14 min read ⌚
A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated
Have you ever thought about who’s the greatest dunker in NBA history?
If you – like us – haven’t missed an All-Star weekend ever since 1995 – most probably. It’s an interesting question to ponder about, not to mention a fairly conventional one.
Well, that’s about the only conventional question you will find an enjoyable answer to in Shea Serrano’s “Basketball (and Other Things)” – the rest are packed in a single chapter.
All the others are miles and miles away from the Michael vs. LeBron, Magic vs. Bird debates basketball forums are overloaded with.
Which makes this book both an energetic exception and a wondrous delight!
Spoiler alert: we’ll reveal the Serrano’s answers below.
Who Should Read “Basketball (and Other Things)”? And Why?
This is as fun as books can get!
The only thing you’ll need to be to enjoy this book is a lover of basketball.
Everything else the book will do for you.
Just sit back and enjoy Serrano’s answers to (more or less) 33 questions you’ve never asked yourself.
About Shea Serrano
Shea Serrano is a Mexican-American journalist and sportswriter.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, Serrano moved to Houston after graduating from college to become a middle-school science teacher.
In 2007 he embarked on journalism career as a way to earn more money for his family (his wife was pregnant and put on bedrest).
He started freelancing for the “Houston Press” on topics predominantly related to rap music, and his know-how and witty style gained him national recognition and a job at “Grantland.” In 2016, he began writing for “The Ringer” as well.
Serrano has so far authored three books. The second one, “The Rap Year,” was a collection of essays selecting the most important rap song for every year between 1979 and 2014, and the third one, “Basketball (And Other Things),” focused on his other great love, basketball.
“Basketball (and Other Things) PDF Summary”
Back in 2015, Chris Gayomali, wrote an article for “GQ,” titled “How Grantland’s Shea Serrano Became a New York Times Best-Selling Author.”
Its opening paragraph is too quotable (just ask Wikipedia) to even try to paraphrase it:
If you were to draw a triple Venn diagram of hoops, trunk bangers, and jokes made at the expense of J. Cole, Grantland writer Shea Serrano would be smack-dab in the center, probably wearing a Tim Duncan jersey. He’s one of the funniest follows on Twitter, and has been described to me by several people… as one of the nicest humans alive.
We don’t know Shea Serrano, but we believe the assessment – not just because we have a feeling that we’ll have a lot to talk about once we do get to know each other.
(Interested, Shea? Our Top 10 Greatest Basketball Players list closely mirrors yours!)
Anyway, we also like the fact that Serrano has here shared with us a book we’re pretty sure he enjoyed every single second writing.
We sure did reading it!
But what’s this book about?
Well, in his words – from the fairly unconventional “Introduction, by way of Eleven Questions”:
The book has 33 chapters. Each chapter is a different basketball question that… gets answered. And they’re not traditional, normal, regular questions. They’re not things like, ‘Was Larry Bird better than Magic Johnson?’ or whatever. They’re new questions. Questions that you’ve (hopefully) not seen before or thought about before. That’s what the book is.
Quick to our Key Lessons section – we have Serrano’s answers to most of them!
Key Lessons from “Basketball (and Other Things)”
1. What Year Was Michael Jordan the Best Version of Michael Jordan?
2. Who’s Your Frankenplayer Made Out Of?
3. Who’s the Greatest Dunker in NBA History?
4-6. What’s the Order of the First Round of the Fictional Basketball Player Draft (Parts 1-3)
7. Which NBA Players Get Remembered for the Wrong Reasons?
8. How Many Points Should [SHOT] Actually Be Worth?
9-10. Which Dunks Are in the Disrespectful Dunk Hall of Fame? (Parts 1-2)
11. Who Is Your Memory Hero?
12. Which NBA Player’s Group Are You Joining If the Purge Begins Tonight?
13-15. What’s the Most Important NBA Championship? (Parts 1-3)
16. Basketball Court: Who’s More Important to the History of Basketball, Allen Iverson or Dwyane Wade?
17. How Do Players’ Legacies Change If We Change Their Names?
18. What’s the Plot for Death Hammer 2: Hammergeddon?
19. If 1997 Karl Malone and a Bear Swapped Places for a Season, Who Would Be More Successful?
20. What If Nick Anderson Made One of Those Free Throws?
21-23. What Happened in the Moment Before “the Moment”? (Parts 1-3)
24. Was Kobe Bryant a Dork? (And Also: How Many Years During His Career Was Kobe Bryant the Best Player in the League?)
25. What Attributes Make for the Best Basketball Villain? (And Also: Who’s a First-Ballot Selection for the Basketball Villain Hall of Fame?)
