Were you affected by parallax in 2013? This is not a disease, Dr. Seuss character or a new Olympic sport. It's a web design technique that turns stories into a kaleidoscope experience. As you scroll down to read the piece, pictures may move, videos can materialize and a graphic might start to crawl across your screen. Nowhere has this multimedia-palooza been used more effectively than in the digital storytelling world of sports. Some users adore it; some publishers covet it; and a Pulitzer Prize committee rewarded it in April with The New York Times narrative about the death of skiers in "Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek."
True, some readers of the parallax craze have reportedly felt motion sickness from the waves of moving parts while scrolling. But that's what Dramamine is for. There were dozens of wonderful long reads this year with parallax and without -- and please, if you loved something, say something -- but here are our picks for the 13 best of 2013.
Michael Jordan Has Not Left The Building
By Wright Thompson of ESPN The Magazine
More than 20 years after Sam Smith wrote the book on Michael Jordan (Jordan Rules) that defined his playing days and his persona, Thompson delivers a lasting image of MJ at age 50 in all of his ferocity, denial and complicated nuance.
Once, the whole world watched him compete and win -- Game 6, the Delta Center -- and now it's a small group of friends in a hotel room playing a silly kid's game. The desire remains the same, but the venues, and the stakes, keep shrinking. For years he was beloved for his urges when they manifested on the basketball court, and now he's ridiculed when they show up in a speech.
By Michael J. Mooney of SB Nation
This is not just a story about beer pong - although who doesn't like the challenge of a red Solo cup target? Here, Mooney details the disillusioning coming-of-age tale of Jim and Tim, two 20-somethings lost in the suburban sprawl of Allen, Texas who are trying to decode life one ping pong ball at a time.
Just last year, Allen finished a high school football stadium that cost more than $60 million. (And the team rewarded the taxpayers with a state championship.) It's clean. It's safe. It's where families move when they want good schools. And, of course, to someone under the age of 30, that means it's also boring. It's where they start to become their parents, which they try to put off for as long as possible. Young people need an outlet.
A Death in Valdosta
By Jordan Conn of Grantland
Conn investigates the confounding death of Kendrick Johnson, a 17-year-old multisport star whose body was found rolled up in the cheerleading mats at his high school gym. His family didn't buy the accident theory. You might not, either.
The orange backhoe plunges into the dirt. Scoop after scoop, the hole deepens and the mound of displaced soil grows. … They didn't come to bury Kendrick. They came to dig him up.
By Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated
In detailing the mysterious death of former NBA player Bison Dele -- also known as Brian Williams -- Ballard travels to Tahiti, where Williams boarded a catamaran, set sail, and was never seen again. What Ballard finds is FBI intrigue, conflicting tales of murder and accounts of betrayal surrounding the NBA player who walked away from millions to find inner peace.
In early 2000 Brian fulfilled a life-long dream and learned to sail. He bought a catamaran for $650,000 and named it Hukuna Matata, a misspelling of the Swahili phrase for "no worries."
The Last Shot
By Michael Graff of SB Nation
Graff delves into the suicide of Earl Badu, the former Maryland walk-on who was arguably the most beloved player of the Terps 2002 title team. He scored four career points. But what loud, joyous points they were. He was going to be something. Graff explains the rest.
Ten years, six month, and 24 days later, Earl Badu took a kitchen knife into the upstairs bathroom at his parents' house, turned on the water to make it sound like he was showering, and cut a slash in his throat.
Then he reconsidered. He called downstairs. "Mom! Mom!"
The Gangster in the Huddle
By Paul Solotaroff with Ron Borges of Rolling Stone
What led up to Aaron Hernandez being charged with the murder Odin Lloyd? Soloraroff and Borges dig into the drugs, guns and violence that threaded through the life of Hernandez outside and inside the Patriots' huddle.
There was such hunger in that kid for a father's hand, and such greatness itching to get out, that coach after coach had covered for him whenever the bad Aaron showed - the violent, furious kid who was dangerous to all, most particularly, it seems, to his friends.
Can Diamond Dallas Page Save Wrestling's Walking Dead?
By Tom Ley of Deadspin
Who is there for pro wrestlers after their cartoonish life on the canvass stage is over? Ley introduces you to DDP and the Accountability Crib.
