Coach Obsesses About Basketball “Requirements”, Has Words

[9-minute read]

Just down there, in the He Said/She Said section of this here site, is the latest quotation that got me to thinkin‘…

Bonus points if you know this guy. Hints: HoF player and coach; *not* J. Naismith!

The citation is from James Naismith, in 1892, weeks or months after he scribbled down the 13 Rules of the game he had just invented. He was far too humble to call it “The Naismith Game” or anything like it, so he called it “Basket-Ball” “because there’s a [peach] basket and a ball, so…” I saw a reference in something I’d read to what might have been the second thing he wrote about his new baby, this sport he’d been asked to design in order to give young Christian men — it was invented at the YMCA’s International Training Centre, after all — a way to keep in shape during a Massachusetts winter. (And this, from a Canadian! Perhaps there was no ice rink at the Springfield YMCA? Maybe he held an anti-hockey grudge? Or — horrors! — he didn’t know how to skate?) Anyway, this was the reference, a copy of which hangs in the Naismith Museum:



“Agility, accuracy, alertness, cooperation, initiative, skill, reflex judgment, speed, self-sacrifice,

self-confidence, self-control and sportsmanship.”

There are 12 qualities that he wanted the game’s disciples to know and strive for. And I couldn’t help noticing how close they come to alphabetical order! (So yes, I’ve given Coach Naismith a little editorial help in what follows.) In the interests of obsession and whimsy, let’s think of them not only in this (improved) order but also with my (mainly) approving comments on Dr. Naismith’s “requirements” after each one:

ACCURACY. When modern hoopswise guys talk about “athletic ability” and the physical prowess of prospects and pros, they routinely ignore this one. They favour sprinters, long-armed discus-throwing types, jumpers and other track’n’field demonstrations of “athleticism”. Even 128 years later, we need to be reminded that hand-eye coordination, the ability to make that leather globe go through an elevated fruit bucket (or between flailing limbs to an open teammate) is fairly important, too. Cooz. Earl the Pearl. Nash. Steph. KD. Luka. Accuracy.

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NBA Finals: It’s Morning in China

To paraphrase the late great media blowhard Howard Cosell – and listen, though he blew hard, he often blew well, but who calls anybody a “blowwell”? – I reject the notion that the NBA is a sacred cow which emits only the purest of good, wholesome milk. (Even when The Finals begin in Oklahoma.) I’m a basketball lover, a long-time coach, someone who still pumpfakes and dropsteps and stumbles around outdoor courts with college students. In China. (And no, I don’t often post guys up. 5’10 ¾” is bigger here than back home in Ontario, but I’m not usually the big man on campus courts and I don’t jump anymore.) I’ve loved (and often hated) the Association since well before Miami or Oklahoma City dreamed of having teams, when Dave Cowens was a floorburned 6’9” centre and Bob McAdoo, an early Kevin Durant prototype, floated jumpers for the Buffalo Braves. (Yeah, I bin around.)

Now, for three years, I’ve watched my NBA games in the mornings when I’m free.

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All the Way With LBJ

Here’s a big question in the Toy Department, professional basketball division: has LeBron James, 21-year-old hoops wizard and savvy Goliath of the sneaker wars, done enough this year to be named MVP of the National Basketball Association? Or will he, as I suspect, need to pay further dues? (And just by the way, by what club are these “dues” being collected? Presumably, it’s the CREWS – the Chronically Resentful and Envious Writers of Sports.)

I wish I was seeing more LeBron Live than Magazine LeBron and King James the Pitchman. Even a jaded old dunks-are-overrated dude like me can get a buzz from some of his highlight reels, but there are several things about James that excite me a whole lot more. One of the first times I saw him play, he tapped a loose ball toward a teammate and hustled out to fill a lane on the fastbreak. The dunk at the end was sweet, but I was blown away by his hustle and speed; I’ve ever seen a big man so fast. And he fills up scoresheets, not just the points column, not to mention that with a Sports Illustrated cover in 11th grade (and another at 20 musing about him being “The Best of All Time” when he hadn’t even made the playoffs yet), James has every reason to be a flaming idiot.

My impression is that he isn’t. He speaks thoughtfully, doesn’t appear to think he’s bigger than the game, and his teammates seem to enjoy playing with him.  Best of all – at least until he becomes a philanthropist and advocate for the disadvantaged – LeBron James loves to pass. For a young guy with hops and scoring ability, he understands the game at a high level. He’s rare. I loved what he said last week, which went something like this: it’s cool to get that ‘Oooh’, but when you make the great pass, you get two ‘Ooohs’, one for the dime and one for the dunk. Not to mention that, suddenly, the game isn’t all about ME anymore. Imagine: brothers in short pants doing their thing together. Unselfishly!

Things are looking good for the Association when its Most Valuable Player is likely to be either King James or the reigning king of delivery, Steve Nash. And looking at the dominance of the Pistons, it looks like Team Ball and “playing the right way” (ah, but Larry Brown, where are you now?) are getting cooler by the quarter. Nice!!