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In Memoriam: Jack Ramsay, 1925 – 2014

Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

There will be better and more personal in memoriams for Dr. Jack Ramsay than this one. But as a basketball fan who skimmed along the surface of the game for a long time before finally diving in deeply in the early 2000s, Ramsay was a trusted guide. Anyone who begins to explore something needs beacons, waypoints, people who can serve as a North Star as you begin to navigate what can look like an overwhelming and murky field. Jack Ramsay was just such a  touchstone, particularly at a time when there weren’t nearly so many blogs or nearly so many people versed in advanced analytics out there.

As a commentator, he provided the kind of insight that makes you smarter as a basketball viewer, and that’s a quality that often goes unappreciated or at least unheralded. We learn how to talk about basketball as fans from the people we hear talk about it, and it makes a huge difference when those people are not only right about the sport, but also able to describe it lucidly, illuminating something visceral and primal with the comparatively threadbare tools available in language.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately — how the game of basketball happens regardless of whether we talk about it, or record the statistics, or even watch. For me, it was happening even when it was just me going out to my driveway to shoot horrendous jumpers until the sun went down when I was fifteen. It didn’t have to be something complex or even competitive for me to find solace and resonance in it, and it was a testament to Jack Ramsay’s talents that he could drop a plumb-line down through the noise and intricacies of an NBA game and connect with the beauty and poetry of it in a clear, authentic way.

So thanks, Dr. Jack. You will be missed.

Steve McPherson

Steve McPherson is an editor for Hardwood Paroxysm and his writing has appeared at Grantland, Rolling Stone, The Classical, A Wolf Among Wolves, TrueHoop, Complex, Narratively, Polygon and elsewhere. His Twitter handle is @steventurous.

  • Kristoff Eldridge

    Well and truly said.