We're almost a month into the NBA season, and that can only mean one thing.
That's right, it's Thanksgiving! Also known as the best holiday ever. Think about it. You'll hear plenty of people that don't care for Halloween or Christmas or even Easter. Disgruntled communist hipsters probably hate the Fourth of July for some reason. But just about everyone concedes that Thanksgiving is as good as it gets. It's a day dedicated to "giving thanks" by eating, watching sports, and then napping.
People forget this, but napping is built in to the Thanksgiving experience. Every year some aunt will see you pile a bunch of turkey on your plate and say, "Ohhhh boy! Wait till all that tryptophan kicks in." And then you laugh sheepishly, thinking to yourself, "Your DAMN RIGHT. This tryptophan is going to give me the best nap ever, and all of you will be fine with it, because it's not laziness. It's TRYPTOPHAN."
Thanksgiving is the only holiday of the year where unapologetic gluttony and blatant laziness are sanctioned behavior and even encouraged. Hey, did somebody say something about the NBA?
That's right, it's time for NBA Thanksgiving! Let's see what's on the menu...
LeBron James. He's the centerpiece to the NBA in 2010, and yet, even with all the media and hype surrounding him, he's still kind of bland. Dig beneath the surface with LeBron, and there's really not much there. Surround him with the right people, and maybe this is a different conversation. But LeBron's just a turkey. "Well without him there'd be no meal," his defenders might argue. And that's true. But next to the other options in the league, it's hard to imagine anyone picking LeBron as their favorite.
For the uninitiated, a turducken is part turkey, part duck, and part chicken. In other words, it's crazy in the best way imaginable. Ron Artest is our turducken.
Greg Oden's knees.
Dwight Howard, because he may not be able to carry dinner on his own, but he gives you the foundation to do so many different things as a basketball team. Everyone seems more appealing next to Dwight. On defense he covers for the flaws of his teammates, and on offense, he attracts so much attention that there's almost always an open look somewhere on the perimeter. Smother him with gravy, mix him with stuffing, add a little Dwight Howard to every bite of turkey... With Dwight Howard around, life is just better.
Mmmmm... Rajon Rondo.
Nobody knows why sweet potatoes haven't caught on as a national obsession all year long, so this goes to the Chicago Bulls. For a few years now, they've been one of the best young teams in the league, right on the brink of contending. This dates back to the Ben Gordon-Kirk Hinrich-Tyson Chandler era. And every year, one way or another, something derails their climb to the top. In 2010, with Derrick Rose looking better than ever and Carlos Boozer coming back from injury relatively soon, Chicago may actually be in the mix for the title race this year. They probably they won't get there, though, and we'll all think back to how much we like them, and how we should think of them more when we talk about Eastern Conference favorites. Sound familiar?
Derrick Rose, the little morsel of joy that makes the Bulls that much more enticing.
Big Baby, obviously. Every time Big Baby enters my life for one reason or another, I'm happier for it. More Big Baby is never a bad idea. And we should put gravy on EVERYTHING.
Kevin Durant. Because stuffing is pretty much impossible to hate. But then, everyone has a habit of yelling about how "AMAZING" stuffing is, and it becomes a little harder to love it. Stuffing IS amazing, but when everyone goes on and on and on about it, you can't help but step back and be like, "It's basically just bread." Clearly, I've got some conflicting thoughts to work out on Kevin Durant.
Apple Cider (Non-Alcoholic)
Steve Nash, because he's just so goddamn delightful.
Apple Cider (w/ whiskey)
John Wall is ALSO delightful, but he's more explosive than any point guard in the league, and as a rookie point point guard, he's still pretty unpredictable. You never know what you're going to get on a given night. And really, you have no idea how much whiskey they put in this cider, but you drink it anyway. Because finding out is half the fun!
Pau Gasol. ... I've always hated white wine, but some people don't.
Paul Pierce. As consistent as he is consistently overlooked, and always pretty enjoyable to watch. His awkward, herky-jerky drives, his old man jumpshots... Even his fake injuries make me smile at this point. We don't get nostalgic about Paul Pierce enough.
Chris Paul? Maybe? Let's say this: He's as irresistible as anybody in the entire league, but by the time we get done with turkey (LeBron) mashed potatoes (Dwight) stuffing (Durant), sweet potatoes (the Bulls) and whatever else we can shovel on our plate, we're too full (or passed out) to give CP3 the attention he really deserves. That said, pecan pie is f'ing delicious.
Annnnd we're done. All in all not a bad meal, rig--wait, what? Oh, right.
You either love it or hate it, and there's no in between. Kobe.
2. Kobe. And Kanye.
When I was writing about Kanye West a few nights ago, I started wondering about his NBA doppleganger. It'd have to be someone preternaturally gifted, borderline anti-social, infamous for his work ethic, and just as notorious for his suffocating ego. So, obviously: Kobe.
You could even go a step further and compare the formative relationships with Shaq and Jay-Z, where dependence turned to resentment as the prodigies evolve. And then there's this latest wrinkle--both Kanye and Kobe count Michael Jackson as their chief inspiration.
Kanye holds MJ as a hero, and has said that a meeting with Jackson shortly before his death inspired him to accept MJ's torch and "keep this thing going." And Kobe's relationship sounds pretty similar:
It sounds weird, I guess, but it’s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson.
We would always talk about how he prepared to make his music, how he prepared for concerts. He would teach me what he did: How to make a ‘Thriller’ album, a ‘Bad’ album, all the details that went into it. It was all the validation that I needed – to know that I had to focus on my craft and never waver. Because what he did – and how he did it – was psychotic. He helped me get to a level where I was able to win three titles playing with Shaq because of my preparation, my study. And it’s only all grown.
