FreeDarko is the Web's leading destination for the obsessive, overliterate, free-thinking NBA fan. The basketball collective's new print extravaganza, The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, mines all of FreeDarko's obsessions. There are incisive profiles of players, from LeBron James to Leandro Barbosa; unique statistics (the dunk-to-layup ratio among NBA big men); and—perhaps the book's most startling innovation—the Periodic Table of Style. Below, Nathaniel Friedman explains the table's genesis and meaning. Once you've read his introduction, take in a slide-show essay featuring Style Guide depictions of Gilbert Arenas and Rasheed Wallace as well as excerpts from the Arenas and Wallace essays in The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac. (Read more book excerpts here and buy the book from Amazon.)
This is the vast vocabulary of style, and how each player pieces these components together to make the court their own is, in effect, who they are. NBA players have bodies, minds, and histories that factor into everything they do on the court. But the basic building blocks of style, basketball's instantaneous language, is certainly within our reach as students of the game. All is contained in the Periodic Table of Style, and from there, all men will be spoken for.
At this point, the FreeDarko Style Guide can be applied only in retrospect, through a second-by-second breakdown of film. Hopefully, though, someday networks the world over will build computers that map out replays in these terms and maybe even provide scripts to radio broadcasters. It may sound like a return to Morse Code or a government frequency devoted to UFO secrets, but to NBA enthusiasts, "sand dollar ... rocket ... sea gull ... mystery novel ... drain" will be the future of communication.
Click here for a slide-show essay on FreeDarko's Periodic Table of Style.