Thoughts On Bill Simmons

Kurt —  May 21, 2009

Sports Guy Bill Simmons — likely intentionally sparking an easy-to-rile fan base with comments in line with his personal biases — yesterday ticked off the Lakers fan base with his chat.

Normally this blog doesn’t wade into these waters — and in a few hours a game 2 post will be up — but friend of the site Dex had comments that I thought just deserved a wider audience. These are some of the best breakdowns of his work I have seen anywhere, so here are Dex’s thoughts.

Simmons is at his best when (a) reminiscing about a movie or television program from his adolescence, (b) covering a spectacle, e.g. the NBA All-Star Game, and (c) writing quick, general analyses of a given sport, team, player, controversy, etc. As a journalist, he shines most brightly doing (c). As your funny, articulate college roommate, assuming you get along, his (a) and (b) stuff can be very entertaining. But as soon as the issue becomes personal, i.e. he’s covering one of his home teams or their nemeses or, worse, both, (c) goes out the door while (a) and (b) glom into the kind of inch-deep blather that, well, you’d expect from a suddenly emotionally charged college roommate. If the emotion is anger, you get sulkiness and sneering. If it’s joy, you get sneering and bathos. Hide-your-head-in-embarrassment-bathos; he is perhaps, in this context, the most sentimental sportswriter living. His Kobe piece for ESPN The Magazine was dreadful. It read like the work of a cocky, glib freshman in his first week of Introduction to Critical Writing. “Kobe is so selfish, you know how I can tell, my friend who’s a Knicks fan emailed me that he was and my other friend who’s also a Knicks fan called me and said that he was and when I was talking to my dad about it he agreed with them both! And also I read that someone said that he was in a BOOK, if you don’t believe me. Yes, a real book, published and everything! TWO books.” Etc. etc. He spent a few seasons passionately condemning Doc and Ainge for their cowardly, desperate tactics, but when those tactics finally paid off, in the form of a motley Dream Team, he leaped shrieking girlishly onto the bandwagon. Once it collapsed under all that sweaty weight (as it was bound to; shoddy means shoddy; sin comes home to roost; etc.), Simmons evinced the classic reaction. Self-hate can only be dispelled through humility. But humility, you can’t really learn that from Karate Kid. Someone should vivisect that Kobe piece. It rates a D, D-, tops.

And then there is this brilliant diagnosis of Simmons thoughts on Kobe.

Simmons hates Kobe (yes, Bill, you hate him; it isn’t a crime — it’s okay, in sports, to hate your arch-nemesis; the man who, even in defeat, makes the recent, short-lived achievements of “your” Celtics paltry and jerry-rigged by comparison; “your” Celtics; and the entire state of Minnesota’s; and New York’s; and wherever else Ainge and Doc rousted an aging star with no roots in Boston whatsoever and signed him with the understanding that he could move the hell back to his actual city as soon as they’d won a championship.

But who’s championship was it? It was basically Garnett’s, wasn’t it? — Garnett the Timberwolf, who shall always be a Timberwolf, and never, ever not look incongruous in his baggy green costume — think of Malone and Payton in L.A., only fifty times worse — for I haven’t seen many moving tributes to Paul Pierce, or Ray Allen, or Doc Rivers, or Rondo, with glistening eyes as they softly caress the trophy. No, this championship was about Garnett finally winning one after years of ignominious failure in the state that made his name and fortune.

So — here you are, pretending that an aging miscellany of bounty hunters and frustrated uprooted veterans qualifies as an actual Celtics team. No matter that they’ve no ties to Boston, that you haven’t cheered for them from youth to manhood — come on, those green jerseys speak for themselves. No matter that Pierce, without this dramatic intervention, without the team nobly tanking half a season on the chance that mediocrity and incompetence (and quisling surrender) would be rewarded, — no matter that he would have wasted his career on one of the great clownish franchises of the NBA — see, he’s got that ring, and that’s what matters. And it’s inspiring to see Doc weep into the microphone about injured players this, injured players that; LA’s loss of Bynum, who was just coming into his own, was quite a terrible blow itself, but not apparently the kind that a coach can point to as the reason for his lumpish departure from the playoffs.

Phil Jackson seemed dry-eyed, but then again he and Doc have such different styles. Phil is calm, humorous, self-deprecating, but all business; he can articulate why his team failed on a given night. Doc’s style, which is endearing, is to smile desperately into the cameras beslimed in sweat and give the other team credit because his guys kind of sucked, which in no way says anything about the character and excellence of his guys.

I’m digressing, it’s too late in Chicago, where the songbirds sing all night. In short, Simmons, Kobe is beyond your comprehension. You recognize that you once had someone like him in Bird, and you recognize that you shall not see that again in your lifetime. In a Boston jersey, I mean.

You reveal your hand when you accuse Kobe, la de da, of reacting to Bynum’s second injury with nought but self-interested rage and frustration. Your evidence for this? Kobe’s inscrutable face in those horrible minutes after their collision. I suggest he was suffering agonies of a complexity far, far more profound than your armchair diagnosis allowed, which apparently you arrived at by interpreting a few quick glimpses of Kobe’s taut and haunted face — in the manner of, yes, a hater.

Come on, Simmons, we’re all haters to an extent; that’s why rivalries are thrilling and glorious or thrilling and tragic depending. Your Kobe piece was maybe the weakest apologia, the timidest defense, I’ve seen since I was grading papers written by freshmen who didn’t give a damn. If by chance you read this, I fart in your general direction; let’s take the claims in your ESPN Bryant piece and scrutinize them a little.

