If all the yearwere playing holidays, To sport would be as tedious as to work.
Henry IV, Part I
FOR ALL of hiscontributions to modernity, Shakespeare failed to anticipate 24/7,365-day-a-year pro sports—and who can blame him, living as he did in an age inwhich "to sport" often meant watching animals tear each other limb fromlimb? (How little things have changed, sadly, for at least one former NFLquarterback.) Most surprising to the Scribe of Stratford might be the NBA,which has evolved from a seasonal, regional pastime into a year-roundinternational phenomenon that is anything but tedious. This summer alonebrought a guilty plea from crooked NBA referee Tim Donaghy (page 81); asuccessful sexual-harassment suit against New York Knicks coach and generalmanager Isiah Thomas; the relocation of several of the league's most talentedplayers and the endless vacillation of another; and, oh, yes, some actualhoops, as Team USA romped through the FIBA Americas Championship, enoughbasketball-related drama to fill several quartos.
"There used tobe not much of a hot-stove league in basketball," says senior writer JackMcCallum, SI's pro basketball bard. "Now it's not a hot stove but a blastfurnace. We've already had one pure superstar traded, Kevin Garnett; one nearsuperstar traded, Ray Allen; one near superstar wanting to be traded, ShawnMarion; and one absolute superstar who will be traded, Kobe Bryant."
McCallum spent partof July in Las Vegas ostensibly watching practice for the FIBA tournament butreally trailing Bryant for any hint of his intentions (page 78). Meanwhilewriter-reporter Chris Mannix, who will do many of SI's INSIDE THE NBA columnsthis season, wandered through a Milwaukee mall with the Bucks' first-rounddraft pick, Yi Jianlian, talking about the player's adjustment to America'sheartland and searching in vain for a Chinese restaurant. "The best wecould do," Mannix recalls, "was a Japanese place in the foodcourt."
Senior writer IanThomsen, who will contribute to SI.com and to the magazine, spent some 50 hourson the phone with NBA scouts and another 50 organizing material for hiscomprehensive Enemy Lines (SI.com/NBA). "For every guy who's going tocontribute this year, we have an NBA advance scout breaking down his game,"says Thomsen. "It's a great crash course that got me ready for the season.It even got me thinking better of the Knicks."
Thomsen's sourcesalso led him to temper his expectations of the reloaded Celtics. ("Scoutshave a lot of questions about whether the chemistry will work among their threestars," he says.) But don't say that to SI associate editor Albert Lin, whogrew up in Concord, Mass. Lin joined SI's website in 1998, moved to themagazine in 2003 and is now starting his second season as the NBA editor."I first saw Kevin Garnett play when he was a high school junior, and Iinstantly became a fan," says Lin. "He supposedly would've attendedMichigan—my alma mater—had he not jumped straight to the NBA, so as aBostonian, I'm glad to finally be able to have him on my team."
To deal with thejam-packed NBA news cycle, SI's own team is nimbler than ever. SI.com producerBrad Weinstein oversees coverage that will include a regularly updatedFanNation blog by Mannix and up-to-the-minute insider news and columns fromMcCallum, Thomsen, Marty Burns, Steve Aschburner and Paul Forrester. SI's NBAphotography, meanwhile, is handled by associate picture editor MargueriteSchropp Lucarelli, who understands that beyond all the sound and fury is a gamebeautiful in its simplicity. After all, as the late Texas coach Abe Lemons (whoclearly knew his Shakespeare) once said, "There really are only two plays:Romeo and Juliet and put the darn ball in the basket."
The Glory of the Game
Special contributor Rob Fleder's work on The BasketballBook, a celebration of the game in words by SI writers and pictures by thegreatest sports photographers, started with a review of the magazine's boundvolumes, going back to SI's first issue in August 1954. With all thespectacular material in our archives, the problem was, as it had been with thefootball and baseball books Fleder (above) edited for SI, what to choose. Thesame applied to the tens of thousands of photos that Fleder sifted through. Healso traveled to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., where hewas given access to a trove of material not on public display, including balls,shoes and jerseys dating back to the game's creation. Many were photographedexclusively for the book and integrated into striking layouts by SI creativedirector Steven Hoffman. The Basketball Book went on sale on Tuesday.
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (MCCALLUM)
FULL-COURT PRESS A 26-year SI veteran, McCallum leads the magazine's coverage of the 2007--08 season.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (FLEDER)
ERICK W. RASCO (BOOK)