August 3, 2022

Vin Scully, 1927-2022


For baseball fans who came of age in the 1980s, Vin Scully was their soundtrack. On Saturday afternoons and October nights, Scully was as reliable as Johnny Carson’s monologue, Dick Clark on New Year’s Eve and Casey Kasem counting backward. He was as familiar as a bedtime story.

Scully called the balls and strikes, the home runs and strikeouts, the “high fly ball into right field” and “little roller up along first / behind the bag” and every big play in between.

Vin Scully, the greatest baseball broadcaster of all time — and I don’t mean maybe — died Tuesday. He was 94.

A master of lyrical storytelling, accented by dulcet tones, Scully was the radio and television play-by-play voice for the Los Angeles Dodges — from 1950, when they were still in Brooklyn, until his retirement in 2016. He came to national prominence as NBC’s lead play-by-play man from 1983 to 1989, calling three World Series and four NLCS series with color analyst Joe Garagiola. He also called the World Series for CBS radio from 1979 to 1982 and again from 1990 to 1997.

Along the way, Scully narrated Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965 and Hank Aaron’s record-setting 715th home run in 1974.

“What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia, what a marvelous moment for the country and the world,” he said as Aaron hugged his teammates and family after touching home plate. “A black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep South for breaking the record of an all-time baseball idol.”

Scully also struck the just-right tone as he called Bill Buckner’s error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series and Fernando Valenzuela’s no-hitter in 1990. “If you have a sombrero, throw it to the sky,” he said as the Mexican pitcher was congratulated by his teammates.

Scully made memorable calls, but as Miles Davis once said: “It’s not the notes you play. It’s the notes you don’t play.”

As Gibson rounded the bases in 1988, pumping his arm around second base, Scully — whose delivery was always more jazz than pop — showed restraint, going silent for more than a minute, letting the pictures tell the story. Then, after Gibson touched home plate and celebrated, Scully returned: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

Scully worked for CBS from 1975 to 1982, calling NFL games, including “The Catch,” and contributing to golf and tennis coverage. In 1981, CBS made John Madden its No. 1 color analyst. Throughout the first half of the season, Scully and Pat Summerall competed for the top play-by-play position.

CBS decided Summerall was a better fit beside Madden. Scully quit, and the rest is baseball (and football) history.

In the 1980s, Scully and Garagiola called baseball, and Summerall and Madden called football. It seemed like that’s the way it had always been and would forever be.

June 2, 2022

My favorite teams


For the Warriors, the Celtics and the entire von Trapp family, here are a few of our favorite teams:

Nowitzki for three and defenses left shocked
Nash is for driving and the Mormon to block
Nellie mismatches that make offense supreme
These are a few of my favorite teams

Nights at the Garden and Spike taunting with glee
LJ’s four-pointer and Houston’s scoring Sprees
Revenge against Riley became the theme
These are a few of my favorite teams

Bird flew at his peak and Walton rose from ashes
McHale in the block and DJ’s perfect passes
Beating the Rockets for their sixteenth ring
These are a few of my favorite teams

Chapman, Tripucka and Stephen’s dad at play
Teal and dark purple and projects colored Gray
Big men who scuffle and Hornets that sting
These are a few of my favorite teams

When the Kings reign
When the Jazz sing
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite teams
And then I don’t feel so bad

— Kevin Brewer

DALLAS MAVERICKS (2003)

A young, fun and gun team on the make and ahead of its time: 3-pointers in transition, three-guard lineups, nine different zone defenses — and Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash before they were MVPs. Nowitzki was the 7-foot shooter with no position, Nash the playmaking guard. Michael Finley and sixth man Nick Van Exel were the wingmen, 7-6 Shawn Bradley the wingspan. The Mavericks started the season 14-0 and finished 60-22 (tied for the league’s best record). They led the league in margin of victory, offensive rating — and originality. “Nobody’s ever tried it this way before,” Don Nelson said. — K.B.

Record | 60-22  Coach | Don Nelson  Playoffs | Lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals

NEW YORK KNICKS (1999)

Were this series about a different superlative, accounts of defensive efficiency or per-100 ratings might occupy this space. Instead, we’ll note Champion-manufactured NBA jerseys from 1989 to the early aughts. Among the millions of replicas produced: home and away Latrell Spewells, my favorite player on my favorite team. Three of note: Sprewell, absolved by all, except P.J. Carlesimo and those with families to feed; Marcus Camby, loved by all, except Danny Ferry and Jeff Van Gundy; and Larry Johnson, who helped send the Pacers home on a shot Mark Jackson still complains about.
— Robert H. Quesenbery

Record | 27-23  Coach | Jeff Van Gundy  Playoffs | Lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals

BOSTON CELTICS (1986)

Coming off their first NBA Finals loss to the Lakers after eight victories, the Celtics responded with perhaps their best season, rolling to a franchise-best 67 wins and a league-record 40 wins in 41 home games. They then rolled through the playoffs with only three losses, two of those coming against a Houston team that upset the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. With league MVP Larry Bird leading the team in points (25.8), rebounds (9.8) and assists (6.8), Boston led the NBA in rebounding, defensive efficiency and 3-point shooting while ranking second in assists and third in offensive efficiency.
— Jeff Drew

Record | 67-15  Coach | K.C. Jones  Playoffs | Beat the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals

CHARLOTTE HORNETS (1990)

The Charlotte Hornets were a nondescript team in the franchise’s sophomore year. But I can quote almost every one of their results back to you from memory. My favorite was the night Stuart Gray battled the entire Los Angeles Lakers entourage. I was there. “He went after everyone in the facility,” Magic Johnson said later. In a few weeks, both Gray and his rabbi, coach Dick Harter, were gone. Allan Bristow brought in Armen Gilliam and Rudy Keys, and the Hornets — before Grandmama, before Alonzo Mourning — became a force.
— Owen S. Good

Record | 19-63  Coach | Dick Harter (8-32), Gene Littles (11-31)  Playoffs | none

April 23, 2022

2022 NBA Awards: Jokerman


Standing on the waters casting your bread
While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing
Distant ships sailing into the mist
You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing
Freedom just around the corner for you
But with the truth so far off, what good will it do?

