Jason Concepcion, best known to those on NBA Twitter as @netw3rk, left The Ringer late last year to join Crooked Media. It was a move that some found curious, as the beloved host of the Emmy-winning NBA Desktop and Binge Mode was headed to an outlet best known for political content.
Concepcion is launching Crooked Media’s sports wing, starting with the Takeline podcast, which he co-hosts with the terrific Renee Montgomery, and All Caps NBA, the spiritual successor of Desktop. The long-suffering Knicks fan’s turn from being your favorite Twitter follow’s favorite Twitter follow to one of the space’s biggest names in podcasting and online videos has been a joy to watch, and he hopes that moving from The Ringer to Crooked will only further open doors for him to explore other interests and take on bigger topics.
Concepcion spoke with Uproxx last week about the move, why he wanted to take this step, his new co-host, how fun it is to dump on the NCAA, and, of course, what it’s like enjoying a Knicks season for the first time in a long time.
When you first started talking with Crooked, what was it that interested you the most about joining this platform and being able to do these two shows?
So we did a pilot for All Caps recently in which we were able to bring in, like, Crooked Media’s political director to talk about like specific things that were happening with the stimulus bill that we were tying into a bit we were doing. The opportunity to do that, to call on and to have access to people with a lot of knowledge and a lot of different skill sets at activating groups and organizing and calls to action like that was just very, very appealing. It just seemed like something I wanted to do at this stage in my life, where if I have any kind of platform and if I can move the needle ever so slightly in the right direction, like, it seemed like here was the right place to try and do that.
Yeah and with Renee and Takeline, I mean she’s somebody that has dedicated her life now to doing that same thing. How did that partnership come about to bring her in and what excites you about working with her?
Well, we were in the production process and we were figuring out who the co-hosts would be, and there were a bunch of names out there and her name was one. Obviously, like we thought, “Oh man, if we get her, that would be really great.” Because she’s got her own stuff she’s doing for TMZ and on her own channels, and she’s obviously so incredibly talented. Whether we worked with her or not, like, she’s a star, she’ll be fine. She owns the f*cking Atlanta Dream, she’s gonna be good. She’s clearly talented and then we did some pilot recordings and it was just like, oh yeah, this works.
Your first two episodes you have Jeremy Lin come on to talk about the the violence against Asian Americans, and then you have the second episode you get to talk about something that Renee is well versed in, which is the very inequities between men’s and women’s sports. Just starting out with those two, it felt like it almost set the tone for how you’re going to go about it, where it’s going to be fun, there’s going to be the moments that people know you for, but also showed you are going to take on these topics head on and bring on people who know what they’re talking about and really address these things.
Yeah, I mean, that’s the goal. That’s what we’re trying to do. Our philosophy is, these kind of conversations are integral to the way we talk about sports and the way sports works in our society and it always has been that way. Sports has been the driving force for integration, for lack of a better word, into mainstream society of people who formerly were outside of it. And so, these kind of cultural conversations and conversations about social justice and gender equality and labor equality, are all part of sports, which is why we’re interested in it and what makes it so fascinating. I think that, you know, we had Chantel Jennings from The Athletic, talk about the inequities in women’s sports and the recent controversy over the disparity between the women’s workout facility and the men’s workout facility, and it was a substantive conversation and it was fun in the sense that it got us, you know, it’s a great opportunity to really just take a poop on the NCAA.
Who doesn’t love to?
Who doesn’t love to? What’s good about it?
Here’s my thing, Bobby, it would’ve been better, and I said this on the pod, the better move for the NCAA would have been to not deliver any weights or mats or anything. They had one, like, stand of dumbbells. None heavier than 20 pounds. That’s it. So if you have nothing, if you bring nothing there, then you can say, “Oh, the delivery got mixed up, COVID something, it got sent to this other place, we’re working on it.” If you have one stand of dumbbells in a f*cking aircraft hangar or whatever, then that means somebody had to come there, go “Hey where do you want the one stand of dumbbells,” put the dumbbells down, look around and go, “This is fine. This is 100 percent good,” and then leave.
Yeah. Like, this will work. Also, here’s 10 yoga mats for a team of 15 people.
[Laughs] Yeah, not even a full team. Like, some of y’all are gonna have to get on those dumbbells. Just wait until the mats open up.
