Last we heard from Rick Reilly, he was retiring to Italy after ESPN finally got tired of him recycling his own material. So what happens when you give an old sportswriter who perfected the art of mailing it in a shot at a Sports Illustrated cover story? You get this pile of shit.
There are some decent anecdotes in Reilly’s cover story on the Golden State Warriors (there damn well should be, given how much access he appears to have gotten), but the big takeaway from this piece is that Reilly is just as lazy and hackneyed as he’s ever been. That sucks, because the Warriors are a generation-defining team, and they deserve more than Reilly’s worst tendencies.
The whole story consists of a series of mostly uninteresting vignettes that are often completely unrelated to each other. This isn’t an illuminating journey into the inner workings of a tremendous basketball team, it’s a guy dumping his notebook into a Google doc and calling it good. Here’s a representative portion:
IT’S GETTING AWKWARD, this interview, now that I’ve asked Thompson about his fiercest critic, a sports-talk host in L.A. who called him “an idiot” for fighting a 7-footer and said the Lakers of the 1980s would have “crushed” these Warriors. It’s Thompson’s father, Mychal, the former Lakers center.
“People don’t get it,” Klay says, squirming on his chair a little. “My dad has a very dry sense of humor. Like he said he was going to cut my allowance over that fight. People were coming up to me like, ‘Whoa. Your dad still has you on an allowance? That’s pretty smart of you.’ I mean, geez.”
Me: So he doesn’t get to you?
Thompson: No, he’s an idiot. He’s crazy.
Me: When’s the last time he beat you in H-O-R-S-E?
Thompson: I was 14.
Me: Can I interview Rocco?
Thompson: No. He needs his space.
IT’S BUZZING AT Madison Square Garden and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is trying to solve Curry and nothing’s working. Finally, Anthony tries something new. He puts his big hand on Curry’s face, the way your big brother did to keep your punches from landing.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Curry says. “I’ve never had someone put their actual hand on my head to stop me. It felt kind of claustrophobic, like I couldn’t move.”
He tried, though, and got a gash across his forehead for his trouble. “Hey, Carmelo,” Green yelled the next time down, “You need to cut your fingernails.”
“I was kinda mad about it actually,” Curry said afterward. “I was going to complain to him, in the tunnel. I was going to be like, Hey, look what you did to my face!”
But instead Anthony came up to him with his adorable eight-year-old son, Kiyan, who held a present for Curry—a woodcut bust of Curry he’d made in shop class. Imagine that, the whole family enjoys cutting Steph.
Within this structure is Reilly playing all the hits: Terrible jokes, entire sections that exist for the sole purpose of building to a shitty pun, a scene with a sick kid meeting Curry before a game, a ham-fisted mention of Reilly’s own charity work, more terrible jokes. It’s all here and it’s all just as useless as it ever was.
This could have been a great story if it had been put in the hands of a writer who isn’t a serial plagiarizer. SI was given the chance to embed a writer in the Warriors’ locker room and send them on the road with what is possibly the greatest NBA team in history, and for some reason they decided to give that assignment to Rick Reilly. They got lines like these in return:
- “It’s not going to last of course, this team, this moment, this selfie of pure unselfishness.”
- “And how could these guys be called the Warriors anyway? They’re about as warlike as fudge.”
- “These guys are looser than secondhand socks.”
- “If this season were a Zagat review, it would have been: These ‘soft’ ‘underdogs’ are a ‘lucky’ ‘fluke’ who had an ‘easy road’ to the title.”
- “It’s time I mention it: The game’s best player and I have a history.”
- “I went on the road for a week with that 72-win Chicago team, too, but it’s like comparing grizzly bears to gummy bears.”
- “The Dubs pass the ball as if it’s coated in anthrax.”
- “It’s 90 minutes before tip-off, and Curry comes out for his nightly follicle-raising warmup routine, which hasn’t changed in four years. What has changed is that the world now treats it as Adele doing scales, Streep reading lines and Puck stirring sauces, combined.”
To put this in terms Reilly would understand, SI getting this much access to the Warriors and giving it to Rick Reilly is like sending Gandhi to an all-you-can-eat buffet.