Swampscott resident Ian Thomsen, one of the nation’s leading sportswriters for the past three decades, will be in Winthrop on April 19 to talk about his new book, “The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between Lebron, Kobe, Doc and Dirk That Saved the NBA.”
Thomas will be speaking about the book and his illustrious career and signing autographs during a special appearance at the Cottage Park Yacht Club.
Thomsen, considered a giant in the writing profession (and not only because he stands a towering 6 feet, 6 inches tall), has a strong affinity for Winthrop. His wife, Maureen (Ford), and well-known Winthrop resident Kathleen Doherty are sisters. He is a proud uncle to Kathleen’s four, talented daughters, who excelled in sports at Winthrop High School. Thomsen has visited the town on many occasions and enjoys many of the restaurants here, especially Alia Ristorante.
Thomsen’s book, which focuses on the NBA’s 2010-11 season following LeBron James’s nationally televised “Decision” to play for the Miami Heat, is drawing rave reviews in advance of its April 17 release. His friend, Jackie MacMullan, with whom he interned at the Boston Globe, gave the book a “thumbs-up” during an appearance on ESPN’s “Around The Horn” this week.
It’s easy to see why Thomsen’s book would instantly become a “must-read” for fans of the world’s greatest basketball league. Following his graduation from Northwestern, which sits at the top of the list of college journalism programs in the country alongside Columbia and Missouri, Thomsen began working at the Globe where he covered three NBA finals of Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson. He was also courtside in Barcelona for the original Dream Team’s gold medal-winning performance in the Summer Olympics.
Thomsen said the book focuses on the 2010-11 NBA season that began with NBA prodigy LeBron James telling Jim Gray on “The Decision” that he would be leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and going to “take my talents to South Beach (Miami).”
“At that time it looked like the NBA was really in trouble,” said Thomsen. “So LeBron was supposed to be the savior for the league, the next Michael Jordan, and over the course of several years, culminating with that show, he turned himself into the villain. He was the most hated athlete in America after that show, combined with the following day in Miami when he did that rally and pronounced that he would win five…six titles for Miami.”
The NBA was heading toward a lockout at that time, and there was talk of a shutdown of the league following the season due to a dispute between the owners and the NBA Players Union.
“That’s why I did the book – it was about that season and what was it really about,” said Thomsen. “Is this a game of making money and drawing audiences? Was is a business? Or was it something more valuable than a business? And that’s how the publisher came up with the title, “The Soul of Basketball” because it’s really trying to find out what the soul of the game is. It’s something more than money and fame.”
Thomsen’s conclusion: “That basketball becomes the sport of the American dream and that the biggest names in basketball are driven by something more valuable than money and fame.”
The NBA player who helped Thomsen figure out that basketball is the sport of the American dream was 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki, who has had a Hall of Fame-caliber career for the Dallas Mavericks.
“Dirk’s the hero of the book,” said Thomsen. “He’s an immigrant [from Germany] and he changed the game. He’s the first 7-footer to shoot three-pointers. He was drawn here by the ideals of basketball. He was never a commercial guy. He showed by winning the NBA championship in 2011 that it’s a dream for anyone around the world to play the American game, come to the greatest league in the world, and beat everybody at the game. He lived out his version of the American Dream and helps us come up with an identity for our sport.”
In compiling interviews for the book, Thomsen used his sterling reputation among the NBA community to gain inside access to players. Thomsen had a longtime connection to Nowitzki’s basketball mentor, Holger Geschwindner, about whom he had written a feature during his tenure as a writer for Sports Illustrated.
“He taught Dirk how to shoot the basketball – he invented a shooting stroke for Dirk and they practiced every day: footwork, balance, the proper angle and trajectory, keep your mouth open while you’re shooting, every last detail,” related Thomsen.
In addition to Nowitzki, the other main characters in the book are LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Doc Rivers.
“Kobe was really good for the book,” said Thomsen. “I joined Sports illustrated at the end of 1997, and I was assigned to do a story about Kobe and the Lakers. He was 19 years old, and we went to an outdoor restaurant in Santa Monica and we talked for four hours. The story made the cover. I think that relationship helped convince Kobe to talk to me for this book.”
Asked about the notorious Sports Illustrated cover jinx, Thomsen replied, “Kobe turned out okay.”
No less a brilliant sports columnist than Winthrop resident Leigh Montville, formerly of the Boston Globe and Sports illustrated, is praising Thomsen’s book.
