I'm a Bulls fan extremely mad online. If you aren't sure why, Ricky O'Donnell summed it up best here.
Below you'll find the application I'll be sending to 29 other teams. It's simple, straightforward, and if answered correctly, will fix my problem of having bumbling idiots running basketball operations for my favorite team.
Obviously I'm kidding. The Bulls will always be the center of my civic pride. But it's heartbreaking to watch a franchise openly express zero interest in assembling a dynamically run organization.
Yes, we've had it really good as Bulls fans. We've had the blessing of watching six championships with the greatest athlete to ever play the game. But now, nearly 21 years since Michael left, the organization has watched the city's two baseball teams each win a World Series, three Stanley Cups, and a Bears team turn a toxic culture into a Super Bowl contender coming of age under the right coach.
But the Bulls are lazy. They refuse to put the work into winning another title. Instead they keep hoping with enough Jordan era nostalgia we'll keep blindly handing over our money without ever seeing just how little they respect us. That's why they've never changed the logo, or the uniform, or why they plant Scottie Pippen courtside for every game. They're hoping we just keep thinking about the 90's when things were perfect. But we're not as dumb as John Paxson thinks we are. The game is more accessible than ever with the advent of League Pass and sharing highlights online. There are no big markets anymore. Only superstars with massive follower counts. And the Bulls transparent dysfunction has kept every free agent superstar from ever landing in Chicago.
And It's not just here in Chicago. The Bulls are still incredibly popular in Asia. David Stern had the brilliant, but also like no duh dude, idea to take the game globally as Michael Jordan's stock soared. But those 90's kids in Asia have grown up. A lot of them have their own children who will probably fall in love with basketball like their parents did. Who are they seeing on TV or YouTube? Not Cameron Payne, or Jabari Parker. They're watching Steph, Embiid, LeBron, Harden, and Durant.
By refusing to do what's right and fire John Paxson and Gar Forman, the Bulls continue to alienate their fan-base and decimated their growth potential. After Jordan's run, they had an opportunity to be the next Lakers, or Celtics, or Yankees. Instead of working at becoming a multi-decade institution of greatness, they've made nearly every wrong decision possible and show no signs of accountability.
Until ownership sells the team, this is what we can always expect - a dysfunctional, condescending misery. I'm just so sick of it.
Let's cook! The best thing about Nike taking over as uniform supplier for the NBA was introducing the 4-6 jersey rotation. Each team gets an Association, Icon, Statement, (formally known as home, away, and alternate respectively) and City. Some get a Classic and playoff teams will get an Earned jersey this season. But the City uniform changes every year and typically debut after the first monthish of the season. Which for NBA nerds like myself, that means 30 delicious new leaks a year.
The Timberwolves leak today tells us their City uniform this season is inspired by Minnesota's favorite departed baby boy, Prince. The late singer was an NBA fanatic and of course, a Minnesota native. It's only fitting their most culturally significant son is honored in Purple Rain font in his favorite color. We still need to see the official unveiling to absorb every detail, but from the leak it appears the Timberwolves finally did something right this season.
Wow. What a day. There are a special days on #NBATwitter every basketball fan will always remember. The great DeAndre Jordan emoji battle of 2014, the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals, the Cavs blowing up their team at the 2018 trade deadline, and the annual Dwight Howard has a new team day that comes around every late June.
If you're not familiar with #NBATwitter, it's quite possibly the most insane phenomenon of the internet age. No other sport has this sort of fan engagement. To participate in #NBATwitter, you have to follow two people - ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski (Woj) and The Athletic's Shams Charania. They're the overlords of this weird little Twitterverse. When these two report break NBA news, Twitter essentially erupts with GIFS, memes, and photoshops. The NBA is the most dramatic league in the world, and #NBATwitter perfectly balances the theatrics with unparalleled humor.
Today, #NBATwitter was something special. What should have been a week celebrating major milestones, Dwyane Wade announcing his final season and Elton Brand accepting the 76ers GM position, the focus is now on three separate events all colliding simultaneously. As an #NBATwitter addict, I'm here to break down the events of the day for you.
12:46 p.m. - Jimmy Butler requests a trade from Minnesota Timberwolves
Let's cook! The first news drop of the day was arguably the juiciest. After only one year in Minnesota, it was reported Jimmy Butler requested a trade to one of three teams - the Clippers, Knicks, or Nets. The announcement wasn't a huge surprise as rumors swirled all summer of his unhappiness with the Timberwolves organization. It was also reported Thibs was flying to LA this morning to meet with Jimmy and sort out this mess. I think most people figured Jimmy would stick it out one more year and then test free agency in 2019.
