#LetBonnerShoot: Rock Stars Unite to Get Matt Bonner into NBA All-Star Three-Point Shootout

It’s been said that rock ‘n roll can change the world. It’s a truism most recently on full display with the 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief that raised some $50 million for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Rock ‘n roll’s power to motivate and mobilize the masses doesn’t always have to be on such a grand (or serious) scale. This fact is made evident by the current, growing grassroots movement dominating the twitter feeds and Facebook pages of some of music’s best indie rock bands know as “#LetBonnerShoot” – a campaign to get Matt Bonner into the NBA Three-Point Contest at All-Star Weekend in Houston this February. Bonner, who currently leads the NBA in three-point percentage, has done so in previous seasons, and is 12th all-time in the category, has never been invited to participate in the contest.

#LetBonnerShoot was created by popular Philly rock band (and one of my personal favorites) The War on Drugs to prevent Matt from being overlooked again this year. What started as just TWOD tweeting their case, has now been picked up and championed by several other influential bands like Arcade Fire, Deer Tick and Okkervil River, as well as various basketball web sites. There is a Facebook page for the campaign, an official petition filed at Change.org that you can see/sign here, and Matt’s younger brother Luke penned a letter to the NBA that has allegedly made it’s way to Stu Jackson, the NBA’s Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

On Friday, I caught up with Dave Hartley, bass player in The War on Drugs and mastermind of the #LetBonnerShoot movement to talk about the campaign. Hartley is a basketball obsessive who knows his stuff. He contributes basketball columns to multiple web sites and has participated in chats on ESPN.com to talk hoops:

Dime: So this campaign was your idea. How did it start?
Dave Hartley: I just thought of it, as a play off of the “Let Shannon Dunk” campaign from a few years back that actually worked to get Shannon Brown into the dunk contest. I started it up on Twitter and then eventually talked with Matt’s brother Luke, who is also a professional ball player, and a really nice guy. He just ran with it.

Once we got it going, I emailed Matt to tell him I was sorry if it embarrassed him. He was just like, “That’s cool. It’s just not something I would do for myself.” He’s such a humble guy, he would never ask for something like this or to seek it out.

Dime: Like pretty much every athlete at this level, Matt’s a competitor. This one specific thing is what he does for a living and he works really hard at his craft. There would be something wrong if he didn’t want to compete.
DH: Definitely. When I have talked with him about it in the past, I could see it in his eyes that yeah, he wants to compete and win this thing. The guy’s a competitor; this what he does. He’s arguably the best in the world at it, of course he wants be in there.

When you think about what he does every night, it’s really amazing. He shoots at such a high percentage, in very limited minutes. He’s ice cold sitting there on the bench, usually for a very long time, then he has to come in – if he gets in at all – for like three minutes at a time to do what he does. And he has to make those shots or he’s not going to play. Just a crazy, crazy specialist.

Dime: So why do you think hasn’t Matt been invited to participate? He has said that he doesn’t know. Is it marketing thing?
DH: Well, he has a set shot. He doesn’t really jump when shoots. He has a side release that really doesn’t look beautiful. But the thing is, he’s made for this competition. He’s fast. He’s efficient. You look at other guys who have been in it over the years and they’re not there because they’re the best in the world at this one skill, but because they’re names. You compare the way Jordan shot in the competition, and he had to jump like three feet in the air with each shot. Guys like that are not built to win this, Matt is.

But again, he’s not a name like Paul Pierce. He doesn’t play in New York or L.A.

Dime: What has the response been like?
DH: It’s been awesome. The back and forth with music fans of ours who are also basketball fans has been great.

Dime: Have you heard anything from the NBA?
DH: (Laughs) All I know I is that Stu Jackson is “aware” of our petition. I have a source that can’t be named who has confirmed that Stu Jackson has received the letter. Now, I don’t know if he just laughed at it or what, but he is definitely aware.

Dime: Say this all works out and Matt gets in, what then?
DH: I think I would just laugh and be happy for Matt. It would be a real testament to the power of social media wouldn’t it? A little spark catches fire. As a band we never really used Twitter as a platform for anything other than tweeting ridiculous stuff. We never used to it to self-promote or push anything on anybody. It’s amazing to see it be used to mobilize people.

Dime: Indie rock bands aren’t necessarily the fan base you automatically think of as being huge basketball and NBA fans, but it seems like it’s growing. And as part of this campaign, more and more bands are coming out of the woodwork as NBA superfans.
DH: Yeah, definitely. It’s a movement that is going to continue to grow. If I could get in front of the people who run the NBA’s marketing I would tell them, “You are missing a massive amount of people.” Not just necessarily “rock” people, I’m talking about people who grew up in the glory days of the NBA with guys like Bird, Jordan and Magic. Then I feel like things went downhill for a while and people were like, “I don’t like this any more.”

But people are falling back in love with the game. The NBA has really never been better than it is right now; it’s getting back to the roots of what made it great. It feels good. There’s a renaissance happening. Just look at LeBron – we get to watch him in his prime. It’s an amazing thing.

I’d love to see the league start marketing more towards people like me. I’d love to see every arena have “theater lighting” like they have at Madison Square Garden, the Staples Center and in Brooklyn. To me, that’s really all you need. You don’t need to bombard people with t-shirt cannons and Top 40 cacophony at all times. Yeah, I get it that there needs to be a certain level of entertainment, but this is such a beautiful game already. It’s like serving the best meat in the world … and then dousing it in 16 different kinds of hot sauce.

Dime: How would you describe your own game?
DH: I’m kind of a Ron Harper. Delusions of grandeur, humbled by injury. I play defense and can hit the corner three, but I always prided myself on bothering better players.

You can follow The War on Drugs on Twitter here. Dave Hartley’s new solo album, Oak Island, recorded under the name Nightlands, drops this week. Follow Dave on Twitter here.

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