For example, your response to Kobe’s masterful performance in the Garden, which had three-fourths of the crowd on their feet chanting “MVP” in the exuberance of having witnessed something close to sublimity, was not merely flimsy as a cobweb, but a hilarious contradiction of what you’d demanded of him prior to 81. Let’s do this, Apollo, you can batter me around a little, I’m nothing. You’re Bill Simmons, with a mailbag and a book and TIVo, a diploma. I’m Dex with a homemade Kobe Bryant t-shirt. Come on, fight me a little. You accused Kobe of some pretty hard things in that ESPN article. Come on, let’s see you go a couple rounds with someone who’ll hit back. I’m sure you’ll maul me, you’ve got nothing to lose except your reputation as a fanboy hater.

Kurt

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76 responses to Thoughts On Bill Simmons

  1. Wow, Dex’s analysis made my day. Someone please send that Simmons; it was masterful.

  2. Whenever I hear about an article like the Simmons piece, my first reaction is to go take a look. But I don’t. Denying page hits on those pieces is the only ammo I have. Most of the time they’re built to purposefully anger fan base X. It’s just “legitimate” media trolling.

  3. In case you are confused about which Simmons piece Dex is referring to, I linked to it in the post. It’s from the magazine a while back.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3896242

  4. Simmons shares the same views of the Lakers as I do. It doesn’t mean he hates the Lakers or Kobe. He even said Kobe stepped his game up in the final two minutes. Does he hate the Lakers because he honestly feels that the Nuggets have more talent? And what reason would he have for hating the Lakers? The Celtics have pretty much owned the Lakers in the Finals as their 9-2 record indicates.

  5. I don’t know what’s worse – Simmons proclaiming to be “the sports guy” when he’s really “the boston sports guy”, or the sad fanboys who s his d in his mailbags.

  6. Thank you Kurt, for giving Dex’s truly
    brilliant commentary the front page
    placement it deserves. Any chance Henry
    Abbott will break rank and in an inspired
    moment, bring these gems to his readers?

    One can only hope so.

    Bryan

  7. Simmons deserves to be cut some slack. He’s a Clippers season ticket holder, after all. ;-)

    Seriously, I don’t disagree with Dex’s take one bit, but I will say that Simmons pieces capture the magic, personalities, silliness, stupidity and LOL moments of professional sports better than just about any writer.

    Mark

  8. Amazing work, dex.

  9. OMG . . that was great . . i would love to see Simmons try and write back to that . . . you know the college frat boy in him really wants to badly!

  10. but i do have to give BS some credit . . . he cracks me up and even though he’s the biggest Boston Homer on the biggest platform . . . he really does write in a great sports writer style!

  11. Dex, I think you’ve just made a lot of friends on this blog! :D

    Personally, I enjoy reading any good writing, and yours is very good. I also enjoy reading Simmons’ writings whenever he’s not talking about either the Celtics, Lakers or Kobe, but I despise beyond words the way he tries to claim he’s a serious analyst and journalist. If he’d just be honest about the fact that he’s an op-ed columnist, an entertainer who doesn’t want to care about facts, he would annoy me a lot less.

    When I took journalism classes I heard all the jokes about how “if you fail the class you can at least still become a sports writer”. I wanted to be a sports journalist, so that joked bothered me. It bothers me even more when people like Simmons proves the jokers right.

  12. I actually enjoy Simmon’s stuff, and lord knows I don’t agree with everything he writes.

  13. I don’t mind Simmons at all, but Dex’s comments were great.

  14. Hopefully this does not turn into an all out Simmons bash. He fills a needed role in the sports writing world. But it’s the role of an intelligent, plugged in, pop culture savvy fan writing with all of a fan’s bias and passion. And that’s the crux of it — underneath it all he’s a fan more than anything. That’s a welcome perspective given that most national/espn writers try so hard to stay neutral and thus often just resort to regurgitating what coaches/players tell them — rather than saying something new and interesting. But, as with any fan, Simmons often loses all objectivity and lets his passions cloud reason, leading to strained and desperate attacks on this and that player or team. Clearly his chief target is Kobe and he’s not quite capable of portraying him, the Lakers (or the Celtics for that matter) reasonably. So, I thank Dex for bringing that to light, and for doing it so poetically. Clearly Simmons gets enough praise (deserved) that a little honest criticism isn’t out of bounds.

  15. Great stuff, Dex! Thanks Kurt for giving him some run to respond to the drivel of the “college roommate”. Hahahaha, that’s definitely what I’m calling Sim’s from now on.

    I did read the Mag piece since a free subscription results in my having lotsa bathroom reading, but I never click on any of Sim’s articles online, for the exact reason Rob L. mentioned, it’s the strongest way to show I don’t care for his writing. I already know his angle, and know that even if his work has “Kobe” or “Lakers” in its title, it’s really going to be about hating on Kobe or the Lakers. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have a job, that kind of inflammatory spewing definitely fits within the four-letter site’s desire for un-ending sports “news”, but whatever ad banners pop up on his article page will never be seen by me, I’m just trying to get a box score from there anyway.

  16. Personally, I enjoy reading his pop culture stuff, but while he hates to be thought of as a blogger in spirit that is what he does. He is a fan who picked up a megaphone. He’s very witty, clever, and writes well, but at heart he’s a fan. And like that A-hole who was next to me for part of the first quarter of the last Lakers game, I don’t have to agree with much of what he says as a fan. In Simmons case, I just kind of stopped reading.

