My Favorite SI Stories: Free Darko

Publish date:

As part of an ongoing series, SI asked prominent sports bloggers to give us their 10 all-time favorite SI Stories (to see choices from other bloggers, scroll to the bottom). Here are the responses from Free Darko

• I'm Punchy From Basketball, Baby, and Tired of Being a VillainBy Wilt Chamberlain and Bob Ottum, April 12, 1965

Free Darko's take:Wilt Chamberlain takes over the pen for this remarkably candid account of his life as a professional basketball player. No one is safe from Chamberlain's scorn, not coaches, owners or the media. You know you're in for the realness when Chamberlain speaks in the first paragraph of the "special, savage reason" for writing the article. (Brown Recluse, Esq.)

• The Fillmore-esque Knicks coverOctober 23, 1967

Free Darko's take: Basketball is comfortable with pop culture. It doesn't try and hold back history or hold itself up as timeless. Those great 1970s Knicks teams had a cast of characters that ranged from the superfly Clyde Frazier to hippie Phil Jackson; they encapsulated the motley spirit of the times, and giving them the psychedelic design treatment just feels right. (BS)

• His Time Has ComeBy Roy Blount Jr., March 01, 1976

Free Darko's take: One time I was over at a friend's house and he remembered he had several garbage bags full of vintage SIs sitting in his closet. We spent the next few hours poring over them, marveling at the scope of the coverage and the super-literate features that could've easily run in the New Yorker instead. Of those, Roy Blount, Jr.'s tour of the competitive possum circuit was the absolute best. It's witty, vivid, smart, subtle, engrossing and in a roundabout way, still gets at what really makes sports important to us. (Bethlehem Shoals)

• Could Anybody Beat UNLV?By Curry Kirkpatrick, March 18, 1991

Free Darko's take: I am a sucker for omnipotence and the 1991 Runnin' Rebels -- in addition to being one of the most charismatic basketball teams assembled at any level -- looked pretty much invincible heading into March Madness. So an entire article devoted to breathless confirmation that, indeed, UNLV would destroy any team walking the earth today, and quite possibly any that had ever existed, was like one big "f**k yeah" for me. It also perfectly captured their mystique, that dark, unearthly vibe that made that college season feel sort of like the End of Days. Too bad we had to see them made mortal. (BS)

• Dream OnBy Jack McCallum, December 27, 1993

Free Darko's take: Reading stuff like this today almost sounds like pure fiction. With today's endorsement-conscious, dress-coded, reputation-aware NBA, you never seem to get candid moments like these anymore. Charles Barkley making fun of Michael Jordan's gambling habit, clowning Derrick Coleman and telling Commish Stern that his name isn't Boris? Classic material. Barkley is like the NBA's Don Rickles. What the game's been missing. (Dr. LawyerIndian Chief)

• Kevin Garnett/Darius Miles portraitOctober 30, 2000

Free Darko's take: The Garnett/Miles juxtaposition was supposed to be about high school draftees -- the originator, now a young star, and the totally raw heir apparent to his game (or, more likely, poor man's KG). And you can't downplay the physical similarities. Now, though, it's like a dispatch from a fantasy time that never really happened, when it made sense to put a future Hall of Famer behind some dude most famous for a stupid, top-secret hand gesture. (BS)

• The Rise and Fall of Kirby PuckettBy Frank Deford, March 17, 2003

Free Darko's take: Amazing piece. But seriously, thanks Sports Illustrated for ruining my childhood. To this day, I still don't believe any of the charges against Puck. For all the chubby, short kids with funny names who grew up in Minnesota and believed in real life heroes, this one's for you. (Dr. LIC)

• Three For AllBy Jack McCallum, March 1, 2004

Free Darko's take: KG's season this year was one of the best statistical seasons in NBA history. I know the numbers off of my head: 24.2 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 5.0 apg with 2.2 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. I remember the story on this cover was that they wanted KG for the cover, but Garnett said he would only do it if they included Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell. The last great season in Timberwolves history. (Dr. LIC)

• Many Moves, Many MoodsBy Grant Wahl, November 22, 2004

Free Darko's take:Grant Wahl's historic interview with Rashad McCants -- held just after he was cut from the U.S. Junior National Team and months before he the NCAA championship -- let the world see a different side of the mercurial UNC star. Included are insights into his poetry-writing, interest in psychology and this immortal quote: "The more I wanted to be this junkyard dog, the more I was turned into this laid-back grocery bagger." (Brown Recluse, Esq.)

• The Future Is NowBy Charles Pierce, February 21, 2005

Free Darko's take: It's not like the Legend of LeBron needed to be spelled out, or made anymore explicit. We all got it, well before Nike made a commercial that required simulating the first game of the season weeks in advance. But then Charlie Pierce went and wrote what's perhaps the definite version of the King James narrative, a pitch-perfect piece that captures not only the amazing potential on the court and in the marketplace, or his role as savior for a city, but also the sense that, yeah, this is history in the making. That no matter what happens to James, we may never see another player like him. And all that hype, all that symbolism -- it's not projected onto him. He exudes it every time he takes the court. (BS)