By Matt Giles
On Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, the day he disappeared, Michael Wright didn't deviate from his typical routine. The former University of Arizona basketball star, who spent 13 years overseas as a skilled and well-compensated frontcourt mercenary after being drafted in the second round by the New York Knicks in 2001, worked out that morning at a gym near his six-bedroom home in Closter, N.J. He had made plans to pick up Daisha, his 10-year old daughter, and Felicity, his teenage niece, from the library that afternoon.
Felicity's dad is Mark Holdbrooks, Michael's "uncle." They aren't related by blood, but Holdbrooks had been Michael's mentor for much of his life. The two first met when Michael was a teenager in college, after playing high school basketball with Kevin Garnett, and for the next 17-odd years, Holdbrooks became an advisor and sounding board as Michael transformed from a budding sensation to a veteran. He instructed Michael on various life skills: how to dress; how to balance a budget; how to be self-sufficient. And Holdbrooks wasn't just Michael's closest confidante -- he was also his roommate. The two had shared the house in Closter with Daisha and Felicity for the past decade or so, while Michael was becoming one of the best hoops players making a living outside the U.S.
An exceptional talent whose greatest games came before the rise of social media, Michael's life was always partially obscured. It seemed that no one but Holdbrooks could possibly explain the tragedy of what happened to Michael that November weekend.
The 35-year-old was missing for five days before the NYPD discovered his dead body, reportedly covered in a black garbage bag and wedged in the backseat of his own car parked on a quiet side street in Brooklyn.
"That was the day that all hell broke loose," said Holdbrooks.
Outside of friends and family, Holdbrooks, now 60, had not spoken to anyone about Michael's killing before Sports on Earth conducted an interview with him last June. The NYC Medical Examiner officially ruled Michael's death a homicide, the result of blunt force injuries to his head, but Holdbrooks said he didn't want to know the exact details of how Michael was killed. He just knew that when he went to identify the body in New York, he didn't recognize Michael's face.
"His smile was his entre into anything, but it was puffy and all swollen," Holdbrooks said. "I've never seen a face look that way. I don't think any one person could have physically overpowered him, and it looked like he had been beaten by a number of people."
Holdbrooks claimed that he didn't realize Michael had left their home the afternoon of Nov. 5 until long after he was already gone. "One of these friends of his that I didn't approve of visited," he said, adding that Michael and this person had planned a weekend filled with drinking, drugs and sex. Holdbrooks also said that, because Michael wasn't particularly close to this friend, who'd be joining the outing, Michael downed three shots of gin "to stomach being around him."
By the time Holdbrooks said he returned from taking the family's two dogs for a walk, Michael was gone, leaving his wallet behind. When asked why he waited until Sunday to report Michael missing, Holdbrooks said, "This was Michael's routine. He'd leave on the Thursday, come home early Sunday morning, get a few hours of sleep and then come to church with the family. I didn't want to know what Michael was doing, and he didn't want to tell me. The girls weren't surprised when he was gone -- they knew it was common."
He continued, "But this time it was too much. By Sunday night, Daisha asked me, 'Where is Daddy?' And I couldn't answer her."
At the time of our interview, the police investigation seemed stagnant. An early theory that police sources floated, according to a New York Daily News report published not long after the murder, was that Michael was possibly killed by someone he had met on the gay dating app Grindr. Several other outlets, including USA Today and the Daily Mail, played up this angle prominently as well.
Following that daylong interview in June, Sports on Earth didn't hear from Holdbrooks until early October. The one-year anniversary of the killing was on the horizon, the New York press and national media had mostly forgotten about the story and there was doubt about whether the case would ever be solved.
Then, on Nov 1., Holdbrooks was arrested in New York City for Michael's murder.
Before we try to understand Michael's senseless death, it helps to paint a clearer picture of his life.
Michael grew up on Chicago's West Side living with his mother Rose, a nurse, in a neighborhood that bordered Chicago's Medical District. The blocks separating the two areas were stark. Rose would often tell her son to spend the night at the apartment of Wolf Nelson, his high school coach at Farragut Career Academy. That way, Michael wouldn't walk into any bullets from local gang feuds on his way home.
