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Deep Routes

For ESPN the Magazine, Wright Thompson gets unbelievable access to Michael Jordan:

THE OPPOSITE OF this creeping nostalgia is the way Jordan has always collected slights, inventing them — nurturing them. He can be a breathtaking asshole: self-centered, bullying and cruel. That’s the ugly side of greatness. He’s a killer, in the Darwinian sense of the word, immediately sensing and attacking someone’s weakest spot. He’d moo like a cow when the overweight general manager of the Bulls, Jerry Krause, would get onto the team bus. When the Bulls traded for the injury-prone Bill Cartwright, Jordan teased him as Medical Bill, and he once punched Will Perdue during practice. He punched Steve Kerr too, and who knows how many other people.

This started at an early age. Jordan genuinely believed his father liked his older brother, Larry, more than he liked him, and he used that insecurity as motivation. He burned, and thought if he succeeded, he would demand an equal share of affection. His whole life has been about proving things, to the people around him, to strangers, to himself. This has been successful and spectacularly unhealthy. If the boy in those letters from Chapel Hill is gone, it is this appetite to prove — to attack and to dominate and to win — that killed him. In the many biographies written about Jordan, most notably in David Halberstam’s “Playing for Keeps,” a common word used to describe Jordan is “rage.” Jordan might have stopped playing basketball, but the rage is still there. The fire remains, which is why he searches for release, on the golf course or at a blackjack table, why he spends so much time and energy on his basketball team and why he dreams of returning to play.

At SB Nation, Paul Flannery talks about the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and drafts a strategy for effectively communicating the message:

For every analytically inclined member of a team’s front office there are several more who aren’t interested. For every Hoopdata loving basketball writer (please come back, Hoopdata) there are crusty beat writers who don’t care nothing about fancy-boy stats. And for every enlightened fan there are hundreds more who count the ringzzzz first, last and forever.

And that’s where this whole thing breaks down in a self-congratulatory echo chamber of smugness and mistrust. The cultural divide is still strong, but it doesn’t have to be. As Kirk Goldsberry mentioned in his presentation, we need to get better at communicating what the metrics mean and that’s where the media comes into play. With a little more patience and whole lot less hubris, we can start talking with people instead of at them.

Also on SB Nation, Matt Ufford analyzes Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea:

1. Rodman is right: he DID make history, though he makes that boast to Stephanopoulos with more flair and import than it warrants. A garishly-dressed pawn with facial piercings is still a pawn, and Rodman will be lucky if his role in the history of American-North Korean relations falls somewhere between Mrs. O’Leary’s cow and Paul Tibbets. (Humanity will be lucky if it doesn’t.)

2. I’m less troubled by Rodman’s lack of circumspection than by his utter failure to make a simple comparison. If you’re going to compare your friend Kim Jong Un to an American president (not a recommended stance in a debate, by the way), modern American history offers no shortage of presidents with blood on their hands, from Bush’s invasion of Iraq to Obama’s use of drone attacks to the succession of Democrats and Republicans who waged war in Vietnam for two decades. Saying “Bill Clinton had sex with his secretary,” aside from being factually suspect, is not a strong comeback when you’re being asked about Kim’s prison camps.

At Sports on Earth, Shaun Powell interviews Jerry West:

Q: Are you a fan of the modern-day player, or hopelessly old school when it comes to certain aspects of today’s culture?

A: When I played I never thought I was better than anyone. Now you have guys running down the floor, making three-point shots and then holding up three fingers. I have no idea where that comes from. It’s not me. I don’t like it. I don’t like players who have to promote themselves. A guy running around beating himself on the chest. I don’t know what that’s about. If you’re good enough you are promoted. I see guys sitting on the bench laughing and they’re down 20. That would never happen with the Lakers. I wouldn’t put up with it. Nor would anyone else on the team. Wilt wouldn’t and neither would Elgin. And I wouldn’t put up with it as a general manager. I would hope I’d have the support of ownership to do my job in that situation. I guess I like the Yankees, no name on the back of the uniform, the tradition that goes with that. We’re all different and we all react differently to situations. I could care less about the tattoos and haircuts. That never bothered me. And I don’t care that players today make more money than I did. I just wish there was better conduct and professionalism at times.

Quick Reads

- 11 Homemade Girl Scout Cookie recipes [Huffington Post]

- Honest Job Descriptions [Digiday]

- Awesome map of what America’s cross-country high speed rail could (but obviously probably will never) look like [Upworthy]

- “The top 1% of America has 40% of all the nation’s wealth. The bottom 80% only has 7%” [Mashable]

- But how much richer than the rest are the top 1% of billionaires? [Slate]

- Man gets sunglasses and sideburns shaved on the back of his head. Hilarity ensues. [Laughing Squid]

- Is the grass greener on China’s side because they are spray painting it? [Rocket News]

Food Porn

1/2 sausage, pepperoni, and fresh basil; 1/2 cheese @ Lombardi’s (New York City)

Beef Brisket sandwich @ Smoke Daddy (Chicago)


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