26. Should We Do a Chapter That’s Just a Bunch of Lists?
27-28. Am I Allowed to ___________ During Pickup Basketball? (Parts 1-2)
29. Who Had the Better Big-Name Game Under Duress?
30. What Would’ve Happened If Shaq and Hakeem Had Played That One-on-One Game?
31. Which Was the Most Perfect Duo in NBA History?
32. If You Could Dunk on Any One Person, Who Would It Be?
33. Which NBA Player’s Legacy Is the Most Greatly Affected If We Give Him the Championship He Never Won?
What Year Was Michael Jordan the Best Version of Michael Jordan?
That’s easy: the 1992-3 season.
He had 43 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1 block, and 3.7 steals per 100 possessions.
He won the Finals MVP.
And he also scored 666 points in the playoffs.
So, in Serrano’s words, the 1986 God-Disguised-as-Michael-Jordan went into Devil-mode.
Who’s Your Frankenplayer Made Out Of?
Name: God Shammgod (real name).
Hair: Nate “the Great” Thurmond; vision: Jason Kidd; forehead: Paul George; chin: Larry Bird; shoulders: Dwight Howard.
Arm musculature: 2007 Andre Iguodala; wingspan: Manute Bol; penis: A. C. Green (a career-long virgin); finishing in the lane ability: 2006 Tony Parker; shooting: 2016 Steph Curry; the ability to protect the paint: Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon.
As for the rest:
Give me Shaquille O’Neal’s power around the rim, Richard Hamilton’s endurance, Brandon Knight’s willingness to step in front of a train, Dirk Nowitzki’s one-footed fadeaway, Jason Williams’s flair, Gary Payton’s trash-talking ability, Kawhi Leonard’s on-the-ball defense, Jerry Stackhouse’s affinity for on-court fistfights, Charles Oakley’s toughness, Bill Laimbeer’s smirk, John Stockton’s sturdiness with the ball, Michael Jordan’s ability to recognize what needs to happen during a game and also his ability to do it, anybody but Kobe Bryant’s nickname, Anfernee Hardaway’s lankiness, Dominique Wilkins’s ferocity during dunks, LeBron James’s doeverythingness, Wilt Chamberlain’s rebounding ability, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring consistency, Scottie Pippen’s nose, Russell Westbrook’s pettiness, Shawn Kemp’s celebrations, Bill Russell’s rings, Charles Barkley’s readiness to throw someone through a window, Isiah Thomas’s nasty streak, David Robinson’s divinity, Kevin McHale’s low post game, Patrick Ewing’s mustache, Kirk Hinrich’s accessories, Chris Paul’s inner anger, DeMarcus Cousins’s outer anger, Tim Duncan’s in-game demeanor, and J.R. Smith’s postgame demeanor.
Who’s the Greatest Dunker in NBA History?
You know the answer to this question:
Vince Carter is – that’s who.
Here’s a reminder – not that you need any:
What’s the Order of the First Round of the Fictional Basketball Player Draft (Parts 1-3)
It’s a long list starting at No. 29.
So, we’ll reveal to you just the Top 3 Picks!
At #2 and #3 (tied) are Butch McRae and Neon Boudeaux, played by then-teammates Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal (respectively) in the 1994 William “The Exorcist” Friedkin movie “Blue Chips.”
And at #1 – Eliot Richards from “Bedazzled,” played by Brendan Fraser and boasting with a stat line of 104 points, 45 rebounds, 32 assists, 37 steals, and 28 blocks during the only game shown in the movie.
Now, that’s otherworldly!
Which NBA Players Get Remembered for the Wrong Reasons?
What do you remember about Gilbert Arenas?
Certainly not that he was a three-time All-Star and a three-time All-NBA pick – but that he brought a gun into the locker room after a confrontation with one of his teammates.
What about Kermit Washington?
He was an All-Star in 1980, but all you know about him is probably that he hit Rudy Tomjanovich – so hard that “his skull was dislocated and spinal fluid was leaking from his brain.”
There are many other NBA players we remember nowadays for the wrong reasons – some bad, some good, some weird.
Some – like in the case of Dražen Petrović or Len Bias – for very sad reasons.
How Many Points Should [SHOT] Actually Be Worth?
Some shots, in the opinion of Serrano, should have been counted a couple of points more (or, in the case of Ray Allen’s 3 in the 2014 final – Serrano is a Spurs fan – less) than what they are conventionally counted.
For example, a John Stockton’s layup should have been worth five points, because we should “add 150 percent valuation increase to every layup by a player under 6’2″.”
And even more: “anyone who is 6’1″ and under and white who dunks it in a game gets a million points.”
Which Dunks Are in the Disrespectful Dunk Hall of Fame? (Parts 1-2)
These are rated by the percentage of the disrespectfulness in them, starting with 85 and Michael Jordan’s dunk on Dikembe Mutombo on May 13, 1997.
