I am an admitted hoops addict.
I love playing basketball, buying basketball accessories with no immediate need for it (hello shooting sleeves!), and analyzing the sport. From The Big Lead’s comments section to fiercely debating with friends, I’m in my element when discussing statistics, legacies, and match-up problems.
I’ve been reading basketball analysis on a daily basis since I was in elementary school. Over time, I’ve transitioned from reading Doug Smith’s Toronto Star newspaper columns at the age of 9, to biographical books, and eventually, the internet. In the last twelve years, I’ve read the works of many writers who discuss basketball for a living.
Based on that knowledge, I’ve compiled a list of the writers that I consider to be absolute must reads for basketball analysis . While some of these gentlemen are excellent at weaving on-court drama with narratives, others are distinguished in their ability to provide detailed on-court analysis. Each of them have their own strengths and distinctiveness. They are, in my opinion, the best in the business.
In no particular order:
Roland Lazenby – Laker Noise, Hoops Hype
Lazenby is likely not very well-known to people who only read the big four names in sports journalism on the net today (SI, ESPN, Fox, Yahoo). Essentially, being familiar with his writing either means that you’re a hardcore fanaddict (yes, I just made up a word) of the NBA, or, more likely, a hardcore Bulls/Lakers fan. Lazenby is best known for writing about these two franchises and its players, with the pinnacle of his work being (in my opinion) Blood on the Horns: The Long Strange Ride of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls (1998), which takes you behind the scenes into the last season of the infamous Bulls dynasty. You can currently find Lazenby’s work at Laker Noise or Hoops Hype. He also has a Twitter page he often updates.
Recommended reading: This will always remain one of my favorite articles on the web.
Bill Simmons – ESPN
There’s not really much left to say about Simmons that hasn’t already been discussed ad nauseam on the web. Chances are, if you’re a sports fanatic that cares enough to read about it on ESPN, you’re familiar with Simmons’ work. I started reading the Sports Guy around 2002 when I was just 13 years old, and have been reading him regularly ever since (though I was NOT prepared for his nasal voice when I clicked on my first podcast).
At this time, Simmons is probably one of the most popular sports writers in the world. Though the quality of his writing declined in the last year or so, he seems to have regained some of his vigor recently, as seen by his entries on Grantland (plus he gets to swear!).
I find him to be the perfect blend of pop culture and sports, and he seems to have (thankfully) decreased the amount of outdated TV and movie references in his columns. I think he’s done an excellent job connecting with his audience as he has progressed, especially his younger readers.
One thing that needs to stop however, are those morons typing “SIMMONS!” within the YouTube comments page after visiting links that Bill posts within his columns. The Sports Guy is an influential writer who has, over time, essentially transformed into the Tyler Durden of blog-based sports writing (seriously, find another sports writer on the web who has enough devotion from their followers to incite 50+ comments on a linked video simply proclaiming “SIMMONS IS GOD!“).
Recommended reading: I won’t recommend a specific column because he’s had too many memorable ones over the years, but some of my favorite theme-based columns of his include the Vengeance Scale, as well the Reader Mailbag.
Charley Rosen – Fox Sports
Rosen can be found at Fox Sports, and readers seem to either really like or hate his writing style. To me, he is the Hubie Brown of basketball analysis. Rosen’s columns feature in-depth analysis that distinguishes itself from other writers due to his coaching prowess (he was an assistant coach to Phil Jackson’s CBA team in the early 80s), and it is evident in his writing. While most writers (specifically on ESPN) tend to pacify athletes and criticize them in a sugar-coated manner, Rosen (bless his heart) will detail the reasons why he dislikes a player on the court. His assessments are brutal to read if you are a fan of the player or team, but they are usually very objective and truthful. For example, while most writers were busy praising Shaq and fondly writing their memories of him in columns, Rosen also praised Shaq, but revolved his column around the premise that his fatness prevented him from being a greater legend. In his characteristically deadpan style, Rosen casually wrote that “even though the Lakers three-peated, Shaq continued to expand. At one point, he weighed so much that only a cattle scale could make an accurate measurement — approximately 375 pounds.”
Rosen has a unique writing style that is very refreshing in comparison to other NBA writers due to his frankness and honestly. He is not trying to be soft in his criticism to get closer with the players and will criticize players on what he perceives to be weaknesses (e.g – “LeBron James must keep his mouth shut and dig deep inside his heart-of-hearts to find the wherewithal to shrug off the immense pressure and become a Jordanesque closer.”)
You can find his columns at Fox Sports.
Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports
A lot of people seem to dislike Adrian Wojnarowski (for the sake of my fingers, I’ll simply refer to him as Woj hereafter). It is very likely that those same people are also fans or supporters of Lebron James or the Miami Heat. As an admitted Lebron James “hater” (who cries himself to sleep nightly because I have to go back to my pathetic life after watching his continuous failures), I love Woj’s columns. To me, he expertly blends on-court drama with off-court narratives.
However, I will admit that his Lebron bashing is somewhat exaggerated at times. I dislike Lebron more than the average fan (I’ve been hating on him since it was cool to hate on him), but its gotten to the point that Woj’s shots at Lebron over the years are numerous enough to compile a list of them. I have not read any of his books (one of which was a best seller), but his penchant for pushing a specific narrative is, in my opinion, uncanny. For example, while he paints Kobe Bryant in heroic stances, Woj will often go the extra mile to discredit Lebron’s image through his writing. Again, as someone who does not care much for Lebron, I love it; however, other fans might feel it displays a clear lack of objectivity.
One thing you’ll always notice about Woj’s columns are his inclusion of anonymous tidbits from NBA personnel, mostly used in columns about Lebron. For example, when discussing the Mavericks winning the 2011 championship, Woj cited an “Eastern Conference star” as saying that “right now all [Lebron] is doing is helping D-Wade get his second ring.”
How can any NBA fan not enjoy that?
Recommended reading: Woj covers a variety of NBA topics, but in my opinion, he is at his best when analyzing Lebron James. His clear disdain for the man is amusing at times, and ultimately leaves readers curious as to how badly Lebron must have wronged Woj for him to so demonstratively dislike him. Seriously, if you “hate” Lebron James, you should be reading every one of his columns and nodding along.
Woj can be found at Yahoo! Sports.
Matt McHale – Basketbawful, By The Horns
Basketbawful is probably the funniest basketball blog on the net, and as a result, McHale is the only blog writer I have featured on my list. I don’t read McHale’s work on By The Horns, but Basketbawful presents basketball analysis quite uniquely. The main premise of Basketbawful is to feature the lowlights of every aspect of an NBA game, from terrible post-game quotes, to terrible stats and on-court decisions. I mean, just look at the banner, which features a shirtless Peja Stojaković (as well as his hairy chest), Greg Ostertag, and a (presumably) fibre-depraved Yao Ming. The site also features a “Worst of the Night in Pictures” (a must-see), and McHale’s own “Word of the Day” section, which features basketball definitions such as a “Duncan face” (“a look of incredulous, googly-eyed mock surprise that is directed at a referee”), and a “Mario” (“occasions in which a player logs less than one minute of playing time and therefore fails to compile any meaningful statistics”).
You can also read Matt’s at By The Horns.
Recommended reading: In addition to making witty observations about the NBA, McHale also has blog entries on topics unrelated to NBA basketball. The Pick-Up Diaries, which feature Matt’s adventures and observations as a pick-up baller, as well as his summer series Livin’ Large (a must read: it even features a future NBA all-star) are some of the best writing I have encountered on a sports blog.
Now that you’ve read my list, who do YOU think are the best NBA writers in the business?
Feel free to discuss in the comments section.