Being a professional sports mascot may sound like a maelstrom of perpetual awesome, but it's not all punching cops, assaulting fans, sniping players with t-shirt cannons, getting busted for drug possession, and getting knocked the hell out by NBA legends. No, sometimes it's difficult, embarrassing and even painful work. To wit:

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Pickup Judas

Pickup Judas (pik'-up joo'-duhs) noun. Refers to a teammate who inexplicably betrays you during a pickup game either by calling a violation against you or supporting the other team after they have called a violation against you.

Usage example: My buddy Greg called me for traveling on game point last night, and he's was on MY team. What a Pickup Judas.

Word history: I coined this term -- which, obviously, is a reference to the Biblical Judas -- a few years ago during a game in which one of my teammates kept calling bogus traveling violations against me. I was reminded of the term by Basketbawful reader Yaroslav, who suggested a variation of it: "teamtrayal." I like Pickup Judas better, but teamtrayal can work as a synonym. Yaroslav also provided the following spot-on example of a Pickup Judas scenario:

Opponent #1: "Travel!"

You: "No way man, count the steps."

Pickup Judas: "Yeah man, you traveled."

Opponent #2: "See, even he says so. Our ball."

This illustrates why the behavior of a Pickup Judas can be so disastrous: It's automatically assumed by almost everyone present that the call must be legitimate, because why else would your own teammate side against you? The assumption, therefore, is that the Pickup Judas' actions are always altruistic. And sometimes they are. I mean, let's face it, we all try to get away with what we can from time to time. But there are some instances when the Pickup Judas will stab you in the back for dark reasons known only to himself. Maybe he wants to get in good with the guys on the other team, maybe he wants your team to lose so he can shoot up onto a new team, or maybe he just doesn't like you. Whatever the case, don't bother to change your game to avoid his traveshamockery. He'll keep doing it anyway.

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Okay, here's part two of the Fan Appreciation Mail Bag. Keep in mind that I answered these questions between writing an Allan Houston article for Deadspin, making my weekly picks for Footbawful (and responding to futuremrsrickankiel's picks), and doing my Clark Kent job. Oh, and it's Friday. So my brain's a little fried.

Question: Do you make much money from doing this? -- Anonymous

Answer: No. Basketbawful is an entirely non-profit venture. That's why there aren't any banner ads or pop-ups here. And I aim to keep it that way. Many people have asked me why that is, since I'm basically turning down free money. But I like the purity of this site, and I don't want it to become about generating page views and selling ad space. I maintain this blog purely on passion, and because I have a small but loyal following who likes things the way they are.

Question: What are your worst habits? Bit of a pageant question, but hey; you don't have to answer it. Its just a strange curiosity. -- Barry

Answer: Yowch. Well, for one, I tend to overcommit on a regular basis...hence the two blogs and freelance gig with Deadspin in addition to my Clark Kent job. I play sports with very little regard to my personal safety, so I'm almost always bruised/cut/injured. I refuse to learn how to iron my clothes. I don't floss as often as I should. I tend to tell people the truth in situations where it would be better to lie ("Oh yeah, you look totally fat in that dress" or "She's a bitch, you need to dump her, pronto"). As a friend told me recently, "You know, sometimes I want you to lie to me, okay?" I sometimes drink too much when I'm out with my friends, I'm an emotional eater, and I'm something of a neat freak. Oh, and I sometimes, uh, blog at work.

Question: In what order did you become interested in basketball? Playing, watching games, video games, collector cards, other? -- Ruben

Answer: Interestingly enough, I kind of hated basketball growing up. My mom had dreams of raising a sports star, and I felt it was my solemn duty to crush her dreams. The upside of her efforts was that -- as a huge Celtics fan -- she forced me to watch and follow the Bird era Celtics. My attitude toward the sport changed one summer day in my early teens when I was hanging out at my buddy G-man's house. He wasn't much into sports, but he suggested we play "Barnyard Basketball," which was basically wrestling interspersed with trying to hit a layup or something. During one of our little dustups I slammed his head into the ground and damaged his ear. In point of fact, there was a big cartilage tear that remains noticable to this day (and he brings it up every time we go drinking together). He stomped away to sulk, so, with nothing else to do, I started shooting around. And then BANG! I was hooked. I became obsessed with playing basketball, and then watching basketball. This led to a very unfortunate incident in high school in which I went on a date with a girl I had been crushing on for years wearing a Celtics t-shirt, Celtics practice shorts with (ugh) bike shorts underneath. And this was before the baggy shorts craze had hit. I'm going to just stop right there if that's okay with you.

Question: Why do you like American football? I don't understand this game, it's rubbish. What's so good about it that it is so popular in the USA? Some steroided barrels running at each other for 10 seconds, that 10 minute break to watch some bear commercials. It's garbage. -- Simas

Answer: I dunno. That's kind of like asking somebody why they love their girlfriend, or husband, or whatever. Sure, you could make a long list of all the things you like and appreciate about them, but in the end why we love what we love -- be it a person, a sport, a hobby, or whatever -- is more magic than science. It appeals to me, while European football bores me to the point of physical pain (despite the fact that I played it for seven years back in the day). But I would never say it's rubbish, because I know there are people who feel just as passionately about it as I do about basketball and American football. And Gwen Stefani.

Question: Who's your mancrush? -- BJ

Answer: David Robinson. I thought I made that pretty obvious yesterday.

Question: Do you know any cryogenic freezing warehouses with space for me until June 2010, or when Shaq spontaneously combusts? -- Anacondahl

Answer: No, I don't. Sorry. But maybe you'd like to accompany me on my upcoming trip to the future. I can pay you, but not until we get back. Oh, and you'll have to bring your own weapons. Preferably big ones. Also, I've only done this once before. So, uh, just let me know.

Question: What´s your favorite sexual position? -- Nelly Furtado

Answer: Sorry. It's still Gwen Stefani on top. But I would consider upgrading it to "...while Nelly Furtado watches and then spontaneously joins in."

Question: Why did you have to go and change the linking ability of the picture so that I can't get to the Basketbawful front page by clicking on it? This is seriously annoying to those of us who use an RSS reader. -- Scott

Answer: Ugh. Honestly, I hadn't realized that. I'll try to get that fixed, pronto. But give me a few days; me am not so good with the HTML.

Question: How often do you actually play basketball? How good are you really? How often when you're playing are you with Evil Ted? (As in, do you guys ever play without one another?) I had this crazy conspiracy-dream (that's right, I'm dreaming about a comedy-basketball website and the people who run it, whom I've never met... maybe I need to back it down a few notches...) where I lived in the same city as y'all and started hearing rumors that you never played basketball. It made me sad when I woke up. True story. -- Michael

Answer: Uhm, you're kinda scary, Michael. But I'll answer anyway. I play in a pickup league on Monday and Wednesday nights. I also play with some friends at my gym (Lifetime Fitness) on Sunday night, and I occasionally play in another pickup league that runs on Tuesday night. Every once in a while, I play in a friend's church league, or sub in a competitive league, etc. So I play anywhere from three to four times a week. Evil Ted plays only once a week, on Wednesday, because he's married with children (read that: his wife only lets him out of the house once every seven days).

As to how good I am, why toot my own horm when I can get somebody else to do it for me. So here's a pickup league scouting report on me from my friend Mr. White: "Best all-around player in the league. A dominant 3-point threat, kills on the inside, grabs all boards and plays excellent defense. Most consistent player week to week." Now here's what Mr. P had to say: "Can score inside, outside. Good rebounding. Great defense. Defends 94 feet when needed. Solid picks. Problem: ball-handling (but not his responsibility)." It's worth noting that Mr. White and Mr. P are both pretty good ballers themselves. I guess Evil Ted can also chime in if he's reading this. I suppose what it comes down to is that I'm a very good amateur baller. Which naturally means even the worst NBA player -- say, for instance, Mario West -- would utterly destroy me.

Question: I second Scott's question, but change "so that I can't" to "so that I can". I don't use an RSS reader, but when I come over here from another site like TrueHoop that links directly to an article, clicking on the picture does not take me to the front page. -- Joe

Answer: Okay, okay, I get it! Sorry, everybody. I'll get that fixed.

Question: Have you found that having this blog reduces or expounds your love of basketball? -- Dan

Answer: Both. Like, I never really get to watch or follow basketball just for the sake of doing it anymore. I'm always looking for an angle or material I can use for the blog. And, while some of you might argue this, I try to remain (for the most part) relatively unbiased in my analyses...and sometimes, as a fan, that's the last thing you want to do. On the other hand, thinking intently about the game has increased my appreciation for a lot of little things I had never noticed or cared about before. And I get a charge out of having a dialogue with the people who read the site, even when they don't agree with me.

