OK, so let’s preface this by saying that there’s plenty of opportunity to talk about how Spurs capitulated and gave up 3 goals in 8+ minutes en route to a dispiriting 3-3 draw at home to West Ham in a London derby. You’ll get your chance.
For now, let’s talk about something a little happier.
On Friday, Tottenham Hotspur released a YouTube video of Spurs’ players doing something a little different in training — playing basketball. But this isn’t your standard American-style game of pick-up basketball. This is England. They do things differently over there.
For starters, this particular game is being played not on a court, but on grass. Which... okay, fine. It’s a bunch of football players presumably letting off steam at the end of a long training session by playing a different sport. They’re all wearing cleats and playing on what appears to be a pool table flat expanse of prime training ground turf, and there’s probably better odds that they’d pick up an injury if they changed into sneakers and played true ball on hardwood. No issues there.
But the other weird thing is that there are... three teams? There are 15 players, wearing either purple, green, or grey training tops. It took me a while to figure out how it works, but apparently only two teams are on the court at once. If your team gives up a basket you swap with the team on the sideline until the next team gives up a basket, and so on. It’s actually an interesting variant of basketball that I’ve never seen before.
As you might imagine, it’s not exactly realistic to expect that professional athletes in one sport are automatically going to be good in another sport. That’s very, VERY much the case here. As avowed basketball fans, the Carty Free masthead can say with candor that the Tottenham Hotspur squad is... not very good at hoops. But athletic ability can carry you some distance even without a whole lot of experience in a given sport, and it sure was fun to evaluate the respective basketball abilities of the players involved in this game.
So without further ado, here are your Tottenham Hotspur player ratings to the theme of their skills at basketball from the above training video.
5 stars: Cameron Carter-Vickers
If there’s a basketball star on this Tottenham (now Bournemouth?) team, it’s CCV. You’d expect him to be — he’s half American, after all, and the son of former NBA player Howard “Hi-C” Carter, so you can imagine he grew up spending a lot of summers in Louisiana with a basketball in his hands hoopin’ with his dad, even if he did go professional in an entirely different sport. But despite being built like a linebacker and having not a lot of height, he’s got some moves, and isn’t afraid to dart right to the hoop. If you get in his way, you’re eating turf.
Harry Kane (Community — 4.5): I still can’t believe that Kane has managed to reinvent himself late in his career as a deep lying quasi-9 creator and is still managing to score like he did when he was younger. Two goals, an assist, and he plonked another off the post. He’s so good.
4.5 stars: Steven Bergwijn
We don’t see a lot of Stevie in this video, but from the little we do see you can tell he’s got good vision and is able to pick out some long passes to his teammates upcourt. Basketball obviously isn’t his primary sport, but he’s played the game before — that much is pretty clear.
Son Heung-Min (Community — 4.5): He’s somehow developed this telepathic understanding with Harry Kane where he knows exactly what to do and what Harry will do, epitomized by his run inside a minute into the match to score. Well taken goal, too. A threat throughout the match until he was subbed off.
Tanguy Ndombele (Community — 4.0): Playing kinda-sorta in the 10 role in a midfield three, Tanguy’s dribbling was silky smooth and his press resistance was a key reason why Spurs got out to such a hot start. It all fell apart when he was subbed off... thinkyface emoji.
4 stars: Gareth Bale
Jeez Gareth, it’s not enough that you’re one of the best players in world football, now you gotta show off in hoops, too? In truth, Gareth doesn’t look especially comfortable playing basketball (it’s his third sport after football and golf), but you know he’s an exceptional athlete and there are certain skills that just transfer over, you know? You can tell he’s not a pure shooter, and he looks like a dork on defense, but his shot form is better than a lot of his teammates. Scorers gonna score and he certainly does.
Pierre Hojbjerg (Community — 3.5): Interesting that he seems to have developed the Dier/Wanyama defensive posture where he sits in front of the back line and drops into it when needed. Pass volume wasn’t as spectacular as in past matches, but he was a solidifying presence in midfield. Less so in the second half, but it’d be harsh to scapegoat his performance. He was good.
