Straight Hate (Sketches of Busterdom)

If you listened to the most recent episode of the Full Sass podcast, then you were treated to some unfettered access into my brain. Although I keeps it pretty #fullsass on a semi-regular basis, I said some stuff on Monday’s pod that were not meant for public consumption–things normally afforded for bars and living room conversations. But since the genie has been let out of the bottle, I may as well come out of the closet as a full-blown Lebron James hater.

Don’t get me wrong, the dude is one of the most incredible players to enter the league. I’m not one of those people who will dismiss his on the court accomplishments. Anyone who knows basketball has to admit that he is probably a top 5 player of all time, and his career isn’t even close to being over.

It doesn’t mean I have to like the man though. I don’t enjoy watching him play. I think his face is ugly. I think his shot is ugly (Frankly I’d much rather watch him make incredible passes than power through the lane, create contact, and then shoot free throws). I get it. Look at the man. He is a physical specimen, and powerful. HE SHOULD BE GOOD AT BASKETBALL!

I look at adults who say that Lebron is their favorite player the same way I look at non New Yorkers who tell me the Yankees are their favorite baseball team (which also happens to be the Lebron’s favorite team, but more on that later). I’ll be like “Yeah. Of course he is,” and then I usually end up tuning out anything they have to say about basketball.

Before you write me off as some hipster contrarian who only likes obscure players to flaunt my NBA fandom, let me say this: my dislike for Lebron has less to do with aesthetics and more to do with what he represents. To me, Lebron is like the Alex Rodriguez of the NBA. Both are prodigious, talented, hard-working individuals who hit the genetic lottery, but were also often chided (sometimes unfairly) for the robotic way they navigate through media relations.

Watch either player sit through a press conference, and you’ll notice that both men tend (ed) to give the same sort of innocuous/politically correct answers. Yet, despite meticulous attention to their brands, approval ratings and public persona, both managed to clumsily stumble at various points in their careers.

Fans in cities like Seattle and Texas felt alienated by Rodriguez’s large contracts which made it impossible to surround him with talent. This was right before he went to the most hated franchise in baseball. His legacy was cemented in stone once the BALCO story broke, and he was implicated along with other steroid users. If people don’t bring this up, they my allude to the time he tried to slap a baseball out of a player’s mitt as he ran down the base line.

Lebron’s fall from media darling status wasn’t nearly as drastic as A-Rod’s. He simply made a poor “decision” (lest we not forget that it netted the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland a nice sum of money–almost like a break up gift) that people don’t want to let go of. But unlike most of the Lebron haters, my disdain for Lebron has very little to do with “The Decision” but with the various shades of busterdom he has displayed throughout his career.

Exhibit A: Busters of A Feather

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Consider Lebron’s best friends in the league are Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade. Carmelo over the course of the summer has proven himself to be an alright dude, but there is legitimate evidence that CP3 and D-Wade are sociopaths.

People got bent out of shape last Finals when Lebron’s balls got flicked (people called it a punch, but trust me if you were in a prison fight, there is no way you’d use Draymond Green’s method of attack to stave off your opponent), but Chris Paul’s dirty reputation goes all the way back to his days at Wake Forest when he punched Julius Hodge in the family jewels.

Wade himself broke Kobe Bryant’s nose during an All Star game, and he still to this day has no remorse for purposely dislocating Rajon Rondo’s arm during the 2013 playoffs. Wade and Paul will do anything to win and don’t care if it is cheating, but only care if they get caught. This alone makes him suspect in my eyes.

Exhibit B: Dude is a Phony, and Low Key Corny

Anyone remember those old clips where Lebron would say some corny ass shit in the locker room huddle right before they hit the floor? There was something about his tone that always seemed disingenuous to me. Lebron has always had a way of saying exactly the right thing, but things always seemed off. Its like there is a telepromptor living inside his head 24-7.

Did anyone actually believed it when he basically told the media that any locker room he plays in is basically G rated conversation about business and family? He must be a faster player than we thought to the point where he can overhear and redirect any and all conversations that deviates into the NSFW realm? Give me a fucking break. He is teammates with J.R. “You tryna get the pipe?” Smith. There are at least 15 different conversations going on in a men’s locker room. I find it incredibly hard to believe that noone of these hyper-aggressive men have never once talked about women in way that was less than flattering. FOH with that BS Lebron.

I actually can only recall two occasions where I thought, damn maybe this man is human. One was the first championship he got in Miami, where he was dancing and getting hype on the bench as they had quelled the threat of RUN OKC (forever and ever amen), and the other was this past game 7 where he went full Michael Jordan mode, and bawled  like a baby after the buzzer sounded. That was actually kind of cool.

Exhibit C: Dude is a Frontrunner

When Lebron first got to the league, he was invited to an Indians game by ownership, and homie had the gall to wear a New York Yankees cap. When questioned about it, his reply was, “Yankees are my favorite team and the Cowboys are my favorite football team..” No harm there. The Cowboys are America’s team so I understand how that can happen, and sure, those late 90’s Yankees teams were incredible, so I get that too.

Fast forward to this year’s baseball playoffs, and Lebron is all about the Cleveland Indians. OH WORDDDD????? If you think about it though, it makes sense. He leaves the Cavs for a better situation in Miami, and wins two titles there with his “Super Friends” crew. Then when they get demolished in the 2014 Finals and it looks like they may be too old to win another title, he bounces to Cleveland and forms another super team to help him get back to the Finals.

Exhibit D: What Does Lebron Really Stand For?

You hear all kinds of PR about the good that Lebron does the community of Cleveland–especially for kids– but anytime he has had a chance to leverage his massive influence he has said nothing. I’ll give the man credit for being an incredible businessman and bringing so many jobs and businesses to the “land”.

Yet,we heard nothing from him when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by police for having a toy gun (think about it. This could have easily happened to a 12 year old Lebron, forver altering the history of the state of Ohio). We heard him say nothing about the other unfortunate killings of black civilians by police in his home state (an open carry state mind you), but sure enough,  he publicly endorses the Clinton family, who during Bill Clintons’ years in office, helped create an environment in this country where blacks are criminalized (with the 3 strikes law and increase of private prisons).

This guy can’t even speak out about the Indians using and making money from merchandise using racist mascot Chief Wahoo (and if you think that this denigration matters not then you haven’t been keeping up with the events occurring in North Dakota). Lebron could use his platform to speak out against many injustices but Lebron only cares about what affects his bottom line and the legacy of his “kingdom.”

Those are just four small snapshots of instances where I feel Lebron has shown  his busterish (at best) tendencies. I’ve already mentioned in past posts about how weak he was for crying about Draymond calling “him out of his name” and lobbying to get Warriors players suspended, so there is no need to revisit those incidents.

We could also talk about his most recent comments where he says that players team up so they can have a chance to beat him, or we could talk about his post 2011 Finals (following a loss to Dallas) comments in reference to his haters. I’m not going to come out and say the man is a full-blown buster, but he is definitely on the buster spectrum. I’ll gladly take rebuttals for anyone wanting to cape for the man, but I’d advise you to save it.

Because unless you are on his payroll, or he is on yours, he doesn’t give a shit what you (or I for that matter) think, and you know what, he probably shouldn’t. But this should not come as a surprise to all of you Lebron sycophants. These narcissistic tendencies have always been there;we all just ignored them.

