You did not speak with many real players for the book. Why?
Primarily, it is a book about watching basketball. I am a terrible basketball player. I can’t drag my left side. I’ve never been good at it. But I am great at watching basketball. This is one of the things I practice more than anything else.
Part of this is learning the history of the game as well. So much of the game was influenced by nonplayers. Naismith played basketball only twice in his entire life. He was not a good coach either. Danny bison, The man who invented the shot clock, has never played basketball. But these people kept watching. He knew what made the game entertaining and made it fun.
What is the value of asking an astronomer about basketball defense?
Good defense is invisible. This is something you cannot really see because it is the absence of good crime. It is the ability to plan ahead of your opponents and prevent them from doing what they want to do. The best defensive possession would be a 24-second shot clock violation. Yes, you will see individual moments that are obvious, such as a steal or a blocked shot. But good team defense is near invisible.
Speaking to a theoretical astrophysicist, he specializes in distant cosmic events – supernovas and distant galaxies. Things we can’t really see. But he is able to see and understand the data from and from the pattern. While talking to him, I wanted to find out how he uses that skill to look for defense. Turns out, he sees the rescue in a strange, visual way. He treats them like a rainbow turtle: they are cycling, spinning. “Conductive cells,” he calls them, which unite and push the action out of the periphery.
There are many connections between art and basketball, you note.
Top-level basketball is difficult to watch and has no artistic value. Bodies moving through space. So I talked to a ballet choreographer, because I could not think of any other comparison of grace and fluidity. The sting contest is a celebration of beauty for beauty. Who can create the most beautiful piece of art with their bodies?
I think Naismith is back, and he would have never imagined that as a possibility, which I think is the true genius of the game, that it sprouted from such a humble, ingenious debut as a whole. Was able to