  17. Ehh, Simmons. He is paid to fill Web page inches. He is, by and large, a pretty entertaining writer. But he has his biases, and I think in general his most annoying characteristic is to justify those biases in the name of the game.

    I read his Kobe piece. I didn’t think it was horrible at all, but it was mostly unconvincing. For whatever reason (and there are lots of reasons, some of them even potentially legitimate), Kobe the player or person rubs him the wrong way, and he (I think) goes out of his way to paint him with a vaguely humorously negative brush. Fine, I’ve got no real problem with that; lots of writers do that. But pretending–and yeah, it’s pretending–that he does that for the good of the game is pretty ridiculous.

    jim smith (4): I think you’re being disingenuous. Saying that Kobe stepped it up in the last two minutes is the very epitome of damning with faint praise. In the context of the rest of his comments (Lakers got every call, etc.), the obvious implication is that he was slacking off the other 46.

    I don’t know that he hates the Lakers per se. But come on, going to the referee conspiracy card in Game 1? You’ve got to be kidding me.

  18. He fills a wonderful and needed role in the sports writing world. But it’s the role of an intelligent, plugged in, pop culture savvy fan writing with all of a fan’s bias and passion. And that’s the crux of it — underneath it all he’s a fan more than anything.

    Exactly. My biggest beef with him is that he is a passionate and biased fan that isn’t honest about the fact that he is. My second biggest is that there’s no one to balance him on ESPN. Simmons’s natural role is as a guest writer for a Celtics blog, not as an official “analyst”, paid to present objective material.

  19. 4

    The problem is, we know he hates the Lakers and Kobe. He has never hidden that.

    Even so, I do find a lot of his stuff amusing. I don’t expect measured, impartial analysis from him, especially when discussing his least favourite player (Simmons’ words) or the archrival of his favourite team.

  20. I’ll offer up some praise for Simmons. I read most everything he writes and I generally enjoy it–I just have to manage my knee-jerk reactions when he writes about the Lakers or Kobe. His chat the other day is an odd case; I don’t feel like he really said anything particularly unusual or hyperbolic (by Simmons standards), but the tone of the whole thing was really off-putting. I feel like that “salty” tone (as another commenter referred to it) is what got everyone so riled up, and quite so much the actual content of the chat.

    Some of his writing is wonderful though. He initially won me over with his first correspondence with Malcom Gladwell (one of my favorite non-fiction writers), and his recent “round 2″ of correspondence with Gladwell was also a great read. All in all, I appreciate him and the niche he fills; I just have to take a few deep breaths when I read some of his columns.

    That said, Dex’s criticism of his “not a Kobe-hater” column is spot on and entirely warranted. An empty defense of one’s objectivity is worse than no defense at all. I liken it to Fox New’s “fair and balanced” slogan–Fox News wouldn’t be nearly as upsetting without that claim, just as Simmons’s homeristic tendencies would be entirely bearable if he were to just acknowledge them.

  21. About damned time someone actually responded to some of that smug BS FROM BS.

    Bill Simmons is a great writer. I love reading his articles. He’s funny, engaging, and utterly, completely, totally biased. One thing he is not is a true analyst. His appeal, his entire career, is modeled around the “everyday fan” persona. He positions himself as “regular guy who got himself an ESPN gig, but is really just like all the people who take the time to write long *** comments on blogs or spend half their day pretending to work while constantly checking online for new sports columns to read”.

    As his fame, celebrity and the love of the masses has grown, so has his incredible smugness and ego. (Naturally.) He’s like Peter Parker at the beginning of Spiderman 3.

    Frankly, I don’t think he should be allowed to write columns for ESPN deep into the playoffs when Boston area sports teams are playing because it essentially is showing massive bias by ESPN towards the Boston teams.

  22. Brian Tung:

    Not to mention that Bill is either unaware of, or refuses to acknowledge, that the Nuggets got pretty much every borderline call in that game from the refs prior to the last half of the fourth quarter.

    If the Celtics win, it is always because of their heroic, gritty manliness. If the Lakers win, it is because those latte sipping pansies got helped out by the zebras. :)

  23. To the people whose comments just vanished:

    You are more than welcome to come here and disagree with the post. But we are going to maintain a certain level of civility and thoughtfulness. To all the parties involved. To be blunt, if you write “Simmons Roxs, Kobe Sucz” you are just getting your comment deleted.

  24. If Simmons is a known Laker hater than why would any of you take offense at his comments?

  25. To: Jim Smith
    From: Jim Crozier (Jim C.)

    Because he says he isn’t. He passes off his observations as verified fact and, in the process, acts as a propagandist spreading Laker and Kobe hate to an incredibly large audience through his ESPN column.

    As a fan of both the Lakers and Kobe, I don’t like that. I don’t like that the Lakers and Kobe get unfairly bad raps because Bill Simmons pretends to be “Fair and Balanced” while slamming my favorite team and NBA player.

  26. wow can’t believe there is a kobe hater in the main stream.. that was the first time i read his work, and i thought i was reading one of the reader’s comments from BDL,(since they are not filtered). i can feel hate emanating from those words of his, and his obvious disregard of facts are disturbing.. God I wish the Lakers really win this year

  27. I thought his comments about Spike Lee in the chat were awful, which is why I don’t read his articles. I just stick to Charley Rosen as an analyst.

