S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children. Hi, I’m Josh Levin, Slate’s national editor, and this is hang up and listen for the week of November 22nd, 2021. On this week’s show, we’re going to talk about the ripple effects in both sports and politics of the sexual assault allegations leveled by Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai. We’ll also discuss the resurgence of the Golden State Warriors. Remember them for the NBA team when a couple of titles? Murray Speights used to play there. And finally, Waterview King Richard, the new movie starring Will Smith as Venus and Serena Williams as dad. I’m in Washington, D.C. I’m the author of The Queen and the host of the podcast One Year. Season two a 1995 out now, please subscribe. Also in D.C., Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak A Few Seconds of Panic and Wild and Outside Hello Stefan Hello
S1: but are on your shirt today.
S2: Ken Griffey Jr. swinging
S1: Oh, nice.
S2: That’s sweet because he had a sweet swing worthy of a t shirt.
S1: I can’t argue there Joel Anderson is off this week, but that in no way reduces it perhaps even increases the imperative to in a slow burn season six on the L.A. riots, which is excellent and will remain excellent all the way through. So get on that. Filling in this week tying up Legend Staff Writer code theater critic for The New Yorker still shaking off the effects of Alex Caruso’s tight defense on Sunday night. It’s Vinson Cunningham. Great to have you here, my friend.
S3: Great to be here. I resent the Caruso talk immensely, but otherwise happy to see it.
S1: Earlier this month, tennis player Peng Shuai posted a message on the Chinese social media network Weibo. It said that the former vice premier of China had sexually assaulted her and that she then had what she described as a consensual relationship with him. She wrote Even if it’s like striking a stone with an egg and courting self-destruction like a moth to the flame, I will tell the truth about you. The post was taken down immediately. Discussion of it was censored, but word got out quickly in China and abroad, and speculation began immediately about Peng Enes well-being when she seemed to disappear. A statement released in her name by state run media only made it seem that she was in more peril. In that dubious statement, Peng allegedly said that her own sexual assault claim was untrue and that she hadn’t disappeared. That I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine. Stefan In the days since, Chinese state run media again has released more photos and videos of Peng, she reportedly took part in a video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach. But there are still serious doubts about her safety. The head of the Women’s Tennis Association, Steve Simon, has been one of the loudest voices here. He said he’s willing to pull the tour out of China entirely if there’s not a complete and independent investigation of her allegations. And this episode has also led to increasing calls for a diplomatic boycott or a full boycott of the Winter Olympics, which are scheduled for Beijing in February.
S2: You know, the first concern, of course, is Peng safety and the continued caution from some authorities. The WTA, the U.S. government mainly should make us all pretty wary about what’s going on. I mean, if you step back and look at what has transpired here, these allegations are not just against some Chinese government official. This is one of the highest ranking or was one of the highest ranking people in the Chinese government, and it is remarkable that Pong did this while in China. The second part of it is the response, of course, and what’s striking to me is the willingness of the women’s tennis tour to take on the Chinese government, where others, including the U.S. government and Big Tech companies and in sports. The IOC and the NBA haven’t been willing to criticize China for human rights and other abuses. There’s a lot of money at risk here for tennis. China has been a central part of the sports strategy. Something like 10 or 11 tournaments were scheduled to be played in China in 2022. And Steve Simon has said that China would pump a billion dollars into the sport in this decade. So it is a remarkable, I think, response that also indicates just how serious women’s sports need to take the well-being of women athletes.
S3: First of all, as you mentioned, I mean, the first order of concern and the thing I keep thinking about is Peng safety. It seems like a very scary situation that have happened so quickly, really. I mean, I think the allegations came out three weeks ago, and this has all been just a very sort of precipitous fall from there. But it strikes me that because sports involve personalities that we know and that we have to root for directly in the way that we don’t root for, I don’t know, various statement, the State Department officials that in some ways sports have to be less realpolitik about this than actual governments. So it’s like this weird position where, you know, if the WTA doesn’t do this, we kind of would have faulted them for not taking the stand more than we fault various governments for being in a sort of kind of hopscotching relationship with China. It seems untenable. I don’t know that at some point either. Many sports leagues around the world really are going to have to draw a bright line that sort of isolates China, the Chinese in sports more than they are in the global community. I can’t see how that all comes out in the wash at the I just it seems like there’s no destination to all of this because I can’t imagine how it gets better.
S1: So she was not an active player. Actually, she hadn’t played, I think, in a year, and her main accomplishments on the tour were in double. She was a world number one in doubles and she was a significant star in China, the first player, male or female, to be a top ranked in singles or doubles. But she’s not somebody who anyone who’s not a hardcore tennis fan or a Chinese person really would have heard of. And so I think to your point, Vinson, it’s not just that sports are personal when it comes to the stars and the players that we already know and so they can become personal even when we don’t, we don’t know who the people are going into the story. But, you know, focusing on the WTA because I think if it wasn’t for Steve Simon in their initial statement after the like, everything is fine. Nothing to see here. Thing that was released in Peng name after, you know, Steve Simon released a statement basically saying, We don’t believe this. That’s kind of where everything has escalated from, and I can imagine this having taken a different path. She wasn’t really an active player. The WTA has so much invested. In Asia and in China specifically, we’ve seen other commissioners, namely Adam Silver, make a much different choice. And so, you know, Stefan just back to the question of the women’s tennis of it all. Do you find it surprising what Simon has done here? And can you imagine this whole story having taken a different path, if not for the choices that they’ve made?
S2: I think the predictable path that it could have taken would have been one of cautious silence, right? Nothing too loaded. We are negotiating. We’re in touch with the U.S. government. We are hoping that this all resolves well. I mean, again, like you said, this is a thirty five year old player who was not super active and was never that never a prominent name. So the stakes for the women’s tennis in the West at least, so the stakes for the double WTA outside of China seem to be, you know, arguably were much higher for them to take a concerted and outspoken role here. I mean, you know, the the way it could have gone was the way it went with the NBA. I mean, the NBA still lost something like 150 to $200 million after Daryl Morey, who was then with the Houston Rockets, tweeted his support of Hong Kong protesters and the Chinese government went ballistic. So the silence would have been, you know, and a sort of very bland statement would have been the predictable outcome. But to go full bore indicates that to me anyway. I mean that the tour cares about the well-being of athletes and is sending a message to not only other countries, but to anybody that the the abuse and assault and and the and any sort of action against these players is intolerable. And that’s pretty brave. I mean, we don’t know the backstory entirely, so we have to take the WTA at its word. But this is an enormous business risk for them. At least it appears, you know, from the outside.
S1: What do you make Vinson of Enes Kanter kind of taking on the role of moral conscience here and writing an op ed in The Wall Street Journal saying that the Olympics should be boycotted and Peng name? This is the NBA player Turkish Erdogan critic now plays for the Boston Celtics, but he’s also been tweeting like extreme extreme invective towards LeBron James in particular, saying, You know, the China.• is that the Big Boss and the King isn’t isn’t calling it China.• because they’re, you know, they’re paying his his bills through their Nike. Like, what do you make of the A. Kanter of it all?
