It’s widely believed that Daryl Morey’s basketball-related behaviors make him an asshole, but I never embraced this critique of the Sixers general manager. “Moreyball” isn’t so aesthetically repellent to me, and in any case he’s just following the incentive structure of the rulebook and court dimensions to their logical conclusion, which doesn’t make him any more reprehensible than the dozens of NBA GMs doing the same job with muddier thinking and worse results. Clearly he figured some shit out and got there before everyone else. No, I find myself vastly more invested in the ways that Daryl Morey’s car-related behaviors make him an asshole.
This is an important motif in a recent profile of Morey, by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. The article explores a common thread in Morey’s team-building: He seeks to maximize talent and is less concerned with chemistry between players. It also makes clear that Morey is less concerned with chemistry between him and anyone who drives, sells, rents, or regulates automobiles. Take the following anecdote, which is curiously presented as evidence of Daryl’s quirky approach to life, instead of a call for a citizen’s arrest:
In the mid-to-late 2000s, he owned a Lexus that he parked anywhere he wanted, regardless of the signage on the side of the streets of Houston. It kept accumulating ticket after ticket after ticket until the local parking enforcement agency stopped writing tickets and booted his vehicle.
Normally, someone with a boot on a wheel of their car would pay to have it removed so they could drive again. But Morey had another idea. He instead contacted Lexus to tell them he would buy a new car if it accepted his trade-in and dealt with the outstanding tickets. After negotiating and signing a deal, Lexus asked when he’d bring in the car and he gave the company the address to pick it up.
“As soon as that car got booted,” Morey said, “[I made that deal] to avoid having to go through the hassle.”
Given a thousand lifetimes, I would never have realized that bargaining with a car company like a rival GM was on the menu of options. Who do you call? How does that call proceed? How does a Lexus representative respond when you broach the idea of Lexus paying a random guy’s parking tickets? How many different people do you have to talk to? How could this process be logistically simpler than paying to get the boot removed from your car? Does this only work if you work in the front office of an NBA team? Had the next 3,000 words of this profile been devoted to answering those questions, instead of exploring the basketball thinking of a man who has spent a decade being smarmily forthright with journalists about his basketball thinking, justice could’ve been served.
O’Connor’s profile concludes with more incriminating details about how Morey’s driving. Apparently he looks everywhere except the road—out the side window, at his phone, at his passengers. In Houston he grew so dependent on using his phone that he sold his car and took Ubers everywhere, including “across the state of Texas.” I can’t speak to Morey’s personal finances, but from a public safety perspective, this was probably for the best.
After Morey moved for his job with the Sixers, the pandemic forced his hand: He got a car again. If you see a vehicle on the streets of Philadelphia, identifying and exploiting simple market inefficiencies—flying up the shoulder at 60 mph, for example—keep your distance. You don’t want to discover what it means to “win a trade” while changing lanes on the freeway.