That's because Page has turned his home into a secular ministry of sorts, a place where anyone -- fitness-conscious wrestling fans, friends, relatives, even a couple damaged former wrestlers -- can come for guidance and coaching and yoga and rehab. A visitor might see Page himself demonstrating downward dog for 20 yoga students, while another former wrestler, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, picks basil from his garden out back. It's a weird, bustling place.
When 772 Pitches Isn't Enough
By Chris Jones of ESPN The Magazine
Jones discovers the cultural force - and personal drive -- that keeps Japanese teen sensation Tomohiro Anraku pitching and pitching and pitching.
In a country that can seem so modern in so many ways, with its bullet trains and capsule hotels, with its bento boxes that heat up with the pull of a string -- seriously, it's like magic -- there are also 2,000 years of history and nearly as many traditions. One of those traditions is called nagekomi. In America, nagekomi, like throwing 772 pitches in a single tournament, would be considered child abuse. Scientists would debunk it, and surgeons would decry it. But in Japan, nagekomi is important. It's maybe even essential. It is many things all at once, but mostly it is an exercise in remembering, and it is beautiful.
Out of the Darkness
By Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated
Layden explores what happened to a family dynasty the day the son of famed trainer D.Wayne Lukas stood in the path of a charging horse. Jeff Lukas lived on with his brain injuries, kind of.
It has been difficult for everyone. For Lukas's children. For his ex-wife. For his father. Not all in the same way, but for the same reason: They lost a father, a husband, a son. Tabasco Cat ran over Jeff, but in a sense he ran over all of them.
The Shooting Star and the Model
By Mark Seal of Vanity Fair
Many writers descended on the Oscar Pistorius murder case, and allegations that the Blade Runner killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but Seal gains access and insight that reveals different angles and contradictions to the public record.
Just before six that evening, Reeva Steenkamp was recorded driving her Mini Cooper through the massive gates of Silver Woods Country Estate. One month later, I drove through those gates and entered a vast development surrounded by high fences. Thieves had breached security there only twice, I was told. A house was burglarized four years ago, and a robbery in 2011 caused the development to increase its security procedures considerably. At present, equipped with what the Silver Woods Web site calls "a solid, electrified, security wall," the community seemed so safe that on the evening of the shooting Pistorius was sleeping with his balcony doors open.
Failure Is Not An Option
By Mimi Swartz of Texas Monthly
Decorated University of Texas track coach, Bev Kearney - the maker of Olympians -- was forced to resign after having an affair with a student-athlete ten years earlier. But as Swartz describes, there is much more to a story that falls against the moneyed backdrop of big-time athletics, racial politics and a woman's sheer will (or arrogance?) to fight back.
Kearney watched me study the books still crammed into a broad, high set of shelves. They were mostly volumes about religion, from Christianity to Buddhism, but she is also a big reader of biographies-Gandhi, Malcolm X, Nancy Reagan, and so on. "Did you know Gandhi never told a lie?" Kearney asked. Then, before waiting for my reply, she repeated, "Never." She sat back, then continued. "His weakness was sex, and that's why he went celibate." She fixed me with a hard stare.
Inside Major League Baseball's Dominican Sweatshop System
By Ian Gordan of Mother Jones
After teen shortstop Yewri Guillen died the day the Nationals were expected to bring him to America, Gordan went to the Dominican in search of answers.
Guillén's death is the worst-case scenario in a recruiting system that treats young Dominicans as second-class prospects, paying them far less than young Americans and sometimes denying them benefits that are standard in the U.S. minor leagues, such as health insurance and professionally trained medical staff.
Tomato Can Blues
By Mary Pilon of The New York Times
With stunning illustrations by Attila Futaki, Pilon examines the twisted tale of cage fighter Charlie Rowan, who faked his own death to escape debt. Family and friends mourned him until they discovered the hoax in a most dramatic way.
Rowan was desperate. Then, while he was watching TV at his girlfriend's house, a show caught his attention. It was on the Investigation Discovery channel, something about a guy who staged his own death so he could start his life anew.
Happy 2014, everyone. And may your new year be full of parallax.
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