Nelson invited Michael to try out for Farragut after he spotted the chubby eighth-grader during a summer tournament and realized his strength had yet to catch up with his blossoming frame. He arrived at Farragut at the perfect moment. Kevin Garnett had just moved from South Carolina, and he would spend his lone season there before becoming the first high-schooler drafted to the NBA since Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby in 1975. Paired with Ronnie Fields, the athletic guard whose dunks are still trending YouTube searches, Farragut was tagged as one of the greatest teams in Chicago high school history. As a freshman, Michael started alongside Fields and Garnett, and he soaked in advice from KG, who endearingly bestowed upon him the nickname "Black."
After a strong high school career, Michael resisted repeated overtures from local DePaul and instead chose Arizona, a school far from home.
"Michael was adamant of always knowing what he wanted to do," said Mike Main, his agent.
Some of that determination could come across as standoffish. Michael wasn't shy, but his introverted personality kept many at a distance. When he finally felt close enough to someone, then he blossomed, transforming into a socializing charmer, flashing his warm smile and dimples. He would pick up the tabs on occasion when he was with a group at Applebee's in Tucson, but he avoided getting too close to too many people. "He wasn't trying to keep people out of his life," said Russell Harris, who roomed with Michael for a few years at Arizona, "but he would let you know what he wanted you to know."
"I only knew him in the team setting, but he was a pretty quiet guy," said Jeff Van Gundy, who was the Knicks' coach when the team drafted Michael in '01. "But he wasn't withdrawn. It was a respectful quiet, a 'I have a lot to learn' quiet."
Michael's more intimate personal details, including his sexuality, were not well known. Only his closest friends knew he was gay, but others, even if they didn't hear the rumors, never pried into his personal life. His reserved nature led some Wildcats to believe he was homesick, and whispers spread that he might transfer following his freshman year in 1999. But the Arizona coaching staff had reason to keep Michael on campus for as many seasons as possible: He was arguably the best player on a loaded team, one that included future NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas, as well as Richard Jefferson, Loren Woods and Luke Walton.
"Michael was cash money," said IUPUI coach Jason Gardner, who ran point for those Wildcat squads. "We couldn't have accomplished what we did without Michael. He was our most reliable end-of-game and late shot-clock scorer. If we needed a bucket, I was throwing the ball down to him."
Standing just 6-foot-7, Michael nabbed first-team All-Pac-10 selections as a sophomore and junior, pairing with the 7-footer Woods to form a physically dominant frontcourt. Coupled with his deft touch around the basket and quick feet that helped him drive past defenders, Michael was viewed as a potential first-round NBA draft pick.
Richard Paige was hired as the Wildcats' sports information director before the team's Final Four season in 2001. "On a team that was full of monster personalities, Michael was our driving force," Paige said. "He knew who he was, and what he had to do for us to win, and he went out every night and did it. He was the best player on that squad."
Though no one remembers the exact circumstances, it was either during Michael's freshman or sophomore years at Arizona that he met Holdbrooks, who had first introduced himself to Michael's mother, Rose. According to Michael's friends, Holdbrooks presented himself as a corporate lawyer from an impressive family who owned multiple brownstones in Harlem; to others, Holdbrooks said he was a financial adviser. He offered to mentor Michael, professionally and personally. Michael didn't have much of a male role model in his life, and he chose never to discuss what happened between Rose and his biological father, even with those close to him. Holdbrooks seemed to come out of nowhere, but he looked the part of a mentor: a business man -- always outfitted in a designer suit and imported leather shoes -- from a family highly regarded within NYC's Catholic church community.
As Holdbrooks began his relationship with Michael, though, he likely left out or glossed over a few sordid details about his past. Accused of pilfering about $250,000 in tuition fees and capital improvement funds from St. Charles Borromeo, his local parish in Harlem, Holdbrooks was convicted of two counts of grand larceny in 1995 and sentenced to two-to-six years in prison.
The Manhattan DA hired a forensic accountant to track the money in an attempt to pay back the church; half of the money Holdbrooks swindled came from low-income families in the area who had saved to send their children to the parish school. But according to retired NYPD detective Ed Clifford, who made the arrest, the money vanished. Holdbrooks spent whatever he stole.
