There are few people I admire more in this world than Bill Simmons. I can’t stand the way he was treated by ESPN. He gave them so much brilliant content as an analyst and a columnist. He also ran his own podcast and website, Grantland. Despite al of this ESPN just kicked him to the curb anyway.
However, the purpose of this post is not to dwell on what has taken place recently. I mean besides, he is Bill Simmons. He already has created his own new podcast and has a show with HBO debuting soon, he will be fine.
I would instead like to dive into one of my favorite pieces of his, a column he wrote on the 2001 NBA Draft.
Right away Simmons makes the column personal. He describes his father’s house outside of Boston that includes his two “golden retrievers six pens, seven different newspapers and $40 worth of Chinese food.” He continues this theme by stating the position of his favorite team the Celtics and how this draft could make or break the era of superstar Paul Pierce. Instead of diving right into the content of the Draft Simmons decides to use his own personal situation to make the reader understand the importance of the draft through his own filter.
He then catches us up on what happened in the Pregame show which included a traditional outlier quote from Charles Barkley before getting into the major theme of this piece – time.
Simmons uses time to take us through the most important parts of the draft – of course all in his opinion. Here is an excerpt:
7:44 p.m.: John Thompson interviews MJ for five minutes without asking, “Is it true that you got those broken ribs, because Ron Artest bodyslammed you?” What a wimp. Even Ted Kennedy’s car accident at Chappaquidick wasn’t covered up as well as the MJ-Artest fight from last week.
He is not just using time to state what exactly happened at the draft as most columnists would do if they were to use this pattern. In fact here he is doing the opposite, he is saying what didn’t happen, what should of happened. Simmons giving his opinion on the lack of bravery of a reporter during the draft is the type of thing that separates him. He is able to so naturally pick out the details of sport that bring up emotion. That makes it about more than just sport.
At the end of his column he even acknowledges it is not just about the sport and who gets drafted where. There are so many aspects of the night that make it what it is. This is why Simmons and so many others are captivated during the draft. It is so unique. And while simply writing down his observations Simmons seems to explain to not just others but himself, why this it is so special.
Simmons finishes his articles…
“We barely know any of these potential draftees anymore, and yet there’s always enough to make the NBA draft telecast a worthwhile night. The jokes, the comedy, the suspense, the clothes, the interviews, the traditions? it always ends up being one of my favorite TV nights of the year. I can’t explain it. Actually, maybe I already did.”