TrueHoop: Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie on crunch time

January, 22, 2010
Abbott By Henry Abbott
Sherman Alexie, writer, e-mails about the amazing kinds of shots people attempt with the game on the line:

I've always found it frustrating to watch an NBA team play smart ball until the last minute of the game, until that last death-defying possession when the star juggles chainsaws, pulls rabbits out of hats, water skis over a shark tank, and tries to hit some incredibly low-percentage, isolation-play shot to win the game.

It occurs to me that last desperate play is very Aristotle-three-act-structure, very James Cameron, very Hollywood entertainment. It's Bruce Willis pulling that taped gun off his back at the end of Die Hard, it is Steve McQueen motorcycle jumping that fence in Germany. It's a car chase, it's a ticking bomb, it's a plane without a pilot.

And we all love it. I love it. Because it's childish, it entertains the child in us, the adolescent. Heck, the squirrel in us who loves bright shiny objects.

Or, hey, let's put it this way. We invest a lot of time, money, and emotion in watching NBA basketball, and are we really rewarded for that if Bill Wennington gets the big dunk to win the game, even if it was from a Jordan assist? I just tried to find that play on youtube and was only able to find an animated representation of it.


So I'm just thinking, for 47 minutes the NBA game is about basketball, and the last 1 minute is often just an X-Games thrill ride.

By Henry Abbott

All day I've been thinking: At some point, somebody will hit on the right perspective, to shine a little light on this Greg Oden story.

More than anything, I just feel like that young man has had to deal with too much. I know he's a millionaire and we should all be so lucky, but seriously, he defines himself by his ability to play a game, and he's really good at it, but a really young age he has had some strong messages that his body just doesn't want to go along for the ride.

Just about everyone who has a major injury like that wrestles with gloominess and depression. Imagine if your entire profession was on the line.

Anyway, chin up, young man. I'll try to think of a more inspiring message soon.

As for us Blazer fans, well, we have nothing to complain about, by comparison.

Writer Sherman Alexie, noted Seattle SuperSonics fan, explains:

I've been working on a poem about how, even after six years, it feels like my late father is still dying, that he dies for me every day. It's how grief works, I guess.

In this poem, I also liken it to the every day death of the Sonics. I feel their loss constantly. And then, seeing that Oden is down for the season (and likely done as an everyday player for good), I first thought, "Well, I'm glad I don't have to feel the kind of pain that Blazers fans are feeling today. I don't have to feel the pain of every Sonics loss or injury anymore."

But then, I thought, no, I miss the losses as much as the victories. I miss the pain as much as the joy. I miss the losing streaks as much as I miss the wins. Hell, I miss Luke Ridnour. And so, I think, my grief for my father -- my ever-present grief -- is so important because he never goes away. I don't forget him. I keep him alive that way. And so, I think, my grief for my Sonics -- my ever-present grief -- is so important because they never go away. I keep the team alive that way.

Ah, my father, the Sonics, basketball in general, all intertwined. So, I guess, if I could console Blazers fans, I would tell them their Oden-grief is valuable, that it is about hope and love, that it is about keeping memory -- their love for basketball -- alive.

Game Over

March, 6, 2008

Writer Sherman Alexie emailed me a pretty amazing little story about playing pickup ball with an NBA-level player:

Back in the mid 1980s, when I could still run and jump, I played at the Green Lake outdoor courts here in Seattle.

I spin dribbled past my man, rolled into the key, and James Bailey blocked my shot so hard and so far that it bounced and bounced and then rolled into Green Lake.

All the black players on the court or waiting for a game just quit. There was no point in continuing. Some of the white guys were confused when all the black guys just walked off the court. A couple of the black guys just ran away and kept running and never came back.