BM

Good Ass Games of the Week are below:

Monday

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

Tuesday

Houston at Cleveland

Los Angeles Lakers at Indiana

Sacramento at Miami

Utah at San Antonio

Golden State at Portland

Wednesday

Dallas at Utah

Portland at Phoenix

Thursday

Boston at Cleveland 

Oklahoma City at Golden State (Good Ass Game of the Week)

Friday

Portland at Dallas

Golden State at Los Angeles Lakers

Saturday

Minnesota at Oklahoma City

Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio 

Sunday

Sacramento at Toronto

Portland at Memphis

Phoenix at Los Angeles

Buster(s) of the Week: NBA LEAGUE PASS. Having to part ways with NBA League pass was one of the most painful breakups I have experienced since I was in college. Whoever is in charge of digital content over at NBA media has never heard the axiom, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Last year’s version was way more user-friendly. This year’s version doesn’t include the Hardwood Classics option, and I’ve talked to at least a handful of people who also feel my pain concerning bandwidth and streaming accessibility. NBA LEAGUE PASS is a rip off. Unless you have a MAC, don’t get it. Save yourself the money, because it is not worth the frustration.

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

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Warriors Fan Fiction: Steph Curry’s Summer Vacation

Illustrations by Louis Eastman

Scene 1

It is a bright and sunny afternoon in the Hamptons, where the Curry family are taking their summer vacation. The house they are renting on Airbnb happens to be only 2 blocks away from the house Kevin Durant is holding his free agent talks. Steph Curry sits alone in the living room,chilling in his Under Armour shorts, Under Armour  T-shirt, and Under Armour socks while the rest of the family is out. Steph’s mother, Sonya has taken Sydel and Ayesha (and the babies) out to the beach. Dell and Seth are out at the local country club finishing the back nine from an 8 AM tee time.

Steph declines. He is still sour from his team’s Finals performance–especially about his own play down the stretch. Steph realizes that this is his first moment alone since the end of the post-season. He turns on the television. As luck would have it, Kansas vs. Davidson is on ESPN classic. Steph immediately locks in, stretching out on the couch watching himself from 2008. 2008 Steph shoots a three pointer after being left open on a defensive switch. The game clock reads 14:48 in the first half.

“Damn.” He thinks, “I didn’t even get to take the final shot in this game. We were so close to making the Final Four against North Carolina. That would have been bananas.” Just another time that he was so close to a title. His mind wanders to an imaginary pick roll, with Tyler Hansborough guarding him on a switch.Just before he has a chance to cook Hansborough, he hears the doors of a minivan close in the driveway.

The women are back from the beach. Steph can hear them laughing in unison. Riley Curry’s voice is the most audible. She is holding court and the women are loving it. The door to the kitchen opens and they all enter. The first one inside is Riley, with a black Barbie doll in her hands and her aunt Sydel right behind her. The Barbie’s hands are outstretched, but its legs are bent, as if it too were sitting in the car.

Ayesha walks in next with Ryan in her carseat. Sonya walks in last, holding a paper bag full of groceries. She lays the car keys on the kitchen counter and immediately opens the pantry and refrigerator doors.

Steph sits up, pausing the television.  

“Hey! Ya’ll back already? Mama is there anything else in the car to bring in?” Steph kisses Ayesha on the lips. Riley runs up to Steph and slaps his bare kneecap and yells, “Where is my kiss Daddyyyyyyyyy?”

He grabs her by the torso, beneath her armpits and lifts her up to his chest, then cradles her against his body and kisses her right eyelid. She immediately wipes at her eyebrow with the back of her hand.  “Ugh that’s my eyeball daddy. Don’t kiss my eyeball. That’s gross.”

Everyone laughs.

“I’m sorry baby.” Steph gently places Riley onto the floor feet first. He repeats his question to his mother. “Mama. Is there more stuff out there?” He leans his head in to investigate the contents of the bag.

“Move boy.” says a laughing Sydel. Steph fakes as he if he is going to touch her hair. Sydel flinches. “Stop playing Steph.”

Sonya shakes her head. “No Steph we got it all. You can go back to what you were doing.” Steph turns his head towards the paused television screen. It is stuck on an image of a white haired man in a KU shirt hi-fiving what could easily be his younger son–who is also in KU garb.

“What are you watching Steph?” Ayesha asks as she walks into the living room. She sits on the couch with baby Ryan in her arms. She lifts Ryan up to smell the back of her diaper, then lays her down on her back, rifling through a diaper bag with one hand while removing the baby’s onesie.

“The Kansas game from 2008 just happened to be on, but I wasn’t really watching it.”  Everyone freezes. Ayesha looks up at Steph who is standing at the base of the couch. Sydel and Sonya exchange knowing looks in silence. Riley throws her Barbie into the air singing, “SUPERRRRR Black Barbieeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Ayesha returns her attention to changing the diaper. She measures her words before speaking, as if she wants to say the right thing. “Baby you sure you alright? Its gotta be tons of stuff that you can watch that isn’t going to remind you of……”

“Of what?” Steph interjects. “Failures in the clutch?” He laughs weakly. “Baby I said I’m good. It is just a game. We past that now. I’m living in the moment with youuuuuuuuuu.” He leans over and kisses her cheek. Ayesha smiles. “But yo! I think I am gonna go for a quick run though before thangs get too hectic round here.” Steph grabs his phone and earbuds from off the coffee table and pats Riley on the head as she plays on the kitchen floor.

“Don’t mess up my hair daddy!” she yells without even looking up. Everyone laughs.

“Mama you need anything while I’m out? I’m gonna go for a quick job before daddy and Seth get back.”

Sonya walks towards Steph and gently pats him on his abdomen. “No son. We are good. We’re just gonna start chopping stuff to make a salad to go with this leftover Salmon.” Steph’s eyes light up and he smiles. “Ooooooowwweee. We got that dressing that I like to go with it?”

“You talking about that Green Goddess? We might be out. Don’t worry. I’ll whip something up that you’ll like even better. Ayesha showed me a new recipe. It’s delicious. AND fat free.”

“Alright ya’ll. Call me if you need anything. Riley! I’m leaving you in charge of things. Call me if NANA acts up okay?”

Riley drops her toy onto the tile lets out a high pitched squeal. She touches her face with her tiny hands “You’re silly!”

Steph throws a wink at Sonya and Sydel. Then runs down the stairs leading to the driveway. He stops to find his jogging playlist, titled “Drizzy off the Hizzy”, then resumes jogging.He runs out the driveway and into the street.

Inside the house, Sonya and Sydel stare out the window, watching him until he disappears out of view. Sonya sighs. Then she runs a bell pepper under the running faucet. Sydel begins chopping carrots on the cutting board. Neither of them say anything as they work in silence. Riley runs over towards the couch and hugs Ayesha’s knee. Ayesha responds by grabbing the remote control. “Wanna watch Blues Clues Riley?”

Riley’s face is buried in her mother’s pant leg. She gives a muffled “no.” Ayesha feels a wet spot on her knee. Riley has deposited a spot of saliva on her jeans. “Girrrrrrrrrrllllllllllllllll What is you doing?” Riley laughs.

[End of Scene]

 Scene 2

The Curry family is sitting at the dinner table at a restaurant. Drinks have been had. Food has been consumed, and coffee is being served with the dessert. Ayesha and Steph are sharing a chocolate mousse. Sydel is eating a cheesecake with a drizzle of strawberry puree. Dell declines a refill on his cup of black coffee and discreetly hands the waiter his credit card while Steph isn’t looking.

Ryan is strapped into her highchair and baby seat. She is fast asleep. Riley animatedly yawns. Her uncle Seth seizes the opportunity to tickle her tummy. “Stoppppppppppppppppppppppp” she pleads. Seth guiltily laughs and grabs his fork, snagging a bite of his sister’s cheesecake.

Sonya quietly sips her glass of wine. She stares at her half empty plate for a moment; smiles, then whispers in Dell’s ear. “You should probably talk to him Dell. He seems a little down. Ayesha says he has been listening to nothing but Drake for almost 2 weeks now.”