S3: It’s so it’s so strange. And. You know. And as Kanter has a very particular personality, but, you know, sometimes it takes a particular personality of perhaps a certain streak of unlikable stubbornness to be the person that stands up in situations like this. He famously and his Kanter was himself. His family was implicated and censured because of his outward speech on on Turkey, on the Turkish government, his own government or the government of his home country. So it’s hard to sort of give him a demerit for his sincerity in issues like this. He also, I don’t know if you saw he also made an appearance on CNN recently where he was like not only LeBron James, Michael Jordan has never done anything for him, for the black community because he wants, you know, to keep his sneaker deal. So he’s developed this real critique about sort of athletes in the sort of vise grip of their their their sort of corporate overlords as it relates to endorsements and things like this. And I don’t, you know, I don’t think that there’s anything that you can really. I mean, what can what what argument can you make? It’s true that LeBron James sort of not only stayed silent during the whole Hong Kong episode, but there are more. But, you know, kind of put himself in a position to scold Daryl Morey because you know you, you could have put people in trouble. You could have lost the NBA money. You know, there was a sort of backlash against Morey, who is, you know, got his own problems and is sort of a self-aggrandizing at times. But in this moment was correct, you know, so I don’t think you can really argue with Kanter, but it does put I imagine even his team in a strange position because the Celtics are not going to come out and say these things and they’re not going to put themselves even in a position to be agreeing with him, really. So it’s like the the the ultimate test of how free an individual is within within these leagues to speak out.
S1: Well, so we’re operating on like a couple of different novels here, like the first and most important one is about the actual atrocities that are being committed in China.• and by China.• towards the wiggers, towards dissidents, potentially towards Peng Shuai. And then there’s the political debates about what the United States and other governments should do about this. You know, the potential boycott of the Olympics is one of those things. And then you have the culture war debate. And I think what Steve Simon has done show and showing kind of an alternate path and an alternate history of like what how the NBA could have responded to Daryl Morey’s tweet. And the backlash, I think is going to be used to criticize the NBA by people who are inclined to do so by people in good faith and in bad faith. But I think it is fascinating to me that now we do have this kind of alternate real world example of somebody choosing a different path. And so it’s not actually hypothetical that you can look at a roughly similar circumstance. There are obviously differences, but a roughly similar one and see somebody making a very different choice
S2: and basically being willing to put the the money on the table
S1: and being praised by Ted Cruz for it, for instance, like right, right, like there is now. And I think there’s like a bipartisan kind of agreement that what the WTA has done is the right decision. I haven’t seen any kind of criticism of it at least, and I hate to be like it. It feels a little bit naive and I feel kind of bad to even say this. But like when you are saying like Stefan, well, they just really care about their players. It always makes me like, Hmm, is that really that? Really what’s what’s going on here? Like obviously the like as part
S2: of that message? Yeah, but instance.
S1: But maybe there’s actually a realization that from a financial perspective, this is actually there’s an enormous worldwide constituency for a league to have made this move an international sports organization, one that’s going to be celebrated politically and culturally in this country for having done this. It would be one thing if he was making himself a pariah in America by doing the right thing or making him a pariah in the West for doing this. But I think there are some going to be some good financial and marketing opportunities for the WTA coming out of this and positioning attention.
S2: State institutions don’t do this without a backup plan or. Ben Rothenberg noted in a piece on Sling for Slate that this is a good time for the WGA to reconsider its investments in China.•. There haven’t been any tournaments. There have been any international sports at all in China.• since the pandemic. There are no Chinese athletes, Chinese tennis players who are at the top of the game. There’s none in the top 50 in the WTA singles rankings and just three in the top 100, Ben pointed out. And it’s sports. There would be there’s always someone willing to fill the vacuum and host events and throw money at something as popular as women’s tennis. So strategically, this may be an opportunity for tennis to get out of a place that the world is saying you shouldn’t be in and not run that much of a financial risk.
S3: Yeah, part of that. I mean, and this is where it gets, I think a little tricky is that part of it is the structural differences between the WTA and the NBA, right, like the WTA is by its very nature, global. And therefore there is a way that something like the WTA can isolate one bad actor like China.•, right, and say the world of women’s tennis is against this. And right, there is a rallying effect that might redound to its benefit somewhere down the line. Whereas, like the NBA is a nice like we could imagine if it was like the, you know, National Tennis Association, like U.S. women’s tennis. And if it’s imperative, like the NBA’s were to like NBA’s. The NBA’s total imperative is to globalize in the way that the WTA is already global right there. And these very different situations where the NBA, it’s like in order for Adam Silver, his whole reason for being the commissioner at this point in time depends on the continued viability of this China.• thing, which I think puts them in a kind of moral vise. You know, it’s so funny. Even with this counter example, I’m not sure I could ever see the NBA doing this, which is, you know, and I’m not saying this to make an excuse. I think it’s that’s horrible. And and the morality of issues like this should override that sort of expansionary agenda. But and the other the other thing, of course, is the WTA in this situation has the the the rhetorical. Thing of saying, you know, it’s one of us. Somebody who played for who is a women’s tennis player is this is, you know, so this is our issue now where the NBA, at least the the outlines of the they’re they’re one great confrontation was, you know, some guy who lives in Houston tweeting about a political issue of which he is not necessarily personally a part. So. I don’t think the NBA is ever going to get out of this. I think the NFL would do so much better in deep, deep quotations, right? Because the NFL’s great big plan is not to globalize. Their plan is to have more games run in America, right? Like let’s have a twenty five game season, right? Like they’ll push this as far as they can go. But they don’t care as much about China.•. And they’re also they also want to stay on Ted Cruz’s good side because that’s a natural. So they won’t mind being a China.• hawk. I just think the NBA in some way is in the like. It symbolizes the sort of whatever you want. It’s like broad, left and right of center problem with China.•, which is that so many things in our world that exist cannot get done without the help or tacit permission of this hugely problematic power.
S2: And I think we should end Josh with the Olympics. The Winter Olympics are scheduled to open in Beijing in a couple of months, and the Olympics, of course, are the most namby pamby, mealy mouthed on the side of dictators and other awful people organization that the world maybe has ever known. So does any of this surprise you and do you feel like the IOC will just blithely sort of do what it does? Everything is safe. We will have a great games. We are apolitical. It is time for our peaceful two weeks of non politics.
