The content of postgame interviews and sports chatter is so often meaningless, if not insufferable. And yet there are athletes like Metta World Peace who transcend lame clichés and rote patter, who use language in surprising ways, who can be funny and shocking and insightful and alarmingly sincere — pure poetry. Muhammad Ali offered dazzling displays of lexical wizardry, and Allen Iverson’s infamous “practice” rant shifted the postgame press conference from the banal to the absurd. Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion, by Jeff Parker and longtime Tendency contributor Pasha Malla is a celebration of these rare and exceptional moments. Various poetic forms and line-breaks highlight — or, in the words of Deion Sanders, “deem to set a candor on” — the sophisticated, sublime, and surprising performances of language made by professional athletes. Today — opening day for the NBA — we’re featuring a few basketball-related selections from the book.

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Metta World Peace

Spitting up blood
And coughing up blood,
I’m not going to call it in.
Growing up as a kid,
I remember playing
In Far Rockaway.
There’s only
One way in,
One way out.

Far Rockaway is like the
New Orleans of New York.
I never back down
So I play hard.
My man got hit over the head
With a bottle
At the free-throw line
While he’s shooting
Free throws.
Bats and guns come out.
We got to get out.

It’s not like I brung this
Aggression to the league.
I didn’t invent this.
We grew up wanting
To play with passion.
So when the guys say,
We’re dirty,
We’re just playing hard.
We’re not playing dirty.
We’re just playing.

What am I
Supposed to do?
Skinny up?
The guys can take
Every little clip and,
“This is a dirty box out,
This is a dirty box out.”
That impact is not soft.
It hurts me, too.

I’ve got to get
Some of this TV time.
All these cameras.
Follow me on Twitter.
I need a million followers.
Kobe should tweet for game two
The whole time,
Every possession.
Critique us,
Criticize us,
Chew us out.
I’ll tweet him back.
I’ll direct message him.
Kobe’s a great tweeter.
I don’t follow him.
I don’t follow Kobe
Because all I follow
Is four people.
I follow the Dalai Lama
And I follow a couple
Other people.

Whether it’s a free country or not,
You should be free to act
As you want to do
As long as it’s not violent.
No matter what it is.
I came here in
A Cookie Monster shirt
Because I wanted to,
And I was going
To wear the pants.
But I thought you guys
Were going to judge me.
I was going
To wear the hat, too.
But I thought you guys
Would judge me.
So that’s why I didn’t
Wear the hats and the pants.
But I should’ve wore it.
You should be free
To do and act
how you want to act.

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Rajon Rondo

Guys smile on the floor sometimes—well, I don’t.
I spend most of my life alone.
Everybody else really doesn’t know me.
I might be coming out with an R&B cd,
But what I do best is run the show.

That’s how
It is, man. I got in the show-
Er and something was telling me:
Nobody remembers a loser.

I would make moves in the grocery store.
I’ve done some work before.
I envision people around me,
Whether it’s a garbage can or an old lady walking down the street.
I miss being out there on the court.
Nobody remembers a loser.

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Bill Walton

What a pathetic performance by this sad human being, this is a classic underachiever, this is a disgrace to the game of basketball and to the NBA, this guy has ruined every situation he has been in, he played like a disgrace tonight, he missed the two worst shot attempts in the history of Western Civilization, nobody is going to tell him he has to go back to Iran, his arrogance is an insult to people who think, show some respect, think of Beethoven in the age of the Romantics, the only way this hall of famer is getting into the hall of fame is if he pays the $5.99 admission fee, and the only thing he’s worth is another team’s mistake.

He added muscle and bulk from pushing that steel and treating this game like a buffet line, he couldn’t get himself away from the buffet table, stumbling out there, dazed and confused, this winner of the genetic lottery, that incredible computer generated body he has may be a violation of all the basic rules of human decency, he has just completely changed the fate of Western Civilization here, who knows how many pounds on that big beautiful body of his, this guy is cut from stone, you realize what a classical human being he is, as if Michelangelo was reading and a lightning bolt flashed before him.

So this is what it’s come to, a celebration of basketball, a celebration of life itself: the vision, the creativity, the gentleness of spirit, he has it all, one of the greats—not just of this generation, but of all time—doing things we’ve never seen from anybody, from any planet, it will say on his tombstone, “His left leg belongs in the Smithsonian,” like walking through Yosemite with John Muir, coming down the Grand Canyon with John Wesley Powell, standing at Gettysburg with Abraham Lincoln, we celebrate his brilliance, he is just a beautiful person inside and out, a very likeable person once you get to know him, one of the true marvels, not just of basketball, or in America, but in the history of Western Civilization.