  28. Mimsy beat me to it – Those are my two biggest complaints about the whole Simmons phenomenon. But I would flip the order.

    I would also say that Simmons jumped the shark a couple of years ago. I used to look forward to his columns. Now, I can just go to his archive and grab a random column or mailbag and it will be the same stuff that he is churning out now, so I rarely read him anymore.

    My biggest beef with him is really the same with many sports columnists. There is no accountability. He pontificates and makes grandiose pronouncements, but then when he is proved totally wrong, there is no retraction, no admission of his blowing the call.

    Now, back to tonight’s game…

  29. “Exactly. My biggest beef with him is that he is a passionate and biased fan that isn’t honest about the fact that he is. My second biggest is that there’s no one to balance him on ESPN. Simmons’s natural role is as a guest writer for a Celtics blog, not as an official “analyst”, paid to present objective material.”

    This. A million times, this.

  30. 25,

    Could Bill feel that the Lakers and Kobe are overrated without being a hater? Could it be that his propaganda are really facts and thus the reason he feels that way about Kobe and the Lakers? You yourself admit to being a huge fan of Kobe/Lakers so it may be you who is being partial and not Bill.

  31. Jim Smith, how can you be a celtics fan without hating the lakers, vice versa. It’s like you can’t be fan of both Yankees and Red Sox. Of course, being a Denver fan, you wouldn’t understand this concept since you don’t really have a rival, or rather…Clippers and Timberwolves don’t really qualify as rivals.

  32. I love Simmons and love the Lakers more, and never take anything too seriously in that regard. But this line: “If by chance you read this, I fart in your general direction.”

    My god man. That’s classic.

  33. Ironically, not having seen Simmons’ piece on Kobe, I was bemoaning the dominance of “bias” pieces just the other day to some colleagues. I like Simmons’ writing. But i like good analysis better (cuz i can get partisanship off fan blogs like this one). Yes, at CNNSI and ESPN they should stick to great (and entertaining) analysis of what’s going on without giving us the fan passion for one team or another. I don’t want to read that stuff any more than i wanted to listen to Tommy Heinsohn call those Lakers-Celtics series back in the 80s…he’s not giving me analysis, he’s giving me rationalization!
    Good on Dex for articulating the specific weaknesses of Simmons’ piece, too, though i’m not foolish enough to think there aren’t some aspects of kobe’s game that can sometimes, um, challenge his teammates. (But I’ll take him any day over anybody else in the league for “did you see that?” spectacular play and heart and determination.)
    I’ll go on to read both Simmons’ and Dex’s stuff better…but did either of them note the fact that Kobe’s is consistently the biggest-selling jersey in the league, and the M-V-P chants follow him everywhere? Cuz that tells me a lot more about whether people “hate Kobe” or not than what Simmons’ frat-boy friends in NY emailed.

  34. “My biggest beef with him is really the same with many sports columnists. There is no accountability. He pontificates and makes grandiose pronouncements, but then when he is proved totally wrong, there is no retraction, no admission of his blowing the call.”

    That’s a good point actually. I distinctly remember him skewering Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge numerous times before Boston traded for KG. Come to think of it, he even wrote a piece ripping Ainge after the Ray Allen trade. For someone who considers himself smarter than 90% of the GMs and coaches in the league, he makes a lot of mistakes which he conveniently ignores (his assessment of the Magic being the latest example). Again, it’s just something you have to keep in mind if you read his articles.

  35. “If by chance you read this, I fart in your general direction…”

    Oh jeeze Dex, that was Awesome! Spit Dr. Pepper all over my keyboard! LMAO

    I had to quit reading Simmons. I would get dizzy from rolling my eyes at every homerific, closed-minded, lame, useless statement he made.

    He tries to play it off as tongue in check. But that’s merely trying to excuse the fact that he can’t be objective.

  36. 30,

    Certainly it is possible, but just not very likely. Whenever Bill writes a column about a team or player he dislikes, he always takes the most negative possible angle.

    For example, remember that game when Kobe outscored Dallas singlehandedly over three quarters 62-61 and then sat out the 4th? The day after there was Simmons complaining that Kobe was selfish in not chasing history and giving basketball fans something special to remember. Oh, and zero assists was prominently mentioned as a typical “Kobe” game. Que Snark.

    A few weeks later when Kobe scores 81, Bill’s column talked about how “joyless” the Laker bench was and how awful it must be to play with him.

    Another example is the way Bill ascribes personal motivations to things. He reads the minds of people he’s observing better than Professor X. When Bynum went down, it was obvious to Bill that Kobe’s only concern was “there goes my championship”. If Lamar doesn’t smile enough, it’s obvious “he hates playing with Kobe!”

    And so on and so forth. He does this with other rivals to his beloved teams. For example, look at some of his columns on Peyton Manning and the Colts.

    The reverse of this is that he never describes a Boston team as overrated. If anything, they are always, ALWAYS underrated. Nobody realizes the adversity that they overcome or the trials and tribulations that they endure. (Example: Ray Allen is “obviously” superior to Reggie Miller and anyone who denies this is blind.)

    The examples in his archive are endless.

  37. j.d. Hastings May 21, 2009 at 11:58 am

    On the flip side, I listened to Simmons’s podcast on the season finale of Lost and thought it was great. It really comes down to sports partisanship.

  38. Jim, why are you still arguing about this? Simmons himself has stated that he hates the Lakers (he’s a Celtics fan for Christ’s sake) and that he hates Kobe.

