Friday, June 13, 2014

10 comments Bill Simmons Writes About Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals; Really It's About Himself Though

Most people who watch sports view a certain sporting event through the prism of where they were that day, what they were doing, and how it made them feel. I think Bill Simmons takes it to a different level though. He somehow manages to go from the prism of where he was to making the sporting event actually about him, then takes his experiences and turns them into actual parts of the sporting event itself. For example, the reaction of a group of people to a sporting event is obviously perfectly mirrored by the reaction of Bill and his friends to this sporting event. So I'm not going to cover Bill's article on Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, but highlight how he makes it about himself in various ways. It's going to be hard not to get off track and break down the article as a whole, so try to bear with me if I do get off track.

With Miami trailing by five points, LeBron James launched a desperation 3 from the top of the key, maybe two steps to the left, and sent the ball sailing over the rim. Actually, it was worse than that — it bounced off the bottom of the backboard like a freaking Super Ball. I watched the trajectory from our makeshift television set across the court, crammed behind San Antonio’s basket, so I could tell right away it was off. 

Bill knew LeBron's shot was off immediately because he watched on a television, unlike everyone else in the United States, who were crowded around the radio unable to view the game. Seeing the game on a makeshift television gives Bill insight no else had. LeBron is no Larry Bird, that's for sure.

If any Spur secured the rebound, San Antonio would bring home the title — the fifth for Duncan and Popovich, and probably the sweetest one too. But none of them expected the basketball to carom that quickly.


He played through pain for the entire playoffs. Later that summer, Erik Spoelstra told me that Miami charted Leonard’s rebounds during those seven games — somehow, he caught every rebound that touched his fingers except for two. This was one of the two.

I recognize talking to Erik Spoelstra is part of Bill's job, but I can never shake the feeling he is name-dropping when he writes sentences like this one.

Duncan and his nearly 16,000 career rebounds watched from afar. His three teammates tipped the ball toward Miami’s bench, right to Ray Allen, who immediately turned into Justin Bieber after five joints and 10 cups of sizzurp. The man lost all of his coordination.

Bill having to explain the Justin Bieber reference means he didn't need to use the Justin Bieber reference. It sort of ruins the point of forcing in a reference to Justin Bieber if Bill has to explain the reference. Of course, Bill does prefer to over-describe something with more words than necessary rather than use a direct statement explaining what he means.

The entire sequence took 8.1 seconds. Seven players touched the ball. Leonard, Miller and LeBron touched it twice. Incredibly, Miami was still alive. Timeout, San Antonio.

Bill has already killed space describing the play, so now it's time to talk about Ray Allen's three-point shot, and more importantly, the perspective of Bill Simmons regarding Ray Allen's three-point shot.

I don’t remember much about Game 6. But I absolutely remember standing there in a medicated haze, thinking to myself, Wait a second … they aren’t gonna screw this up, are they?

After I joined ESPN’s studio crew last season, my biggest fear was getting sick during the Finals. 

These are what's known as "first-world problems."

My immune system stinks. Throw me on enough airplanes and I’m probably catching something. I had stayed healthy for eight straight months, with everything falling apart after Game 5 of the Finals. We landed in Miami and I holed up in my hotel room, the thermostat jacked as high as it could go, trying to sweat out whatever evil bronchitis demon had possessed me.

I always wondered about Bill's state of health during Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. I was tortured by a lack of knowledge regarding whether Bill was completely healthy or not and how this affected Ray Allen's shot.

You can’t call in sick for television. You don’t have a choice; you have to keep going.

I'll try to remember not to call in sick for television.

And so I wore my best suit and one of my favorite ties. They caked my face with makeup. They used drops to save my reddened eyes. You wouldn’t have known I was ill, even if I felt like I was heading for my own funeral. Right down to how my body had been prepared. And that’s how I watched one of the greatest basketball games ever — in a foggy haze. I remember Duncan dropped 25 points in the first half, torching Miami like he was 25 years old again. I remember discussing him at halftime, wondering if we’d remember it as the Duncan Game — his unexpected last chapter, the night that could cement his legacy as his generation’s defining player. I don’t remember much else.

"I, I, I, I,"...this article is about the legacy of Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, which is obviously inextricably tied in with Bill's health.

