Friday, 18 November 2016
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
In his NBA lifetime the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan wore the number 23. The closest player to him and his greatness Kobe Bryant, 24. Kobe won five titles with his Los Angeles Lakers. Mike won six as a Chicago Bull. As a matter of fact there's little much else between the two retired, legendary 6'6, two hundred and something in the tens pound guards. Both have a legendary line of Nike sneakers that keep stepping out even after they've hung them up. Both men were coached by Phil Jackson and have played with legends like Dennis Rodman and Ron Harper. Both men have won Slam Dunk Contests but also knew how to step back and hit the iconic fadeaway. Both men have a magazine cover pin-up smile but a hero killing villain death stare when everything is flipped. Both men speak in tongues, shrugs and shooting for the heart. One-on-one you've never seen two players as competitive. And now Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have both got biography bestsellers on the bookshelves thanks to basketball writer Roland Lazenby. The legend who was once most famous for his book on the NBA logo Jerry West, rewrote what was considered his definitive and most iconic read when he gave us 'The Life' of Michael Jordan in 2014. And now he looks to go better once again with number 24 as his book on Kobe Bryant 'Showboat' is sailing through Kindles and coffee tables as we turn. We caught up with Lazenby once again inbetween reads and what seems like a life that will always write to talk about his latest muse Kobe Bryant and the book about him that has come just a year removed from his last one and some months after the player himself retired. Because after all the show must go on...
Q. Hey Roland! Great to catch up with you again. Congratulations on all your success with your last book 'The Life'. After writing about Michael Jordan was Kobe Bryant always the next logical progression for you?
No, I looked at an array of options, as I always do. Ultimately, the decision is made by what the publisher will buy.
Q. How did the reception and success of writing about Mike inspire and motivate you to write about Kobe?
Well, confidence is big in any endeavour. You would think at my age that confidence is never an issue. But I’ve discovered that being in my 60s is much like being an adolescent. I love doing biography, and if you’re going to do that much work, it sure helps to have success.
Q. What was the starting point for your account of the life of Kobe Bryant mere months after he retired?
I always try to go for what I consider the revelatory moments. Showboat, the book on Kobe, actually began in three different places. An overview beginning after his first basket. An emotional moment following his second championship. A pivotal moment in the career of his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant.
Q. Can you tell our readers more about the name of your Bryant book 'Showboat'? It was an old nickname that Shaq gave him right?
Yes, and it was a lineage he shared with his father, a great showboat player off the playgrounds of Philadelphia. The showboat elements of the game have always been at odds with the purists. But the dunk and other fancy elements have always thrilled fans, i.e. the Globetrotters. Sports stories are often a father/son romance, and this one is about that thing they shared, the love of showboating.
Q. You begin this book beautifully with looking at the career of Kobe's father Joe 'Jellybean' Bryant and his sons upbringing in Italy. How important are these themes in setting the tone of the text?
They define, in many ways, everything about how Kobe approached the game. Ultimately, he grew to become very much his own man. He defined that by making up a nickname and an identity for himself, Mamba, the killer snake.
Q. And with Kobe's purple and gold glory days with the Lakers how much did researching and writing about this take you back to your times sideline reporting with the Lakers?
So much of it did take me back. The Lakers are an amazing story as Hollywood’s franchise. I’ve spent much of my life exploring all of the elements of the Lakers story, and that began years before Kobe arrived there. Every book I do allows me to learn more and more about the Lakers. It’s not a simple story, as you might assume.
Q. How difficult but important was it to ask and talk about not only the accomplishments but the controversies of Kobe's life and career?
That’s always the difficult part of these books, the family and personal stories are always immensely complicated. And that raises questions about what should be reported. Some of it should be reported, because invariably I find that it raises my estimation and understanding of the person and his family. At the same time, I always look for limits. For example, as I rule I don’t write about a person’s sex life, unless it becomes a controversy and part of the public record. Even then, I don’t get into detail, because one’s love life is a private, private matter. I also think of my own family as I write biography. My parents were quiet, everyday people, but our ancestors were quite the rowdy bunch. Every family has its difficulties and conflicts and disagreements. I write about those to some degree because it often reveals the character or personality of the figure I’m writing about.
Q. Just like your book on M.J. this story is rooted in family how do the two books and players compare and contrast in this and how as a writer do you get to the core feeling of this?
Well, MJ is such a global iconic figure, the long story of his family is essential to understanding him. I don’t go into quite the depth of background with Kobe, because the big issue with him was his father as a pro player, the experiences for the family that created, etc.
