Could the winning chemistry between Bucks Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo & company have something to do with their kinship with another agile quintet (below), a classic jazz combo? Sure looks like they’re digging the groove, and maybe playing on a parallel plane. Bucks photo by Tom Lynn/AP
Courtesy of Jazz Combo o-Jazz-was-not-meant-for-the-dinner-table
(Editor’s note: Culture Currents is finally back in the flow of things. This comes after several months of sitting on the sideline while enduring exasperating technical difficulties from computer updating and repeated fumbling of the ball on the two-yard-line by GoDaddy, the domain provider for www.kevernacular.com. So, enough, and onward with our exploration of our common and uncommon culture!)
Yes, the Milwaukee Bucks have probably the NBA’s MVP and coach of the year, two related assets expertly explored in the recent cover story on Giannis Antetokounmpo in Sports Illustrated. We’ll note also several great administrative moves: bringing in the revelatory center Brook Lopez, versatile backup guard George Hill, energy-spark Pat Connaughton, 3-point sharpshooter Nikola Mirotic, and returning wisened and wise ol’ Irsan Ilyasova to the fold.
But it seems like every healthy player has played better than they ever have, this year. Coincidence? Well, we might need to consider the old-fashioned yet timeless virtues of strong team coordination and chemistry, but perhaps from a fresh angle.
A smart and insightful Milwaukee music journalist and ardent Bucks fan, Joey Grihalva, has come up with a deeply probing analogy to help explain the quasi-mystical vagaries of basketball team chemistry.
His premise is that a great basketball team like the Bucks is surprisingly akin to a great jazz quintet. That great American vernacular music has, of course, long evolved into an art form of individual and group improvisation, rhythmic buoyancy and dynamic interplay. The jazz tune, or form, follows those functions, like a well-designed basketball play working to a T, or sometimes when gifted players just wing it, like birds truly of a feather.
In this nifty essay – originally published on the 88.9 Radio Milwaukee website – you might say Joey Grihalva’s trying to make hoops X’s and O’s swing.
So, Joey – take it! : Jazz piece