Released on parole in the fall of 1998, Holdbrooks soon found a new protégé in Michael and wasted no time showering him with gifts. Shun Pipkins -- a longtime friend of Michael's and one-time roommate -- remembered one delivery to the Tucson apartment they shared: a FedEx package containing $10,000 in cash. "Michael would tell me it was from Uncle Mark," Pipkins said. "We had things that as a teenager we shouldn't have. Extra cash, going shopping, bills paid -- Michael would never receive nothing from nobody else because Mark told him he didn't need anything from anyone."
Living in an upscale gated community with a monthly rent of $1,200, Michael and Pipkins had access to amenities like a swimming pool and tennis courts. "My parents couldn't afford that, and I know Rose wasn't paying it," said Pipkins.
Holdbrooks also showed an increasing interest in Michael's future earnings. Following a late Pac-10 conference game during Michael's junior, and final, season in 2001, Holdbrooks began to yell at Michael, chastising him for not scoring enough and demanding more touches. Said Harris, who witnessed the argument, "I thought it was weird at the time, because we won the game."
Michael's crowning moment came in his final collegiate go-around. He finished second on the team in scoring and made the winning bucket in a game against top-ranked Stanford, muscling between 7-foot twins Jarron and Jason Collins for the shot. Michael ultimately helped lead the Wildcats to the national title game, a 82-72 loss to Duke, which was only the second time a Lute Olson-coached Arizona team had made the championship.
"People never appreciated how good a player he was," said Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner, who was close with Michael at Arizona. "He was a workaholic, and had this toughness and grittiness to his game. There aren't many players like him."
The New York Knicks selected Michael with the 39th pick of the 2001 NBA Draft, but since he was undersized for a big man, the forward anticipated he wouldn't stick in the league. Strangely, he wasn't bitter. He had spent the initial 21 years of his life preparing for professional basketball, in whatever form, and whether he played for the Knicks or overseas, it didn't matter. You don't make it out of one of Chicago's worst neighborhoods without a certain type of focus.
"He didn't get the benefit of the doubt back then," said Van Gundy. "Michael was undersized, but he was hard playing. If he came out of college today, he likely would have landed on some team."
Added Nelson, Michael's high school coach, "People tried to get Michael to stay in Chicago. Please. He didn't want to damn stay in Chicago. He wanted to see something else."
Operating out of Michael's apartment in NYC's Trump Tower and then the house in Closter, which was recently valued at $1.35 million, Holdbrooks plotted the next phase in Michael's professional post-draft career. Sharing the Closter pad, each adult occupying a wing, was how the two divided and conquered. There were some tongue-and-cheek snickers among friends that Holdbrooks' bedroom was larger than Michael's, but to many outsiders, the two had a symbiotic relationship. While Michael decided to play basketball overseas and make money, Uncle Mark handled whatever needed to be dealt with stateside. Midway through his summer league stint with the Knicks in 2001, Michael was already negotiating a contract with Slask, then one of the top teams in the Polish Basketball League.
It became a routine: The season would end, Michael would be one of the most sought-after Americans overseas, and rather than try his luck to latch onto an NBA team during summer league or a preseason camp, he'd sign a six-figure deal to play another year of international ball. This career plan included stints on top-tier squads in France, Turkey, Germany and Israel. According to Tyrone Ellis, Michael's teammate on the Turkish team Besiktas in the mid-2000s, "The guy turned his body into a machine, to make sure he could play for a long time."
During the prime of Michael's career, the NBA began to change. Gone were the behemoths in demand when he left Arizona, and teams were steadily moving toward what we now consider the modern NBA -- relying on perimeter shooting, lineup versatility and small-ball to create mismatches. But, even if an NBA GM were to float an offer, Michael had little desire to sacrifice the lucrative deals and oversized crowds just to be a bench player in the pros. In Michael's eyes, being in Europe was exciting. It was like college again. He played only three dozen or so games a season, lived in gorgeous apartments, drove cars provided by the team and made more money than if he were trying to grind out a career stateside -- a high six-figure salary per season after taxes.
Much of his career was spent in Turkey, playing for five teams during a seven-year span, but it was only when he became naturalized as a Turkish citizen in 2010, adopting the name Ali Karadeniz (which translates to "Ali of the Black Sea"), that his demand skyrocketed. Turkish teams had to have at least two citizens on the court at a time, so adding Michael was like having a Turkish ringer. The dual citizenship was advantageous to his career, which is why Michael did it (rather than any philosophical reason). The forward was one of the highest-paid Americans in any international league.
