Dave Hartley's protest beard is growing in nicely

Top of the Key is our occasional sports column written by Dave Hartley, bassist for The War on Drugs, frontman for Nightlands, and an all-around music and basketball enthusiast.

On Sunday Matt Bonner, his brother Luke Bonner, Tim Showalter (aka Strand of Oaks) and I snuck into The University of Pennsylvania’s historic Palaestra to get a few shots up. It was my first time shooting hoops with an NBA player (Matt plays for The San Antonio Spurs), so I was nervous. It should also be noted that Luke is seven feet tall and played professionally in Europe and in the D-League. He can dunk, quite easily. Thankfully the lights were dim so my woefully atrophied basketball skills were partially cloaked. Matt’s insanely automatic long distance jump shot glowed in the dark, though. He set his feet, aimed, and drilled shots from downtown as nonchalantly as walking up to a salad bar for seconds. Truly something to behold.

Ok, I should back up. Last year Adam Granduciel and I interviewed Matt for Paste Magazine because Matt loves music (specifically a bunch of bands on Secretly Canadian, home of both The War on Drugs and Nightlands) and we love hoops. It was a great opportunity for us to ask questions that we thought were never asked of professional ball players. Matt was extremely gregarious and forthcoming. We went to Johnny Brenda‘s for food and libations and became fast friends. He is the antithesis of the entitled athlete. He takes public transportation to games and wears low-top new balance sneakers on the court. He lives humbly and spends his free-time hosting charity games and concerts and hanging out with his family.

Despite being self-deprecating almost to a fault, I could tell when I asked Matt why he hadn’t been invited to the NBA All-Star Weekend’s Foot Locker Three Point Shootout that it burned him. You don’t get to his level without being super competitive–Matt wants to compete in the contest because he thinks he can win. Luke Bonner and I have been lobbying for almost a month now to get Matt into the NBA’s three point shootout.

He has a strong case: he’s 12th all-time and currently first in the league in three point percentage, despite playing just over 11 minutes a game. That means he comes into the game ice-cold (after sitting on the bench post-warm-up for 30 or 40 minutes) and drills long distance shots at a crazily efficient rate. Matt Bonner is a true specialist. The things working against him are his limited minutes (Matt typically plays between 5 and 20 minutes a game, depending on the opponent) and, most of all, his rather limited name-recognition.

He rejected my idea of growing a “protest beard” (something I did on his behalf), so our greatest hope is to get people to like the Facebook page and sign the petition. Luke will be on NBA TV tonight championing the cause, and so far we’ve rallied the support of hoopsters like Joakim Noah, celebrities like Eva Longoria, politicians like New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan, and musicians like Arcade Fire.

His name is Matt Bonner. He likes rock and roll and sandwiches. He is a man of the people. He drains three pointers. Let Bonner Shoot.