The Atlanta Hawks of the last 40 years might be the worst playoff team in the history of sports.
The Hawks have stormed into the playoffs with a 57-25 record, and they've somehow snuck aboard with a 37-45 record, and everything in between. During one 22-year stretch, they missed the playoffs only four times. This year marks their seventh straight in the postseason.
They're not gonna go far in these 2014 Playoffs. We know this not just because they're the worst team in the playoffs, but because the Hawks' tradition of early playoff exits is not a bug. It's a feature. How could it not be? It's just so staggeringly unlikely that a team, through this many coaches and players and years, could show up this often and lose within the first two rounds every single time.
This episode of NBA Y2K is not going to try to change that, because it would betray the fundamental nature of who the Atlanta Hawks are. I just want to give them one win over the Indiana Pacers, and I want it to be the greatest win of all time.
I'm going for 404 points in a single game of NBA 2K14. For one, it represents the HTML "Not Found" error, and malfunctioning software is what we're all about around here. For another, it's Atlanta's area code.
As I write this, I honestly have no idea of whether this is possible, but I'm going to pull out all the stops to do it. That means enlisting the help of Atlanta's greatest statesmen.
I. WE RE-CREATE THE DUNGEON FAMILY.
This is an incomplete gathering of the Dungeon Family. Through their mastery of the craft, eccentric nature, wild creativity, and stubborn allegiance to a part of the country the East and West Coasts liked to forget about, the Dungeon Family created a scene that the story of rap cannot be told without.
OutKast, of course, found the greatest success. Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, one of the most historically significant rap albums of all time. What followed is, in retrospect, kind of astounding: as they grew more and more artistically inventive, they drew more and more fans. It's usually one or the other.
The Best of Bois
The Best of Bois
After a few years, hip-hop fans around the country loved Andre 3000 and Big Boi. I, a white kid from Woodstock, loved them; a few times I drove my Oldsmobile through the Louisville expressways for no other purpose than to play Aquemini all the way through, and as loud as I could. They attracted legions of fans who otherwise wouldn't have bothered with rap music at all. Their greatest triumph, to me, is one they don't know about: I attended an elementary-school graduation out in the suburbs, and when the kids shuffled up to get their diplomas, they did so to a song in which Andre sings, explicitly, that he has no use for a committed relationship and would prefer to have sex in his Cadillac.
In NBA 2K14, all 10 of these guys have maxed-out 99/99 ratings in every skill category. Dunking, three-pointers, blocking, rebounding, all of it.
II. WE ADD DIKEMBE MUTOMBO AND DOMINIQUE WILKINS.
The Hawks have lacked in playoff success, but certainly not in exciting basketball. Dikembe Mutombo was my favorite player when I was a kid. I liked him on account of where he came from and how the Hell he ended up where he did. Mutombo never even played organized basketball until he was 18, and enrolled in college with the sole intent of becoming a doctor. Apparently, one cannot be 7'2" and live in the United States without someone asking you to play basketball every three seconds, and he was eventually talked into playing for Georgetown. And then he became one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the sport.
Dominique Wilkins, of course, is electric. I still resent that the Hawks dealt away the greatest player they ever had, and that literally anyone thinks that Michael Jordan beat him in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest. Total bullshit. I am going to sort out these feelings through video gaming, as one does.
III. WE GIVE THE PACERS THE MOST NOTABLE MEMBERS OF THE INDIANAPOLIS RAP SCENE.
If I'm going to give the Hawks some of the greatest rappers of their city, it's only fair that I extend the same courtesy to the Pacers. Unfortunately, I could not name a single rapper from Indianapolis, so I recruited some on Twitter.
if you would like to be in the next NBA Y2K, please provide your rap name and the name of your hit single— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) April 21, 2014
All 12 of them are 5'3", and I set all of their skill ratings as low as I possibly could. They are terrible. Here they are.
#41 - Derek Green (@gimmegrits)
Oh God. You're Sufjan Stevens, aren't you? You're Sufjan Stevens. The scary thing about this is that a Sufjan Stevens rap album is remotely plausible. Sufjan Stevens, if you ever read this: promise never to make a rap album, and I will mail you $10. I am absolutely serious. I will pay cash money for that not-album.
#61 - UNKNOWN
This has happened before: I'll sort through tweets, bookmark my favorites, note their names, and create them in the game. By the time I finally get to write the post, a tweet I selected was deleted. I can't even remember what this tweet was or why I picked it. So in lieu of that, here is my favorite tweet ever.
me after getting curtains stuck in my waistband and pulling them off the wall: "ah fuck its happened again,ah, i am truly a shithead, oh no"— wint (@dril) February 28, 2014
#56 - Davis (@DMSAU09)
Several people made the M.C. Escher joke, but this one was the most well-executed.
