September 8, 2018

The Burt Reynolds box set

These are the best / most essential Burt Reynolds films, according the lists of six film and culture critics:

Deliverance (1972)

The Longest Yard (1974)

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Boogie Nights (1997)

Semi-Tough (1977)

Starting Over (1979)

Those first four films received five votes, while Semi-Tough picked up four votes and Starting Over three.

Hustle (1975), Sharky’s Machine (1981) and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) each received two votes, while White Lightning (1973), Silent Movie (1976), Striptease (1996) and The Last Movie Star (2017) were mentioned once.

My picks?

Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit and Starting Over are the true essentials.

Boogie Nights and Reynolds’ performance as Jack Horner — his only Academy Award nomination — are deservedly praised, but it’s not a Burt Reynolds movie. Semi-Tough is another football picture, covering some of the same ground as The Longest Yard.

I would add:

Hustle and Sharky’s Machine

Breaking In (1989)

Hustle is a tough film noir, while Sharky’s Machine proves his directing prowess. He plays a cop falling for a call girl in both. Breaking In (1989) is a hidden gem, where he plays a professional thief with a new protégé.

Here is the complete critics list:

WESLEY MORRIS, The New York Times

1. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

2. Semi-Tough (1977)

3. Starting Over (1979)

4. Sharky’s Machine (1981)

5. Silent Movie (1976)


1. The Longest Yard (1974)

2. Boogie Nights (1997)

3. Starting Over (1979)

4. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

5. Deliverance (1972)


1. Deliverance (1972)

2. Boogie Nights (1997)

3. Semi-Tough (1977)

4. Striptease (1996)

5. The Longest Yard (1974)


Deliverance (1972)

The Longest Yard (1974)

Hustle (1975)

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Semi-Tough (1977)

Sharky’s Machine (1981)

Boogie Nights (1997)


Deliverance (1972)

White Lightning (1973)

The Longest Yard (1974)

Hustle (1975)

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Semi-Tough (1977)

Starting Over (1979)

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)

Boogie Nights (1997)

The Last Movie Star (2017)


Deliverance (1972)

The Longest Yard (1974)

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)

Boogie Nights (1997)

July 2, 2018

Age [19] All-Star team

Forward | LeBron James [Cavaliers] 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 43.8 2-point shooting, 75.4 free throw shooting, 18.3 PER, 5.1 win shares. [2003-04]

Forward | Carmelo Anthony [Nuggets] 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 44.4 2-point shooting, 77.7 free throw shooting, 17.6 PER, 6.1 win shares. [2003-04]

Center | Moses Malone [Stars | ABA] 18.8 points, 14.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 57.2 2-point shooting, 63.6 free throw shooting, 19.6 PER, 10.2 win shares. [1974-75]

Guard | Kyrie Irving [Cavaliers] 18.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 49.1 2-point shooting, 39.9 3-point shooting, 87.2 free throw shooting, 21.4 PER, 4.1 win shares. [2011-12]

Guard | Stephon Marbury [Timberwolves] 15.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 43.4 2-point shooting, 35.4 3-point shooting, 72.7 free throw shooting, 16.1 PER, 3.7 win shares. [1996-97]


Forward | Anthony Davis [Hornets] 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 52.1 2-point shooting, 75.1 free throw shooting, 21.7 PER, 6.1 win shares. [2012-13]

Center | Dwight Howard [Magic] 12.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 52.1 2-point shooting, 67.1 free throw shooting, 17.2 PER, 7.3 win shares. [2004-05]

Forward | Kevin Durant [SuperSonics] 20.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 45.5 2-point shooting, 87.3 free throw shooting, 15.8 PER, 2.3 win shares. [2007-08]

Center | Chris Bosh [Raptors] 11.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 46.1 2-point shooting, 70.1 free throw shooting, 15.1 PER, 6.2 win shares. [2003-04]

Guard | Kobe Bryant [Lakers] 15.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 45.6 2-point shooting, 79.4 free throw shooting, 18.5 PER, 6.3 win shares. [1997-98]

Forward | Jayson Tatum [Celtics] 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 49.2 2-point shooting, 43.4 3-point shooting, 82.6 free throw shooting, 15.3 PER, 7.1 win shares. [2017-18]

Rookies of the Year | LeBron James [2004] Kevin Durant [2008] Kyrie Irving [2012] Andrew Wiggins [2015]

— Kevin Brewer

June 30, 2018

Moving forwards: 2018 player rankings

The NBA free agency season, which begins tonight at midnight, is essentially about the fate of three All-NBA small forwards.

LeBron James, 34 years old in December, (maybe) the greatest player of all time, has opted out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He will enter the fourth act of his career with the Cavaliers or some other team.

Paul George, 28, will sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder or some other team, his third in three seasons.

Kawhi Leonard, who turned 27 on Friday, is not a free agent, but he has requested a trade from the San Antonio Spurs — a dynamic that could affect or be affected by James and George.

The Los Angeles Lakers might be the favorite to acquire each of them — but not all three of them together. If that makes sense. Or maybe they could.

