The Spurs Got Maliwhopped & Will (Likely) Return, Stronger and Better Because They Always Do

It’s fitting that my first post in more than seven months is a follow up to my last. Back then I wrote about how the Spurs opened up a can of three-day old Whoop-Ass on the choking-ass Warriors. My, what an NBA season it has been.

The Spurs were swept last night by an utterly dominant Golden State Warriors squad. The result was a mere formality, one all but assured when their franchise staple and dark horse MVP candidate, Kawhi Leonard, aggravated his ankle during the initial game of the Western Conference Finals. Despite dismantling the Warriors in two of their three regular-season match-ups — the first of which I already wrote about and another that doesn’t really count since both teams rested a bulk of the players that mattered — the Spurs possessed a small chance of unseating the reigning Western Conference champions. Even with their most important player healthy, the Spurs had very little margin for error and needed to execute their game-plan flawlessly in order to legitimately challenge the Warriors — a feat they accomplished for roughly 3 quarters before Leonard’s unfortunate demise.

The Warriors have been playing on another level, maybe even in another stratosphere, during the second half of the season. Despite Kevin Durant’s injury, Golden State has only lost once in more than two months. Following their destruction of the Spurs, Golden State now enters The Finals with an NBA record 12-game winning streak and a double-digit scoring differential. Though their starting center sidelined due to injury, and their other Splash brother struggling offensively from the field, the Warriors seem well equipped for their inevitable championship rematch against LeBron & Co.

But before we bury the Warriors in a metric shit-load of superlatives and explore the vast storylines of Warriors vs Cavaliers III, let’s take a moment to analyze the most intriguing narrative belonging this year’s Western Conference Finals losers. The 2017 NBA Playoffs have been absolute shit. The post-season has produced only a few competitive games in a sea of utter blowouts. And while most of us, both diehard fans and casual observers alike, have been eagerly anticipating yet another Finals rematch from the past two years — especially following Durant’s decision to head to Oakland — the pomp and circumstance leading up to it have been uninteresting. Given the lack of collective competitiveness we’ve witnessed, no team is likely to challenge to the existing power structure without landing a coveted free-agent this summer or the next. Well, no team except the Spurs.

The Spurs can’t be counted out simply because, at this point, their competitiveness is all but assured. They’ve been consistently formidable for nearly three decades. Their five championships — which would be six had it not been for a fortuitous rebound and a clutch corner 3-pointer — have spanned 20 years. The last time they missed the playoffs the United States hosted the Olympics. It’s a level of competitive consistency that few professional franchises, NBA or otherwise, have ever reached. What’s more impressive than San Antonio’s longevity are the methods they’ve used remain there. The Spurs have demonstrated a masterful ability to retain and retool talent without sacrificing wins. Greg Popovich’s genius exists in his ability to develop obscure players while also adapting his offensive system to fit whatever trend currently permeates the NBA. Many have been quick to dismiss the Spurs as being “boring” for as long as I can remember, but no one can deny the results of their unique brand of basketball. Plus, the fact that they’re a located in San Antonio, Texas, an unassuming, small-market city, makes their success even more compelling.

All of which makes this summer so intriguing. The Spurs ability to regenerate their roster will be tested like never been before. San Antonio’s free agent signings in recent years, most notably LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, haven’t exactly panned out as well as they’ve hoped. Aldridge was expected to carry the torch that Tim Duncan once bore — a transition that was largely expected to mirror Duncan’s ascent when David Robinson departed for retirement. However, the big man has been inconsistent during his professional tenure in Texas. While he’s been complicit in playing second chair to Kawhi Leonard’s growing stardom, his game is still predicated on pick-and-roll schemes and long two-pointers — a shot that has increasingly become one of the least effective in today’s NBA. Moreover, he’s failed to increase his presence in the paint on either side of the ball. Couple that with Gasol’s age and untimely disappearing acts, and the ROI with respect to their contracts have been minimal.

Where the Spurs continue to be successful is building through the draft and anonymous free-agents. The storied careers of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are evidence enough. But the meteoric emergence of Kawhi Leonard, the utility of Danny Green, Patty Mills, and Jonathon Simmons, as well as the promise of Kyle Anderson and rookies Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes, serves as proof of the Spurs’ exceptional scouting and development. The most obvious questions surround both Parker and Ginobili, both of whom are in the twilight of their careers with the Frenchmen suffering a season-ending injury against the Rockets in the Conference Semis. While retirement seems likely, the return of these future Hall of Famers isn’t out of the question, if not for their effectiveness on the court, then their development off of it.

The decline of Parker and Ginobili creates opportunity for Mills and Simmons. Both players are suitable replacements for their aging counterparts, but they will be free agents this upcoming summer. Though the Spurs are likely to retain both of their services, they won’t come cheap. Jonathon Simmons has played his way into a lucrative multi-year contract after showing bursts of brilliance, especially considering he once paid $150 to audition for a D-League roster spot. Patty Mills has consistently grown his presence for a few years now. After showing flashes during last year’s defeat to the Thunder during the Western Conference Semifinals, Mills went on a tear during last year’s Olympic Games, notching an impressive 21.3 points per game. And despite his dismal showing against the Warriors in this year’s WCFs, Mills has shown a strong command of Pop’s offense while shooting 40% from beyond the arc off the bench this past season. Re-signing both players has to be a top priority for San Antonio’s front office.

