Minute Basketball
Minute Basketball
Minute Basketball LIVE: Fandom

Minute Basketball LIVE: Fandom

Louis: Welcome to Minute Basketball Live! The first Minute Basketball Live! I'm looking at Samson and his gorgeous place. He looks wonderful. I just am happy to see him. It's fun to talk together. How are you doing buddy?

Samson: I'm doing alright. Hanging out. I just got a DM from Blake that says “Lourdes!”, so I'm guessing Gurriel hit a home run or something, and we were talking about how much we appreciated him for his vibes. That's something I'm looking forward to catching up on once this is over. Maybe a home run to catch up on.

Louis: On that note, we're talking fandom this week. Our own fandom. This season. I wanted to start at the beginning. What is your first memory of fandom in the NBA? 


Samson: I think it's Chris Bosh and just him existing as a Raptor. The town I grew up in, basketball wasn't really popular. My dad didn't play basketball at all, even though he ended up coaching me in my grade 12 year. But I drew up most of the sets. And everything was hockey or lacrosse. Even curling. I watched more curling before the age of 10 than I did basketball. That's how insane and backwards my childhood was. Just seeing Chris Bosh exist on the Raptors. I didn't get to see Vince Carter live or anything like that. I caught maybe a game here or there, but I didn't even know what I was watching. Seeing Chris Bosh do things on the Raptors was really cool. For a time I was a really big fan of Luol Deng because he was the first NBA player I ever saw that donned the number nine. And the number nine is hallowed ground for me. 

Louis: What's nine?

Samson: Nine is my number for all things. I wore number nine, baseball, lacrosse, hockey. If I got to wear number nine, I was extremely happy. I eventually got to wear it in basketball. Luol Deng became an obsession of mine. I used to track all of his stats even though I didn't watch any of his games. And then I came onto Anthony Parker, and then after Anthony Parker, DeMar DeRozan. And during the DeMar DeRozan era, I started watching a lot of basketball. And I caught the tail end of Jose Calderon and went back to watch quite a few of his games where I could once that technology was available. And Jose Calderon is a revisionist history type of favourite player of mine. That's basically my introduction to fandom. But when I started basically every Raptors game that I could, started with the Raptors in London where Brook Lopez got his bicep or his should muscle completely sliced open by an errant nail, and DeMar DeRozan became the NBA's leading scorer overseas, and that was really meaningful to me. They used to run these gut DHOs for him, and these pindowns at the nail, because the spacing was completely different back then. And I just remember hanging on -- because I started out as a bigger fan of DeMar than I was of the Raptors -- and I remember hanging on to everything I could every time DeRozan would come off of that pindown and take a free-throw line jumper, I felt like the world was in his hands. I needed that shot to go down because I needed him to score 18 points a game, and he finally hit the mark and I lost my mind. That was my start to Raptors fandom was with Chris Bosh, sparingly, Anthony Parker and Jose Calderon sparingly, and then very big with DeMar DeRozan.

Louis: Nine, first of all, before any of it, that's half chai. Chai is a magic number in Judaism. It means life because the letters add up to 18 because 18 means life. Life, Minute Basketball Live, there’s something there. Anyway, when you give gifts in Judaism, it's always a multiple of 18. So nine being half Chai, it's a wonderful thing for your favourite number. There's magic in it, man. I'm a huge believer in magic in inanimate objects, magic we imbue, and you may not have even known that element of magic, but it's there.

Anyway. The part you said about individuals, you were a fan more of DeMar more than the Raptors, I love when people are able to separate fandom. For me, Mo Pete. When he hit that shot. That moment where the guy, I don't remember who, threw the ball up way way in the air because he thought it would end the game, and Mo Pete caught it with point two or point four or whatever and made the shot to tie or win. That moment to me stands out as my first moment of fandom. And separating moments or individuals from teams is no neat in terms of what it is that we love. And I wanted to bring it up to today. I know we can run through memories for forever. But now you cover the team. Now you podcast about them every game. You write about them. Does that change how -- not how much you love -- but the ways in which you love? Or how you feel about fandom? Are you still a fan?

Samson: I am still a fan to some degree. Although it was also -- I'm one of those, as you're a writer, you'll recognize this as well -- it's silly to call them fans, but there are people who really love your work. Maybe it's a couple people. Maybe it's a lot of people. And I had really started to idolize writers. Not more than the players. But I really appreciated writers' points of view on the game. And so, no surprise to anyone, but Blake Murphy looms large in the way that I see basketball. And there's an analytical bent, and there's a responsibility to make sure -- it behooves you to understand a lot of what's going on on the floor, and I hope that's represented in my work. And I really appreciated what Blake was writing about the Raptors and how he did it, and that started to form my fandom as well. That it started to take on more of that analytical side because I came to basketball late, and when I first started watching basketball, DeMar DeRozan's point totals, when I was 13, were more important than basically anything else that happened in the game. That gut DHO. That pindown at the nail. That mattered more to me. When Paul Kariya, maybe my favourite player of all time of any sport ever, when he was scoring goals, or when he had an assist taken away from him with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, that bothered me. And I didn't care if the Mighty Ducks won, I would just check his stat line.