But Michael's overseas stint wasn't always rosy. Despite how well he played, there were always rumors about his sexuality. According to friends, this didn't bother Michael: Basketball, his job and his passion, was all that mattered. But still, the whispers, and the looks fellow players gave him, could sting at times. In 2006, he was named an All-Star (playing for Besiktas) and the import player of the year in Turkey's Basketball Super League. Following that All-Star game, though, most of his teammates on the international team refused to shower with Michael. He was one of the league's top players, yet people still didn't feel comfortable being naked around him.
"I could see Michael was disappointed, but he didn't want to discuss it with me," said Nyree Harris, one of Michael's closest friends in Turkey. "We ignored the elephant in the room. I told him that I was here for him, if he ever wanted to talk about it, but I'm not sure if he ever wanted to talk to anyone about it."
Beyond dealing with homophobia, there were physical issues as well. As he neared his 30s, Michael's body began to break down. His ankles were in constant pain. Before he was naturalized in Turkey, he tore the ACL in both knees.
He also wasn't just supporting himself anymore. Born in 2005, Daisha spent the initial few years of her life abroad with her father. Her mother was someone Michael knew from back in Chicago. It was a unique arrangement: Daisha would travel with him as he played in Korea, Turkey and France, with nannies helping with childcare on the road. Eventually, though, there was no way she could continue living with Michael during the season, and because Holdbrooks was family (and the mother was not in the picture, according to friends), it only made sense for Daisha to relocate to New Jersey where Holdbrooks was in the midst of raising Felicity, his own daughter, as a single parent.
Holdbrooks had long handled Michael's day-to-day finances, so when he also casually mentioned the possibility of joint accounts, the discussions weren't belabored. Daisha would now be Holdbrooks' full-time responsibility. Michael explained to his friends that Holdbrooks needed autonomy to ensure something simple didn't blossom into a catastrophe.
But Michael wasn't a dummy, either. Friends recall hearing disputes between the two men, Michael asking loudly "Where the f--- is my money?" A day or two later, Holdbrooks would show him a bank statement with a simple explanation: "I moved a few things around to get you more interest."
To those who knew them both, though, these arguments, while intense-sounding, didn't seem completely out of the ordinary.
Around 2014, Holdbrooks told Michael that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. This wasn't Holdbrooks' first brush with the disease -- he had been diagnosed in the mid-2000s but the malignancy went into remission. Now, though, he informed Michael the cancer was back. Out of love and loyalty, Michael knew he needed to be close to home so he could take care of Holdbrooks.
But Holdbrooks insisted that Michael keep playing. The treatments were bound to be expensive, and because Michael was making some of the best money in his career -- up to $4 million in savings to that point -- he felt beholden to going back overseas. Michael would sign with a team only if the money was right, though -- no less than $20,000 a month.
This migration from inking the best contract available to quality of life was the best alternative for easing into the next stage of Michael's life, one he referred to as "sliding into home." This phase would also include an actual new home for him and Daisha. Michael adored his daughter. From the time he spent overseas with her as a toddler, to being around her as much as he could as she grew, it became more difficult for Michael to leave each season.
"He would cry whenever he had to go to the airport," said Mark Barrett, whom Michael befriended in 2007 and became one of his closest friends in the NYC area.
Michael Skyped with Daisha daily, no matter the time difference and how late he had to stay up. He connected best with children, and he and Daisha were always in sync. Friends remember Michael singing, dancing and "acting a fool," with Daisha by his side. He was protective of her, and she was the driving force of Michael's desire to wind down his playing career and spend more time with her.
He hadn't told Holdbrooks yet, but -- according to friends -- Michael didn't want to have the same living arrangement after he retired. Once Holdbrooks beat cancer, Michael thought, it would be time to be in his own house and regain full autonomy of his finances.
Forays in France and Iran in early 2015 flopped, but Michael believed he could keep playing at age 35. All he wanted was to help out as a reserve player and collect some "end of career" money, as well as alleviate the costs of Holdbrooks' cancer treatments.
His stint with a team in Iran lasted a week or so before he returned to New Jersey, where he fell as best he could into the household's daily life with Holdbrooks and the girls. Basketball was far from his mind. He didn't pick up a ball for months, and his agent, Main, hadn't heard from Michael about going back overseas.