Yet, in the event that they aren’t able to come to terms with both players, the Spurs still remain in enviable position. Third-year man Kyle Anderson, along with rookies Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes, have shown promise during their brief NBA careers. Once known for his sleuth like facilitating style — think of a younger, more nimble version of Boris Diaw — “Slo-Mo” Anderson erupted last July during summer league play. Anderson’s arsenal has yet to fully blossom when the games actually count, but there’s no denying the offensive talent that he possesses. As for the rooks, Murray filled in nicely during Parker’s regular-season injury spell, notching wins his first 7 games as a starter and Forbes is a 3-point specialist with Curry-like range.

It’s no accident that all three players racked up significant minutes during the Spurs’ final game of the season. And while their numbers left much to be desired, this trio of young players played with poise and looked increasingly comfortable on the big stage.

In an era dominated by super teams fabricated from free agency, the Spurs have remained competitive the old fashioned way: through scouting, drafting, and development. Whether they can continue defying odds remains to be seen. But as long as Popovich is on the sidelines and R.C. Buford is negotiating contracts, they seemed poised for deep playoff runs and more championships. And that’s worth applauding.

Advertisements

So, The Old, Boring-Ass Spurs Beat The Living Shit Out Of The ‘Super’ Warriors

So, just yesterday I wrote some shit detailing the sole reason why this year’s NBA season was going to be seemingly unwatchable: the gotdamn Super Friends, formerly known as the Golden State Warriors, were going to defeat the living shit out of anything breathing that dared to bounce a fucking basketball. You might as well have renamed Oracle Arena the Hall of Justice. It wasn’t a matter of if the vaunted Warriors would return to The Finals but rather when, and how they would redeem their brick-shitting ways from a year ago.

Well, that veil of supremacy was shredded last night when the Spurs paid a visit to the Bay Area. It wasn’t just that the Warriors lost. Super Teams — namely the 2007-2012 Boston Celtics, 2010-14 Miami Heat, and the 2014-present Cleveland Cavaliers — generally take awhile to gel. The Warriors may have only lost one game during the preseason, but those games are pointless. Coaches aren’t game planning the same way they would as if it were the regular season, you know when winning actually counts. Plus, the Warriors still must acclimate their style to fit one of the league’s best players given the absence of Harrison Barnes. Spacing is critical to the Warriors’ offense and Durant isn’t relegated to corner threes and sneak rebounding duty. It was the way they lost; a 29 point drubbing at home to the old-ass, boring-ass Spurs.

Durant, Curry, and Green put up some decent numbers (71 points combined shooting 27 of 51 from the floor and pulling down 25 rebounds) but Thompson never found a groove, and Pachulia was nothing more than a statue of human flesh. Moreover, the Warriors shot a horrendous 21% from behind the arc, which is concerning when you consider they shot 42% during their 73-9 campaign last year. The Spurs made the Warriors uncomfortable forcing Curry into four turnovers against four assists, and they never allowed Golden State to settle into a comfortable rhythm. Plus, their bench was about as Casper as it could get as the starters accounted 84 of the team’s 100 points.

San Antonio, on the other hand, did whatever the fuck they wanted to do on both ends of the floor. Kawhi had a career day scoring 35 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge dominated the paint with a double-double (26 points, 14 rebounds). Popovich’s crew bodied the shit out of the Boys From The Bay garnering 17 more boards than the Warriors. And the bench, headlined by unknown reserve Jonathon Simmons, put up a whopping 43 points.

There were moments when it seemed like the Warriors would string together one of their signature twenty-something point runs, but the Spurs never allowed to happen. They enforced their will from the start and capitalized on Golden State’s miscues.

For a team that was widely considered to go undefeated into the New Year, it’s jarring that they’re suffering their first defeat on opening night at home. While the expectation is that Kerr will eventually lead this group to The Finals, he’s going to have to tinker a few things before that dream is realized.

If there are any highlights from this ass-whooping — and there aren’t many — it’s that at least the Warriors don’t have to have to endure the ticking time bomb that would have been the pressure of living up to last year’s historic start. Additionally, Durant may be the go-to scorer the Warriors desperately need when their shooting strokes betray them.

In the meantime, the Spurs are not only unfrightened by the Warriors, they’re simply not having that shit. (I’m sure David Lee is happier den a mug right now having just beat the brakes of his former team.) Which makes this NBA season interesting again.

 

The NBA Is Back! Time For Some Shit Talking!

The NBA season kicks off tonight as LeBron attempts to become a gotdamn Super Saiyan again and obliterate every gotdamn opponent in his path. I haven’t said anything about LeBron since I wrote some dumb shit about him accepting blame for his role in cultivating Cleveland’s glaring weaknesses. The Warriors were up 3-to-1 in the Finals when I wrote that. I thought the series was over. EVERYONE THOUGHT IT WAS OVER! I’m pretty sure the folks over at Under Armour were printing “Curry Is The 2nd Coming” t-shirts to commemorate the baby-faced assassin’s back-to-back title run. Ayesha was just waiting to unleash their bad-ass, annoying child on the podium so my ears could bleed. Little did I know Draymond would do some Draymond shit — like punch LeBron in his meat sack — after LeBron did some LeBron shit — like rub his meat sack on Draymond’s head — earning a pivotal Game 5 suspension.