My appreciation of paintings, drawings, etc., is super-casual, so what follows here could be pretty well ripped apart by experts of the field if I presented it as anything more than "here's what the sports guy thinks about the paintin's!": I think a lot of it is "nice." It looks nice on a wall in the same way a shirt looks nice, and that's about it. A lot more of it is presented, either by creator or curator, as something you're supposed to glean some sort of message or feeling from. The easy part was painting it, and they leave the hard part to the sucker who paid to see it, which seems like a pretty shitty deal to me.
M.C. Escher is one of my favorites because he just says, "hey look, I drew some neat shit I thought of." And it's really, really neat.
#54 - SB Nation's Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN)
#52 - Polygon's Chris Plante (@plante)
Welcome to the Company Man Minute™ with your host, Jon. I really dig what Vox is doing with their "cards" feature. Basically, Card 1 starts by addressing a really basic question, like "What is prison?" Then you can just keep clicking through to the later cards until you get to something, like incarceration rates or recidivism, that you don't know as much about.
My only suggestion is that the cards should also go into the negative numbers. Card 0: "What is this page?" Card -3: "What is this array of light patterns radiating from my computer screen?" Card -5: "WHO AM I? WHAT IS ANY OF THIS? WHAT IS MATTER? WHAT IS ENERGY? OH GODDDDDDDD." Card -10 is not a webpage at all, it's just you sitting next to a pond while an old man plays a banjo.
#78 - Daniel Kelley (@danieltkelley)
FWORIDA MARWIN. I'm so mad at myself for not thinking of that. This, for the uninitiated, is Marwin Gonzalez.
#31 - Kevin Johnson (@kevinWjohns)
This is basically the guy Andre 3000 was so pissed off at in "Return of the 'G'."
Return of the gangsta, thanks ta'
Them *****s that think you soft
And say y'all be gospel rappin'
But they be steady clappin' when you talk about
Bitches, and switches, and hoes, and clothes, and weed
Let's talk about time travelin', rhyme javelin
Somethin' mind unravelin', get down
Return of the gangsta thanks ta'
Them *****s who got them kids
That got enough to buy an ounce
But not enough to bounce them kids to the zoo
Or to the park so they grow up in the dark never
Seein' light 'til they end up being like yo' sorry ass
Robbin' *****s in broad ass daylight
It might be my favorite thing they ever did. Watch your ass, Gun the Rapper.
#8 - BIG OL DADDY ERIC (@UrucCurr)
Young Gary is actually a genius name, because of all the Garys I've known, none have been younger than 40. And yes, the price point of limes is volatile, and I'm convinced it's completely arbitrary. Sometimes they're 50 cents, sometimes they're five for a dollar. They can get away with this, because limes are so cheap that we don't really care. The Illuminati concern themselves with the weirdest shit.
#72 - Matt Walks (@mgwalks)
After typing "is tayshaun prince" into Google, the second suggested search is, "is tayshaun prince a hall of famer." Apparently Google can still index your searches if you are accessing it from inside a giant upside-down bucket, which is inside a second, larger upside-down bucket, which is in a cave, which is in the middle of a giant planet in the middle of space.
#58 - Jason Lind (@JasonKLind)
Going with this one because it gives me an excuse to share one of the greatest tweets ever.
"Yesterday you were 3 Chainz and now it's 5 Chainz," Janet cried. "Where does it stop?" 8 Chainz frowned. "14 Chainz doesn't have time for— Horton Atonto (@crushingbort) April 1, 2013
#69 - Cole (@cmccarty91)
There are few better ways to size up the character of your local grocery store than to take note of what they throw up there on the top shelf. If it's the boring chain-store type, you're probably just looking at black beans and avocado oil and stuff. But if your grocery store has real grit, it'll have, like, a pile of space heaters up there with no price tag. Mine, at last check, had one of those off-brand Sega Genesis systems with like 50 games built into it. If you ever find frozen food stacked on top of the freezers in the freezer aisle, you know you've found your whale.
#2 - David D. (@gigthem08)
PHASE 1: WE ARE JUST FUNKIN' AROUND.
Before I set upon my Quest For 404 Points, I played a scrimmage just to see what the Dungeon Family/Wilkins/Mutombo Hawks were capable of. Everything, it turns out. They are capable of everything.
