Brilliant Basketball Writing

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Back in the day, when I was new to New York City, my roommate was a guy named Russ Bengtson.

Russ and I go way back to the University of Delaware. We’ve been tight for a long time—have shared good times over Chips ’99 and the Magic Hour and his dead snake rotting inside of our mailbox (long story). Russ and I lived above a Chinese Restaurant on 2nd Ave., and the rats probably liked the place almost as much as we did (it was a cool pad—two studios merged into one).

Thanks to Russ, who was the editor of Slam Magazine, I always had a steady diet of basketball-related freelance work. Thanks to Russ, I also know waaaaay too much about guys like Yinka Dare and Chris Mills and Bimbo Coles.

Alas, I digress. Russ is a great writer who probably deserves more credit than he gets. Back in the day, Slam writers used to cover games wearing baggy jerseys and sneakers, and I think (actually, I know) this took away some of their mainstream credibility. Some in the Knicks press room (for example) probably looked at Russ (who also has a bushy red beard that houses flocks of pigeons at a time) and thought, “Whatever …”

Russ, however, can bring it. Really bring it. Hence, this entry. I was reading the latest Slam yesterday, and stumbled upon his Slam of the Month feature, which was below a photo of Juwan Howard slamming over Chris Kaman. I found his writing to be brilliantly funny/odd. Here it is …

Juwan Howard on Chris Kaman

January 4, 2010

Staples Center, Los Angeles CA

The shots weren’t falling, the first half was going to hell, and the tall, weird-looking blond kid in the third row just wouldn’t shut up.

“Yo Webber, you SUCK! Hey Jalen, why are your shorts so big? Nice haircut, Juwan! And you…I don’t even know who you are! How does it feel being NOBODY!!?? Duke is kicking your ass!”

During the next time out, Webber motioned to Jalen. “Yo, what’s up with that kid?” “No idea,” Rose said, tugging on his shorts. “How old you think he is? Twelve?”

Somehow, the kid heard. “I’m NINE! And my daddy drove me all the way from Grand Rapids to watch you guys play, not listen to you talk. Aren’t you supposed to be the ‘Fab Five’? Why don’t you try and win or something?”

Try they did, forcing overtime, but in the end, the Blue Devils proved too much. And as the Wolverines trudged off, the kid—who had never shut up—drew himself to his full height and let loose one final salvo: “HEY LOSERS! MY NAME IS CHRISTOPHER ZANE KAMAN, AND YOU’D BETTER REMEMBER ME!”

Howard stopped and turned, looked him straight in the eye. For the first time all night, the kid seemed to shrink back. “Yeah, I’ll remember you,” Howard said. “You can count on that.”

—RUSS BENGTSON

6 thoughts on “Brilliant Basketball Writing”

  1. You are too kind, Jeff. I love writing those — treat them like prose Haiku, kind of. Finding the theme is usually harder than finding the words. Kaman’s being from Grand Rapids made that one easy.

  2. It’s a great piece, Russ. Thanks Jeff for pointing it out. What amazes me is that the, uh, venerable Juwan Howard — rumor has it he’s in line to replace Wilford Brimley as spokesman for Liberty Medical — earned Slam of the Month honors. What a great signing by the Blazers.

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