Question: Who was better in his prime? Hakeem, Ewing or Admiral? -- Baguete

Answer: This question actually inspired yesterday's post about David Robinson. First off, let's scratch Ewing off the list. Fantastic player, and a real warrior, but not in the same league as Olajuwon and Robinson, as both of those players had a much wider skill set. As to picking between Hakeem and David, it depends. I mean, my feeling is that D-Rob was the better regular season player. He did a little more in every area and his team tended to win more games than Hakeem's. On the other hand, Hakeem was a better big-game player. He consistently raised his output in the playoffs, whereas David tended to stay static, or even take a step back. This had more to do with attitude than talent. Anyway, in my opinion they're virtually equals, with Robinson being the more efficient player and Olajwon being the more clutch player.

Oh, and the point of yesterday's salute to the Admiral wasn't to tout the values of PER or demean Olajuwon. The purpose was to say that there are many different ways to measure greateness, or even that there are different kinds of greatness, and everybody gets to choose what kind of greatness they prefer.

Question: Are you a wrestling fan? I've noticed from time to time some really obscure references to WWE that are pretty insightful for someone who only follows football and basketball. The brutus post comes to mind, which was sad and hilarious at the same time. (Don't worry I won't tell anyone.) -- Lordhenry

Answer: I am not currently a wrestling fan, but I was in the 80s and 90s. Big time. I was a certified Hulkamaniac. Seriously, when Hogan slammed and pinned Andre the Giant in Wrestlemania III, that was one of the happiest moments of my young life. And when he lost the belt to Ultimate Warrior in Wrestlemania VI, I was depressed for days. Literally. I had a Miss Elizabeth poster up in my room and I wore a yellow, pre-ripped Hulkamania tank top when I worked out. I dug Ricky Steamboat and hated the Iron Shiek. I remember when Sgt. Slaughter turned heel, and then later asked for his country back (while seemingly hiding behind a fake plant at the local mall). Meaningful names: Superfly Jimmy Snuka, Brutus Beefcake (and later Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake), Hercules, Mr. Perfect...and of course the terrible characters, like Doink the Clown and Repo Man. Let me put it to you this way, I haven't followed wrestling for years, but Statbuster still sent me this Mr. Perfect Tribute the other day.

Question: Oh, and what happened to the Worsties?! -- Lordhenry

Answer: Sigh. Originally, the Worsties were intended to be regular season only. I was going to expand them to include the playoffs, but then I dropped the ball. My total bad. Maybe before the new season begins I can get the playoff version out. But hey, at least give me credit for making it through the regular season. And I did it month-by-month this time! [Hides head in shame]

Question: Are you a white or black guy? I need to put a face to your posts. -- Trent

Answer: It's rare, but pictures of me occasionally pop up here, and my Deadspin profile has a mug shot. Anyway, I'm white.

Question: Second question... is that Michael guy's question as creepy as I think it is? -- Pistonsgirl4life

Answer: Yeah, pretty much.

Question: Hi from Mexico, long time reader, first ever comment. What are the few things that you don't find awful in basketball these days? -- casares_raul

Answer: The list includes, but is not limited to, Chris Paul, the Utah Jazz, the fact that the Celtics are the NBA champs, the youth movement in Portland, and that team scoring has been up the last few years. And really, despite what it seems, I enjoy most aspects of the sport. I even enjoy watching Kobe long as the Lakers are losing.

Question: Who wins in a smoke out: Joakim Noah, David Harrison or Josh Howard? -- Stay Chisel

Answer: Harrison, all the way. Noah and Howard, they're the kind of guys who probably just want to get happy high. Harrison is one of those crazy mo-fo's who never seems to mellow out. I can see him angrily chain-smoking weed all night while muttering darkly under his breath.

Question: Who was better, John Stockton or Isiah Thomas? The conventional answer is Thomas, but numbers-wise, Stockton was better and for a longer time. Also, the Pistons' success was due in large part to their team defense, which Stockton played better than Thomas (5 time second team all defense to 0 any team all defense), while the Jazz ran a better offense, for which the point guard has the most responsibility. The tiebreaker for a lot of people is the championship count, but the Pistons never had to go through the 97 and 98 Bulls. Would the 97 and 98 Jazz teams have beaten the 90 Blazers, or the 89 (throw in the 88 team, too) Lakers? Would you help settle this for someone who wasn’t able to witness both of their careers unfold? -- David

Answer: First off, those 1996-97 and 1997-98 Jazz teams definitely could have beaten the '89 Lakers or the '90 Blazers. Keep in mind that both Magic Johnson and Byron Scott were injured during the '89 Finals, and that Portland team was full of self-combusting headcases. Not that those Pistons squads weren't really, really good...but c'mon. They won back-to-back titles against flawed teams.

It's hard to compare Isiah and Stockton because they were two totally different kinds of players. Isiah was more of a scorer and an emotional leader. Stockton was entirely selfless on the offensive end -- sometimes too much so -- and I'm not sure he has ever experienced a human emotion. To me, John Stockton was the perfect point guard. He was like a basketball computer. He rarely threw bad passes and he never took bad shots. He played rugged defense, set killer picks, shot an amazingly high percentage for a guard, and ran the Jazz offense with laser-like precision. Isiah was a better one-on-one player, and he was capable of historic in-your-face scoring explosions. But I prize consistency and longevity over those things. I would pick John over Isiah. The only point guard in NBA history I would take over Stockton is Magic.

Question: If you could pick five guys from any point in history at any point in their respective careers to build the perfect team, who would they be? -- David

Answer: My five-man team to defend the planet? The 1986-87 Magic Johnson at point, the 1991-92 Michael Jordan at shooting guard, the 1985-86 Larry Bird at small forward, the 2001-02 Tim Duncan at power forward, and the 1989-90 Hakeem Olajuwon at center. I chose these players in part due to their overall skill set and also due to their intense will to dominate.

Question: Which were the top 10 NBA teams of all time? -- David

Answer: Here's my spontaneous, off-the-cuff answer, in no particular order: 1985-86 Boston Celtics, 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers, 1991-92 Chicago Bulls, 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers, 1964-65 Boston Celtics, 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers, 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. I suppose I should throw that 1971-72 Lakers team in here, even though I think part of their success was due to expansion...and anyway, the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks might have been even better.

Question: Will the WNBA ever be allowed to fade away? Will a female player ever make it into the NBA? What has been the most groan inducing moment that has occurred while watching a live game? Should David Stern remain commissioner? And I know I have asked this many a time, but will you have a basketbawful fantasy league? I think it would be really swell. -- Sun Devil

Answer(s): No, not as long as David Stern is commissioner of the NBA; he won't let it die. There will never be a female NBA player. Tayshaun Prince's block on Reggie Miller in '04 made me groan like nothing else. I think that Stern should step down some time in the next few years. It just feels like it's time for some fresh blood. We are kicking around the idea of having a fantasy's up to Statbuster, really...more on this later.

Question: Just wondering if you have any funny anecdotes on Horace Grant. He was my favourite player growing up, but seeing as your blog would have probably come of creation towards the latter part of his playing days he doesn’t really appear much. What’s your take on the goggled one? -- Simon

Answer: Well, my take on Horace is that he was far more valuable to those first three Bulls titles than most people realize. In fact, his departure before the 1994-95 season was even more catastrophic to the team than Jordan's retirement before the 1993-94 season. Seriously. Then he went to Orlando and helped make them a contender. Remember, he was always the odd man out in Chicago. Jordan obviously got all the limelight, and many people tripped all over themselves to point out how underappreciated Pippen was. But Grant's contributions were more often than not taken for, ahem, granted. That's why it was sweet validation for him when he helped the Magic crush the Bulls in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals...despite the fact that Jordan had returned. Unfortunately for him, the Bulls obtained Dennis Rodman and immediately supplanted the Magic as the Eastern Conference titan, Shaq fled for L.A., and things went steadily downhill from there, finally ending with Doc Rivers' infamous "cancer" comment.

Question: How much fame/respect/fear does being the Basketbawful blogger bring to the court? Are all the players like "Damn, that's Basketbawful! You don't wanna mess with him. He'll blog about you something fierce." -- Erik

Answer: Heh. None so far, although one guy did come up to me once and say, "Hey, I saw your blog. I think I'm the guy you were talking about in the pickup basketball post. I presume you were making fun of me...." Awwwwwkward.

Question: If you had to construct a 12 man roster consisting solely of current white, American-born players, could you do it? Who would be the starting five? -- chone

Answer: The 12-man roster would be (in no particular order) Chris Kaman, Mike Miller, Kyle Korver, Steve Blake, Brad Miller, Brent Barry, Kirk Hinrich, Mike Dunleavy Jr., David Lee, Luke Walton, Troy Murphy and Matt Harpring. Wow. That's an, er, complete roster. Completely gak-tastic. The starting five would be Kaman (center), Brad Miller (at the four-spot), Mike Miller, Korver and Hinrich, with Harpring as the sixth man.

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Okay, bear with me here, people. There were a lot of questions and I have two rusty hooks for hands, so I'm breaking this post up into two parts. The second part will be published later today.

