Programming note, y'all: before long, we're going to begin GIF TOURNAMENT V. In case you haven't been around for the previous four GIF TOURNAMENTs: basically, we'll set up a tournament bracket, fill them with the 48 greatest sports GIFs from the last year or so, and hold a series of reader polls to decide which GIFs advance, until eventually, we crown a GIF champion.
The GIFs in the tournament are largely determined by the winners of THIS WEEK IN GIFs. The winner in the voting below will get a guaranteed spot in the tournament, and the GIF that finishes in second will receive consideration for inclusion. Look for GIF TOURNAMENT V to start in two weeks or so. (If you'd like updates, I'll be tweeting them from @jon_bois).
Okeydoke, let's get to it. Hope you enjoy basketball.
This GIF is weeks old, but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't include it somewhere. Valued Internet subscriber CaliforniaJag was kind enough to bring it to our attention in the comments in Week 75 of THIS WEEK IN GIFs.
Thanks to him, Andrea Bargnani makes an unbelievable third THIS WEEK IN GIFs appearance in a single season. We've seen him here, playing just about the worst possible defense. Here, we saw his teammates fall into despair after he demonstrated the worst possible clock management.
"Worst possible" is indeed the theme for Mr. Bargnani. Above, he performs what is pretty much the worst possible dunk attempt. He somehow finds a way to get a lot of hang time while only getting about six inches off the ground, which is something NASA should probably study.
I find something strange as I watch GIFs like this one: I forget how tall he is. These failures -- taking a bad jumper, playing timid defense, getting completely exploded on a dunk attempt -- look like the failures of some six-foot point guard somewhere. Like, a rookie starting point guard on some crap team who makes five terrible decisions a night.
DUDE IS SEVEN FEET TALL AND HAS BEEN IN THE NBA FOR EIGHT YEARS.
LEBRON JAMES, PT. 1
Down 110-108 to the Warriors in Oakland, LeBron James put up a contested three. With 0.1 seconds left, he drilled it. This is the immediate aftermath: LeBron, strutting, as positive as everybody else that he is the best basketball player on Earth. A cut-rate Jim Carrey cussin' in the background. A lady who, judging from the yellow ThunderStix, appears to have allegiance to the Warriors, but is cheering her fool head off anyway. And scattered throughout the moving portrait, at least six sad-ass people with their heads in their hands. Try to find them all!
LEBRON JAMES, PT. 2
Apologies for splitting the LeBron vote. It's not my fault he does awesome stuff all the time.
One of the unique qualities I find about the GIF medium is that, since it doesn't have sound, I sometimes decide its sound internally when I watch it. For this one, I'm going with one of those old credit card imprinters, the ones that simply made a carbon-copy of a card's digits rather than reading a magnetic strip. I'm not old enough to remember them being commonplace, but a lot of retail stores still have them around in case their point-of-sale systems go offline. Sliding them produces this completely satisfying "shu-SHUNK" noise, as though you're literally chopping money out of the credit card or something.
I'm going with that, except the sliding action also trips a clown horn.
This is Indian luger Shiva Keshavan as he successfully ghost-rides his sled. It's amazing, and it's also the only non-basketball GIF of the week. Given that the NHL and Winter Olympics are going on, you'd think I would have a greater variety of GIF sports to offer you. Here's the thing about that, which I will express via a short ranking of the best GIF sports.
MOST GIF-GENIC SPORTS POWER RANKINGS
1. Baseball. Weird/funny moments are the product of lots and lots and lots of volume. Baseball, with its 2,500 or so games per season, offers more volume than any other sport. It's also awkward and rigid: players sprint for six seconds, then stand for five minutes, then sprint again. Humans are used to moving in a more fluid manner, and that herky-jerky manner of existence induces all kinds of slapstick calamity in a human being.
2. Basketball. Like baseball, there's lots of volume. Unlike baseball, the movement is more even and constant. Also, unlike baseball, the duties of a basketball player often aren't clearly defined on a moment-to-moment basis: while the player has general assignments or principles to adhere to, how those tasks are executed are up to him or her, and there usually aren't rules telling the player where to stand. Lots of freeform goofy crap here.
3. Hockey. In terms of GIF quality, this is kind of an all-or-nothing sport. Hockey does not produce a ton of great GIFs, but when it does, the GIFs are miraculous. Many of the greatest GIFs in the history of sports are hockey GIFs.
4. Football: This sport really is better served with noise and in its entirety. The assignments are so rigidly specific, and everyone's super-serious all the damn time, and since they're wearing helmets with face masks, we don't even get as many funny faces.
5. Soccer. It's a beautiful sport, but the GIF the serious soccer fan find greatness in/ are often completely different from the GIFs the casual observer finds to be great. I see a goal with a wicked curve on it, and the serious fan's like "pfffft, there are a hundred better than that." I am the one who is wrong, probably.
This is West Virginia's Staten up against Iowa State's Georges Niang. This is the danger of crossing up fools too badly: you might cross them up so bad that you trip over them.
Chris Kaman is one of the funniest players in the NBA, and he's the subject of one of my personal favorite GIFs in the history of THIS WEEK IN GIFs. It only received nine percent of the vote, but I bust out laughing every time I see it. It's like watching someone go off-roading in a town car.
This GIF, meanwhile. Erase everyone and everything else out of the picture and it looks like a pajama'd Santa Claus climbing into bed.
If you're the sort of casual basketball fan who has missed out on what Anthony Davis has been up to, this piece is a great way to catch up. The dude just recovered on defense, tipped a shot, and put home a fast-break dunk in four seconds' time. The dude does stuff like this all the time.
Anthony Davis is 20, and he's on pace to finish his season with at least 50 games started and a PER above 26. No 20-year-old has ever done that in the history of the NBA. LeBron was the only one to come close.