  39. I agree with most of the comments here, about Simmons being good for the sporting world, about him being pop-culture savvy, and about him being a fan at heart. I definitely take what he writes with a grain of salt.

    That said, he seems unusually biased in the chat from yesterday, and damn is it icing on the cake when I read this part:

    “The Cavs have the best team – they can play D, they can shoot 3′s, they can post up Z, and they have LeBron. They have an answer for everything. Watch what they do to Orlando. They’re going to single-team Howard (which Boston should have done), stay home on the 3-point shooters, swarm high screens and drive the shooters away from the basket … and Orlando is going to flounder offensively. You watch. Dwight Howard couldn’t score 40 points in a game if he was going against Yi Jianlian’s chair. That’s how you beat Orlando – make Howard score 40 to beat you and shut down their shooters.”

    Perhaps the “best player on the planet” should be able to knock down free throws in crunch time, say like Kobe Bryant did on Tuesday?

    Wait, and entire 2nd half goes by and the whole Cavs team watches their superstar try and create all the points by himself. That reminds me of a specific type of criticism directed at #24 from Mr. Simmons. Of course it doesn’t apply to LeBromance.

    Also, no mention of Kobe’s defense on Chauncey, then JR Smith, then Carmelo. Was it a coincidence those 3 players had to fight tooth and nail for any baskets during those stretches? If #23 had that defensive versatility, Simmons would be changing his boxers while writing a new, 3 page column on how blessed we all are to watch a basketball god.

    To top it off, it makes me laugh how quickly we all forget who’s clutch dominance won the gold medal for the United States. Go look at that final against Spain, tell me if it’s #23 who either assists or scores on the first 8 points out of a 4th quarter time out when the lead is all the way down to 2 points.

    Ok, enough with my Kobe v LeBron points. I really like LeBron as a player too, he’s incredible. I just think Bill Simmons is a homer who tries really hard to act like he’s not a homer. Having a good sense of humor doesn’t make up for that.

    Either way, glad the Magic were able to remind the rest of the basketball world that the Cavaliers haven’t won a single damn thing except for the best regular season record and sweeps of 1 old team and 1 injured team.

    I’m really excited for both of these conference finals series. It’s crazy to think that 2 games were decided by a total of 3 points.

    It’s safe to say that basketball fans are in for a treat for the remaining 3 series of the 2009 NBA Playoffs.

  40. @VoR
    You’re mistaken on that last issue. I remember Simmons slamming himself for claiming Charlotte did a right thing by drafting Okafor over Howard, or picking Bulls to represent East couple of years ago, or criticizing a Ray Allen to Celts trade, and several more things.
    There are things to blast BS for, but not admitting his mistakes is not one of them. I’m of course talking about mistakes that were proven (e.g. Okafor over Howard thing) not what we believe is a mistake (his attitute towards Kobe).
    Actually, I’ve got an idea how to check it in a non-biased way. He has totally blasted Orlando in that chat. he said, for example, that they’ll be lucky to win even one game. So if the Magic get more than one, let alone eliminate the Cavs, we should just flood him with questions about that prediction and see if he answers on ESPN

  41. He’s the Fox News of sportswriting. Ignorance is bliss, so I ignore all those guys.

  42. To me, Bill Simmons declined after the Red Sox and the Celtics won the championship. I think his true appeal was verbalizing the agony of suffering fans, whose team keeps falling short of championships. After his teams won, he became annoying and smug, and he began writing with “We are the champions, and you suck” attitude rather than “I share the same suffering with you, Cubs fans” attitude.

    He is what he is, and we don’t need to make it seem like he matters so much because he doesn’t. He is neither an expert analyst nor objective reporter of a news. He is a Celtic homer who delivers few funny lines here and there. He is more comedian than a sports writer. He is like Kornheiser in MNF. Oops, he’s gone…Simmons will soon be gone when ESPN execs are tired of his act. He can then go back to his sorry town of Boston and suffer many more losing seasons to come.

    BTW, one of his best recent pieces was about explaing the Red Sox with Manny Ramirez and cheaters to his son….That was a funny one.

  43. Jim Smith – I can definitely understand what you’re trying to say. There’s no doubt each one of us has his/her biases. However, it is possible to objectively critique Simmons. I think where he most clearly crosses the line is his attacks on Kobe’s character without legitimate reason. Dex pointed it out well in his piece – Simmons was completely off-base by simply looking at Kobe’s expressions on TV (after Bynum’s injury) and making the jump to Kobe worrying only about his championship dreams and not being concerned for Bynum at all. Quite simply, that jump in reasoning reeks of anti-Kobe bias. Did Garnett laugh and cheer when Paul Pierce was carried off the court in Game 1 of the Finals? Of course not. And no rational human being would suggest Garnett wasn’t concerned for Pierce, and was only self-interested. For Simmons to make such an incendiary claim (and that’s what it was, saying Kobe was unconcerned for his teammate’s health or well-being) is blatantly biased. Surely any reasonable person can see that.

  44. I am not a Celtics fan or a Nuggets fan but I do not see all this hate for the Lakers that you see. If anything, the Lakers are a well-respected organization. I personally like Jerry Buss and Phil Jackson. As for the Lakers being a rival to the Celtics, that was a long time ago. I seriously doubt the average Celtics fan cares about how the Lakers do.

  45. #39, Alex,
    As a tangent to your comment, and as an example of some actually good writing by Simmons, his column on that gold medal game is one of the better pieces he has ever written. I think it’s still bookmarked on my home PC, actually.