I also didn’t realize Steph Curry’s and Klay Thompson’s light-skinnedness would cause them to be bitch-made, self-destructive assholes, incapable of hitting the very shots that earned them the nickname of “Splash Brothers.” And I had no Earthly clue Kyrie Irving was really about that buckets life after dressing up in a fat suit and some makeup to peddle Pepsi’s sugar water. I was wrong. LeBron James made sure of that.

Anywho, things are a little bit different this time around. The Warriors went out and paid Kevin Durant a bunch of money to essentially make their team a real-life cheat code. Golden State’s vaunted “Death Lineup” swaps out Harrison Barnes — who apparently was found in Dallas after Steve Kerr reported him missing during the NBA Finals — for Durantula. And if the preseason is any indication, it’s going to be a fucking nightmare for every team that doesn’t call Oracle Arena home. I usually don’t put much stock in preseason basketball, mostly because it’s more useless than preseason football.

But during the time Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Durant, and Green have shared the floor they have ransacked e’erbody. See Exhibit A here. Durant has shown an uncanny tenacity on the defensive end of the floor while still harnessing one of the most lethal offensive arsenals in the league. That’s only going to give Steph and Klay (aka Jon B.) more space to shoot as if they even need it. Andre is still a playmaking machine, and although Draymond continues to recklessly perform flying lotus kicks while grabbing rebounds, he’s still the best two-way, plus-minus player in the league. Steve Kerr is both smart enough and accomplished enough to lead this team to a redeeming championship. Plus he has one of the most talented coaching staffs at his disposal after replacing Luke Walton with seasoned veteran coach Mike Brown.

Golden State’s reserves got better too with the addition of David West, Zaza Pachulia, and “Shaqtin’ A Fool All-Star” JaVale McGhee. Let’s not forget about Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark, the best backcourt reserves to the best starting backcourt in the NBA. The Warriors, barring injury and utter fuckery, are almost guaranteed to return to the NBA Finals en route to destroying the lofty records they set just one year ago. Hell, maybe they’ll win 80 games, although that’s probably preposterous.

There are some other interesting storylines league-wide as the West is full of intrigue. Will the Clippers finally realize their full potential and give Paul Pierce a proper send off with a trip to the Western Conference Finals? How much does Russ hate Durant and how violently will he play now that he’s the only Alpha Dog in OKC? Now that Tim Duncan is off to crease his Girbaud jeans, how will Pop maximize and develop the two-headed monster of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge? Can Harden possibly play less defense this year? And are the Trailblazers the younger version of the Warriors?

The East is far less interesting. The Bulls shipped Mr. Glass (D. Rose) and an awkward big man with two left feet (J. Noah) to the Knicks and added a guard who can’t shoot outside of 10-feet (Michael Carter-Williams) and a past-their-prime D. Wade and Rajon Rondo. If Chicago would have signed Wade and Rondo 5 years ago then maybe it’d mean something. It doesn’t. Madison Square Garden is now home to a bunch of ball-dominant shooters, one of whom doesn’t seem to understand the concept of sexual consent (D. Rose). And the Raptors are still paying Aubrey Graham to be their hype man. The only team reasonably capable of challenging LeBron and Co. are the Pacers — after adding Jeff Teague, Al Jefferson, and Monta Ellis — and the Celtics, who may or may not be supremely overrated.

All that said, we’re probably going to witness a Cavs vs. Warriors trilogy in the Finals. We likely know what’s going to happen which makes this upcoming regular-season almost pointless to watch. It’s not nearly as bad as Roger Goodell’s NFL, but it’s still kinda pointless. The only way this NBA season is going to be enjoyable is if the Warriors talk shit every gotdamn game. I mean Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnet amounts of shit. Just because they can, and there’s not a gotdamn thing anyone can do about it. At least until June.

C’mon Kevin!!!

Earlier this wondrous Independence Day holiday, Kevin Durant decided to write some bullshit (it wasn’t bullshit, I’m just pissed off right now) on The Players’ Tribune about why he’s taking his lanky ass and impressive basketball skills to the Bay Area. Unlike some people, I respect his decision. Joining Golden State assuredly guarantees that the self-proclaimed Easy Money Sniper will obtain his first NBA title, and most likely a Finals MVP, since the younger Wardell Curry loves performing disappearing acts once the calendar hits June. I like Kevin Durant. I admire his game, I wear his slept-on, dope-ass shoes (fuck y’all, them KD 8s are hard), and I even rooted for him when he took on the Greatest Team to Never Win a Championship in the Western Conference Finals (I still don’t understand how y’all lost 3 straight games, b). Simply put, Durantula is taking a better job, and I can’t be mad at the brother for enhancing his employment status. But Kev is fucking shit up for me. Seriously, this man is killing my motherfucking vibe.

First off, I will never be able to play NBA 2K17. EVERY NEGRO IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE IS GOING TO PICK THIS TEAM!!!! EVERYONE GOT DAMMIT!!!! And they will most likely dominate the living shit out of every opponent. That means the little time that I devoted to pummeling snot-nosed teenagers and over-zealous adults to reduce my stress and increase my dopamine levels is gone. I will now be forced to fill this two-hour window with something more productive, like working out, or volunteering, or some other self-fulfilling, positive shit like that. My shit-talking video game days are officially on hiatus until further notice.

