefan Fatsis: And now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. Welcome back to Pablo Torre of ESPN. Pablo, thanks.
Speaker 4: Of course. Of course. Thank you for allowing me to entice people to pay for your content.
Stefan Fatsis: Absolutely. We need that. But the people that are listening to this have already paid for the content. So hopefully you were good enough in the main that they were motivated to.
Speaker 4: Write.
Stefan Fatsis: To pay for it, to listen to this. So if anybody is out there who did pay, just a listen to Pablo Torre right now. Thank you.
Speaker 4: I’m selling bootleg Stefan. So you don’t realize bootleg.
Stefan Fatsis: All right. Let’s do the second big game now. Four nights later, after the Lakers game in the Garden, which we didn’t even talk about what Liam did that night, but feel free. Pablo two to finish off that part of the conversation. But four nights later they go to Toronto. The game is tied. At 87, Len brings up the ball and waves off the rest of the team a couple of times. And Len, in 38 at the Garden, the new documentary says that they were like, You’re not running a pick and roll. And I’m like, No.
Speaker 4: So what happened before? This is rightfully the title of the doc. It was it was volcanic. The eruption at the garden.
Stefan Fatsis: Right? You said I was there to see if he would score 50. He wound up scoring 38.
Speaker 4: Yeah, just 38. A couple of spin moves, a couple of delirious, just like flow state moments that are the hallmark of just like a guy who has utter mastery of the stage.
Stefan Fatsis: And a dagger right to win the game.
Speaker 4: Absolutely. And so speaking of daggers, to win the game, you’re like, this is the peak. This is the peak. Like stamp it like end seen fade to black were good. And then he goes to Toronto and again, it’s just like we probably need to stop underestimating just the level of of stage presence that he has. And I keep on using stage presence like he’s an actor. I keep on using these theatrical kind of like references, but it’s the ultimate compliment to me because this is what we did not have growing up Asian-American.
Speaker 4: It’s a scene in where in which the quarterback, the heights, the state, like the prom king, like winks at the camera and throws the game winner. And he says, No, I got this. And so yeah, the wave off the the the three to win on Valentine’s Day. Again, apologies to my wife. I was I was like listening and streaming this game while I was with her on that day. And it is the thing I remember most vividly. I’m sorry Liz, but it’s just like this.
Speaker 4: But as a moment goes, this is probably number one on the power pole of Jeremy Lin moments that I have.
Stefan Fatsis: I want to play this clip from the documentary in which the on Minaj and Jeremy Lin talk about what that moment meant, what the wave off moment meant.
Speaker 5: All my friends kept saying is like, did you see the wave off? Did you see the wave off? Did you see the wave off? Do you know what that means? Can you believe we have dignity? Do you see the way you did that? No, no, no. It’s my game to I deserve to be here too. It’s not a mean thing. It’s not a I hate my teammates thing. It’s. What if I had the same audacity and confidence you had?
Joel Anderson: This is who I am. This is what I prepare for.
Speaker 4: And this is what I’m capable of. All you guys need to do is watch and see.
Speaker 5: I remember after he hit that shot. I thought to myself, How many moments in my own life did I pass up the ball or hold myself small? How many times did I turn in that assignment or not audition for that thing or not put my name as number one on the sheet? How many times did I not wave someone off? That’s what that moment meant to me.
Speaker 4: Yeah. I mean, like, that’s that’s who we all want to be. That’s who we want to be. We don’t want to be meek. We don’t want to be the things that people say we are. And this was as vivid a moment in which it was the opposite.
Joel Anderson: I guess sort of the subtext here, by the way, is that the doubt about Jeremy’s career, you know, from start to finish. Right. And it was three years ago, you know, the Jeremy, you know, said the NBA had given up on him and he cried and like this emotional sermon, it’s now on. And I mean, you know, I’m a little bit Pablo. And I’m just wondering, does he think that he was done wrong in any way that his NBA career ended prematurely for reasons that have nothing to do with basketball or what is a what is he how does he explain that moment to lose?
