There aren’t many modern reference points for this war in Ukraine, which is simultaneously foreign beyond American comprehension, but seems frighteningly close to inspiring U.S. involvement, and is covered in real time graphic detail over social media, but seems of an older world empire expansion era. Basically, I have no clue if my readers want to talk about this, or if they’d prefer to discuss literally anything else. So those are the two options for takes today: This war, or literally anything else.
I have nothing remotely useful to contribute about the war but my nba take: with the cyclical nature of generations, I believe younger stars will see the lack of *genuine* love KD & LeBron & Harden & all these guys have at the end of their career versus the love Kobe & Dirk got & what curry will get, & they’ll yearn for meaningful connection to a city/fan base. Even if they won’t stay there through retirement, it’s gonna be more Dame type (investment in area, genuine attempt at loyalty, etc) where they build real bonds & maybe it eventually doesn’t work & they split but the love will remain. Human nature is what it is: we wanna be loved & respected. Rings culture broke everything for a bit, but it’ll come back around as the culture changes & guys realize the selfish route at nearly every turn doesn’t leave you fulfilled.
Zelensky and the Ukrainian people in general are tough as dirt, and the world response, while not unified, is giving Russia a pretty massive FU, in ways large and small. I'd personally like the US to affect the toughest sanctions possible; those in Ukraine are going all out; we should now too, will may also be the best way to keep our boots off the ground. I am not paying super-close attention to every military strategy but this, from Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, is heartening https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoADI7h8H7M
I keep coming back here because you provide an honest take on the intersection between sports and world events, so I'd be pretty disappointed if you just swept Russia's invasion under the rug at the behest of a few commenters. It would also strangely mirror what Russia is doing with their state run media, not that your intent is the same. There’s no shortage of compelling stories surrounding athletes who are directly embroiled in the invasion, from the Klitschko brothers taking up arms in Kiev to Mo Creek, a professional hooper from the DC area who’s stuck splitting time between his apartment and a bomb shelter as he unsuccessfully attempts to flee Ukraine.
I’m most fascinated by the case of Joel Bolomboy, a 2016 Jazz 2nd rounder who had cups of coffee over two seasons in the league. Bolomboy is one of those fringe guys who excelled in the G-League and would’ve surely bounced around more NBA rosters if he weren’t locked in the golden handcuffs of CSKA Moscow, where he landed on a special decree from Putin himself. Born in Ukraine to a Congolese father & Ukrainian/Russian mother, Bolomboy grew up playing for Ukrainian junior national teams. When he first got to the league (though zero evidence remains on social media) he repped Ukraine HARD. The Bucks hung a Ukrainian flag for Bolomboy at their practice facility (which they do for all international players) and unless I’m misremembering he even used to hashtag his social media posts with #UkraineTrain (borrowed from current Grizzlies assistant Vitaly Potapenko) and the Ukrainian flag emoji.
Suddenly in the fall of 2018, he became a pawn of Putin by signing with Euro powerhouse CSKA under the condition that he abandons Ukraine to become a Russian citizen/national team member. I don’t blame him, he was a young dude offered a shitload of guaranteed rubles. But because he seemed to have so much Ukrainian pride/attachment I found it very strange he’d suddenly defect to compete for a country he’d never spent time. CSKA started releasing videos after his signing that felt very much like propaganda videos to show how happy Bolomboy was to start a new life in Moscow. Did Putin really care about Russia’s frontcourt depth heading into the 2019 World Cup or was there something deeper and more sinister happening here? Would be fascinated for you to get in touch with your contacts around the league to explore. Former NBA player and top 15 player in Europe Toko Shengalia has allegedly forgone the boatloads of Russian cash he was earning as Bolomboy’s CSKA teammate because he “refuses to play for the team of Russia’s army.”
^Note his expression in the photo in the second link.
I hope this war doesn't escalate and cost many more lives over some person's vanity project. I have been looking at is how dystopian twitter/social media has become during this war. The view from social media about the war has been like how a people watch reality tv and respond. Like, we have seen Zelensky publicly thank countries and the leaders ask help over twitter and lobby the decision makers. I'm sure there's lots of interlocutors involved, but what does publicly lobbying countries do? I don't know who is the audience for this; are they the online world? or are the audience, western world?
And the other side is how people traffic information and there's always insiders giving their view points and analysis and giving weird analogies (Bill Maher - Kanye - Kim- Pete) and talking big game, about how far are they fighting and predicting what's going to happen next and some asking for bigger actions.
It's also surreal people valorizing citizens taking up arms and ammunition. Isn't the whole point of diplomacy to ensure that the people don't need to take up arms? It just feels like the online world has taken "Theater of War" as a theater, egging on people to take up ammunitions, throw stuff and get killed by professional soldiers; instead of it being a war, which never ends well for anyone.