Second, I’m going to endure the unadulterated, obnoxious, egotistical bullshit of Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon. These two faux journalistic blowhards will undoubtedly use every ounce of airtime attributed to them to discredit and dismantle Durant’s character, manhood, and Blackness. They will talk about how this is the worse thing a superstar athlete could ever do on the face of the fucking planet (I pretty sure Aaron Hernandez did the worst shit ANY athlete could do) and that no Hall of Fame caliber player would have ever dreamt of joining the team that just dismantled them a few months prior in a hard-fought, contentious series. They will make my ears bleed as I tune into ESPN to watch baseball highlights, impatiently anticipating the upcoming NFL season. (COME THE FUCK ON ALREADY AUGUST!!!!!)

And it will get worse. More faux journalists (like Jason Whitlock) and more blowhards (like Colin Cowherd) will fling their ill-conceived takes the way a gorilla does his shit. They will use big “L” words like “legacy” and “loyalty” in describing their disapproval of Durant’s decision. They will call him a hypocrite for doing the very thing he criticized LeBron for when he made “The Decision.” Pretty soon the idiots that tune into this fabricated nonsense will absorb it as gospel and began to permeate the places I find refuge in by regurgitating these felonious opinions as their own. Barbershops, rec centers, golf courses and churches will become a wasteland of bullshit Durant driven debates.

“Jordan would’ve never done no shit like that. Magic would’ve done no shit like that. Kareem would’ve never done no shit like that. These young niggas ain’t loyal in the game. The game done changed.” I will hear this word pollution to exhaustion, with the clamoring noise coming to fever pitch once the Rio Olympics commences (an Olympics that shouldn’t be happening at all) and we witness 3/4 of the Fearsome Four that will obliterate the entire fucking NBA next season (it will probably be a joy to watch too).

This is worse than LeBron’s departure to South Beach when he united with D-Wade and some raptor-looking dude named Chris Bosh. The Warriors have been to two consecutive NBA Finals, winning the first and blowing the second. They now have the league’s last 3 MVPs (“The real MVP” Durant, an unsuspecting Curry and the video game Curry who didn’t miss from inside of 90 feet until the Finals). The 2010 Miami possessed a mere likely-hood of becoming the NBA Champs. There was uncertainty in their union that allowed haters to discredit their claim to the iron throne that is the Larry O-Brien trophy.

That doesn’t exist with these Warriors. Barring injury, it’s a foregone conclusion that they will reach the NBA Finals, en route to setting wins, offensive efficiency, and overall fun records. They now have 4 of the NBA’s top 10 players and a deep bench to compliment them. Their coach is both savvy and accomplished enough to command the respect of his players. Egos will be snuffed out with Sandlotesque jubilation and chipper buoyancy.

Hence, my third and final gripe; the Warriors are going to render the upcoming NBA season pointless to watch. It’s painfully ironic that the television contract that allowed for this union to happen is going to be a huge waste of fucking money. The only advertisers that will be willing to shell out cash to satiate ESPN’s mammoth deal are the companies that employ a player on (self-proclaimed tech god and NBA guru) Joe Lacob’s payroll (Under Armour, Nike, Britta, State Farm Insurance, American Family Insurance, Anta, Sprint, etc.).

Witnessing the Warriors reign will be the closest thing to state-sponsored television the U.S. will produce; we know what’s going to happen already, but we’re forced to watch because they’re going to be on ALL THE FUCKING TIME!!!!

So enjoy yourself, Durant. I look forward to your mother sitting next to the picturesque Curry family (wait, can you imagine the Moms Club of the Warriors now? Can we get a reality television look at the life of Sonya, Mary, and Wanda together eating Sunday brunch? Seriously, Bravo, make this shit happen), decked out in a rhinestone, royal blue, and California yellow jersey, screaming in joy as you dunk on the Cleveland LeBronites next year. But just know you’ve made my life difficult. Because haters gon’ hate, and you just supplied them with a ten month arsenal of industrial-grade napalm.

Should We Start Blaming LeBron?

The NBA Finals return to Cleveland tomorrow with the Warriors comfortably harnessing 2-0 series lead. The Cavs will look to rebound and hold serve at home, but given the result of the first two contests, the chances of a Warriors repeat has transitioned from, “Will they win two in a row?” to “How many games will it take them to close out this series?” to “Just how bad are the Cavaliers?” to “Is this even worth watching anymore?” within most social circles.

The Cavaliers’ roster isn’t talented enough to compete on the same level as their Western Conference counterparts.

Aside from maybe LeBron James (I must emphasize maybe because he’s been outplayed by Andre Iguodala on both ends of the floor), the Warriors have demonstrated their vast superiority over the Cavs in every way, and at every position imaginable. That includes players, coaches, the front office, owners, ball boys, custodians, and even thirsty fans.

James & Co. may have steamrolled their way to The Finals without much resistance from the Eastern Conference,  but at this point it’s hard to imagine them advancing past the rebuilding Trailblazers if they played in the west.

The Cavs’ dismal performance has also unearthed some interesting personal questions, such as:

  1. Is Kyrie Irving a superstar? (Skip Bayless says yes, but he’s said some pretty dumb shit over the years.)
  2. Is LeBron’s game limited?
  3. Is Tyrone Lue still suffering from the effects of Iverson stepping over him? (Is he, though? Because he’s coaching like it!)
  4. Did J.R. Smith suddenly forget how to shoot?
  5. When should we declare Kevin Love a missing person?
  6. Did those Uncle Drew Pepsi commercials mislead us into thinking Kyrie and Love were really about that buckets life?
  7. Will LeBron ever follow the Cavs Twitter account again?