S1: Well, just to tilt that question slightly on its axis, I mean, I think this was just incredibly ill timed from China’s perspective because this looming question of the Olympics, the when and the how of the Olympics is going to be hanging over this for months and putting pressure
S2: close, right? I mean, something is just way too
S1: close, putting pressure on China around the Peng situation and putting pressure on nations and political actors to do something. And there’s just something very clear that can be done where, you know, and maybe another time it’s just like, All right, well, what are we going to do about this? It’s not like we’re going to like, send in troops or anything to go rescue her. It’s just like, maybe it just ends. But with the Olympics hanging there, it’s just like such an obvious question around, well, if we’re not convinced of her safety, if there’s not an independent investigation, then you know, maybe we just won’t show up or there’ll be a soft boycott. Or maybe that’s what ultimately ends up happening is like, maybe Joe Biden doesn’t go, which I mean, if that’s the case, then who the hell cares? But it’s just this kind of escalating series of like fake. She’s OK. Moments has just been so creepy, and it’s just like, what is the next thing going to be like? She’s out in public in a glass box, like reading the the newspaper or something. I mean, it’s just feels hard to see this ending in a way that’s like mutually satisfactory. And so that’s why I think it’s just going to keep escalating with the Olympics as this looming deadline and the political pressure here is going to be immense from from all sides. I don’t know how it’s going to resolve, but it’s going to continue to be a big thing. Next, the resurgence of the Golden State Warriors.
S2: Last year, Steph Curry and Draymond Green carried the Golden State Warriors all the way to the State Farm NBA tournament play in game. Yes, that’s what it was called, where they lost to the Memphis Grizzlies. This was considered something of an overachievement. Kevin Durant was long gone Klay Thompson and suffered his second major injury in two years and the roster after Steph Injured. It was a bunch of spare parts and unfulfilled promise. And now, well, the Warriors. With Durant longer gone and Klay still recovering from his torn Achilles tendon, suddenly, are these statistical and eyeballed best team in the NBA after a 119 104 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night. The Warriors have a league best record of 15 and two. Curry is on pace to shoot a billion 3s and make like nine hundred ninety nine million of them. Klay is due back soon and their spare parts are playing more than well. On Sunday, Curry had a terrible shooting game, but Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins combined for 65 points. Vinson How surprised should we be by the new old Warriors?
S3: I mean, it’s it’s one of those things where it’s like, there should be no surprise at this point that Steph Curry is so good, even though you always kind of detect that it’s amazing that he’s still doing what he’s doing. There’s always a hint of wonder, but that should be no surprise. But what should be genuinely surprising, and you have to give them credit for it, even though they’ve been obnoxious about it in the past? I don’t know if you remember that. Warriors New York Times Magazine article. I think where they’re like, you know, light years ahead. But here we are, and they kind of look light years ahead. They’ve got the the old guys from the old core of the 16, 17, 18 minus Kevin Durand, of course. And then this young crop, the Jordan pools the coming as a newly sort of undead Andrew Wiggins. It’s amazing what they’ve done to sort of revivify this team from the bottom. And still, you know, now Klay is going to come back. Wiseman, another one of the part of this young cohort coming back. It’s amazing. And so as a feat of team building, I think we kind of should be surprised and should be impressed. I am. I am. They look awesome.
S1: They’re shooting more threes than they ever did, many more three than they ever did, both on a team level and on a Steph specific level. They’re playing number one defense in the league, which they were doing at the height of their powers. And you know, Draymond in particular, looks revived and is playing it like a defensive player of the year type level. And so interesting Vinson how they’ve faced this really challenging path of, you know, what do you do after Kevin Durant leaves and you have and Klay gets hurt and you have maybe half to two thirds. Of a great team, like do you go down to zero? Of a group of a great team? Or do you try to get up to 75 or 80 knowing that you’re you’re not going to get to 100? And it’s challenging to try to incorporate rookies and guys that are not on the proverbial timeline with a bunch of players who and like, I feel like Steph and Draymond are both player types that you wouldn’t think would age particularly well. It’s just been a really interesting path that they’ve taken. And then you look at this team and like, they don’t have, you know, a very old Russell Westbrook and like a bunch of like guys making the veteran minimum like they did it in a way that was like kind of trying to chart a middle course. And it seems like this is the year when it’s paying off for them.
S2: And they did bring back Andre Iguodala, which, you know, fits both. I think structurally, historically, you know, old head that knows what he’s doing and understands the franchise Vinson Yorker’s. Like how much should we be crediting their front office? And Steve Kerr, the head coach in particular? I mean, this feels like not just the juggling job, but a makeover that is paying off like immediate dividends in some ways. I mean, this is really
S1: just the genius of the genius of Joe Lacob, really. That’s just, I mean, you have to we have to credit the owner here.
S2: I did not credit the owner Josh. You just made that sarcastic comment. But, you know, throw out two years ago, right when the Steph was heard and they had the worst record in the NBA. And last year, like I said, look kind of like, you know, they’re going to be OK. Middle of the pack team, they just don’t have enough star power. The way that the Nets or the Bucks with, you know, with with with Giannis, do I
S3: think I mean, I think that they yes, the the management team of the Warriors has done a good job. It’s there’s no way to to really argue otherwise. But I think that they’ve done that with a great benefit, which is a super duper duper star who at his best is one of the five best players in the league, probably three best, whatever. I guess this comes down to taste, who kind of makes it impossible to go the down to zero route? I mean, I can’t even imagine a Warriors season unless it was under the cover of a huge Steph Curry injury again, right where it’s like he’s gone. OK, we’ll kind of reload a bit, but every time he’s out there, it seems like a waste not only of his talent, but a sort of wagging of the tongue in the direction of the gods to not be at full effort. So you have to be in and therefore the rest of it becomes a kind of perhaps simpler arithmetic. But you know, some of the basic blocking and tackling right, they’ve they’ve continued to draft well. They do things like you just mentioned, bring back Iguodala, who understands the system and then is great. I would imagine he seems to have taken. He and Draymond both seem to have taken commingle under their wing, especially you see them talking to him all the time. It really is all of the sort of culture things that we can usually kind of dismiss. When we talk about basketball, it seems like it really is there and it helps if like you’ve got the like a literal st as also one of the best players in the league who has signalled his desire never to leave your team. That’s a really good place to start. It seems to me so. Yeah.
S2: Steph Steph Steph signed a four year, $215 million contract extension in the offseason.
S3: Yeah, he’s he’s there. I mean, I think he takes it seriously. The whole stay there. Make a legacy thing. So I mean, that’s I mean, it’s such a luxury for the people whose job is to then figure out what the rest is.
S1: And they’re doing all this with James Wiseman being out all year so far, and you would think like I’m imagining a scenario where the Warriors got back to where they’d been after that lost season with stepping out. You would think, all right. Well, they got that number to pick. That must have been the reason that they were able to elevate themselves, and they didn’t get much from Wiseman last year. So, yeah, no, either. And so it’s, I think, still an open question about how he fits with that team. I mean, there could be a point where they cashman for something else, some some one else that better fits what they’re trying to do. Or maybe he’ll be amazing. I think that’s the big answered question, along with what version of Klay Thompson they’re going to be getting back when they get when they do get him back, which is around Christmastime. But like this team has been fascinating so far this year. They’re only going to get more fascinating. And if you look at the kind of, you know, you said Stefan statistically and just by record, they’re the best team in the league. If you look at projection systems, I think there’s still some dubious ness about the warriors given. You know, the scoring margin that a team like Utah’s putting up, given the like, you know, Phoenix is on this like ridiculous streak right now and made the finals last year and the
S2: schedule for the first eight or nine games of the season.
