darkside
An artist's interpretation of our interview with Henry.

ESPN's TrueHoop is as routinely awesome as a Tim Duncan bankshot or a Phoenix Suns fast break. TrueHoop's founder and man of fortune is Henry Abbott. Fair-minded and well-spoken, Henry provides a continuing commentary not about the game of basketball, but about the essence of basketball: Its players, events, and culture. Yesterday, he was kind enough to answer a series of questions that were designed to delve into his heretofore untapped dark side. Unfortunately, the interview didn't lead to Henry choking people with his mind or executing order 66. But we did learn -- among other things -- that he loves t-shirt cannons, watches HBO serial dramas, knows what solipsism means and can use it in a sentence, and thinks that Larry Bird is...not pretty. Read on to find out more about the things Henry doesn't like about basketball, and a few things he does.

Basketbawful: You love hoops. That much is obvious. But there must be something you hate about basketball. A pet peeve. An annoyance. A perturbation, if you will. What is it?

Henry Abbott: Oh, I sound like an old man with this I'm sure, but I get so tired of going to an NBA game, and being directed by the Game-Ops people to be UP AND INTO IT at every stupid moment there's a dead ball. I think events need to have a certain pace -- exciting times, and more restful times. Times you stand up, and times you sit down. Times you talk to your friend, and times you scream your guts out. I'd rather have the wild and exciting parts coincide with the most exciting parts of the basketball game -- not the timeouts.

Basketbawful: Red Auerbach is resting peacefully in his grave now that you've said that. I hate the manufactured excitement, too. Do you participate or tune out?

Henry Abbott: Usually I'm in the media section, where you pretty much are required to look glum. It's the code. If I'm with friends, though, I'll try to make the best of it.

I should make a side note: I love the t-shirt cannon. Don't want the t-shirt. Don't care about the hoopla. I just think the t-shirt, tumbling high as hell through the air, is beautiful, in the sense that that kid in American Beauty loved his video of a plastic shopping bag swirling around in the wind. Somebody needs to make a scene in a movie where time stops as we watch that little bundle of t-shirt make its way through stadium space. It's amazing, somehow.

I'm also kind of partial to the parachute drop.

But I will not abide people telling me to stand up during the timeout, when we were all seated during the game. If the game requires it, I'm up.

Basketbawful: What annoys you most about basketball players? This can be a generalization, or something specific regarding a particular player or group of players.

Henry Abbott: A fair percentage of all celebrities are so self-centered it hurts. Many are not, but some are. I learned the fantastic word "solipsism" in a Korean Civilization class in college, it was describing the former Korean dictator Kim Il Sung, but you could also use it on some NBA superstars.

Word-tastic Trivia: Solipsism is the theory that the self can be aware of nothing but its own experiences and states. It's the educated man's way to say that people are, by nature, selfish bastards.

Basketbawful: Same question, but replace "players" with "coaches."

Henry Abbott: Some coaches feel emboldened to scream at people and demean them. I accept that happens sometimes, but I think it's good if we agree that is not the best part of sports, and is worth avoiding.

Basketbawful: On the flipside, how can certain coaches deal with players who won't listen? Particularly players who you know are going to play? (Like when Chris Ford tried to put the clamps on Allen Iverson.)

Henry Abbott: That's the deal, right? They won't listen. I'll tell you that right now, before you take your coaching job. None of them will, unless you have something special to tell them. They don't have to. You make x and have a non-guaranteed contract. They make 10x and have guaranteed contracts. Ergo, you can lead them only as far as you can entice them. They are mice. Your coaching plans better smell like cheese.

Honestly, though, I was thinking more of, say, Gregg Popovich ripping some foreign reporter a new one.

Basketbawful: Random question: Favorite superhero?

Henry Abbott: Terry Porter. Don't even tell me he's not a superhero.

Basketbawful: I wouldn't dream of it. I loved Terry on those late 80s / early 90s Blazers teams. But what was up with that scar on his arm?

Henry Abbott: I asked him about that! I always assumed he was in some fearsome Wisconsin street gang. (That was always faulty logic.) The truth, he says, is that he was "a Curious George" one time when his mother was cooking, and a huge pot of boiling water dumped on his arm. Terrifying moment of his life -- and he says he's still a little wary approaching hot things on stoves.

Basketbawful: Okay, what annoys you about team owners / general managers / etc.

Henry Abbott: Owners are typically billionaires living out their dreams. Many are great, obviously. But that unrestrained, bigger than life feeling can lead to the same kinds of harassment, DUI, and sexual weirdness stories that dog superstar athletes. Thrown in some obscure transactions starring taxpayer dollars, and I'm sure there's plenty of reason for concern.
Basketbawful: What kinds of things do basketball fans do or say that gets you riled up?

Henry Abbott: Drunk idiots yelling, in any environment, can be annoying. It doesn't bother me much, but I imagine it will start to as my kids get older and I start taking them to games.

Basketbawful: What about fans in non-game situations? Particularly the increasing scads of bloggers and commenters. They / we can be pretty reactionary at times.

Henry Abbott: Oh, yeah, but what did you expect? I have low expectations for the level of discourse, and have pleasant surprises day in and day out.

Basketbawful: I know you're a Portland Trailblazers fan. What's been your worst, or most painful moment (or moments) following the Blazers?

Henry Abbott: Probably that moment when Shaquille O'Neal threw down that monster alley-oop, all but assuring Portland would not make the 2000 Finals. That collapse was dreadful to watch. That team didn't deserve it, but I had defended Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire and the like in stupid sports discussions for years. Then they just lost their minds. And if they had held on to their massive fourth-quarter lead, they would have won a title. A title!