He noticed I was getting a lot of [expletive] for being different.
But here's the thing. Even as Kobe seems to have evolved in the minds of fans--from the obnoxiously petulant kid to a lovably petulant assassin in the age of overly-friendly superstars--his eccentricity seems forced. The same way it does with Kanye, sometimes. And Michael Jackson.
Don't get me wrong, if you consciously decide to act crazy for long enough, you're crazy. I mean, just last week Kanye West said, "Jesus died for our sins, Michael [Jackson] died for the sins of our media. Jesus had the bible, [Michael] had Wikipedia." (...Oh REALLY?)
But Kobe wants us to think of him exactly as Yahoo! described him in the Michael Jackson column from yesterday. He actively cultivates this enigmatic, nomadic persona that Adrian Wojnarowski romanticizes:
"Kobe Bryant arrived in the NBA as a lone wolf, has played his whole career that way, and that’s how he’ll leave the league. One of the things which Michael Jackson helped him understand was that, ultimately, you’re competing far more with your own standards, your own limits, than someone else’s."
The same way Kanye goes out of his way to say, do, and wear crazy things, Kobe is always quick to relate a strange anecdote or tell us that he only sleeps 3 hours-a-night, takes helicopters to games, and counts Hilary Swank as a better friend than Lamar Odom. It's exactly what I wrote last year. All Kobe ever wanted was to loved, feared, and impossibly mysterious to everyone.
It's neither good nor bad, but watching everyone romanticize Kobe yesterday, the same way everyone rhapsodizes about Kanye and wonders whether he's this generation's Michael Jackson... You have to wonder how much of this is just an act.
And yet, even if it's part performance, quotes like this are just so awesome:
Privately, there are plenty of national-team elders and coaches who are curious about how that chemistry will work in 2012. Mostly, they wonder whether James will see it as his time, his team, with Bryant 34 years old. From the return of the Miami clique to the arrival of Kevin Durant, it’ll be a different dynamic, a different vibe.
“Actually, I really don’t give a [expletive]. I’m not curious about it. Give me my [expletive] gold medal and then let me try to win another NBA championship. Let’s practice, have a good time, and if you need me in the last two minutes of the game, I’ll be coming in to pull the [expletive] out.”
So I guess what I'm saying is... You don't have to love Kobe, but you should go buy Kanye's album, and appreciate the Kobe Bryant era while it lasts. Even if they're consciously trying to be different, they ARE different. And a million times more interesting than LeBron James.
3. The Definitive Vince Carter Photo
Apropos of nothing...
Look closely and... No, that's right, he isn't being touched.
4. Dear Kevin Durant, Can You Stop Making These Ads?
Actually, if the image above was the Nike ad we're talking, that would be pretty awesome. You don't need to reinvent the wheel to market Kevin Durant. He's the most exciting young player in the league, genuinely likable, and... Just put his face next to a Nike swoosh, and you should be good.
But—and we've touched on these before—this new "viral" ad campaign makes me want to commit homicide. Some people might offer a nuanced analysis of the Thunder's slow start this season, but I'm going to go ahead and blame it on this damn ad campaign. And as a fan of Durant, the Thunder and (I guess) his brand, all I can say is... KD's eccentric little neighbor had better watch his back.
5. The Wall Street Journal On The New Economics Of Ballerdom
I love reading articles from the Wall Street Journal. Not because they're good, or any better than anywhere else, but I always come away congratulating myself. It makes me feel so fiscally conscious.
(Do you see how I used "fiscally" instead of "financially"? SOMEONE'S been reading the Journal.)
Anyway, it's one thing I've always thought I have in common with Maverick Carter. We may not retain any information therein, but at least we feel like an expert. And Tuesday, the Journal took on the NBA:
Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks, who earned about $2.2 million last year in his first NBA season, is the proud owner of a Ford Edge, which cost $26,000.
New York Knicks guard Roger Mason Jr. said he recently traded in his Bentley convertible for a used Cadillac Escalade.
As the NBA and its players union continue to steam toward a possible work stoppage after this season, the union is trying to see to it that if the paychecks dry up, its members won't be forced to do what many of them had to do last time this happened: liquidate their posh possessions to pay the bills.
In a league where diamond earrings are the size of marbles and a suitcase isn't a suitcase unless it's a Louis Vuitton, players, agents and union officials say they've been working hard to teach the value of pinching pennies.
And if we're talking about pinching pennies, I have to share my favorite "homeless NBA player" story. Around this time last year I went to a Wizards-76ers game with some friends. One of my friends happened to be friends with Sam Dalembert, so after the game we went down to meet the team before they boarded the bus back to Philadelphia. As the players shuffled out of the locker room and toward the bus, you saw the typical array of Louis Vuitton luggage, platinum necklaces, diamond earrings, etc. Par for the NBA course.
Then Louis Williams walked out wearing those off brand flip flops you'd buy at Payless, a white t-shirt down to his knees, jeans, and carrying his stuff in a gigantic trash bag. The Wall-Street Journal wants to talk about pinching pennies? THAT'S PENNY PINCHIN, PIMPIN.
And I'll always have a soft spot for Lou Williams after that.
6. Finally, Your Moment Of Zen
We don't have many rules here, but any time Dennis Rodman gives an interview while receiving oral sex, it gets posted. My favorite part comes after the 1:00 mark, when Rodman apologizes, clearly has no idea who he's talking to, and explains, "I'm sorry, guy."
"She's doin' it brother. She is AWESOME."