The Basketball Feelings Podcast, Episode 45: Henry Abbott

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The Basketball Feelings Podcast, Episode 45: Henry Abbott

TrueHoop founder and journalist on not being fun at NBA parties, basketball's moral tipping points, and no engaging way to talk about a book in progress.

My goal, as I get up and do my job everyday, is not to become Stanley Tucci in the Hunger Games. Where they’re slaughtering children for entertainment and there’s a guy in a bunch of makeup going, ‘Wonderful!’ That’s clearly what we need not to do. And so what do we do to prevent that?

Henry Abbott called me out of the blue a few weeks ago to talk about a work thing, and we ended up talking about books. The books we were writing but specifically, the strange process of writing a book. How it had exploded us open while simultaneously closing us off — to other parts of ourselves, to family, to friends, to beats and rhythms of our everyday lives. Henry’s funny, with a disarming laugh that often comes in concert with an observationally true insight, which made for a pretty fun conversation about how strange we were becoming.

It also made for an illuminating talk about basketball.

We talked about how Henry got his start in the industry (had to do with a school reunion and a SLAM masthead), how his fandom started with a chunky yellow Sony Walkman, basketball totems, basketball as a decent analogy for life, which NBA owner stole penguin bones from Antarctica and falling out with Damian Lillard.

We also talked about the dark things in the league that people know and don’t talk about, Grant Hill’s self-described barbaric era in Detroit, the difference between grittiness and damage, not being fun at NBA parties, where our fandoms have taken thwacks, the concept of ethical fandom, what patterns Henry’s seen since he started covering the NBA in 1999, whether this job is important and weird things he heard in the ESPN locker room.

Plus: Careerism killing basketball journalism, Hannah Arendt, the false flag that there’s no room for difficult and compelling stories in basketball/sports writing but that those stories are what get the most traffic, and how talking about writing a book is the most boring thing in the world.

(I can’t believe I have to add this as a footnote, but we recorded this before the NBA began investigating Josh Giddey for his relationship with a minor.)

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