God bless 2K Sports for including the real-life Wilkins in their game, complete with an authentic likeness I didn't have to approximate. (Related: CeeLo, I am very sorry.) I'll tell you what: playing as Dominique Wilkins is like flying a jet fighter.
WHOOOOOSH. As you can see here, the difference in vertical between the Hawks and Pacers was just obscene. This was true with the 6'8" Wilkins, and it was also true with the 5'6" Big Boi.
Indiana's defense was so porous that I started taking tougher and tougher shots, just to identify the point at which the Hawks were no longer godlike. It was hard to identify this point. Here is Future throwing a sort of poor man's oop to Antwan Patton.
An 80-foot shot would bang off the rim and bounce to an arbitrary point on the court. It didn't matter which point, because Atlanta would invariably get to it first, and whoever caught it would simply swim through the Pacers' defense and right to the rim.
Even with the stats maxed out, the full-court shot is quite elusive in this game, but I was determined to make it happen. I decided I'd try for what I called the Harry Hawk shot. I turned off the out-of-bounds penalty, ran one of the players all the way back past the opposite baseline, and stood him right next to where the Hawks' mascot was standing. And then he'd heave it.
This took about 30 tries. They took turns. Andre couldn't do it. Neither could Killer Mike, Future, or Big Rube. Then it was Big Boi's turn.
GENERAL PATTON AUTHORIZES CRUISE-MISSILE STRIKE. Since it happened out of bounds, I'm confident in stating that this is the longest field goal in the history of the NBA.
One more 'Nique jam, since Matt Walks got a face full of ass.
And now, we have to talk about these Rap Game Indiana Pacers.
NBA 2K14 allows us to diminish player skills so completely that dudes just kind of lose their understanding of basketball. Even if Jason Lind had held on to the ball, what the Hell was he intending to do with it? A no-look, over-the-shoulder heave from the arc to a guy in the post? Please note that Big Gipp has peeled off his man, run 15 feet, and closed in on the basketball before Lind is even finished with his theatrics.
I wish I had captured this in the GIF, but Daniel Kelley actually called for this ball. I like the fan sitting right behind him, making that contemplative pose. He's like Raleigh St. Clair in The Royal Tenenbaums. How interesting. How bizarre.
The Pacers' failure was foolproof, as though the game implemented multiple levels of contingency to make sure they never did anything right.
Level One: make Mike Prada pass with Sleepy Brown all over him, such that it will definitely get knocked down. Level Two: just to make sure, see to it that he's passing to absolutely nobody. Seriously, look at him. He's just passing backcourt. The theme of this team is, "if pawns could move backwards."
Which is not to say that they didn't try to move forwards on certain occasions.
Eric is a five-foot-three man who does not know how to play basketball. He decides to drive in the paint and score on Dikembe Mutombo, who is nearly two feet taller than him, and is also one of the very best interior defenders who has ever lived. Additionally, he is double-teamed by Dominique Wilkins, who is rather tall and has been known to play basketball from time to time. And when this doesn't work out for him, he just can't believe it. Look at his face. HAAAAAAY YOU GUYYYYYYYYS
I didn't realize until afterward that I made David look a whole lot like Bobert Awful. He is not, but he might as well be.
1. David is contesting a rebound with Killer Mike, who is far taller and stronger.
2. David is trying for the rebound six feet away from where any basketball things are happening.
3. David is also trying to rebound this ball from two seconds in the future. He doesn't jump until after Mike has already come down with the ball. He is separated from this rebound by three dimensions: laterally, vertically, and through time.
4. DAVID IS FACING THE WRONG WAY.
5. David's right arm is apparently one of those dancing windsock men you see outside car dealerships.
God dang. Thanks, Pacers, I think we're good here.
II. THE QUEST FOR 404.
In 1983, with the benefit of three overtimes, the Detroit Pistons set an NBA record with 186 points in a single game. Since the Pacers couldn't score to save their lives, overtime wasn't an option. I had to more than double that scoring output within regulation time.
I mashed the steal button, sprinted upcourt, and hit virtually every shot. I could hardly go any faster. I finished with 302 points.
And damn it, it couldn't end there. I know the Hawks don't have an NBA Championship in them. They won't go to the White House to visit Obama. Nor, perhaps, any other President. If nothing else, we had to have this, even if the "we" was my sad ass and my little Xbox and my OutKast records.
So I tried again:
For more episodes of NBA Y2K, check out:
And for the NFL edition, check out our 17-episode season of Breaking Madden.