Dell winces and places his hand on her knee. He whispers. “I’ll talk to him. I promise. We gotta give him some time to process this. The Finals just ended. We can’t force him to talk about it until he’s ready.”

Sonya nods and gently plants a kiss on Dell’s lips. “Okay. I guess you’re right.”

The waiter returns to the table. In his hands is a black book which holds Dell Curry’s credit card and receipts. “Top copy is yours sir.”

“Thank you” Dell says as he takes the pen and pad from the waiter.

Steph seeing that his father has paid, says “Dad what are you doing? I told you I had this.”

Dell smiles. He gives  the stop gesture with his hand. “Son. Don’t worry about it. Just because you make more money than me doesn’t make you too grown to let your dad pick up the check. Besides, I haven’t had a chance to treat you for having such an outstanding season.”

Steph drops his fork. The light mood suddenly shifts into a slight tension. Steph looks pained. “What are you talking about dad? We blew a 3-1 series lead. We had a chance to dance on MJ and Scottie’s graves, and we didn’t get it done. I let the team down.”

Sonya’s mouth falls open. Seth’s eyes grow big in astonishment. Riley throws her napkin in her uncle’s lap, then reaches across the table for her sippy cup. Ayesha grabs a hold of Steph’s hand and starts rubbing his palm with her fingertips.

“Aw son. I know it hurts. But you can’t let it get in the way of appreciating what you accomplished this year. You’re the last guard to win back to back MVP’s since Steve Nash, and you beat the Bull’s regular season record. You have nothing to be ashamed about.”

“But we didn’t finish the job. And Lebron was so mean to me. I hate him dad. He thinks he is the king, but he’s just an overgrown prince. He should be 1-5 in the Finals at this point. Now I know how the 2013 Spurs feel.” Steph is visibly agitated. His hands are shaking. He looks as if he is about to cry.

Seth speaks up. “Aw Steph. We all know how you feel bruh. But look at it this way. You probably woulda won if Dray hadn’t gotten suspended.”

Steph gently pushes his mousse to Ayesha and stands up. He releases his wife’s comforting hand. “What do you know huh? Duke didn’t win a doggone thing when you were there. In fact, you’ve never even sniffed a championship game. You giving me advice is like Ozzie Canseco trying to help Jose with his batting stance. It’s like Billy Ripken showing Cal Ripken a new way to take grounders. It’s like Chris Penn—”

“Wardell! Stephen!!! Curry!!! That. Is. Enough!” Everyone’s mouths are agape with eyes turned toward Sonya. She dabs at her eyes with a kleenex. The pregnant pause is broken by Riley, who bangs her sippy cup against the table. She awkwardly tries to remove the top off her cup so that she can pour her juice in Seth’s lap.

Steph knows that he has gone too far, and walks away from the dinner table. He grabs a toothpick from the host stand, and walks outside the restaurant. Beneath the awning are two valet attendants. One of them is on his phone, swiping Tinder matches. The other is practicing his crossover with an imaginary ball. Neither one of them see Steph Curry walk up beside them. Steph waits a beat before planting himself on the curb of the sidewalk.

The rest of the Curry family are inside grabbing their stuff and preparing to go back home. Dell is the first one to approach the valet stand. The young man practicing his basketball moves only notices him in the midst of a putting up a layup attempt. He stops, says hello, then embarrassedly taps the other guy on the shoulder and hands him the keys to the Curry’s Escalade.

The valet runs off to grab the minivan while the other Currys amble outside and hang out by the curb. Steph lets out a deep sigh and walks back over to the family. Sonya walks towards him and embracing him. Steph meekly mouths “I’m sorry” before collapsing into his mother’s arms. He cries silently as the entire family engages in a group hug.

Dell stands stoically on the outside holding baby Ryan in her baby seat. Ayesha runs one free hand along Steph’s back. Riley somehow avoids the huddle and is attempts to grab a set of keys from the valet stand. The valet attendant doesn’t see her because he is trying to pull up the video function on his Iphone. The minivan arrives and the family slowly piles into the car once baby Ryan and baby Riley are securely fastened into their car seats.

[End of Scene]

 Scene 3

Steph is shooting baskets in an empty, well lit gym at a nearby high school. Once again, he is adorned in his Under Armour gear. He takes three dribbles with his left hand then takes three dribbles with his right hand. He brings one final dribble behind his back with his left hand, and then hoists up a  mid-range jumper that hits nothing but net.

“There you go!” a voice says as the ball hits the wooden floor. It is Dell. Dell grabs the ball as it is rolling towards him and hoists up his own deep jumper. It hits nothing but net. Steph shags the make and throws it back out to Dell. Dell hits the front end of the iron and Steph rebounds it, dribbling the ball back out to the top of the key.

“I guess I was kind of a diva back there wasn’t I?” says Steph as he shoots and makes another three pointer.

“Aren’t most point guards?” Dell responds. He jogs into position to catch the ball and pass it back to Steph. “Your brother knows you didn’t mean it. Just apologize to him when you get back to the house.”

“I shouldn’t have said that about his college team though. He cherishes his time with Coach K. That was kind of a low blow.” Steph puts up another shot. It goes through the net without even hitting the rim.

Dell smiles. “It wouldn’t get you suspended for a Finals game, but it was definitely dirty.”

Steph loses it, laughing so hard that he has to put the ball down. “Yeah Dray did put us in a spot didn’t he?’

Dell picks up the ball, pump fakes it, dribbles, then shoots a turnaround fadeaway shot that J.R. Smith himself would be proud of. It goes in, making a “thwack” sound as it hits the net. Steph grabs the ball after a couple of bounces and hits his old man for another three. Dell swishes this one too.

Steph throws another pass to Dell. Dell pump fakes. He dribbles. Then he hoists up a brick that misses badly, hitting the right corner of the orange backboard square. He misses so badly that Steph doesn’t even need to rebound it. It bounces right back to the elder Curry. He makes the next shot though. “Son. I played in the league a long time, and you know how many conference championships I played in?”

“None?”

“That is correct son.” Swish. In goes another basket. Dell takes two dribbles towards the paint and lofts up a floater. It rims out. Steph dribbles the ball towards the left corner (where he once shot 95 % for the playoffs) and tickles the twine. Dell shags the ball and throws it back to a planted Steph, who releases it almost as fast as he receives it. They repeat this process in silence four more times before Steph misses long and to the right.

Finally Dell continues. “You know basketball is a team game. It takes a lot of breaks for a team to even get to the Finals–much less win one.” Steph moves to the left elbow after taking a pass from his dad. He dribbles, spins to his left, and then floats a left handed shot that kisses the left corner of the backboard before falling in. He grabs his own rebound and starts spinning the ball off his index finger.

“Dray getting suspended hurt the team. Those extra games didn’t help Andre’s back, and Bogut getting hurt didn’t leave you guys much rim protection. But you can’t dwell on that son. You’ve been in the league not even half as many years as I have and you’ve already played in 2 NBA finals. Do you know how proud that makes me son?”

Steph stops spinning the ball and looks at Dell. The ball drops with a thud, bouncing on the floor twice before rolling towards the gymnasium wall. “You mean you’re not ashamed to be the father of a choker?”

Dell shoots an incredulous look at Steph. “Wardell Stephen Curry. Are you kidding me? Son, you have surpassed any and all accomplishments that I could have even dreamed of achieving as a player. You could have hung it up after your rookie season with those ankle injuries, taken the money and become a stockbroker. I would still be proud of you. Not only did you not rest on the laurels of being Dell Curry’s son, but you revolutionized the way the league plays. All your mother and I wanted was to see you succeed in life Steph. It didn’t matter what you chose as a profession. Not only are you a fantastic son, but you’ve been an incredible role model for your brother and sister, and an excellent father and husband. The Warriors could go 0 for 82 and I’d look at you like this shit gravy.”