Question: What's your favorite sexual position? -- Gwen Stefani

Answer: Gwen Stefani on top. (And yes, this was the very first question I got. Nice.)

Question: Are you a hockey fan? -- Shrugz

Answer: No, I'm not. I have several friends -- including my best friend, BadDave -- who love hockey, but I just can't get into it. Not enough scoring, and I also hate that the puck spends so much time out of the players' control. I mean, imagine if basketball players spent, like, 30 percent of their time running after the ball in a group. Agonizing.

Question: "She then reached between my legs and grabbed a tiny fistful of my junk" Was it the fist or the junk that was tiny? -- Victor

Answer: I knew somebody was going to call me out on that. Let's just say that she grabbed as much of my junk as her tiny fist could contain and leave it at that, huh?

Question: do you mind telling us where you live? A state at least. I'm picturing you in the basement (because you're a blogger) of Madison Square Garden.

Answer: Blogging from the basement of MSG sounds kinda cool. And that probably says something about me, doesn't it? But the reality is, I'm currently based in Chicago, Illinois. And my place doesn't have a basement...or any parents in residence. I do, however, sometimes blog in the buff. But I have a feeling I just waded into the murky waters of Too Much Information...

Question: Who do you think are the best 'almost' teams in league history? Like, the teams that didn't win the championship but were still REALLY good? One example I'd give are the 96-97 Jazz.

Answer: Obviously, I did a post about this a while back. I think that the classic "Almost" Team was the 60s era Lakers, who made it to the Finals six times and lost to the Celtics each and every time. The NBA Awesome Endings video has an entire section devoted to the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, and Jerry West talks about losing to Boston for the sixth time in 1969 despite the fact that L.A. had added Wilt Chamberlain in the offseason. West said: "Of all the losses, that was the worst I ever had to endure. That was the one I just simply emotionally couldn't cope with. When you come so close, and against the same team, it's almost like an arrogance they have, like their sort of laughing at you. And that was the most painful thing of all."

Poor Jerry. But at least he got his just rewards in 1971-72, when the Lakers won 69 games and the title. The 1967-68 Sixers were another fantastic "Almost" Team that got undone by, of all things, the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The 1972-73 Celtics won 68 games -- a franchise record -- but lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games to the eventual champions (the New York Knicks) due to John Havlicek's shoulder injury. (That team, by the way, holds the distinction to be the team that won the most regular season games without reaching the Finals.) The 80s era Milwaukee Bucks won 50+ games for seven straight seasons, but there was always a better team standing in their way (usually the Celtics or Sixers). There were some strong Portland teams in the late 80s/early 90s that always managed to self-destruct. The Pacers were always in the mix from the mid-90s to the early 00s, but they never had the star power to win the prize. The Jazz, of course, won 50 or more games 11 times during the Stockton and Malone era, but...well, we know how that worked out. The top two "Almost" Teams of this decade are the Suns (who have looked like champions-in-waiting since Nash arrived) and Mavericks (who flopped in the Finals and then got bounced in the first round after winning 67 games).

Question: can you keep doing followups on Mario West? Or a "where is he now?" segment. It seems he has been put out of his NBA misery, but I think the basketbawful world owes him a tribute for his immense contributions. Maybe he will follow Josh Childress, although probably as a fan. -- Ruben

Answer: I would love to continue reporting the life and times of Super Mario. I wonder what his post-NBA life is like. I mean, while having sex, does his partner just randomly stop him after 30 seconds? Do his children listen to his advice for less than 10 seconds and then just walk away? Do his buddies hang out with him for 60 seconds and then ditch him for somebody a little cooler? These are things I need to know.

Question: Do you consider Indiana or Chicago more your home? Both in terms of home teams -- Bulls and Pacers, Bears and Colts - and otherwise. -- M. Alana

Answer: Well, it's weird. I would never want to live in Indiana again. Chicago is definitely more my style. But that said, I feel more emotional toward and comfortable being in Indiana. I tend to lean toward Indiana teams -- I rooted for the Colts when they faced the Bears in the Super Bowl a couple years back -- but the 1985 Chicago Bears is my all-time favorite football team. Oh, and unrelated, but yes, I got your package.

Question: Who would you pick to win in a fight to the death, no-holds barred, with glass shards glued to the taped fists of Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, both in their prime? -- AK Dave

Answer: There's no question that Karl has the edge in size, strength and, ahem, fitness. But I always got the feeling that Malone was more of a lover than a fighter. Chuck, on the other hand, is totally a fighter. I mean, the dude freaking went after Shaq. My money would be on Barkley, all the way.

Question: If you could bring any starting 5 of any team to a fight...which team would you choose? -- Anonymous

Answer: Easy. The 1991-92 New York Knicks -- Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, Xavier McDaniel, and John Starks. Okay, that fivesome didn't always start together, but what a group of hombres! If I ran into those guys in a dark alley -- hell, even a sunshine-filled alley -- I'd just fling my wallet and any valuables at them and drop dead on the spot.

Question: I can hardly wait to see Stephen Curry in the NBA, how about you? And I hear Davidson is moving him to the 1 this season. What are your thoughts on that move? -- Anonymousnupe

Answer: He's an exciting player to watch, no question about it. And I like the fact that he shoots the three with consistency (41 percent his freshman year and almost 45 percent last year). I also love that he chose to return to Davidson for his junior year, like he had some unfinished business to take care of (there's not enough of that today, IMHO). But I have this jittery feeling about him, like he's going to be one of those shoot-first gunners. The NBA doesn't have much use for 6'3" two-guards, you know? And he just doesn't strike me as someone who can transition into becoming a floor general. By this point in a player's development, I believe they are what they are. And he's not a point man. I guess what I'm saying is, I'm taking the "wait and see" approach with Curry.

Question: Suppose you are the GM of a brand new NBA team and you're gonna get into an expansion draft. Also, you got the #1 pick in the 2009 Draft. Each current NBA team would protect seven players (probably their better players, except for some terrible contracts). The rest of them would be available.You can only pick one player per team. Please post your roster of 14 players. -- Baguete

Answer: Wow. That's a really tough question. It seriously deserves a post of its own, and maybe I'll try to do that sometime next week. I know. I'm sorry to cop out on this one, it's going to take more research than I have time for at the moment. But I can tell you that I would try to assemble a team very similar to the current Jazz squad -- disciplined, character guys who can shoot, move without the ball, and play selflessly on both ends of the court -- then hope and pray I could draft or trade for a couple guys to fill the Boozer and Williams slots. Seriously, I'm going to make this one its own post next week.

Question: Have you ever had a Big Kahuna Burger or has anyone for that matter, and are they actually "tasty burgers"? Jules Winnfield sure makes it look good. -- Anonymous

Answer: You know, I always assumed that the Big Kahuna Burger was an invention of Quentin Tarantino's twisted mind. Turns out I was wrong about that. (Okay, I'm kidding. Please don't try to hunt down any of those locations.) Anyway, no, I've never had a Big Kahuna Burger, but I'm pretty fond of the Burgers at Red Robin and Cheeseburger In Paradise.

Question: What inspired you to start this blog in the first place (besides being the last bastion of sanity against the advancing throngs of Kobe lovers). -- Showtime

Answer: My buddy Statbuster and I used to get together to watch basketball a couple times a week...until he moved back to Indiana (the bastard). During the games, we'd have these long discussions about the sport, comparing it to professional wrestling, inventing words, making fun of the worst of this and the worst of that. We decided to record some of the stuff we always talked about, if only for our benefit, and the benefit of our small social group of diehard basketball junkies. Honestly, we never thought anybody other than us would be interested in our fart jokes and penis humor. So, you know, we were pleasantly surprised.

Question: Who should I retain in my keeper fantasy league, Agent Zero-knee Ligaments or Jermaine The Drain O'Neal? -- Tonewise

Answer: I sort of paraphrased that question, but I would definitely keep The Drain. Gilbert is basically a shooter/scorer. And he's a shooter/scorer who's going to miss at least 14 games out of the gate and come back rusty as hell. And there's no guarantee that his knees will be ready for full-time NBA work. On the flipside, I think that Jermaine is going to be rejuvenated in Toronto, partly because he's getting a fresh start, and partly because he no longer has to be The Man, which is a role he was never fit for in the first place. Sure, they're both question marks, but O'Neal should contribute points, rebounds, blocks and a (slightly) higher shooting percentage. Gil is going to give you points, period, and probably not as many as you'd like. Botton line: I think there's more upside in keeping O'Neal. And just so you know, after what he did to my Pacers, it kills me to say that.

Question: Obviously this could turn the masses against you, but who is the biggest basketbawful fan? -- Nick F. (Buck Nasty)

Answer: Oooo, tough one. Really tough. I started making a list of my favorite fans, but I had to stop because 1) it comprised about 3/4 of the people who posted questions and 2) it's sort of a copout answer. (But understand, it's your emails and comments that keep me going when I have no desire whatsoever to write or even think about basketball. I would have to say that my biggest fan is the amazing LooseChange, who has offered more support and encouragement than I ever would have thought possible. So...[raises champagne glass]'s to you, LooseChange. Thanks for everything. Seriously.