Speaker 4: Yeah, I think flatly the answer is yes. I want to sort of nuance this, though, because I will also say that every athlete who has ever like retired or against their will is basically like feeling aggrieved because some boss somewhere did not get it. So that is absolutely part of the athlete story. But in this case, I mean, I believe that there is there is an argument and there’s a convincing argument to me, because I watched Jeremy from the very beginning test out as one of the quickest players like the Knicks had ever graded and yet never get referred to or thought of as like somebody who was athletic. I saw him get opportunities where he would be the guy.
Speaker 4: And by the way, the funny thing about him, like taking these shots and taking that game winner and all of that waving people off, is that Jeremy’s kind of a ball hog in that way. You know, like you watch him play even back to college, high school, like he’s a lead guard. He is the he is the Steve Nash kind of template where he’s going to have the ball in his hands all of the time. And if you open up the floor for him, that’s where he becomes magical.
Speaker 4: But what happened at every stop, whether it was in Houston, which ended up trading for James Harden memorably, whether it was in Brooklyn where he got hurt, whether it was in Charlotte, even where he got hurt, or at least where he got hurt. Like at every moment, it felt like he did not actually get to do the job that he is best suited for. And so when he goes to China and plays and thrives and it goes to the G League and like is really good in the G League and everybody else, seemingly from the teams he’s played on and against, who’s comparable gets a shot. I think there are valid questions as to is he still being underestimated.
Stefan Fatsis: His recent by the way the G league this is last year.
Speaker 4: Absolutely. And I don’t think it’s a conspiracy. You know, I’m not going to say that at all. But I think that insofar as this is a person who has been subconsciously underestimated and sometimes consciously, but mostly just like subconsciously seen as not as good as he was, I do I do find it hard to believe that that suddenly is just gone and not a part of his story anymore.
Speaker 6: So not to be too glib, but like, where do you think he goes now? I mean, obviously he’s a very powerful speaker and his Christianity, like a lot of the things that we’ve seen from the emotional talk that Joel was talking about was in a church and he like is connects a lot of interestingly, though not in this documentary, but connects a lot of his story to his faith is is is Jeremy Lin, the next great megachurch pastor?
Speaker 4: Is he like, don’t don’t put this on me Vinson do not do not do not make Jeremy Lin, Joel Osteen.
Speaker 6: I mean, but you could see it, though. Come on.
Speaker 4: I mean, Jeremy Lin becoming Creflo Dollar is not thing for his but that’s something would be he he has all of the tools if he wanted to mutate into that sort of a version of himself. I mean, he does have a massive audience. He does have now a certain charisma. He does have now the desire to want to connect to people and to and and he’s always been religious. So you’re not crazy for speculating on whether this is part of the trajectory. I hope it doesn’t go in the direction of strict religiosity for so many different reasons. And one of the reasons I believe it won’t go there and why I hope it doesn’t go there is because his impact can be greater than that.
Speaker 4: Right. You know, like you become you become again, a certain caricature, which I do laugh at. But he has the ability to connect so much beyond just like trying to convert people to your religion. And so I believe speaking and and preaching in some sense is absolutely part of his future. It might be the main thing, but I also believe that he’s just he actually like more than anything, this is my thought when I met him in college, I was just like, Oh, you just like actually love basketball. Like, you’re just one of those guys who just who unironically says stuff like, I’m a hooper. And it’s just like, Yeah, you do. You do. Actually, you have, you have. You have all of the hours to prove that like you’re not you’re not anything more than you are a basketball player first and foremost, right?
Joel Anderson: I’m trying to think about one or two, so maybe probably you can tell me which ones you want to ask, because those are more a more linear question. That’s sort of the obvious one, which is given the confusion and controversy around the end of his career, you know, professional playing career. Do you think anyone has learned anything from the Jeremy Lin experience, whether, you know, NBA front offices, college scouts, future basketball players? Right. Like it. Has anyone learned anything? Could any the next Jeremy Lin have to go through Jeremy Lin path.
Stefan Fatsis: And I would even I would add to that Pablo. Did NBA teams learn anything, particularly the Knicks, who I thought made a terrible mistake in allowing him to go to Houston after that season. We forget that Linsanity ended with a torn meniscus and knee surgery, and the Knicks made the playoffs and lost in the first round. And then the Knicks basically let him walk after the season and he was pilloried for. Taking the money and going to Houston was the narrative. But I think that ties in to what Joel is asking here. Is anything changed?
