NBA players are no longer satisfied being literally the coolest guys on the planet. They are now increasingly interested in branching out into various strands of media: podcasts, television shows, and yes, even newsletters. This despite the fact that podcasting especially is extremely not cool and yet everyone seems to want to try their hand at it, even dudes who can posterize literally any human being on planet Earth.
But there’s a sweetness to this sort of access. It’s an unlocked door to brawny, garrulous NBA tenderness. Players talking through COVID with grace and honest introspection has been a boon, even when the topics veer from the sacred to the profane, from brilliance to bullshit. So which pods and YouTube playlists and TV shows should you let into your life as the NBA attempts its own Bubble Boy Panopticon in Orlando? Here’s a primer.
11. The JJ Redick Podcast with Tommy Alter
Three-point marksman JJ Redick clearly takes his pod very seriously: He’s a thoughtful analyst who can occasionally coax good stories out of guests. But the edgiest thing about him is his sleeve of tattoos, and his show could use more highs—or lows. In one highlight, JJ extremely seriously asks Australian Joe Ingles, “What’s a hamburger to you guys?”
Winging It was at its best when Kent Bazemore was Vince Carter’s youngish, incredibly earnest opposite number. When the gang solemnly discussed Kent’s impending move to the Portland Trail Blazers, it felt like a beloved member of the supporting cast had been written off the show. As a bonus, this was also the podcast that convinced Steph Curry to explain why he thinks NASA never actually made it to the moon (Curry later claimed he was joking and “silently protesting” that people took him seriously).
The not-quite-dimly-lit conference room with a big stack of books off to the side signifies the depth that Kevin Durant’s ESPN+ show aspires to. The typical hoops war stories are swapped out for branding parables: It’s all about endorsement stratagems and the business of the NBA, like Don Corleone. Jay Williams does yeoman’s work keeping the conversation on the tracks, while Durant fidgets discreetly and offers half-whispered interjections, only to disappear halfway through the series, which has now been canceled. Watching Devin Booker explain how much money his sweatshirt cost him is pretty enjoyable, though.
8. Pull Up with C. J. McCollum and Jordan Schultz
C.J. is a known “cool guy,” and as a podcaster he’s certainly been prolific. Hundreds of episodes to enjoy or skip! C.J. sounds raspy on the verge of a vocal fry, more or less relatable, and essentially feels like some dude you know. Fun diversions include C.J. getting a puppy, and also the beginning of a very slight but very funny beef with Kevin Durant, which Durant also felt compelled to address on The Boardroom.
7. Road Trippin’ with Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, and Ally Clifton
The first episode of the original NBA player podcast, tinny audio and all, dropped in 2017. Honestly, Richard Jefferson is a natural host because his voice sounds like he’s trying to solve an equation in suspenders. He’s undeniably a contemplative sort, that one smart dude you know who’s recording in between sessions of his Neon Genesis Evangelion rewatch. And Channing Frye is a great 1A, a stolid, huge, irreverent Ed McMahon. Jefferson delights in telling Frye that his details are wrong, which is nice. This is more than fine.
6. Inside the Green Room with Danny Green
This is another podcast hosted by a famous NBA player, mostly about NBA stuff! Danny Green seems like a rather calm sort of guy. His podcasting demeanor feels similar to his playing style: efficient, occasionally clutch, slightly anodyne. Still, there are some great moments embedded in the backlog, such as James Worthy regaling us about how “Michael Jordan was like a mosquito,” and how whenever he lost backgammon he vowed to get revenge. Also, you can find a sedate, not very interesting J. R. Smith interview, which in and of itself is very interesting.
5. All the Smoke featuring Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes
Now, these are two absolutely uncouth dudes having themselves a time. Busting chops and just cavorting around in the margins. Before Stephen Jackson was radicalized by the murder of his friend George Floyd by the Minnesota Police, he was merely Cap’n Jack, a gangly, gregarious menace who won a championship in San Antonio, played a pivotal supporting role during the Malice at the Palace, and was a crucial piece of the We Believe Warriors. Matt Barnes, a fellow We Believe vet, was a rangy enforcer who once drove 95 miles to punch Derek Fisher. The guests are largely culled from the active NBA player pool, occasionally punctuated by retired players and just general famous types, like Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dogg, and Shaun King. Barnes is a fun and goofy frontman and Jackson is an affable and twitchy real one. Just don’t dwell too long on the anti-Semitic tropes Jackson recently dropped on Instagram.