But there’s only 100 Percent disrespectful dunk in Serrano’s Hall of Fame, and it’s owned by Jordan’s teammate Scottie Pippen.
Sorry, Ewing, but we’ll likely never forget this one:
Who Is Your Memory Hero?
This is an NBA player you remember to have been somewhat better than his stats show.
And the chapter lists the memory heroes of some of Serrano’s friends.
His pick: Vinny Del Negro.
Ours: Jason Wiliams, the Assists Gandalf.
Which NBA Player’s Group Are You Joining If the Purge Begins Tonight?
If you’ve watched “The Purge” – based on the premise that during 12 hours of the year all crime is legal (so there’s no crime afterward) – you’ll like this chapter a lot.
And you’ll probably side with the “Rest Easy, My Friend” group, symbolized by none other than Ben Wallace.
What’s the Most Important NBA Championship? (Parts 1-3)
The title may be misleading.
Its actual meaning is: “Which NBA championship had the greatest, biggest, most substantial impact on the NBA?”
And even though Chicago Bulls’ sixth title and the 1998 championship may seem like the obvious answer for anyone born after 1980, Serrano places this at #2.
#1: The 1984 Championship, when the Celtics beat the Lakers 4–3, the first Bird-Magic final… and, well, so many other notables.
Basketball Court: Who’s More Important to the History of Basketball, Allen Iverson or Dwyane Wade?
In Serrano’s opinion, Allen Iverson is the sixth most important basketball player in history, just behind Jordan, Russell, Wilt, Magic, and Bird.
So, it’s no surprise that the honorable Bill Russell’s verdict is Iverson, who also gets Wade’s 2013 NBA Championship during the trial.
How Do Players’ Legacies Change If We Change Their Names?
A fun game this is!
Certainly Michael Jordan wouldn’t have been the greatest player if he had been named Morgan Jordan, right?
No – he would have been an accountant at a midlevel accounting firm – starting, of course, from the age of 23.
However, Wilt Chamberlord would have been an even more dominant player than Chamberlain.
Which is pretty scary to think about.
What’s the Plot for Death Hammer 2: Hammergeddon?
This chapter carries on the joke from the previous one – in which James Harden becomes John Harden, who played John Harder in a block of second-rate action movies, the most famous of which was “Death Hammer.”
“Death Hammer” ends with this scene:
…a mafia boss had just been found not guilty of a bunch of crimes he very clearly was guilty of. As the mafia boss and his associates celebrated, the door to the courtroom was kicked open. It was John Harder. The mafia boss laughed. ‘You look at me and you see a criminal,’ he said. ‘But Lady Justice? She’s blind.’ John Harder stood stoic for two seconds, then he took out two pistols and fired one shot from each at the mafia boss across the courtroom. The bullet from John Harder’s left gun hit the mafia boss’s right eye and the one from the right gun hit his left eye. ‘So are you,’ said John Harder.
Well, this is the long-awaited sequel.
If 1997 Karl Malone and a Bear Swapped Places for a Season, Who Would Be More Successful?
Don’t ask us why.
What If Nick Anderson Made One of Those Free Throws?
The guy was a great NBA player until he missed four key free throws against the Rockets – which cost Orlando Magic the game and, according to many, the title three games later – and totally lost all of his confidence.
Serrano’s question is: what if he made just one of those free throws (4 seconds from time, the Rockets were three points behind before the first free throw)?
Probably, Orlando Magic would have won the title.
And – according to this documentary – Shaq would have never left.
The rest is (fictional) history.
What Happened in the Moment Before “the Moment”? (Parts 1-3)
We all remember the moments.
Like, for example, Derek Fisher hitting a buzzer-beater against the Spurs with 0.4 seconds on the clock in 2004 at the end of Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals between the Lakers and the Spurs.
But do you remember the moment before it?
Tim Duncan sinking an incredible prayer from almost the 3-point line over Shaq.
It could have been the winning moment.
And, by reading this chapter, relive many similar minutes you’ve only half-remembered (and, thus, half-forgotten).
Was Kobe Bryant a Dork? (And Also: How Many Years During His Career Was Kobe Bryant the Best Player in the League?)
Serrano doesn’t like Kobe too much.
And he thinks that he was a dork – listing few trippy moments we seem to have totally forgotten everything about.
Also, he’s pretty sure that Kobe was never the best player in the league.
Possibly he was just one season – and potentially two.
But never more.
What Attributes Make for the Best Basketball Villain? (And Also: Who’s a First-Ballot Selection for the Basketball Villain Hall of Fame?)
We’ll answer the question in the parenthesis.