Anyways, sorry for the long winded whatever this was (take?). I hope everyone comes to their senses and do diplomacy, instead of acting it out on social media for the world's sake. Or maybe I'm twitter-pilled and looking at similar patterns in NBA, reality tv and in war. Have a safe weekend
Is there a site where we can get real war analysis?
I read a thread suggesting Russia's war tech has been laughably out of date and while they would win this war fairly easily, if they took on a comparably sized country like France they'd be slapped around pretty good.
No idea if that thread was accurate or not.
Either way, I have no idea where to get real analysis like that from a trusted source.
All the news sites are "Ukrainians are fighting hard" without actual analysis.
The war. Definitely the war. Also gonna echo what Tom said. Zelensky is inspirational.
Hey Ethan, I thought you might be interested in listening to a Mark Cuban interview from yesterday. He was on Pardon My Take, and the hosts asked him about the health of the NBA, the player empowerment era, etc—many of the things you’ve written about recently—and I gotta say it was one of the least impressive performances by Cuban I’ve ever seen. He was really scrambling to answer their most basic questions. They brought up the Skiles excerpt from your piece and Cuban essentially brushed it aside and said the connection between fans and players are much more connected in the Silver era than under Stern. He rambled on about Tik Tok and how it is the vehicle to growing the game with Gen Z. He talked about players coming into the lockerroom at halftime and immediately checking Twitter as if it was a *good* thing. The NBA talk starts at the 49:40 mark and lasts for about ten minutes. He said a lot of stuff that I thought you and Ryan might be interested in. Thought I’d pass it along. https://open.spotify.com/episode/38aCU9vWJLFsFN69EWyN7B?si=c4zLhhKcQXqyjKLeE5kGZg
Why is Ryan Glasspiegel hinting at skepticism about what is going on in Ukraine? He’s hinting that he thinks that what we are seeing is fake?
> “The media and government have, both together and separately, created an atmosphere the last several years and beyond where it’s going to be impossible to trust their messaging on Russia unless it’s backed up by strong evidence. And even then…”
“And even then…” 🤨 What is going on?!
President Zelensky is the GOAT.
We live in an era where people are unafraid to break norms; from the woke movement, to a world power striking first on a smaller neighbor, to top journalists choosing to go independent. It’s definitely a jarring thing to live through. I do like what Sacramento did at the deadline though…
When did we stop calling it Kiev? For my entire life it was KEE-EV. Now all of a sudden my pronunciation is being corrected. Those same people that were instantly experts on vaccines are now experts on all things Ukraine. Good lord.
Zelensky and the Ukrainians seem to be giving Putin more than he bargained for. Hard not to root for the underdog in this one. And likely the corp media made more of Putin than is really there because they threw everything they had into their Trump-Russia collusion tale. Just smh at the Dems who equated Jan 6 with Civil War, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11, now comparing Russia's invasion to Jan 6 (cf, Pelosi). They're so deep in their narrative they've lost touch with reality. Their credibility is shot. And US military posing as patriots while saying white supremacy is the greatest threat to US peace and security. If they really believe what they're saying they're deluded to the point of disqualifying themselves from service in the armed forces. There are bad, bad people in the world and they would do real harm to America given the chance. Among them are Putin, Xi, Kim, and Khamenei. Our political and military leadership need to focus on defending all Americans, regardless of political party or affiliation, against all enemies of the Constitution, foreign or domestic. Anyone who does otherwise is deluded or treasonous.
Smart, nuanced people that feel informed enough need to talk about it. It is the single most material thing happening on the planet right now and arguably (potentially?) the most material global event to have happened in decades.
Beyond all of that - it’s interesting as hell. Exploring Putin’s potential motivations, China’s murky role and stance, the almost unbelievable balls being shown by Ukraine’s people and leadership, the next domino to fall (Poland? Turkey? Taiwan?), and most importantly (to me at least), how should Americans feel about our role in this? Are we smart not to get directly involved in a fight against a country whose only real place on the world stage is to serve as our nuclear foil? Or are we sending a message to countries like Iran that all that is required to get the US to back down from a conflict is the threat of nuclear war?
The best topics both matter tremendously and have no easy answers.
Gonna split the difference with something I've been thinking about, which is the power of images and the weird connection between HIPAA and the public response to this war. Bear with me.
