Inside Garry Shandling’s Secret Basketball Game
This was more than just a regular game of hoops.
The first time I saw the Larry Sanders Show I was in college and it blew my mind. The jokes came so quickly, the self-deprecation was so harsh, and everything felt so nuanced that it was impossible to turn it off.
I quickly became a huge Shandling fan, so it was shocking to hear he passed away in 2016, at the age of only 66.
After Shandling passed, Judd Apatow began creating a two-part documentary on Shandling’s life. It was full of buddhism, jokes, and one surprising thing...
....A weekly basketball game...
It turns out that for the better part of thirty years, Shandling held a pick-up basketball game with his friends every Sunday.
Comedians like Sarah Silverman, David Duchovny, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and Adam McKay were regular attendees.
Recently, ESPN did a story on the game, and the quotes about play are amazing!
ALEX RICHANBACH, DIRECTOR, "IBIZA"; PLAYED FROM 2012 TO THE END: In the early '90s, Garry was working seven days a week on "The Larry Sanders Show," and it was just overwhelming. So on Sundays, he would invite friends and writers from the show up to the house to play basketball, and then they'd go back into the house and eat and start talking through scripts for that week. And when "Sanders" ended, everybody wanted to keep playing.
SULI McCULLOUGH, WRITER, THE "TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO"; PLAYED FROM 1997 TO THE END: He'd send an email that just said, "The game is confirmed for Sunday at noon. Bring medical equipment."
JAY ROACH, DIRECTOR, "AUSTIN POWERS", "GAME CHANGE"; PLAYED FROM 1999 TO THE END: One of us would volunteer to blow leaves off the court, and there'd be a bunch of basketballs that were at varying levels of inflation. We were supposed to start playing at 11, but it started drifting to 11:30.
WAYNE FEDERMAN, COMEDIAN WHO GUEST-STARRED ON "SANDERS": Classic three-on-three. Make it, take it. There was no 3-point line. You called your own fouls. Games were to 7 by 1. You couldn't dribble in -- you would check it.
It’s amazing to think of your comedy heroes playing basketball with one another. It makes everything seem so much more tangible.
ALAN ZWEIBEL, CO-CREATOR OF "SHANDLING"; PLAYED FROM THE BEGINNING TO 2004: One of the first times I played, Garry points to this girl and says, "You guard her." I got pissed. Like, "You give me the girl?" It ended up being Sarah Silverman, and she was f---ing great. Much better than I was.
SARAH SILVERMAN, STAR OF SEASONS 5 AND 6 OF "SANDERS"; PLAYED FROM THE MID-'90s TO THE END: The first time I met Jeff Goldblum, I was at Garry's house playing basketball. I was 24 or 25. Jeff did not play, but we hung out afterward in the kitchen and slowly became friends.*
JEFF GOLDBLUM, GUEST-STARRED ON "SANDERS"; ALLEGEDLY PLAYED IN THE MID-'90s: Sarah was startlingly funny and spectacular. Maybe it wasn't that day, but I did play basketball once at Garry's house. I'm tall, so I think I rejected a couple of things and had a layup that I liked.*
The game sounds like an incredible way to get outside of your head in Hollywood. Movies and television are a high-pressure business, so knowing all these famous people had an outlet is actually inspiring.
We take life too seriously too often, it’s great to get outside and play. I like to take my dog on long walks, and I love sports.
So it only seems fitting that after Shandling passed, they opened up his home and played one last game on the court.
BILL ISAACSON, SHANDLING'S LAWYER; PLAYED FROM THE LATE '90s TO THE END: I'm the executor for Garry's estate. When he passed away [from deep vein phlebothrombosis], people said, "Can we open up the house and play one last game?" There was a release from the basketball but also just a lot of wandering around. I walked into his study and he had a legal magazine open that had an article about me, all drink-stained like it had been out there for a while.
KEVIN NEALON, RESCUED AN INJURED DOG THAT HE GAVE TO SHANDLING; PLAYED FOR MANY YEARS: I went into his office that day after he died, and a script I'd given him was still sitting on his desk.
ALEX RICHANBACH, DIRECTOR, "IBIZA"; PLAYED FROM 2012 TO THE END: McKay was like, "This game was Garry's third masterpiece." "It's Garry Shandling's Show." "The Larry Sanders Show." And this game. The world didn't know that this third masterpiece of his was basically forming a family and helping everybody through this incredibly tumultuous career that they're in.
What are some things you do to blow off steam in between projects?
Things that help you achieve zen?
Put your tips in the comments.
R.I.P. Garry Shandling.