S3: Yeah, yeah,
S1: the Bucks are kind of just like coasting along, as you know, champions often do, but you think that they’ll be an enormous threat.
S2: Maybe Kyrie will get vaccinated.
S1: Maybe Kyrie could vaccine. I mean, there’s not. I think there is not reason to believe that the Warriors are title favorites at this point, but they are a huge threat to get out of that west, which again is like a just a huge shift and a major accomplishment for this team. And it just feels to me like. It’s crazy to even say this, but there’s just. More opportunities, I think, appreciate and understand how good Steph Curry is, even though we’ve seen him kind of in every scenario so far in his career, but the thing that I think I’m better understanding this year is like the interplay, because there’s like this critique of like Steph is not that great on defense, but he’s certainly improved on that and over his career. But like, he makes everyone so much better on offense just based on his presence on the court, like they’re so off and just playing five on four because of the need to have two guys shadowing him or covering him on the pick and roll. So that makes Draymond more not only more playable, but like a huge weapon on offense for them because of his ability to see the floor and everything that we know that Draymond Green does. But if you can make the best defensive player in the league who in some circumstances probably would be an offensive minus and some teams, if you can turn him by how good you are into an offensive plus like that, it almost feels like you’re underselling Steph to describe him as like playing at an MVP level because I think more than any other player in the league, he just can make his other teammates. It’s again, it’s like an understatement to say he makes them better. He, like, makes them amazing.
S2: Yeah. I’m not sure. I’m not exactly sure what these statistics are, but I read that Curry leads the NBA in screen assists and screen assist points, which sounds really important and impressive, and he’s among the top 15 guards in deflections and top 20 in steals. So all of those things point to making everybody else better, right?
S3: One of the things about the sort of stratification and ageism on this team is that, like you can see immediately, these guys who are young and who you know in other situations would perhaps be playing out of a certain insecurity about their place in the league. They’re just playing so hard because they want to live up to this thing that they’re it’s like it’s. It’s almost like being a spectator in a sort of sports movie. They watched it just like we did the 16 and 17 teams, and now they’re just there. Now they’re now they’re looking over and it’s Steph Curry that’s next to them. And so they’re just playing. I mean, the amount of effort and as always, like there isn’t like with the Warriors, unlike any other team, there is like an affective level to it because like, everybody’s having so much fun. I was so mad at myself, not for going, for not going to. The Barclays Center had a bunch of friends who were at Barclays when they played the Nets in that amazing game where by the end of the game, the you know, most of the crowd is cheering for Steph Curry to get 40 points and gasping every time he got the ball
S2: there were shouting MVP weren’t
S3: shouting MVP. I mean, it became pure entertainment of a kind that’s like hard as an opposing team to deal with. It’s just sort of it becomes a bonanza. And I mean, and he can he can do that. You know, Steph does that and he makes his teams part of that and it changes the game. I mean, it’s like it’s a way of creating a home court advantage. Anywhere you go.
S1: And I think winning winning creates that kind of joyful noise, as does style of play. But it’s hard to look at. The Warriors and then look at the Lakers and the Nets. And, you know, the Lakers and the Nets, maybe they still both have better odds of winning a championship, but doesn’t seem like they’re having that much fun right now. And it doesn’t seem like that much fun to be a fan of those teams that I mean, it feels a little bit like poor little, you know, poor little rich kid, you know, like, boo hoo. You know, you’re not having fun with James Harden and Kevin Durant or with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. And and then you get into this kind of slippery territory, Vinson, where you’re getting into like things like, you know, Oh, it’s it’s because the, you know, Steph stayed state and Golden State, and you get into these like questions of like values and culture that I think get into sort of dicey territory. But if you just look at it from a subjective point of view, at least in this moment, if we were to stop time, it’s like the Nets and the Lakers are not having nearly as much fun as the Warriors are Dub Nation.
S2: Yeah. And the other part of that, I think, is that over the last two years, I think fan appreciation of Draymond Green and who he is as a human being have has grown. I mean, he has demonstrated that he’s a really great voice for the game. He’s incredibly open and honest, and he feels a lot more likable. There’s less sort of the on court bullshit distraction that labeled the show that led people to label him as immature. And now we are seeing this sort of fully formed intellectual who is really good at analyzing basketball and feels like a good guy.
S3: Well, that goes to the the thing about like, you know, success and victory breeding atmosphere, because Draymond is the classic case of a guy who’s awful to work with when things are not going well, but great when they are, you know, and when he’s on a winning team, there’s almost nothing like it because first of all, you can see his intelligence manifesting itself on the floor. By this point, he and curry the the little dribble handoffs they do toward the top of the key and the little just a little sort of the way he negotiates the pick and roll with Steph. It’s amazing. And if you like basketball, it’s it’s there’s nothing like it. It’s like a dance. And I do think, you know, Josh, you mentioned the slightly dicey territory of like, you know, they stayed, you know, the player empowerment debates. Like if for a second you put those aside, there’s a level on which it’s just true that because they’re on the same team wearing the same colors and they know each other so well, continuity is a real thing in basketball and the sort of nostalgia effect. It’s like, wow, it’s just like they were six years ago and they’re coming back. That’s a narrative that very few other teams can claim, and it’s real. It’s real, not just for the fans of that team, but it’s real for me because I remember those games. I remember those teams I remember. You know, it’s the precious moment. And being a basketball fan is like when a new team is coming up and like, Oh, these guys, I mean, all of a sudden you have to grow a new consciousness for why you appreciate this instead of what’s come before. And for that to happen again is it’s amazing.
S2: Coming up next, we’ll review King Richard about Richard Williams and Venus and Serena.
S1: The story of the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena is one of the greatest. Not just in the history of modern sports, but in modern America, the remarkable rise of two number one tennis players from the same family who changed their sport both on the court and off and inspired others to follow their lead. The new movie King Richard tells the beginning of that story when their father, Richard Williams, took on conventional wisdom and the tennis establishment to guide his daughters from public courts in Compton, California, to the cusp of stardom. In this clip, Richard, played by Will Smith, talks to Venus. She’s about to make her pro debut
S4: this next step. You got to take. It would be hard for anybody. But for you, you’re not going to just be representing you, you’re going to be representing every little black girl first. And you won’t be the one guy to go through that gate. And I just never wanted you to look up and see your daddy friend in a way Vinson.
S1: There’s a lot for us to discuss about the movie, about the Williams family, but let’s start with did you like King Richard?