Speaker 4: Yeah. And by the way, like Jeremy at that time, I remember I think I broke that story for for SI.com when it happened. And I was talking to Jeremy like that night he took the Houston Rockets offer and he didn’t want to go. Like, he was like, Can we actually make this carry on, do this? Because the Rockets offered a contract that had a poison pill in it and he didn’t actually want to leave. He just felt like the Knicks made him test the market. And so he did what? Again, an audacious person who wants to value himself appropriately would do, which is he tested the market. And then here came this contract. And it was like, I can’t not take this, but now I don’t want to take it. And so I’m glad we finally get to the point where I got to say to the Knicks, like, can you guys just sign him now? Like, can you get I mean, like, this is the it’s a layup of a move. And I think Jeremy would actually love it. I’m not speaking for him. I just think that if the Knicks were like, we want to bring you back. This is this is like the biggest no brainer in in in basketball from a pure just like vibes perspective.
Speaker 4: And so did the larger question of like the Knicks and the NBA learning stuff. Did did that actually come to pass. I you know, this is where it’s hard to isolate variables, right? Because like, we haven’t had an Asian-American guard since Jeremy Lin. I mean, not somebody who looks like him. So, again, all due respect, I love my my half Filipino brother, Jordan Clarkson. Right. Um, but what I’m what I’m talking about is the people.
Joel Anderson: Telling me the love man. Probably I watched them because Cavs you do the Cavaliers. So anyway, but you know.
Speaker 4: Speaking of guys who love to who love to shoot and I think they are absolutely going to hit a game winner every time. But but the idea here is that like in the central casting way and again, again, more movie metaphors, right? The person who everyone would point to and say that that’s an Asian kid like we haven’t had that at this size. And so. I think I think the the experiment is still ongoing, but it’s a bummer, man. Like I will say, I’m not optimistic about lessons learned as a as a natural cynic about, I guess, race in general, but also because, you know, it’s been ten years and I’m still talking about the same story. I wish there was the next chapter and it was not Jeremy and it was the next truly the next Jeremy Lin. But we haven’t had that. Not in the way that we’re describing.
Joel Anderson: So and this is I mean, because it let me know if this is a bad question, because it’s not like black people take any common cause from like a player coming from South Africa, you know, like from Cameroon. You know, it’s not like we’re like.
Speaker 4: Oh, sure.
Joel Anderson: Sure. I see a lot of ourself in that person. But, you know, I was in Dallas when. WANG You, you know, played with the Mavs. I covered Yao Ming and Houston. Is there any any sense of common cause among Asian-Americans from the except the success of, like, you know, players from China or, you know where.
Speaker 4: It’s it’s a really good question on some I will speak for myself more. I have not done the polling on this, but my instinct here, my feelings on this are absolutely you feel a kinship and appreciation. A a a smaller level of pride, though, and I say it in this specific way when we get to what we haven’t seen before, it’s about more than just winning the sort of like sized lottery, the hate lottery. You know, it’s like, again, I look at Yao and I think most 99% of Asian people look at Yao and they don’t see themselves because they’re not seven foot six or even you to Watanabe, who’s like a tall, like, forward, like it’s just like, what about the guy who reminds us of ourselves? And that’s where the guard kind of specification, the six three and under club, which is again ridiculous because six three is actually like real tall but that’s that will take it you know.
Stefan Fatsis: Well it’s also though he chose between Harvard and MIT for college right. It’s the success that that plays into the stereotype but also defies the stereotype at the same time.
Speaker 4: Oh, yeah. I mean, look, the model minority thing is a real it’s a real tricky thing to sort of like refute here, because he is absolutely a kid who got a perfect score to the jokes that have been made on his math, to see S.A.T. to write like he did go to Harvard. He’s like real smart. He is like mathematically prepared in ways that so many Asian-American kids we’re we’re we’re Tiger mom didn’t do to use the shorthand. Right But at the same time he he yeah he decided to go play basketball and so he is he is he is both the dream and the nightmare of anybody who has had Asian-American parents who are like, Well, why can’t you do all of this? Now?
Stefan Fatsis: The documentary on HBO is 38 at the Garden. Go watch it and go listen to everything that our guest, Pablo Torre, does on ESPN. Pablo, this was really fun. Thank you for doing it.
Speaker 4: Thank you guys for indulging me.