Question: what's your favourite restaurant in your area?

Answer: Man, I'm going to come off as very uncultured here, but I don't really have one. I've been to several posh (read that: expensive) places, but I can't remember the name of a single one. I much prefer low-key eateries and dive bars. That's just me. But I'll throw you a bone: I love Pizza Metro. Friggin' love it. Oh, and I think that the stew they serve at the Claddagh Irish Pub in Indianapolis (while not in my area) is well worth dying for.

Question: Who do you think will be next season's Chicago Bulls? By that I mean the season's most blatantly underachieving team. I'm taking the 76ers. -- Anonymous

Answer: I'm tempted to choose the Sixers, too. I'm just not buying the hype. I might also put some money on the Hawks. Everybody was really impressed by how tough they played the Celtics in the first round of the '08 Playoffs. This will fool some people into believing they're ready to make The Leap. Trust me, they aren't. I also feel like Orlando is going to take a step backward.

Question: Do you think there will be any blockbuster trades that change the balance of power this season? And by balance of power I mean a trade like Dallas made that makes the team worse. -- DDC

Answer: Last year's blockbuster trade-a-palooza will not repeat itself. It took years and years for GMs to locate their testes and take big gambles again. And seeing as how the Kidd and Shaq trades were big busts, I think GMs across the league are going to go back into "Play It Safe" mode. The only potential blockbusters I can see would be Denver shipping out Iverson or Anthony, or maybe the Heat trying to move Shawn Marion. That's it. Of course, it's always possible that a team will unexpectedly (or expectedly) suck so bad that a prima donna (Vince Carter?) goes postal and demands a trade.

Question: Are you now, or have you ever been a dunker? What was your best dunk? -- Jeremy

Answer: Alas, no, I have never been a dunker. In college, I could jump up and grab the rim. That's the closest I've ever gotten. I did play some Slam Ball on an eight-and-a-half foot rim once. I tomahawked on my friend Mr. P. That was fun. But keep reading the White Man Jump Challenge. Maybe someday...

Question: Who would win in a fight: Manute Bol or Gheorge Muresan? -- Chuck

Answer: Easy. Muresan. Poor Manute is a twig.

Question: Is there any chance in hell that it's actually Flip Saunder's fault the Pistons haven't won multiple championships and they'll finally back door into one before Chauncey and Sheed are playing someplace else? -- Pistonsgirl4life

Answer: I'm fairly certain that Flip was part of the problem. He just isn't a "get 'em over the hump" kind of coach. Mock Pat Riley all you want -- there's plenty about him worth mocking -- but he always seemed to find ways of getting his guys to take it up a notch. (The whole "Fifteen Strong" thing was cheesy...but it worked.) Not so for Flip. But to me, the Pistons' biggest issue has been hubris. They beat the Lakers in '04 because they wanted it so badly and played out of their minds. They have not played with the same level of intensity since then. They just haven't. And worse yet, they developed a sense of entitlement. They seem to honestly believe that they should be any team they face simply because they can. But it takes more than sheer talent to win. Just ask the Suns, and the Mavericks.

Question: What's more likely to happen, Lebron throwing his teammates and management under the bus while hovering just below .500 going into the new year or Shaq starting to miss games with the inevitable "bruised quad" after the Suns drag to a 7-13 start. -- Dunpizzle

Answer: Well, one of LeBron's primary goals is to become a global icon, right? And I think he's savvy enough to realize that throwing his teammates under the bus would hurt that cause. The Cavs would have to suck for a while -- like, say, a season and a half -- before Lebron would go nuts. Whereas Shaq, he takes a 20-game mini-vacation every season. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when.

Question: who would you consider to be the most underwhelming/underachieving player in the history of NBA Basketball? -- spidermints

Answer: I've often read that Marvin "Bad News" Barnes had the talent to be one of the all-time greats, but drugs ruined what could have been a Hall of Fame career. Same for Michael Ray Richardson. I mean, there are so many players I could name, and for so many reasons. Greg Ostertag (sorry, had to). Sam Bowie. Harold Minor. I could put together one seriously long list. But instead, I'll tell you the very first name that popped into my head when I read your question: Vince Carter.

Question: And also, who do you think had the funniest name in NBA history? Or even college ball. -- Spidermints

Answer: Huh. I can't choose just one, so here's an incomplete list: Fennis Dembo, Uwe Blab, Sweetwater Clifton, Fat Lever, Bimbo Coles, Otis Birdsong, Foots Walker, Slick Watts, Bumper Tormohlen, Smush Parker, Jack Tingle, Von Wafer, Perry Warbington, Trooper Washington, Skippy Whitaker, Skip Wise, Harthorne Wingo, Detlef Schrempf, Justus Thigpen, Corny Thompson, Fatty Taylor, Snapper Jones, Zan Tabac, Pops Boumtje-Boumtje, Sleepy Floyd, God Shammgod, World B. Free, Ansu Sesay, Granville Waiters, Juwan Oldham, Bo Outlaw, Dan Dickau, Vonteego Cummings, Yinka Dare and Nene Hilario.

Some funny college names include Baskerville Holmes, Majestic Mapp, Scientific Mapp (I swear, look it up), Ya Ya Dia, Boubacar Aw, Bingo Merriex, Brett Blizzard, Duany Duany, Pooh Jeter, Chris Porn, Can Civi, Brad Nuckles, Pops Mensah Bonsu, Parfait Bitee and of course Austen Powers. And I'm spent!

Question: What did you think of Donnie Darko? -- Shiv

Answer: I tend to really enjoy dark, thought-provoking movies like American Psycho and Memento, so I was expecting big things from Donnie Darko. I even sat aside and entire evening to do nothing but watch it. And...I was disappointed. It just didn't move me. Nothing clicked. My thoughts were not provoked. Maybe I was expecting too much. The "Phantom Menace Effect," you know?

Question: Oh and who would win in a 3-man free for all? Muggsy Bogues, Spud Webb or Earl Boykins? -- Shiv

Answer: Muggsy just strikes me as the toughest and scrappiest of the three. I'll choose him.

Question: Say for some reason, you're given complete control of the New York Knicks. Name the 12 things you would do in order for the team to not suck so much this season. -- Rainbow Brite

Answer: Let's see. Things 1 through 10 would involve getting rid of Stephon Marbury. And I don't just mean removing him from the team. I mean removing him from the space-time continuum. That's how disruptive his presence is. Things 11 and 12 would involved dumping Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry, in that order.

Question: Where would you rank the depression that the average Seattle sports fan is going through at the moment? -- Rainbow Brite

Answer: I would have to say that Seattle sports fans have to feel like they just spent 12 months watching a cherished loved one struggle on life support, hoping that person would pull through even though they known in their hearts that the person won't, only to watch them finally (and unceremoniously) die. After which they find out another loved one (the Seahawks) has Parkinson's disease. Sure, they aren't going to drop dead at any moment, but their life is going to be a joyless struggle for the forseeable future. That about cover it?

Question: If MJ would have been drafted instead of Bowie, how many titles you think The Blazers would have won? -- Rainbow Brite

Answer: At least one before the egos of Jordan and Drexler broke the team apart. Which is probably what would have happened in Chicago if Phil Jackson hadn't repeatedly convinced Scottie Pippen that is was okay to be the underappreciated and underpaid second banana.

Question: In your opinion, who is the most over- and underappreciated player in NBA history, and in today's game? (The answer "Battier" is invalid.) -- Murcy

Answer: The most overappreciated is Michael Jordan. That's not a hate thing, either. It's just that this mythos has developed about Jordan that he basically won all those titles on his own, that it was his sheer greatness that did it. And I think that vastly understates the importance of Phil Jackson's coaching, Tex Winter's offensive system, Scottie Pippen's role as the team leader and facilitator, the overall team defense, and the fact that Jerry Krause, for all his faults, managed to assemble the perfect group of roleplayers to compliment Jordan's brilliance. Don't think for one second that the deadeye shooting of John Paxson, B.J. Armstrong and Steve Kerr weren't crucial. As were the rebounding and interior defense of Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman. So on and so forth. I think it says something that in the first year of Jordan's first retirement, the Bulls won only two fewer regular season games and were a couple iffy calls away from getting past the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and the Knicks, as we all know, barely lost a hotly contested seven-game series to the Rockets in the Finals (thanks mostly to John Starks' 2-for-18 stinkbomb in Game 7). It wasn't until Grant bolted for Orlando before the 1994-95 season that things really fell apart. And even when Jordan came back, the team was still a Dennis Rodman away from being champions again.

The most underappreciated? Wow, no idea. There are several ways I could answer that question, and a lot of players I could name. But the first one that sprang to mind was Dave Cowens. He was only 6'8" and yet he held his own against leviathans like Wilt, Kareem, Willis Reed, et al. And unlike Ben Wallace, who did a servicable job of guarding Shaq in the 2004 NBA Finals, Cowens could drop 20 or 30 points a game, too. He was an amazing, intense player.