Q. Which journalists and player peers were the most helpful and insightful in your look into the life of the Laker legend?
Gosh, quite an array of people offered different insights, journalists such as Shelley Smith of ESPN who covered him during the rape charges, or well-known basketball writer Howard Beck, who got to know Kobe as a young guy and had a great affinity for him. Rudy Garciduenas, the Lakers longtime equipment manager, was close to both Shaq and Kobe and offered tremendous understanding of both men, of the dynamic in the Lakers locker room over the years, and the personality of the franchise itself, from Jerry West to Jeanie Buss to Phil Jackson.
Q. You really draw us in to particular moments vividly. One being the preface standout of a championship cap wearing Kobe sitting in the Philadelphia visitors locker room alone and forlorn after winning his second NBA title. What can you tell us about this moment?
On the eve of the playoffs he had thrown his family out of his life in a dramatic move. Once he won the championship, the emotion of his actions and the conflict came flooding in all at once.
Q. Can you tell us how 'Showboat' differs to your other books on Kobe Bryant including 'Mad Game' now his career is said and done?
I wrote Mad Game in 1999. It was about Kobe’s adjustment to the NBA. Showboat is his full life and a full effort at understanding all the factors that have gone in to making Bryant the competitor and person that he is. Showboat reflects much greater understanding on my part because of how much I’ve learned in writing biography.
Q. In completing this story how has Kobe's farewell season and final game drawn a line under his basketball story and career arc?
His final game emphasized the title of the book. It was utterly a Showboat moment.
Q. Before Jordan you where known for writing the book on the logo Jerry West. A legend instrumental in bringing Kobe to L.A. How do the two books and players compare and which icon in your opinion is the greatest Laker?
Well, West teamed with the great Elgin Baylor to popularize the Lakers, a new team in LA in 1960, and over the next 14 years made them legendary. West then went on as GM to define the franchise in terms of his fanatical leadership and personality. He cared deeply, and the franchise benefited from his insane pursuit of perfection. Kobe’s story is about Kobe. He now has an opportunity to make it about more than himself. And he may just do that. West himself was quite self-focused as a player, too.
Q. After your biography 'The Life and Legend Of A Basketball Icon', Jerry West wrote his own autobiography. Are you hoping the same happens for number 23 and 24's memoirs?
Yes, that would be great. Biography has tremendous importance, I believe, as an independent look at sports/cultural figures. It’s important that it be independent because these wealthy figures long to control their own narratives. However, their own books are immensely important because they offer different levels of information and sometimes truth.
Q. Two classic books in the last couple of years you sure deserve a rest, but what's next? Maybe an appointment with the King?
I’m taking a long break. My wife just retired and we’re going to enjoy life a bit. Then I’ll start thinking about the next project.
Roland we thank you for your time. We really appreciate it. We wish you all the best for the future. Thanks again.
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
(Our new series 'One To Court' offers profiles of the young, unsung players to watch out for)
Here comes the boom!
To be young and gifted like Tarik Black. Well, not even the bleed purple and live gold, die-hard fans of the Lakers quite expected this. No matter how much faith they had in new coach and former player Luke Walton. Right now after destroying Brooklyn's nets the new Showtime Lakers are 4 and 1 at home and 7 and 5 for the year. Hello .500. We'll see you soon we hope playoffs. These new, young Lakers looking like another band of California Warriors in this small ball revolution are running the death-lineup so much it seems like all they do in practice is commit to endless suicide drills like Coach Carter. When it comes to the Walton's you may just have a purple and gold Fantastic Four that everyone was looking for in Golden State's Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson (who believe them-not what you hear-is going nowhere). Because right now pick your purple poison. D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. They are all playing like superstars of the future. And we're still waiting on Brandon Ingram to show us all who he really is.
Leave the Vino in the cellar. Kobe deserves to put his feet up. And what a retirement he must be having watching all of this.
But one of the youngest and deepest squads in the association don't end with their future. Their highest scoring in the league bench-mob is really pine fresh like that tree hanging from your cars rear-view mirror. What more do you expect when you have two 'Sixth Men Of The Year' candidates (Lou Williams and the swag of Nick Young), two internationally renowned Point Guards (Jose Calderon and Marcelo Huertas) and two former superstars (Luol Deng and Laker legend Metta World Peace) who can all still play but must wait for their day. But with all these guys (not to mention Thomas Robinson) meaning even promising youth Anthony Brown and Chinese icon Yi Jialian didn't even make the final roster cut, you just know the X's and O's of Luke Walton has a wealth of options, inside and out.
