User Interview: Naismith

Q&A with noted WhatIfSports user Naismith

While the NBA wallows in the daily drama of fights, hype and controversy, the greatest basketball players of all-time assemble at WhatIfSports.com in a world where the sport itself is king, the commissioner is silent and no one takes time out to produce and promote his rap album (though we would eagerly await the release of Bob Cousy and George Mikan's collaborative effort: Big G on the Mik and The Cous: Kickin' It (Real) Old School).

To reminisce about some of the greats as well as gain insight into the mind of an NBA fan and SimLeague basketball user, we recently contacted Naismith, a hall of fame user with more than 150 total teams created, to discuss building teams, the newest sim engine, crashing the boards, Showtime, Schlitz, Mickey Hatcher and the greatness of Steve Javey.

WIS

Thanks for taking the time out to meet with us.

WIS

Who is Naismith?

Naismith

James Naismith wrote the original rules of basketball. When I first came to the site, I wanted to pay a tribute to him. I'm sure he's spinning in his grave. As for me, I'll be 35 on Thursday (January 13th - Happy Birthday!). I work for a financial company doing business development, am married with no kids (yet) and, growing up in SoCal, I've always been a huge Lakers fan. I started following the team just after they drafted Magic and grew up with the "Showtime" teams of the 1980s. It's ridiculous how I can get when it comes to the team. For example, I got married in May of '99 during the Lakers/Spurs playoff series and actually had the ceremony pushed back about 15 minutes so I could catch the end of Game 4.

WIS

How did you learn about WhatIfSports.com?

Naismith

I had been part of a Lakers news group on usenet for a few years and someone posted a message on there saying that we should check out this place where we could play with all the Laker greats. A few of us tried it out, just using the free feature to build our favorite teams and play against each other. Not everyone stuck with it, but it was fun. Then, I tried the free SimLeagues and about a month later I was hooked and paying for full-season leagues.

WIS

We know about the Lakers, but who are some of your other favorite coaches, players and teams of all-time?

Naismith

I've always enjoyed watching players like Magic. I mean, obviously there will only ever be one Magic, but he played the game with so much hustle and passion. For instance, my favorite baseball player ever is Mickey Hatcher. He wasn't a great player, but he was the only guy I ever saw that would sprint to first base if he got walked. Those are the kind of guys I respect because that's how I hope I'd be if I played the game. In the league today, I like players like Garnett who play hard and bring a lot to the table. As far as coaches go, I shudder to admit it, but I'm a big fan of Bobby Knight. He can be over the top a lot, but guys with that kind of fire and passion are always fun to watch. In the pro ranks, I have a lot of respect for Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Dunleavy.

WIS

You have played baseball, football and basketball SimLeagues. Which do you prefer and why?

Naismith

The basketball sim is what I call home, obviously. I love that my knowledge of past players has increased so much. I've learned a lot about players past and present, both from WIS and from doing WIS related research. By the way, I have played hockey. I beta-ed that sim, so I think I've tried them all.

WIS

Have you tried any of the dynasty games? What are your thoughts on those?

Naismith

Yeah, I've been playing Hoops Dynasty since the first season and I absolutely suck. Every year after another 2-24 season I tell myself that I am not going play another year, but eventually I pony up the $13 and continue on. I think I just like toiling in obscurity at Alvernia College in Reading, Pennsylvania. I think they're going to give me tenure soon.

WIS

Did you play much basketball (or other sports) growing up?

Naismith

I'm sure the guys in The Pit who read this will have a field day, but I was real small in high school. As a freshman, I was probably 5'0" and maybe 98 pounds so I never got into playing basketball until later. By the end of my junior year I had grown about a foot and packed on about 60 pounds, but by that time it was too late for me to join organized sports. Everyone in southern California plays soccer so I did that and I ran track. I played a lot of park basketball in high school, and when I went to college at Washington State I became sort of a gym rat there. I never played organized basketball, but we played all the time and every now and then the WSU team would come out after practice and school us.

WIS

As a fan of basketball, what are your thoughts on the current state of the game?

Naismith

I waiver between total hopelessness that the game is becoming strictly sports entertainment where I expect guys like Stern and the players to come out before every game and call each other out like in wrestling, to seeing guys like Lebron get better everyday and believing that the game can be saved. I feel as though the NBA is on the verge of either returning to its roots and glory or becoming the WWF. I think the next few years are going to be very important for the future of the sport.

WIS

If you had the power to replace David Stern as commissioner, what is the first thing you would try to change?