Louis: So you already cared about the numbers. The analytics were already something you paid attention to.

Samson: Yeah. And specifically, to one player. And then, seeing Blake put it in terms of, okay, there's these new numbers. And they're a little bit more specific, that made me more able to appreciate players that I might not have otherwise. And that helped me form a more analytical appreciation for team basketball. And then so obviously starting with reading Blake's stuff, I started reading more writers, and I started watching more informational stuff, and with that too I was starting to play a much higher level of basketball in my own life, which made me much more appreciative of defensive schemes, offensive sets, all that kind of stuff. And it made me appreciative of the minutiae of specific things players could do. Like Kyrie Irving, for some people, is just magic. And for others, there's specific types of dribble moves that you can describe. There's explosion and burst -- what's the term -- biomechanics that are attached to how he succeeds. You can go as deep as you like, and I started to go a little bit deeper in that.

Louis: Which is what we do. Minute Basketball is kind of fandom of that most minute element of basketball. They say journalists aren't supposed to be fans, but I saw the NBA finals, I saw people cheering that were not supposed to be cheering on media row. You know? You cannot take subjectivity out of a human being. And so I don't think there's anything wrong with you and I loving parts of basketball. I think you have to. But I think Minute Basketball, what we do is try to love very discrete things. Like Kyrie's dribbling moves or Jimmy Butler's jump stop, or Anthony Davis' post shimmy. I don't know if we've even talked about that, but I love it. And it's so funny that you're talking about that evolution of fandom. It feels like Minute Basketball is the natural endpoint, right?

Samson: When I asked you, because we were doing the Black Box Report on Raptors Republic, and the name was alienating, and it didn't really fit the site, and it was too much for the site, it was too precise. Most people weren't interested in it. And so it was like, well let's find our own audience. Let's make sure that the people who are interested in this stuff can have one place to get it. So we did Minute Basketball, and that made sense for both of us because I think there is that bent towards minutiae in both of our writing, and we both -- that's how we became friends. We didn't know each other at all. We just started messaging each other like, 'hey, this thing you wrote about, I thought it kicked ass.' And then, had it not been for the pandemic, I would have stayed with you in my time in Toronto. 

Louis: I'm still expecting a visit, by the way.

Samson: And your briefcase that is still in the closet. It's a nice leather briefcase that I bought for you as a present. Someday you'll get it. And it cost, I won't say how many, but it is a multiple of 18. So there's good juju in it. 

Louis: The magic of inanimate objects, both for chai and for dribbling moves. Such a snug fit. Very excited, by the way, to rep that briefcase. So to continue the thematic thread here, I think joy is the element that is consistent. Watching Jimmy Butler play basketball, watching Kyrie dribble, is just a joyful experience. And this season is not a joyful season. Players don't enjoy it. Fans seem to not enjoy it. I know most media members do not enjoy it. Has that changed -- if our fandom is minute, joyful, and discrete -- has the way that this season has been a slog, just a heavy blanket cast over everything, has that changed your relationship with basketball? Your fandom with it?

Samson: I think it changes it for everybody because part of what makes media so important, and something that social media papers over, is that it's access to the players. And access to the players through a lens that you would not have been able to see otherwise. And so the fluff pieces that get mediocre teams and fans of mediocre teams through the season, they're not coming out anymore. And the only stuff you're getting is if the player happens to be a person who's fun on social media, you can pull from that. But Raptors fans, a lot of different fans might know, you have to go looking for more things to be happy about this season because there's not fun little side stories being brought in front of you. Everything is in-house, everything's protected, and it's less human by proxy of the access that's been removed from the players.

Louis: Katie Heindl, who is one of the smartest writers and best people I know, wrote this incredible Contract Tracing trilogy for Dime, and one of them was about the deletion of that whole element of relationship between media and player. That was really incredible, a fantastic long look at what you're talking about. 

The other thing that I think this changed for how people look at it is maybe something that's been changing for a long time. The Sam Hinkie-fication of fandom, which is where people are fans only of the macro now. Not everyone, but tons of people only want a championship. And have trouble taking joy in the small things, or seem to take less joy in the small things. Even a win seems less fun than what maximizes the odds of a championship, which is what a GM is. And being a general manager and being a fan seems almost opposite, and yet somehow people conflate them. I don't think that's wrong, by no means, whatever you enjoy as a fan is what you enjoy. That's the whole point. But is that how you experience it? Do you see that changed? It's such a weird, different way of being a fan, to me. I don't understand it, even though I don't criticize. 

Samson: There's basically three major avenues. The one is the Hinkie-fication, where people in Toronto rely on the hard work of let's say Blake for cap minutiae being passed down so they can legibly state a lot of the -- you have to have a certain amount of intelligence based on the cap, players contracts, how that stuff works -- CBA stuff -- to talk about it in that way. Kelsea O'Brien, prior to this season, was able to do a lot of that work with the 905. So there's this baseball aspect to it where the farm team is becoming more interesting. You're looking at prospects, and you're doing a lot of that kind of stuff. It's Sabermetrics and trying to get into fandom like that. There's a wider view of development and that kind of stuff, and it's more analytical.

