Bread City Basketball


BASKETBALL IN IRAQ

I. American troops play basketball in Saddam Hussein’s occupied Birthday Palace. Tikrit, Iraq, 2004.

Iraq Saddam's Palace Tikrit Basketball
original photo by Paolo Woods

 —
II. The 1948 Summer Games in London was the first and only time that Iraq fielded an Olympic basketball team. They sustained five of the tournament’s worst defeats. Iraq lost to China, Korea, the Philippines, and Chile by an average of 86 points per game. The United States won gold.

Iraqi Olympic Basketball Team

kj
III. “The next week, back in Baghdad, I had a whiskey one evening with the Time bureau manager and a pair of reporters and told them about the killings at the basketball game… The bureau manager lit another cigarette as we sat in silence for a moment. ‘And especially, basketball being a pro-Western sport was nonsense,’ he said. ‘Iraqis have been playing basketball for fifty years, since long before all this. They love it.'”
– From The End of Major Combat Operations, by Nick McDonnell

Richard Mosse's Iraq
photo by Richard Mosse

Advertisements


WOODY AND THE KNICKS

In 1971 I wrote and shot a scene for Annie Hall involving the Knicks and Earl The Pearl. I was extolling the concept of the physical over the cerebral, so I wrote a fantasy basketball game in which all the great thinkers of history – Kant and Nietzsche and Kirkegaard – played against the Knicks. I cast actors who looked like those philosophers to play those roles and they played against the real Knicks. We used the players on the team at that time including Earl, Bill Bradley and Walt Frazier, and we shot it inside Madison Square Garden after the last game of the season. Of course the Knicks were smooth and beat the philosophers easily; all their cerebration was impotent against the Knicks. But I cut the scene from the picture, not because it didn’t come out but because I had to keep the picture moving and it was too much of a digression. It didn’t break my heart not to use it in the film. I always feel that anything I cut out of a film is always a mercy killing.
– Woody Allen, The Observer Sport Monthly, 1/6/02

Another example of the profound cultural impact the Knicks had on New York during the early 1970s. Willis Reed and company brought pro hoops to the forefront of the city’s popular consciousness for the first time, winning two championships along the way. Before then, the NBA wasn’t really legit in NYC, and people only cared about college ball.

It was the most volatile era in New York’s modern history. A time of grime and racial tension. Crime skyrocketing. Junkies ruling the parks. Student protestors and construction workers brawling on Wall Street. The South Bronx burning down to rubble. Cops with German Shepherds patrolling the graffiti-covered subway cars.

And yet amidst all the antipathy, the entire city was united in its passion for the Knicks. It wasn’t because of one or two individual players. It was because together, the Knicks’ game aesthetically complemented New York so perfectly. A melting pot of styles, races, and personalities that melded to form an unstoppable team. Flashy at times, but blue collar at heart, with a deep bench that could outlast top-heavy teams like Wilt Chamberlain’s Lakers.

All that remains of Woody Allen’s 1971 Knicks footage is the still frame below. It was used as a lobby card during Annie Hall‘s original theatrical run. According to Allen, the rest of the scene was destroyed.

woody allen knicks annie hall



BACK IN THE FOLD

Swishing on chain nets
the very last cigarette
the first bowl of cereal
subway timing miracles
crisp American dollars.
Holler.


photo by Eugene Tan
DOWNLOAD CHAIN SWISH HERE



NAVAJO SWASTIKA BASKETBALL

The all-native basketball team in the photo below was balling back in 1909, which explains the swastika unis. Scholars agree that the symbol comes from India, but it is also a part of American Indian culture. For the Navajo Nation, the swastika represents the legend of the Whirling Logs. The story is about a journey down a river in a hollowed out tree. It involves multiple Gods, and a pet turkey with a lot of personality.

The important thing is that the Whirling Logs legend is a part of the Night Chant, a nine day long ceremonial performance considered the most sacred of all Navajo ceremonies. It is a healing ritual that is performed to both cure the sick, and to restore order and balance to the universe.

Sans swastikas, basketball is still fanatically popular amongst American Indians, but the group has long been severely underrepresented in college ball. Why? Because Division I and II scouts are only allowed to attend high school tournaments that are NCAA certified. Until recently, NCAA certification rules stated that all teams must reside in the same state as a given tournament. This made it impossible for American Indian high schools to participate in any certified tournament, because tribal citizens are technically not state residents.

The NCAA made an exception to this rule in 2007, and this year’s NCAA certified Native American Basketball Invitational, a showcase for high school age teams, will take place in Phoenix, July 7-11.



SPORTSCENTER, 1997

Vodpod videos no longer available.



OBAMA’S MIDAS TOUCH

I LOVE THIS GAME MY COUNTRY


via Free Darko



ELECTION DAY SPECIAL

Fans of athletic metaphors, take note: Barack Obama is a wily player of pickup basketball, the version of the game with unspoken rules, no referee and lots of elbows. He has been playing since adolescence, on cracked-asphalt playgrounds and at exclusive health clubs, developing a quick offensive style, a left-handed jump shot and relationships that have extended into the political arena.
– Jodi Kantor, The New York Times, 06/01/07