Naismith

First of all, if I could replace Stern, I definitely would. It's painfully obvious that he's more interested in catering to the casual fan than to people who truly enjoy the sport. I know he dropped some big fines after "The Fight" but at the same time I bet he was jumping for joy because of the amount of publicity it created for the sport. Beyond that, I guess the first thing that I would do is send all of the refs back for more training. The quality of refereeing has gone way down since the tax scandal of a few years back. Even as a Laker fan I see that there is plenty of superstar bias and the players know that and abuse it. So, I'd start there. That and I'd shoot Steve Javey. The guy is horrible.

WIS

SimLeague basketball is not, at this time, as popular as baseball, hockey or the dynasty games. What can you tell users who may be unfamiliar with the game about the merits of SimLeague basketball?

Naismith

These days people are down on basketball. Out of all the major sports, it's probably the least respected as a pure game because of the fight and all of the drama lately. But in the WIS world, the game is uncluttered by referee bias, David Stern, player drama, and Shaq vs. Kobe. It's just the sport, with none of the distractions. I'd say, come here and draft the players from when you loved the sport and have fun with it.

WIS

In the SimLeague basketball, what is your general strategy for building teams?

Naismith

With the new engine, I have been pretty tentative because I have not played around with it enough. At this point, I'm still kind of flying blind. In the last engine, I had a team, Tip In Drill, where I focused on offensive rebounds and scoring. They crashed the boards and dominated to become the only team from that engine release with 70+ wins. And that was the last team like that that I made. Really, I prefer to change my strategy up a lot. I don't just stick with one formula. Also, I like to play theme leagues. Kevin Makice's (kmakice) Hoops GM was a great series of theme leagues that allowed several strategies to come into play.

WIS

What is the most important thing to keep in mind while drafting?

Naismith

It is hard to succeed if the team does not shoot and rebound well. Blocks used to be a big deal too, but are not as crucial now. Balance is not a good strategy either. Teams with five or six decent players usually get smoked by teams with one or two big monsters. I just keep plugging away though and changing up my strategy to see what works. Once something works, I chalk it up, shelve it and move on. I guess that's probably why I have played about 10,000 games and hover around .500.

WIS

Are there any players in specific that you like to put on your teams, or that you feel consistently under or overachieve?

Naismith

I almost always have a Laker great or two. Elgin Baylor is a stud who can score, pass and rebound well for his position. Jamal Wilkes or James Worthy shoot at a high percentage and serve as good role players. Mel Daniels is fun too. I like to go with a few Swiss Army players. Also, it's always fun when you "discover" a lesser known player who then becomes a staple on a lot of teams. I've done that once or twice.

WIS

How do you go about setting your depth chart and allocating minutes?

Naismith

I run about 8 guys deep and make sure that all of my starters can play 35+ minutes. The bench is just for fillers and role players. Sometimes, I'll only go 7 deep with two pretty good bench players. Really, it depends on what I'm trying to do. I've even had teams that ran 10 or 11 deep, although that's pretty tough with the new salary structure.

WIS

Do your game plans for offense and defense differ based on the team you have? What do you normally do with these settings?

Naismith

Game plans are strictly based on the team. I like to mix up my game plans and often look at my opponent's strengths and weaknesses.

WIS

How much emphasis do you put on scouting future opponents and double-teaming?

Naismith

I know some owners who never double-team and are successful. I also know plenty others that double-team all the time and do well. I always double-team the opponent's best scorer. Sometimes I'll get burned and a guy like Larry Bird will drop 50 on me. But, the next time he may score 12. I don't know if it is best, but I think the percentages play out in my favor if I double-team.

WIS

Do you make transactions (call-ups/demotions, trades, waiver wire, etc.) during the season? Why or why not?

Naismith

No. I used to use the waiver wire, but wisely got away from it. Anytime other owners ask about their teams and improvements, I tell them that the waiver wire is a harsh mistress. Every dollar of the salary cap is important, so it is not worth it to take a penalty for switching a player. Rarely have I seen teams that make transactions have success.

WIS

What do you do during the season to try and separate yourself from other teams?

Naismith

I think drafting is by far the most important thing. Honestly, in-season coaching may affect the outcomes of up to 5-10 games. A good owner can turn a 40-win team into 45-win team with coaching skills, but he'll never get from 40 to 60 wins. So, the work has to be done up front to succeed during the season.

WIS

What do you believe is the overall biggest key to success in SimLeague basketball?