Just grind out some standing stuff for a bit guys.
[Laughs] But yeah, I mean that conversation opens up a whole other line of of discourse that you know you often hear whenever this kind of stuff comes up, or anybody tweets about it. People will say, “Oh yeah but the men make more money, so you have to cut somewhere and that’s just what it is, you get what you earn because sports meritocracy, etc etc etc.” And I think Chantel really pretty masterfully disassembled that argument. So, yeah, those are the kind of conversations that we want to have where it’s fun, but it’s also like substantive.
You mentioned that Renee is a star and somebody that we’ve see over the last couple years take these steps into becoming a really prominent and important voice. What are the things that you’ve learned about Renee in working with her that’s just particularly impressed you since you’ve gotten to really know her?
Just, like, the grind that she is on. It’s like we got done with recording and then she immediately went to call the NCAA Women’s Tournament games. Then she’ll go to do her TMZ Sports hit, and then she’ll have like her own streams and stuff that she’s doing. And this is all while also being like, again, a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream. She just is like on her grind. She’s an incredibly talented and hard working person who’s just like doing sh*t all the time.
Obviously you’re in the early stages of this, but are you already thinking about the things that y’all can do with this podcast and things you want to be able to do with this in the future?
Oh for sure. We have this segment called like Take Survivor, which is like our fun kind of take on, like, an Around The Horn-type of game, but with the Survivor mechanism where the people that are competing vote out the person who has the worst take. And just doing fun stuff like that I think is really exciting. We’ve talked a lot about the different voices that we want to have on at different times. We’re constantly iterating the show, obviously you know at this early stage, we want to just get reps. We want to get reps so we know what’s working and how we can get better and we’re thinking about how we can get better all the time.
And then you have All Caps which is the obvious lineage from Desktop, and you brought you brought your son Jason [Gallagher] with you. Our baby boy.
Our baby boy! He is thriving in life. He’s got a lot of stuff that he’s doing and he’s such a talented guy. We have such a great shorthand, and it just made it easier because we both have the same lens in terms of what we think is funny and what we think is funny about a situation, and he’s just so good at putting all this stuff together.
I know that’s something that people have come to know and love from you, your irreverent takes on the basketball world. Was that something that when you came to Crooked that you wanted to make sure you were still able to do?
Oh, for sure. I mean, they hired me to do the things that I was doing that people were familiar with me doing. And certainly I wanted to keep doing that stuff. I think that examining the NBA through the lens of the internet is just like a device that is uncovering like gems all the time. It’s just like a rich field for that kind of approach, and they’ve been really great at supporting us and helping us with graphics and art and promo. I’m glad that I get to keep doing it.
I got to ask, this year you finally get to not be the angry Knicks fan, you get to be an excited Knicks fan. How fun is that for you, like when you get called onto like a podcast or something to talk about the Knicks, it’s no longer, “We want Jason to come yell at James Dolan” — I mean we do, but we also want him to be excited about Julius Randle. Does it warm your heart for that to be the case now?
It does but we got screwed the other night. The call at the end of the Sixers game, there are only two refs on the court because of COVID protocols and then Courtney Kirkland, I think it was, called an absolutely BS foul under the basket on Julius that was like, ridiculous. And I’ll just say this, I had a feeling in my body that I hadn’t felt in a while which was, I can’t believe I’m mad at the refs. I can’t believe I’m invested like this. I wanted us to win this game, it would’ve meant so much. It would’ve kept us at .500, kept us in the playoff hunt — we’re still in the playoff I think we’re like six or seven now, but like we’re there. And it was just like a big game against an Eastern Conference titan, and I really want us to win. And my body’s just like not used to that feeling where I’m just like, locked in. I’m locked in and I want this to happen. It’s been great. We’re a .500 team. It’s fantastic!
I feel that very powerfully as a Browns fan, because that was my entire year the Browns. I’ve like, loathed the Browns for two decades of my life. I’ve been like, conditioned to have my first reaction be, “Oh it’s the f*ckin’ Browns.” Like, everything’s their fault, and then like you get to this point where they’re good, and now you can start blaming others. It’s great.
Yeah, it’s wonderful to be like, they f*cked us, look at what happened. They don’t want us to win.
