Stuff I Read and Enjoyed … Featuring Steve Nash as a Business, Man

steve nash foundation

1. How Steve Nash Shines in Basketball — and Business

The gimmick throughout this Fast Company article by Chuck Salter is pretty dumb, but the content itself is pretty good. Basically, it breaks down how Steve Nash has gone from reluctant celebrity who turned up his nose at corporate endorsements and celebrity appearances to a guy who has embraced becoming a revenue-generator since realizing that he can do a ton of good in this world if he just had more capital and a bigger platform.

It’s basically the same philosophy that Jay-Z breaks down in “Moment of Clarity”:

I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them
So I got rich and gave back, to me, that’s the win/win

Obviously, “poor” is a relative term here but the basic premise is that while a guy like Steve Nash may seem ungodly rich to day-laborers like us, his basketball salary and status alone isn’t ever going to allow him to make the type of difference on this planet that he hopes he can. He needs Vitaminwater’s corporate backing. He needs to mold and then leverage the type of celebrity that things like playing in the NBA can’t offer alone. So he needs to go on Entourage and David Letterman. He needs to make movies for ESPN. Basically — and I know it sounds cheesy — he needs to turn himself into a recognizable brand that will entice people to open their wallets and corporate budgets to help support his causes (with the environment and fitness seeming to lead his agenda).

To quote Jay-Z again (he’s so wise), Steve Nash has started to look at his post-NBA life from a broader, more ambitious perspective:

I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man

And this is why Nash is not only the funniest dude in the league — at least in public — he is also one of the few who might actually be worth looking up to. No, he’s not Dikembe Mutombo. But he seems to be try to do as much for other people as he has time for in between, ya know, that whole being an NBA All-Star thing.

To get to where he wants to be once his playing days are over, he will also be consciously making himself into a much bigger mainstream figure — but that’s just collateral damage.

That might be hard to believe in this cynical world where we presume everyone wants to be famous, but I believe the guy when he says he doesn’t really want to be in the spotlight.

What perplexes me more is why anyone would.


(AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)

2. A Lament for Tall Guy

Matt Moore had a great conversation with his wife about Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Here’s the set-up:

Me: “I have great news!”

Paroxi-Wife: “You canceled League Pass and will now actually spend time and attention on me?!”

Me: “…”

Paroxi-Wife: “What is your good news? If this involves the word ‘trade exemption’ I’m going to stop listening now.”

Me: “The Cavs traded for Antawn Jamison!”

Paroxi-Wife: “…”

Me: “You know, the guy on the Wizards I’ve been ranting about? 20 and 8? Aaaan-TAWN Jamison?”

Paroxi-Wife: “….”

They go back and forth a little more and we find out that Paroxi-Wife is devastated to hear that Tall Guy, aka Big Z, got dealt. And then Matt skillfully puts what Ilgauskas means to the Cavs franchise all into perspective. I have to imagine that Zydrunas will be bought out by Washington and return to Cleveland for their Playoff run.

But, man, what if he doesn’t?

That would just suck.


3. Is Donnie Walsh Too Old For Us to Change His Nickname to “Zeke”?

To me, a Pacers fan and a Donnie Walsh apologist, I saw the unfortunate yet somewhat necessary inclusion of future draft picks to dump Jared Jeffries and acquire TMac’s expiring contract as something Donnie had to do. He was brought in before the 2008-09 season to fix a sinking ship, and he and the other powers that be decided that they were going to do whatever they could to fix the franchise’s salary cap situation, which was oh-so-memorably and colossally burnt to the ground via fiscal arson by Isiah Thomas. And this seemingly insolvable riddle of bloated albatrosses, nonproductive players and low-level assets all needed to be transformed into roster flexibility by May 2010. When Walsh was hired, it seemed like the only thing that could turn such turd into gold that quickly was alchemy.

As an outsider and an Indy fan who is genetically predisposed to hating the Knicks, even I was a little squeamish upon learning how much New York gave up just to dump Jared Jeffries and get far enough under the cap to be able to sign two max players this summer. But, still, Donnie Walsh was just doing his job. He was in a no-win situation, but had already committed to at least giving the team the possibility of being better aligned towards a 2011 resurgence. After going so far in the direction of “cap space or bust,” he had to go all in no matter the cost, right?

Well, even if the Knicks are now better off financially than at any other time in the last decade, some Knicks fans aren’t exactly willing to give management a pat on the back for mortgaging the future on a pipe dream.

Or at least not for the way they got there.

In this article, Kenneth Paul Drews of the inimitable Free Darko Presents: The Disciples of Clyde NBA Podcast (which is the best NBA podcast there is in my book) breaks down how the Knicks got to this position and notes a few perhaps major missteps along the way.

If you don’t care how the sausage is made then this is a good day to be a Knick fan.  They have lots of cap space for a deep free agent class, Eddy Curry’s expiring contract (for next year) to trade, two young quality rotation players (Chandler, Gallo), threetalented young wild cards (Sergio Rodriguez, Toney Douglas, Bill Walker), and a top tier coach (Mr. Pringles). For the first time in a decade, the Knicks are in good (if precarious) shape.

But as Ken shows, the way the sausage was made isn’t necessarily pleasant.

My condolences to KPD. Although more than anything, I’m just really looking forward to a Knick Summer of Discontent, during which they use all their cap space on TMac, Carlos Boozer and Rudy Gay.

It’s going to be glorious.


(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

4. Does LeBron Take Too Many 3’s? — An Analysis

Vince Grzegorek breaks down the main criticism against the one player that the Knicks certainly will not be signing this summer.

LeBron ranks 5th in the NBA in most 3’s attempted with 286 so far this year. Only Danilo Gallinari, Aaron Brooks, Peja Stojakovich, and Travor Ariza have more. 25.7% of LeBron’s field goal attempts are 3’s. 286 out of 1110.

