Author Archives: Rory Masterson

I want to talk about Damian Lillard – I’ve wanted to talk about him for weeks now, in truth – but first, I want to talk about my year in AP Calculus, a class in which I had no business being. That may explain why I often tried not to be there until the last possible second, or created diversions while showing up late.

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If you recognize the image above, you know what’s next.

Louisiana native Willis Reed set Walt Frazier up on his first date after arriving in New York City – that’s Walt Frazier, a guy who put out an entire book on the idea of cool. A few years in the league under his belt, Reed always roomed with rookies in order to show them the ropes. He stopped fights in practice because he knew this team had the juice – they did – if only they could smooth out the vast caverns that separated, say, Rhodes Scholar Bradley from rhyming dictionary scholar Frazier[1], nevermind whatever Phil Jackson was up to that was too weird even for the Knicks of the Age of Aquarius.

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As I’m writing this, Kevin Durant is sitting on the bench in Phoenix, cutting a Cash-esque figure in black and watching his new teammates swim upstream against the Los Angeles Clippers. His introductory press conference happened earlier today; reports indicate that it carried the same inexplicably off air as the entirety of his time in the league, basically, since he left Oklahoma City in 2016.

Oscillating trade requests culminated in none other than Kyrie Irving asking out of a previous arrangement he had shared with Durant and, at times, with James Harden and Ben Simmons, for the past three-and-a-half years. A week after the trade deadline, I still can’t believe it, and I don’t know what to make of everything surrounding that team, an instant all-time great roster on paper that only fleetingly leapt off of it and, now, is nothing more than dumpster fodder for your brain and your miniature desk receptacle. 

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At some time between revolutionizing his position and casually accumulating scoring nights the likes of which would be almost any other player’s career highlight, Steph Curry re-inverted the basketball court. As singular as he is a shooter, playmaker and scorer, his exploits have influenced the way teams play, even beyond his own Golden State Warriors.

A hallmark of the Warriors dynasty – and, accordingly, a window into NBA team assembly prior to and during Golden State’s run – has been a lack of a dominant center in the traditional sense. Because the Warriors typically shoot more threes than any other type of shot and tend to eschew the midrange and rim, and because they have a nontraditional big man, Draymond Green, act as center in their most important lineups, the notion of a center in the Shaq or Hakeem mold never made sense for the Warriors; many other teams tried to follow the blueprint, to mixed results at best.

If Curry was the endpoint of the NBA’s first three-point revolution, he was also indirectly the catalyst for revitalizing the center position. Even as we are inundated with reminders that the NBA’s position classifications are antiquated and, in cases where contract bonuses are tied to honors and awards, harmful, they nevertheless remain useful as a contextual foundation for what a player could be on offense, a foundation, even if that doesn’t pan out: Luka and Giannis are point guards in the bodies of forwards; Russell Westbrook is essentially a tiny center; Karl-Anthony Towns is a massive, volume-scoring shooting guard.

Through this lens, no single player in today’s NBA represents the return of the center specifically better than two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic, whose pursuit of a threepeat this season has already taken shape. As his Denver Nuggets press for top playoff seeding in the Western Conference, Jokic, nominally a center, is among the league leaders in assists, something only Wilt Chamberlain has previously done as a center.

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Let me start here, where many others have already landed in the past day-plus: the World Cup final between Argentina and France was the greatest soccer match I’ve ever seen. Recency bias aside, it was certainly the most dramatic. Intergenerational, intra-club team stars; said stars each posting multiple goals; a budding dynasty against a historically great, if slightly underachieving, nation; yellow cards issued toward the bench, controversial penalties, and then penalty kicks; simply put, it had everything. 

Where do you start? You know how it ends, now, after the most minutes played ever in a World Cup and a final which – of course, obviously, how could you possibly think it would go any other way – went to extra time, during which both teams scored – of course, obviously, how could you possibly think it would go any other way – and then went to penalties. Momentum swung like bored suburban parents (yes, tip your servers, I’m here until–).

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Not so fast – To focus on the “sudden” rush to the bottom for Victor Wembanyama and, especially after their recent matchup on national TV, Scoot Henderson is to overlook what lies directly before us this NBA season. In what was bound to be a year of questions surrounding contenders, we’ve returned to another slate full of them. 

In any case, we return, steeled to run directly into the fire. Who knows what awaits this caravan? New stats, new players, a continuous flow of publicly-available scandals: it isn’t all here, but we’ll make do. Forget STOCKS, or AST:TO ratio. The new way to identify player efficacy is assists+steals+blocks divided by/turnovers. Get used to it, identify your new Point Gawd, and get ready for tip-off.

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It’s pronounced FAY-der-er, by the way, and he wasn’t always like this. Early on, Roger Federer stylized himself as the tortured genius, that well-worn mentality many kids inhabit once they hit high school and discover Dylan, or Cudi, or Sondheim, or Swift, or whomever they think can better express their ideals than themselves.

His mother, Lynette, was a secretary in the South African office where his father worked for a time after university. Neither possessed particular athletic skill, nor were they disproportionately different in any way which may foreshadow a dynamo talent such as that of their son.

Of course, pharma money gets you a club membership, but that still doesn’t make you the greatest man ever to effortlessly walk a tennis court. On the occasion of Roger Federer’s impending retirement from professional tennis, which he announced Thursday morning via Instagram and elsewhere, and because he has mostly avoided competitive tennis for the past few years, we must look back.

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