I was an impressionable teenager in the 1990s with a love of all things basketball. I lived and breathed hoops, doing whatever I could to be involved with the game that included playing, coaching and officiating. When I got the chance, we headed to the NBL to catch the Giants, Magic or Tigers. I look back and recall a time when Rod Laver Arena would regularly sell-out when the Tigers took on arch-rivals Magic. Hoops would often be on the back-page of the local tabloids, and occasionally even the front! Times were good and basketball was riding a high.
Back in those days, the Internet was only in its infancy with NBA.com and ESPN.com still a while away. 'Dumb' mobile phones were becoming popular, with social media arguably consisting of expensive text messaging. Subscription television services were not introduced to Australia until the mid-90's, and even once they arrived the needs of the Australian basketball community remained unsatisfied. There was no Foxtel and no ESPN; all we had was Network 10. We stayed up late on Friday or Saturday nights to watch the NBA game of the week, often watching the Saturday afternoon replay as well. NBA Action on Saturday mornings was compulsory viewing, not to mention NBA Jam video gaming; and yet it was just not enough.
Like many of my friends at the time; we had a hunger for more. There was still a large gap and we had an appetite that needed fulfilling. What did we do? Basketball cards and hoops magazines.
However, what helped fill the gap most for me personally was One on One basketball magazine. It was a publication that I personally subscribed to in order to get my fix of both the NBA and the local NBL. Each month I would quickly go straight to the centerfold to identify as to whom was featured on the double-sided poster; an NBA and NBL player on either side. I had a massive collection with no space left on my bedroom walls. I got my fix of the NBA and the NBL, it was the best that we could expect at that time.
Some 20 years later, many basketball publications have gone and gone, including my favourite One on One magazine. Slam and Dime magazines were both available but they didn't cover the NBL. Handle magazine came along, did both and did them well until they too folded. I am now a confessed online hoops junkie and watch games online and scrawl the internet for all the latest results and news.
Recently, I stumbled across a great online publication that previewed the 2013/14 NBA season called BUCKETS.
Credit Brad Graham
It was a high-quality e-zine and kept my attention for hours. In fact I have revisited it a few times already, and we are only a couple of weeks into the season! With a little digging and to my amazement, the publication was the work of an Aussie; namely former Handle magazine Editor-in-Chief Brad Graham. Intrigued, I chased down Graham to find out a little more about his work and of course, BUCKETS.
BUCKETS: A deeper look
The latest edition of BUCKETS features LeBron James on the cover as a lead in to the focus piece on his quest for three straight titles; something that is likely to remain the most talked about story all season long. It delves into each NBA conference in great detail, breaking down each team's chances and calling out the strengths and flaws along the way. What stood out for me was how it took a look a really good look in analysing and defining NBA 'greatness' and helping end some of those long-fought arguments with mates as to which team was the greatest.
Credit Brad Graham
Inside BUCKETS there is quite simply, something for everyone. Whether you love or hate the Heat, follow young gun Kyrie Irving, wear a Kevin Durant jersey, or even if you are a closet Bobcats fan, you will find something to fulfil your needs. There is also a section on the latest kicks that all the pros are wearing. And for those that love predicting the award winners, BUCKETS has their own take on who will earn the gongs this season with some well-educated nominations.
Graham's creative background is seen all too clearly with the latest edition of the BUCKETS season guide, a professional and very attractive publication with all the trimmings. It contains detailed, quality content about the NBA season ahead and had me wanting more right from the first read. Not only can you read BUCKETS online for free (yes free!), you can also purchase a hard copy for AUD$20 online, which in my opinion would only aid the NBA experience and ultimately prove to be a fine addition to basketball enthusiasts collections everywhere. In fact, I cannot see how you wouldn't want this on your coffee table to impress your mates when they come over!
Behind the scenes: Brad Graham
Currently based in Sydney, Brad has consulted for Basketball Australia among other assignments. When contacted, he was more than happy to chat hoops and discuss his latest edition of BUCKETS.
Credit Brad Graham
Graham shared that he developed a passion for the game after learning of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls back in 1993, and quickly became involved in the trading card craze. He joined a team, started playing and then was also hooked by Slam magazine, and thus his affiliation with basketball publications began.
Graham went on to explain that BUCKETS actually started back in 2010 following the demise of Handle in 2009.
"I believed there was a gap in the market. 2K games wanted to have a presence in the Australian market and luckily they funded the first print edition of BUCKETS in late 2010. My original plan was to publish two editions a year; a season preview followed by a season in review."
BUCKETS magazine was the culmination of passion by two mates, however Graham's business partner and good friend had a change in personal circumstances that resulted in him stepping away, leaving Brad as the sole operator. For six long months he tried to do it all on his own, yet 18-hour days took its toll, leaving Graham in a state of two extremes, feeling both miserable and yet having a great time! Eventually, it all became too much for one person to produce two editions of a quality product that could rival anything that ESPN produced within the space of one year.
Staying true to his vision, Graham pushed through to eventually publish a second edition of BUCKETS and decided to make it available online for free. However, publishing via this medium meant no monetary reward for his efforts. In addition, Graham was eventually forced to stop managing the website content as it became a heavy burden for a single operator. Spending up to eight hours a day managing a website for no financial gain was not going to put food on the table, so he turned to freelancing as a graphic designer.
Over the last few years, Graham kept pushing to keep his BUCKETS vision alive. He has actively sought partners in order to make it a commercially viable option but as you might have expected, it was tough going. BUCKETS being the creation of two passionate full-time people --a writer/editor and writer/designer-- they had to get people excited for their concept and get partners over the line to make it a reality.
"This season guide which was co-produced by Brian Duff was something we did to see if we could do it - and we did! Essentially it is a gift to the fans and for people to enjoy and consume. The winners are the fans as its free to read online, and can be shared by anyone. The season guide was designed to last the entire season; it is not something you read once and discard."
In talking hoops with Graham over a couple of hours, I quickly learned of his passion for the game, both the NBA and particularly the local NBL product. He spoke of his yearly sojourn to attend the NBA All-Star Game as the only accredited media representative in attendance hailing from Australia. Interestingly enough, his presence at the game enabled the NBA to boast that they had media presence from all five continents of the globe!
Brad on the NBL
As for the NBL, Graham had some strong and interesting views of where things went wrong after the peak in the 1990s, but more importantly, he was willing to put his hand up to offer his expertise to help lift the league back up and get it back on track. His thoughts and ideas could have filled a separate and very lengthy article in its own right, however it was interesting to discover that Graham had pitched a similar BUCKETS concept to the NBL previously.
"I actually pitched an NBL pre-season guide to Basketball Australia a couple of seasons ago. If they had just covered my costs, I was willing to make it happen. It was an opportunity to help the NBL help the fans and give them something to reference and turn to. However the NBL had their own agenda and the concept also overlapped with other deals in place with other providers, so unfortunately it never eventuated."
It's a shame the BUCKETS NBL guide concept has not yet come to fruition, however the BUCKETS 2013/14 NBA season guide version is readily available for everyone's enjoyment right now! I personally highly recommend it as a reference to the exciting NBA season ahead.
"Basketball magazines are what I do and do best. If The Pick and Roll wants to have their own magazine, let me know and we just might be able to make that happen."
If you check BUCKETS out, I'm sure you will agree with Graham - he is really good at creating a visually appealing, yet succinctly worded basketball publication. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BackpackBaller for more basketball talk.
Let us at The Pick and Roll know if we should engage Graham and publish a magazine at some stage in the future! Pitch your ideas, and let's see what we can come up with.