During that now-fateful timeout with San Antonio up five, Jalen Rose and I watched NBA officials wheel the Larry O’Brien Trophy into the runway to our right. It couldn’t have been farther than 15 feet from us. We watched security guards assume positions around the court, and we watched Heat employees hastily sticking up yellow rope around the courtside seats. Like they were cordoning off a homicide scene. Even after LeBron’s second-gasp 3, I still thought we were going home. Some Heat fans had already trickled out. We watched them leave in disbelief. 

I know some of your Simmonsites out there think I'm being picky about criticizing Bill for making the legacy of Game 6 partly about him. I don't think I am. He's inserting himself into the narrative, which is not unnecessary. Bill could easily have written the paragraph above in this way:

"During the now-fateful timeout with San Antonio up five, Jalen Rose and I watched NBA officials wheel the Larry O'Brien Trophy into the runway to our right. It was so close to us, just like it was so close for the Spurs. Heat employees were cordoning off the courtside seats like a homicide scene and Heat fans were trickling out. The Spurs were going home champs." 

My point is that it doesn't have to be about Bill and what HE thought was happening because others clearly thought this too. He's not telling a narrative about the game, but a narrative about HIMSELF and the game. This narrative isn't about the Heat, the Spurs or Game 6, it's about Bill Simmons and what was going on around him, which just happened to be Game 6 of the NBA Finals. He makes the story about himself.

Also, Bill states he thought "we" were going home, but he was in disbelief Heat fans were leaving. That's a little bit of a contradiction. If he thought the Spurs were winning then so did the Heat fans and that's why they were leaving. I'm not defending the Heat fans, simply pointing out it's fine for Bill to believe the game is over, but he's in disbelief Heat fans would think the same thing?

How many current players could have nailed these specific free throws? Maybe 10 total? Leonard clanged the first one. Mayhem. He made the second one, and by the way, I will always respect Kawhi for making that second one.

I am sure Leonard sleeps better at night knowing Bill Simmons respects him for hitting the second free throw.

After Miami’s timeout, we watched in disbelief as Pop removed Duncan for the ensuing defensive possession. How can you keep the power forward GOAT off the floor twice? Jalen and I were flipping out.

See what I mean? The story is about Bill Simmons and what goes on around him, not about Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

What was Pop thinking? As we were venting, they started playing basketball again.

How rude of them to start playing basketball again while you and Jalen Rose are venting. Actually, I think this sentence sums up my issue with Bill's writing pretty well.

"As we were venting, they started playing basketball again."

The basketball game is nothing but a side show to what is really important in this story, which is Bill's own personal thoughts (in this case, his venting) about the side show. Bill inserts himself into the legacy of Game 6 by making his thoughts a part of the action.

I watched Ray Allen play for my favorite team for five years.

Bill has inside information that no one else has regarding Allen, because he watched him play for the Celtics for five years. And yes, there was no way this article was being written without some reference to the Celtics. Even Game 6 of an NBA Finals where the Celtics didn't participate has something to do with the Celtics.

With seven seconds left in Game 6, suddenly, we were in one of those situations. And I knew just from watching him backpedal those first two steps.

Bill knew. He was watching on the makeshift television and knew Ray Allen would hit this shot. This shot isn't about Ray Allen hitting a three-point shot to extend the series, but is about Bill Simmons KNOWING that is a shot Ray Allen will hit.

He practices footwork as diligently as a ballerina, partly because he’s a perfectionist, partly out of basketball OCD, and partly because he always wants to be prepared for anything. And you know what’s really crazy? Ray Allen is enough of a lovable weirdo that he practiced this specific shot. In fact, he’s been practicing it since his Milwaukee days.

I would imagine that Ray Allen has practiced a three-point shot from the corner with time running down throughout his career. He's one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history. The corner is one of his good spots on the court (and I know because played for my favorite team for five years, so I'm a huge expert on Ray Allen now) and I think most people who play basketball have practiced step-back shots that win the game before.

Nobody in NBA history was better prepared for this moment.

Except if a player who wasn't an ex-Celtic hit this shot then Bill would probably say it was only Larry Bird who was slightly better prepared. For the sake of hyperbole right now, nobody but Ray Allen was better prepared for this moment.

It’s the last point that amazed me the most. The 3-point territory in the corners isn’t exactly cavernous. You have maybe three feet in all. Misjudge it one way and you’re touching the line, costing yourself a point. Misjudge it the other way and you’re out of bounds.

Fortunately, Ray Allen is like 58 years old and has shot this exact shot probably 10,000 times in his NBA career. He makes his living shooting three-point shots, so what's not easy for others is easy for Allen. But don't worry, this small three-point territory is harder than you think because Bill Simmons plays basketball and obviously he is a good comparison to Ray Allen in this situation.