But don't fade on Black.
Because part of the Lakers boomin system is 24 year old center Tarik Black who has been in and around the purple paint, dressed in gold for years now. Manning the middle with lets not forget rookie Zubac and all dunking champion Mozzy. Sure at 6'9 he may be undersized, but did you tell that to Ben Wallace? Affectionately nicknamed 'Boom, Boom' Black eyes the rebound and brings the POW to the power back dunk. He's more than the below the basket dirty work guy that the Lakers have missed with the departures over the years of Jordan Hill and Rony Turiaf. He is also more than hockey's equivalent of the kings of L.A. basketball's enforcer that has big star Julius Randle's back in the key too. Although you just have to love the zoomed in, ready to go so much that he loves it expression on his face when Kentucky grads DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings and Randle squared up to each other a couple of games back at the end of regulation at STAPLES. Because Black can get his and score and rebound at will without a single play dry erased for him too. Even if it is a combination of muscled 'bounds, box outs and put backs. Have you seen him run the lane for a dunk? Or even just take off from a standing position to clean up the sometimes raw rookies and stuttering sophomores growing pains mess? Case in point last game against former teammate Jeremy Lin's (who got his Coach Kobe playbook on injured courtside, sitting this one out, but still very much staying in the game like EA's return) Brooklyn Nets he put one back off the rim so Darryl Dawkins, 'Chocolate Thunder', Black rain hard we just had to write an article about it and him.
And as everyone in downtown L.A.'s STAPLE from Lil 'Wayne to the nosebleeds got out their seats we aren't the only ones paying attention.
So now you're all checking for the Lakers again like everyone from ESPN to the Clippers should have been with Lob City taken back, just make sure you paint it Black. Because right under the basket when it comes to the Lakers purple heart Black and gold goes together like Hollywood nights that will never fade.
Sunday, 13 November 2016
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
"This is my year to go get the MVP award"-Paul George.
Keep pace with this years MVP race and you'll see that it's more than just number 23, King LeBron James, or the leader of the Golden State Warriors big-three with one of his own from downtown, Steph Curry going for his third straight Maurice. And no we're not just talking about this years rivaling debate of former teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Basketball's equivalent of the Trump and Clinton nationwide divide...although both candidates here are actually nice people. No there's a bigger talent pool in the NBA stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific and every division in-between. Guys like Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio or even James Harden in Houston. And between the Rockets and Spurs that's just two for Texas. But go East to a champion conference you once thought least and you will see that this game of thrones is more than just he who wears the heavy crown. There's a former number 24 (who gave all his old jerseys to his old high school in California...now how about that?!) trying to one-up number 23 and we aren't talking about the hyper-competitive Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant coming out of retirement like Mike already...although he probably is jealous of how the Lake Show future of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram are going on without him under former teammate Luke Walton. No, for this 24 (now a PG-13 with a defensive advisory warning), you have to run the picket fence all the way to Hoosier country for a Pacer who is on track to take everyone to church faster than the Indianapolis 500 as he looks to take his team above that to the dot.
Indiana Pacers all-superstar Paul George is the most underrated franchise player in the game today. By far the best two-way player as former coach and Lakers assistant Brian Shaw can attest. But this year the man with two first names just may find himself with three initials and his surname engraved under Podoloff come season end. Championship or no playoffs. Although he is at the center of a crazy trade rumor right now involving Golden State's Klay Thompson that will buck stop his time in Indiana and send him across to Wisconsin for Milwaukee it's all hear say until we see the day. Although as of press time he's injured too-out against the Celtics-this go to guy is still a relevant factor right, damn now. Besides he's come back from worse. He's come back from an Indy 5.00 worth of fellow stars speeding off for their own lanes. From Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson, To Roy Hibbert and new Jazz note George Hill. And more importantly and critically he's come back from much worse injury. One that could have crucified his career...and has to others like loved legend of Toronto, Orlando and Houston, Tracy McGrady. But never fear the closest to that number one is (still) here. In body-type look to just the way he plays this game. All over the floor and all over the box score. From being slam dunk contest worthy to breaking Pacer legend Reggie Miller's record threes in one game. You know owner Larry Bird is smiling from the box above as G let's it fly. A gazelle like guard who's taller enough to hang with the bigs like a K.G. or K.D. P.G. is just that capable. From the Point Guard position to a P.F. When it comes to this game forget the MVP, George may as well have a P.H.D. Because his court education is making semesters out of everyone, rookie students or top all-first team scholars with Hall of Fame honor rolls. And speaking of team Paul has some firsthand help now too. Jeff Teague, Myles Turner, Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, Aaron Brooks, C.J Miles, Rodney Stuckey, Glenn Robinson the third, That's the roster. Ladies and gentleman, that's the playoffs!