Writes Montville on the book’s jacket, “Travel back to the 2010 season, when LeBron and his two amigos arrived in Miami, when Dirk asserted himself in Dallas, when the league went through an economic and social convulsion. Marinate to see all the repercussions. Thomsen tells the tale with the deft prose and snappy anecdotes and brings us all up to speed on what might come next.”
Winthrop fans will have the opportunity to meet the author in person and talk some basketball with him next week.
And that’s going to be hoop heaven for those who have followed the game.
For every generation of Americans for the past near-century, there have been seminal events for which those who were of a certain age can recall “where they were” when they “heard the news.”
Every member of the Greatest Generation could recall with vivid clarity the announcement by President Roosevelt of the Day of Infamy of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. A generation later, everyone knew where they were when the announcement of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy came across our TV screens. A generation later, the Challenger space shuttle disaster riveted our nation.
And then, on September 11, 2001, every American watched with horror and disbelief as the Twin Towers of the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C. came under attack from a terrorist organization we barely knew existed.
In each case, long-held views about our world and our nation were shattered. Before Pearl Harbor, we had thought that the thousands of miles of oceans separating us from the warlords of Europe and Asia would keep us out of harm’s way. Ever since then, we have been involved in crises in every corner of the globe.
John F. Kennedy’s assassination made us realize that history could be altered by a single bullet, as it clearly was on that terrible day in Dallas.
The Challenger disaster made us aware that despite three decades of travel in space and despite our prowess and might in the realm of technology, in the end, everything we do as humans is subject to failure, because that is the human condition. Our faith in our scientists and experts was shaken to a degree we’d never felt before.
As we watched the images on our TV screens on 9/11 of the fireballs in the upper parts of the Twin Towers, and then watched those skyscrapers crumble, trapping thousands of our fellow Americans, we realized that America no longer was insulated from the sort of outside terrorist threats that had plagued almost every other country the world over.
We all knew that our lives would be different from that point onward.
However, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack, it became clear that countless of our fellow Americans responded with incredible strength and bravery. Police officers and firefighters, as well as many civilians (most notably the “young man with the red bandana” and the passengers who thwarted the hijacking of the jet that was headed for the White House over the skies of Pennsylvania farm fields) responded in a totally selfless effort to save as many of their fellow Americans as possible without regard to their own safety.
It is hard to believe that 15 years have passed since 9/11, and even harder to conceive that our young people today have no memory of that terrible day.
So let us resolve to remind ourselves, and to inform the young people we know, that this was a day not merely of great tragedy, but that it also was a day of great heroism which exemplified the best of what America stands for.
Tragic events seem to be cascading upon us from throughout the world almost on a daily basis.
Whereas for the past 15 years (since 9/11), a terrorist-inspired event might happen sporadically, now when we go on-line each morning to look at the latest news, we find ourselves reading about some terrible act committed either by ISIS-inspired terrorists, politically-motivated individuals (Dallas and Baton Rouge), racist or poorly-trained police officers, or simply drunken losers (Nice, France).
Politicians, commentators, and all of us search for a common thread in such acts because to be able to rationalize such horrible deeds would allow us to make sense of them and come up with a plan to deal with them.
For example, when we go to war, that is a fairly easy thing to conceptualize. We can identify our enemies and set ourselves on a mission to destroy them.
But the tragedies that have occurred both abroad and at home are not so easily solvable. We can do everything from carpet-bombing the desert in the vain hope of getting rid of ISIS’s Middle East leaders, to imposing sensible gun laws, and to training our police to better-handle stressful situations, but deep down, we know there is no magic-bullet solution to the violence that is taking so many innocent human lives.
At times such as these, common-sense solutions — not panic — are what is called for. Further, as uncertain as the world may seem, we cannot yield to the impulse to retreat into a shell. The French consulate in Boston went ahead with its annual Bastille Day celebration in the Back Bay despite the calls by some to put it off. Capitulating to those who seek to deprive us of our freedoms by voluntarily curtailing our freedoms essentially means that they have won — and we must never allow that to happen.
Inspiration and leadership are sorely lacking from most the world’s democratically-elected heads of state, and we are not expecting much from the conventions on either side of the political fence in these next few days.
So unfortunately we must look backwards to find the right words to serve as our guiding principle in times such as these, and Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best at the height of the Depression:
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
A host of community organizations and city councillors have come together with the Chelsea Police to organize a Peace Walk from the Police Station to City Hall on July 27.
