Kobe Bryant: when the famous die

TMZ is vile

Kobe Bryant helicopter crash victims
per CNN

After retired basketball star Kobe Bryant died, I felt a bit like a cultural anthropologist. Beyond the tragic loss of life, I was interested in how others reacted to his passing.

I wrote about Kobe Bryant less often than I did the Kobe, Japan earthquake. Once was a passing reference to him which was mostly about his coach Phil Jackson. For whatever reason, I lost interest in NBA basketball this century. And I was pretty enthusiastic back in the days of Magic Johnson’s Lakers versus Larry Bird’s Celtics.

One thing about me is that I tend to absorb overwhelming grief. It was not so much my own but my sense of the collective shock of his many fans and colleagues. Even if it wasn’t my specific pain, I can remember how I felt when John Lennon and Rod Serling passed.

For instance, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “I’m screaming right now, cursing into the sky, crying into my keyboard, and I don’t care who knows it.” It was hardly the only anguish I saw.

Many pieces noted that Life Is Not Promised. In fact, Kobe himself said the same thing in Newsweek shortly after 9/11/2001. “We Never Know When Our Time Here Will Be Over.”

Sports Illustrated started their story with variation on that angle. “Thirteen-year-old Gianna Bryant and her father are gone, and that is not quite how the Bryants’ story will be told, but it’s how we should think about it first.”

The news cycle

Naturally, there were discussions about how only Kobe and, eventually, then his daughter, were mentioned when there were seven others on board, including two other basketball-playing teens. Part of it is that it was only known initially that Kobe and “some others” were riding.

In fact, there was a depressing reason. Reportedly, Kobe’s wife Vanessa “learned about the death of her husband and daughter at the same time as the rest of the world. Before police notified her of her family’s tragic loss, the news was leaked by TMZ – a tabloid news channel.”

The story was noteworthy at a certain level because nine people were killed. Its prominence days later is tied to fame. TV writer Ken Levine (MASH, Cheers) noted what would have happened if he had died with a famous baseball player. “if we had crashed there would have been news bulletins breaking into every network, huge front page headlines the next day and they all would say, ‘Baseball star, Tony Gwynn and a passenger were killed in a auto accident.'”

For his part, Gywnn, who died of cancer in 2014, “felt it was wrong that one person should be valued over another just because they’re famous.” But as Levine opined, “You can’t change the way the world operates.”

Early on, some people complained that “no one” was talking about the 2003 rape accusation against Kobe and subsequent settlement. Yes, it wasn’t the lead immediately after the horrific accident. But by day two of the story, I heard it mentioned regularly, in passing to be sure.

Retirement

Dear BasketballFor my part, I was totally unaware of his Mamba Sports Academy, founded in 2018. The page quotes Kobe Bryant in noting, “Mamba Mentality isn’t about seeking a result. It’s about the journey and the approach. It’s a way of life.”

I did see his Oscar-winning short film Dear Basketball, about achieving his dream and then needing to walk away.

No less authority than Magic Johnson considered Kobe Bryant the greatest Laker ever. I’d say he was up there with George Mikan, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic himself. If my sense of personal loss isn’t as great as others, I still recognize the magnitude of his passing.

Because the helicopter was not equipped with a terrain warning system that could have alerted pilot to the hillside where he crashed, expect that the technology will be mandated more often.

R.I.P.

So rest in peace, basketball coach Christina Mauser, who leaves behind a husband and three children; Alyssa Altobelli and her parents, John and Keri; Payton Chester and her mom, Sarah; and pilot Ara Zobayan.

And rest in peace, Gianna Bryant and her dad, Kobe. He was a “girl dad”, and that IS something I can relate to.

Siena Saints men’s basketball

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

SienaAs a perk of having a subscription to Albany’s remaining newspaper, I can enter a number of contests pretty much automatically. So I play. A couple months back, I scored a pair of tickets to a movie theater.

Then in November, I received a pair of season tickets to Siena College men’s basketball games. Siena is in suburban Loudonville. That’s pronounced LOUD-in-ville, not LEW-den-ville, or London-ville.

Siena plays in Division I. It’s in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, a league that generally gets only one team to play at the end of the season NCAA March Madness. Siena’s gotten to that tournament six times over the years and has won a total of four games.

But it’s one of OUR teams, along with my alma mater, UAlbany. I missed the first home game. I decided I should go to the second game on Tuesday, November 12 because there wouldn’t be another home game until December 21.

