Our Pick: Gregg Popovich
This past year we’ve seen a different side of Gregg Popovich. While we’re used to him Popping off on stupid questions from sideline reporters or masterfully evading any line of inquiry that even hints at his personal life, the Trump Era seems to have weighed heavily on our beloved Spurs coach. While he’s always been one of the more brainy, complex figures in professional sports, Popovich emerged last year as an unrelenting Trump critic. He occasionally answered questions in a way that seemed at once honest, contemplative and worried, even vulnerable. In the days following Trump’s election, he let loose the kind of emotional, anxious word vomit familiar to anyone spooked by the rise of a president who built his political career demonizing entire groups of people. “I’m sick to my stomach thinking about it,” Popovich told reporters before ending with standard Pop-ian flair: “My final conclusion is – my big fear is – we are Rome.” The following month, when his favorite sideline reporter and sparring partner Craig Sager died after a long battle with leukemia, Popovich looked shaken as he delivered a short remembrance that was so heartfelt it was almost hard to watch. In February he waxed race politics in honor of Black History Month, telling reporters that this “post-racial” stuff is nonsense, calling the country’s treatment of African Americans “our national sin,” and saying white people are born with “a monstrous advantage educationally, economically, culturally and within society.” While he’s always been the sagest Spur, this was the year Popovich has emerged as a critical cultural voice in these weird times. Even Congressman Joaquin Castro recently quipped he’d love to see Pop run for public office someday (once he’s done with basketball, of course). Fingers crossed.