Every time I play pickup basketball on an NBA court, I’m always startled by the lack of room in those corners.

And since Bill is a professional basketball player and not a 40+ year old man who plays in pickup games against other older men, then the fact he's startled by the lack of room in these corners means something. Again, this shot by Ray Allen must be looked at through the prism of Bill Simmons' experience of shooting three-point shots from the corner of an NBA court.

And with all of that said … I knew that shot was going in.

I would have wagered anything. Even with a 102-degree temperature, even with dried contacts, even with a lump of phlegm wedged in my throat, even with everything feeling vaguely white and hazy — the same way you feel right before you die, I’m guessing — I saw the future once Ray started moving backward. I had watched him nail those shots too many times. Nobody had been better in those moments. Nobody. I remember yelping when the shot went through. I remember the fans losing their minds. I remember thinking, There’s no way he didn’t step on a line; it’s impossible, even for Ray, there’s just no way.

That's nine "I's," or "my's" in one sentence and a short paragraph. Again, this column isn't about Ray Allen's shot, but is about how Bill Simmons knew Ray Allen's shot was going in. This is a good example of how Bill's writing has become more and more self-referential. He went from the voice of the normal fan to believing he is THE voice of the fan and his experience is as important as the event itself.

They started reviewing the play. We whirled around and studied replays on our undersized monitor. Unbelievable. Never touched either line. You could compare it to only one other NBA shot: Kareem’s walk-off sky hook in Game 6 of the 1974 Finals, which saved Milwaukee at the buzzer in double overtime. If Kareem missed it, Boston took the title. If he made it, Milwaukee hosted Game 7. He made it. One problem: The Celtics flew to Milwaukee and won the title there, anyway.

Boston Celtics. Boston Celtics. NBA title.

If you or I caught that pass as we were backpedaling, then launched a desperation 3 with someone running at us, we’d screw up every time.

Eh, maybe. You or I certainly wouldn't hit the shot as frequently as Ray Allen would hit the shot.

When I played at Staples Center a few months ago, I kept trying Ray’s shot with Grantland’s Dave Jacoby playing the role of Bosh. It’s just about impossible to furiously backpedal and land perfectly between those two lines, much less launch a coherent 3-pointer. It’s a wildly unrealistic ask for normal NBA players, much less normal humans. Ray Allen is neither. 

I didn't realize Bill Simmons had tried that shot at Staples Center (like how Bill specifically points out where he tried it out, because basketball courts are all different sizes and all so he wasn't simply mentioning he's played at Staples Center and where he attempted this shot was VERY important information). Obviously if Bill couldn't do it then there is no way anyone else could hit the shot. Bill's experience is the same experience as anyone else because he is the voice of the fan and if Bill can't hit the shot, then how could anyone else?

You wouldn’t want anyone else shooting that shot other than Ray Allen. His whole career led to those three seconds. It really did.

Not that Bill is being a little overdramatic or hyperbolic in stating one of the best three-point shooters of all-time, a future Hall of Famer and two-time NBA Champion's career all led up to this one shot. Seems reasonable.

I love so many things about the NBA, but over everything else, it’s those moments when you know you’re seeing something special — something that will get replayed forever, something that lets you say, “Yeah, I was there,” and someone else turns into Will Hunting and screams, “Really? You were there? YOU WERE FUCKING THERE?” I was there for Gar Heard’s miracle heave in Boston, Bird’s steal from Isiah and Magic’s baby sky hook over McHale and Parish. Now, I was there for Ray’s 3. That’s four all-timers. Only Ray’s moment remains hazy. Everything was white and blurry, and then, there was Ray, and everything got clear for a second. Yeah, I was there.

The legacy of Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals is that Bill was there for it.

And here’s what happens when you’re there: You’re crammed around a basketball court watching these physical freaks bring out the best in each other, and occasionally, something unbelievable happens, and it creates this sound that can’t even really be described.

I'm sorry I was just misleading you all. The legacy of Game 6 of the NBA Finals is Bill was there and there is a certain indescribable sound during an important moment. There was a basketball game, but that was completely secondary to Bill being there and the sound the game made.

It shattered a magnificent San Antonio team and kept Miami’s three-peat alive. And it guaranteed that Ray Allen would make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

If Ray Allen misses that shot, he is still a first ballot Hall of Famer. One shot that misses isn't going to force Ray Allen to wait an additional year to make the Hall of Fame. 