James was the second-best player in the league last season behind James Harden and just head of Anthony Davis. George was somewhere in the top 20, partly because playing with Russell Westbrook stunted his excellence. Leonard (nine games last season) is still recovering from a mysterious quad injury. Presumably.

Which brings us to my annual player rankings — the top 40 players in the league sorted by age — based only on last season, including the playoffs.

A player’s age is his age on Feb. 1, 2018, per Basketball-Reference.

Free agents are highlighted.

Age 19 | 1. Jayson Tatum, Celtics.

Among the 10 best 19-year-olds in history, along with teammate Kyrie Irving.

Age 20 | none

Age 21 | 1. Ben Simmons, 76ers.  2. Donovan Mitchell, Jazz.

Mitchell is the better scorer. Simmons is the better everything else.

Age 22 | 1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves.  2. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets.

Towns was on my All-NBA second team, Jokic on my third. The Nuggets center will be the better player over the next five seasons.

Age 23 | 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks.  2. Clint Capela, Rockets.  3. Joel Embiid, 76ers.

Embiid is the wunderkind, Capela the hard-working role player. I’ll take Capela, who was in the lineup more and better in the playoffs.

Age 24 | 1. Anthony Davis, Pelicans.  2. Otto Porter, Wizards. 
3. Andre Drummond, Pistons.  4. Steven Adams, Thunder. 
5. Bradley Beal, Wizards.  5. Kyle Anderson, Spurs.

Yes, Kyle Anderson.

Age 25 | 1. Victor Oladipo, Pacers.  2. Rudy Gobert, Jazz (56 games).  3. Kyrie Irving, Celtics.  4. Tobias Harris, Clippers.

Gobert is better than Oladipo, but he missed too many games.

Age 26 | 1. Khris Middleton, Bucks.

Kawhi Leonard, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Age 27 | 1. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers.  2. Paul George, Thunder.  3. Jrue Holiday, Pelicans.  4. Kemba Walker, Hornets.  5. Robert Covington, 76ers.  6. Draymond Green, Warriors.  7. Klay Thompson, Warriors.

The Warriors duo had a disinterested regular season. DeMarcus Cousins missed 34 games. John Wall missed 41. Gordon Hayward missed the season.

Age 28 | 1. James Harden, Rockets.  2. Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves (59 games).  3. Demar DeRozan, Raptors.  4. Eric Bledsoe, Bucks.

Isaiah Thomas missed 50 games. Might not return to the rankings.

Age 29 | 1. Russell Westbrook, Thunder.  2. Kevin Durant, Warriors.  3. Stephen Curry, Warriors (51 games).  4. DeAndre Jordan, Clippers.

Westbrook averaged a triple-double again, and it was the best-kept secret in the league. Kevin Love missed 23 games.

Age 30 | 1. Joe Ingles, Jazz.  2. Darren Collison, Pacers.

Mike Conley missed 70 games.

Age 31 | 1. Kyle Lowry, Raptors.  2. Al Horford, Celtics.

Maybe the two most underrated players in the league. Every season. Just indispensable.

Age 32 | 1. Chris Paul, Rockets (58 games).  2. LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs.

Paul Millsap missed half the season.

Age 33 | 1. LeBron James, Cavaliers. 

Age 33 All-Star team | James, Michael Jordan (1996-97), Karl Malone (1996-97), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1980-81) and Jerry West (1971-72)

A complete list of the league’s old players:

Age 34 | 1. Andre Iguodala, Warriors.  2. Devin Harris, Mavericks-Nuggets.  3. Jarrett Jack, Knicks.  4. Channing Frye, Cavaliers-Lakers (53 games).

Age 35 | 1. Tyson Chandler, Suns (46 games).  2. Nene, Rockets (52 games).  3. Tony Parker, Spurs (55 games).  4. Jameer Nelson, Pelicans-Pistons (50 games).  5. Emeka Okafor, Pelicans (26 games).

Age 36 | 1. Zach Randolph, Kings (59 games).  2. Kyle Korver, Cavaliers.  3. Dwyane Wade, Cavaliers-Heat.  4. Jose Calderon, Cavaliers (57 games).  5. Joe Johnson, Jazz-Rockets (55 games). 
6. Tony Allen, Pelicans (22 games).

Age 37 | 1. Pau Gasol, Spurs.  2. David West, Warriors.  3. Jamal Crawford, Timberwolves.  4. Richard Jefferson, Nuggets (20 games).  5. Nick Collison, Thunder (15 games).  6. Udonis Haslem, Heat (14 games).

Age 38 | 1. Damien Wilkins, Pacers (19 games).

Age 39 | 1. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks.

Age 40 | 1. Manu Ginobili, Spurs.  2. Jason Terry, Bucks (51 games).

Age 41 | 1. Vince Carter, Grizzles.

When players hit 34, they can either (1) play out the string with assorted injuries (2) become a cap-friendly, useful role player for the Warriors or Spurs (3) an overpaid, less useful role player for the Cavaliers (4) or the bookend European franchise player opposite No. 3 pick Luka Doncic.