Numbers don't lie for the 6,9, 220 pound, three time All-Star 26 year old in his perfect prime who is the truth. And come playoff time you'll see exactly why. And we aren't talking about no eight seed squeeze but homecourt advantage, set and match-up. You better believe. It's going to be quite the ball game whoever they get. Chicago? Toronto? The Land?! It will all add up from P.G.24's 21.9 points per game, to go along with 6.7 rebounds, 2,9 assists and 4 blocks per. Put Paul up against Jimmy Butler and he'll service him, a Cluedo crime will have happened but you'll know who did it. Up north, some six games later, DeRozan will get frozen out like someone turned the heating off in the Air Canada Center. And as for the 'Bron King champ of Believeland...well heads will roll one way another. You just have to see which way it falls. Because by George Paul is worthy of this type of contention consideration, not criticism. And if like Gene Hackman he ever does take his Hoosier Pacers to the promised land of dubbed superteams by his gold shorts, then the Golden State Of Californian will have to put Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and everyone else on the former injury red-shirt whilst he's making puddles of the Splash Brothers. Every Warrior except Steph could see in this years Team USA winning Olympics in Rio, Brazil that this guy is big game worthy of gold. in every carat, weight and sense of the metaphor and the literal podium place, with arguably the games biggest prize draped across his shoulders. Paul George has aligned with Cousins, Jordan's and Carmelo Anthony's. He knows all about squad assembling for the goals. Double-team him at your peril because you may need a big-three of your own. And even then he can kick it outside to hot guard shooters Monta and Teague on the perimeter and in a league of their own. And if that doesn't work, Paul could use one of those 2.9 assists per to get real personal and hand it off inside to Al Jeff or the rail-tall Myles Turner. Showing both this team and their man have enough height and running length to run laps on the association, in this small ball revolution, all whilst paying homage to the tough, old golden era of the big-man 90's. If you want to survive in this league you have to work on both ends of the floor, inside and out. And by having both and being all those things Indiana's Paul is your man in the middle, ready to be the most unselfish center of attention you've ever seen. Scoring points that don't just show up on his own stat sheet. After all when it comes to the leagues fantasy prototype player isn't that what makes you most valuable? Not just the ultimate superstar...but the definitive teammate. Perhaps in this game, in this life, that's the real reward.
And by George we think he's got it!
Saturday, 12 November 2016
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
The following takes place sometime between 1989 and 1997...
Sonic booms reverberate all around the city of Seattle as 'The Glove', Gary Payton is dropping Emeralds like he held the Infinity Gauntlet like Avengers big bad Thanos. And flying through the Cosmos like Thor with the hammer is 'The Reignman', Shawn Kemp. Throwing and putting it down over and over again. His thunderous slams precipitating all over the state of Washington's Key Arena baskets like they were buckets with holes in them. Oop-BOOM! You've never seen a duo so dynamic Batman. The pick and roll of Stockton on Malone on protein powder. Shaq and Kobe without the b.s. The only thing this one, two punch took swipes at was the nets...and the opposition. From New Jersey to New England, when Seattle still had an NBA franchise they reigned supreme in the Ewing and Barkley tough 90's golden era. And it was all thanks to The Glove and the man he handed it all off to. Waking up Seattle crowds better than their best coffee, before the Starbucks bean grabbers took them from the city of grunge to an Oklahoma home. Seattle had reign before the Thunder of Westbrook and what once was Durant. But all good things and that. Still when everyone under the Space-Needle in Rain City watched like Frasier Cane listened it was all for 20 and 40. The coupling of G.P. Gary Payton and S.K., Shawn Kemp.
And then there was X.