Question: What is the source of your MJ-hating? (Apart from being a pacers fan.) -- Murcy

Answer: I can remember the exact moment I started to dislike MJ. He did an interview between Games 1 and 2 of the 1991 NBA Finals in which he (in my opinion) did a lot of whining about how hard it is to be Michael Jordan. It seemed to my much younger mind that he went on and on about how he resented his fame and the fact that the fans didn't understand how difficult and stressful it was to be Michael Jordan. Now that I'm a little older, wiser and more mature, I get it. But at the time, it galled me. I was like, "What the hell do you have to be so snippy about, Mr. I'm The Best And Everybody Loves Me?" It's like...have you ever fallen out of love with the person you were dating, and suddenly you can see all the little flaws and imperfections, only they seem so much worse for the fact that you didn't notice them before? It's almost like the person lied to and betrayed you somehow, even though you were really just kind of lying to yourself. You wanted them to be perfect, but they weren't. Anyway, that's how it began. And it didn't help that his teams kept beating my teams.

Question: I really like your writing -- do you have any favorite writers? -- Anonymous

Answer: I do, probably too many to mention. Here are a few. My favorite sports writer is Jack McCallum. I love J.R.R. Tolkein's work. I'm a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, which I guess makes me a J.K. Rowling fan. There's Max Brooks (trust me, just look him up). Oliver Sacks (again, just trust me). Oh, and for humor, I'm a big fan of Seanbaby.

Question: Do you read sports stuff at home, or something else? -- Anonymous

Answer: Well, to keep up with my writing for Basketbawful, Footbawful and Deadspin, I pretty much have to read sports stuff at home. But I also enjoy science fiction, horror, history (mostly ancient near-east and medieval European), anthropology, psychology and sociology. Believe it or not.

Question: Do you have any least favourite athletes (basketball or otherwise)? It can be because of their personality, or just because they are crap. -- Anonymous

Answer: Well, there's Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Bill Laimbeer, Tom Brady. Oh, and Greg Ostertag, too, since he cost the Jazz at least two titles.

Question: Is writing a dream job, something that you always wanted to do? -- Anonymous

Answer: Yes, absolutely. I studied Journalism and Professional Writing in college. And I'm a technical writer (for computer software) by trade. I decided late in my high school career that I wanted to earn my living by writing...and I guess that's what I'm doing.

Question: Is Adam Sandler actually funny? -- Anonymous

Answer: No.

Question: Is 'Crazy ass Chuck Hayes' the best description of a player ever? -- Flud

Answer: I thought that "The Boston Celtic Mascot" was the perfect nickname for Brian Scalabrine last year. Oh, and how about "The Vanilla Godzilla" for our boy Joel Przybilla?

Part 2 in a few hours...

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If there's one truly great player that never seems to get his due, it's David Robinson. That lack of appreciation always seems to come down to two sticking points. First, he never won a championship without Tim Duncan. (So what? Magic never won one without Kareem, Larry never won without Parish and McHale, Michael never won without Scotty, Kobe never won without Shaq, etc.) Second, and even more damning, Hakeem Olajuwon dominated him during the 1995 Western Conference Finals...right after Robinson received the regular season MVP award.

I hate that so much of the general perception about Robinson and his place in history is defined by his performance in a single playoff series. Yes, Olajuwon thorougly outplayed him, but Hakeem was absolutely on fire throughout those playoffs. (He also had his way in the Finals against Shaq, who it should be noted was second in MVP voting that season.) Moreover, the Rockets were peaking as a team at the same time: They rolled over a 60-win team (the Jazz), a 59-win team (the Suns), a 60-win team (the Spurs) and a 57-win team (the Magic). That was their "Never underestimate the heart of a champion" season, and what happened that May was much bigger than Olajuwon versus Robinson. And as well as Hakeem played, it's not like The Admiral just rolled over and died; he averaged nearly 24 points, 12 rebounds and over 2 blocks per game in what was considererd his most infamous playoff failure. I don't know abouat you, but I wish I could fail that well.

And anyway, the Hakeem comparisons are unfair. Playoff performances, however good or bad, are only one small sample of a much larger career experiment. After all, that wasn't the first or last time an MVP has been gunned down in a one-on-one matchup during the playoffs. Larry Bird outplayed Dr. J (the MVP) in the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals. Kevin Johnson upended Magic Johnson (the MVP) in the 1990 Western Conference Semifinals. Paul Pierce outperformed Kobe Bryant (the MVP) in this year's Finals. Those losses have to be put into perspective. As such, take a look at the Olajuwon versus Robinson head-to-head numbers during their 42 regular season meetings: The stats are nearly identical. Except the most important stat, that is: Robinson's team won 30 of those games compared to 12 for Hakeem's team. That's a pretty overwhelming margin.

I also don't think that Robinson should be defined solely by his performances against Hakeem. This guy's accomplishments can stand beside all but a few players in NBA history. The man could put the ball in the hole: He led the league in scoring in 1993-94 and is one of only five players to have ever scored more than 70 points in a single game (with 71 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 24, 1994). He is one of only four players to have recorded a quadruple-double (with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 blocks against the Detroit Pistons on February 17, 1994). In 1991-92, he became just the third player to have ever ranked among the league's top 10 in five statistical categories, joining Cliff Hagan (1959-60) and Larry Bird (1985-86) -- Robinson was seventh in scoring (23.2 ppg), fourth in rebounding (12.2 rpg), first in blocks (4.49 per game), fifth in steals (2.32 per game) and seventh in field-goal percentage (.551). That achievement also made him the first player to ever rank among the top five in rebounding, blocks and steals in a single season. And finally, he's also the only player in NBA history to win the Rebounding, Blocked Shots, and Scoring Titles and Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and MVP.

And that's the thing about Robinson: His basketball existence wasn't defined by any one thing. He did it all. No, he didn't have the killer instinct that's associated with many of the all-time greats. He wasn't the type of player who could (or was inclined to) take over offensively whenever and against whomever he wanted (he relied mostly on drives to the hoop and face-up jumpers). But in terms of playing the game to the best of his abilities and contributing in every possible phase of the game, Robinson has few peers. This fact is highlighted by his Player Efficiency Ranking (PER) numbers. He is currently third all-time (behind Michael Jordan and Shaq) with a career number of 26.18...despite his last few "off" seasons when he willingly deferred to Tim Duncan. He led the league in PER for three consecutive seasons, 1993-94 (30.7), 1994-95 (29.1) and 1995-96 (29.4). He also ranked second in 1991-92 (27.5), and third in 1990-91 (27.4), 1997-98 (27.8) and 1998-99 (24.9). He was still ranked as high as tenth in 2000-01 (23.7). To provide you with a little perspective, Kobe Bryant -- who is widely considered the most well-rounded player in the game today -- currently ranks 17th on the all-time list (23.57), and he has never finished higher than third in PER for a single season.

Mind you, I'm not suggesting PER is a definitive indicator of individual greatness. However, it does seem to genuinely reflect a player's overall contributions in several different areas. So I guess the point I'm trying to make about Robinson is that his greatness wasn't about winning one-on-one matchups, or scoring at will in clutch situations. He was about playing the game the way it's supposed to be played, on both ends of the court. And, based on how he did that, The Admiral truly should be considered one of the greatest of all time.

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prattle tales
Analysis or discussion of Van Gundy's meatloaf recipe? Could be either or.

prattle tales (prat'-l talz) noun. The coaching/playing anecdotes and miscellaneous personal information (usually inane) shared by play-by-play announcers and color commentators during the "dead spots" of a live telecast, particularly if the game is lopsided or boring.

Usage example: Jeff Van Gundy's a pretty good broadcaster, but he sure spends a lot of time on his prattle tales.

Word history: The term was coined on the Quixotica blog, a self-described compendium of mondern invented slang. Upon discovering it, I was immediately reminded of our good friends Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, who like to talk about themselves, their personal/professional relationship and other insipid factoids regarding their days as coach and player almost as much as (or perhaps more than) they like to talk about, you know, the game they're broadcasting. Take the following example (via Awful Announcing) in which JVG discusses bowling, childhood obesity, knife fighting and Sasha Vujacic's workout regimen. And it's not like this was some meaningless mid-season game between the Hawks and Grizzlies; it was Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

In all fairness though, Bill Walton was doing this long before Jeff, especially when he first began broadcasting. Seriously, Walton can work an anecdote about playing alongside Larry Bird into almost any circumstance. I often wonder if he also does that at home over family dinners. Like, when his wife asks him to pass the mashed potatoes, I bet Bill says something like, "That reminds me of '86, when I was fortunate enough to be on the same team as one Larry Joe Bird, who was a great basketball player and an even greater man. His passing wasn't limited to sending mashed potatoes across the dinner table. He took moving the basketball from himself to a teammate and made it an art form that transcended the game itself. Michelangelo's 'David' had nothing on this give-and-go backdoor pass he gave me against the Lakers on one chilly January evening..."

