More HoopsHype Rumors
July 8, 2020 | 10:56 pm EDT Update

July 8, 2020 | 9:37 pm EDT Update
The declaration harkened back to a teenaged Kobe Bryant, Oakley shades resting on his shaved head, cocksurely announcing that he was skipping college to join the NBA. But it lacked all of the youthful charm, naivety replaced with narcissism in the eyes of many who watched the audacious spectacle unfold. James’s “Decision” remains one of the glaring blemishes on a relatively pristine career that has already reserved prime shelf space among the greatest to ever do it. The show became a Maury-Povich-style, made-for-TV breakup from a championship-starved city that adored and worshipped him in an unhealthy way. In dumping his frumpy long-time love for a prettier, sexier alternative offering rings and things, James immediately and reluctantly became the NBA’s resident villain.
For those who happened to be in the building when James sat uncomfortably in that purple and white gingham shirt across from reporter Jim Gray – engaging in tedious small talk and empty platitudes before turning the league on its head – the moment still resonates a decade later. They’ve had visitors walk onto the court looking for the place where James became a meme. They recall the awkward silence when the mystery team was revealed, the boisterous sound of angry New York Knicks fans outside smashing bottles in frustration with James coming so close to their home to deliver a rejection. They remember that the only time James expressed any joy that night was when he was waving at kids and smiling during commercial breaks.
”I actually felt bad for LeBron James,” DeAngelo said of his observations of the evening, “because I just got a sense that he was disappointed that he got talked into doing it that way. He was really uptight and nervous. I could be wrong but when I looked at him that night, I remember thinking, ‘If he could’ve done this differently, he would have been at his house and been on his sofa and maybe done it that way.’ I didn’t talk to LeBron about that, but it was just kind of weird. And he really didn’t overcome that until he won a championship. I just got a sense that he wasn’t really happy about how it played out.”
James needed to experience a different way of doing things. He needed an organization to tell him “no” sometimes. He needed to learn how to win. Two titles in four years delivered all of that, and Cleveland ultimately benefited from it, too. It may not have felt like it at the time, but Miami and Cleveland both won on July 8, 2010. Cleveland lost everything it had that night in order to win so much more six years later. We just didn’t know it at the time. LeBron was right. Everybody won because of it.
Later this month, the NBA will finally return to action after four and a half months at rest, inside the semi-permeable bubble at Disney World. Major League Baseball and the WNBA will return around that same time. Both American soccer leagues, the MLS and NWSL, will have been back for weeks. The leagues will face scrutiny unlike any other time in their history as they try to play amid a global pandemic. While the United States tries to stabilize itself as the novel coronavirus spreads, jumping from one epicenter to another, sports will make the biggest bet yet: That it can out-smart the virus long enough to play some semblance of a season for each of the respective leagues.
Storyline: Coronavirus
Locker rooms, and clubhouses, are central to any team. They are changing rooms and meeting rooms. They are destinations for players when they get to the arena and the last port before they leave. They are meant for uplifting moments and for killing time. For pregame speeches and halftime adjustments. They are also usually small, enclosed spaces that cluster dozens of people together for prolonged periods of time, encouraging them to feel at ease. In normal times, that is ideal; a place that can feel like a comfortable salon for the professional athlete. During a pandemic, it seems like a petrie dish for the spread of the virus.
The NBA’s best arenas Madison Square Garden (New York Knicks) It’s the Mecca for a reason, right? It doesn’t matter how bad of a team James Dolan and the New York Knicks put out on the floor. That arena is a thing of beauty, and it feels important to be there when basketball is going on. Guys like LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, and James Harden love to play there because it feels like it means something to do something special on that stage. The Knicks have the lowest win percentage in the NBA over the last 18 years, and yet people still flock to this arena. It’s the best cathedral we have when it comes to the feeling and ambiance of an NBA arena. Now if only Dolan could get out of his own way and give the loyal fans something to care about in that building.
The NBA’s worst arenas AT&T Center (San Antonio Spurs) The arena in San Antonio is not convenient to get to, it’s not aesthetically pleasing, and you’ll be lucky if you can connect to the internet at all to post an Instagram story or try to tweet about the game while you’re there. I remember going there in 2014 for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The crowd was insane because they were wrapping up their fifth title since 1999, and this team was obliterating the Miami Heat in the process. Even with those great circumstances in its favor, that building was a mess and the true fun of the celebration didn’t happen in that building at all. It happened in other parts of the city, which took roughly an hour to get to. This arena is an awful setup and it ran away with voting for the worst arena.
I don’t remember who told me about “Loose Balls”. I just know that once I started thumbing through it, I couldn’t put Terry Pluto’s 1990 book back on the shelf. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the book that didn’t just define the old ABA, it celebrated the long ago defunct league in all its crazy glory. I never got to watch a game of the American Basketball Association, but I know this book has more to do with me wanting to become a writer and author than anything else I’ve ever read.
Bob Costas, former play-by-play announcer, the Spirits of St. Louis: Terry did a really good job of talking to the right people, selecting the quotes, organizing them, and presenting a real sense of how weird, wonderful, funny, dopey that whole spectrum that the ABA was, and how it was maybe the last sports league that has any elements of legend about it because most of the stories are word of mouth. Some people saw the same thing in different ways with different perspectives, whereas now everything’s documented.
July 8, 2020 | 8:03 pm EDT Update
July 8, 2020 | 5:03 pm EDT Update
July 8, 2020 | 4:17 pm EDT Update
July 8, 2020 | 3:44 pm EDT Update
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