Find out on the next episode of Dragon Ball Z! (I know, this is overused and incredibly corny, but I still enjoy doing it.)

One question that I legitimately have is how much blame LeBron should shoulder for this year’s Finals debacle. Barring a monumental turnaround, James’ performance will be futilely dissected by paid talking heads to exhaustion. (Prepare for an incoherent Stephen A. Smith rant daily until the start of the upcoming NFL season.)

Some will label him the Peyton Manning of basketball. Others will continue to discredit his accolades with cretinous comparisons to Michael Jordan. (Seriously, stop this shit. It doesn’t make sense.)

But aside from on-court performance, I’m more interested in observing LeBron’s role in assembling this inept (ok, they’re not that bad, are they?) roster, and possibly, the coaching staff. David Griffin may be the GM, but James’ fingerprints are evident in every facet of the Cavs organization.

From roster decisions (I still have no idea how Tristan Thompson is making $82 million over five years) to coaching moves (Blatt, I’m sorry it had to be you, G), James’ preferences are king, even if Griffin (and James) refuse to acknowledge it publicly. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team’s uniforms aren’t cleared through Bron Bron before each game. (Remember that time he tore up his sleeves mid game? Has he worn sleeved jerseys since?)

The Cavs are clearly doing everything in their power to keep their hometown superstar happy, and I don’t blame them. They’re hell bent on avoiding another 2010 catastrophe (no one wants to witness another Dan Gilbert temper tantrum and jersey burning rituals). But at what cost?

At LeBron’s behest, the Cavs have over-invested in a power forward to just rebound (Tristan Thompson), traded away a promising wing player for a power forward who only shoots and rebounds (Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love), given away assets for two inconsistent role players (draft picks for Shumpert and Smith), and fired a veteran coach in favor of a rookie. Not to mention they’ve devoted unnecessary playing to Matthew Dellavadova, the league’s dirtiest, most maladroit player. (Seriously, why the fuck is he even in the NBA? He fucking sucks. Are there some advanced statistics that I’m missing proving otherwise? Because the eye test says under no circumstance should you ever pick this dude up, even at a rec center.)

I’m sure LeBron’s return to Cleveland, for as heartfelt as it was, came with very specific stipulations and a metric-ass ton of control, especially after Dan Gilbert’s tasteless, vitriolic tirade (it was pretty terrible). And I certainly understand James’ lack of confidence in Griffin’s ability equip him with a championship caliber supporting cast (relax LeBron, no one is going to sign Shaq for the veteran’s minimum anymore).

But whatever the case, the Cavs mortgaging their entire future hasn’t resulted in another ring for King James, and it isn’t likely to. Only now, it’s probably his fault.

Dear White People, Ali Wasn’t Yours

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”

-Muhammad Ali

I’ve been struggling to find the words that adequately describe my appreciation for the life of Muhammad Ali. Since news broke of his death, I’ve observed some beautiful tributes over the past 36 hours. Some delineated his remarkable boxing skills and unwavering determination. Others mentioned his charismatic personality and buoyant confidence. A few dared to outline the incredible courage that defined his legacy during the racially tumultuous 1960s. The best ones did both.

I didn’t witness Ali’s vicious reign in the ring or his candid theatrics. I was a no-thought when he defied the government, routinely professed his faith, and publicly displayed his supreme indifference to the shedding of white tears. By the time I was old enough to appreciate his nobility, the Muhammad Ali that motivated and inspired the world with his brash outspokenness was all but a casualty courtesy of his brutal profession and the cruelty of Parkinson’s.

But one thing I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is Ali didn’t trust many White folks. Outside of Howard Cosell, he affectionately referred to Caucasians as “White Devils.” After all, white people HATED Ali and weren’t shy about displaying it. (Some still hate him in the wake of his death.) They staunchly opposed his existence and routinely showered him with death threats. They hated his religious conviction, his brazenness, and his insolence. Most of all, they hated that he kept winning.

It wasn’t just that Cassius Clay became the champion of the world. White America has always been tolerant, even fond of, the docile Negro athlete; a black individual who’s extraordinary physical abilities entertain without challenging the established order of things. It’s one of the reasons why America lauds Russell Wilson and Stephen Curry but reviles Cam Newton and Richard Sherman. Make us awe but never demur us. Be victorious but don’t proclaim greatness.

No, Clay’s maturation was far more threatening than any punch he could ever throw. In becoming Muhammad Ali he evolved into the self-righteous Negro white folks gravely feared. Furthermore, the gentle giant sought to use his prestigious title as a platform to influence change. Ali was OUR hero.

Given all of this, there are a few tributes that I simply don’t understand. Donald Trump recognized Ali for being “A truly great champion and a wonderful guy.” This after questioning the existence of Muslim sports heroes altogether. While the oversized Oompa Loompa with a terrible comb-over has received a great deal of well-deserved criticism, it’s not the only demonstration of hypocrisy.

For instance, this afternoon, Louisville’s baseball team took on Wright State during the NCAA Regionals in caps adorned with “Ali.” On its face value, it’s a guileless act of appreciation. After all, Ali was born and raised in Louisville, KY, and his memorial services are scheduled to commence at the city’s KFC Yum! Center (possibly one of the dumbest names for an arena) this upcoming Friday. But it’s still tough for me to grasp this as a genuine gesture of appreciation.

