Stuff I Read and Enjoyed … Featuring What the Lakers are Reading

[Given the ongoing inactivity around here pertaining to anything going on in the actual season, I’m begrudgingly going to start doing a recurring “Stuff I Read” column just to keep you abreast on the NBA-related posts that are worth your time.]

phil jackson sacred hoops artest

1. Phil Jackson Buys Books for His Lakers Players

Every year around this time, the Zen Master famously gives everyone on his team a book. Perhaps it’s just to ensure they all read at least one during the year or maybe it really is to teach them savvy lessons about basketball and life. Most likely, it’s closer to how Eric Freeman puts it in his FreeDarko breakdown of this year’s reading list:

He considers the player’s personality and needs, and makes a decision based on all available factors. It’s one of the clearest reminders that he’s a coach who respects and values his players as people, not just basketball players.

Eric breaks down the significance of most of the selection, but here’s the full list of the books Phil handed out, which was originally made public by his girlfriend and daughter of the Lakers owner Jeanie Buss on her Twitter account:

Kobe Bryant – Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
Pau Gasol – 2666 by Roberto Bolano
Ron Artest – Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson
Lamar Odom – The Right Mistake by Walter Mosley
Andrew Bynum – Six Easy Pieces by Walter Mosley
Derek Fisher – Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver
Shannon Brown – Dreams from My Frather by Barack Obama
Luke Walton – The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
Jordan Farmar – Makes Me Wanna Holler by Nathan McCall
Josh Powell – The Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. Du Bois
Sasha Vujacic – Reservation Blues by Sherman Slexie
Adam Morrison – Che: A Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon
DJ Mbenga – Monster: An Autobiography of an LA Gang Member by Sanyika Shakur (aka Monster Kody)

Gotta love Phil giving Mbenga a book by a gangbanger. And the Zen Master giving Artest a book that he himself wrote? That’s just great. I once had a college philosophy professor hand out essays he wrote and published as assignments. This was like right after we finished reading Plato’s Republic and a bunch of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas stuff. Then he’s all “now lets move on to some stuff by me for next week.” He was a notable and well-respected modern philosopher and his stuff was ultimately good and worth reading/discussing, but I just remember being “Umm … aren’t we a little pretentious and self-important.” I’m not sure what my point was here. Probably don’t have one aside from, yeah, enjoy Sacred Hoops, Ronnie, even if you think Phil is a weirdo for giving you his own book. It’s pretty good.

2. Samuel Dalembert Speaks After Returning from Haiti

In my real job, I’ve spent much of the past six years in that field reading, writing and thinking about natural disasters and disaster response. So this whole Haitian tragedy has really kicked my ass. Keenly knowing that anyone not saved withing the first 36-48 hours post-event is probably dead sucks, and realizing even before it happens that the logistical challenges of coordinating relief in a country as desolate and infrastructure-less — or anywhere, really — are going to lead to one giant, multi-organizational clusterfuck really weighs on the psyche.

On the other hand, the outpouring of humanity and caring after the even is always encouraging to see and — in a tiny, tiny way — helps. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop broke down Samuel Dalemberts’ … well … breakdown after he returned from Haiti. (Skeets has video.) For those that don’t know, Samuel is from Port-au-Prince and he, along with Dwyane and Alonzo, has been leading the impressive aid efforts being conducted by the NBA. There was also a nice, public, Bill Clinton-led fundraising effort last night in Madison Square Garden that will end up giving at least $500,000. This, of course, all pales in comparison to the Hope For Haiti efforts last night, which featured pretty much every A-list celeb who isn’t an asshole. At this point, if you still haven’t given at least $10 to relief in a country ravaged by what is truly both a natural and man-made disaster, I probably don’t want you reading this blog. (Just text “Haiti” to 90999 and $10 will go to the Red Cross and be added to your next mobile bill.)

Paul Pierce also wrote some really interesting stuff about the nature of tragedy, talking about how his life changed after he was stabbed and how things like Haiti and Katrina, while disasters he “can’t even fathom,” also provide opportunities “to grow and learn.”

After my experience, I was really appreciative of the care I received at Tufts Medical Center. Because I had minimally invasive surgery, I was able to get back on the court a month later, so I worked with them and we opened the Paul Pierce Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery and I sit on the hospital’s Board of Governors.”

You wish you didn’t have to learn that way. But it could happen to anybody. You say to yourself, “I wish I was a little more cautious.” But you don’t know. Who knows? Who knows when an earthquake is going to hit? Who knows when a tsunami’s going to hit? Who knows when something tragic might happen? Who knows?

All you can do is learn from it and do whatever you can. In Haiti’s case, please offer as much help as possible.

Some of the better stuff you’ll ever see written by a pro athlete. Just one more reason why Paul Pierce is my third or fourth favorite player in the NBA.

3. LeBron vs. Kobe On a Hundred Thousand Triliion

LeBron is the best player in the league and it’s not remotely close. And even if you for some reason don’t feel that way, the whole conversation is beyond exhausted. No one is switching sides and, honestly, who really gives a shit? They’re both amazing. That’s pretty much what Zach Harper is saying here in his HP column “Is There a Huckleberry?” which is based on Tombstone — much like most religions should be. (Shoals had another take that I actually didn’t bother to read, but it’s Shoals, so I’m guessing it’s at least decent, presuming you care to read about Kobe/LeBron — which I decidedly do not.)

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