Steph’s eyes light up as he goes to hug his father. Dell embraces his son and smiles.

“And believe me when I tell you this, you will play in many more Finals to come. Don’t sweat it. Even Magic had to come back and prove himself after blowing one against the Celtics. This isn’t over by any means. You’ll get back to the Finals next year against Cleveland, and then you’ll be the one saying mean things about Lebron and his mama.”

Steph takes a step back, breaking their embrace. “You really think so dad?”

Dell laughs. “Of course I do. But I’m not the only one. Just ask KD.”

Steph shoots his father a puzzled look. He musters up his best Gary Coleman impersonation. “What you talkin bout Dell Curry?”

“He is saying that there is no way we are going to blow this next one.”

Steph whips around and can’t believe his eyes. “KEVIN DURANT???!!! So you ARE going to sign with us?”

“HEHE” KD hoists up a 40 ft. jumper as if it is a free throw. It sinks into the net as cleanly as dime into a piggy bank. He slowly struts towards the Curry duo. “Like your dad says, basketball is a team game. I need the Warriors as badly as the Warriors need me dawg.” Durant extends his elbow and offers a high five that Steph has jump towards to complete. Durant then shakes Dell’s hand. “Yup my agent is handling all the paperwork right now as a matter of fact. My cousin is on the twitter and IG sending out cryptic messages. By tomorrow, it will be official dawg.”

image1

Dell’s face breaks into a smile the size of Mike Conley’s 153 million dollar contract. He watches as Kevin and Steph take turns re-enacting the Draymond Green kicking Steven Adams in the junk. KD argues that there is no way that it could have been an accident while Steph tries to insert “The Magic Bullet Theory” into the argument. This soon leads to good natured ribbing as Steph, Kevin, and Dell decide to have a 3 point contest. Dell considers texting Seth to come and join them, but remembers that Seth is only a 32 % shooter (at best) from behind the arc.

Outside the gym, in the teacher’s parking lot, is rapper and business mogul, Jay-Z. He is smoking a Cuban cigar that his buddy Barack gifted him. Jay-z smiles at the sound of the ball hitting the wooden floor. He is in the middle of texting a photo to his other buddy, rapper E-40. The photo is of Durant’s Escalade parked next to Steph Curry’s minivan. Jay-Z captions the photo with a message. I told you I’d make it happen. Just take care of me and Bey’s tickets for the season and we’ll call it even. #CHAMPIONSHIPBANNER #YAYAREA #ROCNATION.”

A navy blue Bentley pulls up. The driver gets out out of the car and opens the rear passenger door. The Geto Boys’ “Damn It Feels Good to Be A Gangsta” is playing on the stereo. Jay-Z ashes his cigar, then steps into the vehicle, but not before throwing one last look at the building. He takes a puff of his cigar, and he exhales. He reaches out and closes the door, then nods for his driver to take off.

Jay-Z checks his voicemail as the car pulls out of the parking lot. He realizes that he somehow missed three phone calls from his wife Beyonce. Her last voice message sounded urgent–something about finding a buyer for their extra Hamilton tickets. He exits out of his inbox and begins to dial her back, but then decides against it. “Hey turn that shit up B!” He excitedly yells. “This my favorite part of the song! Scarfaccccceee! You crazy for this one–HAHA!”

                        THE END

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Skeptical Optimism

Though there were a lot of positives to take from last night’s blowout win over the Warriors, Spurs fans are well advised to temper their expectations and curb their enthusiasm. Before the season began, I predicted the Spurs would win around 53 games, and despite last night’s performance, I am sticking to that prediction.

Don’t get me wrong, San Antonio looked fantastic (at times) last night in Oakland, but there were a few concerns raised throughout the game. For half the game they looked sloppy on offense giving up 13 turnovers (luckily the Warriors didn’t capitalize on them). The Spurs were in the minus column anytime Pau Gasol (-13) or Tony Parker (-12) were on the court. Gasol looked lost defensively, and I’ve written Ad Nauseam about Parker’s decreased mobility, as he approaches his mid-thirties.

San Antonio’s lack of rim protection may not hurt them against most of the league, but against strong physical teams like Cleveland and Oklahoma City, they may encounter some challenges (one could argue that a team like the Clippers could provide some headaches with their frontcourt as well).

There was plenty to be happy about, but to paraphrase what Reggie Miller said during last night’s telecast, “It is just one game.” The score is not indicative of how good either team is.

Though Warriors fans should be concerned, there is no reason for them to panic. Other than Durant’s offensive performance, people should consider this game an aberration. If Golden State gets outrebounded by 20 boards on a consistent basis, it will be a long season, but I don’t realistically see that happening. As a team they shot 46 percent, but only fared 21 % from the 3 pt. line (You won’t see them shoot that poorly from 3 too often), while the Spurs shot 50 % from the arc and 48 % from the field

Other notes:

  • Kawhi Leonard has shown himself to be worthy of being in this year’s  MVP discussion with 35 pts (a career high) on 10-21 shooting, and 5 steals–including one cookie theft from Steph Curry that ended spectacularly.
  • I’m still not sure how the Spurs are going to keep David Lee on the court, but he played decently last night. In 11 minutes of play, he managed to get a +13 rating with 6 points and 6 rebounds.
  • Although they will miss Danny Green’s defense, these next two weeks present an opportunity for wing players like Kyle Anderson and Jonathan Simmons to get more minutes. Anderson was one of the few players to nab a minus rating with a -3, but Simmons played brilliant minutes (+33), with 20 pts on 8-14 shooting, one filthy block on Steph Curry, 3 steals, and 4 rebounds.

Once again, Spurs fans have a lot to look forward to this season. They look younger, faster, and more athletic than last year’s team, but younger teams see both bigger spikes and dips in play. No rational basketball fan really thinks this is how San Antonio plays for the rest of the season, and Golden State has no choice but to get better. With 7 new players on the Warriors roster, moments of confusion and miscommunication are expected as players work on their chemistry.

The Warriors looked like they were still in preseason mode. I would be very surprised if they don’t pick up some players off later in the season (either through waivers, or trade) to supplement their Big 4. Their lack of depth showed, as their bench got outscored 56-16. That doesn’t happen to championship teams.

No matter if you are a Spurs or a Warriors fan, the thing to keep in mind is that it is one game–the first game, and that it is a long season. Making a prediction either way for either team would be akin to marrying someone immediately after your first date. It’s the NBA, and a lot of things will change between now and April.

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Dame D.O.L.L.A.

My two favorite things in the world are rap music and basketball. I’m very particular about what I like, so keep that in mind. My favorite rapper of all time is Kanye West. My favorite young rapper is Young Thug. I thought “To Pimp A Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar was a perfect album, but I have zero interest in ever hearing it again.

I hold the belief that rappers in 2016 are objectively better at rapping than 90’s dudes. When I say better at rapping I mean interesting flows, ability to rhyme multi-syllabic-ally, and an innate skill at having catchy melodies mixed with content that is either intelligent or reflective of a larger societal view.

My favorite basketball team is the Portland Trail Blazers. My favorite player on the Blazers? Damian Lillard. So, when I found out Damian Lillard was making a rap album, I hollered at my Editor-In-Chief-Keef Bobby Mickey, and begged him to let me do a track by track review of Dame’s debut LP “The Letter O”. This is that review.