HIPAA has become a punchline these days with famous people citing HIPAA as an excuse to not reveal their own personal health decisions (don’t get me started). But HIPAA has had an actual under-reported and profound impact on the pandemic: it’s the lead reason why few photos of overwhelmed hospitals emerged, particularly in the pandemic’s early days. News crews have to balance extreme privacy rights when photographing hospital patients, living or dead. The result? Scenes of the mayhem — of dying bodies enswathed by massive equipment, of weeping families, of stacked corpses when room ran out — were largely prevented from being captured, thanks to HIPAA. And (as has been argued more eloquently than me) the lack of these scenes in the public consciousness directly allowed ~certain folks~ from arguing that this was “just another flu.” Simply put, that argument would’ve died on the vine if the visual truth had spread more effectively prior to the pandemic being politicized. Events follow from there: HIPAA —> no deluge of jaw-dropping photos of the dying and dead —> “it’s just like the flu” —> anti-vax sweeps over America —> the Nets may not make the second round (I kid; that should probably be “over 1,000 U.S. deaths a day for six months now,” I guess)
So what does this have to do with Ukraine? Because there’s no HIPAA for war photography. There’s dozens of historically great examples by photojournalists already out there — this is the one that’s grabbed me and won’t let go: http://twitter.com/eramshaw/status/1497604805841195013. It’s not that images “tell a story” or “are worth a thousand words” or whatever. It’s that they make it VERY difficult for contrarians to sell false opposing views. I’d honestly argue that images like that one — when combined with a (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) brilliant move by Biden to make it clear Putin was the aggressor, especially given that many on the right, including his predecessor, continue to defend and deify Putin — are responsible for the court of public opinion to side so soundly with Ukraine, not just in the U.S. but globally.
In other words, a world with no wartime photography, akin to the early uncertain days of the pandemic, is one in which these last few days would feel very different. (And yes, if weeks of groundwork by the Biden administration didn’t make it easy to shout down Mike Pompeo and Tucker Carlson and etc. So maybe it’s two things.)
I def listen to too many sports podcasts and whatnot but I gotta say I hate this phenomenon of sports media figures who just root for good “content.” It’s like, idk man, maybe have like a worldview, and values? And not just root for something that’s easy to talk about? It’s a nihilistic stance and irritating as opposed to charming. That’s all I got.
I had this pretty interesting moment yesterday. My mother stopped by and in small talk asked if I had been paying attention to the war and of course I have been like many. She asked if I remembered how many great grandfather had fled from Odessa in 1890 as many Jews were being persecuted and migrated to Chicago. I had no idea, he had died about 20 years before i was born and i was under the impression much of my heritage came from russia. It created this weird moment of realization I have very close heritage to Ukraine, so close that my grandfather grew up in a house that spoke Ukrainian. I found myself feeling and looking at the whole issue differently, and less consumed with the facts of everything, the why, how it affects the world, pundits opinioms. Its amazing how we can disconnect from other cultures and people when we are consumed in politics and cant relate, i guess until all of a sudden you do.
Keep the Woj and Silver hit pieces coming. This doesn’t feel like the place I come to read about War but if you feel compelled to write about it, go for it
My take regarding the war is just that the entire thing feels so surreal. We've been getting 24/7 news updates for the last three days and readily available video that nobody can quite verify. In a way, it is quite desensitising and you lose sight of what people are actually fighting for. I watched the news on Thursday morning and saw the trucks crossing the border on BBC News in almost real time. The CCTV footage felt almost like a video game. It is so much to take in and I can't think of another war similar to this.
I would also love to read an article about how the dynamics among the NBA ownership have changed. In the past, it has been alluded to that the owners fell in line with David Stern's wishes as they ran their franchises as a business and needed the league's revnue. Stern could be quite hardline at times and yet he was always backed. Things feel different now, the owners are more disparate and less like a collective stakeholder group. How has that change influenced Adam Silver's style of management? Are there clear divides between profit-oriented franchises such as the Lakers and 'money is no object' teams like the Clippers?
My hot take is there’s definitely 100% some fucky shit going on with trump and Russia and anyone who grew up listening to Howard Stern knows why.
Now that you've written about him (and he has ties to the GSW), Chamath Palihapitya would be a good interview. He has a knack for saying things out loud that often only get thought by many. Also has hot takes galore. Liked seeing you on the Jason Whitlock show.
Idiots like Clay Travis and Jemele Hill get to get off their takes though, that's what matters
Hello there fellow Ethan-consuming-highbrow-intellectuals, for some reason every time I hear about Ukraine my idiot brain refers back to that Seinfeld episode... Ukraine is weak; plausible blueprint for Putin? My apologies in advance for trivializing cataclysmic war and death:
I'm friends with the former athletic director of Wright State University. As a Cavs fan and WSU alum, I was interested in learning about Vitaly Potapenko's journey from the USSR to the NBA . The former director told me that they spent a lot of time trying to help Vitaly culturally assimilate and that Vitaly was worried about his family back in Ukraine. Ethan, think you could land an interview with The Ukraine Train?
A potential source of insight into Ukraine v KGB is the documentary series "The Devil Next Door" on Netflix. At least, the tensions in America between Ukrainains and Jews was something the KGB actively worked to exploit.
we should be thinking long term: https://www.nationalreview.com/2022/02/drain-putins-brains/
What I’m wondering about is what the NBA will do if/when China invaded Taiwan