“In light of recent national violent act, Chelsea residents and leaders are uniting to stand in solidarity with the Chelsea Police Department to promote a message of peace an unity in our community,” read a statement from the organizers.
The Police CommUNITY Standing Together as One peace walk will take place on July 27 at 6 p.m. in front of the Police Station. Participants will walk to City Hall, where there will be a short speaking program.
The walk has been organized by the Chelsea Black Community (CBC), the Chelsea City Council, the Chelsea Police and concerned community members.
“In light of the recent disturbing and alarming occurrences taking place across the nation involving both violence against police officers – including nine murders – as well as some controversial use of deadly force incidents by police, we as local community stakeholders felt compelled to stand together in unity and demonstrate to our community at large that we are absolutely committed to peace, tranquility and mutual trust,” said Chief Brian Kyes. “Although we are by no means a perfect community, we realize that we must continue to learn from each other each and every day to overcome any challenges that we face together. We view our culturally diverse inner city as a ‘model’ from which many communities could possibly draw from our ongoing successes to overcome any existing obstacles and/or barriers in working towards enhancing police-community relationships.”
Following the controversial police-involved shootings of two black men, one in Minnesota and another in Louisiana, protests and rioting has unfolded across the country. Also in that, time, five police officers were assassinated in Dallas on July 7, and three were assassinated in Baton Rouge last weekend. A police officer was also gunned down in Kansas City on Tuesday.
Others have been shot in incidents all over the country, from Georgia to Washington, D.C.
Bruins home – marathon on horizon
January proved to be a rewarding month for the Bruins, as they earned 19 of the 24 points in the dozen games played. A big part of the team’s success was the consistent play of goaltender Tuukka Rask who managed to bear just one regulation loss. Rask’s play got league recognition, as he was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Month, for the month of January. Rask’s 7-1-3 numbers included a blanking against the New York Rangers, stopping all 30 shots he faced. During the 11 games played, he allowed a meager 18 goals, good enough for a paltry 1.64 goals-against-average, and a healthy .949 save-percentage. For 2014-15, Rask has put together a record of 22-11-7, posting a 2.31 goals-against-average, with a .921 save-percentage.
The Bruins played the New York Rangers last night (Wednesday) as the Record went to press, following that game they will have two days without games, before returning to Garden ice to face two of the NHL’s top teams. For the second time in a bit over a week, the B’s will take on the surprising New York Islanders with former Bruin, Johnny Boychuk, (Saturday (2/7 @ 7:00pm). The Isles are currently leading the Metropolitan Division, and are holding on to the number three spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
On Sunday (2/8 @ 7:30pm) Boston will play what will surely be an intensely contested game, with their not-so-friendly division rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal is in a constant battle with Detroit and Tampa for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, as well as in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bruins’ three-game homestand will finish up with another former Bruin, Tyler Seguin, who returns to the Garden with the Dallas Stars for a Tuesday (2/10 @ 7:00pm) contest. Dallas continues to fight for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs, as they are presently at the bottom of the Central Division.
BOSTON MARATHON BOOST…
On Monday, April 20th, runners in the 119th Boston Marathon will have the chance to use an innovative, new running shoe, created by adidas. The date of February 11 has been selected by adidas to unveil their highly touted running shoe, the Ultra BOOST. A running shoe so technically-advanced, that brings unprecedented comfort and energy to runners. The full-length BOOST midsole is comprised of 3,000 energy capsules – 20 percent more than any shoe to date. The carefully engineered Primeknit upper provides a precision fit and maximum breathability, while the midsole technology returns energy with each step. The Ultra BOOST was recently announced in New York in response to the world’s athletes calling for more Energy. Eric Liedtke, adidas executive board member stated, “adidas has raised the industry standard with BOOST and will continue blazing a path in Energy Running for those who dare to follow.”
A Stretch Web outsole with a perforated, elastic design puts runners closer to the BOOST cushioning, allowing them to maximize the energy-return benefits. A new heel construction comfortably cradles the foot and adjusts to the Achilles tendon’s natural movement. For a customized fit and feel, a new, featherweight sock liner adapts to runners’ individual foot forms. Ultra BOOST also boasts a new dual-density TORSION® SYSTEM, embedded into the shoe’s base. This allows for more independent movements between the heel and forefoot, giving runners superior stability and a smooth, controlled run.