EXPECTATIONS: Having only seen Lillard rap on “Sway In The Morning” and having heard him rap during a commercial timeout at a Blazer game, I’m expecting the word “lyrical” to be said over 15 times. I’m hoping for some cool basketball references or wordplay “I’m coming with that heat flow/Making it look easy like a free throw”, something about Portland’s fans being the best, and reference to grinding hard to make it out of Oakland.

Track 1 – Bill Walton

I already am skeptical based off the title. Is there any way this song isn’t about winning a championship for Portland like Bill Walton did? Well, the song isn’t ABOUT Walton, but Dame does end this freestyle with a line about Walton.

As far the rapping, Dame does a lot of multis, which is cool. He clearly has a skill to rhyme words. As for the content of the lyrics? Pretty generic. I won’t hold that against him… unless his only thesis on the album is “we didn’t have much when I was a kid and no one believed in me.” The beat was fine–a solid head nod with some 90’s style drums.

STATS: 18pts/3rbs/4ast

Track 2 – Wasatch Front

More 90’s drums! I’m starting to make assumptions about what the sound of this album will be. This track is about Dame’s time at Weber State (where he went to college). It’s a solid narrative, the song doesn’t feel too long, and there’s a chorus. The chorus is alright, too!

There’s still too much talk of struggle for my liking. Still not holding that against Dame though. The unquestioned best part of the song is the ad-libs though. Dame’s ad-libs are like Kent Bazemore on the Golden State bench in 2012. They’re hyped, funny, and positive. More ad-libs, less boring narratives, please!

STATS: 22pts/5rbs/5ast

TRACK 3 – Growth Spurt (feat. Dupre)

808s! Hashtag rapping! This is the best song on the album after 10 seconds, easily. Some dude named Dupre shows up for an alright song. Dame sounds better on the track than Dupre. That’s a good sign. Dame sounds more comfortable on the beat, but maybe I’m just getting used to it? I don’t hate this song.

Also, I haven’t read  much of anything about Dame as a rapper, but he’s not cursed once, and I think by track nine he’ll address not needing to swear. “I’m everywhere, you ain’t never there/why would I ever swear?” is my Jay Z lyric flip prediction for not swearing. Three songs in, and the most modern sounding track is my favorite.

STATS: 24pts/6rbs/8ast

TRACK 4 – Misguided

It took four songs, but we finally got Dame to mentioned another NBA player. And, drum roll please… it’s LeBron. And he mentions owning Yeezys. This is definitely Dame’s “I guess the money changed him” song. But Dame is capital R Real, so he’s not gonna forget where he came from.

Portland, we can believe in Damian Lillard. This song is the most interesting, as far as content goes. I found myself actually kinda caring what Dame would say about growing up, getting money, etc. Not shockingly, it’s pretty run of the mill. The saving grace of the song is the tend to see/Tennessee wordplay in the first verse. A third of the way through the album and I think I’ve know what to expect for the rest of it.

STATS: 21pts/4rbs/7ast

TRACK 5 – Thank You (feat. Marsha Ambrosius, Brookfield Deuce, and Danny from Sobrante)

Based off the title and the names of the features, I’ve got low expectations for this. I expect this song to be the Blazers on their third game in four nights, coming off a double overtime loss in Denver. It’s hard to hate on a song for someone’s deceased family members, so I’ll just say this song isn’t for me.

Brookfield Deuce is an alright rapper, he provides us with the second NBA player reference when he alludes to Kobe Bryant! The chorus is fine, I don’t love the woman’s voice, and it’s mixed a little weird that makes it stand out in a not great way. Tonally, this song sounds like a heartfelt Beanie Sigel song from ’02. Dame does TWO verses on this song, so it’s probably the most important song. Verse two has Dame mentioning Hulk Hogan and getting caught drinking by his grandma. Dame wants us to know he’s a good kid.

STATS: 20pts/6rbs/6ast

TRACK 6 – Plans (feat. Jamie Foxx)

Ray Charles himself, Jamie Foxx is featured? This could be interesting! Jamie’s chorus is pretty good. This is clearly Dame’s song for the ladies. He mentions sending an eggplant emoji and a woman’s waist line! Dame is for the ladies! A good juxtaposition after his heartfelt song for his grandmother. Dame is for everyone.

The production is modern again, but the beat certainly doesn’t knock, which shouldn’t be expected. Dame doesn’t exactly rattle the rim with his dunks and the beats on the LP reflect that. Halfway through the album and no swearing, no mentioning his teammates, no mentioning other NBA players who have rapped, and still no cursing! These are things to watch out for on the second half of the album!

STATS: 25pts/4rbs/5ast

TRACK 7 – Legacy (feat. Juvenile and Danny from Sobrante)

I guess at this point my biggest question is, what is Sobrante? And why is Danny, who is from there, on this album twice? I’m not actually going to look up who the dude is though, I’m not getting paid for this. Juvenile of “Back That Azz Up” shows up for a guaranteed emailed-to-Lillard feature here. The inconsistency in the mixing on this song is unpleasant. I like the beat though, AND Dame says “hell” which MIGHT count as cursing? But since we know Dame is a God fearing man, it probably isn’t. Portland is name checked on this song, which is cool because I live in Portland, so now I can relate more to multimillionaire Damian Lillard! I gotta be honest, if this song was just Juvenile and Danny from Sobrante I’d really like it. Dame sounds uninspired and completely extraneous here.

STATS: 11pts/2rbs/0ast

TRACK 8 – Loyal to the Soil (feat. Lil Wayne)

Holy moly this is generic struggle rap. The best part of the song is the Lil Wayne overdub of his lighter sparking. And my goodness, Wayne is so much better at rapping than Dame. Wayne’s flow is sharper and bouncier, his metaphors are more clever, he enunciates words in an interesting way, and he doesn’t swear! Wayne does mention being a Blood though, which is kinda weird and jarring.

I was hoping the way Wayne raps here is how Dame would have rapped on the song, but that’s not the case. Props to Dweezy F. Baby for bringing a quality verse and providing overdubs and ad-libs on Dame’s second chorus! Dame is whatever, by the way.

STATS: 17pts/4rbs/2ast

TRACK 9 – Roll Call (feat. Brookfield Deuce)

I like this beat. I can imagine a Future clone rapping on this. The chorus isn’t catchy, like, even a little bit though. I’m not sure how someone with such a pretty jump shot would have zero ear for melodies, because nothing on this album is catchy. And based off how he raps, you know Dame listens to J Cole and Kendrick Lamar, two guys  who are capable of writing mammoth choruses that get stuck in your head instantly. As impressive as Lillard’s ability to string together multis is, when you’re not supplementing it with anything that makes the listener want to hear what else you’re capable of, it might be time to make that LP an EP.

STATS: 15pts/4rbs/4ast

TRACK 10 – Pillow Talk (feat. Manny Lotus)

Sexy flow Dame alert! “I’m feeling that arousement” is the basic idea of the whole song. I will say, it seems a little weird to make a song called “Pillow Talk” when Zayn Malik did it this year and reached Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Again, Dame rapping sexy or about anything that’s not working hard in a small town doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t sound right either.

I appreciate the production on this song, as it sounds more similar to the sort of music I listen to the most. This feels like a Manny Lotus song featuring Dame D.O.L.L.A., which isn’t the best to have on your debut album.

Part of me isn’t sure if Lillard isn’t taking a risks topically because he’s not interested in it or he wants to keep up a good guy Portland image? Regardless, this album’s lack of concepts and subject matter is making it wear pretty thin after only 10 songs. STILL NO SWEARING!