  46. I agree with the sentiments of you guys, he is entertaining but clearly dislikes kobe and the lakers and it does undermine his analysis, which made it even more shocking when picked kobe as MVP in 2006

  47. People in these comments have already said it very well: Bill Simmons is a fan who writes. That is all. Which is why I’ve laughed for years when, in a basketball argument, people will try to quote Simmons as a legitimate source. Is Simmons right some of the time? Of course. He’s a basketball fan who gets paid to do nothing but watch basketball. If any average fan had the opportunity to watch as much as he does, they would come away with the same insight. He’s nothing special, other than a comedy writer who likes basketball. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed over the last year that much of his material has become recycled. There are no more lmao moments left in his pieces.

    Someone said it best yesterday – Bill Simmons’ prime was fun while it lasted. It’s over.

  48. 39, Alex: “Also, no mention of Kobe’s defense on Chauncey, then JR Smith, then Carmelo. Was it a coincidence those 3 players had to fight tooth and nail for any baskets during those stretches? If #23 had that defensive versatility, Simmons would be changing his boxers while writing a new, 3 page column on how blessed we all are to watch a basketball god.”

    +100. Brilliant, and so true.

  49. I enjoy Simmons the most when he’s podcasting with Adam Corolla. They make for all sorts of pop-culture hilarious together.

    I will have to disagree with Mimsy’s point, however, about Bill being paid to present “objective material.” I think when he’s at his least objective is when he’s actually at his most entertaining– it’s just when his opinions don’t align themselves with ours that we get annoyed (and understandably so). I blame ESPNs editors more than anything for not doing proper quality control.

    On another note, I wish we as Laker fans had a better “voice” out there to represent us on ESPN… I like Adande for the most part, but some of his pieces are absolutely TERRIBLE.

    PS this is my first comment on this blog, which I love. I think if other NBA fans took a second to glance at the quality of discourse that happens here it’d help dispel the caricature widely held of “annoying Laker fans.”

    Thanks Kurt!

  50. 36 – Jim C, LMAO on “Professor X”. Really good.

    Thank you to jim smith for posting obvious flame bait to give this thing new life. I’m getting some great commentary out of it.

    J.A. Adande’s stuff is pure slime. The pieces Marc Stein did back in the Shaq & Kobe days did justice to painting a more objective picture of the soap opera. J.A. should hit the archives and start copying.

  51. 49, That’s also the reason I like Simmons. I remember them making fun of movies like Red Dawn and Face Off.

  52. Game 2 preview/chat up. Keep the simmons stuff here, the basketball stuff there. Keep the cool side cool, the hot side hot. (Man, that is a dated reference.)

  53. Okay Mr McDLT

  54. clutch824
    Thanks! Glad you liked it.

    Jim Smith
    That’s kind of the point of the original blog post. Simmons is at his best when he is talking about non-sports stuff like Red Dawn and Face Off and Karate Kid, because then he’s like your funny, articulate college roommate.

  55. Writing as a fan, which is really what he does, Simmons is entitled to his opinion. I don’t disagree with every aspect of his take on Kobe. But I agree that certain leaps, like the thing about Bynum’s injury, are ridiculous. What was he supposed to do, start wailing?

    One thing I can’t stand is the way sportswriters expect guys to play like kids and professionals all at once. It’s nice to see enthusiasm, but playing, in this case, IS THE JOB. When Bynum went down, I’m sure Kobe was concerned and upset on a number of levels. But he has to be thinking right away, “What does this mean for the team, what do I need to do?” because he gets paid millions for it. It isn’t just about his personal championship hopes.

    You’re not always great friends or blood brothers with your co-workers. A sports team may need to be more cohesive than an office, but these guys are not always going to be that close. No one wants to see a guy get hurt – players usually feel bad even for guys on other teams. But you may not be deeply broken up on a personal level. Is that really so wrong if you’re not best friends?

    And as for faulting Kobe for scoring 61 on bad defense, same thing: what is he supposed to do, get open and then roll the ball out of bounds? So it wasn’t “in the flow of the offense.” If Kobe passes up the looks when he’s feeling it, and the other Lakers fail to take advantage, and the Lakers lose, he can’t lead, and the Lakers are soft.

  56. 51, I especially like how Simmons references the same 5-6 movies every time.

    I feel like whenever another ESPN writer gets a “shot” at his podcast they brush up by NetFlixing Karate Kid or Hoosiers, and make their references with all the earnestness of a freshman trying to get in good with the older kids.

  57. Man, Dex, if you don’t mind, what do you do for a living?

    Very much enjoyed your writing.

  58. #49,
    My point was more that Simmons should either stop trying to pretend that he is a serious analyst, or he needs to start to at least admit that he’s not capable of being unbiased, and that he never even tries.

    Some small part of me can’t help but wonder how Kobe will ever be able to improve his media image, when someone as widely popular and read as Simmons keeps writing about him the way he does. And I agree with you, that the editors of ESPN would probably do both the site and Simmons himself a favor by starting to hold him accountable for some of the things he writes, and refusing to publish the most inane paragraphs.

  59. My biggest beef with him is that he is a passionate and biased fan that isn’t honest about the fact that he is.

    I know it’s been wholeheartedly agreed with up-thread, but that is exactly his problem, and I couldn’t agree more. Another point someone made is that he became less interesting as Boston’s perennial losers became perennial winners. It’s easy to love the underdog, less so to appreciate the champs and their–let’s not mince words here–sneering.

