Sports biographies tend to be a mixed bag. Sometimes, you get flowery hagiographies, other times, straight-up hit pieces. It all comes down to a confluence of circumstances – the author, the subject and the audience – and how they come together.

Take a figure like Kobe Bryant. Considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bryant’s career featured plenty of controversies – his Colorado rape trial foremost among them – and he was in many ways a love him or loathe him figure, both in the context of his sport and in the greater celebrity sphere. Add to that his tragic and too-soon passing in a helicopter crash in early 2020 and his legacy only grows more complicated.

How do you tell this story?

With “The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality” (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99), longtime Philadelphia basketball writer Mike Sielski takes an altogether different tactic. This isn’t the story of Kobe’s life in the league, the tale of his successes and failures. No, this is an origin story. “The Rise” isn’t about Kobe the NBA baller, but rather, it’s about the journey that got him there.

Published in Sports

We’re living in the age of the superteam in the NBA. While the league has always been star-driven, the necessity of those stars has never been more apparent. If you want to win a ring, you NEED at least two top-tier superstars. These days, assembling those dynamic duos or titanic trios involves players actively recruiting one another, with stars seeking out paths to play with other stars that they like and/or admire.

It wasn’t always that way, though. Two decades ago, we watched the most talented pairing in the league rise to dizzying dynastic heights even as they were engaged in an ongoing and off-putting internal fight.

Jeff Pearlman’s “Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30) dives deep into the eight-year stretch – from 1996-2004 – where two of the greatest basketball players of not just their generation but of all time team up to bring a string of titles to the Los Angeles Lakers even as their own interpersonal antipathy rages and boils beneath the surface. All while a renowned and legendary coach largely removes himself from the fray, content to let it work itself out.

It is a magnificently and meticulously detailed work, one featuring deep-dive interviews with all manner of people connected to that tumultuous time in the history of one of the NBA’s most storied franchises. It’s an unflinching and often unflattering portrait of the men who led L.A. to the top of the mountain; frankly, learning the extent of the chaos renders the championship victories all the more impressive.

Published in Sports

The list of basketball’s Hall of Famers is set to get a little longer.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has announced its initial list of eight finalists for the honor; the inductees will be named during the Final Four in April.

It will be an incredible class, one whose excellence will be celebrated despite the looming shadow of the too-soon demise of Kobe Bryant, who perished in a helicopter crash last month. But even with the specter of tragedy hanging over the proceedings, one can’t help but recognize the truth that this could well be the greatest class in the Hall’s history.

Bryant is joined by fellow first-time eligibles Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, as well as WNBA and Olympic star Tamika Catchings. Also under consideration are coaches Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Rudy Tomjanovich.

Published in Sports

Some all-time NBA greats are about to have their first shot at official immortality.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has announced its initial list of 50 nominees for induction into the Hall as part of the Class of 2020. The finalists for the honor will be announced in February during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, while the inductees will be named during the Final Four in April.

There are a lot of incredible names on this list, players who in their way helped define greatness in the game, but there are a few first-timers that could make this class one of the Hall’s greatest ever.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 14:42

Celebrity Slam - May 15, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

In honor of the recent celebration of Mother's Day, here's a story about a mother and child whose relationship has hit the rocks in a very public fashion.

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is currently embroiled in a dispute with his mother regarding an auction of some of Bryant's sporting memorabilia. Pamela Bryant recently put more than 100 collectibles spanning Kobe's career up for a June auction in New Jersey. She insists that Kobe gave her the items (which include a variety of jerseys, trophies and rings from throughout his basketball career) while also claiming that she has spent upwards of $90,000 on storage over the past five years.

Kobe denies all of this, saying that he intends to give the items to his children.

It has gotten ugly, with accusations flying from both sides each alleging that the other is lying. Kobe's father Joe has jumped into the mix, claiming that he and his wife asked Kobe to take some of the items to his California home a request he says Kobe declined.

As you might imagine, lawsuits have been filed.

It's bad enough that these sorts of family squabbles happen; unfortunately, this is the sort of situation where there can be no winner. While Kobe may well be totally in the right all of these items came from his accomplishments, after all there's no way to get into a p---ing match with your mother and not look like a complete nozzle. Sure, he might want to give this stuff to his kids, but the circumstances sure do make it seem like he's being a jerk.

Meanwhile, his parents look like complete gold diggers by trying to auction off his stuff. It isn't so much the initial attempt to auction the memorabilia they could very easily have thought it was theirs to do with what they liked. No, it's the continued insistence upon selling even after Kobe voiced his disapproval that makes them look like greedy opportunists.

It's sad that an issue like this can rise up and demolish a fragile family dynamic. Regardless of the eventual outcome, these relationships are irreparably damaged.

Happy (belated) Mother's Day everyone!

Best feud ever?

We've got a potential classic brewing right now. It's too soon to say if this particular feud has legs of if it will fizzle out; all we can do is cross our fingers and hope against hope that it gets worse before it gets better.

The two combatants? Zach Braff and Morgan Freeman.

I know I'm as surprised as you are.

Braff has been embroiled in a bit of a controversy lately; the actor took to the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to finance a new film project. There has been some backlash, with critics calling out Braff for taking advantage of a resource like Kickstarter rather than footing the bill himself. 

In the process of defending himself during a Q&A session, Braff (for some not-quite-clear reason) brought up Morgan Freeman's recent AMA on Reddit, referencing the belief by many of that site's users that Freeman's vanilla answers were in fact written by a publicist or another Freeman employee.

Freeman's response as captured by TMZ was, as you might expect, kind of perfect. When asked about Braff's calling him out, his response was a simple 'Not the best idea.' Freeman's tone managed to strike a wonderful balance. He made it clear that he knew Braff would wind up regretting his comments while still conveying an air of genuinely not giving a crap.

Look, I like Zach Braff. I think he's a funny, talented guy. But he had to know that the internet boo-birds were going to hit him hard; Kickstarter and sites like it are intended to help those with no other options bring their projects to life. You can't tell me that Braff is without options. But dragging Morgan Freeman into it for no reason other than to try and ingratiate himself to the online masses is dirty pool. It's a low blow against a guy who is the epitome of class.

It's a shame that the big meanies out there think you're a selfish tightwad. So sad that your feelings were hurt, but dragging someone completely unrelated to the situation into the crossfire in an attempt to shed some heat is weak sauce.

Seriously, Zach Braff no one wants you to be a tool, so please stop acting like one.

Published in Celebrity Slam
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 17:27

Lakers hire Mike D'Antoni as new coach

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Lakers hired Mike D'Antoni late Sunday night, signing the former coach of the Suns and Knicks to replace Mike Brown.

The Lakers and D'Antoni's agent, Warren LeGarie, confirmed the deal two days after the Lakers fired Brown five games into the season.

D'Antoni agreed to a three-year deal worth $12 million, with a team option for a fourth season.

Published in Sports


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