STATS: 12pts/3rbs/1ast

TRACK 11 – Baggage (feat. Adrian Marcel)

Another back half of “The Letter O” song, and another generic R&B chorus that doesn’t fully work. If this song was supposed be a parody of cliche ridden rap I’d love it, but it certainly doesn’t do that at all. In the words of Roman on “Party Down”; “Am I supposed to enjoy the irony, or pity the sincerity?”. Since I’m pretty bored with this song, I’m just gonna imagine what Kristaps Porzingis would sound like on a track. It would be so dope. And I guarantee he’d be a gun rapper. Fuck. I need this to happen now. “I’m seven foot, so you know I bang/after I dunk on you ain’t the only time I can hang”. “Gatvia” by Kristaps Porzingis, coming soon.

STATS: 15pts/3rbs/3ast

TRACK 12 – Hero (feat.Raphael Saadiq) [Bonus Track]

Dame sounds like he yearns on this track; which is actually kinda interesting. This track also has Dame making a handful of basketball references, including Erik Spoelstra and Villanova. Unfortunately, “Hero” also takes the previous track’s generics to a new level. This song is exactly what you’d think a song by a non swearing, basketball player with a song called “Hero” would sound like. Given the ridiculous signing bonuses and endorsement deals that NBA players made in the last two off-seasons, it makes sense that this is a bonus track. It’s unwarranted and unwanted.

STATS: DNP (Coach’s Decision)

After listening to “The Letter O” by Damian Lillard, a few things are clear. Dame’s favorite rapper of all time HAS to be someone whose heyday was in the 90’s. Dame is definitely a basketball player before he’s a rapper. He’s a “real” rapper,  not a “real rapper”.

This is most apparent when anyone appears on the track with him. 2016 rap heavyweights Brookfield Deuce, Dupre, Danny from Sobrante, and Lil Wayne do to Dame on a track what anyone does to Dame on defense, which is to say low-key embarrass him. When Lillard raps on a song by himself, it’s fine and cute; however, when going toe to toe with someone who raps for a living rather than as a hobby, a lot is left to be desired.

In summation, the best way to describe Damian Lillard as a rapper, and I say this as objectively as possible, is that he’s the EXACT opposite of Young Thug. Where Thug opts for flows, melodies, and absurdism, Damian Lillard goes for his version of introspective, emotional, and REAL.

I can’t say I’d recommend this album to any of my friends who listen to rap, and I wouldn’t even really recommend it to my friends who don’t like rap. Lillard can ride a beat decently, has above average rhyming ability, but isn’t catchy in the least bit. If Damian Lillard the rapper were a basketball player, he’d be George Hill.

ALBUM STATS: 18pts/4 rbs/4 ast

 

 

 

image1-7  Jordan Paladino is a Portland comedian, internet troll, rapper, and writer for the show “Who’s the Ross?” He is a staunch defender of all things Lebron James, Drake, and Kanye West. He is also a KD hater. We try not to hold these things against him.

Finally Some Games That Count

Being the hoops junkie that I am, many people are surprised when I tell them that I don’t watch preseason NBA basketball. Sure it’s an early peek at the rookies and NBA retreads who are fighting to make the rosters, but I just (metaphorically) can’t get it up for games that don’t count for anything.

What does surprise me is how little I missed the NBA this off-season. Opinionated hot takes of Kevin Durant’s departure aside, there was little to glean from checking the web everyday for NBA news. I watched nearly 300 games last season, and by the time Golden State choked away the NBA Finals, I needed a break from watching basketball. I thoroughly enjoyed living like a normal person this summer.

I did a little bit of traveling, read a few (basketball) books, moved cities, found a new full-time job, and spent some time with my non-basketball friends and family. But all that shit is over come Tuesday night. The season is starting, and despite the inevitable Dubs-Cavs Finals on the horizon, it will be an enjoyable one to watch. While most people were chomping at the bit, I’m of the belief that the season is starting at EXACTLY the right time. In fact, it was only a couple of days ago that I realized that opening night was on Tuesday–the off-season just flew by.

The reason I watch so much basketball is so that you don’t have to. There are tons of games to comb through, but I’m willing to step on any potential land mines so you can live the normal life that I can only dream about. I could have used maybe one more week to get my life together, but no matter; the time has come for us to admire dunks, emit loud shrieks and weird squeals. So without further exposition, I give you the first Good Ass Games of the 2016-2017 NBA season. Buen Provecho.

          GOOD ASS GAMES OF THE WEEK

Monday

No games scheduled

Tuesday

Utah at Portland (Good Ass Game of The Week)

Expect to see me talk about Utah a lot this season. They have a bunch of interesting players on this year’s roster; including one of my favorites, the infamous Boris Diaw. Portland is already embarking on a Joey Harrington type MVP campaign for Mr. Damien Lillard. This is a late game, but the high I’ll be feeling on Wednesday morning will be worth the lack of sleep. If this don’t turn out to be a Good Ass Game, then my name ain’t Bobby Mickey.

San Antonio at Golden State

This game will be a nice snapshot of what Spurs fans have to look forward to this season. San Antonio will have a great season and will probably grab 50 wins. They will beat the teams they are supposed to, but they will get their asses handed to them by teams with top-tier point guards (they will especially feel the loss of Danny Green in this one). Wins against Cleveland and Golden State will be tough to come by.

Wednesday

Dallas at Indiana

I’m willing to bet any Mavs fan their favorite flavor of Gelato that the Mavs take their first L of the season. Any takers?

Charlotte at Milwaukee

This one is going to be a low-key Good Ass Game. If you miss it, at least watch the highlights. I bet there will be at least 3 top ten plays from this game alone.

Minnesota at Memphis

OOOOWEEEEEE! Teen Wolves go to the grindhouse. Who else is excited for the first appearance of the vein in Tom Thibodeau’s forehead? To quote the great Marv Albert, “YEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!”

Sacramento at Phoenix 

File this under TAP THAT VEIN GAMES.

Thursday

Boston at Chicago

This game has the potential to be a snoozer, but I gotta know if this has all been an elaborate Machiavellian plan by Rajon Rondo to get close enough to Dwyane Wade for payback for that time Wade dislocated his arm. If you think I’m not hoping that Rondo gets his revenge, then you don’t understand the depths of my pettiness. I hope Rondo makes Wade’s life a living hell for the duration of this season.

San Antonio at Sacramento

One day, we may finally get to see Boogie Cousins play for a stable organization. Sacramento is still a shit show, but they have just enough good players to make you intrigued.

Los Angeles Clippers at Portland 

This is the real pick to click of the evening. It’s a TNT game, and a 9:30 tip-off. I’ll be lucky to  be able to watch any of this game. But you definitely should if you have cable and you like watching beige acrobatic dudes make fake tough guy faces.

Friday

Phoenix at Oklahoma City

Just for funzies, if you have nothing better to do around this time of the evening, I’d suggest watching the first half, hitting the liquor store, calling in a pickup order, and then getting back home in time to watch the 4th quarter.

Charlotte at Miami

There is a faint buzz surrounding the “Me So Hornets” (I’m sorry I had to) this season as they should be the favorites to win the Southeast division with or without a healthy Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Holy Shit! I think I’m starting to get excited about the season starting).

Los Angeles Lakers at Utah

In a first for this site, the Salt Lake City Punks have made the Good Ass Games of the Week three times in a week. What better way to spend a Friday night than ingesting legal substances and watching some west coast basketball.

Houston at Dallas

Let’s be honest Dallas fans. This is the year the bottom finally falls out. After years of post 2011 mediocrity, the Mavericks will finally be bad enough to land a lottery pick. Or will they? They are a difference making point guard away from giving teams trouble in April, but for some reason, people don’t like to come to Dallas. Is it because their genius head coach is an asshole? Or is it because the Mavs owner has been piecing together the kind of rosters that NFL Fantasy owners scramble through during bye weeks. Old man Dirk won’t be there for you forever Mark Cuban, the losses are going to come for you, and when they do, they are going to want some cocktail……….FRUIT!!!!!!