Though we may not even need to – since everybody knows who’s the Level 5 basketball villain, and the Michael Jordan in the Hall of Fame of Villainy.
The universally disliked Bill Laimbeer.
Closely followed by Reggie Miller – who, incidentally, has written the foreword to Serrano’s book.
Should We Do a Chapter That’s Just a Bunch of Lists?
This chapter is merely a bunch of lists.
All of them interesting.
The best one is the “what are the 5 best playoff buzzer beaters of all time?” list.
But, we’ll just list Serrano’s #1 picks in the more conventional lists here.
Because we know you really like to know them:
Greatest Point Guard: Magic Johnson
Greatest Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan
Greatest Center: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Greatest Small Forward: LeBron James
Greatest Power Forward: Tim Duncan
Now, that’s a lineup even aliens would tremble to play against.
Here’s a bonus – Serrano’s list of the 10 greatest basketball players of all time:
1. Michael Jordan
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
3. LeBron James
4. Magic Johnson
5. Tim Duncan
6. Bill Russell
7. Wilt Chamberlain
8. Larry Bird
9. Hakeem Olajuwon
10. Shaquille O’Neal
So, that’s basically half of the greatest centers list as well!
Am I Allowed to ___________ During Pickup Basketball? (Parts 1-2)
According to Serrano, pick-up basketball is the best version of basketball – even better than NBA basketball.
Not according to us.
But we’ll leave those who disagree to fill in the blanks.
Who Had the Better Big-Name Game Under Duress?
To quote Serrano:
There are nine legit contenders for the The Greatest Big-Name Game Under Duress title. In chronological order, there’s George Mikan’s Cast Game (April 11, 1949), Willis Reed’s Broken Leg Game (May 8, 1970), Bernard King’s Flu and Fingers Game (April 27, 1984), Isiah Thomas’s Sprained Ankle Game (June 19, 1988), Larry Bird’s Cracked Cranium Game (May 5, 1991), Michael Jordan’s Flu Game (June 11, 1997), Kobe Bryant’s Sore Ankle Game (June 14, 2000), Derek Fisher’s Taken Game (May 9, 2007), and LeBron James’s Hurt Feelings Game (June 13, 2016).
And the winner is – beating Michael Jordan’s Flu Game 3-2 in the final – Isiah Thomas Sprained Ankle Game.
What Would’ve Happened If Shaq and Hakeem Had Played That One-on-One Game?
The series may be a done deal, but it ain’t over between you and me. Sure, you’re pretty good with your team behind you, but I want you one on one.
This was a note Shaq left Hakeem after the 1995 NBA Finals.
Hakeem ignored it, but had he accepted… well, he would have won 6-4.
Which Was the Most Perfect Duo in NBA History?
Shaq and Kobe, Magic and Kareem, Stockton and Malone, Jordan and Pippen, Payton and Kemp…
There are just too many.
Even so, Payton and Kemp edge out MJ and Scottie in the final.
Well, they deserve at least this victory.
The Glove and the Reign Man.
If You Could Dunk on Any One Person, Who Would It Be?
Once again – don’t ask.
A crazy chapter.
During which we find out that Abraham Lincoln is the American President most difficult to dunk on.
Washington and Obama trail behind.
Which NBA Player’s Legacy Is the Most Greatly Affected If We Give Him the Championship He Never Won?
Please say Iverson, Serrano, pretty please…
Giving him a championship ring for 2001 is my favorite thing to daydream about” – replies Serrano. “It’s half the reason I wanted to write the book. I just wanted to write the sentence ‘Allen Iverson wins the 2001 championship.’ Imagine that.
However, Iverson is not Serrano’s pick.
It’s – probably deservedly – Charles Barkley.
And then Malone.
And then Ewing.
And then – “it’s a toss-up, the same as all of this, really.”
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“Basketball (and Other Things) Quotes”
We don’t get the 2002 Sacramento Kings (Webber, Vlade, Bibby, Peja, Doug, Jackson), and let me tell you something: I (don’t) want to live in any branch of reality that doesn’t include the 2002 Kings. Click To Tweet
Larry Bird smiled to himself as he walked toward the spot where he was going to inbound the ball from. Imagine that. Imagine being in a situation as pressure-packed as that one and the thing you do is smile to yourself. Larry Bird was so… Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
During his presidency, Barack Obama didn’t withhold from sharing his reading lists and playlists at the end of each year. His 2017 list includes the following footnote:
Bonus for hoops fans: Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Basketball (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano.
So, there you have it – this one’s one of Barack’s favorite books of 2017.
And if you like basketball, it may end up being one of your favorite books ever!
Because it’s unpretentious and fun, and because, well, it’s about basketball.
So, what else could you ask from a book?