John Wall was never known as a shooter. But on May 12, 2017, in Game 6 of a second-round series game against the Celtics, he drained one hell of a 3, to the delight of Washington’s home crowd. I was lucky enough to be there, and it was a treat to see Wall stand on the scorer’s table, soaking in a rare chance to feel fully and completely adored by a crowd. (We didn’t know that was a high point for the team and the player—it has been tough ever since.)
The next morning, as I finished a run, it looked like every business was closed. That was a bummer, because I always hope to wind up at a coffee shop, order that satisfying post-workout cup, and then sip it on a cool-down stroll. But as I got closer, there was one place near the baseball stadium, in a row of sleek glass-fronted stores, that was open. And although it had a weird name—Philz—it did serve coffee. Sort of. The theme of the place is pour overs, which are a form of coffee that is elitist, time-consuming, expensive and … to my thinking, delicious. I took my first sip of Aromatic Arabic and thought: perfect.
Philz is no secret anymore. It’s basically everywhere in the Bay Area, San Diego, L.A., Chicago, the Facebook campus. Maybe it isn’t even cool anymore, I don’t know. And I don’t care. By last summer’s NBA Finals, I had a new business-travel strategy. I literally only looked at Airbnbs that were near three things: the BART (to defeat stadium traffic), a nice place to run, and a Philz.
It made me happy.
But the Finals schedule is intense, and I didn’t get to Philz more than a few times. Only once did I get to just drink insanely strong coffee and write. That day, in Oakland’s College Avenue Philz, in the shadow of a Safeway, I wrote about billionaire venture capitalist Mark Stevens. He had lost his mind shoving and screaming at Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry had been remarkably poised in clarifying why that was not ok. There were whispers Stevens might be quietly kicked out of the NBA, but instead he was suspended for a year. I just confirmed with the Warriors that Stevens, who is not in this year’s Warriors media guide, remains an investor right now.
Anyway, the point is this: There have been all kinds of TrueHoop posts since we launched this newsletter in February. But only one of them was written in a truly optimal coffee situation.
Earlier this week, when we polled TrueHoop’s coach David Thorpe, COO Judy Goodwin, editor Jessica Abbott, infographic wizard Daniel Levitt, board member Randy Shain, and myself—both Jessica and Judy picked this as their favorite of our first year, which, with some other votes, was enough make it tops overall in our Staff Picks for 2019. “There's an underbelly to the NBA story,” explains Jessica. “A world of rich white men scrutinizing black bodies for profit. It's complicated and uncomfortable—but I think this story calls out the backdrop of ‘owners,’ ‘trades,’ and objectification, and appropriately uses the word ‘race,’ which for some reason people are loathe to do right now.”
So that’s the champ, running on strong coffee. Here are the top ten, which everyone is free to click, read, and enjoy.
A billionaire investor in the Warriors shoves his way into trouble.
The NBA confronts injury science.
When all this began with Donald Trump, it echoed some NBA stories.
This is how the Knicks stay bad.
Reporting around Jeffrey Epstein opens a view into a world of billionaires.
A little crying goes a long way.
Daryl Morey’s tweet, followed by confusion as corporate interests meet democratic ones.
8. (tie) Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Kemba Walker makes the Celtics better.
What does Silicon Valley have to offer sports science?
Lakers exceptionalism on the rocks.
Thank you for a great 2019! Later this week: David Thorpe’s favorite professional players outside the NBA.