Bill Simmons: 'The Sports Guy' Talks About His New Website, 'Basketball Jesus' and Making Sure His Kids Are Boston Fans

PHOTO: Seen here is Bill Simmons in a promo portrait for ESPN Inc.
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"Sports Guy" Bill Simmons might just be the most successful professional sports fan of all time, getting paid to watch four hours of sports TV every day and then write about it -- or even just talk about it.

"It's a good life. I like it," he said, laughing.

A Web content-generating machine, Simmons, 41, has built up a laundry list of titles: columnist, podcast host, author, producer of ESPN's "30 For 30" documentary series, and he's now thrown his weight behind Grantland.com, the new ESPN-owned sports and pop culture website, as part of his transition away from his column.

"The new website is going to be 70 percent sports, 30 percent pop culture, and it's going to try to fill up some of the voids that I feel like are out there," he said.

Based at ESPN in Los Angeles, Grantland, which launched Wednesday, will showcase a powerhouse roster of writers, including pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman and Malcolm Gladwell, the best-selling writer for The New Yorker. Nevertheless, Simmons insists that he's still the "Sports Guy."

"I've got the title, but I'm old now," he joked. "My son slept until 7:20 today, and I was excited it was the latest I've gotten up in five years."

Touted as a pioneer of the Web, Simmons has been writing his "Sports Guy" column for ESPN.com over 10 years. He started it in Boston, where he was one of the first web-only columnists that existed anywhere.

"I was one of the first people who realized, 'Hey this is different from newspapers, this is different from magazines, how do I take advantage,?'" he said.

The concept for the column stemmed from Simmons' goal to write from perspective different from the average sports reporter.

"I had to figure out a way to write the column in a way I could pull the reader where I was when I wasn't going into locker rooms," he said. "So I wrote about things my friends and I were talking about, arguing about sports movies, talking about players, not in the way that reporters were doing it, going into the locker room, getting quotes."

With a typical column reaching the 6,000-word range, Simmons is a man with opinions on everything from Larry Bird's divinity ("I call him basketball Jesus," he said. "His autobiography, 'Drive,' we refer to as the Bible in my house."); to Lebron James' facial hair: ("The beard was awful. I forgot how weird the beard was."); to Gene Hackman's coaching ability in the iconic 1986 movie "Hoosiers" ("Bad coaching here too... Jimmy's missed one shot the whole game and you decide to use him as a decoy for the biggest player of your season -- what coach would do that? He was overrated.")

Movie references are a staple in Simmons' columns, and he admits a weakness for possibly over-utilizing his favorites.

"The ones I actually use too much are 'Boogie Nights,' any of the 'Rocky' movies, 'Shawshank' definitely, probably, and 'Godfather,'" he said. "I need to wean myself off of those four."

A hopeless Boston sports fan, he's still pained by the memory of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner's fielding error during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, which may have that cost the Sox a long-sought Series title. The Buckner moment still ranks in the "top 7 or 8" worst moments of his life, he said.

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