Xavier McDaniel marked the spot before this one, two checked the lane. Don't wait for the Macklemore thrift shop throwback to acknowledge, Couldn't nobody hold the X-Man as Professor Xavier terminated all those in his lane laser Cyclops focus path. He cut through defenders like Wolverine, quicker than Quicksilver. This Beast was a Storm when he rose to put sugar in the cup. Flying like Archangel with more aces in the hole than Gambit. A Cerebro like knowledge of all the different type of dunks he could duke. His colossal strength showed he had the mettle to go toe to toe with any Magneto villain. The Iceman cometh and rose like a Phoenix. Always on NBA Jam fire. Pure paint power. Number 34 like Shaq or Anthony Mason. A strong-hold creation of the two mixed together with potent punctuation. As bald and as bad as DMX, X was going to give it to ya every time he was coming down the court. 'Xplosive' like Dre. Even the good Doctor Julius didn't dunk quite like this. In the Showtime era of the Lakers Xavier McDaniel was big-game Magic. Among the blue collar green bloods of Boston, this fellow Green Day player flew like Bird. Only the legend of Larry eluded him. Before Mike Jordan, Seattle's X saw air and we aren't talking about the breeze on his razor shaved dome. Because he took off and soared to those same Jet City skies at Supersonic speed. But McDaniel's dunks weren't the only thing that kept him up. He blocked like a fast break finisher always starts off doing and this lion heart, bullying beast that could run you down like a gazelle also knew how to take the lunch money from your hip-pocket. Swiping a swat like steal like it was a mid-height block, Just when you were sure you had it and him. You'd be telling referees jotting in their notebook like detectives that you could have sworn you'd just seen him. You were just with the Spalding only a moment ago.
But the man who threw the rock into all sorts of hard places also was as smooth as he was strong. His clutch game of range made him just as deadly on the perimeter from mid to downtown like he was at the break in case of emergency glass. Charging up rebounds in the key and putting them back with an electric fence defense like lightning bolt. X knew how to cancel everyone out. He was double X, L. A triple X threat that the league in the 80's wish they could have censored like the first red, black and white Air Jordan's. But f### a fine Xavier McDaniels paid the cost...and you know just what he became. This was a man that went toe-to-toe with Ewing. Nose to nose with Mr. Cooper. Pip to pip with Scottie. From choking out Lakers to lunging over scorers tables, not just for loose balls, but loose lipped opponents trying to taunt. This enforcer who wrestled with every big show, big shot wasn't even afraid to square up to the greatest of all-time. To 34, number 23 was just a number. Mike just another man in his way. This guy was a real powerful forward in the punch purple paint before Rodman and all his hair colors. Just call him a Cousin of DeMarcus, or even Uncle X. Because this guy was Ron, Ron before Artest found World Peace. Terminator X may have been a Public Enemy number one to a nation of millions that couldn't hold him back. But he fought the power as he ran a power move on them like Chuck Barkley. And to think we've got some non believers in this don't think twice world of hype. Yet X was a Professor smart enough to graduate from an Academy of gifted youngsters all the way to the hallowed hall making NBA Draft.
South Carolina born, this 6 foot 7, 218 pound tweaning forward McDaniels was Witchita State raised (no, not Xavier university). All the way to the fourth pick in the draft of the year this writer was born ('85) as this X-Man became a cult-hit in the eighties like the old Marvel animation in these days of future past. The forward running player who played in every number in the early thirties also suited up for the Phoenix rising Suns he was set with, a Pat Riley New York tough, 90's Knicks team of Oakley's and Mason clones, a fellow Emerald green collar Celtic side and the Springsteen blue jean, bootcut Nets of New Jersey after some time at sea with Greece's Iraklis Thessaloniki B.C. But all of these one to two year stints had nothing on his half decade with Seattle, as perfect and precious as the nostalgically missed Supersonics franchise, In the iconic 80's, before the classic 90's uniform that recently retired, Jesus piece Ray Allen redux rebooted at number 34 in the cities last hosting years in the other Beantown, before Seattle's best club became Sue Bird's WNBA Storm in the Key. Now only original, underrated international player Detlef Schrempf comes close to X (who formed a terrifying 20 point per trifecta with hard working legends Dale Ellis and Tom Chambers) as being part of Seattle's Payton and Kemp big-three of green and yellow history. He not only wore the uniform with pride, he made it a hardwood classic, throwback testament to Mitchell and Ness. Now keeping the X name strong in basketball circles his Xavier junior sons and daughter Xylina are making their spots on college courts. The McDaniels legacy lives on like a cross in a ballot paper box. All thanks to the man that rose the bar on concepts and contests of slam dunks in-game. The Charles Xavier bald hitman with shaved eyebrows raised his fair share over his career. Word to Anthony Davis. Now how are you going to fear the brow when there isn't one? Extraordinary!