My big boss has encouraged me to loosen up and write something about basketball, a subject I care deeply about. The most recent big news in hoops is Charles Barkley's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame late last week. Barkley was known as the "round mound of rebound" during his NBA playing days in Philadelphia and Phoenix, a nod to his body type and ability to clear the boards. Now he's telling it like it is as a basketball commentator and threatening to run for governor of Alabama. His name is also the inspiration for the pop music act Gnarls Barkley.
But the real basketball news of this week is the rumored return of Uri Berliner, NPR News sports and business editor, to the NPR Wednesday night basketball game. Uri took time off to get his black belt in Tae Kwon Do with his son. I accused him of beating up on little kids a la Kramer in that Seinfeld episode, so now I'm a little afraid to get out on the basketball court with him.
If there were an NPR Basketball Hall of Fame, the first roundballer to be inducted would be Don "The Rock" Lee..."Rock" for his muscles, not his shot. He ran our game for a couple of decades before heading back north to work for Minnesota Public Radio. Other early inductees would likely include include the NPR Foreign Desk's Vicki O'Hara, the only woman who ever played regularly, and NPR's Michael Sullivan, who left on assignment and now probably plays pick-up games in Vietnam. Another candidate would be Jim Angle, now a correspondent for Fox News, then an editor at All Things Considered. NPR sports correspondent Tom "Lefty" Goldman would make the cut. He was smooth as silk on the court but has now retired (from basketball) to Portland.
Anyway, wish us luck this season. And if you're in Washington on a Wednesday night and want to play, give me a call. You can join Uri, Peter Breslow (the senior producer of Weekend Edition Saturday) and me, along with a motley crew of other folks in a game where dunks are rare, but the good times roll on.