College baseball is meteorically white. Not Hispanic, like it’s professional counterpart. It’s WHITE. And the University of Louisville, like most PWIs, has a disturbing history of racial insensitivity. Not to mention Kentucky selected Trump as its Republican nominee and will most likely vote for him come November.

So, allow me to ask, are you celebrating the life of a heavyweight fighter who merely beat up other black folks or an icon who defined a generation? One cannot be revered without the other. Ali’s presence isn’t only exemplified by his athletic superiority. His greatness is deeply rooted in his unapologetic Blackness. His aura is explicated by his unflinching desire to be exactly who he wanted to be. His faults and vulnerability made him relatable to the average man, further strengthening his impact.

Thus, if you are to celebrate Ali and his many accomplishments, you must also recognize him and his convictions. He should not serve as a caricature for your pleasure or a token for your cliched bullshit. He cannot be adopted into your agenda because he was the antithesis of its existence. He must not be trivialized to material accolades or discredited for his shortcomings.

We may never witness another Ali. Few have had the power to transcend their sport and influence social change – namely Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods – but they never displayed the courage to walk in his image.

It’s a notion that saddened me, but since his death, one that I’ve grudgingly accepted. For obvious scientific reasons, there can never be another Muhammad Ali. One cannot ever truly replicate another. But even if someone could imitate his actions within a similar context I’m not convinced it would be enough. Ali sits upon a throne on his own. And that’s what makes him “The Greatest.”

Ali bomaye.

Hoping The Warriors Lose In The Finals Because Of Steph Curry’s Cockiness Is Dumb

Thanks to either an apocalyptic meltdown or a resurrection reminiscent of Lazarus (I prefer meltdown, but, eh, to each its own), the Warriors will play the Cavs tonight in a redux of last year’s mediocre NBA Finals.

Frankly, I don’t care who wins. I can easily tolerate a “Greatest team in the history of the NBA” narrative the same way I can a “Prodigal son returns home to provide a championship to a desperate fanbase.” I just want to see some competitive basketball and a few entertaining post-bucket celebrations. (Staredowns, stomps, shimmying, all the shit is welcome.)

But one thing that’s making the fuzz beneath my balls crinkle is the growing number of casual basketball fans who are hoping for Golden State’s demise because they believe Stephen Curry has turned into a cocky piece of shit.

Curry used to be humble, nah mean? Like, he won MVP and got a ‘ship and now he all holier than thou, and disrespectful and what not. I don’t like that shit!

This is the dumbest shit that I’ve heard since DC fanboys tried to convince me “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” was cinematically more realistic than “Captain America: Civil War.” (It’s not. Sit yo’ salty ass down somewhere with that nonsense.)

You mean to tell me that this light-skinned, son of a professional basketball-playing father and a collegiate star-athlete mother (and she fine), husband to a modelesque wife (I don’t care what you say bruh, she fine too), who has his own signature shoe, and is a starting guard in the NBA, suddenly became arrogant between last year’s championship and now? NO. That’s idiotic.

Curry has been cocky since the day he was born. While you were busy snacking on pasteurized cheese products, Steph was devouring healthy portions of Foie gras. His childhood room was most likely a combination of Richy Rich meets Theo Huxtable. He was playing one-on-one with NBA ballers while you were throwing rubber rec balls at a makeshift hoop constructed with milk crates and duct tape. He’s been cocky for awhile now.

I know we’ve become accustomed to this lovely notion that Curry is just a humble, God-fearing, family man who’s strength comes from those around him, some of which is probably true. But it’s also the feel-good fictive that the NBA wants you to devour. It sells tickets and moves merchandise from stockroom shelves to the confines of your living room.

Beneath this veneer there also exists a self-absorbed, endogenous, “ball is life” assassin. And that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. You can be cocky and decent at the same damn time. Just as you can be unpretentious and a dick, at the same damn time. It can happen.

ALL PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES ARE COCKY, SOMEWHAT NARCISSISTIC HUMAN BEINGS. Every last one of them. Because sometimes it’s necessary.

Becoming a specimen that is paid to perform at a supremely elite-level is hard as fuck. While most have been gifted with some fortuitous physical traits (like being seven feet tall), and blind luck (like being the seed of a professional athlete), it’s still a steep road to trek. (What up doe Marcus Jordan?!)

Thus, if you don’t have some belief that all that is good and pure in the entire world revolves around your undeniable greatness, you will fail. (BELIEVE IN YO’SELF DAMMIT!)

I’m not referring to confidence. That’s for regular folks. It’s reserved for mere mortals who sort through data sets, prepare lesson plans (I love teachers), or muster up the courage to ask an attractive chick at Buffalo Wild Wings for their number.

What I’m talking about a supreme aura created with the knowledge that you can alter the fabric of the entire universe.

It’s what drives some of the best athletes to devote countless hours and an inordinate amount of energy to their craft. Their professional existence is centered on the notion that an entire organization’s success will be determined by their performance.

If you’re bothered by Wardell Jr.’s brash celebratory outbursts –like staring into someone’s soul after obliterating their ankles or turning up court after shooting an improbable 3-pointer before the ball hits the bottom of the net – get over yourself. J.R. Smith practically catches the Holy Ghost every time he nails a shot despite having none of the accolades or superlatives currently in Curry’s possession.

