At 7:30 tonight the Lakers tip off a new season, taking on the Clippers and spending the next nine months defending their NBA Championship title. The opening week of Laker ball is as familiar a fall ritual to me as Halloween. Growing up, we loved basketball at my house, and we loved the Lakers. We had the requisite hoop attached to the garage, but our family’s driveway was barely deep enough for a car, let alone a court. My brother extended our play area by spray painting the outline of a full court onto the street. (Remarkably, the asphalt police never came calling.) We spent hours working on our sad sky hooks and swishing free throws, but nothing excited me more than watching my brothers and their friends perform a successful alley-oop. It’s still my favorite play.
In the November 2009 article, “He Shoots, He Scores,” contributing writer David Davis interviews Bill Simmons, the enormously popular “Sports Guy” columnist for ESPN. Today Simmons’s new 700-plus-page behemoth The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy is being released. Simmons is wry, smart, abrasive, and full of opinions—the ideal qualities of a sports columnist. He moved to L.A. from Boston to be a writer for The Jimmy Kimmel Show and decided to stay, despite disliking the Lakers and the Clippers. In his interview with Dave he admits that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was “my least favorite player growing up. He was an aloof, unfriendly guy with the sky hook, the most amazingly effective shot we ever saw.” Yet he ranks Kareem—and for that matter, Magic Johnson—ahead of Larry Bird on his list of basketball’s greatest players. “It tore my heart out and stomped on it,” he tells Dave, “but there was no other way.” You got that right, Simmons. Game on.