    He’d be easier to handle with his general air of smugness over the past few years if he was able to admit that he’s got one. The other thing is he’s gotten much less tolerant of comments and email from his readers criticizing him or calling him out for 1) homerism and 2) being wildly wrong.

    Until he moved back to Boston last month, I had a good friend here who was my personal Simmons-analog: they’re about the same age, had much the same upbringing, uprooted to California suddenly. I watched the NYG/Pats Super Bowl with him and commiserated with him on the loss, as I had no dog in the fight, and watching that game clearly hurt him. Four months later, we’re watching the NBA finals together and I had to tell him several times to ease up on the cackling during Game 6. He did, to his credit, but my point is while they’re charming losers, (speaking very generally) Boston fans are not good winners.

    However, he is a hell of an entertaining writer when he wants to be, which he hasn’t really tried being in 6 months or a year. I know he’s working on a book and his schedule doesn’t allow for 9000-word columns twice a week right now, and there seems to be a little tension between him and ESPN, which is surfacing more and more, so I understand why his output isn’t what it used to be in quantity or quality.

    But I get where his Kobe-hate comes from, and that’s fine. If he could admit that he’s never going to give the guy a fair shake because he hates him, I’d respect him significantly more. And we know he’s not an objective reporter by any stretch, that’s 99% of why he’s fun to read. But to maybe admit to his readers, “I don’t like Kobe or the Lakers, and I will never give either of them the benefit of the doubt,” a lot of the criticism directed at him would dry up. Do you think he could have written that Manny story if he hadn’t been traded?

  60. j.d. Hastings May 21, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Last night, BTW, Simmon tweeted the top 5 performers in these play-offs and had them ranked 1- Lebron, 2. Kobe. And if you disagree with #1 then I really have to think you’re letting your own biases get in the way.

    A lot of the specific complaints by Dex have been addressed by Simmons. He acknolweges the mercenary aspect of the KG and Allen trades, and his previous criticisms of Rivers (and he criticizes him now too).

    My biggest problem with him is his belief that assigning certain refs to certain games is a sign of a conspiracy. Specifically assigning Danny Crawford to the Spurs or some ref Doc Rivers got into a spat with this season. If the league started to NOT assign refs based on prior incidents, that just puts the control of who is assigned into the hands of teams. If you’re a physical team and don’t want to see a ref who calls things close in the playoffs, suddenly you can pick a fight with him in the regular season.

    Or assertions like he made in the chat that “The lakers got every call in the last 5 minutes.” Except that turns out to mean that Kobe got one favorable call on a drive to the lane, and he disagreed with Pau’s drawn charge. So 2 calls becomes every one. THAT is where he clearly views 50/50 calls with the bias of someone with a rooting interest.

    But again, he’s a fan, he’s often said he hopes he is the voice of fans and he’s glad he didn’t go the more traditional insider’s route.

    So again, I love my grandmother but I don’t talk politics with her. If she had an article online where she talked about cooking most of the time, I’d read it until she had that article about a flat tax. Same thing to me. The most frustrating thing is that when a friend comes at you with this stuff you can respond, whereas he has 340000 people trying to respond to him and inevitably takes on the easiest to refute.

    But the fact that he has started to try to address his purported hating means that he’s aware of it also and trying to mitigate it.

  61. I am not as good at writing as a lot of you and not as articulate (English is not my first language). But let me try to express my thoughts.

    The thing I dislike most about is his double standards. If the Celtics do something, it’s great. If the Lakers do the same, it’s not. If Lebron scores 50, it’s him being a great player. If Kobe scores 50, it’s him being selfish. If Peyton Manning shows disgust at losing, it’s because he is selfish. When Tom Brady does the same, it’s because he is competitive.

    Simmons bias is not just limited to Kobe and the Lakers, but to all the sports and all personalities. Most people, even posters on this forum would be objective enough to write something and justify it with the same reasons every time – not with different reasons based on personal bias. It is truly pathetic that somebody of the stature of Simmons, who is a popular writer for the biggest sports media company cannot figure that out. And, its is good to know that he has not been called out on it by a lot of people now.

    And I don’t even know what he wrote about the Lakers this time because I stopped reading his stuff more than ayear ago. But I know I can make a fairly accurate guess because he has been regurgitating the same stuff about Kobe for several years now.

    In any case, for basketball fans, there really is no need to read Simmons because there are a lot of really good blogs online. Also, from what I remember, Simmons does not have any real insights about the game apart from his pyschological mumbo-jumbo.

  62. More Teen Wolf references!

  63. I just got bored with Simmons’ schtick, so I don’t read him anymore. It was funny for a while.

  64. I’ve been waiting a long time for someone to write a retort to Simmon’s writing.

    Well done Dex. I hope you continue to write more and post on this blog.

    You just made my day.

  65. Please Jim Smith,

    Bill Simmons hates the Lakers so much that he bought Clippers season tickets.

    On second thought, he might just be cheap.

  66. Well, I like him. Simmons has one of the most recognizable and individualized voices in basketball writing (along with Bethlehem Shoals and Charley Rosen). Simmons is knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and funny. He often exaggerates for effect , but that’s part of his style. Although I’m a Laker fan, I’d much rather read him bash Kobe in an entertaining way than read pretty much anything else out there on the NBA, because Simmons at least has flair and chops too.