Sergio Reguilon (Community — 3.5): Man, it’s fun watching him run. Reguilon has been referred to — in the best possible way — as a golden retriever, just darting up and down the flank with tons of energy and pace. Got burned once or twice in the second half, but overall a solid match.
3.5 stars: Dele
Love that little Lebron-esque double-spin move Dele does to sink the jay and make Jack Clarke look like a chump. OK fine, he traveled, but these are INTERNATIONAL rules. Plus Dele’s got the swagger like nobody else on that court.
Hugo Lloris (Community — 3.0): What do you do with Hugo? Distribution was fine to good, and there wasn’t really anything he could do about any of West Ham’s goals. He even got a hand to Lanzini’s shot. Can you have an above average performance when you concede three goals? Sure seems that way.
Toby Alderweireld (Community — 3.0): When your defense concedes three goals in eight minutes it’s never good, but of the back line players, Toby was the most solid. Sure seems like he has lost a half step of pace, though.
3 stars: Son Heung-Min
He doesn’t score. Heck, he doesn’t even shoot in that video. What he does do well is pass the ball — he’s a natural distributor, and though he’s tall for a point guard, he sure looks like the one guy on the green team you want with the ball at the top of the key. He’s obviously very raw, but I swear there’s untapped natural ability here — get Steve Nash out here for a week and Sonny’s playing for the Brooklyn Nets next season. Bonus points for trapping that ball at the end of the video with his feet like a goddamn King.
Serge Aurier (Community — 2.5): In truth, you can make a cogent argument that Serge should be a touch higher than this — he really was pretty good overall. However, I’m knocking him down a half star for that late foul that led to Lanzini’s free kick. You have to know not to commit silly fouls like that in those situations.
2.5 stars: Paulo Gazzaniga
OK, everyone’s gonna talk about that... well, “shot” is a generous term for it... at 1:43 and nobody’s ever going to confuse Gazinga with a basketball player no matter how tall he is. And yet he has a steal and assist in that video which automatically makes him better with his hands than Joe Hart.
Steven Bergwijn (Community — 3.0): Admittedly he didn’t get a ton of great service, but I expected more from Stevie than what we saw in this match.
Moussa Sissoko (Community — 3.0): Was pretty good in central midfield... until he wasn’t. Should’ve done better with Balbuena’s goal.
Lucas Moura (Community — 2.0): For a while now we’ve been praising Lucas’ transformation into a Mourinho-style defensive winger. He didn’t bring any of that to the table in this match as a substitute, nor did he produce anything going forward.
Gareth Bale (Community — 2.5): Look, it’s his first match, I’m not going to throw him under the bus. Showed glimpses of skill when he rounded a defender to get open in the box, and then somehow punched it wide (while getting shoved). Expectations are a tricky thing.
Jose Mourinho (Community — 2.5): Do I blame Jose for his players giving up a 3 goal lead with 8 minutes to play? Not really. But I do blame him for apparently deciding to cede possession to West Ham for the majority of the second half, which put pressure on the midfield. Play the way they did in the first half and Spurs win this match 8-0.
2 stars: Moussa Sissoko
One of the two “beanie bros” in this video (see below), Sissoko looks pretty lost, but at least he did hit a bunny for Team Purple early on in the video.
Harry Winks (Community — 1.5): No, Winks wasn’t the reason we conceded three goals, and to blame him solely would be grossly unfair. However, the same issues we’ve had with Winks all along were blindingly obvious in this match as well, and Winks’ decision to try and play the ball that led to Lanzini’s goal instead of hoofing it out of bounds was infuriating. This was a team breakdown, but Winks had an oversized contributing factor to that team breakdown.
Davinson Sanchez (Community — 1.5): Oh, Davi. Just a horror-show all around. Looked shaky even before the own goal. He needs to put this behind him because we need him to be good this season, and he was not on Sunday.
1 star: Tanguy Ndombele
The latter half of this video proved to me that it’s clearly impossible to be good at basketball if you are French and wearing a beanie. Stick to football, Tanguy. Still love you.
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad at football as Tanguy Ndombele is at basketball.