There's the moments. You're just a fan. You're emotional. You experience every game you can as an up and down where you're invested. And what is more meaningful, truly, if you're a fan of OG Anunoby's career? That he won a championship already, that he wasn't on the floor for? Or that he hit an incredible shot in a series that they eventually lost? Moments. Moments are very important, and I think that is the bare essence of fandom. 

Then there's standom, which is where it's this unabashed love for a singular player, and you, if we're linking back to the earlier part of this pod, is me talking about DeRozan. I just wanted him to get his point totals. I didn't really care about anything else. That's another type of fandom that's becoming more and more prevalent because standom in a lot of different ways, because of the internet, people are able to link with other stans of a certain thing way easier than they would have prior to anything else. I was just a fan of DeMar DeRozan. And who could I have talked to in Sturgis that wanted to talk about DeMar DeRozan? Nobody. Not a single person. And if there had been twitter like that back then and small Sam had wanted to talk to other DeMar DeRozan fans, I would have been able to find that. People are just indulging in their one singular thing, and they aren't forced to round out anything because they can have more closeminded -- and not closeminded in a negative type of connotation -- closed-world conversations. Emma Brown, I love Emma. I think Emma's fantastic. I think that she is the platonic ideal of a stan in that she clearly has a very guided appreciation for OG Anunoby, but she clearly has this perception of the rest of the team, and she talks about it in a way that's inviting for other people who don't just see the team in that way. But there's some people who alienate, I think, in their love for a certain player. And there's a protective aspect to it that I think is maybe significantly toxic for fandom in general.

Louis: I think there's nothing wrong with that type of fandom itself. I actually think being able to be a fan in different ways is just good. I think it's inherently good for more people to have different ways to enjoy things. Because that's what we're talking about -- different ways to be a fan. And I think this season with its dampening has sort of forced people into the crevices. You sort of have to find different ways to enjoy things. The Oklahoma City Thunder fans, not that I've ever encountered one, but theoretically. I don't understand what to be a fan of. You can't be a fan of a draft pick. Unless you are the general manager fan. A draft pick doesn't play basketball. A draft pick doesn't have a name. It's just a thing. And there's magic in it. We imbue that magic, this possibility of what it might end up being. Obviously Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort are very worthy of standom. But the team itself, those moments, are not there. I think you sort of need to find these other elements of fandom, and certain teams may force you into it, but also certain elements like the pandemic, like what we're seeing in basketball today.

Samson: I think that different personality types have proclivities for certain types of fandom, and people who like the general manager thing are people who like to convey information or hold information that other people want. It is just as meaningful -- and you know these people on Raptors twitter, I like quite a few of them -- to indulge in the ability to say 'hey, this prospect, I can tell you about them. You'll like them.' It's somebody who goes to restaurants a lot and likes to tell their friends about them. I'm in on something. I'll invite you in. It's about trying to enjoy different aspects of fandom, and different strokes for different folks. A lot of different people like a lot of different things. The NBA has become so far-reaching in what it's able to provide as an entertainment conglomerate. Yasmin Duale, who is one of the best writers doing it, she wrote about how she treated it, or how a fan prospectively, could treat it like reality TV and how there's so many different ways to look at it that way. And she wrote about that for the Neon Playbook. And it was fantastic. It's just broadening the different ways, which also creates more rifts. By proxy. But that's -- different people can enjoy different things, always.

Louis: And the ultimate endpoint -- I'm trying to watch the clock, I'm trying to end on chai here, to make it circular -- but the ultimate endpoint is just more people having access to enjoying basketball. What we're talking about is just basketball being more inviting for people that aren't dads who need a break from their families. Basketball for so long was this very specific thing that only specific people liked, and I think we're seeing different types of fandom blossom because different types of people are enjoying it. Which is fantastic. And it's hard to say which is the chicken, which is the egg in that case. But it's a self-informing loop. And basketball should be appreciated by more people, and it should be described in different ways. Which, when fandom lends itself to different writing, that's just a good thing for everyone. Everyone can enjoy things. That's all we're trying to do. Get more enjoyment.

Samson: That's my favourite podcast, is probably Binge Mode. Because I read Harry Potter. I watch Game of Thrones. I watch the Marvel stuff. Their insight into that world can give you new avenues to appreciate something you already love. When something becomes so big that people -- that's basically the whole thing about anything, it's why artists can become so revered -- the artist isn't the most intelligent person. There are really genius-level people interpreting that art and then communicating their genius interpretation of that art to fans, and it just deifies people. The bigger you are, the more incredible interpretations. And horrible. But incredible interpretations you can get of a certain thing. So right now, seeing the influx of different interpretations of basketball, we're at a real high point. It's the only reason you and I get to write about it the way that we do. This would have been alienating even five years ago. There would have been no love for this outside of like seven people. And so the more people getting into it with a bent towards this kind of stuff, it's a beautiful thing. I appreciate it.

Louis: We're all little Roger Eberts. And may there be more Roger Eberts as a result. 

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