A Letter To Bill Simmons: The Book Of Basketball Review
I just finished your book, The Book of Basketball, and I decided to send you my personal review, a critique of sorts, from an amateur book critic (and by amateur, I mean: no credentials, no publications, and absolutely no interest in becoming a book critic). Being a die-hard Lakers fan, I've always disliked you, but since buying your book, and using that 32 dollar receipt as my bookmark, I've come to hate you even more (you were expecting a compliment after the word "book" weren't you? Admit it). I hate you, but I love you, in the least homoerotic way possible (That is the best backhanded compliment I can give you). I love your prose, your cynicism, your history of the game, and the way you blew the Celtics so hard, you made your own version of Debbie does Dallas, Simmons does Boston...better yet, Bill does Boston (that has a better ring to it). I hope you of all people understand I mean this all jokingly. I think you're a fantastic writer and I read your columns every chance I get. Hell, I finished your book in a week, and let me just tell you that I loved, absolutely loved, losing my place on the page 3,423 times, just to read a footnote (even though parentheses work just as well).
In all honesty, I can understand your semi-objective views, and by semi-objective, I mean completely biased. However, I do have a few comments to make. You started out beautifully. "Russel, then Wilt." Fantastic. In your "How we got here" chapter, you should have absolutely covered the Donaghy incident (just one paragraph at least), instead of doing your best NBA impersonation and sweeping it under the rug. I know it didn't alter the game drastically but a "What If?" section on how he might have influenced playoff series and ultimately the champions in those years would have been interesting. On second thought, you would then never be able to eat another pig-in-a-blanket at a David Stern party again. The parts about cable TV and network contracts were very insightful, seeing as how those were probably some of the single biggest contributors to the expansion of the NBA.. I think you ranked Lebron too high, even for now, although I'm sure he'll move further up soon. You definitely rode Kobe way too hard, even though you said he'll be treated with the utmost respect in your book. Even your compliments at the end of the book were backhanded. I'd also like to add, that on page 617, four lines up from the bottom, even YOU, put in Jordan's name where you meant to put Kobe's name, which made me smile since you had a subconscious Jordan/Kobe comparison there (I noticed this before the corrections came out). Am I reaching? Fine! But I can totally understand all of this. You can't expect a life-long sports fan to write a book about basketball and not have it be even a little biased. Plus it's your book. All 32 dollars and 12 cents worth (That's a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black I could have drank and thrown up already).
Now I'm not a fan of numbers either. I don't think stat lines and box scores fully define a player or a game. Backtracking now, I do like the idea about a statistic that accounts for a pass that draws a foul, but I thought we should extend the stat even further. We can call the stat "setups," or "sets" for short; this includes any pass which leads to a defender fouling to prevent an easy shot, as well as any pass that creates a wide open look, or much easier shot (like when a player is doubled in the post and kicks out for an open three). Now because every one of those shots is not made, a player will almost always have more sets than assists. Every assist is also a set, but not every set is an assist. So a possible stat line for Steve Nash might be 21 pts, 4 rebs, 10 asts, and 30 sets The premise is there, although I'm sure the details can be worked out. Just go with me here. C'mon. Sets accounts for the opportunity created by an individual throughout a game in helping his teammate get an easier, more open look, or leading him to the line for free throws. A sets-to-assists ratio also accounts for how well a player's teammates are helping convert those opportunities a player is creating (Chris Paul's teammates are cringing right now). So with Nash's stat line, his ratio will be 3:1 (I don't know if this is good, but I'm sure one of those metrics guys can figure it out in a day).
The "Wine Cellar" Chapter was a beautiful disaster. I loved it, but you left Kobe out in a game against Martians. "C'mon Man!" You're such a homer, it's disgusting, and I don't care if you put Magic ahead of Larry, because you made up for it by putting Russel ahead of Kareem. So "I got one question for you. It's CAN YOU DEAL WITH THAT?" (Ben Stiller's last lines in Meet the Parents. No? Never mind). I'd also like to add, since you had so many footnotes on nicknames, that Megatron (Calvin Johnson) is in my top 5 for active players; I don't know who the other four are yet, and, even though he's not a sports figure, or a real life figure for that matter, that Master Blaster from Mad Max is the greatest porn name ever, hands down. Please concede this immediately since I just read 736 pages including the bibliography. I can't wait for your next book, when the Lakers are still defending champs, Kobe has 12 rings, Jordan comes out and calls him the greatest ever, Larry Bird and Bill Russel write a book praising the Lakers as the greatest franchise of all time, and the Dodgers beat the Sox in the World Series just to add salt in the wound.....Wow! Sorry, I think I just had an epileptic seizure, which means you might have died a sentence ago. Nevertheless Simmons, it was a great book, and you can't be mad about anything I've said in this letter, because you of all people know.....these are your readers.
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