Welcome to NBAnswers, the NBA newsletter written by an American insider for fans around the world.
Why is the NBA growing in popularity? Here’s one big reason: It is the best kind of American entertainment. It is like Hollywood in sneakers, with giant personalities who do amazing things on the court and become global stars off the court. The NBA is an expression of America’s culture.
But there is also a problem. The NBA can be difficult to understand if you don’t live in the United States.
My job is to connect international fans like you to the American point of view. For all of your questions, I am offering NBAnswers.
Let’s be clear: I’m not offering player statistics, or league standings, or video analysis of the pick-and-roll, or the breaking news that someone has been traded or injured or said something dumb on Twitter. I’m guessing that you already visit HoopsHype.com as well as NBA.com, ESPN.com, TheRinger.com and other sites for the latest NBA news.
No matter where you live in this big beautiful basketball world, you have no problem finding out what is happening in the NBA.
NBAnswers explains WHY these events are happening.
In every case, the reason WHY things happen in the NBA has to do with the American culture of the NBA. If you don’t live in the States, it can be difficult to understand WHY young American players are influenced by the NBA Draft years before they are eligible, WHY the players and team owners threaten to shut down the NBA every few years in their endless fighting over money, WHY the best players have authority over their coaches, WHY the referees never seem to blow their whistles for traveling, WHY some players receive way too much money while others don’t make as much as they should, or WHY commissioner Adam Silver is the most powerful basketball man on the planet and yet he cannot make the smallest changes without consensus.
WHY am I the person to help strengthen your love for the NBA? Here is Reason Number One: I’ve been writing about the NBA, as outsider and then insider, for all of my professional life.
In the 1980s, as a young writer for The Boston Globe newspaper, I was watching courtside and reporting in the locker rooms for all three of the legendary NBA Finals between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. In 1992 I covered all of Michael Jordan’s games with the original Dream Team at the Olympics in Barcelona. For the next six years I lived in Paris and London, enabling me to write about European basketball and meet regularly with NBA commissioner David Stern during his international travels. Since 2000 I’ve been covering the NBA for Sports Illustrated and NBA.com, breaking stories, writing features and columns, and developing relationships with the players, coaches and general managers. (For those of you who subscribe to NBAnswers, I have a lot of private stories to share!)
On April 17 I will be publishing my NBA book, The Soul of Basketball, which tells the inside story of LeBron James’s first season with the Miami Heat – the hard, lonely year that turned him into the champion he is today. The unexpected hero of that 2010-11 season was Dirk Nowitzki, the most important immigrant in NBA history. Dirk inspired me to turn The Soul of Basketball into the first American book written for the NBA’s new global audience – for American fans as well as for fans around the world. Fans like you.
Which leads to Reason Number Two: I know how hard it can be to follow a sport that is foreign. I was born in Canada, my parents were immigrants from Europe, and none of us knew anything about American sports when I moved to the United States as a boy. Then it happened all over again when I transferred to Europe as the new sports writer for the International Herald Tribune, which was the world’s largest daily newspaper.
My job was to tell stories of football (or soccer as we Americans call it), rugby, tennis, athletics, Formula 1 and a little bit of cricket. Like most Americans, I knew next to nothing about any of those sports, and my job was to write about them for a global audience. So I was under pressure to learn as quickly as I could. When I studied the newspapers in Europe for their insight on the Champions League or Five Nations rugby (in those days before Italy became the Sixth Nation), I realized their point of view was not designed for me. Their reports were for local fans who already knew the histories and traditions that were absolutely foreign to me.
Do you face the same problem when you try to read NBA reports from American websites? You want that connection with the U.S. community – but the articles are filled with cultural references that leave you stuck on the outside.
If you could see me right now, you would see me nodding. Because I understand.
This is why I have such enormous respect for all of you NBA fans who live outside the U.S. I recognize that it can be more difficult for you to follow the NBA than it is for the fans in America.
As fast as the NBA is growing internationally, the basketball world is still divided – there is (1) America, and (2) everyone else.
My goal, with NBAnswers, is to help bring these two basketball worlds together. I’m aiming to knock down the cultural wall that separates you from America. I would like very much to help you understand basketball from the American point of view. The NBA is meant to be a global league someday, and my intention is to help you create a global community that will be good for everyone – including the fans in America who will benefit from your idealism and passion for basketball.
Someday America and the rest of the basketball world are going to join together in a happy marriage. Here is my weekly proposal to help make this happen:
(1) The NBAnswer. Every Monday, all year long, I will ask an important NBA question and answer it from the ground up. I will do my best to identify the mysteries of American basketball and explain why things are the way they are. This particular newsletter will be available each Monday at NBAnswers for anyone to read. It will be free.
(2) The Latest. On Wednesdays I will be breaking down several stories that have made news recently. Why were the champion Golden State Warriors not invited to the White House by President Donald Trump? Why would Kyrie Irving not want to play in Cleveland with LeBron James? Why does anyone care what Lonzo Ball’s father is saying? By the time you read this newsletter, you will have seen the American reports online – but those reports, which are meant for the American audience, will have ignored the fundamental details that prevent you from understanding the bigger picture. My job will be to fill in those details, so that you’ll be able to follow these news events and develop opinions of your own as if you grew up in America. The Latest will be available to subscribers only. As a subscriber to NBAnswers, you will be emailed this newsletter every Wednesday.
(3) Questions & NBAnswers. Each Friday I will be answering your questions. Anyone is free to send a question to me at NBAnswers@gmail.com, but only subscribers will have access to my answers – which will be emailed to you on Fridays.
The benefit of subscribing to NBAnswers is that we will develop a kind of relationship – I will be taking you behind the scenes with personal stories and insights that I’ve collected over the years.
Even though I’ve been writing about the NBA longer than many of you have been alive (wow, I just scared myself by writing that), I am not blowing smoke by insisting that NBAnswers will help me to grow as a journalist. I am certain that your perspective and your desire for knowledge are going to push me to a higher level of understanding. It isn’t going to be easy to explain why the NBA is the way it is, and I predict that you will see my opinions evolving in the weeks and months to come.
As we launch this new adventure together, let me begin with these two thoughts: (1) We are not going to agree on everything – not by a long shot! And (2) I respect your point of view. Not only are you the NBA’s hardest-working fans, but you also represent the future of the world’s greatest basketball league.
Whether you live in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, the Southern Hemisphere – or even if you’re in North America and want to understand basketball from the ground up – American basketball is coming for you. The NBA wants to develop a long-distance romance with you. My job is to accelerate that partnership.
With NBAnswers, you don’t have to be American to feel like an NBA insider.