Chris Bosh has always marched to the beat of his own steel drums. Case in point: The Last Chip is not a nerdy podcast, but an introspective, melancholy newsletter with pathos. Bosh focuses primarily (thus far) on his run with the Original Big Three in Miami, addressing racism, failure, elation, and finding one’s place in the world. There aren’t many entries yet, but dare I say it, they are penned from the heart, and are messages in a bottle from an era so recent it shouldn’t be thought of as bygone, but most assuredly is. As the guy famously dragged for having the temerity to be upset, Bosh isn’t scared of hacking towards the inflamed, unhealed bits of his soul. Or maybe Chris just knows millennials have a weakness for soul-baring newsletters appearing in their inboxes and has adjusted his game accordingly.
3. Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles
Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson were the Tobi and Bobi of their day: Two guys who played together on multiple teams and developed a lasting bond. They represent a raw and emotionally honest version of male friendship at its most supportive and synergistic. Their podcast, despite being another in the genre of talking-shit-and-trading-war-stories with NBA players past and present, is more or less a delight. This is especially true of the iconic opening inquiry posed to guests: “First question we always ask is...who was the first guy in the NBA to bust your ass?”
It’s a funny question, sure, designed to get the conversation moving, but it also hints at something deeper, and the answers are lovingly egalitarian. The buster of the rookie in question’s ass is just as likely to be a David Robinson or Kevin Garnett type as it is a role-player who played two seasons in the mid-90s. It’s like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hosting a podcast asking Hamlet who the first person in Denmark’s royal court was to bust his ass, all whilst sipping Hennessy. The guests are uniformly candid and of high quality, but maybe my favorite moment was the revelation that Shaq traced the development of his personality to Spuds McKenzie, the famous dog from TV.
2. How Hungry Are You with Serge Ibaka
If you are standing at the dusty crossroads where foodies and NBA enthusiasts awkwardly meet, this is an incredible video series skillfully anchored by the extremely handsome Serge Ibaka, who hails from Congo-Brazzaville. His contribution eschews such topics as what it’s like playing video games in the Disney World Bubble to get to the real nitty gritty: amiably forcing people (generally NBA players, but also celebrities such as Action Bronson, Charlamagne tha God, and Tiffany Hadish) to sample dishes that might be off the beaten palate, all prepared by Serge himself. These dishes include beef penis pizza (Kawhi Leonard), fish eyes (Pascal Siakam), snake (Kevin Durant), and cow heart (the Gasol Brothers). Like all the best YouTube chefs, Serge has an easy way and a gait around the camera, and his joie de vivre shines through via his shimmering, slightly mischievous smile. And then he cooks stuff that no one would ever want to eat with such relentless enthusiasm. It’s a beautiful thing.
LeBron’s contribution to the HBO Universe is a familiar concept: put a bunch of famous people in a room and pray to your God they have the basic chemistry to pull it off. Yeah, it’s been done a hundred times before, but LeBron and co-host Maverick Carter smartly transferred the action from a boardroom to a barbershop, fashioning a cozy venue and a loose, breezy vibe in which to discuss the crooked timber of humanity. Without belaboring the point, or extolling the production values, I can only say that this show is...really quite good. There’s plenty of thoughtful and raucous ontological wrangling that veers towards the exact right questions, culminating in multiple forthright conversations about race, class, being black in America, legacy, responsibility. And laughs. Many genuine chuckles. Also, an incredible moment featuring Draymond Green launching into what I think was supposed to be a positive message about the solidarity that ferociously binds minority communities with “Jews are always looking out for Jews” and a hapless Jon Stewart being all, uh lol what?
Originally Appeared on GQ