Basketbawful: Hey now, hey now! Don't go disrespecting my Pacers. They may have lost to L.A. in the Finals that year, but they matched up better against the Blazers (if only because Rik Smits' corpse was trying, and failing, to defend Shaq) and in fact swept the season series against them. I don't think the Blazers winning the title was a foregone conclusion.

Henry Abbott: Must you take that from me, too?

Basketbawful: Right. Sorry. Uh, moving on then...what has been your overall worst moment as a basketball aficionado, period?

Henry Abbott: Times 1-100 that I have been stood up by some big shot who promised to meet or call at a certain time. A lot of people in the NBA work on their own schedule, and if they're famous, that's something you just have to kind of roll with.

Basketbawful: Random question: Favorite movie?

Henry Abbott: Does The Wire count as a movie? I was raised on stuff like The Life of Brian, Apocalypse Now, The Fugitive, and The Empire Strike Back. I have seen a million better movies since those days, but nothing has nestled so deeply in my soul.

Basketbawful: No, The Wire doesn't count. It's great drama, though. Speaking of drama, have you ever felt the glorious power of hatred toward a particular player or team? Even if that hatred didn't last. Like maybe an old Trailblazer rival?

Henry Abbott: No, honestly, the Blazers are the best entertainment I know of, but they're still only entertainment. In a world with wars and shootings, I can't bother to hate someone for how they play basketball.

Basketbawful: Okay, okay. Maybe you've never hated anybody. But has there ever been a team or player that just got under your skin, and that, on some level, you enjoyed seeing them be defeated (fairly, in a good game)?

Henry Abbott: I grew up in Portland! So the only real answer is the Lakers. But I don't really dislike any of the Laker players, and at this point they're not so terrible to me.

Basketbawful: That was a beautiful answer. Down with the Lakers! Uh, anyway. On the subject of Trailblazer rivals...everybody knows how Michael Jordan tormented Portland in the '92 Finals. But Larry Bird tormented Portland throughout his entire career. He averaged over 30 PPG a game against them. There was one four-year stretch (1984 through 1988) that he averaged over 40 PPG against them. He had two games against them in which he had over 40 points and a triple double (47 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists on February 14, 1986; and 49 points -- the record for most points scored while recording a triple double -- 14 rebounds, and 12 assists on March 15, 1992). He beat the Blazers with buzzer beaters in '85 and '86 (in the '86 game, he hit buzzer-beaters in both regulation to tie it and overtime to win it). He also had the famous buzzer-beater in '92 that you see in almost every Bird highlight reel. Were you aware of this? Do you have any idea why Bird hated the Blazers so much? Did rampaging Trailblazers attack his hometown when he was growing up or something?

Henry Abbott: In basketball terms, consistently playing your best against a certain opponent is not hatred. That's respect. That means he circled those games on his calendar.

Basketbawful: Back in middle school, I could not beat the first Mega Man game on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. I got so mad that I put the game away and swore I'd never play it again. Of course, I played it again later that same day. Have you ever felt that way about basketball? Like you didn't want to watch it anymore? Or maybe you didn't want to watch a particular team or player anymore?

Henry Abbott: Honestly, no. There are moments I'm dissatisfied with this or that thing about basketball. But I know not how to quit it. Never occurred to me.

Basketbawful: Who, in your opinion, is the worst player in the NBA today? In your lifetime? In NBA history?

Henry Abbott: Honestly, I don't even know how you judge that. Presumably it's some lumbering center -- seven-footers have the fast-track to NBA contracts -- who almost never saw the court.

Basketbawful: I'll translate that answer to "Greg Ostertag," then. How about this. Who was the worst player you remember for a team you actively rooted for? Somebody you prayed wouldn't get any PT, and who made you cringe any time he touched the ball.

Henry Abbott: It made me cringe to watch Patrick Ewing shooting all those jumpers against smaller defenders. But he's not close, obviously, to terrible. If I had a functioning memory I could probably give you a better answer.

Basketbawful: Name the top five ugliest basketball players you've ever seen.

Henry Abbott: Larry Bird. Larry Bird. Larry Bird. Larry Bird. And Larry Bird.

Basketbawful: Ouch. Was that really necessary? Okay, look, I'll admit that Larry was not an attractive man. Yes, his face would melt cheese. But is he really uglier than Gheorghe Muresan? Or Popeye Jones? Jake Tsakalidis? Mengke Bateer? Chris Kaman? Admit it. You're still bitter about how Bird used to scorch the Blazers.

Henry Abbott: I'm not trying to be mean. In fact, I feel bad. Bird never did anything to me. An Eastern team you see twice a year, max, on TV? They barely even touch your season record. If you're a kid who loves the Blazers and the NBA, you hope to see a big show from the Birds of the world. It's not like we saw him in the playoffs. That's when enemies are made. So, to clarify, he really is that ugly. I hate to say it, but that is my belief.

Basketbawful: You know we all love you, Henry. But occasionally someone disagrees with you. Sometimes strongly. What's the worst e-mail / comment / response from a fan you've ever received?

Henry Abbott: Oh, just about every day I get something from some nut job teenager calling me the worst names said teenager can possibly imagine. Teenagers are pretty imaginative these days!

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3 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...
he seems like a bit of a square to me.

Blogger bob said...
Nice entertaining interview there, Basketbawful. Harsh on Larry Bird there.

Oh, and did you spot the clip on ESPN Motion of Bill Simmons "schooling" Paul Pierce at the EA MoCap with his version of Kevin McHale's stepbacl?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
henry abbot might be the most unopinionated, boring person on the planet. take a side henry, who cares if offend your gos at espn. where is your integrity? we all know you hate mark price.

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