He demanded a trade. When a guy's PR team tells one of the two pillars of #NBATwitter that their client wants out right now, that means they're not fucking around. Within a few minutes of telling Shams, every team in the NBA knew Jimmy was suddenly available, thus crashing his trade market value for the Timberwolves. Now Minnesota has no choice but to move him for pennies on the dollar.
The silver lining for Minnesota is the franchise belongs to Karl-Anthony Towns once again. He's one of the brightest young stars in the league and doesn't have to share the leadership role with Jimmy anymore. The downside is, they traded two young assets and my sweet, beautiful, baby boy Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls for a one year rental. WHOOPS!
1:25 p.m. - Mark Cuban donates $10 million to promote women in leadership roles
Back in February of this year, Sports Illustrated released a report on the misogynistic and toxic culture of the Dallas Mavericks organization. Calling it "A Real-life Animal House," the story reported on dozens of current and ex-employees accounts of sexual harassment and domestic violence within the Mav's workplace. After the article came out, a law firm was brought in to conduct an independent investigation of the organization. The result was a 43-page report that was released today. It stated investigators found that such harassment was allowed because of a company-wide culture of misconduct. The report concluded with recommendations the Mavs hire more women for leadership and supervisory positions. Mav's owner Mark Cuban has committed $10 million to numerous organizations that promote women in leadership roles and combat domestic violence.
Obviously this is a serious issue and shouldn't receive the typical funny #NBATwitter replies. This story deserves honest reflection and discussion of how to prevent systemic misogynistic culture from developing in any organization. The timing of the report's release was what added to this day's insanity. What should have been the top story of the day was overshadowed by the Jimmy Butler news dropping 39 minutes earlier.
2:04 p.m. - Space Jam 2 is officially announced
Of course! Why not on a day with two major NBA storylines pumping through the veins of #NBATwitter, the most anticipated cartoon/live-action mashup sequel of all-time is announced?! It's been 22 years since the original came out. It couldn't have waited for a day when nothing else was going on?
I feel like the first whispers of LeBron starring in Space Jam 2 began when he took his talents to South Beach. Then speculation got even hotter when he surprised a lot of people with his above average performance in Train Wreck. Finally, the move to the Lakers this summer flared up rumors of wanting to settle in Hollywood for a career in acting after basketball. LeBron confirmed the locker room graphic on Instagram later today. It's really happening, folks.
#NBATwitter shifted from trade scenarios, to commentary Cuban's donation, to predictions of the new Monstars lineup in an hour and a half. I've never seen #NBATwitter move that fast in this short of a timeframe. Unreal. This is why the NBA offseason reigns supreme. No other sport can demand this much attention between seasons. What will happen tomorrow with #NBATwitter? I'm not sure, but something delicious I bet. Can't wait to find out.
Here's my official Space Jam 2 Monstars lineup prediction:
Elena Della Donne
Magic Johnson can keep his job. The Lakers president of basketball operations said he would step down if he didn't land a premier free agent either this summer or next. After a harrowing five days without job security, Magic got THE free agent.
LeBron James is signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The four-year deal is worth $154 million with an opt-out after the third season. The longest deal LeBron has signed since he took his talents to South Beach.
There's not much to say. The move was expected. The only real surprise is his announcement came less than 24 hours after the start of free agency. By comparison, LeBron waited more than a week after the official July 1 start date to release the Decision and the SI cover story.
Following the Decision 3.0, the Lakers signed Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo. Not exactly the super team predicted to join LeBron, especially with Paul George staying in OKC. But it's a long off-season and the Lakers aren't done yet.
I'll have more to say once free agency cools down. Speculating on what happens next is useless since my next paragraph focused on DeMarcus Cousins probably signing in LA. Naturally Cousins just decided to sign a one-year, $5.3 million dollar deal with the Warriors five minutes after I started writing. Why? Because the NBA is chaos and I clearly can't predict anything right.
Until then, remember when Cousins tried to beat up Kevin Durant in the locker room last year? Incredible. I can't wait for the 2018-19 season to begin.
Do you remember where you were when James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets? I was meeting my brother's new girlfriend (now loving wife) for the first time at her apartment. It was a Halloween party and SportsCenter was muted in the background. I came as Rick from The Walking Dead and regretted my decision. A costume sheriffs hat somehow made me look fatter in the bathroom mirror.
