Best Seat in the House

In Books by Brock Bourgase

Spike Lee’s “basketball memoir”, Best Seat in the House, provides a unique perspective on the sport and frank commentary. Despite his film background, Lee is tremendously knowledgeable about basketball and how it is intertwined with New York City’s culture.

He has attended hundreds of games, from Game 7 of the 1970 Finals when Willis Reed emerged from the locker room to deflate and defeat the Lakers to Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Finals when the Knicks returned to the Finals for the first time in twenty years, and he describes the city’s euphoric reaction to these moments. Thousands of citizens, young and old, play ball – few succeeded in the Association while most few short – and they (wrongly) indentify themselves with the sport.

Lee comments on the role that psychology played in Michael Jordan’s career. Jordan always had an edge over his opponents, gained by repeatedly owning them on the court while befriending them off of it, and he would not hesitate to take advantage. To him, winning was paramount. Jeff Van Gundy called Jordan a “con-man” (and the Knicks were subsequently lit up [repeatedly]) but Lee admired this tactic, despite what Chicago did to the Knicks over the years.

Lee also discusses how General Managers do not pay enough attention to a free agent’s environment while tripping over each other in order to sign the latest superstar. Salaries are spiralling out of control but nobody asks “why is that guy so good?” or “who made that team so great?” in enough detail. Consequently, players like Larry Brown (1996 Dallas Cowboys) and Troy Glaus (2002 Anaheim Angels) sign huge deals and never duplicate their performance because the players who protected them are no longer around.

Legends were interviewed and said that modern players possess a sense of entitlement. George Gervin claimed that they wouldn’t take anyone’s advice, from college and professional coaches to former players, and few reached their potential. Others, like Bill Bradley, commented that overall skill and team play have disappeared as players become more one-dimensional. Michael Jordan never stopped listening to Dean Smith and Phil Jackson and continued to improve. The Association may have become bigger and better over the past twenty years but the level of play has not followed suit.