Saturday

Minnesota at Sacramento

I’m pretty sure this is an NBATV game so if there is a party or social function you’re getting pressure to attend, do that instead–especially if you have League Pass. This will be one of those games no one talks about, but then you check your Twitter feed, and there will be four or five GIF’s and Vines documenting sick dunks and crazy highlights.

Sunday

Golden State at Phoenix  

I’m curious about how the Suns will play this season. It is weird to see Earl Watson go balling for the UCLA Bruins to coaching an NBA team. It makes me feel old. This probably be the last time I mention the Phoenix Suns this season, unless it is to discuss trade possibilities. They have some young talent on this team, and may be where Utah was 2 seasons ago, unfortunately for Suns fans, ownership can get out of its own way. By February, you may see half of these players playing significant roles for playoff teams.

San Antonio at Miami 

We are finally going to find out if Erik Spoelstra is a good NBA coach. If the Heat win more than 42 games, he may be a candidate for NBA Coach of the Year.

Milwaukee at Detroit

No Reggie, no problem. This game may not get out of the low 90’s, but it should be competitive (in a Princeton-Boston College second round NIT game kind of way). This may be the earliest playoff preview we get this week.

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

On the Legacy of LeBron James, the Future for Kevin Durant and the Zenith of Busterism

 

Kevin Durant should be celebrated. He is a fantastically gifted scorer who possesses the skills of an elite guard, but has the wingspan of a center.The University of Texas product is certainly on the way to the Hall of Fame, if not the top of the Association’s all-time scoring register. He can shoot, he can create, and as this year’s Western Conference Finals showed, he can actually play some defense.

Yet public opinion on Durant has been waning for years, long before his aptly-timed Independence Day heel turn that saw fans – and sportswriters – roll their eyes in disgust and revolt from his side en masse. The timeline of how this happened, or more accurately, how Durant let this happen, is a complicated one.

Because of his prodigious talents and the timing of his league entrance, KD will always (probably unfairly) be compared to LeBron James. Although both players are nominally small forwards, with the blurring of positions and roles in the modern NBA, the two couldn’t be any more different.

“Bron-Bron” has never been a deadly spot-up shooter like KD, just as Durant has never possessed the world-class court vision and passing ability of James. LeBron thrives on creating for others in the Magic Johnson point forward role; KD is at heart; a volume shooter (albeit a brilliant one). Their respective games are markedly different, a fact that’s always been understated in comparing the two.

But those die have been cast. James and Durant are both super-duper-megastars, they’re of a similar age, they play the same position; therefore, they have to be measured against each other. This is product of fan culture, of media culture and of the pressure former players put on current stars. Durant is not to blame for that.

He’s far from blameless, though. When LeBron signed with Miami following the infamous “The Decision” special in 2010, the public opinion of him plummeted. Never mind that the Cleveland team(s) he left had embarrassingly weak supporting casts (more on this later). He was abandoning his hometown (more or less) team to create a super team and was roundly derided for it.

In that first season in Miami, James tried to double down. Tired of being the calm, collected superstar, he attempted to play the bad guy on the Heat. It didn’t work. It was forced, and later, he admitted that he was mentally exhausted by the act. Notably, the next season, Leron returned to his normal personality en route to his first title. This is where Durant should have been better.

Writers have said for some time that Durant is impressionable and emotional, that “he sometimes makes decisions rashly” and, more alarmingly, “with the intent of choosing the course of action that will please others.” In that context, it is easy to see how a marketing team in KD’s ear could have watched James’ struggles over the first year in Miami and seen an opportunity – one that Durant was all too quick to embrace.

kevindurant

With LeBron as the league’s new villain, KD tried to position himself as the NBA’s new golden boy. Aided by sycophantic writers eager to buy into the idea of Durant as the humble superstar, public opinion of KD soared. He bought into his own mythos, signing a contract extension with the Thunder in a clear attempt to make himself the anti-LeBron: soft spoken, nice, loyal, and team-first.

LeBron gained some supporters back by defeating Durant soundly in the 2012 Finals, but with the Thunder positioned as the West’s team of the future, the loss didn’t seem particularly significant. A group as talented and as young as OKC would surely be back.

History played out differently. Trading James Harden was a massive mistake, yes, and injuries derailed the Thunder at various points. But as this past season showed, the team has copious talent and is still a championship contender. The excuses started to wear thin, and public perception of the team slowly pivoted from “celebrated young upstarts” to “brash loudmouths without a ring.”

This was helped in no small part by the team’s behavior, from publicly claiming things would have been different with a healthy squad, to the actions of individual players. Serge Ibaka plateaued, and fans got tired of being told he was an elite defender. OKC kept bringing in unlikable, or overrated role players (Caron Butler, Dion Waiters, Kendrick Perkins). And as the lack of ultimate success continued, the team’s constant complaining – which manifested in the form of three consecutive top-two finishes in team technical fouls – got old (a Thunder player led the league in T’s in three of the past five seasons).

There’s a word for this kind of stuff: buster. OKC saw the public gradually turn on it because a team can’t be unlikable AND unsuccessful. If you’re going to be loud and defiant and claim you deserve respect as one of the league’s best teams, you’d better back it up. Failing to do so qualifies you as posers. Durant, as the team’s leader, was deservedly the face of that failure.

From an individual perspective, KD didn’t do himself any favors. As LeBron reestablished himself as (unquestionably) the best player in the world, and Durant continued to promote himself at the expense of another player, fans became less receptive. His impressionable, eager-to-please nature likely made it easy for his handlers to convince him this was the best course. He didn’t make that decision in a vacuum.

However, he did choose to tweet “Now everybody wanna play for the Heat and the Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!” just days after “The Decision”. He chose to sign that big extension, knowing how it would look. And in the absolute nadir of blatant nice-guy pandering, he told Bill Simmons he wanted his nickname to be “The Servant” because he made his teammates better.

It was phony, it was obvious, and it was widely rejected. People don’t want to be told how humble you are. A move that transparent, combined with the rest of the Thunder’s collective busterism, soured fans tremendously. This brings us to KD’s decision to leave OKC and sign with Golden State.

To be clear from the outset: Durant has every right to leave. OKC management drafted well and was reportedly player-friendly, but it also made several questionable personnel decisions– headlined by the Harden trade and the curiously long tenure of one Scott Brooks. Without a doubt, the media-and-fan-created stigma of retiring without a championship loomed large in his mind.

It’s the destination he chose that solidifies Durant as a first-team All-Time Buster. Had he left for San Antonio, his hometown Wizards, or some other team with a decent roster, it would be understandable. Moving on for a better chance at a ring is a respectable business decision. What isn’t respectable is leaving for the team that broke the regular-season wins record, just beat you in a thrilling seven-game conference finals and was likely the best collection of talent the NBA has ever seen (if not the greatest basketball team of all time).

It is the ultimate cop-out, the ultimate admission of defeat and disinterest in carrying a team. This isn’t LeBron leaving for Miami. Look at the roster Bron was playing with his final season in Cleveland. Look at the list of corpses he dragged to the 2007 Finals against the Spurs. No wonder he couldn’t get it done before he went to Miami.

By contrast, this year’s OKC team featured a great young center in Steven Adams, a halfway decent bench and another one of the top five players in the world in Russell Westbrook. The Thunder just made a fantastic trade for Serge Ibaka that landed them Victor Oladipo as well as a pair of bigs to add depth in Ersan Illysova and (rookie) Domantas Sabonis. With KD, that team was possibly going to be as good as the Warriors next year, and the Thunder knew they really should have knocked off the Dubs this season.