  67. I did an analysis/breakdown of the Simmons piece back when it was published. You can check it out here:

    http://weframedrogerrabbit.blogspot.com/2009/02/lakers-vs-celtics-lakers-vs-cavs-and.html

  68. Wait… you guys read that Simmons chat and thought he was bashing Kobe? I thought that was all fair, and the thing about the calls is that he also acknowledged that the Nuggets committed several dumb fouls. I mean… I thought it was fine.

    That’s probably the most gracious he’s been to the lakers or Kobe in the past year, except for one time on his podcast when he really praised Kobe’s durability and when he always marvels at his work ethic. Just because he thinks Kobe’s not in the conversation for best player in the game anymore doesn’t make his chat some sort of rampage against Kobe.

    Not really sure why now he merits his own frontpage thread at fb&g. I think this really makes us look kneejerk… sometimes you guys really swallow the bait too easily.

    (btw he also said on his podcast a while back that he wishes he could redo the mag column — it stank and he knows it.)

    Ok done defending simmons… again. You guys crack me up sometimes.

  69. I stopped reading Simmons about a year ago after he got busted by the Bill Simmons column generator…

    http://www.serioussportsnewsnetwork.com/mad-libs/sports-guy

    It’s not that he hasn’t had any good insights. It’s that he has already expressed all those insights in 3-5 old columns.

    He’s in re-runs now, coupled with the fact that he is now cheering on the winners lustily, ignoring their poor sportsmanship.

  70. “They will be lucky to win 1 game. ”
    - Bill Simmons on the Orlando Magic facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the ECF.

    Classic. He throws some stuff prediction and now what?

  71. I think SImmons is pretty up front about his writing; the problem is that other writers don’t take that into consideration when they use his columns as sources.

  72. Simmons bias is not restricted to teams based in the New England area. About 50% of the time, it’s based on whomever is currently on his baseball/basketball/football fantasy team.

    He certainly enjoys tweaking the “enemy” – primarily those of us in smaller markets (I’m a Sac Kings fan, but Utah and Indy are targetted fairly often). Kobe and the Lakers are the target du jour (i.e. actually relevant currently). Anger draws eyeballs as much as fawning, which in turn must drive up Simmons’ book sales.

    Mission accomplished, Bill.

  73. Thanks all, for praise and criticism; especially, as regards the latter, j.d. Hastings (#60). I’d heard that Simmons admitted the bizarreness of rooting for a Frankenstein’s monster-like squad, but couldn’t help venting a little. But that’s in the nature of on-the-fly commentary, I guess — digressive, loose and (in the case of a volatile subject) somewhat given to spleen. A good synonym for volatile is unsettled, and also eruptive, and those words capture exactly my feelings for Simmons, or, specifically, my feelings for Simmons ever since he shat out that Kobe piece for the Mag.

    I agree with Reed (#14) that he is talented, witty, knowledgeable and one of a kind; a first-rate casual essayist, when he tries; and a godsend insofar as he pantsed the solemn priesthood of American sports journalism and left it standing in its skivvies with a laugh; but the Kobe piece was inexcusable.

    As Jim C. (#25) noted, Simmons tends to “pass off his observations as verified fact and, in the process, act as a propagandist … to an incredibly large audience through his ESPN column.” Kobe is an easy target to begin with; and Simmons piling on, and piling on viciously, in an ostensible attempt to refute a charge of bias, is about as cowardly an act as I can think of. That ESPN published it on this basis alone is astonishing; and when one considers the inanity of Simmons’s arguments, their slipshod construction, their vacuous proofs, all used to support what nearly amounts to libel –- except that it deals with the infamous Kobe Bryant, so it must be true, right — one can only stare.

    This is a dead horse that I’d love to beat for at least a few more days and then anatomize in order to prove that the deformity of its musculature and skeleton has to do ultimately with a tragically compromised nervous system, but what with last night’s loss and all one’s energies are better directed toward believing with one’s whole soul that Kobe and his sundogs are going to blind the hell out of Denver come Saturday.

    One last nudge, though, for good luck. Simmons writes that a “buddy,” a Knicks fan, on that night when a mamba got loose in the Garden, “swears he saw” Kobe glare at Ariza when the latter hit a jump shot down the stretch. But before you throw up your hands in despair because this evidence of Kobe’s selfishness is ironclad –- a guy watching Kobe personally murder his team at home swears he saw Kobe not laugh in delight when Ariza scored two points –- before you throw up your hands I say, consider this. Earlier in the article, while faintly praising Kobe, Simmons describes his style as “icy.” That is, Kobe’s not really the demonstrable type. His expression is pretty much inscrutable rain or shine. It may be that Kobe’s not grinning beatifically at Ariza was evidence that he didn’t undergo a bewildering personality change in that moment for some reason.

  74. Here’s to the moderator of this blog. I believe this is the first time I’ve read blog responses that were actually decent and civilized.

  75. General comment, as there are a number of new people finding this blog during the playoffs:

    We do not allow trade speculation comments. Doesn’t matter how rational it is, or if it is a seven-team deal where the Lakers give up DJ Mbenga and get back LeBron. Those comments (and responses) are cut. There are places to have that conversation, but this is not one of them.

  76. Simmons never really claims to be a serious analyst. His whole deal is that he writes from a FAN’s perspective. In his book he even says that he purposely avoids locker rooms and any sort of typical journalist activity in order to keep this perspective. He’s simply writing from his perspective as a Boston fan and his reactions to everything in the sports world. Don’t criticize someone who you obviously don’t really read for what he is supposed to be.