The news suddenly broke on the eve of the 2012-13 NBA season. I quickly forgot about my bloated, drunken face as the ESPN ticker flew across the screen. The Oklahoma City Thunder were unable to reach a contract extension with Harden. They were sending the 6'5" shooting guard to Houston for Jeremy Lamb and Kevin Martin. Pleasant conversation stamped out with an eruption of incomprehensible shouting as OKC had just broken up its budding nucleus. The moment the trigger for the Harden deal was pulled, one of the best bar arguments of all time was born.
What if the Thunder never traded James Harden?
The last memory of Harden in OKC was the 2012 NBA Finals Game 5 blowout loss resulting in LeBron James' first NBA title. A defeated Harden hung his tired arms over Westbrook and Durant's shoulders on the bench as the 4th quarter slipped into garbage time. It was a tough moment to watch, but expectation was they'd bounce back. At the time, the young core was made up of Durant, 23, Westbrook, 23, and Harden, 22. Reigning titans of the Western Conference, Dirk, Kobe, and Duncan, were quickly decimated in the playoffs by Harden's firepower, Durant's dominance, and Westbrook's fearlessness. There was no doubt they’d be back next year.
Harden was still coming off the bench in 2012. His development grew exponentially after the trade, but back then his future as a starter was obvious. So instead, what if the Thunder traded a variety of contracts to keep Harden and promote him to a starting role? Each member of the trio probably doesn't win an MVP award. Each would make less money over time by sacrificing to keep the core together. But it would all be worth it as they would eventually win a couple titles and stifle the South Beach super team. The rise of the Golden State dynasty would be less meteoric and it's possible Durant never joins them in 2016.
It's hard to imagine Harden as anything but a Houston Rocket. As the winner of the 2018 NBA MVP, he joins the ranks of legendary Rockets' big man, Hakeem Olajuwon. As time passes, people will forget about Harden's stop in OKC the same way they did with Hakeem in Toronto. If Harden was never traded then perhaps he wouldn't have become the MVP he is today. Maybe there was just too much talent on one team for it to ever work. It could be Harden was always meant to be more than the third piece.
The hypothetical is a blackhole of bar conversation — tempting to approach but impossible to not get sucked in. It's up there with great conversations like what if Shaq didn't leave Orlando, if Michael never left in 1993, and if the Lakers/Chris Paul trade wasn't vetoed.
But with the Harden trade, I always wonder this: What if Clay Bennet never relocated the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City? Would playing for a historic franchise in an established market impacted this young core differently? Would the fanfare received from the Seattle Seahawks Superbowl victory enticed coveted NBA free agents to sign with the Sonics? Would the Sonics have kept their iconic jerseys or redesigned them to reflect a new era?
The greatest what if of this decade will never be answered. Like when a marriage between friends suddenly ends, it hurts you to see their future dissolve. Each one of them now living very separate lives in different cities. Embellished stories of rifts and betrayals generates gossip, but nostalgia from old photos occasionally resurface loving memories.
Regardless of the paths the three men took, their talent and achievements should be celebrated and appreciated. Perhaps the journeys they're on now were always meant to be this way regardless of any trade or franchise relocation. No bar argument can ever answer what could have been. The only thing any NBA fan should do now is enjoy watching the rest of their brilliant careers unfold.
It's the monthlong event that arrives every four years. Journalists spend weeks sucking down cigarettes and coffee to help pump out content. Fans cement themselves in front of SportsCenter and refresh Twitter during sleepy boardroom meetings.
If you think I'm talking about those trash Summer Olympic Games, then you're clearly not an NBA offseason fan.
The NBA season is obviously fantastic. Even with the predictable and lethargic NBA Finals this year, it's by far the most entertaining professional league. What the NBA does better than other leagues is its offseason drama (known affectionally as Photoshop SZN). As soon as the season ends, draft speculation heats up, followed by wild draft-night trades, and finally the start of free agency on July 1.
Some offseasons are more chaotic than others, but every four years, something beautiful happens. It first began in 2010, when LeBron was an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. This was the genesis of free agency mania with LeBron famously taking his talents to South Beach during the often rebuked The Decision. After four years in Miami, LeBron announced in a Sports Illustrated feature that he was returning home to Cleveland.
It's been four years, four NBA Finals appearances, and one Larry O'Brien Trophy for LeBron's second term as Cleveland's savior. After breaking Cleveland's title draught in 2016, two quick subsequent exits by the Warriors may have finally decimated this Cavs squad for good. Now the question Brian Windhorst will have to deny knowing the answer to for weeks is being asked.