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This is one of those rare days when I can't think of a single basketball-related thing to write about. Mostly because I'm still lamenting a grisly NFL weekend in which my favorite teams all suffered agonizing losses and my fantasy squad went belly-up against Evil Ted's team. So, while fruitlessly brainstorming, I decided to say thanks. Thanks to all of you who read, and comment, and submit ideas. Thanks for your kind words, for correcting me, for challenging my ideas, and -- what the hell -- thanks even to the Kobe fans who stick around and occasionally threaten my life. I really, genuinely and sincerely appreciate all of you. I may not get the chance to respond to every comment and e-mail, but that doesn't mean I don't love you crazy bastards (and bastardettes) and enjoy hearing from you.

So this is me giving back. First with a story, and then an offer. The story will hopefully amuse you. A while back, I spent a few years playing the Easter Bunny at an annual event for underprivileged children. Originally, I was responsible only for helping to plan and set up the event, but we ran into a hitch: Nobody wanted to be the Easter Bunny. Now, I learned a long time ago to always volunteer for the tasks everybody else avoids. That way, nobody can ever accuse you of trying to avoid the crappy jobs, and, more importantly, the people who do the crappy jobs usually get out of doing pretty much anything else. Dressing up as the Easter Bunny meant I didn't have to help in any other area of the event. No planning, so setting things up, no taking them down. I figured I would show up, be adored by one and all, and then leave. Easy enough, no?

The first problem was that I'm 6'3". As you would probably suspect if you ever thought about such things, they don't make a lot of six-foot, three-inch Easter Bunny costumes. So, the first year, we had to special order an extra-large costume at the last minute, and it barely made it on time. The first time I put the costume on, I immediately noticed two things. First, it was hot. Like, really hot. Imagine crawling fully-clothed into one of those thermal sleeping bags that are rated for -60 degree weather and then walking around in it for a few hours. Yeah. Second, I looked flat-out creepy. I mean, 6'3" is small to Shaq, but to an eight-year-old, I'm huge. And, now, dressed as a freaky grinning rabbit. I was actually afraid of scaring the kiddies.

The day came and, once the festivities were well under way, I was led into crowd. The kids started cheering and screamed "The Easter Bunny!" They weren't afraid of me at all, which I thought was a good thing. At first. But I soon wished that they were scared, at least a little, because these kids were mean. They immediately came over and started challenging me. "You aren't the Easter Bunny!" "He's a fake!" "Rip off his tail!" "I'm gonna tear your head off!" And they weren't kidding. I started getting grabbed, punched, pushed, and kicked. The parents in attendance and the other people running the event tried to get them under control, but the adults were outnumbered three-to-one. There was no way to police them all.

One little girl ran up and stared me down. (It's important to note, at this point, that in order to beat the heat I was wearing only a pair of boxer shorts under the costume.) She then reached between my legs and grabbed a tiny fistful of my junk, after which she turned around and announced to the other kids, "He's a man! I can feel him!" That was a low moment for me, no question about it. And my friends who where there tormented me with "I can feel him!" jokes for quite some time afterward.

After a struggle that lasted about a half an hour, the kids came down off of their sugar high or whatever it was, and we settled down to take pictures. Like this one. The little girls were great, but that little monster on the left was trying to tear out a tuft of fur. And yes, he managed to yank out some of my leg hair in the process. In case you don't know, that doesn't feel good.

Bunny 1
Ah, children. I hate 'em.

There was one little boy who was like the gang leader or something. He kept putting together small raiding parties to try and knock me over or snatch the head off my costume. He probably got in more punches and kicks than all the rest of the kids combined. I swear, I almost picked him up and threw him out the window a few times. Then, the oddest thing happened. As the party was winding down, he came up to me entirely on his own, eyes filled with tears, and said, "Thanks, Easter Bunny!" And then he hugged me. Have you ever seen a look of "WTF?!" on a costumed bunny? Well, you're about to.

Bunny 2
Uh, that's great, kid. Now get off me.

So I guess everything more or less turned out okay. I guess I should have sort of expected it. We live in an increasingly cynical society. I can assure you, based on this experience, that that cynicism isn't limited to adults. But at least with the kids, you can still get through to them. They hated and distrusted me at first, but by the end of the party they loved me.

Okay. That's the story. Now here's the offer. I'd like to do a Q&A post on Friday. So leave comments here or e-mail me directly with questions you'd like me to answer. They can be about basketball, or movies, or pop culture, or whatever. Please try to avoid overly personal questions, though, because unless you're Gwen Stefani, I'm not telling you my favorite sexual position. And if you are Gwen Stefani, call me.

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By now, I'm sure you've read or heard about Josh Howard's "The Star Spangled Banner's going on right now and I don't celebrate that shit. I'm black." controversy. I haven't mentioned it thus far because a) it's pretty obvious stupid, even for this site, b) it edges into commentary on race relations, which I generally tend to shy away from, and c) this is America, and one of the founding principles of American life is each person's right to be as big of an idiot as he or she chooses to be. And without that principle, this site might not even exist. You know?

And besides, let's face it: This incident will follow the typical outrage-to-obscurity cycle that these situations always seem to adhere to. To wit:

Phase 1: Intense anger. Commentaries. Editorials. Blog posts about what it all means. Angry e-mails. Etc.

Phase 2: Loud grumbling.

Phase 3: Quiet grumbling.

Phase 4: Random serenades from boo birds that decrease in intensity throughout the upcoming season.

Phase 5: General forgetfulness, epitomized by even astute NBA fans saying, "Remember when Josh said that thing about the National Anthem? What was that again?"

Phase 6: People like me bring the situation up in Worst Evers-style articles and blog posts, or it gets rehashed after some other athlete says something inflammatory about the Anthem, or America, or the President, or whatever.

Sure, there are people who will always and forever hold that single thoughtless statement against Josh, but most people will eventually get over it, especially if he plays well. (Conversely, if he doesn't play well, the remark will be used as Exhibit B in The Case of Where Josh Howard Went Wrong...with his pot smoking admission being Exhibit A.)

Now, the wise and rational thing for the Mavericks organization to do would be to have Josh apologize, issue a few statements, and wait patiently for Phase 5. But if we've learned anything about Mark Cuban, he is rarely wise or rational. In fact, he's a bit of an idiot. (Or maybe more than a bit.) So, naturally, he responded to the strong anti-Josh Howard sentiment to be expected in Phase 1 of the outrage-to-obscurity cycle by posting some of the most vitriolic e-mails he had received about the situation on his blog. Oh, and he included the peoples' e-mail addresses too.

This is, of course, akin to a pre-schooler trying to get out of trouble for eating paste by pointing at the kid across the classroom who's beating someone up for their lunch money. "You think what Josh said was stupid and hateful? Look at what these people are saying!" But he took it a step further by posting e-mail addresses, pushing the people who had contacted him privately into the public spotlight in order to punish them. Great idea, Mark. Hey, why not post Josh's e-mail address while you're at it. Then people will be able to respond to him directly, just like anybody who reads your blog can now respond to the people who contacted you.

Mind you, the posting of those e-mails was preceded by the following statement: "Josh realizes his comments were wrong, he understands why people are upset. He knows he has made a mistake, has apologized and will work with us . Beyond that, its a private issue." A private issue, huh? So why draw even more attention to it with this blog post? And does Mark really retain the right to declare something private when he's attempting to very publically humilate others?

Who knows. Maybe, just maybe, it's not a question of Josh Howard's personal stupidity. Maybe it's a question of the Mavericks' organizational stupidity.

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hacker commandments

This is the not-very-long awaited follow-up to the original Hacker's Commandments post. In case you can't identify the Hacker in your pickup league, he is the schmuck who makes playing basketball an experience akin to, well, this Weird Al video. They live their athletic lives by these commandments, each of which is ranked on the Basketbawful Douchebag Scale (TM), where 1 is the lowest rating and 10 is the highest. For example:

1 = The Snuggle Fabric Softener Bear and the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee
2 = Lieutenant Proctor from the "Police Academy" movies
3 = Poets
4 = Your younger brother and/or kid sister
5 = Anyone who "summers in Nantucket"
6 = Frasier and Niles Crane
7 = New York Yankees fans
8 = Kobe Bryant
9 = Buzz Bissinger, Jim Rome, Sean Salisbury (three-way tie)
10 = Clay Bennett

9. Thou shall always overreact to thy successes: Inspired by cubee: On those rare occasions when they score or make a sound defensive play, Hacker's tend to yell, pump their fists, do the Antoine Walker shimmy, wagging a finger, and/or talk trash. For instance, a few weeks ago I was lighting this guy up and I could tell it was making him angry. Not surprisingly, he mugged me while I was trying to complete a fastbreak layup. Even though he body-blocked me out of bounds, he must have felt this was a clean move since he loudly smacked the ball as well. He immediately starting screaming and flexing like Alonzo Mourning, then yelled, "Get the f*** outta here!" BDS rating: 7

Note: This behavior can sometimes delightfully backfire...

