It's the offseason. Sparks were flying at the onset of free agency. We got a shot of dopamine during the Summer Leagues. Today until the official start of training camps, it's going to be quite dull in the NBA. What should we do with the time we’d otherwise be spending watching games? Here's the most millennial cultural exchange we could think of – a podcast recommendation.
Long-time podcast listeners know the roots of the medium. Before everyone figured out the audio platform, guys like Marc Maron, Adam Carolla, Dave Meltzer, and Bill Simmons pretty much invented the modern podcast – recorded slightly informal conversations on varying topics.
One pillar of the community from its first boom is the Freakonomics podcast – a podcast by NPR hosted by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt. Who would’ve thought a podcast that aimed to view varying topics with an economist’s eye would be one of the most successful shows on any platform?
Their feed covers a wide breadth of topics from the American economy to more sociological topics. They’ve also had several episodes on the NBA with guests like Marc Cuban and Chris Bosh.
25 years into the job and he is still as passionate about it as the day he started. Catch Marc Davis on Steven Levitt's People I (Mostly) Admire podcast to hear from one of the sport's most respected referees about his road to the NBA, fairness and more. https://t.co/I0euUQHGGy pic.twitter.com/jtptV5XTQ6— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) October 26, 2021
This specific edition of the Freakonomics pod we're recommending is from their spin-off show People I (Mostly) Admire hosted by Levitt. The title is disarming not only for the listeners, but also for the guests.
In 2021, Levitt sat down with Marc Davis – one of the NBA’s most highly regarded referees. Davis goes into his journey to becoming an NBA official, the general minutiae of the job, and other socially relevant topics like walkouts and race relations.
Late in the podcast, the pair go into how the referee-player/coach relationship works. Davis gives a profound take that has changed the way I watch games.
“They [players or coaches] don't want fairness. They just wanna win.”
On the surface, it’s a keen observation on the behavior of players and coaches around the league. The NBA is filled with Type-A people, who have been trained to win at all costs. From flopping to targeted statements to the press, players and coaches try to do everything to sway the officiating to their favor.
The referees are aware and they’re totally indifferent to who wins, according to Davis.
This has been sobering to hear as a fan and observer of the game for so long. It’s normal to hate on referees. No one roots for them. They’re the one class in the world where society has decided it’s alright to deride and complain about incessantly.
From a broader perspective, wanting an advantage to win and not seeking fairness is also observable in our lives. It explains how a lot of people are motivated and why certain aspects of our lives are the way they are.
There are loads of NBA-centric podcasts out there that upload episodes numerous times a week. You’ll never run out of options for those.
Getting NBA content from a podcast that focuses on other things is refreshing. You get to view the sport and the league through a different lens. Your interest on other topics might get sparked as well.
Try this episode of the Freakonomics podcast then look for your other interests on their feed. Chances are, they’ve already talked about it.