S3: I liked aspects of King Richard. It’s so interesting. Like it wanted to imprint a sort of classic sports biopic arc on a story that really was not that, you know, in some ways that it was breaking this new ground. And like we’ve all had in our mind, the archetypal figure of the US, the sports parent or the you can brought it out like this, the sort of child pushing parent like the pageant mom or things like this. There is this figure. And in that way, it’s really interesting, right? And so the Times’, when it let itself be that kind of story about this under-discussed kind of figure. I liked it. The times when it used the sports to impose a sports biopic arc, I was less interested in it because we kind of we understand that and it’s, you know, so but it was interesting. And Will Smith was, I will say, better than I thought he would be. I was worried about this and he was pretty good. He Levin a lot of that pathos that like from that that clip, you know, the stuff that like you kind of might expect to be in a story like this, the inspirational speech of which there were several but leavened it with like, he was really funny in parts of this. There was there was humor and there was there was also just a real sense of the sort of milieu that they were coming from a lot of the early stuff. You know him getting into fights with these neighborhood characters and stuff that was really interesting and that I thought, Will Smith and well,
S2: I think one of the questions about the film is how faithful to reality is it or would it be? The family was deeply involved in the production of the movie. One of Richard Williams’ other daughters, Aisha Price, was a lawyer, was deeply involved in the production. She was on the set all the time. Venus and Serena are listed as executive producers, I think. And the reality is that, you know, it seems pretty faithful. I mean, the the the image that we have had of Richard Williams for 20 years was of an overbearing tennis father, Levin, as you said, by these other factors and in their story, how he turned them into into exceptional athletes as when they were children, how he took on the tennis establishment. And, you know, I guess it could have gone further in terms of revealing some of his other flaws and indiscretions. But it’s not like Richard Williams comes off as the sort of perfect, inspirational sports dad who triumphed over adversity to create these two number one tennis players.
S1: Yeah, I think that’s true. I just found myself thinking so much about the Williams family and about the sisters coming out of this, which I think in one sense is like a commentary on the movie’s effectiveness. But I think in another, perhaps more accurate sense, I think the family is more interesting than the movie is. And that is and the questions raised about the family, I think, are just better answered in a venue that is not a biopic or any sort of treatment. Cinematic treatment that’s like non non documentary just because of, as you were alluding to, Vinson, just like the kind of genre conventions that even if you are not entirely beholden to them, they’re just like the guardrails are incredibly strong and in both the biopic and the inspirational sports movie genres that it can’t quite escape them. But like one question that I have that is maybe not even answerable in any genre, but I think is just so interesting is. Was Richard Williams’s plan, which is kind of touted repeatedly in the movie, it’s represented in this pamphlet that he sends to coaches. It’s represented as very kind of anti-establishment and being kind of underappreciated because of his race, because of his background. Was it actually instrumental in the success of his daughters? Or was what was detrimental, just like having them be on the court for long stretches of time from the
S2: age of five
S1: and any kind of circumstance and like to just sort of like broader, more generalized kind of support that he offered was actually pulling them out of junior? Would they have been hugely successful if they had played in junior tennis as opposed to having been pulled out? I think probably so. But again, Vinson, that’s just like not that. That’s a question that I think is like, important and fascinating, but it’s just not one that a movie like this could ever hope to answer.
S3: Yeah, in some ways it has to zoom past that question precisely because we need to be on the sort of path to ascent, right? Like early on we see, you know, he’s bringing them to. They walk into this beautiful tennis court and you see them there. They’re getting to see Pete Sampras and John McEnroe up close as Richard’s about to make this great overture to San Francisco to get get them, but eventually just Venus sort of coached by him. And, you know, so it’s got to seem like a product of the plan, and it’s got to seem it’s got to be moving up these rungs. So. You know, in some ways, the great movie would be sort of like. Long, meditative look at those years before any of that ever happened, right? Like the ages of five to 15 or whatever, just all of that time it would take like, you know, I sort of, I don’t know, a sort of Fred Wiseman approach, right? A seven hour movie of just like stroke after stroke after stroke, that would. That’s that’s what that’s where the mystery is, right? Well, we all want to know about athletes is like, what is the meaning of genetics and practice and preparation and mindset? I think mindset is one thing that’s really interestingly at least portrayed if now scoured in this, because it’s like every moment he’s like, You can have this house, you’re going to have this house, you’re going to be the like if you believe at all and sort of like the power of positive thinking or whatever, like he’s this is something that actually gives you something to think about.
S2: Are the people of a domineering parent? I mean, yeah, but you know, you have to get A’s aren’t good enough. You have to get a pluses. Venus was already learning four languages because she’s going to be prepared to play internationally. Right, right. My children can have there is no second that will go wasted in their in their childhoods. The drive, I mean, this is this is a male centered film, right? This is that was a movie about a man dominating these, these young women. And there is the sort of requisite one scene of pushback from Richard’s then wife, the girls, the girl’s mother, or a scene where they have it out in the kitchen with the girl sitting on the stairs listening from afar. But largely, this is a vindication for the way that Richard Williams chose to turn his daughters into into athletes. And it is so sort of justification of his 85 page pamphlet.
S3: Yeah, and and, you know, not even just turn his daughters into athletes, but like create them with the express purpose, like to like, embark on a project from conception. You know, it’s it’s mind boggling.
S1: Yes. I mean, I mean, just talking about how it portrays Richard as an imperfect man. I mean, there are some things that it doesn’t portray. I mean, in the slate, what’s fact and what’s fiction that Alan Stone put together notes that Richard Williams took away his wife’s birth control pills because he wanted these two other daughters that he has a whole other family. And this is kind of touched on lately in the movie, another family that he completely abandoned and never, you know, I think it was like five children under the age of eight who he just never spoke to again. And so there is a certain level of like, you know, you hate to use the word likability because it’s just become so fraught in any kind of discussion of television or art or film. But there’s a certain level beyond which you’re not going to sympathize with this character, and they certainly don’t go beyond that level. But just like the levels of complexity of the real life story, the levels of just remarkable kind of achievement. And and and I say that’s an introduction, but to me, one of the most just amazing and beautiful things about their story is just how as opposed to, you know, the Tiger Woods and all that he was supposed to augur and promise, it’s just like the sport just looks so different than it did when they started. And it’s entirely because of them and all of the the players who came after them credit them. And they’re so kind of Venus and Serena, I think, feel so grateful and honored. But it’s just it all kind of goes in both directions. And so I actually thought it was a smart choice by the movie to end where it ended. Not with some amazing, you know, now with Serena winning the U.S. opener versus winning Wimbledon or something like that, but with Venus kind of losing her second pro match. But for me, like the their story is just like going to be going on for decades beyond. Mm hmm. When they start well, it does carry it. You can carry it forward forever.
S2: Isn’t one of the interesting things about the Williams sisters that Richard Williams in the end created these really good people. I mean, they turned out, well, there is no act here. There hasn’t been yet as in time with Tiger Woods, where there is a tremendous public letdown. I mean, sure, on court Serena criticism. Tantrums. But as people. It does feel like the effort that Richard Williams and Augustine Price put into making sure that Venus and Serena were more than just tennis. And the film is, you know, pretty explicit about that, where we see the sort of the rich White Country Club parents yelling at their daughters during matches against against Venus. You know, that feels like it’s paid off, that these are ambassadors to sports like you, said Josh, whose effect is going to be, you know, eternal in tennis.