10. Thou shall constantly excuse thy failures: Since the Hacker is like a perfectly-tuned athletic machine with a computer-like brain, they are incapable of making mistakes or missing shots. Or at least they think they should be incapable of those things. Which is why, when they err, you will get a variety of exceptionally creative reasons why. From davidd: "They scream after every missed shot, 'What is wrong with me today! I usually make those!'" From ak dave: "Thou shalt blame the basketball, gym floor, rim, backboard, teammates, Sarah Palin, or anything but thyself for egregious errors thou hast committed. Even in the case of a blatant double-dribble; it was not thy fault." BDS Rating: 5

11. Thou shall play the injury card: From bj: "Would injury-related fuckery count? The guy who (loudly and repeatedly) stresses that he's playing a month after slipping on some ice and straining his knee; includes calling timeouts to fiddle with Ace bandages and swallow aspirins. Square it if they sneer at anyone who actually does go down with an injury, and cube it if that anyone is their own teammate or is hurt by a hard foul they committed." One addition: This also applies to the guys who "tweak an ankle" or something to that effect, hobble around like they can't move for several minutes, then suddenly sprint out on a fast break or pull of some incredible move for game point as if nothing whatsoever was wrong with their injured body part...because, of course, there never was. BDS Rating: 6

12. Thou shall talk the talk without walking the walk: From an anonymous commenter: "Thou shalt shit-talk incessantly, even when thou hast done nothing to improve thy team's lot. Hackers are often the ones talking the most shit, acting the most smug after winning, basking in a glow of superiority, even though they've scored one basket all game. On a cherry-pick layup. Which rolled around the rim three times." BDS Rating: 6

13. Thou shall cherry pick: Quick question: Am I the only person driven to a near-homocidal rage when somebody cherry picks? Especially when they follow it up with an excessive celebration, ala Commandment 9. If I suddenly stop writing for this site, Footbawful and Deadspin and nobody hears from me, chances are I am either in prison or awaiting trail for the murder of a cherry picker. In which case, please start baking my cake-with-a-file in it immediately. BDS Rating: Anywhere from 1 (if the Hacker's team is getting blown out and the point is meaningless) to 10 (on game point of hotly contested games)

14. Thou shall scam thy way into games: From ak dave: "Thou shalt always have 'next' regardless of when thou arrivest at thy gym. Upon losing, as it was clearly not thy fault, thou shalt have 'next' anyway." Personal anecdote: This tactic became so popular at my gym that the beginning of every game was preceded by a five-minute argument about who actually had next. The gym manager finally posted a signup sheet, which actually eradicated the practice. Who knew a simple piece of paper could have so much social power. BDS Rating: Anywhere from 4 (if there aren't many people present) to 10 (extremely crowded gym with many people waiting)

15. Thou shalt wear an excess of protective gear: From five pound bag: "Hackers come to the game with a duffel full of ankle braces, knee pads, shooting sleeves and two pairs of Rec Specs (one indoor, one outdoor) and spend ten minutes putting all that crap on while explain why they need it ('Yeah, strained my Achilles a couple years ago when I was fighting through a screen -- total moving pick, had to call the foul on that -- but I can't change the way I play, it's the right way, fundamentals man, fundamentals...' etc. etc.)." I have two words to explain this phenomenon: Battle armor. BDS Scale: 2

16. Thou shall respond to thine mistakes with berserker rage: From brandon: "There is an undeniable law under the heavens that states that when a douchebag gets blocked or gets thier pocket picked, they suddenly turn it into supreme overdrive and run around frantically trying to re-steal or re-block from the very opponent who has embarrassed them. This usually leads to them tripping and/or fouling. Frequently, it ends in an injury, where they limp off the court. Note: This phenomenon can also be triggered by a blown lay-up." BDS Rating: Anywhere from 5 to 10, depending on the severity of the rage and how long it lasts

17. Thou shall loudly call "And one!" to declaim every foul: From ben: "I hate that. You have to actually make the FG to get an 'And one!" you numbskull. And since we don't shoot free throws in pickup ball, technically there is never an "and one" situation. So shut up, you hack." Agreed. I've made my feelings on this subject known. BDS Rating: 8

18. Thou shall emulate this guy: This is for you, fluxland. BDS Rating: 10

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El Guapo

You can go to Deadspin to read my take on Agent Zero's latest knee surgery. If you do, I can promise three things: An extended ¡Three Amigos! reference, a link that describes how to commit suicide with a frisbee, and the inevitable Grant Hill analogy.

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You can expect a more elaborate and thorough set of previews in October, but for now, here are my gut feelings about the upcoming NBA season, vomited up in glorious Basketbawful-o-Vision!

Atlanta Hawks: Fact: This team will not be crippled by Josh Childress' defection to Greece. Rather, they will be crippled by the fact that they are still and will always be the Atlanta Hawks. I guess what I'm trying to say is the Hawks are the East's answer to the Clippers.

Boston Celtics: Will Darius Miles be more like the 1985-86 Bill Walton or the 2007-08 Darius Miles? It could be the former but I'm betting on the latter.

Charlotte Bobcats: They are one "unbelievable breakout season" from Adam Morrison away from contending for 40 wins.

Chicago Bulls: Good to see they finally addressed that inside scoring problem. Oh, wait...

Cleveland Cavaliers: I'm sorry, but the arrival of Mo Williams -- a.k.a. "The Second Coming of Larry Hughes" -- changes nothing except who gets to stand around on the perimeter waiting for LeBron to kick the ball back out.

Dallas Mavericks: Quick quiz: Who is more mobile at this point, Jason Kidd or Stephen Hawking? Think about it before answering.

Denver Nuggets: Get ready for this mindbender: The Nuggets could actually be worse on defense this season. And replace "could be" with "most definitely and positively will be."

Detroit Pistons: I'm not sure yet whether they'll lose to Boston or Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. I could be totally wrong about this, though. They might lose to Philly instead.

Golden State Warriors: To quote Clubber Lang: Dead meat.

Houston Rockets: Adding Ron Artest to this team is like watching a Mad Scientist mix random chemicals together. Maybe he'll create Wonderflonium, maybe he'll destroy us all. Could be the former, but I'm betting on the latter. Plus, there's no way Yao is staying healthy all year.

Indiana Pacers: You know how the people of Chernobyl are still suffering horrible aftereffects of the nuclear disaster that happened all the way back in 1986? Well, Ron Artest was the Pacers' Chernobyl disaster, and the effects are still being felt to this day.

Los Angeles Clippers: Suggested team slogan for this year's Clipper team: "We are who you thought we were."

Los Angeles Lakers: They sure look like champions on paper. And I'd like to wipe my you-know-what with that paper.

Memphis Grizzlies: The arrival of Marc Gasol could very well mean an additional five wins, which would actually be a pretty big deal for the Grizzlies.

Miami Heat: Do you suppose Pat Riley would have stepped down -- or up, or whatever you want to call it -- if he'd had any idea how D-Wade was going to play in the Olympics? Yeah, me either. Expect a 25-game improvement and a dramatic first or second round playoff ouster.

Milwaukee Bucks: They have enough talent to trick some people into thinking they'll be halfway decent this season. Don't be one of those people.

Minnesota Timberwolves: least Antoine Walker's gone.

New Jersey Nets: Following this team will be like watching over a brain-dead relative sucking on life-support.

New Orleans Hornets: The won the James Posey lottery, but something tells me they're not quite ready to win it all yet. Also, they will go into a short slump around Mardi Gras.

New York Knicks: D'Antoni's "fun 'n gun" will be more pleasing to the eye than Isiah's "shamble 'n suck," but with Chris Duhon leading a squad that still includes Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry, I can't see the end result being that much different.

Oklahoma City Thunder: I refuse to acknowledge this team's existence. The "Win" column in the season standings will likely do the same.

Orlando Magic: Good to see they finally addressed their starting guard problems. Oh, wait...

Philadelphia 76ers: For some reason, I'm just not getting as excited about the Sixers as everybody else seems to be. Yeah, they got Elton Brand and all that, but something just me.

Phoenix Suns: Can I just say up front that I will personally hunt down and murder -- slowly but brutally -- every blogger and sports writer who uses a headline about this team that includes any variation of the words "sunrise" and/or "sunset." I am so not kidding about this.

Portland Trailblazers: I just get this weird feeling that waiting an extra year for Greg Oden's "rookie" season is going to be like waiting an extra week to open your Christmas presents and finding out all you got was a new winter coat, socks and underwear. Sure, you needed all that stuff, but...

Sacramento Kings: They will give you very few reasons to care.

San Antonio Spurs: Their string of every-other-year championships is over. Trust me on that.

Toronto Raptors: Jermaine O'Neal is not the answer. He just isn't.

