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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: basketball

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August 26, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Lakeside basketball and Steve Ballmer, just the latest symptoms of a bigger problem

It’s bad enough that many college athletes are callously manipulated in the money-saturated world of intercollegiate athletics. Society considers young adults old enough to advocate for themselves.

But when high school teens – inexperienced in self-advocacy – are used in the same exploitative manner, something has fundamentally broken in American society’s basic educational promise to its children.

That broken promise was laid bare last week when Seattle Times reporter Mike Baker detailed how area billionaire Steve Ballmer created a foundation to recruit talented minority child basketball players to play for Lakeside School’s basketball team.

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Comments | Topics: basketball, Lakeside, Steve Ballmer

July 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Update: Kenneth Bae pleads for help in prison video

Update 3:01 p.m.:

CNN has obtained exclusive video from Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean organization, showing Kenneth Bae’s first interview from a hard labor camp where he is serving a 15-year sentence for “hostile acts” against the country. In the video, Bae speaks in Korean. CNN translated his comments as follows:

“Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well,” Bae said. “And I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon.”

Kneeling on the ground and wearing a prison uniform, a visibly thinner Bae revealed July 4 is his father’s 70th birthday.

Also, I just learned via Twitter (h/t @randallito) about this change.org petition by Jonathan Bae, who identifies himself as Kenneth Bae’s son. The petition calls on President Barack Obama to send a delegation to North Korea to secure Bae’s release.

Original post:

We can’t seem to get enough of The Worm and his worldly ways. If NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman can use his celebrity to smooth relations with North Korea and secure the release of Lynnwood’s Kenneth Bae during his August trip back to the land of Kim Jung Un— then I say he deserves some serious props for diplomacy.

Of course, Rodman wants more. Have you seen him on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated?

NBA Hall of Fame player Dennis Rodman graces the cover of Sports Illustrated's annual "Where Are They Now" issue. (PHOTO BY CLAY PATRICK MCBRIDE/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED)

NBA Hall of Fame player Dennis Rodman graces the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual “Where Are They Now” issue. (PHOTO BY CLAY PATRICK MCBRIDE/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED)

According to this July 2 preview story by SI correspondent Ben Golliver, the former Chicago Bull says he deserves to be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize after his recent foray into North Korea with a crew from Vice Media. Rodman’s visit was the subject of Vice on HBO’s season finale. (I’ve embedded a fascinating four-minute clip at the end of this post.)

From Golliver’s write-up:

Rodman plans to return to North Korea in August. “I’m just gonna chill, play some basketball and maybe go on vacation with Kim and his family,” Rodman says. “I’ve called on the Supreme Leader to do me a solid by releasing Kenneth Bae.” The Korean-American missionary was recently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges that he tried to topple the North Korean regime. He’d organized tours into the isolated state.

“My mission is to break the ice between hostile countries,” Rodman says. “Why it’s been left to me to smooth things over, I don’t know. Dennis Rodman, of all people. Keeping us safe is really not my job; it’s the black guy’s [Obama's] job. But I’ll tell you this: If I don’t finish in the top three for the next Nobel Peace Prize, something’s seriously wrong.”

It’s great to see Rodman hasn’t forgotten about Kenneth Bae.

By now, many of you know I challenged Rodman to set aside his ego in this May 3 blog post to use his friendship with the North Korean dictator to bring attention to Bae’s plight.

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Comments | Topics: basketball, Dennis Rodman, diplomacy

June 21, 2013 at 6:00 AM

NBA Sonics legend Slick Watts to Seattle: ‘The expansion team is on its way.’

Corrected version

I admit I haven’t paid much attention to the NBA finals this year. But thanks to a USC alumni club dinner in Seattle last spring, I won a bid to have lunch with Slick Watts.

This week, I finally used that El Gaucho gift certificate and treated Slick to a steak meal. It was cool. I had to do a double-take when he gave me an autographed photo of him playing back in the day. At the age of 62 — “38 years from 100!” he says —Watts is thinner now, but his face and signature shaved head look exactly the same.

Pre-lunch photo with my lunch pals. (L-R) Maral Nigolian Kirschenmann, me, Slick Watts and Bill Kossen (INSTAGRAM PHOTO COURTESY MARAL NIGOLIAN KIRSCHENMANN)

Pre-lunch photo with my lunch pals. (L-R) Maral Nigolian Kirschenmann, me, Slick Watts and Bill Kossen (INSTAGRAM PHOTO COURTESY MARAL NIGOLIAN KIRSCHENMANN)

My Seattle Times colleague (and Sonics/Slick Watts superfan) Bill Kossen came with me to the lunch. Watching and listening to the two of them riff about Watts’ old teammates and training regimen made me imagine a very different Seattle. Sure, I watched Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton play in televised NBA games growing up, but I didn’t know much about the Sonics’ earlier years when they were really on top.

Watts has swagger. He also has wit and a common sense about him that intrigues me. I mean, here’s a guy who played for the love of the game (making as little as $15,000 per year; as much as $130,000), went without pay when he was injured, and stayed in Seattle long after his pro basketball days ended to teach P.E. to elementary kids in an inner-city school. Certainly doesn’t fit with the image I have of today’s mega-wealthy NBA stars.

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Comments | Topics: basketball, nba, Seattle

March 15, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Dennis Rodman-Kim Jong Un bromance is a North Korean diversion

It is an odd juxtaposition, the stream of starving North Koreans trying to defect from the militaristic country and former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman piping up to say he had such a good time in North Korea he plans to return this summer and vacation with his new BFF, Kim Jung Un. This is Rodman trying to be au…

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Comments | Topics: basketball, Dennis Rodman, north korea