S3: Yeah, I mean, in some ways, this the most interesting thing about the movie is that the sisters wanted it made. You know that they that this was an experience. That they wanted to memorialize and thought of think of as part of their own in some ways because of the, you know, it’s strange because of the way that their father brought them, their parents brought them into the world with this sort of intention means that they really, you know, their story really is an extension of his to the extent that, like we all say that about our parents. But in this way, that’s a kind of a different and perhaps more literal thing. And so for them to, you know, some of the criticism, some people have criticized the fact that this movie exists at all, right? Because why would we be talking about this man who was their father instead of these amazing athletes? And of course, the answer to that is like, they’re so involved they wanted it to be. And so that’s interesting. Of course, it brings into effect also the thing the Josh as it’s just like because they brought it into being. They also are curating it in a certain way. That perhaps does reflect their experience, though, because if all that other stuff, this other family, other things like that were on the periphery of their father’s mind were kind of shunted aside by him. There were necessarily shunted aside by them. In some ways, this is very like perhaps phenomena logically correct, right? Like this is this is what their life was them and their dad and their mom and their sisters moving in this direction. Right. And so if you think about it as a chronicle of someone’s experience, perhaps it’s, you know, perhaps it feels less invasive or something like that. Maybe it’s like, this is what it was like.
S1: And we should have say a few words about that young actresses who played Venus and Serena Sonia certainly played Venus, Demi Singleton plays Serena and I thought they were. They were both quite excellent and they did a good job. I think in that movie through now, obviously, they trained, but also just through movie magic, making the tennis seem realistic or at least not standing out as being being realistic, but just the uncanny. There is an uncanny nest, especially Demi Singleton, who played Serena. And there’s just something I think in any movie like this where it just she just seems like Serena like she looks like her ass
S3: outside of
S1: the voice. Sounds like her. Just it looks like you’re looking at a young Serena Williams and like the Sampras and that and the McEnroe and the Arancha Sanchez victory, I’m like that. Those people do not look like those. Now I was like, those people do not look like people that that took me out
S3: of the makeover. I thought Matt kind of looked like I thought Mac was more. But yes,
S1: but when you’re when you have adults, I think there’s just going to always be, you know, no matter, no matter how good the likeness says, it’s always going to be something. You know, it’s clear that it’s that it’s a movie and then it’s the dark thing. But with it, with the kid, you can kind of suspend your disbelief where you can interact. And that was that was one of, I think, the small pleasures of that of the movie.
S2: I will say one last point on this is really for Josh that I went back and I looked up the climactic match where 14 year old Venus plays Arancha Sanchez Vicario in the second round of that tournament in her debut. And the the dramatic moment in the film is that Venus is up a set and three one and Sanchez Vicario takes a ten minute bathroom break to to filibuster her that did not the most dramatic battery life,
S1: the most dramatic bathroom break in cinematic history.
S2: The New York Times account just says that Sanchez Vicario, correctly sensing it was time to get her own game into overdrive, did just that. In fact, she composed herself again so completely that she shot Williams out the remainder of the match at three one. I thought she was a little tired, and I knew that was the moment to start playing my game if I wanted to win, not at three one. I was totally flustered and decided just try to psych her out by going to the bathroom.
S1: Justice for Arancha Sanchez, because
S2: she was the one that should be pissed about this film. I wonder if they got her approval to turn her into into a villain.
S1: The part of the Richard Williams story that is so fascinating and strange there wasn’t in the movie that I think actually could have been in the movie without having to make any kind of major changes or compromises is the fact that he actually moved the family into Compton. This idea, and he has set it that like the ghetto makes champions and like Muhammad Ali, grew up in the ghetto. And so I’m going to move my family there to help, you know, toughen them up. And that’s not. We don’t get that sense in the movie. We just get the sense that like this is where they live and this is where they are. But it’s like such. I feel like that fact more than anything else has helped me understand Richard Williams and I think would be in keeping with the portrait that this film is is building out. And so it’s like slightly just when I was reading these like what’s fact and what’s fiction afterwards? And I was reminded of that. I was like slightly disappointed that they had not made the choice to include that in the movie.
S2: But wouldn’t it undermine the idea that that it was something to grow out of, right? Because he repeats over and over and again in the movie that I don’t want you to, you know, look at this house, look at that house, look at this house you can get out of here. I think I would have been confusing for viewers, but yeah, it is a fascinating is
S1: a confusing guy. I mean, it’s a it’s a it’s like people are confusing.
S2: And now it is time for after balls. I spent part of Saturday watching the National Women’s Soccer League final between the Washington Spirit and the Chicago Red Stars. And it did not disappoint. Washington came from behind to win two to one, capping a tumultuous season that saw the team’s former head coach fired for verbal and emotional abuse. A league investigation of the club’s sexist culture, ownership turmoil and even two COVID related forfeits. The big star of the game was Trinity Rodman. Yes, that is Dennis’s daughter. The 19 year old Rodman was the league’s number two pick, the youngest player ever drafted and rookie of the year, and she absolutely bossed this game in the second half. Some deft footwork and subsequent pass led to Washington’s first goal on a penalty kick. She had a long range screamer off of the post and then in extra time in the 97th minute. She asked a stunning cross-field pass that national team defender Kelley O’Hara headed in on the run for the game winner. Rodman is the future. She’s fast, she burns people with the ball and she is fearless. As for her father, being Dennis Rodman’s kid obviously has not been easy. Dennis showed up at a playoff game in North Carolina last week, which was a surprise because, as Trinity wrote on Instagram afterward. My dad doesn’t play a big role in my life at all, and most people don’t know that we don’t see eye to eye on many things. I go months, if not years. Without his presence or communication, she said she was shocked, overwhelmed, happy, sad everything that he came to the game. But Rodman also has said that being Dennis’s daughter motivated her earlier this year, she told Caitlin Murray of The Guardian. You could say it put a fire under me more than pulling me down. I was more in the mindset of rather than saying, Oh, this is annoying. I don’t even have a name. I was more like, Oh, I’ll show these people. I’m an individual and I’m going to develop in soccer like he did in basketball. So I think I’m more driven because of it. But Trinity Rodman also has made it clear who raised her her mother, Michelle Moyer, who separated from Dennis Rodman in 2004, a year after they were married. Having a dad like I do, no one asks about my mom because she’s obviously not an NBA star. But I just want people to know that my mom’s been my support system and everything in life, and she’s my best friend and my rock, she told Caitlin Murray. I did a little digging, and one of the first mentions of Trinity Rodman that I turned up was from a 2011 story in the Detroit Free Press about the ceremony where the Pistons retired Dennis’s number 10 jersey. I just read from Drew Sharp’s column about that day. Nine year old Trinity Rodman appeared confused when looking at photographs of her father during his early piston days before the body painting and facial piercings. She looked up at her mother. That’s your daddy! Michelle assured her daughter. It doesn’t look like him, the little girl said. Anyway, I can’t wait to see Trinity Rodman on the national team. And if things progress as they could at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, she actually was called up for two friendlies in Australia next month, but declined for unspecified reasons. So we’re going to have to wait to see Megan Rapinoe as a potential successor on the USWNT Josh. What’s your Trinity Rodman?