Our studio show popped on TV after midnight. Wilbon went first, then Magic, then Jalen, then me. I declared that no NBA team had ever come closer to winning a title without actually winning a title, which I hoped was true.

Now the truly important about Game 6's legacy. What did Bill Simmons say after the game was over? That's obviously part of Game 6's legacy. Bill made a statement that he wasn't sure had factual backing, but now that he is a full-fledged talking head who works for ESPN, nobody gives a shit if what he says is accurate or not. It's about getting attention and saying something that sounds really interesting and perceptive. Fuck accuracy.

(It was.)

In a shocking turn of events, Bill Simmons agrees that Bill Simmons' statement made after Game 6 was true. It was rough sledding there for a bit. I was concerned Bill would judge his own statement as being false. Fortunately, because Bill Simmons states his own opinion as being true, then obviously Bill's opinion is indeed factual.

We bantered for a few minutes, then returned a few minutes later and did it again. We filmed a couple more segments, then we were done. The whole thing wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as I expected. In retrospect, I would have rather written about it.

Important to know when discussing Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Vital information being shared here.

Instead, I returned to my hotel room, cranked the thermostat to 80 and crashed. I stayed in bed for the next 36 hours. I lost six pounds. I finished the first half of Season 5 of Breaking Bad. I watched the Bruins blow a Stanley Cup game. I launched an antibiotics cycle with help from an NBA doctor. I ordered room service and barely touched it. I felt like a failure for never writing a Game 6 column. I took hot shower after hot shower, since it was the only thing that made my head feel better. I wondered if I would make it to Game 7. I remember every single thing about that dark room.

"Me, me, me, me, me."

Only the most self-involved of sportswriters could write a column titled, "The Legacy of Game 6" as in introduction to an NBA Finals rematch and spend inordinate amounts of time forcing himself into the narrative of the series.

Around 4 p.m. the following afternoon, the TV adrenaline started kicking in. We were five hours away from Game 7. I took another hot shower, shaved my face, slipped on a wrinkled suit, knotted a colorful tie, gnawed on another cough drop. Then I pulled open the curtains to my room, the light blinding me from every angle. I waited for my eyes to adjust, and when they did, I could see the water and the buildings lurking in front of me. Downtown Miami was waiting. So was Game 7.

Again, how in the holy fuck is this important information in relation to the 2013 NBA Finals? It's irrelevant to the 2014 NBA Finals, but Bill is such a self-involved person that he feels what he was feeling and doing in regard to the 2013 Finals is vitally important to the legacy of the series. It's fine to write from your own point of view, as long as the main topic being discussed isn't eclipsed by your point of view. The story has to revolve around the NBA Finals with Bill's perspective providing background, not revolve around Bill's perspective with the Finals as the background.

Most franchises would have been broken by Game 6. Pop’s team just moved forward. He mentioned being delighted that they didn’t have a “pity party” for themselves. Only Pop would come up with that one. Pity party.

Tons of people use the term "pity party" when things go wrong. So it's not true only Pop would come up with this term. Perhaps Bill hasn't heard the phrase much since he seems to live in a world full of throwing pity parties for himself when his sports teams lose. Pity party isn't something he has to come up with, it's a term he actively lives.

You’d have to go back to 1987 — the rubber match of the Bird-Magic Finals trilogy — for an NBA Finals with more at stake historically for both sides.

More hyperbole! And the hyperbole just happens to involve the Celtics. Another shocking turn of events.

You might remember that sadness drifting into the final minute of Game 7, right after Duncan missed what would have been a game-tying bunny over Shane Battier that he’s probably made 24,326 times in his life. Duncan jogged back downcourt in abject disbelief, like someone staggering away from an accident.

Everyone in the arena could read Duncan’s mind. How did we blow this? How? How did that happen? The great Tim Duncan thought he had squandered his last chance.

Or he just couldn't believe he missed the shot. But hey, the mind reading exercise is probably super-accurate too.

And here’s how fast things can flip. Back in October 2003, the Red Sox choked away Game 7 in Yankee Stadium, one of the most demoralizing defeats in franchise history.

(Makes wanking motion with his hand)

It felt like something of a final straw for Boston fans. We’d be thinking about Grady Little’s mistake and Aaron Boone’s homer forever. The Baseball Gods hated us. It was official. We would live our entire lives, then croak, without ever seeing them win the whole thing. Twelve months later, we won the whole thing. Ten years later, the Boone Game doesn’t matter anymore. I never think about it.

