Today, ESPN announced it was shutting down Grantland, the sports and pop culture website launched by Bill Simmons in 2011. In its short but brilliant life, the site employed some of the most talented writers on the internet. Here are 11 of the best pieces Grantland published over the hell of a run they had.
The Valley Plays Itself
By: Molly Lambert
The sports part of Grantland really dominated the “sports and pop culture” formula that the site strived to perfect. But sometimes, such as during Paul Thomas Anderson week, the “pop” side flexed its muscles. That was clearest in Molly Lambert’s feature that doubles as a love letter to the way the director treats San Fernando Valley as a character and travelogue of the real-world locations that were used in movies like Boogie Nights and Magnolia.
A Fighter Abroad
By: Brian Phillips
This story, about a freed slave who traveled to England in 1810 to become a boxer, is just plain cinematic. It’s been years since this was published—someone make this into a movie, already.
Mr. DNA: How Hollywood Tinkers With Evolution to Grow New Spielbergs in a Lab
By: Alex Pappademas
Pappademas was probably Grantland’s secret weapon. This feature appeared under the banner of the Hollywood Prospectus vertical/sub-blog on the site, but it’s more than a blog post. It’s kind of messed up how Hollywood gives white indie directors tentpole films with little experience, right? This story lays out perfectly how and why it keeps happening.
‘The Bragging Rights’ series
These were all great, but I want to point out Katie Baker‘s contributions. She’s a great writer, versatile enough to cover the Olympics, report a true crime story, annotate the New York Times‘ Vows section, and still do a regular mailbag column. Something about her weighing the merits of the cast and crew of Dazed and Confused just works.
The Ballad of the Piggyback Bandit
By: Bryan Curtis
Here, master storyteller Bryan Curtis takes one of the absolute weirdest stories ever—a man with Asperger’s syndrome is going state-to-state to bond with high school athletes and then jump on their backs unexpectedly—and turns it into a genuine story of empathy and, like, what America is supposed to be. Exceptional.
It’s Time to Stop Being Stupid About Sports Gambling
By: Charlie Pierce
It wasn’t fair when Grantland hired Charlie Pierce. I’m not sure if this is one of the best pieces that the site ever produced, but I know that when I heard about the Daily Fantasy Sports scandal, I knew that Pierce would probably have the best take and I wasn’t disappointed. Grantland had the people who you wanted to hear. That will be missed.
Train in Vain
By: Brian Phillips
Phillips traveled to Brazil for the World Cup and told a story of the fiscal (and human) cost of putting on the biggest sporting event on the planet.
The Front Lines of Ferguson
By: Rembert Browne
Browne, on a whim, took a flight to Ferguson and found himself in the heart of the Michael Brown protests. “At that moment, I didn’t feel like a journalist… I was just a black man in Ferguson,” he wrote.
Let’s Be Real
By: Wesley Morris
In this piece, Morris goes beyond his typical exceptional film review, and into a space of trenchant and resonant social commentary in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death.
The Malice At The Palace
By: Jonathan Abrams
Over a wide-ranging series of interviews, Abrams got the full, riveting story of one of the scarier moments in NBA history.
By: Rany Jazayerli
No one combines a sharp analytical perspective with a passion for the game quite like Rany. This is one of his best.
RIP Grantland. We’ll miss ya.
Disclosure: ESPN is owned by the Walt Disney Company, a part owner of Fusion