S1: We talked earlier in the show about the possibility of a diplomatic boycott, maybe even a full-on boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Obviously, a full blown boycott would mean no American athletes going to Beijing. But what’s less obvious or what was less obvious to me, is what that would mean for the American television audience. Last time there was an American Olympics boycott was in 1980 at the Summer Games in Moscow when I was four months old. So I haven’t retained much about basketball player Sergei Bella’s lighting of the Olympic cauldron. But even if I was sentient, I doubt I’d know much because the 1980 Summer Olympics were barely seen at all on American television. NBC won the exclusive American broadcast rights for the 1980 Games for a record $87 million. That was four times the fee that ABC had paid to air the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal. It was to be the second ever Olympics for NBC following the 1972 Winter Games, with a plan for one hundred and fifty two and a half hours of programming, which was double what ABC had done at the 76 summer games. Dick Enberg was scheduled to host NBC’s on air. Talent was going to include Bryant Gumbel, Donna Verona and O.J. Simpson. NBC was sending six hundred and sixty people to Moscow in total. Ads were going for $130000 a minute. NBC claimed it was going to gross $200 million. Instead, the. I work lost a reported thirty four million and it aired a grand total of zero hours of special programming, choosing just to drop occasional Olympics highlights into regularly scheduled newscasts. Now it is the time when the after ball when I ask Stefan Fatsis what he remembers about the 1980 Summer Olympics on television.
S2: I was 17 years old. I don’t remember much, to be honest, which maybe is because I didn’t watch much of it because it wasn’t really on TV that much.
S1: Thank you for providing confirmation that I needed that. NBC sent 50 people instead of six hundred and sixty, with a spokesman saying that any filming they did will be primarily for historical use. Dick Enberg, who was going to be the host, said It’s a little like having a three and a half year gestation period and then having someone come along and take away the baby. The Canadian broadcasting company similarly took its coverage plans down to zero, but East Germany went big. They aired 12 hours a day of coverage, even more than Moscow’s 11. If you’re so inclined, you can watch the official film of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics on YouTube. It’s titled Oh Sport, You Are Peace, and it won the state prize of the USSR in 1882. There’s footage of the opening and closing ceremony. There’s a bunch of sports stuff in between, and I was as I was fast forwarding through it, I found what I think, and we’re going to have the ultimate judge here. And second, what might be the absolute peak moment in the history of sport, craft behaviour and commentary? As a sound from Otto Simsek, director of the International Olympic Academy. Take it away, Otto.
S5: It’s a pity it’s not. All countries have participated, and it is most probably due to the political interference in sports which we are trying to avoid because in accordance to the Olympic principles. There should not be any discrimination of political or religious race or any other kind of discrimination between people.
S2: Oh my God, that ticks every sport, a crap box. Josh Congratulations.
S1: So we did not get American athletes in the Summer Olympics in 1980. We barely got any Summer Olympics athletes on American television in 1980, but we did get that. So we’re not completely empty. And so even if NBC ends up tossing the two and a half billion dollars it spent on the 2022 games down the drain, there is still hope that we might all be entertained. But it’s that no Vinson two and a half billion dollars that suggests there might be some soft diplomacy going on behind the scenes from from our friends and the National Broadcasting Company.
S3: Somebody is working very hard to figure this out right now.
S1: Yes. Yes. That is our show for today. Our producer is Kevin Bendis, close in the past year and subscribe or just reach out to Slate.com Flash hang up. You can email us at Hang-Up at Slate.com. And please subscribe to the show and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Vinson Cunningham, Thank you.
S3: Thank you. It’s great to be here
S1: for Vinson and for Stefan, Fatsis and Josh. Levin remembers. I’m a baby, and thanks for listening. Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. And who else could we be talking about here? Then the legend, the living legend, Carmelo Anthony Vinson, there’s a I guess, Carmelo Injured the the new respect phase of his career and yes, Portland after, you know, getting kind of dumped from the NBA and having the indignity of having to go on first take with Stephen A. Smith to basically plead for the continued existence of his career. You know, he had moved past that with his strong performances in Portland. But this season with the Lakers, maybe it’s because of just being a more high profile gig. Maybe it’s because he’s shooting forty five percent from three and basically being the kind of one consistent force that this team has had. And it’s like nine and nine slog to season. I mean, he’s like healthy and available and shooting well, every game. This is the kind of, you know, if there was like new respect for Carmelo, I feel like the amount of respect has increased by by a large degree this year.
S3: Yeah, I mean, you’ve seen a lot of people. I think there was a Josh Mirante tweet that was like, Wow, they really tried to get Melo out of the league like other players are now just sort of piling on this respect. And so, you know, using it as a as a chance to sort of poke not only at the sort of basketball establishment, but the media as well for sort of having written Carmelo off. I think, you know, this is in some ways, the the player empowerment version of what we talked about before with the Warriors in their ongoing story, right? Because Melo and LeBron is like a sort of place agnostic, team agnostic story that’s been going on since 2003. These guys first sort of pitted against one another in a way in terms of who would be the best player out of that draft.
S1: But once then before that, they played their teams played against each other in high school.
S3: Right. It’s been going on for such a long time. And so and you know, maybe it’s in the middle of their careers when it first starts being a thing of maybe they could play together. But this seems to be the culmination of so many strands of really the sort of this century in basketball that it’s such a great story. It’s enticing in that way. And then Carmelo Anthony is also doing something that we’ve been wanting him to do since, you know, for the last 10 years. You know, there once was a man named Olympic Carmelo, a guy who would sort of be off the ball and take three pointers and sort of use all of his the wiles that he once used to go one on one to just sort of pick his spots. And that’s exactly what he’s doing, and it works really well. So I’m I’m not excited about the Lakers in many ways, but I’m excited about this because. You know, I think it’s a great a fitting perhaps end or beginning of the end to this story.
S1: So I should have mentioned at the top that Vinson, you did a great interview with Thank Melo for The New Yorker a couple months ago that was pegged to the release of his memoir, which is called Where Tomorrow’s Aren’t Promised, A Memoir of Survival and Hope and you guys had a conversation about basketball and his upbringing and life. Everybody should read it. It was a really great interview. And so, yeah, Stefan, what are what are your questions for Vinson about Carmelo Anthony?
S2: And that’s what I that’s where I was going to go. I mean, the your interview is so far ranging and it’s fascinating and it reveals what I think we’ve come to learn about Carmelo Anthony, particularly in the last decade, right? Just how where he came from, why he’s willing to talk about it and what it’s meant to him. And you know, this is part of, I think, the recalibration that a lot of fans do when they decide to let themselves become exposed to the real lives of athletes that we think we know but actually don’t. I mean, this is a fascinating life he has led and and how he is sort of how he, as a high school student, really took agency for it and made the kind of decisions he did, both in terms of going to college and leaving college and everything that he was criticized for. Back then, when he was 18 years old.