He considered a healthcare-oriented job, possibly nursing. He took online classes and planned to enroll in graduate courses at a nearby college. He thought about whether he wanted to leverage his background and become a trainer or physical therapist. Michael even debated opening a basketball camp for local kids, using the proceeds to fund the costs of pursuing his healthcare path. Though he was excited about all of these possibilities, he was also nervous about his post-retirement life.
He met with Father Gregory Chisholm, the family's pastor at St. Charles Borromeo (the same church from which Holdbrooks stole thousands of dollars years ago). Michael was a member of the congregation, and while he didn't often use the pastor as a sounding board, he knew Father Chisholm's advice would be objective. "Michael relied on adulation from a lot of people," said Chisholm, "and circumstances in his life in this last year would have given him reason to believe that this adulation would change. That affected his own sense of self-worth."
Another issue that may have been behind Michael's anxiety: "Michael thought someone was trying to deliberately harm him by drugging him whenever he went out," said Barrett. In July 2015, Michael was found sitting in Lucy Pearl, a white Lexus and his favorite car, at a gas station near Englewood Cliffs after police responded to reports about a possible intoxicated driver who was involved in a car accident on the George Washington Bridge. Arrested and charged with a DWI, Michael fought the charges, telling friends after his bail was posted that he had only had half a drink and couldn't explain what had happened to him.
Another time, Michael came home and collapsed inexplicably in the living room, according to Barrett. He couldn't understand what was happening and continued to believe that someone was slipping a drug into his drinks. Michael didn't even want to go out anymore. Friends urged him to investigate after the George Washington Bridge incident and alert the cops. It's unclear whether he ever did.
When we spoke with Holdbrooks this past summer, he didn't mention Michael's fears about being drugged. He attributed the bridge accident to Michael mistakenly taking the wrong medication.
There are two narratives of what happened to Michael on Nov. 5, 2015. One is from Holdbrooks, the other from the NYPD's 70th Precinct's Homicide Squad and the Bergen County detectives, whose focus on Holdbrooks as a primary suspect in Michael's murder intensified throughout 2016.
Here's what Holdbrooks said: Michael was in the midst of a midlife crisis, and without the structure basketball provided, he began to self-destruct. He was going out too much, drinking too much, meeting strangers he met online (including on Grindr) and disappearing on benders for days.
"Maybe he did it once in a while, but I never observed Michael going out regularly, which is this narrative Mark presented as this rational occurrence," countered Barrett. "Leaving on Thursday and coming back Sunday? That's totally out of left field."
It's clear Michael's closest friends -- a group Holdbrooks expressly instructed for months not to speak with Sports on Earth so he could "control the narrative and offer an accurate depiction of who Michael really was," in Holdbrooks' words -- never bought Holdbrooks' timeline of events.
"It was a rare weekend that I didn't hang out with Michael and his other core friends," said Barrett. "The more I thought about these sexual escapades, which was the first time I had ever heard of them, the more it didn't jive. And when Mark told us this was something Michael did all the time, that sounded even weirder. … I never believed Michael's supposed Grindr addiction. He wasn't a household name, but he was known, and he was such a private person. It scared him. If someone realized he was a professional basketball player, they might try to use him for their own gains."
About two weeks before our visit with Holdbrooks, police searched the Closter property, with much of their energy focused on the basement and the garage. "They sprayed this stuff that turned my walls and white carpet a purple color," Holdbrooks said.
The police also informed Holdbrooks they had a new theory: Michael was murdered in the house, and then later dumped in Brooklyn. It's unclear how the detectives arrived at that conclusion, but because that "purple color" was likely luminol, a chemical used by forensic investigators that, when in contact with blood, glows a blue-ish hue (even if the splatter has been wiped away), it's possible that unexplained residues were found in both locations. "That scared me," Holdbrooks said. "I immediately thought, 'I don't want to live here anymore.'"
The police claim that Holdbrooks, allegedly acting with an accomplice named David "King" Victor, drugged Michael with Gamma Hydroxybutyrate -- more commonly known as GHB, similar to Rohypnol, the "date rape" drug -- on the afternoon of Nov. 5 in the Closter home. Michael's head was then bludgeoned with an ax, which fractured his skull. Not much is known about Victor, other than the 36-year-old's listed address isn't far from where Michael was ultimately found (Victor's attorney was contacted several times for comment, but did not respond by the time we published this piece).