Naismith

Spending a lot of money. Drop about $1200 and you'll get there (Thank you Jason). Honestly, if you draft guys that you like, you'll have fun and find success. And, try to stay away from guys who you know do not succeed. Like Dan Issel. That guy is sim poison. His numbers look great, but he never seems to perform. It's too bad, really. Maybe I'll give him another shot on my next team.

WIS

You post in the forums quite frequently. Do you ever seek help in the forums or via sitemail from other users? Have other users contacted you for help via sitemail?

Naismith

I get sitemails from newer users in open leagues who want a more experienced owner to look over their teams. I do the same thing too for other sports. If I play baseball, I'll probably ask some of the users I know from the Pit like Laura, or Kermit, or Tram66 for help or advice. Of course, when I do that, I usually just do the opposite of what they tell me.

WIS

Who are the users you respect and who challenge you the most?

Naismith

e-monk (also monyet) has got to be number one. We've both been around about the same length of time. In every league, he always puts together awesome teams. It's a friendly rivalry, but it's always fun to beat him. Then there are some guys who have been around for a while like qistat, kfunk, davkarball and tylerdurden.

WIS

What is your favorite aspect of SimLeague basketball?

Naismith

Really, it's playing against guys like qistat, davkarball, and e-monk and beating them. I love that. It's the competitive aspect of it. I remember when I won my first championship over cnewt and it was great, because he was the top owner at the time.

WIS

What is your least favorite aspect of SimLeague basketball? If you could change one thing about the game, what would it be?

Naismith

Well, the game is constantly evolving and being on the basketball council allows me to respond immediately if there is anything that comes up. I really don't think there are any drastic changes needed. I guess play-by-play needs some work and maybe a link to bio info on each of the players. Losing is really my least favorite thing. Being a WIS member is hardly like being an athlete, but it is competition, and nobody likes to lose.

WIS

You have been a member longer than any of the users previously interviewed. How has the site changed for the good over the last four years?

Naismith

The site is so much better. I remember when I started in SimLeague basketball; the highest salary was around $12,000,000. Every team had at least two mega-stars. There were also just a couple of good users at that time. Now, there are probably 40-50 top tier users and the game is much more competitive. The addition of the forums has been great too because it gives a sense of community to the site. It's hard to call them my friends because I have never met another WIS user, but I look forward to relating with cool, like-minded people who share a common interest.

WIS

If you were in one of our games, which sport would you play? At which position? And, how much would you be worth?

Naismith

Basketball, definitely. I'd be a scrub player and I'd play for a 12-pack of Schlitz (laughs). Actually, what's the league minimum? I'll take that. I'd be a pass-first forward playing in the post.

User Profile

LoginID:Naismith
Name:Jason
Age:35
Location:Orange County, California
Occupation:Business Development
Favorite Sport(s):Basketball, Football
Favorite Team(s):Lakers, Rams
Favorite Sports Memory: Rams winning the Super Bowl. FINALLY!
Member Since:5/1/2001
Greatest WIS Moment: My first championship win, against CNewt.

Return to Interviews

SimMatchup

Create or re-play any fantasy matchup from sports history. One click yields a free box score and play-by-play.

Try It For Free


Gridiron Dynasty

Coach, recruit and run your own college football program.

Every DIA, DIAA, DII & DIII College Awaits


Hoops Dynasty

Coach, recruit, and run your own college basketball program.

Every DI, DII & DIII College Awaits

What is WhatIfSports?

WhatIfSports.com is a sports simulation and online gaming site providing free content and unique games for the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, NCAA sports and more.

Join WhatIfSports.com today to get these members only benefits:

  • Create your own Dream Team
  • Save your favorite SimMatchup results
  • Play a FREE SimLeague trial season
  • Start playing a Dynasty game
  • Manage baseball games LIVE
  • Access to SiteMail
  • Post in our Forums
  • Build a Buddy list to easily invite friends
  • Use our online Customer Service
  • Earn game credits by using our Referral & Affiliate program

Terms of Use Customer Support Privacy Statement Advertising Choices

Popular on WhatIfSports site: Baseball Simulation | College Basketball Game | College Football Game | Online Baseball Game | Hockey Simulation | NFL Picks | College Football Picks | Sports Games

© 1999-2014 WhatIfSports.com, Inc. All rights reserved. WhatIfSports is a trademark of WhatIfSports.com, Inc. SimLeague, SimMatchup and iSimNow are trademarks or registered trademarks of Electronic Arts, Inc. Used under license. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.