S3: Yeah, I mean, he has, you know, talked about his life and snatches it. I’m think anybody knew just how tough his his upbringing was and how much loss he he suffered. You know, in the earliest parts of his life. But it’s also true that all the. And in a way that I can’t really think of, maybe Stephon Marbury fits this bill, too, because he was such a famous high school player. And the narrative around him was starting up in, you know, organs like the New York Daily News well before he ever touched an NBA court as a player. But the themes that run through Carmelo Anthony his NBA career started in his life so much before he got to the NBA. You know, he talks about being pitted against other players on his high school teams in a way that echoes the way that he’s pitted against LeBron. He talks about the, you know, the basic how he feels. He’s been sort of misunderstood his whole sporting life because of how he dressed, how he looked, sort of the background that he came from. So if he seems sometimes, you know, overly defensive or overly willing to paint himself in the corner of a victim of, you know, various coaches or other players or whatever, you can see why. Because well before there was an equally powerful, adoring public for him to lean on. There were coaches and other people who were kind of really down on him. And so I think, you know, he’s in a stage of context setting of putting some of that out there and seeing what it yields. I mean, I don’t think that I think he’s one of the last. He and LeBron are some kind of the end of an era of like incredibly and sort of secretly predatory pre professional careers. They’re still predatory, but now we all kind of know it. And so in some ways, he’s giving us a kind of artifact of like a sociological artifact.
S1: So in the interview, he told you, I’ve always been the villain by default. I don’t know why. Do you agree with his kind of perception there that he’s always been the villain? And if so, do you actually have a theory as to why?
S3: I think he in in the in that section of the interview, he actually offered a pretty interesting analysis, which was that, like the NBA had in many different ways suffered through the cultural prominence and phenomenon that was Allen Iverson, like they had dealt with this sort of countercultural force that brought, you know, you can really date this back, I guess, to the Fab Five. But like bringing hip hop culture and bringing fashion and things into the league in a way that felt uncontrollable by these, like largely white owners and executives, people like David Stern, of course, being the great symbol of all this. And that Carmelo in his dress, in his carriage and his demeanor in some ways represented a kind of flashback that I’m certain that certain corners sort of dislike. I think there’s some merit to that, but I
S1: do because he had cornrows or
S3: cornrows, and Mike and he was like, I don’t know, do you remember how big his pants used to be in
S2: his pants?
S3: Yeah, yeah. I mean, he I mean, he was like the early aughts baggy jeans phenomenon. He is like the great parachute of that fat, that era. But and so things that weren’t were on put him in the Hall of Fame. But I think he also did have a defensiveness about the LeBron thing because it became very clear, very early on that there wasn’t really a competition of who was going to be the more the better player. And so I think he brought that analysis into the sort of more grounded conversation of, no, obviously LeBron is better. So I think he has I think, you know, you can read some hard feelings about that into some of those comments. And you know, the way he worked his way into the Knicks, his ongoing, you know, I think that George Karl is way out of line for the way he continues to poke at Carmelo even now. And just like obviously detests him in this way, that’s so intensely personal. But obviously, you know, he he pushed his way out and made himself difficult in order to get a an outcome that he wanted. And I think he wanted to escape from that totally scot free. And that was never in the offing, really. I’m glad that he did it because I’m glad that you play for the New York Knicks. And he’s right that there have been other people who have done things like that we have totally forgotten about. It feels like James Harden and Houston was like, it feels like years ago. But partially, that’s because someone like Carmelo Anthony paved the way for that. So you don’t get to. You don’t get to chart your own course and be the good guy. Right, so there’s a bit of that wanting to have it both ways.
S2: He says that he embraced the idea of a villain like like, if that’s how you want to portray me against LeBron or against whoever. Fine. I’ll just be that. And there does feel like in reading the interview Vinson, there’s a lot of a sort of a fuckwit acceptance on Carmelo part as a coping mechanism for things that have happened to him, whether it’s the way he was treated in Denver or what happened in Houston, or how New York fans embraced and ultimately rejected him. But also on the personal side, what he went through as a child and the loss he suffered, the deaths that he suffered as a kid. And he gets really introspective, I assume, in the book, but also in the interview when he says that nobody really told me how to, you know, how to think or act or feel that it was OK to cry, says, let that shit out. Nobody told me it was cool to cry. Nobody told me was cool to be emotional. Nobody told me that I was cool to be vulnerable. Nobody never told me that.
S3: And you know, this goes to the sort of tell of televisual and narrative aspects of NBA stardom, such as it is right. He because he had had to deal with like a lot of really traumatic things as a child and not to say that this isn’t true of LeBron or anybody else. A lot of the people that we like to watch play basketball have had some tough childhoods, but his particular mode of coping with that was not the sort of. Questing, I’m going to feel bad about losing and public thing that we all sort of associate with this sort of post of Michael Jordan. This guy really wants it ideal. You know, we could see LeBron agonizing over not having won a championship until he did. And this, in some ways played into the narrative aspects of his quest. Whereas Carmelo more, as you know, now we can see more as a coping strategy than anything else. Always had a smile was like ready to move on to the next thing. And this was his way of dealing, and that had always been his way of dealing, but left an impression often of somebody who was nonchalant and didn’t care about winning and yadda yadda yadda,
S2: because fans of lots of Fatsis indifference when it’s going
S1: well, how might I mean, this sounds stupid. But I think that there’s some validity to it. How much of the perception of Carmelo, both as a basketball player but also just like as a person, is centered around the fact that he is not good at playing defense and just doesn’t seem to care about playing. I mean, I feel like that becomes a proxy for like how much you care. And there is the sense, accurate or inaccurate, that he’s never cared enough to be a good defensive basketball player.
S3: I yeah, there’s I think that that’s part of it. Sure. Yeah, absolutely. And. I don’t know. I think that just goes directly to Carmelo Anthony is like taste and interest and like why? I mean, he is, you know, I like him because he is a sort of stylist, you know, and I think that he his his tastes and interests more than most go into how he approaches his life on the basketball court. So he’s like, you know, bucket’s interests him. You know, that like his interest in that and it comes through. And it’s a fair. It has always been a fair criticism. The question is whether to what extent the defense then becomes a mechanism for a larger for attitudinal things, right? Well, and you know, yeah.
S2: On the other hand, he’s number 10 on the all time scoring list that’s out.
S1: That’s like, that is so nuts.
S3: It’s not. He’s number 10. You know, it’s like, that’s incredible. And I don’t think that and largely because of the era in which he has played. I don’t think that that has gotten focus commensurate with like how serious an achievement that is.
S1: Well, thank you. Vinson again for during the show, there was always love having you. And we will link to that interview in our show notes. And thank you, Slate Plus members. We’ll be back with more next week.