Professional athletes are paid to entertain, excite, and do crazy-difficult shit – like hit 35-foot, game-winning bombs with ease. Listen, you can root for, or against, whoever you want, it’s your prerogative. There are a myriad of reasons to not like the Warriors. (They win too much, they make shit look fun, they’re not your team, pick one.) But don’t hate on someone because they’re not the person you want them to be. That’s fucking stupid.

j-r-smith3pointcelebration

 

Kevin, I Hope This Keeps You Up At Night

I was fully prepared to embrace an NBA Finals completely void of the Golden State Warriors. For as unlikely as it was, the greatest regular season team the NBA has ever seen was now in jeopardy of being reduced to nothing more than a few hilarious “Crying Jordan” memes. It was fitting that their disappointing fate would come at the hands of an underachieving foe that employs two of the game’s most dynamic stars. The consummate basketball team from Oakland (that features a pair of Al B. Sure golden boys – one of whom is the league’s first ever unanimous regular season MVP – and thrive on precision, timing and fun) were about to be aptly undone by a pair of wildly athletic, unpredictable, angry dudes, a Kiwi sporting an impressive mustache and a beautifully gifted, 7’0″ Congolese-Spaniard who hits 3 pointers as fluid as he blocks shots. Oh, the joys of juxtaposition.

With less than 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter of Saturday’s pivotal Game 6, the Thunder were poised to knock off everyone’s favorite sweethearts. After all, they were up by seven playing before a raucous home crowd at Chesapeake Arena. During their two previous trips to Oklahoma City, the Warriors were annihilated by a combined 51 points. They fell victim to consecutive losses for the first time since basketball became an actual sport and not just a casual hobby at the YMCA (or since last year’s NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers).

The stage was set. All Durant and Westbrook needed to do was be who’ve they’ve been over the past couple weeks and set in motion one of the best sports debates since the Patriots lost to the Giants. They only needed two Kendrick Lamar songs to guarantee travel arrangements to the ugly confines of Cleveland, Ohio. (I’m from Michigan. Thus, everything is ugly in Ohio.)

But then like a feel-good, melodramatic, Disney produced, cliche sports movie (probably starring Denzel Washington), the un(fucking)thinkable happened. After building charity houses with his vast amount of bricks, Klay decided that he wasn’t going to miss another three ever again. (He made 5 of his record 11 treys in the 4th.) Stephen Curry suddenly grew a pair of balls and not only joined his fellow Splash Brother in the rain-making business but also attacked the living shit out of the paint. Miraculously, Andre Iguodala emerged from the abyss (or wherever the fuck he was hiding), swatting anything vaguely directed towards the opposition’s basket.

Meanwhile, the Thunder – after exorcising the 4th quarter demons that haunted them during the regular season against the Spurs (this past season’s “other” super team who play identically to the Golden State Warriors) – decided to display the same 4th quarter meltdown that plagued them during the regular season.

Suddenly, Durant didn’t understand how to play fucking basketball. Westbrook, who committed a single turnover through the first 36 minutes, decided to willingly gift the ball to Golden State four times in the final 12 minutes.

The Thunder had every opportunity to free us from the agony of witnessing another annoying post-game presser featuring the misdeeds of Riley Curry. Wardell Sr. was all but ready to embrace his spoiled offspring.

Then poof!!! As fast you can say “a unicorn is shitting rainbows,” Steve Kerr’s heart palpitations subsided long enough for the Warriors to steal a game in the most gut-wrenching way possible. FUCK!!! Gotdamn you Kev and Russ. You had one job. ONE!!!! Uno motherfuckers!!!! May the “Crying Jordan” gods show you no mercy upon you. Let the bullshit conspiracy theories flow like fine wine!!!

The Callous Destruction of Kobe Bryant

I used to hate Kobe Bryant. I hated that idiotic grin he gave when he thought he had done (and probably did) something special. I hated his narcissistic sense of humor which he forcefully flashed during interviews and post-game press conferences.

I hated his “I’m going to act like I’m from the mean streets of Philly, even though I grew up an international ‘Cosby kid’ courtesy of the affluent lifestyle that I lived in like four different countries because my father was a professional basketball player” attitude.

I hated when he made those reckless comments about the Pistons, even though his Lakers’ team of Hall of Famers lost to them in 2004.

I even hated that KobeSystem ad campaign featuring Kanye West, Richard Branson, Aziz Ansari, and a bunch of other Nike-sponsored athletes and famous people, in which Kobe, posing as a life coach to this crowded room of stars, literally said, “You’re welcome” at the conclusion of every commercial. I lied. I love those commercials. They were, and will always be hilarious, but not because of Kobe. Wieden + Kennedy deserves the credit for that.

I love basketball. And although I was incredibly repulsed by his many, idiotic and vainglorious actions, I genuinely enjoyed watching him play. There was no denying Kobe’s greatness. He is undoubtedly one of the best basketball players I have ever witnessed. From his clutch, killer-instinct, to his superior offensive arsenal and suffocating defensive prowess, he has long cemented his place in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In an era dominated by big men, he was a visceral assassin, attacking defenses with surgical precision, victimizing any opponent who dared to contend.

He had a neurotic obsession with perfecting his craft as he sought to quench his insatiable desire to be the best basketball player on the planet. He possessed uncanny footwork, a lightning quick first step, a vast shot making repertoire and notable range.

