Q&A: Dave Zirin (Part 2 of 2)

If you haven't checked out the first part of our interview with Dave Zirin and the great discussion in the comments then you need to WAKE UP, FOOL!

Before we get to the second part of our recent Q&A with Dave I really wanted to encourage you to make his site Edge of Sports a weekly destination on the world wide.

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I'll pass the mic to Dave to give you the 411 about Edge of Sports:

A few of my favs from Edge of Sports:

Dave also drops science for Sports Illustrated over at SI.com, so make sure to check out his work over there as well.

Dave Zirin at SI.com

Our questions and Dave's thoughts after the jump!

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Golden State of Mind: The NBA has been painted as a league that is "too black" by its critics for quite some time. However the last 3 MVP's winners have been foreign born white players from Germany and Canada. This past season's MVP Dirk Nowitzki's selection wasn't all that controversial, but more of an awkward situation since his team was bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Warriors in the biggest upset of NBA history. However, the previous back-to-back MVP winner's awarding was met with a lot of skepticism and objection with many NBA fans who believed that Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James were more deserving of the MVP trophy. Charles "Modi" Modiano of Cosellout recently posited that this was a case study in white privilege, while Sports Illustrated's Jack Macullum respectively argued that that wasn't the case. How much of a role if any, do you think Nash's skin tone similarities with the overwhelming majority of the MVP voters played in his winning two straight titles?

Dave Zirin: Cosellout is a great site and Jack McCallum absolutely the finest basketball writer to ever breathe so mad respect to both. They both made good points. My take was that Nash absolutely deserved that first MVP. He revived a franchise and was able to overcome two longstanding prejudices in MVP balloting: against point guards, and against political athletes. Think about the first: Isiah, Mark Price, Kevin Johnson, John Stockton, never got a whiff of the MVP. It was nice to see a guy who sets the table get his. Also, his number one competition was Shaq who was arguably not the best player on his own team. Shaq shot 47% from the line and averaged 22 and 10, the worst numbers of his career. The next year, Nash got a lot of props for taking a team without Amare, integrating Diaw, and losing Joe Johnson and keeping them competitive. I could have given it this year to LeBron, Wade, Billups or Nash. Did racism play a role in Nash winning two MVPS? Who the hell knows? I just know that we aren't going to look back embarrassed at Nash's selection. They are defensible based on what he brought to the court. Rule changes that stopped hand checking had more to do with his MVPS than anything else.


Golden State of Mind:
We've always been a "little" interested in China's much hyped Yi Jianlian here at GSoM. Maybe it was that The Yi Movement thing. So here's a question about our old friend's recent situation.

When Yi's camp said that he would not report to the Milwaukee Bucks after they selected him in the 2007 draft despite their warnings, some critics, analysts, and hoops fans complained that if Yi didn't report to the Bucks, then the integrity of the NBA Draft was at stake. One frequently cited argument was that if players were allow to choose their draft destination then bad, small market teams would never be able to improve. However, historically, a few other young players have forced their way to other teams than the smaller market teams that drafted them, namely Danny Ferry (LA Clippers), Steve Francis (Vancouver Grizzles), and Kobe Bryant (Charlotte Hornets).

Why do you think the Milwaukee Bucks were so steadfast in their decision to keep Yi despite the wishes of his camp? Do you think Yi's case is different then Ferry, Bryant, and Francis'? Also, what do you make of the nativist responses that "if Yi doesn't want to play in Milwaukee, he should just stay in China"? Will people be talking about Yi or his camp's initial refusal to play in Milwaukee more than they talk about Ferry, Bryant, and Francis' choice of suitor years from now?

Dave Zirin: Ferry was terrible - just a gahd awful player. Francis was proven right by history since the Grizz didn't exactly thrive in Vancouver and the Bryant thing was done without rancor so Yi really does walk alone on this. What Yi faces that all others – including John Elway and Eli Manning – did not face was that he is an unproven commodity: no one has ever seen him play so there is a "Who the hell is he?" reaction by fans. I'm surprised the Bucks were so blasé about the fact that Yi didn't want to play there. They could have gotten some great players at that position in the draft. Is there some nativism in the response to Yi? Once again, like with Nash, who knows? But I'll tell you this: the NBA and Stern wants smooth relations with Beijing in the leadup to the Olympics – so this will get figured out one way or the other.


Golden State of Mind:
Near the end of your book in the chapter titled "In Their Own Words" you illuminated the depth, insights, and consciousness of some of this generation's athletes, in particular Etan Thomas, Sheryl Swoopes, John Amaechi, and Jeff Monson. Are there any players in the NBA that you think undeservedly get a bad rap from the media, despite being good folks dedicated to making the world a better place?

Dave Zirin: Here is a name: Ron Artest. Artest is a good man who spent a good part of his summer in Africa working with HIV afflicted children. It changed his life. This year you will either see a disinterested Artest whose mind is just on some other issues bigger than hoops OR you are going to see the Kings be the surprise team in the West (my prediction) with Artest resuming his pre-Auburn Hills place as one of the best all around players in the L.

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All of us at GSoM wanted to thank Dave for taking time out of his busy schedule to field our questions. It was really cool trading thoughts with him and even cooler for him to show the GSoM community some love. I can assure you that his forthcoming "A People's History of Sports in the United States", a descendent of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, will be in heavy rotation in the GSoM Book Club.

Keep it in that golden state of mind Dave my man!

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