Utah Jazz: They will be every bit as good as they were last season...during which they lost in the Western Conference Semifinals. That's right: It's Groundhog Day 2, starring the Utah Jazz!

Washington Wizards: Sure, they resigned Antawn Jamison and Agent Zero, but are they really any better than the teams that lost to the Cavaliers in the playoffs the last three years?


White jump 1

I have now completed the first seven beginner's level workouts of the Strength Shoes training system, and my vertical leap has increased inches. If you're male, I don't have to tell you how chilling the words "zero inches" can be. Bummer, huh?

But not exactly surprising, either. After all, I wouldn't expect to add an inch to my biceps -- or even a fraction of an inch -- only seven workouts into a beginner's bicep training program. And the Strength Shoe program is pretty clear: The purpose of the beginner's level is to prepare you for the intermediate level, and therefore results may be limited (or even non-existent). So all I can do is keep on keeping on.

Patience is the critical component of any training program. Rome wasn't built in a day, right? Hell, a McDonald's Playland isn't even built in a day. But there's a very strong temptation to overtrain. You know, increase the number of repetitions I'm doing, do extra workouts, install some cyborg implants, or whatever. However, based on everything I've been reading, that's the worst thing I could do. Okay, that's not technically correct...there are many worse things I could do (cross the streams, eat broken glass, clean all the bathrooms in Grand Central Station with my tongue, etc.). But overtraining, in almost any area, usually leads to injury and muscle degradation. In fact, some of the plyometric literature I've read explicitly states that overtraining can not only hamper results, it can actually takes inches off of my precious vert. Wouldn't that suck?

However, while I can't jump any higher today than when I started, I can tell you that I have seen a general improvement in my balance and agility. Which is something, I guess. Also, and I might be imagining this, but I seemed to have more thrust on my last couple runs. Oh, and in my ability to kick myself in the ass, which is a skill that could come in handy at almost any time.

In the meantime, I've been trying to read as much as I can about plyometrics. The best of what I've discovered so far is The Vertical Jump Development Bible by Kelly Baggett. As far as I can tell, Baggett really knows what he's talking about. The VJDB is stuffed full of Mighty Science, which -- even if you can't understand all of it -- feels very comforting. Kind of like when the voice-over guy in the Viagra commercial says that some erections may last up to four hours. Anyway, the VJDB helps you analyze your jumping ability (to determine what kind of jumper you are) and provides a variety of customized workouts based on your athletic aptitude and physical needs. The programs are roughly 16 weeks long and use a large variety of exercises. Every exercise is illustrated and described in detail, which is nice. And most of them can be done in the privacy of your own home.

I'm not trying to pass judgement on my Strength Shoes program before I've even finished the beginner's level, but if I had to choose a system in a pinch, I'd choose The Vertical Jump Development Bible. And I will be using it if the Strength Shoes fail me.

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This video was created for the Humanitarian Organization Divac Web site. It stars NBA analysts, commisioners, coaches, and players both past and present, all praising Vlade for his floptastic greatness. With videographic examples and a jaunty tune, no less. I'm telling you, if this video gave soothing foot rubs, I'd marry it.

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He doesn't like it. Not one bit. Note the subtle dig on David Robinson and (presumably) San Antonio.

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I just wanted to let everybody know that Basketbawful has teamed up with futuremrsrickankiel of Mass Hysteria to bring you: Footbawful: The best of the worst of professional football. Everything you've come to expect from Basketbawful -- Worst of the Weekends, Word of the Days, Man love, the occasional diatribe from Evil Ted, etc. -- you will get from Footbawful. Only about football. Which, as it turns out, has plenty of awful to write about.

So if you enjoy making fun of football, then please visit, dear readers. And spread the word if you can. Oh, and you don't have to worry: This will not affect my regular Basketbawful updates, and I will still be writing for Deadspin during the NBA season. I'll just have 37 percent less life!

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Here's a funny prank Charles Barkley pulled on teammate Manute Bol back when they played together on the Philadelphia 76ers. I don't want to ruin the shocking ending, so just watch it. And laugh. Update! I missed this the first time around, but Ben Q. Rock (of Third Quarter Collapse) pointed out something that should have been obvious: "Charles grabs his man region with disturbing frequency." Wow. He really does.

This isn't Barkley related, but I'm including it anyway: Last year, Jason Richardson filled former teammate Patrick O'Bryant's car with popcorn. You can tell Patrick was, you know, less than happy about it...but what's a rookie going to do? Other than go home and cry, that is.

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Anybody remember faux stuntman Super Dave Osborn? It's hard to believe that, in the early 90s, he was popular enough to be the featured character in a Nike commercial, with Reggie Miller getting relegated to the supporting role. If anything, you should watch this to see Reggie's hair. It's geometrically awesome.

Man, if Reggie's acting was any more wooden, you could build a nice, toasty campfire out of him. But, as Reggie himself might say: "We're not here for lollipop and kisses."

Extrapalooza: Here's Super Dave getting into it with Mr. T.

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best player 2

Dunning-Kruger effect (dun'-eng kroo'-guhr e-fekt') noun. The phenomenon wherein people who have little knowledge or skill tend to think they know more or have more skill than they do, while simultaneously overlooking or underestimating the knowledge and skills of others.

Usage example: There's this guy in my pickup league who couldn't hit a shot if a genie gave him three wishes and he used all three to do it...but he always chucks it up without conscience. He must be suffering from Dunning-Kruger effect.

Word history: The term is based on a series experiments performed by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, both of Cornell University, the results of which were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in December 1999. Here's an explanation from the abstract:
People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across four studies, The authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error.

Incompetent individuals will be less able than their more competent peers to gain insight into their true level of performance by means of social comparison information. In particular, because of their difficulty recognizing competence in others, incompetent individuals will be unable to use information about the choices and performances of others to form more accurate impressions of their own ability.
I know. There were a lot of big words in there, so let me break that down for you: Most people think they're better than they really are, but they're too stupid to realize it. And that same stupidity makes it difficult (and sometimes impossible) for them to recognize skills and competence in the non-stupids, which perpetuates their cycle of idiocy and megalomania.

Boy, that explains a lot, doesn't it? You see this in every area of life, including basketball. Pickup leagues are filled with suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect. You know, the guys who insist on shooting the ball without regard to how pitifully low their success rate is. There's this one guy I've played with for years, and to my knowledge he's never hit a three-pointer, and yet he fires up two or three of them a night. I've always wondered why those people never "get it"...and now I know.

This condition is not limited to amateur athletes, of course. The NBA if chock full of players who are trapped in the strangling nets of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Take Stephon Marbury, who once said: "Don't get me wrong, I love Jason Kidd, he is a great point guard. (But) how am I comparing myself to him when I think I'm the best point guard to play basketball? That makes no sense. I can't compare myself to somebody when I already think I'm the best. I'm telling you what it is. I know I'm the best point guard in the NBA" Starbury said this during the period of his career when, as Statbuster once put it, he was always good for 20 points, 10 assists and 50 losses.

Then there's Paul Pierce, who this summer was asked if Kobe Bryant -- the reigning MVP of the league -- was the best player in the world. Paul, fresh off an NBA championship and Finals MVP award, responded as follows: "I don't think Kobe is the best player. I'm the best player. There's a line that separates having confidence and being conceited. I don't cross that line but I have a lot of confidence in myself."

Paul took a beating in the media and across the blogosphere for that comment. But he didn't retract it or try to claim he was misquoted or that his words were taken out of context. He emphatically underscored his original statement when he said: "That's what I said. I am a confident player and a lot of people might look at it like 'Oh, another cocky attitude,' but I don't look at it that way. I have an opinion, I have a right to have one and that’s the way I feel. I felt I’ve played against the best over the years and felt right now that I'm the best player in the world."

With all due respect to Paul, because he is a fantastic and versatile player, he's not the best in the world. By, like, quite a bit (although probably not as much as some of his critics would claim). Now, the typical justification given for statements like this is that professional athletes need to be confident, lest they be chewed up and spit out by a system in which only the strong -- both physically and mentally -- survive. But isn't a certain amount of self-awareness also important? Especially as skills diminish and circumstances change.

Take Shaq for example. Based on some of the things he said last year, he thinks he's just as good as he ever was. Such as when, at the beginning of the season, The Big Geritol claimed he was going to return to his old dominating ways. "As a tamed tiger now, you always go back to what you know, a la Siegfried and Roy. I've been tame the last couple years, but here’s a chance for me to go wild again." Of course, the new version of Shaq "going wild" featured him nearly fouling out of every game he played before going down with a bum hip. Shaq's inability to recognize his diminishing skills hurt his team. The same thing happened when Michael Jordan was playing for the Wizards.

Anyway, now that I'm aware of it, I'm going to be on the lookout for ongoing examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Synonyms: Lake Wobegon effect, Optimism bias.

[Many thanks to AnacondaHL for bringing this disorder to my attention.]

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