This wasn’t dysfunction!
It’s fantastic, and you know the Knicks, have been, you know, beyond what’s going on in the court which is great, they’ve been competent. Like, the trade deadline is going on right now. We’ve been linked with Victor Oladipo, among others. I think I saw some Evan Fournier chatter in there, but it also seems as if a lot of that chatter is the Knicks are holding off, which I think is smart. They’ve been really responsible. Leon Rose has managed to strike a balance between building the team, developing and giving these young guys a ton of minutes, and letting them get experienced on the court — Mitchell Robinson, RJ Barrett, even Frank Ntilikina is playing now with because of injuries. Well, Obi Toppin’s not playing so much, but that’s okay. But allowing those players to get experienced, to get better, while protecting our future flexibility, and also like competing at a pretty good clip. Again, we’re in the playoff hunt, we’re right in the mix. And that’s great because it shows the rest of the league that we’re not just like a trash fire. We’re an okay team. We’re competent.
Right. You exist in the morass of the Eastern Conference, not like the chaff at the bottom.
The East is…
The East is insane.
I saw the Raptors are two and a half games out of the play-in, and they’re two and a half games out of like the highest lottery odds.
I mean, the Rockets had lost 20 straight coming into the game against the Raptors. Like, it has been really tough, and I needed that Raptors loss. I needed it. It was huge, let me just quickly look at the standings because it’s, yeah, I mean like, just looking at this, we’re at 21-22. We’re just in this logjam, there is a game and a half basically separating the eight from the four. If you lose two games at the wrong time you could drop from home court advantage is fucking out of it. Out of it! Completely out of it.
I mean, so it’s been wild. My ultimate dream is the Celtics miss the playoffs, we get in. That’s what I’m hoping happens.
Yeah, also, Thibs is good. That’s the other thing, I think we all forgot — like the jokes about Thibs, it went too far.
Yeah, I think, here’s like the knocks on him are correct, in that, listen, Julius is leading league in minutes per game.
He’s playing like 40 a night.
He’s leading the league in minutes, RJ Barrett is right there with them. Okay. So, table the talk of how sustainable that is for now. Obviously, there’s some conversations later about whether we want to extend Julius or not. RJ meanwhile is is young and spry and has a lot of cartilage left in those springy knees, we’re okay there. But Thibs, listen, he moved the needle everywhere he’s ever been right. He’s made career bench guys at different places into solid rotation level NBA players. DJ Augustin, Nate Robinson, like he’s doing this everywhere, and teams got better on offensive and defense with him as the coach.
Now, the issues with him are, one he plays players way too many minutes. It’s fine, he does do that. If that’s an issue that we don’t have to deal with right now, but it is an issue. And then two, he’s had trouble communicating with his players and with the front office, and I feel like that seems to be less of an issue now. Specifically in Minnesota where he was doing everything, now here in New York, Leon Rose and Worldwide Wes and Kenny Payne — and hopefully he doesn’t leave the franchise — are doing the important, reach out to players and finding that kind of like membrane through which the communication can flow in that allows Thibs to just concentrate on, you know, coaching, good habits, and getting guys to play hard. Which they’re playing incredibly hard because they know they’re gonna play a lot.
Yeah. You know it’s funny you mentioned that because like it’s wild to think that at some point, Minnesota was like yeah we’ll make him, all of it. Knowing his flaws, knowing that like, he’s a coach and they’re like no, no you do it all.
You know, what an experiment that was at the time and Doc Rivers had that same role.
Bud had it in Atlanta and he hated it.
And it was, it’s just too big a job, I think we have all the evidence we need right now to look at it everywhere it’s been tried in the NBA. And, you know, they’ve tried that in world soccer too, it’s been tried different places. It’s just too big a job. Coaches coach, let the GM deal with all the moves and stuff they as long as they have a good relationship, we can make it work. But it’s just too much for one person to do both jobs, it just can’t happen. I mean it’s like Doc Rivers was legitimately just like signing people that he knew [laughs].
All of them did! Like they don’t have time to scout.
They don’t have time! It’s like, I know this guy.
He’s already in my cell phone. Hey Joakim, you still got some juice?
You still springy? You keepin’ in shape? Come on down. Yeah, it just doesn’t work.