Where will LeBron go?
Since everyone has to make a prediction, my official guess is LeBron stays in Cleveland. Kevin Love, the 8th pick, and Tristan Thompson will be the most notable assets on the move. Come draft night, Cleveland will talk themselves into Damian Lillard as a Steph Curry stopper and package their pick with two assets. If a trade fails, they'll try to sign Chris Paul. Obviously he's an elite talent, but he's aging and suffered a season ending hamstring injury in the playoffs. Cleveland needs to get younger if they want to get back to the Finals.
By moving Love and Tristan's contracts, along with dumping bad contracts like George Hill and Rodney Hood, Cleveland will put themselves in position to secure LeBron and scoop up Paul George. He'll write something for The Undefeated about unfinished business and staying committed to his roots while thanking his former teammates. A new big three era will begin — refreshed and retooled.
I'm probably dead wrong, but I don't think LeBron even knows where he's going. He's a thoughtful, community-oriented person, but he's not afraid to do what he feels is best. So this could be the end of LeBron's tenure in Cleveland.
The only thing I do know is if he leaves, the NBA power struggle will dramatically shift. The LeBron domino always triggers waves of discount free agency signings and unpredictable trades from fringe contenders trying to dethrone the king. After watching the Warriors hijack another NBA season, a LeBron move and the aftermath may threaten their dynasty. If you hated how predictable the NBA Finals were, you should be rooting for moving trucks outside the James' residence.
Details of the anniversary edition gameplay aren't out yet, but if the cover art is any indication, this game is going to be beautiful. It's a gigantic leap from the standard red background that had grown stale.
This year's cover art distinctly separates itself from all 18 previous 2K installments. The overwhelming size of LeBron's profile surrounded by his legacy defining soundbites makes this feel like a LeBron James video game - not a basketball game.
Never before has an athlete been bigger than the 2K brand. You were always sold an NBA 2K game featuring Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and so on. The only exception was the 2011 Michael Jordan edition. But compare that cover art to 2019 and tell me 2K put Jordan above the brand.
As polarizing as LeBron has been, we're not going to have another athlete of his magnitude for a long time. Hate him or idolize him, you have to appreciate what he means to his fans and everything he's done for the NBA in the post-Jordan era. He deserves to be elevated above all the cover athletes that came before him.
NBA 2K19 drops September 11.
P.S. Smart of NBA 2K to give LeBron a generic black jersey after last summer's trade debacle.
The one criticism I've always had against ESPN Films has been their lack of documentaries about the Chicago Bulls. There was Jordan Rides the Bus, which is excellent, but that's such a weird footnote in Jordan history. Obviously not everyone cares about the Bulls. Duh. But, fan or not, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were cultural titans during their perfect six-for-six championship run. They're the only NBA franchise to own a decade. How could ESPN neglect our airness like by not gifting the world a documentary about his career?
Well, the answer is, because Michael and the Bulls' story can't be condensed into one documentary. It needs a 10-part-mega-docu-series-extravoganzia! To pull it off effectively, it requires a Herculean coordination effort to sit every willing/living participant and recount the cultural and historic impact the '90s Bulls made on this planet. So I guess I can forgive ESPN since that is a ton of work and deserves the necessary effort to accomplish a project of such significance.
Today ESPN Films and Netflix announced a joint production called "The Last Dance" that will debut in 2019.
ESPN Films and Netflix today announced a joint production “The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary series that will chronicle one of the greatest icons and most successful dynasties in sports history, Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls. Directed by Jason Hehir (“The Fab Five,” “The ’85 Bears,” “Andre the Giant”) and produced by Mike Tollin, the anthology will examine the simultaneous rise of Jordan and the NBA during those years.
This is monumental. My guess is The Last Dance will become the must-binge series when it airs next year. What I'm most excited for is the promise of never-before-seen footage. That's usually marketing code for content that was never all that interesting to air originally. However, I find it hard to believe that within all of this unseen footage, there won't be a moment where we suddenly see Michael in a lens we're not used to.
There's often a verbal asterisk when discussing Michael. The "yeah but" of the conversation circles around the fact that social media didn't exist during his championship runs. What was Michael like with the pressure of winning a sixth NBA title in his final season on the Bulls? Were the wildly dramatic storylines of today's NBA around in the '90s or is the Durant vs. Westbrook tension a product of today's Twitter environment? Will this documentary series forever change the way we compare Jordan to LeBron?