Not Charles

I decided to invite the only person I know who definitely knows something about basketball. Chuck Miller is a fellow blogger, but more importantly, an announcer for the Albany Patroons, defending champions that play in the oddly-named The Basketball League.

We met at the pizza place nearby. The owner ended up offering a free slice to a guy who asked almost everyone in the joint for money. The fellow claimed to be a homeless veteran; perhaps, perhaps not.

The last time I was in the Times Union Center was when I saw a football game of the now-defunct Albany Firebirds a couple of years back. Our seats at the basketball game, if it were a football stadium, would be in the end zone. In other words, we were almost behind one of the baskets. Yet we could still see pretty well.

The two teams, Siena and St. Bonaventure University, were playing for the Brother Ed Coughlin Franciscan Cup. Coughlin was Siena’s president before he died in July 2019. He had earned his bachelor’s degree at St. Bonaventure.

Siena started the game off really cold, even missing free throws. The Bonnies made a few threes and had a six-point lead after four minutes. But the Saints turned things around, as their opponents got sloppy. Siena, up three at the half, built an insurmountable lead in the latter stages, and won 78-65.

There was a young woman in front of us, a Siena alum, who knew far more about the team and their skill sets than we did.

What was that?

The school held a 50/50 raffle to help one of their baseball or softball teams. Chuck spent $10 on his tickets and wanted to know if I wanted to go in on it with him. I decided to buy my own $5 worth. With 15 minutes left, the scoreboard flashed the winning number. The announcement was that I should go to the VCfghfl jkgughjn. WHAT?

I wandered around the perimeter of the arena until I found a young woman and her daughter, who was under five. She verified my ticket and handed me $263. Ah, Christmas is saved!

I was reminded that, generally, live sport is more interesting than watching on television. The game, I later learned, was broadcast on ESPN+, one of those several tiers of the sports network.

Would you like to go?

These are the remaining home games on the schedule.

December
21 (SAT) 6 PM VS BUCKNELL
23 (MON) 6 PM VS CANISIUS
29 (SUN) 2 PM VS HOLY CROSS

January
3 (FRI) 7 PM VS MONMOUTH
9 (THU) 7 PM VS SAINT PETER’S
24 (FRI) 7 PM VS MARIST
26 (SUN) 2 PM VS QUINNIPIAC

February
7 (FRI) 7 PM VS FAIRFIELD
14 (FRI) 7 PM VS RIDER
16 (SUN) 2 PM VS MANHATTAN/DOUBLEHEADER WITH SIENA WOMEN (noon)
19 (WED) 7 PM VS IONA

March
4 (WED) 7 PM VS NIAGARA

It’s highly unlikely that I’ll go to all of them. Thursday is choir night, e.g. And I don’t really want to go alone. So if you’re local and want one or two tickets, IM me on Facebook.

November rambling #2: Narco-a-Lago

“The fish rots from the head”: a historian on unique corruption

What’s killing America’s new mothers?

American hyper-capitalism breeds the lonely, alienated men who become mass killers and Samantha Bee on why “abused women are the canary in the coal mine for mass shootings”

Before Sutherland Springs, the Pulse nightclub and San Bernardino. Before Mother Emanuel church, Sandy Hook, and Aurora. Before Gabby Giffords and Fort Hood, there was Binghamton

A Statistical Companion to “The Vietnam War”

Russia used hundreds of fake accounts to tweet about Brexit

Walking While Black

Can my child be friends with white people?

“We’re not über-ICE” – Albany, NY mayor Kathy Sheehan, interviewed by Tucker Carlson, discussing Albany’s status as sanctuary city (11/16/2017)

I Forgot My PIN: An Epic Tale of Losing $30,000 in Bitcoin


Apparently, the new Firefox download, Quantum, is a pain. One user wrote: “I had the extensions I needed, the page design I was comfortable with, and working more efficiently and effortlessly than ever. This makeover is terrible.” Also, Finding and fixing a Disqus problem

Economic Development: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

In which John Green is stunned by Kiwi kindness

A five-minute animation about the Dunning-Kruger Effect

10 “Spiritual” Things People Do That Are Total BS

Short film: The journey from underdog to basketball star

Traditional Radio Faces a Grim Future

Sitcoms could be better

Now I Know: Pizza It Forward and When the Government Outlawed Love

The Akond of Swat – Edward Lear

Not me: Eighth-grade teacher Roger Green was heading to the press box back in March to announce the varsity baseball game, but he began to feel achy.