Expect LeBron to bust this current mold.
— Kevin Brewer

May 24, 2018

2018 All-NBA teams

As selected by a media panel of 100, with total points and first-place votes in parentheses:


Forward | LeBron James, Cleveland, 500 (100)

Forward | Kevin Durant, Golden State, 426 (63)

Center | Anthony Davis, New Orleans, 492 (96)

Guard | James Harden, Houston, 500 (100)

Guard | Damian Lillard, Portland, 432 (71)


Forward | Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee, 354 (28)

Forward | LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio, 236 (2)

Center | Joel Embiid, Philadelphia, 294 (11)

Guard | Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City, 322 (24)

Guard | DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, 165 (2)


Forward | Jimmy Butler, Minnesota, 81 (1)

Forward | Paul George, Oklahoma City, 54

Center | Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota, 99

Guard | Stephen Curry, Golden State, 164 (2)

Guard | Victor Oladipo, Indiana, 105

Others receiving votes | Chris Paul, Houston, 54; Rudy Gobert, Utah, 51; Kyrie Irving, Boston, 42; Ben Simmons, Philadelphia, 36; Al Horford, Boston, 32; Nikola Jokic, Denver, 28; Andre Drummond, Detroit, 7; Clint Capela, Houston, 6; Draymond Green, Golden State, 6; Kyle Lowry, Toronto, 3; Steven Adams, Oklahoma City, 2; Donovan Mitchell, Utah, 2; Klay Thompson, Golden State, 2; Trevor Ariza, Houston, 1; DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans, 1; Dwight Howard, Charlotte, 1; Kevin Love, Cleveland, 1; Kristaps Porzingis, New York, 1.

May 21, 2018

Cobra Kai 1.2: Strike First

This episode recap contains spoilers.

Written by | Josh Heald & Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg

Directed by | Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg

Summary | Thirty-four years after beating Johnny Lawrence in the All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships, Daniel LaRusso just keeps crane kicking life in the face. A chain of successful car dealerships. Beautiful wife, two kids, stunning home. But Daniel’s son is a chubby gamer, and his daughter hosts a pool party — full of mean girls and bullies — without permission. Even worse: He discovers Cobra Kai is back. Meanwhile, Johnny begins training Miguel, with interruptions from the city health department and the vice principal at his estranged son’s school. Finally, Daniel confronts Johnny at Cobra Kai in a Western-style staredown.

Flashbacks | Three. When Daniel sees that Cobra Kai signage, it feels like Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang beating him up all over again. Later, when Daniel laments his daughter growing up and further away from him, he remembers teaching her karate as Miyagi taught him: “Always remember our first lesson. This is for self-defense only.” As Miguel punches the dummy at Cobra Kai, he pretends that it’s Kyler.

Karate callbacks | Many. Miguel asks Johnny about his karate trophies: “I won a couple All-Valley tournaments. Didn’t lose a single point my junior year.”

Daniel on bullying: “I know a thing or two about cruel. I was pushed off a cliff on my bike.”

Daniel looks at photos of Miyagi and himself: “Wish you were here to give some of that Miyagi wisdom right now.”

As Miguel washes windows at the dojo, he asks Johnny if there any particular way he wants him to do it, Johnny says: “Nah, I don’t give a shit. Whatever’s easiest.”

The redemption of Johnny Lawrence | Johnny is a new business owner, trying to put his life back together.

Soundtrack | 1. “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?” by Dean Martin

Politically Incorrect with Johnny Lawrence | When Miguel says, “I have asthma,” Johnny throws his inhaler against the wall and says, “Not anymore. “We do not allow weakness in this dojo, so you can leave your asthma and your peanut allergies and all that other made-up bullshit outside.”

Also: “If you’re not aggressive, then you’re being a pussy, and you don’t want to be a pussy. You want to have balls.”

And many more: “Stop yapping like a little girl” and “He’s just an illegal I picked up this morning.”

Cobra Kai philosophy | “Lesson 1: Strike first. Never wait for the enemy to attack. We do not train to be merciful here. Mercy is for the weak. Here, on the street, in competition, a man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy.” — Johnny Lawrence

“Cobra Kai isn’t just about karate. It’s about a way of life. Take that first lesson. Striking first is the initial step toward victory.” — Johnny Lawrence

Best line | “Get your house in order, LaRusso.” — Johnny to Daniel in the final scene

Best moment | The episode-ending staredown between Johnny and Daniel. Two men forever connected, their history Shakespearean.

Coors counter | One, in the dojo. That’s an even six-pack for the series. Daniel drinks an “ice, ice cold” dirty martini.

Cobra Kai business score | 2 / 10. Cobra Kai is open, but with just one student and a visit from the health department

Daniel LaRusso threat level | 3 / 10. Daniel confronts Johnny at Cobra Kai: “Stay away from my daughter’s friends.”

Fight scorecard | No fights.

Analysis | This is the (updated) Daniel LaRusso story. He’s a clean-living family man, but by the end of the episode, it’s clear he can’t let go of his high school rivalry with Johnny. He isn’t all good, Johnny isn’t all bad, and their rivalry is renewed.
— Kevin Brewer