He never thinks about it, except for when he just brought it up as the example of a team who lost the NBA Finals one year and then came back the next year to win the NBA Finals. Bill never thinks about it, except he chose an example that really isn't comparable since the Spurs have already won four NBA titles with Tim Duncan and the Red Sox didn't lose to the Yankees in the World Series. Other than those two difference, the reference to the 2003 Red Sox is totally comparable. Anyway, a Red Sox reference was due.

If the Spurs beat Miami, Allen’s 3 stops haunting them — and if that’s not enough, we’ll remember San Antonio as the greatest franchise of the post-Jordan era.

I was wondering how I would remember it. Thanks for telling me. I certainly know the Lakers who have five titles in the post-Jordan era certainly can't be considered the greatest franchise during that time. That's because they are the Lakers and Bill doesn't like them. It is very good to know how "we'll" remember the Spurs though.

The rematch kicks off Thursday night. Miami and San Antonio, the sequel. You gotta love sports.

I do love sports. I can't wait until Bill writes about the 2014 NBA Finals and updates his readers on what he had for every meal and how this related to the NBA Finals games being played.


Crazee said...

The Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox are all referenced in an article that is supposedly about the Spurs and Heat. Of Course.

Also, I'm always amazed at these these thoughts Bill has during moments that last for seconds. He's like a comic book character that can give an entire speech during a jump kick. He's able to analyze all this stuff during a jump shot.

Tyler said...

Great article and I always love the Simmons takedowns, but for your first couple items, Bill meant he watched the Ray Allen shot from their ABC/ESPN studio show set near the court, not watching on the screen of a television set. So, it is very possible he had a great view of the shot as it happened.

I do love how Bill first tells us how unforgettable the game was, and follows it up by stressing how little of it he remembers.

Slag-King said...

I never realize how bad of a narcissist Bill Simmons is until I saw this clip

Sheesh! Watching that clip and then reading the "me" article makes Gregggg and Peter look like Benedict monks!

Anonymous said...

"You’d have to go back to 1987 — the rubber match of the Bird-Magic Finals trilogy — for an NBA Finals with more at stake historically for both sides."

Say what? What about Barkley's only Final in '93? Ewing's only Final the next year? Malone and Stockton going back-to-back in '96 and '97? I'd say all of those Finals were pretty important historically for both sides. Oh right, none of them involved the Celtics, so move along.

Bengoodfella said...

Crazee, I think a lot of these thoughts are things he wanted to think while the shot was happening and then realized after the shot actually occurred. Or something like that. I wish I was good at thinking so quickly. I was surprised there wasn't more Celtics mentions.

Tyler, I didn't take it that way, but it's entirely possible. He said something about a makeshift television set so I thought he wasn't watching from a good view. He probably is intentionally trying to confuse me.

It was an unforgettable game that Bill doesn't remember at all. Good point.

Slag, I know, right? That clip is Bill's ego working overtime. I like the look Sage Steele gives to the producer (or someone) off-screen like either (a) listen to this asshole talk like that on live television or (b) he's totally going to try and get me fired isn't he?

Anon, I remember the 1987 Finals and it was a good one, but I think historically in terms of the Finals having stakes for individual players in the Finals, it has to be one of those where a guy without a ring has a chance to get one. I think the '93 Finals had more in terms of Jordan showing he could go back-to-back-to-back, which is something Bird, Magic and many others never did, with Barkley just trying to win one title.

I would even argue the '91 Finals had more at stake b/c Magic was trying to show the Lakers weren't done as title contenders and Jordan wanted to prove he wasn't the selfish, me-first scorer he tended to have a reputation as being.

Anonymous said...

Terrible, this is about simmons not the game

Anonymous said...

Wow, now simmons looks really dumb for saying last year might have been spurs last chance

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, he did say that last year didn't he? I'm sure he would have said something different, but HE HAD NOT TALKED IN ALMOST 10 MINUTES!

Anonymous said...

If any Spur secured the rebound, San Antonio would bring home the title — the fifth for Duncan and Popovich, and probably the sweetest one too. But none of them expected the basketball to carom that quickly.


Alright I admit it, my poor soda never stood a chance of staying in my mouth.

Bengoodfella said...

Don't ruin your keyboard. I've spilled beer on a keyboard before and it was not healthy for the keyboard's life.

I'm not sure why I'm writing in all caps recently. I feel like I should stop, but it's becoming addictive.