THE KAKISTOCRACY

We are reaching Hrench Revolution levels of inequality and injustice

Why billionaires destroy jobs

The Final Victory of JR Ewing

Narco-a-Lago: Making Millions from Panama Development Used to Launder Drug Money

Every scandal plaguing him

“The fish rots from the head”: a historian on unique corruption

Trophies from elephant hunts in Zimbabwe WERE banned in the US

He may be related to 16th-century serial killer ‘Werewolf of Bedburg’

Johnstown Never Believed He Would Help. They Still Love Him Anyway

Tweeting Condolences About The Wrong Mass Shooting

John Oliver Delivers Scathing Review Of Year One

Plus, an oldie (October 2016), but goodie: The growing list of women who have stepped forward to accuse Trump of touching them inappropriately

MUSIC

Thunderstruck – AC/DC

On the Beautiful Blue Danube

Disney medley – Voctave

-ly – Tom Lehrer (Electric Company)

Coverville 1193: Cover Stories for Blue Oyster Cult, Petula Clark and Miley Cyrus (!)

K-Chuck Radio: The Monster Soulful Groove

Stringman – Neil Young

#ROCKHALL2018:THE CARS INTERVIEW

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar turns 70

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and collected six championship rings.

I’ve been reading a book by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Anthony Walton called Brothers in Arms, about a black tank battalion during World War II. It’s one of several books he has written, and I would have probably finished this one by now except I became ill.

During the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2016, Abdul-Jabbar was one of the speakers. Someone I vaguely knew commented to another, “I thought he was just another dumb jock,” expressing surprise at how intelligent and articulate he was. Being familiar with his background, I was bemused.

He has been an eloquent spokesperson for his faith ever since he converted to Islam and changed his name from Lew Alcindor in 1971. From Wikipedia: “Abdul-Jabbar has been a regular contributor to discussions about issues of race and religion, among other topics, in national magazines and on television… In November 2014, Abdul-Jabbar published an essay in Jacobin magazine calling for just compensation for college athletes, writing, ‘in the name of fairness, we must bring an end to the indentured servitude of college athletes and start paying them what they are worth.'” In 2012, he was selected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be a U.S. global cultural ambassador.

But I cannot forget the basketball prowess. Even as a kid in upstate New York, I read about him as a 6-foot, 8-inch player, leading the “Power Memorial team to three straight New York City Catholic championships, a 71-game winning streak, and a 79–2 overall record.”

Then “from 1967–69, he played under coach John Wooden, contributing to [UCLA’s] three-year record of 88 wins and only two losses… During his college career, Alcindor was twice named Player of the Year (1967, 1969); was a three-time First Team All-American (1967–69); and played on three NCAA basketball champion teams (1967, 1968 and 1969).

As a pro: “Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and won a league-record six MVP awards. He collected six championship rings,… a record nineteen NBA All-Star call-ups and averaging 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.6 blocks per game… He is also the third all-time in registered blocks (3,189), which is even more impressive because this stat had not been recorded until the fourth year of his career (1974).

“In 2015, ESPN named Abdul-Jabbar the best center in NBA history, and ranked him No. 2 behind Michael Jordan among the greatest NBA players ever. While Jordan’s shots were enthralling and considered unfathomable, Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook appeared automatic, and he himself called the shot ‘unsexy.'”

Beyond all that, Kareem appeared in one of my favorite comedies, Airplane, where he played Roger Murdock; great first name, that. And the role has affected his real life.

Kareem was the celebrity JEOPARDY! champion on the episode that aired Friday, November 6, 1998. Why on earth would I know that without looking? Because my JEOPARDY! victory was Monday, November 9, 1998.

In 2016, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar turns 70 on April 16.

Basketball’s Phil Jackson is 70

Life in the Continental Basketball Association was tough, especially on the road.

philjackson_120829You may have heard of Phil Jackson as the coach of the Chicago Bulls, who won six National Basketball championships in nine years, thanks in no small part to Michael Jordan. Then he led the Los Angeles Lakers, with Kobe Bryant and, for a time, Shaquille O’Neal, to five championships.

I was first aware of Jackson, now the president of the New York Knicks, as the bespectacled “sixth man” (first man off the bench) for the Knicks in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

But my greatest appreciation for him developed when he became the coach of the Albany Patroons Continue reading “Basketball’s Phil Jackson is 70”