To confirm Ultra BOOST can deliver ultimate comfort and energy return mile after mule, adidas put the shoe through the ARAMIS testing system most commonly used by institutions including NASA, Boeing and Audi. Ben Herath, vice president of design for adidas Running commented, “While we’ve taken innovation to the next level, the sleek silhouette of Ultra BOOST is built to look as good as it performs.” Could be a difference maker!
Boys hoop team
tops Lynn Tech
The Chelsea High boys basketball team managed to get in one game this past week in between Mother Nature’s fury, defeating Lynn Tech 56-50 Friday.
After a 9-9 deadlock through the first quarter, the Red Devils grabbed a 24-20 lead at the half which they soon expanded to a 15 point advantage after the intermission. With the Chelsea lead still in the mid-double digits by the mid-point of the final frame, CHS head coach turned to his back-up players to close out the contest.
Angel Alvarez led the CHS offensive effort with 19 points, including a trio of three-pointers. Captain Eric Flores reached double figures with 13 points. Moises Casado and Dom Hightower both chipped in seven points each, followed by Eric Fernandez with four, Albie Alicea with three, Chris Torres with two, and Guillermo Zelata with a free throw.
Seigal and his Red Devils, who now stand at 6-6 on the season and need four more wins in their final eight games to qualify for the state tourney, have a busy week ahead as they wrap up the 2015 campaign. They were set to host Arlington Catholic last night (Wednesday) and entertain North Shore Tech tomorrow at 5:30. They trek to Arlington Catholic Monday for a make-up game and make the short trip to Revere next Wednesday night.
CHS track teams
do well at GBL Meet
The Chelsea High boys and girls indoor track teams competed in the GBL championship at the Reggie Lewis center Saturday and turned in a number of fine individual and relay performances.
Topping the list of medalists for the Chelsea squads was the 4 x 400 relay quartet of Mariama Kamara, Martine Simon, Owliyo Muhammad, and Katherine Cabral, who outran the field to take first place in a time of 4:29.37, which also was a season’s best for the Lady Red Devil foursome. Impressively, their victory in the 4 x 400 came just 20 minutes after they had attained a second place ribbon in the 4 x 200 with a clocking of 1:52.12, which was another’s season’s best.
The 18 points scored by the relayers paced the Chelsea girls to an overall team finish of third place behind Malden and Somerville. Wendy Becerra led the list of individual point-scorers for Chelsea with 12 points. Wendy finished second in the two mile run with a PR of 14:45.75 and then came back to take fourth in the mile with a time of 6:32.39.
“It was a great day for Wendy, who showed a ton of mental and physical toughness by completing the most difficult double possible on the track,” said CHS head coach Mark Martineau.
Other pointer-scorers for the Lady Red Devils were: Katherine Cabral, who finished second in the 300 with a personal record (PR) time of 43.20; Mariama Kamara, who grabbed second in the 55 meter dash with a PR sprint of 7.55; Owliyo Muhammad, who took fourth in the 600 dash with a PR of 1:49.86; Jasmin Castillion, who nabbed fifth in the shot-put with a toss of 26’-9.25”; and the 4 x 800 relay team of Hassatu Dialo, Eva Hernandez, Emely Burgos, and Tiana Jursic, who brought home fourth-place ribbons.
“This was a great finish for the girls who moved up from their fourth place dual-meet standing,” said Martineau of his Lady Red Devils, who finished third among the six teams at the meet. “There were many great performances all around. As a team we have a lot to look forward to this coming spring and beyond. The girls are not losing a single point scorer this season due to graduation.”
The indoor season continues for Kamara (55 dash), Cabral (300), and both the 4 x 200 and 4 x 400 relay teams, who will compete at the state division meet February 12.
“This is a great opportunity for these girls who have worked hard all season to make some noise on the state level,” noted Martineau.
On the boys’ side, Cris Sanyet was a double-medalist, finishing third in the 300 with a PR of 37.67 and also taking fifth spot in the long jump with a leap of 17’-5”. Jeffrey Estrada likewise scored points for the Chelsea cause in two events with a third in the 600 in 1:30.33 and a sixth in the 55 meter hurdles in 8.98. Brian Horn finished sixth in the 1000 with a personal best time of 3:02.36
The CHS 4 x 800 foursome of Sam Hernandez, Ronald Castro, Horn, and Cris Lemus achieved the top finish for Chelsea with a relay that was good for second place.
Sanyet will be competing in the state division championship February 12.
“The boys’ team had a good first season,” said Martineau. “We have many talented athletes and hope to add more as we build the program.”
Both teams will have their end-of-season banquet March 6 at the Residence Inn.