He understood the nuances of his teammates and habitually created opportunities that elevated their performance while still exalting his own.

He vehemently studied his esteemed idol – none other than Michael Jeffrey Jordan – devoted to replicating his ruthless dominance and ascending to the throne as his second coming.

Yet given all of these attributes, these monumental superlatives, now that Father Time is brutally beating the last remnants of basketball skill from his tattered limbs, my hate for Kobe Bryant has dissipated. All I feel now is a faint sense of indifference. So much so, it’s almost humorous.

Why? Because, despite his horrendous performance as of late, and the obvious signs that he’s as washed up as a pair of acid treated Jordache jeans, Kobe’s unrelenting, self-absorbed, condescending ego is blinding him so much, that he legitimately thinks he can still dominate.

Take for instance when the ESPN NBA player rankings debuted before the season and pegged the Black Mamba as 93rd, comparable to the likes of Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, and Elfrid Payton. Wait, who is Elfrid Payton?

When asked his feelings of the ranking, Kobe predictably replied, “I don’t need to defend that. Nobody does, really.” When inquired further about the matter, he defiantly said, “Please don’t ask me about silly stuff like that.”

Of course, Twitter exploded as life-long Kobe zealots protested the claim that he was that bad. Even ESPN’s most animated personality, Stephen A. Smith, came rushing to Bryant’s defense, voicing grave displeasure before discounting the entire ranking as flawed and insignificant.

But if we’re being honest, and I mean brutally honest, the fact is that his ranking is pretty accurate. At first glance, one could argue that Bryant is having a respectable season averaging 16 points and nearly 4 assists per game. Not what we’ve become accustomed to, but, not terrible either.

However, if you take a closer look at his stat line, he’s shooting a dismal 34% from the floor and an abhorrent 21% from beyond the arc with a PER of 11.69. The mysterious, aforementioned Elfrid is actually better than Kobe. As I imagine Hans and Franz would say, “I’m not going to sugarcoat it, that’s terrible.”

Despite this statistical evidence, the most telling stat that delineates Kobe’s inability to come to terms with his demise is the fact that he’s taking 16 shots per game. SIXTEEN. Most of which are taken early in the shot clock, or with defenders draped all over him while teammates are available with wide-open looks at the basket.

It’s as if he’s trying to prove, much like he’s done his entire career, that his claim to greatness is still intact. I’ll show you who I am!

A few weeks ago, some of my comrades and I were musing over active Hall of Fame caliber players who were now in the final days of their NBA lives – Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Vince Carter – and their respective iconic moments. We discussed Garnett’s perpetual trash talking, Vinsanity’s theatrical display of hops and Duncan’s productive (albeit boring) longevity.

We recognized the adjustments they made to become more efficient role players. We applauded them for surrendering their claim as the alpha dog for that of a wise mentor.

As we concluded our thoughts, I realized that we unconsciously omitted Kobe Bryant from the conversation entirely. Moreover, I found that my fellow basketball enthusiasts, one of whom is a diehard Lakers fan, held the same convictions about Kobe as I did; we collectively no longer cared to give his saga attention. But it wasn’t just about an unwillingness to observe his implosion. Sadly, we had become disinterested in him. And therein lies the apathy.

Typically, as great athletes embark on the twilight of their careers, there’s a consensus of gratitude and appreciation for their accomplishments. Even when they suck and don’t know it, there’s still a feeling of remorse and sympathy. Even if they’re revolting pricks, we still find some justification of our fondness for them as people.

Hell, Michael Jordan was, and continues to be, a complete and utter jerk. Yet, we idolize him so much that we continue to buy his shoes without remorse and either celebrate him as the GOAT or, at the very least, an influential ambassador for the game of basketball.

The reason for this is despite our personal convictions, there exists a level authenticity with phenomenal players that allows us to create some sort of connection. For Michael, we associate humanistic moments with his grand persona such as the “Like Mike” Gatorade commercial, the “Flu Game”, and watching him find solace in claiming a championship on Father’s Day after the murder of Jordan Sr.

But not Kobe. Because he doesn’t want us to. He’s so determined to live up to his super-human guise that he would never willingly bear his burdens in public. However, when he tries to pull back the self-fabricated, ravishing facade of himself and display some inkling of relatable humanity, it’s so inauthentic that it actually serves as an antipode, pushing some of us who have enjoyed his basketball presence to this place of impassiveness.

Look at his featured Showtime documentary Kobe Bryant’s Muse. I suppose the purpose of the film was meant to be some sort of intimate portrayal intended on providing an unadulterated glimpse into Kobe’s life. Yet, even with a few compelling moments of perseverance, my lasting impression after viewing the film was, “Did I really just watch a spoiled, millionaire athlete talk about himself for 1 hour and 45 minutes? Was I supposed to care?”

I can’t imagine Kobe wishes this to be the curtain call to his famed career. No person would ever consciously want this as their final chapter. Right? Though other iconic players have suffered through prolonged and somewhat pointless exiles (Allen Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, his former teammate turned adversary, Shaq), I can’t remember anyone who experienced a fate like this.

Or maybe I’m wrong and this is in fact what Kobe wants his legacy to be. Maybe he desires to be cast from a fraternity, one in which he was once a revered protagonist, as a pretentious relic seeking to justify his greatness. Either way, for as unceremonious as it is, it’s certainly a path of his choosing. I’m just not interested in watching it.