Welcome to Part II of our interview with Chris Bowles, Director of Player Programs for the Portland Trail Blazers. To read part I, click here.
In this interview, we discuss HBO's The Wire and ESPN's Black Magic. If you are unfamiliar with either, you can read more about The Wire here and you can read more about Black Magic here. Both are highly recommended.
When we left off, Mr. Bowles was discussing the harsh reality that faces all NBA players: the game is a business and they can be traded at a moment's notice.
Blazersedge: Being traded is just part of the job.
But a pawn utilized correctly can topple kings.
Blazersedge: A pawn can win the game... that's from The Wire, right?
D'Angelo Barksdale teaches Bodie and Wallace the rules of chess in Season 1 of The Wire. All 3 men are so-called "pawns" and all 3 die before the series' conclusion.
Blazersedge: Have you seen The Wire?
Blazersedge: I heard Jarrett Jack watches that show. I went to school in Baltimore.
Blazersedge: What do you think about the way the media is portrayed in season 5? The Blazers players are surrounded by the media everyday. If I was in their position that kind of attention would wear on me and I would be, maybe not paranoid, but I would be second-guessing the media's motivations. Do you or the players talk about that at all? Or do they just focus on the street scenes that the Wire is famous for?
I think because The Wire is reality TV to the nth degree, [it resonates with] young guys that otherwise wouldn't think outside the box, or give a second thought to a beat writer and his responsibility to his paper or periodical.
I think anytime a recreational endeavor such as watching a TV show can increase the sophistication with which you see the media as a tool and as an angle and as a vehicle and a machine, then that's best. It makes for a more thought-out engagement when you do interact with the media. I think that would be the case for the average viewer. Now some guys are just looking at it for purely entertainment value or the shootout scenes...
Blazersedge: ... or Omar jumping out a window...
Blazersedge: That's a guilty pleasure for everyone. Are there any characters that you relate to?
[Ed. Note: Marlo Stanfield is a major West Baltimore drug kingpin who has murdered his way to the top of the game. Thomas Carcetti is the mayor of Baltimore who is equally as ruthless and as ambitious as Marlo in his drive for political power.]
Blazersedge: The hustlers.
Blazersedge: ... Just like Paul Allen. There was almost a mythic quality to Marlo's rise to power in that his "name was his name" and the whole city revered him. I can see NBA players relating to that.
Blazersedge: Dwight Howard is Superman.
Blazersedge: Did you see Black Magic, the documentary on ESPN?
Blazersedge: And for your institution too?
But from 6'3" and under you had guys that could really go, guys from Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, The Bronx, Portland, and basketball has always been a rite of passage in the park. Your ballgame says a lot about you, it's a way to make friends and to bond, ironically before major schools were integrated the most creative and cutting edge and soulful basketball was being played at these historically black colleges and universities.
I often thought back when I was at Fisk in 1991 that had the Fab Five gone to a Howard or a Hampton or a historically black college that gets an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, would they not have been the Fab Five? These guys were blue-chip All-American ball players. Essentially they were pros in high school. That's 1991 before the most modern Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal and Kobe would make the jump from high school to the pros. Even now, you see a kid like Stephen Curry, not recruited, overlooked...
Blazersedge: ... passed by, really, by Duke and Carolina...
Part of that is just growing up in Portland, playing against Damon and Terrell Brandon and the circuit of guards dating back from whenever -- I'm not going to go back to Snapper Jones, because that's a different black and white television, I don't know if there were jump balls after every possession or every made basket or what... Snapper's my man, he's been a mentor to me and I'm just playin' -- but without question, Black Magic was educational. How it spoke to opportunity, it was certainly thought-provoking.
Blazersedge: What did you think of the portrayal of the NBA in Black Magic? There was some airing of dirty laundry nationally for the first time with some of the blackballing that was going on with the St. Louis Hawks. It was pretty ugly.
Blazersedge: But you don't hear about it with the NBA very often.
Blazersedge: It is providing a lot of opportunity for a lot of people.
Blazersedge: People go both ways. Blazers have gone both ways.
Blazersedge: Take us back to the Portland playgrounds for a minute before we wrap this up.
Blazersedge: Jesuit, man, you must have the trophies stacked up?
Blazersedge: I went to Beaverton. Jesuit was always killing us.
[Before that it was] Beaumont Middle School. I played AAU ball from 11 to 14 and under with Matt Dishman and the Urban League. Our backcourt was Damon Stoudamire. Terrell Brandon was on the older squad.
Blazersedge: That team wasn't losing a lot of games.
Blazersedge: Does Portland get the credit it deserves as a basketball town?
Blazersedge: That's a rite of passage shared by players going back hundreds of years.