Until 2019, I'll keep rewatching the trailer hoping time speeds up. I can't wait for The Last Dance.
Earlier today, The Players' Tribune released an essay from Cleveland Cavaliers forward, Kevin Love. Entitled Everyone is Going Through Something, Love revealed an episode of panic during a November game against the Atlanta Hawks. From the moment the game started, Love felt something was wrong. Here is a premier athlete, and he was winded within the first few minutes of a game. His head spun and he lost control of his body. His physical symptoms suffocated his abilities so much that Love spent most of the second half on the locker room floor trying to catch his breath. Someone from the Cavs organization found Love in his state and helped get him set up with a therapist.
Love went on to speak openly about the death of his grandmother and how her passing affected him. He wouldn't allow himself to grieve. His thought being that he's a basketball player. Basketball players are men and men don't show their emotions.
That sounds completely irrational, but that's an all too common thought process among men. Love wrote that he didn't consider talking openly about his struggle with depression and anxiety until Toronto Raptor's shooting guard, DeMar DeRozan, discussed a recent tweet with the Toronto Star.
DeRozan spoke freely about his struggle with depression and anxiety. Here is an NBA super star, playing during All-Star weekend in his home town of Los Angeles, with the weight of panic crushing him despite all the fame, money, and success. He spoke on how you never know what someone is going through, and that he hope's his story can help people going through the same internal struggle. It's a great interview and can be found here.
It's pretty rare to hear two men talk about mental health the way Love and DeRozan have. The stigma of depression and anxiety exists everywhere, but for young men, it's an extraordinarily difficult barrier to break. Growing up, I always heard from different avenues of culture how boys were supposed to just suck it up, be a man, and stop being a pussy. It doesn't take a PhD to connect the dots on why so many men express their feelings with physical violence. That's not an excuse for abusive behavior, but I think the examples people like Love and DeRozan are setting for young boys gives them the confidence to express themselves in a healthy manner as adults.
A lot of men my age and older didn't have role models talk to us about our mental health. It took me a long time to acknowledge my own struggle with depression, and I still have trouble with that stigma. I'll talk about what I'm going through, but in a shaky, round-about way. I think that's why I became a writer. It's an extraordinarily difficult exercise to be direct and vulnerable in front of other people.
Love and DeRozan are incredible NBA talents and equally unbelievable role models. I hope their stories mark the genesis of other men speaking to our boys about taking care of their mental health.
It may be time to start blasting those biceps, because sleeves on NBA jerseys are about to be a relic of an ugly past. On January 17th, The Wall Street Journal business reporter, Sara Germano, described the changes coming to NBA uniforms.
Beginning with the 2017-18 season, Nike will take over for Adidas as the provider for NBA jerseys and apparel. Adidas signed an 11-year deal back in 2006 with the NBA, but announced last year that it would not be renewing its contract - instead focusing their efforts on its new partnership with the NHL.
While the main focus of Germano's article is how the current pricing tier for NBA jerseys will become more expensive, that's not what stood out to me. Mainly because I'm an adult and I have a job. So I'm not going to sweat it too much when Nike dangles a Jimmy Butler jersey out in front of me.
What caught my attention the most was that Nike is planning to scrap the almost universally hated sleeved jersey design Adidas dumped on us in 2013.
The sleeved jersey design will go down as a footnote on Internet slide shows for ugliest uniforms of all time. When they first debuted, fans were confused, players hated shooting in them and NBA executives overestimated consumers willingness to spend $110 on a glorified t-shirt.
Frustration among players with sleeved jerseys was brought into the spotlight when the league's most talented and marketable player ripped them at center court in a glorious display
On November 4th, 2015, LeBron James went 4-11 and 0-3 from beyond the arc before tearing his sleeves at the arm pit. He went on to drop 23 points in a win over the Knicks. However, it should be noted that LeBron put up possibly the greatest performance of his career in game 7 of the 2016 NBA finals wearing the same sleeved Cavs alternate jersey.
Regardless, it sounds like Nike is burying sleeves for good. What comes next are ads, which I'm not mentally prepared for. The Sixers and the Kings are two of the thirty teams that have already sold ad space for next season - a 2.5-by-2.5-inch patch on the front. From what I've seen, it's not a total aesthetic disaster. So for now, I'll be content with the conclusion of the sleeved jersey era.
I write the words I'm too uncomfortable to say.