— Bob Dylan / “Jokerman”

Much of the NBA’s 75th season was decided off the court. Kyrie Irving was a conscientious objector to the COVID-19 vaccine. He eventually won a staring contest against logic, reason and the mayor of New York City, helping lead the Brooklyn Nets all the way to seventh place in the East.* Ben Simmons missed the season with a herniated disc and mental illness. (I believe him.) Kawhi Leonard missed the season the old-fashioned way — with a knee injury.

On the court, Nikola Jokic was the league’s best player. He set single-season records for box plus/minus (13.7) and player efficiency rating (32.8) and became the first player with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season. Trae Young was the second player to lead the league in total points and total assists.

Stephen Curry passed Ray Allen to become the all-time leader in 3-pointers. Gregg Popovich passed Don Nelson to become the all-time leader in wins. And Ol’ Man River, he keeps rolling along. LeBron James, 37, became the first player with 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 10,000 assists.

The NBA announced its 75th anniversary team. Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard made the list. Dwight Howard and Tracy McGrady didn’t.

* The Nets were 14-15 with Irving, 30-23 without him. They were 36-19 with Kevin Durant (MCL), 8-19 without him. The Warriors were 45-19 with Curry (foot), 8-10 without him.
— Kevin Brewer

TEAMS

Best record | Phoenix Suns, 64-18

Worst record | Houston Rockets, 20-62

Had their best season | Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies

Tanking | Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder

Best offense | Utah Jazz, Atlanta Hawks

Best defense | Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors

Fastest pace | Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets

Slowest pace | Dallas Mavericks

AWARDS

Most Valuable Player | Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

2. Joel Embiid, 76ers
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
4. Jayson Tatum, Celtics
5. Stephen Curry, Warriors

Coach of the Year | J.B. Bickerstaff, Cavaliers

2. Monty Williams, Suns
3. Taylor Jenkins, Grizzlies

Executive of the Year | Arturas Karnisovas, Bulls

Offensive Player of the Year | Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Defensive Player of the Year | Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Teammate of the Year | DeMar DeRozan, Bulls

Worst Teammate | Kyrie Irving, Nets

Rookie of the Year | Evan Mobley, Cavaliers

Sixth Man of the Year | Kevin Love, Cavaliers

Rest of bench | Tyler Herro, Montrezl Harrell, Bogdan Bogdanović, Cameron Johnson, Gary Payton II, Brandon Clarke

ALL-NBA / First team

Forward | Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
>>>  29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 61.6 2-point shooting

Forward | Jayson Tatum, Celtics
>>>  26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 85.3 free throw shooting

Center | Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
>>>  27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists

Guard | Stephen Curry, Warriors
>>>  25.5 points, 6.3 assists, 92.3 free throw shooting

Guard | Luka Doncic, Mavericks
>>>  28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.7 assists

ALL-NBA / Second team

Forward | Kevin Durant, Nets
>>>  29.9 points, 6.4 assists, 91.0 free throw shooting

Forward | Jimmy Butler, Heat
>>>  21.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 87.0 free throw shootoing

Center | Joel Embiid, 76ers
>>>  30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists

Guard | Chris Paul, Suns
>>>  14.7 points, 10.8 assists, 55.9 2-point shooting

Guard | Devin Booker, Suns
>>>  26.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 86.8 free throw shooting

ALL-NBA / Third team

Forward | LeBron James, Lakers
>>>  30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 60.2 2-point shooting

Forward | DeMar DeRozan, Bulls
>>>  27.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 87.7 free throw shooting

Center | Rudy Gobert, Jazz
>>>  15.6 points, 14.7 rebounds, 71.8 2-point shooting

Guard | Trae Young, Hawks
>>>  28.4 points, 9.7 assists, 90.4 free throw shooting

Guard | Ja Morant, Grizzlies
>>>  27.4 points, 6.7 assists, 53.4 2-point shooting

Others receiving votes | Fred VanVleet, Karl-Anthony Towns, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jrue Holiday

LEADERS

Box Plus-Minus | Nikola Jokic, 13.7

Real Plus-Minus | Nikola Jokic, 11.8

Estimated Plus-Minus | Nikola Jokic, 9.3

Total RAPTOR | Nikola Jokic, 14.8

Scoring | Joel Embiid, 30.6

Rebounding | Rudy Gobert, 14.7

Assists | Chris Paul, 10.7

2-point shooting | Rudy Gobert, 71.8

3-point percentage | Luke Kennard, 44.9

Free throw shooting | Jordan Poole, 92.5

Steals | Dejounte Murray, 2.0

Blocks | Jaren Jackson Jr., 2.3

SUPERLATIVES

Best shooters | Kevin Durant and Seth Curry, Nets

Best mid-range shooter | Chris Paul, Suns

Best backcourt | Chris Paul and Devin Booker, Suns

Iron man | Mikal Bridges, Suns

Tallest player | Tacko Fall, 7-6

Shortest player | Isaiah Thomas, 5-9

Best prospect | LaMelo Ball, 20 years old

Best young players | Jayson Tatum (23), Luka Doncic (22)

Best old players | LeBron James (37), Chris Paul (36)