How does a basketball referee make it to the NBA? How do refs work together on the court and what do they do to improve? As part of espnW’s “Women with Cool Sports Jobs” series, I spoke with the NBA’s only female referee, Lauren Holtkamp, to find out. More goes into the job than you probably realize.
Think about the kids, Kevin. The kids! The No. 35 jerseys worn by Oklahoma City children have been good for nearly a decade, but now they’re worthless. Might as well burn ’em. This is a huge (as in widespread) little (as in not that important) problem in all sports—aside from a franchise quarterback, who doesn’t play for multiple teams?—but this NBA offseason has been a particularly strong reminder that fans should stick to nameless jerseys.
Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant, two rare superstars who stayed with one team forever, just finished their final seasons. And even Bryant didn’t make it easy on fans, switching his jersey number midway through his career. Are there any players like them left? Dirk Nowitzki comes to mind; it’s hard to see him leaving Dallas at this point. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli have made San Antonio a safe haven for jersey buyers. Among active players in the top 100 of games played, only one other qualifies: Mike Conley, who just signed a five-year extension to stay in Memphis.
We can’t predict where Damian Lillard’s career might take him. Or Gordon Hayward’s. Or Ben Simmons’. But we can’t trust them. Durant, Dwyane Wade, Al Horford, and Dwight Howard (again) reminded us of that over these past few weeks.
Alas, there is a solution: The t-shirt jersey. Much cheaper than its more authentic cousin, the t-shirt jersey displays the same information as the jersey but is affordable and more appropriate for public. In fact, my Jose Reyes Mets t-shirt jersey just became useful again. And that’s why I was joking earlier about burning your Durant gear. LeBron James returned to Cleveland and it’s not hard to see Durant doing the same in OKC, especially if he wins a championship in Golden State.
In 2014, the top-selling NBA jerseys belonged to James, Durant, Bryant, and Derrick Rose, all of whom have joined new teams (or retired) since. So go ahead and buy a No. 35 Warriors jersey. Just don’t consider it a good investment.
Known for his flashy style of play and brash personality, Tim Duncan announced his retirement in a 2,000-word blog post under the headline, “I’m Out, Suckaz.”
No, no he didn’t. In fact, Tim Duncan didn’t announce anything. The Spurs released a statement yesterday on his behalf. The first line read, “San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan today announced that he will retire after 19 seasons with the organization,” and while there are 520 more words, none of them are from Duncan. Consider how unusual that is in an era where the standard operating procedure is for athletes to announce their retirement on The Players’ Tribune. That’s what Kobe did, through a poem in which he couldn’t decide between “and” or “&.” It’s what David Ortiz did in a two-minute video that featured multiple close-ups of his hands. Derek Jeter, founder of The Players’ Tribune, wrote 15 paragraphs on Facebook, and while his Yankee teammate Mariano Rivera simply called a press conference, both made the announcement before their final season.
In the hours leading up to Thursday night’s NBA draft, many of the top prospects will be in hotel rooms watching TV analysts speculate where they’ll spend the next few years of their lives. The “experts,” like the players themselves, have little concrete information. One thing is certain: As much as the players dreamed about this day, by Thursday afternoon they just want it to end.
There is an unspoken understanding between the NBA and its casual fans: We will ignore you for most of the winter in favor of football and college basketball and pay attention come playoff time. You, in turn, must deliver exciting action. Rest your stars and beat up on the 76ers all you want in December. But the final two minutes of most playoff games better be entertaining.
The NBA has not held up its end of the bargain in 2016. Not even close. There are numbers that prove this: There have been 10 games decided by at least 30 points. The previous high for one postseason was seven such games. On one day in the opening round, three of the four games had at least 20-point margins. The average victory margin was at a record high of 14.2 before the first three games of the finals were decided by 15, 33, and 30 points.
Maybe it’s because the star of the league is 6’3″, 185-pounds. Or maybe it’s because there are so few true centers these days. But look at the starters, as voted by the fans, for Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game. Positions are no longer explicit in basketball, but we can probably agree there are three point guards (Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Kyle Lowry), two shooting guards (Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant), and five others who, if you had to choose one position, would be small forwards (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard). They combine to be the shortest All-Star starters since fans started voting.
Charles Barkley went on the radio yesterday and said the 2015 Golden State Warriors would have no chance against the 1995 Chicago Bulls. “That Bulls team would kill this little team,” he said. More specifically, he said, Michael Jordan would score a bunch of points, Dennis Robinson would grab a bunch of rebounds, and Scottie Pippen would be a matchup nightmare.* Whether he’s right or wrong, there is no surprise the 52-year-old Barkley prefers the team from 20 years ago. Far more often than not, fans side with players and teams from their era over the current one.