justin adler, blog, buenos aires, bahia blanca, university of arizona, brooklyn, basketball, travel, paul mcpherson

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Buzz Bissinger Interview

This is an interview I did with Buzz Bissinger for Gelf Magazine regarding his (and Bron's) new book "Shooting Stars."

In the real world Buzz is famous for his book "Friday Night Lights," which sold over 2 million copies and spawned a movie and TV show. In the sports blogosphere Buzz is famous for screaming at Will Leitch.

Personally I did not love "Shooting Stars" and I agreed with many of the points Henry Abbott raised on TrueHoop. When I was speaking to Buzz I slightly alluded to Abbott's article and then Buzz kinda went off.

"If Henry Abbott wants to go do it, let him go do it. Instead of suggesting all sorts of rhetorical questions for which he has no answer, he can go investigate it. All he does is raise rhetorical questions, which to me is not reporting or writing, but the very antithesis of both," Buzz said. Then he proceeded to talk to compare LeBron's biography to Ted Kennedy's. He falsely assumed I had some worldly knowledge outside of basketball and began talking about Chappaquiddick. I pretended like I knew what he was talking about, then after the interview I wiki-ed the shit out of Teddy Kennedy.

In all I was very happy with the interview and the way the article came out.


Like many basketball fans, I've followed LeBron James since he was a sophomore in high school. I remember the Sports Illustrated cover. I remember the SLAM cover. I remember watching his St. Vincent-St. Mary squad take on Oak Hill on ESPN. I remember listening to Dick Vitale broadcast the game and bash everyone who was profiting off LeBron and knowing damn well that Vitale was not offering his services pro bono.

As a basketball junkie, I can tell you exactly where I was when LeBron was chosen with the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Having never looked at LeBron's Wikipedia entry, I could probably recite 95 percent of its content off the top of my head. So I was curious what new information I would learn from reading LeBron and Buzz Bissinger's new book, Shooting Stars. Because the book tells LeBron's life story up to the point he graduated from high school, I expected to read about him being offered shady deals worth millions and cavorting around college campuses like Jesus Shuttlesworth. But there wasn't much in the way of new or revelatory information. As Bissinger—who knows how to write a story about high school sports—explains, Shooting Stars is not meant to be an all-inclusive LeBron James autobiography. At its core, it is a simple book about five kids, with the odds stacked against them, overcoming their fair share of adversity to win a state championship or three.

I spoke with Bissinger over the phone to talk about writing a book with King James, why it's not a work of investigative journalism, and how the sports culture in Akron compares to the one in Odessa, Texas. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

There was one bit of idiotic Justin Adler writing that my editor wisely cut from the article to make me look more mature and respectable than I am. But since this is my blog, I'll run the goofy paragraph:

I cannot say I disliked the book; it was entertaining. It was a literary version of methadone for my heroine-like addiction to the game. And what the fuck else am I going to do in the offseason. But I am a sucker for dirty, corrupt basketball scandals and one good World-Wide Wes story would have made the book exponentially better for me.
*Stupid photo of Bron at the top of the page is courtesy of BOP VI.


Anonymous said...

Swing and a MISSinger

Henry Abbott said...

Justin, nice work.

I understand why Buzz is angry -- he put a lot of time into a book and I wrote a negative review. I get testy when people criticize my work, too. That's OK.

It's sad, though, that he feels he has to go after me, in addition to defending his own work. I wrote about his book -- at the suggestion, frankly, of his publisher, who thanked me for doing so.

There have been several LeBron James books already, and yet there are many lingering LeBron James questions. An honest thing to ask of any new James book is: Does it answer any of the lingering questions?

The bummer of this book is no, not really.

I hear him on the point of well, can't we just write a book about friendship? Sure, of course, OK. But there's a movie about that now, and it has been written about many times before. It'll interest a lot of people -- I'm sure the book has sold well -- but it's not going to do much for someone who is knee-deep in hoops lore every day, and that's who they sent the review copy to.

Now, as to his assertion that I should investigate those questions ... I have! I do! I will! I am! I have been accused, in the past, of being obsessed with nothing but that. I have published dozens of posts with original investigative research on this very topic. And there's plenty more to come, but as Bissinger can imagine, it's time consuming work.

Also, for the record, I don't love debating Bissinger in public. I'm only here saying this because his comments about me are here, and I felt I should chime in.

But if he wants to talk privately, my e-mail address is the name of my blog at gmail.com.

Anonymous said...

Why do i suddenly feel this blog has merit now?

ATarnowski said...

I had a really good rock pun, but I guess we're not doing that anymore huh? Bummer.

Anonymous said...

At wast! The wong arm of the waw is cwosing in on you. You scwewy Abbott.

Anonymous said...

im with you tarny, i was working with pebble all day... can you say sellout?

Theo Walcott said...

it would be a lot BOULDER if Justin took a side.

Farfel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm starting a new sushi beer bar called Buzz Piss'n'Ginger