When LeBron went to Miami, the Heat’s Big Three had never played together. They had spacing issues and chemistry issues and no real center on the roster. It was a remarkable collection of stars, but there’s a reason it took time for the team to learn how to play together.

Golden State will face far less of a challenge in adding Durant. The Warriors have already won a championship and should have won a second. They were, despite the end result of these playoffs, probably the best team of all time. All they’re doing is replacing a good player in Harrison Barnes with an elite one in Durant. It’s a significantly smaller obstacle that will in turn make winning a title significantly less meaningful for KD.

This move isn’t close to LeBron going to Miami. It’s the equivalent of an alt-history in which Lebron signs with Boston after being eliminated by the Celtics in 2010 (upgrading the position manned by Paul Pierce) and riding the coattails of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a ring. It’s the equivalent of Michael Jordan throwing up his hands after being eliminated by the Pistons three straight seasons and signing with Detroit in 1990. It’s disappointing, it’s weakness personified and it’s the ultimate endgame of the busterism KD signed on for way back when he agreed to be the foil to LeBron no one needed.

LeBron, on the other hand…

Where did last year’s Finals leave us with Lebron? To start with, it re-solidifies his place among the very best the game has ever seen, and his status as the current top player in the world. It makes the MVP’s of Derrick Rose (2010), Durant (2014) and Steph Curry (2015) look even more ridiculous in retrospect (Curry’s 2016 nod is acceptable). Most importantly, and thankfully, it finally closes the absurd argument that somehow Bron hasn’t done enough in his career to be included in “Greatest Ever” talks.

I get it. It’s natural to be threatened by change. People dislike when something new challenges their preconceived notions of what is and what should be. It’s why aged stars like Oscar Robertson claim players like Steph Curry would get crushed “back in their day.” It fuels the insecurity in Scottie Pippen when he claimed his Bulls would sweep this season’s Warriors. Ex-players don’t want to be forgotten or have younger players rewrite their accomplishments. Fans are no more rational than the players they support. But there seems to be a particular bent on diminishing James’ accomplishments.

That’s undoubtedly because James is the best player we’ve seen since Michael Jordan. He might end up being considered greater than MJ, or he might not, but it’s the mere notion that he COULD be that strikes so much unnecessary fear in the hearts of some fans. Why is this such a big deal? It comes back to insecurity.

If LeBron COULD one day be better than Mike, then what have all these fans been wasting their time with, stanning for a guy who isn’t the best player ever? It’s a particular fetishism of “The Best And Only The Best” that permeates so much of American culture, and when intertwined with personal identity it creates some truly inexplicable results.

LeBron James

You’d think that LeBron dragging a garbage fire to the Finals against San Antonio in 2007 would be a feat worth celebrating, but no, it makes him a choker. Ditto for the crippled six-man team he willed to a 2-1 lead last year against Golden State – one of the best teams of all time in their own right. What matters is that LeBron lost, and MIKE NEVER LOST IN THE FINALS SO Lebron is a fraud!! Apparently he’d have been better off losing in the first round like Jordan.

 

Never mind that LeBron was just 22 years old, and in his fourth season, when he took a bad team to the Finals. Never mind that it took four seasons for Michael Jordan to get out of the first round of the playoffs (and he promptly lost 1-4 in the second round). The sheen of a six-for-six Finals record is rightfully celebrated, but it tends to distract from MJ’s playoff struggles before he got to that point. Do you know how many playoff GAMES Jordan won without Scottie Pippen?

jordan_pippen2_130214

The answer is one. MJ went 1-9 in the first round in his first three seasons, making the playoffs each year despite a losing record. The latter, of course, was a result of a smaller league, featuring talent consolidation on fewer teams and a near-total lack of quality international players (but that’s a discussion for another time). It’s an ugly mark, but Jordan’s later achievements overshadow those early years, as they should.

If it’s down to rings and rings alone, as some fans attempt to use as a trump card, then neither Michael Jordan nor LeBron James is the best player of all time. Bill Russell’s 11 rings are more than MJ and Bron combined. Yet even the most ardent old-guard supporters would likely concede that Russell is not the greatest player ever. Different eras are difficult to compare, even back-to-back ones like Jordan and James’.

All this of course, misses the point. There is not, nor will there ever be, a consensus greatest player ever. The subject is too subjective and emotion-based to have an “answer.” The most a player can do is put himself in the conversation. If a reasonable argument can be made for a player’s inclusion on that short list, he’s in the conversation. Jordan is there. LeBron is too (and by the way, his career is not over).

That’s what makes Durant leaving for Golden State so disappointing. Michael Jordan broke through in 1991 after struggling for years to get out of the east and rewrote the end of his story. LeBron James went to Miami, learned how to be truly great, then came home and did the same.

No matter how many championships KD wins as a Warrior, he’ll never be the leader of his team the way MJ and Bron were. The Warriors belong to Steph Curry. Durant going along for the ride will only diminish respect for what he accomplishes.

 

img_3186 Devon Singrey is a Portlander and creator of the college football blog, Making Sense of Saturday. His interests include basketball, football, history, mythology, funky music, and all things Prince.

Book Review: Life Is Not An Accident

You may have heard the cautionary tale about former college hoops phenom, Jay Williams and wondered how the hell could someone throw away such a promising career by doing something as reckless as owning a motorcycle. Well if you read his memoir, Life Is Not An Accident, the book will answer every question you’ve ever had about the man.

The book begins on the day of his accident and then works backward (kind of like a movie—upon writing this, I immediately pictured Michael B. Jordan playing the role of Jay Williams). Williams had just finished his rookie campaign and had barely gotten used to NBA life before the abrupt end to his playing career. Unlike Bobby Hurley, another legendary Duke point guard who managed to salvage a couple of years playing despite his own life threatening vehicular accident (car crash), Williams never played in the league again.

The memoir then follows back towards the twists and turns that dog Williams all the way through rehab and his post NBA career, detailing the mental anguish he felt from self-directed guilt and anger. Sandwiched between the details surrounding the accident and his journey to becoming one of ESPN’s best basketball analysts, are tales of various on the court and off the court experiences by the 2002 Naismith Player of the Year.

Most notable are:

  • Scoring 9 of the 11 points in a pickup game while being guarded by J.J. Redick.
  • His recruitment as a high school player and his unrequited desire to be a UNC Tar Heel.
  • His collegiate battles against the Maryland Terrapins;including this unforgettable game.
  • Playing with Shane Battier, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
  • Being on the Bulls with Jalen Rose and Jamal Crawford.
  • Losing the stamina and quickness that gave him an advantage over other college studs.
  • A brief career as an agent that included an unsavory recruitment process of Kevin Love.

 

After a successful rehab stint that involved relearning how to walk, Jay Williams discusses his unsuccessful comeback attempts and his head space immediately following the wreck. Painfully honest, Williams gives an unflinching account of his addiction to pain-killers and being suicidal period.

The most pivotal moment of the book comes when Williams realizes that the self-pity and neurosis that led him to his post-injury depression may have been the same factors that led him towards that fateful bike wreck.

Williams finally gets to a point where he decides to start embracing the things still in his life, instead of mulling  over the things that he (seemingly) threw away in his costly accident. It is here where he confronts his insecurities and demons head on, and turns his life around.

Although not Pulitzer material, this memoir is well written and insightful into the pressures some players deal with the moment they realize they have an opportunity to achieve their wildest dreams. Even the most fervent of Duke haters can empathize with the on the court wins and off the court losses of one of college basketball’s most decorated players. I give this book a B+.

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com.