According to Gurbir Grewal, the Bergen County prosecutor, Holdbrooks and Victor loaded Michael into Lucy Pearl, the car Michael used the most. Victor then allegedly drove the body over the George Washington Bridge and an additional 20-plus miles into Brooklyn and left the car in the heart of the borough's Midwood neighborhood. Holdbrooks is believed to have remained in Closter, presumably to wait for Daisha and Felicity to return from school.
One possible theory investigators might explore in terms of a motive for the killing is the location of Michael's money and what happened to the finances Holdbrooks had access to. Had the cash been spent without Michael's knowledge? The scope of any alleged fraud is unknown, but if it did occur, it wouldn't surprise Ed Clifford, the former detective who arrested Holdbrooks roughly two decades ago.
"The detectives told me Holdbrooks was a suspect in the case, and asked if I thought he was capable of murder," Clifford said. "I told them anyone is capable, but I did 40 years with the NYPD. Between living that comfortable lifestyle and having a nice house, if someone comes between that, why not? He loves the good life, he doesn't want to work for it."
When Sports on Earth spoke with Holdbrooks, he resented any insinuations by the investigators that he might know something and wasn't being forthcoming.
"They kept pushing and pushing me if I knew anyone who may of thought of doing such a thing," Holdbrooks said. "How could anyone think I would withhold information? To take someone so important away from us? Please. And that's not protecting him. I wanted to lay everything out."
There are still many questions surrounding the case: How did Holdbrooks know Victor, his alleged accomplice? Who swung the ax into the back of Michael's head? Was Holdbrooks or someone else allegedly drugging Michael, steadily preparing for this attack? And, most crucially, what possibly could have triggered Holdbrooks to allegedly turn against Michael, the closest person in his life?
Holdbrooks has been charged with murder, possession of GHB and desecration of human remains (among other counts), and has had several court hearings since his arrest. The most recent, on Jan. 10, focused on the need for the governor of New Jersey to file what's known as a "governor's warrant," which would complete Holdbrooks' extradition. Until that has been drafted, the man charged with Michael's murder has nothing to do but wait.
After failing to post a $3 million bail, Holdbrooks sits in the Brooklyn Detention Complex, waiting to be extradited to Bergen County, N.J. Daisha and Felicity are living with their godmother in NYC, according to a person close to the family.
A trial hasn't been scheduled yet, and it would likely not start for months. Coupled with the extradition process, the Bergen County DA is planning to convene a grand jury to weigh the evidence and decide whether or not to indict Holdbrooks.
Several of Michael's friends attended the early January hearing, and when Holdbrooks' docket number was called, one held a flier from Michael's memorial service in the air, waving it back and forth until it was confiscated by a court officer.
In mid-October, weeks before he would be arrested for Michael's murder, Holdbrooks texted:
"Did you put out the article you were researching and spoke with me about Michael? If yes, please let me know how to access it…let me know if you'd like to chat again."
Even though he knew that the police had been likely eyeing him as a potential suspect, Holdbrooks wasn't laying low. According to the criminal complaint, Holdbrooks stopped cooperating with the police after the house was searched again in May, and perhaps he likely believed one way to deflect attention was to form and spread a certain narrative: a tragic tale of a former college superstar who made his name in obscurity, lived a troubled life and met a sad end that couldn't be truly explained.
We asked Holdbrooks whether he hoped the investigation would bring closure. "I don't know what the best-case scenario would be," he said. "There have been times when I wish that it would stay somewhat inconclusive."
He continued: "I told the detectives, I am the one who has to sit down and tell all of this to Daisha. I have to give her closure. To do that is difficult, so it is almost better if what happened is hazy. You can at least minimize it in your thinking. Not glamorize it. And then, if it goes to trial, it becomes all of those things. The details will come out."
Sports on Earth will continue to follow this story as the case shifts to the courtroom. Like Michael's own life, the narrative has taken divergent paths. Even after cross-checking details Holdbrooks shared about Michael with his closest friends, there is still so much we don't know about the basketball star and the circumstances surrounding his brutal death. But that doesn't mean we should stop searching for answers.
Matt Giles is a freelance writer who has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vice Sports, the New Yorker, FiveThirtyEight, and several other outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @hudsongiles.