His 35.3 shooting % on 3’s, however, ranks 77th in the league among qualified players. Make sense? Probably not, especially when you have Boobie Gibson (ranked 2nd in %), Anthony Parker (ranked 6th), and Mo Williams (ranked 8th) on your roster.

For what it’s worth, in the Cleveland’s 12 losses, LeBron averages 6.5 3-point attempts per game (season average of 5.2 attempts per game), and is connecting on only 33% of them (season average of 35.3%).

I’m definitely with Vince fundamentally here and do wish that LeBron would either penetrate or post up every time he touches the ball. This is a thoughtful, well-researched and level-headed way of showing why he should shoot fewer long jumpers. It’s a fact that’s pretty much impossible to dispute at this point. He takes too many long jumpers. Perhaps way too many.

Unfortunately, this same argument in the hands of most others just turns into “LEBRON SHOOTS TOO MUCH TREYS, BRO. KOBE’Z WAAY AWESOMEER. WIN A RING, LEBRICK, THAN WE TAALK. BUM.” Or, even worse, we get a slightly more high-level English version of the same “LeBron isn’t that good really” argument that people might actually take seriously for some reason.

We should all know that LeBron isn’t perfect. No player is or was. Not Bill Russell or MJ.

Look, I love me some Mamba, some CP3 and some Dwyane Wade, but LeBron is by far the best player on this planet. And while his minor flaws (let’s be honest — he’s shooting 35% from three, which is ultimately not killing a team) are worth discussing, let’s not over-magnify them to the degree that we lose sight of what’s really important: There is no other player in the world that gives you a better chance to win a basketball game than LeBron. And it’s not even remotely close.

We’re watching Haley’s Comet on a nightly basis. Let’s try to enjoy it, folks. Because I’m pretty sure that those of us who just sit back and gaze in amazement are having a much better time watching the best player dominate a league that is better than it has been in at least 20 years.

UPDATE: Kelly Dwyer has more to say on the issue. And much like Vince, very good stuff from KD, too.


5. In It to Win It

This month’s GQ has a great, must-read cover story on Kobe Bryant by JR Moehringer. Unlike the gimmicky format of the Nash piece, the one in this profile totally works. Honestly, it’s one of the better things I’ve ever read about Mamba (even if it’s a little over-flowery in a few places for my taste from a technical standpoint).

Since you made your way to this little site, you probably know most of the stuff that is discussed here about Kobe. Still, you should head over there and read all 4,000 words.

For those of you too lazy to do that, however,  here are the passages I enjoyed the most.

On his commute to work:

The second he’s aboard [the aircraft], seat belt clicked, the box with the pretty beige bow tucked beside him, the pilot lifts off. He gets vertical fast, banks hard at a forty-five-degree angle, soars north at 140 miles an hour. Bryant squints into the lowering sun, then looks down at all the teeming life below, the sprawling, striving, smog-shouldered city of Los Angeles. His city. From up here he could palm it like a basketball.

This is how the 31-year-old co-captain of the Lakers, the eleven-time All-Star, the four-time world champion, the most prolific and accomplished scorer currently drawing breath and an NBA paycheck, commutes. He takes a private helicopter from Orange County, where he lives with his wife and two children, to every home game. It’s a nice dash of glitz, a touch of showbiz that goes well with the Hollywood sign in the hazy distance. But sexy as it might seem, Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body. It’s no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes. Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can’t sit in a car for two hours. The helicopter, therefore, ensures that he gets to Staples Center feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court.

If you make $23 million a year with your body, taking a helicopter to work is actually quite practical.

On his injuries:

With all its scars and aches, spasms and pulls, stingers and inflammations and hyperextensions, his body is a living record of his journey. From boy to man. From ball hog to team leader. From alleged narcissist to tormented perfectionist to apparent masochist. Every athlete knows pain, but Bryant’s body charts his unique combination of pain, passion, and virtuosic skill. His body explains him. Maybe better than he can.

The Redeem Team:

He haunted the Olympic Village, stared at the fastest and the strongest the way people stare at him. For once he didn’t feel alone with his priestly devotion to craft. He felt like a nomad reunited with his long-lost tribe.

On his “desire for privacy”:

His reticence, his desire for privacy, extends to the good stuff about himself as well as the bad. His reps urge him to speak more about his charitable works, like his fund to help victims of natural disasters in China or his partnership with After-School All-Stars, a program that tutors and mentors schoolchildren. You can be with Bryant for hours and hours and he won’t tell you about the cancer-stricken boy he took to Disneyland. They spent most of the day together, and when the boy died soon after, his mother phoned to say that the last time she saw her son smile was that magic afternoon with his idol.

On the ESP between him and Phil:

Bryant has become an “extension” of Jackson on the court. During one recent practice, Bryant told teammate Adam Morrison to take a higher position. “Not even point-five seconds after I said that, Phil says: ‘Adam, make sure you’re higher!’ Adam just kind of looks at me. I’m like, ‘We been together for a while.’ “

On his sleeping habits:

Every night he passes out around ten, then wakes feeling fully refreshed. He yawns, looks at the clock. Midnight. What the-? He’s been asleep only two hours. He’d love to sleep more, but his body is up, raring to go.

What does he do?

Watch TV, maybe a movie. He’s mad for Tarantino. (Especially the Kill Bill movies; he sees himself as a samurai, though he’s a kamikaze with his body.) Sometimes he goofs around on the computer…Around 4 a.m., he says, he’ll go back to bed and sleep until six, when his daughters get up. He likes to make them breakfast, and make them laugh, before heading to practice. Despite just two naps a night, he swears that he starts his days feeling rested.

There’s plenty more really good stuff in here. Go read it.