If you call yourself a fan of basketball and haven’t read Bill Simmons’s The Book of Basketball, stop what you’re doing, order it on your Kindle, and forget about your responsibilities for a week in order to read it.
Actually, not quite. First read and share this article. Then put aside other responsibilities to watch March Madness. And then continue to put aside responsibilities to read the Book of Basketball.
In one of the most memorable parts of the book, Simmons imagines the players from any era he would select in order to compete against a basketball team of alien invaders. Yes, this is ridiculous, but if you love basketball, I promise you will eat up every word from Simmons.
Basketball is a fairly new game, and only recently has it become such a global sport. Thus, the great majority of humanity throughout history has not had the chance to play this glorious game.
Fortunately, however, we have this thing called the communion of saints, and in the event of an alien invasion, some saints could form a team more unstoppable than any all-star NBA lineup or at least pray for us in a special way. Here is my basketball dream team of saints:
Point guard: St. Francis knows how to go through a (literal) trial by fire; he would be perfect when the pressure rises. Francis, who stripped naked when he needed to make a point, would be a perfect John Stockton type who does whatever he needs to do to be successful. Sign him up.
Shooting guard: St. Joseph of Cupertino levitated in front of large audiences! Why was basketball not yet invented during his lifetime? Well, according to the rules I’m making up as I go, it can be! Zach LaVine, you got nothin on Jumpin’ Joe from Cupertino.
Small forward: Thomas Aquinas? The fat friar? Yeah right! I need someone who was athletic. John Paul the Great seems like an excellent fit. I don’t think he ever played basketball, but he was known for skiing and mountain hiking, and I would have complete confidence in him if we ever had to face alien invaders or the Russian national team.
Power forward: St. Moses the Black. The comparison with Moses Malone seems almost too perfect. Bill Simmons’s description of Moses Malone’s rebounding prowess is one of the most entertaining passages of his book:
Moses had one unforgettable trick that transformed his career and hasn’t been duplicated since… Moses Malone attacked people with his ass. That’s what he did. Of the hundreds and hundreds of games I watched while researching this book, nothing startled me as much as the Moses Ass Attack.
St. Moses may not have done as much damage with his backside, but he was tough as nails. He once single-handedly overpowered a group of thieves and then got them to convert and become monks. With the same name and toughness, surely they would have had similar basketball skills.
Center: Whether we need to compete against some intimidating creature like “Bulls” or “Grizzlies” – or some entirely unintimidating thing like “Jazz” – I’m fairly certain St. George would be good to have on my team. I mean, he supposedly slew a dragon. I have no idea if he was tall, though he seems larger than life. He’s my starting center.
Trainer: The Phoenix Suns have the reputation for the best training staff, though I’ll take St. Fiacre, patron saint of hemorrhoid sufferers, as my team doctor over them any day. Fiacre developed herbal remedies and earned a reputation as an incredible healer. The players won’t have to get special treatments in Germany with St. Fiacre.
National anthem singer: Do we even need to ask this question? St. Cecilia was born for this.
Coach: St. Ignatius. He led men in battle and coordinated one of the most rapid expansions of any religious order as they went all over the world in missionary activity. He would be a great coach. Plus, we all know that those schools inspired by Ignatius are really good at basketball. In the words of Ignatius, “Go Zags!”1
– // –
- Ignatius probably didn’t say “Go Zags!” though he wrote thousands of letters, so maybe it’s there somewhere. I just picked Gonzaga to go to the final in my bracket, however, so I’m hoping for a little Jesuit intercession. ↩